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This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2010-01-04 — sourcemeta

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


Kal woke up to the buzz of a toy plane above his bed. He’d left it on the night before but suddenly it was annoying. Without looking, he grabbed it out of the air.

But it was morning. Might as well get up.

His room had been transformed over the last few days. Instead of a bare cell he had a music player and a computer, several more games he was learning to play, and a pile of toys. There were other clothes too but Kal didn’t bother with them. His own clothes were good enough. His new friend had traded all these things for a few threads from Kal’s clothes, and for borrowing Kal’s arm-ring for an hour. When Kellar brought the ring back she’d told Hellegren, “Our man says that gold’s the purest he’s ever seen, and the gem is a black star sapphire. He offers us ninety-five hundred dollars for it.”

Kal didn’t understand that, but Hellegren had seemed pleased. “Your bracelet is very valuable.”

“Yes.” Kal had said. “Father made it.”

Which had started a long explanation about an earth thing called ‘money.’

Kal still wasn’t sure he understood it, but he knew ‘money’ meant having nice things, and Hellegren had a lot of it, but could use the synchronium to help people and get more of it. Which was good. Right? Having nice things was certainly good! Kal set the toy plane spinning again, grabbed some fruit from the tray by the door, and started his computer.

“Such childlike enjoyment.” Hellegren said, watching from the other side of the two-way glass.

“Childish, I’d say.”

“Huh. I hope you are being softer on him as I instructed you to.”

“There is such a thing as being too soft you know.” Kellar said.

“Nobody did ask you, Kellar! I will tighten the screws when the time is right!”

Neri sat on the beach, arms around her knees.


No, dear one. I have no heart to play.

In the corner of the galley a council of war was in progress.

Jason was saying, “We can’t go to the authorities because then they’d find out about Neri. Same reason Hellegren can’t go to the authorities unless he wants them knowing what he’s up to kidnapping people. So it’s up to us.”

“They must be keeping him somewhere at UBRI headquarters…” Brett began.

Cass jumped in, “So let’s go! Storm the place and kick some butt!”

“No way!” Jason and Lena said together. Lena continued, “We only just made it out before, and they’ll have changed all the codes since then. I couldn’t even get us in the door!”

“Well what about the offices here on ORCA?”

“Maybe. If we could get inside somehow, we might be able to learn something.”

“But that’s breaking and entering!”

“Only if we’re caught, Benny.”

“Ok, so how do we not get caught?”

Cass grinned. “I know how.”

“I’m sorry to call you from your room.” Hellegren said as the guards escorted Kal in. “You like your computer game?”

“Is easy.” Kal said.

Hellegren raised his eyebrows. The game was a math and science practice program for highschoolers, which he’d loaded after Kal finished the elementary level. Now he was working pre-college. It wasn’t entirely a surprise though; math would be constant anywhere in the universe.

“Good. I am glad it amuses you. That pleases me. Because we are friends, yes?”


“And what do friends do?”

“Help each other to be happy.” Kal recited.

“That is right. So you help me find the missing pieces of the synchronium and I help you gain what you rightfully deserve. I will see that the island becomes yours, all yours. You will control everyone and everything on it.”

Kal blinked. “Even Neri?”

“Especially Neri.” Hellegren said. Kal began to look troubled. “Oh, the customs of your planet are fascinating, but you must remember. We are on Earth now. Here we do things differently. Men are leaders and women are followers, do you understand?”

“Men are leaders?” Kal sounded very doubtful.

“Yes. We guide women, protect them. Take care of them.”

“Like… when Mother sick, Father tell her stay in bed?”

“Yes, exactly. For their own good, men take charge.”

Long pause. Then Kal smiled. “Good! Kal is man!”

“And a very smart one. And you will rule your island, if you give me what I want in return.”

Kellar came in. Ignoring Kal she said, “Doctor, I will be leaving for ORCA–”

“Silence, woman!” Hellegren barked. “can’t you see we are in conference?”

“I was merely giving you–”

“Later woman. Get out!”

Kellar raised an eyebrow, understanding. “Very well.” She said and walked out.

“You see, Kal? We command, they obey.”

Kal looked very thoughtful.

“So that’s the plan.” Jason finished. He was sitting on a log on the beach with Neri.

She nodded. “I see. I do not like to wait, but maybe is best. For little while.”

“I’m worried too. Kal… I dunno. Maybe if I’d been a better friend to him, you know, spent more time with him. We’ve been so wrapped up in finding pieces of the synchronium. Imagine how he must’ve felt being left behind this whole time.”

“No, Jason.” Neri said. She was staring out to sea. “Not your fault. Many in danger but Kal thinks only of Kal.”

“Yeah, but he couldn’t really help it, the way he is… well, we’ll do things differently. After we get him back.”

“You might have told me.” Kellar said mildly.

“A necessary demonstration, Kellar. On his planet, and therefore in his mind, all females are in charge of all males.”

“How strange.” Kellar said in a carefully expressionless voice.

Hellegren was watching through the glass as Kal got back to his game and missed her tone, and the distinct possibility he was being laughed at. “It is all working to our advantage. He is ours, he belongs to us. You know, it really is the most remarkable thing. So intelligent yet emotionally, intellectually he is a blank canvas. And I control the paintbrush.”

“So he becomes whatever you want.”


“An obedient son, perhaps.” Kellar meant it as revenge, and expected to be yelled at. But Hellegren just looked thoughtful.

“Ok, according to your map, that’s the closest grille.” Lena said as they all piled into a storeroom. “And it’s not very close. See? We’re here. The UBRI office is here.”

“And we go…” Brett traced the line with his finger.

“Yep, and you have to climb up here, only a meter but it might be hard in close quarters. Other than that, just follow the line and try not to get caught!”

Benny had unscrewed the grille and pried it off the wall. Jason shoved a crate over.

“Looks easy enough.” Cass grabbed the map and dived headfirst into the hole in the wall. “Hey, it’s windy in here!”

“It’s an air circulation system, what do you expect?”

“It must’ve been on downtime when we explored before. Scoot outta the way.” Brett climbed in after her. There was some clunking as they crawled around the corner.

Inside the duct there was a steady flow of air full of the weird non-smell that meant it had just been recycled. It was just big enough that they could crawl, and Cass kept bumping her head on the ceiling.

“T-junction.” She said over her shoulder after a minute. “Which way?”

Brett looked at the map, holding his flashlight in his teeth. “Left. And keep going.”

There was another leg, all around the outer shell of ORCA. When Brett put his ear to the wall he imagined he could hear the ocean outside. Then the shaft turned and they were back in the interior, going between offices. They could look down through grilles and see people’s desks. Brett slowed down so his hands wouldn’t slap on the metal floor of the duct and looked through the grilles, trying to see if they were there yet. Cass scooted up next to him.

In the office a white-suited employee was waving his hands and apologizing. “No ma’am, I mean yes ma’am, I mean we were waiting for approval from Dr. Hellegren.”

Kellar’s voice barked, “Do you think he is going to drop everything to check details with you? Dr. Hellegren is a very busy man. Right now he has extremely important business with a special guest.”

Brett and Cass were all ears.

They heard some papers rattle then Kellar said, “I will authorize this requisition. And next time, make me aware of the problem immediately.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And furthermore, if those cables aren’t laid by this time tomorrow…”

An alarm went off. Cass and Brett both jumped.

“Security alert.” Said the employee. “Intruders.”

The two children were already crawling as fast as they could. They raced and banged down the ducts and fell out at the other end.

“Did they see you?” Lena demanded immediately.

“No, but some kind of alarm went off. They must’ve heard us. We have to get out of here in case they follow us back!”

“I knew something like this would happen!” Benny moaned.

“Just help me get the grille back on so we can go. Hold it will you?”

“Did you find out anything about Kal?”

“Later, Lena.” Cass said.

Brett reached for his card to open the door—and it wasn’t there. “Oh no, my id!”

“No time!”

“But I lost it in…”

Jason grabbed his brother, “Later. We have to go!” He opened the door, and the five of them fled.

Kal’s new friend was explaining more about earth customs while Kal ate some grapes. It was fascinating! What strange things these earth people believed in. They even thought they knew what people on other planets were like.

“Grey skin and big eyes?” Kal laughed. “Is nothing like that! Made up in head.”

“Oh? I must say I suspected as much, but meeting you forced me to reconsider. Yes, Kellar?”

Kellar’s stern face had popped up on the wall screen. “I just thought you’d like to know there has been a breach of security over here.”

“Ah. Kal, would you be so good as to give m a few moments with my colleague?” He waved Kal towards the door, then said to the guards outside, ‘No, there will be no need for guards and locked doors. Our young friend can be trusted. Continue, Kellar.”

“Movement was detected in the air ducts. They got away before we could catch them, but we know who it was.” She held up Brett’s id card.

“That is hardly a surprise. Put it back.”


“I said, put it back where you found it.”

“But Doctor, this is the proof we need to take to the ORCA commander. The children would be punished. If we do nothing they will surely try it again…”

“Which is what I am counting on.” Hellegren was smiling. “I should have thought of this before. It is the perfect way to return the boy without raising suspicion.”


“His friends will rescue him. And you are going to help them.”

Neri had come to ORCA. She caught up with the others crammed into the Bates cabin where Lena was straightening up her stuff while they all hid out.

“I can’t get used to having such a tiny room! Half a tiny room!” Lena was saying as the door opened. “Hi Neri.”

“You have found where Kal is?”

“No.” Brett said glumly.

“We heard Kellar talking about a special guest, it’s gotta be Kal. But then the alarm went off and we hadda bolt.”

“Can go back and hear more?”

“Not yet, they may still be looking for us. Let’s at least wait until the dust settles. Brett and Cass can try again tonight.”

Neri frowned. “No time. We must find Kal. I will go.”

“No, no way!” Jason said immediately.

“You can’t, Neri!”

Brett and Cass looked at each other and sighed. “Looks like we have another date with the air duct. What’s the next closest way in?”

“Well, Kal. It is nearly time for you to return to your own world. You know what you have to do, don’t you?”

“Yes. To find pieces of synchronium and tell you where they hide.”

“Why is this?”

“Because you are my friend and you are scientist. You will use it wisely.” Kal recited.

“And Neri?”

“Neri is just silly girl. Cannot trust with such an important task.”

“Excellent. Exactly right, my boy.”

Kal’s dark eyes flashed. “I will help you get pieces of synchronium, and you give me island. I will be leader and Neri follow.”

“You have my word on that. You know you can trust me and I can trust you, too.”

“And you will keep these things for me? Because they are mine.” Kal gestured around at the toys in his room.

“Yes, they are yours. Of course I’ll keep them safe for you. When you are master of the island you can have them all. But there is one thing that worries me. When you return to the island you will have to lie. Do you know what lying is? Lying is when you say something that is not the truth. Like… oh, saying the sky is green, when it is blue. Or that the grass is red, when it is green.”

“Why say so, if it is not true?”

Kal looked totally confused, and Hellegren had a moment of panic. The plan would have to be postponed if Kal couldn’t do this. He tried to explain. “Unfortunately in our world it is sometimes necessary to say untruths to achieve your goals, or… to save a person’s feelings. If you tell Neri she is a silly girl, she will be sad. But if you say she is a wise woman, she will be happy. You see?”

“Yes… Neri would be sad if I tell her I am your friend.”

“Exactly! Do you think you can lie? When we have all of the synchronium everyone will be happy so we must not let them stop us.”

Kal thought about that and nodded slowly. “Yes. Kal will tell lie.”

It wasn’t terribly convincing. Hellegren had an idea. “I will test you. Here’s my watch. Take it, put it behind your back. Now, look me in the eye and tell me you haven’t got it.”

Kal took the watch and looked at it before hiding it behind his back. His face went trough several expressions before settling on one of quite natural innocence. Hellegren was impressed.

“I not have your watch.” Kal said.

“Excellent. Now give it back.” He held out his hand.

Kal’s face went through a few more expressions. Then he smiled a little. “I just tell you. I not have your watch. Is gone. Someone else must have it.”

Hellegren was smiling broadly.

“Ok, this time, no noise.” Lena said as Cass and Brett prepared to climb back into the duct.

“Don’t worry. If we have to, we won’t even breathe.” Brett said.

“And we’ll have to, if it’s a motion sensor they’re using.”

“Thanks for that cheery thought, Cass. Come on, let’s go.”

“Be careful.” Neri said, and gave Brett a little hug as she boosted him into the vent. They crawled along the same route, feeling their way along this time to avoid using their flashlights. They were almost at the end when Brett felt something under his hand. His card! He grinned and held it up so Cass could see it. The UBRI guys must not have searched the ducts! Maybe they hadn’t believed the security alert.

They got to the grate and a moment later the door to the UBRI office opened. Kellar walked in. Another guy in a white suit was sitting at the desk, and he looked up when his boss came in.

“I have to talk with you alone on a matter of strictest secrecy. Dr. Hellegren just informed me that he intends to move a guest to a safehouse in the country for security reasons.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“It is vital that the boy is not seen, so he’ll be taken by Stoney Mountain Road. It is isolated and very seldom used. I want you and one of your most trustworthy men to handle the transportation. The rest of our employees do not need to know about this.”

“I understand.” Said the man. “I’ll arrange for transport immediately. What time..?”

“Tomorrow at oh-nine-hundred at headquarters.”

“We’ll be ready.”

Cass grinned, her teeth white in the darkness of the airshaft. She gestured ‘let’s go.’ And began scooting silently back from the grate. Brett followed.

“We got it, we got it!” Cass said as she dropped out of the grate. Benny hopped up to put the cover back on.

“They’re moving Kal, tomorrow, to some place in the country. I think we’ve got a good chance to spring him on the way.”

“Are you sure about this?” Benny asked.

“’Course we’re sure!”

“We heard it straight from her mouth. They’re going on Stoney Mountain Road.”

As they left the storeroom Cass mimicked Kellar’s voice, “It is isolated and seldom used.”

“That should be easy to locate on HELEN’s maps. What about security?”

Benny, pessimistic as always, said, “They’ll probably have him surrounded by a million guards.”

“Nope, just two. So if we’re ever going to have a chance, well, this is it.”

“Then we go. Lena, you find map?”

“I’m on it, Neri.” They reached the door of the computer room. Lena carded the door open and looked around to make sure nobody was already in there working. Nobody was, so they all piled in. Lena sat down at the main terminal. “Maps, HELEN. Search term, ‘Stoney Mountain Road.’ It’s within… if they’re leaving tomorrow morning it must be…” She typed in some numbers, thought about it, and added another set.

HELEN displayed several maps, then zoomed in.

“Beyond the black stump.” Was Jason’s opinion.

“Does that mean isolated? ‘Cause this road is next to nothing.”

“Except for this bit of river here.” Benny said. “Stoney Mountain River. It comes right up to the road and then heads out to sea by the look of it. HELEN, zoom out so we can see? Yeah, right to the ocean.”

“Perfect.” Jason said. “If we can grab Kal here, you take him back down the river and out to sea. You guys’ll be home free. And we can beach the zodiac… here. Close enough to run to.”

“Good. Good!” Neri was smiling. “We will save Kal. Tomorrow.”

The next morning at nine o’clock the children were in place by the road. Lena had brought a picnic breakfast. Jason had brought an axe. They took turns chopping until they’d gotten a quite sizeable tree down right across the road. Then they started on a second tree, ten feet behind the first.

While Lena took her turn chopping Brett ate and Benny worried.

“What if something goes wrong?”

“It won’t.”

“What if they don’t turn up?”

“They will.”

“What if my father finds out I’m here?”

Brett groaned. “Benny, you’re a great guy but you’ve really got to get a handle on this anxiety thing!”

“Neri’s here.” Jason called from the riverbank where he was giving Neri a hand up out of the water.

“Tree’s ready.” Lena was sweaty but proud. “One good shove should do it. I just hope UBRI come through here before the wind does.”

“Everybody clear on what’s supposed to happen?” Jason asked. There were nods all ‘round. “Ok. Places everybody!”

In the morning chill the UBRI group was waiting by the armored truck that Kal would be riding in. The two guards looked at the boy curiously but knew better than to ask any questions. Their job was to drive along the road, stopping at even the flimsiest excuse for a roadblock, until some kids came and rescued the weird boy. If they didn’t come, the plan was to go back and drive down the same road all day.

“The guards have been fully briefed.” Kellar said, “But don’t you think it would be better if we were to follow behind? If the boy is not fully prepared…”

“He is prepared, Kellar. Kal knows exactly what is expected of him.”

“Yes, I know. Go away woman.”

Kellar snorted and turned on her heel. One of Hellegren was enough; now there was this little copy, who was worse. At least he was leaving.

“Now Kal,” Hellegren said, “You are quite clear on what we think is going to happen? And remember, you must act surprised and pleased to see them, yes?”

Kal nodded.

“Well then! In you go. Travel well, my friend.”

Cass was up a tree with a communicator. She saw the truck—white, with a big UBRI logo—and called ahead. “Here they come.”

“Ready here.” Jason answered.

“Ready.” Lena said.

The truck pulled up to the fallen tree and stopped. The engine shut off. Jason revved the power-cutter he’d brought from ORCA and he and Brett ran out behind the truck.

“Hurry!” Brett said. They could hear the two guards grumbling about the tree and road service. They both got out—two doors slamming.

Jason put the cutter against the lock and it burned a shower of sparks against the metal. “It’s coming…”

“Faster! They’re gonna see us!”

In front of the truck Benny and Cass appeared, waving and wearing Halloween masks. Both guards chased them into the forest.

The lock came undone. Neri ran out and she and Brett heaved the door open. “Kal!”

“Kal, this way, hurry.”

“Run to the river! We’ll be fine!”

Neri took Kal’s hand and they ran. Jason stowed the cutter and he and Brett joined Lena for the last step of the plan. Their combined strength was enough to push down the second tree, blocking the truck in from both directions. Unless it went offroad, it wasn’t going anywhere.

Brett got on his communicator, “Cass, we’re done! You two all right?”

“Fine.” Cass gasped, out of breath, on the other end. “Think we. Lost ‘em. Meet you at the boat!”

“Right, let’s go.”

They met back at the zodiac, and there were high-fives and cheers.

On the island that night the celebration continued. Everybody sat around a fire by the pond, eating and talking. Neri had her arm around Kal and her face was shining.

“I am lucky you come when you do.” Kal said. “I think the place they take me was bad. More bad than first place.”

“And how bad was that?” Lena asked.

“They lock me in dark room. No bed. No light. They give me no food, only water. They say bad things will happen to me if I do not tell them secrets.” Kal’s gaze flitted over their faces, watching their expressions.

“You didn’t tell them anything though, did you?” Benny asked.

“No. Not tell anything.”

Lena beamed. “Well done, Kal.”

“Good on ya! You’re a regular hero.”

“I am glad to be back. Back on island. Back with friends.”

The next day an UBRI boat sat out on a sea anchor north of ORCA. It wasn’t near any islands, or anything at all. The one occupant pretended to be fishing but didn’t bother to bait his line.

Kal surfaced and climbed the short ladder to the deck.

“It is good to see you again my friend.” Hellegren said.

“I promised I would come.” Kal saw a container of grapes and dug in. These did not grow in the island.

“Did you have trouble getting away?”

“No. I just tell Neri I go swim.”


“Soon it will be Neri who tells me where she is going. I can say to her, ‘stay close, is danger’ every time.”

“Yes, my boy. But you must be patient. We don’t want to make a move until all the synchronium pieces are accounted for. Your goal now is to find the hiding place of Neri’s four pieces without her knowing.”

“Yes. I listen, but they do not say. Tomorrow, I listen more.”

“Good. And when we are certain all the pieces are recovered we will take them, and the island will be yours.”

Kal nodded, eating grapes.