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This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2009-09-30 — sourcemeta

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

12. The Trap

Neri sat by the pond in the morning light, thinking to herself.

A big seed fell past her and splashed into the water. Neri said, “Kal. Thought you were getting our breakfast.”

“You knew it was me?” Kal asked from his place on a boulder above her.

“Worm seeds don’t fall from vines.”

“Oh.” Kal jumped down and offered a seedpod and a bag of food.

Neri took the pod and pulled it open. The seeds inside were soft and juicy and as big as her fist. Brett and Jason didn’t know what they were, but they tasted good. “For this, I am grateful.”


Neri smiled. “I will teach you. My belly is empty, I am sad. You bring me food, my belly is full. I am happy because of what you do. Feel it here. Grateful.”

“I make you this? Grateful?”


“Then I am grateful too, you teach me feelings.”

In the galley breakfast was cereal and bagels and toast, as usual.

“Well, today’s the day.” Sallyanne said as she joined the usual group of boys.

“What day?” Benny asked.

“Our cadet group goes for its first pilot prac this morning.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh nothing much Benny, just flying a helicopter.”

“By yourself?”

Brett explained, “Nah, not really. They take ‘em out over the ocean, give ‘em the controls and…” Brett mimed a crashing copter with his spoon. “Shark bait!”

Jason was looking a little pale.

Benny shook his head. “Never catch me doing that.”

“Well you have to, if you want to get your pilot’s certification. And it’s not like we’re flying blind, the instructor’s right there to take over.” Sallyanne said.

Jason stood up suddenly. “Listen, I’m not hungry, see you guys later.”

“Hey Cass, yo.” Brett said as they passed each other outside the galley.

Cass grunted.

“Where were you at breakfast?”

“I… another lousy night. Rotten dreams again.”

“The same one?” Brett sounded concerned, but the look he shared with Benny wasn’t quite the same.

“Yeah. The island, that girl, her creepy friends. Hang on. You know, the kids looked kinda like you.”

“You mean I’m the man of your dreams?” Brett grinned.

Cass hit him, of course.

“Hey, cheer up and forget about it. We gotta go. Things to do. Later, Cass.” Brett waved and headed off, and Benny followed.

Cass called after them, “Hey, thanks for inviting me. Not.”

The nervous cadets were already gathered by the turbolift. Some of them were still studying, others just standing around. Jason sat against the wall.

“Ok, we’re ready.” Dave said. “Keep in mind you guys, we’ve done enough theoretical work to get you to this point. Now it’s a matter of staying calm and putting it into practice. Everyone waits their turn here. You’ll be going up with either me or Morgan. Who’s first?”

Morgan pulled a name out of a can. “Taylor.”

Sallyanne jumped.

“Sallyanne. Ready? Let’s go.”

Neri sat on a smooth round stone above the stream, her face sad. She was holding her pendant between her fingers. She’d thought she might be able to talk to Mera, but the connection had not come, just a sense of being far away from everyone.

Kal jumped up beside her. “Neri. You are not well?”

Neri tipped her head, “Why you ask that?”

“Your face. See no happy feelings there. Perhaps you eat bad fruit.”

Neri smiled. “No, not that. It’s just father’s mission makes me think of him sometimes, and I miss him.”

“What is miss?”

“Sad he is not here. Sad I cannot see him and talk to him. Wish he had not had to pass so soon.”

“I do not understand, Neri. My parents are passed. I do not miss them. What makes you do so?”

“Memories I have of him. I imagine if he were here, he would comfort me when I am afraid. But he cannot. And this, also.” She held up the silver amulet. “He gave to me, and it makes me remember him.”

Kal held the amulet for a minute. “Is a very strange feeling.”

Suddenly Neri didn’t want Kal to understand missing people. It would just make him sad. Kal should not have to know sad or lonely, not until there was no choice. Was that not right?

She took her pendant back and hung it around her neck. Scrambling to her feet she said, “Feeling not to bother your head. Come, we eat. Race to big banana tree!”

Lena rushed down the stairs. She’d been studying the files, and almost forgotten her plan to go out.

“Lena, you going somewhere?” her father asked, seeing her backpack.

“The local science exhibition, remember?”

“Oh, yes. Well, be back by lunchtime.”

“I will.” Lena hesitated. “What were you working on?”

“Nothing.” Hellegren looked at his daughter. “Is something wrong, Lena? You seem to be distracted lately.”

Lena stuttered. She had so many things she wanted to ask, but wasn’t sure she should. “Well, ah, I have had a few things on my mind lately and I’d like to talk to you about them…”

The wall screen binged and Kellar’s face appeared.

Hellegren smiled at his daughter. “Perhaps later. Yes, Kellar?”

“It’s about the small problem we have on ORCA. But I see your daughter is with you.”

“She’s just leaving, aren’t you Lena? Don’t be late back.”

‘I won’t.” Lena waved and headed for the door. She opened it—and, when she saw her father was watching the screen, closed it again without going out. She slipped behind a screen, crouched down, and listened.

“Very well, what is it?” Hellegren barked in what Lena thought of as his work voice.

“I really think we must deal with these children, Doctor. Haven’t they caused us enough trouble? The whale, the alien girls, and now this.”

“I do not need reminding of this, Kellar.”

“I have an idea sir, but I would rather discuss it in private. May I come around?”

“Very well, but make it straightaway. I want this matter concluded before Lena returns.” The screen shut off and Hellegren went into the kitchen, probably to get some fancy snacks for his assistant. Lena thought fast. She couldn’t open the door to leave now. So she needed a better hiding place.

Under the stairs. The lovely suspended stairway was in earshot of the entire bottom floor of the house, and the base was concealed by houseplants. Lena ran, slipped between two giant pots, and squeezed herself and her backpack under the lowest steps. She held her breath for a minute, but her father didn’t come to check, so she must’ve been quiet enough.

Lena had enough time to become uncomfortable and wonder why she was doing this before the doorbell rang. Hellegren let Kellar in, and the woman started without even saying hello.

“If we could get even one of these children on their own, away from the protection of ORCA…”

“Yes Kellar, I’d thought of that. We need some time with them, to find out what they know about the device, and to persuade them to give up interfering with us.”

“And if they refuse?” Kellar sounded like she hoped they would.

“You’ve suggested some fairly graphic options in the past. I’m sure just mentioning them would dissuade these young people. They are only children after all.”

“I know the perfect spot. Isolated, yet close to ORCA. But how can we draw them there?”

Hellegren turned, thinking. “We will utilize the ORCA media.”

“You can do that?”

“It will be easy enough to plant a story that will draw their attention. Once that is done, we simply wait and they will walk right into our trap. Now, where is the location you had in mind?”

Sounds of the computer working. Kellar pointed at the screen. “Stoke Island. A lump of rock with no fresh water or vegetation.”


“I did it! Three-sixty degree turns and everything!” Sallyanne practically danced out of the lift. Their class gathered around to give her congratulations.

“Good job Sallyanne. Who’s next?”

Morgan drew another name. “Bates, sir.”


Jason swallowed hard and nodded.

He was just nervous while they got the chopper into the air, feeling sick as they soared over the ocean, and when Dave said, “All right, take the stick.” Jason couldn’t move.


“I—I can’t.”

Dave looked at his student’s pale face and sighed. Someone always froze up the first time, but he hadn’t expected it to be Jason. “Well, I’ll turn us around, if you decide on the way back…”

But Jason could only grip the bottom of his seat in terror the whole way back.

Everyone knew something was wrong when they got out of the lift.

“Jason, how did you..?”

“You wimped out?” Morgan broke in, “I don’t believe this! Even Taylor made it!”

Sallyanne turned on her. “He can do it!”

“Yeah, well, I have my doubts and you know why, Bates? Because I don’t think you’ve got what it takes when it counts and if you can’t find that inside you, you’re not cut out for the cadets.”

“Morgan.” Dave said calmly, “Take the next one up will you?”

“Yeah, but…”


“All right. Cleary, you’re up. Do better than this loser, ok?”

Nikos gave Jason a sympathetic glance on the way out. Morgan didn’t seem to notice nobody had joined in on the mocking.

All Jason could think of was getting back to the cabin where nobody could stare at him. But Dave pulled him aside.

“Ok, what happened out there?”

“I don’t know. This thing’s been bugging me since it came up.”

“So what was it? The height? The water?”

“No, I just…” Jason tried to put it into words. “If I screw up it’s not just me that goes down, it’s everybody in the chopper. When it came down to it, I just couldn’t do it. I wanted to! I want to learn to fly! I just… couldn’t.”

Dave nodded. “Hey, it’s normal. We all have fears we can’t explain. Me, I can’t stand snakes. We just have to learn to overcome them.”

It was all coming down on Jason now, how much he wanted to get his certification, how great it would be to take Neri flying someday, if they could fly to find pieces of the synchronium… “I’m not sure I can.”

“Look, I’ll make a deal with you. Whenever you feel ready to go up, I’ll take you out there and then. We’ll go out before you have a chance to change your mind. Fair enough?”

“Yeah. Thanks. I’ll figure it out, really.”

“I know.” Dave said and gave Jason a pat on the shoulder. “Go get a snack or something, calm down. You don’t have to watch the rest of them.”

Jason gave him a very heartfelt “Thanks.” And headed home.

“I must go now, Kal. To ORCA.”

Kal nodded.

Neri looked at him. “You do not ask to come?”

“I have other things in my head. Neri, you say this gives you rememberings of your father?”

“Memories, yes.” Neri chimed. “Why you ask?”

“I think my parents also give me gift. A thing…” Kal made shapes with his hands as if holding something, but couldn’t find the word.

“Where is it?”

“On ship. Somewhere. I wish to go find.”

“Good. But you must promise to be careful. Ship fell very hard, some parts broken.”

“I be careful.” Kal saluted in the ‘I promise’ gesture and ran off down the beach. Neri looked after him and wondered if it was good or not that Kal was thinking about his parents.

Neri didn’t remember them. She remembered her father of course, and at first… there had been other survivors, a man and a woman, or were there three people? Or four? She couldn’t remember their faces, just voices talking with Father in the firelight. One of the survivors had lost the use of his legs in the crash, he’d only been able to sit down or pull himself along with his arms. Then he died, and the others died too, in the first year after the crash. And Father had started teaching her the language of earth.

Kal wandered through the green gloom of the ship. The only light came in focused beams. When the ship was upright these beams hit prisms that spread the light to illuminate the whole room. But now the system was broken so there were only the sharp beams that made it hard to see anything.

By instinct Kal found a door that opened to his hand. Behind was a small room with three beds cut into the wall. Kal made his way across the tilted floor and touched the wall. A cabinet, invisible until that moment, came open. Inside on a little stand was a flute.

It was round-bodied, made of baked clay set with jewels. Kal lifted it out and held it. Yes. This was his. When he touched the jewels, notes rang out.

Kal left the room, found a place to sit, and began to play random notes.

“Neri! Coo-ee, Neri.” Brett hopped off the zodiac into knee-deep water. “What’s wrong? You’re just standing there.”

Neri shook her head. “Thinking. Welcome Brett, Benny.”

“Hi Neri.” Benny said shyly.

“We haven’t found another piece or anything. Just thought we’d come and hang out.”

“You are welcome. But I must go. I must look more to damage in the seas.”

“So where’s Kal?”

“He is in the ship.”

Benny’s eyes popped. “The spaceship? For real? I mean is it ok, can we go in? Please?”

Neri laughed. “You may go in. But be careful, is dangerous.”

“We will. Don’t worry. You go check out ORCA City, we’ll see you later.”

“Yes.” Neri smiled at them and walked into the ocean.

Benny got most of the way down the vine before he slipped and fell. He got up, damp from hitting the wet floor, and looked around the weird, damp green space. “Amazing…”

“Isn’t it great?”

“Does it always sound like this?”

Brett listened. The ship was filled with the faint sound of the ocean, as it always was. But there was also strange, discordant music. “What is that? Come on. And don’t touch anything.”

Brett followed the sound. Benny followed Brett.

“Kal?” Brett called as they entered the lower section of the ship. “Neri said you were down here. You ok?”

Kal didn’t look up when they came in. He was sitting very still, playing the strange instrument—and crying.

“What this?”

“It’s called a tear.” Benny said.


Brett answered, “Well, when something upsets people really badly, sometimes they cry. It happens to everyone.”

Kal held out the flute. “I think this make me cry. My parents gave me. They passed, here, on this ship. And I… miss them.”

“Did Neri teach you how to feel this?”

Kal shook his head. “Just, from somewhere, it hurts. Now I remember, this belong to Mother before she gave to me. She would make music, and Neri dance, little Neri, on ship. Mother and Father were… very happy to come to opal planet.”

“I’m not sure about this.” Jason said.

“Huh? I thought you’d be happy. Kal’s getting more feelings isn’t he?”

“Yeah, but he developed this one when none of us were around.”

“So?” Brett was confused.

“I’m just worried what he might pick up and when. Fear. Anger. Kal’s super strong, what if he starts feeling something at the wrong time? I guess there’s nothing we can do about it, but it worries me.”

“Huh. Hadn’t thought of that.” Brett said. “Ah, he’ll be fine. You done yet? It’s almost time for lights out.”

“Just let me finish this chapter.”

Brett looked over. “More helicopter stuff?” When Jason didn’t answer, Brett turned on the room screen and started flipping channels. Cartoon, cop show, stupid kissy movie, ORCA satellite news.

“That’s never any good.” Jason muttered from behind his book.

Then the computerized news report said, “And now, a mystery visitor from space leads our bulletin. Mainland scientists say they have uncovered evidence that an object of unknown origin crashed into earth on nearby Stoke Island some eighteen years ago. Opinions range from a meteorite to space junk. A university research team will investigate.”

“The synchronium!”

“A spokesperson says unusual seismographic readings at memory bay might provide an answer. The team will arrive at Stoke Island tomorrow afternoon.”

“Aw no.”

“What? This is great! We’ll go get it tomorrow.”

“Can’t, Brett. I’ve got training.”

“Well, we can just…” Brett shut up as they heard their mother come in.

Jason was having a nightmare about being yelled at by Morgan when Brett shook him awake.

“Jase! Hey, wake up!”

“Geroff, what time is it?”

“Six. Come on, get up. You want that research team to beat us to Stoke Island?”

Jason groaned. “I can’t. Training all day, can’t go anywhere unless it’s to try the chopper again.”

“Fine. No big deal. Neri’s coming round to see Mum this morning, I’ll go with her. It’s not like we’re chicken or anything.”

That woke Jason up.

Lena was up too; she’d heard her father leave super-early in the morning, then couldn’t get back to sleep. Was he going off to Stoke Island to… what? Catch those kids from ORCA? Crazy. The whole thing she’d heard yesterday was crazy, nobody really did stuff like that. Well maybe the mob, but her dad wasn’t part of the mob.

Lena punched her pillow, turned over and tried to get back to sleep.

But what if they really were going to beat up kids and threaten them? Not her father of course, but Lena could totally believe Kellar would do something like that. So Brett and Jason were kind of jerks but they didn’t deserve to get pounded by Kellar, or whatever.

They’d been telling the truth about UBRI capturing a whale.

Was there really an alien girl from the ocean?

Lena gave up and rolled out of bed. She padded downstairs in her pajamas.

Hellegren’s ORCA id was sitting on his desk. Lena’s heart began to pound as a plan formed in her mind. She raced upstairs to get dressed.

Jason was still grumpy three hours later when he met Sallyanne to start their scheduled practices. His mother reported Brett had gone off with Neri as soon as she’d arrived.

Their first class was a review of emergency procedures, which Jason raced through with time to give Sallyanne hints. The next class was in the gym, so the two of them headed down there, not hurrying since they were a few minutes ahead of the rest of the class.

“Jason Bates?”

Jason looked back. Lena was running to catch up with them.

“We need to talk.”

“Kind of busy right now.” Jason said, not meanly.

“Kind of urgent.”

“Jase, we have a prac session in five minutes. Who’s she?” Sallyanne looked curiously at Lena’s very non-uniform outfit.

Lena said quietly, “You’re in trouble, you and your brother. You have to listen to me!”

Jason sighed. “Ok, two minutes. Sallyanne, I’ll catch up ok?”

“Ok.” Sallyanne gave Lena another glance and left them.

“Right, what’s going on?” Jason asked, opening the door of a storeroom and motioning Lena inside.

“It’s a trap. There’s nothing on that island, my father made the news story to get you and your brother out there so you’d stop interfering with… something about a device.”

Jason blinked. The first thing he thought of was, “How could he get a story on ORCA news?”

“I don’t know how he did it. I heard him talking to Kellar, they planned it. They didn’t know I was listening.”

“Look… this is pretty hard to believe. Even if your dad did set something up, why are you telling me?”

“Because I’m afraid someone might get hurt! The way they were talking it sounded really scary, and Kellar is nasty. He’s my father, I love him, but I can’t just let him do something wrong. I had to tell you!”

“Or maybe he told you to say this, to set us up for something else.”

Lena hadn’t wanted to tell anyone yet, but it was the last thing she could think of. “Look, trust me because I’m trusting you. I got in Father’s private files and there’s all this stuff about whales and a girl who lived in the sea. Two girls. Who were aliens. And now he’s looking for parts of some machine, he thinks you guys have some and he wants to get them from you. No matter what it takes.”

Jason finally believed it, and he went cold. “My brother’s already on his way there.”

“Well get a boat, stop him!”

“Boat won’t be fast enough.” Jason was already opening the door. “Look, just—stay somewhere.” And he abandoned Lena because he could only manage one thought at a time just now.

“Dave, hey. Chopper test. Now.”

“Jason, I can’t. I’m in the middle of something vital.” Dave gestured at the bustle on the bridge, which they were in the middle of.

“Look, you said whenever I felt ready. Well it’s now or never. Please.”

Dave made a face and looked around. “Morgan, you’re qualified and you’re not really needed here. Take Jason up.”

“It’s a waste of time. He’s never going to do it.”

Jason glared. Dave turned away and said over his shoulder, “That’s an order, Morgan.”

“Yes sir. Come on, Bates.”

Jason didn’t have time to be scared about flying, this time. He was too scared he wouldn’t get there in time.

“What are you doing there?” Morgan asked.

“Setting in a course for Stoke Island.”


“Because that’s where we’re going.”

“Um, not while I’m at the controls.”

Jason took a deep breath and reached for the stick on his side. “Ok, give it to me then.”

“You sure?”

“Do it.”

Morgan shrugged and hit the switch, transferring control over to Jason. The chopper wobbled in the air and for a few seconds Jason was so scared he almost threw up. Then training took over. He did know how to do this; he just had to think about it just the right way.

“You got it?”

“I’ve got it.” Jason leaned the stick slightly and turned the chopper towards Stoke Island.

Brett turned off the zodiac’s motor and stood up to look at the island with a pair of binoculars. Neri surfaced next to the boat.

“Ok, no sign of the survey team. Let’s go in.”



Neri pointed, and a second later a helicopter buzzed over the horizon towards them. Neri ducked under the water. Looking up, Brett saw the ORCA logo on the chopper’s belly. Not UBRI. Who else would be out here?

The helicopter swung away and Neri came up. “What?”

“Don’t ask me. Get down, it’s coming back!”

As Brett stared, the helicopter circled the raft three times, very low. The pilots were invisible behind reflective glass. Someone was flying pretty crazy. Neri’s face surfaced, in the shadow of the zodiac where she couldn’t be seen from above.

“Neri, it’s gotta be Jason. Something’s wrong, let’s get out of here!”

Neri dived. Brett waved to the helicopter and started the motor, clearly heading away from the island. The helicopter came down next to him then lifted away.

“After him!” Kellar shouted.

“No. Stay where you are!” Hellegren had to actually grab her.

“We might still catch him, Doctor!”

“And that ORCA helicopter will see every move. We have lost him.” Hellegren turned to the other UBRI workers who’s been waiting behind rocks. “Pack up, get the boats out. We’ll give the helicopter fifteen minutes to get out of range, then head back to ORCA.”

There were relieved mumbles of, “Yes sir.” And the crew started gathering up their gear.

“Doctor, we must have been betrayed. Someone from the inside has talked.”

“Find out who.”

Dave heard Morgan’s story. “One more stunt like that and you’re out of the cadets, Jason.”

Jason nodded and looked sorry.

Morgan added, “Yeah and believe me, Bates, this time I’m going to make sure it’s hard.”

Jason nodded.

“Carry on Morgan.” Dave said and, when she was out of earshot, added, “I suppose at least you’ve proved to yourself you can do it. Sounds like an interesting bit of flying, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to see it.”

Jason grinned. “Thanks… I won’t do it again.”

Dave headed back to the bridge, muttering something as he left. It might have been, “Sure you won’t.”

Jason leaned on the wall across from the lift, waiting for Brett. A few minutes later the turbolift lights came on, indicating the lift was coming down. Brett stepped out with his lifejacket over his shoulder. “Hey, what was going on out there? That was you right?”

“Yep. Come on, we’ve got to see someone. Tell you on the way.”

Lena was sitting on a crate in the storeroom, reading a book. She looked up when the boys came in.

“You were right.” Jason said immediately. “If I hadn’t gotten there in time Brett would’ve walked right into it.”

“Yeah, Jase said that island was covered with UBRI guys. Thanks for the warning.” Brett said the last a bit uncertainly.

Lena smiled. “Well since I told you about my father’s plan, maybe you should tell me more about this girl from the ocean?”


“Another time, maybe.”

“Please? I’m really curious. Did she really come from another world? What did she look like? How did you meet her?”

Jason gestured to the door, “We’ve got to get you back to the mainland.”

“I helped you!”

“Yeah and now we’re helping you. The last public shuttle leaves in five minutes, tit’s the only way you can get back tonight without all the UBRI guys around knowing you were here. Do you want them to know?”

“No. Definitely not.”

“Ok, let’s move it.” The three of them headed for the lift. “About the other thing… look, we’ll think about it ok? You really saved our necks this time and we’re really grateful, but…”

Lena scowled, then reluctantly her expression softened. “I understand. You’re not sure you can trust me. I wish you would.”

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen next. But thanks for today.”

Lena nodded and smiled at them. “I can make it to the shuttle from here. I guess I’ll see you later.”

The boys said thanks a few more times and Lena left for home.

This was the first time they told Neri about Lena, and Neri went silent for a long time. “Hellegren who destroys the ocean is also a father?” she asked finally.

“Seems so.” Brett said, leaning back against a log. “But Lena’s not like her dad, she didn’t know all the mean things he’s done. And she helped us.”

“Lena nice.” Kal’s voice came from somewhere in the treetops. Nobody wanted to look closely to figure out where he was.

“Hey, is Kal all right? He was pretty upset in the ship yesterday.”

“He was strange this morning. But he seems good again now.”

Kal landed in front of them with two halved cocoanuts. “Food is ready! Neri, Jason, Brett.”

“Thanks Kal.”

Kal grinned and sat down with them.

“Today was too close. If it hadn’t been for lena… well, at least you two got away ok.”

“Can you imagine what Hellegren would do if he knew she told?”

“Let’s hope he doesn’t find out. Lena is a problem. He’s her Dad. How much can we trust her, I wonder.” Jason said, thinking aloud.

Neri moved next to him, scooped up a lump of sweet cocoanut and offered it to Jason. “Show her ocean, and Charley. Then we know if we trust her. And we must find other parts of synchronium. That is the most important thing.”