This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2011-10-23 — sourcemeta

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A new beginning


If you are reading this, you are one of the many who have watched and enjoyed the television series ‘Ocean Girl’. Although inevitable, following the show’s departure after the forth season, I always had some ideas on where the show might go.

One of the things that I have tried very hard to do was to preserve the original intent of the series while at the same time adding something new. There have been other good ‘fan-fics’ written, but I feel many exceed the boundaries of what could have actually happened in the series. There is nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to write something that people could say, “I could see this happening on the show.” That was one of my driving instincts.

Of course the other aspect I had to keep in mind was that the series was designed and written for a young audience, and I didn’t want to turn it into an adult-level story. I felt if I did that, it would be taking away part of what made the show enjoyable.

To a limited extent a person should be familiar with the series up to this point in order to understand the story as it develops.

All in all, I hope you enjoy the story. It may not be much in terms of the 78 episodes that were written, but if this can add 4-5 virtual episodes onto that, then I’m happy. Lastly, thanks to Tom for proofreading this story.

If you have any comments, feel free to contact me at



The chosen one

Five years ago, Neri’s life changed in a way she never dreamed. She had been living on this island for over a decade, yet never came in contact with any people. Ever since her father died she lived alone, and her only companion was a whale with whom she learned to communicate. In the language of the Ocean Planet a whale is called a ‘jali’, and she would come to know her whale friend by the name ‘Charley’.

Things changed the day she met Jason. She remembered how she screamed “NO!” to him when she thought he was about to hurt Charley. Now nearly 5 years later, he had stood at her side as she was crowned Princess of the Ocean Planet.

A lot had happened in between. She had found her sister Mera, collected the pieces of a device called ‘synchronium’ to save the oceans of the Opal Planet, and helped prevent a war from starting between the two worlds. The most serious of all was the time when she nearly died in the hands of captors that had taken her prisoner.

She made many friends over the years, but she also encountered much danger as well. Now she hopes things will change for the better.

A new beginning

Neri was walking lazily through the rainforest; then she stopped to ponder her actions. It was only a short time ago that she was ready to die, having accepted her fate. Now everything had changed.

She used to worry all the time until things had calmed, and she was happy. It had been so long since she felt happy that she almost didn’t remember what it was like.

She had a mother, a real mother, who was alive! As much as she cared for Jason & Brett’s mother, it still was not the same as having a mother of her very own. She smiled and continued to walk towards her nest on the island, the place that she called ‘home’.

Although she had been crowned ‘Princess and Heiress Apparent’ by her mother, Neri didn’t like to be seen as being more important than others. So only after much contention did she keep her place on the island, at least for the time being. Ilona, who originally was recruited to spy on the kids at ORCA, was now living with Neri on the island.

It was decided that since Ilona had grown close to the people of the Opal Planet she could stay and act as a liaison of sorts. Now the people of the Ocean Planet would be more willing to trust Neri because there was someone from outside the Royal Family there too. The same happened on the Ocean Planet, with Mera being at her mother’s side and Shesheba as a liaison.

It would take time to heal the wounds of hatred amongst the people of the Ocean Planet, and this would be a gesture of goodwill in that regard. As Neri had discussed with her Mother, she would need to keep a low profile until the time was right to reach out to the people of the Opal Planet. Now was not the time, as everyone needed time to heal their wounds and readjust to things as they were.

Mera was due to meet her mother, Queen Shalamorn, in the new pyramid that had just finished being constructed. This was a defining moment on the Ocean Planet, a time when they could attempt to start repairing the seeds of distrust amongst their people.

Shesheba and Mera were now working side by side, speaking to all citizens of the Ocean Planet, trying to show them why they had united. After visiting over 6 provinces the pair had become quite close friends, something that seemed to reflect in their dealings with the public.

At the grand opening of the new pyramid, there was hope that friendship could cement the new bond of their people.

Queen Shalamorn approached the podium and began her speech, “People of the Ocean Planet. We stand here today to mark the opening of the great pyramid you see behind me. From the dawn of the Ancient Ones, the torch has been passed from generation to generation to embrace the values we hold dear.”

Gesturing towards the pyramid she continued, “To celebrate our new found peace, we have decided to name this new pyramid ‘Unity’. May the spirit in which it is named help to further foster goodwill amongst all citizens of our proud nation.”

The crowd applauded as Queen Shalamorn turned to Mera and smiled.

Reaching her place on the island, Neri began to think about her feelings toward Jason of late. He was always there for her when she was in need. Her thoughts were interrupted seeing Ilona waving as she arrived.

“You hungry?” asked Neri.

“Not right now thanks,” replied Ilona, “maybe later.”

Ilona was still adjusting to her place on the island, but she seemed to like it better than all the fighting on the Ocean Planet. Even though the fighting had stopped, she still remembered much of the turmoil that enveloped her home and she hoped that being on the Opal Planet would give her a chance to relax for a change.

“Could you braid my hair please?” Ilona asked of Neri, “I think it’s dry now.”

“Of course,” Neri replied with a smile as she moved behind Ilona. “Your hair is so long and beautiful, has it always been this way?”

“Yes,” replied Ilona, “ever since I was little I remember it this way. It can be difficult to manage at times, but I like it. It’s so nice to bathe in clean water again. With the red virus we were all using the water inland, and it became polluted very fast.”

“In a way I glad I not go home,” said Neri as she continued to braid, “I think I would be sad at state of Ocean Planet. Although I live here long time, Ocean Planet still my home, and I hope to return one day when time is right.”

The ANT boat skipped across the water as the sun beamed down from the clear blue skies above. Aboard the boat Jason and Brett were receiving a transmission.

“You can’t be serious?!” Brett exclaimed, “There must be some mistake…”

Jason stood beside Brett as they stared at the image of Winston on the screen.

“The structural damage is far too severe I’m afraid. That ORCA facility will have to be destroyed,” remarked Winston in a sullen tone. “In the meanwhile they have set aside space for you on the mainland. Your mother will meet you at the docks in 1 hour.”

The display flickered and the connection was terminated. Jason turned to Brett and shook his head, before turning his attention back to the controls of the ANT boat as it raced through the water. There was a sense of loss in the air, after they heard the news about ORCA.

“I don’t get it Jase,” said Brett, “It’s not like they blew the place up or anything.”

“I know,” Jason said without turning, “but you heard the reports, over half of ORCA is flooded.”

“What about H.E.L.E.N.?” Brett continued, “What’s going to happen to her?”

“I don’t know,” replied Jason as he stared blankly ahead.

Brett and Jason had remained silent for the rest of the trip, their faces lacking any emotion. As they approached the docks the boat’s controls began to beep, indicating their approach. Jason maneuvered the boat into position, and following a confirmation beep, the boat’s speed slowed. Meanwhile Brett was busy looking along the docks for his mother.

“Over there…” said Brett as he pointed her out for Jason, “Slip 17.”

With some final maneuvering, Jason piloted the boat to the slip and guided it into place. Without prompting, Brett took a mooring line and tossed it to his mother.

“Hey Mom,” said Jason, “what’s this about ORCA?”

“We’ll talk about it inside,” she replied in a discouraged voice.

Walking into their temporary home Jason and Brett dropped their bags and flopped onto the nearest couch, as their mother moved towards the kitchen. Winston was seated in a chair across from them, and he acknowledged their arrival with his usual cheery “Hello!”

“Are either of you hungry?” asked Dianne of the boys as she walked into the kitchen. “How about some lunch?”

“Nah, I’m not hungry right now, what about you Jase?” Brett asked.

“No thanks Mom, I’m not hungry either.” Jason replied.

“I’m sorry guys, but there’s nothing I can do about ORCA.” Dianne announced as she looked at the boys, “It’s out of my hands.”

“It’s not fair,” Jason responded angrily, “if it wasn’t for Malakat & Shesheba, we wouldn’t have had this problem in the first place. Why should we be the ones to suffer?”

“You’re right Jason, it’s not fair, but we have to accept it.” answered Dianne, “You remember the earthquakes we had after UBRI did their blasting, well that only made this damage worse. Right now the salvage teams are stripping ORCA of whatever they can before it’s completely flooded.” In an effort to change the subject, she then asked “So what’s happening with Neri?”

“She’s back on the island now,” answered Jason, “and after what P.R.A.X.I.S. went through, they are denying they know anything about her. They’ve been warned by Queen Shalamorn that if they even go near Neri, they’ll be in for some major strife.”

Winston spoke up “Well right now they have the unenviable task of explaining the many UFO sightings and atmospheric disturbances that have been occurring of late. I don’t expect we’ll be hearing from them anytime soon.”

“Yeah, can you imagine if the world found out that people from the Ocean Planet were responsible for the recent disasters?” said Jason as he continued “Even though it was Malakat’s fault, it would be curtains for Neri, Mera and anyone else from there.”

“I don’t get it though,” Brett added, “why would P.R.A.X.I.S. go to the trouble of denying it?” he asked of his mother.

“Well it seems that it wouldn’t be in their best interest to admit to the world that the ‘mighty P.R.A.X.I.S. organization’ was unable to do anything to stop the crisis,” Dianne answered, “In the eyes of the public they’d have looked like complete failures. As much as I don’t like to see people deceived, it really was necessary in this case to prevent panic from starting. We’re at the beginning of a new age,” Dianne continued, “where we can build a new relationship with the people of the Ocean Planet, a peaceful one.”

Winston interjected, “Let’s not forget that the President of the Global Union has issued a direct order to P.R.A.X.I.S. that they are not to interfere with Neri or the people of the Ocean Planet without direct orders from her office. That should keep them in check for the time being.”

“Well let’s hope that it’s enough,” Jason added. “I’m really looking forward to some peace and quiet for a change”

“There is an old saying,” Winston began “‘He who cages the tiger, may walk the forest free’.”


The next morning Dianne announced to the boys “I just got word from your father, we’ve been re-assigned to the ORCA ‘NOREO’ facility.”

“We’ve been assigned to where?” asked Brett in a worried tone.

“NOREO,” his mother repeated, “Northeastern Oceanic Research & Educational Outpost. It’s a bit bigger than the old ORCA was, and this one has some above water sections too. It seems they need a commander, and I’m it. It’s located on the other side of the reef and is built into a small island. I should mention that it is only a little farther to get to Neri’s island, so don’t worry.”

“Well that’s a relief,” Jason added “for a second there I thought we were being sent to no-mans land. So why is it part of an island?”

“For stability,” his mother responded, “since we will be on the other side of the reef, we don’t get the natural protection from the currents that the reef provided. I would expect that this facility won’t be as busy as the other one in some ways, but I think you’ll like it nevertheless. Since they have an old computer system, they are upgrading the system with our H.E.L.E.N. 6000 computer.”

“H.E.L.E.N.!?” exclaimed Brett, “you mean they saved her?”

“Yes they did as a matter of fact. After some insisting on my part, they were able to make a successful salvage attempt before the old station was destroyed.” said Diane with a smile. “She’ll be fully operational by the end of the week.”

“When do we move in?” asked Jason, “Soon I hope.”

“Well I have to wait for the official orders to come down the pipes, but that shouldn’t take more than a couple of days.” Dianne replied, “So we should be able to move in on the weekend. If you enter ‘NOREO’ on the console system, you should be able to get some basic data on the station.”

Jason decided to take a look at the station plans. Activating the console, he entered the key word NOREO, and was greeted with the station layout. It was definitely different from the old one. It reminded him a bit of a tilted Christmas tree, with only a few modules near the top and more modules on each level as you went down.

The weekend fast approached. Dianne, Jason and Brett were already packed and on the boat headed to NOREO. Winston had met them at the dock, and the four of them were chatting casually as the boat continued toward their destination.

Brett spoke up, “So Mom, are you planning on doing more whale research at this place?”

“Of course,” Dianne replied, “in fact Winston will be in charge of the research from this point on. I’ll still be involved, but I’ll have a lot to do in the beginning to get organized on NOREO.”

Winston interjected, “In the meanwhile, I’ll be continuing our work on the Whale speech dictionary. It’s unfortunate much of our recent work was lost. I’ll have to use backups that are months old. Perhaps we can once again enlist the help of Neri.”

Time passed while they neared their new home. This site had its own permanent docks and the ANT boat was already programmed on docking procedure. The boat gradually slowed as large doors opened in the south cliff of the island. A dock was just visible at the end of a moderately lit tunnel behind the doors.

“Hey Mom, why do they have the dock inside?” Brett asked.

“During the typhoon season the boats will be protected,” Diane replied, “also the waters can be rough out here at times, so it’s better the boats are parked out of harms way.”

Nearing the dock Jason spotted a helicopter and said, “How did that get in here?”

“Well Jason,” Dianne began, “although we have an external helipad, we keep this helicopter on a mobile launch pad in case we need it. Again, it’s the only way we could station a helicopter here and have it safe from the storms. If you look to your left you’ll see the slips.”

As they looked to the left the ANT boat swung in and parked itself in the slip designated for it. Brett jumped off and grabbed a tie line, while Jason waited until the boat was secure before disengaging the auto-pilot.

“You boys ready for the tour?” Dianne asked.

“Yeah!” Brett exclaimed, as they grabbed their bags and headed for the lift.

Stepping out of the lift Jason was thinking about his first time on the old ORCA station. He remembered loathing the entire experience, and now here he was voluntarily moving onto a new one.

“Welcome to the ORCA NOREO facility,” the computer console announced, “will all new residents please proceed to the berth allocation terminal.”

“HELEN!” Jason exclaimed, “you’re here!”

“Of course I’m here,” H.E.L.E.N. replied in a neutral manner, “where did you expect me to be?”

The group chuckled at H.E.L.E.N.’s unintentional humor. Brett asked, “So how are you HELEN? You gave us quite the scare on ORCA; I thought we were going to lose you.”

“Thank you for your concern Brett,” H.E.L.E.N. responded, “I can assure you that all of my systems are operating within established parameters. You will find your allocated quarters on GAMMA level, module 3, cabins 9 through 11.”

The display flicked briefly, and highlighted on a group of three cabins.

“Hey, you mean we each get our own cabin this time?!” exclaimed Brett

“Yes,” Dianne replied, “This station is large enough that you can each have your own cabin, although we will share a common living area. Remember, you’re old enough to keep your own cabins clean, I won’t be picking up after you.”

“Yes Mom,” Jason and Brett replied in unison.

As Winston used the terminal to find out his cabin assignment, the group grabbed their bags and trekked to their cabins.

Having settled in, Dianne called out to the boys, “So do you guys want a tour?”

At that moment the door chime rang, and Dianne answered the door. “Hi Winston, I was just going to give the guys a tour of the station, did you want to join us?”

“Thank you” Winston replied, “that would be most gracious of you.”

“Jason, Brett,” Dianne called out again, “did you want to see the station?”

“Sorry Mom,” Jason replied as he came out of his cabin into the main living area, “I was just looking around the quarters; it’s so much larger than the last one. Brett? You coming?”

Brett was busy gawking at all the different things in his room when Jason’s voice caught his attention. “Yeah, I’m coming now,” Brett replied as he moved into the main living area.

“Alright then,” Dianne announced, “let’s be off.” The group followed her into the corridor. She halted them after a few steps at a door with the words ‘emergency escape hatch’ on it.

“Guys, this is where…” Dianne stopped speaking and looked around, then continued in a hushed voice, “… Neri will be able to enter NOREO. It’s very close to our cabin, and she won’t need to change into a uniform. H.E.L.E.N. has been instructed to disable the sensors here when Neri approaches, and she’ll assist Neri to make sure she isn’t seen in the passageway.”

“That’s great Mom,” Jason piped in response to the news, “I’m sure Neri will feel a little more at ease when she visits. It was a worry when she had to come from another deck. How did you swing it? I thought emergency access points were one way only?”

“Well,” Dianne began, “I convinced them that should there ever be an emergency where they need to get in to NOREO that there should be an emergency access point on each deck. It just so happens that I suggested this would be the best spot for one,” she concluded with a grin.

“Anyway, let’s get on with the tour. I thought we would start at the bottom,” Dianne continued, “and work our way to the bridge. Any objections?”

Entering the lift Dianne spoke aloud, “Omega deck.” The doors closed and it started moving downwards. In a few moments the lift stopped and the doors opened again. As she stepped out Dianne announced, “Omega level contains all the plants. Engineering, waste processing, environmental controls and H.E.L.E.N.’s computer core are all located on this deck.”

The group walked behind Dianne until they came to a room. As they entered Dianne continued to speak. “In here we have the mini-sub launch bay. It’s similar to the mini-fin, except this vessel is larger and holds up to four people.” She gestured to the wall, adding, “It also has the benefit of not requiring us to squeeze in through a tiny hatch.”

Winston moved over to a console and pushed a button. At that moment a panel on the wall slid open and the group was able to see the sub which was docked to the facility.

“Hey, cool!” Brett responded.

“Can we give it a test drive?” Jason asked of his mother.

“I’m sorry Jason,” Dianne responded, “but we don’t have the time right now. Maybe later OK? In the adjoining room is the deep water diving gear and there is an access hatch should you need to get in or out. Remember to tell Neri that she really shouldn’t use this access point since we have one near our cabin.”

“OK Mom,” Jason replied.

“Alright, Lima deck is all research labs, and Gamma deck is strictly residential & classrooms, so we’ll skip those for now and head to Delta level.”

Once the lift doors opened on Delta deck, they walked down the corridor and into the galley. Brett headed for the food dispenser, while Jason wandered around.

“This is a state of the art food dispensing system,” Dianne announced, “installed just this year. Although you may still not like the choices of healthy food, there won’t be any food temperature problems like we had on ORCA. On the outer ring of this deck are most of our storage facilities.”

Dianne gestured to the group, and they headed back to the lift on their way to Beta deck. When they arrived, Dianne again began to explain the purpose of the deck as they walked around. “This is the first deck below the waterline and it contains the primary command center. The bridge is through here, but we can take a look if we head this way.”

As they rounded the bend, they could see inside the bridge though clear glass panels that were installed. It looked quite elaborate and Jason was looking forward to his first duty shift.

Jason’s thoughts were interrupted as his mother began to speak. “There are also a few more labs on this deck, and it’s where Winston will have his lab. My office is on this level, and you can also access the boats though here.” She pointed to a passageway on their right.

“OK, last stop is Alpha deck,” Dianne said as they used the lift. “On this deck we have our secondary command center, which will be used to co-ordinate above sea activities and act as a back up to the primary command center should it ever become damaged.”

“Are both command centers manned at all hours?” Jason asked.

“No,” his mother responded, “The Alpha level command center is only used during daylight hours; at night the Beta level command center is the only one operating. We have a helipad on top of Alpha deck, and the deck has a nice view of the island and ocean from all areas. You’ll find most of the recreation facilities here, and there is also limited access to the island.”

“Wow,” Brett exclaimed as he looked around a recreation room, “This place is huge!”

“Well that’s about it for the tour,” Dianne announced, “what do you think Jason?”

“It’s great Mom,” Jason replied, “it will take a little getting used to I bet, but I like the idea of having a deck above water for a change.”

“Yes,” Dianne said as she nodded her head in agreement, “but remember, during bad storms this deck will be off limits. This part of the Ocean is known to get pretty bad typhoons, so we’ll have to be cautious during the rainy season. In any case, I have to report in, so why don’t you have a look around.”

Trouble on the water

“Let’s go Amy, we’re going to be late!” Amy’s mother shouted up the stairs.

“I’m coming!” the 12 year old girl sang in reply.

She had been looking forward to this trip for a while, since she had never been on a big boat before. Her father had been invited by one of his clients, and was told to bring his family along for a Sunday cruise. It was to celebrate a business deal her father had just made. Amy quickly slipped her black ‘Mary Janes’ on her feet and headed downstairs.

“You look very pretty Amy,” her father remarked.

Amy smiled in response, “Thanks Daddy.”

Linda walked into the room while clipping on her earrings, and announced, “OK, I’m ready Frank.”

“Alright then, everyone into the car” Frank announced as the three of them piled into the car.

As they arrived at the dock, Frank announced “There she is,” as he gestured to the large boat that bobbed quietly before them.

“Wow!” Amy exclaimed, “It’s so BIG! Is that the boat we are riding on?”

“Yes Amy,” her mother replied, “that’s the boat we’ll be riding on. Remember, be on your best behavior. Daddy’s boss will be there and we want to make sure we don’t do anything to embarrass Daddy, ok?”

“I promise, I’ll be good.” Amy answered. She certainly didn’t want to get into any trouble, so she just tried to keep to herself.

She was disappointed that there were no other children aboard the boat, and as they left the dock she began to wonder what she would do to pass the time. As she walked along the deck watching the scenery, the boat powered away and out to sea.

Amy was beginning to get bored. She thought it would be more exciting but all they were doing was boating along the coast. The shoreline looked far away, although they passed close to many small islands.

Amy started to play a little game to pass the time. She found out her new shoes would slide pretty easily on the deck, so she would go to the edge of the cabin and then run and slide to the railing. She was having a ball, and giggled as she slid time and time again.

While she was sliding, things took a turn for the worse when all of a sudden the boat heaved when making a small turn. This caused Amy to lose her balance and she fell to the deck, still sliding towards the edge of the boat.

With nothing to stop her, she realized that she was going to go over the edge. In shock, she tried to scream, but nothing came out. By this point it was too late and she plummeted over the side of the boat and into the cold water below.

Amy began to panic as her black velvet dress was washed into her face by the impact into the water. Pushing the dress away, she continued to sink into the water. She could feel the water soaking her white tights; as the colour changed from white to dull gray a hint of pink skin could be seen showing through. The tights now clung to her legs like a second skin, conducting the frigid temperature of the water directly to her legs. Her shoes felt like dead weights as she struggled to reach the surface.

She did know how to swim, however, a fact she didn’t have time to be thankful for as she broke the surface of the water and gasped for air. Since she had been at the stern, she watched in horror as the boat was steadily moving away. Screaming for the first time, she yelled at the top of her lungs in the hopes someone would hear her cries for help.

Unfortunately with the loud rumblings of the engines and the noise of the splashing waves, her cries were unanswered. She continued to scream as the boat moved further away, until she realized that no one was coming for her.

Amy began to tire as the weight of her clothes and shoes caused her to expend extra effort to stay afloat. Thinking about it, she decided to kick off her shoes, and using the heel of her foot she pushed the shoes off her feet. The black ‘Mary Janes’ quickly sank away, never to be seen by a human again.

As one of the shoes continued to sink, it passed a whale that happened to be swimming below….

Neri was enjoying a swim in her lagoon when she heard a voice.

Should not be here, does not belong.

Neri heard Charley’s voice, and stopped what she was doing. “What does not belong?” she communicated to the large whale.

In danger, does not belong here, come.

Neri didn’t hesitate as she sprang into action, swimming to the location that Charley spoke of.

Amy was beginning to tire. She didn’t know how long she could hold on. She hadn’t thought of what she was going to do. The boat was but a speck in the distance, and she was treading water with nowhere to go.

At that moment she felt something swimming nearby. She thought it might be a shark and was ready to scream when a strange girl surfaced from under the water.

Neri looked at the young girl as she bobbed in the water, and then looked around to see how she could have gotten here. Although she saw a boat in the distance, it was much too far for this young girl to swim there. Moving closer to the girl, Neri examined her to see if she was OK.

Amy didn’t know what to think. ‘Where did this girl come from?’ ‘How did she get here?’ Her thoughts were interrupted when this strange girl began to speak to her.

“Hello,” Neri said.

“Hello,” Amy replied.

“This not safe place to swim,” Neri began, “why you alone?”

“I fell off a boat, and now they’re gone. I don’t know what to do!” Amy responded as she began to weep.

“Shhh,” Neri said as she tried to calm the young girl, “I can help, but you must do as I say.”

“OK,” Amy replied while wiping away her tears.

Neri swam up to the young girl and motioned for Amy climb on her back. Amy didn’t quite understand what a piggyback ride was going to do to help, but she complied anyway. Wrapping her legs around Neri’s midsection, she then held on with her hands.

“You know how hold breath, yes?” Neri asked.

“Yes.” Amy replied.

“OK, when I say,” Neri began, “take big breath and hold. Then we go under water. When you out of air, tap my arm and we go up. Now!”

Amy took a big breath, and in a moment they were underwater, moving quite quickly. She held her breath for a while, and when she was nearly out of breath she tapped the strange girl’s arm. They surfaced and Amy took another breath, then the process was repeated often as they covered a great distance.

Soon they were on the shore of an island, and Amy fell off Neri’s back and lay exhausted on the sand.

Frank and his wife were enjoying the company of his boss, when Linda turned to him and said, “I’m going to check on Amy, I’ll be right back.” Frank nodded as Linda rose to head above deck.

Linda put down her drink and moved to the stairwell, carefully climbing to the deck above. Calling out, “Amy,” Linda waited for her daughter’s response. Hearing nothing she moved over to the smaller cabin where she left Amy. Looking around the cabin she saw some of the games untouched, but her daughter was nowhere to be found.

Starting to worry, she went back up on deck and called for Amy again. Moving to the bridge area she spoke to the captain. “Excuse me, have you seen my daughter?”

The captain responded, “The last time I saw your daughter was on the stern, when I was back there about 20 minutes ago. Is she not there now?”

“No,” Linda responded anxiously, “I can’t find her anywhere!”

“OK, calm down ma’am,” the captain replied, “don’t worry, we’ll find her.” The captain took his microphone and paged someone below deck. Shutting down the engines he gestured to the woman to step back out onto deck.

A group of three men approached the captain, at which point the captain spoke, “OK, we’re looking for a young girl, she’s wearing a black dress and has blond hair. She can’t have gotten far, search all decks and report back ASAP.”

“Where are we?” Amy asked.

“This my island,” Neri responded, “you welcome to stay until we find how get you home.” Gesturing to the young girl, she said “Come.”

Amy followed Neri inland, and after a few minutes they arrived at a small hut. There was a small fire nearby, and Amy quickly took the opportunity to warm up. Neri helped Amy to take off her black velvet dress, which was sopping wet. While Amy stood in front of the fire in her white tights and undershirt, Neri asked her to wait as she went inside her hut.

Jason was in the galley when his watch began to beep in a special pattern. He knew this was an emergency signal from Neri so he immediately made up an excuse and rushed to his cabin. Grabbing his transceiver, he pressed a button and spoke, “Neri, it’s Jason. Is everything OK?”

Neri was happy to hear Jason’s voice, and she responded, “Jason, there is girl here, young one. I save her from Ocean, but do not know what to do with her now.”

“Where’s Ilona?” Jason asked.

“She went for swim,” Neri responded, “not know when she come back.”

“OK,” Jason replied, “you sit tight and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Back on the boat, the crew had reported in. There was no sign of the young girl anywhere on the ship. As Linda relayed the news to Frank, she broke down in tears.

“Don’t worry,” Frank said trying to reassure her, “we’ll find her.”

Jason had the boat going full power towards Neri’s Island. He considered using a helicopter, but there was nowhere for him to land there. Approaching the island, he slid the boat up onto the shore without bothering to drop anchor.

Jogging inland, he saw the young girl by the fire. He walked up to her, and looking her over said, “Hi, my name is Jason, are you alright?”

“Yes,” Amy replied, “I think so. Where am I?”

“That’s hard to explain,” Jason began, “let’s just say you’re on an island, and we need to get you back with your folks. How did you end up in the water?”

“I fell off a boat,” Amy replied, “my mom and dad are on it.”

“OK,” Jason continued, “I have a boat here, so let’s get you dressed and we’ll try and find your parents. OK?”

Back aboard the boat, Jason was loading Amy into the forward compartment. “You’ll be safe in here,” Jason said, “but put on a life vest just to be sure.”

Jason had figured that putting her inside the boat would prevent her from seeing where she was, or where she was going. As he moved the boat away from Neri’s island, Jason turned the radio to the command and control frequency and immediately heard the call alerting boats in his area to assist in a search for a lost girl. Picking up the microphone, Jason identified himself and said he had found the lost girl. He then agreed to meet at a specific location in the ocean to return the girl to her parents.

The captain of the boat heard the message from Jason, and immediately went below to let Linda and Frank know the good news. Not long afterwards, they arrived at the arranged meeting place and saw the ORCA boat approaching.

Jason pulled up alongside the larger vessel, and grabbed a line to tie off his boat temporarily. Calling Amy out of the compartment, he helped her onto the short ladder on which she climbed back aboard the larger vessel.

Once aboard both Frank and Linda quickly grabbed Amy and the three of them hugged each other tightly. Amy and Linda cried while Frank lifted his head up and turning to Jason said, “Thank you so much, you don’t know how much this means to us.”

“No worries,” Jason replied, and he cast off from the large boat and headed back to the mainland.

Dark waters

Jason was arriving out of the lift when he passed his mother, “Where have you been Jason?” she asked.

Seeing that there were other people in the corridor nearby Jason simply replied, “I’ll tell you later, OK?” and headed off to continue his duty shift.

It was late and Neri was unable to sleep. Over the past few nights she was having dreams and flashbacks to when she was a little girl and had fallen into the ocean. Although rescued by her friend Charley, the event was still traumatic for her. The only event that bothered her more was the death of her father.

Getting up, Neri decided to go for a swim in the ocean. It was too dark in her lagoon so she quietly walked to the beach and waded into the shallow water. Charley was not nearby so she swam off alone, surfacing occasionally under the light of the full moon.

Night swimming wasn’t something Neri did very often. She knew it could be dangerous if one wasn’t careful. However the water was calm and the sky was clear, so she didn’t expect any problems.

It had been a long day and Jason was glad it was over. He had received a call from the parents of that girl asking whom the ‘strange girl’ was that their daughter had spoken to. Jason made some excuse suggesting she was ‘seeing things’. He told them that he was ‘alone on an excursion’ when he heard the call come over the radio.

With everything said and done he considered the matter closed. Once back to his living quarters he saw everyone was already in bed, so he figured he would hit the sack as well.

A figure in the distance caught Neri’s eye… It was Charley! She tried communicating with him, but he didn’t answer, so she thought he might be sleeping. Swimming up to him she swung around in front of the large mammal. All of a sudden the whale thrashed and Neri’s body was struck by the edge of its right flipper!

The impact knocked Neri senseless for a moment. She floated away from the large whale, which she now knew was not Charley at all. It was foolish of her to swim up to this strange whale, she should have known better. It was too late for regrets now. After pulling her sluggish body to the surface, Neri noticed that she had a laceration on her upper right arm.

Her chest hurt too much for her to swim and she was quite a ways from her island. Since the communicator she could use to contact Jason was also on the island, her options were very limited. Although she had tried contacting Charley already, she decided to give it one more try. With all the effort she could muster she sent out a telepathic cry for help.

Swimming in one of his favourite feeding grounds, Charley was busy eating when he thought he heard something. Pausing for a few moments, he waited to see if he would hear it again.

Charley my friend… Help me… Please!

It was Neri, and she was in trouble! Swinging his massive body around he set out in the direction of her call. Although he could swim quickly, he was unsure of how long he could sustain this speed. As Charley continued towards Neri he was unaware that he was going faster than any humpback whale was ever recorded swimming.

Nearing a speed of 20 knots the large whale ripped through the water. Once close enough, Charley began to communicate that he was on his way.

For a few moments, there was nothing. Then Neri received a very short and faint response…

I am coming.

It was Charley; he had received her message and was on the way! As time passed, she continued to float in the water, awaiting his arrival. About 20 minutes later she sensed he was near and called out to him again. Speaking aloud as she communicated with him, she explained her predicament. “Charley, I am hurt, cannot swim.”

I will help, stay still.

Coming up from below, Charley moved his enormous body so he could surface with Neri on top of him. As his dorsal fin cleared the water’s surface he exhaled through his blow hole and took in fresh air while working out what to do.

Neri relaxed as they surfaced and then took a look around. Although it was still dark she could tell she was far from her island.

Go to metal place?

‘Metal place?’ Neri thought as she wondered what he meant. “Oh yes,” Neri said, “NOREO not far from here. If you take me, I get help from mother.”

Cannot go quickly, must stay above water

Charley was referring to the fact that he would not be able to swim underwater with her on his back since she would likely not be able to hold on. “That’s OK,” Neri continued, “is better we go slow anyway.”


Jason opened his eyes and sat up in bed. He could have sworn he heard something.


There was no mistaking it this time; it was definitely something hitting the outer hull of the station. Getting out of bed, he moved to the common area. Jason looked out the only window in the room and was shocked at what he saw. There was Charley, swinging around to make another pass at ramming the station.

Moving closer to the window, Jason got a better look outside. Although it was dark, he could see something floating near the emergency escape hatch.

“What’s all the noise Jase?” Brett inquired as he entered the room.

“It’s Charley, there must be something wrong.” Jason replied. At that moment, he saw her. Neri was in the water near the hatch, hardly moving. He could see the gash on her arm. “OH CRIKEY!” Jason shouted, “Go get mom, NOW!”

Brett ran to his mother’s room as Jason ran into the hall. He was still in his pajamas when he opened the inner hatch. Entering the chamber he sealed the hatch behind him. Grabbing an emergency breather off the wall, he hit the button that would flood the chamber with water. Once submerged he opened the outer hatch and swam to Neri who was not far away. Gently moving her back into the chamber, he closed the outer hatch and hit the button to empty the water. Right after hitting it, he put his arms under Neri so he could carry her once the water was gone.

Brett and Dianne were waiting in the hall as they watched the lights on the control indicate the pressurizing of the small chamber. As soon as the lights both changed to green, Dianne opened the hatch and saw Jason with Neri in his arms. She was bleeding from a cut in her arm and seemed weak.

Jason didn’t pause as he rushed her into the cabin, going straight for his mother’s room.

“What happened?!” Dianne asked, her voice filled with concern.

“I don’t know,” Jason replied abruptly, “I just found her outside.”

Brett ran into the room announcing “Here’s the med-kit Mom.”

“Thanks Brett” Dianne replied. Opening the med-kit she began to tend to Neri’s wound.

Jason was still by Neri’s side, when he asked with concern, “Neri, what happened?”

“Was out for swim,” Neri began, “thought was Charley, but was not. He scared and bump into me.”

Finished dressing her wound, Dianne begin pressing her hands along Neri’s ribs, “Does this hurt?” Dianne asked, “How about this?”

“Ow! Yes,” Neri yelped.

“What is it Mom?” Jason asked.

“It looks like it’s only a bruised rib,” Dianne replied, “If it was broken she would be in a lot more pain. Neri, tell Charley you’ll be sleeping here tonight. Brett, use the communicator and let Ilona know that Neri will be here overnight. Jason, why don’t you get Neri some water. You just rest Neri, you’ll be fine.”

“Thank you mother,” Neri responded with a smile, “I always know you will look after me.”

The next morning Jason was walking into the living quarters when he saw his mother come out of the room were Neri was staying. “How is she?” he asked.

“She’s asleep right now,” Dianne replied, “but I have some things to take care of, so I trust you will look after her in the meanwhile. Let her sleep as long as she wants. When she wakes up, see how she feels. If she is still in a lot of pain we’ll have to deal with it then.”

“OK Mom,” Jason replied, “I’m not on the duty roster anyway, so it should be no problem.”

Around 11 in the morning Neri wandered out of his mother’s cabin and into the common area. Jason was staring out the window when he saw her in the corner of his eye, and he immediately asked “Neri, are you OK? How are you feeling?”

“I feel better,” she said with a small smile, “Not hurt so much like last night. I sleep long time though.”

“There’s some fruit over here if you like,” Jason offered.

Neri took a piece and fruit and sat on the couch, pulling her legs up under her.

“We let Ilona know you were here so she wouldn’t worry,” Jason continued, "What were you doing out swimming at that time of night anyway?

“Is hard to say,” Neri replied, “could not sleep, was thinking about that young girl who fell in water, reminded me of when I fall in water as little girl.”

“You really shouldn’t be swimming alone at night Neri, it’s too dangerous.” Jason responded with concern.

“I know,” she replied, “but is not often. Next time I go with Charley, and make sure he answer.”

Dianne was in her office when Jason buzzed her on the intercom. “Mom? Are you alone?” he asked.

“Yes Jason, what is it?” she replied.

“Neri is leaving now, she’s feeling better,” Jason announced, “She’s still a little bit sore, but I’m going to give her a ride back by boat to save her the swim.”

“Good idea Jason,” his mother replied, “just make sure Ilona is there when you leave in case Neri needs anything.”

“Will do Mom.” Jason said as he completed his transmission and shut off the intercom. “OK Neri, you head out the emergency hatch and meet me at the surface, I’ll be there shortly.”

Jason looked around as he piloted the boat out of the hangar. Seeing no one around, he motioned to Neri who was bobbing in the water. She quickly climbed aboard and the pair set off to her island.

Jason’s special request

With every passing day, Jason was more and more convinced that he needed to do something. Something very special, and something that would change his life forever.

Although his mom knew he was up to something, he hadn’t told anyone of his plans. It’s not that he was embarrassed, but he didn’t want to feel like an idiot if it didn’t work out.

He went ahead and made plans to see Neri on the island, picking a nice sunny day to do so. The water was calm as the boat sliced across. Jason was staring out ahead, not really looking at anything, but just thinking of what he wanted to say to Neri. He had thought about it a hundred times already, but he couldn’t help it.

The controls on the ANT boat beeped as he approached shallow water, signaling him to take over. He slid the boat onto the sandy beach, leaving room to back out when he left. Slipping over the stern, he jumped into the shallow water and walked onto the beach

Taking the usual path from Charley’s Cove, as they had come to call it, he walked inland towards Neri’s place on the island. His heart was beating faster as he approached the clearing, and he started to feel a little queasy. Moving to the stream of fresh water, he grabbed a handful and gave himself a splash in the face.

Hearing the noise, Neri called out “Jason, is that you?”

“Yeah Neri, I’m just getting a drink.” said Jason as he quickly wiped the water from his face.

“Is good to see you” said Neri as she gave Jason a gentle hug.

“It’s good to see you too Neri. How are you feeling?” Jason asked.

“Much better now. I sleep so long today that I miss my swim with Charley, but he understands,” then taking him by the hand she smiled and said “Come, eat.”

As Neri pulled Jason along toward the camp, he spoke up, “So how’s Ilona settling in? Must be a lot different from what she’s used to.”

Neri responded, “She seem to like it here. Back when she was on Ocean Planet, there was much conflict, people all angry. Here is quiet, clean water, and jalis swim in the ocean.”

Approaching camp, Neri released Jason’s hand and gestured for him to sit by the fire. She gathered some food from the hut and returned, sitting down beside him saying “Ilona is gone for swim now, she be back later. So what bring you to island today?”

“We need to talk Neri,” Jason began, “there are some things I need to tell you, and I don’t know where to start.”

“Perhaps you start at beginning,” Neri said, pointing out the obvious.

Jason smiled, “Yeah, I guess the beginning is a good place to start. Neri, do you remember when we first met?”

“Of course,” Neri replied, “it was time you were on boat following Charley.”

“Well, ever since I saw you that first time, I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind.” Jason continued, “I thought that you were just another girl, but I have these… feelings… I can’t explain it. When we rescued you from P.R.A.X.I.S and you died, I thought my life was over. I felt so empty inside. Then when the Great Pyramid brought you back to life it was like I was alive again. Then the other day when you were hurt, I was so worried, I just don’t know what I would do if I lost you Neri.”

As Jason spoke, Neri smiled. Inside she also felt the same way towards Jason. She never told him though, since she did not know how to say it.

“Neri,” Jason announced, “I don’t want to take that chance again. You mean more to me than just a friend, and I want us to become ‘closer’.” Taking Neri’s hand, Jason continued, “I guess what I’m saying, is that I want to know if you will marry me.”

Neri paused for a moment, and then asked, “What is marry?”

Jason felt his stomach drop! Already filled with worry, he was beginning to feel sick. Now Neri doesn’t even know what he is talking about. Part of him wanted to back out, but he decided to continue, “Well on Earth, when two people love one another they get married. Like your mother and father.”

“You mean you wish to join with me?” Neri asked.

“Well, I don’t know what they call it on the Ocean Planet,” Jason replied while squeezing Neri’s hand gently, “but as long as it means I get to spend the rest of my life with you, then yes that is what I want to do.”

“Oh Jason,” Neri responded sadly, “I don’t know how to say. I want to join with you too, but I cannot.”

“I don’t understand,” Jason replied anxiously.

“On Ocean Planet,” Neri explained, “I am considered member of Royal Family, I cannot choose to be joined unless they say is OK. You talk with Mera, she know more about this than I do.”

Although crestfallen, Jason tried not to let it show. He smiled at her and said, “OK, I’ll have a talk with Mera.”

Neri then passed Jason some food and they began to eat.

The next day Jason used a special transmitter to contact Mera on the Ocean Planet. Although a little embarrassed about needing to ask her about this, he did anyway. He explained what Neri said to him and waited for her response.

“In our language it is called the ‘Shushali’,” Mera replied, “to you, I guess you could call it a ‘test’.”

“What do you mean ‘a test’?” asked Jason.

“Since the dawn of the Ancient Ones,” she continued, “any male who wished the hand of a female from the Royal blood was required to prove himself worthy. I must warn you Jason, this test was meant for people from my planet, I do not know if you will be able to complete it.”

Jason thought to himself ‘it couldn’t be that bad’, then speaking aloud replied, “So what kind of test is it anyway?”

“We have no way to know ahead of time,” Mera said, “the Great Pyramid will decide the test based on the person who takes it.”

“What does that mean?” he asked.

“It’s hard to describe,” she replied, “basically the Great Pyramid will decide on a test that is difficult and challenging for the individual to complete. All I know is that of all the males who have taken the test, only a handful have passed in all of time.”

This last statement shocked Jason. Here he was, ready to ask for Neri’s hand in marriage, only to find that he had to do this ‘test’ first. A million thoughts raced through his mind. ‘What was the test?’ ‘Was it as hard as Mera said?’ ‘Could I pass it?’

As he continued drifting, Mera interrupted him, “Jason?”

“Yeah, sorry,” he apologized, “I was just thinking about some things. So what do I do now if I want to do the test?”

“If you are certain you are willing to go through with it,” Mera said in a serious tone, “then I will make the necessary preparations. You will need to meet us at the Great Pyramid. I will contact you when it is time.”

Jason was trying to think of how he was going to tell everyone, especially his mother. He decided it was best to wait until his father came by, since he had said he was coming over on the weekend.

Saturday had arrived and Jason’s father had just arrived at the station. Calling everyone together in their living quarters, Jason waited for his father to enter. Winston seated himself on the couch beside Brett, while Dianne took a chair to Winston’s right.

The door slid open and Paul Bates stepped through. Turning to the group he said “Hi everyone,” then turned to Jason and said, “so what’s this all about son?”

Jason moved to a position in front of the group, and began to speak, “I don’t know where to begin.” Taking a deep breath, he continued, “the reason I called you here is because I want to tell you about something that is important to me. Over the past five years we’ve all gone through a lot. I still remember the first time I saw Neri and how nobody believed me.”

Brett made a bit of a face, as he remembered the teasing he gave his brother at that time.

Jason went on to say, “Then after Neri and I became friends I began to care for her more and more. It was two years ago that Neri almost died, and it was then that I realized how important she was to me.”

“She’s important to all of us Jason” Dianne added.

“I know Mom,” Jason continued, “but in my case it’s more than that. I have been seeing more and more of Neri, and although we really haven’t ‘dated’ the way we think about it, we’ve become very close. This past week, I asked Neri to marry me.”

“Congratulations son,” Paul responded with a smile.

“Well,” Jason replied hesitantly, “there’s a bit of a hitch. Neri can’t marry me, what they call ‘be joined’, until I do some form of ‘test’ or something.”

“What sort of test?” asked Winston.

“That’s the problem,” Jason replied, “I don’t know what the test will be until I am ready to take it. Mera said they normally only allow people from the Ocean Planet to do the test, but that I could take it. She also said that very few have passed it.”

“I hope it’s not dangerous,” Dianne replied voicing her concern.

“I don’t know Mom,” Jason responded, “I won’t know until I do it. Mera said she would contact me when it is time. You are all welcome to come with me if you like.”

Everyone agreed to go, except Paul, who added “Well son, I’d love to go, but since you don’t know when it is, I likely won’t be able to get away from the office. You know how it is. I’m sure you’ll fill me in on all the details when you get back though, right?”

“Sure thing Dad,” Jason replied.


The day was here. Jason had thought it would never arrive, but it had. Now he was beginning to think he was in over his head. He walked into the living area where Winston, Brett and his mother were waiting.

“You ready Jase?” Brett asked.

Jason was deep in thought, until Winston spoke, catching his attention.

“Jason,” Winston began, “there is an old Chinese saying, ‘A handful of patience is worth a bushel of brains’.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jason asked.

“It means that if you aren’t ready to go through with this,” Winston said, “then there is no shame in waiting until you feel more comfortable.”

“He’s right Jason,” Dianne added, “remember this is supposed to be something you feel good about, so if you don’t feel comfortable about it, you can always put it off until you do.”

“Thanks guys,” Jason replied as he addressed the group, “but this is something I have to do.”

Heading down to the mini-sub, the four of them filed into the small craft, with Winston and Brett in the rear two seats, and Dianne and Jason in the front. After completing the pre-launch sequence, Jason pressed a button. The sub disengaged from NOREO and sped away.

Arriving at the Great Pyramid, Dianne, Jason, Brett and Winston exited the mini-sub and moved into the main chamber. Inside they met Neri, Mera, Queen Shalamorn and Ilona who were already waiting for them. After greeting one another, Queen Shalamorn approached Jason and spoke.

“Jason,” Queen Shalamorn began, “while I have great respect for you as an individual, I am unsure as to whether this is the right thing for you to do at this time.”

Jason paused for a moment, then asked, “Why?”

“While I have no objection to you joining with my daughter,” Queen Shalamorn began, “you need to understand that this is a one time test. If you do not pass it, you will not be permitted to join with Neri, and you will not be permitted to try the test again.”

This was something he hadn’t considered. Although he didn’t expect to fail the test, he never thought that if he DID fail it he would be banned from ever having the chance to marry Neri. That alone upped the stakes, and he knew he had to go through with this now before he lost his nerve.

As instructed, Jason approached the controls of the Great Pyramid, and placed his hands on the smaller pyramid that sat on the rectangular podium. After doing this, he said the word “Shushali.” A bright light immediately surrounded him, bathing his body and permeating his being. Jason’s body began to tingle all over, and a shiver ran down his spine. He could feel something scanning his mind, undulating in a regular rhythm.

The power of the pyramid seemed to slow and then the light surrounding Jason vanished. At that moment Queen Shalamorn said “The process is complete, you may step away.”

Jason paused for a moment, as it took a few seconds to clear his head and regain his senses. Blinking a few times, he looked around and then stepped away from the podium.

“Historically” Queen Shalamorn said with distinction, “the Shushali has been a test for the males of our species. However, there is nothing that has been set down by the Ancient Ones that says we should deny the request of an off-worlder to participate.”

Turning towards Jason, she continued, “The Great Pyramid has examined your consciousness, and has determined the test that is necessary for you to prove your worthiness. However, it has also has added something never before seen.”

Jason was really starting to worry now. It was bad enough he had to do this test, which he still didn’t know what it was. Now she is saying there is something that even THEY haven’t done before.

“Neri,” Queen Shalamorn announced, “you will be taking part in this test as well. Although your role will be different, it will still determine your fate in this matter. Of course you can decline to do this test, but it will mean that a joining will not be allowed to take place.”

Neri was somewhat shocked by what her mother had just said. She had come here to witness Jason take the test, and now she had to take a test as well. Nervous but restrained, Neri simply nodded her acceptance to Queen Shalamorn.

“Jason,” Queen Shalamorn continued, “your test will involve sacrifice. In the next room is a pool of water. You will need to remain underwater for a period of time. How long you stay underwater will determine whether you are allowed to be joined with Neri. If you do not stay under long enough, the test will be over and you will not be allowed to join with Neri.”

This test was somewhat like a good news/bad news announcement to Jason. Brought up near the ocean he was an excellent swimmer and scuba diver, but he knew there must be a catch to this.

“Neri,” Queen Shalamorn said as she again addressed her daughter, “I will explain your role in this once Jason is prepared to do the test. At that time you can decide whether you will agree to participate.”

It had been a long time since scuba classes, and Jason was not sure how long he could hold his breath. He knew he couldn’t hold it nearly as long as Neri did, but he was somewhat reassured that the test would be based on ‘the limits of his body’ and not the limits of an Ocean Planet body. At least that’s what he thought it would be.

At that moment a wall slid open and a passageway was revealed. Queen Shalamorn nodded to Ilona. Walking over to Jason, Ilona took his hand and led him to the antechamber. Jason looked back longingly at Neri as Ilona gently pulled him along.

Jason was getting nervous now, and was beginning to consider backing out. He carried on however, taking a deep breath as he entered the next portion of the pyramid.

He had never seen this portion of the pyramid before, but it looked somewhat like the area where they parked the mini sub, except there were steps into the water. The procession followed, with all witnesses filing into the room in single file. Ilona continued to lead Jason over to a pool of water, and he could now see there was a platform there. It was a clear platform, and now he could see restraints.

“Hey wait a minute,” Jason objected, “no one said anything about restraints.”

“Jason,” Queen Shalamorn responded, “I will remind you that you are free to end this at any time, and there will be no shame on your part. You should only continue because you want to do so, and not for any other reason.”

Jason paused only for a moment before he nodded his acceptance. Then turning to his right he announced “This is for you Neri,” as he looked in her eyes. He could tell she was concerned, but hopeful.

Ilona again gently tugged Jason as he walked down the steps onto the platform in the water. It sat on the water’s surface, and had a slight depression where his body would lie. The water around the platform was calm and quiet, and not a ripple could be seen. Ilona gestured to Jason to lie down, and he complied.

“First,” Queen Shalamorn announced, “we will test the release mechanism. This will assure that if you wish to end this test at any time, you may do so easily and without risk. Please lie back and place your hands and feet into the bonds.”

Jason took his time moving into position on the platform. He noted that it was somewhat comfortable considering the position he was in. The headrest was elevated about 3 inches above the rest of the platform however.

Ilona began to secure the restraints, which seemed simple to engage. One at a time starting with his hands, she used her foot and pressed down on his wrists after which the restraint clicked into place. She had needed to use her feet since the bonds were spring loaded and too difficult to engage by hand. Doing the same to secure his feet she moved up to his head.

Queen Shalamorn spoke to Jason, “It’s important that you understand how this works Jason. Although you are in bonds and will be submerged underwater, you will be able to discontinue this at any time. In a moment Ilona will push down on your head and you will hear a ‘click’. At that time the platform would normally sink underwater. Once she has engaged the mechanism, I want you to wait a moment, then lift your head up. If all is working properly, the bonds will open. Do you understand?”

Jason was listening intently, and nodded his understanding while answering “Yeah, OK.”

Ilona moved to the head of the platform, and placing her right foot on his forehead, began to press down. He felt pressure, but it certainly wasn’t unbearable. In a few moments he heard a ‘click’ behind his ears, after which Ilona removed her foot from his head and stepped away.

Jason waited a few moments and then lifted his head up. Once he had moved it up about an inch or so, there was a loud ‘snap’ and all four of the restraints sprang open. “Well that was easy enough,” Jason announced as Ilona put him back in the four restraints.

Once complete, Ilona did not engage the head piece, but instead moved away while quietly saying “Good luck.”

Queen Shalamorn then spoke aloud saying, “Is anyone not satisfied that Jason is indeed in no direct danger, and that he is free to end this at any time?” There was silence, and no one dissented. “Very well then,” she continued, “let us move on. Jason, as you may be aware the Shushali is a sacred event that dates back to the age of the Ancient Ones. You will now be put to the test so chosen by the Great Pyramid. Let no one intervene.”

The shushali begins

“Neri,” Queen Shalamorn commanded, “would you please go over and stand on the platform beside Jason.”

Moving over to where Jason was lying, Neri took a position standing near his right arm and waited for her mother to instruct her further.

“My daughter,” Queen Shalamorn continued, “As I said before, this will be a test not only for Jason but for you as well. When I give the signal, you will lower his head so it engages the device. At that time, the platform will begin to sink beneath the water. Jason’s only task is to hold his breath for as long as he is able. If it is enough, the great pyramid will remove the water from the chamber when it is time. If he is unable to hold his breath, he is free to lift his head and exit from the chamber at any time.”

Neri looked down at Jason with worry in her eyes. ‘Why they choose test like this?’ she thought to herself. ‘He is not of Ocean Planet, he cannot hold his breath that long’. Her thoughts were interrupted as her mother continued to speak.

“Should Jason end the test before its natural conclusion, he will forfeit and will not be allowed to join with you,” Queen Shalamorn said with unwavering certainty. “Neri, your part will be to stay in the chamber with Jason, and to keep your head & neck above water. You may not swim or tread water, you must be standing still when the test concludes, or else the joining will not be permitted.”

Jason was beginning to get a bit confused. He wasn’t sure about this to begin with, but how did Neri fit into this? Why would it be so hard for her stand still while he underwent this test? It just didn’t make any sense.

The Queen nodded to Neri, signaling that she should begin the test. Moving to Jason’s head, she knelt down and pressed her hand onto his forehead, pressing it downwards. As the final click was heard, the platform began to steadily sink. Using the brief moment before Jason was underwater, Neri stroked his cheek with her hand and smiled at him longingly. At that moment, water began to pour over the edges of the platform.

Jason had done his special breathing exercises right up until Neri engaged the headpiece, so his blood was richly oxygenated. The platform was sinking steadily, and he could see Neri as she stood up to avoid being covered by the rising waters.

As the water continued to rise, Neri started to concern herself. She thought that she could stand beside Jason and all would be well, but the water was quickly approaching her chest. Looking around, she didn’t know what to do, until she started to realize what it was all about.

Winston, being the prepared fellow he was, had started a timer and was watching it as the platform descended. He knew that the human limit for staying underwater without breathing was about 2 minutes, and that was in the best of conditions.

As time passed Dianne continued to worry. Although she had seen the release mechanism work, she couldn’t help but think that something might go wrong. She could only watch and wait.

“Mera,” Brett asked, “are you sure you don’t know long he has to stay under?”

“I’m sorry Brett,” Mera replied, “there is no set time. It depends on the person.”

Winston looked down at his watch and saw the 25 second mark pass.

Neri was in trouble. She was up to her shoulders in water and it was still rising. There was only one thing she could do, and she knew she had to do it. Lifting her right foot she placed it on Jason’s waist, and then stepping onto his body, she placed her left foot on his chest. She was now safe from the rising water, but she had to use Jason’s body to do it.

Jason was unsure of what Neri was doing. He couldn’t figure out why she was stepping onto his body, since it was hard to gauge how high the water was from his perspective. With the water as high as it was there was very little direct weight from Neri. However there must have been a reason for this, so he shrugged it off and tried to concentrate on staying relaxed.

The water level climbed until it reached Neri’s neck, and then it stopped. The platform was at the bottom of the chamber and Neri was just barely above water. Now it was a waiting game.

“How long?” Dianne asked as she turned to Winston.

“Coming up on the one minute mark now,” he replied, “This will certainly be a most difficult endeavour for Jason if the test does not end with dispatch.”

The pressure was starting to mount. Jason could feel that he was nearing the limit for holding his breath. He was unaware of exactly how long he had been underwater, but the seconds seemed to pass like minutes. His heart beat loudly, and he could hear the blood rushing through his ears.

Neri was beginning to worry. She knew Opal Planet people were not like them; they could not hold their breath as long. Would the test end soon?

Looking at his watch, Winston became concerned. They had passed the 1 minute and 30 second mark, and it was fast approaching 2 minutes. How long did they expect him to hold out? He didn’t want to mention the time to Dianne, as she was intensely focused with watching the chamber, and Winston knew if she were aware of the time she would only worry more.

Jason was beginning to feel tense, and he knew he was at the end of his rope. He started to exhale more air, hoping to stretch out what little oxygen he had left. He could feel Neri as she continued to stand on his chest. Her toes were clenching and releasing, so he knew she was worried too.

Winston turned to Brett with a worried look on his face as he silently showed him his watch. Brett looked at the time and stared in disbelief.

The 2 minute mark had just passed and Jason was still underwater. He wanted to scream, but he knew Jason could get out if he needed too. Couldn’t he?

Panic fell upon Jason as he examined his limited options at light speed. He could lift his head, which would release the restraints and then stand up and it would be over. He could try and hold his breath longer and risk drowning. ‘What other choices do I have?’ he thought as critical seconds ticked by.

He wanted to join with Neri. He wanted that more than anything else in the world. There was no way he could concede, there was too much riding on this. With a silent sigh he let out the last breath of air that remained in his lungs. Instinctively he could not prevent himself from trying to take a breath, and opening his mouth he let the water rush into his lungs.

At that moment he felt an eerie calm wash over him. Time seemed to slip away as he attempted to take another breath, only to draw in more water. He no longer felt the weight of Neri on his chest.

He was drowning!

Neri could tell something was wrong. She knew he needed air, but she knew that he was in control of his body. He could raise his head. That’s all he had to do. She could not deny him his chance to prove himself to her. So as much as she wanted to free him, she stood her ground, but began to weep silently.

Dianne was unaware of the time that had passed. If she knew that over two and a half minutes had elapsed she would have done something. However she was too caught up in the moment to notice that there were no longer any bubbles rising in the water.

Jason’s eyes began to close, and his vision became foggy. He was very near death when he came to the realization that he would rather die than live without Neri at his side. Conceding defeat, he allowed his eyes to close and accepted his fate as he slipped into unconsciousness.

At that moment, the water rushed out of the chamber and the restraints sprang open! “It is finished,” Queen Shalamorn announced.

Neri dropped to her knees as she straddled Jason’s lifeless body. “Jason?” she called to him, but he didn’t answer. All of a sudden, a bright light shone from the ceiling above and flooded Jason’s head and face. Neri watched with concern as Jason’s chest heaved, and she slipped off his chest and helped to roll him onto his side as he expelled the water in his lungs.

After a few moments, Jason rolled back over and looked up at Neri saying, “I thought I was dead. What happened?”

“I do not know. All I know is you pass test, you did it Jason!” Neri exclaimed as she bent down and hugged him tightly.

“Jason?” Dianne called out, “Are you alright?”

“I’ll be alright Mom,” Jason replied as he stared into Neri’s eyes.

Neri and Jason ascended from the water chamber hand in hand, making their way over to where the Queen was standing. “Jason,” Queen Shalamorn said, “it is important you understand why you were tested in this fashion. We do not enjoy testing people this way, but members of the Royal Family are sought after by those whose motives are less than honourable. By making you risk your life, you proved that you were sincere in your wish to join with Neri for the right reasons.”

Jason squeezed Neri’s hand as he looked to her and smiled.

“However, Jason,” Queen Shalamorn continued, “there was another reason for your test. As you may recall, the females of the Ocean Planet are held in high regard by the males. This is something that is not always the same on the Opal Planet. By allowing Neri to stand on your chest, you showed that you were willing to serve Neri in any way possible.”

Queen Shalamorn turned to Neri and said, “You, my daughter, had a special task. Not only did it facilitate to test Jason, but it also tested you. Many times you have faced death and in turn risked yourself to save others. This time you had to allow another person to sacrifice himself on your behalf.”

“So what happens now?” Jason asked.

“There are many preparations for the joining of someone from the Royal Family,” Queen Shalamorn announced, “but it goes without saying that a ceremony of this importance can only be carried out on the Ocean Planet. However, it will be many months before the joining will take place, and you will both have an opportunity to be involved in the planning.”

“Mera,” Neri said as she approached and took her sister’s hands in her own, “I would like you to be my ‘first one’.”

“Oh Neri,” Mera replied with pride, “I would be honoured.”

Taking a lead from Neri, Jason approached Brett and offered his hand, “So what do you say Brett? Will you be my best man?”

“Are you kidding?” Brett said while shaking his brother’s hand, “I wouldn’t miss this for the world!”

As those present in the chamber began to leave, Brett found himself walking beside Mera. Gesturing to Jason and Neri, Brett remarked “They make a good couple, don’t they?”

“I can’t think of two people more suited for one another,” Mera replied with a smile.