Black Pearl

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Nice Guys

After the helicopter dropped them off at the island, Freddy and Katie stood side by side at the doorstep of the beach house, waiting for someone to tend to the door. But after waiting for what seemed to be forever, Freddy turned the door knob and the door pried open.

“It was open the whole time?” Katie gave Freddy a look that made him feel stupid but Freddy brushed it off.

“Just come in.”

They entered the beach house and walked into the spacious living room. Katie craned her neck in all directions, trying to capture every glimpse of the luxurious beach house, from the rich hue of the carpet floor, to the 60” flat screen t.v, and the bar in the corner that was capable of serving and seating at least twenty people at a time.

“This can’t possibly be yours,” Katie said and plopped herself on the leather couch.

“It isn’t. We came here by chance after entering a portal. Hey, I’m going to look for the girls. I’ll be right back. And please, don’t kill anyone.” Freddy left the living room and into the hallway of many doors. Hopefully, he would be able to find them.

“I won’t!” Katie shouted. She reclined back on the couch and relaxed. After a long day, of hunting down and killing monsters, she was ready to wind down and sleep. Katie yawned and batted her eyes. Just when she was about to doze off into a deep slumber, she felt a strange tickling on her chest. She opened her eyes and saw that there was a hermit crab on her chest. It was staring straight at her with its beady black eyes! Katie screeched and rolled off the couch.

Freddy heard the screech and rushed back to the living room where he saw Katie aiming her loaded crossbow at a hermit crab. Immediately, he ran to take the crossbow from her. “It’s just a hermit crab! There’s no need to kill it.” The crab was doing its defensive stance, holding out its claws and hunching its back. Katie hid behind Freddy and watched the crab from afar. “It’s harmless.” He knelt down and scooped the crab up. The crab relaxed and put its claws down. Freddy smiled. “You’re kind of cute.”

Katie scoffed. “Cute? Oh please. Wait until it pinches your nose. It won’t be cute then, will it?” She looked around and said, “Where are the girls? It’s quite important to meet the people you’ll be working with.”

“They’re fast asleep,” Freddy said. He placed the crab on his shoulder and grabbed the t.v remote from the sofa’s arm. “What do you like to watch?” He asked as pressed the power button.

“Aren’t you tired?” Katie asked and sat back down on the sofa, still keeping an eye on the hermit crab on Freddy’s shoulder.

“Considering all that happened today, no.” Freddy said and plopped his butt on the sofa. “How ’bout the Simpsons?”

Katie gave him a shrug. “Sure.” She pulled in her legs and rested her chin on her knees. “You know, Freddy, you’re making me start to feel guilty.”

“A spy that feels guilt?” Freddy said, still surfing through the channels. “Gee, I didn’t know that was possible.”

“Shut up,” Katie smiled and rolled her eyes. Spies are people too, you know?”

“Then why do you feel guilty? Are you regretting killing my uncle?” Although he didn’t mean too, a smile crept up on his face as he watched the opening of the Simpsons. It never ceased to amuse him.

“Only because you turned out to be so nice.” Katie said and furrowed her brow as she watched Homer strangle his son. “Man, I know this is supposed to be comedy and all but why would any sane father treat his son like that?”

Freddy laughed. “I never thought about that. And well...I get that a lot. The whole ‘you’re such a nice guy’ thing. It’s exactly why I never had a girlfriend.”

Katie rolled her eyes once again. “Girls like nice guys too. It’s just that the nice guys are usually so shy that the girls don’t know if they’re actually interested or not. I love nice guys.” Katie found herself locking eyes with Freddy and her eyes quickly retreated. “Forget I said that.”

Freddy made a ‘slow down’ gesture with his hand and pointed at her. “You? You, the spy, like nice guys? Shouldn’t you be going after some other cool spy?”

Katie shook her head. “At my agency, we’re not allowed to date. There’s a lot of rules, actually, and they’re not fun.”

“So...you’ve never had a boyfriend?”

“Nope.”

Freddy nodded his head slowly. “Okay, that’s alright. We’re on the same page.”

“I wonder what else we have in common.”

“How old are you?” Freddy asked. “I’m nineteen.”

“Seventeen.” Katie said. “Still in highschool. Living the teenage dream. Do you have a job?”

“Fisherman,” Freddy said. “I know, it doesn’t sound very exciting, huh?”

“I love fish.” Katie didn’t realize she was almost borderline drooling but Freddy didn’t seem to mind.

“I love icecream.” The two became a tad excited.

“ROCKY ROAD!” They said at the same time and laughed. When they finally calmed down again, the air felt slightly tense. They were both silent for a moment until Katie spoke first.

“I’m sorry I killed your uncle.” Katie apologized. “I mean I would’ve still done if even if I met you before but__”

Freddy sighed and said, “I’m still kind of mad but I guess you were only doing your job.”

“Thanks.” Katie bit the inside of her cheek. “You know, for understanding.”

“No problem. Just being another nice guy.”

Katie punched him in the arm and Freddy winced. He hated to admit it but he was quite fragile. “Ow! What was that for?”

“You’re awesome,” Katie said and kissed him on the lips. Well this was interesting, Freddy thought and he closed his eyes. Her hand slid to his shoulders. Things were going smoothly until she yelped and pulled away.

“The crab! The crab’s pinching me!” Katie swung her right hand. When Freddy looked closer, he saw that the hermit crab was hanging onto Katie’s pinky for dear life with both claws.

“Hold still!” Katie stopped and extended her hand with the crab on it. Freddy gently pulled the crab off and scolded it. “Bad crab! That’s mean. No pinching.” It was strange. For a moment, the crab seemed to stare back at Freddy with guilt-ridden eyes. Freddy felt sorry for the crab.

He put the crab down on the carpet floor. “Stupid crab,” Katie muttered and the crab did something even more astonishing. It glowed. The crab glowed with a bright light and it began to grow larger and larger, its form morphed until something almost human-looking. And when the light died down, there was Alima standing in the crab’s place.

“Alima…” Her name barely managed to form from Freddy’s mouth. Alima looked different too. She was wearing a fine long dress made of fine grey feathers, and her arms were no longer arms, but wings. Long, feathery, brown, wings were where her arms used to be. They folded around her like a blanket. Freddy realized that this was her true form, the form of a siren. And even weirder, her black pearl was strung around her neck instead of her ankle.

Katie shook off her state of shock and grabbed her crossbow from the couch and aimed it at her. “I demand you to tell me what are you?”

Alima slowly turned to Katie’s direction and batted her eyelids sleepily. “Siren queen, to be precise,” she answered. Katie’s crossbow shook under her nervousness.

“Don’t shoot.” Freddy whispered. And as if Alima’s magic trick wasn’t bad timing enough, he heard Maria’s voice from the hallway.

Maria entered the living room shouting, “Good news Alima, Oria just called and she said the cure is to provoke___” Maria stopped. Her eyes went from Alima’s bird-like appearance and then to Katie and Freddy. “Well...I guess it’s already been done.” She turned to Katie and said, “I’ll introduce myself in the morning. Until then, good night.” Maria went up to Alima and dragged her by the wing. “We need to talk.”

Maria had dragged Alima down the hall, into her room and she shut the door. “Alima,” she said urgently,” Oria warrned this might happen. You’re kind of disoriented so you’ve got to snap out of it.”

“Is there a full moon tonight?” Alima asked and looked up at the bedroom ceiling. “It’s perfect for a hunt.”

“No hunting!” Maria made and ‘x’ with her arms. She sighed and asked Alima, “What’s your name?”

“I’m hungry.” Alima said and sniffed the air. “That boy back there smelled awfully tasty.”

“Alima…” Maria said nervously. “Snap out of it. Please. It’s freaky.” Maria scanned Alima from head to toe. She touched her dress and ran her finger down an individual feather. It was soft and delicate, like a bird’s. “Is this what you are?” Maria’s voice became hushed. She looked down at Alima’s feet and saw they were also like a bird’s. Long black talons protruded from her four toes. Maria patted Alima’s wings and continued to talk to her, hoping that it would bring back her sanity. “You poor thing. Oria said that the cure was to invoke jealousy. You’re not in love with Freddy, are you?” Alima leaned her head on Maria’s shoulder and let out a sad caw.

“Mathew...I miss Mathew.”

“You do. I don’t blame you. He sounds like such a good man.” Maria paused for a moment and noticed Alima’s shaky breaths. It was close to crying but of course, both sirens and mermaids couldn’t cry. She continued to speak. “You’ll be okay, Alima. I’m here for you. And...maybe Matthew’s out there. Somewhere. He’s probably wondering about you too.”

And just then, Alima’s wings faded into arms and her scaly bird legs were back as human legs. Her feathery dress returned to her normal clothes. “Maria.” Alima said. She was back to her old self. Maria was overjoyed. Maria embraced her for a long time. “I’m glad to have you back.”

“You too.” Alima said and looked up at her. She didn’t plan on telling Maria that she remembered everything Maria had said but it still made her feel loved. “Hey Maria? I can’t sleep.”

“I can’t either.” Maria said and rubbed her chin in thought. “Can you tell me a story?”

Alima laughed. “Sure. What kind?”

“Tell me what it was like in your siren pod.”

“Very well then. Now where should I start…” Alima snapped her fingers and said, “I know. I’ll tell you about the time I waged my first war….”

The first thing everyone did in the morning was greet Katie. It was pretty casual. They all shook hands, exchanged stories and jokes. But after that, it was time to get serious. They sat at the breakfast table and ate while they discussed.

“I know I’m pretty late,” Katie said. “But I do have an excuse. I am a spy, and the agency I work with happens to fund Abhilash’s project. You all know who he is, right?”

Everyone nodded. “Yes,” Garai said. “He’s the scientist who seeks to expose our under-water world. The princess is with him as well.”

“But does anybody have a guess on why she’s with him?” Victoria asked but looked directly at Xi Shi and Alima.

Alima sighed and said, “Naia’s running away from not only her royal duties, but her sister. I don’t blame here. I’ve seen her grow up in her sister’s shadow. She’s not meant to rule. So what does she do? She does what any teenage girl would do, run away, go guppy-eyed for a boy, and chase after him.”

“You’re right.” Katie said. Even though they’d all barely knew her, she seemed so professional. Everybody leaned in closer in concentration. “And because my agency is connected to him, it’ll be easier to find out his location.” She took out her phone. Her thumbs raced across the keyboard, entering codes and passwords. “He’s in Iceland, Skaftafell National Park. Apparently, he’s found a new test subject.”

“Another mermaid?” Freddy asked.

“Possibly.” Katie nodded grimly. “But the only way to find out is to find him. Is everyone ready?”

“We’re going now?” Ally’s eyes widened.

“Yep.”

Xi Shi hopped out of her chair and asked, “Is there freshwater?”

“Of course, the waterfall is made from melting glacier,” Katie answered.

Xi Shi did her magic. She swept her hand in the air and water from the sink oozed slugishly from the faucet and combined together to create a vortex.

“Expect it to be cold.” Katie said and they jumped.

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