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Author's Chapter Notes:
Max zigzagged through the trees, Bandit hot on his trail. As he charged out into the clearing, he sped up, taking a flying leap into the water. He hit the water with his usual enthusiasm, kicking off the bottom and blazing out into the deep end. Bandit splashed along right behind him, and just as he was catching up, Max dove straight down, scattering the fish that still swam there.

Max’s barrier still held, and there had been no signs of devilfish in weeks.

At the bottom, he crouched for a moment, trying to hold his breath for as long as he dared. When his lungs started straining, he pushed off, exploding from the water with a great gasp. He then swam back over to the edge, Bandit gleefully following, for he knew what time it was.

Max looked over his shoulder at his little friend, and it dawned on him that after these last few months, his friend wasn’t so little anymore. The cub was even starting to get to the point where he could keep up with Max for most of his training exercises. Again he wondered how big his feline friend was going to be when he was grown up.

There they stood, boy and cub, both shaking themselves off in the same comical manner.

“Breakfast time!” laughed Max as he fetched his pan and strode over to some berry bushes. Bandit came behind him, tail held high at the thought of food.

As usual, Max was up with the sun, and had gone for his customary “wake-up” dip before breakfast. After that, he would go check his nets. Then, as the sun climbed to its height, Max would climb up the mountain and ascend to the top of the tree on the cliff. He had started calling it the Crow’s Nest, naming it after the recently-replaced mast on the mountain above the Wandering Spirit, a popular lookout spot in Layosha, and during the time of day when the sky was brightest, he would perch up there and watch for the telltale gleam of a passing ship. So far, he had yet to see one, but, if he ever did, he held the cracked mirror from the wreck, and if he liked the impression that he got, he would signal them with it, just like his father had in his travels. From on high, he could see much of the island from different points, and had explored nearly all of what he could survey.

When he had tired of sitting up there waiting for the extraordinarily unlikely, he would climb back down and begin work on various projects and training games. He was slowly carving out a niche for himself, and Bandit seemed indescribably happy with his life here. Such was how Max spent his days in Paradise.

As he had come to think of it. After thinking about it so much, the name simply stuck. Though at times he was still bothered by the troubles that had led him here, he was beginning to lose himself in this serene new life.

Time seemed to have less and less meaning the longer he stayed. One day flowed into the next to the rhythm of the ever-present tide. The outside world began to feel increasingly distant, like the more far-fetched legends he had heard in his life.

He sometimes wondered if anyone else had been here before. Yet the more he searched, the more he doubted it; after exploring most of the island, he still had yet to find even a hint of anyone else’s presence. Though he took up his Crow’s Nest perch almost every single day, something told him no ship was likely to pass this way in his lifetime. Still, the Ocean held many mysteries, and Robert had become one of them. When he was up there, he yearned to be out among the rolling waves, for he was certain that his father was still out there; he still refused to believe he could really be gone.

For a time, he had also feared that perhaps Slash may have survived. Once he had dozed off up there and had a nightmare vision of U-553 surfacing near the beach…

Max shunned the thought as he munched a handful of berries, reminding himself that if those Cyexian pirates could find this place, they would have weeks ago. He once again found himself thinking about his most recent project, a small raft that he was half-afraid to complete. For fear that he might actually have half a mind to try it out. Though he knew it would take him months to finish, at the least. His laser sword made short work of the trees he had carefully chosen from around the island, but dragging each one to the secluded site near the beach that was his “workshop” would take weeks. If nothing else, it was good exercise, and it would give him still more to do with all the time in the world.

Just another day in Paradise…