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Chapter 12 - Despair in the Air

Knuckles battles mysterious new foes bent on stealing the Master Emerald!

Meanwhile, Punchy and Rainbow have discovered Rainbow's sister... But is she an enemy?

Chapter 12 - Despair in the Air

Chapter 12 - Despair in the Air
GeneX - Knuckles the Echidna
Chapter 12 - Despair in the Air
Boss 8 - E-5X Jolt & Zeke

Note: Sonic the Hedgehog and related characters are (c) SEGA and
Sonic Team. You knew that, right?
GeneX and related fanchars are (c) 2BIT (TheGreatGator), the author.

The story thus far:
After encountering some unfriendly faces at Despair's HQ, Copter and Kosmo received orders from Fera to obtain the mysterious Chaos Boots from Eggman's Cloud Carnival. Since they wouldn't allow Bucky to accompany them, he sent Zipp to spy on them instead. On the way, Copter and Kosmo witnessed Katie get kidnapped by Sgt. Drol, who wanted to question her about events at Blue Ridge Zone, with her boyfriend Chet powerless to stop them! They gave chase to Cloud Carnival, where Kosmo caught up with them, and found that Jolt and Silver had found them as well. Drol used his hostage to escape, leaving Kosmo to team up with Silver and Chet to defeat Jolt. Then, Chet sped off to find Katie. Finding Copter again, and learning that they needed special "park rings" to move through the floating carnival, they set out to find said rings. However, they soon caught Zipp spying on them! After chasing Zipp for a bit, Silver managed to catch him, and Zipp called a truce, offering his park rings in exchange. Now, they're heading for a roller coaster that will take them further into the carnival. But the question remains: Can Zipp be trusted?
Now, on to the next chapter!

Zipp looked around nervously as they boarded the roller coaster. There was still no sign of Zeke since they'd gotten separated upon arrival. "Big oaf's probably distracted by something shiny..." he thought in annoyance as the coaster started to move. "I've never been on one of these before... Hey, shouldn't there be a seat belt?" Silver mumbled. "Hold on to the bar, tight!" Copter warned as the coaster sped up! Both Silver and Kosmo let out a surprised yelp as the coaster zoomed down an incline, and gasped upon seeing a loop up ahead. "Seriously, shouldn't we have seat belts??" Kosmo asked. "...Probably." Copter mumbled. "If you are riding the Looper Coaster, remember to hang on tight! Cloud Carnival is not responsible for injuries incurred from hundred story drops down from the loop-the-loop! We maintain that it is the city's fault for making the pavement so hard." said Eggman over the PA while the group shrieked during the coaster's spin through the loop! "What am I screaming for? I have wings!" Zipp stammered. As the coaster continued along, they suddenly noticed robots heading their way. It was a squad of Hunter robots flying with jetpacks! "Oh, goodie. Sgt. Dope got backup." Copter groaned. "I got 'em!" Zipp smirked, lifting up his rifle and shooting down the robots one by one! However, his rifle was too slow, and the group was forced to duck as the coaster passed the robots he missed, which were all too eager to shoot back! "Don't you have a machine gun in that jacket of yours!?" Copter snapped. Zipp scoffed. "Machine guns are a waste of ammo. Plus, Vortex thought my aim was getting sloppy. I'll show HIM!" he said. Silver looked below them. "Never mind! I think we're getting close to our stop!" he said. Unless they wanted to go around again, they needed to jump off before the coaster returned to its starting point. Now that they were over a cloud-shaped ship they hadn't explored yet, they pushed their safety bars back and got ready to jump, ducking briefly as a Hunter shot at them again. "Well... good bye, everyone." Copter gulped before being the first to jump, followed by the others!

Using his tails, Copter managed to control his landing and avoid hitting any of the bumpers that dotted the landscape of the next ship platform. Kosmo hovered down disguised as Jolt so as not to attract the attention of the anti-air guns, and Silver used his psychokinesis to steady his landing. As they stood together at one end of the platform, looking ahead, they noted that it looked very much like a giant pinball table, with a sort of bingo game in the center. What they didn't notice, was that they were standing directly in front of a giant pinball flipper, and Zipp was hovering behind it, chuckling mischievously as he aimed a pistol at the mechanism to activate the flipper. "Chase me around and swipe my rings, will ya?" he muttered, firing! The flipper knocked all three of them into the pinball game, sending them tumbling like balls into an obstacle course of different types of bumpers! "Gaaaah!! Why didn't I see this coming!?" Copter screamed. "Ow! Ouch! What kind of sick mind would use people as pinball balls!?" Silver shouted. Kosmo morphed into an actual steel ball in order to lessen the pain from this experience. "I'm going to throw up all over you, hornet!!" he yelled. Zipp chuckled. "You'd have to catch me first!" he shouted, shooting at the flipper mechanisms to try to steer them into the bingo panels! However, controlling three balls at once was tough, and Copter shrieked as he went hurtling over the side of the ship! "Ooops... Well, nice knowin' ya, bro." Zipp shrugged, only for Copter to dizzily fly up seconds later. "I...shall...destroy you...Ziiiipp..." he gurgled before running back to the side of the ship to hurl. Adding further insult to injury, Silver suddenly bounced off of him, nearly knocking him over the edge again! "ARRRGH!!" he yelled. "Thanks for stopping meeee!" Silver shouted. As Copter turned around, Kosmo also started to hurtle toward him, but as Copter braced himself, Kosmo morphed his tail out and used it to steer himself away from Copter! "Put a stop to this!" he shouted as he flew by. Copter nodded, and stomped over to the other end of the ship. A Carnival Pawn was standing guard at the bridge to the next area. "Turn off this pinball machine!" Copter shouted. The pawn looked at him uncertainly. "It can't be turned OFF! But I can offer passage across the bridge in exchange for the rings you win for a bingo." it said.

Now knowing what to do, Copter ran for the bingo panel in the center of the pinball table! However, some of the bumpers in that area were moving, and to make things harder, Silver and Kosmo were bouncing through that area wildly! "Wow... They're making me dizzy..." Zipp mumbled. Copter tried to run through, only to get smacked again by Silver! "Grrr!! Stop it!! Can't either of you get ahold of yourselves!? You're psychic and you're a morph!! Argh!" Copter growled, flying over them to reach the bingo panel. They had a B and a G, so Copter hopped to the panels they needed, causing the whole table to light up as park rings rained down on them! "BINGOOOO!!" shouted the voice of BAS from nowhere. Zipp flew down to start grabbing rings, only to be psychically grabbed by Silver again. "Hey, what!?" he gasped. "You...stay still...for a while!" he growled. Copter and Kosmo gathered the rings, and the four of them made their way to the Carnival Pawn guarding the bridge, though Silver wouldn't release Zipp. "Good! You've gathered the rings! Now just hand them over and I'll..." Before the pawn could finish speaking, Kosmo morphed his arm into one of the pinball flippers and crashed it down over the robot's head, destroying it! "We're not collecting park rings for a while." he growled, "And I'm gonna play pinball with you, later, Zipp." he said, making Zipp gulp. "Can't anyone just imagine that I was trying to help?" he whimpered. "NO!" they all said at once.

Silver eventually released Zipp as they made their way through the next cloud ship, which was crawling with angry Carnival Pawns and Drol's Hunter robots. It wasn't any trouble for the four of them, though, and they soon arrived at another roller coaster track. However, a paper was blocking the park ring slot to call the coaster, which read "Out of Order." The roller coaster seemed to be running around and around at high speed. "Attention, visitors! The Velocicoaster is experiencing technical difficulties. I know it provides the only route to the administrative building and the lost and found, but please, stay off the tracks. Unless you always wanted to be a pancake." Eggman announced over the PA system. "How much you want to bet that the Chaos Boots are on the other side of that?" Copter muttered. "Drol probably sabotaged the coaster to keep us from following him." Kosmo mused. Zipp shrugged. "Well, I can fly. See ya." he said, starting on his way across. "Hey, wait for us!" Copter growled, thus beginning their trek across the Velocicoaster tracks. Some Carnival Pawns were ahead, working at one of the coaster's several intersections. Suddenly, the coaster sped by, knocking the robots to their doom! Copter gulped, but Kosmo ran ahead. "Come on, while the track is clear!" he shouted. As they hurried past that intersection and towards the next, they heard something loudly approaching them from behind! "Prepare to be pancakes!" Zipp shouted, flying out of the way as the roller coaster came at them! They jumped across the gap to the safe track at the next intersection, and Copter swiftly knocked aside some Carnival Pawns that were there to greet them with his tails. "Couldn't you morph into a roller coaster yourself and give us a ride, Kosmo?" Copter suggested. "And risk crashing? Also, having your dirty shoes trampling my insides?? Eeew." he protested. "Insides...!?" Silver muttered. They made for the next intersection and found some real trouble. There were TWO coasters on the track, and they were both heading their way! "Now what do we do!?" Copter yelped. "Let's hear it for wings! Bye!" Zipp chuckled, flying away. However, Silver motioned for them to head for just before the intersection. "Wait right here... Now!" While Copter and Kosmo leapt for their lives, Kosmo morphing to gargoyle form thinking he'd have to fly over the oncoming coaster, Silver had remained on the track and held the coaster back with his psychokinesis while the other one passed the intersection! "What are you guys doing!? Cross! Cross!!" he shouted. Kosmo grabbed Silver as he flew to the safe track, with Copter behind. Once the other coaster had passed them by, they saw that the way across was more or less clear from here out!

They caught up with Zipp at the administrative building, where a Carnival Pawn was blocking the entrance. "Oh, hey, you guys are alive. Great. Now you can use those rings we picked up earlier to pay this jerk so we can get inside." he said. "Thanks for helping us, ZIPP!" Copter shouted. "You're welcome. Scouting ahead was quite a chore." Zipp teased. Silver sighed. "Could we just pay the robot? We're wasting time here!" he said urgently. Copter and Kosmo handed over their collection of park rings, only for the Carnival Pawn to hand them a big mallet. "That was the fee to take on the challenge to gain ENTRY into the building! Try your luck at Hedgehog Hammer over there!" it said, pointing to an area where a whack-a-mole style game featuring Sonic and Eggman shaped targets was set up. Copter took the mallet, glared at the Carnival Pawn, and then bashed it repeatedly with the heavy mallet until it collapsed in a heap! "That's what I think of Eggman's dumb carnival!!" he shouted. Kosmo chuckled. "Actually, that game over there doesn't look so bad..." he said. "Katie might be in here!!" Copter snapped. Silver nodded. "The time for games is over!" he said. Zipp shrugged. "Maybe we can play on the way out?" he suggested as they all entered the building.

The administrative building was pretty large, and was full of Carnival Pawns busily repairing park equipment and controlling park attractions from computers. In the center of the area, however, was Sergeant Drol, accompanied by Agent 32, who was still holding Katie hostage. Chet had caught up with them, and Zeke the dragon was there as well! "THERE he is!" Zipp said, flying ahead. Between Drol and Zeke was a pair of golden shoes, with a single stripe of ruby along their middles, and wings at the ankles! "Looks like we found the hostage AND the Chaos Boots." Kosmo realized. "Looks like a standoff, too." Silver murmured. "Katie! Hang on!" Chet shouted as Kosmo, Copter and Silver approached. "We seem to be outnumbered again, boss!" Agent 32 gulped, noticing everyone entering the room. "Nonsense. All area GUN units will be here any moment." Drol stated. Zeke smirked. "By that time, we'll all be long gone!" he said in his raspy, chuckle-sounding voice. "With these shiny new shoes!" Zipp added, hovering beside him. "Sorry, kiddies. Those Chaos Boots are coming with me!" Kosmo said. Zipp glanced at Kosmo and drew his pistols. "Oh, yeah? I don't think so!" he sneered. "What are you saying? Isn't Kosmo taking them to the same place as us?" Zeke asked. Zipp nodded. "Sure, but I don't want to spend all my life waiting for that time bomb to go off! So let's just blast him!" he shouted. Copter's face turned white. "Are you insane, Zipp!? That'll set him off right now!" he stammered, earning him an annoyed glance from Kosmo. "RAWR!! Who cares? I mean, what's scarier, a morph or a dragon?" Zeke chuckled. Kosmo growled softly. "A morph. Shut your mouth!" he snarled. Silver, not one to be ignored, stepped in front of Kosmo. "All of you! Out of my way! I'm not letting any of you leave with those boots!" he shouted. Meanwhile, Katie recoiled from this scene. "I don't like this... Curse my newshound instincts..." Drol reacted by pushing her aside and pressing a button on a remote. "You're making my hostage nervous! I'm calling my mech!" he said, prompting a highly weaponized Flying Dog mech to smash in through the wall!

"Enough! All of you!! How did you all get up here, anyway!?" shouted Dr. Eggman, who's Egg Mobile emerged at the back of the room, accompanied by Jolt! "Great... More good news." Copter groaned. Drol drew a rapier and pointed it at Eggman. "Terrorist knave! You're no better than those Covenant of Despair dogs!" he shouted. "Excuse me, but I'm way smarter than those losers! Egg Pawns, surround them!" Eggman commanded, prompting the working Carnival Pawns to drop what they were doing and start to advance on the intruders! Zipp pocketed his pistols and pulled out a machine gun. "Aw, yeah! This is getting exciting!" he grinned. "I'd say this is getting out of hand..." Silver sighed. "Katie! Let's get out of here, quick!" Chet shouted, hoping to take advantage of the confusion. No such luck, however. Agent 32 pulled a gun on Katie once again! "Not so fast, freak!" he growled. Drol motioned to his mech. "Attack! Destroy Eggman's pitiful robots!" he commanded, backing away to a safe distance. Eggman ordered his robots in kind, and glanced down at Jolt. "You get in there, too! Destroy Kosmo, Copter, and Silver! Especially Kosmo!" he commanded. "Work, work, work!" Jolt groaned, rushing out towards the group. Zeke turned and saluted Eggman as well. "Allow me, doctor! I'll dispose of these pathetic chumps!" he declared, turning to face Copter and Kosmo, "Psst! Don't tell Dr. Dumb-man that I'm really an experiment!" he whispered. "No deal!" Copter growled. "I suggest we team up for now, and settle who gets the Chaos Boots after!" Silver said. "Never mind Eggman and those boots! We gotta help Chet save Katie!" Copter shouted. Kosmo looked a bit nervous as things started to get chaotic in there. "So... much... to think about... How should I respond? In the past, I might just blast everyone, but... Hm, what would Shadow do?" he wondered. Zeke's voice snapped him out of it. "Let's see if you're really as tough as they say you are! RAWR!!!" he roared!

Zeke hopped into the air and soared towards them, followed by Jolt! Some of the Carnival Pawns grabbed their trumpets and joined the fray as well. Copter jumped up and swung his tails at Jolt, missing as the robot swiftly flew up with his jetpack! "Gotta do better than that, fox boy! I'm fast like lightning!" he taunted, shocking Copter with a quick electric bolt! "Zzzzargh! Come... here... I owe you a Chaos Blast..." Copter jabbered, shaking off the shock quickly. Zeke, meanwhile, focused on Kosmo, blowing flames at him as he approached! The morph rolled out of the way and chuckled. "I could use MY dragon form, but how original would that be? Nah, how about this?" he said, changing into a purple pegasus! His hooves clacked loudly against the ground as he built up speed to take off into the air! "Huh? You insult me by turning into a flying horsy!? I'll make fried drumsticks outta you!" Zeke growled, spouting fireballs at Kosmo from his mouth! This left Silver to deal with the pawns. "Hmmm... Too easy." he said, jumping aside as they blew shockwaves from their trumpets, then grabbing one by one with his psychokinesis and tossing them at each other! While these fights were going on, Zipp was sneaking cautiously towards the Chaos Boots, using his feet rather than wings for a change. "Perfect! No one notices the little hornet! Easiest mission ever! ...Huh!?" As he grabbed for the boots, his hand bumped into Chet's. "Oh, no you don't, bug! Everyone's after these dumb shoes, so I need them to trade for Katie!" he growled. "How... uh... noble? Now GIMMIE!!" Zipp shouted, the two of them trying to wrestle a single boot out of the other's hand, failing to notice Sgt. Drol's mech looming over them, and the other Carnival Pawns surrounding them. "Stop them from taking the boots, pawns!" Eggman shouted. "Eliminate any threats in our way!" Drol yelled. Zipp and Chet both dropped the boot at once, glancing around in horror. "Um... I'll be right back." Chet muttered. "Ditto." Zipp said, brandishing his machine gun. Thus, they split up to fight the robots as projectiles started to fly everywhere!

Jolt was chasing Copter while Zeke was chasing Kosmo. Suddenly, Silver tossed Carnival pawns into both of them, knocking them out of the sky! "Hey! We had it covered!" Kosmo neighed. "Whatever. Let's hurry and grab the Chaos Boots!" Silver suggested. "Hold it!! We're not done!!" Jolt and Zeke yelled at once, rising quickly! The fighting only seemed to be intensifying, with projectiles flying everywhere. Eggman's robots didn't really seem to be decreasing in number much, and Chet decided it was better to try to save Katie before something happened. "Let her go, suit! You got a big robot, you don't need a hostage anymore!" he shouted. Agent 32 released Katie from his grip, but pointed his gun at Chet. "I keep an eye on her until the Sergeant tells me otherwise!" he growled. Katie started to back away, and when she did, she suddenly screamed! Time seemed to slow around her as she, Chet and Agent 32 began to comprehend what had happened. Katie fell to the ground, holding her chest, and Chet screamed in despair. "Katie!! NO!!!" Kosmo kicked Zeke aside with his hooves, landed to the ground, and morphed back to normal as he and Copter heard Chet's scream. "What... no..." Copter gasped. "D... don't worry about me... Get yourself out of here... Chet..." Katie gasped before shutting her eyes. Chet screamed out her name, but the fighting was still going on in the background. Copter observed this scene, and felt rage bubbling up inside him. "No... Not Katie..." he panted. Kosmo observed him, and frowned. "Well, what are we supposed to do about it?" he muttered. Jolt and Zeke started to come up behind them again, and Copter turned to their footsteps, snarling. "ENOUGH!!" he roared, his fur taking on a darker hue and his white fur gaining blue highlights all of a sudden! A massive dark shockwave erupted from Copter's body, knocking over everyone that was standing and immediately bringing an end to the fighting! Copter, too was lying on the ground afterward, though his fur had returned to normal.

Despite the significant events that had just occurred, Kosmo still had a mission. He shakily climbed to his feet and started to retrieve things, first his coin, which had been dislodged from his shoe. It was still glowing, in fact it was brighter than before. "What's up with this? It's like it's reacting to something..." he muttered as he approached the Chaos Boots. Agent 32 was the first to get in his way. "Stop right there!" he said, pointing his gun. "You think you can stop me?" Kosmo questioned. "He can't, but I can!" said Silver, who stood beside Kosmo with his hand raised threateningly. "Don't... No one else has to get hurt." Kosmo sighed. Silver lowered his hand. "But... What will you do with them? Answer that for me." he asked. Kosmo looked unsure. "I... Well... I don't even know what they do..." he muttered. Just then, Basker from the Covenant of Despair entered the room, accompanied by a uniformed bat. "Well done, Kosmo. We'll take it from here." he said. Kosmo stared at them in surprise. "Huh? How'd you get up here??" he wondered. "With our aerial unit. We sent you ahead, since time was a factor." Basker explained. He then knelt down and picked up the Chaos Boots. "Hey! I can't let you take those!" Silver shouted. "I think you'll find you can... In fact, you can't bear to approach me..." Basker sneered, his eyes glowing brighter as a strange, dark blue energy cloaked around Silver, filling him with a paralyzing fear that forced him to his knees! "Aaaaah!! Wh-what are you!?" he shouted. "What did you do to him?" Kosmo asked. However, they were interrupted by Eggman bringing his Egg Mobile back online. "Hold on! You fools can't get away this easily!" he shouted. "And neither can you." said Sgt. Drol, "My troops should be along any moment." Basker grinned at this. "I'm afraid we've got your troops a bit busy." he said. "What!? Knave!" Drol shouted. "Seems we've got more trouble than I thought... I'll be in my control room if anyone needs me!" Eggman shouted, retreating along with Jolt and Zeke! Meanwhile, Drol was getting a call from Colonel Gunner about a Covenant of Despair attack on Central City, so he was about to leave as well. "Looks like our way is clear. Let's be off." Basker said. However, Kosmo stopped to glance at Copter and Chet, who were distraught over Katie's dying body. "Wait..." he muttered. "Come on, Kosmo, let's be off." Zipp muttered. "But... Shouldn't we do something!?" he snapped. Basker glanced around. "About what?" he murmured, having actually not noticed Katie lying there before. "Katie!! Hang on!! S-somebody do something!!" Chet wailed. Basker smiled, the wheels in his head seeming to start turning over this.

"Agh... My head... What did he do to me?" Silver muttered as Basker walked over to Chet. "Hmm... Looks like the humans have struck again..." he said. Copter glared at him angrily. "Y-you..." he snarled. Basker placed a hand on Chet's shoulder. "Come, brother. It would not be wise to linger here." he suggested. "What!? What are you saying!?" he yelled. Basker looked at him seriously. "She's as good as dead. If you linger here, you will share her fate. Dr. Eggman will see to that." he insisted, tightening his grip on Chet's shoulder and starting to drag him. "Come with me..." he said. "K-K-KATIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE!!!!" Chet screamed as Basker and the bat dragged him away. Silver rubbed his head as he approached Copter and Kosmo. "Aw, no... he got away..." he groaned, having only now fully regained his senses. "Where are they going!? Katie's still alive!" Copter shouted. "I can fix that..." Zipp grinned, polishing one of his pistols. Kosmo glared at him furiously. "You stay away! You probably shot her to begin with!" he yelled. Then, as things were looking their bleakest, a miracle occurred. Gemini the fennec bashed her way out of a ventilation shaft, hopping into the room! "Whew... First I'm captured by GUN, then Dr. Eggman... I'm really slipping! At least Eggman forgot to nab my wand!" she said to herself. Copter stared in disbelief. "Gemini! Talk about finding just the person we need!" he gasped, running up to her. "Copter! What are you... What's happened here!?" Gemini shouted, horrified. "What does it matter! Basker's right. She's as good as dead!" Kosmo sighed. Gemini hurried over to Katie, holding out her wand. "Ooooh... This looks bad... Now, what was that spell... Recoveration!" she said, casting a weak, healing light over Katie. Kosmo watched in wonder as the spell seemed to stabilize the coyote a bit. However, it didn't quite seem to work. "It... it's not enough... She needs a doctor..." Gemini said in panic. "Then we'll have to get her to one." Silver said. "I'll call my plane!" Copter nodded. Kosmo's eyes widened. "They just her." he whispered. "Good for them. I'm getting out of here." said Zipp from beside him. "What about blasting me?" Kosmo asked, turning to Zipp as he was starting to fly off. The hornet just shrugged. "...Stay outta trouble, Kosmo." he said. With the mission at Cloud Carnival over, all that was left was to pull together to try to save Katie's life!

To be continued...


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