Before he realized it, Walter was out of the pool, gasping for air. The fish girl hovered above his body, almost sitting on him. Hands tucked under armpits, her face contorted in pain.
“Grab some first aid!” called a voice.
“Got it!” said a second voice, followed by a rush of air. His vision blurred, Walter could see a shape skating towards the building. It flew a few meters off the ground.
“Walter, are you okay?” It was Diana. “Can you hear me? Can you breathe?”
“I’m okay,” Walter muttered between coughs. He scooted backwards to give some room for the fish girl that saved his life. “What about you?”
She coiled over, mouth wide open as if to scream, though no sound came out. Something like gashes opened up along the sides of her neck. Walter noticed the dark blue star on her throat.
In a flash, Aegis returned with the first aid kit, busting it open. First he ripped open a bandage, and went to apply it to her neck—the girl slapped his arms away.
“Aegis, no!” Diana reprimanded, “Those are her gills, leave them alone! Here,” she turned back to her, holding a bottle of distilled water. “Let me see your hands.” She nodded, holding them out to her. They were purple and splotchy, signs of a bad scalding. “This might hurt a little,” Diana warned as she unscrewed the bottle, pouring the contents over the affected area. Her hair and skin matched hers as she aided her. The water fell like raindrops off an umbrella with her webbed fingers. Fish girl grimaced and squirmed, though her hands remained still. “Okay, good, now we need a little of this.” Diana opened up a bag of cling film and carefully layered it on.
Seeing the white cloth, Walter remembered his own wound. He lifted up his shirt to take a look. It was damp, but it held together.
“Come on, let’s take you to the clinic.” Diana helped the burn victim to her feet and escorted her inside. Aegis offered a hand to help Walter on to his feet; he refused it and got up on his own.
“That. Was. Sick!”called a voice in the distance. Across the pavilion, Kriskin had rescued Damian from his fall, supporting him as he limped along. Jack was beside them, and there was no telling where Audrey went. “You, sir, have the raddest talent I’ve seen since…well, Kriskin’s, here! But it’s not without its, uh, repercussions.”
“No kidding,” said Aegis. “Diana had to take that girl to see a doctor.”
Damian seemed surprised. “Why? What happened?”
“I happened,” said Walter, then let Aegis explain. I would have drowned if not for her, he realized, and now she’s hurt. His eyes went back and forth between Damian and Kriskin with contempt.
Damian sighed, “I’m sorry it went down that way. If I’d known…that….” His words trailed off as his eyes opened wider.
“What?” As soon as Kriskin asked, she realized. “Oh, crap.”
Shambling over by himself, Damian reached out and grabbed Walter’s left arm. The sweat band had fallen off in all the commotion, exposing his mark for all to see. “You found him,” he whispered, “you really found him! Kriskin!” He spun around at her, almost falling over. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”
Kriskin shrugged, defeated. “Dust wanted to be the first to know. Don’t tell him you found out, okay?”
“Well what are you waiting for?!” Damian hollered, “Take him up there!”
“You said you didn’t know where he was!” Kriskin snapped, opening another portal.
“Whatever! Just take him up there and bring him back to me! I want to start training immediately!”
Exasperated, Kriskin beckoned Walter to come with her.
“Wait,” Walter begged, “I want to go the clinic—see if that girl is okay.”
“It can wait,” Damian barked. “My ankle’s probably broken, you don’t see me in any rush!”
Walter lunged at him, his fist flying toward his face. Damian fell back in surprise, and Jack even smiled at Walter’s ferocity. Before Walter could break any more of Damian, Kriskin removed him from the scene, relocating to one of the elevators. She had also restrained him, putting rings around his wrists. Tightening them and holding them up, she held him there while he struggled, trying to break free.
“What the hell is your problem?!” Walter began to shout, kicking against the wall of the elevator. “Why are you doing this to me?!”
Requesting the top floor, Kriskin held him restrained and let him bawl. After he a while, she asked, “If I let you go, will you calm down?” Steam leaked from his eyes again as he nodded. Kriskin released him right away. “I’m sorry I had to do that to you. You—”
“Yeah, I’m a danger to myself and those around me, I get it.” Walter rubbed his wrists and turned away from her. “Is that what you would have done if I picked the hard way?”
“Good to know that I’m still your prisoner.”
Ding. The elevator came to a stop at the sixty-first floor. They both watched the doors as it slid open and man in a business suit stepped inside, his nose in a file folder. By the looks of him, he was a native to the island, with the same dark complexion as Kriskin. He didn’t notice them until he requested the next floor. “Oh, good morning. How are you guys doing?”
“Fine,” Kriskin answered, giving Walter an insincere grin.
Everyone went quiet as the elevator resumed. The silence was so intense, Walter had to stare out the window and down at the island’s scenery.
Kriskin spoke once their extra party stepped off. “Do you have any family, Walter?”
He considered her question in stillness for a moment, then nodded. “Yeah, back in Edhasnar[WH1] . Why?”
“No reason,” Kriskin fronted. “Just wondering.”
Just changing the subject, more like.
“Brother or sis--?”
“Oh. W-What’s she like?”
Walter shook his head. “I don’t remember. It’s been too long.”
Kriskin let her eyes fall to her feet. “I’m adopted.”
He looked up at her. “Yeah?”
She grinned for second, and nodded. “I was born here, but I never knew my biological parents. Dust, Damian and Drea are my foster siblings.”
“My sister. She runs the zoo over by Pinky Point.”
“There’s a zoo?” he asked, giving away the slightest hint of excitement.
Kriskin’s grin became a smile. “Yeah! I’ll take you there some time. It’s one of the best places on the island.”
“I’d like that,” Walter let slip.
The elevator had come to a stop again; they’d reached the top. “Here we are,” Kriskin announced. “Ready?”
Walter scratched the back of his neck. “I guess.”
They stepped off the elevator and into the receptionist’s office. A woman, another native, reclined behind her enormous desk, watching something on her phone. “Excuse me,” said Kriskin on the approach.
The receptionist pulled out one of her ear buds. “Hey, Kriskin! How can I help you?”
“Hey, is Dustin in today?”
“Yes, he arrived this morning. Although—hey, wait!”
Kriskin already had her hands on the double doors.
“He asked not to be disturbed,” she explained.
Smiling with malice, she informed the woman, “Whatever he’s doing, I guarantee you--” She paused to put her hand on Walter’s shoulder. “This is more important.”
Walter nodded hello.
The next second they were bursting through the doors. Kriskin mumbled something about hiring a new one every week. The businessman across the room hadn’t noticed them yet. He was a small man in a purple suit, stooping over his desk as he scribbled something into a memo pad. Curtains of long, blonde hair obscured his eyes, though couldn’t hide his protrusive nose.
“Dust!” Kriskin called out.
Ceasing his writing, he slammed his writing fist onto the desk. At the same time, the wind blew, rattling the windows and glass balcony behind him. “Oh, for Law’s sake, what?” He whined. It seemed like he tried for a menacing effect, though it was lost on his loud, nasally voice.
“I’ve brought someone to meet you.”
“I’m busy.” Another gust of wind shook the room. It was blowing faster now. “Bring him back some other time.”
“You could at least say hi.”
The wind began to howl now, to the point where Walter started to wonder if a tornado was about to carry them away. Dust’s head snapped upright, revealing a pair of piercing, sky blue eyes under thin eyebrows. Hidden by his nose, his tiny mouth curled into a snarl. There was almost no chin underneath.
“Hi,” he barked through gritted teeth. “Now please leave before I—hang on.” Reaching into his jacket, he pulled out his phone. His eyes scanned the screen while his little mouth formed words: “Check the security feed from the pavilion camera, between the hours of approximately oh seven fifty and oh seven fifty-two…Okay.” Dust spun around in his chair, pointing the same device at his windows. The panes of clear glass flickered, then turned opaque while the lights dimmed. Images projected onto the screen from an unseen source. Soon, they were watching a familiar scene from ten minutes ago.
“Uh, Dust? I don’t think this is—“
“Shh!” he hissed, though there was no reason to be quiet—there was no sound in this feed. On that screen, Walter relived the embarrassment. Although, he noticed, the group of onlookers didn’t seem to be laughing at him; not as much as he remembered.
And then, bang, it happened. The images were so clear and well captured that they could almost feel the explosion. Dust jumped, and hooted with delight as he watched the contenders fly apart in opposite directions. Kriskin, followed by Jack, sprang to her brother’s rescue immediately. Fish girl was swift as well.
“Wow!” Dust exclaimed as he cut the feed and the lights came back on. “I gotta meet this guy, I gotta find—”Kriskin saved him the trouble, pointing at Walter with a nonchalant thumb. “So nice to meet you!” he greeted, leaning over his desk to shake his hand with much vigor. “Where is your mark, what—” Again, Kriskin interfered, holding up Walter’s arm for Dust to see.
Then, Dust let out the biggest, loudest, longest gasp Walter had ever seen or heard from anyone. It was like listening to the world’s most dramatic fish out of water giving its last, dying breath. Outside, the wind rushed again, slowing to a sudden, eery stillness as he also came to an abrupt stop.
“Get out of my office,” he exhaled.
“Get out of my office!” he repeated, making a shoo-ing gesture with his hand. “You start immediately! Kriskin, take him to the clinic for his check-up, then to Damian for assessment! After that, I want you to take him wherever he wants, to do whatever he wants, understand? Show him the time of his life!”
“Alright, alright.” Without delay, she opened a portal.
“Wait!” Dust blurted, “Kriskin! Later on, when you’re not busy, uh…take me to the, you know—”
“Yeah, yeah,” she stammered, flustered and annoyed. “Come on, Walter.”
“Again, it was nice to meet you! If I wasn’t so busy I’d—!”
Dust’s voice cut off as Kriskin closed the portal behind them. “Oh, what a headache,” she moaned. “That didn’t go as well as I’d imagined.”
Walter wasn’t sure what to say. He only knew that they were now in the clinic waiting room, and he wasted no time getting information. “Excuse me,” he asked the nurse at the front desk. “Did a girl with, uh…g-green hair come through here?”
“Yes,” he replied, tentative. “May I ask who’s asking?”
“Well, she doesn’t really know me,” he admitted, “It’s…it’s my fault she’s here, and I wanted to—!”
Kriskin pushed him aside. “He’s here for his checkup, Dwayne.”
Dwayne nodded, “Alright, take a seat and the doctor will be right with you.”
She turned to Walter. “Sit…down,” she growled. Walter obeyed, putting his hands up with attitude. “I will go in there for you and find out if she’s okay,” she told him, “but you have to wait here.”
“Okay,” Walter agreed. Once he folded his hands and got comfortable, she vanished.
On the other side of the waiting room door, Kriskin reappeared, wandering the halls of the clinic. It didn’t take long to spot two women with blue skin and green hair having a conversation in one of the examination rooms. “Diana!” she called. “How’s it going in here?”
“Hey, Kriskin,” she greeted, half of her mane turning brown. “The doctor says she’ll have to wear these wraps for a while, but she’ll recover.”
“Good,” Kriskin grinned, looking the fish girl over. “Good. Listen, Walter wants to apologize. He’s in the waiting room now.” Bashful, the girl just nodded and stared at the floor. Kriskin couldn’t help but notice her cheeks turning purple. Just then, she remembered something. “Hey,” she said, placing a hand on her shoulder, “If you’re thinking about staying on the island, I think I know someone that can offer you a job!” The fish girl looked up at her with hopeful eyes. “Now, what’s your name?”