TAY BARRELED THROUGH the warm murkish water that hugged the shoreline, avoiding the tangled clumps of kelp, a rusty oil drum leaking a brownish red substance, fish parts, netting, an old leather boot, and other floating garbage from the human world’s total disregard for the ancient sea. What once was a sparkling blue-green playground for fish and man alike was now milky with toxic substances he dared not inhale. He picked up speed, closing his breathing gills so he wouldn’t have to taste what would not kill him, but would surely turn his stomach sour.
The water became cooler and cleaner as his streamlined body shot like a bullet through what, for generations, had been called the Red Sea. He stopped where the cold dark waters of his father’s kingdom danced with the warm mortal waters of his shore. This place between was where his father had cavorted with all the mortal women he had loved, a dance the infamous sea god would never tire of. Poseidon gloried in the swell of ego he experienced when he learned he had bred another halfling like Tay.
A large pod of dolphin surrounded him and tried to keep up, so he slowed to allow them to swim around him, to touch his flesh with their snouts. They clicked their greeting, and Tay returned their calls, dipping down near the bottom with the pod in tow, chirping happily. He willed his superior muscles to take his body in a spin around one of the large pregnant females, causing her to shudder and scream happily. He created a cloud of bubbles by changing pace and watching as a group of youngsters frolicked with him in the ticklish water.
Dolphins were some of the happiest of mammals, and he fully understood their drive to follow the large vessels that frequented the open waterways, exercising to capacity and becoming one with the iron behemoths that traveled there. They didn’t enjoy playing with the big shipping traffic; they couldn’t help themselves. Their engineering left them no choice in the matter.
His directive alerted him to a possible foreign object some mile or two away, so he sped up to search for its origin and meaning, not wanting to put the pod of friendlies in danger. Though the dolphins were not human, they possessed enough sentient traits that they remained a species, he was honor bound to protect.
The object drilled beneath the surface, propelled by some enclosed motor without external blades or bubbles, except for one curious detail. Attached to the rear of the object was a human male form, as if they formed some symbiotic relationship. The speed of the combined object and man made him wonder if this was a new life form: half man, half machine. The man’s torso was encased in a rubbery sharkskin type fabric. A mask with glass portholes covered his face and head.
Poseidon’s son hung back so those portholes wouldn’t turn their focus on him. He swirled around the man, searching him from all sides.
As if realizing some mammal had tracked him, the man sped up. Tay heard the muted whir of an incredibly advanced motor. He saw the displacement of water coming from a tube the size of his finger, still without bubbles. As he crossed paths with the rivulet, his gills sensed the chemical of a rebreathing apparatus.
Ingenious! He’d heard of such things, but never seen one. Man’s inventions were an enigma to him, as they allowed the human species to defy their birthright and do the impossible—live underwater, soar through the sky, and drill through the earth.
As the device continued to speed up, Tay joined him, unable to resist satisfying his curiosity. He cloaked his body in case the human’s vision was enhanced, so he could be undetected. The cloaking was warm, as his body heat could not dissipate into the cold ocean, working similar to the man’s sharkskin suit. It would continue to heat up the faster he went, sometimes even causing a small chafing burn he’d have to heal when he got back on land.
The man’s body was well developed and sculpted in muscle, with enormous thighs, larger than most human males he’d seen. Unlike Tay, the man had flexible rubber blades attached to his feet, which helped steer and propel him further.
The two of them swam next to each other several hundred feet. Then Tay peeled off to the side, testing whether he could lure the human to follow, but he didn’t. The man certainly knew of Tay’s existence, but it didn’t deter him from his forward direction and focus.
As Tay came closer, a large brass projectile shot through the water, breaking the surface without leaving a ripple, but followed by a lava flow of whitish blue bubbles. The point of the projectile sliced through the human’s shoulder, and he nearly lost control of his motored vehicle. With one arm flailing in the water, leaking his life’s blood, the other gloved hand gripped the motored device tightly, doing all the work to stay attached. He did slow to one-third less speed, his direction unchanged.
Another projectile shot through the water, this time catching the man in the upper thigh on the same side. Tay heard the faint groan of a man who knew he was about to experience death or capture—or, worse yet, be eaten alive by the water’s scavengers.
Tay rolled over on his back, keeping pace easily with the man. Invisible under his cloaking mechanism, he scanned the surface, and when another object pierced the water, Tay was quick to capture and deflect it from its intended target. A large dark shadow hovered above, churning the water like a blender, occasionally tossing aside pieces of metal and debris from the waterway with alarming speed. It wouldn’t be long before the man he was tracking would be caught or succumb to a slice from one of these lethal projectiles.
The enhanced human slowed enough that the dark shadow overtook them both and sailed ahead. Then it turned to double back towards the two of them. The human struggled to breathe and, at last, lost the ability to hang on to his device. He let go and free floated like a dead fish, unable to breathe, swim, or defend himself.
The surface went choppy again as several divers jumped into the waters. In the second or two it took them to orient and locate their prey, Tay made the split decision to help this man by pulling him down deep toward the ocean floor, grabbing the man’s device as he did so. He wrapped his arms around the limp figure, felt the hollowness of his chest from the lack of air in his lungs, and feared he might already be dead. The cloaking device was extended to include the body of the man, not so much to avoid detection, but to warm him. Making record speed, he swam at near maximum capacity toward the shoreline and one of the littered and dirty beaches he’d seen earlier.
He picked up a shiver of sharks, who couldn’t sense them but tasted the blood. Tay’s cloaking stopped the seepage of blood into the water, and the sharks went off in search of the trail toward the ship, which is what he’d hoped would happen. With any luck, the man’s enemies would soon become an afternoon snack.
He surfaced to view the boat and witnessed the feeding frenzy happening all around the left side as the sharks found their treasure. He saw dark-skinned boat hands shouting and attempting to shoot the turbid waters, which only caused more turmoil.
Tay gripped the man under his arms and made his way to the shore. He let go of the device, dropping it to the ground, and noted with surprise how light it had been. He placed the human next to the machine.
Rolling the man to his side, he removed his backpack. He laid him on the dirty sand under a rotting boat carcass so he could assess his wounds. He should have been more careful, he thought. The shoulder joint and arm were nearly disconnected from the man’s body and could have easily been left behind. His face was turning white, his lips and ears and fingers a deep blue.
Tay placed a hand firmly against the man’s chest and detected no heartbeat. He spread his fingers, sending warmth from his palm. Peeling open the torn suit, he slid his fingers under it. A peach glow began to travel from the stranger’s chest up to his neck and face. Tay mentally massaged his stilled heart and felt it thump back to life in a spurt of activity. The human gasped for air, remaining unconscious, but at least breathing.
Holding the man’s shoulder and cupping the nearly non-existent joint, Tay’s palm produced the yellow-gold plasma substance that hardened and formed the shoulder joint and then muscles and skin in a matter of seconds. He left a convincing slice, open nearly to the bone, to justify taking him to a human medical facility. His fingers pressed into the man’s bicep, squeezing, following down to the elbow joint, and making sure the blood flow hadn’t been interrupted by the wound. The man’s arm was covered in colorful tattoo patterns: rings of barbed wire, celtic crosses, and skulls of humans, which he thought odd.
Then he peeled back the torn rubberized covering on the swimmer’s thigh, squeezing what remained of his muscles, adding plasma, and removing and replacing the man’s femur, which looked like a fractured branch of a small tree. He also debrided the wound and poured water on it. Just like before, he applied more of his healing plasma and watched as it seeped into the man’s body, repairing and enhancing what had once been broken. But he left a one inch gash behind, in case the human remembered being shot.
A tattoo of a naked woman with full breasts curled up and barely visible under the hair on the human’s thigh appeared to be watching over the man. Was this a protective talisman from a mother goddess or sign of his ownership?
Tay turned to the open mouth of the man’s backpack and rummaged through it. He didn’t have much time. The water repellant material kept everything inside the backpack warm and dry.
A group of children and teens were walking down the beach, barefoot and looking like scruffy street urchins of the dangerous kind. Several held long sticks, and one tall gangly youth held a machete. Tay retrieved a pair of pants and a tee shirt he found in the backpack while sending a small wave of heat and misdirection their way. As he finished dressing, he watched them run inland, leaving Tay and his patient alone.
He continued going through pockets in the man’s backpack. One zipper pouch contained a bag of hand-labeled pills. He guessed that perhaps this human was a healer of some kind, same as Tay. There was also a palm-sized black hard cased device double bagged in plastic and a laminated military ID that identified him as United States Navy. Tay removed the man’s fins and placed them inside the backpack for safekeeping, leaving him barefoot.
His patient began to stir. Tay replaced everything else in the backpack and secured it, hoisted the pack on his shoulder, and strapped the underwater device to his back with two heavy duty straps. With his left arm, he lifted the man, dangling him so his feet could register sand and ground. He hoped the man would soon obtain the use of his legs back so they wouldn’t attract attention. He could cloak in water, but on land, he was as defenseless as the dolphin he’d entertained himself with.
His patient groaned, coughing up sea water. Tay didn’t stop to let him expel it further, but headed for the traffic and roadway he saw ahead skirting the shoreline. He was looking for a taxi, a truck or some sort of transport to get his patient safely to where he could obtain medical care help, and return him back to his people.
After viewing the state of the human’s body, several passers by directed him to a hospital.
Just before he allowed the orderlies to wheel the man down the hallway of the emergency clinic, Tay removed the cell phone and the military ID and tucked them inside his pants pocket. He also kept the mechanical device.
The walls of the clinic were cleaner than the outside, but without glass or doors to close, all the dirt and heat from the traffic outside came wafting through the hospital. It was not a good place to be sick in. People died here.
He’d have to quickly figure out how to reach someone the human knew and trusted. He committed all of the man’s information to memory. Immortal intuition told him he’d just opened a new chapter in his Book of Life. For now, he took pride that the man’s life had been saved, at least temporarily. He knew there was more work to be done, and he was ready.