Protector of Chaos 2: The Rising Nebula – Chapter 4: Launching the Quest
Gizmo's Lab; Neo Soleanna – Mega City
Once Laila returned to Onyx Island, Gizmo thought it best for the group to relocate at his lab to have a more private discussion pertaining to searching out the six remaining Nebula Emeralds. The lab was located in the more metropolitan and dangerous area of Neo Soleanna called Mega City, whilst the heart of Neo Soleanna is Castle Realm – where the Sun Festival is held. Due to the rise of crime rates in this city, G.U.N. soldiers can usually be seen patrolling the streets all hours of the day. One of their global headquarters can also be found here.
Making sure to avoid trouble, Gizmo carefully guided the others to a remote corner of the city near an exit tunnel where several glass disks could be seen installed on the ground. Confused, Alter and the others waited for Gizmo to explain.
"These are teleporter platforms that lead to my underground laboratory," he said. "Allow me to demonstrate."
They watched as Gizmo approached one of the platforms. Once he stood on one, it started to glow brightly, and he was gone in a flash. Alter was bemused – these platforms worked very similarly to the Voltage Empire platforms. After exchanging puzzled glances, they each followed suit, materializing in the lab not even a second after mounting the platforms. Gizmo stood there waiting, delighted to finally have visitors besides his work assistants, who were currently taking a break in celebration of the Sun Festival.
He showed them the way to an elevator that started to slowly descend once everyone was inside. Alter felt apprehensive. The last time he was in an elevator, the floors disappeared and he was sent hurling down a tube without warning. "That's Gimme Shelter for ya..." he mused out loud.
"What was that?" Silver asked with a cocky expression.
"Oh, nothing..." Alter shyly replied, realizing the others had heard him.
The elevator came to a stop, revealing the main workspace of the lab, which was surprisingly very neat and tidy. Scientists always had a habit of leaving their work everywhere, but Gizmo was clearly an exception. He continued to strode down the aisles with pride, Alter keeping an eye on him. It was hard to believe this spirited youth held such spite for Voltage. Why else would he have been ready to combat any Voltage ship he caught near Neo Soleanna's zone? Alter had several questions that he wanted to ask, but he didn't want to ruin Gizmo's mood. Besides, collecting the Nebula Emeralds was his primary focus for now. His queries would have to wait.
Gizmo stood by a chair and turned to the others. "Stay right here. I'm about to activate the monitor."
He hopped in it, and it steadily began to levitate before their eyes via magnetism. Once it reached a certain height, it ceased movements, then multiple holographic monitors appeared. Gizmo tapped a few of them with quick fingers, causing three of them to merge into one massive monitor that began to display a map of the entire world. They all watched in awe as it began to focus until Onyx Island was in view.
"So, we know the Nebula Emeralds were all scattered from this point," Gizmo began. "We have one of them. Let's see if we can pinpoint the locations of the others using the amethyst Emerald as a detector of sorts. Alter, can you lift the Emerald in the air for the computer to scan?" The wolf nodded. With the Emerald held up high, the computer proceeded to analyze it. They could hear low beeps as a sensor wave moved across the screen. A dot, barely visible, dimmed in and out of view, and it wasn't far from where they were currently.
"I see it!" Silver exclaimed.
"As do I," Blaze said. "But why is it blinking like that? And why is there only one?"
Gizmo looked up in thought. "It could be the energy signal the Emerald is giving off is very weak. The more Emeralds we collect, the stronger the link will become, allowing us to identify more Emeralds at once. According to the scan, there should be an Emerald within Titanic Resort. The signal is very faint, but it's worth checking out."
"Then let's get to it," Alter said, already walking off without the others.
"He's sure changed a lot," Blaze noted. "His name suits him well."
"Tell me about it..." Silver mumbled. The two went on ahead.
"Is he really the Protector of Chaos...?" Gizmo whispered to himself.
"You coming, Gizmo?" Silver asked from the other side of the lab, Blaze waiting by his side.
The red-haired wolf sighed. "Yeah; we'd better hurry."
Titanic Resort; Neo Soleanna – Castle Realm
In the last two hundred years, Titantic Resort – formerly known as Wave Ocean – was converted into a blissful beach zone known for its crystal clear waters and rich sand minerals complete with a colossal water park for people of all ages. Being one of the six major sectors of Neo Soleanna, Titanic Resort is also constantly monitored by the government of Neo Soleanna with assistance from G.U.N.
After a few minutes of wandering around the teeming resort, Gizmo and the others spotted Alter pacing through the crowds. They ran up to him for a status update.
"How's it going, Alter?" Silver queried.
"Gizmo was right," the Protector responded, still on the move. "The signal's weak, but there's definitely an Emerald somewhere in this resort. The amethyst Emerald is corresponding with it. The closer we get to the other Emerald, the brighter this one glows." Alter held it out for the others to witness.
"Interesting," Blaze commented, "The Sol Emeralds work in that exact same way when they're separated."
"We should probably split up into groups of two to cover more ground," suggested Silver. "I'll go with Blaze to investigate the beach, and Gizmo can go with Alter to examine the water park. We can communicate via telepathy if any of us notices anything out of the ordinary. I'll check in on you every fifteen minutes for updates."
"Got it," Alter said, turning to leave. "Let's go, Gizmo."
"I'm with you."
Both wolves strode off towards the entrance of the water park. Before they could make it inside, a long line of people stretched from the entrance greeted them. Alter stopped in his tracks and stared in dismay. "What... is this?"
Gizmo chuckled. "This is one of those rare areas in Castle Realm where security is very tight," he explained. "They don't want just anyone lurking around here. There's also the entrance fee."
Alter sighed. "I don't have any change on me. Will your reputation give us special access like last time?"
"I'm afraid not..."
"Then we're going to have to find another way in. Lucky for us..." the Protector paused to smirk, looking down at his held amethyst Emerald, "...I may have just what we need to get inside, and it's absolutely free."
Gizmo's eyes widened. "You mean you can...?!"
"Yes. Here we go!" Alter said, raising the Emerald. "Chaos Control!"
A bright, purple light enveloped the two wolves. In a flash, they were instantly transported inside the water park, appearing behind a set of water slides. Alter had shocked Gizmo once again. "How the...?! You just used Chaos Control! How did you learn to do that?"
Alter sighed again, taking a long, thoughtful look at the Emerald. "I learned it from a very good ally while I was in the past." Alter was of course referring to Shadow the Hedgehog. "I know you probably have more questions, but it'll have to wait. This mission is more important."
"Right..." Gizmo mumbled. There's no doubting it now... If he can really access energy from the Chaos Force like that, then he really is the Protector of Chaos...
Silver and Blaze were ensuing their search of the Nebula Emerald at the beach section of Titanic Resort. Without a Nebula Emerald of their own, they would have to result to tracking it down the old fashion way: search every corner of the beach until it's found. Silver preferred to ask around to see if someone had noticed it rather than search aimlessly with no leads, but the much more reserved Blaze wanted to keep her distance from the strangers she had no interest in meeting. Besides, it was much smarter to keep the status of the Emerald on a need-to-know basis. There's no telling what could happen if the wrong person found the Emerald before them. Silver accepted this, and the two moved on to an area consisting of palm trees.
The shadows provided by the trees made this location much cooler than the main section of the beach. This would be a good place to take a short break. Silver sat down and laid back against a tree, exhaling slowly, embracing the cooling moisture and fresh aroma in the air. Blaze remained standing beside him, determined to continue searching for the Emerald.
Silver noticed. "Why don't you take a break, Blaze? There's no point in continuing if we're both exhausted from this heat."
She glared down at him. "This heat is nothing compared to what I can create at the tips of my fingers. Besides, I'm not going to wait around knowing that Voltage is in possession of the Jeweled Scepter."
The hedgehog chuckled lowly to himself. "C'mon; you heard what Laila said. If you stick with us, you're bound to cross paths with them eventually."
"Yes, I know..." the Sol Guardian whispered. "I just don't want to waste any precious time, is all. Every second we wait here, my world falls further into chaos. I can't take much more of this."
"You're not alone. You have friends who want to help you more than you realize. It can be as simple as catching a falling leaf if we work together." Just as Silver said that, a petal from a nearby palm tree floated down and rested on his nose, provoking Blaze to giggle. "Heh, so you do know how to laugh," he teased, casting the leaf into a wind current with his psychokinesis.
Blaze turned away shyly to hide her blushes. "Let's just go. We've spent enough time here dawdling..."
"Okay! I think it's about time to check in on Alter and Gizmo anyways."
Back to Alter and Gizmo
The two wolves had been searching throughout the entire water park for only a few minutes, but Alter could tell Gizmo was becoming dehydrated and tired. Watching the other kids made him a little envious of their fun as they took turns going down water slides and tubes. Alter knew they would have to stop for a sec. Scanning ahead, he spotted a vending machine selling bottled drinks. "Come over here, Gizmo. We'll rest for a bit."
Relieved, he followed Alter over to the vending machine. But without money, how would they obtain a drink? He noticed Alter looking in several directions, as if he were up to something. His mouth fell agape as he witnessed Alter's hand phasing into the machine, withdrawing two bottles of cherry and grape soda, handing the latter to Gizmo. "Drink up."
Not willing to argue over this misconduct due to his severe thirst, he took it gratefully, "Thanks...", removed the cap, and began to gulp it down. First they snuck into the water park, and now they were stealing beverages. Gizmo knew this was wrong, and yet, it was also exciting being able to experience these things instead of being confined in his lab all day. Alter certainly kept things interesting, even if it was clearly juvenile.
Alter? Gizmo? Can you hear me?
Gizmo started coughing as he nearly choked on the liquid he was swallowing, having been surprised by the sudden mental transmission. Alter on the other hand seemed to have been expecting it. "We hear you, Silver."
How's your search going? Found anything?
"Not yet..." Alter said. "But we'll keep looking. How about you?"
Nothing on our end either...
Gizmo looked down, disappointingly. Had his computer been wrong? Were they merely wasting their time here while the Voltage Empire continued to flourish? He sighed, then looked off in the distance beyond Alter, a bright light catching his attention, snagging his doubts away. His mouth slowly turned into a grin. "Alter! Behind you!"
"Huh??" He turned around, but saw nothing. Just an empty passage with wet footprints. "I don't see anything... Are you pulling my leg?"
"What...?!" Gizmo was dumbfounded. "How can you not see that?!"
Is something going on, Alter? asked a concerned Silver.
"Maybe... Contact us again in a few minutes."
You got it.
Gizmo brought his hand to his chin and gathered his thoughts. "I have an idea. Come with me."
Confused, Alter allowed Gizmo to lead him over to the end of the passage. Gizmo stared down at the light, which he was able to make out as tiny, illuminating mysterious symbols. He could tell that Alter still couldn't notice them. "Now take out the amethyst Emerald."
"If you insist..." grumbled Alter, doing so. To his astonishment, the Emerald was glowing brighter than ever. "How can this be...?"
"Just as I thought!" Gizmo said cheerfully. "There's an Emerald right under our feet."
Not doubting Gizmo anymore, Alter placed a hand on the spot he claimed to be lit with light. "Here goes nothing... Chaos Control!" The symbols began to glow more intensely, this time visible to Alter too. A tiny portal began to materialize before their eyes, and the gray diamond Nebula Emerald ascended out, levitating before them. Alter reached out for it. As he claimed the gem, the symbols cracked, then faded away.
Just when Alter was getting ready to congratulate Gizmo, he started to feel very dizzy. His body began to fall back, but he blacked out before he hit the ground. When he came to, he was laying on a pile of burnt rubble. He leaned up and put a hand to his head, groaning. Looking around, he could see that he was in a city sheathed with flames. Massive pools of lava erupted, trembling the ground around him. This land was unstable. He had to get somewhere safe.
Thinking fast, he created an ice platform and mounted it, taking to the skies. Seconds later, the area he just abandoned crumbled and collapsed into a ravenous tide of lava. Even in the air, Alter wasn't completely safe. Molten inflamed rocks rained down from the horizon like shooting stars, some the size of comets. Alter evaded the meteor herds to the best of his ability, even going on the offensive to repel the bigger stones with his cryokinesis. He spotted another area that appeared to be more stable, but he didn't know for how long. He landed on top of a building and surveyed the chaos ensuing before him.
"Le Oracle... What are you trying to tell me?" he asked out loud. "Is this to be the fate of Neo Soleanna?"
As if in answer, Alter began to pick up some voices down below. Angry voices. He peered as best he could through the thick smoke to see what the commotion was about. He could make out several figures surrounding a much smaller figure – a Mobian no doubt. He listened closely, trying to decipher what was being said.
"It's over!" he heard the voice of a human male shout. "We've got you cornered and there's no where to run off to! No where to hide!"
"You'll pay for what you did!" declared the voice of another man. "There's no escaping for you this time! Justice will be served!"
"I didn't do it...!" the next voice pleaded. Alter could easily identify that this was the Mobian figure speaking. "You're making a big mistake – I can help undo what tragedy has been brought to this land! Let me help you!"
"What? Do you think we're fools?! Look at this place – it looks as if we've been living on top of a chain of volcanoes. Only one problem: there isn't a volcano within miles of this country! There's only one exclamation for this catastrophe... It was you, Shadow the Hedgehog!"
Alter staggered back, completely appalled by what he just heard. He couldn't comprehend it at all. Already he was beginning to feel the dizziness return, his mind becoming faint. His eyes blurred until everything went black. He could feel himself being shaken by another person.
"Alter! Alter!! Please, wake up!"
He recognized the voice calling to him, his eyes opening slowly. "Gizmo...?" He could see that he had fallen, but Gizmo must have caught him. He was looking down at him with a worried expression on his face.
The red haired-wolf sighed with relief, sitting by Alter's side. "Thank goodness... I've been trying to wake you for the last ten minutes."
Alter tried to sit up, but the dizziness was still present. "Where's... the Emerald...?"
"Don't worry, I have it," Gizmo smiled. "Silver and Blaze know about it too. I told them that we'll meet outside. I didn't want them to have to sneak inside here like we did."
Alter smirked, rising to his feet. "We better not keep them waiting then. Let's get out of here."
"I'm afraid, that is not an option."
Instantly, Alter and Gizmo were surrounded by several armed Voltage soldiers appearing from nowhere. Alter knew they were using a cloaking technology to remain hidden. He wondered how long they were there and why they chose this moment to make themselves known. One of the soldiers stepped closer.
"We have orders to deliver the two Nebula Emeralds you have found to Lord Volt," he spoke. "If you refuse to comply, we are authorized to use deadly fo--"
Before he could finish, Gizmo created a magnetic shockwave that repulsed the soldiers against the walls and pinned them there, immobilizing their movements. Alter raised an eyebrow at Gizmo, who shyly grinned, then approached the soldier who confronted him. "Give this message to your master. Tell him the Protector of Chaos will never allow him to obtain any of the Nebula Emeralds, and if it comes to it, I will personally tear Voltage down with my bare hands. I've chosen my path, and I will not let any of you accomplish your mission."
The soldier struggled to move. "You traitor...! You won't get away with this! Voltage shall one day rule all!"
"Yeah, keep telling yourself that," Alter taunted.
Gizmo stepped up to him. "Alter, we have to get moving. I can sense several groups of robots heading our way..."
And sure enough, squads of Voltage droids crashed into the scene. Nearby people ran and screamed, trying to get as far away as possible. Soon enough, the entire water park was abandoned, just what Alter wanted. With swift movements, he leaped in the air and unleashed multiple loads of ice shards at the droids. Some were punctured, but others had protected themselves with force shields and were now unloading a barrage of energy ammunition. Gizmo dove out the way, then used his magnokinesis to fling the droids at one another while Alter decapitated the droids caught off-guard.
One of the soldiers finally broke free of Gizmo's magnetic stun and aimed his blaster at him to free the rest, but someone grabbed his arm with tight, scorching hands. "I don't think so." With a powerful kick, he was sent hurling pass Alter and Gizmo and collided with the last mobile droid. They turned to see who had delivered the attack, and it was none other than Blaze accompanied with Silver whom was using his psychokinesis to make the remaining soldiers drift into slumber, unable to do any harm for the next few hours.
Reunited, the group dashed though the empty water park while Alter filled them all in on what was transpiring. They all knew the important thing was to leave as soon as possible. They had what they came for, and Voltage wasn't going to stop attacking until they retrieved the Emeralds for their master. As they made it outside, a massive aircraft descended from the sky. Alter already knew that this large vessel was Marduk, the Voltage mother ship. Behind the main front windows, they could all see that Lord Volt himself had decided to make an appearance, Trinity by his side.
"You have made a foolish choice to side with the enemy, Alter," Volt stated through the ship's speakers.
"Yeah, well, we already had this discussion," Alter yelled loud enough for Volt to hear him. "I have no intentions of turning back now."
"Then you recall our terms," Volt continued. "So long as you remain a threat to our mission, you shall become a threat to Voltage. A threat that must be removed promptly otherwise all of our accomplishments will have been for nothing. The Nebula Emeralds will be mine no matter how much you continue to resist. That said, I'm afraid this is the end of the line for you. Trinity... Release the Kraken!"
"As Lord Volt commands," the rabbit replied.
She appeared outside the ship on its peak, a capsule in hand. They watched as she tossed it into the ocean of the beach. Seconds later, a green light began to form on the surface of the water, extending to great lengths. The water began to fiercely boil as electricity danced throughout it. The sky darkened as the mighty roar of a great beast shook the ocean violently. Tremendous tentacles embedded with green circuitry slithered up from the depths of the water, overshadowing much of the land before them. Its colossal cranium was next, its body entirely composed of an unknown metal, revealing the Kraken in all of its totality. It sounded off another compelling roar. Alter and the others knew they were about to enter the fight of their lives. But could just the four of them alone prevail against such a ferocious creature?
Out of nowhere, several homing missiles and flaring daggers were launched at the Voltage Kraken, causing it to bellow in pain as the attacks exploded against it.
"Who dares to strike the mighty Voltage Kraken?!" Volt boomed from his ship.
"We dare," a very familiar and serious-toned voice responded.
Everyone turned to face the newcomers. There was a troop of men all wearing the same uniform wielding guns, shields and other gadgets. They were easily recognized as G.U.N. soldiers, but there were two other beings with them. The first was a very bulky robot with the Greek symbol for 'Omega' painted red on its left shoulder. The other was a black, Mobian hedgehog with red stripes on each of his quills and limbs with equally red eyes and eye-markings. Equipped to his wrists and ankles were metallic arm and shin guards along with enhanced golden Inhibitor Gauntlets embedded with red circuitry. His shoes, programmed to operate as rocket skates when running at full speed, were mostly a platinum white with black stripes and red rims. He sported an army vest outlined with red schemes. The symbol of the Black Arms and the insignia of G.U.N. were on the upper right of the vest over his beating heart.
Alter stared at the hedgehog in disbelief. "Shadow..."
He returned the stare. "It's been a very long time, Protector. The Guardian Units of Nebulas will lend you our support."