“I don’t get it Knuckles,” said Tails as he gazed at the wooden floor of Uncle Chucks’ Café, “I thought we’d traced back your whole linage of your family?”
A couple of hours had passed and Knuckles found himself just starring at his grape soda that was warming up with each passing minute in his hands. The pain from his chest had finally let up from the fight he had undertaken. He sure hits like my Father from the few times we spared, he thought to himself. Tales was right, he was sure that there weren’t any other grandparents that had been kept secret from him. And for the Guardian that they had locked up in the jail; he looked too young to be any of that. So who was he?
“I don’t know Miles,” Knuckles said, nervously scratching his forehead, “Antoine said he’d come get me when he came to. So, hopefully we can get some answers.”
“And why is he working for Ebony?” festered Julie-Su from beside him, “Something is not right about this.”
Knuckles just shook his head as he took another pull from his drink.
Antoine D' Coolette stepped inside the main holding block, which didn’t have much in the way of cells. The blue uniformed coyote held a tray of food, mostly containing grapes and other fruits for Knothole City’s newest resident in the jail. As he crossed the corridor to the middle cell Antoine could see the new echidna in town was still out cold, lying motionless on his left side on the small bed with his back against the wall. Frowning at the limp body, Antoine knelt down and started to slid the tray underneath the floor bar. Time stood still all of a sudden as his hand was restricted by strong grasp from inside the cell. His head shot up to see the Echidna at his nose, bearing a look of great discontent. He didn’t even hear him come off the bed.
“Give me the keys–now!” the Echidna demanded with a harsh, stern voice.
“I’m zorry Monsieur, I cannot do zhat,”replied the Royal Guardsmen in his thick French accent.
The Echidna took his free hand and reached over the floor bar, grabbing Antoine’s arm with it, then moving the it and Antoine up to a little higher level of conversation. “Give me the keys now, or it’s not going to be fun.”
“No, Monsieur! Now let me go!”
Antoine struggled to release the grip from the very agitated Echidna but the stranger’s hand was steadfast. The Guardian pulled Antoine’s arm further inside the cell and slammed him up against the cold steel bars. The impact stunned the coyote for a brief moment. The echidna then pushed the coyote’s arm forward before once again bringing him back against the bars, all the while extending his fist through the cell at Antoine’s head. The move put him out cold in an instant with his body slumping to the floor.
The Echidna quickly grabbed the keys around Antoine’s belt, and reached around the bars to unlocked the cell. After freeing himself, he proceeded to put his captor’s body in the cell before locking the door and throwing the keys down the short hallway, making sure that someone would see them. Giving no forethought about the subtle feeling he had for Antoine, the echidna slowly made his way through the complex, looking for any signs where his gear might be. He soon came upon a room that said, “evidence and seizure,” Got to be here, he considered to himself before kicking down the door. Time to say good-bye again with your silence...
Moments later, Bunnie gracefully strolled into the jail as best as her mechanical legs could manage, her two pistols riding on her hips as she wondered why Antoine hadn’t returned. She found the reason slumped inside the cell that their visitor was supposed to be in. Without a moments hesitation, she ran to the entrance wall and pushed the alarm that would soon bring most of Knothole’s heavy hitters to the jail. But the first to show up wasn’t Sonic as usual, but Knuckles, knowing full well what probably had happened.
He saw Bunnie helping Antoine to his feet as he passed by the cell. “How’s he doing?”
“Little bump on the head ‘sug, but he’ll be alright.”
“Ohw, my head,” came a groaning Antoine. “Unhand me Bunnie, I needz to getz zhat...”
Knuckles looked over at Antoine as he marched by them. “Stay here ‘Twan, I’ll take care of him,” he said as he headed towards the door with his brows slumped in determination.
As he reached the hall to the busted door of the evidence room, he heard the other Echidna operating his weapons and securing them in their holsters. Will he shoot me if I enter. Probably not, but nevertheless, make noise so he isn’t trigger happy, he cautioned himself. He shuffled his feet through the door and gazed upon the Echidna who was busy putting his body armor on over his ripped green shirt. Knuckles noticed that Antoine didn’t even bothered to secure all of the scarred Echidna’s gear, but instead, left it all scattered on the table. Need to talk to him about that.
“So you’re just gonna to leave?” Knuckles asked.
The figure glanced over his left shoulder and shrugged. “Why shouldn’t I, looks like you have everything under control.” Checking his last blaster, he quickly holstered it into one of his sleeves of the long black coat that laid upon the table. He then dawned on his shoulder rig that had the other pistol securely holstered, spare magazines at the ready on the right side.
“You gonna apologize to Antoine before you go?” inquired Knuckles with a sharp voice.
“Why? He could’ve just given me the keys!” the Echidna quipped.
“He has a duty you know–”
“...Yea, and so do YOU, young Guardian!” he shouted, turning and marching right up to Knuckles, squinting his eyes with rage. “You haven’t answered my question, why are you here?”
“I’m fighting Eggman to help save Angel Island.”
“So, why aren’t you doing it at home instead of here,” the other Guardian asked, “and whose guarding the emerald and the Floating Island anyways?”
“The Dark Legion is–”
“...The Dark Legion!” shouted the now furious Echidna. “Sounds like you are doing a great job, oh Prominent One!” Turning back to the table with a curt grumble, he grabbed his long black coat and struggled into.
“Well, partly. But, we’ve identified the common enemy and the Dark Legion is helping me to secure the future,” Knuckles stated, purposely forgetting the civil war end of the conflict.
The Echidna considered Knuckles’ sound reply as he adjusting his collar and smoothed out the wrinkles. His agreement was swallowed by his own, haunting question. So, are you gonna pop the big question there Guardian? he asked at the table.
“But who are you to talk about sacred duties when you wear the white crest?” Knuckles jumped.
The Echidna put his hands flat on the table in front of him and sighed. “I made some choices long ago, Knuckles.” And Locke still keeps secrets from his family, he added in his mind.
He knows my name? Knuckles breathed out in his psyche. “Then who are you to talk about my--”
The Echidna turned to Knuckles with a stare that could have burned a hole through him. “...Because you have a destiny that I could NEVER HAVE!” he growled, his teeth chattering from the sudden explosion of anger. Shifted back to the table, fighting to slow the thoughts that were racing through his mind.
The cat was out of the bag now. Knuckles knew through the history of his ancestors that they all had a destiny that they “had” to fulfill. His came through a dream that his father had envisioned with a little assist from the Ancient Walkers. He still questioned if it would ever come true from all that has happened and the choices he’d made.
But here before him was another Guardian, and he was sure that this Echidna was.
An idea sparked in his mind. One he couldn’t disregard. With all the space time continuum that has been happening over the years, the Guardian in black could possible a Grandfather from another zone. It was a possibility.
But it didn’t explain the choices the dark Echidna said he’d made.
All this sparked the prime question that the other Echidna was waiting for. “Who are you fellow Guardian?” Knuckles asked, his voice digressing to calmness and sincerity.
The other Guardian shifted his head back towards Knuckles, his face expressionless, “Locke still keeping secrets? What of Lady Lara-Le? Is she keeping things from you as well?” he asked, his scarred face putting words to meaning. “Have you ever considering if she wanted you to grow up happy?”
A surprised stare. “How did you know what my mother wanted for me?” Knuckles gasped, his mouth plummeting to the floor.
The other Guardian sighed before speaking. “I know a lot about you, Knuckles. I know a lot about you than I ever care too, sometimes. If you want the answers then let the light of truth be your guide. That’s what you have been taught, right?” Knuckles just nodded his head. “Then you can start by asking your father about me. Tell him that you saw another Guardian and that we had this conversation, and then you can tell him all the scars you have seen upon my face.” His last sentence came out as a breath. “Then I want you to carefully watch for the look of sadness in his eyes.”
“And if he gives me the run around?” Knuckles asked, crossing his arms.
“Then you best forget about me!” he said, turning sharply and stepping closer to Knuckles. “You forget about me and you continue on with your sacred duties, and your much happier life than mine.”
The stranger turned his back once more and was about to dawn on his fedora when Knuckles decided that he had had enough of taking deceptions for answers. He grabbed the shoulder of the other Guardian and spun him around. Grabbing both sides of his collar, Knuckles then pressed his snout closer to his unknown family member’s, triggering his inner chaos energy to let the fire of his determination for answers be felt.
“So he does have the power! Locke was successful...” the other guardian concluded rather quickly, feeling the slight burning sensation across his chest.
“WHO ARE YOU AND DON’T LET ME ASK AGAIN!” Knuckles harshly demanded.
The Guardian starred back into Knuckles’ eyes, seeing the frustration that was painted on them. His were wide now as well, and searching for what he was going to do or say next. Knowing full well of what happens if his family’s ultimatums are challenged, and feeling the power that Knuckles possessed through his coat, he decided it was worth the risk of letting loose the forgotten past.
“Do you really want to know? You might get hurt if you do?” the echidna calmly stated
“And it might hurt me more if I don’t!” Knuckles quickly retorted.
The Guardian shifted his gaze to the floor for a brief instant, searching for what he was about to say next. Looking back up and with a stare of confidence in his decision, he took in a deep breath:
“Knuckles,” he began, “my name is Aleutian...and I am your brother.”
Knuckles’s eyes went wide. The shock of the words dredging through his mind sent shivers to his hands that commanded the release of the other echidna. Backing himself up against the wall, he braced it as if he was going to fall. No! he exclaimed to himself, this isn’t true. I only have a half brother not a full one. Why would my parents keep him a secret from me?
“That’s a lie!” was the only thing Knuckles could spat out from the horror that he felt.
“I’m afraid not dear brother,” Aleutian shakingly said as he paused to lift himself off from the table. He waited a little while longer to make his words hit home. “My Father is the Guardian Locke. My Mother the Lady Lara-Le...the same as yours. Knuckles...I’m brother Aleutian.”
Knuckles just stood there, his month opened in utter shock. As the questions raced through his mind, Aleutian grabbed his hat, pulled it hard over his head, and started to walk out; like he did several years ago. Passing his stunned brother he stopped, his eyes lower with his heart. Aleutian hung his head down in deep sympathy in the course of his feelings, placing his hand over Knuckles’s shoulder to comfort him.
“I am sorry that you had to find like this,” Aleutian said with a quiet whisper before turning to walk out of the room, leaving his brother stunned against the wall.
The mid-afternoon sun grazed his scarred face with it’s warmth as Aleutian walked out of the jail. The wind had picked up a little and he could feel it through his dreads. As he turned to the east, he noticed Antoine looking around while he was hunched over Bunnie’s shoulder. It wasn’t going to be easy getting out of Knothole.
“You there, zstop...!” Antoine shouted, struggle to get free from Bunnie to teach Aleutian a new lesson.
“Hold it Antoine,” said Knuckles coming up from behind Aleutian, “let him go.”
Aleutian turned his head back to Knuckles and nodded his thanks. As he past Antoine, he stopped and let his expression turn to one of sorrow. “You are very brave, sir, for resisting me. I am very sorry for any discomfort I have caused you and to your friends. Please take my apology at will.”
And with that, he continued out of Knothole City.
“So you’re just going to leave?” Knuckles shouted, the anger in his voice could be heard thundering across the field; Sonic, and Julie-Su taking note of it as they stepped onto the field.
“That old question again,” Aleutian said, looking back at Knuckles with a smirk, “I have things to do, and you definitely don’t want my company,” he said as he turned away once more, trying to let things end somewhat on a good note.
“Yes I do, and if you leave, I will track you–”
“...DON’T!” Aleutian screamed as he turned around yet again, pointing at his brother with his glove-less right hand, “you may not like what you see of me, and I don’t care to expose you to it. You have a lot going on for you here, and if you are sincere in defeating Eggman here instead of home, then stick to your duties instead of me!”
“Jeeze, you’d think they’re siblings the way they’re fighting.” came Sonic from behind Julie-Su.
“I think there might be something to that, Sonic,” replied Julie-Su, catching what Aleutian was saying.
Aleutian gave Knuckles one last hard look before turning away from him again. Knuckles watched as his new found brother disappeared into the forest. At least he thought he was.
Julie-Su gracefully walked up to him and placed her hand over his shoulder. “Who was that Knuckles?” she asked in a soft whisper.
Knuckles just looked down at the ground as he reached up with his left hand and placed it over hers before he replied in a whisper. “I don’t know...but I want answers.” He then looked over at Sally who showed up in time to see the dark Echidna leave to her great pleasure. “Sally, get the ship ready, I need to go to Angel Island for some answers.”
“It’s still dangerous to go Knuckles–”
“I don’t care!” Knuckles barked out with his frustrations, “if I have too, I’ll go myself! I want answers and I wanted them yesterday!”
Sally considered his request then nodded her approval.
Julie-Su looked at Knuckles with sadness in her eyes. Something was dreadfully wrong and he was hiding it from her. For once there might’ve be a good reason behind it, she thought, but she wanted to go with him to comfort and hopefully in due time, to find out what was troubling her equal.
You idiot! You know he’s going to be coming back after you. Aleutian shouted to himself. You left way too many questions unanswered to keep him away from you.
He was about a quarter mile away from the city, his mind racing from seeing his brother after so many years; grown and not where he was suppose to be. But knowing what your father said that he could do, did you really want to find that out on your own? For all you know, he could be thinking that you’re some sort of an imposter anyways, came his subconscious.
His ripped shirt was starting to flap around in the breeze, exposing his white mark of righteousness that he wished he was never born with. He covered it back up quickly so it wouldn’t remind him of the shame that he felt:
But the ones knowing of my shame are my parents, and what is left of my friends. But my friends have never considered me as dishonorable. Ever!
Now my brother has seen me. What does he think of me? What will he think of me when he finds out what has happened, and who’ve I’d become? I hope this encounter hasn’t set things in motion that could be very bad for Mobius. Hopefully he forgets about me...if, he does.
You can’t stop freewill Aleutian. That was something that you’d fought for and believed in a long time ago. That was your choice...remember. Now look at you! You’re a lost warrior without any direction. Just a loner, doing a cold job for what, self-righteousness? Revenge? You definitely haven’t been helping the cause like you did once before.
He stopped and turned to look at the setting sun behind him. The warmth that it was still generating made Aleutian wonder if this was an omen. An omen that felt like this day was the end his cold ways and to begin a renewed start. But to what? The wind was starting to pick up a little more and it helped soothed the tears that were starting to stream down his scarred face. After all these years, it’s now hurting, It has never hurt before, but today of all days, it is now. Maybe you should’ve done what she asked of you!? The last phrase made his heart sink. Her...
Just then he heard a speeding hover car traveling behind him. He turned around to see a very expensive, silver limo tearing through the forest. Ah great! I forgot about him. It was Downtown Ebony Hare and Aleutian knew he was looking for Rogue and possibly him too. That is a tough crowd back there Aleutian. I’m sure they can take care of themselves, he concluded to himself.
He started back on his journey home but his subconscious stopped him yet again. But Blackjack is definitely with him, and Blackjack could hurt someone badly before he’s taken down. Aleutian thought hard, only realizing:
And they probably torched your hover car since you didn’t meet them for some reason. It’s a long walk back home, Aleutian.
Aleutian took a deep breath and turned back for Knothole City.
Julie-Su was rounding a hut with her backpack in her hands, hurrying towards the hangar-bay, her face boarder-lining on frustration and puzzlement. Her journey was cut short when a big grey hand took hold around her throat and lifted her off the ground. When she blinked from the reaction of the sudden jolt, he eyes fixated on a very familiar dog face.
“Want to see if you can escape from my hands, there Dollface. No place to catch your fall this time!” came the gruff voice of Blackjack.
Julie-Su dropped her bag and reached for her boot where she kept her double-barrel blaster. Blackjack caught the move out from the corner of his eye and increased the tension around her throat. She stopped her movement instantly and began reaching for Blackjack’s hand, trying to pull it away from her throat. The constricting grip began to cut off precious oxygen to her lungs.
“Not so fast there little one,” scorned Blackjack with a smile.
“Way to go Blackjack! Nice way to get us a barging chip,” came Ebony Hare from behind him. “GATHER AROUND FREEDOM FIGHTERS AND LET ME DEMONSTRATE REAL MUSCLE!” he decried at the top of his lungs.
Knuckles’ wasn’t far behind Julie-Su when the request got his attention in a hurry, sensing the voice sounded somewhat familiar. He ran to the open circle where he had first met Aleutian and stopped dead to see Julie-Su dangling in the air, grasping at the arms of a goon that was strangling her. “Put her down!” he shouted with venom in his voice.
“Ah, our fearless leader is making demands,” squinted Ebony.
Sonic bolted up behind Knuckles, and sported a crocked grin. “Actually I am the fearless leader and I say you put the girl down.”
“How about this, you give me a certain Bat named Rogue and I’ll make sure Blackjack here, doesn’t snap her neck off,” fired back Ebony, showing that he was holding the cards.
“Oh, her again...,” grunted Julie-Su with what little air she could breath out, “...just take her and go away...please?”
Rogue made her way towards the shouting contest and stepped into the open, her hands on her hips and flashing a smile. “What do you want, Downtown?”
Ebony Hare turned and smiled at her. “Why you of course. Some friends of mine would love to speak with you.”
“Ah, let me think about that for a second, Ebony.” she said, putting her finger on her lips.
“Oh, great...I’m doomed!” grunted Julie-Su,
Knuckles was rolling his fist and getting himself ready jump on Blackjack when a cool, calm, and collective voice came out from the wood work:
“Put the girl down Blackjack,” ordered Aleutian firmly, standing a good ways into the clearing with one of his guns pointing at Blackjack. It was the same weapon Knuckles saw him holster in the shoulder harness before they had their “talk.” Aleutian held the fat barreled weapon with one hand as he steadied the sights over Blackjack’s head. His finger was placed gently over the trigger.
“Oh, YOU!” shouted Ebony with surprise, “I see you couldn’t get the girl like you promised. So, WHERE”S MY MONEY!?”
“Is that all you care about Mr. Hare?” Aleutian said, his voice not even fluctuating from the added stress of the situation.
“Mostly. Now give me my–”
“...Blackjack, put down the girl now, or I can’t guarantee your safety,” interrupted Aleutian, raising his voice a disable to get his ultimatum across. Centering his front site on the head of Blackjack, he placed both hands around the handle of the pistol while adjusting his right leg back behind him. Come on Blackjack...do it...let her go, he pleaded in his mind.
“Blackjack works for me, not you!” fired off Ebony Harre, “Blackjack, snap her neck!” he ordered with a hard nod.
Knuckles turned his attention towards Blackjack. He clenched his fist and lowered himself to jump on top of the grey bulldog. As he did so, Julie-Su felt Blackjack’s grip increase and it was making it hard for her to stay conscious. She looked over to Knuckles with a look of sorrow and defeat, and forced out what she thought was her last dying breath, “...knuckles...”
I loud snap was heard across the open field. Knuckles’s heart skipped three beats upon hearing it and thought he was too late to save the one he loved.
Julie-Su fell to the ground on her side, coughing hard, and trying desperately to breath. Down with her went Blackjack...lifeless.
Ebony saw the end result of his hired muscle and he didn’t like the outcome. He started to reach inside his coat for the double barreled revolver that he kept in a small holster. If he hadn’t stopped dead, he would have been as Aleutian turned his pistol in the rabbit’s direction:
“Don’t even think about, Ebony. I am pretty good at splitting hairs with this.” he said.
Ebony Hare slowly retracted his hand from the inside of his jacket, holding it open to hopefully satisfy Aleutian.
“Now go!” Aleutian ordered.
“What about my money!?”
Aleutian took the wade of cash out from the pocket of his coat, bit down on a single bill, and pulled it out from under the clip before throwing the rest at Ebony’s feet.
The rabbit picked it up and looked over at Aleutian. “Why you keepin’ that one?”
“Bill for the bullet. Now go!” Aleutian growled, still keeping his weapon pointed at Downtown.
Hare turned with a grunt and started walking off when Aleutian stopped him cold yet once again:
“Wait...you’re forgetting something?”
“What do you mean!?”
“Take your trash with you,” Aleutian said, motioning to the lifeless body of Blackjack, his head looking oddly different from before.
Ebony Hare reluctantly walked over to the body, grabbed the back of his collar--that was now stained in his purple blood–and started dragging him towards the limo that was beyond the woods. “You’ll pay for this Echidna!” he barked as he huffed the large dog across the ground.
“I still owe for my debts,” the Guardian said, his voice deepened with disgust.
After seeing Ebony Hare walk away to the forest, Aleutian holstered his weapon inside his coat, and walked over to where Knuckles was helping Julie-Su. Sally was about to approach him when Aleutian shot her a cold gaze that made her stop dead in her tracks. She almost trembled at the scarred look. With his head down he could see Julie-Su was breathing hard to replenishing the oxygen that was robbed from her lungs. “Is she going to be okay?” he asked Knuckles with a comforting but stern voice.
What Aleutian didn’t see was Knuckles clutching Julie-Su’s blaster that already had the gas canisters loaded into the twin barrels. Good girl!
“Yea. Just a little rattled but she’ll be fine.” And with that, Knuckles spun around and doused Aleutian with a cloud of gas. Aleutian stumbled backwards, stopping the muscle memory in his arm from going to his pistol to shoot his brother. He coughed to expel the sleeping gas from his lungs, but his site was becoming blurry with each passing second.
Before Aleutian passed out onto the ground, he looked over at his brother as his vision was fading away:
“So this is how you say thank you...”
The Guardian hit the ground, his fedora falling off from the impact, rolling away with the wind.
Knuckles lowered Julie’s weapon along with his eyes that were filled with deep sadness at Aleutian. “Just this once.”