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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

23. Invasion

When Jason woke up, it was morning and he was alone in the hut, though he imagined he could still feel warmth where Neri had slept cuddled against him.

Jason washed his face and wandered down to the beach, grabbing a couple of bananas for breakfast on the way. He had to walk quite a ways before he reached clean sand. Mera was sitting on a sand-scoured log, her hair wet, crooning in her own language. When Jason sat down next to her, she switched to English, the words whispering into the morning air.

…when the day is danced and sung
and night is sweet and softly swung,
and all between becomes among.
When they are we and old is young
And sea is sky
And all is one…
Then will the answer come.
Then will it come to be.
Then will it be.

“That’s pretty.” Jason said.

Mera smiled but looked embarrassed. “A baby song from my planet, like the cow jumping over the moon. I liked it so I made up English words for my friends who love all things of the opal planet.”

“You mean you started a fad?”

“Yes!” Mera chuckled. “At first, when I could not speak well I mostly talk to little children. We’d go around pointing at things trading words. They all wanted to know what their names meant. Ah—Neri is still swimming. She said she want to think.”

That was what Jason had been about to ask before he’d gotten distracted. He offered Mera a banana and they sat and munched in silence for a while. Jason still missed cereal, breakfast just wasn’t complete when it was just fruit.

There was a flash of color out in the water and Neri stood up and waved. She walked up the sand and sat next to Jason.

“Any good thoughts?” Jason asked.

“Only—Charley was sick with the virus, then he got well. Why? There must be a reason.”

Mera tipped her head. “Is strange. How could we ever know?”

“We could get a blood sample from Charley, give it to Mum. She might be able to learn something.”

“That would tell us?” Neri chimed.

“It would show if his blood has made antibodies to the virus. They’re the things that stop you from getting a disease—that’s how medical scientists make vaccines.”

“A vaccine?” Mera asked sharply. “You could–?”

Jason was starting to get excited too. “Maybe. This could be it! He could hold the cure for all of us! I’ve got an injector in the boat, in the first aid kit. Neri, would Charley let you take a sample?”

“Would it hurt Charley?”

“No way. Just a little pin prick, that’s all.”

Neri stood. “Then we will swim out to Charley and I will ask him.”

On ORCA the countdown was once again underway. Three minutes twenty. Three minutes fifteen. “Approaching the point of no return, sir.” A tech reported. Richter nodded.

Watching from a corner, Dianne reported to Paul, “Wish they’d tell me when they’re going to try a launch.”

Paul’s face showed something between worry and anger.

Richter came over to them. “You are welcome on this bridge as long as you refrain from all comment and interference.”

There was silence from the two commanders.

“Three minutes ‘til launch.” Someone said.

“Understood? There will be no launch abort this time. Your HELEN 6000 has been bypassed.”

Shelby gloated. “Those funny fish are gonna be nuked but good. Won’t know what hit them.”

Next to him at the computer, Danton and Dave Hartley shared a glance and rolled their eyes.

Down in the computer room there was quiet panic going on. HELEN reported, “I have tried everything I can, Winston. My system has been bypassed. There is simply no way.” And she laughed, creeping out everyone in the room.

“HELEN, this is a very serious situation! Laughter is not an appropriate response!” Winston almost wailed.

“Yeah HELEN, a nuclear war is starting! We’re all gonna be fried, we’ve got to do something!”

“HELEN?” Cass asked.

“Give me a moment. I am inquiring.”

“Asking? Asking who?”

“HELEN, who are you talking to?”

“A friend.” Said the computer.

“What do you mean? Who is it, HELEN?”

HELEN replied, “That would be telling.”

The three looked at each other. Cass shrugged. “We’ve had it.”

“Duck and cover?” Brett suggested.

“HELEN, audio from the bridge please.” Winston requested.

They heard the countdown: six seconds, five, then Shelby saying, “Go baby, go.” Which made Brett and Cass wince. Three, two–

“Fire!” Richter barked.

Down in the launch bay the terminal short-circuited, throwing sparks everywhere.

“Nothing’s happening! What’s gone wrong?”

“I don’t know, sir.” Shelby turned to the commanders, “If you’ve managed to fowl this up somehow…”

“Not us, Agent Shelby.” Dianne said, then looked up as all the lights went red and an alarm began to sound.

“What’s that?”

“The ORCA alarm. I hope–”

Then the door to the bridge opened and alien soldiers filed in, guns at the ready.

“Unauthorized personnel now in command of the bridge.” HELEN reported.

“What? Who?”

“Give us a visual.”

“I am unable to identify the intruders.” HELEN said as all screens lit up, showing commandos standing at attention and ORCA officers backed against their terminals.

“Malakat and Shersheba!” Brett whispered.

“We’ve been invaded.”

Jason waited, breathing through his snorkel as the girls talked to Charley. The whale’s song of moans and whistles made his bones vibrate and reminded him of their life before ORCA, when his mother had spent hours with tapes of whale songs, trying to translate them.

Neri appeared smiling, and nodded. Jason got out the injector, and pressed it at the base of the offered fin. He hoped it would even work, it was made for use on humans after all, and that it really wouldn’t hurt Charley… bubbles rose as the injector released pressure, and when Jason surfaced he saw that its chamber was full. He ducked under to give Neri a thumbs up.

Charley whistled and Neri smiled and stroked him. She came up, “He say, hopes it helps.”

“It’s all up to Mum now. Can I give you a ride back to the island? I know we’re away from the infected area but…”

Neri nodded and hopped into the boat.

Everyone was in shock, even Shelby didn’t mouth off. Richter moved, and a commando fired, the bolt splashing on the wall next to Richter’s head. He backed off. Dave stepped in front of Naoko, shielding her with his bigger frame.

Shersheba smiled. “I enjoyed your hospitality so much, commander. I hope you now enjoy mine.”

“I hope so too, Shersheba.”

Danton began, “Now look here!” and Dianne snapped her hand out, stopping him.

“Very wise, commander.”

Richter stepped forward, snapping, “Who are you?”

Malakat smiled at him. “I think Agent Shelby remembers us. She is Princess Shersheba of the ocean planet. And you are her new subjects. Order your people to accept reality: as of now, you are prisoners. All of you.”

Nobody said anything. Shersheba nodded. “Lock Commander Bates in her quarters. Him too. I’ll take a company and round up any stragglers.”

Dianne allowed herself to be led away, calling back to the bridge, “Do what they say!”

Paul said. “Princess, Shersheba is it? I’d like to negotiate for the safety of the ORCA crew. Is there…”

But Shersheba was walking away. Commandos dumped the two of them in quarters, and a few minutes later Winston was escorted in, flustered but unhurt. He murmured, “Brett and Cass are hidden.” Then louder, “Well we are in a fix this time, commander.”

Ilona looked up as the door opened. Then she jumped up smiling. “Your highness, you’re here. Thank goodness!”

Shersheba tossed her hair. “The foolish earth people thought they could destroy us. They learned their lesson. Why is she here?”

This last was directed at Elly, standing hesitantly against the wall.

“She’s a friend. She tried to help us when they imprisoned us.”

Shersheba raised an eyebrow. “Really. Then we will return the compliment. You may move about freely but may not leave ORCA.” She motioned the woman to leave and Elly, stunned, did so.

“Highness, we must know—have you found a cure for the virus?”

“We are close.” Shersheba said, “Very close.”

“Thank goodness.” Ilona murmured, and hugged her mother. She whispered, “We do not have to be spies, and now they cannot shoot their missile. Everything will be all right!”

The chute in the wall opened and Cass looked out.

“All clear.” Winston said and came over to give her a hand out.

Brett followed and they dusted themselves off. “What’s happening? We rushed over here, didn’t see much.”

“It’s quite terrible.” Winston said as Dianne inflicted a hug on her son. “They’re arresting our officers right and left, once they ran out of PRAXIS people to lock up. Two PRAXIS agents got knocked out by those electric things, but they’ll recover and nobody else has been hurt. I saw Louis being tossed into quarters, but not First Officer Danton.”

Paul replied, “Oh, they’ve kept him on the bridge in case they need information on ORCA operations.”

“My goodness.” Said Winston, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

“Your guess is as good as ours, Winston.”

Cass sat down at the table. “Well. Now what?”

“We wait and see, I suppose.” Dianne said. “I tried to warn Jason, but they’ve somehow put a damper on all outside communications. You two stay out of sight and we try to negotiate when Shersheba comes to gloat.”

There were nods all round. “You said it, mum. Well since we’re waiting, let’s eat!”

On the bridge, the officers of ORCA were working out what was going on. The aliens didn’t seem to speak English, except their two leaders, and the soldiers threatened anyone who tried to talk. When the leaders left the room their commandos thawed slightly, sneaking glances at all the stuff in the room. A woman reached out to touch the little waving cat figure on Naoko’s monitor, and she flinched away.

Shersheba returned and looked at the people still on the bridge. “Name and duty?” She asked generally.

“David Hartley, transportation officer.” Dave said. “It’s my shift to keep an eye on things here while Officer Danton is busy.”


“N-naoko Ryuuna. Liaisons officer.” Naoko stammered.

Shersheba smiled at the frightened woman, trying to be nice but not really succeeding. “I’d like to see the TV news. Could you please tune in your computer?”

Naoko nodded and hit a few keys on her terminal. She transferred it to the big screen. The alien invasion had not made the news. An anchor was saying, “Growing alarm is sweeping the world as further evidence of the melting icecaps comes to light. Reports indicate the strange red cloud spreading in the Coral Sea is connected to this phenomenon.”

“This is all they know? Your people’s technology is even more backward than I thought. Turn it off.”

Ilona slipped up beside her. “Highness, they may retaliate when they realize this installation has been taken over.”

“We have cut ORCA off from the outside world.” Malakat said, “By the time the pathetic leaders of this planet get themselves organized it will be too late.”

“It will be too late for all of us if you do not find the cure for the virus.”

“Always you question me. There will be a cure!” Malakat shouted, then seemed to realize there were people watching. “Apologies, highness, but I assure you the cure will be found.”

There was an uncomfortable moment then the computer binged. Dave supplied, “Proximity alarm. Someone is approaching.”

“Visual.” Malakat said, and Naoko brought up the pontoon camera. It showed Jason tying up his inflatable and unloading his gear.

Shersheba smiled. “I’ll deal with this.”

In his mind Jason was already down in the lab, explaining to his mother and Winston. When he stepped out of the lift and was grabbed from both sides, he almost yelled in surprise. “What the—!”

“Welcome aboard, Jason.” Shersheba purred.

“What’s going on?”

“Can’t you see? ORCA is mine now.”

“Where’s my mother?” was the first thought to compute. Realization hit, cold and sure.

“Don’t worry. She’s safe. And where have you been?”

“On a routine exercise.” Jason said.

“Well, I’m afraid it might be your last.”

Jason was looking around, noticing the empty corridors and the two blank-faced commandos guarding the door. They’d let him go but looked ready to grab him again. He looked back at Shersheba, who was smiling her cat-with-the-cream smile. “Where’s everyone else? What have you done here?”

Shersheba almost pouted. “It’s not for you to question, but they’re all my special guests, as you are now, Jason. Confined to quarters.”

The guards stepped forward but Jason said, “Wait! If you don’t care what happens to us, what about your own people, Shersheba?”

“I will always take care of my people!”

“Yeah, how? Have you and Malakat found a cure for the virus yet?”

“Enough.” The girl looked away.

“No. And if you destroy this planet then you never will. Not in time anyway. Then all your people on both planets will die.”

“This will not happen.”

“It will and Malakat doesn’t care! Can’t you see that?” Jason burst out, “He doesn’t care who lives or who dies—just as long as he has the power. Not you, him. He wants it all for himself.”

Shersheba’s temper expired. “Take him to the others.” She ordered, and waved the soldiers away. Jason went without protest. The vial of blood was in his pocket.

On the bridge Dave automatically updated the log, the inflatable signed back in on time. All systems working normally. Invaded by aliens. One of them was looking over his shoulder at the papers taped around the edge of his monitor—a mixture of ORCA stats and video game cheat codes. Dave wished the woman luck understanding that.

Another soldier, a young man, reached for Naoko’s little figurine again. Ilona said, “He wants to know what it is.”

Naoko ducked away, but she said, “It’s a maneki neko. Supposed to bring good luck.”

The commando said something and Ilona translated, “Does it work?”

In her own mind Naoko thought, if it really worked my home wouldn’t be full of scary-faced people who might shoot me any time. Out loud she said, “Sometimes. Can I ask a question? The icecaps, is that because of your people?”

Ilona’s eyes flickered and she nodded slightly. Naoko gasped. There weren’t many people in the room, just the two officers, four commandos, and Ilona in case anything needed translation.

“My family lives in Iwaki. On the coast.” Naoko said quietly. She got out a photograph and held it in front of the soldier’s face. It was just a family picture, Naoko in her ORCA uniform, her parents and grandmother, and her little sisters. The commando had gone blank-faced again.

“These people will drown. Not some people, these people.”

Ilona took a breath to say something, then the door opened and everyone jumped back to work pretending nothing had happened.

“Ilona, her highness would like to see you.”

Ilona nodded and followed the guard to the viewing hall. He said, “The princess will meet you here.”

She turned to look out at the reef. Beautiful water, and as soon as the virus was cured she could swim freely, explore the reef she’d only seen in glimpses through the glass… Ilona straightened up suddenly. Someone was out there—a wispy light shape through the blue of the water. Ilona put her hands against the glass. “Who’s out there?”

The swimmer came closer, resolved into a pale shape with a halo of dark hair. Vibration came through six inches of glass, faint words. “Dolphin-calf? Why are you here?”

Mera kicked to the outside of the tube and put her hands up to Ilona’s. For a moment they just waited, looking at each other. A tear glittered on Ilona’s cheek. She started to say something, then heard footsteps and waved frantically. Mera whisked out of sight behind a wall of coral.

Head spinning, Ilona turned to face Shersheba. “You wanted to see me, highness?”

“In the past, Ilona, we’ve had every reason to be grateful to you.”

“Thank you, highness.”

“It was dangerous for you to come here pretending to be a human. But you were brave, and you served us well.”

“I did my best.” Ilona smiled.

“When I rule you will be rewarded as I always promised.” Her tone changed, “Unless you let me down now.”

“H–how could I do that?”

“By forgetting where your true loyalties lie. I can see you’ve become involved with these humans.”

Ilona said quickly, “They are good, highness. Many—most of them are good, they are like our people. We must save them from the virus.”

Shersheba patted Ilona’s shoulder. “Of course. When we find a cure, we will do so. But I must trust you absolutely.”

Ilona looked down, hope fading. Shersheba continued, “You can move around ORCA unnoticed as I and my troops cannot. Jason Bates has arrived back on board and that family is certain to plan against us. I need to know what they’re doing. I need you to be my ears once again, Ilona. For the good of our people and the people of earth. Will you?”

Commandos shoved Jason into the cabin. His mother caught him and hugged him.

“Did they hurt you?” Paul asked.

“No, I’m fine. You guys ok?”

“Yeah. We couldn’t warn you.”

Jason nodded, “Vidphone wouldn’t call out either. Hey, weren’t you two evacuating?”

“Are Neri and Mera ok?” Brett asked, ducking the question.

“Yeah. Mum! We saw Charley again, he’s fine. Completely recovered.”

“So Charley survived. I’m glad.”

“Would that mean Charley might have developed antibodies to the virus?”

“Could be. Yes, it’s a possibility.”

“Great. I got a sample, just in case. Can you test it?”

Dianne frowned. “Ah… I could, if I could get to the lab. But I don’t know how we could get down there. They’ve sealed off the whole of ORCA.”

From behind Jason Cass said, “There is one way. Us, through the air ducts.”

“What do you two know about testing for antibodies?”

“Nothing.” Brett admitted, “but we know the equipment, from science projects and helping you. If you wrote it down step by step, don’t you think we could do it?”

“I think it’s worth a try, commander.”

Dianne looked from the three children to Winston, and picked up a piece of paper. “All right. You must follow each step exactly, and in this order.” She waved to Winston, who moved to sit next to her and they talked quietly while they wrote.

Shersheba caught up with Malakat in the hall to the dive pool. “Malakat. You left the bridge. Where are you going?”

“Back to the pyramid.”

“Without my permission?”

“I couldn’t find you. I thought you were dealing with the boy.”

“Oh, I’m dealing with him. But you are getting above yourself. First you insult me in front of my people and then you walk out without warning?”

Malakat gave a conciliatory smile. “It was remiss of me, highness. But let me point out that everything here is under control, whereas there are other pressing matters…”

“You think I don’t recognize that sarcastic tone by now? You think I’m a complete fool? You can’t bear to leave the pyramid, can you? To leave its power?”

“It must continue to melt the polar icecaps. It is our weapon of dominance over this planet.” Malakat pointed out.

“Yes, but whose dominance? Mine? Or yours?”

“Yours, highness.”

Shersheba nodded. “Make sure you remember it. And keep working on the virus! You’re supposed to be finding a cure, remember? Or don’t you care?”

“Highness, surely you don’t believe what that boy…” Malakat tried, then gave up under the force of the girl’s stare. “Of course I care.”

“Then prove it. Go.”

In the lab, Brett and Cass straightened themselves out. Cass said, “Y’know, I think I may go off tunnel running after this. Right, here’s the sample and you’ve got the directions. What’s first?”

“Electron microscope.” Brett said, and they both pointed and added, “That thing.” Brett grabbed a rack of test tubes and they sat down to get to work.


Both kids jumped. Elly Hauser came around a rack of instruments. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you.”

“What’re you doing here?”

“I’ve been trying to find a way of getting word out to the global union. I thought maybe one of these scanners could be converted into a transmitter, but nothing’s even receiving. Don’t worry—I figured that out before I took anything apart.”

“Mum’ll be glad.”

“It’s no use anyway, they’ve jammed it all up. Ocean planet technology’s miles beyond ours.”

Elly nodded sheepishly. “So it seems. What are you two up to?”

Cass and Brett looked at each other. Cass nodded and held out the list. “We may have a lead on a cure for the virus. Want to help?”

Three hours later Cass held up a test tube. “Ok. If we did everything right, this is it.” She put it down carefully and got a little bit in an eyedropper. “Got a sample?”

Elly held a water sample in gloved hands. “This was collected just before they invaded. Give it a try.”

Cass added a drop of the cure, mixed, and pulled a slide’s worth of the mixture. While the other two hovered, she put it under the scanning microscope and bent over the eyepiece.

“Can you see anything?”

“Hang on, it’ll take a minute to work. I’ll put it on screen.”

“The moment of truth.” Elly murmured.

They waited. The screen stayed stubbornly red. Then… it was fading. Darkening, then glowing blue.

“It’s changing—it’s clearing! This too, look!” Cass held up the water sample, now clear.”

“No way!” Brett said, fighting down a surge of hilarious joy.

“I think you’re right.” Elly said slowly. “You’re right, antibodies from the whale’s blood. This–”

Suddenly Shersheba was there. He snatched the sample from Cass’ hand. “I’ll have that!”

Nobody had heard her come in. Ilona stood behind her, looking apologetic.

“Shersheba, that’s–”

“Thank you, I heard. You, put these humans in with their friends. Ilona, come with me.”

In the pyramid, Malakat paced while Garron spoke from a projection. “Sir, our people have left their homes and our clamoring outside out headquarters. Our cities are infected, and there have been more deaths. The people cannot wait another day!”

“Yes, yes.” Malakat muttered.

“If we deny them any longer, the princess Shersheba will lose their trust!”

Malakat whirled. “It is I who earned their trust—I! I will not disappoint them.”

The projection vanished. Shersheba stood over the console, with Ilona behind her. She said quietly, “I have the cure for the red virus.”


“Yes. Here. With this I will save our planet. I will be the new chosen one.”

“You? The chosen one?” Malakat laughed and stepped towards her. “Isn’t it time you stopped these idiotic fantasies?”

“How dare you!” Shersheba shrieked. “Soldiers!”

The guards didn’t move. Ilona stepped back and Shersheba suddenly looked afraid.

“They are loyal to me, Shersheba. It is I they have followed, not you, foolish child. Give me that.”

“No!” Shersheba turned and passed the vial to Ilona, who shrank back, cradling it. She looked back and forth between her leaders.

“Give it to me. There’s a good girl, Ilona. I will reward you well.”

“No!” Shersheba cried, “Ilona, to me! For the sake of our planet!”

With a last panicked look, Ilona threw the vial to Shersheba. The princess shouted, “Now run!”

They dodged around Malakat, ducked the soldiers’ grabbing hands, and fled. An energy bolt flashed between them and Ilona tumbled into the pool chamber. She turned back. “Highness!”

“Go, Ilona!” Shersheba’s voice came from the depths of the pyramid. Ilona dived. More bolts lit up the water behind her as she pulled herself frantically through the tunnel. She got outside, but where—

“Help me!” Ilona cried into the water. She heard the silence of an ocean emptied by fear of the virus.

Then, “Here!”

Unfamiliar voice. Ilona saw a shadowy hole between rocks, a pale figure leaning out. Holding out its hand. Ilona swam to it.

They waited, still and silent, as commandos searched. When the water had been quiet for a while Ilona’s rescuer pointed out and up. They surfaced a long swim away.

“Thank you!” Ilona gasped as her head came above water.

“You are Ilona? My sister told me of you. She will be glad you are safe.”

“You’re Neri.” Ilona said, the thought surfacing from the many bouncing around her head. “They shot at me. The cure. Mother. I can’t go back…”

Neri tipped her head, then took Ilona’s hand and said, “Come.”

It was a long way back to the island, skirting the infected area. When they reached land Ilona practically collapsed on the wet sand. Mera ran out of the trees, shouting. The two girls embraced.

“You’re all right!”

“You also. I was surprised to see you there.”

“Malakat has taken over ORCA–”

“I know. I was looking to see what had happened, when Jason did not return. Why were you there? Are you all right? Where is Mother–Ila?”

Ilona shook her head, overwhelmed.

Neri offered Ilona a hand up. “Come.” She said again, “We go home, rest and eat, and you tell us what has happened.”

Later, by a fire, Neri said, “So there is a cure, but Shersheba has taken it.”

“But I’m sure she’ll use it for good! She realizes Malakat is mad and wants to end his power.”

“Or use it for herself.”

“I believe her.” Ilona said quietly.

They all turned at the long wail of song from the ocean. Charley said, The pyramid moves! A moment later all three girls watched a shooting star fall upward. Mera said, “The pyramid’s escape module.”

“Shersheba.” Neri chimed.

“Going back to ocean planet with the cure.”

“What is your thought, Ilona?”

Ilona sniffled. “I did not know she was going to desert us. I’m sorry. Surely they can make more cure, but–”

Neri stood. “Now Malakat alone has the pyramid.” She stepped towards the beach.

“No, Neri!” Mera flung herself after her sister. Neri caught the younger girls hands.

“I must, sister. For a time, I do not want this, but now I know it is only way. The pyramid must be destroyed. And I am the only person who can do it.”

Ilona jumped up. “We’ll help you! I mean, I will if I can. We must stop Malakat.”

Mera shook her head. “You don’t understand, Ilona. The only way to destroy the pyramid is for someone inside to wish it so. Neri will die.”

“I have no choice.” Neri murmured, “It is my destiny.”