Summary: Just a story concerning Knuckles father. Kind of a follow-up to "Guardian: Darkness Rising", but doesn't have to be read to understand this story. Not my best work, I know, but I felt the need to write this. However, if you haven't read StH #184, there is a major spoiler here. You have been warned.

Disclaimer: Writing for amusement and making no money off of StH or Archie Comics.

Sometimes beginnings aren't so simple.
Sometimes goodbye's the only way.

Linkin Park, "Shadow of the Day"

New Journey

A spirit stands quietly watching the three figures on the edge of Angel Island. Sonic and Julie-Su seem to be in shock at Knuckles declaration to stay on the Island, rather than go back to New Mobotropolis to assure his friends he is back to normal. Knuckles' words contained anger and guilt not only over his recent actions, but of his actions just months in the past.

I did not intend for this to happen. I merely wanted for him to have his own life restored, to give him a choice in the path to follow. I did not expect he would be so bitter and angry that he would choose to close himself off from the world. A voice interrupts his thoughts.

"Knuckles returned to end his quarrel with you, and take up his responsibilities again. However, this certainly was not how he intended it." The voice was old, tired, the sound of someone who had seen too much during his lifetime. Recognizing the voice, the spirit's face twisted in anger.

"You", he snarled, turning around. An Echidna stood next to him dressed in animal skins, supported by a simple wooden staff His dreadlocks sported tribal beads of green and red. "What are you doing here, Athair?"

"Aurora wishes to see you, Locke." Athair responded, ignoring his grandson's rudeness.

Locke does not budge, instead turning his gaze towards the spot where his son stood. At the moment, Sonic and Knuckles were arguing. Sonic was trying to convince Knuckles to return to New Mobotropolis, Knuckles was continuing to refuse, Julie-Su looking more worried as the argument escalated.

Athair sighs. It seems he must have it out with Locke, here and now. "Stop clinging to that old quarrel, Locke. There is no point to it anymore."

"You abandoned your duties!" came the outraged response.

"And you are innocent of that charge?" returned Athair, with an edge to his voice.

Locke stiffens, but did not respond.

"Locke, we all choose paths in life. I chose mine, Knuckles is continuing to choose his, and you made similar choices yourself. All three of us acted on what we felt was right with the knowledge we had. But truly Locke, there is no point to the old quarrel now."


"The Brotherhood is as good as dead, Locke", Athair returned, a sad tone replacing the edge.

Locke suddenly feels sick. No, Athair is lying, he has to be. For the first time since the exchange started, the anger drains from him, and he slowly turns to face Athair, a pained look on his face.

Athair read the look and understood it. No one wants to hear ill news, especially when one wishes for a better ending. Locke believed his father and other ancestors were still alive, so searched for them. Now he was realizing the search was in vain. With pain and sadness in his voice, Athair spoke again, telling Locke the bitter truth.

"Finitevus found them injured after the battle with Robotnik. Their injuries were serious, but not fatal. Finitevus was determined to create his new world, however, and drugged them. Afterward, he had them strapped to tables and analyzed them with various machines, doing all in his power to determine the source of our family's link with the Emerald, keeping them drugged all the while. After learning everything he needed to, he threw them into the Twilight Zone. Weak as they are, I cannot say if they still live. A slim chance exists, but even that is weak. Locke, believe me when I say I wish it were otherwise. No matter what passed between me and my son, I would not wish this fate on him"

The sick feeling gives way to rage. No, Athair is not lying about this. All Locke feels at this moment is the desire to kill Finitevus for misleading him, yet is powerless to do so.

"If you can, answer me this question: Will Finitevus pay for his crimes?" Locke spits out.

Athair is silent for a moment following that question. "While I understand your desire for revenge, I cannot answer your question. Knuckles' response to your death indicates it is a strong possibility, however."

A nod of acquiescence is Athair's response. The two figures stand quietly for a moment, watching the scene in front of them. Sonic is no longer arguing with Knuckles, and the warp ring portal is now open. Sonic gives one final look in Knuckles' and Julie-Su's direction and disappears through the portal. The warp ring shrinks, going back to Julie-Su's hand. Quietly, she takes Knuckles' hand. He seems surprised by the gesture, but says nothing. Soon, they walk away from the edge and the two figures nearby.

"The consequences of Enerjak's rampage are taking shape even as we speak, Locke. Aurora wishes to speak with you in regards to that." Athair says quietly.

A surprised Locke turned towards Athair, but before he could say anything, his grandfather speaks one last time.

"You will see soon enough. It is time to leave this plane now, Locke." Again, said quietly.

A portal opens behind the pair as Athair finishes. Both turn to face it. Through the portal is a light of bright gold, and in that light two other figures can be seen: a female Echidna, and a fox wrapped in a robe. They appeared to be waiting for Athair and Locke. Athair walks through and Locke starts towards the portal after him, but turns for one last look at Knuckles and Julie-Su, now nearly out of sight. He sends one final thought in Knuckles' direction.

Be strong, son. Until we meet again.

For the last time, Locke turns away and steps forward, into a new journey.

And the Shadow of the Day will embrace the world in gray,
And the sun will set for you.

Linkin Park, "Shadow of the Day"

A/N: If you read this far, thank you for taking the time to do so. I hope you enjoyed the story.