The question hangs in the air for about half a second.
"I propose we leave the ARK," Ai's voice is now coming from the terminal instead of unseen speakers. "I judged this was the appropriate time to awaken you because otherwise you may have remained in stasis-sleep indefinitely. The Black Arms are destroyed, and Dr. Robotnik is deceased to the best of my knowledge. I have spent the past year planning a way for us to leave undetected, and we must act quickly to put it into effect."
A compartment on the terminal opens up, and a watch it thrust out of it. I put it on, and Ai's voice comes from the watch.
"I have transferred all of myself into this portable storage device. I have a few functions that I will need to use to get us safely to the escape pods. As for you, to the best of my knowledge you have all of Shadow's abilities, but most of them will require the use of a Chaos Emerald. Currently all seven emeralds are somewhere on the planet's surface, so we will have to make due with your inherent abilities.
"You have been equipped with the same gear as Shadow; a pair of Hover-Shoes, and two pairs of Inhibitor-Rings. You will notice that the rings are located on your wrists, and ankles. Under no circumstances should you remove all four. Removing the rings from your wrists will allow you to unleash a greater portion of your power than normal, but if you were to remove all four you would destroy yourself in a sub-atomic explosion."
"Which is bad," I say dryly.
"Indeed, so bear this in mind at all times. Your shoes will not enable flight, but you will be able to skate at speeds that can break the sound barrier. There will not be much room to maneuver in the hallways of the ARK, so be careful. Without a Chaos Emerald you have access to only one ability, Chaos Control. Without an emerald it will enable short-range teleportation, about thirty meters or so."
"And that's without an emerald?" Wow, I think to myself, I wonder what I can do with a Chaos Emerald.
"Indeed, now we must go, our window of opportunity just opened." With that, Ai opens the laboratory door. I dash to it, and cautiously poke my head out. Ai guides me through the hallways, warning me when to hide, and when to teleport. He tells me that we must not draw attention to ourselves by destroying any of the GUN robots.
As I round the last corner I come face-to-face with a tall humanoid robot. It levels its gun at me, and I cringe. Suddenly the core of my watch flies into the air, leaving only the strap behind. Quicker than I can blink, Ai latches himself to the bottom of the robot's "chin", and the machine jerks. The light in its photoreceptor fades, and Ai returns to my wrist. As we continue to move Ai explains what happened.
"It was inevitable that we were to run into that guard, so erased us from its memory, and set it to temporarily shut down. Even if GUN returns to inspect the ship, nothing will be discovered."
"Glad to hear it, I'm assuming that you're doing something about the cameras too?"
"I spent the last year creating a Camera Footage Loop with what I could piece together. Not even the most observant computer programmer will be able to tell it's a fake."
"And what about the camera that was watching us when you shut down the robot?"
"That camera shorted itself out three hours ago. Eventually they will send someone to repair it, but for now it is simply a malfunction."
"I'm just gonna guess that the escape pod will be explained away with a glitch in the system, or something?
"Exactly, the pods are straight ahead, at the edge of your teleportation abilities."
I warp into the control room for the escape pods. Ai guides me to one of the pods, and initiates a timed countdown. The pod closes around me, and thirty seconds later I'm thrust into outer space.
"And we are clear," Ai's voice comes from my wrist. "I disabled the loop at the moment of departure, so the cameras are displaying normally again. I am setting a course for the pacific ocean, it will be a bumpy landing, so brace yourself."
I watch with wide eyes as we enter earth's atmosphere. I cast one last glance at the ARK, and then squeezes my eyes shut. Ai creates an energy field to help slow the descent as much as possible, but it will still be a hard landing. I crack one eye open enough to see the ocean rushing up to meet me, and I hurriedly closes it again.
My eyes flutter open when I feel a sharp pain in my shoulder. As quickly as it's there it vanishes. I feel it again, and sit up. I rub my head, and see a young boy in swimming trunks standing next to me, holding a stick.
"... You weren't poking me with that thing, were you?" I don't sound angry, but the kid chucks the stick into the sea water behind me, shaking his head. I take a moment to take in my surroundings; I'm on a beach, and just a few meters in front of me is a tall building. The boy takes off running as I stand, brushing wet sand from my soaked clothes.
"Well that's just perfect," I mutter to myself.
"I wish there was something I could do to help, Luna."
I jump slightly, I'd forgotten about Ai. "Don't worry, I'll figure something ou-ou-ACHOO!" I rub my nose, and shiver. I may be on the beach, but it's still early January. I see a gate open leading to a pool, drained of course. I makes my way up the stairs, and through the automatic glass doors on the other side of the pool. I see the same little boy from earlier getting scolded by his mother. Apparently this is the sixth time she's told him that it's too cold to go swimming. I look around, the place looks like a hotel.
I walks up to the front desk, and a reception lady looks up at me.
"E-excuse me, mam, but I fell into the surf outside, can You please help me?" I rub some feeling back into her arms, numb from the cold, and wet.
The reception lady raises her eyebrows, and looks around. She comes around from behind her desk, leaving an "Out to Lunch" sign for visitors. She guides me into a back room, and passes me a white robe.
"Here," the lady says. "It's against company policy to help people who aren't guests, but you look on the verge of hypothermia, poor thing. I'll wash your clothes, and have you back on your feet in about an hour."
"Thank you so mu-mu-ACHOO!"
The lady smiles, "You're quite welcome, Ms..."
The receptionist nods, "Nice to meet you, Luna, my name's Emilia."
Emilia leaves, and I change into the robe.
"That was quite fortunate," Ai notes.
"Uh-huh, so Ai, did you have any plans for after escaping the ARK?"
"I will obey my primary programming, which is to act as your caretaker. Other than that, the choice is yours."
I think for a moment, "Well, from what you've said Maria, and the Doctor are long dead. What about Shadow?"
"The odds are quite high that he is still alive, Luna. About six years ago he came out of cryostasis, and returned to the ARK with Dr. Gerald Robotnik's grandson, Dr. Ivo Robotnik. Later when the ARK was falling out of orbit he used the seven Chaos Emeralds to put it back, but in the process fell into the earth's atmosphere. He survived to return to the ARK several weeks later when the Black Arms invaded, and he didn't have an escape pod."
I raise my eyebrows as I set my clothes on a table, and wrap the robe around myself. "Wow, cool." I cock my head to the side, "Hey Ai, would it be fair to call Shadow my brother?"
Ai takes a minute to process this, "You both hail from the same creator, birthplace, and genetic material. If it comforts you to see him that way, then I see no reason why not."
I roll my eyes, smiling, "Wow, Ai, you have such a way with words."
Unsure of how to respond, Ai remains silent. Emilia returns a few minute later with a tray of two steaming cups of tea, and a plate of sandwiches. She sets the tray down next to my clothes, "I might as well take my lunch break now. Would you care to join me?"
"Yes, please," as I reach for a sandwich, Ai beeps twice on my wrist.
"Happy Sixteenth Birthday, Luna"
Emilia stares at Ai, mistaking him for a normal watch, and then looks back at me, "Well, Happy Birthday from me too, Luna. Sorry that I don't have a present." Emilia smiles at me.
"Oh no," I wave her off. "You've done so much for me already, I can't thank you enough!"
Emilia looks thoughtful for a moment, "Actually, I think I know one way you can..."
I looks at my new friend, puzzled. Emilia picks up my clothes, "I'll tell you more once you get back on your feet, okay?" I nod, and Emilia walks off.
I look at Ai, "What did you do that for?"
"My duties as your care-taker may not be simply restricted to your safety, Luna."
I give Ai a thoughtful frown, but then shrug, and go back to my lunch. Emilia shows of about forty-five minutes later, my crisply ironed clothes in her hands. She leaves with the tray as I get dressed, and walk out to find Emilia.
"Feel better?" Emilia grins, and I nod.
"Very much, thank you. You said there was something I could do for you?"
Emilia gestures for me to follow her, and opens one of the elevators. We both step inside, and Emilia picks a floor. A few seconds later the doors open, and I gasp. It's a garden with tropical trees growing on the inside, and a shallow pool covering a third of the room. What really catches my eye are the little blue creatures crawling, and flying around.
"What are these," I think out loud.
Emilia smiles, "They're called "Chao", and this our nursery for them."
"They're so adorable!" I go to pet the one closest to me, but it takes one look at me before scuttling away. She pout, and look around the garden. I stop when my eyes fall on one of the Chao. He's sitting under a tree, face pointed at the ground. Unlike the others this Chao is black instead of blue, also unlike the others, he's all alone.
I walk over to him, and sit on my knees. The little black Chao looks up at me, and cocks his head, "Chao?"
I smile at the little guy, and stretch out my arms. I pick him up, holding his close like a baby.
"I see you've found Trouble," Emilia smiles down at the two of us. I look up at her in confusion.
"That's his name" she explains. "Or at least that's what we call him. The garden works like a foster home for Chao, Luna. Trouble here was left in our care by a breeder who didn't want to breed black Chao. But it turns out that the black Chao aren't a very popular breed, so he's been here for maybe two years now."
I look at Trouble in shock. The little creature just snuggles closer to me in my arms, "Chaaaooo..."
I can feel tears welling in my eyes, "Then can I take him with me?"
"Of course, you see that's actually what I was going to ask you for. I wasn't going to force you though, I just thought I could kill two birds with one stone this way. You get a birthday present, and Trouble gets a home."
I stand, pulling Emilia into a one-armed hug, "Thank you, Emilia."
Five minutes later I'm on the streets of Station Square. I learned the name of the city from a newsstand shouting out stories for the local newspaper. Trouble is laying down on top of my head, singing to himself.
"I bet you're happy to be seeing the real world, huh Trouble?"
"Chao!" comes the reply, followed by some gleeful giggling.
"Do you have a destination in mind, Luna?" I look at Ai like I'm checking the time.
"Well, I was thinking I might try to find Shadow, I mean he is my only family right now. Who knows how long he's been on his own."
"Including his time in cryostasis, approximately fifty-six years."
"Thank you, Ai," I say, rolling my eyes. "But do you have any idea where he might be?"
"In front of you might be a good chance."
I look up, and see another hedgehog walking a few meters ahead of me. I skate forward, Trouble holding onto my quills.
"I found you!" I yell with delight, grabbing his wrist.
"Yipe! Amy I-!"
We blink at each other, clearly neither is who the other had expected. WE both sigh, Me in frustration, and him in relief.
"Sorry about that," I say while letting him go. "I thought you were someone else."
"Yeah, same here," the hedgehog chuckles. His fur, and quills are cobalt-blue, and he's wearing red shoes. His quills are swept back, and his eyes are emerald green.
He gives me a grin, "I'm Sonic, and you?"
"Oh, I'm Luna, nice to meet you, Sonic. Sorry again for the mix-up."
"No problem, Luna, I'm just glad it wasn't really-"
"Whoa jeez!" Almost out of nowhere a bright pink hedgehog tackles Sonic, and traps his him in a Death-Hug.
"Oh, Sonic, I'm so glad I found you!"
"Speak of the devil..." Sonic mutters.
"Huh, what did you say?"
"Ames, you're hurting me!"
"Oops!" Amy lets go of Sonic, and helps him get back to his feet. I can't help it, I laugh. I'm bent over double, and I can't even stop to breath. Sonic, and Amy watch me regain myself after a minute, wiping a tear from my eye.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," I say, gasping for breath. "But I just never expected to see that." I stands up straight, Trouble climbing back onto my head. I offer Amy my hand to shake, "I'm Luna, nice to meet you."
Amy crosses her arms, "Oh don't act like that, I saw you from across the street! Let me get one thing straight okay, Sonic is mine, okay?"
I'm slightly taken aback, "I'm not sure what you mean-"
"What I mean is you can't have him, capiche?"
I feel something unfamiliar stir inside me. "I assure you I wasn't-"
"Don't lie to me, I saw you two holding hands!"
I realize what I'm feeling now, anger. My eyebrows lower, and I give Amy a Death-Glare.
"Alright, that's enough, princess. Let me make one thing perfectly clear, I'm not after anyone, capiche? I thought he was my brother, and so I ran to catch up with him, but it turned out to be a mistake. Then you come out of nowhere, and treat me like this? You don't even know me!"
Amy is staring at me, eyes wide. She opens her mouth slowly to say something, but Sonic cuts her off.
My eyebrows raise, and I look around, "Where?!"
Sonic is laughing now, "So what happened man, Eggman turn you into a girl?"
I realizes that Sonic's talking to me, "Um, I'm sorry, but I'm not-"
"Yeah, right!" Sonic laughs again, "I'd know that Death-Glare anywhere, Shadow old buddy!"
My eyes widen, "You know where he is?"
"Yeah," Sonic nods. "He's right in front of me."
I roll my eyes, "No, Sonic, I'm not Shadow. I am looking for him though, can you help me?"
Amy replies for him, "Of course we will! I'm sorry about that little-"
"It's forgotten," I interrupt. "But where can I find him?"
Amy scratches her head, "Well he's in town for a few days, so Rouge let him stay at her pad. I can take you there if you want."
I surprise Amy by pulling her into a fierce hug, "THANK YOU!"
"I can't breath!" Amy gasps, and I let her go. Sonic grins at the irony. After Amy catches her breath she pulls out a cell phone, and dials a number.
"Hello, Rouge? It's Amy, would now be a good time to come over?... Well, we met a girl who's looking for Shadow... Luna, why?... oh, okay! We'll meet you there!... 'kay, bye!"
Amy puts away her phone, "Rouge says that she'll meet us at Twinkle Park in about thirty minutes."
"Where is that?" I glance between the two of them.
"Just down the street, wanna race?" Sonic grins.
I turn, and skate off. Sonic takes a moment to be surprised, and then he's right next to Me.
"Hah, now I know you're Shadow, only he can get anywhere close to my speed."
"I don't care about the race, I just want to get there!"
"Well that's no fun..." Sonic suddenly stops, and I shoot right past him. I hit the brakes, and skate back to him.
He shrugs, "We're here."
I look up at the elevator to the amusement park. So this is it.
A sudden flash of light draws my attention to the other side of the elevator. Through the glass I can see two figures. The first is white, dressed in a black and pink bodysuit. The wings suggest that it's a bat.
The other is black with red stripes in his quills. He wears shoes just like mine, and I can see the rings on his wrists, and ankles.
I warp to the other side of the elevator, and wrap Shadow in a hug from behind.
"Shadow, oh I'm-!"
Suddenly Shadow jabs an elbow into my gut, startling me into letting him go. Faster than I would have believed possible, he spins delivering a roundhouse kick to my chest. I go flying, and land in a pool of water leading to the sewers. Fortunately the water had already been treated, so it's clean.
Shadow pulls a gun from his hip, and points it at my head. "Who are you?"