Lunch was over and the time to relax was upon the bungalow on Ariel Drive. Izzy finished putting the dirty dishes in the washer while Calista rolled herself out on to the patio. Izzy didn’t mind not having help in the kitchen: there wasn’t a lot in the way of cleaning and having Calista’s wheelchair there make the space seem smaller than it was.
When Izzy walked out into the patio Calista was under the huge umbrella they’d erected on their first day, brushing out her long, ginger hair. She almost laughed at the sight ‘cause it was such a stereotypical scene: a mermaid sitting out of water brushing her hair. And given how Calista now looked…
It was now two and a half weeks after Calista began sleeping underwater, a little less than a week after Izzy’s chat with Harmony, and the Calista’s legs had competed fusing and now looked more like a traditional mermaid’s tail, complete with a light layering of scales. While the scaling was thickest over her waist, hips, and upper thighs, everything from the just above the knees down possessed emerald-green scales. Everything, that was, except for her feet, which was now a tail nearly three-quarters of a meter across and shaded a translucent jade green.
Calista set down the brush and looked back over her shoulder. “You coming to sit?”
“Yeah.” Izzy walked up next to her. Over the last couple of days she’d noticed that Calista’s hearing seemed far better than it ever had when she was human. Something else improved that mermaids have that we don’t. “Just wanna look out over the lagoon.”
“Sure.” Izzy walked in front of her before taking a seat. “Just another perfect day in paradise.”
“Every day here is perfect. We haven’t had a drop of rain since arriving.”
This time Calista nodded, them set her right elbow on the arm of the wheelchair and rested her head in her hand. “I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this.”
“Well—” Izzy glanced over at her friend on her left. “You’ll probably see a lot more of this than I ever will. Doesn’t AFI have a lot of operations here in this part of the Pacific?”
“From what Harmony told me, yes.” Calista cleared her throat. “Harmony returned from an operation in Bikini Atoll only a week before we arrived. Something to do with cleaning up underwater pollution from nuclear testing.”
That didn’t sound like a safe operation to Izzy. “Isn’t she worried about radiation?”
“Apparently they wear special suits when they’re in the areas with the worst contamination.” Calista shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about that stuff.” She turned in her chair. “You wanna go do something?”
Izzy scrutinized her friend closely. “Don’t you have stuff to do this afternoon?”
“Nope: it’s a free day for me.” Calista leaned over the wheelchair arm. “Why don’t we go swimming?”
“Swimming?” It seemed a strange thing to do, considering all the time Calista spent in the water. “Don’t you get tired of that?”
“When I’m with Harmony I’m working.” She reached over and touched Izzy’s arm. “I want to go swimming with you. You know, get out and relax.”
Izzy gave the thought only a few seconds of thought. “Sounds like a plan. Where do you want to swim?”
“You can take the Zodiac over to Sand Island and I’ll follow you over. Or…” She chuckled. “If you want, you can give me a lift. We’ll get there faster.”
Izzy almost jumped to her feet. “It should take me about ten minutes to change.”
“Go ahead, I’ll get in the Zodiac.”
As Izzy ran into the bungalow Calista rolled to the edge of the patio and pushed off into the water. She didn’t breathe in as she didn’t want to eject water from her lungs. It didn’t matter: she was up and over the side of the Zodiac less than fifteen seconds after entering the water.
True to her word Izzy was back ten minutes later, wearing a bikini, a long, white cover for her shoulders and back, and a hat with a huge, floppy brim. She eased down into the boat and started the motor. Thirty seconds later they pulled away from the bungalow and jetted across the lagoon, heading towards Sand Island for an afternoon of relaxation—
Note: Time for another history lesson. After WW II, Bikini Atoll, as well as others in the area, were used as test sites for nuclear bomb testing. What Harmony is indicating would be true, as large portions of Bikini were contaminated by numerous detonations above and below water.
The largest U.S. detonation ever, Castle Bravo, was a 15 megaton hydrogen device that vaporized the island where the device—which was the size of a house—was constructed. It was far larger than expected and caused a cloud of fallout larger and more deadly than thought possible. It extended well beyond the “safe zone”, contaminating the Japanese fishing ship Lucky Dragon #5, killing one of the sailors aboard.
The pictures below shows the crater left by Castle Bravo: it’s the one near the center of the photo. The extension to the left was caused by other detonations.
The most famous detonation was Crossroads Baker, the first underwater test. It was a 23 kiloton bomb—a little larger than the two dropped on Japan—set off 90 feet underwater in the middle of WW II ships scheduled for scrapping. The photo below is a close-up of the column of water created seconds after the detonation. The dark spot on the right side of the water column is the battleship Arkansas being lifted straight up out of the water before being slammed upside down into the floor of the lagoon, 180 feet below.
Crossroads Baker was a relatively small bomb, yet it left behind a great deal of contamination, some of which still exists—and is quite likely being cleaned up by mermaids in my story’s world—