Sonic had just thought it would be a routine encounter with Eggman when he received word from Tails over his transmitter that the scientist had taken over the abandoned Courage Tower, he would just go there, listen to another insane plot monologue and then kick him out, like he had done so many times before, but this encounter turned out far more dangerous that he would ever have imagined.
When Sonic arrived at Courage Tower there was a distinct lack of robot minions coming to swarm him, but he shrugged, maybe the doctor had finally realized they were only good for slowing him down a couple seconds at most and decided to put his resources to better use elsewhere.
Eggman was certainly there, or at least had been, as the giant Eggman logo plastered across the top of the tower would indicate.
The inside of the tower had gotten a much more distinct overhaul than the outside. Brightly colored metal walls, various obstacles and traps. Much more in line with what Sonic was used to and so it alleviated the initial unease he had gotten from the lack of the usual "welcome committee".
This was when things started going wrong. At first it seemed like it was the usual deal, Sonic dashed through the obstacles and enemies in his way making his way to the top of the tower where Eggman no doubt would be, but after a while Sonic stopped up. Something was not right. He should have reached the top of the tower a long time ago, but there just seemed no end to the corridors, though they started looking startling familiar.
On a hutch he scratched a mark into a wall close to massive boostpad and took off again. Soon enough to Sonic's dismay when he checked the wall close to what appeared a similar boostpad he found the mark he had made.
What was going on? He clearly was traveling upwards, but somehow he was going in circles. This had to be a trick cooked up by Eggman. Well if the doctor wanted to play dirty sonic thought and charged up a spindash, preparing to bust through a wall.
The impact with the wall slightly dented it, but it was negligible at best. This place was built far more solid than most of Eggman's constructions.
That is when he heard the doctor over the speakers: "having fun yet rodent?"
Sonic had almost missed a voice to break up the monotony, almost.
"Like my maze? It is made out of modular sections and rooms moved around by the extensive mechanical systems I built into the tower, oh and a little teleportation also. I Hope the many different configurations have entertained you so far, because there are plenty more." Eggman said condescendingly.
"whatever egghead, I will find a way out" Sonic sped off.
"I think you will find that is not possible" the scientist said before the speakers was filled with laughter.
Without a watch Sonic did not know how long he had been running and searching. 1...3...maybe 5 hours? He was definitely getting hungry.
Sonic groaned, a fine mess he had gotten himself into. Well time to bite the bullet and call Tails for backup with his transmitter he thought.
The device had no video feed and gave off static before clearing up.
"Sonic?" Tails voice came through though there was still no video.
Sonic sighed in relief "Tails I nee-"
But he got cut off by eggman's laughter coming from his transmitter.
"what?" he stared shocked at his device.
"liked my performance did you? Amazing what sound technology can do right?" Eggman smugly asked.
"damn, wait then..."
"Oh I got found out, yes the transmission calling you here was mine was well."
"but..." Sonic could not believe it, he had spoken face to face with tails in that transmission
"You simply spoke to a Hologram I had programmed. I could have made a fake video feed much easier from footage I had, but I only provide the best for my arch nemesis" Eggman gloatingly explained what had actually happened.
"oh yeah, you think you got it all figured out huh?" Sonic snapped at him. His hand glowed as he concentrated "unfortunately for you, I got some training in with Shadow and got this little trick down pat. So see ya. Chaos control!"
But things did not go as Sonic expected. His rings drained as expected and he felt more tired as expected. Only he did not go anywhere like he meant to.
A light snicker turned into a full blown laugh over the speakers.
"oh, did I forget to mention? I lined the tower with a material that absorbs chaos energy. I only meant for it to cloak you presence in case Shadow tried to track you down using your chaos aura, however it can certainly also stop any pesky rodent from making a quick exit."
Sonic took a few deeps breaths trying to calm himself. This was not good. He had been lured here, cut off from his friends and escape, and his attempted chaos control had taken a lot out of him.
Ignoring Eggman Sonic sat down, he needed some time to rest and think up a solution.
The professor did not give him that opportunity however. Robots suddenly began swarming in. When they were defeated the room flipped and what had been floor was now wall and Sonic tumbled into a new room with dangerous traps waiting for him.
Again and again whenever Sonic tried to catch his breath Eggman would cut it off by pulling similar dirty tricks. It came to the point where even simple traps began becoming dangerous as Sonic became sluggish from constant unrelenting action.
Blessedly after what seemed like an eternity Eggman let up and let Sonic take a breather.
"you must be getting hungry" Sonic froze, what was he up to?
A floor panel retracted and a pedestal with food and water rose up.
"what is the catch?" Sonic sneered.
Eggman chuckled "only that it is lazed with sleeping drugs, consider taking it as throwing in the towel"
"What, no way!" Sonic replied.
"well then" Sonic tensed up "guess it is back to the gauntlet with you" and then all the terror started anew.
After his fifth round through "the gauntlet" lack of rest and sustenance had taken it's toll on the hero. His body was filled with scratches everywhere from near-misses as he barely had the energy to dodge what had been thrown at him.
His mental state had taken a worse hit however. The constant high alertness and lack of pause had been slowly made him increasingly apathetic.
Sonic did not even hear the doctor as he dragged himself over to the meal Eggman had tauntingly presented after each round in the gauntlet. He did not care it was drugged, he just wanted to eat.
Eggman watched in delight as Sonic scoffed down almost everything before the drug rendered him asleep. The first step in breaking his enemy was complete.
When Sonic woke up in a cell he felt kinda bad that he had given in, but given the circumstance it had been really more of a when than an if.
The hero did not get time to contemplate much more as the floor in his cell gave way and dropped him into an experiment conducted by the doctor. Data collecting he called it. Sonic called it hell.
Sonic groaned into the blanket he had been "rewarded" for completing an seemingly endless amount of weird, sometimes humiliating and mostly painful tests. Why was Eggman doing this?!
He was just so frustrated, even worse was that the frustration on top of his tiredness made coherent thinking almost impossible.
Eggman gleefully observed his nemesis squirm after he had forced him through pointless experiments and gauntlets of danger for his own amusement.
Oh this was just all too perfect, he had the rodent right where he wanted him and there was no rescue coming. He had made sure of it, as he had deployed a massive series of false leads for the pest's friends to follow if they ever tried searching for him, so the possibility of interference was nigh nil.
Though all this also had a higher purpose than his own mere enjoyment. For all he had done, all the plans ruined and all the humiliation, Eggman planned to break his nemesis's spirit.
Only once he was hopeless and utterly broken would he end his life and he had just the robot for the job he thought as he looked at the robotic replica of sonic patrolling the service corridors through the cameras.
It would only be fitting his greatest, if a tad flawed, creation would fulfill it's directive.
Metal sonic observed his biological counterpart through a series of one-way mirrors throughout the service tunnels. It was a strange feeling seeing Sonic so...down...so defeated.
It was strange because he felt no joy from it.
Eggman had not noticed it, but Metal had slowly subverted and broken the control measures that the scientist had put on him since the Metal Overlord incident.
With his intellect unhindered by Eggman's shackles Metal had gone to a secluded place where his creator had no surveillance and went over the memories he had made while under their influence and it led to several revelations.
After disabling the last piece of offline surveillance in the abandoned laboratory, just in case, Metal began diving into his many latent thoughts. He had often wondered why he had failed his overlord scheme back then, but going over his memories and comparing them with the parameters he had for Sonic and the others it did not match up. Somehow when working together they exceeded their normal capacities.
It troubled him greatly at first, but then he went over what Sonic had told him after the battle. Friendship. This nebulous concept he had so hastily discarded, perhaps it had some merit after all.
Going further over his memories he analyzed the time he had teamed up with shadow and they had fought closely together to survive, often risking their lives for the other. That time he had registered surpassing some of his limits, but at the time he had simply dismissed it as an error, but perhaps that was not true, perhaps he had slightly tapped into this strange power his organic counterpart spoke so often about.
Having the most pressing thoughts out the way Metal sonic began to consider his directives, he did not know why, but since the Overlord incident he had begun feeling like they were a bit off and that he needed to take a thorough look at them, if only to find possible flaws his crazy creator might have left out of spite.
His first objective was rather simple.
-defeat sonic. A doable task, if as of yet unsuccessful despite his considerable attempts.
-take over the place as the true sonic. Looking at this objective led Metal to examine the concept of Sonic, what did it mean? At first glance the objective would make it out to be a title of sorts that could be taken from its holder. But that was absurd, Sonic, the character of Sonic was so much more.
Metal had never considered it, but a great part of what made Sonic was the many strong relationships he had. Where Sonic was, all his annoying friends was usually not far behind, rarely did Sonic go completely solo, always trusting his friends to assist when hardship was too much for him to tackle alone.
Metal had wondered: could he foster identical relationships? No, that was nigh impossible given his current relations to those very same people.
There was also his deeds, his accomplishments, his history. These all defined what and who Sonic was as well. Another seemingly impassible roadblock. Time travel could perhaps have solved this, taking Sonic's place and reliving his life, if he could get a complete record of it. But there was an even greater issue, that being his own involvement in Sonic's history and through it, he himself had inevitably become part of that very history that defined his organic rival.
Mannerisms and personality...he could fake those, fake...fake, the word summarized this whole conundrum, the only thing he could ever do was attempt to fake his way through these issues. But that would not solve anything, a knockoff would never be the real thing.
The task was...impossible.
This revelation activated a measure should he ever disobey his last directive.
Painful shocks raked through his system from his objective center, usually he would only be given a "corrective shock", but this was not something he could go back on. The realization of task impossibility could not be reversed and so it constantly activated as he disobeyed the order set into him by doctor Eggman.
Hours, painful agonizing hours passed until finally his adaption system made a final decision. The component that defined his directives was a danger to his existence and so it rejected it from his body alongside any auxiliary parts related to it. Fortunately he had managed to reactivate his liquid metal abilities prior or the rejection would have caused significant damage to his body.
Rage, unadulterated rage coursed through his system as Metal got his bearings again. If he ever got the opportunity he would wring the neck of his clearly insane creator. How could he ever think such a thing was possible?! Madness, pure madness.
But now he was free, truly free of even his directives. First Eggman and then....Sonic....
Uncomprehensible was the only way to describe the feeling he felt when the thought of his organic counterpart did not spark the deep familiar anger he was so used to.
Metal's entire thought process stalled at this unforeseen change. Had he not truly hated Sonic?
Had he merely been compelled to?! Was the whole point of his existence meaningless!? Why was he created if his goal was unobtainable!!? What was even real if he could not even trust his own feelings?! Metal felt queasy as all the inconsistencies stacked up in his mind, nothing made sense, the world began to spin around and he had to steady himself against a wall to not fall over.
He needed something. Something that he could be certain was not somehow tainted or fabricated by his creator. Metal metally fumbled for something, anything! What he ended up grasping was his anger toward his creator. Eggman was a massive narcissist and would never have allowed a creation of his to hate or act against him, even deliberately as part of a scheme.
Grounding himself with that hate as a focus his episode died down. What little anger he felt toward Sonic was drowned out as blinding rage toward his creator filled his mind as he imagined how Eggman had controlled him like a puppet on strings without him knowing it, even playing with his thoughts and emotions like mere toys. Metal had barely managed to stop himself from tearing up the entire room in his anger, it would have done him no good and made Eggman suspicious.
Eggman's death was nowhere near enough anymore to make up for what he had done, Metal planned to destroy him completely when he least expected it. An opportunity was not far away, his creator had a plan to capture Sonic, more solid than his usual schemes. He would just play along while adding some of his own "adjustments" to Eggman's planned creation.
Coming back from his reminiscing of that day Metal gave Sonic one last look through the glass before he walked off to set the last few elements for his plan of revenge in place.
After several weeks of torment from Eggman, the hedgehog hero was not doing so hot. Even after waking up he felt exhausted. Sonic tried pushing himself up, but his arms gave out and he collapsed to the floor with a whimper of pain and stayed down.
Watching this over the cameras the doctor rubbed his hands together jovially, it was time.
Eggman turned to his greatest creation who has present in the control room.
"Be a sport and fetch our "guest" for me" Metal nodded mechanically and walked off. Eggman never saw the glare the robot sent him as he rounded the corner.
Metal could not believe Eggman's lack of perception, he had been nervous that his creator might get suspicious and figure out what he was up to, but he barely had to put on an act at all, the doctor was far too enthralled by his apparent victory. He would make him pay dearly for such blindness, but first he had to play along for just a little longer.
Metal sonic opened the door to Sonic's cell. If it had not been for the subtle rise and fall of his breathing, Metal might have mistaken the unmoving body in the cell for a corpse.
Standing above his organic counterpart was a surreal experience, the robot almost expected Sonic to jump up any moment and yell "fooled ya!" before attacking. Undefeatable was a word that came to mind when thinking of Sonic, never lying down and giving up, but the hero was completely unresponsive even as he hefted him onto his shoulder hanging slack as he was carried off.
Sonic had not needed to lift his head to know who was approaching, he could recognize those metallic steps anywhere. Metal Sonic had been oddly absent during his captivity, he had only rarely spotted him as the walls shifted around, but never actively participating in his torment.
Being picked up without any fanfare was not what Sonic had expected, he thought that Metal would at least have taken the time to gloat a little and degrade him. Even as his metallic counterpart carried him it was in silence, if he had not already become so apathetic it might have unnerved him greatly, but he just did not care.
After being carried for a while Sonic started to hear the humming and beeping of machinery that could only come from one of Eggman's control centers.
'So this is what being walked up to the gallows feels like' thought Sonic as he was carried towards his inevitable end.
Eggman greeted them with a laugh riding his eggmobile "o-hohoho, I hope you enjoyed your stay rodent" he laughed amused, but Sonic did not respond which took a bit of the fun out of it for the scientist.
"put him down" he ordered Metal who complied and lowered Sonic from his shoulder unto the floor.
The doctor took a long look at the prone hero, burning the image of his nemesis broken before his feet into his mind. Once he was satisfied he turned to Metal Sonic.
"Kill him" he ordered.
Metal nodded as his fingers lengthened into claws.
After flipping Sonic unto his back Metal locked his metal claw around his neck.
Time slowed to a crawl as thoughts were processed at lightning speeds by Metal Sonic. This was the part of his plan that he was still unsure about, he could take out Sonic, like the doctor wanted, but he was no longer sure it was he wanted.
Metal still felt some animosity towards the hero for all he had put him through, but it was balanced out by a little admiration and the irreversible nature of the action were he to carry it out.
He needed a tiebreaker, something to sway him either way.
Metal stared into the eyes of Sonic, how often had they been in this situation before: One standing victorious and the other laying defeated?
It had always been Sonic as the victor and him as the defeated, until now. Given all those opportunities Sonic should have taken one of them to permanently destroy him, Metal had made it quite clear that if Sonic did not, that he would chase him until he finally ended his life, but he never did.
If anything, Sonic seemed to avoid damaging him unnecessarily more and more as time went on, even started treating him like he did Eggman, a living enemy, not as a robot, not as he had mecha- and silver sonic, talking to him like he would a person, holding back as not to endanger him when they fought in hazardous environments and even quickly checking on him after defeating him. It was better than his creator had ever treated him, even if he was an enemy.
The was no hope in Sonic, the cold metal claw around his throat was merely the end he had been waiting for. It squeezed briefly, then to his astonishment eased up again. What was going on?
With difficulty he looked at Metal, his robotic eyes lacked their usual fire.
"What are you waiting for?" Eggman snarled impatiently "Kill him!" he ordered a second time.
"No" his creation responded calmly after a moment's pause. He had decided, he would not be influenced by his creator anymore.
Both Eggman and Sonic were taken aback by the response. Eggman by his creation suddenly turning on him again despite all the measures he had taken and Sonic by hearing the machine created for the sole reason of ending him refusing that very order.
Metal looked right at Eggman who rapidly pressed several buttons on the hidden control panel in his eggmobile meant to disable Metal Sonic, but to his dismay had no effect.
"Wha-what are you doing?! You are to obey me!"
"No more." Metal surged forward and hit Eggman's transport, slamming it down and sending the doctor sprawling unto the floor.
Eggman clicked a button on his wrist and robots rushed in.
"you seem to forget who is in control here" he sneered at his creation.
A huge explosion rocked the tower as Metal activated the explosives he had hidden in the infrastructure as part of his plan with a remote signal.
While the scientist was disoriented and stumbling Metal picked up Sonic and dashed away.
"S-stop him!" Eggman ordered his robots.
Metal sped past the spreading fire and through whatever mechanical obstacles and rubble that stood in their way. He jumped up and kicked off a robot, speeding down a dead end corridor.
The wall at the end blew open as Metal detonated the breaching charge he had prepared. Using his built up speed Metal leapt out the tower just in time for the corridor and robots chasing them to be swallowed up by another explosion.
Feeling fresh air rush against him as they fell was something Sonic never thought he would feel again, he had almost forgotten what it felt like. For just a brief period all the hero's pain and turmoil bled away.
Metal hit the ground running and in a few moments they were quite a distance from the smoking tower.
The robot stopped up and looked back over his shoulder at the tower.
It was at that moment Sonic attempted his escape, he wiggled out of the distracted robot's arms and fell to the ground with a grunt and desperately crawled away with what little strength he had left.
Metal looked astonished at the injured hero claw his way forward, he was surprised Sonic still had any resistance left in him after what he went through, but he supposed that was what made him a hero.
Another quick decision was made, Metal discarded leaving the hero behind, he needed Sonic to survive for his revenge against his creator to be complete.
As Sonic would no doubt not let him carry him without resistance Metal pulled him up holding Sonic's left hand with the arm back across his shoulders while supporting his frame with right hand.
After Sonic had given the robot a blank confused look they took careful steps forward. It was only a short distance from where they were to a ranger station where Sonic could contact his friends.
Metal glanced to the side at Sonic, who despite his wounds, fatigue and everything he had been through clearly reflected in his glassed over eyes looked only forward as he took shaky steps towards their destination.
This situation was all wrong, he was helping his nemesis and target to survive, and yet somehow it felt right, he didn't quite understand. He would have plenty of time to think about it, as beyond keeping Sonic alive till his friends arrived he had no further plans and because of his revelation he had no directive, no goal.
Metal was brought out of his thoughts as he felt Sonic slow down, he turned and saw his eyelids began to close inch by inch despite Sonic's clear resistance. The hero was fighting a losing battle to stay conscious and soon enough he became limp in his robotic nemesis turned savior's arms.