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Before The Sky Falls

Chapter Text

While normally a quiet, serene place, the shrine of the Master Emerald was very much alive with the heat of battle, as Sonic and his friends were once again tasked with protecting the precious crystal. Missiles were discharged rapidly, bots were scrambling to and fro as they were quickly destroyed, and a blue blur finally landed the finishing blow that marked the defeat of every single bot present. Sonic screeched to a halt in front of the floating transportation device where Eggman sat. “Give it up, Eggman! I’ve cracked you open before, and I’ll do it again as many times as I have to!” he demanded, his signature grin present on his face as he stared the human down.

While some things changed, some remained the same.

Though the banter between Sonic and Eggman was still quite the same down to the last word, years had passed and the gang had at least physically matured to a certain extent – whenever Sonic visited his parents, Bernadette swore that she could see the ends of his quills starting to turn the most subtle shade of purple. While the speedster denied it, his mother was delighted that he was apparently taking after her, even if it was only in color. He took after her in more than just coloration though – save for Amy, all of his friends seemed to go through a growth spurt that he missed. It was still definitely a touchy subject, but a couple years had given Sonic a little more patience and understanding.

However, unlike Sonic, Amy had started to grow a bit taller, standing only an inch shorter than him now. Her eyes burned brighter than ever before, and seemed to possess a sense of determination and maturity all their own. Those eyes remained set on Sonic, with her attempts gradually becoming more of a subtle flirting. Whether she knew it or not… it definitely had an effect on the blue hog.
While her sense of fashion was ever present as always, it appeared that she had finally made it through to her friends as well to a certain degree – the ancient relics they had obtained through their adventures in the Mystic Ruins had made it back into all of their wardrobes – Amy reclaimed the warrior feather for herself, wearing it with pride.

Knuckles seemed to change mostly from within as well; he had definitely grown physically, but most of all had softened to an extent. Though his eyes were still colored with some loneliness, they certainly held much less anger. Seeing visions of the Knuckles Clan’s past through Tikal’s spirit taught him many things… some made the loneliness even bitterer, but most brought him closure that he never knew he needed. Along with the closure, he learned of traditions his people once partook in, and from that day forth he began experimenting with the white paint that now adorned his body and the brightly colored beads that hung from his quills. Even if he was the last of the Knuckles Clan, he felt a certain peace that seemed to calm his entire demeanor.

Of Team Sonic, Tails was the one who changed the most significantly. He had even shot right up past Sonic in height, and stood only a few inches shorter than Knuckles. His gaze had certainly become stronger with time, but his piercing blue eyes still spoke of his pure-heartedness more than his words often did. Upon Amy’s insistence, he began to regularly don a standard bomber jacket, with the only non-standard thing upon it being the deep purple, feather-adorned badge – the rhythm badge. It reminded him of his first step into independence, which would turn into many steps.

“Jeez,” Tails breathed, wiping the sweat from his brow and watching Eggman fly off into the distance after one more landslide victory for Team Sonic. “Doesn’t he get tired of doing this? Not to be that guy, but I’m starting to see gray in his mustache. He should think about retiring soon…”
That earned the fox a sudden bark of laughter from Sonic, who immediately doubled over for a moment as he tried to compose himself. “Are you kidding? The more senile Egghead gets, the crazier our adventures get! Trying to wipe out all life and create a deadly theme park isn’t cool, but I don’t think I’d know what to do with all my free time! I’d go stir-crazy!” the hedgehog joked, restlessly stretching and clearly still running on pure adrenaline from the fight moments ago.
“I can think of a few things,” suggested Amy, who was slowly making her way to Sonic when the entire gang stopped dead in their tracks, one of Tails’s on-hand radars shrieking loudly to alert its owner of an oncoming… something.
Tails quickly whipped his wrist outward and rapidly pressed through screens on his communicator. After a few moments of frantic button pressing, he was presented with a minimap that he began to analyze while explaining, “It’s the chaos energy reader! I’m picking up a HUGE amount of chaos energy approaching us faster than I can even track it! It’s almost like it’s-“

Warping, which is exactly what happened as the area around them instantly flashed so brightly that the only thing visible was pure white. When the light dissipated, nobody was ready for the sight before them: on the grass below, face down, lay an animal that at least appeared to be mobian, but with only a shock of lavender quills to go by, the group couldn’t entirely be sure. More shocking than the stranger’s appearance, though, was what their hand, despite their unconsciousness, was tightly grasping onto.
“…That’s a Chaos Emerald,” Knuckles noted with a gasp, cautiously reaching out towards the unconscious figure and attempting to get a closer look at the gray emerald. He wasn’t expecting the white gloved hand that tightly grabbed at his wrist, accompanied by the mobian owner’s entire body whipping up to face the echidna. He barely managed to track the speed of her movements with his naked eyes, throwing his other arm up in defense as a kneejerk reaction.
“I’ll kill you!” the mobian screamed, her bright green eyes full of what could only be described as murderous intent. It wasn’t until her eyes seemed to adjust to her surroundings and she regained full consciousness that she froze, the fury in her eyes replaced by something else entirely. She almost appeared frightened. She dropped her grip on Knuckles’s arm, slowly retracting her hand into herself as she muttered, “….Y-You’re an echidna. That’s… you can’t be! Are you… Knuckles..?”

“It doesn't matter what he is - you’re about to be DEAD if you don’t start explaining yourself right now,” came Amy’s voice from behind the girl. Her hammer was in hand and she stood poised to attack if need be.
“Easy, Ames,” Sonic pleaded, resting a hand on her shoulder and giving her a small smile of approval when he felt her relax under his grip. “Knuckles is a big boy… sort of. He’s got this.” His remark earned him a low grumble of dismay from the echidna.

Sonic’s use of his affectionate nickname for his pink companion only served to unnerve the purple stranger even more, and her head then whipped to face Sonic before she started looking back and forth between the hedgehogs, making Sonic stop mid-chuckle.
“…Ames,” she repeated weakly. “Oh my god. Ames. Amy. Amy Rose. Amy and Sonic. Knuckles. And so that’s Tails. Ohhhh my god.” She brought her hands to the sides of her head, a weak laughter of disbelief escaping her lips. “Ohhhh my god. I did it. I used Chaos Control! I did it! I made it to the past in one piece!”
But then her face hardened abruptly, and she suddenly said while bringing herself to stand, “…I’m sorry. I have so many things I want to say, but first I have to destroy the Master Emerald.”

Chapter Text

"Excuse me, you have to WHAT?” Tails demanded immediately, but received no response – only the rush of wind as the mobian girl took off at almost Mach speeds.

 

The girl didn't bother to look behind her, only screeching to a halt with a gasp when a blue hedgehog appeared directly in her path.

 

"Hey, you're pretty fast!" Sonic complimented her, grinning ear to ear. "Sorry, but I can't let you touch the Master Emerald. We JUST put this thing back together a month ago, and I think Knux is gonna have an aneurysm if we break it again."

 

"Stand down, S-Sonic the hedgehog! I really don't want to fight you!" The girl stammered, clearly putting on a brave front but faltering as she tried in vain to step around Sonic. "You don't understand! I have to kill the monster living inside that emerald! My life depends on it. YOUR life depends on it!" She brought her leg up, trying to land a kick on Sonic.
Sonic easily caught her leg with one hand, holding onto it and putting on a mock expression of surprise. "Woah, harsh! Chaos is cool with us," he tried to explain, gently setting her leg down only for her to try kicking with the other one before he once again read her movements and deflected her attack. "...And could you, uh, not do that? We can always talk it out, you kno- hey!" the boy yelped mid sentence as he stepped to the side just in time to dodge an incoming chaos spear. His look of surprise soon turned into a grin, and already there was a fire of excitement burning in his eyes. "...Another faker, huh? Alright, let's rock!"

 

"You idiot!" the female hedgehog shouted, leaping back and tossing another singular chaos spear at him only to watch it miss. The two hedgehogs seemed to dance around the area as they tried to land hits on each other, while the girl once again insisted, "I don't have time to play games! If we don't disperse the power of the Master Emerald to keep it safe, we're all going to die!"
"Shatter it so Eggman has an easier time getting his hard-boiled hands on it? Yeah, okay," Sonic replied with an eyeroll. "This is getting old way too quickly even for me. Can you even use more than one chaos spear? Next time you want to challenge me, at least get on the level of my other impersonators!" He grinned at the girl and disappeared before her eyes, reappearing behind her and landing a precise strike to the vegas nerve on her neck.

 

Within seconds the girl's eyes seemed to roll back and her form went limp, Sonic immediately catching her before she could fall. He gave a small head shake of disappointment as he sped back over to his friends with the girl in tow, explaining, "...So I know she just tried to fight us, but I don't really want to just leave her here either. She seemed... I don't know, scared? Her methods are all wrong, but she thinks what she's doing is right... I think."
There was a moment of silence before Tails was the first to speak up. "...I can run some tests on her. You know, see if she's really 'from the future' and stuff. It shouldn't be hard to run her DNA through the mobian citizen database and see if we find any matches. If she really is from the future... she just might be able to offer us a wealth of valuable information," he suggested, a hand on his chin in thought. He went on to muse, "The fact that she, as a hedgehog, can manipulate chaos energy with the chaos emeralds like that is... interesting, to say the least."
Knuckles listened, brow furrowed in thought, until Tails mentioned the emeralds, to which he replied, "...When she wakes up, I have a lot of questions to ask her about that chaos emerald she came here with. If she's supposedly from the future, her bringing an 'extra' emerald to our time should have caused a disturbance... and yet, I don't feel anything different."
The first to speak up was Tails, the gears in his head clearly turning at sonic speeds. "...That's... concerning," was all he offered, eyes shifting back and forth between the shrine and the girl. "...I might have a theory, but it's nothing solid. For now, let's get this girl back to my workshop and see what we can find out."
The gang nodded in agreement, deciding that they could continue their conversation at the workshop.

 

----------

 

It wasn't until the doors were closed behind them that Team Sonic let out a sigh; anything concerning the Chaos Emeralds was serious business, after all.
Immediately taking charge, Tails directed Sonic towards the spare cot in the lab portion of his workshop - it was where many a power nap (and boredom nap for Sonic) were taken during long overnighters, but for the time being, it would suffice until the girl woke up. Cautiously approaching the unconscious hedgehog with tweezers in hand, Tails delicately reached over and quickly plucked a single quill from the multitude on her head, earning him looks of confusion from his friends.
"Its for the DNA test," Tails explained, walking over to a machine on the other side of the room - opening a small hatch, he dropped the quill in and pressed a button on the side that made the machine whirr to life. "We'll have some results in a day or two probably - if she's from our time and registered in the database, we'll have an identity for her. If not, it'll try to match her DNA to that of any citizens in the database and see if she has any living relatives, just to get an idea of who she is. Until then, it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep an eye on her."

 

"The only thing you should be keeping an eye on is your own back, fox boy!" boomed a voice from the outside of the building; though it was amplified through a loudspeaker, the group wouldn't even have to spare a second to identify the voice as Eggman's.
Sonic rolled his eyes, peeking out the nearest window. "Seriously? It hasn't even been an hour. It's been like twenty minutes MAYBE! Why can't he be like a normal old guy? Alright, let's go teach Egghead ANOTHER lesson!"

 

When the lab was empty, the young hedgehog was left alone. After a short moment of waiting, she slowly opened one eye, jumping off the cot once she had confirmed that the coast was clear. Peering out the window and seeing that Team Sonic was well occupied with Eggman but might not be for much longer, she looked around, eyeing a back door. Quickly opening it and checking that the coast was clear, she slipped out of Tails's workshop.

 

Meanwhile, the blue hedgehog was flying out of the workshop before anyone else, and by the time the rest of the group was outside, they would find Sonic and Eggman, piloting the Egg Hornet, facing off just a short distance away, on the very same platform just outside of Tails's lab where they had faced off with the mech so many years ago. The two were already going at it, with Sonic artfully darting around the clunky mech as if it was moving in slow motion. With a couple misdirections from Sonic and a few swings of Amy's hammer, it was a matter of minutes before the Egg Hornet was dented up and smoking.
Rubbing under his nose and giving a cheeky grin, Sonic dared to taunt the doctor, asking, "Really? That's all you've got? You must have forgotten that we've seen this bot before, and it worked out then just as well as it's working out now!"
Eggman's face grew red with fury, veins practically visible on his head as he roared, "You may have won the battle, but I'll be back, you blue rat! This means war!"
"Yeah yeah, you're gonna crush me like a bug, I'll pay for this, et cetera et cetera. Isn't there a game of bingo or something you're missing down at the senior center? Don't make me send ya flying, Egg-breath," was Sonic's sarcastic response as he gave a soft yawn of boredom.
The only thing that Eggman could answer with was an intelligible yell of frustration before ejecting his floating Egg Mobile from the cockpit of the Egg Hornet and zooming off into the sky to plan his next assault.

 

Sonic gave a disappointed sigh, turning to his pink friend who was intently watching the exchange. "Man! That wasn't even fun. You hogged all the action, Amy!"
Though the girl was grinning, she rolled her eyes at him. "Aww, poor baby. Maybe next time just be a bit faster and you'll beat me to it, hmm?" She threw the hammer up above her with ease, giving it a stylish little spin as it disappeared into thin air with a soft glow. Sonic still had no idea where the hell she kept that thing. With that, she began to walk back towards Tails's workshop, not waiting for Sonic to reply.
"Ohohooooo no you didn't," Sonic started, easily dashing in front of her in milliseconds and walking backwards in front of her, hands on his hips and a very clear pink tinge of indignation upon his cheeks.
"I sure did," Amy shot back at him, grinning. "And I still don't see you doing anything about it, Sonic the Hedgehog."
Sonic's nostrils visibly flared in response. He started, "Oh, it's on! Next time Eggman is here, I be- OOF." He was promptly cut off when he backed himself directly into the door of the lab, the wind knocked right out of him instantly. Rather than even bothering to finish his sentence, he simply tried to burn into Amy with his eyes. It wasn't working.

 

Sonic wouldn't have to be flustered for long however - the first thing the blue hog noticed upon opening the door to the workshop was that their little purple friend was nowhere to be found. "Uh... hello?" he called, cautiously stepping into the shop and looking around.
It was about this point that the others finally caught up, prompting Tails to pipe up. "...Where's that hedgehog? She was unconscious when we left her here. She couldn't have gone far, unless... no. No way. She wouldn't."
"We have to go right now if we want to stop her. If she shatters the Master Emerald, Angel Island is going to fall! There's no telling what will happen if those pieces get into the wrong hands, too," Knuckles urged the group, already cracking his, well, knuckles.
The team gave the echidna a nod, setting out immediately.

 

------------------

 

It was fortunate that Team Sonic arrived when they did - the purple hedgehog wasn't exactly doing well, looking rather scuffed up and winded.
The reason was immediately clear, as standing over her was Chaos. Or... maybe not? It vaguely looked liked Chaos, at a glance - it was the same transluscent shade of aquamarine, glowing ever so softly, and yet the myriad of white, glowing stripes adorning its body were unfamiliar. Regardless of what the creature was, however, it was clearly not peaceful... and with good reason.
They were only seconds too late, watching in horror as the girl brought her leg down upon the master emerald after a preparatory jump up, the ensuing shockwave not quite breaking the sound barrier, but definitely noticeable. But that would soon be forgotten as emerald shards went flying in every direction and all different distances, small trails of light following them and giving the illusion of a star shower.

 

"If she broke the Master Emerald... that must be Chaos! This is bad," Knuckles pointed out immediately, the first to speak up, wasting no time as he rushed up to the creature. Though it would have normally been a clean hit, the creature seemed to melt away from his hands, turning into a puddle and reforming a short distance away. He went to punch again before Sonic reached out and grabbed his arm, barely having enough strength to stop his friend.
Sonic exhaled audibly and quite heavily, loathe to admit that he probably shouldn't have skipped arm day. "Woah, easy there Knuckles! I know it looks bad, but let's stop and take a minute to figure out what's g-" He wouldn't be able to finish his sentence before a jet of glowing liquid whizzed by his face, materializing into a fist at the last second. Sonic jerked his head back, dodging just in time. He gave Chaos a look of annoyance. "...Okay, seriously? Trying to DEFEND you here, water boy! What's with everybody interrupting me today?"
Obviously, Chaos didn't respond verbally, but it did at least seem to sense that it was outnumbered and disadvantaged in its current form. quickly melting into a puddle, it almost seemed to dissolve into the earth itself, effectively escaping for the time being.

 

This left the group staring at the ground in shock for a few moments before the purple hedgehog limped over to them. She started, "Okay, so I know this looks bad... and that's because it is. I didn't mean to... I just wanted to..."
But that was as far as she got before it was Amy who was the first to get in her face. "You just wanted to WHAT? Personally create the reality that you were apparently trying to prevent? We told you that you had no idea what you were dealing with. Not only did you not help at all whatsoever, but you just effectively made things WORSE! Now Chaos is on the loose, is incredibly pissed, AND the Master Emerald has been scattered all over! You just put us in more danger than we were in before!" she huffed angrily and stared the purple hedgehog down, breathing heavily as she caught her breath after her outburst.
The purple hedgehog first looked shocked, her eyes widening as Amy tore into her... before they began to well up with tears that immediately spilled over, and a distressed wail escaped the girl.
Amy's immediate reaction was not one of remorse, but it didn't take long before the other hedgehog's distraught reaction was enough to completely take the wind out of her sails. She looked to her male companions for help, and only earned awkward shrugs and head shakes from Tails and Knuckles.

 

It was finally Sonic that reached out, putting a hand on Amy's shoulder first, giving it a small squeeze. He seemed to be carefully selecting his words. "Okay, okay. You know I can't stand seeing people cry. Ames, you're right - this is actually pretty not okay!" He laughed awkwardly. "...But I think maybe our friend here can help us fix this. After all, it's her fault, so she may as well take responsibility!" He turned to the purple hedgehog, giving her that signature goofy grin of his that hadn't changed even after four years. "...What do you say? If you really want to save the world, you came to the right place. We're all kinds of experts at that by now. But when we say that something is NOT a good idea, you really have to take our word for it."
Stunned, the girl wordlessly nodded in response, offering only a small sniffle as her tears started to subside. After inhaling deeply and collecting herself, she simply uttered one word in reply. "...Skyla." When the group looked at her in confusion, she explained, "My name is Skyla. I'd love to help you guys, if you'll let me. I'm... I'm sorry."

 

"We can discuss things more at my lab," Tails cut in. "Just to remind you, the Master Emerald is no longer keeping this island afloat, so as soon as the residual chaos energy leaves the land, it's going to fall. We should probably get to safety," he urged everyone. They nodded in agreement, setting off immediately - they would have plenty of time to ask questions later.

Chapter Text

After the dust had settled and a few days had passed, Team Sonic had at least a slightly solid idea of how to proceed. Agreeing to meet up at Tails's workshop, they would reconvene for the first time since the incident.

 

Tails sat alone in his workshop, engrossed in the reports in his hand. Hunched over his desk and brow furrowed, the fox was completely oblivious to the sound of the door creaking open and a blue blur slipping in... that is, until Sonic appeared right over his shoulder, his usual smirk ever present.

"That's quite a look you've got goin' on there, buddy. What'cha reading?" Sonic teased, trying to peer around his friend's shoulder. However, the mere sound of the hedgehog talking elicited a sharp yelp from Tails before he slammed the documents face down on the table, eyes wide. He turned to face his best friend and scowled, asking him, "Would it have killed you to knock?"

Sonic gave him a not-so-apologetic grin. "Yeah, yeah, I'm sorry for scaring you. Anyways, where's everyone else? I thought we were gonna meet here some time TODAY."

 

"We are," came a third voice from the doorway. Knuckles made his way into the workshop, closing the door behind him about halfway before it was grabbed and reopened by Amy, who entered shortly after. Skyla trailed behind her and gave an awkward little wave.

The blue hedgehog grinned. "Took you guys long enough! Now we can finally get down to business! Tails said he got radar readings not too far from here - there's probably a Chaos Emerald, and it's deeper in the Mystic Ruins from the sounds of it." He gave a small, slightly sarcastic bow and elaborated, "It just so happens that our resident sole echidna and knucklehead knows his way around these parts! If you'll be so kind as to show us the way, Knux..."

Knuckles gave no response other than a very pronounced eyeroll.

 


 

"We've been walking around in circles for hours," Skyla whined, throwing her head back and looking up - the canopy of trees above them blocked out most of the sunlight, making the girl feel a tad claustrophobic as her eyes wandered around; being told about jungles and seeing them for yourself were two completely different things, it seemed.

Tails rolled his eyes. "It's been fifteen minutes," he informed her, not bothering to look up from his radar except to ensure that he wasn't lagging behind. "Knuckles, aren't those ruins around here? I wouldn't be surprised if that's what's setting my radar off. After all, last time we were all here..." he trailed off, looking ahead to the echidna in the lead.

Before responding, Knuckles pushed back a bit of overgrown vegetation, revealing a wide open field hidden in the heart of the jungle. He gave a nod to Tails and confirmed, "If there's something emitting chaos energy out in these parts, the ruins will more than likely be the answer." He held the vegetation aside, allowing the rest of the group to enter ahead before he followed, stopping to point out a particularly tall, pyramid-like structure. "That's the entrance," he explained. "...and it's also the most likely place to keep a Chaos Emerald."

 

"Well, no time to lose!" Sonic grinned and began to bend his knees, reeling up for  burst of speed before Knuckles put a hand on his shoulder. He looked up to his red friend, almost looking a bit offended to be stopped.

Knuckles chose to ignore Sonic's annoyance, as per usual. "Don't just go rushing in, alright? There's traps. Lots of 'em. Not to mention waterways upon waterways... and you're not exactly waterproof. Our best chance of getting out of here alive is by sticking together."

Sonic gave a small pout, unable to deny that Knuckles did indeed have a point, loathe as he was to admit it. Much to his own dismay, he slowed his gait to a walk, albeit an impatient one.

 

As the team approached the mouth of the temple, it became apparent that it really was, well... a mouth. Carved right into the limestone and volcanic brick was the head of a snake, its eyes adorned with large pieces of turquoise. As they cautiously began to enter, Knuckles explained, "...This part of the city was called the Lost World. My ancestors used to think that passages like this were portals to another world... and last time I was here, I found out how right they were."

"So we're sticking together in case we get teleported to another world, is what you're saying?" Amy asked, looking around them, the light on her communicator serving as a flashlight. "This place is incredible! It's a shame that we're here for business and not pleasure. To see such old ruins still standing is amazing..."

"There was too much water last time," Sonic nonchalantly piped up, causing the group to turn to him in surprise. He stared back at them in confusion. "...What? Didn't ALL of you guys get dumped here at least once? All of you know Tikal, so I just kinda figured... ah well. Doesn't matter! You'll get to see it now!"

 

Almost as if on cue, before Sonic had barely finished his sentence, a loud, deep cracking noise reverberated throughout the ruins. None of them had time to even process what was happening, let alone react to the floor crumbling and breaking from underneath them.

 


 

What woke Knuckles up was the rhythmic throbbing of his head. The red echidna sat up, a gloved hand reaching to the back of his skull to assess the damage. Whether it was due to his consciousness just returning or to the small bump slowly forming where he had clearly hit the limestone beneath him, he could barely see beyond his own hands. The only illumination in the darkness was a set of soft, glowing lights - fire, it seemed. A few rows of small torches at that.

Knuckles righted himself and took a few steps forward, flinching a bit when he felt something splashing up at his ankles. Water, perhaps? It was impossible to tell with the minimal amount of lighting, but he could only pray that it was nothing else.

Deciding that standing still would get him nowhere, he pressed forward until light started to gradually permeate the space around him, revealing that he was in not just a small room, but almost an entirely new building. While at first unclear to Knuckles exactly where he was, the serpentine carvings on the walls immediately brought him back to a memory from years ago - this was the Lost World beneath the Knuckles Clan's village.

 

"Hey! Is anyone else here?" Knuckles called, looking around before leaping up and gliding to a nearby wall... or at least what he hoped was a wall, for a better vantage point.

All he could see were platforms at varying heights, all intricately carved with images of snakes and what looked like tentacles, with the occasional pieces of turquoise strategically placed for decoration. It really did look the same at the last time he had been here.

He cleared his throat and tried once again, this time asking, "...I don't suppose you're here, are you, Tikal?" It was a long shot, but still worth a try... though the only response Knuckles received was the echo of his own voice bouncing off the water and stone.

 

 With a shrug, he carefully traversed the walls, taking the utmost care not to dig too far in and damage the carvings, only stopping dead in his tracks when he felt a brick beneath his feet very smoothly slide into the wall, a few small clicks emitting from something behind the walls.

Knuckles felt a chill run all the way down his spine as he prayed that it wasn't a trap he just triggered.

 


 

"...So. The future, huh?"

 

"Eeeeyup."

 

There was a pregnant pause in the air as Tails and Skyla fumbled for conversation, each checking around the room for a means of escape from the doorless chamber.

 

After another long silence, Tails cleared his throat awkwardly and continued, "You know, this isn't our first time dealing with people from the future, but... I'm still having such a hard time wrapping my head around this whole thing. Around YOU." He absentmindedly prodded at a crack in the wall with his wrench, selecting his words as carefully as he could.

Skyla turned her head away from the pile of rubble she was kicking at, her head slightly cocking to the side as she expressed clear confusion. "Why? It's not like you haven't seen a hedgehog before, right?"

"I know who you are. I know your history," the fox finally admitted.

 

"...Oh," was all Skyla offered in response, before the realization finally hit her and she was grabbing at Tails's hands. "TAILS!! Nobody can know! NOBODY! If anyone finds out, I could not exist!" Despite the fox's very obvious awkwardness, she squeezed his hands harder. "Pleaaase, Tails. I can try to answer SOME questions you have, but... please, I'm begging you - you can't tell a single soul in this time."

Tails closed his eyes for a moment, deliberating his decision before looking to Skyla, a small smile on his face. He assured her, "I won't. Promise. To be honest, I'm not even sure how the others would handle it anyways."

His smile turned up into a small mischievous smirk. "I AM a bit curious though; what am I like in the future?"

Skyla couldn't help it as the small smile on her face quickly grew until she was positively beaming. Nodding her head, she replied, "Brave. And super smart." She paused for a moment before adding, "...And tall. Very tall. Like, taller than EVERYONE. Also, eyebrows. Your eyebrow game is strong."

 

"...Oh, that's- ...wait, eyebrows?"

 


 

"...So."

"So."

"...Yes, 'so' is the thing we're currently saying."

 

Amy turned to Sonic, eyes half-lidded in annoyance as she stared at him. Ever since they'd been separated from the group, the blue hedgehog had been jumpier than usual and almost impossible to work with. While Amy had been carefully inspecting the engraved walls surrounding them, Sonic was pacing the length of the small chamber, occasionally grumbling impatiently to himself.

"Sonic, if you're not going to help me look for a way out, can you at least stop pacing like that? What if you accidentally trigger a trap?" Amy chided.

 

Almost as if on cue, Sonic narrowly hopped out of the way of a set of spikes that suddenly jutted out from the floor. He looked to Amy, clearly unamused. "...You planned that, didn't you?"



It took all of her willpower not to roll her eyes at him. "Get serious, Sonic!"

"I am, Amy! The others are out there somewhere, and for all we know, they could be in danger!" Sonic shot back. "I've been here before, and there's all sorts of crazy stuff just waiting to jump out, as we just saw."

"Why do you think I've been looking all over for a secret door, or some sort of way out of here? For all I know we could be underground, so smashing our way out of here is out of the question if we want to avoid a cave-in," Amy reasoned, watching Sonic continue to pace anyways.

Before he could stop it, Sonic felt himself smirking at the other hedgehog. "You know, if this were any other circumstance, you'd be dying at the chance to be locked in a room alone with me."

 

Okay, so he had her with that one. Though the remark did bring some color to her cheeks momentarily, she brushed it off and turned away from him, suddenly finding the wall in front of her incredibly interesting. "If this is your idea of a romantic date, you're really gonna need some coaching on this stuff. I'm sure Rouge has some great advice."

"She totally did," Sonic agreed, immediately clapping a hand over his mouth and aggressively avoiding any eye contact with Amy.

Amy's eyes widened, and though she wasn't facing Sonic she sure could feel him looking anywhere but her.

 

"...Oh. Well. Um. Great, I guess."

"Yep, juST GREAT."

 

In a moment of absolutely agonizing awkwardness, Amy knocked her head against the cool stone, willing it to swallow her whole. Though it didn't, it at least shifted inwards just a bit with a soft 'click.' Beside the pink hedgehog, a panel of the stone wall shifted and sunk into the ground, leaving a small entryway for the two to pass through.

"See? We just had to use our heads," Amy teased.

"...Well played."

 


 

Though he was anticipating traps, the tension was slowly leaving Knuckles as he squinted, just enough light from the torches for him to see that anything triggered... wasn’t actually activating. Curiously, the echidna ran a gloved palm along the walls, feeling indents indicative of decorative carving occasionally interspersed with the smooth surface of what was presumably polished turquoise, if the interior matched the exterior. This hallway was significantly more ornate than the last few had been, that was certain to Knuckles. 

 

As he delved deeper, something stirred within him - it was steadily growing stronger as he progressed, and it took the guardian a moment to realize that the familiar sensation flowing through his very being was the feeling of chaos energy radiating into him from not one, but multiple emeralds. How the emeralds managed to relocate underground after the last chaos control was beyond him, and yet the feeling was unmistakable. For every mystery solved, another one seemed to be cropping up.

 

“...No way,” Knuckles gasped under his breath, eyes widening as the hallway was slowly illuminated with more and more torches, until he finally reached the end and was greeted not only with a warm glow of a brightly lit room, but the glow of six chaos emeralds. Their colors gently reflected off onto the walls, drawing Knuckles’s attention to the mural painstakingly immortalized on the wall with carvings, paint, and more turquoise than anything else in the temple. 

The image was one Knuckles would recognize not only from previous explorations, but from his own life — there, meticulously shaped out of polished turquoise, was Perfect Chaos in a wake of destruction. However, as he looked closer, he noted that this rendition bore white stripes not unlike the ones adorning his own body. Curiouser and curiouser, he silently mused.

 

Knowing that the safest place for the remaining six emeralds was in his possession where he could keep an eye on them, he scooped them up into his arms, and immediately regretted his decision when what started as a small vibration under his feet turned into a low rumble, and then a roar; water was rushing into the chamber, and very quickly. Knuckles thanked his lucky stars for his air necklace and jumped straight into the oncoming rush of waves.

 


 

The next thing Sonic would remember was slowly blinking awake, groaning softly and rubbing at his eyes... and noting how distinctly soggy he felt all over. Sitting up, he felt cool grass underneath him and looked around - looked like everyone had made it out of the Lost World in one piece, though soaking wet.

“So, did we all take a collective dream dip? Because I don’t remember it. Heck, I don’t remember taking a snooze in the first place,” he started, pulling everyone out of their idle conversation to look at him.

“Sonic, you’re awake!” Amy noted, standing up and walking around behind him to start inspecting his head. “Does it hurt? It looks like Knuckles accidentally triggered some sort of ancient security system or something. We think it was designed to protect the Chaos Emeralds... it looks like they used to be stored there in times of war, when the shrine was too defenseless.” The pink hedgehog chuckled and remarked, “You saw the water flooding in, freaked out and tried to spindash out, but you slipped and hit your head.”

 

Oh, how absolutely cool of him.

 

Sonic sighed. “Lame,” he huffed, then eyed the remaining six Chaos Emeralds and his face was turning up into an excited grin. “Not as lame! These should give us one up on both Chaos and Eggman. Speaking of which, is anyone else hungry? I could really use another afternoon of Chili Dogs and Strategizing.”

Tails raised an eyebrow. “You’re always hungry,”

Meanwhile, Skyla was watching this exchange with wide eyes. “We... we almost died. You almost drowned, and it’s just okay? You’re just ready for chili dogs like nothing happened?” She asked, disbelief permeating her entire being.

“...I mean, yeah. That’s just kinda how we roll,” was Sonic’s explanation, offering a small shrug. “We didn’t die, right? It’s cool. It’s in the past; I’m already over it.”

 

When Skyla felt a small pat on her shoulder, she looked over to see Tails smiling sympathetically. “Things are a bit fast-paced around here. You’ll get used to it.”

He absolutely knew she wouldn’t.