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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

25. The Final Piece

Cass and Benny were hanging out watching the news on one of ORCA’s many screens. It was not good.

“In another day of disaster, the remnants of the tidal wave caused by Tuesday’s quake continue to batter the west coast of the United States. The Southern seaboard was the worst hit when some areas were struck by waves of up to thirty meters, while in Japan, aftershocks continue to be felt in the wake of yesterday’s major earthquake, frustrating the efforts of rescue workers already hampered by the loss of power and water supplies. Scientists from the world seismology center warn that th current, unprecedented level of seismic activity is only the beginning as the new Winston Seth fault line continues to advance across the pacific. They now believe the fault line originated in the west Pacific fracture zone where ORCA City personnel today begin voluntary evacuation of the endangered underwater complex.”

The two children looked at each other.

Benny offered, “Japan is prone to earthquakes, so most of the buildings there are constructed to be safe.”

“Most.” Cass repeated. “Did you see that clip of the desks sliding everywhere?”

“And we’re the only ones who can stop it. Am I the only one who gets a little sick thinking about that?” Benny rubbed his stomach.

“I hear ya’.” Cass said. “Let’s go see if Lena’s having any luck tracking down that last piece.”

Their route took them past the turbolift, where Morgan was organizing the evacuation to the first shuttle. “Ok everybody, I want you to line up in order of your id numbers, so get your ids out…”

Kids were crowded around, hauling backpacks and suitcases, yelling to each other, some talking on communicators.

“Is this an evacuation or a stampede?” Cass skirted around the crowd. “Your folks staying?”

“Yeah, and me with them. What about you?”

“I guess. Maybe. Morgan says it’s our job to see it through and Mom and Dad usually listen to her. And I can’t tell them to leave ‘cause Neri needs us to help find the synchronium.”

“Yeah.” Benny answered.

They reached the computer room and Benny flashed his id to open the door. Lena looked up. “Oh, good, it’s you. I was afraid someone was going to kick me out again. Cass, can you grab that terminal and track down this report? I might have something but we need to make sure, fast.”

“I’m on it.” Cass logged in. Benny sat down at a free terminal and said, “Send it over here too, I’ll help you look.”

“Great. We’ve got to find it today in case I get evacuated.”

“You? Why?”

Lena shrugged, her fingers flying over the keys. “I’m very nonessential personnel, just here on study. When they start mandatory evacuations I’ll be on the first shuttle. And Doctor Bates thinks I should leave.”

Benny said, “You can’t really blame her, you’re not her kid so it’s double responsibility.”

“She thinks the boys should leave too.”

And two floors away in the Bates cabin, the subject had just come up.

“Come on Mum, no way!” Was Brett’s reaction.

“I’d feel much more comfortable knowing you were safe on the mainland.”

“Yeah, and how would we feel knowing you were here on your own?” Jason shot back.

“I have to stay. There are things to finish.”

“Well, for us too.” Brett said, “We can’t leave now. Not yet.”

“I know how you two feel about leaving Neri, but it’s my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my boys are in the safest place. Lena too.”

“So what, you’re gonna order us off?”

Dianne sighed. “Don’t make this difficult for me, guys? I just want you to think about it. Ok?”

“Ok, we’ll think about it.” Jason said quickly.

Too quickly. Dianne gave him a look. “Seriously?”


“Yeah, ok.”

That was probably as good as she was going to get. Dianne picked up her notes, which she’d been reading last night and giving herself nightmares. ORCA was designed to be safe, but when you got this far up the Richter scale nothing was safe. “One other option you can think about: ask Neri if you two could move out to the island with them for a while. I don’t know how we’d fake the paperwork, but it might be possible. Think about it.”

The two boys nodded.

“Right, I’m off to work. See you later.”

“Bye Mum.”

“We’ll think about it.”

The moment the door had closed Brett turned to his brother, “Jase, no way!”

“No way. We can’t leave now.”

“Kal is big help, yes?” Kal asked as he offered a whole bundle of bananas for breakfast.

Mera took one. “Yes you are. Thank you.”

“We eat, then we go to ORCA. You too Kal. We must find the last piece. If we don’t get it soon, it is too late.”

Kal shook his head. “No. No. Not ORCA. Kal go to where you hide synchronium. Kal helps you find, why you hide from him?”

“Hide from everyone.” Neri explained. “The more people who know, the more chance bad people might find it. I tell you this before.”

“Kal just want to help.” Kal sulked.

Mera was reminded of one of the foster kids she’d known, a whiny four year old. “Asking many times does no help.”

But it would help, Kal knew. Once his friend Hellegren had the synchronium, Neri wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. And Mera could stop being afraid and start smiling. A child like Mera shouldn’t have to do such a hard task.

When the three of them surfaced in the dive pool, Jason and Brett were waiting. “Good news, Lena reckons she’s got one. Get changed quick.”

Neri’s face lit up. “Good!”

They hurried down to the computer room where Lena and the others were eager to show off their find. Lena had it up on screen. “Just the right time. Two unexplained sightings, here and here. Same trajectory as the others.”

“Kal?” Neri said.

Kal pointed to the screen. “Fell here.”

“What’s there?” Cass asked as Lena saved the map and coordinates to her portable.

“Well jungle, really. I can look it up from anywhere now that I know the coordinates. Thank you Kal.”

Kal smiled.

The door opened and Morgan burst in, seeming to take up a lot of space for one person. Maybe it was the amount of noise she made. “What are you guys doing here? This is a restricted area. Have you got clearance?”

“Yes.” Cass lied.

“From who?”

“Doctor Bates. Lena’s checking something for her, you know, tides and stuff.”

“Ok, and what about the rest of you?”

Cass opened her mouth to say, “Moral support.” But the words didn’t make it. The floor jerked. Cass yelped and fell off her chair while everybody grabbed for something to hold onto. The children more or less tumbled into the hallway as the quake went on. They huddled against the wall in the proscribed safety position until the shaking wound down.

Jason said, “You guys get out of here, nobody’ll notice you. We’ll go after the piece tomorrow ok? Meet first light… Lena?”

Lena scooted over, flinching when a brief aftershock rattled the floor. She held out her portable computer. “Here. We’ll go up the river. Can you find it?”

Neri and Mera looked closely at the map and nodded. “We cannot go today?”

“We can’t.” Jason said, “We’ll be on cleanup and safety checks all day. Please wait for us.”

“Yes.” Neri said. “We will. See you tomorrow. Come Kal, we go home.”

Kal stood up. He was looking grumpy. “I go swim. In ocean, nothing fall on you.”

As they left, Jason could hear Neri asking Kal if anything had really fallen on him or if he was just afraid. Jason didn’t blame the boy for wanting to get out of ORCA. The way everything rattled and cracked was really scary. Then HELEN’s voice came on, “Seismic event terminated. All hands and cadets please report to the bridge. Damage report follows.”

Jason sighed. “I gotta go. Can you guys get packs together and sign out an inflatable? We’ll make the plan at dinner.”

“Sure, we can do that.”

“See ya Jase.”

“Go back over our original calculations.” Hellegren said, “The answer must be there.”

Kellar made an aggravated noise. “We have been over them several times already.”

“And we will continue to do so until we find the last location. We must find the last piece of the device. With the current situation, the world’s governments will be falling over themselves to pay anybody who can stop the earthquakes.”

The two of them looked up from their computers when a guard showed Kal into the room.

“I found last piece. Must hurry. Neri knows too.”

“The last piece of the device? Where is it?”

“Place called jungle. Show map. Here. They go tomorrow.”

“Excellent! Well done, my boy.” Hellegren said, and gave Kal a pat on the back. Kal smiled.

“And why does the ocean girl know?” Kellar asked pointedly.

“I had to tell.”

Hellegren nodded. “Of course you did. You do not want to raise suspicion. You did the right thing.”

“What about the rest of the device? Where is it?”

“They do not trust Kal. But I will find.”

“Of course, and you’d better hurry back before they miss you. Find the other pieces. You keep your side of the bargain and we will keep ours.”

“Not here.” Neri said softly. She and Mera walked up the beach alone, glad to be out under the sky.

“He is away so much. Where does he go?”

“To the sea. He is new to this world. He has much to see.”

“You are sure?” Mera asked.

Neri looked down at her sister. “Why? What are you thinking?”

“Can he be trusted?”

“Mera. He is from our world. He is our friend.”

Kal burst out of the water, a big smile on his face and three big silver fish hanging from one hand. “Hi! Put on fire, I make food. Good fish, moves fast, take long time to catch.” Kal slowed down, seeing their worried expressions. He held out the fish. “Is good fish?”

Neri gave Kal her dazzling smile. “Yes. My favorite. Thank you Kal.”

Mera’s expression didn’t soften, “Thank you. Kal, where do you go in the ocean? Sometimes Charley and the others cannot see you.”

“Swim.” Kal said. “See reef, fish, islands. I make food now.”

“Doctor Seth?”

Winston looked up. “Yes, Dave? Come in. Are you looking for Dianne?”

Dave stepped into the lab and looked around. “Actually I wanted to talk to you. About this fault line. I’ve heard the official line, but what’s the real story? It’s worse, yes?”

“Yes.” Winston said. He pulled up the map, and the projections. “Originally, the fault was expanding in a north-easterly direction, following the Pacific fracture zone. But now it’s doubling back on itself as well. And what happens when it reaches the Mendocino fault zone is anyone’s guess.”

“Not good eh?”

“I’ll let the maps do the talking. Those red lines indicate the reach of the shockwaves. The orange is HELEN’s projection of how far they’ll reach if the two fault zones merge.”

“That can’t be right, Winston. That’s most of this hemisphere!”

Winston nodded. He couldn’t think of a good quote for this situation.

Dave said, “And the force at the epicenter..?”

“In a word, Dave—hasta la vista.”

Lena was the only one still in the galley when Jason got in for dinner. “Hard day?”

Jason sighed and put his tray down. “Long day. Where is everyone?”

“I think we’re all ready.” Lena said. “I’ve got the map, and Brett’s navigation aid. We signed out an inflatable and a pump. And Benny’s got four packs full of snacks and supplies stashed in a storage room near the turbolift.”

Jason blinked and took a bite of his dinner. “Sure you got everything? Rope?”

“A hundred meters, in case we have to climb up something.”

“Um. Oh.”

Lena grinned. “We’re getting used to doing this you know.”

“I guess. Good job. Oh, hi.”

The last was to Sallyanne, who came up behind Jason. She burst out, “How long are you going to keep doing this for? Do you think I’m stupid or something?”

“Uh, pardon?”

“Oh grow up Jason. I know perfectly well you’ve got a girlfriend, why the big silence? Why not come right out and say it?” And, her anger vented for now, Sallyanne left.

Jason blinked. “What was that all about?”

Lena’s jaw dropped. “You really don’t get it?”

“Get what?”

“She likes you.”

“Yeah, so?”

“No, I mean really likes you. As in romance, dating, girlfriend.”

“You’re kidding.”

Lena smacked herself in the forehead. “Have you just gotten brain damage or something? It’s totally obvious.”

“No, nah she can’t. Sallyanne likes someone else, she’s got his picture in her room. Jacob…”

“Kelsey? The marine biologist? Oh Jason you are dense.”

“What? She likes him.”

“Yes of course she does.” Lena said, wondering how she’d come to be here in the middle of a cafeteria giving a boy basic data on girls. “Jacob Kelsey has a PhD and has published eight articles about dolphins and he’s only twenty. And he’s handsome. Every woman who follows marine biology likes him. But that’s a celebrity crush, not a relationship in real life. At least tell me you understand the difference.”

“Well yeah, but Sallyanne–”

Lena didn’t let him finish. “There’s something else you probably haven’t noticed. She’s the only one of our friends who doesn’t know about Neri and everything.”

“Yeah but you guys found out, I mean, we had to explain.”

“Yes but Jason, every time she comes near us, we have to shut up. How do you think that makes her feel?”

“I can’t just tell her!”

“And why not?” Lena shot back, “Sallyanne is good people. We can trust her. Think about it.”

It was about midnight when Dave came off duty and went to get some food before bed. The galley was deserted except for Dianne, slumped in a chair with a cup of tea. “You’re up late. Mind if I join you?”

“Sure. Couldn’t sleep.” Dianne gestured Dave to the seat across from her. “I’m worried about… everything. The earthquakes. The kids. Whether I should be tying them up and putting them on the shuttle, which is what it would take. What do you think?”

Dave grinned at the image but said seriously, “I don’t think anyplace is going to be safe for much longer. Have you seen that map of Winston’s? And I think they’re old enough to be listened to. And Lena.”

“But how can I leave a decision like this up to them?”

“Brett and Jason are pretty independent boys.”

“Yeah. Most single-parent kids are.”

“Well,” Dave said, “If you want my opinion—Jason’s one of the best cadets I’ve got, and I’d love to have Brett in the program when he’s old enough. Lena too if she’s still on ORCA. I vote you trust them.”

“You sure no one spotted you?” Jason said before even a good morning.

Brett handed over Jason’s pack. “Of course I’m sure. Who else would be hanging around the storeroom at six o’clock in the morning?”

“Everybody ready?”

The kids yawned and nodded and Cass said, “Ready. Let’s get going, Neri and Mera will make the mainland way ahead of us.”

They piled into the zodiac and set out for the mainland. The sun was rising and the air chilly and clear. Once you were awake, a beautiful day.

“Hey,” Benny said over the sound of the motor, “How does Neri know where we’re going?”

Brett shrugged. “She just does.”

“I think she can remembers the shape of the coast and finds it by echolocation, or Charley does.”

At about the same time Kellar and a half dozen UBRI employees were getting ready to leave.

“You will not confront those children.” Hellegren said. He issued the order without getting up from his chair.

Kellar raised an eyebrow. “That may not be possible.”

“Get this clear. If they arrive, whether you have found the capsule or not, you will conceal yourselves.”

“And leave it to them?”

Hellegren turned to look up at her. “If they think we are on their heels again, they will move the other pieces of the device before Kal can find them.”

They met up at the mouth of the river, Neri and Mera sitting on the branch of a tree when the others came underneath. They got the light inflatable filled and piled in to paddle upstream. The current wasn’t strong, but it was hard going. The jungle was solid on either side of the stream so they had the choice between boating and walking in the water.

They had to do that anyway; when the screen got too shallow they all had to get out and pull the boat along. This wasn’t bad until Brett said, “Watch out for leeches.” Cass, Benny and Lena immediately tried to dive back into the inflatable.

After watching this for a moment Neri said, “Black worms? I think stream goes too fast.”

“You hope.” Benny replied.

“How much further?” Lena asked, trying to change the subject.

“Another two k up the river.”

They slogged on for another hour then turned off the river. The going was no easier. Cass wished loudly for a machete, but all they had were some sticks for shoving vegetation out of the way. Neri and Mera moved the fastest, slipping between the bushes and trees as fast as they slipped through the water.

“Almost there.” Brett said. “It could be anywhere around here.”

Something rustled and everybody looked. But it was just a wallaby, looking at them without fear.

“Right. Split up, start looking. And keep your eyes open in case UBRI turns up.”

They fanned out, poking through the bushes and watching out for snakes. It was only a few minutes before Brett yelled, “Guys! Over here!”

“You find it?” Jason asked as the others gathered around.

Brett was crouched over the silvery capsule. “It’s pretty beat up.” He eased the lid up. There was no piece of the synchronium inside. Brett’s eyes bugged. “Get out! Get away! It’s a bomb!”

They only got a few yards away. There was a very dangerous sounding beep. The children dived to the ground. Jason threw himself on top of Neri.

The capsule blew up.

There was a tremendous bang and a gout of fire spiked through the trees. Bits of debirs and burning leaves rained down.

After a minute Jason rolled to his feet. “Is everybody ok?”

“Yeah. Think so.” Lena rubbed her ears, then yelped and ran to stamp out a small fire.

It wasn’t the only one. For a few minutes the kids ran around stamping on bits of burning jungle. By the time everything was out, their hearing had recovered from the bang.

“So much for the synchronium.” Jason panted.

“It wasn’t in there. The capsule was totally busted up. Must’ve broken coming down through the trees.”

“Do you think it was UBRI? Who planted the bomb?” Lena asked. Her face was as white as her hair.

Neri was looking up. She smiled suddenly, reached up and swung herself into a tree, crawling gracefully up the trunk. The others had seen it now, and everybody watched as Neri reached the synchronium piece, wedged in a fork between two branches. She jumped down holding it in her arms.

“Yes!” Cass cheered. Then she looked around.

“Yes, we should go.” Mera said, smiling but also looking around nervously.

Everybody realized that whoever had left that bomb might still be around. They didn’t see anyone but the rustlings in the bushes were suddenly sinister.

The walk back to the boat was more of a jog, which became a run when Mera found footprints in the mud. They reached the river and made much better time going with the current. Benny swore he saw a flash of white UBRI uniform in the jungle. Nobody else saw it but they all believed him.

Back on the island the girls called for Kal to give him the good news. But he wasn’t on the beach or at the pond, and when Lena ran to yell into the spaceship there was no answer.

Brett was thinking of other things. “So, when are you gonna put it together and give it a test drive?”

“I know we have to get the two pieces from UBRI, we’ll get started on that. But can you use the ones we’ve got at all? You know, at least keep the quakes from getting worse?”

Mera nodded slowly. “We will try. I do not know how much good it will do but we must try. Tonight.”

“First we must find Kal.” Neri said. “Charley has not seen. I worry for him.”

“We’d better get back to ORCA. We’ll meet up again tomorrow ok? I’ll talk to Lena and see if she has any idea how we can get the two pieces from UBRI.”

Neri nodded then, to Jason’s surprise, handed him the synchronium piece. “Put it with the others. Is more important we find Kal, make sure he is safe.”

“Ok.” Jason said, then yelled to the others, “Come on, let’s go home!”

There was a general rush toward the boat with mutterings about food and hot showers. The children were once again sweaty and tired from an adventure.

The boat left for ORCA and Neri and Mera headed to the spaceship to see if Kal was there.

When they were gone, Kal came silently out of the trees and slipped into the water. He followed the boat back to ORCA. A little while later two divers came out. Kal followed them to the underwater cave. When they’d gone back, Kal surfaced inside the cave.

“You go in underwater.” Kal said excitedly, motioning the route with his hand. “The synchronium pieces are here. I show you.”

“Excellent! Very good, my boy.” Hellegren said.

Kellar asked, “You are sure they have the last piece?”

“They put it there now.”

“All the children?”

“Neri and Mera are on island. Others go back to ORCA.” Kal lowered his voice to a whisper, “No one sees Kal.”

“We go now, then.” Hellegren said. “Kellar, prepare the boat. And you, my friend—you can lead the way and bring them all up for us.”

Just back from their dive, Brett and Jason hurried to put away their adventure gear. They’d changed out of their muddy, scorched clothes.

“We’d better dump these down the laundry chute before Mum–”

Exactly at that moment the door opened and Dianne said, “Jason?”

“Hi Mum.” Said her sons.

“Where’ve you two been? I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

“Diving practice.” Said Jason at the same time Brett said, “Rec room.”

Dianne raised an eyebrow. “You done your studying?”


“Yep, all done.” Jason sidestepped and dumped their clothes down the laundry chute.

“Good. I just wanted to see you.”

“Oh, anything special?”

Dianne put her arms around them, one on each side. “Yes. I’ve decided we stick together. You decide whether you want to evacuate.”

“All right! Thanks Mum!”

They’d had no luck finding Kal, and even Mera was beginning to get worried. But there was nowhere else they could think of to look.

“Perhaps he has another island he goes to.” Mera said.

“Or he has gone to ORCA. If he is there Jason will tell him we worry.”

A breeze from the sea swept over them. Mera said, “I think Kal does not belong here on earth. He needs to be with family.”

Neri looked away. Before she could answer, they heard Charley call.

Neri! Sister! Come quickly!


He takes the Thing!

They were too late.

They swam as fast as they could, but when they surfaced inside the coral cave it was empty.

“It is gone.” Mera whispered, her fists clenched and her face pale.

“No.” Neri whispered. “No!”

Jason caught Sallyanne in the rec room. “You want to know what’s going on? I’ll tell you, come on.”

They sat at the table in the corner.

Sallyanne said, “You don’t have to tell me anything. It’s your business, ok.”

“No, I want to. It’s… not quite what you think. You’re sort of half right. There is a girl.”

Sallyanne rolled her eyes. “Yeah I know.”

“No, look. You have to promise not to tell anyone.”

“Why? Everybody already knows.”

“No, only us. Lena and Benny and Cass.”

“All right, I won’t tell anyone else.”

Jason couldn’t figure out where to start. “This is, uh, it’s pretty weird stuff to get your head around ok? Her name is Neri. She lives on an island, she and her father arrived there when she was a little kid. Later on he died.”

Sallyanne frowned. On an island? “Arrived from where?”

“Well, that’s the really far-out bit. Not from here. Like, not from this planet. No, for real! She’s from another world, they call it the planet of the oceans…”

Sallyanne interrupted. “Look, I don’t care if you like some other girl better than me. It’s not a problem. But this is just pathetic!”

“I told you it was hard to…”

Sallyanne stood up. “What a load of rubbish. I hope you’re enjoying yourself because I’m really laughing.”

Getting up to go after her Jason saw Neri in the doorway. “Sallyanne, if you wait just a minute you can ask her yourself…”

“Drop dead Jason.”

And she was out of range to grab, and anyway Neri looked awful. Jason turned to her. “Neri?”

“Kal has done bad. Very bad.”

“I want them in the storeroom under lock and key. Twenty-four hour guard. I want the lab cleared too. We need to start assembling the device as soon as possible.” Hellegren barked, and white-clad employees ran back and forth. The pieces of the synchronium were now nestled into separate padded boxes, being put away in the most secure storeroom.

Kal waited for a break in the chaos. “Kal do good for you. Now you do what he want.”

“We’ll get to that later.” Hellegren turned away, but Kal grabbed his arm in a grip as strong as iron.

“Not later. You say island for Kal. Neri belong, too.”

Hellegren yanked his arm free, using all his strength. “All in good time. Now there are more important concerns. Kellar, is the audio lab ready?”

Kal watched him walk away.

It was evening, on the island. Brett and Jason had heard the whole story from Neri. The four of them were sitting on the beach, slumped against a log.

“Kal won’t come back now.” Mera said. “How can he face Neri and me?”

“Hellegren might.”

“No. He has what he wants.”

Brett sighed. “And he knows we’re gonna come looking for it. They’ll be ready.”

“But we must.” Neri stood, graceful but agitated. “UBRI must not have synchronium. It is same with the person who uses it.”

“Same?” Brett asked.

“Same mind. Same heart.”

“You mean it’s not just mechanical?”

Jason tried, “So the synchronium… works in sympathy with the operator or something?”

“Yes. You think good, synchronium will do good. If bad men use, will make worse what is happening now. Ocean will die. World will shake apart. Destroy everything!”