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The Beasts of Wawanakwa

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Gildedchris

This story won Best Original Concept for a Non-Competition Story at the 2012 Wiki Awards!
Gildedchris
Gildedchris

This is a Featured Story. That means that it was voted to be one of the best and most beloved stories on the wiki.
Gildedchris

Introduction

This is a series of short stories from the perspective of the animals of TDI in the style of The Canterbury Tales. The first story is from the very first episode, and I’ll try to keep the animals’ stories in the same order as they appeared in the show.

Also, thank you very much to whomever nominated Beasts of Wawanakwa for the Wiki Awards, and many thanks to all the wonderful people who voted for it, too. I'm very grateful for everyone's kindness on this wiki! ;)

Review

This was an absolutely heartwarming comment on these Tales by Rhonda in July 2012:

A really great story. It is original (winning an award for best original concept :P) and has an interesting and creative take on things. It is heartwarming and gives you great images in your head. The story telling is great, and it really gets you invested in the story, characters and really invests your emotions. - Rhonda

I needed to put this beautiful review somewhere so I could read it as often as I wanted to! x)

"Try as I may, I am but a flawed human being, unlike the Gull." - Frank "Gull is unflawed."

Frank said this in Chat, and it made me giggle. :)

FanArt

Sunshine was wonderful in that she made a Gull's Seal of Approval for me when the idea arose during one of my comments to her. Thank you very much, Sunshine!! ;D

Gull Seal of Approval

And very recently, Suta made a fabulous picture of Gull in a beautiful landscape that I simply must share with everyone! Thank you, Suta!! :D

Gull Sunset

I love them both! :)

Additional

After Suta presented me with Gull Sunset, he entered it as a Featured Image contender, and it won for October 2012! Congratulations, Suta!! =)

Awards for Gull

Gildedchris

This character won the award of Best Portrayal of a
Canon Character in a Non-Competition Story at the 2012 Wiki Awards!
Gildedchris

Won Featured Character in March, 2012.  :)

The Seagull's Tale

Not so many years ago near an island not very far away, a seagull was hunting for fish. He was having a rather average day when, for no apparent reason he started having trouble flying. Somehow, something had gotten hold of his neck.

Scree! Scree! The poor middle-aged seagull was fighting for his life against the thing around his neck. He was having a little trouble breathing and so tried to fly away from it with no luck. Finally, he got so tired he stopped fighting. He began to realize that it wasn’t hurting him, but it was still holding on tight. He was near shore so he decided to come ashore to rest and try to figure out what to do.

It was a bright blue day with a light breeze, so floating ashore was no problem in itself, but he began to notice many other things floating ashore with him, and none of them were fish. They weren’t anything else he recognized, either, but they weren’t attacking him, so he just kept his eyes on them and they all traveled gently to shore.

The beach sand was nice and warm and he began to get drowsy, but was keenly aware of the sand crabs, which were normally no problem. However, since he couldn’t fly right now he needed to keep far away from them.

He decided to try to work his way free from the ‘thing’ again, and was concentrating so hard on that that he didn’t notice the human coming towards him until too late. Scree! Scree! he screamed, but the human had pinned his wings to his sides, so all he had were his feet and beak to fight with. The human protected itself from his beak by getting a hold of his neck. The human wasn’t hurting him, but he knew that should come next.

He was so scared he thought he might pass out, but when he pooped on the human in terror instead he realized this might let him escape. No such luck.

He finally froze in terror and hoped that the humans – he had just noticed the second one – would let him go. He watched them closely for any signs of what they might do with him.


“Hey, Reddy, this poor gull has a plastic six-pack ring around its throat. Wanna help me get it off? Eeww, ick! It’s so scared it pooped on me. Aww.”

“Poor thing. Hey! Help me out here, Rhonda, I’ve got a great idea! Since we’re scouting spots for the cameras to film from, we could add our own ‘Don’t Pollute’ message right now! We’ve gotta figure out how best to film this.”

Rhonda washed off in the shallow water while Reddy held the gull, then they both walked around the shoreline as quickly as they could while carrying their cameras and extra passenger. They were hunting for the best vantages and views to help deliver their message.

They knew better than to consult with the higher-ups, since that would likely cause a conference on what to do about not only the seagull, but the litter-ridden beach this camera crew was tromping on. That could take hours, if not days, and these two filmmakers had a seagull to save. Not to mention the shorelines and lake. And it was all now possible due to an unlucky bird with perfect timing.

They had been planning to only film the pristine parts of the island to make it seem more exotic, but this would be much better.

They finally found the perfect location and put the broken bottle into the sand. They considered putting the aluminum can there, too, but thought that was overkill. They didn’t want it looking staged, after all. Next, they had to figure out how to film the poor, helpless seagull without it taking off and ruining their picture.

“If we use that ‘paper tape’ and tape its wings and feet to its body, it won’t be able to do much of anything, and the tape will come off without hurting its feathers,” suggested Rhonda hopefully. “One of us will still have to stay near it in case it gets free, though.”

“You’ve gained its trust, or at least its not so terrified anymore, so why don’t you do that and I’ll film. Just watch your shadows, though. Wouldn’t want to put the bird through this twice, eh?” responded Reddy.

“Right. I think I’ve still got a roll of it in my bag here. Sure works great for putting those X’s on things like that big stage. Never considered using it on an animal before, though.”

They put the tape carefully on the gull together, making sure it wouldn’t be visible at a distance, then Reddy moved back to the camera, already in position. They waited for the perfect wave set, and Rhonda put the bird gently in the water. The poor gull watched Reddy and the camera with tired resignation. It was washed gently onto shore, where it gave a single call, sounding almost bored. A few moments later another wave scooped it back into the water.

Reddy started to worry about it. “Maybe we should feed it before we let it go. Don’t know how long it’s had that thing on its neck, after all.”

Rhonda agreed, and they got a few more shots of the gull just sitting in the water with the plastic, made very visible by the play of sunshine and shadow caused by the waves.

“These are great shots!” murmured Reddy as Rhonda waded out to get the bird.


The seagull had stayed terrified for awhile, but slowly calmed down when nothing happened to him. He was still tired, but since he was being carried he just watched everything around him moving by. Finally he began to doze. Even their voices were lulling him to sleep.

He woke up when they stopped walking. They were working in the sand with one of the unknown things, and seemed excited. Their excited noise was making him start to be scared again, but they didn’t seem to notice him much. Then they finished working in the sand and both looked at him.

They started looking at his feet and wings and neck, but not in a scary way. More as if they were confused, like they didn’t know what he was. Maybe that thing on him confused them, too? Maybe they were trying to figure out how to get it off of him?

The human that had held him the whole time gave him to the second human. That made him nervous. His human began to paw at a small thing it had carried the whole time, then pulled something out of it. Both humans were interested in the small, whitish, round thing, and started attacking it and pulling it apart. They were rather gentle about it, though, like they were worried they were going to scare him.

Too late.

His human held some of the white stuff towards him. Food? But then it started putting the white stuff against his feet and around his wings! Fight?! But it was too late. His feet and wings were held against his body by this white stuff now. It didn’t hurt, but now he really couldn’t fly.

The human holding him looked at his feet and wings again, then gave him back to his human - the one that had put this bad stuff on him. His human waded into the water near where they had dug in the sand and looked at the second human, who was walking on the beach.

His human waited for a little while, then put him into the water and let him go. He couldn’t paddle or use his wings at all, so the waves carried him onto the sand. He just looked at the human on land, and since he felt so helpless had to let out a cry of despair. He barely noticed when another wave came and scooped him off the beach. There was nothing he could do about it anyway.

He just stared in whatever direction he was facing, but kept his eyes on the two humans. His human waded out deeper to pick him up. He tried to bite it, but couldn’t control his body’s position so naturally missed.

It picked him up and took him back to land, where both humans looked at him like they were still confused. His human removed the white stuff, and that didn’t hurt, but now he was afraid again. He knew something more was coming because they still didn’t let him go.


Reddy and Rhonda were both worried enough about this seagull that they wanted to have a vet look at it. “Look at the water it’s had to live in!” exclaimed Rhonda. “Besides, I don’t know if canned sardines in oil are good for it.”

“Look at it – it’s scared to death of us,” retorted Reddy. “A trip to the vet could finish this poor thing off in itself. Besides, how bad can canned sardines really be for it?” He held out one of the aforementioned sardines he’d bought for his own lunch. The seagull wanted nothing to do with it and turned its head away.

“Let’s let the vet see if its throat is hurt, at least,” said Rhonda. “That thing could’ve been on there for days.”

They’d borrowed some scissors from The Tuck Shoppe. It was the same place they’d purchased their lunch. They carefully cut the plastic off of the seagull’s throat. The problem was that their gull hadn’t reacted much, as though it didn’t realize its noose was gone. Both of them were worried that if they set the gull free now it would die just from the stress it’d been through today.

“All it needs is some time to calm down and de-stress – somewhere quiet,” suggested Reddy.

“The boathouse is probably the one place here no one wants to be,” opined Rhonda. “And you can hear the waves pretty well,” she added with a grin. “That ought to make our seagull feel right at home!”

“I’ll put together a box for him and we can let him de-stress alone, off the ground. Then we can film it all from a good distance away,” added Reddy with a smile of his own.


The humans had carried him towards a building, and the other human went inside. His human waited outside, still holding him snug enough to keep him from getting away. When the other human came back, they held him and his neck and did something to his neck. He was just so tired of fighting …

They ate after that. Tried to offer him something, but he still remembered that white stuff they offered him that held his feet and wings, and turned his head away.

His human and the other one went different ways. His human set him down, but he was about the same height as before. Then water started pouring on him. It felt good. He was thirsty so he opened his beak for a drink. That felt really good. He started to relax, some, and look around.

Scrik?! he chirped in surprise. He could move his neck again without that ‘thing’ moving with him. He started seeing if he could move more, and if he could raise his wings. Screek! He could! He was so happy! He was free!

But, he was still with his human. He started to flee, then saw the second human coming towards him. He was still too in shock to fly, so he jumped to the ground. His human was faster and gathered him up. The second human joined them.

Both humans hurried towards the open water, still holding him. They stopped near the shore and put him on the ground. He was confused, but free, so tried to prepare his wings to fly and hurried towards the shore. Suddenly, instinct told him to stop and see where the humans were and what they were doing now. They were standing still, so he did, too.

The humans didn’t move, except for the second human moving that thing around on its shoulder while still staring at him. His wings were finally ready to fly and he reached the top of the tall thing they were near. He could finish feeling better here, in safety, where the sun and breeze would help.

The humans didn’t come any closer, but they were still focused on him, which made him uneasy. He finished stretching his wings and stared back at them. He cried screek! at them because it was a great stress reliever. Also because he was still a bit mad at them for messing with him.

He stared at them a moment more, memorizing where NOT to be in the future, then turned and took off towards the lake where he could catch some dinner.


Rhonda had wanted to get the bird to drink something. She’d read that drinking water reduces the severity of shock, and that animals are especially susceptible to the effects of it. Also, it was midday, so cooling the bird down would probably help it anyway. She turned on the outdoor hose just enough to get a stream, then put the zombie-like bird on the nearest outdoor table of The Tuck Shoppe and let the hose pour some water on it.

The bird started to react! It drank some water and started to “wake up.”

Hooray! thought Rhonda.

Suddenly the seagull seemed to realize that plastic noose was off its neck. It started moving around a lot. Too much.

This area was a high “people-traffic” zone, and Rhonda and Reddy preferred to keep this bird a secret from the others because too many questions could lead to involvement by the higher-ups. Or more questions, like, “You were doing WHAT while you were supposed to be scouting camera angles and locations?” Possibly leading to, “You’re fired!” which would mean all their hard work today would never make it to the screen.

She dropped the hose and scooped up the bird before it got away. Then she spotted Reddy coming their way and rushed towards him. They both hurried towards the boathouse as she told him how the cold water had revitalized their gull. He explained that he was returning so soon because the boathouse was locked, so he couldn’t make a birdhouse.

They stopped near the boathouse and Rhonda set their bird down. The gull flapped its wings and hurried towards the water. Then it stopped, turned around and looked at them for a moment, as if to say ‘thank you.’

Reddy was true to his name and was already beginning to film their gull as it got ready to leave. He stayed focused on their seagull when it flew to the top of the boathouse, and kept filming as it slowly flapped its wings, preparing for flight in the bright sun with a gentle breeze blowing past, which lightly ruffled its feathers.

“This is the perfect ending to our ‘Day of the Gull',” Reddy gushed. “The lighting is perfect and we have a great view of the cliff in the background behind our seagull!” Just then, their seagull cried screek! quite loudly at them.

He’s saying “Thank you! and Goodbye,” Reddy gushed again, near tears because of the excellence of the ending to their film and all their hard work that day. Also because they were saying goodbye to a new friend whose life they’d saved.

Rhonda, also near tears, said, “I’m glad we were there for him. And I’m gonna miss him.” Then she burst into tears because they’d probably never see him again.


Several days later, Reddy and Rhonda were screening their ‘Day of the Gull’. The other camera operators were agog at the simple, yet elegant tale it told, and were thrilled to be a part of the screening.

Word got around, as Reddy and Rhonda had hoped it would, and some of the executives wanted to see it, too. Naturally there were various opinions voiced, but it was almost a unanimous vote that the seabird washing up to the beach with the plastic 6-pack binder on its neck should be a part of the show. It was a great attention grabber and might make older demographics sit up and take notice of this show, too. Unbeatable PR and free publicity to boot!


Gull was wandering the beach hoping to find another one of those things that got caught around his neck. If he could show everybirdy else what to watch out for, he’d be a hero to his fellow fish-eaters. He couldn’t tell his tale to them often enough. There were always more birds to gather round as he told of his adventure on the island. And over the course of his re-tellings, he realized that those humans had in fact helped him by getting that thing off his neck.

He never got tired of telling that tale, but he never wanted to re-live it, either.

The Buck's Tale

Far above the land a few clouds were floating lazily along and the sun was sparkling back from a rather large lake. It was a mild summer day and many animals were lolling about, munching on whatever they fancied, and just enjoying the serenity of it all.

A herd of deer were near the lake, some having their first drink of water that morning. They would soon leave for the pinewood forest nearby to escape the heat of the day. A breeze could be heard stirring through the pine boughs and making the waves lap the beach. Squirrels and chipmunks nearby could be heard chittering and birds were calling and singing. It was a truly peaceful day.

They didn’t notice at first, but a dull roar began from far away, slowly coming closer. When they did notice they began moving towards the forest. There they could watch and be safe from whatever was making the unnatural noise.

The noise got louder, and finally revealed itself to be coming from a boat. It motored up to the dock and let several people out, each carrying lots of equipment. They went different ways, each with a purpose. They unpacked their equipment and turned it into lights, microphones, cameras, and lots of wires attached to the equipment. Then the people began milling about, waiting for something else to happen.

The animals were curious. When people came here, they were usually loud, smaller humans that from a distance sounded like a flock of seagulls. A few full-grown humans accompanied them, and they made for the wooden buildings nearby. Oftentimes, the kids and animals would be friends, and the animals enjoyed the tasty treats the kids fed them.

These all looked like full-grown humans, and only a couple of them went towards the cabins.

Most of the animals went back to feeding, but a few wandered closer to the people. Some were just curious but others remembered how yummy the treats were that the kids gave them.

Soon the reason for all the people and equipment became clear. Another boat pulled up with a person, and she sounded the same as the kids that used to come here – high-pitched and excited. She rushed up to the adult on the dock and gave him a big hug.

More kids came, one to a boat, and soon there were a lot of kids. These were older than the kids that used to come here, but they were obviously kid-like. They all fell in the water when the dock collapsed, but none seemed hurt, and they all rushed to the cabins and communal washroom. When they emerged, some time later, most of the animals had wandered away to find a good resting spot during the heat of the day.

One lone buck, however, had really enjoyed the company of the kids in the past, and stayed out of sight but close by. Soon the kids were all near the fire-pit by the docks. One of his favorite kids had loved feeding him lightly toasted marshmallows and graham crackers here, and, even though those were a sticky mess, this buck started to drool when he saw the kids were all sitting around the pit.

Since he was reminiscing about the treats he failed to notice when one of the kids started to come near him. This boy was wearing lots of black and some yellowish clothing, with some green hair on his head that seemed almost like grass. He was well camouflaged, for the most part, and was very stealthy, without actually creeping, which would have set off all the buck’s alarms.

He seemed to want to be friends with the buck, but when he was near enough, put out his hand, which snaked around the buck’s neck, and held him fast. Then he used his other hand to rub the buck’s forehead. It hurt some, because the boy was using his knuckles to do the rubbing.

This was not friendly, but the buck didn’t want to hurt the boy. It was almost like the boy wanted to be a buck and fight with his antlers, but without antlers this was the best he could do. Maybe he was claiming this area as his own. Either way, this buck wanted no part of these kids anymore.

The adult was making announcements and the kids started moving around. Soon, the boy took notice of the adult’s words, let him go, and moved over to stand with some of the other kids.

The buck just ran back towards the woods. He looked back once to see what was happening, and the boy seemed to have forgotten about him. The human buck had claimed his territory, and the whitetail buck respected it. He was really going to miss those yummy treats, though.

He rejoined his herd and told them about the kids and the boy in particular. They were all curious about that, so spent some time over the next several days watching them, but didn’t go near the kids or the camp again.

They did notice that one by one all but two of the kids left camp on another boat. Then they all came back again and walked all over the peninsula in groups. This was near the end of the summer. Near the end of that day, a bunch of them ended up in the water at the end of the dock, almost like the time they had all arrived at the beginning of the summer.

Maybe it was just as well all the deer had stayed away from them. They were crazy!

The Loon's Tale

It was dawn on a calm, early summer day near the edge of a big beautiful lake. A large flock of birds was gathering. There was nothing unusual about that, but what was unusual were the many different kinds of birds that were gathering in the same area together – ducks and geese, seabirds, wading birds and even some birds of prey. They weren’t eating, mating or caught in a trap – they were watching a seagull that was standing on top of one of the rocks.

The seagull was being patient and waiting for more birds to join them. Soon, he began his tale about getting something caught around his neck and the strange humans that held him captive all day. Then about them finally getting the thing off his neck and letting him go. Some of the audience had heard Gull’s tale already, but many hadn’t.

Many birds asked questions about the thing around his neck, and Gull answered the flock’s questions as best he could.

“What were you doing when you first noticed it?” asked a duck. Catching fish was his reply.

“What did it look like?” asked a wader. Gull had finally found another thing like the one he’d gotten caught around his neck, and he held it up for all to see.

“Oooooooh,” responded the flock.

“Could I feel it?” asked another seagull.

“Can you bite through it?” asked a bird of prey.

Soon the plastic 6-pack holder was being passed through the crowd – carefully. No one wanted to have to search out any humans, since even the birds of prey couldn’t bite through this thing.

They all got to feel it and see it up close. No one could pull it apart or do any real damage to it, and they were all grateful to the seagull for telling them his adventure and helping to protect them. Soon they all began to scatter in order to find food, and to tell others what they had learned that morning.

A few birds stayed in order to ask more questions, mostly about the humans. The gulls wanted to know about the places the humans gathered to eat, the birds of prey wondered if any small, furry animals gathered there, and the ducks and waders wondered whether the humans were feeding birds bread or corn or fish anywhere.

Gull mentioned that the humans went into a particular building for food, and that they had offered him a fish to eat, but he was so scared that he didn’t notice much else about that place. He further commented that the humans didn’t hurt him at all, but these were the only two humans he saw that day, so other humans could’ve been doing anything elsewhere.

A loon asked if the two humans were a couple.

“They seemed to be. They did everything together and were helping each other with me,” replied Gull with a visible shudder.

“Did you notice if they did anything special for each other?” asked the loon shyly.

Gull began to suspect that this young loon was looking for a mate, and hoping Gull’s adventure with the humans would provide a way to win over a mate. It was late spring, after all, so if you didn’t have a mate yet, you might not get one at all this year.

Gull remembered the bag that one of them searched through for the stuff they wrapped around his wings and feet, and thought of something that might help.

“One of them had bright red stuff it put on its mouth. It had the red stuff in a shiny stick, and it put it on its mouth a couple of times that I noticed,” remembered Gull. “The other one carried Redlips’ things across the rocks for it once, too. And Redlips stayed with me while the other one went to get food for both of them.”

Now Gull was thinking a whole boatload of new thoughts about that day. Did they want to adopt him as their child? Nesting seagulls often have a spot on their beak for their babies to peck at so they can be fed. It turns bright red for some seagulls, and returns to a dull orangey color during the rest of the year.

Was Redlips hoping he’d peck its mouth for food? The other one didn’t put red on its mouth. Was it the male? Seagulls generally look identical year-round, but some animals don’t. But he was already an adult, with a nest and a mate. Maybe the humans didn’t know that. What wonderful humans they were if he was right!

The birds had been watching him think, and all stayed silent while he finished thinking his thoughts.

“We should fly over to the food place, and maybe I can find another stick with red stuff in it for you,” Gull burst out suddenly, startling all the remaining flock.

“Um, okay,” replied the loon, since it was her question that had resulted in this response. “I’ll need to land somewhere high, though, while you look for the red thing, since I have trouble taking off from low places without water.”

“Okay,” replied Gull distractedly as he started taking off towards the food building.

The rest of the birds, though confused by this turn of events since Gull never wanted to go near the humans again, were willing to fly to the food supply with him.

Many years ago, lots of humans came often, usually in the summer, but few birds were old enough to remember back that far. It seemed that the humans had returned in force, though, since there were about a dozen people there now, and another two tables added out in front of the building.

The humans were too busy to really notice the strange flock of birds that came to roost on various nearby perches. Some humans were eating, others hauling boxes, and one was directing the people with the boxes. Most humans seemed to be hauling stuff into the building from one of the boats at the docks.

None of the humans had bright red lips, but the birds were more interested in what food was being eaten. They were patient, and eventually the commotion was over and everyone was gone or inside the building.

The seagulls and ducks looked for crumbs under the tables, the birds of prey were interested in small mammals and fish, so they looked for chipmunks and squirrels near the tables, and the wading birds didn’t see anything of interest here. The loon kept looking for someone with red lips, and waited for Gull to come back with information.

The crumb cleanup crew finished, the squirrel-types had seen the birds of prey so stayed hidden, and the loon was beginning to loose patience, so she gave a brief hoot to remind Gull that she was still there.

Gull came to Loon and they decided to look for more people elsewhere. The rest of the birds decided to go their own way for the rest of the day.

There were plenty of people down by the boats, and one of them was Redlips! Gull wasn’t sure what to think of his human – that he now believed to be a ‘her’ – but decided to try to look inside her bag for the red stick. Unfortunately it was attached to her middle. Gull looked for the male from that fateful day, and eventually located him, too, but the two weren’t together for now, so he wouldn’t be carrying her bag.

When the humans stopped for lunch, Gull’s two humans were together, talking and eating at that table. Fortunately, none of the many humans were paying much attention to anything else, and Gull went under the table to where Redlips was sitting. He saw her bag, but he couldn’t see into it, or even see an opening. He left the way he came, unseen, and waited, hidden nearby.

When his two humans had finished their meal, the male, whom Gull had begun to think of as Palelips, picked up the unwanted parts of their food and threw them into a tall metal circle next to the building. The table was now empty except for Redlips. Meanwhile, Redlips looked inside her bag and pulled out the small stick Gull wanted!

As Redlips began to put another layer of red on her lips, Gull flew from his perch to her table. She was startled enough when he landed to put out her hands to stop him from coming closer, but not to grab him. He easily plucked the stick out of her hand, but he was gentle enough not to hurt her. He was not going to be caught again, either, though, and flew off before Redlips or Palelips could reach him. As he was leaving the table, he heard Redlips say something to Palelips, and it didn’t sound angry Gull was happy to note.



“Darn bird scared the heck outta me,” Rhonda complained to Reddy as he came up beside her. “Probably thought my lipstick was food, poor thing. I sure hope it doesn’t eat it,” she continued worriedly.

“Makes me think of our gull,” commented Reddy distractedly as he watched the seagull fly away. Then to Rhonda he said, “It’s hard and metal, so he’ll probably drop it pretty soon. Great!” he added sarcastically, “More trash on the island.”

“Funny that the seagull actually took it out of my hand,” Rhonda commented. “People haven’t been here for years, except to maintain the electricity and plumbing in these buildings, so the birds either aren’t scared of people, or they followed us.”

“You’re okay, right?” Reddy asked Rhonda.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replied, smiling at Reddy. “Thanks. It could’ve really hurt me, but it seemed careful just to get my lipstick. It seemed to realize we were two separate things. Nice bird. Good karma.”

“Maybe that one is used to people and trash, and just happened to be over here today.” Reddy gave Rhonda a brief hug, relieved that she was unhurt. “I’m really glad we helped one of them, too. Hopefully, with our little film, we’ll help clean up beaches and oceans all over the world, and save a lot more than just birds.”

Rhonda smiled again. “I need some more lipstick. Wanna come with?”

“Sure,” Reddy smiled back.

After their purchase at The Tuck Shoppe, they both looked to where the seagull had disappeared from view, reminiscing to themselves as they walked hand-in-hand back to the boat, where there was a lot more work waiting.



Gull landed on a wide, clear stretch of beach and waited for Loon to land in the water and make her way up to him.

“Here ya go,” said Gull proudly as he presented the red stick to Loon. “Those two humans were the same ones that saved me from the neck-thing while my mate and I were working on our nest. We’ve got eggs now, so I’m glad they found me,” Gull stated with less agitation than when he’d talked this morning. “I’m really glad I got to see them again,” he concluded.

“Thanks a lot,” said Loon. “I didn’t think you’d take us on an adventure when I asked my question. I just hoped I could get guy advice,” chuckled Loon, somewhat embarrassed by the results of her question. “That was really great, though. We got to see where the humans eat, and we even got to see how she made her lips red. I’ve gotta try that,” added Loon.

“I’m glad I could help,” replied Gull. “I hope you come back and tell me if it worked, when you get a chance.”

“I will,” responded Loon. “Now I just have to figure out how to put this on like she did. I need a place to keep it, too, so it doesn’t get stuff on it.”

“I know just the place,” said Gull. “Follow me.”

Gull had seen his people working on a wooden box together, and had noticed a large, flat shiny thing on the wall while the side of the box was open. He knew that flat shiny things let you see yourself, just like still water.

They flew down to the docks again, and there was the narrow, tall box that Redlips and Palelips were working on together. When they finished, Redlips put more red on her lips while looking at the shiny reflection, then put her red stick back in her bag.

“And that’s how you do it,” said Gull to Loon, in the tree where they were hidden. “I’m gonna take off now and get some lunch. Whatever you do, don’t let them catch you, and maybe hide it in your nest.”

“I will, and thanks again!” said Loon back.

Gull and Loon went their separate ways for lunch. Loon didn’t return until the next day, hoping that the human traffic had died down.

It was quiet except for a slight buzz that Loon figured were insects, since it was dawn and she saw a lot of flies inside the box. There weren’t any humans around, so she went in with her red stick and got up on the shelf where the shiny circle was hanging on the wall.

She held the red stick with one wing while she looked at her reflection, and didn’t have any problems. The red stuff slid around the tip of her beak as easily as a fish, and looked really pretty. She was almost finished when her reflection moved and made a hum/whir sound. Loon froze and just looked at her reflection. She noticed that she had a pretty red eye that didn’t match the actually pink stick.

She quickly jumped down and ran out to the water where she was able to take off. She kept hold of her pink stick in her beak and flew back to her nest. It was probably nothing that had scared her, but there was only one way out of that box, so she just used it. Besides, she couldn’t see out from the inside.

She should go see Gull, and tell the flock how nice the pink stick was, and let them see it, too. Maybe the male loon she really liked would be there, too!

She brought the pink stick to show the other birds, and decided that their overall reaction would tell her whether it worked or not for attracting mates.

When she flew in, all the birds welcomed her, then couldn’t stop looking at her pink beak tip. ‘What could make her beak that color pink?’ was what most of them were thinking. All of the birds thought it was attractive, partly because it was so different. The male she really liked thought so, too, and he was young and still looking for a mate, just like her.

The friendly attention finally made her brave enough to ask if he would be her mate, and he hooted ‘yes.’ He was shy just like she was! She hooted joyously in return. They were going to have some beautiful chicks this summer, and it was all thanks to the courage of Gull, and that lovely human’s pinklip stick!



Rhonda had gotten up early to test the sensitivity of the microphone in the confession booth. It was all ready to go, just needed some calibration tweaks. She heard some scrabbling in the confession booth and figured it was a rat, so she turned on the camera’s record button so she could adjust volume as it moved from area to area. She was watching the sound recordings, so didn’t notice what was being filmed.

Rhonda didn’t hear any more scrabbling noises, so she figured the animal had left. She was going to turn off the recording when she saw what was being filmed in the confession booth. She was so startled that she hit zoom or something on the camera controls and startled the loon putting on her lipstick. The poor loon jumped down and scooted out of the booth.

Rhonda was in shock, but rushed out onto the boat’s deck to see where the loon went. She was just in time to see it take off over the lake at full speed. She went back inside to see if she’d just imagined what she thought she saw, and played the confession cam recording. She hadn’t imagined it! Maybe she was going crazy. She’d wait for Reddy to come back and show him this recording and let him decide.

Reddy was working on some of the other hidden cameras nearby, making sure they worked perfectly and were picking up sounds the way they were supposed to. His favorites were hidden in the trees and on rooftops, where they could pick up the sounds and sights of nature.

They’d all been recording the previous day so the focus and sound could be adjusted for maximum clarity. Reddy played them all at once so the volume and pictures could be synchronized for TV. When the flock of birds came in, no one had noticed, but now Reddy saw that they were together – eagles, hawks, ducks, geese, herons, pelicans and seagulls flew in together and gathered in the trees and on the rooftops.

Maybe they were all curious as to what the workers were doing? Reddy kept playing the recordings. The ducks and gulls ate what people had dropped, the pelicans and herons left, and eventually so did the hawks and eagles. One seagull and one loon stayed longer than the others, but they finally left, too. The gull and loon had acted like friends, then left together. Odd.

Reddy finished modulating the feeds and saving the settings, then thought through what he might say to Rhonda about the strange bird behavior. He was smiling to himself as he walked back to the boat and into the recording room that he and Rhonda worked in now.

Rhonda jumped up, almost screaming that he had to see something. Reddy forgot all about what he was going to say to her as she pushed him towards the confession cam TV’s. She flipped a switch to show him the picture and sound, and they watched a loon climb up onto the shelf where the camera in the confession booth was located.

That was startling in itself, since loons enjoy the wide open areas of lakes. Why did it come inside the small booth? As soon as Reddy thought that, his question was answered, although the answer was a complete surprise.

The loon looked around and listened, then picked up something off camera. It came back into the picture holding a small lipstick! In its wing! Then it began putting that lipstick onto the tip of its beak! It was actually quite adept considering that it didn’t have hands, thought Reddy.

“Wait a minute,” blurted Reddy. “Isn’t that your lipstick? The one that that seagull stole today?”

Rhonda was staring at him like he had two heads. “There’s a loon putting on lipstick, and your question is if it’s mine?! Well, yeah, it’s mine, but the seagull stole it, so how’d that loon get it? And why’s it putting it on its lips-beak, I mean? At least we have it on film so we don’t think we’re completely bonkers,” blathered Rhonda.

“We should show this to our bosses,” responded Reddy. “This’ll get on TV for sure!”

“Hunh,” Rhonda sighed, exasperated. She couldn’t believe her ears. These birds were acting organized, and all Reddy wanted to do was show it to the execs.

“When I was working this morning, I saw a seagull and a loon act like buddies on the recordings from yesterday. You need to see this.” Reddy showed her the recordings of the big flock, and where the seagull and the loon were together.

“This is strange,” offered Rhonda. Reddy agreed. “It’s kinda creepy, too, like the birds are planning something.”

“Like Hitchcock’s The Birds," replied Reddy. “Maybe we should just pretend we never saw it and let someone else ‘discover’ it.”

“Sounds good to me,” agreed Rhonda with a slight shudder.

A couple of days later, one of the interns had to be rushed to the hospital for shock, and the producers thought, ‘Ratings!’ So the loon with the lipstick aired, and bits of the flock of birds aired, too, but no one thought anything more of it, except for two camera operators and a lot of birds.

The Cockroach's Tale

Speaking English

The beautiful blonde walked into the cabin by the lake and began searching through one of her bags for her straightening iron.

While she was looking down, she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. Something was moving on the floor, and it was starting to move towards her. She straightened a bit to get a better look at it.

“AAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!” she screamed as she jumped up onto a small stool as far away from the hideous beast as she could get. The small living thing on the floor was looking straight at her and didn’t seem at all bothered by her scream, except for the movement of its long antennae.

The whole camp had heard her scream and come running. They all peeked into her cabin to see what had frightened her so badly, but all they could see was a single cockroach between her and the door.

The football player squealed like a little girl and jumped onto a bunk, breaking it. Then the skinny red-headed boy tried to stomp on the bug, the skinny black-haired girl jumped onto a bunk when the roach came near her feet, the hefty dark-haired girl tried to stomp on the beast and back closer towards the wall, and finally, as the creature raced towards the door, the green-haired boy raised an axe and brought it down on the unfortunate animal, cleaving it in two.

This is the story we, the fans of TDI, all know. Here, at last, is the story all us animal lovers have long waited for:

The Cockroach's Tale
(cue intro music, played by crickets)
Fellow roaches, this learnin’s fun
I now can speak human!
I’ve wondered how easy it would be
For even a single human to hear me!
I want to be human.
I want to live close to people
Partly because they keep us warm and full
Time to greet them in the cabin today
Cause it’s time to say,
“I want to be human!”
Na nananaa nanananaa nanananananaa
I want to be, I want to be, I want to be human
I want to be, I want to be, I want to be human
[squeaks theme music]


Rochelle’s first memories from her youth were of playing and laughing with her many brothers and sisters, and the beauty of the wood paneling just outside their den. She and her siblings would run along the wavy lines that wound everywhere in the big room. They would often have races to see who could reach the other side of the cavern first! And there were so many cracks to hide in and explore that they could do that for days and nights.

When they got bored, they would explore outside. They loved the outdoors in nice weather! The sights, sounds and smells made playing an adventure. There were always new things to explore, and they loved exploring together. The grass was fairly peaceful, too, since nothing small wanted to mess with a roach’s mandibles. Food was also easy to find, since they mostly ate plants, living or dead. They had to be careful and watch out for birds and furry animals that might eat them, though, so they were very observant.

As Rochelle and her many brothers and sisters got older, their wings grew bigger and they roamed farther away from their nest. They loved playing in the wind, doing cartwheels, seeing how far they could glide and seeing how fast they could fly against it. They had been warned by their parents not to fly very high, though, since the winds that could come up suddenly might blow them out over the nearby water.

Their mom, Lilac, their dad, Frank, and the rest of their family had never flown far away and didn’t see any reason to, since life here was so good.

One day Rochelle, her sister Lal, and brothers Daimion and Goldenshane, decided to fly far away from home because they wanted to find a new and exciting place to play. It was time to explore because they’d seen everything near home already, and they had decided that today was the day they were going to go to the top of the tall hill near the water.

They flew in very carefully, because the wind was unpredictable here. They flew just above the grasses and between the trees and bushes so that there wouldn’t be much breeze at all. Finally, they reached the top of the hill and stayed on the ground. The wind up here was brisk and steady, but it swirled all around them as it broke over the hill.

They scurried over the rocks and grasses, and finally climbed to a good vantage point looking out over the water.

“OH, WOW!!” exclaimed Rochelle in amazement. “Just look at how HUGE this place is! We could fly all day and still not see it all!”

“We still have to be sure we don’t go over the water, though,” Daimion, her equally adventurous brother, reminded her excitedly. “We don’t know how far the wind might take us, but we HAVE to keep going!”

“This is such a gorgeous view!” exclaimed Lal. She was somewhat shy and cautious, but loved adventuring with Rochelle whenever she could. “We could stay here all day, in my opinion, and still see new things and not get bored. Like seeing those big things swimming in the water way down there, or that big flock of birds near the other shore.”

“Wow! Let’s definitely NOT fly over that water!” said GoldenShane, with a touch of panic in his voice. “We could stay here, but let’s look around some more since we can see so much. Where do we want to fly next?” he asked. He was one of Rochelle’s more cautious and lightly colored brothers, hence his colorful name. “We need to get down from here first, but we need to remember which direction to go, too.”

“We should go towards those hills over there,” chimed in Lal shyly. She was equally bored by their one tiny piece of the world. “We can’t see past them and I don’t see any water over there, either.”

“Then we’ll need to keep the sun on our right wings and we’ll stay on course towards those hills,” Shane added thoughtfully. “That is, if the sun stays in that direction long enough for us to get our bearings.” Shane was one of Rochelle’s smartest siblings. Of course, everyone noticed that because he spoke so seldom. He always had something helpful to say whenever he did speak up.

“Be sure to keep an eye out for birds and coons and stuff,” Rochelle reminded them as they started their long descent through the trees and bushes. “If you see something to eat, we can all stop for a while,” she added.

On their way down the hill the wind gradually lessened until it was just a mild breeze again. They were about halfway down the steep slope when Daimion blurted out, “Look! I think I see some dead leaves on that tree over there!” He immediately began buzzing ahead of them towards the tree.

“Be careful,” his siblings yelled, and almost as one as they quickened their flying to catch up with him.

When they did catch up with him, they had scanned all the hiding places for birds and coons and stuff, and they were safe enough here.

They ate some half-dead leaves and fungus and all became happily full. At the same time they reminded Daimion good-naturedly that they had to be careful around here since they didn’t know this area as well as their own. When they were done eating, Shane tackle-hugged him in play, and they all started tackle hugging to break the tension. They laughed a lot and wore themselves out.

After playing they were ready for a nap instead of continuing on, so they found a nice bush and slept camouflaged on the ground amongst its leaves. The air was warm and moist, and as they slept they digested their meals.

When they woke up it was late afternoon, so they decided to eat again and wait until the morning before they continued their journey. They continued discussing what to do the next day, and wondering how long they should explore before going back home. They decided to plan it day-by-day, and started tackle hugging again. They played until it started to get dark, then finally burrowed into the leaves under a bush to sleep.

The next morning was beautiful, and they got up and finished eating before dawn was over. Shane was in the lead, and the rest were close behind watching for any dangers, including birds. They stayed low, just above the grasses and away from bushes and trees, since predators could be hiding in them. They could always dive into the tall grasses to hide if a bird spotted them.

They made good progress, and by midmorning were at the bottom of the hills they wanted to explore. They stopped to eat and rest, and to plan what they wanted to do next. They realized the only thing they could do was fly through the trees to the top of the first hill, and plan their next move from there.

They decided it was safest if they stayed hidden on the ground and scanned the trees ahead, then flew to their next safe area. The birds were out in force, as were some of the small furry animals that might want to eat a small flock of roaches.

Progress was slow, so before long Lal suggested that they could fly near the treetops if everyone was up for it. The trees would block most of the breeze and they could all see everything around them. Also, they could hide in the branches quickly if they spotted trouble.

All Lal’s siblings cheered and quickly agreed with her suggestion. They found an open space between the trees, and then, when they were sure it was clear, all of them took off towards the tops of the trees. To avoid any bug eating birds, they all flew erratically and in and out between the tree branches, and soon they were near the tops of the trees, flying together towards the top of the hill.

Shane was still in the lead, so when they reached a nice tree at the top of the hill, he flew straight to it and all the rest followed. They landed and saw another hill in front of them. After some conversation, they decided to fly straight to the next ridge top. They reached it with no trouble, even though the wind blew them down the valley a short ways.

They stopped at another treetop, and needed no conversation to decide what to do next. There were several small buildings and people in this valley, and now they only needed to figure out which building to investigate first.

Rochelle suggested going to the closest building first, and they all thought that was a good idea. It was afternoon now and they all needed lunch and a long rest from their day’s adventure. They landed near the building, crawled under an inviting bush, then ate and slept.

When they awoke, they split up and soon found a small crack in the foundation. They went in together, and found that it was a place that made food for humans!

They were all very excited, but knew they needed to be careful as they scouted around. They found a relatively quiet corner underneath a place where some food was being made. They ate until they were stuffed, and brought plenty back to their hidey-hole for later meals. They found all the human exits, but would only use them in extreme emergencies.

Later that evening they grouped at the bush from before, and shared all their stories from their scouting adventures. Yummy foods of all kinds found in every corner! Lots of good-smelling food was given to humans inside and outside. Food everywhere!

That evening they ate everything they’d stashed, then organized their search for the best foods – desserts! They scoured the entire building after everyone had left, and learned where the foods were kept and cooked. All the crumbs were gone, though, so there were no after-dinner snacks. They regrouped at their crack to figure out their next move.

Suddenly, they heard a noise from the ceiling! It was a small squeak from another roach who was trying to get their attention. Rochelle walked up the wall alone partway to show they were non-hostile, and squeaked back. They put their feelers forward to learn about and greet each other, and further show they were each non-hostile.

“Greetings. Do you live here?” asked Rochelle. “We’re from over the hills and we’re just exploring,” she continued, trying to prove they were not invading.

“My name is Railly,” the other roach responded. “My family and I live here. There’s plenty of food for everyone, if you’d like to live here, too,” continued Railly cautiously. “If you’re at all hostile, though, you won’t last long,” she concluded with a confident finality.

“We’re totally friendly,” replied Rochelle quickly, looking around to see if they were about to be ambushed. “There are only four of us in my group, but we can leave if we’re not welcome.”

“Nah, you’re okay,” responded Railly. “You don’t seem like invaders. We just need to be sure before we welcome anyone. Come on, meet my family up here. Bring your friends, too,” called Railly loudly enough for Rochelle’s siblings to hear, as Railly walked back towards the ceiling.

“What do you think?” whispered Rochelle to her siblings below her on the wall.

Shane was just watching and listening at the area Railly disappeared. Lal was looking scared and ready to flee, and Daimion was near her, looking hesitant and ready to fight.

They all waved their antennae around to pick up any extra smells from Railly and her family. There were a LOT of other roaches living here, but Rochelle and her family hadn’t noticed before since they’d been preoccupied by the delicious foods.

Shane finally said to his audience at large, “Well, if they’d wanted to hurt us, they’ve sure had plenty of opportunities.”

Rochelle looked at him, considering his words, while watching her frightened siblings further below. At last she responded, “Well, it can’t hurt to find out how welcome we are. Everyone stay here while I say ‘Hi’ to our hosts.”

She scurried on up to where Railly had disappeared, and followed her scent into a ceiling vent. “Hello,” she squeaked into the vent, hoping for a welcome, but ready to scream for her siblings to flee if it was a trap.

Railly came on over to her and touched her antennae for the first time with her own. (This would be a handshake equivalent among humans.)

“I’m glad you want to be friends,” welcomed Railly. “We had to be sure. Your friends are welcome here, too, of course. Let me show you around.”

Rochelle turned around and called out that it was safe, and for them to come on up. Soon they were all getting a tour of the vent system and meeting Railly’s family, which was even larger than Rochelle’s.

They found out that running around on the floor was a great way to be noticed by the humans. This was very dangerous for all of them. Instead, they were shown how to get to the big food dump container out back. Railly and her family knew how and when to enter it, and when to avoid it. There was more than plenty of food for everyone here, and they were happy to share.

Over the next few days they all got to know each other, and they became one big happy family.

One of the games Railly’s family played was trying to speak like the person who stood alone in a section of the building talking to itself. It seemed to repeat the same things over and over again, all the while occasionally touching hands with other humans.

"Welcome to McDonny’s, may I take your order?" was the most common thing the lone human said. After that it got complicated.

The first time they heard the human speak that phrase, Rochelle, Daimion, Lal and Shane all laughed to each other and asked Railly to teach them how to speak human. Railly told them about her aunt, Colette, who was very good at imitating the numerous individual humans that stood there.

Railly took them to meet Colette, who told them that the higher-pitched voices were naturally easier to mimic. She was a fun, if somewhat loopy, individual. She imitated all the clattering pans, the beeps, buzzers and bangs, too, then usually laughed at herself good-naturedly.

All of the young roaches mastered the "Welcome to McDonny’s" phrase before moving on to more difficult words and phrases. The reasoning was that understanding basic human behavior could save roaches’ lives if they got into a difficult situation, so knowing some of their language was a good survival technique.

Colette knew the meanings to a lot of the human language, and could imitate most of the words. All the young ones that wanted to learn came to her for lessons, partly because she was a lot of fun. She made most learning into a game, and her young students learned very quickly. She could usually be found in the middle of a crowd of kids.

Rochelle and her siblings sat in on more than one private lesson with Colette. "Well," stated Colette, after Railly had told her of the newcomers’ interest. Colette silently waited. Rochelle and her siblings repeated the human word "Well," to the best of their ability. Colette then showed them how to lower their pitch until it sounded a lot like the human speech. (They had no vocal chords, so producing sounds was almost like playing a violin with their wings.)

"Come," Colette stated next.

‘Well, this is no fun,’ thought Rochelle to herself, but she did her best to imitate the sound along with her siblings.

"Well" means good, and "come" means move towards me,” stated Colette happily. “So, "Well-come" she said, as she moved away from them.

Shane laughed, since he understood what she wanted, and playfully tackle-hugged her. She emerged from the hug laughing, and hugged him back. “She said we’re doing "well",” said Shane to his siblings, who were still trying to figure out Colette’s meaning, “and to "come" towards her!”

"Well," Colette laughed, “I wasn’t expecting that hug!” She laughed some more and gave Shane another hug for understanding so quickly.

After that, they all learned the human speech rather quickly because of the fun way that Colette taught them. They not only had a lot of fun tackle-hugging when they’d mastered a new word, they easily learned the meanings, too.

After their knowledge of human speech was about the same as all the other young roaches, the siblings went to the lessons with everyone else, and Colette added tackle-hugs to the games.

Since the voices and clattering pans were what they heard indoors all day every day, many felt the best way to deal with the noise was to make sense of it. During the winters, when no one ventured out except to eat, the only way to stay sane was to play games with the noises, since they were loud and only stopped for a few hours every night.

Sometimes a few roaches would go to neighboring buildings, but with other families of roaches out there, even that wasn’t always safe. Sure, some were friends, and very few wanted to harm anyone or cause a fight, but the boredom during the winter could make even family members want to fight each other, occasionally.

A few young and adventurous souls were so eager to leave the noise, sometimes, that they would burrow under the snow into the almost warm dirt and sleep until they became hungry again. Since they were stuffed to begin with, they would sometimes not emerge for many days from their semi-hibernation. Unfortunately, this held the risk of being eaten by a mouse or other dirt-dweller, which is why so few risked it.

Rochelle and her siblings learned all of these things, and knew that they were safe here. They got to be good at imitating the humans, too, and even though they missed their families back home, they preferred being here since there was a joy and safety here that they had experienced nowhere else. They always knew there was plenty of food and warmth whenever they wanted or needed it, and a large welcoming family, too.

During the winter, there were a few squabbles at the big food dump container, since some roaches from other family groups wanted to swarm over it like flies. Railly’s family were sort of the police of the food container, since they lived closest. They also often warned that humans could be deadly if they saw too many roaches.

The complicated network of guard roaches from Railly’s family told everyone at the food dump when to get out of sight, and when it was safe to come out again.

The occasional arguments against them went something like, “How can the humans be dangerous? We’ll just hide in cracks or fly away, and they won’t be able to catch us!”

“It’s their food, and when they do see us they usually stomp on us, then clean up everything really well!” was the response from Railly’s family. “Everything stinks when they’re done cleaning up, and the food dump stinks too! Sometimes that smell makes us feel sick, and we have to stay away for a while. And usually some of us die while we’re out hiding.”

“Well, you just want to be powerful and control all the food. There’s more than enough for all of us, so don’t tell us what to do!” was the usual ending to the disagreement.

“Fine, but don’t be seen when the humans come out here with their food!” was about all Railly’s family could say to that.

All the roaches knew that a big truck came every three or four days to eat what was left of the food. Rochelle, Daimion, Shane and Lal had become trusted members of their new family, and they all took their turns policing the outdoor food container. They also got to know the other roaches from the neighborhood, and became friends with most of them.

Unfortunately, they were obviously seen sometimes, and one day a big truck came that was not here to eat the leftover food. Daimion was closest to their building’s entry and flew in as fast as was safe to warn Railly’s family about this strange thing at the outdoor food.

Railly happened to be the indoor sentry that day, and they quickly flew to the oldest and wisest member of Railly’s family for help, since he could remember back to the Big Cleanup of that summer long ago.

Gideon, as quickly as he could, followed them to where they could see the truck. “It could be just doing cleanup of the dump area,” he said, thoughtfully. They knew that occasionally hot water was sprayed everywhere in the dump area by a truck like that one. When it was done, there would be nothing to hide behind and under while the humans walked to and from the site.

“Get everyone inside or away until we know what’s happening,” Gideon stated with some urgency.

Fortunately, he had been correct. The truck was finished spraying the area clean before long, and the incident made the young rogues cease their reckless ways.

However, Gideon also remembered a time when the inside of their building was scrubbed spotless that same night. “Gather everyone together, Railly. Daimion, you and your friends help her. We’ll need to be out of here before dark, if I’m right.” With that, he scuttled towards his sleeping space, leaving everyone else behind.

Railly and the others sensed the urgency in Gideon, and scrambled to gather everyone into the vent. They had everyone assembled in short order.

They were safe here, for now, and had developed a sign language by necessity over the years to bypass the noise from below. The sign language consisted of movements of their antennae, heads and feet, and even though Rochelle and her siblings could speak it, they weren’t fluent in it yet, so Colette translated for them.

Gideon had returned and now spoke to everyone. “We must leave now, in case they do a complete wash inside the building, too.”

Everyone, except for Rochelle’s family, knew where they were going, so Colette stayed with them and told them the story:

Many summers ago the cockroaches had not been very careful around the humans, and they’d learned a hard lesson from their experience. The humans had put stinky-smelling stuff in all the cracks inside and outside the building, and in the vents, and many of the cockroaches got sick and died, even after they had gotten outside and away from the smell.
They didn’t come back to the building for a very long time – most of the summer – and when they did return, they quickly fixed all the visible entries to their home. From then on, they did everything they could to prevent the humans from ever discovering their existence again.

Several members of Railly’s family often played in a well-camouflaged hole in the ground, beyond the first line of hilltops. It wasn’t as warm as they were used to, but there was plenty of room and water, and they could hide in cracks on the roof of the hole, where animals that might want to eat them would not be able to go.

They couldn’t know that it was a natural cave opening, but it was too small for any person to crawl into, even if they did find the entrance. It opened out farther back until it was too tall for anything to reach the ceiling, except for bugs and bats.

That had become their secret home in case of danger, and lots of their family flew food to their emergency home whenever they felt like it. This is where they would stay for a few days, until their scouts told them that the danger had passed.

Colette showed them around their new home, describing landmarks to them in detail that the rest knew from their childhood. Once inside, she carefully showed them how to navigate to their small cracks that led to an enclosed area, which, so far, was safe from bats. It was fairly warm and dry here, but pitch black and silent, except for the sounds of dripping water in the distance. The complete change of environment was going to be difficult to get used to after the constant light and noise of the restaurant.

They were able to navigate easily here after locating it the first time. Cockroach antennae were extremely sensitive to vibrations and smells, so locating the stockpile of food was no problem either. This was the first time that Rochelle and her siblings had needed to use their antennae as eyes, but after the initial shock they started to enjoy the sensation.

It was Lal who started the new game, by speaking the human phrase, "Welcome to McDonny’s. May I take your order?" as she stood next to the food pile.

Several of the other roaches chittered in laughter, but joined right in. "I’d like a supersized number two, please, with a coke," said Rhonda, a really fun and playful sister to Railly.

"I’ll take a salad and large French fries," added Lulu, Rhonda’s brother and best friend.

Everyone wanted to play after that, since Lal had broken the tension they were all feeling. From that day on, that game was often played whenever they got bored, instead of the more common game of ‘follow that crack’.

Since they had a lot of space, many pretended to be making whatever the speaker ordered, and the speaker went up to the McDonny’s roach. One young fellow named Brandon loved to sound like the machines that the humans rode in. "Vroom, vroom," he’d buzz with his wings as the speaker came to the McDonny, then squeak like the machine stopping, and finally "Beep! Beep!" or "HOOONNNNKK!" if they didn’t give him food fast enough.

The first time he did this, everyone was laughing for a long time. No one had made those noises for the group before now, and many others wanted to follow his lead. Brandon became the machine sound expert, and began to teach others in the same way as Colette – by having fun!

They couldn’t stop laughing at their own silliness, and played the game a lot. Gideon even got into the ‘McDonny game’, and was actually very good.

Gideon and Rochelle took care of keeping everything organized and running smoothly, so no food spoiled and everyone stayed healthy. Time went by rather quickly, and soon it was time to check on their restaurant.

Soon their scouts, including Shane, Rochelle, Daimion, Lal and Brandon, were able to bring back the news that the inside of the building was indeed scrubbed spotless, and that they should wait a few more days until that bad smell went away. They returned with some food, though, mostly because they could.

Several more days passed before Gideon and Railly came back with some scouts to say that they were free to return home. Most were thrilled to be able to go back to the warmth and food, but some wanted to spend more time here, since they’d adjusted to the near silence and darkness.

Many decided to stay here and keep playing their game. Colette agreed to stay for a few days more and help others improve their human speech. The game was a lot of fun for everyone, but when the food was finally running out, they returned home.

They returned on a beautifully sunny, though chilly, winter morning. The air was still, and they were the only creatures moving around outside their warm dens. The bright sun was shining on the windswept snow, and the rainbows were sparkling back from the ice crystals. They all had to stop for a minute to enjoy this pristine beauty.

“It’s so beautiful!” Lal uttered into the still air. “I wish we could stay here longer.”

Shane hugged her, and said, “I think we all do. Take a picture in your mind, and we can tell everyone about this when we get home.”

Everyone choked out a ‘yes’ in response to Shane’s agreement with Lal, and they continued to perch on their grass blades in awe for several moments more. From this vantage point, they were able to see clear across to the bright white ridge of hills nearer their former home, as well as down the valley to the large body of water. They admired the bright blue sky, the puffy white clouds high above, and the silence of the outdoors.

Finally they knew they were getting too cold to stay any longer, and Gideon flew ahead to get them moving. It was a short distance to their building, and that was fortunate, because they were about to lose their ability to fly due to their coldness.

They all got inside and warmed up for several minutes in the warmest part of the vent system. They all huddled together until they finally stopped shivering. During the time they’d been at the cave, Colette and Shane, Daimion and Railly, Rochelle and Gideon, and Lal and Brandon had fallen for each other, and wanted to become parents. They stayed huddled together until they were getting too warm, then finally left for their sleeping areas.

Shortly after their return to the restaurant they filled their nests with many beautiful eggs. Most of the restaurant residents were also filling up their nests with future young.

Gideon and Rochelle had each admired the other’s leadership traits, and didn’t keep it a secret when they decided to have kids. Everyone was happy for the both of them, and it was hoped that their leadership qualities would be passed on to the next generation.

The shock of all the light, activity and noise when they returned to the restaurant had taken some getting used to again, but soon everything once again became routine. The proud parents spent a lot of time tending to their eggs, but still found time to egg-sit for each other.

Several days after being laid, the eggs hatched, and everyone helped to take care of the little ones. They grew quickly and were soon ready to explore everywhere. That would be dangerous for everyone in their current location, however, so the parents asked for help moving the little ones to the attic, where no humans could see or hear them. It was also warmer and quieter there, and it was the traditional baby raising area, anyway. Soon, all the little ones were exploring inside and outside with their watchful parents keeping a close eye on them.

The kids were ready to explore farther away in the late spring, and once they were big enough, Rochelle and her siblings had decided, their kids should meet their grandparents, Lilac and Frank. The four had missed them and the rest of their family during the winter.

Many children had been born at McDonny’s, and it had become quite crowded, so as soon as it was warm enough to travel safely, Rochelle, her siblings, and their newly formed families all headed towards their former home over the hills.

When they had come over the hills last summer, they had been four. Now they were around a hundred strong! Big news for the folks back home!

The Return

It took longer to fly back over the hills this time because of their lively young brood. Their young needed to be taught how to navigate the wilds safely, so there was a lot of teaching involved.

Their first stop was the small cave that had been their home for a short while, and everyone enjoyed the experience. Shane and Colette’s kids were already proficient at speaking the human language, partly because Colette was their mom. All the other kids were good at it, too, but not as good. They loved playing the “May I take your order?” game in their downtime, and learning all they needed to for the long journey to come the rest of the time.

Everyone had fun, and loved the quiet of the outdoors, compared to the restaurant. They learned to watch out for birds and snakes and other things that might eat them, as well as what was good to eat and how to find it. They really enjoyed their games of hide and seek. This helped them learn how to reach safety quickly, inside the cave and out, as well as to hide really well. They all enjoyed this bonding experience, and got to know each other even better. After several days, they decided it was time to travel onwards.

Unfortunately, spring was a time that all parents were hunting food for their kids, and a few of their young fell to birds and lizards. Everyone was sad, but their losses made the surviving young more aware of the dangers around them. Finally, three days after they’d left the cave, Lal, who had excellent eyesight, called out to everyone, “There’s the big hill by the water! That’s where we four started this adventure!”

Everyone looked at the tall hill and realized they were close to their former home. They didn’t have any specific time they needed to be at their old home, so they decided to travel to the top of the hill and see the sights. When they reached the top, the winds were stronger than on their previous visit, so they all had to stay very close to the ground. They saw the great scenery safely in all directions, and when they regrouped under a nearby bush, they were excited and shared all the things they’d seen.

They all talked about how they could see where they’d traveled from, and where they were traveling to, and that nothing looked all that far away when seen from here.

Lal asked everyone if they’d seen the big animals swimming in the water. Most of them said yes, but those who hadn’t went back to look. Railly wondered if there were always so many seabirds around the water. Shane answered yes, since the deeper water and shallow water birds could share the same space.

Shane had earlier told everyone that they could not go over the water for any reason, since the wind was more powerful than they were, and none of them could swim. Also, if the birds saw them out there, there wasn’t anywhere to hide. The young ones took this to heart, since they’d been confronted by the realities of life and death close-up.

They had so much fun talking about everything they’d seen, and their excitement for meeting their grandparents, that they decided to spend the night here together and go to the old home in the morning.

The next morning was beautiful, so they ate and planned their route, in case anyone got lost or separated from the group. They had no problems and arrived near their former home around mid-morning. There, they saw some roaches flying around and eating, and, as planned, only the four that had grown up here would go greet them. After all, they didn’t want to scare anyone by appearing like an invading force.

Lal was the first to recognize a sibling from the previous year. “Toady!!” she squealed as she zipped straight at him, planning on giving him a tackle-hug. She closed the distance between them before anyone else could react, except for Toady’s scream of mixed terror and recognition.

Toady was nicknamed that because he could eat like a toad, and just about as much as one, too. Rotund was a good description of him, but he always took any teasing good-naturedly, which was the way it was intended. He was a gentle soul, but could give as good as he got if he was riled.

He was just starting to try to evade her tackle when they met in midair and plummeted to the ground with a shrill “squeeeeeeeeeaak!” of a scream emitted by the both of them. The rest of Lal’s group, and several of Toady’s, all converged on the spot where the scream had finally ended.

Fortunately, both Lal and Toady were laughing so hard when everyone arrived that no one felt the need to defend anyone.

“Where have you been?!” Toad asked his long-lost sister, still amazed to see her again. “We’d figured you’d been killed!”

“We explored a long way, and found a new home. But we’re back!” exclaimed the tackle-hugger excitedly. “We’ll explain more when we see Mom and Dad. Hi everyone!!” she yelled to her abandoned family as she hugged several. Daimion, Shane and Rochelle joined in the hugging, while their McDonny’s families waited patiently on nearby brush and twigs.

Brief introductions were given shortly thereafter, and Toady and his side of the family led the newcomers to see Lilac and Frank, the soon-to-be proud grandparents.

Toady went buzzing in the lead towards his folks, and Rochelle especially was amazed by his speed. “He must have become all muscle while we were away,” she whispered quietly to Lal, so that only she could hear.

They all followed Toady to the attic of the cabin. Toady, being the first in, said excitedly to his folks, “We’ve got visitors!” with a giant grin and a joy that was practically radiating off of him.

Mom and Dad peeked out to where half of their own kids were waiting, accompanied by a mass of strangers. Their four prodigals quickly squealed, “Mom!” and “Dad!” and touched mandibles and antennae with them. They all hugged for several moments before introducing their loved ones and children to Lilac and Frank.

“What happened to the four of you?” Lilac excitedly asked, while looking her new grandkids and in-laws over. Frank was welcoming them each to their new home, and trying to learn everyone’s names and relationships. Both were overjoyed that their missing young had returned home, and welcomed all their new arrivals joyously.

Rochelle gave the same explanation she’d given Toad, but wanted to be able to tell their story to everyone at once, to prevent incorrect gossip. The news of their arrival spread quickly, and their reunions were exhilarating, but not as exciting as Lal’s and Toady’s.

Everyone gathered in the main cabin, and their adventurous story was told by the four, with additional comments from the newcomers. That lasted till about midday, and afterwards everyone was shown around inside the building, led by the proud grandparents. Everyone wanted to show them all the fun and exciting play areas and sleeping spaces, too.

After all the excitement died down, they headed out to their favorite feeding sites. These were around the grasses and shrubs near the edge of the nearby woods, and everyone ate their fill, then flew to their new home with as much extra food as they could safely carry. They could feast tonight, too!

Over the next few days they had a wonderful time together exploring the shoreline, the wooden walkways over the water and the large building near the water, which was about as big as the McDonny’s building. Everyone wanted to explore that one more.

While they were exploring, some of the kids started playing the "May I take your order?" game. The kids that lived in this area were fascinated and wanted to play, too. For the next several days, both groups of kids taught the others their games—hide and seek, dive bomber, follow that crack, float like a butterfly, somersaults in the air, beat that breeze, how much food can you carry through the air, tackle-hugs, and how to speak human.

They all got to know each other extremely well through these games, and everyone was happy. The kids became great playmates for each other, and enjoyed finding all the new hideouts in the large building. Lilac and Frank didn’t use the large building, since their cabin was just the right size, but some of the children moved right in, since it was similar to their home across the hills.

They became very familiar with it, and enjoyed finding new small holes to hide in. All of the kids that enjoyed playing the "Welcome to McDonny’s" game often came here to play it, and Lilac and Frank even came here to learn it on occasion.

One day in the early summer, a large group of humans came here on a water machine. There hadn’t been humans here for as long as any roach could remember, but the McDonny’s families knew how to stay safe from them, and they had everyone gather together where none of them would be seen. They watched the humans from every venue available, and stayed out of sight.

The humans cleaned all the buildings and brought food and water into the big building. They worked like a windstorm for a few days, then most of them left. Since a few humans stayed, however, all the cockroaches knew they were here to stay, for now.

They watched the humans, and set up a system of guard roaches, like for the food dump at McDonny’s, to make sure they weren’t seen. For now they were safe.

Then, two days after most of the humans had left, the roaches heard another water machine. The roaches flew as close as they could to the water-wood, and hid on the tall parts where they were safe from people and water. They were well camouflaged, and were able to hear well, besides. Then they waited with eager anticipation for words they recognized from these new people. Maybe they’d be able to figure out what they were doing here!

People got off the boat and roamed around, doing things with machines in their hands. A short time later, another water machine came to the water-wood and let one human off. This human ran over and tackle-hugged the human standing there already. Some of the roaches snickered. “Tackle-fail!” snarked Daimion, who was snickering too.

Together they watched many people get off the water-machines. Colette was able to figure out the word for the water machines, and spread it around. "Boat," she told them, and the water-wood is called, "dock."

They all repeated those words until they had them memorized, then listened for any more words they could understand from the people getting onto the dock from the boats. Two of the newcomers called the leader,"Chris McLain." Chris was a good leader. He was personally welcoming each new person to the land, although, one person seemed to want to leave right away. Sadly, the boat left before that human could get back on it.

One rather large human was very happy to be here as he loudly greeted Chris. Chris responded, "Owen! Welcome!" All the roaches here, whether they’d played the McDonny’s game or not, understood the word "Welcome!" and laughed, because Chris was imitating Owen’s enthusiasm.

Finally, everyone seemed to have gotten off the boats, and stood together in front of Chris. However, now Chris had gotten onto a boat. As the newcomers stood together on the dock, they were looking at and listening to Chris. Then they all said in unison, "Wawanakwa!" The dock creaked and suddenly broke, dumping the new arrivals into the water.

Most of the roaches were suddenly worried about their own safety. They flew away hastily. Fortunately, their flocking was obscured by everything else that was startled into flight.

“Oh, dear,” commented Lal, worriedly, after they’d landed in a bush near a building. “I hope those big fish aren’t over here.”

“Well, we really couldn’t tell how big those fish were, and the water might be too shallow for them,” ventured Shane, who’d landed next to her.

“Chances are that the loud machines frightened them away from here,” Gideon stated matter-of-factly from the same bush. “If I had been in the water, I sure wouldn’t have wanted that thing anywhere near me,” he said, referring to the boat.

Everyone agreed, relaxed a bit, and watched the "campers" climb out of the water to "go dry off." Some roaches followed the campers, some were bored and went off do other things, and others waited for the campers to return.

It was mostly the roaches from McDonny’s that followed the campers, in order to overhear what they were doing here, and maybe when they would leave. "Eight weeks" didn’t mean anything to them, even Colette. The roaches stayed well hidden, but listened to the many humans complain. It sounded like they didn’t like the buildings, so they might leave soon.

The roaches followed them discreetly down to the "campfire pit," and listened as Chris talked about winning something. One of the campers hugged a deer, then let it go. Then, when Chris called their names, about half of the group moved under a banner with an angry ground-squirrel picture on it, and the other half moved under a big fish banner. These people seemed to like animals. Maybe they could be friends with these humans?

Since the humans couldn’t hear them right now, a big discussion got underway as to whether or not they should let themselves be seen by any of them.

“They seem to like animals,” Daimion pointed out. “Chris was choosing land and water animal pictures for them to stand under. We don’t know why, but maybe we should try to find out?”

Gideon insisted, “Humans are dangerous, and we can’t let ourselves be seen by them.” He proceeded to tell the roaches about the Big Cleanup at McDonny’s so long ago, and that many roaches had died from it–all because the humans had seen the roaches inside the building and near their big food container behind McDonny’s.

“Well, we’re not stealing their food and they don’t even know we exist,” stated Brandon, “so why not just let one of them see one of us so we’ll know how they’ll react to us here? They might be totally okay with us. After all, didn’t you see that one with green hair hug the deer and let it go?” he argued.

“We should at least try to make friends with them,” added Lal in agreement with her husband.

“If we don’t try, we’ll have to consider moving away until they leave,” added Rochelle. “We can’t risk the lives of Mom and Dad’s families. You know that they’ve never lived around humans before, and some of them would be killed no matter how much we tried to teach them,” she insisted.

“I could go warn everyone what you’re about to do,” Toady chimed in. “I know where most everyone is right now, and I’ll tell Mom and Dad first, so they can help.” Toady buzzed off towards the buildings.

“I’m the best at speaking human,” offered Colette. “You can show me the best hiding places in the buildings, so I can hide and wait for the right time. Then I’ll get up high where they might hear me. If we can talk to just one of them, maybe they’ll pay attention to what we have to say. If not, I can get away fast, and you all can be distractions if I need you.”

” No!” squeaked Shane. “I’m fast, and I know all the hiding places. Besides, I can speak human pretty well.”

“But could you carry on a conversation with one of them?” questioned Colette gently, for she knew that if they did this, it would be dangerous.

“No…” began Shane.

“There is NO WAY any of us are going to try this! It’s far too dangerous!” insisted Gideon.

“Well, then where do you propose that everyone stays while those humans are here? What if they never leave? Where will we go then?” questioned Rochelle, with some agitation. “If we don’t try this, then we have to move everyone out of here now, because I am NOT letting all our little brothers and sisters be in danger here for even a day!”

“Um,… even if we leave right now, we’ll need a place to group up after we’ve left here,” began Railly, with some hesitation. She didn’t want to get into this argument, but the decision needed to be made before the humans left the pit area. “How about that clearing near the big hill? And we could live in the little cave, for a while, unless it’s too far away?” she inquired.

“Railly’s right,” agreed Daimion. “We can’t just all take off. We need to plan this. After all, they might just notice a cloud of us taking off from here,” he continued sarcastically.

“Daimion. You should help Toady round everyone up. You can tell them about the small cave, and they can prepare any hiding places nearby,” Brandon advised. “Colette, you don’t know these buildings well enough, so choose someone who grew up here to try it. Someone who can speak really well,” he continued.

“Gideon, maybe you could help everyone figure out what to do when they’re all gathered. You’re one of our best leaders. Go and help them organize for a long journey, maybe,” Brandon suggested to his leader and longtime mentor.

“No, Brand, I’ll stay with all of you. We’ll let Daimion organize them for now,” replied their wise elder. His longtime student nodded in agreement and relief.

“The rest of us need to figure out where and when we’re going to try this. And most importantly, who,” stated Brandon quickly. “Let’s get moving! Colette, which building should we go to?”

Everyone remaining quickly followed Brandon’s suggestions. Shane led them to the small cabin on the right, which Colette had suggested because it was small. It couldn’t hold many humans at once, and the door was already open, so they could leave quickly if they had to.

They settled into the bushes quickly and quietly, and all the humans were still at the fire pit, so the roaches quickly entered the cabin to find the best hiding places for this mission. Brandon and Lal stayed outside as a rear guard to alert the others if someone came.

Daimion and Toady were getting their fellow roaches out of the cabin while Gideon and the others were going in. They were being careful not to be seen by the humans by staying on the opposite side of the cabin from them. Soon everyone was where they wanted to be, with only the few brave souls inside the building.

Outside, everyone was watching the humans and the cabin. Inside, decisions were being made that could affect everyone’s future. Brandon and Lal were watching for humans from the doorway, and Colette, Gideon, Railly, Shane, and Rochelle were discussing who was going to try to talk to the humans.

“Let’s just watch them, and then decide whether we want to meet them,” Gideon began again.

“If we do that, we’ll have to all move away until we can make friends with them,” countered Rochelle.

“If we see how they react to just one of us, we’ll know better how they’ll all react to us,” continued Shane. “We don’t even have to talk to them.”

“Whoever we choose’ll need to be close to an exit, and we can distract the human if it doesn’t go well,” added Railly. “And we also need to be careful about talking to them. We might scare them just by speaking, you know.”

“They’re coming this way!” exclaimed Brandon and Lal in unison from the doorway. The rest of the group chuckled at how alike those two had become, and went and hid in some convenient places where they could jump out and speak to the human.

They soon heard a human yell from nearby, and crouched down. Lal called in that a blonde was upset about something at the other building, but seemed fine. Everyone relaxed some and anticipated their next moves.

They had decided that whomever had the best location for speaking to the human would be the speaker, and Colette would translate for them if they needed help. Also, the lower they were the better, since that gave the human more seeming power over them.

Colette was hiding near the door since the corner of the room offered amplification of sounds. Gideon was hiding in a corner opposite the door for the same reason. Railly was near the middle of the room on a bed leg, and Shane and Rochelle were on opposite walls in the middle of the cabin in order to help the rest escape, if it was needed, since they knew every escape crack.

Brandon and Lal soon called in that the same blonde that yelled a minute ago was coming this way. A moment later the human with beautiful long hair walked in and went to her pouch of things. She dug around in it at the opposite end from the front door. Colette was farthest away from the human, and closest to the front door, so she got into position to translate.

Railly saw her chance, and flew into position. Unfortunately, this sudden movement startled the blonde, and she jumped up on a wooden object and screamed! Railly froze in fear and quickly thought about what to do. She slowly waggled her antennae for her friends to stay still. Railly figured she’d let the human calm down, and then speak to her. Unfortunately, right after the scream, Brandon and Lal yelled that the rest of the humans were coming.

Railly suddenly realized that she should have flown away before the other humans showed up. She’d seen many bugs get squashed at the restaurant, for no other reason than because they were inside the building. Usually flies, but the occasional moth and wasp, too.

While she was thinking this she began to panic, and ran for the front door. She quickly realized that she’d waited too long to take action, though, because there were now several humans standing at and blocking the entrance.

Railly decided she might still make it to the big opening, since she was so small, and kept running. One of the bigger humans screamed, though, and jumped over her and landed on one of the beds! Railly was immediately worried for Shane’s safety, since that was where he was hiding. She heard the bed break, and was worried she might be next.

Then, one of the humans rushed towards her from the doorway, and tried to stomp on her. Because she’d changed directions so quickly to avoid him, however, she just barely avoided being smashed under his foot, which came down right beside her! She now knew her best chance for escape was to get to a crack in the floor or the lower wall. She couldn’t take the time to spread her wings, because that would slow her down too much, so she just kept running.

Rochelle and Shane both yelled at her from escape routes near both them and her, but she could hardly figure out where they were since there was so much movement so close by. She was momentarily relieved that Shane was still okay, but was now concentrating on her next escape route.

Railly was hoping to quickly climb the leg of a stationary human in front of her, and then she could jump off that person and start flying without slowing down. Unfortunately, the human raised its foot just as Railly got to it, so she tried to climb that human’s other leg. The human was too quick for her, though, and now jumped onto a nearby bed.

She was once again afraid of being squished under a foot, so she turned and ran away from the bed and the wall behind that human, because it and another had taken refuge on that bed.

Railly was now surrounded and couldn’t figure out where to go. She couldn’t see or hear her family, and didn’t have time to search. In a blind panic she ran for the main door again, and accidentally ran directly underneath another large person, who also tried to stomp on her! She scurried past everyone, and they didn’t try to stop her. She was almost to the door when she suddenly noticed it was closed, and in front of it was the boy who had hugged the deer.

"Yay!" she thought. "The one who likes animals! Maybe I can talk with him and we can sort this all out!"

Railly looked up at him as he raised a big long thing over his head. He was staring at her as he did this, and she became afraid again. She couldn’t hide—there was nothing close enough! She couldn’t escape—he was moving too fast and the thing was long! She decided to ask him for help, and made her voice as loud as possible as she screamed, “HELP ME!!” as her tiny eyes and long antennae appealed to him for help.

It was too late, though, and the axe swung down and chopped her in two. It was so fast she didn’t really feel anything except for the ground bounce around her. She was confused, and tried to run again, but then felt tired and went to sleep.

All her family screamed in terror and rage at the green-headed boy, but no human seemed to hear. The roaches all quickly left, as the humans gathered around Railly’s tiny corpse and talked. Fortunately, her husband Daimion and her children weren’t around to see this. Sadly, all the roaches were used to death, but they weren’t prepared for this! It was so unprovoked!

The humans were left behind, and Gideon did not say he’d told them so. Everyone was grateful for that. Unfortunately, now they had to tell Daimion and their children what had happened. Most importantly, they had to move everyone away from here until they could chase the humans away, or find a new home.

Lal and Brandon stayed at the cabin, hoping to retrieve Railly’s remains for a proper burial, but the rest raced towards the edge of the forest where the rest of their family were hiding.

They told their family what had happened, and the roaches unused to the humans were sad, angry, and afraid. The McDonny’s roaches had suggested, and they all now agreed, to move to the small cave near McDonny’s until they could learn to live around people. Lilac and Frank wanted to hold a wake first, before they left, and they all knew that there was a lot of food in the big building.

Guided by the McDonny’s roaches, for they knew humans best, they set out to steal food so they could celebrate the life of Railly. When they arrived, the only human in sight was stirring lots of food in a big tub, so they quickly planned on how to carry food back to their safe place at the edge of the woods.

Together, several got under a convenient circle of thick bread, and were about to haul it away when it was picked up and placed on another surface. They still had a good hold of it, so they stayed still and waited for the human to leave. Then they’d find a different piece of bread.

That’s when they heard all the humans entering the building. “Darn it!” muttered Rochelle under her breath. “Keep an eye on them, and we’ll get away as soon as we can,” she said to the rest.

They stayed still, but very soon their floor moved, and soon afterwards a blob of food, dished out by the human who was stirring it, came down on their bread. They were all startled, and couldn’t help but jump some in reaction to the sudden added weight.

“Stay still!” warned Gideon, who was bravely still helping them. Lilac and Frank were beginning to panic, but stayed still after Gid’s warning. Too late, unfortunately.

"Um, I hate to complain on the first day, but I think mine just moved," the human getting the food complained to the human serving it to her.

“Run!” shouted Rochelle, as she jumped away from the food. Fortunately, all the roaches had been keeping a close eye on the humans closest to them, and they all got away just in time! The one serving the food had smashed their bread and slop on top with a mallet! Well, darn it! Fortunately, the sudden splatter covered their escapes!

They grouped together again on the filthy floor, and hid in the filthy corners and edges against the walls. Soon they found a rejected blob of food on the floor. It was under the table where the humans were eating, and it was another entire circle of bread with goop on top. It seemed to have been carefully placed there by one of the humans at the table.

After thinking about it for a moment, they decided to grab it while they could. Together Rochelle, Gideon, Lilac, Frank, Shane and Colette crawled under the food, and with a lot of almost running into each other and not being sure where they were going, they carried it out the door. The humans didn’t seem to notice them, or the loss of their food, so they kept on going.

Eventually, with some extra help, they got the food to their hiding place. There was so much food there, that everyone filled up. Of course, some weren’t hungry, which was understandable.

Brandon and Lal got Railly's remains to their hiding place, and they wrapped her in a leaf with a large chunk of their funereal feast and placed her under some leaves under a flowering shrub.

Daimion and Railly’s kids tackle-hugged him in sorrow, determined that he was going to survive this devastating loss. They told him that together, ALL of Lilac and Frank’s family would know how to survive around humans. That way they could all return home, some day.

Everyone bonded a lot during Railly’s wake, and they became one close family.

For the next two days they traveled together to the small cave in the hill, and then taught everyone how to navigate it. For the next several days after that, trips were made to McDonny’s for food, introductions and training. All the McDonny’s roaches were saddened by the loss of Railly. She’d seemed to have an innate understanding of human and roach behavior, and she’d been such a great role model that many of her siblings had taken up her role of greeter.

Soon every newcomer was fluent in human, and they were quick learners of how to stay hidden when humans were in the vicinity, too. They learned everything they needed to know, and many were ready to go back home. Most of Daimion and Railly’s children wanted to live here, and forget about the other place, but some wanted to be with their father no matter where he went. Daimion wanted to go back to his childhood home, where life was simpler and quieter, and he could continue to teach his family how to stay safe from humans.

During their stay, they learned that another band of rogue roaches were looking for a home away from the McDonny’s area. They told that bunch about what had happened to Railly and that they should stay away, but the smallish band of a hundred or so wanted to go to the cabins with them anyway.

Many of Frank and Lilac’s family wanted to stay here, but the older parents missed the peace and quiet of their old home. It was an exciting area with more food than they’d ever seen, and lots of other families of roaches to play with, though. Everyone was going to be okay. Even Daimion seemed to be less angry than before, mostly due to his caring kids, who made sure at least one of them was with him, or at least nearby, all the time.

Talking about all the good times with Railly seemed to help some, and being here brought back fun memories. Daimion even wanted to learn to be a greeter, like Railly had been, but found that tactics and strategy were more his field. He learned more about Railly and group management from Gideon, and enjoyed telling stories of his happy home life before the humans arrived. Daimion became more and more his former self, but always had a hint of sadness about him.

Soon they were ready to return to the cabins and try to enjoy life there again. They were going to plague those invaders once they figured out a workable strategy.

Cockroach characters:

Rochelle – main female character and bold leader

Daimion – Rochelle’s equally adventurous brother

GoldenShane – Rochelle’s thoughtful and wise brother

Lal – Rochelle’s shy, cautious sister and best friend

Lilac – Rochelle and siblings’ mom

Frank – Rochelle and siblings’ dad

Railly – the friendly young roachette that greeted them at the restaurant

Colette – Railly’s aunt who helps teach the young

Gideon – the wise elder of Railly’s family

Rhonda – Railly’s fun and playful sister, and Lulu’s best friend

Lulu – Railly’s happy-go-lucky brother, and Rhonda’s best friend

Brandon – a handsome young scout

Toady - rotund sibling of Rochelle's

Couples:

Rochelle and Gideon

Daimion and Railly

Lal and Brandon

Shane and Colette

The Sharks' Tale

Growing Up

The sharks were new to their leafy world, having been born recently, and were still getting used to everything. One of the baby sharks was agitated, since she hadn’t eaten since she’d been born. She didn’t realize she was hungry, and charged after a nearby fish since the hunger was making her angry. It worked! She felt much better, and the fish tasted good, besides! She began hunting for more.

While she was exploring, she saw another fish about her size and decided to taste it, too. She was sneaking up on it, but it “heard” her, turned to face her, and opened its mouth at her! She knew she could take it and opened her mouth at it as she swam towards it. They collided mouth-to-mouth.

“Ouch! My teeth!” she cried, as she watched some of her teeth flutter and waggle down to the ocean bed. Then she looked up at her opponent, and saw that he was also watching his teeth shimmy downwards. She suddenly noticed that both groups of their escaping teeth looked exactly the same, and she looked back up at her equally surprised foe.

“Aack! Oww!” he yelled at the same time as she did. He looked at her face and saw she was looking down. He followed her gaze and saw their teeth fluttering down to the watery floor. He also noticed that they all looked alike, then looked back at her, feeling just as surprised as she looked.

Instead of giving up and going their separate ways, the two of them began swimming around each other in circles, sizing each other up. Soon they were speeding around kelp stalks and leaves, trying to nip each other’s tails. As they circled, they both realized that they were equally fast, the same size, and very determined.

Finally they each realized that they couldn’t take their opponent, so they stopped circling and faced each other. They stared at each other for a few moments more before the girl said to him, “Wanna catch some food together?”

He paused to consider, but then quickly nodded in agreement. They wouldn’t have to face off anymore, and they could both eat something. It suddenly occurred to him, too, that he might have found a friend. He liked the idea of having a companion to share time and adventures with, and they could both swim around telling each other jokes and stories. He couldn’t think of any stories or jokes to tell her, yet, since he was only three days old, but he was sure they’d find something to talk about.

“Nice to meet you,” he formally greeted her. He then paused for a moment, wondering what to say. “Let’s eat!” he then ventured enthusiastically, enjoying their new relationship.

Together they began looking for fish inside their kelp forest, and soon they came across an entire school of them. The sharks watched as the teacher began showing her students what was good to eat.

“See this?” the teacher asked, as she pointed at a slug on a leaf with one of her fins. “It’s slow and delicious, but a bit slimy. Avoid eating its shell.”

Her students were all rapt with attention.

“What’re those over there?” asked one observant fish, while pointing with his fin at the two sharks.

The teacher turned and looked, and stated, “Those are two baby bull sharks. Avoid them because they have sharp teeth and love to eat fish.”

The entire class “oohed” and “awwed”, and edged closer to the sharks to see them better. This made the twosome uneasy since the whole crowd of fish was almost encircling them now.

“So, um...” began the boy shark to the fish teacher, “do you know where a shark school might be?” He figured this might make the teacher stay in charge of her students, and keep her class away from his newfound friend and himself.

The teacher pondered for a moment, and her class stayed where they were, waiting expectantly for their teacher’s next words of wisdom.

“Well,” began the sole adult fish, “all the schools move around constantly, since there’s so much to see and learn. But I think I saw a school of sharks about your size over by the big pile of rocks. That-ta way,” she said as she pointed in the general direction of the rock pile.

“What kind of fish are you all?” asked the female shark out of curiosity.

“We’re wrasse,” replied the font of wisdom. “Big wrasse sometimes eat your kind, so don’t go ha-wrassing wrasse,” she added with a grin. Her class and the young sharks just looked at her with blank expressions.

The teacher just sighed, then continued, “You’re safe from this bunch behind me. Unless you make their parents mad. My advice? Don’t bug bunches of fish, or big ones. You’ll be fine. Go on, now!” With that, she concluded her inclusive lesson, and returned to teaching her own exclusive group.

The two possible siblings looked in the direction of the pile of rocks they’d been directed to, and began swimming observantly through their home forest towards it.

“Do we really want to go to school?” asked the girl.

“We’d better learn a few things before we go adventuring too much,” he responded. “After all, look how much we learned from that other school!”

“Yeah, I guess so. But if I get bored I’m outta there! I’m still hungry. How about you?”

“I’m still hungry, too, but I’d like to learn where and what I should try to eat. I don’t want to be food for any wrasse or whatever.”

She sighed. “I suppose it’s worth trying.”

So together they swam over to the rock pile listening for any schools in session nearby.

A school of fish they didn’t recognize swam by, and the girl asked them, “Hey, have you seen a school of us around?”

The school and teacher quickly vanished into the kelp forest without saying a word to them.

“Didn’t they take off kinda quick?” she asked.

“Like, fer sure!” he replied, while looking at the spot where the passing class had vanished.

“Well, let’s look around some. Then we’ll go looking for food if they don’t show up.”

“’Kay,” he answered.

Together they swam around near the rock pile, and finally came across the school they were looking for.

“Hooray!” he cried! "Hopefully we’ll make some new friends", he thought to himself. "And eat!"

She rolled her eyes at him, but they both swam over to the group. They stayed together in the class for the rest of the day, and their teacher, a larger bull shark, fed the class midday with a “wild” fish. Then she was content to stay with the school.

They made new shark friends, but the two of them were tight from their brief adventures, and they learned several hunting techniques, what to eat and where. They also learned to avoid all big fish.

“Anything big enough or with a lot of teeth can eat you,” their kindly teacher, Alfan, said in passing. “Listen to your instincts, too. If you’re unsure, let your instincts be your guide.”

There were very few large fish that ventured into their kelp forest, and when they did, Alfan had told them, it was often to give birth or to find food. “Either way,” he had stated calmly, “just keep away from them.”

A few days later the same school of wrasse they’d met before came to visit.

“Hi, Lady Wrasse!” called the girl shark.

“Kids,” said Alfan to his students, “these are wrasse. They’re also called “Cleaning Station Fish”. They’re here to teach us about themselves, and how they help others. Today, they’re here to clean our skin of parasites. They will also eat those annoying bits of food that get stuck in your teeth.”

The wrasse teacher turned towards the shark school and recognized the little bull sharks. “Kids, remember those two sharks from a few days back?” The little wrasse did, mostly. “If I’m not mistaken, the little girl who greeted us was one of them.”

“Yup! That was me and my friend!” she grinned, turning to look at her boy-friend.

He swam up next to his girl-friend and said, “Hi, again,” as he waved his pectoral fin at the wrasse.

She nodded to them both. “Will you volunteer for our demonstration, little lady?” she asked the enthusiastic girl. “My class will show you how they help to keep you clean and healthy.”

“Awesome cool!” exclaimed the girl shark as she sped over to the wrasse, then looked to Alfan for instructions.

Alfan nodded to his volunteer student, then the wrasse teacher, and said, “Everyone, this is Nico Wrasse and her students. They’re here to show us how they work. Also, never attack a wrasse if you enjoy being healthy.”

“Welcome!” greeted Alfan’s school of sharks, as he’d schooled them to do.

“Nice!” commented one shark, admiring the wrasse.

“Kewlio!” enthused another, glad to be meeting other types of fish.

“Are they nice?” asked a timid one at the back of the class.

“Wrasse are everyone’s friends,” assured Alfan confidently.

When the sharks were ready to watch, Alfan ushered them into good positions so they could see and learn without being in the way of their guests.

“Ready?” Nico asked her little volunteer, when everyone had finally settled down.

“Sure am!” she responded with her usual enthusiasm.

“Okay, class, you know what to do,” instructed Nico.

Cautiously, her two dozen or so kids got to work cleaning the girl’s gills, teeth and skin, while she stayed as still as possible. She didn’t want to accidentally hurt anyone and embarrass herself or her kindly teacher.

“It felt like a lot of really nice, gentle kisses, and all of my itches are gone!” the perfectly clean little shark enthused when it was all over.

Soon, the whole class wanted the wrasse to work on them. Everyone really enjoyed the experience and made several new friends. At the end of the day, the wrasse were stuffed full of food, and the sharks felt incredible, since they were now essentially parasite-free.

“That’s totes kewlio!” exclaimed the girl shark. “I wanna learn how to do that!”

There was a chorus of “me too’s” from the little bulls.

“Sorry,” replied the wrasse wrangler as she looked at them. “I’m afraid shark mouths can’t pick small things off of tender skin the way these guys’ mouths can. And they make it feel like a massage! They’ve gotten really good, and might graduate soon.”

“Whoopie!” “woot!” and “yay!!” exclaimed her class. Their teacher laughed happily and smiled at them.

“Where do we find you when we need a bath?” asked Alfan for his class’ benefit.

“Any quiet area on the seafloor near coral reefs or rocky shores,” replied Nico, with her attentive class murmuring agreement around her.

“Thank you!” the properly mannered sharks responded.

Alfan smiled at his group proudly, and respectfully said, “Thank you so very much, Nico! It’s been a wonderful lesson, as always. We hope to see you again, before too long!” He then said to the junior wrasse, “You’ve done a wonderful job, and, as you can see, you are greatly appreciated! We all hope you’ve had a great time here, too.”

“Like, this was scary at first, cos, like, ya know, you’re sharks,” began one of the wrasse kids, “but you’re all very nice!”

“Yeah!”

“What she said.”

“Exactly!” came the wrassponses.

“You’ve all made me very proud!” Nico gushed towards her class. “I’m very honored to be your teacher,” she concluded as she and her class moved back towards the kelp forest.

From that day on, the little sharks all wanted to get to know their neighbors better. They generally learned that the colorful and spiny fish were the ones to keep a good distance from, and the ones that blended into the background were good to eat, but hard to catch. The best fish to eat were the small, flighty ones in the open waters.

Alfan kept them all safe and well-fed. He also told them that his friends called him a fan of everyone and everything, since he was so very kind, and that was how he was chosen to be a teacher.

“I’m really glad I’m your teacher. You’re a lot of fun, and it’s great being able to see the world anew through your eyes,” he told them.

They all told him that they loved that he was their teacher, too, mostly because he truly cared about them, and because he was a great teacher and made learning fun. They were a very happy group.

During playtime one day, they were cavorting among the waves. The ever-enthusiastic girl was jumping as high as she could, and clearing the waves by a good foot.

“You look amazing doing that!” her friendly male shadow enthused. “All the water spray just sparkles around you, and follows you in tiny rainbows! I want to call you Spray, or Sparkle, or Rainbow! Everyone else is getting cool names like Rocket and Pearl and Ranger and Sunslicer. Nibbler might want to change her name, though. She’s too picky with her food. I want a cool name, too!” he whined.

The girl could tell he was really emotional about this, since he was usually so quiet. So she said, “Spray sounds like an octopus to me, with its ink; Sparkle sounds like I just want to look at myself or shiny things like Pearl, .... and Rainbow?? That makes me sound like the sky! Although, thanks! Rainbows are really pretty.”

She paused to think about this for a bit. “Maybe Sprinkle? That sounds like sparkle but with less of the staring at shiny things. And we still get the rainbow aspect. Let’s see how that works out, kay?”

The boy said the word out loud. “Sprinkle. I like that! It sounds gentle and pretty, but sort of powerful, too. Now we need a name for me.”

“Hmm,” said Sprinkle, thinking. “How about you do stuff, and we’ll see what we come up with.”

“Alright,” he agreed. He looked around for something to do, and decided to play in the waves by racing along the tall parts as they rolled along.

“Watch this!” he called. He then raced along inside the hump of the wave he’d chosen. He had decided to imitate Sprink’s jumping, and his plan was to surprise everyone by jumping from one wave to the next. The height of the wave and his speed were going to make it look like he was jumping extra high over the trough of the waves, he hoped.

He did a fantastic job staying in the wave roll, and he jumped amazingly well and high over the trough. While he was in the air, though, aiming for the next rolling wave, he suddenly realized just how high in the air he was, and how quickly he was traveling! He’d never been this far above the water before, and started to panic.

“Aaaaiiiiiieeeee!!!!” he squealed, hoping that no one down below could hear his quiet scream of panic. He knew he had to quickly gather his wits, though, so he could hit the water without hurting himself. He faced the wave he wanted, and waggled for it! He hit the top of the wave and surfed down the far side, then ‘splooped’ into the base of the trough.

Fortunately they were not near the shallows, or the young shark might have hit bottom. As it was, everyone was awestruck by the beauty of his leap, and amazed by his landing. They were also all laughing really hard from that incredible sound of his entry back into the water!

Many of his classmates began to call him, “Sploop”, but he complained that everyone had enjoyed his leap, so they should call him something that brought his flight to mind, like Sunslicer’s, instead of a certain bodily function. He was embarrassed, but he took the teasing good-naturedly. Now, however, he was almost desperate to get a good name, if for no other reason than to avoid being called Sploop for the rest of his life.

Sprink was determined that she not be connected to that name, either. She knew that the alliteration of “Sprink and Sploop” alone could create a lifetime burden for the both of them.

“C’mon, bro! Let’s see you do something name-worthy!” she cajoled him the next day. “We’ve gotta change it before it sticks!” She then realized what she’d said and guffawed.

The boy glared at her, but then began laughing too. “It is kinda funny,” he agreed. “But I don’t want it to stick, either.”

He swam around thinking, and finally came back to her. “I felt like I was flying yesterday, way high in the sky. It was magical! But then, when I got scared for a second, that’s when I lost my focus. It was really cool sliding down the back of that wave, though. I was kinda surfing like a flying fish above that wave, until I ‘splooped.’ Flyboy sounds too flighty, Magic sounds odd, Sunslicer’s already taken, Surf sounds great, Surfslicer, too.... but folks might keep associating my surfing with my sploop.”

Sprink saw he was getting dejected, so she intervened. “Your leap was wonderful! I think we were all pretty amazed, since you got so high. We’ve gotta find something that the others won’t associate with the sploop, though, like you said.”

They swam around together for a while, away from the others, then finally went to Alfie for advice. He listened to their tale of woe, and then offered this sage advice:

“They might always call you that, since you flew so beautifully and landed so incredibly ..... interestingly. But you never have to accept that as your given name. Just ignore them if they call you by it. It shouldn’t be long before they associate that sound with that memory, instead of you specifically. Meanwhile, if you do something else spectacularly, they’ll start giving you new nicknames because of that. Then maybe you’ll have a variety to choose from.”

“Way sweet!” Sprink enthused, brushing along Alfie’s side in the equivalent of a shark hug. “We knew you’d be able to help us! Thank you!”

Not-Sploop looked up at his brilliantly kind teacher admiringly. “Thank you!” he managed to get out, trying to avoid crying in front of them both. He tried to compose himself and think of another amazing thing to do in front of his classmates.

The other two watched him sympathetically, and suddenly Sprink asked Alfie, “Any ideas?”

Alfie paused in thought for a bit, and then asked the boy, “Do you really enjoy doing anything special? Like something you’re really talented at?”

“Umm... Well, I’m usually kinda quiet compared to Sprink, here, so I kinda blend into the background. Sometimes I surprise folks by just moving or talking, when they didn’t realize I was there.”

Alfan chuckled good-naturedly. “Everyone’s quiet compared to Sprinkle!”

Sprink had to chuckle about that, too, and their good spirits raised the boy out of his funk. He smiled at them both.

Their teacher continued, “When I teach ambush hunting, maybe you could appear out of nowhere and surprise the class as much as the prey. Just be quiet in the background like usual. Does that sound good?”

“Yes,” replied the kid, with a mischievous smile. His spirits were restored, and their newly made conspiracy plan made him feel remarkable.

Ambush hunting was a few days later, and Alfan took the boy to the side that morning so they could call him something other than the despised name.

“How about Shadow?” asked Alfie.

“Hmm. Okay,” he responded unenthusiastically. “It is descriptive, but it’s sorta similar to the other name.”

“That’s okay,” replied the teacher. “We want them to be amazed enough to come up with their own new nicknames for you.”

“You’re right, of course,” he smiled back at the teacher, with more spunk in his words than before. “I’m ready.”

“Good,” said Alfan quietly as he moved towards the class again. “Alright, everyone! Are we all ready for some grub? Today is the day we learn to hunt big fish and seals. “You’re not big enough to hunt them on your own, yet, but there are ways to do it so that you don’t get hurt. It’s a bright day, so you can each see how to do it. Now, watch me.”

With that, their mentor stopped moving. He was now half-hidden in some kelp and was looking up from near the sandy bottom, waiting for a prey animal to swim between him and the water’s surface. There was nothing between them and the surface, with bright rays of sunshine piercing the water and playing on the sandy floor. Several became slightly hypnotized by the bright lights, but when a lone fish swam along near the surface and broke the spell, that fish became the only thing they were focused on.

Alfan burst out of his hiding place and rocketed up towards the startled animal. Snap! went his teeth as he hit the animal at full speed. His momentum took him out of the water, along with his catch, and he landed again a moment later with the prey in his jaws. Splash!

He thrashed his prey from side to side, then let it go and swam away from it to a safe distance. They all watched as it twitched once and was still. Then Alfan had lunch. When he finished eating he led them to a different area.

“Now, I’ll tell you each when it’s your turn to do what I did.”

They all scanned the surface for a likely looking candidate. The boy, who was already unnoticed in the back of the group, hid in the shadow and weeds by a small pile of rocks. Soon the teacher saw a viable prey shadow swim above them.

“Shadow!” he called, as he looked up.

Whooom! A sudden blast of movement startled all but two of them, and everyone scattered briefly. When they looked upwards again, there weren’t any figures, so they swam towards the surface to search into the distance for them.

Splash! The sound got their attention, and all eyes turned that way. It was Sploop, with the fish in his mouth! He shook it back and forth, the way they’d been taught, then he left it so he could turn and see if it was dead. It was.

He took his trophy bite from it and swallowed, then said excitedly, “You’ve gotta see the cool cloud right on top of the water!”

Everyone poked their heads up to see the thick fog.

“Whoa!!” said Ranger, awestruck.

“Wicked cool!” exclaimed Sprink.

“Wow!” their teacher quietly said, amazed.

“Oh my scales!” gushed Pearl. “This is so thick we can almost breathe it!” she said as she tried, then coughed.

Sunslicer quietly said in amazement, “Gosh!”

Rocket was silently enjoying the airborne water, too, and suddenly asked, “How high did you go?” to Not-Sploop.

“I was up there so long, I thought I was able to swim in the airy ocean!” he exaggerated slightly. “I couldn’t see how far up I got, though, obviously.”

“That was awesome-amazing!” encouraged Sprink to her bestest buddy.

“Thanks!” he gushed back, becoming slightly embarrassed by all the praise. Then he suddenly got an idea, and asked, “What’s that cloud called, when we can touch it?”

Alfan’s eyes opened a bit wider in realization, then he answered with a grin, “We call it fog. But I’ve heard other teachers call it mist. I don’t know if there’s a difference, though.” He waited expectantly for the response.

The center of attention said to himself, “Fog. Nah, doesn’t sound right. Mist. Mist!” He then turned to everyone and announced, “I’d like to be known as Mist from now on, please!” Then he grinned happily at everyone and continued eating.

“From now on, I shall refer to you as Mist,” intoned Alfan, as he had when each of the others had decided on their names. “Who’s next?” he continued right after, in his regular voice. “We’ll move just a bit, but a few more of you can jump into the fog, too!”

The Capture

The class continued happily, and everyone that wanted to eat, filled up. They became knowledgeable hunters, and never killed unless they were hungry. The days, weeks and months following brought many fun surprises, strengthened their friendships, and saw the sharks growing up more. Finally they were ready to graduate, and were all wondering what to do with their lives. Many wanted to become teachers just like Alfan.

“Like, yo! Sprink!!” called Mist while they were out in a new section of ocean. “Looks like fisherman. Keep an eye out for lines and nets, dudette bro!”

“Yuppers, Bro-kins!” retorted Sprink good-naturedly. They couldn’t help but hear the motor from far off, but all they could really do is try to keep away from where it was and seemed to be headed.

Sadly, Ranger had been finned recently, and they were disgusted by all boaters now. Alfan had told everyone to keep away from those noises as best they could, and never, ever eat things hooked to lines of any sort.

The medium-sized sounding fishing boat was chugging along towards them, so everyone dove down to the bottom, where the noise was muffled some by the vegetation and absorbed by the sandy floor. Sprink and Mist were in a shallow valley, which helped block some of the noise of the boat’s engine.

“Whaddya wanna do after the boat goes by?” asked Sprink. “I’m bored.”

“Well,” replied Mist, “maybe we can play some tag? Or better yet, we can ask Alfie what we should do. He always comes up with something great!”

“Yeah! That’s a great idea,” Sprink responded.

Together they waited for the boat to pass, but instead, it stopped near them. The sharks and other fish stayed hidden, watching to see what would happen next. A heavy thing with a line attached clanked to the ocean floor, and soon after, two things splapped off the boat and started swimming.

“What! The! Heck?!” exclaimed Sprink with some fear.

“Umm... yeah,” Mist echoed.

They watched the swimmers swimming close to the coral and the fish and all the green plants, then the swimmers saw the two sharks watching them. Sprinkle and Mist stayed very still, so as not to make the two swimmers more interested.

“Oh, darnit,” muttered Mist, beginning to panic.

“Maybe we can chase them away,” offered Sprink, while looking to Mist for assistance.

“Not me!” declared Mist resolutely. “They’re big, and there are two of them!”

“Grr!” growled Sprink in frustration. “Fine, then let’s swim away. They don’t seem to be fast swimmers, and we’ll decide what we wan ...”

Just then, they both noticed that they’d been surrounded by a net, so they took off like Rocket could towards Alfan and their friends, hoping to get clear of their unnatural fence. They both got tangled up in it, though, and couldn’t break free. Both sharks saw the panic on Alfie’s face, and on their classmates’, as they were hauled up towards the boat.

“Aaaaaaaaaahh!!” screamed Mist in a panic. “I don’t wanna get finned!!” He continued thrashing, trying to break free, but ended up just tangling himself more firmly in the net.

“Stop panicking and THINK!!” shouted Sprink, near panic herself. She immediately noticed that the net was open on the top, even though they were surrounded on all sides and beneath by it.

“Swim up and fly like you’ve never flown before!” she continued shouting to Mist, as she launched herself upwards towards freedom. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been able to see that the top of the net was gathered together near the boat, since the boat’s winch was hauling the net up and out of the water. Now she was tangled, too.

The boat brought the sharks to the surface, but no farther. The sharks were too panicked and in shock to see what was happening on the boat, but they did notice the movements.

The boat’s crew worked carefully to untangle the young sharks from the net without hurting them. They couldn’t release them fully, however, since they now wanted to place slings underneath each of the sharks and haul them aboard.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!!” screamed Mist, still in a panic and thrashing more.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!!” screamed Sprink, afraid of being finned or eaten alive. She still was trying to figure things out, but was close to going into hysterics like Mist. She was able to notice through her panicked haze, however, that the things on the boat were being gentle with her and Mist. She was watching them without thrashing much, uncertain as to what they wanted from the two of them.

She was beginning to go into shock, though, and didn’t struggle much as the creatures loaded the two of them into the slings, then placed them into separate rectangular-shaped boxes filled with water. They couldn’t move around much, but they were in water again, which was nice.

Mist had gone into shock, and was no longer screaming, although he continued to thrash weakly. Sprink was still trying to figure things out, but wasn’t getting anywhere, so just listened for Mist’s movements inside the box. She knew he was still alive, anyway.

--

Down below, Alfan and the others watched the divers leave with their two fellow sharks, plus a few unlucky other types of fish.

“Stay near me, but stay hidden!” Alfan called to his wards. “I’ll bite them if they come near us!”

Fortunately the divers took little notice of the shark school, and continued capturing little groups of fish. They were careful not to hurt them in any way, though, and all the sharks noticed this, as the small groups of victims were hauled aboard the vessel.

--

Soon afterwards, Sprink and Mist heard the boat’s all too familiar engines start up again, and they began moving. The thrumming was actually somewhat relaxing, so Sprink decided to worry about things again when they got to wherever it was that they were going.

She couldn’t make plans until she saw where they were going to end up, but she wasn’t going anywhere without her bestest buddy. He was going to be her priority, she decided. Once she’d given herself a course of action, her world began to come into focus again. She’d make sure they were both okay, then together they’d decide how to escape and get back home to their friends.

“If I could just stop being afraid for a moment, this could be a great adventure,” she told herself. Now that she thought about it being an adventure, she began to smile about it. “This could be way cool,” she decided.

The boat continued onwards, and Mist finally began to unpanic. “I’m here with Sprink,” he reminded himself gratefully. “I’m not alone, and we’re both okay, so far,” he reassured himself. “They’re not gonna fin us, cos they would’a done it already, if that’s what they wanted from us!” he concluded, releasing a lot of his anxiety in a huge sigh with that realization. “Now I just need to find Sprink,” he thought, beginning to worry himself again. He began to cry.

Sprink heard Mist crying, and shrieked, “Mist!!” to him, so that he’d know she was there. She was going to call to him some more, but hadn’t realized how very confined these boxes were! She decided to be extremely quiet for the rest of their journey, since the confined shriek had left her mostly deaf. She knew she’d be fine again, soon, but her ears were ringing for the moment.

Mist had heard Sprink’s shriek, since their boxes were side-by-side, and he called back to her so she’d know where he was. His knowing that she was there for him brought him out of his funk, and he tried to reassure her that they’d both be just fine, since these creatures were treating them okay.

He waited for her response, but didn’t worry much when she didn’t answer. He knew that she knew he was there. He felt confident now that they could get through anything together, so he was just going to wait until they were reunited. Then they could make their escape plans.

--

“We’re going to follow them!” Alfan declared when the boat’s engines started up again. “Carefully and at a distance, though. We’ll get them back.”

All of the nearly year-old sharks followed their beloved leader without hesitation. They immediately understood that Alfie was willing to risk his life in defense of them. Also, without it being said, he trusted every one of them enough to be able to handle the upcoming situations.

“If I tell you to swim, though, you swim for your lives, and don’t look back until you’re certain that you’re safe! Got it?” Alfan commanded them, with anger in his voice, when he turned back to them momentarily. “I’m not losing any more of you to these horrible monsters!” With that, he resumed following the boat holding his two students.

Rocket and Pearl were bestest buddies, too, and looked at each other questioningly. They weren’t completely surprised by Alfie’s anger, but at the same time, he’d never once raised his voice to any of them before.

Pearl gathered all of her courage and stated determinedly, “We’re with you!”

Rocket looked at her with a bit of surprise, but then echoed her sentiment with, “Yeah! We’re with you, Alfan! All the way!” Rocket had a feeling of fear then, but he knew that he’d want someone to help rescue him if he were ever sharknapped.

All of Alfan’s students were determined to help, even though all of them were smart enough to be scared. They’d all been there to help comfort Ranger as he died not so long ago, and everyone missed him a lot. They wanted their pair of friends back as much as they wished they could bring back Ranger.

--

The boat chugged onwards steadily, until it finally reached their destination. Soon they began their offload. The men were as careful offloading them as getting them onboard, so the sharks were less afraid this time.

Sprink watched as the humans carefully slipped the sling under her while staying away from her dangerous teeth. She wasn’t afraid now, just a little mad and curious at the same time. Soon the sling started lifting her out of the water, so she gulped as much water as she could before it was out of her reach. She held her last mouthful of water as an oxygen reserve, then prepared to scout the area for an escape route.

“Wow!!” exclaimed Sprink, pushing the last of the water through her gills. She was now high up in the air above the docks, being transferred to a waiting truck. “This is awesome!!” she squealed in exhilaration, as she flew through the air with no effort. “Wheeee!!” she giggled happily as she came down for the landing, enjoying her adventure immensely.

She got a very good look at the humans who transferred her into the truck’s water-box. They were all being careful not to alarm her by moving fast or speaking too loudly, and she decided that she could like these creatures. She still wanted to go home, though. She couldn’t escape the sling or the box, she realized, so she just breathed some more water and waited for Mist to join her in the neighboring box.

When Mist’s turn came to fly in Sprink’s wake, he was still somewhat afraid, so he stayed rather still. The humans got the sling on him quickly, and soon he was up high above the docks. He was so awestruck by the experience that he couldn’t speak. All he could do was to take it all in, and try to memorize every millisecond of his flying above everything. “Wait’ll I tell Rocket!” he thought. He quickly realized he couldn’t, and tried to remember everything so he could tell them all about it when he did return home. He began to cry again, but the sad and happy tears were all mixed together, and he couldn’t decide if he was more happy or sad.

As Mist took in the incredible vista, he noticed the human beings surrounding a rectangular box. He looked to see what they were doing, and suddenly spotted Sprink in the rectangular tub of water. He almost called out to her, but realized that no one could hear him up here. The whole world up here was loud! It was a different type of loud than the waters’, but still loud.

Here, Mist was noticing the humans had voices and were all talking to each other at once, it seemed. The sounds of the thing that was holding him made squeaking and grinding sounds, the many boxes and crates made thumps when they were being moved by other things that roared and beeped, the waves were hitting the boat and the shore and making glurps and sizzling noises, and there were many bird calls as flocks foraged on and around the docks.

Mist was a good listener, and was taking all this in when he came in for a landing, too. “’Bout time,” he thought, since his gills were beginning to dry, but he kept reliving his flight through the air while they were driven to their next destination.

His first action as he sank into his fresh tub of water was to breathe. “Ahh! That feels really nice,” he thought as he took in several breaths. His second action was to thrash and call, “Sprink,” since they were once again in side-by-side boxes.

Sprink heard him and answered back, “I’m here.” She said this a lot more quietly than last time, since she was sure he could hear her just fine. She’d seen that their tubs were right next to each other on her sightseeing trip, too.

They had both noticed that they were in tubs on board a long rectangle with wheels. They’d been watching these trucks move in and out of the area, so they knew they were soon to be on the move again.

--

The school continued to tail the boat at a distance, and eventually they came to a busy boat area. No one wanted to follow their target boat into the noisy melee, but Alfan made note out loud that none of the boats were fishing in any way. If the boats had been slowing down or trailing any chunks of food in their wake, Alfie would never have let his class follow them any further, but the boats weren’t fishing, so Alfan and his class stayed near the bottom of the inlet as they continued their quiet chase.

Finally their prey chugged to a stop at a busy dock where many boats were docked. Alfie and his crew hid under the docks, watching what they could of all the activities going on. At last, several of them heard and saw Sprink being lifted above the boat.

The shark school couldn’t miss hearing Sprink’s happy squeals, but she couldn’t seem to hear any of them screaming back to her. Now they were hoping Mist would be going with her, wherever that was. No one knew what to do next, so they looked to Alfan for guidance.

Their teacher was watching where Sprink was being loaded, and was studying the truck she was being loaded into.

“There’s Mist!” called Pearl.

Mist was obviously moving around, so the class’ tension eased, somewhat. They all watched as he was loaded into the same truck as Sprink.

Then the whole class copied Alfan’s staring at the truck and trying to memorize the markings. This wasn’t too difficult, since there were lots of marine animals painted on the sides of the truck, but they couldn’t figure out what their teacher was trying to see.

“Why are you still staring at it?” asked Rocket.

“I’m trying to decide how to rescue them,” moaned Alfan to his students.

“If they drive along the shore we can follow them,” ventured Pearl. “After all, if they have all those animals in that much water, they must be near the shore so they can keep all that water fresh for them. And they’ve got to be able to feed them, too.”

Everyone stared at Pearl for a few moments. Even Alfan. They’d never heard her say more than 5 or so words at a time before, and it was usually in response to something. She was actually quieter than Mist when it came to talking. And now they realized she was kind of smart, too.

Alfan hugged her and Rocket did, too.

“Awesome, Girlfriend!” Rocket complimented her. All her other classmates did, too.

They watched as the truck’s engine started and the truck moved away from the docks. Fortunately, Pearl’s guess had been correct, and the truck stayed near the shore. It vanished from their views, occasionally, but reappeared before long. Several miles down the shore, it came to a building with the same marine animal pictures on it as the truck had. This was obviously the truck’s home, so this was where they knew they were going to try to break their friends free.

--

Neither Sprink nor Mist could see anything, but they weren’t surprised when the truck’s engine started. They didn’t mind when they started moving, since they were already used to the movement and engine of the boat, but both were hoping they wouldn’t end up very far from their home waters. They were each sure of where the other was, so they just relaxed and put up with it. They were a little bit surprised when they went up and down the hills, but after a couple of them, the little fish got bored again.

Soon they came to a halt, and the pair just waited for the humans to unload them again. Nothing changed about their transfers except for the view. This time Mist was the first out. Naturally the first thing he looked for was Sprink. He saw her box, but couldn’t see her for all the people around him, so he looked around to figure out any escape routes.

“See ya soon, Sprinkle!” he called as he was being lifted out of his box. He heard a thump from her box in response, so he knew she’d heard him. He began looking around and saw no obvious escape route at the moment, so Mist simply took everything in.

He was lifted in his sling, and saw a big tank of water with some decorations, like coral and kelp in it, next to the truck. He saw a few more big tanks side-by-side along the aisle, and saw some other sea-animals in them, but they were each in separate big tanks. As Mist was lowered into the empty but decorated tank, he hoped that Sprink would be able to join him. He swam out of the sling into the tank when he was deep enough, and then watched the sling rise up out of the water and move back towards the truck.

Mist watched the humans grab hold of the sling and bend over Sprink’s box. He didn’t hear thrashing or squealing, so he had to assume that she was fine. He watched them lift her and swing her over to his tank, and then started watching the machine that was carrying her. He began to concentrate on how the lifting machine was working, and noticed that every time the human inside the machine moved a stick, the machine changed what it was doing.

Now the ever-observant shark began studying the machine operator, and watching how the person was manipulating the multiple sticks to make the machine work. He then realized that the humans were working inside all of the machines!

“Were the machines in charge of the humans,” Mist asked himself, “or were the humans in control of the machines?" It was beginning to look like they might be here long enough to find out.

The boy shark then changed his attention back to his bestest gal friend, and watched as she landed gently in the water. He then kept watching as the ropes on one side of the sling got longer and let Sprink gently roll and slide into the water. Mist quickly looked back to the machine operator and saw that the person inside the machine was being directed by one of the people near the truck. The same truck that they’d just arrived in!

Mist became just a little bit afraid again, then, because he could easily understand that the humans were alive, but the machines didn’t look like living creatures at all. The machines might have minds of their own, and were just working with the humans to do something nasty to them. Mist didn’t want to cry just then, since he felt he needed to be strong for his gal, but he really needed a hug, so he went and rubbed against Sprink’s side a few times for reassurance.

--

While Sprink was being lifted out of her truck-box, she was becoming annoyed. Not only had she been sharknapped away from her family and her home, but then she and Mist had been plopped into boxes for a long ride on the boat. She couldn’t complain about the aerial views when she was moved to the truck, but to be honest, she was beginning to get seasick on the boat, and got a lot more seasick in the truck. She’d rather be back at home without those beautiful sights, and with all of her friends.

Now that she was being moved somewhere else by the sling, she wasn’t sure if she was glad about it or furious. When she’d answered Mist’s call to her earlier by thumping her tail on the box, it had released some of her frustration, but made her even more aware than before about how confined that box was, so they’d better not be putting her into another small box for another ride anywhere! She was ready to turn her stomach inside out.

Once she got to see the rows of big tanks, though, and spotted Mist watching her from inside the nearest one, she was ready for this ride to be over so she could be with him. She was focused mainly on him during her journey to his tank, and saw that he was watching the things going on behind her. He looked quite comfortable, even though he wasn’t looking happy, and was looking very intensely at whatever it was he was watching.

Sprinkle couldn’t see behind her because of the sling, and obviously couldn’t turn to look, either. She was going to have to ask him once she arrived what it was that was so interesting to him. It suddenly occurred to her that maybe they weren’t the only sharks from their group that had been captured! “Nooooo!!” she silently screamed. “Everyone else had just better be safe, or I’ll take a bite out of one of these people!”

She was finally over her dude’s tank, and was looking forward to some lovely, quiet, still water so that her head and stomach could calm down. A nice nap would do wonders for her, but first she HAD to ask Mist what was going on. He was finally watching her, and looking worried.

She came down into the tank and water gently, which she was very grateful for, and gently sloshed out of the sling. She took several calming gulps of refreshing water, and immediately felt some better. She then noticed that her buddy seemed sad and anxious. He came over to her, and without saying anything, rubbed against her side in a hug a few times.

Sprinkle decided to let him calm down first, and tell her his news in his own time. Meanwhile, she was watching what she could through the see-through material to where the humans were doing things. There were many of them going in all directions, but mostly they were packing up all the stuff that she and her bro had been brought here in.

Sprink watched as the humans put the sling into another box filled with liquid. Then they dumped the boxes of water that had kept both of them alive. The water flowed until it disappeared into a hole in the floor. After that, the humans sprayed the boxes and the truck with a snake that spit an endless stream of water. That flowed too, until it also disappeared into the same hole. Then the truck was full? So the people stopped spraying it. Then the last two people got into the truck and drove away, and the whole area got quiet.

Mist had calmed down during this time, and was watching the “outside world”, too. He just looked somewhat sad, now, and Sprink tried to help him with a rub-hug of her own. When she turned back towards him, he seemed ready to speak.

“I’m so glad you’re here with me!” Mist told her with another hug.

“Me too!” she replied with a more intense hug in return.

Then he said, “I was watching all those people and the machine that lifted us up and into this water. Those people and the machines work together!”

“Yeah, I know,” said Sprink, not understanding what Mist was trying to say.

“But, ya know, I’m wondering if the machines are alive and are telling the people what to do? What do you think?” Mist enquired of her with barely restrained worry.

“Why do you think that?” she asked.

“Well, because they, ya know, work together,” Mist stated, still distraught.

Sprink thought for a moment, putting together her thoughts on the matter.

“Well, here’s the way I see it,” she began with confidence. “Those humans speak to each other with as much meaning as you and I do. We look at each other, and move around with each other. We talk to each other, and we play. We pay attention to one other, and react when any of us are in distress or happy, angry or sad or hurt. That’s how the humans are. They worked together to get us into and out of those nets and onto that boat. Same with getting us into those slings and onto that truck, and then again, here.”

Mist murmured agreement and kept watching and listening to his gal-bro.

“But those machines?” Sprink continued, “Did you even once hear them talk to each other? Sure, they all made noises, but did the other machines ever sound like they were talking, and then listening to the others? I didn’t hear it, and they were blasted loud! And the humans inside the machines? Did you hear either the humans having a conversation with the machines or vice versa? Me neither. And finally, now that there are no humans in sight, what are the machines doing? Talking? Eating? Playing?” She paused and waited for a response from him.

“Nothing,” ventured her bro. “Totes nothing!” he repeated with more gusto and a grin.

“That’s right,” she stated with certainty. “If those machines were alive at all, they’d be taking it easy and lying down, or going away to get something to eat, or else just having a nice, quiet conversation amongst themselves. So we don’t have to worry about them, unless a human is working with them,” she concluded.

Her Bro-friend tackle-hugged her so forcefully that they nearly hit the back wall of their enclosure.

“I love you, gal-friend genius of mine!” he exploded emotionally, as he began swimming in fast circles around her. “You’re a genius-genius!” he gushed, finally letting out all the emotions that he’d been trying to hold in for the last three days. That was how long it had been since they’d been captured, and they were feeling every minute of it physically and emotionally.

Sprink watched Mist speed around their tank, and decided that she needed something to keep his mind occupied, or else he’d go crazy. She could never let that happen to him, so she thought and thought about what to do to keep him from focusing on his fears. It finally occurred to her that his naturally strong observation skills could be exactly what would work!

“Mist?” she called calmly and quietly to him, as he zoomed in an endless circle around the tank. “Yo! Mist!” she called more forcefully, but still calmly, still putting together what she was going to say to him.

He slowed down and came over to her to see what was on her mind.

“Yeah?” he asked her, breathing hard from his laps.

“If we’re ever gonna get out of here, we’re going to need your incredible powers of observation,” she told him, with just enough worry in her voice to make him pay attention. “We’ve gotta figure out how to leave, since we can’t walk out of here like the humans.”

Sprink gave him a few moments to digest this information, and then she continued, “Try to learn how the humans operate those machines, since they seemed so alive while you were watching them. I couldn’t see a thing from my sling, but I could sure hear everything.”

Mist burst out laughing, releasing the last of his pent-up tension.

Sprink watched, perplexed, and finally asked, “What?”

Mist finally stopped laughing enough to say, “You sounded like a wanna-be rap star!” At this, he burst into more peals of laughter. He sounded happier now than when he’d come up with his new name of Mist!

Sprink couldn’t figure out what she’d said that was so hilarious, but she was grateful that he’d enjoyed it so much. She just let him keep laughing, and began exploring their cage with renewed optimism.

New Friends

Meanwhile, outside the aquarium, for that’s what it was, Alfie and his students were busy puzzling out how they could break in. They’d managed to find an outflow pipe from the building, which was sending out slightly warmer water than what they were swimming in. This naturally had peaked their curiosity, so together with Alfan, they were trying to decide what they’d like to do about it.

The small shark school studied the situation, and came to the conclusion that there was no way that any of them could journey up the pipe. Not if they wanted to come back in a healthy way, at any rate. All the sharks came together to create a think-tank. After a few minutes, Alfan struck on the idea of recruiting another creature that could go up the pipe without harm.

“We need to find an octopus or two with no young to take care of,” stated their teacher. “They can walk on land and not breathe water for a few minutes at a time. If they’ll help us out, they can find out if that pipe leads to a way inside, or at least maybe they can tell us what they see.”

“Yay!” cheered Rocket.

“Kewlio!” agreed Slicer.

“We can feed them fish as a reward for doing this,” stated Pearl thoughtfully.

“Brilliant!” agreed Alfan, with a grin to Pearl.

“Greet them without going near them, if you can,” stated Alfie to his class about approaching the octopi. “Then ask them if they’d be willing to help us out. Be sure to tell them that we’re willing to pay them in fish to help rescue our kids.”

Everyone agreed, and they took off in pairs for safety. After a couple of hours, Rocket and Pearl returned with two cephalopod volunteers. Soon, everyone had either given up or returned with a volunteer.

“This is wonderful!” said a relieved Alfan, who had returned empty-finned. “You volunteers can take turns, so we can hopefully rescue our kids faster, and you all don’t get tired out. Thank you very much for coming!”

Pearl said, “These are our two new octopus friends. This one is Justine,” and the girl octopus waved a tentacle to everyone, “and this one is I See.” The boy cephalopod did the same.

“They have a few conditions we need to agree to before they’ll help us, and both Pearl and I agree with their reasons,” continued Rocket. “Go ahead and tell everyone your conditions, please,” he said to their eight-legged volunteers. “I’m sure everyone here will agree to them, but we need to ask.”

“Hi!” said Justine. “Um, basically, you can’t eat us, or any of our kin. That includes squids.”

All the sharks agreed without a discussion.

“And we really like mackerel, if that’s okay?” asked I See. “Also, if we get tired, we’re gonna rest. But we want to find your kids, too,” he said as he glanced at Justine.

“We want you two to stay safe,” said Alfan to their new scouts. “We’d like you to crawl up this tube with the water flowing out, and tell us if you see our youngsters or another way in.”

“Um,” began Sunslicer, “I’ve got a small volunteer that overheard me asking the octopus I came across. That octopus said no, though.” Slicer then showed them the small star-shaped volunteer that he’d carried between his fin and his body.

“Hi, everyone!” called the little starfish, slowly waving an arm at them. “My name’s Avistar, but you can call me Avi. All my friends do!” he greeted enthusiastically, albeit slowly.

Everyone was dumbfounded for a few moments. Even Justine and I See, who lived on the seafloor with starfish, were struck speechless by the new speaker.

Finally Slicer spoke up. “Avi can do lots. He walks really slow, ya know, but he can hang on to every surface. Like, he’s small, too, though, so maybe he can go where the new two can’t?” He said this last part while looking at the new duo.

“Well, we can actually fit into really small places, since we don’t have any bony structures, the way you do,” I See ventured cautiously to this new group.

“And we’ve got suckers on all of our arms, so we stick really well to stuff, too,” Justine added, while showing them a couple of her sucky arms.

Avi and Slicer seemed a bit crestfallen at this revelation.

“Oh, .... okay,” Slicer said sadly.

“You know, like Slicer said, Avi’s actually quite a bit smaller than you two,” said Alfan to their eight-legged friends just then, since he couldn’t bear to see any of his kids sad. “He might be able to hide in plain sight, too, since he moves so slow. That’s an asset.”

Slicer grinned at Alfie, and Avi raised one of his legs. Arms?

“Why don’t we start now, since we’re all here,” stated Alfan. “Take Avi with you when you go in. He might be able to get farther, somehow.”

“I’ll go first,” offered Justine. She quickly realized her statement could be misinterpreted as going alone and first, so she added, “I’ll take Avi with me, of course.” She then wondered how Avi would ride on her, and quickly realized the only reasonable place was on her head. She face-tentacled for a moment, but then offered an arm to her new ward.

“C’mon,” she offered the little starfish. “Let’s go exploring! I’ll take very good care of you, Avi.”

With that, the little guy raised an arm to start his long and arduous journey onto her proffered leg. Arm? But once he accepted her offer, she gently raised him up onto her head, and waited patiently for him to get a good grip. While she was waiting, she asked, “Why did the starfish suck on the octopus’ head?” She grinned, expectantly.

“Because he wanted to be her crowning glory?” guessed Pearl, enjoying this new game.

“Nice one!” praised Justine. Everyone laughed and congratulated Pearl, too. “Anyone else?”

“Because he wanted a better view?” offered Avi.

Everyone chuckled at that, and immediately complimented their new starry friend.

“Nice!” smiled Justine. “Any other guesses?” She looked around and saw everyone thinking. Then she felt that Avi was attached well, and said, “Because he wanted to figure out how a female’s mind worked!”

The kid sharks groaned, but Alfie, I See and Avi all laughed, since they were adults and understood that no one knew the answer to that mystery of life!

Justine grinned, thanked everyone, waved a tentacle at her audience, and took off for the spout of warm water, with her star attached to her crown.

Avi had never traveled this fast or with this great of a view before, and was enjoying it thoroughly. He asked Justine about some of the sights they were zooming past, and she answered him as best she could.

“That’s a long way down to the bottom, there.”

“I guess so,” answered Justine, continuing to squirt along towards the pipe.

“Watch out for those plants and rocks, please!” Avi worried out loud, gripping more tightly to her head.

“Don’t worry, I won’t brush you off against that kelp or those rocks.”

“I don’t want to get eaten by any of them,” he said worriedly about several fish.

“None of those fish are going to mess with me, so don’t you worry about them.”

Less than a minute after they’d begun their journey, they reached the pipe, much to Justine’s relief.

She looked back, and saw that all of the sharks were swimming up and watching her from the shallows around the jumble of rocks that surrounded the pipe. She gave a “thumbs up” signal with the tip of a tentacle, and waited for Avi to do the same. Meanwhile, all of the sharks and her brother gave her fins or “thumbs up” signals, too.

Avi began his maneuver after a few moments, then he quickly gripped her head again. This only took 30 seconds or so.

“Now, hang on tight,” Justine cautioned Avi, as she crawled out of the ocean water and into the warmer water cascading down and through the rocks.

After only a few feet, she was inside the concrete tube that was channeling the warmer water to the bay. Justine couldn’t see all that well in here, but she was making excellent progress. Soon, she was able to see light at the far end of the tunnel. She lowered her head into the water to keep Avi wet, and let him soak for a few moments.

“Thanks!” he piped up, underwater. “I’d been holding my breath, just to be sure I didn’t panic.”

Josie wanted to face-tentacle again, but couldn’t trust where this water was from, so instead just took a deep breath. It didn’t smell or taste bad at all, so she became more eager to see what was ahead.

“Ready!” called Avi, obviously enjoying this adventure.

Josie took a calming breath, then continued tentacle-walking towards the light. Soon she and Avi could see where some of the water was flowing in. There was a hole in the ceiling of the tube, with a metal grate on top.

They both studied the opening for a moment, and then Josie asked Avi, “Would you like to wait here, or fit through one of those openings with me?”

“I’ll hang on really tight, okay?” Avi said, with a note of hysteria in his voice.

“I won’t let anything happen to you, Avi,” Justine said as calmly and patiently as she could. She made a mental note of where he was on her head, then aimed for a big hole in the grate so they could both get through.

“Can you get through on your own?” she asked the paranoid star, as soon as he was able to reach through the grate.

“Yes, thank you!” he replied, and began his slow climb onto the top of the grate.

Neither of them needed to worry about their next breath, because the flow of water here was a nice shower, and without a very strong current.

Soon, Avi had made his way off of Justine’s head. She looked up to see how he was doing, then moved to a different hole in the grate and climbed up, too. Now that she was thinking about it, she’d just help him through a hole, next time, on her arm.

She placed Avi back onto her head, knowing that he’d gotten a good 10-minute breath, and looked around. They were in a concrete channel, and there were many see-through walls beyond.

Justine almost didn’t notice the two sharks swimming in one of the nearby cubes of water, but now that she had, she quickly looked around to see if there were other prisoners in need of rescuing.

She noticed a few small fish in one of the other tanks, but didn’t see any other marine animals. She suddenly had an idea and started speaking to Avi.

“Do you see those sharks?” she asked.

“Yup! I do!” Avi returned.

“I need you to go over and tell them we’re out here and trying to figure out how to rescue them.”

“Um,... okay,” said Avi uncertainly, looking all the way over to the shark tank.

“I can get you there, “ Justine reassured him, “I just need you to talk to them.”

“Okay. Thanks!” Avi replied happily.

With that, Justine looked around carefully, then scrambled over to the sharks’ tank when she saw no dangers, grabbed Avi off her head and flipped him into the tank, much to the surprise of everyone but herself.

“Aaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeee!!!” screamed Avi as he spun like a pinwheel through the air. Josie was a good thrower, and Avi splished into the tank with the very surprised sharks, who were far too surprised to do much of anything other than stare in shock.

Quickly Justine raced back to the floor drain and began to squeeze through. She suddenly remembered to turn back and wave to Avi and the sharks, though. She saw Avi still spinning in the water, so she waved to the sharks. One of the sharks hesitantly waved a fin back. With that, she took off into the drain and splodged her way back to the entrance. Exit?

Justine was amazed at how remarkably quiet the tunnel was this time, and worried about her little star-shaped friend. She resolved to ask the sharks if they normally eat starfish when she got back to them. She didn’t think so, but Avi looked like he might be a bit dazed from his journey into the tank.

Soon, she was exiting the pipe, and she looked around before making herself visible to the outside world. You never knew when a hungry bird might just happen by.

Fortunately, the way looked clear, and she scrambled down to the bay water. She whistled for her shark friends, and soon they came to greet her. Together, they journeyed down to the deeper, and safer waters, away from the spigot.

“Avi’s safe in the shark tank!” Justine burst out when the little group assembled in the deep. She proceeded to tell them everything about their journey, and that it wasn’t very far away. She began to worry, though, when she realized that the two sharks were very isolated from all the other life in there.

“They might be checking them out, or something, cos they’re all alone in a tank, with all those other tanks around them. And all but one of the other tanks are empty, I think. I wanted to get back here fast, to tell you that we’d found them!” she finished happily.

Everyone was overjoyed that Sprink and Mist were safe, and that they now had some form of contact with them. Their next plan was on how to get them out.

“You know,” began Justine, “if I could figure out how to drive one of those truck things you were talking about, I think maybe we could drive them out of there. We’ll have to figure out from your young sharks, maybe, though, how those trucks get in and out. I didn’t see how the trucks could escape that big room.”

“Well, the human driving it was in the big clear front part that looks like a giant eye,” offered Alfan. “and he was holding something with both hands. And when he got out, he was on the side of the truck’s face near the round foot.”

Justine and I See looked at each other a moment, and then Justine said to everyone, “There weren’t any people inside that I could see, so I See and I should go back in and try to figure out the machines.” She said this last part while looking at her brother.

“’Kay,” agreed I See, while looking at his sibling. “But let’s eat first, since this could take awhile.”

“Agreed,” she agreed.

They ate some of the fish that Rocket, Pearl, Slicer and Nibbler had been out hunting, and some of the fish were mackerel, much to the siblings’ delight.

--

Sprink and Mist were becoming bored in their new habitat, and Mist had calmed down considerably. He had seen the humans getting into and out of the truck very well, so he knew how to get into one. Same for the crane that had lifted them over to here. But there was no way that a shark was going to be able to operate either one, since they one: didn’t breathe air; two: didn’t have legs to walk on land; and three: had no way to get out of here on their own.

Mist didn’t want to get depressed again, so he simply took comfort from the fact that they were okay and together.

Sprink had checked all the walls and the floor for a way out, and the best she could offer was that they could leap from tank to tank to avoid any further captures. She could see across the way well enough to conclude that even that wouldn’t do them a lot of good, though. There were concrete walls on all sides of this big room, and the only way out seemed to be the now closed doors that the truck had departed by.

Both of them were swimming in slow circles aimlessly, since they needed to move to breathe again, unlike in their boxes. Their boxes had somehow had a gentle current they were able to swim and breathe in. They were both thinking hard about what possibilities they had for the future.

Mist just happened to notice movement in the center of the big room during his circling. He looked closer at what had gotten his attention, and saw an octopus with a starfish on its head. He stopped swimming, in shock, and really looked this time. “Yup,” he thought to himself, “it’s an octopus with a starfish on its head!”

Just as he was about to tell Sprink, who was still circling, Mist saw the octopus scramble quickly out of the ditch and towards them. His gasp of astonishment got Sprink’s attention, and she quickly looked towards him, then towards whatever had startled him.

Her jaw dropped just like his, and she let out a shrill “Squeak!” in complete surprise at the octopus, who was now throwing the little star into the air at their tank! Sprink wanted to talk to the cephalopod, but it scrambled quickly back to the center of the room as its former crown “splished” into their new home.

They both watched then as the octopod began crawling down the drain. They could both hear their new little shuriken companion slowing down, and its high-pitched squeak was fading away as well. They continued, however, to watch as the walking marine animal changed its mind and waved a tentacle at them. Sprink hesitantly waved back, then they both watched as the cephalopod squeezed down through the grate.

Mist burst out, “That’s our way out of here!” to Sprink. Sprink swam in a somersault in celebration and high-finned Mist, who was vibrating with joy.

Sprink and Mist both watched the empty grate for a few moments more, then turned to their new companion, who had finally stopped spinning. The little creature was too disoriented and dizzy to be able to speak to them yet, so they gently lowered him down to the bottom of the tank, since he’d gotten caught on the fake rock wall behind them.

The two sharks now eagerly awaited their next communication, from either another visit by a cephalopod, or their new dizzy companion.

--

When everyone outside was done eating in preparation for the multi-armed twosome’s next journey, good wishes were given, and the siblings journeyed ahead. They were seen off at the outlet pipe, and they waved farewell to the sharks.

“What should we do when we get in?” asked I See.

“I’ll check on Avi and the sharks, since I tossed Avi in, and I didn’t really check on him before I left,” Justine said. “We’ve also gotta be sure that the big room is still clear of humans, though, before we do anything. You can look at the trucks? Or do you think we should both talk with the sharks first?”

During this discussion, they were splooshing their way back up the pipe towards the interior opening, with Justine in the lead.

“I’ll look at the machines, and you go say ‘Hi’ to Avi and the sharks,” responded I See, as they arrived at the grate. “We can accomplish twice as much together in the same amount of time!” he enthused.

Justine smiled at him, then stopped at the grate and just listened when they arrived. I See followed her lead, and they looked up through the grate together. They heard no machines or humans, so they looked at each other, then carefully squeezed their way through the grate together.

Everything looked just the same as when Justine had left, so she pointed at one of the trucks, and said, “Those are the trucks and things,” then she pointed at the shark tank and said, “and those are the sharks.” I See looked at the shark tank along with Justine, but neither one saw Avi.

While they were looking at the sharks, the sharks saw them and waved to the cephalopods excitedly. One of the sharks pointed at the tank floor while waving happily to them. Justine wasn’t sure what that meant, so she said, “See ya soon, bro! Be careful, quiet, and listen for people! You know to get down the drain fast if any show up!”

Justine then scrambled over to the shark tank and crawled up the wall, over the top, and into the tank.

“Hi, guys!” she greeted anxiously. “How’s Avi?”

“Hi!” greeted the effervescent little star from the sandy floor. “I’m fine, and I’ve told them everything! Oh, yeah, I wanted to say HOW MUCH FUN that spin through the air was!!!! :D Could I do it again?!” he gleefully questioned.

Everyone around Avi laughed, and the mood was instantly lighter.

Meanwhile, I See climbed into a truck and started fiddling with the controls. The keys were left in the ignition, so soon he managed to turn on the truck’s engine.

"VRRROOOOOOOOOOOMMM!!!!" went the truck.

"AAAAIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!!" screamed I See. In a blind terror he plopped out of the truck, skittered over to the drain as fast as his spindly little tentacles could carry him, and squeezed through the grate. He hid there, shuddering in fear, listening to the machine/monster roaring above him.

After a few minutes, he realized that nothing bad was happening, and that the roar was now just a constant grumble. He slowly peeked up through the grate, and saw that nothing had changed from when he left. So, he gathered his courage, climbed up through the grate, braved this new world, cautiously splopped back over to the truck and climbed in.

He touched the same thing, the key, that had started this terrible noise, and managed to turn off the machine.

I See decided that this was enough learning for now, and scrambled back over to the concrete channel with the grate. He listened carefully for any people noises and didn’t hear any, so then he joined Justine in the sharks’ tank.

Meanwhile, when I See had started the engine, Avi and Justine had panicked initially. The sharks were startled, but calmed their multi-appendaged friends down quickly.

“No worries!” called Mist to them calmly, but loudly enough to be heard over the engine noise. “That’s just how they sound.”

Sprink merely chuckled good-naturedly at their initial fear. “Like Mist said,” she agreed.

They quickly noticed I See skittering towards the grate, then vanishing down through it.

Justine knew him well enough to just let him get through his fear on his own. Meanwhile, the sharks told both her and Avi about the big doors at the end of the hallway, and that the truck that had brought them left that way. Neither shark had seen how the doors were opened or closed, so that was another job for the octopods to solve.

Soon they noticed I See returning, and watched him go to face his fear. Shortly thereafter, they were able to watch him bravely turn off the machine, then come over to join them in the tank.

“I figured out how to turn on the machine,” I See jokingly said after he’d gotten a couple of deep breaths in the tank.

“Yeah. We did kinda notice,” laughed Mist good-naturedly.

I See then described everything about the inside of the truck, including how he’d turned on its engine, and how easy it was to turn off again. Soon both he and Justine were out learning how to control both the truck and the crane, as well as the sling. They became rather proficient at it, and came back to the tank exhausted and out of breath.

“That was great!” exclaimed Justine when they returned, and after they’d caught their breath. “I can understand why the humans work with them so much!”

“We’ve gotta be careful, though, cos these machines are powerful,” said I See with some trepidation. “Now we just have to figure out how to get the water into those truck transports they carried you in, and we can get you out of here!”

“Since neither shark saw how those drivers opened the doors to the outside,” began his sibling, “we’re going to have to look into that next.”

“I know,” he concurred. “I’m not sure if I’m up to that just yet, though. I’m wiped out.”

“Me too,” she agreed.

“You’ve done a whole lot for us!” Sprink exclaimed wholeheartedly.

“Yeah! What she said,” agreed Mist, with a slight catch in his voice. “We’ve got hope again, ya know.”

“I know, right?” his BF agreed, with an adoring look at him, and he back at her.

“We’re kind of helpless without you,” she continued. “We’ve decided we can jump from this tank to the next and all to avoid those people, but there’s no way out of here without those trucks.”

“Like, for sure,” Mist agreed, with a tinge of sadness mixed with hope.

Justine, I See and Avi all knew they’d do anything they could for these young carnivores, since it was sad to see anyone so vulnerable and in danger, and yet still be so kind.

“We’ll get you out of here, yet,” Justine reassured. “We just need to figure out how to open those doors.”

She pondered for a bit, and then decided she needed to sleep before she could do much more. “Why don’t Avi and we,” as she looked to I See, “go out and update your friends about everything. Maybe they’ll have an idea. Either way, we’ll be back before too long,” she yawned tiredly. Then she made her way to the see-through wall again.

“Should we bring you back some food?” I See asked the two elasmobranchs before they left.

“That’d be wonderful!” Sprink emoted.

“Oh, yes! Please!” Mist agreed.

Justine picked up the sleeping star and held him on her head to protect him as she and her brother clambered out of the tank. As they made their way to the grate, both the cephalopods turned to say farewell to their new friends, and saw them staring back through their prison wall with melancholy looks on their faces.

“We’ll be back soon!” called Justine to them, waving.

I See waved sadly but silently, and they both returned to the outside world.

They made their way back down the dark tube and over the rocks, then jetted their way down to where the group usually talked, and found some of their toothy friends. Soon, the whole group had gathered around to listen.

--

Meanwhile, while the five had been inside, all of the sharks had wanted to help them, somehow. Unfortunately, there was little that could be done by them for now. Alfie had suggested to them that maybe they could catch food for Sprink and Mist, as well as for Justine and I See, for when they came back. Since they were all restless with worry, this was the perfect solution, and all but Alfie left in pairs to get fish. Several soon returned with full stomachs, and they played games like tag while they waited for everyone else to return.

Two Humans

Justine and I See gently handed the sleeping Avi-star over to his buddy Slicer, so they could inform everyone of how they now were able to make the machines work, and that they might soon be able to rescue the young sharks! Everyone was joyous and cheered, which unfortunately woke up the little star. He was still tired, though, so he just listened for now.

“We might have them out today, if we can figure out the water and the doors!” explained Justine happily, as she chose among the many yummy fish.

“This food is perfect for Sprink and Mist, too!” proclaimed I See between mouthfuls of his chosen food.

“Are they doing okay?” Alfie asked about his students.

“They’re fine, but they want to get out, of course,” answered Justine, as I See grabbed up another mackerel to eat.

“Well, eat all the food you like, then make as many trips as you need to feed them. Then you’ll all be ready to break out of there,” Alfan said anxiously.

“They’ll be fine!” Justine assured him. “They both said ‘Hi’ and ‘Thanks’ by the way. They were both thrilled to know that you’ve all followed them here to help save them,” Justine grinned at the crowd.

“Say ‘Hi’ back!” Pearl announced.

“Yeah!” replied Rocket.

“Tell them we’re going to get them out of there, and we’ll be here to hug them when they do,” Alfan agreed.

“Like ‘Yo, Dude and Dudette!’ from me. Kay?” offered Slicer to the armed twosome.

At that, Avi looked up at the group and said, “They’re like, the nicest sharks ever! ‘Cos like, they didn’t even know me, but they were really nice to me and all! Then I told them everything I could about everything, when my head stopped spinning, and they were like, ‘Cool!’ So they knew to expect you two back,” he said, indicating his ground transports.

“Could I get some food, too, please?” he then asked.

“Of course!” everyone agreed, and Slicer set Avi down on the pile of fish. They couldn’t tell when he was eating, but they knew he’d tell them when he was done. Or else maybe he’d fall asleep again. Slicer’d stay with him, though, until he was ready to go back inside.

When the octopi were ready, the sharks scooped up all the dead fish in their mouths, except for the one Avi was eating. Justine was used to the little passenger, and that fish was small, so she held them out of the way on her head again. Avi was going to keep the sharks company and connected to the outside world as much as he could, while Justine and I See were out with the machines.

Everyone gathered at the pipe entrance and waved farewell as the multi-armed militia carried as much food as they could back up the tube. Before they exited through the grate, they listened for any human activity.

There was none, so they pushed their loads through the grate holes, and then carried their booty to the sharks, who were thrilled and ate everything. Except, of course, for their carefully placed, out of the way star companion. Two more trips later and all the fish were eaten, and both sharks and the star were full. The tired twosome rested from their travels together in the tank.

“Hi, again!” Avi waved to his tank-mates once he’d finished eating.

“Welcome back, little guy!” the now somewhat plumper Sprink greeted back happily.

“We’ve really missed all of you. A lot,” grinned Mist.

“Aww. Thanks!” Justine smiled back. I See and Avi did the same.

With that, everyone got to work. All the messages were delivered to the sharks, and then the cephalopods began working on transferring water and opening doors. They quickly figured the system out, and filled the small travel tanks and loaded the sharks and Avi into them. Together, Justine and I See were beginning to drive to the outside doors, with Justine at the wheel and I See down working the pedals where he couldn’t see much, when a small door opened from the outside, and two humans came walking in.

“Oh, sponge!!” cursed Justine. “How do we hide now?”

“Here! Quick! Put these on!” exclaimed I See, as he threw some worker clothes at her. There was one clean set hanging inside every truck, possibly as a change of clothes for the person who got wet and/or dirty with the water in the individual carrier tanks.

She quickly put on the too-large work jacket, and put two arms through. The humans had been described in detail when they’d been with the sharks, so they knew how to act to pass themselves off as one.

Justine then placed the big cap on her head, and some dark glasses, then placed the work-gloves on the ends of her tentacles and put them on the steering wheel of the truck.

Meanwhile, I See had been clambering into the pants and boots, and attaching himself to the driver’s seat so they’d look right. He couldn’t see anything, now, but he knew where the pedals were, and of course Justine and the window. Now he’d be ignored, hopefully.

The two people walked towards the truck and looked up at the driver’s window. One of them then climbed up to talk to Justine, but since she couldn’t understand the human speech, she kept her head down. He pointed at the sharks’ tank, but then noticed that it was empty. He did a double-take, then looked to the two shark carriers in the back of the truck.

“Hey, Amber,” the human said anxiously, “we need to help get these sharks to the main tank. They’re already in the truck.” He then reached down to help his co-worker climb up and into the truck.

Mist happened to have Avi in his tank, so when he felt the previously heard human climb onto the truck, he quickly suctioned Avi into his mouth to prevent him from being seen.

“AAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!” screamed Avi in absolute surprise and fear. He’d also heard and felt the truck’s new passenger come aboard, but didn’t expect to suddenly see the inside of his friend’s mouth. Sadly, he barfed up his recently swallowed fish, and was now too shaken to try to eat it again. He just huddled next to it on Mist’s tongue and tried to calm himself down.

Mist had felt Avi’s meal come up, but he was too busy watching the humans to care. If he had to, he could swallow Avi and the fish for a very brief time, but neither one of them would enjoy that. Avi was already terrified, and the shark knew that starfish are very tough and have sharp spines on their backs.

As Amber climbed up, she asked, “Zac, are the pumps working? I don’t hear them.” She then went over to the shark transport containers, and realized that the pumps weren’t on.

“I’ve got this one,” announced Zac as he got the one tank’s air pump working. “Do you need any help?”

She was checking on the other pump, and switched hers on. “We’re good over here,” Amber replied. “How’s your shark?”

“My little girl shark is fine. Thanks!” he smiled to Amber. He then turned back to the driver and said, “I know it’s a short drive, but they really do need the pumps on to breathe well. I’m really glad you’re here, though. We need to get these sharks into the main aquarium, so let’s go through those doors,” he said as he pointed to a set of doors.

Justine immediately saw that the doors Zac had pointed towards were NOT the doors to the outside world.

“Cockleshells!” she cried under her breath.

“What’s wrong?” whispered I See from the floor.

“These humans want us to drive deeper into the building!” Justine whined.

“Crabs!” cursed I See quietly.

“It’s okay,” Zac said to the driver, wondering what country that strange language was from. “I remember my first day, too. Just drive to those doors, and they’ll open on their own. We’ve got the sharks,” he said, pointing to the doors he wanted.

The sound of the human’s voice told Justine that he wanted her to drive, and that he wasn’t planning to leave. So Justine asked I See to step on the gas gently, while she turned the truck in the direction that Zac had pointed.

She was able to watch the big doors open by themselves when the truck drove up to them, so she and her brother slowly drove the truck through. When she saw how many marine captives were behind those doors, she was immediately grateful that she and I See had not reached freedom yet. Everyone here deserved to be rescued, and she and her brother were just the critters to make that happen!

Zac jumped down off the truck as soon as it was through the doors, and Justine watched carefully as he flipped a switch on the wall to close the doors behind them. Amber went to the big tank with lots of marine life in it, and waited for her partner to get into the crane.

Justine knew they wouldn’t be going anywhere until this new puzzle could be figured out, and turned off the truck engine. She then whispered to I See to get out of the human clothes, but bring them along, and together they climbed down the side of the truck unnoticed. From there, they quickly crawled across the floor, each carrying one work-boot with one work glove inside, with I See in dark glasses and Justine in the cap.

It was quite a load, but they hurried and climbed into the closest tank, which was actually the only one there. It was huge compared to their previous one, and full of ocean life. Once inside, the siblings hurried over to the tank’s coral and used their amazing camouflage abilities to hide in amongst the tank’s corals. They tucked their clothes underneath themselves at the same time, and held still, listening to everything around.

Meanwhile, Amber and Zac were busy taking the sharks out of their travel boxes and putting them into their new tank.

“Did you see where that driver took off to?” Amber asked. “He or she was supposed to help get the sharks into the slings!” she finished with a touch of anger. “They should hire folks who actually care about these animals, ya know!”

“I know, right?” agreed Zac wholeheartedly. “Maybe they needed to actually go, though?” he said in a way that indicated the lavatories.

“Yeah. I hope so,” she laughed in agreement, her anger now gone.

Together, they safely loaded the sharks into the big tank, and then proceeded to feed all the marine life, individual by individual, starting with the meat eaters. The new little guests got fed first, and ate some.

Mist had taken a large suction-slurp of fish to help hide Avi from the two people, and just held them all in his mouth until he knew the humans weren’t looking. Then he spit Avi and all the fish out behind the coral, and guarded the whole mess until Avi finished eating again.

Since Zac and Amber could see that Sprink wasn’t very hungry, since she’d only had one small taste, and that Mist had urped his meal up, most of their meals were distributed to the next meat eater: a barracuda.

“G’day, little sharks! I’m the peacekeeper ‘round here, so’s I don’t wants no trouble from youse, right? And my name iz Bruno,” the barracuda introduced himself.

“Hi, Bruno! I’m Sprink, and this is my best friend, Mist,” Sprink introduced, and Mist nodded.

“And this here is Avi, our friend,” added Mist, while pointing at him.

“Hi, Bruno!” Avi greeted cheerfully from under the heap of fish as he slowly waved.

Bruno chuckled good-naturedly, and welcomed them to their new home.

The three of them proceeded to explain what they were doing there in great detail, to their hopefully new friend. They also introduced their still camouflaged eight-legged friends, and explained how it was that they were driving the truck that had almost escaped from here. Until those two humans got in the way.

Bruno listened patiently as he ate. “Don’t youse ever be unkind to dem two humans,” he advised the newcomers after he’d finished eating. “Ambi and Zac’re prob’ly the nicest humans ‘round these parts. We’s can escapes, I’m tinkin’, wit’out puttin’ dems out abouts it at all. Dem two doesn’t work on da weekends, so maybe we’s can gets gone on a Friday night. Den dey can’t gets into no trouble. We’s never had a way outta here a’fore, so like, thank youse very much!” Bruno then smiled at them, which made the sharks back away some, because barracudas have lots of big, sharp teeth, too.

“Umm...You’re welcome,” replied Justine, who was staying camouflaged since the two humans were still feeding the fish.

“Yeah,” agreed I See, who was next to her, and staying camouflaged, too.

“Agreed,” Sprink said about Zac and Amber, without understanding what a weekend or a Friday were. “We don’t want those two in trouble in any way. They were very concerned about us, even though they’d never even met us before, and they were nice to Just and I See, too, even though they were only pretending to be human.”

Everyone was watching as the two humans took great care to feed all the animals, and without causing a feeding frenzy. They were very nice to the captives. Well, as nice as any jailors could be to their prisoners without actually setting them free, anyhow.

“They thought youse was human? For reals?! Like……wow!!” exclaimed Bruno excitedly. “So what’s youse wants us to do?”

“Well,” began Justine, as some smaller coral reef fish got their meals, “we know how to get us five out,” she said as she glanced at the sharks, the fake coral and Avi, who was almost finished swallowing his fish, “but we don’t know how to get everyone else out.”

“We’ve only just found out you were here,” I See added, “and we all need to get out at the same time, or they’ll stop us.”

“Hmmm…” thought Bruno, obviously a leader in this tank, since he seemed to be in charge. “I’ll thinks about it, and talks wit’ da others. Most of us would like to be outta here, but a few sissies likes the boredom, ya know?” Without waiting for a response, he swam off to talk to ‘the others’.

“Umm…okay,” Sprink replied, looking at the last place they had seen Bruno.

“Well that went well,” snarked Mist with a chuckle.

“I know, right?” agreed Justine.

“I’ll go get to know some folks,” declared Avi, as he began moving towards the corals in the back of the tank.

“Just pipe up whenever you want us, you know,” said Mist kindly. “I’m sorry about putting you in my mouth, but I had to, cos...”

“Yeah. Don’t worry. I know,” interrupted Avi. “I’m fine! Really! And thank you very much for hiding me! Cause, like, …”

“You’re welcome. And thanks!” Mist interrupted back, greatly relieved. He gently pressed down on Avi with his fin, in a form of a hug.

“Kewl!” chirped Avi happily.

“Let’s go meet our new tank-mates, and then maybe we can get some ideas for getting out of here, too,” I See said, after carefully hiding the human clothing in the fake coral reef.

“That’s a great idea,” Justine agreed, after hiding her clothing with I See’s.

They mostly went their separate ways, and began touring the very large tank and meeting new marine folks.

Escape Plans

Justine and I See took Avi with them as they traveled to different tanks during the night. For it turns out that Sprink and Mist were basically tropical sharks, who could also live in cooler climes, but were captured near New Jersey, of the United States. The two scallywags with their carry-on luggage were able to find manatees, jellyfish and sea otters, which all had their own stories to tell. No one could think of a way out, but they all knew that water was their escape route.

Several days came and went, but still, no one could figure out how to get everyone out of the aquarium at roughly the same time. Nearly everyone wanted out, since most of the residents had been captured from the wild, like Sprink and Mist. Only Avi, Justine and I See were in the tanks by choice. Many of the remaining residents had been born here and didn’t know any other way of life. They weren't sure they wanted to leave, and only knew of the wild world outside through stories told by their fellow creatures from the outside world.

Now, however, thanks to Justine, I See and Avi, there were new stories coming in from the outside. For the twosome were escaping back to the outside nearly every night through the floor drain. Thankfully, Justine had watched Zac press a big button on the wall that turned the power on and off for those truck doors, so they now knew how to get the trucks outside, too.

Of course, the very ambulatory twosome took turns, just in case one was captured, but they still went outside to tell the school what was happening on the inside. They always came back before daybreak, but they were escapes nonetheless. They often brought back some mackerel, since there was always more than they could eat, and Alfan and his crew felt better for having done something for their comrades in arms.

--

Alfie and his kids had been exploring the entire shoreline, mostly in pairs, for miles in all directions. They now knew where all the trucks went, at least as far as they could be seen from the water, and knew times and drivers, too. Their hearing was very keen, too, and they knew the vehicles were often not far from the shore, even when they were out of view. The little group kept a close eye on the docks, too, and usually had a couple of sentries there in case one of the sharks was taken out of the aquarium and brought to the docks for some reason.

They got to know the local “cleaner fish” and made sure that Nico Wrasse and her class were made aware of the aquarium and its inhabitants. Alfie was actually a guest speaker for Nico’s class one day, and told them everything he could, including how helpful their new tentacled friends were. The little wrasse were very attentive.

He also asked Nico to spread the word about the fishing boats, and for all the fish to steer clear of them, especially if they were offering food. Fortunately, Nico had already told everyone she knew about the shark-finning boats, since Ranger had been killed while the shark school was still living here. She had been unaware of the aquarium fishers before now.

Avistar became a great traveler. He would spend a day or two with the sharks on the outside, usually riding on his pal Slicer, and telling them everything about the inside. It was the same thing for the inside sharks and marine life, in that he gave them every update he could about the goings on out there. He became very popular, not only due to his knowledge, but his effervescent nature, so he was a very happy echinoderm. (=“spiny skin”)

--

Now that the residents inside had hope again, they were much livelier than ever before, and Amber and Zac began to notice.

“Let’s play them some calming music,” suggested Amber, noticing for the third morning in a row that the barracuda was swimming quickly from animal to animal and stopping for a moment at each one.

“We always have music playing for our human guests, but maybe these “guests” would also benefit. We’ve got Sinatra, Beatles, Glenn Miller, ...” suggested Amber before she was interrupted.

“Elvis, Axyl Rose, KC and the Sunshine Band,” continued Zac with a big grin at Amber.

“This is to calm the fish, not make them dance for us,” chuckled Amber.

“Well, ... maybe just piano or violin music? Or Yo Yo Ma?” Zac added with a mischievous look at her. Then he chuckled some more. Amber looked at him sternly, then chuckled, too.

“Just some music to “soothe the savage beasts”, as they say. Maybe the barracuda won’t seem so much like he’s about to punch a hole in the wall,” commented Amber dryly.

They moved over to the speaker system setup, and quickly rifled through some CD’s and DVD’s. After a few moments, Zac said, “Look. Here’s the Travolta film, ‘’Grease’’, on an old DVD. Let’s play that,” he said, looking hopefully to Amber.

“Okay. We’ll play it low for them, but loud enough for us, too.” She laughed quietly to herself, and then said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that movie! Let’s play it on the big overhead screens so the customers can watch, too.”

“Right-o!” declared Zac as he bounced happily over to the DVD player and inserted the movie, then adjusted the volume as the movie began to play.

Zac and Amber were enthralled enough by this movie that day, that they played fun musical DVD’s whenever they could. Sometimes they’d play Big Band CD’s from the 60’s, and other lovely tunes from that era. Sometimes they’d dance during the slow songs, or sing or hum along during the catchy tunes while they were working, and they began talking more to the fish, as well. They really enjoyed working here, and the marine life really enjoyed them and all the entertainment, too!

Over the next few weeks, while escape ideas were thought up and discarded, all the marine life began to appreciate John Travolta’s looks, singing and dancing abilities, as well as Olivia Newton John’s—Travolta’s love interest in “Grease”.

“...is the word, is the word, is the motion,...” sang Avi absentmindedly one day, repeating lyrics from one of the John Travolta movies, “Grease”, as he slowly traveled along the sand between the corals in the tank.

Mist, who was cruising nearby, overheard him and chuckled, then sang to Avi, “Tell me more, tell me more, did you get very far?” also from “Grease”.

Avi laughed in response, and was about to respond, when Sprink swam up. Being the gregarious creature that she was, she didn’t want to be left out, and started the song from the beginning.

Grease - Summer Nights Official Video HQ03:29

Grease - Summer Nights Official Video HQ.avi

Official Grease "Summer Nights" video clip that the aquarianists enjoy almost nightly

“Summer loving, had me a blast, Summer loving, happened so fast! I met a girl, crazy for me...”

Avi and Mist then joined in with the higher-pitched words,

“Met a boy, cute as can be!”

In no time at all, since there were no humans around, and it was rather late, all the fish, crustaceans, cniderians, cephalopods and mammals began joining in singing and swimming to the song, of which they weren’t sure of the meanings, but thoroughly enjoyed all the same.

I See and Justine, as well as a happy little sea otter named Webly, began singing the chorus parts:

“Summer days, drifting away, To oh, oh, the summer nights!”

The bigger animals, including a Manatee, joined in on the low voice chorus parts:

“Well-a, well-a, well-a huh. Tell me more, tell me more Did you get very far?”

Then the generally smaller animals, including Avi and a jellyfish named Jax, joined in on the higher voiced chorus parts:

“Tell me more, tell me more Like does he ha-ave a car?”

Grease had become one of Zac and Amber’s favorite movies, which they could seldom watch, but which they turned up loud enough to hear and sing along with while they were feeding the fish and cleaning up. Therefore, all the fish were learning English by rote nearly every weekday morning. And learning it fairly well, too!

Bruno joined Sprink, and they took Travolta’s low-pitched part again,

“She swam by me, she got a cramp.”

Avi and Mist were now across from Sprink and Bruno, and sang Olivia Newton’s higher pitched,

“He ran by me, got my suit damp.”

Sprink and Bruno were now joined by Jofan, a hyperactive, but very friendly male sea lion, and together they continued with,

“I saved her life, she nearly drowned.”

Avi and Mist, joined by Jax the jellyfish, then sang,

“He showed off, splashing around.”

By then, everyone was singing a part or two:

“Summer sun, something’s begun.

But oh, oh the summer nights!”

They sang the whole song through, and had a fantastic time, then Justine and I See raided the food lockers and brought back all kinds of yummy things to eat. They had their nightly meetings about new ideas for getting out while they ate, and I See took Avi outside for their almost nightly sharing of news outside.

Justine and I See then got into the habit of playing everyone’s top choice CD or DVD, by vote, during the night. They’d have their meetings, sleep some, then party till dawn!

--

I See and Avi went outside soon after their musical party, and began teaching everyone the song. Everyone was enjoying the rhythm and the tune, and soon all the sharks were mumbling along, trying to catch all the sounds. They had a fun time, and I See went back inside before dawn, leaving Avi to make sure everyone was caught up on all the inside news.

--

Amber and Zac noticed the following morning that most of the marine life seemed to be trying to sleep, so they worried some and checked the power, filtration systems, water pH and so on. When they found nothing wrong, and the animals were more awake, they fed their fishy friends, still concerned. All the critters were extra hungry, though, and finally, when Amber went to the CD/DVD players to insert a disc, she found that the movie “Grease” was already there.

“Zac, “Grease” is still in the player,” called Amber across the room. “I’m hoping it wasn’t set to play continually all night. Maybe that’s why the fish are so lethargic.” She quickly made sure that it was set for a continual loop for the day, with multiple CD’s and movies. It was supposed to be set this way for the human guests. It was supposed to be off during the night.

“Gosh, I hope it didn’t bother them too much,” responded Zac, while Amber was still checking on the settings. “It seems to calm them down when we’re here, though.”

Amber thought for few moments and then said, “Well, since it’s in there, how about “Grease” this morning?”

Zac chuckled and sang, “Grease is the word, is the word, is the motion,” with a big grin.

Amber laughed, then said, “You know, I’m really glad we got into this habit. It’s a fantastic way to wake up. And the player was off last night as far as I can tell.”

They figured the fish were fine, then bounced around some, continuing their duties and singing and dancing a little bit to the movie. They did notice that the animals seemed attentive, but calm, until the musical numbers came up. Then the fish darted here and there, schooling some and generally having what seemed to be a good time.

“Look at them!” chuckled Amber good-naturedly. “They’re really enjoying the music.”

Zac had to agree, and the two of them spent the rest of that song singing and imitating the people in the movie, while still doing their jobs and enjoying watching all the marine life.

“Let’s leave it on softly for them every night,” Amber offered, when they’d finished laughing at themselves.

“Sure,” agreed Zac. “Except for Friday nights, since we don’t work the weekends. We can always leave a note with the settings for the weekend crew, but I don’t know them well enough to trust them to do it right.”

“Eh, no probs,” agreed Amber. These little fishies’d probly appreciate a couple nights off from the music anyway,” she chuckled. “I know I do. Sleeping in and all that!”

“I know, right?” laughed Zac.

With that, they wrote down the settings for the weekend crew, anyway, and left that section of the aquarium to finish their jobs for the day. That evening, at the end of their shifts and shortly after the aquarium had closed for the day, they set the CD player to play “Grease”, “Saturday Night Fever”, “Mary Poppins” and “Singing in the Rain” once each overnight.

“They’ll only be playing about 6 hours. Our fishies still get several hours of silence tonight,” said Amber, worrying that four CD’s was too many.”

“Tonight! Tonight!” sang Zac, chuckling. “They’ll tell us tomorrow whether four is too many,” Zac countered, while looking at the main tank. “The sound is set low, right?”

“Yeah,” Amber answered, but made a final check anyway. “Everything’s set,” she smiled. Then they both left the building for the night.

The marine animals waited a couple of minutes, then listened to “Grease” during the opening music, and waited to see if either human came back for forgotten items, which sometimes happened. Neither did, and since a plan was finally decided on for escape, the aquarium prisoners began practicing for their weekend escape.

The plan was to seal all the outer human-sized doors, since Jofan the sea lion had managed to filch a set of keys, and for the marine animals to either travel by truck during the night, or through the flooded rooms and drains. Jofan had become proficient in opening and closing the doors, both with keys and with his mouth. He had trained all the other seals and sea lions to do this, too.

Both octopods had mastery over the water hoses and valves, so they and the more land-mobile creatures, such as Webly the sea otter and Jofan, were going to help to control the flooding of the building, as well as the initial escapes.

Jofan, Webly, and all their relatives would help the less land-mobile smaller creatures escape down the hole that the octopods normally used, but they’d either have to use crowbars or one of the cranes to lift the grate off the hole. During this practice run it was determined that they’d have to use one of the cranes, which was time consuming, since the crane was needed to lift other animals into the trucks.

Fortunately, both groups were great at carrying things in their mouths, and were able to carry smaller animals to the drain. Since this was still a trial run, however, no one escaped. Not yet.

They determined that the water boxes were the first priority after the grate was lifted. Load the boxes onto the trucks, fill them with water, then place the non-walking creatures inside. Fortunately, the boxes were seldom removed from the trucks. The trucks could then be offloaded just a short ways down the road by the truck’s onboard crane, which was much smaller, but sufficient.

It took all night, but their practice run showed that with the seals, otters and octopi carrying and driving everyone to safety, they should all be out in open waters before the morning crew arrived. Extra water would be flowing down the grate-hole, so all the smaller creatures could easily reach safety through there on their own.

Alfie and his bull-headed students had even found lots of freshwater streams and rivers for the non-salty animals several miles upstream. There were roads and plenty of offload areas for the trucks to set the freshies free, and two trucks full of otters, seals, and two octopi explored upstream according to the school’s directions. There, the school got to say ‘Hello’ briefly to the soon-to-be great escapers, and everyone felt like they were almost free!

Before dawn, with triumph in their hearts, everyone got back into their proper aquarium areas and were ready to go. A few fishy folks from the aquarium had no intention of leaving, but were willing to help all the others to escape. Now everyone was thoroughly exhausted and simply fell asleep. This is how Zac and Amber found them almost two hours later, long after the DVD’s had concluded.

“Ooh!” Amber said, with a hint of concern when she and Zac arrived. “They’re asleep! Or just tired, maybe,” she said, regarding the aquarium animals.

“Four was too many, I guess,” agreed her buddy, also concerned.

They didn’t play any movies that morning, and simply let the marine life rest while they did their work. Amber couldn’t help but talk to them some, however.

“I’m so sorry we kept you awake so much of last night,” she expressed quietly to her friends with fins. “It won’t happen again.” She continued telling them how sorry she and her best friend were about the movie marathon as she and Zac fed them.

The animals weren’t sure what was making their two human pals sad, so they ate what they were given and tried to act normal, instead of exhausted.

“Well, remember I said that they’d tell us if four was too many?” reflected Zac to his coworker. “They have.”

“Maybe just one next time,” she concluded in response to him. “It’ll only last an hour-and-a-half or so.”

“Sounds good,” he replied.

They went about their daily routine, then checked on the animals before they left for the night. There were no vids or CD’s in the player for the mariners tonight, since this was Friday, a.k.a. escape night for the animals, though of course neither human was aware of it.

After the two humans had been gone for long enough, the escape got underway. They began flooding the tanks to overflowing, and sent the small crawling animals, like sea stars and crabs, on down the water chute to the grate. From there they could help each other over the rocks and into the bay to freedom.

Another Capture?

Then the trucks were filled and were about to leave when Zac and Amber came back.

“Let’s leave “Grease’ playing tonight, just not on loop,” commented Amber to Zac, as they used their keys to open the people door.

“Cool. I’ll grab my only dark glasses from my locker while you’re …” Zac commented before he noticed the great animal escape.

Jofan and Webly quickly rushed over and cut off the nearest escape routes to the outside, then called for help from their sea buddies. Soon the two-legged twosome were surrounded by seals and otters.

“Hey,” Zac called loudly as he held up his hands, “that’s close enough!” Jofan was guarding the door and preventing them from going anywhere near it. Then, as another seal took his place as a guard, Jo re-locked the people-door.

“Umm...I’m dreaming. Right, Zac?” Amber commented worriedly to her buddy as she moved very close to him.

“Ummm....Nope!” Zac declared, after he’d tried to move near the door again, with Amber, and was once again blocked.

“Crunchies!!” cursed Justine, as she tried to figure out what to do next. She was already taking the truck to the doors, but now they were stopped from going anywhere, since the humans could maneuver faster than the seals could block them, and would therefore likely get away if the truck doors were opened.

I See took off his human pants and boots, and clambered through the driver’s window, in full view of Zac and Amber. He then scampered over to the shark tank to ask Sprink’s, Mist’s and Bruno’s advice.

Zac and Amber watched in shock as the octopus climbed out through the truck window and zipped along over to the big tank in the next room, and then stared as he climbed over the tank wall and into the water.

The two humans continued to stare at the main tank for a moment. They both then stared at the top half of the driver, who had by now removed its sunglasses. It was another octopus with a worker shirt on, and a hat! It was watching them intently, but it seemed unsure of what to do next.

“Do you see that?” Zac asked his BFF after several seconds had elapsed.

“Uh-huh,” answered Amber, while she moved even closer to Zac for safety.

They were now looking back and forth between the top half of the “driver”, who was still holding the steering wheel, and the bottom half, who was now apparently having a conversation in the main tank with the barracuda and the two recently arrived sharks.

The marine life had apparently called a sudden conference, while occasionally looking in their direction. The “marines” were encircled by various other marine life, who were apparently listening to the aquatic meeting.

“Did we ever show them “The Great Escape?” Zac asked with some worry.

“No, we didn’t,” she answered. “Too much meanness and loud gunfire and stuff.”

“That’s good,” Zac said with some relief. “I think they’re a lot smarter than we gave them credit for.”

Amber looked squarely at Zac, and snarked, “Ya think?” Then she laughed. “Now what?” she asked him, not expecting a reply anytime soon.

“I’ve got my cell phone,” Zac responded right away. “Who should we call?”

“Ermm, I’ve got my cell, too,” she responded. “Who’s the head of night security?”

“I’ve got Mikey’s number in my cell,” he responded as he speed-dialed the number.

“Great,” she replied.

Meanwhile, in the think-tank, everything was being discussed, too.

“We ain’t hurt’n dem,” Bruno declared matter-of-factly.

“Well of course not!” Sprink retorted. “But we’ve gotta do something. They know we’re makin’ a break for it.”

“Maybe we can put them in one of these tanks?” suggested Mist.

Meanwhile, Jofan had left the two humans in the care of his buddies, and had come over to see what everyone wanted to do. He was just in time to overhear Mist’s suggestion.

“Great idea!” said Jofan, still outside the tank, to Mist. Then he “barked” to his friends guarding the twosome to bring them over to the seal tank. Jo moved over to help them, and Amber and Zac could tell that their buddy Jojo was the seal-in-charge.

“Jojo?” Amber appealed to him, “I thought we were friends.”

Jo and all the other animals really liked these two, and he didn’t want them to be sad, so he gently pushed his nose onto her arm and looked into her eyes for a moment. He then gave a soft honk, which to everyone else was, “I love you. Sorry about this.”

Both Zac and Amber understood the message, and Amber couldn’t help but hug him gently in return. Soon, however, Jofan gently pulled free and began nudging the two of them towards the seal tank, along with two other seals and three sea otters, including Webly. Neither Amber nor Zac resisted, since they weren’t willing to risk being bitten or hurting their animal friends in an escape attempt.

Meanwhile, Zac had speed-dialed, and was now talking on the phone. Most of the animals were ignoring Zac’s talking, since he didn’t seem to be speaking to them. But since Zac kept holding his ear and talking, most of the marine life figured he maybe had an earache, or else was just talking with Amber, as usual. None of them noticed the cell phone. Even if they had, they didn’t have any idea what it could do, anyway.

“Mikey, we’re being held hostage in the aquarium,” Zac stated as calmly as he could, once Mikey picked up.

“What?! Where? How many hostages? How many hostage takers?” exclaimed Mikey, who quickly opened a drawer and grabbed out a protocol manual.

“Amber and I—Zac—are in the trucking drop-off area,” Zac continued calmly. “We’re the only hostages I’m aware of. We’re being herded towards the main tank through the truck entrance, now, and there’s a lot of water flowing through from there.”

“Does it seem like a broken pipe? Where’s the water from? Can you tell?” questioned Mikey very efficiently, and with very little emotion. He was looking up his hostage guideline questions for the aquarium, and even though he was worried and was now calling the police, he was excited! Nothing had ever happened on the night watch since he’d started working at the aquarium over two years ago.

“Umm…I don’t know where the water is coming from, but I don’t think anything’s broken,” Zac spoke in a near monotone to Mikey. “There’s no broken pipe sound of gushing water. And there are several hostage takers.”

“Male? Female? Black? White?” asked the security chief with a tinge of excitement. He was now looking at his video surveillance monitors, but they were all black, and therefore useless. Mikey didn’t know why, but he could guess.

“Uhh… They’re seals,” stated Zac with a touch of emotion. He quickly squashed his slight amusement and hysteria as best he could, since he couldn’t afford to tip his hand on the very obvious cell phone to his captors.

“Seals?!” exclaimed Mikey with barely suppressed fear and excitement. This was more of an adventure than he’d ever believed possible for this job. He then began to worry again, and quickly asked, “No one’s been hurt, right?”

“Everyone is fine, and we’re not quite sure what’s happening,” Zac proclaimed with a touch of anxiety. “We’re being put in the seal enclosure, and they’re making sure we don’t escape.”

Zac really wanted to tell Mikey that the otters were helping the seals, but he was afraid that Mikey wouldn’t believe him, since he couldn’t see what was happening for some reason. Zac knew that he wouldn’t believe himself if someone told him that story over the phone this late in the evening. He’d think he was pulling a prank at the start of the weekend for a laugh at the new head of security.

This was Mikey’s first night alone in his new position, but only because his former boss had just retired. Mikey’s first reaction upon hearing that the two workers had been captured by seals was to call the police, and be sure that they understood the situation. Mikey then wanted to suggest that they call the Royal Canadian Navy rescue team? The military would have to rescue the hostages, he figured, since supposedly rogue Navy Seals were taking over the aquarium for some reason.

Mikey kept flipping switches on his panel, trying to get the security monitors to work. Now he started worrying about the aquarium animals, since the military shouldn’t want to take over an aquarium for any reason. ‘‘“They’d better not be trying to experiment on them,”’’ Mikey thought to himself. Then it occurred to him, ‘‘“They can’t free all those sweet creatures, either! This is a business, after all.”’’

“Just sec,” Mikey told Zac hurriedly. The local 911 operator, Indi, had contacted the Royal Canadian Navy through her emergency number, and now relayed that call to Mikey through her police dispatch. That way, the local authorities would know what was happening, and what to do about it. She then stayed on the line, and both she and the Navy operator listened to Mikey, the Head of Night Security for the Baie-Comeau Aquarium of Quebec, as he explained the situation again.

Meanwhile, Zac and Amber watched everything from the seal area, which was on other side of the main aquarium tank, as numerous animals were loaded into trucks with full water tanks. They saw that the various animals were then driven away by seals, octopi and sea otters. The flushing of the small animals down the floor grate was continuing, but there were now very few animals leaving that way.

For now, the two humans were on a small rock island in the seal tank, and their seal captors had filled their surrounding water with numerous types of jellyfish. Neither person wanted to brave the waters by jumping to the nearby edge of the pool, since they weren’t sure if any of these jellies could sting them, and besides which, they knew the seals and otters had carnivorous teeth, which were at the level of Zac and Amber’s upper body and ankles.

On top of that, both Zac and Amber cared a great deal for all of their aquarium friends, and weren’t going to do anything that would hurt any of them—at least not unless they felt that they had no choice.

Meanwhile, Jojo carried in more jellyfish in a plastic tub filled with water. As Zac and Amber watched, and Jojo kept watching both of them, too, the seal dragged the tub into the water, let it submerge under its own weight, then waited for the jellies to swim away. After that, the seal then pulled the now empty tub back out of the water and turned it back upright, ready for a new load.

In fact, it had also been Jojo that had nudged both Amber and Zac into the water, and had then pushed each of them onto the island, rather gently, before taking off with his seal buddies and bringing back the first jellies. The sea otters had guarded the two humans while the seals had filled this water with the jellyfish, who were now all around their little island.

Zac, still slightly stunned from their adventure, and listening to Mikey talk to other people at the other end of the phone, said in the bland monotone he’d been using to call for help, “I’m wondering if anyone will believe me if I tell them what’s really going on here.” He gazed at Amber as he said this, and began to worry that he’d need to switch hands on the phone soon.

Amber just gazed at him, wondering if he was still talking to Mikey, or to her. Finally she filled the silence with, “I’m thinking probably not,” and turned her gaze back to their little guards.

“Hi, Webly-dude,” she called in a friendly way to one of her favorite otters. “I’m wondering if we could use the restrooms?” She figured the otters couldn’t understand her, but decided it was better than suffering in silence. She watched as Webly turned to the other otters and chirp/barked, then jumped into the water with the jellies. She was very worried about little Webly for a moment, then she figured that he knew what he was doing and just watched.

All the animals had learned enough English from the movies they’d seen to know what Amber was asking for, so Webly asked his otter friends, “Do you think anyone’ll object?” Some of the others shook their heads, indicating “no”, so Webly jumped into the water so he could inform Jaxswim of what Amber needed.

After Webly told him what Amber had asked for, Jax asked, “Well, why can’t they just use the water like everyone else?” which was a perfectly valid question.

“Humans like to go where no one can see them, I think,” replied Webly. “We can control them on land, but only one at a time, okay?” he continued. “Amber first.”

Jax then called out to his jellyfish kin, “Yo! We’re gonna clear a trail for Amber to cross to the former people-side of this place! Zac stays where he is, though! ‘Kay?”

“Sure,” responded one jellyfish.

“Fine,” agreed another.

“Okay,” came a third response.

“Say what?!” someone yelled from the other side of the island.

The jellyfish that had understood relayed the message to that jelly, and then to all of the other jellyfish that didn’t understand the message the first time. Within several seconds, all of them knew what Jax wanted, and were waiting for his command to clear a pathway.

These creatures weren’t big thinkers, but they understood enough, and Jax was one of their few kin who was multi-lingual. He was very intelligent for a jellyfish, and all of his friends and companions were glad that he was one of them. They generally followed his lead, but they’d seldom had a reason to need it.

“Has everyone got it?” Jax asked his jelly-friends.

“We all clear away from here,” one said while clearing away from the area.

“Right,” confirmed Jax.

“Right?” a second one responded. “I think I’m going the wrong way, then.”

“No, don’t change! You’re all making a path for Amber to jump into the water! You’re doing great!” encouraged Jax, while trying to usher and herd his mass of relatives in the correct directions.

“Kewl!” replied the first jelly.

“Are we far enough over yet?” asked a third.

“That’s great!” Jax answered, relieved that the pathway was now cleared.

"Awesome!"

"Kewwwl, yo!"

"Now what do we do?" someone asked from the crowd.

"Just keep that area clear for now," Jax called back. "We're good!"

"Yup!"

"We sure are!" a couple of jellies shouted.

"Whoo-hooo!!" the whole mass of jellies crowed, and celebrated with high-fives, forgetting completely about Amber and what they were doing, other than keeping that area clear.

Jax left good enough alone and gave Webly the go-ahead for Amber, so now Webly jumped out of the water beside her, then chirped and clomped his teeth at her once, pointing her reaction move towards the shore through the now cleared water.

Two of Webly’s otter friends then joined him on the small, rocky island, and quickly moved towards Zac. Together, the otters bared their teeth while looking him in the eyes, and, as expected, Zac froze, unwilling to move with those very sharp teeth so close to him.

“Hey!” Amber “barked” at Webly and the other otters. “He’s your friend, too! Leave him alone!” The two otters quickly turned towards her, along with Webly, and so did Zac. The little creatures closed their mouths, but still moved to flank Zac. Now he could watch them both, but they kept the deeper water of the tank as his only safe escape route.

Naturally, Webly and the others would never have actually bitten these two, but a nip from these teeth would be painful enough to make them stop and think.

Amber then said to Zac, “If you haven’t figured it out, they’re only letting ‘’me’’ go to the restroom. They’ll probably let you go as soon as I’m back. Okay?”

Zac risked a glance away from his small and very sharp-toothed companions to tell Amber, “I’ve figured that out already. Thanks.” He said all of this while mostly keeping his monotone intact. He suddenly thought of Mikey and asked, “What about my phone and Mikey? We can’t let them know about it.” He said this last with a bit of an edge, while his eyes moved over all the animals.

“Just pretend that you’re talking to all the animals when you talk to him again,” Amber said just before she splashed into the cold water for the second time in several minutes. She gasped from the cold and quickly reached the other side where she quickly got on dry land again. She was almost immediately surrounded by Webly and his little otter friends, but she trusted them not to bother her as she hurried to the nearby ladies room.

Jojo was no longer guarding the seal enclosure, and had gone elsewhere, Amber noticed. Now she began to wonder where he kept going every few minutes. She really needed to go, though, so she entered the ladies’ with her companions following her.

Afterwards, Amber felt a lot better, and drank a lot of water. She had some spare change and bought herself and Zac some food from a nearby vending machine, as well as a few drinks. No telling how long they were going to be hostages, so she planned on being prepared. She walked back to the seal enclosure with her small companions, and found Jojo with Webly and Zac.

“Hi, Jojo!” she called happily, as though this was part of her normal day. Jojo, who was in the water, glanced briefly at Webly, and then moved back a bit so that Amber could re-enter the water. Amber then watched as Webly silently slipped into the water and “spoke” with the jellies, apparently asking them to move out of the way again.

Amber still couldn’t get past Webly’s seeming multi-species lingual abilities, and Jojo’s too, but she still had the presence of mind to call to Zac, “Hey! Food!! And drinks, too. Hope you like them!”

The lady hostage, having seen her food and drinks safely caught by her male co-hostage, soon jumped into the cold water, since the jellyfish had cleared a path for her again. She swam quickly, with Jo’s help, and he also gently helped her onto the island once more.

“Thanks again, Jojo!” Amber crooned to the seal, who barked softly in return. Amber was beginning to shiver, but figured she’d warm up again quickly with all this sugary junk food and soda pop. She wrung out her clothes, opened one of the candy bars, and watched as Webly clacked his teeth to move Zac this time.

While Amber had been “free”, she’d realized that the nearby vending machines could help both her and Zac hide the fact that he was using his cell phone. She’d really stocked up, and now Amber watched as the phone-free Zac got into the water and back out on the shore-side, also with a bit of help from Jojo.

Zac had deftly hidden his phone in the food pile, and now Amber was munching away while holding that phone to her ear. It was very well hidden by her hair, and Amber just listened to Mikey and the conversation on the other end silently.

“See you soon, Zac!” Amber called between bites, with just a hint of anxiety. Zac waved to her, and continued onwards with his small escorts.

Jo followed them, traveling away from the seal pen again, but Amber still didn’t know to where. Webly stayed here with her, though, while the jellyfish closed ranks around the island again, so she shared a granola bar with her little companion while holding the phone between her shoulder and ear.

Amber couldn’t know it, but Jofan was keeping the other animals updated on their captives so that the breakout could continue without a slowdown due to worry. Many of the animals were out, but the largest and least land mobile were still here, like Sprink, Mist and Manatee. Meanwhile, the trucks were moving well, and they might still succeed in all getting free if no one else came to the aquarium unexpectedly.

Special Operations

In another building near the aquarium, Mikey was finally talking to someone who could help them fight the possibly Navy terrorists who had taken over the aquarium: the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, (CANSOFCOM).

This branch of the Canadian military is responsible for all special forces operations, and are in existence to respond to terrorism and threats to Canadians and Canadian interests around the world. Their base of operations is in Ottowa, Ontario, about 600 miles southwest of Baie-Comeau, Quebec, where all this action was happening. Fortunately, Quebec City is only about 350 miles southwest of Baie-Comeau, and is also along the Saint Lawrence River.

“We should be there by dawn,” Lieutenant Commander K.G. Mahn, the Special Operations officer on call, said to Mikey over the phone.

“But two of our people have been taken hostage!” Mikey shot back. “Can’t you get here sooner?”

“Have you called the local police?” Mahn asked.

“First call I made,” Mikey responded.

“Aren’t they there yet?”

“I haven’t heard anything from them.”

“Do you know if the hostages are okay?”

“At least one of them is, and he’d tell me if his partner was hurt,” Mikey replied.

As the Navy officer took more information, Mikey continued to worry about the animals as well as the humans. ‘’”Great way to start your new job,”’’ he thought to himself while answering another question.

Finally, the Navy officer told him that the special forces were on their way, and suggested that Mikey stay on the line until he heard something more.

By this time, Mikey was worn out with worry, but he waited patiently with his phones while he pondered why there was no surveillance video at the aquarium.

The simple answer that Mikey didn’t know was that the previous Head of Night Security, their much-beloved, but lonely Thomas, had flipped a switch on the old video player and connected it to his monitors. That way, he could watch movies on the security screens while the aquarium was closed. Thomas was delighted with the movie choices the two animal caretakers had made, and hadn’t changed the selections.

However, he’d forgotten to flip his switch back to normal surveillance after his company retirement party the night before, and since there were no movies playing, all of the security screens were now black.

Although Thomas had enjoyed the movies, he had fallen asleep during most of them since he was nearing retirement, and because absolutely nothing had ever happened during the night watch, as far as he knew. Besides which, the cameras were still recording everything, so if he had ever gotten a report of something missing, or an alarm going off somewhere, he could just flip that switch in front of him and see the whole aquarium.

He had simply gotten bored of watching all the animals swimming around all night, every night, for years, with no real change of view. And he’d read an entire library full of books and newspapers.

--

Outside, Avi was happily introducing all of his inside friends to his outside ones.

“This is Pearl, she’s really nice! And this is her boyfriend, Rocket!” Pearl and Rocket blushed and smiled as Avi continued. “And this shark here is my first real buddy, Slicer! He’s the one that introduced me to everyone else! And Nibbler’s probably looking for food around here somewhere. Ooh! And this shark here is Alfan! He’s the bestest shark of them all!! He’s their schoolteacher, and he’s the one that figured out we needed some octopi to help break everyone out of that there place! I love Alfan! I love all these sharks! There’s more around,…maybe they’re with Nibbler? She’s sweet, too! Just picky about her food, is all.”

Everyone greeted everyone else that was interested in meeting Avi’s shark friends. Alfie had suggested to Avi that the school of sharks meet all the other escapees before they start to learn all of the escapees’ names. Everyone agreed wholeheartedly, and from the drainage area, which was no longer producing marine escapees, they made their way to the truck deposit area to meet up with the bigger animals. The large group was going to avoid the freshwater areas, since Justine and I See would have difficulty with them.

Justine and I See, who were driving this escape truck, quickly got the animals out of their tubs and into the water near the side of the road, but they were both stressed, and Alfan didn’t want anyone to bother them. However, when Avi called out, “Hi, guys!!” to them, they waved back and finished setting Manatee free from his water box.

Once Manatee was in the sling, the siblings lifted their friend with the crane, and gently lowered him into the water.

Manatee squeaked, “Eeeeee!! Cold water! Oooooh!” He began to shiver, then quickly started moving around so he could warm up.

The octopods snickered a bit at Manatee’s reaction. They came down to the water to get some deep breaths, and just watched for a short while. Once they saw that he was adjusting to the cold, they knew that he’d be okay to leave in the water. Then they both called, “See ya, Tee!” as they waved briefly.

“Take care, you two! And get done soon! We’ll be out here waiting for you!” Alfan called to Justine and I See.

“We will, Alfie,” said Justine happily, as she and I See gave him a quick hug.

They then waved and said, “Goodbye!” to the entire group, and then the brother and sister octopi climbed out of the water, put the crane back into its safe position, and clambered into the driver’s side of the truck.

The group from the aquarium had seen them operate the truck many times, but it was brand new for the sharks.

“That is SO awesome!!” Slicer exclaimed as the truck drove away.

From Slicer’s back, Avi said, “It’s fun to watch them work!”

“I wish we could do that,” agreed Rocket.

“…They’re brilliant!” cooed Pearl in wonder.

Rocket heard her say that, and he came over and hugged Pearl briefly, since he suddenly felt a little bit jealous of the marine truck drivers.

“I know, right?” he agreed with her. “Sometimes I wish we had legs like them, too.”

Pearl then looked at Rocket with admiration, and they both laughed and went to play together in the deeper water nearby.

Alfan watched the pair swim towards the deeper water, and couldn’t help but think, ‘’“I’m SO grateful to those two for finding Justine and I See. They’re both great pairs!”’’

He then began to worry about how he was ever going to repay this debt to these octopi, since they had risked life and limb to save his two kids, and now were risking their lives by saving the entire aquarium full of animals, as well as his kids. He didn’t want to bother anyone else with his concerns, but they’d all heard about the two humans that had wandered in and seen too much. He let out a deep sigh and hoped everyone would get out safe and soon.

Manatee, now all warmed up and adjusted to the temperature, had by then noticed the crowd of sharks and his buddies from the tank, and said, “Hey!! Great to finally meet you all out here!” He continued swimming around to stay warm, for now.

Alfan then turned his attention towards Manatee and said, “We’re glad to meet you, too, Manatee! We’re glad that you’re out safe, and we’ll help you as much as we can.”

“We sure will,” agreed Nibbler. “We’ll help you find food, too,” she added shyly, having recently returned from hunting. She’d been offering food to all of their new arrivals to help them feel more comfortable among the sharks.

“Like, yo, Man!” said Slicer, who was waiting his turn to greet their new friend. “Welcome!”

“Hey, Tee!” called Avi from Slicer’s side, “We’re really glad you’re here! These are my other shark friends!”

Manatee swam up to Avi on Slicer and patted him with his large paddle-shaped pectoral fin. He then solemnly said, “Thank you for helping to save us, Avi.”

Avi blushed, and for the first time in his life, he was speechless.

Manatee then turned to all the sharks and his aquarium friends, and said to the sharks, “You’ve given us our freedom back! How can we ever repay you?”

Alfie was now also speechless. He had expected thanks from everyone, but that was it. Now he had an entire group of various sea animals waiting for him to tell them what to do.

“Umm…” said Alfan, completely blanking on words for now.

Nibbler then piped up, “Maybe you can all help each other get home? After we’re all out, of course. Or maybe we should all stick together? We could form a new interspecies school?”

“Tell everyone who will listen what we’ve done here, today! We’ve worked together and saved a lot of folks from that place! All because we’ve cooperated.”

Everyone was staring at Pearl as she said all of this. She and Rocket had returned unnoticed until just now.

“Make sure that everyone knows to avoid the big and small boats so they don’t end up finned or in an aquarium. And tell everyone how we all, big and small, cooperated to get our friends and children free from those land creatures!” Pearl concluded with pride.

“Like, we’ll be famous all over the oceans!” Slicer suddenly exclaimed.

(cue TDI theme music)


Sprinkle and Mist singing, shown still in the aquarium:

“Dear Alfie and friends, we’re doin’ fine,

You guys are on our minds!”

Pearl singing, telling audiences what this small group has done:

“You asked us what we wanted to be,”

Slicer singing with Avi as a prominent passenger:

“And now I think the answer is plain to see!”

Everyone singing, shown partying next to the coral reefs:

“We’re gonna be famous!”


Avi singing, shown traveling on Sun Slicer:

“I wanna live close to this Sun!”

Alfan singing, shown protecting his kids from boats with the help of all his new friends:

“If you need help then we’re sure to come!”

I See singing, while pushing the pedals in the truck:

“Nothing left to prove,”

Justine singing while steering the truck:

“Nothing in my way.”

Together they sing from the truck:

“We’ll get there one day!”

Everyone singing as they rescue another group of captives from a different aquarium:

“’Cause we’re gonna be famous!”


All the rescued marine life, enjoying the ocean again:

“Nanana'nanaana nana nana

They wanna be,”

All the rescuers, tired and near another drainpipe:

“We wanna be.”

Everyone, enjoying their freedom:

“We/they wanna be famous!”


All the rescued critters, singing from a lot of places in the oceans:

“They wanna be,”

All the rescuers, seen continuing to free aquarium captives:

“Don’t wanna be,”

Everyone, seen trying to avoid all the humans pursuing them in boats,

“Don’t wanna be famous!”


All the marine animals looked around, wondering where that musical montage came from. After a couple of minutes of looking around, they continued working on their current great escape.

Alfan and the large group kept two shark guards at the drainpipe, just in case, two in the freshwater area where the aquarianists were being set free upriver, and the rest of the sharks were with the main group, which now included Manatee. The quick shark scouts kept the freshwater group updated on the saltwater progress, and vice versa, since bull sharks have no problem traveling between fresh and salt water.

Meanwhile, Manatee, now used to the water temperature, swam over to Alfan.

“Alfan,” Manatee said quietly to him, so that Alfan was the only one to hear, “Sprink and Mist felt like they were in charge of keeping everyone calm in the aquarium during this escape, since they were the ones kind of in charge of making it happen in the first place. So they and the barracuda, Bruno, are the last ones to leave. With Justine and I See. They just wanted you to know, and not to worry about them too much. They said to tell you that they’ll see you soon,” Manatee concluded quietly to Alfan, who was obviously worrying.

“So the seals and the sea otters are going to be the last ones out?” Alfan asked Manatee. “They’ve gotta hold those humans in place while everyone else leaves. How are they getting out?”

Manatee suddenly felt important because of this question, and he felt the excitement of this adventure suddenly weighed down with the responsibility of getting everyone out safely.

“Umm…” Manatee started, as he put his thoughts in order. “The humans are in the seal enclosure, and they’re surrounded by a lot of jellyfish. So they won’t get into the water for fear of getting stung, but also because they’d probably kill some of the jellies if they landed on them or hit them too hard. Jellyfish are kind of fragile, and these two humans are really nice to us.”

Manatee was feeling more confident talking with Alfan now, and continued, “We wanted to leave tonight because they weren’t going to be here for three days, so our breaking out wouldn’t get them in trouble.” Manatee suddenly worried, “I hope they don’t hate us now.”

“So the seals and the sea otters are leaving through the drainpipe?” asked Alfan kindly.

Manatee stopped worrying about Amber and Zac hating them as he said, “There are only three seals left, and several sea otters. The otters are pushing the pedals while a seal drives. Then they’ll drive the truck back to the aquarium and wait. Justine and I See will drive your kids here, with a seal and two otters in the truck, and then the seal and otters will drive the truck back home, … I mean to the aquarium,” Manatee corrected himself with embarrassment.

“Once there, they’ll park the truck, clean it, and then the seals plan on using the keys to lock up after they leave the building to make it look just the way it always looks. Hopefully Jofan will keep those keys, just in case for the future. The otters are leaving through the same drain Justine and I See use. Then we’ll all be out here!” Manatee concluded happily.

“Thank you, Manatee,” said Alfan with feeling. He then called, “Rocket, could you and Pearl swim over to the drain and tell them that there will be several sea otters coming out that way before too long?”

“Of course,” responded Rocket eagerly. “Anything else?”

“You can tell them that Justine, I See, Sprink and Mist are going to be over here soon, too!” Alfan said happily, with only a hint of worry.

“Whoopie!!” yelled Rocket, and he took off and dove deep, then shot up like a rocket from the depths, trying to slice the moon the way Sun did the sun. He made a big splash, then came over to Pearl and told her he’d tell her the news on the way to the drainpipe.

Soon everyone could hear Pearl yell, “Wheee!” and then heard another big splash in the direction of the pipe.

Several of the group then came to Alfan to ask him what that was all about, and he told them, “Manatee here tells me that Justine and I See will soon be returning with Sprink and Mist, and also a barracuda named Bruno! We’ll all be going home soon!”

“For realz, Man?” Slicer asked Manatee happily.

“Yep,” Man replied.

“Hooray!” yelled Avistar from Slicer’s back.

“Yay!!” sang Nibbler. She then gave Manatee a great big shark hug. “Thank you!” she said to him. Then she swam all around in her enthusiasm, carefully away from all the other animals in the group so she wouldn’t accidentally hit anyone. She continued to swim in happy circles on the edge of the group for quite some time.

Manatee laughed happily, glad to have made his new shark friends so happy.

“Yo, Man, mind if I give you a hug, like?” asked Slicer. He then gave Tee a gentle hug, then turned and looked him in the eye.

“In my book, Man, you’re one of us, now,” Slicer said approvingly to Manatee. He then swam off to just enjoy a peaceful moment of nature and joy in the deep and cold water. Avi hugged his buddy tighter and held on, letting Slicer’s warmth keep him warm, too.

New Players

“Ooooohhhhhhhmmmmmmm,” crooned Sun Slicer, once he’d reached a quiet, isolated spot in the depths. He was meditating, just taking in all the wonders of the natural world, trying to find that calm, balanced peace in his mind again before he returned to the group on the surface. He was enjoying all the animals and plants here, and had finally found his center again when he noticed a boat engine that sounded different from all the other boats in these waters.

“Avi, do you hear that?” he asked his little buddy.

“Ummm…What?” shivered Avi in response, not enjoying the cold so much.

“That fast, low chug-chug-chug sound,” replied Sun, now on his way to the surface again, where the water was warmer.

“Oh. Yeah, I hear it, too,” replied Avi, warming up again.

When they got to the group again, everyone was gathered around Manatee, wanting to hear the latest.

“Where’s Alfie?” called Slicer to the group when he and Avi reached them.

“He went up towards the drainpipe to wait for the truck to come back out,” Manatee said. “He said he was being impatient, but he wanted to see them come out, then he’d high-tail it back so he’d be here when they got out of the truck. We’re to ‘wait here and guard the area’ for them.”

“’Kay, thanks, Man,” Slicer replied. “Say, like, have any of you heard that fast chugging engine coming this way?”

Everyone took note, since the whole group was around Manatee, and they all listened in silence for it.

The whole group wondered about that new noise, and noticed as Nibbler joined them, asking about the new noise, too.

“I’ll go tell Alfan,” Nibbler volunteered. “Unless you’ve got another idea?” she asked Slicer.

“No, I don’t. Tell Alfie,” Slicer replied. “And tell him it’s getting closer, like, fast!”

Nibbler raced off towards the drainpipe, and the rest of the group now waited anxiously, listening to the sound of the boat engine coming closer and closer.

--

Master Seaman Hatchet was the leader of the CANSOFCOM unit on duty at the time the call came in. His duties called for him to check out every possible threat to Canada’s shoreline or terrorism threats on land and abroad. If he and his team deemed the potential threat was a serious threat to Canada or its borders, a larger and more powerful team would be sent in to take over from MS Hatchet and his team. They were the scouts.

MS Hatchet gathered his team around him quickly, and they were given the briefing of what was going on.

“In short,” began Lieutenant Commander K.G. Mahn, the coordinator of this mission, “the Night Security Watchman of Baie-Comeau Aquarium of Ontario called 911 at 11:50pm because one of his aquarium employees had called him claiming that some Navy Seals had taken over the aquarium. The caller claimed that he and his partner were being held captive. These two known captives appear to be okay, but what we need to know is why the United States Navy is sending its Special Forces into one of our aquariums late at night. And on a weekend. Or if these are rogues pretending to be Navy Seals. The aquarium employee seemed pretty sure about that part.

“We’re holding off sending in any local police for fear we’ll spook them,” KG continued. “Right now, we need more intel and some reconnaissance on their possible numbers. Here’s a map of the location, and a map of the aquarium with its blueprints. You have a go, and your ship will take you to your destination as soon as you’re onboard.”

With that, their viewscreen connection turned off, and the maps and blueprints to the aquarium printed out and simultaneously downloaded to their electronic communications devices.

Their written orders were quite clear, and violence was to be used as a last resort option towards the unknown assailants. Rescuing the captives was less important than assessing the threat, but they were the priority if this team decided they could take the aquarium back without casualties on either side.

The team hurried to grab their gear, then quickly assembled in their Coast Guard ship’s main meeting room as the boat got underway.

“Comments? Questions? Ideas?” Hatchet asked his several-man team once they’d glanced over the maps. He knew that several pairs of eyes and minds were better than just one. He’d use their ideas and decide on either his or the best other option available, since everyone knew that egos had no place here in the Special Ops groups.

Leading Seaman N. Duke, whom everyone referred to as “Duke”, suggested, “We should look through these windows here, and here,” he said as he pointed to them. “These windows show us the whole room with the seal tank that the caller claimed they were being held in. We should see how many are guarding the captives, and assess from that the total number of hostile forces.”

“Good idea,” enthused Hatchet, having already decided that that would be the best room to address first. “Anyone else?”

Leading Seaman Michaels, called “Radical M” or “Radi”, said, “The main truck entry,” as he pointed, “is a strategic entry and exit point. We need to watch for any vehicles that shouldn’t be there, and look in these windows for any movement.”

“I agree,” agreed Hatchet. “Let’s recon the outside and the doors, then we’ll look at the truck and seal windows. Be sure you have the right equipment for a two-story building.”

Hatchet soon asked the ship’s captain for their E.T.A. (Estimated Arrival Time), then he and his several-man team got down to planning strategies.

The Navy ship traveled swiftly to its destination, churning up a lot of water as it quickly chugged its way down towards the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River. They could have taken a helicopter, but flying at night over populated areas has its drawbacks, so Lt.Cmdr. KG Mahn had opted for this safer, if slower, mode of travel. No need to lose a team due to risky, and possibly unwarranted, haste.

They arrived about an hour before dawn, which seemed like forever, but the local police had been doing surveillance, and were able to relay to the Navy headquarters that the aquarium trucks had been leaving the building through the main doors, then returning after a few minutes.

--

Mikey had kept the line open to the Royal Canadian Navy, and now, finally, he was getting word back from them. Indi, the local 911 police dispatcher, had told him that the police were outside, and would act when it was appropriate, but for now to just keep the captors calm until the Navy arrived. Also, to tell her if anything bad happened that meant the police should break in right now.

“Thanks, Indi,” he said to her. “I’m glad to have someone actually on the line to talk to me. You’re helping to keep me calm, for sure.”

“That’s part of my job, ya know,” she responded. “So, how long have you been doing this job?”

“This is my first night alone at it,” he replied.

“Yikes!” Indi exclaimed sympathetically. “That’s gotta suck. But I’ll inform the local cops, just in case that’s relevant to this break in/hostage thing. ‘Kay?”

“Sure,” Mikey said to her. “Thanks.”

So Mikey, Head of Night Security of the Baie-Comeau Aquarium, talked with Zac--caretaker of the feeding of animals and general maintenance with his partner, Amber--about the seals.

“So, how many did you say there are?” asked Mike, referring to Zac and Amber’s captors.

“Well, there were three big ones guarding us,” said Zac, very aware now of the miscommunication. He had decided that a rescue would be much better than revealing the whole truth about their dilemma, since these were definitely a very organized mass of animals.

“But now there’re only two. And there were a few others running around, too,” Zac continued, referring to the sea otters. “They’re being nice to us, and I don’t think they want to hurt anyone, but they’re just not letting us leave.”

When Zac had first called Mikey, he’d figured the Head of Security would look at his video screens and call other aquarium workers in to help take control of the situation. Now that he knew the Navy had been called in to rescue them, he had no idea what was on the security monitors. ‘’What was really happening? Was this all some crazy nightmare?’’

Zac pinched himself. “Ouch!! That hurt!” he said. “Okay, I’m awake.”

Amber just looked at him for a moment, then continued to watch the animals silently, wondering the same things as Zac.

Now Zac was thinking that these creatures had swapped out old security videos with the live feed, somehow. Just the thought that these creatures were that bright scared him more than having seen them working the cranes and maneuvering the trucks, in obvious cooperation with each other, when he and Amber had walked in on them.

“Well, just thought I’d tell you that the Royal Canadian Navy is supposed to be here soon, ‘kay?” Mikey soothed, or tried to soothe, his co-worker through the phone-waves.

“Great,” responded Zac, with a lot of apprehension. “Tell the Navy people that there are a LOT of animals here that are NOT to be harmed, okay? Our captors might actually be gone by the time the navy gets here, so be sure they know that, ‘kay?”

“Sure, Zac,” Mikey replied, not sure what else to say. He then relayed the message to the Navy dispatch folks:

“Hey, umm, Zac, the captive inside the aquarium talking to us?” Mikey relayed to the Navy dispatch, “He’s indicating that the Seals are either leaving, or about to leave, so he wanted me to tell you that.”

“Thanks, I’ll make sure they know,” the secretary to Lt. Cmdr. K.G. Mahn replied efficiently.

“Thanks!” responded Mikey to the secretary.

--

Jo was the last seal guarding the humans, and he was just waiting for Justine and I See, the wonderful octopi, to return with the last truck to be loaded. This final truck would carry his new shark buddies and his long-time friend, Bruno, to freedom! Then everyone except himself, the seal driver of the soon-to-be final truck, Sunshine, and two more sea otters who were working the pedals of that final truck, would be free. Jo would still be guarding Amber and Zac with his two current otter companions, including Webly, until the final truck was safely parked back inside the aquarium.

The jellyfish enjoyed their simple, carefree lifestyle here, and weren’t sure the outside life was for them. They’d decided long before now that they would stay here. Of course, several of them had said ‘farewell’ to their aquarium buddies, and they were sad to see so many of their new friends preparing to leave.

Jax the jellyfish wasn’t into hugging since he could be hurt so easily, but he’d wished all his new friends a safe and happy life in the outdoors, and asked them about life out there, since he’d been born in the aquarium. Jax was really learning a lot! All of his seal and sea otter buddies were now teaching at the first aquarium jellyfish school, and these lessons would be passed on for generations to come.

Meanwhile, everyone still inside the aquarium was waiting for that last, empty truck to come back. Then Jofan the seal would know that all his friends were free at last, and that he, Sunshine, Webly and the other otters could exit out a people door with the keys. Or, Webly and the otters could leave out the drainpipe, which was more practical. That was up to them.

Jofan looked over to Sprink, Mist and Bruno, and saw how anxious they were for that last truck to return, too. Then he noticed the three of them suddenly perk up and stare at the door, so Jo followed their gaze. Now he could hear the returning truck, too.

He glanced at Amber and Zac, and saw that they were watching everything. Jo now had to keep most of his attention on guarding them, as he finally heard the truck doors open and the returning truck enter the “pickup room”, as they had been calling it recently. He noticed that Zac and Amber still couldn’t seem to believe what they were seeing, as they both stared agog at the octopi and their activities.

Jo watched his captives carefully as Amber glanced at him, then bent down to her and Zac’s pile of food and picked something up. It looked like a candy bar, but she was tapping at it with her thumbs. Jo tried to look closer, and saw a small, moving picture on Amber’s side of the “candy bar”. Jo barked at her, and she froze, looking at him. She then carefully moved her “motion picture thing” down to where Jo could see it better. She was taking pictures of Justine and I See on her candy bar!

Jo suddenly thought, ”Maybe she’s making a new movie that folks can watch? I wonder if anyone’ll break into song?” Jo then got out of the water and let Amber film her movie, since those were fun to watch, and Jo saw no harm in it. Amber and Zac kept watching Jo and the octopi while she filmed their octopus friends get out of the truck. Then they watched as Sunshine the seal rinsed and filled the water boxes in preparation for Sprink, Mist and Bruno.

Everyone was watching as the sling was lowered into the tank, and then as Sprink and Bruno rode in it together to the truck. I See was very adept at those controls now, and he quickly and gently set the passengers into their box. Justine made sure that the water circulation pump was on, then unclipped the sling so that Sprink and Bruno would stay in their new box while the sling raised back up.

To speed things up, Justine grabbed hold of the sling as it rose.

“Ooh! Great view!” Justine exclaimed as she “flew” over the room towards the main tank. She then waved to Mist, all alone in the tank now, and he waved back and chuckled.

“You look like dirty gray wet workers’ clothes, hanging on that sling like that!” called Mist, who was making light of the situation.

Justine quickly morphed her colors into as bright a white as she could. “Now I’m clean wet clothes!” she called back amiably. “Maybe you should try me on on the way back,” the faux clothes bundle replied, as she was being lowered into the water with the sling.

“Eww!” cried Mist. “I don’t wanna wear a big blob of wet clothes!” He couldn’t help but laugh at his own joke, and the “wet clothes” joined in the laughter.

Mist swam over next to the sling when I See finished lowering it, and then Justine quickly reattached the sling clips, making the sling nice and secure around her buddy. Then she turned and waved to I See, and the sling began to rise. She decided to ride her companion like a steed, the same way those western movies showed, instead of beside him, which was cramped and uncomfortable.

“Could I actually ride on your back, buddy?” Justine asked. “It’d be a lot more comfortable for me, and we might make I See laugh, besides.”

Mist chuckled, and said, “Sounds fun, but stay clean!” He then watched I See’s face for a reaction, and felt his friend splorch onto his back as they traveled.

“Yee-ha!” the girl jockey cried, as she waved a tentacle above her head like the cowboys often did. She then burst into laughter at how ridiculous she must look, and giggled as she rode the rest of the way down.

Mist couldn’t help but laugh along with her, and wished he could see how they must look together.

I See, meanwhile, looked up and burst into laughter, which stopped the motion of the sling for a few moments.

“That looks fun!” I See called to them both, still laughing. He then continued working, but was still chuckling at their antics as he brought the sling down into the water.

Justine took a deep breath once they were in the water, and raised her tentacle at I See to indicate they were all the way into the water.

“Whoo-hoo!” she cried happily. “That was great fun!!”

“Last load!” called I See back. “And that was great fun to watch, too. Thanks!” he called, as Justine unclipped the sling and made sure that the water was circulating properly. She then climbed quickly into her workers’ clothes in the drivers’ seat.

I See quickly put the truck’s crane into its safe position, and looked around the area one last time. He then also climbed into the truck’s cab and into the pants on the floor.

Sunshine the seal and the two otters were making this final trip with them, and the sea otters were already enjoying the view through the windshield, since this was their first trip in the trucks while not working the pedals. Sunshine was riding in the back with their gilled passengers, and was enjoying not having to steer.

These trucks had high sides for advertising themselves, and a garage door style rollaway back door and roof. That way, no outside traffic could see what was going on in back, but the ease of transport and unloading was maximized.

Justine turned on the engine, and all of them that could waved farewell to Jofan, Webly, Zac and Amber as they drove towards the doors once again. The doors opened for the truck when it reached the pressure pad, and they left the building, with the doors closing behind them once again.

Zac and Amber waved distractedly at the escaping animals, as Amber recorded everything on her video-phone.

Big Changes

Nibbler caught up with Alfan not long after the truck had entered the building, and told him about the strange boat noise. They both listened, and it was a lot closer than before. Now he was now worried, since anything unusual spelled danger to him until everyone, especially his children, were safe.

“How long ago did you start hearing this?” queried Alfan.

“Slicer was somewhere with Avi, and we were all talking with Manatee, when he came up to us and…”

“What? Who came up to you?” Alfan asked.

“Slicer and Avi came back from wherever they were and asked us where you were. We told him, and he told us about the noise. Then we figured we’d better tell you, since the sound is kinda strange.”

“Thanks, Nibble,” he replied, looking around anxiously. “See if you can find the source of that noise, would you?”

“’Kay,” replied Nibbler, about to take off.

“But don’t get near it! Just see what it’s doing and where it’s going, and see if you can figure out what kind of boat it is, too. Then report back to me. Tell any of our friends you come across, too, but don’t let them get near it, either. Go!” instructed Alfan, now quite worried that something was going to go wrong with Sprink and Mist’s escape.

Nibbler took off towards the noise, which was back towards the main group, and she watched for anything strange as she hurried along.

Alfan stayed where he was, listening for any change in the noise. He was hoping it would chug past all of them, and let them finish, but he couldn’t relax. Suddenly, a different sound startled him, and he turned back towards the aquarium in time to see the truck doors open, and Justine drive the truck out. Now he knew that his only option was to stay as close to it as he could, and hope that it reached its destination.

--

On board the “chug-boat”, MS Hatchet, LS Duke, LS Radi and two other LS teammates were ready to get into the water so they could swim to shore. This way, the U.S. Navy Seals would hopefully assume that this ship was simply patrolling, or else headed somewhere downstream. Hatchet slipped off the rear ramp, and couldn’t be seen or heard over the noise and wake of the ship’s passing. Duke slipped off right behind him, then the rest, too, one by one.

Soon they had all reached the shore, not far upstream from the aquarium. They all kept their night gear on, but silently and efficiently slipped out of their “frog suits” or wet suits and fins, and hid them in the weeds at the waters’ edge. They then crept up towards the aquarium together, looking for anything unusual.

Soon, Hatchet and his team could see the “Aquarium This Way” sign, so they followed that road. It was still pre-dawn, so they began to skulk alongside the road towards the aquarium. Soon they heard a truck coming, so Hatchet signaled to his team that they needed to stop it, and find out from the occupant(s) what was going on inside the aquarium.

Hatchet chose Duke to stand on the road and flag down the truck with a flashlight, while Hatchet and Radi, along with their team, flanked the truck with their weapons drawn, in case the Seals were leaving en masse.

“Halt!” called Duke, as he stepped into the road in front of the truck. The truck slowed down, but didn’t stop, so Duke jumped out of the way of the truck, and then quickly jumped onto the driver’s side door with his gun raised at the driver. Hatchet, Radi and the rest of the team jumped onto the back of the truck to overwhelm any resistance.

“Aaaaaaaaah!” screamed Justine, raising two tentacles above her head for Duke, just like in the movies. She was still steering with her gloved tentacles, so all Duke saw for a moment was a driver’s uniform with dark glasses and a worker’s cap that held up two octopus tentacles at him.

“AAAAAAaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAHHHH!!” screamed Duke in unexpected surprise, as he jumped off of the truck. He recovered after a moment, however, and raced back to the driver’s door.

Meanwhile, the otters were worried about the humans suddenly on the truck, and one raced to the back of the truck to help Sunshine, while the other prepared to defend Justine. I See didn’t know what was happening, so he figured it would be best to “floor” it to get away from whatever it was.

All of this happened in the blink of an eye.

Duke just barely grabbed ahold of the truck before it “burned rubber”. Hatchet and Radi were just getting into the back of the truck. The two other men in Hatchet's team didn't make it onto the truck, and were chasing it down the road as it sped away. Sunshine’s head was low and she was lunging and snapping at Hatchet and Radi in order to keep them away, and the otter had jumped into Sprink’s tank from the cab of the truck on its way to jumping at the nearest human: Hatchet.

In another blink, Hatchet and Radi were flattened by a seal and an otter, and also had a barracuda staring at them along with two sharks, who all had their heads out of their water carriers with their mouths agape.

Duke was still crawling up the driver’s side door, but he suddenly got a sea otter in his face, showing off its very sharp, needle-like teeth. He couldn’t really maneuver now, but this little critter was fast, and Duke couldn’t do anything more than hold on tight to the truck.

All of Hatchet’s team had been under strict orders NOT to harm any of the marine animals from the aquarium, so now they were in a bind.

Hatchet suddenly got an idea, and raised his Navy-issue cell phone to his nose and then scratched both it and his head to hide it from his slippery opponents. He then said, urgently into his phone, but apparently to Radi, “Do not let this truck get to that outlet its been seen stopping at! Hostages are on board!” He didn’t dare tell the rest of his team that they were the hostages now, or that the “Seal” was an actual seal.

Hatchet’s second team, led by Leading Seaman Jake R., quickly set up a police roadblock to prevent the offloads that the local police had informed them about.

Only a couple of minutes later, Justine saw the police cars with flashing lights blocking the road ahead of her. She considered smashing through them, but she couldn’t risk hurting Sprink, Mist or Bruno.

“Stop!” Justine yelled to I See. “We can’t get through. They’ve blocked the road!”

The otter defending Justine could’ve escaped easily, but he wasn’t going to abandon her to this human on the door.

The truck stopped without incident, and the unruly animals were quickly overwhelmed by police nets. No one got hurt, but all the humans were greatly shocked by this turn of events.

“The entire truck was being run by the aquarium animals!” Hatchet yelled into his phone to his boss, Commander K.G. Mahn, his voice still filled with disbelief. “We’ve caught all the animals that were in this truck, and we’ve got them contained. They’ve been escaping into the bay!!”

“These are the “Seals” that took over the aquarium??!” squeaked Radi in disbelief, as he stared in shock at the recaptured animals.

Soon the octopi were each in a tank with a shark, so they’d be able to breathe, and riot nets were over each box so that none of them could escape. The men then put up a makeshift plywood wall so the seal and otters couldn’t get free.

Hatchet then took charge of the aquarium truck, and he ordered Jake’s team to stay where they were and guard the road against more escapees. Then Hatchet and his men drove the still filled truck to the loading doors of the aquarium, where they entered with no resistance. They saw the inner truck doors open too, so they drove on in and stopped when they saw the two human hostages being guarded by the seal.

Jo saw the returning truck and was ready to escape, but then watched all the humans get out of the truck, instead. He knew that all its former occupants must have been captured. All he could do now was get into the water and tell the jellyfish that more humans were here, so they all needed to move away from the rock island to be safe from them. Then Jo jumped up on the other seal island and waited for the new people to arrive.

Meanwhile, the third seal’s job had been to ensure that all the pickups and deliveries ran smoothly, so as soon as the final truck returned, he’d left, unseen by Hatchet’s team, through the briefly open truck doors.

“Don’t hurt them!” called Zac and Amber at the same time, referring of course to the animals.

“We haven’t yet,” Hatchet called back, with a brief glace at the truck they’d just come from.

“Good,” replied Amber with sorrow, knowing that the truck’s last group of creatures had been captured.

“Sorry, Jojo,” Zac said to his friend with feeling.

Jojo just sighed and looked at them, then looked away and laid down on his little rock island, knowing he wasn’t going anywhere anymore.

This really struck a chord inside Hatchet’s heart. He’d known POWs that had returned broken-hearted, and this seal suddenly looked just the same way. Now he was concerned about all the animals still in the truck, too.

Zac and Amber had lost track of Webly, and figured he was either around or had left via the drain.

The now freed Zac and Amber carefully returned Sprink, Mist, Bruno and the octopi back to their tank. They then gently ushered Sunshine over to Jojo, and the sea otters to their own exhibit again. Then they carefully placed Jax and all the other jellyfish back in their own tank once more, and made sure everyone had a little bit of food available in case they were hungry.

“We’re okay now, Mikey,” Zac had told him over the phone. “Thanks for the save. And what’s wrong with those security cameras, dude? They could’a come in handy, ya’know!”

“I don’t know!” Mikey replied with a passion. “I’ve gotta find out from Tom what’s up with them,” he grumbled unhappily.

With everyone, including MS Hatchet gathered around him, Mikey thanked Indi and hung up with her, and then phoned Thomas, his mentor. Mikey soon flipped the appropriate switch, and his difficulties with the security cameras were quickly solved. Thomas apologized profusely, and told Mikey that he’d completely forgotten to tell him about that switch because he didn’t want anyone, including his bosses, to know it existed.

“No worries, Tom. We just didn’t know what was wrong with the monitors, was all. Thanks for your help, and enjoy your retirement!” Mikey soothed over the phone. “That was an awesome party, so don’t worry about it. And come visit anytime! Maybe show me more of your “secret buttons”, eh?” he chuckled. After a minute or two more of pleasantries, he hung up the phone and turned to the crowd around him.

“I don’t want him in trouble, and it was my responsibility to know what that switch is for,” Mikey proclaimed.

Everyone agreed not to get Thomas in trouble for enjoying his retirement party the previous night, so that little problem was solved, and they could now see on the video monitors that there were no more escapees waiting for trucks. Or driving them. Or hidden in the backs of them.

Soon all the video footage was available on the security screens for Hatchet’s team, as well as for Mikey, Zac and Amber to see. Everyone was agape at how organized these animals were, and Mikey labeled the monitors’ troublesome switch clearly in front of everyone, so there would be no repeats of his troubles with the security cameras. They realized that this had been a prison break, and they couldn’t help but feel bad for the animals, but what could they do for them?

--

Alfie watched the Navy ship as it chugged past at a good clip, and saw Nibbler following it at a safe distance as it continued on down the river. He was somewhat relieved by that, and kept following the truck. Then he watched in horror as it gained its human passengers. Since he could do nothing about it, though, he kept following as the truck raced towards their drop-off point.

Alfan noticed the vehicle barrier across the road a short distance later, since the police lights were flashing, and he watched helplessly as “his” truck stopped before it and was swarmed by the gathered humans. He then continued to watch as the octopi were moved into the water containers and were covered, so that even they couldn’t escape. He felt completely helpless as he watched the aquarium truck become loaded up with humans, and he naturally followed as it was driven back into the aquarium, soon followed by many more vehicles and people.

Alfan quickly swam to and informed all of his groups at the exit points to abandon their posts. There would be no more escapees tonight.

Afterwards, Alfan kept his big group together, and sent scouts to follow all the activity for the next few days. The area near the aquarium became extremely busy with boats and vehicles. Lots of people crowded around and into the aquarium. Several boats came out into the bay, searching for old and new aquarium life, but Alfan made sure that none of his group was around to be caught off-guard.

Unfortunately, many of the animals decided over those few days that life out in the wild was too harsh, and some of them went back up the drain to re-enter their former home. Others wandered back up to the truck entrance. All were eagerly accepted back by their human caretakers, and also welcomed back with heavy hearts by their tank-mates.

Overnight, Zac, Amber and Mikey became celebrities, and were interviewed on various talk shows. They made sure that folks listening knew that these animals had never intended to take them hostage, and in no way had hurt either of them. Also, that these creatures seemed to be far more intelligent than even the aquarium workers had known. Then they showed Amber’s camera video to the world for the first time. They and the aquarium became internationally famous overnight.

--

Inside, the animals refused to do anything to entertain the crowds, now that Amber’s video had been used as an advertisement for this aquarium and had gone viral. All the crowds expected the animals to do tricks and drive the trucks and so forth, but the animals were simply too depressed to do much of anything. Even for Zac and Amber.

Soon, all the animal rights groups demanded that the animals be set free, since that was what they’d obviously wanted when they’d escaped. And fans and professionals alike wanted to buy them to either set them free, do intelligence tests on them, or to have them perform like circus animals for their aquariums, zoos or circuses.

The aquarium refused to sell anything, and were a bit overwhelmed by all their new fame. They’d also placed a lot of extra security at the aquarium to prevent any animal-nappings or any other hostage situations, and were doing quite well for themselves financially.

One day, a production company called the aquarium asking to rent some of the animals for a TV show.

“Hi, my name’s Dra,” greeted the smooth-talking producer on the phone, “and I work for the ‘Cars Soon! Network’.“

(They were called the “Cars Soon! Network” because they were known for their game-shows and their big prizes for the winners, and also for being a bit shady. They were shady enough to be referred to as, “The Check’s in the Mail! Network” by the people who worked for them.)

“We’d like to feature some of your wonderful creatures on our new “Endurer”-like show, and we need some sharks and octopi,” Dra continued. “We might also want a lot of jellyfish for one of our later episodes. We’ll pay a lot of money for them, and return them to you in perfect condition at the end of the summer! We’ll even advertise that they’re on loan from your aquarium,” Dra said, as he concluded his sales pitch. “What’dya say?”

Jessica, the Top Boss of this aquarium, was pretty savvy about business, and had been wondering what to do about all the sudden public opinion, knowledge of the intelligence of sea creatures, security and finances. Now she had all her answers in one place.

“I will let you and your company, if you are truly legit,” began Jess, “rent as many of our animals as you like, so long as our animal caretakers are employed to take care of them while they’re with you.”

“Well, I ..” began Dra, ready to bargain.

“In return, since we now have thousands of patrons at our aquarium every day,” Jessica interrupted and lied smoothly, like the great businesswoman she was, “you will have to pay for our services handsomely, since you are VERY aware that these animals are famous now,” she finished.

Dra, feeling a bit overwhelmed, asked her how much for the rental. He gasped at the price, since it included living arrangements for the animals and staff, but knew that the price was well worth it for the brilliant beasts and free publicity for their upcoming show.

“We have a deal!” Dra crowed days later, after all the negotiations were complete. They needed some awesome security to ensure the safety of these famous creatures and their caretakers, and the Royal Navy was happy to offer Master Sergeant Hatchet as their Navy liaison. This way, the Canadian Royal Navy could learn all these animals could teach them, and everyone would be very aware of the high security measures that Canada was taking as a precaution for their “national security”.

Duke and Radi were on loan as the behind-the-scenes security, along with their team, and Jake’s team would help to ensure safe waters around the island. When the area was deemed secure, with a multitude of hidden cameras and sound equipment, other teams would take over disguised as camera crew and interns.

In return, Jess would have enough money to build a new aquarium closer to a big city. Their new aquarium would be enormous, with multiple entertainment activities for the animals, and hopefully lots of top-notch animal behaviorists. They could easily bring even more fame and fortune to her aquarium, and show all those people that wanted the animals to be free that the animals could be happy in an aquarium, too.

Now Jessica was thinking of “student classes” and “swim with the seals” and “how intelligent is this animal?” activities. Every possible idea she could come up with for more fame, publicity, money, and favorable public opinion were being written down. She even got on the internet to search for good new aquarium sites and plan her future build.

The production company was worried about the safety of these animals, too, and was ecstatic that they had gotten the Canadian Navy to help protect these animals in the name of research and “public safety”. "Cars Soon!" also wanted Hatchet and his team, along with Zac and Amber, to help with the move of the sharks and octopi. And maybe the jellyfish, too, soon, since Amber’s video had also made them famous.

Zac and Amber weren’t happy about what was happening, but they had little say in it, and were determined to do everything they could to protect their marine friends. When they arrived at the abandoned resort island, with much fanfare and media coverage, they saw that the brand new animal enclosure was wonderful, and that no expense had been spared. It was a very nice area, for people and animals alike, so they were going to make the best of things for now.

The sharks and octopi seemed very happy when they were finally lowered into their new home, but as Zac and Amber already knew, and the media had conveniently forgotten to mention--at Dra’s request--was that the creatures had been confined in their travel boxes for more than 24 hours. Of course they were happy to be in their new enclosure!

New and Interesting Developments

Webly had escaped down the drain during the confusion of re-taking the aquarium, since he’d been raiding the refrigerator when Hatchet had returned in the aquarium truck. He told Alfan’s group everything he could, which wasn’t much, but at least they knew that all their animal friends were unharmed.

As scouting pairs, they each followed the trucks and boats away from the aquarium, but it was Webly’s and Avi’s undercover missions that finally let them find their friends again. Avi overheard people talking about the new show that his friends were going to be in, and repeated the words “Muskoka Ontario” to himself almost constantly until everyone who could hear him knew those two words, too.

Webly managed to swipe an iPed from the Lost and Found, and he looked up interactive maps of Muskoka, Ontario. Webly also looked up where their aquarium was located in relation to Muskoka. The sharks would be able to carry the iPed in their stomachs and regurgitate it whenever they needed to figure out where they were.

Only the sharks, of all the aquarium animals, were able to travel that far up into the fresh water, since Muskoka, Ontario is located just east of Lake Huron. They’d have to turn west at Montreal, Quebec, and take the Ottawa River straight through to the French River Provincial Park in Georgia Bay, Ontario. (This was an awesome shortcut from having to take the Great Lakes tour.) Then they’d swim south along the eastern shore until they could find a way deep inland, and hopefully find Muskoka Lake. From there, they should be able to find Lake Wawanakwa and their missing family and friends!

Both Avi and Webly returned to the aquarium when they realized they couldn’t join the sharks on their upcoming journey to the freshwater lakes. They said a fond and tearful farewell to everyone on the outside. Webly promised he would try to come outside every few nights to look for them, but otherwise wished them luck.

Avi and Sunslicer spent an entire afternoon together saying goodbye and having fun racing through the waves and the air, which would normally have scared Avi, but he’d grown a great deal for a starfish, and he was having a fantastic time with his best friend. Sadly, the time they had together that day was too short, and soon Webly carried Avi on his back up the drainpipe back into the aquarium.

All the escapees that were still enjoying their freedom banded together for their journey back home. Webly had looked up all their native habitats and shown them how to get home on the iPed’s maps. All of the new escapees’ farewells were filled with hope for their future, and soon they were on their way home, with many, many tales to tell of their incredible adventures.

One of the movies they’d watched in the darkened aquarium during their movie nights had been The Great Escape. They’d removed it before Amber or Zac had noticed it, though.

The animals had seen the movie in order to try to come up with escape ideas. It had helped to organize them somewhat, and some of the animals had used the “tunnel digging” technique to help them get in and out through the back walls of their exhibits. It helped to make them a more cohesive group, too, since they had been working together so much.

Webly now used the “otter tunnel” to get back inside without being noticed, and everyone was glad that their normally happy and energetic Avistar was back inside, too.

Sunslicer became gloomy for the next several days, just like Avi, and even though everyone did their best to cheer them both up, it was several days before either one felt like talking again.

Fortunately, in figuring out the iPed device, Webly had learned how to dial numbers, and had learned the sharks’ phone number before he gave the iPed to them. Webly soon found another lost iPed, and the first call was to Slicer from his buddy Avi! Soon both secreted phones were very busy at night in the back room and on the river. Avi and Slicer cheered up considerably once they could hear each others’ voices again, and the aquarianists were able to update the travelers on the latest whereabouts of their missing comrades, too.

The sharks had no trouble finding their way to Georgia Bay by way of the Ottawa River, but the journey was very time and energy consuming. And it was rather boring, partly since they only traveled at night so that no humans would notice them. So it will only be written down in some dusty old notebook in Jay’s transcriptions, and remain unpublished.

The animals returning to or remaining in the aquarium were rather bored, since they couldn’t play videos and party with them at night anymore. Their tanks now had plexiglass ceilings with small holes, so they all agreed that only Webly, on a very limited basis, should play with escaping from their tanks.

He was very successful since the humans were always too distracted by a staged animal fight in a distant area of the tank to notice what the otters were doing, and his fellow otters played hide and seek with each other to confuse any employee trying to count them. Therefore, their boring story will also remain unpublished, although they remained relatively happy and very healthy.

As for Sprink, Mist, Justine and I See, their journey was interesting, but they could only see the insides of their water-tubs for most of their journey, so their travels to Lake Wawanakwa will also remain unpublished. Although, they did enjoy the up-and-down and banking sensations of the airplane, which carried them to their new, and hopefully temporary home, Sprink did not get air-sick because this journey by air was a lot smoother than their long-ago journey by truck.

Speaking of air travel: during their transfers to their new Muskoka enclosure, they were able to see that their island was surrounded by a lot of water, so the four of them began strategizing as soon as they acclimatized to their new pool.

--

Even though the animals were now deemed remarkably intelligent, only Zac and Amber had any belief that they could understand English. Therefore, all the employees and visitors spoke often about the “new show” and the “special animals” that were going to appear on it, regardless of how many animals could overhear them. Most of the things people said were just rumors and hype, but when Jessica announced new developments to the crowds about the show, everyone went silent so they could hear her every word.

“Both sharks and both octopuses have arrived safely in Lake Muskoka,“ Jessica announced during lunchtime in the cafeteria one day. Everyone in the building could hear the announcement at the same time over the aquarium’s internal TV system, too.

“They are all settled into their new, huge fish tank, and Amber and Zac are making sure they get a few days of rest so that they can get used to their new environment! They even sent photos!”

Jessica then proceeded to show the photos of Muskoka, Amber and Zac, and the animals on the back wall of the cafeteria. The videos were linked to all the TV monitors around the aquarium, too, so that everyone could see the photos and still hear her. Afterwards, she answered questions from everyone until they ran out of things to ask. The local TV station and news reporters always hung around listening for her “little announcements”, so they could also report the “new” news to the locals.

Because of this little aquarium’s recent fame, the local broadcasts were often broadcast countrywide, which is what the Cars Soon! Network had been hoping for, since it brought in lots of new advertising requests for them. The best broadcasts were shown all around the world, in anticipation of seeing these incredible creatures doing new things on this new “drama” show.

“Total Drama Island is the name they’re telling us. It’s supposed to be filmed this summer!” Jessica concluded happily.

Many were excited to see what the show would train the sharks and octopi to do, and questions were often asked about how to find out more. Even the popular series Endurer had websites that were following the fledgling show’s activities.

This is how all the animals kept up on what was happening with their four faraway friends.

--

Sprink, Mist, Justine and I See had been traveling in their boxes by truck and by plane, and finally, by boat again, before they were placed into their new island aquarium.

They’d each been fortunate enough to see each other and their boxes when they were transferred from vehicle to vehicle, but when they saw the big, new pool they were moving towards, they were thrilled. All the people around it didn’t bother them since they were so used to the human crowds from the aquarium, and from their transfers, so they each splashed around happily once they felt their new freedom.

“We’re all together again!!” shrieked Sprink happily, as they all four felt the joy of moving around again.

“Yay!!” called Mist happily, as he began hugging everyone. Justine and I See weren’t too thrilled about being hugged by a sandpapery-skinned shark, though, and began a game of keep away from Mist. Soon all four were giggling as they darted everywhere around their new pool, keeping away from Mist’s sandpapery hugs.

They were exhausted from their long journey, though, and after their initial burst of energy, and a few gentle and heartfelt hugs, they soon settled into what passed for sleep for them. They snuggled into a corner with some fake coral as a hideaway, and stayed together resting for the rest of that day.

That night, the octopi did reconnaissances, but found that their fenced enclosure openings were too small for even them to escape. And they had a ceiling fence, too. If anyone ever left a gate open, though, escape would be a simple skedaddle down to the lake. The Wonder Twins would have to find out how well they would do in fresh water, but they knew there were vehicles around here somewhere that they could save their shark buddies with. Meanwhile, their plan so far was to get Amber and Zac to help them to freedom.

The next dawn was foggy, so the animals practiced for their next escape attempt, with Justine and I See pretending to move the controls on the crane and drive the truck, so they wouldn’t forget.

“Don’t forget,” I See suggested, pretending to work the crane arm, “that we could always escape pretending to be dirty laundry!”

“Or clean,” retorted Justine. “That’s actually a great idea, though,” she said as she steered her imaginary truck into a parked position while using her side- and rear-view mirrors, while Sprink and Mist pretended to slosh around wildly in their boxes.

“We don’t have any people clothes to camouflage ourselves with, though,” I See reminded them.

Suddenly a dead fish landed in the middle of their pool, and just floated there, all alone. They all just stared at it quietly, wondering what it was supposed to mean. Then Sprink noticed Zac and Amber at the far edge of their pool, looking in at them.

They all swam up to the surface and looked hopefully back at them, then, as if on cue, the foursome turned to look at the lake.

“I’m really sorry,” Amber told them, “but that isn’t salt water.”

The animals weren’t quite sure what she’d said, but they could feel her regret at not being able to help them. They kept looking pleadingly at her for help, though.

Zac dashed off without a word, and found a clean bucket that would normally hold food fish. Then he hurried off towards the lake that could be seen from their island aquarium, and scooped up some water and hurried back.

Neither Justine nor I See had gone towards the slightly open gate, because all four critters now knew for a fact that these two humans were on their side, and were friends. And might try to help them escape. Hopefully.

When Zac got back, he put the bottom of the bucket in their tank so the octopi could get their tentacles inside.

Justine and I See put their tentacles in at almost the same time, and pulled them out just as quickly.

“It burns!!” they called to their companions as they swished their exploratory tentacles in their salty pool.

“Just like when we tried to go up those little rivers near our aquarium,” Justine continued, still swishing her slightly tingly tentacle.

“Avi didn’t like the fresh water much, either,” I See added, closely inspecting his temporarily slightly discolored arm.

All four turned to look at their humans again, with soulful eyes. Then they sank below the surface again, and wondered what to do with themselves. Then they noticed their forgotten food, still floating on the surface.

“Ahh,” responded I See to this circumstance. “Well, who’s the hungriest of us?”

No marine life in their pool moved. Another fish landed, and also did a great impression of being dead.

“Holy mackerel!” exclaimed I See. “They’re mine!” he yelled gleefully as he grabbed up both mackerel with two of his tentacles and pretended to eat both of them at the same time.

Everyone in the pool laughed at I See’s humor, and the remaining three played seashell, crab, fish to decide who was going to get the next fish. Sprink won with crab, while the other two chose fish, perfectly well aware of the irony.

In this game, shell covers crab, crab eats fish, and fish crunches through shell. It was a great time-waster, and they had played it often at the aquarium when they’d been bored.

The next fish, a herring, landed in the water, and Sprink announced, “I must now cut down the mightiest tree in the forest!”

Since they’d watched a few personal DVD’s that the employees had brought in, mostly Thomas’, they’d seen “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” several times, and loved the humor, even though they’d had trouble grasping the plot. Cutting down a tree with a fish seemed impossible, but that’s what had made it funny.

The other three made gagging sounds at Sprink’s joke, shortly after which they all guffawed. That made Sprink quite happy, so she gently grasped the tiny fish from below without exposing any of herself to the surface, and dragged it underwater. She had no intention of following through with her joke, so she just gulped the little piece of food down her gullet, then watched through the surface of the water to see how their two humans would react.

Their humans seemed confused, albeit well entertained, by the aquarium creatures’ behavior, so the dead fish kept arriving one by one, with the rapt human twosome continuing to observe them.

They took turns eating until they were all full, then exercised until they felt relaxed and ready for a nap. Then they went up to the humans as a foursome, again, and just looked at them gratefully.

After several moments, Amber said to them, “We’re keeping our eyes open for a way out for you. But we’ve got to keep our boss’ promise to this place that you’ll work and we’ll take care of you until we can all leave. Maybe three months? Hopefully we’ll be on our way home after that, and we can get you free.”

“Work?” echoed Justine. “Maybe that’ll be our way out of here.”

“Yay!!” the other three called back happily, swimming around again.

Then they playfully splashed Zac and Amber before returning to the deep, not understanding what a “month” meant.

Over the next few days they kept a close watch on the gate, since that seemed to be their best escape option. Meanwhile, they kept in great shape for when the time of escape came!

--

When they weren’t learning about their new jobs on the island, Amber and Zac explored the area. The small village of nearby locals were very nice to the entire “Total Drama” crew, but because so few people chose to live in this area, the downtimes for the employees were somewhat boring. They could choose to swim, boat, fish or explore, though, and there was a pub in the town, a half-hour’s boat ride from the sharks’ new habitat. This isolation made it a great place for vacation getaways, though; hence the nearby, and abandoned, summer camp that the upcoming show was going to be filmed around.

One day, when they had a lot of free time, and well after the animals and employees had settled in, Amber and Zac decided to go visit the recently revitalized campgrounds. The cabins were by the docks on the other side of this supposed island, which was actually a peninsula, and this twosome thought it would be a lovely stroll.

Many camera operators were setting up remote cameras in many hidden places. One pair, Reddy and Rhonda, were disgusted by how much garbage was on this remote island, and told Amber and Zac that they planned to film a bunch of the garbage on this “deserted” island in hopes that they could make an environmental statement with it.

Zac and Amber wished them luck, but didn’t really have anything useful to add. Then Reddy and Rhonda mentioned the Pacific Garbage Patch, between the United States and Asia. The foursome commiserated with each other for a bit, then wished each other the best and went their separate ways.

Several minutes, and a couple of hills later, Amber and Zac happened across a human in the distance near the trees. They couldn’t believe what they saw with him, though. They paused for a bit to get a better look, but they were still quite a ways away. Then the tall blue hairy human-like creature saw them on the crest of the hill, and it backed away from the human it was with, then quickly disappeared into the woods.

The human that was with it turned and looked at them, then waved them on down to where he was. So after a few moments more, they walked on down the hill to meet with him.

“Hi! I’m Zac and this is Amber,” Zac introduced when they were close enough to be heard. “We came in with the marine animals.”

“I’m JKL,” said the lone human in a welcoming way, and they all shook hands.

After the introductions, Zac turned towards the last place they’d seen “Big Blue” and asked, “Was that a sasquatch you were just with?” as he looked back at JKL.

“Yes,” replied JKL. “He’s very shy around people, though.”

“That’s very understandable,” Amber responded. “We’re kind of unpredictable. Well, we’re not,” she said as she pointed at herself and Zac, “but people are, ya’know.”

JKL smiled knowingly.

“Is he real?” Zac asked, glancing towards the forest.

“Mhmm,” JKL acknowledged, glancing towards the forest as well.

“JKL makes me think of Doctor Jeckyl,” Amber thought out loud. “Is there a different name you’d like us to use for you? And the name Hyde naturally follows. I’ve unintentionally attached that to your friend in the woods.”

‘Jeckyl’ chuckled merrily and said, “Hyde would be a great name for him, except he’s very sweet and gentle. I don’t have a name for him, except maybe ‘Sassy’, but the producers here are calling him Sasquatchanakwa. Maybe they want to claim him as a native to the Lake Wawanakwa area?”

Zac and Amber looked at each other for a moment, then Zac muttered, “Sharkanakwa?”

“Octanakwa?” asked Amber.

“Octopwanakwa?” queried Zac.

“Octopusanakwa?” responded Amber.

They all chuckled at these new animal names. Then the worried silence set in.

“Why do you think this show wants to use your sasquatch, do you think?” Zac inquired.

“I’m guessing they want every possible advertising angle they can get,” responded JKL, “and they’re using my sasquatch friend as more publicity for their show. But I’m going to be here protecting him no matter what. Of course, he’s amazingly good at hiding,” he concluded, as he gazed into the forest again.

Then they all gazed into the woods for a moment, even though both Zac and Amber were now thinking about their own animals, too.

After a time, JKL said, “I’m worried about the Cars Soon! Network wanting more than they’re telling us. They might be trying to gain ownership by having these animals on their property for an extended time. What do you think?”

“Umm…” Amber responded after a moment.

“Wow!” Zac added. “That possibility never occurred to me!”

“Same here,” Amber added, with a lot of concern in her voice. “But now that I think about that, our Baie-Comeau Aquarium boss, Jessica, would fight them tooth and nail to keep ownership of our sharks and octopi. And I know she had big lawyers looking over the contracts.”

“Have you heard of our animals?” asked Zac. “They’ve become famous for breaking out of our aquarium earlier this year.”

“Can’t say that I have,” JKL replied. “I’ve been trying to build up trust between myself and Sassy for the last three years. Ever since I met him in the Northwest Territories, and I saw that he was as curious about me as I was about him.” JKL smiled at the memory. “We’ve become friends.”

“That’s awesome!” cooed Amber. “Does he have a girlfriend?”

“None that I know of,” JKL answered. “Of course, I don’t know if he’s a child or an adult. I think he’s an adult,” he said uncertainly. “I’m not even sure he’s a him. Either way, I’m taking him back home after this show has paid us and we’ve fulfilled our contract.”

“I sure hope we get to take our animals home after this is over,” commented Zac. “Our job is to take care of them, just like at the aquarium we’re all from. We’re all on loan,” he huffed unhappily, “and now we can’t go home without permission. I feel a bit caged, too.”

“Zac and I were talking about our animals on our way up here,” Amber began, trying to distract Zac from his mood, “and we’re actually pretty sure that the octopi were about to drive those two sharks out of the building when we showed up for work that Monday,” she said with a bit of a question mark while glancing at Zac for his input.

“Yeah,” Zac agreed in response, thinking about the animals again, instead of himself and Amber. “They’re REALLY smart animals, and I guess they’d been planning their mass jailbreak for a long time.” He paused, lost in thought, and then said, “Ya’know, we were both wondering where those two octopi came from. But then we decided that someone had forgotten to write them into our inventory over that same weekend that we got the sharks.”

“We kept wondering where that new employee had gotten to, too,” laughed Amber.

“I know, right?” agreed Zac. “He or she vanished after they’d parked the truck. Maybe it needed a breath of water?”

“Well, plenty available if it did,” responded Amber. “Or they did, more like.”

They then quickly explained what happened “that Monday” and during the retaking of the aquarium to JKL.

Silence fell for a few moments while they were each lost in their memories and thoughts.

“I figure I met Sassy when he was just starting to become a threat to the group’s dominant male,” JKL reminisced. “I’m only hypothesizing, but he seemed to want to be with me, and didn’t seem to have a family group. Maybe I’ve become his family,” he concluded with a big grin.

“If we find out anything that makes us worried for our animals’ safety or future,” Amber offered JKL, “we’ll tell you about it as soon as we can, ‘kay? We all love our animals, and I’d do anything to protect ours from becoming the property of that production company,” she concluded with a shudder.

“Agreed,” agreed JKL. “If I hear anything worrisome, I’ll be sure to tell you right away as well.”

They’d all heard stories from Cars Soon! Total Drama interns who’d helped them get settled in, and most of them agreed that this network seemed shadier than most. Dangerous work and low pay were the general complaints, but the scenery and location were incredible, so they’d stayed.

“The marine animal facility is over by the Playa de Losers spa,” Zac said to JKL, “so come on by to meet our animals sometime. We’re living right next to it.”

“Yes! Please do,” added Amber. “You can get all kinds of food at the nearby Playa, and they’ve got a spa and swimming pool, too.”

“That’s awesome!” JKL responded eagerly. Then his face fell a bit. “But who would protect my “Sassy” while I’m there?”

“Maybe we can take turns, somehow,” Amber replied thoughtfully. “We really shouldn’t leave our watery friends alone for long, either.”

“Although, the Royal Navy guys that saved us are here to protect our animals,” Zac mentioned. “Maybe they’ll protect Sassy, too.”

“Hmm. Perhaps. You should both go meet with Tau,” JKL advised as they began parting ways. “He came with the best log-rolling bear in …Russia? I think? For several years in a row. He’s very direct, but very nice, too.” He then pointed over another small hill and described how to find Tau.

“It’s been wonderful meeting you!” enthused Zac, shaking JKL’s hand before they started off on their next adventure.

“Hope to see you again soon!” Amber added after a brief hug, then waving as they parted.

“Back at’cha!” called JKL with a hearty guffaw and a wave.

Soon Amber and Zac were tiring of walking up and down all these hills, but they saw Tau with his bear in the distance. Once they were close enough, Zac cleared his throat to get Tau’s attention.

“Hello, people. Is there anything I can do for you?” Tau asked politely, as he leaned on the fence protecting his bear.

“JKL said we should come see you about our animals,” Zac replied, a bit out of breath.

“Yeah, we’ve got two sharks and two octopus, and we don’t know what to expect or how to …” Amber added.

“Protect them from Cars Soon!” Zac finished.

“Obviously JKL’s worried too, or we wouldn’t be here,” Amber verbally tacked on, somewhat breathless herself. “But we’ve agreed to tell each other if we hear anything to worry about.”

Tau grinned at them, and turned to look at his gentle bear for a few moments before responding. The bear was just snuffling the grasses nearby, then suddenly rolled over in it and began rubbing his back joyfully. Tau chuckled happily at his bear’s joy, and then turned back to the twosome.

“Mostly, me and JKL just talked about always being with our animals when they’re being filmed,” Tau said. “We have to protect them and the people, but for some reason this show wants the most high-profile creatures they can get. That’s what bothered the two of us,” he finished, looking back and forth between them.

“Did you hear about the aquarium break-out at Baie-Comeau?” Zac asked quietly.

Tau gasped, and his jaw dropped as he nodded.

“We were the hostages,” Amber added. “We actually want to help these creatures escape, now, but only by buying their freedom or something completely legal.”

“Wow!” Tau finally managed to blurt out. “Great to meet you! I’d love to meet your beasties, too.” He shook both their hands, then paused for a moment and continued.

“My bear was orphaned, and I had worked with bears long enough to get a license to own one. The zoos were full of grizzlies, so I got to keep this one. Eventually I realized that I needed a better way to keep him busy than having him dance for people at road shows, so I took him to a river to play while I thought about it, and he started playing with this big log. I got worried for his safety in case it slipped off the bank, but it stayed where it was. He walked back and forth along it for a long time, and as I watched, I envisioned those people that log-roll for fun, and make a living at it.

“I made a lot of calls, and found a place that trains and entertains by having log-rolling contests. They were kind enough to let me practice with Zoomer – that’s my bear – after they were closed for the day. We both balanced and walked along some logs, and together we got comfortable enough to start log-rolling. He caught on really fast, and soon I was falling into the water and laughing a lot. He’d jump in and join me at first, so I asked one of their best people to train him.

“I helped them make friends with each other, and soon they were trying to out log-roll each other in every way the guy could think of! Zoomie was finally so good at it that no one could out-roll him, and he won every championship match we were allowed to enter!” Tau became misty-eyed at this point, reminiscing happily.

“Unfortunately, Zoom got so good at it that no one would challenge him anymore, and our TV coverage and financial offers dried up. So we retired from it, but I still take him out to play on logs for fun,” Tau concluded, looking at his four-legged friend lovingly.

Amber wanted to go hug Tau through the fence then, but she didn’t want to alarm Zoom, so she and Zac admired the grizzly through his fence.

“C’mon over,” Tau invited them both. “He’s a total sweetheart! Now, we’ll just wait until he picks up your scent, then he’ll come over and sniff who you are. If he likes you, and he almost always does like new people, he’ll rub against this fence. Then you can pet him. And his happy sound is sort of a hmm…hmm…hmm. Almost a purr. So don’t worry if you hear that.”

Soon, they were all four very comfortable together, and Zoomer had rolled over so they could rub his belly.

“He really likes you both, obviously,” Tau observed proudly. “Next time you’re here, maybe you can come inside this fence. It always depends on how Zoomie feels about it. If you drop by at a good time, maybe we can all go to the river and you can watch us log-roll?”

“That’d be great!” said both Z&A at the same time.

“You need to come by our place, too,” Zac reciprocated. “We don’t know our animals all that well, but we trust them. Maybe they’d like to meet Zoomie. It’d be a change of pace for all of us, I think.”

Tau agreed, and he shared the food at his place so they could all eat their lunches together. Zac and Amber had brown-bagged theirs, since they weren’t sure who they might meet. Together, they all enjoyed their midday meal.

Later, both Amber and Zac got to throw fish to Zoomer for lunch. He loved the fish and sweets the most, and kept begging for more. Finally, Zoom went and got a big drink from his water tub, then laid down to sleep.

“Zoomie’ll remember who threw him some fish today, so I figure you’re welcome back anytime,” Tau chuckled as Amber and Zac headed back to their own animals.

“Ours love fish, too,” Zac said in response. “You’ll have to come feed our marine guests sometime. Maybe we can share our sushi for lunch!” he laughed.

Tau and Amber chuckled with him. Tau agreed to drop by sometime, and soon they waved goodbye, with the twosome headed back “home.”

Dinner Plans

The marine quartet had kept a close watch on the gate, since that seemed to be their best escape option to search for vehicles. Meanwhile, they stayed in great shape for when the time of escape came by leaping into the air. It was a great way to see if there were any people around, too.

Sprink suddenly noticed one of the Navy people walking around their pool.

“Hey! Everyone!!” she called to her companions. “Isn’t that one of those people that stopped our truck?”

“He sure is!” agreed Mist after a moment’s look. “He and that big guy were in the back of our truck, and threw that net over us!”

“Hmm,” murmured Justine. “Revenge might be sweet, but we’ll have to figure out what we want to do.”

“If I can be near a crane when he walks by…” I See offered, “he’ll get the ride of his life!”

“I wanna see him go *splash!*” suggested Sprink.

“Me too,” agreed Mist. “But what’s he doing here?”

They all quietly watched Radi now, as he kept up his guard duty of the area. He didn’t notice that he was being observed, but he wondered, in general, what these intelligent marine creatures were thinking as he continued his duties.

--

Lunch for the marine critters had arrived by the time Zac and Amber got back from their walk, and Radi had been on guard duty for their sea creatures while they’d been away.

“Thank you very much, Rad!” Amber said gratefully when they’d returned.

Since the Navy team had been on guard duty during the animal transport, both Amber and Zac had become well acquainted with their rescuers.

“I’d be so sad if anything happened to these beasties,” Amber told him. With that said, she just gazed at the gilled captives in sorrow for a moment, then gave a great sigh, and said with slightly false cheer, “You wanna help us feed them, Rad?”

Radical Michael looked around for any signs of danger or his peers for a few moments, then replied, “I’d love to, but don’t tell anyone else. I could get in trouble.”

They agreed, so Radi then accepted a fish from Zac, and tossed it into the middle of the pool. They all watched to see who would eat first today, since these creatures seemed to be taking turns. Today seemed to be an octopus day, as the lone tentacle reached up and pulled the fish to the bottom of their tank, where it quickly disappeared.

Radi threw the next three fish in, hoping he could tell the difference between the two sharks and the two octopi. While they talked, Zac told him how to see the difference between the boy and girl shark, and told him that the octopi were very difficult to tell male from female.

“In this instance, however,” Zac said, “the female octopus is a fair amount larger than the male, but it is still hard to see the difference unless they’re side by side.”

“Thanks,” Radi replied, having enjoyed his time feeding the animals and talking with Zac and Amber.

Finally, Radi could report to his bosses that even though these marine creatures were different species, they were being very generous about how they ate together, and might still be planning something. The nighttime security cameras and fences were extra security for all the “special” animals, but they were there to watch for and prevent escapes, too.

--

The marine life was very wary of Radi’s throwing fish into their tank, but they’d seen Zac hand it to him, so they could trust that this food was safe.

“Maybe Zac’s trying to get Radi to like us so he’ll help us escape?” Sprink asked, as Justine carefully grabbed the floating fish from the surface and passed it to I See. I See passed the fish to Mist, who swallowed it whole, as they all pondered Sprink’s question.

Since Justine had the longer tentacle reach, she stayed on primary food distribution duty, and she and I See would occasionally eat a fish, too. This way, they could all four observe the human behavior above.

“Maybe we should try to make friends with him?” Sprink asked her friends. “If he’s the way to get a truck around here, we should get him on our side.”

“I guess we can at least try,” Mist seconded. “So long as Amber and Zac stay with him.”

“Agreed,” agreed Justine and I See.

So the foursome interacted with their new human, now, by attacking the food as though it were still alive. Sprink and Mist attacked theirs and splashed back into the water, happily getting all the humans wet, and Justine and I See stalked their fish until they were within reach, then they pounced and stuffed it into their beaks. They did their best to make Radi happy, and hopefully help Zac and Amber recruit him into helping them.

When Radi eventually left, the animals were pretty sure they’d done well, since the humans were obviously enjoying the animals’ antics.

--

The next morning was warm with some fog. It was quiet, too, except for an occasional loud splash from the sharks’ tank. Amber went to see what was happening, and Mist was leaping high in the air and splashing down every minute or so, seemingly for the sheer joy of it. Sprink made the occasional leap, too, but it was more often Mist.

After several minutes, they stopped leaping. This change snapped Amber out of her semi-trance from enjoying watching them, and she checked to be sure that their air, filtration system and pH levels were within the norms. They were, so she just figured they needed some exercise.

Amber realized that she and Zac would have to work with their critters to keep them healthy and ready to do whatever the film crew needed, so she went to see Zac and the Navy guy on “shark patrol” today.

Zac was still getting dressed, so when she saw Leading Seaman “Duke” walking around, she asked him about the protection and transportation of the finned creatures to their shooting locations.

“See how close we are to the lake?” Duke asked her. “Their transport will be by boat to the filming locations, and Master Seaman Hatchet, our boss, as you know, will be the boat operator. Leading Seaman Jake and other Canadian Royal Navy guys will be on patrol both under the water and on land. I can’t reveal more, but I can assure you that all precautions are being taken to protect everyone here, including all the animals.”

Amber felt a tear running down her face, then. It was a tear of relief. She now knew that she didn’t have to be in constant stress about protecting their marine life. Or Zoomer. Or Sasquatchanakwa.

“Thank you so VERY much for caring, Duke!” Amber said to him, her voice finally breaking and more tears rolling down her face. “I was so worried about all of them. And us. For all of our safety.” She then went up to him and gave him a great big hug of thanks.

“You’re welcome,” Duke replied with concern. “I didn’t realize you were so stressed about it.”

“I’m scared that the paparazzi are going to descend on us and scare these creatures to death, or harm them somehow,” Amber explained, wiping her tears away. “Or that PETA or other animal activists are going to come and kidnap ‘em, ya’know?”

Duke thought about her words for a moment, before saying, “We’re here,” while briefly pointing to his Navy Emblem, “to learn about the intelligence of all of these creatures, and to protect them and you from all intruders. We’re also here to tell folks that we’re on military maneuvers in this area, so they can’t come sightseeing anywhere near here. That’s been keeping them away, so far. And we ’are’ on military maneuvers, so it’s not an actual lie.”

Amber nodded, composed herself, dried her face and smiled before asking him, “Is there an easy way for us to get around on this island?”

“ATV’s,” he replied, looking around for anything out of the ordinary, since he was on patrol duty. “They’re in the ‘Playa de Losers’ garage. Just go over and ask for one,” he continued glancing around, and then looked back at her. “You’ll sign a paper, give them your Total Drama ID Card, they’ll check it on their list, and once they verify you are who you say you are, you get a verification paper that says that this is “your” ATV for the day. Then you get your card back and get a fully gassed up and charged vehicle. They’re hybrids, so you can hopefully ride one around for the whole day. You sign it back into ‘Playa-ville’ the same way when you’re done with it for the day.”

“Thanks! I’m really glad I ran into you,” Amber gratefully said to Duke as they walked towards the ‘Losers’ soon to be hangout. “We were so busy getting the animals settled in here that we really didn’t pay much attention to what else we could be doing. Until yesterday. Zac and I explored some on a walk, and we met JKL and Tau, along with his bear, Zoomer. And then we had lunch together. We had a great time talking,” Amber concluded with a smile.

“I’ve read their dossiers,” said Duke conversationally. “What are they like?” he asked as he glanced back over his shoulder at the marine enclosure, then returned his attention to Amber.

“Both of them are worried about their animals, too, and are wondering why Cars Soon! wants them for this show,” Amber offered. “Both JKL and Tau are very nice people, and really care a lot about their beauties. JKL—he’s with Sasquatch—he’s not even sure how “Cars Soon!” found out about Sassy. And Tau, he’s worrying about how to make enough money to take care of Zoomer, his bear. They’re basically retired.”

Duke digested this information for a few moments before replying, “I should probably go and meet them sometime. Good to know who you’re protecting, hmm?”

Amber nodded and gave him the basic locations they’d met the others. “We only saw Sassy for a couple of seconds before he dashed into the forest, just so ya know. And Zoomer’s really nice. He let us rub his tummy!”

“I remember seeing Zoomer on some newscast before I joined the military,” Duke reminisced. “He was really good with people. I’d love to meet him, too.”

“Don’t let the military take any of them away from their people,” Amber responded worriedly, tears beginning to form again. “They’re completely defenseless.”

Duke touched her shoulder and they stopped walking. “I can’t control anything the military does, but I can tell you if things start to feel weird in our camp. ‘Kay?”

Amber nodded, tears still rolling down her cheeks.

“You tell me if Cars Soon! or anything else starts to feel strange. Okay?” Duke continued.

Amber nodded again, and said with a breaking voice, “I will.” Then Duke hugged her until she calmed down.

She dried her tears again, and took a deep breath, which seemed to help a lot. Finally she said to Duke, who still had his arm around her shoulders, “I’m sorry. I must just be really homesick. Any idea how long we’ll be here?”

Duke paused and thought for a moment before replying, “My guess is 12 weeks once the contestants get here.” Then Duke looked at Amber and continued, “There are 22 contestants, boys and girls, all teenagers, and one gets voted off every three days. We’re pretty much all set up for them, so they should be arriving soon. Obviously we’ll be notified beforehand, since we’ve got to let them in.”

“Thanks for protecting us, and for the info,” Amber responded, drying her tears again. “When do you think they’ll move the sharks?”

“Dunno,” said Duke. “But you’ll be safe no matter where you are around here. That’s the whole point of having us Navy guys around,” he said with a chuckle as he brushed her chin with his finger so she’d look up.

Amber let out a huge sigh of relief at that knowledge, and finally smiled again. “I’m SO glad you guys are here. Maybe some morning calisthenics’ll help me get out of this funk.”

Then she chuckled at herself and said, “It’s a gorgeous morning. We should all get out here and enjoy it.”

“Absolutely,” Duke replied.

“I think I’ll go for a jog now,” Amber announced. “And get some breakfast. Have you eaten yet?” she asked her companion.

Duke laughed and said, “We’ve gotta be up early, so we eat before dawn, usually. But I’m really glad you asked, all the same. Maybe when I’m not on duty, sometime?”

“Sounds great!” Amber agreed. “Well, I’m gonna see if Zac’s up yet, then wander some more. Any ideas as to where to go that’s interesting?”

“If you’re walking,” Duke answered after a few moments, “I’d go to the top of that big, shark fin-shaped hill in the middle of the island. If you’re going ATVing, I’d head over to the other side of this island, where the abandoned campground is. There’s a lot of renovating going on, and a lot of folks to meet and talk with. I like ATVs, but I’d never trust them on that big hill. Or hills in general, really. They tip over rather easily. Just so ya know.

“Oh! And Master Seaman Hatchet’s going to be the show’s chef. He was a cook before he got promoted, so he can cook well, but he actually kind of hates having to cook. Since he’s the leader of our little group, though, he gets to be where the action is, keeping an eye on everyone and everything!”

Duke laughed about that, and then continued, “Those kids are going to hate him, but they’re going to be safe with him around, too. And you should see him throwing knives! There was this one Johnny Carson Show where a guy with a hatchet threw it at a person painted on a wooden wall, and the hatchet stuck where the sun don’t shine!!”

Duke laughed some more, and said, “Our Hatchet saw that in reruns, I think, and wanted to be able to throw a hatchet like that! He practiced and practiced, with every kind of blade available to us in the kitchen! And sometimes with an axe, too! We kept some ‘’sharp’’ tools in that kitchen.”

Duke paused, and then said, “Yeah, Radi and I worked with him in the kitchen, too, so we’re pretty tight. But if you and he get some free time together, ask him if he’ll show you some of his knife throwing. It’s rad! And his aim is brilliant! He can almost hit a fly on a target, he’s so good! Radi and I keep sayin’ to ‘im he should try out for the knife throwin’ part of the Olympics.” At this, Duke broke into peals of laughter, and Amber joined in, since both were well aware that there was no such thing.

“That’d be great!” Amber enthused. “Maybe we all could go over together one day when you have some time! And I’d love to see those campgrounds.”

“I think we have to take the sharks over there, too, actually,” Duke suddenly remembered. “But I’ve heard sharks are okay in fresh water?” he questioned.

“Well, bull sharks are known for their ability to swim far upriver, and be perfectly healthy,” Amber stated, “but no one knows how good it is for their health, since their kidneys have to work a LOT harder to pump out all that fresh water.”

“Good to know, since we’re here to protect all of these animals, too,” Duke replied. “Maybe we can get them used to it for a day or two, and then take them back to their enclosure every night, if that’s not too much to ask of you and Zac.”

“We’ve actually got a rapport of sorts with our gilled companions, now,” Amber said. “So we shouldn’t have any trouble getting them to come with us when we need them to. We’ll have to find something that they really like as a reward for it, though.” Amber paused in thought.

“We’ll figure someth…” Duke began.

“I’VE GOT IT!!” Amber squealed with delight, loud and sudden enough to make Duke jump in alarm and look around.

“We need to get a LOT of musicals on DVD, a DVD player, and some way to project it all so that our animals can see and hear it! Then we need to give them access to the whole thing, so that they can decide what they want to watch and when!! And we can have a cooler full of all sorts of fish that the octopi can get to easily, too! Why didn’t I think of this sooner?!”

Duke just stared at his slightly bipolar companion for a moment, then sighed, chuckled, and grabbed the walkie-talkie on his shoulder.

“Hey, Hatchet!” Duke called through the radio. “Can you get us a few things, like pronto for the shark pool?”

“Anything you need!” a low, growly voice answered back, with some pots and pans banging in the background.

“That’s great!” Duke answered back. “Got a paper?”

“Go!” the gravelly voice impatiently said back.

“We’ll need some DVD’s--Amber’ll tell you what titles--a DVD player, and some projection equipment, maybe like they had at the aquarium in Baie. Then we can scrounge some containers for a bunch of fish.”

“What?!” Hatchet’s voice called back, surprised.

“No, not aquarium containers!” Duke suddenly realized how the “fish containers” must have sounded, “Just for holding the chilled, dead fish for food.”

“Alright,” Hatchet’s distinctive voice replied. “What else?”

Duke then pointed the radio thingamabob towards Amber so she could respond.

“Umm… Hi! And thanks for the rescue, again,” Amber began.

“You’re welcome again, Little Lady,” Hatchet replied. “Now tell me what you need,” he said politely.

“You know those mechanical fish, that swim when you wind them up? Do ya think we could get a few of those? Our poor critters are bored out of their minds! And we need lots of happy musicals on DVD. One of their favorites, I think, is ‘’Grease’’.”

Amber pulled a piece of paper from her waist bag. It was a list she’d brought from Baie, and she began reading, “Umm…and a ‘’Mary Poppins’’, ‘’The Wizard of Oz’’, ‘’Singin’ in the Rain’’, ‘’The Sound of Music’’, ‘’Top Hat’’, ‘’My Fair Lady’’, ‘’Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’’, ‘’West Side Story’’, ‘’Jailhouse Rock’’, ‘’Showboat’’, ‘’South Pacific’’, ‘’Shall We Dance’’, ‘’Porgy and Bess’’, ‘’Bright Eyes’’, ‘’The Muppet Movie’’ and ‘’Footloose.’’

There was a long silence on the other end of the radio, as Hatchet took down these titles.

“Do you really need ‘’all’’ of these?” Hatchet asked a minute later, with a hint of amusement in his voice.

“No, probably not, but these animals liked to watch DVDs while there were no people around, and they ‘’have’’ to get a reward when they come back to their pool, or they won’t do squat for this show. They’ve proven that at the aquarium after you caught them,” Amber said. “And that’s what you can tell Cars Soon! if they want to haggle.”

Hatchet’s infectious and amused laugh came over the radio waves next. “I’ll see what we can do. See ya for dinner, Duke?”

“I hope so,” Duke answered. “I’m not sure how late I’ll be here, though.”

“You should drop by, too, Miss, if you have time,” Hatchet offered. “And that guy you work with, too.”

“Thank you very much, Sir,” Amber replied happily. “We’d love to come!”

“Don’t call me ‘Sir’,” Hatchet scoffed. “I work for a living.”

“Yes, sir! …I mean, Mr. Hatchet,” Amber corrected herself.

“You may call me Sergeant Hatchet, or just Hatchet,” he commented over the radio. “Although, I do need a name for the kids to call me when they get here. Any ideas?” he asked. “Well, we can figure it out over dinner. I’ll send a boat to you at 1700, and we’ll eat at 1800. Casual dress. Two of my men will be with your animals while you’re gone.”

“Thank you!” she answered. “And Duke told me about your knife throwing skills. Any chance we’ll see them tonight?” she finished with a grin.

A low, grumbley growl, ending in a mischievous chuckle was her reply.

“I’ll be sure to thank Duke the next time I see him,” Hatchet responded in amusement. “Everything in this kitchen is sharp.”

“Umm…” Amber muttered.

“It’ll be fun, Little Lady,” Hatchet chuckled.

Duke laughed whole-heartedly, and said, “I’m looking forward to it!” before they signed off.

Amber giggled. “He sounds like a lot of fun!”

“He’s a great guy,” Duke agreed, “but don’t ever be a ‘bad guy’, ‘cause he’s like a Mountie that always gets his man.” Then he chuckled and looked at Amber. “Like you could ever be a ‘bad guy’!”

“I wouldn’t know how to,” she replied, chuckling too, as they came back to the animal pool. “I’ll tell Zac about tonight, and I hope you can join us.”

“Me too,” Duke replied, obviously planning for this evening. “See you later, and have fun today!”

“Definitely!” Amber called back as they parted ways. Then she found that Zac was ready for breakfast, so they told Duke where they were headed.

Over breakfast at the ‘Playa’, Amber told Zac everything about she and Duke’s wonderful morning together.

Critter Training Treats

All four animals were bored by their surroundings, and found that one of their only entertainments these last few weeks, since their capture, was eating, along with their very limited area for play. And they’d been eating until they were stuffed! They never did that in the wild, since in nature they only ate until they were content. There were always more fishies swimming around, just waiting to ambush you or be ambushed, and swimming wasn’t easy if you thought you might upchuck by simply moving.

All four animals were huge, now, like they’d grown for another year or two, instead of only a few months. They were actually beginning to outgrow their pool as an active and healthy environment, and Amber suddenly noticed this as she and Zac fed them that day after they’d finished their own breakfast.

Sprink and Mist had actually come to trust both Amber and Zac completely, and just waited at the edge of the pool for the fish to be thrown into their open mouths. Then they’d sink, breathe, and resurface, mouths still open. They became so calm at feeding time that they nearly went to sleep while they were being fed.

The only reason that Amber had suddenly noticed their enormous size was because the sharks’ tails nearly reached the floor of the pool when they sank for a breath, now. And the octopi could nearly reach the surface with their tentacles while still sitting on the bottom. And this was not a shallow pool. It was 12 feet deep!

The animals had also noticed that their enclosure was closing in on them, but couldn’t figure out how until they noticed the same things that Amber had just noticed.

“We need a bigger pool,” Sprink mentioned for the umpteenth time that week. “I’m afraid to jump out of the water anymore. I’ll hit bottom.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Mist agreed lethargically.

Their lack of exercise was making them moody, irritable, and generally sleepy all the time, and the octopi, who could still move around reasonably freely, were really noticing it.

“We’ve all grown so much,” Justine commented, “that I don’t know if we can find a tub or sling that can get you two out, anymore.”

The stress finally got to the gentle Mist, and he began to sob uncontrollably. Sprink quickly went over to comfort him, as well as glare at Justine.

“But when we do,” Justine quickly amended, “those ATV’s that get ridden around here have those trailers attached sometimes. We need to grab one of those. Once you’re in the water, you can race from here to the horizon!”

“And fresh water always seems to lead to salt water,” I See added. “At least in our limited experience.”

This limited hope helped Mist stop sobbing, and he hugged his sister back, but they were all still depressed.

Just then, they heard one of those ATVs with a rattley trailer drive up to their enclosure, and they all peeked up through the water to see what was happening. It appeared that there was a big delivery for this place.

Mist said, “I sure hope they brought some fresh mackerel.”

The others agreed, since they were all close to an emotional breakdown, too, and they all liked mackerel. Then they comforted Mist with their tentacles and fins as the stuff was unloaded.

Amber and Zac were there, too, and they seemed very excited. Soon each was playing with what appeared to be fish, and soon after, the two humans threw those two fish into their pool. One fish was red and the other fish was blue, and they were about the same size. They made lots of clicking sounds in the pool, and swam towards the other end of the enclosure.

All four were compelled by curiosity to follow the clicky fish, and all four could tell that they weren’t real, but they had to find out what they were, since they moved just like fish.

Justine looked back at Amber and Zac to see what they were doing now, and they were really happy and watching the foursome. They each had another fake fish in their hands, but obviously had decided not to throw them into the pool just yet.

The piles of stuff were still being unloaded, though, and a human that Justine didn’t recognize was talking with Zac. The new person then handed Zac a flat thing that Zac looked at and pushed a stick around on. He then handed the flat thing back to the driver and his fake fishie to Amber. Then Zac and the ATV driver began unloading lots of stuff from the trailer, with Zac leading the way into the storerooms.

Justine looked around at her three buddies and saw that they were still watching and following the clicky fish, which were now slowing down, but still moving quite well.

When Justine looked back to where Amber was, she saw that she was helping Zac to put several containers at the side of the pool where they’d been standing. Each container had some fish in it, and Justine came to the edge to look inside them. And one of them contained shrimp!! These were Justine’s favorites!!

She looked up at Amber for an okay to pick up some food, and Amber actually reached in and handed one to her! Justine gently accepted the offering, then began mowing down on all the shrimp she could eat in a ladylike fashion.

The other mariners noticed Justine eating, and abandoned their clicky fish to come up and see what was happening with these new bins at the side of the pool.

“Mackerel!!” I See gleefully exclaimed, as he began chowing down on his favorite fish, too.

Sprink and Mist could see some of the fish, but their sense of smell had always been better than their eyesight, so they just waited to be fed in their usual way. They got their mouths above water and stayed put near Amber so she could throw in their food.

Amber grabbed up two handfuls of shrimp, with a curious look from Justine, but no resistance, and threw them into the sharks’ waiting mouths.

Sprink was the first to react, in surprise. She swallowed the unusually shaped fish, and swam over to the shrimp basket, where she then asked Justine to dump a few in the water for her. The container was big enough to be a wonderfully-sized new home for Justine, and she happily dumped a couple of armfuls of shrimp into the water for Sprink, as Justine continued to stuff herself on this new delicacy.

“Thanks, Justine,” Sprink said to her, and she now knew for certain these were what she’d thought they were.

“Mist!” Sprink called. “They’re shrimp!”

Mist had been waiting for Sprink to tell him what they were, since there really wasn’t room for all three aquarianists in front of the shrimpy container. Now he swam over and ate several that were making their way to the bottom of their pool.

Both sharks ate the few shrimp slowly, savoring every morsel. Then they swam the few feet over to the next container, and looked in to see what it had.

Amber was ready for that, and tossed a couple of mackerel into each of their mouths. I See tried to block Amber from picking up any more mackerel from that container, and accidentally tipped the whole box in on top of himself! Sprink quickly pushed the container off of him, and then took her reward of a giant mouthful of mackerel, as the whole mess sank to the bottom of the pool.

Amber fell over laughing, and Zac and the other worker came out of the storage area to see what was so funny. Justine kept eating, and also was entertained by all of her surrounding creatures. She chuckled as she watched Amber giggling on the ground, all tucked up into herself; Sprink eating loads of I See’s mackerel at the bottom of their tank; and I See, quickly gathering up “his” mackerel as fast as he could. I See was eating some and tucking the rest of his bounty under himself so that Sprink would have slightly more difficulty getting at the few mackerel that were still uneaten.

Mist just watched and listened to it all, quietly laughing to himself. He soon swam over to a third container of goodies to see what was in there. Justine was curious, too, so she joined him and scooped a couple of these new fish into the water. They were herring!

Mist asked for more of these delicious fish, and Justine scooped several into the water. Then she and Mist ate. Soon, Sprink and I See came up to try out these fish that seemed to be a hit with their pals.

After eating a couple, Sprink announced, “These herring are too bony for me, although they are yummy.”

“I agree,” I See agreed after just half of one.

“Yay!” Mist cheered, “More for me!!”

“I think I like mackerel the most, shrimp second, and herring third, although they’re all good,” Justine announced to no one in particular.

“I like shrimp,” Mist said, “but they aren’t big enough. I really like the crunch of the herring! And they’re SO delicious!”

“Good!” called I See, who had returned to his now tiny heap of uneaten mackerel. “More mackerel for me!”

They all laughed about their new treats good-naturedly, and filled themselves up. Then they swam around, playing, until they were ready to sleep again. Their two new non-living fishie friends were retrieved by Amber and Zac, who then sanitized them and put them away.

--

Zac and Amber took notes as to which animals preferred which food, and then began planning how they were going to train their animals to do Cars Soon!’s bidding.

“They are SO fun to watch eating and playing!” Amber relayed to Zac as they were cleaning up after the feeding.

“I know, right?” Zac agreed. “And did you see how fast the girl shark protected the octopus from the food container?” he continued as he finished rinsing the containers.

“We’re gonna have to name them something,” Amber said back, as she helped Zac put them on the rack to dry. “Maybe Elasmo and Branche for the sharks, since that’s their Order classification, I’m pretty sure, and maybe Cepha and Lopod for the octopi?”

“Sure beats Girl and Boy Shark and Octopi,” Zac concurred.

“Thanks!” Amber enthused as they finished putting the containers on the drying rack. “Elasmo sounds more like a boy’s name, and Branche sounds sort of feminine, somehow. Cepha sounds like a girl, though, and Lopod sounds boyish. What do you think?”

“You’re right about that,” Zac agreed.

“And we’re gonna have to figure out a sound system to tell them what we need from them, somehow,” she added.

“Well, duuuhhhh!” Zac retorted, his full attention on the conversation now. “We know that they like movies, so we’ll try to piece together movie bits to tell them what’s going on, and maybe play songs for each one to respond to. Now, how will we train them?”

Amber laughed joyously, and said, “Brilliant!! :D Well, we know what kinds of foods each of them likes best, so maybe we can relate a song to each treat and animal?”

“That’s totes kewlio!” Zac exclaimed. “We’ll have to have some help setting up the movie system for the critters, though. And make sure that it isn’t too loud for them.”

“Hey!” Amber said suddenly. “All we need is to let them control the sound, since they did that a lot before we knew what they were doing. We just need a slick apron area where they can walk and slide so they can reach the machine.”

“And we need to be certain that the electricity is grounded completely, too,” Zac added. “No crispy critters here!”

Amber looked aghast at that, and said, “For sure!”

Radi was off duty that morning, but when they told him what they needed, he was eager to help them get that all set up, since he was an electrician by training in the military. He called Hatchet to be sure the work was approved, and that got him out of the evening patrol, too, since he would be working overtime if he did both. So he was now available to join them for dinner, along with Duke.

As Radi worked they conversed, and Radi learned all about the training ideas that the twosome had come up with. In return, Rad taught them everything he could about how to protect both themselves and the animals from any accidental electrocutions.

“Be sure to keep these wires taped firmly to the ground, with lots of tape on top,” Radi instructed. “And if they don’t like things attaching themselves to them, cover lots of these wires with tape sticky-side up. Otherwise, just make everything dangerous as unattractive and unappealing as possible, alright? If they get curious about something bad, maybe pretend you’re doing it, and you get hurt. I don’t know how to tell them not to do stuff.”

“Eureka! I’ve got it!” Zac yelled excitedly. “We just need to download a public service announcement about the dangers of water and electricity! Then show it to them.”

“No!” Amber cried. “That could scare them witless! But you’re right. There should be something we could download to the screen so they don’t think they can drag any of this into the water.”

“Eh, no worries,” Radi called out to both of them. “I’ll just put a barrier around this whole mess so it can’t move without human intervention. Alright?”

Amber gave Radi a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. “You guys are all right, you know that?” she smiled.

Rad blushed, and said, “Well, we’re here to help you, you know,” as his dazzling smile crossed his face. “And we’re getting to know your critters, some, too. I’m really glad I’m here with all of you,” he beamed.

He put the finishing touches on the machine, and then quickly sat a heavy, but low, cinder-block barrier around the whole thing, then covered the cinderblocks with some tablecloths, slick side up, and stepped back, satisfied with his work.

“Awesome!” Zac said admiringly. “This is great! Now I’m really looking forward to tonight!”

“Me, too!” Radi suddenly exclaimed. “Thanks to the two of you, I get to have dinner with everyone tonight. Thanks!! Patrol usually just sucks, ‘cause it’s so boring. Fortunately, we’ve only spotted a couple of sailboats from boaters that live in these parts anyway, so we’ve simply asked them to stay away from this island, since we’re supposedly doing practice maneuvers here.”

“That’s what Duke said, too,” Amber responded. “Well, not about the boaters, but the maneuvers stuff.”

Radi laughed. “It’s fun getting to know you finally!” he said to them. “And my name’s Michael, if you prefer that over Radi. I kind of prefer Rad, though, if it’s all the same to you. It just feels more homey, ya’know?”

“I’m Amber,” Amber said, as they shook hands formally. “That’s what everyone calls me, too.”

“Zac,” said Zac, also shaking his hand. “I’m only Zachariah if I’m in trouble with Mom.”

Everyone broke into laughter at that.

“I’m Mike-ALL! when I’m in for it with Mom,” Radi chuckled.

“I’m Josie Amber Constance Miller!” Amber guffawed, as she said the name the way an angry mom might.

When the laughing had died down, Radi observed, “Well, it’s getting a bit late. We could put in a vid while we’re away? And maybe you can show them where the sound knobs are. Then you can start training tomorrow.”

Radi then looked a little sheepish, before asking, “Could I come help you with them, some? That would just be SO much fun! I’m off tomorrow, since I’m helping you with this, if that’s okay?”

“That’d be great!” Zac enthused. “You get to help us figure out which movie bits will call each one of them, and clip bits onto a DVD or something so we can tell them what we’d like from them.”

Amber had remained quiet during this exchange, but then piped up with, “Zac, do you remember when I asked Webly if I could go to the toilet?”

“Wow!” Zac nodded, a bit shocked. “Yeah, I do.”

Radi just watched their exchange, since this part hadn’t come up during the interviews after the rescue.

They both noticed Radi’s attentiveness, so Amber explained, “While we were being held in the seal enclosure, I needed to go to the restroom. I didn’t expect Webly, our lead otter, apparently, to understand me, but he did. At least somewhat.”

Zac continued, “Webly cleared the jellyfish out of the way so Amber could cross over to the restrooms side of our place. Then he cleared them again when she came back, and then I crossed over to the restrooms.”

Radi and everyone involved with the rescue remembered watching the security tapes right afterwards, so that part didn’t need to be explained further. However, the tapes were watching for people to do something unexpected, so the pictures weren’t really clear as to what Webly and the jellies were doing in the water while Zac and Amber were being held hostage.

Amber jumped in with, “And it seemed obvious that Webly was telling the jellies what to do, since he didn’t chase them or anything.”

Zac followed quickly with, “So we think they understand at least some of what we’re saying!”

Radi just stared at them both, mouth agape.

Finally he recovered and said, “But you never said any of that during these months since then.”

“Well, we couldn’t be sure, and we didn’t want these animals to be even more sought after than they already are now,” Amber answered.

“I’ll be sure to only say nice things to them,” Radi chuckled worriedly.

“Yeah, us too,” Zac agreed.

They all left the dozing animals to get ready for dinner, and Radi told them that the guards tonight were from his team, so the animals were safe. They had been the ones left in the dust of the captured aquarium truck after I See “floored it”. They were Leading Seaman “Kenzy” Kenzen and Leading Seaman SG “Sig”.

Dinner and a Show

Soon, Amber, Zac, Radi and Duke were ready to visit MS Hatchet at the campgrounds that evening, and were waiting together for the boat. When it arrived, they were perfect gentlemen in helping Amber on board, and they all enjoyed the still, warm, fresh air as they motored around to the other side of the island.

Zac and Amber were intrigued by the shoreline’s forests and craggy rocks, seemingly indicating both fair and foul weather, but no one else on the boat had any answers about the local weather patterns.

The trip was beautiful and uneventful, and soon they were stepping off the boat onto an old, wooden dock. As one, they looked into the dusk at the old campgrounds nearby.

“Thanks, Jake and Trey!” Radi called to the motorboat driver and lookout, as he followed everyone else onto shore.

“Have fun!” Jake waved in reply, as he slowly left the dock on his way back to patrolling.

Trey waved and called out, “Say ‘Hi’ to everyone from us!” Then he went back to scanning the land and waters for any possible intruders.

“Will do!” Jake called back as they picked up speed. He caught up with the others and relayed Jake’s and Trey’s messages.

A bright front light was on at the revived mess hall, and everyone went right in, wiping their feet first. The seating area was big enough for maybe 100 people, and there were several long wooden tables along the walls, along with their corresponding long benches. Two of them were set up nicely, with white linen tablecloths in the center of the room. The wooden floors were clean and polished, but still showing their age, and the ceiling had modern lighting fixtures. Overall, it had a very rustic, but homey feel to it.

Duke pulled out the bench for Amber, and she and Zac sat across from each other, and Duke and Radi placed their things across from each other, too. They could all hear Hatchet bustling around, so Duke and Radi went to see how they could help. When they entered the kitchen, Hatchet greeted them and began telling them what to do. Then he came to greet Zac and Amber.

He hugged them both and said, “Welcome to the Mess! I’m glad you both could be here. Now just sit yourselves down and Duke and Radi will be hauling out some grub.” He looked at the kitchen for a moment, and continued with, “You wait right here,” then dashed off to the kitchen again.

“Wow!” whispered Amber to Zac. “He’s quite a force!”

“Gosh, I know! I’m really glad he’s on our side,” Zac chuckled.

They both waited patiently as Hatchet directed Duke and Radi in the hidden “kitchenworld”, as the banging of pots, pans, oven doors and utensils continued. The table was already set, so Zac and Amber could only imagine what was going on.

Soon, Radi, Duke and Hatchet began carrying out bowls of seafood, fried chicken, tomato bisque, rolls and butter, sweet potatoes and mash, ham, and steamed vegetables. The smells were fantastic, and before anyone could make a move towards the food, Radi said, “Let’s all bow our heads. I’ll say Grace.”

Everyone followed his lead, and they listened as he said, with feeling,

“Eternal Father, Lord of Hosts,
Watch o’er [all those] who guard our coasts.
Protect them from the raging seas
And give them light and life and peace.
Bless those that give their healing care
That life and laughter all may share.
Now while we eat and have our fun
We spare a thought for those with none.
Grant [all] from Thy great throne above
The shield and shelter of Thy love.
Amen.”

“Amen,” everyone responded.

“That was beautiful!” Amber complimented. “Is that a Navy prayer?”

“Well, … yes. Sort of. Thanks,” Radi said, blushing. “I’ve mixed together a few variations on “The Navy Hymn” specifically for tonight.”

“Well done,” Hatchet also complimented.

“Nice,” agreed Duke.

“Thank you for saying Grace, Radi,” Zac added.

Radi blushed more.

“Let’s eat!” Hatchet announced.

Amber and Zac were offered the first servings, and then, for several minutes, no one said anything except for the occasional “Please pass the….”, and “May I have some more…”.

The mood at the table was content, with a bit of excitement, since they were looking forward to the after-dinner conversations.

Soon, the diners were nearly full, and dinner was winding down.

Then Hatchet asked, “What are your favorite fruits?”

“Oh, yeah!” enthused Radi.

“Cool!” Duke exclaimed.

“Umm…I really love pineapples! But all fruits are good,” commented Amber uncertainly, but now looking forward to dessert.

“I love strawberries and bananas. Ooh! And blueberries and raspberries! Thanks!” Zac replied, anticipating what Hatchet had in store for them.

“Kiwis, too?” asked Amber.

“Be right back! Don’t you go anywhere, now,” Hatchet added, as he got up and winked at Amber. “Kiwis, too, Little Lady.”

Duke and Radi got up and followed him into the kitchen. Soon a lot of chopping sounds were heard, along with some dishes and pots and pans being gathered.

“This Hatchet is quite the chef!” Zac commented to Amber quietly, as they listened to the bustling in the kitchen.

“I know, right?” Amber said in return. “That was an incredible dinner! And I told you that they were all cooks together, right? And about Hatchet’s knife throwing ability?”

“Yup!” Zac replied. “Right after you and Duke talked. I’m hoping Chef Hatchet’ll show us some of his moves, but he’s put so much of himself into this dinner he might not have energy left for a show.”

“Hey! That’s great!” Amber enthused. “He was looking for a name that the kids could call him, and that really flows!”

“Really? Hmm. Chef Hatchet. It does have a ring to it,” Zac reflected.

“Shh!” whispered Amber as the kitchen noises moved towards the door.

The doors from the kitchen opened, and the three men emerged. Radi had a stack of plates, napkins and utensils; Duke was following him, carrying a tray with several bowls of whole and chopped up fruit; and Hatchet was bringing up the rear with a mini-gas stove, a frying pan, and a bottle of alcohol. They set everything down on the second table, and arranged their plates so that Hatchet could easily reach them all.

Fruit flambés for one and all!” Hatchet cheerily announced once everything was set.

Duke and Radi dashed back into the kitchen and returned with butter, brown sugar and a barbeque lighter.

“Everyone grab a spot and tell me what fruits you want again,” Hatchet called, obviously enjoying this moment immensely.

“Ladies first,” Hatchet said, obviously to Amber, as he got the skillet hot over the propane gas stove.

“Pineapples, peaches, blueberries, kiwis and bananas please,” Amber said as she began to drool over this “food and a show” adventure.

Hatchet scooped about a tablespoon of butter into the skillet, and when it began to sizzle, he poured some brown sugar in, mixed it, and let it begin to caramelize. Then Chef mixed in a few tablespoons of the fruit juice and let the mix come to a boil. As soon as it began to boil, he scooped up the various fruits and stirred them into the caramelized mixture.

As soon as the fruit was well coated, he added a splash of rum to the frying pan and stirred it around. Then he tilted the pan so the alcohol fumes would catch fire, and let the alcohol burn off. As soon as the flames went out in the pan, he added a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, stirred the mixture a bit more, and poured the resulting divine smelling mix into a bowl that held a strawberry shortcake base topped with ice cream. Now the bowl was full and steaming, and Amber couldn't wait to try it!

Hatchet wouldn't let her try it yet, though.

"Make sure you don't burn your mouth. You wouldn't want to miss out on all the flavors in there!" Hatchet admonished good naturedly.

“What kind of alcohol is that?” Amber asked, taking her first mouthful carefully, and hoping to add a compliment in somewhere soon.

“Rum,” answered Hatchet, too caught up in beginning his next flambe to give a longer answer.

“This is great!” Amber exclaimed, still rolling it around in her mouth to pick up all the flavors and textures. She was amazed at how wonderful the hot and cold felt in her mouth, too!

“Thank you, Little Lady,” Hatchet responded with a grin after he'd asked for Zac's fruit selections.

“You’re going all out for us tonight! Thanks, Chef,” Amber crooned after she'd finished her second bite.

“You’re quite welcome, Miss,” Hatchet responded proudly. Then he paused. “You called me Chef.” Another pause. “I like it!” he announced. “Thank you, Miss Amber! Now I know what to have the kids call me when they arrive.” He paused, pondering for a few moments. Then he asked Zac what his choices were again.

Soon everyone was eating their very own flambé dessert, and no one spoke a word until they were done eating.

“That….was…..incredible!” Zac stated to the table at large. And then he burped. “Ooh. ‘Scuse me,” he said, stifling another burp. Zac then turned around and leaned back against the table, and let his eyes close in contentment.

“Thank you, Zac,” Hatchet replied with a touch of amusement. “I had a lot of fun making that for all of you,” he added with obvious pride.

“Thank you very much, Sir,” Radi responded, getting up to gather all the dirty dishes. “Anyone want to finish off some of this fruit?”

“Thanks, Sarge,” Duke said happily, as he got up to help Radi clean up.

“I’ll finish off any of the bananas,” Zac said, as he turned back towards the table. Radi moved the banana bowl closer to him, along with several other still filled bowls.

“I’ll take the raspberries and blueberries, please,” Amber added, as she finished off her dessert. “And there are plenty left for anyone else.”

Hatchet took his now empty dessert bowl and threw a few of the remaining fruits into it. “I’m good,” he said to anyone listening, as he spooned up his few mouthfuls of berries and banana slices.

Soon, everything was in the kitchen, and all five pitched in to wash up. Amber could only get the guys to let her dry the dishes, but since she was doing her part, she didn’t complain, and they were all happily commenting about their wonderful meal.

While they were doing the dishes, Amber thought she’d ask Hatchet about his cooking.

“Hatchet, I was wondering, Duke said you don’t really enjoy cooking that much, but you were obviously very happy cooking today.”

“Ah,” Hatchet replied, pausing to figure out his response. Finally he said, “Well, I got into the Navy so I could go to college after I got out. I wanted to be either a farmer or a fisherman, but in the Navy, you can’t be either, so they put me in with food. I enjoy cooking, but not in the massive quantities you need in the Mess. Just throw it in and get it ready is the Navy way. And it worked, but I got tired of cooking Mess.

“Since I wanted to make everything great, I studied cooking in my spare time, so the food could be better. Add some salt and pepper and dill and oregano, and everyone’s sayin’ the meatballs taste great today. But then, next week, we’ve used up all those spices, so then folks get upset about my cooking. I finally stopped tryin’, but for us kitchen staff, I tried out all my new recipes, and they gave me great suggestions for new ones, and for fixin’ those that didn’t quite work. Then we all tried out for CANSOFCOM, since we wanted to make a difference, and be in the field, and we three made it in. I still like cookin’ for small groups, though, ‘cause I get to see how much you all enjoy it. And that makes me happy.”

Amber hugged Hatchet then, and said, “I’m really glad we’ve made you so happy, ‘cause that was an extraordinary dinner! Thank you for all your hard work!”

Hatchet started to say something, and then turned away from her and wiped his eyes and sniffed once.

“Must be those onions,” he said.

Everyone looked at him for a moment, and then Duke said, “Yeah. I’m getting a whiff of onion, too,” as he turned away from Hatchet while wiping his eyes and sniffing, too.

“Duke, you and Radi were awesome tonight, too, ya know,” Amber added, making sure they didn’t feel left out of the praise.

“Wow! Lot of onion,” Radi added, joining his fellows in turning away from folks and wiping his eyes.

“Maybe it’s all those rum vapors that didn’t get burnt off,” Zac interjected, feeling a bit of amusement. “Is there any of that stuff left?”

Everyone chuckled at Zac’s remark, since the rum was corked, untouched other than for the flambés, and was now in the refrigerator.

“Maybe we’ll have some when we’re done here,” Hatchet announced amusedly, thanks to Zac breaking the somber mood.

They finished up, and put everything away, then brought out some small glasses and the rum and sat around their main table. They spoke quietly about all the plans for the animals and people, and they decided that the sharks should start to get acclimated to the lake as soon as possible. The octopi could become acclimated gradually, since they might have some scenes in the lake, too. They’d find out for sure when the Cars Soon! Network gave them their duties for the show.

After they felt everything had been discussed, Hatchet excused himself, as did Amber, and the rest just sat around in quiet contentment, waiting for Hatchet to announce that the boat was here to return them to their lodgings. Instead, Hatchet brought a wide plank into the dining hall, along with a large assortment of cutlery and a hatchet. Drawn in charcoal was the outline of a man on that plank, and Hatchet set it up against a wall where no windows could be broken.

Amber returned just then, looking all refreshed.

“O..M..G!” she cried, running over and hugging Hatchet again. “This is SO cool!!” she burbled, laughing with excitement as she hurried over for a great seat.

Hatchet chuckled in amusement, and began to tell his story of how he began his knife and hatchet-throwing skills. No one interrupted him, even though Duke had pretty much told Amber everything, and she had relayed it to Zac, so they all knew the story.

“So, this was my first goal,” Hatchet announced, as he prepared to throw his hatchet at the figure on the plank. He raised his hatchet-throwing arm over his shoulder, and threw the implement past his ear and into the plank.

“Thunk!” went the hatchet.

“Oooh!” called Zac, cringing along with his fellows.

Amber couldn’t control her partially stifled giggles, as they all watched amusedly as the hatchet embedded itself into the unmentionables of the outlined figure.

“Ain’t nobody gonna be messin’ with you, Sir,” Duke chuckled.

“Nobody in their right minds, at least,” added Radi, chuckling too.

“Hoo-Ah Johnny Carson!” Zac added, wiping tears from his cheeks as he giggled in amusement.

“Glad he’s only a plank,” guffawed Amber.

Chef chuckled, too, and listened to his crowd with obvious amusement, then waited until they’d quieted down before he retrieved his namesake.

“Now, I’ll attempt that with my back turned towards it.” He waited for their responses.

Radi and Duke had seen this all before, so they waited for Zac and Amber to react.

“Ooh! Really?” Amber asked, somewhat surprised.

“What? Cool!” Zac enthused, eagerly leaning forward in anticipation of Hatchet’s next move.

Hatchet stood with his back to the plank, and one final look over his shoulder. Then he planted his feet and swung the hatchet past his ear again, with the blade pointing towards the target.

“Thunk!” sounded the hatchet again.

“Whoohoo!” called Duke. “Ya chopped his leg off that time!”

“Bravo!” Radi seconded.

“Oiy vey!” Zac laughed, as he pulled his legs in protectively and balled himself together.

“Eww! Ow!” Amber laughed, pulling her legs up tight against herself, too.

“And now, for my meat cleaver!” Hatchet announced bravely.

The guys were all tucked into protective balls, now, although all three guffawed at this latest announcement.

“Holy moley!” chuckled Amber. “Should’st I averteth mine eyes, good sir?”

At that, Hatchet broke into peals of laughter, and finally collapsed to his knees on the floor.

This surprised Duke and Radi, but everyone laughed for what seemed like minutes.

Eventually, Hatchet got up and gave Amber a hearty hug. Then he grabbed a paper towel from the table, wiped his eyes and blew his nose, then turned and held his meat cleaver while facing his target. And broke into uncontrolled giggles again.

Everyone had tears rolling down their faces in laughter, watching Hatchet’s reaction.

Eventually, Hatchet got off the floor again, turned to Amber and pronounced solemnly, “No my lady, you have no need to averteth thine eyes this fine night. I can’t look at him now without thinking of my “meat cleaver” doing its job.”

At this, Hatchet burst into helpless laughter once more. When he’d recovered again he looked around and said, “Let’s all get together again, and next time we won’t drink so much rum before I do this.”

Everyone chuckled, and Hatchet called for the boat to come pick them up again.

Before it arrived, Amber asked Hatchet, “You’re not here all alone tonight, are you? Whoa! That came out rather wrong, actually. I meant, you’re not all alone on this side of the island, are you?”

Hatchet chuckled again, this time at Amber’s discomfiture, and said, “No. There’re several folks working on this old camp, and I’m bunking with them tonight. But I’m glad you care enough to ask.” He gave Amber one last hug, before they all went outside to enjoy the stars together and wait for the boat with LS Jake and LS Trey to arrive.

Movie Night

Justine and I See recognized the contraption that their humans and that other guy set up. It was a DVD player. Now they just needed some DVDs for it. Justine and I See searched through some of the boxes next to the machine, and found some of their favorites.

“Hey, maybe they brought these from our old aquarium,” suggested I See.

“Maybe,” Justine acknowledged, “although, that would mean our old aquarium doesn’t have them anymore.”

They looked through a few more and saw covers that they didn’t recognize.

“These are new,” commented I See, looking at the unrecognized DVD covers and showing them to everyone.

“Nice!” Justine exclaimed. “We’ll have to see those sometime.”

“Look! It’s Grease!” I See exclaimed as he pulled a disc from the box and held it slightly higher than its companions. He’d recognized the picture on the cover.

“Ooh! Let’s see if it works,” announced Justine, as she turned some knobs and pressed a button on the DVD player.

The tray opened up, and they were thrilled. I See placed the DVD in the tray, and Justine pressed the button that would close it again. Then they made their way back into the pool with their shark buddies.

Soon the movie started, and the foursome waited for their favorite music sections.

--

LS Kenzy and LS Sig were patrolling in the quiet night, when they heard the movie start. They separately went to investigate, since they weren’t expecting any activity tonight, and they soon converged on the movie. They were surprised, since both of them knew that Amber and Zac were at dinner with MS Hatchet. When the two Navy men spotted each other, they walked over to each other to find out what was happening.

Back during the aquarium breakout, they’d been retrieved from the side of the road by their returning teammates, and had learned everything about the “marine team”, as their CANSOFCOM group had dubbed the aquarianists, so they knew the whole story.

“Wow! Radi actually got it operational already,” Kenzy commented.

“Nice!” returned Sig. “Maybe we can all enjoy some movie nights together.”

“Let’s be sure the octopi turned it on, eh?” said Kenzy with a bit of concern.

“Yeah,” Sig agreed, as they both began scouting the area for any interlopers.

They spotted no one and nothing of concern, so they reconnoitered at their original location.

“Nope,” Sig announced upon their regrouping.

“Me neither,” Kenzy concurred. “Probably the critters watching their movie. Poor things must’ve been bored ta tears.”

“Tears,” chuckled Sig. “No dry eye for them.”

Kenzy chuckled too.

“Well, they wouldn’t have been left here alone with that working if there were any danger of electrocution,” Kenzy noted.

“I know,” Sig agreed, finally being serious. “Rad’s too good for that.”

“We’ll keep our eyes open, but let’s see what the animals are doing,” Kenzy offered.

“And what movie they’re enjoying,” added Sig whimsically.

“That too,” Kenzy agreed, smiling.

The aquarium area was fairly well lit, to prevent looting or slipping and falling, but the aquarium lights were out for the moment so the marine life there could sleep if they wanted to.

“Hey! It’s Grease!” Sig exclaimed almost silently as they caught sight of the movie. “I haven’t seen that flick in forever!”

“Do you see the animals?” Kenzy asked, just as quietly.

“Not without lights,” Sig replied. “But I’d bet money they’re watching the show.”

“Me too,” Kenzen agreed, putting on his night vision goggles.

Sig watched, but didn’t copy his friend’s actions, since they only used their goggles passively, without the accompanying IR lights. With them on that way, they could only see heat variations, and could easily trip over anything on the ground. They mostly kept their lights off so that they wouldn’t show up as spotlights to anyone who might be observing them with IR goggles. Just as a precaution.

“I see them,” Kenzy observed quietly. “They’re watching us at the moment.”

Sig quickly put on his goggles, too.

“Hey there little critters,” Sig called and waved to them, hoping to tell them that he and Kenzy weren’t a threat.

The animals continued to watch the men instead of the movie, but they seemed to relax some after Sig’s ‘hello’.

“Well, we’ve checked out everything here,” Kenzy noted, removing his goggles, “so we should probably go patrol some more.”

“Toodles, Critters.” Sig waved farewell to the observing animals, then removed his goggles, too. “And we’re off!”

Kenzy chuckled and shook his head amusedly, which Sig delighted in, and they continued on their patrol.

--

The vibrations of the approaching humans were easy to feel and hear underwater, so the animals watched and listened to the approach, hoping that they wouldn’t turn off the movie.

Since it quickly became obvious that they weren’t Zac and Amber, the animals wondered who these two were.

“They’re dressed the same as every night patrol guy, so they’re probably just surprised by our movie,” I See observed.

“Makes sense,” Justine replied.

“Maybe they’re making sure that we’re the ones that watching it?” Sprink wondered.

“Those are cool eyeball enhancers,” Justine commented. “Did you notice that they looked right at us when they put those on?”

“I did,” responded Mist.

“Me too,” replied Sprink and I See together.

“Hey there little critters,” called one of the humans who then waved to them.

“That one’s being friendly, like folks back at our other aquarium,” Justine commented.

“Guess they’re making sure we’re okay,” I See agreed.

“So, what now?” Sprink asked, glancing back at the movie.

“Toodles, Critters,” the friendly human said as he waved at them again.

Justine waved back at the friendly one with a tentacle, but it was too late, since they’d both removed their goggles and were moving away now.

“Darn!” Justine said angrily. “I wanted to make friends with that one.”

“We will,” Sprink comforted Justine. “I don’t think they’re leaving here anytime soon.”

“They’ll be back, and we can splash around to get their attention, maybe,” suggested Mist.

“I wish we could squeeze through this mesh,” Justine complained, “but the wires are so thin that they’ll hurt us if we try.”

Kenzy and Sig patrolled past the aquarium a couple more times that night, but didn’t pay much attention to the sharks splashing around. They were watching the movie more than the sharks, and since they saw nothing out of the ordinary, they continued on their patrol.

--

Jake and Trey were laughing heartily from being regaled by their passengers about the evening’s performance. Too soon, however, they reached Zac and Amber’s drop off point. Fortunately for Jake and Trey, Duke and Radi were lodged at the nearby “Loser-ville”, which they made certain that their co-workers didn’t forget. So all four dinner-mates were dropped off at the same dock after their wonderful evening together.

They all wanted to check on the animals before they went to bed, so they walked over to the aquarium after they were dropped off. They heard the movie before they saw it.

“Wow!” Radi exclaimed. “That sure didn’t take them long, did it?”

“For sure,” Zac concurred.

They soon saw that their wards were enjoying the movie together, so Radi and Zac went to check on the electrical systems, while Duke and Amber went into the storehouse together.

“Could you help me set out these storage boxes with the food?” Amber asked Duke.

“Of course,” Duke answered.

“We need to scoop some food in each of them first,” Amber said, as she pointed out the food in the freezer.

Amber proceeded to scoop some shrimp into one while Duke scooped herring into a second, and then some mackerel into a third container.

“Thanks!” Amber said.

“No problem,” Duke responded after all three containers had some food in them. They carried the containers to the side deck coping where the animals could easily reach in, then joined Radi and Zac by the electronics.

“Everything looks great,” Radi decided. “The animals are completely safe, and the setup seems to be working perfectly.”

“They’ve already chosen Grease again,” Amber commented happily.

“They’re pretty darn awesome,” Duke added, gazing at the aquatic foursome, who were watching the land-based foursome in return.

“We should start training them tomorrow,” Zac put in worriedly.

“I know,” Amber said sadly. “I don’t know how we’re going to do this, but I want them to be happy while we do it.”

“I’ll help,” Radi stated.

“Me too, if I can,” Duke seconded.

“Thanks!” Amber and Zac said in unison.

“We’d appreciate all the help we can get,” Zac added sincerely.

They all smiled, and together they left the enclosure, too tired to start worrying about tomorrow’s training.

--

The movie ended, and I See put the DVD back into its container and turned the equipment off. They had eaten all the treats out of the containers, and were the happiest they’d been since they’d arrived here. They slept well, since they also knew they were allowed to watch movies again, seemingly anytime they liked.

The humans were tired from all their activities, and knew the animals were happy, so they also slept very well.

A Day at the Bay

The next morning brought with it the threat of a storm, with puffy dark clouds and an eerie silence. Electricity was in the air, and the animals felt anxious because of it. Not that they feared the electricity, but they all shared a feeling of edginess. They decided to play “dirty laundry” as a way to burn off some of their anxiety. They were riding around the tank, Justine on Mist and I See on Sprink, when the humans made an appearance.

The humans had felt that electricity, too, but decided that unless lightning began they’d start training today.

Duke had arranged for the boat, and Radi had already prepared a movie projector for it.

“Just bring along ‘Grease’ and whatever other movies they might react to,” Radi had told them.

When they arrived at the pool, they got to see the riders on their steeds for the first time. They were apparently playing tag and were having a fantastic time. So much so that the animals hadn’t noticed the humans yet.

The humans were stunned but amused, and Radi and Duke both pulled their video-phones out of one of their multitude of pockets and proceeded to record this new activity. Zac and Amber followed their lead.

“We should bring the octopuses along,” Radi suggested. “There’s room, and they have a great bond.”

Duke thought about that, as did Zac and Amber.

“Sounds good,” Amber piped up. “The sharks are certain to return to them.”

They made sure there was plenty of room in the travel tanks, and they moved several bags of treats into the boat. Finally, they put into action a plan that Amber and Zac had thought of the previous night. Radi helped Amber and Zac clip music bites together, and they’d decided on the music from Grease, naturally.

They played the music clip underwater: “I met a girl, crazy for me,” hoping that the boys would be attracted. They weren’t too surprised when the Sprink/Branche and Justine/Cepha swam towards them, though, followed by Mist/Elasmo and I See/Lopod.

Then they played: “Met a boy, cute as can be!” for the animals, and all four observed the humans to see what they wanted.

“Treats!” called out Amber, and she held a handful of mackerel in her hands, hoping to tempt Sprink/Branche in closer, since Mist/Elasmo preferred the herring. Amber asked Duke to lower the sling into the water, so they could do this without tricking or scaring the animals.

“Treats!” called out Zac from the other side of the pool, while holding out some herring.

Duke had driven a cart over from Loserville with a built-on hoist and sling, and prepared to lower the sling into the water. Jake was waiting in the harbor with the motorboat, and both Duke’s trailer and Jake’s boat had water tanks with the air pumps already running. Now they just needed the animals.

They waited until the animals had accepted a couple of fish, then Amber asked Duke to lower the sling into the water, so they could do this without tricking or scaring the animals.

--

They were all quietly watching the human activity with growing excitement.

“Oh, yeah!” exclaimed Sprink. “They’re finally gonna move us!”

With that said, Sprink happily swam into the waiting sling while the others watched.

“Hey, you’re not going anywhere without me!” a slightly panicked Justine called after Sprink, and she quickly jumped into the sling with her friend.

“We’re going to follow you soon!” Mist called after Sprink and Justine as they were raised out of the water.

“You’d better!” Justine called back worriedly.

Soon Mist and I See were in a sling too, and they were placed in tubs on the two-wheeled trailer. Justine and I See kept their less agile friends up-to-date on everything they saw along their ride to the shore, which wasn’t much.

“It’s rather rocky along this part,” the octopi relayed to their friends. It was basically a warning, since the trailer and its occupants soon began to slosh around, and Sprink started to feel motion sickness again.

“How far to the boat?” Sprink asked her companion.

“First the pebble beach, then the boat,” Justine answered. “Very soon.”

In the other container, Mist was actually enjoying the sloshing around, and said, “This is fun!” to I See.

I See responded with, “Enjoy it, since we’re nearly through the rocky part. Then we have some pebbles--rather pretty little stones--and the sand and dock. Then we’re at the boat.”

“Thanks,” Mist replied.

Sprink was feeling better once they got past the rough rocks, and the smooth ride over the pebbles and sand to the docks was pleasant in comparison.

--

“Wow!” exclaimed Amber after seeing how quickly Branche/Sprink swam into the first sling. “They’re ready for a change of scenery, I guess.”

“And they obviously want to stick together,” Zac observed after Cepha/Justine joined Branche/Sprink in the sling, while also noticing how Elasmo/Mist followed the sling as far as he could without losing sight of it.

Since they saw that none of the animals cared about the food, they put it back into the bins and put them away.

The ride down to the docks near them was very slow and uneventful, although Amber and Zac were both making sure that as little water as possible sloshed out of the tanks. Duke was driving carefully, and Radi was carrying the DVD with the Grease music cuts. Rad was thinking ahead to how they’d work the music on the boat, but had set up a video camera, microphone and speaker for the training sessions.

They arrived at the ‘Loserville’ docks, as they’d been dubbed, and loaded their four captives into the boat quickly and efficiently. Soon they were off to the bay near the cabins on the other side of the island. Here, the Royal Marines had placed a boundary net so their captives couldn’t escape, but they’d have plenty of room to swim.

“This is where the water challenges are going to be, so we’ll let the sharks out here,” LS Jake announced after he’d turned off the boat’s engine. LS Trey was keeping a lookout, and Duke and Radi were working with Amber and Zac.

They quickly offloaded the sharks while keeping the octopi in the tanks, and watched while the sharks explored their new freedom by leaping and playing tag. The octopi obviously wanted to join them, but couldn’t because it was fresh water.

“They’re fun to watch,” Jake announced. “How long did we decide they should play?”

“Until they get worn out or bored and come back to the boat,” Zac replied. “Should be a good hour or so.”

“Who wants a cold one?” Duke asked as he went to the cooler. “We’ve got lemonade, root beer, iced tea and water.”

Cold drinks were passed around, and they had a great time talking about whatever came to mind for the next two hours.

--

Sprink and Mist were discussing how they could rescue their multi-armed companions, but nothing came to mind. They also explored their new area so they could find a way out, and were loving their huge new enclosure for the freedoms it offered.

“It’s SO deep!” Mist exclaimed, just after he’d jumped up high out of the water for the umpteenth time. “No hitting bottom out here!”

“I know!” Sprink replied with glee as she raced away as fast as she could. “We don’t have to watch our speed out here, either!” she continued as she raced back towards Mist.

They quickly found the borders and the boundary net of their area, and decided to enjoy their freedom for as long as possible, since the boat hadn’t moved since they’d arrived. They knew as well as the humans that they weren’t leaving Justine or I See behind if they had a choice.

After a while they returned to the boat to see what it was that the humans wanted from them. A video screen and speakers that they hadn’t noticed before were attached to the side of the boat, and both Sprink and Mist spyhopped to see what the humans were doing now.

Trey noticed the sharks first, and said, “Sharks,” while pointing in their direction.

The sharks knew they’d been spotted, but didn’t really care, since they felt comfortable in the bay.

Rad moved over to the electronics keyboard and quickly typed up the clip that had been decided on, and Zac and Amber made sure their chosen fish food was easily reachable.

The rather quick movements made the piscines wary, but they didn’t leave.

Both Sprink and Mist decided to watch the boat from a little further away, and slipped beneath the water’s surface to do so. As they were leaving, the underwater video screens came on, and the music clip “Tell me more, tell me more” from Grease played.

“They’re talking to us!” Sprink exclaimed, surprised.

“What do they want?” Mist asked rhetorically, as they both spyhopped again to find out.

Amber and Zac each tossed one fish when the sharks’ heads popped up again. One mackerel and one herring, which the sharks gladly swallowed.

“I guess we’re supposed to find out what they want when they play the vids,” Sprink said, enjoying her mackerel.

“I wanna say “Goodbye! And thanks for all the fish,” laughed Mist after swallowing his herring.

They both turned solemn after Mist said that, though, since they still hadn’t figured out how to save their multi-legged friends.

“Guess we might as well put up with their nonsense until we figure out how to steal and drive one of those boats,” Sprink commented glumly.

Mist just giggled, imagining he or Sprink driving that boat.

“Hmm,” Mist thought out loud. “We were able to drive those trucks, no problem, with the octopuses help. We shouldn’t have any trouble driving those boats, if we can figure out where we’re going.”

“We just have to take over the boat,” added Sprink happily, beginning to puzzle through ideas.

“Sounds fun!” Mist added joyfully, splashing around some more in elation.

“They seem to be happy,” commented Jake while watching the sharks’ antics.

“I hope so,” returned Zac.

When the sharks popped their heads out of the water again, the same clip was played from Grease, and another mackerel and herring were thrown into the water near them. The sharks quickly ate their fish and vanished underneath the waters’ surface again.

“Well, this is getting boring,” huffed Sprink.

“I know, right?” agreed Mist. After a moment he added, “Watch this!”

Mist dove deep and fast, and Sprink immediately knew what he was up to, so she spyhopped to see how the humans would react.

The humans saw her, and looked around for Mist. They only had to wait a few moments before Mist exploded out of the water next to the boat, startling them and getting them wet as they all ducked and he sailed over the boat and back into the water.

“Oh my gosh!” shouted Amber, amazed like everyone else. “That was amazing!!”

Zac quickly tossed tossed a handful of herring at the spot where Mist had landed, and cheered, “WHOOHOOO!!”

Justine and I See quickly jumped out of their tubs while the humans were distracted, and scurried up to the boat’s wheel where they hid under a tarp there to study the boat’s controls. They’d been watching the controls from their tanks during the trip here, but now they could see everything close up. No one noticed their movements, since Mist had distracted the humans so thoroughly.

“I think we can run this boat, if we can take it while no one’s on board,” Justine said to her brother.

I See quickly scurried over to the wheel and snatched something near it, then scurried back over to Justine.

“Let’s go!” I See whispered urgently as he raced past her back to their tanks.

They both quickly got back into their tanks before anyone noticed that they were missing, since everyone was watching Mist play with his herring.

Sprink had been the only creature to notice Justine’s and I See’s movements, and had called to Mist to be very creative about eating his herring so that the octopi would have more time to do whatever they were doing.

Eventually, after the sun was beginning to go down in the west and the air was getting cooler, the humans played the music clip, “Met a boy, cute as can be” again, since by now the sharks knew that that clip meant, ‘Come here’. The slings were lowered into the water, and the sharks reluctantly got into them, since they really didn’t want to leave this luxurious bay. They couldn’t bear to be parted from their friends, though, so they got in without too much fuss, and were soon back in the boat’s tanks with their multi-armed buddies.

--

Jake got up to start the boat, but quickly saw that the keys were missing from the ignition. He checked his pockets and next to the wheel, but couldn’t find them.

“Anyone seen the keys?” Jake called out, somewhat flustered. “They seem to have disappeared from the ignition. And I’ve checked my pockets, just in case.”

“I’ve only used the restroom,” responded Amber.

“I went in to get some drinks, but I didn’t see any keys,” Zac added.

“I haven’t touched them,” Radi said.

“Not me,” Duke replied.

“You know I wouldn’t bother them,” Trey answered consolingly. “Where’s the last place you remember seeing them?”

“I thought I’d left them in the ignition,” Jake almost whined.

“We’ll find them,” Rad said comfortingly. “They couldn’t just get up and walk away.”

At that, everyone froze and looked towards the octopi with extreme suspicion.

“We can do a quick X-ray when we get back to the docks,” Zac said reassuringly. “If any of them took it or swallowed it, which I doubt, it could cause their systems some real harm.”

They all agreed that was a good idea, and Trey handed Jake his keys until Jake’s keys could be found again. Jake started the engine, and all of them were quiet and lost in thought on the journey back.

Meanwhile, I See had hidden the keys underneath him until they could get to the pool they’d called home for the last several weeks.

They returned to the docks a short while later, and the animals were wheeled up to their enclosure. As they entered the enclosure, I See started flicking water at all the people in fun, and that broke the tension. Zac and Amber burst into laughter, and Justine joined her brother in splashing peeps. The Marines were more subdued, but enjoyed the fun.

What no one saw, and only I See knew, was that all that flicking of water was to hide his tossing of the boat keys into the grass by the fence. It was beginning to be dusk, and he knew he needed to get rid of them for the moment.

All the animals expected to be released back into the pool, but they watched as they rolled past their area and kept going. A few minutes later they reached another enclosure with a pool, maybe a half-mile beyond their home. Both Justine and I See were watching the scenery go by and ducking back into the water to tell their sharks what they saw. Their trailer stopped inside this enclosure, and two guys came out with a big rolling thing. They pushed it underneath the trailer, then the trailer slowly rolled forwards over it.

“Nope. No keys or any other metal objects,” LS Kenzen proclaimed. “They’re clear.”

“They’re actually silvery,” corrected LS SG with a slight smirk.

“Thanks, guys,” Jake responded with a chuckle, along with everyone else. He then patted SG on the back. “I don’t know where else they could be.”

“We’ll find them,” Trey said, with concern in his voice. “This is what they look like,” he continued as he held up his returned keys.

“We’ve gotta file a report and get new keys for the boat,” Jake lamented. He then turned and walked towards the Loserville building.

Trey followed, along with Jake and SG, who couldn’t help but snark, “Loserville, the place you hope the stuff you lose goes.”

Everyone snickered at that, and Jake said to SG, “I’m so glad you’re on our team, pal,” as he playfully swatted SG on the back. He then said, “You’ve really saved my day, you know?” and continued chuckling as they entered the building.

The grin on SG’s face showed that Jake’s comments had really made his day, too.

Amber, Zac, Duke and Radi waved farewell, got back into their ATV, and drove themselves and the animals back to the aquarium. There, the animals were placed gently back into their aquarium and fed. Zac and Amber made sure everything was locked up and went to bed.

Since it was dark, Duke and Radi did a thorough sweep for the keys with their flashlights but didn’t find anything, so they mentioned it to the next patrol and went home.

After it was dark and the humans had left, both Justine and I See went to where the keys were, found some rocks, dug a hole for the keys and buried them next to the metal fence post. Then the animals began working on ideas.

(Chapter 16 coming soon!)

--

In the order we meet them: (met in chapter #)

Girl shark --> Sprink (1)

Branche --> human name for Sprink  (12)

Boy shark --> Mist (1)

Elasmo --> human name for Mist  (12)

Nico Wrasse --> lady wrasse teacher (1)

Alfan --> male shark teacher (1)

Rocket --> male shark classmate who loves swimming fast (1)

Pearl --> female shark classmate that is shy and loves looking at beautiful things (1)

Ranger --> male shark classmate that is very curious and roams (1)

Sunslicer --> male shark classmate that loves jumping out of the water, and sounds like a hippie from the 70’s (1)

Nibbler --> female shark classmate who is a picky eater (1)

Justice – two octopi: Justine and I See --> a sister and brother (3)

Cepha: --> human name for Justine (12)
Lopod: --> human name for I See (12)

Avi --> a starfish with an effervescent personality (3)

Amber –-> a female aquarium worker; partner to Zac (4)

Zac –-> a male aquarium worker; partner to Amber (4)

Bruno –-> a barracuda, peacekeeper of the main aquarium, Brooklyn or Bronx accent (4)

Webly –-> a sea otter in the aquarium (5)

Manatee –-> a large aquarium occupant (5)

Jofan –-> “Jojo” & Jo—a hyperactive, but very friendly male sea lion, known as Jojo to the humans, and often referred to as Jo (5)

Jaxswim –-> Jax is a jellyfish that is harmless to humans, and doesn’t hurt the other animals, either, since it lives on tiny animals and plants (5)

Mikey --> Head of Night Security for the Baie-Comeau Aquarium of Quebec; (not a RL aquarium) (6)

Indi --> Baie-Comeau’s local 911 operator (6)

Lieutenant Commander K.G. Mahn -–> Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, (CANSOFCOM), commander of this mission from Ottawa, Ontario (7)

Thomas –-> the now-retired and somewhat lonely former head of the aquarium night security (7)

Master Seaman Hatchet – leader of the CANSOFCOM reconnaissance group, in Quebec (8)

Duke – Leading Seaman N. “Duke” of the CANSOFCOM group (8)

Radi – Leading Seaman “Radical” Michaels, or “Radi” of the CANSOFCOM group (8)

Sunshine – a lovely lady sea lion we meet during the ‘great escape’ (8)

Jake – Leading Seaman Jake R. of Hatchet’s 2nd team (9)

Dra – a producer of the new show that wants to rent some sea animals (9)

Jessica – owner/operator of the Baie-Comeau aquarium (9)

Reddy and Rhonda – two of TDI’s camera crew (10)

JKL – human caretaker of the Sasquatch-anakwa (10)

Tau – human caretaker of the champion log-rolling bear (10)

Zoomer – the champion log-rolling bear (10)

Kenzen – Leading Seaman “Kenzy” Kenzen of Hatchet’s 1st team, ran after the truck after I See floored it (12)

SG – Leading Seaman SG “Sig” of Hatchet’s 1st team, also ran after the truck after I See floored it (12)

Trey – Leading Seaman “Trey” EnTrey of Hatchet’s 2nd team, scanning the water and shoreline for any possible threats (13)

Notes

The Seagull's Tale

I would like to thank two of our fellow wikians, Rhonda and Reddy, for allowing me to use their names in this story. I've only just met the users here, so no one really knows me yet, so that was brave of them! Their names have great alliterative properties, too.

The scene referred to specifically in “The Seagull’s Tale” is the scene in the pilot episode of TDI where Bridgette said, “I thought we were going to be on a beach,” and Chris replied, “You are!” The visual then cut to the scene where the seagull was washed off the beach. Turns out when I watched it again that there were two aluminum cans behind the gull.

Gideon pointed out to me that the Tuck Shoppe is depicted as a shop-n-go, PX-type store, or a 7-11, which don’t have tables. I thought that it might have a table and benches outside, since they were supposedly on an island. Of course, we never actually saw the Tuck Shoppe.

For me, the humor in this story is the extremely differing points of view between the humans and the animal for the same occurances. I hope you all enjoyed it!

Additional: Gull won Featured Character in March 2012, and for his acceptance speech I created a new sidestory for him in a blog. In it, we learn how Gull could tell us his side of the story in TDI, and how Jay got to hear his interview. As a bonus, I've included what has been happening with Reddy and Rhonda since their encounters with Gull.


The Buck's Tale

As most of you probably know, 14 of the contestants ended up in the water again at the end of "Total Drama Drama Drama Drama Island". Those 14 tied for the win, and were forced to play for the million bucks *chuckle* in "Total Drama Action".

Also thanks to MrD for looking up trivia for me – after Duncan gave that buck a noogie, no other deer were seen in the first season (except for the human deer in the paintball hunt.) ;-)

My thoughts for this story were that the buck told all the other deer to "stay away from the ‘noogie people'."


The Loon's Tale

I wasn’t going to do this Tale at first because I couldn’t think of a story to go with it. I kept wondering, though, if there was a way to bring the loon in via the seagull. It finally dawned on me that the loon could be one of Gull’s audience, and the loon was lovesick, so Gull came up with an answer. I was thinking I’d end the story with Rhonda and/or Reddy staring open-mouthed at the loon video as it occurred, but we all know R & R too well to just leave it there.

Also, the human/animal distinction started to blur. For the seagull and the deer tales, they were just average animals and the humans were just human. For this story the loon had to become slightly human, so it was tougher to write the human story, but it was well worth it to see Reddy and Rhonda at work again!

I hope you all enjoyed it and thanks for your wonderful comments!

(I fixed my Hoot link.)


The Cockroach's Tale

In order to make this a more fun story, I incorporated the personalities of the names of users here. Shane loves to tackle-hug in chat, Brandon, a.k.a. TDIwriter, has started at least two trends with many followers, Lal has a beautiful personality, and Daimion has a strong, but fun personality. I've also added Lilac as Mom, and Frank as Dad, since they're two of the older users here. Gideon also makes an appearance as an elder.

Rochelle, Railly and Colette are names I looked up for this story. I chose them due to their meanings, which I looked up on babynames, and because they begin with C and R. I looked up only female names, because I hadn’t come up with The Loon's Tale yet, and wanted a female lead.

I had decided on Rochelle before I started this story, because it is so similar to the word roach. One of the meanings for the name Rochelle made me laugh – “Battle cry”. Gideon was with me when I came across it, and after we read it, I mimicked, “Help me!” We both chuckled and knew that would be one of the names.

Railly means “courageous” and “valiant.” Courageous fits, but valiant… Colette translates to “victory of the people.”

The entire list of cockroach names is at the end of the story.

I hope you've enjoyed this installment! Thank you for any comments, too. :D


The Sharks' Tale

I hope you've enjoyed this story so far, and I would very much like to thank the following for their ideas and support in helping me to write this story:

First of all, thank you VERY much, Reddy, for your extremely helpful ideas, which helped me to create this story!! <3 Without Red, I wouldn't have been able to make this Tale as humorous as it is! :)

Next, I'd very much like to thank Brandon for his great ideas during a chat one day! <3 Brandon gave me some great creative ideas for the sharks' development! :)

I'm also very grateful to Sprink for his graciously saying 'Yes' to being the title character(s) in this tale. As you may know, he's a vegetarian. I worried about 'his' characters being pure carnivores, but he has since reassured me that he doesn't mind the sharks eating meat. Thanks, Sprink!! :)

And finally, I'd very much like to thank all of the users here who have generously offered their names and characters to me for this story! I'm having a joyous time developing your characters in this tale! :D

Avi, I'd like to thank you very much for your character idea, since little Avi has become my comic relief character! :D

Jax, I'd like to thank you very much, too, because you actually helped me come up with a way to help the animals escape! Your character idea is awesome! I would never have thought of that myself, probably! :D

In addition, thank you very much to everyone who has offered me an audition in camps, been hosts in the games I've played, and who have played characters with me there! Especially Red who actually got me started! Playing characters in Camps has really helped me develop my creative writing skills, and this in turn has really helped me write this tale. :) I'm truly enjoying writing this story! <3

Also, if any of you have any creative ideas or thoughts for my shark story, please share them with me, since this story is still being written. Thank you! ;)

Here are two interactive maps:

This interactive Baie-Comeau, Quebec map shows the town, streets and dams.

This interactive Muskoka, Ontario map shows river, lake and island names.

Lake Wawanakwa doesn't actually exist, but there are MANY islands in the Muskoka area, since Lake Muskoka is more like a floodplain.

Just in case anyone is unaware of this, the list of characters and their identifying traits is at the end of the final posted chapter. Just go to "Gull's Notes" and scroll up to see it. :)

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