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29 January 2011
Sneaking onto a ship was a lot harder than it sounded! There were chinks in the plan that needed to be worked out.
That is, if we ever got a plan.
"Plan A: we hide in the cargo," Iandao said. "We bust out at night, and ta-da! We're on the ship."
"And how do we bust out?" On Ji asked. "They're locked from the outside."
"Oh – I didn't think of that...how about we have one person not in the cargo?"
On Ji sighed. "And how could that 'one person' get on the ship?" she asked. "Next," she said dismissively.
"We could pretend to be cargo guys," I suggested. "Just a thought," I added when I saw the incredulous looks on On Ji and Iandao's faces.
"The other 'cargo guys' would know you weren't one of them," On Ji pointed out.
Yeah, well it was better than Iandao's plan, I thought angrily. At least in my plan we could see the light.
"I have an idea," On Ji said. "We swim around to the far side of the cargo ship at night and climb in through one of the portholes."
"But what about..." I began.
"Do you have any better ideas?" she challenged.
I shook my head, thinking of the work to come.
"Let's do it – tonight."
Tiji and Dalian
The main chink in our plan was Tiji. How do you sneak a baby koala sheep onto a cargo ship?
With man power. And lots of shoving. When we finally made it to the porthole, we had to send On Ji in first to make sure Tiji didn't misbehave. Then we had to squeeze Tiji in through the hole, which was a large bit of work.
Once we were all in, Tiji made so much noise, I was sure we were going to get caught.
But we didn't.
"Make a muzzle," Iandao suggested.
On Ji glared at him, reminding me of when we first found him and she glared at me.
"We just need a place to stay," On Ji said.
"I can show you a place to stay," someone said.
We all jumped. I turned around to see a boy leaning against the wall.
"Stowaways, huh? The name's Dalian. I work here on the ship. Seen plenty of stows in my days."
"Hey, man," Iandao said. "We're crazy people who are on the run. I'm Iandao. This is Miri and Shoji. We're heading for the Earth Kingdom."
"Well, duh," Dalian said. He shook hands with Iandao. Apparently they liked each other.
"We need a place to hang out on this ship," On Ji said. "Somewhere where we won't be seen or noticed."
Dalian rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I know a place," he said. "Come with me."
I looked over at On Ji. Do you trust this guy?
I don't know, Shoji. But we're going to get caught eventually anyway if we don't follow him.
I don't know...but I'll come. I guess we've got nothing to lose.
We walked with Dalian down the ship passageways until we came to a large pile of cargo.
"Here you go," Dalian said. "Back there. There's a small gap where you can crawl in on the east side. The center is empty. No one will be able to see you."
A Team Name
After Dalian's footsteps faded, I looked at my group. "I still don't know if we can trust this guy. Why would some ship worker want to help us? What if it's a trap?"
"I don't think it is," On Ji said. "What would he have to gain by fooling us?"
"Um, money?" Iandao said. "There's probably a hefty price on your heads. And mine too, as soon as they find out I've joined the team."
"We need a team name," On Ji said suddenly.
Funny how topics change so quickly.
"Yeah!" Iandao agreed. They both looked at me.
"You're like the team leader here. What say you?" On Ji asked.
"Uh...okay, whatever. Fine," I said. Since when was I the leader?
"I've got it: how about 'Team Awesomeness'?" Iandao suggested, making sweeping arm gestures.
On Ji shook her head. "No. How about something with finesse – Team Tiji or Team Cute Sheep?"
"I veto as team leader," I said, appreciating my new role. "Cute sheep? Really? Is that the best you can think of? We're runaways, doing all we can to survive, and you're saying we should be Team Cute Sheep?!"
"That's it!" Iandao said.
"What's it?" I asked.
"Our group name," Iandao said. "Runaway."
Keep Fluffy quiet.
Soundlessly, On Ji inched over to Tiji and held it tightly.
No! No! Not like that!
But it was too late. Tiji bleated in protest and thrashed.
The footsteps stopped. Tiji wiggled out of On Ji's grasp and clonked on the floor.
The footsteps began again, getting closer and louder.
Then, a head popped through the gap in our shelter.
"Hello, everyone," Dalian said.
I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding.
Dalian came into our fortress. Another guy came in behind him.
"Hey guys!" the boy said."This is Cheng. He's my buddy," Dalian explained.
"Um, like, hi!" Cheng said enthusiastically. "Dalian is, like, the best guard ever! He's like my boss! I'm training under him."
Dalian sent Cheng a look.
He doesn't want Cheng talking, On Ji informed me.
Wait...you can read his mind, too?
I'm starting to be able to read everyone's minds, On Ji told me.
"What are you hiding, Dalian?" I asked. "Why are you helping us?"
"I've been living a rough life, too," Dalian said.
"A couple years ago, my father died. We were living in the Earth Kingdom colonies. My mother got sick soon after, so I applied for a job as a guard on this ship to support her."
"What happened to your mother?" On Ji asked softly.
"She's still alive, as far as I know," Dalian said. "She's doing better now. Still in the colonies."
"That's where we're headed," On Ji said. "We can stop by for you."
Dalian smiled. "Thank you so much. You have no idea what this means to me. Would you take a letter to her for me?"
"She lives on Camelephant Court, third house down. I'll give you the letter tomorrow."
I was surprised by the new Dalian. He had a soft side. He acted tough to hide the truth. Like me. I didn't want people to know I was soft inside. But I am.
"That's one depressing life story," Cheng said. "My dad works at the capitol. He's...disappointed in me because I'm not smart enough – not good enough – to be important like him."
Cheng looked down at the floor in shame.
On Ji put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, it's okay," she said.
Cheng smiled. "I'm going to prove him wrong. I just want to do something meaningful that will show him that I'm important."
"You don't have to show anyone anything," Dalian said. "You've already proven your worth to me."
This whole conversation was starting to sound cheesy. "So, what's the real reason you came to see us?" I asked.
Dalian scratched his neck. "It's almost night time. There are fewer guards during the night. That's when you can head out to find food."
"Oh. Okay," Iandao said. It was the first time he had spoken in a long time.
"Yeah. Um, I've got to go," Dalian said nervously. "C'mon, Cheng."
The two of them hurried out of our little fortress and rushed away, their pit-pats on the ground growing softer and softer until they were gone.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Shoji's Journey Chapters|
|Book 1: Fire|
|The New Kid Part 1 - The New Kid Part 2 - On Ji - The Firebending Master - Deception - The Runaways - The Yu Yan Archers - Second Act - Stowaways - The Trap|
|Book 2: Air|
|Song - The First Battle|