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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

13. With Every Heartbeat

Dianne woke up. She’d finally passed out on Brett’s bed sometime near morning. She washed her face and headed out to the main cabin.

Jason was sitting on the floor by the bed where Neri’s body lay, his face buried in his arms. Cass, last seen sobbing into Winston’s shirt, was now holding the same pose in one of the room’s chairs. Brett sat in the other one, an incomplete call screen open in front of him. He looked up as his mother entered. “We need to tell Vanessa. And Benny, and Froggy and Zoe, and Lena.” He said, but didn’t type in any call code.

Winston’s face appeared on screen. “Commander, you awake? I’ve let everyone know you aren’t feeling well. Food poisoning, to explain why you’re all in hiding. Danson can handle your duties for today. I’ll be down as soon as I can get away.”

“Ok. Thanks Winston.”

God, what now? What could she do? What would any of them do, now that Neri was dead? She couldn’t stand to think of even the day to come, much less the rest of her life. And Brett, and Jason…

Dianne took a breath and summoned the strength to at least keep her voice steady. “HELEN, is Paul still on board? Please patch me through to the nearest station.”

Paul, also still in his clothes from the day before, looked up. He’d been sitting with his head in his hand, staring at nothing. “Hi.”

“Paul, I… need your help. I’m in no state to think and we may still have a crisis on our hands.”


“The pyramid. Jason said it has the power to melt the icecaps, and Shersheba and Malakat intend to use it. I don’t know when, or… can you think of any way to warn world governments without sounding totally crazy?”

“Um.” Paul said, and his eyes slowly sharpened. “There must be something. I’ll see what I can come up with. Do you need me in there?”

“No, I’m all right. I’ll shower and change, poke the boys. They can’t stay like this all day.” Dianne closed the call, and had to squeeze her eyes shut against another attack of tears. All she could think was to get moving, now, in case she gave in and never moved again. Fresh clothes would help. She headed for the shower.

Brett stirred, finally closed the call window, and poked Cass. She looked up, wiped her eyes and glared. “It’s not fair, Brett. It’s so not fair!”

“Yeah. Well. Mum’s got a point, Shersheba’s still got the ankh and…” he wavered, and the door binged. Brett waved it open, “Hi Winston–”

It was Louis. He walked in like he owned the place as Brett and Cass tried frantically to look like they hadn’t been crying.

“What’s going on? I heard you brought a girl down from the pontoon last night. And she was sick or something.”

“Just beat it.” Cass said without energy.

“It’s that alien girl isn’t it?”

“Mind your own business—hey! Don’t go in there–!”

But Louis had, and had seen Jason still sitting with Neri’s body. The sight hit him hard, finally rattling the ego. Cass grabbed him and yanked him away.

“What’s happened? She’s not–?”

“Just get lost Louis.”

“Just… go away.”

Louis stopped in the doorway. “But—I didn’t mean for them to hurt her! I’m sorry! Honest!” He fled.

Cass scowled. “I’d better go after him, he’ll be blabbing all over the place.” She ran after Louis.

Louis was in his cabin—crying, which surprised Cass when she came in and saw him. The boy tried to wipe his face and hide the picture he was holding. “What do you want?” he asked in a wobbly voice.

“To make sure you don’t go yammering to anybody about Neri.”

“You needn’t worry. I won’t.”

It was the most genuine emotion Cass had ever heard out of Louis. She didn’t buy it. “How come you’re feeling so sorry for yourself anyway? You’re the one who was helping PRAXIS.”

“I know, I know.”

“Something’s getting at you. What is it?”

Louis sniffled and glared. “It’s… lying there, she looked just like my mother. So now you know. Leave me alone.” He held up the picture and turned away, crying again.

Cass softened. “Your mom died?”


“How long ago?”

“When I was eight. Right after my birthday.”

“…Gee Louis. That’s awful. She was pretty. I bet you and your dad miss her a lot.”

“Yes. She was wonderful. She made things happen, not like my father.”

“Your dad’s ok.”

“He’s a weak freak.” Louis said flatly.

“Not how he comes across, at work.”

“Maybe that’s cause I push him. To get to the top—that’s what my mother wanted for us.”

“Hey, you gotta lighten up Lois. Hang out with kids sometime.”

“Other kids don’t like me. You don’t like me.”

He really did sound confused. Cass managed not to snap, “Come on—who likes snoopy little cheats? Give people a chance and maybe they’ll give you one.”

“Whatever happens next, with Neri? I want to help. Can I?”

That was almost too much, Cass almost really hated the kid. She stood up and stepped away. “Sure, ok. But nothing’s going to happen next, Louis. It’s over. Neri’s dead.”

She left.

Dianne Bates faced her sons. “Guys, I know this is hard but you two are Neri’s family on earth and so I think you should decide… what to do now?”


“In all things, Brett, you could consider what Neri would have wanted.”

“To go back to the island perhaps?”

Jason took a breath, looked at his brother. “I know what to do. Leave it to us.”

Back at PRAXIS the mopping up had hardly started. There was a team wrestling with the water pump; so far they’d got it ‘fixed’ three times, only to discover seepage in the closets or behind the walls. It was anybody’s guess if the place would ever be usable again. But nobody had been seriously hurt, and (in Shelby’s opinion anyway) anybody who didn’t backup his or her data deserved to lose it.

Elly was facing the Spanish inquisition from her boss.

“The last time I saw Neri, I mean the extraterrestrial biological entity, was in the lift well. I couldn’t get her up the ladder. Her body slipped away from me, under the water. She must have been washed away when the flood waters cleared.”

Shelby said, “Ok, let’s go back to that moment in detail.”

Elly didn’t take her eyes off Richter. “How many times do I have to go through it sir? What does it matter anyway? She was already gone.”

Richter nodded, and turned and sat down. “Very well, I’ve come to a decision. All records of operation sphinx will be destroyed. From this point on, the alien girl never existed. Is that understood?”

Elly nodded. “Yes sir.”


“If you insist, sir.” Shelby grumbled.

“Good. We can put this whole disaster behind us.”

“Not me sir. I can’t do that. Put it behind me.”

“No point blaming yourself Hauser. You’ve just had a hard time, that’s all. Take some leave, you’ll see things differently.”

“Differently? We killed her! You think I can ever accept that?”

“The medical procedures used on the subject were regrettable but essential.”

Elly stood and slid a sheet of paper across the desk. “My resignation. I’m quitting, as of now.” She picked up her briefcase and left. Her identification card opened the gate out, and then Elly bent it in half and tossed it in the pond. Probably a stupid gesture, but she felt better afterwards.

“She’s gone, Neri’s gone, they’ve taken her!” Louis wailed, coming up behind Cass in the corridor.

“Just the boys. There wasn’t room.” Cass answered, not really paying attention. Jason had been right, he’d thought of the best place to let Neri rest… but Cass wished she could have come along to say one last goodbye.

“You promised!” Louis whined.

“Get lost Louis.” Came out automatically.

“You’re a liar!” the boy yelled, “I hate you!”

Cass whirled and grabbed his shirt. “Yeah you wanted to help so you’re whining in public about Neri’s death like it’s just some trip to the mainland you disgusting little–”

Louis got a hand in Cass’ hair and yanked. She yelled and dropped him, and dove in for a good hall fight. A few smacks were exchanged before big hands grabbed Cass and dragged her away.

“And what’s all this? Miss Clayborn, Mister Danson?” Dave Hartley had hold of Cass, while Naoko was holding Louis back with one hand and possible ninja skill.



“Wait, on second thought if it’s you two then I don’t want to know. Naoko, love, can you escort Louis to his cabin? I’ll deliver Cass to Doctor Seth.”

“My pleasure.” Naoko chirped and hauled Louis away. He mouthed, “You’ll be sorry.” At Cass.

Cass tried to summon her usual innocent look, and failed. She was just too tired. “You can let me go Dave. I was going back to the lab anyway after I got some food.”

“All right, I’ll trust you. But right to the cafeteria and back, if I find out you’ve gone after Louis you’ll be on kitchen duty for a month. No matter what he did.”

“Ok, I promise.” Cass headed off to the cafeteria, grumbling and trying to get her hair back into its bun. She picked up a couple of meals on trays and went down to the lab where Winston was trying halfheartedly to get some work done. ORCA’s many projects needed to be watched, and some of the sensors were picking up anomalous activity, and there could be an alien invasion any time now.

“Here. Food.”

“Good heavens, did you have to box a kangaroo to get it?”

Cass looked at her reflection in a blank computer screen. It was just her hair mussed. “It was Louis. He started yelling at me, and I… sort of lost it. Sorry. Don’t worry, I didn’t hurt him. Officer Hartley and the dragon lady caught us.”

“I assume you’ve been lectured already then.” Winston opened his dinner and took a bite.

“Yeah. Hey Winston? It’s not going to be like this forever is it? I mean, I’m so sad and so angry I could just explode but I have to go to school tomorrow and when mom and dad get home I have to fake that nothing happened and I just hate it…”

“Ah. Yes Cass, it will get better. At the speed of continental drift, I’m afraid, but it will.”

“You sure?”

“Yes. I am sure.” And, watching her expression, Winston added, “My family never left India. They died in one of the bad-water plagues.”

Cass gasped. “Oh man, Winston I’m sorry–”

“Nothing to be sorry for. Anyway, ‘A sorrow shared is sorrow diminished.’ All of you are as good as family.”

They brought Neri to the pyramid.

Jason lifted her out of the minifin and carried her down the dusty hall to the main chamber, and he and Brett laid her carefully on the ledge in front of the statue. The pyramid hummed woefully, picking up the sound of Charley crying outside. The boys looked at each other helplessly.

“Neri we… we brought you back to Shalamorn because… she was the one who sent you to us and…” Jason choked off.

“We thought you’d want to be with your Mum. We had really good times.”

“Yeah, really great times. But now we have to say goodbye. And–” And Jason couldn’t speak for memory. The first time he’d seen Neri, appearing in the middle of the ocean to yell at him. Neri rescuing his mother, Neri’s delight when she saw ORCA for the first time. Neri joking with Winston, hugging Brett, talking to Vanessa. Running into the water, waving to them. Neri’s brilliant smile and deep, pure eyes. Neri vanishing in the steam of the spaceship and…

Jason bent and kissed her forehead. “I love you Neri. Always.”

Brett nodded. They turned to go.

And then the most horrible thing happened.

Shersheba and Malakat appeared in the doorway, smiling. Malakat said, “Well. Together again.”

Brett growled something and went for them, but Jason dragged him back. Shersheba waved her gun at them. “Really. What would your mother think if none of you came home? All we’d have to do is wreck that… primitive little submarine of yours. You almost made it, you know? The key was in the cave. Sunlight reflected at a particular spot energized the ankh. And the ‘chosen one’… how sad. I was going to make her one of my ladies in waiting.”

Jason choked, too angry to speak. The boys stood in front of Neri as if they could protect her.

Shersheba held up the ankh, and all the lights in the room focused on it. It had changed; the metal glowed red, bright as molten gold. When the ankh was plugged in the stones of the pyramid shone gold and there was a sound of rushing water. Shersheba looked around nervously, then smiled. “Yes!’

“Don’t!” Brett yelled, hopelessly.

The hologram Shalamorn stood up and looked impassively across the chamber. “She who dares rule the pyramid, step forward and place your hand upon the sacred stone.”

A stone pillar rose out of the floor in front of the statue—a genetic key, ocean planet technology. Its top glowed white.

Shersheba smiled. “At last. It is time.” She stepped forward slowly, ceremonially, holding out her hand.

Jason grabbed Neri’s limp hand and held it to the top of the pillar. Shersheba’s hand slapped down on theirs and—

The pyramid roared. The pillar blazed, blinding, and Jason and Shersheba fell back. Someone shouted. Jason shook his hand, rubbed his eyes, “What–?”

The statue was glowing. Neri’s body was outlined in blinding bluewhite light. Shersheba shrieked but some force held her back. They could hardly hear over the watery sound of the pyramid, which had risen to a roar. Brett covered his eyes. Neri was covered in lightning, tiny motes of light flowed over her, into her eyes and mouth. Jason tried to reach for her—

Slowly, Neri sat up. She looked at them with vacant eyes still swimming with bright sparks. The world began again.

Then the light faded and Neri blinked and looked afraid. “What has happened? Jason?”

“Doesn’t matter. You’re alive.” Jason went to her.

Shersheba shrieked, “Not for long!” She wrenched the ankh out of the control panel and threw it at them. It hit the statue and splashed as if it really was molten. Shersheba was aiming her gun when Malakat grabbed her. The pyramid started to shake and spit lightning.

“Not again!” Brett yelled, “Let’s go!”

Jason grabbed Neri and they ran. At the exit Jason asked, “Are you ok to swim?”

Neri nodded. “I am well. I do not know…”

“Later. Meet you on ORCA.” Jason hugged her swiftly and jumped into the minifin. Brett was muttering, “Come on, let’s go!” A piece of the ceiling splashed into the pool.

Neri looked around one last time and jumped.

The pyramid was shaking itself apart in fury. Malakat tried to pull his companion to safety, but Shersheba flung herself to her knees in front of the statue. “Speak to me!” She sobbed, “It was for me! It was for me! Tell me!”

Malakat fumbled with the control panel. There had to be a way out! Some kind of emergency protocol—another tremor threw him to the floor. Against his hands the stone felt soft and cold, and the air was full of the smell of blood. Malakat looked up in terror to meet the statue’s gaze.


The ocean unfolded around Neri. She skimmed the top of the minifin, looking in at Jason and Brett, who waved. Jason was grinning, and crying a little. He watched Neri turn and meet Charley, hug the whale’s huge face.

The water trembled. Neri turned, and Jason angled the minifin down.

The pyramid was… sinking. It seemed top collapse into itself, into the ocean floor. In a minute there was nothing left. Neri swam down a few strokes as if to investigate, then shook her head, turned, and left the place behind.

“Well.” Said Brett, “Home?”


In her cabin, Dianne was… trying. “A threat has come to my attention that…” No, that was stupid. How could she warn anybody about the threat of the pyramid when she didn’t even know what it was?

The door opened and Winston burst in. “Dianne, something most extraordinary has happened to the pyramid—I’m sorry. I’m intruding.”

Dianne shook her head. “It’s all right. I just keep thinking about things. About Neri.”

“Dianne… you must allow yourself to experience all feelings of grief.” His voice was gentle.

“How can the boys—how can I stay here on ORCA, knowing how our people destroyed her?”

The door opened behind them and Dianne hurriedly wiped her eyes.

“The boys are back.” Winston said, then added in a very strange voice, “Dianne.”

She turned. Jason and Brett stepped into the room. And…

“Oh, Neri, Neri…” And Neri stepped forward and chimed, “Mother.” And then they were hugging each other, and Dianne held her face and just looked at her in disbelief, and cried and Neri smiled.

Winston said, “Boys…” and couldn’t speak, just gave Brett a one-arm hug. He cleared his throat and turned to the computer, “HELEN, please tell Cass to report to the commander’s quarters immediately.”

Cass arrived looking grumpy, then her face lit up and she jumped on Neri for a hug. “Neri! Oh my god, you’re all right! What happened? I can’t believe it!”

“I do not know.” Neri chimed, her face going thoughtful. “I was sick, I hear your voices but I cannot answer, then all is darkness, then we are in the pyramid.”

“Everything lit up and…” Brett explained, not very clearly.

“Perhaps some sort of energy…” Winston began, “Oh what does it matter the name by which a miracle is called?”

“So I tear up my report?” Paul asked, but he was smiling. He hadn’t seen Dianne looking this happy in forever. They were walking to the bridge so the commander could put in an appearance now that she was ‘feeling much better.’

“Paul, you must. If Neri had been dead it wouldn’t have mattered but now that she’s alive…”

“I’ve got to keep my mouth shut. Right.”

“Every family has its secrets.”

“And I get to share this one?”

“So far, you’ve stood by us.” Dianne keyed open the door to the bridge. “The boys appreciate it—whether or not Jason will say it—and so do I.”

“Well, I know how you all feel. Today I felt almost as if she were my daughter. All right, as long as things stay quiet I’ll make like PRAXIS. Neri never existed.”

“Don’t know what’s happening, commander. You’re becoming quite reasonable in your old age. Thank you.” Then the door closed between them.

The children lay on the sand, resting, getting used to the fact that everything was all right. Jason and Neri were side by side, holding hands. Cass pulled a big leaf over her face and fell asleep. Brett wandered out of the woods with a bunch of small greenish bananas and a branch with berries hanging off it. “Don’t worry, I got the right kind.” He said, and handed it to Neri for verification.

“Good berries.” Neri ate one, and threw one at Jason’s nose.

“What happened to Malakat and Shersheba, do you think?” Jason said.

Brett munched a whole handful of berries. “How could they have got out? I say they went down with the pyramid. Or something. Nobody’s seen them since.”

Neri sat up and gazed out to sea. “I wish it was true. Charley has not seen them in ocean… but I cannot believe.”

“C’mon Neri, they’re history. You beat them. You won.”

“I knew you would.”

“I hope we win. But something say, inside me, is not over. Something say is only the beginning.” As if in response to her words a cool breeze blew across the island, and shadowy clouds appeared on the horizon.

Shersheba staggered to her feet in another chamber, without a statue but full of control panels that looked new. An open archway led outside and she could see a familiar horizon. “Malakat, we are home!”

Malakat’s gaze sharpened. “Of course. The water passages would all open, as an emergency measure… unless the pyramid was commanded to destroy itself.”

“The golden ankh…”

“Is on Earth, if it still exists. Come. We must not be found here.”

“Why not? We have lost.”

Malakat dragged the girl to her feet. “Get a hold of yourself, as the earth people say. You are princess of this planet. We will find a way to turn even this to our advantage.”