Aboard the Susanowa
It’s cold. I don’t really realize how cold it is until I make my way down to the dock, but it’s actually quite freezing. The crowd here is relatively small; most of the people in Sootopolis are older families who have no real desire to leave their homeland. I count about 20 other trainers standing around, chatting and getting blown about by the cold winds. More people trickle down to the dock before long, and when boarding begins there are around 50 of us.
The boat is large, and completely white save for a wide blue streak running across the side. The name “Susanowa” shines in gold lettering from near the helm of the ship. I don’t know what it means, but it’s an interesting-sounding name.
Boarding begins. As we all rustle our way through the long line of people, I notice that the boat already holds many passengers. Trainers from nearby islands, I realize. A small smile escapes my lips, betraying my excitement to embark. All the resole I’ve packed into my heart has only made it beat faster, and it’s reassuring to see how many other people are here; others with a similar cause.
Aboard the ship, things feel a little cramped and a lot chaotic. Trainers are everywhere, chatting and even engaging in some small-scale battles aboard the ship. Deckhands run about, making final preparations to launch the ship back out into the sea.
I can’t help but notice one particular trainer, who appears to be looking for someone. Two characteristics clue me in on this: The first is his face. His eyes pass over people very quickly, scanning the large amounts of people on the boat, but passing over each face with the intensity I recall seeing this same look from various bouncers in the gambing halls and casinos where I’ve spent much of my life. The second thing I notice is the way he moves. It’s a kind of prowling movement, very fluid and concentrated. This too, I notice because of what I’ve seen of how bouncers operate. Some bouncers take the more traditional route of lumbering forward and punching the shit out of people, but the ones who do better tend to make themselves appear less obviously threatening until they approach their target.
The trainer’s a guy, fairly tall. He looks around my age, possibly a little older. He’s dark-skinned, with black hair so long that, at first, I mistake him for a girl. After a moment I notice the girl following him, holding his hand tightly so as not to get separated in the crowd. She has the same dark skin, and the same black hair. Probably a sibling. She looks around 12 or 13, and wears a face that looks more confused than anything else. She doesn’t seem to be searching like he is, more just following his lead.
Who are they looking for? I wonder, watching them move towards the back end of the ship, and why?
“Are you sure you’re okay?” She looks concerned.
“I…yeah.” I know all I’m doing is worrying her even more, but it’s all I can think to say. My mind is reeling.
Should I warn somebody? No, I don’t have any proof that it’s him. If he managed to get on board, he must have a fake I.D., or something. So what can I do? I bite my lip in frustration. I don’t want to make Ariana panic, but I should probably tell her.
“Back at the pier…I saw someone who’s on the boat right now. Someone we both needs to watch out for.”
She’s quiet for a minute, as her face moves from confusion to deep thought, and then to a controlled fear.
“Not someone from Cerberus…?” She says, quietly. I nod.
“Not just anyone. Lucas.”
She looks out the window of the cabin, where we’re sitting at one of many dining tables arranged around a cafeteria counter. The ship just started moving about a minute ago, and the waves are beginning to lap faster about the edge of the ship.
“What should we do?” I’m surprised by the lack of fear, in both her face and her voice. She’s remarkably controlled and calm. I guess living in oppressive fear for months forces a person to grow up and mature very quickly.
“Well…” I say, not really sure myself what course of action we can take. He recognized me, obviously. But how much does he know? The police never released my identity as the mole, but he may have figured it out on his own. Or maybe he just wanted to scare us, and really has no malicious intent? I tent my fingers and rest my chin on them.
“We don’t know what it is he wants,” I say. “For now, all we can do is keep an eye on him. As long as we watch him, he can’t take us by surprise. I doubt he would try anything here on the boat, anyway. We do need to find him first, though.”
She nods. “But if we make too much of a commotion, he could notice us before we find him.”
This is a good point. “He already knows we’re here,” I reply, “and that we’re aware of him, so I don’t think that matters. But you’re right, it can’t hurt to take caution. What we’ll do is wait until we dock in Sootopolis. There will be a lot of commotion going on then anyway, with more trainers boarding and all, so we won’t be as conspicuous. We’ll search as quickly and efficiently as we can, and once we find him, we’ll watch him from far enough away that, with any luck, we won’t even know we’re there.”
“What’s even the point of watching him, though?” She asks.
“Well,” I explain, “Since he’s made it here, he’s obviously hidden his identity somehow, so we can’t report him as being someone that, as far as the authorities know, he’s not. Knowing what he was part of, he’s almost surely going to try and start some kind of trouble once we reach the mainland, but he might not wait, For all we know, he’s planning to hijack the boat or something. If we catch him in the act of doing something illegal, we can get him arrested.”
On the surface, it sounds like an overly precautious course of action to take. Childish, even. But the truth is, if he knows we’re here, then we’re potential targets. If there’s anyone on board he would want to stab in the back, it would be the people who escaped in the flurry that sent his life shattering into pieces. And so, I decide, I will not let him take us by surprise. If we can find him first, than we at least have the ability to track his activity while we’re on the boat. Once we reach the mainland, it’s another story entirely…
The ride to Sootopolis is endless. All we do for a while is sit. Most of the other passengers are walking about, and some are even battling out on the deck. At one point Ariana goes to the counter to get something to eat, but I’m not hungry. This whole affair’s spoiled my appetite. We wanted to come here to leave the place that no longer felt like home, only to find that part of what destroyed it managed to follow us here.
“I want to walk around for a while.” I’m glad for her interruption of the stony, silently panicked silence that has been pressing down on us for some time now. I nod in agreement, and we stand up to leave the cabin.
We walk by a lot of people as we wander along the deck. Ariana is fascinated by the view of the sea, and wants to just stand and watch for a while. From where we stand on the ship, you can still see Vistian Town far off in the distance behind the ship, and to the north is a first glimpse of Sootopolis. I’ve never been, but it’s an impressive-looking place. The town was built inside of a dormant volcano after it was flooded thousands of years ago, and the idea that there’s a town inside there, when looking on from outside, gives it the appearance of a fort, intended to keep people out above all else.
I look at Ariana, who’s leaning on the rail, and she’s smiling. I’m glad to see it, it cheers me up as well. I step forwards, putting an arm over her shoulders.
“I think we’ll be fine, kiddo.” I say, grinning at her. She just smiles, and keeps looking out at the sea.
About an hour later, we finally reach Sootopolis. We stand near where the new passengers will be coming from, once boarding begins.
“Okay, Ari,” I say. “When we start looking, stay close to me and follow my lead. Got that?”
“Yeah.” She says quietly, looking out at the town around us. It’s pretty all right, but I don’t really take time to take it in.
They start letting people on. I let a few walk past us, and then take Ariana by the hand. “Let’s go.” And so we start moving through the crowd, searching quickly. Scanning each face for something familiar.
There’s something I haven’t told Ariana. I’m probably just paranoid, but if Lucas wanted to hunt us down and do something to us - throw us off the boat, kidnap us, even kill us - this would be the time to do it. Even though as far as Ariana knows, we’re the ones hunting him, it’s just as likely that we’re being hunted as well. We have to move fast.
Shattered Gemstones is (c) Jay Petrequin, 2012