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This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2009-08-10 — sourcemeta

Source: 1, DeviantART
Author:Judith “Stormdance” Kenyon
Copyright:Archiving permitted by author

4. Kal, Who Knows No Fear

“Gotta be some kind of suspended animation.” Brett said.

The glass was fogging up again, concealing the strange boy’s face.

“We must make him wake.” Neri said.

“Any ideas how?”

“There’s no lock. This thing goes down to the floor. We’ll have to force it.”

Brett nodded. “I’ll go get a stick or something from the beach.” He headed out.

“One of my people.” Neri murmured, wiping the glass clear. The boy stood there, his head tipped back, eyes closed. He was wearing a long robe made of the same material as Neri’s tattered dress.

“He must’ve been like this since the ship crashed. Do you remember him?”

Neri shook her head. “I was too little to remember.”

“Your Dad never mentioned… hey, listen.” With his head close to the glass Jason heard a muffled voice.

Neri leaned in, and her eyes went wide. “It is the speak of my people!”

“What’s it saying?”

“A… lesson I think. About here, about the opal planet.”


“I think. Father only teach me your language.”

A splash announced Brett’s return, with a big stick. “You find anything?”

“There are speakers in here, teaching him things.”

“You mean like he’s been at school all this time? We gotta get him out of there!”

Jason and Neri laughed. That was such a Brett comment.

“Ok, let’s get this thing open.” The boys crouched down and Jason tried to wedge the stick under the glass.

Neri turned away, her hand drawn to the wall. She touched a panel that had been invisible in the darkness, and it lit up with bluegreen light. The ship rumbled around them.

“What’s happening?”

Parts of the room were moving, grating around into new positions. Part of the wall swung aside and the room was suddenly illuminated by spears of light. There wasn’t much more to see though; fog billowed from the glass cylinder. It was rising jerkily into the ceiling.

Neri reached for the boy, touched his forehead. “Wake!” She said, and the floor trembled.

Jason whispered, “Wow.”

The boy’s eyelids fluttered and his head drooped. Then he was blinking at them with confused eyes. “Seri… kresha… Kal.” He murmured.

“Do you know Earth speak?”

“I… speak. My name is Kal.”

On ORCA, Cass and Benny were having a very late lunch and recovering from serious manual labor. That is, Benny had brought his homework to the galley for an emergency cheeseburger while working, and Cass had turned up looking so grouchy he’d been too afraid to refuse her a seat. Cass thawed out while she ate, and borrowed a piece of paper to draw on.

Benny was afraid she was designing some device for more revenge on her sister.

“Here comes your lover again.”

“Knock it off.” Benny said.

“Ah, she’s got the hots for you, she’s been following you around all week.”

Benny snuck a look. Yup, it was Larissa, a girl from their class. She had been following Benny around, and it just made him uncomfortable. Cass was probably just jealous because Larissa had even more extreme hair. They both had pigtails with colored lanyard tied in, the current girls’ fashion on ORCA.

“Well I’ll leave you two alone.” Cass said sweetly and moved over a few tables.

Larissa took the free seat without hesitating. “Hi Benny! It’s hard work isn’t it? I am really looking forward to the holidays.”

“Me too.”

“We could do something together—shore leave and a movie or something. You interested?”

“Sure.” Benny wasn’t sure how to talk to girls when they weren’t being annoying like Cass.

Larissa leaned over to see Benny’s work, “You’ve got the most terrific notes. They’re so clear. I don’t suppose you’ll be sneaking the disk in for the exam tomorrow?”

“Are you kidding? I’d be disqualified for cheating. I’m in enough trouble already.”

Behind Larissa, Cass was pantomiming lovesick swoons.

“Benny, you’ve got to help me. I tried and tried to study, but I just can’t concentrate. Could I, could I please borrow your disc?”

“What would you do with it?”

“Run it on the terminal in the exam room. Nobody would see. Please Benny, just this once? I’ll be your friend forever.”

Benny was shaking his head, “No, no way. Sorry Larissa, I can’t.”

Crestfallen Larissa said, “Ok. I’ll see you later.”

Jason helped Kal step out of his prison. “All right. Watch your head, c’mon, sit over here.”

The strange boy was unsteady on his feet. Brett tucked himself against Kal’s other side to keep him from falling. They all kind of sat down together.

“You, people of Opal Planet.” Kal said.

“Me and Jase are. We call it Earth.”

“Earth.” The boy repeated, nodding.

“But Neri’s from your planet.”

“Neri.” Kal repeated, then looked up. “You are Neri? Little girl, comes into school, wants to play?”

Neri laughed. “He means the school room on the ship. Yes, I remember.”

“But you are big woman, like mother.”

“It was a long time ago, Kal. I am grown up.”

“But I am same. …where mother and father?”

The other three looked at each other. Jason asked, “Were they on the journey?”

“Yes. Family come.”

Neri’s face clouded. She crouched in front of the boy. “Mother and father have passed, Kal. This ship crashed, here on the Opal Planet. No one is left, only me and you.”

Kal nodded. No emotion showed in his dark eyes. “So they have passed. You show me Opal Planet?”

“Yes. Come.”

Kal walked onto the beach, turning his face up to the bright sun. He didn’t smile but the way he stood, arms spread to the light, he looked happy. He pulled off his outer robe and dropped it on the sand.

“Opal planet.” Kal’s eyes snapped open and he looked out to sea and spoke in a monotone, “Opal planet, known to its people as Earth. Cognitive inhabitants, known as humans, number approximately six billion nine hundred and ninety-four million.” He looked back at Brett and Jason. “Where others?”

“What? Oh, no, this is an island. All the people live on the continents, only Neri lives here.”


“Here, in forest. I show you.”

As they wandered off Brett said to his brother, “That was weird.”

“He’s certainly finding his feet pretty fast.”

They showed Kal where Neri slept, and her dishes and firepit. Kal didn’t say anything, and the boys couldn’t tell what he’d been expecting.

“So, Kal… what’s the last thing you remember before, well, before you saw us today?”


Brett explained, “Like, think back about.”

Kal thought about it. “Was Mother. Tell me, lie down. Says go to sleep. What that?”

He was pointing at a bright green parrot, up in the tree. Neri said, “Is bird.’

“Is bird. Bird.” Kal jumped up to get a closer look, and followed when the bird flew away.

“His mum put him in there.” Jason said, “To protect him during the crash. She must’ve been frantic to save him.”

“Why d’you reckon they weren’t more of those coffins? Everybody could’ve had one.”

Neri watched Kal bounce happily around the clearing. She said slowly, “I think is like… infirmary. Sleep there if hurt.”

“Makes sense. They didn’t count on something like what happened.”

“Ship was good. Best. It try to protect us. Father thought…” Neri shook herself. “Brett, get cocoanut?”

“Sure thing Neri! Bet Kal’s hungry after all that time.’


They gathered food. Kal appeared when it was ready, and sat down. Neri passed him half a cocoanut. “Eat.”

“Yes, eat.” Kal picked out some of the sweet pulp and nibbled it. “Good! Now I live here too?”

“You want?” Neri asked, smiling.


“Then yes.”

Jason pulled Neri aside. “Hey, you can’t just let him live here, like, forever!”

“Family is gone. He is of my people, so I must be family.”

Brett said, “You can’t expect him to go back in the spaceship!”

“No, but… it’s gonna change things”

“Ssh. Is late. You must go?”

Jason looked at his watch. “Yeah I guess we’d better. Will you be ok until tomorrow?”


“Keep an eye on him.” Jason said. Brett was already explaining to Kal about how they had to go home but would be back soon.

Neri stepped next to Jason and leaned her head on his shoulder for a moment in a gesture of comfort.

At UBRI, Hellegren and Kellar were looking over the plans for ORCA city, and the wonderful 3d model.

“Without Doctor Bates and the environmental priority, the building of ORCA city could proceed unhindered. But they will obstruct us over every bit of seaweed we churn up.”

“That woman is a nuisance, and her position has given her clout with the council.” Kellar observed. “But I believe with planning…”

A door slammed somewhere. An UBRI aide poked his head in, “Doctor Hellegren, you have a visitor.”

“A visitor.”

“I tried to tell her you were not to be disturbed…”

The door was pushed open the rest of the way and Lena smiled at her father. “Hello, father.”


“I’m home.” The girl had a backpack on, and was wearing sensible non-uniform clothes. Her smile faded as Hellegren didn’t answer.

“Kellar, we’ll continue this tomorrow. Send for my car please. And what did the school say?”

“I’m afraid I left without telling them.”

“Very disorderly. Come.”

“My exams were finished…”

“At home, Lena.”

The ride was silent. The house was… bigger than Lena remembered. Emptier too. It was a trophy house really, the place her father had bought to entertain business guests. Lena’s room was painfully tidy, and she enjoyed dumping her backpack in the middle of it. Hopefully the clothes in the closet would still fit, and they wouldn’t all be uniforms from previous schools…

The call of, “Dinner.” From below sent her scurrying for the stairs.

The caterers had just left. Lena and her father sat down to a still-steaming dinner that neither really felt like eating.

“Well it was a surprise to see you. I had already arranged for you to be taken on vacation.”

“I’ve told you. I’d rather spend my vacation here.”

“I’m afraid that is impossible. I have too much to do. You can stay here tonight, tomorrow I’ll arrange for you to go to Europe as planned.”

“Father, I won’t be a nuisance!”

Temped cracked and Hellegren snapped, “I’m afraid, without meaning to you would be!”

“Please. This is my home. You’re my family, my only family! Please let me stay!”

Her father stood up sharply and turned away. “Do not beg, Lena. We’ll discuss this in the morning. I have too much work.” He stormed out.

Lena wiped her eyes. She wanted to walk out too, to go to her room and cry. But that would be too much like giving up. Instead she took a big defiant bite of her dinner.

“He must be beat. Imagine waking up from that coma and seeing all the new sights and sounds.” Jason said. The boys were in bed on ORCA.

“He’s pretty quick picking up things though. I mean, he’s moving around pretty fast for a guy who’s just been asleep for like, ten years.”

“It’s weird though, it’s like he doesn’t have feelings. You saw how he was about his parents being dead. I wish we knew what we were getting into.”

“Who knows.’ Brett said cheerfully. “Oh, and we don’t say anything to Mum just yet right?”

“No way. I want to know more about him first.”

Neri woke first in the morning. She lay watching the birds for a while before she heard Kal moving around. He’d slept on a low branch, stretched out along it.

“Morning, Kal.”

“Is morning. Now we eat?”

Neri swung down from her bed, dived into the pond and pulled up two tasty cattail roots. “Now we eat.” She agreed.

They ate, and halfway through Kal ran off trying to get a closer look at a wallaby. Neri followed him, finishing her breakfast as she walked. The wallaby escaped.

“You tell me how to make it stay?” Kal asked desolately.

Neri laughed. “You must be very still, then they will come close. I show you, later. Look there.”

Out in the cove, Charley breached and sang a long who-is-that song.

“Is one jali.”

“Yes, they call on our planet. On earth is ‘whale.’ But he is my special friend. I call his Charley. He is calling, you hear?”

Kal tipped his head, listening. “No. No hear. No hear.”

“Maybe one day. My sister wait long time. Come, we swim.”

In the vast house, Lena heard the caterer leave and came down for breakfast. Whoever her father was paying, they did a good job. She loaded a plate with mostly bacon and wandered out to the dining room. Her father looked up from paperwork.

“I have given some thought to the matter of your vacation.”

“And?” Lena put her plate down.

“I do not understand why you choose to be here, over being with people your own age.”

“You know why. I want time with you.’

“You would hardly see me, Lena, I am busy at work.”

“I just want to be here when you come home. You needn’t even talk to me if you don’t want to.” Was that too much like begging?

“You’d be bored all day, and lonely.”

Lena had an answer for that. “No, no I wouldn’t! You know I topped my year in computer studies. I have e-com tutorials I’d like to do before term starts. I wouldn’t have access at the ski lodge. But here, with no one to disturb me, I’ll make great progress.”

Hellegren looked at her like he didn’t understand her at all. “Very well. We will give it a trial until the end of the vacation.”

“Thank you! Thanks.” Lena jumped up and hugged her father.

“Now, I must leave.”

“Fine. I’ll-I’ll get started.” Lena watched her father leave, then logged into the house’s terminal. She had all the tutorials on a disc, along with some school stuff she wanted to save.

In the schoolroom on ORCA everyone was trying to get some last-minute cramming done for the test. Brett gave his notes a last look and put away his notebook. He missed Froggy. Froggy would’ve had everything on a disc, and helped study… Benny had a disc. He ejected it and put it with his books.

“Ok, that’s enough noise, settle down. You have exactly thirsty minutes to complete the exam. Eyes on your own terminal, you too Brett. You may start as soon as the first question appears on your screen.”

The first question appeared, and it was a doozy. Brett stifled a groan. Silence fell over the room as everyone concentrated on their tests.

Or almost everyone. Larissa snuck her hand over and grabbed Benny’s disc and, between glances at the teacher, slipped it into her own terminal. She pulled up Benny’s notes under her test and started typing in answers. When the teacher wandered past Larissa quickly shrank the notes and looked studious.

Suddenly the teacher turned back. “What file did you have up, Larissa?”

“Um, this one.”

“I don’t think so.” She leaned over Larissa’s terminal and pulled up the other file. “These are answers. Larissa Renee, I’m disqualifying you for cheating. Do you have anything to say?”

Larissa shrank in her seat. The teacher ejected the disc. “Benny, this is yours. Did you give it to her?”

“No! No way.” Benny stuttered.

“I see. Stealing is a serious matter for the disciplinary committee, Larissa. Did you steal it?”

Benny took pity on her. “All right. No, I gave it to her.”

“I see. In that case you are both disqualified. I shall have to tell your parents.”

Benny and Larissa walked to the door, under the stares of everybody else in the room. Larissa fled, but Benny hung around outside waiting for his friends to come out.

Brett’s first words were, “Why’d you take the rap for her?”

“I had to. Cheating on exams is one thing, but she could’ve been thrown straight off ORCA for stealing.”

Cass snorted. “So? Good riddance.”

“What are you going to tell your dad?”

Benny drooped. “Who knows. Twice in two days!”

On the island Kal helped Neri gather berries and pound cocoanut meat soft.

“When Jason come? Brett?”

“Soon. For welcome feast.” Neri chimed.

“What me say then?”

“To greet you say, ‘hi,’ ‘hello,’ or ‘nice to see you.’”

Kal repeated, “Hi, hello, nice see you.”


“Good. Hi, hello, nice see you…” Kal wandered off. He recognized the gray and brown dirt under his feet, but the bright emerald vegetation wasn’t quite right. It was all so… interesting!

There was a bat hanging from a branch. Kal tipped his head almost upside down to get on the bat’s level, then ran up a tree and hung himself head-down next to it. “Earth creature. Me from planet of oceans. Hi, hello, nice see you.”

The bat continued grooming itself. Kal waited to see if it would answer, and finally concluded that this was not a speaking earth creature. He spotted a bird higher up, and went to see if that was a speaking creature.

“Hi Neri!”

“We brought chocolate.” Brett said. “Kal can try Earth’s best invention. Where is he?”

Neri looked up in alarm. “Was here.”


“We must find.”

Brett shrugged and yelled, “Hey Ka-al!”

They walked through the jungle, calling. No Kal. Just a wallaby, the island’s green parrots, and a few fruit bats.

Jason was saying, “Maybe he went…” He stopped.

Brett was pointing. “Uh-oh.”

Kal was up in a tree, way up, hanging by one hand and chattering away to a parrot. His voice drifted down, “Planet of oceans in far galaxy, but has big water. More big water than this one. But chemical composition… Hi, hello!” Kal waved his free hand.

“How’d he get up there?” Jason muttered.

Neri stepped forward, “Kal, you listen to me. You come down.”

“Yes, Neri.” Kal said, and let go. Jason and Brett shouted, but Kal landed and popped up with a grin. “Hi, hello, nice see you.”

Neri laughed. “Come, we eat. Stay on ground Kal.”

They ate roasted yams and fish baked in clay, and cocoanut meat paste scooped up with cookies.

Jason asked Kal, “Weren’t you scared up there?”


“Yeah, you know, like afraid.”

“What is ‘fraid?”

Jason and Brett looked at each other wondering how to explain that.

Neri said, “There is no word on our planet. I learn of fear here.”

“But…” Jason stopped, overcome by the enormity of what he would have to explain. What came out, lamely, was, “Even of monsters when you’re five?” Because the big fears were too big even to talk about. But nobody was paying attention. Brett was finishing the food and Neri poured water on the fire. Kal got up and started gathering large leaves from the nearby plants.

Brett said, “Well I don’t think he’s gonna learn it ever. Hey, what’s he doing?”

“He makes nest.”

Jason gathered his wits. “Down here? It gets pretty damp. Why don’t you build one in a tree, like Neri’s?”

“Man not sleep high as woman. Not right. Man sleep under. Man serve woman.” Kal explained.

Brett’s jaw dropped. “Say that again?”

“Is so on my planet. Woman bring new life, carry old wisdom. So man must bow to woman.”

“Is he making that up?” Brett asked Neri.

“I no remember.” Neri said. Her eyes glittered wickedly and she added, “Is so bad?”

“It’s worse than bad!” Was Brett’s opinion.

“Well it is a little weird. Hey Kal, on this planet men and women are equal. Nobody has to bow to anybody… well, not because of gender anyway.”

Kal looked perplexed. “Is true?” He asked Neri.

“I think. Have not seen so much of earth people life.”

“Very strange.”

The boys headed back to ORCA, getting home just before curfew. Benny wasn’t taking calls so Brett couldn’t find out how much trouble he was in. There wasn’t much to do but go to bed.

“You two are in bed early.” Dianne said, leaning in the bedroom door.”

“Oh, big day, Mum.”

“Yeah, exams and things.”

“Yes, I saw your grade. Very good. But why do I get the feeling you two have been avoiding me lately?”

“Because you’re totally paranoid!” Brett said.

“Mm-hm. Well, good night.”

“Night Mum!”

“Good night.”

When the door had closed Brett said, “You think she suspects something’s going on?”

“She must. I mean, there’s always something going on. But I hope she doesn’t guess what it is, we’ve got enough problems. You just better pray Kal stays where he is.”

“What do you mean?”

“Come on. He doesn’t understand fear, he jumps out of trees and bounces, he thinks all men should have to bow down to women… let him off that island and we’ll have major problems.”

On the island the birds had settled down to their sleepy nighttime chirps, and the frogs and insects were going full force.

Neri leaned over the edge of the tree. “Your bed is good?”

“Yes. Good. Good sleep, Neri.”

“Good sleep.”