Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton (18 page)

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
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In fact, knowing Rachel, she can probably make the absences disappear.

Am I really thinking about school when my mom and Galen are in trouble?
Yes, yes I am. Because this is the life bequeathed to me. Part human, part fish. Part straight-A student, part possessor of the Gift of Poseidon. Yep, I’m a natural-born overachiever.

Fan-flipping-tastic.

Behind me, I hear the most obnoxious belch in history. “Excuse me,” Toraf says. I hear him wrestle with his buckle and make a hasty retreat to the bathroom. And I’m officially glad I’m not sitting next to him. Let’s face it. He’s a loud puker.

Syrena were not meant to fly.

When we land, Toraf is asleep. He doesn’t even wake up despite the wobbly landing and the giggling girls and the announcement of “Aloha” by the captain. When everyone has disembarked I make my way back to Toraf and shake him until he wakes up. His breath smells like slightly microwaved death.

“We’re in Hawaii,” I tell him. “Time to swim.”

We take a cab to a hotel on the beach. We check in under the reservations Rachel made for us and dump our luggage in the room. I decide that if I ever get to come back here under different, nonstressful circumstances, I will stay at this hotel and drink fruity drinks and lay in the sand until my skin looks like it had a makeout session with the sun. But today, I’m looking for an inconspicuous way into the water.

We head out of the lobby and get waylaid by hula dancers in grass skirts handing out necklaces of flowers. Apparently Toraf doesn’t like necklaces of flowers; as one of the women raises it above his head, he slaps her hand away. I show him, as I accept the gift around my neck, that the woman with the coconut boobs was just trying to be his friend. Just like all the women he’s come across so far.

“Humans are too weird,” he whispers, unconvinced. I wonder what Toraf would think of Disney World.

Our hotel is right on the water, so we pass through the lobby to the back. The beach is lined with lounge chairs and umbrellas and people scantily clad and people who shouldn’t be scantily clad. The smell of coconut and sunscreen linger on the breeze that wafts through the abundant palm trees. It’s a paradise I can’t enjoy.

We walk the beach looking for private charter but they’ve all been rented well in advance. I’m flirting with the idea of renting a jet ski to take us farther out faster than Toraf could, but I’m bothered by the idea that when we ditch in the Pacific, it would be tantamount to stealing.

And then I see it. Azure Helicopter Tours.

I drag Toraf to the landing pad. “What is that?” he asks suspiciously.

“Um. It’s a helicopter.”

“What does it do? Triton’s trident, it doesn’t fly does it? Emma? Emma wait!”

He catches up to me and burps right in my ear. “Stop being a jerkface,” I tell him.

“Whatever that is. You don’t care about me at all, do you?”


You
came for
me,
remember? This is me helping you. Now be quiet while I buy tickets.” It’s a private ride, no other passengers to worry about. Plus, we’re not stealing anything. The helicopter can return to land with its pilot as soon as we’re done with our part of the mission.

“Why do we need to fly? The water is
right there
.” He points to it longingly. I almost feel bad for him. Almost. But I don’t have time for pity.

“Because I think these helicopters can still cover more distance faster than you can haul me. I’m trying to make up for all the time we spent at security in LAX.”

“Humans are so
weird,
” he mutters again as I walk away. “You do everything backward.”

Since this is a sightseeing flight, the pilot, Dan, a thick Hawaiian man with an even thicker accent, takes his time pointing out all the usual tourist stuff, like the fishing industry, the history of the coast, and other things I have no interest in at the moment. The view of the blue water and visible reefs, the chain of islands, and the rich culture would be breathtaking if I weren’t preoccupied with crashing a Syrena get-together. I can imagine spending time with Galen here. Exploring the reefs like no human could, playing with the tropical fish, and making Galen wear a lei. But I need to stay focused if I ever want a chance to do it.

When we’ve flown around for about twenty minutes, I recognize that Dan is taking us back to the landing pad.

“Where are we going?” I ask through the noise-canceling headset. It’s difficult to believe I can hardly hear the
whop-whop-whop
of the chopper blades.

Dan’s response comes through as clear as the water below us. “Back. The tour is thirty minutes. Would you like to upgrade to the forty-five-minute tour?”

“Not exactly.” I’ve only ever seen this done in the movies and I pray that Rachel’s right and money really does buy anything. I pull a hundred dollar bill out of my pocket and show it to him. “Instead of going around the islands, can you take us out that way? I want to see the ocean.”

Dan frowns, eyeing the bill. “I’m sorry, but we’re not supposed to go anywhere but the designated tour areas.”

I pull out two more bills. “I know. But I’m hoping you’ll make an exception?”

What Dan doesn’t know is that I could do this all day. Rachel gave me enough cash to buy a new car. I’m hoping that she is right, and that everyone—that Dan—has a price.

He scratches his chin. I can tell he’s tempted. “We’re really not supposed to. I could get fired.”

I hand him a wad of hundreds. I have no idea how much is there, but I’ve got more in the other pocket. “But, Dan, I’ve been waiting all my life for this helicopter ride. I’ve been looking forward to it since I was a little kid. If you don’t take us out, my heart will be broken. Besides, even if you
did
get fired—which I’m sure you won’t because you’re just making my dreams come true, right?—I’m betting this would pay the bills for a while.” I have no idea what Dan’s bills are, if he has a wife and kids, or if whatever. But from his expression, I’ve hit the nail on the head.

He tests the weight of the bills in his hands. Finally, he sighs. “Fine.”

I nearly squeal, and maybe I should because it would add special effects to my story. I grin triumphantly at Toraf, whose complexion has turned a lovely puce shade, just like Galen’s did on our way to Destin. My small, expensive victory is lost on him.

Dan takes us out far enough that I can’t see the island anymore. He doesn’t try to be the ever efficient tourist guide now; apparently we’re responsible for our own entertainment way out here. He keeps glancing at the panel in front of him. “This is as far as we go,” he announces after a while. “Or we won’t have enough fuel to get back.”

“Do you think we’ve gone far enough?” I ask Toraf.

He shakes his head.

“We’ll have to swim the rest of the way,” I decide as I say it. Dan laughs like I’ve made a joke.

Toraf nods. “Great. Just get me out of this thing.” Then he belches like a drunk.

I look at Dan and point down. “Before we turn back, can we just go lower? I want to see the water close up.”

“Oh, sure, sure,” he says, and we feel the sensation of gravity kicking in as he descends.

My breath catches as the chopper lowers. Dozens, no wait,
hundreds
of dark shadows skim the surface. I yank on Toraf’s sleeve and nod toward the water.

Eyes wide, he taps Dan’s shoulder. “We need to go a little farther out, please.”

“No can do. I told you, we need all of our fuel to get back.”

Slowly, I unstrap the belt. “Just a little lower please? I think I see some fish down there.”

“No prob.”

I’ve never skydived, bungee-jumped, or parasailed. As I remove the headset, I try to calculate the fall and can’t. Maybe my brain is protecting me from myself and what I’m about to do. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but I’ve heard hitting the water from such-and-such height feels like hitting concrete at such-and-such miles per hour. In other words, it’s a bone-shattering experience. I seriously doubt those calculations are based on the Syrena bone structure though. In fact, I’m counting on it.

“No lower, okay?” Dan says, looking out his window to the water below. “Oh, you see sharks! Wow, it looks like a feeding frenzy down there. Hey, don’t touch that!”

I grip the handle harder, but the door won’t budge. Leaning back, I get in the mule-kick position.

“Emma, don’t!” Toraf yells. “Those are
sharks,
Emma!”

I take a deep breath. “Wait until I have them under control before you jump.” A joint effort from two half-Syrena legs sends the door flying to a watery grave.

“They want proof?” I grumble to myself as I lean into the wind, “I’ll show them proof.” Right before I hit the water, I can still hear Toraf screaming.

18

IF HIS
own future weren’t dependent on the outcome of this tribunal, and if Emma weren’t entangled in it all now, Galen would find it highly entertaining.

While they wait for Toraf’s return with the alleged Half-Breed, the audience has been subjected to a match of conflicting testimonies. The Archive Odon insists that when a Syrena is on land for long periods of time, his or her eyes would fade to blue. He references the wall painting in the Cave of Memories for proof—the same painting that led Galen to conclude that Emma’s father was a Half-Breed. Galen remembers the Syrena with the blue eyes on the wall, and how Romul dismissed it as faded paint.

Which is exactly what another Archive, Geta, contends. She chastises Odon for spreading what he very well knows to be a mere myth parents tell their fingerlings to keep them away from land.

Then a Tracker by the name of Freya takes the center stone. She gives testimony that the stranger
is
Nalia—and she would know, since Nalia was her best friend since they were very young. Another Tracker, Fader, offers a completely different judgment. He claims he’s known the Poseidon Royals since before Nalia was born, and that sadly she is
not
the Poseidon heir. “I was the first Tracker to memorize her pulse,” he says somberly. “And this is not the pulse I kept close to my mind and heart.”

Galen can’t help but roll his eyes. He’s been trying to sort all this out, why so many would tell blatant lies about Nalia’s identity. What could Jagen have offered them? The Syrena do not lend themselves to greed and riches like humans do. But, what Galen has come to recognize, thanks to the human history class he takes at Middlepoint High School, is that like humans, Syrena just might crave change—whether the change is good or bad. He’s seen a pattern arise from the history of the humans, where humans get disgruntled and dissatisfied with what they have, and they long for change. They even have a proverb warning against it—the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But most of the time, if humans have it in their mind that the grass is greener, there’s little anyone can do to change their mind.

Galen feels he’s witnessing this human trait firsthand in his Syrena brethren. And that
is
something the Royals are responsible for. When King Antonis divided the kingdoms so long ago, he left room for exactly this. Why
wouldn’t
the Syrena crave better leadership? Why
would
they trust the Royals after so many years of allowing this silent feud to persist? What
have
the Royals really done to benefit their followers?

Maybe both houses
should
be left to their own endeavors under Jagen’s guidance. Maybe they can make things better, more peaceful. Some human governments managed to do it, managed to pull together after an overthrow and make something great from the remnants of failure.

But if that happens, what does that mean for the Royals? A lifetime in the Ice Caverns. And a death sentence for Emma. Something he cannot allow.

It doesn’t matter what is right and what is wrong anymore. It doesn’t matter that Jagen has a valid point, despite his convoluted way of getting to it. It doesn’t matter what happens to the kingdoms, what verdict is reached at the end of this torturous tribunal. All that matters is keeping the ones he loves safe.

And I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Galen is startled to find that Grom has taken the center stone. The entire Arena is silent, as if they sense a predator coming. Grom lets them scrutinize him, lets them take in his confident poise, his lifted chin, his squared shoulders. Grom has not been defeated.

His brother begins, “I’m thankful for the opportunity to present my testimony before you today. There is much to consider, and I hope you are all taking all the evidence to heart. We have heard much conflicting testimony in the past few days. We’ve heard from some Trackers that the stranger is none other than the Poseidon heir. We’ve heard from others that the stranger could not possibly be the Poseidon heir. What we haven’t heard though, is this: if she is not the Poseidon heir, then who is she, friends? How can a stranger even exist among us? And if strangers do exist, how many are there? Where can we find them? How did they come to be strangers to us? These are questions we need answers to, friends, if you decide to believe that she is not Nalia the Poseidon princess.

“You well know my feelings regarding this matter. You know I believe with every part of me that this is Nalia.” He turns to her then, and smiles. “The Nalia I loved and lost so many seasons ago. I have never done anything dishonorable to you. Even when I thought all was lost, I sacrificed myself to take a Common as a mate, taking a chance that Paca possesses the Gift of Poseidon and that somehow we have misinterpreted the laws passed down from our generals. I took a chance that somehow the Royals may be useful to you yet. I did not neglect my duty to you, as it has been represented here. But before I speak further, I would ask Paca to present her Gift once more, for your benefit. I want you to see why I chose to make this decision.”

Paca swims forward to the center stone. The same shock and confusion she wears on her face thunders through the crowd.
What is he doing?
Even Nalia seems perturbed at his request. Galen cannot see how any good can come of this.

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
11.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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