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This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2010-01-16 — sourcemeta

Source: 1, DeviantART
Author:Judith “Stormdance” Kenyon
Copyright:Archiving permitted by author

1. The Light in the Water

On the wide ocean beyond the Great Barrier Reef one boat stood out on the water. A boy in scuba gear climbed the ladder and pulled himself aboard.

“How far did you get?” Brett asked, helping his brother off with the new deep-dive helmet.

“Um…” Jason checked the meter on his glove. “One… eighty-eight five.”

“Deep! Some new toy!”

“Bet I can make two hundred.”

“You’re not going back under?” Brett groaned. They’d been doing tests all day and he’d always been the one stuck topside in the boat.

“One more time.”

“Jase, I’m starving!”

“Tell me something new. Just keep your eyes on the cable.” Jason said, fastened his helmet again and dropped over the side.

Brett was left watching the cable unwind in front of him and the storm clouds coming up behind. A few minutes passed, and a few more, then he realized the cable had gone slack.

Jason watched his depth meter. 193, 194… Then he thought he saw something down below. He wasn’t deep enough for it to be the bottom. Must be a fish or a whale, or nothing. Jason lit a flare.

200, 201…

There was something, and it was glowing…

Jason dropped the flare and it vanished into a sunlike blaze of white light. The water shuddered and Jason felt like he was being thrown around inside his suit. He grabbed his cable and pulled twice, the distress signal.

The cable pulled tight and Jason felt himself rising. Brett must have turned the winch on high speed.

198, 197, 196… the light faded. Jason turned and swam for the surface.

Brett was yelling before his brother even had the helmet off. “Idiot! I told you not to go down there again!”

“Let’s get out of here!” Jason grabbed for the steering wheel.

“Whoa! What is it, what happened?” And when Jason didn’t answer, “Hey look at the weather. You think we can get home in time?”

“Aw no…” Jason looked at the clouds and turned the boat towards another destination.

On the island the first high winds had come, making the trees sing. Neri was clearing her dishes out of the stream so they wouldn’t be washed away. She didn’t hear the boat arrive, but she heard the boys calling.

“Neri! Hi, Neri!”

Neri’s face broke into a broad smile. “Hello! I come!”

Jason and Brett were waiting under the porch of Neri’s little house. The house had been Jason’s idea, after a particularly wet season. Even Neri liked to be dry sometimes. It wasn’t much, just a shed made out of scrap wood with a little table and a bunk that Neri rarely slept on.


“Was not expecting you, is good to see you!” Neri ran to them, and hugged Jason.

“Good to see you too.”

“How’re you settling in?” Brett asked as the first fat raindrops fell.

“Is good of you to build.”

“Perfect on a day like this.” Jason was still blushing from the hug as they ducked inside.

“I am used to the weather, but thank you for building it for me.”

“It’ll help keep our visitors dry anyway.”

“Yeah, if it stays up.” Brett shook one of the support poles and Jason whapped him.

“It will if you don’t knock it down!”

“Just as well, Jason’s got water on the brain.”

“Hey!” Jason snapped, harsher than he really meant to, “I wasn’t imagining that ok!”

“Imagining what?”

“Neri, something weird… something scary happened out there.”

Neri started to ask what, but just then Jason’s watch beeped with a call from home.

On the screen their mother’s face said, “Where are you?”

“Anyone else there?”

“Only me and Winston.” The view swung and Winston wiggled his fingers at the camera.

“With Neri.” Brett answered the question. “We got caught in the storm.”

“Great day you chose to try out that helmet.”

“Not much point coming home now.”

“All right, as long as you’re back in the morning. Something pretty… surprising’s turned up.”

“Well, what?”

“We’ll talk about it in the morning.” Dianne said firmly.

“Ok then.” Jason shrugged, guessing it wasn’t anything bad.

Brett grabbed the screen, “Hey Winton, check out the palace!” He pointed it around and Winston got a shaky view of the ramshackle place, and Neri, who grinned and caroled, “Hello!”

Winston laughed and waved, “Hi Neri! Congratulations, all the comforts of home.”

“Well, see ya.” Brett said and cut the call.

On ORCA, the screen flashed blue and went to the ORCA logo. “I wonder what they’ll think of it.” Dianne said.

“Ah, they’ll be knocked out, as Brett would say.” Winston said cheerfully. He rolled his chair over to his equipment, a screen with a scan of the sea floor. “Now, this thing is still holding me up. I’m most perplexed.”

“What, in the same area?” Dianne looked over his shoulder.

“Everything else is recharted. I can now account for every tectonic change under the ocean since the earthquake—except here, right in our own backyard. I can’t get an image. It’s as though something’s interfering with the scan.”

Rain poured down steadily, blurring the night. A clap of thunder greeted Brett as he stepped outside the ‘palace’ to get some more rocks. He was trying to block the water coming in under one wall. Inside Jason was telling Neri what had happened.

“…this incredible blinding light, right out of the blue. And then these shockwaves, I couldn’t do anything.”

“You were so far down you must’ve been hallucinating.” Was Brett’s opinion. “Just forget about it.”

“This was no hallucination.”

“Where?” Neri asked.”

“Out over the Mako abyss.”


“It’s a name they give one of the big trenches in the ocean, way out beyond the reef.”

Brett put another stick on the fire. “Yeah, just about due east.” He pointed.

“You know something?”

“No.” Neri looked down, thoughtful. “Just know sometimes something out there feels… different.”

Just then water started dripping on Jason’s head. He scooted over quick and put a big shell under the leak. “Well that was close.”

Neri was grinning. Suddenly a big hole fell open and the fire went out like a bucket of water had hit it. They were left in the dark. Neri shrieked with laughter. Brett said, “I told you!” Jason, completely soaked, couldn’t keep from laughing too.

The next morning at home on ORCA the boys got the big news.


“Of ORCA?” Jason and Brett said after a stunned silence.

Dianne looked sheepish. “Well they sort of hinted that if I applied I’d have a better than even chance of getting it. What do you think, me striding about issuing orders all day long?”

“You’ve been doing it to us for years.” Jason joked, then more seriously, “You are just about the most senior officer here.”

“I have to admit it’s just a little bit tempting. If they want a scientist as commanding officer that suggests the focus of ORCA will swing back to its original purpose…”

“No more plans for an ORCA city?”

“No. No more empire building.” Dianne said as if she’d make sure of it herself. “Now, I’m due at mainland headquarters tomorrow so we’ve got tonight to decide.”

“We’re right behind you.”

“Yeah, whatever!” Brett added, not quite caught up yet.

In the lab Winston looked up from the morning net news as his assistant came in. “Morning Cass! Any news from your parents?”

“Nah, not yet. I don’t think their cruise ship’s got communications, or else they’re too busy with the second honeymoon thing.” Cass wrinkled her nose. “I heard from Morgan though.”

“And how is she?”

“What do you think? She loves the fancy American college but thinks it should have uniforms.”

“Sounds like Morgan.” Winston chuckled.

“Anyway,” Cass said around a bite of candy bar, “Whatcha looking at?”

“This here.” Winston tapped the screen, “I know, it’s blank. The satellite’s not getting anything back and radar waves just seem to fizzle out.”

“What frequencies have you tried?”

“All the standard ones. Cass is that your only breakfast?”

Cass was already checking out unstandard frequencies. “Ok. It says here the waves in the gamma band can penetrate all known radar defenses.”

“I thought you were studying part one this semester.” Winston said with some wonder.

“I like to read ahead.”

“But what sort of defense system could there be down there? Defense against what?”

“I dunno, but what have you got to lose?”

“I suppose I could give it a try…” Winston started typing.

The door hummed open and Brett and Jason came in. “Hey Cass, guess what’s happening with Mum!”

“Ssh, he’s connecting.”

Brett saw the coordinates over Winston’s shoulder. “The Mako abyss?”

“Yeah, that’s where we can’t get a reading.”

“Not just yet but…” Winston nudged the dial over and suddenly they had a reading. “Look at that, goodness gracious! A perfect square deep in the ocean, surely too symmetrical to be a work of nature!”

Jason felt a chill. “That’s where the light was! That’s where it happened! I told you…”

They looked at each other, uncertain.

In another place, where people wore business suits with identification cards clipped to the front, a neat young man straightened his tie before he went in to see his boss.

“Agent Shelby.” The director greeted him.


“You read the brief?”

“Yes sir, thoroughly sir. I’ve given it a lot of thought.”

The director closed the blinds with a flick of his remote. Another wave brought the big wall screen to life. “Sit down.”

Shelby sat, holding the inch-thick brief. “These radio signals…”

“We’ve been picking them up for some time. Here is the wave pattern. It originates in outer space.”

“Outer space?”

“Yes. Targeting right here.”

The screen was showing a bit of map, but Shelby didn’t recognize where. “Clearly an alien presence.”

“For the last three weeks someone or something in Egypt has been intercepting it and sending something back.”

Oh, so it was Egypt. “No kidding?”

“You want the assignment?”

“I’m your man, sir.”

“Good. Codename operation Sphinx. Get packed, you leave tomorrow.”

With another “sir” Shelby got up and headed for the door. The director waited until he’d reached it before saying, “Your… partner will be Agent Hauser.”

Shelby stopped. “Elly Hauser?”

“It’s what you call a magnetic anomaly.” Winston said, “When radar picks up something of nonorganic origin. In the Mako abyss, where you experienced these phenomena while diving.”

“It’s one heck of a coincidence.” Cass put in, “Maybe a sunken nuclear sub? Do you glow in the dark now?”

Jason whapped her.

“I suggest a closer look—a direct sonar scan from the surface.”


“No time like the present.” Winston looked worried, more than his sometimes-solemn look.

“Aw no, I spent all day yesterday…”

“Then you stay home.” Jason clapped his brother on the shoulder, “Winston can operate the scan. You watch in case Mum calls.”

“Ok. Hey Cass—“

“Just a sec. Winston, what kind of scanner did you want—?”

They got a sonar bell signed out and got the necessary equipment loaded into the boat. Jason and Winston set out while Brett and Cass rode the lift back down.

Over the Mako abyss they dropped the sonar bell overboard and let it down on a long cable. As the scanner descended the picture on screen slowly cleared: the same topography they’d seen from the lab and the same square standing impossibly in the middle.

Jason saw a long floppy fin rise out of the water a ways away. He waved, even though the whale probably couldn’t see him, even if it was the right whale.

“Jason look. We’ve almost reached depth.”

Jason turned back to watch the screen. “That’s it…?”

“Our magnetic anomaly. It’s just ahead.” They both looked, as if they could see anything on the surface.

At two hundred meters the scanner bell began to shake as shockwaves slammed through the water around it. Something below was angry.

Neri heard the water moving. What? Earthquake, Charley?

It didn’t sound like an earthquake, quite. Not loud enough. Charley agreed, Not earthquake. Other. Stay away?

Jason is there. I go.

The screen flashed white static then back to the picture. Jason reached for the winch then jumped back. Green sparks were running up the cable.

“Oh my–“

“Winston look out!” Jason went for the fire extinguisher. Their gear was covered in creeping green lightning. Things started to spark and smoke and Jason turned the fire extinguisher on the lot.

Below, Neri reached the scanner bell. The water was vibrating madly, noisy in her ears and her bones. For a long minute it was horribly uncomfortable, then the vibrations died away and she could look down and see the light. Brilliant, white light from the sea floor. Neri raised a hand to shield her eyes and imagined she could see bones through the flesh. The light was singing—like it welcomed her.

She reached out, and everything stopped. Now the only illumination was blue light drifting from above. Neri shook herself and kicked out for the surface.

“Light, bright light!” Neri told Jason, “It was beautiful! But when I go near, it stops. I will go back.” She was smiling.

“Are you kidding? Stay away from there!”

“No. I must go back.” The smile was gone and Neri’s voice sounded like a low bell.

Jason was scared of whatever was down there. He wanted to go home and forget about it. But even more, he was worried about Neri. “Promise you won’t go down without me.”

Neri hadn’t even thought of going down alone. “Jason..?”

“Sorry. It’s just—whatever’s down there messes up radar, it overloaded this stuff… it’s dangerous. You could get hurt.”

Winston put in, “Yes! Nothing should be able to block satellite scans. When something does what nothing should be able to do, be very careful.”

“I will. But Jason, Winston, I must learn what makes the light. You help me?”

“Of course Neri.”

Elly Hauser had been pretty in college, but after working for Praxis for three years she dressed too neat for real beauty and her gray eyes had gone sharp and suspicious.. But the job paid—really well. Elly eased her red convertible up the long driveway and showed her id to security before parking at the main building.

In the director’s office the two agents nodded to each other. “Agent Shelby.”

“Agent Hauser.”

The director said, “I am aware there have been certain… tensions between the two of you.”

Ellie and Shelby exchanged glances. ‘Tensions’ was a polite way of saying they came close to truly hating each other.

“But you are both top agents, and professionals. And it’s just because you have different skills that I want you to work together on this. Persistence will be required, as well as a maximum of subtlety and restraint. Remember you may well come face to face with extra-terrestrial biological entities.”

“You really suspect an alien presence?”

“Something’s gotta be intercepting those signals.” Shelby dismissed the times they’d investigated for aliens and found none. He stood up and went to the map, and took a breath to begin a statement. The director sighed and put his chin on his hands.

“Now I’ve done some preliminary calculations sir, and I figure our subject—or subjects—would have to be receiving the signal within a one mile radius of here—just west of Alexandria.”

Ellie frowned, “You took into account the changed atmospheric vectors recorded in the past two months’ report from the metrological office? Taking these figures on board I think you’ll find the reception point is near Cairo—in fact somewhere near the Valley of the Kings.”

Shelby tried not to look dismayed.

The director cut off their one-upping battle. “You’re both on a secure flight to Egypt in ninety minutes.”

Egypt. Wide desert, sprawling dirty city and the one river cutting through both. Outside the city towns of tents housed visiting scientists, anyone who couldn’t afford a house on their research grant. The man waiting on the stone steps by the river did not look like a poor scientist. He was a dour brown-skinned man who dressed like the movies’ idea of an Egyptologist.

The river was brown-black with receding flood, and pollution even here above the main part of the city. A woman in scuba gear walked out of the water. She spit out the mouthpiece and shook water off her body in disgust.

“What have you found?” The man demanded.


“Keep trying—further upstream.”

The girl ignored him and pulled a towel over her bathing suit. “I’m tired. Hungry. That water makes me feel sick. How much longer?”

“You must remember what we are seeking has been waiting for us for five thousand years! You must be patient.”

She turned, revealing a fine, regal face maybe twenty years old. “But no more today. At dawn.” She headed up the cliff trail to return to their camp where food and a freshwater shower waited.

Brett and Cass were checking out the commander’s quarters, left vacant since Commander Wellington had transferred to a ship command.

“Check out the kitchen, looks more like an operating theater.” Cass said, “No more mess hall!”

“I could get used to this!” Brett flopped down in a comfy chair. His family cabin didn’t have a sitting room, or a kitchen. Brett didn’t even have a bedroom to himself and he wanted a place to put up his posters.

“What’s in there?”

In the master bedroom a boy was sitting on the end of the bed playing a video game on the wall-mounted computer screen.

With the confidence of a native orca resident Brett stepped in front of the screen. “What are you doing here?”

“Wot does it look like?”

Brett hadn’t been very polite, but this boy was genuinely nasty.

“Have you got permission to be here?” Cass asked.

“Have you?”

They didn’t. The boy went on, “I suppose you think you’ll be living here with your mum. I hear she’s applied. Well let me tell you something my friend—it’ll be me, not you.”

“How do you figure that?” Cass asked mildly.

“My father is first officer, is he not? So he will be promoted to commander. You will please leave now.” He got back to his game.

Brett recognized the kid now, the First Officer Danson’s son straight out of some genius school in England. Cass whispered, “His name’s Louis.”

Brett stepped back in front of the screen. “No Louis, after you. As in there’s one of you and two of us.”

“Very well. But it is I who shall be packing, not you.”

Brett said to his back, “Yeah in your dreams.”

“What a jerk!” Cass said with disbelief. “He hardly talked at check in, I didn’t know he was such a…” words failed. Then Cass switched to another subject. “And those ‘two of us’ would be me, and my reputation right?”

Brett threw a pillow at her.

Louis found his father on the submarine launch deck—which wasn’t a deck at all but a large room in the outer shell of orca. First Officer Danson was checking equipment.

“Father! Those Bates kids figure their mom’s going to get the commander’s job!”

“Not now Louis, I’m busy.”

“But that’s probably where she’s gone! You did put in an application didn’t you?”

“Yes yes, “I—“ he didn’t bother to finish the sentence, distracted by Jason and Winston coming in. “Officer Bates, you’re late.”

“Yes sir. Sorry sir.”

“Our apologies.”

“I notice you two have requisitioned the minifin this morning. May I ask why?”

“We have to recheck one of the seabed beacons. Doctor Seth will run the tests.” It was an excuse. There were plenty of beacons on the way and heaven knew they were always breaking down in one way or another.

The head tech ducked out of the minifin. “Everything in order sir.”

Danson nodded. “All right. Come on son.”

“Dad, ask him!” Louis whined.

Danson cleared his throat. “I, ah, understand your mother is away for a few days?”

“Yes sir. Mainland headquarters.” Jason answered.

“Fine. Carry on.” He left with Louis trailing behind.

“Let’s go.” Jason said. They climbed down the ladders into the two seats of the minifin. It was a claustrophobic little sub, but fast, and it had the same technology as the deep-dive helmet so they could go look at the magnetic anomaly close up. In theory.

They did check a few beacons, then headed for the chasm. They were planning to go as close as they could and then drop a few camera and sensor arrays to see what they could learn. Brett and Cass were watching on the screen in the lab on orca.

“There’s Neri.” Neri was waiting midwater, her hair billowing above her head. She waved to the minifin’s camera, then beckoned and ducked behind a rock.

Jason glanced at his instruments. They were deep, almost as deep as he’d gone testing the helmet, but closer to the chasm wall. He watched their position with one eye and the main screen with the other. They should be able to see the mysterious square soon…

Suddenly the main screen went white, total glare. Jason yelled in surprise and shaded his eyes. He could see every instrument was going crazy, readings jumping all over the place. The minifin was shaking. Winston said, “Oh my goodness! And, “Should I do anything?” But Jason was the one who’d had minifin training and he couldn’t do anything. The engine wasn’t responding.

The glare faded just a little and they could see the seabed in stark black and white profile. Neri had returned. This light on her face made her look like a different person.

Then it stopped. Jason and Winston were left blinking in sudden dark and stillness. Jason’s hand was on the mayday button but he hadn’t pressed it.

“I think it’s over.” Just then the engines came back online, startling both of them.

Neri beckoned again, and gestured at her passage between the rocks.

“She wants us to follow her.”

“But to what I wonder.”

The man in Egypt pulled out his canteen and drank, mentally cursing the desert sun and sand. Around him the rest of the dig went on as usual, the British and American teams digging and documenting their findings.

His companion walked over, barefoot on the hot sand. She was again wearing her bathing suit under a long linen robe.

“All is in readiness at the river. Perhaps today will be the day.”

The girl gave him a catty smile. “It is fortunate, isn’t it, that I am such a good swimmer?”

Behind them a golden pyramid reached for the sky.

A green pyramid reached for the blue glitter of the surface. The minifin’s floodlights picked out its huge outline, and the texture of carvings with green weed growing over them.

“…seeing things.” Jason said faintly. “I’m seeing things.”

Neri swam to the pyramid and floated, her hands against the stone blocks.