CAUTION: This story contains spoilers for the multiplatform game Sonic Unleashed. Viewer discretion is advised.
Chapter 9: The Second Night
I don't know how long I was out, but when I opened my eyes I found myself staring at a white tiled ceiling. Someone had laid me down in a bed, and although parts of my body still felt numb, they were healing very quickly.
As I sat up, the familiar voice of Captain Tailspin caught my ear. "Look, everyone! He's coming to!"
Sure enough, the Captain was standing not six feet away, accompanied by the Prof and his nervous assistant, as well as Nick and even Rosie.
Nick spoke next. "Snake, are you all right?"
"I... think so... where are we?"
"You're in Spagonia National Hospital, Snake," the Prof explained. "Miles took you here after you lost consciousness."
I heaved myself out of my bed and looked around. It seemed a little old-fashioned for a medical care station... oh yeah, I was still 500 years in the past. Duh. Of course it was old-fashioned.
"You still haven't explained just what happened to him, Tails," Rosie suddenly interjected. "He's not a witch. How could water knock him out?"
Captain Tailspin nodded his head and gave his explanation. He pointed out that my equipment was wired directly into my nervous system; this enabled me to monitor my own physical fitness, as well as activate some of my gadgets just by thinking. The connection point, where wires met nerves, was on the back of my neck. It wasn't watertight, so when it got wet, it caused a short circuit which disabled everything, including my mind, leaving me in the brief coma I'd just woken from.
Judging by the expression on Rosie's face, she probably didn't understand a word the Captain had said, but still pretended she did. Meanwhile, Nick made his way out of the crowd and got in front of me.
"Hey, Snake, how about we--" But he stopped midsentence as his Stone of Light began to glow again.
Seeing the same sight, Captain Tailspin quickly yanked the blinds open, revealing the setting sun. "Oh, man, I can't believe we forgot about that!"
Everyone else got their distance as Nick and I huddled together. Seconds later, the flash came, and we were gone.
"It's all right, Nick. They can't see or hear us, so they won't notice us unless we get in their way."
The time-jump had landed us inside an unfamiliar industrial complex, only this was a lot more active than the area in which Snake and I had first met. Machines were humming and clanking all around, and maintenance robots kept things moving. Snake and I had jumped up on top of one of the machines where we'd be out of the way.
After watching for a few minutes, I decided to ask the inevitable question. "Where are we, Snake?"
"This is Power Generator Omega," Snake explained. "Several smaller power generators are installed throughout the world, but this is the one to rule them all."
Snake pointed to a thick vertical pipe that ran clean from floor to ceiling. "The factory runs mostly on heat energy. See that pipe? It runs clear down to the center of the planet, and pumps up magma from which to extract heat."
The center of the earth... I couldn't think of that without thinking of Chip, since that was where I last saw him. I pretty much forgot what we were talking about, so I quickly changed the subject.
"Say, Snake, you're the only actual person I've ever met in this time period. Where is everyone else?"
Snake laughed a bit. "The surface wasn't really designed with human life in mind. Most of the organic population lives their entire lives in the underground cities. Some of us, of course, prefer to rough it up here from time to time. They call us Runners. I'm the role model of all Runners; my popular alias is Silver Lightning. Snake is fine too, though."
I nodded. "Sounds cool. Who else do you know?"
In response to my question, my companion stepped back and projected a hologram from his glove. It looked like a pale white mountain goat with impressively large horns, wearing a black scarf and little else. "Ah, if it isn't Silver Lightning," he said in a voice that reminded me of Knuckles. "I take it you want the usual?"
"This is Everest the Goat," Snake explained. "He's the one who operates the Lounge. It's not all that popular because it's built on the surface, but we Runners visit it all the time. The reason he wasn't there last night is probably because he was busy planning the 238th revamp of the Lounge's decor. He's always obsessing over the decor. His horns are wicked strong; he can damage solid steel with them."
The next hologram Snake showed me was a hot-pink female fennec fox with green eyes, skintight black clothes, and an overconfident expression. Her quote was, "From here to Generator Delta and back in 01:38:23, wolf. Can you beat that?" (Snake later commented that his time on the Generator Delta run was 01:35:57.) Her voice made me think of Rouge the Bat, but this lady went by Pride the Fennec.
Pride, Snake informed me, was a Runner just like him. She would always challenge Snake to races from here to there, and despite the fact that she never won she never seemed to lose her drive. She was a little slower than Snake was, but she could use her massive ears to hang-glide across wide gaps and take shortcuts, as well as use her special Gravity Boots to walk on walls and ceilings.
The final customer on Snake's slideshow was an older, somewhat grumpy-looking reddish-brown porcupine. "Silver Lightning, why must you always get in my way?" he grumbled in a somewhat proper-sounding, yet definitely annoyed, voice. I couldn't think of a match for him at all, but this was apparently Angel the Porcupine.
"You could say Angel is to me what that Dr. Eggs guy is to you, only this guy is a lot more tactical and subtle. He and his assistant, Bingo the Monkey, will stop at nothing to ruin life for all of us, especially me. That's because an implicit duty of us Runners is to halt Angel's schemes in their tracks whenever we can. You can probably guess how well he lives up to his name."
I don't know if Snake had anyone else he wanted to introduce, but just then something beeped on his glove.
"What's that, Snake?"
"It's the newsbot. I have every significant news bulletin messaged directly to me so I can check it on the go. It helps me keep tabs on any mischief Angel gets up to. Here, I'll bring up the article right now."
Snake turned sideways and projected a holographic text screen in front of us, displaying the news article. As he began to read it, his eyes suddenly widened.
"Oh crap," he muttered. As soon as I read the headline for myself, I understood his reaction.