The sky turned purple, streaked through with golden clouds, before the stars came out. Myra, dressed in her colorful sarong again, danced with the lovely hula girls in the firelight while the islanders sang. The king and queen sat on a platform set on the beach and smiled to watch her, while tourists and other visitors sat farther off on coconut tree trunks that had been laid out on the sand around the huge fire.
Cooks dressed in traditional island dress—grass skirts and sarongs with lots of flowers and feathers—roasted a whole pig in the hot sand and served it with fresh fruit and fish, out of banana leaves and coconut shells. As Twist looked around at the handful of other Westerners—sun bitten and smiling, their necks draped in wreaths of colorful, fragrant flowers—he couldn’t fathom a single reason to live anywhere else in the world.
“You’ve been here before, haven’t you?” he asked Jonas, who was sitting beside him on one of the coconut tree trunks.
“Sure. A few times.”
“Why did you leave?”
Jonas gave Twist a smile. “I knew you’d like it here.”
“Why would anyone leave this place?” Twist asked, looking back to Myra’s glinting copper skin in the firelight. “Why does anyone choose to live in gray, cold, dirty cities when this exists?”
“Are you insulting the grand old name of London?” Jonas asked, looking shocked.
Twist shook his head with a smile. “Of course not. I just don’t understand it.”
“Everything gets boring after a while,” Jonas offered with a shrug. “There’s only so much sand, surf, and sun a man can absorb before reaching critical mass. You watch. If we stay here long enough, you’ll be dreaming of gray old London sooner or later.”
Twist gave a thoughtful tone.
“Don’t tell me you’re already going native on me,” Jonas said, nudging him with an elbow.
Twist turned to him with an innocent expression.
Jonas looked over him critically in the firelight. “Well, if you’re not in the palace, you never wear a suit anymore. Not even shoes.”
“They’re terribly uncomfortable, all full of sand.”
“You’re getting a tan, too, you know.”
“I’m told it’s healthy to have one.”
“When was the last time you had a haircut, young man?” Jonas asked sternly.
Twist gave a sigh and looked away. “Never. I can’t go around letting strange barbers touch me all time. I usually just do it myself. Why, don’t I look all right?” he asked, looking to Jonas more earnestly. He reached up to find the ends of his black curls hanging nearer to his shoulders than he’d usually like.
“You look fine,” Jonas said with a mocking tone. “You know, just so long as you are going for the Robinson Crusoe look.”
“Well, you look like a pirate,” Twist muttered, narrowing his eyes.
Jonas grinned at him. His skin had always been a few shades darker than Twist’s, despite their similar ancestry. His golden hair was always kept in short spikes that stood up on his scalp, and his clothing choices—simple brown trousers, a white cotton shirt, sometimes an unbuttoned waistcoat but never a hat or cravat—hadn’t changed much at all since Twist had met him.
“I am a pirate,” Jonas said happily. “What are you?”
Twist opened his mouth to respond but then paused when he found his tongue empty. He frowned and took a moment to think over his answer. After all the world traveling, the princess rescuing, and the dragon slaying, he certainly wasn’t just a clockmaker anymore.
“Oh, never mind,” Jonas said, his voice colored with a smile. He draped an arm over Twist’s shoulders and drew him closer while the cool, white, comforting fog splashed over Twist’s Sight. “You’re Twist,” Jonas continued. “That’s good enough.”
Twist looked up to see that Jonas’s eyes had turned a deep blue with the illusion that his own Sight put into them.
“Whoops,” Skye said. Twist and Jonas both turned to see her standing a step away, watching them nervously. There was a food-laden banana leaf in each of her hands. “Sorry. Private time? I can come back.”
“What?” Jonas asked, his arm sliding away from Twist.
“No, no, it’s fine,” Twist muttered quickly, straightening himself primly.
“Told you,” Myra said, stepping by Skye with a banana leaf of her own. “Just ignore them,” she said before smiling at Twist. “Here, darling. Have some pig.”
“Thank you, dear,” Twist said, taking the offered food. Myra knelt down in the sand beside him and smiled up at him.
“I see…” Skye toned, sitting beside Jonas and holding out one of the leaves. “Here. I brought you some pig, too.”
“Thanks,” Jonas said, taking it and immediately starting to pick through the food with his fingers.
Dinner progressed pleasantly as the islanders continued to sing softly in the falling night. By the time the stars had fully emerged, the feast was all but totally consumed. The king and queen bid their guests good night and left the tourists to enjoy the rest of the evening. Most of the others wandered off to their cabins on the ships that were moored just off shore, but Twist and his companions remained as the fire slowly began to die on its own.
Twist slipped down onto the sand and leaned back against the tree trunk to watch the stars spin gently, while Myra nestled herself comfortably under his arm. Skye stretched out on the tree trunk and laid her head on Jonas’s lap without so much as a word. Although Twist sensed a slight, undefinable disturbance in the buzz at his neck, Jonas didn’t offer protest at being used as a pillow.
“Any planets out tonight?” Skye asked lightly.
“Venus is still over there,” Jonas answered, pointing to a very bright star that hung over the dark, glistening sea. “And that’s Jupiter, right at the top,” he added, nodding upward. Twist’s imagination placed the dragons and their glass spaceship in the stars above them, as the monsters steered the ship for Jupiter’s volcanic yellow moon and the caustic blue fountains of gas that filled its sky.
“Am I the only one who occasionally wonders if that’s really the moon or not?” Myra asked, watching the nearly full moon climb up over the trees.
“No, you’re not,” Twist said with a sigh, remembering the time that a false moon had landed beside them after an airship crash and taken them to a village that sat on a cloud. He glanced up at Jonas. “It is the moon, right?”
“Yes, it is,” Jonas said, watching it with purple eyes. “This time.”
“You guys have a weird life,” Skye mentioned with a smirk.
Twist’s ears caught a faint, mechanical buzzing sound. Skye jerked suddenly, sitting up. The others all turned to her quick motion as she opened the small locket watch that always hung over her heart. She touched the switch, opening the tiny brass cage over the clock face, and then touched it again. The clock face flipped over, and an electric-blue light washed out of it to brush her face.
“Agent Blue,” she said into the light. “What’s up?”
“I have a message for you, Blue,” a voice said from within the light.
“A message?” Skye asked, frowning. “I’m still on vacation.”
“It’s marked urgent,” the voice responded.
“All right,” Skye said with a sigh. “Who sent it?”
“The message was relayed from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and the sender is a friendly civilian by the name of Mrs. Aazzi Rodés.”
“Aazzi?” Twist asked. The image of the vampire’s mahogany face came instantly to Twist’s mind. The last time Twist had seen her was in London, before he and Myra had left for Australia in search of a way to retrieve Jonas from outer space. Despite her frightening vampiric nature, she had been nothing but kind and helpful to Twist ever since they had met aboard the Vimana on his first journey into the world.
Skye looked to him. “You know her?”
“Yeah, she’s family,” Jonas answered. “Why’s she calling you?”
“Should I continue with the message?” the light asked.
“Yeah, go ahead,” Skye responded.
“The message says, ‘Please inform Jonas Davis. Emergency assistance needed immediately. Philippe taken. Vimana down. Please hurry to Freetown.’ That is all. Agent Blue, do you have a response?”
Twist’s blood ran cool as he listened to the message, and he felt the buzz in his neck tighten like a death grip. Jonas’s face was grim, and his eyes had gone cold and gray. Twist reached up to take his hand. His Sight washed over with the white fog, but this time it was ice cold, confused, and full of nervous energy. Jonas seemed to wake from a trance to look at him, his expression held calm despite his sudden fear.
Skye looked to Jonas with concern. “Jonas?” she asked softly, reaching out to lay a hand on his shoulder.
“Tell her we’re on our way,” he said, his voice level but dark.
Good heavens! You can’t leave it there, can you? Well, you’re in luck, because you don’t have to!
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