← previous next →

This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2009-10-24 — sourcemeta

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

15. The Summer Moon

The ocean was silent. The reef glowed in shades of gray under the moonlight. Neri hung midwater, her hair glinting silver. The water was cool and quiet, peaceful. Except that it shouldn’t have been. Neri swam down to the seabed, to run her hands over the coral. It felt lifeless. She didn’t even see any fish.

Dear one? What do you see?

A worried moan. Charley didn’t like the unusual silence. All still, quiet. Something is wrong.

Nobody else was around, none of the other whales or dolphins in the area. Neri was used to hearing them always, even if they were miles away there was always some sound.

Yes. Much is wrong but I do not know what. We will search.

They searched until dawn, when Neri returned to the island. Kal had breakfast ready.

Neri smiled, touched. “Kal, I did not expect. Thank you.”

“Must serve. I like to.”

But Neri’s smile had faded. Kal waited for her to look at him, or say more or start eating. After a few minutes Kal said, “You no eat. What is wrong?”


“You think I am stupid.”

Neri looked up. “No, Kal. But it is a hard thing to tell. Something is wrong in the ocean, from ORCA City. And now is worse, but I do not know how.”

There was no understanding in Kal’s eyes. He shrugged.

“And where are you off to so bright and early?” Winston asked.

“Jason and I are going down to ORCA City.” Dianne answered over an armful of recording equipment.

“What are you hoping to find?”

“Well, the seismic readings are still irregular aren’t they?”

“Certainly. I checked the readout earlier.”

“So if they’re caused by a fault line starting to move, we’ll eventually have to see some change in the seabed.”

Jason walked up, his goggles around his neck. “And if Mum can find something like that the tribunal will have to listen.”

“Yeah, we need to make them quit blasting.” Brett said from behind his brother.

“Ready, Jason? Brett, we’ll only be gone an hour or so. See if you can give Winston a hand.”

“Sure thing Mum. See you guys.”

Jason and Dianne waved and headed for the dive pool, while Brett and Winston took the lift to the lab. They worked for a while, Brett analyzing recordings while Winston worked with his seismograph and muttered about needing an assistant.

Watching, Brett saw Winston switch his screen off so he could examine his reflection.

“Uh, Winston?”


“You going on leave?”

“No.” Winston said, smoothing his hair.

“Or up for a big promotion or something? ‘Cause that’s the third time you’ve fixed your hair, and that’s a new shirt.”

Winston looked dismayed. Just then HELEN rang the com, “Lab five, Doctor Winston Seth.”

“Yes HELEN?”

“Personal call for you from the mainland.”

Winston said to Brett, “Don’t you have something better to do?”

“Helping you, remember? Mum’s orders.” Brett turned back to his work, but was obviously listening. His hands weren’t even moving.

Winston sighed and answered the call.

“Winston, am I interrupting something?”

It was a woman’s voice. Brett scooted around to see the screen without being visible on the other end. The caller was a woman his mother’s age, with dark hair and very red lips.

Winston pointedly ignored Brett. “Oh, no, not at all. It’s lovely to talk to you.”

“I’ve got a little surprise. They’ve changed my schedule; I’m on this afternoon’s chopper.”

“This afternoon?”

“Yes. It’s not too soon is it?”

“No, no. Of course not. It’ll be lovely to see you.”

The woman’s smile widened. “Good. I’m so looking forward to it. Can’t wait.”

“Nor can I. Bye Camilla.”


The call ended. Brett said, “Camilla, huh?”

“Camilla Sabato. A science writer.”


“Nothing else.” Winston gave Brett a grumpy look, but without any real anger. “We met at university. And now she’s coming here for a brief visit.”

“Just to see you?”

“To write an article, I believe, on ORCA City. Now, weren’t you supposed to be helping with the work, not meddling in relationships that do not in fact exist?”

Brett sighed theatrically. Winston threw a pencil at him.

The reef was beautiful under the morning sunlight. Jason pointed at a bright orange and yellow sea slog, and Dianne nodded. They didn’t see anything out of place, not here in the high water, but Jason had a nagging feeling something was wrong. Something was missing but he couldn’t think what it was. Certainly there were fewer fish, but that was normal. They came and went, you could never be sure what you’d see on a particular day.

There was a flash of movement in the distance, something big. Another diver, or a dolphin or—and then Neri was there, grabbing Jason’s hand and grinning at him before he’d even finished the thought. She pointed up and Jason and Dianne nodded.

They surfaced and Neri said, “I must talk to you, Mother.”

“Can you come back with us? We were about to head in, and I’d rather talk without having to tread water.”

“Yes. I will come.” Neri’s expression was worried.

Jason smiled, hoping she’d smile back. “Hey, it was great to see you like this, all of a sudden.”

“Charley told me you were here. Is good to see you too. Come, let us go. I have much to ask you, Mother.”

Jason and Dianne checked their tanks and put their masks back on, both doing it with the same practiced movements. When they ducked under, Neri dived.

When they reached ORCA Dianne and Jason went up first, checked that the dive pool was clear, and motioned to Neri. While she changed, Jason asked his mother, “So, did you see anything out of place down there?”

“No…” Jason said, not sounding sure.

Neri reappeared, in her uniform with a towel over her hair. “I did, last night.”

“Yes what did you want to tell me Neri?”

Neri looked down. “Mother… is close to the full moon, yes?”


“The first full moon. Is the time when the reef is full of color, yes?”

“The coral spawning, of course. But you’d know the time better than we would; you took us there last year. Remember, Jason?”

Jason nodded.

“I swim last night at Coronet reef, where it is most beautiful. Was.”


“No new fish. No new plants. No color! Dead.”

“You mean…” Dianne began, “No, let’s get to the lab. Winston needs to hear this too.”

Winston pulled up the video on one of HELEN’s screens. It was mostly close-ups of the coral polyps appearing and rising through the water. Clouds of fish gathered to feed, flashing dully in the moonlight.

Neri smiled, watching it.

“Coronet reef, just a year ago.”

“I call it the dance of the summer moon.” Neri chimed.

“You are a poet.”

“Well poetry or not, it’s an annual phenomenon. Six days when all the vegetation in the reef reproduces itself in a wonderful burst of color and light.”

“But not this time. Not like that.”

Dianne said, “You know, this could be just the sort of evidence we’re looking for.”

“Why don’t you film out there again Mum? If it’s like Neri says, you can show the comparison.”

“That will prove things are wrong? To make them stop blasting?”

“Well it’s sure worth a shot, right?” Jason said.

Winston looked at his watch. “Ah, excuse me all. I have an appointment.”

Brett chimed in, “Important, is it?”

“No, not really. Just someone to see.”

“That’s fine Winston. We’ll see you later.”

When Winston was safely out the door Brett said, “You’re never gonna believe this—Winston’s got a girlfriend!”

“Welcome to ORCA, Camilla!”

“Ah, Winston!”

“I can’t believe you’re here. It’s been almost nine years.” Winston stammered, smiling, delighted.

“Well it took a bit to wrangle, but when I knew you were here on ORCA I just—well, I just had to come.”

Camilla had cut her hair since university, and she was wearing makeup, but her smile was the same.

Winston gestured her down the hall. “A guided tour, a chance to settle in, and a nice cozy chat about old times.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“Well, um, we have a highly advanced desalination system and a large area devoted to hydroponics…”

“Um, Winston?”


“I’ve read the handbook.”

Winston blushed. “Sorry. You must tell me if I’m boring you.”

They rounded a corner and there, crammed into an alcove in the wall were Brett, Cass and Benny. There was a chorus of, “Hi Winston.”

Winston gave them a look.

Camilla ignored the kids, her eyes on Winston. “It’s the people of ORCA I’m interested in. And what better place to start than with a very special friend. You don’t look a day older, by the way.”

“Oh come now.” Winston dithered. “But it’s kind of you. Here is your cabin, and this is your visitor’s id.”

“Thank you.” Camilla opened the door of her cabin and looked around curiously. “Well, I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you give me an hour to freshen up and then maybe we can find someplace nice and quiet to have a chat.”

“I know just the place.”

“Thank you. An hour then.”

Brett reported, “Her name’s Camilla and she’s a real spunk. For her age.”

Lena looked up for a minute before returning to her terminal. She’d been down here all day, searching HELEN’s database for anything that might be more of the synchronium and avoiding the UBRI employees in the rest of ORCA. “Well that’s nice for Winston. Wish my luck would change.’

“You want a boyfriend?” Brett asked.

“I meant with HELEN.” Lena laughed.

The door opened and Jason looked in. “How’s it going?”

“Nowhere.” Lena replied. “Yesterday I really thought I was on to something. Today I spend four hours cross-checking and what’s it turn out to be? A weather balloon.”

“You’ve just got to be patient I guess. And take a break sometimes!”

“Nah, I want to check this next report out. I’ll come up for air at dinnertime, and your mom asked me to help out in the lab tomorrow. With luck I’ll have something worth following up by then!”

Neri and Kal came out onto the beach. Neri looked at the sun to check the time. Time to go.

“You come today Neri? See me come top of class?” Kal asked eagerly.

“I cannot.”

“But we have competition. I win for sure.”

“Yes Kal. But I have business with Mother and Jason, work to stop blasting on the reef. I cannot see your class. I am sorry.”

Kal stopped. Neri kept walking, not noticing. When she did, she turned back to say, “Am truly sorry, Kal. Come, time to go!”

Kal followed. After Neri dived he said, “Jason. Is always Jason.”

After lunch Benny and Cass went to help Lena with the computer. Benny felt sorry for her stuck in the computer room all alone. Cass just seemed intent on learning every one of Lena’s hacking tricks.

Brett had been invited to join them, but he had other business. Namely, getting the goods on Winston’s new girlfriend. She said she wanted to learn about life on ORCA, and Brett wanted to learn about her so he was happy to be interviewed.

“You kids must be rapt living in a place like this.” Camilla said.

“Well, it’s cool right now. It’s the holidays.”

“Lots of time for adventures.”

“Adventures?” Brett asked in his best innocent voice.

“Well, I mean, you’ve got the whole ocean to play in. You must have seen some amazing things.”

“Yeah, well… we’ve got school, and training classes. It’s not like we spend the whole time splashing around with mermaids!”

Camilla looked at him. “And—have you ever seen a mermaid, Brett?”

The tone of her voice had changed. Alarms went off in Brett’s head. He grinned and said, “Yeah—just between you and me, I’m friends with the tooth fairy too!”

“Oh well, there goes my scoop!” Camilla laughed, which also sounded pretty suspicious to Brett.

“You were going to write an article about mer–”

“Oh, Winston!”

Winston was backing out the door of the lab, making apologies. “Now Dianne, you’re sure you can manage without me?”

“Of course.” Dianne laughed, shooing him out.

“It’s just that Camilla’s only here for a few days.”

“I understand perfectly, and I insist that you take the rest of the day off.”

“Thanks.” Winston said.

Camilla shook Dianne’s hand, “Thanks so much, Dr. Bates. Winston’s just the best guide.”

“Any time. Have fun.” Dianne waved them away.

“Bye Brett.”

“Bye.” Brett said.

“She’s nice.” Dianne said.

Brett didn’t answer. Things like, ‘She’s suspicious.’ Didn’t usually go over well with adults.

Jason was waiting outside the dive pool, rereading course material while he waited for Neri and Kal. He looked up when Sallyanne came over.

“Oh, there you are. Have you heard about tonight?”

“No, what’s up?”

“We’re having a sort of party tonight, the female cadets. I was wondering if you wanted to be my partner.”

“Yeah, sure.” Jason answered, his mind still on the details of navigation systems.

He didn’t notice how Sallyanne lit up. “Ok, cool. Twenty-one hours in the rec room, ok?”

The dive pool door opened. Jason stood up. “Ok. I’ve gotta go now.” Kal and Neri came out, Kal looking grouchy and Neri looking worried. Jason went over to them. “Hi Neri. Mum’s got everything ready for filming tonight.”


“Hey Kal. You’ve got your final class today right?”

“Yes. We have a competition.”

“Right. Well, good luck. We gotta go check in with Mum.”

Kal glanced across the hallway at Sallyanne. He didn’t say anything because he didn’t know her, but they both felt abandoned.

“You will come tonight to make movies?” Neri asked immediately upon entering the lab.

Dianne was looking at the call screen, frowning. “Oh neri, I can’t. The commander just called, he wants me for a meeting tonight. I can’t get out of it.”

“But if the reef comes alive again it will be tonight. In the full moon.”

“Yes, we really should film it tonight so we can make an accurate comparison with last year… I’m just not sure how I can get out there…”

“I’ll go.” Jason said. “My diver certification’s up to date, and Neri will be there.”

Dianne grimaced. “You haven’t done many night dives… but I guess it’s the best plan. All right, but be careful ok? And don’t try to get back in the dark, can you camp on the island until morning?”

“You will be welcome.”

“Sure, Mum!” Jason thought this was great. “I’ll go talk to Dave, request an overnight. We’ll be back with the video first thing tomorrow.”

Brett was shadowing Camilla and Winston. They were chattering away, at least Winston was, telling ORCA stories in between points on the grand tour.

“You, diving?” Camilla was asking, “You used to hate getting wet.”

“Well, I had a very special teacher, and now I enjoy the water very much. The reef is truly a sight to behold!”

“Oh, so you do get out of that lab occasionally. But you’re mainly involved in research?”


“On what? Environmental issues?”

“Yes, these days.” Winston replied.

“Ooh, very politically correct.” Camilla’s voice was almost mocking, but Winston didn’t seem to notice. On the other side of a bend in the corridor, Brett made a face.

“But not always very welcome.’

“I see.”

They went through a door, Winston stepping forward to flash his card to open it. Camilla gestured to the card, “So, is security a problem for you on ORCA?”

“Well it’s something we have to keep in mind.”

The door closed behind them. Brett ran around to the other side of the section. He picked up his shadowing a few minutes later. The topic seemed to have turned to computers. Camilla was saying, “…need a super system wouldn’t you? I imagine those super-bright kids could hack into anything.”

“I find your choices in that area are to either get them on your side, or stay one step ahead of them.”

“So what’ve you done? Developed a circuit of your own?”

“We’ve adapted one.”

“My boss did that. Funny story. He had problems in remembering his own password. So I suggested he use his wife’s birthday.”

“Bad idea?” Winston guessed.

“Very bad. That’s the last thing he could remember!”

They laughed, like grownups always laughed at that kind of joke. Then they went back to talking about computer security.

The bio-robics competition was a foregone conclusion. Kal won. At least he went last, so everybody else could imagine they had a chance. Morgan said, “Well, at least that gives the rest of you something to aim for. Congratulations to all of you for participating, especially Nikos and Tenille in second and third place. Kal, you’ve topped the class.”

Morgan handed out certificates and the kids congratulated each other.

“Well done Kal!”

“Good on ya Kal.” Tenille said, “Your folks are going to be so proud of you.”

“Yes.” Kal replied, sounding depressed.

“No one ever got ninety-nine percent before.”

Kal perked up a little. “She will be proud?”

“Who? Your girlfriend? I should think.”

“She.” Kal said. “I must go now.”

Tenille shrugged and tried to say another congratulations, but Kal left, not noticing when two of his classmates tried to ask him to stay for the party.

After dinner Winston suggested a movie, or maybe Camilla would want to hang out in the rec room with the kids? That would certainly be a place to learn about the people of ORCA! But Camilla, looking distressed, said she’d rather go back to her cabin. “I’m sorry Winston. I don’t usually get headaches but well, this one’s a beauty.”

“I’m sorry too, that your evening’s been spoiled. Get some rest and perhaps you’ll feel better in the morning. The change in pressure affects some people this way.”

“I’m sure I’ll be all right in the morning. Thank you for being such a good tour guide.”

“It was a very great pleasure. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Good night Winston.”

The door shut and Winston headed for his own cabin. Brett stepped behind a column as Winston passed. He’d taken a break from shadowing them during dinner, but decided to walk past the guest cabins on hi way home. He stepped out—then hurriedly hid again when Camilla’s door opened. The woman looked both ways down the hall then hurried off. Brett followed her into a storeroom, where Camilla got out a communicator and made a call. From behind a shelf Brett heard,

“Like taking candy from a baby. An adaptation of compulox. I think I can narrow it down from there. I’ll try later on tonight, when the lab’s empty… yes, I’ll look for any mention of your ocean girl, as well as the device.”

Brett snuck around, trying to see who Camilla was talking to.

“Hopefully I’ll have all the info I need and be out of here before they finish their breakfast tomorrow. What I’ll do…”

Craning his neck to see, Brett wasn’t looking where he was going. His foot hit something on a shelf and it fell with a crash. Camilla jumped up.

“Hey!” they both yelled at each other.

Brett grabbed for the communicator, but Camilla shoved him and he fell. When he got up she was out the door. Brett waved it to open, but the door didn’t budge. He could hear Camilla doing something to the controls on the other side.

Brett groaned and leaned on the door. Now what was he going to do?

Night was falling over the island. Neri and Jason sat by a small fire that crackled merrily in its firepit. They were talking about dinosaurs, since Jason had seen a movie about them recently. Neri was fascinated, especially by the story of the evolution of whales from water-dwelling creatures to animals with legs, then back into the water. This made perfect sense to Neri; she just wondered why all creatures hadn’t decided to live in the water! So Jason had to explain that evolution didn’t quite work like that.

They heard the bushes rustle and looked up. Jason said, “Hey, Kal.”

“Come, sit. Fish almost ready.”

Kal stopped short. “Why he here?”

“Jason is staying on the island tonight.”

“Is staying? All night?” Clearly, this was a big deal to Kal.

“Yes.” Neri said, confused by his reaction. Jason started, “It’s just for…” but Kal talked over him.

“This island our place Neri, you and me.”

“Jason is our friend. He is welcome.” Neri’s voice had gone stern.

“No stay. Not welcome.”

“Look, if it’s a hassle…” Jason began.

“No, Jason. Kal must grow up. We keep plan. First eat, then go to coronet reef. We make movie. You come too, if you like.”

“I stay here.” Kal said. He sat down as far away from Jason as possible, and took food. To Neri he said, “I am top of class. I wish you were there.”

“I am sorry, Kal.”

“Don’t blame Neri, it was the only time we could talk to Mum without Winston’s friend seeing her. And…” And Jason realized what he should have done. Suddenly feeling awful he continued, “And I didn’t even think to tell the others about your competition. I bet they’d have gone. Man, I am a total creep, I’m really sorry.”

Neri said, “You have much to remember.”

Kal didn’t say anything.

“Look, I’ll make it up to ya…”

Kal still didn’t say anything. Jason couldn’t think of anything else to say so after a minute he just shrugged at Neri. Her face was clouded and she shrugged back. It was a silent meal. A little later on the two of them walked down to the beach. They’d both invited Kal to come, but he wouldn’t.

Neri turned her attention to the task at hand. “I hope the fish will come back. I hope the reef will dance again.”

“I hope so too.” Jason shoved the zodiac onto the water and jumped in. “But if it does or if it doesn’t, at least we’ll have a record of it. Let’s go.”

Brett had tried everything up to and including banging on the door and shouting. It looked like he was going to be locked in this storage room all night. He was looking around to see what he had to work with when he remembered something Cass had said, just offhand. She said her friend Rang had gotten around ORCA… inside the ventilation ducts! Brett looked around and found one, high in the wall. He shoved a box underneath to climb up on and then had to find a screwdriver to pry the grate off.

The duct was bigger than it looked from the outside. Brett climbed in and found he could squirm along on his elbows without banging anything too much. It was claustrophobic and dusty, but definitely possible. Now… which way?

In the rec room the party was in full swing. Someone had even done up banners for “congratulations bio-robics graduates” and “congratulations licensed cadets.” Music was playing and HELEN had broken out the special occasions treats.

Sallyanne sat eating a cupcake and getting more and more depressed.

“Where’s Jason?” Myreka asked, swinging by on the arm of her boyfriend.

“He’ll be here. He’s always late.” Sallyanne said, keeping her voice cheerful.

“Dance while you’re waiting?” Nikos asked. “I’m all alone. You can pretend I’m Jason.”

Sallyanne liked Niko. Everybody did; he was that kind of guy. She got up. “Can I pretend you’re Jacob Kelsey?”

“The marine biologist? Sure! He’s so cool, I’d date him!”

Down in the biology lab Camilla was typing away on the main terminal. She had her drive plugged in; it would copy all the data on this machine… if she could just get at the data. It should be possible, well within her computer skills, but for some reason she couldn’t get it. She hunched over the keyboard, grumbling to herself, so she didn’t hear the door slide open.

“So much for your illness, Camilla.”

Camilla jumped. “Winston! I was feeling a little better, so I thought I’d come in here and do some research.”

Winston said quietly, “Please don’t lie. We know you’re working for UBRI.” Behind Winston, Dianne closed the door and stood in front of it, looking stern. Brett was smiling.

Camilla forced a laugh. “UBRI? What on earth would I be doing for them? I’m not a scientist.’

“Nope, you’re a spy. We found this in your luggage.” Brett held up the communicator.

“Give me that!” Camilla snapped, reaching for it.

Brett dodged. “Now, redial last number…”

There was a tone as the call connected and then Hellegren’s voice said, “You are breaching security, Sabato! I told you not to contact me from there again.”

Brett took his thumb off the communicator’s camera, and pointed it at his smirking face. “Hiya Doctor Hellegren!”

The call cut off.

“I can explain this…” Camilla said weakly, to Winston’s miserable expression, Brett’s accusing stare and Dianne’s folded arms.

“So, do we take her to the commander?”

“It’s your decision Winston.”

Winston took a deep breath. “You will return to your cabin. In the morning you will be on the first flight out. I’m afraid we shall not meet again.”

Dianne nodded and left the door to put her hand on Winston’s shoulder. Brett, more practical, made it quite clear that he’d be keeping the communicator and Camilla’s computer drive. Camilla started to say something twice, thought the better of it both times, and left.

“I’m so sorry, Winston.” Dianne said.

“Well… the mongoose should always be on guard lest he find himself bewitched by the cobra.” Winston smiled.

Neri slogged out of the water and sat down on the sand. Her eyes were wide and blank.

A minute later Jason pulled the zodiac up on the sand. “Neri, was that…”

“Not good. Reef has gone forever.”

Her eyes glittered in the moonlight. Jason sat down and hesitantly put his arm around Neri. She leaned against him, turning her face against his shoulder. “Reef is dead Jason. I have failed Father.”

“Maybe it just…” Jason tried, “Maybe the synchronium…”

But Neri just cried, so Jason just held her.

From the treeline, Kal watched them. Two people, one shape in the darkness.

Kal felt… something that made him turn away and walk back to the pond, boiling over with the emotion he had no name for. He saw his bed, and the little shade Neri had built over it. For some reason he grabbed the side of the shade, throwing it down and kicking it to pieces. He wanted… he wanted… he didn’t want Neri sitting with Jason and talking softly like nobody else mattered.

Over breakfast, Brett briefed the troops.

“So Winston’s lady friend was a spy?”

“Poor Winston.” Cass said.

“What gets me,” Brett took a bite of his bagel and continued indistinctly, “Is Hellegren knows Neri’s still around. Or at least he had Camilla looking for files about an ‘ocean girl.’ How could he know about her?”

Benny shrugged.

“That’s gonna make things real hot, huh?”

They’d fallen asleep on the beach. Jason woke up to find Neri cuddled next to him, her head on his chest. That was nice. On the island, in the middle of nowhere with nobody else around, Jason stroked the rough fabric of Neri’s dress and breathed her smell, and thought about nothing.

After a while Neri stirred and sat up. She rolled to her feet and went down to the ocean to wet down. Charley’s voice echoed in the water. Coronet Reef was dead, but other reefs had spawned as they should have. Charley said if Neri had swam there, she wouldn’t have been sad. Neri laughed.

“Something funny?”


Jason started to take his shirt off to dunk it in the water, then decided to dunk his whole self instead. There’d be a proper hot shower when he got back to ORCA. “Don’t you ever want soap?”

Neri laughed again. “Makes you smell funny. Not good for all the time.”

Well since Neri never smelled like anyone else would smell if they didn’t use soap, it didn’t really matter.

“I should head back.”

“Eat first.”

“Kal won’t like it…” Jason said, without much enthusiasm because he wasn’t in any hurry.

But they couldn’t find Kal. He wasn’t by the pond or in any of the food-gathering places. They looked for him, and called, but got no answer. “He would not go to badlands, I think. I worry for him. We must find him!”

Jason had an idea. “The spaceship?”

“Yes.” Neri said, starting to move.

They dropped down on the vine into the spaceship and called, but Kal didn’t answer. Neri said, “He is here.”

Kal was in the lower part of the ship, sitting with his back to the entrance, holding his mother’s flute.

“Kal, there you are! We were worried–”

“No talk.” Kal snapped. “Nothing to say.” He sounded like a pouting child.

Neri pleaded, “We want to help Kal, say what is wrong.”

“Everything is wrong.”

“I said I was sorry about the competition, tell me how we can make it up to you. We’re your friends, help us out.”

“I have not friends.” Kal turned to glare at Jason, “I have this place. Out there your place. Go.”

“What do you mean?”

“Island is all our place.”

Kal didn’t answer. Jason didn’t leave, hoping to wait Kal out. After almost ten minutes with no sound but the drip of water in the spaceship, Jason shrugged and said quietly, “Maybe you’ll have better luck after I leave. It’s me he’s mad at.”

Neri thought and finally nodded. “All right Kal, we go. But will come back.”

They climbed out of the ship and walked away slowly, Jason shaking strain out of his arms from climbing the vine. “I’m worried about him. We were jerks to him, but what else can we do about it now?”

“Is not that I think.” Neri chimed. “More than that.’

“Like what?”

“Do not know.”

“Huh.” Jason rubbed his head. “Maybe Mum can talk to him, or Lena—”

The ground rumbled.

Then the whole island shook. Cocoanuts shaken from the trees broke on the ground and somewhere there was a roar of falling rock. Neri shrieked and fell to her knees.

“Neri!” Jason shouted, and Mera’s voice echoed, Neri!

Winston jumped to his feet when the earthquake hit. Dianne automatically grabbed her computer so it wouldn’t fall over. Lena, working nearby, moaned in terror but couldn’t be heard over the general crashing.

The noise had hardly faded when Winston pointed at his screen and shouted, “Look! Look at that!”

“What is it?”

“A schism.”

“A what?” Lena threw in, coming out from under a table.

The video was shaky because the camera moved, but they could clearly see a line of red light trace itself in the seabed and then vanish.

“A rift. A crack in the sea floor. It is the fault line. As we guessed—and Neri knew—it is beginning.”