Chapter 4

"DAMN IT!"

"Dude calm down!"

Scourge was pounding into the wrecked remains of an Eggrobo, his eyes locked in a fiery glare, ignoring Sonic's efforts to tug him away. All the green hedgehog could think of was Fiona being snatched away by that fat bastard. He was going to make Eggman pay for taking his girl. If that son of a bitch hurt her he'd rip his head off!

Sonic was a mix of emotions, but after having suffered the kidnapping of his friends at Eggman's hands more then once in the past, he had a clearer mind then Scourge right now. He had honestly not expected this outburst from his counterpart. He had admittedly only just met the dimensional duplicate, but if he was anything like Sonic was, it was strange to see him this upset. Sonic knew he had had his fair share of emotionally angry moments courtesy of Eggman, but Scourge's rage was something else.

A short distance away Amy struggled to keep herself in check, absently patting a visibly upset Cheese. Already she was greatly upset at Cream's kidnapping, but she could also feel turmoil for the newcomer to the group. Nicole had recoiled in on herself, hugging herself tightly and trying to figure out what to do in a vain attempt to not let herself become overwhelmed at the loss of her companion. Amy couldn't begin to think of how the Lynx must have been feeling. To discover her entire world was gone, changed completely, only to have the one person she could feel at home with stolen away. It must have been beyond devastating.

Amy could see her friends felt just as bad. Knuckles was pacing back and forth quietly berating himself, claiming he should have moved faster to stop Eggman, or did something to try and grab onto his friend before she was grabbed. Tails beside him held Nicole's pad, feeling as though despite its size, it weighed a tone, at least with Shard's desperate task placed on his head.

Worse still, a deep guilty part of Amy felt that Cream and the others kidnapping wasn't the most shocking thing today. Knowing her whole life, every decision she had ever made, every step on the path that forged her identity, was dictated by a mad man's goal to reshape the multiverse. That she may have once been an entirely different person, had different motivations and goals, treaded down a path completely at odds with her own. It was extremely unsettling and would likely be on her mind for a long time to come.

However, as the pink hedgehog took another glance over at Nicole she realized something important. As strange and horrifying as the news of her reality was, they had far more pressing matters to address.

Now determined in her thoughts, Amy had had enough moping. Placing Cheese onto her shoulder she marched into the center of the group.

"Alright everybody that's enough!"

Immediately she got a response. Nicole raised her head, her eyes still filled with grief, but focused none the less. Knuckles stopped pacing and both he and Tails turned their attention to the pink girl. Scourge ceased his needless pummeling, but his glare almost made Amy clammer up until she saw the thankful and encouraging look on Sonic's face. The look was enough to fill her with confidence, and she held herself strong as she drew all attention.

"Look, we can all sit here feeling upset, but that won't do anything to help our friends."

She turned to Nicole with a sympathetic smile. "Right now we're worried about our friend, and it's obvious your worried about yours. We might not understand why your hanging out with a robot, but it's clear you care about him."

As Nicole gave a brief but thankful smile at the acknowledgement of her friendship with Shard (even if Knuckles gave a slight scoff, before Tail smacked him in the back of the head), Amy then turned to Scourge and her expression hardened a little, though she tried to keep a positive look on her face. "And while you aren't our favorite guy right now," Scourge just scoffed, but stood up and dusted himself off, "It's clear you definitely want to get your friend back too."

"She's more then a friend Pinky, and hell yeah I want her back, so hurry up and get to the point so I can go track Eggman down and break the pricks nose."

Ignoring his cursing, Amy nodded at his request and continued. "Right now Eggman has taken someone from all of us, plus Rosy," Scourge gave an involuntary shiver that Sonic smirked at, "So how about we form a temporary truce here and work together to save them all?"

The green hedgehog scrutinized her for a moment before flipping his sunglasses back over his eyes and scoffing. "I can track her down on my own. Eggman doesn't scare me, so why in the heck should I team up with you losers?"

"Because we want to save our friends too, and together we'd be much stronger then fighting separately."

Nodding at Amy's response, Nicole stepped forward as well. "You've worked with Sonic in the past Scourge, for far lesser reasons then saving someone important to you. Fiona turned away from everyone for you once. Don't you owe it to her to give everything you can to save her in turn, even if it means working alongside your enemy temporarily?"

Scourge's expression hardened at the mention of Fiona's choice to follow him, but Nicole was surprised by the soft worried face that followed. She had never seen Scourge care about anyone but himself. Right now though, the thought of saving Fiona definitely mattered more to him. This was certainly curious.

The jacket clad hedgehog grumbled for a moment before finally crossing his arms with a humph and turning away as he nodded his head.

Amy and Nicole both smiled at his choice (with Knuckles looking just as unhappy as Scourge did by the whole thing while Tails tried to hide his concern lest he upset the already saddened AI further) with the pink hedgehog even clasping her hands together in joy. Beside Scourge, Sonic closed his eyes and crossed his arms looking smug.

"Well well, working together with people you don't like to save someone you care about. I guess you are a Sonic just like me after all."

Having closed his eyes, he didn't see the incoming fist heading straight for his nose.

With a mighty wham, Sonic was knocked to the ground, bouncing for a second before Scourge leered over him, grabbing the hedgehog by his chest fur and hauling him to his feet.

The rest of the group was shocked, especially an enraged Knuckles, but before anyone could do anything, Scourge glared at Sonic with a dark growl.

"Let's get somethin' straight here blue. I'm working with you to save Fiona and nothin' else. As soon as I've beat the crap out of that eggheaded idiot, I'm comin' after you next. So don't act all smug or pretend like we're suddenly gonna be besties when all is said and done. When this is over, we're back to bein' enemies and I'm gonna show you a world a hurt, you understand me. Now keep your trap shut and we can make it through this quick and quiet so neither of us have to think about it again."

With that, the angry hedgehog shoved Sonic back over and turned to walk away, but not before glancing back with one more remark. "Never tell me I'm 'just like you' or I'll show you just what this Sonic is capable of, truce or no truce."

Having said his piece, the green hedgehog marched away from the group to lean against one of the few intact trees left over from their previous skirmish. Sonic watched him with annoyance and genuine bafflement for a moment before turning back to the group, only to be whomped by Amy as she pulled him into a choking hug.

"Oh Sonic, are you ok?"

After a brief struggle, Sonic managed to gently pry the overly concerned hedgehog girl off of himself so he could look her in the eyes. "I'm fine Amy, really. I just don't get that guy is all. Whatever, so long as he holds off on picking a fight, I can still work with him. I mean if we can work with Shadow, I'm sure we can deal with Mr 'Bad Boy' over there just fine."

The two rose back to their feet and joined the group, only for Tails to voice a question that he had been thinking over ever since Eggman escaped.

"So, I'm glad we're all on the same page here and putting this fight on hold, but I've gotta ask. How are we going after Eggman? I mean we can head back to my lab and try to track him with my computer, but that's going to take a while and I don't like the idea of leaving Cream and the others with Eggman for too long. Who knows what he may do."

The question stumped Sonic for a moment, as generally Eggman tended advertise his position quite easily to draw his nemesis out in a poor attempt to destroy him. Eggman rarely tended to do stealth well, but even on the rare times he tried, Tails or G.U.N. tended to be able to track him down easily enough. Those times however, he didn't have hostages, or if he did, they were just bait and nothing more. Whatever he was up to this time, he had clearly chosen his targets for a reason, not simple chance, as with how drawn into Nicole's explanation everyone was, he could have taken just about anyone in the group during his attack.

However before he could think of a response, Nicole stepped forward.

"I may be able to assist. Without access to a computer network, my abilities are limited. However my pad does have a tracking system installed which can locate Shard. While he was damaged during his capture, his homing beacon is heavily shielded so he can be retrieved if he suffers extensive damage in the field and is unable to return to the base for repairs. It will take a moment for me to activate the tracker with my pad's limited power systems, but we should be able to use it to locate where the Doctor has taken our friends."

Cheese cooed in relief on Amy's shoulder, while the pink hedgehog smiled in response. "That's great Nicole. With your help we'll have them all back in no time."

The group waited silently as Nicole began to run through her systems and begin the activation sequence for her tracking system. However, as she did so, a thought occurred to Sonic.

"Hey Nicole, I have a question for you."

The AI turned to him with a smile. "What is it Sonic, I'll be happy to help however I can."

Getting his thoughts together for a moment, Sonic looked back at Scourge who was resolutely ignoring the group, impatiently waiting against his tree until it seemed everyone was ready to move. Turning back to the Lynx, the blue hedgehog asked, "So I've been thinking of something. Mr 'Anger Management Run-away' over there certainly doesn't come across as the friendly type. And if he's an evil me, he likely isn't much of a team player. So why is he so hung up on that Fiona girl? I mean don't get me wrong, I'm glad he seems to actually care about her, but it doesn't really seem in character for the guy."

A slight frown came to Nicole's face as she answered, "That is a question that has confused me as well. While I do not have extensive knowledge of Fiona's time with Scourge, his behavior from every other meeting he had with Sonic and the Freedom Fighters leads me to believe he likely shouldn't care about her, at least not anymore then anyone else."

"What does she even see in a guy like that. I mean, setting aside his feelings for her or whatever, he's clearly bad news. Why would anyone ever want to be with someone like that?" Tails asked, confused and concerned. He hadn't had any real chance to speak with the fox, but she had definitely caught his attention (he really fought hard not to think of how pretty she looked, lest he start blushing in front of everyone).

As the tracking software continued to boot up, Nicole decided to lay out what she knew for the group.

"Fiona is a complicated individual. Her past has affected her in some very dark ways and changed who she is, and who she could have become. At a young age she was captured, along with dozens of Mobians, by Dr. Robotnik. She suffered there for a long time, and was even used as a base model for the mad man's first robot replica experiment, using a robot duplicate of her to try and trick Tails and capture him. During a raid by Sonic to break out several captured Mobians from the mines they were enslaved in, Fiona, whom Sonic hadn't been aware was held separately to the others, was left behind. She blamed Sonic for this, believing he left her behind deliberately, and let it color her world view, believing that she couldn't count on anybody."

The others all looked very disturbed by this, Sonic in particular, feeling as though, despite this never happening to him in this new reality, that he was, at least partially responsible for Fiona being forced to suffer further at Robotnik's hands. Nicole gave a slight sigh, remembering what happened next, but she continued regardless.

"She spent another two years imprisoned before finally managing to escape on her own, only to find her family gone, furthering her feelings of abandonment. She spent a few years working together with a treasure hunting criminal named Nic, later joining two thieves named Bean and Bark to perform heists and break ins, learning to enjoy the darker side of life. This all changed though when she helped and then joined the Freedom Fighters, making an effort to change her life around for the better. During this time, she even worked through her grudge against Sonic, and came to care about him deeply. It was then she met Scourge for the first time."

The AI gave a hard look at the green hedgehog, who just ignored her gaze and continued to wait against his tree, his annoyance growing with how long it was taking.

"During their first meeting Scourge hadn't undergone his transformation and still looked identical to Sonic. He had been kicked out of his gang on Anti Mobius and so devised a scheme to switch places with Sonic, leaving him trapped on Anti Mobius and Scourge free to roam about the Prime Mobius. He assumed Sonic's identity and used the opportunity to flirt with several female Freedom Fighters, including you Amy."

Sonic and Amy both looked at each other for a moment before looking away awkwardly. Tails and Knuckles gave a slight chuckle to the twos embarrassment, but Nicole had mercy and continued on.

"One of the girls he flirted with was Fiona. She took a genuine liking to him, only for the ruse to eventually be discovered and Scourge was forced to flee, joining up with Rouge to go after the Master Emerald and take on the form he has now. Having found a real connection however, Fiona chose to then form a relationship with Sonic, hoping to find in him what she had seen in Scourge."

Sonic looked supremely surprised to hear this, while Amy snuck him a jealous glare. This further amused Knuckles and Tails, but the two immediately shut up when Amy turned to them, a vein in her fore head pulsing and her hammer spawning from the ether. Sonic tried to wrap his head around the idea of him dating Fiona. She wasn't unattractive by any stretch, but he couldn't really see what had drawn him to her. Perhaps if he got to know her he might see it, but for now, it was definitely a surprising revelation.

As Amy calmed herself and Sonic regained his focus, the AI continued. "While the two did hit it off, Fiona soon found that while he was similar to Scourge, Sonic's noble nature didn't draw her in the way Scourge's darker outlook did. Unbeknownst to Sonic, she began to secretly have an affair with Scourge, seeing him behind Prime Sonic's back. This continued for a while until Sonic, beginning to grow suspicious of Fiona's long absences and concerned after she and Amy got into a fight, confronted the fox. Tired of the ruse, Fiona admitted her actions and joined up with Scourge when he arrived on the scene, upsetting Sonic greatly, as well as breaking Tail's heart, whom had had a crush on Fiona for years since the incident with her robot replica Robotnik created."

Amy looked angered to hear this, but also sympathetic, turning to her blue companion with a sad frown. Sonic looked troubled at the news but had no comment. Knuckles said nothing either, but he noticed that Tails also looked upset at this news, particularly about having a crush on the vixen and having his heart broken. As the group all processed this, Scourge over at his tree was starting to get impatient, glaring at the group in an effort to will them to hurry up whatever they were doing.

"Fiona and Scourge showed up now and then after that, getting in the way and causing trouble, until finally Scourge took over Anti Mobius, renaming it Moebius and naming Fiona his Queen. She aided him in his attack on the Prime Mobius, joined by the Suppression Squad, Scourge's old gang, made up of the Anti Mobius copies of the Freedom Fighters. The Squad however hated Scourge and staged a mutiny, joining forces with the Freedom Fighters to take Scourge down. Fiona was the only one who remained loyal to Scourge, despite her outlook on abandonment. While she was forced to flee the battle after Scourge was trapped back on Moebius with Sonic, she later joined forces with a gang called the Destructix, looking to find Scourge once more. Evidently she succeeded in breaking him out of the No Zone somehow and the two have likely been together ever since."

"Scourge has only ever seemed to care about his own well being above anything else, but for whatever reason, something in him resonates with Fiona. What it is I can't say, but clearly something about her motivates him, at least to enough to convince him to risk his on life to save her. Speaking of which," Nicole turned to her pad, holding it up for the group so they could see the image displayed showed a blinking red dot overlaid over a map starting from their location. "My tracker is now online and operational. If you have no further questions, I think it's time we head out and save our friends."

"Bout time you losers got things goin'. I was about ready to ditch you all and start lookin' on my own."

The group was startled to find that Scourge had snuck up on them all, appearing quite agitated at how long things had been taking. Saying nothing further, the green hedgehog glanced at Nicole's map, nodded his head and started off.

Sonic gave a sigh then nodded to the group to get moving, leading them all at a run they could all keep up with. It was time to save the day.


"Now then, time to a take a look inside you my mysterious machine."

Eggman stood over an operating table hosting the damaged body of Shard. Upon arriving in his base he knew he'd need to act fast. Sonic and that Scourge fellow were fast enough that they'd be here within the hour. He had to quickly set up the outer security devices and bolster them with more of his egg forces. With his luck he doubted it would finish the blue pest and his friends off, but it would slow Sonic down long enough for him to finish his new mission.

After setting up security, he'd had his prisoners all confined in cells deeper into the facility. Cream he was familiar with. It paid to always have tight security around her, lest she use her small form to evade detection and escape. He'd been caught unawares by that too many times in the past, not this time. The two newcomers though he made sure to have extra reinforced cells. The Hedgehog Rosy was insane, there was no other explanation for it. One moment she'd be as sweet as a button, the next she'd be salivating at the bit to tear out his jugular. No wonder Scourge had seemed so scared by her. Eggman certainly didn't enjoy having her in his facility, but better she be imprisoned then let loose during whatever rescue operation Sonic could slap together.

It was the fox who had the most curious reaction however. She had seemed quite calm and sly earlier on the field, using her acrobatic skills with ease and using her feminine charms to keep her green boyfriend from flipping his lid. However upon her capture she had at first struggled with such force that Eggman had been concerned she might actually break free of her holdings. It wasn't until she was actually placed within her reinforced cell that her behavior took a dramatic shift. She seemed to just completely shut down. Huddling herself in a corner, looking like a frightened child trying to avoid getting hit by an abusive elder. Very curious behavior indeed. It suited his interests however so he left her be. Perhaps he'd interrogate her later, see if he could work out what had triggered this so he could apply it to future prisoners. Having Sonic acting like that would bring him more joy then he could think of.

But that could wait for later. For now, he had a curious robot to examine. This 'Shard' definitely held a lot of qualities that resembled his Metal Sonic, but several key differences too, such as his hand canon and the odd gem fragment housed in the machine's chest cavity. It made him extremely curious. Why would someone make a Metal Sonic robot if they weren't going to use it to attack Sonic? What would be the point.

The Doctor had spent years of his life perfecting his craft and designing newer, bigger, badder and more powerful robots day after day, so taking Shard apart and getting into his internal systems was no difficult feat. However what he found inside had him extremely confused. While externally the robot was definitely sleek and well designed (or at least would be if it hadn't suffered so much damage) internally this was not the case. Setting aside the damage that was rampant through the robots systems, Eggman was perplexed by the electrical layouts and neural pathways. This Shard machine was built like a Frankenstein mishmash of several machines. He recognized several key systems that were identical to his machines, with the majority clearly taken from a Metal Sonic, but there were others that he hadn't previously designed (or well, more the other Eggman designed), with different sized components fitting together at random, as though the creator had just used whatever make shift parts they could to get the machine working.

It was definitely a genius design, he'd give the creator that at least. After all, building robots was a delicate work, and using incorrect parts and components could result in malfunctions and severe internal damage over prolonged use, but Shard appeared perfectly operational and without fault save for the lack of uniform in the part designs. The power core of the machine seemed directly tied to the gem on the machine's chest. Using a gem as a power source would allow for greater energy refraction and power output. Still it was slightly limited in that it would need recharging, rather then the self sustaining design of his Metal Sonic. Still it was a versatile and powerful machine this 'Shard', definitely a creative and unconventional design.

However Eggman was a perfectionist, and the wonky looking design was far from aesthetically pleasing and did limit Shard's functions. It was likely the machine's peek strength and speed would currently match his latest upgrades to Metal Sonic, but the otherworldly creation couldn't be any further upgraded himself, and would soon be outmatched as Metal Sonic continued to be improved upon.

"Perhaps I should give you some modifications." Eggman smirked darkly, however he didn't let himself lose focus. There would be plenty of time to work on the machine later. For now, he had a much more important job.

Connecting the robot's memory storage drive to his computer system, the Doctor began downloading Shard's stored memories. What he discovered was extremely fascinating. Knowledge of his counterpart's control over the world of Mobius, save for the rebellion of Knothole and the Freedom Fighters. Lists of resources at the tyrant's disposable, dwarfing Eggman's own. Legions of troops, making his own fleet look pathetically tiny in comparison.

His counterpart had definitely flourished on his world, even if he too struggled against the annoyance of Sonic and his friends. So many machines, so many plans, letting him hold over 90 percent of the world in his grasp. It filled Eggman with both pride and envy. This version of himself had an entire resistance movement built against him and he'd still succeeded in taking almost the entire world under his control. In comparison, Eggman had only Sonic and a handful of his friends fighting against his efforts to create his Eggman Land, and yet the spiky blue irritation had beat him soundly every time.

What was he doing wrong that his counterpart had managed to learn?

Perhaps it lay in his weapons and resources. The Doctor turned his focus from Shard's memories of the world at large to lists of his counterpart's weapons systems and robotic designs. Perhaps they were built in a different form to his own and were more successful because of it.

Schematics and different configurations of buildings materials sped passed his eyes rapidly, but more and more he was unable to tell what had given his counterpart such an edge.

Then suddenly he saw it.

A dark twisted smile crossed his face as he read over the previous reality Eggman's ultimate weapon. It was ingenious, practical and menacingly horrible all at once. It was beautiful to the mad Doctor's eyes.

"If I can replicate this technology, there is no way that Sonic and his merry band of fools can stop me. At last my plans for Eggman land will come to fruition. Thank you my metallic friend, your memories have sealed this worlds fate!"

Shard's body lay inert as Eggman's malevolent laughter echoed around the base.