This is a story written either in 1996 or 1997, and is the very first story that I have ever written down.   I have discovered it in one of my backups and decided to post it and see what people thought.  With the exception of the addition of a title, this story is virtually unchanged.

This is based in an alternative future different from what was shown in the Comic series.  I know that the pairings indicated in this story will tick off a few people, but I think that the kids that come about are worth it.  Because of the actual age of this story, things like eye colour (like Knuckle's eyes being brown and Amy's violet) and other details are different.  Drop me a line at neep(at) and let me know what you think.

Not Quite Like the Original
A Sonic the Hedgehog Fanfic
By Niki "NeeP" Paradis

    The sun shone down on a small hut located just between the savanna and the lush tropical forest, in which a family was just waking.  This particular day was going to be beautiful and Knuckles just knew it.  It was just perfect for showing his family the particular beauty of the island that was his home.
    There was a cry from inside.  Apparently Lander was having another bad dream.  Every so often, since his release from the cloning tanks of Doctor Robotnik's laboratory, he had nightmares about his beginnings and the plans that were originally intended for him.  Now that he was fifteen, the same age that Knuckles was when Doc. 'Botnik acquired the genetic sample from the first echidna to create the second, Lander has been struggling with his need to prove his individuality --He is not  Knuckles and no  one should have the right to expect him to be.  Which was fine with the older echidna, he had long ago accepted Lander as his son.  He knew that the boy had to mature in his own way.
    Knuckles sighed as he heard Spike wake her younger brother and calm him down.  Lander needs to convince himself, everyone else is already sure of the young echidna's unique personality.  But at the moment, a more immediate problem needed attention; the grumbling of his stomach had to be quieted and the pancakes that Rosy was making would solve that certain predicament in a jiffy.

    During breakfast, Knuckles looked across the table at his green-eyed son.  His brown eyes were filled with concern as he watched Lander stuff his face with pancakes and fruit.  The boy didn't look poorly for all that he had woke screaming, but he had to make sure.
    "Lander."  At his name the young echidna looked up.  "How are you feeling this morning?"
    Lander swallowed his mouthful of food before answering.  "All right, I guess.  Why?"
    "No reason.  I was just wondering."  Knuckles didn't feel right about discussing Lander's nightmares around the breakfast table.
    "Oh."  A pause. Then ... "Don't worry about it Knuckles, the dreams don't bother me as much as they used to."
    Knuckles was baffled by his son's casual reply.  But then again, some things don't bother Lander the same way they would bother him.
    "Okay, if you're sure," he mumbled.

    After breakfast, Amy Rose prepared a basket full of the exotic fruits that grew on the Floating Island.  She wanted some of the fruit and berries that grew down below and trading seemed the best way of getting them.
    "Lander," she called, "Come here!"
    When he came, Amy gave him the basket.  "Take these down to Sally, and bring back whatever you can from the Palace Gardens.  Got that?"
    "Go down?" breathed Lander.  "You're sure about this, Mom?"
    Amy nodded.  Her violet eyes twinkled as she watched Lander's excitement.  "It's been two years since you've been down to the surface, everyone is curious to see how much you have grown.  Besides, you're the least likely to eat all of the fruit before you get it to the Palace.  You can even visit Lucy while you're down there."
    "Okay, but how do I get down there?  I'm not going to jump and glide with this basket."  The idea of jumping off the Island at all made him a little dizzy.
    "Oops!  Sorry Lan ... I forgot!  I'll call and have someone fly up to get you.  All right?"

    While waiting for the plane, Lander checked his reflection in the mirror to make sure that he looked presentable.  He had grown a lot in the last two years.  No longer a 'cute'  thirteen year old, he had grown longer all over; his legs were longer, his tail was longer, his face was longer, and his dreadlocks were longer though the two front ones were two inches longer than the rest.  And he was skinny, which he thought made him look awkward, but Amy assured him that he was very handsome for a fifteen year old echidna. As always, he was dressed in his favorite green and blue sneakers with blue socks and fingerless gloves.  It his "look" and he was proud of it.

    When the plane arrived on the island, Lander picked up the fruit basket, which was as large as he was, and squeezed through the door.
    "Bonjour!" called the pilot, Antoine D'Coolette.  "All aboard for Knothole, New Metropolis, an' de rest of Mobius."  The plane took off.
    "Thank-you, sir," replied Lander from behind the basket.  He remembered that Antoine was married to the Queen.  "I appreciate this."
    "You are welcome.  An' it is still Antoine.  Oui?"  He looked over his shoulder for a moment.  "You may put de basket down if you like, an' sit in dis seat beside me."
    Lander put the basket down.  "Thanks Antoine, it's been along time since I've been off the Island.  Might as well go down in comfort."  He stopped as he realized that his pilot was staring at him.  The plane wavered for a moment.
    "Is something wrong, Antoine?"  he asked.    
    Antoine shook his head.  "Wrong?  No!  No.  You hove grown, n'est pas?"
    When the plane landed near the palace, Lander picked up the basket and hauled it to the kitchen door.  A member of the Palace cooking staff was waiting there for him.
    "Mom wants me to deliver this basket to Queen Sally and I would like to present it to her myself.  Uh, is that okay?"  The cook nodded and gestured to the hall on the other side of the kitchen.
    "Thanks!"  With the huge basket in his arms, Lander walked through the hall.
    Sally was in her study when a huge basket of fruit with legs entered.  "What in the ..."
    "Excuse me, Queen Sally, I've got a basket for you, sent by Mom.  May I put it down?"
    "Ah!  Lander!" she exclaimed.  "Come on in!  And it's Sally, remember?  Here, put that basket down on the table there and let me take a look at you."  Lander complied.
    "Thanks!  And Mom also wants ..."  He stopped.  Sally was staring at him, the same way Antoine was.  "Uh, Sally?  Is something wrong?"
    Sally shook her head.  "No, Lander, nothing's wrong.  You have done quite a lot of growing, haven't you?"
    Lander was getting confused.  Of course he's grown!  He's fifteen now!  But why was everybody staring at him like that?
    Sonic the Hedgehog walked into the room.  "Hey Sal ..."  He saw the red echidna, yelped and hit the floor.  Lander stared.
    "Uh, Sonic?  Are you okay?"  Lander was starting to feel like a broken recording.
    "Lander?  Is that you?  Boy, am I embarrassed."  Red faced, the blue hedgehog picked himself off the floor and brushed himself off.  "Sorry about that.  But the last time I saw an echidna that looked just like you, I always ended up in a fight with him.  So I learned to duck before he threw that first punch.  Man, am I glad that you're not Knuckles!"
    "Thanks ... I think."  So that's why everybody was staring at him.  Most of these adults first met Knuckles when he was fifteen, and since Lander is a clone and fifteen, a lot of these people must feel like they're having deja-vu.  But they should know that he wasn't anything like Knuckles at all - personality wise that is.  Is everyone going to treat him like that?  He took a deep breath.
    "Mom also wanted me to bring back fruit from the Garden, if that's okay."
    "Yes.  Of course it's okay, Lander."  Sally nodded, "And there's one other thing."  She walked up to the young echidna, put her hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eyes.  
    "Lander," she began, "I'm afraid that you're going to get a lot of staring from most of us.  Though, it won't be as obvious as the way that Sonic did it."  She glared in the direction of the still blushing hedgehog.  "Your uncanny physical resemblance to Knuckles ..."
    "Sally, I'm a clone.  I can't help that I look like Knuckles!"
    "... will make us all do a double-take.  But we all know that you are Lander, and don't you forget it."
    "Yes ma'am."
    Sure enough, Lander received quite a few stares as he headed towards the Whitepaw household.  He glared at them which only seemed to make matters worse.  Finally, he reached the front door and knocked.  Bunnie Rabbot opened the door.
    "Land's sake!  It's Lander!  C'mon in, sugar.  You're here t'see Lucy, right?  Lucy!  C'mon down!  You have company!"  Bunnie was a comely rabbit who have recently been de-roboticized.  She never batted an eye at Lander's appearance.
    Lander entered the house.  Bunnie was being awfully nice to him, yet she met Knuckles when he was fifteen along with everyone else.  Why was that?
    "Well, I s'pose that you've drawn a lot of interesting looks on your way here, huh Lander?" asked Bunnie.  "With the fact that you look a lot like Knuckles an' all."
    "Uh-huh.  But why aren't you staring?"
    "Sugah, you're forgetting that you're not the first 'genetic duplicate'  that I've dealt with.  Alex is an exact physical copy of Wilson an' he doesn't like being stared at either."
    Lander remembered Alexander Whitepaw, who was the first clone that Robotnik have ever created.  Being an exact copy of Wilson Whitepaw, he was given to Antoine's sister, Jeanette, to be raised.  Lander briefly wondered how Alex was doing.  He's gotta be twenty-four by now, he thought.
    Lucy came running down the stairs.   "Lander!  How are ya?  What'cha doin' down here?"  
    "I'm here to get fruit from the Palace Gardens, but I thought that I would visit with everyone first.  Besides, I was hoping that we could spar together,"  he blushed.  "It's been awhile since I last worked with a bo-staff."
    "Cool!  Auntie Bunnie, I'm gonna be with Lander for a while.  Could you tell Uncle Wil that I may not be home for supper?"
    "Tell ya what, Lucy-girl, Y'all be home for dinner, an' I'll even put another plate down for Lander, alright?"  The two youngsters looked at each other for a second.
    "Alright!  Thanks Auntie!  C'mon Lander, let's go!"
    Lucy Whitepaw was a fourteen year-old white fox girl and Lander's best friend.  The two have been best friends since an incident that threw the two of them together with five howling babies.  She has been living with her uncle most of her life since she was physically unable to live with her mother, Maggie, in the far north;  her shorter fur would not keep her warm enough, so Wilson agreed to raise his niece in the warmer climate that he had been adapted to .
    As they sparred, Lucy told Lander all of the happenings down in Knothole.  And Lander told her of his problems he has been experiencing since arriving at Knothole.  As they practiced knocking each other down with their staffs, the residents of the small town drew close to watch ( but not too close).  They noticed the laughing from the young echidna and realized that he was quite different from the elder whom he so much resembled, but Lander, who was busy trying to trip Lucy with his big stick, wasn't aware of the changes in the attitude of his audience.
    After they were done (Lander managed to knock Lucy down twice, but she got him three times), Lucy showed Lander around the place and introduced him to Adam and Sooner Hedgehog's baby, Minnow.  They had dinner and Lucy even helped him pick the berries and apples for Lander's trip back home.  Antoine then flew him back up to the Island.  It was a good ending to what started as a bad day.

    After breakfast the next day, after the dishes were cleared, Knuckles took his eldest three kids and took them to see the island.  Amy Rose, who was expecting, stayed at home with their youngest daughter Thistle and to deal with other things.
    They traveled to the West.  The sun was rising over the mountains behind them and the other inhabitants were starting to rise.  Soon the Floating Island became alive with sound.
    Lander and his older sisters, Prickles and Spike, were always eager to learn more about the Island, its history, the different zones and why they were there.  They talked to various inhabitants who liked to tell tales of their father when he was younger and the scrapes he often got into.  Knuckles simply blushed and told them to shut-up.
    The day was going well with Lander, at least until they visited with the cockatoo Catweasle.
    The birdbrain had mistaken Lander for Knuckles.
    Everyone stood shocked far a moment.  Then exasperated, Lander ran off.  Knuckles shot the bird a stare that might of killed someone of higher intelligence, then he started to run after his son.

    Lander was almost crying.  Was everyone going to compare him to Knuckles?  When will people going to accept him as Lander and not Knuckle's clone?

    When he arrived home, Lander stomped into his room which he shared with Thistle.  He was mad; he had decided that he was tired of people comparing him to Knuckles.  He was angry and felt he had to do something, anything.  He grabbed his boxing gloves and ran out of the house, almost knocking down his mother as he sped out the door.
    "Lander, wait!  Where are you going?" cried Amy, "Come back here!"  But he wasn't listening.  He jumped into the air and let the wind catch under him, and he sailed to his favorite sulking--uh, thinking place to be by himself.

    At the base of a small mountain, Lander strapped on his gloves and started to attack one of the boulders that were sitting there. It was as big as he was.
    "It's not fair," he growled out loud to himself, "I can't help it if I'm a clone!"  The fair sized boulder was split in half with a punch.  
    "I am my own person," he broke one half into quarters, "and I want to be treated as an individual!"  He broke the other half in half.
    " I am unique!" SMASH!
    " I can take care of myself!"  CRUNCH!  
    "I can take on anyone!"  CRACK!
    "All I need to do is to prove it!"  Lander now stood knee deep in gravel.
    Another voice interrupted him.  "Who do you need to prove it to?  I know who you are."  Lander turned and faced his gene-parent, Knuckles.  He growled.
    "It is because of you that I am what I am!" Lander screamed.
    "Oh, Is it?"  Knuckles snorted.  "It seems that all that I've given you is my good looks and apparently my temper.  Anything else is what you've acquired on your own."
    "I'm sick of living in your shadow!"
    "I've never said that you had to... Look!  If you want a fight, I'm ready..." Knuckles gave a dark smile, "LET'S RUMBLE!"  Then he lunged at Lander, swinging his fist.  The younger echidna blocked, then executed a roundhouse kick that managed to trip his foster father who quickly recovered.
    Let's just say that it was a nasty fight.  Knuckles had more experience and he wasn't pulling his punches.  Lander may not have the experience but he had learned other forms of fighting like martial arts and was incorporating them into his attacks.  But in spite of his variety of moves, Lander could barely hold his own against Knuckles.  Ten minutes later, Knuckles managed to knock Lander flat on his back.  Lander looked up in surprise as Knuckles then offered him a hand and helped him up. The elder echidna grinned as he put an arm around the boy's shoulders and led him to some boulders at the edge of the "battlefield".  Then the two red, black and blue echidnas sat down breathing heavily.
    "Now that's what I call a GOOD fight!"  Knuckles panted, "Ya know, kid, you had some good moves there."
    Lander sighed, "It didn't solve anything though, all I got out of it was some bruises and a lesson in humility."
    "You're wrong.  It did the two things I wanted it to."  
    "One: it made you work out your anger, and two: it showed me just how different you really are from me."
    Lander looked up, startled.  Knuckles continued.
    "Those kicks you used were somethin' that I'd never thought of using myself.  Definitely not when I was fifteen and unfortunately not now.  Shows that you're able to use your head in a fight.  That's somethin'," Knuckles shrugged, "I seem to have trouble with...And Lander," he looked the kid in the eye, "That is a really big difference from me."  He chuckled.  "You, at least, look before you leap.  I hardly ever did that."
    Lander smiled, "Thanks Knuckles, I needed that."
    "Yeah, you're welcome kid.  Let's get home before Rosy comes lookin' for us."
    Amy was watching out the window when they arrived, then she was at the door.  She was dismayed at the sight of the bruises that they both bore.
    "What WERE you two doing?" she asked.
    "Bonding." Knuckles grinned, "I think we made some head-way into solving our differences."

    Later that evening, when Lander was getting ready for bed, Knuckles came in to see him.
    "How do ya feel?" asked the elder.
    "Bruised, sore, but pretty good." Lander looked up at Knuckles and continued, "You finally pounded some sense into my head.  I guess that there will always be little things that will make me different.  But still ... I have a feeling that there will always be someone that I will have to prove my difference to."
    "Like Doc Robotnik."
    After Knuckles left, Lander got himself settled in.  Little Thistle was fast asleep already, and she was starting to snore softly.  A short time later, there was a soft knock at the bedroom door.
    "Come in," he called softly.  The door opened and Spike came in.
    Spike was not what one would consider as a 'creature of beauty'. As a cross between a hedgehog and an echidna, she was unique.  Not that she was ugly, but with the spikiest qualities of both her parents and her quills an unruly mane about her (with the two little pigtails at the sides of her head), she looked rather wild despite the pale yellow pajamas she was wearing.
    "I hear that you and Dad had a fight today."  She paused.  "You know, that takes guts.  He's got a lot of experience that you and I can't even come close to.  So... wanna tell me what happened?"
    Very quickly, Spike got the whole story out of Lander.  "Then he praised me for some of the moves that I did even though he clobbered me.  He also said that the only people I have left to prove my individuality to was myself and Doctor Robotnik."
    Spike nodded, her brown eyes thoughtful.  "You know, I can think of two things that you should do.  You should talk to Ryan Prower - he looks just like his dad 'cept for the green eyes.  He's already gone through most of what you're going through and he's not even a clone.  He could probably give ya tips on how to handle idiots like Catweasle."
    "That might help."  Lander nodded.
    "The other thing you should do is to pull off a fast one on Old Robotnik... Something that is obviously a 'Lander' style.  Something that would leave no doubt in the Big Round Guy's mind about the difference between you and Dad."
    Lander nodded slowly.  "It's a nice thought, but Knuckles wouldn't let me do it.  He's really protective of me, especially when it comes down to Robotnik."
    "So who says that Dad has to know until after you do it. 'Cause once it's done it's done.  What's he gonna do when it's all over?  Especially when he knows you're right?  Just think about it.  Okay?"  With that, Spike left the bedroom.
    Lander snuggled down under his covers.  She's got a good idea and she speaks from her experiences when it comes to dealing with Knuckles.  After all, she had done things before while disobeying her father.  He closed his eyes and was soon asleep.
    When the next morning came, Lander was wide awake with an idea on how to get Robotnik.  He thought about what Spike said the night before, but he decided that he needed Knuckles' support to pull the whole thing off, besides he needed permission to borrow some of his stuff.
    Breakfast at the table was noisy with everyone trying to talk at once.  The meal was simple; fruit and toast.
    "So what do you have planned for today, guys?" asked the father of the Family Chaotix.  "I've got to help your Mom do house cleaning."  He made a face and Amy Rose punched him in the shoulder.
    "I'm gonna pick fruit and vegetables from the garden!" exclaimed Thistle.
    "I have to examine the defense systems of the Island," said Prickles, "then I thought I would go and help the Wallaby family move into their new home."
    "I'm gonna help her," chimed in Spike.  "It'll be faster if we both do it."
    "I'm going to pull a fast one on Doctor Robotnik, sink one his major operations and prove my individuality to him."  Lander looked smug.
    "Say WHAT?!?" Knuckles yelped.    
    "No."  Amy Rose was furious.  "You will not."
    "But Mom, this is important to me.  Besides you and the others were doing it when you were 15 and younger."
    "But we never went on our own... except for Sonic, but he was too fast to get himself caught."
    "Well, I'm smart enough that I won't get caught.  Besides, I've got a plan."  Lander told the others at the table his plan.

    In a bunker hidden just under the northern end of the Floating Island, Snively was watching for suspicious movement.  He knew that Doctor Robotnik didn't believe that this particular installation would be found, but he knew better; all it would take is time.  He had released the stealth orbs, knowing that the Guardian of the Island will eventually be paying a visit, it would be sensible to see him coming so that a proper welcome could be prepared.  All he had to do is wait.
     The monitor beeped and Snively checked the signal.
    "Oh, Doctor Robotnik, sir..."
    "What is it, Snively?"  snarled the head bad guy.  "You have just disturbed some serious contemplating."
    "Sir, we have company."
    "The echidna, sir."
    "No, the younger one."
    Lander, thought Robotnik.  His grey mustache twitched in anticipation.  Yes, it was time to break the boy to his will.  He would be fifteen, the same age that Knuckles was, oh so long ago.  It should be easy to crush the young one's spirit with the technique that he had planned.
    "Snively, let our visitor in, but don't make it too easy for him."
    "Very good, sir."  You egotistical buffoon.  "Attention Patrol Unit Six: Intruder alert!  Deploy and detain him!"

    Lander was jogging through the grim corridor, carrying a bag over his shoulder.  He knew that Robotnik would set his robots on him as soon as he arrived, and he believed he had a fair idea of what the Doctor had in store for him.  Everything was ready and the show was on the road.
    A stealth orb approached, and stopped right in front of the young echidna.  Lander looked straight into the lens for a second then he waved.  Then he strapped on his boxing gloves and proceeded to rip into a power box and rip at the wires.
    In the control room, Robotnik was flabbergasted.
    "What is he up to, Snively?"  he sputtered.
    "I'm sure I don't know sir."  The flunky glanced at the control panels and was a little shocked to find that none of the damage lights were lit.  The wires were only stripped of their insulation, not damaged.  What was the little runt up to?
    Lander had made it down the second corridor and attacked his second power box when the first of the badniks reached him.
    "Halt and desist!  You are trespassing on the property of Doctor Robotnik.  You will come with us."  The lead swatbot came closer.
    "Oh I will," nodded Lander slowly.  "But not yet."  He made a dash for the next corridor, knocking down the 'bot in his way.
    Down the third corridor and at the third power box, Lander soon heard the heavy clanking of the many robots coming after him.
    Well, it seems that I stirred things up, he thought, by now they should be ready for my arrival ... But first, I've two more boxes to go.
     Lander kept on running, corridor after corridor.  When he completed his work on the fifth power box, he swung around to face his pursuers.
    "I'm ready for ya! Ya metal morons!  Come and get me!"
    The swatbots came charging at the young mammal, probably with more than mere capture on their digitized minds.  Lander didn't care, he swung the sack that he was carrying, succeeded in knocking a few of the 'bots down.  Those that the bag missed, he knocked down himself.
    "Nyeah!  Nyeah, nyeah, na nah nyeah," he stuck his tongue out at them.  "Better luck next time.  Ol' Doc Robotnik's slowing down!  Can't catch a three year old 'kidna!  Maybe he should consider retirement."
    During his oration, Lander pretended not to have notice the swatbot coming from behind.  It grabbed the youngster by the shoulders and lifted him up.
    "You will come with us," it said.
    "Oops!  I sense that I have offended.  One too many insults perhaps?"  Lander hung his head in mock shame.  Then he looked up into the stealth orb and grinned, "Oh, I hope so!"
    Soon the swatbots brought their prisoner into the control room and in front of the chair of the Head Bad Guy.
    "Lander, my dear boy," chortled Robotnik, "How are you doing?"
    "When I got up this morning, I was fine.  But now that I've seen you, I feel sick to my stomach.  Go figure."
    "Why are you here?!"
    "I guess that I'm here to prove something.  To you and maybe myself as well."  Lander sighed, "We'll just have to see."
    "Well anyway, I am so glad you're here.  Now that you've dropped by, I have so much planned for us to this afternoon."  Robotnik gestured towards a metal chair with straps.  "Bind him!" he shouted to the swatbots holding the young echidna.  The metal flunkies quickly complied and Lander was soon struggling against the bindings on the chair.
    "So what are you gonna do?  You used most of the stuff in your bag of tricks."  The young echidna grunted as he strained against his shackles.  "You already showed me pictures of Knuckles when he was fifteen.  You proved the similarities between us but you can't prove that we're exact... 'cause we're not!"
    Robotnik sighed and shook his head in mock pity.  "Lander, dear boy, I know that you really believe in your uniqueness.  But that isn't so.  Except for a few minor changes, I've made you to be exactly like your predecessor. And I'm willing to show you how. Just watch."

    On an opposite wall facing the prisoner, a enormous viewing screen flickered to life as the lights in the room dimmed.  Old video clippings were being played.  Robotnik documented them for the benefit of his captive audience (pun intended).
    The image on the wall showed Knuckles at age fifteen sitting on an examining table scowling as Robotnik and a robotic assistant fussed over him.  Robotnik had an evil looking instrument in his hands and many more on a tray held by the assistant.
    "Are ya almost done Doc?  I've got work to do!"
    "Just about, my dear Knuckles, I just need to take a cell sample from you."
    "What do you need that for?"  The echidna looked skeptical.
    "So I could provide a proper treatment in case of an accident.  Now this might hurt just a bit."
    "OW!"  I t did hurt and Robotnik enjoyed it.

    "Of course I was lying about the treatment part," the evil doctor snickered.  "Even then I knew that one day I might be in need to make a echidna of my own."  Lander paled.  The evil doctor sensed the boy's discomfort and decided to press on.
    Another segment of video flashed on the screen:

    Years have passed and Doctor Robotnik stood in front of a lot of complicated equipment.  It included a transparent tank hooked up to tubes, regulators, monitors among other things.  He chortled softly to himself.
    "Yes ... YES!  The equipment is ready, so now we begin.  Let's see the Freedom Fighters figure out how to handle this one ... Let's see how the Echidna will handle this."
    Out loud, he shouted, "Snively!  Bring me the genetic sample!"
    "Yes, sir."  And the flunky quickly brought it over.  Robotnik snatched it and carefully placed it from the petrie dish into the tank.

    "And that, dear Lander was how YOU began."  Doctor Robotnik watched him for his reaction knowing that Lander really had no intention of letting him know how all this was getting to him.  But some of the tension was starting to show through.  Pleased with himself, Robotnik continued.
    Another snippet of video tape flashed.

    Inside of the same tank was a transparent egg.  Inside the egg was a  red baby echidna.  The tiny infant was wriggling inside the egg.
    "Snively, report!"  Doctor Robotnik started to pace.
    "The specimen is one hundred percent healthy and is ready to hatch sir."
    The head Bad Guy beamed.  "Good...Good!"
    They watched as the little baby broke through its shell and as the mechanized arms of the automated assistant lifted it out of the fluids of the tank, it gave a lusty yell.  
    "Quickly!  Get the cybernetic implants ready!"
    "Yes sir."
    The baby cried as the implants were inserted, a small breathing mask was placed over its head and with various tubes and wires attached to its tiny body, was placed back into the tank.
    "Growth acceleration solution is being introduced to tank contents at one part to one thousand, sir."
    "Excellent Snively, and the programming?"
    "Proceeding exactly as according to plan."
    Lander felt sick to his stomach.  In the video, when the baby was receiving the implants, it looked into the recording device ... and its eyes were a vivid green, the same as his own.

    "Well, Lander, are you convinced?"
    The young echidna glared at the sinister doctor.
    "Well, I have one more clip to show you.  This is from the day before your 'escape'."

    Same tank, same echidna.  But now the child resembled a twelve year old.  Its quills were loose and floating around its head like a cloud.  In front of the tank, Snively was standing with a clipboard.  Robotnik approached the flunky.
    "Progress report."
    "Yes sir.  The child is now at the equivalent of twelve years.  He is still absorbing all information being fed to him; both digital and magical.  He will be ready for release in four weeks at the equivalent of fifteen years."
    "Good, Snively, good.  Then fully programmed, I will release him on the Freedom Fighters."
    "A wonderfully devious plan, sir."

    Lander sobbed.  Robotnik nodded to the swatbots, "Release him!"
    Snively was flabbergasted.  "Sir, are you certain that ..."
    "Silence Snively!  He is no longer a threat."  He gestured towards the captive and the lead swatbot hastened to comply.  
    Once released, Lander slumped to the floor on his knees.  He thought he was ready for whatever Doctor Robotnik would throw at him, but he was wrong, very wrong.  He put his hands to his head and felt the cybernetic implants just under his fur.  He made me to be just like Knuckles, only controllable. Yet when remembered the conversation he and Knuckles had about their differences.  His brown eyes were earnest as he tried to convince the younger echidna ...
    Wait!  thought Lander.  Knuckles' eyes are brown.  The baby's eyes ... his own eyes were green.  And in the video, Snively mentioned a form of magical programming.  Then Lander remembered:
    Three years ago, during an incident, that involved the kidnapping of Knuckles, Rosy figured out that the basis of Lander's personality was a magic spell that was tried out on Knuckles years before that.  That spell was originally designed by power mongers to make the otherwise brash guardian of the Island a little more compliant and controllable.  Nobody really knew how Robotnik got a hold of that spell. When Lander was released from Robotnik's lab, and at the time of the incident, he was a timid little thing.  Since then, he had to learn to be a little more bolder and his confidence increased as his personality developed, but even now he is not even close to Knuckles 'beat 'em up first and as questions later'  type of attitude.
    Robotnik was lying through his teeth.  Lander smirked. Best that he went ahead and did what he came to do.
    "You know Doc, that was a very good try. But you made two mistakes."  Robotnik scowled but Lander continued.  "If you wanted an exact replicate of Knuckles, then why are my eyes green and not brown?  And the video gave proof to the fact that you wanted me to be more controllable.  It mentioned the magical programming; the spell that established my basic personality!  If you wanted me to be exactly like Knuckles, then why the heck did you use that spell?  Knuckles sure the heck isn't compliant and controllable.  Is he?"
    Lander stood up and walked to the corner of the lab where his bag was.  He dumped out Knuckles' old hard soled shoes.  I can't believe that it hadn't occurred to him to check the bag, he thought.
    "Actually the real reason that I came here was to prove just how much different I really am from Knuckles.  And I thought that I would do it in a way that would convince you."  He pulled off his sneakers and put on the heavy shoes.  After buckling them up, he lifted each foot to test the weight.  "How do I look?"
    Robotnik grunted.  The boy had his point; the shoes looked out of place on Lander. He may have most of the physical characteristics of the older echidna, but his attitude and posture was all wrong.  The child is more level headed; he would never be as easy to fool as Knuckles was.  He figured through the deception that he worked so hard at.  He made a last feeble attempt to upset Lander.
    "You could trim those front dreadlocks just a bit so that they are even with the rest."
    Lander shook his head.  "I don't think so."
    "So now what are you going to do?"  asked the doctor.  "There are swat bots all around you.  There is no way out."
    Lander smiled as he reached into the bag again.  "That is why I also brought this."  He pulled out a power ring.  It pulsed softly in his hand.
    "Oh no!" groaned Robotnik.
    The ring flashed and with a sudden burst of speed and energy, Lander ripped apart the swatbots surrounding him.  He used the mechanized remains to pin the Doctor and his flunky in a corner of the control room. When he was done, he stopped and bowed in the direction of his captives.  "Well, I've got to be going now.  Bye!"  He turned to leave.
    "Wait! You can't go!  I have given you your life!  You owe me!"  Robotnik didn't want his prize to leave.
    "Oh!  I guess you're right."  Lander looked thoughtful.  "Okay.  Thank- you Doctor Robotnik, for giving me life.  In return, I will spare yours. In case you haven't  noticed, behind you is a door. After all, I'm not a murderer.  As I leave, I'm going to release the water valve.  The water from the underground caverns below will rise up and flood this bunker.  If you remember, I have stripped all wires in all of the control panels, they will short out when the water reaches them; all of the systems will be shut down.  And..." Lander smiled, "that includes the controls to the dampers you used on the nearby lava vein that you tapped for your power source.  This place is gonna blow!"  Lander took a deep breath.  "Oh, I know I could have simply smashed the  controls, but that's something Knuckles would have done, and I'm not Knuckles.  Besides I figure that you would probably have a fail-safe against that sort of thing. So I suggest that you leave through that door behind you!  Bye!"  He turned around, turned the huge wheel which belonged to the water valve, grabbed his bag and left.
    Robotnik and Snively left as well.
    In their escape pod, Robotnik was musing over what Lander had done.  The boy was right.  Knuckles would have simply smashed the control room and leave.  But through his activities, Lander have proven his point; the boy is not Knuckles.
    From a safe distance away, Lander watched the explosion.  That was one enemy bunker destroyed. And he was pleased with himself, he did prove to Robotnik his uniqueness.  Yet the videos shown to him by the evil Doctor brought up new questions;  would he ever be free of Robotnik's influence?  Well, he would worry about that later, the sun was setting and dinner would soon be on the table.  He put his own sneakers back on and placed Knuckles' heavy shoes back in the bag, he put his boxing gloves in after.  Then he headed for home.

    It was bedtime and Lander was lingering in front of the mirror.  The door opened behind him and Knuckles came in and stood beside him.  "Did you prove your point?" he asked.
    Lander made a comparison of their reflections.  Aside of being different ages, there were other differences between them.  Most of these differences were in their individual tastes; colors, hair styles, methods of fighting and means of defeating Robotnik.
    "Yeah, I think I did," was his reply.
    "To Doc Robotnik or to yourself?"
    Lander looked into Knuckles deep brown eyes with his brilliant green ones, and he smiled.
    "Both," he said.


Lander and Knuckles, fighting
Lander and Lucy, sparring

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