CHAPTER ONE – THINGS BEGIN
"Today started out as any ordinary day for the gang. For a minute this morning, I looked at my bow. I just looked at it while thinking about home again, wondering if my family misses me. Don't get me wrong, I like living with my friends here in the tree house; we call it the Clubhouse, or at least, the younger ones do."
"I remember how excited the five of them were when we finally finished building this enormous thing; Striker, Milo, Ani and Jack, and of course, Buddy. If it wasn't for the Professor, I'm not sure how much we would've accomplished doing that. What a kind-hearted man, and I feel a bit of sympathy for him because he lives all alone in that big, empty lab of his. I know he tells us that he doesn't get lonely, but I think he only says that so we don't worry about him so much. I think he really does need our company, especially since all of his own friends aren't around. Sure, there's Grandma Cream who runs the Chao Care. She tells us that all their friends are either far, far away, or they moved up to the "great beyond," and that as far as she knew, the remaining of their time were her, the Professor, and Shadow."
"Everything in the Clubhouse is alright. Milo recently had a case of the chicken pox, but he's getting over it now, and thankfully he didn't spread it to the others. He still complains about itching every now and then, but nothing as serious as before. As usual, they're just their happy, energetic selves. Wish I was that carefree…"
"I don't understand why the Professor and Shadow won't tell us anything. I look back and I see them both talking quietly behind our backs, and sometimes one of the four will say something, (because we all know a Chao can't speak), and it will draw a concerned expression from the Professor. I'm not sure if they notice it, but I don't say anything about it. Brick's noticed it too."
"But other then that, things have been…quiet. I wonder if—"
"C'MON! LET'S GOOOOOO! PROFESSOR WANTS TO SEE US ASAP!"
"Or…at least it was quiet…"
Without warning, the door burst open, and five blurs barged in, jumping on the bed before she could stop them. A bear cub, a husky pup, two lions, and a purple speckled Chao were jumping impatiently over an ewe that was sitting on the bed.
"C'mon Jill!" the bear cub exclaimed. "We have to go see the Professor, and you're still in your PJs!"
"Yeah, you slowpoke!" the husky added. "C'mon! Hurry!"
"What is this? Christmas?" the ewe called Jill asked, somewhat shaken at how much her balance was being thrown off. She almost dropped her journal onto the floor.
"Silly Jill; Christmas isn't in a few months!" one of the lions said just as impatiently. One wouldn't expect him to act like this, considering that he was the older lion of the two, but still, he did so. "But the Professor can't wait a few months; we have to hurry, Jill! It's gonna be an adventure!"
Visiting the Professor was always an adventure. Jill finally uttered a laugh at their enthusiasm. "Alright, alright!" Jill giggled. "I'll get up. But you have to go bother Brick while I get dressed."
The littler lion hopped off the bed. "You promise he won't get mad?" he asked. "Last time we woke him up…he was real grumpy."
"No worries; I'll wake him up, the snoozy-head!" the older lion said enthusiastically, before he ran towards the door, fishing out a harmonica from his pocket in the process. "I'll be right back!"
The husky started snickering, "This is gonna be epic!" So she grabbed the bear and the littler lion by the wrists and dragged them against their will out Jill's bedroom door. The purple speckled chao was the last to go, as Jill pet his head.
"Good morning Buddy," she said with a smile.
"Chao," chirped the purple speckled Chao happily. Finally, he fluttered out the door, leaving Jill to close it behind them to change to more proper clothes.
…and in the meantime, the five of them snooped towards Brick's door, opening it with the slightest creaking possible. They peered into the messiest room in the tree house, with walls lined with posters of Extreme Gear, and clothes scattered all over the floor; even if all he usually wore were gloves and boots. Then the bull himself was lying on his bed with disoriented covers; snoring.
The husky tried to suppress her snickering. "Do it Jack!" she muttered.
With a nod, the older lion, Jack, put the harmonica to his lips, before he began playing an energetic tune on the instrument, and while he hadn't turned on the harmonica's microphone, since he was so close to Brick, this would likely wake the bull up.
And boy did it wake him up…
"GAH-HAH!" That bull jumped so quickly that he slipped out of bed and plopped onto the ground on his back, and the next thing he heard was boisterous laughter coming from his doorway.
He groaned, covering his eyes from the day light he didn't readily adjust to yet. "Is there any way that my alarm clock doesn't have to be that harmonica of yours, Jack?"
"When did you get an alarm clock, Brick?" Jack asked, as he put the harmonica away. "Anyway, Jill told us to wake you up! The Professor wanted to see us!"
Does that boy have to take everything so literally? Brick thought, grumbling to himself as he got up from the ground. Then he finally processed the info Jack told him. "Professor wants to see us huh?" he said. "What about?"
"He didn't tell us," the bear said, walking in. "But he told us that we should hurry over if we can."
"If it's so urgent, why didn't he come to us?" Brick asked crossly.
"Don't know," the husky replied. "Maybe we can ask him when we get to his lab!" Then she yanked Brick by his wrist too, bringing everyone out of his room and into the hall. "C'mon!"
Brick certainly didn't expect that, as he almost fell over himself being pulled by her. "Good grief, Ani," he muttered. "Take it easy…"
Laughing, Jack threw a glance towards Jill's bedroom for a brief moment, before looking back at the cub. "How long do you think she'll take today, Striker?" he asked.
"I hope not too long," the bear named Striker replied, "but let's check." So he went to Jill's door and was about to knock, only for the door to open suddenly, and Jill stepped out in her everyday outfit.
"All set!" Jill said, and then she followed Striker to the others, which they eventually found waiting at the end of the hall.
They all stood near elevator doors, and one of them had pressed the button for it to come.
When Brick saw Jill, he brightened up from his sour mood. "Hey," he greeted casually.
"Hi," Jill replied.
There was a ding, and then the elevator doors opened. It didn't take long for the seven of them to file in and then they made their way down. Believe it or not, their tree house had an elevator; the benefits of having a Professor help you build a tree house.
Once by the trunk of the tree outside, the doors opened and they left outside. The five little ones took off running through the jungle.
"Now to go ride the mine cart!" exclaimed Striker.
"C'mon! Hurry up you two!" the husky named Ani called back to Jill and Brick who were walking slowly behind them.
"Its okay you guys," Brick called back. "Go ahead of us. We'll catch up."
You wouldn't have to tell them twice as the five of them raced through the jungle.
Jill laughed, "I think they're a little too excited to see the Professor."
"Well, why not?" Brick replied. "He's the world's greatest story teller with the world's greatest stories. I have to admit that's worth getting riled up over."
"True, very true," Jill remarked.
And meanwhile, the children romped through the jungle, having their race.
"I bet I could run faster than you guys!" Striker exclaimed.
"You wanna race?" Jack replied with a grin, as he picked up the pace, getting ahead of the others. "Last one there has to ask for lemonade! C'mon, Purpy, we can get there first!" he laughed, as he had been talking to Buddy.
"Chao!" exclaimed Buddy, following his lion friend.
But to their surprise, something oozing with teal blue telekinetic energy shot forward ahead of them. It turned out to be Ani, and she glanced back at them with a big grin on her face. "Well guess what guys? I can fly!" she laughed.
"Hey, c'mon Ani!" the littler lion protested as he tried to catch up with them all. "That's cheating!"
"You never said I couldn't, Milo!" Ani continued to laugh, as she went ahead.
But then, Striker grabbed Ani's foot. "If you're allowed to fly," he said, "Then I'm allowed to do this!" So as Ani flew, she carried Striker along with her.
"Hey!" Ani shouted.
"Hey, hey, hey! Wait up!" Jack called, as he began running even faster, though not enough to catch up with Ani and Striker. "If you can fly, then I can play!" he called, before taking out his harmonica, beginning to play it as he ran after the two; though as he did, he accidentally switched on its internal microphone, emitting some strong sonic waves from the instrument... not that he noticed this, mind you.
"OW!" All of them screamed, holding their ears.
"Jack!" Milo, the littler lion, cried. "THE MICROPHONE IS ON!" Though it was unlikely that Jack would hear him over the harmonica he played.
"Okay, Okay!" Ani screamed. "I get it! Flying is cheating!" Just for the sake of her own hearing, she dropped Striker and herself back onto the ground and started running again.
"CHAO!" Buddy even tried to yell since he was the nearest to Jack, and hopefully at least would hear him.
"Hn?" Jack uttered, as he removed the harmonica from his lips. "Oh, you stopped flying, Ani! Now we can win again!" he laughed, before picking up the pace, unaware of his little trick. "Remember, last one there asks for lemonade!"
Whew… Milo thought in relief. However, he wouldn't find it to be all that relieving, because when the kids all finally reached the long ladder that led up to the higher cliffs, it turned out that Milo was the last one there.
"Tough luck, Milo," Ani said.
"Aw, but I always have to ask for lemonade," Milo whined.
"Hey, don't take it so personally," Striker said. "Remember it's just a race." Buddy sat himself on top of Striker's head, as they stood there. "Well, should we go ahead and climb the ladder or wait until Brick and Jill get here?" he asked them.
"C'mon! Let's just climb the ladder!" Ani protested impatiently. "Brick and Jill always take too long!"
"Maybe it's because they never race with us?" Jack asked blissfully, as he put his hands on the back of his head. "Maybe they have a private race, or something? But the Professor wanted to see all of us, so we should probably wait for them..."
Ani started pacing around. Out of the group, she would be the first to get impatient, though it wasn't long before they spotted Brick and Jill coming out of the thick brush.
"Wow, you guys get here quick," Brick said.
"Yep," Striker said, smiling big. "And we waited for you guys!"
"Thanks," Jill said.
"Now hurry, hurry!" Ani said, being the first to start climbing the ladder. "I wanna ride that mine cart!" The last obstacle the group usually had to go through were the mines that went through the mountain. Whenever Ani was with them, she made it seem like a roller coaster ride.
Though a good deal of them enjoyed it, one of them didn't feel so confident about it.
Milo watched Ani climb the ladder nervously, and then he watched the others. Once all of them were at the top of the ladder, they each climbed into the mine cart.
"Just don't make it go so fast this time Ani…" Milo said, trembling.
"I can't promise anything!" Ani laughed, and with a wave of her hand, the mine cart began moving on its own, which caused Milo to cling to Jill for dear life.
"HERE WE GO!" exclaimed Striker, as they disappeared inside and closed in towards a long drop. Everyone screamed, though not out of fear. In fact, Milo was the only one screaming out of fear, as the others were enjoying it.
Especially Jack, who was raising his arms and laughing wildly. "Come on! Raise your hands, everyone!" he laughed.
Why not? Most everyone went ahead following Jack's example, that is, except Milo of course, who still held Jill dearly. Jill very well couldn't raise her hands with Milo clinging like that, as he held Milo in assurance of his safety. The mine cart was exhilarating, especially when it ran through some occasional loops. But alas, the fun could not last forever. When they all could see a bright light at the end of the tunnel, Ani did her best to try and slow down the mine cart with her powers so that their stop wouldn't be...well, abruptly uncomfortable to say the least. The cart gently slowed to a stop, just in time to touch the bumpers outside in a big field.
Everyone nearly stumbled while climbing out of the cart; Jill had to carry Milo out, because he was still clinging to her yet. "It's okay," she said to him in comfort. "We're on land now, Milo."
"Thank goodness!" he sighed, letting Jill go to stand on his own feet.
"Chao!" Buddy was a bit excited as he fluttered on ahead.
"Well, the Professor's lab should be just up the hill," Brick said, as he went ahead to follow the youngsters.
On top of the hill, a certain, slightly run-down house stood, and inside of it, an aged, two-tailed fox was drawing something on a roll of paper, his eyes deep in thought. However, when he heard laughter not too far from the house, he smiled. "There they are." he said to himself, before he stood up from his seat, walking towards the door.
When he opened it, he could clearly see the ewe, the bull, the bear, the two lions and the husky run up the stairs to meet him, and that made his smile a bit wider. They remind me a lot of Sonic, back in the day... he thought, as he waited for the children to notice him opening-
"PROFESSOR!" Jack exclaimed happily. "We're all here, now!"
Some even ran forward and gave the old fox a hug; such as Striker, Ani, and Milo, leaving Jill and Brick to continue laughing. The fox couldn't help but laugh as well, as he returned the hug just as Jack joined in the group hug.
"Hi Professor," Jill greeted.
"Yeah, how've you been lately?" Brick asked.
"Oh, the same as usual, Brick." he replied, before giving Jack a pat on the back. "Now, now, you're going to break an old man's back if you keep that up." he chuckled, which would be a prompt for them to let go. "How have you kids been, then?"
"We've been fantastic!" Jack said with a wide grin, as he let go of the fox. "The Clubhouse is still as cool as ever!"
"Well, I had the chicken pox..." Milo added unhappily, just as he scratched an itch from a reminder of that. "I'm okay now."
"So why'd you want to see us Professor?" Striker asked.
"Ooo! Ooo!" Ani said, jumping up and down. "Do we get to play with any explosives?! Huh?! Huh?! OR do we get to test out some new guns?!" But they all knew better than letting the trigger-happy husky possess firearms.
"Not today, Anistasia." the fox chuckled, as he rubbed the husky's head.
"Aw..." Ani had some high hopes on that.
"I actually wanted to speak with you of something. Why don't you all come inside?" Tails said, motioning for them to enter his house.
"That sounds like a plan!" Jack said cheerfully, as he carefully made his way past the fox, inside the building. "Are you working on something new?"
"Yeah, If you're working on something new, I'd be interested in helping out Professor," Brick commented as he and the rest proceeded inside as well. Having been the oldest out of the group, he was a bit of an apprentice to the old fox, learning all he could about technology. After all, the Professor taught Brick everything he knew about Extreme Gears.
Jill was the first to stop once inside, looking with surprise at the other company that was leaning against the wall on the other side of the room. "Shadow?" Jill said. "I didn't know you were here."
"Shadow's here too?!" Striker asked, popping up behind Jill. "Cool!"
"Uncle Shadow!" Jack said happily, as he very nearly rushed over to hug the black hedgehog. "It's been so long since we last saw you!"
"A few months since, I'd reckon." Shadow replied, as he looked at the kids. Even for being about 120 years old, Shadow, being a construct, hadn't aged a day since those adventures several decades ago. "But let's not dwell on the past; I have urgent news, that concerns not only me and Tails, but you kids as well."
"Quite..." Tails nodded, as he sat down by his desk. "Please, by all means, make yourselves comfortable."
The little ones were quite curious about the news, so they each took their seats eagerly on the nearest seat, which was a sofa just big enough for the four of them to fit.
Brick was just fine standing, as he positioned himself next to the sofa where all the kids sat.
Jill looked back and forth between Shadow and Professor Tails. I wonder if it was the something that they were worried about awhile ago, she thought, waiting for either of them to speak.
As everyone sat down, Shadow cleared his throat. "Some of you may have noticed, but me and Tails... we have been withholding something from you." he said, as he pushed himself away from the wall. "Our reasons for doing so, was because at the time, it didn't seem as such a massive threat."
"Threat?" Jack asked, as he tilted his head curiously. "That's a bad thing, right?"
"Indeed..." Tails sighed, before he looked at the kids. "You all remember the stories I told you about Doctor Eggman, and how he tried conquering the world countless times?"
"Oh, yeah, the egg-belly!" Jack said, as he snickered. "For being a bad guy, he was kinda funny some times."
"Yeah!" Ani agreed with Jack. "Too bad he's dead! I'd like to shave off that mustache of his!"
"I'm guessing these stories might have something to do with the news you're going to tell us, right?" Brick supposed.
"Yes..." Tails nodded, as he closed his eyes. "Eggman didn't work alone. He had several robotic minions doing much of his work, the most notorious being Metal Sonic, who I'm sure you know of..."
"Yeah, Tinhog!" Jack laughed. "Like that time he turned into a dragon, and-"
"This is no laughing matter." Shadow shot in, as he clenched his hands into fists. "Metal Sonic has resurfaced."
"He what?!" Brick said, no doubt completely surprised by that.
"Resurfaced? You mean he was underwater?" Ani asked cynically, meaning to joke. Though when she got a glare from Brick, she got the impression that it was not the right time and place for joking, despite having Shadow said so.
"How do you know?" Jill asked, just as shocked as the others were.
"The same way most others found out." Shadow replied, before he folded his arms and closed his eyes. "...he's sieged Westopolis, and has somehow managed to mechanize the entirety of Green Hill Zone. Later, GUN received this message, which unfortunately was televised a few hours later." Then, he took out a sphere-like object, which shone a blue light out of a projector, which showed a robot hedgehog, sitting by a desk, his hands held together.
"To all the world's citizens," the hedgehog began, as it looked up at the camera, its red eyes glowing dangerously, "allow me to introduce myself. I am Neo Metal Sonic, known as Doctor Ivo 'Eggman' Robotnik's greatest success. Though my master may be long since deceased, it doesn't mean that he took his resources to the grave with him." Then, he stood up, as he placed his hands behind his back.
"To honor him, I have decided to take up the mantle, and try my hand at world dominance. You may have noticed, given the complete makeover the city Westopolis, and the Green Hill Zone have received. Remember this; I will remake every landmark on this planet, every city, every single solitary space, until I have completely remade it in my image. However, I am not completely heartless; if you should happen to find a champion that can best me, I might be convinced to temporarily cease my takeover. Though I doubt it; the only one who could best me is long since deceased, as well." Then, he sat down, his eyes glaring evilly at the camera. "That's
all for now." Then, a silvery tendril suddenly emerged from his head, and just as one could hear screams in the background, the tendril rocketed at the camera, just as it cut to static.
The entire room was silent when Shadow hid the projector on his person, with everyone looking absolutely horrified, save for Tails, who showed a look of concern. "...so... tinhog's going to..." Jack uttered, as he looked at Tails with a slightly frightened look. However, Tails didn't answer, which only served as an amplifier for the frightening tension in the room.
Milo and Buddy tried to hide behind Striker and Ani, while the four of them looked from Professor Tails to Shadow with looks of terror.
The only two that didn't express so much fear were Jill and Brick. Brick had a pretty serious look on his face, while Jill had just about the same concerned expression as Tails did. It was very unsettling, hearing something from stories just to find out how real it is. It would be like staring death in the face; probably wasn't even far off from that.
"Shadow," Brick said, "Has GUN tried to do anything about this?"
"We've tried tracing where the video may have been shot, but..." Shadow said, as he sighed. "...we've found nothing. There isn't any sort of viable trace we can use to our advantage."
"But..." Jack uttered fearfully, as he tilted his head. "...but, how is he gonna be stopped?"
"That's another thing we've kept from you..." Tails said, as he stood up, before moving to a cupboard. "While we at first only thought of it to be rumors, Shadow and I have been working to cook up something to use as a counter-measure, in case something like this would happen. And as luck would have it, I finished it yesterday." Then, opening the cupboard, he retrieved a small, circular object, which he showed to the group.
"A Chaos Radar." Shadow said, as Tails handed him the object. "It took quite a while, but using my dormant Chaos Energy, we made a radar that can single out immense hoards of Chaos Energy, including those emitting from the stones of legend..."
Jack gasped when he heard that. "The Chaos Emeralds?"
"Nobody's seen them in ages," Striker commented. "Not ever since you said your friend who was the guardian of the Master Emerald hid them in the different regions where no one could find them, Professor."
"Do you really think Metal Sonic will go after the Chaos Emeralds?" Ani asked in wondering.
"That, I cannot say." Tails said with a sigh. "However, Shadow here-" He was cut off when Shadow raised his hand, as a motion to let him speak.
"I intend to collect the Chaos Emeralds before Metal Sonic can get the chance." he then said, before looking at the kids. "Despite going against Knuckles' wishes, I cannot allow them to be used as a means to further Eggman's legacy, which is why I intend to finish it."
"Finish what?" Jack asked, but instead of giving an answer, Shadow headed towards the door, without looking back at the kids. "H-hey, Uncle Shadow!"
"Tails... thank you." Shadow said, before opening the door and leaving.
"...Shadow..." Tails uttered, before he sat down, rubbing his temples. "...you really haven't changed at all..."
"Professor, we can't let Shadow go after Metal Sonic by himself!" Striker said, running up to the old fox. "He'll get hurt!"
"Relax little guy," Brick told Striker. "I'm sure he can handle it. After everything we hear about him in the Professor's stories, I don't think he'll be done in by that mechanical menace."
"But I bet we could totally help him!" Ani threw in. "We all have amazing powers and stuff…well, except Jill maybe…" and that caused all the children to look towards the ewe.
Sure, each one in the group had their unique powers; Ani had telekinesis, Striker had an unusual knack with a baseball bat, Milo could somehow tap into ancient spirit magic for rituals, Jack had his harmonica, and Brick's nose ring could channel Chaos Energy for his usage. As far as they were concerned, Jill was a little underdeveloped in that field…
…and she never liked to talk about herself for some reason. None of the children knew her story, and never really questioned it.
"C'mon! We can't let him go up to him alone!" Ani continued to protest.
"That's just what we have to do." Tails eventually said, before he stood up. "Shadow doesn't just intend to collect the Chaos Emeralds to keep them safe from Metal... but he's going to use them to try to wipe out Metal's forces."
"Wipe out?" Jack asked, as he stood up from his seat. "How is he going to do that?"
"You all know what happens when all seven Chaos Emeralds are gathered together, right?" Tails said, as he placed his hands behind his back. "By tapping into their energies, Shadow intends to go Super, and destroy Metal Sonic once and for all. However..."
"I don't like the sound of that 'however,'" Brick remarked solemnly.
"There is one thing that Shadow failed to consider..." Tails continued, as he took a seat. "...something I tried telling him countless times, but he just wouldn't listen. The only reason Metal didn't kill any of us back in the day, is because either Eggman kept him on a leash, or Sonic ended up stopping him. However, with both of them dead, Metal is free to be as cruel and merciless as he pleases... with absolutely no care for life."
"...is Uncle Shadow going to be alright?" Jack asked, as he looked at the others a bit worriedly.
"Shadow may hold his own against Metal, if both of them lack Emeralds... but in the meantime, I'd like you to stay in the Clubhouse, where it's safe." Tails said, as he looked at the kids.
A loud groan filled the room from all of the children.
"He's right, guys," Jill added. "The last thing we need is to jump into something that all of us aren't ready to deal with."
"But we really could help Shadow, Jill," Striker said.
"I know you guys want to help him," she said. "Trust me, I want to help him too…but Metal Sonic is…"
"Frankly guys, he's way out of our league," Brick finished for Jill when she trailed off. "It's just not smart…"
"But... what's gonna happen to Uncle Shadow?" Jack asked, as he began fidgeting.
"You shouldn't worry about it." Tails said reassuringly, as he gave them a small smile. "It may be difficult, considering what you've learned, but try not to think too much of it. Now, you should get going."
"Huh? But we just got here," Striker said.
"This blows," grumbled Ani, who was already stomping towards the door. The others were likely soon to follow, all except Jill who stayed behind.
Noticing this, Brick glanced back from the door. "Brownie, you coming?"
Hearing him, Jill looked up at him. "Uh, you guys go on ahead," she said. "I need to talk to the Professor for a minute."
Brick blinked. "Okay." Then the front door closed.
Tails blinked as well, as he looked at Jill for a moment. "What's on your mind, Jillian?" he asked.
Jill was silent at first, peering down at the ground, and then, "Well, it's something I never really told any of them, or even wrote in my diary." She looked up to him. "I'm having strange dreams. At first, I thought it was nothing, but then I eventually realized that the dreams keep coming back to me, more and more often."
Tails hummed a little when he heard that. "I see... and what happens in those dreams, Jillian?"
Jill's eyes squinted thoughtfully, staring away from him into space. "I'm walking through a thick fog," she began. "I find a pair of double doors, and when I open it, I find myself walking into a chapel. I'm walking up the isle past the pews, and I hear music, and singing voices. Only, no one was playing the organ, and there wasn't any choir. In fact, it's entirely empty. And then I look up, and I see a stained-glass mural up above, glowing with the sunshine that showed through the colors. The mural was of some sort of…angel."
Tails took this in, before nodding. "Does anything else happen, or does the dream end there?" he asked, now a little intrigued.
"It goes a little bit farther," Jill said. "I turned around and found out I wasn't alone after all. Someone was standing by the open doors, looking right back at me. I think I saw him Professor…"
Tails raised an eyebrow; could it be one of her friends, or someone from her past? "Him...?" he inquired.
Tails wouldn't expect at all the answer Jill gave. "I think I saw Sonic the Hedgehog," she said.
When she gave the answer, Tails' eyes flared up, as he quickly stood up, looking at her with a shocked look. "You saw..." he uttered, before calming himself. "...Sonic... does the dream go on beyond that?" he asked, before he sat down again.
Jill was slightly startled by his jump, so she hesitated with her answer. "He said to me, 'Nice place you got here.' 'My place?' I asked. 'Yeah' he said. 'This is your place, isn't it?' It was at that time I turned back to look up at the mural. 'Is it?' I wondered. Then when I looked back at him, he was gone."
"And that's how the dream ended," she finished.
"Hmm..." Tails mused, as he held his chin in thought. "That is very strange... and you're saying that the dreams have started to return in recent times?" he asked.
"Yes sir," Jill nodded. "And I feel like there's a message to that dream that I'm supposed to figure out…but I don't know."
"Hm." Tails nodded, as he stood up. "It may dawn upon you, eventually. If you feel like talking about further dreams you have, don't hesitate to speak with me about them." he said, before moving towards the door, opening it. "Now, hurry along; I'm sure that your friends are waiting for
"Yeah," Jill said, coming to the door, but then, she stopped. "I wonder if it's implying something about me," she said, looking at the old fox again.
"...I can't tell you if that is the case. Jillian." Tails replied, before he smiled a bit. "As I said, maybe it'll come to you after a while. Now, hurry along." he said.
"I suppose so," Jill replied. "Have a good day then, Professor." And she was just leaving out the door when—
"My, my, isn't that just charming." they heard a robotic voice say, which they'd instantly recognize. Just then, Tails looked at the ground in front of Jill, and pushed her behind him; on the ground, a silvery puddle was lying dormant, shimmering. "Still the same, even after all these years, Prower." Then, something began slowly forming out of the puddle.
"...Jill. Run away." Tails said adamantly, as he glared at the puddle. "Now!"
Jill was so startled at what she was seeing that she was frozen. But when Tails gave the order, she refused with a shake of her head. "No! I can't leave you alone! You'll get hurt!"
"Jill, just hurry and run!" Tails yelled, without looking away from the puddle, which was slowly attaining some sort of humanoid shape. "Don't worry about me; I can handle this! Now go!"
She didn't want to, but it didn't look like she really had a choice. If whatever that thing was what she thought it was, than she wouldn't do any good. So as he strictly instructed, she ran.
Tails watched as she ran away, before returning his attention to the puddle, which now took the shape of a hedgehog. "...it's been a long time, Metal." he finally said, when Jill was out of ear's reach.
"How noble of you." the robot mused, as he folded his arms, glaring daggers with the old fox. "Leaving yourself in danger, all for the safety of a child... it reminds me far too much of what my counterpart would have done in the past."
Tails merely scoffed, as he folded his arms as well. "So, what is your errand here? Come to kill me?"
"That was my original intention." Metal replied. "However, I couldn't help but overhear Shadow's little scheme... he believes that he can stop me with the Chaos Emeralds?"
"So he does." Tails replied. "And you shouldn't underestimate him, Metal."
"When have I ever done that?" Metal scoffed, before he turned away. "Consider yourself lucky, Prower. As payment for allowing me to know what The Ultimate Lifeform is planning, I'll spare you. Thus, you'll get to see my rule over this world, knowing that you were powerless to stop me." Then, as he began flying away... "But if those kids try interfering, you will be the one to blame for their passing." Then, he vanished into the sky.
Jill didn't stop running. She ran all the way down the hill and into the field near the waterfall, heading for the mine shaft where everyone was waiting for her.
"Look! There she is!" exclaimed Ani with a point when she saw Jill come their way.
Jill came to a halt, bending over as she tried to catch her breath. "We have to do something!" she huffed frantically. "I didn't want to leave him alone, but I had no choice!"
"Whoa, Brownie!" Brick said, startled by how upset she was. "What're you talking about?!"
"The Professor!" She cried. "He's…" Jill just couldn't finish. A nagging feeling in her mind caused her to feel like she shouldn't have left at all; that she should've stayed and fought. So she spun right around and started running back.
"Jill!" Striker called. "Wait!" And this caused the others to follow her immediately, growing worried about what was going on.
She made it as far as the top of the stairs and then she stopped. Jill saw Tails standing all alone by his door, and it looked like he didn't have a single scratch. To this, she sighed with relief, just in time for the others to catch up with her.
"Professor!" Brick called, though just in time to realize that he appeared to be fine.
Tails, however, remained completely silent, as he still stood in that position, his eyes closed.
"...Professor?" Jack said, as he looked at Tails with a curious look. "Are you okay, Professor?"
"...Shadow..." Tails eventually uttered, before marching into his house, seemingly ignoring the kids as he closed the door behind him.
They just stood there, looking at the door in silence.
"Brownie," Brick said, turning to her. "What happened?"
"I-I swear I saw…" Jill stuttered, jittering, though she trailed off as she wiped her brow. "N-never mind. He's okay…it's just that for a minute, I thought…"
"Saw what, Jill?" Milo asked worriedly. "What did you see?!"
"No, it doesn't matter," Jill said, turning away and heading down the stairs. "Let's…get back to the Clubhouse."
Jack blinked, as he looked at Brick for a moment. "Do you think something bad happened, Brick?" he asked, as he scratched his chin with a worried look. "Both Jill and the Professor didn't seem well..."
"Yeah, they were both acting weird," Brick agreed. "I think something did happen." He stared at Tails' front door thoughtfully. "But it doesn't look like either of them will tell us what's up, Jack," He said, looking back at the lion. "Our best bet is just heading back to the Clubhouse like the Professor instructed."
Something in the skies in the distance caught his eye, which were dark, ominous clouds gathering together. "We'd better head back pretty soon too," he said. "It looks like we're going to have a big storm soon."
"S-storm?!" Milo questioned with terror. "…y-you mean like l-lightning?!"
"Yeah," chuckled Ani, seeing an opportunity to pick on Milo. "Like this—BOOM!" And that was more than enough to startle Milo, sending him scurrying right behind Striker for cover. After that, Ani was rolling on the ground laughing, up until Brick plucked her up by the ear. "OW! OW! OW!" she whined.
"That wasn't funny," Brick said. "You owe him an apology when we get back to the Clubhouse."
"Aw, killjoy," Ani grumbled, once Brick released her ear.
"It's okay Milo," Striker assured the little lion. "It's probably not as bad as Ani makes it out to be."
"I hope so," Milo muttered.