They made their way back to the dome, which his father informed him was actually called The Cupola Viriscent. Rakcigion pulled them along rather insistently and Sean got the idea he wanted Sean in a somewhat safe environment before he got himself almost killed again.
The Circuit members, who Sean had also come to realize were also called the Circuit, all turned to look at them when they arrived. They must have read Rakcigion’s tense mode because they all stiffened.
“No problems?” Gethain asked, so deceptively calm, Sean found himself wishing somebody would just throw a tantrum for once.
“No,” Rakcigion said shortly. “But Shenaragle bumped into Pearl by accident. He somehow survived the encounter.”
The mermen all cocked their heads at Sean sharply and he felt like a pinned butterfly.
“That… is interesting,” said Argan. “I commend you on your survival skills.”
“Um, I just talked,” Sean said.
“I know,” Argan said. “You would not have been here if you’d actually fought. His eyes narrowed. We might just be able to use you somehow.”
“Perhaps,” Gethain replied. The tone of his voice shut down any further conversation. “We are starting on the southern edge of the route this time. There have been rumors of unrest there and one of our men is there and suggests that we should be there sooner rather than later.” He eyed his men. “Be sure that you have everything you need. We leave in a click.”
The circuit nodded solemnly and went back to work.
The Cupola, Sean was surprised to learn actually had many rooms. Each room was blocked off by sections of growing seaweed. Even more surprising though was there really wasn’t much in each room. Everything there looked like it’d been brought in by the members of the circuit themselves.
“Why do you have two places?” Sean asked as his father got a travel sack.
“What do you mean?” Rakcigion asked him.
“I mean, you have the armory place. That’s like a police station right? It looked like most of your daily work happens there. So why do you need here?”
“Well for one it’s larger his father said, leading him over to a table. “And for another it’s more…. natural to us than even the stone we use here. It’s a place used to prep for long or risky missions. It’s relaxing.”
“You guys built a giant green dome because it’s relaxing?” Sean said disbelievingly.
Rakcigion laughed. “It’s private but not hidden. It’s important to our sovereign and it’s important to his people.”
Sean considered and then said slowly. “This is where all your high action missions leave from isn’t it? It’s like, like…. transparency. The citizenry doesn’t know what’s happening and probably never will but they do know something is happening. And that level of transparency is important in mer-culture.”
Mer-culture in Teroceanican,” His father corrected. “But yes. Well done.”
“Yay,” Sean said, “I might survive after all.”
Rakcigion snorted. “You just might.” He began stuffing things into the carry sack from the table.
Sean tilted his head at the variety of things spread out on the table. “What are those?”
“Weapon’s mostly,” Rakcigion replied.
“Well I figured from the sharp, pointy edges but they’re not all weapons, are they?”
“Not quite,” Rakcigion said. “Some are…tricks of the trade so to speak.”
“Um, like tools to help you figure out things?” Sean asked.
Sean nodded thoughtfully eyeing the odd array of what seemed like gems, and in some cases really weird contraptions that he couldn’t make heads or tails of. After a moment though he frowned.
“I noticed we aren’t packing any food.”
“No,” Rakcigion replied glancing at him. “We’ll hunt on the way.”
“Good thing I like sushi,” Sean deadpanned.
“Good thing,” agreed his father, with an almost wicked glint in his eyes.
“I didn’t think this through, did I?” Sean said.
“Probably not,” his father said cheerfully. “It’ll be okay though.”
“That is conjecture,” Sean pointed out.
“Probably,” his father repeated cheerfully.
Sean rolled his eyes in a display of immaturity and asked. “Do I get a bag?”
“Not yet,” Rakcigion said. “If I didn’t have to carry you then yes, we’d give you one. But I don’t feel like towing extra.”
“Fair enough,” Sean agreed.
◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌
In a click, which as far as Sean could tell roughly lined up to about twenty minutes in human time, they were assembled outside the dome and ready to head out past the city limits.
“Oh hey,” Rakcigion said, “I found this in the armory.” He handed Sean a pair of goggles.
“I love you,” Sean blurted out automatically as he reached for the goggles. Rakcigion laughed softly.
“Thanks,” Sean said. “No really. I should have brought my own.”
“You didn’t know,” Rakcigion said. “I didn’t think about it. We don’t need goggles.”
“Do you think I’ll always need them?” Sean asked.
“Probably not,” Rakcigion replied. “It’s not like you can’t stand the force of moving through the water that fast. It’s just that you need to get accustomed. But we’ll let you deal with that a little later on this journey. The second thing I have is for both of us.” He held up what looked like a medium length of rope.
“A toddler leash?” Sean asked.
“Basically,” Rakcigion said. “Easily for me to tow you and less chance of you falling off.”
“Eh,” Sean said. “I’ll take it.”
“Positions,” Gethain ordered breaking up their conversation.
Sean hastily snapped the goggles on and hovered near his father. Rakcigion wrapped the line around his wrist in a knot that wouldn’t put pressure on his wrist and did the same for Sean. Sean quickly memorized the knot he used and then Gethain gave the order for them to move out.
In a flash the whole group was slicing through the depths of the ocean.
◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌
An hour later Sean felt he’d finally gotten a handle on watching the world zoom past that fast without feeling sorely dizzy. The goggles helped. He did feel a little ridiculous being dragged along like a water-skier after a boat, but all together it wasn’t too bad. The rope let him drift farther back than his father so he didn’t feel his tail swishing around his feet like earlier and he didn’t get smacked in the head by his father’s tail.
The circuit surprised him though. He’d expected them to stay in the almost military silence they’d held for the majority of the time he’d spent with them but they didn’t. They spoke to each other while they swam, clearly comfortable with each other. Sean got the impression that they’d not only worked together but that it was this particular group of mermen who’d been on the circuit for years.
He couldn’t quite catch the group dynamics though. Mer-folk had different body language to humans and several times Sean thought that there was going to be a fight only for it to turn friendly in the next second, while no one else seemed bothered in the slightest. After another hour of listening to completely incomprehensible chatter though Sean yelled out,
“Okay can someone teach me what any of you are saying?”
“Don’t need to yell,” Rakcigion shouted back, “We have better ears.”
“Okay,” Sean said at normal volume. “Can someone teach me the language?”
“We could,” Argan replied.
When no more was forthcoming Sean said, “But you won’t?”
“Did you ask us if we will?”
“Not directly,” Sean replied. “But if you require it to please your sensibilities: will you teach me your language?”
Argan peered back at Sean and then gave a smile that showed all teeth. “Careful child. There are much bigger things in the ocean than you and they’re easily offended.”
“You’re longer than me,” Sean said thoughtfully, “Not quite bigger though.”
He got a swivel of heads and Sean felt a distinct urge to scream, ‘Watch the road!’ He held it in.
“I can’t tell if you’re brave or stupid,” Zacklani said.
“Both?” Sean said. “I can’t run from everything that’s scarier than I am.”
“Discretion is the better part of valor,” His father pointed out.
“I am well aware,” Sean said. “But aren’t you guys the type of people that run into crisis?”
“Smartly,” Extinrel snapped. “They do it smartly. You however seem to be lacking basic brain matter.”
“Ouch,” Sean said mildly as Rakcigion gave the medic a particularly hard glare. “Shot to the heart really. I’m wounded. I’m dead. How will I ever survive?”
Rakcigion turned to give Sean an unimpressed look at his bland tone. Jenaicra and Fassleti, though, snickered.
“I see you got a dose of your mother’s anger management classes,” Rakcigion said dryly.
Sean snorted. “No, I just got used to better insults from high school.”
Argan laughed this time and rattled something of to Extinrel in mer-speak. Then he turned to Sean. “I’ll teach you our language.”
“Thank you,” Sean said.
◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌
Sean stopped in the middle of a complicated word in mer-speak as something caught his eye.
“Is that a wreck?”
“Uh-huh,” his father replied. He slowed so that Sean could get a better look at it.
“Wow,” Sean said.
The wreak was old. Really old. It had a mast sticking out from the ground and the shreds of sails billowing in the soft underwater currents. Holes in the rotting wood of hull, were used as thoroughfares for various sea creatures as they wormed their way over the wreck. The whole thing was gray, oysters rooted in the wood, soft moss covering a good section of the ship. The bottom half of the hull was embedded in the sea floor.
“How long has this been here?” Sean asked softly.
“A couple centuries,” Cabrako told him. “It sank in a storm. A couple of your explorers come every year trying to find it. They always miss.”
“Huh. Treasure hunters?”
“Yes. Or historians,” Rakcigion told him.
“That’s kinda cool though,” Sean said. “I guess if I ever want to be rich, I should just come here.”
Rakcigion laughed. “Sure. You’d have to fight off all the eels that live there though. I hear they’re nasty.”
“Worth it,” Sean said.
“Are we done sightseeing?” Gethain asked.
“Oops,” Sean said. “Sorry, yeah.”
“The ship is a good landmark Shenaragle,” Zacklani told him. “So, remember it.”
Sean nodded and then they resumed their journey.