A ringing sound blossomed in his ears as darkness flickered with the invading light. Soon, the image of smoke peered through the light, making it seem like waving black hair was blowing in the breeze. As the high pitched ringing echoed harsher in Aleutian’s ears, it intensified his blurred view as he slowly opened his eyes. He realized he was lying on his back, his face throbbing with enormous pain along with what felt like cuts behind his right eye, stinging as if salt water had been poured onto them. Wiping his muzzle to clear the dirt off of it, he felt a wet sensation on his hand as his efforts reinforced the pain on his face. When he examined it with his blurred vision, his red hand had turned to purple...he was bleeding.
Aleutian looked down at his boot covered feet. They seemed okay, but his face and head assaulted his senses with the harsh, crippling, burning agony. He could only hear the high pitched ringing echoing in his ears still, as nothing else registered around him. The ground beneath him felt cold, wet, and muddy, as if rain had recently soaked the area. He could even feel the wetness on his legs as the water had soaked through his black combat pants. Then, droplets fell on him. The cool water pelting his body as the rain started to bombard the ground again. Aleutian could see he was in a shallow hollow of a small unnaturally made hill; a trench, the aching Echidna figured out. When he turned his head over to his right, his heart began to race from what he saw; a red furred fox laid dead on his side, his back facing Aleutian.
A muffled explosion crept into his ears, vibrating the ground beneath him, producing ripples in the small ponds of the craters that littered the long trench around him. It soon became louder as the echo of the ringing soon dissipated, followed by the sound of rain falling on metal and plastic. Then...a whimpered moan filtered through the air to his left. Aleutian painfully turned over to his right side, straightening his right arm on the ground beside him, but instead of mud, his black jacketed sleeve dug into a large plasma rifle at his side; its barrel covered with a square, plastic hand-guard that trace down the twenty inch barrel until it left a small portion of it exposed to the elements
He slowly got to his knees, picking up the rifle instinctively to balance himself on his shaky limbs. His attention of his surroundings faded when he heard the soft moan again. Turning his aching head, his eyes squinting from the falling rain and the pain from his face and his aching muscles. Aleutian gasped when saw who was making the groans. He dropped the rifle and crawled at a frantic pace over to the downed female echidna.
“Emee!” Aleutian cried out. She was lying on her stomach; red and tan mud covered her black battle jacket that was littered with slits that slashed deep into her back. A rifle laid beside her but it was damaged beyond repair; her left arm laying on it; her right draped over the muddy ground.
Aleutian frantically took off his jacket before he painstakingly rolled his beloved over on her back, placing her head on the black jacket. Tears streamed down both of their faces that soon blended into the rain that fell in the mist of the two echidnas. With all he had, Aleutian shouted at the top of his lungs for a medic, repeating it with ferocity a second time. His call was blanketed with the surrounding sounds of mechanical machinery approaching from behind.
Emi-La grunted in pain as Aleutian turned and picked up the rifle he had dropped. “Aleutian, help me!” she cried out to her lover in pain.
“I am!” Aleutian said with his voice lowered, showing his resolve.
He keeled up and steadied himself, putting a bead on the first oncoming Swat Bot with the holographic cross-hair inside the small scope. The burst from the black rifle scared him at first as he squeezed the trigger. The orange hot bolt of energy met its mark at the head, slamming the android to the ground. Soon, two more of the greyish bots appeared over the trench, their glowing red visors piercing through the grey haze. As they approached, they took their aim with their arm blasters at Aleutian, but they didn’t have time to touch them off to take down the enraged echidna. The Guardian let loose a series of double-taps at both bots into their torsos. The plasma rounds ripped into the lightly armored chassis, disintegrating their CPU’s and other important functions on impact.
The dome from another Swat Bot suddenly appeared over the trench. Aleutian, again, took aim at it and squeezed the trigger, but this time nothing happened. He turned the rifle over on its right side, observing the cell battery was fully discharged from the reading of a digital meter. With another dome following behind the first Swat Bot, Aleutian clutched the hot barrel hand-guard of the rifle with his unprotected hands and charged down after the approaching droids. He sprinted to the left after he saw one of the bots touch off its blaster. The red beam burned through the air past the furious echidna...but it never phased him.
Aleutian swung the rifle hard, colliding the butt of the rifle across the head of the nearest bot. The grey dome snapped off from the torso, flying like a frisbee across the torn Mobian landscape. Aleutian dropped the busted rifle and using the still standing torso of the bot that he just decapitated, he sprinted hard and leaped up, landing both feet dead center on the falling chassis. As the torso tumbled, Aleutian kicked off from it and used the momentum, and along with his dreads, he glided through the air, flying over the second bot and landing behind it. The android couldn’t turn in time when Aleutian smashed his right fist through the hard metal frame, the Guardian’s hand being embalmed with a green ball of electric energy. He was connecting to the Chaos Emerald in his desperate time of need.
His rage broke when he heard Emi-La let out a blood curtailing scream from the trench. “ALEUTIAN!”
Thirty feet in front of her was an approaching black Swat Bot, its arm raised, taking aim at her. Emi-La forced herself to unholster her pistol from her side. With the pain reverberating throughout her body, she took pop shots at the bot that was bearing down on her. But the armor was too strong for the minuscule weapon, only tarnishing its outer skin with black marks.
Aleutian ran over to his busted rifle and retrieved it from the muddy ground. With a hard grunt that sounded more like a battle cry, he flung it hard through the grey overshadowed day. He guided the somersaulting weapon with his sight, summoning the power of the Emerald and channeling it’s energy to guide the flying, destructive stick where it would do the most damage. The barrel pierced through the torso, slamming into the main battery that sprayed acid on vital operating parts. The blow shut the Swat Bot off instantly, collapsing its metal-self onto the ground.
Emi-La dropped her pistol and placed her free hand over her stomach, breathing hard from the pain and from the relief of Aleutian’s gallant save. She could see Aleutian running over to her, tears streaming down his face along with the purple blood that ran down from his snout. He slid across the ground, stopping right next to her side.
“Don’t leave me Aleutian!” she cried out. “Don’t leave me, please!”
Aleutian felt around her body but didn’t find any wounds on her front side, but he knew her backside was a wreck. He noticed that she was feeling around her stomach:
“Are you hit there?” he asked loudly over the far off explosions from the burning hunks of robotic tanks that were slain to the four-winds, his eyes forcing his question to her.
“You’ve got to get me out of here...”
“...No problem, dear,” Aleutian said tearfully, confirming his whole mind set, but what she said next made him realize that their whole situation was far graver.
“No Aleutian, you have to get me out of her...I’m carrying our child!” she whimpered out, grabbing Aleutian’s arms and thrusting them to her mid-drift that was cover with a green shirt; ripped to shreds. It drove the point home to Aleutian. His sight flashed with a premature egg cradled inside of her, the vision brought to him by his ability to gaze inside things that he could see with his touch...and Emi-La knew it all too well.
She stared hard into his eyes. Aleutian’s mouth trembled in seeing his beloved in great pain that he couldn’t stop. Purple blood traced down his face and trickled down his neck as he fought hard to think. He reached around her back and tried to lift her, but she screamed at the top of her lungs from the excruciating pain. Her piercing cry echoed in Aleutian’s ears as he brought his hand away...it was covered with her blood.
“If I move you, it’ll cause more damage Emee.” he said, trying ever so hard to keep his composure.
Bring his hand around her back once more, Aleutian saw with his touch that the shrapnel pieces were piercing deeper into her, causing more internal trauma that he couldn’t stop. Aleutian didn’t have to say a word; his face told Emi-La the whole story. She squeezed her eyes hard, trying to shun the tears away. With her breaths growing faster and deeper, she reached down and grabbed Aleutian’s hands and held them tight.
A loud explosion ripped behind the two. The Swat Bot’s battery went critical and exploded, spraying its armor all over the battlefield. Aleutian felt two hot shards enter into his back as he pushed himself onto Emi-La, cover her from the flying debris of death. None of the showered pieces of hot metal landed on the female Echidna...but Aleutian knew it wouldn’t have made much difference anyways. His focus on Emi-La numbed all the pain that his nerves were telling him that were there.
Emi-La reached up with her shaking right hand as her breaths became quicker, pulling Aleutian’s head down to her sweet lips. “Go home to your brother, my love,” she painfully whispered. “Promise me you’ll go and forget about all of this.”
Sobbing as her words softly filtered in the sick air, he made his promise. “I will Emee, I will...”
She smiled and blinked her long eyelashes. The harsh pain began to fade with every hard breath she fought to take in. She swallowed hard to clean her throat before telling her lover, her equal...
“...I love you Aleutian...my Guardian. And I forever will.”
Emi-La took a hard, deep breath, shuddering on the intake while her hand still gently caressed the left side of Aleutian’s face. Then, her eyes went wide, almost looking as if she was being freed from her fight to stay alive. Aleutian watched as her heart ceased to beat. With her last breath, Emi-La’s eyes closed to the world for the last time, her body going limp in Aleutian’s hands. Her face looked eerily and painfully peaceful in his weeping eyes.
“No...” Aleutian whimpered in disbelief, forcing himself onto her lifeless body, embracing her as if she could still feel him...
“...NO!!!” Aleutian shouted, awakening with sweat that seemed to be rolling down his back. But sweat didn’t cause fierce pain. His eyes went wide with the excruciating stabbing feeling in his back. Reaching around for the source of the pain to caress it, he lost his fragile balance on the edge of his bunk and plummeted to the hard metal floor. He screamed with the pain as he fell.
Rogue awoke to the screams of someone in great agony. She rolled over and looked down to see Aleutian in the fetal position, rolling on his left side, and yelling at the top of his lungs. She dropped down to the metal floor with her bare feet, tugging on his shoulder with both hands.
“What’s wrong?” she asked Aleutian, in a very concerned tone. All she got was more screaming. She knew it was from the pain, that was obvious, but she could also pick out crying behind his breaths. Rogue reached down with her hand to keep herself steady, but she nearly slipped on the warm wet floor. Looking down at what her hand was drowning in, she gasp at the sight from the pool of purple blood.
“Help!” she screamed. If Aleutian hadn’t awakening the whole boat by now, she sure was.
Sonic was the first to appear, pulling the curtains back. “What happened?” he barked out.
“I don’t know. He started screaming, and I went down to help him,” she nearly pleaded at Sonic. “Better get the doc! His shirt is soaked in blood,” she explained, pointing to the shirt that Aleutian had grabbed back at his house, showing that it was drenched.
Sonic rushed to Dr. Quack’s room, who was grabbing his medical gear as soon as he heard the screams. “Doc, something’s wrong with Aleutian.”
“What’s up!?” came Quack, his medical and his professional tone coming into play as he dawned on his white doctor’s coat.
“He’s lying on he floor and he’s bleeding out from his back,” Sonic said as he was on the move with the eye-patched duck.
Sonic led the way, joined by Knuckles, Julie-Su and Mathias. Knuckles froze when he saw his brother on the floor, shaking violently and moaning with tears in his eyes.
“What’d’ ya’ do, Rogue?” snapped Julie-Su.
“Nothing! Don’t go blaming this on me!”
“Shut-up, both of you,” fired Knuckles. “What do you need Doctor?”
“Hold him still,” Quack said calmly as he kneeled down beside Aleutian and Rogue.
He reached into his bag and pulled out a syringe and a vial of anesthesia. Plucking the needle inside the bottle, he pulled hard on the plunger until he saw the “CC” amount that he wanted. Holding the syringe with one hand, he jabbed the needle hard into Aleutian’s arm and pressed the plastic plunger home. Instantly, Aleutian fell unconscious, his last breath whimpering out as a moan.
“How much stuff did you give him, Doc!?” asked Sonic, surprised at the quickness of the Echidna going out like a light.
“Enough to put a horse down for a week,” Quack replied quickly. He then reached back into his bag and pulled a set of angled scissors out. Pulling back on Aleutian’s shirt, he went to work in clipping it away from him. What he saw made him shake his head. “He’s hemorrhaging. We need to move him to a large table...fast!”
Knuckles, Mathias, Sonic, and Julie-Su slowly lifted Aleutian from the blood soaked floor, keeping him on his left side. Carefully shuffling to the dining table, they gently placed him down on top of it. They all stood fast and waited for what the eye-patched doctor needed next.
Tails rushed over with the medical bag in tow. Quack pulled out a small, handheld X-ray device from the bag that the fox held, and activated it, placing it over the oozing wound on Aleutian’s back. He could see on the screen two long pieces of metal protruding in the lower back of the limp echidna. Grabbing two sets of hemostats, and pulling on his surgical mask and gloves, he started to get to work, but the tossing of the Plunger in the rough seas began to make it difficult for him to steady his hands.
“Steady him everyone,” he ordered.
The gathered onlookers held Aleutian tight, but the sea was too rough, even with all the steady hands. Doctor Quack quickly turned to Mathias, “Can you steady the boat?”
“Oh yes, I can steady this boat,” Mathias said with a hint of a growl.
“Please sir...I need a steady operating table.”
Mathias turned to the gathered onlookers. “Everyone, except you two,” pointing at Rogue and Julie-Su, “to the command compartment. We are diving.”
The statement snapped Dr. Quack’s head around. “What!?” he gulped.
“Below the surface doc, there are no waves. Trust me,” he replied confidently as he looked at the rest of the shocked crew and smirked. “Stations everyone! Rotor, you and Mighty to the engine room; shut them down, and close the exhaust ports. Go!”
Rotor and Mighty quickly moved through the rear compartments, swinging through the hatchways in graceful leaps.
Slamming his foot hard on the metal deck, Rotor moved to the rear open access hatch that lead out to the deck of the sub. He closed it without even getting an order...it was just common sense. Turning his attention to the running yellow diesel engines, Rotor reached for the levels and pushed them up, killing the ignition. The sounds of the heavy cylinders knocking against the compression died as their momentum slowed to a halt. Mighty got the gist of it and did the same to the second. By then, Rotor had shut off the control panel on the side and was reaching up to the exhaust port hand cranks. With ever twist, he grunted hard as he closed the exhaust vents from the outside world.
Mathias had everyone almost situated. Knuckles was sent to close the top hatch on the bridge, and Julie-Su to leave Aleutian to go shut the forwards access hatch. Sonic and Tails were seated in front of the dive planes, with Espio and Vector operating the venting valves, each turning the two hand wheels, that were at either side of the compartment as fast as they could.
“Tails!” Who was placed behind the front dive planes, “turn yours to the right, Sonic, to the left!” Mathias ordered.
He watched Knuckles slid down from the ladder after he clamped the main hatch down. “Get on those levers in front of the periscope,” he said to the hard breathing Guardian, “reach up and pull them down.”
Knuckles nodded and hurried to the four red levers. Grabbing the right pair first with his mittens, he yanked them down hard. The ratcheting sound they produced echoed through the command compartment as they locked down in place. Grabbing the last pair, he put his whole body into the task. When he was done, Knuckles stood by for what Mathias might have needed next; sounds of water rushing into the saddle ballast tanks filtered through the boat as he tried to regain his breath.
As the air was rushing out of the main vents, creating spray along with shooting up geysers on the sides of the hull, the Plunger began to gently sink, it’s bow being first to disappear. The long guide wire that stretched from the tip of the boat to the front of the bridge, began to shake with the speed of the water hitting it from the forward motion. Soon afterward, the deck gun disappeared beneath the choppy waves, followed by the conning tower as it was bombarded by the sea. After the forty seconds that the Plunger took to dive under the waves, all that was evident of its presence was the fading wake, and the slip stream that was produced from the propellers when it was running on the surface.
“Twenty degrees down bubble, boys,” ordered Mathias with a sly grin, “Sonic, rotate your wheel to the right now. Hover over a fifteen to twenty degree angle on the planes,” he instructed, pointing at the dive plane needles that showed the angle of the elevators. “Same to you too Tails. Take us down to a hundred meters.”
As the boat tilted down, both Tails and Sonic kept a close eye on the bubble. When the bubble dipped to far down, Tails would back off and Sonic would help compensate. The two had worked with each other for so long that they practically knew what the other was thinking.
“Close the vents,” Mathias said as he watched the needle pass over fifteen meters, holding onto an overhead pipe in the process. As Mathias had ordered, Vector and Espio turned the wheels in the opposite direction that they had previously spun them. “When you’re done Vector, go to the sonar cabin and start listening out for us,” the old dingo added.
“Aye Captain,” replied the Croc. He watched Mathias smirk at the reply.
“Knuckles, close the ballast tanks, please,” Mathias instructed next.
Knuckles went over to the handles and clutched the red bicycle looking brakes on the handles, pushing the levers up to the ceiling; stopping the water from flooding the ballast tanks.
Looking over the gauges, Mathias attentively watched as the depth needle ranged through the numbers, along with the digital clock that counted up the numbers that was placed underneath the needled gauge: 15 meters; then 20; then 25 meters as the Plunger quickly ran through its dive; its electric motors wining at ahead full. The concern for him at the rate they were going, was that Sonic and Tails could loose control of the dive, sinking them and possibly never be able to come back up from the deep. But they were doing surprisingly well for the first time. He now realized why Aleutian had chosen them. They worked as if they could predict each others next move.
“Rotor, all motors ahead standard,” Mathias said through the radio.
Rotor passed through to the electric motor compartment and lowered the two handles to the ordered setting. He watched as the counter rotating shafts slowed their revolutions.
At thirty-five meters, the moans from the attacking water that was pressing up against the doubled metal hull started echoing inside the boat. This got everyone’s attention except for Mathias, who knew what the heavy water pressure was doing. But, for first time divers, the sound was a nightmare. When Rogue was startled by the creaks from the metal hull, she stiffened her grip on Aleutian...it kept her hand from shaking from her fright of the noise. Deeper and deeper the Plunger sank, and as it did, the groans became more frequent and louder. Knuckles stared at the metal roof, almost anticipating the sea to come crashing down on them, his arms crossed through the whole ordeal with his mouth in awe.
Mathias broke the silence when the needle passed over ninety. “Okay, start leveling us out you two,” he said softly.
As Sonic and Tails slowly began to level out the planes, the Plunger settled from her dive, cruising at eight knots through the dark water. Mathias walked back to the navigation console, typed in the depth, and activated the automatic depth pilot, letting the computer handle the trimming of the tanks and planes.
“Okay you two, good work! Lets make the computer handle the hard stuff now,” Mathias said with a smile.
“What? You mean you could’ve let a machine do what we just did!” Sonic exclaimed, still jittery after the dive. He wasn’t too crazy about being a hundred meters below the surface.
“Yes Sonic, but you two needed to get a feel for this. When we surface and dive again, I’ll let two others do it as well, but one of you will be instructing the others. Is that clear?”
“Absolutely,” said Tails, giving Mathias a thumbs up as he got up from the cushioned stool.
“Good. Now, we need to give aid and comfort to our crippled friend,” Mathias solemnly advised, nodding at Knuckles with a comforting gaze. The old Dingo knew what was going through the young Guardian’s mind.
“Mathias, why does that seem to have a double meaning?” Sonic pondered out loud. Mathias just lowered his head in confirmation.
Both Rogue and Julie-Su were still clamped onto Aleutian. Doctor Quack had pulled out another set of hemostats as the gathered friends watched over the task. Mathias grabbed a mixing bowl, filled it with water, and placed it by Quack who was about to start digging into the back of Aleutian.
With the sub gliding under the waves, the good doctor placed his hand over the open wound. Spreading the furred skin apart with two fingers, he gently inserted the scissored looking instrument inside Aleutian’s back. Cautiously feeling around the muscles and tissue, he felt one of the shards touch the tip of the hemostat. Quack opened the hemostat, its top and bottom tongs lined with smoothed teeth, and clamped down on the shrapnel. As he pulled out the alien piece from Aleutian’s back, more purple blood oozed out. Quickly seeing this, Knuckles took a clean gauze patch and lightly pressed it against his brother’s back, soaking up the precious fluids to help keep the wound clean for Dr. Quack. Unlocking the hemostats, the blood soaked metal fell into the silver bowl.
Grabbing the other clean pair of hemostats (everything has to be clean to keep the spread of infection down) Doctor Quack began to go after the last piece, but he forgot where it was lodged in Aleutian’s back.
“Tails, turn the X-Ray on and place it here,” he observed, pointing just above the oozing hole. Knuckles again soaked up the blood and stood by at the ready.
With the image coming up, Quack gently inserted the instrument and carefully rotated it at the angle he needed. Following his moves on the screen, he clamped down on the last shard that was no smaller than the first, and pulled it out. Instantly, he dropped the hemostats in the bowl and picked up a pile of clean gauze bandages that lay beside him. He pushed them hard against Aleutian’s back, clotting the tiny blood vessels in the wound.
“Suture kit!” he ordered. Sonic reached into the Doc’s bag and pulled out a smaller bag. Quack opened it and produced a needle and black thread. “Spray!” he ordered next. Again, Sonic stuck his hand in the medical bag and tossed the duck a white spray can.
Knuckles watched the doctor sew his brother’s wound up, noticing that Quack pressed the ends of the wound tightly together, closing the wound against itself to prevent the noticeable scarring. After cutting the excess string, Quack snapped the cap off the can and sprayed its contents over the wound. Finally, he placed a large gauze pad over the section he had expertly cleaned up, and tightly taped it around Aleutian’s left backside.
Pulling off his mask and wiping the sweat from his forehead, the Doctor gave the next instructions. “In a couple of days, he won’t even know what was done back there. There will be no scarring.” he turned to Mathias while removing his gloves. “Wish he had come to me when those cuts were still fresh!”
“I didn’t have the means to get him to you, and you all were too busy as it was. Can you do anything for them anyways?” asked Mathias as he pointed to the scars on Aleutian’s face.
“I’m sorry, but they’ve already healed, and I can’t clean them up without cutting into them. Furthermore, it could make them look far worse,” Quack said in defeat. He then looked over to Knuckles, who was eyeing his brother. “I’m sorry Knux.”
Knuckles took in a deep breath and with a sad look, he exhaled it. He was hoping that the scars could be cleaned up, for Aleutian’s sake. He knew that to forget the past, you must remove that which reminds.
“Lets move him to a bunk everyone,” Quack sighed gently.
Picking up Aleutian, they moved him into Sonic and Tails’s cabin. They placed the limp Guardian on the bottom bunk, and covered him with some blankets that were still warm. As Tails wrapped them around Aleutian, he noticed water droplets forming on the wall of the hull. It was condensation that formed from the warm inside temperature of the Plunger and the cool outside temperature of the ocean.
“Okay, lets get back to the surface. Fifteen degrees up bubble,” Mathias said.
He, Knuckles, Sonic, Tails and Espio maneuvered themselves back through the command compartment. Mathias then walked over to a space that was covered with a rack of valves. Turning two large wheels, the sound of rushing air bellowed throughout the sub. In the aft torpedo room of the sub, two large tanks sat towards the forward bulkhead, filled with compressed air. At over 600 PSI, the air was blown into the ballast tanks, sending the water back out to the ocean. When the ballast tanks were replaced with the compressed air, the Plunger began the short journey back to the surface, this time, with Knuckles and Espio at the dive planes.
The bridge was the first thing to hit the fresh, free air of the Mobian morning; looking as if it was a monument that had beaten the clutches of the sea as it pushed through the surface. Soon, the structure cables began to crest above the water, and lastly, the wooden deck glistened in the sun when it reached the surface.
Rotor got the engines running again by himself; Vector secured himself from the hydro phone as the rest of the Freedom Fighters and Chaotix soon relaxed from the morning rush.
“Hey Doc, what’s for breakfast?” asked Sonic, feeling the hunger pains coming on.
The duck scratched his head before replying. “I’ll think of something, but you better clean the table up first.”
“Quack, I can help you out,” came Julie-Su, yawning. As she moved out of the room, she looked over her shoulder to see if Rogue was following her out...she wasn’t. She was sitting on the floor beside Aleutian and was still holding on to him, running her white gloved fingers through his dreads, her frightened gaze never leaving him.
“Hey...you okay girl?” Julie-Su asked, actually giving a hoot about Rogue’s well being.
“Someone needs to look after him. Afraid I’m not much good right now after our little stunt. Honestly Su, I’ve never been so scared until five minutes ago.”
“So why are you still holding onto the guy that almost shot you?” Julie-Su asked with a sly smirk. She knew what was probably going on, and she didn’t care, so as long as she could keep Knuckles all to herself.
Rogue smiled before opening up her mind to the pink echidna for once. “He needs someone Julie. The way he is right now, he needs someone.”
“Your funeral when he wakes up,” and having the last word, Julie went after her Guardian.
Rogue just sat where she was, stroking the long red locks and smiling, “What were you crying about? You’re too strong to cry over a cut like that.”
Tails found himself thumbing the switch up and down to activate the radar, problem was, it wasn’t activating. “Mathias, we’ve got a problem...but I think I can fix it.”
“Now what!?” came the Dingo, starting to feel his age.
“Our radar is kaput.”
Looking at the blank screen, Mathias turned to the intercom mike and pushed down the black button. “Rotor, you and Vector up top with binoculars. You two have the first watch for the next four hours. We’ll send you food when its done.”
Mathias then turned to the twin tailed fox. “If you can fix it young man, do it to it.”
Miles smiled, saluted, and turned to study the grey, metal box with the round green screen. “Doesn’t seem to be too hard.”
Breakfast was served an hour later. Before sitting down to eat, Mathias checked their position on the G.P.S. They had entered the channel between the two islands during Aleutian’s surgery. Seeing that the local time was only 9:47, they would spend most of the traveling day going through the straight before they broke out to the open sea. After stopping Tails from working on the radar box, he and the fox made their way to the cleaned off dining table. Except for Rotor and Vector, everyone else found a place to sit, some of them pulling up chairs from their cabins.
Doctor Quack, though, had more on his mind than eating. He stirred his fork in his eggs, gazing at the iron walls. He was the first to break the fragile ice of Aleutian’s dark and emotional past. “So, Sir Mathias Drake...you mind telling me how two pieces of Swat Bot armor got into that boy’s back?” His eye patch gave him all the leverage he needed.
“Why do you ask Doctor? I figured you for one who just operated and be done with it?”
“Not I sir, I always like to know how foreign objects get into the wrong parts on someone’s anatomy. My profession you know.”
“Swat Bot armor?” perked up Knuckles.
Mathias drew in a long breath, thinking carefully about what he wanted to say. It wasn’t that he wanted to lie, but most of what he knew was speculation at best. Then there was Emee. That story he would try to shy away from. If Aleutian wanted the past to be known, he would tell it, being as no one else could. “Since most of them are dead,” Mathias coldly said to himself.
“Honestly I don’t know how he got that.” And for Mathias, that was partly the truth.
Knuckles sifted his stiff gaze at Mathias. “He didn’t tell you?” he asked flatly, feeling he was being lied to.
“He only told me what he wanted me to know.” Now Mathias was border lining on what he wanted to say.
“So what did he tell you?” Tails asking the question that someone was bound to ask.
Mathias sighed at his plate before continuing. “Aleutian was betrayed,” he let out. “He was betrayed, and honestly, I don’t know why...he just wouldn’t tell me,” he partially lied.
“That can’t be why he’s so mean,” grunted Sonic, “I mean c’mon, it all has to be a show. No one goes around constantly fueled by being betrayed.”
“He does if he was the only one left in a battle! He saw most of our friends die because someone had second thoughts on what team they wanted to play on,” shot back Mathias, forgetting his limits on what he wanted to say.
Sonic shrugged his shoulders, putting his banter to work for once. “Hey dude, we lost two in one week, both fine warriors and awesome friends, and I do miss them. But you don’t see me fumed about it,” Sonic snorted as he leaned back in the bench, crossing his hands around the back of his head. “No...I think ole’ scar face is just trying to show how tough he is.”
“Sonic!” came Tails, Julie-Su and Espio all at the same time. Julie-Su saw Knuckles’ temper began to flare with every syllable from Sonic’s words. No need to stop the punch to shut him up, she thought.
But before Knuckles made the decision to make a fist, Mathias shot up from his seat. “Is that so!?” he scorned out, looking at the whole table with a his eyes glaring at everyone.
He then turned and left the compartment, only returning a moment later with a picture in his hands. “All show eh?!” he hammered out, his face painted with anger. Mathias slammed the picture hard on the table, the dishes clattered from the force of the impact.
“SHE DIED IN HIS ARMS!”
Before them, was the same picture of Emi-La that Knuckles had seen in Aleutian’s home. Her smile sent a wave of heat throughout his body. Then the mental image hit him; seeing her smile fading into sorrow. Why Aleutian was the way he was was slowly, and painfully, coming together. And also why he wasn’t going to even talk about it.
Mathias looked at everyone sitting at the table with a stern face. “Aleutian paid dearly to try to stop Robonick from entering Knothole, but he was betrayed and led into a trap along with our friends. And to THIS day, he is still being betrayed,” he paused, hissing in the diesel filled air, “by those who should be grateful that the force that entered Knothole wasn’t any bigger than it was. I am so glad he is out cold right now! He doesn’t have to put up with what I’m having to. AND YOU HEDGEHOG!” he harshly pointed at Sonic, his teeth showing under his grey jowls, “Don’t you EVER call him that in MY presence AGAIN! Legend or not; I will throw you off this boat! IS THAT CLEAR!?”
Sonic just nodded his head, his teeth chattering from the verbal beating he just took.
“Who is she Mathias?” came Julie-Su with a soft voice, trying to calm everyone down.
Knuckles replied before Mathias could. “Her name is Emi-La, Julie Su. Aleutian told me a little bit about her last night.”
“A little bit doesn’t scratch the surface Knuckles. I see how you and Julie are, and it is no where near what Emi-La was to Aleutian.”
“So this is what you meant when you said that ‘he isn’t the same Aleutian you knew’ back at the house,” Knuckles asked, hopefully feeding Mathias the right questions.
Mathias sank back down in his seat before replying. “If all had gone well, you would have met your brother two years ago...no scars, no hate, no darkness,” Mathias breathed out. “Before they left to stop Julian, Emi-La told him that he needed to go to you, and she would accompany him. But an old friend of ours came calling up for people for a possible last ditch effort. I don’t know what all else transpired, but, I do know that before Emi-La succumbed to her wounds, she made him promise to go home, to help you Knuckles,”
“You saw her die...”
“...No Guardian...Aleutian told me about her last request. I thought losing my son Chester was hard, but having Aleutian break down in front of me, bleeding all over my house, and telling me her last moments.” Mathias stopped to gain his composure; “she meant a lot to the both of us.” And how you almost became an uncle, dear Knuckles, he cried to himself.
“Knuckles, of all beings, I never imagined that you would make your brother, who you never knew existed, keep his promise to the one that to this day, still truly loves! You don’t know how much it means to me that he went back home...hopefully he’ll go back on his own next time. He owes it to her...but you have to get him there. Believe me, I’ve tried, and you have my full sympathy young Echidna; you have your work cut out for you.”
Knuckles looked up from his plate. “My father said that ‘he needs me and I need him,’” he quoted over his uneven voice.
“Put it a step further; he needs you all and you all need him.”
Everyone starred at the picture in silence before they continued their meals. But before they did, Mathias had the last word...“...He wears the scars of betrayal, so hopefully you all don’t have to.”