"Yes, it is" said Tammy.
It looked as if millions of twinkling little stars were rising from the sea about a hundred feet away from us, high into the sky until you couldn't see it anymore.
"How are we supposed to collect that?" Rei asked staring into the twinkiling sky.
"We can't right now. It's not a stone until it's complete" said Tammy.
"Well what do we do then?"
"We follow it."
"Where's it going?"
"I'll simplify it for you," she said as she sat down on the deck, "I discovered that the stone follows a cycle. The stone changes depending on the planet's environment. It goes from being a solid on the ground, to sinking into the sea at the same time another island sinks. From there it travels the underwater currents to another location where it evaporates into the air and flies to another location where it rains down and becomes a solid on the ground again. The only way to get it is to catch it as it rides the underwater currents because that's when it solidifies into the stone completely. It follows a seemingly random cycle but its next location can be calculated based on the size of the previous island it inhabited because the stone's size changes with the size of the island it was just on."
My brain hurt trying to follow what she said and she apparently simplified it too. Just how complex are her thoughts?
"Essentially," she continued, "the stone morphs depending on the environment."
She let the information sink in.
"So… we just follow it right?" asked Kiko again.
"Yes, although following it now would be somewhat difficult. We have to rely on our driver here to follow the wind. The stone should rain down on another island when this island sinks." She pointed to an island on a hologram she was examining.
"Alright, so we're just following the wind?" Lone jumped back on the steering deck, "I can definitely do that."
We were back on the sea again, drifting with the wind, but this time we didn't stop to go swimming.
I was lying on the upper deck the following night when Lone came up to talk.
"Hey, you still up?" she whispered.
I looked over at her, "Yeah, what's up?"
"Can sit down with you?"
"Um, sure if you want…" I got up and moved over so she could sit next to me. "Is something wrong?"
"No, I just can't sleep. It's getting more intense as we get closer to finding the stone." Intense? She had no idea what we went through for the first stone. "You haven't changed at all Sarth… aside from your name" she smiled.
"You haven't changed either." I said.
"You think so?"
We listened to the waves sloshing against the sides of the water ship.
"What're you gonna do if you win the race?" She wondered.
"I haven't really thought about that. I think we're going to destroy it somehow."
"Destroy it? Why would you do that? Isn't it supposed to be the greatest power in the galaxy?"
"I don't think any of us wants to rule the galaxy… I know I don't."
She raised an eyebrow, "You sure are a strange bunch. Do you think you guys can even get the stone from here? I mean… do you even know what it looks like?"
I scratched my head, "I'm not sure what this one looks like but I've seen another one before…"
"You've actually seen another stone?"
"Yeah, you wanna see it?"
"You actually have another stone?" she sounded surprised but interested.
I snickered and took out the elemental stone from the pocket on my leg. It glowed ruby red like usual in my hands.
"Here, check it out." I handed the stone to her and it continued glowing steadily. Her face lit up with excitement.
"It's a lot smaller than I thought it would be."
I chuckled, "You have no idea."
She handed the stone back to me, "You should keep this safe, you don't know what people will do to take it from you."
I put it back in my pocket. "I think it's pretty safe, no one knows we have it but you."
"That's good." She smiled, "well, I'll let you get some rest." She got up and headed down the lower deck. "G'night." She said.
"'nite." I said back.
The next day we arrived at the island the stone was supposed to rain on. It was a small island, the smallest we've seen so far. In fact we were the only ones on the island and we could see to the other end of it.
Rei stretched after hopping off the water ship onto sandy ground again, "Now what?" she asked.
"We wait until it rains, and then when I give the signal we can go down to the bottom of the island to retrieve the stone."
She groaned, "More waiting?"
"Be thankful nothing's happened so far."
"Whatever…" she sprawled on the sandy ground next to the water ship, "I'm gonna take a nap here then…"
Tammy gave her a sour look but she was already face-down on the sand.
Kiko came out of the ship, "How are Cashel and Jotham?"
"They're doing fine. I spoke to Cashel earlier this morning. It seems quiet over there…"
"Quiet?" Kiko thought.
"That's good right?" I asked.
"Sure but it wasn't what I was expecting…" she said, "too quiet can be bad sometimes as well."
I didn't give it much thought. I was glad nothing was going on.
It rained the next day after that.
I was expecting it to be some sort of special rain, like watching the stone evaporate and glimmer into the air but it turned out to be boring regular-looking rain.
Rei was bummed about the rain as well. "Are you sure this is the right island?" she questioned Lone as we watched water droplets pummel the island sand.
"Hey I just 'followed the wind' like you told me!" she jokingly protested.
Tammy answered, "This is the right island, now we just have to wait for it to solidify at the bottom."
It was hard to believe her after another week had past. We were still waiting around and getting antsier by the day. It was only so hard to wait around because there wasn't much to do on a small island. I spent a lot of time in the water though which was nice. Lone even took me fishing once. She used a spear and showed me how to lure in schools of fish. I wasn't very good at it of course but Lone and Rei always brought back a ton of fish. After a month of only eating fish and weird water plant-life, I was getting sick of it.
"You shouldn't be picky with what you have" said Lone as she took away my fish that I decided not to eat.
"Exactly. Just eat it." Came Rei's voice from a food-filled mouth.
"It'll be your last night having fish for a while anyway," said Tammy as she walked up to us having dinner. "We'll head underneath the island tomorrow."
Rei jumped with excitement, "Really?"
"Really." She handed me one of her fish on a stick. "Eat it."
I grumbled but took it from her hand and ate it as ordered.
The next morning Lone shook me awake.
"Hey we're getting ready to leave." She said.
I got up and helped pack Tammy's things. Then we all piled back into the water ship.
On the upper deck I asked, "How are we gonna go underneath the island?"
Lone pulled out our water suits, "we'll swim there." She said tossing me mine.
I was a little nervous at the thought. "All the way down?"
"Yep, all the way."
At least I had some underwater experience from fishing but still, we didn't go that far down, and definitely not bottom-of-the-island far down.
I put on my water suit and mask and jumped in the luke-warm water. Rei, Kiko, and Lone joined me soon after.
"Alright Tammy whenever you're ready." Said Kiko.
I wasn't too sure about what was happening until Rei told me to hold on to the water ship. I grabbed it as soon as the ship casing closed completely and started moving downwards into the water.
"I didn't know this could go under water." I said in awe.
Lone responded through her mask, "It can but you can't leave it once you're underwater or else you'll flood the ship." she continued to explain, "These suits and masks are made to withstand the underwater pressure and allow us to breath in the whole other world down here."
It took me a moment to realize what she was talking about. We went deeper and deeper into the sea following the island's rocky bottom. You wouldn't be able to tell from the surface but underneath the small island was a mountain of rock and coral. The further down we went the more coral and plant-life we saw until we were in a city of underwater dwellers. There was Attar everywhere. They were swimming or using underwater vehicles to travel places. There really was another world underneath the surface.
Lone turned to me, "It's amazing isn't it?"
I was too stunned to respond so I just nodded.
Tammy guided us through coral and traffic to a more remote area of the island bottom. There was a strong current stream where many Attar were traveling fast through not far from where we were. From there she stopped in front of a piece of the mountain bottom and the four of us let go of the ship to investigate the area she lit up with the water ship's lights.
Lone was the first one to the stone, "So that's it huh?" she asked through her mask. There was a beautiful sapphire blue stone forming at the tip of the rock mountain bottom. Surprisingly it was even smaller than the elemental stone.
"According to Tammy it is." Kiko confirmed.
Tammy spoke to us through the ship, "It's not complete yet. It should be done within a minute though."
Lone came closer to me, "A minute huh?" then she swiftly locked my arm from behind and held a knife to my throat. "Stay back or you'll watch him bleed to death right in front of you."
I was too stunned to move. What's going on?
Kiko slowly started to move forward but Lone saw this. "You think I'm joking?" she said seriously.
I didn't understand. "Lone why are you doing this?" I asked.
She scoffed, "Are you seriously asking me that?" she pretended to whisper in my ear though she knew everyone could hear, "You've had this coming for you."
Beside us, the stone finished forming and broke off from the rock. It started floating away but she snatched it before it could get far.
"Now, it appears you have two options." She stuck the stone in a pocket inside her water suit. "You can chase after me and attempt to get the stone, or you can book it back to the island your ship landed on and save your friends. Oh and by the way, they're being held captive in two different locations, your captain and that half-Attar friend of yours." She kicked me to Kiko and sped off to the strong current. "Your choice" she yelled before disappearing into the current.
Kiko turned to the water ship and quickly asked, "Tammy what's she talking about?"
"I can no longer contact Cashel or Jotham. It appears she was telling the truth and they could be in trouble."
"Dammit. Let's go back and help the others, we can always track down that human later."
I put my hand to my leg pocket that I kept the elemental stone in. It was gone. I couldn't believe it. How could she betray us like that? How could she do that to me, the one person she's known the longest? I couldn't leave it like that, I had to know.
I took off to the strong current after her.
"Sarth! What are you doing?!" Kiko yelled after me but I ignored her.
There was only one thing I wanted to do right now and that was finding Lone and asking her myself why she was doing this. There had to be a reason and I knew Kiko and the others could handle the other situation themselves.
As soon as I hit the current I unexpectedly spun out of control. The force took me by surprise but I quickly regained composure and learned how to steer enough to get through the Attar traffic, trying to catch up to her.
I saw her up ahead and she wasn't expecting me. I caught up to her and tackled her in the water. I wasn't really thinking about how I was going to stop her, I just knew I had to stop her. I struggled to hold on to her and she struggled to break away. This caused us to spin out of control in the current and bump into other Attar or their vehicles. She finally kicked me away and kicked off an Attar from its water vehicle to drive away. I grabbed it and held on with everything I had as she swerved through traffic trying to fling me off. She drove through a covered hole on one of the island's rock bottom, straight through a small sign that translated to 'closed' and jumped off the water vehicle once we were inside. I let go as well and I heard the vehicle crash somewhere inside.
It was dark on the other end as I tried to survey my surroundings. The door closed from the end we came through, leaving the room completely dark now.
"Why did you betray us?!" I yelled out into the dark, hoping she was still listening through our masks.
"What does it matter to you?" she replied. "When have you ever cared about me?"
I felt the water being drained from inside the room until I was standing on solid ground again. I thought about what she said and I saw a door slide open on the other end, her silhouette walking through to the lit up room.
I followed her inside but she was expecting me. Luckily my instincts were much faster after training and I ducked from an attack she made with a long stave.
She spoke as she continued to attack, "You think things would be the same between us after what you did to me in the past?!"
I couldn't answer that. I remember what I did to her and I've been afraid ever since about how she would react to me if I ever saw her again.
"I thought… we were over that…" I dodged and weaved away from her around the room.
She stopped and glared at me. I've never seen her as serious as she was now, full of hatred and resentment.
"I've never been over it." An evil smile appeared at the corner of her mouth, "I've been watching you, ever since you landed on this planet. I was… estaticwhen I found out it was you, the one person I've been dying to meet again out of the entire galaxy."
It was starting to make sense now, "You knew… I was here?"
"I was the one who lured you and your crewmembers into a trap to capture your Mechanite. When you arrived with her in the water, however, I decided to change the plan to see just how much you've really changed since we last met." She pointed her stave at me and proclaimed with pleasure, "Trash, you haven't changed at all! You're still the worthless piece of dead weight you've always been since I've known you!"
Was this the same Lone I knew in the past? The one who I grew up and survived with? Were these her true feelings?
I didn't notice I was slowly backing up as she crept towards me with the same evil smile on her face. I tripped over something big and squishy on the ground. It was the body of a dead Attar with blaster shots all over its body. I looked up and noticed many more scattered all over the ground.
She must've been here a while ago, sometime during the week we were waiting on the island above because their blood was dry and caked on the floor. In fact, I saw that she had a small pack on her back and a few other items she didn't have on earlier she must've stashed here… waiting for her moment.
She took out a small blaster, "I guess I get to kill you myself now…"
There was no way I was going let her kill me. I ran and jumped behind a table as she blasted away at everything in my direction.
"Is this the way you really want to kill me?!" I yelled out at her from behind the table that was shielding me. "The one person you've known the longest?!" My anger was rising, "Face me like you always have!"
She stopped blasting and chuckled. Then I heard her throw her blaster aside, "same old Trash."
She accepted my challenge so I got up to faced her. After learning her true feelings about me I felt more at ease for some strange reason, but I didn't like the way she betrayed us just to get to me. I guess Tammy was right after all.
Lone shortened her stave and stuck it behind her. I focused and got into my defensive stance.
She lunged at me first and I easily blocked and counter attacked but she was ready for that as well. We exchanged blows back and forth. She was good and I wasn't surprised because she was always the one who won when we were kids. She's gotten better since the last time we fought but so have I. It didn't take too long before I forced her to take out her stave again. She tried to stab me multiple times but I was always able to dodge or evade. I could see the anger beginto rise in her.
"Join us Lone," I tried to convince her to come back to her senses, "come with us, you already fit right in with everyone." She ignored and kept thrusting at me. "I know you enjoyed staying with us, I could see it on your face… I know you…" I was only making her angrier.
"You don't know anything about me!" she spat. "You don't know what I've been through all these years while you were safe and sound on Sola and with your new friends!"
Suddenly her moves were faster and she was able to hit me on my side, but I reacted by grabbing hold of the stave and forcing her onto the ground. She tried to get up but I was the stronger one now.
She scowled at me and whispered with a pang in her heart, "You abandoned me."
I hesitated at that word and she tried to force me off again but I had her pinned down with the stave at her neck.
"Do it," she insisted, "kill me."
I could see the longing pain in her eyes, something I haven't seen in a long time.
I knew I wasn't going to. The thought never crossed my mind. There was no way I could.
"Please," I tried to convey my honest, pleading feelings to her, "come with us Lone…"
Her tension eased as I saw my words ease the pain in her eyes.
She let go of the stave and sighed, "It's too late for me now."
I wanted her with us, I had to show it. I got up and helped her back to her feet, "It's not too late. We can get through this together but only if you're willing."
She looked down and nodded with acceptance. My heart was relievedagain.
"Let's get out of here…" I said, trying to direct her attention from changing her mind. "You still have the stones right?"
"Yeah…" she said motioning to her pack.
I dropped her stave and we walked back to the transition room where the water had drained earlier.
"I'm sorry…" I heard her say.
I was about to say 'Don't worry about it' when I felt a breeze waft at the side of my neck.
I turned around to see Kiko, standing there, holding Lone's wrist from slicing through my neck with a knife. Kiko turned the knife against her and shoved her up against the wall.
"He may not be able to kill you, but I certainly will."
Lone smiled, "You've definitely found better friends I see." She said to me. Then she activated a mini hologram from her wrist and spoke to it, still fighting Kiko's grasp, "We're going down the second path… destroy the island casing."