“Don’t tell me you don’t want to see this!” remarked Arsha as she went through her physical.
“No, thank you,” replied Marshii. “Mid-realm waters are too cold for an old Under-realm girl like me.”
“One, you’re only 35,000,” reminded Arsha. “That’s just middle age. Two, it’s an archaeological find!”
“I’m not interested in ruins!” snapped Marshii. “You history nuts go ahead with digging up some mausoleum, I’ll stay here and catch up on the medical journals I missed during the jarring trip to Falgreth!”
“Don’t you ever relax?” asked Arsha.
“Reading medical journals IS relaxing,” protested Marshii. “I gain comfort knowing that medical knowledge is expanding. It puts my mind at ease.”
“If you say so,” sighed Arsha. She finally got off the treadmill.
“All right, let’s measure the ol’ heart rate,” directed Marshii as she took out her stethoscope. She put it to Arsha’s chest and listened. “A bit fast by mermaid’s standards, but perfect for a human/kitsune hybrid. Next up is blood pressure.” She got the pressure monitor out and wrapped the gauge around Arsha’s arm. After a few squeezes, she released and got a reading. “Perfect blood pressure for a land-dweller, you’re perfectly healthy.”
“Thanks!” called Arsha as she went into a changing stall to get out of her workout clothes and back into her dress. It took a few minutes, but she came out pinning her rose hairpin where it usually sits. As soon as she gave a final adjustment, Shalvey’s voice came through.
“Bridge to Arsha,” she called.
“Go ahead,” directed Arsha.
“We’re just about to go over the Kurontar sea,” reported Shalvey. “We’ll convert to underwater mode at your arrival.”
“On my way,” replied Arsha. She made her way to the bridge and saw the crew doing its usual activities to keep the ship running. This time, it was little minor maintenance, nothing more. She arrived on the bridge. “All right, Nazay, underwater landing procedures.”
“Aye, Captain,” confirmed Nazay as his fingers danced across his console. The Endeavor dove down into the sea and activated lights. An orange aura then covered the ship and its crew before it faded. It was a spell for those that weren’t amphibious to walk around in the base as if they were going through air, allowed them to breath, and dried their clothes immediately when in contact with air. The Velnar Military Base and Commercial Port was lit up in splendor to attract businesspeople across the Realms to conduct their activities. It was also one of a great many places that held the weaponry and soldiers of the Kurontar sea and where Princess Marianes Caldora and her spouses worked and lived as soldiers, shop-keepers, and entertainers.
“Captain, did you adjust your eyes for Kurontar lighting?” asked Elmar.
“No, but thank you for reminding me,” answered Arsha. She snapped her fingers and her eyes glowed for a minute, then she started blinking a lot, clearing away any blindness she suffered. “Should have done that OUTSIDE of the ship,” she muttered. As soon as her eyes adjusted for both ship lighting and the darkness of the Kurontar sea, she stood up. “Laverda, Thangred, Dalengor, Elmar, with me. Oak, you’re in charge until we get back.”
“Aye, Ma’am,” replied Oak as he settled into the Captain’s chair when she gave the order. They headed to the lower exit and opened the door to reveal the water. Arsha went first, letting the water touch her dress and allowing its weight to pull her down. She landed safely on the seafloor and looked around, breathing normally and getting as much details in the water as she would when on the surface. Laverda, Thangred, Dalengor, and Elmar followed her and scanned the area like Arsha.
“Captain, a Super Class Shellcraft is approaching,” reported Laverda. Shellcrafts are shell-shaped Merfolk transports that range from the family-sized Common Class to the stadium sized Mega Class. Super class Shellcrafts were used to transport at least 20 people. The Shellcraft lowered landing struts and opened to allow a blue-haired Mermaid in a blue outfit that revealed her tummy. Her blue hair was adorned with a purple flower with a ribbon attached to it and she had a purple belt with the same flower at her hip and a bit of the belt flowing in the currents. She swam over to Arsha’ away team and shook Arsha’s hand vigorously.
“I always knew you would command a ship as grand as the Endeavor!” she cheered.
“It was on the docket as a political test,” replied Arsha. “It’s good to see you again, Marianes. How’s life treating you?”
“It’s been splendid, so far,” answered Marianes as they all headed for the Shellcraft. “I’ve been updating my belly-dancing routine lately and Rosa’s learned some new songs for me to perform to.”
“No kidding?” quizzed Arsha as they boarded.
“And Layto’s been improving the base’s construction by adding stairs for land-dwellers to easily get to the upper levels instead of swimming all over the place,” continued Marianes. “Although, with the new archaeological find, he’s left that to his engineers.”
“How good are the Engineers?” asked Elmar.
“They’re some of the greatest,” replied Marianes, “the problem is that it’s a mix of Under-realm technology and Mid-realm magic.”
“There’s a problem right there,” muttered Thangred. “Good thing you brought me along, Captain.”
“I was hoping you’d relax when we were there,” sighed Arsha.
“Never let an Engineer relax,” advised Thangred.
“Illogical,” said Elmar. “You need rest as much as anyone else.”
“Maybe in your eyes,” argued Thangred, “but I can overhaul a base no problem!”
“Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if poor Major Palmanar had complaints while I was away,” mused Marianes as she piloted the Shellcraft to the base.
Marianes was right. Palmanar, a neon-green tailed Mermaid in full armor, was at the Operations station when Floona, a raven-haired, teal-tailed Mermaid in a floral-pastel outfit, and Troga, a pink-tailed, brown haired, bearded Merman in armor, swam up to her. They spoke at the same time before stopping. “Go ahead,” they said to one another before talking to Palmanar at the same time again.
“One at a time!” snapped Palmanar. “Troga, you first.”
“I need an engineering crew,” began Troga, “to run a diagnostic on the security systems. There’s been an unusual number of false alarms lately.”
“I’ll send one right away,” assured Palmanar. “Floona?”
“There’s something wrong with the fire suppression spells in my shop,” reported Floona. “Every time I try to feed my lava lilies, the spells engage, make the area too fuel-deficient for them, and they wither and die in an instant!”
“I’ll put it on the list,” sighed Palmanar.
“Please do,” urged Floona. “You have no idea how much lava lilies cost for both me and my customers.” A bald, bare Merman swam in, wearing only a headband. Erga was his name.
“Excuse me, Major Palmanar,” he began.
“Don’t tell me!” snapped Palmanar. “The Seals in the Ancestral Shrine are out of whack!”
“…How did you…never mind, I can guess,” sighed Erga as he saw his other two spouses. At that moment, someone was pounding on the inside of the transport tubes. They looked up to see a pink tailed Mermaid in a Singing Idol’s outfit inside the tube. Palmanar and Troga swam up to open it. They had a bit of difficulty, but they pried the door open and let the Mermaid out.
“Rosa, are you alright?” asked Troga.
“Aside from a bit of claustrophobia playing up?” snarked the Mermaid, Rosa. “Fine. Major, do I even need to say what my complaint is?”
“No, I experienced the same thing around the base,” replied Palmanar. “I have an Engineering team working on it.”
“We seem to have a lot of system glitches,” muttered Floona as Rosa, Troga, and Palmanar rejoined them down below.
“Happens every time Layto leaves the base,” sighed Palmanar.
“I don’t understand why our husband’s staff can’t maintain the base while he’s away,” grumbled Troga.
“Must have left my brother in charge,” groaned Erga.
“The Engineering Crew is doing the best it can,” assured Palmanar.
“The problem is,” supplied Rosa, “no one knows how Layto can keep all this Under-realm tech working with Mid-realm magic.”
“Well, we’ve GOT to do something!” insisted Floona. “This can’t go on!”
“Is he at the site again?” asked Erga. “I told him Marianes was picking up Arsha today.”
“Here I am!” called a voice. A blue haired, green tailed Merman with a cybernetic left hand swam in. His purple shirt was a little dusty and he had a satchel of artefacts. “Erga, we have reason to believe that this was the original site of the Order of Ancestry! Look! Here is a worshipping bowl with the same insignia as your buddies! It was buried for around…!”
“Layto,” interrupted Rosa, “I like archaeology as much as the next girl, but we have more pressing issues. Arsha’s gonna be here any minute and the base’s mechanical systems are NOT functioning at their best.”
“…I left the staff specific instructions on how to fix this!” snapped Layto. He packed up his satchel. “I’ll get on it, but I can’t promise the base will be fixed in any reasonable time.”
“Just do what you can,” sighed Palmanar. The instant she said that, the proximity indicator beeped. She checked who it was. “Oh boy, it’s Marianes’ Shellcraft. She’s got Arsha and her party.” She then activated the viewscreen and a channel opened with Marianes and Arsha displayed.
“Hello, Major!” called Marianes. “I have returned with Arsha and someone that I’m sure Layto would appreciate.”
“Oh?” asked Layto. “Who is it, sweetie?”
“My Chief Engineer, Thangred,” replied Arsha.
“That old-timer?” said Layto as he grinned.
“It sounds like you need an old-timer’s help!” rumbled Thangred.
“Barring any malfunctions not yet reported,” interjected Palmanar, “landing pad 3 is available. We’ll meet you there, Your Highness.”
“Understood,” confirmed Marianes. “Marianes out.”
The Shellcraft landed on the assigned pad and opened to let everyone out. Rosa and Troga were there to greet them and gave a big hug to Marianes and Arsha. “Welcome to the Velnar Military Base and Commercial Port, Your Highness,” greeted Rosa, “…such as it is.”
“It still looks magnificent to me,” assured Arsha. “Lead on and we will follow.” Everyone followed Marianes to the Command Center.
“Here’s where the action is coordinated,” lectured Marianes. “And here’s Layto. How’s repairs?”
“Going badly,” sighed Layto. “Someone practically rearranged all power transfer relays in the base. I’m REALLY going to need Thangred’s help.”
“You have it,” replied Thangred. He followed Thangred to where they would start repairs.
“I’m surprised you didn’t bring another Engineer with you,” remarked Palmanar.
“We DO have another, but he’s a Drider,” answered Arsha, “and NOT one of the water ones.”
“Ah,” realized Palmanar. “Well, Layto’s got an expert with him. Things should be good.”
“Excellent,” praised Arsha. “Now, what’s this about an old Mer-kingdom being dug up?”
“From what Layto’s tried to tell us before you arrived,” replied Troga, “there’s proof that we’ve found the Order of Ancestry’s starting point.”
“Order of Ancestry,” muttered Arsha as she tried to recall where she heard it, “you’re going to have to remind me of it.”
“It’s centered around the belief,” answered Laverda, “that Merfolk do not need clothes as they interfere with remembering the past. They’re a religious order that keeps records of the past except where they started. That was lost long ago.”
“Sounds like a group that would start trouble over clothes,” mused Arsha.
“You would think that,” replied Marianes, “but the Order has specific rules of tolerance. Granted, you must have no clothes in their shrines, but they never turn their nose up at clothes in public. One of my husbands, Erga, and a few of my parents and siblings are members of the Order.”
“Quite a few Merfolk are members of the Order,” continued Troga. “As long as no one interferes with their activities and they don’t interfere in anyone else’s, both are tolerant.”
“That changes my views entirely,” chuckled Arsha. “So, if this IS the place where the Order was founded, what does that mean?”
“It means that their whole history will be published,” replied Rosa. “We can unravel the mystery as to why they came to our part of the Kurontar sea!”
“Layto, while not a member, has been studying the Order in his free time,” giggled Marianes.
“So, he’s over the moon at this discovery,” guessed Arsha. “We’ll help with the dig.”
“Thank you!” cheered Marianes. “Now, I’ve got to go. I have rehearsal for my routine tonight and I would like you guys to come.”
“We wouldn’t miss your belly-dances for the world!” assured Arsha.
“Splendid!” squealed Marianes. “Now, you need some quarters!”
“I’ll provide that,” called Palmanar. “If you and your company will follow Troga and I, Your Highness.”
“Lead the way,” directed Arsha. Everyone soon departed for their various destinations.