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Chapter 33 - Dark Ascent

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 33 - Dark Ascent

Chapter 33 - Dark Ascent
GeneX - Knuckles the Echidna
Chapter 33 - Dark Ascent
Stage 19(Dark 9) - Lost Plateau
Minor Boss 15 - Shadow Chaos

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:
Punchy traveled with Copter and Kosmo to Central City in search of Rainbow and Heather. They were soon drawn into conflict at GUN HQ, leading them to encounter the Lost One posing as the President, Loskeletor, who desired to use Project GXterminate to bring about the end of all life. Heather was required to operate the machine, but our heroes managed to free her and escape GUN HQ. Rainbow, however, was nowhere to be found. What's more, as the real President was kidnapped by the Lost Ones, Eggman and Covenant of Despair forces arrived in Central City, each bent on defeating the GUN army and claiming a decisive victory for their causes...
Now, on to the next chapter!

Punchy searched through the city in chaos for any sign of Rainbow, but he began to think that it was a wild goose chase. As the battle between GUN and Eggman died down and it started to become safe for regular people to come outside again, Punchy decided to find out if the trains were running so he could search for her elsewhere. However, he didn't get far before he ran into an old annoyance: Officer Razor. "Stop right there!! I need a LOT of explanations, right now!" he shouted, a bit frazzled by the recent battle. "Arrrgh!! Why couldn't you have been crushed in the undersea cave-in!?" Punchy grumbled. "Very funny!" Razor grunted, "The buzz around town is that you chumps busted into GUN HQ! What's the big idea!?" he questioned. Punchy crossed his arms. "I don't expect YOU to believe this, but we just saved everyone's butts from GUN's own doomsday weapon!!" he explained. Razor mulled that over and nodded. "You're right, that does sound like garbage. Where's your friends, anyway?" he growled. Punchy was really getting sick of this now. "You're IN my way!! I'm trying to find my friend who might be in danger... and EVERYONE'S in MY WAY!!" he screamed. "Awww... Problem, Punchy?" came the mocking voice of Fera as she strutted around the nearby corner. Razor turned and pointed his gun at her in alarm, recognizing her uniform. "Go away, Fera!! Both of you, go away!! Just... LEAVE ME ALONE already!!" Punchy yelled. "Why don't you make us? What's wrong, Punchy...? Are you feeling... afraid? Afraid of the darkness?" Fera goaded him. "Shut up!!" he snapped. "Sir, you're sounding very um... Outta control, here." Razor muttered. "I am not!! Now STAND ASIDE!!" Punchy warned. "'Fraid I can't do that! You gotta tell me everything you know, or we're takin' a trip to the station! Your choice!" Razor threatened. Punchy glared at him, while Fera waved her hands in his direction, seeming to cast some influence over the Despair Seal. "His gun is ready to fire... You'd better make a move, Punchy... You know what you want to do..." she hissed. "I... I can't..." Punchy grunted, trying to resist. "The Despair Seal knows what you want..." Fera sneered. "Freeze, wolf! You are interfering with police business!!" Razor shouted, aiming his weapon at Fera again. Just then, Copter and Kosmo arrived on the scene. "Hey!! What's going on here!?" Copter asked. "Gah! This cop again!" Kosmo groaned. "I don't need help!! I can handle this myself!!" Punchy insisted. Razor sighed. "Now I might need backup... Fortunately, GUN HQ is nearby!" he said, pulling out his phone. "No, no... You are NOT calling Gunner over here..." Punchy growled. "...Hello, Guard?" Razor started. "You have no choice. USE THE DARKNESS!" Fera yelled, casting a black spell over the Despair Seal! "GRRRRAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!" Punchy roared in fury as his fur took on a blacker hue, and he transformed into Dark Punchy! "I-I don't know what you just did, but I am prepared to shoot if necessary!!" Razor whimpered. "Oh, boy... I'm dead for my heroism..." Copter mumbled, running out with the intention of protecting Razor from Dark Punchy. Instead, Kosmo dove in front of the raging echidna and took his dark energy blast, tumbling to the ground in pain! As Punchy roared in rage and satisfaction, a frightened voice called to him. "One!!! S-stop!!" He glanced behind him, his eyes wide. "Rainbow...?" he winced. "Well, well... It's you." Fera mused. "R-run... Rainbow!! I... I can't... c-control... me!!" Punchy grunted, punching through a nearby wall in his fury! "Yes you can, One! Just try to calm down!!" Rainbow insisted. "K-KILL!!" Dark Punchy snarled. "N-NOOOOO!!" Punchy stammered, turning and dashing as far away as he could! "One!! Wait!!" Rainbow pleaded, trailing after him!

Trapped in Dark form, mired in conflict with the evil presence within his own mind, Punchy fled to the darkest place he could find: Troblusk City. Amy Rose had reunited with Cream and Silver at this point, having found them outside the President's house and explained the situation to Silver. It seemed a good idea for Team Rose to search for Despair's HQ separately from Sonic, but what they found instead was a crazed Punchy. "He's all black and nuts... I think I've seen this before..." Amy muttered. "He seems in pain. We should try to help him." Cream suggested. Silver nodded. "He could do a lot of damage in that state. Let's go." What they didn't notice was that a rather see-through Lospecter had approached the crazed Punchy. "Hey, grouchy-face! Don't we look evil today?" he said. "Get.... away from me!!" Dark Punchy snarled. "Which one of you is addressing me? Doesn't matter, you can't touch the shadow-me I've sent to schmooze you. It's fun being 2 places at once! Well, come with me if you want to find a nice place to settle things with the other you." he offered. Having no other ideas, Dark Punchy followed Lospecter to the base of Troblusk Plateau, a small mountain just outside the city limits of Troblusk City. "One!! Don't run away from me!!" Rainbow shouted as she caught up to Punchy. "Gah! Rainbow, get back!" shouted Silver as he arrived with Team Rose in tow. "ENOUGH!! You have all made a mistake coming near me...!" Dark Punchy growled. "There's a good Dark One. Use all that darkness and obliterate these wimpy goodie goods." Lospecter chuckled. "No, One!! STOP!! You can fight it!! I know you're in there, and you can still hear me!" Rainbow pleaded. Punchy shook his head. "R-rainbow... It's stronger this time, Rainbow... You n-need... to run!!" he warned. "No! Snap out of it!" Rainbow yelled. "Yeah! Or I'll have to beat you up!" Amy warned. "Not sure that's helpful, Amy..." Silver sighed. "I... gotta... break free of... Dark Punchy!!!" Punchy growled, staring up the mountain. "Booooring... I guess I'll leave some Lost Ones for you to play with..." Lospecter said before flying off. Suddenly, Illusi appeared in front of Punchy with a burst of smoke! "Halt, Dark One!!" he shouted. "Y-you...." Punchy grunted. "No... Look how deep into darkness you've slipped..." Illusi gasped, "Dark One!! It's over now! If I must use the very aid of the Lost Ones... I will destroy you!!" he proclaimed. "Why, Illoser! I never thought I'd see the day!" Lospecter said, having appeared out of nowhere again to shake Illusi's hand, "Well, if you want my help, that makes this all the more entertaining!" he smirked. "Let's see you try it, you coward!! Maybe I'll be the one to destroy YOU!!" Dark Punchy snarled. "One, no!!" Rainbow pleaded. Punchy glanced back at her, fear in his eyes, and then he leapt up to a cliff on the mountainside, beginning an ascent of Troblusk Plateau! "...Where's he goin?" Lospecter wondered. "I'll meet him higher up, then..." Illusi said, vanishing with a snap of his fingers.

The road was rocky, but Dark Punchy followed what road there was up the mountain, seeking a quiet place to hash out the turmoil going on in his own mind. A few Wrongos popped up in his path along the way, but he was too quick and too furious for them in this state, punching them into oblivion before they could be much of a bother. The very rocks of the mountain shifted, seeming determined to stop his advance as well. Lospecter watched in amusement as these rocks combined to form a new sort of slimy stone creature. "Lostone don't have much personality, so feel free to whale on them to your heart's content." he said. Punchy took him up on that, assaulting the slimy stone soldiers with all his rage! Some of the stones he knocked apart from them dropped down the mountainside and rolled past Amy, Cream, Silver and Rainbow. "Whatever they're trying to slow him down with, it isn't working." Amy said. Rainbow started to climb after Punchy anyway. "I gotta catch up to One... I have to get through to him and convince Mousy he's not dangerous before it's too late!" she said urgently. Silver frowned. "Uh... Should someone point out to her that he IS dangerous?" he murmured. Cream followed after Rainbow in spite of the dangers. "She's right! He needs our help!" she said. Suddenly, the rocks that had fallen from above assembled into some small lostone creatures, startling their group. "Gaah!! Now there's ROCK monsters!?" Amy yelled, whacking the nearest creature back into pieces with her hammer! Silver gently pushed the others the rest of the way down the mountain with his psychic powers. "We'd better get a move on before those things catch up to us..." he sighed.

Soaring around the cliffs of Troblusk Plateau at this time was Whisk the Divine. She'd come here to get away from the violence in Central City herself, and now she spotted Dark Punchy fighting with Lost Ones on his way up the mountain. Curious, she flew down to him. "Hey there... Need a lift up the mountain?" she offered. Dark Punchy only snarled at her, continuing to assault the monsters in his path. "Uh... What's up with all the monsters? Hey, you look like this green guy I saw in Central City... I think." she said. Dark Punchy glared at her furiously. "Will you SHUT UP!!!" he yelled, firing a blast of dark energy in her direction, which she teleported to avoid! With that, Dark Punchy continued up the mountain without her, while Whisk sat on the rocky cliff, growling softly. "That... wasn't... nice!!" she stammered. As she grumbled in annoyance for a few moments, some hissing voices started chanting around her. "Lossss... lossss..." She looked around to see a pair of LosFoxes climbing the mountain, flailing nine swordlike tails behind them! As they came at her, stabbing their tails in her direction, Whisk first teleported out of the way to avoid injury. "You caught me at a bad time, because I'm MAD now!" she yelled, flapping above them and out of range. She concentrated for a moment, and her wings began to glow, and when they did, she flapped them down hard, kicking up a terrible wind that tore through the LosFoxes, ripping off some of their tails before blowing them into the cliff walls! However, that wasn't quite enough to take out these powerful Lost Ones, and they quickly lunged up at Whisk, pulling her back to the ground! "Eeeek!! Lemme go!" She tried to teleport, but simply took them with her! She tried again, but they still clung on! Finally, she warped up high and flew circles in the air, spinning in a desperate effort to shake them off! They soon gave up their grip and fell all the way down to the base of the mountain, but Whisk found herself feeling dizzy. "Time for a nappy-poo..." she said woozily.

Team Rose continued climbing the cliffs, though much more slowly than Dark Punchy could. Fortunately, Dark Punchy was taking out most of the monsters, giving them time to chat as they climbed. "So... Are you still mad at Sonic, Amy?" Silver wondered. Amy frowned in annoyance at the question. "His thoughtless actions could get me killed..." she muttered. Cream sighed. "But Amy, aren't you the one who's always insisting on following him in the first place?" she said. "Wh-what are you saying?" Amy stammered, "That... I put myself in that danger... And it's not fair to put that kind of burden on Sonic... And...and I just mess up everything! That's what you're saying, isn't it!?" she snapped, tearing up a little. "Eeep! N-no, that's not it at all!" Cream yelped. "But you're right...!" Amy sniffled. Silver sighed. "Look, it's no big deal... I don't think Sonic would leave you behind in danger like he's been doing if he didn't trust you." he said. Suddenly, Rainbow burst into tears as well. "This is all MY fault, too!" she wailed, "If I hadn't left One, he'd still be himself and he wouldn't be in all this danger now!" Silver held his head and groaned. "Please... everyone, stop blaming yourselves. It's not helping." he grumbled. As they climbed, they found Whisk lying on the rocks, moaning and injured. "Angel!!" Rainbow gasped. Silver lifted her gently to her feet with his powers, and she slowly opened her eyes. "Tailsies... So many tailsies..." she groaned. "Are you okay? Can you walk?" Amy asked. Whisk stumbled a bit, so Amy and Cream helped her stand. "Oh no... Did One do this to you?" Rainbow shuddered. Whisk groaned. "Monsters! Clingy monsters!! No... shouldn't have tried to take out my anger on..." she murmured. "Huh...? Um... Why were you angry?" Silver asked. Whisk pointed up towards Punchy. "Crazy guy... spikes like that one..." she said, pointing at Rainbow. "She did run into One... Unless there's another echidna up here." she sighed. Silver nodded. "We'd better take her with us. Can't leave her in this state." he said. Whisk teleported away from Amy and Cream and started walking on her own. "I'll lead the way..." she mumbled. "Wow... she heals fast." Cream said.

As they continued higher up, they arrived on a cliff perfect for taking a short rest. However, when they sat down, the mountain suddenly flashed brightly, and seemed to split into three mountains surrounding them, connected at this one cliff! They were struck dizzy for a moment, and Rainbow shook her head and growled. "Mousy! He's gone and trapped us in one of his crazy illusions!" she realized. "So... you're saying two of these mountains are fake? That's a relief..." Amy sighed. Silver shook his head. "No, it's not. If you try to climb a fake mountain, you'll probably your doom." he warned. Cream gulped. "Then, what do we do?" she asked. Whisk looked around. "I could try flying up to see if I can find the creep who caused this trickery." she suggested. "Too risky." Silver said, "If he can do this, imagine what he might do to anyone who goes looking for him." he reasoned. "Then I'll whack each mountain with my hammer 'till we find the real one!!" Amy growled, raising her hammer angrily. "H-hold on!!" Silver stammered, pulling away her hammer with his psychokinesis. "HEY!!" Amy yelled. "What did I JUST say about falling!? ...I'll do it." Silver said, psychically moving the hammer to one of the three mountainsides and giving it a good smack! Suddenly, the mountain began to shake, but the ground under their feet remained still. "That one... was fake." Rainbow sighed. The illusion mountain burst into hundreds of green check-marks with eyes, Illusi's Rightos! "Uhhhh... Can I have my hammer back?" Amy said quickly. Silver tossed it back to her as the Rightos swarmed in their direction! Whisk shrieked and teleported out of sight, while Amy started swinging her hammer around and Cheese flew frantically around the area to protect Cream. Rainbow took cover behind Silver, who used what loose rocks were in the area as projectiles to control with his psychic powers, ricocheting them off any Rightos that came near him. Soon, those of the creatures that weren't destroyed had flown by, and the group took a moment to recover. "Do we HAVE to do that again...?" Rainbow whined, realizing there was still another fake mountain. "Hey, everyone!? Is it safe to come down now!?" shouted Whisk from a higher cliff. Looking up, the group let out a sigh of relief to realize that Whisk had found the real mountain. "Just stay there! We'll come to you!" Silver shouted.

Meanwhile, Dark Punchy was nearing the summit of Troblusk Plateau. As he reached a cliff not far from the top, however, a black ooze trickled down from above, and slowly formed into the shape of Shadow Chaos! "Out... of my... way!!" Dark Punchy snarled. Illusi appeared nearby and crossed his arms, floating in midair. "Behold! This creature of shadows has been drawn to the growing darkness within you! It is proof of the beast you yourself have become!" he declared. "SHUT IT!!" Punchy fumed, raising his fists to Shadow Chaos as they crackled with dark energy. "...Meet me at the summit if you can." Illusi challenged before disappearing. Shadow Chaos roared at Punchy as it approached, but Dark Punchy made the first move, jolting the creature with bolts of darkness from his hands! However, though the jolts sparked through Shadow Chaos's body, it seemed not to effect the creature, and it retaliated by slapping Punchy across the face with its elastic, watery arms! He jumped back and started hurling orbs of dark energy at Shadow Chaos, which the creature didn't even bother attempting to avoid. It merely absorbed the darkness, and this seemed to give Shadow Chaos energy. It sped after Punchy, firing shots of its own black sludge at him as it approached! Dark Punchy growled as he was pelted by this sludge, and then smacked towards the ledge by the speeding creature! "What's wrong?? Why aren't my attacks working!?" he snarled. "...It's absorbing... darkness... We have to... fight normal!" Punchy's normal self struggled to communicate to his darker half. "Rrrr! You'd like that, wouldn't you!?" Dark Punchy hissed, running at Shadow Chaos with his fists charged full of darkness! He took a few swings at Shadow Chaos with his darkness-infused fists, but his hands got stuck inside the beast after a bit! Shadow Chaos roared as it began feeding on the dark energy, grasping Dark Punchy by the throat as it did! "Urrgh... grah.... f-FINE!!" Dark Punchy gasped, relaxing his dark energy and relinquishing partial control to Punchy. "Ch-chaos... Av-alanche!!" he choked, grabbing at any chunks of ground he could with his Chaos power, and hurling them right back at himself, which resulted in Shadow Chaos taking the hit as well!

Having been freed from Shadow Chaos's grip, Punchy quickly covered it up with rocks using Chaos Avalanche while it was stunned. Dark Punchy then regained control. "This changes nothing! I'm not going back into slumber while you maintain control! It's time for YOU to slumber!" he snarled, resuming his climb to the summit, "And your shrew friend can slumber, too... In DEATH!!" he cackled. Once he was gone, Shadow Chaos slowly started to seep out of the rocks. However, before it could escape, a shining steel cage appeared over it, cutting off its escape! Emerging from the shadows below the cliff climbed Eddie the hyena and Anubis the jackal. "Eeee hee hee! One down... This illusion cage will hold our quarry nicely." Eddie laughed. "Can you transport it with an illusion?" Anubis asked. "Eeee hee... Maybe if I was on the mother of all sugar highs." Eddie replied. Anubis sighed and lifted a walkie talkie he was holding. "Anubis to HQ, we've acquired S.C., transport required. Over and out." he stated. Eddie shrugged. "I guess we're out for the rest of this mission. Too bad. I feel like we're missing out on the fun. Eee hee..." he chuckled. Anubis sighed. "All that remains of this mission is a simple matter. A single agent can pull it off... And if you want any meddling fools eliminated, the Dark One is more than up to the task." he said, gazing up toward the peak of the mountain. Eddie chuckled. "What did you think I meant by the fun? Eeee hee... hee hee hee hee hee!!"

To be continued...


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