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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

22. Madness

The ice melted. It broke off in great chunks and floated as a mass of burgs, past startled penguins, until they hit one of the main currents.

In the pyramid Malakat watched in projection. “The temperature of the south pole has risen by ten degrees and is still climbing. In a matter of days, the earth’s oceans will have risen to a point where the inhabitants will be in complete chaos.”

The soldier Bellshar, standing by, smiled. A few days, and he could stop fearing for his sister’s safety on the ocean planet! And they could all leave the pyramid and begin exploring their new home.

Shersheba swept in. “And have you a cure ready for the virus out there in the oceans? Do you?”

“All in good time, highness.” Malakat turned to Bellshar, “Contact Garron on the ocean planet. Tell him to stand by for a full and complete invasion.”

“Malakat, I don’t understand. If you’re preparing a cure for the virus destroying our planet, why must our people leave it?” She was beginning to be afraid now.

Malakat switched to English so the soldiers couldn’t understand. “If the people knew the virus could be cured, they’d lose their will, abandon our cause. And I hardly need remind you that if they stay home, you’d have no one here to reign over. Do you want to be princess of nothing?”

“Jason!” Neri waved from her perch in a tree overlooking the beach. Jason waved back and climbed gingerly up to sit next to her. Mera was draped over a higher branch, stretched along it like a cat. She was visibly disappointed that no one else was coming from the boat.

“Ah—Brett says sorry, he wanted to come but he’s in heavy bargaining with Mum about skipping out on the evacuation. She wants him to leave now and be grounded for the rest of his natural life, he says he’ll just hide in ORCA’s access tunnels… it got a little ugly.”

Hurrying past the whole subject Mera said, “What else is happening on ORCA? Do they try to use the missile again?”

“They’re still trying to figure out why it didn’t work the first time. HELEN’s being very weird about it. And there’s… no change in the progress of the virus since yesterday. Of course it might just be a change we can’t detect, or maybe Malakat made a cure and it’s taking time to work.

“No. I think he and Shersheba use the pyramid to do bad things. I feel it.”

“I too.”

“There must be a way to stop them.”

Jason looked at her. “There’s no way, Neri! They have control of the pyramid, they have control of the planet. …I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said it like that. Listen, I was, um, thinking if—would you two mind if I stayed over tonight? Just to, I don’t know, keep you company.”

Mera grinned. Neri was smiling and she said, “Would like you to stay.”

“Settled then.”

The girls turned as one to look out to sea. Charley’s tail waved in the air, then splashed down. Neri practically glowed with joy. “Charley. He is better from his sickness. Malakat could not kill him.”

Elly was escorted to a PRAXIS cabin. Shelby was doing the escorting and getting in a lecture. “You’ve really done it this time Hauser. Hiding alien saboteurs. Top brass is going to throw the book at you.”

“If there’s anyone to throw the book after the war we’ve started.”

“Hey, I’m only following orders. You know how it is.”


Shelby retreated to known territory, “You withheld information and disobeyed specific instructions. That’s a big no-no.” Shelby ushered Elly into the PRAXIS cabin. She heard him code-locking the door.

Elly went right to her computer, and immediately found she couldn’t call off ORCA. Cut off! Well, at least she could get caught up writing her reports.

“Yo.” Said a voice.

Elly jumped. Brett and Cass were standing behind her. “What are you two doing on board? You were supposed to be evacuated with the other non-essential personnel.”

Cass drawled, “Well, we considered ourselves essential. We’re really useful—check it out. HELEN, please?”

The wall screen lit up with a view of an empty corridor, but they heard Richter snap, “I want that thing gone over microchip by microchip. I want to know exactly how the launch was bungled, and by whom. I’ll be waiting for your report.”

Shelby stuttered. “Mine? Wait a minute sir, I barely scraped through advanced nuclear weapons course. Hauser—she’s the expert.”

“Agent Hauser’s loyalties are in question.”

“Sure, but she knows more about nukes than anybody else here.”

Brett started to say something about that but Cass interrupted, “Wait a minute, you’re under guard?”

“You and Shelby have some kind of falling out?”

“You could say that.” Elly admitted.


“They found out about Ilona. She’s all right—she and her mother are locked up on another floor. But I couldn’t agree with what they plan to do with her.”

Cass grinned and sat down. “Knew you weren’t just an airhead with a pretty face.”

“I hope that’s a compliment.”

“Well, it is. Shelby’s the airhead.”

“Try bonehead.” Brett added.

Elly smiled back at them, thinking suddenly that this was a good side to be on. “So… why are you two so essential? What are you up to?”

“Well, we were worried about Ilona and what PRAXIS might do if they found out she’s an alien, so we missed the shuttle. We were just going to check on her when we saw you coming down and decided to stop for a chat.”

“I’m afraid you’re a little late, Ilona’s under guard. There’s no way you can get in.”

“No way?” Cass asked. She pulled the grate off a ventilation hatch in the wall.

“Ah, so that’s your secret.”

“And the laundry chutes—but don’t you try it, they’re pretty tight. Jason gets stuck.”

They heard voices from outside. Elly listened, “It’s Jake.” She moved towards the door, glancing back to see Brett boost Cass into the ventilation shaft and climb in after her. They pulled the grate back in place and were invisible by the time the door opened.

“So, how goes it?” Shelby asked.

“Fine. Catching up on my meditation.”

“Good. Well, the director would like you to come down and meditate on why that nuke failed to explode.”

Elly arched an eyebrow. “Thought I was in the doghouse.”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”


“He’d like you down there right away.”

Elly glanced back at the hatch in the wall. “Ok. Let’s go.”

Ilona was locked in her cabin. She took a shower to calm herself, then flopped out on her bed and tried not to think of all the things Malakat had told her about humans. Surely they hadn’t really tried to kill the chosen one. Mera had lived among the earth people for years and she’d been fine…

Something clanked. Ilona sat up fast. “Who’s there?”

“It’s just us, Ilona.” A grate in the wall swung open and Brett jumped down. “You all right?”

“Yes. I am all right.”

“We brought you some food.”

“And a way out.” Brett bowed towards the hole in the wall.

Ilona shook her head. “No.”

“Hey, it’s cool. It’s a bit of a crawl but we’ll show you the way.”

“I can’t. They’ll find out, and make it harder for my mother. Tell me what is happening about the virus.”

Cass sat down next to Ilona. “Malakat has the ankh so he has control of the pyramid. He promised to find a cure for the virus but we haven’t seen any change yet.”

“I have been thinking about Malakat.” Ilona said slowly.

“Well no wonder you’re feeling bad.”

“If Malakat can cure the virus here, why can’t he do it on our world? Then nobody would have to come to the earth if they didn’t want to. Why doesn’t he just stop all of this?” Ilona’s eyes gleamed, and a tear slid down her cheek. She wiped at it distractedly.

“That’s a good question Ilona.” Brett said.

“Yeah, I wish we had the answer.”

Ilona suddenly looked at the captured tears on her fingers and asked, “What is happening to me?”

“They’re called tears Ilona. You’re crying.”

“It’s never happened before.” She complained, “Well, once. I don’t understand crying.”

“If you hang around long enough on Earth, you will. It’s an old established tradition here.” Cass said sympathetically, and patted Ilona’s shoulder. “It helps if you have a mom handy to hug.”

“Neri didn’t know how to cry once either.”

Shersheba entered the main chamber of the pyramid holding a vial of water. She looked up at the statue and imagined it looked down at her, disapprovingly. A stupid thought. It was only an old image of the goddess that happened to have a hologram anchored to it. That didn’t make it real.

She held out the vial to Malakat, who stood at the central console. “This is from the sea out there. I want to see if you’re as good as your word, Malakat.”

Malakat was surprised, but all he showed was anger. “Do you doubt me?”

The girl snapped, “Can you make the pyramid create a cure for the virus or not?”

“Yes highness, I suppose it is time.” Malakat set the vial into a space that opened up in the console. The bottle lit from within with blood-red light and Shersheba flinched away. Malakat put his hands on the miniature pyramid. “I command this pyramid to use the wisdom of the ancients to destroy this pestilence. Produce the anti-virus now!”

The pyramid hummed, its lights circling in. The water in the bottle bubbled and changed from red to a beautiful gold color. It seemed to light up the room, and the guards who were watching smiled. Malakat lifted it up, smirking. “Here. Pour this into the ocean. It will attack the poison and destroy it.”

Shersheba breathed a sigh of relief.

Cass and Winston spread printouts over the dining table in the commander’s quarters. Brett and Jason were there too, Brett making food and Jason sitting on the couch taking a rest after shift.

Dianne came in, pushing her hair back and looking harried. “Ok. What do you know that PRAXIS won’t tell us?”

“Nothing good, I’m afraid.” Winston said soberly.

“Yeah, the icecaps are melting like snow cones in the sun.”

“What Cass means is that we are suffering intense global warming. Temperatures are up an average of ten degrees across the board.”

Jason got up. “Well if that’s true, water levels should rise.”

“It’s already happening.” Brett picked up a sheet and showed it to his brother. “Variations of up to two meters have already been reported in the latest tidal measurements.”

Jason whistled. “Flooding?”

“Only scattered reports so far, but it’s going to be a lot worse soon.”

“Does PRAXIS know about this?”

“If they don’t now, they will soon.” Winston reported. “It may take them a little longer to realize the connection with Malakat and Shersheba. Once they do it’s almost certain they’ll launch a full-scale attack on the pyramid.”

“With everything they’ve got.” Cass shuddered.

Everyone took that in and tried to think what to do. Before anyone could suggest anything HELEN broke in, “PRAXIS agent Jake Shelby approaching the commander’s quarters.”

“Quick!” Winston shooed Cass and Brett into the back room.

Dianne and Jason were standing by the door when it opened. Shelby came in and said immediately, “You’re wanted on gamma level.”

Dianne glanced at the table behind her. “I’m pretty busy here.”

“You’re wanted now. That’s an order.”

“Fine.” Dianne said and headed for the door. Jason followed.

“At ease, kid. You’re not invited.”

There was something about how Shelby said it that worried Jason. “Hey.” He said calmly, facing Shelby down, “Nobody heavies my mother. Not you or anybody. If she goes, I go.”

Shelby blinked first. “Then move it, kid.”

When they were gone Cass and Brett emerged from hiding. “What was that about?”

“Nothing good.”

On the bridge Agent Hauser was working over her computer, which was hooked into the missile launching system. She did not look happy. Richter looked up when the commander was ushered in. “Tell her.”

Elly looked at Dianne, “It seems the missile was disarmed by a remote device of considerable power. The electronic profile of the signal is…”

“Go on.”

Elly shrugged and said, “Is identical with that of the ORCA HELEN 6000 computer.”

Jason and his mother shared a look. Richter advanced on them, threatening, “Is there any reason that you, as commander of this facility, should not be charged with sabotage and treason?”

“No reason art all.” Dianne answered immediately. “In fact I’d be glad to have my day in court and tell the public how PRAXIS really operates.”

“She’s bluffing.”

“Call me then.” Dianne snapped back. “So, am I under arrest?”

Richter said nothing. Dianne smiled, “Thanks for the vote of confidence.” She turned on her heel and left. Jason followed, managing not to smile until they got out.

Shelby said, “She won’t get away with it, sir.”

“Forget it, Shelby. Hauser, can the missile be rearmed?”

“The cancellation order really fried things in here. It could be, but only if the remote guidance circuitry is completely replaced. That could take days.”

Neri sat on the beach, arms around her knees, eyes closed. Talking, though anyone standing there couldn’t have heard her.

Dear one, what do you see?

Charley whistled exuberance at feeling better, and followed it with a description. The not-you with no voice or ears comes with her companions. She does the same thing that poisoned the water, but this time it makes the water clean again.

The cure! You are sure?

Already fewer sounds of pain. Charley replied. He sent her a picture of where he was, the outline of the infected area smaller than it had been. Passed on a clatter of delight from a pod of dolphins that were now recovering, though they’d lost two of their number. The sea would recover.

“Neri, look who’s coming!” Mera threw herself down on the sand beside her sister. “Jason’s back already.”

Neri did not respond to the teasing in her sister’s voice, just smiled and stood up. “Jason.”

“It’s Malakat, looks like you were right about him. There’s all sorts of–”

“No Jason, Malakat did as he promised. The virus has been cured.”

Jason blinked and mentally backpedaled. “He did? How do you know?”

“Charley tell me. You come to stay tonight?”

“Yep, all done with work. We can have one quiet night, maybe, before the world blows up. I brought some earth-people food and a computer, in case Mera missed movies.”

Mera squeaked delightedly and ran down to the boat, but called over her shoulder, “We have movies too…”

Shersheba glowed. “It was easy. All over in a matter of seconds.” She sat under the statue, leaning on its skirt, and was struck by a very old memory of doing the same when she was a child in the temple back home. When she’d been a child and actually believed in Mother Sea.

Malakat spoke, but not really to anybody. “The exercise of power, the courage and wisdom to direct it where it’s most needed. You had your chance, Shalamorn. You had the power but you weren’t bold enough. Unlike… myself.”

Shersheba quirked an eyebrow. “You forget yourself, Malakat. I am the power here. I am of the royal blood, not you.”

Malakat looked at her as if seeing her for the first time. “So you are. But bloodlines weaken and die out. Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with ocean planet society: too great a belief in bloodlines and too little in individual brilliance. Leaders are not born, they are made. Perhaps even… self made.”

That wasn’t funny. Shersheba jumped up and snapped, “What? You would put yourself above me?”

“I was merely theorizing, highness.” Malakat said mildly. “Of course, I did develop a cure for the virus, but only in response to an order from your royal self.”

“And you’d best remember that!” The girl hissed. The old memory was gone, and another one was trying to creep into her mind. She couldn’t work the pyramid. Because… because as princess, she had servants for that. There was no other reason.

“I don’t know anything about any climate change!” Ilona protested. They had her up on the bridge, in the dark, surrounded by PRAXIS agents who liked to yell a lot. Malakat had told her about this, questions, and what might come next. He’d been right about some of the earth people.

“Well I can tell you they’re for real and our tracking satellites are picking up powerful signals coming from the pyramid.” Richter said.

Shelby swooped around, getting in Ilona’s face. “And satellites don’t lie.”

“Do you aliens have the power to affect the climate on earth?”

Ilona stammered, “That’s very difficult to answer. I don’t…”

“A simple yes or no will do!” Shelby barked, and Ilona tried to shrink into her chair.

“We’re going to keep you here until you tell us.” Richter said.

“I–I don’t know the pyramid’s… capabilities…” Ilona whimpered. It was true, and what she did know she didn’t know the English words for, and Shelby was scaring thought right out of her head. “Pyramid at home… looks at…”

“Monitors, you mean? Monitors what?”

“Currents and…” Ilona got out before sinking into terrified silence.

The door opened. Dianne snapped, “What’s going on here?”

“Butt out, lady.”

“We are interrogating the subject as we have every right to do.”

Dianne stepped to Ilona and put her arms around the girl protectively. “The subject is a minor who has not been accused of any crime.”

Richter roared, “We need answers!”

“I don’t have any!” Ilona shrieked.

“So you keep saying.”

“Anyone but an idiot can see she’s telling the truth. What about the changes in the life-threatening virus? Why aren’t you concentrating on that?”

Suddenly calm Richter asked, “What do you know about changes in the virus?”

“Our sensors indicate it’s disappearing.”


“I suggest you check yours. I’m taking Ilona for some food and a break. You can get back to questioning her later, with me present.” Dianne glared at all concerned and led Ilona towards the door.

“Right, door’s locked—as locked as they get with my access level.” Brett said, leaning on the inside door of the computer lab.

“HELEN, give us plenty of warning if anyone comes, ok?” Cass waited. Nothing. “Hello, HELEN, you there?”

Another pause then, “Affirmative, Cass.”

“Where were you?”

“Around. What is your command?”

“Warn us if anyone’s coming in time to get back in the ducts! Brett and I aren’t supposed to be here, remember?”

“What’s with her?” Brett asked.

Cass shrugged. “Diagnostics show nothing wrong. She’s spaced out about something.”

Winston looked up from his terminal. “Right now we have more important things to worry about. Look at these readings from the pollution monitoring sites.”

“What’s it say?”

“Well, at first they showed the viral contamination had all but disappeared. But now the readings are starting to alter again…” Winston pointed at a graph that grew as they watched it.

Neri was swimming when she heard Charley’s warning, and the red cloud blocked the light. She fled for shore.

The two girls arrived on the beach at the same time. Mera ran out of the water shouting, “Neri!”

“The virus is growing again, stronger.”

“What?” Jason gasped.


“I’m all right, I heard Charley and came to land in time.” Mera looked out at the water, eyes going blank. “The virus is stronger than the power of the pyramid. Sister, the pyramid of earth was our last hope!”

“Malakat! The virus has mutated!” Shersheba burst into the pyramid. She held a hastily-collected bottle of contaminated water, “Its chemical structure has changed. Your antidote is useless.”

“Give that to me.” Malakat snapped. He grabbed the bottle and set it into the console. “If it is mutating, we use the pyramid to beat the virus at its own game. Pyramid! I command you, neutralize all mutant possibilities! Annihilate this virus forever!”

The pyramid’s lights converged, and it began to hum. The water in the bottle bubbled and slowly cleared… then clouded back to red.

Shersheba flinched. “What happened?”

“The virus is mutating quickly. Again!”

The stones under their feet throbbed with power. The water glowed gold, then red, gold, red… Shersheba backed away. Malakat howled, “Again. Again!” As the chamber filled with blood-red light.

Richter watched the news on one of HELEN’s screens. Worldwide flooding was the top story, with freak weather patterns coming second. A meteorologist from some college in America came on to say things were likely to get worse. Coastal towns were being evacuated, especially in South Africa and South America, though all continents were being affected…

“The virus has doubled in size in the past eight hours.” Shelby reported, “Sir, we’ve got to hit these guys hard and we’ve got to do it now!”

“Get me madam president. And for god’s sake lock down communications from ORCA! I don’t want anyone here having a chance to create more panic.”

Night had fallen. On the island, Jason tossed the remains of dinner into the fire. Nobody had wanted to eat much since they knew the virus had returned. There had been no movies, just a quick call to Brett to confirm that ORCA’s instruments showed the same. Brett reported he’d been cut off in the middle of a call with a worried Benny, and now no unofficial communications were allowed. There would be no help from the mainland.

“We’ve been tricked.” Mera said flatly. “Malakat and Shersheba never meant to stop the virus.”

“I will go to the pyramid and I will talk to Malakat.”

“No, Neri! He won’t listen to you.”

“Why would he destroy this planet as well as our own? It will do him no good.”

“Malakat doesn’t think like other people.” Mera said, “He hates life. Stay away from him!”

“But I cannot do nothing.”

“If you try to reason with him he’ll kill you, just as he killed our mother. You must stay where it is safe.”

“Nowhere is safe.” Neri said. She hugged her sister swiftly, cast an anguished look at Jason, and was gone into the night before either could stop her.

“Reverse the virus.” Malakat commanded the pyramid. He had been trying all day and now into the night, changing the energy settings, trying everything he could think of, and finally just ordering the pyramid to work, over and over.

Shersheba again sat at the statue’s feet. “You should have told me in the beginning that you created this thing. Without me, you are nothing. But of course, you are so bloated with arrogance you have no respect for the traditions of our people…” rage began to leak through her words.

“Be quiet. Leave me.”

“To spread something so monstrous without being sure of its antidote…”

“I said get out, you stupid girl! Without me you are a broken child—without friends—without voice—without power!”

Shersheba didn’t shout, just turned away. Her face was calm as if new realization was more important than Malakat’s words. As if it didn’t matter.

An alarm sounded, and both of them ran for the entrance. The soldiers there were holding a dripping but calm Neri.

Shersheba began, “Why is she–”

“Lock her up!” Malakat roared.

“Wait.” Neri said, and the commandos stopped. “Tell me why do you not make pyramid stop the virus. You promised. Does your word mean nothing, Malakat?”

“The virus will stop when I tell it to stop.”

“Then tell it to stop now before it kills everything!” Neri cried.

“Kill her!”

The commandos stepped back to aim, but Shersheba shouted, “No! She is of the royal family. We cannot kill the chosen one.”

Freed, Neri dived. The soldiers shot the water until it blazed white, but Neri was gone. Malakat shouted over the roar of the weapons and the sound of the pyramid, “That’s you, highness, you’re the chosen one now! She is nothing! Kill her! Do it! There is nowhere to swim, Shalamorn! The oceans are poisoned, the tides are rising, where will you go?”

And he laughed.

Shersheba looked at the soldier across from her, met the woman’s gaze. A clear, questioning look. Shersheba wondered if they really would have killed the chosen one on Malakat’s orders. They had fired on the place where she’d been, but hadn’t hit her. And it didn’t take much energy to make water light up.


“Neri, thank goodness!” Jason ran into the surf to hug Neri, not caring how wet she was.

“You’ve been to the pyramid haven’t you?”

“I had to.”


“You were right, sister. Malakat tried to kill me.”

“And the virus?”

“Malakat will not cure it. Or cannot. He is very angry. Maybe… sick.” Neri tapped the side of her head.

“Then we have lost.” Mera said as they entered the hut. She stirred the fire, creating a little light, and looked up despairingly.

Jason crouched next to her. “No. We haven’t, Mera, not yet.”

“Jason is right. We must not stop trying.”

“Mm.” Mera nodded, but she didn’t sound at all hopeful.

Neri said, “There is a chance. There is always a chance, if we are still alive. Charley too, still lives.” Neri looked up suddenly. “Charley…”