The Long and Winding Road Part 2
The next few weeks were spent in relative quiet.
Jason continued to teach Neri to read, getting books from Dianne, and continued to study every day.
He had been trying to convince Neri to let him go into the badlands and take a look at the craft that was crashed there.
Neri didn't want anything to do with it, saying it wasn't safe to go back there.
Jason finally convinced Neri they really needed to look at the craft and even to come with him.
"Tell mother first. Then enter."
Jason had no reason to dispute that so they headed for Orca. They dove immediately when they reached the platform, not needing to communicate.
They reached Dianne's lab a minute later. Dianne and Winston both were hard at work so they didn't notice Jason and Neri at the window. Jason knocked and Winston once again went to the door. Jason rolled his eyes, but this time Dianne looked up and glanced at the window.
She said something to Winston, who turned around and grinned at the pair.
"Hey guys," Dianne said into the microphone. "You want us to meet you on the platform?"
Jason nodded and led the way up to the surface.
Five minutes later, Dianne and Winston joined Jason and Neri on the platform.
"What's going on?" Dianne asked as she gave both Jason and Neri hugs.
"We thought you should know. Tomorrow we're going to go into the badlands and check out the craft that's crashed there.
"I really think we need to find out what it is. It might hold some clue as to who Neri is and where she comes from."
"Why tell me?"
"It dangerous. Might not come out," Neri said.
"Would you guys like someone to wait for you guys to return?"
Jason and Neri glanced at each other. "I don't think we need it. If you don't hear from us in a few days, start worrying."
"How many is a few days?"
"Let's say three, starting tomorrow."
"All right. I can see I'm not going to change your mind. If I don't hear from you in a few days I'll start worrying."
Jason nodded. "Thanks Mom. Hopefully, if everything goes well, you'll hear from us in a couple of days."
Jason gave Dianne a hug and Neri did the same and they dived off the platform a moment later.
The next morning Jason and Neri set off for the badlands after breakfast. Five minutes later they were standing in front of the craft.
"What now?" Neri asked as they looked at the structure.
"Well, we look for a way in. Let's hope there is one. You go around to the left, I'll take the right. Yell if you find anything."
Jason got about halfway along the side when he saw rungs going up the side.
"Neri," he called, almost at the same time she called his name.
Jason couldn't help but smile. "What did you find?" he asked.
"Ladder. Go up."
"I fount the same. Let's meet on the top."
It didn't take very long for Jason to climb up. When he got there, he walked across to help Neri up.
When she was on top Jason turned around and took a look at the top of the craft.
It was longer than he had expected. Longer than wider, it made Jason wonder exactly what it held.
"It large," Neri said a moment later.
"Well, now that we're up here, do you have any memories of it?"
Neri closed her eyes for a moment then shook her head. "Sorry. Too long."
"It's all right. I just thought I'd ask," he said, smiling at her. "Let's try to find a way in. I hope it's on the top, otherwise we climbed up here for no good reason. Let's start at the front and work our way back."
They found a hatch ten minutes later, between the two ladders they had climbed up in the first place.
It only took a moment to get the latch undone and open.
It was somewhat dark in the craft, leading Jason to wish they had brought a light with them.
Jason climbed down the ladder on the side of the whole and then waited for Neri to descend.
They stood in place for a moment as they waited for their eyes to adjust to the changed light.
"Where do you think we should start?"
"Front, work back."
Jason followed Neri to the front where there was a large open area and Neri stopped short.
Jason looked over Neri's shoulder. What he saw didn't excite him too much but it might have at one time, since the place was covered in cobwebs, making him think the craft had been there for an interminable number of years.
"What now?" Jason asked quietly, not wanting to break the almost tomb-like atmosphere.
"Look around," Neri said, stepping forward and starting to brush cobwebs off surfaces.
As they were doing that, they piled the cobwebs in the middle of the room. As more of the room was exposed Jason was able to figure out what the original use of the room had been.
To him, at least, it was obviously a command center.
As he looked around, Jason noticed something out of the corner of his eye.
"Neri?" he called out to her as he walked over to the blinking light.
"Um, there's a light blinking over here."
"That turned Neri around really quick. "Light blink? Where?" she asked, walking over to stand next to Jason.
Jason noticed the light was actually a button and after a moment of silence from Neri, pushed it.
There was a soft hum, making Jason jump. "How does this thing still have power?"
"Not know. Be here too long ago."
The humming got louder and to Jason and Neri's surprise the whole place started lighting up.
Jason jumped a mile when he heard a voice behind him making both him and Neri spin around in surprise.
Standing in front of them was an older man in about his sixties, or at least a projection of one since it kept flickering.
"Father," Neri whispered, stepping forward a few steps before Jason put a hand on her shoulder to stop her.
It's just a projection Neri," he said softly.
"Neri," the projection said, smiling. "I wish I could see you now," he said, shaking his head. "By now, you must be curious about where you come from… you don't come from Earth. There wasn't enough power left in this old craft to send a message home, but there is two things you need to know.
"Neri, you have a sister on this planet. Her name is Mera, and she is three years younger than you are. When you ship crash-landed here I didn't have any choice but to send her somewhere else. All I know is that she landed on the mainland but not too far from the coast.
"There is no chance that you or Mera will ever be able to see your birthplace or meet the relatives you have there, but you may be able to start your own family here, or join a willing one.
There are other children out there, ones whose parents also felt that it would be impossible for their children to survive the impact. They are more spread out, and we didn't have any way of knowing where they landed.
We are outcasts from our society. Your mother was queen and was exempt but we were forced to leave our home and make the long journey here, all because of you, Mera, and the other children.
"I leave you with one last thing."
Jason heard hissing again, and turned around to see a compartment near the button he had pressed open. It contained a pendant on a chain.
Jason removed it from it's compartment and handed it to Neri as the projection continued.
"It's only one half of a complete necklace. Mera should have the other half, unless something happened to it. I wish you happiness and long life Neri. Good luck on your search for your sister. If the rest of this program works like it should, you will never be able to access this program a second time. But there is a second message for you and your sister that is on time-delay after this one. I am leaving some files available to you that will give you some idea of what your birthplace was like. Goodbye my beloved daughter. Never forget me and may you have a wonderful and long-lasting life."
The hologram shut down then, and a screen near Jason came on.
Neri didn't even notice. She was still staring intently at the necklace in her hand.
It surprised Jason to see a silent tear rolling down Neri's cheek. He wiped it off and wrapped Neri in a hug that he knew she needed.
"Want me to put it on you?" Jason whispered as he held Neri.
He just barely felt her nod before he moved back a step. He took the necklace from her and stepped behind her to close the clasp.
"Thank you," Neri said, holding the pendant in her clasped hand.
Jason smiled and nodded, giving her shoulder a squeeze. Well at least we know you have a relative who might be alive on Earth. We can start a search for her at least. I mean, we know her name, her approximate age and that she is probably nearby. We'll talk to my Mom tomorrow and hopefully be able to find out where she is. Even if we can't find her you still have me, Brett, Mom and Winston," he said putting his hands on Neri's shoulders. "And we certainly consider you to be family."
Neri was still grasping the pendant in her hand.
"Hey while we're here, do you want to take a look at the rest of the ship?"
Neri finally nodded. "Not know what else here."
As they explored the rest of the ship they stayed together, opening every door they came across.
"Neri," Jason called to her when he opened a side door in one of the bedrooms.
Inside the closet was a row of outfits very similar to the one Neri wore.
Neri came into the room, picked one off the rack and just held it to her.
"You could keep it in case we find Mera. I suggest you take one for yourself."
"You've had that outfit for years right? What says you have to continue to wear the same outfit now that we have found more."
Neri thought about it for a moment and finally nodded.
"I'll leave you in here to change," Jason said, walking to the door and closing it behind him.
He waited a couple minutes and Neri finally emerged, another outfit draped over her arm.
"Leave old dress in closet. Not need."
Jason nodded and led the way back out.
The next morning Neri and Jason set out for Orca right after breakfast.
They reached Dianne's research lab a few minutes later.
Jason knocked on the widow and this time was able to get Dianne and Winston's attention right away.
"Hey guys," Dianne said. "We'll meet you on the platform all right?"
Jason nodded and followed Neri up to the surface.
What did you find?" Dianne asked as she and Winston exited from the lift.
"That craft is a spaceship Mom, not a boat. We confirmed that Neri's not from Earth."
"Where is she from? Did you find that out?"
"We don't know. The projection of Neri's father didn't tell us too much. There's something else too."
"I have sister."
Dianne's eyes bugged out. "You have a sister?"
"She does Mom. And if Mera's anything like Neri, we need to find her before Ubri gets wind of her. They will be all over her otherwise."
"How old is she?"
"All we know is that she's three years younger than Neri. She also has the counterpart of Neri's necklace."
"Do you know any more clues about her?"
"Just that she's likely near the coast. If she's like Neri she probably wouldn't want to be inland."
Neri put a hand on her pendant. "You want for Mera?"
Dianne thought for a moment, then shook her head. "No. We should find her first."
"Well, good luck in your search Mom," Jason said, giving her a hug.
"Wait a minute. You're not going to help?" Dianne asked, surprised.
Jason shook his head. "Mom, I'm really much more comfortable on Neri's island. It's just a lot nicer there than on Orca."
"You like island?"
"It's just so peaceful there."
"Honey, I think it's wonderful you've found a place where you enjoy living," Dianne said, giving Jason a hug.
"Thanks Mom. I was hoping you'd understand."
"I may not completely like it, but I understand."
"We go?" Neri asked.
Jason nodded and gave Dianne one last hug.
A minute later, he and Neri dived from the platform.
It took Dianne and Winston a week of searching before they found out where Mera was.
She had been at a foster home for kids with unusual talents for a couple of years, but a couple months before an institute called Ubri had taken her, the administration at the center had told Dianne.
"We need to get her out of there," Jason said when Dianne told him and Neri what she had learned.
"How? Ubri certainly won't just hand her over. And we don't
know the layout of Ubri barely at all."
"We have to do something. We can't just leave her in Ubri's hands."
"Need help first."
That got Neri, Jason, Brett, Dianne and Winston planning.
It took a month of planning before anything was actually done.
Froggie, Brett, Jason, Jodie and Vanessa were to make up the group. Jason was in possession of Neri's necklace and was hoping that would be enough to convince Mera to come with them.
Neri was staying with Dianne and Winston for the day, so that she wouldn't be alone to worry on her island.
Everyone on the team was dressed in civvies since they were posing as a group of kids who were taking a tour for a class at school.
The plan was to get away from their tour guide somehow and try to find out where they were keeping Mera.
One of the things they were able to find out from both the records on the spacecraft, which Jason and Dianne had been diligently copying onto computer disks was that Mera was 12 and Neri 17, the same ages of Jason and Brett.
From the center they learned the name Mera had been given, which strangely enough was Mary.
They were also able to learn a few things about Neri's planet of birth, and her family, which Jason related to her. She had only been reading on the level of about a third grader, which despite it being quite an accomplishment for Neri, it wasn't really enough to be able to read the files.
The day finally arrived when they were going to infiltrate Ubri. The group of four had spent the previous night in a hotel on the mainland so they wouldn't raise suspicion when they arrived like they might have if they had come from the direction of Orca.
Neri had spent the night on Orca, having given her necklace to Jason the day before when they dropped her off at Orca before they left for the mainland.
It had been a hassle just to get a tour in the first place. They had to get alibis and fake places of residence to start with, then they had to give the exact reason they wanted a tour.
"When people ask for a tour on Orca, they don't have to go through anything like this," Dianne said at one point.
"We don't have anything to hide Mom. My guess is, they do," Jason had said.
As the group reached Ubri, a woman met them. "My name is Jennifer. I'll be your guide here at Ubri today. Our fist stop will be to get all of you Ubri uniforms," she said, leading the way through the gates.
"That will make it easier to slip away," Jason whispered to Vanessa.
Vanessa just nodded slightly.
Most of the tour was pretty boring. There just wasn't that much of interest to see in what they were shown of Ubri.
Jason thought they'd never get away from their guide, but they got the opportunity when a group of people passed them going the other way and they hooked onto the back of it, then turned at the next corner.
Thanks to the tour they knew exactly where they were going.
The plan was to split up, with Froggie and Vanessa heading to the lower level to turn off the power and then make their way out of the complex. Jason, Brett and Jodie were going to lay low until the power went out and then find Mera and get out of Ubri as quickly as possible.
Fifteen minutes after they split up, Jason watched as the lights went out, leaving the complex in almost darkness.
"Good job Froggie," Jason muttered as they made their way out of hiding.
They luckily knew the area where Mera was being held so by going down the hallway, they were able to find her in a few minutes, since they had put names on all the doors.
"What are you guys doing here?" Mera asked as they entered her room.
Jason and Brett immediately sat down next her. Jodie stayed at the door as look out and kept a foot in the door since the door was locked on the outside and it wouldn't do them any good if they were locked in.
Jason pulled out Neri's necklace from under the Ubri uniform. "Mera, you have a sister. We've come to take you out of here and take you to meet her."
"What do you mean? My name's Mary."
"Look we don't have a lot of time to explain. You have an almost exact replica of this necklace right? One that you've had for as long as you can remember? And you're also an orphan? And you can swim for hours on end?"
"Well yes, but you could have found that out anywhere."
"Mera, have you ever seen another necklace like this other than the one you have?"
"Than just trust us that you have a sister. We need to get you away from Ubri. They are not nice people, and I don't know how much longer the power will stay out."
"You're responsible for the power going out?"
"Yes, but don't worry about that now. Brett, you and Jodie go back to Orca when you reach the boat. Mera and I will swim back. We'll travel with you out of the complex but as soon as we get out you'll have to find your own way back to the boat."
"Wait a minute, we're swimming somewhere?"
Jason just nodded, and he and Brett herded her out the door, with Jodie right behind them.
It was pretty easy to get out of the complex. Jason and Mera headed straight for the water and dived in.
"Just follow me," Jason said right before they dived into the water.
Halfway to Orca, Jali started following them and Jason pointed him out to Mera, scaring her.
When they reached the platform, Jason told Mera to wait there while he dived down to the lab but Mera insisted on coming with him, saying she didn't want to be alone.
Jason agreed and led her down to the bottom section of Orca.
Only Winston was working in the lab when they reached the window.
Jason knocked on the window to get his attention.
Winston turned immediately to the window and smiled at them.
He walked to the microphone a moment later and said: "Hi Mera, I'm Winston. Jason I'll go tell your Mom you were able to find her. Meet us on the platform, all right?"
Jason nodded and led Mera back to the surface.
They broke the surface a moment later and treaded water for a moment. "Why does everyone call me Mera?" she asked.
"I realize you probably don't remember being called that, but that's your real name."
Mera thought about that for a moment. "Actually, I do kind of remember someone calling me Mera a long time ago. How did you find out about me?"
Jason began telling her about his family's connection to Neri, his living with her, the spacecraft and what they had learned from it when they heard a speedboat approach.
Jason motioned for Mera to stay quiet and then looked over the edge of the platform.
It was Brett and the rest of the group so Jason pulled himself onto the platform and then helped Mera up.
"I'm glad to see you guys made it back all right," Jason said as he walked over to them.
"Let me tell you though, it wasn't easy," Froggie commented.
"I don't think we would have been able to escape at all if we hadn't turned off the power. The whole place was in chaos but we still almost got caught."
"You must be Mera," Vanessa said shaking hands with the bewildered girl. "I'm Vanessa, a friend of your sister's.
Everyone introduced themselves to Mera who was polite enough.
"Mera, I should warn you. Neri, your sister, can be a little… overzealous sometimes," Jason said.
Brett snorted. "Only a little?"
"Okay, she can be really overzealous sometimes, but she's a good person."
"How did you guys meet her?"
"Well, that's an interesting story…"
"Wait Jason, before you start telling that, does anyone know we're back?" Vanessa asked.
"Yeah, that was the first thing I did when we got back. In fact, where are they?"
"Right here," Dianne said as she, Winston and Neri stepped out of the lift.
Neri and Mera just stood there a moment just looking at each other.
Jason, comparing the two sisters when they were almost next to each other he could see they were truly sisters.
Neri made the first move, stepping forward the few feet that separated her from Mera and embraced her.
Mera only hesitated a moment before returning the hug.
When the hug ended, Dianne moved forward and gave Mera a hug, surprising her.
"Welcome to the family, honey," Dianne whispered as she hugged Mera.
"Mera, meet my mom," Jason said, putting a hand on Mera's shoulder.
"We consider Neri to be a part of the family and we would gladly consider you the same," Dianne explained with a smile.
"Thank you… Why did you come after me?"
"We've had problems with Ubri before. They want Neri for her special abilities. I have no idea what they might have done to you, especially after what they did to Jali."
"Do you remember when I pointed out that whale on our way here? That's Jali."
"Wow, that's pretty neat. Do you think that I could make friends with a whale?"
Jason smiled. "Ask Neri. She would know, not me."
"We talk later. Show island now."
"Where Neri and I live."
"Come. We go now."
Mera gave another hug to Dianne. "It was nice to meet all of you," she said.
"Wait, what about Neri and mine's outfits?"
"We left them on the platform," Winston said, handing the respective to Neri and Jason.
"You first," Jason said.
Neri went behind a box and changed.
"Mera, I have a new outfit for you too," Winston said, pulling out an
outfit identical to Neri's
Mera took the outfit and unfolded it, holding it out to look at it.
"Well, it's certainly better than what Ubri gave me," she said.
Neri came out from behind the box changed into her regular dress.
"You go ahead and change Mera," Jason said.
"Umm, just one question. Am I to wear any underwear beneath it?"
Mera glanced Neri's way. "I guess that answers that question. I'll be right back," she said, going behind the box.
"This feels strange," Mera said a minute later as she emerged from behind the box.
"It easy with time," Neri said.
"I'll be right back," Jason said.
"What do I do with these clothes?" Mera asked.
"I'll take them for you," Dianne said, taking the clothes from Mera and then Neri's Orca uniform from her.
"Here Mom," Jason said after he was changed, handing his discarded clothes to her.
"Thank for help," Neri said with a smile.
"That's what family is for," Dianne said with a smile.
Five months after Mera moved onto the island with Jason and Neri, the pair had to leave for migration.
Brett moved to the island so that Mera wouldn't be alone for the next couple of of months, since she had no wish to stay on ORCA.
They were on their way back from a rather uneventful migration when one afternoon, Jason surfaced for air and heard someone crying. He noticed a small raft not too far away from where he had surfaced with one figure in it, but the person was in such a worked-up condition that she didn't notice him.
He quickly swam down to where Neri was waiting for him and quickly outlined what he had seen and heard.
'I think we should help her. She's out in the middle of nowhere and alone in that raft. The least we can do is search for a nearby boat for her to be rescued. I just hope she speaks English.'
'I follow you,' Neri conceded.
It didn't take them long to reach the surface next to the raft and for Jason to poke his head above the side.
"Um, excuse me, do you speak English?" he asked sheepishly.
The girl jerked her head up in complete surprise. "Yes I do. Where did you come from?"
"Do you mind if we join you? You look like you need some assistance."
It only took Jason a few seconds to pull himself onto the small raft and to help Neri on.
"What's your name?" Jason asked.
"Amy. What are yours, and what are you doing out here without a boat?"
"I'm Jason and this is Neri. As for what we're doing out here, well, that's kind of…" he said, trying to figure out a way not to have to tell her.
"Confidential," Neri provided.
"Is there some place we can take you, or is there any boats we can help you get to?"
"I'm an orphan," Amy provided with a shrug. "My parents died when our boat was sunk by a large storm this morning. By all rights I should be dead too, but somehow I was able to hold my breath and wait it out in this raft."
"No way," Jason said, immediately rummaging through the pack they carried with them. "Amy, were you found as a baby?"
"Well, yes, actually. How did you know?"
Neri caught on quickly to what Jason had and helped him look through the pack for the sheet of paper they had brought with them.
"It's complicated. Let me just come out and tell you this. It's going to sound completely unrealistic to you probably but I think we have some more information on you than you do, where you come from and such."
"Long story. I've known Neri for about three years. I first met her when my brother Brett and I found her living on an island by herself."
"Live on island for years by self. Not have contact with others since father die," Neri helped.
Jason explained how he and Neri had met and how she had become part of the family and their subsequent exploration of the spaceship.
"We found that Neri was not the only person on Earth who had come on this doomed expedition. In fact there was a list of children who had been ejected from the craft just minutes before it crashed on the island. I think you might have been one of those children," he said spreading out the several pages of names and descriptions, having one on each page.
"And you think I'm one of those kids?" Amy said, sounding incredulous.
"Ever had trouble stay wet?"
Amy looked confused so Jason tried to explain it better. "Have you ever felt like you needed to take a shower right then or that you couldn't get enough water?"
"One more question, that's all, I promise. How is your swimming ability, can you swim in the ocean? Do you have any trouble holding your breath for long periods of time?"
"Yes and no."
"That nearly cinches it then," Jason said. "I'll go get some food. Why don't you guys look through those profiles?"
It didn't take long for Amy to find one of the profiles that not only fit her perfectly, but she swore she recognized one name in particular from memory: Undri.
That evening, they were sitting on the raft eating the stuff Jason had brought up with him and were talking as they ate.
"So you do this every year?" Undri asked once Jason and Neri explained just what they were doing in the middle of the ocean.
"Neri has done it for many more years than I have," Jason admitted. "This is only my second year."
"Where you from?" Neri asked.
"The coast of California in the United States. I was bounced around from one foster care home to another for years until a couple came along who not only had a pool, which I found I desperately needed to be any part of a home if I was going to be adopted by two people, but were also understanding to my needs."
"That had to be a wonderful feeling."
"Well, it turned out that they had adopted a boy and a girl a few years ago with the same needs as me. Unfortunately, as they later told me, the pair disappeared a couple of years ago and no one had seen them."
"Do you know what they're names were?"
"Umm, no, they never told me and I never thought to ask, sorry."
"What happened that forced you out here?"
"We were traveling by boat to Japan when a really bad storm hit us. It overturned the boat unfortunately and killed my adoptive parents."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Jason said with a sad smile.
"I only knew them for a short time," Undri admitted with a shrug. "Where do we go from here?"
"Well, Neri and I are heading home and you're welcome to come with us. We have more than enough room on the island for one more person."
"I'd appreciate that. Thanks."
Two weeks later the reached home, climbing onto the beach.
"Finally," Undri said with a sigh. "Dry land."
Jason laughed. "I take it you didn't enjoy swimming for two weeks straight?"
"No not at all quite honestly. I don't ever want to do that again if I can help it. It had nothing to do with the two of you. I mean, the two of you were great to me, it's just that I don't enjoy swimming for THAT long without being able to put my feet on land."
"I can understand that. If it wasn't for Neri, I would never have started going on this yearly trip; that plus my mother's neurotic thoughts that Neri shouldn't go on another migration alone."
"What's that about Mom being neurotic?" Mera asked as she and Brett came around a bend in the path.
"Mom is neurotic, Mera," Brett said with a grin.
There were quick hugs all around before Mera noticed Undri standing behind Jason and Neri. "Who is that?" she asked.
"We're pretty sure she came from the same place you and Neri came from."
"Wow, that's awesome," Brett said.
"Welcome," Mera said to the suddenly shy Undri, who nodded.
"What has been happening here?" Jason asked as they started walking farther into the island.
"Well, I'll start off with the biggest news. Mom and Winston are engaged!" Mera exclaimed.
"Really? I didn't know they were even starting to get involved in that way."
"Neither had we, actually, until they came here one day and announced it to us. Apparently, they had been going out for about 5 months before Winston proposed to her."
That night, all seven of them were sitting around a fire after dinner talking.
"Jali say he let other whales know we looking," Neri commented at one point. "Others hear about hopefully."
"That's good," Dianne said.
"Have you set a date for the wedding yet?" Jason asked.
"Nope, we wanted to wait till the two of you got home."
It was several hours before anyone went to sleep that night.
Author's note: sorry this was so long in coming. It won't take so
long for me to get the next one out. As always, any feedback is welcome.