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Chapter 46 - The Darkseeker

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 46 - The Darkseeker

Chapter 46 - The Darkseeker
GeneX - Knuckles the Echidna
Chapter 46 - The Darkseeker

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 machinations of the Covenant of Despair have led to this.
Our heroes charge through Despair Castle with a singular goal in mind: find the Darkseeker! He is holding Whisk as bait to draw Bucky to him, he holds the Master Emerald and the Chaos Crystal, and he is responsible for all of Despair's activities.
As all heroes near his throne room, certain echidnas finally come face to face...
Now, on to the next chapter!

Exiting the east and west towers, Knuckles and Punchy's groups entered a hall that met in the center and proceeded straight into the heart of Despair Castle. Here, the Master Emerald guardian met up with his clone. "Punchy? ...Figures. I lose the Master Emerald, and here you are, no doubt looking for it, same as Rouge." Knuckles groaned. "Hey! I resent your tone!" Rouge snapped. Tails waved politely to Copter. "Long time, huh?" he said. Copter shook his head. "Good, great. Gang's all here." he grumbled. Punchy smirked a little. "So, no Master Emerald, eh? But it's here. I sense it... And so do you." he observed. Knuckles nodded. "I'm finally getting close to it! I'll make Despair sorry they ever messed with me!" he growled. Rainbow rubbed her head a bit. "The big gem...? Is that what this tingle in my brain is...?" she mumbled. The other echidnas glanced at her curiously, and Illusi realized what was happening to her. "She's sensing the Chaos Crystal! She is its guardian, and has a link to it just as you other echidnas are linked to the Master Emerald!" he said. Gemini gasped when she looked at the shrew. "My gosh, Illusi... Are you okay? You look like... well, I remember looking sorta like that once... Did someone die!?" she gasped. Silver shook his head. "Not now, Gemini..." he sighed as Illusi hung his head sadly. Tails was busy checking SPOT at this point. "Well, judging by these signals, those 'controller gems' could be ahead. Let's check it out!" he suggested. Rainbow nodded. "Great! Follow me! I can totally guide us this time!" she smiled. Knuckles glared at Punchy a bit. "...Am I gonna have to fight you, though?" he asked. Punchy snickered. "I think you got your hands full with bat girl there. I got other things to worry about." he said. Rouge was rubbing her chin, lost in thought. "The emerald or the crystal...? I probably can't carry both..." she mumbled. Punchy groaned at this, and Knuckles laughed, but before he could start on his way, a familiar orb of light appeared before him! "Gaah! Tikal! You're here again!" he gasped. Punchy and Copter stared in surprise as well. "Tikal??" they gasped. "What are you trying to tell us!?" Knuckles asked, as the world went white around him, and only him.

Knuckles stood atop the steps of the Master Emerald shrine. From here, he witnessed the full spectacle of Howler's madness play out as storm clouds gathered around them. Howler, equipped with the Chaos Tailbands, Boots and Sword, mercilessly defeated Shadow Chaos as it stood defiant in its desire to defend the Chao. Howler then stole the Master Emerald from Tikal, planning to use it for a truly fiendish act. "With this emerald... I beseech you, Dark of Chaos... Fall into slumber with my soul... And fuse with my body!! That we might carve a new world, in MY image!!" he howled. Shadow Chaos flinched, and then started to swirl, turning into a shadowy mist that was being drawn toward the Master Emerald! Tikal stumbled away from Athair and stood in front of Howler, blocking Shadow Chaos! "Enough! Now I see what you are... You are a seeker of power and control... Like my father, and like Ix of the Nocturnus! There is but one fate for greed-driven fools like you!" she declared. Howler pointed the Chaos Sword at her, but then flipped around and whipped her aside with his tailband-powered tails, instead! Tikal tumbled towards the edge of the nearby cliff, but Athair hurried to catch her! "I'm afraid there is naught we can do, princess... We've led him right to all the power he craves!" he said gravely. "...I just saw this, Tikal... What's going on?" Knuckles wondered, "What's so urgent?" Tikal's last vision was interrupted by Eggman's return, and she had to allow Knuckles to face him rather than complete the vision. Now, he could see the rest. As Shadow Chaos was starting to be drawn to Howler, the Chao started to return, escorting Radia, who was carrying something. It was a great crystal: the Chaos Crystal! "Forces of Chaos not bound by emeralds... Are yet bound to this controller! Please aid us, Chaos Crystal! Stop the Chaos Relics!" she pleaded! As she did, the Crystal glowed brilliantly, and Tikal saw her chance. She scrambled to Howler and grabbed at the Master Emerald, wresting it from his grip! "N-no!! My power!! You cannot take my power!!!" he screamed, slashing Tikal across the chest with the Chaos Sword! "Aaaaaaah!!" Tikal screamed in pain, and Athair ran to Howler in a rage. "You DARE strike my princess!?" he roared, giving Howler a mighty punch to the face, which knocked him to the floor, and ended his hold over Shadow Chaos. The creature stayed still on the ground, a weak puddle of black fluid.

Radia held up a deck of golden cards. "You did not know of these. I kept them from you. The Chaos Cards will hold you still... forever!" she cried, drawing a card that shined brightly over Howler, turning him to stone with its light! His relics fell to the floor beside him; Even the cards could not petrify the other relics. Radia then joined Athair by Tikal's side. She had been mortally wounded, but she was already bound to the Master Emerald anyway, so her body was merely fading. "These relics... Are too much power... You must hide them away again..." Tikal panted. Athair nodded, tears in his eyes. "We will, princess." he said, choked up. Radia glanced at Shadow Chaos. "...This Dark is despair personified. It would be safest to seal it away as well. I suggest with the tailbands. He who can wield them will be able to stop Shadow Chaos's rage." she said. Tikal nodded weakly. "...My heart... is part of the Master Emerald... Along with Chaos's. It will need protection. Its power over the emeralds, and over Shadow Chaos, will bring many thieves..." she said gravely. Athair held her hand. "W-we can watch over it together!" he sniffled. Tikal smiled up at him. "We will, Athair... You, as the guardian... Me... as a spirit..." With these words, the remnant of her body faded and turned into a beautiful ball of light, which went inside its home within the Master Emerald before fading. Athair, Radia and the Chao shed tears for their friend, and the scene started to fade away from Knuckles's sight. Only Copter remained beside Knuckles, having volunteered to watch over him. "...What did you see?" he asked. Knuckles looked at Copter grimly. "...I saw Tikal die... And I saw the source of all this evil..." he growled.

Violet and Daisy led Bucky, Kosmo, Crash, Ridley, Guard and Carrie straight to the Darkseeker's elaborate throne room. There, the Darkseeker sat upon the throne. At his left was the Chaos Crystal and Dr. Nammad, and to his right was the Master Emerald and Dr. Eggman. In front of him, Project GXterminate was set up with the red Chaos Emerald and Whisk strapped in. Basker waited in the shadows, along with other agents of Despair hidden by the darkness. "So, you have come... As predicted." the Darkseeker said. "I brought them for the glory of Despair, master..." Ridley said, bowing. "Stuff it, Ridley!" Violet snapped. Bucky raised his hand, calling for silence. "Release my experiment. She is not yours to sacrifice for your scheme." he growled. The Darkseeker turned to Dr. Nammad and nodded, so he released Whisk from the straps. "She is unconscious. Remove her... and strap yourself in." the hooded fiend ordered. Bucky growled softly. "...I will do this... But you must know that use of this weapon has to be a last resort. Your true goal must be the power of the Chaos Relics..." he said. Carrie used her power to lift Whisk and gently bring her to Crash to hold, while Bucky strapped himself to the machine. The Darkseeker's eyes then narrowed. "You... coati. Prove your loyalty. Turn it on." he growled. Among the many who looked shocked by this was Dr. Nammad himself. "Y-y-you... you, uh, can't do that! My impression was that the, uh, plan was to hold the world to ransom! If you use Bucky in the machine... All life on Earth will perish, even with the safety measures I put in place!" he stammered. Kosmo raised his fists. "Come AGAIN!?" he snarled. Bucky nodded. "I'm afraid it's true. The machine draws GeneX energy to attack matching GeneX energy. I am a fur now... But... I was born a human. Residual human GeneX force still lives within me!" he announced. The Despair agents in the shadows howled in rage, realizing they'd been working with a half-human for some time. Dr. Eggman reached for the Chaos Emerald in the confusion, but the Darkseeker snarled loudly at him, frightening him. "Eeep! Uh... Oh, come now! Surely you expected me to double cross you just as I expected you to double cross me!" he growled. "What's all this about Bucky being human??" Everyone spun around as Sonic entered the room, followed by Amy and Cream. "Sonic!! Get me out of here, or the Darkseeker will kill everyone on Earth!" Bucky shouted.

More people started to arrive behind Sonic, starting with Punchy, Rainbow, Tails, SPOT, Silver, Illusi, Gemini and Rouge. Dr. Nammad blocked Ridley, who admittedly seemed less than enthusiastic about killing himself with a doomsday machine. "Minions... Get the Chaos Emeralds!" the Darkseeker bellowed. "Is this a bad time?" Tails wondered. "Viola! Grab the crystal and let's get out of here!!" Rainbow shouted. Violet turned to Rainbow and looked at her like she was crazy. "FORGET THE CRYSTAL! Let's quit this place!!" she yelled. Then, Basker bashed her over the head. "Insubordination will be punished!" he growled. Eddie appeared next to Eggman, and surrounded him with duplicates of himself, overwhelming the doctor and swiping the Chaos Emeralds that were still on his person! "Aaaaaugh!! Robots!! Get in here and help me!!" he shouted. Basker pushed aside everyone in his way through his fear-powers, and kicked SPOT, knocking loose the remaining Chaos Emeralds and the tailband it was holding! "H-hey!! You...can't!!" Tails shuddered. As these treasures started toward the Darkseeker, however, a great rage took hold of the crowd. Gemini fired a bolt from her wand at him! "You stole my magic for mass-murder!!" she cried furiously! Punchy ran up and called for Chaos Avalanche, hurling a chunk of the floor straight at the hooded menace. "You made Fera mess with my head and kidnap Rainbow!!" he yelled. "Throw one for Viola, too!!" Rainbow growled. Tails steadied SPOT and fired a laser at the Darkseeker. "You burned down my workshop!!" he cried. The Darkseeker shrugged off these attacks, and then more visitors started to arrive and add to it! "Your agents kidnapped Chet!!" Razor shouted, firing his gun at the Darkseeker as he entered. "AND they left Katie for dead!!" Chet added, running in to add his claws to the assault, only to be repelled by a dark energy shield! Fire pelted the shield next as Heather came at him. "You intended to use ME in that machine!!" she yelled. Shadow and Omega arrived and started hurling projectiles as well, joining Silver as he tried to bring down the roof on the Darkseeker. "You ruined the future!!" Silver cried. Talon, Lucky and Tommy came in throwing rocks. "Let Bucky go!!" Lucky yelled. Kosmo finally morphed into a dragon and blew flames at the Darkseeker. "THAT was for Carrie!!" he shouted. Then, Wrongos surrounded the Darkseeker, covered in spikes. "You...corrupted her DEATH!!!" he screamed, sending his creatures at the Darkseeker only to watch them destroyed by the barrier. Sonic was about to join this when the Deathbringer flew in. "...You fiend! Release him now, and end this madness!! On second thought... I'll end it!!" it said, firing a deadly bolt at the Darkseeker! It smashed the dark energy shield, but even this failed to scratch the Darkseeker! "...Are you all through? ...My turn..." the Darkseeker said, raising a hand sparking with darkness, and waving it across the room in an arc, blasting everyone with an intense, room-filling storm of black lightning! All the heroes were floored, but Sonic quickly returned to his feet. "...That all ya got?" he grinned. At this point, Knuckles and Copter were arriving with Team Chaotix. "Good, we got an audience." Knuckles said, "So, I gotta know: What's your connection to Howler?!" he shouted.

Punchy and Kosmo turned around in surprise. "...Howler?! I know that name...!" Punchy gasped. The Darkseeker crossed his arms and chuckled. "Hehehehe... So, out and about are you, Tikal? Well, that's just fine. I hope you're watching! I'm going to destroy your world now..." he said, taking the Chaos Emeralds to Project GXterminate, and removing his hood as he placed them around the machine! Knuckles's jaw dropped, as did Punchy and Kosmo's. "You... it can't be!" Knuckles gasped. Standing before them WAS Howler, his eyes glowing red, a golden crown with a sparkling purple jewel resting atop his head. "I was freed from imprisonment many centuries ago, by a fellow wearing a hood, possessing glowing yellow eyes. He gave to me this Chaos Crown, which bestowed immortality upon me! I was reminded my purpose..." he said, his twin tails poking out from beneath his cloak, "I am the Chaos Relics' chosen one!! I was born capable of using the tailbands! And I alone shall rule!!!" he howled, reaching to turn on Project GXterminate. "Oh, no you don't!" Sonic snapped, speeding at the machine like lightning, and then rushing back quickly. It didn't seem as though he'd done anything. "...The machine cannot be damaged so easily, pest." Howler sneered, "My crown will protect me alone from this weapon's blast...FAREWELL!!" He pressed the button to activate the machine, but the red Chaos Emerald that was directly installed sparked and shattered inside it! "WHAT!?" he roared, glancing at Sonic, who tossed the real emerald in his hand and caught it! "I knew that fake I got at Super Eggman Land would come in handy!" he chuckled. Shadow shook his head. "He still has SIX emeralds, stupid." he groaned. "No, he doesn't!" Kosmo shouted, rushing over and snatching the white emerald! More heroes followed suit, enraging Howler. "Any who want protection from my weapon, BRING ME THOSE EMERALDS!!" he barked. Patch stepped out of the shadows. "Hee hee... I wanna live! Lemme at those twerps!" Vector smirked and led his team into the fray. "Keep-away with the Chaos Emeralds!!" he shouted. "You played this game with me at Shadow Arc... It didn't end well..." Eggman grumbled.

Despair agents charged into the crowd, bent on gaining the Chaos Emeralds. A few of Eggman's robots, including Metal Sonic and Alpha, finally arrived as well. "Good, you're here! Get me those Chaos Emeralds, would you? I'd hate to leave this train wreck empty handed." he ordered before slinking away in the same direction Dr. Nammad was going. Metal Sonic charged in and tackled Guard, who was carrying the blue emerald. "Grrraaah! Robot!! Return that at once!!" he snarled. Daisy was going toe-to-toe with Patch for possession of the yellow emerald. "That machine will kill EVERYONE! Patch, are you out of your mind!?" she shouted. Patch's eyes seemed to spin around in his head as he spun his nunchucks and giggled crazily. "Okay, dumb question..." Daisy admitted. While the others fought for the Chaos Emeralds, Knuckles ran for the Master Emerald. Eddie appeared in his path. "Eeee hee hee! Where do you think you're going??" he asked. Knuckles punched at him, but his fist went right through him! "Eeee hee hee! That tickles!" he laughed. "...I don't have time for your tricks!" Knuckles shouted, walking right through the illusion. "...Hey!!" Eddie grumbled. Illusi tapped him on the shoulder. "I know that trick..." he said. "Eh...?" As Eddie turned around, Illusi socked him in the jaw! "The face isn't protected..." Illusi muttered, rubbing his hand as Eddie fell over. Meanwhile, Basker was bringing several heroes to his knees with his fear-powers, including Amy, Cream, Talon, Lucky and Crash. "St-stay close to me Cheese... I'm so... frightened!!" Cream shivered. Basker ignored the girls and started pummeling Talon and Lucky. "You thought to infiltrate our organization... Spy on us?! You pitiful experiments!! Take a look at your pathetic creator now! Ha ha!!" he taunted as he punched and kicked the young experiments. Suddenly, he heard a rifle cocked, and looked up to see that Vortex and Zipp had arrived. "Sssstep away from our brotherssss... Or get a hole in your head!" Vortex hissed. "I wanted to say that!" Zipp whined. Basker grinned. "As you wish..." he said, stepping toward them and filling their hearts with fear! Vortex and Zipp unleashed attacks in their panic, and these attacks flew past Amy and Cream! Cheese jumped to protect Cream, and a bullet grazed his bow tie, very nearly striking him! "No, Cheese!!" Cream whimpered. Suddenly, a roar of rage shook the room. Shadow Chaos burst through the door, and, seeing the attacks directed toward the Chao, started plowing through heroes and Despair agents alike in a crazed desire to protect it! Howler grinned smugly. "...The guest of honor is here..." he said.

Howler picked up the Master Emerald and the Chaos Crystal. "I will strengthen my bond with the power of two controllers! I beseech you, Dark of Chaos... Fall into slumber with my soul... And fuse with my body!! Together, we will control the Earth...the universe!!" he proclaimed. "...The cheese!" Alpha added comically. Knuckles had just reached Howler, but he was too late. "No!! You can't!" he stammered. "...I already have!!" Howler roared. The entire room began to shake as Shadow Chaos groaned, its body slowly dissolving into a black smoke. "H-hey... What's happening!?" Mia yelped. Copter gulped. "If Knuckles's vision is right... Then this guy is gonna fuse with Shadow Chaos... And we can't turn off his crown with the Chaos Crystal to stop him!" he said. Tails made a beeline for SPOT. "We CAN go super and stop him! The tailbands!!" he said before realizing that Basker had taken his tailband along with his emeralds. "Oh... Wait, the Darkseeker's WEARING mine!!" he realized. The room shook again, and a few people fell over. "Hey, Viola?? Why does the ground feel all shaky?" Rainbow asked. "...I just had the craziest dream!" Whisk mumbled, waking up finally. Howler cackled as the entire island started shaking. "This island floats because I WILL it! Such is the extent of my dark power, honed over centuries! But now this island is no longer necessary. I will fuse with Shadow Chaos, and this island will FALL!!" he explained. Sonic looked at him blankly for a moment. "...Oh..." he said. Then, everyone who could scream started screaming. "Let's get OUTTA here!!" Amy cried. "I'm never hiding in someone's trunk again!!" Tommy yelled. "Someone better be paying us for this!!" Espio groaned. While people inside Despair Castle were looking for a way out in their panic, Colonel Gunner was noticing the shakiness of Demon Island from his GUN Assault Carrier outside. "...We seem to have an advantage. Let's blow that hunk of rock out of the sky and send it into the ocean! Fire missiles! Try to put it on a crash course with the coastline!" he ordered. Spy crept over to him timidly. "B-but Sar-Colonel... We have agents on that island! Guard and Drol and Rouge!" he whimpered. Gunner picked up a coffee mug that was sitting in a cup holder attached to his seat. "...A few casualties are to be expected, you twit. Besides, everyone I hate is up there! I WIN!! GAH HA HA HA HA HA!!!" he laughed, a bit hysterical. The GUN Assault Carrier's missiles knocked Demon Island away from Station Square, and since it was falling anyway, Gunner had surprisingly done the right thing.

As the island plummeted into the ocean, a massive whirlpool formed around it. Dark clouds were forming around the island's crash site, and they seemed to be emanating from the island itself. These events were apparently side-effects of Howler's fusion with Shadow Chaos. Professor Pickle observed the mayhem from the shore of Station Square, a look of worry on his face. "The Chaos Crystal's prophecy must be coming to pass... This is a very bad sign. What will become of this poor city?" he muttered sadly. Katie, who had awoken, could see the dark clouds from her hospital window. "...What am I missing? Mia... Chet... Razor... Please, be safe..." she whispered. The situation was much worse from the island itself. Despair Castle was crumbling, and everyone was rushing to escape, though Rouge had to drag Knuckles. "He... He's got the Master Emeraaaaald!!!" Knuckles shouted. "Yeah, no kidding. Why don't we all get out alive before planning out how to get it back!?" she grumbled. Guard was focused on locating and helping Sergeant Drol and the other GUN agents at this point, but the only one he could find close to the throne room was Agent 64. "Grrrr! Drol, does he live?" Guard asked. "I... I think so... I broke off to try and rescue Dr. Nammad!" Agent 64 explained. "...That was foolish." Guard stated. "Maybe... But saving people is why I joined GUN in the first place!" he replied. Punchy and Rainbow were running through the crumbling castle with Violet in tow, while Kosmo flew ahead in dragon form, clearing debris. "Should we... I dunno... be trying to stop Howler or something?" Punchy wondered. Violet shuddered. "I'm not sure we even can!" she admitted. "Sure we can! Heck, we got Three on our side!" Rainbow pointed out. "...And he's RUNNING." Punchy rebutted. Sonic was having the most intense time escaping. He was forced to carry Amy as he ran through the crumbling west tower, jumping from section to section as the floor, or wall, collapsed under his feet! Tails rode on SPOT in "Extreme Gear Mode" to follow them, occasionally jumping and spinning his tails to avoid some falling rocks. "We're gonna need those Chaos Emeralds, huh?" Tails said. Sonic nodded. "Good guess, buddy." he grunted. Amy held onto him tightly as he ran. "Thank you, THANK YOU for not leaving me this time!!" she cried. "No problem..." he sighed.

The island was splitting apart, and the fragments were being carried around in the giant whirlpool. As the island split into pieces, the heroes found themselves getting separated on the different chunks of Demon Island. As Copter climbed to his feet after being tossed into the water and tossed back onto a piece of the island, he found himself separated from everyone but Guard. "...Someone up there hates me." he groaned. "Grrr... You're my last choice, too." Guard grumbled. Tails had been separated from Sonic as well, but he found Cream on the section where he wound up. "Hey... are you all right? I got worried when I couldn't find you before..." Tails said, hugging her. Cream looked around frantically. "I... I can't find Cheese!" she cried. A few panicked chirps gave away Cheese's location, and Tails lifted a broken section of black bricks to find the Chao nursing a sprained leg. "...We better find the others, and get you two someplace safe." Tails said. Elsewhere, Sonic and Amy found Kosmo. He was lying on the ground, still and unmoving. "Well... Let's bury him at sea." Amy said. As they stepped over to him, his eyes opened very quickly, and it made Amy jump. "Gaaah! The monster's not dead!!" she yelped. "So... this is what it's like to be in a hurricane..." Kosmo groaned. Sonic helped him up, and they looked around. "...This island... It's become a real... pit of Despair..." Sonic murmured. Kosmo glanced at him. "I guess we got some time before this dump sinks, so what's the play?" he asked. Sonic shut his eyes and crossed his arms. "We stop the Darkseeker... Whatever it takes!"

To be continued...


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