His eyes snapped open, only seeing the bottom of bunk that hung over his head. Everything came to him as a blur at first, but when his senses came to him, he joyfully but yet sadly remembered where he was. The smell of the diesel helped him along with his memories. He rubbed his head then face with his left hand, his right still holding his journal that he clung to through the night.
Aleutian gazed towards the curtains. They fluttered back and forth ever so slightly with the induced breeze of the open hatches and the ocean winds. He waited for what seemed like hours, staring hard at them, anticipating for her to come through them; smiling; waking him to the new day. But she never did this time.
He felt the warm echoes of her finely trimmed, but filled out body on his; lying on his chest with her elegant smile. Then came the memories of her lips touching his, the kiss she laid on him was all her own; not forceful nor subtle. He now longed for her sweet lips again, her head lying on his chest, tracing his birthright with her gentle, wondering fingers.
“We should have your father marry us when we get back; only after we go and see your brother on the Island,” she told him two years ago, her soft voice echoing in him; tearing him up even further.
If my father wants me, he can come and...
Emi-La placed her index finger over his lips; driving her next point to him with her smile; “Your anger towards him is only punishing your brother, Aleutian. Let’s go and help your brother; don’t make him fend for himself all the time.”
Aleutian remembered nodding to her with an even but defeated face; “Okay...”
But it never happened. His thoughts of meeting his brother with her by his side were swept away on the periled wings of war. He could only fathom now of what it would have been like; setting foot on the Island, his brother discovering them, and then telling Knuckles who they were. He wanted that to happen; not his brother knocking him out and only meeting a monster in a return.
Aleutian rolled over in his bunk, clutching his journal ever tighter against his chest as he stared at the metal hull of the sub with his glistening blue eyes. He realized as he started to cry that things were coming full circle: he was back on the boat that saved his life, his brother now with him on it, hoping both him and the Plunger could save his soul. He closed his eyes as tears fell from them; tracing a little ways on his long scar before they found paths on his broad but short muzzle. They shook free as he breathed in hard; panting the air out as he was overcome by his memories. He now wanted Knuckles to come through the curtains and see him as he was; hurt...filled with pain. Aleutian at that point was willing to open up to him now and more than ever. He prayed, begged to Aurora that Knuckles would come...but he never did.
When he opened his eyes finally, they were met by what felt like a burning white light to him. “My Guardian,” he heard in his psyche as he gazed upon his white crest. It helped bring him back to reality and to what he was now doing, soothing his thoughts at that instant.
Aleutian cleared his face with his free hand and rolled over. He placed the journal on the bed as he sat up. Finding his socks and boots, he quickly put them on while still rubbing his sticky face. When he stood, he felt the slight roll of the Plunger making her way across the vast ocean. It helped mend his troubled mind. He took his time making his way to the curtained door, only taking one quick look at Rogue before he exited; she was sleeping, he could see the small of her back as she laid on her side.
Tails was busy putting breakfast together as Aleutian past him. “Mourning sunshine,” the young fox greeted. Aleutian just shrugged at the comment. “I made a fresh kettle of tea for you, Mathias says it was what you liked.”
“Thanks, Miles,” Aleutian said with a slight quiver in his voice. He then retrieved a blue cup from the overhead cabinet and poured the steaming dark orange liquid into it. Tails could see Aleutian’s face was a little red, and he guessed why when he heard his voice.
Passing through the radio compartment, Aleutian noticed that Mathias was already out of his bed and off somewhere, probably doing the morning system checks, making sure nothing had broken during the night. Taking a long pull from his glass, the sweetened tea lifted the fog of sleep from his head. Tails had brewed it just right. Smiling at the sensation, Aleutian ventured carefully up to the morning air, climbing the ladder with his cup in his left hand as he made his way to the bridge. Reaching the top, he saw Julie-Su looking towards the front, her hair and dreads flowing with the breeze, minus the metal lock that stood fast from the rest.
“Morning, Julie,” he said with a shaky, but friendly voice from the ladder. “Where’s my brother?” As he climbed up from the hatch, his sight answered his question. Knuckles was sitting cross legged between the deck gun and a “T” shaped device that was the hydrophone; facing the mid mourning sun.
“Meditating. He does it to clear his head before doing anything else in the mourning,” she replied smiling.
“This is the best place to do it,” he said, sipping his warm drink; “No distractions, no smog, except for the exhaust and all. But where he is at right now, he won’t notice. It’s perfect out here.”
“I take it you do the same?”
“Not lately,” Aleutian replied, placing his hands over the metal side of the bridge and balancing his drink between his knuckles. “I used to take long walks through the forest to think. Sometimes I’d never come home for days, but what Knuckles is doing...yes I have. Been needing to for quite sometime.”
After he explained himself to her, Aleutian turned and gave her the same apologetic speech as he did to Rogue the night before. Julie accepted it but she also said she was wrong in not doing her job as well.
“That’s what I’m really liking about ‘this’ mission, we are really having to work together out here,” she commented, smiling at the morning sun.
Aleutian smiled as well, “Yea,” he breathed out, turning his visual attention to his brother, “the Plunger is very good at strengthening the bonds of teamwork. If y’all thought you were close before you left; wait till you get back. You will start depending on each other more, and in a good way.”
“And it is definitely helping you,” Julie-Su softly fired back, “you’re totally different than you were at Knothole from the days before. In a way you’re like your brother...”
“...No, we are not alike,” he gently shot back at her.
“Yes you are. When I first met Knux, he was somewhat of a loner. I see some of the old him in you, but you are turning around faster than he did.”
Aleutian nodded his head in agreement, but sighed afterwards; “I did some things that I’m not proud of.”
“We all have Aleutian...”
“...No,” he stated, cutting her off as he shook his head. “I’ve done some really bad things in the past two years that I don’t want to expose my brother to. I didn’t do them out of reason, but out of sheer retribution. From what I know of him, he doesn’t need to know that he can cross that line.”
“Line...oh, he about crossed that a year ago, Aleutian!” she retorted quickly. “Your brother went on a power trip that made him turn green. He then aligned with the Dark Legion and Dimitri and ended up getting killed over it.”
Aleutian turned his stun face. “That’s what he met by the Avatar! You mean he died and came back to life?”
Julie-Su nodded her head. “Yep, thanks to his powers that he didn’t fully understand yet, he got killed because he didn’t know where the line was.”
Aleutian nodded his eye brows up at the comment, only wishing now that he kept Emi-La’s promise sooner. Then he put the shoe on the other foot, “So, where did you learn to shoot like that?”
Julie-Su smiled at the question before replying in her calm voice. “I used to be with the other side of your family. I was a solider with the Dark Legion and they trained me to shoot that good. Again we’re not all proud of what we have done,” she said, turning back to Aleutian with a smirk. “And you’re not so bad yourself. There must of been about three inches that separated me and Blackjack.”
“Practice makes perfect,” Aleutian grimaced, before downing another gulp of his tea.
“And it saved my furred skin. Blackjack and I have tangled before, but you made us equal that day. I’ve never thanked you for what you did.”
“Save it, I was just doing my duties.”
“And what are those duties...or do you even know anymore?” Julie-Su asked, lowering her voice to get her point across.
Aleutian was speechless as he looked beyond the swelling bow.
Lien-Da was calm and cool on the outside, but inside, she was her enraged self. Her black top was open just enough to expose her chest to catch any male’s eye, her long leather pants formed tightly around her impressive figure; it seemed to hold her rage in. Her dread locks were long, reaching down to the small of her back. On the left side of her head, a lone metal dread hung from where she had offered her real one up to join the Dark Legion. Most people stood away from her. Her temper and devious thoughts demanded it.
But along side her, Locke wasn’t too far off on that same path. “Only a hundred and fifty!?” he bellowed, “I was expecting a lot more to go...a lot more!”
A long line of echidnas reached beyond their sight, heading down to the lower parts of the levitating island through a lighted cave. The smell of the damp limestone grinded into Locke’s mind. The stench resembled how he felt about the whole plan now. First, they told the council about “their” plan to get innocent people out of harms way, then the council heard the doctors and suppliers shout their concerns of the passage and how much they should take with them. But then the council “decided” to only send women and children and males that were too old to possible carry on during “TWO” wars. And now, the council has, “decided,” that they are only going to send less than half of what Locke and Lien-Da had proposed. “Way less!” he thought angrily, “How am I suppose to protect and save the lives of my own when a committee makes the decisions for me. Do they not trust the bloodline of Edmund anymore? The last time this happened, a dark army was formed.” And now that army was at war with itself as people were still suffering from the previous one that still raged on.
“A hundred and fifty!” he shouted again, his anger coming out in the open.
“I’m sorry Locke, but it’s the Councils’ decision...”
“...And they think they are some sort of god? Choosing who goes and how many of those should go? We need as many innocent people out of the picture as possible.”
Lien-Da nodded her head, her arms still crossed. “I know we haven’t stood together on many things, but I stand firm with you on this...but, we must follow,” she angerily bit down.
“Unlike you, I don’t follow orders as a solider.”
She turned her head, her long locks sweeping her shoulders as she did. “Congratulations Guardian, you’ve just been drafted!” She stirred the ground with her shoe, looking down at her nervous progress. “Me and you, both, have seen war Locke,” she began, looking up at the crossed Guardian, “between us, we have seen the horrors and the honors of battle. These politicians only see the possible outcome of risks, but we have seen what happens when risks are taken. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad, but, us warriors can predict the outcome of the risk better than some chair jockeyed mouth can.
“But, on the other hand, this is a big risk we are taking. We could be sending a hundred and fifty to live far from this war, or, we could ‘have’ sent five hundred to their deaths. That is the way I look at it.”
Locke gently nodded his head in understanding. “So, who’s the Captain?”
“I picked a Legionnaire named Stenson. A ‘down to Mobius’ type of guy and a Field Marshall with us. He really thinks fast on his feet, and he did some operational planning for us awhile back. A true leader, Locke. Kind of a romantic such as yourself but with a dark edge; oddly being one of us.”
Locke jerked his eyebrows up on that. “His thoughts on the boat?”
“He says it’s sea worthy. We loaded deck weapons on it, large and small arms, but the old clunker looks like it has seen better days.”
You can say that again, Locke scorned in the air. The vessel had been patched up after being on display, of all things, in a museum, then moved later to the Hidden Palace Zone when technology was banned. Why it went instead of staying on display was beyond Locke. Probably not to remind anyone that they needed technology after seeing the dry-docked wreck. But, it was now going to be put to good use, for once. Down at the very bottom of the island, a passerby, by sea, could see the under belly of the ship amidst the rocks. Hopefully, that passerby wasn’t in league with Eggman.
“By the way, he says they are about twelve hours ahead of schedule,” informed Lien-Da after a long pause.
“Hmm, might be because we aren’t loading five-hundred refugees on board,” Locke sniffed, pushing his main reason of his bitter mood back across.
Lien-Da held her hand out to calm Locke. “But it means that we can safely lower them in the dead of night tomorrow morning, instead of doing it in the middle of the day like we original planed.”
Again, Locke, did a single head nod. “I’ll get myself prepared then and send our friends at Knothole a message of our progress. Hopefully the refugees won’t be too much of burdened for them.”
“Stenson says they can probably seek refuge in the Mobian Jungle, and possibly make it back, to get more.”
“I hope he’s right,” Locke calmly said.
Lien-Da turned to leave the Guardian alone, he was already under enough pressure as it was. As she marched away, she saw a female Echidna fast approaching her. As the girl walked right past her, she noticed that it was Lara-Le, and she looked more fumed than Lien-Da was. “Lady Lara...” Her greeting was cut short when Lara stormed right past her. Locke turned around slowly, sensing his former wife coming up behind him.
Sense this...! Lara-Le reached up with her right opened hand, and with a fierce rage burning in her eyes, she slapped Locke across his face. The load slap echoed inside the cave, grabbing Lien-Da’s attention in an instant. She noticed Locke looked surprised as his head slowly turned back around.
“HOW COULD YOU!?” Lara-Le shouted as tears rained down from her eyes. She stepped closer and started pounder her fist against her former husband’s chest. “To me, Locke...to me!?” Succumbing to her emotions, her knees buckled and she fell to the hard ground, dirt staining her yellow one piece robe. She pressed her hands over her face and cried over Locke’s feet. Locke picked her off the ground and held her in his arms for awhile. “You lied to me about Aleutian. He wasn’t dead and you’ve KNOWN IT!” she screamed, pounding her fists at Locke’s chest again.
“I had to keep Knuckles from knowing about him! We went over this remember...”
“...And you used me again as your selfish tool! You took both of our boys away from me.”
“It was HE who left...” Locke pointed out, raising his voice.
“...Because of YOU!” she thundered back at him. “You made him leave after you sealed his future to help Knuckles in his destiny. Ever thought about what it would have felt like to know that you weren’t the favorite and your unborn brother was!” Lara-Le scorned out, her wet eyes burning hard into Locke’s as he said nothing. “And now he comes back to me; with Knuckles practically dragging him here, he comes to me scarred... my baby boy, scarred!” she whimpered out into Locke’s even face.
“He made his decision...”Locke spatted out.
“...And I feel as if I’m paying for it,” she choked out. “Do you even know where he got those?”
Archimedes’s voice echoed in Locke’s mind when she asked the question; “He’s lost Locke, he is lost.” And the Fire Ant didn’t tell him anything after afterwards. In fact, he didn’t see his old friend for days.
“No Lara, I don’t. And that is the honest truth.”
“Then you go and talk to your son. It looks as if he needs to open up to someone. I have seen the horrors of war thus far, but I think it should be you, since you’ve seen it first hand. You go and talk to him.”
“But I have...”
“NO!” she screamed out at the top of her lungs in defiance. “Your duty is with our son. I can baby him when he needs it, but I can’t do it when he’s filled with so much hate and pain. You need to talk to him; Guardian to Guardian; warrior to warrior; father to son.”
Seeing her as she was, and her points being pushed to him with the pains of a crying Mother, Locke swallowed his pride. “Okay Lara...you win this one,” Locke bowed his head, signifying the victor in the bitter argument, one that Lien-Da probably had never seen before.
Lara-Le’s breathing stuttered as she tried to calm herself. She gained her composure a little and backed away from her former husband. “I’ll never forgive you for this, Locke...Ever!” she whispered as she turned away him.
Locke watched as his former wife disappeared into the darkness, only muttering to himself as he looked hard at the ground:
“I expect you not to.”