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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

10. Legend of the Whale-woman

Neri and Jason appeared in the crystal cave, off balance and stumbling.

“Jason? Your arm?”

Jason wiggled his fingers. “It’s wearing off. Still hurts though! I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised they had weapons. Hey, we’re in the cave in the outback! At least it’s not Egypt. Maybe we can… Neri?”

Neri had stepped away, and was splashing her face from the spring. She looked back with water drops trickling down her cheeks and her eyes wide. “Jason, Malakat said he…”

“Oh man, Neri I’m sorry. You all right?” Jason asked helplessly.

Neri was staring past him at nothing. “There were people on the ship. Kal. His mother who spoke for the ship. Others. Father, if he had been on our planet when he got sick, maybe…”

Jason put his arms around Neri and just held her.

“My sister say she was not hurt on Earth, but her eyes look so cold sometimes. Because of Malakat? All that was because of Malakat?”

“Neri…” What could he say? There was nothing. “We’ll stop him, Neri. Somehow. He won’t hurt anybody else.”

After a long minute Neri nodded. “Yes. We must stop him.” Suddenly she smiled, “Jakamarra comes.”


“I hear his truck.” Neri darted up the steps and out of the cave, and when Jason caught up she was waving cheerfully to the approaching truck.

Jakamarra parked and got out, and Neri hugged him.

“Hey guys. Wondered when you’d be back. Hungry?”

They had snacks in the cave, and brought Jakamarra up to speed on what had happened. He nodded a lot but said little. Finally Jason finished, “And Mum’s going to kill me for losing the deep-dive helmet. What did we miss out here?”

“PRAXIS agents have been all over the place while you’ve been away. Crawling about with electronic gadgets that go bleep.”

“They find anything?”


“The golden ankh is safe?”

“The ankh’s a long way off, Neri. You’ve come back for it?”


“Then this is the time?”

“This is the time.” Neri chimed. It had the sound of some kind of ritual, but one Jason didn’t understand.

Then Jakamarra said in a normal voice, “You ready for a bit of a journey?”

“How long?” Jason asked.

“More than a day maybe.”

“Hey. Neri needs water Jakamarra, and lots of it or she gets dehydrated.”

“Water’s pretty hard to find in the outback.” Jakamarra grinned, “Unless you know where to look. No worries.”

In the pyramid the gateway winked out and the stone doors slid back across it. Shersheba slapped the stone but it would not open for her. “This is all your fault Malakat!”

“What is?” Malakat asked absently from where he was searching for the ankh.

“Neri gaining the pyramid’s protection. You should have stopped her.”

“A slight obstacle that will be easily overcome, highness.”

Shersheba scowled at the gateway. “It’s no use. It won’t open.”

“Not for you I think.”

The girl whirled and glared. “Did you locate the golden ankh?”

“No. The girl must have been lying when she suggested it was here in the pyramid. She must still have it with her.”

“Then find her. Get it back from her.” Shersheba leaned on the control panel beside the model of the pyramid. Malakat joined her.

“That is my intention, but you and I must remain united in our purpose. This is the greatest enterprise anyone from our planet has ever attempted. We will gain control over this planet…”

“But when, Malakat?”

Malakat looked down at the table, the little pyramid and obelisk and the letters and figures carved into the stone. “As soon as we locate Neri. And that will not be difficult. The answer is right here.”

Shersheba waited grumpily as her companion got his maps and spread them out over the console. He summoned a holographic model of earth and set points on it. “Now that we know where the underwater pyramid is, we can find the third point on the gate network. By applying the sacred formula…”

Shersheba tapped her foot.

“Here. In the far northern desert of this continent. The outback.”

When Jason didn’t come home for dinner, Winston came over to eat his dinner and help wait, and then Brett called Cass for one of those meetings that was getting way too common these days.

Cass said, “Well if they’re on the farm they’re still not answering the phone.”

“And they’re not on the island.” Brett finished, sitting down at the bar in quarters. “And Jason signed out the deep water helmet.”

“So they’ve gone to the pyramid.” Cass winced, “And not come back.”

“Then the sooner we get after them…” Dianne began.

“Waste of time Mum. Without Neri along nobody can get inside.”

“Except those visitors from the ocean planet, Malakat and Shersheba.”

Cass sighed. “Yeah. If they caught Neri and Jason in there, they could be in some real trouble.”

“I don’t like this.” Dianne said, “We’re sandwiched between PRAXIS agents, who obviously answer to no one, and these ocean people we know nothing about.”

“Except they all want to find Neri, and not for nice reasons.”

“Then… Cass, do you think we could bug PRAXIS communications with HELEN? Maybe get a jump on what they’re up to.”

Cass considered, then slowly nodded, “Maybe. Lena has an anonymous server connection so Winston, if we uplink to the satellite and patch it through with a double encode…”

Winston overrode her, “The short answer, Commander, is probably. Ask again in an hour.” He grinned, “If we’re going to be the ham in the sandwich, we might as well add some mustard.”

The truck rattled through the outback on a barely visible road. Neri dozed leaning on Jason’s shoulder.

“Jakamarra, we’ve turned up twice in the cave without warning and you’ve never asked who we are or how we got there. Why not?”

“Well, it’s…” Jakamarra paused to think. “When certain people appear in the landscape, you can’t help but read the signs.”

“What signs?”

“Signs that say they’re a part of the landscape. That they belong. You two belong.”

In the lounge of the very nice house, Malakat poured drinks for the two PRAXIS agents. “It is unfortunate the girl you’re so anxious to locate has escaped you. Even more unfortunate for us.”

Shelby sounded skeptical, “Uh-huh. How come?”

“She took with her an object of immense… archaeological value.”

“What kind of object?”

“A gold ankh. A symbol of immortality in the great civilization of ancient Egypt.”

“Immortality. Surely you don’t believe in that stuff.”

Malakat shrugged. “I like to keep an open mind. How do we know the spirits of the ancients weren’t transported to another planet? Another galaxy?”

“Professor.” Shersheba interrupted.

“The point is, we each seek the girl for our own reasons. We should cooperate, share our information.”

“Ah, Professor Malakat the agency has very strict policies about liaising with outsiders.” Elly said. She’d heard stories about the London office which had let a possible alien in, and then… well, the Brits were still rebuilding and nobody was around to say what had really happened.

“You think your sources are superior to ours?”

“I know it.” Shelby said.

“Then you must already know your quarry is currently in the wilds of the outback.”

They hadn’t known. The two agents exchanged a glance, then Shelby’s cel phone rang. He stood up, made an ‘excuse me’ wave and stepped out onto the balcony. “Yes?”

A computer-altered voice grated, “Listen very closely. I’m only going to say this once. We know you’re looking for aliens. Our information leads us to suspect that Malakat and his assistants are aliens themselves.”

“Hang on. Who am I speaking to?”

The caller hung up.

On ORCA, Brett and Cass exchanged a high-five and Cass erased all evidence of the call.

“What you said earlier about being part of the landscape. Why are you sure Neri belongs here?” Jason asked.

“It was told to me in a dreamtime story.”

“Dreamtime?” Neri chimed.

“Yeah. Stories about the creation of our world. Very old. Very… spiritual.” Jakamarra said, and Neri nodded to show she understood the word.

“And Neri’s in them?”

“Sort of. In one of them. Maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime.”


“Yeah. We’d like to hear it.”

“So, who was the call from?” Elly asked as the PRAXIS agents got into the car to leave.

“I don’t know. They didn’t say.” Shelby passed over its phone, with “call untraceable” reading on the screen.


“A tip off that Professor Malakat and the girl Shersheba are also aliens.”

“You don’t believe that?”

“I’m not taking any chances. I took his glass. We’ll get it checked out back at hq.”

“What about the information the girl’s in the outback?”

“We’ll check that out too.”

From the balcony Malakat and Shersheba watched them go.

The girl finished her drink. “Are you sure it’s wise to put them on to Neri?”

“Why not? PRAXIS can find her, they lead us to the ankh. Then they take care of her. It will be a tragedy caused by the barbaric Earth people. If you are to rule our people, you mustn’t have blood on your hands.”

“Why did he steal your glass?”

“To check my fingerprints and dna, I assume.”

“But that would show we’re not from Earth!”

“I have allowed for that.” Malakat grimaced and pulled a thin film of plastic from one hand, then the other. “And any of my cells that survived the alcohol will have died and disintegrated before they get anywhere near a lab.”

Shersheba smiled. “Very good Malakat.”

In the computing inner sanctum, Cass sat frowning at her screen, which showed a ‘locked out’ logo.

“What’s taking so long?” Brett said over her shoulder.

Cass turned the frown on him. “PRAXIS tech is levels up from what I thought—HELEN can’t measure up! So far I’ve fount two dedicated PRAXIS frequencies over four bands. That’s two more than HELEN found.”

“So why aren’t we listening yet?”

“Because they’re scrambled, pebble brain. I’ve still got to crack the code.”

“It’s getting late.”

“Yeah thanks for the news flash.” Cass grumbled, then brightened as a popup message appeared. “Great, Froggy’s on. We gotta put our heads together—go get me a snack or something Brett.” She started typing at lightning speed.

Brett, not a computer genius, said, “Tell Froggy hi,” and went to get that snack.

Night fell over the orange earth of the outback. The travelers sat around a fire listening to Jakamarra’s story and the chorus of frogs and bugs.

“So the Whale-woman was saved from her enemies and hidden in the crystal cave by the ancient people. It turned out she’d brought a rock with her, an amazing rock that glowed in the dark. The old people thought it was magic, a rock that turned night into day. So they made the Whale-woman their leader. She lived with them for many years and shared her wisdom until one day, a huge bird with wings like an eagle came out of the sky and carried her away back to her own people. And that’s the dreamtime story of how my people got the gift of light.”

Jason looked over at Neri, “You aren’t going to fly away and leave us are you?”

Neri tipped her head back and looked at the sky.

Dianne Bates frowned at the door of the guest suite. “Can you beat those PRAXIS people? They’ve code locked it!”

“Must have.” Winston said, “Well, no luck here.”

“You got a screwdriver?” Dianne pointed at the access plate by the door.

“That’s strictly against protocol…” Winston looked around nervously then crouched down and got to work on the panel. “I wouldn’t want Brett and Cass to know about this.”

“They won’t. But we have to break into PRAXIS system.”

The door chirped unlocked, and hissed open. Revealing Cass sitting with Elly’s computer, and Brett hovering holding a notebook. The kids looked guilty.

Dianne put her hands on her hips. “I thought you two were in bed. You broke in!”

“So did you.” Brett pointed out, “We won’t tell if you won’t. Get in here and help. I’m copying down everything that might be a password and Cass’ breaking the code.”

“Almost got it.” The computer trilled, “Yes! It’s cleared! Gimme a minute to get HELEN a line to this and then we can scram. We still have seven frequencies to monitor though.”

The two adults looked at each other. Winston said, “Sometimes I wonder why we bother.”

Morning broke over the outback, already hot. Jakamarra packed their gear into bags. “We’ll have to walk from here. It’s not far–”

Neri’s head jerked up. “Someone comes!” She made for the trees. Jakamarra pointed up a ridge and the three of them climbed up to where they could hide in the bushes.

To their horror, a white PRAXIS jeep pulled in next to Jakamarra’s truck. The two agents got out and looked around. Hauser pointed some kind of machine at the ground and said something to her partner. Shelby tried, “Ok, come on out.” When no one did, they went back to their jeep and got out equipment.

Jakamarra pointed at an almost invisible trail through the brush.

When they were safely away Jason said, “How the heck did they get here?”

“Followed the truck maybe? Or that gizmo the lady was holding, maybe it’s some kind of tracker.” Jakamarra shrugged.

“You’re awfully calm.”

“Yeah ‘cause we’re moving fast in the direction of ‘away.’ We’ve got a little head start and it’ll be harder to follow us walking.” Jakamarra looked behind them, just in case.

Jason blinked at him, “Hey, you said we had to walk before they showed up. Why?”

“My people don’t like vehicles driven across this land. They say bad spirits sleep under the ground. It’s best to let them lie.”

Jason guessed, “Sinkhole?”

“Maybe. Or maybe there really are bad spirits. Can only be bad for PRAXIS now, anyway.”

“Got something!” Winston pulled off his headphones and switched the radio track to speaker. They heard Director Richter, “Your idea about this man appears to be quite wrong, Agent Shelby. The fingerprint check revealed him to be a Professor Miles Malakat, a master of antiquities from the Sorbonne in Paris and a Swiss citizen. He’s perfectly normal. Human.”

Cass was livid.

Shelby coughed nervously, “Just goes to show you can’t trust anonymous tips.”

“Where are you now?”

“At their campsite.”

“They’ve gone ahead on foot? Well, what are you waiting for?”

“We’re still trying to pick up their trail sir.” Hauser said.

“Right. Keep calling in.”

The call ended. Dianne looked at Cass and Winston, “Can you guys get a fix on where that signal’s coming from?”

“We can try.”

It was just a few minutes later another call started. Cass waved wildly and told HELEN to record, just in case. They heard Richter’s voice again, “How far can they have got on foot? I thought you were close behind!”

“We were, sir, only we lost the image.”

“Care to tell me why?”

Shelby’s voice, “Obvious, sir. We’re over uranium deposits.”

Richter: “Uranium?”

Hauser, sounding very controlled, “Yes sir. They’ve fouled the signal.”

“Well get it fixed, Hauser!”

“Yes sir.”

Brett mouthed, “Uranium?”

“Well at least that narrows the field. HELEN, could you plot me a map of all known uranium deposits in Northern Australia?”

The door opened and Paul Bates stepped in. “Should I be afraid to ask where Jason’s gone this time?”

“Probably.” Said Brett.

“Sorry to call you just as you get home Paul, but I’m afraid Jason and Neri may be in danger. Are you up for running a rescue if necessary?”

Jakamarra pointed. “It’s down there.”

“A waterhole?”

It was a tiny waterhole, smaller than a swimming pool and choked with weeds, but the water was clear and at the bottom Jason saw a glint of gold. Neri grinned at them and dived. She came up smiling, shining, the golden ankh in her hand.

Elly was tinkering with the tracker. There had to be a way to reset the baseline reading so… she stopped. Shelby was hovering over both shoulders at once. Elly glared. He said, “What?”

And then a voice said, “Good morning.” And Professor Malakat stepped out from behind their jeep. “May we be of assistance? Or don’t you accept help from civilians either?”

Elly started, “How did you get–”

“Well if it isn’t the master of antiquities.”

“It is indeed. And I suspect we’re here on the same mission.” Malakat said, ignoring his tone. It took a lot of ignoring tones to deal with Shelby.


“You realize, of course, that the girl needs constant water. So we must check all waterholes between here and the cavern. She will surely return there.”

“Our equipment’s shot. How are we going to find any waterholes?”

Elly went around him to the jeep and pulled out a map.

“Quite so. Now perhaps we can find the girl together.”

Professor Malakat had brought a truck, and he and his assistant followed the PRAXIS agents up the ridge.

Shelby drove, while Elly consulted the map. “How if we keep going south-southwest we should come to a…”

“To a what? The pit stop at the end of the universe?”

“No, look. The imager’s working again. It’ll be easier now. You keep on, I’ll report our location to headquarters.”

The travelers had stopped at a waterhole. Neri knelt, splashing her head. She looked tired.

“Neri.” Jakamarra pointed. A black jeep. “Let’s go.”

They headed up the hill. Jakamarra pointed to a path and the three of them hurried into a stand of trees. “Up to the mesa. I know where we can go–”

Jason wanted to say, that wasn’t a PRAXIS jeep, but he was too out of breath. He grabbed Jakamarra’s hand and let himself be pulled to the top of the Mesa. Neri followed, holding the ankh in her teeth to leave her hands free. She looked back in panic. Right behind her Elly started to climb after them.

“Neri, come on!”

Neri ran after the boys. “Below—Malakat!”

“Aw no.”

Elly Hauser grabbed the rock and pulled herself up the cliff. She was at the top, just one more—

Her foot slipped.

Suddenly she was hanging by one hand on crumbling stone. She screamed and scrabbled at the rock. It was falling away under her feet—she couldn’t get purchase—she was going to fall! Below, Shelby shouted something.

Her hand slipped.

Suddenly Elly wasn’t falling. The alien girl caught her wrist in a solid grip. Elly gasped. The girl pulled her up—Neri’s face was tight with effort but her hand was strong, like pulling on a statue, like you couldn’t move her if you tried.

Elly’s free hand found a hold and she dragged herself up. The Aboriginal and Jason Bates came to help, and soon she was safe on the mesa. She panted, caught her breath and said, “Thanks.”

The alien smiled a beautiful smile.

Then Shelby appeared, and Malakat, and a helicopter was thundering in from somewhere, and Shersheba picked up the golden ankh and cuddled it to her face.

Neri was handcuffed again, under guard. She wasn’t trying anything. In a minute though…

Paul Bates hopped out of the helicopter shouting, “Hold it! Release her.”

“No way commander. You’re out of your jurisdiction.” Shelby preened and gestured Neri into his jeep.

Jason yelled, “Wait! Why are you just taking her? They’re aliens too!”

“You’re wrong. Our people have checked them out.”

“Then your people are wrong!”

“Our people are never wrong.”

Malakat motioned to Shersheba and turned to go. They had what they wanted. Then Jakamarra dived between them and plucked the ankh out of Shersheba’s grasp. He threw it. “Jason!”

Jason caught the ankh and started towards Neri.

“No, Jason! Go!” Neri screamed, “They must not have it!”

Paul grabbed his son, “Come on!” He pushed Jason into the helicopter and started the engine. Jason almost jumped. He saw Malakat roar something nobody could hear over the rotors. And then the helicopter was up.

Jason looked at the ankh in his hands, then down at Neri’s pinched, frightened face, as she too was left behind.