The Final Patrol
“What’s happened, Knux?” asked Julie-Su upon hearing the explosions from the outside.
Knuckles paused before he replied, his eye fixed on the smoldering bot. “We did it. It’s sinking to the bottom.”
Quack, Knuckles, Julie-Su, and Espio gave out a loud yelp as Rogue was still counting flowers on the wall. The small cheers soon faded as Vector ducked through the hole, his arms full of wooden paddles. Behind him came a black rubbery bag that thumped on the floor, and behind that came Aleutian with another one in tow in his right hand. “We have five minutes to abandon ship. Get your stuff that you’ll need and meet up top at the rear of the sub.”
“Where’s Mathias?” asked Espio. Aleutian just shook his head at him, his dark painful stare coming back in the process.
“Hey,” Sonic said as he stuck his head through the hatch. “Mighty is down and Rotor is caught under some pipes.”
“Coming!” said Quack, forgetting about his instruments and Rogue.
Aleutian returned back to his cabin and snatched his journal from the table just before it fell off into the ankle deep water. He threw it into his duffle bag that was laying on top of his bunk. Zipping it up and adjusting his coat, he left his home at sea for the last time, and under harsh circumstances. As he passed by Mathias’s bunk on the way through, dodging Sonic and Tails as they went for their stuff, he snatched the two pictures from the shelf: one of Chester and the other one of Emi-La. He placed them into his bag as well.
As he moved into the command room, he stopped and looked over at the gauges. Their dials were twitching as the boat rocked between the light swells of the late-morning sea as she took on water. He soon left the compartment after hearing the moans of the hull heaving its cry of pain.
Sonic and Tails raced back with their backpacks along with Knuckles, Julie-Su’s, and Rogue’s. Before going topside, Aleutian shut the engines off, and switched on the emergency fuel shutoff valves. He waited as Knuckles was the last to climb up the ladder, taking one last look at the inside of the Plunger. He let a sad frown come over his face as he looked on for more than a moment as the water came up to his calves. Aleutian looked down in solitude before he climbed the ladder, his bag strapped across his jacket covered chest.
Water sloshed over the deck as Aleutian climbed his way out of the hatch. Directly to the stern was the smoldering bot that still was cooking off its ammunition with low thunders of explosions. The bot was just a figment in the back ground as Espio and Vector got the rafts figured out and inflated. They, along with Rotor, Dr. Quack, and an unconscious Mighty, climbed into one as the others got into the last, with Rogue slowly coming around.
Grabbing a paddle, Aleutian shoved off from the now awashed deck. As the two rafts paddled away, sticking close together as they ventured away from the sinking sub, they watched as the Plunger’s deck gun slipped below the surface, it’s stern steadily lowering as the sub began to slowly be overtaken by the sea.
Aleutian stopped paddling and placed his oar behind him. He watched as the Plunger’s sail slipped halfway down, the shield of Acorn disappearing with every pound of water that breached inside the hull. He couldn’t believe what his eyes were projecting into his mind. He was saved by this boat, his happier times were on this boat, and now, he was watching her take its last plunge to the bottom; never to see the light of day again. As he leaned forward, tears began to dance on top of the water below him as he let them flow from his battered eyes. Under his deep quivering breath, he gave his last good-bye to Mathias, a whisper that only he could hear...
“...Tell Chester I miss him.”
The bridge slipped under waves that were generated by the water replacing the air. This was the Plunger’s last fight, and it lost as the tip of the stern disappeared below the sea. Along with it, Aleutian’s decision from sixteen years ago.
For a brief time, the two rafts drifted in the water, their occupants watching as the ocean became calm again. Then Knuckles, Julie-Su, Sonic, and Tails, all gathered around Aleutian and held onto him. They knew what was going though his mind; his body language painted the sad picture for them. He just kept staring at the calm waters, hoping that the Plunger would surface back, saving him for a second time.
Aleutian, Julie-Su grabbed her pistol, loaded it with flares down both tubes,
and shot them up into the sky.
“Bring us around,” ordered Stenson, “Get us close to them and lower the gangway. Looks like our rescuers need rescuing.” he said, witnessing the two red flares from one of the life rafts.
As his helmsman confirmed his orders, he went back to the railing and watched the smoldering Dreadbot slip below the waves:
“And good riddance!”
“Snively!” shouted Eggman from his newly decorated room with busted up computer screens and parts. “Send all we have from Angel Island to here,” he ordered, giving Snively a pocket computer with the grid number where a ship was that he wanted whipped off the sea. “Do it now!”
“Welcome on board!” greeted one of the echidna’s from the crew. He stepped lightly down the lowered stairs to the rafts. First, he extended his arm out to Espio, who took it without hesitation, then he helped the rest aboard.
When he cleared the first raft and started with the second, he saw the mark on Knuckles. “Guardian?”
“Yes!” Knuckles snapped.
“The Captain will be most anxious to see you...” He did a double take when Aleutian came off the black rubbery raft. “Another Guardian!?”
“No, just one,” Aleutian replied, his voice low and soft.
“But the mark...”
“...It’s him, not me! If you want to beg to differ, then I hope you can swim if your life depends on it!” Aleutian snapped back.
“Okay, okay,” the echidna said holding his hands up.
When everyone was onboard, the echidna set the rafts adrift and quickly made his way up the long gangway.
“Full-power now. Course to one-nine-two,” ordered Stenson, upon seeing the gangway being hosted back up.
He watched as three echidna’s were being escorted to him by one of his Dark Legion troopers. To his astonishment he caught the white marks of Aleutian and Knuckles as they climbed the stairs to the bridge.
“I’m honored to have you on board my ship, especially you Guardians, but I’m afraid our little victory has caused some tempers to blow,” he said as he nodded in greeting to the three.
“How so?” asked Knuckles.
“Seems Eggman has sent everything he has flying right for us. I have only enough weapons for maybe a squadron attack, but this looks like two wings worth of bots. It will all be over before it happens.”
Aleutian hung his head down. Going from one pitched battle to another wasn’t starting to agree with him anymore. “So what do we do?”
“Knux, you have that Guiding Star Gem with you?” Julie-Su quickly asked.
“Yeah, always...hey wait, this thing’s huge. I’ve never used it on something this big before...”
Aleutian stepped forward and yanked his brother over by his dreads. “Well, better start making it your first, or we’re all dead!” Seeing Aleutian’s tempered, scarred face was all the motivation that Knuckles needed.
He quickly released himself from his imposing brother and walked outside from the bridge and onto the forward deck. Reaching into his glove, he pulled out the small green stone and started wielding it’s power through the Master Emerald. He began to concentrate on a point, but his trance was lost when Stenson broke his train of thought;
Yeah sure, no pressure! Knuckles mumbled in his head.
He closed his eyes again, and channeled his energy through the stone. He fixated on the point where he wanted to go in his mind, and waited.
The front of the ship began to stare down a yellow, wavy circle as Knuckles brought forth his power. Stenson almost went to the telegraphs and had the engines go to reverse when Julie-Su stopped him. She explained what was going on, and with Aleutian over hearing it, he too became aware at what his brother was doing.
It took five seconds for the ship to be engulfed by the sphere; and the sphere itself, soon vanished, leaving only the wake of the Hawking and the life rafts of the Plunger over the sea. When the bots arrived at the open ocean, Eggman exploded into a fit.
The ship reappeared with the sun hanging lower in the east. Aleutian immediately knew they had crossed a time zone, maybe two, in under three seconds. He just stood inside the bridge as Julie-Su left to hug Knuckles. He was in awe at what his brother had done as he watched Julie-Su give Knuckles a kiss on the cheek.
Espio soon appeared inside the command deck with Nicole in hand. “What message should I send to Knothole. Knux just put us a day out from Mobius Prime.”
“Where?” asked Aleutian in surprise.
“Where we sank those two ships a couple of days ago. Right between those two islands,” Espio explained, showing Aleutian the GPS beacon on the computer screen.
Aleutian raised his head and stared at Knuckles through the window. He didn’t know what to think. He wanted to feel affection and admiration for what his brother had done. He tried; but his wanted feelings lost out to anguish and rage in the same heart beat.
“Send this; Dreadbot destroyed, refugees okay,” he bitterly began, pausing to gather his thoughts on the last part; “Plunger lost, Mathias is with his son.”
Espio nodded at Aleutian and watched him stroll over to his brother, wondering if he was going to have to kill the monster that was coming back out.
“You mean to tell me that you could’ve done this long ago?” Aleutian barked at Knuckles, seeing Julie-Su becoming defensive.
“I didn’t know I had it in me...”
“...Yeah right! So tell me oh Prominent One, why didn’t you!?” Aleutian fiercely fired back, raising his voice even further.
Knuckles looked squarely into his brother’s darkened eyes. “I think you know.” And he said nothing else.
With a lasting hard look and a deep, raging sigh, Aleutian pivoted around and left his brother and Julie-Su to themselves. Making his way down the long steps of the upper mast, he planted his feet on the main deck. Before him was a gathering of his own kind around the Freedom Fighters and the Chaotix; listening as they stood at to what they had just been spared of. Sonic looked up after making a face to a little baby echidna and saw Aleutian, his angered and scarred face beating a path back down the road that he had just come away from:
“And he was the one who led us!” he shouted, pointing towards Aleutian.
Aleutian tightened his fist when Sonic pointed at him, gesturing his people that he’d abandoned long ago, to look upon him as a hero. The bunch turned, showing their faces to the scarred Guardian, his white crest being very pronounced with the morning sun. Mother’s with their kids turned and gasped with their open mouths. Old men turned, observing a Guardian that looked as if he had taken on saving the world by himself. In a way, he has.
And to Aleutian’s great bewildered emotions, they bowed to him. He almost fell backwards as he tried to runaway from what they were bestowing on him, but he caught himself before falling. His face hardened as he tightened his fist; feeling ashamed at the honor that they were giving him. He was torn; feelings that he should have felt never came to him. In an odd way he wanted to cry, but he didn’t know why.
Without a word, without an emotion except the one painted on his seething face; he turned his back on his people, and walked away from them, his head and tail hanging low in the morning breeze.
Darkness gracefully slid her cloak over the sea with the sun showing it’s last light over the stars and the quarter moon. Aleutian found himself watching the churning water from the rear of the ship, his arms crossed over the railing; his chin tucked in between the folds. The wind was beating on his back but it never pierced threw his goatskin jacket. But the trials from the morning were. He felt as if he was Emi-La; an orphan, but then the thought of his real parents kept creeping back into his mind. His only family that he had known were gone, but the family he had left, wanted him back. “But can they help me?” he asked himself. They hardly knew him, and he was afraid that they might change him too fast...and he still wasn’t ready for that...or was he?
And then there was his father.
Dr. Quack came up from the infirmary that was three decks below from the main one. The opening of the hatch brought in fresh air into his lungs, even as his face was covered over with a surgical mask. Looking around the night sky, he caught sight of Aleutian, and he knew what was going on. Part of being a doctor was to look after the physical and mental health of people. One could not survive without the other.
“Hey,” he said coming up from the rear of the lone Guardian, “when do we arrive back? Did the captain tell you?”
Aleutian took a deep breath to change his train of thought. “Sometime in the morning.”
“Good, we can drop them off...”
“...No, they are setting sail as soon as we’re off. Afterwards they are off to Albion.”
“I thought they were heading to...”
Aleutian shook his head. “My brother’s idea, and it sounds good.” Knuckles told him of finding the lost tribe and helping them find Journey’s End; Albion. He wished Emi-La was around to visit it; but that thought turned to poison. It was he who was Journey’s End to Emi-La. That was what she told his great grandfather.
Quack turned his attention to the slick wake that seemed to have Aleutian hypnotized. “Most of the children here are malnourished. I’ve never seen anything so desperate in all my years as a physician.”
“I haven’t been down to look, myself,” Aleutian sighed.
“It will strengthen your resolve, Aleutian. It has mine.”
“My resolve has brought me nothing,” Aleutian crudely whispered.
“Really? Take a look around you Aleutian. Your resolve has brought you this far, this week. You saved everyone onboard this boat, and who knows how many more if you didn’t stop that thing,” Quack retorted in a solemn voice.
“We did!” Aleutian corrected.
“But you got us up in the morning and dragged us out here. Yes we did it, but it was you who made it happen. I see what is happening to you. You’re on a slippery slope and you found a way up it. Now it’s time to find your footing again and get yourself up there.”
Dr. Quack reached over and squeezed Aleutian’s shoulder. The echidna turned his head slightly towards Quack, his dreads flowing backwards across his emotionally strained face due to the heaving wind. The moon glared over his scarred face.
“I must say,” came Dr. Quack in a somber voice, “every time I see your scars, I thank myself for studying hard to become something better than a battlefield surgeon. Wish you had come to us sooner. Those would have been cleaned up, and you also wouldn’t have been scarred emotionally for such a long time.”
Aleutian turned back towards the sea and sighed. “Wish I did too.”
The next morning brought more pain. Aleutian felt wrecked when they approached the dock where the Plunger once called home. Mathias’s house stood empty on top of the green hill. Seeing the misery and despair that his people were in didn’t help either. He wanted to be far away from this, but his moral conscious; his warrior soul; his protective soul, grew in rage at the thought.
“Our ship’s inbound,” came Espio, coming along side him.
Aleutian just nodded. “We should be back on land soon. Stenson ordered some boats to take us over. He’s going to be on one of them.”
“Great. I’m ready to get my land legs back,” replied Sonic as he passed by on the upper deck.
“I’m not!” snorted Aleutian to himself.
The boat ride over took it’s toll on Aleutian. He was used to seeing the stern of the Plunger making it’s way into the berth; not a wooden life boat’s front end.
Aleutian was the first one off, not even stopping to help the others. He wanted away from them, figuring one of them was going to say a stupid comment about being back home, and Aleutian didn’t want to be there to hear it. Quickening his pace up the hill as voices called out to him, he raced up to the front door of Mathias’s house with his duffel bag in tow. He unlocked the door, and pushed it open, the hinges giving their noticeable creeks.
His mind went back to when he was six when he came to this house for the first time. Mathias’s wife had finished baking bread for the returning sailors of the sub when Mathias had walked in, his bearing firm. Aleutian watched from behind the door frame as Faith fell to her knees, the squirrel going into utter shock as Mathias told her that Chester was lost at sea. Her screams and cries still echoed in Aleutian’s ears.
Then his thoughts flashed to when Mathias pointed to the door where the young echidna was trying to conceal himself behind it. “I have someone for you to meet. His name is Aleutian, and he’ll being staying with us for awhile.”
The image of her climbing to her feet, cleansing her wet hands on her white apron and walking over to him, came to him;
“Well, hello there little one,” her sweet voice still calling to him in his head with the tremors of her sadness relevant. “Let me have a look at you.”
Aleutian continued forward inside the house, tears trailing behind him on the floor, channeling down his scars behind his eye before they fell. Grabbing pictures, one of which was Amadeus and Mathias, he stuffed them into his bag. Then he rolled the planes of the Plunger up, that were kept in the library were Mathias and Sally had their long talk, and placed them into his bag as well. The last thing he took before he left the house was Mathias’s sword. Sliding it halfway out of the scabbard, Aleutian gazed at his reflection on the surface of the stainless steel blade. Closing the blade back in its sheath, he clutched it firmly in his hand and walked out the door.
He turned south, determined to walk home the whole hundred miles. Aleutian wanted time to think and to get rid of his anger.
“Aleutian!” screamed Knuckles, almost coming out as a cry as he held out his hand as a plea. “Stop, please!” Aleutian did and turned to the silhouetted Echidna in the rising sun, his face showing his fragile emotional state.
“Aleutian!” came a steadfast voice from behind him in the distance. Aleutian slowly turned away from his brother to see who was calling for him.
Upon the hill that was dotted with trees that waved in the morning breeze, was a squirrel dressed in blue robes with a crown on top of his head. To his right was Commander St. John, and to his left was Amadeus from what Aleutian gathered from the picture that he had in his bag.
“Elias?” Aleutian realized in his mind. He wasn’t sure if he really was seeing his old friend, or if it was a trick of the brain. He held firm to the ground he stood over as the three Mobians approached him.
Elias stopped three feet away from Aleutian, his face painted in a stern look, trying to match the Guardian’s.
Aleutian looked up at his old friend. To his bewildered mind; Elias was crowned, but something else came over him. With a deep resolved filled breath, he dropped down to one knee, bringing the sword up in his hands as he presented it;
“King Elias, I give you the sword of Sir Mathias Drake,” he said unevenly; “I regret to inform you, Sire, that he has fallen in battle.”
Knuckles just stood in shock when his brother kneeled down before Elias. “What is going on?” he whispered in the mind.
Elias took the sword and passed it back to Amadeus, who inspected it with his sad eyes. “Arise Guardian.” he commanded.
Aleutian picked himself up and stood there, his eyes gazing into Elias’s. The firm look disappeared as Elias embraced his old friend from sixteen years. Aleutian painfully, but slowly returning it.
“I thought you were dead my old friend,” Elias softly said to Aleutian.
his mouth closer to Elias’s ear, tears streaming from his face. “I wish I was,” he softly whispered, his
words quivering from his sadness. Elias
squeezed his dear friend tighter, realizing that St. John was right.
Sonic was half way up the hill when he saw Elias and Aleutian embrace each other. But behind them, he saw his parents and his uncle coming down the hill. He dashed to them, nearly running them over as he came to a stop. “Hey, what brings you three here?” he said with a smile. It soon faded when he saw the robotic look from his dad.
“We’re here to send off an old friend, son.”
The afternoon saw the last crew of the Plunger, Elias, Sally, and the rest of Acorn’s high command, gathered down at the empty dock. The Hawking had set sail after Stenson said his farewells and motored back to the ship. But now, it was time for another.
Amadeus clasped his hands in front of him and took in a deep breath:
“We send a Knight on his final voyage today. He is not here to physically depart from us, but only in our thoughts. This voyage will be much different than the previous ones that he has undertaken before. He will find peace along the way, hopefully finding fallen friends and comrades; maybe even his son. For it will be that every time we look at the sea, we shall remember him; for he is chasing the winds, and floating on the currents.
“We commend his body to the deep.”
As Amadeus closed the eulogy, Sally and Elias threw a green and red reef into the water. Aleutian followed it with his glistening eyes as the tide took it out on its voyage across the horizon. For a moment he though he was by himself, but as he turned away, his tearful eyes fell onto the last crew of the Plunger. They stood proud before him, wishing that he felt the same way. Only bowing his head to them as his way of thanking them, he slowly made his way off the dock. And with each passing step, they each grasped at his shoulder, thanking him as he walked passed them.
His ears only heard the sea winds...calling to him as it may; his face embalmed with pain and sadness...