“Brilliant plan, Justin,” Shades muttered, “simply brilliant.”
“Well pardon me all to hell!” Justin shot back. “What was I supposed to do?”
Max just shook his head.
“We could have tried talking to them,” Shades suggested. “After all, you were only defending yourself.”
“You don’t know what it’s like,” Justin told him. “That guy didn’t even like us, who knows what he would have done…”
“Is there any point in arguing about it anymore?” Max sighed.
“Max, he nearly got us all arrested, when we were just trying to help.”
“Yeah, and there’s no telling what they would have decided to do with us if we surrendered.”
“Or if we got caught instead?”
Bandit sitting on the floor behind Max, looking quite bored with the whole affair.
“But we didn’t, did we?”
“That’s beside the point,” Shades shrugged, “but what’s done is done. I suppose we should just be glad we managed to get away.”
Max nodded to himself as he piloted the Maximum. Much like his friends, increasingly certain they had passed out of range of any immediate pursuit, the Isle of St Lucy falling farther out of sight behind them. Yet still looking over their shoulder as they continued on their way to places unknown.
“Yeah,” Justin replied, “so what are you so pissed about?”
“The supplies, remember?” Shades reminded him. He could also point out that his companion’s little stunt could have gone very badly very easily, but decided not to go there. “To say nothing of fuel. We have no idea how long we’ll be out here before we find another island.”
Max, seeing that the two of them weren’t finished arguing, put on some headphones and started listening to one of Shades’ playlists to pass the time.
“Nothin’ we can do about it now.” Justin had made a mistake, and he knew it. After all, Shades was the only one among them who had much experience with non-military police, so he pointed out, “And it’s not like police are the same as in your world everywhere we go.”
“Still,” said Shades, “it’s not like we did anything wrong.” As irritated as he was at Justin’s fugitive relapse, all he could do was keep reminding himself just how drastically different his experience with law enforcement was where he came from. “The shooting would probably have been ruled as self-defense—”
“Damn well better be.” In spite of the fact that there were no signs of anyone coming after them, still he clutched one of his last two EMP grenades, just in case. “I even kept ’em set on stun when we go ashore, so it ain’t like I killed him or anything.”
“Yeah, but even so, now the sheriff’s suspicious of us, so now we won’t be able to go back there again for a long time.”
“Not like there was anything going on there anyway.” Justin knew from past experience that that sheriff was the type who would always be suspicious of them from now on. “So let’s just drop it.”
As the two of them continued their heated discussion, Max happened to spot something off to starboard, and veered over in that direction. Much as he suspected, it was an island, and he was fairly sure he could make out another off in the distance, both smaller than the one they just left, barely visible in this dim, overcast weather. At first he was confused, as he didn’t recall seeing any other islands on the way in, at least until he remembered that they originally approached St Lucy from the other side, and had departed rather hastily.
His feline friend sat up and took notice, as well.
“…Yeah,” Shades conceded, “I guess this has become rather pointless by now. But could you please try not to be so rash dealing with the authorities from here on out? By the way, Max, is there any particular reason we’re changing course right now?”
Shades got up from the lounge table, pulling one of his earphones out and again asking, “Max, where are we going?”
Max jumped in his seat, then simply pointed in the direction Justin was already looking, to the small island that now lay dead ahead and closing.
“Yes, I see,” Shades told him, “but why are we going there?”
“I thought I’d just take a look.” Max shrugged. Though aware he had done it on a whim, he didn’t see any harm in it.
Just like Max, Shades also hadn’t heard anything about an island out here. Of course, even as he grabbed a pair of binoculars, he could already tell it wasn’t nearly as big as St Lucy. Still, as obscure as the place surely was, he understood there might well be other reasons for the omission, though he had to admit most of them were harmless enough.
“Are you nuts?” Justin demanded. “That’s the first place they’re gonna look for us!”
“I don’t think they will,” said Shades. “Given the hurry we were in when we left, the last thing they would expect is for us to still be hanging around this neighborhood.”
“But what if they do know?” Justin pressed, recalling how extensively the Kona Island Patrol radioed each other.
“Would you rather go back and explain everything to the guy with the boom- stick?” Shades asked. “Besides, I doubt they do. It doesn’t look like there’s much of anybody out here anyway. We shouldn’t have any trouble with a remote location like this.”
As they rounded the island, they could now see a small dock, with a lone house set farther back among the evergreens that dominated the landscape in this realm.
“If nobody’s there,” Max thought aloud, “maybe Bandit can get out and stretch his legs a little.”
“Fine,” Justin agreed reluctantly, figuring that, if nothing else, they could no longer be seen from St Lucy anyway in this weather. “But just for a look around. First sign of trouble, we’re outta here.”
Clutching that EMP grenade for emphasis.
“Agreed.” Shades hoped an uneventful stopover on this quiet island might calm his friend’s nerves, and give this unexpected unpleasant episode a somewhat better ending to remember it by. “And we keep our weapons concealed, just in case someone is there. The last thing we want is for them to think we’re robbers and call for help.”
Justin nodded absently, his attention shifting to the island itself as they drew near.
Much as Shades suspected from what he could make out through his binoculars earlier, the lone house appeared to be a “log cabin” type, with a second floor and a steeply-pitched roof. A second-story balcony hanging over a quaintly fenced front porch. Off to the side, he spotted a simple swingset made from a board and some rope, swaying forlornly in the breeze as it hung from a branch on one of more than a dozen pines surrounding the house alone. The scenery overall putting him in mind of the Pacific Northwest back on Earth.
In fact, as he stepped out on deck with Justin to prepare for landfall, he noticed that the air even smelled a lot like his former mountain home, much more so than the port town they just left, but with a dash of salty sea breeze.
There was a small supply shed next to the dock, and a small boat moored there, likely sufficient for travel between here and St Lucy, but little more. Even were it not there, though, the dock was too small, the water too shallow for the Maximum, so the best they could do was drop anchor and pull up perpendicular to the end of the dock itself.
Figuring the smartest thing would be to avoid the house and stick to the shore if no one came out, they paused when someone finally emerged from the house to meet them.
Chapter notes: hermitage