The test was a simple one. A fake submersible craft was placed in waters nearly eleven hundred meters deep a few kilometers beyond the west surf line of Johnson Atoll. The job for Calista and Harmony was similar to the one they conducted at Kwajalein: set up the salvage site and rig the submersible so they could raise it off the surface. The biggest difference here was they were first examining the site so they could make recommendation to the salvage team, and rather than have a boat give constant support from the surface in the form of supplying air and guide lines, all equipment was to be placed on-site, giving the mermaids complete control with little interference from above.
Harmony called this The Alvin Test, named after the famous submersible that sank in fifteen hundred meters of water in 1968 and was eventually recovered through the use of a DSV. The biggest difference here was replacing the deep submergence with OSJs: Mermaids On the Job. And in the event the operation took more than a day, the OSJs could always set up camp and stay for a while—
There was also another difference that made this test far different than the one back at the Kwaj: Calista was the site chief. That meant that she supervised Harmony and every important decision was hers. Harmony felt it was time to let her mentee spread her wings, so to speak, and learn all the ins-and-outs of having so supervise a crew. Albeit her crew consisted of one mermaid, but it was a start.
After spending a bit more than an hour going over the test vehicle Calista hovered a few meters to the right of the coning tower, looking at the submersible with a frown.
Harmony floated over and noticed the look. “What’s on your mind?”
“The initial request was to put an inflatable bladder inside the hull and inflate to create buoyancy.” Calista tapped her chin. “We do that, we’re gonna need a sleeve in the hatchway to let out the water. And there’s the possibility the inflated bladder could catch on something and rip, or damage equipment, or both.”
Harmony float up along side. “So you wanna put sealant over hatch like we did at Kwaj?”
“No. With that hull we had multiple entry/exit points on the hull, so you could pump in air at one point and eject water at other.” She flipped her tail out and under her, something she did when she was thinking. “It looks to me—”
A voice from their support craft, Sedna, interrupted the conversation. “Calista? Harmony? You got a minute?”
The two mermaids exchanged looks as Calista rolled her eyes. “We do now.”
“You’re to drop what you’re doing and surface. After that you’re to report to the atoll.”
Now it was Harmony’s turn to look perplexed. “Please remind JA we’re four klicks out on the West Shelf. And they were the ones who authorized this test.”
There was just a touch of annoyance in the dive supervisor’s voice. “They know that, Harmony. Surface at once.”
Calista made the call. “Rodger, Sedna. On our way.” She pointed towards the surface. “Let’s find out what’s going on.”
They were back at the surface a little over five minutes later. After vomiting out their water, the two mermaids swam over to the stern of the Sedna and the access shelf that was used for helping them in and out of the water. Harmony was the first up. “What the hell’s going on, Poppo?”
The dive supervisor, Gregor Popovich, only shrugged. “I’m just like you: I get orders from Central and follow them.”
Calista twisted the water out of her hair. “And what do your orders say?”
“They say you’re to wait here, that a boat is coming for you. And they’re to take you both back to your—” Gregor pointed at the ginger mermaid. “—old bungalow?”
“What for?” She looked up at the dive supervisor with a puzzled appearance. “I closed that out weeks ago.”
Gregor held up a hand. “Like I said—”
“I know: you get orders, you follow them.” She glanced at Harmony. “I guess we wait for the boat.”
They didn’t wait long. A few minutes after they surfaced a speed boat approached and came to a stop about ten meters from the stern of the Sedna. The mermaids swam over and hopped inside: once aboard, the speedboat turned and headed back to the atoll at top speed.
The boat rounded the south end of Johnson Island and approached Calista’s old bungalow. While the deck chairs and table were still out, there didn’t appear to be anyone waiting for us. The boat closed to about thirty meters and slowed enough to allow the mermaids to jump back into the water before heading off to dock.
Calista boosted herself up on to her old patio deck only seconds ahead of Harmony. She scrutinized the property. “There’s no one here.”
“Au contraire.” Izzy stepped out of the bungalow and on to the patio. “I was in the loft when I heard you guys approaching.” She looked back at the structure. “I guess it’s hard to see inside when your eyes are used to water.”
Harmony eyed the woman. “Izzy, what are you doing here?”
“Nice to see you, too, Harmony.” She laughed at her own comeback. “I’m back because I’ve been reassigned. AFI thought it best you both hear it from me.”
While Harmony seemed less than thrilled, Calista couldn’t hide her excitement. “Really? That’s great!”
Izzy nodded as she looked away. “Yeah, great.”
Since she was the one with her wits about her, Harmony sensed that Izzy’s return might not merit celebration just yet. “So, what are you doing? I remember Calista saying you were in marketing, but I can’t imagine we need that way the hell out here.”
“No, you’re right, you don’t.” She crossed her arms, he hands over her tummy. “May as well just spit it out…” Izzy turned to Harmony. “I’m pregnant.” She affixed her gaze upon a now-startled Calista. “And that makes you sort of the father…”