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This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2010-01-17 — sourcemeta

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

27. The Sea of Stars

The date was circled twice on the calender. Jason had put one on—his first paycheck, now that he was a fully accredited ORCA officer. With a grownup’s uniform, which Brett said looked silly.

The other circle was because this was the first full moon of the summer, and they were all going out to watch the reef.

Lena came downstairs with a book. Her father was in the living room, sitting with his computer open.

“Father, do you ever stop working?”

Hellegren sighed. “Not until this data starts making sense. Kellar is doing well. One of the nurses heard her singing a Russian lullabye today.”

Lena gaped. Kellar had been awake for a few months now, living in a long-term residence hospital. She’d lost most of her memory from the lightning strike, but strangely enough, kept most of her scientific knowledge. The doctors said that sometimes happened with brain injuries. And Kellar’s stubbornness had obviously survived; as soon as she was up and about she’d started looking around the hospital for a job to do. These days she was helping with the other patients and studying to get her nursing license.

“A Russian lullabye?” Lena repeated.

“Apparently Kellar came from one of those countries that tried to claim independence about thirty years ago. Her family was lost in the fighting. I knew nothing about it until she was hurt and the hospital tried to locate her next of kin.”

Lena was seriously rethinking a person she hadn’t liked very much. Maybe Kellar would’ve been a nicer person if such things hadn’t happened to her. Maybe she’d be a nicer person now, maybe even marry a handsome doctor. In Lena’s opinion everybody should have a chance to marry a handsome doctor. Or a handsome scientist, she added in her head, thinking of Sallyanne. Or… but the end of that thought was a subject for a few years in the future. “So what are you working on?”

In answer her father turned the computer so she could see.

Lena sat down next to her father and looked at the screen. “Shark nets?”

“A new project. Our client would like a design that protects the local marine life as well as the tourists. There must be an optimum shape but nobody can agree on which.”

Lena propped her book open at her place and thought for a few minutes. “Well what about…”

From the desk her mother’s portrait smiled at them.

At the hotel by the shore, Sallyanne checked her diving gear for the third time. It was her fifth dive as an intern on the boat Ceto and she was really, really determined to do everything right when they went out to film the spawning. Sallyanne looked at the clock, grabbed her pack and headed downstairs.

Her boss held the elevator for her, stopping the door with his foot since his hands were full of a very expensive underwater filming array.

“Thanks. Doctor Kelsey.”

“Looking forward to seeing the reef?”

“Oh yes. Last year when I was on ORCA, everyone said how amazing it was but then… nothing happened. I really hope we can get proof that the ocean is healthy again.”

“I’m not worried.” Said Jacob Kelsey. “Hey, Sallyanne. It’ll be midnight when we get back but would you like to have dinner with me then?”

“You mean with everybody?” Sallyanne asked.

“I was thinking just us.”

The elevator door opened, but it took Sallyanne a second to register that, or anything else. Then she yelped, “I’d like that!” and they went to find their boat.

The water sounded good. Sounded right. Neri spun under the waves.

I dreamed of my mother, that she was calling from the deep ocean.

Mother on ORCA? Charley asked.

Mother from the ocean planet, who gave birth to me and Mera. But she is passed, and I do not remember her. But I dream she was here.

Neri dove, and reached in her mind for Mera. But there was no answer, only distant laugher.

Mera was sitting by a fire in a little cave. The storm had broken so suddenly and so hard that she and her friends had raced for cover. The whole sky seemed to be falling, and the beach was invisible in the fog and rain. The air smelled rich and salty with a hint of smoke.

Laeka carefully poked a stick into the fire to check on the roots baking in the coals. That was their only dinner, unless they wanted to go out in the pounding rain.

Kal waved his hands excitedly, telling a story, “Then earth people put sticks on feet and sliiiiiide down mountain. Then they go inside a house and drink sweet milk with chocolate.”

The long-haired girl sitting across the fire said, “Really?”

“Really. Lena say.”

“What else do earth people do, Kal?”

“Many strange things.” Kal paused, thinking of another story, but the last member of his audience had gotten bored. Tiny Salali grabbed Kal from behind, wrapping her arms around his neck.

Kal said, “Is strange. Lali gone. Where did she go?” And he stood up and looked around, with Salali hanging off his back giggling madly.

“Lali, leave Kal be. I want to hear more about the Opal Planet!”

Mera smiled, watching the big boy wander around the cave laughing, still looking for his passenger. “I’ll tell you about skiing, Dolphin-calf. But I have only seen on television… more than Kal has.”

They’d requested the big boat, with room for everybody to sleep over, and Dave let them sign it out. Now the boat drifted over Coronet Reef. Dianne let down some sensors and cameras, then joined Winston in the dicey prospect of barbecuing on a boat. They managed without lighting anything on fire, and the result tasted good.

Cass was chattering away, “So Rang says five of the chicks lived so his family’s gonna have more eggs than they know what to do with pretty soon, and his school’s got some new books…”

And Brett was saying, “Well Froggy’s got an after school job and now Jason’s picking up a paycheck so why can’t I?”

Winston answered, “Because, my friend, the only person able to employ you on ORCA is Dave, and he has been warned about you.”

“And Jason’s paycheck is going straight into his savings.”

This was news to Jason. “Mum! All of it?”

“Most of it.” Dianne said, and Jason knew that was the best thing to do with his money so he didn’t argue too much, even though he’d had visions of a new portable terminal in his head.

Neri surfaced, smiling. “Hello!”

“Hey Neri.” Benny gave her a hand up. “How are you?”

“Good. Reef is healthy, Mother. Many fish.”

“Ah, good.” Jason said. “Mum’s still worrying that something will go wrong.”

“Nothing is wrong. Wait a little and see.”

The summer moon rose.

The reef came alive, first a little spot of color, a little glow, then more and more until the water was sparkling with new life. In the distance Charley breached joyfully. They sat lined up along the rail, Neri and Jason with their arms around each other. The night deepened, and the sea filled with stars.