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Beluga Machuga, or Machuga for short—for in fact he was much shorter in length than a Beluga whale, was listening very carefully to his sonar range finder, when he picked up a signal from a whale in the California area of Pacifica. An unidentified sea being was recording through a non-registered clamshell on the beach edge close to Pacifica Quadrant 5.
Interesting, thought Machuga. He hadn’t been informed of a non-registered clamshell showing up on a Green beach since…well, he couldn’t remember since when. Maybe never. Who had access to a non-registered clamshell and was also trying to record Green conversation?
Perhaps this was somehow connected to finding the soon he hoped to be infamous Green named “Julie”?
But, why in Neptune’s name would they be on a beach edge close to Quadrant 5? Quadrant 5 was uninteresting, Machuga thought just a little slip of Blue, in terms of Blue areas. It was near , but wasn’t over, the Mariana Trench and wasn’t really connected to the big concerns of Blue, in Machuga’s mind. It bordered Green, for instance. And a part of Green that was benign. As benign as Green got—there were no toxic waste dumps there, or major polluters, or dolphin captures, or…to be frank, if all of Green had been like the part that bordered Quadrant 5, Beluga could have maybe let live and let live be his philosophy, rather than Down with Green.
Was it possible that the next emissary from Green had some connection to a beach edge close to Quadrant 5? Well, he figured that the only way to find that out for sure, right now, would be to trace that clamshell. It was a very unlikely lead—but Machuga was in the business of paying attention to the “unlikely.” After all, he was a minke whale and the head of Atlantis Quadrant 1. He had been addressing the concerns of those who thought that a minke head was “unlikely,” since he came to power. Yes, he understood unlikely.
And so, he followed his snout when confronted with unlikely threats. Like this.
He lifted to the surface, as he sometimes did to think, took a deep breath and spouted. His blowhole shooting water several feet high. It was enough to lift him into the air, and then he let himself drift back into the dark, icy waters of Atlantis.
Machuga sonared for his personal jellyfish communicator.
Clue was shivering when Tic-Toc finally found him in the deep bowels of the S.S. Columbia.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Do you have any idea what I am being asked to do?”
“How would you know that?”
“Mmm….” Clue turned away. “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.” Then he raised his points, defeated, “Nurse Shark.”
“From when my father fainted?!”
“Well, she’s friends with my Mom. So, I heard about ZigZag fainting from my home. I mean, I heard it right in our living cavern, and I was worried about him, you are my best friend and he’s your dad and so I went to your cave and I was sort of outside the door when Splinter left and—”
She interrupted him, “You heard everything?”
“I heard everything and I –”
She interrupted again, “And you what, Clue? Do you even know what my life is like right now? Neptune’s whistle! This is not about you, oh most-genius fish…not about how smart you can prove yourself to be! This-is-about-ME.”
Clue pulled in his points, then expanded them, “Ok, warranted criticism.
“But…,” he continued carefully, “remember that broken clamshell we found behind the Council Headquarters that was being sent to Depth, and you told me not to touch it?”
“Yes? And, so what about that?”
“Well, I touched it. I actually…fixed it.”
She stared long and hard at him. “How does this possibly related to what you overheard coming from our cavern?”
“I fixed it and I was able to start listening…to stuff.”
Tic-Toc put her face in her hands and the flames spitting from her eyes flitted through her fingers.
“I know. I’m not supposed to use a clam shell yet.”
“No one is supposed to! Not just you, genius, no one.” Tic-Toc spun in a circle, “Don’t we have enough on scales? Clue, no one except Council members are supposed to use a registered clamshell. No one is supposed to use a non-registered one. Don’t you know that? Let me repeat that: no one.”
“Well, maybe if they spent a little more time in Ocean Sonar.”
“Well, that’s just ridiculous. We have not even studied Ocean Sonar yet.”
“Maybe you haven’t,” he added. “That doesn’t mean I haven’t.”
“Oh, why can’t you use a jellyfish like everyone else? And get in trouble for that? We aren’t even supposed to be using jellyfish, Clue, never mind clamshells. Never mind unregistered ones. Do you know the kind of trouble you could be in?”
“Well…yeah. Sort of,” he paused bringing his points all together and then flinging them open. “Ok. I did it, though. I mean, I did it. I connected with another nonregistered clamshell and got a transmission. And, I think non-registered clamshells are being used to communicate with each other. That’s what I think.” He paused again, “I communicated with some being on Green a few days ago, finally. I mean, I got a connection.
“And then when I heard you were …are you really? Going to Green. I want to go, too! So exciting.
“Well, so I tried again. To get through to Green. And I got through, but…something happened.”
Tic-Toc sighed, “Of course something happened. You were using …” She trailed off. “Forget it, sea star. You are smart, but you are hopeless.”
“Don’t you want to know what I heard? I mean the second time, when I actually heard something, and didn’t just connect to Green?”
Clue looked so dejected that Tic-Toc paused., and said the epithet that Blue hardly ever used, but she’d heard her Dad use a few times when he came home frustrated from Council work. “Morgan’s Curse, Clue,” she said. “OK- what did you hear? You understand however, this is about me, right? Eventually you and I have to deal with the fact that my father told me—I am supposed to go to Green to save a Green?”
Clue carefully let all his points straighten out, “Well, my findings, as I see them.”
“No! We are not pretending scientific conference proceedings here! Get to the point.”
“Remember in Green Beings 101, we learned about –dogs?”
“Mmm…yeah. Dogs. I had to admit to Ooh RT that I kind of liked dogs. Sort of like otters and sea lions, right? Furry and cute, and pretty, I don’t know, excited and happy all the time, not really dealing with anything serious?”
“I don’t think otters and sea lions would like that description. But, be that as it may. Yes, dogs. Those beings I connected with one.”
“What? As in talked with one?”
“Well. It wasn’t like –talking. I got a clamshell to jump on it’s back and hold on, and it had a being, the dog…that I could communicate with. I could understand this dog’s feelings. The clamshell operated like, sort of like a squid, it could pick up emotions. And It could send emotions back.”
“Did the dog know it was happening?
“I don’t know, but the dog, did tell me to ‘get off.’ Her name by the way, was Vader. So, to start with, I sort of actually know a Green.”
If Julie didn’t know better, she would have thought she just picked up someone’s phone. She dropped the clamshell and then covered it completely with sand.
How much safer were the parking lots of the malls in LA? She could not have wished herself back there any sooner than she was doing it right now. She backed away from the beach with Vader who was trying completely to dig up the clamshell she had buried.
She pulled on his leash, “Come on!”
Vader pulled on the leash back and twisted her hand and suddenly slipped free of her collar and was digging furiously. She dug up the clamshell and bit it, and ran off down the beach, tossing it and then then retrieving it, carrying it back to the ocean’s edge.
This was taking so much longer than Julie expected. All this week the beach was fine, and now it was like Nightmare Before Christmas, except Nightmare on the Beach. All before she ran away from home.
“Vader!” was she imagining it, or was Vader listening to that clam shell at the water’s edge?
She was going to try this one more time—getting rid of the clam shell and grabbing her dog, going home, packing and then running away from all this clanging ocean, and hissing biting weirdo happenings. She was not a hippy dippy Californian. She was a mall loving West LA/ Valley Girl and proud of it. She snapped her black lacquered nails towards Vader to prove it.
“That’s it,” she picked up the clam shell; she didn’t want to listen to it but she could still hear this hissing sound coming out of it. She tossed it and grabbed Vader this time by the scruff of her neck, slipping her collar back on and admonishing, “No!”
Then she started off the beach, but as the waves rushed their feet, the clam shell ran right up to them and lay there and Vader dove towards it and lay there, looking up at her as if to say, “Mom! Look! It’s back!”’ She was delighted.
If she had any composure let, it cracked. Julie just sat down in the wet sand at the edge of the water and let Vader play with the shell.
What was she going to do?
She could not stay here. She could not leave. She could not imagine running away. She didn’t hate her mother that much, but she had bought the ticket.
Enough. What was she going to do?
First of all she thought as the sun started to set she was getting of this damn beach with her damn dog.
Later when she was on the Surf Rider she would say it was the image Amelie had texted her of the black polka dots on the little dress that had made up her mind.
No one was wearing anything like that in Cambria.
In fact, if she saw one more “Life is good” shirt she’d yell at the person wearing it, No, NOT SO MUCH REALLY.
She was hungry for familiar mall food, mall music, Top 40s, food courts and…she wanted to try on that dress!
Amelie said it would look great on her. She just wanted to try it on. She knew she didn’t have money to buy it. All her saved allowance had gone to the ticket and she had saved some money for food at the Mall.
That’s all she wanted to do she thought. Try on the dress. That’s what she had told herself at the time.
ZigZag was looking at Wazzit who was supposedly the best Green scout there was in the Quadrant.
“And so, you decided the best way to get her to not leave the beach—was to bite her toe?”
“Well,” Wazzit spent so much time on the edge of Green he had developed what he said was a “New Jersey” accent, adapted from his last post on the Atlantis edge. “Well, whaddya mean…? I mean, what’s your beef, big guy? The Green picked up the damn phone. You got a connect, right? I mean, I got the DS 2 low down, you wanted a connect. I gave you a connect. OK? OK.”
“But she didn’t even put it to her ear,” said ZigZag. “You were supposed to make it happen so that she put the clamshell to her ear and we could give her the subliminal message about spending more time on the beach. We need her to be at the edge more often. And now – we can’t pick up any signal at all. Not since you for Neptune’s love of Yemaya-- bit her!”
“Sorry. I’m sorry,” Wazzit dragged out the word, “I bit the Green kid. I did. You’re right. I did. But what the hell was I supposed to do? She was walking off the beach.”
“How about putting the clam shell in her path without biting her?
“OK, smart guy, I didn’t’ think of that. Look, give me another chance. Do not let this get back to DS 2. I swear to all the pearls in the ocean, I’ll do I right by you, for the kid, I know, your kid. I swear it on my mother’s hell even.”
“I can’t afford for you to mess it up again We are on a time line here. I have to put in my report to my council to send to DS 2 about how we are progressing.”
“Don’t look at me. Not over a Green; don’t get mad at me over that.
ZigZag shook his massive head and his eyes flared. “I don’t want this assignment any more than you. But, this is an assignment from the Deep, buddy.”
“Well, give me another chance. I am the best there is.” Wazzit twitched his antennae. “I swear I will not bite anyone again. No matter what.” He clenched and unclenched his pincers. “I got a family. Come on, a kid like you Don’t let this get back to DS 2. This is my first big gig on this side of the ocean.”
“Fish scales,” ZigZag’s shoulders dropped, and he let his trident hang by his side, “Alright. You have another chance, but we don’t in the meantime know where the Green girl even is. She’s not at the beach at all now. The border sea stars report that they haven’t seen her for two days.”
Wazzit stopped clenching and sideways crawled to the cavern opening. “I got connections. I will not only find this Green.
I’ll bring her back to the edge. That’s where you want her, right? At the edge?”
“Yes. At the edge. On a schedule. As she was before you bit her.”
“Got it. I got it,” Wazzit said, “On it.” He saluted with his front pincer and side stepped out of ZigZag’s cavern.
“Neptune’s fork,” ZigZag murmured and thought that Tic-Toc’s Down with Green group maybe had the right idea after all.
Julie thought if she was honest with herself, that she would be right back. She didn’t really want to “run-away” as in I hate my home life so much; they hate me; I’m running away kind of running away. She meant to go away to her friend’s house in LA and for her Mom to find her. That’s what was supposed to happen. But, she had been at her friend’s house for three days now and her Mom hadn’t shown.
Of course, she hadn’t leave an address.
She thought she had left her Mom at least twelve clues as to where she was and why she left. She should have left thirteen, her lucky number, she thought. She didn’t intend to leave twelve. It’s just when she tried to sleep on the couch in Amelie’s basement and went over it she realized she had left twelve; she kept coming up with twelve clues.
1.Vader was missing. 2. Hello! she was missing! 3. She hated Cambria and her Mom knew it. 4. She loved LA and her Mom knew it. 4 always deserved to be repeated. She loved LA and her Mom knew it. 5. She wasn’t there when her Mom got home from work--and she had left a note. 6. She told her Mom she wouldn’t be back unless her Mom gave up the idea of the swimming lessons. 7. Amelie was a friend of Gina, her BFF 8. Her Mom knew Gina’s mom. 9. Her Mom had a phone!
And reasons 10, 11, and 12? Why hadn’t she found her yet?
Julie couldn’t’ fi it now. She had run away to LA and she couldn’t go back—didn’t want to go back to Cambria. The thing was Amelie’s parents didn’t know that she was in the basement because –eyeroll—all her friends had said before she ran away that Julie’s mom would be here by now. Amelie was saying now, however, that she couldn’t let Julie stay that much longer though without her dad finding out.
She could go stay at Gina’s but then for sure her mom would find out. Her mom would be called, for sure. That’s not how this whole plan was supposed to work! Her mom was supposed to show up in LA – sorry! Julie was not supposed to show up back in Cambria sorry. What was the point of that?
SMDH she texted to Gina.
Ok and now the smell of bacon was wafting down the stairs. this was probably going to be the end of staying if Amelie’s if she tried to bring some bacon down the stairs…there was no “reason” for Amelie to bring bacon down the stairs. Other than the fact that her friend was down here—the fired no one knew about so why bring bacon down the stairs?
Running way was not turning out to be fun at all.
The truth was she was not interested in being a real run away. She had spent enough time around Hollywood to know that she would never make it as a real runaway.
Amelie showed up and gave her a piece of bacon hidden in her pocket.
“I could only get you one,” she said.
“It’s OK,” Julie said. “I’m taking off anyway.”