Miss Helen Pathways filed away a report of petty theft in the sheriff’s filling cabinet. It was important she got it right. The sheriff was a demanding boss and didn’t take well to things not being exactly as he liked them. Helen looked up from her task just as the office door opened and a good looking young man entered. Her appreciative eye traversed the triangle from his waist to his shoulders before fixing on his face. The face smiled at her. She suddenly found herself wishing she’d paid more attention to her hair that morning. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“Yes,” the young man said. “I was wondering what laws the council might have put in place regarding salvaging from wrecks.”
Helen blinked. “I don’t think we have any laws for that yet.” Understanding dawned. “Oh, you must be thinking of the boat that ran aground on the small island out near the council preserve.” She waved a dismissive hand. “Don’t bother with it.”
The young man looked disappointed. “Oh?”
Helen hastened to explain. “There’s nothing there now, you see. They already took anything that was worth anything. It’ll all be just rotten timber.”
The young man’s face lit up again. “But the wood is available?”
Helen couldn’t for the life of her imagine why anyone would want such low-quality wood, but… “Yes, until the council makes a law about it and so long as you don’t go into the council preserve.”
The young man smiled at her again.
Charles Moore sat in an aluminium deck-chair, overlooking the warm blue sea, and sipped from a small tankard of stripe. This was the life. Thank Coincidence he’d chosen to be a dolphin whisperer all those years ago. It had merely seemed like a cool thing to be at the time, but now that he’d hit twenty-five and completed his fifth and final whisperer ritual, it was his ticket to see as much of Creakylid as he could deliver post to, all at the council’s expense, and unlike Earth, he didn’t have to hide what he was here. Being able to turn into a dolphin was still new and exciting and he loved it.
A shadow blocked out his sun.
He recognised that voice. “Hey, man!” he said, turning around in his chair. There stood a grinning Richard Struggle, complete with tiny trunk — Dear Driven what he would give for one of them. “What’s up?”
Richard pointed to the tree-line that marked the start of the council preserve way off in the distance. “You know the wreck way past the peninsular there? What would it take for you to give me a lift to it?”
Charles smiled. The wreck didn’t have a ferry service to it. There was nothing in the rules about not taking someone there. His eyes slid to the trunk at Struggle’s side again. “A spot on your next memory diary entry and a discount on a trunk when you start making them?”
Struggle’s eyes sparkled. “Done.”
Richard and Charles stood at the end of one of the many wooden piers that made up The Second Island docks. The sun shone down on them. The crystal blue water blobbed and sploshed around the wooden pier legs. Richard wore only swimming shorts and his trunk.
“Hi all,” Richard said, talking to no one.
“Hey everyone!” Charles waved at nothing.
Richard pointed at Charles. “This here is Charles Moore — dolphin whisperer working for the council post office — and he’s going to be helping me with this next bit.”
Charles looked between Richard and the nothing they were both talking to. “Yeah, the island’s a fair bit away, and carrying people can get pretty exhausting, but I’m sure we’ll manage.”
“Yep,” Richard said. “I’ll try and find out later exactly how far it is.”
A loud voice interrupted them, calling to them from across the far end of the pier.
“Richard!” Elizabeth was marching up the pier.
“Ah,” Richard said.
She stopped a few feet away from them and hesitated, wide eyes dragging over his shirtless upper body.
Elizabeth visibly shook herself and said, “So, that’s your ‘cunning plan?’ Use the wood from the wreck?”
“And how long will that take you?”
Richard shrugged and his face turned more serious. “I’m not sure.”
Elizabeth looked away. “You know I’m leaving tomorrow evening.”
Richard nodded. “I’ll try and be back before then.”
Elizabeth didn’t say anything.
Richard gave her an uncertain smile. “But there is something you could do for me while you’re still here.”
Elizabeth looked back. “Oh?”
“Could you tell Julie what I’m planning? Tell her to get the people trapped here ready to leave in a hurry. Oh, and they need to be ready to build a small boat too.”
Elizabeth nodded slowly. “Be ready to leave quickly. Be ready to build a small boat. Got it.”
“I trust you,” Richard said with a grin.
Elizabeth snorted and Richard noted with satisfaction that she hadn’t been able to keep herself from flashing her wry smile.
Charles stretched his arms. “You ready now? We’re going to need to finish this before I have to start my next post run.”
Richard’s eyes firmed. “Ready.”
Charles took a running dive off the pier and transformed into a dolphin mid-jump. He hit the water with a splash and re-emerged moments later, clicking and squeaking and bobbing up and down.
Richard jumped in next to him, grabbed Charles’ dorsal fin, and together the two sped away through the wonderfully cooling water.
Pretty soon, the water stopped being cooling, and started being annoying. Charles swam just below the surface, meaning that Richard was right at the surface. Every so often, he’d take a face full of warm salty seawater, causing him to splutter and cough and try to get the water out of his eyes while maintaining his hold on the dolphin whisperer. His back, shoulders and neck were burning too, he could feel it. The sun beat down like a hammer and the water only made it worse, reflecting and concentrating the rays on his far too pale skin.
Eventually, though, Charles slowed down, and Richard could fully appreciate how close they now were to the small island ahead of them. They turned a corner around some rocks and Richard spied his prize up close for the first time. It wouldn’t win any awards for the most aesthetic boat of all time — it was dirty and rotten and looked like someone had been over it with a sledgehammer. Great gouges had been taken out of the hull and splintered wood lay all over the rocks around it, but to Richard, it might as well have been made out of solid gold.
“Can you get me close?” he yelled to Charles.
Charles made a trilling noise and darted off in that direction.
Richard let go of his ride and paddled ashore, followed a few moments later by a once-again human Charles.
“There you go, man,” Charles said. He gestured to the wreck. “Think that’ll be able to do you?”
Richard’s eyes sparkled. “I should say so.” He wandered over to the side of the boat, which was tipped on its side, and pulled himself up to look at the decking. It was almost all still there.
“Well, I need to be heading back,” Charles said. “Are you sure you’ll be okay for getting back on your own?”
Richard nodded. “Not like I’ve got much of a choice. I’ll make it.”
Charles gave him a wave. “Good luck, man!” He dived back into the water and transformed once again. The dolphin whisperer sped away across the tropical sea.
Richard watched him go until he was out of sight, then turned to the ship and rubbed his hands together. Time to get down to work.
Richard dropped his trunk on the pebbled ground and opened the lid. He’d done a quick survey of the immediate area and determined that making camp by the boat would be an extremely silly thing to do. The water lapped up the rocky beach and there would be nothing to stop it if a storm blew up.
He’d found a rocky alcove not far away from the boat, which would serve him well. It was protected from the wind and was high enough to be safe from all but the worst waves. It also supplied ample flat surfaces for him to unpack everything he’d need, just like at the customs point yesterday morning and half an age ago.
Planes, hammers, saws — he took out just what he thought he’d need and tried to keep the rest as tightly packed together as it had been before. The last thing he wanted was for his vintage tools to get rusty again, or for his precious books to become damp. He pulled on his shirt and winced as the redness of his shoulders and neck brushed against the thin cotton.
He then wandered down to the wreck — pencil, folding rule, and try square in hand — and started marking out the usable parts he’d need. Over-head the sun continued to beat down.
Richard stared at the pile of neatly cut planks at his feet and took a moment to catch his breath. Lugging all that all the way up to his alcove had taken a fair bit out of him, but he couldn’t afford to rest. The day was dragging on and he didn’t like his chances of continuing the build at night.
He reached for his pencil again and started marking up dovetail joints.
Richard stepped back. The dovetail joints for the box section were done. He had all the main bits laid out around him. Now he just had to put them together. He still hadn’t started on the lid. The sky had started to blaze orange and red. He took a deep breath, wiped his brow, and got back down to work.
Light was failing. The oranges and reds were slowly retreating, making way for dark purples and blues. He wasn’t going to make it in time, Richard could tell. The trunk itself was almost complete, but he still needed to put together the arch-like lid and that might well take more time than the rest of the trunk had. If he didn’t get this finished, then he wouldn’t be able to start the magic spell to expand the trunk, and if he couldn’t do that overnight, then he’d never be able to make it back before Elizabeth left.
Richard looked over his half-finished trunk and considered his options. Would being late actually be terrible in the grand scheme of things? No, not really. He’d miss Elizabeth’s departure but she would be leaving soon anyway. It would be annoying, but he could live with it. Maybe it would be better to get a good night’s rest and make sure to do the job properly in the morning.
Not far away, waves crashed against the rocks — a rhythmic soundtrack of oceanic persistence, battering away at wood and stone, slowly rendering them as nothing by billions of weak, watery hammer falls.
Richard glared at nothing. Was that really him thinking that? He could live with it? He thought of the drunk man back at the island, a man who said he wanted to leave but wasn’t apparently willing to go to the basic extremes needed to do it. Something inside him roared — something primal and ancient, and very, very angry. He could live with it? He could live with it? Yes, he could, ‘live with it’. Should he live with it? Fuck no! He reached into his side-trunk, pulled out a book on wilderness survival, and turned to the section on fire-lighting.
The light of a campfire flickered around the alcove. Lighting it hadn’t been easy, but, with the help of one of his knives, his flint, and a small pile of sawdust from the trunk project, he’d managed it. Now black smoke drifted up from the slightly damp scrap wood planks too weak and shoddy for the trunk itself.
Richard drew a long line of wood glue along the last line of the trunk’s lid and pressed the last two bits of wood together, before clamping them with one of his last hand screw clamps. Even if the trunk would be indestructible once the spell caught, he’d learned he had to build it as though it wouldn’t be or the spell wouldn’t work.
The trunk now had so many long metal clamps attached, at almost every angle, that it more resembled an over-sized pin-cushion than a trunk.
The air was now far colder. The wind chilled his bones and blew sea water on his skin. His lips tasted like a salt-lick. The night sky shone once again with a thousand-thousand stars and a pair of half moons finished the painting. There wasn’t another human anywhere in Richard’s whisper sensing range and probably not any for miles beyond even that.
Magic spell time.
Richard doggedly began to form a triangle around the trunk out of wood offcuts. He then formed three circles, each one just touching the outside of one of the triangle’s three tips. He then sat down in one of the circles. He closed his eyes and felt reality stir to his command. His mouth opened, words started streaming out in a slow and gentle chant, and, gently, gradually, he started casting his mother’s spell.
All through the night, Richard stayed focused on casting and chanting. He was never in danger of falling asleep — the spell made sure of that. It commanded his attention the way a gripping novel might. Before he knew it, morning came, the spell caught, and, with no more need to focus, Richard slowly collapsed forward, finally allowing sleep to take him.
Richard slowly opened his eyes.
Sunlight shone down on him.
What was he doing? Oh! Suddenly, it all came back to him. The trunk! He hastily scrabbled to his feet and looked around. The sun was overhead by now. The trunk sat in front of him, still clamped down with every clamp he had.
Right. Richard’s eyes focused. Unclamp trunk, load up with wood, paddle back to The Second Island.
He quickly set about unscrewing the many clamps from his newest creation. In the clear sunlight, the trunk looked like something dredged up from the deepest depths of the ocean. Despite his efforts to clean up where he could, he just hadn’t had the time to fully treat and sand the wood as he would have liked. The net effect was of an object hewn from a ghost ship. It was a far cry from the fine carving and oil stained wood of Creakylid itself.
Richard grasped the sides of his new trunk’s lid and opened it. It made a loud squeaking noise as the brass hinges rubbed together for the first time under the lid’s weight. He looked inside and grinned. A large cavernous space greeted his gaze. He’d check to be sure later, but if his calculations were correct, the space would be exactly 16.25 meters square and exactly two meters high — about the size of a fair sized bedroom — just big enough to fit two dozen people if they really crammed together.
He spent the next half hour hacking a ladder and paddle out of scrap wood, and then another few hours loading up the trunk with as much wood as he thought they might need to build a small rowing boat. Finally, he loaded all his stuff back up into his side-trunk, and slung it over his shoulder.
He was ready. He picked up the heavy trunk with difficulty and walked it in increments out to the sea. It floated. It was by no means a stable craft and tended to rock about worryingly, but he didn’t have time to worry. Richard climbed into the trunk’s opening, stood atop the access ladder he’d fitted, and, using the paddle he’d just fashioned, started the slow journey back to The Second Island.
“Richard, you made it!” Elizabeth stared down at him from atop one of The Second Island piers. She wasn’t alone either. Several men and women surrounded her, looking at the trunk Richard was bobbing up and down in with undisguised interest.
Richard grinned up at her. “Did you ever doubt me?”
Elizabeth crossed her arms. “No, but I was still worried. You didn’t put any memories on your crystal ball the whole time.”
One of the men stepped forward. “If I might suggest, pleasantries can wait till later — we should get you out of there first — if that trunk is all our young lady here says it is”—he indicated Elizabeth—“then we’ve got a lot of work to do before we can get off this Prudence damned island.”
Together, the men and women helped Richard get the trunk on dry land and then carried it all the way up Main Street to one of the all-metal buildings at the very end. It looked to be the most scrappy and least appealing building on the whole street.
“I rented the whole thing,” Elizabeth explained. “I figured it would be perfect for secretly building a boat.”
Richard looked around as two of the men put the trunk down in the centre of the open plan living space. “It’s perfect.”
Elizabeth nodded in satisfaction and brushed an imaginary speck of dust from her shoulder.
Then, surrounded by the trapped craftsmen and women, Richard approached his new ghost-ship like trunk, which had been shut for the journey to the safe house, and hefted the heavy lid open again. The hinges, once again, let out a loud squeaking noise.
One of the men elbowed his friend in the ribs. “Squeakylid,” he said with a grin.
Half the room groaned. The other half laughed. The group then watched in awe as Richard descended into the trunk’s depths and started handing up length after length of wood, all of which was demonstratively longer than the trunk by a wide margin.
The group’s leader laughed mightily. “Yes! Finally!” He turned to the rest of the trapped craftsmen. “Alright, people. This is the real deal. Be ready to leave on a moments notice. Let’s get this job going!”
The group cheered.
It didn’t take long for the room to be transformed. Sawdust lay everywhere. Men and women seemed to rotate in and out as though through a revolving door. Julie had already been, but couldn’t stay long for fear of her absence being noticed by Mister Offwood. Plans and measurements were drawn up on scraps of paper pinned to the walls. Before Richard’s eyes, the skeleton of a small rowboat was starting to take shape. He’d heard about the process of boat building before but this was the first time seeing it with his own eyes. It was fascinating.
“Richard,” Elizabeth gasped as she saw the raw sunburn all over his neck and shoulders.
Richard grunted. The journey back hadn’t been any kinder than the journey there and had taken many times longer without a dolphin whisperer to help.
“This must hurt so much.” She lightly touched the redness, causing Richard to wince. “Sorry,” she said, hastily pulling back her hand.
Richard shrugged. “It’ll heal.” He returned his focus to the rapidly forming boat in front of him. There were so many skills on display here that he’d yet to learn. His trunk, which everyone now insisted on calling Squeakylid, might as well have been done by a total amateur compared to the craftsmanship in front of him.
“I wish we could do something about it,” Elizabeth said. She was glaring at the sunburn as though it had insulted her.
“Aloe vera is supposed to help relieve the symptoms,” Richard commented in an offhanded sort of way. He watched as a man slotted a row guide onto the side of the skeleton using a joint he’d never seen before.
One of the carpenters walked over to them. “Mister Struggle?” he said. His voice held a deferential respect that still felt alien to Richard. “We’ve got a man here who got wind of what we’re doing and wonders if there’s any room for an extra passenger.”
Richard glanced over to the door, and saw a familiar looking man wearing a faded baseball cap, looking rather hung over. It was the same man who’d taken his coin and then sloshed it away on drink the other night. He pursed his lips. “Tell him we’re very sorry but we don’t have any more room.”
Elizabeth looked up from inspecting his shoulders. She narrowed her eyes and gave him an approving nod.
They watched the carpenter walk back to the man in the baseball cap to deliver the message.
The man didn’t look at all happy and cursed the whole room out before staggering out.
“Good riddance,” Elizabeth said.
Richard nodded slowly. More time passed. The sun started to go down in the sky. The boat was well on the way now. By tomorrow morning it should be ready. Richard frowned. He couldn’t shake the feeling he was missing something. His eyes widened. “Elizabeth,” he said urgently, turning to the girl sitting beside him. “Your boat — your ticket.”
Elizabeth hesitated. “I ah, I already talked to Julie,” she said, sounding rather more nonchalant than was strictly necessary. “She said there would actually be room in your trunk for one more, at least.”
Richard blinked. Elizabeth wanted to wait for him. She wanted to put off leaving the island, even if it meant travelling in a cramped, claustrophobic box… just to be with him for a few more days? He’d obviously done something right. He smiled. “I’m sure you’re always welcome to travel with me, my lady.”
Elizabeth looked away. “I should hope so.”
Elizabeth looked back at him. “Actually,” she continued, this time with quite a lot more hesitancy. “I was wondering if you could do me a favour?”
“What kind of favour?”
“Well, ever since we got here, I’ve been feeling rather uncomfortable carrying this around.” She reached into her backpack and withdrew her large bag of chad.” She shifted around in her chair. “I was wondering if… well, if you”—she hesitated one last time, but then plunged on regardless—“if you could take care of it for me?”
Richard couldn’t help blinking in surprise for the second time in as many minutes. “You want me to carry your money in my side-trunk? Are you sure?”
Elizabeth nodded. “Or in ‘Squeakylid’ — at least until we go our own ways.”
Richard took the bag solemnly. “Then I will protect your treasure with my life, my lady.”
Elizabeth gave him a warm smile — the first warm smile he’d seen on her. It lit up her face and turned the elegance of the diamond industrial drill bit into the elegance of the diamond and silver ring. “Yes,” she said. “I would not be surprised if you actually meant that.”
As Richard expected, the build went on through the night. More of the island’s trapped craftsmen turned up to help after darkness fell. Richard made use of the building’s only sofa to catch himself some much-needed sleep while Elizabeth took the bed upstairs.
By morning, it was finished — a small rowboat, just big enough for two rowers and one ‘Squeakylid’.
Julie turned to address the group of craftsmen, each with all their worldly goods on their backs or clutched to their chests. “Today,” she said, “we’ve been given a great gift. With the help of Mister Richard Struggle here, and his friend, Elizabeth Whisper, we finally have a way out of here.”
The craftsmen and women all nodded. They didn’t cheer — not this time. The mood was instead one of grim-faced determination.
“Everyone ready?” Julie asked.
Everyone nodded again.
“Then let’s get moving. We don’t want to wait to find out what shit Mister Offwood and his cronies might try to pull if we dawdle.” She turned to one of the craftswomen and nodded.
The woman held up a hand to one of the aluminium walls, concentrated, and a good section of wall seemed to melt, splashing to the ground in a puddle of cool metallic liquid.
“There goes my deposit,” Elizabeth muttered, wry smile firmly in place.
Two men and four women lifted the currently upside-down boat.
Richard and Elizabeth hoisted up Squeakylid.
“Go!” Julie barked.
They went, marching down Main Street like a swarm of human ants carrying a prize wooden beetle. All the way, cheap would-be hero labourers stopped work on their shanty-town like buildings to stare at the sight.
Neither Richard nor Elizabeth, nor any of the craftsmen or women, noticed a man in a faded baseball cap, run ahead of them — a man who’d been hiding behind one of the workshop’s thin aluminium walls, listening to their every word.
In The Second Island market, Mister Offwood glared at the empty space where Julie should be carving wood trinkets. He’d have to have ‘words’ with her when she got here about the need for humans to eat.
One of his business associates walked up to him. “John’s late,” the man said.
“So’s Julie,” Mister Offwood replied.
The two looked at each other with narrowed eyes.
Suddenly a man ran up to them, out of breath and wheezing — a man wearing a faded baseball cap.
“What do you want?” Mister Offwood asked.
“Passage off the island.”
Mister Offwood crossed his arms. “And why do you think I’d give that to you?”
The man smiled. “Cuz I have information on an escape by your workers.”
Mister Offwood was suddenly all ears. “Go on.”
A commotion behind them, towards the other end of the docks, caused them to glance around.
“Passage off the island, or no information,” the man said urgently.
“Fine,” Mister Offwood said.
The man pointed to where the commotion was. “That’s them.”
Richard and Elizabeth placed Squeakylid at the pier’s edge with a definite thlunk sound.
“Lower away,” one of the craftsmen called out.
The boat carrying team gently lowered the boat into the shimmering blue waters of the Creakylid sea.
“Stop right there!”
Richard turned. “Oh. Mister Offwood.” He smiled at the furious man, while protectively stepping in front of Elizabeth and Julie. The man certainly looked ready to attack. “How good of you to join us.”
Mister Offwood caught his breath before shouting. “That wood is stolen!”
The crowd around the docks watched with interest.
Richard scoffed. “Of course it isn’t.”
“Then where did it come from, eh?”
Richard pointed. “From the wreck past the peninsula.”
“You can’t salvage without permission!”
“Of course you can. I checked with the sheriff’s office first.”
Mister Offwood looked taken aback, but rallied with a smirk. “Well, you can’t run a ferry service from here to the island without a council licence.”
“I guess it’s a good thing that it’s not a ferry service, then,” Richard said, still grinning. “We’re only going in one direction and we’re only doing it once. It’s a personal boat trip.”
Mister Offwood frowned, looking around at the two dozen people milling around in front of him. “But, how…”
Behind him, Elizabeth opened Squeakylid’s lid with accompanying loud squeak sound, and motioned everyone to start climbing inside.
Mister Offwood’s jaw dropped as person after person climbed down into the depths of the trunk. The last woman to climb in was Julie, who gave Mister Offwood a victorious smirk and a wave before disappearing into Squeakylid’s depths.
Richard and Elizabeth clambered onto the gently rocking rowboat and took the trunk from the last two men on the pier. The two men then climbed into the rowboat themselves and down into Squeakylid.
Mister Offwood hurumphed and turned his back on them. “Fine. If you’re so desperate to throw away good opportunities, see what I care.”
Richard and Elizabeth settled down by the oars for the first tour of rowing duty.
“Au revior, Mister Offwood,” Elizabeth called out in a voice so sweet it dripped.
“Yeah, whatever,” Mister Offwood scowled. “Don’t think that your leaving makes any difference to me. There’ll be plenty more where you came from.”
Richard scowled back. They heaved on the oars and soon were off over the waves, trusty compass leading them east.
They rowed in silence for a while until they were well out of earshot of the docks. Then Elizabeth turned to him with a thoughtful expression and asked, “Are you going to make this into a memory diary entry?”
“Hmm?” Richard said.
“A memory diary entry. You know, like the first one of your preparation.”
Richard thought for a moment. Then a mischievous smirk slid onto his face. “Sure, why not. I’m sure someone will get a kick out of it — and I did kinda promise Charles.”
Elizabeth gave him a sly look. “Or someone will get kicked because of it.”
Richard chuckled. “I suppose it’s not impossible.” His eyes sparkled. “After all, some interesting people did say they’d keep a close eye on my crystal ball.”
One week later…
Dockmaster Samuel Peterson opened another hate letter and groaned. His desk was piled high with the things. Letter after letter — some calling for his head — others calling for his job — he’d even received one letter that simply read, “FUCK YOU!”
Suddenly, his office door opened. He started to snap-off that he wasn’t to be disturbed, but the rest of his sentence died on his lips.
Nikolo Maximilian Spinner stood in the door like an old, red-haired, Welsh Hercules. He quickly entered, flanked by three guards all wearing those long, flowing red robes and carrying those scary four-pronged spears.
In his hand, Nikolo held a crystal ball.
Samuel’s stomach dropped.
“Samuel.” Nikolo said, his voice as hard as steel.
“Yes, Grand Mage?” he croaked out.
“You are under arrest for gross mismanagement of council responsibilities, corruption, and fraud. You are also on suspension from all council duties pending a public enquiry.”
Samuel’s eyes widened.
“Yes, Samuel, a public enquiry,” the Grand Mage bit out. “I have no intention of having this swept under the carpet.”
Samuel’s head dropped into his hands. It had all started out so small. Little things here and there. How had it come to this? He was cuffed and led outside to where it seemed half of the town’s leadership was like-wise cuffed and waiting, sitting silently like a class of school children who’ve really pissed off the teacher. He spotted Mister Offwood among those restrained, cross-legged and looking miserable. Samuel was sat among the other prisoners just as another man wearing a faded baseball cap was dragged in for being drunk and disorderly.
The Grand Mage then left without a backwards glance.
Once away from the arrested men and women, and from the cries of the shouting drunk who seemed to have a grudge with Mister Offwood, the captain of the guard turned to Nikolo. “What should we do about Mister Struggle, Grand Mage? I know you intended to see him before.”
Nikolo rubbed his beard. He really hadn’t expected the boy to be quite so resourceful. “Mmmm… nothing for the moment. I think it may have been a mistake to so overtly intervene in Mister Struggle’s journey so early on.” He held up the crystal ball again. “I think I would like to see how this plays out.”