Shades gets fired
As both of his friends approached his position, Max hopped down from the cabin to join them.
The scene putting Shades in mind of his old friends all hanging out at the Somers South playground, as if this place didn’t already make him homesick as it was. Seeing Bandit hop down only made him wonder what people would have thought to see them walking him down the streets of Lakeside. Justin wondered if he wasn’t getting a glimpse of Shades’ childhood here.
“So,” Max asked Justin, “what did you want to check out?”
“There’s another of these things,” Justin pointed at the Sleeper II sculpture, “over by that abandoned… church… thing.”
“Really?” Shades tried not to sound too ashamed, but for some reason, the idea of Camcron putting more than one of these things on the island bothered him more than he would have expected. Then again, it dawned on him that the number II in its name should have served as a hint. “I’m surprised we didn’t see it.”
They all gravitated toward the green machine as they spoke.
“It was there,” Justin insisted. “It was out in the woods, so you couldn’t really see it well from that side.”
“Sorry. It’s not that I don’t believe you,” Shades tried to explain, figuring his last remark must have come across wrong, “it’s just that… Hm… I guess it would blend in, what with that green color and all.”
“Actually, it’s red,” Justin told them. “It’s marked Sleeper I, but I don’t think it’s exactly the same as this one.”
“Mysterious…” Max remarked, wondering if that was where they were heading to next.
“I suppose we’ll check that out next,” Shades said as he walked up to the green machine, having remembered what he originally wanted to check out here. Even as he scanned the ground near it, he tried to figure out why this business of a Red Machine and a Green Machine bothered him. Much like the Camcron Building, and his mind’s association with another out-of-place building in his own world, having something to do with old childhood dreams he wished he could remember more about. “But right now, let’s see if we can’t find out what that weird call yesterday was about. If anything.”
Feeling odd about it even as he spotted the phone and picked it up again, Max and Justin watching with quiet intensity.
For his part, Shades was just glad that the buttons bore at least a passing resemblance to phones back on Earth. Perhaps form does follow function… he speculated as he hunted among the controls. Finding a button that appeared to dial the number of the last caller, at least if he understood correctly, listening to at least a twenty-odd-digit dialing sequence.
Extreme long distance…
They stood in tense silence for nearly a minute or so as it rang multiple times, waiting.
After letting it go long enough for his dead grandmother to pick up, Shades clicked if off in disgust. For all the suspense they had built up, it was just so anti-climactic. As far as he was concerned, if whatever that woman called about was so damn important, there should presumably be someone on the other end of the line waiting to hear from whoever it was they were trying to warn in the first place.
Then again, if she was cut off…
All four of them, even Bandit, jumped when the phone started beeping.
“Umm…” Shades answered, “Hello?”
“Director Grady,” a bold, gruff voice demanded.
“Uh, no, I’m afraid I don’t know anyone named Grady. You see, this phone—”
“Shut up!” that voice roared at him. “Don’t give me that crap about how he’s not in! You think you can run your own little agenda out there, do you? Well, pack your bags, Grady! You’re fired!”
Then his disembodied antagonist hung up with a loud slam somewhere on the other side of the ether.
Seeing Shades’ sheepish expression, Max and Justin asked, almost simultaneously, “What did they say?”
“Apparently, I’m fired.” Shades shrugged, wishing he knew more of what that was about. “No big loss. I wouldn’t wanna work for him anyway. He sounds like an asshole.”
As they stood there, it started raining again, as the sky had been threatening to do all day.
“Shit. Let’s go back to the ship.” Justin, for one, saw no more point in hanging around.
“Yeah,” Max agreed. This place started out somewhat intriguing, but without any further information, this was starting to get old. Even Bandit seemed to be getting bored.
“I suppose.” Shades tossed the phone aside and turned to join them as they headed back to the ship.
They were about to begin preparing lunch, when Justin, perhaps on some lingering outlaw instinct of his, happened to look off in the general direction of St Lucy, spotting a dot bobbing on the horizon.
“Guys!” Justin snapped, grabbing his binoculars for a closer look. “Don’t look now, but I think we’ve got company.”
Sure enough, it was a small boat, and headed in Adnan’s general direction. Even in this murky weather, it wouldn’t have to get too much closer for the Maximum to potentially be within their visual range, too, assuming it wasn’t already. Even as they tried to figure out what anyone could possibly be up to out here, Shades’ closest guess being perhaps some kind of routine check on the school campus, a more ominous thought occurred to them, recalling the first phone call they received.
They sent him! He may already be in St Lucy!…
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Shades remarked, recalling the fear in that mystery woman’s voice, combined with the fact that the guy who just fired him sounded pretty confident of some kind of consequences if this Dr Grady didn’t leave the Institute quietly. If this was the him that woman was talking about, “I don’t think we should stick around to find out who it is.”
“I’m with you,” Max agreed. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Damn straight,” Justin said, stepping out to unmoor the ship while Shades took the helm.
Once they were set, Shades fired up the engines, and they made a hasty retreat from Adnan’s Island, abandoning all pretense of stealth in order to gain a solid lead on them. All three of them couldn’t help thinking that the rain, tiresome as it had become to them, may have just saved them a lot of trouble with its timing. After all, if they hadn’t gone back to the ship when they had, there was no telling how close that unknown vessel may have gotten— perhaps even landed— before any of them were even aware of it while they were off exploring the rest of the island.
With such a large head start, it didn’t take them long to start widening the gap between themselves and the unknown vessel, but none of them lowered their guard for a good long while, even after both the ship, and Adnan’s Island, faded out of sight.
It was only once they were well away from the realm of St Lucy and well on their way to parts unknown that they remembered the red machine. Shades, especially, wishing he had at least had the chance to go and examine before they left Adnan’s. So many unanswered questions, and now they would never know.