The first trip to Down Below Town had Calita’s tummy in knots. She’d known for a couple of days she would not only visit with Harmony, but have lunch in the underwater bungalow she’d soon share with her mentor. But it wasn’t just that; what had her the most excited was seeing all the other people—
Who had once been like her.
At 10:00 she was taken by boat to a point just outside the boundaries of Down Below Town. Boats of all kinds were prohibited from coming within a hundred meters of the mermaid enclave because the merfolk desired quiet water over their haven. Harmony was floating on the surface, waiting for her mentee. Within a minute after the boat arrived Calista was headed below the wave with Harmony at her side.
She was surprised by her reaction upon seeing Down Below Town. Harmony picked up on it quickly. “A little underwhelming, isn’t it?”
“Just… a little.” Calista blushed slightly. “I guess I expected something out of a fairy tale.”
Down Below Town was centered in a dredged section of the lagoon twelve meters deep. There were approximately twenty-five one-level pre-fabricated units with the same footprint as her above-water bungalow, with a few openings—including a door—either open to the outside over covered with what appeared to be a blackout curtain. Towards the far end were two larger buildings, still one level but maybe the size of five of the single units placed side-to-side. Between those two larger buildings was a geodesic dome perhaps ten meters across made of translucent material, making it impossible to see inside.
“Don’t worry—” Harmony chuckled beside her mentee. “Most new mermaids have the same reaction. They expect to find singing fish and dancing crabs and they find—”
“More of what they left behind on land?”
“Something like that. Come on: I’ll show you my place.”
They swam into the colony and Calista was able to see other mermaids either relaxing or working on what looked like equipment for AFI. Since Harmony had mentioned that Down Below Town was a training center for all kinds of AFI activities, several mermaids were here to learn skills that would help them as a member of the Special Assets Division.
Calista followed Harmony over the top of two bungalows before dropping to what she considered “street level”. “My place is right over here.”
“Okay. I—” Harmony stopped and stared at a passing mermaid, who was heading overhead and in the direction the two larger buildings. Calista couldn’t take her eyes—
Harmony was there shaking her arm. “What’s wrong?”
Calista pointed in the direction of the now-distant visitor. “That mermaid.”
“She was…” She swallowed even though she knew it was reflexive and not necessary. “She was pregnant.”
Harmony smiled. “Yeah, we’ve got two preggers staying with us.”
“We can get pregnant?”
“It’s not something you read about in the promotional material, right?
“No.” Calista closed her eyes for a moment. “I never gave it any thought.”
“Well, now you know.” Harmony looked around before continuing. “We retain our reproductive organs so it’s possible to procreate. Not only do we have two pregnant mers, but we have eight children ranging from nine months to seven years of age. And this isn’t the only place for that—”
Calista’s head was swimming. “It isn’t?”
“We have two other breeding colonies: one in the Bahamas off Acklins Island, and another in the Maldives off Kaadedhdhoo. Those have more children—”
“Hold on.” Even though she knew only Harmony could hear her, she spoke quietly. “I haven’t seen any mer… men.”
Harmony nodded. “That’s right—and you won’t. Men don’t take to the transition for some reason.”
“Then if we can get pregnant—”
“How does it happen?”
Harmony laughed as she took her mentee by the hand. “Okay, kid. I guess it’s time to tell you what happens when two mermaids love each other a lot…”