*One Week Later...*
"Damn it all to hell!"
Eggman had been ranting and raving in his office after reading an article in the morning paper. It informed that reader that the concert gala that was planned to open later that week, had been abruptly canceled and rescheduled for the next month.
"Those filthy heathens! We were so close!!"
"Calm yourself, Uncle." Snively intervened. "At least the festivities are not canceled indefinitely.”
The large man swatted his newspaper roughly off his desk and plopped into his chair, moping.
"Do you suppose that our last mission caused a setback in their plans?" Snively suggested.
"How so?" Eggman muttered. "It didn't seem to stop them before. And they've got the damn government in their pocket!"
"Well they couldn't have possibly delayed it for just the hell of it."
"Why not? The way I hear it, they have enough resources to launch a God damn nuclear strike if they felt like it."
"But if what Shadow said was true, that they're using the concert to turn millions of the populace into monsters, they wouldn't delay something like that willingly."
"Whatever. You got the tickets I hope?"
"That I did, Uncle. The theater company hosting the concert refunded me for the cancelled show and provided me free ones as a reimbursement for the rescheduled event."
"Good. We sure paid more than our fair share of blood, sweat, and tears for it."
Another two weeks went by, and for now, the concert, sponsored by Sept Flèche was going to be on stage in the next few days as planned. Shadow was out in the courtyard of the safe house, sitting alone under a tree. He had to get outdoors to think, and get out of that chaotic atmosphere that was going around. These days, Shadow was trying to not to get as impatient as his mortal counterparts. He too was wondering why Alicia, in her moment of 'triumph', had suddenly delayed the event. She must've had a very good reason to. As far as he was aware, and where she was concerned, everything was going according to her plans. Since they were going along with them, he hoped that the auburn squirrel was unaware of their intentions to crash the concert.
But, knowing Alicia and Mephiles, it would be foolish to think that they wouldn't anticipate it. They probably were more concerned with the midnight warrior himself, and less of the Red Griffin Syndicate.
Shadow looked up and saw Sonic standing in the porch.
"Rogue needs ya in her office right now.” the Blue Blur said.
"What for?" Shadow asked, sort of annoyed.
"She wants to give you an exam, that's why. And no offense, but you look like you could use one."
The crimson-splashed male heaved out a heavy sigh.
As he rose up from the grassy lawn, dizziness suddenly struck him and his vision started to blur out. He barely made out Sonic calling out his name as the ebony hedgehog slowly began sinking to the ground below his feet.
The next thing Shadow knew, Sonic was holding him up. Shadow blinked a few times before rubbing his eyes.
"Are you okay there?" the cascade hedgehog asked. "You nearly went kaputz there...."
Shadow emitted a low growl and rubbed his eyes again.
"...It's...it's nothing." he murmured. "I'm alright."
"You should take a nap or something, dude." Sonic told him.
"...No! I...I must stay awake...."
"C'mon buddy, let's get you inside..."
The cerulean speedster then assisted his midnight coated ally into the house.
In the Soleanna country house, Mephiles too was in the courtyard of his residence, admiring the warm new summer weather. With him was a recuperating Amy-now in a wheelchair-and the cocooned chiroptera King infants in a cushioned baby carrier. Amy was healing quite well and quickly, much to the surprise of both Dr. Finitevus and Alicia. Of course, Alicia was thoroughly annoyed that her master made her delay the concert just so that the sakura hedgehog could get well enough to attend. She cursed the fact that Amy didn't die right then and there on the operating table. The auburn squirrel really didn't like the fact that Amy was beginning to become an influence over her master. And what really frustrated her, was it was almost impossible to have Amy killed at this point.
However, taking into consideration that she was mortal, there would be countless windows of opportunity to come later. Alicia would have to do it herself though. Like Mina, Rosy was starting to become somewhat unreliable and disrupting her plans because of her obsession to fulfill Mephiles' every want and desire without thinking about it first. She couldn't really have Fiona do the job either-although she'd probably be more than happy to-since the pale ebony hedgehog, had at this point, pretty much disowned the vixen. He wouldn't let her anywhere near Amy much less himself and avoided her every chance he got.
'Well, it's no matter.' the dull blue eyed female thought. 'As long as the little wench is keeping him preoccupied and unfickle...'
Speaking of the vixen, Fiona was watching the pair from a window within the house with jealousy seething into her already and increasingly unstable mind. Her hate for mortals had only gotten larger and she, apart from Mina, was the only other Bride that hadn't seen Mephiles' children. Since recovering from her injuries, she had been given meaningless jobs by Alicia, and had sensed that she was somewhat getting slowly pushed out of the fold. Now, the red-furred female was ever more itching to kill Shadow. That and hunt down Mina for her betrayal.
"Well howdy-do, Fiona!!" a screechy voice suddenly called out, disturbing the silence.
The crazed faded rose female's response was a massive swipe at her, doing considerable damage to the walls and the door-frame. Rosy however, was quick to dodge it and giggled as if nothing had happened.
"Hee, hee, hee! My, but are we cross today?" she leered.
"....shut your damned mouth..." Fiona growled.
"Ooooo, I guess we are! But it's alright. Mephy might not like it, but I think your new body's kinda cool!"
Fiona suppressed another growl. It was bad enough having to endure Mephiles' avoidance and disownment. To be reminded of it was more than she could bear.
"What does Alicia have planned for us now, now that, that event has been delayed?" the vixen demanded.
"Well, since you found out that Shady and his friends have been up to no good, Alicia wants you to hunt 'em down and get rid of 'em tonight."
Fiona gasped at this news. This was far better than she herself could hope for. At last, she can take sweet revenge on Shadow and his ilk once and for all. Then she could track down Mina.
"That's just fine." she sneered with an evil grin. "I can deal with that."
"Why Fiona, are you if I daresay, smiling?" Rosy purred.
"Nevermind that. I have a job to do."
The red-furred female walked past her fellow Bride, all too eager to fulfill her words. Meanwhile, Rosy simply let out a heartfelt laugh.
"Just remember, Fiona!" she called out in glee as soon as the vixen left the room. Suddenly her voice turned demonic. "THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE."
Shadow was in one of the bedrooms of the fort very deeply asleep. He had been that way for at least three hours. It was enough to cause some worry amongst his co-hunters, concerning his impending hibernation cycle.
"His internal body temperature is dropping increasingly." Rouge said as she looked at the data displaying the midnight warrior's biological readouts. "At this rate, he'll soon be going into full hibernation at any given moment."
"This sucks." Sonic growled. "And such lousy timing too!"
"Rouge, might there be a way to delay the process?" Snively inquired. "At least for a little while longer?"
"All we can really do right now is keep giving him IVs every two hours." the ivory bat replied. "As long as he's constantly feeding, he'll remain more active until it's ultimately time."
"Well then, it's fortunate that Station Square has a considerably large hospital and plenty of donors." Knuckles added.
"Sometimes it feels like Karma is laughing at us." the cerulean speedster muttered.
"We're just going to have to laugh back, Mr. Sonic." Snively told him.
Later, Knuckles went into the room where Shadow remained in slumber. The ruby echidna thought it would be a good idea to turn the heat up in the room. Heat would also delay the hibernation process. Although they were only delaying the inevitable. Eventually, Shadow would fall asleep and not wake up for another 30 to 40 years. Sonic was right about the timing. It was lousy as hell.
After turning the heated air up from the radiator and putting more wood in the fireplace, Knuckles sat down in a chair and just watched the crimson-splashed male as he slept.
Elsewhere in Station Square, a young woman was moving through town clad in a cloak with a large hood completely obscuring her face. People who happened to pass by her, barely took note of her.
The woman in question was none other than Mina. She took great lengths to ensure that no one could see her because these days, anyone around her could very well be Alicia or Mephiles in disguise. The saffron mongoose had to be extremely cautious and trust almost no one. She wandered aimlessly through the city seemingly going nowhere. Suddenly as the sun was just beginning to set, Mina caught a very familiar scent in the warm breeze that blew past her. It was enough to prompt her to look up in bewilderment.
Back at the country house, the entire household was quiet and seemingly empty when Alicia returned that evening. It was also dark since there were very few lights on. Going through the hall, the auburn squirrel peered into one of the bedrooms and found her master sound asleep with his sakura mate gently entwined in his arms. Narrowing her dull blue eyes, she left the pair alone in disdain.
She continued down the hall where her ear twitched to faint music. In the study, Rosy was sitting in a leather chair quietly listening to a phonograph. Alicia was rather surprised to see her sitting so still. Something which Alicia thought was impossible for her to do.
"Rosy?" the reddish brown female called out.
The pale pink hedgehog opened her lifeless green eyes and gave a sickly sweet smile.
"Ah, Alicia." she sang. "You're home."
"Yes. Has Fiona gone out on her mission?" Alicia replied.
"Oh yeah! She did!! She left a little while ago."
Alicia was about to leave Rosy alone when the violent Bride suddenly called her back.
"Oh Alicia, just one thing." Rosy said. "When Mephy's babies are born, I want you to leave him alone. I've got it all planned out. We've gonna go to a nice lovely little island called Wave Ocean where they can all romp around. So Alicia....STAY OUT OF MY WAY!!!"
The window behind Rosy cracked when her voice turned demonic. Although Alicia's expression remained stoic, inwardly she was fuming.
Night settled into the atmosphere of Station Square as the stars appeared, twinkling in the blackness of the sky.
The Red Griffin Syndicate team remained inside the fort for now since there didn't seem to be any new chiroptera activity reported from the other agents, nor were there any new leads.
Shadow was still sleeping, although he showed signs of stirring because of the heat in the room and the fact that he was constantly being 'fed'.
"Geez Knux, it's like an oven in here." Sonic whined.
"It has to be." Knuckles replied. "It's keeping Shadow from going fully under."
"You gonna give him heat stroke too, Knux?"
"Are you two at it again?!" Rouge ranted as she walked into the room. "I think you'd fare better at a game of chess."
The two males rolled their eyes as the ivory bat removed the IV needle from Shadow's arm. She noticed that tiny beads of sweat had formed on his forehead and took out a handkerchief from her pocket to wipe them away. Suddenly, there was a large bang outside the house, which caused all three to jump in alarm.
"What the hell was that?!" Sonic sputtered.
"I'll check it out." Knuckles said, pulling out a rifle and heading out the door.
A short silence followed, where Sonic himself pulled a weapon out while Rouge remained by Shadow's side. Then the wall was suddenly blown open with glass from the window shattering and rubble flying in every direction. Sonic was quick to take cover while Rouge shielded Shadow from the debris.
"WE'VE GOT COMPANY!!!" Knuckles shouted from outside.
The cerulean speedster rushed forward with his weapon locked and loaded.
"Quick, wake him up!!" he rasped at Rouge.