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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

11. Sabotage

“Swimming? You’re serious?” Jason grumbled. He faced two pairs of pleading eyes.

“Please Jason, we are tired of waiting in the little room. We wish for the sea.”

“We miss Charley.” Mera added.

Brett tried reason: “But if you go off with him those UBRI creeps could jump you any time. Winston can’t get them on radar so we don’t know where their boats are.”

“Or worse, track you back to the island. Then it’d really be curtains.”

Neri smiled. “Charley knows where boat is. Far from here. So, we call Charley to ORCA!”


Brett gave in. “Well if it’s just around the pontoon they should be safe. We could keep watch topside. Whaddaya say Jase?”

“Oh all right.” Jason smiled. “Call Charley. I’ll get Vanessa, maybe the fresh air will cure some of her grumps.”

“Mick again?” Brett guessed.

“Yeah. Something about loading the food machine with hot pepper. He needs a hobby.” Jason went over to the screen to call Vanessa.

Neri and Mera sat down on the bed and closed their eyes.

Neri said, “Just see Charley in your mind. Call. You hear?”

Hello? Charley?

Dear one, come see us!


Neri grinned. “He hear you also. Keep calling. Charley comes.”

Froggy looked up from his programming to see—oh no, not again—Mick.

“Start talking. I’m not blind you know. Bates and Vanessa just disappear, and everyone else clams up whenever I’m around. So what’s going on.”

“Nobody tells me anything.”

The door opened again and a man—Mick recognized Liselle’s uncle—came in. “What are you doing here?” He snapped.

“Just passing time.” Said Froggy, closing his program fast.

“Well pass it somewhere else. Out! And close the door behind you.”

In the hall Froggy began, “Gee, what got up his shorts?”

Mick wasn’t interested in that. “Listen, I tell my mom what you’ve been up to with HELEN, and you’ll be banned from using her ever again. Is that what you want?”



“It’s no big deal I guess. They’re taking the girls out for a swim around the pontoon.”

“And I wasn’t to be told huh? Well, they’re all in for a big surprise.” Mick grinned his best evil grin. Froggy thought of several sensible things to say, considered the possible results, and kept his mouth shut.

Neri looked very uncomfortable in her ORCA-issue bathing suit. Mera was used to them; she just ran straight at the edge of the pontoon and jumped. “Well come on!”

She sounded so happy. Neri looked at Jason and smiled. “Thank you.”

“Yeah, well. Don’t go past that buoy, ok?”

Neri nodded, saluted and jumped. In a moment she and Mera were splashing each other and laughing.

Jason and Vanessa sat down, watching them and enjoying the day. It was nice out, cloudy and warm. ORCA’s boats bobbed on their tethers and a jetski was tied for repairs.

Behind them, Mick came out of the elevator. He looked at the two teenagers sitting there peacefully, heard a laugh and splash from the water. Then he looked around for a way to spoil all the fun. The jetski looked promising. There was a sign taped to it, but Mick couldn’t read that so he ignored it, hopped on, and revved the engine.

Jason jumped up, yelling.

Mick spun out, circling around the pontoon.

Vanessa shouted, “The girls are down there, you idiot!” If they surfaced and the jetski hit them…

“Didn’t think I’d find out huh? Kiss this, morons!” Mick hollered, standing up and waving. He was looking at them, so he didn’t see the buoy. Vanessa shouted a warning, too late as the jetski hit it full speed and flipped, throwing Mick off.

Jason pulled off his shirt and ran down the steps. Vanessa was right behind him, grabbing for a life jacket.

“Wait! Look. It’s all right.”

Neri and Mera surfaced, hauling Mick between them. Jason helped pull him up onto the low platform, and Vanessa banged him on the back while he coughed up water. Mick wiped salt water out of his eyes to see the two weird aliens looking worried, and Jason and Vanessa looking mad.

Jason threw a life jacket at him, cast a look at the large sign with the ORCA rules, including the one about life jackets, and went back up the steps.

Vanessa helped Mick to his feet but delivered a lecture. “Would’ve served you right if you’d drowned, you dork. And you probably would have if it hadn’t been for Neri and Mera. Big tough Mick Byrne, saved by a couple of girls.”

Mick shoved her away and headed for the elevator, dripping.

“He is all right?” Neri chimed.

“He’s fine. You two had better get changed and come in. Vanessa—you didn’t have to rub his nose in it.”

“He deserved it.”

“Maybe. But we need him on our side. Get him too mad, who knows what he’ll do?”

Vanessa sighed.

The good mood of the day was gone. Mera ducked herself one last time, and looked longingly at the waves. If only they could just… keep going. Go home. But home wasn’t safe and being cooped up on ORCA wasn’t the worst that could happen. It wasn’t so bad. So she toweled off and got her uniform back on, and they went inside.

Mick had dried off and changed, and made sure he didn’t have any visible bruises. He wasn’t injured; his mother would have said, “Just a bit bunged up, grin and bear it.” So he did.

But some ice cream sounded like a really good idea.

In the galley Vanessa was sitting with Zoe and Joanne, probably already spreading the story. But a few bites into the ice cream, something good happened. Liselle appeared, and sat next to him.

“Mick, I’ve got something I decided to tell you. But don’t say anything to any of the others.”


Liselle leaned close. “I’m not really here just to help my uncle. I’ve been working with the authorities to try and find a girl who was abducted.”


“They’ve traced her to some kids here on ORCA. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about it would you? Her name is Jane, about thirteen years old, dark curly hair. It’s very important that we find her before anything bad happens. And—I’d personally be very grateful to anyone who helped us find her.”

Mick started to smile. Just then HELEN announced, “Michael Byrne, report to the commander on the bridge.”

Mick stood up with a groan. “Mum. I’d better go. Finish this if you want.”

Liselle regarded the melting ice cream with distaste. “Just keep in mind what I said.”


On the bridge Commander Byrne gave her son a scorching look. “Maintenance informs me that you took a spin on a damaged waverunner, without a life jacket. It was clearly marked as under repair; you shouldn’t even have touched it. What were you doing out there?”

“Aw Mum, I was just trying to have some fun! It didn’t look that bad.”

“Yes. That’s all you ever want to do isn’t it Michael. Well this is the last straw. Your fun days are over.”

Someone invisible behind a column, snickered. Probably Captain Phillips.

“But Mum…”

“As of now, you are going to concentrate on serious things, starting with your reading problem. Here. I had this sent over from the mainland.”

She handed over a flat package. Mick opened the end. It was a very flat book, titled Come the Terrible Tiger. Mick made a face. “You’ve got to be kidding Mum! It’s a little kid’s book. I can’t have the others see me reading this.”

“Well then go find someplace quiet where you won’t be noticed. When I get off duty this afternoon I want evidence that you’ve had your head down, working. Is that clear?”

Mick made a face and left, trying to walk so that the package was hidden between him and the wall.

In the Bates cabin Neri was pacing, about four steps in either direction. She paused to look at Mera, who was sitting on the bed, her knees drawn up to her chest, pretending to be interested in the video HELEN was playing. Mera looked miserable. She was trying hard not to, but she did.


“I’m all right. Really, Neri. It’s just, being stuck here feels like before, back when I didn’t know there was anywhere to go to.”

Dianne came in in time to hear that. “Well… Neri could probably take a short walk, people are used to seeing her around by now. Mera, do you want to hang out in the lab with Winston? It’s not very interesting but there’s more space than in here. That’s the best I can offer, sorry.”

Mera straightened up. “I’d like that.”

“I’ll show you the way.” Neri smiled and helped her sister to her feet.

Joanne was in the lab too. She looked up when the girls came in, said, “Hi.”

“Oh, Mera, Neri, hello. You might be interested in this.”

Mera pulled up a chair, looking around at the sound equipment, piles of tapes and disks. This room felt comfortable.

Winston went on, “It occurred to me that if you two really… I mean, you must be but it’s still hard to believe… if your people had ever visited this planet before there might be some kind of record. HELEN didn’t find anything in the UFO files, but–”

Joanne jumped in, “Well, it’s obvious! Mermaids!”

Mera looked from one to the other. Neri looked confused until Winston put up a picture, then she giggled.

“Exactly. A stroke of genius, Joanne. There are mermaid legends from just about every culture in the world. Stories Neri, of women who live in the sea, and usually have beautiful voices.”

“Charley says I sing like frog!” Neri laughed.

Winston chuckled. “I think Charley is listening with different ears than we are.”

“So you think maybe our people visit Earth before and started the stories?”

“Exactly! I don’t know how we could test this idea, but it certainly is interesting.”

Mera, and Joanne, nodded. Neri was thinking that having a tail like Charley might be nice, but not for walking.

A machine binged and Winston went over to it. “That’s strange. The strange signal I’ve been tracking, it’s stopped. As though someone has just turned it off.”

“Aw, did you figure out where it’s coming from?”

Winston studied the screen. “Only generally. You know… I think I should go out there and take a look around.”

Joanne looked hopeful, then sighed when no invitation was forthcoming. “We’ll wait here.”

Winston signed out a boat and left, still looking distracted. Mera wanted to look at the whale records and Joanne stayed to show her how to work the equipment in the lab. Neri went to wander the halls, leaving Joanne chattering away and Mera nodding.

She ended up in the viewing tube, looking out with her hands against the glass, ignoring the people walking through behind her. Fish wandered past outside, and through her hands Neri could hear far-off clicks and groans of whales. Not Charley’s voice, but he’d probably go out later to see who had come.

Much closer, Charley whistled a question.

Here, Neri said. Worried about sister. Wish I could be with you.

Miss you too.

I come back, soon as I can. Neri stepped back, both physically and in her mind. If she couldn’t go swimming, then…

Vanessa came past, in a hurry. Neri turned to her. “I look for Jason, you have seen?”

“I dunno. Sorry. Try the rec room maybe.”

Vanessa was following Liselle. She’d heard enough of the conversation in the cafeteria to be very suspicious. And that was… well, just stupid. All of it was. They didn’t have time for suspicious, so she was going to find out what was going on.

Liselle looked around and ducked into the computer room. Vanessa waited around the corner, wondering where Froggy was. The little guy was always in there!

In the next hallway two maintenance guys took the filter off one of the air ducts. One of them said, “This unit’s broken. Let’s get it to engineering.”

When they were gone, Vanessa crawled into the hole in the wall. It was a tight fit but she squirmed around a corner and suddenly she could see through a grate into HELEN’s main nerve center. The screen was flashing access denied.

A man said, “You hear? I’ve tried every way I know to get around the security block and it still refuses. Not even Byrne herself could call them up.”

“Is there anything else?” Liselle asked.

“No—yes, but there are risks involved. I’d have to get right inside the computer’s central intelligence and force it to override.”

“What’s the risk then?”

“These 3000s are fragile. If I pushed it too far I could destroy it, virtually blow its brains out of existence. Are you making any progress with that Byrne kid?”

“I think he might be close to talking.” Liselle said.

“Good. I’ll hold off here and you work on him. Just remember, we’re stuck here until UBRI has those two girls in hand. Hellegren is convinced Jane is here, and he signs the paychecks and the transfer orders.”

Liselle nodded, her shape moving against the light from the screen. She left. Vanessa waited until her footsteps were out of hearing before she began to push herself backwards out of the duct. She got out, fluffed dust out of her hair, and ran to find her friends.

The rest of the kids were holed up in Rocky and Joanne’s cabin digging through mining law. Froggy, grumpy from being kicked out of his lair, had gotten everyone a section and told them to look for anything useful.

Vanessa burst in. “I told you guys Liselle was up to something! She and her uncle are phonies, they’re working for UBRI. They’re after the girls. They think Mick will cave in and talk.”

There was a moment of stunned silence. Froggy said, “Well that explains the bug on–”

“What are we waiting for? Find him!”

The door to the rec room opened, and knocked over a pile of carefully positioned dishes. Mick jumped at the sound, and dropped the book.

Neri picked it up. She smiled at the cartoon tiger on the cover.

“Give it! Oh yeah, real funny right. Bet you make sure the others all get a good laugh out of this.”

“No.” Neri didn’t know why Mick sounded so bitter. She offered the book back and he snatched it.

“Sure. So why are you grinning like that?”

“I like the picture. Pretty. Is a cat, yes?”

“You mean they haven’t told you about me?” Mick looked at Neri’s calm but curious expression and burst out, “ I’ll save them the trouble. I’m an idiot, all right? A dummy. I can’t understand a single word. Not even in a stupid kid’s book like this.”

“Mick?” Neri chimed.

“Can’t you understand me you freak? I can’t read!”

“Neither can I. No word either.”

Mick blinked at her and summoned a fragment of his cocky smile. “Oh yeah, you live on that island. You never had to go to school or anything. You were lucky, sister. At least you didn’t have a lot of other kids hanging around calling you moron and stupid. And every time I got shoved into some new crummy boarding school I’d get it all over again. In the end, I worked out ways of faking it so no one could tell. But I knew i couldn’t read. Never stinking will.”

“You cannot know that.” Neri said seriously.

Mick sat down on the couch and looked up at Neri like she was crazy. “What are you talking about? Don’t you think I’ve tried?”

“But you have not believed.” Neri sat down too and opened the book, smiling at the pictures. She held it out to Mick.

“You’re crazy. What difference would that make?”

“My sister could not swim with Charley until she believed that she could. You also can do more than you think. All you have learned must be somewhere in your head. Maybe you can find it if you just believe you can. Try it. Look at the words again and believe.”

Mick looked at the book, his face wrinkling in concentration. Anyone else he’d just have yelled at, but for some reason he didn’t want to yell at this girl. He put his finger on the page, as if that would hold the words down. “Um. We—we hear…” and slowly the fuzzy confusion was fading and into the space it left, the words came clearly. “We hear the… whales… sing their songs. Then we lie quietly… I can read! I don’t understand, how did you do it?”

Neri grinned, her face shining. “You did it Mick. You believed. I only show the way. Tell me more?”

“Ok. I’ll try.”

They were finishing the book when the door opened and the whole gang piled in. Vanessa was in the lead. “We’ve got some news for you. Your girlfriend in a UBRI spy.”


“Crunch time Mick.” Kim said, hands on hips, “You’re either with them or with us. Which one’s it gonna be?”

The signal had been coming from Neri’s island. Winston anchored his boat and waded ashore, wondering what he was looking for. Anything, really. Maybe the boys had left something behind, and it was malfunctioning, or maybe the people who’d searched the island left something behind. But the signal had been on before the island was invaded… Winston had another theory, but it made him so worried he didn’t want to consider it.

There were footprints on the beach. UBRI? Winston bent down to look. Two sets of footprints, but there was no texture to them. Very strange shoes, Winston was thinking when he became aware that he was being watched.

He straightened up slowly, holding his hands out to show he had no weapons. “H-hello. My name is Winston Seth and I mean you no harm. The girls are safe. I know you don’t understand my words, but hopefully the tone of voice…”

“We understand.”

Mick sat down next to Liselle in the galley. “Hi.” He said.

“Hi.” Liselle smiled.

“So you were saying, some girl got kidnapped?”

“Yes. Do you know anything? Sorry, it’s just—she might be in danger.”

“Well I might…” Mick leaned his elbow on the table, “But you gotta be square with me. Kidnappers? I trust you; show me you trust me. Give me the whole story.”

“I—well–” Liselle stammered, stopped to think. “Ok. Jane is—a freak, she can do these crazy things. A company called UBRI wanted to study her, and give her a good home, but right before she went to live at UBRI some kids came and took her, and one of them had an ORCA patch on his jacket.”

“Uh-huh.” Mick said encouragingly.

“So we have to take her back! And then Hellegren will give me a real job so I can get my own place, not have to live at the stupid institute…” Liselle realized what had slipped out and clammed up.

Mick tried one more time. “So UBRI wants one weird girl?”

“Well, I was told there were two but I don’t know…”

Mick pushed himself up. “Sorry. I hope you get a good house, but you can tell UBRI from me to get lost.”

Liselle stammered something, but the others had appeared. Mick high-fived Vanessa and they started to leave together. And froze when the lights flickered.

“What’s going on?”

“I don’t know.” Froggy said.

Liselle had gone pale. The lights flickered again and went out. After a few seconds of total darkness backup power came on. The wall screens didn’t come back. There was some yelling about lost homework. Froggy stepped to the nearest terminal, hit a few buttons. “HELEN, what’s happening? HELEN?”

Vanessa said suddenly, “That creep was messing around with her—he said he’d stop but…”

Froggy hurried out, with pretty much everyone in the room trailing after him.

The crowd crowded around the bridge, hoping for news. Jason saw Neri with Vanessa, and Mera and Joanne. He motioned to them to stay out of the way, while he tried to get a spot to eavesdrop.

Byrne’s voice demanded, “When can we return to full power?”

“The control for the main generator is linked directly to HELEN. So I’m afraid it’s auxiliary power for vital functions only until she’s operational again.” Said someone over a communicator from the computer room.

Dave’s usually easygoing voice was tense. “Unfortunately, i’m not sure that’s going to happen, Commander. Memory banks are shot and circuitry’s completely blown.”

“What are our options, Officer Hartley?”

“To be honest, I don’t think we have any. The only thing to do is bring in a whole new central computer. This thing is nothing more than a high-tech paperweight now.”

“Any idea what happened?” Someone asked.

“Ask me after our new computer looks at the black box. I’d say someone pushed HELEN too far.”

Downstairs Froggy leaned in the door of the computer room, distraught. Zoe came up next to him. “I’m sorry, Froggy.”

“She’s not finished yet.”

“You heard what they said.”

Froggy scowled. “I know HELEN better than any of them. And I’m not going to give up. They might think she’s had it, but I’m going to get her back.”

Zoe bit her lip and decided, “Ok. We’ll have to wait until Dave and them leave. I’ll keep watch for you ok?”

“And then the lights and everything just went out.” Brett said.

Jason joined them. “Looks like something happened to HELEN—or someone happened.”


Dianne said, “Whyever, it looks like we’ll be on limited power until the new computer’s installed. Winston, you’re back.”

“Ah, yes. Sorry I missed all the excitement.”

“How was the island? Find anything?”

“No.” Winston said quickly, “Completely deserted. No sign of anything at all.”

“Well. Standing around here won’t get anything done. Anybody hungry?”

“Yeah!” Jason said.

“As always. I’ll get food, meet you back in quarters. Winston, want to join us?”

So they went home, Jason and Brett and Neri and Mera, slipping through the crowd back to their cabin. And Winston went too, but he was very quiet. Froggy and Zoe waited in a storeroom with the air vent open so they could listen to the techs who were working on HELEN. Mick read the book to his mother, and she hugged him. And Liselle went back to her cabin and reported to Dr. Forsythe who wasn’t actually her uncle at all, that she’d seen Jane and another strange girl in the crowd.