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

Source: 1, 2, DeviantART
Author:Judith “Stormdance” Kenyon
Copyright:Archiving permitted by author

7. Ambush

Birds sang in the cool morning air at the outback farm. The children were feeding the horses. Neri’s delighted laughter rippled in the air as the horse’s whiskers tickled her palm.

“Hey, stop it Cinnamon there’s enough for everyone!” Brett held the bucket of grain up, trying to get it out of Cinnamon’s reach. The brown horse whuffled and stretched after the food. Her sister Lucky Star ambled over, while Kiki stayed with Neri and the hay.

“Friendly horse. I like you.”

“They’re great!” Brett said. He climbed up the fence to sit next to Neri. “Who knew dad likes horses!”

“Earth has many wonderful surprises.” Neri leaned in to let the horse sniff her face, and she sniffed it in return. She liked the smell of horse; it was so different from the wild smells of the island or the clean, chemical smell of ORCA.

Jason sat away from the corral, munching on a final piece of toast from breakfast and looking moody.

“Jason? You are not happy. This is because of your father, yes?”

Jason looked up at Neri and shrugged. “Just can’t work out what he wants.”

“Perhaps, to know you.”

“Yeah. Pity it’s a bit too late.”

Neri tipped her head. “Really?”

“Look, he had that girlfriend and then he left Mum. We’ve hardly seen him for years and then all of a sudden he turns up working for ORCA, with this house for us, and wants to start playing dad again. Well big deal.”

“My sister tell me, people give things to their children because they do not know how to love them at first.”

Jason blinked. “Mera said that? I guess she’d know from all the foster homes she lived in.”

“And he come to rescue us.”

“My dad the hero. Well, maybe. Anyway it’s a great farm he’s got, might as well enjoy it.” Jason pushed himself up, “Hey, check this out.” He walked down to the river and picked up a flat stone, and tossed it out over the water. The stone skipped. Neri stared.

“A stone bounces?”

“You never tried that in your pond?” Jason handed her another flat stone, “You try. You have to throw it flat.”

Neri tried, achieving one skip. She frowned. “Show me again? And later, we ride horses?”

“Sure. I think they need a rest after they eat, then we’ll see if I remember how to saddle one. It’s been a while since camp. Oh hey, that’s a really good rock! Watch this…”

The roar of motorcycles shattered the peace of the morning. The three children stood frozen for a minute before Brett jumped down from the fence yelling, “PRAXIS! Neri, go!”

Neri looked around in terror for a moment. The roaring machines seemed to be coming from everywhere. She dived for the river.

“Let’s go!” Brett was already starting up one of the waverunners. Jason jumped on the other and fumbled to untie it. He was too nervous, and it took a second too long. He was surrounded.

Underwater Neri saw the divers before they saw her. Blank masks in the murk. She looked for a way around and, at last, surfaced.

Brett saw Neri’s head come up, and then three heads in hoods and masks. He gunned the waverunner right at them. “Neri! Grab on!” The PRAXIS divers had to get out of the way, and Neri had enough time to grab Brett’s hand and scramble onto the waverunner.

“They have Jason!”

Brett winced but didn’t turn. “He’ll be fine! They’re not after him! Hang on!”

They were away, and the ocean wasn’t far. Agent Shelby came running along the bank yelling at them. Brett turned to look at him, just for a second, and—

“Look out!”

The waverunner hit a log. It went airborne, and it went over. Jason yelled.

Neri came up, went under, and reappeared with Brett leaning on her shoulder. He was spitting out water and groaning. As Neri helped him towards shore, Shelby gestured his minions forward. “Get them, go!” Gloved hands dragged Brett up the bank, and more hands clamped on Neri’s shoulders.

Jason yelled, “Neri! Go—“ before someone covered his mouth.

“Brett!” Neri cried.

“I’m… unh…”

And then it was too late and they were really surrounded and being hustled towards a PRAXIS van a few hundred yards away. Shelby grinned. “Gotcha.”

They had been separated early on. The boys were dumped back on ORCA, in their mother’s custody. They didn’t know where Neri had been taken.

“It was an accident.” Jason assured his brother, “Could have happened to anyone.”

Brett winced as Dianne cleaned the cut on his forehead. “Yeah maybe- ow! Stupid- ow!- Shelby distracted me and I didn’t see what we hit.”

“Log. Same color as the water.”

“Whatever it was you got a nasty knock when you hit it. You were lucky it wasn’t worse.”

Brett made a face to show his mom how lucky he felt. “What I don’t get is how they knew we were at the farm.”

“PRAXIS is a very powerful organization.”

Cass was spinning slowly in Dianne’s computer chair, “Poor Neri. Who knows what they’ll do to her.”

“I hope they don’t hurt her.”

“Can’t Dad do something?” Brett asked.

“He’s done enough! If we weren’t at his farm none of this would’ve happened and Neri would still be with us!”

“Jason, there’s no point blaming your father. If you hadn’t been there they might have somehow found Neri on the island, which would have been worse. Besides, we may need his help to get her back.”

The PRAXIS team had come up the river on a yacht. That was where Neri was now, handcuffed and waiting for whatever would happen next.

On the bridge a cheerful Shelby talked to Director Richter over his computer.

“The subject is to be transferred to the seaplane the moment it arrives” Richter said.

“No problem sir. We’re proceeding to rendezvous point now.”

“I trust you are aware of the importance of this operation. I cannot stress how vital it is that the subject is kept under strictest scrutiny.”

“There’s no way she’ll escape, sir.”

The director let his glee show, just a little. “This’ll be bigger than Roswell. Bigger than Cardiff! Well done, Shelby.”

Elly came and sat down next to Neri. The alien was staring straight ahead, blank-faced. “Hey… are you in any pain? Did you hurt yourself when you crashed before? Do you even feel pain?”

No response.

“Do you have a name? Mine’s Elly, Elly Hauser. We know you’re not from Earth.” Elly thought a tremor crossed the alien’s face. She tried more, “You, er, you don’t seem to want to harm us. We don’t want to harm you either. We can learn things from each other, you know. Your people and ours. Important things.”

Nothing. The alien wasn’t even looking her way. Elly reached over and touched the alien’s hands. Neri stiffened and pulled away.

“…you’re very frightened, aren’t you? I won’t let them hurt you, I promise. I can… I can take those off if you like?” She held up the key to the handcuffs, but had to lift the alien’s limp hands to actually unlock them. Freed, Neri rested her hands back in her lap and continued to look at nothing.

“Guys!” Cass stormed into the commander’s quarters, “Winston picked up a PRAXIS transmission!”

“About Neri?”

“Yeah, but we better not route it up here just in case you’re bugged—come on!”

They ran down to HELEN’s main terminal, hidden in the bowels of ORCA and usually Cass’ private domain. Winston had several screens hooked up, and a bunch of wiring and gizmos. “Jason, Brett.”

“You found her? Where is she?”

“On a boat, far out to sea. They’re waiting for a seaplane to transfer her to a secure facility that even HELEN cannot locate!”

“We’re sunk, we’ll never get her back!” Brett groaned.

Winston provided a grin and a proverb. “To abandon hope is to sting oneself as surely as a scorpion. As long as she is on the water, Neri has a chance.”

“Can we help? Send a plane out or something? A boat?”

“Your father is doing his best Brett, and no boat on ORCA could reach her in time even if you did make off with one.”

“I guess we can keep listening…”

The door hummed open. Winston summoned a smile at the new arrival. “Anything I can do for you, Louis?”

“Agent Shelby caught that girl, didn’t he?” Louis gloated, “That friend of yours. I bet she’s an alien. That’s why they were after her.”

“HELEN’s been letting you watch too much sci-fi.” Jason said.

Louis sing-songed, “I know why they caught her. It was because you!”

Jason took two steps and grabbed the boy by the shoulders. “What do you mean?” he growled. Suddenly it was obvious that Jason was a lot taller than Louis, and angry enough…


“Take it easy Jason.” Winston pulled him away.

Jason stepped back, “Ok. What do you mean?”

“That’s top secret. It’s between Agent Shelby and me.”

“He’s bluffing Jase, you know what he’s like.” Brett slid in between them just in case. Strangling Louis might have been fun… except for a minute there Jason had looked like he might really strangle Louis, which wouldn’t have been fun at all.

“Aren’t there some urgent matters you’re neglecting, Louis?” Winston said.

Louis allowed himself to be escorted out, leaving with a cheery, “have a nice day!”

“HELEN, can you warn us when Louis approaches? That young man looks for trouble as a pig looks for truffles.”

“Yeah but why’d he say it—that it was because of me?”

“Forget it Jase. We’ve got more important things to worry about right now.”

On the yacht, Neri sat looking out to sea. Elly had given up trying to talk to her eventually. Now Shelby joined them in the cabin. “We’re miles from anywhere you know. So you can forget any hope of being rescued by your little friends from ORCA. Where are you from?”

Nothing. The girl’s throat worked, Elly noticed, almost as if she was somehow speaking without opening her mouth.

“You know, the sooner you start answering our questions the easier it’s going to be for you, ‘cause once we get back to headquarters we’re going to find out everything we need to know. One way or another.”

“Jake! Enough. Can’t you see she’s frightened?”

“I’ve got a job to do, Agent Hauser, and I’d appreciate it if you let me get on with it.”

“There are other ways.”

“Like removing handcuffs?”

“Yes, like that. She’s not going to tell us anything if she’s scared out of her wits.”

Shelby ignored that and leaned in rudely close to Neri’s face. “I know you speak our language, so it’s no use pretending you don’t. You were having some pretty cozy little chats with young Jason Bates back there. What’s your connection with the Bates family? Hey, look at me!’

“She won’t.”

Neri looked up.

“We know from your dna you’re an alien so–”

The boat shuddered. Something hit it from below, hard. Shelby staggered and grabbed a pole to steady himself. “What was that?”

Shouts from the bridge. The boat lurched and Shelby fell, dragging Elly with him.

Neri moved like lightning. In a moment she was out through the hatch, on deck, at the rail. Shelby yelled.

Elly shouted, “Neri!”

The alien looked back, actually looked at her, with deep brilliant eyes. Then she was over the rail and gone.

The two agents reached the rail a second later, panting. They saw nothing but blue water in every direction. Shelby said, “…hell!’

“She does understand.” Elly whispered, “Probably more than we’ll ever know.”

A few minutes later a whale breached on the horizon.

Underwater Neri embraced Charley’s long fin. Dear one… dear one… thank you…

Huddled around the computer speaker on ORCA, the team heard Shelby’s voice, “The alien escaped sir. We were hit by a whale, and in the confusion the subject managed to jump overboard.”

Brett whooped. Cass hugged Jason.


“Oh thank goodness.”

“Those PRAXIS agents are sure going to get a carpeting!” Winston gloated.

“Call Mum. HELEN, can you deliver a message to the commander? Tell her, ‘it’s all right.’”

“Affirmative, Jason. Message delivered.”

“Let’s go meet Neri, make sure she’s all right. How long will it take her to get back to the island?”

Jason looked at his watch. “Um, it’ll take… hey, that’s weird it’s stopped.”

“But those watches can’t. Here, lemme see.” Cass held out her hand and Jason handed over the watch. Cass pulled out her multitool and scanned it.

“Ah, who cares about a watch when Neri’s safe?” Winston grinned and sat back in his chair. “After that, I think I need a cup of tea. Cass..?”

“Hang on.” Cass and the watch headed out the door.

The boys caught up with her in her quarters, where she was taking Jason’s watch to pieces under a large magnifying glass. “That’s what Louis meant.”

“You fix it?” Jason asked.

“Better. Ta.” Cass held up a tiny circuit in a pair of tweezers. “You were bugged, that’s how they tracked you to your dad’s farm.”

“They took my watch for that lie detector test. They must’ve planted it then.”

Cass grimaced. “Slimeballs. Looks like they’ll do anything to get Neri. Want I should smash it?”

Jason thought, “No, hang on. I’ve got a better idea.”

It was a very nice house on the coast of Australia. The view was lovely, the sunset painting the waves orange. On the balcony Malakat stared out over the water.

“The underwater pyramid of the ancients is out there somewhere. But where?”

“Wherever it is you won’t find it by staring at the ocean.” Shersheba grumbled. She’d changed into Earth clothing, a long silk jacket that flared as she turned to go inside.

Malakat sighed and followed her inside. The house was very nice inside too; they’d bought it furnished and selling artifacts could get quite a lot of ‘furnished.’ They didn’t even know what most of the appliances were for.

“The chosen one probably knows where it is. We must not forget she can use the waterways that connect the pyramids.”

“As we cannot, thank you for reminding me.” Shersheba bent to look into a round mirror. She adjusted the perfect coil of her hair. “What Jason sees in Neri is a total mystery.”

Malakat did not comment. But maybe his look spoke, because Shersheba snapped, “Enough, Malakat! Unpack your equipment and get to work or we shall never find it.”

The island slept under the wide blue sky. Neri was resting also, lying on the bank of the pool with her legs in the water. It felt like the world had been shrunken small, and only now was growing big enough for silence and the smell of water and old leaves under her shoulders.

What has begun, we must see where it will lead.

Not yet. Charley replied, Rest now. Jason is coming.

Neri did rest, until she heard the boat. Then she got up and ran down to the beach.

“Hey! Neri!” Brett waved. Jason was pulling the boat up onto the sand.

Neri ran down and hugged them both. “I thought I never see you again!”

“Yeah well you almost didn’t.”

“You’re safe for now, but PRAXIS is awfully smart and they have more resources than UBRI. They might find you even here.”

“I don’t think they’re going to give up.” Jason sighed, “I don’t know what we should do.”

“I must return to the underwater pyramid.”

“It’s dangerous!”

“PRAXIS’ll be watching for you. You can’t!”

“You don’t understand. I must go! I must know my mother’s wishes.”

“Well… Cass did give us a distraction to use, if Charley doesn’t mind doing us another favor.”

Brett grinned, “Oooh! You mean he takes the PRAXIS guys’ transmitter for a ride in the opposite direction from the pyramid?”

“You got it. We just have to go home and get the bug. And promise we won’t lose the minifin again.”


“Hmm?” Dianne turned. “Yes, Dave?”

“I thought you’d like to hear that our PRAXIS guests have arrived. They’re on their way down from the pontoon.”

“Good. Thank you.”

“Would you like me to order them new visitor passes?”

“Oh, I don’t think that’ll be necessary. I believe our guests have finished their business on board. They’re probably just here to collect their equipment.”

Dave nodded and tossed a little salute. Nobody wanted the PRAXIS agents on board; talk in the cafeteria was ‘the two of them are worse than fifty UBRI techs tromping around.’ But you couldn’t say that to the commander, at least not straight out.

Dianne met the elevator. “Shame your stay on board was so short.”

“What makes you think it’s over?”

Dianne blinked, “Well, isn’t it?”

“No commander, we’re in it for the long haul. And there’s quite a few questions we’d like to ask you.” They walked past Dianne and headed for their quarters.

“That sure wiped the smile off her face.” Shelby said.

“Well there is a lot she’s not telling.”

Louis fell into step behind them. “So, you caught a real live alien? Can I see it? Where is it?”

“Get lost kid.” Shelby slid the door closed in the boy’s face.

“Nice way to treat your ‘main man.’”

“Thank you for your observation Agent Hauser, but I’d really appreciate it if you turned your mind to more productive matters. Or maybe you don’t realize that unless we get that girl back pronto we’re going to have the shortest careers on record.” Shelby flipped open his computer. “That’s interesting.”


“The Bates boy. He’s way out to sea.”

“Could be a rendezvous with the girl. Let’s go.”

The minifin surfaced inside the pyramid. Jason took a deep breath and opened the top. Brett muttered, “Wonder where we’re gonna end up this time.”

“Neri? Are you sure about this?”

“Charley says PRAXIS people are far away.”

“That’s not what I meant. Are you sure you want to know what this place is all about?”

“Mother wanted me to know.”

There wasn’t anything anyone could say to that.

Light shimmered through the main chamber and the hologram appeared.

“My daughter, it grieves me to know that you are watching this, for it means I have passed and can no longer be with you. For this message was recorded when you were a child, as a precaution in case Braevan and I passed before you could hear of your heritage from our lips. You must listen now my child, and listen carefully.”

“Five thousand years ago our people realized that despite the wonders of our technology, a race limited to one planet is always at risk. One day, we might have to leave it. The ancients prepared the way for us by building gate structures on the Opal Planet, structures that the people of that world later copied.”

“Now, in our own generation, the time we must leave may be at hand. Your father was sent to earth with the synchronium to prepare for our arrival. And you, as the chosen one, accompanied him.”

“Chosen one?” Brett whispered.

Elsewhere, Shersheba paced disconsolately on the balcony. Malakat put a hand on her shoulder. “Fear not, princess. We will find the underwater pyramid. We will find the golden ankh. And then, you will be queen.”

Shalamorn continued, “My daughter, you are a princess, and if things have gone as I fear… you are the hope of our people and the earth people.” The woman looked down—almost like she was trying not to cry. Then she sank back into the statue.

Jason murmured, “Amazing. You’re a princess.”