11. The Rescue
When Téa and Mokuba made their way into the hallway of the Aloha Deck, they found Duke, Tristan, Rebecca, and Serenity just emerging from main entrance of the suite, all of them dressed and wearing life preservers.
"Téa!" Tristan called out in relief as he spotted her. Then he looked around, frowning. "Where's Yugi and Joey?"
"Yugi and Kaiba went to find Pegasus," Téa said, then she frowned as well. "Wait, Joey's not with you?"
"No, he wasn't here when the alarm woke us."
"He's not with you?" Serenity asked Téa in dread. "You don't know where he is?"
Téa shook her head. "Yugi said he was dueling with Joey earlier, but I never saw him myself. I thought he was asleep."
"Well, he must have come back after that and then left again, because his duel disk was on the nightstand," Tristan said, holding it up. "I grabbed it when we left the room."
"Oh no," Serenity moaned, "where can he be?"
"Let's just get down to the muster station," Téa said. "I'm sure he's headed there, too."
The hallways were starting to fill with people as passengers began making their way down the stairs to their assigned muster stations. When they made it four flights down and reached the Siren Lounge on the port side of the Promenade Deck, it was already starting to fill with people. There was a purser at the door with a clipboard checking names off the list as people came in. They stood in line and gave their names, then entered the lounge and began looking around for Joey.
"I don't see him," Serenity squeaked. "Where is he? Why isn't he here?"
Tristan's face hardened in determination. "I'll find him." He shoved the duel disk at Téa. "Hold this for him."
"Wait, Tristan, I'm going with you," Serenity said.
"No, you stay here with Duke and Téa," Tristan directed her in a tone that left no room for argument. "Téa, do you know where they were dueling? Maybe he forgot something and went back for it."
Téa tried to remember what Yugi had said. "I think he said they were on the top deck."
"Got it," he replied. "I'll check back at the suite, too. He might have gone back looking for Serenity. I'll be right back." He looked at Serenity. "Don't worry, I'll find him."
She only nodded as he turned and darted out, sneaking past the purser checking people in.
Téa put her hand on Serenity's shoulder to comfort her. "He probably found a late night buffet somewhere and is on his way," she soothed, but inside she felt anything but calm. First Yugi, then Joey, and now Tristan; all three of the people she loved most in the world somewhere else on a ship that was going down. Please be okay. All of you, please be okay, she silently prayed.
It was karma, Mai thought. It had to be bad karma. She'd flirted her way into skipping the muster drill before embarkation, so naturally the stupid ship had to sink to teach her a lesson. A whole half an hour into what might have otherwise been the best sleep she'd gotten since she'd been here. Why oh why did she come on this trip again?
Scowling, she made her way through the crowds of people trying to get to their muster stations, annoyed at how difficult it was to move with the bulky life preserver on top of her leather jacket, her backpack full of snack foods, and her duel disk on her left arm. At least she really did know where she was going and what to do and she was able to get to the Siren Lounge without too much difficulty. After giving the purser her name to check off his list, she looked around the room to get her bearings. Almost immediately she saw Téa, Serenity, Duke, Mokuba Kaiba, and that little blonde girl she remembered from the Orichalcos fiasco. Naturally they'd be on my lifeboat, she thought with a grimace, remembering belatedly that their suite was on her deck. But then she realized something wasn't right. Frowning, she looked around the room.
Forgetting her pride, she approached Téa. "Hey, aren't you missing a few people?"
Téa looked at her, startled and worried. "Mai! Oh, yeah, we are. Yugi and Kaiba are with Pegasus. Their purser just called our purser on the two-way radio to say they were keeping them at that muster station rather than have them try and get here."
"What about Joey and Tristan?"
"Oh Mai," Serenity jumped in, her words tumbling out in a rush, "Joey's missing! He wasn't in the room and we don't know where he is! Tristan went looking for him!"
"The gym," Mai told them, snapping her fingers. "Did Tristan look there? I saw Joey playing basketball in the gym about half an hour ago."
Téa blanched. "Isn't the gym on the Holiday Deck?"
"That's—" she began, but then clamped her hand over her mouth when she saw Serenity looking at her.
"Téa, what is it?" Serenity begged. "If you know something, please tell me!"
"It's just," Téa started reluctantly, "Yugi and I overheard one of the crewmembers say one of the explosions was near the Holiday Deck—"
Serenity gasped, her face draining of color and Téa stopped abruptly. Mai's heart jumped up to her throat, but she forced herself to not panic. He's okay, he has to be okay. Seeing that Serenity was not doing well, she took her by the shoulders.
"Listen, kiddo, he's going to be okay, you hear me?" she told her, her voice completely steady.
Serenity nodded but she looked like she was in shock.
"Serenity, I need you to do me a favor," Mai said, her face close to Joey's sister's as she tried to get her to listen. She needed to give her something to do, something she could hold onto so she wouldn't go into shock. Mai pulled off her backpack and her duel disk and handed them to her. "I need you to hold these for me, okay? I'm going to go find Joey and Tristan and when we get back I'm gonna want my deck back, so you keep it safe for me, okay?"
Serenity nodded again, taking the duel disk and the backpack.
Mai leaned toward her and whispered conspiratorially, "And that backpack has food in it. Way better stuff than the lifeboat rations, so keep it to yourself, 'kay hon?"
"Okay Mai," she said, and Mai was relieved to see a little color return to the younger girl's face. She turned to go, but Duke stepped up.
"No, you stay, I'll go."
"No," Mai shook her head. "I know right where he was. You stay here with Serenity." She turned back to Joey's sister. "Sweetie, Joey's going to be okay. I promise you," she said. She squeezed Serenity's shoulders then turned and left, slipping behind the purser's back out of the lounge as he was busy checking in the last few passengers.
She headed straight down the deck outside the lounge toward the elevators and staircase at the stern of the ship, which led down to the gym three decks below. When she was still a ways away, she saw Tristan appear on the landing from upstairs.
"Tristan!" she called out. "I saw him in the gym earlier! Holiday Deck!"
If he still had any of the distrust in her he'd displayed the first night of the cruise, he didn't show it. Without questioning her, he spun on his heel and headed down the stairs. She ran after him.
She got about a flight and a half down when she heard voices. Tristan was arguing with someone, one of the crewmembers no doubt.
"But my friend is down there!" she heard him shout.
"I'm sorry sir," the crewmember responded, and Mai realized with a jolt of recognition that the voice belonged to her purser friend, Evan Haines. "There's no one down there. The gym closed at one o'clock."
Mai frowned. It had been just about two o'clock when she'd left and neither the gym nor weight room had been closed.
"Someone saw him there," Tristan argued. "Can we at least go check?"
"I'm terribly sorry, sir, but we've already been down there. There was an explosion in the engine room not far from the gym. It's doubtful even if anyone had been down there that they would have survived."
Mai bit down on her lip and forced down the rising panic. He's okay, he's okay, he's okay…
"But I assure you, no one was down there. We've already checked," Evan was saying. Clearly he was not going to let Tristan get by or go check the gym himself and Mai was positive that's where they'd find Joey—alive.
Sorry, Evan, she thought with some annoyance, but for this I'm afraid I'm going to have to break my own three-limit rule. But how to handle this? She couldn't go the damsel-in-distress route since she'd already told him she used to work on a ship and knew how to handle emergencies. But there were certainly no shortage of people on a cruise ship who didn't know how to handle emergencies….
Tossing her hair over her shoulder, she ran down the last flight of stairs to the landing where Evan and Tristan were arguing and flung herself onto Evan's neck; an awkward proposition given her bulky life preserver. "Oh Evan, thank goodness you're here!" she gushed, using her momentum to pivot him so that his back was turned to Tristan and the stairs. Over his shoulder she shot a look at Tristan and cocked her head toward the stairs. Tristan gave her a short nod then slipped as quietly and quickly as he could down the stairs while she pulled out of the embrace with Evan to face him, keeping her hands firmly on his shoulders so that he was facing her and away from the stairs.
"Mai, what are you doing here? You should be at your muster station getting on a lifeboat!" He frowned. "I knew it was a mistake to let you skip the drill—"
"Oh no, I'm fine, but there's someone in trouble and I came looking for someone to help. Please, you have to help…" she let herself trail off because she couldn't get more specific than that.
"All right, just let me—" he stopped as he looked around. "Where'd he go?"
"Who? That guy you were talking to? I saw him go back upstairs," she said.
"Yes, now come on, you have to help," she pleaded, dragging him by the arm up the stairs.
She was counting on the fact that some passenger had to be panicking and in need of assistance and then she could slip away from Evan while he was helping someone else. However, when they got back to the Promenade Deck, she only belatedly remembered that this was not an average cruise where half the passengers were over eighty and could barely walk and another good chunk were families with small children. This cruise was full of young, able-bodied duelists, mostly in their teens and twenties, who could reasonably be expected to figure out how to get to a lifeboat. She began to worry that she wouldn't find anyone to distract Evan when like a gift from the gods, Rex Raptor appeared. He was running down the deck, screaming in blind panic, shoving people out of the way as he went.
"See!" Mai pointed. "I couldn't get him to calm down! He's going to get someone killed!" she shouted at Evan.
"You get back to your muster station; I'll take care of this," he told her, and then took off after Rex. Mai breathed a sigh of relief and immediately flung herself back down the stairs toward the gym.
Her relief vanished when she reached the landing half a flight up from the Holiday Deck and saw that the deck below was covered in deep, swirling black water.
"I think I've seen this movie," she grimaced as she went the rest of the way down stairs. She waded in, gasping as the knee-deep frigid water soaked through her boots. Ignoring the cold, she worked her way down the hall to the gym, and gasped again to find Tristan standing before a mass of debris that used to be the doors to the basketball court, shouting Joey's name. There was no answer.
"Oh my God… maybe he wasn't here after all," she breathed.
Tristan turned around and pulled something dark and soaking wet out of the water. "I found this," he said. It was Joey's jacket, she realized. "Besides, the ship is going down and he's not at Serenity's side personally escorting her onto a lifeboat?"
"Right," Mai gritted her teeth, "he's definitely here. Okay then. How do we get in there?"
"We need help," he said.
She shook her head. "We'd spend more time than we have arguing with more crewmembers."
"Good point." He looked around. "We need something for leverage. We've gotta pry those doors open."
Mai looked over at the weight room door, which had survived the blast better than the gymnasium. Sloshing her way in, she found one of the barbells and pulled the weights off of it. She brought it back out into the hall and handed it to Tristan. "Try this," she suggested.
He grabbed the barbell, but their bulky lifejackets made it difficult for them to work, so they quickly stripped them off and threw them aside. Tristan pressed the barbell into the space between the doors and he and Mai heaved together until it opened enough for them to squeeze through.
Inside the gym looked even worse than the outside. Tristan inhaled sharply.
"He's alive," Mai said decisively. "He's alive, and we'll find him. He's alive," she repeated, adopting it like a mantra.
"Damn straight," Tristan agreed, his jaw set. "Hey, and at least the lights haven't gone out. That's something."
"Right. Okay, when I saw him he was shooting at the hoop on this end of the court," she said, pointing to where a pile of debris lay below one of the baskets. "I'll look over here."
"I'll check the other side."
He waded through the icy water toward the far end of the gym while Mai poked through the debris nearer the door. "Joey?" she called out. "Come on, Joey, I know you're in here somewhere! Answer me!"
"Joey!" Tristan called out from the other end. "Hey bro, it's me, Tristan! Where are you?"
Mai clenched her teeth. The gym as so large and there was so much debris. He's alive, we'll find him, he's alive, we'll find him…
And then she saw it. A hand under water, coming out from under a mass of twisted metal against the wall. She sucked in her breath. "TRISTAN!" she screamed as she fell to her knees, freezing water splashing up to her waist. She followed the arm through the metal and there she could see him. He was unconscious, propped upright against the wall with his head out of the water and twisted hunks of metal around him like a tent. She grabbed his wrist and breathed a massive sigh of relief when she felt a pulse.
Tristan splashed to a halt beside her.
"There's a pulse, he's alive!" she cried out. Thank you, thank you, thank you…
"He's not under water?"
"No, it looks like he fell against the wall. His head is propped up above the water line."
Tristan exhaled loudly. "Okay. Let's get this pile off him!"
They worked together, clearing the space around his head. He was pretty scratched up with a long cut down the left side of his face, and his lips were a little blue from the cold, but she didn't notice anything scary like gaping wounds or limbs at a bad angle.
"Dude, you lead a charmed existence," Tristan said, obviously thinking the same thing.
Finally they could reach him. Mai sat next to him and shook his shoulders. "Joey, are you okay? Come on Joey, wake up."
"His leg's caught under the pole from the basketball hoop," Tristan said. "I can't move it."
"Joey wake up!" Mai shouted, and then splashed him with some of the brackish water. He sputtered and opened his eyes.
"Joey!" she cried out, and Tristan temporarily gave up trying to free his leg and joined her at his side.
"Dude! Are you okay?"
"Tristan? Mai?" Joey asked, dazed. "What's going on? Where are we?"
"We decided it would be really fun to do a dramatic re-creation of the Titanic," Tristan deadpanned.
"There was some kind of explosion and everything just caved in…" Joey said, starting to piece it together, and then his eyes opened wide as he realized where he was and that he was reclining in water up to his chest. "The ship is sinking?"
"Yeah, so let's get you out of here. Your leg's trapped under that pole. Does it feel like it's broken?" Tristan asked.
Joey ignored the question. "Serenity!" he gasped.
"She's probably already getting on a lifeboat," Mai reassured him.
"Relax, kiddo. Last I saw her she was in the muster station with Duke and Téa. They'll get her on that boat. Let's just focus on getting us on the boat, 'kay?"
Joey sighed in relief.
"Uh, little help here?" Tristan prompted.
"Right," Mai said, leaving Joey's side to help Tristan with the pole. It was wedged tight.
"We need that barbell," he said and then splashed off toward the door to get it.
"How you doing, Joey?" she asked, turning back to him. "Anything feel broken? You gonna be able to walk when we get this off of you?"
He closed his eyes as if checking in with all his various limbs. "My ankle doesn't feel great, but I don't think it's broken."
"You do lead a charmed existence."
His teeth started chattering. "It's really cold, though."
"We'll get you warmed up as soon as we get out of here. Just hang on."
"Mai, what are you—" he started, but Tristan returned with the barbell and Mai turned her attention to helping him work it under the pole.
It was hard in all the water finding a place where it would get purchase, but they finally found one and the two of them heaved, but the pole wouldn't budge. They tried again, grunting with the strain, when suddenly the lights went out.
"Well, that can't be good," Tristan remarked.
As if in confirmation, Mai heard a loud groaning sound from the ship around them, and then the water started moving faster, swirling around them.
"Yeah, definitely not good," Tristan said and they renewed their efforts.
"This is insane," Joey said, "you guys gotta get out of here."
"Don't be stupid," Mai snapped.
"I mean it," he said earnestly, but weakly. "This whole deck is gonna be underwater soon. You've gotta go!"
"Not gonna happen, dude, so unless you have something helpful to say, shut your yap," Tristan barked. "Come on Mai, pull!"
They heaved again. Nothing. Several more pulls. Nothing.
"Guys, this isn't gonna work," Joey said, his teeth chattering so loud they almost couldn't hear him over it.
"Like hell," Tristan growled. He dropped the barbell in frustration. "Okay, I think there's something underneath trapping it. I need to go down there and figure out what the problem is."
"Underwater. In the dark," Mai said skeptically.
"Got any better ideas?"
"Not really, no."
Tristan took in a huge breath then plunged down under the water, which was now up to Mai's thigh when she was standing. She waded back to Joey to make sure his head was still above water while she waited to see what Tristan found. He was still above the waterline, but not by much. It had reached his chin and the pole trapping his leg kept him from raising himself up any higher out of the water.
"So cold…" Joey said, and she was alarmed by how much weaker his voice sounded.
"No you don't, stay with me here Wheeler," she ordered.
Tristan came up for air. "I think there's something wedged under there. I'm pretty sure if I get it loose, we can move the pole."
"Do you need help?"
"No, just stay by Joey." He took another breath and slipped beneath the surface again.
Joey's teeth were still chattering so she moved closer to him and started rubbing his arms. It was pretty fruitless since he was still mostly under water, but it did seem to help some. "You know lifeboats nowadays are covered and heated. As soon as we get out of here we'll get you wrapped in a blanket and on one of those heated lifeboats. Just stay with me, okay?"
Tristan came up for air again. "Almost got it," he reported then went back under.
"Mai, why are you here?" Joey asked.
She closed her eyes, glad it was too dark for him to see her face. "Because I promised your sister you would be okay."
Joey sighed. "This isn't going to work, Mai. You and Tristan need to go, get off this ship."
"You want me to break my promise to Serenity? I don't think so."
He coughed and gave a weak laugh. "No, we can't have that."
"I'm not leaving without you, so just concentrate on getting your foot loose." Whatever you think of me, Joey, I won't let anything happen to you. Never again.
Tristan came back up one last time. "I think I've got it," he said. "Let's try the lever again."
She went back to where Tristan was reinserting the lever under the pole. They heaved, and this time she felt it move. Not much, but it moved.
"I think it's working!" she told Tristan.
"One more time," he directed.
They heaved on the barbell and she felt the pole move again.
"Can you get your leg loose?" Tristan groaned at Joey.
"A little more," Joey grunted back, straining to pull his leg free.
Mai and Tristan pulled as hard as the could, and finally Joey said, "Got it, I'm free!"
They dropped the pole and waded back to him, one on each side of him, and hauled him up by the arms.
"Can you stand?"
"Yeah, I… okay, maybe not," he said when he wobbled.
"Why don't you let us be the designated drivers, 'kay hon?" Mai said as she ducked under Joey's left arm. Tristan did the same on his right and he was able to trudge through the water leaning heavily on the two of them. They made their way back to the door of the gym, but it wasn't open wide enough for all of them to get through side-by-side. Tristan squeezed through first while Joey leaned on Mai, and then he pulled Joey through, and finally Mai. Once they were out, they made their way with considerable difficulty down the hall through the now waist-high water. It was moving fast now, too, beating against them as they struggled toward the dim light coming down the stairwell. Their footing was treacherous and Mai slipped, falling headlong into the frigid, churning water, nearly pulling Joey and Tristan with her, but Tristan grabbed her arm and jerked her up again.
"Thanks," she panted, spitting briny water out of her mouth. She found her footing again and returned to her position under Joey's left arm.
Just then they heard voices above them. "Hello! Is anyone down there?"
"Down here!" she and Tristan called out in unison. They tried to pick up their pace, but Joey was getting more and more sluggish.
"Come on, bro, a little further," Tristan urged.
Two of the ship's crew appeared silhouetted on the stairs. "You Wheeler, Taylor, and Valentine?" one of them called out.
"That's us," Tristan confirmed. "You wanna give us a hand here?"
The one who had asked their names called back up the stairs "We found them!" while the other crewmember waded a few steps down into the water. Holding on to the rail, he leaned out and reached for them. "Grab my hand!" he called.
Tristan was closest and managed to grab the purser's hand. He pulled and Mai felt them all being dragged through the water toward the stairs. Finally her boot bumped against the bottom step. Wearily she climbed onto it, hauling Joey up between her and Tristan.
"You still with us, Joey?" she asked. "We're almost there."
"Yeah," he muttered sounding sluggish.
They finally made their way up the stairs and above the rising waterline. "Most of the boats have launched, but we've got one waiting for you."
"Serenity," Joey muttered.
"His sister," Tristan explained. "He wants to make sure she's safe."
"All passengers but you three are accounted for and most of the boats have launched," the purser confirmed. Mai felt Joey slump against her in relief.
"Hey, we're not done yet," she prodded him. "Come on, Joey, a little further."
"What possessed you people to come down here?" the second pursuer rebuked them.
"My friend was in the gym when the place started blowing up," Tristan answered.
"You're lucky to be alive, all of you. That was incredibly stupid going after him yourselves. You should have informed a crewmember."
"We did, but he kept telling us no one was down there."
"Someone did search the Holiday Deck, but they didn't find anyone," the other purser said apologetically.
"Well they must not've looked very hard 'cause we found him in like ten minutes," Tristan accused. The crewmembers, perhaps thinking lawsuit, said nothing.
Finally they had climbed the three flights of stairs back to the Promenade Deck. It was fairly empty now, but Mai could see a boat waiting. She was surprised to see that the sky was already starting to turn pink; then she remembered that this far north, sunrise was as early as four AM. A female crewmember rushed toward them carrying blankets, which she wrapped around them. The three crewmembers helped them across the deck and into the waiting lifeboat, which, as Mai had promised, was covered and heated. They were bustled into a corner where they huddled together trying to get warm. More blankets were piled on top of them.
"Can you let our friends know we're okay?" Tristan asked one of the pursers.
"We already radioed their boat when we found you."
"How you doing there, Joey?" Tristan asked, rubbing his friend's arms to warm him up. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm okay." His voice did sound a little stronger and he looked like some color was coming back to his lips. "How did you know where to find me?"
Tristan looked from Joey to Mai. "Mai."
"Mai?" Joey asked, turning to face her.
"I was working out in the weight room and saw you playing basketball when I left. No big deal," she shrugged.
"Wrong. Very big deal. You and Tristan saved my life. Thank you," he said so softly she barely heard him.
She looked away from him. "Yeah, well I owed you. A few, actually. I know it doesn't change anything."
He didn't reply, so she looked over to find his eyes closed.
"Joey?" she asked, nudging him in alarm.
"I think he's just asleep," Tristan told her. "Hey, I wanna thank you, too. You didn't have to go looking for him with me."
"Yes, I did," she replied.
Tristan regarded her a moment, then just nodded. Closing his eyes, he leaned back beside his friend as the boat gradually lowered off the side of the sinking ship and into the black water.
Four hours later, with the sun well above the horizon, the USS Chrysaor disappeared beneath the surface, leaving ten lifeboats alone in the water.
Continued in Revival II: Shadow Games