Shipwrecked on the remote volcanic island of Agrihan, and with one of them severely injured, Lou Benson and Jim and Staci Kirk have to find their way to civilisation. Joined by orphan Ailsa Cudby, who has been living with a local village since her parents died, they set off past the volcano in search of an abandoned U.S. Air Force base. With time running out to get medical attention, the teens once again face danger in order to save one of their own. Will they find help in time?
The daylight grew, the warm sun illuminating the beach and their makeshift campsite. Sixteen-year-old Lou Benson woke and for the life of her, couldn’t work out where she was. She was cold and stiff and her injured leg hurt. She sat up and looked around. Why would they camp on a beach with no blankets, when they had nice warm beds on board their boat, Avon?
Deefer, her golden and white Sheltie, rubbed his nose against her face in greeting and she petted him. “Hey, boy. Guess there’s no point asking you why we’re here, is there?”
He barked and shook his head.
Lou looked out across the bay. No boat. Where was it? Then she remembered. They were shipwrecked.
A wave of fear and sadness swept over her. She felt incredibly cold, almost as if the sun had been blotted out or removed from the sky altogether. This was her fault. The whole mess was her fault.
Jim Kirk rolled onto his side and opened his eyes. He smiled at her and she wished her heart would stop that double beat thing. He was a friend, nothing more, and never would be. Her best friend she’d given up everything to help.
“So much for a rescue trip to find your parents,” she said quietly.
His clear eyes clouded for a moment. “The rescuers need rescuing,” he said. “If I hadn’t fallen asleep at the helm…”
Lou shifted uncomfortably. “It wasn’t your fault. Stuff happens.”
Before he could say anything further, his younger sister, Staci, rolled over and sat. She stretched, looking confused as she brushed the sand off her arms. “Where are we?” she asked. “And don’t say camping, because I can see that.”
“Oh, I remember now.” Staci looked at the few bags by their feet. “We didn’t save much, did we? And I left the laptop behind.”
Jim took hold of his sister’s hand and gave it a comforting squeeze. “There wasn’t time, kiddo.”
Lou reached into her sewing bag and pulled out the camera. “Let’s have one for the record,” she said. “Our first camp-out.” She took the photo and put the camera away. “At least we posted all those discs back to Mum and stuck some of the photos on the web. So we’ll still have the pictures.”
“Sorry I forgot the laptop,” Staci said.
Jim rummaged through the food bag. “Stop apologizing for forgetting the laptop. We all got off before Avon sank. Nothing else matters. Are sandwiches all right for breakfast?”
“Why are you never hungry on the beach?” Staci asked.
Jim shook his head. “Don’t know.”
“Because of all the sand which is there.” Lou told him.
He rolled his eyes. “I see you two still haven’t lost your sense of humor.”
“I see you still haven’t found yours,” Lou retorted.
Jim scowled. “You guys just don’t get it, do you? We’re shipwrecked. There is no way off here.”
Lou sighed. “Lighten up, Jim. We may be down, but we are not out.”
“There has to be a settlement somewhere on this island right?” Staci said. “They’re bound to have phones. Everyone does these days. We can get help there. Now breakfast. We’d better go easy on the food. It may take us a while to find help.” She looked at Jim. “We are in this together. Strength and honor, right?”
Jim looked up. “I guess so. It’s just we were meant to be searching for Mum and Dad and now we’re lost, too.”
“We know. But there isn’t much we can do sat here,” Staci said. “We need to find help. That means not sitting here feeling sorry for ourselves, but having breakfast, getting off our butts, and going to look for a village.” She paused. “Wait a minute. When did I suddenly become the grown up around here?”
“When Jim decided to act like a ten-year-old,” Lou replied. “He’s the only grown up I can see for mi—” She winked. “Well, on this beach actually.”
Deefer barked in agreement.
Jim nodded slowly. “You’re right. As usual.” He made breakfast and they ate quietly. Deefer finished his and wanted more.
Jim looked at him. “Sorry, mate, you can’t. We have to make it last.”
After they had all finished, Lou packed away the rubbish, while Staci put the rest of the stuff away.
Jim put sand over the extinguished fire to ensure it wouldn’t re-light.
Lou put on one of the rucksacks and Staci the other.
Jim put the holdall across his chest and shouldered Lou’s sewing bag. He clipped Deefer’s lead on and looked at the others. “Are you ready then?”
“Willing and able,” they chorused.
“Then let’s go.”
Jim led the way into the forest and down a path, which was really nothing more than a sandy trail with a deep groove in the center.
Lou‘s crutches sank into the sand, making keeping up nigh on impossible with the fast pace Jim set. She trailed behind, barely taking her eyes off the path. Her leg hurt and she didn’t dare put any weight on it. It was one thing hobbling around a boat on crutches, doing it on unfamiliar territory was another problem altogether.
The trees towered over them, offering shade from the blazing heat of the sun. It was only ten in the morning, but already the temperature was in the high seventies. The sandy path beneath her feet finally turned to dried mud.
Above them in the trees birds sang, parrots squawked and leaves rustled. In any other circumstances, Lou would have enjoyed the walk. She loved exploring and wanted to be an archeologist when she left school.
As it was, she could think of a dozen other things she’d much rather be doing.
Even on the dried mud path, keeping up was difficult. The ground was uneven and the path was well worn and dipped in the middle.
She kept losing her footing on the unstable ground. After an hour’s walking, she could barely see the others in front of her, although she could still hear Staci chattering.
Lou stumbled, crying out as pain shot up her leg. The fragile tissue started to give. It had never really healed since the shark attack several weeks ago. She sat on the ground, cradling her leg and blinking back tears.
Jim stopped and came back to her. “Are you all right?”
“Do I look all right?” she snapped. Then she sucked in a deep breath. This wasn’t Jim’s fault. “Sorry. I slipped. I could do with a rest.”
“OK. It looks a bit clearer just up ahead, and I can hear water. Can you go on a bit farther?”
The thought filled her with dread, but she wasn’t going to say as much. They had to find civilization and get help. “So long as it isn’t too far. This is farther than I’ve walked in weeks.”
“It isn’t far, I promise.” Jim helped her up, returned to the head of the line, and set off again.
Staci glanced over her shoulder. “This is like playing Brown’s Cows. Remember that?”
Lou grinned. “Oh yeah, drove Mum mad with it.” They’d followed her mother around the flat in a line for over an hour. Until she’d decided enough was enough and made them sit down. “Not as much fun as hanging pegs on the back on her skirt.”
Staci giggled. “I’d forgotten that. She even went to church with them still attached.”
Five minutes later they came into a clearing. A stream meandered to the left of it, bubbling over the rocks, and the sun blazed through the gap in the tree cover.
Lou limped over to a fallen log and gingerly sat. She put her crutches down, rubbed her leg and dropped the rucksack. “It’s nice to sit,” she sighed.
Staci put her rucksack on the ground and sat next to Lou. “Sure is,” she agreed. “It’s hard keeping up with Jim. I don’t know where he gets his energy from. Nichola would insist on bottling it and making a fortune by selling it.”
Jim crossed to the stream. He squatted beside it and scooped up a handful. He tasted it and turned to the girls. “Tastes fine.” He pulled empty bottles from his pack and filled them with water. Next, he filled cups and carried them to the girls.
Lou fished out a bowl and gave it to Jim, who filled it for Deefer.
After they’d rested a bit, Jim stood. “I suggest we follow the stream. Most villages are built close to water. It’s our best chance of finding help.”
“But the path goes that way,” Staci pointed. “Lou would find it easier to follow the path.”
“Maybe, but our best bet for finding help is the stream.”
“Path,” Staci insisted. “It’s well used, and the chances are we’ll meet someone on it.”
Lou held up her hand. “Guys, please. There is no point in arguing. I can’t go anywhere. Not for a while, anyway.” She didn’t need a mirror to know she looked as pale as she felt.
“Are you OK?” Jim asked, concerned. “You look dreadful.”
“Good, dreadful is how I want to look.” She couldn’t resist trying to get one over on him. If nothing else it’d divert Staci’s attention from how bad things really were. “Seriously, I’ve been better. I’ve just overdone it a bit. How about I stay here with Staci and you go exploring with Deefer. That way you won’t get lost.”
“OK. I’ll check the stream out,” Jim said. He called Deefer, and the two of them set off.