Ariel and I

By Dan Saltzman

Caution: Portions of this story may be too intense for the young. Parental discretion advised.

Note: It is advised that you read "Ariel and the Queen's Trident" by David Copland before reading this story.

Last up date March 4, 2004

Preface: This fiction is based on the Disney movie "The Little Mermaid". In the movie Ariel signed a contract with the Sea Witch that had the words "For all Eternity" on it. Also in the TV series episode "Red" there is a Sorceress that was trapped in a cave by King Triton "centuries ago" With these facts I conclude that merpeople live a long time. I also take some liberty and base some other facts on the work of David Copland's "Ariel and the Queen's Trident" and Doug Webb's beautiful stories. With this in mind, let the adventure begin.

Chapter 1

The Meeting

The Fowl Wind Ship's log: "November 16, 1989: two hours out of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. The wind is out of the East-Southeast at nine knots. The course is 173 degrees. The skies are mostly clear with a pressure of 1020 millibars. The seas are calm with one to two foot swells from the East. NOAA Weather reports a tropical depression 800 miles to the Southeast and moving to the Northwest at 12 knots. It's late in the season for storms like this so I will need to keep tabs on it anyway. Roy D. Stanton, Captain." So ended my first log entry of this sailing vacation trip. This was not my first sailing trip in the Caribbean, but was my first alone.

It was not planned to be a one-man trip there were to be four of us, Scott, Lee, Jim and myself. We were going on an island hopping, scuba diving, male bonding two-week sailing vacation. The others, at the last minute, pulled out for various reasons. My boat was still available from charter where I keep it for the other 50 weeks of the year. So with my plans set and some itinerary changes, I set off alone.

The Fowl Wind is a 51-foot sloop with three cabins, a salon, one head and a galley. She is rigged so that one man can sail her easily. She has roller furling on the jib and main sails, with power winches, power windless, and an auto helm that is tied into the G.P.S. satellite navigation system. She has all the communication one could want, with two marine radios, VHF and HF amateur radios and a DBS TV system. She also has radar and a 90 horse diesel engine with a reverse osmosis water purification system, air compressor, electric power generator and refrigeration pump. The only problem sailing alone would be standing the watches needed on long trips. But I had changed my itinerary to make calls at islands that are close enough to sail between in one day. With the automation this boat has, it can do the anchor watch on its own!

The Fowl Wind made her first stop well before dusk, in a small cove of Saint James Island with three other sailboats. Dinner and clean up done, it was time to check into the Seafarer's net on 20 meters. (A net in one of the amateur radio bands, for sailors around the world to keep in touch with home and each other). Then I talked with Lee, one of my friends that was unable to come on this trip. By the time I had finish my hamming, log update and cleaning up, the sun was setting. There was nothing left for me to do but lie on the fore deck with a tall ice tea and watch the sunset.

A noise came from the boat just to the north of the Fowl Wind. My look to see what was going on turned into a double take. Two beautiful girls in bikinis were moving some deck gear on their boat. Now more then before I wanted my friends with me. Lee, the bold one of our group, would have the girlís names and numbers by now. The girls got some help from two men that came out of the cabin to help. OK, I thought by now Lee would have us in trouble, trying to get the girls to leave their boat to join us.

I turned my attention back to the sky it had turned orange then did a hue shift to a brilliant red then slowly darken as the stars begin their show. By the time the sky had lost all traces of day it was 2200 hours. Since the next island on my schedule would take a full day of sailing, I decided to turn in to get an early start.

At sunrise the next morning, Saint James Island was a small dot in the Fowl Windís wake. She was heeled over to starboard under full sail and doing a brisk eight knots, and breakfast was sliding on the table to her motion. The auto helm was holding the course to the next island as I cleaned up after breakfast. The next chore was to run the engine to fill the drinking water tank, chill the refrigerator and heat some water for a shower. Checking NOAA Weather showed the tropical depression was now a storm named Daniel and about 655 miles away. There was a beep from the radar. The radar was keeping watch for any other vessels that may be in my area. Pushing the reset button on the radar's control panel silenced the alarm and a trip to the cockpit revealed the cause for the alarm. There was another sailboat about 6 miles off the port side, heading north. Picking up the microphone and setting the marine VHF radio to channel 16, I said "The Fowl Wind to the ketch off Saint James Island." After a 10-sec. wait a voice said, "The Fair Sea Jammer here, where are you bound for, Fowl Wind?"

"Iím heading for Norman Island, and you?"

"We left Saint Croix two days ago and our next port is Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. The weather is excellent, but watch for a wind shift as you head East. Have a fine sail!"

"Thanks for the info, I left St. Thomas yesterday. Watch out for the regatta that is going on just East of the harbor! Fowl Wind out."

"Thanks for that, The Fair Sea Jammer out."

At 1325 hours the wind did shift. It was now coming from 80 degrees, which was my course to Norman Island. The sails luffed and the boat came to a stop. In order for the Fowl Wind to proceed we would have to fall off course by 20 to 30 degrees to a starboard tack, then every hour or so I would have to change to the other tack. This would mean a zigzag course to Norman Island, making it a lot farther then the straight course we were using. Making a quick calculation of how long it would now take to get to today's destination, shown it would be at lest 2100 hours before arriving.

Checking the charts revealed a small atoll only a three hours sail away, but an extra 16 miles out of my way. Making anchorage in daylight is easier and safer then in the dark. Setting the longitude and latitude of the atoll into the auto helm brought the Fowl Wind around to the new course. Letting out the jib and main sail sheets to adjust for the new point of sail made the sails pop as they filled with the wind and the boat picked up speed again.

Approaching the atoll, I could see the reef around a small island of volcanic rock and there were no other boats around. The chart showed a channel on the north side of the atoll deep enough for the boat to slip through. I started the engine and released the main and jib sheets and pulled the lines that rolled up the sails. Motoring at about three knots, the Fowl Wind slid into a small lagoon with a sandy beach on the West Side, the lee of the island. It was well protected but I set both the bow and stern anchors to insure that my boat would stay in one spot, and not drift onto the beach if the wind shifted again.

After everything was secure, and Daniel's position checked, there was still enough time for me to look around. The small island was heavily over grown with palm trees and bushes. This indicated that there might be water on the island. It was small enough that I thought I might be able to row my dinghy around it in what remained of the day.

Because it is not safe to scuba dive alone I used the air tank to inflate the rubber raft. Taking a small hand held VHF radio and some water, just in case, I set out to circle the island.

Rounding the islandís Southern rocky point revealed another sandy beach. The sand separated the sea from an inland lagoon that had a channel to the sea at one end of the beach. The lagoon had a waterfall, feed from some unseen inland stream. The waterfall looked like it had dried up a day or two ago. There were green moss and a glisten on the rocks. But there was no water flowing now.

Approaching the beach brought in to view something on the sand. It looked like a body with what looked like seaweed next to it. I pulled my raft onto the sand and ran over to where I had seen the body. It was a girl. What I though was seaweed, turned out to be a mermaid costume she was wearing. "Why would a girl wearing a mermaid costume be out in the middle of nowhere, alone?" I asked myself. "If she was from a movie production there would be a lot of boats around. If she is a missing person then there would be a lot of chatter from search and rescue on the marine radios". Looking around, there was no craft to be seen and my radio was silent.

She was laying face down, her long red hair spread out across the sand. I knelt down next to her, rolled her over and cradled her head in my arm Then brushed her hair from her eyes and dusted the sand from her face with my fingers revealing something else "Youíre beautiful!" I said out loud. She looked to be about mid 20's, fair skin and vary shapely. She was breathing and had a strong pulse but was unconscious and looked dehydrated. Giving her some water from my bottle caused her to cough, spraying me in the face, then she swallowed some down. Remembering my first aid, looking for injuries was the next thing to do. "Hope you have something on under this costume, I donít want to embarrass either of us!" Rolling her first one way then the other looking for a zipper or some way to remove the tail revealed no fasteners. I tried to grip the costume to pull it off. Realization hit me! "My god" I said in shock and jerking back, almost dropping the girl. "Youíre a real mermaid!"

Graphic By Lisette LaSalle

Her eyes started to open. Putting some water in my hand I wash her face to cool her then gave her more to drink. She took the bottle with both hands and drank most of it before she tried to see who was helping her.

Graphic By Carmen Cantadore

"Slow down, don't drink so fast."

When her eyes focused on me, she gave out a startled "Oh my gosh!"

Dropping the water bottle she tucked her arms close to her body and rolled out of my arms, down the beach and into the water. She swam away faster then anyone I have ever seen but stopped short at 100 feet from the shoreline. She turned to look back at me rose up high in the water, waved and shouted back to me. "Thank you!" and with a flick of her tail, she was gone. I just sat there on the sand. My jaw must have been down to the sand as well. It took at lest five minutes before movement returned to my body.

Giving up my quest to circle the island, I went back to my boat. "I better write this down before I forget any details." I told myself. "And get my cameras out and ready, in case she comes back." I fired up the engine to use the air compressor to fill my scuba tanks. It would be worth the risk of diving alone just to take a picture of a mermaid. "No way is anybody going to believe my story without pictures."

Ship's log: "November 17, 1989: I met a girl this afternoon. She was quite unusual to say the least..."

My preparations done. I settled in to watch for signs of the mermaidís return and was too excited to make myself dinner or remember to check into the maritime net on 20 meters. My thoughts were about my friends that were all too busy or otherwise tied up to come on this trip. How would I tell them of what I saw? ...Did I see what I thought I saw? . . . Or . . . Was I beginning to doubt my own memory of this dayís event? After all mermaids are a myth, . . . right?

The days are hot in these tropical latitudes even in this time of the year. Keeping water handy and drinking often is a good safety precaution. Therefore, having a fresh sports bottle of water on deck with me is part of my routine. As I started my evening check of the boat, I set the bottle down in a cup holder on the stern rail before going forward. While checking the bow anchor line, the boat gave an unexpected rock. This was followed by a splash sound from the stern. Nearly killing myself by tripping over the main sail halyard in my rush to get back to the cockpit to investigate. Looking over the stern rail reveled nothing but a growing ring pattern in the water. "The water bottle, it's gone," I said out loud, raising my voice I added "that's a fine how-do-you-do for saving your life." I was glad that it was gone, it proved that I had not imagined what I saw this afternoon.

Later, I unrolled a sleeping bag in the Fowl Windís cockpit too keep an eye out for the mermaid, besides I was too excited to sleep in the cabin. It wasnít till after midnight that sleep came to me. Just to be awakened again, at 0100 hours, by a distant sound. It was someone singing, far away. Sitting up and strained to hear the direction, indicated it was coming from around the point where I found the mermaid the day before. Lying down to listen, "her voice, itís wonderful," I thought and also thought of the old sailing stories about the songs of the sirens, and how they lured sailors to their doom. I had no idea how this day's events were about to change my life.

Chapter 2

Getting Acquainted

The sun had been up for hours before its warmth woke me. Too my surprise an empty water bottle was on the stern rail, not two feet from my head. "Well" I said "are you still thirsty?" I refilled the bottle and set it back in the cup holder on the rail. From the cabinís breakfast table I kept an eye on the bottle and a hand on the camera. Nothing happened! After cleaning up my breakfast mess, I put on my scuba equipment and raised the diver down flag. I was going to chance diving without a buddy. After all, I'm not really alone anymore.

For about an hour I swam around and saw only the usual fish and a big old turtle. When my air was getting low, I returned to the boat. The water bottle was still there. Sadly I picked it up . . . It was empty!

Firing up the engine to refill the scuba tanks with air, at the same time using the water purification system to refill the Fowl Windís water tank and all the sport water bottles on board. By hooking a hose to the galley sink and running it to the cockpit to fill the bottles, allowed me to stay out on the deck. When about half of the bottles were filled a voice from behind me said. "Excuse me, how do you do that?" Startled I spun around, causing me to spill a water bottle in my lap, and drop the hose on the deck. "W..wh..what?" I stuttered. There she was, looking at me over the kick rail and giggling.

Graphic By Carmen Cantadore

She had the most beautiful face I had ever seen. Just her face and hands were above the rail. Her long red hair was gently blowing in the midday breeze and she had a beautiful smile. I must have looked and sounded like an idiot. I had spilled water all over my shorts, and was trying to regain control of the hose before it flooded the cockpit.

"How do you do that?" she repeated

"Do what? .... Ah!" I gasped after picking up the hose just to get myself soaked from it, again.

"Make fresh water from the sea!" She giggled.

"Oh . . . reverse osmoses!" I exclaimed, while pinching off the hose.

" Reverse what?" said the lovely face peering over the rail of my boat.

"Would you like me to show you?" Hoping and trying to think of what to say to keep her here and talking. "Would you like to come aboard, it must be hard for you to hold yourself up that way." I said in the gentlest voice I could muster while shaking like a leaf inside.

"I . . . don't think that's a good idea" she replied, and dropped back into the water.

"Wait!" I shouted, "Who are you? What's your name? Where did you come from? Come back!" She was gone and with out a picture of her!

Quickly I shut off the motor and put on my scuba equipment and jumped into the water. Swimming around looking for the mermaid was so exciting that I didn't watch the time or my air. The next thing I knew I was in trouble, no more air and 60 feet down. There wasn't enough air left to inflate my B. C. vest. While struggled to unbuckle my weight belt and swim to the surface, something grabbed me from behind. A second later I broke the surface and was dragged to the shore as I struggled to stay conscious.

The next thing I knew I was on the beach of the lagoon where the boat was anchored, gasping to regain my breath. Next to me, well about 10 feet away was the mermaid. She had two purple seashells on a strap covering her chest and a gold chain with a blue stone hanging from it around her neck. Her tail was green with scales that danced with the sunlight, like mother of pearl. Her fins were also a light green and looked as delicate as gossamer. But the red hair and big blue eyes, were the icing on this cake of feminine beauty. She was lying on the sand between the water and me propping her self up with one arm.

"I guess we are even now. Thanks!"

"You are welcome, . . . Ariel!" Replied the mermaid, with a smile that was like the sunshine.

"Aerial, what aerial?" I asked. For an aerial to me was what a radio or TV antenna was sometimes called.

"You wanted to know my name, It's Ariel, and I am what you see." She replied and flipped some sand with her tail.

"Oh! ...WOW! ...Yes! But...where did you come from? ...I mean . . . I can see the sea. I mean how long have you...." I was confused and had so many questions that I was not making much sense. "Let me start over. Hi! My name is Roy!" What a dweeb I sounded like.

"I am sorry Roy, I must have given you such a shock. We normally don't let humans see us." Explained the mermaid.

"But it was a most pleasant shock . . . We? How many mermaids are there?" I asked.

"There are hundreds of thousands of merpeople all over the world. But I don't know for how long, because fresh water is getting harder to find. That's why I was here. The waterfall on this island has been a water supply for us, but now it's gone. I was waiting to see if it would come back when the heat got to me. It was my last hope." She explained, with a sad look in her eyes. "Until you came along!" The smile was back.

"Then you need fresh, not sea water? And, let me guess. Your fresh water sources are getting polluted?" I asked.

"If pol-lut-ed means that it makes us sick? Then yes!" She replied sadly. "That's why I wanted to know how your machine made fresh water." There was a puzzled look on her face.

"I'll be glad to show you how it works, but we have to go back to my boat" I suggested.

"I don't know if that's a good idea" She said and gave me a smirk.

I could see she did not trust me. But there was a look of curiosity in her eyes too. I had to convince her to trust me, but how?

"I can understand your distrust. Itís because my race is responsible for the water going bad. But, if you will come out to the boat I can show you how I make fresh water from the sea. You can stay on deck where you can jump back into the water if you feel unsafe. I promise, you will be safe and I do want to help you." I said in a concerned voice.

Her eyes studied mine. "All right!" She replied after some thought. "Lets go."

It made me fill like a dunce sitting on the sand, watching Ariel struggle to the surf by wiggling her way down the beach. But my six-foot frame might frighten her more if I should stand to help her. After she was in her element, I stood and entered the lagoon and swam to my boat and questioned to myself. "How did this little mermaid pull me out of the water with all my scuba equipment on?"

Ariel was there in a flash but it took me 5 minutes to swim the same distance. I always thought of myself as a good swimmer but now after seeing a mermaid swim I felt as awkward in the water as she must have felt on land.

Upon reaching the boat I climbed up the stern ladder, and started to remove my scuba equipment. There was an explosion of water on the starboard side as Ariel leaped from the sea and on to the cabin roof of my boat. Pulling up some cushions from the seats around the cockpit, I offered them to the girl.

"Make yourself comfortable. The deck must be harsh on your delicate tail and I'll get you something to drink."

"Thanks." She replied with an unsure smile. "Make mine water, please."

I went down into the Fowl Wind's galley and got out two glasses and put some ice in each, because the afternoon sun was getting hot. I pulled out the small emergency water purifier from the life raft package. My camera was still on the chart table, "Later!" I thought. Returning top side the mermaid was sitting on the cushions with her tail tucked back, at the point that would be the knees on a human, to give her the support to set up right. Sitting down, not too close in fear that she might dive into the sea from fright, I held out the glasses. "Hold these please."

Ariel took the glasses and had a confused look on her face. "What is this in the glasses?" She asked.

"It's ice, you know frozen water."

"Oh my gosh! ...You can make ice too? What a wondrous machine you have." She said, wide eyed.

Graphic By Lisette LaSalle

"Yes," I replied, hoping to impress her. "I'll show you how that is done too. But first the water." As Ariel's eyes studied my every move. I opened the emergency water purification unit and removed the hoses from their storage place and attached them to their fittings. Then I dropped the inlet and reject hoses into the lagoon and handed the outlet hose to Ariel. Then inserting the handle into the side of the unit I started to pump. "Put the hose in the glass or you will get all wet! ... Huh! ... What a dumb thing to say to a mermaid."

Ariel put the hose in a glass and gave me a giggle and a smirk. Which changed to laughter and delight when the water began to flow.

When the glass was full, I said, "Let me demonstrate" and took the glass from her and drank it down.

"Would you like some?" I said and started to pump again.

Ariel filled her glass, and took a sip from it. "Why it's wonderful!" She said, with a grin that could melt an iceberg. "It's so cool and not a trace of salt. How is that done?"

I pulled the end off the unit, and removed the filter. "To make it simple, this filter is so fine that only the water can get through it. The pressure from the pump forces some water through the filter and out the fresh water hose. The rest of the water and the salt and other stuff that we don't want are sent back to the sea out this third hose. The boat has a larger system, that the motor pumps the sea water through and into a tank. So I have water whenever I want it even when the motor is not running. There is another pump on the motor that makes the inside of a box cold. So cold it can freeze water. That's how the ice was made." I explained in a slow and kind voice. "Would you like some more."

"Yes, please. Can you get me some of these machines, so my people can make their own water?"

"Well yes, but they are not cheep. I don't know how many I can afford to buy!" I exclaimed.

Setting her glass down, Ariel said, "Wait here!" Using her tail as a catapult, she sprang up and over the side of the boat, and made a perfect dive into the clear water of the lagoon. While waiting for Ariel to return, I put away my scuba equipment and the emergency water purifier. It was then that I notice my still unused camera.

An hour had passed before I herd a voice call "Roy!" from the stern of the boat. Looking over the rail was Ariel's face looking up at me from the water. "Please help me up." Both of her hands were out stretched for me to pull her up into the boat.

"It looks like you are starting to trust me." I said and reached down to grasp her hands and pulled her up. As she rose she put an arm around my neck, and I put mine under her tail and then around her back. "She didn't weigh more then a feather," I though while placing her on the cushions in the corner bench of the cockpit. She was now carrying a small sack over one shoulder. "Welcome back!" I said with a smile.

"I am going to have to trust someone if I am going to help my people get water. And besides mermaids have a sixth sense about people. I think it's working with you." Said the mermaid.

"Oh it's working, I can tell too!" I said with a big dumb grin.

Ariel blushed and started to say, "I have something for you that might help you get some ossamajiggers"

"Osmosis" I interrupted.

"Yes, water makers!" She continued. As she reached into her bag and began to pull out what can be described only as a small treasure. There were strings of pearls, gold coins and jewels. "Will this help you get the things we need?"

"Wow! Yeah, I guess so!" I exclaimed and thought about the problems that comes with treasures. "But people will wonder where I got things like this. I will have to come up with a story of where I got this treasure. No one is going to believe a mermaid gave it to me. Besides no one uses treasure anymore to buy things. We use credit cards and sometimes paper money. I'll have to exchange this for money. It's going to be tricky." My mind was working on all the problems that treasure would cause.

"But you can do it, right?"

"Yes but it will take some time. How many water makers do you need?" I quizzed back.

"As many as you can get!" She replied.

"If you can get more treasure? I can set up a salvage company to explain why I have treasure. Then I can get you as many water makers as you want!"

"Can I get more?" Smirked the mermaid. "If you only knew! I'll get the treasure, you get the water makers." Then she added in a soft voice. "And you can't tell anyone about us. The humans would destroy our world."

"I understand, there are some of us that would want to put you under a microscope. I promise your secret is safe. But you have to tell me how did you pulled me out of the water and on to the beach when I ran out of air today?"

"It wasn't hard to pull you to the surface, you are lighter when you are in the water. I had some help to pull you onto the sand though!" Explained the girl.

"Who helped you, I did not think anyone else was around?"

"By saying anyone you think in human terms let's just leave it at, I got some thing to help. OK?"

"OK! As you wish." Now I was even more puzzled.

By now it was starting to get dark. So I offered to fix us something to eat. Ariel explained that she is a vegetarian, and would not eat meat or fish. I offered to make us some salads and I had some bananas too. "Ooo!" She said, "I haven't had bananas in years. I accept your invitation".

I set up a folding table in the cockpit so we could eat outside where Ariel would feel safe. While we were eating and just starting to get to know each other, a voice interrupted us from the cabin. "This is the Silver Shark, on channel 16. Any other cruisers around?" Ariel nearly jumped out of her scales.

"It's OK" I reassured her. "Itís only my radio!"

"What's this about a shark?" Asked Ariel, looking about the boat.

"It's the name of another boat, some distance away. His voice is coming from my radio!" I assured her.

"What's a radio?" She asked, biting her lip, still looking around for the shark.

"A radio is a way we can talk to other people over a distance!" I tried to explain. "Besides a shark canít get us in my boat." She continues to be worried about the shark till I asked. "Let me take you in the cabin, Iíll show you where the voice came from."

"OK." She said with reluctance, not sure what was more dangerous, the non-existent shark or me.

I could see her curiosity was stirred by all this technology. She did have some knowledge of humans from along time ago, how long I did not yet know. I spent half the night showing this beautiful mermaid how all this hi tech stuff worked. Her curiosity peaked when I demonstrated how I was able to talk to other humans all over the world with the radio. But when I showed her TV, her eyes sparkled, it was magic to her. No matter how hard I tried to explain how it worked, it was still magic. The concept of satellites was hopeless. She asked questions like a child. What was electricity? A computer, radar, how can I make music with a small black box called a CD player etc. I no sooner answered one question she had three more.

Later, Ariel told me about her world. I was shocked when she told me that she was 195 years old. (Merpeople live a lot longer than humans) That she was married to a human once, hence her knowledge of humans. Even though she had been changed into human form, she still had the merpeople's longevity. After Eric died, that was her husbandís name, she returned to the sea, not wanting to give her love to another.

I quizzed Ariel on how all this magic was possible, to find out about the Tridents. Ariel's sister Aquata is now queen of the oceans. The Trident that was their fatherís is now Aquataís. "She uses it to make a shield over Atlantica, to prevent the human ships with soundamajiggers from finding our city." Said Ariel.

"Soundamajiggers? Oh you mean sonar!" I said "If Aquata is your sister, and your father was king before her, then your a Princess too." I added.

"Yes, and I have a Trident too!" Ariel said. "But mine is hidden away in Eric's castle, and I can't get it as a mermaid"

"Maybe I can get it for you, Princess. If you tell me where this castle is." I suggested.

"Just Ariel. Please." she requested.

We agreed that I would try to recover her Trident. We spent the entire night exchanging stories of our lives. To each, the other seemed to live in a magical world. But the real magic was the spell this beautiful mermaid was casting over me, and the music that came from every word formed by her voice.

Even though I am a shy person it was easy even exciting to talk with this girl. She had an honest interest in what I had to say. Not like some girls that pretend to listen not knowing or not caring what I am talking about. She too, was interesting to listen too. She talked about a world unknown to me. Morning came before we had realized we had not slept and had talked all night.

I suggested that she get anything that can hold water and I'll fill them for her people. Then I will set off to get more Ďwater makersí. Ariel agreed, and dove into the lagoon. I started the motor to make as much water as the tank could hold.

Before long there was hundreds of merpeople in the lagoon holding jars, shells, pots anything that could hold water with a lid on it. The Fowl Windís motor pumped fresh water for hours, until the only merperson left in the lagoon was Ariel.

"The machine on your boat smells and makes the sea taste funny" She complained. "The water makers you get for us won't do that, will they?"

"No. I'll get hand operated water makers." I assured her. "The motor will not work under water anyway."

We agreed to meet back at this island in seven days. Ariel disappeared under the waves and I started back to St. Thomas. Checking NOAA weather showed the tropical storm stalled out in the Atlantic, gaining strength. My vacation sure has turned out different then planed, but it's a lot more exciting. Deciding not to return home for a while, because it looked like the treasure hunting was going to be good. I also realized that I had not taken a single picture, I had no proof. But if I did show a picture of a real mermaid, it would ruin her world. "Besides, I had promised not to tell anyone." I told myself.

That night I checked into the Seafarer's net on 20 meters. Then spoke with two of my friends that failed to come on this trip. It was hard to lie to them, but who would believe the truth. So I made up a story or two, and ended with "Oh! By the way I meet a beautiful mermaid." That was followed with laughs all around. I knew it would be taken as a joke, so I felt that I had kept my promise to Ariel.

The Fowl Wind sailed all day and night to make it back to St. Thomas by the following morning. Using of the radar, to watch for close passing vessels, and auto helm to hold a course, made it possible for me to sleep for short periods.

I set out to set myself up in the salvage business. Also to line up as many Ďwater makersí as I could. This required that more stories be told as to where the treasure was found and why I needed so many reverse osmosis systems.
 
 

Chapter 3

Our First Adventure

The days flew by, as there was a lot of red tape in trying to start a business, get the treasure exchanged for money, buying water purification systems, getting them loaded on my boat and paying off the Charter Company to take my boat out of charter. All the time Daniel was getting stronger and closer. I hoped the storm would change directions or that I could get back to the island before it hit.

It was mid day and under darkening skies on the 7th day before the Fowl Wind was back in the lagoon of the same small island. "Ariel" I called. The echo of my call no sooner faded before there was a loud splash at the bow and Ariel was sitting on the bowsprit. I couldn't help think if she was under the sprit, what a fine figurehead she would make for my boat.

"I was getting worried that you were not coming back," said the mermaid.

"Are you kidding? I would not miss this adventure for all the tea in China."

"Thank you, you are a good friend. But what does tea have to do with anything?" She smiled.

"Itís just an expression. I was late because the treasure you gave me stirred up a lot of interest among some other treasure hunters. They followed me here, to this island. I tried to lose them but it didn't work. They will be here in 30 minuets. We need to get the Ďwater makersí off loaded. Then I can lead them away."

Ariel said, "Right!" and dove into the water. A minute later she was back with a dozen or so merman, to whom I started handing the water makers. After all the water makers were unloaded, Ariel jumped back onto the bowsprit and said. "Lets go!"

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Let's go to my old human home, to get my Trident. This will lead the pirates away, and give my people time to get the water makers moved to Atlantica." replied Ariel. Her eagerness bubbling over. "Besides I like adventures too!"

"OK you can sit up front and show me the way. But if we see another ship, you'll have to jump off. The other ships have powerful binoculars and will be able to see you before you can see them."

"Binock-what?" She quizzed?

After weighing anchor and clearing the reef around the island. I took my binoculars up foreword for Ariel to see. A look of delight came over her face. "Oh! Biggermajiggers." For the next 15 minuets she was like a child given a new toy. Looking at everything she could see through the Ďbiggermajiggersí. When she spotted a ship behind us, she shouted "A foatamajigger!" Then giggled and said, "I mean a ship." and put down the binoculars and dove into the water.

Graphic by Carmen Cantadore

I watched as Ariel road the bow wake of the boat with a pod of dolphins. She would hang onto one dolphin's dorsal fin for a while then take up a ride with another. About every half-hour she would drop back to the stern, and ask if we were still being followed and also to give me a course correction. When I informed her that we were, she would return to the bow to ride the wake with the dolphins again.

Late in the afternoon, the boats were still following us, between one to two miles away. The wind had picked up and I got an idea. Checking the weather computer in the cabin shown that luck was with us. There was a cloud formation 5 miles to the Southwest and the radar confirmed that there was a squall in it.

Calling Ariel to come to the back of the boat I told her of my plan. "There was a storm off to the right. If you could guide me thought it, I would turn off the radar, and lower my radar reflector. This would make it hard for the other boats to follow us through the storm."

Ariel did not understand all of what I was saying but she understood enough, so we made the course change. I put on my safety harness and hooked it to the safety railing then released the main sail sheet and pulled it into its roller and then reefed the jib. Then closed the hatch and put on my weather coat, hat and safety glasses.

The sea was like a roller coaster as we sailed into the squall. The wind ripped at me and my sail and the rain hammered on us. About half way through the squall we turned North and ran inside the storm for an hour before we turn East again toward a pair of islands.

By sunset we were anchored in a sheltered straight between the two small islands with no other boats to be seen. My boat and I were as wet as a mermaid, from the rough seas and rain we had sailed through. The cabin was a shamble and it took me an hour to square things away.

That night after dinner, Ariel returned to the sea and I bedded down on the fore deck to watch the stars play peek-a-boo through the increasing clouds. Ariel must have had trouble getting to sleep too, because I could hear her singing with the wind from the rocks in the cove of the southern island. I thought about how sailors use to think the siren songs would drive them mad or onto the rocks. Was I mad? Is this all a dream? Whatever it was, I was having the time of my life and didn't want it to end. If it does end, I'll have a hard time explaining to my boss and friends why my vacation was so long. All this did not matter now all that mattered was helping this beautiful mermaid, and listening to her sing, as my boat bobbed on the storm swells coming through the channel.

The next morning with no other ships insight I checked the position of 'Daniel'. It was a full hurricane now. But it looked like it was going to the North. This meant that we were to be spared the brunt of the storm, unless it changed directions again. We set off for the island that used to be Ariel and Eric's home.

It was mid afternoon with 25-knot winds when we arrived in the old harbor that was once a daily view for Ariel. She was at her usual post on the bowsprit. The once lavish palace was now an empty shell with no roof or doors. At the sight of what use to be a warm and happy place, brought a stream of tears down her face.

Going foreword to release the anchor and I asked Ariel "Would it be easier for you to wait outside the harbor, while I look for your Trident?"

She wiped her tears and replied "No! I'll be all right. Take me to your table with the tapelhoopers, papers and maps. I will write down the location of the Trident!"

As Ariel requested I carried her down into the cabin and set her at the chart table. A tapelhooper turned out to be a pencil she used one to draw a floor plan of the castle and marked where the Trident would be found. I asked. "Do you think it's still there?"

Graphic by Carmen Cantadore

"Yes! I hid it well. As long as the walls are standing, the Trident will still be there!" She explained the details of the hiding place.

After carrying Ariel topside, she jumped into the water. She seemed to really enjoy swimming in the harbor where she must have swam as a human so many years ago. Checking the direction of Daniel before setting off in the dinghy for the beach, reveled he was heading our direction and the increasing wind speed confirmed that fact.

On the island, there was little left of the village or the life that once flourished here. Making my way up to the castle through the thick jungle that had moved in after its abandonment proved difficult. The tree and brush branches lashed back at me, driven by the increasing winds. The rain started and it was coming down in buckets.

Once inside, it didn't take long to find the room that once was Ariel's bedroom. The winds howled through the empty rooms like ghosts that were objecting to my invasion. Finding the large fireplace, where she hid the Trident, I counted the stones in the third row of the hearth and found the one to push. But it did not move even with both hands pushing. Water was poring down the flue then down the back of my neck. Sitting in the hearth and bracing my back on its side I pushed with both feet. Just as I was reaching exhaustion, the stone slipped. Another shove with the last of my strength, the stone dropped in. There was a crack of thunder. Trying to catch my breath, I look into the hole with a small flashlight. There was a cloth in the long hole that faded into the depths where my light could not reach. The lightning and thunder was coming more often. I reached in and grabbed the end of the bag. It was stiff with age but still quite strong. Pulling out the Trident revealed it was wrapped in a blue velvet cloth. A sash cord was wrapped in a spiral around it, up to the other end that flared to cover the head of the Trident.

From the front steps of the old palace with the Trident cradled in my arms, two boats were just visible through the rain beyond the harbor wall. Making me rushing down the hill, through the jungle and slippery mud and doing a few face plants in same.

Upon reaching the harbor, a voice called over the roar of the wind and rain. "Roy!" Ariel was waiting for me by an old jetty.

Handing the Trident to Ariel still wrapped in its cloth bag, I said. "There are two ships coming."

"I know. Help me get it out! Are you all right?"

"Yes, just a little mud!" I replied, producing my Buck knife and cutting the sash cord and pulling on its end, caused the Trident to fall out and into water.

Ariel said "Go back to your boat and lay out the blanket I saw in your cabin on the back of the boat. Then wait in the cabin."

Rushing back to the rubber raft and rowing as hard as I could, to get back to the boat before our unwanted visitors arrived. Saying to myself. "I'll have to get a motor for this thing, the next time I am in a port." When I reached the boat the wind and rain was pounding me so hard it stung through my raincoat. I did as Ariel requested and retrieved the blanket from the cabin. Entering the cabin, a blue flash of light, shown about the boat in the water. Returning to the cockpit, to my surprise, Ariel was standing in the cockpit wrapping the blanket around her. My jaw must have hit the floor. She had legs, beautiful legs!

"Now we don't have to worry, about anyone seeing me. We look just like another couple on a sailing trip!" She said with a blush when she noticed my gawk.

All I could manage to say was "Wow!" and that made her blush even more.

By now the other boats had pulled up along both sides of my boat. Their boats were banging into mine, pushed by the storm swells. The men on them did not look like they wanted to exchange pleasantries. One man, he looked like the captain, pulled out a gun, and pointed it at me. "Where's da treasure?" he shouted over the wind and between thunder crashes.

The wind was blowing the rain so hard, it was coming straight into my face, making it hard to see. My boat was boxed in, a man had a gun, and I couldn't see. But I had a plan, bluff.

"I don't know what you are talking about!" I shouted back.

"Don't give me dat, I saw da treasure you were flash'n about on St. Thom!" He yelled.

"That was all there was, I don't have any more!" Fear was showing on my face.

"We'll see what you say after da beat'n we're goin'a give your pretty lady, because you don't wanna share!" Shouted the pirate as he eyed Ariel with a grin on his face. Our boats crashed together again, as the rain got worse. It was a struggle to stand, even holding on to something.

Ariel stepped in and said. "I don't think I would like that." The wind was blowing her blanket and hair about her body. She was trying to hold herself together and the Trident while hanging onto the Fowl Windís wheel.

The pirate laughed at this little girl. "What can you do to stop us from do'n what we want to you? Throw your pitch fork at us."

Ariel said in a low voice so just I could hear. "Get ready to duck!" She raised her Trident over her head and I hit the deck. There were two blue flashes and loud cracks, like thunder. I raised my head to see the two pirate boats capsized and the men swimming to shore. "Letís get out of here." Ariel suggested.

I hauled up the anchor with the windless, unfurled the sails to a double reefed setting, and pointed the Fowl Wind North. As 15-foot waves broke over the bow and washed down the deck and the wind tried to tear the sails from the mast. "What now? My boat can't take much more of this!"

"Watch!" Ariel said, as she made her way to the stern railing. Trying to hold on to the blanket, the Trident and aft stay to keep herself from washing overboard she raised the Trident, this time pointing it to the sky. There was another blue flash of lighting from the Tridentís points. The rain stopped, the wind calmed down and the sky began to clear. There was a sudden increase of chatter on the marine radio, about the miracle. "Daniel was gone."

As Ariel turned around I had my usual expression, mouth open, eyes wide, and almost speechless. "What can't that thing do?"

"Anything you can clearly picture in your mind, the Trident will find a way to make it happen." She replied. "Letís go back to the island where we met. I want to check to see if the Ďwater makersí are working. Do you have something I can wear that's dry? This blanket is soaked and not vary flattering!" She could hardly keep it around herself and hang onto the Trident too.

"You look great, even though you are still soaking wet." We both blushed.

After adjusting the sails and setting the auto helm to a course that would take us back to the island, we went down into the cabin. "Sometimes things are left on board by other charters or by the company that handled my boat." Checking the cabins we found an assortment of clothes. Ariel went into the aft cabin to try them on. She returned after a few minutes with a combination of shorts and T-shirt that would make Blackwell give her the #1 spot on his ten worst dressed list. They were so big on her that she had to tie knots at various places to keep them on. But she still looked spectacular.

Ariel placed her Trident close to the cabin door where it could be grabbed in a hurry from the topside or the cabin. "We'll keep this handy!" She said. I agreed, knowing that there were more treasure hunting pirates out there. She then took out a fork from the galley drawer, and started to comb her hair with it.

"I have a brush, if you would prefer."

"Oh! I'm sorry, I am use to using dingelhoppers." biting her lip. "I mean forks. Yes I will use the brush. Thank you." Blushed Ariel. She explained this story and others as we return to the island where we met.

Adjusting the focus on the binoculars, I said. "Yes! It's the same type of powerboat and there's a dinghy tied up to it. I bet they have been all over the island looking for the treasure."

"So do you think they are part of the same group of men that attacked us?" Ariel asked, then giggled. "If they are treasure hunting they are looking on the wrong side of the water line. Should I zap them?"

"No, we can't be sure until they do something. They're sure watching us though. Will go ahead, into the lagoon and see what they do, if anything. If they are part of the pirates, they are probably wondering how we got away. I'll see if they are using their radio."

Keeping the Fowl Wind on a course to the island, that is about a mile and a half away, I went to the cabin and turned on the scanner and put it in the search mode on the marine band. Five minutes went by before it stopped on a call. "Hunter one to Hunter two or three, come in!" The call repeated several times, then a pause and called again.

"That proves it, we need to watch him. Hunter two and three must have been the two boats that attacked us. It won't take this guy long to figure out that we won. I don't think they know you are with me, I was alone when they last saw me. Stay in the cabin until dark." I told Ariel.

I eased the Fowl wind into the same lagoon as before. The pirate boat was in the South-facing lagoon, where I first met Ariel. Two men could be seen watching from the rocks at the point. Trying to look normal (normal for me) by doing things around and with the boat. Not looking at Ariel when we spoke to keep her informed as to what they were doing or not doing. "I think we are safe until dark. At that time you should be in the water. You will be safer there and then you can surprise them if needed."

When dusk settled over the island, I hung a blanket over the boom to dry, supposedly, but in reality to block the view of Ariel slipping out of the cabin and into the water. "I think surprising them is a good idea, I'm going to get some help that will make this day unforgettable for the pirates. Don't be surprise by what you see." she said as she slipped into the water. A second later I saw deep under the Fowl Wind a blue flash. Then I went into the cabin, turned the lights out and waited. " I wonder what she meant by Ďget some helpí, I wish I had a gun!" were my thoughts.

It wasn't until midnight, that I herd the rumble of a powerboat. It kept getting louder, until it came along side my boat. Putting on a fake smile, I went top side to greet my midnight visitors. But the night was like day from all the lights the powerboat had on. "Hi there, is there a problem?" I faked.

"Yea, two!" said a big unshaven man, as he and another thinner man jumped onto the Fowl Wind. A third man stayed on their boat. "First, where did you get de loot? Two, what did you do to my other two boats?"

"If you need to call another boat, you are welcome to use my radio. What do you mean loot?" I faked some more and thought. "Come on Ariel!"

The thin man pulled his hand out of his jacket pocket to show his shinny brass knuckles. "Do we Ďave to get rough wit yea? Or are yea gon'a give us some straight answers?" he said in a thick Jamaican accent.

The big man said in a polite voice. "Take it easy Joe, I think this guy is smart. He will cooperate wití us," his voice got gruff, "won't you!" He grabbed me by my shoulders spun me around and Joe hit me in the stomach. Then he pushed me into the rear corner seat of the cockpit. The punch was not as hard as it could have been. I knew it was just a warning, but it had me doubled over any way.

"Easy Joe!" Said the big man. "He's going to tell us what we want to know now, ain't you fella?"

"Yes, let me catch my breath." I gasped trying to stall until Ariel got back.

"Sure take your time, fella. See Joe this guy is a right friendly fella. Just like I told you!"

I stayed bent over, thinking that as long as they thought I was hurt they would leave me along. I kept gasping and wheezing to stall for time. "OK fella, you had enough time. Talk to me or Joe will ask again." Said the big man impatiently.

"OK, OK, just a minuet more." I gasped.

"No problem." He said. But he grabbed me by my shirt and spun me around. He held my left arm in a hammer lock with his right and had his left around my neck. I was at the mercy of the two thugs. Joe squared off to do some serious damage to my body.

Suddenly the Fowl Wind and the powerboat began to rock violently. The sea around us churned, as something big began to rise up. The sight was a shock to all four of us. A giant sea monster glared down at us. "HI! MY NAME IS SIMON, HOW YOU DO'N?" it bellowed. I saw in the glow of the lights from the powerboat, Ariel was sitting on the monster's back. "HAY, ARE YOU GUYS BOTHERING MY FRIEND?" Bellowed Simon.

We were all dumb struck by the sight. Simon reached with his scaly hand into the Fowl Wind's cockpit and grabbed the two men. They screamed as he lifted them out and deposited them on the powerboat. "YOU GUYS BETTER GET GOING AND NEVER BOTHER MY FRIEND AGAIN!" Bellowed Simon.

The powerboat accelerated out of the lagoon and we could here it scrape its bottom on the reef as it left the island. "GEE! I HOPE THEY DON'T SINK!" Said the sea monster.

"Put me in the boat Simon!" Said the mermaid on his back. The monster picked up Ariel and as gentile as a mother handling her baby, placed her in my boat. "Roy I would like you to meet a old and very good friend, Simon. Simon this is a new friend Roy."

Graphic By Lisette LaSalle

"GLAD TO MEET YEA! ANY FRIEND OF ARIEL'S IS A FRIEND OF MINE!" Roared Simon.

"Likewise!" I shouted back to the monster. I was still shaking from the sight. "By any chance do you live in Loch Ness?"

"I DON'T THINK SO, I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS, I LIVE IN ALL SEVEN SEAS!" Explained the monster.

"Thanks Simon, I don't think we will need your services any more. You can return to your greeting trip." Ariel smiled and waved to her giant friend.

"OK ARIEL, BUT IF YOU NEED ME AGAIN I'LL BE GLAD TO HELP." Simon roared and disappeared under the waves in a swirl of foam.

"I'm sorry I was late getting here, Simon was some distance away. Are you all right?" Asked Ariel

"I'm OK, it was just a warning tap." I said, trying to be macho and not to show how much it did hurt.
 
 

Chapter 4

Part of Her World

When morning came to the Caribbean, the skies were clear and bright. There were no signs of any pirates around and Ariel said. "Letís check out the water making."

"I would like too but my scuba tanks are empty and running the motor to refill them may pollute the sea even more."

"You don't need them, just get into the water!" Said the grinning girl.

She had a look in her eyes that told me she was up to something but I did as she requested anyway. Not knowing what she had in mind I was learning to expect anything. Ariel joined me in the water and said. "Take off you clothes and put them on the ladder of your boat!"

Reluctantly I did as she requested, with a lot of blushing on my part. There was a blue flash in the water around me. It suddenly got easier to swim. Dropping below the surface to look at my feet gave me a shock. They were gone. Instead I had a tail! With fins! The tail was silver with a hint of blue and the fin was edged in a red and yellow rain bow. Ariel swam up alongside of me as a mermaid again and said. "Wow that is an unusual color." Seeing that my face was turning blue she added with a smirk. "You will have to try breathing!"

Graphic by Carmen Cantadore

To my surprise I could hear her under water, so I tried. With my first breath I choked a little but it worked. "This is wonderful." I said, laughing out loud then choked again.

"Now I can show you my world." Invited Ariel. "This way." She motioned.

We swam down and out of the lagoon that surrounded the island, deeper then I have ever been with my scuba equipment. My swimming was no match to Ariel's grace and speed as she moved through the sea. So she had to stop often and wait for me to catch up. Soon we were approaching a gleaming city, I could see further then I could with my diving mask. Swimming about the city, Atlantica I was informed, we could see the water making machines being set up. Some were already in full production, being pumped by an octopus, or a merman. It was obvious that they needed many more units to quench the thirst of this population. There were already long lines of merpeople forming at the water makers.

"I need to get you more water makers." I said.

"We do need a lot more, and we still need your help. But now that I have my Trident, you can teach me how to get them in your world. In the meantime let me show you the palace." Ariel said.

Ariel introduced me to her sisters and friends. I bowed to Aquata, and she made me an honorary merman of the realm. Then we all went out on a balcony that over looked the city's square. Where Aquata presented me to the populace, they were all cheering like I was some kind of hero. It made me blush again. Aquata asked me to say a few words.

Not vary good at public speaking, I swam up awkwardly. "I did nothing that anyone else would do for someone who is in need. The only reward I want is to remain your friend." "Talk about sounding like a dweeb." I thought.

Another cheer came up, making my blush brighter. Asking about returning to my boat because of concern about it being left abandon. Aquata replied. "Do not worry, I have sent some of the palace guards to protect your boat."

I spent the night in one of the many rooms reserved for guests in the palace. Talk about the ultimate waterbed. It was the best night sleep I ever had. In the morning I had breakfast with all the sisters and the husbands of the ones that were married. Ariel sat next to me and explained what we were eating. She said, "Every thing is made from sea weed, kelp, and plankton. The variety of ways that the royal chef prepared it, makes a wonderful variety of tastes."

After breakfast, Ariel showed me her room. She had a collection of human thing that filled the room to every corner. There was a special table with pictures of her old friends and loves that has either moved away with their own families or long sense gone. "Here is my best friend Flounder, he's gone, but I still see some of his grand guppies. And this is my music teacher, Sebastian. He moved away with a crab cutey. I do get letters from him from time to time but the snailman is so slow." She explained.

"He must have been a great teacher." I interrupted.

Ariel blushed and continued. "This was Urchin a merboy who once saved my life, and this is my father King Triton." She then held the next picture to her breast and a tear formed in her eyes. "This is Eric" was all she could say. I could see the hurt in her hart, for what she had lost over the years, she did not want to get that close to anyone again, and my hart ached for her.

"But that's the lot that merpeople must bear by living so long." Ariel continued after a long silent pause.

There were several more pictures of a young girl with dark hair, each one showing her at a different age. Ariel did not say anything about the girl she just moved on before she got to them. It was obvious there was a lot of pain in her heart for this person, so I did not ask about her.

Later Ariel took me to her secret grotto, where she kept all things human and Eric. There was a large statue of Eric, and all the things Eric and Ariel had collected thought a normal human lifetime.

Ariel picked up her sack and filled it with treasure form a large chest. "We will need a lot of things, so let's not, what's the word? Shrimp? No, what is it. Oh! Scrimp." She picked up another sack, put more gold and silver in it. Handing it to me, she said. "Here, take this. You have given up a lot to help us. It's the least we can do to repay you."

"That's not necessary. Meeting you and your people is enough reward."

"I won't hear of it. You have probably lost a lot of time and money the last two weeks and I want to repay you!" Ariel insisted.

"No, really I donít want any payment."

"You are in my world now and I am a Princess here. Donít make me angry. You donít want me angry." She gave me a stern look then smiled and winked at me.

"OK! I'll take it but only for the purpose of getting myself in a possession to spend full time helping you and your people" I insisted. "But let's be careful who we let see it, we don't want more pirates trying to take it from us."

It was noon when Ariel and I returned to the boat. She turned me back to a human and after climbing onto the boat a put my cloths back on, I then went into the cabin, to prepare for the return to St. Thomas. The boat rocked as Ariel climb onboard and got dressed.

"Now what are you doing?"

"Iím going with you!" She replied.

"But the human world has changed sense you were human!" I asserted. "You have no idea how to be a human today."

"Yes, you are right! But I managed to adjust to human life before I can do it again. And besides, it will be fun." She giggled.
 
 

Chapter 5

Part of My World

One of the first things we needed after arriving in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas was to get Ariel some clothes that fit her. As we walked out of the marina, I told her "Many things have changed quite a bit since you were human, including fashion." She gave me a smirk that said what does a man know about fashion. Then I had to grab her arm to keep her from walking into the street in front of an oncoming car.

Her face turned to awe and she asked. "What are those?" pointing at the cars. I tried to explain what cars were but her attention jumped from one new sight to another. I had to drag her up the street to a shopping center. When she saw all the shops, I was the one being drug.

She did not understand the plastic barter system and the concept of paying later, but did get an understanding of "charge it."

Before leaving her at a shop, I instructed the clerk to take good care of her. "She is from a backward country and may seem naive about what women wear in the West. So I would appreciate it if you would help her with her fashion and other feminine needs. I have other errands to do, but I'll be back later and will take care of the bill then." Handing the girl a $50 bill. "There will be more if she is happy when I get back."

"Yes sir!" replied the clerk. "I think you will be happy too." She said and gave me a wink.

I left the store and went to the marina to arrange getting my boat into the boat yard for needed repairs. The yard could not take my boat in until tomorrow, so I made the appointment then went to a fine hotel to get us some rooms. The manager gave me a strange look because two weeks at sea makes a man look scruffy. But he also understood "American Express!"

Returning to the store found Ariel with a big grin on her face and she was wearing a pair of white shorts and a white top that said "Saint Thomas" in multicolored letters. Her feet sported a pair of thong sandals and she had a big Panama hat. She looked like a tourist. She also had a large stack of boxes and bags. I put the rather large bill on my plastic and tipped the clerk again.

"Come again, I will be glad to get the lady anything she wants." Bubbled the sales girl.

We returned to the hotel where the manager gave us another strange look, but sent an army of Bellmen to help us with our packages.

We stopped at the hotel's store to pick up some personal items, then went up to our rooms. I had to help Ariel with the key to her half of our adjoining rooms. She said. "The key looks like the, what did you call them? Oh, a credit card." She entered her room followed by the herd of Bellmen carrying her boxes and bags. They deposited them on the bed and I tipped them with a gold coin. The men all looked at it and each other then smiled. One of them thanked me and said. "If you need anything, anything at all, just give me a ring. I will take care of it personally!"

"Thank you, but I need to get unpacked!" Ariel said as she ran us all out.

I told Ariel. "Let's meet in the lobby in an hour. Then I will treat you to a human meal at the best restaurant in town, strictly vegetarian of course."

"Sounds wonderful, it's a date." She smiled coyly and gave me a wink.

I rushed to my room to get ready. Two minutes hadn't passed when there was a knock at the door that adjoined our rooms. I ran to open the door but tripped over my duffel bag that some idiot had left in the middle of the room. Finally opening the door with a big grin on my face, to see Ariel looking sheepish. "Can you show me how these things work?" She asked then bit her lip.

She had never seen indoor plumbing or an electric hair dryer before. When she got the hang of it, she said. "OK, now get out I have a lot of work to do and I only have an hour."

I dressed casually, as I always do and was waiting in the lobby, after all the girl is supposed to make an entrance. What an entrance she made, the entire lobby came to a stop as Ariel came in. Once again my jaw dropped, and I thought by now she must think that this is my natural look. Ariel was wearing a curve hugging blue dress that sparkled almost as much as her eyes. The dress was ankle high with a slit up one leg to the thigh and was low off the shoulders. She had matching high heel shoes and hand bag and the same blue sapphire on a gold chain around her neck. Her red hair was brushed out into a flowing hank on one shoulder. Every inch of her said, "Here is a real lady". She began to blush, as she realized it was her presence that brought the room to halt.

Graphic By Lisette LaSalle

"I seem to be saying this a lot, but WOW! Who taught you to dress like that?" I said as we met in the middle of the lobby.

"What's wrong with the way I am dressed?" She worried and bit her lip.

"Nothing, it's stunning. I just didn't expect you to look so...so... good!" There's that dweeb again, I thought.

"The girl in the shop recommended this dress for going out. When I tried it on she said that it looked very nice. Does it?"

"Oh yes! You are the most beautiful girl that I have ever seen. And to think youíre going out with me!" Now I was blushing too.

"Stop it. You are making me blush." She said shyly, then added. "The lady in the shop gave me this hootamister, no thatís not what she call it? Oh, a purse! She said it completed the look. But I do not know what to put in it."

"Most girls keep their make up in their purses."

"Make up?"

"You know lipstick, compact, and moisturizer to name a few."

"Moisturizer? What would I need a moisturizer for?" We both laughed.

We took a taxi even though it was a short distance to one of the nicer restaurants in Charlotte Amalie. Ariel was awed by the power of the car, and asked how it worked without any horses to pull it. The cabby was giving us a strange look in the mirror as I tried to explain how a car works to the confused girl.

"Do you have a . . . car, is that the right word?" She asked.

"Yes, that's the right word and yes I do, but its back at my condo in California."

"Would you teach me to drive? Eric taught me to drive a carriage and to ride."

"Well see if we get to California."

Ariel continued to be excited at every turn the cab made and revealed a new street of new sights. The cab driver kept glancing in the mirror every time she said something that revealed her innocence.

When we arrived at the popular restaurant there was a line waiting outside the old ornate building. I asked the host "How long is the wait?"

He said "I'm sorry sir, it will be at lest two hours." But when he saw Ariel he said. "I'll seat you right away sir."

Once seated, I said to her, "This power you have over people might come in useful but how do you do it?"

"I don't know. Once Eric and I put on a Ball for some of his friends, we invited my family as well. All the human men wanted to dance with my sisters. There seems to be some magical attraction between human men and mermaids. Although some of the human women, were after daddy too." Giggled Ariel.

"I'm sure that there is some magic to it. But I have noticed that your people have a sweet and innocent way that is very appealing. I can only wish my people were more like yours. Maybe someday our people will get to know each other and make the world a better place for both!" ... Ariel did not reply ... "Let's order." I added.

We ate from the salad bar, and drank ice tea. At every turn moving through the restaurant, there was something new for Ariel to get excited about. It must have been confusing to the people around us to see a stunning woman asking questions like a child. To me it was exciting to be showing the world to a person that had never seen it before or for at least a hundred years. On the way back from the salad bar we passed through a room that had a high celling with large stained glass windows. She froze in her tracks. "Oh my gosh!"

"What is it?"

"These windows are just like the ones we had in the palace . . . they are the ones we had. How can that be?"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes!" she went to one in the middle of the room. "Look, here is where Eric scratched my name in the glass with a diamond ring he gave me!" She pointed to a panel of red glass at the name "Ariel" in a styled script.

"Parts of old buildings are often salvaged for new buildings. The older they are the more they can get for the parts.

Back at our table Ariel was enjoying her salad when she asked. "What are the others eating?"

"Well," trying to think of a way to put it and failing, "They're eating meat or fish!" Ariel's face turned pail and her nose wrinkled up. "I'm sorry but we humans look at animals as a food source. Until I met you I thought that humans were the only intelligent life on the planet."

"It's not your fault, I have seen this before. It's just the way it's prepared today. It does not look like anything that use to be alive and the smells are wonderful. I guess that is why it is easy for you to eat it." Just then a waiter came by with a tray with a lobster on it and she turned a little green. "Well most of it doesnít look like it was alive."

"Try not to look at too many other plates, just think about what we are doing." I tried to change the topic and after a few minutes she was able to enjoy her salad and fruit.

A group of strolling musicians came over to our table to play and sing. Ariel listened to the song they played, when she got the words she joined in and sang along. A few bars later the musicians stopped singing and just played, as Ariel continued to sing solo. Everyone in the restaurant stopped eating and listened. When the song was over the room stood and applauded. I said, "That was beautiful!" she began to blush and bit her lip.

The leader of the little band asked Ariel if she had a job, and if she would join their group. "We will pay you very well!" said the man.

"No thank you. Everyone is so kind, but I only sing for pleasure." The girl said shyly.

"I agree, your voice is very pleasing. If you ever change your mind, here's my card." said the man.

The owner of the restaurant came over and made the same offer to Ariel. But she refused him as well.

We finished eating and Ariel told me about some of her magical adventures both above and below the sea. Other patrons of the restaurant kept stopping by our table to compliment Ariel on her voice. Ariel just thanked them for their kindness and blushed again.

It was still early when we finished eating, so I took Ariel to a dance club. When we arrived outside there was the same problem getting in, as there was at the restaurant but we got in for the same reason. She said "This place looks like Eel-lectric City." As we entered she said, "Oh, it's a Ball, who is it for?"

"It's not a ball the way you know it. It's a place for dancing for dancing sake. They do it every night."

She was amazed that the DJ could make so many kinds of music with his CD machine all by himself. Again I tried to explain how it worked but she thought there might be a crustacean band inside the speaker boxes.

Ariel was very good at slow dancing she had the same grace I saw in her as we swam under the sea. But when the DJ started playing rock, she laughed at my jumping around. It didn't take her long to figure out what it was suppose to look like, buy watching other dancers. When she got caught up in the music, she didn't notice that all eyes were on her. Her dance style was not that different but she had an innocent beauty in the way she moved that even the other women could appreciate.

Between dances, other guys asked her to dance. She would politely say "No thank you!" to them. One guy, the muscle beach type, asked her "Why is a girl like you hanging around with an old man? You should be with a guy like me!" He boasted as he swelled from his flexing muscles.

She gave him an angry look and said. "Girls like me don't like to hang around with sea slugs!" He left, deflated and with a look of confusion on his face.

Graphic By Lisette LaSalle

When it was finally time for us to return to the hotel we decided to walk back as it was a short distance and the night air was cool and clear. About half way back I noticed two men following us. "I don't want to alarm you but we are being followed." I whispered, "Keep walking maybe they won't bother us."

Suddenly two other men stepped out of an alley and blocked our path. One said "Tell us where you get treasure and no one get hurt!" One of the two men from behind grabbed Ariel making her scream. I pulled one of the men off her and punched him in the face. The other two grabbed me before I could get the other man away from her. I slammed one of my attackers into a wall. The next thing I knew I was on the ground and there was a throbbing pain in the back of my head. One of the men pushed Ariel against the side of a building making her scream again. He slapped her across the face "Shut up bitch!" he ordered. I wanted to kill him but I was pinned to the ground by a big foot on my neck. Ariel looked at me with blood on her face. She said. "Stay down!"

Graphic By Lisette LaSalle

Her eyes glazed over and the sapphire that hung around her neck began to glow. Before anyone could react, a blue ball of energy sprang from her chest. The force of the energy ball knocked the four men across the street, where they lay unconscious.

Struggling to get to my feet while keeping an eye on the four thugs across the street and with my jaw once again hanging open, I asked. "What was that?" This little mermaid was one surprise after another.

Turning around I saw Ariel on the ground, where she had collapsed. "Just a gift from my mother" she gasped.

"Are you all right?" I asked and rushed over to help her up.

"Yes, I think so." she replied. "How about you?"

"Iím OK. Fortunately they hit me where it will do the least damage, on my head. What was that you did?"

"I zapped them with my sapphire."

"That little jewel did that?"

"The sapphire has some of the power the Trident has. But the Trident has its own energy, the sapphire uses mine." explained the weakened girl.

I put my arm around her waist and her arm around my neck. "Let's get out of here and you to a doctor!" I urged.

"No! Letís go to your boat. We need my Trident." Ariel insisted. "You really know how to show a girl a good time!" She added, with a giggle, then an "ouch!"

"I am sorry this happened!"

"It's not your fault, I remember that there are good and bad humans. The same is true in the merworld. So don't blame yourself."

Ariel was feeling better when we got back to the boat. Even though it was tied to the dock, I had dropped the anchor in the water. Pulling it up with the windless we could retrieve the Trident and the bag of treasure that was tied to its chain. Ariel held the Trident close to her it began to glow blue. She pointed it at me and as the blue light reached me, the pain in my head stopped. Next she brought it to her face and the light healed it too. "I've got to get one of those!" I quipped.

Entering the Fowl Wind's cabin, we were greeted with another surprise. Everything was turned up side down, from someone looking for something. "Well it looks like they were here first." I said. "It's a good thing the Trident and treasures were in the water."

"Is anything missing?"

"I donít know." I looked around. "My charts are missing."

"Charts? Oh, I remember. They are your maps."

"Yeah, they must think they have the location of where we got the treasure."

"Only if they are maps of the ocean floor." Giggled Ariel.

We straightened up the cabin and worked out a plan for the next day. To exchange the treasure for cash, pay off some bills, and get a good tax lawyer. Most of this Ariel did not understand, but I insisted that we needed them.

Chapter 6

More of My World

For the next couple of days, we went about doing whatever we needed to finish setting up the salvage business that I had started the week before. Making appointments to meet with government officials, bankers, etc. Every time we ran into some red tape I would introduce the bureaucrat to my partner, Ariel. Then it was smooth sailing, and Ariel would give me a smirk. I felt guilty using her that way, but it worked. After leaving each appointment, she would ask questions like "What was that meeting for?" and "Did you see those thingamabobs? I've got 20." At times she was like a child, with the questions. But it was impossible to forget that she was a woman!

Despite Ariel's constant distraction, to both the people we met and myself, the business was finally setup in both our names so Ariel would be able to get Ďwater makersí without me. Because she will need to get them long after I am gone. All she will need to do is convince them that she is her own descendant. We called our company "Mermaid Salvage Co. Ltd.", that was my idea.

Ariel was a fast learner. After about five appointments, she was getting the hang of doing business in the human world. Buy the 5th day she was doing most of the business negotiations and was quite successful too and not just because of her looks. Her look was changing from that of a tourist to a stunning business woman.

Graphic By Lisette LaSalle

I bought Ariel a small house on a beach in a secluded part of St. Thomas. So she would have a place to come and go from, between being human and a mermaid. We had no more trouble with the pirates. By now the word was out that I was not an easy target. I am sure none of the pirates we have encountered to date was going to admit that it was a little girl that got the best of them. I bought myself a gun just in case.

A week later, my boat was repaired from the encounter with the pirate boats. We headed back to ĎOur Islandí, as I liked to call it. My boat was full of Ďwater makersí and I had a gun in my belt and an outboard motor for the rubber dinghy. The latter turned out to be a dumb investment, as I did not want to run it around the merpeople. So I had the extra weight to pull while rowing.

By now my friends, back home, were probably sending out a search party for me. I had not talked to them in two weeks. Checking into the Seafarerís net on 20 meters relieved their concerns. But I had to make up more stories as to why I was not coming home. All I could tell them was "What a vacation they had missed!" They asked me how my mermaid was doing. But when Ariel took the microphone from me and said, "I'm doing fine, thank you! How are you?" in her soft sweet voice, the air was suddenly silent. Then the laughs again, but the laughs were ours!

The wind was coming out of the Southeast. This meant a lot of tacking, (a zigzag course again). Late in the day as the sun was low in the Western sky, I caught a glint of light on the horizon behind the Fowl Wind. Shouting down into the cabin where Ariel was reading some newspapers trying to bring her self up to date in the human world. "Turn on the radar, I think we are being followed!" I had shown her how to do that for just such an occasion.

She answered back "I thought you wanted it off so the pirates could not use it to follow us?"

That was my plan, to keep the radar off and not use the radar reflector. Without a radar reflector in the rigging, a sailboat is a low profile radar image. This would make it difficult for someone to follow us, but also increases the chance of a large ship running over us. Now that there were two on the Fowl Wind, we would take turns standing watch and sleeping while on our way to ĎOur Islandí.

"I think they are following us anyway, just over the horizon. If we don't see anything, we will turn it off again." I told her.

"OK! It's on . . . There is a, what did you call it? Oh, a blip." She reported.

"OK! ...Turn it off again." Ariel came up to the cockpit to look astern. "They may be moving closer as the sun goes down to keep us in sight. We must keep all lights off, including the running lights. This will make it even more dangerous, because other ships will not be able to see us ether!" I explained.

"I could make a storm, to throw them off." She advised.

"That's not good for other ships." I said "But that gives me an idea. Can you make fog?"

"Yes, I think so!"

"Good, I have a plan. I'll change course a small amount for the next half-hour. Our tacking should have confused them as to our true destination so far. We'll leave the running lights on, so they can see us. Then you can make your fog and will change course and turn the lights off till morning. Then will use the radar to see if they are still following."

Letting out the sail sheets to slow us down to four knots and for the next 20 minuets I changed course a half-degree a minute to port. Then Ariel pointed her Trident to the sky. A blue flash from it brought a formation of clouds, another blue flash, they dropped to the sea surface just behind us. Setting a new course 40 degrees to starboard and pulling in the sail sheets, brought the Fowl Wind up to eight knots. Then we turned off any thing that made light.

"There!" I said with hope. "If our plan works, the pirates will think we are still slow and on a mean course of 150 degrees. When in reality we are faster and at 190 degrees. We will stay on this course until we see if it worked. We will know by tomorrow morning if we are in the clear. Then we can proceed to ĎOur Islandí!"

"Well, you've lost me!" Ariel smirked.

"Good, then you can take the first watch! Wake me if you see anything or the wind changes. I'll relieve you at midnight!"

"Aye-aye Captain!" She giggled.

At daybreak, my eyes strained at the horizon through my Ďbiggermajiggersí. Seeing nothing I turned on the radar, it was clear too. We had sailed south far enough to take a direct path to the island. Pushing the weight point button on the auto helm that was programmed for the ĎOur Islandí, made the Fowl Wind turn to port and heel over to the other tack requiring the sails to be adjusted. The maneuver woke Ariel so she came up to the cockpit. "Are they gone?" she asked, looking astern with her big blue but sleepy eyes.

"Yes! And if we can get some wind we can be at the island this afternoon." I responded.

She pulled out the Trident from its case by the cabin hatch. "How strong and from which direction would you like it sir?"

I stayed with the merpeople for the next week. Where I instructed them in how to use and clean the Ďwater makersí and learn more about the mer world. It became apparent that Atlantica needed a lot more reverse osmosis machines then we could get from the current suppliers. Also the machines could use some modifications for better performance under water. I came up with a design to do this as well as take advantage of water currents to supply the power to operate them.

Ariel taught me how to play sponge ball and throw a sand dollar like a Frisbee (tm). We went for rides on giant sea horses and explored shipwrecks. The wrecks were mostly all steal-hulled ships at varied states of rust and coral encrustation. Some were small pleasure boats both power and sail types. We found one that was a new wreck. It was a small powerboat with a fiberglass hull and full of marijuana bails. Although the wooden ships had all rotted away centuries ago, the mermaid still knew where they were. She could point out the pile of ballast stones and coral encrusted cannons.

One day I got to meet King Triton, he is quite old and is getting Alzheimer disease. The daughters take turns seeing to his needs and let friends see him when he has a good day. He thought I was Eric, when introduced. We just let the misunderstanding go because Ariel thought he might get mad if he knew she had another human friend.

At the end of my stay we had a plan to get a lot more water makers for Atlantica. So I said good bye to the mer people and returned to my boat. Then set-sail to St. Thomas then flew back to my home in California.

On my return home, I went right to work and bought out my old boss, but kept him on to run things. Informing him we were in the Marine Salvage business now, and he was to convert the unused part of the factory to make reverse osmosis machines of my design. That I will be doing all the selling of them, and to ship them to the Mermaid Salvage Co. Ltd. in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.

My friends that missed the trip were surprised at my sudden life style change. I told them "The mermaid is a good treasure hunter." The truth just brought strange looks, as they knew that the tropical sun had taken its toll on me.

It took a month to get the factory tooled up to make the reverse osmosis machines and to take care of some personal business. I transferred all my banking to Saint Thomas and setup my condo to be just a part time home.

When the first batch of reverse osmosis machines were shipped I made sure that the factory would run OK without me. Then I got airline reservations to return to Saint Thomas. When they arrived at Mermaid Salvage, I was waiting with some men to help me get them loaded on my boat. Then set sail to the island.

Arriving at the island's South lagoon, I called "Ariel!" this time there was no answer. So I settled down to wait and see if she would come around later. It was late in the afternoon and I was taking a nap because of my all day and night sail, when the boatís rocking awoke me.

"Hello Roy, are you here?" came a sweet voice that almost sang the words.

"Yes, I'm here, just a minute I'll be right up!" Still quite sleepy I got up from the main salon couch and climbed the steps to the cockpit. While rubbing my eyes to clear them of sleep and stepping out of the cabin, I was sprayed with water from above. Finally getting my eyes clear and looking around, found the beautiful mermaid sitting on the cabin roof. She was laughing and wringing out her hair. But when she saw my disheveled look, she said "Oh! I'm sorry, I did not know you were sleeping."

"That's OK, I'm awake now. Not from the shower but from the lovely sight on my cabin roof." My boldness made both of us blush. Changing the subject, "I have some more water makers, that should make using them easier. Can you get some help up here?"

Still in a giddy mood she said. "That's wonderful, I have some mermen waiting for my signal to come and help unload."

"Great, give the signal. Then after we unload will you join me for dinner?"

"No! You will be our guest at the palace! So lets get your boat unloaded and then you will come with me to a party under the sea."

The prospect of going to a party with Ariel left me speechless. So all I could say was "OK!"

Ariel had some things to do, so she said. "Iíll meet you at the party tonight!" That night at the appropriate time I entered the main ballroom in the palace. The sight that greeted me when entering the room left me in awe. There were a large numbers of lamps with bioluminescent fish or plankton in them that lit the room. There were colorful decorations on the walls and strung across the great hall. There was an orchestra playing and a group of mermaids and mermen singing and many mercouples dancing.

Feeling a bit lost in this strange environment I looked for Ariel, finely finding her in the middle of a large group of young mermen all competing for her attention. Not wanting to get caught up in a male show off contest. I just swam around and watched the men trying to impress the beautiful Princess. When she saw me hanging around the food table she excused herself and broke through the crowd to greet me.

"There you are, why didn't you come and find me? We have been waiting for you, now the party can get started."

"I did not want to interrupt you with the guys. Waiting for me?"

"Yes, we could not start until the guest of honor arrived, don't pay any attention to those guys' they're all just friends."

We were interrupted by a fanfare from a line of trumpet fish, then Aquata appeared in front of the orchestra with five of her sisters. The room gave her applause and then quieted to listen.

"Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, and Fish Heads of State. We are here to honor our new friend, the man who with out his help we would all be very thirsty right now." A small amount of laughter rolled through the hall. "Roy Stanton, I know this is a surprise to you so I won't embarrass you by asking you to say anything right now, unless you want to." By now Ariel had pushed me to the front of the crowded room. All I could say was "All I can say is thanks!" Aquata replied, "No, we owe you a great debt, so we thank you. Enough speeches, let the festivities begin." Aquata raised her Trident and a yellow bolt of energy sprang from its points to the great chandelier in the center of the hall. It began to give off streams of light that flickered about the great room.

The orchestra began to play a tune that to me sounded a lot like rock and roll. The singers joined in to make a sound that I could not do justice trying to describe. I'll just say it was beautiful!

Ariel grabbed my arm and pulled on it. "Come on, let's kick up our fins!" she giggled.

This time I had to watch for a minute to see what to do. Dancing with just one tail instead of two legs took some getting use to. Ariel had all the right moves, it was a pleasure to watch her and she was a thrill to dance with. We danced and danced until Aquata cut in saying to her little sister, "Come on Ariel, you can't have all the dances with him!"

This was something I did not expect, to see the Queen getting down and boogie like she did and with me. Next dance Arista cut in "My turn, Aquata!" This mermaid was wild and quite a flirt. Each sister cut in on the other, each teaching me some new way to move my tail. We were all laughing and having a great time.

Later when exhaustion forced me to find a place to set and get something to eat and drink. Ariel was dancing with one of her friends that were trying to impress her, when one of the other mermen of the same group came over and sat at my table. "So what do you think of our Princess?" he asked with an emphases on our.

"She is wonderful!" I replied.

"That's what I was afraid of, did you know that she was once married to a human?" He said with a not of disgust. "When her husband died, it broke her heart." "Yes, I know!" I interrupted. "Well then you can understand what I am trying to say. We all love her and don't want to see her hurt again. Some of us want to marry her and help her forget the human world. Do you understand what I am trying to tell you?" said the young and buffed merman.

"Are you threatening me, to stay away from Ariel?" I looked at him with concern.

"No, we don't do that sort of thing, that's a human trait. What I am asking you to do is to be kind to Ariel and let her own kind take care of her."

"I'm sorry if I misunderstood your intentions, but in my world we let the lady decide who she likes or dislikes."

"Fair enough, I think we understand each other. Every man for himself." said the merman.

"Let me put your concerns at ease. I have no intentions of hurting Ariel in any way. For that mater any of you, I truly want to help."

"I see, you do love her too."

"I can't deny that and for that reason I don't want to hurt her either. I will let her make her own mind up. If she falls in love with me or you or someone else, as long as she is happy I will be happy. Of course I will be happier if she chooses me, but I will not put any pressure on her, because of what happened with Eric." I explained.

"Good, you think more like a merman than a human. We have been taught that your race is a selfish and brutal one."

"I can't deny that some are like that, but not all of us."

As the young merman rose from the table and started to swim away, I rose too and held out my hand and said. "Can we be friends too? My name is Roy."

He took it and we shook hands. "As long as Ariel is not hurt, we can be friends. I'm Reginald!" he said.

At that moment, Ariel swam over to our table. "Very nice to meet you Reginald. Thanks for the talk!" I said and turned to greet the mermaid as Reginald left. "Hello, it looks like you are having a good time out there! You have quite a following of young men!"

" I see you have meet Reginald."

"He is a very interesting young man. Did you know he is in love with you?"

The pretty little mermaid blushed and looked down into her lap where she was fiddling with her long red hair. "Yes, I know! But as I told you before I still love Eric and I do not want that hurt again." A tear appeared in her eye and was washed away by the sea as fast as they appeared.

"I understand how you feel, but the love of another does not replace that love, it just adds to it. Don't be afraid to love someone again, love fills your life. It's not suppose to be simple, love sometimes brings hurt but the rewards far out way the cost."

"I know you are right, but it is hard. Lets not worry about that now!" Ariel's mood got happy and bubbly, she gave me a kiss and said, "Come on lets dance!"

At the moment she kissed me I could see the group of young mermen all straighten up. "Sure letís make the group over there jealous." I said.

"Oh you!" smirked Ariel. "Forget about them, lets have a good time!" We danced most of the night together, except when she joined the group on stage to sing. When she sang no one wanted to dance, everyone just listened.

For the rest of the week, the days were spent working with some mermen, one of which was Reginald, on setting up the new water makers. The design to use the current from the sea to power the pumps worked great. And at night Ariel took me to one party after another.

At the end of my stay, I was exhausted and looked foreword to returning to my boat and Saint Thomas for some rest. I did not know how much rest was waiting for me there.

Chapter 7

My World, Falling Apart

Upon my return to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas I was greeted at the port by two men with badges, one was FBI the other was IRS. They had questions that I could not answer, without betraying my promise to Ariel. "Where are you getting the treasure?" "What are you doing with the money?" "Who is Ariel, is it a code name for a terrorist group or drug cartel?" "How are you getting so much treasure without a larger ship and a crew?" "Who was getting the reverse osmoses machines and why do they need so many?" Unable to give satisfactory answers, I was arrested.

My lawyer told me they had a lot of circumstantial evidence, and it looked bad for me. There was not enough paper work to show where the money was going, and where the gold was really coming from.

I sent a letter to Ariel's beach house to inform her of what was going on. This may be the end of my helping her, and for her to stay away for awhile. The police may be watching the house.

A couple of months went by before my trial started. At the trial the prosecution had a strong circumstantial case, and my future did not look good. When the prosecution rested, a voice came from the back of the courtroom, "I demand to be heard!" the lovely voice said. I recognized it at once and spun around to see Ariel sitting in a wheel chair at the back of the room. She was wearing a green silk robe that covered her from the shoulders to her feet and her red hair was flowing over both shoulders. She had two burly men, one on each side of her, wearing suits that were too big for them. One held a blue Trident! I also recognized the men as two of Atlantica's palace guards, Chub and Blenny. The judge hammered his gavel, and demanded to know what was going on.

I told my lawyer "ask for a 5 minute recess!" He did and it was granted.

"What are you doing, get out of here?" I told Ariel, and then asked "What happened, are you hurt?"

All she would say is "I'm OK! Trust me. I know what I am doing!"

When the court was back in session, again Ariel demanded to be heard.

"Who are you? What connection do you have to this case?" asked the judge.

"I am Princess Ariel from Atlantica. This man has done nothing wrong! I wish to be heard, as a friend of the court!" she said in a strong but sweet voice.

The room buzzed with whispers. The judge hammered his gavel again and ordered "Order! I see. Does the prosecution have any objection?"

The Prosecutor replied. "No your honor, not at this time! But I may once we know more!"

"Defense?" asked the Judge.

My lawyer looked at me, and I shook my head. He knew I had not told him everything so he said, "Lets hear what she has to say your honor!"

"Proceed, but I am warning you, young lady, I will not tolerate any theatrics." said the Judge.

"I am Princess Ariel from Atlantica. I have diplomatic papers from my Queen, Aquata. We have been giving Mr. Stanton the gold from our treasury to buy the reverse osmosis water purifiers. The water in our Kingdom has become so polluted that we needed help from the outside world. This man has done only what a good friend would do." She said.

"Objection, your honor!" Said the prosecuting attorney.

This brought another buzz of whispers. Again the judge hammered. "Order. What kind of fairy tale is this? I have never heard of a country called Atlantica. What proof do you have of what you say is true?"

"Here are my credentials." She handed the papers to the court bailiff, who handed them to the judge. As the judge opened the seaweed based papers and looked at them in confusion, Ariel continued. "My country, as you call it, is not on the land." At that point she through open her robe, to reveal that she was a mermaid. The courtroom gasped. Then began to laugh, as everyone thought it was a costume as I did mouths ago.

"Objection, your honor!" Said the prosecuting attorney, this time with sarcasm.

The judge hammered again. "Order! You are making a mockery of my court young lady. Explain yourself before I throw you in jail!"

Ariel ignored the laughter. "If you do not believe, take a closer look, touch if you wish and then make your ruling!" Ariel smirked with confidence.

The judge stepped down from his bench and approached the mermaid in the wheel chair. He bent down to take a closer look at her tail as she held it out for him to see. He examined her flukes and touched them. Ariel made her flukes fold back and touched the judge's hand. He jumped back and gave out a startled "Oh, My Lord!" The courtroom gasped and was a murmur everyone was talking at once. "Could this be true?" was the one common question. Ariel just giggled at the startled judge. When he returned to his bench, he just sat there for along time in deep thought. Staring at the myth in the middle of his courtroom, she continued to flip her flipper up and down and gave the judge a reassuring smile.

The room quieted in anticipation of what the judge might say. "There is no president for this. I am no expert on mermaids, but you do appear to be one. Your story fills in the blanks the defendant left in his story. Therefor," he gave her a smile back. "Case dismissed!" He hammered.

The courtroom got very noisy as the spectators push forward to see the mermaid. My lawyer shook my hand and said "congratulation, why didn't you tell me about her?"

"I could not, I had promised Ariel I would keep her a secret." I explained.

"Well she's not a secret anymore. What are you going to do now?" asked the lawyer.

"I don't know. I have to talk to Ariel!" I replied.

Ariel closed her robe and wheeled over to me and said "Push me out, we have to talk!" I got behind the chair and pushed toward the doors, as the two guards moved the crowd back.

There was some legal paper work that had to taken care of before I was released. Outside the courthouse a large crowd had gathered, along with members of the press. There was a table with a lot of microphones on it just outside the door. I made for the alley around back, but Ariel said, "Wait! Let me speak to the press."

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yes I'm sure. Trust me I know what I am doing." she reassured.

At the microphones, the mermaid Princess said. "First I have a statement. My Kingdom or country as you like to call it, is thousands of years old. It's because of our isolation that our country has survived as long as it has. It has only recently become necessary to contact the human world for needs that has become critical as of late. My good friend Roy has seen to those needs and will continue to do so, I hope." Ariel gave me a look with a warm smile. Continuing she said, "We will not make any alliances with any country or align with any ideology. We are a peaceful race and wish to be neutral! We also wish to be left alone! So please do not attempt to find us. We have ways of hiding from your location devices. Respect our wishes and we will make contact with the human world from time to time . . .. Are there any questions?"

A roar came from the crowd. Ariel pointed to a female reporter. She asked. "Can we get a picture of you, Please?"

Ariel turned to me. "Pick me up so everyone can get a picture of us."

Once again my jaw was in its usual state. "Wow, have you learned a lot about our human society. And I would love to!"

"I had to! My best friend needed me and I was not going to let him down. Aquata agreed, that it was time for us to come forward in the human world." Said Ariel as she removed her robe.

Picking her up from the wheel chair, and holding her as high as I could with one of my arms under her tail the other around her back. One of her arms around my neck the other out stretched. We smiled and Ariel flipped her tail. The flash bulbs were blinding, and the crowed pushed forward. But the two guards with the help of the police kept them from over running us. All the while I was thinking, "Now there are pictures of the mermaid, and I don't have a one." And wondering if my friends, who did not come on that trip, are laughing now?

Another reporter shouted. "Mister Stanton, how long have you known the mermaid?"

I replied. "Her name is Ariel! About 6 mouths, we meet when I was on a sailing vacation. You can't ask for a better friend. These people are the kindest and gentlest people I have ever met. They are people just like you and me! They have feelings and love and hurt just like we do! I hope you will give them the rights and respect that we all take for granted!"

Ariel said. "That was sweet. Thank you! OK, lets go. I have a . . . oh, what is it called? Oh, limousine . . .itís over there." She pointed the way.

We pushed our way to the limo. People shouting questions as we went.

Once in the limo, Ariel and I sat in the back and the two guards sat in front of us. One said to the driver, "To the hotel please." The limo eased out from the crush of people that had gathered around the car.

"You never cease to amaze me!" I said giving Ariel a hug. "You said you will learn to adjust to the human world, but I never thought you could do it so fast! You handled the court and the reporters like a pro!"

"As I once told someone else a long time ago, don't under estimate me'. I loaded up with a lot of books from the Library. Do you know they let you borrow them for free? Television is a great teacher too, if you stay away from all the junk that's on that thing." explained the worldly mermaid. She added "The hotel is a sea weed screen, we will change there and then go to the beach house. Chub and Blenny do not like the dry land and want to get back to the sea as soon as possible."

We arrived at the hotel's back door to avoid the crowd that had formed in the lobby waiting to see the mermaid. We went up to a room on the 12th floor, the floor that had the suites, using an employee elevator.

In the room Ariel changed herself into a human. We all changed our clothes and Ariel put on a blond wig. "My hair is a give away, no matter what I wear." she explained then added. "Do you think I should change its color?"

"No!" We all said in unison.

Finally at the beach house, I thanked Chub and Blenny for their help before they swam back home. Later Ariel and I caught up on what has been going on in each otherís life, over a kelp and seaweed dinner. Prepared by the royal chef, Otto. It seemed funny to me to have an octopus in the kitchen, but he did have a way of getting a lot of things done at once.

"How's the treasury holding up?" I asked.

"Keeping up the business, is a drain but I think we have the resources to last a long time." replied the girl.

"I have an idea I want to run by you. If you approve, it may be the end of using the royal treasury and your personal treasure as well."

"What! What is it?" She asked excitedly.

"Well remember back when I took you to the restaurant with the small band that you sang with?"

"Yes!"

"Do you remember the reaction that you got from everybody there?"

"Yes! But how is that going to help?"

"I know that you sing just for pleasure, but why not share that pleasure?" She gave me a smirk. "Hear me out! I can set up a recording session for you in a studio with just a few musicians and technicians. You can sing a few songs from the mer world and maybe an oldie or a pop or maybe even something new. Now that your secret is out the humans of the world will go mermaid crazy. You will be a hot item, and there is the merchandising, but we can get into that later. The revenue that your singing will make will keep your people in water makers for years. What do you think?" I waited for the shoe or fin in this case, to drop.

"I'll have to think about it. I don't want to draw anymore attention to me then I have to. But I know there is going to be a lot of that for awhile." she replied.

Before I could continue, there was a knock at the door. Opening the door revealed a man that had that, Iím from the Government, look to him. "Not again!" I said. "What this time?"

"It's not like that sir!" he replied. "The President of the United States would like to meet with you, and Princess Ariel if she would be so kind to grant him an audience."

Chapter 8

A Whole New World

Two days later we flew to Washington, DC aboard a chartered flight. It was Ariel's first airplane ride and she was glued to the window the whole trip. "Look at the clouds from the top, they look like sea foam, they're so beautiful. The sea is so blue from up here. The land is such a beautiful green...." Etc., was all the excited girl would talk about.

We arrived in Washington to the red carpet treatment. A Secrete Service detail was assigned to keep the press and public a safe distance from Ariel. As we were driven to the White House, we could see some groups of protesters. Protesting almost any subject that you could think of, they were even some protesting against Atlantica. "Don't let that bother you. In a free society of more than 200 million, they're always someone against something." I explained.

"I have read about your Constitution and the Bill of Rights and we have the same freedoms in Atlantica. But there are few that have anything to complain about, except the fishing and not enough water."

At the White House we were ushered into a sitting room to wait for the President to join us. Ariel was in mermaid form, so she was in a wheelchair with her Trident on the back, which gave the Secrete Service agents some concern. But relented when it was explained as a symbol of her office and I insisted on pushing her. Ariel had on her green silk robe, and her hair was up for a more formal look. Even I was in a suit.

When President Bush came in, there were the formal introductions, then we got down to the subject at hand.

As I watched the conversation, I could see that the President could not take his eyes off Ariel. The mermaidís charm and sweetness enchanted him too.

Here again I had my usual mouth open, jaw on the floor look.

Now the President had my expression too.

Ariel turned to me. "Roy, please hand me my Trident." As I pulled it out of its sheath, the Secret Service agents started to move in. The President held up his hand to halt them.

Ariel held the Trident points down and pointed it at her tail that was showing from under her robe. Then a blue glow formed that came from the Trident to her tail. The flash that followed was so bright that we all had to shield our eyes. A second later Ariel was standing in front of her chair.

We concluded our talks, which included a discussion of the water pollution problem and the rampant fishing. Then there was a photo op for the press in another room. Ariel had changed herself back into a mermaid and posed with the President. But it looked like the cameras were all focused on Ariel, including mine. I finally got my picture of the little mermaid.

We were invited to have dinner with the First Family and stay the night at the White House. I informed the President's Secretary of Ariel's strict vegetarian diet, so there would not be any embarrassment for either party.

Early next morning, I set off to explore the grounds around the White House. A Secret Service agent told me "Princess Ariel was already up and is in the Rose Garden" and pointed the way. When I entered the garden, I saw Ariel sitting on the grass her back was to me, so I just watched her for a minute. There were a lot of birds and some squirrels around her. She was talking to them and feeding them some scraps of bread that she must have gotten from the kitchen.

Clearing my throat caused the birds fly off and the squirrels scamper away. Ariel turned and said, "Oh, it's you! Come and join me, isn't this is a beautiful garden. I love the smell of the flowers and the clean grass. I had forgotten how sweet they smell." She was wearing a white dress that was long and full. The sleeves were long and the neckline was tastefully high, but she still had the blue sapphire around her neck. She went on to say "I don't want to tell anyone about the other powers of the Tridents. They may want to take them away from us."

"I agree, there are a lot of aggressive countries or even individuals that would want that power for themselves. We will ask the President to keep the magic thing secrete too, for the same reason. And I am sorry for freighting off all your little friends." I added.

We saw the President with some other men come out to greet us. "I have to say goodbye now I have other duties to take care of, I will put an airplane at your disposal."

"Thank you, Mr. President. We have reservations to go to Nashville. Where Ariel is going to make an album"

"You sing too? What a delightful young lady you are. Well if I can't do anything else, I will say goodbye!" said the President.

Before he left, Ariel informed him of her desire to keep the Trident's power a secret, which he agreed too.

"Songs of the Mermaid, cut one, take one." Said a voice over the intercom from the sound booth. The orchestra began and Ariel joined in. Fighting the mesmerizing effect of her voice, I watched the others in the booth with the mixing engineer. Their eyes were all glazed over. "If the effect of her sweet voice can be recorded, it will be an instant hit." I thought.

"Cut!" said the recording engineer. "You are great sweetheart. I need to make a mic adjustment!"

"A mike adjustment, what does that mean?" Ariel asked me.

"He is not happy with the way the microphone sounds," I pointed to the Ďwhatsití, as she called it, that she had been instructed to sing into. "He will make some changes and then we will continue."

"OK, I understand!" and she waited for the engineer to make his changes.

The recording engineer set up a microphone at Ariel's fin. "She is slapping the floor to the music with her tail," he said "and it's a perfect clap sound, I want to get it on a track." he explained.

After he made his changes, the engineer returned to the booth. "Songs of the Mermaid cut one take two!" his voice said over the intercom and he pointed at Ariel. The orchestra began and she started to sing again.

She went through song after song, with each requiring just one or two takes. The producer was amazed. He had never seen a singer that knew her stuff like Ariel. He wanted to sign her to a multiyear multimillion-dollar contract. But she told him "You are vary kind, but no thank you, I would like to keep my singing personal and just for fun. Besides, I don't sign contracts anymore." He did not know what she meant about the contract signing aversion, but he did ask. "Where did you learned to sing so well?" Her answer was. "My music teacher, Sebastian, made me work on my scales!" With that she held her tail straight out, everyone laughed.

Within a week Ariel's songs were being played on the radio and the mermaid craze had started. There were T-shirts, hats, posters, even a soft drink called Coral Cola! Before we left St. Thomas, I had set my lawyer to work on copyrighting Ariel's likeness. We had decided not to stop anyone who used her image, but asked for a small percentage to go toward the mer-fund for cleaning up the waters of the world.

When we returned to the beach house, the mail was piling up with offers from TV and newspapers all wanting an interview. There were telegrams from Oprah, Jay, and Larry, all wanting Ariel to appear on their programs. There were offers from music producers, and three major movie producers all wanting to do her life story.

"It looks like I was right, about the human world putting you under the microscope. But it's the microscope of a celebrity." I said, "So you have won the hearts of the human world, what are you going to do next?"

"Let's spread the wealth." replied Ariel. There was a devilish look in her eye. "Let's find an unknown to give an interview too."

The next morning I went into town, located the growing press core, and asked around. Finding a little known English reporter named Peter Matson that has only worked for Reuters for six months, I asked him to meet me at the corner restaurant for a small mermaid related story. When he walked into the restaurant, I invited him to sit.

He asked in a heavy British accent. "W'atís t'is about?"

"Would you like an exclusive interview with Ariel?" I asked back.

"Aye, but not bloody likely!" He replied. "ĎAve you seen the security t'ey Ďave put on out there?" he added in his heavy British accent.

We ordered coffee and tea from the waitress that came and interrupted us. Then she said. "Oh! I know you. I've seen you on TV. Your Roy what's his name, the one with the mermaid! Right?"

"Yes! Thank you, can you get our drinks now, please?"

"OK right away sir!" and she ran off to get the coffee and tea.

Peter Matson had the expression I have now made famous. Mouth open, jaw on floor, and eyes wide. In other words, looking like a complete idiot.

"Well? What do you say, do you want the interview?" I asked.

"Yes, Yes, I do! But why me?" he asked.

"About six mouths ago I was a nobody too, then this lovely mermaid came into my life. Now waitresses at places like this restaurant recognize me . . . and almost know my name. Ariel likes to help the under dogs of the world and now she needs help with her quest to clean up the waters of the world. Will you help her and do it?"

Peter agreed to do the interview. I gave him the address of the beach house and told him that the security, which we had to hire, will be expecting him around 2:00 P.M. the following day.

The next afternoon Peter Matson and a cameraman arrived at the beach house door. They set up in the living room and when they were ready, I wheeled Ariel in. She was in mermaid form so she was in her wheelchair. The cameraman said to himself but we heard it as well "Blimey, she's a better looker in person." Ariel blushed a little and I did the introductions and the interview started.

Peter Matson was a good interviewer and gave Ariel every courtesy. He too was enchanted with her charm and sweetness. Ariel was cautious with her answers. She did not want to give away too much. Some of the Q and A went like this.

I noticed his accent was a lot less noticeable when he is interviewing.

Ariel never brought up the subject of the Tridents and Peter did not either. Either he did not know to ask or had been instructed not too.

Ariel did not want the world to know that she had the power to take on the human form.

I interrupted "How can anyone not be in love with her? Just look at her. She is so sweet and charming. She's an innocent, not corrupted by the things that corrupt all of us."

Ariel blushed "See why I like him, he's so sweet to me."

Peter Matson was awkward with his next question. "Can we see your tail, can you move it for the camera. The audience will want to see that you are a real mermaid?"

"Sure!" Replied Ariel. She extended her flipper up at a 45-degree angel and did what would be equivalent to kicks. She then asked me to wheel her to the beach and invited Peter Matson and his cameraman to fallow.

At the waters edge Ariel asked me to carry her out into the surf. Once in the water she put on a show of swimming mermaid style. She did high-speed runs and high jumps with somersaults in mid air and perfect dives at the end.

At the end of her demonstration, I helped Ariel back into her wheelchair. Then Peter Matson asked a question, we had hoped he wouldn't have. "I have heard from some witnesses that you have been seen around town with lags, not a tail. How do you explain this?"

Ariel handled the question with only a small lip bite. "Yes, that's right!" I looked at her in shock. "We do have the ability to change into human form. I only do it when I can't get something done any other way. The rest of my people do not do it because there is no need for them to go to the surface. All we need is below the sea, except fresh water and my good friend Roy has taken care of that."

"Is there anything you would like to tell the human world?" was Peter's last question.

"Yes! No one person or country owns the Sea. There are a lot of creatures that live in the oceans of the world. How would you like it if we dumped waste in your world, or harvested food from your land? We only ask that the human world stop dumping waste in the oceans and stop fishing in the areas I have shown to President Bush. Also, we are not a threat to anyone so I ask the human world to respect our wish to be left alone. I do understand your curiosity about us so if anyone wishes to contact us please do so by contacting Roy Stanton's diplomatic office."

Chapter 9

Someone Evil This Way Comes

The next two weeks went by like a flash. I had to assemble a staff to take care of the business that has grown into something too large to be handled by myself. I convinced two of my friends, Lee and Scott, to move to Saint Thomas and help me with the company and diplomatic offices. These were two of the guys that had missed the vacation that had started it all.

Money was pouring in from the record album and the merchandising. Also, there were a lot of donations to the Mermaid's Fund for Clean Water. We acquired the small island that I refer to as ĎOur Islandí and renamed it ĎWest Atlanticaí. Lee was a good manager he took over all the duties of running the company. Scott handled the business duties of the diplomatic office. Each put on a staff to help them with their duties. This gave me more time to work directly with the merpeople and one in particular.

Ship's Log The Fowl Wind: "June 24, 1990 1300 hours, wind is out of the East at 12 knots, pressure is 1020 millibars and the sky is clear. I am two nautical miles from West Atlantica. With most of the work to set up our offices in Saint Thomas done, I am going to meet with Ariel at South Beach, the beach where I first saw her, to discuss some details of how we are to forward information to Atlantica. Roy D. Stanton, Captain."

Motoring the Fowl Wind around the rocky point that separates South Beach from West Beach, I could see Ariel on the sand waving to me. She entered the water and was swimming out to meet me, when a speedboat came around the east-end of the island and headed straight for Ariel. My shouting and waving to get their attention to stop or turn them away went unnoticed. The boat continued on. There were four men in the boat I recognized two of them as our attackers months ago on Saint Thomas. I waved and shouted again, this time to try to warn Ariel, but she was too deep under the water and the powerboat made too much noise.

At the speedboat's closest approach to where Ariel was, they threw something in the water. A second later, the surface erupted in an explosion. Helpless, I watched as Ariel's body floated to the surface and the men threw a net over her and hauled her up into their boat. It then turned around and headed out the way it came.

I grabbed my binoculars but not in time to get the name of the boat before it rounded the island. I pushed my boat up to full speed, all of eight knots. The motor roared as it struggled to push my bulky sailboat through the water, but it was no match for the speed of a planing powerboat. From the Eastside of the island, I could see the speedboat meet a larger power yacht. I focused my binoculars on the boats. I was unable to make out any markings but it did have a distinctive look and flew a black flag with "AF" in white on it.

"Roy" a voice called from the stern of my boat. I pulled back on the throttle and shut of the motor, and looked over the stern to see Arista with two mermen. "What happened?" she asked. "We heard an explosion."

"They have taken Ariel!" Pointing the direction. "They used dynamite on her. She was limp when they pulled her out of the water! My boat isn't fast enough to catch them." Tears were welling up in my eyes. The yacht powered up and started to leave. "Can you follow them or try to get a name or number off the yacht?"

Arista replied, "We will try!" then she instructed the two mermen. "Follow that ship and one of you report back here when they reach their destination!" The two men saluted and headed off.

I helped Arista into my boat to wait for the mermenís return. "Did Ariel have her Trident with her?" I asked.

"No, I think she left it at the Palace, but she always has her amulet with her!" replied the mermaid.

"I think they were the same men that attacked us on Saint Thomas. They know about the amulet. I'm sure they will take it away from her."

On a small, but well fortified, island about 60 miles Southeast of Puerto Rico, Ariel comes too. Her mind is fuzzy and it is hard for her eyes to focus. She knew she was in water but there was something wrong. She struggles to gain control of her senses, and then she reaches for her amulet at her chest. It was gone.

"Is this what you are looking for?" a voice said. It sounded the way a voice sound when she is in the water and the speaker is not.

She tried to swim and ran into something. Her mind cleared and she could focus, but she could not see what she had run into. Using her hand, she felt the invisible wall in front of her. Realization hit home, she was in a large glass tank, an aquarium. There was a man standing just outside the tank looking at her. He was a short fat man with a bald head and dark evil eyes. She had seen eyes like that before, in a man called Slone¹ but that was a long time ago. He wear a three peace suit and shinny black shoes.

The man repeated "Is this what you are looking for?" he held up the sapphire amulet. "My men warned me of this trinket. I removed it when you arrived! Only I haven't figured out how it works, yet." He placed the jewel in his vest pocket.

"What do you want from me? A ransom?" Ariel Asked.

"No! Nothing!" answered the fat man. "I am a rich man. I own seven newspapers and five television stations, so I do not need anything from you or your kind!"

"Then why are you doing this to me?" asked the mermaid.

"To add you to my collection, of course!" He gestured to the rest of the room. It was full of aquariums even the walls were tanks. One of which Ariel was in. "You are my latest addition to my collection! Don't worry, I'll take good care of you. Just tell me what you want and what you eat and it's yours. I have added a fresh water hose to the top of the tank. All you need to do to get some water is to turn it on. I got this information from the newspapers. You can do whatever you want except leave, so don't try. Don't try to turn human, there isn't enough room at the top of the tank for you to get air so you might drown."

Ariel started to explore her tank. It was 25 feet long 10 feet wide and 10 feet deep. There were several hoses coming into the tank. Some take water out, some bringing water in and some were bubbling out air. One was fresh water with a valve at the lid. At one end of the tank was a tube about 24 inches in diameter that connected to a smaller tank that was shrouded in black drapes. The fat man said "I will allow you into the other tank to take care of personal matters. But if you do not return to the larger tank, I will induce an electric shock into the water to drive you back." The water was sea water and at a comfortable temperature. The tank's lid was locked down so it could not be opened from the inside. The lid also had a small hatch to let in food. A panic attack came upon her and she darted from end to end.

"It's no use, you can't get out. So calm down, you might hurt yourself and we can't have that, can we. Even if you did get out, the building is kept locked and has alarms and guards to keep people out. As well as keep my specimens in!" explained the little round man.

"What are you going to do with me?" she asked, chewing on a fingernail.

"Don't you understand? You are part of my collection. Like the rest of my specimens, you are here to look at! By the way, my name is Alex Fairbank. You can call me Alex!" said the fat man, shyly.

"That's it? I'm just another fish to you?" Ariel's anger flared and her face turned almost as red as her hair.

"Yes! And don't get your hopes up for a rescue. My men said no one followed them. Even if someone did, I have armed guards and electric fences around this island."

The little mermaid floated to the bottom of the tank and turned her back to the man that would be her keeper. Sitting on the bottom of the tank, she pulled her tail up to her chest and huddled in fright. She felt despair closing in on her. She could not see any way out of this adventure. Still not feeling well from the blast that knocked her unconscious, Ariel decided to try to get some sleep. "Maybe this nightmare will be gone in the morning," she thought.

The confused girl lay there for hours before sleep finally overtook her. But was jolted back to reality by Alex opening the hatch at the top of her tank, to drop in some small fish. "What's the fish for?" she asked.

"For you to eat!" replied the fat man.

Ariel's stomach tied in knots. To the shock of Alex, the mermaid started to talk to them.

She was not surprised that none of the fish could talk. Only the fish around mer cities have the power of speech. But she managed to reassure the fish that she was not going to eat them. The fish continued to swim about the tank and Ariel settled back to the bottom.

"If you don't eat fish, what do you eat?" asked Alex. He waited for a response that did not come. "If you don't tell me what you eat, I won't know what to feed you." he snapped. Still no response, "If you don't eat, you will get sick and die. Then I'll just have to catch another mermaid. Maybe the next one won't be so stubborn."

'Catch another mermaid?' The words hit Ariel hard. She could not allow that to happen. Besides she needed to stay strong if someone is trying to rescue her. "I will eat kelp!" she sobbed.

"There, see you can be reasonable. Very well I will get you some kelp." And the little man left the mermaid alone.

When Alex returned he had a bucket full of kelp. He climbed up the catwalk system above the aquariums. Opening the small hatch in the lid to the mermaid's tank he dumped the contents of the bucket into the water.

After the kelp and other debris settled to the bottom of the tank, Ariel picked up some and tasted it. The kelp was old and limp and tasted brackish. It must have been lying out in the sun on a beach after it washed up from the sea, before being picked up. It was awful some of it gagged the girl and turned her stomach. But it would keep her alive until help arrived, so she ate what she could.

Arista and I waited the rest of the day and most of the next. Aquata and the other sisters checked in from time to time to see if we had heard anything yet. When Reginald, one of the mermen that followed the yacht returned, he said "Princess Ariel is being held at a private island a half days swim to the Northwest. I can lead you back to the island when you are ready."

"Arista you get Ariel's Trident and five mermen that can fight and are willing to become human to rescue Ariel. Have them on my boat as soon as you can." I ordered.

"It's been two days now, how long are you going to mope. I want to see you swimming about like my other fish!" said Alex.

"I don't feel like entertaining you." snapped the mermaid.

"Why not? The other fish do!" snapped the fat man back.

"I'm not a fish. I am a mermaid. How would you like it if I had captured you and kept you in a tank at the bottom of the sea and fed you garbage?" Ariel said as big tears began to flow but could not be seen in the water of the aquarium.

Alex did not care how she felt. He wanted her to swim so he could watch her. "Swim!!" he yelled, "or I'll shock you in this aquarium!"

Ariel began to swim about the tank. "I have to stay ready and healthy, for my escape," she thought. "Who am I kidding? There's no hope." Despair began to creep over her again. "What am I thinking, I can't give up. There must be a way out of here. I have to keep my hopes up or I will surly die in this prison."

"You can see the yacht at the dock!" said Reginald. The Fowl Wind was on a Westerly course with a following wind and the sail set at wing to wing. There were Arista, Reginald and four other men aboard. Arista insisted in coming along, not just for her love for her little sister, which would have been reason enough, but she had listened to Ariel's adventures for years and now it was her turn. The five mermen all now human and wearing some of my clothes, were all crammed into the cockpit looking at the island Reginald had lead us too.

The other merman that followed the yacht, his name is Huet, came up behind the Fowl Wind. Arista changed him into a human and he put on a pair of my shorts and climbed into the cockpit too. I asked him for a layout of the island. He explained the island and its defenses with the detail of a skilled spy. We worked all night on a rescue plan, as we kept sailing West. "We don't want to raise their suspicions by hanging around the area, we will need surprise on our side." I said.

Huet said, "There was a way to get up to the main house under water. For some reason there is a channel from the sea to the house where large pumps take in sea water into the house." Arista and Huet would swim under the fences with the Trident after conjuring up a storm and then knock out their radar. A bolt would be fired into the air as a signal to me to bring the Fowl Wind straight for the dock. Just before we would arrive, the Trident would be brought to bear on the fence around the compound. The rest of us would rush the house after Arista passed us the Trident and we would use it to neutralize any resistance we might encounter.

Ariel lay at the bottom of her tank. Pretending to sleep, when Alex opened the hatch at the top of the aquarium to drop in some kelp. When he knelt over the opening to drop in the food, his own fat arms obstructed his view of the mermaid. All at once she had an arm around his neck and pulled him down hard against the cover to the tank. "Ouch!" hollered the fat little man. "Let go of me."

"Not until you open the lid to this prison!" she grunted, trying to hang onto the round man with one arm while reaching for his pocket with the other. Her grip with wet arms was slipping off. She tried to grab with the other arm. But the opening in the top of the tank was too small and the man was too round. Losing her grip, she fell back into the tank without the amulet.

Alex gasped for a breath, he was not use to this much strain. "You shouldn't have done that! I'll have to teach you a lesson in behavior." He climbed down from the catwalks that surround the aquariums in the viewing room. Sitting down at a control console, he located the right button and pushed it. A jolt of electricity stunned the girl. Ariel dropped back to the bottom of the tank and sobbed, not so much from the shock, but from her failure.

Even in a tank inside a building, Ariel could hear the thunder from a storm that was building outside. The sound of the storm made her long for the sea. "Will I ever see the sea again?" she thought.

At that moment a guard came rushing in. "Mr. Fairbank, the lightning has struck the house, knocking out the radar and the security systems."

"Get someone up to fix them, sergeant." ordered the fat man.

"Yes sir! It will take some time sir." Replied the sergeant of Alex's security force.

"Just do it, I have a bad mermaid I have to deal with!" ordered Alex. The guard left and the fat man turned his attention back to the aquarium. "Now where were we?"

There came a loud crash from outside. "Now what" complained the fat man as he turned toward the door.

Outside the Fowl Wind was on her side on a sandy beach. Because of the erratic winds of the storm, I had completely missed the dock and ran aground. From the beach we were closer to the channel where Arista and Huet were waiting. Five of us from the boat rushed the guards who were caught off guard and Reginald ran to Arista, still in the channel leading to the house, to get the Trident.

Reginald's first objective was to blasted the steel door to the guards' quarters, fusing the door shut. The guards, which were on duty, started shooting at us. Reginald tried to fire the Trident at a guard in a tower, but was hit in the arm, knocking him down and dropping the Trident. I fired back with my gun, hitting the guard. My stomach turned sick but I could not stop to be ill. Bullets were still coming from the remaining three guards.

"Regi, the Trident!" I yelled. He picked it up and tossed it to me. Thinking about what Ariel had told me about how it worked. I focused my mind on a shield around us. The Trident started to glow with a blue halo. The bullets were no longer getting through to us. Just as a short fat man came out of the house a bullet ricochet off the shield and hit him in the stomach. Seeing the fat man drop, the guards stopped shooting and ran over to him.

Dropping the shield, we moved in on the guards. Pointing my gun at them, I ordered them to drop their guns. The rest of my men swept the compound and gathered up everyone they found outside the house. One of the mermen used the Trident to turn off the storm and change Arista and Huet human to join in the round up, after getting some clothes from the beached Fowl Wind.

Arista and I searched the house for Ariel. We finally found her in a room of fish tanks. She was locked in the largest of these tanks and was lying on the bottom crying. When she heard us shout "Ariel," she picked up her head. The light in her face came on at the sight of friendly faces.

"Roy! Arista! Is that really you? How did you find me?" she asked.

Climbing up the catwalks and to her tank, I said. "Let's get you out of this thing first. We can talk later." Then released the latch and lifted the cover to the tank. Ariel sprang out of the water into my arms. I carried her down the stairs at the end of the row of aquariums. All the way she held onto me and cried.

"I c . . . c . . . can't t . . . tell you how g . . . g . . . glad I . . .I am you are here, it . . . it . . . was . . . horrible!" Ariel said through her sobs.

"It's OK, you are safe now!" I reassured her. "Let's get you off this island."

Outside, Ariel saw the mermen that were attending the wounded. She asked, "Did someone get hurt?"

"Yes!" answered Arista "two of our men, two guards and the fat man."

Ariel started to wiggle in my arms. "Put me down by them and get my Trident." she requested. I put her down near the injured and Arista handed her the Trident.

"No keep it away from me!" shouted the fat man and tried to crawl away from her. "Don't let it hurt me." He cried.

Huet bent down and put a hand on the man and said. "She's not going to hurt you. Just lay still." he instructed.

Ariel held her Trident over each man in turn. At each, a glow of blue surrounded the Trident and the man. When all were healed, Alex said. "Why did you do that, I was willing to let you die."

Ariel replied. "I can't let any creature suffer, not even an evil man like you. What I did is not a cure I can't remove any bullets, because they are not natural. But I did stop the bleeding. You will have to get a doctors help to remove the bullets." Then she reached into his pocket to retrieve her amulet. Alex tried to keep away from her but Huet held him down. "I'll take that," she added.

Ariel and Arista kept an eye on Alex and his men, while the rest of us worked to get the Fowl Wind off the beach. We used Alex's yacht to pull it into the bay. Once my boat was afloat, I shot some holes threw the hull of the yacht to make it sink. We also disabled any communications the island had after notifying the authorities of the medical need here on Alex Farbank's island. These measures would give us a chance to get back to West Atlantica before anyone could rescue Alex, and try to recapture Ariel.

With everyone else back on the refloated Fowl Wind, I went to Alex Fairbank. Leaning down to the frightened man, I told him "I would be cautious next time you venture out on the sea, if I were you. Ariel is the one of seven Princesses of a kingdom with 200,000 plus merfolk that love their Princesses. So I don't think the sea is a safe place for you any more." This was a bluff, because I knew that the mer people would never attack anyone with out cause.
 
 

Chapter 10

A Hard Time

Ships' log The Fowl Wind: "2330 hours local. Ten hours out from Alex Fairbank's island, The seas are calm and the wind is out of the East at seven knots. Boat speed, five knots, pressure is 990 millibars and rising. Arista and the mermen have returned to the sea, as my boat was too slow and crowded for them. Ariel, in mermaid form, is sleeping in my cabin and I will keep watch. Roy D. Stanton, Captain."

I stowed the log book in itsí drawer and turned on the HF radio. Setting it to the frequency that is used by the diplomatic core of Atlantica, I called Scott at our office on Saint Thomas to let them know I was returning to West Atlantica with Ariel. That business done, I settled into the corner bench of the cockpit and watched the Fowl Wind do its usual fine job of automatic sailing. The sky was clear and a meteor shower was putting on a fireworks display, it seemed, just for me. The only sound was the wind in the sails and the grown from their sheets tugging at the blocks and capstans pulling the boat through the water that made a gentle swish sound.

The silence was broken by a scream from my cabin. I jumped up and ran down into the cabin and into my stateroom. Ariel was sitting up in bed shaking and in a cold sweet. "What happened, are you all right?" She did not answer. She just sat there in the bed pulling her tail up to her chest. I went over to the bed and sat down. Putting my arms around her made her jump from being startled. Pulling her close, I held her and rocked her saying. "It's OK, you are safe now!" I felt her shaking slow after some time of rocking her and saying "It's OK! You had a bad dream!" When she started to cry, I said, "That's good let it out!" She cried for a long time, when her crying finally slowed, I felt her relax when sleep finally came to the girl.

The Fowl Wind sailed through the night and I continued to hold the sleeping mermaid. From my position on the bed the control console in the main salon was in view through the door. Making it possible for me to keep an eye on the radar encase another vessel came along or land was in our path.

It was late morning when the auto helm beeping awoke me. It was warning me that we were approaching West Atlantica. Ariel was still asleep in my arms. I slowly slid her down to the bed. My bones creaked and muscles ached when I tried to get up and make my way into the salon. Silencing the auto helm was followed by "Where are we?" Ariel asked from my stateroom.

"We are almost home!" I reassured her. "Will you be all right, if I go up to bring us into the lagoon?" I asked.

"I'll be OK, but can you take me with you? I want to see the sea!"

"Sure, I'll be right there." and I did with a lot of complaining from my bones.

I piloted the Fowl Wind into the lagoon and set the anchors while Ariel sat on a seat in the cockpit and stared at the island and the sea around it. "It's even more beautiful then I remembered it. When I thought I would never see the sea again, I would try to remember this place. It was what kept my hopes alive." She said.

"I know it will be difficult, but try to forget your ordeal. Get some rest and relax for a few days. You'll feel better when your routine is normal. I'll stick around too do some work on my boat. That way I'll be here if you need to talk or anything."

"Thanks, I'll do that." and she jumped into the clear warm water of the lagoon.

The next two days was spent fixing a lot of things that had been neglected on the Fowl Wind far too long. Ariel could be seen from time to time swimming in the lagoon with her fish friends and other mermaids. One evening she had dinner with me on the boat, but she still did not have that sweet spark, that spirit, that we all love in her. On the third day, with most of the work on the boat done, I took the afternoon off and spent it on the beach. It was a hot and muggy day, so I had a beach chair in the serf to allow me to set half submerged in the slightly cooler and slightly wetter water. I was just starting to cool off when Ariel swam up beside me. I said "Hi!" and she replied "Hello!" back then she just sat there for a while and flipped water with her tail. "I need to get back to work." she finally said.

Deciding it was not a good time to make a princess joke, I just asked. "Back to work, what did you have in mind?"

"I want to know why our springs are polluted. What is it that humans do to make the water bad so far away, and what can I do to change it?" she explained. I could see how serious she was about this subject.

"Do you feel up to a lot of traveling?"

"Yes! I think I need to get busy, get my mind on something else, a new adventure. Will you help me? Please!"

"You know I will always be here for you! So, you go get packed. I need to make some calls. Meet me on the boat when you are ready."

At that moment a sound of falling water drew our attention to the inland lagoon. The waterfall had returned the water was coming in increasing volume. Ariel's eyes lit up and she swam around to the channel where the inland lagoon met the sea. I got out of my chair and walked to where the falls formed the inland lagoon and wadded into the fresh cool water. The mermaid got there first and had pulled herself up on a rock under the fall's spay to let the cool water hit her in the face then run down her hair and body. She made a beautiful sight, like something out of a fairy tale.

With a new adventure planned and the waterfall back, the sparkle came back to Ariel's eyes. She slid off the rock, swam over to where I was standing. She grabbed my arm and pulled me into the water with her. If anyone had seen us, they would have thought a fight was going on as we wrestled, splashing and pushing each other under the water. A mermaid has a big advantage in this type of contest. It ended with her saying "Thanks" and gave me a kiss on the cheek before she turned and swam off to get her things, leaving me sitting on the beach gasping and smiling.

On the Fowl Wind, I had just finished making some calls to arrange for some transportation, when I heard and saw the effects of the Trident as Ariel changed herself to human form. We always left some clothes in a seat locker in the cockpit for Ariel to change into as she came on board. A minute later she came into the cabin where I was working. Upon seeing the grin I still had from the kiss she gave me, she said. "What??"

"Nothing! I'm just happy you are feeling better." I said and tried to get serious as I rubbed my cheek where she had kissed me.

"Are we ready to go?" she asked, her eagerness bubbling over.

"Yes! But first I made a new hiding place for your Trident." I showed her the place I made under the deck boards. Ariel hid her Trident and I got the Fowl Wind under way.

We sailed to Saint Thomas where we picked up a flight to Miami and then on to New York. Ariel wore a scarf on her hair and sunglasses, so she would not be recognized. While we flew up the East Coast, I pointed out the large cities trying to impress her with the size of the population of the United States.

In New York we rented a car, knowing this was a slow and frustrating way to get around, but I wanted Ariel to see how crowded we humans choose to be. We saw the industry, the commerce, and the waste disposal systems. She was shocked when she saw the garbage barges taking the garbage out to sea to be dumped. Next we saw landfills where toxic waste were being dumped, and allowed to leak into the water table. I took her to many large cities in the U. S. and other countries, to get a feel of the scope of the problem.

What we saw was not all bad. We also visited the farming country to see where the food comes from. She had seen the food store in the village where the beach house is on St. Thomas. But when she saw the super markets, the sheer volume and the variety of food was awed the girl, except the fish section made her sick. We also visited a shopping mall this seemed to give her the most delight. All the thingamabobs, the whosits and whatsits that she had collected after falling into the sea were here all laid out new and shinny. She was a child again, running from store to store to see what new gadget she could discover. It excited me to watch a person for whom the world was new. Her innocence made me see things in a new light.

It was at one of these malls while running to see an umbrella that caught Ariel's eye that a commotion drew our attention. A man had stolen a woman's purse and was running our direction. Ariel pulled out an umbrella and took a sword fighting stance, "Halt!" she ordered. The man just pushed her umbrella away and continued by her. She spun around with the push, making her scarf fly off, and caught him in the side of the head from behind with the umbrella. The dazed man stopped his escape and turned to face the girl that interfered with it. He pulled out his gun. Just as nimble as her turn to strike the man, she used the umbrella on the man's gun, knocking it to the floor and then poked him in the stomach and slapped the sides of his face with the umbrella. Then inserted the weapon between his legs at the knees, she spun him around taking the man to the floor. All in the blink of and eye, "I said, HALT!" glared the now showing red head.

I picked up the gun he had dropped and asked. "Where did you learn to do that?"

"Eric taught me to use a sword, once you learn you never forget. These twirl-a-majiggers work like a sword."

As the crowd gathered around us and the mall security took the man away, someone recognized Ariel. "Look, isn't that the mermaid?" he said. "It looks like her, but she has Legs!" someone else said. A third said, "I read that she can have legs too!" People started to crowd around her, wanting to get her autograph or have their pictures taken with her.

Ariel was a good sport and tried to accommodate everyone by signing T-shirts, CD albums, posing for pictures and answering questions. One person asked "What's it like to be a mermaid, I mean what is it like where you live?" She tried to answer, but it was difficult for her to explain. I had to step in when I saw that she was getting tired. It took the help of the mall's security to get her out of the crowd.

During one of our stays in a local hotel, we looked at some maps to show Ariel where we had been and how much more of the world there is to see. I showed her how to find how big a city was and how many people lived in it. She was starting to understand how so many made so much pollution. With that in mind we next saw some businesses that recycled and others doing clean up of places that have been polluted. But it was obvious even to a mermaid that it was not enough.

By the end of the two-week tour, we were in Los Angeles California and exhausted. Ariel took some needed R and R on the beach in front of our Santa Monica hotel, while I caught up on some business matters. My work done, I joined Ariel on the sand. She was wearing a two-piece white bathing suit, sunglasses and a scarf over her hair. She was reading one of those super market tabloids and was startled when I came up and sat on the blanket that she was lying on.

"It's only me!" I reassured her. "How are you doing?"

"Fine! I'm sorry for being so jumpy, but look at this!" she held up the paper to show me the article she was reading.

It was a story about the threat to humanity from the mer world, with a byline from some reporter that I never heard of before.

"Where did you get this rag?"

"It was blowing along the beach, I picked it up to put in one of the trash containers. But the story about us caught my eye. I had to read it."

"Look, it's one of those papers I told you about. They will print anything that will sell papers. It does not have to be true. They don't even check the facts. See!" Pointing to the paper's masthead. "It's owned by Alex Fairbank. So don't give it a thought, you know what kind of man he is."

"He is an evil man, but some people read and believe the things that are in this type of paper. They don't know what kind of person he is, they just read and believe." said the worried girl.

"Let's not think about him, we need to figure out where we go from here." I changed the subject.

"I was just thinking about that. What I can do to make people aware of the pollution problem and what it means to my world." she said, followed by a heavy sigh.

"I know you once said that you don't want any attention, but look around you. What do you see?" I asked, as we looked up and down the beach. We could see that mermaid merchandise was every where. There were mermaid towels, T-shirts, hats, swim suits, ice chests, and umbrellas, just to name a few. "You are a celebrity and the world loves you. You can use this public attention to get your point out in the open."

"I'm not that popular!" she smirked.

"Want to bet, let's see if people believe you or Alex." I reached for the sunglasses and scarf and pulled them off the surprised girl. Then took her by her hands and pulled her to her feet. Ariel's hair, feel from the roll it was in when it was under the scarf. There she stood, without anything to shield who she was. Her red hair blowing in the gentle summer time on shore breeze. It only took a second before someone recognized her. Within a minute a crowd had gathered around her, all wanting her autograph and their picture taken with her. She was as graceful at public relations as she was a swimmer and with a lovely smile she greeted everyone that came to her. "I rest my case." I boasted.

Later back in our hotel suite, Ariel playfully hit me and pouted. "That was a dirty trick, you did to me. You embarrassed me!" and she hit me again.

The pout turned to smiles and giggles when I tickled her back and said. "You deserved it." Holding her close, I got serious. "I know Alex Fairbank frightens you. But most of the people in the human world loves you and wants to know more about you and your world. What happened just now on the beach and last week at the mall proves it. Take advantaged of your popularity while it lasts. If you wait too long, people will say. Ariel who?'"

"OK. You win. How do we do this?"

"We have already received hundreds of invitations for you to speak at Universities, clubs and charities. But I think we need some professional help."

She looked at me with a puzzled face.

Continuing to hold her and letting our lips drifted closer, Arielís eyes closed. At one inch from what I have hoped for, for so long, the phone rang. The sound startled the girl and she broke our embrace. Her face turned from a puzzled look to one of confusion. She turned and ran to her room in our two bed room suit.

Answering the phone, "Hello!" I said with an edge to my voice. It was only the office with a minor delivery problem with the Ďwater makersí.

Chapter 11

A Star is born?

"Mr. Hammond will see you shortly, please have a seat!" said the pretty Ms. Barbone, Mr. Hammond's receptionist. The waiting room of The Hammond Agency was as small as the agency itself. It was crowded with just a small couch, two chairs and a table with copies of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter on it. There were a lot of pictures on the walls but I was unable to recognize any of the people in them.

The intercom buzzed. "Mr. Hammond will see you now." Said Ms. Barbone, as she stood and opened the door next to her small desk.

"Come in, come in!" said the cheery Mr. Hammond. "What can I do for you? Does one or maybe even both of you need an agent? Well you've come to the right place. I represent many of the new faces in Hollywood. So what do you do, sing, act, dance, write, what will it be?" added the talkative Mr. Hammond.

Mr. Hammond was a small man. To say he is about five feet would be generous. Black slicked back hair a pointy noise and a smile that looked glued on. His suit was the kind you would think a used car salesman would wear.

"It's not like that, we need someone to setup a speaking tour and maybe help us produce a documentary." I said.

"OK, . . . but who are you?" asked the grinning man. Ariel had on a Navy blue pantsuit and her dark glasses and scarf, so no one could recognize her, it worked. She removed her sunglasses and scarf and shook out her hair.

"Oh! Oh my god! You're her, the mermaid. Can I represent you, oh please say yes?" groveled Mr. Hammond.

"If you can keep it low profile! We don't want a big to do, we just need some help setting up a speaking tour and putting together the equipment needed to make an under the sea documentary. Can you do that?" I gave him a skeptical look.

"Low profile? Oh yes I can do that, yes." he turned to a Rolodex and fumbled through the cards.

Ariel giggled. "He reminds me of my friend, Sebastian."

"Sebastian? Who's Sebastian and who handles him?" asked the nervous man.

"He was my music and philosophy teacher. You are a lot like him. He is a crab!" she replied.

"Well I might get upset from time to time but I don't think I am crabby." defended the little man.

"You don't understand. He is a crab!" said the girl and jester with her hands to make sign of a crab.

"Oh . . . Oh! I get it!" laughed the wiry man.

"It's OK Ariel, he will get it when he sees the film."

Two weeks later, back on West Atlantica, we prepared for our movie making adventure. I got the underwater camera ready then Ariel changed us to merpeople. It took two weeks to get every thing we wanted on film.

Back on the Fowl Wind we stowed the film, the camera equipment and Ariel's Trident, before getting underway. She changed into a pair of blue shorts and white halter top because tropical heat was on. I changed into something cool too.

After clearing the reef, we heard the sound of a large powerboat. It came around the island at full speed. We recognized the boat by its black and white flag, it was Alex Fairbank's yacht and it was headed straight for us.

When Alex's boat was just a 100 feet away I did a quick jibe, to turn way. The hasty maneuver caused the main sail to snap to the other side so fast and hard, that it snapped the boom sheet. With the main sail uselessly flapping in the wind I tried to roll it up and start the motor. Working at the rigging, I did not notice that the yacht was turning around to make another pass at us until my attention was directed back to the attacking yacht by Ariel screaming. "He's coming back." Trying to turn away again, I was too late. The yacht hit the Fowl Wind broad side amidships on the port side.

The Fowl Wind rolled over on her side as the powerboat ran her over, throwing Ariel and I into the sea. When we surfaced, the yacht was speeding away and the remains of my boat were floating in a widening field of debris. "Ariel!" I called.

"Over here!" came her answer.

"Are you all right?"

"Yes, I think so. How about you?"

"I'm OK, but look what he did to my boat!" I look around to see if there was anything useful still in one peace. I found the life ring and the man overboard poll still tied together by a line. There were a lot of cushions floating near by and Ariel being a good swimmer even in human form retrieved them for me. Using the line from the life ring I tied the ring and cushions together with the poll in the middle as a make shift raft. We used the raft to kick our way back to the island. All the time Alexís yacht was about a half mile away watching us.

"I guess we didn't sink his yacht in deep enough water, or he has more then one." I said.

"Let's hope he does not try to finish the job." Ariel worried.

"Is there anything you can do to get some help to get us back to land?" I asked.

"I'll check if there is anyone around!" with that she dove under the surface. Two minuets went by before she returned. Puffing she said. "I forgot I can't talk while under water as a human. But, there doesn't seem to be anyone around that I could get their attention. I'll try again."

Ariel kept trying to find someone to help as I kept kicking for the island and watched Alex's boat. With 500 yards to go, I heard the sound of the boat accelerating. I started to kick harder.

When Ariel returned to the surface, I told her. "The boat is coming, have you found some help?"

"Yes," she replied, as a couple of dolphins surfaced next to her. "Give them the rope!" she said and then told the dolphins "Pull us to shore as fast as you can!"

The two dolphins took the line in their mouths and started to swim to the island. The acceleration was so great that it was hard to hang onto the make shift raft. It was a good thing too, just as we took off the yacht roared by, just missing us. Before it could turn around, we were in the lagoon. But the yacht's pilot did not notice that we were on the other side of the reef, when he came at us again. This time the massive powerboat hit the reef and ground to a halt. We crawled onto the beach to the sound of the yachtís powerful engines trying to free it from the reefís grip. "It must have punched a hole in the hull." I said looking back at the yacht to see it pumping out large amounts of water and oil into the lagoon.

"It looks like it's really stuck. Oh my gosh, look at the pollution it's dumping into the sea!" said Ariel. The sight of the sea been defiled brought tears to her eyes. She turned to the dolphins and said "Thank you for your help. But can you do one more thing for me? Go get one of my sisters, please!" At that the two mammals sped off under the still clear water of the lagoon.

"Let's get out of sight of the yacht in case Alex decides to do something else, to try to kill us." I said. We ran into the tree line then worked our way to the rocks of the point that separates West Beach from South Beach. From this vantage point we could keep an eye on the yacht and watch for Ariel's sisters.

The crew on the yacht worked to free them selves from the reef and try to patch the hole in the hull of the yacht. Alex Fairbank was in the pilothouse yelling at everyone.

When a voice from the lagoon in front of South Beach called, "Ariel!" we worked our way down to where Arista and Andrina were waiting. We told them what had happened and I asked the mermaids "Can one of you retrieve Ariel's Trident from my boat and the other go get a Coast Guard boat. Do you remember what I said their boats look like?"

"I do!" said Andrina, and with a flip of her tail, she was off. Arista said "I always wanted to explore a ship wreck but I did not think it would be yours. Oh, I am sorry. I'll be back in a few!" and she was gone too.

Some distance away aboard a Coast Guard Cutter, patrolling the Caribbean Sea for drug smugglers. "Captain, there is a swimmer in the water 500 yards off the port bow!" Came the voice of one of the lookouts over the intercom in the bridge. "Ahead slow. Helm come to 133, make ready to retrieve the swimmer." the Captain ordered. The crew jumped to and was at stations when the next orders were "All stop, lower away the dory. Fire the life line." Again the crew rushed about their duties, when the lookout's voice came on again. "Sir, it's a mermaid!"

"Well that's something for the book. Stand down on the dory, bring me a megaphone." As the Captain approached the rail of the port bridge wing, a sailor handed him the megaphone. "Ahoy the mermaid, is there something we can do for you?"

Andrina shouted back "Yes, Roy Stanton and Princess Ariel have been attacked by Alex Fairbank. Roy's boat has been sunk and they are stranded on West Atlantica. Can you help?"

"We are on our way!" and the Captain turned to his Executive Officer and said "XO plot a course to West Atlantica and get underway at flank!" The Executive Office replied "Aye aye!" and shouted out his own orders. The cutter hauled in the lifeline and turned to a new course and sped off with a large group of the cutter's crew watching Andrina riding the bow wake.

"I think the tide is coming in. Fairbank's boat will be off the reef in a few minutes. I hope we have some help before then." I told Ariel.

"Let's find some place to hide." Ariel suggested. She no sooner got the words out when machine gun fire started from Alex's boat. The rocks around us started to splinter and shards flew about us.

"Get down!" I shouted. The shooting stopped when we were out of sight. I raised my head to take a look and the fire started again. I ducked just as a spray came across the rock above us, showering us with fragments. "We are pinned down, if we try to move we will be shot. If we stay here, they will come looking for us when they get off the reef."

"Ariel!" called Arista form the water in front of the rocky point where we were hiding. This brought another volley of gunfire, this time directed at the mermaid.

"Get down Arista!" I shouted. "God, don't let her get hit!" The shooting stopped and we did not hear any more voices. Ariel and I lay on the ground looking at each other. Ariel bit her lip and tears welled up in her eyes. "I don't think they hit her!" I reassured her, but not really knowing what happened.

The longest two minuets I have ever experienced pass before we heard Arista's voice. "Ariel! I'm OK! I'm in the South lagoon and I can't find your Trident."

"The hiding place I made in the boat is too good." I said, then shouting to Arista. "It's in the main salon, under the floor in a hidden compartment. Try again, please!"

"OK. I'll try!" Arista shouted back.

The roar from the yacht became louder as it made another attempt to get free. I peeked up over the rock. The boat was pulling off the reef and was pumping large amounts of water, oil and fuel into the sea. The yacht, now free, turned to the passage in the reef so it could get closer to the island. The crew was also working at putting the dinghy in the water. "Theyíre getting ready to come ashore. We need to get moving and fine some place to hide."

The yacht pulled into the lagoon just below where we were and drop its anchor. Three men with guns got in the dinghy and came ashore. One man stayed with the dinghy and the other two headed our direction. With the boats in closer to the island the rocks gave us a little more cover to move around behind. "Let's move to a new location, this is going to be the first place they look." We stayed as low to the ground as possible and worked our way to a location above the only route up the rocks.

Ariel stayed by a bend in the path as I hid behind a rock over looking the path. As the men approached, they saw Ariel ducking behind a bolder. One man yelled for her to halt and started to run after her. As the second man ran under my hiding place, I jumped on him, knocking him to the ground and dislodging his gun from his grip. The first man turned around and fired at me, his aim was high but if I had been standing it would not have. I grabbed the gun from the man I had knocked out and fired back, hitting him in the chest and legs.

I felt sick to my stomach, but when I saw him move I ran over to him and pointed the gun at him. "Don't move!" I order and took his gun from him. He was wearing a bulletproof vest, but the leg wound was enough to keep him from giving us any more trouble. I drug the unconscious man over by the wounded man to make it easier to keep an eye on them.

Ariel ran up to me and gave me a kiss. "You were wonderful!" she said. "I'll get the one on the beach!" and she ran to the edge of the rocks over looking the lagoon.

"Wait!" I hollered, but it was too late.

She was in plain view of the man at the dinghy. She grabbed the amulet around her neck as the gunfire started and she fell to the ground. "No!" I shouted and ran over to her and picked her up. "Ariel! . . . Ariel! Please be all right." Tears were starting to blur my vision when she stirred.

"I'm all right!" she groaned. "I used the amulet to protect me from the bullets as I knocked the man out." said the stunned girl. I looked down at what was left of the dinghy. It was a smashed pile of fiberglass with the man lying in the middle of it. "Remember the amulet gets its power from me. Did you know that bullets hit the shield a lot harder than harpoons?"

"Don't do that to me, you had me thinking you were killed!"

"I'm sorry. I don't like to do it either, it really takes a lot out of me. It's a last resort defense."

Our attention was suddenly drawn back to the yacht in the lagoon. It had pulled up its anchor and was heading at high speed to the channel in the reef, back out to sea. "Why is it leaving?" asked Ariel.

"Look!" I pointed to the South. "A Coast Guard ship. That's why Alex is leaving in a big rush."

The yacht accelerated up to run North and the Cost Guard cutter matched his speed and took up the chase. "Look, helicopters!" I pointed to the sky. One chopper took up the chase of the yacht. The other came in for a landing on the Southern beach. "Let's go!" I picked up all the guns from the two men we had encountered and helped Ariel as we headed to the beach on the South end of the island.

When we arrived on the beach, Ariel was getting her strength back. The chopper had landed and two armed men in Cost Guard uniforms got out and took up defensive positions. Andrina was on the sand at the water line. "Did I get some help or what?" boasted the girl.

Ariel and I went over to where the mermaid was lying and I said. "You were great! You really saved our necks, not to mention the rest of us."

A man in a uniform came over to where we were and asked, "Mr. Stanton, Princess Ariel, I presume? I'm Captain Rogers. We are in pursuit of the yacht that attacked you and hope to have the perpetrators in custody soon. We are ready to take you to St. Thomas when you are ready."

I handed him the guns and told him of the men up in the rocks just West of our location and the one on West Beach.

Ariel said, "Thank you Captain, this is my sister Andrina and we need to wait for my other sister Arista to come back. Can you do anything about the oil that Alex's boat dumped into the Sea?"

"Yes, I have already called for a spill clean up response. They will be here in a few hours! I am honored to meet you Princess Andrina."

Just as the Captain finished, Arista returned with Ariel's Trident. "Thanks Captain, but the Sea can't wait that long. Oh! This is my other sister Arista." Arista was sitting in the surf so just half of her red tail could be seen. She looked over her shoulder at the man with her long blond hair covering on eye. "Hello she said.

"H . . .h . . . hi! Stuttered the man as he pulled at his tie.

Ariel entered the water, Arista handed her the Trident and the three mermaids continued out to deeper water. When her clothes floated to the surface, Andrina retrieved them. Then a flash of blue light showed from under the water.

After we saw the three flippers all breach at the same time as they dove deeper I turned to the wide eyed, mouth open Captain, "That was my first reaction too." Realizing what I meant he snapped straight. "Come on if you really want to see something!" We worked our way over the rocks to the position overlooking the West lagoon where the oil slick was growing.

The three girls were already there with Arielís Trident aglow. The Coast Guard men were awed at the sight as the mermaid rounding up the oil into a large ball. When all the oil was gathered into the ball, the mermaid dove under it and a blue column of light raised the ball into the air. As it rose Ariel appeared under it, Trident in hand, pushing the oily mess higher. When it reached an altitude of, I guess a thousand feet a bolt of blue lighting sprang from the sea and destroyed the ball.

"Wow!" said Captain Rogers.

"Yes, she is pretty awesome. I would appreciate it if your report just said that the merpeople managed to disperse the oil, nothing more."

"Sure whatever you like, but can we call on her to help in future oil spills?"

"I think you can count on it. You can see why the pollution of the seas, all waters for that matter, are a big concern for the merpeople."

We worked our way down to meet the girls. When we arrived at the beach Captain Rogers was talking on his radio. I ran into the water and picked up Ariel and spun her around. "That was great, you are wonderful!" We fell in the serf as Andrina and Arista joined us and all four of us were laughing, rolling in the water and splashing each other.

"Excuse me!" Interrupted the Captain. "I hate to interrupt the celebration but I just got word that we caught the yacht and have arrested the people on board."

"That's great!" we all said in unison and went back to splashing about.

"Excuse me! . . . Excuse me! There is more!" insisted Captain Rogers. We stopped our frolic and turned our attention to the impatient Captain again. "The yacht has sunk, and has left a large oil slick. Could I impose on the Princess to help us now?"

"Oh yes, tell them I'll be right there." She turned to pick up her Trident. "Wait, which way is it?" I asked.

"I'll find it, I saw what way they left and I can hear the sound of the Coast Guard boat." Ariel assured me, and then she was off.

"We can leave any time you are ready, Mr. Stanton." said the uniformed man.

"Just one more minute Captain. Arista, Andrina can you retrieve the film canisters and my log books from the wrack of my boat and bring them to the house on St. Thomas?"

"We will try, see you there." replied Arista. Then she gave another over the shoulder look at the Coast Guard men before the two mermaids swam away.

"OK Captain, I am ready. You can take me to St. Thomas, please."

"Yes Sir." As we started back to the chopper, he added. "By the way, you wouldn't want to trade jobs would you?"

 

Chapter 12

Adventure Continued

The chopper landed at the Coast Guard base on Saint Thomas. I was escorted into an office where my statement was taken about what happened to Princess Ariel and myself on West Atlantica. Later at the beach house, while waiting for Ariel and her sisters to show up, I made some calls to locate a new boat and fill Scott in on what had happened.

It was 6:00 PM before Arista and Andrina arrived with the film canisters and log from the wreck of the Fowl Wind. My calls completed, I had some fruit and drinks ready. After sending the film and log to Scott to have them cleaned, we sat out on the deck by the sea where it was easy for me to help the mermaids out of the water. We talked about the adventure while we waited for Ariel to show up. Andrina and especially Arista were bubbling over with excitement. "I now understand what Ariel loved about her adventuring." said Andrina.

"I know, I never had so much fun!" giggled Arista.

"Hey! We were almost killed!" I interjected.

"It was scary at the time, but now it seems to have been a thrill. I can't wait for the next adventure." Andrina paused. "But I can't, I have a family that needs me at home." She sighed.

"I think that sounds wonderful. To have someone that loves you and needs you. That sounds like the greatest adventure to me." A blue flash from Arielís Trident as it turned Ariel human interrupted us. That was my cue to go in the house for a minute, as the girl came up the beach and retrieved some clothes that she leaves in a locker at the edge of the deck.

When the call of "OK, you can come out!" came I returned to the three girls at the deck table. Ariel filled us in on what had happened at the sinking of Alex's boat. "The captain of the Cost Guard boat said he would like to use my help at future oil spills. I think I will do that, it will have an immediate impact on improving the water. But I will need your help to get the information for me and help get me to the spill. Will you help?"

"You know I will!" I replied, "But I think we need to continue with our planes to educate the human population on the effects of water pollution on the mer world if you want any long term improvement in water quality."

The next morning Arista and Andrina returned to their home under the sea and I let Lee know that Mermaid Salvage was now in the spill clean up business. He was to setup a system to alert us of a spill and immediately arrange transportation to get us there.

Ariel and I returned to Hollywood to get our film edited and have the Hammond Agency arrange for Ariel's first speaking engagement.

For the next month we traveled to 20 cities in the U. S. and 5 in other countries. Ariel's show and tell were well received, there was standing room only at most. Some of the organizations that she spoke at were Universities, the Sierra Club, Green Peace and the United Nations. The UN asked her if they could negotiate with Atlantica on its admission into the world body. Ariel said she would pass it on to her sister Queen Aquata.

At the lectures Ariel would be in mermaid form and she would talk about the effects of pollution on the water and its effects on the merworld. At some of the venues, the spotlights would reflect off her scales and make flecks of colored light dance about the room in sync with her movement. The movie we made would come next this would let the audience see the merworld as a real place and not just a fantasy land. A short Q and A would follow, then she would end by singing ĎWe Share the Earthí, to prerecorded music. The mermaid's sweet voice would leave the audience in a trance and the applause would be delayed. After her talk she would sign autographs pose for pictures and answer more questions.

When we returned to St. Thomas for some needed R and R. and to take delivery of my new boat. Ariel christened it ĎFowl Wind IIí for me. It was a 53-foot Moorings sloop and was with out masts or sails and needed a couple of weeks more in the boat yard to be fitted to my specifications. It was to have the same electronics and rigging as my old boat with the addition of a satellite phone. Ariel could not understand how the phone worked, but loved to use it. "If only I could use it to talk to my sisters in Atlantica." she said.

"We'll work on it."

"Really, do you think it can be done?" her big blue eyes popped wide.

"I don't see why not, there will be some problems to overcome. But I think a telephone system could be made to work in Atlantica."

During this time I was subpoenaed and Ariel was requested to appear at a hearing in the matter of the United States verses Alex Fairbank. The hearing was to be in two weeks.

With two weeks to kill we decided to take a vacation. We both loved the sea and wanted to spend the time on it or in it. The Fowl Wind II would be in the boat yard for another month, so we flew to Miami and chartered a sailboat there. Exploring the Bahamas would be new for both of us.

Chapter 13

The Evil is Just Starting

Ships Log The Money Pit: "September 24, 1990: Ariel and I Left Miami on a course of 80 degrees for a two week cruse of the Bahamas. The wind is coming from 105 degrees at 10 knots. Pressure is 1010 millibars. Skies are partly cloudy, humidity 55%, temperature 90 degrees and 25-mile visibility. Roy D. Stanton, Captain." So ended the first log entry of our chartered boat.

This was to be a cruse of relaxation. Alex was in jail, the speaking tour was on hold and my new boat was being fitted by the boat yard on St. Thomas. We had nothing to do but relax and enjoy the sea. I set a course to Bimini, a nice two-day sail. The Money Pit was a nice boat, rigged for ease of sail and had most of the electronic toys too.

During the first part of the trip, I taught Ariel to sail and use the auto helm and the satellite phone. She taught me how the use the Trident. By the time we reached Bimini, we were both getting an understanding in the use of the device we were learning.

We anchored in a small cove near the Bimini Road. Ariel was curious as to what the Bimini Road was. I explained about the myths of the Bermuda Triangle and the rocks of the road that some people think are part of Atlantis.

"Atlantis! You want to know about Atlantis, next time we are in Atlantica, I'll take you to Atlantis." Ariel said.

When everything was secure, Ariel said she wanted to go for a swim. I had to make some calls to check on a problem back at the factory where we made the water makers. I told Ariel "You go ahead. I will catch up with you in 15 minutes."

Ariel took her Trident and dove into the water. After the familiar blue flash she returned to the boat rail and placed the Trident on the cockpit seat. "I'll leave this here, so you can join me when you are done." And with a flick of her tail she disappeared in the clear warm sea.

Graphic By Lisette LaSalle

When my work was finished I was preparing to turn myself into a merman, when there was a loud clap of thunder. Looking to the sky showed it was mostly clear. "What was that?" I thought. Suddenly the boat began to rock as the sea around it turned rough. Then Ariel's voice came from some distance. "Roy, get out of here!" Looking in the direction of her voice was noting but the open sea, a second later she leaped out of the chopping sea about 100 yards away, heading toward the boat. While she was in the air, a large hand of black water, grab the mermaid and pulled her back into the sea. Just as quick as it started, the sea was calm again.

"Oh no!" I said out loud, and grabbed the Trident and jumped into the water. Swimming around in the area where Ariel was pulled under for hours gave me no answers to what happened. Being a merman sure made a big difference. I did not have to worry about an air supply or how deep or how long I dove. I tried to find fish that could talk to find out what had happened and if they had seen Ariel.

My search lasted well into the night, when hunger and fatigue finally forced my return to the rented boat. Where I was able to force some food into my twisted, from worry, stomach and get a few restless hours of sleep. At daybreak, I was back at the search.

Days passed before finding a turtle that could speak, I asked. "Did you see a red headed mermaid about?"

"I . . . sure . . . did, she . . . was . . . taken . . . by . . . the . . . Sorceress!" said the slow spoken amphibian.

"What way did they go?"

"They . . . did . . . not . . . go . . . any . . . way. They . . . just . . . disappeared."

"What can I do? I don't know where to find her!" I was getting lost, without Ariel. Trying to clear my thoughts and figure this out, I came up with a question. "I'm new to this part of the ocean, where does this sorceress live?"

"No . . . one . . . ever . . . goes . . . there!"

"I will, tell me where to go, I mean, where is this sorceress."

The turtle gave me directions and said. "Don't . . . say . . . I . . . didn't . . . warn . . . you?"

I thanked the turtle and swam off in the direction he had indicated. I followed the bottom and the water was getting colder as the sea bottom fell deeper and deeper. It amazed me, even though the water was getting colder, my mer body could adjust and I stayed comfortable. It was not only getting colder but darker too.

There started to be a lot of shipwrecks littering the ocean floor. Most were old rusty hulks but some looked recent. There were also some old airplanes lying about. "So this is the Bermuda Triangle." I thought.

I slowed my speed and moved more cautiously not wanting to be surprised by anything, whatever it might be. Moving from wreck to wreck working my way deeper, I came upon an undersea ridge of rock. It had a cave a few feet up from where the ridge meets the bottom. I needed to get closer, so I worked my way around the wrecks and down to a place where I could see into the cave. It was a black hole that made my skin, and scales, crawl. Voices were coming from the black recesses of the cave.

One of the voices was Ariel's which gave me great relief. "Let me go, I'll get father to come and see you." she said. The other was a woman's voice that had a rough and evil sound to it. The evil voice said "I am going to imprison you in this cave for as many centuries as your father has imprisoned me."

Ariel replied. "If no one knows I am here, we will both be trapped, forever."

"I'll take my chance, that your daddy will come looking for you!"

I didn't know what to do, but I had to try something. Moving to a place just in front of the cave entrance, 50 feet away, next to a large outcrop of coral. I place the Trident behind the coral where I could hold it without it being seen from the cave. "Ariel!" I called.

"Roy, is that you? Get out of here as fast as you can." Ariel shouted.

I heard the evil voice say "Shut up!" to her prisoner.

An outline of a woman's face formed in the black of the cave entrance. Everything was black her face was just a different black, maybe blacker then the rest of the cave. "What do you want?" she said in the gruff voice.

"I'm looking for a mermaid named Ariel, have you seen her? She has red hair and a green tail." I asked, already knowing the answer.

"Go away little man. You have no idea what you are dealing with!" snarled the face.

"Look," I said trying to look confident. "I know she is in there. I want you to let her go! ... NOW!" I no sooner spoke the words and a black hand lashed out from the cave and knocked me back to the ocean floor.

The hand returned to the cave and the face said, "Now go away if you have any sense. Tell King Triton if he wants his daughter back to come here."

I picked myself up and returned to the rock where the Trident was. "Try that again, if you dare." I was shaking like a leaf. I did not know what this monster was capable of doing. I had to be ready for anything.

"You insolent worm, be gone or be dead!" growled the black aberration, and the black hand lashed out at me again. This time I was ready. Just as quick as the sorceress' attack I pulled the Trident out from behind the rock and fired energy bolt at the hand. The evil woman gave out a groan of pain and withdrew the hand.

When next she spoke, the gruff voice was replaced with honey and satin. "Oh, you have a Trident! You are the one who can help me. Please forgive my behavior. I did not know who you were. You have the power to free me from my prison. I have been trapped in this cave for so long that I forget my manners. If you free me, I will make it up to you." oiled the evil woman's face.

"Let the mermaid go!" I ordered.

"If I do will you set me free?"

"If you don't, I will destroy you!" I bluffed, because I did not know if I had the power or the knowledge to do it.

"How do I know if I let her go you will release me? Free me first, then she will be free too." pleaded the face.

"Let her go now or pay the consequences." I ordered, but getting worried that I may have to back up my bluff. I had no idea as to how the black face was being kept in the cave. It was magic beyond my understanding. But I was sure that she was put here for some kind of punishment. She was in a prison.

"But if I let her go you may leave without giving me freedom. What assurance can you give me that you will free me?" asked the woman.

I could detect that she was growing impatient with me. I had to play the bluff to the end or start shooting. I brought the Trident in line with the cave, and said. "You have two seconds to free the mermaid or I start shooting." I was really worried now, if I did have to fire, would it hurt Ariel? But the bluff was the only thing I could think of that would free her.

"OK! OK, you win I will let her go!" said the face and Ariel swim from the cave entrance.

"Ariel, swim around!" I said and motioned for her to not swim between the woman in the cave and me. But she did not do as I asked but continued to swim straight for me. "I have a bad feeling about this." I thought.

When Ariel was just five feet from me, she turns into the Black Hand of the woman in the cave and grabbed for the Trident. The hand fell short as it hit the shield I had seconds before put up around me. Still the force of the blow from the hand on the shield knocked me down and broke my concentration. The shield was gone and I had to swim a hasty retreat behind the rock. Regrouping my mind I let loose a volley of energy bolts at the hand and the rocks around the cave entrance. "I am through playing games with you, let her go or I will destroy you!"

"You win!" groaned the face in the cave. Ariel, this time the real Ariel swam from the cave and to the rock I was behind.

She was so glad to see me that she through her arms around my neck and kissed me. This was all the distraction the sorceress needed she lashed out with her black hand again and grab the Trident from my grip. "Oh no!" I shouted. "Swim for it."

Turning to swim away, Ariel grabbed my hand and held me back. "Not so fast, she doesn't know how to use it."

Ariel bit her lip, her brow furled up and her eyes narrowed as she turned toward the cave she raised her hand and said. "Trident!"

"No! No, not again." Came a groin from the cave as the Trident floated out from the entrance of the cave and into Ariel's hand.

Ariel turned to me with her big blue eyes. "That was so brave of you. Did you know you do not have the knowledge to do what you said?"

"Yes, that's what is called a bluff! You don't know how worried I was that she might have called."

"What! You don't know how to set me free?" yelled the sorceress.

"That's right, I just learned how to shoot the small energy bolts and transform myself to a merman."

"Who are you?" she quizzed.

"I am a human, which brings up a point I want to make. It's apparent that you are responsible for the missing ships and planes in this area. If you want to be set free, you will have to stop that practice. You may even be wanted to stand trial for your crimes against the human world. So I think it's best you stay where you are until we sort this out. In the mean time, it's to your best interest to stop taking ships and planes, to show that you are repentant."

"Oh, I will. I will be very grateful for your kind help in getting me released from my prison." The black face's voice was all silk and honey again.

Ariel and I swam away from the cave of the sorceress and headed back to the boat. "So tell me who that was and why is she held in that cave."

"She is an evil woman that did terrible things to merpeople, about 500 of your years ago. My father imprisoned her in the cave about 300 years ago, until she learned to be kind. As you can see by the number of human ships and flying machines that she has taken, she has not yet learned." Ariel explained.

"If you knew about her, why did you not warn me about her and the danger she is in this part of the sea?"

"I did not know we were in her part of the ocean. I have trouble telling where I am under the sea when I am above it. Besides no one has seen the sorceress in a long time, so I did not know what she was up to. As far as what she was doing to the human world!"

"So do you think she should stay in the cave?"

"My father imprisoned her and it's up to Aquata to decide if she can be released."

"If she is not released, what will stop her from going back to destroying human ships and airplanes?"

"This is a problem that we need to work on, how to keep her imprisoned and stop her from taking it out on the humans. We need to talk to Aquata and father."

We swam for hours before we returned to where our boat was anchored. When we surfaced, it was no where to be seen. "The Coast Guard must have found the boat and thought it was abandon, and towed it back to Miami. We will have to find someone to help us." I said with worry in my voice.

"That's not a problem!" exclaimed Ariel. "We can swim to Atlantica and then to Saint Thomas. It will only take us a week and a few days and I can teach you how to survive in the open ocean. It will be an adventure." Ariel bubbled excitedly.

"We won't be back in time for Alex Fairbank's trial!"

"Well! They will just have to postpone it then, won't they!" smirked Ariel.

"I don't think so, his lawyers will call for a dismissal if the prosecution is not ready. And we are the prosecution's case."

"Well let's swim for Saint Thomas and if we see a ship that can help us, we will take it. Things will work out, you'll see." said the confident mermaid.

So we swam and they didn't. But it was an adventure, Ariel taught me how to survive in the ocean. I learned how to find sea fruit, sleep with dolphins and how to avoid sharks and ask directions from passing fish. We did not see a single ship or boat until we were close to our destination, with one exception. It was mid day on our second day of our swim to Saint Thomas when Ariel pulled up short and whispered. "Do you hear that?"

Coming to a full stop I strained my ears. "Hear what?"

"Shhhh!" She whispered again. "Listen!"

Listening again reveled nothing to my ears, but I spoke in a low voice too. "What do you hear?"

"It's a floatamajigger!"

Having heard lots of boats now as a merman I was getting good at detecting them and telling what kind of ship it was by its sound. "I don't hear any ship!"

"It's getting closer, it's the kind that sails under the surface!"

"Oh, you mean a submarine!" An ear-piercing ping followed my outburst.

"Shhh!" Ariel hushed me by putting her hand over my mouth and put her lips to my ear. "It's vary close now, if it hears us it make that noise. We have to be still till it leaves."

Out of the murky darkness a large dark shape of the submarine came in to view. We had to make a hasty swim to get out of its way. After it slid silently by and left I said. "Wow those thing are dangerous for the mer people. No way is it going to give us a lift to Saint Thomas."

"Yes, they are the most danger to us but we have learned to listen for them."

"The Navy spends millions to make them silent. It would burst their bubble if they knew you could hear them."

"Did you not hear it?"

"Not till it was upon us. But now that I have heard one, maybe next time I will hear it. Hay let's have a little fun!"

"Huh?" said Ariel.

"Come on, let's catch up with it." Taking Ariel by the hand we swam hard to catch the speedy undersea vessel.

"What are we doing?" Asked the mermaid.

When we caught it, we maneuvered around the sub till I located one of the hydrophones. "Now sing!" I told the puzzled girl. "What?" "Sing!" I encouraged.

"Ahhhhh Ahhhh Ahhhh!" Came Ariel sweet voice. The sub slowed to a crawl and it's periscope rose to the surface.

"Cover you ears!" I said just in time. Another ear pricing ping came from the dark vessel. Taking Ariel by the hand again we swam to the surface, in front of the periscope. It swung around and past us then snapped back to look directly at us. "Hay! That ping hearts our ears!" I said looking right back at the scope. "Come on!" I took Ariel's hand again and we dove under the surface letting our tails breach. "That should give them something to ponder over as they try to put it in their reports." And I gave her a wink. "Now that the human world know about mer people I think you should make some sound to let the subs know you are there. So they won't make that sonar ping when you are there."

"I see, that's a great idea."

Chapter 14

A Friend No More

It took several days to get things back to normal and straighten out some legal problems with the Charter Company where we rented the Money Pit. Scott went to work on letting the governments of the world know of the danger around the sorceress' cave and to keep ships and planes away from that location.

Yes, we were too late for Alex Fairbankís hearing. The government lawyers tried to postpone the hearing till Ariel and I could be located. But his lawyers won the argument and he was just fined for pollution and firearms violations and released. This peace of news was a particular concern to Ariel. With Alex on the loose, he would try to capture her or another mermaid.

The next week my new boat was delivered. Ariel and I took it on a shake down and headed to West Atlantica. When we arrived there was a large ship, from the Mermaid Salvage Co. Ltd. "The Sea Maid", in the West lagoon. Lee was there with some people from my company in California. They were there to install the new telephone system my company had invented for use under water.

"Hello, Lee!" I shouted after setting the anchor. Ariel waved and then dove into the water with her Trident.

"Ahoy" he answered back.

I launched my dinghy and rowed to shore. Lee came over to help me pull the raft onto the sand. "Thanks, how's the work going?" I asked.

"Well things are going fine here on the island, but we have not seen any mer people. So we have not been able to get their help to start work in the sea. I think they know we are here but are too shy to make contact. Was that Ariel with you?"

"Yes, she is going home to see her family, when she returns I'll introduce you and ask her to get some mer help up here. Maybe you and some others will be invited to help at the Atlantica end. What would you say to that?"

"Wow, do you think so? That would be awesome!"

Lee showed me around the solar powered phone system. He showed me the new sea water batteries, that are charged from the solar array on the roof of a small building that housed the telephone equipment. The building also had a satellite antenna on its roof, for the satellite connection to the rest of the world. As Lee shown me around he talked like he invented it all and did all the work. But that is Lee. He has a pushy personality, but that is what makes him a good manager.

That night I invited Lee to have dinner with me on my boat. We had just finished dinner and clean up and were sitting in the boat's cockpit with a drink, when there was a splash and the boat rocked. There on a pad I had installed on the Fowl Wind II for just this purpose, sat a red hired mermaid.

"Hi guys!" she said.

"Hi!" I replied. "Join us for something to eat?"

"No thank you, I ate at the Palace, but you can help me!" she said and held out her arms for me to pick her up and bring her to where we were sitting.

We talked small talk for a while. This was Lee's first time talking with a mermaid and he was having a good time. Ariel's charm had worked its magic on another and made him her captive too. And the famous Lee Roudy personality was in high gear trying to charm the pretty mermaid.

"I spoke to Daddy, about the sorceress. He said, that if she ever got out of the cave, she could destroy us all. That the power of the Trident, is the only thing that can hold her prisoner, and that the human world has no means to control her." explained Ariel.

"Well I guess we will leave her where she is."

"The Trident power?" interrupted Lee. "What power are you talking about? I thought it was just a symbol."

Ariel's face turned almost as red as her hair and bit her lip. "OOPS!"

"That's OK. We can trust Lee!" I said and then added, "What you are about to hear cannot be repeated."

"OK!" he said with a puzzled look.

Ariel picked up her Trident and said "What you may call magic is just a tool we use in the sea." She pointed the Trident at the sky. A bolt of energy shot form itís end, flew up several hundred feet and exploded like a skyrocket burst. Then a blue glow formed about the Trident and the light grew until it enclosed the Fowl Wind II from stem to stern. The boat rose out of the water to a height of 20 feet at that point it tugged at the anchor lines. The boat settled back down into the water as gentle as a feather. "It has the power to destroy or save, it's up to the user to decide. In the wrong hands, the Trident could make him king of the world. In the right hands it could save the world. That's why no one must know of its total power. Most think it only changes me to and from being human. Can I trust you to keep my secret?" she smiled at Lee.

Lee looked stunned by the display of Trident's power. But when Ariel's smile fell on him, he melted and smiled back. "You have my word of honor. Not a word of this will leave my lips."

We continued to talk until well after sundown. "It's too dark for you to swim home tonight. Why don't you stay here tonight?" I said to Ariel. "You too Lee, I have plenty of room on my new boat." They both agreed to spend the night with me on the Fowl Wind II.

"Good that's settled, letís go below Lee!" I took him by the arm and directed him down into the cabin.

"Why are you leaving her out there alone? Does she need help getting to a cabin?" Lee puzzled.

"No but we need to give her some privacy." I insisted. At that moment a blue flash came in from the cabin door.

"What was that?" Lee asked.

"Wait, you will see."

A minute later Ariel walked into the salon area of the cabin. She was dressed in the light blue summer dress that is stored in one of the cockpit's seat locker. Lee's eyes almost popped out of his head. "Holy smoke, you are even more beautiful with legs." he blurted. The girl blushed, smiled shyly and said. "Thank you."

Any time Ariel is on my boat she uses the captain's cabin, it being the most comfortable. There are two smaller cabins, that Lee and I can use, but the nights are warm so I chose to sleep outside on deck. The Fowl Wind II's cockpit is in the center of the boat where in my old boat it was in the stern. This feature gives me a large flat deck on the stern just over the captain's cabin. This is the best feature of all, because when Ariel is in the cabin alone she often sings to herself. From the deck I can clearly hear her songs and that is the main reason I like to sleep outside.

I was not disappointed Ariel was in her usual great voice. Her smooth melody and sweet voice relaxed me and I was soon asleep. But my sleep was interrupted an hour later, by two loud voices coming from Ariel's cabin.

"Please leave Lee!"

"But I love you, and with the Trident we can rule the world." Lee's words hit me where it hurts the most. I was waiting to hear Ariel's reaction. My hopes would be realized when she replied "I don't love you and I don't want to rule anything!" But should I intervene or let her handle it?

Ariel softened her voice and tried to explain. "Lee, if we wanted to rule the world, we would have done that years ago. We do not want world domination just world understanding! Now understand this, please leave."

"I am young, good looking and you are beautiful we can make the perfect couple. I love you! And with your Trident we can have anything we want. Think of the respect we would get."

"I'm telling you for the last time, get out before I have to do something we will both regret." I knew she meant using her amulet and I did not want that. I jumped up and ran down the stairs and into Ariel's cabin. Lee was standing at the foot of her bed she was sitting up holding the sheet up to cover her barely seen white with blue edging silk nightshirt. The sapphire amulet was already starting to glow.

"Lee, she wants you to leave! You better do it or you WILL regret it!"

"Is that a threat?" he laughed "You are no match for me, I am 20 years younger and I am in better shape. You better leave and let me work this out."

"I don't want to threaten you, but if you won't leave any other way then you can consider it a threat. In fact, if you leave now, I won't fire you."

"Fine! Where do you want it?" Lee laughed.

"OK, so be it. Lets go ashore to give us some room."

"Wait," Ariel jumped out of bed and took my arm and looked me in the eyes. "You don't have to do this!" Realizing she was with out a robe by the gawk Lee and I had on our face she turned to put it on.

Regaining my composure. "I know you can take care of your self, but Lee WAS a friend and I can't let a friend do this to you on my boat. So please stay out of it, I have to teach him a lesson." Lee just laughed at what I said and continued to gawk at the beauty the lacy robe tried to cover.

Lee got in his dinghy, Ariel and I got in mine and we rowed to the beach. On the way, Ariel said "You don't have to fight him for me, I can take care of him."

"I know you can but he was a friend and insulted a guest on my boat. I want to do this. I need to do this. So let me handle it."

"OK, if you want to get killed, I won't stop you." she said and her words cut me worse then any blow I could receive form Lee.

Just as I turned to see where I was going to beach the rubber dinghy, a blue flash of short duration and low intensity occurred. "What was that?" I asked.

"What was what?" said the girl with an innocent look on her face.

"That flash, what did you do? I told you to stay out of it!"

"It must have been a lighting flash from that storm over there!" she pointed at a dark cloud on the western horizon.

Finally on the sand and by the light of a full moon, Lee and I squared off. He said "Give it up I want Ariel and I am going to have her!" The fear in me increased, was he right? That fear was relieved with a surprising statement from Ariel. "I don't love you. I love Roy!"

That caught me totally off guard, I spun around and had my usual expression of eyes wide and jaw on the sand. "You do?" This was all Lee needed, he was quick with his attack and he came at me from behind. Ariel shouted! "Look out!" His blow to my back sent me foreword into the girl, tearing her robe from her body and ripping her nightshirt off one shoulder. The blow almost knocked us both down.

Ariel moved back to keep out of the way and Lee tried to finish me with a viscous kick at my head. My reflexes were quick I saw it coming and rolled to the left so the blow just grazed my chin. Regaining my balance and countering with a flurry of left jabs and then a right that sent Lee back several steps. He shook his head and said. "That was a lucky shot that won't happen again." He charged again with a flurry of left and right swings that would have sent me down for a sand sandwich, if they had connected. But I managed to duck and bob left and right to dodge each crushing swing.

"You are quick for an old man!" said Lee.

"I'm not that old, but 40 something is old enough to teach you a lesson on how to treat a lady." I replied and made my attack with another flurry of lefts and a right cross that sent Lee down. He crawled away from me to get back on his feet then he came at me again. This time his attack was avoided by ducking his right and coming back with a right uppercut of my own that stunned Lee and made my hand crack. I could not believe how quick I was in avoiding his punches. Before he regained his senses I dropped low and used my right leg to sweep his out from under him, laying him out on the sand. I reached down and grabbed his shirt and pulled him up and, despite the pain in my hand, held him off his feet. "Do you want more or are you going to leave now? Oh, buy the way. You're fired!" I threw him back 10 feet, he staggered to regain his footing but fell into the surf.

Ariel ran to me and threw her arms around me and kissed me long and deep. Lee's best efforts to knock me down failed but this little girl's attack buckled my knees and we fell to the warm sand. As our kiss ended for the purpose of regaining our breaths she said. "You were wonderful!"

I stammered "W...W...What did you say, a minute ago? . . . Look out!" Pushing Ariel off me and to the left I rolled right just in time to miss getting our heads bashed in by the oar from Lee's boat. "I'm going to kill you!" he said as he pulled the oar out of the depression it had made in the sand where my head was a second before. He raised the weapon for another swing at me when a blue flash vaporized it. The fact that he only had ash in his hand, instead of the oar, stunned him long enough for me to get to my feet and put the right one into his chest, knocking him back into the surf. "You'll find I am not so easy to kill, just ask some pirates around here." I retorted and wadded out and pulled the gasping former friend out of the water and threw him into his boat. "You are not to leave the Sea Maid until it returns to St. Thomas. If I see you on West Atlantica again I won't be this nice to you!" I ordered and shoved his boat off the beach and toward the larger ship of the Mermaid Salvage Co. Ltd. 

Turning my attention back to Ariel, I asked. "Where were we?"

She came over to me, the moonlight turning red from her hair, with a warm smile and bright blue eyes. Ariel put her arms around my neck and started to kiss me again. "Hold it, young lady!" I said and pulled her arms from around me and winced from the pain in my right hand. "What did you mean, Ďyou love me?' I thought you did not want to love a human again? And what did you do to me? I should not have won the fight with Lee?"

"Oh, you are hurt. Let me see it." I held out my right hand for the concerned girl to examine and winced again when her rubbing hit a sour spot. She held her Trident over it and a warm blue light relieved the ache. "I did not change you. You asked me to stay out of it. All I did was to give you the speed and skills you had when you were Lee's age. That only made it a fair fight, you still beat him with the talent you have."

"What about the oar vaporizing?"

"That was unfair too. He was beat, but then he got a weapon and attacked us when we were not looking. I only took the oar away so it was fair again and you were wonderful. You could have killed him, or let him drown, but you saved him and sent him away." Ariel's eyes stared into mine. "As for what I said about loving you," she paused and bit her lip. "Unless something happens to me first, I will be deeply hurt when you are gone, so that must be love. Whether it's the love for a friend or that special love, I'm not sure, yet. I have been aware of the love you have for me for some time. I'm sorry for taking so long to acknowledge it, but I was not sure of my own feelings. I do want to be with you, we have so much fun in our adventures, but I still love Eric. All I can tell you now is, give me more time to sort out what I feel."

Looking back into her big blue eyes, I could see the confusion in them and a tear trickled down her cheek. "I understand what you are going through. Many humans have either lost a spouse from death or divorce and going on and learning to love again is very difficult, human or mermaid. I'm not trying to replace Eric no one can do that. A heart has more room in it then love for just one all I need is my own place in your heart. So take your time deciding if we are to be friends or lovers. What ever you decide will be fine with me, as long as we can share our time together. Just being with you has been the happiest time of my life. I won't do anything to jeopardize that."

"I know you are right, but I need some time to think!" Ariel gave me another passionate kiss. Before I could speak she put her finger on my lips to hush me. "I will see you soon! I promise." She turned and retrieved her Trident from the sand and walk into the surf. When she was waist deep she turned and blew me a kiss, then dove out of sight.

Standing in the surf I stared at the surface where Ariel disappeared. The moonlight danced about the water in time with the ripples making the blue flash barely perceivable. Something wrapped around my left foot. I picked up her nightshirt and held it to my chest.

Chapter 15

Love At Last?

Early next morning I went to the Sea Maid, the ship that belongs to the Mermaid Salvage Co. Ltd. Locating Henry Harper, the foreman of the telephone project to Atlantica and explained that the company no longer employs Lee Roddy and he was to take over for Lee as boss. Next I found the captain of the ship and explained that Lee was to stay on the ship until the job was done and then sent back home when the ship returns to Saint Thomas.

When Henry, the crew and myself went ashore to start the days work there was a group of mermen and Queen Aquata waiting for us. Aquata had turned all the men human and they had on some coveralls that we had left on the beach for them. I introduced Henry to Aquata and after a few pleasantries the crew from my company started to instruct the mermen on how the work was to be done under the sea.

When the opportunity presented itself I spoke to Aquata alone. "Your Majesty, have you seen Ariel this morning? When we parted last night she was in a confused state and I am concerned about her."

"No, I have not seen her myself, but I have received word that she is in her grotto. She often goes there when she wants to be alone to think things out. Do you want to go and see her there?"

"No, that wonít be necessary. She needs to figure this one out by herself. Thank you just the same!"

Then Aquata said. "The Ďtel-e-phoneí, is that right?" I nodded. "Is rather complex. Do you think some of your men would like to come to Atlantica to teach us how to use it?"

"I know they would, in fact we will probably have to draw lots to see who will go."

By noon a group of men, Henry included, went with the merpeople to Atlantica to work on the phone system at that end. Aquata asked me if I wanted to come too. I replied "No thank you, Iíll stay on my boat for a few days. There are a lot of things I need to do to get it the way I like it."

"I understand what is bothering you, take it from someone older, things will work out. Ariel has always been a moody girl, or should I say strange to the rest of us. But once she knows what it is that she wants, there is no stopping her." Aquata winked at me, and then added. "She will come around, you will see." Then the merqueen dove under the crystal blue water.

The rest of the day passed slowly, as I tried to keep busy at the odds and ends of getting the Fowl Wind II rigging adjusted to the way I like my boat to be. By 1800 hours some of the men form the Sea Maid were returning. I went ashore to see how things went down below. A man I did not know before named Bill said. "You will never get me to go there again!" another man Frank said. "Bill was a claustrophobic and should stay on shore. Personally I liked it, the mermaids are all so beautiful." Still another man, Bob, told me. " Henry and the others are staying at Atlantica at the invitation of Queen Aquata. They seemed to really take to the life down there. But the rest of us wanted a dry bed for the night."

"I can understand your feelings Bill and you donít have to go back down. How is the work going?" I asked.

Frank said "Itís going very well and the mermen are catching on fast and Henry said to tell you that none of us need to return to Atlantica, if we do not want to. There is enough people there to finish what needs to be done."

Ships log The Fowl Wind II Oct. 17, 1990, 0900: The crew from the Sea Maid is on the island finishing up the work there. The crew at Atlantica has not checked in as yet, so there is no way of knowing how things are going down there. I have not heard a word from Ariel, hope she is well. If I donít hear from her today I may decide to return home to California. Roy D. Stanton, Captain.

I stowed the log and finished clean up from breakfast, when the satellite phone rang. "Hello, this is Roy Stanton!"

The voice on the other end was lovely but shy and unsure. "H..h..hello!" It stuttered, and another voice I could not hear said some instructions, then the voice said again." Hello, Roy. Yes I can hear him." She said to the other voice. "This is Aquata, can you hear me?"

"Yes I hear you fine, can you hear me?"

"Yes I can!" giggled the Queen. I could hear her saying to the others. "He hears me!" More giggles. "I donít know what to say!" Still more giggles.

"Your Majesty, just talk like I was there with you."

Next Henry came on the phone. "She has a touch of stage fright with the phone. It looks like the crew up there have connected the cable at that end OK, we are almost done down here. Iíll see you in a couple of hours, boss."

"OK thanks Henry, you did a great job. Put Queen Aquata back on please." When I heard the giggling come back I asked. "Your Majesty, have you seen Ariel, is she OK?"

The giggling subsided. "No, she did not come home for dinner last night nor for breakfast this morning. But donít worry, itís normal for her to behave in this manner. She knows how to take care of herself. Oh, you can drop the majesty and queen title stuff, among friends we just use names, so please just call me Aquata."

"OK, . . .Aquata, thanks. If Ariel comes home have her call me, I just want to make sure she is OK. I got you number and Iíll check back with you later too." We said good bye and I started to prepare for leaving West Atlantica, but held my departure until the crew from Atlantica returned. Henry gave me a report on the work and then they all left on the Sea Maid, late in the after noon.

By now it was too late for me to leave the island, so I decided to wait till morning. I knew I was just dragging my feet, but if there was a chance she would come, I was willing to wait.

I had dinner alone. Every splash from a wave hitting the hull of the Fowl Wind II, would make me stop and listen, she did not come. At 2200 I went to bed and fell asleep listening to Arielís CD.

Next morning I weighed anchor and started my journey to California. I have traveled by myself most of my life, but this was the first time I felt alone.

Five days later I was at my condo in California. It has been 11 months sense I have lived here but it seemed more like a lifetime. I tried to get back to my old routine to make things normal, but nothing I did seemed normal. I discovered that you couldn't leave a car alone either. It took a week for the garage to get it back in good running condition.

I set up an office at the factory where we make the reverse osmosis machines and made myself busy pretending to over see the work on them. But Sam Dawson, my old boss, was doing a fine job before I returned and really did not need me around. Some real work did come from the diplomatic office. Scott still needed me to make some decisions. Some required me to call Aquata to work out some detail or the like then the conversation would always shift to Ariel. Aquata would tell me " She is fine but spends a lot of time in her grotto! Would you like to speak with her, I can send for her?"

"Thatís not necessary, but if she wants to talk with me have her call, . . . OK!?" With the business done and Ariel not around we would end and promise to stay in touch.

Even the Amateur Radio was not as much fun, every time I got on there would be a pile up (a large group of people all wanting to talk to me) of stations all wanting to know more about mermaids. One Sunday afternoon I ran into Lee on one of the local two meter repeaters. He was telling anyone who would listen about the danger from the mer world and the power of the Trident, so much for his word of honor. Then he took a few verbal shots at me that prompted me to just turned the radio off.

The next night as I was returning home from the office. Pulling the car up to the gate at the entrance to my condoís parking garage and before I could activate the gate a sharp pain hit my left shoulder. I grabbed my shoulder with my right hand. When I pulled my hand away it was full of blood, "Help Iíve been shot!" I yelled, then a thump to the head and all went black.

Chapter 16

A Miracle

"Mister Stanton . . . Mister Stanton!" A male voice in the darkness called to me and faded away. I was thinking, but could not feel or hear anything. The voice returned "Mister Stanton . . . can you hear me? Iím Doctor Alejandro . . . Can you hear me?" I tried to move. Move anything. "Look! His lips are quivering!" said a female voice I did not recognize. The male voice said, "You talk to him, maybe he will respond to your voice. Another female voice I did recognize said "Roy can you hear me, please wake up!"

The Doctor said "Try again, he moved his eyes!"

"Roy!" the voice moved close to my ear, "I love you!" and I felt the first sensation, warm lips kissing mine.

"His pulse rate went up, Doctor!" said the other female voice that must have been a nurse.

"He hears you, keep talking to him." coached the Doctor.

"Roy! Come back to me, please come back." There were tears in Arielís voice. But the darkness closed back in on me and the nurse said, "weíre losing him again."

The next sound to wake me was Arielís lovely voice singing. I listened for what seemed to me for a long time. When she stopped, I could hear her crying. "Donít . . . stop!" I muttered.

"Roy, did you say something?" Ariel asked.

"Donít . . . stop . . . sing . . . ing!" I muttered again.

"Youíre awake, donít move Iíll get the Doctor!" said the excited girl.

"No . . . prob . . . lem!" When Ariel returned with the Doctor, some of the fuzziness in my head cleared but still unable to move anything or open my eyes. My biggest fear was I might not ever see Ariel again, a tear run down my cheek.

"Mr. Stanton, can you hear me?" said the Doctor. "Yes" I slurred

"Mr. Stanton, you have been shot!" he informed. "I know" I mumbled.

"I have some good and some bad news about your condition."

"Go ahead. I want to know!"

"First the good, the gun used was a small caliber, A .22. This is good because the small bullets did little damage to your brain but the shock has kept you in a comma for two weeks. The bad news is, you were shot five times. We had to operate to remove the bullets from near your heart and your spine. You my not be able to walk again."

"OK. I under . . . stand. Will . . . I be able . . . to see?"

"Yes, your head took a hard knock from the bullet, but it will heal. It just takes time."

Ariel interrupted, "But Doctor I", the Doctor interrupted her. "This young lady loves you very much, she has been here with you every day and night for the past week. But she wants to do some pagan right with a staff she has brought. The administration will not allow it here at Angelís Hospital."

"Please Doc. Let . . . her try, . . . magic is common in her world . . . and . . . it canít hurt . . . anything, can it?"

"I canít, this hospital is run by a religious organization and they donít allow such a thing."

"The technology you use to . . . heal, would be . . . magic in some other countries." My mind was getting quicker but I was still unable to do or move anything.

"You are right, but hospital policy forbids any such rituals. But I can leave you two alone to discuss any possible treatment." The Doctor started to leave and ask the nurse to come with him as he left.

I felt Arielís breath on my ear as she spoke in a low teary voice. "I love you. I have my Trident here but they wonít let me bring it in your room. What can I do?"

Whispering back to the girl. "I love you too! Let me think for a minute." As I thought, I could feel Ariel stroking my cheek. "I think the Doctor is willing to let you do it, if you can sneak it in. Why donít you go get a tall, a really tall, flower stand full of flowers with a Trident card holder?"

"Great idea! Iíll be back as soon as I can! Love yea!" she kissed me and rushed out of the room.

It must have taken several hours to get every thing put together. To me, going in and out of the real world, it seemed like just a few minuets before Ariel returned with a huge floral display. I could only guess as to its size because I still could not open my eyes but the fragrance of the arrangement was very large. "Can we be alone, please?" she said to the nurses that helped her bring in the colossal bouquet. When everyone had left, she whispered in my ear, "I have my Trident and you will be better as soon as I can get it out of the stand." I could hear the little girl struggling with the flowers. There was a crash followed with an "ouch!" before she returned to my bed side and said, "I have it, you will feel better now!" Even through my eye lids I could see the blue light and a rush of feeling came over my body. I opened my eyes and saw that cute face smiling at me. "Howís that?" she asked.

"Wow much better!" I sat up took in some deep breaths, swung my feet out from the bed and stood. All though I was well now, I did not have much strength from being laid up for two week, so as I put my weight on my feet I gracefully went in to a heap on the floor. Ariel dropped the Trident and helped me back to my feet. She propped me up against the bed and we embraced and kissed long and deep.

"Quick put you Trident back in the flowers, Iíll get back in bed and pretend to recover slowly. Else the power you have will no longer be a secret." I said as our embrace and kiss ended.

When the nurse returned I was in bed pretending to be asleep and Ariel was seating in a chair singing softly. The nurse said "He seems to be resting easy, I think your singing has worked some magic on him."

With a slight giggle, Ariel said, "Yes, magic is at work here!"

"The rest of the patients on this floor can hear you and are asking if you can sing for them too." the nurse said as she adjusted my IV. "Well look whoís awake!" she added when I opened my eyes.

"Can I get something to eat?" I asked, trying to sound weaker than I felt.

"My goodness, you are on the fast track to recovery. Iíll check to see if you can have anything." She was only gone for a minute when Doctor Alejandro came in. "What this I hear about you getting better?"

"Well I can see and feel things and I am hungry." I said as the Doctor flashed a light in my eyes and then listened to my chest.

"Hum! Thatís strange!"

"What? Whatís wrong?" I asked.

"Well!" he paused, "Nothing thatís whatís strange. All the congestion in your lungs is gone and your eyes are normal!"

"Thatís good, isnít it?"

"Of course, but it's a miracle as to how fast you have recovered." He looked at Ariel who had a big grin on her face then got serious and bit her lip when she saw the Doctor was looking at her. He then looked at the large flower arrangement. "I think the flowers will have to go, they are to large for the room, I canít move around them. Iíll send someone to help you remove it and I donít want to see it again! Do I make myself clear young lady?"

"Yes sir!" she replied and bit her lip even harder.

As the Doctor headed to the door he said. "I think you will be able to go home tomorrow." Turning back to Ariel, he added. "Bite that any harder and Iíll have to put a stitch in that pretty face of yours." and he gave her a wink.

She gave him a smile and said "Thank you Doctor, Iíll take care of the flowers at once."

At the door he turned back "You are a lucky man, in many ways."

"I know!"

"And we are all going to miss your singing when he is gone!" added the Doctor as he cradled Arielís chin in his hand.

 It took another two weeks for me to get my strength back, so Ariel stayed with me at my condo. She took vary good care of me, though she did not do much of the cleaning or cooking herself. Being a princess she never had to do that kind of work before, so she called for domestic help and directed them as to what to do and how to do it. I was glad for it gave her more time to help me recover. She would walk with me and rub my muscles when they got sore.

The first day home from the hospital Ariel told me "Being 196 years old I have some old fashion values. At night I will sleep on the convertible couch in, what do you call it? Oh, a living room. So you can have the bedroom and I want no arguments."

"196, of course itís been more then a year sense we met, when was your birthday, and why didnít you tell me?"

"When a girl is 196, she does not like to shout it around. We girls like to keep our age secrete, you know. Itís November 17th, on your calendar, the day we met on that small island. Saving my life has been the best present anyone has ever given me, in the last hundred years anyway." she winked.

After one week I was moving around better so I insisted on reversing the sleeping arrangements.

By the middle of the second week I was back driving. I had to use a rental car as my old one was too shot up and was being held as evidence by the police. This was all the excuse I needed to buy a new car. I took Ariel with me shopping for the car and she loved to set in them and pretend to drive.

As we looked over the dealerís stock, I explained to Ariel what to look for on the car stickers and what the items meant. Suddenly she saw on the list the engineís horsepower. "Look it is a horse!" she said excitedly. I tried to explain that it was not really a horse but just a power rating. She just gave me that look of confusion and shook her head. It did not matter to her it was a horse.

We selected a shiny red luxury sedan. Ariel picked the color. "I will name I Stormy!" She declared.

"Stormy? Why?" I asked.

"The first giant sea horse I road was named Stormy. He was very special to me. I have named every horse I have had the same name!"

"OK, Stormy it is!"

As we left the car lot the excited girl had to try every knob and button on the dash. One minute we were freezing the next it was like a desert in the car. Or the music was loud then soft and jazz to rock. It was Sunday so I drove to the factory, where we make the Ďwater makersí, and pulled into the empty parking lot. I got out of the car and walked around to the passenger door. Holding it open, I said. "Your turn!"

Her eyes lit up and she had a grin that reached from ear to ear. "Really? Can I try to drive Stormy?"

"Sure! Just do as I tell you."

The girl was so excited she did not use the door I was holding open for her, she just climbed over the center console and into the driverís seat. I wonít go into the detail on her driving skills, most of us have taught someone to drive. So just imagine what it would be like with an exuberant Ariel. We managed to get back to my condo with all the paint still on the car.

Two weeks of practice Ariel was able to drive in any traffic conditions. But once when someone cut her off and made a rude gesture us, her amulet began to glow. "Stay calm!" I told the angry girl. "You have to get use to that behavior here in LA. For that matter most places where there are humans." She just smirked.

In the mean time Alex Farbankís tabloids started a campaign to tell the world of the threat from the mer people. He claimed that they wanted to rule the world from the sea and has a secrete weapon capable of destroying any human ship or airplane.

Chapter 17

The Big Day

Six weeks after being shot, I was almost back to normal and back to work, part time. Ariel was still staying with me, but I knew she was missing the sea. At every opportunity she would go to the beach, but California beaches are so crowded that she could not change into a mermaid. So she just had to swim like every other human at the beach.

When I could go with her she would not put her hair up in a cap even though people would recognize her. Most understood the mermaidís desire to be left alone. But there were some hot heads that either wanted to get to know her or just had to harass someone. Most of the time I could talk them into leaving her alone. But on occasion a lifeguard had to help and once Ariel sent a man, that grabbed her, packing with a small jolt from her amulet.

When we got back to my condo from one of our beach trips I asked, "Why donít we go back home?"

"I thought we are home!"

"No, not my home, lets go back to West Atlantica or Saint Thomas. I know you are not happy here in LA."

"That would be wonderful! But you are not well yet! We canít do any adventuring till you are well."

"I feel fine! And the adventure I have in mind, wonít be that demanding on my strength."

"What do you have in mind?" Said the girl cocking her head to one side and trying to suppress a grin.

"Will you marry me?" I said pulling out a small box and opened it, revealing a diamond ring. "I know you have a lot of these and bigger ones too, but this one is from my heart."

"Oooo! Itís beautiful." and she let me put it on her finger.

"Do you understand what just happened?" I asked.

She gave me the biggest smirk. "Of course I do!"

"Then itís a yes??"

"Silly, of course itís yes! But as for you needing your strength, you donít know what itís like being married to me." She winked and then blushed. Then without warning she jumped into my arms kissing my face and knocking me off balance and we fell onto the couch.

Some time passed with some serious necking, then I asked "So what kind of wedding do you want, human or mer?"

"Well, Eric and I were married on one of his ships. The only way my family and friends could be there was to follow the ship. I wished they could have been part of the wedding."

"Then itís settled, we will get hitched in Atlantica."

"But what about your friends and family?"

"I have no family and as for friends, most are of the mer persuasion now! But maybe we can change the ones that want to come to our wedding to merpeople and bring them to Atlantica."

The very next day I closed up my office and told Sam that he was back in charge and I noticed a suppressed smile on his face as he wished me luck and we shook hands.

Ariel called her sisters to tell them the news and to prepare for a wedding. The excitement on the other end of the phone was almost as high as our own.

Before we left to go to West Atlantica, we did some shopping to get things we needed for our marriage that we canít get under the sea.

I asked Ariel "Get something soft to wear, even though you smooth the roughness off the sea shells you wear, they are still hard when we hug!"

"Iíll see what I can do." She smirked. "You should get something that will be different to my world, too!"

It only takes five days to get to Atlantica from California but it seemed to take forever for the two of us. One day to get to Miami then wait. Another day for the shuttle to Saint Thomas then get supplies for the Fowl Wind II. Then a two days sail to the island. When we arrived it was late so we had to wait till dawn to start the swim to the Sea Kingdom.

By the time we reached the Palace, the preparations were well under way. Aquata and her sisters had everything planned and were sending out invitations. Which meant I had to go back to Saint Thomas to mail the ones addressed to the humans that were being invited. Ariel let me take her Trident so I could transform myself as I left and returned to the sea.

I no sooner got back to Atlantica, she sent me out on another errand. But I never got it done. A group of mermen were waiting for me. These were some of the mermen that I meet at the party a year ago. They jumped me as I swam out of the Palace. They put a sack over my head and talked about taking care of me. I fought to break free of what I thought was band of jealous ex-suitors. I was taken to a place that was noisy with loud music and I was pushed back and forth between my attackers. When the sack was removed I was in what looked like the mer equivalent to a human bar. There were a large group of mermen around. One was my friend Reginald. The bar had a small band and some topless mermaids dancing over a small stage. A drink was shoved into my hand and the group of attackers started shaking my hand or slapping me on the back.

The next morning, someone was pounding on my head via knocking on the door to my room. "Come-in" I said with a dry tongue, an impossible condition under the sea, I thought. Ariel swam into the room. "Did you have a good time with the boys?" Her voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard, another condition I thought impossible. "The drinks at an Atlantican bar have a lot more punch then the human equivalent." I told the grinning girl. "Come on, breakfast will help you feel better."

Four of the longest weeks passed before the wedding. Some of my friends and some of the officials from other countries that were invited did brave the transformation and came. They were instructed to meet at Arielís beach house on Saint Thomas, where Andrina would use Arielís Trident to change them and then escort them back to the Sea Kingdom in a large sea couch, made from a giant conch shell, pulled by two Humpback Whales.

Aquata conducted the ceremony. The other five sisters were all bridesí maids with Arista as Maid of Honor. On my side Scott was Best Man with Sam and Jim, the third man that did not come on that vacation plus Reginald and Huet to round things out. Arielís old friend Sebastian came out of retirement from Jamaica, to conduct the Royal Orchestra and choir for the occasion. Both the ceremony and reception were in the Great Hall of the Palace.

At the appointed time I was in place. If I had knees they would have been knocking, still I was shaking so hard that I thought all my scales might fall off. I was wearing a white tux jacket with tails and white shirt that I had custom made for my mer body, with a light blue vest and bow tie. When I entered the Great Hall I heard a gasp from the mer crowd, they had never seen a tux before. Then King Triton was brought to his box seat and everyone rose and bowed.

The mer world is a three dimensional world. When the music started, the precession came in from an opening near the roof of the Great Hall. It was lead off by two small mer children sprinkling small light blue sea flowers in the water as they swam in a large "S" on the way down to the stage. Where a large arch covered with large white and light blue sea flowers was placed and Aquata floated just beyond. To the right of the arch I with my men waited. Aquata whispered "I hope she shows up, this time!"

I looked at her in shock "What!" everyone turned to look at me.

"The last time she was to be the center of attention in this hall, she forgot to show up!" she continued to whisper.

"Oh! Yeah, she told me about that." I whispered too.

Following the children, Ariel's sisters swam the same "S" to the stage and then stopped alongside the arch. When the music grew in volume everyone rose from their sets and looked at the opening, it remained vacant. The music repeated, when Ariel still did not appear. Sebastian could be heard saying. "Oh mon, not again!"

Sebastian restarted the music one more time as everyone was getting nervous. I would have collapsed if I did not have the water to hold me up. Finally, Ariel appeared in the opening and it was obvious that she had been rushing. "Whew!" Aquata sighed.

Ariel was wearing a light blue wedding dress. It had long sleeves with white pearl beading that was in a pattern of seashells. It had a low neckline and was form fitting around her bust and down to her waist. At the waist it flared out to a short but full dress, to make it easy for her to swim. It had the same white pearl beading as the sleeves. Her hair flowed down her open back and was topped with a blue diamond tiara because a vial would not work under the sea, and matching earrings. She carried a bouquet of large and small, blue and white, sea flowers. Again the room gasped as she started her slow swim down the flower strewn "S" above the audience.

Ariel's Wedding Portrait

By Jeff Phillips

When Ariel arrived at the arch she smiled at me and I almost fainted. She turned to her father and blew him a kiss. Then Aquata started the ceremony. At one point the Sea Queen paused and the Royal Orchestra began to play. Ariel began to sing a love song and was accompanied by her sisters. My eyes were getting wet from the inside. It was beautiful. In one part of her song I was to join in, but my croaking was not as good as it was in rehearsal. I could see everyone trying to suppress his or her giggles.

Aquata surprised me when she added something to the ceremony that was not in the rehearsal. She said "I am told that in a human wedding, it is customary for the bride and groom to exchange rings. A ring is a small band of gold and sometimes have precious stones in them, that is worn on a finger of the left hand. Roy has brought one for Ariel, so we had one made for him." A merboy swam up along side the Queen with two rings in a bed of, blue and white, sea flowers. She removed them and handed one to Ariel and one to me. "I am sorry I donít know if something is to be said at this time. But if you will put them on, I will continue."

"Just one thing your Majesty." I said. Aquata had given us each our own ring. Whispering I said "Give me your ring and you take this one . . . good, now Iíll put yours on your hand . . . good and you put mine on me." After we exchanged rings I looked down at my ring, it had an unusual stone in it. I had to look for Arielís amulet, she still had it on, but the stone in my ring looked the same, except green. I gave the Queen a nod. "You may continue."

When Aquata said we were husband and wife I kissed my bride. Everyone rose again and applauded, and the orchestra picked up the tempo and volume. The crowd crushed in around us as we greeted all our friends.

All the girls were looking at Arielís gown and the guys asked me. "Is this what humans wear? Itís really in the swim, how can I get some covering like that?"

"We'll look into what can be done, later!" I replied.

It took close to an hour to greet everyone with lots of kissing and hand shaking. Now it was party time! Tables with chairs had replaced all the seats in the great hall. There was a large area in the middle left open for dancing.

We danced all night, and everyone had to dance with Ariel or myself. Later I was exhausted and sitting in a place where I thought no one would ask me to dance. While my bride was dancing with Reginald and others from that group of young men that all wanted to marry her too, my friend Jim came over to me. "Can I ask you a question?" he asked.

"As long it has nothing to do with dancing, my fin is killing me."

"I was listening to the mermaids talking, they want tops like Ariel is wearing. They are tired of the heavy sea shells, they want something soft and light."

"So?"

"So I would like to trade with the merpeople. I have been in the clothing business in the past and I see a real opportunity here. You are the Ambassador to Atlantica, so I need your permission and help to start a trade business with them."

"You always were the business man in our little group. Iíll speak to Aquata about it when Ariel and I get back."

"Thanks, can I have your permission to speak with her directly?"

"Sure, letís go find her and Iíll introduce you."

We found Aquata sitting on her Throne. She looked exhausted too! When she saw me coming she said, "Why arenít you dancing with you wife?"

"The boys have her tied up right now and Iíll need my strength for later." I winked.

Aquata giggled "Yes you donít want to go to sleep on her do you!" and she winked back.

"Queen Aquata, this is my good friend Jim. He has a business proposition he wants to talk about with you."

"Welcome to Atlantica Jim, are you having a good time?" asked the Queen.

"Yes I am, itís a wonderful place you have here under the sea..." Jim was saying as I excused myself and left to go find my bride.

Ariel and I were given the finest guest room in the Palace for our honeymoon. I opened the door and picked up my bride and carried her into the spacious room. "Iíll be right back!" she said coyly and retired to the mer equivalent to a bathroom. I did the same and was back in the bedroom first. When she returned she was wearing a black and red teddy that was all satin and lace. She must have had it custom made by Frederickís of Hollywood for a mermaidís body. It definitely made her figure stand out. Actually it was her figure that made the teddy so beautiful. When she slipped into the bed with me I knew she had kept her promise to fine something softer then the seashells she normally wears. Sorry kiddies, fade to black. Use your imagination to fill in the rest.

The next morning, after breakfast in bed, we swam to the surface and West Atlantica. Where a cruse ship had anchored just out side the island's reef. We boarded the Fowl Wind II and changed ourselves into humans and radioed the cruse ship to send a launch to pick our baggage and us up.

We had reserved the honeymoon suit on the ship and after settling in Ariel retired to the bathroom. When she returned . . . well lets just say we did not leave it for two days.

Graphic by Jeff Phillips

On the third day I had to go for a walk around the ship so I could get some rest. Next I went into a lounge to relax in a big chair and read a newspaper. Right on the front page was a story of the threat to humanity by the merworld, and this paper was not a tabloid it was the New York Times. I read on, it was a story from Alex Fairbank, it had his picture with the article. I took a close look at the man that would have my wife as a pet. There right behind Alex in the picture was my old ex-friend Lee. "What a pair!" I thought. "This is all I need, if Ariel sees this she will want to go home." The date on the paper was a week old, so by now most people have seen it. I had to come up with a plan to make people see the beauty and sweetness of the merpeople and ignore Alex Fairbank.

I returned to our room, Ariel was asleep on the bed. So I joined her, being careful not to wake her I slipped into bed, put my arm around her and fell asleep too.

I awoke to warm lips kissing my neck. I returned the kisses and after another round of love making, I said "We should go and explore the ship and meet some of the other passengers or everyone will think you are trying to kill me." She just giggled and started kissing me again. The giggling and kissing stopped when I told her of the newspaper story I had read.

"What can I do to show the human world we are not going to attack them?"

"May I suggest that you let people see you as what you are, a mermaid. Make yourself someone real, that they can see and touch and not just a story in the paper. Once people meet you and see how charming and sweet you are, no one will be able to change the facts. And get some other merpeople to do the same."

Ariel smirked "But I donít want attention!"

"I know, sweetheart, but if merpeople are seen enough, then it wonít be so special to humans. It will be hard at first, but when there are enough of you out there it will become common and you will not be so strange to us."

"OK! You have convinced me, when do we start."

I handed Ariel her Trident. "No time like the present. Let's go for a swim in the pool!"

"Now? No, Iím not ready!"

"Sure you are! Brush your hair, put on your shells and zap yourself. Come on it will be fun to see the reaction at the pool."

Ten minuets later I carried the beautiful red headed mermaid to the pool. At first there were some gasps and stares when I set her down at the edge of the pool. The air was heavy with tension as people just gawked and whispered among themselves. But when a little girl came up to the pretty mermaid and asked her. "Whatís it feel like to be a mermaid?" Ariel replied by asking the girl "Whatís your name, sweetheart?"

"Natalie!" she said and tugged at one of her pigtails.

Ariel replied to Natalie's question by saying "Natalie, you are so cute Iíll tell you if you come close and sit with me." The girl did as she was asked and Ariel started to sing the answer to her question. The next five minuets the crowed around the pool grew as everyone tried to get close enough to hear the mermaidís sweet voice. When she had finished everyone applauded and gathered in close to talk and listen to what she had to say.

Natalie, still sitting next to Ariel asked another question that everyone else wanted to do too. "Can I touch your tail?"

"Sure you can, sweetheart!"

The little girl put her hand on the mermaidís tail and ran it first one way then the other. "Itís so smooth and silky!"

"Yes, thatís what helps me swim fast. Would you like to see my fin too?"

"Ah huh!" said Natalie with a finger in her mouth.

Ariel pulled her fin out of the pool and gently laid it in the little girl's lap then fanned it out to its full beauty. "Itís soft too! But has stiff stick like things in it."

"Thatís right, sweetheart, and see how I can move it, this is how I control my swimming."

"Can I touch your hair too?" the little girl asked shyly.

"Sure!" Ariel turned to let Natalie see the full beauty of her main.

"I like red! Itís silky too!"

"Thank you, I brush it a lot. But it is the one thing that slows down my swimming. The drag on it pulls on my skin, I think thatís what keeps my face from getting wrinkles!" Everyone laughed. "Would you like me to do your hair? I have a way of working magic with hair!"

"Oh yes, would you?"

The girl turned her back and Ariel started to work on her hair. She removed the pigtails and ran her fingers through it. "I have a special comb, made of coral, that I like to use." She removed it from her hair and ran it through Natalieís. After a few strokes Ariel reached for her sapphire amulet. Holding it tight inside her left hand and the comb in her right, she passed it through the girlís hair and it became smooth with soft waves.

When Ariel had finished the girl ran off calling "Mommy, Mommy look at my hair. Itís like a mermaidís hair." Everyone laughed again.

There were so many around the red headed beauty, it was difficult for me to see her, I had to go to the far side of the pool to make sure she was OK. I just stood there a watched with a grin on my face. When I caught her eye she pointed at me "You are right as always!"

I winked at her and said "Come on, we came up here for a swim!" and dove into the pool. A second later the mermaid greeted me at the bottom of the pool with a kiss. When we surfaced, there was a rush of children jumping into the pool and men to the edge to watch.

We played with the children, they taught us a game called Marco Polo. It is a game like tag, but the person that is it, closes his or her eyes and calls Marco. The other players answer Polo. Itís up to the person that is it to catch the others by sound only. Ariel had an advantage in this game she could stay under water indefinitely and still say Polo to the kids Marco. But she played easy with the kids and let them catch her. When she was it, when a kid said Polo to her Marco, with her speed she could have caught them with ease but she didnít. We had a good time with the children and their parents watch and laughed at their excited kids.

When the children were exhausted, Ariel sat on the edge of the pool and told them a story of one of her childhood adventures. "I call this one ĎThe Metal Fishí" she told them. When the story was over, half of them were asleep and the other half along with their parents were glued to every word this lovely person had to say. Everyone was relaxed with the idea of a mermaid as just another person.

Back in our room I told Ariel. "You are really good with children. You had the kids eating out of your hand. Where did you learn to handle them?"

"It's been a long time but once you have children you never forget how to handle them."

"Huh? You have kids?"

"Yes one, Melody. Eric and I lost touch with her after she married and moved to Europe."

"Oh my god, that means you have relatives walking around somewhere in the world right now."

"I think so but how would we ever know who they are?"

"We humans are good at keeping records. If we can come up with their names we should be able to find them. If they are still alive after the wars we had in Europe."

Ariel's face light up with the first part of what I said, but dimmed when the wars were mentioned. She told me all she could about Melody and how she was kept in the dark about Atlantica and how she was almost lost to Morgana, the evil sister of the evil Ursula. At the age of 16 she ran off with a trader named Alfred from a country called Prussia. "We were agents her moving so far away but she was head strong and did so anyway. Daddy just laughed and said Ďwhat goes around comes around.í"

When Ariel had finished telling me what she could remember about Melody I told her. "I'll pass this along to Scott and his staff will try to find any of you kin that they can. But for now we need to get ready or we will be late for or dinner call."

Chapter 18

A Cruse to A Disaster

We were only slightly late for our dinner call we had been invited to have dinner at the Captainís table. When we entered a hush fell on the room, then someone started to clap and then another. The applause grew until most were standing and applauding.

I was not sure if the reception was because of Arielís stories, singing, or looks. I suspect all of the above. As for her looks she had on a white straight tight dress with a diagonal neckline that came over her left shoulder giving the dress a left sleeve. The right side was sleeveless and low. It hugged her body to the hips and down the legs to the hem just above the knees. Around her waist she had a wide red belt that matched her shoes. Of course the ever present and spectacular blue sapphire on a shimmering gold chain around her neck. Last but not least her soft red hair flowed down her back.

Captain Brown welcomed us as two stewards held out chairs for us. "Princess Ariel please sit here!" said the Captain and gestured to the chair the steward held out next to his. He turned to the room and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am Captain Brown of the Northern Cross and your host for this cruise. I have the pleasure to introduce you all to Princess Ariel of Atlantica and her new husband Roy Stanton. I also have the pleasure to Captain the ship they chose for their honeymoon." A round of applause came from the crowd. He went on "I propose a toast to the happy couple!" Everyone held up his or her glass and we all drank.

Ariel gave me a nudge "You say something, Iím too embarrassed." So I stood "On behalf of my wife and ..."

"Captain!" An officer said as he interrupted my speech. I thought it was going to be a good one too, for a guy that is lousy at public speaker. "Iím sorry to interrupt sir, but we just received a distress call from the tanker Axxon Venture. She has lost all power and is in danger of breaking apart in heavy seas. We are the closest to her location but it will take us six hours at flank speed to get there, sir."

"Change course to intercept the tanker and make more then flank speed, Bob!" ordered Captain Brown. As the officer saluted and left, Captain Brown stood and I sat. He said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have just received word that another ship, a tanker, is in danger of sinking. Iím sorry this will interrupt your pleasure but we have a duty to try to save lives. That duty comes before pleasure." The room fell silent then a din of murmuring started.

Ariel asked me "What kind of ship is the Axxon Venture?"

"Itís a tanker, they use it to ship oil from one country to another."

"We have to help, we need to get to a phone. Aquata will want to know about this, she can send help too."

Before Captain Brown left the table I asked him "What is the tankers location, Captain?" He gave me the latitude and longitude and then left.

I realized that the merpeople did not know our system of navigation. So when we got to a phone and called Atlantica, all I could tell Aquata was to try to find our ship and follow it. Ariel took the phone from me. "Aquata do you remember the time I caused sea quakes when I laughed?" she paused "Right, I had to go too a place called Ablo Cadablo to make the Sorcerer Fish take the spell off me!" she paused again. "Right, as best as I can tell we are near Ablo Cadablo now and are heading East." again a pause. "I understand, get here as fast as you can. We will need both Tridents if that much oil leaks into the sea." . . . "OK, I will try to signal you, see you when you get here!" She hung up the phone. "Letís hope we are not needed!" she said and bit her lip.

When she turned to me she saw my now famous Roy Stanton expression. (You know mouth open, jaw on the floor, eyes wide, and looking like an idiot!) "What?" she asked.

"You would not understand!" I shook my head.

At day break Ariel and I was at the bow of our ship with her Trident. The seas were rough. Waves were crashing as the ship cut them in two. The spray from each encounter with a wave was getting us soaked. An officer came up to us and said, "If it was anyone else up here I would have to ask you to return to your cabin. But the Captain wants me to inform you we are getting close to the last know position of the tanker. Maybe you should come to the bridge so you can see better."

Just then a voice came over the officerís radio. "We have it on radar, five degrees to port, five miles out."

Our ship began to turn and slow as the sea tossed it from side to side. The dark shape of the huge tanker would appear and disappear as is would rise up on a swell then fall into a trough. Ariel turned to me "Iím going to have to do it, the humans wonít be able to rescue anyone in this wind and if all the oil spills, we will have even more work to do!"

"What do you mean?" I said.

"Watch!" she pointed her Trident to the sky. A blue bolt of energy flashed from its points to the sky. Within seconds the sea calmed and was smooth as glass and not a whisper of wind.

I looked around, only the shipís crew was out on deck and in the bridge and now the officer that was with us mouth was hanging open. "Maybe less then half of them saw what happened. Maybe they wonít talk." before I finished Ariel climbed up on the railing and jumped over the side.

The officer with us shouted into his radio, "Man overb..." I interrupted him. "You mean mermaid overboard! Now doesnít that sound silly?" I give him a smirk that Ariel would have been proud of.

"I see what you mean!"

As the ship slowed to a stop about 500 yards from the listing tanker, the crew of our ship started to lower some boats. With the seas now calm the passengers started to appear on deck to watch. We could see a number of men in the water, some had life vests on but others did not. Ariel was swimming from sailor to sailor to check on their condition. When she found one that was not responding she would bring him to another sailor that was in good shape.

The officer with me pointed to the North. "Look more mermaids!" then repeated the same into his radio. The voice of the first officer, Bob answered back. "Roger!"

Actually it was both mermaids and mermen, I could see Aquata and the other sisters were there too. The mermaids formed groups and linked their hands forming circles and extended their tails into the center of each circle. Each circle had two mermaids in the center. The men swam about gathering all the sailors and bringing them to and placing them in one of the circles, where the mermaids would give them support and the other two would tend to any wounds.

When the boats from our cruise ship reached the circles, the mermen help transfer the sailors from the circle to the boat. One of the sailors, who must have been in good condition, did not want to leave the group of beautiful mermaids. We, on the ship, could hear the girls giggling over his comments.

When all the sailors were safely aboard a lifeboat, Ariel and Aquata turned their attention to the tanker. Using their Tridents they pushed the tanker up until it floated level again. And by some magic that I did not understand, it stayed level. All I could see was a blue and gold matrix of light forming a net around the hull of the tanker.

With the ship floating level a large crack with oil gushing from it was now above the water line. Aquata turned her Trident on the hull sealing the breach while Ariel did her oil round up routine. The same one she did on the spill from Alex Fairbankís yacht so many months ago.

With the sailors all safely onboard the cruise ship and the tanker secure, the merpeople gathered on the starboard side of the Northern Cross. Captain Brown, his officers, and myself greeted the merpeople at the large door on its side used to make a small marina for the water sport pleasure of its passengers, at the many ports of call. Ariel jumped from the sea to the platform where I met her with a robe and a wheelchair. Captain Brown said "Captain Copland of the Axxon Venture asked me to relay his thanks and appreciation to Queen Aquata, Princess Ariel and all the people of Atlantica for their help in averting a disaster. An ecological disaster to both human . . . err . . . and merworld. I have been informed that a sea going tug will be here in 3 hours and will take the stricken tanker to a safe harbor."

Aquata still floating in the water just below the platform, replied "You are welcome, Captain. We are glad we could do a small part in the rescue of the men and salvage of the ship. We are planning to be more involved in the safety of ships in the future."

The crowed of passengers watching from the railing above started to applaud. The merpeople waved at them and the ship closed the door and started to get underway. Then a group of merpeople swam to the bow and rode the wake to the delight of those who watched.

Back in our room, Ariel said, "I want to see how the men from the tanker are doing. Can we go see them?"

"Sure!" I handed her the Trident. "Get dressed and we'll go now." She put on a low cut sleeveless light blue summer dress with a semi-full knee-high skirt

It was crowed and noisy in the shipís infirmary. It was not intended to handle so many at one time. When Ariel came in even the sailors that did not feel so good sat up, she went to every one of them to check on his condition, fortunately they were all recovering. That was good news for she would have wanted to use her Trident to help heal the sick and that would mean many people seeing the power it has. All the men were grateful for her help. When she got to the man that did not want to leave the mermaid ring, he wanted to thank her with a kiss. He kept trying to get his arms around her, but she would push his hands way as fast as he tried. She asked. "Was your father an octopus? Iíll tell you what, if you will be good, Iíll kiss you, OK? Is that a deal?" I stepped along side her just in case. He folded his arms. "You got it baby!" So she planted one on his cheek that left a bright red lip print there. "Thanks baby, Iíll never wash again!"

Ariel replied "If you donít that will probably be the last kiss you ever get."

When we were leaving the infirmary we overheard the shipís Doctor talking to Captain Brown about where to put the sailors that are not in need of any medical attention. "The ship is booked and the crew is already doubling in most cabins." said Captain Brown.

"Well I canít keep them here, what if a passenger gets sick? I canít put them in the same bed." Replied Doctor Daniels.

"I will ask the passengers for volunteers to double up to make cabins available to the Axxon Venture crew."

"Excuse me Captain!" interrupted Ariel. "We have a very nice and large room! We can double with someone else." I gave her a smirk. "Come on Honey, it will be fun to get to know some other passengers. You were the one that wanted me to mingle with humans!"

"But you are on your honeymoon, are you sure you want to do that?" ask Captain Brown.

"We are sure!" I sighed. "Ariel is right, we have the most room, so lets set an example of the hospitality that Atlantica is known for."

Captain Brown had his crew make the arrangements to move other first class passengers to our room. The steward moved in some extra beds and the luggage of our new roommates who turned out to be little Natalie and her mother and father, Joyce and Jeff.

Natalie and her parents were in the room when we returned. We all introduced our selves and there were a few awkward minutes of silent. "Letís play a game so we can get acquainted!" suggested Ariel.

"Goody, I like to play games!" squealed Natalie.

"Do you have some?" I asked. "We forgot to bring any!" Ariel, Jeff, and Joyce all giggled but Natalie just said. "Ah-huh! Iíve got three! Shoots and Ladders, Operation and some cards to play Fish with."

Humm, all things considered I think it should be Shoots and Ladders." I said.

"Fish?" Ariel whispered to me.

"Donít ask, you donít want to know."

"Oh, . . . OH!"

"Look!" interjected Jeff. "I work for The National, . . . thatís a paper owned by Mr. Fairbank!" Ariel froze and bit her lip. "I know what he has been saying about you and if you want Iíll ask the Purser to move us to another cabin. But, for what itís worth, just because I work for him does not mean I believe or endorse what he is doing to you."

"No, thatís OK. We will give it a try," said the worried girl.

Reluctantly, on Arielís part, we all sat down to play a round of Shoots and Ladders. As we played the conversation was game related but when that slowed Ariel asked Natalie. "Do you like the way I did your hair?"

"Ah-huh! But it is getting messed up! Can you fix it?" replied the little girl.

"Natalie!" Scolded Joyce.

"Thatís OK Joyce. Sure I can, sweetheart."

"Can you show me how you do that, I would like to do my hair like that too?" asked Joyce.

"I can show you but as you probably know, we do use what you may call magic to do the things you use technology to do."

After the game, the girls moved to the vanity and Jeff and I poured us all some ice tea and moved to the sitting area. We watched the girls work on Natalieís hair and Jeff said, "I donít understand what Mr. Fairbank has against your wife. What I see is a sweet person that does not look like she would hurt anyone."

I told Jeff the story how Alex Fairbank kidnapped Ariel and how he tried to keep her like a pet fish. "He would have succeeded if we had not used force to free her. I think he thinks since we used violence to free her that the mer-world is violent. Nothing is further from the truth. If he had not used violence to capture her I would not have recommended violence to free her!"

Jeff and I spent the rest of the evening talking and watching Ariel work on Natalie and Joyceís hair.

Our two-week cruse was coming to an end and our ship was returning to Miami without a scheduled stop at Saint Thomas where Ariel and I were going to get off. The delay caused by the rescue of the crew of the tanker Axxon Venture made it impossible to make the stop. So Ariel and I decided to get off mid ocean.

The ship came to a stop about 75 miles from the U. S. Virgin Islands and opened the side door that turns into a small marina. The other passengers and crew gathered to see us off.

"Thank you for a great trip and also to your crew for their great service. Just send our luggage to our address on Saint Thomas!" I told Captain Brown as he shook my hand.

"This is a first for me, I have never put off a honeymoon couple at mid ocean before. You and your wife are welcome back any time."

"Princess Ariel! Princess Ariel!" cried little Natalie as she ran up to Ariel.

"What sweetheart, whatís wrong?"

"I donít want you to go!" said the little girl and big tears began to flow.

"Oh Iím sorry, but we have too. I promise I will write to you and send you a picture. Would you like that?"

"Uh-huh!" Ariel gave her a big hug and Joyce came to take the girl back to where Jeff was waiting with the rest of the passengers.

"Bye!" we said and waved to the crowd. The group on the marina level waved back and the crowd on the deck above waved and threw flowers into the sea where we jumped in. I donít know how many noticed the flash of blue light that followed.

Chapter 19

The Evil Returns

It was only a five-hour swim from where we left the Northern Cross to West Atlantica, where the Fowl Wind II was still anchored. We swam around the island to see if any other boats were there. We had it to ourselves. We decided to stay in mer form for a while and play. We explored the reef along the Southern lagoon. Where we came across that same turtle I saw the first time I dove here. Ariel said, "Hi Dudley!"

The turtle answered "Good . . . day . . .Prin . . . cess . . .Ariel, . . . how . . . are . . . you?" In a slow halting voice, that I have come to the conclusion is common to turtles.

"Just wonderful! I would like you to meet my husband Roy."

"I . . . thought . . . his . . . name . . . was . . . Eric."

Ariel turned red "Eric was my first husband, I just got married again, to Roy! Roy, Dudley was an advisor to my father."

"Thatís OK, Ariel! I understand a lot of people will be making that mistake. Pleased to meet you, Dudley."

"Like . . . wise."

"See you later Dudly. We are going for a swim," said Ariel and we left the turtle behind us in a rush of bubbles.

Next we swam into the inland lagoon where the water is kept fresh by the waterfall. This time I was equal to Ariel as we wrestled and splashed about. When we were exhausted we pulled ourselves onto the sand to lay in the hot tropical sun till late afternoon. Later we cooled off by setting on the rocks under the spray of the falls.

When dusk came to the Caribbean, we returned to the boat. We leaped out of the sea, to the pad made for this purpose, on the boat. I waited for Ariel to use her Trident to turn us human. "Well are we going to change or are we going to flop around like fish out of water."

"You do it!" she giggled.

"Huh!"

"I saw you look at my amulet after we exchanged rings and it is the same type of sapphire. We just learned how to make them, with the Tridentís help. Iím surprised you have not asked about it."

"I was going to ask, but my mind has been on other things lately. Help from the Trident? You make it sound alive."

"No, itís not alive but my mother appears to me in my dreams and teaches me how to use the Trident."

"Are you saying, it can communicate with the dead?"

"No, of course not, silly. It has messages, like your recording thingamabobs, that are sent to me when needed. It sent me a message before we were married and told me how to make a sapphire with the magic you will need. So give it a try, focus your mind like I taught you and make us human. It will make you feel weak for a few minutes but that will pass and you will not feel anything when you just change yourself."

"OK, Iíll try!" Focusing the way Ariel had taught me to with the Trident, a green flash of light engulfed us. It was like a blow to the head without the skin trauma. Dazed, I tried to stand, "Oh man! I never realized how bad it was when you do it. No wonder you use it as a last resort. Why didnít you use your amulet to change yourself human to get the Trident from Ericís Castle?"

"That was an easy task, itís even worse when I deflect bullets or knock someone away. Each sapphire is made for a special purpose mine was made to protect me by my mother. She never thought I would marry humans."

It only took a few minutes to recover to where I could walk. But it also made me hungry.

After we had dinner my strength was back to normal, so we went to bed early. Love making to the rocking of a small boat is something that canít be described, so I will not try.

Next morning, after breakfast, we packed a picnic and went ashore. We had been on this island many times but had never explored its interior. We followed the stream that falls into the inland lagoon to its source. Which turned out to be a spring that formed a small lake about 60 by 100 feet. We took off our cloths and jumped in. The water was cool and sweet and the bottom was sandy except where the water bubbled up from the deep aquifer.

After our swim we spread out a blanket under a large tree, had lunch and relaxed. I told Ariel "Most red blooded men dream of being alone on a tropical island with a beautiful girl. I am so lucky, I never dreamed it would be this good."

"You always say things that make me blush. Girls have dreams too, and I am just as lucky."

We made love again and then napped most of the afternoon. It was late afternoon when we decided to return to our boat via the summit of the islandís only peak.

It was an easy climb to the top, where there was a spectacular 360-degree view. "The Fowl Wind looks so small from up here! Ooo I can see the fish in the lagoon. Look, over there another boat!" Ariel pointed to the West. There in the sunís golden reflection was a large power yacht.

I got the Ďbiggermajiggersí out of the picnic basket and focused them on the yacht. It had a familiar look to it then I saw the black flag with a white ĎFí on it. "Oh-oh!" I said and the smile faded from Arielís face.

"What? . . . Whatís wrong?"

"Come on we have to get to the boat, fast!" I did not want to worry her but I thought it might be Alex Fairbankís yacht. "Where did you leave the Trident?"

"Itís in the water by the water fall! Why? Whatís going on?"

"Iím not sure yet. Lets just get your Trident and get to the boat."

When we reached South Beach we could hear the sound of a small outboard motor going around the point. We split up, Ariel went to get her Trident and I took the dinghy to the boat. I approached the Fowl Wind II with caution I did not see any activity on the boat. Once on board, there was evidence that someone had been looking for something. The cabin was not messed up but things were not in place, like they were moved then put back. "Roy are you OK!" called Ariel from the water.

"Yes, but we had visitors!" I replied then went topside to talk to Ariel as she leaped onto the boat. "Stay a mermaid! I want you safe, while I investigate."

"Will you tell me whatís going on?"

"The yacht, its Alexís!" I said.

Arielís face turned to worry "What does he want? Why canít he leave us alone?" Tears started to add to the water on her face.

"I donít know, maybe we can get an injunction to keep him away from you."

"But he said he would take any mermaid."

"Maybe we can make the three miles around the island territorial to West Atlantica. Then any ship that wants to come here will have to get our OK!"

"No, thatís not fair to the small boats that need this island for safety during storms."

"OK, but in the mean time I want you in the water while I investigate."

"What if he tries to wreck your boat again?"

"This time Iíll be prepared." I opened a seat locker then another cover and pulled out a big box. Opening the box reviled a 30 mm grenade gun. "My 9 mm hand gun is no good against a boat the size of Alexís. But this will give him a surprise."

"No, you canít do that. He may deserve it, but you canít."

"I donít want to, but I will defend myself. I promise I will fire a warning first and only shoot if it is absolutely necessary."

"What about the fish in the area? They may get hurt too."

"Well, we donít know what Alex will do. So maybe you can get everyone away, till itís safe."

"Awe, you said everyone instead of everything. You are becoming one of us."

With a plan in place and Ariel in the water, I motored the Fowl Wind II into the open ocean. With my 9 mm in my belt, the grenade gun under a blanket and a Pepsi in my hand I approached Alexís yacht. "Fowl Wind II to the yacht two miles West of West Atlantica." I said in to the microphone of the marine VHF radio. No response, I repeated the message. I was now within voice range, I turned off the motor. "Ahoy the yacht!" I yelled.

A man stepped out of the wheel house he had an M-16 cradled in his arm. He was a man that did not surprise me to see on a boat belonging to Alex Fairbank. "What do you want?" said my ex-friend Lee.

"Hum, why am I not surprised to see you on a Fairbank boat? I came out to tell Mr. Fairbank, he is not welcome here. And for that matter, neither are you! This is a warning to stay at lest three miles away from this island." I knew that would not set well with Lee, so I focused my mind.

"What do I care what you like or dislike? Mr. Fairbank has sent me out here to catch him a mermaid and thatís what Iím going to do. After I take care of some unfinished business." With that he pointed his gun at me and let loose a volley.

The bullets just bounced off the shield I had put up around the Fowl Wind II. But each hit was like a bucket of ice water on my body and mind. Just had enough energy to start the motor and head back to the island. Quickly I downed the Pepsi to refresh my energy. I had only gone 200 yards when the Yachtís engines started and it turned to come at me. I pulled out my big gun and fired a grenade into the water just in front of the advancing yacht. The explosion sent a column of water into the air, just as the yacht cut through it. I reloaded and pointed it at the wheel house and said into the VHF microphone. "That was just a warning, the next one will be through your head!"

The yacht turned away, just missing the Fowl Wind II. "OK, itís my turn!" I said into the radio "Iím going to come at you and if you are within 3 miles of this island, Iíll make a hole in your boat for the Fowl Wind to sail through."

It was a ridiculous sight, a small sailboat chasing the bigger powerboat. Although The Fowl Wind II could not keep up with the speedy power yacht, I pursued it, trying to keep myself between the yacht and the island. Once it was outside the three-mile limit, I got on the radio again. "Next time I see you, or any Fairbank boat here, I will not be so nice. There will be no more warnings, you are not welcome here!"

Bringing the Fowl Wind about to return to the island, Ariel leaped onto the pad. "You were wonderful! You showed them who was boss and with only a small amount of violence."

"Yea, this time."

"What do you mean?"

"Alex Fairbank is a man that is used to getting what he wants. They will be back and they will have more then machine guns."

"Why is he that way? What can we do to stop him?"

"I donít know! It only takes a few people with ambitious ideas, to make things rough for others."

"I see, thatís why humans war amongst themselves."

"Yes, I guess so. We have an old saying that goes something like. ĎSwords should be beaten into plow shears.í but another says Ďthose that beat their swords into plow shears, plow the ground for those that donít.í So we need to be prepared for their return."

"How do we do that?"

"Let's go talk to your sister, we need to get everyone involved in this. Also get more merpeople into meeting humans."

Chapter 20

Getting Back to Work

Shipís Log, The Fowl Wind II April 4, 1991, 0900 hours local: At anchor in the South lagoon of West Atlantica. The skies are cloudy the wind is out of the East at 10 knots. The pressureís at 1010 millibars, temperature is 91 and humidity is 60%. There is no sign of Lee or Alex Fairbankís boat. Ariel and I are off to Atlantica to work up a defense and a PR plan. Roy D. Stanton, Captain.

"Are you ready yet? I am finished in the galley." Asked my beautiful wife.

"In a second, I just have to put the log away."

"Thatís good, Iíll wait for you by the big rock by the point!" said the impatient girl. Then came the splash of her jumping into the water.

I finished my chores, locked the cabin, removed my shorts and jumped into the water as well. Concentrating on my ring it produced a green globe of light the engulfed me from head to toe, or fin as it were a second later. It only took me a few seconds to reach the rock where Ariel was playing with a little red fish. A year ago the same swim would have taken me five to ten minutes. "There you are, letís go. Bye Samín, see you later!" she waved to the fish as we left it far behind.

"Samín has agreed to keep an eye on your boat"

"Our boat!" I interjected.

"Our boat." giggled Ariel. "And let us know if anyone comes around."

"Thatís nice of him."

"He said, he had nothing to do anyway so it was no trouble."

"Remind my to invite him to dinner as a thank you." I gave her a wink.

"Oh you, youíre just being silly. If a human invites a fish to dinner, he will think he is on the menu." we both laughed.

We told Aquata our plan to improve, or disprove the danger of the merworld myth, and improve the image of Atlanticans. And tried to convince her of the need of some kind of defense, to keep Alex Fairbank and others like him from kidnapping any merpeople.

"I will try to do something in our legal system to restrain him from harassing any citizens of the Sea Kingdom." I explained. "In the meantime maybe a group of fish like Samín can be put to the task of watching for danger from the surface around the Sea Kingdom. Another plan, we can place a guard on the island and he can call or sound an alarm if a boat comes. I can have buoys placed around the island warning humans to stay away from this privet island."

I kept rattling out ideas till Aquata stopped me. "Getting something legal to keep Mr. Fairbank away is a good idea. But I donít want to keep others away, that goes against the plan to show the humans how friendly we are. But I think it would be prudent to keep a lookout on the island. Iíll ask for volunteers for that duty, it might be a hard post to fill."

"Maybe you wonít have too. I have an idea. Where is your phone?"

The puzzled Queen pointed to the instrument. I picked it up and dialed a number. "Hello Sam, this is Roy. I want you to work on a system to monitor for boats entering the three-mile limit around West Atlantica and automatically send a signal to Atlantica. Can you do that for me? . . . Thanks, Iíll be waiting to hear from you . . . Yes, itís a rush job, but keep up the quota of reverse osmoses filters too. OK Thanks, bye." I hung up. "That should make it easy to keep tabs on the coming and going of boats around the island."

Our next topic we talked about was starting a public relations program to improve the image of Atlanticans.

A week later we had a restraining order agents Alex Fairbank and his agents and a special permit from the city of Miami Beach.

It was mid afternoon when I walked on to the beach, laden with a picnic basket, an umbrella and a mermaid. The sun was warm and the humidity made it feel 10 degrees hotter. I set Ariel down near the waters edge where the sand was damp and setup the umbrella to shade us from the South Florida sun.

It did not take long for some of the other beach gores to come around. To help attract others Ariel sang a line from ĎCome to where Mermaids Dwellí. When she had finished we talked to the folks that had gathered. When someone asked, "I loved your song, can we hear more?"

Arielís plan was working to a tea "OK, but I really need some backup to do it justice." she turned to me "Roy, call for some help please."

"Sure thing." I picked up a conch shell we had in our basket and blew through the hole in its small end, making a loud honk. This was mostly for show as the group of merpeople, lead by Allana were expecting the call.

Ariel began to sing and the group of merpeople appeared at the waterís edge and joined in the song. It was beautiful, although rehearsed.

After the song a man asked "I have blown on a conch shell many time before and never seen any mermaids. How is it you can call them?"

"I wonít try to fool you, this is all setup. The shell call was just to cue the others." I turned to the rest of the human beach gores. "Princess Allana would like to invite anyone to join them in some surf games, do we have any takers?"

The stampede to get into the water was overwhelming. But the merpeople weíre ready and played with as many as wanted too. The splashing and frolicking before us brought a smile to all that watched. Then Arielís smile faded when she spotted a group of children all to small to be in with the big bodies.

"Roy, take me over there, please!" and she pointed to a stretch of the beach where no one was swimming. As I carried her to the designated place, she smiled at the children and gestured for them to follow. I felt like the Pied Piper, when all the children followed him.

The surf on Miami Beach at this time of year is slight at best. Even though the water is shallow for many yards out a mermaid can still get around. It was a fairy tale come true for the children, to splash about with a pretty mermaid in the gentle swells of the sea. Ariel held one of the smallest girls in her arms as the rest played around her. Except for one, a boy too shy to come foreword and play with this stranger from the sea.

One of the games Ariel would play, she would flip some water into the air with her flipper and it would rain down on the squealing kids. Then she pulled herself onto the beach and let them cover her tail with sand. Personally I felt covering the glittering tail of a mermaid was not the thing to do, but what do kids know about beauty.

Our fun was shattered by the faint gasp of the little shy boy, he had wondered out too far. "Ariel, look!" I pointed to the thrashing boy.

"Oh, my gosh!" she handed me the small one she had been holding and jumped over the group of youngsters, into the shallow surf and darted out to where the boy had been. When next we saw her she was holding the lad on her tummy as she swam on her back, back to the waterís edge, where she beached herself. Laying the boy on his back she started mouth to mouth resuscitation. After a couple of breaths he coughed out some water and started to breathe on his own.

By now his mother had heard of the near loss and came running over. "Timmy, where is Timmy?" she cried.

"Over here!" I waved to get her attention. "He will be OK, just had a good scare!"

"Oh my! You let one of those creatures touch my boy!"

"Creature?" my anger was on the rise. Picking up Ariel so she would be on the same level, I added. "This . . . creature, saved you sonís life!" I tried to stay calm. "I think you read too many supermarket tabloids and you owe her an apology."

"Thatís OK, Roy." then Ariel looked at the mother. "I understand your concerns, I would not want my child to be with a stranger either. I am sorry you feel the way you do about me. But rest assured, if you do not watch you boy and I see he needs help, I will not hesitate to help him again."

"Letís go Timmy, I donít want you to go near these rude creatures again." huffed Timmyís mother.

Ariel was saddened by this humanís response to our attempt to make friends. But her sadness was short lived. There was a group of young men about 100 feet off shore thrashing in the surf yelling "Help, I need rescue and artificial respiration". We just laughed the water was only 2 feet deep where they were.

The rest of the afternoon went with out incident. Except for the group of young men wanting rescue. But there was 2 mermaid sisters named Alora and Carmen, that came over to where they were play drowning. The two girls were girls of the 90's they wanted to play rescue with the boys and kiss them all and saved them from their play drowning. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the young men or mermaids.

As dusk settled over Miami Beach the tourists returned to their hotels and the merpeople returned to the sea. Most had made new friends. We started back too, but there were three men that I had not noticed till now. They were staying a good distance away from us but I am sure it was Lee and two of the men that attacked us in Saint Thomas over a year ago. I placed Ariel into our rented convertible and drove off, all the time at the ready to put up a shield.

With no further sightings of Lee or other agents of Alex Fairbank, we continued our PR events up and down the East Coast of the U.S. We also did it in Jamaica, Puerto Reco, Belize, and the last stop Saint Thomas. The reception by the humans was for the most part positive. At the end of each event, only a few felt that the merpeople were dangerous.

While in Saint Thomas I checked out Jimís new trade business with Atlantica. He had setup a warehouse on a wharf where he could transfer his goods into giant conch shells. He would then place the shells in the water and some mermen would harness a team of dolphins to them and take them to Atlantica.

Shipís Log, The Fowl Wind II: May 11, 1991 time 1700 hours local. We are returning to West Atlantica after the success of the four-week PR tour to meet with Queen Aquata.

We were greeted with a surprise at the island as we had difficulty finding a place to anchor. There was a number of small pleasure craft filling both lagoons and groups of humans interacting with merpeople. The most popular activity was snorkeling and scuba diving but there was also some merfolk sun bathing with humans on the beaches. Everyone was having a good time. "Letís join in the fun!" Ariel suggested.

"Sounds good to me!" After securing the boat Ariel swam and I rowed to the beach.

"Hi Roy!" said Andrina, one of Arielís sisters. She was sunning herself on the sand, with Allen her husband, and other mermaids and humans. "Hello!" I answered back. "Are you having a good time?"

"I sure am, I never knew how much fun the surface could be. Now I understand why Ariel loved it so. By the way where is she?"

"Iím on my way to meet her at the water fall. Why donít you and Allen join us for a swim?"

"We will be right there." Replied Andrina.

I stood on the bank of the fresh water lagoon and watched as a group of young men gather around my wife. They were trying to get her favor by giving her attention. One tried to catch her by her hand. Another offered to help her on the rock by the falls. But she proved that she did not need help by jumping onto the rock with ease. Another man climbed onto the rock too and wanted to pick up the lovely mermaid. But when she saw me standing knee high in the water she jumped off the rock, swam between four men and jumped into my arms. "That will do fellas, sheís mine." I quipped.

A muscular blonde young man said. "Oh man, you are one lucky dude."

"Iím one lucky girl too." Said Ariel and she planted a deep kiss on my lips. We could hear the sighs from the group, and it buckled my knees plunging us both into the water.

By now Andrina and Allen had worked their way into the lagoon too. "Come on every one lets play fin tag." Said Ariel and motioned to the group to join in. The two mermaids gave the human men a chase. They were so fast that even the best swimmer among them could not catch a fin unless the girls let them. I could tell the girls were really enjoying teasing the boys. Allen watched the chase from below and I kept tabs on the girlís safety from above. The game lasted till all the men were exhausted and only two of them had the pleasure of touching a mermaidís fin.

At nightfall some of the humans built a fire on the beach to the amazement of the merpeople. But with some couching from the humans, both human and merpeople gathered around the fire and sang some songs. Each group, teaching the other appropriate songs for this occasion. When we joined the group too, Ariel as a mermaid and me as a human, we were invited in as old friends.

Then the singing continued. But when Ariel sang with the rest of the mermaids doing the harmony, everyone else were spell bound.

The next morning found us in Queen Aquataís court, we were telling her of the success of the PR campaign. When a guard interrupted the meeting. "Sorry your Majesty, a fish named Samín wants to see Princess Ariel right away."

"He is the fish that agreed to watch our boat." Said Ariel.

"Show him in." instructed the Queen.

Samín swam into the room and got real nervous in the presents of his ruler. "Um, there is, um trouble, um at the, um island. Two, um boats came and ran, um all the other boats off."

"It sounds like Alex Fairbank or his men are back!" said Ariel. "Thanks Samín, we owe you one."

"I better go and see whatís going on." I huffed.

"Iím coming with you!"

We got up and bowed to Aquata. "You will be careful!" she said.

Ariel got her Trident from our room and we started to the surface.

"I can see our boat, there does not seem to be any others around." Ariel said. We were just out side the reef that surround the island where the chop from the sea would make it hard for anyone to see us.

"I wonder why they ran every one away and left, unless they have done something to the Fowl Wind? We better take it slow, approaching the boat."

We dove back under the safety of the waves and swam into the lagoon where the Fowl Wind II was anchored. We swam around the boat several times looking for something out of the ordinary. When we were sure it was safe I jumped onto the pad on the deck first then Ariel joined me.

A second after Arielís jump onto the Fowl Wind II a small black box, I had not noticed, with a antenna and a canister of knockout gas released itsí poison.

"Ariel! Jump back into . . . . ." I could not finish my warning.

Chapter 21

Mermaid in a Cage, Again

At first, all I knew was my head ached. It felt like it had been hit by a load of bricks. Trying to bring my hands up to rub my temples and neck got no response from them. "Am I paralyzed?" I asked myself. Trying to move some thing, anything got the same results. With some panic I tried again, this time my arms did respond and rub my forehead. "I am in the water. What happened to me?" I thought. "Oh yes, the gas. What about Ariel?" Things were starting to come back, fast. Except my senses were still not working. "I wonder if the gas was suppose to kill us and left me a vegetable? But what about Ariel?" Were some of the thoughts that raced through my mind.

"Ariel!" I tried to shout, but it only came out as a whisper. But I did say it.

"OK, lets open your eyes!" a rush of light came in, all fuzzy and the colors were all blurred together, it made my head pound. "OK, one step at a time. Focus let the water wash the gas from them. Good, thatís better." I said to my self.

Now I could hear some sound. A bubbling noise and a low hum like that of electric motors. More of my senses were returning, I could feel the sand I was laying on. There was something next to me all I could see was some green and lots of red. "Ariel!" I called again. The colorful lump did not move. "Oh no! They killed her." I thought. Unable to do much of anything else I curled up on the sand next to her and cried.

I must have fallen asleep after crying for what seemed like hours, when I was awoken by a week voice. "Roy, are you here?"

I opened my eyes things were dark. Night must have fallen, but I was able to move more and feel things, like my tail. "Yes, I am here! Are you OK? I thought you were dead."

"I donít know, I canít move and I canít see." she said in a shaky voice filled with fear.

"I know, I am the same way but I am getting better." I moved over closer the limp mermaid. Brushing her hair back from her face, I asked, "Can you feel this?"

"Yes!"

"Try to open you eyes, and let the water clear out the poison from them."

"What happened to us?"

"They knocked us out with a gas, probably released by remote control." I continued to hold the frightened girl for several hours, as our senses slowly returned.

"Whatís that noise?" she asked, then answered her own question. "Oh no! I have heard that before, we are in a fish tank!" she no sooner said that, I knew she was right. The sun was coming up and with blurry eyes and the faint glow, I could see the bundle of hoses in the invisible corner of the plexie glass tank.

"Alex!" I said in disgust.

"What are we going to do? This time, you are not out there to rescue us." Ariel said and clung to my arm.

"I donít know, we will have to wait and see what Alex is going to do with us." Stroking her hair I tried to reassure her but was scared and shaking myself.

We continued to hold each other till the morning sun was making a bright spot on the floor from a small window high on the East wall. The rows of fluorescent lights came on and four men walked into the room. Two were our old nemesis, Alex and Lee. The other two were the men we refer to as pirates, the ones from the encounter at the island after Hurricane Daniel, the big man and his henchman Joe.

"Youíre awake, look who is in hot water now!" smirked Lee.

"Ha ha ha!" laughed the men "Thatís a good one, Lee." Alex turned his attention to Ariel. "I told you I wanted a mermaid. This time you wonít get away, so donít give me any of the trouble I got from you last time."

"You canít do this, I am an American citizen. Ariel is my wife and is under American protection too." I roared.

"You are not in America now!" Alex said in an evil whisper. "I am the law here. A sea creature has no rights anyway. A cross species marriage is disgusting and I do not recognize such a union. I donít want you, I only want a mermaid, so you will have to go!"

"What? You canít separate us!" Ariel cried.

"Sure we can!" Snickered Lee.

"We wonít give you any trouble if you keep us together." Ariel pleaded.

"Thatís right, you wonít give us any trouble!" Alex Fairbank then turned to the big man and the one he calls Joe. "You may proceed Mr. Black."

Mr. Black and Joe climbed the stairs to the catwalks over the aquariums. They each picked up what looked like a cattle prod and came to our tank. With the big man on one side and Joe on the other, they opened two small hatches on top of the tank. A door connecting our tank to another, opened. "OK fella, get in the other tank!" said the big man.

"Let me zap it, tíat will get Ďem goín!" said Joe.

"Take it easy Joe, we need him to get our money."

"Please let us stay together. What money are you talking about?" I pleaded.

"Comíon Bill, let me zap Ďem."

"Easy Joe!" Bill Black gestured to the thinner man to calm down. "The treasure! We still want the treasure, and you owe it to me now!"

"How do you figure that?" I quizzed.

"You destroyed two of my boats and damaged another and you are gonía pay for tíat." said big Bill Black.

"Get on with it!" shouted an impatient Alex Fairbank.

Joeís prod jabbed me in the back and a jolt of electricity stunned me. The jolt also made Ariel scream. I pushed her away from me, as it appeared that the two men were just prodding me and I did not want Ariel to get anymore shocks. The prods from both men moved towards me again. At each contact another serge of electricity would cause my body to spasm. I tried to swim to the opening but the spasms from the prodding kept me from making much progress.

Ariel tried to swim to my aid but I said to her "keep back! They will hurt you too!" All the time she cried and Joe kept laughing and prodding.

When I finally made it to the other tank the prodding stopped. Ariel tried to swim into the tank with me but the door was slammed shut behind me. I turned to her "Iíll be back for you, I promise!" Ariel cried and Lee laughed, he said, "You should live so long!" Ariel cried harder.

The two men moved to the top of my tank. The one called Joe got a pole with a rope loop on its end from the wall. The big man used his prod to keep me in a corner and Joe dropped the loop over me and cinched it up trapping my arms at my sides. All the time Ariel darting about her tank screaming "Stop it! Leave him alone! You are hurting him!" The others just laughed.

Joe with the help from Bill pulled me from the tank despite my efforts to stay. Once out of the water they removed the rope and dropped me to the great of the catwalk. Then the two men kicked me from the elevated walkway letting me dropped to the concrete floor like a wet rag. My body was racked in pain from the drop, kicking and prodding, but miraculously nothing was broken.

I flopped over to one side and curled up to try to protect myself from further kicking. Which came this time from Lee. The other two men came down from the catwalk to join in on the abuse of a helpless sea creature.

The four men were having such a good time in their cruelty that they failed to notice Ariel was wiggling her way out of the tank through the small hatch the two pirates had inadvertently left open. She quietly pulled herself along the catwalk to try to get over the four attackers. When she noticed a table with two cattle prods, two pieces of jewelry and the Trident on it. She also noticed the way the men were kicking me I was sliding towards the table. Her heart ached for the man she loved and her anger raged for the men that abused me. But she had to wait if the plan she had devise was going to work.

As the four men kick and pushed me about the floor the water, that at first let me slide, was running thin. I was no longer sliding but was sticking then rolling. But now blood was starting to add to the lubricant so I could slide again. Lee put his foot on my back and gave a powerful shove, driving me into the hard square leg of a table, opening a gash in my left fore arm. I pulled myself under the table to try to use it for protection. Lee pulled me out from under the table by my fin. "This will make a fine trophy for my den when I get it stuffed." he said. I grabbed the table leg and it was drug too.

Alex turned his attention back to Arielís tank. "Hay! Where is the other one." he hollered. When the other three men turned to look, the table suddenly came crashing down in front of me. It was crushed by something with a lot of red and green color that had fallen from the catwalks.

Ariel let out a scream from the pain of landing on the table. I saw my ring skitter across the floor and Arielís Amulet and Trident crashed down next to her. "Ariel! Are you all right?" I shouted as I scrambled after the rolling ring. She did not answer.

The four men by now were scrambling to intercept my effort to retrieve my ring. Joe and Bill came after me and Lee headed to where Ariel lay unconscious.

My ring came to a stop in a grove in the floor for draining any water that might spill from the aquariums. It was ten feet away from me and I knew I could not get to it before the others. But one of the cattle prods had come to rest just in front of me. I grabbed it and rolled over onto my back and shoved it into Joeís stomach as he lunged at me. The jolt from the prod sent the thin man backward across the room. Then I threw it at the legs of the big man, tripping him, and sending him to the floor where he slid in the water and blood towards me. The impact from Bill, push me with him straight to the grove with my ring.

Grabbing the ring and sliding half way onto my swollen finger I changed back into a human. The startled men were slow to react to my metamorphosis, giving me time to pick up the prod and start towards Alex and Lee before they reacted.

I was able to get close before Lee grabbed Ariel by her hair. Pulling her up he put his left arm around her waist and held a knife to the throat of the limp mermaid with his right. "Stay back!" he ordered.

"Put her down!" I ordered back. "If you hurt her Iíll kill you!"

"I donít want it hurt either!" interjected Alex. "We will let you go if you will leave with out it."

I saw Ariel start to move she was coming too. If I stalled till she was awake, we had a better chance. "No way am I going the leave her with slime like you. Let her go and I will not destroy you."

Lee laughed again his laugh was starting to irritate me. "I donít think you are in a bargaining position. You walk out the door now, we will not kill you or the girl . . . at this time." he added and laughed again. That made me very angry.

By now the other two men had joined Lee and Alex and Ariel was awake. I knew my strength was low and I was bleeding from the gash in my left arm, but I had to try. It was now or never. "You will see what bargaining power I have." I hoped Ariel was alert enough to react to my move.

I focusing my mind on my ring, trying to keep it from draining what little strength I had left. A small globe of green energy formed before me, I felt the drain on my body and the others got tense. Then from the globe a bolt of energy struck Lee in the head, knocking him back and to the floor. Ariel fell to the floor with a thud and a "groin". Even this little show of magic left me barely able to stand but I could not let on how bad a shape I was in. "No one move unless you want the same!" I was hoping I was still good at the bluff.

When Ariel hit the floor she rolled and flopped her way to the Trident. My bluffed worked long enough for her to reach it. When next I saw her, she was standing next to me with the Trident leveled at the four men. "I got them!" she said and I collapsed to the floor.

Ariel put up a force field around the four gawking men. Then she helped me to a chair and then looked around the room. She found a storage cabinet with some towels she took one and wrapped it around her naked body. Then brought me the others one for my modesty and one for my bleeding arm.

"There that should help till I fix it!" she said then pointed the Trident at me. A warming blue glow engulfed my body and a wave of relief rolled up and over every aching muscle.

"Thanks sweetheart, that helps a lot but Iím vary week."

Ariel handed me the Trident "Wait here I will find you something." and she headed out to search the room. I managed to stand I turned to the four men that tried to kill me. I leveled the undersea weapon at them.

A roar of pleading came from the four. "I was not really going to hurt you." . . . "It was his idea!" . . . "If you let me go Iíll forget about the treasure!" . . . "Please donít hurt me!"

"No Roy!" said Ariel as she brought me a soda and a stale doughnut. "We canít reduce ourselves to their level, I have a better idea."

She took the Trident from me as I wolfed down the food. "OK gentlemen, up the ladder." she instructed and released the force field and pointed to the catwalks.

"What are you going to do?" asked the shivering Alex.

"You will see! Keep walking."

My strength was returning so I picked up one of the cattle prods and helped Ariel herd the four to the tank we had been held in. "OK gentlemen, jump in!"

"What, you donít mean that?" said Lee.

"I canít swim!" said Alex.

"You heard the lady, get in the tank!" I ordered and opened the big hatch to the aquarium. Then shoved the prod into Joeís back, he fell in the water with a splash that showered the other three. "OK, whoís next?" I said and waved the prod at them.

The other three men reluctantly entered the tank, with Alex being the last. His entry brought the water level up to over flowing. When his head returned to the surface he was in a panic and was thrashing and grasping onto the others.

"Thank you!" Ariel said in a sweet voice. She leveled the Trident at them and after the blue flash there were four mermen in the tank.

I slammed the lid down and Ariel dumped a bucket of stale seaweed into the tank. "Bon-appetite!" she said.

After a few seconds of gasping and thrashing the new mermen started to get the feel for breathing. "You canít do this to us!"

"Sure we can. You were going to do the same or worse to us. Donít worry there is fresh water at the top and the seaweed will keep you alive for a while." explained Ariel.

As we left the room I asked Ariel, "We canít leave them that way."

"Donít worry, they will change back to human in three days. We will send them help so they will be out of the tank when they change back."

"Three days? Why three days?"

"That was how long Ursala gave me to learn about the human world. Maybe they will learn something about the sea in the same amount of time."

We opened the door of Alexís house it was surrounded by his security force. "How are we going to get by them?" ask Ariel.

"I have an idea, wait here." I scanned the room and found what I was looking for.

Picking up the phone and pushing the button that said ĎSecurityí I said, "They are getting away, out the service door." then slammed it down.

I returned to the door where I left Ariel. "They are coming this way, what now?"

"Stay close!" I put my arm around and kiss the grinning girl then we stepped to the side just as the door flew open hiding us from the rush of guards running in. After the last one came in we strolled around the door and out into the yard.

"Errrr" screeched the siren on the guard tower. "Theyíre on the south side!" a voice bellowed on a P.A. system. This sent us running to the channel that runs from the sea to the house. Ariel held her Trident high and put up a shield around us as we ran.

At 100 feet from the water we threw off our towels and laughed as we ran the rest of the way. We dove into the channel and changed ourselves back to merpeople and swam towards the sea. Ariel had to blast a hole in the gate in the water that keeps sea life out of the channel.

We swam home hand in hand happy to be together and to be alive.

Chapter 22

The Mermaid Strikes Back

Now that our troubles with Alex Fairbank and Lee are over, Ariel and I got back to work. We picked up our PR campaign and the water pollution education speeches. We also taught other merpeople and humans how to do the same thing so there would be others doing the same thing.

Our belief that Alex and Lee would give us no more trouble was short lived.

Two months after our escapee from Alexís aquarium, Ariel and I were relaxing on the Fowl Wind II, when the phone rang. It was Scott from the diplomatic offices of Atlantica on Saint Thomas. "Hi Scott!" I said when the person on the other end identified himself.

"You have to see a video I made of the Haraldo Show!" He said excitedly.

"You know I never watch that type of program."

"I know, but you will want to see this one."

"OK, what is it?"

"Alex Fairbank was on his show."

"OH!"

"What is it?" asked Ariel. I held up my hand and gestured to wait one.

"He has a video of you and Ariel at Alexís privet aquarium. It shows Ariel using her Trident on Alex, Lee and two other men. He clams they barely escaped with their lives."

"Oh!" was all I could say while trying to figure how he had done that.

Scott went on. "Now the phone is ring off the hook. The press is asking all kinds of questions. What should I tell them?"

"I donít know! Just no comment for now, I have to see the tape, then maybe we can come up with a response."

"Whatís going on?" Ariel asked again with impatience.

"Alex again!" I said, then wish I hadnít as darkness fell on her pretty face.

Finishing up with Scott I told him we will see him soon. Then relayed the whole story to my worried wife.

"Letís head for Saint Thomas, where Scott will show us the tape. Then we can plan what to do. It will work out, youíll see." I reassured the lip-biting girl.

"What do you think?" asked Scott as he brought up the lights in the living room of Arielís beach house and pointing the remote at the TV.

Ariel had a quick response. "I think I should go on TV to show that we are not dangerous. But I do not know how to go about doing that." she gave me that, can you help me look.

But Scott was the next to speak. "It just so happens that I received an invitation for you to appear on the Terry Richard Show. He says he has invited Alex Fairbank to be his guest and...

"No way!" glared the fiery red head.

"Let him finish!" I tried to calm her.

"And!" Scott emphasized. "Terry Richard wants you to be a surprise guest to rebut Alexís clams."

Ariel thought and chewed on a fingernail. Then the light in her eyes came on, in high beams. "OK! Yes! Iíll do it."

"Letís not jump to fast." I interjected. "Letís see what the Showís setup is like."

Scott made the arrangements and Ariel and I was off to Chicago. I went to meet with the Terry Richard Show producers first not wanting Ariel to fall into another Alex Fairbank trap.

My fears satisfied Ariel came in for an interview. Then a date was set for the live, in Chicago and tape delayed to other time zones, show.

"Itís the Terry Richard Show." The show announcer, with a baritone voice, read from his copy into a microphone on his podium, located in the wings of the stage. "Tonightís guest is the media magnet and exotic fish collector Alex Fairbank. And now give a big windy city welcome to Terry Richard."

The applause light flashed and the studio lights were brought up and the rowdy audience clapped and whistled. Terry Richard, a young tall good-looking man with dark hair and a thin mustache, pranced across the set with a lanky but graceful stride to a mark on the floor. Where the lights had been adjusted to bring out the best of his face. "Thank you." he repeated several times till the applause subsided. "My vary special guest tonight is the famous publisher and television magnet Alex Fairbank. Let give him a warm Windy City welcome." The light flashed again and studio audience followed its instruction and applauded.

Alex Fairbank waddled out from behind a curtain and across the studio to a seat to one side of the set. Ariel and I were seated in what is called a green room, why they call it a green room I could not figure. There was nothing in the room green. We were instructed to wait there till our introduction. Ariel wrinkled her noise when Alex appeared on the TV screen in the green room.

Terry asked some personal questions at first, then ask "Tell me, Alex, why do you think the mermaids are dangerous?"

Alex went on with some long rambling explanation that was difficult even for someone that had been there to follow. Then he asked Terry to show the video. The highlights of the video were a scene where you could see Ariel firing her Trident at some thing off screen. The video had been edited to fuzz out the naked body of the beautiful girl but you could tell it was Ariel. Then the video cut to Alex, Lee and the two pirates all thrashing about in the water, then their rescue by Alexís security men. But they had legs when the guards pulled them out of the tank. Alex explained that they would have been killed if they had not jumped into the water to avoid the blast from the Trident.

"We had an expert look at the video, he states that some of the scenes on the tape were added. In other words, it was edited. Making it a hoax. Do you deny it?"

"We...we" Alex stammered "the surveillance video did not get all that happened so we recreated it."

"Is that all there is to it? Or is there more? We will find out when we come back after these messages. Donít go away, you donít want to miss what happens next." Music played and Terry walked away from a confused Alex Fairbank.

A man with a headset on, came to the door of the green room, he was the floor manager we were introduced to earlier. "Youíre on next!" he said. I wheeled Ariel to the wing to wait for our cue. She is in her wheelchair because she was in mermaid form, but had on a blue sleeveless dress with a V neckline that was vary flattering to Arielís figure. The dress was just long enough to cover the upper half of her tail and left the lower half and fins in plain sight.

"In five, four, three..." said the floor manager and pointed at Terry as the music came on again.

Terry turned to the audience after the music faded "What would you say if I said we have the Sea Princess Ariel here to rebut your clams?" and before Alex could react. "Give her a warm Chicago welcome, Her Royal Highness Princess Ariel of Atlantica."

With a nudge from the floor manager I wheeled Ariel out into the lights, to the spot of tape on the floor I was suppose to put her chair. Alex nearly jumped out of his skin and tried to leave. But with the encouragement from another man with a headset on, he sat back down. "You did not tell me it would be here." He said angrily.

Even though Alex was a short fat man, the little mermaid was quite small next to him. And the camera shots that were being used on the air made that fact evident.

"Calm down Mr. Fairbank, we just want the truth. We need to hear both sides if we are going to find the truth. You are not afraid of the truth are you?" Terry quizzed the sweating man.

"No! Of course not, Just keep it away from me. OK!"

"Now, your Highness. Can you tell us what happened in the video we saw?" Terry smiled at the girl and Alex squirmed.

"Thank you Mr. Richard for the opportunity to tell you and your viewers what Mr. Fairbank is about. And please I am just Ariel." The mermaidís magic was working overtime on Terry and his audience. I could tell she had them eating out of her had, I was not needed so I just faded into the background and marveled at the power of her charm.

"Of course Ariel if you call me Terry."

"It all started . . ." Ariel told her story from the first time she was kidnapped to the more recent violence at Alexís privet aquarium. All the time Alex shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

"I collect exotic sea creatures. Whatís wrong with that?" Alex defended. The audience booed and he got up from his chair to leave again but was persuaded to set back down. "What about its power, the Trident has power that can destroy!" he shouted. This brought some murmuring in the studio audience.

"What about that, is there any truth to Alexís clam of a power that can destroy? We will answer that question and other when we return." Music played and one of the men with a headset on yelled, "We are clear for two minutes."

A lot of people scurried about the set doing what ever their job were to get ready for the next segment. In the middle of all this activity Alex was trying to complain to Terry or any staff member about being tricked. But no one paid him any mind and went about their business.

When next the 5..4..3..counted us down to live TV. Terry asked. "What about it, Ariel is there any truth to what Mr. Fairbank says about your Trident?"

"Yes, there is more to the Trident then just a symbol." the audience gasped.

By this time I was back along side my wife, so when she asked "Roy, please hand my the Trident." I was right on cue but fumbled it almost dropping it, making the audience laugh and turning my face a little red.

The audience was getting fidgety over what might happen and Alex was about to clime the wall. The audience gasped when they saw the girl in the wheelchair point the alleged weapon at herself. Even in the bright light of a TV studio, the transforming blue light caused most to blink or turn their eyes away. When next the cameras could see the girl she was standing bear foot and beautiful in front of the wheelchair.

"Wow!" said Terry, the audience "Oooed and awed" and Alex said "See I told you!"

"Mr. Fairbank, do you really call this dangerous?" asked Terry.

"It can do more, I saw it. It is a dangerous weapon!"

"How about it, Ariel. Can the Trident do any thing else?"

"Oh yes! Can I demonstrate some of the things it can do?"

"By all means!" said Terry. Then as per rehearsal a curtain was raised, reveling a glass tank of water and a volunteer, wearing a towel, in the water that was waist high. Ariel walked to the side of the tank pointed her Trident at the man.

"This is what I did to Mr. Fairbank and the others that kidnapped us!" After the blue flash there was a merman swimming in the clear water.

The audience gasped and a rumble of disapproval came from the group. "See! It is dangerous." Said Alex.

"Wait there is more!" said our host.

After about a minute the volunteer changed back to a human with out the Tridentís help. "I changed Mr. Fairbank and the others to mermen for three days. To teach him that we are not that different then humans." Then Ariel asked the volunteer. "Do you feel any different from the transformation?"

He replied "No, it was wonderful. Can you do it again, for a longer time?" the audience laughed.

"It can do more!" shouted Alex.

"Thatís true!" said the girl. Another man came out with a club and swung it at her. But before the blow could land, the Trident glowed and the club glanced off its shield. "The shield can stop harpoons, arrows and bullets as well, but itís not safe to demonstrate that here." Ariel explained.

"It can do more, I have seen it. She is not showing you everything!" roared Alex.

"Thank you Mr. Fairbank, thatís the first time you referred to me as something other than Ďití. But we will never be friends till you call me Ariel." The audience roared in laughter and Alex got up from his chair to leave again. "But he is correct, there is still more I can do with my Trident." The girl pointed it at Alexís chair and it slid across the floor to where he was standing.

"See I am right!" said the fat man as he sat down.

"How is all this done? Is it some kind of magic?" asked Terry.

"What you call technology is magic to me. Can you understand what I thought when I saw you humans fly? Even here in this television studio, I do not understand how people all over the land can see me. So if you want to think the Trident is magic, I have no other explanation. But I hope you all took note that the things I did were all defensive or transforming."

"I see, itís used only in defense. But how do you work it?" asked our host.

"I know of no other reason of using it, but for defense or transforming me. Iím sorry I canít explain how It works, It just does." she shyly bit her lip.

"We have another surprise for Mr. Fairbank when we come back from these messages." The music played off and Alex got up and left. When we were back live again Terry said. "Welcome back, we have lost Mr. Fairbank. But we do not need him to show the video we got from a former employee of Mr. Fairbank. This video shows what really happened that day at his privet islandís aquarium."

On the monitors around the studio we saw the whole video. Including everything that happened from the time Alex, Lee and the two pirates entered the room to Ariel changing them to mermen. There was no sound on the surveillance tape but it was obvious to everyone who the dangerous ones were.

When Ariel and I went back stage, a man followed us with a hand held camera. The police had Alex Fairbank in handcuffs one of the officers asked me. "Mr. Stanton, do you want to press charges against this man?"

Before I could answer, Ariel pulled on my arm and whispered in my ear. With the cameras watching and Arielís wireless microphone still on, I said "No officer, not at this time." Then to Alex I said. "If you or Lee or any other of your men ever bother my wife or any other mermaids or myself. I will do what ever it takes to put you away for as long as I can. Do I make myself clear?"

Then the police officer asked the same question of Ariel. She responded. "No, I do not!" Then looking at Alex with a cute smile that faded into a look of determination, she added. "If you ever bother me, my husband or any Atlantican. You have no idea of the wrath a mermaid has or what she is capable of doing!"

Chapter 23

Key West

Ship's log The Fowl Wind II: "Date September 12, 1991. Time 1700 hours local. Wind is out of the East at ten knots, skies are mostly cloudy, temperature is 94 and the pressure is 1010 millibars. I am just 2 miles from the harbor at Key West, our next stop for Atlanticaís PR campaign. Ariel is in the water to do some exploring and get the lay of the waters around the island. We are scheduled to meet at Mallory Square during the sun set festivities that occur on the pier every day. Roy D. Stanton, Captain."

After the Fowl Wind II was tied up to the visitors dock at Garrison Bright Marina and checking in with the harbormaster. I walked to a store to stock up on supplies. That chore done I went to Mallory Square via a hotel at the end of Duval Street to get us a room. When I arrived at the dock the usual entertainers and venders were just arriving and setting up. I laid clam to a short section of a low wall that runs along the length of the dock about four feet from the edge to the water that is about ten feet down.

It was an hour till Ariel was to arrive. So I sat down and watched the show unfold before me. There was a man with a 10-foot snake for tourist to have their picture taken with. A contortionist that stuffs himself into a box 24 inches square. A girl, playing a guitar and singing. Another man with cats that do circus type acts. Still another man with a table of crystal glasses of various sizes filed with water to a level that made a musical note when the rim is rubbed with a fingertip. And a dozen other men and women with tables selling jewelry, posters and trinkets.

The man that played the glasses started by playing a song from Ariel CD. I went over to him and asked. "Do you take requests?"

He replied. "Yes, I do!" and he pushed a glass with some money in it, towards me.

I dropped in a twenty and he agreed to play a curtain tune when I give him a signal.

The Mallory Square dock is on the West Side of Key West, with two smaller keys to the West that the sun sets behind. The channel between the small islands and the bigger one is vary calm where a lot of small boats parade back and forth. Plus 120-foot schooners that are part of a harbor cruse sail by, making a beautiful sight for a sailor. I was really enjoying the sights and sounds as the tourists gathered to be entertained and shop. When one asked me. "What are you doing, with a blanket on the wall?"

"I'm going to fish!" I told him.

"Youíre not aloud to fish here!" he replied.

The time was now at hand so I walked to the edge of the pier and said. "I donít think anyone will mind if I fish for what I am fishing for." I pulled out my conch shell, an appropriate device sense Key West is known as the ĎConch Republicí, and my little flashlight. Blowing into the shell horn made a loud honk. Then I shined my light at the water for 30 seconds. "What kind of fish are you trying to catch?" asked the tourist.

Placing my light in my pocket and handing the shell to the man. "Youíll see!" I replied and held out my arms. A beautiful mermaid with red hair and green tail leapt from the sea right into my arms. Her leap was just right so her momentum was just right for me to turn it towards the wall with the blanket on it. Where I set her down facing the crowd.

"Hello humans!" she said with a sweet smile. The crowd ooed and awed, then most came and jammed in around her. The man I had handed the shell to started to blow on it making a squeaking raspy sound and he held out his arms like I had. At which everyone laughed.

As the sun went down behind the small key to the west and the butter milk sky turned yellow then the hue shifted through purple to a deep red. But no one noticed the beauty over head, as the line of people filed by the beauty sitting on the wall to have pictures taken autographs signed, or just to speak with someone from another world.

All was not so smooth. A tall thin gaunt man in a black suit stood on the wall 15 feet away for Ariel and started to shout. "Fellow citizens of the human race, stay away from this freak from the deep. She is the sister of evil!" Most just laughed, but some did move away.

I worked my way through the crowd, to a point where I could speak with the man. "Excuse me sir, but why do you think she is a bad thing?" I asked him.

He answered by preaching to the masses. "This creature is a witch, she beguiles men and turns them to do evil."

Because of the out spoken man the crowed became quite. Ariel heard him call her a witch. "Why do you call me a witch? You have no idea what a witch is like. I have known witches and know of their evil. I do not want to do any thing bad to anyone!"

"How can you say that?" I interjected. "All she has ever done is try to get us humans to take better care of the world we share with the other creatures. Our miss use of it has driven many other species to extinction and nearly destroyed her race. I think if anyone has done evil, its our race!" the crowd started to clap.

"She is the sister of the devil, a witch. Beware of this creature, she is evil." her repeated.

"Please sir, give me a chance. Lets talk about why you think I am bad." she pleaded with a tear running down her face.

"I donít want to be placed under her spell. She has the power to corrupt men."

"Surely your knowledge of her will keep you safe form her, or are you not sure of yourself?" I said. "And maybe you can free her from the evil you think she has!"

"I fear nothing unholy." bellowed the man and moved towards the mermaid.

"What is your name, sir?" I asked.

"I am Sam Goodly." he answered.

"Why do you think she is evil? I am married to her and I know she is as kind and gentle as any one could be." Ariel gave me a warm smile.

"A creature half human and half fish is not natural. She is ether a freak or the work of someone demented and evil, like a witch. The way she can change herself to the appearance of a human is more witch craft." said the thin man to the crowd that had gathered around him.

"So anyone that can do magic is a witch?" Ariel asked.

"Yes!" asserted the man.

"Then people like Hudini, are witches! Right?" I said.

"Thatís not the same, and you know it. They just have a highly developed skill." he beamed.

"What about when a primitive race sees you fly in a metal bird and have a box that makes music or pictures? Are you a witch then?" asked the girl.

"Of course not, you know thatís just technology."

"Then if a race has technology that you donít understand, that makes them a witch?" she challenged. The crowed all turned to the man in the black suit, in anticipation of his answer.

"Well no, but what kind of technology can change someone so completely and so fast if itís not witchcraft."

It was time to bluff again and Ariel pulled it off with a suppressing knowledge. "If I was to try to explain Quantum Physics to you would you under stand it?"

"No, but this is not physics, is it?"

"No, but itís something new to your world and is just as mysterious to someone that does not understand it. Why canít you judge me for what I do? Has anyone seen me do evil? No! I just uses magic for defense and change myself so I can move around in the world I am in at the time."

The man had no comeback he just got up and left. The crowd returned to the pretty mermaid and she continued to greet them.

It was time for me to give the signal to the man that plaid the glasses. The man began to play and Ariel recognized the melody and joined in and sang a Revised Version of "Part of your World". The tone from the crystals and the mermaidís voice made a harmony that brought the boardwalk of Mallory Square to a stop.

It was getting late and the people were not leaving Mallory Square. Ariel just bid everyone a good night and catapults her self from the wall into the sea. I walked around the street to the hotel where I picked up a robe from the pool area. Then out to the privet beach that is just a few steeps from the pool. When I stepped out on the beach Ariel slid out of the water onto the sand. "Hi sweetie!" I said and put the robe around her, then zapped her with my ring.

"Hi!" she said sweetly then stood. "That was fun despite the man in black."

"Yes!" I replied as we walked to our room, arm in arm. "You handled him vary well."

Chapter 24

A New Cause

Ships log The Fowl Wind II: "September 13, 1991 at 1020 hours local. Wind is coming from the Southeast, at 10 knots. Pressure is 1020 millibars and the skies are clear. NOAA Weather is calling for thunderstorms this afternoon. Left Key West marina at 1000 hours local next port is Deer Key for another stop on our PR campaign. Ariel is in the water and is enjoying the swim. I will have to stay alert as much of the waters around the Florida Keys are less then one fathom. Roy D. Stanton, Captain."

Returning to the cockpit I first checked the auto helm then went forward and sat on the bowsprit hinging my feet over both sides. From there I was directly over Ariel as she rode the wake from the boat pushing its way through the water. She is a beautiful sight with her long red hair flowing along her back and green tail doing a flick ever so often to adjust her position on the unseen wave. When she heard the noise my feet made hitting the water as the bow dug down into a wave, she rolled over onto her back and waved at me. Then she slid back down the side of the boat and with one powerful thrust she leapt up to the same height as the safety rail around the deck and said. "Hi honey!" then back in the water and returned to the free ride the Fowl Wind II gave her.

My fun had to come to an end, as Lower Harbor Keys were on our course and getting close. I had to get back to the cockpit and do some sailing.

Ariel jumped out of the water and onto the pad. "Whatís wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing serious, there is a group of small islands in our way and the water is getting shallower. Iíll have weave between them, unless you make a channel deep enough for me to sail through." I said and winked at her.

"No! That will hurt the corral. You are trying to be silly. Again!" she smirked.

Ariel sat on her pad and watched as I did the things required maneuvering the Fowl Wind II around the islands and not running her aground. As we sailed past Snipe Point, we saw that there were a dozen or so small pleasure craft at anchor. Some of the people enjoying a Saturday on their boats noticed us. They first pointed then got out their Ďbiggermajiggersí to look at the mermaid on the sailboat. After we pasts the anchorage I looked back and said. "Looks like we are going to get an escort!" and pointed at the flotilla of small boats trying to catch us.

"Oh my gosh! What do they want?"

"To see you Iíll bet!" She gave me another smirk.

"Why donít you go sit on the bow, they will love it!" she gave me still another smirk, each one was getting stronger. "Oh come on, it will be fun!" I insisted and let out the jib sheet to slow us down.

"OK, OK!" she said still smirking and slid into the water. A second later she jumped onto the bowsprit and had a sweet smile when the boats began to catch up with us.

The first to catch up, were the faster speedboats. As they approached they slowed to match our speed and moved in close. Close to the bow! "Are you Ariel?" asked a lady on a sleek low yellow cigarette boat. With her were a man and two children, a boy and a girl.

"Yes, I am. How are you folks this beautiful day." The beauty of the day was a matter of contention. By now it was cloudy and a crack of thunder accompanied the start of the after noon rain that is common in the Keys this time of year. But getting wet is of little concern to a mermaid.

"Can we take your picture?"

"Sure!"

As the rest of the fleet of boats begun to over take us, I swung the Fowl Wind II into an anchorage by Crane Key Mangroves. "We will stay here for the day, so everyone can meet you."

"OK, sweetheart." replied my living figurehead.

It started to pour while I was setting the anchor. Yet another powerboat came in, this one at a high rate of speed. A plum of red appeared in its wake. "Look out for the manatees!" I shouted at the reckless captain.

Ariel, realizing what had just happened and said. "Oh my gosh!" and dove into the water. After a few minutes she leapt onto the pad on the aft deck. "Get my Trident, hurry!" She cried.

Retrieving it from the cabin and handing it to the worried girl, I asked. "What happened? Will it be all right?"

"Yes! I think so." She replied. "But I have to hurry." and dove back into the water.

By now a large number of boats were in the anchorage with us and were all watching the rain freckled surface of the water. The crowed starred at the surface and the only sound was the rain rippling and was obscuring what was going on below the surface. The blue flash brought uneasiness to silence, in anticipation of the drama unfolding before us. "Iím sorry, I did not know there were manatees around here." Said the remorseful captain of the boat, whose prop sliced the back of the gentle sea giant.

"Tell that to the manatee." Ariel said after she surfaced and the healed Sea Cow with her calf, surfaced next to the mermaid. A collective sigh of relief swept over the group of sea fares.

"Tell her I am truly sorry, would you. Please." said the man.

"Why donít you tell her, your self?" suggested Ariel.

"I do not know how!" cried the man.

Ariel said something in the mammalís ear and as it moved closer to the boat, she said. "She likes lettuce or any green leafy vegetable."

He ran into his cabin, then returned with his arms loaded with food. That he dropped into the sea next to the giant sea cow. As she munched the food, Ariel added. "She likes to be patted, too" The man leaned over the side of his boat and stroked the scared back of the huge beast.

"She likes it!" giggled the man.

Ariel returned to my boat and leapt onto the bowsprit. "People, look at this creature. She is but one of many that lives in the sea that has been abused by you humans. Look at her back, the scares she has are many, only three cuts on her are from this encounter with your boats. Manatees are slow as are a lot of others that live in the sea. You run them over with out a thought of who you are hurting. What would have happened to her calf if she had died in this incident? We of the sea only ask for you to be careful and act like you would want us to act if invite into your homes." Tears streamed down her face as she finished her lecture.

The captain of the boat that hit the manatee replied. "I have learned my lesson. I promise you, Princess of the sea, that I will be responsible to the sea." Ariel gave him a nod and then slipped back into the sea.

Every one started asking. "Where is she going, we want to talk with her and get her picture?"

"She is a vary sad mermaid right now. But if you stay, she will come back. If you stay the night, I am sure you will be in for a treat." I explained.

Some of the boats headed out to get some supplies, vary slowly I might add. Others settled in for the night in the cramped space of the anchorage. By tying their boats together to form large communes to share there resources and conserve space for other boats that are sure to come.

As night approached the rain stopped and the clouds cleared. The setting sun with the aid of the scattered clouds gave a spectacular color display, that Harold the glory of the full moon rise. Later when the moon was high in the clear Eastern sky and everyone had settled in for the night, my promise came true.

From a small clump of mangrove trees struggling against the sea to root and form a new key, Arielís voice came through loud and clear. Her first songs were sad and melancholy, as she sang about the hard ships of living in the sea. But soon her songs gave way to her exuberant lust for life and adventure, as she sings of love, life and adventure. She made me blush to myself as she sang of our love. After she got it out of her system she just sang "Ahs" for another hour. The tightly packed group of small pleasure boats was vary quite the whole time she sang.

It was 0100 hours before she returned to our boat. She entered our cabin quietly and did not say a thing so not to wake me. She just dried herself and then slipped into bed. I did not say anything either I just put my arm around her, kissed her neck and she sighed. We both fell asleep.

Next morning, Ariel was in a better mood and greeted everyone with a warm smile when they came to our boat. Latter she beamed with delight as the other sailors left at slow speeds and with one of their members at the bow to watch for manatees. "They listened to me!" she said with a big grin.

Ships log The Fowl Wind II: September 14, 1991 0900 hours local. Course 90 degrees, pressure is 1011 millibars, temperature 89. The shallow water is making me nervous so I am going to head south through Pine Channel to the deeper waters of the Atlantic. It looks like Ariel has a new cause and plans to champion the plight of the Manatees. Roy D. Stanton, Caption.

We continued our course of 90 degrees till we made it through the tricky and tight channel between Big Torch Key and Water Keys. Then turned to 150 degrees, to head for the Pine channel. I had to watch the depth sounder to stay in the narrow, deeper water of two to three Fathoms. That is 12 to 18 feet.

We had sailed, making many tacks, for a few hours before we passed Middle Torch Key. Ariel was sitting on the bowsprit, looking through the Ďbiggermajiggersí when she shouted. "Look, people have dolphins trapped in that lagoon." Pointing the direction.

"I see, lets stop and investigate." I said and pulled the Fowl Wind II into the anchorage between Big Pine Key and Middle Torch Key, where Newfoundland Key gave us good shelter from the sea. We set the anchors and secured the boat and swam off to where we had seen the dolphins with some people.

Swimming into the lagoon we were surprised to see that there was nothing keeping the dolphins from swimming out to sea. They were free to come and go as they please. The lagoon was busy with about 20 people and a dozen dolphins. The water was only three to five feet deep and the clarity was poor from sand being kicked up and algae in suspension. Ariel and I surfaced next to a young couple that was trying to entice one of the mammals to come to them.

"Hi!" we said to the couple.

"Hello, how are you?" Replied the man as the woman kept talking to the dolphin. "Come on baby, it's OK!" she said.

"Whatís going on here?" I asked.

"We are trying to make fiends with this new fish to the lagoon." He replied, then asked. "You just get here?"

"Yes, we saw what looked like captured dolphins and we wanted to see why. I am pleased to see that they are free to leave if they wish." said Ariel.

"Oh, I did not think this place could be seen from the road and that explains why we did not see you here yesterday. Hmm! Thatís funny, Iím a clerk here and I didnít think we had any reservation for today."

"No, we did not come in by car." I said. "We came in the same way as the dolphins."

"You did, you are not allowed to bring water craft into the lagoon."

"We swam in!"

"Wow! Thatís a long swim from out there, you two must be vary good swimmers. This is a privet lagoon and is for use by our guests only. Iím sorry, but you will have to check in or leave."

"Yes, you might say we are good swimmers." giggled Ariel "OK, well leave sense the dolphins are not kept here agents their will. By the way they are not fish they are mammals. I'll tell him you are not going to hurt him and just want to play, then we will leave."

The couple had a confused look on their faces as Ariel dropped below the surface. They were even more confused when next we saw her she was talking to the dolphin.

"Wow she is a good swimmer, she must have been under water for at least two minutes." Said the man. I just grinned because the two had not seen our tails do to the murky water.

Ariel returned with the dolphin that was now quite friendly. "How did you do that?" asked the woman.

"I just told him you would not hurt him and just wanted to play. Dolphins love to play."

"Huh?"

"Bye now, it was nice meeting you." I said. We dove under letting our tails breach the surface.

"Bye! . . . Hay! . . . Come back. Please come back." We heard the man shouting after us.

We returned to the surface to see what he wanted, but we knew. "Yes, we are going as you requested."

"No, wait, you donít have to leave. Iím sure the management will welcome you two." said the excited man.

The woman said to Ariel. "I have seen you on TV, I never thought I would get to meet you. You are even more beautiful in real life."

"Thank you." blushed Ariel. "You are vary beautiful too. I love you swim suit." By now all the other people in the lagoon had came over to where we were.

"Thanks." Said the woman. "Yours . . . uh . . . well the top is vary nice too."

The mermaid giggled. "Yes. I have a lot of two peace bottoms that I don't need. The stores won't sell me just the tops, they are so much nicer then the shells I use to wear."

While the girls were talking the clerk went to get his boss. A few minutes latter he returned with a man who stayed on the beach while the clerk came back to where we were. "My boss wants to speak with you."

We swam over to where he was and slid on to the sand and the others sat down on the beach with us. We all introduced our selves, the boss was Bill Couch, the clerk was Andy Long, and the woman was Sue Hastings. Bill had a proposal for us. "I would like to hire you to stay here at 'Swim with the dolphins Resort' and become part of the attraction. I will pay you vary well." He said.

Ariel looked at me and smirked. "Yes, I agree. He is just like Alex, except he will pay us to be in his aquarium." I said.

"No, it's not like that you can leave anytime you want, just like the dolphins. They come here because they want too. I hoped the pay would make you want to too."

"No thanks, we have more important things to do, then entertain people. We have to teach everyone, not just the folks that come here, to be nice to the sea and all the creatures that live in it. That means not polluting the water, and not running over them in your boats. You do help by letting people and dolphins learn more about each other, but we need to reach more then the few that visit this place." Explained Ariel.

After a few hours with the people and dolphins in the lagoon, we waved good bye and headed back to our boat.

Back underway Ariel said. "Letís stay close to the islands so we can see what the humans are doing at each one."

"Itís awful shallow staying that close. I donít want to run the Fowl Wind aground, that would be vary embarrassing."

"I will watch for you, just fallow me. I will jump into the air where it is safe for the boat."

"OK, she needs at least one fathom of water, that is six feet."

I steered the Fowl Wind II as close to the over seas highway as possible. Pointing the bow at Arielís foam after each jump. But just to play it safe I kept an eye on the depth sounder too. It kept beeping to warn me of dangerously shallow water.

An hour had passed when Ariel jumped onto the aft deck pad. "What are they doing?" Asked the curious mermaid, pointing to Ohio Key where there were a number of campers on a beach campground.

" Letís go see!"

Anchoring the Fowl Wind II under US 1 (The Over Seas Highway, the road that connects the Florida Keys to the main land. One of the bridges is as long as 7 miles) we packed some clothes into a bag and swam off to the camping beach of Ohio Key.

About 50 yards from the sand we zapped our selves, put on the shorts and shirts we had it the bag and walked onto the beach. Ariel was excited to see the variety of camping rigs that people had. Everything from a small van conversion to a 40-foot diesel pusher bus conversion.

Walking along, we passed an older couple sitting on their beach chairs under the awning of a 30 foot Winabago, watching the sun cast long late after noon shadows across the bay. "Good afternoon!" said the man.

"Hello!" We replied in unison.

"You folks just get here?" Asked the lady.

"Yes so we are taking a look around." Replied Ariel.

"We come here every year!" said the man. "Would you like to have something to drink, with us?" Asked the lady.

"That is vary kind, we would be delighted to join you." I replied.

The lady got up and went into the motor home, Ariel followed her and said "Can I help you?"

After the ladies were inside the man said. "That is one beautiful lady you have. And that red hair! Iíll bet itís as red as that mermaidís hair we have seen on TV. Is it real?"

 Before I could answer, Ariel called from inside the motor home. "Roy come in here, you have to see this."

The man got up form his seat and gave me the come on sign. "Letís go see what the women want, besides itís cooler inside."

The inside of behemoth of the road was like a palace, from the plush carpet to the unique lighting in the ceiling. "Feel how cool it is in here!" Exclaimed Ariel.

"Thatís air conditioning honey."

The lady said. "Eric, do you know who this is?"

The man replied. "No, we have not introduced our selves yet." He put his arm around his wife and added. "Iím Eric and this is the love of my life, Ariel."

Arielís (my Ariel) mouth flopped open. She now had the famous Roy Stanton look. The older looking Ariel elbowed her Eric and said. "This is Ariel, Princess Ariel! ... The mermaid!" Now we all were staring at one another with our mouths hanging open.

"OK!" Ariel said (my Ariel). "Somebody say something."

"What are the odds of that?" I asked.

The four of us talked for hours before we had to return to our boat. It was no problem swimming back to the Fowl Wind even though it was a dark moon-less night. We could see itís anchor lights from the beach in front of Ariel and Ericís motorhome.

Chapter 25

Meet Manny

Shipís log The Fowl Wind II: September 23, 1991, time 1400 Local. Arrived at Miami after a ten day sail up the Florida Keys. With stops at Cow Key, Long Key, Deer Key and Key West. We also made several unscheduled stops along the way to meet with others that wanted to meet Ariel. We will rest here for a few days, at a hotel, and re-supply the boat. Roy D. Stanton, Captain.

I stowed the log and joined my wife in the cockpit where she had just finished stowing the deck gear and locking their storage lockers. "You ready to go?" I asked.

"Yes! And after we check in can we go shopping? I saw this shopping area as we came past the harbor masterís. It looked so exciting, all the shops were in tents along the water front."

"Sure, sounds like fun." I donít think she saw my grimes.

I stepped onto the dock first then helped Ariel down. Arm in arm we started up the ramp to the land. Two men and a woman dressed for business met us half way. "Excuse us, but are you not Princess Ariel of Atlantica?" the woman, asked.

"Yes I am." She replied.

I stepped foreword to put myself between these strangers and Ariel. I did not know what their intentions were, but with some enemies that want revenge, I was not going to take any chances. "What do you want?"

"Oh, Iím sorry. Let me introduce us. This is Jack Wang and Randy Hurst and I am Joyce Goldman. I guess you didnít get our letter."

"No we did not. Whatís this about?"

"I am president, Jack is vice president and Randy is our layer."

"In that case you will have to see our layer, on Saint Thomas." I interrupted.

"No, no! You donít understand, we are ĎSave the Manatees!í" she paused. "Have you heard of us?"

"Sorry, no!"

"Well, we heard of you and what Princess Ariel did for a Manatee a few days ago. When we heard that story, do you know what we decided to do?"

"No?"

"We decided to ask the Princess if she would do a TV spot for the Manatees. What do you think of that?" Bubbled Joyce.

"Spot! Do you know Spot? How is he doing?" Asked Ariel excitedly.

"What?" said Joyce.

"Huh?" I added.

"Spot! Is a friend of mine, he is a killer whale."

You know what happened next, thatís right the rest of us had our mouths hanging open. "A whale is a friend?" asked Jack finally.

Realizing they were not talking about her long time friend Spot, Ariel bit her lip and asked. "Whatís a Ďspotí"?

"You know, a commercial. A public service commercial to alert the boating public to be alert to the Manatees." the women paused. I guess we just had a blank look on our faces, this was some thing we did not expect. "Well, what about it?"

"Well I donít know. Look we just got in and we need to get some rest. Let us think about it and then call us in a few days. We are at the Carlos Hotel."

"Of course, we were just so excited when we heard what Princess Ariel had done and the prospect of her appearing in a PSA (Public Service Announcement) for Save the Manatees. Well we just couldnít wait, and when we heard that she was coming here we just had to talk to her."

We left the trio at the dock after getting their cards and went straight to the hotel to get settled in, then went to the shops Ariel had seen earlier. As we browsed the shops, my feet were getting tired but she had the energy to keep us both going.

When we came to a shop that specialized in mermaid art. The girlís excitement soared at the sight of so many figures of people like herself. "Look, this one looks like Aquata." She giggled. "And here is one that looks like Peril."

The shop attendant seeing this lttle girl that liked mermaids so much came over to assist us with a warm. "Good afternoon! I see you really like mermaids, can I help you find something?" she asked.

"Watch!" I whispered to Ariel. Then with a stuffy voice I said to the clerk. "Yes, she is a big, big fan of mermaids. But do you have anything that looks like Princess . . . oh, what is her name?" Ariel gave me the biggest smirk she has ever given me. "Oh, Ariee . . . no thatís not it."

"You mean Princess Ariel, of course. We have a whole section devoted to her. She is our biggest seller, and part of the price goes to the Mermaids Fund. Would you like to see her?" asked the clerk.

"Yes we would." I said in the snooty voice. Ariel was now even clicking her tong at me.

When we stepped into the room devoted to Princess Ariel, Ariel said. "Oh my gosh!"

As we browsed the clerk brought us a picture. "This is a really fine peace, it was painted from a photograph of the Princess by one of the local artiest." As she held it up for us to see, we just looked at it and I said, "humm, I donít know, I donít think it looks like her at all." I was just kidding it was really quite stunning. "What do you think, Muffy?"

Ariel turned from me in discus and smirked and shook her head at the clerk.

But the girl took it seriously and turned it to look at it. Her gazes darted to the picture then to Ariel, back and froth her eyes danced. "Oh my goodness, itís you!" She next spoke to me but continued to look at Ariel. "You were just having fun with me, werenít you?"

"Yes, Iím sorry, I could not resist. But I am surprised that you recognized her with the face she has been giving me." Now I was getting it from both of the girls. "Iíll tell you what, Iíll take the painting anyway. I canít get enough of her as it is, so this will help when she is away from me." I gave Ariel a kiss on the cheek that brought back her smile.

"That was a good out." And she kissed me back.

"Sense you are here, would you sign some things? We could then charge more for them and that would mean more money for the Fund."

"I would be delighted." Replied the red head. She sat down at a desk the girl set up for her and signed a number of items. People passing noticed and started to come in to buy and see the mermaids.

That evening, back at or hotel, we finally got to relax. We were setting in bed watching some old movie on TV, when a commercial came on from the Save the Manatees. "See thatís a PSA spot, as they call it. I think we should check them out." I said.

"OK, they look like they are trying to do some good for us."

Next morning, we had just finished breakfast, when the phone rang. It was the people from the Save the Manatees. That afternoon we checked them out and went to see what they had in mind for Ariel.

It took a few days to get everything set up. On the big day we met the production crew in an inlet from the Gulf of Mexico just South of Naples. It was just over a two hour drive from Miami over the Tamiami Trail. The filming of the PSA was in a secluded waterway. A lovely setting sounded with trees and a small marina with an old wooden boat dock. An artificial rock was placed in the water and the camera placed so the shot is across the rock to the marina and itís dock beyond and the trees beyond that.

Joyce introduced Ariel to Keith Manhime the Director. He said in a polite voice. "I thought you were the mermaid, Ariel?"

"I am!"

"Iím confused, I thought mermaids have tails. Not legs."

"I will have a tail when you need me to have a tail."

Joyce said. "Trust me Keith, she is the real thing."

"OK, what ever." He turned to his crew. "OK every one letís get this one done." Every one got down to work. Then he instructed Ariel on what he wanted her to do and gave her a script. Katharine, a young lady production assistant said. "We have a trailer for you to relax and get ready in. I will send a make up artist in, when you are ready."

Ariel replied. "If you donít mind, I would prefer to get in the water."

"OK, sure." Said the confused assistant.

Ariel walked down to the waterís edge, sat on the bank, slid out of her robe into the water in one smooth motion then the blue flash. She swam around until the Director called for make-up and hair. Then she hoped out of the lagoon and on to the dock. And a small crew of artists went to work, but it did not take much time till the make-up artiest said. "Her face is prefect, there is not much I can do to improve it." After the Hair Dresser dried Arielís hair, she said the same thing abut her hair as make-up said about her face. All this time Ariel was reading the script that Keith had given her.

When the call of "Places every one!" came from the assistant over a megaphone. Everyone rushed to get ready. The Director asked Ariel, "Do you need help, Princess?"

"Help? Help for what?" She replied.

"To get out on the rock!" he pointed at the large artificial bolder the production crew had placed in the lagoon for the mermaid to sit on. "Thatís what Ďplacesí mean!" added the impatient man.

"Sorry!" said the lip-biting girl. "No, I can get there, OK."

"OK, but donít get your hair wet!"

Ariel slid into the water and with the power of her tail she swam to the rock keeping most of her body high and dry. She hoped onto the bogus bolder and settled into a lovely pose.

I took up a position on a flat barge with the Director as he was going out to talk to the girl on the rock.

After the man had given her his instructions as to how he wanted her to read the copy, I asked her, "Are you all right? You donít look happy."

"Yes, Iím OK. Itís just this, what do they call it? Oh, a script. Itís not me, you know. Itís not what I would say."

"Give it a try, maybe Keith will see that you are not comfortable with it and will change it."

So when Keith called for action, Ariel said her lines. She was right, it was flat and lifeless. Not like Ariel at all. "That was great!" said the excited Director. "But letís do another one for the can."

"The can?" she asked.

"That means, so we can have a back up if the first does not come out OK." He explained.

"Oh, OK. But can I say what I would like to say?"

"Sure you can, then we will do another one with the script!" Then Keith turned to the camera operator and said so Ariel could not hear him. "Donít bother to roll on this one."

I over heard what he had told the cameraman so when Keith returned to Ariel I told the man. "Roll anyway, I think he will want it and if he doesnít Iíll take it." He gave me a nod.

So when Keith call "Action" again, Ariel was ready. Unknown by anyone, when she first got into the water she had spoken to some Manatees in the area.

"Hi, Iím Princess Ariel of Atlantica. My friends have asked me to talk to you about boating safety." At that moment a large bull Manatee surfaced next to the mermaid. "This is my friend Manny. If he could talk he would ask you to go slow and look down when you are boating in the shallow waters of the rivers and lagoons around Florida. He would also say, I am too slow to get out of the way of your boat propellers when you go fast. Look at his back," The gentle giantís back was scared from numerous encounters with human boats. "Some of the marks on him almost ended his life. So please remember to slow down because we share the earth with others." With that sagway the beautiful mermaid used her beautiful voice to sing a line from ĎWe Share the Earthí.

The crowed of production people was silent for a minute after she had finished. Then Keith said "OK lets do another just like that one for the can."

After all the takes were done Keith said. "That's a wrap!" and the call was repeated by some of the assistants. While the crew picked up and put away the equipment, Ariel said thank you to the manatee. What happened next surprised everyone with in earshot. The Manatee grunted and it sounded a lot like. "Any time Ariel!"

Chapter 26

Two Fish in a Bowl

It was late when we returned to our Miami hotel room after the PSA shoot. The room was dark when we opened the door so the flashing red light from the telephone was hard to ignore. It was letting us know we had a new message. I switched on the lights and Ariel went to the phone. She had to read the instructions before she knew how to retrieve the message. She picked up the receiver and punched in the touch-tone code.

"Oh! . . . Oh my gosh!"

"What is it?" I worried.

"Here you listen!" she handed me the receiver and hit the keys to replay the two messages.

The first was from Henry. "Where are you boss? We have an oil spill in the gulf. A drilling rig has blown out. The Coast Guard is asking for our help. Call me back, I have transportation arranged. I am calling Queen Aquata too."

The next message was from Aquata. "Hello, . . . I hope I am doing this right. Hello Ariel and Roy, sorry to interrupt your work. Henry just called to tell me about an oil spill in what you call the Gulf of Mexico. I have sent Arista and Andrena to the location with my Trident. Call me when you get a chance."

We called back Henry and Aquata. Packed our bags and took a cab to the Airport, where Henry had chartered a plain, to take us to Houston Texas the closes city to the spillís location.

"It does not look like that much oil is leaking out of the, what did Ariel say they are called?" said Arista.

"I donít remember . . . Oh! ĎOil platformsí" replied Andrena.

"I donít know how Aquata can carry this thing around all the time."

"Here let me carry it for a while." Offered Andrena.

The two mermaids had surfaced a distance away from the faulty oil-rig. It was a large oil platform that sets on top of a tall structure that is anchored to the sea floor. Only a small portion of the total structure is above the surface. But that part is huge. It can hold all the equipment needed to drill many holes through the earthís crust to the pool of crud that lies below. It also has all that is needed to house, feed and support the crew that runs the drilling and pumping operations. It is even large enough for a helicopter to land on a pad set off the one side of the colossus.

From the girls location they could see the Coast Guard vessels and some independent contractors ships trying to contain the spill. "We will have to ask the ships to move back if we are to do the thing Ariel taught us to get rid of the oil." Said Andrena.

"Letís go to that large Coast Guard ship. Who ever is in charge will be there." Replied Arista.

"Captain." Said a sailor with a headphone on. "The watch reports swimmers coming in from the Southeast. He thinks itís the mer-people we asked help from.

"Vary well!" Replied Captain Dan Moore as he walked to the port side-bridge.

"Hello!" Shouted Arista as the two mermaids swam up to the ship. "Is theyíre someone in charge here?"

"Yes, I am." Replied Captain Moore through his megaphone. "Are you here to help with the spill?"

"Yes we are!"

"What do you need from me?"

"We need for all the ships to move back. We do not want any of your ships getting hit by the Trident."

"I do not understand what it is you are going to do. But I have been instructed to give you full cooperation." With that Captain Moore turned to his communications officer. "Inform the fleet the mer-people are here and that they are to move back 500 yard."

"Aye sir." Replied the man.

It took only a few minuets before the ship and boats of the fleet released their ties to the containment booms and moved away.

The two mermaids dove under the fleet to the edge of the containment ring. From deep under the oily goo, Arista brought the golden Trident up over her head, pointing it to the surface. A large continuos stream of yellow energy began to flow to the surface and fan out across the bottom of the oil slick.

With Aristaís movement and the magic of the Trident, the oil began to move to the center of the field and form a large ball. When all the petroleum was rounded up Andrena swam around to make sure none of the oil was left out. When all of it was accounted for Aquata changed her concentration to push the oil ball into the air. Once it was high in the afternoon sky she sent a high power energy bolt to distroy the gooey mess.

Andrena and Arista surfaced to survey their work. The mess was gone there just was a few pieces of debree floating about. Some were objects that looked like old cardboard boxes.

The fleet of ships was still quite a distance away but the oil platform was near. The girls saw three men on the rig. "Oh no!" Said Arista. "One of those men is Royís ex friend Lee. This is a trap." Thinking quickly she put up a shield to protect them from Lee and his men. "Swim for it"

The two girls started to swim away from the rig, as they passed one of the old cardboard boxes. Lee fired a high power laser at the box. Even though the box was inside the Tridentís shield, the laser beam went right through the transparent shield to the box. It exploded! The power of the explosion was small but confined inside the shield it had enough force to knock the two mermaids out.

"What was that?" Asked Captain Moore.

"An explosion on the surface sir!" Replied a look out on the bridge with the officer.

"Get us in there, quick!" and Captain Dan Moore shouts out orders to get his cutter underway.

Before the larger Coast Guard ships could cover the distance too the site of the explosion, a small speedboat moved out from the oil-rig to where the two mermaids floated unconscious. Lee and Joe pulled the girls one by one into their boat. As the two men pull Arista up the Trident fell from her grip into the sea. "Oh-oh!" said Lee as he lunged for the Trident. He almost fell overboard as his head and right arm dove below the surface. Using his left arm and legs, he pulled himself and the recovered under sea device back into the boat. "The boss wouldnít like it if we lost de pitch fork, itís almost as importend to him as getting one of dese fish people." Said Joe in a thick Jamaican accent.

The Coast Guard cutter was closing in on the two pirates. Lee said. "Come on letís get out of here." The two men headed back, with their mermaid cargo, to the rig where a helicopter was warming up.

"Captain, radar reports a helicopter has lifted off from the oil rig. It on a course of 265 degrees sir, itís headed to Houston." Informs the sailor with the headphones on.

"Notify the authorities to pick them up when they land. We will investigate here. Send a boarding party to the rig. See what they say."

"Sir, Radar has a new surface contact at 260 degrees sir. ETA here is 15 minuets." Said the same sailor.

Twenty minuets later Ariel and I was aboard the Coast Guard Cutter, meeting Captain Moore. "You have not seen the two mermaids sense the distruction of the oil ball?" I asked.

"No not a sign. There was a flash of light then an explosion on the surface at the approximent last known location of the mermaids. We observed a powerboat come from the rig then return. Then a chopper left, headed to Houston." Captain Moore was telling us when a radio call came from the boarding party.

"Sir, the rig is not manned. It is under automation control and is pumping only. It is not an actively drilling wells. The spill was deliberate and was from a tank that is now empty."

"This case is getting stranger and stranger." Said Moore. "Still no signs of the mermaids?" He asked of the microphone to the radio.

"No sir!" Came the response.

A lutenet entered the bridge and interrupted us. "Sir, sorry for the interruption" he acknowledged us. "We have recovered some debris from the water around the platform, they are bombs. Made to look like they are just cardboard boxes."

"Stranger and stranger." Repeated the Captain. "Vary well Lutenet. Place one in a safe place and dispose of rest of them."

"I have to get in the water. I can organize a search for Arista and Andrena." Said Ariel.

"But it is getting late, it will be dark soon." I said.

"There is enough time. I can get some of the night fish to look too. I have to do something." Ariel said as tears begun to fill her pretty eyes.

Ariel did not return to the Cutter till the last glow of the day was fading. She leapt from the sea to a rubber dinghy the Coast Guard had along side the larger ship and where I was waiting. Tears were in her eyes there was no doubt that something had happened to her sisters.

Back aboard the cutter in the Captains cabin we hear our worst fear. "The civil authorities have found the chopper that left the oil rig. There was only the pilot aboard. The aircraft was registered to the National. Thatís a news paper of sorts." Inform Moore.

"Oh no!" Screams Ariel and collapse into my arms.

"Yes, we know about the National. Itís owned by Alex Fairbank." I held the girl to comfort her.

A knock on the door was followed by the Latinate entering the room. "Sir, there are some fish circling the dinghy and behaving in an unusual manner. Maybe Princess Ariel can come and take a look."

Back at the dinghy Ariel entered the sea. A few minuets later she returned. "Oscar." "Oscar?" Interrupted Moore. "Uh hu! He is an octopus they like to hunt around the humanís Tallamabob." "What?" Again interrupted the Captain. "Oh, The oil rig. That is what he called it." "Who?" "Oscar! Anyway he said he saw a small under the sea ship leave the Ďrigí just after the flying machine left going that direction." She pointed south.

"A submarine!" I said.

"Thanks for the translation." Said Moore. "South that means Mexico."

"I asked a pod of dolphins to spread out a search for the, you call it a, Ďsubí and report back to me here on this ship when they find it."

"Thatís great, letís hope it does not that long for them to find it."

Captain Moore interrupted. "I am sorry but unless your search team finds the submarine right away. We will have to give it up."

"Why?" We asked in unison.

"This oil platform is out side our jurisdiction. We our here to help in the oil clean up. If the people that kidnaped your sisters are heading to Mexico or some other country, we have no jurisdiction there either. So unless we can be in hot pursuit, we will have to return to other duties."

Arielís face saddened, hope returned when I suggested. "OK honey, you stay here while I return to Houston to report what has happened to Arista and Andrena. Then I will get a boat and return for you."

"But what if I get word about my sisters?"

"Leave word with someone as to your location, and Iíll come a get you. But under no circumstances are you to do anything on your own." I looked her in the eye. "Do you understand?"

"Yes, I will wait for you. But if my sisters need me, . . . " She paused and looked me in the eye. "Iíll try to wait for you."

My return to the location of the oil platform took a little over 24 hours the delay was for many reasoned. The police report and a report to Interpol were time consuming. I also called Scott to ask him to try to find out if Alex owned anything in Mexico or any other Central or South America country. He had some information for me, he said he would fax it to me via the police. It also took some time to find a boat suitable for our needs and get the supplies needed on board. As it was I had to hire the owner, Rocky is his name, of the 32-foot power yacht to skipper it before he would let me have it.

The boat was old but had a cruising speed of 20 knots and a range of 1000 miles. It was equipped well for fishing, with a flying bridge and a comfortable cabin.

Even though Rocky had brought his scuba equipment. I told him. "Stay here Iíll be right back." I did not look or care to see his surprise when I pulled off my clothes and jumped overboard. I donít even know if he saw the green flash from my ring as it transformed me.

"Ariel!" I called. The response I got was not Arielís lovely voice.

"Is that you, Roy?" The male voice said.

"Yes! Whoís that?"

A large terrapin swam up to me. "Princess Ariel asked me to take you to where she is. Iíll swim on the surface so you can follow in the boat, as long as you are not fishing!"

"Of course not, all we want is to find where the man, that fishes for mermaids, has taken Arielís sisters."

This time I did see Rockyís face when I jumped on to a mattress, I had placed on the bow of his boat.

"Follow that Terrapin!" I pointed as the large fish jumping in to the air a few hundred feet in front of the boat.

Rocky pulled his shock, of the sight of me being a merman, together and replied. "Iím on it. Do you want a pole yet?"

"No! Just follow him!" Even though I have explained to Rocky what I wanted the boat for, he was a fisherman first.

We followed the jumping fish for hours, his course was SSW, until we did not see his jumps any more. "Hove too Rocky, I donít see the terrapin anymore. Iíll go see what is going on!" But before I could jump into the water, the fish surfaced next to our boat.

To the added shock to Rocky the fish said. "Iím sorry, I canít continue. Tell the princess when you can that I tried but I am to exhausted. But there is a Dolphin ready to take over."

The Dolphin surfaced and gave out some chirps. "OK, thatís great. Thanks Terry." I turned to Rocky. "Follow the Dolphin!" I ordered.

Rocky had to push his engine up to the max to keep up with the speedy mammal. As I kept the fuel tank from running dry by poring in gas from extra fuel cans we had brought.

We ran for three days in which changes in the Dolphin we were following took place. Rocky and I took turns in running the boat and sleeping. On the evening of the third day we were in a cove of St. Georgeís Caye, a small island just off the coast of Belize City Belize. The Dolphin we were following did not surface, so I said. "Iíll go down to see what is going on." And jumped overboard.

The sea around the island was strangely void of any fish. Swimming around and calling fore anyone did not get any response. I was just about to return to the boat when a smooth baritone voice said. "Hello there, are you the one looking for Princess Ariel?" Turning around to see where the magnificent voice was coming from gave me a shock, for I knew I was a goner. "Donít be alarmed, I am here to help!" Informed a huge manta ray with the upper body and head of a big blue man. He continued as I shook in my scales. "I am Evil Manta. Donít let my name confuse you. I am evil but that little mermaid once saved me from a brain sponge. So as soon as I heard she needed help I knew how to end my debt to her. So here I am, but all I get from all the fish is." He changed his voice to a sarcastic whine. "ĎWe donít want to talk to you Evil Manta!í" Returning his voice to normal. "And they swim off."

With my voice cracking I said. "Iíll take anyoneís help in finding Ariel and her sisters. But you frightened the Fish that knew where she is, away."

After the last three days Rocky was getting use to some of the strange things he saw me do, but he was once again shocked at the sight of the manta man. But the manta was as shocked to see me, a merman, with a human. He looked me in the eyes and said. "You donít belong with him, he has two legs. You are much better then that!"

"Evil Manta! Stop that!" Came the sweet voice of Ariel.

Chapter 27

Help from an Unusual Source

Ariel leaped onto Rockyís boat and we had a moment of hugs and kisses. While Rocky was dumb struck at the beauty of the red head mermaid, the manta man growled, "You make me sick!"

I introduced Ariel and the Starry-eyed Rocky, and she said. "Good, Iím glad you are all here. I found the under sea flotamajigger. It is tied to a privet dock and it has a black flag with ĎAFí on it, so it looks like our old friend Alex is responsible for Arista and Andrenaís abduction. But I donít think they are still on the . . . what do you call it? . . . Oh, sub."

We worked out a plan. Rocky did not want to be involved in anything that would be dangerous. So he brought us in to the Harbor at Belize City, not far from where the sub was moored and stayed on his boat while we walked to the sub.

We approached the vessel with caution because there was a big man working on it. With my 9-mm in my hand, I said to Bill Black. "Donít move!"

He turned to see who was talking and replied. "Maybe itís you that should not move. Keep them covered Joe."

"Thatís an old one Mr. Black." I smiled.

"Oldín but true" Said Joe in his heavy Jamaican accent. He had come out of a hatch of the submarine. He no sooner said that and Evil Manta surfaced next to the sub and whipped his tail around Joe, locking his arms to his sides forcing him to drop his gun.

Ariel pointed her Trident at Bill Black and said "OK who is going to be the first to tell us where my sisters have been taken?"

Both men had never seen anything as freighting as the manta man, it made Joe have an accident in his pants. "Theyíre . . . up . . . there!" he pointed with a look. It was a large white house overlooking the bay. We could see some people watching us from there.

We did not have any time to get ready before a truck pulled up at the end of the dock where the sub was tied up, three men with M-16ís jumped out of the old vehicle. Alex Fairbank crawled out of the passengerís seat with a golden Trident in his hands.

We all just starred at each other for a minute, then Alex said. "Letís not do anything rash. I do not want to see anyone or thing get hurt. So Iíll tell you what, I will trade you one mermaid for the manta man. Then we can all go home with something."

Arielís anger flared. "Evil Manta is a free man, no one owns him. And kidnapping is kidnapping. Where are my sisters?"

"Not in this country. Iím just a collector of sea creature." Replied to round man and fired two quick blasts from his Trident. The first blast just ricochet off Arielís Trident. The second one engulfed me in a shield.

The three men with guns move to take Evil captive. Ariel fired her Trident at the men sending them flying and unconcess. Alex fired again, knocking Ariel off the sub into the water. "Ariel!" I called.

She returned to the surface buy a set of stairs that ran from the water to the dock buy the sub. She fired at Alex and he did the same back at her. The golden and blue energy beams collided in a shower of sparks. The point of collision moved back and forth in mid air as the two concentrated on the destruction of the other. The struggle continued for minuets while all the others watched. Ariel bit her lip in deep concentration but it was obvious that the golden Trident had more power then the blue Trident even though Ariel had more experience in itís use.

Ariel screamed she knew she was about to be destroyed as the golden energy beam closed in on her. I had to help her, but how? I was trapped in the shield Alex had put around me. "The shield is magic so it will take magic to break it." I thought. A glance at my ring and I knew what I had to do. It begun to glow, holding it next to the shield, it pushed a hole in my prison. Moving my gun to my left hand I pushed it outside the shield and fired. Not being a good shot with the left hand the bullet went wide of Alex but it distracted him long enough for Ariel to blast his Trident from his hand, and throw a shield around him. When he dropped the Trident the shield around me collapsed.

We both ran over to Alex. Again Ariel asked. "For the last time where are my sisters? Or Iíll throw you into the water, this time, with out a change."

"They are up at the house!" He replied.

I picked up one of the M-16ís and tossed it to Evil. "Keep an eye on this bunch Evil." He picked it up and held it with the muzzle pointing it at him self. "Turn it around!" I told him then turned to Alex. "Come with us." And pushed him into the truck. "Iíll drive."

In Alexís house we locked him in a closet and looked for the Aquariums, it was no trouble finding Arista and Andrena. We released them and while I carried them to the truck, Ariel looked for some cushions for the girls to sit on in the back of the truck. My chore done I was wondering what was keeping Ariel when we heard her call. "Roy, come here quick."

"Wait here!" I told the two mermaids and ran into the house.

"Where does he think we are going to go?" Said Arista.

"I donít know." Shrugged Andrena.

Ariel was setting on the couch in the aquarium room looking at something in her hand. "Whatís wrong, Arista and Andrena need those cushions to set on."

"Look!" she said as she held up a locket. "This was Melodyís!" Ariel flipped it open and a holographic image of Atlantica appeared. "See, Daddy gave it to her when she was a baby."

"Ariel!" Called Arista from the truck outside. "We need something to sit on."

"Letís ask Alex." I said.

We pulled the fat man from his locked closet. "Where did you get this?" Ask a furious Ariel.

"It was my great grandmothers. Why? Youíre not stooping to robbery too?"

"It was my daughterís! My father gave it to her."

Alex smirked. "How is that possible? How could my grandmother get something your father just gave your daughter?"

"You donít understand, that was over 100 years ago."

"Hugh?"

"Come on!" I interrupted. "You too Mr. Fairbank. Lets get back to the boat, Scott sent me something that may shed some light on this. Here take some cushions!" I shoved one into his arms.

"Ariel, Roy . . . Oh there you are. Itís about time." Complained the princesses in the back of the truck.

When we arrived back at the dock, Evil Manta was floating some distance from the submarine. He had a smirk off delight on his face because Joe and Bill Black were fighting among themselves.

"What did he do to them?"

"Iíll explain later." Ariel shouted to the manta man. "Meet us at the boat!" He waved his acknowledgment.

Back on the boat, Rocky was introduced to Arista, Andrena and of course Alex Fairbank. We could hear the sound of police sirens coming our way. "Well itís about time someone called the police!" Said Alex.

"You would not have said that if things had turned out different. Quick Rocky, get us out of here." I ordered but he did not respond. Tuning to look at the young man I could see the reason for his lack of attention, to me. Arista was doing a big time flirt with him. "Rocky, come on. Letís get the show on the road!" We all rushed to get under way, turning to Evil Manta, I said. "Thanks Mr. Manta for your help."

"Ugh!" He sighed. "The T word. I consider my debt paid, little mermaid."

Ariel smiled at him and said. "OK, but weíre still will not listen to you." He just grimmest even more.

"When we get some time you will have to tell me about him." I said.

Once underway Ariel conjured up a fog bank to screen our hasty departure from the harbor. And I got out the fax Scott had sent me. I studied it for a few minutes. "Humm . . . Oh my gosh!"

"What . . . what is it?" Asked the impatient Girl.

"Well, it looks like Mr. Fairbank is your great grandson!"

"What? Let me see that."

"You are all crazy!" Smirked Alex. Arielís sisters just giggled and Arista went back to distracting Rocky.

Ariel sat for some time while she read the documents Scott had sent us, on Melodyís family tree. Unfortunately his people did a through job. She looked at Alex. Her face was a mix of confusion and wonder. On one hand she had found a long lost relative, on the other he was the worst kind of human, the kind mer-people feared. Tears ran down her face and she just shook her head. "Itís not possible . . . Itís not possible."

"Tell him Ariel. It might put a stop to his harassment."

She looked at me, her eyes shown confusion, anger and disbelief. "OK" The word came through a voice that cracked.

She moved over and sat on the couch near him. Alex tried to move away but ran out of room because he was at the couchís end. She spoke in a soft but stern voice. "Mr. Fairbank, you are my great grandson." "What, you are crazy." He interrupted. "No, it saddens me too but if these papers are correct, and I believe it to be so." She paused. "Let me explain. Mer people live a lot longer then you humans. I am 196, I had a daughter, and she would be around 179 now. Her name was Melody and yes my father gave her this locket. Did you know it did this?" She flipped it open to show him the hologram.

He jumped as the hologram sprang from the locket. "No, I never knew it did that." Alexís face was showing signs of panic.

"How old was she when she died?"

"I donít know, she disappeared suddenly when she was vary old. Know one knew her true age. She said she was 140 but no one believed that. When she vanished everyone though she had wandered off and fell into the sea."

"Oh my gosh!" Ariel was so startled I though she was having an attack.

"Whatís wrong dear?" I asked.

"Daddy!"

"What about your father?"

"That was about the time Daddy went to Medatrania. When he got back his mind was failing and he talked about Ďchanging herí. We all thought it was his illness but he must have been talking about Melody."

"Does that mean she is still alive?" I asked.

"I guess it is possible. We need to get to Atlantica, as fast as possible. Before Daddy forgets any more."

I had to ask Alex. "Do you want to come with us?"

"You mean under the sea? No way! Huh uh! Not on you life will you get me in the sea."

"Donít you want to know for sure? This may explain why you have a fascination for sea creatures."

"No!" He glared. "But what ever you fine, I would like to know."

"OK, you got it. Will let you go, but you have to promise not to capture any more sea people. Or we will take you there and try you as the criminal you are. Then you will be locked up in a cell full of water."

Alex cringed at the thought of that prospect "You have my word. But if I fined that you are trying too fool me, all bets are off."

"We can deal with you too. Maybe we can put you in the sorceressís cave." Smirked Ariel. We, Ariel, Arista, Andrena and I all had a good laugh over that one.

I did talk Alex into staying on Rockyís boat with us till we got to West Atlantica. It was more difficult to talk Rocky into taking us there. He was afraid of the storms that can pop up in the Gulf of Mexico but he agreed when Ariel assured him that it would be a smooth crossing and Arista gave him a wink with a noise wrinkle.

Every time the weather started getting rough Ariel would take her Trident forward, shortly there after the sea would calm down. We were getting low on fuel, so we had to stop at Jamaica to gas up and get some food. The mermaids could just jump into the sea and find something to eat, but the humans had to get human food. It was tricky trying to keep anyone from getting meat of fish, but I managed. Alex had decided to stay with us till we reached the West Indies.

Once underway again Alex complained about the lack of animal protean. His comments about his like for fresh fish made the mermaids look like they were getting seasick.

Rocky set anchor in the south lagoon of West Atlantica, and said. "Now what? This is really far from civilization."

"If you only knew!" Replied Ariel. Which only confused our young captain even more. She then dove into the sea with her sisters and the two Tridents. Alex watched in amazement and Rocky was sad to see his pretty passengers depart especially Arista.

From the water Ariel pointed her Trident at Alex, he saw her and moved back, saying. "Oh no. I am staying right here."

"Iíll stay with him to make sure he does not do anything he will regret." I said. He gave me a scornful look.

"OK, Iíll be back as soon as I can get some answers from Daddy."

Late in the afternoon two sail boats arrived at West Atlantica, one was the Fowl wind II. Scott had it sailed down from Miami and the other was a boat to take the crew that sailed my boat, back to Florida. I sent Alex back with them. Next I thanked Rocky and gave him Aristaís phone number and told him he could go home too. He replied "Well thanks for the adventure, it was awesome. But I think I will stay in these waters for a while and do some fishing."

"Not a good idea Rocky. You better be far away before you drop a hook in the water."

"OH! Right! I forgot."

Ariel and I

Chapter 28

Out of the Fog

 

Ariel, Arista and Andrena arrived at the palace just in time for dinner. Aquata was glad to see everyone returned and in good health. All the sisters listened to the three girls tell of their adventure over dinner, Arista could hardly contain her excitement while telling the tale.

When the conversation slowed Ariel asked Aquata. "How is Daddy doing? I have some questions only he can answer."

"Oh, I guess he is about the same. He seems the have fewer good days though."

After dinner Ariel went to see her father in hope that today was a good day. Her knock on his door was answered by one of his nurses. "Hi Amy, how is Daddy?" She asked.

"Not too good, take a look for your self Princess."

The young mermaid entered the spacious bedroom of the aging Sea King. He was sitting at a large table, sorting his rather large collection of seashells. One shell in particular stood out from all the others. It was the glow shell she had given him on a Fathers Day many years ago. The memory of that day brought a tear to her eye. When she swam over and sat next to him, he said. "Hello pretty lady."

"Ariel, Daddy!"

"What?"

"Iím Ariel . . . your daughter!" He looked at her, confused. "Do you remember Melody, Daddy?"

"Humm . . . Melody Daddy, was he an advisor?"

"No Daddy. Please try to remember I really need you to try. Melody was my daughter. Did you see her when you last visited Mediterranea?"

"Melody? He must have quite after . . . I donít know."

"Please Daddy, try to remember . . . Melody. The magic locket you gave her. I need to know. Please try."

Triton just continued to sort his shells. The frustrated mermaid kissed him on his cheek and turned to swim out. A stream of tears would have run down her face but the sea washed them away as fast as they came.

"I changed her!" blurted Triton just as Ariel reached the door.

She darted back to his side. "What did you say, Daddy?"

"I changed her!"

"When, to what?"

"He was getting old, so before he quite I changed him to a mer. Then the ungrateful quit."

"Do you mean you changed Melody to a mermaid when you visited Mediterranea?"

"Yes!"

"Why didnít you tell me?"

"Melody and you were not getting along, so he told me not to tell you. Then he quit."

"Thanks Daddy!" Said the excited mermaid, as she turned to swim to the door again, this time she had a big smile on her face.

"Now just a minute, donít I get a kiss from my youngest daughter?"

When Ariel returned to the living room where all the palace residents had assembled for the evening, she was crying her eyes out. "What is it Ariel?" Asked Alana who was the first to see her condition when she entered the room.

"Itís Daddy!" Everyone rose in shock. "Oh, he is OK! Itís just he knew me and he said he loved me." The youngest sister flopped into her old lounge and cried her eyes out for a while as Atina and Adella tried to comfort her.

When she had calmed down she was in deep thought. Her sisters knew that look and left her alone, she finally said. "Tomorrow I am leaving for Mediterranea. Will someone tell Roy where I have gone and tell him I will meet him at the black rock by the half-moon island off the coast," She paused and pulled out a human map she kept in a book she liked to read. "Here!" She pointed to the coastline near the spur of Italyís boot. "In two weeks."

Ships log: The Belle Barca. We have anchored on the lee of Cretaccio and small moon-shaped island in the Tremiti archipelago off the coast if Gargano Italy. Vecchia, a blackish rock that patrudes out of the sea is a short distance away. It is said that it is haunted and spirits are seen at the rock whenever the weather changes. It is two days before my rendezvous with Ariel. I hope to see her soon. Roy D. Stanton, Charter.

The Belle Barca is a small sailboat compared to the Fowl Wind II. It is only a 26 feet sloop and the only way I could get the use of it was bring the owner along. His name is Ciro and he has been following Ariel and I in the local papers. He has been looking for mermaids ever sense the mer-world became know. Now he is so excited by the thought that he just might get to meet a real mermaid. He makes me laugh at his eagerness. But then I though of my feelings on that November day in 1989.

The Tremiti archipelago has an abundance of natural beauty and is a popular destination for pleasure boaters. There are a large number of power and sailboats all around the archipelago, so to help Ariel find me I picked up a speaker that is waterproof. By placing the speaker in the water and playing the mermaidís CD through it, she should have no trouble finding me.

Ships log: The Belle Barca. Three days had passed, Ariel is late, and Iím getting worried. But I canít remember a time when she was on time of anything. Roy D. Stanton, charter.

Ciro is getting on my nerves he is like a child with the questions. "Whenía will sheísa get here? Isía she asía belle asía her pictures? Whatísa she like?" He would ask every five minuets in his heavy accent. He was so looking forward to meeting a real mermaid.

On the forth morning after turning on the CD player I was standing at the port side of the Belle Barca looking out to sea, wondering where Ariel was and even if she was OK. "If she doesnít get here soon Iíll have to go look for her." I told myself.

I was about to return to the cockpit when a voice call "Roy, catch me!" Turning back I saw a mermaid in mid air heading right at me. Not quite in control of my balance when she landed in my arms, it was all I could manage to place her on the cabin roof with out breaking my back. "OWE! Careful honey, Iím not as young as you think."

Ariel was so excited and talking so fast she didnít even noticed Ciro staring at her.

"I found her! She is alive! I found her! She is alive! I found her! Well not really, but I know where she is." She rattled on. "I need you to come with me, I canít meet her alone. I need your support. Oh, sorry are you all right?"

"OK! OK! Calm down. Yes Iím OK. I told the lip-biting girl. "Iíll go with you, no problem, just calm down and letís talk about it. First say hello to our host, Ciro. He has been waiting to meet you."

"Sorry, Iím just so excited I have forgotten my manners. Hello Ciro, I am delighted to meet you." Said the pretty mermaid with a smile that took the manís breath away.

The Italian did not know what to say, he just stammered. "B . . . b . . . buon giorno." Then he fell back words over the rail he was sitting on.

Ariel giggled as I helped the man back into the boat. "Are you all right?"

"Si . . . si, Iíma OK. Sheísa quitía doll, your mermaid. She gotía friend?"

Ariel blushed and said. "I will see what I can do."

To the displeasure of Ciro, Ariel dove back into the water. "Hay, where isía she going?" He asked. But was even more confused when I dove in behind her. His surprise turned to shock when I returned to the surface and placed my clothes on the stern ladder.

"Please leave my clothes here till I return."

"Si, butía what are you doing? Swing around withía nothing on."

"Donít worry, I am going with Ariel to find her daughter. I will be back tomorrow."

"Where you findía this daughter? Under the seas?"

"Exactly! Please wait till I return." I replied and could see him scratching his head as I descended into the clear water.

We swam down into the deeper parts of the Mediterranean well below the warmer water that is near the surface. It took a good hour before we reached the city of Mediterranea.

Ariel led the way to a large house of coral. "This is it, I have been told Melody lives here. I donít know what to do, should I just swim up to her door and knock and see what happens?"

"Why donít we go some where and you can tell me what happened first."

"OK! I guess you are right. Besides I need something to calm me down before I go in there."

We found a restaurant, just across and down for Melodyís house that had tables on the street. Even though merpeople donít use streets, they do have the same type of space between their buildings.

We ordered two tunnacolatas. As we sipped our drinks Ariel told me the story that led up to us being here.

She started out by going over some of the story I have heard before, about Morgana and the locket. "The big trouble started when she was 16. A ship had arrived from Europe with some new traders to the West Indies. Of course we all had to go to the village to see what they had brought and to see the new fashions from Paris."

"One of the new trades was a young man from Prussia, handsome some would say. But he was a slick salesman. He had no history of delivering the goods but he had the merchants of the village all giving him money with promises of things we felt he could not deliver."

"Melody, took one look at him and fell in love. She was set of returning with him to Europe. We tried to talk her out of it but she was so head strong she ran away with him in the middle of the night. By the time we discovered that she was gone it was too late. The ship had sailed and with my baby! When she was a little girl we used to sing together. She especially like a lullaby I use to sing to her." Ariel was in tears as she finished her story.

"Humm!" I pondered. "It sounds like she is a lot like someone I know. She ran off to another world too."

"Yes I know!" She smirked and rubbed her eyes. "But being a parent and trying to protect your baby is a natural instinct. Besides Alexander was real sea slim, he never delivered the goods to the village merchants."

"Alexander? Do you see what I see?"

"Yes! I rest my case."

Back at the house a young looking mermaid with long black hair, swam out. She was vary beautiful with a red tail and pink shells. I noticed her as she left the front door and swam our direction. "Sing that lullaby you use to sing to Melody. I would like to hear it."

"What? Here, now?"

"Yes, why not. Iím sure everyone here would love to hear you sing. Just like the restaurant back on Saint Thomas."

"OK! If you insist." Ariel began to sing the loveliest lullaby. As I had predicted it brought all conversions in the restaurant to a stop as everyone listen to Arielís beautiful voice.

Arielís voice was not confined to the restaurant area but drifted out into the street, just as the mermaid with the black hair and red tail swam by. She almost passed by before she came to a halt, listened and looked around. But by now Ariel had finished and again rubbed her eyes.

"Again!" I asked. "I would like to hear it again!" A lot of heads from the merfolks around us were nodding in agreement.

Ariel smirked at me. "Why?"

"Just do it!" I smirked back. She did but with a tone of sarcasm.

She had gotten the first stanza out and it became a duet. Melody had found where the singing was coming from and joined in. Ariel heard the other voice and when she turned to see the other singer she wiped her eyes even more but with a big smile too.

Ariel sprang from her chair and Melody swam into the restaurant area calling "Mom?" They met in an embrace with much kissing and fin flipping.

Ariel and I

Chapter 29

The last chapter?

When Ariel and Melody got control of themselves, Ariel introduced me and explained that I was a human. "Oh mom, will you never learn?" Melody smirked. Ariel smirked back at her daughter. It looked like one mermaid was a mirror of the other, except the hair color. Then Melody added "Come back to the house, we have a lot to catch up on."

The two girls chatted so fast that I could not get a word in, so I could go to the surface to tell Ciro he could go home. But first I went back to the restaurant where we met Melody. There had been a group of young mermaids there talking about how board they were.

At the surface I told Ciro. "We would be staying here for a while and did not need your boat any more. You can go home."

He replied. "Youía stayín here? Whereía here? I doníta see a palaces to stay!"

I flip up some water with my tail and said. "You have no idea of how big the twin cities of Metaterina and Olympia are. We will have no trouble finding a place to stay. But I want to thank you for your help and I have asked some single ladies to come up and say hi." I waved my hand and the group of mermaids from the restaurant appeared at the black rock and begun to sing. Ciro was dumbstruck and I slipped below.

Ariel and Melody had not even noticed that I had left and did not notice my return either. The younger mermaid was well into telling her mother about her life. She admitted that her choice in a human husband had not been as good as her mothers. "Alexander turned out to be a greedy and selfish jellyfish. Just like you said, mom." Melody bit her lip. "But I had children to raise and the next thing I knew I had grand children. Then before I knew what happened Alexander died and I had great grandkids. My children and their families filled my life, especially my great grandson little Alex, he love to hear my stories from the sea. But he always thought they were fairytales. He loved the locket grandfather Triton gave me so much that I had to give it to him."

"Yes, we know about little Alex!" Smirked Ariel.

"You do? Is he well? What is he like? The last time I saw hem he was just becoming a young man, with lots of ambitions."

"Ambitious! You don't know the half of it." Ariel went on to explain what Alex has been doing to the merword and to her.

The two mermaids talked all night, a real mother daughter talk. Ariel said things like "Iím sorry from driving you away." And Melody said things like. "Iím sorry Mom for not listening to you more."

The light of the next morning found me asleep on melodyís couch and the girls with a plan and their bags packed.

Before all the sleep was out of my eyes we were at the Metaterina Sea Coach station. The next Conch Shell Coach to Atlantica was in one hour. That gave us enough time for breakfast at the stationís dinner.

The trip took four days. The conch shell had been modified to provide comfortable seating for mer-people and was quite a smooth ride. Along the way there were comfort stops where we could get something to eat and the giant seahorses, that pulled the shells, were changed. It reminded me of the United Statesí old west and the way the stage coach lines were run. The last stop, at the end of the day, had a hotel that made the overnight stop quite pleasant.

At the lunch stop of the second day, we were almost done eating. Our table was by a big window that looked out to where the giant sea horses were kept. We had noticed a merman had brought out a giant sea horse and was just holding it out in front of the corral building. When all at once another merman road in on another sea horse and jumped on the fresh one and road out. It all happed in just a few seconds. The first merman now led the spent sea horse away.

"What was that?" I asked.

"Oh that was our equivalent to your pony express." Answered Ariel. "I read about it in the news papers when it started. I was surprised when I read about in ending so quickly after it started. Then when I came back home after Eric died, I noticed how slow our mail was so I suggested it to Daddy and he set up the ĎSea Pony Expressí, it has sped up the mail enormously." Grinned the girl.

Then Melody said. "And despite all this high speed communication I still did not know you were back in the ocean."

That evening after we checked into the hotel and had dinner, Ariel asked. "Do you still want to see Atlantis?"

"Yes!" I said excitedly. "Are we close?"

"Follow me, it just a short swim. We will be back before dark."

We swam for about 20 minutes until we approached the mid-Atlantic ridge. Tucked up agents a steep slope of the ridge was the ruins of a city that looked like a architectural cross from cities in Rome, Greece, Myan, and others that I could not place. Most of what was left of the city was just a pile of encrusted columns and blocks. The only structure left standing was a lintel held up by a column on each end. On top of the lintel stone was a semi circle of gold with another circle of gold on top the first. The two gold pieces looked like the Greek symbol for Omega. Around the symbol were three cherubs with gold wings, one on each side of the gold Omega and one on top.

We swam around for about half an hour as Ariel told Melody and myself a little about the ruins. The stories she told set my mind thinking.

When we arrived back at Atlantica I bought us a nice, not too little coral duplex. Melody lived in one unit and Ariel and I lived in the other half. We sold our condo and business in California but kept the beach house on Saint Thomas and the Fowl Wind II was kept in sailing condition at the marina. With little reason to go to the surface I went into writing the stories that Ariel and Melody told me.

Melody did go see Alex Fairbank and he was so glad to see his great-grand mother again, he agreed to stop collection exotic fish and released all he had. He never did go to the sea again.

One funny thing, Arista, the mermaid that hatted the surface, started seeing Rocky on a regular bases.

The End

Epilog: Watch for the stories as told by Ariel and Melody and written by Roy Stanton. Coming to a web page near here.

¹See Doug Webb's  "Ariel Goes to America"

Disclaimer: Ariel and other Character in this fiction are the sole property of the Disney Corp. This work was done for my own enjoyment and hopefully other fans of The Little Mermaid. I have no connection with Disney and have received no compensation of any type. Any similarities by the characters in this fiction too real people are purely coincidental.