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This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2009-09-16 — sourcemeta

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

7. A Visit to ORCA

They walked up the hill to where the wild yams grew. Well, Neri walked. Kal bounced from tree to tree and swung on vines. “Neri! Tell Kal of ORCA.”

“Is like… like spaceship, but very big. Under water near big drop.”

“Opal people land dwellers yes?”

“Yes.” Neri said.

Kal dropped to the ground in front of her, his head cocked questioningly. “But try to be like fish, live in sea.”

“Make land space under the sea.”

“Land surface area of earth approximately one hundred fifty square kilometers. Is not enough?”

“They want things in ocean. Chemicals, minerals, more food. Much land is ruined.”

“And now they ruin oceans.” Kal said sadly. “Yes?”

“This we fear. This is why our people come to earth, and why they send synchronium. It must be found.”

In the galley, Brett had his diving manual open next to his plate.

“You’re keen.” Jason said, sitting down next to his brother.

“Well the test is this afternoon, for us and Winston.”

Cass leaned over from the couch. “Poor Winston, he’s really feeling the pressure. Did you see him at breakfast?”

“Aw, he can do it.”

“Well good luck. I have to go help Sallyanne study.” Jason said.

“Hi Jason.” Another girl stopped him.

“Hey Myreka. How are things?”

“Oh, you know, ok. It’s good being on holiday.” Myreka smiled.

“So, you going to the mainland on Saturday then?”

“You bet. If I don’t get a real cappuccino soon I might die.”

Jason laughed. “For me it’s burgers but yeah, I know the feeling.”

Another voice broke in, “And what feeling is that?”

Jason stepped back. “Butch, hi.”

“You like to tell me what you’re doing with my girlfriend?”

Myreka made a face. Jason said, “Just passing the time. But I gotta go. See you guys. Sallyanne, wait up!”

Sallyanne waved and waited for Jason to catch up. She greeted him with, “Oh there you are.”

“Swim now?” Kal asked as they reached the beach.


“Swim to ORCA?”

“Yes. Must talk to Jason. No, you stay here.”

Kal looked downcast.

“I won’t be long, Kal. When sun is over trees, then I come back. You wait for me, understand?”

Kal held his hand up, measuring the distance the sun would have to travel. Satisfied, Neri turned and walked into the water. She dived into an oncoming wave and her world spread around her, blue and peaceful. She found herself glad for the silence. It was nice to be away from Kal’s constant questions, though she felt bad for thinking that. Neri had hoped that having Kal around would be… like living with Mera, when they’d been close enough to know each other’s thoughts. But it wasn’t like that at all.

Troubled? Charley sang.

Neri reached his side and caught the huge fin that swept past her. Not now. Not when you are near.

They skirted the construction zone around ORCA, and Neri waited in the shadows until she could hear that the dive pool room was empty. She hurried up the ladder and ducked into the locker room to get changed.

She found the boys in the lab, playing a game on one of HELEN’s screens. “The pieces of synchronium, you have started the search yes?”

Both boys wilted. Jason said, “Well actually no, Neri, we haven’t.”

“You do nothing?”

“We’ve been busy.”

Neri stared at them, stricken. “You promise to help, you swear, you did not mean it!”

“Neri, of course we meant it!” Brett said.

“To swear is sacred, not something to make and forget.’

“We haven’t forgotten, honest.” Brett grabbed Neri’s hand and pulled her to sit between them on the bench.

“The problem is we don’t know where to start looking, or even how. Those pieces could have landed anywhere. I just can’t think of any way to track them down.”

“Jase is right, we can’t start looking until we figure out how. It’s gonna take some time. It’s not really urgent is it?”

“Maybe soon. My people think the synchronium will be needed. If they are wrong that is good, but if not wrong…”

Jason nodded. “Ok, we’re on the case. I don’t know how we’re going to crack it, but we will, and we’ll come tell you as soon as we’ve got a lead. Ok?”

“Ok.” Neri was smiling again.

“I don’t want to let you down Dianne, but I’m very much afraid that to pass this test would take a miracle.” Winston said glumly.

“After all the drills? Winston…” They came around a corner and Dianne saw Neri. “I think a miracle can be arranged. Neri, can you help us? Winston has his dive test this afternoon.”

Neri nodded. “He must pass or leave ORCA, yes?”

“Exactly, and he’s not feeling confidant about it. Perhaps you could give him some pointers.”

Jason said, “Of course. Good idea Mum.”

“It’d give him a better chance.”

“I’d be most grateful.” Winston said.

Neri glanced away.

“Oh, but if it’s a problem…”

Neri turned back and smiled. “No. Is not important. First we must turn Winston into a dolphin! Practice in ocean?”

“Yeah, that’d be great. Can you meet us up top?”

Neri nodded. “I will! Jason and Brett too?”

“Sure, I’ll come. Brett, can you?”

Brett shook his head. “I have the written test to do. I’ll walk you to the dive pool though, Neri.”

“Ok.” Neri said, and left with Brett. The others got their gear and headed for the turbolift.

“I must say I’m feeling a bit more confidant already.” Winston said.

“Good—look confidant. They’re up to something.”

Jason followed his mother’s gaze to see Kellar and an anonymous UBRI goon watching them. He smiled politely.

“They certainly are.”

“Something nasty. I can feel it in my bones. I just wish I knew what it was.”

“Trying to get Winston fired isn’t nasty enough?” Jason asked when, safely out of earshot, they entered the lift.

“It’s slightly nastier. That fellow is a marine geologist, my proposed replacement.”

“That’s not gonna happen.” Jason said. They reached the pontoon. Jason checked the schedule—plenty of time before the next boat was due. Neri surfaced and waved to them. Jason waved back, shed his shirt and shoes, and ran for the edge. “Last one in—!”

Kal had been carefully watching the sun. He’d gone for a swim, and caught a big fish. It was now in a tide pool, waiting to be dinner. He’d eaten some bananas, and left pieces of one out for the bats. He’d marked the movement of the tide with pieces of driftwood stuck in the sand. And now, finally, the sun was over the trees and Neri hadn’t come back to tell him not to go.


He found the entrance and came up in a room that reminded him of the spaceship. It was all metal, but the lights were in funny places. In a room next door he found clothes like the ones Brett and Jason were always wearing, and tried some on. It took a few tries before he found a set that fit, and figured out how to put them on. Then Kal went exploring.

Ah, here were more of the approximately six billion people! Not all of them though. Kal saw people of different ages going back and forth, talking to each other in Earth speech. None of them noticed Kal. He walked around, not knowing where he was going and getting lost, and finally ended up in a room where young earth people were eating and playing games.

It was inside, and there were no birds or animals, but the scene was not unlike scenes in his memories. Kal sat down in a seat in the back and listened to conversations he didn’t understand. What, for instance, was a ‘movie’? Or ‘homework’?

The door opened and a larger earth girl came in. She had a determined expression like she was hunting something.

“What we need here on ORCA are healthy minds and super healthy bodies. So, the commander’s delegated me to initiate a new youth fitness program. And before you mouth off, just remember, fail your next physical and you could be back on shore permanently!”

Kal didn’t understand a word of that. The earth people didn’t seem enthusiastic.

The big girl continued, “However we have the answer for you lucky people: biorobics. So, who’s going to be first to enroll in the course? People, this program is simple, this program is painless. And it’ll look great on your records. So let’s see the takers guys.”

Still, nobody was showing any enthusiasm for whatever it was that had the big girl so excited. A few of the earth kids raised their hands, so Kal did too. A boy near Kal said, “It’s your stirring speech Morgan, how can I refuse?”

Morgan ignored this. “That’s more like it. Let’s head down to the gym while we get you all signed up. Ok, let’s start with you. What’s your name?”

“Kal.” Said Kal.

“Cal. Uh-huh. And last name?”

“Kal.” Kal said again.

“Your folks didn’t have much imagination did they? Ok everybody, listen up. The great thing about biorobics is that it’s personalized, tailored by the computer to meet your individualized requirements. And your name?”

“Doug Maxwell.” Said a boy.

Oh, right! Kal reminded himself under his breath, “Earth people use two names, personal name spoken first, family name spoken second. In some regions the order is reversed.”

“Well, only half an hour to go now.” Cass said as they wandered slowly towards the lift.

“Anyone else nervous?”

“Who, me?” Brett made what he thought was a brave face.

“Well I am.” Benny admitted. “It’s been on my mind all week. I dreamed about diving last night.”

“Don’t talk to me about dreams. I’ve had this one nightmare…”

Cass was interrupted when they had to squeeze against the corridor wall so Morgan and a group of kids could go past. Morgan was saying something about, “An exercise program designed to enhance your biological makeup…”

“What’s that all about?” Benny asked.

Cass aimed a frown after her sister on general principles and began, “Biorobics, it’s Morgan’s new…”

Brett interrupted by saying, “You guys go on, I’ll meet you at the boat!” and running off.

“He does that a lot.” Benny observed.

Jason was getting dressed after rinsing off from his swim when Brett ran in, skidded to a stop, and leaned over and whispered, “Kal’s here.”


“Kal. He’s here, on board. I just saw him with Morgan and a whole bunch of kids.”

Jason groaned. “Any idea where they were going?”

“Gamma level. The gym, Morgan’s got some new thing going.”

“Let’s go.”

In the gym Morgan ordered the kids to do five minutes on the treadmill each, while the computer took readings. A few people went before Kal, so he understood this was a machine for walking on and staying still. It made sense to have invented it here in ORCA, where there wasn’t much space to walk.

“Your turn.” Morgan said. “Ever been on one of these before? This knob controls the speed, just turn it like this.”

Kal nodded, turned it on, and started walking. It was easier than walking in sand, though the strange things earth people wore on their feet didn’t really help.

Five minutes later Morgan said, “Ok, that’s it. Good job. Go and wait with the group while we do a quick assessment.”

Kal wandered away. He heard Morgan muttering to herself about ‘pulse rate’ and, ‘not even breathing hard.’ Her voice sounded different from before, like she was surprised. But that wasn’t interesting. None of the other machines in here looked like fun, so Kal slipped out the door and went looking for something else to see.

Topside Dianne waved and pointed to her watch. Winston heaved himself out of the water. “I’m so waterlogged I think the sea level dropped!”

“You look it. And you only have a few minutes before the real thing.”

“Oh dear.”

“Stop worrying, you did fine.”

“Only with Neri’s assistance.” Winston said. He looked down at Neri, floating with her arms resting on the edge of the platform. “You will be out there for the test, won’t you?”

Neri considered. “Perhaps. Perhaps no.”

“But… what if something goes wrong?”

“Then you must fix.” Neri pushed herself up and sat next to Winston. “Is time you stop needing help.”

“What does that mean?”

“You help me and Charley. Must believe you can help yourself as well.”

Winston looked at Neri and nodded slowly. “I see. Yes, I will try.”

“Good. Now I go, before people come to get in boat.”

“Goodbye then.” Dianne said, “Thank you Neri.”

“Yes, thank you.”

Neri smiled at them and dived, her feet flashing, and she was gone. Winston stood up and climbed the ladder to the main part of the pontoon. “Well, let’s wait for Mister Hartley and the rest of the crew.”

Brett and Jason skidded through the door of the gym and looked around. A bunch of kids were on the machines, or waiting for a machine to open up.

“More eager recruits?” Morgan asked.

“Uh, no.”

“We’re just looking for someone. Guy named Kal?”

“You know Kal?” Morgan asked eagerly.


“Well when you find him, tell him to get back here pronto because he’s enrolled in this course.”

Just what they didn’t want to hear. Jason tried, “I don’t think this is really his scene.”

“Too late, he’s registered and in the computer. Plus, he has the potential to be my star pupil. So, you locate him for me, or I’ll be wanting to know why.”

“Well, we don’t know him that well.” Brett lied. Morgan gave him a look.

“Come on Brett, let’s go find him.” Jason said, and pulled his brother out of the room. They headed down the hall, looking through open doors into the other public rooms.

“How’d he get signed up? He’s got no id.”

“Morgan must not’ve checked them. Look, is that him? Aw no…”

Kal was sitting at a table, listening with a fascinated expression as Myreka chattered.

“What’ll we do?” Brett asked.

“Just help me get him away from Myreka.”

“I’ve gotta be on a boat in five minutes.”


“Hello, our diving exam?”

“Oh right. Just for a minute then.” Jason said to his brother and stepped forward, “Kal, there you are. We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

Myreka waggled her fingers at them. “Hi Jason, Brett.”

“Sorry Myreka, we have to drag him away. He’s new, we promised to show him around.”

“That’s ok, we have a date later. Sixteen hundred hours?”

“I remember.” Kal told her.

“You’d better, or I’ll come looking for you.”

Brett and Jason looked at each other, spirits sinking farther. Brett muttered, “We gotta get him off ORCA, right away.”

“And tell Morgan what? She already knows we know Kal, if he disappears she’ll be watching us. I’ll have to try and get him through his date.”

“I have to go. Good luck.”

“Good luck on your exam.” Jason replied, and went to pull Kal away, “Come on Kal, there are a few things I want to show you. I’ll get him back in time, Myreka…”

The gate guards let Lena pass without comment, which she took as a positive sign. Inside UBRI headquarters she wandered around, looking for her father but not really wanting to find him and get lectured. If she could find something broken and fix it, or find something she understood and could improve, so her father would see that she was useful…

She didn’t find anything like that. When the workday ended she dodged into a dark room to avoid the UBRI employees on their way out, and found herself in an audio lab. She tapped the computer screen to turn it on and, since the sound of people walking by outside continued, played a sound file at random.

The sound that filled the room was strange, low and intense. Wuh-uuuoooo….

Lena shivered.

She tried a few more files. They were all similar, but not the same. Different notes, some had high whistles and clicks, some were low moans, some repeated the same phrases. Those were the most interesting. Like real music. Or talking. Really, almost like talking.

Then she heard a human voice. “…to speculate these objects hit the Earth, Kellar, quite another thing to find them.” The door clicked open and Hellegren saw his daughter. “Lena.”

“Hello, father.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Just killing time. I, ah, thought I could ride home with you. I found these old files. What are they, whale song?”

Another haunting call echoed around the room. Hellegren said, “Yes. Indeed they are.”

“And you recorded them yourself?”

“There was a humpback whale we were studying. And a strange girl, very strange.”

Lena looked up, trying to identify the emotion in her father’s tightly controlled expression. Greed? Longing? “What, was she studying the whale too?”

“No. She knew all there was to know.” Hellegren turned off the computer, cutting the sound. “But now she has gone. All we have are these sounds.”

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” Lena offered.

Behind them Kellar cleared her throat. “Forgive me Dr. Hellegren, but I really must point out that Lena is not authorized to be in here. And those files are classified.”

Lena opened her mouth to ask why, but not fast enough.

“Kellar is right, Lena. You must leave. I will see you later this evening.”

“Perhaps I should drive Lena home.”

“There’s no need. It’s not far.” Lena said with all the frost she could pour into her voice.

“Don’t be silly Lena, it’s a long walk. Kellar, if you would.”

Jason finished a rather long lecture about secrecy, acceptable subjects… Kal had nodded a lot but Jason didn’t think he’d understood any of it.

“I no understand, Jason.”

“Just say as little as possible and agree with everything I say. Ok?”

“And Earth girl like this?”

“Yeah, she’ll love it.” Jason lied. “Look, let’s just get this over with, ok?”

“What’s with the double act?” Myreka asked when they both sat down across from her in the galley.

“Oh, I’ve been assigned to show Kal around. He’s having trouble with the language.”

“Oh, I see. I couldn’t place your accent Kal, where are you from?”

Kal opened his mouth but Jason said quickly, “All over really. His parents were gypsies.”

“Oh, how romantic!”

“Well don’t get the wrong idea. He’s just a regular guy just like the rest of us. Isn’t that a fact Kal?”

“Fact.” Kal agreed.

“Yep, he likes hangin’ out with the boys.” Jason leaned back in his chair.

“Boys.” Kal agreed.

“Watching the football.”


“Tryin’ to see how many chicks he can date.”


By now Myreka was starting to look annoyed. Jason poured it on. “You never know your luck, he might be able to fit you in. Get us a drink and we’ll talk about it.” He snapped his fingers in the direction of the kitchen. This would have worked better in a bar.

“What did you say?” Myreka was practically steaming.

“Well you’d like a drink wouldn’t you, Kal?” Jason said, then shut up. He’d had more planned but was afraid if he opened his mouth he’d either apologize or laugh. A lot. Kal’s blank expression wasn’t helping.

In towering fury Myreka stood up. “Who do you think you’re snapping your fingers at? Go and get your own drinks you pair of pigs! And I thought you were different. Don’t ever bother to talk to me again, you moronic male!” She stomped off.

“I no think she like that.” Kal observed.

Butch, Myreka’s boyfriend, appeared in the doorway just as she reached it. “Hi babe.”

“Don’t ‘babe’ me! You men are all the same! I wash my hands of the lot of you, you’re so dropped!”

They’d probably done her a favor, getting her away from Butch. At that thought some of Jason’s guilt vanished and he bent double in a bout of silent laughter. Her face..!

“Jason, I do not think earth girl like us.”

“No. No she doesn’t.”

“Why you do then?”

There was nobody near them. Jason tapped the table’s ordering system and got them some juice. “Here’s why, Kal. It’s like… did you ever eat a bad fish and then have to take Neri’s stomach medicine? Well Brett and I have. It tastes really bad. But if you drink it you feel better, and if you don’t you’ll be sick for hours. So the small trouble of the taste is worth it to avoid the big trouble of being sick. If Myreka liked you, she’d try to find out where you live. She might find the island, and find out you and Neri are… different. Then you’d be in danger. Making her mad is the medicine, it’s not good but it’s not as bad as the other choice. Understand?”

Kal thought about it. He muttered, “Medicine.” And “better.” And finally said, “Maybe understand.”

“Well, you can think about it on the way back to the island.”

Kal looked downcast and finished his juice. “I must go?”

“You’d better. Maybe if Morgan can’t find…” Jason trailed off. Morgan had appeared in the doorway.

“Ah, Jason. I see you found our man. I thought we were going to have to send out a search party. Right Kal, you’re with me for the next hour. You signed up for the rest of the semester and you’d better be on time.”

Kal nodded, not understanding, looking at Morgan like he was trying to figure out what kind of creature she was.

Jason sighed. “Hey Morgan, go easy on the guy. Remember his English isn’t great so he might say some things that sound strange.”

“Doesn’t matter what he says, just how hard he works.”

“Kal will work hard.”

Out at sea, the dive team returned to the ORCA boat. Winston pulled his mask off and slicked down his dripping black hair.

“Hey Winston!” Brett called, “Wasn’t it great down there?”

“Did you see the turtle?”

“It was quite lovely, Cass.” Winston said as he passed his gear up to the kids on deck. Halfway through their dive a huge sea turtle had joined them, winging its way through the water, its shadow gliding along the reef beneath it.

Dave surfaced, and as soon as he could talk all the kids were clamoring to know if they’d passed the test.

“Yes yes, flying colors for all of you. And I’ve got to say, Winston, for someone who seemed so convinced he would fail, you’ve done very well indeed.”

“Thanks, Dave.”

“Right. The last part of the test, show me you know how to get your tanks off and stowed, and you can use the radio to give your parents the good news. We’ll be back on ORCA for dinner.”

There was an immediate scramble for the radio. Brett got it first. “HELEN, biology lab please. Mum, I passed! We all passed, Winston can stay on ORCA!”

“Great!” Dianne said over the com link. “Congratulations everybody! Winston, I’m so glad!”

“It is indeed the best of news.”

“And best of all, UBRI’s gonna hate it!”

The ride back from UBRI headquarters was accomplished in total silence. Lena was still unhappy she hadn’t gotten to ride home with her father, and she really didn’t like his assistant. Kellar was… scary. She had a big square face and big square hair, and she wore too much lipstick. It was impossible to imagine her dressed in normal clothes, or goofing around watching TV or cooking or doing anything real people did.

But she made sure Lena got home all right, even walked with her to the door. Then she said something. “Let me give you some advice, Lena. Little girls who stick their noses in where they’re not wanted could be in for a nasty shock.”


“They are likely to learn things they’d rather not know. Ignorance is bliss, more often than not.”

Lena opened her mouth, couldn’t think of anything to say, and finally just said, “Thank you for the ride.” And went inside. She shut the door and leaned on it, scared, annoyed, and wondering what that had been about. That boy on ORCA, Brett, he’d said the same thing. Sort of. Only he’d sounded a little bit sorry for her, and Kellar hadn’t sounded… anything, really.

Lena felt like the day had been a contest and she’d lost.

When Morgan finally released Kal, Jason showed him the way to the dive pool and showed him the locker where he could hide his clothes. “I’ll keep a spare set in here. Lucky we’re about the same size. Don’t ever forget to change, ok? You’d get in big trouble walking around ORCA in your shorts. And don’t let the workers outside see you!”

“Ok.” Kal said from the changing room. He sounded worn out. “Home now.”

“Yeah. We’ll find out when the next class is and tell you when to come back, ok?”

“Ok.” Kal emerged, back in his usual shorts. “Had fun today, Jason. See you later.”

“Yeah. ‘Bye.”

When Kal had left, Jason sighed with relief. Ok, this day had been… well, bad. But it could’ve been worse. At least Kal hadn’t started anything with, ‘On my planet…’ Of course he might say that next time he was on ORCA.

Worrying about this, Jason wandered to the lab to see if Brett was back from his diving test yet.

He was, and he was talking about it mile a minute while Dianne tried to finish her work. She and Winston looked up when Jason came in.

“Jason, Brett told me Kal was here today, right here on ORCA.”

“Well, for a while.”

“I don’t believe it. You know how keen we are to meet him, couldn’t you at least have introduced us?”

“I, ah, was pretty busy doing damage control.”

“And we were out on a boat all day Mum.’

“That is so, Dianne.”

Dianne nodded. “Damage control?”

Jason groaned. “Trying to keep him from giving everything away! He’s got no idea about secrecy, we keep trying to explain it to him but…”

“All right. But next time Kal is here, no excuses.”

“Right, Mum. We’ll make sure you get to meet him.”

Neri had been frightened when she returned to the island and found Kal gone. When Charley told her Kal had swam off by himself, she became less frightened but more annoyed.

Kal returned eventually, smiling, until he saw Neri’s face. Then he looked down and followed her into the forest without a word.

“I am angry. I told you to wait here, and you disobey.”

“No, Neri.”


“You say, ‘wait until sun is over trees.” This I do. When it passed, then I go to ORCA.”

Neri sighed. “Kal, you must understand. All people are not like Jason and Brett. Some want to hurt us.”

“Hurt Kal? Why?”

“We are different. Some earth people do not like what is different.”


“There is no reason, Kal. Is just how some are.”

Kal shook his head and picked up a banana from the pile they had ready for dinner. Clearly he didn’t believe it, that people could think something for no reason. “I like ORCA. Is very strange. I go back soon, please, Neri.”

“Maybe Neri could tie him to a rock or something.” Brett suggested.

Jason laughed. “No, that wouldn’t help us now. He’s officially enrolled, and Morgan knows we know him. If he doesn’t show up on course days she’s going to go looking for him and that puts Neri at risk.”

“Yeah, and I guess we can’t really stop him anyway, now that he knows how to get on board.”

“Damage control, that’s the best we can hope for.”

“Damage control how?”

“We’ll just have to keep an eye on him every second he’s on board.”

Brett groaned and flopped backwards onto his bunk. “What a nightmare!