“Beyond the Wave and Foam”, Part 26

Part 26

 

“Are you sure you’re gonna be able to drink this?” Izzy brought the bottle of champagne and two glass out to the patio where Calista sat on the edge overlooking the lagoon. “After months of being limited to cider, won’t this do a number on you?”

Calista chuckled but didn’t turn around. Instead, she kept her eyes fixed on the nighttime horizon on the other side of the lagoon. “I cleared it with both Harmony and the lab.” She looked to her right as Izzy sat on the patio edge as well, letting her legs dangle over the side. “I’m allowed two glasses, no more.”

“I’ll make sure they’re full glasses.” Izzy uncorked the bottle and filled both glassed almost to the brim. “Here you go.”

“Isn’t this a little… full?” Calista eyed the glass carefully. “Aren’t the bubbles supposed to mix with the air to bring out the flavor?”

Izzy shrugged. “I have no idea. I just drink this stuff.” She held her glass out for a toast. “Happy graduation, and to your new life.”

“To my new life.” She took a good sip and set the glass aside, thinking about the events of the day—

After the lab exams the lab told Calista that they saw no reason for her to move into Down Below Town and proceed to the next part of her training, which consisted of adapting to living underwater twenty-four/seven. As she’d told Izzy when she returned for lunch, while she could sleep here at the bungalow, AFI now expected her to spend the majority of her time at the mermaid enclave, which meant her time above water was mostly coming to and end…

Just as Izzy said, it was a graduation of sorts. Calista had passed all her testing up to this point, that above and below the waves. For the next three months, however, all of Calista’s testing and living would occur underwater. Even if she remained at the bungalow, she was expected to sleep there only and to spend the rest of her time at Down Below Town.

Which meant her human life was, more or less, coming to an end.

Izzy swung her right leg forward and back. “Anything in particular you’re going to miss once you move out to Mermaid Town?”

Calista snorted. “Silly.” She lowered her head slightly as she glanced at her friend through her through her thick, ginger hair. “I’m going to miss you. The rest of my life—” She making a piffting sound as she waved her right hand through the air. “I don’t care about at all. But you…” She reached over and took Izzy’s left hand in her right. “Not seeing you on a regular basis is going to hurt.”

“Yeah.” Izzy squeezed Calista’s hand. “You’re the one thing I’m going to miss a whole lot.” She turned her gaze across the lagoon without releasing her friend’s hand. “I hope they’ll at least let me call once in a while.”

“From what I understand that’s not all that difficult.” She released Izzy’s hand. “Can I ask a question?”

Izzy didn’t look away from the ocean beyond their bungalow. “Sure.”

“Before I left, were you ever going to tell me you loved me?”

What?” Izzy’s head whipped around, locking upon Calista’s smiling face. “How did—?’

“Oh, please.” Calista chuckled lightly as she folded her hands together under her naked breasts. “I’ve suspected it for at least a couple of years. I mean, you’re far too protective of me to be just a friend.” She looked down at her tail. “Plus the way you’ve acted these last few weeks…”

Though Izzy knew she was about to have her heart-broken, she had to hear. “Yes?”

“I’ve gotten a lot better at reading body language that Harmony suspects.” When Calista turned her head towards her friend, her eyes were misty with tears. “Every move you made said, ‘I’m losing my love’.”

Izzy had absolutely no idea how to respond to Calista’s observations. “I should have left when you were away for training.”

“Why? So you wouldn’t have to hear me say that?” Calista shook her head. “Wouldn’t you rather know that I knew, instead of wondering the rest of your life?”

“Well, you know, that’s one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations.” Izzy wiped a few tears away from her eyes. “So what does it mean?”

“I means I know you love me—and I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my life.” Calista drank half her glass in a couple of gulps before moving closer to her friend. “And wouldn’t you prefer to spend a last night with the person you love instead of with your closest friend?”

Izzy reached out this time and took Calista’s hand in hers. “I don’t know what I ever did to deserve having you in my life.”

Calista leaned her head against Izzy’s shoulder. “You know what you did.”

Izzy glanced over at the thick tangle of hair resting against her. “What did I do?”

“You helped make my life worth living.” Calista tilted her head back and looked up into Izzy’s eyes. “And my dreams worth sharing.”

“Beyond the Wave and Foam”, Part 25

Part 25

The bungalow was quiet as morning vanished and moved closer to noon. Earlier Calista and Izzy shared breakfast—Izzy at the table and Calista sitting on the edge of the inner pool—after which Calista was picked up and taken to the lab for what was likely her last series of land-based test, after which she’d headed off into the lagoon to work with Harmony.

This meant Izzy was going to be alone for nearly the whole day, as it was likely Calista wouldn’t return until some time after 18:00. That wasn’t new: she’d been along for the four days Calista was away for training—and given that Calista slept underwater these days, as far as Izzy was concerned she was along all the time—

“What the hell are you still doing here?”

Izzy grabbed a hard cider from the refrigerator before turning to face Harmony, who was sitting on the edge of the inner pool. “You just gonna keep swimming in here like you own the place?”

Harmony ignored the question. “Why haven’t you—”

Izzy walked pasted the angry mermaid. “Outside—” She pointed at the patio. “It’s too nice a day to stay indoors.”

As Izzy was taking her seat Harmony leaped over the seawall into the ocean, boosting herself up on to the patio seconds later. She pulled her hair back from her face before saying anything. “You were supposed to be gone by now.”

“No.” Izzy took a slow slip from the cider bottle. “You suggested I leave by now. I decided I wouldn’t accept your suggestion.”

“Dammit, Izzy.” Harmony flipped her tail up and on to the deck as she spun to face the human woman. “I’m trying to get Calista to leave this world behind, and you’re still here—”

“Keeping her connected?” She shrugged. “Sue me in mermaid court.”

Harmony slammed her hand against the deck. “Bitch, do you have any idea what sort of harm you’re going?”

“Bitch do you think I care about what you care?” Izzy was on her feet and stormed over to her unwanted guest, towering over the mermaid. “I’m not ready to let her go. Sorry if you can’t get that through your fishy brain, but…” Izzy looked away for a moment. “I can’t let her go. It just—” She turned her back to the lagoon and her guest.

Harmony was certain she knew the problem. “It hurts, doesn’t it?”

Izzy spun around, tears in her eyes. “Damn right it hurts. But it’s not like you’d know that, right?”

The silence on the deck went on for nearly five seconds, so when Harmony spoke in a low tone her words hit hard. “When I was finally accepted for this program, I’d been with my partner for six years. Two times I applied in three years and after the second rejection I was like, ‘That’s it: I’m not getting in’. My partner urged me to submit another application—she insisted. She knew it was my dream and she told me that no matter what, she was behind me the whole way. So when I was finally accepted after that third time, she came here with me, just as you came with Calista.

“I was told I was going off to Kwajalein a couple of days before I left and I couldn’t tone down the excitement when speaking with my partner. It took me a while to realize my departure was bothering her and the moment I got around to asking her how she felt, we started fighting. It got so bad I didn’t talk to her for a day before leaving and swam over to the east end of the runway for pickup the day I flew out.

“Then… she was still here when I got back and the argument started again. Anger; hurt; sadness—it was all there. She let it all out and it got so bad I left here and swam over to Sand Island. I beached myself and cried for a couple of hours.” Harmony signed. “Do you know how exhausting it is to cry that long, to rid yourself of all that you feel is wrong through your tears?”

Izzy slowly nodded. “I’ve got an idea.”

“Then you know how I felt.”

“What happened after that?” Izzy returned to her chair and hugged her knees with her arms.

“I slept out in the open at Sand Island that night; I mean, it’s not like the weather’s gonna suck or something. In the morning I found my mentor and I spent that night with her at Down Below. I didn’t go back until two days after returning from Kwaj.” She looked out over the lagoon and shrugged. “She was gone. I didn’t ask if she left on her own or if she was told to go. She was gone and I haven’t heard from her since.”

Harmony looked down the length of her tail, taping her fingers against what would be her lap if she were human. “Calista still talks about you. I don’t know if she has feelings for you the say as yours, but she’s having a hard time letting go.” She looked up at Izzy with a hard look. “You need to cut the cord. You need to get up and go and just make this a clean break.”

Izzy looked at the deck as she shook her head. “That’s gonna kill her—”

“And a slow pull-away won’t?” Harmony slapped her tail hard against the deck to get Izzy’s attention. “You need to be the adult here. You need to tell Calista it’s time she went her way, you yours, and leave it at that.”

Izzy said nothing for a few seconds, then slowly made it to her feet. She looked down at the mermaid. “Tonight. I’ll tell her I’m leaving tomorrow and that’s that.” She tilted her head quickly to the left. “Okay?”

Harmony didn’t even need time to consider the question. “Do it tonight and be gone tomorrow.” She rolled over on to her back and slid her tail over the side of the patio, eventually falling into the lagoon with a splash.

Izzy picked up her cider bottle and drained it in a couple of gulps. “Tonight. Got it.”

“Beyond the Wave and Foam”, Part 23

Part 23

 

After a long day deep in the ocean Calista enjoyed stretching out in the “hot tub”, a section of the bungalow she shared with Harmony where the water was heated to just shy of fifty Centigrade, or around one hundred and twenty Fahrenheit. She unfurled her tail and positioned it over one of the many jets set into the walls.

This and the rubdown they received after dinner on Omelek Island made spending the day in cold darkness worth while.

Though Harmony and she did quite a lot of work, it wasn’t nearly as bad as she expected. Yes, it was dark, and it was cold, and there wasn’t a time when she didn’t feel the pressure twelve hundred meters of what exerted—

However, the lights lowered by the Savannah kept them test set illuminated well. After getting used to the temperatures—thanks to insulating layer of skin and fat her new DNA provided—she rarely gave it any thought. And though the water pressure was approximately one hundred and nineteen atmospheres, she managed to ignore the discomfort after fifteen minutes at depth.

It was a long test: they spent nearly nine hours on the bottom. But they found all the holes in the hull and deck and sealed them, created openings where they attached valve fittings so the Savannah could pump out water, fitted the flotation bladders and filled them, and followed the test hull upward, correcting the Savannah personnel when they saw the hull beginning to list or pitch too much.

With the test hull secured next to the research vessel, Calista and Harmony rode in their tank back to Omelek, unloaded, ate, got a hour-long massage, and were taken back to their bungalow via speed boat.

Harmony swam in with a hard cider in each hand. “Here’s to a job well done.” She handed one to Calista as she sat back and opened hers in one smooth movement.

“And to my mentor and partner—” Calista opened her cider and clicked it against Harmony’s. “—who did all the hard work getting me to this point.”

“Bullshit. I did the talking: you got yourself here.” Harmony took a long draw off her drink, downing over a third. “Oh, that’s good.”

After a quick sip Calista had to ask the question she’d had on her mind since arriving at Johnson Island. “Why aren’t we supposed to drink a lot of cider? Or, for that matter, drink anything harder than cider?”

Harmony set her bottle aside and stretched out in the hot water. “Our bodies don’t metabolize alcohol the same way as they did when we were human. Four ciders would not only get us pretty much blackout drunk, but it affects how our lungs separate oxygen from the water and puts the carbon dioxide back. Hard liquor affects us even worse.” She gazed at her tail flukes as she shrugged. “It could literally kill us.”

Calista grimaced as she thought of all her past nights out in Jacksonville where she’d been so drunk she needed someone to driver her home, or she left her car at a club and called Uber to get her back to her apartment. While she’d suffered the following morning, she never had to worry about waking up the next day. Those days are over in more than one way

She decided to change the subject. “What’s up for tomorrow?”

“Not a whole lot. We head over for breakfast and then we get a lot of medical exams—or I should say, you get them.” Harmony chuckled. “I’ve been through this already, so they don’t need to poke and prod me like they will you. I get to watch, though.”

“Bitch.” Calista looked at Harmony as she smiled. “After that?”

“After that it’s lunch, then we get taken back to Roi-Namur, load us on a plane, and fly us back to Johnson Island.” Harmony took another drink of her cider. “We’ll have to talk to the lab people when we return, but we’ll have dinner in our own bungalows and sleep in our own beds tonight.”

“That’ll be nice.” Calista cradled her cider between her breasts just above the water line. “It’ll be good to see Izzy again.”

Harmony set her bottle aside again. “Yeah, about that—” She turned to her mentee. “You’re gonna have to tell her soon that you’re moving in with me at Down Below Town.” She eyed Calista carefully. “You haven’t said anything, have you?”

Calista wouldn’t meet her mentor’s gaze. “No.”

“Dammit, Calista, you’ve known about this for a few weeks now.” Harmony lightly touched Calista’s upper arm. “I’m sure she’s figured it out by now, but you need to tell her when we get back.”

“I know.” Even though only a little of Calista remained human, she was finding leaving her old life behind difficult—particularly the part that included her best friend. “Give me a week, will you? I promise, I’ll let her know.”

For almost five seconds Harmony said nothing, then she raised her left arm and tapped her wrist with her right index finger. “Clock’s tickin’, honey. I’ll trust you to get this done.”

“Don’t worry—” Calista drained the rest of her cider and headed for the kitchen, knowing she needed another. “I’ll get it done.”

“Beyond the Wave and Foam”, Part 22

Part 22

 

After enjoying breakfast on Omelek Island, Calista and Harmony were loaded aboard a Zodiac and headed into the lagoon. They didn’t travel far, however, as their destination was a large ship anchored about three hundred meters off-shore. Upon arriving both mermaids were hosted up to a tank on the aft deck similar to the one they occupied on the flight from Johnson Island. Once they were comfortably resting the ship got underway.

Calista was aware of Aquatic Future owning several oceanographic vessels, but this was the first she’d seen. She figured Harmony would know more. “What ship is this?”

“It’s the research vessel Savannah. She’s based off the Global Class design and was the first ship AFI had built to their specifications.” She waved an arm around as she lay back. “They do a little bit of everything with this: there’s even a six bed hospital below decks.”

It was the two remote piloted vehicles on the aft deck that interested Calista more. “Are those going down with us today?”

Harmony nodded. “Yep. They’re gonna watch us as we work.”

Though she knew she would be working deep today, Calista was still a little nervous. “How far are we going?”

“A little over a click: about three-quarters of a mile. Don’t worry—” Harmony tapped her mentee on the arm. “It’s gonna be a piece of cake.”

The Savannah headed across the lagoon until it was due northeast of Ennugenliggelap Island, where it turned almost ninety degrees to the south and headed through Eller Passage into the Pacific Ocean beyond. The ship eventually came to a stop and anchored about four miles beyond the passage.

While most of the crew readied the RPVs, a couple of the Savannah crew helped strap on the head and arm lamps Calista and Harmony would use down below. They also wore transmitters around their necks that would allow them to communicate with the surface and act upon any instructions given.

Harmony spoke privately with Calista as they were hoisted out of the tank. “The test today is gonna be simple. Yesterday AFI sunk a test vessel that we’re going to salvage. But it’s not any normal salvage: they’re going to lower lights and flotation equipment, and we’re going to set it up, prep the ship for flotation, and we’ll follow the ship up to make certain nothing goes wrong during the ascent.

“As I’ve already indicated, it’s going to be dark and it’s going to be chilly. This is your first deep dive and it’s going to be a working one at that. But AFI feels you’re ready and so do I.” She gave Calista one of her well-known winks. “If I didn’t think you could do this I wouldn’t have approved this test this early.”

The twin hoist seats hovered over the water. Calista looked over to her left. “Dive in?”

“You read my mind.” Harmony gave a thumbs-up and both mermaids launched themselves into the ocean.

Both Calista and Harmony waited on station as the RPVs entered the water; once they were stable they unhooked them so they could begin their decent. Harmony pointed at the surface five meters above. “The RPVs are gonna let the Savannah know how far off-station we are and they’ll radio us. These guys are good: chances are they’re right where they want to be, which is about fifty meters off from where the test hull is gonna surface.”

“Which means we’ll have to move equipment from where they—” Calista pointed at the hull of the ship “—lower it to the floor.”

“You got it. Though we’ll be able to affect the buoyancy of the lights and equipment, so it shouldn’t be too much of a chore.” Harmony cocked her head to one side as if someone where whispering in her head. “Savannah says everything’s where it should be, so we’re good to go.” She flipped on her lights. “You ready?”

Calista flipped on her lights. “As ready as I will ever get.”

Harmony nodded. “Okay, then—” She checked her GPS finder and motioned for Calista to follow. “Let’s get to work.”

With that both mermaids turned and began their decent into the dark…

“Beyond the Wave and Foam”, Part 21

Part 21

 

The first day at Kwajalein for Calista and Harmony was spent mostly on orientation, and that for Calista’s sake, as Harmony had already undergone training here. They spent nearly the entire day at Omelek Island learning what they were going to do and how to do each job. Because of everything Calista needed to cover, they didn’t return to their bungalow until nearly 22:30, taxied across the lagoon in a speed boat so they wouldn’t need to swim the thirty clicks themselves.

Day One was spent on underwater navigation, and Calista found herself traversing what Harmony call the “Infamous Kwaj One Sixty”, a one hundred mile course across, through, and around the atoll. Since mermaid could maintain a speed of twenty kilometers an hour, it was possible for Calista to cover the one hundred and sixty-one kilometer course in eight hours. And she did, setting off at 09:00, getting lunch off a floating platform in the middle of the lagoon at the half-way point, and returning, exhausted, to Omelek Island at 18:38. After a quick dinner Harmony and she were given massages before being sent back to their bungalow, once more by speed boat.

Day Two was quite different in that they didn’t have to swim everywhere; instead, they were taken to several locations around the atoll by boat. As they’d had it explained during their first trip to the center on Omelek, the second day was spent diving on wrecks and learning how to work on and recover salvage.

The first wreck they visited was the most well known at Kwaj: the Akibasan Maru, a Japanese freighter sunk during World War II. Not only was the wreck in good shape, but it lay in an area where the lagoon slopped downward from sixty feet to almost one hundred and thirty. Divers have placed items aboard the wreck the day before and it was up to Calista to recover the items based upon descriptions.

She found the wreck both exhilarating and spooky at the same time. There was just enough light outside the ship not to need lighting, but once inside it was impossible to see without the help of the head and wrist lamps she wore. Though it took her about thirty minutes more to find the items than anticipated by Harmony, she found all eight.

Once the items were deposited aboard the support boat, Harmony and Calista swam four hundred feet northwest to the next wreck, the Ikuta Maru, a Japanese freighter sunk in 1943. This ship lay on its port side, with the bow one hundred and thirty feet below water, but since she ship lay along a depression, the stern was almost forty feet deeper.

With visibility no more than thirty to fifty feet, Calista’s job was—with Harmony’s help—to take photos of the interior to assist in determining what, if anything, would appear worthy of salvage. Calista knew her job was to take as many good photos as possible, as there was nothing AFI would salvage from the vessel, but she discovered items inside the ship that made her believe divers had come to this ship, as they had the Akibasan Maru, and put things inside so they could be certain Calista had actually performed a “Bow to Stern” investigation. Three hours later she could assure her handlers she had done as asked.

After their dive on the Ikuta Maru they returned to Omelek for lunch, but rather than being transported to the pier, they were brought to the heliport where a Sikorsky S-76A waited for them. They were set upon a bench seat and strapped in: seconds later they were airborne and heading west for a couple of miles before turning and heading northwest.

Calista leaned as close as she could to her mentor. “What’s going on?”

Harmony grinned. “Remember the High Dive?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, we’re gonna do something similar to that. Sometimes we have to get on site quickly, so the company flies us out in helos. Only a lot of time we can’t land, so…” She pointed to a trapeze bar next to the sliding side door closest to Calista. “When the time comes the helo goes into hover, these doors open, we unstrap, and—”
Calista figured out the rest. “We grab the trapeze and dive out of the copter.”

“You got it.”

“Great.” Calista checked the tight sports bra she was wearing. “It take it these will stay on?”

“Don’t worry: they won’t come off.” A red light on the wall opposite them began flashing. “Get ready: when that goes green, we jump.”

About five seconds later the doors began sliding open as the helicopter went into a hover: a few seconds after that the flashing red light went dark while a green light lit up. Calista hid the quick-release in the middle of her four-point harness, grabbed the trapeze bar near her head, and with a quick hip flick she launched herself out of the copter and dived towards the ocean before, getting her hands in front of her head moments before striking the water.

Underwater she swam towards the commotion of bubbles that she knew was Harmony. She only spoke once she was about a meter away. “How far did we dive?”

“Probably fifteen meters. I jumped from twenty before, but if you don’t hit the water just right you’ll mess yourself up.” She tapped Calista on the arm. “Follow me.”

The dive area was as deep as where they’d been before, as well as being flatter. Calista’s dive meter read 35 m/120 ft and she guessed the visibility as excellent, maybe out to a hundred feet. They followed the floor for maybe two hundred feet before coming upon a wreck. But this wasn’t a ship: Calista didn’t know what to make of this craft. “What is this?”

“It’s an old North American B-52 bomber.” Harmony turned to her mentee. “They used these during World War II, both in the Pacific and in Europe. This one was sunk at some point in 1944.” They moved over the tail as they slowly swam towards the nose. “It didn’t crash: that’s why it’s in one piece.”

Calista looked over the barnacle and coral-covered hull, watching fish swim in and out of the wreckage of something that had once flown. She hovered over the cockpit, where some of the glass was missing from the frame. “This is just incredible. What are we doing here?”

“Nothing, really.” Harmony swam up next to Calista and gazed upon the wreck. “Every time I come to Kwaj I like to dive on this because—well, I just like it. This is history.” She smiled as she turned her head. “And I wanted you to see this.”

Calista hovered in place with a few lazy swishes of her tail. “Why?”

“Because it’s beautiful. And it’s part of our world: we’re the only ones who can ever enjoy this sight this way.”

That’s when it struck Calista: This is our world. We’re not human: we’re Homo Aquatica. And we are only truly at home in the ocean. She bowed her head slightly. “Thank you.”

“You are quite welcome.” Harmony motioned for her mentee to follow. “Now on to the real work.”

“Which is?”

“The Fuji Maru, about four klicks west of here on the other side of Sand Island. We’re gonna practice using some more salvage equipment.” She chuckled as she picked up the pace. “Never a dull moment under the waves, is there?”

“Beyond the Wave and Foam”, Part 20

Part 20

 

Two days later, two representatives of AFI showed up at the bungalow while Calista was finishing breakfast and said they were there to escort her to the airport. When Izzy asked why they were taking her to the airport their only two responses was that it had to do with her training and that Izzy wasn’t allowed to accompany her friend.

After being told that everything she’d need was already at their destination, the two reps wheeled Calista out to one of the ubiquitous black SUVs, headed directly to the northeast end of the runway, and with the use of a hoist, managed to get her aboard a 757.

The inside of the 757 was outfitted to carry cargo—and part of that cargo consisted of a large, shallow tank of water that sat mid-fuselage. Calista saw that she wouldn’t be traveling along: Harmony was already seated on one side of the tank, resting against one of the two chair-backs at one end of the tank. “Hey. Welcome aboard.”

“What is this?” Handlers moved Calista into the seat next to Harmony and saw to it she was secured with a four-point harness. “Where are we going?”

“Taking a trip.” The back cabin down slammed shut and was locked. “We’re heading to Kwajalein Atoll to continue your training. We’ll be there for the next four days.”

Calista noted that the pool was only about half full. “They keep just enough so we don’t try out.” Harmony laughed. “They want as little as possible splashing about the cabin.”
The flight lasted just over three hours, touching down on Roi-Namur, the northern most island in the atoll. As the plane came to a stop Calista saw a large helicopter with the AFI emblem painted on the tail. “We’re still flying?”

“We’re going about thirty-five kilometers due south of here.” Harmony winked. “We won’t need tanks since we won’t be out of the water than long.”

The mermaid was right. It took the AFI people about twenty minutes to remove the two passengers from the 757 and secure them in the copter. After that it was a quick fifteen minute flight across the atoll to a small island with a helipad at the west end and a group of semi-submerged bungalows at the east end. Calista and Harmony were moved directly from the helicopter to the water, where they swam the half-mile to the east end and moved into the first bungalow they encountered.

The living area was much like the ground floor of her bungalow back on Johnson Island, though Calista was fascinated by the fact that just about every utensil and appliance a human could use was just a foot or so above water. “This is really nice. And we have a sea wall to keep out the waves.”

“Yeah, AFI thinks of everything.” Harmony removed a drink from the long cooler, opened it, and sat back against some foam. “I know you’re going to ask, so here’s the story. This is Illeginni Island. It used to be a launch site for missiles from the 1960s to the 80s, but these days AFI rents it out for mermaid housing and training. This bungalow is built just to the east of the missile launchers, by the way.”

Calista was getting her own drink. “Really?”

“Yeah. At one time there was a helipad right behind this house, but AFI prefers to use the one at the far end of the island for obvious reasons.”

“Obviously.” Calista stretched out after opening her drink. “What are we gonna do here?”

“You’re gonna work on a number of things. Undersea navigation for one. This is like the biggest lagoon in the world so there’s plenty of places to get lost. Also, there are a lot of ships sunk in the lagoon and we’re going to work on your exploration, observation, and salvaging skills.

“The last thing we’re gonna work on is getting you acclimated to deeper depths. There’s a huge shelf just to the south of us goes out about twelve miles and is a mile deep in some places. It’s the same for the area off the northwest of the atoll.”

Calista began feeling nervous. “We’re going down a mile?”

“Yep: klick and a half easy for some of the training. There’s stuff down there for us to practice on and I’m going to show you how to work in conditions there. Even in the tropics, a klick and a half down it’s cold. And dark.”

Given how nice her stay on Johnson Island had been up to this point, she couldn’t imagine working in cold water in almost complete darkness. “That’s something you don’t think about when it comes to this… job.”

“Nope. When all these girls sign up to get their tail, they think they’re gonna sit on rocks all day luring men to their deaths.” She laughed as she swam over to a trash receptacle and dropped off her drink container. “So, you ready for lunch?”

“You know it.” Calista drained her drink and disposed of the canister. “Do you want me to cook, or you?”

Ha. At the Kwaj you gotta work for your food.” She moved to the edge of the covered area of the bungalow and pointed across the lagoon. “Thirty kilcks east-southeast of here is Omelek Island. It used to belong to the U.S., then SpaceX leased it for a while, now AFI runs it. The Merdining Hall is over there, as well as class rooms.” She chuckled as she turned towards her mentee. “The company likes to keep us fit.”

“It certainly sounds that way.” She eyed Harmony carefully. “I don’t know if I’m up for it yet—”

Harmony raised her right eyebrow. “Up for what?”

“You wanna race over there?”

“How about I go as quickly as I can and you follow, since you don’t know the way?”

Calista nodded and smiled. “If that’s the case, led on.”

Harmony smiled and dove underwater, flicked her tail hard three times, and leaped over the sea wall. She looked back and saw Calista manage the same. She got her bearing and headed off towards Omelek, thinking she was gonna be busy the next few days…

“Beyond the Wave and Foam”, Part 19

Part 19

 

“You’re what?”

Calista saw on the edge of the patio, her nearly complete tail hanging over open water while she stared out across the lagoon. “I’m—” She blushed as she whispered the word. “Intersex.”

Izzy switched her point of view from her best friend to the bungalow then out to the lagoon before re-focusing on Calista. She didn’t seem as shocked as the transitioning mermaid as she was puzzled. “So you’re going to have a penis as well as your normal lady bits?” She tossed her head to the left. “If you can call what you have down there now normal.”

Hey.” Calista’s eyes betrayed the anger she felt. “I’m not a freak, okay? Yeah, my vaginal canal is a little twisted around now, but that’s to keep water out of my uterus. Otherwise I’m no different than you.”

Izzy shrugged. “Other than the fact you’ll have a penis.”

IZZY.” For a moment Calista tried to stand before realized those days were long gone. “That shit isn’t funny—got it?”

Izzy looked away for about a five seconds: when she turned back her cheeks were red from embarrassment. “You’re right: it isn’t funny. And that other thing doesn’t make you a freak. I’m sorry: I’m having fun at your expense and I shouldn’t.”

Calista nodded a couple of times. “Apology accepted. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Izzy grabbed a deck chair and pulled it closer to her friend before sitting. “So, why do you guys have, you know, both?”

“Because men can’t be mermaids—or merman, I guess.” Calista sighed. “Harmony said there’s something in their chromosomes that prevents full transition from occurring, and in the extremely rare instances it did happen, the mermen had all kinds of congenital issues that prevented them from living for any length of time—” She chuckled darkly. “Like more than a week.”

Izzy tapped her hands three times against her thighs. “Well, that certainly sucks.”

“Harmony said that since it was decided at the start of the project that the mermaid population would eventually become self-sustaining, in order for us to be able to procreate it was necessary to make us intersex. Ergo…”

“Having both indoor and outdoor plumbing.”

“Exactly.” Calist set her hands in her lap and turned towards the lagoon. “Though really, all my plumbing is indoor. Ever that would be.”

Izzy nodded in agreement. “Given that I haven’t seen anything on Harmony, I’d assume that’s true.” She allow a few seconds to pass in silence before asking the obvious. “Does she—?”

“Yes.”

“She told you?”

Calista turned and locked eyes with her friend. “She showed me.”

“She showed it to you?”

“She felt it was the best thing to do.”

“Okay, well…” Izzy sat back. “So, how long before you get one of your own?”

Calista let loose with another big sigh. “Harmony said it should be developing now. She said in another couple of weeks it’ll probably be big enough that if I reach in through the vaginal slit I’ll feel it.”

A few more seconds passed before Izzy once again spoke. “Not that I’m being a perv or anything, but where is it growing?”

“Oh, yeah.” Calista spun around and stretched out on her side on the patio. “Just under the vaginal opening. That way it doesn’t get in the way of the clitoris.”

“All and all…” Izzy rubbed her chin. “That makes the most sense.”