James Hawkins leaned precariously by one arm from the rope ladder to look over the star cruiser's edge to the planet where he and his class would be getting their field training.
"You need to learn to use your instincts instead of instruments if you expect to be good captains." The commander had explained. "This planet has reduced spacing to a simple, but necessary, science. For a whole month you will train secretly there; they know nothing of the outside universe, except for their galaxy. This means no flying machinery, no advanced technology, no ET phone home. You are the smartest and the best, so you are expected to obey these instructions to the letter. And believe me, it will be in writing. Understood?" The whole class had voiced a unified affirmative.
"Good. Now, go pack. We leave at oh six hundred hours."
Jim hadn't been so excited about the trip. Seriously, a planet lightyears away from his friends and family? A planet that was so primitive as to not have solar powered equipment yet? Most importantly, a planet where they were practically rooted to the land? No way. But as he caught sight of it now, the clouds surrounding the planet's atmosphere slowly revealing the vast expanses of blue below, he felt his heart expand. A new adventure was on the horizon. He could feel it.
Flounder paced nervously in front of the grotto door, waiting for Ariel to come out prepared for their next escapade. He always hated this part, starting a new quest. The only thing that made their treasure hunts worthwhile was Ariel's expression when she found a new collector's item. But lately they'd had to venture farther and farther away from the palace to find new objects that caught her fancy, putting them in more and more danger.
"I should just go home." He whimpered, turning about to look wistfully in the direction of his school. "I should. But," there was no guarantee that Ariel wouldn't leave without him. He'd rather her be in danger with him there than without. He sighed. She won again, and she wasn't even there to argue. The yellow fish grinned wryly. She was that irresistible. Just as Flounder was beginning to relax, something grabbed him from behind and pulled him to its chest.
"I'm ready!" Ariel bubbled, laughing at her friend's violent shaking. "Come on scaredy-fish." She coaxed, taking one of his fins. "Scuttle told me about a wreck site holding women's clothes that's only about two klicks from here. Come on!" And with that pleading glance, they were off.
For the next day, Jim watched his classmates get dropped off at different remote locations. He felt a slight pang as each one was taken away in a skiff. Though the class was highly competitive, they were the only family Jim had had the past two years.
"The people of this planet do not take well to people who look different than them, so your—more diversified classmates have to be sent to uninhabited areas heavily disguised," Captain Amelia said. When she had learned of Jim's assignment, she volunteered to escort Jim's Advanced Spacing class to their destinations so she could see him off. "You, however, have the advantage of looking like the humans, so you can experience everything more directly." Jim rolled his eyes. So primitive, he thought, as Vonsiya, a horned boy from Kynapis, was dropped off on a desert island with his private instructor. A girl with tentacles for hair was deposited in the middle of a marsh with her tutor, and Jim's close personal friend, Hannibal, who had thick blue fur and clawed feet, was sent to the arctic with his father to train. "You're lucky." The furry boy said. "You actually get to be in society, maybe even have fun, while I get to spend the next month trudging through ice with my dad." Jim winced inwardly. Even though it was Hannibal, he didn't like it when people talked ill of their fathers that they had there with them. Hannibal smiled wanly at Jim, realizing his mistake.
"I don't know how to have fun." Jim muttered before Hannibal could apologize. Morph chirped sadly, nuzzling his neck. Hannibal punched Jim's arm.
"Learn." He leaned in till the two youth's foreheads were pressed together. "Make friends. Have adventures. Do well. I expect stories when we get back to the Academy." Jim managed a smile.
"Fine, I'll try." They broke apart, Morph darting between them to give Hannibal a soppy good-bye. Jim wouldn't even watch his friend get in the boat, but he ran to the deck and watched the skiff till it disappeared into the landscape.
Finally, it came time for Jim to leave the familiar ship and embark on a new adventure. Since he would be training with one of the resident captains, only Captain Amelia accompanied him to the drop off point.
"Here, Jim, take the controls." Amelia handed the shrouded longboat's joystick to the student, who expertly directed the boat into the small clearing below. "You are to go to this address." Amelia said, handing him a slip of paper just before he jumped from the hovering vehicle. "You will train with the captain of the fleet there."
"How am I supposed to find it?" Jim asked, finally getting nervous. Amelia gave her former cabin boy her famous feline smile.
"It's a big white castle on the coast, Jim. Can't miss it." Jim nodded, turning away.
"And Jim?" Amelia called out to him. Jim turned back eagerly.
"Best of luck." Jim smiled thinly, then headed through the thin woods to the beach.
Ariel was just coming up to the deck of the wrecked ship with her bounty when she saw it. The shadow of a ship, she was sure, but… she couldn't see the ship's hull where it pierced the water's surface. It was as if—the ship were flying. Without a second thought, Ariel shot toward the surface, a confused Flounder trailing behind. Ariel broke the sea's surface slowly, only her eyes poking over the water to survey the landscape and the sky above. Nothing. Just a few scattered clouds and a human boy on the shore fifty meters away, staring at the heavens as well.
Ariel wrote off the shadow as a figment of her overactive imagination and went in search of Scuttle, her reliable informant on all things human, with her fabric bounty.
When she reached the bird's lone rock, however, he had news that made her forget her new treasures.
"A ship is coming our way?" Ariel screeched in disbelief.
"Yea, sweetheart," Scuttle whistled, settling back in his chair-of-a-basket. "Three days from now, I heard. The Prince's birthday, they says." The mermaid bit her lower lip, trying to remember what was doing on that day and how she could get away to see this marvel. She thought she was free. In any case, the human ships did not come by Atlantica often-- probably her father's doing-- so if one was coming so close, she would see it at all costs.
"You're sure they're coming this way, Scuttle? They usually try to stay away from the coast."
"As I said, sweetie, is only a party for the Prince. They ain't going nowhere. Just a little sea jaunt on the coast in the dark." Ariel smiled broadly at her friend. If it was at night, it was even better. The humans wouldn't be able to detect her in the dark.
"Thanks Scuttle!" She chirped, kissing the mangy bird on the cheek and swimming happily off without her bag of treasures or their definitions.
After two days of heavy training and review with Captain Harris of the Imperial Fleet, Jim was informed of his first hands-on assignment.
"First, I would like to commend you, Hawkins, on your hard work and exemplary skill. Your references were too modest." Jim bowed his head to cover a satisfied smile. "But you still have much to learn," the captain continued, "so your first assignment will be a simple one. You will be my honorary first mate on the Prince's birthday cruise. I usually don't keep a first mate—tempts mutiny methinks—but one night couldn't hurt, and it will be an invaluable experience for you, young Hawkins." The captain nodded approvingly to himself, then turned abruptly back to his ward, causing Jim's eyes to widen in mild surprise. Captain Harris was the jumpiest captain he'd ever met, if not the most paranoid. "But durin' the duration of the party, you are to stick by my side at all times. You are only to relay orders that I give to the crew, go on short errands I give you, and observe the workings of the ship. There will be no interruptin' the professional sailors, and definitely no franternizin' with the guests. Am I clear?" Jim nodded, his eyes wide again. "The ship leaves at twenty hundred hours, but I expect you to be there at eighteen hundred sharp to inspect the ship with me. Make sure the artillery is all intact, that there are no stowaways, etcetera…" Jim's excitement drowned out the rest of the captain's monotonous list. His first real assignment. Finally. The last two days had been tedious and boring, going over what this did and what that was called. Jim had not even been out on a dingy so far, and his yearning for the sky was piqued by this restriction. If the captain had known the extent of his apprentice's experience, Jim would've been offended. But even though his assignment would probably be boring, he desperately wanted to be out at sea.
"… and we'll do any mending the sails need. I don't trust the men with my sails. Got it, Hawkins?" The captain was saying. Jim looked at the captain at the sound of his name. He'd been staring at the ceiling as if he could see through it to the sky.
"Yes sir, of course, sir," he nodded. The captain returned the nod, then squinted sharply at the boy. "When are you to be at the ship?"
"Eighteen hundred hours, sir." The captain squinted harder.
"Eighteen hundred hours what?"
"Sharp." Jim replied immediately, trying to keep his eyes from rolling. The captain nodded again, this time in dismissal, and Jim gratefully left the chamber.
The highlight of Jim's day was the two hours free time he used to work on his improvised solar surfer. He'd been able to smuggle the important bits with him by hiding them in his packed clothing, but he still had to make a new sail and find a sufficient board. Morph, who'd managed to catch a ride in his pocket without him knowing, had brought him several candidates, but Jim was resolved to find the perfect plank himself. Jim missed flying. He missed space so much it hurt to look at the stars at night and not be able to touch them, but he had to admit he found the sea, with its unpredictable moods and unknown depths, intriguing. In fact, it was the sea's parallels to space that kept him from going insane.
Morph cooed sympathetically as Jim looked out the window to the sky for the fifteenth time since he had begun work on his solar surfer; fifteen minutes ago.
"I know, I know," Jim muttered, leaning to his right to make a small notch in the wall with a wrench. He counted the marks in the wall, though he already knew how many there were. "It's only been three days, after all," he admitted, turning back to the faulty release lever on his lap.
"What's only been three days?" Asked a voice from behind him. Jim blanched. "Knock knock," said a tall dark haired man from the doorway.
"Your Majesty," Jim smiled over his shoulder, slowly sliding his work under a nearby sail and picking up his mending kit. The prince pushed off the threshold and approached, tipping his head to the side inquiringly. The spacer remembered his guest's question. "Oh, I arrived here three days ago."
"Homesick, huh?" His companion asked, kneeling to sit by Jim on the hardwood floor. Jim looked hard at the fabric in his hands.
"Yes sir." The prince laughed.
"Sir is the captain. My name is Eric."
"Sorry Eric," Jim acquiesced, giving the prince a wry smile. "Habit." He began work on the sail, hoping the prince would get bored and go away.
Eric just nodded. "What are you working on?" Jim paled again and hoped the tanned prince didn't notice.
"Ummm, a private project," he allowed.
"Ah." Eric nodded, but Jim could see that the prince was barely containing his curiosity. Finally; "What kind of project?"
Jim shrugged. "Private."
Eric scoffed and nudged Jim's shoulder. "Right." Pause. "Actually, I wasn't here to ask you about your extra-curricular activities. My cousin says she's seen you around the palace docks, and apparently has grown a fondness for sailing. She wants to meet you."
Jim couldn't hold back a sigh. Just what he wanted to do with his little free time: escort a spoiled brat around the docks. Yes, he'd heard of this cousin during his limited studies. Sable. And he was in no hurry to meet her, if the rumors were true. But what could he do? He didn't know this country's customs, so he wasn't sure how far he could push this prince before it was considered treason. So instead of saying he had better things to do like he desperately wanted to, he put his work carefully aside and asked, "Shall we go?"
Ariel eagerly explored the crash site. Since she'd forgotten her last load of treasure earlier that day, she'd convinced Flounder to come with her for a second try.
"Why can't we just pick up what you got last time at Scuttle's rock thing?" Flounder moaned as they saw the ship's decaying silhouette in the distance. It was dangerously close to the shore; anyone on the cliff above could see it through the crystal clear water.
"We will," Ariel explained, "After we make this swim."
Now, with Flounder watching nervously out the cabin's huge window, the mermaid scoured the treasure chests for new collectables. She'd found a marvelous three-pronged contraption already, but she felt there had to be something else…
It took the two men about an hour to find the royal cousin. This was because Sable had, in fact, taken it upon herself to prepare a picnic on a cliff about 200 yards from the castle walls… and the picnic was for two.
Jim watched Eric leave with growing dread. He did not like the way that this girl was looking at him, and he wasn't going to pretend he didn't know why. Jim was raised a modest boy, but the fact of the matter was that he was too attractive and, quite possibly, too nice for his own good. So Jim knew from experience that Sable wasn't looking hungrily at her sandwich.
"So, ummm…" Jim stammered, pulling his knees to his chest. "Nice spread we've got here. Did you make any of it?"
Sable smiled primly at him and arched an eyebrow. "Of course not. You are a bit slow, aren't you? That's to be expected, but still… top of your class, I thought that would mean something."
Jim's thick eyebrows lowered a fraction in disdain, but thought it best to go along with her analysis of him. She'd drop her guard, and maybe then he could find a way to escape.
"Well," he began slowly, "I was not trained in the finer arts like you, Majesty." Sable twirled her brown curls slowly through her fingers and batted her long lashes.
"Well," she mimicked, "at least they trained you to have manners." She moved one leg closer to his, exposing her skin. Jim wasn't sure, but he was pretty positive that that was not acceptable behavior. He moved his feet away. Sable sighed.
"A good boy, huh?" She grumbled, pulling back her leg and turning to the scenery. "How troublesome." Jim nodded eagerly, kneeling to get up.
"Very," he agreed. "I'm sure you could find some other guy more willing—"
"Troublesome, but interesting," Sable amended, turning back to him.
She pointed at the cloth. "Sit down." Jim sat, reluctantly.
"These things don't usually take this long, you know," she informed him. "I'm willing to wait."
Jim dropped the charade. "Well, as you said, I'm too stupid to take a hint." He fished in his jacket pocket a second and pulled out an old pipe, clearly an antique.
"You smoke?" Sable stared. Jim smiled, enjoying her discomfort.
"If you don't like it, yes." He told her, taking a lighter from his other pocket and lighting the pipe. Sable fumed almost as much as the pipe.
"I do not like it." She growled. She did not like the way this boy talked to her. She did not like that he would not go along with her desires. And she definitely did not like the sinking feeling that he was more intelligent than she was. Her eyebrows furrowed more in a rage. "I do not like it at all!" And with surprising speed, she grabbed the pipe and hurled it over the cliff and into the sea. Jim watched in horror as the last piece of his father he had was lost forever.
"Wha—what was that?" Flounder quailed as Ariel further explored the cabin. Her friend's terrified inquiry and the eerie quiet could not reach her. She saw it. On a broken wooden pedestal was an antique pipe with the initials LH emblazoned on the bell. It was beautiful. Ariel hesitated, then picked up the foreign object. Had it been there a moment before?
"I wonder what this one is." She mused. Flounder was growing more insistent.
"Will you relax?" Ariel asked, exasperated. "Nothing is going to happen—" Seconds later, she was swimming for her life.
"Don't you EVER consider others' feelings?!" Jim seethed, kicking savagely into the dirt. "EVER considered that people's lives are not only harder than yours, but sadder, too? Or are you as stupid and spoiled as you pretend to be, recklessly showing off your body?" He kicked a stone that rolled off the cliff and into the water below. He watched as the ripples got wider and disappeared, drawing his attention to the ship wreck clearly visible below the surface, and the shark chasing a green streak, probably a fish, around it. He observed the shark's ravenous hunt, and murmured,
"It seems to me, all women are the same. Like the shark, they are always on the hunt… preferably for the young and weak." Jim stopped abusing the earth and crouched next to Sable, so close his cold blue eyes nearly made her eyes go glassy with fear and mortification. "Well, let me tell you something, Highness. I am not weak, and I will never fall in love if all there is in the world are women like you. Consider yourself rejected." Then, without being dismissed, Jim Hawkins strode down the hill and away.
Ariel gasped as Flounder hit his head on the mast and plummeted to the sea floor. He had to get cocky, she groaned inwardly, then darted after her friend. As she descended, she knew there was no hope. Even if she did get there in time to catch her friend, then the shark would just eat them both. Suddenly, a fist-sized stone hit and snapped the old rope that was holding the anchor to the side of the ship. The anchor eagerly rolled down into the shark's path. It was a simple matter for the mermaid to grab her fish friend through the hole in the top of the anchor, luring the carnivore through it. The shark's speed lodged it comically in the iron. Picking up her nearly forgotten bag, Ariel smiled brightly at the beast.
"You big bully!" Flounder accused inches from the shark's snout. His cowardice won out in the end, for he darted away at a mere snap of its jaws. Ariel giggled.
"Flounder, you really are a guppy." She accused, but she was shaking too. Her friend had almost been killed. If it hadn't been for luck… or was it fate?... he would have been. Ariel dismissed the thought. No point of reading into it, it was a rock, big deal. No, these treasures she held in her hand where much more important. Forcing another giggle at Flounder's meager attempts to write off his fear, she turned south toward Scuttle's island.
Baffled, Sable watched her prey walk away without a scratch on him. Somehow that little deer had mauled her heart. She sat in silence for a few minutes, trying to figure out how to move without shaking and wondering why her heart was shaking, too. Finally, she was able to take a whistle from her hidden pocket and blow into it. Almost instantly there were two attendants helping her up, another two picking up the picnic they had laid out only twenty minutes ago. Sable pulled away from the commoners who turned away quickly, smiling amusedly into their hands. Sable thought about her predicament. She could not let this slide. Her reputation as an irresistible huntress would be shot. No, this just wasn't possible. There was no way that boy just rejected her. A good seductress is versatile, she remembered. If I can't make him what I want, I'll become what he wants. Now I just have to get close enough to the whelp to learn what that is. Sable smiled a cynical smile. Cake.
Eric was waiting outside Jim's dorm room when a fuming Jim returned. The prince looked a bit anxious. He must have known what his cousin was planning, and he hadn't warned him, Jim realized. All the restraint he had shown toward the prince evaporated.
"You knew." He growled, stalking up to the man and staring up into his eyes. "You b—, augh, you knew that Sable was going to try something low, and you didn't tell me, and now—"
Eric wasn't up to speed with Jim; he was still gaping at a realization of his own.
"You're back. You were only gone about a half hour! Most are gone at least three times as long… so you didn't…" Then he saw the scowl of pure distaste on the younger boy's face. "Jim, what happened?"
"I did what was right." Jim growled at Eric, bypassing him to unlock the door and open it. "If you hear any reports regarding me negatively, they are false." With that, Jim entered and slammed the door in the stately prince's face.
Later that night, Jim lay sprawled on his shallow bunk, looking longingly out his window to the stars. "I don't know Morph," Jim sighed, caressing his cooing pet with the back of his hand, his other hand tucked under his head. "I'm not sure if learning here is worth it anymore." He rolled over and blew out the primitive candle on his nightstand. "Too much drama."
(Author's note: I'm leaving out a big chunk of The Little Mermaid plot here because everyone knows it already. In short, Ariel and Scuttle at the rock, the concert she missed, and her father's punishment, because changing them wouldn't further this fic, and it would be boring to read the movie. If you don't know what's going on, rent the movie.)
Ariel rolled over in bed, dreading the next morning. She had managed to sneak into her and her sisters' room and was falsely asleep when her sisters came back from the failed concert. She felt the sharp jabs of their stares bearing into her back, and some actual jabs as well. But, as she'd hoped, no one woke her and sent her to her father. Now she had the whole night to think up some excuse.
By morning, the only thing she had come up with was that she had realized she was sick while doing her chores, and was too weary to bother telling anyone. She gave this explanation to her sisters, who only tolerated the reason because they had no proof otherwise, though this did not prevent the jabs to her side. She would have a bruise there by lunchtime she was sure. Not that she would be able to eat, if she wanted to keep up this charade. Ariel actually groaned. Was this lie worth it? She had no answer. Fortunately, her father was apparently, according to Adella, was still apologizing to the honored merguests for the concert's failure and would not be free until that afternoon. She had until that time to recover. At around one in the afternoon, Flounder came by, the snarfblat tucked under one fin. Ariel looked at him quizzically.
"What is it Flounder?"
"Well, I went to see you at the grotto earlier, but you weren't there, so I went by the opera house, but Sebastian just yelled something weird at me, so I thought it best not to ask him where you were, then I went by the kelp shop, but--"
"How did you--"
"Then I bumped into Aquata, you know, your sister--"
"I know my own sisters." Ariel said impatiently, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Yeah, well, she said quote 'She's like sick'," Flounder explained, doing air quotes as best as he could underwater. "So I came here."
"Yeah," Ariel prompted, "But why did you come here?" She eyed the snarfblat meaningfully.
"Oh yeah!" Flounder remembered. He tossed it to her. "I think I fixed it. There was some kind of rubber in the tube. It's like whoever owned it before didn't want it to work."
"Huh," Ariel speculated, exploring the bell of the object with her fingers. A black mist coated them. She brought her fingers to her nose and smelt what was collected there. "It has a very homely scent." She blew into the instrument. Nothing. Just a faint whistling. Flounder tilted his head at the snarfblat.
"Perhaps the humans' music is much more mild than ours?"
Ariel shrugged, then smiled a small, enchanted smile at the thing cradled in her hands. "I don't care, really." She told her friend. "It's still beautiful and holds a meaning I cannot understand..." Her smile became a determined grin. "Yet."
At that moment, Adonna called through the door, "Ariel, Dad wants you NOW!" Ariel started at the sudden voice, tucking the snarfblat under her pillow. She got out of bed and straightened herself, then sighed.
"Well, here goes nothing."
"Rise and shine, princess!" A gruff voice boomed in Jim's ear. The trainee groaned and pulled his pillow over his head. Then he remembered the events of the day before and he was fully awake before his mattress upended and he was sprawled across the floor. "This ain't no day camp, boyo!" Captain Harris shouted. "Especially not today." Jim fought a scowl as he looked up at his superior inquiringly.
"You don't remember?" The captain growled, picking Jim up and giving him a push toward his closet. Jim remained silent. "The prince's birthday party, you sluggard!" The captain chuckled. "Hard night, boy?" Jim turned sharply around and could not keep his brows from furrowing menacingly in surprise. Did rumors spread that quickly? And how bad did Sable make him look? Harris waved his arms in front of him in surrender, still smiling.
"Just kiddin', boyo. Though even a smart young lad like yerself deserves a night on the town once and a while." Jim turned away again, his arms sagging in relief. He allowed a brief chuckle of his own.
"I'll keep that in mind."
The rest of the day was filled with cleaning of decks, special arrangements made for the special guests, and primitive background checks of the caterers, musicians, and the crew. Even the sailors Jim knew personally and could vouch for were checked for connections with pirates and political enemies of the prince. The captain's paranoia was getting seriously out of hand.
The preparations kept Jim comfortably busy, however, so he didn't fuss when Captain Harris sent him for a certain kind of pillow for the prince's dog, or when the cook demanded fresh clams for his chowder, and Jim had to go to the shallow pools himself to collect some. As long as his dirty jobs kept Sable at a safe distance, he could not complain. The prince did as much as Harris would allow, which included such jobs as helping Jim coil the excess rope. Eric sat heavily down next to his inferior, looking gloomily at the rope Jim promptly handed him. The pout on the prince's chiseled face looked so ridiculous that Jim smiled and said,
"You know, you are the prince. You don't have to do this grudge work if you don't want to." Eric looked up at Jim hopefully, then back at the rough rope in his hands.
"It's not that the work is too hard or gross," Eric explained, "it's just... boring. I can do what the sailors are doing... I have before! Do I really look so delicate that I have to be handled at arm's length?" Jim curled the rope into a neat pile before looking back up and said,
"No. But what do you want, for him to just give you the first mate position just because?" Jim's cynical sideways grin caused Eric to frown.
"Of course not. I just want him to realize that I am capable of bigger things."
"I'm sure he will." Jim shrugged, "if you can prove to him that you can do simple things like... folding rope." He wagged the some rope in the prince's face, reminding Eric of the rope in his hands. He coiled it as he thought aloud. "Sometimes I wonder why government isn't more like sailing. You're usually born into it, yes, but you are not set in your future until you prove yourself. You are forced to trust and others trust you."
"Ummm, Eric," Jim tried to interject, but Eric raised a hand to stop him, his chiseled face raised to the sky in revelation.
"Give me a minute, Jim, I'm in the middle of an epiphany here. They trust you because their lives may depend on you some day. There is no mutiny and greed among honest sailors." (He missed Jim rolling his eyes here.) " They are the tightest of families, with the captain as their chief protector."
"You really believe that." Jim said as he lowered his head-- he'd been staring at the sky too.
Eric nodded, "With everything in me. I wish more than anything I could work here, away from politics and enemies, but I must be the 'chief protector' of my people. If only the world was like sailing, and the rulers were actually prepared to rule." The prince slapped his knees and sighed. "So, what were you trying to tell me, Jim?" Jim knelt to tie off the last of the rope coils. Eric had barely done anything, he was so enthralled in his monologue. Jim smiled smugly up at him.
"Looks like the simple things have you owned." He informed the prince. "From now on, try to keep up."
Ariel was banished to her rooms until she could realize the severity of her offense. But she left, of course, for her secret grotto. Her father was too angry with her to check on her, and her sisters had given up trying to figure out where their youngest sister kept disappearing to. All of their attempts to follow her or send out private eyes failed; she was too conscious of her surroundings since she'd had to sneak out every night to go to that jazz club a few years back [Ariel's Beginning]. Ariel was just as bored in her sanctuary this night, however, than she would have been in the palace. She felt as though she was forgetting something important. That just reminded her of the ruined concert, which brought her father's angry, disapproving face into her thoughts, which brought on the guilt.
"If only I could make him understand. I just don't see things the way he does." Ariel protested, stroking the dinglehopper. "I don't see how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad!" She wanted to be part of the world up there so bad... she knew all the secrets of the ocean; she'd seen the ruins of Atlantis, she'd met the Loch Ness Monster; her own father had negotiated a peace treaty with the Kraken. The only thing that she didn't know about was that world. All she knew was that she was not content with a life in the sea. She reached out of the top of her grotto to the mysteries above. And if she did not belong in the ocean, she must belong up there...
Then, Sebastian appeared out of nowhere.
"Sebastian?" How had he found her? No one had ever found her hideaway before! Maybe her father had noticed her absence and sent Sebastian after her! Whichever way she thought about it, Sebastian knowing her secret was not a good thing.
"If your fadda knew abow dis place he'd--" The crab was saying.
"You're not gonna tell him, are you?" Flounder panicked, getting in the crustacean's face.
"Ah, come on, Sebastian, he'd never understand!" Ariel pleaded. She could not let her father take her collection away from her too. Sebastian considered it. Ariel was a nice girl, and she'd been a good friend, but to be going behind the king's back... and for quite a while, judging by the size of the princess's "collection"... he was at a loss. One thing he knew for sure, she needed to be taken away from there so he could talk some sense into her.
"Ariel," He soothed, "you ah under a lotta presha down hea, Come with me, I'll take you home--" He took her hand and desperately made for the door, "--and get you something warm to--" Then, the grotto was overshadowed by something big on the surface.
"What do you suppose--?" Ariel wondered. Then she remembered. The ship!