- Text Size +
Author's Chapter Notes:
by the wayside
The island was a lost treasure.

A hidden gem in that endless sky men called the Ocean. This one a glittering diamond of white sand that stood alone, having no constellation to share its stark brilliance with. Fathomless miles out of anyone’s way, it was a pristine place, seldom seen by human eyes, and likely just as rarely, if ever, touched by human hands.

The Reflection sat anchored just off that dazzling shore, its mostly sandy, rocky stretch dotted with sparse patches of green and the occasional palm tree. On the deck, Abu-Sharrah lounged in a wooden folding chair, fishing pole propped against the deck railing. Largely inhospitable, surrounded by sharp reefs and visibly shallow sandbars, the old man wisely chose to forgo landfall, seeking the Ocean’s bounty at this particular stop.

As he looked out at the desert isle before him, his thoughts touched on that young man of recent acquaintance, Max, and he wondered absently if anyone had ever been stranded on this island before. Though it bore precious little resemblance to his Paradise, he suspected it might still be possible to survive in such an unforgiving place. If nothing else, though, he reflected, it would be a very harsh existence.

Just thinking of Max seemed to make him feel as if he was forgetting something. He still wasn’t sure why that boy was so familiar to him. The only conclusion he could come to was that if it was of any importance, he would remember sooner or later.

After all, he always did.

Again he wondered, as he had off and on lately, what those crazy kids would do next. Especially the hotheaded one. While Max would have listened and thought it over, and Shades might have nodded as if realizing that he should have known all along, he had refrained from talking too much about connections between people in this life in front of Justin. Not so much to misinform him, as it was in hopes of persuading him to abandon his vendetta. No matter how big this world was, some people simply traveled in the same circles.

Yet what struck him as most important to them was finding their balance.

In retrospect, he felt drawn to that particular dock from the moment he arrived in Centralict. It was a feeling he had grown used to over these long years. No matter where he went, he just always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to help those in need, and always in ways that were within his grasp. This time, though, he sensed something out of the ordinary about their chance meeting, as if he had gotten himself involved in something big. Bigger than he had encountered in many years.

He could tell those three young men were new to each other, yet their presence together felt like pieces of some great puzzle falling into place.

It all seemed somehow summed up in the dream that awakened him from his nap in the first place, a vision of Max standing on the deck of that new ship of theirs, gazing off into the sunset with those eyes that always seemed to be fixed somewhere past the horizon.

Wherever the winds may take us…

That sagely smile widened as he watched him speak those words, for he found this scene very reassuring, enough so to hope it was true.

So lost he was in his ruminations, it took him a moment to notice that he finally had a bite on the line. A big one, too, from the feel of it. Found a moment to wish he had someone like Max around right now to help him haul it in, but ultimately decided that for now he was content to relax here by the wayside for a while before setting out again.

As he turned his attention back to his fishing, he wished his most recent passengers a safe voyage on the journey of life.
Chapter End Notes:
-oldest draft: 1997
-notebook draft: Oct 18, 2006
-word-processed draft: Sept 15, 2007
-additional editing: July, 2009

-oldest draft: 1997
-notebook draft: Oct 26, 2006 – Jan 17, 2007
-word-process draft: Sept 16 – Sept 30, 2007
-additional editing: March 27, 2008; July, 2009

-oldest draft: 1997
-notebook draft: Jan 17 – 20, 2007
-word-processed draft: Sept 26, 2007
-additional editing: July, 2009

This is the final episode of the portion originally title "One-4-All" in the oldest version of the series. It was also written to be finale of Volume 1 of Tradewinds, but it didn't start out that way. It may not necessarily finish that way, either. When I wrote the original draft, I wasn't ready to move on with the main storyline, so I thought "I'll throw something together with pirates" and this part actually started out as a "filler" story, believe it or not. Only time will tell just how much my writing actually improved over the past decade, but one of many things that has changed is that I don't believe in Filler anymore. One of the things I decided early on when I returned to this series was that, no matter what, every story would have to include either important character or plot development, and any story idea from older versions that didn't involve some of this fell by the wayside. In fact, there is a measure of irony that when I came back around to this story for the notebook draft, Naruto was in the middle of what turned out to be an 80+ episode, year-and-a-half-long filler jag, and thus I went over this storyline very thoroughly to see if it was salvageable. Much to my surprise, I began to realize that what started out as a throw-away story had a lot of climax and character/plot resolution potential that I had completely overlooked the first time around.

Of course, even with that potential, it took a complete overhaul. The original version had all manner of problems plaguing it, starting with the Triad running into an iceberg (yes, you read the correctly, and even I don't know what the hell I was thinking at the time), and being rescued by another ship. Which subsequently got boarded by Striker & Company. In addition to tossing in a bunch of pointless extras, the original scheme involved Bandit swimming over to Striker's ship and planting a bomb. Total wallbanger (props TVTropes) material, given that they were a) trying to rescue people from aboard that ship, and b) even boarded it themselves while the clock was ticking, to say nothing of c) Bandit carrying explosives like some kind of weaponized helper dog. Then, to top it all off (probably because I watched waayyy too many martial arts flicks in high school), Max challenges Striker to a sword fight. Blindfolded. And then Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting (props TVTropes). Even though they had guns and shit. That was where I got the idea to retcon the EMP grenades when I did the word-processed draft of Part 10, pairing with the other Chekhov's Gun (props TVTropes), Chase's new plasma rifle, which was really more of a Chekhov's Dud in the original version, this time around instead providing an alternative way to sink Striker's ship at the turning point of the battle. To say nothing of the EMP grenade largely forcing everyone to fight at close quarters. Of course, Justin's still got three more left, but I imagine he'll use them sparingly.

As for the whole "Volume 1" business, I've largely been reconsidering the idea of even trying to publish this series in print any time in the foreseeable future, so I think I'll stick to online distribution for now. To that end, I plan to continue with Tradewinds as a serial, and see where it goes from there. I hope you've enjoyed it so far, as there is much more yet to come.