The Aluetian Chronicals: Chance Encounters

The Pains That Lie

The bright yellow light only made his head hurt worse, even if he could only see it through his eyelids.

Aleutian soon realized that his discomfort could have been from how his head was tilted; to the side and down, his chin touching his chest. But when he moved his head around, still keeping his eyes shut, a new and more searing pain reared up from his upper back. It stung, ached and burned all at the same time. Even as the pain overpowered his senses, he could feel cold, metal rings around his wrists. He tried to move his hands out in front of him, but found tough resistence. For a second, he thought he was paralyzed, banished forever to a metal chair that he felt himself sitting in. But with the rattling of the nickle chains from the cuffs, Aleutian realized in a numbing terror at what was probably going on. As he opened his eyes, feeling the burn from his pupils adjusting to the light, he saw that he was in a ship of some type; an old hoverbot he realized. The oval inside features weren’t hard to miss.

His heart started pounding, knocking on his chest as if trying to force its way out from his rib cage. He soon felt a cold sinking feeling come over him, rinsed with the aches and burns from his body. He shuttered at first, trying his best to drive it all away; searching for past places of comfort to help him fight off the pain...but they only brought more.

His trance was broke; footsteps he heard, coming up ahead of him. They thundered hard on the metal floor as they crept closer to him, each step making him breathe in deeper than he should. With ever step echoing in his aching head he realized what was coming for him. Through his blurred sight and dazed head, he saw dark blueish domes with red slits approaching him, perched atop a metal, humanlike mass that towered over Aleutian even if he stood.

“The Mobian is awake. What are the orders?” came one of the Swat Bots, turning its dome shaped head to the right to its counter-part. The distorted voice box made Aleutian’s head ache even more.

“Master wants him interrogated on the whereabouts of the Chaos Chamber,” came the other.

“This Echidna has a nero-malfunction coming this far from the Floating Island. He will soon pay for it.”

Aleutian looked down at his chest. His shirt was still on and he hoped that they hadn’t seen his mark. “I still owe on for my debts,” he snapped in his drowsy state.

“You are soon going to pay up rodent, give us the whereabouts of the Chaos Chamber.”

Aleutian tried to move but with his hands shackled behind him against the metal chair his efforts bore no fruit in helping his situation. He blinked once more and looked up at the Swat Bots. “Sorry, I can’t help you there. I haven’t been to the Island for many years. Besides the chamber’s a secret,” he lied in a shaky, sly voice.

“Don’t toy with us echidna, your kind knows where the Master Emerald is...”

“...And I hate to inform you two but I haven’t been to the Island in many years. I left at a young age. I didn’t get around to finding out where it is.” The way to lie during any sort of interrogation is to tell half lies, or in Aleutian’s case, half truths.

“I don’t believe him, we need to try harder,” came the bot on the left.

“Affirmative,” came the one on the right.

The bot to the left stepped forward and sent its mechanical arm at Aleutian’s chest, and knocked him backwards with him still in the chair. His head stopped his fall when it collide with a table behind him, leaning him up against it at an angle, and spawning a high pitch ring in his ears from the mild concussion of the impact. Then the light slowly faded away when it was overshadowed by a bot. The red slit that represented its visor started glowing brighter as it calculated at what it was going to do next to Aleutian.

With his heart skipping a beat, Aleutian heard the sounds of metal rubbing up against itself. His eyes darted over to his left, fixing on a long dagger that had extended out from the right arm of the Swat Bot who had knocked him over. He struggled to move, to put up a fight to get away, but the cold mechanical hand of the other Swat Bot stopped him almost dead, wrapping around his throat before thrusting him harder against the edge of the table. Then, the bot with the extended blade stepped to the left of Aleutian and grabbed one of his dread locks. All he could do was hold his aghast stare at the blade, wriggling with the hope his efforts would be his savor.

“Tell us young echidna,” said the bot as it pinpointed where it should cut the lone dread lock, “do you like pain?”

The cold blade slid across his lock, sending a stinging feeling to his brain at first before the bot pushed down harder, sliding the blade slowly across in the process, cultivating a sharp, burning and aching pain. Aleutian screamed in blood curtailing agony, twisting and squirming from the shooting pain and his new lust to kill. Then, as fast as it began, the bot stopped and lifted the blade off the half severed lock. Aleutian whimpered in reprisal, squinting his eyes from the nightmare he was living in, taking in rapid breaths that became moans upon exhaling.

“Now, are you going to tell us?” asked the bot that had its hand around Aleutian’s throat, its voice box sounding sly with a robotic tone behind it. “We don’t have sympathy for pain since we don’t feel it.”

“Like I said,” Aleutian paused, swallowing as he breathed in more sweet oxygen to hopefully relieve the pain, “I don’t know where it is. Even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you,” he hissed in return. He could now feel the warm, wet sensation of blood flowing around his head and drenching the rest of his locks.

The bot beeped a lower tone and the other bot continued with the horrid torture. Aleutian followed it with his eyes as the dome headed machine walked back to grab his half severed dread again. Aleutian was shaking in the chair his eyes flinching side to side. There, he squeezed them tight upon the cold hand of the bot clutching his lock. Tears welled inside his lids, slipping out of the corners and washing over his face and tracing down the two long, deep scars behind his right eye. But he held in his urge to break. Even when the bot resumed to slice his dread further open; he held on. Even when the immense pain exploded in his mind; he held on. And when the tension was released from the bot completely severing Aleutian’s lock from his head; he held in that urge, screaming it out before succeeding it with a moan, his jaw chattering all the while. He was breathing in so fast now that he was making himself dizzy.

“Well, if what you say is true, then why are you on the Mobian mainland?”asked the bot right in front of him. Aleutian could feel the other bot going for another one of his dreads, playing with it as a cruel taunt.

“It’s a long story and I don’t have enough locks for it,” Aleutian cringed. The pain was becoming increasingly stronger now, and the breathing technique that he was taught wasn’t helping to relieve it.

“Are you part of the House of Acorn and the Freedom Fighters?”

“NO!” he shouted, finding the sensation of his purple blood trickling behind his neck now. It was soon going to make a mess on the floor of the hoverbot.

“Do you know the location of their base by chance?”

“You might as well kill me now, ‘cause I’ll never give that up to the likes of you!” the scarred, and now bleeding Echidna grunted.

The two bots looked up at each other. “Get the truth serum,” came the one that was still holding Aleutian down by the throat, “if what he says he knows is true, Master will be happy.”


Oh no, what have I said. What have I done! I screwed up...and now all of Knothole is going to pay...

A groan echoed throughout the inside of the Freedom Fighters’ ship, stirring Julie-Su from her small nap. She unsnapped her belts and carefully made her way over to the source of it. “Knuckles, the knockout gas is wearing off,” she observed, watching Aleutian move his head to the side, his eyes shut.

Knuckles awoke from his dosing nap from the news. He shifted his body to the right where they had the other Guardian buckled in.

Aleutian opened his eyes and noticed right off that he was in a transport craft. His mind immediately reverted to the dream he was having and feared he was back on board that dreadful hoverbot from a year and a half ago. He tried to stand-up, but his movement was restricted to the seat belts that laid across his chest and waist.

“Careful Aleutian, the gas hasn’t worn off yet,” said Julie-Su with an assuring calm voice, bracing herself over Aleutian’s head rest.

The scarred Guardian took a deep breath and relaxed in his seat. Thank Aurora I’m not on that ship again! Gazing with his heavy eyes out towards the window of the cockpit, passed Sally and Tails, who were flying and navigating the ship, he noticed that they were traveling over water as the light from the moon bounced off the ripples. It didn’t take him long to figure out where he was going. “So, you’re heading home? Make sure you drop me off before you get there.”

“I’m taking you home!” Knuckles’ growled, his teeth clenching as he looked over to Aleutian. “I want to know what’s going on.”

“You mean has been going on,” Aleutian corrected. “Haven’t you been hurt enough?”

“It’s a part of life that I’m willing risk.”

Aleutian was feeling the erg to sleep again due to the heavy amount of gas that Knuckles had doused him with. But before he closed his eyes:

“You know, I think you’ve hung around me long enough,” he warned, “You are starting to...” he paused as he yawn, “starting to sound like me...”

Aleutian was tugging at his restraints when the two Swat Bots returned.

“The serum should be taking effect now. How are you feeling Echidna?”asked one of the bots.

“A little numb. The pain you inflicted is all but gone,” thanks to the cerium he thought, his voice shaky from the feeling.

“Good, lets continued where we left off. Where is the Chaos Chamber?”

“Underground, somewhere around the Hidden Palace Zone.” Aleutian was now telling himself to hold it together.

“And you do know the location of Knothole Village?” asked the other bot who had cut off his lock.

“Unfortunately I do, but,” he began, pausing to gather his thoughts, “I don’t think you’ll have time to report it to your master...even if I did tell you.”

“Explain yourself Mobian!”shouted the bot closest to him, his voice box distorted.

“You see...,” Aleutian shook his head a little from the drowsy effects of the truth cerium, “I’m gonna rip off that nice shiny disk head of yours and throw it towards you partner, there, before he can activate his plasma arm.”

“And how are you going to manage that when your cuffed to that chair?” came back the bot with the best mocking tone it could compute.

Aleutian moved his right hand out from behind his back with the handcuff still attach to it but with his other hand vacant from the swiveling claw. “Cause’ I picked the lock.”

He then forced himself up and off from the chair, leaping towards the closest Swat Bot and with his momentum, he upper-cutted the bot’s head off of its robotic torso. Wires and sparks showered out from the flying disk, squally landing on the other Swat Bot’s chest before was about it could activate its plasma blaster from its arm.

The metal head knocked the bot to the ground, but it wasn’t the knockout blow that Aleutian was hoping for. In turn he jumped on top of it in an instant, raising his right fist that still had the metal restraints attached to it with one of the cuffs dangling freely, and reared to put the bot that sliced his dread lock off out of commission. But he was slow from the numbness he felt and the lingering pain, giving the bot a good amount of time to extend its dagger from its arm and made a long sweeping slash at Aleutian’s chest. The shirt ripped down the center as the blade made contact with fabric, fur and then skin, sweeping partly across Aleutian’s mark of Guardian. He felt the pain, however it was dulled from the cerium and his adrenaline charged body.

The droid calculated instantly upon seeing the white crest that Aleutian was an Echidna Guardian and that his capture was of upmost impor...

Cocking his right arm back, Aleutian pounded right through the heavily armored chest with his bare fist. His hand smashed through to the CPU inside, cutting the Swat Bot’s systems offline. Lifting his hand out from the chest cavity, which exposed the cuts that were created from hitting the hard alloyed metal, he clutched it and held it for a moment against his chest. Sweat from the physical and mental stresses that he was put through rolled across his trembling body.

Feeling his senses and motor skills come back to him, Aleutian picked himself off the floor and stumbled outside. Dusk had turned to night and he was barely functional. Dazed it seemed. Nonetheless he looked up to the clear night sky and searched for the North Star. Finding it, he glanced about nine degrees to the right of it, and headed in the direction of a dear friend’s house.

Three bloody hours passed when he collapsed at the door of his destination with the thud of his head hitting the door awaking the occupant of the house. When the door opened, a gasp came through the warm, glowing crack. “Aleutian my boy, what happened?”

Aleutian never replied, out-cold from the serum and the loss of blood from his desperate trek.

“We’re here Aleutian, wake up!”came Knuckles, kicking the back of the seat that the other Guardian was lying in. Aleutian lifted his heavy eyes open, feeling drained from his dream.

Sonic came over and unsnapped his belts for him, winking at him before turning to the ramp of the mid-sized transport. The ship was practically brand spanking new still; the smell of the fabricated parts still lingered in the air. With the large jet engine that was placed at the rear of the delta-winged fuselage, it could puddle jump almost anywhere that the Freedom Fighters needed to be.

“Ready to scout out the place, little buddy?” Sonic asked Tails, who was awaiting for his blue friend at the ramp.

Tails grinned. “Figured you never asked Sonic!” They both exited the ship and took off in their separate ways, looking for any possible threats in their immediate area.

Knuckles grabbed Aleutian’s arm and help him to his feet. “Where are we?” Aleutian asked his brother as he gained his balance.

“The Hidden Palace Zone. We have an underground operation here.”

“What!” Aleutian seethed out from his teeth, “our people are now underground–”

“I didn’t have a choice, and it is something that you wouldn’t understand,” Knuckles snarled.

“Try me, Knuckles,” Aleutian quickly replied, starring into his brother with his cold blue eyes.

Knuckles shrugged off Aleutian’s last comment and stood his ground with his arms crossed, looking away from his imposing brother...if that was what who he said he was. That, he was soon going find out.

Breaking his stare, Aleutian went about to unholster his weapons and began checking them to see if they were still functional. Knuckles clasped his mitten on top of his wrist, stopping him midway through the chore. “Don’t take your guns. Leave them here.”

Another long stare persisted before Aleutian hesitated briefly and he bowed his head in obedience and started disarming himself. However, he still kept his long coat on along with his fedora, throwing the rest of his stuff in a secured cabin in the back of the ship. There he adjusted his collar, and followed Knuckles outside.

It was eery for him when his boots touched the ground of his land. The grass was almost ankle deep and had patches of brown that intertwined with the green. Around him in the small clearing–that Tails had expertly landed the ship in–were leafless and even limbless trees dotting the landscape around him. And dead ahead he could see the outlining of the rocks that lead underground to the Palace Zone.

He grimaced at himself as his eyes fell to the ground. So you’re finally here. It took your brother for you to keep her promise. Satisfied now... Aleutian took a sharp deep breath, controlling himself before he began to cry in front of his brother. No I’m not! Why didn’t I do this on my own.

Sonic and Tails returned with the good news that the coast was clear. Knuckles nodded for Julie-Su and Aleutian to follow him. “Sally,” he called out to the Princess, “stay here, we’ll be back shortly.”

“Make it so, I don’t know how much time we have before either Eggman, or the Dingos, or the other part of your Family discovers us.”

“Yes,” Knuckles sighed, “be careful of any Dark Legionnaires. I don’t know who is friend or foe since my dad said they were at civil war.”

Aleutian eyed on Knuckles after the word of caution. “What, and I thought you said that they were helping you?” Knuckles just shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“We can take care them Rad Red!” Sonic said, assuring Knuckles with his fist hitting his open hand.

With the last good-bye nods, the three Echidnas set out to the Hidden Palace, Aleutian centered in-between Knuckles and Julie-Su.

“Do you think that Echidna is pulling our chain, Sally?” asked Sonic, referring to Aleutian after the three were gone.

Sally held her crossed posed, her trained eyes on the back of the dark Echidna. “I don’t know Sonic. I don’t know.”

The entrance to the main keep would have had to take a full regiment of troops to get past. At either side of the lips of the cave were two heavy machine impulse cannons that laid behind fortified sandbags. Their operators, a mix of what was left of the Echidna Security Agency and the Dark Legionnaires, standing ready for anyone or anything to come calling for their deaths. At the center, the tepee shapes of anti-tank obstacles that had Constantina wire draped over them and on the ground.

“You there, halt!” ordered one of the Dark Legionnaires, his body features overlapping with his natural fur and his unnatural metal parts. The rest of the small squad of guards raised their weapons at the approaching trio.

Knuckles raised his voice just enough that caution allowed. “Friendlies, I’m the Guardian Knuckles.”

An EST guards stepped forward from behind a tree and side stepped his way over to Knuckles, his grey plasma rifle trained at his chest. When he caught the white crest around Guardian’s chest, he waved to the others with excitement. “They’re okay, let them through.”

Knuckles nodded at him and walked towards the entrance with Julie and Aleutian in tow, snaking around the razor wire paths before disappearing inside the main keep. When they got inside, Knuckles was startled at the sight that laid before them. Little fires marked huddles of echidnas trying to stay warm from the coldness of the cave.

“So this is what you returned me for? To see your failure of our people?” Aleutian asked, his voice mixed with disappointment and frustration.

“I’m not the only one who’s failed them–”

“Look,” festered Julie-Su from behind them, “you two can just go on without me if you are gonna keep blaming each other on our troubles. I’m gonna go see Lien-Da what this civil war is about.”

Aleutian watched the pink echidna turn her back and disappear into the sea of Echidnas, finding himself smiling some. “Where do you find her?” he asked Knuckles with almost a chuckle.

Knuckles eyes never left his equal. “Long story.”

Knuckles lead the way to the new Master Emerald Chamber, knowing full well his father would be there. He couldn’t wait to show off his new revelation to him. On the way, many Echidnas chanted the return of the Avatar, bowing down to Knuckles as they passed. Aleutian looked on in awe at the site of his people kneeling to his brother. “I died and came back to life,” he explained to Aleutian, who snapped his head around to Knuckles. “Supposedly there is a prophecy that an Echidna will die and come back to life to save the people from a desperate struggle. It hasn’t happened yet so far–”

“Yet!” Aleutian snapped, “Don’t you loose your faith, brother, like I have!”

Knuckles just looked on at him, wondering if he was encouraging him, or doing something else. But losing faith? Knuckles regained what little faith he had lost when he did die. Seeing Aurora in person tends to do that.

They soon stepped through the tunneled entrance to the main chamber. The rock formation was lighted from the green glow of the Master Emerald that laid beyond the descending stairs.

“Stay here for a bit.” Knuckles insisted, “I want to make sure he is here.”

“Yeah right. You want to see if he’s going to tape dance his way around this?” mocked Aleutian, almost smirking.

Knuckles just shook his head at Aleutian before continuing down the stairs, leaving his brother behind on the steps; his body concealed behind the wall. Aleutian watched Knuckles disappear into shadow from the green glow of the Master Emerald, holding his breath, killing the urge to run with his brother’s back turned.

Locke was hunched over his folded legs, his hands on top of his knees with his mind placed into a deep trace. His eyes snapped to when his concentration was broken with the sound footsteps approaching. He searched his feelings and realized it was Knuckles, sensing the energy of two Chaos Emeralds as his son approached. Locke took a deep breath and smirked before he laid his thoughts on his son.

“So you’ve finally came to your senses and have come back to your people, haven’t you?” he snarled in the chamber, reminding Knuckles of their heated discussion they had only weeks ago.

“I’m here for different matters, father–”

“What different matters!” Locke interrupted. “What can be more urgent than reclaiming our home from the enemies that now inhabit it. Did you even gaze upon our starving and frightened people as you strolled back to me!?”

“Yes I did, but that isn’t--”

“Oh yes it is, Knuckles!” Locke shouted, sensing Knuckles’ next thoughts. Knuckles had already told him off once in front of a screen, and now he was doing it again in his presence. “So what can be more important...Guardian!”

Aleutian was actually smiling at himself from hearing his father voice–which he hasn’t heard in so many years–giving Knuckles an ear full of what he was also dishing out to him as well. It made him feel a little bit better about himself at that instant. The feeling of the scar on his snout stretching from the added tension of his smile, however, was enough to make it fade, sparking repressed memories and screams that much reassembled the long blemish.

“Dad...would you tell me everything about my past and our family?” asked Knuckles, his voice stern now.

Aleutian’s stomach began to digest his feelings of anxiety.

“I thought I had!?” Locke barked out, being in no mood to teach history.

“You have only told of me and those who have effected me so I could become who I am, but you haven’t told me–”

“Yes, Knuckles. That was so you can realize your duties and destiny of becoming a Guardian. There are no more secrets for you to know.”

So who is the Guardian that isn’t more than five feet away from me Father? Knuckles seethed out in his head.

Locke’s eyes flustered when he sensed what Knuckles was saying in his mind. What other Guardian...

“Still keeping secrets...aren’t we, Locke?” came Aleutian in a dark, empty voice, revealing himself from behind the stoned wall with his arms crossed over his body armored chest.

Locke stood up to see who dared overhear the conversation between him and his son. He could see a dark figure with a big brim hat that was illuminated from the green glow of the Emerald, but nothing else. Locke quickly searched his feelings but he came up short of who it was, only feeling coldness and pain from the person’s soul. “How dare you intrude in this sacred–” he began, but was cut short by the enraged soul behind his son.

“How dare YOU keep secrets from your own SON!” Aleutian snapped, his voice deepening as he stepped forward into the light. His face pierced through the darkness, but the shadow of his long, deep scar on his muzzle still laid cloaked. “This goes far beyond of what ‘father knows best!’”

No...” Locke breathed out, only to bit down on his anger with his realization. “What are you doing here?”

Narrowed eyes pierced through the green glow. “Is that what you ask me! After all these years, that is what you ask me!” Aleutian barked out.

“Your defiance to me deserves that questions! Your defiance to your people deserves that question,” Locke snarled, crossing his arms in disapproval. “So why are you back here?”

“Some Guardian dragged me here,” Aleutian said in a low growl as he pointed to Knuckles.

Locke looked straight at youngest son with his fiery eyes. “Why didn’t you take his word for it and leave him be!?”

“Because I wanted to know the truth without the lies, Father!” screamed Knuckles.

A strenuous pause filled the heavy air, making Locke take a deep breath before expelling it out along with his anger. He lowered his head and arms down in defeat of keeping the truth from Knuckles...that he had a brother. And looking up and seeing Aleutian with his arms folded, looking at him with eyes of green fire through his fedora, a cold shiver careened down his spine from the pain he could see on his son’s face. With a hard sigh before another uneasy breath, Locke found the courage he needed with it to ask the one question he longed to ask.

“How have you been, Aleutian?” he whispered.

Knuckles’s mouth dropped down upon hearing his father’s words come out like an unsuspecting earthquake. He wasn’t lying. He is my Brother!

“Forgotten...and hurt!” Aleutian retorted back, his voice never flinching.

“You could have returned anytime, son. You know that. I had even asked you to come back, but you always turned me down with your defiance. Why?” Locke asked with sorrow that mixed with his demanding voice.

“Because I wanted you to come and get me instead of your messenger,” the battered echidna hissed, “and from what you told me about the Prominent One here...I’d figured he could take good care of himself. And after the fit of raged you expressed, I don’t even know if I would have still felt welcomed.”

“That was not what you said over seven years ago. Plus, you have no idea what has happened to your brother since–”

“And nor do I care to, Locke. Not after the shame I have seen that he has brought forth since coming here–”

“Shame you speak of!? What of yours? You didn’t even try, or give a care to your own people,” Locke pointed out, crossing his arms and sealing the victory of the argument.

Aleutian dropped his hands down to his waist and gave one last hard look to his Father. “I was caring about my people, but not the way you wanted me to. Don’t ever tell me that I didn’t care,” He then beamed his angered stare at his brother “I’m done here!” he harshly said as he turned to leave. “Thanks for the pain, brother.”

“Aleutian,” Locke called out to his son, making his words carry out to him. Aleutian stopped and looked over his shoulder at his father, his face grimacing from the verbal fight.

“It is good to see that you are safe, son. Maybe not sound, but safe.” Locke said with an even tone, his head lowered down to the soft ground.

Aleutian looked down at the steps that led up to the surface of the Palace Zone. Without a thank you, he climbed them out.

Knuckles was about to follow him when Locke called out to him. “Stop, Knuckles.”

“Why, so you can lie to me again?” Knuckles seethed out.

“NO!” Locke shouted. He took in a deep breath and calmed his anger again to explain the past, making sure that Aleutian was already out of the Chamber before he began. “Aleutian is your full brother. I didn’t want to mention him to you because I didn’t want you to go searching for him. Knowing how you search for the truth in your younger days, it would have sent you to the ends of world after him. And if you had found him, you probably wouldn’t have liked what you saw. I was afraid that he would have made you question your purpose and your beliefs to the point that all hope would’ve been lost. It could have also unleashed your inner powers in a total opposite way that Mobius couldn’t handle.”

“Possibly, you mean? What if I got him to go along with help fight our enemies?”

“It was a small possibility,” Locke agreed. “I had sent Archimedes to bring him back to help you a couple of times. The first time I sent for him; Archy just come back saying that he had a bigger fight to do, and that he would come back later to help you. The second time I’d sent for him, it was on the day the first Robotnick fell. Archy came back to Haven with what I was hoping to be good news, that he had accepted. But all Archy would say was that he was lost. He didn’t tell me what, but something happened to Aleutian that made him loose his way. That was when I told myself that he was as good as dead...” Locke let a troubled sigh expunge from his lips, lowering his eyes to the Emerald as tears glistened from the green glow, “ I really wish he was, for his sake.”

Aleutian was making his way through the sea of desperate people...his desperate people he painfully pointed out to himself. You should’ve been helping them directly for once! he snarled at himself.

“Dear sir, do you have anything to help feed my children?” came a quivering female voice from the dark ground.

Aleutian stopped to see a withered red echidna, holding her children close to the fire that was slowly extinguishing itself from the lack of fuel. He could see the kids crying under her arms, probably from the hunger pains of not eating in awhile. Then, the female Echidna backed off a little after seeing the dark stranger’s face, holding her kids tighter as to protect them from one who she had asked for help. Aleutian just stared down with a rigid look of anger, mostly at himself for scaring the poor women with his dark cloths.

The drab really wasn’t him.

Aleutian then reached into his pocket and felt the lone credit bill that he took from Ebony Hare. He pulled it out and glanced at it. Not even caring that it was a fifty he slowly knelt down and placed it into the mother’s hand. “It’s all I have.”

“Thank you good sir, but,” she softly said, looking at money, “I don’t think there is much value for this here anymore,” she begged.

“Then it’s very expensive fire tender to keep you children warm,” Aleutian explained, almost smiling. He then watched her toss the bill into the dying fire. The paper slowly danced around as it was consumed, but burning out rather quickly.

The sight of the mother holding her two boys was enough to send an elegant of a woman he desperately tried to remember the features of. His heart was crushed when his thoughts came empty. He couldn’t remember what his mother looked like. Times past he could; her long eye lashes, her decorative locks, her caring smile. All that was there was her name.

Lady Lara-Le.

He turned his attention back down to the poor mother and asked if she knew where his mother might be.

“She may be in the Palace itself. The higher families are there, but they aren’t fairing to well either I am afraid.”

Aleutian nodded and gave his thanks before walking off in the direction that the woman had pointed to.

“...So why did you banish him in the first place?” Knuckles asked his father rather flatly.

“It wasn’t me who banished him...he did it to himself, Knuckles.” Locke slowly began, looking up at the ceiling of the cave. “When I had that dream, I’d asked Athair if it was Aleutian in my vision, but he told me that it was you, not him. So, I started the mutation treatments and seduced your egg under the energy of the Chaos Emerald. When I told your brother about you and my vision before you were born, we went to none-speaking terms almost instantly. One day I asked him why he doesn’t even talk to his own father. He said that he knew who the favorite was and that any conversation of reason would be a waste of his breath. I really wanted him to help you, Knuckles. I really did,” Locke finished, his last sentence filled with sincerity.

“How old was he when he said that?” Knuckles asked in awe.

“He was six, Knuckles, and shortly after that talk, he ran away. You were only one and a half seasons old when he walked out the front door. I ordered Archimedes after him, but he disappeared from our site.”

Knuckles looked down at his feet. The whole picture started to make some since now, but it still wasn’t all that clear yet.

Locke closed his eyes and opened them. “We might have a bigger problem.”

“What’s that?”

“He’s heading to the palace itself. What I think he is searching for could drive him over the edge. I feel pain and coldness in him, Knuckles.” Locke took a deep breath and gathered his thoughts. “He needs you, Knuckles...and you need him. He is probably going to see your Mother. Does he know of our separation?”

Knuckles gasped at the thought. “I don’t know? I haven’t mentioned it to him!”

“Then you best be on your way. And when you do see you mother, ask her for a box before you go.”

“A box?” Knuckles questioned.

“Yes. She will know what you mean...”

Aleutian approached the entrance to the palace. The sky blue marble finish was gorgeous from his standpoint, but the two Dark Legionnaire guards weren’t. As he drew closer, he saw them snap to attention, their weapons at the ready. “Halt you, state your business.”

“I’m here to see Lady Lara-Le,” he replied with a sincere expression of confidence on his scarred face.

“Have you an appointment?” one of them asked, his voice searing at Aleutian.

“I am afraid not,” he replied bitterly.

“Then you cannot pass without the proper credentials.”

Aleutian was about to start showing off his fancy foot work when he stopped himself short. He reached up to his coat, unbuttoned it, and pulled down his torn shirt collar. “Is this good enough,” he scorned.

The two Dark Legionnaires looked at each other and stepped aside. “Our apologies, Guardian.”

“It’s all mine. You two are just doing your jobs,” he breathed out as he walked through the main wooden doors.

He found the directory and saw that his Mother was on the top suite of the palace. A fine place for a Guardian’s family, he thought to himself. As he rode the elevator up alone, his thoughts went to the past for a brief moment, his thoughts ending as the silver doors opened to the fifth floor:

Well... at least you did kept her promise, even though it wasn’t the way she wanted you to keep it, Aleutian breathed to himself.

He turned right and made his way down the long, damply lighted corridor. Metal doors scaled up and down the short hallway, but Aleutian was only interested in one number. His long coat stopped dancing in the light breeze when he halted in front of it. Taking in a long, trembling deep breath, he raised his hand up, and knocked.

Lara-Le was inside with the lights dimmed, fighting a losing battle with a headache, and doing everything possible to get rid of it. After dimming the lights down, she laid on the white leather sofa in the living room, trying to ease the pain with her hand on her forehead. Her eyes became open when a light thud came to her door.

“This have better be good,” she moaned as she slowly got up from the couch. Her long locks trailed behind her as she approached the door, touching the switch that activated the motors to open the doors. As the groans ceased and the light from the hall way invading her eyes, Lara-Le gazed at the dark silhouette of the person that stood beyond her.

“Can I help you, sir?” she cautiously asked.

Aleutian felt every nerve in his body tense upon hearing his mother’s voice. His mouth opened from all the thoughts that raced through his mind with images that reflected how he got to this point.

...and now this!? he gasped at himself.

With a lasting look to the ground, his shoulders hunched forward as tears rolled down his face. “Hello, mother,” Aleutian said softly.

Lara-Le smiled before she returned the greeting. “Knuckles, what are you trying to do, scare me...”

“No, mom, “Aleutian paused, breathing in his tears, “it isn’t Knuckles,” Aleutian began, his tears were running down his check now; across his deep heavy scar.

Lara-Le placed her hand over her opened mouth, stepping back with her freehand ready to break her fall if she decided to faint. “Aleutian!?” she cried out, not believing what her thoughts beckoned her to ask.

The scarred Echidna nodded at the harsh truth with droplets falling from face, albeit with a hard grimace of sadness painted on his face.

Lara’s eyes began to overload with tears of joy and sorrow; she didn’t know what to do. But then her maternal instincts came up from her heart and did what any mother would do to any child of her’s...she embraced him.

“Oh my is you,” she whimpered with her voice reverberated through his chest, “you’ve come back to me.” She held him for more than a moment before clutching his hand and moving him out of the door, which shut after the sensors computed that their presences were away. Lara left him by the sofa as she went to turn up the lights. The sudden brightness revealed Aleutian as who he was; a scarred boy, more so on the inside than out, looking for forgiveness from his mother.

He could feel his heart aching from the overjoy of the reunion. He walked over to his mother and squeezed her hand, but wondered if she was going to ask him about all that he has been through. The scars would be all more the reason to ask him, but he wanted to shelter her from his painful past. But he really wanted to open up to tell her the fears that he has experienced. To tell her the great sadness and frustrations he felt from losing the one that truly mattered to him. After all Lara-Le was his mother, and mothers do know what is best to comfort their own. Even if they ran away from home. But he worried what she might think of him if he told her the acts that he has done, and the acts that he still had the bitter heart to do.

Lara-Le could see the horrid scars on his face when the lights revealed what was left of her son. The scar on his broad snout cut through her like a rusted, dull knife. She has seen wounds before, but seeing ones so deep on her own son made her break down completely. She fell to the floor, her knees buckling from the immense pain that she felt for him, shielding her eyes from the sight of him. Seeing her son the way he returned to her made Lara feel so ashamed for what she and Locke had not done for him–to find him and say that they were sorry–was enough to make her cry on the floor and to turn away in shame.

Aleutian went to her side, touching her arm that was drying her tears. She shook her head in frustration as she wept in his arms. “I’m so sorry...I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you like this,” she choked out, trying to beat her emotions back; but it became a losing battle in Aleutian’s arms. “My baby boy! My poor baby boy. I prayed for so long for your safe and sound return, and now you are here, punishing me.”

“No one needs to be punished, mother. It was me who left. It was my jealousy over a stupid prophecy that led to my choices. I’m the one who is sorry for leaving those who loved me.”

“We still do Aleutian,” Lara whimpered out, looking into his eyes that were glistening with tears in the dull, yellow lights of the room. “If you could go back, would you have made a different choice and stayed with us?” she asked, her voice trembling with her words.

Aleutian thought hard. Of all that he has been through and done–especial all that he has done-- would he have still made that the same decision? Would the outcomes of the past be better if he did?


His words hit her hard, forcing her to look up at him in disbelief. “Why Aleutian?”

He considered his words well before he dropped them into her hands. “I remember what you said to me long ago. I still remember it to this day. You told me our decisions effects our destiny. When dad told me of his dream of Knuckles after my brother was born, he told me that I would help out in his quest. So I made a decision that would have two effects. One: I left so when this adversary, that dad spoke of, would rise to power, I would hopefully might be able stop him before he took either Echidnaolopis or the Island over. And two: To keep out of the way of my brother so he could fulfill his destiny. I figured that was the best way I could help him. I felt I would have been a burden to him.”

“But you could have come back...”

He shut his eyes from hearing the truth that he didn’t want to hear. The time that he would have come back died on a nameless field of battle over two years ago.

Lara-Le traced the long scar down to his cheek, and to her horror, it was deep. Then she noticed the two others behind his right eye. She traced those too with a curious and scared look. Fearing that there might would be more, she started looking all over his body. When she came across the stubbed dread lock, she felt that as well.

“I have done pretty well at keeping my tail in one piece, but I can’t say the same for the rest of me,” Aleutian commented, wiggling his uninjured tail.

“These look fresh Aleutian,” she said, still tracing the one on his snout, “how old are these?”

“About a couple of years.”

“Who did you go to get these healed?”

“A few friends. All I could get at the time.”

“We can fix these Aleutian. We can clean these up,” Lara said in a comforting voice.

“No mother. These stay.”

Lara-Le started tearing up again. “But why?”

“I have my reasons mom. That is all I want you to know.”

“But it pains me to see them on you. You can start healing your spirit by healing the scars of the past...”

Aleutian just squeezed her hand. It was enough to reenforce what had he said. He stood up and helped Lara-Le to her feet. He could feel his eyes starting to water again.

“So, what now? Are you staying?” she asked.

“I don’t know, mom. I still feel that my life isn’t here.”

“But it is. That is why you came back in the first pl–”

On cue, the door slide open with Knuckles walking through it to see Lara-Le and Aleutian holding hands. Aleutian turned and shot him a cold stare in his direction for interrupting their reunion. “No, mom. I didn’t come here on my own decision,” he seethed out through his teeth.

Lara’s mouth dropped along with her joy. “But I thought you’d come back on your own?”

“No, I’m sorry, mom. Knuckles is the reason why I stand before you now.”

“So you would have stayed away from me forever, leaving me to wonder if your were still dead!? How could you do this to me Aleutian! To the mother who brought you into this world that gave you the gift of life so you can find the treasures of love!” she cried out, her last sentence mixed with sorrow and grief under her withering voice.

It hit home to Aleutian. He wondered why he had be so selfish to the ones who loved him. Because you didn’t know that they still loved you until now. He squeezed his eyes to stop the tears from coming, realizing that the shame he felt wasn’t from neglecting his people. For all that he had done, and had not done, in the past two years he had forgotten about his real reason for leaving home until now. The shame he felt wasn’t that he left home, but that he never returned and on his own...

Like what she wanted you to do! It took his brother who had no idea that he existed, in part of Locke, to drag him back in search of truth. That was the shame he felt at that very moment...that of not returning.

The door came alive with a child’s voice yelling through it. “Knuckles!” Kneecaps shouted in surprise. Aleutian watched the little Echidna boy run up to his brother and to his surprise, gave him a kick in the shin with his size two and a half shoe.

“Ow!” grunted Knuckles, grasping his leg from the blow that his half-brother dealt. The little red Echidna, who wore a blue shirt that was a little too big for him, giggled at his deed.

“Kneecaps! Be nice to your brother.” shouted Lara-Le.

Aleutian shot his eyes up to Knuckles, his mouth falling open. Knuckles could see the question in his rolling in his eyes, watching them fall back down to Kneecaps, who was about to give him another shot, but the little one and ten month old Echidna stopped when he noticed the dark figure that was by his mother. Kneecaps retracted his leg and ran around to Knuckles’ back, nervously tugging on his half-brother’s tail. He then slowly looked out from behind the warm-body that he was using as a shield, gazing upon the dark stranger. He pulled harder on his half-brother’s tail to hopefully get his attention.

Knuckles was far from it.

Lara-Le didn’t realize it until she saw the look that Aleutian gave to Knuckles which turned to one of joy, thinking that he had another baby brother. He doesn’t know about the divorce. Her shock was deepened when the voice of her husband came from the hall. Oh no...

“Kneecaps! You don’t just go running off like that! You stay with me at all times,” Wynmacher said as he turned the corner of the opened door, “how many times do I have to...” He stopped when he saw Knuckles was present, but he didn’t understand why Kneecaps was behind him. Then his gaze caught the glimpse of another Echidna in the room.

“Can I help you, sir?” he asked nervously, holding two bags of food that he worked hard to get on his outing.

Aleutian looked over at Wyn who was wearing a long, light blue robe over his brown fur and had a black ring over one of his dreads. He could see that he kept himself fit considering what Aleutian thought of what his age was. “I think you have the wrong room sir,” he said with a cold, and to the point, voice.

“I’m afraid not, sir. This is my house,” Wynmacher replied, who was getting ready to drop his goods to defend his family.

Aleutian glanced over to Lara-Le with a look of discontent. “Where’s Locke?” he barked out, wondering why this “Wyn” was standing in the door and not his father.

Lara looked down to the floor, grabbing her arm to brace herself of the pain she was about to inflict her son with.

“Me and Locke divorced two years after you left,” she softly said under her tears.

Aleutian bit down hard with anger, clenching his right fist in his frustration.

“Sir, I don’t like how your addressing my wife. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Aleutian snapped his head towards Wyn, his blue eyes burning with rage. Knuckles was putting up his left arm for a quick defense to hopefully save Wyn from his new found ego, slowly pushing Kneecapeon back to make room for the impending fight.

“You better get him out of my face mother, or you’re going to be a widow very soon!” Aleutian growled.

“How dare you–”

“Wyn, shut-up and go...NOW!” it was Knuckles this time. He could see his mother fighting for the words over her fragile self.

“But...” Wyn tried to interject but Lara-Le enforced Knuckles’ request.

“Go to the kitchen Wyn and take Kneecaps with you. I’ll explain this later.”

Wyn bowed his head to her wishes, motioned for Kneecaps to follow, and took his leave with great puzzlement.

Aleutian held his head down, shaking it to force the explanation of what had transpired. He looked over to his brother who was starting to back down. Knuckles’ heart sank, knowing what Aleutian was thinking. I was going to tell you, Knuckles tried to say, but no sound would travel out from his lips. But the thought was painted on his face.

Aleutian beamed his reply within his malice eyes. Fair enough, Knuckles. I know I’ve been a block head and not asking the questions that I should’ve been asking instead of you. Fair enough! And there he took one painstakingly step towards the door, then another; the excess fabric from his coat trailed behind him as he started to leave.

“Aleutian...stay! Please, don’t leave me like this again!” Lara-Le pleaded with her voiced raised.

“What...the letter wasn’t good enough!?” Aleutian replied, his voice shaking, but his words filled with rage.

“I want to be your mother. I want to hold you again in my arms. Don’t rob me of that again. Not now!” Lara-Le was crying and screaming now, shaking from the fear that she may not see him again for another sixteen years. All Knuckles could do was watch as Aleutian left without saying a word.

Lara-Le fell to the floor, crying the hardest she’s ever cried in her life.

Knuckles went over to her and held her in his arms. “I thought you went separate ways over me?” he asked with a soothing voice, forcing his temper back down from what his brother had snapped at her.

“We did, Knuckles. I wanted you to have a childhood and to make your choices while being a kid. Locke said that you were too valuable for the future to make decisions on your own. So he made them for you. I hated it; every second of it. He was so selfish of you because he lost Aleutian from his freewill. He wanted your brother to help you, but Aleutian just left. Only saying good bye in a note.”

“Why didn’t you tell me of him?” Knuckles asked. He was starting to feel the pain that she was releasing through her tears.

“Your father took you when you were three. You wouldn’t have remembered him if I did tell you. When Echidnalops returned to Angel Island I was so happy to see you that I forgot all about him. When I did remember, I asked Locke about him and he said that your brother was dead,” she said, shaking her head from Locke’s lying words, “and he told me not to tell you for your sake.”

“He told me that he was lost.”

“Again, Knuckles, difference of opinion between me and your father,” she said with a shrewd voice.

“More like lost in translation, mother,” Knuckles said as he stood up. He was about to go after Aleutian when he stopped at the door and remembered to ask Lara-Le about a box.

“Dad said something about a box?”

His mother looked up at him, nodded her head, and stood up. She rubbed her nose as she walked along the way to the jacket closet. Opening it she sifted through the hung clothing before returning with a brown box with no markings. “This is Aleutian’s,” she announced as she handed it to Knuckles. “Give it to him when he is ready.”

“Ready for what mother?”

“When he finds himself again. He maybe lost, like your father says, but you can help him find his way. Deep down, Knuckles, he isn’t this dark. If he was, I would have felt it,” Lara said, her gaze furthering the truth that she spoke of. “You’ll know.”

With that, Knuckles hugged his mother and started to leave the room.

“Knuckles, tell him that it isn’t his fault,” she choked out, her words trailing as the door slide shut.

When the groans stopped, she fell to the floor again, weeping for Aleutian, hoping that he’d come back her.

The walk back towards the ship drove his anger further with every step Aleutian took. After he emerged from the cavern he started going through his thoughts of what had transpired. Hearing of his parents divorce after he’d left, sent him on a anger trip that didn’t stop until the open moonlight hit his face. He looked at himself from the inside. The hat, the coat; for some reason they didn’t fit him emotionally anymore. Breathing in heavily, he tried to cool his temper. It worked, but it turned to grief that traveled throughout his body, causing his knees to buckle from the weight of his thoughts that drove him to the ground. He screamed in his emotional agony at the dark sky, hoping no one could hear him.

So he does cry, Knuckles observed at a distance. He didn’t see the brief, but somewhat happy reunion with Lara-Le.

Slowly making his way towards his brother, he could hear Aleutian talking to himself, placing the blame where it didn’t belong. “It’s my’s all my fault. I hurt everyone I ever loved. It’s Aurora’s way of punish me?”

“No, Aleutian,” Knuckles tearfully said, “you are not to blame for mom and dad splitting,”

“YOU!” Aleutian growled over his tears as he stood up and marched towards Knuckles, his right hand pointing towards the source of all his pain, “you brought me here to what...harden me even further!?”

“No! I came for the truth,” Knuckles stated, matching Aleutian’s throes expression.

“And look what the outcome is!” Aleutian barked, stepping right up to his little brother’s face.

“Yes, look at it, Aleutian. You’ve seen that the people you left still love you! And now I’m here with you...standing beside you in your moment of dispare! If you are wanting reward, then here it is! I need you now, our people need you, and most of all, you are the one who needs me,” Knuckles whole-heartily testified. “Your family never abandoned you, but you abandoned them, and after seeing them now, do you really think you can runaway again? You can’t Aleutian. They know your alive, I know your alive, and mark my words, I will hunt you down to the ends of Mobius.”

Aleutian just listened, crying in between the breaths of his brother’s words as he stepped back.

“I would have loved to have known that you existed in my younger seasons when Locke left me for The Forbidden Zone,” Knuckles continued. “We could have figured things out on our own, instead of me having to cry myself to sleep in my den, thinking I was alone. Did you ever think about what you were doing to me when you walked out?” Knuckles drew in a long shaky breath. “And now I am here today, with you. If this is a chance encounter, then so be it. I say it is destiny and it is done by the choices we’ve made. Can you remember you still believe in your reasons for the choices you’ve made?” Knuckles finished, stabbing his mitted finger into Aleutian’s chest

Aleutian just lowered his lonely gaze down towards the grass carpet, not knowing what to believe in anymore. All his emotions he had were filled with pain. He hadn’t felt love in so long that when it came hit him with a vengeance. Tearing him down to where he felt mute in his heart to accept it.

“Take me home Knuckles...please,” his request was all that he could muster with what little voice he had left from the crying.

Tails was at the controls and enjoying the easy flight back home over the glimmering ocean. His trance, though, was soon broken when the alarm sounded. He looked down and saw it was the missile detection beckon with a message to break left. Jamming the stick hard in the requested position from the computer, he did it in the nick of time; a missile barreled from under his right wing, detonating safely away, and causing the ship to shutter from the shockwave which awoke Aleutian. He could hear the sound of debris hitting the sides of the transport as he gathered his senses.

“What’s going on, Tails?” Sally yelled, her voice being drowned out from the sounds of another alarm.

“I have more missiles inbound from an unknown point of origin!” shouted back the twin-tailed fox. He slammed the control yoke down and turned it to the right. The added G forces jerked everyone around in their seats, some of them holding on to the arm rests as the ship banked hard to the right.

Sally looked over her shoulder at the small rounded window beside her. What she saw sent an irritable feeling to her stomach; three white streaks where climbing up from the sea, looking like long tentacles of death rising up to meet them in the moonlight. She unsnapped herself from the seat and began to go forward to the cock-pit, but Tails pulled back on the stick hard and increased the engine throttles to the firewall. The sudden movement sent Sally backwards, almost landing right into Aleutian’s lap. Finding no point in getting hurt from Tail’s flying she struggled back into her seat beside him and fastened the safety straps across her blue vest.

“Can you shake these things, Tails?” she shouted, wanting to hear good news on the spot.

“I’m trying Sally!” the young fox nervously replied

“You have any CHAF on this hunk of junk?” came Aleutian, his words coming out shaky from the vibrations of the ship.

“What do you mean hunk of junk, this thing’s brand new!” retorted Sonic in his usual mocking manner.

From the left side of the cockpit window, one of the missiles streaked by and exploded at a distance that wouldn’t cause any damage to the ship, except for the pride of those aboard. “Yea, we do! Now what?”came back Tails, jittered from seeing the fireball and the ring of sparks from the exploded missile.

“Missile impact in...ten seconds,”the automated female voice reported.

“Level this thing out and fire off two when they get close,” suggested Aleutian and that he hoped would be taken to heart.

“How close!?” blurted out Julie-Su, who was not liking the unpleasant ride and the feeling of having her pretty-self about to be splattered to the four winds.

“Five seconds...till impact.”

“That’s close enough...” came back Aleutian, his eye brows pointing to the roof..

Tails jammed the button for the anti-missile countermeasures. Two single grey balls fired from the aft of the ship, exploding after a few meters away from their departure. They sprinkled white hot sulfur shrouds in the air, creating a cloud of hot molten metal. The two trailing missiles impacted the shrouds, exploding their ordnance safely away from the ship. Tails felt the impact through the controls.

“Now what?”

Aleutian unstrapped himself from his seat, dispensed his coat and hat onto the chair, and moved over to the console. He plotted himself in the co-pilots chair and strapped himself in for the ride. “Climb this thing and climb it hard.”

Tails bushed for the afterburner that rocketed the ship to the heavens in a sharp climb. The added thrust sent shudders throughout the ship, creating more of a bumpy ride for the Freedom Fighters. Then the alarm sounded its ugly tone again, drowning out the sound of the pushed engine that was at max power.

“Oh, please be quite!” exclaimed Tails, who was having enough of the current ordeal.

“Keep going, don’t let up,” came Aleutian with a calmer voice.

“You mean make us an easy target for what’s ever shooting at us?” shouted Sally, wondering who made the new echidna captain of the ship.

“Those are short range missiles ma’am. If we increase our distance and altitude, we’ll be out of range from ‘em,” Aleutian quickly informed Sally, hoping to cool her temper.

“And the ones that are on track to us!?” barked Julie-Su.

Aleutian rolled his eyes at the revelation. Oh yea, forgot about those...”

“How many more countermeasures Tails?” he asked, hoping that he got the fox’s name right.

“Two left, but there’s four of them after us,” replied the young fox in his childish voice.

Aleutian looked down at what he determined to be the radar screen, and noticed the missiles were coming in two by two. So where are they coming from? He traced the contrails back the surface of the ocean, via the adjacent LSD monitor that showed the incoming fires of death. “Looks like Davy Jones doesn’t like us for some reason,” he observed with a smirk, his body still shacking from the vibration of the turbulence.

“Hey, I hear is locker is pretty nice–”

“Can it Sonic!” shouted a very tempered Sally.

“Ten seconds till...missile impact. Break right!” announced the automated female voice again.

“Deploy the countermeasures, Tails!” Aleutian ordered.

Tails released them on his command. They exploded and caught the first two missiles in their fiery clutches, but the following two maneuvered around the molten cloud and continued after their target.

“Any more bright ideas there scar-face?” Sonic asked mockingly.

“You call me that again, boy wonder, and you’ll be our next it,” came Aleutian, his voice deepened as he turned to the blue hedgehog. Sonic nodded with a gulp.

“Hold your course Tails,” Aleutian said, throwing a calmer voice among the optimistic ones. Tails just looked at him with disbelief. The Guardian just nodded at him for reassurance.

“Your brother is an absolute loon, Knuckles,” observed Sally. Julie-Su was beginning to agree with her.

“Missile impact in...ten seconds. Brake right!”

“I’m beginning not to like her either, Tails,” came Aleutian with an eery calm voice.

As the missiles crept closer, burning their solid fuel away, they came to the point where their proximity warheads were about to detonate; but the distance never came. They were still closing in when their precious fuel ran out, however, the resistence of the fast moving air slowed their pursuit. With gravity finding its fingers around the slender shapes of the missiles; they slowly started to fall away.

“Eleven Seconds...till impact. Fifteen seconds...till impact. Tracking missiles have diverted course.”

The whole ship let out a breath of grateful relief with the exception of Aleutian. He stood up from the co-pilot’s chair and made his way back to his original seat, throwing his coat over him to keep warm. “Well, that was fun,” he expressed with a hint of relief, placing his hat back on top of his head.

Julie-Su looked back at Knuckles, her face pale, but not from the fear of almost getting blown out of the sky. Her mind raced back to her meeting with Lien-Da and what was being planned. What ever it was down in the ocean could have a major impact of the plans that laid in store for her kind. “Knuckles, we might have a problem?”

“We didn’t take a hit did we?” came Sonic, still frantic from the near misses–or hits as he looked at it.

“No, not that,” Julie brushed off, “Lien-Da told me that they are wanting to send some refugees our way. Now that the island is over the Eastern Ocean, they want to send a ship with over five-hundred Echidnas aboard to the main land.”

“Who’re they sending?” Knuckles asked, knowing the dire path that laid before those who were seeking exile.

“Mostly women and children along with those too sick to hold out until we can take the Island back,” she said with a strain in her voice, “and I know you don’t like to swim?”

Sonic snuffed at the comment. “That makes two of us!”

“How are they going to send that many people over the air?” asked Sally.

“They’re not. They are going by sea. Since Eggman has pretty much the upper-hand with air cover, especially with the threat of his Eggfleet, they want to send them over the water.”

“What Eggfeet?” asked Aleutian promptly.

“Eggman has a giant Eggfleet. We’ve seen it, and its bad news,” replied Sonic, gesturing the size with his hands.

Aleutian weighed in his options but wondered if they would take him seriously. “You have anything that could detect and sink whatever it is that’s down there?”

Tails turned back in his seat, “No we don’t. I think Rotor could build something in a hurry–”

“Can he do it in six days and counting; because that is when they are going to set sail from the Island,” Julie-Su said in frustration. She was going to tell Knuckles about this when they got back to their temporary home in Knothole City, but new circumstances dictated that idea differently.

“Last time I checked, Angel Island is several thousand feet over the water. How are they even going to get a boat sea worthy from that height?” asked Tails.

“Locke is going to power down the Emerald and let the Island sink a little. When the ship is steaming away, he’ll re-power the Emerald and float it back up,” explained Julie.

Sally put a hand over her forehead and tried to rub the pain away from the stress. “We’ll think of something. If anything they might have to stop the exodus all together,” she then turned to Aleutian. “So where can we drop you off?”

Aleutian weighed in his options. He knew he could help them, but he didn’t know if he had the courage to do it. He grimaced at himself and looked down at his boots; but his eyes would never fall to them. Instead, he looked further down; at his white birthmark on his chest. Well, are you going to help them directly this time, or are you going to go back home and crawl yourself into that little ball again?

“Knothole City will be fine,” he answered, his voice stiff with his decision, “I need to look at a map.”

“You can use the computer–” Aleutian interrupted Tails with the wave of his hand.

“No, I need a paper map, with calipers, a rule, and a compass,” he paused before continuing, “I might have something up my sleeve but I need to make sure we have enough time to do it,” Aleutian said with a hint of confidence as he clasped his hands over his hand and leaned back in the seat. “But for now, I am going to enjoy the rest of the flight in peace.” And with that, Aleutian tipped his hat over his eyes and doze off with the sound of the whiny engine as his lullaby.

A little later, Knuckles was walking past Aleutian to go talk Tails, but his brother stopped him as he grabbed his arm. Knuckles jerked his head to see Aleutian looking up at him with tears tracing down the painful fissures behind his right eye. With a soft and faint voice that was trying to choke the painful tears of the day back inside him, he said something to his brother that left Knuckles in total shock at what the meaning was...

“...thank you...”

Knuckles nodded his head ever so slightly at Aleutian. As he continued back to the command deck to talk with Tails, tears were welling under his eyes as he approached the twin tailed fox. He let them fall without resistance.

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