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Shadow. 2 minutes after Sonic's defeat

I tore through the monster like it was paper, the creature turning into red energy as it let out a roar of pain. I looked over at Tails' body and faced the truth:I was too late. Sonic had been defeated by Infinite:his blood was on my hands. Now I had to stop this madness before it got worse.

I boosted out of the building, Air Shoes roaring jets of fire, towards the signal Rouge was following

"2 metres remaining, Shadow." She said over the comms "Good luck. Send Omega's regards to that bastard."

"Roger." I replied. I saw Eggman, Infinite and Sonic, who was in some kind of water bubble.

"INFINITE!" I roared "EGGMAN! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?"

"I'll handle this." Infinite said "Keep our friends busy"

My air shoes spluttered and I crashed onto the ground, although I rolled as soon as I landed, quickly recovering from the random crash. Eggman floated away with Sonic while Infinite stayed to face me.

"I'm impressed, Shadow" Infinite said "You remember my name at long last"

"Stop this" I said "Now. Before this escalates."

"Stop this? Why would I? I have the ultimate power. I can create whatever I need. I have an army at my disposal. Why would I stop?"

"The people..."

"Why do they matter?"

"They're innocent"

Infinite let out a chuckle.

"Innocent, you said?" He replied "They are not innocent, Shadow. They are useless. Imperfect. They don't have power like you or I. Why do they deserve life at all? What have they done for either of us?"

We stood there, silent.

"Very well." Infinite said. "I have to leave now. Goodbye."

"You're not going anywhere, you son of a..."

Before I could finish the sentence, The world turned black. I woke up lying on cold metal. Above me there was a cold grey ceiling and...stars.

I stood up and looked around. I was on Space Colony ARK. There was a massive window behind me looking out onto the stars. In front of me there was a large control room with a closed door behind it. The room was empty except for...oh, god...

"Hello, Shadow" Maria said. I dashed over and hugged her and she hugged me back. She felt so warm, so real. There was a voice in the back of my mind telling me this was all an illusion, that this was Infinite's work...but it had to be real...I couldn't lose her again...

"Maria" I whispered to her "I don't want to lose you again. I want this to be real"

"Of course it's real" Maria said "All of this is real. Just because it's in your head doesn't mean it's not real"

Maria's expression went blank and she suddenly became very cold. I took my hands away from and she fell to the floor. My right hand was covered in blood.

"No..." I said "Please God, no. This won't happen again. I swear..."

Blood pooled around Maria's body, more than what was possible for a human. I looked up. Standing in the doorway was the Commander, smoking gun in hand.

"What have you done?" I growled.

"I did it for the good of humanity" The Commander said, his voice completely calm.

"Stop the act, Infinite. What have you done?"

"I needed to prove something." Maria said, ignoring the fact she was bleeding out. Everything faded away:nothing left but Maria and the massive pool of blood.

"Wha...what do you need to prove" I asked, my voice shaking. I could hear Infinite's words from the Commander, but not Maria. Not Maria.

"That you are weak"

I woke up face down on the ground where i'd been a few seconds ago. Eggman and Infinite were gone, and Sonic with them. How long was I in there for? I could have been out anywhere from 10 seconds to 3 days.

"Shadow, come in" Rouge said over the coms. I stood up.

"I'm here, Rouge" I said "Infinite...Infinite got away."

"I picked up more life signs. Who was there?"

"Tails, a monster thing, a clone of me and of course Eggman"

"And what happened to Maria?"

"What...what did you say?"

"Maria? What happened to her after the humans killed her?"

"Infinite...stop it"

"Did they mourn her? Did they bury her? Do they remember her?"

"SHUT UP!"

I was tapped on the shoulder and spun round. Rouge was standing right next to me.

"Rouge" I asked her "Are you using the comms?"

"No." She replied "Why would I? I'm right next to you. What happened to Maria, by the way? I heard she died"

"What happened to her, Shadow?" The Rouge over the comms asked "What happened to Maria?"

"Shadow, are you ok?" Rouge asked "You're not answering the question."

"SHUT UP, INFINITE!" I shouted. At this, I saw Maria flash before my eyes before I woke up again as Infinite's laugh cut through the air.

"Shadow, are you ok?" Rouge was standing over me. I was where I'd fought Eggman and Infinite before he'd use his powers on me.

"Where did we meet the first time on the ARK?" I asked, standing up instantly and gripping Rouge's shoulder.

"We met at the control panel for the Eclipse Cannon" Rouge said "Shadow, what's wrong? You were like this after you faced Infinite the first time."

"He...he..." I couldn't bring myself to say it. He'd defeated Sonic. He'd destroyed Maria's memory. He could have pushed me to insanity. And I made him what he is.

"Shadow, what happened to your hand?" Rouge asked in shock. I looked at my right hand. It was covered in blood, like it was in the illusion, and it was still dripping. I kept staring at my hand, the same thing running through my head constantly.

"What have I done?"

Silver. 5 minutes after Sonic's defeat

We should have seen this coming.

It was nearly a week ago that Chaos attacked Angel Island. We'd warned the others that something like this was going to happen, but we didn't know where or when. Knuckles had called Amy to Sunset immediately while i'd called the Chaotix. The Chaotix were on route, but Sonic should be here by now.

"Can you see him?" I asked Knuckles, who was gliding over the city next to me.

"No, and his radio's gone dead." Knuckles replied "I've lost contact with Tails, too."

"He has to be around here somewhere..."

Then I saw him. Sonic was surrounded by a bubble of water, floating in mid-air next to the Egg Mobile and another guy in black a few metres below us.

"That's him!" I shouted to Knuckles, pointing to the bubble of water.

"Got it." He replied "Wait...that bubble of water...could it be...?"

"It's possible. You get Sonic. I'll draw Eggman and the other guy away"

Eggman looked up. He pointed at us and the guy in black flew up towards Knuckles. I caught him with my psychokinesis as Knuckles glided down past him.

"I did not expect this." The man in black said. "Judging by your appearance, I am assuming you are Silver."

"You've got that right!" I replied."Who are you?"

"You may call me Infinite."

"Nice name. What are you doing?"

"Winning"

He rushed towards me and punched me in the face, despite being locked in my psychokinesis. It shouldn't have been possible, but that didn't matter right now. He tries to use his momentum to swing a kick at my chest, but I fly out of the way slightly before flying into him, knocking the air out of Infinite. I followed up by throwing an uppercut to his jaw and a hook to his face, like Espio had taught me. However, before I could do anything else, something grabbed me from behind.

A massive, distorted version of Infinite had grabbed me and slammed me into the ground, before throwing me into the air. The real Infinite struck me with a flurry of kicks an punches, before the distorted version picked me up again and pushed me into the ground, trying to crush me. I used my psychokinesis to push back, but it was useless:despite the spindly frame, it was too heavy.

"It's no use, Silver" Infinite said, his voice heavy with glee "Your power is nothing to mine. And neither is your friend's"

The other arm of the massive version of Infinite reached out beyond my line of sight, before returning with Knuckles and pinning him down next to me.

"Infinite!" Eggman shouted "G.U.N is marching on the city! They're using the path Sonic got here by!"

"I'll handle G.U.N" Infinite said, completely calm "You take Sonic and Chaos back to the lab"

Eggman nodded and flew away, Chaos and Sonic in tow. Infinite stayed there, glaring us down.

"Well, it seems I have other concerns" He said. "I'll leave you with my friends now. Goodbye"

Infinite flew away and the giant version of him flickered and vanished. We stood up, trying to get our breath back

"You ok?" I asked Knuckles.

"Yeah...yeah, i'm fine" He replied. He paused for a moment before saying "They beat...they beat Sonic. That guy in black beat Sonic."

"We'll free him somehow" I said "I swear."

Something hit me in the back and I fell to the ground. I only had time to look round and see Metal Sonic before he smashed his foot into my face and I blacked out.

Kai. 10 minutes after Sonic's defeat

We'd been deployed as soon as we'd heard Eggman was marching on Sunset half an hour ago. The G.U.N squads that were deployed were purely Mobian:they higher-ups thought it was the best idea for political reasons, and that Sunset's population was almost entirely Mobian. Following behind the 20 or so G.U.N trucks were 10 trucks with Kable Enforcement members, which Kable the Fox had insisted on deploying against Eggman. Above us were ten helicopters with gatling guns and 5 carrying Big Foots. I'd finished my training not long ago:this was my first deployment in the field. I'd been placed in Indigo Wolf squad, which featured a mix of experienced soldiers and newer guys like me. We were all holding the same brand of laser which Kabletech had finished developing after completing research on Hyper-Go-On.

"How hard is this going to be?" I asked "I mean, is the Eggman Empire a hard enemy to fight or what?"

"Look at it this way, kid" A gruff lieutenant called Max said "If they thought it was hard, they wouldn't have been putting a squad of newbies on the job"

"But held his own against the Black Arms, right? We had trouble dealing with them"

"He only attacked the Black Arms because he screwed up, and even when he did he never had the strength to take them on directly. He spent most of his time on the defensive. Stop worrying kid:this will be a cake walk."

He smiled at me, and I smiled back. It was another 10 minutes before we reached city limits. The trucks stopped and we jumped out of the truck before activating comms.

"This is Indigo Wolf squad, ready for combat" Max said, before receiving replies from the rest of the squadron

"Golf Raven squad, ready for combat"

"Bravo Eagle squad, ready for combat"

"Echo Hedgehog squad, ready for combat"

"Vanguard Delta reporting. Big Foots operational"

Some of the trucks stopped beside ours, while some went off down other streets. Max ushered us down the street the trucks had stopped on, while the individual squads split up down alleys and into wrecked buildings. Behind us, Type-A Big Foots clanked to life and followed us down the road until we reached a crossroads where we split up. I kept diving in and out of cover like i'd been taught, keeping an eye on Max and the rest of Indigo Wolf squad all the time.

"Bravo Eagle squad" I heard over my comms "You guys find anything?"

"Indigo Wolf squad. Negative" I replied, seeing the others wern't listening "We're all clear"

"Damn" the eagle replied "It's too quiet. Eggman's not like this. Keep on your toes"

"Roger, Bravo Eagle. We'll keep it in mind."

We came to the middle of a circular crossroads with a large pile of rubble in the centre, which gave us perfect cover to duck behind.

"Golf Raven squad" my comm suddenly beeped "Guys, Shadow's here! Shadow the Hedgehog's here!"

We all looked at each other in surprised and joy. If Shadow was here, the battle would be over before it began.

"Shadow, don't worry we're from G.U.N" The raven continued, his voice filled with joy like the rest of us "Shadow, we're on your side...Shadow, what are you doing? We're on your side" The voice stopped being happy and sounded much more scared. Then, the happiness turned to the sounds of screams and laserfire. Then...

"Mayday! Mayday!" A different voice said over the comm "This is Golf Raven squad! We're under attack by Shadow the Hedgehog! We need urgent..."

The comm cut out. We looked at each other, trying to process what happened. And then my comm exploded.

"This is Vanguard Delta. Engaging unidentified Zeti."

"Bravo Eagle squad. We're pinned down by enemy fire!"

"Echo Hedgehog squad! We're caught in quicksand!"

"Quicksand?!?" One of our squad members replied "What's happening there?"

"I don't know, the quicksand just..." the voice cut off abruptly has new voices cut in.

"Vanguard Delta! Big Foot down! We need backup! He's tearing into the co..."

"Can't...Breath..."

"No...please God no...not here..."

"Solaris help us!"

"Wha...who am I?"

"RUN! If anyone's listening, GET THE HELL AWAY!"

My hand trembled on the hilt of my gun. I could see the rest of the squad were terrified and helpless, even the experienced ones. Then Max broke down screaming in agony and He appeared next to him, glitching into existence like some kind of video game. We all aimed at Him.

"Well, well. You must be Indigo Wolf squad, yes?" He said. "Welcome to the party. I must say, you are late. Sonic fell at least 10 minutes ago."

We looked at each other in shock. How could Sonic lose?

"It's a shame you can't see what he sees" He said, looking at Max. "But it wouldn't be fun that way, would it?"

They only flashed into existence for a second, but I saw them:spiders, all the size of a bathtub, crawling over Max, venom dripping from their teeth. My hand was shaking more than ever.

"Well, I suppose I will have to kill you now" He continued. "But let's see how far I can push you first."

He teleported right into my face, his only eye glaring into mine like he was trying to see into my soul. I jumped back and fired a few wild shots, but none of them landed:He simple disappeared. I looked at the rest of my squad: they had all seen the same thing happen to them. We hid back behind our cover, waving our guns around like little kids having a play fight. But this was more than a game. This was real. This was all real.

I saw His eye glint out of a window. A millisecond later, He was at the end of the street, then kneeling over Max's writhing body, then directly in front of my face, then...nowhere.

"Where's the bastard gone?" One of the other squad members shouted.

"H-h-he was here." I said, my voice trembling "He was in front of me. He..."

"This can't be real." Someone else said "This isn't real. He's using mind control or..."

"This is all real" an ear-splitting voice echoed, trying to pierce my skull "This is all very real"

There was a crash and I looked over the pile of rubble I was using as cover. A building had shattered and He was floating there, suspended. Everyone started shouting and fired their lasers, me with them. I couldn't land a single shot:no one could. They were too scared of Him.

"There is no reason to resist" He said, completely calm "Your savour is no more."

His hand glowed red and a laser beam raked across the ground, killing Indigo Wolf squad in seconds. It happened in slow motion:everyone i'd known for the past few months training. People who had helped me get to where I was. Mentors. Friends. All gone in a second.

A laser clattered to the ground beside me as I cowered behind my cover. I was dead. He had killed my squad, and now He would kill me. I crawled over to the laser, trying to get it before he could see me.

"I can taste your terror child." He said as I fumbled trying to grab the handle "All that anxiety and doubt...it's delicious."

I grabbed the gun and aimed it just as he shot a laser blast at my feet, knocking me over and making me lose my grip on the gun.

"Give into your fear" He continued "Flee, screaming, and I will let you live"

I watched as his head rolled back and he laughed. Then I ran.

"Ma-mayday" I said "Mayday. This is...this is...please, God, just tell me someone's out there"

The comm was dead. I got back to the truck and fell to my knees. A tear fell from my eye.

"Please...please someone...just make it stop"

Even from here, I could here Him laughing.

Infinite. 20 minutes after Sonic's defeat

Panic was spreading. People were screaming. Good men were dead, never to see the light of day or whatever friends or family they might have. People have seen nightmares that would haunt them for eternity. 7 charred bodies lay at my feet, and another one writhing in pain from invisible spiders. Everyone was terrified.

And I loved it

I laughed, stretching out my arms, enjoying the sensation. I floated there, drunk on fear, enjoying every second. I remembered his face, the soldier I just fought, trying to fight me before fleeing in terror. I can see him now, crying in horror over his loses. I remember Tails, drowning, broken by the loss of his friend and savour. I remember Shadow, the emotionless, brooding hero, terrified by a single girl. I wanted more. I craved it. And it was only a thought away.

I looked up. A G.U.N helicopter that the robots hadn't handled floated in mid air, gatling gun spinning an endless stream of bullets. Good. More ginny pigs for the Phantom Ruby.

I teleported next to the helicopter, felt my body disappear and then reform with renewed vigour. They looked at me in fear and surprise , spun the helicopter round and fired on me. It was useless:the bullets turned to water on my skin, falling like raindrops on a coat. I activated the Phantom Ruby, feeling the power flow through me, desperate to be released. I felt round the helicopter with invisible hands and squeezed it, the metal tube crushing down on it's inhabitants. I could hear their screams, their fear coursing through my veins. I teleported into the cockpit, using the Ruby's power to change my shape and fit inside the constricting metal. My eye locked with the pilot's, and pleasure washed over me as I saw his face, terror written on it like a book. I watched as the helicopter became smaller and smaller, crushing the crew slowly and painfully. Eventually, I teleported out and let the vehicle shrivel up completely, letting the hunk of metal fall to the ground.

I laughed. I couldn't stop using the Ruby. I had to go through hell to get it, but it was worth it:the horrors I had seen were forgiveness and strength. My own fear was purged completely. I felt little emotion:all I felt was joy. I knew the Ruby was driving me insane, driving me to create more nightmares, far worse than the ones before it. But I couldn't stop. I loved it. I didn't want to let it go.

"Infinite!" Eggman called on the comm link within my new face "Return to the Chemical Plant immediately. The G.U.N forces in Sunset have been eliminated. We still have a world to conquer."

Don't go there. a voice in the back of my mind begged. Don't let this end. Please don't let this end. But I didn't have a choice.

"I will return immediately, Doctor." I said before I shot across the sky, leaving a city of nightmares behind me.

Knuckles. 20 minutes after Sonic's defeat

I was hurled through the wall, crashing through the ruined house before landing in a heap on the street behind it.

"Uh" I said, trying to stand up "When the hell did you get this strong?"

Metal Sonic floated through the hole i'd made, his blue metal scared from my punches. His hands crackled with electricity

"My template is gone" he said, his voice crackling like some kind of 1930s radio "I am Sonic now. I am the superior"

"Sonic's alive. I saw him. And he'll beat you like he always has"

Energy surrounded Metal and he rushed forward. I dived to the side just in time and he crashed into the wall. I punched the wall as hard as I could and it crumbled, the bricks falling on Metal, who was still recovering from hitting the wall in the first place. I tried to block the falling rubble as best I could, but there wasn't much I could do being right at the epicentre of the falling rubble. All I could do was stand there and let it come down on me.

Then I felt a hand on my shoulder and suddenly I was standing next to the falling wall, out of harms way, watching as Metal Sonic tried to avoid the bricks. I looked round. Espio the Chameleon was next to me, a hand on my shoulder. Beside him was Vector, who was currently carrying the still unconscious Silver, and Charmy Bee, who for the first time in his life actually looked scared.

"Thanks, Espio" I said "Where did you learn a trick like that?"

"A friend taught me" he said, glancing over at Silver "Is he...?"

"He's fine, Espio" Vector said "He's still got a pulse. No need to worry"

"Metal took him out too easily" I said "I'm not sure if it's just that he got us at the wrong time, but it feels like he got a power boost."

"What do you mean the wrong time?" Vector asked. Before he could answer, the rubble shifted and Metal flew out again, sending a barrage of electric bolts at us.

"For crying out loud!" I said, dodging whatever I could "What does it take to beat this bastard?"

"Language!" Vector said, doing the same thing as me "You wouldn't say that around any other kid, you know!"

"Sorry Charmy." I mumbled under my breath. Metal prepared for another charge, his body lighting up like a Christmas tree. However, before he could do anything, he was knocked over from behind by a hammer.

"Hey guys!" Amy said "Sorry i'm late for the party. Had to pick up some friends."

"What friends?" I asked. Metal tried to get up, but before he could a black and yellow blur flew down and smashed into him and the lights that made up his eyes turned off.

"These friends." Gemerl said, pulling his fist out of Metal's chest and standing up. As he did, Big the Cat and Cream the Rabbit floated down on Big's umbrella. Cheese the Chao floated beside Cream.

"Are you kidding me?" Vector said, horrified "You bought a six year old girl and a fisherman with you?"

"Says the person who bought a nine year old bee with them" Amy said "At least I have the robot"

Gemerl proceeded to bow.

"Guys, can we not argue right now?" I said "Anyway, I can vouch for Cream and Big. Cream's proved herself multiple times and Big fought Chaos 6 for crying out loud"

"Fine, fine, i'll role with it" Vector replied. "What do we do?"

"With Sonic out of the way, Eggman is going to take advantage of that and attack everywhere" I said. "We need to get everyone ready. We need to warn G.U.N and...those sort of people"

"Hey, Vector" Charmy said "Didn't we have a base here during the Black Arms Invasion?"

"Hey, well remembered Charmy" Vector replied, his face lighting up "I forgot about that"

"You have a base?" I replied

"Yes" Espio said "Let us get there with Silver, and we can start preparing for Eggman's attack"

"We'll start clearing out the city" Amy said. Gemerl nodded, Cream looked slightly scared and Big was expressionless as always.

"Ok, guys" I said. "Let's get too it."

the Chaotix disappeared with Silver. Amy jumped off the pile of rubble and ran off down the street with Big, Cream and Cheese following her. Gemerl flew off through the building Metal had thrown me through. I ran off down the street in the opposite direction Amy went. At the end of the street, I was met by a welcome party of Egg Pawns which I dispatched almost immediately. Buzz Bombers flew down from the sky and I grabbed onto a nearby wall before leaping off and gliding into them, destroying them instantly. Far away, I could hear the battle continuing.

We may have lost Sonic, but we're not done yet.

Tails. 25 minutes after Sonic's defeat

I woke up covered in rubble. It wasn't large rocks, and I certainly wasn't going to die here, but it was enough to slow me down when I got up. So many questions were going through my mind. Who was Infinite? How did he beat Sonic? Why hadn't Zavok killed me? Where was he now? Why was Shadow working for the enemy? I couldn't work them out now, though. I had to get the Miles Electric and figure out a plan of action.

I flew back to where Sonic had lost to Infinite, although it was harder than I thought seeing I was coughing up dust all the way there. When I picked up the pad I checked the readings I had picked up earlier from Infinite. They still made no sense:he was physically average, and all calculations pointed to Sonic having been able to beat him. Yet there were anomalous readings where his vital signs and physical strength increased dramatically, far above the level of any Mobian, even artificial ones like Shadow. Although it could easily be a fault with the Miles Electric, it was too frequent to be ignored and it was the only way to explain how he beat Sonic.

I realised I had to find the others. Knuckles, Amy, anyone. I tapped a few times on the Miles Electric and opened up the radio.

"Knuckles" I said "Are you there?"

"Tails!" Knuckles replied, his surprise audible even through the pad's speakers "You're alive! We thought Eggman got you when he defeated Sonic!"

"Do you know where they've taken Sonic?" I asked, hopeful.

"No. Eggman and Chaos took him away. Me and Silver tried to intercept them, but the guy in black..."

"Infinite was there?"

"Yeah, I think he was called Infinite. He defeated me and Silver without a second thought"

"That was the guy who beat Sonic." I said, thinking too myself. This wasn't good. Someone who could win against Sonic on his own was scary enough, but i'd seen what Silver and Knuckles could do in the past. If someone could beat both of them at the same time...

"Where are you guys?" I asked.

"I...dunno" Knuckles said "All the streets look the same..."

"Have any of the others turned up?"

"Amy turned up with Big, Cream and Gemerl. The Chaotix have a secret base here, and they're going there now with Silver."

"Have you seen Shadow?"

"Nope. What happened to him?"

"Shadow's working on the other side! He helped Infinite beat Sonic!"

"WHAT?" Knuckles sounded surprised and horrified at the same time. "Shadow's working with Eggman?"

"It could be a ploy" I said "I mean, he's done it before..."

"We can't assume it's a ploy. Shadow is our enemy until proven otherwise."

"But, Knuckles..."

"No buts. He was our friend once. If he's working against us, we work against him. Understood?"

I sighed. "Yes."

"Go to Park Avenue" Knuckles commanded "Espio or Silver will pick you up. Good luck"

The speaker went dead. I didn't know the way to Park Avenue, but I knew what it looked like. It ran alongside the largest park in the city, filled with trees and benches and birds. I doubted it would be like that now.

I was about to fly away when something grabbed my tails with a cold, metal hand. I turned round and saw the cold LED lights of Omega's eyes looking into mine.

"Omega?" I muttered in shock. Some of his paint had been scratch off, his eyes were flickering and he was missing his left arm.

"SHUT DOWN IMMINENT." Omega shouted in his cold voice "TA-TA-TAILS. HELP HIM"

"Help who, Omega?"

"TRU-TRU-TRUST HIM. NO ONE ELSE WIIIIIIII"

Omega's lights flickered out and he fell to the floor. I staggered away in shock. What was strong enough to leave Omega in a state like this? It didn't matter. There was nothing I could do for Omega now. I had no idea how to fix an E-Series, and even if I did I didn't have the materials and I couldn't lift him too Park Avenue. I pulled my tails from his dead right hand and flew away.

Orbot. 30 minutes after Sonic's defeat

This was one of the greatest moments in my whole robotic life. We were on the top floor of the Chemical Plant, looking out at the sea through a massive glass window. In the water, surrounded by cranes and pulleys, was a massive dome shape that was currently mostly submerged in water. The thing under the water would go into space as proof of Eggman's glory. It would be the greatest moment of my life...if that idiot Cubot didn't screw it up.

"So...how about we call it the Egg Reverie?" He suggested. "Or maybe you could call it the Titanic Monarch? How about Sky Patrol, that's a good name!"

"Sky Patrol was a good guy ship, you idiot" I said, desperately willing Cubot to shut up. Eggman was standing with his back to us looking out of the window, doing an amazing job to ignore my idiot partner.

"Then how about you call it the Egg Crater? No one's done that before."

"That game’s not canon anymore."

"How about the Egg Carrier, then? When it launches you can go on TV and be like...like...BEHOOOLD MY FLOATING MASTAPIECE, THE EGG CARRIAH! Oooooor...maybe you could call it doc..."

"Cubot" Eggman interrupted, keeping his back turned to us "If you suggest calling it Dr. Eggman's Incredible Interstellar Amusement Park, I will not be amused."

"But I was going to say that..." Cubot muttered, clearly disheartened.

"Maybe" I suggested "You could just call it the Death Egg?"

"Ooh" Cubot replied, back to his previous levels of excitement "Yeah, that sounds good"

"Yes" Eggman said, his voice bursting with pride "Let's call it the Death Egg."

"Yay!" Cubot shouted, jumping up and down "Go Death Egg mark...what number are we up too now?"

At that point, Infinite appeared at the window on the other side of the glass. The glass slid back and he walked into the room, walking over to Eggman. The Doctor turned to him.

"Infinite" he said "Welcome back. How was the battle?"

"An unmitigated success" Infinite replied. Multiple holographic screens appeared around Infinite as Eggman took his vital signs and checked for faults in the Phantom Ruby.

"Are the G.U.N soldiers dealt with?"

"Yes. I left them begging for mercy."

"They shouldn't be begging at all when you've finished with them."

"Yes, but...where's the fun in that?"

"I made the mistake of letting Sonic go too many times. Each time he came back...even when he got turned into a werewolf and fell from space he came back..."

"Please. These people are helpless soldiers. No power gene. No Chaos Emeralds. Nothing. How could they destroy my empire?"

Eggman looked up from the screens and looked straight into infinite's eye.

"It's my empire, Infinite" he said, angrily.

"Of course, Doctor." Infinite replied, a hint of pleasure in his voice. The holographic screens deactivated.

"Infinite" Eggman said, his voice returning to normal "I need you to give me the Phantom Ruby."

Although I couldn't see his face, I knew Infinite was horrified at the suggestion. He clutched the Ruby on his chest, standing slightly further away from Eggman like he was defending an infant.

"What?" Infinite said, shocked "No. This power is mine. We agreed on that. The Ruby is MINE"

"Infinite" Eggman replied without a change in his tone "The energy..."

"I don't care about what's happening with the energy! I keep the Ruby! I keep the Ruby! I need the Ruby!" Infinite was practically pleading now. He clutched his mask, and bent over, his pupil dancing in his eye.

"Iamnotweak" he muttered "iamnotweakiamnotweakiamnotweakiwon'tletyougoiwon'tletyougoICAN'TLETYOUGO"

"Infinite" Eggman continued "The Ruby was leaking energy during the battle. Residue energy has already affected some of your victims. If it continues to leak, the Ruby will eventually run out of energy or, worse, change reality uncontrollably. It needs to be repaired"

Infinite regained some of his composure and stood up straight

"Y-yes doctor" he said, removing the Ruby from his chest and giving it too Eggman "Thank you for the offer to repair the Ruby."

"And thank you, Infinite, for making my dream happen"

"Our dream, Doctor."

Eggman paused for a moment.

"Yes" he said. "Our dream."

Eggman walked away and, after a few seconds, me and Cubot followed him. As I looked back at Infinite, I saw he was still shaking.

Infinite. 32 minutes after Sonic's defeat

The moment I gave him the Ruby, everything changed.

My pupils dilated like they were looking at a bright light. Everything suddenly seemed so dark. My body felt so cold I felt like I was outside in the Spaceport's frozen pathways. Then Eggman and his subordinates left the room and it started.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and Foxtrot walked past. She was a female Jackal who I had known for several years. We'd even been in a relationship, although it broke down after a few months. She smiled and winked at me as she walked past and stood infront of me. Several other Jackals joined her, all of them male. I knew them all by their codenames:Alpha, Bravo, Delta, Tango, Sierra...they were my squadmates. The members of Squad Jackal.

And their corpses were rotting in Mystic Jungle.

"Well, well" Foxtrot said "Look what we have here."

"You're not real." I muttered "You're not really here. You're dead. You're all dead."

"Does it look like we are?" Bravo replied

"I watched you die"

"Then how are we here?" Delta chimed in.

"It's a hallucination. The Ruby...taking the Ruby...it...it..."

I rushed for the door, but Bravo and Delta grabbed me and pulled me to the floor. Hallucinations shouldn't be able to do that, but it felt so real...it felt so real...

"This isn't real" I kept saying to myself "Thisisn'trealThisisn'trealThisisn'treal"

"Oh, but it is." Foxtrot said as she touched my face "This is real. This is all very real"

Then it hit me:she'd touched my face. I didn't have my mask on.

I crawled away, panicking, feeling around for my mask. It had gone. It had completely gone. Tears welled up in my eyes. What was I without the mask? Without the Ruby?

"You don't need the mask, you know" Sierra said.

"I NEED IT!" I shouted, my voice shaking, tears streaking my fur "I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IT! WITHOUT IT, ALL I AM...all I am...is nothing."

"Yes, you are" Foxtrot said calmly, kneeling down next to me. "You're Ec-"

"DON'T SAY THAT NAME!" I screamed, like a child without his toy "HE'S DEAD! ECHO IS DEAD! I AM INFINITE! I AM NOT ECHO! I AM NOT WEAK! I AM NOT WEAK!"

Foxtrot knelt down and hugged me.

"Don't worry." She whispered to me softly "You're not weak. You're strong."

We were silent for a moment. Then she spoke in the same soft voice as before seconds before I blacked out.

"Now then, how do you remember us dying?"

I woke up on the floor. I still felt the same way I did before, and I was still without the ruby, but I had the mask and I was no longer hallucinating, which made me feel slightly better. Orbot was floating over me holding the Phantom Ruby. I immediately stood up and snatched it out of his hand, relieved to feel it's power flow through me and my body and mind return to normal. However, it's power felt different somehow.

"What has Eggman done?" I asked, attaching the Ruby to my chest.

"This is one of the prototypes." Orbot said "Eggman created multiple prototypes for the Phantom Ruby before giving you the final version to you. As the prototypes are the only things that can counter the final version, Eggman plans to dispose of them."

"So why doesn't he just destroy them?"

"I asked that too, but Eggman wants to get the most out of the prototypes, and extended use destroys most of them relatively quickly. Also, yours is one of the weaker versions, so don't try to go into battle or fly or anything. A few teleports should be ok"

"But he'll give me the strongest version back?"

"Eventually. Once he's finished repairs."

I paused for a moment.

"Thank you, Orbot"

"My pleasure" the robot said as he floated off.

I let the Ruby's energy flow through me, revelling in it's power. Even with it on, I thought I saw someone out of the corner of my eye. It was Foxtrot. And she was still smiling.

Tails. 47 minutes after Sonic’s defeat

I flew into the park. The place was a mess, littered with fallen trees and burning rubble. In the centre of the park, standing in a dried up water fountain, was Espio, rapidly throwing shurikens at the Egg Pawns walking his way. Espio was doing a good job of dodging the laser blasts, but they’d overwhelm him eventually.

I flew into the Pawn’s left flank, spindashing through them and quickly flying round to Espio while I still had the momentum.

“You ok, Espio?” I asked.

“I could say the same to you,” Espio replied “You survived a confrontation with the man that beat Sonic.”

“He let me go. I don’t know why, but he let me go. It wasn’t just him, though. Eggman had allies.”

“Who?”

“Zavok, Chaos, Metal Sonic...and Shadow.”

“Shadow?!”

“Yeah, Knuckles said the same thing.”

A new wave of Egg Pawns started advancing.

“Knuckles said you’d take me to your HQ.” I said.

“Yes,” Espio replied “Hold on.”

I grabbed onto Espio’s arm and we appeared in some kind of control centre. Nothing was here but a large blue screen and a table. Vector and Charmy were looking at the screen, tapping on the keyboards. Charmy looked behind him.

“Hey, Vector!” He said “Tails is here!”

Vector looked round as well.

“Hey, Tails!” He said “Glad to see you’re still alive!”

“Good to see you as well, Vector.” I replied “What is this place?”

“Eggman raided our offices during the Black Arms invasion incase we got in his way. We were based down here until the war ended. Seeing everyone’s in the city right now, we thought it would be a good idea to stay here.”

“Everyone?”

“Knuckles, Silver, Amy, Gemerl, even Cream and Big. They’re all here.”

“What about Rouge?”

“We haven’t seen Rouge,” Espio said “Although the reason is likely obvious.”

“We got the information about Shadow just after you left, Espio,” Vector said “This is not good.”

“Is Silver ok?” Espio continued.

“He’s still unconscious, but he’s stable. He’s in the medbay if you want to see him.”

Espio nodded and walked through the door to the right.

“Wait, what happened to Silver?” I asked.

“He got taken out by Metal Sonic,” Vector said “Knuckles said he’d had a serious power boost since he’d last fought him onboard the Egg Fleet.”

“Do you know where Eggman took Sonic?”

“Silver and Knuckles intercepted Eggman, Sonic and the new guy, but they escaped. We don’t know where they’ve gone.”

“Then we get him back.”

I walked over to the computer and started typing.

“But Tails,” Vector said, surprised at my proposition “We have no idea where Sonic is! He could be in space for all we know!”

“Vector, my name is Miles Prower. I built my first computer at the age of 6. I’ve translated alien languages, driven battle mechs and built spaceships. I can find the man who will get us out of this mess, and if I can’t, no one can.”

“But how are you going to find him?”

“Well, Sonic is going to be in a high security Eggman facility, that much is obvious. However, seeing it’s barely been an hour since his defeat, it’s likely Infinite is still near his location,” I plugged the Miles Electric into the computer and downloaded the data I took from Infinite. I pressed a few buttons and started scanning the globe, locating similar energy signals, and only 1 match was found: the Chemical Plant off the eastern shore of the continent.

“There,” I said “Any questions?”

Charmy and Vector were both completely dumbfound.

“Good. Now let’s clear out this city.”

Sonic. 52 minutes after Sonic’s defeat

When I came round, I was in a white room. I was floating in mid air, held by some kind of stasis field, my legs and arms splayed out in a cross shape. I slowly lifted my head as my vision came back to me to look at my captor in all his glory.

“Oh, hey, Baldy McNose-”

The room vanished. I was standing at the bottom of a pile of rubble, the sky above me a burning red. On top of the pile stood the man who defeated me. I immediately homing attacked him, but he casually stepped aside and knocked me away with a blast of energy. As soon as the energy hit, I was back in the white room, out of the status field.

“What was that?” I asked, assuming Eggman was still in the room.

“That, my friend, is how I defeated you,” Eggman said. “I’m not telling you my secrets, of course, that would be stupid. What I am telling you is that if you even try to break out of this cell, I can do things much worse than that to you.”

“Huh, really?” I said, standing up and raising an eyebrow. “Like what, exactly?”

“This.”

Eggman pulled a laser out of thin air, pointed it at me, and fired. I dodged to the side and there was a scream behind me. I looked round to see Tails turn to dust in front of my eyes.

“Tails!” I shouted, my arm outstretched. I clenched my fist and fell to the floor. He couldn’t be dead. He was at Sunset, safe with Knuckles and the others. This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real.

“I can do it again if you didn’t get the point?” Eggman asked.

“That...that wasn’t him was it?”

“No,” Eggman said, walking towards the cell door. “But I could only do it once if it was. This way I can do it as many times as I want, however I want. I can do it enough times to break you.”

Eggman walked out and closed the cell door behind him. Despite the situation, I smiled to myself. He was trying to mess with my head, making my fears come to life so I wouldn’t fight him. Pretending to kill Tails hadn’t made me less likely to break out. All it did was make it more likely that, when I did break out, I would be coming for him first.

“Nothing can keep me trapped forever, Eggman,” I shouted, my voice brimming with some newfound anger “I thought you’d learned that by now.”

Eggman. 56 minutes after Sonic’s defeat

I heard Sonic’s threats and smiled. Sonic believed I was useless: an egotistical scientist who kept pulling off bizzare stunts to take over the world. Yet he forgot that I had defeated him before. I had shot him into space on the ARK and he only survived because of the false Chaos Emerald. I had turned him into the Werehog and had managed to keep him at arms length long enough to finish Eggmanland. I was his superior. He only won through luck and his friends. And this time, he wouldn’t win at all.

I walked into lab 23, where the Phantom Ruby prototypes that were not in Mystic Jungle were stored. Floating in the centre of the room was Infinite’s Phantom Ruby, the finished model, based off the one I had found outside Arsenal Pyramid. I could have used it there and then, but I didn’t. I wasn’t impulsive like Sonic, not using the powers at my disposal without hesitation. I studied it, perfected it, improved on its power. Although I had not figured out how to design the Ruby so it produced its own power supply, I had created an energy supplier in another lab that I planned to fit too the Death Egg soon, and it was much more powerful and more predictable than the one I had found. No challenge could not be overcome with the power of science.

The Ruby had been leaking residue energy, which would leave long lasting illusions imprinted on the victims. However, while useful in a regard, it also wasted the energy supply: the power between the supply and the Ruby is a loop, like a circuit without a battery. If the energy leaks out, it can’t be restored, at least not without disabling the loop entirely. Now, however, it was fully repaired, and ready to be returned to Infinite.

Infinite. A vengeance obsessed psychopath who couldn’t stand the sight of his own face. He was no man to build an empire on, and I knew I couldn’t rely on him in the long term. However, my rare failures had taught me something over the years. Chaos, Shadow, Metal Sonic, the Deadly Six. All had turned on me because I was unable to properly keep them in check. The Time Eater, however, had been different. He had heeded my and my past self’s every command. He had no mind of his own; he had been easy to manipulate. Infinite, in some ways, was just another Time Eater: his desire for vengeance and love of his power kept him in check. As long as they existed, he had no will. I could keep him on a leash. And when he started waking up? I cut the Phantom Ruby’s energy supply. I take the most precious thing in his life. I leave him begging for his addiction for days on end. I put him on another leash.

And if he did fail? I had other plans for him.

Cubot floated into the room behind me.

“Well?” I asked.

“The UFEA have rallied, boss,” Cubot said “They’re ready to attack.”

The United Federation Egg Army had been positioned in my Iron Jungle and Hot Shelter facilities since the Black Arms war. They had taken a huge beating by G.U.N and had needed time to rebuild their forces. Now they were ready to strike back.

“Tell them to march on Central City,” I commanded “Take out G.U.N before they can rally properly. Oh, and take this to Infinite and tell him to send a Shadow replica there.” I continued as I gave Cubot the repaired Phantom Ruby.

“Specifically a Shadow one?” Cubot replied.

“I want the Commander to be proven right about Shadow being a monster. We have to lower the chances of him joining up with Sonic’s friends, keep him away from major conflicts. If the Commander and the remnants of G.U.N join up with Sonic’s friends, he will tell them about the attack. No one will accept Shadow into their fold. He’ll be much less of a problem. A problem, nonetheless, but a much smaller problem.”

“You seem a little focused on Shadow, boss. There’s gotta be some other threats.”

I smiled to myself.

“The only other threat is sitting in a cell down the hall. Now inform the UFEA of my commands and begin the assault. We still have a world to capture.”

Shadow. 1 hour after Sonic’s defeat

Me and Rouge floated to the bottom of the shaft, me with my Air Shoes and her with her wings. We’d both got out of Sunset as fast as we could: G.U.N and Sonic’s friends had arrived on site and we had no idea what tricks he would be playing on them. The last thing we needed was to get in their way, or worse, for them to defeat us. We both looked at the metal door where I had been locked away for so long with Omega until Rouge found us.

“You know,” Rouge said “I really thought there would be some kind of secret treasure here.”

I put in the passcode and opened the door. The room was a mess, and had been since Omega tried to kill me. The pods and equipment, including the one I had been in, were all destroyed except for one which was behind Omega when he had started firing. This Eggman facility had been abandoned for ages. It was the first base of many to face the wrath of Team Dark.

This wasn’t our normal base by any means. We usually set up at nearby G.U.N emplacements, but Rouge had set up equipment here in case anything like this happened and we were forced to abandon G.U.N. We had radio equipment, food, even a running water supply (although why Eggman had water pipes set up in the base I had never understood). We could survive here until things died down, or strike out and vanish into the shadows afterwards.

And we were never going to do the former.

“Never thought it would come to this,” Rouge muttered

“We has this base setup for a reason, Rouge.”

“Even if we ever had to use this place, I always thought we’d have Omega or Sonic or something.”

“We can make do with ourselves.”

I walked up to the pod where I had been held since my fall from space after defeating the Finalhazard. The green liquid was still pooled around the base of the pod. We had no idea what it was, but it seemed to act like some kind of status field.

“What do we do now, Shadow?” Rouge asked me.

“We need to set up the radio equipment, make sure we can stay in communication. Then we need to find Infinite and kill him.”

“This is why I’m mission leader. Yep, sure, let’s just kill him. Not like we’ll have to find him or break into Eggman’s base or anything.”

“If we kill him as soon as possible, the war will get a lot easier for G.U.N and Sonic’s friends. We can’t win while Infinite’s still active.”

“So how do you propose we find him?”

“We follow what the major factions do next.”

Rouge sighed “I mean, I’m not saying it won’t work, but it’s pretty vague. Where do we start?”

“Let’s get things up and running before we continue.”

Rouge nodded and floated over to the small platform where we’d kept the radio equipment. I looked down at my right hand. It was still covered in blood and had been since our encounter with Infinite. I don’t know what this was, whether it was Infinite trying to mess with my head, some side effect of the Phantom Ruby, or even just a hallucination on my part. The blood disappeared when it hit the floor, so it wasn’t real, at least.

I stopped my musing as soon as Rouge brought the radio to life. The crackling static was soon tuned to the G.U.N command secure channel, or at least the one they’d given me. I knew there were others I knew nothing of: G.U.N didn’t trust me that much, at least not yet.

“Mayday, mayday,” the radio crackled, the sound of a panicked female soldier echoing off the room. “This is the Central City Defence Force. We’re overwhelmed by Eggman’s forces. Requesting immediate assitan-”

More static. Then another voice came over the radio, one that was completely calm.

“This is Shadow the Hedgehog. Central City has fallen. The United Federation is Eggman’s. Surrender or run.”

The radio went dead. Rouge looked at me in shock. I turned my back to her. All I felt was anger. Infinite did this. It had to be him. Creating illusions to think I was on Eggman’s side.

“Shadow?” She asked, “I know what you’re thinking, but you can’t. You’d be annihilated.”

“No,” I snarled, keeping my back to Rouge. Infinite had stolen my name, but he hadn’t stopped me yet. “I have to take him. I made him what he is. It’s my responsibility to finish him off.”

“Did you not listen to what I said earlier? You can’t fight him! He’s too strong!”

“How do you know that? The only times I met Infinite after he got the Ruby he turned and ran. Put me in an illusion. He’s a coward.”

“He beat Sonic!”

“AND I’M STRONGER THAN HIM!” I whirled round to face Rouge, sparks of Chaos Energy flickering in my hand. “I CAN SUCCEED WHERE HE FAILED! I AM THE ULTIMATE LIFEFORM!”

“Shadow, you’re not thinking straight.”

“And nor is he. I don’t need my brain to fight a madman.”

I left the main room and looked up the shaft, firing up my jet shoes.

“Shadow, where are you going?” Rouge asked. She sounded terrified, but she didn’t understand. I have to fight Infinite, and I can win. I am the Ultimate Lifeform.

“I’m going to fight him,” I replied “And if I can’t find Infinite...then Infinite can find me.”

Gemerl. 1 hour after Sonic’s defeat

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