When Shades heard that from out in the pool area, he knew the game was up. He would find out later that Max had spent those two or three minutes making one last dive. Though he could only guess how the guards recognized him, his theory was that his friend’s moves somehow betrayed him.
Even as he snagged the extra backpack he had picked up for Max, his friend came dashing around the corner into the locker room. Tossing Max his pack, he simply grabbed his own and joined his flight. Realizing as he ran that he still held his towel in his other hand, thinking, What the hell… When exploring other worlds, it is important to know where your towel is.
Just more wisdom he would later have to pass on to Max.
A moment later, the two burly guards bolted into the room, accompanied by a male lifeguard. Their quarry tore out the other exit with a very reasonable disregard for the NO RUNNING sign on the wall. All the while, Max wished he hadn’t left Bandit back at the hotel.
“Dammit!” cried Fat, for Fatter was too out of breath to shout, even over this short distance, “Get back here, you two!”
But even now, their pursuit was running out of steam. Trying to chase them in bare feet was fast taking its toll on them. Even the lifeguard who had joined the chase, who was in considerably better physical condition than the guards, was also falling behind the two fugitives.
And Max’s lead was all the confirmation Shades needed. His friend was clearly accustomed to worse terrain than this in just his bare feet. Fortunately, his own martial arts training had involved hardening his feet against the elements. He now thanked Master Al for talking him into running laps around the block in the middle of February wearing nothing but his karate gi, or else he wouldn’t be able to keep up at all.
Understandably, people stared at the two barefoot young men being chased down the hall. As they ran swiftly past a trendy clothing store, the received cat-calls and whistles from some in the crowd. One of them, clearly having no idea what they were up to, but apparently thinking it was pretty cool, shouted, in an over-the-top bellow, “Fight the power!”
Just when it looked as if they might catch a break, another security guard, who just happened to be in the neighborhood, spotted them and got into the act.
“What now?” Max muttered.
“Gotta shake ’em somehow!” Shades wished he knew, and he was running out of time. Both of them were soaked from head to foot, and very conspicuously dressed. Or rather, almost the opposite. At least you’re not naked… Still, he knew that nothing he could do next would be terribly prudent, and he always tried to practice what he preached.
Though of late, he was beginning to see the limitations of prudence.
Finding a way to escape from one guard would have been a feat unto itself, but when another pair joined the party, things were looking next to impossible. Even as they moved to intercept Max and himself, he could feel the pull of his old reality, and for a moment, he actually considered surrender. It was seeing his adversaries rush him, the knowledge that those who were caught here were never seen again, that snapped him out of it.
Shades managed to regain his initiative in time to dodge his attacker’s swing, sidestepping and tripping him. Max had taken a more aggressive approach, nailing the other guard with a flying kick that Shades only saw out of the corner of his eye, bowling his opponent over before he could even make a move. The guard who was already chasing them stumbled over the one Shades had tripped up, buying them a moment’s head start as they continued their retreat.
Now they just needed something useful to do with it.
As they scrambled around the corner, Shades pointed to the crowd up ahead in the brief instant when the guards couldn’t see his gesture, and Max nodded. Earlier, when they were out and about, Shades had seen a boat show down this corridor, and now he had an idea. For his part, Max was just relieved that at least his friend had a plan.
The two of them ducked into the crowd just as the guards stumbled around the corner. Bobbing and weaving, they got lost in the crowd and vanished almost immediately. Even Max, who should have stood head and shoulders above most of the crowd.
“Shit!” muttered one of the guards as they stormed through the crowd, pushing people aside, “Where did they go?”
“How do you lose two guys running around in their goddam bathing suits?….”
Shades had to admit it would be an interesting conundrum to solve on the fly if he didn’t already know the answer himself. The real question was whether or not anyone would give the poor pigs any hints. Likely, just on impulse, Max tried to peer out from their hiding place, but Shades grabbed his arm, stopping him.
“Did anybody see where those bastards went?” demanded one of the guards.
“They were dressed in swim trunks!”
Shades and Max held their breath.
And, just as they feared, someone in the crowd must have pointed at the low-built, compact cabin cruiser display, because the guards got really quiet. Everyone else, too, for that matter. As soon as the first guard came up the steps and hopped on deck, they knew there was no point in hiding anymore, and rose to confront them.
Well shit, Shades thought, for he had been hoping they could duck below deck and put on some clothes after the guards went by.
“Here they are!” shouted the guard as he charged at Shades, who held his towel in en garde stance. He tried to snap the towel at him as a feint, but the guard wasn’t having any of it. He batted the towel aside, and that was when Shades saw that he was armed with a nightstick.
Max took the next guard to come up the steps, kicking him over just as he reached the top, sending him toppling back on top of the guard behind him.
Shades tried to block his attacker’s swing with his free hand, but it was just a hair too late, and the club still scored a glancing blow, forcing him back. The guard, meanwhile, hung on to Shades’ towel, picking up the slack as he rushed him, slamming him up against the cabin wall. Though Shades had managed to brace one arm between the stick and his neck, the guard was stronger, and without any leverage he would be unable to break free, and so would soon be overpowered.
“You’re not so tough now, are you, punk!” the guard snarled, pressing harder. Shades, in a last ditch attempt to break his hold, tried to knee him in the groin, but the guard blocked with his own knee. “I’ll beat your ass for that!”
Max, seeing his friend’s plight, turned and attacked the guard. The guard, seeing Max out of the corner of his eye, swung at him, but Max dodged the back-swing. Shades, no longer bound by the nightstick, took his opportunity, letting go of his towel and leaning against the cabin wall, bringing both feet up, power-kicking the guard. As Shades staggered to his feet, the guard went sprawling the length of the deck and up against the railing. Max whipped out his own towel, snapping it in his face, much as he had seen Shades demonstrate with his whip, just as he was regaining his balance. The guard yowled in pain, and there was hardly any need for Max to knock him over the edge with his high kick, but there was no point in taking any chances.
“Damn!” Shades had to admit that he was impressed at how quickly Max picked up on basic whip technique. That dude really knows where his towel is!
Unfortunately, while Max was busy bailing Shades out, another guard got up the steps, accompanied by a couple more who had just arrived on the scene. At the same time, one of the guards Max had kicked off ran over to the front of the boat trailer and started climbing in an attempt to catch them from behind. In his haste, though, his foot worked the front wheel lock— being shoddily secured to begin with— loose.
Max and Shades and their adversaries were really rocking the boat, foolishly placed at the beginning of a long series of inclined hall sections, and the whole rig started rolling downhill.
Which was probably for the best, as more guards were surely on the way, and the two of them would soon be in danger of being just a teeny bit outnumbered. Even so, after that chase, they were warmed-up, while the first guards were just starting to run out of steam, and the new ones were joining the fray fresh. All the while, people near the boat simply watched as it took off, not quite sure what to make of it.
Shades picked up his towel, and he and Max turned their attention to the new boarding party, both deciding at the same time that at least this situation had narrowed down the odds. The boat quickly picked up speed, traveling downhill on the cant of the floorplane, and the guards fell over trying to adjust to the acceleration. Shades steadied himself against the cabin, and Max, who grew up with the motion of seagoing vessels, jumped in to attack.
Ducking past the first two guards, and repeating his attack from moments ago, Max snapped his towel in the face of the last guard, who was still balancing precariously on the railing. This time, though, Max’s first attack was all it took to send him flailing overboard, falling out of reach. He turned to face the other guards as Shades rejoined the fight.
As the two pairs of adversaries went at it, the boat hit a dip on the next incline, gaining still more momentum, disrupting their fight. Shades kicked one guard in the face as he struggled to get back up. Max still grappled with the other for a moment, then bashed him with a vicious head-butt that made Shades wince at the sound of it.
All the while, the guard that had climbed up the front of the trailer had worked his way across the top of the cabin, and now attempted to tackle Shades. Max spotted the attack out of the corner of his eye, turning and cutting loose with a wild, backwards roundhouse kick Shades barely got out of the way of, taking the guard’s feet right out from under him. As he rolled and fell off the side, tumbling across the floor as he fell by the wayside, the guard Shades was fighting a moment ago rose to his feet and charged again, but Shades sidestepped and tripped him, sending him stumbling down the hatch below deck.
“Fugger…” muttered the remaining guard, blood from Max’s head-butt oozing down his face, “Choo broke by dose!”
Max, losing his balance after executing such a wild move on a moving vehicle, landed off-balance, stumbling against the railing. Shades slammed the cabin hatch shut before the other guard could get out. Refusing to let the remaining guard hurt Max while he was open, Shades stepped up to defend him. Though pissed off about his nose, the other guard was reeling on his feet as a result of that very attack, and Shades cut through his defenses with ease, landing several punches and kicks.
“Um, Shades…” Max had regained his feet and looked over the top of the cabin, seeing something he believed Shades should see.
“I think we might want to abandon ship.” Even as he said this, Max kicked the cabin hatch shut as it opened again, smacking the guard inside and sending him sprawling back below.
“Why?” But as he asked that question, he remembered they were still in a confined space, that they could only move so far before running out of hallway. “Oh, well why didn’t you say so?”
The guard with the broken nose tried to take advantage of Shades’ moment of distraction, but he blocked the attack, kicking him and knocking him back down.
As the boat cruised past a largish trampoline on display, Max and Shades bailed out, landing in the middle and bouncing off most of their impact before dropping to the floor on both feet. Shades, for a moment, trying to figure out why the image of John doing this in a storm immediately flashed to mind…
Both of them stood there for a moment as, seconds later, the boat crashed into a pyramid-shaped display of Cam’s Cola cans. The boat itself tipped on its side, rolling out of its trailer and spilling the remaining guard on deck tumbling across the floor. Having sailed uncommonly far for such a landlocked vessel. The whole wreck crashed through the display, sending ruptured cans cascading in a shallow, foaming tide of cola.
Max simply stared at this spectacular mess, lost in the moment.
“Now we’ve done it…” Shades tried to say seriously, thinking of how much trouble they would be in back on Earth. Tried not to laugh at what a ridiculous situation this really was, reminding himself that the trouble they were in here was greater still. To say nothing of what a wonderful role model he was being for his new friend. He grabbed Max’s arm and took off, saying, “Come on! Before they call for reinforcements!”
The two of them continued their flight, outrunning the bubbling flood of carbonation while a guard who just got there slipped and fell on his ass trying to give chase.
“Max, you’re gonna have to get a haircut.”
“But first we need to find a place where we can put our clothes back on and blend in a little more…”
Shades just hoped that the guards had been too busy chasing and fighting— and hopefully too thrown-off by the fact that he and Max were wearing only their swimming shorts— to have paid much attention to their faces.