Samuje swam through the castle in a purposeful manner during the night, barely acknowledging the guards that said “hello” to her. She made her way to the Caldora family’s private communications console, reserved for contacting Realmfleet. She keyed in a command to open a communications channel. “This is Princess Samuje Caldora, requesting to speak with Admiral Sanfar,” she began. “Admiral, are you receiving?” An elderly Merman then appeared.
“Your Highness?” he quizzed. “What are you doing calling me? Is there a problem?”
“I need to have my Captaincy reinstated,” answered Samuje.
“What for?” asked Sanfar.
“…I need to fix the mistake of the Gamfinar Jungle,” explained Samuje.
“…Revenge,” scoffed Sanfar. “I’m sorry, but no. I won’t have your Captaincy restored because you feel the need to avenge your crew. I won’t have you make the same mistake as me.”
“Mistake?!” argued Samuje.
“Yes, mistake!” snapped Sanfar. “Revenge is NEVER the answer! You’re not commanding a skyship until a Psychiatrist has deemed you mentally fit enough! End of discussion!” The call then ended. Samuje sighed as her shoulders sagged. She turned to swim out and yelped in surprise as a Merman was floating by the door.
“Your Highness,” greeted the Merman.
“Endrek!” gulped Samuje. “What are you doing, floating around here?!”
“What am I doing?” asked Endrek, Captain of the Royal Guard. “I think the question is what are YOU doing?”
“…I, uh, I…thought I…heard a burglar,” lied Samuje.
“Of course,” remarked Endrek. “And you thought the best way to scare them off was to call Realmfleet about getting you back in the Captain’s Chair.” Samuje gave up her attempts to lie.
“I have to defend my people,” she insisted, “and the best way to do that…!”
“Your Highness, put yourself in my place,” interrupted Endrek, “and look at this from a sensible position.”
“I am!” hissed Samuje.
“Crashing into walls like this is NOT sensible,” remarked Endrek. “You have a burning desire to help, that IS a strength, but it can be used as a weakness, especially where your mental health is concerned. You can’t just live for other people with disregard to yourself.”
“My personal feelings are unimportant!” insisted Samuje. “I have to get back into the Captain’s Chair!”
“For your own good, take my advice,” urged Endrek. “Listen to someone whose head isn’t always above the water’s surface. Forget Realmfleet for a while!”
“…No!” declared Samuje. “This is a matter of principle with me! I’m going back in the air!”
“You’ll crash and burn if you try it right now,” muttered Endrek. “Crash and burn. Good night.” He turned to swim off before he remembered something. “And try to keep the noise down. Some people around here are trying to sleep!” He finally left and Samuje rolled her eyes before swimming back to bed.
On the Endeavor, Shalvey was asleep at her workstation. When Thangred came in, he sighed as he saw Shalvey with her head on her desk. He retrieved a blanket and placed it on her when he noticed what was on the screen. A notification was flashing on the screen. As Thangred read it, he nudged Shalvey. “Hey! Shalvey!” he whispered. “Shalvey, wake up!”
“Mm, whu?” mumbled Shalvey as she woke up.
“Look!” urged Thangred as he pointed the computer. Shalvey blinked as her vision was returning to focus. When they finally cleared, her eyes became wider! She rubbed her eyes to make sure she wasn’t seeing things and the notification remained the same! It read “Audio/visual sort complete. Audio/visual threading complete. Audio/visual file decoded.”
“YES!” cheered Shalvey as she thrust her fists into the air. “Let’s see it!” She typed in a command and the video played to reveal what was going on. As they watched, their happy faces turned to ones of angry disbelief.
“I don’t believe it!” growled Thangred.
“Mr. Iggir’s in on this gag too?!” hissed Shalvey. She activated the intercom. “Shalvey to Arsha.”
“Go ahead, Commander,” replied Arsha’s voice.
“Captain, could you and Chief Inspector Tanshwar meet me and Thangred in the Conference Room?” requested Shalvey. “I just finished with the two files.”
Arsha and Tanshwar were opposite Shalvey and Thangred as Shalvey prepared her presentation on her findings. “Like the police,” she began, “I had believed the files to be audio files, but I was turning up nothing when I was running strictly audio sorts. After I had to take a mental break, I was hit by inspiration. What if one of the files WASN’T an audio file? I then ran audio/visual sorts and my theory was proven right after the second try.”
“So, they’re just two halves of a video file?” asked Tanshwar.
“Exactly,” confirmed Shalvey. “As Thangred and I watched the video, we learned what was going on with the kidnappings.”
“You mean you have a culprit?!” asked Arsha.
“And a motive,” answered Shalvey.
“Let’s see it!” urged Tanshwar. Shalvey pressed play on the video. It opened with a bunch of Merfolk hanging around a warehouse. “Hey, those are the kidnapped people!” revealed Tanshwar.
“They look pretty calm for being kidnapped,” observed Arsha.
“You’re right,” mused Tanshwar. “I know a few of them should be hyperventilating by now. Why…wait, someone’s opening the warehouse door.” The person wore a cowl to disguise their features as they swam in.
“There we are,” chuckled the person as they removed the obscuring cowl, revealing HIS face. “The city’s in a tizzy.”
“Mr. Iggir?!” yelped Tanshwar.
“Mr. Iggir,” called a Mermaid, “just so we’re clear, this is all to get rid of Tanshwar?”
“Exactly,” replied Mr. Iggir. “I tell you, the man’s just ridiculous!”
“You ain’t wrong,” remarked another Mermaid. “He’s been hounding me over ‘improper usage of medical tools’ and some stupid thing over a medical license! So, what, because I don’t have some fancy card, I can’t put my degree to practice?!”
“Er, that’s the general idea!” commented Arsha.
“Well, once he’s forced to resign,” replied Mr. Iggir, “I’ll take over and we’ll all go to town! Business will finally boom again!” The video ended.
“Who’s gonna resign?!” growled Tanshwar.
“Last time I checked,” recalled Thangred, “the Kurontar Sea Merfolk Kingdom wasn’t the safest place in the Realms until you took over as Chief of Police a thousand years ago.”
“Exactly!” confirmed Tanshwar. “I managed to keep criminal activity down so far and I won’t stop now!”
“It sounds like Mr. Iggir really profited from those lawless days,” remarked Shalvey.
“Yeah, well, he’s gonna REALLY be bankrupt once I tell the Royal Family about this!” declared Tanshwar. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to make a report to the Royal Family. May I have that video?”
“Of course,” replied Shalvey as she handed him the data crystal the video was transferred to. He departed the conference room in a water chair.
“Commander Shalvey, I’m impressed,” praised Arsha.
“It was a tough assignment, I will flat out admit,” sighed Shalvey. “I almost killed myself. Thangred had to step in to stop me from spinning my wheels uselessly.”
“You tend to go at assignments without a break,” remarked Thangred.
“I’d prefer not to lose one of my officers like that,” advised Arsha. “Please take sufficient mental breaks next time, all right?”
“Aye, Captain,” confirmed Shalvey.
The Caldoras were having lunch together. Samuje was just poking her food with her fork. King Jentay noticed this and decided to speak. “Samuje,” he began, “I trust you’re not on a starvation diet?”
“No, Daddy, I’m not,” sighed Samuje. “I’m just not feeling hungry right now.”
“I know you want to go back to Realmfleet,” continued Jentay, “but you served honorably. There’s no shame in leaving now.”
“With no corruption in this kingdom?” muttered Samuje. “I can’t stay in good conscience while our allies need our help.”
“That might prove to be a spurious claim, if the report I got before lunch is any indication,” countered Jentay. Samuje then looked at her father.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well, this is something for the whole family to hear,” remarked Jentay. “Might as well tell everyone now.” He cleared his throat and everyone gave him their attention. “My dears, I received a frightening report before we sat down for lunch,” he began. “Mr. Iggir’s the one responsible for the kidnappings.”
“WHAT?!” everyone yelped.
“What for?!” demanded Samuje.
“According to Chief Inspector Tanshwar,” explained Jentay, “the Endeavor found evidence that Mr. Iggir and his ‘victims’ staged this whole thing so everyone would return to a view of looking out for number one. They determined it to be the most profitable outlook on life.”
“You mean this whole thing was a cash grab for them?!” snapped Marianes.
“Oh, I hope Mr. Iggir gets what’s coming to him!” hissed Jalmurna. Samuje remained quiet as the family talked.
“…Corruption at home?” she thought to herself. “I can’t go back to Realmfleet on that note. …I guess I better stay here for a while longer.”
“We need to meet Tanshwar and Mr. Iggir once the idiots that were in on this are located,” declared Queen Lammeera.
“Agreed,” rumbled King Jortol. “I won’t have this in our kingdom!”
“The question then becomes,” mused King Kwinmar, “who else is part of this demented gag?”
“I hope it ain’t Dr. Borg,” shuddered Murbira.
“This seems a little too petty for Dr. Borg’s schemes,” replied Samuje.
“Well, we need to make sure,” declared Jentay.
“I’ll work with the City Guard to prevent further incidents like this,” offered Samuje.
“…I thought Realmfleet Captains can’t join the City Guard,” remarked Marianes.
“I’m switching priorities,” replied Samuje. “I’m going to resign from Realmfleet. I don’t know, maybe I’m wussing out…”
“Samuje Caldora,” declared King Vorko, “giving up that kind of power willingly, especially after what you went through, is the hardest thing anyone can do. What you’re doing isn’t a sign of weakness, but of strength and I could not be more proud of you.”
“Hear, hear!” called Marianes.
“Hear, hear!” repeated the entire family. Samuje sighed happily as a great weight was lifted from her shoulders. She finally ate, her appetite returning.