My hair was still white a week later when a familiar alarm set off throughout the ship. Everyone gathered in Tammy's workroom.
Rei said, "Please tell me that's the next stone location."
"It is" I said. I was with Tammy when the alarm went off.
Cashel came through the door, "So where are we going?"
"Tizarr" Tammy answered.
"Really?" said Kiko and Rei.
"That's good news," said Cashel.
"Yes, but it will take another month to reach from here."
"That's fine. It'll give us enough time to re-equip for that planet."
Tammy clarified to me that Tizarr was one of the first planets the crew went bounty hunting together as a team on.
"It's a planet with sinking islands," she said. "The planet is basically all water but it has populated islands throughout the planet that sink underwater at random intervals."
I didn't like the thought of being surrounded by a large mass of water. I couldn't even imagine what that would look like. There were never any bodies of water in Sola that were deeper than my waist. The bodies of water on Dezner and Fargon were the most I've ever seen, and I hardly even touch it.
"The main species on Tizarr are the Attar Herb Rewe."
"Attar… Herb… Rewe?" I said trying to repeat the name.
"We just call them Attar."
"That's much easier."
She continued, "The Attar is a species that is able to survive both in the water and on land, which is why this planet is so populated with them. There are other species as well however, who have made living on the islands possible, even with them sinking into the water."
"How do they do that?" I asked, intrigued by the idea.
"You'll see when we get there," she smiled. "You should spend this time preparing for anything you may encounter while there. There are still other racers who are looking for the stone as well."
I remembered the large man who captured me. "Yeah I guess you're right." I left her room and went to find Rei and Kiko.
We didn't make any more pit stops on other planets since we now had a destination to get to.
I eventually convinced Kiko to train me more for anything I might encounter on Tizarr. She didn't really want to at first but Rei helped me convince her and the three of us spent weeks on some intense training. She even taught me how to use simple weapons and how to counter-attack, but practicing that with her was sometimes dangerous.
We were practicing with a pair of short sticks one day when I caught her day dreaming. I used that to my advantage to try and get my first hit off of her but she instantly blocked my attempt without thinking and countered back harder than usual. I went flying backwards and thudded on the ground. I quickly realized it was my fault, so I tried to play it off like it was nothing.
"Sarth! I'm so sorry!" she apologized as she ran over to me. "Are you hurt bad? Let me get Tammy-"
She turned to go get her when I grabbed her arm without warning. She reacted again by attacking, but I knew she was going to and I was able to dodge her deadly kick.
"No…" I finally managed to grunt. "I'm fine. Just stay here with me please." I pleaded.
She looked surprised. It could've been the fact that I was able to dodge her or maybe she was surprised she attacked me so dangerously for a second time. It didn't matter to me. All I wanted was for her to stay with me.
I was still holding onto her when she nodded, and I finally let go. She heaved a heavy sigh before sitting down next to me with an upset face.
"Are you sure you're okay?" she tried coaxing the truth out of me.
"I'm fine," I smiled at her, trying to make myself look okay.
She just sighed again and avoided looking at me.
"Hey…" I whispered to her.
She slowly turned to me, her eyes glassed over with sadness. "I don't want to hurt you Sarth" she confessed, whispering back.
This girl… there's always been something about her. I've always had this indescribable feeling towards her and she never ceased to captivate me.
"You won't hurt me," I said from the bottom of my heart. I gazed into her beautiful gray eyes and slowly raised my hand to carefully caress the side of her soft cheek. She gazed back at me the entire time. "See..."
She lifted her hand and held onto mine next to her face, never taking her eyes off me. I was being drawn in by her, slowly moving closer and closer to her face. I knew in my heart I wanted our lips to touch and be able to show her my true feelings. I was slightly surprised when she came in closer to me as well. We were almost touching and my heart was racing with anticipation. I closed my eyes and let myself go…
"Hey Tammy why's the door locked?" we heard Rei's muffled voice just outside the training room door, and the realization of not being alone anymore separated us faster than the blink of an eye.
We swiftly let go of each other, and she got up to open the door.
"Take Sarth to see Tammy," she ordered as she briskly walked out of the room.
"Huh?" she poked her head in to see me sitting on the ground, tapping my short sticks together awkwardly, pretending nothing happened. "Okay…" she said giving me a weird look.
She helped me up and took me to see Tammy. "What happened?" she asked.
"I fell," I lied.
Tammy was already in the medical bay by the time we got there.
"Just leave him on the table and go see how Kiko's doing" she told Rei.
"Geez, what's with you guys today," she mumbled, "ordering me around like a slave…" she helped me on the table and then left to find Kiko.
I was still on the table, letting Tammy assess the damage. The events with Kiko replaying over and over in my mind, and I smiled out of nowhere.
"I don't even need to analyze you to know what you're thinking," said Tammy as she worked the panels.
"Is it that obvious?" I asked smiling, still in daydream mode.
"As obvious as your two broken ribs, and I see you can't even tell you're in pain." She smiled back at me, "I take it it was worth it?"
I smiled back, "She can break my ribs every day."
I had to wear another shirt brace and tone down my training for the rest of the journey to let my ribs heal. I was a little worried about how Kiko would react to seeing me again but surprisingly she was the same as usual and I was extremely happy about that.
Finally, the arrival day on Tizarr was upon us.
"Prepare to enter Tizarr's atmosphere," came Tammy's usual announcement.
We all prepared to land. I saw the planet through the sun shield. It was completely blue with tiny specks of brown in different areas. That was definitely the most water I've ever seen before.
We landed at the space port on one of the largest islands on the planet without any problems.
I took a look around at our surroundings, "Wow…" I said, admiring the buildings around us. They looked very different from usual buildings I've seen so far. For one thing they were all generally cylinder shaped, but it looked like they were grown, and they were all different bright colors.
"They're coral buildings." Tammy clarified, eyeing my exploritary expression.
"What's coral?" I asked.
"Let's just say it comes from underwater and admire how pretty it is," Rei pitched in.
That was fine with me since I knew I was going to see many things I didn't know during our stay here.
We were all unloading when a young man appeared in front of us. He was about Kiko's age with strong broad shoulders and wavy blonde hair. His official attire made it known that he was one of the workers here at the space port.
"How's it goin' Jago?" he asked with a big smile on his face.
Rei shrieked with happiness when she saw him and ran to go give him a hug.
"Jotham! It's great to see you again! You've gotten so big!" she said to him. He laughed and picked her up to hug her.
Kiko had a big smile on her face as he greeted her.
"Kiko, it's nice to see you again!" he gave her a handsome smile.
Who was this guy? I didn't like him already.
"You sure did grow while we were gone," she told him.
"You guys look like you barely aged at all!" he glanced at Tammy in the back, "Except for you! Hi Tammy!"
"Hello Jotham," she replied happily.
"You've gotten the biggest I see!"
She smiled at him, one of her rare gestures. I was really not-liking this guy and I knew I was being unreasonable.
"And who's this?" he asked gesturing to me with a surprised look.
I introduced myself. "I'm Sarth," I said, forcing myself to act normal.
Cashel came out of the ship with bags on his arms. "He's our newest crewmember."
"It's nice to meet you," he said earnestly, giving me a genuine smile as well.
I gave him my best fake smile, trying not to judge him too quickly.
"I'll take you all to my place," he said seriously. "It isn't safe here."
We left the Jago at the space port and followed him to a small strange-looking ship and all piled in. He took us deeper into the city and we stopped in front of a smaller coral building and got out.
"Well, this is my place." he said taking us inside the building. There were many doors in the hallway and he opened one. "It isn't much, but you can make yourselves at home for now."
We all shoved inside his small room. It reminded me of our place on Crux. I wondered if our place was doing okay there… then I remembered that it was blown to pieces the day the race started.
"You can all rest here. I'll be back in a few hours. I recommend you stay inside until I get back," he warned.
"Alright, we will," Cashel agreed.
Jotham left us and we sat there waiting for him to get back. Tammy set up her newly modified PSL which was now much smaller and portable.
"Can you get a reading?" Cashel asked her.
"Yes, I have one. The signal isn't too far from here actually."
She was now the one in charge of it instead of Kiko, and it was definitely best that way if we wanted to keep it in one piece.
"Shouldn't we start looking for it?" I asked eagerly.
"No," said Cashel. "We'll wait for Jotham like we said we would."
First attempted escape from Jotham: shot down.
"Who is this guy?" I murmured to Tammy.
"We met him when we first came to this planet." She whispered back, still adjusting the PSL. "He's a good friend, we can trust him."
It was more than a few hours when Jotham finally returned. He had a grim look on his face as he opened the door to us.
"Can I talk to you in private Cashel?" he asked as soon as he approached us.
"Of course," Cashel answered, getting up to follow him to another room.
Rei, Kiko and I turned to Tammy. She sighed and then took out four earpieces and we each put one in our ears.
"I'm sorry Cashel but you can't stay here," we heard Jotham say.
"That's perfectly fine, but may I ask what's wrong?" Cashel asked.
"The planet has been having problems ever since the Millennium Galaxy Race began months ago. There's an unknown group hunting down anyone involved with the race, this island especially is known to have many racers gone missing. It wouldn't be safe if you and your crew stayed here, and I'm sure they already know that you've landed here. I owe it to you to help you out, but there's not much I can do-"
Cashel held up his hand, "Say no more, we were planning on leaving here as soon as possible anyway. It was great to see you again though, thank you for meeting us at the port."
"Of course! If you need anything let me know. I'll see what I can do for you since I actually work at the port now. I'll hide your entrance as long as I can."
"Thank you, we appreciate that."
The door opened and we all pretended to be doing something.
"Let's go." Cashel ordered. We all got up without a word and grabbed our stuff to leave. "Thanks for the heads up Jotham!"
"I'll try and keep people off your trail, and don't tell anyone you're racers!"
We said goodbye and finally left his place.
Kiko threw a bag over her shoulder, "So where are we going now?"
"We'll follow the PSL" Cashel said, "You said it wasn't too far, right Tammy?"
She took out her PSL, "It'll take about an hour to reach it if we take a shuttle."
"Well what are we waiting for?" asked Rei as she flagged one down.
We got in, and a strange driver with plastic-looking pink skin spoke to us, "Destination?"
Tammy answered, "82.669"
The creature gave us a look. I would've too, what kind of a location is 82.669?
I was surprised when he answered, "What business do you have there?"
"We're nako shopping," said Cashel.
The driver gave us an embarrassed look and Rei snickered. "I see…" he said, turning back around.
We drove for a while in silence when the driver spoke up again, "Nakos must be getting really popular because I just took some travelers there recently."
Cashel narrowed his eyes in thought, "Did you?"
"Yep, just yesterday I took a few slerves there."
"Must be the Nakos" he lied.
This seemed way too easy, were we just going to drive to the location to get the stone? It couldn't be this easy. The first stone took way more effort to retrieve… and we had to sacrifice our friends to get it. I squeezed the elemental stone that was stashed in my pant leg pocket. Kiko notice my movement but didn't say anything.
After about an hour of traveling, the shuttle stopped in front of some old decaying coral buildings. Tammy paid the driver and we all unpacked onto the bare street. The shuttle drove away once we were all out.
I think we were all a little confused. There was no sign of a stone anywhere in the bare looking street, with only a few degrading coral buildings. Even Tammy was a little flustered, pressing buttons on her PSL.
Cashel pursed his lips, "Can there be a mistake?" he asked her, hunched over and looking at the PSL hologram over her shoulder. She stopped to give him a look and he backed off. I chuckled at their little interaction.
"The stone is below us… and… moving" she said.
"How can a stone be moving?" asked Kiko.
Tammy fiddled with the panels quickly and then suddenly stopped. "The signal disappeared."
Rei leaned against the light-blue coral building and sighed, "So… we have a runaway stone?"
Tammy put her PSL away, "I'll need some time to figure this one out in a safe area." A loud gong rang throughout the streets. "The island is preparing to sink."
The ground rumbled and I could see in the distance as a large clear sphere began rising up and around the island.
I looked all around noticing it was everywhere, "That thing covers the entire island?"
Rei sprang off the wall and Kiko took out her knife.
"What's wrong?" I asked, noticing their defensive actions.
"Everyone's eyes around us… suddenly converged on us…" she quickly turned to Tammy and suddenly she was being pulled underneath the solid ground. At the last second she grabbed ahold of my foot and took me down with her.
It took me a second to adjust to the weird feeling of being dragged through what looked like solid ground. I didn't know what to do, I've never been dragged through solid ground before, and it felt like we were going faster and faster. It was strange because I couldn't feel the dirt touching my skin, it just felt like I was being dragged through air and I could still breath but I couldn't really do anything else. I had to wait until we came to a stop, and that took longer than I thought.
Out of nowhere, the scenery changed to water and I could see Tammy holding onto my leg. She was being held by her leg by someone riding a small speed shuttle. The driver gave a confused look after realizing something was wrong once we hit the water, but before he could react to it, a large, underwater explosion separated him from Tammy and I. She had put up a small shield to protect herself but the force of such a close explosion knocked it against her, and she became motionless in the water, losing her grip with me.
As soon as we were separated from the driver I could feel the water touching me. I held my breath and searched for Tammy in the water. I found her nearby, and grabbed her, but it was pointless because I didn't know how to swim. I moved awkwardly in the water trying to move toward the light but I didn't feel like I was moving at all. In fact, we were moving down because of the suction of the sinking island next to us. I was running out of breath and starting to panic.
Out of nowhere, I saw a figure move quickly towards me. They took ahold of my hand and lead me up to the surface.
Air never tasted so good. I lifted Tammy's head out of the water and she slowly woke up, coughing up the water from her mouth. I saw our savior pull us to a nearby small ship that was floating on top of the water. I had never seen a floating ship before. It was rather small like like a shuttle but I looked as if it was made for the water.
The figure in the full body suit helped us board the ship.
"Thanks for saving us," I thanked, taking deep breaths of the crisp air.
I think the figure was staring at me because they were motionless while facing me for a moment.
Then they took off their mask and asked curiously, "Trash?"