To start at the beginning, use this link: Link to chapter 1
Maria swam down to the bottom of the lagoon where Allen was sitting, watching the colorful fish swim through the coral.
“THERE’S A BOAT COMING, AND IT HAS A YELLOW FLAG!” She signed.
“IS EVERYONE STICKING TO THE PLAN?”
“YES, BUT WE DID SEE A YELLOW FLAG.”
“I HEARD YOU. IT COULD STILL BE A COINCIDENCE OR A TRAP. WE’LL LET THE BOAT COME CLOSE AND OBSERVE IT BEFORE WE REVEAL OURSELVES.”
Following the plan they had all agreed on, Allen and Maria swam over to the cave underneath the mangrove roots. The other mermaids quickly joined them there, bringing the solar panels, batteries, water filter, and any other signs that they had been living here. Renna hung close to the surface, watching out through the mangrove roots as the boat entered the lagoon. She could clearly see the yellow flag flying from a large antenna on the top of the boat. Two men stood in the boat with binoculars, scanning the water. Neither of the men looked familiar, but they were both Caucasian, a sign that they likely weren’t locals.
“IT LOOKS LIKE THIS MIGHT BE OUR RESCUERS.” Renna signed. “THEY ARE FLYING A YELLOW FLAG AND OBVIOUSLY SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING.”
“OK, LETS HAVE CARLA SWIM OUT AND POKE HER HEAD UP, LIKE WE PLANNED.”
Carla swam out of the cave, and Renna watched her head toward the boat. She stayed close to the bottom until she was near, then swam upward to reveal herself. Suddenly, two dolphins swam swiftly towards her. She could hear their loud echolocating clicks as they approached. The dolphins dove on her from above and pushed her back down towards the bottom. Carla was very confused by this unnatural behavior. These seemed to be from the same pod of dolphins that they had seen swimming around their island for the past several days. They had seemed playful and shy before, but now these two were being very aggressive. She tried to push them out of the way and swim to the surface, but the two sea mammals seemed determined to keep her down at the bottom of the lagoon.
Renna watched from the cave as a pair of dolphins swam around Carla. She couldn’t really tell what the dolphins were doing, but the men on the boat seemed to have noticed the movement under the water. As Renna watched, several more men appeared out of the boat’s cabin. Two of them carried a large tube that they rested on the gunwale of the ship. They pointed it down towards Carla and the dolphins and fired a large weighted net, which spun to make a circle and then sank down towards the bottom.
“THOSE AREN’T RESCUERS!” Renna signed to the others. “CARLOS MUST HAVE LEARNED ABOUT THE YELLOW FLAG!”
The dolphins pushed Carla away from the falling net, and she managed to swim out from under the edge of the trap just before it hit the bottom. One of the dolphins was not so lucky and ended up caught in the net. Carla swam towards one of the gaps in the ring of islands around the lagoon, carefully not going towards the cave where the rest of the mermaids were hiding. Behind her, several divers splashed into the water. Carla ducked behind a mound of coral and then swam into a twisting maze of mangrove roots surrounding one of the small islands in the center of the lagoon. She turned to look behind her and saw several dolphins shooting past. A group of divers was spreading out from the ship, searching for the mermaids, but they were set upon by the dolphins, which drove into the divers, ramming them with their beaks. One of the divers fired his spear gun, grazing a dolphin with the spear and releasing a cloud of blood into the water. This made the rest of the dolphins even more aggressive, and they pounded the divers unmercifully, cracking ribs with their powerful blows. The divers fired their spear guns at the dolphins, trying to drive them away, but the swift creatures easily evaded the projectiles. One diver even managed to shoot one of his compatriots as the dolphin he aimed for dove in front of the other man and twisted away just as the spear gun fired.
While the divers were occupied with the dolphins, the mermaids slipped out of their cave and swam through the mangrove roots to a passageway between the islets that made up their refuge.
“WHAT ABOUT CARLA?” Asked Daphne once they had all gathered on the other side.
“SHE’S RIGHT THERE.” Answered Fernando.
They looked in the direction indicated and saw a dolphin swimming toward them. Carla was swimming behind the dolphin, having to work hard to keep up. Once Carla had joined them, two more dolphins approached. They circled around the mermaids a few times, then swam a short distance away. One of the dolphins came back and swam among them, then went to join the other two.
“I THINK THEY WANT US TO FOLLOW THEM.” Carla signed.
They all started following the dolphins, who swam rapidly away, but kept coming back to make sure that they followed. The dolphins led them on a wandering course from one small island to another, always staying close to the reefs and rocks underneath the water. As they continued, more and more dolphins joined them, with one or two sporting small injuries from spear guns and diver’s knives. They spent the rest of the day swimming, with the dolphins keeping up a punishingly fast pace for the mermaids, especially for Allen and Fernando. They seemed to be getting farther away from the shore, which was lost from view somewhere to their East. They finally stopped near the end of the day when the dolphins led them to a small island perhaps 500 feet long and half as wide. There the dolphins left them, scattering in several directions at once.
“I GUESS WE STAY HERE.” Allen signed.
“WHY DID THEY RESCUE US?” Anna asked. “AND HOW DID THEY EVEN KNOW WE NEEDED RESCUING?”
“I DON’T KNOW. MAYBE CARLOS’S PEOPLE HAVE BEEN HUNTING DOLPHINS, AND THEY RECOGNIZE THE BOAT. THE QUESTION WE SHOULD ASK IS WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO NOW?”
“WE OBVIOUSLY CAN’T GO BACK TO THAT ISLAND. CARLOS’S GOONS WILL PROBABLY BE WAITING NEARBY AND SEARCHING FOR US.” Renna chimed in.
“WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF FOOD, THOUGH. WE’VE GOT TO GET SOME HELP SOON.”
“WE CAN GO SEVERAL DAYS WITHOUT FOOD. I SAY WE KEEP SWIMMING FOR A LONG WAY, TO GET AS FAR FROM CARLOS AND HIS PEOPLE AS WE CAN. THEN WE’LL HAVE TO GO BACK TO LAND AND TRY TO FIND SOMEONE TO HELP AGAIN.”
“LET’S GET SOME REST AND RECHARGE OUR COLLARS. WE CAN MAKE SOME PLANS IN THE MORNING.”
After resting the night, they set up their solar panels to recharge the batteries in the morning. Then they took turns pumping the filter to refill their supply of fresh water while they discussed their plans. They all agreed that the best alternative was to keep swimming north for several days to try and get out of the area Carlos was searching, then try to find another person with a cell-phone. After a few hours, they saw the pod of dolphins again. They circled the island and even approached the shore in groups of one or two.
“I THINK THEY WANT US TO FOLLOW THEM AGAIN.” Signed Daphne.
“WHERE DO YOU THINK THEY WANT TO TAKE US?”
“I DON’T KNOW, BUT THEY ARE MUCH MORE FAMILIAR WITH THE AREA THAN WE ARE. I THINK WE SHOULD FOLLOW.”
They all agreed, so they gathered their supplies and slipped into the sea. The dolphins led them in the same general direction as they had traveled the day before. After a few minutes, the coral reefs started to thin out and the bottom dropped deeper below them. Before long, the bottom was lost to sight as they headed out into the open sea. Inwardly, Allen worried. Did the dolphins understand that they couldn’t spend the night in open water? They had to find a place to rest and get fresh water before the day was through. A couple hours of swimming brought them to shallower water again, and Allen’s worries lessened. The dolphins continued on, leading them through another section of reefs and back into deeper water again. After a long day of hard swimming, they finally arrived at another set of small islands. These were more exposed, basically just the top of the reef poking out through the water. The dolphins stopped there and swam away again, leaving the mermaids to themselves. They spread out their gear and settled into their normal charging and water filtering routine.