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This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2009-11-25 — sourcemeta

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

18. Making Words

“Play it again.”

Kellar hit a button and the computer replayed the video. “And no sign of him surfacing.”

“Stop. Zoom in.” Hellegren pointed. The screen zoomed in on the brown shape of the boy. “The garment. The same material. An ocean boy.”

Kal had come back sometime in the night. Neri found him in the morning, sitting against a palm tree. She knelt and offered him fish. “Eat, or it will waste.”

After a moment Kal took the leaf and started picking off bits of fish.

“Not good to live in ship. Alone. Thoughts can turn bad. Come back, live here again.”

“Just Neri and Kal?”


They both turned, hearing the waverunner. Jason jumped off. “I can’t stay long. Just wanted to know how Charley was.”

“He is fine. Strong again.” Neri told him, her face bright.


“So now you know. Goodbye.”

Jason looked at Kal. “Well gee, thanks for the great welcome.”

“You are not welcome here. This Neri’s island. Kal’s island.”

“Yeah? And since when are Neri and Kal’s friends not allowed to visit?”

“You take Neri away.” Kal told him. “You always bring trouble. I look after Neri. You go now. You stay away.”

Jason looked at Neri, unsure what to say.

“Kal, stop! Jason, I am sorry.”

Jason turned away. “Nah, forget it. I had ton leave anyway. Just don’t let him bug you ok?” Jason made his voice casual, but he looked at Neri with a worried expression.

Kal turned and walked off, satisfied Jason was leaving.

Neri burst out, “Kal does not want to stay, not want to leave, not want others to come… he asks things I cannot do!”

Jason shook his head. “I don’t know, Neri. Maybe he’d like to talk to Mum..?”

“Does not want to. Only says, no, no. Will not say what he does want.” Neri sounded like she was losing her temper. Jason had never heard her quite like this.

“I don’t know what we should do. I’m sorry, I have no ideas.”

Neri leaned her head on Jason’s shoulder for a moment. “My responsibility. I will try again to talk to him.”

“Not all your responsibility. We’ll help if we can. Look, come see us later and we’ll talk about Kal ok? I have to go now—cadet stuff, Dave’ll wonder where I am.”

When Jason had left Neri followed Kal’s footprints down the beach. He must be going to the spaceship. Not knowing what to do, Neri felt very alone. She missed her sister, wanted to talk to Mera or just sit with her and rest on the understanding between them.

“Kal? You here?”

Silence. But Kal was down there. Neri let herself down on the vine. Kal was sitting in his little shell seat. He didn’t look up. “Jason gone?”

Neri lost her temper.

“You rude to Jason! Next time he come, you say sorry!”

“No next time. He not come back.”

“Not your choice! Jason and Brett are my friends. I am glad they come here. And Lena and Benny and Cass. They tell me human things, they smile and talk. They help me search for the synchronium.”

“I will help you.” Kal said. He was saying the right things. He was saying what a man should say to a woman. He didn’t know why Neri was angry. Man protects woman, why wouldn’t Neri let him protect her? Why was she yelling?

“No, Kal. You will greet my friends. You will come out of this place and you will be the old Kal!”

“Or what?” Kal pouted.

“Or you will leave this island. Find new place.” Neri was shaking, frightened by the strength of her own anger. She ran so she wouldn’t say anything more.

Kal hardly noticed. Something flickered in his memory, his mother wide-eyed watching a tall woman who shouted to a crowd, shouting in Neri’s voice. It will be a peaceful mission! This new world is not ours to take! Kal’s mother smiled but others did not. The memory faded.

“A new place.” Kal murmured. “Yes.”

“Morning Jason.” Lena caught up with the boys in the hallway.

“Oh, ‘morning.”

“I’m logging on to HELEN right after breakfast. She’s got a new network online—an information exchange for amateur astronomers.”

“That sounds promising.”

“It’s huge though, backup files from years back. It could take ages to find any parts of the synchronium. We were lucky to find four.”

“Do your best.” Brett said. “I’m helping Mum and Winston today but maybe the other guys’ll come help. I think Cass has hacker ambitions.”

Jason pulled a face. “That’s all we need.” The other two gave him looks of complete agreement. Cass enjoyed raising hell a bit too much sometimes.

They rounded a corner and winced at a very loud, high-pitched laugh. Delores was new on ORCA, and she seemed nice enough except she had no concept of an ‘inside voice.’

“There she is again.” Brett muttered. “How a human being can sound so much like a donkey is beyond me.”

Delores reached for him. “Brett, you have got to hear this it’s so funny…”

Brett dodged. “Sorry Delores. I’m not allowed to laugh. Hernia.”

“Hernia!” Delores howled like that was the best joke she’d heard all day. Brett fled. Jason and Lena scooted past the squealing girls and went to get breakfast.

In the lab, Brett looked at the results of Winston’s remote sensors. “I don’t know what these numbers mean but they don’t look good.”

“They are reports on the life of the reefs around ORCA, and they are not good.”

The door opened and Dianne came in, carrying a pile of papers. Behind her Dave was holding a big rack of bottles. While they put their stuff down, Winston continued, “Not only the fish and mammals of the sea are being disrupted by these earth tremors. Even the coral, a living organism itself, is dying off.”

“What we’ve got here confirms exactly that.” Dianne said. “Thanks for carrying them up for me, Dave.”

“All part of the service.” Dave said cheerfully.

Just then the floor shook. Winston grabbed his screen so it wouldn’t fall. Dianne, off balance, stumbled back. Dave caught her.

“It’s all right, just a little one this time.” Winston said, watching the seismic readout on his screen.

“Sorry.” Dianne said, getting her feet back under her.

Dave said hastily, “Don’t be. It’s not every day a good looking woman throws herself at me—ah, just joking—not about you being good looking and everything, it’s just that I meant…”

Dave seemed to be blushing. Winston hid a grin behind his hand.

“I’m due back at the bridge. Um, call if you need anything.” The dive instructor finished, and beat a hasty retreat.

Dianne chuckled and sat down. “Ok, how are we going to pitch this set of results to the commander?”

“Mum and Dave Hartley?” Jason repeated. “Are you kidding?”

“Jase, I reckon he really might be into her.”

“Nah, Mum wouldn’t be interested anyway.”

“She might.” Brett pointed out, “It’s been a long time since Dad left, and it didn’t work out with Sam. Don’t you think she gets lonely?”

Jason grimaced and sat down on his bed. “Well… maybe, I guess. I don’t think Dave’s her type.”

“Hey, she could do worse you know. You’re always saying what a great guy he is, and dive supervisor’s a permanent position.”


“We wouldn’t have to worry about being transferred to shore anymore. Plus, he has a big say on who graduates cadets.”

“Whoa, get real Brett. Whatever crazy thing you’re planning, leave me out of it. I’ve got enough on my plate trying to figure out Kal. I’m going down to the computer room, see if I can help Lena and Cass hunt for synchronium pieces. No weird cupid stuff ok?” Jason finished and headed out.

Brett nodded absently and headed for Benny’s cabin. Benny was studying. Brett started right in with, “Hey Benny, I got this project you gotta help me with!”

“I’m pretty busy…”

“No, but this is important. I want you to write me a love letter.”

“What?” Benny asked, sure he’d misheard.

“No, no, not that. I need to send one. Like from someone who’s having a bit of a problem making the first move, to someone’s Mum, who happens to be having the same problem.”

“Your Mum.” Benny said skeptically. “Who from?”

“Dave Hartley.”

“Seriously? No, I couldn’t. It’s a really bad idea. And what if it were traced?”

“Type it.” Brett said instantly.

“My computer’s in for repairs.”

“So we’ll use Jason’s. Come on, man, you’re the whiz with the words! We could be the start of a beautiful romance!”

“We could be found out and get in trouble.” Benny pointed out.

“Nah, it’ll be great! Come on! I’ll give you next week’s dessert credits.”

Well, free cake was free cake. And making trouble was more fun than studying physics. “Ok, but my name stays out of it when you get caught.”

“Sure thing. Come on, let’s go write it!”

So they went and got on Jason’s computer. Benny was thinking how Brett was certainly a bad influence.

“Ok, I’ll type, you dictate. How do we start?”

Well, might as well do it seriously! Benny thought for a minute. “Ok… ‘To one who thinks of me only as a friend…” he paused while Brett typed then went on, “When she means so much more to me.”

“Bit mushy isn’t it?”

“It’s a love letter. Mushy is the point. Ready for more?”

“Go for it.”

“’I find it hard to put into words how I feel about you. I can only dream that one day you might feel the same.’”

“Excellent! Benny, this is going to be a winner!”

The UBRI team had left a very small camera on the sandbar. So they knew when Kal returned.

Kal was sitting with his arms around his knees, trying to figure out why everything was wrong. Why was Neri angry? She should be happy Kal wanted to take care of her. That was the way it worked. Man and woman together, coming first for each other, and friends not like these earth people coming around loudly like they should come first.

“The boy still hasn’t noticed us.” Kellar said on the boat.

“Definitely less alert than the girls.” Hellegren watched through binoculars. The boy was just sitting there. They’d run the boat up silently but he felt sure the girl would have sensed them. Perhaps the whale couldn’t warn him. “But we must be quick.”

Kellar touched a com and asked, “What’s your position?”

“Twenty meters from target.” The reply crackled from one of the divers in the water.

Kal heard them. The boy turned and stood up in one quick motion.

“Now!” Hellegren barked.

“Full speed! About to dive directly towards you!”

Kal dived when he heard the boat. A white-suited diver appeared in front of him. Kal pulled up short. He turned—and the other two shoved a net over him. Kal struggled and broke free for a second but there were more divers with another net and Kal was surrounded.

They winched up the net, with Kal still struggling in it. He looked around as much as he could, upside down and swinging in the net. There was a man with white hair. He looked like an elder, no, this was Lena’s father who everyone said was a bad man.

“Do you understand me? What’s your name?”

Kal didn’t answer. He jerked and broke a few strands of the net, which didn’t actually get him closer to freedom.

“You might as well relax. You’re quite powerless. Take him below, under guard.”

“Should we tranquilize him?” Asked a scary woman with a red mouth.

“No, I want to watch him think.”

It took quite a while for Kal to become worried. First it had to set in that he couldn’t get out of the net, then the upside-down position he was stuck in became uncomfortable. Then the long ride got boring.

Finally the boat stopped and Kal was hauled out, down the dock and up some steps into a very white building. In a white room the people finally left Kal alone. He waited a while to see if anything else would happen, then took the opportunity to free himself from the net.

The room had white walls and a white floor. Some kind of counter was in the middle, attached to the floor. There was a big mirror on one wall, and Kal could hear people behind it. Some of the people came in to talk to Kal, but he didn’t answer because Neri said these were bad people. They didn’t seem very bad.

The door was locked.

That was when it started to dawn on Kal that he was really in trouble.

When he couldn’t pull or break the door open he became worried. Eventually he gave up on the door and sat on the table. After a few hours someone came in with a plate of food. It smelled good. The man had locked the door behind him.

Kal hit the plate, sending it to the floor.

“All right my boy.” Hellegren murmured. He turned on the intercom. “Have the food removed. And for the rest of the night, minimal water. And tell them to leave the lights on.”

Alone in the cabin after breakfast Brett reread the finished love letter. He had liberated an envelope from stores, and was debating whether to use it or not. It would be safer, but then he’d have to find a printer to put his mother’s name on the envelope.

The door opened and Brett spun to hide the letter. But it was Benny.

“I’m not sure you could look more suspicious if you tried.” Benny announced.

“Here, check it through. ‘From your secret admirer.’ You sure we should keep it anonymous?”

“Of course. It’s more romantic that way. And your mum’ll figure out in no time it’s got to be Dave, I mean, who else could it be?”

“Now all we have to do is think of the best way to get it to her. What do you think, leave it in her gear locker in the dive room? Or in the lab?”

The door opened again. Brett jumped again, but it was Neri and she didn’t notice.

“Brett, I worry. We must talk to Mother now.”



“Just a second.” Brett looked around then shoved the love letter under a pile of papers on Jason’s desk. “Ok, let’s go.”

Dianne looked up when they entered the lab. “Neri, hi. Is something wrong?”

“Yes, mother. Kal is gone all day and does not come back to sleep.”

“Have you checked the spaceship? Isn’t that where he goes?” Dianne asked.

“I watched through the night but he does not return.”

“When did you last see him?”

“Yesterday, after Jason come. We have big anger.”


“He tell Jason to go away.”

“Oh.” Dianne looked at her sons.

Jason said, “It’s nothing, the guy’s just jealous. Decided he doesn’t like any of us. He’ll turn up.”

“He never stays away all night. Where did he sleep?” Neri said worriedly.

“Didn’t Charley see where he went?” Brett asked. “He always seems to know where we are when you’re looking for us.”

Neri shook her head. “Kal always goes from other side of island, where Charley cannot see. Now Charley has not seen Kal all day. If he is in the ocean it must be far away.”

“Makes sense.” Winston said thoughtfully. “Kal is one of your people after all. He would know to go outside of Charley’s territory.”

“Or maybe he’s still on the island. Hiding, to make us worry.” Jason suggested.

Neri looked suddenly hopeful. “Maybe! I will go back and look for him.”

“We’ll help. Me and the guys can come over after lunch. Jase, you have training?”

Jason made a face. “We have to check the door panels; I’m not sure how long that’ll take but I’ll be along as soon as I can.”

Dianne said, “I’m worried about Kal, but I can’t think of anything Winson and I can do to help. We’ll get HELEN to tell us if he uses his id on ORCA, but we can’t help you look.”

“Is all right, Mother. You do important work, to make them stop blasting in the ocean. I go now to look for Kal.”

“Right. We’ll be along soon as we can Neri.”

Kal had spent the night sitting up, getting more and more miserable. And hungry and thirsty and tired of the weird lights that were the wrong color of light. Maybe this time when the people tried to talk to him he’d ask if he could go outside. No, that would be talking to the bad people. But he was so…

“Yes, the isolation is beginning to take effect.” Hellegren said as the boy looked at the door for the third time. He’d been watching all morning from the other side of the two-way mirror.

“Doctor, there are more rapid means of breaking him down.”

“Crude methods, Kellar, which will not achieve the desired result. Hurt him and he will just withdraw further into himself. This way, we increase his feeling of helplessness until he thinks he has not a friend left in the world.”

“And then?”

“Then I become that friend and he will be happy to do anything I ask.” Hellegren turned to the security guard waiting for orders. “Take him the fruit from yesterday. If he doesn’t take it immediately, remove it.”

The guard nodded.

Kellar looked questioning.

“When he is hungry enough to eat that, it will be time to move.”

“What’s all this about Kal being jealous of you?” Dianne asked.

“Oh it’s nothing Mum, it’s all in his head.” Jason said. They were back in the cabin, Jason hurriedly straightening up his side of the room. Morgan had hinted there might be bunk inspections.

“But if he’s not in the spaceship and Neri can’t find him, where do you suppose he is?”

“Probably hoping we’re wondering. He just wants attention.”

“Well, just remember you’re dealing with an unknown quantity. Kal is…” Dianne shrugged.

“Yeah Mum.” Jason shoved stuff in his desk.

“Jealousy’s a dangerous emotion.”

“Don’t worry Mum.” Jason said, grabbing the reports for training. “We’ll find him.”

Up on the top level Jason handed over the reports to Sallyanne. “Here’s the navigation stuff you wanted.”

“Oh, thanks.”

“Bates, you’re a minute and forty-three seconds late.” Morgan told him.

“Guilty.” Jason said, not paying attention because he was getting his EMF scanner set up to detect anything amiss in the wiring.

“Come on Bates, you’ve still got three levels of touch-panels to check.”

“Gotcha.” Jason waved to Sallyanne and followed Morgan to get started.

Sallyanne paged through the reports. Suddenly her eyes widened.

Jason hurried through checking the door panels. He had to make sure each opened smoothly and was using the right amount of power. Glitches were noted down to be reported to engineering. It was routine work, something that had to be done on all of ORCA’s systems. Jason was racing through it so he could get lunch before going to the island with the rest to look for Kal.

On delta level Lena paused next to Jason and said in a rush, “The lead I followed for three hours turned out to be an emergency helicopter then the Communications officer kicked me out. See you at lunch. Yikes!” This last because she’d seen Morgan approaching. Lena fled. Jason smiled where Morgan couldn’t see.

He was starting the last hall when Sallyanne appeared. She had a funny, shy little smile. “Thanks.”

“What for?” Jason asked, distracted by testing a circuit.

“You know.” Sallyanne said quietly.


“Well… do you want to have some lunch?”

“Sure, as soon as I finish this. Few more minutes.”

Sallyanne walked off in the direction of the galley, a wide smile on her face.

Jason wasn’t sure what that was about, but kept on working. Neri was expecting them. He finished and sent the report to engineering then ran to the galley and got a hamburger.

“Glad I got that out of the way!” He said as he swung into the seat next to Sallyanne.

“I’m glad too. That must’ve been hard to do.”

“Nah, not really. All you have to do is check the contacts are working.”

“Jason don’t worry, I read you loud and clear.”

That wasn’t quite clear, but Jason had his mouth full so he couldn’t answer.

Sallyanne continued, “I’m glad you broke the ice, because I find things hard to say too. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

It finally sunk in that something was going on. Jason put down his burger and really looked at Sallyanne. She was blushing, and that little smile. “Whoa. Hang on, what are you talking about?”

“The letter of course!”

“What letter?”

“The one you slipped me with the navigation notes. Jason, it was the sweetest…”

Jason was having a horrible thought. “You don’t happen to have it with you? Can I see it?”

“It’s beautiful.” Now a little confused too, Sallyanne handed it over.

Jason read it and managed not to sigh out loud. “Yeah. Look… I have to go, there’s something I said I’d do. We’ll talk about this tonight ok?”

Sallyanne nodded, still looking happy but a little bit confused.

In the rec room Brett and the others were also trying to cram in lunch before they left. It was not a peaceful lunch though, because Delores was in the room. She was playing pool with some other girls, and telling jokes.

“…so then he says, ‘not with myyyy hamburger you don’t!” and she broke down in braying laughter.

Cass covered her ears.

Brett said, “Ha. Ha. Very funny Delores.”

“If she’d just listen to other people long enough to be told that she needs to listen to other people…” Benny suggested.

Tenille said, “Hey Delores, you going to take your shot or not?”

To everyone’s relief Delores turned her attention back to the game.

Jason came in, grabbed Brett, and pulled him into a corner for a chat. “So, what’s this?”

Brett’s eyes popped. “Where’d you get that?”

“Well, it seems I handed it to Sallyanne with some cadet notes. Now she thinks I wrote it to her.”

“Oh man.” Brett said weakly.

“Mind telling me how it got printed from my computer?”

“Look, this is all a big mistake. I’ll tell you on the way out to the island. Ready to go?”

Jason delivered a look that said his brother had not escaped possible death. “Better be a good story.”

On the way out, Brett crumpled the letter and threw it at the trash can. He didn’t watch to see if it hit.

Kal was being offered the same plate of fruit for the third time. By now it was getting dried up and very unappetizing. Kellar was standing by, arms folded. “You might as well speak. I’m sure you can. We have all the time in the world you know.”

She moved to look Kal in the face, but he turned away, actually ducked behind the low counter. “Very well, suit yourself. If you want to spend another night without food or sleep, you are welcome.”

That might have been the right moment but… no. Not yet.

In another hour Kal was stretched out on the table, either sick or trying to sleep. Hellegren watched him, first through the mirror then through the window in the door. Then he went in. The boy didn’t move, but Hellegren thought he was listening.

“Do you understand what we are saying, I wonder?” he said as if to himself. “Somehow I sense that you do. You must forgive my staff. They don’t know how to treat people. It’s not their fault. They’re not attuned to the sensitive spirit.”

The door opened and a guard handed in a new plate of food, fresh pineapple and banana, and some cooked shrimp and fish. Hellegren put the plate by the boy’s head. “You must be hungry my boy, yes?”

Kal turned his head to face the food.

Hellegren leaned over him, making his voice concerned. “Eat it. To please me. You may not believe this, but I am here to be your friend.”

Kal turned away and curled himself more tightly.

Hellegren sighed. “A man of principle. Rare these days. Very well, I will respect that. We’ll talk again.”

He took the food with him when he left.

“He is beginning to falter, Kellar.”

“Are you sure?”

“Oh yes. He’s shaking. He is very hungry. All he has to do is take food from me and we shall have him. It will not be long. Perhaps tonight.”

They scoured the island until evening, venturing into places they’d never been before, hollows and beaches Neri never visited because there was no reason to go there. Neri checked the badlands while Brett and the kids checked the beaches and Jason and Lena climbed part of the mountain in the center of the island. They called and called. They fell down holes and got scared by spiders.

“Any sign?” Brett asked when they met near the zodiac.

“No.” Neri said.

“We’d better get back.” Jason said. The kids were all drooping with exhaustion.

“We try along river.”

“Come on Neri!” Brett wailed, “We can’t comb the whole island. And anyway if he’s hiding we wouldn’t see him if we walked right over him.”

“We look just a little longer?” Neri begged.

“We can’t, Neri. Everybody’s beat and it’s almost curfew. Tomorrow, ok? Kal will turn up when he’s ready.”

Reluctantly, Neri nodded. “Go home, rest. I will too.”

It was after dinner when they got back. Jason called Sallyanne to meet him in the rec room, which was shut down for the night. She looked up when he came in.

“You did your vanishing act again.”

“Yeah. Sorry.” Jason said.

“I wish you’d take me with you sometimes. Wherever it is you go.” Sallyanne said wistfully. She was holding out her heart with the words, but Jason didn’t realize it.

“Look…” Jason started, and lost his nerve.

“I’m listening.”

“About the letter. You do realize it was a mistake? It wasn’t meant for you.’

“Who was it meant for then?”

“Mum. I mean, it was fake! She was supposed to think it was from someone else. One of Brett’s bright ideas.”

“Oh.” Sallyanne had figured it was something like that, when Jason left the way he did. But she’d hoped…

Jason looked up, relieved. “I just wanted to check. I thought you might’ve been upset. You know, like I was being creepy, trying to hit on you or something.”

Sallyanne laughed a little laugh that sounded more like crying. “You, hit on me? That’d be the day.”

“Yeah, I guess that would be pretty ridiculous.” Jason said with a forced laugh. “So everything ok? We’re still good buddies?”

“That’s us Jason. Always good buddies.” Sallyanne forced out. “Look, I’ve got things to do. I’ll see ya.” She headed for the door.

“Well I’m glad everything’s sorted out.” Jason said to the empty room. He felt that chat hadn’t gone well, but couldn’t figure out why. Sallyanne didn’t think he was a girl-chasing creep, so everything should have been ok, but something wasn’t ok but… Well, maybe it’d make more sense tomorrow. Anyway, he had to get some rest to help Neri look for Kal.

Sallyanne got back to her cabin and curled up in her bunk by the pictures of her idol. Safely out of sight she cried.

Brett was leaving the galley with a big snack. He was getting into the lift when he heard footsteps behind him. It was Delores and she was holding a crumpled piece of…

Oh no.

“You wrote all this for me?” Delores shrieked in delight, getting into the lift just before the doors closed.

“No, no, it was…” Brett began as the lift door closed, trapping him.

Hellegren hadn’t gone home at the end of the day. There was no need to go home; there was nobody there. And here, there was a very interesting subject. It was dark when he decided to try food again, another plate of fresh fruit and a cooked fish, hot and steaming.

This time he had the boy brought to an office where he was waiting with the food set out and two tall glasses of water. He waved the guards out. The boy watched him warily. Hellegren finished paring an apple, and ate a few pieces while the boy looked around the room.

“I sense you are restless. But you can master it. That is good.”

The boy was looking, but didn’t react.

“I also sense that you have great gifts. You will find I only want to be your friend. In any case, you want to be strong… and to be strong you must eat.” Hellegren stood up, picked up the plate of fish and held it out. “Come. Take food from a friend.”

The boy tipped his head—thinking? Calculating? It was hard to tell. But he reached out and took a piece of meat.