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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

8. Alien Eyes

Neri woke to morning sunlight and leaves jewel green around her. The birds were singing, and she could hear the waterfall and a breeze stirring the leaves.

Something was missing.

Neri sat up. “Kal?”

No answer. She looked down, and saw his bed empty. “Kal…”

In the galley on ORCA the kids were having breakfast. And Cass was complaining.

“Parents, who needs them. Mine are driving me crazy.”

“Not again.” Benny said sympathetically.

“They won’t let up, they’re on my case all the time.”

“They can’t be that bad.” Brett handed around a plate of bagels. Sallyanne took one and sat down next to Jason.

“Wanna bet? I told you how I’ve been having these really weird dreams lately and waking up with headaches?”


“Well, this morning they practically accused me of making it up, just so I could sleep in! And then Mom starts hassling me about cleaning my room.”

Benny started, “Well I’ve seen your room…”

Kal came in. He looked around with interest.

Brett and Jason jumped to their feet. “Um, sorry, just remembered something I have to do.”

“Yeah, see you later!”

They caught Kal, one on each arm, and hustled him out of the galley.

“Hello Jason, Brett.”

“Kal, what are you doing here?”

“Visit ORCA.”

Jason groaned. “Kal, you can’t just… never mind, come on.”

“Where are we going?”

“The lab. Mum wanted to meet him, remember? She and Winston can help us keep an eye on him.”

Kal offered, “Loud girl said, come back today, more exercises. So I come. Was wrong?”

Brett grinned at that description of Morgan. Jason tried to explain, “I wish you’d told us you were coming. Did you tell Neri where you are?”

Kal shook his head. “She say, don’t come. So I not tell.”

“Aw Kal, do you know how worried she’ll be?”

Kal looked at Brett with no comprehension in his face.

“He doesn’t understand, Brett. He doesn’t understand ‘dangerous’ at all.”

Brett made an ‘I give up’ gesture. “Well anyway, we’re here.” He waved the door open. “Mum! Winston! Guess who’s here!”

“Can this be Kal?”

“Sure is, Winston. Kal, this is our Mom, Dianne Bates, and Doctor Winston Seth.”

Kal sized them up.

Dianne put down what she was working on and came to meet them. “Kal, I can’t tell you how pleased we are to meet you.”

“It is indeed a pleasure to have you here. As the saying goes, ‘The wise elephant shares the water hole so all may survive.’”

Kal tipped his head. “Elephant, highly intelligent herbivorous animal, lives in matriarchal herds. Can grow up to four meters tall, has thick gray skin, large head, and long trunk used to obtain food and water.”

Dianne and Winston looked at each other, confused. “That’s right.”

“He knows lots of stuff like that. Learnt it off by heart on the voyage from their planet.”

Kal started wandering around the lab, looking at all the equipment. He stopped at a boxlike device. “This. What do?”

“We use that to record whale song.” Dianne told him.

“All this, to save sound?”

“That’s right.”

“Very primitive.” Kal said, but there was no insult in his voice.

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“Neri has told us that your civilization is far more advanced than ours. That’s part of why we were so eager to meet you. We’d like to learn about your people, and tell you about the people of our planet.”

“People of Earth, humans.” Kal offered.

“There’s a bit more to us than that. Why don’t we sit down and chat?”

“Ok.” Kal smiled.

“And Brett and I will go wait for Neri. She must be wondering where Kal’s got to.” Jason grabbed his brother and they retreated.

They’d been hanging around the dive pool for about twenty minutes when Neri surfaced. She looked mad.

“Kal’s here, he’s fine.” Jason said, offering her a hand up. “He’s with Mum. Hurry and get changed before next shift starts.”

Neri grabbed her uniform and vanished into the changing room. Her voice came faintly through the door. “He was gone before I wake. But there is worse, Charley tell me, bad things happening here, near ORCA.”

“Bad things? What?”

“Nothing’s happening.”

“No time, must tell Mother.” Neri reappeared, dressed in her ORCA uniform and pushing back still-wet hair. She stuffed her dress in the locker and headed for the door.

“Hey, wait for us…”

By the time they caught up, Neri was saying passionately, “Mother, very bad thing. Here, where they build ORCA City. Everything go…” She spreads her hands suddenly.


“An explosion?” Dianne guessed.

“Yes. On ocean floor, much, big… explosion. Everything will die.”

“If this is so, Dianne…”

Dianne nodded. “HELEN, get me a link to Commander Williams, please. Commander, I’ve just learned by accident UBRI is going to blast the seabed. Is this correct?”

“Yes. A rocky outcrop they plan to remove, but surely you were informed?”

“No, I wasn’t. And I really must insist of a tribunal hearing before any blasting goes ahead.”

The Commander sighed. “All right, I’ll schedule it.”

Dianne closed the call. “HELEN, maps and all information on the proposed blasting.”

Every screen in the room lit up. The children scooted out of the way. Kal appeared. “What do?”

“Ssh, Kal.”

“We’d better get outta here. Uh, unless we can help, Mum?”

Dianne waved them off. “PhDs only.”

“Right.” Jason said, and herded his brother and friends into the hall.

“Mother is angry?”

“Not at us. She gets like that when she has to work fast and people are being stupid. What now?”

“Kal’s exercise class starts soon.” Brett said. Neri looked at him and he added, “And it’ll take that long to explain how he got himself signed up for it. Then we can all head over to the island and hang out.”

Jason shrugged. “Sounds good to me.”

Neri glanced back at the lab door. “Mother will stop this… explosion?”

“She’ll do her best, Neri.”

“Yeah, you saw her and Winston in there. There’s nothing we can do to help anyway.”

Kal, distracted, was already wandering in the direction of the gym. The others followed.

The call came just as they were leaving from the pontoon. Brett had just come topside with Neri and Kal’s clothes. Jason was telling Kal about how the boat worked. When it was about engineering, Kal really paid attention. He explained back to Jason how a gasoline engine worked.

“Yeah. Yeah I think you’ve got it. I’ll have to check about…”

The screen beside the elevator lit up.


“How’d it go?”


Through the link, Dianne looked at Neri. “We lost. We did our best. UBRI’s experts say the explosives are safe, and the tribunal believed them rather than Winston and I with our suspicions and hasty research. I’m sorry.”

“No!” Neri cried. “They must not do it!”

“We can’t stop them.”

Winston leaned into camera range. “And don’t you get any ideas! This is not something you can deal with like Neri dealt with the sonic grenade! You have enough time to reach the island before they blast, and that’s where I want you to be.”

“I hear you, Winston. We’re leaving. Come on Kal, you can’t drive this time but you can watch how I do it.”

Brett saw the point and hurried into his lifejacket so they could leave before Neri thought of trying anything.

On the ride to the island, Neri sat in the back of the boat looking miserable and not saying anything. Jason had his hands full trying to explain the workings of the boat to Kal without telling him enough that he’d be able to start one by himself. He could imagine Kal borrowing all of ORCA’s boats and leaving them scattered around the whole ocean.

When the boat was safely anchored and Neri and Kal had changed back into their own clothes, the four of them sat on the beach.

“They want ORCA City built. They have to make compromises.” Jason tried to explain. “We can’t expect them to stop when we can’t explain why. I know you’re angry…”

“Not angry. Afraid. Do not know what will happen, only that it bad.” Neri scooted next to Jason and leaned her head on his shoulder for a moment.

Suddenly Kal said, “Brett, best move now.”


“Cocoanut will fall soon. Will hit on head.”

Brett looked at the tree he was sitting under. “No way.”

“Trajectory, wind, velocity. Will hit.”

Brett marked an X in the sand where he’d been, and went to sit in the sun next to Kal. They watched.

A minute later a cocoanut fell, right in the center of the X.

Brett and Jason stared, openmouthed.

“How did you know?” Jason asked.

“Is easy.”

“Easy? You worked out the wind velocity whatever in your head?”

“Yes, Brett. You cannot do?”

“Um, no.”

Neri surged to her feet, looking out to sea.


“Something bad has happened.”

“Maybe the explosion. It was due.”

“No, it is worse. Something has gone wrong with the sea.” Neri’s eyes were distant, like she was trying to hear something.

“How do you know?”

“I know.” Neri turned back and sat down again. “The synchronium. This is what it was made to stop. Is very, very important now. Understand?”

Brett sighed. “Of course we understand, it’s just we don’t have a clue where to start looking for those pieces.”

“They could be anywhere at all. It’s not like anyone would’ve seen them.”

“Is possible.” Kal said.

“What do you mean?”

“Maybe someone see. Pieces, in special shell so not burn up. Would glow when enter Earth’s atmosphere, glow blue. Maybe someone see in the sky.”

“Then there could’ve been reports!”

“Kal, why didn’t you tell us this before?”

“No one ask.”

“Who cares, we can start now. We’ll get HELEN looking for UFOs, meteorites, whatever.”

“Go now. Start now. Look quickly.”

“Aw, Neri…”

“All right, we’ll go get started. It might take HELEN a few days though. There’s a lot of information for her to look through. So just don’t expect something tomorrow, ok? But we’ll do our best.”

“Ok.” Neri said with a ghost of a smile.

“HELEN, we need reports of UFOs, meteors, any unexplained lights in the sky.” As Jason spoke, the search terms appeared on the nearest screen. The boys were down in HELEN’s nerve center, the main computer hub. It was a tiny room strung with cables and bits of HELEN’s circuitry.

“Search news reports, um, astronomy magazines and web sites… well, everywhere. Nonfiction sources only.”

“Request for information received. Time frame requested.”

Jason thought. “Between ten and fifteen years ago.”

“Affirmative.” HELEN said and the screens filled with search windows, which shrank into process icons then to a single results icon that flickered as the data behind it changed. The boys left her to it.

Brett grimaced. “This is gonna take forever—and I bet we get a million hits we’ll have to check out. Where’s Froggy when you need him?”

“Beached.” Jason said gloomily. “Are you sure he can’t link with HELEN from the shore?”

“Not a chance. We tried for a month after everyone was sent home.”

“A month?” Jason said, but Brett had gone ahead and ducked into the rec room. Jason stopped in the door. He could hear Benny saying, “Cass, that’s really not the way to get your family off your back…” before Brett dived into the conversation. Jason let the door close and took the lift down to the lab.

“Hi Mum, we’re back.”

“Welcome back Jason. The blasting went off without a hitch. How was Neri?”

Jason shrugged. “She thinks something’s wrong. I’ll tell her you guys didn’t detect anything.”

“I’m more worried about Kal.” Dianne said. “He seems so… disconnected.”

“If what the boys say is true, he virtually grew up in a vacuum. It’s not surprising his development would have been affected.”

They were both looking at Jason with questioning faces. Jason sat down backwards in a chair and gathered his thoughts. “Well… I think Kal was already grown up, I think he’s the same age now as he was when the ship crashed.”

Winston whispered, “True suspended animation!”

“And he was asleep the whole time, except he learned all these lessons off by heart.”

Dianne made a worried face. “Asleep but aware, for ten years or more. I wonder if that could’ve… damaged his mind somehow.”

“The workings of the human mind have not yet been unraveled, much less so the alien mind. But you are right, it sounds most unsafe.”

“Kal doesn’t seem to worry about it.”

The next day, over breakfast Dianne announced, “Winston and I are going out to check the site of the blasting, just to make sure nothing’s wrong. You boys want to come?”

“Ah, sorry Mum, we can’t.” Jason said, heading for the cabin door.

“Other things to do.” Brett added and they were gone.

“And a nice day to you too.” Dianne muttered.

Downstairs in the computer room the boys sorted through a list of search results. There were hundreds of them. HELEN was narrowing it down, comparing the images against known pictures of airplanes or followup reports that would confirm that they were something ordinary.

“Ok HELEN, direct half to Brett’s terminal, half to mine.” Jason said, sitting down.

Brett groaned. “This is going to take all day!”

“Maybe. But we have to try. No offense HELEN, but some of these need human judgment.”

Lena had gotten up early, determined that when her father came downstairs he would find her in front of the computer, working away at her class. Staying awake was a little bit of a problem, but only a little. She liked programming. Liked marine biology too, though so far all she’d been able to do was bookwork. Maybe when she got to college…

“At least they taught you some decent computer skills at that school you dislike so much.”

Lena turned and smiled at her father. “I never said I wasn’t learning, only that I didn’t fit in.”

“The way you’re going you will soon fit in at UBRI.” Hellegren said, looking over Lena’s shoulder at the complex code on the screen.

“Oh, you mean I can leave school then?”

“I do not.” Hellegren shot back, but he was smiling.

“Father, if I do end up working at UBRI, will you tell me more about your work? I mean, what you really do?”

“Heavens Lena, if you want to know more you need only ask. UBRI’s work is open to public scrutiny. And as you know, I have nothing to hide from you. But I must be going, I will see you this evening.”

Lena waved. “Have a good day, Father.”

When she’d heard the car leave, Lena opened the computer’s main database. A stack of files tagged with “UBRI” and “whale research.” She clicked one, and a password box came up.

“Nothing to hide, huh?”

So what password would her father have chosen? His favorite composer? College house? Favorite movie? Did he even watch movies? Lena tried a few guesses with no luck.

She was overthinking this.

That awful Kellar woman hadn’t even known her father had a family.

She keyed in L-E-N-A.

Password accepted.

Lena felt tears in her eyes. At least he thought of her a little bit. Brushing off the emotion, Lena started opening files. Whale communication. Tracking. Humpback whale designation Charley. Doctor Dianne Bates. Helicopter crash. What?

But that file brought up another password box. Lena chose another file at random. Whalesong filled the room.

It had been hours. Silence had descended on the computer room.

“Jase, I think I’ve got one.”

“Yeah?” Jason asked, without much hope.

Brett sent the report to his brother’s screen. “Small object, unidentified, one of the sightings reports it as a blue light. And we’ve got three identical matches, enough to make a trajectory.”

Jason wasn’t convinced. “It could be anything.”

“Yeah, like a piece of the synchronium.”

“This is possible?”


Neri stepped into the room, Kal behind her. “Is it true? You have found a piece?”

“Well maybe.” Jason said. “Something fell June 18, 2100 hours and 6 minutes. Traveling in a Northwest-Southwest trajectory. So it could have fallen anywhere in… here.”

On the screen HELEN finished calculating and put up a map, with the appropriate numbers alongside.

“We can go there?”

From his terminal Brett explained, “We could Neri. It’s a ways from the shore, but not too far to hike in a day. But the area we’d have to search is bigger than the whole island. Twice as big, maybe more! It’d take ages.”

Kal leaned over to touch Jason’s screen. “Fell there.”

“How d’you know?”

“I work it out.”


Kal grinned. “Is easy. Fell there.”

“We go see? Now?”


“Actually…” Jason said. Everyone looked at him. “We’re off the rest of the day. There’s a boat available. HELEN could program a navigation aid. I think we could do it.”

“I’m game.” Brett said. Neri looked delighted.

“We go now.”

“Now as in after we get some gear together. That’s rough terrain. I’ll get the navigator programmed and sign out the boat. Kal, you’ll have to stay here.”

Kal’s face fell.

“You signed up for bio-robics, remember?” Brett said. “You have to show or Morgan’ll start asking questions.”

“You got through it ok last time. We’re counting on you to do it again.”

Kal nodded woefully.

“And after, go back to island, wait for me there understand? We go now, we have long travel.”

On a boat over the reef, Winston checked the readings from the scanner.

“Anything amiss?” Dianne asked.

“Well, the shockwaves of the blast were larger than anticipated, but nothing else yet.”

“Huh. Let’s suit up and take a look around anyway. Something tells me not to take Neri’s feelings lightly.”

The boys and Neri looked up the cliff. It was tall and red, and steep.

“That’s worse than I expected.” Jason said.

“We’re really going up there?”

“You’ve got the navigator.”

Brett checked it, and sighed.

“Is not too hard. Come.”

They climbed.

“If you could just show some consideration for others, Cassandra.”

“Yeah Mom, how about some consideration for me? Or has that been outlawed in this family? So I was late to class, so what?”

The last person Cass wanted to see joined in. “You know what she needs, Mom? Some discipline.”

“Who asked you to butt in?”

“At least Morgan isn’t rude to me, Cassandra.” Said the tired mother.

“Well of course not! Miss perfect can’t do anything wrong, can she? And I can’t do a darn thing right.” Cass stomped to the cabin door, gave it a shove when it didn’t open fast enough, and left.

“You shouldn’t let her get away with it, Mom.” Morgan said self-righteously. Mrs. Clayborn sighed.

The top of the mesa was grown with twisted trees. They had bright green leaves but didn’t cast much shade. It was afternoon now, and the sun was blindingly bright. The three of them slogged along in silence except for the occasional, “This the right way?”

The boys had drifted ahead. Brett checked their directions and pointed, then looked back. “Neri? Jase, wait.”

A few yards back, Neri staggered to a stop and grabbed a tree as if to keep her balance.

Jason was beside her in a second. “You all right Neri?”

“My head is going round.” She said faintly.

“You feel dizzy?”

Neri looked up. There were deep shadows under her eyes. “A little.” She said.

“You need to wet down, right?”

“Must keep going.”

“You look terrible.”

“I will be fine.” Neri said with a forced smile.

Brett grabbed her. “No way. We’ve got to go back to the boat. You look like you’re about to faint.”

“I think Brett’s right, Neri.”

Neri looked up suddenly and smiled. “Listen!”

The wind had changed, bringing to them the unmistakable sound of rushing water. Brett ran to see, Jason and Neri saw him stop and wave, and they went over. A few hundred yards away the land dipped, the plateau worn away by a small stream. It poured down a little cliff into a ravine. Neri jumped down and sat on a rock, cupping water in her hands and pouring it over her head.

Brett took the navigator out of his pocket and consulted it. “We’re more than halfway to the spot Kal marked.”

“I hope he’s right. Can you imagine Neri if we don’t find anything?”

Brett made a face and nodded. He called down to Neri, “Hey, feeling better?”

“Yes!” Neri called back. Already she looked like herself again.

“Great. You want to fill these up? It should be enough to get us there.” He lowered the canteens down.

“This water is not good for you. Make you sick.”

“That’s ok. We can go without water longer than you can.”

“Thank you.’ Neri said. She climbed up from the stream with the two canteens slung around her shoulders. Her hair was wet and water beaded on her skin, making her sparkle in the light. “Now we go.”

Cass was still griping, now to Benny in the rec room. “I don’t know what it is with my family, nothing I do ever seems to be good enough for them.”

“You want to try mine? I’m a huge disappointment because I don’t have a PhD yet.”

“Yeah, but you don’t have to put up with Morgan. She never lets up! What a pain! But she’s the favorite, no doubt about that.”

Benny shrugged. “Forget about her. Want to play?”

Cass followed his gaze to the three-tiered game board. “Of trigammia? You’ve got to be kidding. You’re the all-Australia junior champion.”

“I don’t see the point in being champion. I mean, you train like mad to get there and then nobody’ll play with you.”

“I’ll play.”

The two kids looked up. An older boy with black hair was standing behind them, his head cocked interestedly.

“You mean it? You want a game? I’m Benny, by the way.”


“You take that side. You know how to play?”


Benny gave him a quick rundown of how the pieces moved, and the game began.

“This is it. This is Kal’s spot.” Brett announced. They were on the edge of the plateau, looking down a slope to bushy ground below. Quite a ways below.

“It’d have to leave some kind of mark wouldn’t it? Burnt ground or something.”

Neri walked along the edge.

“Be careful.”

“Here!” She pointed. “There is a track. No big plants.”

Jason wouldn’t have seen it, but now that Neri pointed it out, there was a difference, a line without trees, where the bushes were subtly different. “Huh. It’s very faint, but yeah, there is something there.”

“So who’s going down there?”

“Brett and me lightest. Need you to pull both back up.”

“I can do it. We rappelled in basic training.”

“Ok.” Jason said. He got out the rope and looked around for somewhere to anchor it.

Benny moved a piece out. Kal moved his, and Benny jumped Kal’s piece to get up to the second level.

A few other kids gathered around to see the all-Australia junior champion play. “Go easy on him Benny.” Sallyanne said.

Kal looked at the board, his head to one side.

“Um, the idea is to go quickly. It’s not like chess, one move every six months.”

“Ah, I see now.” Kal said and did a double jump, getting a piece up to the top level.

“You sure you’ve never played before?”

“I tell you.”

“You learn quick.”

Halfway down, Brett’s legs were getting tired. Or his arms were getting tired, from bracing the rope. He looked down. Still at least a three-story drop. Then his foot hit a sandy patch. “Neri? I’m slipping!”

“Hang on!”

“I’m coming down!” Came Jason’s worried voice from above.

“No Jason, wait.”

Brett’s next step went out from under him and he fell, swinging against the side of the cliff.


But Neri was there, somehow moving across the space between them, in no time. She grabbed Brett with one arm and supported him while he got his breath back.

“I’m all right! Thanks Neri. I think I can manage.”

“You have good hold?”

“Yeah. I got it.”

More pieces had moved onto the board, jumped each other, and been captured. The crowd of spectators had grown.

“He’s beating you!” Cass hissed to Benny, “Do something!”

“Like what?” Benny jumped a piece. But he still had three on the lowest level.

“Not good enough.” Sallyanne pronounced.

Kal thought a second, picked up his lowest piece and jumped two, three, four, and off the board. He grinned.

“I can’t believe it! Nobody’s ever beaten you before!” cass said as all eyes turned to Benny for a reaction.

“Gotta be a first time, and looks like this is it. Well played, Kal.”

They shook hands.

“I must go now.” Kal smiled at everyone and headed for the door.

Cass flopped into a seat. “Just like that. After he performed a miracle!”

“Modest I guess.”


“We’re all right.” Brett called. They’d reached flat ground safely, but he was content to sit and get his breath back for a few minutes.

Neri, of course, was already out of her climbing harness and walking towards the track in the underbrush. From ground level Brett couldn’t see it at all, but he squirmed free of his harness and ran after Neri. She walked slowly along, looking at the ground and feeling with her bare feet.

“Is it here?”

Neri dropped to her knees and dug with her hands. Brett knelt beside her. In a moment they were brushing dirt off of very familiar blue metal.

“Kal was right!”

Neri smiled and nodded.

It was a seed-shaped, rounded pod about a foot long. The metal was scorched and covered with burned-on dirt, and they had to pound on it and lever it open along the crack.

It unlocked quite suddenly, and swung open. The pod was lined with a silky fabric that was untouched by the heat. Inside, like a jewel in a velvet-lined box was…

It was bluegreen, translucent and glittering. A geometric shape, with one curved side. Neri lifted it out carefully and held it high.

“Doctor Bates, there you are.”

Dianne looked up and smiled at Dave over the pile of stuff she was carrying.

“You’ve been in and out so fast I didn’t get a chance to talk to you. I just wanted to let you know I’m on your side.”

“You’re against the blasting?”

“Given the lack of testing, yeah. UBRI’s a little too enthusiastic for my peace of mind.”

“Thanks Dave. It’s nice to know we have another ally, even though it does seem a lost cause.”

“I heard you were out there today?”

“Yes. Didn’t find anything that might convince them to stop. Not yet anyway.” The two adults stopped as Brett and Jason careened down the hall around them. Dianne called, “Ahem, boys.”

“Hi Mum.”

“We were just looking for you. We’re going to the island ok?”

“You just got back! Where were you all day?”

Jason waved, “Tell you later. We’ll be back before curfew!”

“And the bag?” Dianne asked.

“Food Mum, picnic. Bye!”

Dave said, “Sounds harmless enough.”

“With those two, I wouldn’t count on it.”

Four fish were roasting in the fire, wrapped in clay. Jason propped a borrowed pan over the fire and dumped soup mix into it. Neri put down a bunch of bananas and crouched to touch the piece of the synchronium, where it was nestled in the sand.

“We had incredible luck with that. It might take months or even years before HELEN hits the jackpot again.”

“Do you have to be such a pessimist, Jase?” Brett grumbled.

“All I’m saying is we shouldn’t expect much too soon, it’s only sensible.”

Neri smiled at both of them and turned to look out to sea. “Sensible, yes. But hope is good too. I have this feeling… we have one part, it is right here. We will find others. We start the search again tomorrow, yes?”


“Ok, but today we party, right?”

Neri sat down next to Brett and ruffled his hair. “Right.”

“We eat now?” Kal asked.

“Definitely! Hey Kal, try this. Humanity’s greatest invention—chocolate!”