Part 02 of 04: Evolution
Started: <20050523 // 0832CST>
Finished: <20050527 // 1052CST>
Sonic the Hedgehog: Neo Redux
Part 02 of 02:
Written by Adam Czech
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, based on the worlds of Sonic the Hedgehog, originally created by Service Games, DiC Productions, Archie Publications, Egmont Fleetway Publications, and various lesser sources. This work is not to be sold, and is not intended for monetary profit. This document is not to be modified, or redistributed in any way without the author's consent.
The original material and characters in this story that do not draw from any other source, including information about the world based on Adam Czech's "Sonic the Hedgehog: Neo Redux," are copyright to Adam Czech (Antipode), and may only be used with his expressed consent.
This story is (c) 2005 the author.
I don't remember...
My name? Maybe.
The thing jammed in my forehead? Maybe.
Pain. It hurts. It hurts everywhere.
Why the pain?
The glass tube shattered with a resounding crash. The five white coats in the room immediately went into action, scooping up the broken mutated body of the subject off the floor and into a containment box. One of the young scientists took the box into the back room and set it on a shelf, where without nutrients the body would soon shut down and they could dispose of it. He left back into the lab to assist his colleagues in mopping up the fluid on the floor and getting rid of the broken glass.
Death did not come easily. She pawed at the sides of the box, mewling in pain, kept alive by the radioactive shard of crystal lodged in her frontal lobe. The reaction within her body had begun, the same reaction that the scientists in the other room had been hoping for. But because it didn't happen to their specifications, they were unwilling to consider the possibility of success.
The minutes dragged on. She eventually quieted and fell asleep, her mind clouded with anguish.
He appeared in a dark flash of light, her saviour. He approached slowly, reaching out to open the box and lift her out. She shivered in his arms, and he held her closely. "I know where there are more like us," he whispered quietly to her. "You will be safe there."
A flash; they leave.
"I told you why. You're in the way."
That made me pause. He was in his "high-and-mighty" mindset again, the kind where the slightest thing would make him go off on me. "I know why you're upset... I know you don't think I do, but I do."
"I don't care what you know," he growled softly, trying to keep his anger in check. His red eyes narrowed. "I can't be what I was made to be unless I destroy you."
"Why must senseless pain and death be required for you to exist? How does that make sense?"
"Don't lecture me! I've made sure of this! It's what I've been looking my whole life for, and I'm sure this is it!"
"Well, then... your existence is pointless. You cannot kill me, Opacus."
That did it.
Never in his life had Charles Thorndyke seen such carnage.
He looked at the darkened nursery from the safety of the doorway, unwilling to take that step forward onto the gore-soaked carpeting. He had only been here a handful of times before, but he remembered that this was Gerald's granddaughter's room. When he had heard of Gerald's capture by G.U.N. he drove there as fast as he could, knowing that poor Maria could be in grave danger. He found evidence that Gerald's housekeeper had split, probably when she heard the approaching sirens of the G.U.N. Corps. He had opened the door to Maria's room hesitantly, fearing what he would find.
Four bodies. One of them was hers.
And the blood... there was blood everywhere, centred mostly around the three men closest to the door. They were dressed in G.U.N. military uniforms. It looked like a wild animal had ripped them apart.
A wild animal...?
Despite his nausea, Charles knelt down to examine the bodies. The gashes looked like they were made by blades, or claws. Maria's wounds were different, though. He stepped gingerly over a severed arm as he crossed the room.
A single blood spot, made by a bullet, at her left ribcage. "Oh, God..." If anything like this happened to his own grandson, Charles would be devastated. Gerald was in deep, something that he shouldn't have been messing with.
And Charles thought himself a fool not to have seen what it was.
I sit alone, in some dirty little hellhole beneath the notice of everyone but the vermin. The air is cold, and I'm wrapped in a tattered blanket I found somewhere. I stare into nothingness, my mind blank but for pain. The pain is constant. My only constant.
I look up at the sound of my name, my eyes glazed over. There is a boy, standing at the entrance to my home. His face is dirty, is clothes more so. I know him... Don't I? His name is... His name...
"We're all worried about you."
"All of us. The whole gang."
Gang? What gang...?
My facial expression must be blank enough to show him I don't understand. He nods. "We'll be out here when you're ready to talk."
He leaves. I blink. Something must have happened.
I gesture; my bag comes to me. The movement is natural, as breathing. I take it from the air and open it. My books. They're important... I open the cover of the first volume, and read.
I read about me.
Darkness. Of the room, of the mind, of the soul. He stares into nothingness, the most brilliant scientific mind of the 21st century rotting away in prison.
A dark flash of light announces his arrival. At first Gerald Robotnik doesn't even notice, then looks up slowly. "Opacus... you've come..."
The dark hedgehog scowls from the corner. "I need answers, Master."
"Of course, child, of course. What ails you?"
Obviously the fact that his genetic creation just suddenly appeared in a maximum security prison cell has escaped his senile and degrading notice. Opacus approaches slowly. "Where are the others like me?"
"Others? What others?"
"There's no one else? I'm the only one?"
"One like what?"
He ground his teeth and took a breath. Pathetic. "Your creations, you pitiful old man! How many of us did you make?"
"Make...? Oh, no others. You are the only one I was able to complete. All of my other subjects were failures. Abject failures..." He sighed sadly.
"So I am the most powerful creature on the planet... Just as I suspected..."
And with that he left, and said no more.
I got up off the chunk of rubble fast enough to dodge the concentrated bolt of energy Opacus shot from his palm. It passed through the area where I was sitting on the ruins, and I adopted a defencive stance.
"I can destroy you!" he spit at me. "I WILL destroy you!"
"Brother, listen to yourself! You've fought me at least a half-dozen times before! Each time you leave me for dead, and I awaken!"
"I'll rip your head from your shoulders if I need to!"
"You're acting irrationally."
He snarled and thrusted his hands forward, casting twin bolts of energy at me. I dodged. His anger was clouding his accuracy.
"Don't you see?" I tried to reason. "The same energy that gives you mastery over time and space has given me the ultimate defence. No matter how damaged my body becomes, it will heal. We're both ultimate life-forms!"
"NEVER!" he shrieked at me. "I will be perfection! You cannot take that from me!"
And some wonder why it's called "Chaos" energy.
I emerge from my hiding place, still wrapped in my blanket. At least now my mind is clear, and I know what's going on.
The boy from before, Jun, looks at me with bright blue, worrying, eyes. I give him an assuring smile, and he smiles back.
I feel a touch at my shoulder, and I turn to look. Keylen. My lover. He embraces me, and kisses me warmly. I know we are involved, but the feelings are not there. I kiss him back as best I can.
I have had other lovers, but every one of them have left me, in time. But Keylen is different. I'm sure of it.
"We had all thought you dead, lover," he whispers softly in my ear. "My heart stopped when I saw the fire."
"I'm all right," I answer, looking into his eyes. "I'm sorry to worry you."
He embraces me tightly again. I can taste his scent on his fur. "I'm just glad you're back with me."
I hold him, rest my chin against his shoulder. He is strong, and wild, and soft, to me. "What happened to the others?"
He pauses. I know what that means even before he speaks. "You were the only one."
He charged at me, fuelled by rage. Rage is such a useless weapon; it makes you stronger, obviously, but it also makes you a hell of lot less accurate. I somersault over his head, then drop into a roundhouse kick that knocks his legs out from under him. He rolls as he hits the ground, coming up a safe distance away and preparing to attack again. He may have the benefit of a genius' arsenal of powers, but I've spent nearly every year of my life in this place honing my talent and training my body for fighting. Words can only get me so far, after all.
"Opacus! Brother! I beg you, stop this foolishness! No good came come of it, I promise you!"
His answer was an animalistic roar as he charged at me again, firing energy bolts from his hands. I spent a moment to concentrate on my inner strength, calling on the Chaos energies inside me and focusing them to my hands. They began to glow the colour of flame, and I rolled to the side and raked my charged claws against Opacus' side. Long gashes were gouged across his ribcage, the raw energy from my hands burning through his clothing and singing his fur. He growled in pain and staggered.
"First blood," I stated simply, my green eyes narrowed.
He gasped and fell to his knees, grabbing his side, blood spilling between his fingers. "You've been... training..."
I allowed myself to relax a bit. Only a bit. "Yes."
He licked his lips. "That will make this all the more enjoyable."
I gave him a kick to his ribs that sent him rolling over. "Don't be a fool. I'm not the little girl you remember anymore. I can kick your ass to Regeia and back, and don't think I won't."
And then he was gone. And then he was behind me. I felt a sharp pain in my back, and I cried out, falling forward several metres to my knees. He sneered down at me.
I spat blood onto the ground, and could smell something like burning flesh and fur. "Where the hell... did you learn that?"
"You're not the only one who's been training," he snarled.
Charles Thorndyke stirred in his chair. "Hm? Yes?"
"I said we're receiving telemetry from the probe."
He sat up straight in his chair and glanced at his computer screen. It showed the data being relayed back to Earth from the energy conversion probe. "Oh. Good."
"Everything all right, Chuck?" Neil Sanders asked from his desk beside Charles'.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Wandering, worrisome thoughts."
"You two were pretty good buddies, weren't you?" he asked, tapping his pencil against his desk.
"I wouldn't go that fa... Well, yeah, I guess we were."
"It sucks what happened to him," Neil shook his head. "I mean, what the hell was he doing that G.U.N. would sit up and take notice?"
"I don't know..." Charles replied distractedly, his gaze falling on the USB drive that Gerald had given him the last time they saw each other, still sitting on his desk, beside his coffee mug and box of pencils.
He couldn't stand it anymore. He reached for the drive.
I sit on the edge of the bed, staring into the dark corner across the room. Keylen sits beside me and rubs my shoulders, and I purr and arch back into his grip. "You still seem so distracted," he whispers into my ear.
"Nearly dying will do that to you, Luv."
"Shh... time to put that behind us. You're with me now, that's all that matters."
"Mmm... I suppose it is."
I close my eyes as he reaches around to kiss me, softly. I feel him lowering me backwards to the bed, himself on top of me. I look up at him, his muted brown eyes smiling back at me. My voice is quiet, "I need to show you something..."
"You show me yours, I'll show you mine."
I almost laugh. I usually would. But not now. "Not that..."
He grows concerned. "Then what...?"
I reach between us and pull back my hair from above my eyes, the bangs that would normally conceal my "condition." His eyes grow wide as he sees the crystal lodged in my head.
"What... is that?"
"It's what keeps me alive."
"How...? Does it hurt?"
"All the time."
"What is it?"
"It's a Chaos Emerald, Keylen. I've had it since I was born."
"My god... but that's impossible! No one's seen a Chaos Emerald in 400 years. Nowadays they're just legends."
"But it is... I've read the legends, the old records. By all accounts, that's what this is. And it gives me powers, Keylen, powers like the Guardians have. I can't explain it, but... please don't let this come between us."
He's worried. I can tell this news has upset him. I try to get out from under him, but he holds me down. "This doesn't change anything between us, lover. I promise you."
He makes love to me, but I can taste his thoughts as he does. He's masking his feelings toward me. I know what he's going to do next.
"Three tanks! THREE TANKS!!"
Power had been cut to Chamber Three several years ago, and no had stepped foot in it longer than that. But Opacus found it, after following the convoluted trail of breadcrumbs scattered about by his Master.
"He said there was five! Two are missing, where's the other one?!"
He had discovered a bit of news that he was not taking well. "What happened to the fourth one?! Damn you, Robotnik!!"
"By God, Gerald, what have you gotten yourself mixed up in...?"
Images flashed across Charles Thorndyke's screen, data being accessed from Gerald Robotnik's pen-drive stuck in the front of Charles' computer. He read rapidly, trying to wrap his head around the reports and schematics that described what was called "Project: Darwin."
"Hybrid genetics? I knew you loved experimenting, friend, but this is too far!" he spoke as if addressing Gerald, though the room was empty. "Is it any wonder why G.U.N. captured you?"
The information was extraordinarily complete, though Charles could understand little of it, and it nearly made him tremble to know that what his friend was imprisoned for life for and what his young, innocent granddaughter was murdered for was now being drawn on his monitor. He had half a mind to destroy it right there, until he got to the most recent files on the disk.
A hedgehog, made to stand upright like a man, and as tall as a small child. A hedgehog possessing advanced reasoning skills and a supernormal immune system.
"The diseased cells have gone into remission," the report on the screen read. "Maria will soon be able to walk again, thanks to this one, whom she has named 'Opacus.'"
"Son of a... He did it."
Opacus... could it be... Was he the one who had murdered those G.U.N. soldiers he had found so long ago? He still remembered it vividly, the sight of the blood, the eerie silence of Gerald's house that day. The smell.
So where was he now?
Block, parry, jab, dodge, kick, punch. Breathe.
I was started to get winded already. Opacus looked like he could keep going for hours.
I swore. He had been toying with me at the beginning. None of my attacks after that first were connecting at all. Now he fought like an ass, getting me to waste my energy so he could finish me off. And he could teleport, for some ungodly reason, and wasn't afraid to remind me of it every time I was about to hit him. He would blink behind me, knock me around and wait for me to get up again.
"Give it up," he hissed at me. "You're pathetic."
I watched the blood drip from my mouth as I panted at the ground on all fours. I refused to fall to him! I couldn't let this encounter end up exactly like every other. I was stronger than that now! I could beat him!
His laugh rang in my ears. My claws clenched into a fist, and I summoned the power of Chaos to my fingers. I snarled and jumped to my feet, thrusting my hand toward him and releasing all that energy into one quick burst. Opacus was thrown backwards, to slam solidly into a crumbling castle wall and slump to the grass.
They all regard me strangely now, and I know Keylen told them. I look to each of them in turn, and all those faces look back to me in fear and apprehension. I look at Keylen, whose face shows that same distrust. I blink slowly. "Keylen... you promised..."
"I'm sorry, Jewel."
I fight back the tears as I pick up my bag and walk away.
I wander until I find a tree, in a grassy meadow far from the city. I open my bag and take out my books, finding the ribbon at the most recent page and the pen strapped to the inside cover. I write slowly, the date, and then "You told Keylen your secret. Now it's over between you. Do what you always do: forget him, and move on."
I close the leather cover on my words. The tears come anew.
Charles sat in his desk chair, turning the small flash drive over in his fingers. He had, quite literally, the fate of the world in his hand. He knew about the coming plague, Gerald had told him about it frequently. In a handful of generations half the planet would be infected. Gerald Robotnik had found the cure, and had forfeited his life for it. Now that information had found its way into the fingers of Charles Thorndyke.
And what was he going to choose to do with it?
What could he do? After all, this cure was found using procedures the medical community had deemed unethical, verboten was the word in Gerald's native language. He knew nothing of genetics, he couldn't very well duplicate the technology described on the disk himself. He also couldn't give the disk to anyone else without exposing himself as being "in league" with Gerald and getting himself locked up in a cell beside his old friend. And where would that get him?
But still... without the knowledge on this disk, whoever took up Gerald's responsibility would be starting at square one, and time was running out on the human race.
Charles put the disk down and rose from his chair. He needed a drink.
He was right on time, the stupid git. I raised my head from my meditation and smiled cheekily at Opacus as he stormed up the hill. "Well, well, look what my kindred dragged in."
He glared up at the pillar I was sitting on.
"I was wondering how long it would take you to show up. I sensed your mental energies focusing on me two days ago."
"So sorry to keep you waiting."
I sighed. "Here we are again, are we?"
"So it seems."
Charles snatched the disk off his desk and hurried to the garage. He had certainly spent enough time pondering. He knew what had to be done.
He threw the flash drive onto the workbench and grabbed a hammer.
"I'm sorry, friend. But this information is too dangerous."
He raised the weapon and brought it down.
I towered over him and glared. He scowled back and muttered, "Lucky shot."
I roared and kicked him hard in the jaw. His body spun a complete revolution before slamming back into the grass. "No more, Opacus! This is where I stop being your toy!"
He growled and rubbed his face. I hoped I broke something. Oh, I hoped to god I broke something.
He blinked behind me again, but I was ready. I kicked out backwards, fast enough to catch him off guard and deliver my boot into his gut. He grunted and doubled over, but still had enough composure to swipe at me. I felt his claws dig through my leg. I swung at him as I fell, my claws charged with psychic energy that threw him backwards as I cut into him.
I winced as I landed, my entire body on fire with pain, the fresh wounds in my leg screaming at me for attention. I craned my neck to look over at Opacus, who had fallen to the ground across the clearing and was not moving.
I awake with a start. Where am I?
I don't remember...
A word flashes in my mind... Jewel...
My name? Maybe.
Ow. The thing jammed in my forehead? Maybe.
Pain. It hurts. It hurts everywhere.
Why the pain?
"Are you all right?"
I look up. There a man approaching the hill where I sit. He has a rugged tan face and is dressed in simple clothes. He's leading a pair of oxen up the hill. I blink. He repeats his hails.
"You look like you've been crying. Is everything okay?"
I touch my cheeks. Wet. I had been crying. Why was I crying?
"Do you have a place to go?"
"Well, come with me then. I can't stand to see a woman sitting all alone and crying."
I slowly stand and walk over to him, clutching my bag in my hand. I need to open it. There's something inside I need to read. But not here. I can't let him see.
He extends his hand. "My name's Jameson Wilde, my friends call me Jamie."
I take it. "Jewel, I think. Just Jewel."
I rose to my feet, hesitantly, limping over to where Opacus had fallen. He really clawed up my leg good, that would take some time to heal. His chest barely moves with laboured breathing. I knew I had to kill him. I had to.
I saw the flash of light a second before I felt the blast of energy that sent me sprawling across the battlefield. I struggled to my feet as soon as I landed, and looking up soon enough to see Opacus stalking toward me out of the dust, his fists glowing the dark red of charging energy. I scrambled to get away, but my bum leg made that harder than it should have been.
He grabbed me around the neck, taking a moment to savour his assured victory and sneering in my pained face. "This is where you die."
The epinephrine coursed through my veins as I called all the power and energy at my disposal to my aid. Opacus struck.
I've been with Jameson for several months now. I live with him, and help him tend his fields and livestock. It's a simple life, but much better than I've been used to. I kneel in the west field, tending to a small tomato stalk that hasn't grown as fast the others, and needs a little helping hand.
I feel a touch at my shoulder, and I turn to look. Jameson kneels beside me, smiling as he sees my work. He embraces me, and kisses me warmly. I kiss back softly, enjoying the moment.
I have had other lovers, but every one of them have left me, in time. But Jameson is different. I'm sure of it. I plan on telling him my secret tonight, the thing I've been keeping from all this time. I know he will understand.
Opacus hit the far wall with a resounding red splat. My energy drained, I collapsed to the grass and blacked out.
When I came to, he was still there, broken, bruised, and unmoving. I wiped the blood from my mouth as I limped over to his shattered body. It was such a pointless thing. I was not proud of what I had done, but I was pleased our constant battle was finally at its end. "You brought this upon yourself... brother."
And I turned and left those ruins on the hilltop, the way he left me behind so many other times in the past. I had finally beaten him. I had won.
I would certainly never claim to be an evolved life. I know that is what I was created to be, but that doesn't mean I am. I know that I'm such a broken individual, far from perfect. Just because I have special powers or Chaos-blood doesn't make me any greater of a person.
Those powers are a gift, to be used wisely, not the way Opacus had abused them. I'm special, perhaps, but not to be feared, not to be worshiped. To be accepted. That's all I want. I want to live in peace.
Why can't anyone see that?
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