Marina was told there were no others like her. But when she accidentally gains access to the Internet and discovers there is a boy with the same powers living near an island to the south, she also uncovers a bigger mystery. Why has Dr Shaw lied to her about Fynn? What was in the canister she brought to shore as part of her ‘testing’?
Is Dr Shaw really searching for a cure for her? Or is he working on something much more sinister…?
Marina sat in the back of the boat, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders and the isolation helmet fitted snugly around her head. She hated the helmet. It blocked out all sight and sound, leaving only darkness and a faint ringing in her ears. She had to rely on her other senses; the taste of the salt spray on her lips, the feel of the boat moving beneath her, bumping as it hit the swell, and the clean, fresh smell of the open ocean.
Dr Shaw didn’t usually make her wear the isolation helmet. The last time she’d worn it they’d taken her ten kilometres out to sea where she had to find a diver pretending to be injured and bring him back to the boat. That had been fun. It made more sense to her than some of the other tests she’d done.
The engine’s vibration changed and Marina straightened. The boat was slowing down, its motion slower as it rode the waves instead of punching through them. They’d been travelling for a while; they must be a fair way from the island.
She hoped she could complete the test within her two-hour limit.
The boat came to a stop and a few seconds later Marina felt a hand touch her shoulder, then fingers working at the clips holding the strap of the helmet beneath her chin. She closed her eyes, knowing from experience that the sunlight would be blinding after the helmet’s darkness.
‘Welcome back, Marina.’ Dr Shaw was sitting on the seat beside her. ‘Sorry about blocking you out but we’ve got an extremely exciting test today, part of which involves you finding your way back to the island.’
Marina blinked in the sunlight. So that’s why, she thought, and a knot formed in her stomach. I hope I remember the underwater landmarks to get home. ‘And the other part?’ she asked as Dr Shaw dropped the helmet into its bag.
‘Ah, now that is a new component of your training,’ Dr Shaw smiled as he pushed his glasses up on his nose. ‘We also need you to find something and bring it back home. Don’t worry,’ he added, seeing Marina’s apprehensive look. ‘It’s only small and easily carried.’
Marina relaxed a little. The last test had involved her retrieving a thin aluminium cylinder. She hadn’t been able to get the metallic taste out of her mouth for days.
‘We’re at the correct co-ordinates, Dr Shaw,’ called Wayne. He was usually the one who drove the boat on Marina’s tests. ‘I’ve just been advised that Object 14-C was dropped off this morning and is in position.’
‘Good.’ Dr Shaw turned back to Marina. ‘Are you ready to go?’
Marina nodded. ‘Can I ask how big it is?’ she asked. ‘And what it’s made of?’
‘It’s about thirty centimetres long on its shorter side,’ Dr Shaw answered. ‘As for its composition…’ He smiled. ‘That’s part of the task too. Time to go.’
‘Yes sir.’ Marina pushed aside her blanket and crossed to the stern of the boat. The early morning breeze felt cold on her bare arms and legs, and she hugged herself as she crouched on the ledge that ran across the back of the boat.
‘Okay, this is a timed test,’ Dr Shaw said. ‘It begins in –’ he checked his watch – ‘one minute. In you get, Marina.’
Marina slipped into the water, pulling in a quick breath as the early-morning chill hit her skin. Swiftly she pulled off her shorts and tossed them onto the boat. Checking that Dr Shaw had gone across to stand with Wayne, she pulled her oversized T-shirt over her head, spread herself flat across the water, and focused her mind inward.
The tingling wasn’t the worst thing about the shapeshift, although it made her skin feel tight and sunburned. It was when her bones started moving, sliding into their new shapes, that she felt almost physically sick. Her spine elongated as her leg bones collapsed in on themselves, dislocating from each other. Her arms contracted, her fingers spreading and lengthening as skin grew between them. She lost her grip on the side of the boat and submerged, closing her eyes as her vision wavered and sound exploded around her. The slap of the waves on the boat was magnified and the ocean was suddenly full of a myriad of noises
When the shift was complete Marina poked her domed head out of the water, her tail flukes and pectoral fins keeping her close by the boat’s stern.
‘See you back at home,’ Dr Shaw said. ‘Your time starts… now.’
Marina flung herself sideways and dived. She focused and sent out a burst of sonar clicks, listening for the echoes. A three-dimensional map of the sea-bed below her built in her mind. Echoes pinged back from the surrounding sea too; a school of fish, the boat now fifty metres to her rear. Suddenly an ear-shattering throbbing smacked against her body; Wayne had switched on the boat’s engine and was now driving it away from her. Marina knew she couldn’t use his direction as a clue – they never headed straight home. She surfaced, doing a quick circle to check out the horizon. No mainland, no island, just blue sea all around, with the sun’s rays refracting from the water into millions of sparkles. The sun was to her left now, about a quarter of the way up from the horizon. And it was still morning, so east was left. That meant she was facing south, and the mainland was west, to her right.
Marina took a breath in through her blowhole and ducked beneath the waves. So I know how to get home. Now to find this 14-C and take it with me.