A Dark Angel fanfic by Kimberly T. (e-mail: kimbertow at yahoo dot com)
Author's note: this takes place immediately after the ending in "Gill Girl", because I'm always kinda curious to learn about what 'happily ever after' really entails. The translations of the gill-folks' delphinic speech are given in #'s instead of the usual quotation marks. Why? Well, why not? Ditto for their designations/names; writing fanfic is all about giving in to your whims. Disclaimer: Nope, I don't own the characters, and I'm not making a dime from this, so please don't sue.
Free again, she was swimming free again! Hneet did a series of barrel rolls for sheer joy on her way out of the harbor, where they had just left the land-dwelling Manticorans and their 'Normal' friends.
#Hey, easy, don't scare the tads!# her beloved Reenk laughed at her, as he swiftly tugged the net-bag out of harm's way while she rolled past, screeing with delight.
#Oh, sorry!# Hneet pulled up abruptly, chagrined, and peeked through the netting of the bag they'd improvised for carrying their newly-hatched young out to the open sea. #Are they all right? Oh, my little ones…#
Free again, and a new mother! Hneet could still hardly believe that they'd escaped from that awful factory and returned to where Reenk had stashed their floating nest, just in time to witness the hatching of their third child. The first two had already been swimming about inside the tire, trying out their tiny, barely-formed limbs. And while they'd squealed with excitement, yet another one had hatched, and another… Oh, such incredible joy, to see all eight of them wriggling about!
The two land-dwelling transgenics that had been with them to witness the hatching, the ones who had risked their lives with Reenk to free Hneet from the Hateful Soldiers' clutches, hadn't been quite so overjoyed as Hneet and Reenk had been. The male had taken one glance into the nest, then gone pale and made a sort of burping noise while clutching the shoulder where he'd been wounded, and muttered something about losing his lunch. The female had swallowed hard once, but had kept looking as the fifth one had wriggled free of its shell, and finally murmured, "In a way, they could be considered kind of cute… yeah, in a way…"
Well, maybe their young didn't look like human babies, maybe they looked like a cross between human babies and tadpoles (heavy on the tadpole), but Hneet just didn't care. To her, they were utterly adorable, with their bald heads nearly bigger than their bodies, and their long tails undulating from side to side as they swam about the bag, bumping against the netting. She cooed to them as she poked a fingertip through the netting to lightly touch a barely-formed leg on the last-hatched one, #So precious! Just wait until we get you home to the cave, my precious babies, and you'll have a nice big pool to swim about in!#
#And all the seaweed, algae and plankton you can eat,# Reenk grinned as he stroked the side of the bag. #And when you're older, we'll teach you how to catch fish… And we'll never let anyone take you away from us, ever again!# he said emphatically as they started swimming again.
They swam at a slower pace than normal to avoid hurting the tads, though they still ended up pressed against the bottom of the bag with each stroke of Reenk's powerful legs through the water. The pace was slow enough that Hneet could swim closer to Reenk, perfectly matching her strokes to his, and reach out her hand to lay on his shoulder. With both hands occupied with holding the net-bag shut, Reenk couldn't reach a hand back, but the loving smile he gave her was enough. Hneet said softly, #That's twice you've saved my life now, beloved…#
Reenk only smiled wider as he said simply, #And I'd do it again, a hundred more times. I love you..#
#And I love you,# Hneet replied, as they swam in tandem. But as they swam forward, her mind swam backward, back to where it had all begun…
MANTICORE. Or, in the language they spoke, #Home Base#. It had been the only home they'd ever known, up until Freedom Night. But it had not been a happy home; not after their first mission, after they'd seen how much more there was to the world than just the tank they'd been raised in.
The Tank. Fifty meters long by ten meters wide, only a meter deep in the shallow end but sloping steeply to the twenty-meter-deep bottom at the other end. While inside that tank, they had been referred to as X4-659 and X4-653. (In the True Language they spoke to each other and to the translating computers the land-dwellers used, the designations came out as a series of squeals and clicks ending in 'teeeaaakhneet' for the female and teeeaaakreenk' for the male, so they had come to refer to themselves as Hneet and Reenk in their few private, playful moments.) There had been four more like them at first, four more swimming and playing with them in the tank, but they had sickened and suddenly died while still growing up, or just sickened and been taken away, never to be seen again. For the last six years, X4-653 and X4-659 had only each other for company, apart from the land-dwellers who put on rubber suits and oxygen tanks before climbing into the tank to give them training, or ordered them out of the tank for training on land.
Training, training, every day for as long as they could remember. With that training, they learned how to understand English, though they could never speak it in tones that a human could understand. (True Language was so much more sensible, really; True Language had no bizarre idioms or 'figures of speech', and there was very little chance of misunderstanding what was being said, as had happened so often whenever they overheard land-dwellers making conversation.) They learned how to set underwater mines and explosives and how to disable them, how to handle various weapons, and how to kill people without using weapons, both on land and underwater. Underwater was much easier; there, they simply had to cut the hoses to their oxygen tanks or rip their breathing masks off, and hold them down while they drowned. Though Hneet had hated doing it; the criminals that had been sent to them for practice killings never died peacefully, and even though they could not speak clearly underwater, Hneet had understood their pleadings for mercy well enough. But she hadn't dared to disobey orders, not when there were soldiers standing by to enforce their obedience by delivering pain or denying them food.
Reenk had been sent on three missions while they were growing up; Hneet had accompanied him for the first one, but not for the other two. For after the first mission, after they had destroyed that floating oil rig, they had come very close to escaping, claiming their freedom on the spot. Even in just the one night they'd had for their mission, the siren song of the open sea had spoken to their souls, called to them to forget the land-dwellers, leave them behind and explore her depths and her mysteries. If they had only been five seconds faster in disabling their pain-collars, five seconds faster than the men operating those collars to stun them unconscious, they would have escaped there and then! But they had been caught, and brought back to Manticore in the water-trucks, and starved, beaten and electro-shocked all the way there and for weeks afterwards as punishment for disobedience. And afterwards, Reenk had been sent out alone, sullenly going and quickly returning; the soldiers knew that he would never leave on his own, not while Hneet was still held captive. Especially not once they had become mates, and produced eggs together…
Oh, those lost eggs! Hneet still grieved for them in her heart, no matter how much she'd tried to resign herself to their loss. Every year for the last five years, when Hneet had come into her season she and Reenk had been irresistibly drawn to mate with each other, and she'd produced clutches of small, round, perfectly wonderful eggs. And every year, the scientists and soldiers had taken them away before they hatched.
The first year, they had told Hneet and Reenk, while the new parents were still proudly and joyfully showing off the fruits of their efforts to everyone who even glanced in the direction of their tank, that the eggs would be returned to them after a brief study. But after a few days of increasingly worried queries that went unanswered, Reenk had overheard a chance remark that told them that over half of that first clutch had been dissected for study… That had sparked their second and greatest rebellion, in which they'd drowned one soldier and broken the necks of two more before they'd been forcibly subdued. They had almost been killed outright for their rebellion, but instead they'd been starved and tortured into submission over the next few weeks, while the trainers told them over and over again with hypno-treatments that Manticore had done the right thing. They'd almost been brainwashed into believing that all good soldiers would breed only when they were ordered to, and would then surrender their progeny for training into more soldiers. But that forced programming had been washed away like a grain of sand in the tide the next year, when Hneet had come into her season again…
Not that it did any good, knowing the truth about what was right and what was wrong; their eggs were still taken away from them, no matter how desperately the two had tried to hide and protect their young. Each year after that they'd hoped, and hidden, and fought, and cried, and it always ended with Hneet and Reenk floating stunned in the water, watching helplessly as their eggs were taken from them, then being punished for days afterwards for even daring to disobey. For the last two years, when Hneet had come into her season she and Reenk had tried to keep their distance from each other, Reenk even staying out of the tank without the water-vest until he'd nearly drowned in air, because they couldn't stand the pain of losing their young time and time again. But her scent and her need were always too compelling to resist, and the hopeless cycle began again…
Until Freedom Night. That night, they had been idly floating while discussing what Reenk had seen and heard while on his latest mission, and what snippets of conversation Hneet had overheard in his absence. Hneet had overheard one soldier complaining to the other that 'the damn Fish-Heads', one of the more common derogatory names applied to them (along with 'Squealers' and 'Frogmen'), were more stubborn than 'Missouri Mules', whatever those were. He'd went on to say that even the three rogue X5's that had been recaptured in the last year had been 'broken to harness again' after only a month or two…
#The second and third rogues, too? The ones that blew up the laboratories they took our eggs to?# Reenk had sighed. When they had seen the explosions three months ago, they had been secretly pleased to see that someone was hurting their tormentors… and then, when one of the land-dweller had callously told them that their latest clutch had been destroyed in the fire, overwhelmed with grief, horror and rage. If that X5 had appeared in front of them right then, she would have been torn apart before she'd had the chance to drown. But eventually the two lovers had consoled themselves with the knowledge that at least that clutch of young would never suffer through a lifetime of imprisonment and torture. And breeding young only to lose them; the land-dweller had taken malicious pleasure in informing them that the other land-dwelling transgenics were now being forced to participate in breeding programs, to replace all the lost genetic material. "Fortunately for you two, you're old hands at it already, eh?" the woman known as Renfro had chuckled before leaving. (If they hadn't been separated by a three-inch-thick sheet of clear Plexiglas, Hneet would gladly have drowned her for that alone.)
#Yes, I'm sure that's who they meant,# Hneet had sighed. She, too, had been saddened by the news that the rogue X5's were rogue no longer. While they had been resisting, there had always been the faint, slim chance that they would break free again… and perhaps if, by even more faint chance, one of them fled through the compound the tank was housed in while escaping, they could use the translating computers to persuade him or her to free them as well. #And that's not all; this time, when the soldier complained that we're 'more trouble than we're worth', the administrator did NOT give his usual response about keeping us alive…#
#…Which might mean that at least a few of our children are thriving, enough that they now feel they can do without their 'breeding pair',# Reenk had concluded, with forlorn hope and deadly grimness chasing each other across his face.
#If only we could see them, and hear them!# Hneet had said despairingly. But if any of their children lived, they were being kept somewhere far away, or in a soundproofed tank where even their loudest and most desperate squeals could not penetrate.
#I know, Hneet. But perhaps--# but Reenk never finished his words, because that's when the explosions started.
That black box that had been mounted on the outside of the tank on the deep end for as long as they could remember had exploded in a burst of fire and black smoke, and the thick black cables that ran from that box through all the tank's southern wall had burst apart as well. And the Plexiglas on that side had shattered, as if a giant had smashed into it with both fists, and as it disintegrated all the water had rushed out. Hneet and Reenk had shrieked in fear as they'd been sucked out with the water, tumbled end over end by the turbulence and battered by debris rushing past, losing all sense of direction and nearly losing consciousness as well. But they had somehow survived, to find themselves stranded on the concrete amid the ruins of the tank, gasping for precious water.
The water was swiftly draining away, through the vents placed in the concrete, but several thousand gallons of water takes some time to drain; there were still a few shallow pools of water they could and did roll into, saturating their gills with the life-giving fluid. They had long since been trained on how to survive as long as possible out of water, so after that they held their gills tightly shut to save their breath as they'd staggered to their feet and ran up the stairs to the locker where their survival vests and other equipment were stored.
#If there was ever a time to break this damn lock, it's now!# Reenk had squealed as he'd braced himself against the locker doors with his feet and pulled at the tempered steel of the lock with all his bodily might. But it was the hasp on the locker that gave way instead with a scream of tortured metal, rivets popping out as Reenk had tumbled to the floor. His gills had reflexively opened as he did so, leaving him gasping, but Hneet was already reaching into the locker and pulling out their survival vests, and helping him put his on even before hers was fastened in place.
With the vests firmly in place, circulating precious water through the gills on their sides and being re-oxygenated through the mechanisms sewn into them, they could survive out of the tank indefinitely. Once they were breathing easily again, they put on the sandals they used for walking and ventured outside, to find out what had happened to destroy their tank. But even as they used a drain cover as an improvised pry bar to try to jimmy open the building doors, Reenk warned, #That was probably deliberate. They may have decided it would be easier to kill us that way, so they didn't have to see our faces as we died…#
#They've never had a problem seeing our faces as they took our eggs away!# Hneet had countered hotly, and the surge of rage and grief that thought always brought with it had given her an unexpected surge of strength, that finally enabled them to break through the locks. But once they'd gotten the doors open, they'd both stopped in their tracks, dumfounded at what they saw. Finally, Hneet ventured quietly, #Or maybe they were just too busy to kill us personally…#
Fire, everywhere. Smoke filled the air, and they could see the recent evidence of more explosions on nearly every building still in sight. And people were running everywhere, men and women and children and creatures that were like nothing they'd ever seen before, all running for the woods outside the compound. And the distinctive sounds of shots being fired…
Fired at them! Reenk and Hneet had squealed aloud in involuntary reaction as they were peppered with bits of concrete, from a shot that had buried itself in the wall right over their heads. They'd ducked back inside, but quickly decided that if they stayed indoors, they would only be easier prey later for when the inevitable 'mop-up crews' started going from building to building. #Down through the drains?# Hneet had asked, glancing at the hole in the floor where they had removed the drain cover.
#Best chance we've got,# Reenk had agreed, and they'd dropped down through the hole, to move through the drainage pipe on hands and knees as they'd followed its turns and slopes. But all too soon they'd come to an iron grating, firmly embedded in the concrete. Evidently either Manticore had anticipated that escape route, or they had wanted to prevent possible infiltrators from sneaking in. Only a few tugs had convinced them that trying to force through the grating was futile, so they'd backed up to the room that had held their tank. #We're going to have to run for it, and hope we can make it past the perimeter fences,# Reenk had said grimly as they'd crawled back out into the ruins of their home. #We know my eyesight's sharper than yours, so I'll lead…#
#And my hearing is keener, so I'll listen for sounds of pursuit,# Hneet had agreed as they set out, running as fast as they could for the cover of the woods.
Just after they reached the woods, they ran across the corpse of a soldier, with his face and shirtfront covered in blood and his assault rifle not far from his stiffening grip. Evidently, somebody else had been profoundly unhappy about life at Manticore, and had decided to wreak a little vengeance on his or her way to freedom. They didn't pause to wonder who, or why that escapee had left the gun behind; Reenk just picked it up and checked the magazine as they ran on.
They came across other corpses, those of other escapees; two teenagers that looked perfectly normal, and one creature that must have stood over six feet tall while it had lived, covered in dark green scales. Hneet had silently mourned for them, but hadn't stopped running after her mate, running for their one chance at freedom. But when they'd come across the body of a child that couldn't have been more than eight years old, Hneet had stopped in her tracks, to look back at the burning buildings and squeal desperately, #Our children!#
But Reenk had grabbed her by the arm and said harshly, #They're dead, Hneet. You know that if any had survived, their tanks were ruptured at the same time ours was, and they'd have been too young to break open lockers and get out survival vests, if they'd ever been fitted for any. They're dead! And we won't live to breed more, if we don't keep moving!#
Hneet knew he was right, so she kept running after him, while trying to suppress a keening wail for their slaughtered young. But their pause and the squeals and clicks of their conversation had already alerted the soldiers to their presence, and a shot rang out from the woods to their left. Hneet squealed again, this time in pain, as the bullet nicked the underside of her left arm. But she kept running, and Reenk paused only long enough to train a short burst of return fire in the direction of the shooter before running as well. But only a short while later, Hneet realized she was having trouble breathing… She paused long enough for a quick look at her side, and moaned in dismayed realization. That bullet had only nicked her arm, but it had ripped through the vest, and damaged the lines to her re-oxygenator…
There was nothing to do for it now, so she kept grimly running after her mate, knowing that to stop now was to die. But each breath she took in became harder, and harder, and spots danced in front of her eyes as she stumbled, and finally fell…
And Reenk was grabbing her, his eyes wild and his squeals and clicks urgent. #Hneet, get up! We're almost there, almost free!#
#Can't breathe,# she'd squealed back weakly. #Vest damaged… Run, beloved, run! Live for me!#
#NO! We stay together; we live together or we die together! I will not lose you!# as Reenk picked her up and began carrying her. #Hold onto what breath you have, darling,# as he began running again.
During their training, it had been determined that Hneet could hold her breath for a total of twelve minutes before passing out; Reenk could hold his for just over fifteen. But that was if they'd had plenty of good deep breaths before climbing out of their tank, and just walked about slowly while being timed; rigorous physical activity used up their oxygen much faster. Hneet and Reenk had already been taxing their vests' capacities to the limits when they'd been running, and Hneet had thought silently to herself as her vision grayed out even further that if they didn't find good clean water in just two more minutes, Reenk was going to lose her after all…
A stream! A small one, but it was running water, and that was all that mattered now. Reenk had stumbled into it and fell/dropped sideways, so Hneet was facing upstream as he ripped her damaged vest off her and held her arms out wide. And cool, precious water had flowed over her and through her, bringing live-giving oxygen with it… Hneet had gulped it down, saturating her gills, as Reenk had more carefully taken off his own vest and joined her. Oh, it was so good to just breathe properly again! And not just filtered tank water; this water tasted of… freedom.
While lying side by side in the water, they'd used the silent hand signals they'd been taught to communicate their next step. And swimming silently, under the surface as much as possible, they'd moved downstream in hopes that it would lead them to freedom…
Hneet's reverie was broken by the squeal-shout, reverberating through the water, and together she and Reenk looked in the direction it had come from. Already grinning wide, for they knew whose voice they'd just heard...
#Greatfin!# Reenk squeaked and clicked happily, as he spotted the pod of orcas swimming in their direction. #Good to hear you again!#
#Wonderful to see you again!# Hneet added happily, as the pod came up to them and milled around them, like the closest of friends… And that is exactly what they were, for the pod had come across Hneet and Reenk shortly after they'd surfaced in Puget Sound, four nights after escaping from Manticore, and began looking for a new home. Hneet and Reenk had been awed at meeting these waterborne carnivores that they'd only heard about before, in the training lectures back at Manticore. But the pod had been absolutely flabbergasted to meet humans who didn't need extra skins and weird devices on their faces to be perfectly at home in the water, and moreover, spoke in a language they could understand! Orcas are gregarious by nature, nearly as much as dolphins, and once the pod had decided that these strange new humans were neither prey nor foe, they had willingly allied with them. They'd shown the newcomers where the best fishing could be found, and even helped them locate an underwater cave that was nearly perfect for raising the family they'd always wanted.
Greatfin, the mighty matriarch of the orca pod, gave Hneet an affectionate nudge with her broad and battle-scarred upper lip as she said approvingly, #You swim free again. This is good!#
#Is very good!# Hneet said happily, while scratching along her huge black dorsal fin in the spot Hneet knew she loved best. #Thank you for telling Reenk about boat-net that caught me, and where the boat went.# She had been off hunting fish for their dinner, leaving Reenk guarding the eggs she'd laid in wonderful, glorious freedom only five weeks ago, when she'd been caught by the fishermen's net as they'd dragged it along while heading for home. If not for the pod of orcas relaying her cries for help to Reenk, and Greatfin assigning part of the pod to follow the boat as far as they'd dared into Seattle's harbor, Reenk would never have known what had happened to her or where to begin looking for her.
Whitelip and Spinner, two of the young orcas in the pod, had already swirled dizzyingly around Hneet while chattering a welcome, and were now poking their snouts at the net-bag that Reenk was holding close protectively. #What's that, what's in the net?# they squeaked inquisitively.
#It's our young; they've hatched already!# Reenk told them proudly. #Be very careful, for they are very small and fragile!# he added hastily, as the rest of the pod crowded around and sent bursts of their echolocating sonar at the net bag, curious about these new creatures.
Freckleflukes, Greatfin's eldest daughter and already a mother herself, bobbed her great head gently as her sonar thoroughly evaluated the tads, then said thoughtfully, #Very small indeed. But they have tails; much more sensible for swimming.#
Hneet and Reenk exchanged wry smiles, but decided not to tell the orcas yet that the tails would probably disappear in time, absorbed back into the body as their legs grew and their arms emerged. They each had vague memories of having tails but no arms in their infancy, though that had changed by the time they had begun talking.
Greatfin grandly decreed, #The offspring of our friends will never be our prey,# and all the pod agreed. #Will you hunt with us tonight? There is a school of salmon fresh for the killing not far from here…#
Hneet and Reenk exchanged glances again. After their harrowing adventure, all they really wanted was to get themselves and their offspring to the underwater cave they now called home. But they were also very hungry… #We will hunt with you for a little while, then go to our cave,# Reenk decided at last. He would stay on the perimeter of the hunt and guard the offspring, while Hneet caught fish enough for both of them.
#Salmon salmon salmon!# Whitelip and Spinner chattered excitedly as they began racing ahead of the pod, until their mothers sternly called them to their sides and scolded them for breaking formation. If they went too far ahead and scattered the school before the pod was in position, they would make the hunt much harder in the end…
A while later, with full bellies and smiles on their faces, Hneet and Reenk swam up to the underwater cave they had made their home, shifted aside the fine-meshed net they'd put across the entrance and swam inside. Once they were in and the netting was back in place, Reenk opened the bag and let their babies out to enjoy their first swim in their new home. #Aren't they just adorable?# Hneet said happily as she watched them wriggle this way and that; having hatched only hours before, they were still grasping the basic principles of movement. But she was sure that within a few days, they'd be darting all about and poking their heads into everything. Such darling children… and they would be raised by their own parents' loving hands, in Freedom. And all their clutches after this one, and their children's children… #Oh, Reenk, I'm just so happy!#
#So am I,# Reenk said with a smile, as he finished shaking out the net-bag, freeing the bits of seaweed and miniscule bites of salmon that had been clinging to the netting. While Hneet had been chasing fish with the orcas, Reenk had shredded some seaweed for their babies' first meal. Hneet had ripped one chunk of salmon into very tiny bits to add to the mix, then helped to poke the food through the netting so their children could enjoy their first meal as the adults ate their fill. Once the last scraps of food were set drifting among the tads, he swam up to rest next to her and hold her hand in his while they watched their children play.
One of them seemed to have the basics of moving through water understood a little faster than the rest, and that one came over to Reenk and bumped its head into his outstretched hand. #Look at that, this one already knows who his parents are!# Reenk said delightedly as he affectionately rubbed its bald head.
#That's wonderful, darling… but are you sure this one is a male?# Hneet said wryly as she inspected that one closely. Reenk's own genitalia were tucked up inside his body and only came out for mating, a very sensible change from the usual male human's body, which let them dangle out all the time to be exposed to possible damage. Since presumably their children were equipped in the same fashion, she couldn't tell yet just by looking if this one was male or female, and she didn't see how Reenk could tell either.
#Well, not really,# Reenk admitted wryly. #But I don't like to call him 'it'; that's what the soldiers who drove my tank-truck to the mission starting points called me, all too often.#
Hneet nodded in understanding, and smiled back just as wryly. #Well, then… we'll just call them all males or all females until they're big enough to inspect more closely! But sooner or later, we really have to give them all names. Not designations, but real names, like our orca friends and our land-dwelling allies have…#
#Oh, I think that can wait at least a few more days,# Reenk said softly as he held the tad affectionately against his cheek for a moment, then gently nudged him towards his brothers--or her towards her sisters--while he shrugged out of his clothes. Hneet followed suit immediately, giving the areas of skin that were exposed once her suit came off a good rubbing. Nude really was more comfortable, when you didn't need clothing for protection against the elements like most humans did. Once they had settled into their new home, Reenk and Hneet had generally only put clothing on when they were going hunting. And that was largely because the orcas had said they rather liked the way the dark gray and black of their skinsuits contrasted with their pale pink hides; Hneet supposed it was rather like the contrast of the black and white markings of an orca's hide.
Reenk smiled wider as he rubbed away the itchy spots on her back for her, while she reached a hand over to rub at his for him. Then he pulled her closer, snuggling her backside into his front so they fit together like spoons. It was a great way to cuddle, and Hneet wriggled against him happily while she watched their children move about in front of them. But then she became aware of a nudging sensation against her buttocks, and pulled away slightly to cast a glance over her shoulder. #Ah… Reenk, why is that out? You know my next season's not due till next year…#
#I know,# Reenk said with a smile. #But while I was looking for you on land, I did a lot of looking around at how Normal humans live. Guess what I discovered? It's true, that rumor we heard long ago; they really do mate just for fun, not only for making babies. And you know, Hneet, we have a lot of human genes in our genetic code…#
Hneet smiled wryly. #And now you want to try it, hmm?#
#Please? Just this once? We certainly had a lot of fun when we were making the eggs,# he reminded her slyly.
#Yes, we did,# Hneet said thoughtfully as she considered. When the Normals back in the bar she'd been caged in had spoken about wanting to mate with her, she had only been utterly repulsed, and silently sworn to herself that she would drown the first one to climb into her tank and try it. But Reenk was her mate, her beloved who had just risked life and limb to save her, and she did like to make him happy… She finally smiled and nodded. #All right, we'll try it…#
(As the author grins slyly) And to take this mermaid's tale any further would go way beyond Disney!