The Thinning Veil, Part Seven

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Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21 | Chapter 22

Chapter 19

chapter 19

With the memorial service completed, Apa’ii returned to the home tree and Belinda to the sky. They would coordinate their efforts where necessary but would generally carry out plans independently to prevent another multi-realm slaughter. Belinda was facing considerable criticism from the Sylphids that only because of her relationship with the Nawa’ Diyo had they lost any souls in the battle. 

Now what war had been formally declared, there were plenty of souls in both realms who were quite anxious to start slinging magic against targets that had angered them for many seasons. Keeping a focused strategy was going to be a challenge. Managing this war had the extra issue of being global rather than confined to limited geographies as they had in the past. While the opportunities for victory were vast, so were the chances of losing large numbers of souls, possibly entire clans, if defensive measures were not maintained.

Inside the home tree, Apa’ii created for herself a new council of advisors specific to the challenges of war. Bockwimen and Pockwatch were naturally included, but to the group, she added Pausnuk, who had arrived from his mission to the Northwest too late to be involved with the battle, and Meliae and Fleau, who had proven to be helpful and loyal in the hours since the attack. While she knew this group would give earnest and knowledgeable advice, Apa’ii was concerned whether any of them were aggressive enough to create a strategy capable of managing a war with so many different concerns. Only Pockwatch and Bockwimen were old enough to remember the great wars of the past. Newer souls were familiar with the tales still told with frequency but didn’t have the understanding of the particular concerns that come with war. 

“What do you think the general feelings are of those in the Northwest?” Apa’ii asked, looking at Pausnuk who was again pacing in circles around the throne room.

“I’m going to assume that any fear they had has largely been replaced with hope and optimism,” he said. “I am quite certain that we have the support of larger animals in both the plains and the mountains. If we give them a touch of protection, they’re quite ready to push back on human encroachment. My concern is keeping some of the more adventurous in line. The pixiemandalons got excited helping Puckwudjinee escape. With the new edict allowing them to make their presence known, I don’t think they’ll hesitate to take on the humans in the laboratory there. Others are going to follow suit. Cervitanes are acting rather aggressive as well, especially toward human technology. Florges out there are feeling ready to fight back against some of the plan-related activities. They’re not especially shy anyway. They’ve been trying to get flowers growing with a fair amount of aggression against all the growth and over-cultivation.”

“The Gravel Kemono are restless as well,” Fleau added. “Not that they understand. You know how emotionally ambivalent they can be. I can see them easily being influenced to take part in someone else’s battle. Their size makes them desirable and their speed makes them dangerous. There are plenty of others who fall into that same category. If we don’t organize them and give them specific tasks, they’re likely to go off doing more harm than good.”

Meliae flittered up to where she was face level with Apa’ii. “I am also concerned about the randomness of these attacks leaving our communities vulnerable. We saw how Dasheng Sen used the troubled ones against us. She’s cunning. We have to be ready to protect ourselves from unexpected sources of aggression.”

“We have several options available to us,” Apa’ii said. “There are plenty of souls who are ready to both fight and to assist in other ways. Bockwimen has had some interesting conversations in that regard. Perhaps he should let everyone else know what he’s been doing.”

Bockwimen had been quiet up to this point, more than happy to let others do the talking. He considered himself a soul of action, not strategy. Still, the queen’s request wasn’t exactly the type of thing one turned down. “We have both new and traditional options to deploy based upon the community and what is likely to work best for them. Of course, all elven clans have their own magic and they have agreed to protect everyone within their communities. The dwarf clans, especially those of the old guard, are firing up their kilns and creating swords that can pierce the magic of the troubled ones, cutting them in half with a single stroke of the blade. They’re also modifying the concept of catapults so as to launch large doses of magic into crowds of either troubled ones or Hantu Air. Magic souls large enough to wield these weapons will receive them and be trained in their use.

“Our weakest point has always been how to protect smaller souls for whom swords and arrows are not effective. Here, we turned to the Menehune. Ha’alulu has lent his magic to the creation of bubbles that allow smaller magicians to travel without being seen, not even by other magicians. This should help protect them from being captured when they are away from their communities. Molowa’s clan has also developed a form of camouflage for communities to give them the appearance of being abandoned. Anyone coming upon one of these protected communities must know the correct magic before they can enter safely.”

“Those sound absolutely wonderful!” Meliae exclaimed. “This definitely gives us an advantage we’ve not had against magical enemies. But what about protection from humans and their traps? The story Puckwudjinee told has many of us quite scared. Obviously, it’s not enough for us to be able to transform or mutate. Do we have any defenses there?”

Bockwimen smiled, “Yes, we do. I’ve had extended conversations with the many clans that still identify as Illyrians. Older magicians remember them more as mercenaries in the old wars. There are few pure-core Illyrians left but the merged clans are stronger and more loyal to the Nawa’ Diyo. They have revived the warrior training of the past, adding new tactics for defense, and are spreading out across the entire realm to any magic community who requests them. They are a strong and impressive force that has no problem taking on the humans and their technologies. They have evolved with amazing skills that serve us well.”

Apa’ii smiled. “I am happy to see the magicians of our realm come together in such fashion, though it remains regrettable that we do so in such strained conditions. I think both the humans and the Hantu Air are going to be surprised at what we can do.”

“We still have many clans to organize,” Pausnuck said. “There remains a lot of fear among the clans that have retreated away from society across the many seasons. They were shocked by the attack and the loss of their counselors. They question whether we can do enough to protect them.”

“We are likely to be surprised on many levels,” Fleau added, “both with those who are afraid to fight and those who are perhaps overly anxious to do so. I worry that without some local guidance man communities put themselves at risk without being fully aware of the dangers.”

Queen Apa’ii turned suddenly toward the door. “Puckwudjinee is coming and he bears distressing news,” she said softly.

No sooner had the words reached ears when then the great door opened and seemed to throw the scout into the throne room, causing him to slide across the floor on his face. He pulled himself to his feet and began, “Your majesty, the Hantu Air have attacked the humans directly.

“The mer created great waves that sunk every ship in the Atlantic ocean. Most were cargo ships with minimal crew, but they didn’t hesitate to take down both military and large pleasure craft as well. The humans are estimating that over 200,000 souls have been lost.”

Apa’ii allowed the stunned silence to sink in a few seconds before asking, “How are the humans responding? Do they see it as an attack or do they think nature is misbehaving?”

“Their scientists are saying it’s an effect of global warming, which has pretty much been their explanation for everything they don’t understand,” the scout explained. “The attack was like a shot in the dark, though. The mer also disabled much of the ocean-based technology. This leaves humans with no knowledge of what sunk their ships. They have a handful of distress recordings, screams about giants coming out of the sea. No one is taking those seriously. There is also a handful of people claiming that one country or another set off a large bomb in the ocean. That story has become popular with those who mistrust their governments.”

“Humans believe in stupid tales and legends while ignoring the evidence in front of their face,” Pausnuck said. “The Hantu Air made a deadly attack but what have they benefitted if the humans didn’t know that it is magic that sunk their ships?”

“It is a dishonorable offense,” Apa’ii said. “All they have done is murder human souls. They have not taught them any lessons, they have not made their presence known, and their attack is not likely to affect the actions of the humans at all. As much as we are at war with humans, we must make sure that any direct harm we do to them carries a strong and deliberate message. We are not murderers. We fight to preserve the sanctity of our lives, not the pleasure of taking the lives of others.”

“Do we respond?” Bockwimen asked.

“Do we have any choice?” Pockwatch countered.

Fleau stood still for a moment her white robes billowing in the natural breeze of the queen’s countenance. “We have to consider all the possible options here. After what she did to us at the most sacred council meeting, we have to question to what degree we’re being baited. Dasheng Sen wanted this war and wanted to make sure we are in it because she knows she can’t be successful on her own. There are limits to her power out of water.” The Vila turned to address Apa’ii directly. “We must also consider, your majesty, that in creating this war the way that she has, committing to the deaths of souls from the earth and sky realms, that she does not only intend to dominate the humans but the magic realms as well. She will fight to end your reign and bring the Nawa’ Diyo under her control.”

Fleau’s words angered Meliae who began flying furiously around the throne room. “Who does she think she is?” There are just as many Nawa’ Diyo who can control water just as there are those of us who can control the sky! I say we strike back in a way that shows our power is greater than her own!”

Apa’ii smiled and blew a calming wind in Meliae’s direction. Her countenance was not showing anger or frustration. A peaceful, warm glow filled the room. “Already, the humans are responding to this tragedy,” she said calmly. “They are greedy. They do not care so much about the number of lives lost as they do the value of the cargo. They are planning to retrieve as many of the lost materials as possible. If she intended to let the humans feel her wrath or in some way acknowledge her presence, she has failed. They are not looking for magic at all,” The queen paused and smiled as she walked among her counselors. “I don’t think Dashen Sen was expecting our involvement in this action. She stopped the waves 30 leagues from our shores. Along the coasts, humans saw little effect other than a good day of surfing. So, perhaps what we do is let the humans have their precious cargo, but in a way that exposes the Hantu Air for the murderous demons they are.”

The counselors looked wide-eyes at each other, shocked by both the severity of the queen’s suggestion and the resolute calmness with which it was delivered. Pockwatch and Pausnuck were especially surprised at the aggressive turn the normally passive queen was taking.

Sensing their astonishment, Apa’ii explained. “Dasheng Sen complains about all the trash and garbage humans leave in the waters, but what has she done here but to pollute her own realm even more. Everything in the ocean that originated on land we can retrieve. Do not forget that the mer can be just as greedy as humans. They were long ago at odds with our Lamiak and Sorginak clans. In our evolution, we have grown stronger with regard to the water and have never used that strength offensively. Mari, the representative of the Lamiak clan in France, was among those who fell in the battle. All the clans with any relation to the Lamiak are especially angry. They are quite ready to help us in this matter.”

Fleau took a couple of steps closer to Apa’ii and bowed. “Begging your pardon, your majesty, but I’m not sure we understand your intent. Are you using the trash that was sunk or the wrath of the Lamiak to expose the mer to the humans? Please, pardon my confusion.”

“Both,” Apa’ii answered. “Many seasons have passed since I’ve allowed large demonstrations of our power. Watch, my friend, and be amazed at what we can do.”

Chapter 20

chapter 20

The magic souls of the high desert had not hesitated to make Hayehse their home. They had quickly carved massive structures inside the mountains; not only homes but tall and elaborate buildings for any purpose imaginable, filling them with furniture and arid plants that would thrive on the harsh rock. The new mountain stood out from those around it, having no topsoil in which vegetation could begin to grow. While the colors were more gray than the red to which they were accustomed, they were nonetheless excited about their new home and took great delight in fashioning it for their own purposes. Hardly a day had passed before there were new shops and crafts on the side of the mountain as the desert magicians, known as Yarrats or, more derisively, as sand dwarves, became part of the larger home tree community. If any of them were upset at having to move, it didn’t show. Their ability to blend with the other communities made them happier than Bogmenak had seen them in many seasons.

Still, Bogmenak knew that there was a war to be fought, one that he had championed. As he walked through the many cavernous layers of homes and shops being set up, he couldn’t help thinking that he was not among the queen’s war counselors. He had many ideas to offer, many tactics he would happily share, but he was left out of the conversation.

The old magician had almost convinced himself to go to the home tree and demand an audience with the queen when he was approached by Eldeth, a mystic Yarrat whose skills in geomancy were well known. The expression on her face was the first less-than-happy emotion he had encountered since the relocation. “You’ve been throwing dirt around, haven’t you?” he asked, anticipating her reason for finding him.

“Hmph, if you can call this dirt,” she said, her low, gravely voice matching the long, spike-filled core that trailed behind her like a royal train. “That’s the problem with moving to a new mountain: there’s not enough dust to get a decent read. It’s more like throwing gravel at best.”

“Yet, you have found enough to throw and you didn’t like what you’ve seen,” Bogmenak said, pushing her to get to the point of her visit. He did not often trust the mystics. Despite the large number of them within the Yarrat ranks, rarely did more than two of them agree on a reading. Each one had their variation and proprietary way of reading the lines in the dust. For every prediction one might make, there was a counter proposition. There was no way to know if any of the typically dire warnings were correct. They had all been caught off guard by the troubled ones attacking the council. Bogmenak assumed they were now trying to make up for that lack of foresight. “Tell me what tragedy it is that you see,” he said, not attempting to hide the sarcasm in his voice.

Eldeth glared back at him through coal-black eyes. “I did not come looking to be dismissed with a whim,” she said. “I wouldn’t have come looking for you at all if I wasn’t more disturbed than usual at what the lines are saying.”

“At least you admit to being disturbed,” Bogmenak shot back. “You have to know by now that I always get another mystic to read your lines and the forecasts are never the same. There is no basis for trust in what you have to say.”

Eldeth stomper her foot and leaned in close to Bogmenak’s face. “I’ll have you know that I anticipated your skepticism. Does it matter that I have already asked Gurdis, Kathra, and Mardred to read these lines? Who else would you want to consult? Marchis? Vista? These are the first lines anyone has attempted to throw here. I have already inquired of our best seers to interpret for themselves. We are all in agreement. Ask them for yourself if you want but it will only waste our time. I have a clear and certain message. Do you want to hear it or not?”

Bogmenak stared hard into the mystic’s eyes trying to determine whether she was sincere. He could find no obvious reason to not trust her. “Okay then, if you are so convinced of this reading, tell  me what it is that upsets you.”

Eldeth closed her eyes and stretched her arms away from her. The thinnest cloud of dust, almost imperceptible, swirled around her. “We are not as safe here as we would like to think,” she said in a softer, dreamlike voice. “Human technology has discovered our new home and they long to conquer it for themselves. They approach first on foot and do not get past the guards at the edge of the mist. They then try to enter through the air and there is not enough magic remaining to stop them. They cover the surface of our mountain. They drill down into the stone, destroying our homes and buildings. Their technology poisons us. Their microwaves prevent us from using our magic. If we do not stop them in a very strong and frightening way, they will not only kill us but many other Nawa’ Diyo. Queen Apa’ii is distracted by the actions of the Hantu Air. By the time she senses the danger, her actions are too late to save us. If we do not act on our own, we will perish.” As she finished her prophecy, the wind swirling around her evaporated and she staggered from the loss of strength. Bogmenak caught her, preventing her from falling.

“That is a severe vision,” he said. “There is no variation among other seers?”

Eldeth shook her head. “None that matters to what I’ve told you. Some see our paladins attempting to protect us. Others see a great battle. I cannot and will not attest to those versions. What we all see together is what I have told you. Humans are coming and only the strongest and most frightening response will deter them.”

“This is something I should take to the queen,” Bogmenak said. “We are under her direct protection now.”

“You only waste time,” Eldeth said. This is our battle. We are the only ones who can stop them. We are ready.”

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Chapter 21

chapter 21

Reggie Krome sat in the lab at a table normally reserved for chemical experiments watching a video on his laptop. Alternating between brushing his limp dyed-blonde bangs from his face and taking sips from the water bottle he considered irreplaceable. His lean frame came more from a lack of food than any abundance of exercise. Reggie was known to spend hours in the lab without taking any kind of break. He was as thoroughly dedicated to his work as any scientist could be, but lately, his intensity had increased even for him, with long hours, sometimes 14-16 at a time, keeping him focused on his work.

“You’ve been watching that same ten-second loop for nearly an hour. I don’t think it’s going to change,” his research partner Kay Wasserman quipped. “I don’t know what you’re expecting. If your hypothesis is correct, we have to expect things like this to happen without any reasonable explanation.”

“I know, I know,” Reggie grumbled. “So the little one disappeared. I can accept that. What is bugging me is this .04-second glitch in the feed. It’s so small that it’s barely noticeable at regular playback. It doesn’t even take up an entire frame. But that’s where it happens. The security feed is disrupted and then the bird is gone.”

“And we’re sure the leg band is dead,” Kay said, stating what had already been determined. “If I didn’t know better I’d think the little guy had some help from the outside. I mean, theoretically, that has to be possible. I just don’t see how anything like him could get in here without us knowing, magic or not. We’ve created as difficult an environment as we can. If we change much more it’s going to start affecting our equipment.”

“Maybe that’s part of the problem. We’re coming at this from a perspective that we have to mute or eliminate whatever powers these creatures have.” Reggies closed the laptop, brushed the bangs from his face, and drummed his fingers on the stainless steel table. “I mean, we saw how it tried to stay invisible when we first caught it. Only when we had it here in our lab were we able to stop it and study the thing a little more carefully. Perhaps we’re taking too restrictive an approach.”

“And maybe we lose our funding if we don’t show the board some form of progress,” Kay said. “That clip probably gets us another year, maybe, but a bird that appears and disappears then escapes isn’t the type of thing that instills much confidence.”

Reggie took a long drink of water from the bottle. “We’ve given sufficient evidence to our theory. We had the creature for 14 hours and the amount of data we were able to collect is enough to warrant at least three years of study. The DNA material alone is fascinating. That still doesn’t prove the existence of anything more than some unusually advanced species of bird, though. If we’re going to prove the existence of a magical race of beings then we need multiple study samples. Their ability to cloak or through some other means camouflage themselves is a barrier. What if, instead of trying to eliminate that barrier, we attempt to track it? That glitch on the video would indicate that there’s some variation either in the communications frequency or perhaps some form of magnetic variance that they’re utilizing to facilitate and maintain their invisibility. If we can identify that anomaly, we can look for other instances of that anomaly and from that hypothesize where these magical creatures are gathering.”

High above Reggie in that same lab at that same moment, there was a sudden panic among a group of pixiemandalons. They had been paying a lot more attention to the human’s activity in the lab since having helped Puckwudjinee escape. Before that, the steel girders of the building were simply a safe place to stay in a part of the world where buildings were prone to catching fire or falling. Now, especially since the memorial message from Quen Apa’ii, they considered themselves spies. This lab was the front line of what humans knew, or didn’t know, about the magic realms.

Pixiemandalons were an evolved blend of smaller species that had taken part in various tales and adventures from the earliest days of magic souls. They carried forward many of those qualities, the most obvious being their small size and butterfly-style wings that were almost as large as the individual. In this current incarnation, they had prehensile tails that at times helped them balance in flight but could get in the way in other situations where doors or drawers might close on them. They were colorful creatures, primarily hued in pastels but frequently striped with contrasting colors. A few had tufts of fur at the top of their heads or the end of their tales. Their flight was rapid though their path was often erratic so that it was difficult to anticipate where they might land next.

As small and capricious as they might be, the pixiemandalons carried forward all the memories of their blended races, both the adventures and the events that nearly wiped out all of them. Only through their interbreeding had any of them survived. Knowing how their ancestors were often hunted by humans and taken advantage of by other magicians, pixiemandalons preferred to live in their own communities, well away from other Nawa’ Diyo. 

At times, they had been wholly uncooperative with any outside magical endeavor. Puckwudjinee’s desperate situation was not one they could ignore and now that they were more attuned to what was going on across the realm, they were concerned about their survival and were especially interested in what was happening in the lab below them.

“We should tell Bockwimen immediately!” said an alarmed Keksaind, his wings fluttering anxiously. “If they start tracking our magnetic abilities, they’ll find us without any problem at all!”

“I’m not sure that’s necessary,” Breen replied. “Their technology is weak. There were four of us dismantling their camera while Puckwudjinee escaped. You saw how small an effect our invisibility had. Just because the human has a dangerous concept doesn’t mean they know how to carry it out. We have plenty of time to figure out a plan.”

Vecom, the largest of the group, fluttered out a way where he could get a better look at what was happening beneath them. “Or, we could mess with their technology and make sure that they’re tracking the wrong thing. The human only knows that he’s looking for a variance in one field or another. He has no idea which variance. We can make him chase a modified radio signal and he’ll think he’s on to something. Then, when we help someone else prove him wrong, he’ll look like a fool and his research will be shut down.”

Kay took a clipboard and began checking the inventory of instruments in a nearby cabinet. “How are you going to narrow down which frequencies to search?” she asked. “You’re not going to get that much information off that one brief instance.”

Reggie walked over to a different cabinet and removed a small mobile camera. “No, but we know the range in which these little guys operate. We can start there. We’ll look for instances where we saw birds first going invisible, correlate those instances with the frequencies the cameras used at those precise moments, and go from there.” 

“I didn’t think all those videos were preserved,” Kay said. “Weren’t they on some kind of loop?”

“Only if they didn’t pick up any activity within 24 hours,” Reggie answered. “We have everything, all the related date, frequency, time, barometric pressure, temperature, and wind speed. We simply need to isolate those specific moments.”

“Those cameras were out there for six months. Not all the movement they captured is worth studying. I’m not sitting here pouring over hours of useless video, Reg! We need a better way to narrow down the data band,” Kay said, objecting to her partner’s sense of ease.

“I’m thinking we automate as much as possible. Look for degrees of variance within manageable range and then have lab interns verify that its an actual anomaly before marking the events for study.” Reggie paused and looked at her sheepishly. “Oh yeah, I was supposed to tell you that we have a new set of interns arriving on Monday.”

Kay rolled her eyes. “How many this time?”

“Twenty-something, I think,” Reggie said, turning his attention back to the cameras in the cabinet. “How many of these did you way we lost in the field?”

Kay picked up the clipboard and flipped through the pages. “37, it looks like,” she said. “Most along a somewhat parallel line with where we set the trap.”

“Does that strike you as a little odd?” Reggie asked before providing his own answer. “I suppose it makes sense that if there are multiple creatures in that area they would have eliminated anything giving them away.” 

“So, you’re thinking that he, or it, or whatever, wasn’t alone?” Kay asked.

“I think we’re quite lucky to have caught one at all, and scientifically speaking there’s still no evidence that what we captured wasn’t a highly evolved bird,” Reggie answered, continuing to examine the small cameras. “Do you think I’d be crazy to put another set of cameras in the same place? See if, by any chance, they disappear again? My instincts are telling me there is probably a grouping of them in that vicinity.”

“Reg, if you weren’t crazy we wouldn’t be here. I’m crazy for helping you! Those interns are crazy for volunteering,” Kay quipped.

Reggie laughed. “This is California. Those interns are high.”

“Are you planning to use the folks at Penn to plant the cameras again?” Kay asked as she continued checking inventory. “They seem to have a pretty good understanding of that area. Although, I think they’ve had some rather rough weather out there lately.”

Reggie pulled a cardboard box from below the cabinet and began dropping cameras in it as he checked each one to make sure it was working. “I’ll definitely coordinate with them,” he said. “I like that they didn’t ask a lot of questions or require an inordinate amount of paperwork. The explanation that we are conducting a comparative field study was enough to get them on board. Of course, they expect us to share the data with them. I’m not sure they’re quite ready for that, especially if I can prove my hypothesis about magical creatures.”

“I’m not sure anyone is ready for us to prove your theory,” Kay said. “I mean if you’re able to provide solid data that faeries exist and are still living in wooded areas, that could completely change the conversation around environmental protection issues and forestation. The argument for increased green space in urban areas would explode!”

Across the room, Reggie silently continued dropping cameras into the box. After a few minutes of silence had passed, he said, “If we can prove not only the existence of magical beings but that they are sentient creatures capable of thought and reason, then it challenges our core concepts of humanity. We’ve always thought that we were the only sentient creatures on this planet. Yes, we’ve suspected sentience in some forms of animal life, but we’ve not addressed the possibility that there might be a race of creatures who can possibly out-think us. The legends and stories are as old as humanity itself. If they exist, it stands to reason that their origin could pre-date our own. For that matter, what is their origin? What is their belief system? Why are we the dominant species if they have so much magical power?”

The scientist paused to take a drink from his water bottle. He leaned against the stainless steel table, his hands in the pockets of his lab coat. “All it takes is proof of one magic creature and every conversation about humanity we’ve ever had, every existential philosophy, gets turned on its head. All the books have to be re-written. All our biological studies have to change. What we are doing here is critical to our greater understanding of life, how we fit into the overall picture of the cosmos.” He paused and turned to look at the box of cameras. “All we need is proof.”

For all the excitement and interest Reggie espoused for magic folk, he wasn’t ready for what happened next. Of course, he didn’t see Keksaind and Breen when they few down and grabbed hold of either side of the box. Their actions were so quick that all Reggie could do was react in horror as the box of cameras seemed to levitate momentarily in the air before rotating and dumping the cameras onto the tile floor, cracking their cases and scattering small pieces across the lab. 

Reggie looked over at Kay. “You saw that, right? I’m not imagining that the box didn’t simply slide off the table—it raised up and turned over!”

Kay nodded carefully, not sure she wanted to believe what she thought she saw.

Reggie looked up at the corners of the lab. “Please tell me the security cameras are working. Call security and tell them we need that video feed before it gets erased.” He walked toward the center of the room, still looking upward. “Maybe we don’t need to go to Penn at all. We may have company right here.”

Chapter 22


Carrie Anderson’s bright green hair was easily visible even in the darkened room full of monitors displaying feeds from 30 different satellites, each with a different mission and purpose. Carrie was only one of several analysts studying images sent back from the GOES-16 satellite in geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles above the earth. GOES-16’s primary purpose was watching over the American continents through 16 spectral bands, but was also among the first lightning mappers along with additional top-secret technologies that Carrie wasn’t supposed to know about.

After the surprise wave event caught everyone off guard, tensions were high. The president and Congress had both yelled at NASA’s director for not providing any warning before the calamity. The director then yelled at the department heads who yelled at managers and supervisors who yelled at analysts. Nevermind the fact that none of their instruments could have picked up what Merric had done until it was too late. They had all been warned that their jobs were in jeopardy if such a cataclysmic event happened again. As a result, Carrie kept her bespectacled brown eyes glued to the monitor in front of her, fearful to take any kind of a break. She skipped her morning coffee and avoided the cheese danish in the name of body control. Nothing was going to slip past her.

The clock embedded into her monitor blinked 10:36 EDT when the first bothersome image appeared on Carrie’s screen. Following protocol, she recorded the precise coordinates of the potential event and then asked two other analysts for confirmation. When they all agreed that something abnormal was taking place, a supervisor was summoned who, in turn, called a manager. Following the chain of command took nearly 30 minutes. By the time the departmental director called her counterpart at NOAA, the anomaly had more than quadrupled in size.

Carrie zoomed in tightly on the latest image. There, among the countless tons of ocean trash and various naval wreckage rapidly evolving into a landmass of its own was something she wasn’t expecting to see: a face. She removed the lime green-framed glasses and rubbed her eyes before looking again. She placed a digital circle around the element and summoned a supervisor. “Sire, I need confirmation on the possible sighting of a non-standard element.”

The supervisor walked over, looked at the monitor, and removed his thick black-framed glasses, and rubbed his eyes before calling a manager. The manager’s response matched their disbelief.

Someone handed Carrie a stack of report forms that were immediately classified. No one wanted to name what the satellite had captured but Carrie had little doubt. They had a picture of a merman. By the time she finished the report, they would confirm 124 more.

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