All that could be seen below the horizon was a vast and white expanse. Above the horizon, all that could be seen was a nearly empty sky only interrupted by a few stray cirrus clouds. The sky had a red to blue gradient to it from the low sun.
The sun shone brightly, harshly reflecting off of the ice and snow. Despite the abundant sunshine, it was cold here. Very cold. So cold that life could not possibly survive. A vast white desert is all that was here.
This is Earth’s Antarctic region, and this is the typical climate of the area, only a few areas here are habitable to life. Even so, there are bases set up around the continent for scientific research and other purposes, or makeshift locations that people will set up as their research base.
One team of scientists is stationed on the Larsen C ice shelf. These figures stand as the only life for miles and miles around. These figures wear thick fur coats, goggles, and boots to protect them from the cold temperatures and the strong winds that blew across the landscape unaffected by mountains or trees, for there were none, just flat icy desert.
One of the figures standing among the group was a shorter individual, who stood a foot shorter than the rest. He had long, red dreadlocks which dangled out of his hood and blew in the wind. The person was staring off into the big white yonder, admiring its frozen beauty, and was in deep thought.
“KNUCKLES!” a loud scratchy voice yelled from behind. The short person jumped out of his trance and he fell to the ground, startled. He pulled himself back up and looked at who the voice belonged too. It was a large and strong person with a green snout.
“Vector,” said the shorter red figure known as Knuckles, “What did I tell you about scaring me like that!?”
The larger green figure known as Vector looked down at him. “What are you doing? Staring off into space again?” Vector asked loudly.
“Sorry,” said Knuckles, “I was just in deep thought."
Vector shook his head. “Boss is not going to take any excuses for slacking off,” he said, “NOAA wants the ice core samples this weekend, no later, so we have to get moving!”
Knuckles just sighed. Vector’s tone became more friendly, “I know it’s been a month and you miss Angel Island and want to go back home," said the crocodile, "but we are only here for a few more days. Come on, man.”
Knuckles and Vector began walking back to where the others were. “It would be nice to see the long nights again,” said Knuckles, “This Antarctic October, the time of year when the sun begins to only set for an hour or so.”
Vector pat Knuckles on the back, “Oh, don’t worry Knux, Jack is making sure that we leave here on schedule.”
“I also just hope the Master Emerald is safe,” said Knuckles.
“Oh, you’ve got it under the protection of someone who is competent and trustworthy,” said Vector, “I wouldn’t worry about it, but if you want to leave here as soon as possible, I suggest we get back to work.”
Vector started going back to work and Knuckles stood there for a second, “Who put him as second in command of this expedition?" Knuckles grumbled, “I can’t believe I made that bet with that blue hedgehog!”
Knuckles the Echidna and Vector the Crocodile were Mobians, a race of anthropomorphic animals that resided on Earth beside humans. Humans outnumber the Mobian population because Mobians are a new species to the planet, having migrated to Earth from their homeworld within the past 300 years.
Knuckles and Vector are currently participating on an expedition to the Antarctic led by a scientist by the name of Jack Hall. Knuckles is doing it because of a bet he made with one of his friends. Vector is more interested in the pay or reward. They were the only two mobians on the small expedition of five.
Knuckles started walking again and passed by two of his co-workers, Frank and Jason. They were extracting core samples from the ice. “Careful. The boss will chew my head off if these cores get messed up” said Frank to his co-worker, Jason. Knuckles looked at them briefly as he continued walking to the shack.
The shack was not really much. It was small, but large enough to house five people for an amount of time. It was wood framed and with sides made of multiple layers of sheet metal with insulation in between each layer. There was one window for each room. The shack contained five sleeping quarters, an office, storage, a bathroom, a small hallway, a weather center, communications room, and a living space/kitchen all packed into a building the size of two classrooms.
In other words, it was pretty small, but still large enough to be relatively comfortable. Knuckles walked up to the shack and was about to open the door, but then he heard Vector again. “Knuckles,” he said, “I think Jack could possibly have a job for you, he is in his office.”
“I think I already figured that out” said Knuckes, “Where else would he be in this permanent Winter Wonderland?”
Knuckles opened the door. The entrance is designed with two doors with a room in between, like an airlock, to keep the cold out. He stepped in to the entry and closed the door behind him and opened the second door that led to inside the shack.
Knuckles walked down the hall past the sleeping quarters to the office in the back of the small building. He came up to the wooden door and knocked. “Come on in,” a voice said.
Knuckles entered the office to find Jack Hall sitting there working on his laptop. “What is it?” he asked.
“Is there anything that you need me to work on at the moment?” asked Knuckles.
“Well, you can help the others dig up ice core samples,” Jack said, “Your drill should be in the storage room.”
“Okay,” said Knuckles, “I better get to work then”. Knuckles began to walk out of the office.
“Wait a minute though,” said Jack.
Knuckles stopped. “What?” he asked.
“Sit down” said Jack. Knuckles sat down in the chair in front of Jack’s desk.
“What do you want to talk to me about now?” asked Knuckles.
“You and I have been friends for the past couple of months,” said Jack.
Knuckles nodded. "Yes,” Knuckles said, “we talk about stuff. And I have learned some interesting things to do with the weather and climate from you as well."
“Yes, you have,” said Jack, “but still, as your friend, I can tell something has been bothering as of late. Vector keeps telling me you have been staring off, what’s wrong? Is it homesickness?”
“Yes,” said Knuckles, “That is exactly it. I have never been away from Angel Island this long."
“I understand” said Jack, “and I take it you worry about the Master Emerald as well?”
“Yes,” Knuckles replied. “It’s what keeps my island afloat. And even though it has no power of it’s own, energy generated by the seven chaos emeralds passes through it, so anyone who gets a hold of it probably has a good percentage of the total chaos force in their hands."
“I’m sure it’s safe if you left it guarded,” said Jack, “But I can see why you want to go home, you miss your place and everything.”
“Yes, why are you wondering?” Knuckles asked.
“Let’s take a walk” said Jack as he got up from his desk. He walked out of the office and Knuckles followed him. They walked around the shack, it wasn’t a big place, so they generally circled or paced.
“You see Knuckles, if you think your homesickness is bad, then you can’t imagine being me,” said Jack, “We are only here for a month, and we are going home in a couple of days.”
Knuckles was listening.
“I leave often, and sometimes I am gone for a month and a half, even two, or in rare cases, two and a half months,” Jack explained, “I hardly get to see my son, me and my ex wife are divorced. You have it good, Knuckles.”
Knuckles was looking out the window at the men working outside, “So why do you still do the job?” he asked.
“Because someone has to,” Jack answered.
Knuckles turned back around and looked at Jack, he nodded out of understanding. He then began walking down the hall to where the ice drills were kept to get one. The shack then shook slightly, but enough to catch Knuckles and Jack’s attention.
“What was that?” Knuckles asked.
“I think it was an ice tremor,” said Jack. Knuckles looked out the window, it appears as if the men outside did not notice the tremor. Knuckles ignored the storage room for now and proceeded for the weather center. Once in the weather center he took a look at the seismometer. His eyes grew wide.
“Jack,” he said, “You better see this.”
“What is it?” asked Jack.
“When was the last time somebody checked this thing?” asked Knuckles in a worried tone.
“Two days ago, I think” Jack stated.
“Well, a lot has certainly changed since then” Knuckles said as he pointed at the display. The display showed a map of the ice shelf with blips showing the epicenters of ice tremors and earthquakes, the most recent being green and the less recent being red.
Jack observed the display. It showed the most recent tremor, measuring 2.9, right under their location. But Jack then zoomed out the display showing more tremors, many of them occurring within the past two days.
These tremors were not scattered all over the ice shelf, but they were arranged in a rugged line, extending from one end of the ice shelf to the other. Not only this, but the tremors increased in size and frequency over time.
“You know what this means, right?” said Jack while staring at the blips on the display.
“I don’t know,” said Knuckles, “You’re the ice expert around here, you tell me.”
“It means we have to evacuate right now,” Jack said, “I’m going to call Vostok and have them send us a plane. You go round up the others. We are leaving as soon as we can.”
Knuckles was slightly happy that they were going home sooner than thought, but at the same time he knew that the situation was serious and had to be taken seriously. “Got it” is all he said before going to do his task.
Meanwhile the men working outside were working the big ice drill with vector supervising. They too felt the ground shake, “Woah, I think that is too much drill power guys,” said Vector as he signaled Jason to deactivate the machine.
Jason turned off the machine, “But sir,” he said, “The drill is not powerful enough to shake the ice like that. I think it must have been something else!”
The ground shook again, this time it was slightly stronger than the last shock. “It’s just an ice tremor,” said Frank, “I’ve been doing this for years, I know them when I feel them.”
“In that case then lets get back to work,” said Vector.
“The drill should be back online in a few minutes” said Jason, “it overheated and needs to cool off a bit.”
“Alright, but we better get a move on,” said Vector.
Knuckles stepped out of the door to the shack and shut the door behind him. “Knuckles,” said Vector, “I have a job for you now, you can help us get the big drill running again.”
“Jack told me to come out here and tell you guys to pack up. We are leaving. Today,” said Knuckles seriously. The others had doubt about what Kncukles was saying, but Vector beloved him.
“He sounds urgent,” said Vector, “I think the boss really did order us to pack up!” The ground rumbled and shook again, once again slightly stronger than the last.
Meanwhile, below the ice. The thick ice sheet was being melted from below by warmer than average waters. The years of melting and weakening of the ice sheet formed a weak zone which was home to a long line of faults in the ice.
These faults in the ice were beginning to rupture, the action started two days ago as minor faults began to go and generated the more minor tremors the seismometer had picked up. Now some of the bigger faults were beginning to rupture, producing some of the larger, feelable, ice tremors.
The tremors went on for the next hour as the team was packing up as much as they can.
Knuckles went into Jack’s office and found him packing up his things. “So we are going home, early, huh?” said Knuckles.
“Yes, but not quite in the way I wanted it to go,” said Jack, “For one, we will lose this shelter and most of our equipment, which will be a big financial loss.”
“I know. But look on the bright side, at least we are going home,” Knuckles stated.
“And at least the ice cores are small enough to bring on board the plane,” said Jack, “It would be an exceptionally huge loss for us as an agency if we lost them, millions of dollars spent on an expedition only to come back empty handed, now that would be a total loss.”
“Yeah,” said Knuckles, “But do you have any idea when the plane will get here?”
“I think it should probably be about another twenty minutes,” said Jack, “I hope so at least, the ice shelf is about to go. And I don’t want to be on it when it does.”
“You think this ice shelf collapse will support your theory on global warming and climate change?” Knuckles asked.
“I don’t know,” said Jack, “We will have to wait and see what we find in the ice cores.”
Right after Jack finished his sentence; there was another tremor, once again, it was short, but stronger than the last. Knuckles went to look at the seismometer and it read 4.9.
Knuckles began to get nervous now. The ice sheet could collapse within the hour. They needed to leave. He then brushed it off briefly and went back to his room to pack his things.
As Knuckles was bringing his bag out to the main living area, he bumped into Vector, who was also taking his bags out. They almost fell over when they hit eachother.
“Woah, sorry Vector, didn’t see you there!” said Knuckles.
“It’s alright, it’s alright,” said Vector, “I really should have watched where I was going.”
“It’s okay,” said Knuckles, “I’m just in a hurry, when the plane comes we have to get on and leave, there is no time to waste. The ice shelf is about to collapse and...”
Vector stopped Knuckles there, “Wait, did you just say the ice shelf is about to… collapse? That’s what all this is about?”
“Yes,” Knuckles said, “We did not want to tell anybody why we are evacuating because we did not want to scare anyone. Now promise me you won’t tell Frank and Jason.”
“I won’t” said Vector.
They could hear the plane coming in for landing, it’s propellers buzzing like bumblebees. Knuckles and Vector watched as the plane landed.
The plane wasn’t too large, probably about as big as a small express airliner. It was red, was made of metal, and it’s wings were on top of the fuselage and the two engines were located on the wings.
As the plane touched the surface of the ice sheet, snow flew up in the air behind the landing skis. The plane eventually came to a stop and it turned down the engines.
It took a few minutes for everyone to bring their stuff up to the plane to put it in the cargo hold, but they eventually all got to it. Except for Jack.
“Where’s the boss?” Vector asked.
“He is just packing up some last minute things,” Knuckles said.
In the back of the shack in Jack’s office, Jack was packing up the rest of his things. Among the things he was packing were clothes, papers, supplies, his laptop, and the photograph of his son, Sam. He got up from the desk and turned off the lights. He went to the door, ready to leave. Right when he was about to open the door, another tremor hit.
This tremor was the strongest yet. It hit with a huge jolt causing Jack to lose balance and fall to the floor.
The shaking was equivalent to a 7.4 earthquake. All around him objects fell, such as lamps, desks, chairs, and parts of the ceiling. It was difficult to stand up, so Jack had to crawl around.
He crawled and made his way to the door and began reaching for the knob. Jack was able to reach the knob to open the door that lead into the hallway. Then Wait a minute, Jack thought, my bag!
Jack had forgotten to grab his bag, which has some valuable things in it. He knew he had to get it and get out quickly, because the plane was about to leave without him.
There is still time to grab it, he thought, as he saw that it was right within his reaching range. He reached for the red bag. The ice tremor that is currently happening is the strongest he has ever been in all his years. The shaking was so bad that he was stuck on the floor.
Then again, he has not been on an unstable collapsing ice shelf before. He eventually was able to grab the bag and begin to crawl into the hallway.
He was on the end of the hall that was far from the doorway to outside. In the hallway things were also falling all over the place. Jack was almost hit in the head by a falling fire extinguisher. He was in shock about how close it came to hitting him.
What Jack did next was make an attempt to stand up and walk. He eventually did, and he tried to walk the best he could to the doorway with the bag in one hand. He was struggling to walk amongst the violent tremor, often kept slipping to his knees.
He made his way almost halfway down the hall when he was knocked over by another big jolt. The shack was creaking and shaking and Jack was starting to worry that it could come down on him.
Jack was preparing to get up and make for the exit again. But then a set of shelves fell and landed on top of him, pinning him down.
Meanwhile, outside, the ice tremor had taken everyone by surprise. The sudden jolt had almost knocked everyone over like Jack was knocked over. Everyone retained their balance, but they were in shock of the situation.
The plane was wobbling from side to side in the violent tremor. Everyone scrambled not knowing what was going on.
“It’s happening,” said Knuckles as he was running to Vector, using his cleated boots to keep himself standing. “Vector!” he shouted.
Vector was frozen in fear, unsure of what to do. He heard Knuckles' voice, “Vector, get the others and get on the plane! The ice shelf is collapsing!”
I hope I am getting paid big for this, Vector thought with displeasure of the situation as he got control of his movements again and began to call for everyone else.
“Frank, Jason, grab what you can and get on the plane!” Vector yelled, “Be sure to save the ice cores!”
Frank and Jason threw whatever they could into the cargo hold of the aircraft. They hurried as fast as possible.
They then saw a crack begin to form in the ice from the east and begin to stretch to the west, running parallel to the long side of the plane.
The crack was 100 yards away from the plane, and was about to cut right through the shack. Smaller cracks were forming around the large one and branching away from it, some of them coming near the plane.
“Forget everything else, just grab the samples and lets go!” Vector commanded as the situation got worse.
The surface of the ice began to become uneven as some chunks of ice fell an inch or two and others were lifted an inch or two. The uneven surface of the ice became more smooth further away from the main crack, and it was still pretty smooth where the plane was.
In the middle of the shaking and cracking ice, it became clear to Frank and Jason what was happening. Jason looked at the thin lines in the ice that formed a uniform system that stretched for miles.
“What’s happening?” Jason asked.
“The whole damn shelf is breaking off, that’s whats happening!” Frank said to Jason.
Knuckles was about to board the plane. He looked inside of the plane and did not see Jack anywhere, “Oh no, Jack!” Knuckles screamed and then ran to the shack, the danger zone, in an attempt to save his friend and boss.
“Knuckles!” Vector yelled, “Are you crazy? It’s too dangerous!”
Knuckles was halfway to the shack when he turned back to answer Vector. He looked at Vector straight in the eye and said, “It’s alright, I will be back. Do not leave until I get back!”
Knuckles was racing for the shack at his fastest pace once more, once again using his cleats to keep him from slipping. “Knuckles!” Vector called for Knuckles again, of course the red echidna did not listen. “KNUCKLES!” Vector called louder. Once again Knuckles did not listen to Vector’s pleas. “You will get killed…” Vector said in a quieter voice, knowing Knuckles will not listen.
“That echidna is nuts,” said Frank, “Not even Jack is that crazy.” Jason just stood there in shock and confusion of what Knuckles was trying to do.
“I say we just tell the pilot to take off now,” said Jason, “I know it sounds wrong but the shelf is about to split, and take us down with it!”
“We will wait,” said Vector. Frank and Jason sat there bug eyed, thinking he is crazy. “We will wait to see if they make it," Vector continued, "and if we absolutely need to leave then we will!”
Vector looked back out. "Hurry up Knuckles, you don’t have much time!”
Knuckles ran for the shack as fast as he could. He knew that he had to be quick if he wanted to save Jack. The mile-thick ice shelf was about to split, and Jack was right on that split.
Knuckles the Echidna wasn’t afraid though, he wasn’t really afraid of anything. He was hardened by years of living by himself on Angel Island, a giant floating island which floats high above the world.
Knuckles was left alone in the wilderness of Angel Island to fend for himself as far back as he can remember. He does not remember his parents; only watching them die. Frankly, he didn’t care. He was all too focused on his main goal, to be the guardian of the Master Emerald and the island.
The skills he learned from his self-training during his youth come in handy at times. And this situation was one of those times.
Knuckles ran, he just ran, he did not have a single thought on his mind except for the life and safety of his boss and friend, Jack Hall.
Knuckles eventually reached the door of the shack. He kept his balance in the shaking of the ice. He tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t open. Knuckles spent no time figuring out the problem with the door and fixing it. Instead, he punched the door multiple times before it came right out of the frame.
Knuckles ran into the entryway to be met by the second reinforced door. This door was going to be a tough one to take down. Knuckles pounded the door with his fists and put quite a few dents in it, but it did not go down.
Knuckles then backed away and out of the shack, and then charged for the door with his fists both out in front of him. He then jumped and his fists slammed into the door knocking it clean off it’s hinges.
Knuckles fell down with the door into the interior of the small structure. He was in the living space, he was looking around, “Jack!” he yelled out.
“Over here!” said Jack’s voice.
Knuckles looked down the hallway and saw a collapsed shelf and a pile of junk. Knuckles could also see a moving hand sticking out of the pile and some clothing and things showing in between.
“Jack!” Knuckles called as he ran over to the pile. Knuckles then began to remove objects from the pile and throw them off to the side.
Knuckles then used his strength to heave the metal shelf trapping Jack and throw it into the other room. Once Knuckles got enough weight off of Jack he grabbed his hand and lifted him up out of the debris.
The violent tremor continued to roar and rumble the ice. The building was now unleveled because of the movements in the ice.
“Jack, we have to get out of here!” knuckles stated.
Jack was speechless. But he knew that if he stayed here, we would definitely be a goner.
Knuckles lead the startled Jack down the hall, but then another big jolt struck knocking Jack away from Knuckles.
But something else happened. With the jolt that just had struck, the entire structure split right across the middle. The split in the structure was seemingly a narrow line that stood between Knuckles and Jack.
The crack dividing the shack then opened up rapidly revealing a gaping chasm. Jack’s side of the shack was moving away rapidly from the side Knuckles was on.
They looked down the chasm that now separated them, all that they could see was darkness below, it was that deep.
Jack was frozen in fear for a moment as the chasm continued to grow. Ice crumbled constantly from the walls of the chasm and disappeared into the dark abyss below.
“Grab my hand!” Knuckles shouted as he tried to reach over the chasm and grab Jack. Jack also reached his hand out and tried to meet Knuckles’ hand. But they were just too far apart.
Then the ledge of the ice that was supporting Jack’s half of the shack suddenly collapsed. The small building tipped and slid into the chasm.
The shack only fell a little ways before getting wedged between the walls of the icy abyss. The half of the building was angled downwards at about 45 degrees. The building’s contents began to slide into the abyss.
Jack tried to hold on to something as the the small structure was dangling over the deep darkness that contained freezing waters at the bottom. He began to slip and he quickly grabbed onto a metal pipe.
Jack could only watch as papers, furniture, and other things that were in the building get swallowed up by the darkness. He tried to climb himself up and out of the abyss before the shack falls. He reached his other hand, careful not to drop his bag, up to a broken plank that seemed as if it could hold his weight.
He sucsessfully grabbed on to the plank and pulled himself up. He continued to climb and thought he was making it, until a plank he grabbed on to snapped, causing him to slide back down.
Jack caught hold of a pipe sticking out of the floor before he could fall into the abyss. By now his feet were dangling over the chasm. He looked down and looked back up again to see how far apart the sides of the chasm had drifted. He saw that the shack was about to go.
Jack knew that this was it. He'd never make it home. His life is over. He shed a tear as he thought of those he would end up leaving behind, his friends, his coworkers, and most importantly...
"SAM!" he cried, "Sam, I am sorry about not ever being there for you. I'm sorry for being away so much. I know we were never as close as we should have been, but please forgive me, I wish I could be there for you!"
At that moment, the shack finally gave, and the building was sent hurtling down into the canyon along with Jack. Jack just accepted his fate and braced for what would happen.
Knuckles watched in horror as the half of the small building finally slipped and now was falling into the deep fissure. Along with Jack. Knuckles stepped back in fear. He hesitated and could only stand still for a moment.
Cracks and fractures began to branch away from the main fissure. One considerable one going beneath the plane, concerning the pilots. The pilots decided that they would leave within five minutes. No matter if Knuckles and Jack were in board or not. This got Vector concerned for his friend's life.
"Knuckles!" Vector called to Knuckles, "Knuckles! Jack is gone! We HAVE to go NOW! There is no time!"
Knuckles didn't budge as Vector called him. "No," said Knuckles, "I am NOT leaving Jack behind!"
Knuckles then did the unthinkable, he leaped into the air and dived into the abyss. Vector watched in shock as Knuckles made this quick decision. "KNUCKLES YOU IDIOT!" he screamed. The pilots then announced that takeoff would be in 4 minutes.
Knuckles was diving into the abyss at great speed. He then saw Jack and the shack falling. "Jack," said Knuckles as he started to use his gliding ability and glide over to catch Jack.
Jack was falling and was sure he was going to die. But then he suddenly felt himself change direction and stop. He felt someone's grip on him. He opened his eyes to find himself in Knuckles' arm. Knuckles had his fist spikes and cleats driven into the canyon's wall.
"I thought you could use a hand," said Knuckles as he looked at Jack. Jack was still breathing heavily from the pure fear and shock he had just experienced.
"No time to waste, we need to hurry," Knuckles bluntly said as he turned his head to look back up to the top. "Get on my back," Knuckles said. Jack did so.
Knuckles began to climb back up the wall with Jack on his back, avoiding falling ice chunks as he went. They evaded a big ice chunk about halfway back up. Knuckles nearly lost his grip.
Eventually they made it to the top of the chasm. Knuckles threw Jack and his bag up and over the edge before climbing himself out.
Vector was in the plane looking out the window. "We are now taking off!" said the pilot. Vector sighed as he looked out and saw two figures emerging from the chasm. "WAIT," he said, "It's knuckles and Jack!"
Knuckles and Jack both got up and ran as the chasm continued expanding. A whole chunk of ice collapsed behind them just at the moment they cleared that particular area, swallowing up the remaining half of the shack and most of the site.
They rushed to the plane and quickly threw Jack's luggage into the plane and climbed in. By now the crack beneath the plane looked more serious. Knuckles closed the door as the plane's engines reved up.
Jack and Knuckles took their seat. "We thought you guys were dead!" said Frank.
"When you have watched your family die and lived on a floating island by yourself most your life guarding a powerful gem from thieves and fat mad scientists with big mustaches, then you learn a few tips on how to get out of a sticky situation," Knuckles stated.
The others took Knuckles' point as they all sat back and prepared for takeoff. The plane began to move ahead and pick up speed as the ground began to grow more unstable. And then finally the area they were on started giving away, contributing to the fissure's growth.
Knuckles looked outside and watched as the ice around the plane cracked up and fell a mile down into the Antarctic Ocean. Knuckles was now seriously worried, he knew that there was a strong possibility that they may not be able to clear enough area to take off in time.
Knuckles silently prayed to the chaos energy. He sat back and held tight as the plane sped down the ice. It seemed like five hours to Knuckles and everyone on board, but it was only a few seconds before the plane eventually took off.
Right at the moment the plane took off, the icy runway caved in and collapsed completely. It had been a very close call. Everyone say back and sighed in relief and realization that they all almost died.
The plane was climbing up into the sky steadily. For minutes, everyone was silent, all that could be heard was the chopping of the propellers from outside.
Some of them looked out the window to see that the canyon had grown considerably. It was now about 500 feet wide, wide enough to see the sun reflect off ocean at the bottom. The ice shelf had broken off, and is now drifting away from the continent where it will eventually break up.
Jack looked over at Kncukles. "Hey," he said, "thanks for saving me."
Jack then thought about what he said when he was sure he was going to die, "thanks for giving me another chance," he added.
"No problem," said Knuckles, "Anything for a friend. And I really mean anything for a friend, I don't have many friends back at the floating island."
Jack thanked Knuckles again. Jack, as well as most other people on the plane, thought about their close encounter with death. Except Knuckles, it seemed. Knuckles just thought about Angel Island, the Master Emerald, his home.
As the plane flew further and further into the blue yonder, Vector poked his head up from the seat behind Jack. "So," Vector said, "when do I get paid?"