GeneX - Knuckles the Echidna
Chapter 49 - Approaching Despair
Stage 25 - Pit of Despair
Boss 28-29 - Anubis; Shadow Howler
Note: Sonic the Hedgehog and related characters are (c) SEGA and
Sonic Team. You knew that, right?
GeneX and related fanchars are (c) 2BIT (TheGreatGator), the author.
The story thus far:
The Darkseeker, AKA Howler, has begun fusing with Shadow Chaos. Time is running out to stop him, and our heroes are scattered across the broken pieces of Demon Island, which are being pulled underwater in a maelstrom.
Washing up near Tails and a band of his experiments, Bucky went off to search for the Chaos Emeralds for the inevitable showdown with Howler. Ridley, Zeke and Corky sought to steal the emerald he found, and when Corky tried to kill a distracted Bucky, the Deathbringer killed him! Soon, it was revealed that the Deathbringer was Bucky's lost love Hope, revived by the Doomsayer, but the reunion was cut short by Losipher, who devoured her soul to become whole! The Lost Ones escaped, leaving an emotionally shaken Bucky to follow Tails in pursuit of the next emerald.
Meanwhile, Copter got caught up in the power struggle left in the Darkseeker's wake, as his former commanders battled for leadership of what was left of the Covenant of Despair. Conan emerged during the chaos, wanting Copter's tailband, but Howler sent out a representation of himself to snatch everything: the tailband, Conan's Chaos Relics, and a Chaos Emerald!
Now, on to the next chapter!
Punchy found himself lost in what was left of Despair Castle, wandering with Silver, Omega, Char and Alpha. They were a bit slowed by some bickering between the two robots. "And I say the best pie is coconut cream!!" Alpha shouted. "I repeat: Robots have no taste receptors! That Dr. Eggman continues to use you is an obvious insult meant for me!!" Omega shouted back. "Actually, it's meant for Sonic..." Char chimed in. "Will you robots stop arguing about pie!? I'm starving!!" Silver growled. Punchy tried to ignore them, and was searching around frantically. "C'mon! Help me find Rainbow and Violet so we can blow this popsicle stand!" he said. "Popsicles? Did you just hear me say I was hungry? Don't talk about food!" Silver groaned. Punchy saw a door ahead with a light coming from the next room. "Light? In this dump? Now THAT'S suspicious. I'm gonna take that door off its hinges!" he said, running over and knocking the door down with a good WHACK from his fist! "Shhh! One, open the door like a person!" They found Rainbow inside the next room, which was the lab. She was quietly sipping tea, oddly enough. Stranger still, she was enjoying this tea with Dr. Nammad. "Oh, please. Uh, come in. One or two sugars?" he asked, seeming WAY too mellow. Punchy stared with a somewhat freaked expression, but Silver walked in with a cheerful smile. "Hey, tea cakes!!" he said happily. "Gimmie one! Gimmie one!" Char giggled, flying in as well. Punchy scratched his head after getting over the surprise. "Uh... Rainbow... You know you're having tea with the bad guy, right?" he said. "He's also a former coworker, One!" Rainbow said. "Huh? No, not Char!" Punchy grumbled. Dr. Nammad sipped his tea calmly. "I'm not the, uh, bad guy. I'm just an innocent opportunist who made a, uh, mistake. There's not much I can do about it now, so, uh, might as well wait this out in comfort..." he said. Punchy glared at him a little, and then Omega burst into the room, startling everyone. "There is no time to waste! Annihilate him and let's go!!" he shouted. Nammad backed away a bit and gulped. "I'll, uh...pack you some cakes for the road..." he mumbled.
With Silver's belly satisfied, Punchy started them on the search for Violet next. If he could get the sisters to reunite, he'd be satisfied enough to start looking for a way off the island. Unfortunately, before traveling too far, they found Terra and Firma instead. They initially focused on Alpha, paying little mind to the others. "At last, we have found an ally! Tell us, have you located Master Eggman?" Firma asked. Char shrugged, while Alpha gave a less direct answer. "We found the perfect tea to go with lemon meringue pie! What's your favorite pie?" he asked. Terra raised his fist angrily at this response. "You will answer the question, or be DESTROYED!!" he yelled. Of course, Omega wasn't about to stay out of this. "How dare Eggman duplicate my design not once, but twice! He thinks I can be replaced, but I am the ultimate robot!! And I will prove it by destroying you ALL!!" he shouted. Punchy and Rainbow started to look really tired of this really fast. "...Think we could just leave them?" Punchy wondered. "They'll probably all team up to get us if we do..." Rainbow sighed. Silver growled in aggravation. "Well, we don't have TIME to deal with a robot war! HYAAAAAA!!!" Using his psychokinesis, fueled by a bit of rage, he grabbed Terra and Firma, lifting them into the air and hurling them against the damaged wall, sending them right through it and out into the swirling vortex of the maelstrom outside! "WE'LL GEEEET YOOOOOOU!!!" Terra roared as he soared off into the ocean! Alpha and Omega glanced at the furious hedgehog, who was breathing hard. "...Now behave, or THAT will happen to YOU!" he warned. Punchy looked at the crumbled wall curiously. There was something sparkling that was stuck in the rubble. "Hey... what's this?" he muttered, walking over and pulling something out of the pieces of the wall. What he found was the Chaos Gauntlets! "Huh?? How'd these get stuck in the WALL!?" he stammered. "...That red-eyed reaper sure tossed everyone and everything good, huh?" Rainbow said. Char nodded. "That's pretty cool! I wonder what else we can find..." he said.
The castle was still slowly crumbling, but the group continued on to the remains of the West Tower where Punchy had fought Shadow Chaos not too long ago. Now, several of the remnants of the Covenant of Despair were there, including Patch, Daisy, Anubis and Violet. "Viola! Thank goodness we've found you!" Rainbow called, however her sister had a bit of a frightened look on her face, as did Daisy. Anubis was threatening the girls, and Patch as well, with his flames. "...Our former 'master' may have forsaken us, but make no mistake that the Covenant of Despair... the TRUE Covenant of Despair, will continue on! You can either be a part of it...or be destroyed!" Anubis threatened. "Hee hee... Since we're talking here, can we negotiate vacation time? Wearing this tight uniform day in-day out is murder in and of itself!" Patch said, eliciting a growl of aggravation from Anubis. "Hey! This doesn't look like a friendly recruitment interview!" Punchy shouted. Anubis turned to face him, and glared at him with disdain. "The former covenant was weak! Fera was weak! The true Covenant of Despair will command both loyalty and efficiency from its agents... And YOU won't be a part of it, false guardian!" he snarled. Punchy shook his head in annoyance. "Never gonna let that go, huh?" he grumbled. Rainbow nodded. "Yeah, I mean, sorry we almost killed you and all, but you started it." she said. Anubis raised his hands and started to summon his undead army from under the ground! "Then I'll also finish it! Any who wish to defy me shall be crushed by my agents of Despair!!" he snarled as his black-clothed mummies burst out from under the ground! Alpha shrieked upon seeing them. "The dead walk the floor!! It's the rapture!! Save us, oh mighty Ra!!" he babbled, flying up high and out of range of the mummies and Anubis. "Alphaaaaa!! You have lasers to blast 'em!! Come back!!" Char shouted, chasing after him. Daisy drew her katana and growled... then stepped in front of Anubis. "I'm afraid he's right. We're Covenant of Despair members... So put 'em up!" she said. Patch joined her with his nunchucks, making Anubis smile a little. "Welcome back to your senses... Now destroy them!" he ordered.
Violet had a look of protest as her friends went to fight her sister and her friends. "Daisy, Patch... Stop it!" she shouted, only to be ignored. Fortunately, Silver was there to deal with them. He pulled their weapons from their hands using his psychic powers, much to Daisy's chagrin. "Not THIS again!! Can't anyone fight fair!?" she shouted, pulling out a second sword that she started carrying for just such an occasion. "After that griffin did this to me, or was that someone else, I decided I would be prepared in the future!" she said, fending off her own psychically-controlled blade with the one in her hand! Meanwhile, Omega set to work blasting through the mummies, creating an opening for Punchy and Rainbow to approach Anubis. "Do I really gotta kick your butt again? Just let Violet go, and we'll leave quietly!" Punchy said. Anubis created fireballs in his hands, growling at them. "We remember our first encounter quite differently, don't we... I remember nearly destroying YOU!" he snarled, tossing the fireballs directly at Punchy! He dodged quickly, but Rainbow still squeaked with alarm and pointed at him. "...What?" Punchy said, only to notice that his tail was on fire. "Gaaaaaaaah!!" He ran around hurriedly, trying to put it out, while Anubis started throwing more fireballs his way! "Hey! Quit burning One!" Rainbow shouted, shaking her fist at him. "I am not afraid of you, girl... I'll set you ablaze, as well!" Anubis growled, sending a jet of flame in Rainbow's direction! However, she quickly vanished into a beam of dark energy, which reappeared behind Anubis, revealing Rainbow AND Violet! "Don't TOUCH my sister!!" Violet shouted. Anubis glared at her. "I will deal with your insubordination after these fools are dead..." he said, only to be punched across the jaw by Punchy during his distraction! "You REALLY need to do less threatening and more paying attention!" he chuckled. Anubis rubbed his cheek and snarled. "I will take that under advisement... Now BURN!!" he shouted, hurling flames straight at Punchy! "Chaos Avalanche!!" Punchy struck back, tossing chunks of rock straight into the flames! Neither side of this fight was willing to give in easily...
Suddenly, bullets started flying everywhere, whizzing past Daisy and Patch and startling them! "Hee hee!? Cheese it, the fuzz!" Patch shouted, scurrying away as quickly as he could. Several GUN agents were storming the tower, led by none other than Dr. Nammad and Sgt. Drol! Seeing this, Anubis allowed his mummies to crumble lifelessly. "For now, it appears the tide has turned against us... But watch your backs! The true Covenant of Despair will rise again!!" he said, leading Patch and Daisy in a hasty retreat! With the enemies gone, Alpha flew back down and jumped up and down in celebration. "We won! Let's celebrate with some cake!" he cheered. "So, it's cake now?" Char sighed. Punchy looked at Drol, a bit confused. "You found us... AND you're helping us?" he stammered. Dr. Nammad waved to them with a smirk. "I did some thinking since we met. And, uh, I decided I could do more to, uh, help. So I searched out Drol and led him to you." he said. Drol looked a bit exhausted, but also relieved to have found someone. "I do hope you are someone with a plan. We collected some of the Chaos Emeralds... But beyond that, I admit I am drawing a blank... A tad humiliating for GUN's noble knight. As loath as I am to place my trust in YOU, Experiment 1, I am loath to die here even more." he said. Agents 64, 32 and 77 were each there, holding the blue, red and green Chaos Emeralds, respectively. Silver started to approach them, intending to accept the emeralds. "If I find the others, I'm sure I could figure a way to stop Howler..." he said. Unfortunately, Howler wouldn't allow this. "You'll have to pry those emeralds away from me, first!!" Howler's black, liquid projection appeared at the back of the tower, and the black tendrils of Shadow Chaos came snaking their way in and quickly snatched each emerald away from the GUN agents! As Howler laughed and started to escape, Punchy broke into a run to chase him! "HOWLER!! Enough is enough!! You're going down if I have to pry those emeralds from your slimy...flippers!!" he screamed. "One!! Slow down!! Think about this!!" shouted Rainbow, chasing after them! The others weren't far behind. But where would this chase lead them?
Elsewhere in the crumbling castle were most of the remaining heroes on the island, including Shadow, Rouge, Crash, Whisk and of course, Knuckles. They had been journeying for a while in search of the Master Emerald and the Chaos Emeralds, but so far only found Illusi's elusive Chaos Key, which was essentially worthless to them. What's more, Demon Island's shadowy demons were roaming everywhere, and Lost Ones were loose in the castle to boot. "If we can just find those Chaos Emeralds, I can put a stop to that Darkseeker with or without Sonic!" Shadow growled in frustration. Knuckles punched out a despair agent demon in their way and glanced back at him. "Well, hopefully Sonic's having better luck, 'cuz we're NOWHERE on this so far!" he grumbled. Rouge was busy flying around, kicking away losolanturns as they came at the group, and Whisk was trying to imitate her, only to get her foot stuck in the pumpkin-creature's mouth. "YUCK!! I'm outta here!!" she yelped, teleporting right out before it could bite down! "Please... don't copy me..." Rouge sighed. Crash charged through several large demons with his Chaos Charge technique, easily clearing a path through them! "This way! Hurry, those monsters are just gonna keep comin'!" he shouted. As the others followed, Shadow covered the rear, blasting back any stragglers with Chaos Spears as they headed through the next door and slammed it shut! "Can I go home now?" Whisk whined, "This stopped being fun um... well... I can't really remember it being fun." she said. Knuckles frowned. "You guys can all go if you want... I have to get the Master Emerald back from Howler. Although... At this point it kinda feels too late..." he muttered. Crash shrugged. "Well, I can't leave without Bucky... So I guess I sorta understand. But that emerald's just a rock, you know..." he said. Knuckles shut his eyes and shook his head. "...It's not about the...rock. I have a duty... And I can't abandon it now, no matter how bad it looks..." he explained. Shadow sighed as though bored. "Nice speech. Hate to remind you how short on time we are!" he grumbled, leading the group ahead.
As the group passed into the weapon-training room of the castle, they found the last remaining allies that weren't busy elsewhere: Adam the bat, Evelyn the fox and Cuthburt the alligator! They were busy shooting at some Lost Ones that were flying around the room, and Shadow was quick to notice that Cuthburt was clutching the cyan Chaos Emerald in his hand! "Finally, some luck! Let's fight off these creatures so that they'll give us that emerald!" he suggested. "Yeah, or just 'cuz they're friends of Gemini..." Knuckles added. "Well, if you're gonna help us, HELP US!!" Adam shouted, finding himself a bit overwhelmed by losoars in the corner of the room. "Geez, Adam... You're always in trouble..." Evelyn groaned. While Knuckles, Shadow and the others joined Adam, Evelyn and Cuthburt in fighting the Lost Ones, the back door creaked open, and some robotic eyes peered inside. "I'm ready... I am SO ready! Gimmie the order, doc!" said Jolt, one of the two robots. "...So, we have come full circle, and Knuckles is the opposition. I am prepared." said Freeze, the other robot. They watched for a bit as the group was busy fending off the Lost Ones. Whisk's wings glowed as she flapped them hard, sending a magical wind to tear through any creatures in front of her! Knuckles and Crash stayed to the ground, knocking away any monsters that came near them with physical attacks, though it only destroyed lesser Lost Ones. Rouge had a couple bombs left in her GUN supplies that she brought with her, and used them to take out some losohsts that were carrying blades around, looking rather menacing. Shadow sped around using an assortment of Chaos attacks to take out as many Lost Ones as he could quickly. They were pretty well distracted, so Jolt and Freeze crept into the room pretty much unnoticed. They snuck up towards Cuthburt, and then Jolt pretended to clear his throat. "Huh?? Hey, who let robots in here!?" Cuthburt muttered. "We require your Chaos Emerald... Hold still..." Freeze said, blasting cold air at Cuthburt to freeze his feet while Jolt wrested the emerald from his hand! "Ha ha ha! Too easy!!" Jolt chuckled. "Huh?? Hey, you bots! Bring that back!!" Knuckles shouted, leading a chase as the pair of robots fled through the back door!
Most of the group went to chase the robots, and Jolt chuckled, tossing the Chaos Emerald to Freeze. "Keep-away! Run this to the doc, pal!" he shouted. Knuckles looked at Freeze, and noticed he was wearing some familiar golden shoes with wings on them. "Hey, no fair! He's wearing the Chaos Boots! They'll give him super speed!" Knuckles said, having seen Howler use this power through the last visions from Tikal. Shadow scoffed and ran ahead. "I'll catch him, then!" he shouted. Freeze glanced back at them, and then started to speed up. "Keep up with me if you can..." he said, leaving all of them but Shadow in his dust! Crash started to charge after them, but Knuckles grabbed his tail to slow him down. "...Let's follow the other one... I think they're going to the same place." he reasoned. Jolt chuckled and fired up his jetpack, flying ahead of them as fast as he could manage. "You've all been very helpful finding that emerald! See you in the funny papers, chumps!" he laughed as he took off! Ahead of the group, Shadow was keeping pace with Freeze pretty well. The Chaos Relics weren't meant for robots, and it was quite possible that Freeze wasn't even capable of tapping into the boots' true power. He began to grow concerned that Shadow would catch up, so he turned suddenly and started blasting cold air throughout the hall! Shadow jumped to avoid it, but Freeze sped around him and struck him in the back, freezing most of his body solid! "...You will not interfere with Dr. Eggman. Good bye." he said, running off. In a few moments, Jolt flew by, and the others found Shadow like this. "K-keep...chasing them!" Shadow said, his teeth chattering. Rouge stopped and sighed. "They can keep chasing them... I guess I'd better get you out of this..." she groaned. Knuckles nodded and continued chasing Jolt, soon reaching the East Tower of Despair Castle once again. There, Dr. Eggman was holding the Chaos Emerald, seated in his Egg Mobile. "Knuckles...and friends. How good of you to join me. I was just working on a counter-strategy to combat Howler..." he said. Whisk pointed behind him. "You prepared to counter that creepy-crawler?" she asked. Eggman turned around as he heard a shriek behind him, but it was too late! A black creature jumped from the wall and struck the Egg Mobile, knocking it to the floor! "Aaaaagh! Th-the thrusters are damaged! Wh-what was that!?" Eggman gasped. Looking back behind Eggman, the group could see the shadowy form of Howler!
A good look at the shadowy image of Howler, and it quickly became apparent that this was not the real Howler. Its body was totally black, except for its glowing eyes, and it had a generally feral presence. "Is that a... demon?" Whisk wondered. Crash nodded slowly. "I've heard it explained... That the demons here are made of the darkness collected on the island, and that's why some of them look like Covenant of Despair members that were spellcasters..." he said. Knuckles raised his fists slowly. "Well, Howler's apparently had centuries to cast spells... So this demon could be pretty nasty!" he reasoned. Jolt and Freeze approached the "Shadow Howler" in order to defend Eggman, but the demon blasted them across the room with a swift beam of dark energy! Eggman yelped and looked at Knuckles pleadingly. "Do something, Knuckles!! I... I'll give you the Chaos Emerald! I promise!" he whimpered, pounding at his Egg Mobile's controls uselessly before giving it up and abandoning ship to hide behind the echidna. "You are unbelievable, Eggman! But since I really can't see how you're gonna pull a fast one this time, you got a deal!" Knuckles nodded. Of course, Shadow Howler wouldn't make it so easy! He appeared drawn to the Chaos Emerald, and started charging at Eggman, firing bolts of darkness at both Crash and Knuckles as they tried to block his path! Crash was knocked away, to be caught by a somewhat panicked Whisk, while Knuckles stood his ground, allowing Eggman to run back and get to his robots for protection. "You may not be Howler...but you're gonna be practice! Now quit chasing people and fight me!" Knuckles growled. Shadow Howler glared at him, and jumped his way, performing a spinning tail whip with his two tails, bashing Knuckles back a bit! Knuckles responded by throwing a couple punches at the demon, but they didn't seem to do much good against pure darkness. "...Tough demon..." he muttered, jumping and gliding for the wall as Shadow Howler started shooting powerful bolts of dark lightning at him continuously! Crash and Whisk tried to approach, but the lightning was flying everywhere! "This thing's almost as tough as the real deal! Now what do we do?" Crash grunted.
Dr. Eggman chuckled and pointed directly at Shadow Howler. "Fire! While it's distracted!" he shouted. Jolt and Freeze fired electricity and ice directly at Shadow Howler, slowing it down and freezing a portion of its body! Knuckles saw his chance now. "Uh... Thanks, Eggman!" he said, jumping back down and gliding straight for Shadow Howler, evading blasts of darkness as he aimed straight for the icy patch of its chest! With a good, strong punch, his fist went right through the ice, and Shadow Howler faded into a mass of scattered dark energy with a shriek! Finally, it appeared there would be time for everyone to catch their breath. "Save the 'we make a good team' speech, Eggman. I still want that Emerald back." Knuckles panted. Eggman held it up as though thinking about it, when suddenly, it was snatched out of his hand by a watery black tendril! "Wha-HEY!! I do all the sneaky stealing around here!!" he shouted. Freeze fell over as the Chaos Boots were yanked from his feet as well! The watery projection of Howler emerged at the back of the room to mock them, just as Shadow, Rouge, Adam, Evelyn and Cuthburt were catching up! "A valiant effort by all... But none shall oppose me! The time for humanity's rule over Earth is over... Now, the reign of the Darkseeker shall commence!!" he roared! As Howler began to escape, Knuckles started to chase after him. "Wait just a second, Howler!! You have something that belongs to me!!" he shouted. "Face it... You guardians have failed. You existed solely to stop me, and you were utterly pathetic in that effort..." Howler taunted. Shadow and the others started to give chase as well, but they started getting tripped up by the same tendrils that had stolen the Chaos Emeralds! "Howler's transformation is almost complete!! We've got to do something, NOW!" Shadow growled. "I am gonna do something!" Knuckles shouted, not letting himself be daunted by the tendrils in the least, "I'm the guardian... And I'm gonna find a way to set it all right!!"
To be concluded...