“Yes,” 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 twinkling 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 asked, trying to follow the trail of twinkling stars in the distance, but the lights just faded away.
“I’ll simplify it for you,” she said as she sat down on the deck, “I discovered that the stone follows a cycle. It changes depending on the planet’s environment. It goes from being a solid on an island’s ground, to sinking into the sea at the same time a different island sinks. From there it travels the underwater currents to another location where it evaporates into the air and flies to another island 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 that was apparently a simplified explanation too. Just how complex can she get?
“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 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.
“All right, 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 I sit with you?”
“Sure, it’s your ship…” 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. It was the only thing that could be heard on the empty sea.
“I can’t believe one of the almighty Vo stones landed here, of all the planets in the galaxy, it lands on the one I happen to be on,” said Lone.
“I can’t believe it brought me to you...” I said.
She snickered, scrunching her nose like she used to when we were younger.
“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…”
Her eyes widened, “You’ve actually seen another stone?”
“Yeah,” I said casually. “You wanna see it?”
“You actually have another stone?” she sounded surprised but interested.
I chortled 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 to the lower deck. “G’night,” she said.
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.”
“I guess…” 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 expected 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 also bummed about the mundane spectacle. “Are you sure this is the right island?” she questioned Lone as we watched water droplets pummel the island sand, creating dark spots that swiftly painted the island.
“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 passed. We were still waiting around and getting antsier by the day. It was so hard to wait 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 up, “Really?”
Tammy sat next to me and answered, “Really.” Then she handed me one of her fish from the stick. “Eat it.”
I grumbled but took it from her hand and shoved it in my mouth as ordered.
The next morning Lone shook me awake.
“Hey, we’re getting ready to leave,” she said.
I stumbled to my feet and helped fasten Tammy’s things back in the water ship. Then we all assembled back inside.
On the upper deck I asked, “How are we gonna get 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?”
“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-an-island far down.
I wriggled into my water suit and double-checked my mask before jumping into the luke-warm water. Rei, Kiko, and Lone joined me soon after.
“All right 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 sealed shut and it gradually began 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 as we descended, “These suits and masks are made to withstand the underwater pressure and allow us to breathe in the world down here.”
It took me a moment to realize what she was talking about. We went deeper and deeper into the sea where a looming darkness veiled the unknown for as far as I could see. Tammy shadowed 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. We took a path through an undergrowth of swaying plant life. I reached out with an arm and it slipped against the long tentacle-like leaves, leaving a slimy residue and a disgusted face.
“Ack, gross” I complained.
“It keeps predators from eating it,” Lone laughed.
I was waving my arm around, trying to fling the slim contents when suddenly we emerged from the sea forest at the edge of a city of underwater dwellers.
There were Attar and floating light balls everywhere. The Attar were either swimming or using underwater vehicles to travel places faster. There were more coral buildings that were much more active than the ones on top of the islands. There really was another world underneath the surface.
Lone turned to me, “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 spot the stone, “So that’s it huh?” her electronic voice chirped through our masks. 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 in approximately thirty-nine seconds.”
Lone came closer to me, “Less than 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 before your eyes.”
I was too shaken up to move. What’s going on?
Kiko crept forward but Lone anticipated this. “You think I’m joking?” she said seriously, tightening her grip on my arm, causing me to shift uncomfortably.
I didn’t understand. “Lone, why are you doing this?” I grunted.
She scoffed, “Are you seriously asking me that?” she brought her face next to my ear though she knew everyone could hear and whispered, “You’ve had this coming for you.”
Beside us, the stone finished forming and broke off from the rock, as it floated away Lone 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 main island 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. “It’s your choice!” she yelled before disappearing into the current. We watched as she was quickly sped away.
Kiko turned to the water ship, “Tammy what’s she talking about?”
We saw her manipulating the water ship’s panels through the clear casing. “I can no longer contact Cashel or Jotham. It appears she was telling the truth and they could be in danger.”
“Dammit! Let’s go back and help the others,” Kiko suggested, swimming back to the ship. “We can always track down that human later.”
My hand shot to my leg pocket. It was gone, she stole the elemental stone. 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.
Without a word, I took off after her into the strong current.
“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 to find Lone and ask her myself why she would do 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 spun out of control. The force took me by surprise but I quickly regained my balance and learned how to steer enough to get through the Attar traffic. As soon as she came into sight I tightened my form, trying to catch up to her.
She wasn’t expecting me. When I caught up, I tackled her in the water. I wasn’t really thinking about how I was going to stop her, I just knew I had to.
I struggled to keep my hold on her as she struggled to break away. The scuffle flung us in every direction, as we bumped into other Attar or their vehicles. She finally broke free enough to kick me away and throw off an Attar from its water vehicle to dash out of sight again.
At the last second, I grabbed the end of the vehicle and held on with everything I had. She swerved through traffic trying to fling me off, but I had a good grip on it.
She must’ve known where she was going because she drove straight through a covered hole on one of the island’s rock bottom, right into 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 up ahead.
The only light came from the hole we entered as I tried to survey my surroundings while still floating in the water. A 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. Was this for revenge?
A door slid open on the other end where Lone’s silhouette walked through, into the lit room.
I followed her inside, where 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 between each strike, “You think things would be the same between us after what you did to me on Sola?” I couldn’t answer that. I’ve often remembered what I did to her… what I failed to do. “For years I struggled with the naive hope that someday you would hold to your promise!”
Memories flooded my mind, I became motionless, my gut wrenched at the re-living of our past. Taking my moment of hesitation as an opportunity, she swiped her stave across my head and I thudded onto the ground. At least the impact re-started my mind.
“I… I thought… you were dead…” I panted, wiping the dribble of blood and getting back on my feet.
She stopped and glared at me. I’ve never seen her so serious, full of hatred and resentment.
“You thought wrong.” An evil smile appeared at the corner of her mouth, “I’ve been watching you, ever since you landed on this planet. I was ecstatic when I found out it was you, the one person out of the entire galaxy I’d been dying to meet again.”
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 covering its body. I looked around 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 that 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 like this. I scattered and jumped behind a table as she blasted away at everything in my direction. I covered myself as flecks of blaster laser splashed everywhere near me.
“Is this the way you really want to kill me?!” I yelled out at her from behind the table. “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.”
I could sense that she accepted my challenge so I stood up to face 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 everyone just to get to me. I guess Tammy was right after all.
Lone shortened her stave and attached it behind her. I focused and got into my defensive stance.
She lunged at me first. I easily blocked and counter attacked but she was ready for that as well. We exchanged blows back and forth. She was good. I wasn’t surprised because she was always the one who won when we were kids. Time honed her skills since the last time we fought, but for me as well.
It didn’t take too long before I forced her to take out her stave again. She tried to stab me with it multiple times, but I was always able to dodge or evade. I could see the anger rising in her again.
“Join us Lone,” I said, trying to convince her to come back to her senses. “Come with us, you already fit right in with everyone.” She ignored me and kept thrusting. “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 hit me on my side, but I grabbed hold of the stave and forced her onto the ground. She tried to get up, but I was the stronger one now.
She scowled at me and tried to break free. When she finally gave up, she whispered with a pang and tears glistening in her eyes, “You abandoned me.”
Her words stabbed my heart and I hesitated. 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, her dazzling dark blue eyes with shimmering flecks of green in them only enhanced by the tears that refused to drop down her cheeks; eyes that I hadn’t seen in a long time.
I knew I wasn’t going to kill her. 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 slowly relaxed as I my words began to ease the pain.
She let go of the stave and sighed, “It’s too late for me now.”
I wanted her with us, so I had to show it. I released her from my grapple and got up to help her back to her feet. “It’s not too late,” I said. “We can get through this together, but only if you’re willing.”
She looked down and nodded with acceptance. My heart fluttered.
“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 dark transition room where the water had drained earlier.
“I’m sorry…” I heard her say as we began to walk through.
I was about to say ‘Don’t worry about it’ when I felt a breeze waft by 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, the blade pressed against her own neck.
Kiko growled at her with a mortifying face, “He may not be able to kill you, but I certainly will.”
Lone smiled and grunted, “You’ve definitely found better friends,” 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.”
© Copyright 2016 Anon Amous. All rights reserved.
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