This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2008-04-30 — sourcemeta


Storm Child

Mera didn’t remember when she started having the dreams. One day, life was as always, and the next, every moment was filled with a strong and unsettling vision that overtook her mind and body. That night had been the scariest. She was seeing what she knew had to be the crash of her ship, but she was seeing it through someone else’s eyes, a young girl’s, or at least a girl who was young at the time. It always went something like this: The girl that Mera became lay in her bed in her cabin, dreaming of what this strange new planet would be like, as all the children aboard the ship were doing. Often, she and her friends, Neri and Achlen, tried to imagine what the Opal planet would be like. Achlen, asked her mother, and Neri asked her father. But she was different then all the other children. Her parents had been left behind. She and her little sister were coming alone. When the ship had first departed, little Leka had been too young to notice. Some people had thought that Leka would forget her parents and accept life on the Opal lanet until she returned home. Neri said that there had to be more to it, but the Elders all said that Neri wasn’t normal. She was what people called a Far-Senser and she sometimes could tell what was going to happen hours before it actually happened. Of course, they spoke of herself, too. She was well aware of the whispers of the adults, saying that her family had managed three this generation, that she would be a powerful leader of the Committee of Magic someday, that her little sister was the most powerful Asheahm in five generations, that her cousin Neri would someday be Queen and Lapis would once again be peaceful under her, as it was under her mother. They even said that Neri’s little sister Mera could grow up to be a Healer and extremely wise, though she was just a baby and too young to show signs of any extra powers just yet. She made a game out of imagining the adult Mera. Would she be tall and stately? Short and thin? Or would she just grow up looking like a baby?

It never occurred to the real Mera that she was thinking about herself at her present age until afterwards. And then even that seemed trivial. For just then, the vision got terrible.

Suddenly, the ship began to rock violently. She fell out of her bed, catching a sobbing Leka just as she had the same experience. “Sissy!” the tiny girl wailed. “Why everything go boom?!” Tears streamed down her little cheeks and her lower lip trembled.

Then it hit her. They were crashing! Panic took over. She had to get both of them to safety! Grabbing the screaming child in her arms, she ran through the maze of quaking corridors until she reached the control room. Many other passengers had the same idea, and the small room was overflowing with frantic people by the time she reached it. Scanning the room, heart beating wildly, she searched for a way for Leka at least to escape. Then she caught sight of the only way to save her sister. Several frantic mothers were handing their children over to crewmen, who in turn packed the children into small, blue life pods. Pushing her way through the panicked crowd, she tapped one of the crewmen on the back. “Please, sir, put my sister into one of those pods! She’s only 3 years old!”

“Sorry, ma’am. She’s too big.” His voice was grave.


“I can’t fit her into one of these pods! I’m sorry, really I am. I wish we could save all the children on this ship, but we can’t.” He shook his head sadly. “At least you won’t die alone.” He deftly swept another wailing baby out of his mother’s arms and sealed him into a pod.

She decided to take action. Grabbing a life pod, she stuffed her protesting sister into it and sealed it up. It wasn’t a very good fit, and if Leka could even breathe, it was a miracle. But it had to do. “Here!”

The man whistled. “She’s lucky to have you as a sister.” Then he threw the pod out the small opening next to him. Moving on to the next frantic parent, the rescuer gave her an impressed smile before resuming his work. Now that her sister was saved, she moved on to finding a way of saving herself. What was the best place to be in a rapidly crashing spacecraft? Outside, she thought, but there seemed little hope of that. Just when she was ready to crumple on the floor and wail like Leka had, she felt a large hand descend on her shoulder.

“Come. I know the way to safety. You must follow me!”

Neri’s father! Sure enough, when she looked up, there he was, like a solemn rock of protection. Neri stood beside him, looking as scared as she felt. Tears were already running down her cousin’s cheeks. Trusting him completely, she ran alongside him through masses of people, some crying, some panicking, and some standing there with noble, solemn expressions, trying to be brave. Her teacher had once told her, “A crisis makes heroes of the weakest men and cowards of the strongest.” Now she saw that saying come alive.

Finally, they reached the room that she knew as Neri and her father’s living quarters. In the middle of the floor was a small hatch that she’d seen before, but never really paid attention to until now. Neri’s father bent down and opened it.

“Jump in! Now!” Neri was so startled by the fear and harshness in his voice that she ran up to her and hugged her, sobbing.

Trying to be brave wouldn’t work anymore. She, too gave into the crying as they jumped down the hatch. Neri’s father sealed it up. The whole place was pitch-black. She held Neri’s hand so tightly that she thought it would break.

When she found her voice again, she asked, “Why did you go back for me? Where’s Mera?”

Neri’s father’s hand brushed her cheek in the dark. “Mera’s in a life capsule. I had to go get you because you’re family.”

“Daddy?” Neri asked softly.

“Yes, princess?”

“Will Mera be all right?”

She heard her uncle sigh. “I hope so, princess. I hope so. But until we know for sure, there’s only one thing we can do to take our minds off our pain.”


“We must sing. Singing will help us stay brave.” And with that, he rose his mighty baritone into a folk song that all knew, spirited, fast, and joyful.

She and Neri joined in, though her voice wavered with terror. Then the ship crashed with a horrible force like being struck by the largest wave. Pain exploded in her head as the world slowly faded away…

Mera awoke sweating that night. Someone was obviously sending her these visions, that much was for sure. But it didn’t make sense. She knew what had happened that night. Her father had put her in a capsule. She was found at sea the next morning. Meanwhile, Neri and her father lived on the island by themselves. There was no third girl. There never had been. So why was she waking up terrified every night?

She tried to work through it logically. She did have a cousin. Her name was Mayilen. But she was pretty sure that she hadn’t been on the ship. And Mera was positive that she was an only child. Still, there was always the chance that she might know whoever it was.

Swinging herself out of her bed, she tiptoed out of her chamber and into the spectacular domed hallway that connected all the royal quarters. Since Mayilen was an Asheahm, she had quarters in the palace. Asheahms were people born with a certain kind of power that, though it was not the Gift, was still highly rare and very well valued on Lapis. Some of them could see the future, some could work the elements, some could create powerful illusions, and all had the Giftlike capability to tell what was going on somewhere else.

As she made her way to her cousin’s chamber, she tried to find a few clues on her own. Neri said she remembered very little of her time on the ship, and almost nothing about the crash. Mera herself had asked her a few years ago, when she had first found out about her true identity and come to live on the island. Neri didn’t say anything about a third girl, either.

Maybe the dream was just a dream.

Mera knocked softly on her cousin’s door. “Mayilen,” she whispered, “are you awake?”

A tall figure with dark curls lustrous despite their bed-head opened the door and peered at her through half-closed blue-green eyes. “Mera? What are you doing up at this time of night?”

“That’s exactly why I came to visit you.”

Mayilen looked perplexed, but said, “Come in” all the same.

The cushions where Mayilen slept were in disarray, the sheets tossed about like a tornado had blown in. “You don’t look like you’ve had that easy a night, either,” Mera commented.

Mayilen shook her head. “I’ve… been having dreams.”

Mera gasped softly. “What about?”

“It’s… nothing. Nothing you’d be interested in, anyway.”

Mera grinned. “I have the Gift, remember? I think I’ve had more dreams than everyone in this palace. I’m an expert. Now don’t tell me I wouldn’t be interested.”

Mayilen paused to consider. “You’re sure you won’t tell anyone?”

“When someone confides in me, I don’t just blurt it out. You of all people should know that, Mayilen.”

“I was on the spaceship, Mera. The same one you were on. And I keep dreaming about the crash.”

Mera’s eyes grew as round as an owl’s. She was glad Mayilen didn’t see her expression of shock in the darkness.

“Your father saved my life, Mera. He took me to safety-”

“I know.” Mera hadn’t meant to say that. It just came out.

“How could you know?”

“I’ve been having your dreams.”

Mayilen was speechless. Then she whispered, “Mera, I’m so sorry! I completely forgot how receptive you are! I should have done something to keep them from entering your mind! You spent all those nights reliving my pain…” “And days, too.” Once again, Mera hadn’t meant to say it. She was beginning to feel embarrassed. She must have sounded so insensitive! Mayilen looked down at her feet. “I sometimes relive it during the day. It’s like a waking dream, and it seems to be getting more powerful. I don’t understand. It used to be I’d only remember once in a while. Now it’s like… every second I’m seeing the crash.”

“Do you think it means something?”

“What do you mean?”

“Whenever I get dreams, they usually happen for a reason. It’s the same way with Neri. They usually either predict something, or someone’s sending them.”

Mayilen thought that one over. “Well, it’s obviously not predicting something, because the crash already happened.”

“And we all know why it happened…”

“So that must mean that someone’s sending them. But who? I’m the only survivor of the crash, besides you, Neri, and Kal.”

At that moment, Mera suddenly remembered Mayilen shoving her sister into the life pod. “Or are you?”

Mayilen gasped. “You don’t mean…”

“Yes. It could have been your sister, what’s-her-name…”

“Leka.” Her voice had a faraway sound when she said that. “Mera, you don’t know the whole story of what happened. There was a rescue ship that came a few weeks after. When they heard ours went down, they came and picked up all the survivors they could find, including all the little kids in life pods. They knew someone was trying to harm us. When I blacked out, your father put me by the coast of the island, so that the water might regain my senses. I lay there for weeks as they tried to nurse me back to health. When the rescue ship came, they found me on the coast, still unconscious, because I stuck out so clearly. They took me with them, By the time I had come to, I was already miles away from the Opal Planet… and Leka. Neri and her father, asleep in the trees, missed the entire rescue. They woke up only to see a tiny light ascending in the sky. They never did find you. Or Leka. Or possibly others. They thought Leka had passed, Mera. They have ever since. Of course, they thought the same about you.”

“And here I am.” Mera was only half-shocked by this news. It seemed that she learned something new about her past every day now, and she was actually beginning to get used to it.

“Now that we know the truth about why the ship crashed, I still don’t know how that other one managed to resist the forcefield. Maybe it didn’t have the strength to make 2 ships in a row go down. Maybe the Rebels weren’t expecting a rescue. We’ve never found out.” Mayilen’s eyes suddenly lit up with hope. “You think there really is a chance that she’s down there?” Mera grinned. “There’s a very, very, very good chance.”

Mayilen’s hopeful expression faded. “But even if she is still alive, she could be anywhere. It’s not like we know where the pod landed.”

“Then we’ll search until we find her. I have some friends who are very good at finding people.”

Mayilen’s eyes were brimming with tears of joy. “Then all we need is permission to use a ship and a good pilot. That shouldn’t be to hard. After all, you are the princess.” She twirled around, laughing. “I honestly never believed that I’d see her again, let alone that it would be this easy!” “Yeah,” Mera replied. But she had a feeling, an instinct from somewhere deep inside her that it wouldn’t be anywhere near easy. An instinct that said, Here we go again.

Jason and Brett were sitting at a table in the middle of the crowded lunchroom on a lazy Saturday afternoon. They had gotten sodas, and were sipping and talking about various things, like life, tests, and the really cute new girl. But their main subject was their mother’s behavior. Or, at least, it was Jason’s. “Mom’s been acting like she’s trying to keep something from us,” Jason kept saying. He’d found a new way to phrase that every time he talked to Brett, and it was getting on his nerves.

“What makes you say that?” Brett asked for the hundredth time, knowing he was walking into a trap. “I don’t know. Just something about her air. Like she’s trying to keep something secret. And she’s been having those long talks with Winston.” Jason replied, uncertainly.

“What does that prove, Jase? She could be doing a research project that she wants to keep secret until it’s finished. Maybe Winston’s in on it, too. Besides, I doubt it has anything to do with us. If it did, why would she tell Winston? C’mon, Jase, I’ve said this all already. Like, 5,000 times.”

Jason looked thoughtful. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is just another research project. I’m probably reading too much into this.” He stirred his soda with his straw.

“Praise the Lord! You’ve finally decided to shut up!”

“Oh, I’m not completely convinced. I still say something’s up.”

“Hey, guys,” Cass said, walking up to their table.

“Cass, sit down,” Brett said, grinning.

Cass did so. A loud fart noise ricocheted of the walls of the cafeteria.

The whole room went silent, looking for the source of the massive eruption of flatulence.

“It was Brett. I think he had the bean special,” Cass said to the staring crowd, face completely serious. Cheers of “Way to go, Brett!” and laughter filled the room. In it, Brett’s protests that it wasn’t him were drowned out.

Cass took the whoopee cushion off her seat and handed it to Brett, smiling sweetly and folding it into a nice little square. “Next time you play a prank, here’s a tip: Don’t mess with the master. By the way, whatever happened to, ’We’re a team’? Cuz if you don’t like that arrangement, I can easily go back to pranking you relentlessly. I have no problem with that.”

“Aww, c’mon, Cass!” Brett protested. “It was just for old time’s sake!”

“So was my cover-up.” Cass smiled smugly. “Tell you what. How about we see who’s really the best, ‘for old time’s sake’. Dare war. Me and you. Loser is the one who chickens out first.”

Brett sighed. He should’ve known better than to prank Cass again. Her temper was way too quick, and if he had been thinking, he would’ve realized what he was starting. Then again, he’d gotten himself into this mess, so he’d have to accept the consequences.

Just then, Dianne walked up to the table. “Hi boys, hi Cassandra. I knew where you were sitting by the, um, noise. I need to tell you something. It’s OK if Cass hears it too. Let’s just get out of here first.” She led the boys and their friend out of the cafeteria. “The challenge still stands,” Cass said softly. Someone yelled, “Fart Boy’s in trouble!” on their way out, and Brett almost stopped to tell them it was a heck of a lot less trouble than THEY were about to be in if they didn’t shut up, but he caught a glimpse of Dianne looking at him with that famous warning expression and quickly moved on.

Once they were outside in the hall, Dianne began. “How would you feel if I told you you were about to have a new sister?”

“You’re PREGNANT?!” Brett cried.

“From WHO?!” Jason asked. As far as he could see, there was no tall, dark, handsome scientist that had swept Dianne off her feet.

“Is it someone we’d know?” asked Cass eagerly. Mentally, she was running off a list of everyone male on ORCA’s crew.

“No, I’m not pregnant. I’m adopting.”

None of them knew what to say to this, so they said nothing.

“Her name is Nellie Waitsworth and she’s 14 or so. She might take a little getting used to, and I haven’t spoken to her personally, but I’m sure you’ll get along fine. My only regret is that she wasn’t adopted sooner.”

14 and not adopted yet? Ouch, Brett thought, was there something wrong with her?

“I hear she’s a little cantankerous,” Dianne continued, as if to answer his question, “so I’m warning you. But she’s justified, she’s had a hard life.”

“Well, when is she coming?” Jason asked.

“Yeah, when?” Cass put in. When older types described her, the word ’cantankerous’ came up a lot. She had no idea what it meant except that it was bad, but if the same word was used to describe this girl, then they probably had a lot in common already.

Dianne dropped the bomb. “Today.”

“WHAT?!” Brett choked.

“That’s GREAT!” Cass exclaimed.

“Why didn’t you tell us sooner?!” Jason asked in shock.

“Because I didn’t want you worrying about it all year. Now you can just go up to her and be yourselves,” Dianne replied.

“We don’t have much choice,” Brett muttered.

“I need to go and pick her up from the mainland now, I just wanted to tell you that before she arrived. Meet me at the main elevator at 1500 hours.” And with that she walked off.

“Thanks for giving us the time to prepare, we really appreciate it!” Brett called after her.

“I can’t believe she didn’t tell us,” Jason groaned.

“Tell you what?” asked Benny. He and Sallyanne were on their way to the cafeteria.

“That their mom’s just adopted someone,” Cass replied.

“She has?” Sallyanne exclaimed.

“That must feel weird!” added Benny.

“Well, when is she coming?” asked Sallyanne.

“Today,” Jason said, “that’s the problem. She didn’t tell us until now.”

“But why?”

“If we knew that we wouldn’t be complaining to you,” said Brett.

“If you ask me, that’s really weird, adopting someone and not telling your family about it,” Benny intoned. “There’s got to be more to it than that. Your mom’s gotta have a reason…”

“What is this, a spy movie?” Brett snorted.

“Well, look on the bright side. You’ll have someone new in your family. That could be nice.” Sallyanne said optimistically.

“Mom said she’s cantankerous,” Jason said unhappily.

“What does that mean anyway?” asked Cass.

“Cranky. And that’s hardly a good sign.”

“Well, then, she probably will be awful, but there isn’t much you can do now,” Benny said, always looking on the down side. “Better to wait it out and not ask questions than drive yourself crazy worrying about some girl you’ll probably hate.”

“Thanks for the words of encouragement, Eeyore,” Brett replied glumly.

Neri sat on the beach, drawing letters in the sand. Jason had just taught her how to write, and she enjoyed making the strange little symbols to form words. Not that “BDBDBDBDBD” was a word, but she enjoyed writing it nonetheless.

Suddenly, she heard a call from the sea. Neri? It asked.

Though it was a whale, it wasn’t Charley, that much was for sure. She knew Charley’s voice well. Who are you? she asked it.I am Shalin Kail, it replied. I have heard much about you.

What have you heard? asked Neri warily.

That you are the Lapis princess, it said. I know of your people. They have been kind to me. The little girl especially.

What little girl? asked Neri in surprise.

The little Lapis child. I have lost contact with her, but I hoped you might know of her whereabouts.

This was news to Neri. There is another Lapis child? Here?

Yes. I asked your friend Charley about her, and he told me of you. He said you are from the same place as her, and were on the same ship. He also said you are very good at finding people.

And you want me to find her.

Yes. She is like you. She has a high destiny. I know it. She does not have the Gift, but never have I seen anyone with such amazing powers.

Amazing powers?


When did you last see this girl.

Many years ago. I will send you a dream of her face and her voice so you can find her more easily. You must.

I hear fear in your voice. There is more, Neri prompted.

I sense trouble, Neri. If you do not find her, I fear she may not be able to protect herself when the trouble comes.

What kind of trouble?

Old trouble. Trouble that started a long time ago and has slept until now.

I will find her. Thank you, Shalin Kail.

You are welcome. Wait for your dream tonight, Neri. And with that, the voice faded away.

Neri dove into the water quickly. She had to go to ORCA and tell Jason and Brett of this girl and the danger that might be sneaking up on them that very moment.

“I’m through with this,” stated a goateed man with dark hair and weary, frustrated eyes as he strode quickly through the black-paneled hallways of a complicated, bustling building.

“You can’t be through with this,” protested his partner while following behind him, her shiny blond mane dancing as she struggled to keep up.

“Yes, I can. He’s dragged us along on his little hunt for 3 years and the closest thing we’ve found is a genius, which got us nowhere. I have every right to be through with this.”

“We’re getting closer. That Gwen girl looks promising.”

“Gwen, Gwen, Gwen! I’m sick of hearing about her! 3 years ago, it was ‘Jane, Jane, Jane,’ and look what that turned out to be! A little brat who broke out of an institution for the talented because the food was bad or something!”

“If we could’ve gotten our hands on her before she broke out…”

“Nothing would’ve happened. Same as nothing’s going to happen even if we can get our hands on this Gwen girl. If Montgomery would just take ‘ET’ out of the VCR and investigate a REAL mystery…”

“If you wanted to solve a REAL mystery, you shouldn’t’ve become a supernatural investigator, Samos.”

“It’s as close as I can get to becoming an actual detective right now. I can’t afford to be choosy. Besides, he may be a crazy man who needs a reality check, but he pays very well.”

“If he hears you, you’re a dead man,” whispered the blonde.

“If he hears me, I may be dead, but at least he’ll have an idea of what an idiot he’s being,” her partner whispered back.

Finally reaching their destination, they entered the office of their boss to find him sitting at his laptop, a frown creasing his face.

“We’re here,” announced the blonde.

“Have any leads?” asked their boss.

“Nothing,” grumbled Samos. “Don’t you think it’s time to give up on this whole thing?”

“No. This girl alone, even if she isn’t who we’re looking for, is a mystery worth investigating.” stated the boss.

“How do you mean?” asked the blonde.

“Her records. They stop. Out of the blue. No one knows why. You don’t. I don’t. No matter how hard we look, it’s as if she disappeared off the face of the earth after age 12.”

“Maybe she phoned home,” muttered Samos sarcastically, “and the mother ship came and got her.”

His partner elbowed him harshly.

Just then, a lithe brunette walked in, holding a receiver.

“Telephone,” the woman said. “I don’t know who it is.”

The man looked at his watch. “I have work to do, Little.”

“He said all he needed was a few minutes,” Little replied coolly.

The boss sighed and took the phone.

“Sir?” came the crackling voice on the other end of the line.

“What is it? I’m a busy man, so make it quick.”

“I think I have your girl.”

Silence. “You do?”


The woman was looking at him curiously. “Excuse yourself, Little,” White Suit commanded.

“As you wish, sir.”

After she had left, White Suit looked around to make sure no one else was looking. Seeing that he was alone, he continued. “I’ve done some research on a particular girl. She may or may not be the girl you have in mind, but she’s very promising. Found at sea where a SUPPOSED meteor landed the same night as a UFO was seen. She does seem like our prime suspect. Yet her records seem to stop after age 12.”

“Then that’s the very same girl.” The voice on the other end dropped down to a hushed, confiding tone. “I can get you the rest of the way. I know all about her. And I’m willing to make a deal with you.”

“What’s your deal?” Samos leaned in, surprised. His partner gasped.

“I’ll tell you everything you want to know IF when you catch her, YOU give me the credit for her discovery.”

“That’s a lopsided deal, young man.”

“Okay, half credit. That’s as low as I go.”

“How about a line at the end of the article?”

“Do you want this girl or don’t you?”

The boss sighed. “Half credit. Now where is she?”

“Well, this is it,” Jason said flatly. He and Brett were standing outside of the main elevator, where Dianne had said she’d meet them.

“The moment of truth,” Brett agreed.

“Time to find out if we’re living with a beauty…”

“…or a beast,” Brett finished.

Then Dianne spoke those fateful words. “Boys, I would like you to meet your new sister.”

Out of the elevator stepped a shortish girl with dark brown, curly hair, a full bust, and green eyes. Her expression was completely blank. In fact, it was rather too blank for Brett’s taste.

“Doesn’t she look like she’s gonna be a barrel of laughs,” Jason muttered.

“Oh, she can’t be that bad,” Brett said, even though he was pretty sure she could. He was determined to give her a chance, though. It had to be hard, being adopted. He walked up to her. She bristled. “Brett Bates.”

“Nellie Waitsworth.” You could ice drinks with that voice.

“Pleased to meet you.”

No response.

Brett smiled.

Nellie snarled.

Well, this is going beautifully, Brett thought, and gave up.

Jason, being the braver soul, tried next, but not before whispering to Brett, “If she bites my head off, I want you to have my microdisc player.”Brett gave him a pat on the back. “I’ll be praying for you.”

Jason stepped up to Nellie and extended his hand. “Jason Bates.”

Nellie completely ignored it. “Nellie Waitsworth, do I need to say it again, or are you 2 happy?”

“O-kay,” Jason replied, and quickly backed up.

“Nellie, honey, I know it’s been hard for you to adjust to a new life, but give your brothers a chance,” Diane said gently, putting a hand on Nellie’s shoulder.

Nellie shrugged it off and walked away.

The Bates family looked after her in silence.

“Where’d you adopt her from, the dog pound?” Jason asked his mom when Nellie was far away. He was feeling very miffed at the prospect of actually having to live with this girl. Talking to her was bad enough.

“Jason! Nellie’s a very troubled individual. Give her a chance,” Diane replied firmly.

“Why are you being so easy on her? If I’d’ve acted like that, you’d’ve lectured me till I was dead, followed me to my grave, and kept on lecturing when I was 6 feet under!” Brett exclaimed, not too happy about the whole Nellie arrangement himself.

“Because Nellie’s not like you.”

“Thank God.”

“I heard that, Brett. But you’d feel differently towards her if I told you she’s been turned out of 15 foster homes,” Diane said sadly.

“I wonder why.”

“Brett, the poor girl’s only 14 years old! That means at least once a year she’s been thrown out of wherever she’s put down roots by the people who are supposed to love her, had to pack up all her belongings, and face an unknown life somewhere else! She’s already ran away three times, once because she was being abused! If you had a life like that, you’d be mean, too!”

Though it was a heck of a sob story, Brett hardly thought it compensated for this girl, but he kept his mouth shut. Arguing with his mom when she was this impassioned about something was never a good idea.

“At least try to be nice to her! It’s the least you can do for the poor thing!” Diane wheedled.

“Well, you could’ve told us she was coming in the first place!” shot back Jason. “I mean, it’s not like having a new sister is something you casually break to your kids over Cornflakes! It’s a whole new life!”

“Jason, let me say something…” Dianne began.

“You should’ve said something before. That’s how we got into this!” Jason replied. And with that he stormed off down the hall. Brett followed him, feeling as strongly.

“How’d it go?” Benny asked, waiting for them by their cabin. Jason had suggested that he, Sallyanne, and Cass wait there, promising them the whole story once they got back from meeting Nellie.

“You were right. She’s positively awful. I don’t know how we’re gonna live with her. Y’know that phrase, ’Meaner than a barnyard dog?’ Well, it was written in her honor.”

“I warned you,” said Benny, shaking his head.

“No, you probably jinxed me. There’s a difference. I don’t see where Mom gets off just bringing in a sister out of the blue, anyway!”

“Brett!” came a familiar voice. “Jason!”

They turned around to see Neri running towards them, a look of concern in

her eyes. “Hey, Neri! What’s wrong?” Jason asked.

“Must talk. Now. Bring Benny, Sallyanne, and Cass, too.” They quickly followed her up the elevator and out to the boat platform. “Follow me to island,” she said, and dove in.

Nellie sat down on the bed and surveyed the room. Here she was again. Another home. Another family. But this wasn’t going to be another heartbreak. She was done trusting. Done loving. That part of her life was over. Dianne Bates could say whatever she wanted to, but Nellie would never love her as a mother. At least she didn’t have to worry about the friendship of the boys.

She’d scared them off pretty well.

She opened her duffel bag and rummaged through it. Her pale hands ran across the scrapbook that the last family had given her. The glossy pages showed photographs that seemed unreal, something from another time and place.

Smiling faces. Laughter. Love. Things that’d never been a part of the life of Nellie Waitsworth. “We love you,” they’d said to her. Well, that love hadn’t run deep enough when money ran out and they’d put her up for foster care again. She threw it to the floor. And then there were the madmen… Tears glistened in her eyes. Tough girls don’t cry, she scolded herself. She had to be tough. No one had been able to… or wanted to keep her for the past 13 years and her parents had apparently abandoned her, from what the people who knew about that kind of stuff said. She didn’t remember that, and she somehow couldn’t bring herself to believe it had happened. She believed she had gotten separated from them somehow and they were out there somewhere looking for her. No matter how cynical she acted, in her heart she believed.

I’m as bad as Little Orphan Annie, she thought with a brittle laugh. Always hoping the sun’ll come out. Well, if it hasn’t come out by now it’s never coming, and I have to come to grips with that. But somewhere inside there was a part of her that wanted desperately to think that someone out there loved her. Too bad she wouldn’t let them have the chance.

It was time for Mera and Mayilen to ask for permission from the Council to visit Neri. They were waiting to be let in outside the heavy blue stone doors of the Council’s main room. Mera was excited about getting to meet another girl who had been forced to live as she had before Neri and her friends had found her. She knew she could help this girl with what she had learned from her own experiences. She looked at her cousin, expecting her to be just as excited. Instead, Mayilen’s face was troubled. “What’s wrong, Mayilen?”

Mera asked. “You’re going to see your sister again! You should be happy!”

“I hope she is all right. I am worried, Mera.”

“She’s fine. You’d feel it if something bad had happened to her,” Mera reassured her.

"I do feel bad things coming from her, but they are not on the outside. I feel the…


“Pain.” Mayilen had never used the word, as it didn’t exist in her language. It felt strangely heavy on her tongue. “I feel the pain in her life, Mera. It is like a…”


“It is like a knife through her heart. It is pain of the soul. She is…”


“She is lonely. She is…”


“She is scared. And I feel it, like it is I who am scared and lonely.”

“I know how you feel,” replied Mera. “It’s the same between me and my sister.”

“What did you do when you were alone, Mera?” Mayilen asked.

Mera sighed. “Felt sorry for myself for awhile, but eventually I got used to it.”

“Was it getting used to it?” asked Mayilen softly. “Or was it giving up hope?”

Mera shook her head. “I don’t know. Whichever one hurts more.” She looked down at her feet. “And whichever one makes you stop believing.”

The door opened. “The Council will see you now.” It was Isam who spoke, the very friendly Chief of Appointments. He ushered them in and sat them down on 2 chairs. The walls were made so that the oceanscape outside could be seen from the inside, but no one on the outside could see in. It, like the palace, was high and domed, light from the far-away surface glinting through the ceiling. The seats of the Council rose before them, elevated on blue stone platforms like a very majestic game-show panel.

“You may speak,” said the woman in the middle seat.

Mera stood up and regally stated their case. “Jesel, it has been many years since the ship that carried me and my sister, the Princess Neri, has crashed. But from what my cousin tells me, there were three children given up for lost: Neri, me, and a girl by the name of Leka.”

The members of the Council looked from member to member, exchanging uncomfortable, slightly sad glances.

“Neri and I were found, of course. But what of this other girl?”

“We believe she is no longer alive,” said a Council member named Teleia.

“Then why has Mayilen been dreaming of her, feeling her feelings, hearing her thoughts?” Mera replied, a challenge in her voice.

The Council members were floored by this news. Chatter started up from member to member.

“I knew she was alive!” exclaimed a man named Rodek, Mayilen’s chosen teacher. “Ever since I was selected to teach her and her sister, I have always felt their life forces, and I would know if one went out!”

“You can also see a little bit of the future,” replied Teleia coolly. “If that is so, then why didn’t you foresee a rescue?”

A pause, as if he was afraid to speak it. “I did,” he stated, his voice far away.

The Council gasped.

“I also saw who would do it: Mayilen, Mera, Neri, and the Opal children,” Rodek continued.

“Then we must send them down!” Isam exclaimed. The whole Council turned to look at him. He grinned sheepishly and turned away.

“Wait. We must let them decide whether or not they will go.” He turned to Mayilen and Mera. “This will not be easy. You will face a danger never fought since the days of old. And you will not be simply rescuing your sister. No, there is much more to your quest than that. Leka was sent down to the Opal planet for a reason. So were you. And it is up to you to help her with her mission.”

“What is her mission?” asked Mera, a little worried.

“Do you know the legend of Asayah?”

Mayilen nodded, but Mera said “No.” She had only returned home a few years ago, and there were still several things she hadn’t learned.

“Mera, please tell your cousin after you leave,” Rodek instructed. “The Council will arrange the ship to depart in a few days.”

Mayilen shrieked with joy. Mera grinned widely and whispered “Victory,” holding up a hand for a high-five. Mayilen just stared at it, bewildered. How would she know what a high-five is? Mera remembered. She wasn’t stranded on Earth for 9 years like some of us.

They left the council room, Mayilen eagerly asking about who the Opal children were. Mera described them, blushing when she came to Brett.

After they had gone, Jesel turned to Rodek, a hard look on her beautiful, dark-skinned face. “Why did you send two children to do the work of adults?” she exclaimed harshly. “Before we even agreed to it, nonetheless?”

“Mera is wiser than most adults I know. And Mayilen can easily protect herself, what with her abilities,” Rodek replied coolly.

“Those ‘abilities’ aren’t going to do her much good if she’s attacked. The Opal Planet is violent, Rodek! What if they’re killed?!”

“Mera is a healer, Jesel. She can fix any injury they may get.”

“Healers don’t bring people back from the dead!” Jesel sputtered, amazed and annoyed at how calmly Rodek was taking this.

“There have been some rare occasions…”

“And what of your notion that they should be collaborating with these… these APES?!” Jesel went on. “What if they poison their minds with their-”

Rodek interrupted her, barely staying calm. “May I remind you that the whole reason we have a girl to save is because we wanted to unify with these apes, as you call them? And that we’ve been communicating with certain groups of them for millennia?”


“And that the children I mentioned are the ones responsible for finding Neri and bringing back Mera?”


“There are no buts, Jesel!”

“But Rodek!” said the little, pixie-faced council member named Teleia. “What about your theory?”

Rodek had nearly forgotten about all the other council members surrounding him and Jesel. He responded quickly, however. “All the more reason to send down the girls as soon as possible. If it’s true, they’ll be needed more than ever.”

“And they’ll be in more danger than ever,” Jesel muttered. Then an expression of realization broke out slowly on her face. “This is about your son, isn’t it, Rodek? You didn’t really have a vision, did you?” Her voice was sharp and accusing, her face twisted in shock and disgust.

“Of course I had a vision!” Rodek exclaimed indignantly.

“No, you didn’t! You just want your son back!”

“Why do you doubt my visions all of a sudden?! I’ve never been wrong!”

“Exactly! So of course we’d believe you on this. Very clever.”

“Did I mention my son when I gave them their mission?”

“No. Why give your true motives away?”

“I’m with Rodek,” piped up Teleia.

There were several murmurs of agreement.

“Even though I still think it’s dangerous…” Teleia trailed.

Neri’s island was bathed in a rich sunset. She had just explained everything to the kids, and they were more than a little floored.

“So that’s it? The whale just told you there’s another girl down here, out of the blue?” Jason said in shock.

“He sensed trouble,” Neri replied, her musical voice far away and disturbed. “That is what he said to me.”

“Oh, THAT’S just perfect!” Brett exclaimed. “10-to-1 we’ll have to save the world again.”

“It’s a hard job, but somebody’s gotta do it,” Cass replied with an impish grin. “Might as well be the experts.”

“You actually enjoy this, don’t you?” Benny scoffed.

“Don’t you?”

“You have problems.”

“Guys!” Sallyanne reprimanded. “This is serious here!”

“Well, we’ll just find her like we found Mera,” Jason reasoned. “That wasn’t that hard.”

“Yeah, we just had to break into a high-security building, disarm a few systems, distract a few guards, practically drag Mera out by force…” Brett put in. “Piece of cake.”

“Hopefully, she won’t be in some institution this time,” Jason replied.

“Yeah, we’ll just go up to her adopted parents and say, ‘Your daughter’s an alien, mind if we take her?’” Benny said sarcastically.

“You must save her soon. I sense it too,” said Neri.

And no one talked for the rest of the evening.

“You knew they were going to object!” said Winston, trying to talk down the frazzled Dianne. “It’s perfectly natural! They’ll get used to her. And they’ll forgive you. Just give them time. A wise man once said, ‘Time is healer of all wounds.’”

Dianne didn’t respond. She paced around the lab and picked up an old whale song tape, fingering it gently.

“You did a very noble thing, rescuing her like that,” continued Winston softly. “Not every woman I know would have it in her heart.”

Dianne shook her head. “If only I could tell the boys why I adopted her.”

“It’s safer this way,” Winston replied. “She’s safer.”

“I don’t know if any girl with a history like Nellie’s can ever be safe, Winston,” Diane sighed, shaking her head. “I don’t think she ever was.”

“We can only hope,” Winston said, putting an arm around Diane, whose eyes were welling up with tears. “We can only hope.”

Just then, the door of Dianne’s lab opened, revealing a tall, chocolate-skinned, exotic-looking woman in an ORCA uniform. She smiled a wide, beaming smile that was almost thrilling, and walked in the door with all the regalness of an African goddess. “Hello, Dr. Bates,” she greeted, in a voice like a caramel river, extending a buff, slender arm for Dianne to shake. “Dr. Seth,” she continued, and shook hands with Winston.

“Hello,” replied Dianne, slightly bewildered. “I’m sorry, you would be…”

“I am Dr. Nichole Cornerstone,” replied the woman, her thrilling smile

growing even more so.

Dianne was taken aback. “THE Dr. Cornerstone?!”

“I take it you’ve heard of me?” Cornerstone replied, slightly superiorly but not at all meanly.

“Of course! You inspired me to start my whale research!” Dianne replied, eyes lighting up like a child meeting Santa.

“Thank you. I’m quite pleased to know that. My aim was to get people more interested in these wonderful creatures.”

“Well, it sure has worked for Dianne,” said Winston matter-of-factly.

“I am currently traveling the world in order to study whales in many different locations,” Cornerstone went on, “and my travels have brought me to Australia. I will be sharing your office for a few days, and using your equipment, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all!” Dianne replied, grinning ear-to-ear. “I would be honored!”

“The pleasure’s mine. Oh, and by the way, I would like you to meet my daughter, Jessica.” She gestured behind her. There stood a frowning girl who had all her mother’s looks but none of her presence. She didn’t come in, but stayed at the door, looking down at her feet, face like she had just drank a two-gallon jug of lemon juice. I must attract bitter people, thought Dianne, raising an eyebrow in the frowning girl’s direction. Wonder if it’s a curable condition.

“Nice to meet, you, Jessica,” Dianne offered.

“Nice to meet you,” Jessica responded in a tone of voice that sounded like she would rather jump off the ORCA platform into shark-infested waters than meet Dianne. And with that, she walked off.

Well, this has been my day, thought Dianne.

“I would also like you to meet my research assistant, Linn Simmons,” continued Cornerstone. “She hasn’t been with me long, but in the time she has, she’s done great work.” The woman standing next to her smiled a tight little smile that made Dianne uncomfortable somehow.

“Nice to meet you, Dianne,” said the woman in a voice with an accent Dianne knew she had heard but couldn’t place at that moment.

“Nice to meet you, Linn,” replied Dianne, not meaning it at all.

Linn nodded in response, beginning to look through Dianne’s stuff. Her reasons were a mystery to Dianne, but she figured if she was going to have to work with this person for the next few weeks or months or whatever amount of time, she might as well get used to it, and said nothing in protest.

“So, here you are, Benny, about to meet the horror herself,” Jason whispered. Dianne had invited them all to have dinner with her family, as a welcoming for Nellie, who so far hadn’t shown up. None of them were surprised.

“I don’t know her and I’m already terr-” Benny was cut off by Brett.

“SHH! She’s coming!” Brett whispered. “Act like you’re not about to be ripped to shreds by the biggest monster humankind has ever known.” Dianne gave them a harsh look, and Brett made sure not to say anything.

Cass and Sallyanne suddenly faked a conversation about nail polish, which Brett found very funny, since he’d never seen either one use a drop of the stuff. Jason pretended to be infinitely fascinated with his straw. But Benny was curious. He turned his head to look at the girl approaching the table.

What he saw shocked him. Instead of the mean, pug-dog-faced girl he was expecting, the girl walking towards him was the most gorgeous female he had ever laid eyes on.

Benny knocked over his plate, but it took him a full three minutes and lots of gesturing on Brett’s part and giggling on Cass’s to realize he had.

His fantasy was broken when the girl rolled her eyes, took a plate of stew, and walked away.

“Was that…” Benny sputtered, unable to finish his sentence.

“Yes, Benny, it was. But she’s the wrong one to get a crush on. She’s a real piece of work, that one,” Jason warned. “And this is only the weekend, imagine what she’ll turn into during school.”

Meanwhile, Nellie sat in a corner and ate alone.

Neri had trouble getting to sleep that night. She tossed and turned and stared up at the sky, but sleep would not come for what seemed like an eternity and a half. When it did come, finally, it brought with itself the dream Shalin Kail had promised.

Her mind was filled with mist for minutes upon minutes. The mist slowly settled into an image, dusky and undefined, but clear enough to make out. A storm raged outside a tiny cottage on a cliff, rattling its windows and beating its roof with rain. Beyond the cottage lay a vast ocean, its waves swelling and crashing relentlessly. Two faces pressed against the windows, old faces that seemed to have seen many storms and were looking out on this one with serene concern instead of fear. Just then, someone began to pound on the door.

“Help!” a girl’s voice cried, straining to be heard over the storm.

The 2 people in the cottage didn’t hear the knock or the voice. They just kept on looking out with the same wiseness, completely oblivious.

“Help!” yelled the girl again, attacking the door with all her might, her voice choked with terrified tears.

This time the couple noticed. Turning away from their stormgazing, they rushed to the door. The man opened it and his wife gaped with awe at the little figure standing before them. Her face was red and blotchy, her tears mingled with the rain cascading down her cheeks like tiny rivers. And she was wearing a bathing suit.

“Come in! You must be freezing!” said the man.

“How did you get here?!” exclaimed the woman, her eyes nearly popping out of her head, all the serenity vanishing from her face. “We’re the only people who live on this island!”

“I swam,” replied the girl softly.

“SWAM?!” sputtered the woman. “But the mainland’s hundreds of kilometers away! And how did you get up here? The stairs are all the way on the other side!”

“I climbed the cliff,” replied the girl, a little louder this time.


“I was desperate.”

“Don’t question her, Melody,” said the man firmly.

“But Ryder! Aren’t you the least bit CURIOUS?” the woman choked.

“If she’s the sort of girl I think she is, then don’t question her,” he insisted.

“Please, let me in,” pleaded the girl. Her whole face was tear-drenched.

The woman thought it might be the rain, until she looked into the girl’s eyes. The fear in those eyes was so intense that when they met hers, a pang shot through her heart like a knifebite.

The woman just gaped as the man ushered the girl into the house, saying, “Come in, child, and warm yourself. Your people have been good to me. It’s the least I can do to return the favor. What’s your name?”

“Gwen,” replied the girl. “At least, that’s what people call me.”

“Ahh,” said the man. “But your name is something else entirely.” And with that, he closed the door.

Neri awoke, emotions spinning.

The feeling of revelation in her head couldn’t overpower the feeling of pain in her heart.

This was the clue they needed to find the girl.

Then why did she want to cry?

“Pass the Cornflakes,” Nellie demanded. Even in such a remark her voice was frosty.

Jason did so, despite his burning desire to say, “Get them yourself.”

Nellie poured them in her bowl. Then she began to eat them. Flake by flake. It was maddening. Jason had the urge to pound his head against the wall.

Brett voiced what Jason was thinking. “Could you eat a little faster, maybe? I want to get to school before I’ve already graduated.”

Nellie’s only response was the signature glare.

“Nellie, you don’t want to be late your first day of school,” Dianne said diplomatically.

Nellie rolled her eyes and went to take a shower. Jason followed her, waiting for his turn.

15 minutes later, she was still in the shower.

“There IS a limit, y’know!” Jason protested.

“You live in an underwater city! It’s not like you’re gonna run out of water!” was his only response. But at least she got out after that.

Jason wanted to explain to her that the water had to be de-salinated, which took a while, and there was only so much ready at any given time, but he knew he would probably get a swearword for his response, and he didn’t feel like being cussed out before he’d had his shower.