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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

10. Discovered

Neri sat on the beach, staring out to sea.

Suddenly a fish was in front of her face. She blinked at it.

“Dinner!” Mera caroled, swinging the fish out of the way. It was still stuck on the end of the spear she’d caught it with. Mera stuck the spear in the sand and sat down. “What’s wrong? Please tell me. Sisters should talk, so you keep saying.”

Neri looked down. “I help find something under the sea. Something they call ti-ta-nium. And Mother says if it is learned of, many greedy men will come here to search.”

“Well then it must be kept secret.”

“The one they call Captain already knows. And if he tells others, they will tear the heart out of the ocean. I don’t understand. There is everything anyone could want here. Why is it not enough for them?” Neri finished plaintively.

Mera shook her head. “I don’t understand either. Some people seem to believe if they have more, they’ll be happy. But they never are, once they believe that, nothing is ever enough. Father knew this. He warned you.”

“Yes. But now I maybe help to bring greedy men here.”

“Maybe not though. It’s not for sure, right? You said Captain really likes Mother; maybe she can convince him not to tell. Or maybe something else will happen to stop it.”

“Maybe.” Neri made an effort to cheer up. “It’s a good fish. Where did you catch it?”

“In a tide pool. Will you show me how to cook it in the mud like we did those other ones yesterday?”

In the galley Vanessa sat down with her lunch. She’d meant to eat alone but the new kids immediately moved their trays over. Rocky said, “I wish we could go on the boat with you and Jason and everybody.”

“You really don’t. It’s boring.”

“Not as boring as being stuck here on ORCA all the time.” Said Joanne.

Kimberley joined them. “Well maybe we’ll get to go out after all.”

“What do you mean?”

“My Dad told the commander the other day that us kids need some work experience out at sea. Maybe she’ll listen.”

“It really is boring and workish.” Vanessa told them.

Joanne suddenly whispered, “Hey, isn’t that the new girl? Liselle. She’s so pretty.”

“Yeah except for the hanging-all-over-Mick part.” Was Kim’s opinion.

Vanessa bent her chair back for better eavesdropping.

“You’ve had some wild experiences haven’t you, Mick?” Liselle was saying in an adoring tone that made Vanessa want to gag.

“Yeah well, when you’ve traveled about as much as I have…”

“Like the time you saw those two girls on the boat.”

“No they weren’t on the boat. They were under it. It was really weird, we’d just stopped and suddenly they were on the screen. Like they knew the camera was going to be there. Like they were, you know, waiting for us.”

Not what Vanessa wanted to hear. Mick was guessing right.

The door to quarters hissed open. Brett stepped in, then hurriedly backed up again as the wall screen came on. He and Jason hung back just out of camera range.

“Doctor Bates?” The commander asked over the screen.

Dianne turned from her desk. “Yes Commander?”

“I’m assigning additional students to your survey unit for work experience as of tomorrow.”

“Ah, I’m sorry Commander, but that won’t be convenient. The study’s almost over and tomorrow will probably be the last day.”

“Then they’ll have squeezed in just in time. The decision’s made. Those joining you will be,” the Commander consulted a list, “Jake Rielley and Zoe Kondelos, Joanne Rhodes, Robert Rhodes, and Kimberley McGuinness. They are detailed to your boat at 0800 hours. Thank you.”

“You should ask Captain Phillips…”

The Commander hung up.

Both boys groaned. “Like we didn’t have enough problems!”

Joanne thought it was great. She followed Winston, carrying the hydrophone and asking if she could be his assistant.

Mick swaggered through the crowd of kids. “Make way, marine boy.” He said, shoving Jason.

“Watch it!”

“What are you gonna do about it?”

“Anything I want.” Jason was not having a good day.

Vanessa tried, “Just back off, Mick.”

“Make me.”

“You want to? Come on then!”

Vanessa stepped bodily in between them to stall that fight.

Sam watched them with resignation. “Of all the crazy ideas.”

“Tell that to Commander Byrne.”

“If one of those kids even thinks about stepping out of line…”

“I know, you’ll have them for bait. Well, looks like we’re all here.” Dianne raised her voice. “All right, everybody into the lift!”

The kids cheered. The noise echoed inside the elevator until the captain took a deep breath and bellowed, “Qui-et!”

The fish was delicious. They cooked it wrapped in clay in a firepit on the beach. “Better than hamburger?” Neri teased.

“Yes, better.” Mera threw berries at her sister. “I like the food here better, now. But I hope we can have ice cream sometimes. And books? I’d miss books.”

“Father too.”


“Father missed books. He wished to read people’s words. He tried to teach me, but I would rather play with Charley, so I did not learn.”

“Did Father never tell you anything about… where we’re from? Our family, or..?”

“Mother.” Neri finished for her. “No, nothing. Sometimes he would look, looking at things you do not see. I think he was looking at our mother, and he missed her. Maybe she too is gone for always.”

“That doesn’t make you sad?”

Neri thought about it while she stirred the remains of the fire and dumped water on the last embers. “Sad I cannot know her, yes. But I have Jason and Brett, Mother, friends on ORCA, Charley, and you also.”

“Do you think I’ll ever be able to, you know, talk to Charley like you can?”

“If you want to talk to Charly you have to try. Inside. Here, and here.” Neri reached to touch her sister’s chest and her forehead. Mera closed her eyes and tried… to listen without ears and talk without a voice. The whole idea was silly. She dissolved into giggles.

“Charley likes to laugh. Try again.”

“I can’t.” Mera laughed.

“It is my time to meet Mother. I call to Charley. Listen.”

The breeze changed direction, tugging their hair and the spray on the waves that rolled in endlessly, breaking softly and spilling up the beach. And past the waves…

Neri looked at her sister. Mera shook her head. “Nothing.”

“It will happen. Be careful when I am gone.”

“Can’t I come?” Mera begged, following Neri down to the water. “I want to be with you and Charley. Please?”

Neri considered. “You stay with me and you do as I say?”

“Yes, sister!” Mera bounced into the water, delighted, “Well, come on!”

On the boat it was… crowded. At the rail Zoe whispered to Vanessa, “Is Neri here yet?”

“No, we’re not at the meeting place yet. But the camera has to be on from the time they drop the tow array, so from now on none of them goes below decks, all right?”

Froggy nodded. He was looking a bit green. “Right. Oooh.”

“You can’t be seasick yet. We’re hardly moving.”

“Wanna bet?”

Zoe began, “More importantly, how are we supposed to…”

But Vanessa was distracted. “Hey, where are you going?”

“To see Winston. Why?” Joanne said, stepping back from the stairs down.

Zoe waved and pointed, “Look! A whale!”

There was an instant crowd at the rail. A few hundred yards away Charley launched himself half out of the water and fell back with a crash. The kids stared and Joanne said, “It’s beautiful…”

“Stick around, he might come closer.” Vanessa told them. As if he liked the audience, Charley surfaced closer and rolled in the water to get a look at them. Zoe waved.

“Hey Mick, come check this out.”

Mick stared at them with deep suspicion. “Why do you want to keep us up here?”

“Because this is where everything’s happening, idiot.” Kim said. “Vanessa, do you know what kind it is?”

“Humpback,” Vanessa began.

Sam interrupted them, at top volume. “Hoy! This is work experience, which means you’re my free labor for the day. Let’s see this deck shipshape all right? Clean everything you can see. Chop chop!”

Downstairs Brett said, “Hey, there’s Neri. And Mera!”

Winston frowned. “This could complicate matters. I trust she knows how to stay out of sight.”

“Charley’s around. Nearby by the sound of things. Jace, can you pick him up on the microphone?”

Jason held one earphone to his head and turned the dial that moved the microphone. “There he is, just over to starboard.”

“Right, we’re recording. Winston, how’s the hydrograph?”

“As the old Eskimo saying goes, fine.”

Jason gave him a look. “’Fine’ is an old Eskimo saying?”

“They were a people of few words. You try talking with a mouthful of snow!”

Rocky clattered down the stairs. “Hey Jace…”

Dianne turned the monitor off in time. “Rocky, you’re just in time. Could you ask Captain Phillips to head straight ahead slowly through sector G7?”

“Sector G7. Right.” Rocky nodded jerkily and hurried upstairs before he forgot. Dianne sighed.

“Just a few more hours.” Winston said encouragingly.

Neri pointed at the camera and waved. Mera waved to it too. She looked around, a little uneasy here in the open ocean, but there was nothing around but a school of fish and Charley’s bulk coasting near the surface. He called, and Neri smiled. Mera tried… but she couldn’t hear anything that made any sense, just sounds.

“You don’t need my help. Here, you take over.” Dianne handed off the headphones to Brett.

Brett straightened up suddenly. “What’s that!”

On the screen, four people in scuba had appeared. Neri and Mera looked at them in shock, but the men grabbed for them before they could swim away.

“Trouble!” Jason grabbed his scuba tank and ran upstairs, “Out of the way Rocky!”

“Hey, I’ll help…” They were all on deck now, Brett helping Jason on with his gear.

Dianne grabbed a snorkel. “Move, move, move! Jason, I’m coming with you all right?”

Jason nodded, already halfway down the ladder. He paused on the lower platform to adjust his mask, and dived.

Brett said, “Hey, did anyone turn off–?”

Mera squirmed, the divers’ hands tight around her arm. She kicked, tried to swim away. The other two were trying to get a grip on Neri. They wore white wetsuits. And mouthpieces, not masks.

Neri’s hand flashed out and yanked on an air hose. The diver lost his mouthpiece and had to let her go to fumble it back in. By the time he did, Neri had done the same thing to the other diver.

Mera went at her captors with hands, feet and teeth. She yanked a breathing hose, clawed at a man’s mask. Leave us alone leave us alone leave us alone! Somebody help meeeee!

And Charley’s huge fin swept past her, shoved the divers out of the way. He turned, wailing an angry off-key song.

The divers were heading for the surface. One man had lost his scuba, and the others were helping him. Suddenly another diver appeared, wearing a dark wetsuit and carrying a harpoon gun. Jason waved, and Neri swam to him.

Mera had to come up. She needed a breath after the struggle. She surfaced next to the boat and let Neri and Jason help her up onto the platform.

“Are you ok?” Dianne asked.

Mera nodded. Neri, her eyes wide, asked, “Who were they?”

“Don’t know… oh no!”

A lot of people were leaning over the rail, looking at them. Captain Sam said, “Who are they?”

“I’ll explain later. It doesn’t matter. Look, just get us out of here! Fast!”

Sam disappeared, and a second later the boat’s engines revved. Brett offered Mera a hand up. Froggy was yelling, “UBRI! UBRI logo on their suits! How the heck did they get a boat out here without us knowing?”

“UBRI huh?” Jason said. “That was close. It’s lucky you called Charley.”

“I didn’t.” Neri whispered. “I didn’t even think… Mera?”

Mera’s eyes widened. “He heard me. I was so afraid, I called out, and he heard me! I can talk to him!”

“Well the mongoose is well and truly out of the bag now. Oh dear.” Winston said. The cabin was a mess; Jason and Dianne had tipped the table over in their rush, and gear had gone all over the place.

Froggy nodded. “No kidding. Here, I got this.” He crouched to get the end of a cable, and saw something strange stuck to the bottom of the table. “Hey, what..?”

“Spies?” Winston bent down to look.

“Ssh!” Froggy pulled the thing off. It was about the size of his hand, electronic. He looked it over. “It’s ok, no microphone. Some sort of tracking bug.”

“What do we do now?”

Froggy put the bug on the floor, carefully positioned his foot over it, and stamped hard. “Now we decide what to tell the others.”

“Everything, I guess. What else can we do? They saw Neri and Mera underwater. I’m more worried about those men who tried to catch them.”

Froggy seemed to remember. He said something about radar and dashed up the stairs.

They went back to ORCA. Neri wanted to return to the island, but Dianne vetoed that, guessing there would be more searchers, and it would be good to lay low. As they docked at ORCA several helicopters chattered overhead.

Jason and Brett told the whole story. They found the rec room empty and sat Joanne, Rocky, Kim and Mick down and told them everything.

“It’s really true? They’re both from another world?” Joanne asked, starry-eyed.

“They don’t look like the aliens in the videos.”

“Nope,” Said Jason, “They’re pretty much just like the rest of us.’

“Except they can talk to whales?”

“One whale anyway.” Brett said.

“I can hardly believe it.”

Mick rolled his eyes. “You saw ‘em underwater didn’t you? Besides, who’s gonna make up a story like that?”

“Now, they’re gonna stay on ORCA for a while, at least those creeps can’t find them here. But you guys have to swear not to breathe a word, all right? Like you’ve never seen them or even heard of them.”

“We’ve really got to keep it a secret? A story like that?” Rocky asked.

Vanessa rounded on him. “Are you kidding? What do you think would happen if people got their hands on them? They’d be put in a lab somewhere and studied and we’d never see them again! Those divers, they’re from a company called UBRI. They’ve already captured Charley once–”


“The whale. And they’re after Neri and Mera because they know there’s something special about them. Just imagine if they knew what they really are.”

“So you promise not to say anything? Kimberley?”

“Sure. I won’t tell!”


“If you say so, mate.” Rocky said cheerfully.


“You can count on me! I think it’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever heard.”


“Trying to make me believe they were fish on the screen. You must think I’m a real thick-head.”

“We had to do that because it’s important!” Vanessa told him.

“Huh. You’re gonna have to trust me now though.”

“Can we trust you? Come on Mick.”

Mick grinned and leaned back in his chair. “I won’t say yes, and I won’t say no.” he drawled. “I’ll think about it.”

Froggy pulled up a picture on HELEN’s screen. “Recognize him?”

“Man in the boat.” Neri said.

“He’s the man who came to take me from the institute!”

Froggy sighed. “I was afraid of that.”

They were in the Bates cabin, all sitting in a row on Jason’s bed. Dianne came in with pillows, “What’s wrong?”

“Him. Name’s Hellegren. He’s in charge of UBRI’s marine research department, and the guy who captured Charley last year!”

Neri gasped.

“Now, I’m guessing here, but I bet he was in that helicopter looking for whales to tag or something. But his chopper crashed. And Neri gave him water, so he knows about Neri!”

“I did not think he would remember.” Neri said, “Man very sick from sun on head.”

Froggy patted her hand. “It’s not like you did a bad thing, you probably saved his life. But now Hellegren knows about you so he goes looking for someone like you, finds Mera, then she runs away with us so now…”

“They’re looking for us.” Mera finished.

Froggy shrugged. “And someone planted a tracker on the survey boat. Someone on ORCA.”

Dianne shook her head. “This… is not good.”

“I was hoping I was wrong. But what are the odds, the same guy goes after Charley and then Mera? He knows something’s up.” Froggy stood up, “Look, I gotta go do some more research.”

“Ok. Thanks Froggy.” Dianne said, a bit confused. Froggy waved and left. Dianne handed pillows to the girls. “It’ll be a little cramped but don’t worry, we’ll manage.”

Neri and Mera chorused, “Thank you, Mother.”

Dianne found herself smiling in spite of everything. “Ok. Now, the boys are getting us dinner so who knows what we’ll be eating, and I have to go beard Captain Phillips in his den, so just make yourselves at home, all right?”

“Good luck.” Mera told her.

When they were alone Neri sat holding her pillow, looking at nothing. Mera flopped herself back on the bed and wiggled her shoulders, trying to get comfortable. For a while she’d missed real beds so much, but now the sheet felt funny because it wasn’t leaves, and it smelled like indoors and soap when it should’ve smelled like the pond.

Sam was in his cabin, not really looking at the survey map spinning on the screen in front of him. He looked up when the door opened. “Why didn’t you tell me about all this?”

“Would you have believed me?”

“Probably not.”

“Sam, if you were to tell anybody about them…” Dianne leaned on the wall and gave him a pleading look.

Sam stood up and came over next to her. “What, and let some lab get their hands on them? No way.”

Dianne drooped in relief, letting her head almost rest on Sam’s shoulder. “Thank goodness. You had me worried for a while there. Still… what’s a fortune or two between friends, huh?”

“Whoa.” Sam stepped back, “I said I’ll keep quiet about the… uh, mermaids. The titanium, that’s a different matter.”

“But I thought you said…”

“I said I’d give you some time. And I have. But I can’t afford to give you much more.”

“…so on top of everything else we still have Sam to worry about. Mera, you haven’t touched your food.”

“Yeah, the pizza’s great!” Brett said around a mouthful.

Mera looked down. “I’d… really like a cocoanut.”

“I thought you said you hated island food.”

Mera pushed her plate away, not far because their plates were all crammed onto the tiny table in quarters. “I’m sorry, you’re being so nice but I just want to go home! I spoke with Charley! Now I feel like I need to talk to him more, to get to know him.”

“Oh sweetie… it’s just for a little while until we’re sure it’s safe. UBRI’s sure to search all the islands around here, if you went back now you’d be in danged, both of you and Charley.”

“So we’re trapped?” Mera murmured.

“Well it’s not like it’s a prison.”

“Yeah, at least you’re with your friends.” Brett said.

“And at least you’re safe.”

Neri put her arm around her sister and Dianne hugged both of them, and they waited, in the city under the sea.