The tips of my hair were still white a week later when a familiar alarm blared throughout the ship. Everyone gathered in Tammy’s workroom.
Rei spoke first, “Please tell me that’s the next stone’s location.”
“It is,” I confirmed. 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 explained to me that Tizarr was one of the first planets the crew went bounty hunting on together as a team.
“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 touch the water there.
“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. The Attar are 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, who have made living on the islands possible, even with them sinking into the ocean.”
“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, you’re right.” I left her room and went to find Rei and Kiko.
We no longer made pit stops on other planets, since we now had a destination.
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 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 blocked my attempt without skipping a beat 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 badly? 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 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 straighten my posture.
She just sighed again and gazed at the ground.
“Hey…” I whispered to her.
She slowly turned to me, her eyes glassed over with a sadness I’ve never seen. Her eyes wouldn’t reach me, still averted from the pain she felt in her heart. “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 could never hurt me,” I said, reaching from the truth of my soul. “I will always be here for you.”
My eyes called to hers. They wandered slowly, hesitant at first, until I was lost in glistening gray eyes. Slowly, I raised my hand and carefully caressed the side of her soft cheek. Her lips parted slightly, her chest rose higher to take a sharp breath, but she never broke her gaze.
My lips nearly tremble as I uttered, “See.”
She lifted her hand and gently embraced my hand against her cheek, never taking her eyes off me.
I was being drawn in by her, slowly moving closer and closer to her lips. She didn’t move, but the closer I got, the warmer her cheek became and the tighter she squeezed. We were almost touching and my heart was pounding so hard that I was sure she could feel it through my hand. 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 the situation separated us faster than hyperspeed.
We 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 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 lying 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 gave me a small smile, “I take it it was worth it?”
I beamed at the ceiling, “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 she was surprisingly 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’d 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 other buildings I’d seen so far. For one thing, they were all generally cylindrical, but looked as if they were grown, and they were all different bright colors and no two were the same.
“They’re coral buildings.” Tammy clarified, eyeing my exploratory 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 and ran to 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 in a bear hug.
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.
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 that we piled in. He took us deeper into the colorful city. I wouldn’t have been able to tell that these were buildings if there weren’t people bustling in and out through man-made doors of the giant cylinder. Is this what’s underneath this much water?
We pass by one building with a slimy clear coating over it. This building was different, it had many drooping, deflated tentacles, but my jaw dropped when I saw one of the tentacles pulse to life and clear a path to reveal another man-made door.
“That building moved!” I said, jabbing a finger at the window as we passed by.
“They’re alive,” responded Tammy next to me.
Jotham gave a small laugh from the driver’s seat. “This one doesn’t get out much, does he?”
I huffed in my seat, refusing to react to any more surprises the rest of the ride. Let’s see… how would Tammy react? Straight face, steady breathing, empty eyes… I straightened my posture and put on my best empty face, ending with a mental chant– Tammy lend me your hollow emotion! H.W.T.R. How would Tammy react?
I must’ve breached her aura somehow because she slowly turned to me and I slowly turned to her with my new mask on. We blinked at each other a few times as she stared at me. Somehow it turned into a no-reaction staring contest. I focused... on nothing. Dang, how does she do this? My face muscles are starting to hurt, is that even possible? She solid as a rock! How is she doing that? Oh no… I can’t hold this face any longer! I’m able to keep my composure as I slowly turn back to the window and stretch my face with a sigh. She’s too good.
It wasn’t much longer until we stopped in front of a smaller coral and spilled out.
“Well, this is my place.” he said taking us inside the pink tube. Seeing it up close, the coral appeared rough and jagged. The first thing that came to mind were the common rough sand walls on Sola, except these were bright pink.
Inside, there were many doors in the hallway and we made our way to one in the middle.
“It isn’t much, but you can make yourselves at home,” said Jotham.
We all shoved inside the tiny 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.
“All right, we will,” Cashel agreed.
Jotham left and we sat there awaiting his return. I used this time to get a good look at his place. There wasn’t much to look at, but I could feel and smell almost everything. As soon as we walked into the coral building a warm, musty smell hit my nostrils. I’ve never smelled anything like it before and I wouldn’t say it smelled good. A few more steps and I felt like I was sweating but I wasn’t hot. The air was heavy and wet.
This planet was the opposite of where I’m from, no wonder I felt out of place.
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 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, trying to get away from more than just the wet air.
“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 before 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 the four of us switched to our innocent bystander act.
“Let’s go,” Cashel ordered. We 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,” said Cashel, “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’s eyes narrowed, “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 react.
After about an hour of travel, 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 took off again once we were all out.
I think we were all a little confused. There was no sign of a stone anywhere on the bleak 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.
Rei and Kiko crunched their eyes at her.
“How can a stone be moving?” asked Kiko.
Tammy fiddled with the panels 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 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 wide, clear sphere began to rise around the island.
I did a full circle from where I stood, “That thing covers the entire island?”
“Yes-” Tammy was cut off by a sudden development.
Rei sprang off the wall with a hand on her blaster holster as Kiko clutched her knife.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, noticing their defensive positions.
“Everyone’s eyes around us… suddenly converged on us…” said Rei. She quickly turned to Tammy and suddenly Tammy was being pulled straight down, through solid ground. At the last second she grabbed ahold of my ankle 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 anything solid 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 anticipated.
Out of nowhere, the scenery changed to water and I could see Tammy’s blur 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 he was dragging an extra body once we hit the water, but before he could react to it, a large, underwater explosion separated him from Tammy and me. 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 felt the water touching me. I held my breath and searched for Tammy in the water. I grabbed her, but it was pointless. 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 started to panic.
Out of nowhere, I saw a figure move quickly towards me. They took ahold of my hand and led me up toward 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 a shuttle, but it 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 gasped, taking deep breaths of the crisp air.
The figure was staring at me I thought because they were motionless while facing me for a moment.
Then they took off their mask and asked curiously, “Trash?”
© Copyright 2017 Anon Amous. All rights reserved.
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