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Chapter 43 - Team Dark Vs. Despair

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 43 - Team Dark Vs. Despair

Chapter 43 - Team Dark Vs. Despair
GeneX - Knuckles the Echidna
Chapter 43 - Team Dark Vs. Despair
Stage 24(Dark 12) - Despair Castle
Minor Boss 20 - 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:
The Covenant of Despair, having stolen the Master Emerald, the Chaos Crystal, the GXterminate machine, and gotten Dr. Eggman to kidnap Bucky on their behalf, have fortified their island stronghold above Station Square, preparing for their endgame.
However, a band of heroes have infiltrated Demon Island, and set out to put a stop to Despair's schemes once and for all! Among them is Kosmo the morph. Formerly an agent of Despair, Kosmo has seen firsthand the hypocrisy of their organization, and now works against them...
Now, on to the next chapter!

Having worked with Despair before, Kosmo had time to learn some paths around the island and into their castle. He headed for a side entrance to the castle, and he found Shadow, Rouge and Omega there as well. "Hostile approaching..." Omega warned. "That's cute." Kosmo frowned. Rouge glared at him slightly. "We didn't exactly hash things out yet. What makes you think you can just show up now and pretend to be all friendly after what you pulled at Shadow Arc!? You disguised yourself as ME!! I felt so violated!!" she shouted. Shadow glanced at her. "Was I so different at first? I could just as easily have gone a different route, had there been no one other than Black Doom to guide me..." he said. Kosmo sighed. "This is boring..." Then he morphed into Rouge and used her superior leg strength to kick the door open! "HEY!! STOP BEING ME!!" she screeched. Suddenly, something teleported amongst them with a flash of light, surprising them, and causing Omega to whip out his guns hastily. "What's all the commotion down here?" said Whisk the Divine, the one who'd just appeared among them. Kosmo recognized her, and morphed back to normal so that she might recognize him. "You're that creature I met under the pyramid..." he recalled. Whisk stared at him, blinking in confusion. "Under a pyramid? That sounds heavy... You look familiar, though... And so does he." she said, pointing to Shadow. Omega withdrew his guns slowly. "Annoying experiments. These distractions will deter our mission." he said. Kosmo glanced at Shadow. "And what mission is that?" he wondered. Shadow crossed his arms. "Shouldn't that be obvious? We're to disable the GXterminate machine, and gather up any Chaos Relics we can find along the way. However, Gunner wants the machine returned to him... I say we destroy it." he suggested. Kosmo nodded. "A wise plan... But those relics are too powerful to give to GUN. I'm not sure who would be best to take them... Maybe I'll just have to hold on to 'em." he shrugged, "Don't get bent outta shape, though. I'm not here for that. The Darkseeker has put a hold on people... hurt people. Those who aren't here by choice, we should try to set free. Some are just here to rescue Bucky... Maybe I can talk them out of it..." he said. Shadow shrugged, and Whisk mimicked him. "Let's go, then." he said.

They didn't get too far into Despair Castle before they found their path blocked by a squadron of GUN robots! Various types of Hunter and Beetle robots stood in their way, and Whisk was immediately startled into teleporting behind Omega. "Don't shoot! See! We've got a robot, too!" she stammered. Agent 32 was standing near the front with these robots, and seeing Kosmo, didn't feel the need to ask further questions. "Shadow's thrown in his lot with that freak! Blow them to fuzzy bits!" he ordered. However, the voice of Sergeant Drol overruled him. "Stand down, troops!" He stepped past the robots with Agent 64 in tow. "B-but Sarge!" Agent 32 whined. "He said stand down. Don't fret, your bloodlust won't go to waste." Agent 64 said smugly. Shadow smiled slightly. "Good to see you, Drol." he said. "Wait, you guys are pals??" Kosmo stammered. Drol rubbed his chin. "Not initially... But the more I saw of Project GXterminate, the more opposed to it I grew. After the incident at GUN's headquarters, I had a brief chance to discuss the situation with Shadow. We agreed... The project must be destroyed." he said. Rouge nodded. "This guy isn't Gunner, even though he works for him. It's hard to imagine anyone being as despicable as that old creep, anyway." she said. Drol snapped his fingers, and Guard flew past the robots to him. "Agent Guard will obey me for now. I am ordering him to go with you and find Project GXterminate." he stated. As he did, agents of Despair started to flood the hall, led by an irate Corky. "Oi, more intruders in here!! I'm gettin' right sick o' this, I am! Gimmie a laser rifle!! I'll blow their blinkin' brains out!!" he shouted. Drol drew a gun from his holster, and his fellow agents joined him. "We'll hold them off as best we can! Get going and stop them before they activate that machine! All they need is a suitable source of life energy... So they might start wiping out the human population any moment!" he warned. Whisk sighed. "Oh, as long as it's just the human population!" she said. Shadow shook his head. "Hmph... I've got a bad feeling it's not that simple. Let's move!" he urged everyone.

In spite of Drol's assistance, more Despair agents kept on coming, so even after speeding past the distracted first wave, the group still had to deal with more, as well as Beecon and Spinner robots that had been let loose in the castle. Each member of the group would have to pull their weight to move forward, so they all started fighting. Guard flew ahead into the fray, tossing beams from his scythe at various uniformed animals while slashing the weapon directly at robots. "Grrrrr!! I've got a lot of frustration to vent right now, so just KEEP COMING!!" he snarled. Omega had a similar attitude, waling on bears and bulls that blocked his way with a frenzy of punches from his mighty robot arms. "You are merely stepping stones to Eggman!! Where is he!?" he shouted. Whisk was a bit more passive, warping here and there, confusing her enemies into running into each other. If any of them touched her, she warped up high and shook them off. "All I know is that the guys in black suits are bad! ...At least I hope so." she grumbled. Rouge occupied herself with the robots, flying after the bees and the Spinners and giving them well-aimed kicks to take them out of commission. "This is what they get for ripping off Eggman! ...I think I may have said that about GUN once, too..." she sighed. Shadow, of course, was the MVP of the fight. He hurled Chaos Spears, threw punches, warped to the other side of the hall as needed, and slammed tougher animals with homing attacks to the head! He even nailed Corky as he passed him by. "D'ohhh!! Blimy hedgehogs..." he groaned as he passed out. Kosmo was also quite busy, but with so many enemies, he had to keep his transformations to a minimum to avoid tiring himself out. So, he kept it "simple" by using his mace-tail ability, turning the tip of his tail into a spiked ball, twirling and hurling it around at enemies as they neared him. "If I get bored of this, I guess I could turn my arms into swords or something..." he muttered, smacking Corky back down as he started to get up. "This job sucks..." the frog groaned in pain.

After working their way past the enemies, they soon passed by a number of rooms, most of which seemed relatively empty. However, they heard voices coming from one room, and decided to check it out. Inside, they found some familiar faces. There was Espio, Charmy and Vector, along with Crash, and they were looking over maps laid out on some desks in the room. "Ah, Shadow... Your timing is impeccable!" Vector remarked. "Grrr... What are you up to, Crash?" Guard grumbled. Crash took off his hat and looked a bit distressed. "Apologies for siding with Despair at the President's place... Now that they've taken Bucky, I'm fully out of their employ." he stated. Kosmo shrugged. "Tomato, tomahto. What ARE you guys doing?" he asked. Espio pointed to the map. "These are floor plans for this very castle. We were lucky to stumble across them..." he said. Charmy looked bored. "Yeah, real lucky. We found homework..." he mumbled. Rouge and Omega stepped forward. "Hmmm... Maybe you should commit these to memory, Omega." she suggested. "Acknowledged..." the robot said, scanning the document. Shadow crossed his arms. "How useful is that really? Does it give any indication where Project GXterminate might be hidden?" he asked. Vector rubbed his head a bit. "Errrm... Nah, there really isn't a vault or anything like that I can see... But I did flunk out of architecture school." he admitted. Espio pointed out some spots on the map. "I've figured out that we are here... There are what appear to be prisons in these locations. If we find and release some prisoners, they might help us. The enemy of my enemy is my friend." he reasoned. Kosmo scoffed. "Unless that happens to be a certain RAT..." he grumbled. Crash placed his hat back on. "Regardless, I'm looking for Bucky. You can join my search, or not. He'd surely be useful in our battle here." he said. Whisk nodded. "I vote we free the prisoners! I want to make some friends!" she smiled. Shadow shrugged. "We'll check it out. Bucky may not be in the cell we visit... But we may find SOMETHING of value on the way." he reasoned.

Team Chaotix decided to check out another section of the map, while Crash went along with Team Dark and the others. Omega had saved his scan of the map to his internal memory, so he gave them directions as they traveled. They soon came across, oddly, a break room-esque area, with a water cooler and vending machines. "...Who knew? The Covenant of Despair are tools just like anyone else." Rouge said. Hanging out in the break room were a few gargoyles dressed in fancy suits. Apparently, they were former members of the gargoyle mob, and had joined the Covenant of Despair after their dealings with them. When the gargoyles noticed the intruders entering the room, most of them pulled out guns, while one held up a candy bar like a gun. "Errr... This thing's loaded! With peanuts!" he grunted stupidly. Most of the group got ready to fight, but Guard stepped forward and held up his scythe calmly. "Grrr... You have one chance to surrender." he warned. The largest of the gargoyles scoffed at him. "Look at you! Pawn of the humans! How can you disgrace gargoyles everywhere like that? Huh!?" he snapped. Guard growled and flipped his scythe into a defensive position. "Look at yourselves! Grrr... My sudden appearance may have messed things up for your kind, made you come out of the shadows... When I wasn't even an actual gargoyle, just a mere science project. Grrrr! But what gargoyle-kind has chosen to do once joined with the world... That isn't my doing! You have formed criminal organizations... You have aided terrorists... So... Grrr... Who REALLY disgraces the species, huh?! There comes a time when we all must stop placing the blame upon others for our own actions!" he shouted. The gargoyles glanced among themselves and nodded. "Then face the consequences of YOUR actions!" they growled. Tired of this, Shadow, Kosmo, and Omega charged into the crowd of gargoyles, quickly knocking the weapons from their hands and dropping them on their tails! Crash patted Guard on the back as they started to leave. "Nice speech, pal. Very riveting." he said. Guard grunted in annoyance and followed the others to the next area.

The seven of them soon came to what appeared to be a small fighting arena. This was the place where the Covenant of Despair trained with physical weapons, such as Patch's nunchucks or Daisy's katana. Here, Zeke the dragon swooped down from above and blocked their path to the next door! "RAWR!! Hope you guys are ready for some action!" he roared. "Move aside! We've got no time for the likes of you!" Shadow grunted. Kosmo nodded. "Also... Didn't you get the memo? Bucky's been captured. You ought to be trying to free him, shouldn't you? You know, instead of picking fights with us." he said. Zeke chuckled softly as Talon the griffin flapped over beside him from above. "We know... but it's too dangerous to try and free him. If we obey Despair... Bucky won't be harmed!" he declared. Crash stared at them in disbelief. "What!? But... the boss'd never tell us to surrender! How could you even think it!?" he growled. Kosmo stared at Talon with concern. "Wait... What about... Carrie?" he asked. As if responding to him, she appeared between Zeke and Talon briefly. She looked greatly distraught. "...I'm sorry." she said before vanishing again. Whatever she was going to do, she was going to do it invisible. The back door opened, and Chet the cheetah walked into the room to join the experiments blocking their path. "I heard what they said... I know what it's like, being on this side... Just for the sake of a loved one. So, I'll fight, too! Even if I have to fight Shadow and Kosmo!" he shouted. "They're all fools..." Omega muttered. "I kinda feel for them, though..." Rouge sighed. Talon held out his hands in preparation to fight, glancing around at the weapons resting in the corner of the room. "There may not be many of us... But my psychokinesis will make up for it! Prepare yourselves!" he warned. Zeke flapped into the air and pointed at Shadow. "I'll take the tough guy! RAWR!!" he shouted. Chet bared his claws, ready to fight as well. "Who wants some??" he grunted. Guard shook his head at him. "Grr... You're out of your depth, kid." he said. Chet ran up to him, his speed nearly taking him off guard, and was barely blocked by his scythe. "...We'll see!" he said.

As Talon's psychokinesis started sending various weapons flying through the room, a pair of red eyes peeked at the battle through the back door. "Hmm... Let's see how this plays out..." their owner mused. Whisk found herself teleporting around to avoid the weapons, while Crash had a strange sort of swordfight using his horn to parry a psychically controlled blade. Rouge was busy jumping around Omega, using him as a shield as she tried to figure out a way to reach Talon and take him out of commission. Kosmo turned his own hide into steel, avoiding any severe damage from the weapons, but making him too heavy to fly up to Talon. "...Hey, Carrie!? You in here!? We should talk about this!" he shouted, but getting no response, he went to plan B. "Fine... Hey, Whisk! Whisk! Slow down!! Get over here!" he said, chasing after the flighty Divine. Meanwhile, Shadow was busy with Zeke. The dragon loved to blow fire, but Shadow wouldn't stay in place long enough to get hit by it. The weapons flying everywhere made getting close to Zeke a challenge, though. So, he tried Chaos Spear, but Zeke's flames seemed to just burn them up! Chet was making things difficult for Guard as well. His speed was just sub-super, natural for a cheetah, and he kept running around the gargoyle, striking him from behind. "Gaaah!! Grrrr!! All right..." Guard grumbled, jumping into the air and striking down with his scythe, firing several beams! Chet skidded to stop, and crashed right into the beams! "Ughh!!" he groaned, falling over. "Grrr... Avoid further battles. The best thing you can do is return to your loved one safely." he suggested. Kosmo passed by Shadow and Zeke on his way to catch Whisk. Glancing at them, he had a thought. "...Throw me at him." he said. Shadow stared at him, and Kosmo morphed into a boomerang with eyes. Shadow chuckled softly and picked him up, tossing him into the air. Zeke took a break from blowing flames to taunt Shadow. "What's the matter? Too many flying weapons for you to think about tele-warping up here!? Ha ha!" he laughed, only to get whacked by an arcing Kosmo boomerang! "Duy...!?" Zeke dropped from the sky and landed on his head, winding up unconscious.

As boomerang-Kosmo came back, he morphed to normal and caught Whisk as she appeared between him and Shadow! "Port us to HIM!" he said, pointing to Talon. "Eeep! Okay, OKAY!!" she yelped, vanishing and reappearing next to the griffin. "...What!?" Talon gasped. Kosmo jumped from Whisk and morphed himself a strong pair of twin tails, like Copters, using them to whip Talon down from the sky! He then twirled those tails to gently lower himself to the ground. A pair of yelps were heard as Talon hit the floor, and Kosmo rushed to them as he saw that the griffin had landed on top of Carrie! "Hey... Are you okay? This is why you shouldn't go around invisible..." Kosmo muttered. Talon climbed off her slowly, and then shook her in panic. "Aaah! She's out! No, Carrie! Wake up!!" he cried. Kosmo started to look more concerned, even like he felt guilty. "She'll... be okay, right? You... you shouldn't have fought us!!" he growled. The others had started to gather around them now that the weapons had stopped flying around and Zeke was out of commission. However, they suddenly backed away as the rear door opened and Basker the hound stepped into the room. "...This girl is important to you... Isn't she, Kosmo?" he said, a small grin crossing his lips. His hands glowed with dark blue energy, and everyone but Omega started to be gripped with fear, backing away from him! "...Shadow? What is the problem?" Omega wondered. Shadow in particular seemed to be in a trance. To him, Basker had taken a much more sinister form, one that he saw in the Dream Temple. "...Mephiles??" he whispered, mystified. Basker crept to the unconscious Carrie and lifted her over his shoulder. "...If you value her safety... You would do well to stay out of our affairs from this point onward. If however, you entertain the notion of rescuing her... Come and find me..." Basker challenged, stepping out of the room before freeing the group from the grip of fear. Once freed, Shadow berated Omega. "Why did you let him go!?" he shouted. "Why did YOU let him go?" Omega rebutted. Talon was still in a state of fear, however. "He took her!! He took Carrie!! No, no, no!!" he cried. Kosmo glanced at him. "You gonna be okay?" he asked. Talon shook his head. "No... Because Carrie... Was the source of my power! She is the psychokinetic one, not me! She wanted to keep her power secret... So I pretended it was mine. I have no power... I can't save her!" he wheezed, utterly panicked. Kosmo nodded. "Don't worry... I can!" he said.

To be continued...


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