As she had predicted, Knuckles had gone along with her. Eight hundred years was a wonderful amount of time to work on your persuasion, especially since she was trying to work on the only guy she ever had a chance with. It wasn't like she'd find another person who would be willing to trek out into the middle of nowhere to see her, or defend her for an eternity. Ok true, it wasn't exactly his choice, but it was basically the same as marriage. Two people forced together against their wills and having to live in the same drab place for the rest of their lives.
"So, I was thinking dinner first
" Tikal prompted to the guardian, nudging him in the ribs.
"It's not a date!" Knuckles protested for what seemed like the umpteenth time, and they had yet to leave Angel Island.
"It basically is, you know." She told him matter-of-factly, privately enjoying his floundering. She would have preferred to do it publically, where the joke could be enjoyed by others, but this would have to do, trudging through the forest at the pace she set, trying to convince Knuckles that dating her wouldn't be as big a drama as he was making it out to be.
"How is this in any way a date of any kind? I've been railroaded into coming with you because you're a part of the emerald! You're the only one who is under any such delusion!"
Tikal winced. That had hurt, but she wouldn't let it show. "Yea, so it's just like a date." She laughed it off.
All Knuckles could do was sigh and go along with it. He wasn't the type who could win an argument without his fists, and he knew it. Tikal could keep going for ages, but in the end his repertoire was very bland and repetitive when it came to what he could say in this regard. It wasn't as if his job had allowed for a great deal of people skills. He punched anyone who came too close to the emerald not really much talking to be done. He had learnt a while ago not to listen to goads and taunts from a challenger, just to knock them down as quickly and as forcefully as he could.
"Alright, let's just get this over with. You're enjoying this, and I'm not. I just want to drop in, drop this damn message off and get back to the emerald. I don't care if they're sacred messages from Chaos himself, I just want this whole thing over and done with."
Again, it stung. Tikal then realised that she really did want to be going out with Knuckles, and this constant humiliation wasn't the way to go. The guardian was straightforward, a very obvious person. He understood playful taunts, to an extent, but couldn't stand them if they went on too long, or were directed at more sensitive topics.
"Ok, Knuckles, sorry." Tikal breathed heavily, rethinking her entire plan. "I get you want to get back to the emerald, but I don't understand why you're protesting so much. Will you at least think about it? It would mean a lot to me if you did." For a few moments Tikal was a shy teenager, knees together and hands behind her back, staring at the ground.
fine, whatever. Just
don't pester me about it. You wanted me to guard you for this, that's what I'll do. You point, I'll hit it. Let me mull it over when we're back home."
"Sure!" she nodded, markedly happier than she had been moments ago, now she was back on track. "Now, Chaos told me that we'd have transport waiting for us in Deepmire Quarry
Deepmire Quarry, one of the few places on the whole of Mobius where Ivo Robotnik had managed to found a base and not get removed from it swiftly and forcefully. It had been formed naturally overtime, on the edge of the island where wind eroded the rock into oddly-shaped caverns and cliffs. The base was suspended from the rock within these alcoves and shelters, a massive wall of steel that blasted anything flying by with reflected sunlight, and lasers of course.
"Ok, I have two questions. First, why does Chaos think we can get transport here, and second, why are we sneaking around like this?" Knuckles complained from his position in the undergrowth, peering over the edge of the island. Tikal lay concealed next to him, her chaos powers generating an aura which made them simply blend in with the natural chaos radiation, effectively blocking them from sensors.
"I think Chaos is assuming we have the initiative to steal one of the ships, or at least stow away on one. Robotnik has constant travel between his bases for his legions, and those airships
" she pointed to a row of metal balloons with massive crates suspended below them, "
those airships should get us straight to him."
"And now, why are we sneaking around?"
"Because, Knuckles, while you are confident about ripping your way through this place, you're not in hyper form and the military hasn't dislodged this place yet. If we want to do this, we need to do it quietly."
"I don't want to-"
"I'm well aware of that." She hissed. "But you want me to get back to the emerald without dying, so we do this my way. You said you'd follow my lead, so follow, now move!" she gave him a hurried shove and started crawling through the grass and moss, aware of her diminishing cover as she neared the edge of the island. The wind was picking up too that was another problem; the circumference-drift. The edge of the island generated some very violent turbulence, and thus most of the ships and troops sent to dislodge Robotnik found themselves at a disadvantage against the robotic legions, whose auto-aim allowed them to compensate for the drift.
It was for this that Tikal insisted on stealth. She knew that up close, Knuckles could match and beat almost anything Robotnik had in store for him, but fighting on a narrow walkway while battered by the wind would be a problem even for him, and the patrols could draw a bead and take him out before he got close. If he could at least restrain himself until they got within a good range, then she could cut him loose and let him go to work. The female Echidna hoped it wouldn't come to that, but having a backup plan couldn't hurt.
"So, what's your plan then?"
"Well, at the minute I'm using chaos energy to make us blend in with background radiation. With another subtle shift, I should be able to make us invisible to their optics. If I do it right, we should be able to just walk in."
"So, if you could do this so easily, why didn't you just up and leave before I returned?"
"Because I need the energy. This takes a lot of strength, Knuckles, and I'm going to need yours. I'll be channelling it, and you'll need to be supplying me with energy from the emerald. Otherwise I'll tire of it in moments."
how do I do that?"
"Well, you know when you use chaos ram you direct your energy to your fists? Well, from there, instead of asking for the attack, just let it go. Let it flow into the next source and yes, this does mean you're going to have to hold my hand."
The guardian huffed. "Fine, alright then." She felt behind her until he took her hand, the glove designed for boxing and awkwardly-shaped, and then she put her plan into action.
Technology existed for this of course, the refraction or reflection of light around an object, but such technology left heat and electrical signatures, which the robots would surely scan for, and the entire method was flawed. Refraction of light involved disturbing it, making it flow in a way that was unnatural. She could not slow light down either, slowed light would generate a disturbance, again. Either of those techniques would have used considerably less energy, but also would have opened them significantly more to attacks, so the technique she would be using expended energy in far greater quantities but the level of protection would be almost absolute.
To put it simply, she intended to make the molecules in both her and Knuckles photophobic. Instead of bouncing off the two Echidnas, the molecules would be repulsed by their very being, weaving between their atoms to get to the other side, thus reflecting no light and thus making them totally invisible. Combined with the chaos shift making them invisible to other sensors, they would practically disappear.
"Alright, go." She told the guardian, placing her spare hand flat against her stomach, and releasing the pent-up energy in her palm. It rippled through her, destructive to anyone who wasn't an adept, her skin and clothing changing as it spread, fading and disappearing, or rather, dodging light, as the ripples spread. It passed from her and along Knuckles, who started at the change but kept a tight grip on her hand. What she had also neglected to tell him was that now it was solely dependent on him. It had used her entire reserves just to trigger the change, and so now he was being used to maintain it, a process that also required a significantly lesser grade of energy.
"Now listen." She whispered, "we're still not blocking sound, and if you let go then both of us will become visible again." Her words came out haltingly, her mind mostly taken up in the effort of holding the power in check, "we can't see ourselves either, so try and think about where you're placing your feet."
"Ok, this isn't what I expected
" he muttered, still trying to understand what exactly was going on he knew it involved chaos energy, since Tikal had asked him to supply her with the stuff, but he still had no idea how it worked. That wasn't in his branch of work.
"Come on then." Tikal whispered, "and try not to take any pot-shots at passing patrols."
She counted that as a success. Sure, he had very violently torn off the door to one of the airships and methodically crushed the two squads of assault bots in standby inside, but there hadn't been enough of a disturbance to alert any other squads, thanks to, in no small part, the muffler field she had put up the moment Knuckles had let go. At that moment the invisibility had dropped and she had been able to utilise her skill in other fields, doing her best to deaden the noise the Echidna Guardian was making.
But they were in the air, the airship humming through its steel balloon, and they were on their way to the target. The red Mobian, having reasoned there wasn't anything for him to do until they got to their destination, had fallen asleep, leaving Tikal to her thoughts.
What are you planning, Chaos? Why Robotnik, and why now? she wondered, stroking the dried paper scroll. You didn't tell me anything.
She leant against the wall as the ship altered direction, tilting as it did so. During transit, the robots magnetised their feet so they wouldn't rock about, but they weren't robots, and it was tiring enough already to keep them off the infra-red that the ship had active.
You can see everything, so you knew what would happen to Tails, and Fiona, and everyone else, so why interfere like this?
She had forgotten how tiring all this was she had been granted a bare few days out of the emerald in over eight hundred years, and each time her lack of physical fitness got to her. She wasn't unfit quite the opposite; her body was always very athletic in itself whenever it was generated, but a lack of time and practise meant she tired quickly and her strength failed. Holding chaos energy in check required both skill, which she had, and strength, which changed in every incarnation.
That could be another problem each time she re-entered the emerald, her body was broken down into atoms and then energy, and reabsorbed into the wholeness of chaos energy. Creation of a new body for each return was an extremely stressful procedure, one that could only be completed alongside the infinitely more powerful will of Chaos. The best she had been able to do alone was a pulsing pinkish orb, and the entire time her voice had been revoltingly-whistling and she had been disturbed by the entire experience.
For a moment she almost laughed in the darkness, picturing Chaos as the protective father, shouting at her.
"Where have you been? Out with that Knuckles rapscallion again? It's extremely difficult to create those bodies you know, you shouldn't be squandering them on so trivial a matter!" For some reason she couldn't help but think of him with a rough voice of a businessman. The manifestation of pandemonium wouldn't really object of course, but the thought of it was something to play with.
"Muh-fughbubgle." The guardian murmured as the ship titled once more, sending him sliding over onto his side, the sound of his skull hitting the steel alarmingly loud in the massive space. "We there yet?" He muttered, rubbing his head where he had hit it and pulling himself back upright.
"Not quite, but I expect we're close." Tikal smiled at him in the darkness, "when we get there you'll have plenty to do, but first, can I ask you something? Hypothetically."
"Yea, go ahead. Now I'm awake I need to pass the time with something."
"What do you think Chaos thinks of me trying to ask you out?"
The ball was in his court. The same topic, but it wasn't directed at him. One point. They were talking about a god. Two points. Still same topic. Minus one point. "Well
" he pushed it around for a moment, "something like this?" he raised both arms, waving them in the air and shouting "garble garble garble!"
It was hardly the most inventive thing, but that was funny.
The airship docked and opened all hatches just as designated, blissfully unaware that its cargo had been massacred by two four-foot high anthropomorphisms, and remained in dock for the scheduled two hours for unloading and reloading, when in fact it took the two Echidnas a few moments to evacuate the ship and find cover behind a massive cylindrical power generator.
"So when do you want me to start breaking stuff?" Knuckles muttered, his hand on Tikal's shoulder. He had seen her fatigue and lent her some of his strength, though now she only maintained the chaos blanket over them, instead of the full-on invisibility.
" her eyes wandered for a moment, darting from the airship, to the power lines and then to the giant generator they sat against. "This thing we're leaning on. Pull a couple of the plates off, will you? Just so we can get to some wiring. There's enough noise to cover you, just don't use chaos power."
"Brute force then." She felt him nod. "You can handle the stealth alone for a moment or so?"
She felt his hand leave her shoulder, then she looked to watch him work. Knuckles was emotionally stunted and socially awkward, but now he was into the physical stuff, the lifting and breaking, this was easy. His gloves served as perfect protection as he levered them in around a plate that wasn't quite flush with the rest of the sheets, a result of sloppy maintenance. A swift tug accompanied by a brief metallic shriek took the panel from the wall, and another two followed before Knuckles finally saw the wires, tight bunches of copper twisting through the solid metal. "Got it." He huffed, a note of professional pride edging his tone as he stepped aside for the girl.
" she didn't mess around, just shoved her hand into the breach and crushed the wires she could get her hands on, sending a fairly nondescript burst of chaos energy into it in the process.
why did we do that?"
"Misdirection." She told him calmly, removing her hand and inspecting the burn marks, already healing as her powers did their magic. "If a new legion boards it to get to Angel Island, they'll discover the damaged parts and put the base on alert. If We do things so a generator malfunctions from a random burst of chaos energy, the damage inside will be explained by a chain reaction. Basically, it makes it look like an accident."
Knuckles nodded, impressed.
"Of course, it won't work if those plates aren't back on. You can just stuff the first two in, but make sure the outer one looks right."
"On it. Knuckles pulled the two panels of steel, each easily half a tonne alone, and quite calmly folded them and stuffed them into the hole he had made. Then the final piece he lifted with care, fitting it over the gap and giving each of the corners a good thump. That would have hurt the hands of a normal Mobian with Knuckles it left a sizeable dent in each corner of the bright red panelling.
"This way then." Tikal hurried him along away from the generator with warning alarms starting to wail at the power failure. Being pushed along, Knuckles found he was beginning to realise why Tikal had been made guardian in the way she had he and her were different, she fought with her mind, her chaos powers were all about making her more powerful, and over the years, as a chaos construct she had taken in information and used it to further her cause. He was the physical guy, the guy who didn't need explanations, just a target. His way of fighting wasn't with knowledge, it was with his fists; his chaos powers reflected this, all geared towards doing as much damage in the most direct way possible. It made sense she would want to be with him another of her would be just a pure waste of time, and they both needed someone other than themselves.
"Two guardians, Knuckles! Two! Two standing side by side with the gods against the world."
"Then where's the second one? Sounds like they're late."
"You are the second guardian, Knuckles the Echidna. The first guardian already lives amongst us."
"Where? Gonna have to point them out."
At that the wizened seer had merely smiled, that smile that carried aeons of age and experience and knowledge. "You will know her soon enough."
'Soon enough' had been roughly six decades. Sixty years to stand silent and unopposed on Angel Island, only speaking infrequently to the Echidna pilgrims and seers. He had met Tikal then. The two had struck at first a working friendship as colleagues-in-arms, then overtime they had developed into true friends, perpetrated by the lack of others. It was quite a real possibility that if they hadn't been guardians, they may never have met.
This situation was new to him. He was using his fists, yea, he could operate those with a fair degree of accuracy, but he wasn't built for stealth. He was clumsy and cack-handed with things, bulky and immovable. He did envy Tikal for that she was far more lithe and nimble, even with her scarce time as a physical being. Her forms were always a little too slim to be real, her eyes too aged to be as young as she always looked.
He phased out a little, his mind skimming back over the years, recalling everything he remembered about Tikal seeing her added to about a month in total, maybe less, but they had talked far more often. Now he troubled to recall it, he did admire her, maybe more. He admired her for possessing her own qualities that surpassed his own in those fields, but not trying to perfect herself in every way.
"Alright fisticuffs, you're up." Her voice yanked him out of his reverie like a gunshot. "We've done the stealth, now it's your turn. Break stuff."
The guardian quickly took stock of the situation he remembered nothing of the hallways and courtyards that Tikal had pushed him through, but now, staring down an as of yet inactive combat legion, this was his element. As he realised what he needed to do, he began to grin, flexing his arms to work the feeling back into them. Hardened and beaten metal, rotary cannons, fusion rifles and explosive rounds, blades longer than he was and optics that could detect things on almost any level. All arranged into squads and then into the legion as a whole within an open courtyard, giant quad-barrelled anti-air batteries and missile defences serving as a safeguard until the robots could be put to better use.
Well, it wasn't like he had flown here illegally, was it? Now it was time to do exactly what he did best no subterfuge, no tricks or tactics or last-minute strategies, just the blunt force of an Echidna chaos adept charging into a fight.
He broke cover from the edge of the courtyard, trusting Tikal to stay out of sight and to let him deal with things his way now.
As he crossed a certain invisible line, the proximity warning for the nearest clutch of legionnaires activated, basic sensors kicking in and registering the incoming object, identifying it as organic, then as a Mobian. As soon as the command passed through their systems, the entire legion started waking up.
Knuckles had faced these guys before, and he knew what they could do. Now he was within their sensor range, he could see lights winking on them and activation procedures kicking in. He had four seconds until they gained mobility, and then a further two after that until they could start shooting at him. He hit the closest three seconds later, throwing his fists out in front and sending a massive charge of chaos energy into the area in front of him. It appeared in the form of an incandescent shield, running with him, not for defence, but for hitting even harder. He hadn't ever planned to name it, but in a moment of egotistical pride whilst sparring with Sonic he had dubbed it the 'Chaos Ram' as befitted the power it held.
The moment it made contact with the leg of the legionnaire, the energy leading struck out, losing its coherency as part of the shield and returning to its purest state of chaos energy itself. The transition from solid to energy required a massive expenditure of said energy, far out of proportion to the energy that remained. That transitional energy was spent immediately in the form of kinetic energy, which was always a bit of a problem for the first thing it touched.
The legionnaire found his lower body punched at something approaching the speed of sound, and quite simply he ceased to exist.
The shield expended itself quickly, allowing Knuckles the freedom to move in more than one direction as the legion became mobile, one bringing a blade that was almost twice as large as he was down on him in a crushing vertical slash. The Echidna halted in his tracks, powering his right fist up towards it. The blade and glove met and the hardened steel bent away from the force, while the other fist descended over the top. Caught between two forces of equal pressure the blade splintered and came apart under the force.
The legionnaire had less than a moment to comprehend this unfortunate development before his torso was ripped out, one of the rather irritating things that can happen during a fight. Knuckles didn't really care that much they were robots.
And he was here to fight, after all.
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"i think he'd do this:..."
*puts arms in air and waves around*
"garble garble Garble!"
*puts arms in air and waves around*
"garble garble Garble!"
Good, good. I agree with Vorahk about the Chaos imitation. But I think when you explain chaos physics in the middle of a battle scene, it sort of kills it.
Ye Gods, you know your Physics.
You'll find it's part of how I write. Before something works, I make sure I know how it works.
Very entertaining. The scene with Knuckles imitating Chaos was awesome.
That was partly inspired by our conversations and Sonic Shorts.
I like the ship-tease being written here.
So do I.
Hmmm..... Tikal and Knuckles doing chemistry...... I sense some chaos ahead....
Chaos as a protective father was my favourite part about writing this. The whole chapter is a fairly comedic piece compared to the rest of the story as well.
This is the end of the sub-arc, by the way, so we won't be seeing much of Knuckles or Tikal for some time.
This is the end of the sub-arc, by the way, so we won't be seeing much of Knuckles or Tikal for some time.
I view Chaos as a protective father as well. I hope that the end will mark a happier term for Tikal and Chaos. And even Knuckles.
I find Tikal and Knuckles' chemistry here oddly amusing.