Tessa Dumont’s first moments of consciousness were of cold, damp rock and the smell of too many people. Her brain took a moment to catch up with her sore body and remind her of the run to the cave after the crash on the beach. She opened her eyes to see the low limestone roof silhouetted by sunlight streaming in from the mouth of the cave. Their hiding place probably seemed big to the child who had brought them there, but with six adults it was cramped. Somehow she’d ended up wedged between St. Claire and Hammond, and she wasn’t sure which one of them was snoring more loudly. Dumont was happy to cope with all kinds of hardships, including the indignity of trying to pee in a bottle on long-haul ferry flights, but this enforced proximity to so many people was too much. Her head ached, her bones were stiff, and every breath was filled with the scent of mold and sweat and bad breath.
She pulled herself to a sitting position, ducking to avoid the low ceiling. “Good morning,” McBride called out, leaning against the far wall. The bright blue sky outside told Dumont it had only been a couple hours since they’d discovered the boat stripped and run for cover. The little girl lay near the mouth of the cave, on the far side of Segarra, still clutching her rabbit.
Everyone else was still asleep, exhausted. Segarra had mentioned a watch but the Navy woman—Milford? Milton?—was in no state to guard anything, and even St. Claire had pooh-poohed the idea, laying her windbreaker on the ground as a sheet and declaring, “I don’t believe in goblins,” before closing her eyes and feigning sleep.
Their first priority had to be to find a way off this island, and the way to do that was to 1) find out where the island was and 2) restore communications with the rest of the world. To restore communications, she needed the radio working. And the radio couldn’t work without an antenna. Well, there must be some way to jury-rig it, but she didn’t know how and, without the Internet, she had no way of finding out.
If only Hammond hadn’t interrupted her. He’d picked up all that irrelevant recording junk. They didn’t need to record, they needed to transmit. She made a fist and released it to help herself focus, not liking that she was in the middle of her own incident. But she wouldn’t let that muddy her thoughts.
Six adults and one child. She looked around the cave, confused. Miller, that was her name! She wasn’t there. “Where did Miller go?”
Hammond sat up with a start and knocked his head on the roof, covering both of them in a shower of soft limestone. St. Claire sat up more carefully.
Segarra jumped to the mouth of the cave. “She was just here!” He stared out and then back in, shaking his head in confusion.
The little girl scurried away from him but sat down again near the entrance, her arms wrapped around her legs.
There was a brief flurry of activity as everyone looked around the cave, as if they might have misplaced a five-foot-seven sailor under the sofa.
“She probably just slipped out for a pee,” said McBride, his voice as lackadaisical as ever. “I was just thinking about doing the same.”
“She was unconscious!” Hammond’s voice was overloud in the small cave. “We need to set up a search party.”
“We need not to go running around the island like headless chickens.” St. Claire pulled out one of the water bottles. “Just a sip,” she said, with a glare that dared anyone to take more. She passed the bottle to Dumont, who took a small swallow.
It was lukewarm and stale but she longed for another. She passed the bottle to McBride before she was tempted to down it.
He took a sip, swiped his hand across his lips, then took another, handing the bottle to Hammond before St. Claire could say anything. “She got out past Segarra just fine, didn’t she?” He grinned when Segarra’s cheeks flushed a dusky rose. “She’s probably scouting the island right now for us, finding out the lay of the land. That’ll get her name in the credits for sure.”
“Or the Moon People got her,” piped up the little girl, the first words she’d spoken since they left the beach.
They fell silent at her words. McBride sat up straighter. “She’s got a good point. We need to find these Moon People, find out who or what they are.” His eyes glittered in excitement. “I’ll go.”
St. Claire’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Wonderful, so we can lose another person. Or, you know, maybe we can find some supplies and a defensible site so that we might survive more than a week on this island?”
“Don’t be such a drama queen.” McBride rolled his eyes. “We won’t be a week on this island. Even if the admiral’s troops aren’t...