Putting to Sea
“How we doin’?” he asked as he marched passed Mathias, heel to toe.
“About to start fueling. Most of the essentials are just about on. I’d say we be out of here in about two hours, maybe three. Speaking of time, your plotting was off.”
“How so?” asked Aleutian, stopping to hear how rusty he was.
“The math was right on, plus measurements of the distances, but you forgot the drift of Angel Island. You were off about two hundred klicks...”
“...Angel Island? Do you mean...”
“...The name has gone back to times of old Aleutian. That is one of many things I’ll have to tell you,” explained Knuckles.
Aleutian smiled, still feeling the scar on his snout stretching, “Wonderful! I wanted that done for how long?”
“How are we on torpedoes Mathias?” Aleutian asked, his face changing back to the business of the task at hand.
“I haven’t even looked at them yet.”
Knuckles followed the two down inside the supply hold. The smell of the damp place, plus the heavy aroma of some sort of fuel that he hadn’t smelled in years, hung in the mist of the labor. They rounded to the right of the large hall that lead to a doubled door room. Mathias opened both doors at the same time, exposing several large brown metal cylinders with fins at their backs. A set of twin counter-rotating propellers were placed inside the fins, and they had red nose covers that had little spinners at the front of the round covers.
“We only have seven of the regular battery powered torpedoes,” Mathias pointed out with his hand, then turned his attention to the left wall, “and two of the plasmas.”
Knuckles couldn’t believe his now burning eyes from the think air and lack of sleep; and now from the heavily painted pink torpedoes. They looked liked the regular ones on the back wall, but with a longer fin section on both, sporting not two, but four counter-rotating propellers that ran the length of the fins.
“What’s the difference besides the paint?” he asked, almost laughing at the color.
“The ones in brown run on battery power, and they do about fifty to seventy miles per hour. Pretty quick eh?” stated Aleutian.
“If you say so,” showing how much Knuckles knew of this.
“Well,” Mathias continued for Aleutian, “those two in pink run on a mix of batteries and hydrogen gases. The batteries themselves is over heated and overworked, producing hydrogen gases. Those gases are trapped and ignited in a small engine, producing overwhelming power. The batteries do help in the propulsion as well, but the true power is the hydrogen motor.”
“Instead of sixty or more, those things can do at least a hundred and fifty. But they leave a nice little trail behind them. The regular ones do too, but these babies can leave a trench in the water if they ride high enough below the surface,” Aleutian said, with a sharp grin.
“So, the stupid question is, how do they track the target?” came Knuckles, wondering how they were going to sink something that they couldn’t see.
Mathias spoke next; “For a surface target, we plot them to run into something. There is a bit of an art to it,” Mathias explained, “The artistic part is putting one of these under the keel of a ship. The explosion from the torpedo produces a bulge of air that splits the keel in two after the ship comes back down. It causes maximum flooding,” the Dingo finished with a twinkle in his eye.
“I think he means on how are we going to be hunting for this thing, Mathias,”chimed in Aleutian, turning the attention towards the real mission. “We have a sonar device on board. Two actually, one is Vector...”
“...that is if he can still hear after abusing those ears of his,” Knuckles shrewdly pointed out.
Aleutian held up his hands to ease his brother. “The second is a pinging device. We hear it, we ping it, Espio, locks onto it, and we fire one of these babies after it.”
“Definitely might have to use a Plasma just to make sure it can’t maneuver out of the way. Even so if it dodges, it has acoustic homing capabilities, part of our design,” Mathias stated with a smile.
“What about the other torpedoes?” Knuckles wondered out loud.
“They unfortunately don’t,” Mathias breathed out. “We’ll have to fire a spread with those using line of sight. Since I haven’t had the time or help, I haven’t been able to make more and put the new guidance systems in,” Mathias quickly stated, eyeing on Aleutian with sadness from the last bit.
“Well, lets get started,” came Knuckles eagerly. He strolled over to the racks of torpedoes, wrapped his arms around one and tried to lift it. He couldn’t even budge it with his strength. “Wow, what gives?”
“About one and a half tons, brother. Why I picked Mighty for this.”
Mathias took Knuckles to help with a tractor and carts while Aleutian paged for Mighty. The red armadillo soon appeared and began to lift the torps as if they had the weight of a feather. He gently placed them on the carts per Mathias’s orders. When he loaded four, one of which was one of the loud pink colored ones, (Mighty couldn’t get over the color either,) Mathias rolled the tractor out to the Plunger with the three helpers grabbing a cart to ride on.
Reaching the dock, Aleutian jumped off and made his way on to the sub. He climbed down the hatch that was forward of the conning tower, and made his way to the torpedo room, bypassing some of the cabins that were lit up already. As he entered, Aleutian passed chains that were gracefully wobbling in the air over two rails that hung from the ceiling. He reached up to a red handle by the left rail and pulled it down. The early afternoon sun pierced the inside of the room that bore the teeth of the Plunger. Light made the four brass torpedo hatches glimmer. Yellow and red handles, valves, and hand wheels littered the grey walls.
Aleutian began opening the torpedo tubes when Mighty stuck his head through the long slender hatch. “How am I suppose to get down there with these bulky hotdogs?”
“I’ll grab a ladder,” Aleutian retorted as he opened the bottom right torpedo hatch. He retrieved one and secured it at the edge of the hatch way, and prayed the thing would hold Mighty and the fishes.
Mighty soon appeared with the first “hotdog.” Aleutian helped count the steps as Mighty gently lowered himself and the “fish” inside. It scraped here and there as Mighty angled it through the hatch with Aleutian helping him guide it through. When the fins cleared the hatch, Mighty changed posture of the torpedo in his arms and moved it to the upper left tube that Aleutian pointed to first. As Mighty slid the red tipped “hotdog” inside, Aleutian painted the torpedo with a heavy coating of grease with a large camel-haired paint brush. This ensured a smooth exit from the tube when it was fired; plus, it coated the tube automatically when the next “hotdog” was loaded. Before Aleutian closed the hatch, he took a wire from the very tip of the counter-rotating blades and attached it to a little eye hole stud on the back of the brass hatch.
“What’s that for?” asked Mighty.
“That arms the torpedo right after launch. The clip is attached to a wire that runs about six inches before it snaps off. If we set it for a magnetic pistol, it arms after four seconds of firing. It makes sure we don’t blow ourselves up,” Aleutian winked. Mighty just raised his head, and rolled his eyes in agreement, along with understanding. “Do hope you enjoy it here, cause this is your primary station,” smiled Aleutian.
“It takes about five of us to load one of these in about six minutes. It can take you thirty seconds. Welcome to your new home for awhile.”
“But I know nothing about...”
“...Don’t sweat it Mighty, you’ll learn, and on top of that, I’ll be here to help,” Aleutian assured Mighty with a pat on his shoulder. “Now, lets load the rest.”
They continued to load the last two battery powered torpedoes with ease. Then Mighty lowered the Plasma torpedo, and Aleutian cautioned for a slower pace which was no problem for Mighty as he remembered the “armed” part in the previous discussion. Aleutian helped guide the Plasma into its new home. As he did with the rest, he coated it with grease, but midway through loading it, he stopped the process. Aleutian unscrewed four bolts and lifted a panel off the side of the torp.’ He then reached down inside the innards of the pink torpedo and turned the thing on at the flip of a switch. With the torpedo activated, Aleutian replaced the cover with the four screws, and continued with coating the fish as Mighty slid it inside the tube. Placing the same arming wire on the back of the hatch, Aleutian also attached a small cable to the rear of the torpedo before shutting the hatch, and locking it down with a handle.
“So what was so different about that one besides the color?” asked Mighty.
“I turned the batteries on and plugged into the sub. The sub will keep it charged, and keep the batteries warm.”
“Oh,” Mighty sighed.
“Go grab the last four of the ‘hotdogs’ as you call them, and meet me back here!”
“Roger,” Mighty replied, almost throwing out a salute.
As Mighty climbed the ladder out, Aleutian went towards the cabin compartment, which was only a bulkhead away from the “business” end of the sub. Dr. Quack was shutting the last door to one of the freezers as Aleutian came by:
“That’s it!” Dr. Quack said, finally observing Aleutians scars, including the one on his chest that lay beyond his jacket. “My word, I could have fixed those a world better. Who sewed you up?”
“Mathias, and an Overlander medic who made a house call.” “And that I almost killed,” Aleutian coldly added to himself.
“I can tell, Overlanders aren’t notable for their medicine and their knowledge of anatomy of us Mobians. I’d like to have a once over at you when you have the chance.”
Aleutian twitched his head at the thought before he replied. “I’m fine.”
“Yeah right, look at you, Echidna...you’re wreck.”
“More ways than one...”
“Aleutian!” came Mathias from the hatch that was a couple of paces back from where the two were standing, “We’ll be pumping the fuel in soon. Check the fuel valves and such.”
“Will do,” Aleutian turned back towards the doc. “Duty calls,” he smiled before as he turned away and walked towards the back of the sub. He checked a couple of gauges on his way through, one was for the amp load of the batteries which where almost fully charge, and the other was the hydrogen detector. That gauge showed the hydrogen levels that the batteries were giving off. Too much, plus a spark and the Plunger would be talking with Davy Jones in a matter of seconds.
Aleutian cleared the main control room and ducked under the hatchway into the rear quarters that mostly housed the spare parts, weapons, ammunition for said weapons, and tools. Clearing that room, he ducked under another hatchway into the engine room. Two giant V-12 engines lined the walls, their yellow paint overshadowed by the black film of oil and grease from previous patrols. Aleutian did his checks and made his way back to the torpedo room. As he did, he could hear the fuel being pumped into the tanks that were spread throughout the sub.
Mighty returned with the last four hotdogs ready to be gently placed inside. Aleutian again, helped, but mostly this time overseeing the process. All Mighty had to do was load them on four of the eight torpedo racks that lined the walls that were cushioned by nets on the undersides. When every torpedo was loaded, Aleutian secured them with four belts that were anchored on the sides of the walls. He then told Mighty to grab the last fish back at the supply room and to meet him at the rear of the boat. Mighty looked at him if he was off his noggin:
“Okay, so you want me to load the last one where?”
“We have a tube in the back Mighty!” Aleutian forced out. All the small questions and statements were pushing his very small limits.
When Mighty exited from the torpedo access hatch, Aleutian closed it and locked the handle back in place. He then grabbed the ladder and again, and made his way towards the back of the boat. Passing the last four compartments as before, he entered the last two at the rear the sub. The electric motor room laid aft of the engine room. Two 1300 horse power electric motors laid under his feet with metal shafts extending from the rears of them that disappeared through the rear bulkhead. The two round motors were almost the length of the compartment with wires sticking out from the ends of them. They still had their original silver paint job on them. Above them, along the walls of the hull, were two racks of batteries that helped power the motors.
Past the bulkhead was the rear torpedo compartment with a single brass hatch at the far rear. Flipping the lever, the aft torpedo access hatch snapped open above Aleutian’s head. With it came Mighty with the last Plasma torpedo. It was soon sealed inside the dark, greasy smelly tube moments later.
Two and a half hours passed and the fueling was just about complete. The fresh water tanks were fully filled (after being flushed from the two years of doing nothing,) and the last of the crucial supplies were placed inside. Mathias was on the bank, smiling at the progress that was being made on such short noticed, when Aleutian came up beside him.
“We’re about ready to put to sea,” he announced with a tired voice.
Mathias just faintly shook his head. “Do you think they will need to be taught ‘military bearing?’ If we are to really do this with them for the...”
Aleutian kindly cut him off gently. “...Come on Mathias. They have been fighting together for how many years? I think with most of them knowing what we are about to do, and how we’re going to do it...I don’t think we need to pressure them with that right now. We’ll have to teach them some new things, but they are young and very disciplined, except maybe for Sonic,” Aleutian chuckled, “but other than that Mathias, no. If something breaks down in team work, I’ll be on it fast.”
“What’s got you like this, boy?” Mathias smiled, his arms crossed over his tropical shirt.
Aleutian sighed, gathering his careful thoughts:
“My people, Mathias; for once I’m thinking about my people. Angel Island is under the control of a very oppressive man, and the thought of many dying from trying to get away from him...I don’t know Mathias...”
“...Sounds like you’ve finally come to your senses after all these years. Look, I know I’ve been a like a father to you Aleutian, but it is time you go back to your family, help them directly for once instead of indirect.”
“But it worked last time...”
“...It isn’t going to work this time. All of our comrades and friends are either dead, robotoized, or too old to fight. Take yours truly here...‘Guardian,’” Mathias emphasized, “this will probably be my last cruise, and I don’t think you’ll be able to get another crew to help you. We got lucky the first time with the supplies and the weapons, but without the help like we had last time, it isn’t going to be as effective.”
Aleutian stared long into the ground. “I wish I hadn’t gone. I wish I hadn’t listened to you for once and hadn’t gone,” he breathed out softly. Mathias knew all too well what he was talking about.
“I know you do...but what happened then was instrumental to them,” Mathias said, pointing to the Freedom Fighters and Chaotix. “You gave them the time and room to help defeat Julian...”
The Dingo breathed in at the thought of losing so many of his comrades in a battle he never fought. “I’m sorry Aleutian...your right. So when are you going to tell them?”
Aleutian snapped his head up to his very dear friend. “I’m not,” he flatly replied. “You think I want them to know what happened out there? It’s history that I don’t want them to feel guilty about. From the looks of things, they don’t need to know how many lives have been really sacrificed in this whole ordeal.”
“But Aleutian...you wear that history on your face,” Mathias pointed out calmly, “at least tell your brother for Aurora’s sake. Or is the past still binding your feelings?”
Aleutian didn’t say a word, he just trudged off, his hands fisting with his frustrations. Mathias shook his head in not understanding him. “He came so close...so long ago.”
Remembering the tradition that needed to be fulfilled before they parted Mobius Prime, Mathias started his way back to his house. There was a scroll he needed to grab.
As he proudly marched his way along, Sally spotted him and joined him back at the house. “Looks like I’m about done here. I need to get back and tell my folks and my brother of what is going...”
“...Elias? The young prince is alive!?” Mathias burst out, almost coming out of his fur when he heard the young King’s name. That too was soon going to make him jump out of his skin.
“He is now acting King, sir.”
Mathias just smiled hard before it faded. “And what of my old friend...your father?”
“He is doing better. We almost lost him not to long ago, but he is doing better. Mother is with him most of the time, getting him well.”
“I must find the strength to see him. I am sure he’d perk up seeing my old dogged face.”
Sally nodded her head in agreement. Right now, anything would help.
As Sally and Mathias were playing more catch up, Aleutian was setting quarters up for the gang. He had them lolly gaged around him, just forward of the command room, and a bulkhead away from Mathias’s bunk; along with the radio and sonar stations. They were overlooking four, somewhat cramped rooms with only two bunks in each that lined the rounded walls, along with a small table in each room that had two chairs underneath.
“Okay, Knuckles, you and Julie-Su are here,” Aleutian instructed, pointing at the first cabin. He then walked down to the next one and extended his arm. “Sonic, you and Tails; since you two seem to be buds.”
“Got that right!” Sonic gassed back, giving his orange and brown friend a hard nuggy on the head. “Hear that Tails, we’ll be up-chucking together.”
The room erupted with a small chuckle. “Okay...okay,” Aleutian said, smiling at Sonic’s comment, “Rogue, you are in here with me. Espio, you and Vector are in the last one. Mighty, there are a bunch of bunks for...”
“Hold it bro,” came Vector, “we Chaotix stick together. Know what I mean.”
“Fine, have it your way. You three get to crash in the torpedo room,” Aleutian grumbled, “Doc, you and Rotor get the last room. Now, grab your stuff, get it below, and meet back topside on the bridge.”
They all started out in the organized mob that they were. As they departed, Rogue’s nose smelled the heavy fumes that assaulted her senses. “What’s with the smell?”
“That’s the diesel,” Aleutian grudgingly replied. “You’ll get used to it after awhile.”
“You mean we’re contributing to Ro-butt-nick’s pollution?” snapped Sonic from the aluminum ladder.
“Unfortunately,” slowly replied Aleutian unevenly. “I didn’t design her so don’t go complain to me about it.”
Aleutian had already placed his bag on his bunk; so he waited for the rest of the gang to show back up. One by one they tossed what little gear they had brought with them down the hatch, and then they placed it in their cabins. Mathias then appeared with his seabag in tow. He passed it down to Aleutian, who knew where it went. Just inside the first hatchway going towards the front from the control room, were two little shacks that were separated by a metal wall that only ran about three feet towards the center. The first room by the hatch to the command room, housed the radar, the radio, and an odd looking record player. The one behind it had a set of earphones and a wheel. The wheel was positioned right in front a needle that had the numbers of a compass written on to it in a circle. To the left of the shacks, was Mathias’ bunk. Behind the sonar cabin laid the galley where Doctor Quack would be spending most of his time in all this. Further down to the next hatch was the cabins for the new residents of the Plunger. To the left of the cabins was the dinning table and beside that to the right were the two large freezers.
When Aleutian got topside, Mathias was there on the bridge with a white scroll in his hand. The newly formed crew of the Plunger were standing at the rear of the bridge around the anti-hoverbot cannon. Aleutian took his position by Mathias, which the Dingo soon unrolled the scroll, and eyed it through his glasses. Even the new ones that Aleutian had given him over a year ago were starting to loose their use. With a grimace from his blurred vision, he handed the yellow stained roll to Aleutian.
“I think it is best your read it now,” he said.
“Why...” Aleutian was about to protest that Mathias was the captain, but his old mentor stopped him:
“It’s your patrol; your mission. You came to your senses now, and so you uphold the tradition this time.”
Aleutian nodded, almost in a mournful way as he took the stroll in his hands.
Sally watched from the dock as her friends gathered around to hear what the scarred echidna was about to read. She could see Mathias eyeing her with a smile.
“May our loved ones not be afraid,” Aleutian began, “may our friends not be scared; for we are about to go blindly into Aurora’s great ocean to fight. May she not punish us for the deeds we are seeking to do. For if Aurora poses the love that she has given us to experience in our solitary lives, may she know that we are fighting to keep it free. And may she forgive us for breaking the peace of the seas.”
Mathias stood at attention when Aleutian closed the scroll. “May Aurora grant us fair winds and calm seas.”
The gathered fighters nodded their heads at the words.
“Lets get going,” said Aleutian bluntly, giving Mathias the rolled up scroll.
“Right, Rotor,” Mathias began, “down to your station. Get the motors running and be ready for my orders. Aleutian, be a good lad and help.”
“I plan too,” the echidna replied as he began to crawl under the rails of the pedestals.
Aleutian and Rotor made their way towards the engine room hatch. Before they climbed down, Aleutian made sure all the service hatches from the fueling and recharging stations were secured. Down inside the belly of the sub, Aleutian worked his way to one of the engines. He immediately flipped on some switches that lay on the wall to the rear of the big behemoth. Rotor started doing the same, copying Aleutian and seeing that some of the obvious controls were marked. The panels began to light up.
“Okay, there should be a button that says ‘glow plugs,’” explained Aleutian.
“Yea, I saw it and already activated it. It’s been a while since I’ve operated an engine like this.”
“Well, know this. This isn’t your average run of the mill Robotnick Diesel. These are a lot cleaner, and produce more power. Plus, we can practically circle the globe with these on a full tank.
“Okay, there is a dipstick painted in red just at your feet. See it.?” Aleutian continued, switching the subject.
“Pull and check it.”
Rotor yanked the solid red ring, exposing a long, slender rod. He observed the black oil was marked at the “full” line.
“How old is this stuff? It looks like you haven’t changed the oil in...”
“...Two years, yes I know Rotor, but we don’t have time do an oil change right now. As long as it doesn’t say ‘add,’ we’re okay.”
“Gotcha,” Rotor said as he replaced the stick and waited for what Aleutian was going to want next.
“Okay, the glow plugs are about warmed up, so; do you see a handle over your head on top of the engine?”
Aleutian maneuvered over to the long handle on his side of the engine room. “Give three hard tugs with it.”
Aleutian did as he said, giving Rotor the idea. This primed the engines for the main start...if they were going to start. He then turned around and reached up behind him for a crank handle, and started rotating it counter-clockwise. Seeing what Aleutian was doing, Rotor followed the ceiling to a crank that looked about the same. He too, turned it.
“What’s this for?” he asked.
“Opens the exhaust vents and the main induction vents for the engines. No sense in dying from the lack of clean air.”
“Yeah,” Rotor said with a very understanding tone.
Aleutian turned back around and faced his yellow beast. He grabbed two levers that were poking out from the front of the engine with both hands. He lowered the left one down first, producing a high mechanical sound that signaled the cylinders were turning. Lowering the right lever towards the deck, the twelve cylindered engine came alive. With a smile on hearing the roar of the diesel motor starting to settle in its mechanical rhythm, Rotor started his.
Mathias and the rest of the crew were still topside when the Plunger awoke from its over two year sleep. What he didn’t like from the start up was a black cloud of smoke coming from the rear vents. It wasn’t uncommon to see it from, of all things, a diesel engine, but the smoke kept bellowing out, indicating something was wrong.
“Okay, Tails is it?” he asked the twin tailed fox.
Mathias nodded at getting the name right. “Go down below and man the helm.”
Miles stared at him, not knowing what a helm even was, much less where it was. Mathias saw the look and motioned Tails to have patience. He turned, facing the front of the boat, and depressed a button on the side of the metal housing of the bridge. An instrument panel unfolded from its water tight shelter. On it were gauges that showed the battery power, heading, speed, and also a radar screen that was sandwiched in between the mess. Mathias then pulled a radio microphone from it and pressed the talk button. “Aleutian, need you at the command room. Show our friend the helm and other things of interest please.”
“On the way,” Aleutian confirmed, depressing the intercom switch on the radio on the wall beside the left engine. “Wait here, and don’t touch a thing till I get back,” he said to Rotor.
Rotor gave him a thumbs up as Aleutian made his way to the front of the boat.
Mathias brought out his remote clicker again and pressed one of the many buttons on the black device. Sounds of cables echoed across the tiny bay as the gangway slowly retracted from its point on the Plunger. He then operated another button. Clamps that lay under the sub detached and lowered away from the hull. With the added weight from the torpedoes, fuel, water, and other essentials; the Plunder sank a little, causing it’s occupants to brace themselves...physically and emotionally.
Aleutian found his way to the command room where Tails was a little nervous about what he was asked to do. Aleutian pointed to a grey wheel, the outer rim supported by a series of large metal spokes, that was to the left of two other wheels of the same fashion.
“Okay, have a seat and listen up. Right and left are the same, so this shouldn’t be to bad,” Aleutian began. He pointed at two gauges at the center of Tail’s view. “The top one is the heading. The bottom one shows the degree of the rudder. Sometimes we may ask for a five degree left rudder or a ten degree right rudder. Just turn the wheel to where the needle points at the number. Plain and simple.”
“Easy enough, Aleutian.”
“Good, Mathias is going to give you directions, just follow them.”
“Okedokee,” Tails confirmed, Aleutian just smiling at the easiness of telling him what to do.
“Aleutian,” shouted Mathias though the hatch above.
“Time to turn the screws.”
Aleutian hurried back to Rotor. Grabbing the walrus’ leather bomber jacket, he led him to the next room. Along the left side of the room, under the shelf of batteries on that side, were two levers. They had a series of markings down both sides of them.
“Okay, these control the electric motors,” explained Aleutian quickly. “Right now they are in the middle, showing that they are at all stop, just like the writing says. If you go up, we increase speed. If you go down past the stop points, the motors will start reversing. There are no clicks to the settings so you have to aline the levers to the uppermost line of the requested speed. You do have a gauge for speed,” Aleutian shouted over the idling engines, pointing to the speedometer above the motor controls, “so if we ask for a certain speed, just operate the handles as if they were throttles. The right lever is for the right motor, left for left. The motors are at the bottom your feet,” Aleutian finished, pointing down at the metal graded floor. Rotor could see the giant motors awaiting to be activated along with the two heavily chromed shafts that extended out from them that disappeared into the rear bulkhead.
Aleutian patted Rotor on the back and made his way back to Tails. Tails had seated himself comfortably on a backless, cushioned seat; awaiting his instructions. Aleutian confirmed to Mathias that Rotor was at the ready back at the engine room. He then turned to the far right wall where a long table with two giant screens laid flat atop of them. He pushed two red buttons that powered up the line of computers; one was for plotting the course, the other was the targeting computer. Aleutian then unrolled the map that Mathias had sent down to him with Tails. Looking over the corrected plots, Aleutian entered them into the system, then grabbed the mike to the radio.
“Very well. Rotor...power to both motors at one--third!” replied Mathias through the radio, giving the first order with joy.
The Walrus moved his hands over the levers and pushed them through to the line that said “one third.” The two shafts began to slowly counter-rotate, turning under his feet with the grinding of the electric motors in the mist of the reaving diesel engines, that had increased their power to produce the added current needed to drive the two propellers. The “screws” slowly turned, producing air bubbles when the blades would grab light scopes of air from the surface. Behind them was the twin rudder of the boat. To the sides of them, the diving planes.
With the sudden rush of water from the rear of the boat, Sonic, and the rest that were still on the bridge, watched as they slowly pulled away from the dock. Sally was still on the bank, sitting, and wondering what their journey was going to do for them, and for the fight. She closed her eyes and whispered under her breath, praying that they would all come back in one piece.
With the Plunger slowly picking up speed, the water began making the elegant wakes as the submarine pushed through the glassy calm waters. The added breeze started flowing through Mathias’s fur, sending shivers through his body of the joy of going back to sea. Not only for quite possibly one last patrol, but to serve the Kingdom of Acorn once again.
“Tails, rudder left at five degrees,” he ordered.
Tails slowly turned the wheel, trying to get the feel of the controls, and lined the needle to the five mark. He could feel the boat gradually turn as he adjusted the helm.
Mathias eyed over the bow and saw his mark that led out towards the open ocean. “Okay, straighten her up. Aleutian, be ready to set the autopilot when we clear the banks.”
“Roger,” Aleutian confirmed, hovering over the computerized map, his hand on the button to make the sub guide itself. He didn’t have to wait long when the Plunger passed the shallow banks of the makeshift harbor.
“Okay, plot our course and set the autopilot.”
With the course already plotted, Aleutian just pressed the button. “Okay Tails, you’re done for now. You can go topside and watch Mobius Prime disappear over the horizon.” With that, Tails slowly made his way up the ladder to the bridge.
“Rotor, all ahead standard,” came Mathias. He soon felt the diesels increase their rpms through the wooden deck as Rotor slide the throttles up to the next mark. The black smoke became real onymous as the engines revved up higher.
Aleutian made his way up the ladder to the bridge as well. He looked out at first towards the open ocean before turning his attention back towards the rear, where everyone else was looking. He could see Sally waving as they departed, the rest of the crew returning the gesture...except him. Aleutian was more attuned to his brother, who had his right arm over Julie-Su’s shoulder as they waved to Sally. He could see himself from two years ago in his brother at that moment.
The Plunger made it’s turn from the automated course and began it’s long journey to the northeast. Sally watched as the slender bridge of the sub disappeared before she made her way back to her ship, and then back home for a long nap before going her brother, Elias and the rest of Knothole about what she had discovered; hidden after so many years.
They were forty miles out when Aleutian slid down the ladder from the conning tower. The Plunger’s new residents were standing in the command room with Mathias. Sonic, Tails, and Espio were sitting in the only three seats of the compartment, the rest were standing; awaiting instructions.
“Okay,” Mathias began, “for those of you that haven’t been informed, this is the Plunger. This boat is older than most of you, and she has seen her fair share of action. So be gentle with her in certain areas. We are undertaking a mission that is relatively a new thing for me and the Plunger...we are hunting a hunter. This hunter is submersed which makes it even more dangerous.”
“We’ve found that out already, thank you,” pointed out Julie-Su. Others from that particular flight nodding in agreement.
“Well, here is something else. Eggman may have better detection gear than us; plus, possibly better weapons. The nice thing is, he probably doesn’t know this thing exists. But we still need to be on our toes. You in particular Vector. When we get to our hunting grounds, you are going to be listening to the sea for this thing.”
The green crocodile smirked at the thought. “So what am I listening for?” he asked with his deep voice.
“Anything that doesn’t sound normal,” Aleutian blurted out flatly, his arms crossed, trying to keep awake, “if you hear something under those head phones, let me or Mathias know right away.”
Mathias nodded at Aleutian’s statement. “Right. You don’t have the experience that me or Aleutian has, so, don’t be afraid to speak up. Now, it is time we all took a tour of the sub. We’ll start in the torpedo room first,” stated Mathias, pointing the way forward.
Slowly, the tired bunch followed Mathias through the three compartments to where Mighty was going to be in charge of. Following rules laid down by the old Dingo many moons ago, everyone had to be trained to know a good portion of operating everything on board the Plunger.
“This is the business end. We only have eight ‘fishes’ loaded, four in the tubes, four in reserve, with a Plasma in tube four,” Mathias pointed out at the lower right tube, then started pointing at the upper left, moving over then down to the rest of the torpedoes as he numbered them to the sleepy bunch.
“Up here by the side of every tube is a long handle,” he began, pointing at the upper right of tube one. They could see that the handle had been used many times as the red paint had mostly been chipped off; leaving the wood grain to the elements. The handle was attached to a long bar that disappeared through the front of the sub; twisty grooved cut deep into the long, slender steel shaft.
“Turn these counter-clockwise to open the tube doors. They’re kinda rough so put your weight into it. Then, make sure you have compressed air going into the tubes. The gauge on the left wall shows the pressure. It should always be at max. The levers to send the air in are right above your heads,” he said, pointing to two red handles that were in the closed position. “Open to fire, close to reload. If you fire a torp without the compressed air pushing it out of the tubes, we’ll have a ‘hot run’ and I won’t be happy. A ‘hot run’ could blow up and sink the boat faster than you can pray.”
“What’s a ‘hot run,’” asked Sonic, raising his hand like a schoolboy.
“It’s when a fish is stuck in the tube after she has been fired,” Mathias replied hastily. “Now, when the command is given to fire, press the red levers on the bottom side of the torpedo hatches. If a spread is given, allow a second between the shots. Now lets move on to the radar and sonar parts of the boat.”
Again, the gang followed Mathias. As they maneuvered down the skinny aisle of the sub, Mighty was walking behind Aleutian with a lingering question. “Am I gonna have help back there?”
“Like I said before, yes!” Aleutian replied as a matter of fact, “if anyone is going to be working hard on this patrol, its going to be me, for once. I’ll be back there to make sure everything is going smoothly. I’ll even help you load,” Aleutian finished, jabbing the Armadillo in the arm.
“Okay Vector, this will be your listening post when we are submerged,” Mathias continued as they entered the compartment. “ This is called a hydrophone. It’s like a big microphone for the water. You just turn the wheel and watch your heading on the gauge. If you hear something, yell out the contact and the number that the needle is pointing at, and I’ll be there to see what you’ve found. The contact you pick up will be shown on the targeting computer. You just point and listen, the computer will do the rest. Now, the device to your right is the sonar. It always stays on passive unless I instruct you to go active.
“Okay, now on to the command room,” Mathias ordered.
Mathias stopped at the bulk head upon entering the command compartment through the small hole, “Okay, this is the brains of the outfit,” he said, facing the rear of the boat as he pointed to the right at the two computer tables, “navigation and fire controls. The time that this boat was originally used, the plotting and steering used to be all done by hand. Now we just plot and trace our course on the G.P.S.. If we aren’t under any direct threat, it’s on autopilot relieving most of the work for you all.
“The targeting computer is a little different,” Mathias explained, picking up a small black, inkless pen and tapping the screen with it, “if either we get a radar contact or sonar contact, the contact will register here in living color. Speed, depth, and heading will all come up. You just touch the target and the computer will do the rest by automatically setting the torpedoes to the solution. The only thing we have to decide is the angle of the spread, depth, and whether the trigger is impact or magnetic detonation. Okay, moving on,” Mathias quickly said, showing that he had the most sleep than anyone else.
Mathias pointed to four huge red levers over his head. “These flood the ballast tanks with water. When we dive these will be pulled downwards to the floor. When the order is given to level out, we close them. On each bulk head at either end are two wheels, turn those to release the air to flood the tanks. As long as the air pressure in the ballast tanks is greater than the water, we won’t sink. When we release that pressure, water shoots up from a cavity at the center of the keel, and floods a ballast tank on bottom, just above the keel. The red levers also floods the saddle tanks to either side of us. Those are the bulges that you see on the side of the boat.
“Next are the diving planes. They are the two wheels to the left of the helm,” Mathias pointed out. “When we dive, two of you will be on those. Right is down, left is up. One of us will be telling you which way to turn, but keep in mind, you might be going in opposite directions than the person beside you.”
Mathias finished the tour through the engine rooms and the stern torpedo room. Sonic, Tails, and everyone else were at awe of the crudeness, plus, the technology that was put into the sub.
Aleutian then stepped forward, “Okay, we are going to do watch. Sonic, you and Rotor go up top on the bridge with a pair of binoculars and watch for anything on the horizon. This will make sure that no one is sneaking up on us, and it also gives you two a bit of fresh air. In two hours, I’ll pick two more and rotate you two out. We do have radar and it is operational, but, its good practice. So...”
A loud, sudden moan of metal rubbing against itself filled the heavy diesel air. It quickly died along with the right engine.
“Oookkkaaaayyyy,” Aleutian frustratedly muttered. “Rotor to the engine room, Tails, up top with Sonic.”
Aleutian followed the walrus to the rear when they were confronted by a light cloud of white smoke that hung low in the compartment. Mathias soon joined them. “I noticed black smoke coming from the rear exhaust vents. I thought one wasn’t running well.”
Aleutian tried to start the engine but it only pulled through without cranking over. He soon found himself in the storage compartment, grabbing two boxes of tools. From one of the boxes, he laid his hands on a volt meter. He too had seen the black smoke and that led him to think it was electrical. Testing some of the wires that fed to the spark plugs all the while Rotor pulled the starter lever down, Aleutian found that electric current wasn’t going to where it needed to be...the spark plugs.
“You sure?” asked Rotor
“Yeah! One of the things that need to be replaced from the last patrol.” Aleutian grunted as he got up from the slick, oily floor.
Aleutian went back to the supply room and retrieved a box from one of the metal cabinets. He in turned, pulled out a blue plastic bowl that was rounded at the top with twelve metal prongs that ran around the bowl, and one on top of it in the center. Grabbing the proper tools for the job, Aleutian and Rotor got right to work. With one of the engines out, it was going to slow them down about five knots.
Above deck, Sonic and Tails were somewhat enjoying the fresh air. For Sonic though, everything was going too slow. “Can’t believe I tagged along for this.”
“Too late now to turn back. Besides Sonic, what we’re doing is of great importance.”
“For who, lil’ buddy? Aleutian?” fired back Sonic as he gazed through his binoculars.
“For Knuckles. Look, we’re going after Eggman, hopefully protecting those who want get away from the war who don’t belong in it, and above all; for Knuckles to bond with his brother. So far, you and I haven’t had any friction when we reunited with our families...Knuckles has, and he needs this right now.”
Sonic thought hard over Tails’s words. “You’re right...besides, this is a better idea then me takin’ a swim.”
Three hours past when Aleutian and Rotor got the engine back online. As Sonic and Tails were relived by Espio and Rogue, they didn’t notice the black smoke when the motor roared back to life. Rogue noticed on the panel that the Plunger was doing a steady sixteen knots at “all ahead full.” Her heart skipped a beat when Aleutian appeared on the bridge, the early evening sun tracing a shadow over the two cuts across the back of his right eye. She still feared him, but with all the black garb off, and with him only wearing his boots and a jacket; he looked less threatening.
“Everything all right up here?” the tired echidna asked.
Espy just gave him a thumbs up, but Rogue wanted conversation. “Doin’ fine, hunk.”
Aleutian just looked at her as if she was from another planet. “Okay, yall’ be done in a couple of hours, so don’t fall asleep.”
Aleutian then disappeared through the hatch and went on to check on the others.
“Rogue, don’t get to close to him,” came Espio in a cautious voice still looking out to sea.
“Why not, he looks free to me.”
The chameleon just shook his head. “He maybe be physically, but he doesn’t look it emotionally. Don’t get close, don’t toy with him, and definitely don’t try him. He needs a wide berth right now from the way he acts.”
The sun soon fell over the western horizon. Rotor and Vector were up top enjoying the setting sun and then watching the moon appear from the east. Dinner was served, but with only cold cuts and fruit that had mostly been passed out to those who were still awake to eat. Mathias let most of the crew go ahead and sleep, but Tails had volunteered to take the last two hours of watch with Knuckles.
Aleutian passed Mathias who was at the dinning table working on a map. He joined the him as he slide onto the wooden bench, his back stinging from the wound that had reared it’s ugly head back on land. “So how much did that little break down cost us?”
“About twenty kilometers. So far, we are a little behind. With the hours we traveled so far, we’ve only gone about a hundred and fifty kilometers. If we stay on the surface we will get to the patrol area within ten to twelve hours before your people set sail,” Mathias replied evenly, taking his glasses off and leaning back on the bench. “How are they...our new crew that is?”
Aleutian interlaced his fingers while gathering his drowsy thoughts. “Mostly sleeping now. We need to run some drills tomorrow. I think the tour went out the window with the little sleep they’ve been on.”
Mathias nodded his head. “I want to thank you Aleutian for doing this, and bringing them along...”
“...It was all I could get...”
“I know, but bringing those who I’ve sworn allegiance to long ago has put what little fight I had back in me.”
Aleutian just stared at the walls, nodding in and out of sleep before he jumped back on his aching feet. “I need to do some things. You sure we’re going to be okay without someone awake?”
“Yes. Don’t worry, the alarm on the radar can still wake the dead.”
Aleutian nodded and slowly walked towards the rear of the sub. He checked the time and noticed that Knuckles was due for watch rather soon, so he walked towards his cabin instead. Slowly peering through the open curtained room, Aleutian saw his brother lying with Julie-Su on the bottom bunk, she was sleeping while Knuckles was awake, gently rubbing her shoulder. Knuckles didn’t realize until now what his brother meant to him...he saved the one he loved.
Aleutian softly knocked on the steel wall. “Time for watch Knuckles.”
Knuckles looked up at him, his eyes even with happiness. “I know.”
Aleutian was about to turn when Knuckles gently called out to him. “Aleutian,”
“Thank you,” Knuckles softly said.
The scarred Echidna nodded at his brother, slowly slipping away, trying hard not to break down.
Aleutian pulled the curtains back to his cabin, revealing Rogue sleeping on the top bunk, peacefully. Aleutian calmly went to the table that was in the center of the room. Pulling the chair out from under it, he positioned himself with his back against the aft wall. With his tired hands, he pulled out the blue notebook along with a pen that he had packed away, and opened the book to the next blank page. The pen stained the white paper with the black ink has he began to transcribe his thoughts down:
I found my brother yesterday...or should I say, he found me. One thing led to another and he dragged me back home. So, I guess I kept her promise in a way. Now I’m at sea again with Mathias and some of the Freedom Fighters and my brother. He seems to be tight friends with them which is great. He is also in love and in a way, I am excited for him. But every time I see him with Julie-Su, it tears me up. I miss her Journal, I truly miss h...”
Aleutian dropped his pen, his senses on high alert when he felt someone else, besides him and the female bat, in the room. He looked around but didn’t see anything, but he knew someone was...
Aleutian felt the table with his hand. He then slowly stood up and shuffled his feet towards the rear wall and faced it; starring at nothing:
At mid sentence, Aleutian reached up with his left hand and with his index finger extended, he hooked it inside Espio’s mouth, snagging his right cheek. With a hard shove, he threw Espio out of his room, the chameleon hitting his horned head hard on the metal doors of the freezer. The hard impact sounded like some one crashing cymbals in a marching, and it made Espio loose concentration as he quickly changed back to his normal self. Rubbing his head, he looked up to an echidna with an unstoppable fury in his eyes. “Opps!”
“You do that again, and I will personally shoot you out of a torpedo tube myself...YOU UNDERSTAND ME!” yelled Aleutian at the top of his lungs. His angered face intensified with the scars he wore, making Espio feel no larger than an atom. All he could do was nod.
The commotion aroused Sonic, Rogue, and Julie-Su from their sleep and now had their attention as they peered out from their curtained rooms. Aleutian stepped back inside his and slammed the curtains shut, breathing hard to calm himself down. Rogue just slammed her head back down on her pillow and rolled over back to sleep.
Julie-Su began to help Espio off the floor when he finished what he was about to say. “How’d he know?”
His answer came from behind the green drapes. “Echidna trade secret!”
Julie-Su look slyly at Espy. “Gee, where you’ve heard that before?”
Taking a deep breath, Aleutian grabbed his pen and continued where he left off:
“...I took Knuckles to my home. It was almost a bad decision. For one, in a good way, he doesn’t have to come and look for me, but he saw the pictures. He asked about her, but all I could say was that she was no one. I don’t know if I should tell him but he has been lied to for so long, I almost want to set a precedent for him.”
Aleutian closed the book and packed it back into his bag. He stood up and stretched. The sudden pain from his back nearly sent him to the floor. Grabbing the pain killers from his bag, he dryly swallowed one down and left his cabin. The pain soon went away as he walked to the main hatch up to the bridge.
Aleutian climbed up to the top of the bridge, seeing Tails and Knuckles gazing out at the dark night with their binoculars.
“Hey Tails?” he said in a calm voice.
The kit fox looked over his shoulder with a wary grin. “Yes, Aleutian?”
“Go grab some sleep, I’ll take over the rest of the watch,” Aleutian instructed to him in the same tone.
Tails slowly climbed down after giving Aleutian the glasses. Knuckles was still looking out and enjoying the view of the moon and the stars. The feeling of the air pushing his dreads back was surreal. Aleutian moved to the right of the bridge and peered out with the binoculars.
“You seem to be happier here,” Knuckles said.
“I was partly raised out here. Mathias plucked me from the sea the night I ran away.”
“...I tried to fly to the Island but I got caught in bad a storm,” Aleutian sighed at the thought of the cold water. “I nearly died if it wasn’t for the Plunger. Mathias’s son, Chester, he took care good of me after he got me down below. He kept me warm and became my best friend, until he was lost at sea...right before my young eyes.”
“Is that why you’re hard?” Knuckles lightly asked.
Aleutian removed the glasses from his face and looked beyond the wakes that trailed from the bow. “No. The girl you asked about...?”
“...Yes?” Knuckles perked up, looking over his shoulder and waiting for the answer.
“Her name was Emi-La, and she was my soul-equal.” Aleutian slowly let out. “We were a perfect match Knuckles, an orphan and a runaway. The story is kinda long and I really don’t want to dwell on it tonight”
Knuckles had to ask the obvious and he knew he wasn’t going to get an answer. “What happened to her?” All Knuckles got was a lit, solemn bow from Aleutian’s head.
Knuckles turned towards Aleutian and put his right mitt on his brother’s shoulder. “I am glad you are here. I really don’t like to swim, and neither does True Blue.”
“And I thank you for dragging me back home. Seeing Mom again after all these years, I...” Aleutian cut himself off, choking back his tears.
Knuckles reached over and hugged his brother, who was still lost, but mostly in himself. “The running ends tonight, Aleutian. Period!”
Aleutian squeezed Knuckles tighter, letting his tears run down from his face. “I hope so,” he sobbed out in a whisper. “But I do know one thing, I am your brother, and I’m not leaving you again.”
As the rest of the Freedom Fighters and Chaotix slept, Knuckles and Aleutian gazed through the night at the full moon and the stars. They were bonding now in their silence, watching one of the last things on Mobius that wasn’t totally effected by war; the open sea. The water was smooth as glass until the Plunger disturbed it’s peaceful cloak. The engines hummed through the night, but the roar was drowned out by the fast moving air over the two brothers’ ears, brushing their locks passed their faces. For Aleutian, the course ahead was the way back, out of the darkness and back to what he truly should have done long ago; keeping his promise. With his white birthmark glowing in the moonlight, it became the beacon of light...to guide his lost soul.