It was a girl my age and she looked very familiar.
I peered at her, "Lone? Is that you?!" I asked as memories started flooding back.
"Yeah it's me!" She perked up with a smile, "Wow! What are you doing here?!"
Was this even possible? It had to be because there she was, squatting right in front of me, examining me closely.
"I… uh… travel now…" I couldn't even think straight. My mind was still blown. "Is that really you?" I asked again.
"Yeah it's me!" she took off her water suit revealing an older version of the Lone I remembered as a kid. "I can't believe it's you either! You've gotten so big and handsome!"
Bubbles appeared next to the ship and the small speed shuttle that the kidnapper used floated up to the top. It was only half the shuttle since the other half was blown apart.
"Let's carry this conversation somewhere else." said Lone as she moved to the deck. "There's another smaller island not too far from here, we should be safer there."
The sides of the ship rose up as we began moving on top of the water at a fast speed.
"Who is this girl?" Tammy whispered to me.
"Someone I used to know on Sola, isn't that amazing?" I turned to answer her and I noticed something trickling down her forehead. "What's on your forehead?"
She touched her forehead and a silvery substance stuck to her fingers. "It's blood," she said simply.
"Blood?! Are you alright? Here…" I ripped off a piece of my shirt and handed it to her. She pressed the piece of cloth to her forehead to stop the bleeding. "I never knew your blood was silver… it's kinda pretty…"
"Don't be creepy," she said with a deadpan face while staring at Lone.
I guess that was creepy now that I think of it. Lone glanced back at us, apparently listening to our conversation while driving the ship.
"Still the nice guy I see!" she yelled through the humming of the ship. I smiled at that comment remembering the times I helped her out when we were kids.
Tammy moved closer to me and whispered again, "I don't trust her Sarth."
Huh? Why doesn't she trust her? She doesn't even know her…
"But you don't even know her, so how can you say that you don't trust her?" I defended Lone.
She looked away and didn't answer. We didn't speak the rest of the way to the island until Lone spoke to us again when we arrived.
"So seriously, what're you doin' here on Tizarr?" she locked her water ship on the docks of the small island.
I helped Tammy off the ship and thought of an answer, "We're bounty hunters, just looking for a bounty here."
That was somewhat true.
"Ah…" she finished locking the ship and came up to us, "You're looking for a bounty… or something like it? So you must be racers too huh?"
Wow she caught on quick.
"So you're a racer?" I asked.
"No, I'm not actually. I've heard about the race but I have no means of getting the stones, so it's sorta pointless for me to go after them." We followed her inland. "I've been stuck on this planet for a few years now. It's kind of a long story actually." She chuckled, "Are you guys here alone?"
I forgot about Cashel, Rei and Kiko.
"No, actually Tammy and I were separated from the others in our crew, but I'm sure they're fine. In fact, we should probably go and find them."
"Alright, I'll help you look for them. I don't have anything else to do. All I ever do is wander around so I know the islands pretty well. Plus you'll need a water ship to travel to anywhere on this planet."
I was happy she was willing to help us.
"Thank you so much! I can't wait for you to meet the rest of the crew!"
She gave me a warm smile, "Of course! We'll just stop at one of my places to get dry, eat something and then we can get started first thing in the morning."
The island was very different from the one we were just on. It was much smaller and there weren't any tall coral buildings. There were also more Attars on the island that resembled the shuttle driver on the large island than any other species present.
Lone lead us to a sandy area with many small coral buildings scattered around. It reminded me of the poor areas on Sola where I used to wander. No wonder she liked it here.
"Sorry," she said as we approached a very small coral building with a single door, "this place is pretty much just a shack."
"It reminds me of Sola" I said without thinking. "Uh not in a bad way though! It just brought back memories…"
She laughed, "I knew you would think that! That's actually why I like this area."
We laughed together and Tammy ignored us, looking around Lone's place.
"What were you doing in the middle of the sea?" Tammy finally asked.
Lone stopped laughing and showed her the barrel she hulled with her. Tammy hid behind me when she approached her. "I was fishing" she said earnestly, showing us a barrel of strange looking fish. "I'll whip us up something to eat right now. I don't have any extra clothes here but you can dry off by the fire outside."
I lead Tammy outside to a coral stub that had a flame burning in it. It was getting darker and I could see the glow of many other coral stubs burning around us.
Lone came out with fish on a stick and held it over the fire, "Cool huh?" she gestured to the flame. "The flame will die out right before the island sinks. Since this is more of a poor place to live, this island doesn't have any special casings for air breathers. Instead, the flame warns us to put on our underwater suits… buuut… since you two don't have underwater suits we'll have to go back to my ship." She took off the fish from the flame and handed me the stick.
I took a bite and offered some to Tammy but she just shook her head. I guess she wasn't hungry, it wasn't like she ate much anyway. The fish tasted better than I thought it would. It really hit the spot for me.
We finished eating and watched the sun set on the water. It was absolutely beautiful seeing the reflection of the sun shimmering atop the moving sea and watching it change colors as it slowly disappeared from sight.
"So how did you appear just outside of the island's casing under the water?" she asked me as I lay on the sand, surveying the stars.
Tammy fell asleep next to me, hugging her pack, and I turned away to talk to Lone so I wouldn't wake her, "I don't have a clue." I said thinking about it. "One minute Tammy and I were standing on solid ground and the next thing I know we're being dragged underground somehow."
Lone thought about it for a moment, her long dirty-blonde hair glimmering in the fire light. She'd grown up so much since I last saw her but she was still the same independent person I knew her to be.
"I've heard of some species being able to move freely through any solid. I've never seen one before though because they come from a planet on the other side of the galaxy from here."
We were quiet for a moment.
"Lone…" I started to say, trying to get some bottled up feelings off my chest.
She knew what I was thinking. "Don't dwell on the past," she said as she turned to smile at me. "I heard your name is Sarth now is it?"
My chest felt lighter even though I didn't say anything. I guess just knowing how she felt made me feel better.
"Oh, yeah, one of the other crewmembers gave me that name." I said. "You'll meet her soon, I'm sure they're looking for us."
She came over to lay down next to me. "I look forward to it."
I woke up the next day to the smell of more cooking fish. Tammy was already up and cooking over the fire.
"Morning," I said to her.
"You're finally up," she responded.
"Still in a bad mood I see…" I rubbed the sand off me when I stood up. She surprised me by handing me a stick of fish she had already bitten off. "Thanks," I said sarcastically, but with a smile. "Where's Lone?" She pointed in the direction of her water ship. "Fishing?"
She nodded and then informed me, "Kiko and Rei should be here soon."
"They found us?"
"I sent them a message a while ago letting them know we were okay and our current location."
"I'm glad they're okay." That took a lot of relief off my shoulders. "What about Cashel?"
She took a fish off my stick since I was unknowingly holding it out in her direction and hers weren't ready yet. "He went to make sure Jotham was safe considering we were targeted so soon, he's afraid they targeted him as well."
She took another fish off my stick and popped into her mouth.
I had forgotten about Jotham. I didn't like him but I didn't want him killed because of us.
I finally took a bite from what I suddenly realized was the only fish left. "That's good."
Lone came back with more than just fish. We saw Rei and Kiko, carrying our bags, had come walking up with her as well.
"Are these your crewmembers?" she asked aloud. She knew the answer though, just from my smile.
"Yeah!" said Rei as she ran up and hugged Tammy and I. "We got Tammy's message yesterday. We didn't have much trouble other than that. It seems like they were after Tammy the entire time because they disappeared once they took you both. They must've found out she's carrying a stone locator."
"So what do we do?" I asked. They looked at Lone who was still standing there.
"Oh, sorry!" she said before starting to walk away.
"Wait!" I stopped her, "This is Lone by the way." I introduced her to Rei and Kiko. "She saved our lives in the water, and I've known her since I was a kid on Sola… She wants to help us..."
They looked kind of skeptical about me knowing someone from Sola all the way out here, but then they smiled.
"It's nice to meet you," said Kiko making the decision to trust me, "I'm Kiko and this is Rei…"
Rei smiled and waved hello.
Lone smiled and waved back, "It's nice to finally meet you! Tra-uh-Sarth told me about you guys and that you're looking for the stone. I can take you anywhere you want with my water ship!"
Kiko gave me a look, "I guess we can use you're help if you're willing…" she said to her.
A big smile appeared on Lone's face, "Yeah! Sure! Anything! I've been getting bored around here anyway!"
We all moved inside Lone's little coral hut where Kiko revealed the plan. "Alright, we'll stick together and stay hidden while Tammy figures out how to find the stone again." She turned to Tammy, "Is there anything you need?"
She thought for a second, "I have a hypothesis I would like to test. It would require us to travel to different locations so I can take readings."
"Okay, is that all you need?"
"For now, yes."
Rei was stuffing her face with fish, "Where're goin' to first?" she asked between bites.
"Another island about a three day travel from here."
She stood up with fish still in her mouth and grabbed her bags. "Let's go then!"
"I guess it wouldn't hurt to leave now." Kiko answered standing up and grabbing her bags. "Oh here's your bag Sarth." She threw me my bag that I had left on the main island when we were abducted.
I ended up carrying Tammy's bag as well to Lone's small water ship. It had an upper and lower deck and the five of us barely fit inside. We took up almost all the available space and somehow I found myself surrounded by girls again. I wish Cashel came with us.
Since I was the only guy I volunteered to sleep on the upper deck, it was colder but the view of the stars at night was amazing. Traveling in such a small space wasn't too bad if you were on the upper deck because even though it was small, the view and vastness around still made you feel free.
We made it to the island Tammy wanted to go to without any problems and she took her readings over the course of two days. It was another small island with no casing so on the second day when the island shook and prepared to sink I took off to the water ship.
Rei and Lone were laughing together as they saw me urging them to hurry up and get on the ship.
"You mean to tell me you came to a water planet and you don't even know how to swim?" Lone asked me still laughing.
"Yeah so?" I tried to put it off casually.
They all piled in the water ship with me and we took off for the next location before the island's suction could sweep us away.
We didn't get very far when Lone stopped the ship and lowered the clear casing. I looked around wandering what was going on. Kiko threw my bag at me which had my water suit inside. I didn't plan on taking it for our trip here but I guess Tammy snuck it in my bag somehow since she's the only other one that could open it.
"Put it on," she demanded.
Then she joined Lone who was standing arms crossed against the steering deck with a big smile on her face.
"Are you serious?" I asked nervously.
"Dead serious" she said.
I've been dreading this moment. I had no desire to learn how to swim, but I guess it only made sense to learn here. I put on the suit on over my clothes and the mask over my face. The others, except for Tammy, changed into their water suits as well, but they didn't bother with the mask. Soon we were all standing on the edge of the water ship.
Rei was the first to jump in. Then Kiko dove in after her. I stood peering over the edge into the dark blue water. I was having second thoughts after realizing how deep it really was. I could hear the others through my mask.
"What's wrong? Jump in!" yelled Rei, her head bobbing on top of the water.
"You haven't even told me the first step to-AHHH!"
Lone pushed me in and I slapped face first into the water. All I heard was laughter from everyone as I made awkward arm and leg movements to try and stay afloat. I thought I was going to sink to the bottom of the sea for all to laugh and point at. I would be labled the crazy human who didn't know how to swim on a water planet.
"You're trying too hard!" Lone shouted, as she stopped laughing long enough to finally speak.
I was definitely running out of breath. "What… do you… mean?" I panted.
"First off, you're not gonna drown b'cause you're wearing a mask!" explained Rei.
Kiko waded over to me and took over my lesson. "Relax yourself completely," she said seriously to me.
"How? I'll just sink faster-" I asked, still thrashing about.
"Just do exactly what I said, relax yourself completely. Don't worry I won't let you sink." It was a scary thought to just let myself relax, but I knew I had nothing to worry about with Kiko there. I slowly stopped moving, and she lifted my legs up so I was on my back on top of the water. "There… see you can float now."
Now I was too petrified to move again.
"Well, you have the first step down," said Lone as she jumped in and came up next to me. I saw her out of the corner of my eye.
"Great, if I'm ever in water again I'll just play dead." I said sarcastically.
Kiko drifted away, "Well it's better than sinking."
We stayed a little longer as the others relaxed with me, floating in the water. Then we all got out so we could keep moving to the next location. We spent weeks going everywhere and every day we would stop so they could teach me how to swim. I took it really slowly but eventually I could bob and move around on top of the water like the others, with my mask on of course.
"Wow, you've come a long way!" Lone praised one day.
I was actually starting to enjoy being in the water. It gave me a feeling of being free in such a large space and reminded me of the time we were floating in the Jago, that one time before we crash landed.
"Thanks!" I said happily.
"I'll teach you how to fish when you get better."
I laughed but I was actually really interested. "Yeah, alright."
She taught Rei how to catch the fish there. I figured it was to help fuel her large appetite since Lone had to practically fish all day just to feed her.
The only one who never got in the water was Tammy, even after we tried to coax her to come out with us every once in a while.
"Hey Tammy why don't you ever go in the water? You don't know how to swim either?" I asked her while she was working on the PSL.
"I don't enjoy swimming like the others do." She answered.
"What do you like to do then?"
She must have never have thought about that before, because I actually made her freeze in motion to think about it.
Rei appeared from the upper deck, "Hey Tammy you should come take a look at this…"
Our attention was drawn to Rei's excitement and we went to the upper deck to see what the fuss was about. Rei, Kiko and Lone were all standing on the upper deck looking out at something in the distance. Tammy and I joined them and I saw what they were staring at but it was hard to believe.
"Is that… the stone?" I asked.