Previously on Rage Against the Empire

The Rebellion of Blue had made great progress in their operation to hijack a transport from one of the Eggman Empire's Chemical Plants. However, Espio was struggling against Rubeus' raw power and was nearly at his wit's end. Fortunately for him, a well-timed arrival of his fellow rebels in their newly-acquired transport allowed them to escape the vicinity while they still could. While Lyn seemed to recognize the individual behind Rubeus' mask, a yellow hedgehog also caught in the crossfire found himself in Westopolis...

Stage 4 - Winds of Isolation

Rebellion of Blue HQ, Central City, USA - November 24, 2X17, 8:21 PM PST

The small squad of resistance soldiers had barely managed to escape the Spaceport at Sector Foxtrot’s Chemical Plant on-board their recently-obtained space shuttle. Despite the success of the heist, Espio was discovered to have several injuries from his fight with Rubeus, whom the chameleon relayed what little he knew of to his comrades, and was sent to the medical bay for treatment. In addition, the shuttle had sustained moderate damage from their escape. Combined with having to wait for a follow-up transmission regarding the location of the orbital prison, it would be a while before they could set out.

Meanwhile, Lyn could be seen in the bunker she was assigned to, lying on her bed - which was not all that comfortable, admittedly - thinking about what she had seen during their dash towards the shuttle. Sure, she was glad that everyone managed to get out of the Spaceport in one piece, but she couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt at the thought of having helped kill actual people like herself and the rest of the Rebellion of Blue.

For the longest time, she had been adamantly against deliberately harming a person, let alone killing them, for reasons other than having a lack of any will to kill. On top of that, she saw him... She had still been pondering on it all in utter confusion when she heard the door open and saw that it was Glacier who had shown up.

“There you are, Lyn,” the she-wolf clad in green chimed in. “I got worried when you didn’t turn up at the briefing for the next phase of our operation. You alright?”

“Yeah, I just needed time to get my shit together is all,” the crimson feline replied with a visibly-fake smile as she sat up on the bed. “I’m still fit for action, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Lyn, I’m not an idiot. I could tell that something threw you off shortly before we got outta there,” Glacier responded back in a slightly firmer tone. After a brief silence from Lyn, the she-wolf went ahead and cast magical runes around the corners of the bunker. “I’ve made the room soundproof, so the only ones who can listen in are in here.”

After another moment of silence, Lyn took a deep breath and answered, “It’s just... seeing that Eggman’s army didn’t consist solely of robots like I initially believed caught me off guard. I never really liked the idea of causing harm to other people, even as a younger girl.”

There was another brief silence between the two girls, which was soon broken by the she-wolf responding, “Not an unexpected reaction, I’ll admit. In fact, I’m not all that fond of needless violence, either.”

Another brief silence overtook the two of them, with the crimson feline unable to come up with any sufficient response, prompting the she-wolf to continue, “Nonetheless, the Eggman Empire is a threat to our world, and we’re at war. One way or another, we have to do everything we can to save our world… even if that means having to make some compromises along the way.”

Despite inciting no response from the crimson feline - or rather, because of it, the she-wolf knew she didn’t have anything else to say that could be of any more help. With that in mind, she promptly left the bunker, though not before saying, “Feel free to talk to me or any one of the others if you need to, Lyn.”

Having been left alone once more, Lyn could not do more than simply remain silent and in thought. She had never been so unsure of anything in her life...

If only you were here... the crimson feline thought to herself with a forlorn look on her face.

Old Warehouse, Westopolis, USA, North America - November 24, 2X17, 7:21 PM PST

The yellow hedgehog, Whirlwind Reyes, was sitting on the side of the plain-looking bed he had been lying down on when he woke up, twiddling his thumbs with an anxious expression. It hadn’t been too long ago since he and a friend of his had broken out of one of the many prison complexes in Neo Metropolis, the capital city of the Eggman Empire, only to end up separated from her.

I hope you’re still alright, wherever you are... the yellow hedgehog thought to himself just as he heard the door open and saw that the two-tailed fox, Tails, had entered the room.

“Oh, you’re up and about!” Tails exclaimed. “I take it you’ve rested up enough to walk around.”

“Yeah. Was just thinking about a couple of things is all,” the yellow hedgehog replied before standing up and leaving them room with Tails following close behind. “There’s a friend of mine I’m worried about, right now.”

“Not hard to see why, really,” the two-tailed fox asked in response. “I haven’t seen my own closest friend ever since the Empire took the world by storm. All the while, I held onto hope that he might be still alive but...”

The young fox’s voice trailed off, finding himself unable to utter of the possibility of his best friend since that day at Westside Island being dead. He just couldn’t accept it, even after all this time. Whirlwind, sensing the turmoil within Tails, reluctantly patted his shoulder in an attempt to provide some comfort.

“Hey, you’re not the only one who’s going through tough shit right now,” the yellow hedgehog spoke in a gentle tone. “I lost almost everyone when that asshole attacked the island I called ‘home’, including my foster parents and possibly my foster brother and best friend as well. Given how the rest of the world is in chaos, I can only imagine how many others have lost what they held dear to them...”

Tails could only continue to listen as Whirlwind continued in a more solemn tone, “...and with her and I separated, I’m worried that she might not have made it at all. I’d probably just break down completely right then and there, if that ever happened... Hope it doesn't.”

After walking through the barren hallway for a short while with Tails in the lead, Whirlwind soon found himself in front of the door of another room. The two-tailed fox then spoke to the yellow hedgehog, “Now, I’m gonna have to ask you to not have any violent reactions towards... anything you might see inside.”

Confused as to why Tails had even bothered to ask, Whirlwind reluctantly nodded at the young fox. However, the yellow hedgehog had a bad feeling that he wasn’t going to like whatever was inside the room in front of them. Unfortunately for him, his concern was proven to be not as baseless as he wished it were, for he found himself suddenly flying into a rage the moment his eyes laid on what he believed was a familiar-looking black hedgehog with crimson streaks inside the room that Tails had led him to. However, Whirlwind would soon find that the savage blow he meant to deal to the black hedgehog merely passed through him.

What the-!?” Whirlwind grunted in surprise as he turned to the other hedgehog before trying to strike him once more, only to find that his target had suddenly vanished.

“Are you quite finished?” the voice of the black hedgehog - Shadow the Hedgehog - sounded from behind, prompting Whirlwind to turn to where it had come from. “I was still in the middle of a quick discussion when you rudely rushed in and interrupted me.”

“Okay, what the hell is going on?” Whirlwind inquired firmly to Tails completely ignoring the other hedgehog. “Last time I saw him, this bastard was with that fatass and the masked freak! Now, he’s suddenly with you?!”

“Look, Whirlwind, it’s kind of a long story, so would you do us a favor and sit down for a second?” the two-tailed fox asked the yellow hedgehog in response. “I promise, this will make a little more sense to you if you hear us out.”

“It would definitely be a better option than simply lashing out on a whim,” a white bat in a skin-tight outfit, Rouge the Bat - whose presence Whirlwind had completely ignored the whole time when he barged in - continued.

After a moment of silence, Whirlwind took a deep breath and reluctantly replied, “Alright, I’ll listen... but make it quick.”

Soon after a fairly lengthy explanation, a still-aggravated Whirlwind rubbed his temples out of a combination of confusion and frustration and spoke in an exasperated manner, “So, lemme get this straight: you are the ‘real’ Shadow the Hedgehog, while the guy I saw with those two that time was just some fake that the masked freak conjured up with that thing on his chest?”

“Correct,” the ebony hedgehog replied with a matter-of-fact tone in his voice.

“Okay, now assume that I actually believe you - which I don’t, by the way - and answer me this,” Whirlwind continued in a softer tone before taking a deep breath. “Where the hell were you all this goddamn time?! Knowing how powerful you are, you could have just swooped in and saved Sonic’s ass back when the fat bastard attacked Central City and probably stopped all the shit that’s come and gone from happening in the first place!”

No response came after the yellow hedgehog’s sudden outburst as he glared daggers right at Shadow. Tails did nothing but carry an expression of doubt and perhaps fear, while the ebony hedgehog continued staring back at Whirlwind, his expression unchanging, as Rouge briefly turned to him with a slight frown.

“I’d explain in full detail, but we’ve not a lot of time. Long story short, I actually had a run in with the masked one myself a month earlier,” Shadow finally responded, still maintaining his stoic expression. “The bastard managed to catch me off guard, and I had to lay low after we managed to get away. Even if I had recovered by then, I likely would have just been trounced all over again, given how little I know of the nature of his abilities.”

“Shadow and Rouge have been travelling from place to place, stealthily infiltrating several locations for intel-gathering,” Tails continued as he then walked over to a fairly large, red-and-black robot with steel claws and a yellow head with green optics. “Meanwhile, I’ve spent the last few months trying to repair Omega. His chassis was simple enough to fix, but whatever the one in the mask did to his programming was pretty effective. It’s around 86% repaired now, but even that took several months of test runs, bug-ironing, and other coding tricks that you probably wouldn’t get.”

At that moment, Rouge’s communicator suddenly went off, prompting her to briefly examine it and chime in, “I’m sorry, boys, I need to take this.”

As the ivory bat quickly left the room to answer the call without any interruptions, Shadow promptly spoke, “So, with that out of the way... I wanted to ask you if you wanted to join us in our operations?”

“And what makes you think I even would?” the yellow hedgehog quickly bit back.

“Because I sense a great deal of power in you - power you’ve kept on a leash, and I especially recognize that desire for revenge in your eyes,” the ebony hedgehog coolly responded. “Believe me, revenge won’t get you far... but as long as the doctor’s empire is still going strong, it would do to have someone like you on our side.”

As he finished his statement, Shadow held out his hand for Whirlwind. However, still finding it difficult to believe the ebony hedgehog’s words, the yellow hedgehog promptly smacked it away and replied, “Well, you can fuck right off.”

Not wishing to remain in their presence any longer, Whirlwind began to make his way to the door and coldly declared, “I’m getting outta here. I’ve got a friend to find and some bastards to shred apart. Thanks for the hospitality, though.”

Tails could only watch as the yellow hedgehog stormed out of the room before letting out an audible sigh at the thought of someone potentially walking right towards their own destruction, even after he had gone through the trouble of saving them. “I know you want to follow him,” Shadow’s voice suddenly rang out, promptly the two-tailed fox to turn to him. “Go ahead. He’ll need someone to keep him in check... and someone he can talk to.”

“Oh...! T-thanks, Shadow,” the two-tailed fox stammered in reply. “...but won’t you need me to finish Omega’s repairs?”

The ebony hedgehog softly chuckled before replying, “I can handle that myself. You’ve done enough already... really, I should be thanking you.”

A brief moment passed before Tails quickly rushed out of the room and began flying off towards wherever Whirlwind had run off to. The last thing he wanted was to let someone else he had just found to still be alive get himself killed...

Westopolis, USA, North America - November 24, 2X17, 7:49 PM PST

The young two-tailed fox cub had been flying all over Westopolis, trying to look for Whirlwind, while trying to keep himself out of sight of any Imperial soldiers or Badniks that happened to be around the area. However, he had seen absolutely no trace of the yellow hedgehog ever since he had gone off on his own. Tails was beginning to fear that the worst may have happened as he muttered to himself, “No, dammit...! Please don’t tell me you got yourself killed...!”

As he landed on the ground below, the fox failed to notice what appeared to be a puddle of liquid seeping its way through a manhole placed right behind him. Tails went a few steps forward before hearing a strange, bubbling sound from behind him, prompting him to turn to its direction and saw the familiar, liquified form of Chaos!

Strain - Sonic Adventure OST

Strain - Sonic Adventure OST

Chaos?! - A Sudden Ambush

“Wha-!! Ch-Chaos?!” the fox cried just as the mutated Chao launched one of its arms forward in an attempt to strike him! His reflexes thankfully took over at the last second, however, as he quickly found himself flying into the air. “Whoa... that was close.”

Chaos was quick to act, however, as it quickly lobbed a sizeable sphere of liquid right towards Tails, who quickly dodge out of the way just as the sphere suddenly burst, only to find himself caught into the water entity’s tight grip, as if he had predicted the fox’s evasive maneuver. Before long, Chaos lifted the fox up into the air and slammed him hard onto the concrete!

“Agh...! Damn, that hurt...” the fox cursed under his breath as he tried to get up from the impact while Chaos began to rapidly approach by shifting into a puddle. Just as the creature leapt towards him for a leaping attack, Tails quickly equipped his Energy Ball cannon and fired it directly at his brain, forcing him to reel back from the sudden blow and promptly back away.

Sufficiently angered from the counterattack, Chaos quickly got back on his feet and plunged one of his arms onto the ground before a large spike of ice suddenly sprouted itself from the ground directly below Tails! Having only dodged it just a second too late, the fox was consequently wounded from the attack and blown back onto the ground. Tails attempted to get back up, but found himself enveloped in a sphere of liquid that quickly solidified, thus freezing him solid, and directly in front of Chaos, who then turned his arms into sharp spikes while the fox could only look on with fear in his eyes, unable to move and save himself in his current state.

Right as he was about to finish it, however, a crescent-shaped projectile suddenly found its way to the back of Chaos’ head, prompting him to once more reel from the sudden impact on his brain and accidentally release Tails from the sphere. As the fox coughed loudly, trying to catch his breath after being frozen solid, he turned to the direction the projectile had come from and saw that it was none other than Whirlwind who had intervened!

“You move your fucking ass away, or we’re gonna have some problems, pal,” the yellow hedgehog spoke grimly as the mutated Chao promptly turned to his direction before lashing out with one of its arms! Whirlwind had seen it coming, however, as he promptly dodged the incoming strike and severed the outstretched arm with a quick chop, causing it to fall onto the floor and melt into mere puddle of water before strangely glitching itself out of reality.

A short moment after, Chaos quickly regenerated its severed arm, though it appeared to be covered in glitch-like effects as it did so, and quickly rushed towards the hedgehog and went on the offensive! Whirlwind had little difficulty in evading his attacks, however, since they were quite slow enough to make doing so easy. He soon found an opening and quickly launched his fist towards Chaos’ head, striking him right onto his brain and knocking down onto the ground again!

Right as the mutated Chao recovered from the blow, Whirlwind fired off another crescent-shaped projectile and yelled, “Zephyr Blade!

Chaos barely managed to leap out of the projectile’s way, however, leaving the projectile to impact the wall, causing a small part of it to blow apart. Considering himself just about defeated, the mutated Chao promptly retreated to the manhole he had come out of as the hedgehog ran after him and cried, “Hey! Get your ass back here!”

It was too late, however, as Chaos had successfully seeped through the manhole and escaped. “Damn it...!” Whirlwind cursed under his breath before turning towards the wounded fox and approaching him. He then held out his hand for Tails to grab hold of as he remarked, “Guess that makes us even. You need a hand?”

The young fox promptly took the hedgehog’s hand and was almost lifted back on his feet when he felt himself buckle due to his injury. “Agh, crap...!” Tails cursed under his breath as he almost fell before shaking off the pain and finally getting back up.

“The hell are you doing out here anyway, kid?” the yellow hedgehog asked. “Weren’t you gonna stick with Shadow for a while longer or something?”

“Well, I couldn’t just let you off on your own,” the fox answered. “...besides, I need to do… something. That day when Sonic… when he...”

Tails’ voice suddenly trailed off, as if he couldn’t bring himself to say the next word he had meant to utter while the yellow hedgehog continued to wait as patiently as he could. “I couldn’t even stop and try to find the others... all I could do was run…” the fox eventually continued. “...even after all I’ve been through, running like a coward was all I could do. It’s already been six months... he still scares me... I still miss him.”

As he maintained his silence for a few more moments, Whirlwind got the sense that Tails genuinely didn't want to speak any further but clearly intended to say something else. Though reluctant, the hedgehog finally sighed, “Alright, fine, you can tag along. I don’t think I can take on all of that fat bastard’s mooks on my own, anyway.”

For what may have been the first time in six months, Tails - upon hearing Whirlwind's response - beamed up and cheerfully replied, “Well, you can count on me, then! So, where do we go first?”

The yellow hedgehog silently looked ahead of him before replying, “...forward, I guess.”

-Stage 4 - End-

Previous Chapter: Stage 3 - Flames of Violence
Next Chapter: Stage 5 - Jailbreak!

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