Ray glared up at the black and red hedgehog.
“And just what does that mean?”
Shadow smirked then gazed at the raccoon girl still ducked behind Ray. “Chaos Control.”
Before Masq had time to squeak in surprise, she was hoisted up over Shadow’s shoulder and zooming up into another tree. She looked into the satisfied, crimson eyes of her kidnapper and then frantically called for her little furry friend.
“Ray! Ray!” She looked down to see him standing perfectly still for a long moment, before slowly sinking to his knees as if exhausted, then falling all the way down on his face.
She glared at the creature holding her. “What did you do to Ray? Put me down, now!”
“Perhaps it would be better if you understood silence like he does.” He nodded towards Ray.
Masq flinched and closed her mouth, letting her head, ears and arms hang dejectedly.
Shadow grunted his approval and held up his green chaos emerald. “Chaos Control.”
Mighty reached the clearing, following the small signs Ray had left him. A scratch just so on a tree here, a carefully placed footprint there… around one bend and he spotted the yellow lump lying face down in the forest grass.
Ray groaned painfully as his eyes began to focus. “Mighty?”
“I’m here Ray. Where’s raccoon girl?”
“…He… took Masq… I’m sorry.”
“Shadow…” Ray gasped again and passed out. Mighty looked at the one wound. He recognized this. Shadow had used a pressure point to totally throw Ray’s body off balance. He’d need rest…
Mighty looked around. He’d definitely need help finding the girl, too.
Shadow warped into a cave a considerable distance from the forest he’d captured Masq in and dropped her on the ground.
“…Don’t get too comfortable.” He walked toward the mouth of the cave to reveal a high noon sun. “We’re leaving before nightfall.” He clutched the Chaos Emerald. “The Emerald only needs an hour to recharge.”
“Where are we going?” She asked timidly.
“To the remains of the ARK.” He answered stoically. “You shouldn’t trust the people here, little tanuki. They’ll use you and dump you when they’re done. You’ll be safer on the ARK with me.”
She trembled at the deep sound of his voice. “…Am I safe with you?” She cried out in fear as he pinned her to the wall. She covered her face with her hands. Suddenly, there was a flash of purple light.
Shadow blinked uncertainly, looking down at what was once a little white and gray raccoon girl child. “…Maria?” He blinked again.
Masq looked up at him, fright giving way to curiosity. “My name’s Masq, not Maria.” She noticed a strange, yet familiar, purple light receding into his pupils.
“Maria, how did you survive? I saw them… Maria… you’re so tiny…” He scooped Masq up.
“But I told you, I’m not…” he put a hand over her mouth.
“Quiet, Maria. Someone’s coming.”
Masq stayed quiet, but only because she knew that the Multi Tails wouldn’t be fooled by the Heart’s powers of illusion like this hedgehog seemed to be. He ran a hand threw her hair and held her close to his side.
“I promise I’ll protect you this time, Maria.”
Masq turned her crimson eyes up to him. ‘This time?’
Shadow listened as two creatures began arguing outside. “Tanukis. Wonder what dragged them out this far.”
Masq looked down at the Catalyst of Chaos. It had totally altered not only Shadow’s perception of her, but his memories, totally erasing it’s own existence from the poor creature’s memory… She remembered what her mother told her.
“It will hurt people, Masq. People will take advantage of good and gentle creatures using it.”
She smiled up at Shadow, who wasn’t paying her any attention at the moment. It was better this way. It would hurt him less in the end, she thought.
Shadow, however, was having very different thoughts.
‘I’ve been granted a miracle… Maria… My Maria is alive! No one will ever harm her again!’
He glared out the cave entrance, then smirked. He looked down at his “little Maria”.
“Stay right here, Maria. I’ll be right back.” He separated himself >from her. Masq nodded.
“Chaos Control!” He zoomed out of the cave.
Arid and Tundra had been neck in neck the whole way… okay maybe not the whole way, but pretty darn close.
Arid pulled out in front a bit, smirking. “Take that, Tundr-AAAH!” She didn’t notice the side of a cliff until it was too late. She slammed into it face first, her board “Poofing” back into an acorn. The golden eyed tanuki removed herself from the cliff wall, tears streaming down her face and holding her nose delicately.
Tundra entered the clearing and snickered. “Stupid.” Her ears twitched.
“Arid, stay calm, but we’re in the presence of something very dark and very angry…”
The turquoise tanuki lifted herself up and looked around, her ears flicking this way and that. “…”
Tundra pulled out a sharp looking leaf. In a flash and a poof it turned into a long slender knife.
“Calm down, Tundra,” Arid warned, “Whatever that is, we don’t want to anger it further…”
Tundra trembled. The aura of this thing was very menacing… “Arid… I don’t think the Catalyst came this way…”
“Uh… you know, I bet you’re right…” They looked at each other, forest green eyes locking with lightning gold ones.
“I’m outta here…” Tundra began running back into the forest.
“HEY! Wait for me! Some prison guard you are!”
“Does this look like a prison to you?!”
“OH, SHUT UP!”
Shadow smirked as the intruders turned tail and ran.
“…and stay away from my Maria.”
He went back to the cave and patted Masq’s head. “Let’s go, Maria. There’s still a long ways to go until we reach the transportation device that will take us to the ARK.”
Masq nodded quietly, tucking the Eris Heart beneath her cloak. Shadow, apparently, took notice of her odd clothing.
“…there should be one of your old vests back on the colony, Maria. We’ll get you settled into your old room in no time.”
Masq didn’t argue as he lifted her up this time.
‘Maybe he can help me protect the Catalyst. For now, at least. I just hope Ray’s alright…’
Mighty and Ray were walking with an urgent air through town. He’d heard reports of the “epic” battles between Sonic and Shadow, but he had no idea how to find either of them. Ray followed Mighty closely, slowly beginning to realize where they were going.
He smiled a small smile as he spotted a familiar building ahead. Mighty paused, looking up at it.
Ray stood next to his friend and put on hand on his shoulder.
“…it’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”
“…too long… and yet…”
Ray sighed. “It’s going to be hard to go in there after all this time, but your instincts say we’ll need help, right?”
Mighty nodded, encouraged by his friend’s words.
Mighty reached up with one gloved hand and rapt on the door.
The door swung open.
“Welcome to the Chao…MIGHTY!” Charmy tackled the armadillo. He looked up at Ray. “ALL RIGHT! MY BOARD GAME BUDDY’S BACK!” Charmy tackled Ray.
Vector helped Mighty to his feet, then crushed him in a welcoming hug. “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!?”
Mighty chuckled. “Here and there.” He nodded over at Espio who had gotten up from his meditation to make his way over to the returning Mighty.
Espio held out his hand. “…Glad you’re okay.”
Mighty smiled and shook his hand. “It’s good to see you too, Espio.”
Vector shut the door behind them. “So, Mighty! What brings you back to our door. Don’t tell me, you’ve decided to join the detective agency!” The lights from Vector’s eyes were blinding.
“Heh… no I actually came…” his face grew solomn. “I came because I need to ask for you guy’s help.”
Suddenly, all attention was on Mighty. Ray spoke up. “There’s a little girl that’s been kidnapped. We know who did it, but we don’t know where he could possibly be.”
“Well, out with it!” Vector demanded. “If we’re gonna help, we’ll need all the information!”
Mighty nodded. “What do you know about a red and black hedgehog named Shadow?”