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Chapter 50 - Final Chapter - Knuckles, Guardian of All

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 50 - Final Chapter - Knuckles, Guardian of All

Chapter 50 - Final Chapter - Knuckles, Guardian of All
GeneX - Knuckles the Echidna
Chapter 50 - Final Chapter - Knuckles, Guardian of All
Final Boss - DESPAIR

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 was a construct of the Darkseeker, a centuries-old being who's true name is Howler. Convinced that he is the Chaos Relics' chosen one, he deceived Tikal into helping him find them, and sought to fuse with Shadow Chaos to become a "god."
These ambitions did not change over the centuries. He was thwarted initially, but he built the Covenant of Despair to help him track down the Chaos Relics and Shadow Chaos again, and to defeat the guardians of the Master Emerald and the Chaos Crystal, so he could use them in his fusion rather than have them used against him.
His ambitions have come to fruition. He has even gathered up the Chaos Emeralds. Nothing short of a miracle can stop him from achieving his godhood now...
A band of heroes race to attempt this miracle, including the descendants of the echidnas who stopped Howler centuries ago...
Now, on to the next chapter!

A band of the heroes was now advancing on Howler's throne room once again. Those that had come to oppose him included Sonic, Knuckles, Copter, Punchy, Bucky and a handful of people that had traveled this far with each of them. "Copter... Your tailband!" Tails gasped, noticing the unusually naked tails of his clone. Copter sighed. "He got them... The Darkseeker got both of them... And more Chaos Relics, too." he growled. Bucky hurried over to Sonic and handed him the white Chaos Emerald, the one emerald Howler hadn't stolen. "I think you're going to need this." he said. Sonic nodded slowly. "Greeeeat... Don't got a single other emerald, but I guess it's better than nothing." he muttered. As the group approached the entrance to the throne room, they found the Doomsayer standing in the path. "YOU!!" Bucky snarled. "Doomsayer..." Knuckles muttered, "You fit the description of the guy that gave Howler his crown... But that's impossible, isn't it?" he asked suspiciously. The Doomsayer stood with crossed arms. "As impossible as restoring life to the dead, I would wager... Questioning why will do you no good. Howler's destiny was not to remain in stone forever, and that should suffice. Is it destiny that he be the harbinger of doomsday as well? Or will that honor fall to another, in the very near future? It matters little... The world will end, and nothing you can say or do will stop it." he said darkly. "If you've got nothing helpful to say, then get lost, Grim Reaper 2!" Rainbow shouted. The Doomsayer stared at her for a second before beginning to vanish in a storm of hail. "You may want to check that math..." he murmured as he vanished. Sonic glanced back at Amy and some of the others that had followed them this far. "This guy's really dangerous by now! Some of you ought to go back and try to get as many people off the island as you can!" he suggested. Amy nodded slowly. "Be safe, Sonic!" she said, "...Or I'll never forgive you!" Sonic chuckled softly. "Same to you..." he sighed.

Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Copter, Punchy, Rainbow, Violet, Shadow, Silver and Kosmo entered the chamber where the Darkseeker, Howler, awaited. His eyes now glowed yellow, his transformation very nearly complete. "Back for more, are you? Pathetic, foolish beings... You should have crawled under some rocks when you had the chance! But let it not be said that I am not a generous god... Have your precious emeralds!" he said, tossing the Chaos Emeralds back to the group freely! He chuckled at their perplexed stares. "I have no need for such baubles... And with the Master Emerald safely in my grasp, they are mere stones to you. Pity." he sneered. Sonic started to charge at Howler at high speed. "Not after I take it from you!!" he shouted. What was left of the walls of the throne room crumbled around them, and with a wave of his hand, a wave of water splashed into the room, picked up Sonic, and carried him out into the maelstrom! "Sonic! Hang on!" Shadow shouted, running after him only to be caught up in a second wave and dragged out to sea as well! Tails hastily called for the Tornado with his remote, and with the room around them basically gone, it easily found him. He hopped into the plane and took off after Sonic without delay. "Sonic can't swim... I have to fish him out of there!" he said in a panic. Kosmo morphed into a gargoyle and flew after him. "I'll go look for Shadow, too... But I'll be RIGHT BACK, Darkseeker!!" he growled. "Go ahead... Take all the time you need..." Howler sneered. Silver had a grim look as he noted how fast their team had been cut in half. "This isn't going well... We need that Master Emerald, now!" he said. Knuckles and Punchy both nodded. "We're on it..." Punchy said as they both started to cautiously approach Howler.

Howler pulled out the Chaos Sword that he stole from Conan, and pointed it at the echidnas as they approached him. "Do not entertain any notions of stopping me. I have collected the majority of the Chaos Relics... And I will have them ALL! Including the gauntlets and the key that lie in your possession!" he said threateningly. Knuckles and Punchy both stared in surprise, taking out the key and the gauntlets respectively since it was apparently no use hiding them. Most of the other relics were in the room as well, with the crown and the tailbands being worn by Howler, and the boots and wing sitting at his feet between the Master Emerald and the Chaos Crystal. Apparently, Howler was too busy fusing with Shadow Chaos to put them on. "...Yeah, we got these relics... But you'll have to take 'em from us!" Knuckles growled. Silver stepped forward as well, ready to help, but Copter stayed back with Rainbow and Violet. "This is gonna get crazy... And me without my tailband... Rainbow, you should take your sister and get out of here!" he suggested. "Ha! What, are you SCARED?" Violet said mockingly. "...Yes." Copter admitted. Howler chuckled at the bravado of the echidnas. "I could simply hurl you to the ocean as I did your friends... But I have something more amusing in mind..." he said, raising his hand to Punchy and sending a blast of darkness straight at him! Punchy let out a howl of pain, and quickly started to transform into Dark Punchy! "One!! One, no!! Fight it!!" Rainbow shouted. Howler cackled as Punchy fell to the floor, growling savagely as Dark Punchy was taking over. "Your friend cannot help it! Once your heart has given way to darkness... Darkness owns it! If you are incapable of embracing it... It will control you! Now, watch as your dear 'Punchy' destroys your only remaining heroes!" he laughed. Bucky and Illusi watched from the doorway, gritting their teeth. "Dark One... If you are more than mere darkness, prove it now!" Illusi whispered. "We may just be doomed..." Bucky sighed.

Silver tried to approach Dark Punchy. "H-hey, buddy... Hate to bother you, but I gotta get those gauntlets from you real quick..." he muttered. He got a bit too close, though, and Dark Punchy smacked him across the room with his fist, forcing Copter to hurry and grab him before yet another hedgehog could fall out into the maelstrom! "One!! Snap out of it!!" Rainbow called out. Knuckles put the Chaos Key on the ground slowly and spoke to Punchy calmly. "Easy, Punchy... Remember, I'm on your side for once..." he mumbled. Dark Punchy grunted, and slowly looked around the room, before fixing his gaze on Howler. "...I know..." he growled. Inside his mind, Punchy and Dark Punchy were symbolically shaking hands! "Though I'm loathe to admit it, we require each other... If that Darkseeker has his way, we both die!" Dark Punchy said. "Hey, working together, we both should be stronger than ever! So let's teach this punk a lesson! Then...we can go back to hating each other. Whatever..." Punchy agreed. Howler stared in surprise as Dark Punchy hurled a blast of dark energy his way! He simply slapped it aside, but the diversion was enough for Knuckles and Punchy to approach the Master Emerald! Howler sent some watery tendrils to clutch the emerald tightly, keeping it in place so Knuckles couldn't do anything with it. "As long as the Master Emerald is in my grip, the Chaos Emeralds are useless! You've failed, guardian!" Howler sneered. Dark Punchy helped himself to the Chaos Wing in the diversion, while Knuckles looked hard at the Master Emerald, gritting his teeth. "There's more...than one be a guardian! The Master Emerald may be important, but my duty is greater! I am a guardian of ALL! And to stop you, Howler, I'll do WHATEVER it takes!!" he shouted defiantly, raising his fist with fury! "...What are you doing!?" Howler gasped, realizing too late exactly what Knuckles was about to do! With a mighty punch, Knuckles shattered the Master Emerald into pieces, scattering those pieces off into the distance! This in turn restored the glow of the Chaos Emeralds, but also filled Howler with rage. "!?" he roared!

The Chaos Crystal glowed brightly, and Howler's body seemed to turn to black liquid as his transformation fully completed! The bands on his tails started to glow, and with a terrible roar, he took to the sky, ready to unleash his rage upon the world! "Um... That's bad, right?" Copter stammered. "The Darkseeker has reached his final form... He'll devastate the whole world, leaving few survivors..." Silver said shakily. Knuckles looked back at the seven Chaos Emeralds scattered on the floor. Sonic wasn't here to use them, but somebody had to stop Howler. He raced down to the emeralds without a second thought. "This started with me and the Master Emerald... Well, it started with my family, anyway... Now, it's only right that I try to end this, one way or another!" he declared. Dark Punchy chuckled. "Nice speech..." he said, sliding his hands into the Chaos Gauntlets as he wore the Chaos Wing on his back, "You'll excuse Greenie and I if we don't leave this whole mess only to you." he smirked. Rainbow stared in amazement. "One and Dark One...are really working together?? The whole world really has gone nuts..." she murmured. Violet nodded. "Maybe so, and maybe it'll be just enough to stop the stop Howler!" she said. "Good luck, you two!" said Bucky from the doorway. Dr. Eggman peered in as well. "...What? We're relying on Knuckles now? ...Uh, I mean... Yeah! Go, team! ...I'm getting the heck out of here..." he mumbled unconfidently. Knuckles shut his eyes and nodded to himself. "...Everyone's counting on me... Time to show 'em what I got!" he shouted!

The Chaos Emeralds started to glow and hover in the air, encircling Knuckles. As they spun around him, he, too began to levitate in the air, his body beginning to feel their power! With a brilliant flash of light, he transformed, his fur taking on a brilliant, golden hue! He had become Super Knuckles! "...Gold? Last time it was kinda pink! Guess I got upgraded! All right!" he said, flying up a bit, soon joined by Dark Punchy, who was flying using the Chaos Wing. "Good. Great. Now you just might be able to pull your weight in this battle. Let's go show that 'Darkseeker' who's boss!" he shouted. Knuckles chuckled at him. "Nice working with you, too... I guess I should say something clever and dramatic like Sonic would... Let's give him a KNUCKLE-SANDWICH!!" he yelled, making Dark Punchy roll his eyes and fly off ahead. "...What? I thought that was pretty good! ...Eh, what do YOU know!" he grumbled, flying after him.

Howler met them out over the ocean. He glared at them with contempt, but also with a hint of agony. "...WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME!?!?!" he shrieked! "What!?" Dark Punchy gasped. Super Knuckles watched him, seeing that his movements had become a bit erratic. "When I shattered the Master Emerald, I must've interrupted his transformation. Now he can't totally control it, it seems..." he realized. Howler's body started to ripple and stretch, and he roared as his body seemed to be tearing itself apart! "Well...this might be easier than we thought..." Dark Punchy said. Knuckles shook his head. "I think he's...taking on some of Shadow Chaos's less pleasant traits... He's turning into a writhing mass of anger and sorrow!" he shouted. Howler let out a mournful roar as his body grew to a massive size, his legs meeting with the ocean and seeming to merge with it, while his arms seemed to become giant tentacles under Shadow Chaos's influence! Howler attempted to maintain some of his original form, but it was at least partially corrupted in the transformation, becoming a watery, translucent shadow of what he once was! "I am a GOD!! I am...rage!! I am sorrow...! DESPAIR!!!" he roared, the crown on his head glowing strongly as he glared menacingly at the echidnas! "...Look out!" Knuckles gasped, dashing out of the way as Howler, or "Despair," flailed his giant tentacles at them with tremendous force, creating huge waves as they crashed against the ocean's surface! Dark Punchy laughed. "I've bested Shadow Chaos before! Bring it, Howler!" he shouted.

Not too far away, the Tornado was circling around, searching for Sonic. Kosmo was flying around as well, and both he and Tails glanced at Despair in awe. "...Well, Howler found something I'm pretty sure I can't transform into. Good for him..." Kosmo gasped. Tails shook his head and looked back to the ocean, quickly spotting Sonic. Fortunately, the maelstrom had mysteriously died down, though the pieces of Demon Island were still sinking. Tails brought the Tornado down, finding Sonic jumping back and forth on Terra and Firma's heads as they floated in the water. "Great timing, Tails! Not sure how long I can keep this up!" he sighed. "Sonic!! You and your friends will SUFFER for this humiliation!!" Terra shouted. "Dr. Eggman will have to de-rust us first..." Firma stated. Sonic hopped on the Tornado's wing with a chuckle. "You'd think he'd know better than to use rusty robots in a coastal city! So, Tails, what's the situation?" he asked. Tails pointed to "Despair," and Sonic chuckled nervously. "Who's that fighting with Knuckles...? Why do I got a very bad feeling?" he murmured. "Hey!! Can someone pull me outta here!?" sputtered Shadow, who was tiredly trying to keep his head above the ocean's surface.

As the final battle with Despair was getting under way, Violet approached the Chaos Crystal that the Darkseeker had left behind. "...We could use this! We could stop the Chaos Relics and weaken Howler big time!" she realized. Rainbow stepped up to stop her. "Wait! If you do that, One will fall! And that big...thing...will still be there, only a bit weaker! I know One's messed up a lot, but we should give him a chance to make it up..." she pleaded. Copter nodded. "That's a very good point... Will you girls excuse me? I NEED my plane, right now! Pick up, Hoover!! This is no joke!! If you don't send that plane over right now, I'll personally take your head off!!" he shouted at the Hurricane remote. He had a point, one way or another, they needed a way off the island. "...I should get to my ship..." Bucky realized, rushing off in a hurry!

Super Knuckles had already been injured and sent looking for rings by now. Fortunately, as a general rule, rings were generally drawn to places where super-formed beings were doing battle, even out here in the middle of the ocean. Dark Punchy worked to hold Despair off, firing blasts of energy from his fists using the power of the Chaos Gauntlets. This was more effective than any dark energy attacks he could use, as Despair was pulsing with dark energy himself, being a fusion of Shadow Chaos and the Darkseeker. Still, the combined power of the Chaos Crown and the tailbands made Despair seemingly impervious to damage. "Those gauntlets...are wasted on you!! They belong...with a GOD!!" Despair roared, sending arcs of black lightning searing across the sky toward Dark Punchy from his tentacles! Ordinarily, Dark Punchy would merely absorb dark energy, but this was on a level beyond even him! Though he tried to absorb it, he was flung backward by the force, howling in pain! "Hey, dark me! Attacks are meant to HURT you! Don't just LET him hit us!" Punchy said in his mind. "You want to try your luck alone? You'd be fried to a crisp in seconds!" Dark Punchy grunted. Knuckles flew back and briefly watched Punchy argue with himself. "Ahem... Am I interrupting?" he muttered, "We'll never stop Howler like this! We gotta knock off that crown of his!" he pointed out. Despair laughed at the notion. "Try it... You cannot even approach me!!" he roared! Knuckles and Punchy took up his challenge, charging straight for the transformed giant. Despair swung his arms and somehow created massive tornadoes, swirling across the surface of the water straight toward the echidnas! Knuckles weaved to avoid them, but Dark Punchy was quickly swept away by one of them, and tossed far into the distance! "Fine... I'll get it!" Knuckles growled. Despair smirked and opened his mouth, firing a massive black beam from it that surprised Knuckles and knocked him back, dislodging a few rings from him as well! He stared at Despair and flashed back to his bout against "Perfect Chaos" in the Dream Temple. "...I am not...a failure! I am more than just the Master Emerald's guardian... And I'm going to prove it!" he said, gritting his teeth with determination!

Meanwhile, Demon Island was rapidly sinking. Fortunately, many of the people on the island had found their way to Shadow Arcangel, which was fairly accommodating in size. Team Chaotix gladly stepped aside from piloting duty to allow Team GeneX to take their rightful places at the controls, and even Bucky managed to make it back in time for takeoff. He made an announcement over the PA system left over by Eggman as they prepared to launch. "Attention, passengers... Hold on tight for the main flight AWAY from Demon Island. This flight is an act of courtesy and kindness on my part, so I'll ask that you GUN agents and Covenant of Despair members behave yourselves for the duration of the trip... And that goes for everyone else, too! Don't think I forgot you, Dr. Eggman!" he shouted. Dr. Eggman glanced at Dr. Nammad from his seat in one of this ship's many rooms. "Sheesh, you kidnap a guy one measly time and he treats you like a criminal!" he grumbled. "Uh... Tell me about it... Hey, can we, uh, get some water in here?" he asked Guard, who was standing outside the door making certain that the two scientists were indeed keeping out of trouble. "Grrrr... There's plenty of water OUTSIDE the ship..." he growled. Eggman growled softly. "Just you wait... Plots for revenge are coming to me as we speak..." he grumbled. As Shadow Arcangel started taking off, Mia's taxi cab took to the air as well, carrying herself, Razor, Tommy, and Chet's body. "Here's hoping there's no turbulence on the way... We're already burying one person too many..." Mia frowned. Those few that hadn't secured transport off the island were forced to swim for it, heading for the shore of Station Square...

Once again, Dark Punchy had to create a diversion while Knuckles gathered up rings. Dark form didn't run on rings, but there were limits to his power. What's more, neither Punchy nor Dark Punchy quite knew how to access the full power of the Chaos Gauntlets, so the energy blasts being fired from them weren't quite as powerful as they should have been. Despair took a moment to taunt him in his futile efforts. "Look at you... You will never know the workings of the Chaos Relics as I do... But why suffer a terrible death here? You know darkness, as I do... With the proper guidance, you could be a great ally to me... Together, we could rule the earth!" he offered. Super Knuckles was on his way back, and noticing the calm between the two of them, felt a bit uneasy. Dark Punchy seemed to be considering Despair's words. He smirked at the giant. "Tempting... But the world should be mine alone!" he shouted, beating his fists in the air repeatedly to send dozens of energy blasts from the Chaos Gauntlets straight for Despair's yellow eyes! Knuckles smiled and flew in to join the assault, looking for an opening to get at the Chaos Crown! Despair shot out his tentacle arms, weaving them into a giant black web pulsing with dark energy, which blocked the path to him! Through the holes in this "web," he fired giant black beams at the echidnas, keeping them both at bay. "...There's only one way to get at that crown... But I'll need a lot of speed. I hope the emeralds give me that..." Knuckles gulped. Dark Punchy nodded. "Go... I'll keep him occupied." he said, heading straight for Despair. "Hey, melty-face! All that black sludge makes you look FAT!" he shouted, charging the Chaos Gauntlets with dark energy to fire black bolts from them, which looked impressive, but didn't seem to do any better than the normal shots. "Fool! My darkness is stronger than yours! I simply absorb it!" he laughed. Punchy smirked and fired more of these blasts, while Despair simply laughed at him. "What do you hope to accomplish, vermin?" he sneered. "Just figuring that you enjoy the darkness so much, you'll lower your guard..." Dark Punchy grinned. "...WHAT!?" Despair snapped. While he was distracted, Knuckles was building up speed, and aiming lower, at Despair's chest! Before Despair could untangle his tentacles and block him, Knuckles rammed his chest fists-first, and started to drill his way through Despair's liquid body, heading up to his head! "Y-you fool! I am invincible! You cannot harm me!!" he growled, only for Super Knuckles to crash through his head, snatching the crown! "Guess what, pal? You're NOT immortal anymore!!" he shouted.

Despair shrieked and sent bolts of black lightning everywhere, trying to take out the echidnas once and for all! However, without the Chaos Crown, his body was starting to go from black to gray. "That crown's the only thing that's been keeping Howler alive for all these years!" Dark Punchy smirked, "Without it, he's a VERY old man... I'd say that old age is catching up to him!" he shouted. Knuckles nodded. "Let's grab those tailbands, quick!" he suggested, flying around behind Despair, followed by Dark Punchy! "Stop!! I am a GOD!! You cannot DO this to ME!!!" Despair screamed, trying to smack them away with his tailband-powered tails! The echidnas were knocked aside, and it seemed apparent that Despair still held some power from the two tailbands combined! But at this point, Rainbow intervened. "Those Forces of Chaos not bound by the emeralds... Are still bound to this controller! Chaos Crystal, help us! Stop the Chaos Relics!" Rainbow shouted, causing the Chaos Crystal to glow, and the active relics to stop glowing! "Huh, what?? Yaaaaaah!!" Dark Punchy gasped as the Chaos Wing turned back into a cape, causing him to fall! "Gotcha!! Hang on, Punchy!!" Knuckles shouted, holding on to his hand tightly! With the tailbands now inactive, Howler's mortality took full effect, and he quickly started to de-combine from Shadow Chaos in a dramatic fashion, the hulking Despair creature melting into the ocean! Knuckles was stuck carrying Punchy, but he still went to the trouble of flying in to grab the tailbands as they slipped off the melting monster's tails, a band being snatched in each echidna's hand! As Howler's influence was fading, Dark Punchy faded as well, reverting back to normal Punchy. "That was nuts! Aaah! Don't drop me, Red!!" he gasped. "Quit callin' me Red, and I'll think about it..." Knuckles sighed. With a final howl of defiance, Howler and Shadow Chaos sunk into the ocean together. The black liquid creature seemed to drag the elderly Howler to the bottom of the ocean in an act of vengeance, though this might mean the end of them both in the crushing oblivion of the ocean's depths. At last, the Darkseeker was no more...

Realizing that the only way the tailbands and the Chaos Wing could have both lost power was by the Chaos Crystal, Knuckles headed back to Demon Island to look for Rainbow. Sure enough, she was still there, along with her sister and Illusi. The shrew had reclaimed his key from the collection of relics left behind by Howler, but he seemed reluctant to escape with it. "Thanks for the assist, Rainbow... Good of you to trust me to pick up Punchy." Knuckles said. Rainbow chuckled. "Now, what kinda guardian would you be if you let him drown?" she said. The echidnas brought the gauntlets, wing, crown and tailbands to the pile including the boots and the sword. Copter was quick to make his presence known, and reclaim both tailbands. "Excuse me! I'll take those! Me and Tails have a claim on these little guys!" he grunted. His plane, the Hurricane, was running behind him. "I'll take 'em as payment for the ride to shore. Who's coming?" he asked. Knuckles looked at the relics, and then at Illusi. "...Only took one? You're less greedy than Copter, anyway." he chuckled. Illusi sighed. "Despair stole this from me... And then my dear friend paid the price... I have nothing left..." he sighed. Punchy looked at him sympathetically. "Come on, Illusi. That's not so. You have her memory. Honor that memory." he said, picking up the Chaos Sword and handing it to Illusi, "Take these relics." he told him. Illusi stared in shock. "This... this is too much power for any one being..." he said. Rainbow nodded. "That's why you're perfect for this, Mousy! You'll see they stay out of the wrong hands!" she said. Knuckles shrugged and looked up as he heard the Tornado flying his way. "That's my ride... Chaos Emeralds don't keep you airborn forever..." he sighed. "Hey! Knux!! Awesome job!!" Sonic shouted to his friend. Knuckles waved up to him with a wry smile. "Thanks, but could've been better... I gotta find the Master Emerald pieces now!!" he groaned. To that, everyone gave a light chuckle, and even Illusi cracked a slight smile. "...In Fera's memory... I will keep these Relics she was charged with seeking safe..." he sighed.

So at last, the aftermath of the Covenant of Despair's schemes could take its toll. For only through this could the world begin to heal and return to normal. Bucky brought Shadow Arcangel to the Mystic Ruins, letting off his many passengers at the edge of the jungle so they could head for the train station. Of course, many experiments remained aboard the ship, for a while at least, to help see everyone off safely and to console their creator, who was still a bit shaken over watching his long lost love die a second time. "Hope... Whatever else she did, she watched over us this whole time... Now it's up to me to take greater care and watch over all of you myself..." Bucky said solemnly. Ridley and Spiny had packed what little things they had on the ship into a pair of knapsacks. "...If it's all the same to you, I'll watch over myself." Spiny grumbled. "With GUN always after us, I don't see how it's safe here. Perhaps we'll meet again, and maybe next time things will be different..." Ridley sighed, leaving with Spiny. "Aw, good riddance! We don't need any sssslimy traitorsss here..." Vortex hissed. Heather and Whisk watched them go, seeming to wonder if they should go as well. "You two!" Bucky called, "I think I owe you both a proper examination... Whisk, your memory has become an issue. We need to start exploring options to see if we can't fix that..." he said. Whisk had a blank expression. "Fix what?? Who exactly are you?" she stammered. "I see what you mean..." Heather sighed. Elsewhere, at the ship's exit, was Zeke and Lucky. "Where do you think you're going?" Lucky asked the dragon. "What do YOU want kid? Put me in jail for siding with Despair? I'm through with that, okay!? I'm gonna go out and see the wider world!" he said, flapping his wings and taking off, "You want my advice? You should do the same!" he shouted. Lucky looked outside the ship curiously. "...The wider world...? Hmmm... Maybe I should go..." Not far from the ship was Lospecter, Losipher and Loskeletor. "Hmmm... How much you wanna bet we're not welcome in there anymore?" Lospecter murmured, "Might be time to find some new digs..."

Of course, Mia took Razor to the hospital to deliver the news about Chet to Katie without delay. It seemed cruel to tell her while she was still recovering, but it also seemed it would be cruel to withhold this information. Katie broke down sobbing upon hearing that her boyfriend was gone, but fortunately she had Mia's shoulder to cry on. Tommy brought Razor's boss, Chief Paynson, to the room after a moment. "...Officer... I've heard wild rumors about what you've been through... I expect a full report... Um..." he mumbled, looking at the sobbing coyote, "...Get to it when you can... From what I hear, there may be a promotion in it for you." he said. Razor shrugged. "Honestly, chief... I think I could better do with a vacation at the moment..." he sighed.
Outside the hospital was where Copter landed the Hurricane, hoping to visit Katie while his friends went their separate ways. Kosmo had also arrived there, and he met Carrie and Talon there as well. "Oh, if it isn't Miss Mirage..." Kosmo murmured. Carrie chuckled softly. "Sorry about the deception... Me and Talon were both...kinda scared... So we pooled our talents so he seemed strong and I...hid." she admitted. "We were kinda born right into a war..." Talon sighed, "Peace is gonna seem strange." he said. Kosmo nodded. "Yeah... Let me know if peace ever happens... So, anyway... See you around?" he said to Carrie. She smiled and nodded. "...Someday, Kosmo... I'll see you...but whether you'll see me is another story..." she grinned, vanishing before his eyes.

Dr. Eggman managed to make it back to Eggtopia, where BAS was still singing crazily. "VANDALS!! Who would dare sabotage my security system!!?" he shouted furiously. "Oh, boss!" said a small, round, red robot that was busy at Eggman's control terminals, "What a relief! I've been trying to fix this mess ever since Sonic left!" he explained. "Grrrr... Nice job STOPPING him, Orbot!!" Eggman yelled. Making matters worse, Alpha and Char started singing along with BAS. "Even though you're only make-believing, laugh clown, laugh!!" they sang. "...What decade does BAS get his song catalogue from?" Jolt asked. "Never you mind!" Eggman grumbled. "This noise is irritating. Shall I annihilate the source?" Terra suggested. Metal Sonic buzzed in annoyance, and Eggman nodded in agreement. "I'm gonna need a new base..." he sighed.
The remnants of the Covenant of Despair also wandered to Troblusk City. They found Hollow Manor, Kosmo's former home, and decided to hide out there for the time being. "Like it or not, we're in this together... For now..." Basker sneered. "Eeee hee hee! We'll rebuild the Covenant of Despair somehow or other!" Eddie chuckled. "And who will lead it?" Anubis growled. "And will there be better health benefits this time around?" Infin grumbled. Patch and Daisy were standing with the minor agents in the back, feeling rather uneasy about their future. Conan was there, too. "Why are we here, exactly?" Daisy muttered. "Hee hee! Wanted criminals, duh!" Patch pointed out. Conan's eyes narrowed. "Whatever... I'm only here until I find what belongs to me... And am able to resume my hunt once again..." he growled.

The GUN Assault Carrier picked up Sgt. Drol and the rest of GUN's forces on the way back to Central City. Gunner's relief at finding them may not have been all that genuine, but his pleasure at the Covenant of Despair's apparent defeat certainly was. He was quick to call the Commander with the good news. "The Covenant of Despair's island has been blown out of the sky! Reports indicate that their leader has fallen, and the Chaos Relics have been lost. Project GXterminate has been destroyed, but all around I'd say we did well." Gunner bragged. "The efforts of your unit will not go unnoticed, Colonel!" the Commander stated. The President was also present for this video conference. "Excuse me... Is there any word on the creature that posed as me?" he asked. Drol cleared his throat. "Some agents claim to have sighted it on the island, but nothing conclusive..." he said. Team Dark was present for this conversation as well, and were all too eager to rain on Gunner's parade. "Reporting! Dr. Eggman has escaped!" Omega blurted. "A great deal of Despair agents fled the island, too. No telling what threat they pose." Shadow said. "You should also expect those Chaos Relics to resurface at some point!" Rouge added. Guard grunted as if he was going to say something, but Gunner growled over him. "That's quite enough! We are aware there is still work to be done! But the point is, Despair will not be doing anything drastic without their HQ. We can rest easy tonight." he stated. The Commander nodded. "I'm proud of you Colonel... Normally you'd be taking the carrier on a manhunt for every last animal that escaped you. Let's wait and see if this victory was final first." he said before hanging up. Gunner stared with wide eyes. "...Wait... I think I've been duped just now...!" he stammered.

Gemini sat on the shore of Station Square, watching Demon Island sink with sadness. "My attempt to change the past just made things worse... Now Losipher is loose earlier and people have died..." she sniffled. Silver sat beside her, looking unsure of what to say. "You know... Time travel isn't easy... I'm not always able to find the answer I'm looking for either. I just keep hoping I can change just enough to make the future a better one..." he said. Fred, Adam, Evelyn and Cuthburt watched them from a short distance away. "...Shall we take her back?" Cuthburt whispered. Fred frowned. "By law, we're supposed to... But she's not ready. If we take her back now, she'll never be the same..." he said. He then waved his wand, and the four of them vanished in a brilliant light, leaving Gemini and Silver alone.
Professor Pickle met Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and SPOT at Station Square. Amy and Cream met them as well, greeting Sonic and Tails with great enthusiasm. "So, everyone... It seems you've rescued the world yet again! I'd love to hear all about it! I can set up a plate of cucumber sandwiches back at the library!" Pickle offered. Sonic chuckled softly, and Tails gave a reply. "Sorry, professor, maybe another time. I've got a workshop to rebuild..." he said. "I'll help you!" Cream offered. "You kidding? He needs speed! I'll help him out!" Sonic grinned. Team Chaotix suddenly interrupted them out of the blue. "Hate to break this up... But I believe we've done you a lot of service today..." Vector muttered. "Should we mail one of you a bill?" Espio said bluntly. Sonic and Tails stared at them. "We never hired you!" Sonic stammered. "Oh, no! You're not weaseling out on us!! Everyone's always doing that!!" Charmy shouted. "He SAID he didn't hire you!!" Amy growled, raising her hammer. The three shuddered and ran off, while Knuckles started digging up the nearby beach sand, pulling out a Master Emerald shard. "I gotta pass, too, Prof... I got work to do... A guardian's work is never finished..." he sighed.

The Doomsayer stood on the remains of Demon Island as it sunk deeper underwater, only a bit of ground remaining. "You can only stave off the end so long..." he muttered. Tikal appeared beside him, her ghostly form looking a bit defiant. "Perhaps if the Chaos Relics find the right owners, this end you speak of can be defeated!" she suggested. The Doomsayer chuckled softly. "A slim hope..." he said, vanishing in a cyclone of hail! "...A slim hope is all that's needed..." Tikal sighed.

The End    ...    ...    ...    BZZ BVZZZ ZZZT!!!

Some time later, after yet another disaster was averted, all of Sonic's friends and a few additional acquaintances were gathered at his birthday party. It was originally a much smaller occasion, but after a certain Dark crashed the party, seemingly everyone was there. This included Illusi, though he kept his distance from most of the partygoers, turning over the Chaos Key in his hand. He wandered over to Shadow Arc once Bucky was done sending past selves back to their original time periods. The two leaned against the wall of the ship and heaved heavy sighs. "Burdened by a loss?" Bucky asked, "I could tell..." he sighed. Illusi nodded. "I had begun to heal, but that trip to Demon Island brought it all back..." he said sadly. Bucky nodded. "Just seeing certain areas from afar... Without entering... It brought back thoughts of the one I lost... But there was no time for such thoughts. Funny to say, considering where we were." he mused. Illusi clutched the key tightly. "I just keep wondering if there was anything more I could have done..." he said. Bucky shrugged. "All we can do is focus on what we're doing now." he sighed. Illusi looked hard at the Chaos Key and nodded. "You're right... And there is something important I must do..." he realized, turning the key and then vanishing in a burst of smoke.

Katie sat beside Copter, who was looking at the picture of himself, Kosmo, Razor, Mia, Vector, Chip and Dimentime in Shamar that Tails had given him. "That' odd bunch. When was this taken?" she asked. Copter shrugged. "You know, I haven't the foggiest idea." he chuckled. Katie placed an arm around him, sighing longingly. "I'm very grateful to you for coming for me... I used to rely on Chet for that sort of thing... but..." she said, choking up. Copter hugged her gently, but briefly. "I rescued everyone I could... Maybe I went a little nuts when I couldn't find you... But don't get the wrong idea..." he said nervously. Katie nodded slowly. "I understand... I did kinda hurt you before... Maybe someday, we'll both be whole again... And if we're available, who knows?" she smiled. Copter smiled back and nodded. "Sure... Obviously, anything can happen. This picture proves it!" he grinned.

While Knuckles finished his cake and Sonic's party was winding down, he quietly reflected on everything that had happened. After all, Demon Island WAS contained in White Space, so it got him thinking. "Weird to see the Covenant of Despair again... So glad they've been quiet all this time..." he muttered. "Hey, Red!" said Punchy, sitting next to him, "Where's my cake?" he smirked. "...YOU weren't invited. Much like Gator over there." he said, "But it's strangely nice seeing ya. You keepin' your cool?" he asked. Punchy chuckled. "Dark Punchy's... mostly in check..." he said, "And how's the non-time-travel Master Emerald, anyway?" he wondered. Knuckles sighed. It had been a chore, but he did manage to restore the Master Emerald and return it to Angel Island. "Fortunately, no problems since the Covenant of Despair fiasco. World's been amazingly quiet." he smiled. Punchy chuckled. "I bet you're getting soft! I'll have to pay you another visit real soon!" he taunted. Knuckles tossed his plate in Punchy's face. "Whatever, greenie!" he laughed.

"Now that I know the full story behind my duty, I feel a great weight lifted from me. Angel Island is my home... but so is the world. To be a true guardian, sometimes I must leave my post and fight for what is truly right. I'm Knuckles the Echidna, Guardian of All!"



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