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Crime for the right reasons

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Merpeople AU

Solstice/Drift/Perceptor


 

Waves lapped around her, shifting as she paddled out to sea. The morning light only just coming up over the horizon as she sat back on her board. The sea was always calm during first light, until the first of the large swells broke through.

Keen eyes on the water, Solstice smiled as a large swell pushed up the first wave. Quick to paddle her board around, deftly jumping up to ride the wave, she surfed the waves and swells until the sun was hovering over the horizon. Laying back on the board, Solstice felt at peace. Hearing nothing but the water’s soft breaking and lapping at her board and legs, it was one of the few things in her life she overindulged in. Warmed by the sun, she could stay out there for the rest of the day.

“SOLSTICE!!” looking up from her wave hunting, she spotted someone waving and jumping on shore; trying to catch her attention. Her mind catching up, she snapped to her waterproof watch, cursing at the loss of time. Catching her last, albeit smaller wave, she quickly paddled back to shore as the girl ceased her hurried waving and ran back to a jeep.

“You’ve done it again, Solstice.”

Solstice rolled her eyes, sliding her surfboard onto the jeep’s roof rack, quickly zipping out of her wetsuit while her friend held a towel up; fastened to the passenger door to make a makeshift dress screen so Solstice would wipe down and quickly change.

“And I’ll do it again, Speedzone. You should know me by now,” stepping away from the screen, Solstice shifted her polo blue shirt from her still damp back while slipping into some surf flats; a uniform shared by Speedzone.

“Well if we’re late that’s your fault,” Speedzone rolled her eyes, jumping into the passenger seat while Solstice slipped into the drivers. “Turbocharge has already called three times, he said he’ll meet us at the aquarium.”

Solstice shivered. She hated that prison.

Driving up to it made her wish she would tear it down or wiping it from the face of the earth, but given their small community, it was purely a tourist trap.

Spotting another in a similar uniform, he waved them over frantically. As Solstice came to a slow stop, he launched into the jeep.

“Come on! We’ve only got ten minutes before we’re officially late!” Turbocharge whined, strapping into his seat.

“Oh come on, we’ll be there in plenty of time,” Solstice smiled, calming his nerves a little. Traffic was often times quiet around this time of day; the peak hour not hitting until at least eight. They enjoyed the smooth run to the second largest facility on the island. The Marine Rehabilitation centre prided itself on the rescue and rehabilitation of injured or sick marine life in the archipelago. Unlike the Aquarium, that claim they ‘save’ injured wildlife when they really use them for entertainment, it was a legitimate provider of care and humane practises.

Finding her usual carpark, the trio ran for the employee doors to sign in and get to their stations. Solstice worked with the rescues and helped with feedings, Speedzone worked with the vets and doctors in the onsite clinic and Turbocharge worked in the call centre. Each made their shift and started for the long day.

Until the centre’s head called them and a few others into the rec room.

“I know that some of you might not care for the… Aquarium,” it was obvious that he was trying to keep himself from insult the sea prison to keep profession, but everyone there knew he despised it as much as anyone there did. “But they have called on our help with a few new… acquisitions.”

“Seriously?! Better they just give them to us!” Speedzone hissed, crossing her arms in disgust.

“Legally, it would be on their call to hand over any ill marine life,” the manager agreed with Speedzone’s disgust but restricted by his position to say otherwise. “But should we find anything to cause undue harm to any of their marine life, we must report it to the council.”

“Which we have and yet they still do nothing,” Turbocharge quipped, gaining nods from the others around them.

“Regardless, we have a duty of care. We need to get to the aquarium to help and I’ve chosen you all. You are professionals and I hope you will act accordingly.” Everyone agreed that as much as they disliked the aquarium, they wouldn’t turn a blind eye to marine life in trouble.

Climbing onto the bus, they were hauled off to the hellhole for the rest of the day. The day itself seemed to sour along with them; large storm clouds looming overhead.

“Storm’s coming,” an old janitor quipped, mopping the disgusting floors in the holding area. Solstice wanted to gag, wondering if that mopped had been changed in the last six months, let alone the last week. Given her work with feedings and interacting with ill sea life, the owners of the aquarium had her and Speedzone escorted to their holding pens to assess and feed their newest acquisitions. Turbocharge had been the odd one out in the group but given his own experience with feedings, he was grouped with them too. One look and Solstice knew they were going too far.

In four large tanks lining the walls were five sullen and agitated merfolk. It may have only been a recent discovery that the archipelago was home to these strange yet mesmerising aquatic beings. So many varieties in shape and size, but even more recently it was discovered that they were more sentient than any other marine life. Putting them in tanks like this, for bratty kids and their oblivious parents tapping endlessly on their tanks was inhuman.

Two remained huddled with one another, remaining away from the glass and holding one another. Another, looking more like a shark, floated around his tank but glared and hissed at anyone looking at him. The fourth appeared more like a female with a slender and streamline body, she simply swam about, as if inspecting her new surroundings. The last was speeding around his enclosure, whether it was in a panic or in intense interest no one could tell.

Solstice sighed, watching as they shied away from the glass or growled at them. No one should be treated like this.

Given a change to change into a swim suit and collect the feed, no doubt some off fish or drugged to make them more approachable for crowds, Solstice wrinkled her nose at the smell. While her escort wasn’t looking, she spotted a small freezer. Speedzone saw it too, nodding before walking back to the guard. She started gossiping and chatting up the doped guard while Solstice moved to the freezer. Cracking the lid, she smiled as a fresh batch of fish lay chilled. Dusting off any ice, she quickly dumped the vile chum and gathered up the fresh fish – no doubt ‘treats’ for the live performances.

“Ready yet?” the guard turned back, missing Solstice closing the freezer and slipping on her flippers and mask, she climbed in first. Speedzone followed as she spotter; the moment she noticed any aggressive behaviour it was her call to pull them out.

“I’ll pull open the tanks, you gotta get them out and feed them,” the guard didn’t show any interest, as if this was all routine or a pain to do. The first take had been the zippy blue mer; the moment the hatch opened, he zipped out and almost swam right into the larger tank’s wall. Confused and curious, the mer sped around the tank before pausing before Solstice and Speedzone. His head twitched, curious again before swimming around them.

Solstice couldn’t help how adorable he appeared, swimming so fast it was any wonder he knew what he was looking at. That or his attention span was the length of a goldfish’s. Hoping to quell that energy, Solstice pulled a fish out of her bucket. Whether the guard noticed it was fresh or not, he didn’t say. But the Mer could tell, he scrunched his face a moment, thinking it was another rotten fish but with a few sniffs, his eyes bolted wide and licked his lips.

Urging him, holding the fish out, he snatched it without a care and devoured it in a few bites. Proving his memory was clear, the Mer tried to get at her fish bucket, causing the girls to laugh and fend him off. He managed to calm down once fed, allowing Speedzone to check him. He appeared in good health, no fin rot or missing patches of scales. Better than what they had hoped.

Unfortunately, the others weren’t as energetic or receptive. The pair huddled together refused to leave their tank, leaving Solstice to swim in and offer them the food. The brighter coloured of the pair; a flame of an mer with reds, oranges and golds, hissed as Solstice neared him and his smaller companion. The smaller of the two looked like a clown fish, if only in the shape of his tail and the colouring of his skin. She could tell they were both uneasy so she tried to remove her mask, taking a deep breath from her tank. The moment her gold hair fluttered out, the bright Mer took to it like a moth to a flame. He tugged and clawed through it, while the other seemed more interested in her face. Both accepted food after and, while Solstice distracted them, allowed Speedzone to check them.

The female, blue Mer didn’t take much interest in Solstice, though appeared more interested in Speedzone. Having seen Solstice remove her mask the Mer tried to pry Speedzone’s off. At first panicked by the mer trying to pry off her oxygen tank, Solstice calmed her and helped take off her mask. The blue mer kept her interest on Speedzone, who had to offer the food and do her check, otherwise the Mer were swim away from Solstice and back to Speedzone.

By the time they were to feed the Sharkticon, a name dubbed from scientists studying the shark-like mers, he seemed less aggressive. Further proof these were sentient creatures, even if they didn’t speak English.

Solstice slipped in first, Speedzone holding a pole in case the sharkicon got too close, but as he entered the larger tank, he merely circled them. Solstice tried to offer a fish but he would just swim aside, continuing his circling. Finding no way to give him the fish, Solstice allowed the fish to float out of her hand, jerking as the sharkticon snatched the fish and darted away, devouring the fish. Speedzone could only do a visual check of the sharkticon, with no way of approaching him without him swimming away.

It was frustrating, leaving the prison while those mer were trapped inside. The outside seemed to agree as the storm hit the island hard. Solstice managed to drive her friend’s home before getting home herself. With her home being so close to the beach, she ensured some sandbags were out and hoped nothing got flooded. Thinking it was a good idea to sleep in her old attic, she found she could hardly sleep with a strange and mournful cry rolling over the thunder. She tried to see what had happened outside of her window but the dark and grey of the storm left nothing to see. She would just have to check in the morning.


 

The storm had passed in the middle of the night, allowing Solstice some time to sleep. Back into her early routine, she sighed at the sight of her small beach front. The back strip behind her house was littered with debris and junk washed up from the storm.

About the leave that for the clean-up crews and make her way to the surf, a flash of red caught her eye. Leaving her board leaning against her porch door, she walked down to the red. A set of wooden stairs beside the rocky barrier separating the line of homes from the beach showed just how high the water rose during the storm, littering the beach with the most junk. The red flashed again from underneath the stairs. Climbing down, Solstice froze in shock at the sight.

It was a red, teal and black Merperson. Tangled and struggling in what looked like a fishing net. Bunching up around its tail, one arm free while the other was caught in the netting, it struggled despite more injuries.

The moment it noticed her, the mer hissed, struggling harder. Fearing the mer would do itself more harm, Solstice sped back to the house. She always kept a sharp knife and a first aid kit nearby just in case something like this happened.

Running back, she gasped at the sight of the netting cutting into the mer. It hissed at her again, struggling more.

“No no Stop! You’ll hurt yourself more,” she cooed, placing the knife and the kit down to show she wasn’t a threat. She could tell the mer was dehydrated; who knows how long it had been out of the water. Thinking quickly, and glad the tide was still in, she quickly grabbed a bucket from her porch and rushed to the water’s edge. With the heavy bucket, she walked back and showed it to the Mer. “Please, I want to help.”

Whether the Mer understood or not, she watched as it stopped moving but eyed her closely. But given the state of his tail and how limp and dull his fins and scales were getting, she would say he was tiring out and drying out far too quickly.

Scooping the sea water into her hands, she splashed his tail and body. Throwing a bucket full of water on it would press against the line, causing the wire to cut deeper. This was the safest way to help. Once it seemed rejuvenated by the water, Solstice grabbed for the knife. A low hiss warned her, turning to see teeth bared. Holding the knife out, showing she wasn’t going to harm him, she eased slowly to his tail. He jerked a moment but she used her fingers to find a main link in the line.

One cut and she pulled back, hoping to show she only wanted to cut the line. Much like she had thought, the mer showed a human intelligence and lowered its hisses to low vibrating growled. Allowed to work, she managed to cut through the more restrictive lines before moving to its arm. If she cut the tail out entirely, she could risk injuring its arm from the slack.

Once the arm was free and the last of the line cut, Solstice ensure the line couldn’t hurt anyone else when she found the Mer gone. Turning to the beach, she watched as it tried to reach the water but collapsed in a heap. It needed help and the tide had gone out by the time she managed to get it loose.

An idea popped into her head, running back for her surf board, she walked up to the mer and placed the board down.

“Let me help you, I know somewhere you can get to the sea,” pointing to the board and to the receding tide, she hoped again the Mer would understand. She stepped away from the board and watched as it looked to the sea and back to the board. Eyeing her, its eyes seemed to soften before crawling onto the board. Stepping lightly, Solstice picked up the board and started to drag the merman toward some small but deep tidal pools. “The tide will completely cover these pools; you’ll be able to swim back out without anyone bothering you.” Whether it understood her or not she wasn’t sure but he made a soft chuff, taking it as understanding. “I’ll come back with some food,” reaching the pools, Solstice angled the board to allow the merman to slip into the water.

Rushing off, leaving her board behind, Solstice quickly drove to the nearest fish market to buy some fresh fish. Nothing too much to overwhelm the no doubt starving merman but something to at least give it the strength to swim back out to sea.

Coming back, she rushed back to the pools only to find the merman was gone. Panicking, she searched around the surrounding pools to ensure no one had found him by accident nor evidence that he tried to crawl along the craggy rocks to get to the shoreline. Finding nothing, confused moreso now that panicked, she turned back to the pools.

“Hello? Are you here?” she called, looking through each pool. “Please, I’m not here to hurt you. I brought you some food. Please, I want to help you.” Sighing, she sat by the edge of one of the pools; maybe if she just left the fish and moved away, it would be inclined to come out and eat.

Her thoughts were quashed by a hand gripping her leg. Looking down, the same red merman pulled himself out of the water, perching his chest onto her lap while his eyes stared into her. Having him so close, something that had not happened before, a bright blush crossed her cheeks. “I...I brought you some fresh fish…”

“Thank you,” his voice was as surprising as it was melodious, tinged with a beautiful British accent as his eye looked to her, as if seeing something reflected in her eyes. Solstice was stunned beyond words; this merman, a merperson, had spoken to her in perfect English. The ramifications of this were beyond anything she could’ve imagined. Forgot being smarter than most dolphins or whales, they could speak! It, he, could understand her! And they were caging them?

A soft poking could her attention back to him, watching as his eyebrow…ridges…quirked in question. Shaking out her thoughts, Solstice moved to grab her knife to cut the gutted fish when the merman stopped her. He smiled at seeing it, but eyed the knife with caution. Solstice, having seen the curt glare, tossed the knife aside. He smiled again, pulling himself higher onto her lap. Holding the fish to him, he took a piece into his mouth, bit down and in one clean slice, severed the fish’s head and started chewing the remains. This repeated three times until the sea creature sighed; head laying on her lap. She had no idea merpeople were so cuddly or affectionate. She half wanted to pet his helm, smooth over his fins and just well...get an idea of what he felt like. Tempting fate, she hesitantly placed her hand on his helm, lightly moving up and down. A soft churring purr echoed from the mer, nuzzling her hand while looking up.

“W-why were you caught in the storm?” Solstice asked, watching as his translucent tail fin flap the water’s surface.

“Calling my mate,” he cooed, his smile turning down, placing his head back on her lap. “Calling, but the storm was too strong.”

“Who is your mate?”

“In that…place, pass the cliffs,” pointing out past the shore to the cliffs in the distance. Solstice knew they led into town, why would his mate be there?

“What place?” She asked again.

“It’s large, always noisy. Humans walking around, in large pods,” he explained, rolling around to face up to her. “I call, he replies, but I can’t get to him.”

Mulling over his description, realisation hitting over Solstice.

“The aquarium…” she gaped, looking over to the cliffs again. “What does he look like?”

“A sharkticon. White and red skin and long head fins, a strong sharp tail and webbed hands,” Perceptor could see Solstice shift, pulling himself up out of the water and coming to her eye level. “You’ve seen him. You know where he is.”

“I do… but, I don’t know if I can help,” she turned away, ashamed. “He’s in a holding tank, with four others. Me and a friend fed them, they’re… they’re healthy but not in a good place.”

“Please,” his shifting tone turned her back, gasping with how close Perceptor had become. Almost a hair’s length away from her nose. “Can you bring him back?”


 

Solstice reeling over Perceptor’s request, mind off idle as she left the clinic for the day. How was she supposed to get not just his mate but the other mers out of the Aquarium’s holding tanks? There was no way she could do it on her own nor could she just ask anyone to help her. Groaning, she falls back onto the soft sand and sighs. Closing her eyes, taking in the warm afternoon sun and the calm crashing of the water, she jumped as a hand tapped her shoulder.

“Alright, what’s bothering you?” Speedzone sat beside her while Turbocharge sat on her other side, both of them holding their lunches as well as a coffee for Solstice. “You never look this bummed unless something is really bothering you.”

“It’s just…” she couldn’t mention Perceptor, at least not right now. If anyone found out that the merpeople in the archipelago could speak and understand humans, and that made it to the aquarium, they would be in danger. “Just how those mers were at the aquarium.”

“I can get that,” Turbocharge handed her the coffee, Speedzone reclining back in the sand. “But what exactly can we do?”

“Bust them out, for one,” Speedzone shrugged, but whether she was serious or not could be debatable.

“Okay now that is a stretch,” Solstice sighed, looking to her friend. “And how exactly are we going to get them out?”

“Aquarium has two generators, take out both and set a distraction for the guards, then run in with a transport van, load them up and bolt to the beach,” Speedzone quirked an eye, curious as to why both Solstice and Turbocharge both had shocked expressions. “Oh come on, don’t tell me you guys have never thought about doing that?”

“Well no, because that’s committing a crime,” Turbocharge hissed, eyes darting around in case someone heard them. “How do you even know that?”

“Snooped around after seeing the state of the tanks. I guarantee those merpeople will get sick really soon, so I figured if the police and council aren’t going to be useful and do their jobs, then maybe it would take a third party to do something about it.”

“Again, I reiterate, that is a crime!” Turbocharge snapped, seeing as there was no worry for anyone easdropping since they were alone on the beach. “What you’re suggesting is trespassing, breaking and entering, and theft! What if we’re caught?”

“We just make double sure no one sees us and no one chases us,” Speedzone smiled, confident in her own planning. But while Speedzone and Turbocharge argued, Solstice took a moment to think. It would be the only way to get the mers out, and the only way of doing it without raising suspicion about the mers’ intelligence and or that they were the perpetrators.

“Let’s do it.”

Speedzone and Turbocharge fell silent, watching as Solstice stood. She looked out over the water, calmed by the salty air and making her mind before her resolve fell again.

“Seriously? Am I the only sane one here?” Turbocharge gapped, looking between the pair. “Solstice, you can’t seriously think this is the only option.”

“The only option that will get the mer out without injury or illness,” she sighed. “If there was another way I would go for it, but Speedzone is right. The police won’t help and the council is paid for by the aquarium. We wouldn’t be able to fake anything with the mer since the Aquarium is hiring their own vets and techs to support them. If we do this we need to do it now, and right.” Walking back to her car, her friends trailing behind, they dusted off and took their seats. “We need to be sure both of those generators shut off everything. We can’t have cameras on us or have the guards find us out,” Speedzone practically vibrated in her seat, excited by the dangerous and exciting plan. Turbocharge remained sceptical. “Turbo, if you want out I’d understand. We’d never force you into anything.” He looked up, turning his own thoughts over in his mind, but he heaved a sigh, smiling at his girlfriends.

“I’ll help, and you’re right. Those mermaids don’t belong in tanks or have people leering at them,” all in agreement, they had the idea down. Now it was times to plan everything out.


 

Almost a month since their decision, now was the right time to act.

Solstice had comforted Perceptor the last few weeks, keeping him in higher spirits and assuring she was working with her friends to get the others out, trying to explain it was harder than he would think it would be to get them out.

Parking a little way away from the aquarium, all three dressed in black and keeping away from any of the street lights. They were nervous; they were going to commit a serious crime, nerves were natural.

“Alright, we start with the generators then you two start this distraction… what exactly are you going to do?” Solstice had left the distraction planning to Speedzone.

“Don’t you worry about that, just focus on getting in there,” Speedzone smiled, pulling her mask down and jumping out of the car. Turbocharge sighed, pulling his own mask down.

“Just so you know, I’m still not comfortable with this,” his voice muffled by his mask, Solstice could still hear his nerves.

“If anything, same here. But better we do this and help them, rather than not do it and leave them to slowly die,” Solstice took her own breath, steeling herself with her promise and pulled her mask down. Locking the car, Turbocharge slipped to the backup generator on the far fence while Solstice moved to a back employee gate to get to the main generator.

Security was laxer than she had anticipated, seeing only three guards on the grounds; one at the security gate and two patrolling. There had to be a fourth manning the security cameras. Keeping to the shadows, she hoped Speedzone had a decent distraction going or else this might not work.

“GUARDS! SCRAMBLE!!!” the sudden shouts forced Solstice back into a shadow, shocked to see teens cackling and running about. The guards were in a flurry, trying to chase down and catch the rebellious teens. This was her idea of a distraction? What about the kids if they got caught?

“Hey!” Speedzone rounded a corner, a third guard passing by them.

“Speedzone, what the hell?!”

“Hey they owed me,” she hissed, pointing out to the running kids. “Caught them graffiting my parent’s home. Told them I wouldn’t snitch but they owed me. Now we’re even.”

“And if they snitch on us?” Solstice hissed, pulling Turbocharge aside as he ran past.

“They won’t, not unless they want me linking them to the other dozen graffiti works around the town. They’re pretty notorious,” Speedzone smiled. “But come on, while we can get to the last generator, you get to the tanks.” Rolling her eyes, Solstice hugged Speedzone before bolting to the tanks. She might be a pain sometimes, but Speedzone just had her ways and often times they worked out for them.

Once in the holding area, the mers perked and swam about; confused to see someone at this time of night. Solstice started the controls for the tanks, filling the transfer and opening the tanks. Unlocking the main door to the open, man-made lake in the aquarium, she shed her outer garb for the wetsuit underneath.

The mers were confused, unsure whether they should leave. A splashing caught their attention, watching as Solstice approached. Pointing to the surface, she urged one of them up. The smaller orange and white mer took the initiative and broke through the surface with her.

“Okay look, I know you can understand me,” she started, watching the mer flinch in surprise. “No time to explain now but me and my friends are trying to get you out. You need to tell the others to follow me out into the lake, from there we can get you out to open water from the boat channel.”

“But how?” his voice was hushed but sounded similar to Perceptor’s strange accent. Solstice could only smile but could see the confusion.

“I’ve met Perceptor, another mer,” by uttering his name, the sharkticon rose, eyes hard and lips curling back to show teeth. “Before you jump to conclusions, I helped Perceptor after the last storm. He was hurt and beached but I managed to help.”

“Why? Why would a human want to help?” he hissed, swimming a little closer, “Especially one who moves around here?”

“Because I don’t work here,” Solstice hissed, wading back. “I work for the Rehabilitation clinic, the big building over that way past the cliffs,” pointing in the center’s direction, the other mers surfaced. “Me and my friends help sick and injured sealife then send them back after, we don’t keep anyone there.”

“She’s right,” the blue female mer approached. “Cliffjumper said the humans there helped when Starscream tore his tail open. They found him and helped him recover.”

“Oh, the large red mer from last season’s hurricane,” Solstice recalled the mer, then she recalled something else. “Is he always that attentive with women?”

“Yep that’s Cliff,” the female smirked.

“Alright, we’ll go,” the red and orange mer nodded, looking to the others.

“Wait a minute, where is the other one? The speedy blue one?” Solstice could’ve slapped herself with how unobservant she was.

“They moved him yesterday, something about a show?” the small mer replied, flinching when Solstice hissed.

“Damn, look just follow the tank to the open lake, from there you’ll see a large gate, my friends should be waiting there, they’ll open the gate.” Solstice dove under, swimming for the shoreline. If the aquarium had moved him for a show, he’d be in a tank on the far side of the aquarium, near the stage.

Climbing out, running on adrenaline, she scaled the stairs down to the tanks under the stage, where the trainers would release the animals for the daily show. Weaving through the tanks of dolphins and a whale or two, she smiled seeing the upset mer.

“Hey,” she whispered, catching his attention. “I need you to swim out once I open the gate.” He turned his head, making it seem like he was confused. “Oh come on I know you can understand me. We’re breaking you and the others out,” seeing there was no point pretending and appearing surprised by her plan, Solstice hurried to the tanks manual controls. With the power still out there was no other way.

Lifting it as high as she could, the mer managed to slip out before it slammed shut. Hurrying back up the stairs to the stage, she rushed to the water’s edge. The mer zipped back and forth in the water, seemingly happy to have more room to swim then that tiny tank. Solstice, pleased she could help, moved to dive back into the water when a hand grabbed her arm.

“Hey what are you doing?!” it was one of the guards. They must’ve chased off the kids already! Solstice struggled, but the guard was stronger than she had thought and managed to pull her away from the water. She was thankful she replaced the mask over her face, no way the guard could recognised her, but his approaching hand led her to panic. Once her mask was off, it was over.

So long as the others got out, that’s what mattered. She’d take all the blame.

Suddenly, a roar turned their attention. A tail swiped out of nowhere, tripping the guard and sending his head crashing on a pole. Seeing no blood, Solstice only had moments to check if the guard was alright before another hand grabbed her. Splashing, water engulfed her. Shifting around, she was shocked to find the sharkticon holding her, telling the other mer to follow.

Before her need for air became panicked, they both breached the surface, finding the sharkticon had swam her back to the boat gate. Speedzone and Turbocharge were waiting, relieved to see her there.

“Solstice what happened?!” Speedzone helped Solstice out, checking her over.

“No time, we need to get this gate open now!”

“But without power we can’t,” Turbocharge turned to the controls. “It’s all automated.”

“There should be a manual release,” Speedzone looked around the console while Solstice noticed one of the mers pointing under the water.

“Wait here,” before the others could stop her, Solstice dove back under, following the mers to a set of levers. They were manual locks, so the automated system could move the gates and keep them locked. Nodding, Solstice returned up for air. “The manual releases are on the gate tracks, we unlock them and we can push the gates out.”

“Hey! Stop right there!” the voices followed with light scanning the perimeter. The guards were onto them.

“Get in!” Solstice took a breath and dove under, watching her friends follow after. Working against time, Solstice moved to one lock, Speedzone and Turbocharge moving to the other two. Snapping them open, all three struggled to pull the gate back. With losing air and no way of surfacing without the guards catching them, what could they do?

The sharkticon appeared, mimicking what they were doing. As did the others; each mer grabbed a part of the gate and beat their tails hard, managing to open the gate wide enough to get through.

Shooing them on, Solstice almost gasped as the Sharkticon grabbed her. Speedzone and Turbocharge showed the same panic but became concerned with the blue female and the fiery male grabbed them. All three swam out the gate just before the guards managed to close it.

They were out.

They were in open water.

Breaking the surface, far enough out that the guards couldn’t see them, Solstice coughed the little water her surprise sucked in to see Speedzone and Turbocharge recovering, both holding onto their mer saviours.

A high trilling and churring echoed over the water, turning their attention to an approach mer. It was Perceptor, excited and happy to see the others and his mate.

“Come on guys, lets swim back to shore,” Solstice smiled, watching as the group enjoyed their freedom and the mates reunited.


 

The past week had been a week of panic, paranoia and worry. The trio had kept an ear to the stone on the Aquarium dilemma. Thankfully, the media seemed to focus on the strange crowd of youths intending on defacing the establishment. Since the Aquarium hadn’t advertised the merpeople, there was no reason to advertise the theft.

To allay suspicion, they still went to the aquarium as asked by the clinic head but where thankfully rotated off. No one seemed to suspect them nor did anyone gossip. Save for the fact someone had done the right thing and left the matter mute.

Solstice coped with her surfing, surfing more often than usual or swimming out in the hopes of catching the mers again. Since they had helped them, the mers seemed to have moved on. Speedzone swore she had seen the blue female and other male mer near her home but never got a good look. Turbocharge swore he saw red and orange scales swimming in the inlet neat his home but was always distracted from checking it out.

Sitting out on her board, the water’s too calm to surf, Solstice wondered if she would see Perceptor and the sharkticon again. A smile pulled her lips while thinking of them; they made a cute pair.

Suddenly, a tug on her leg turned her in panic, sitting up on her board only for Perceptor to rise out of the water.

“Perceptor?” confused yet curious about his sudden appearance, she failed to see the white passing behind her, until her board dipped backwards. Falling back on her board, trying to keep balance, she came face to face with the Sharkticon. A devilish smirk crossed his lips, aimed right at her.

“You left before we could thank you,” he cooed, leaning forward to touch her forehead with his.

“No thanks needed, we were happy to help,” Solstice, despite her stupor, smiled and pressed back. “Though I never did get your name.”

“Drift.”

Instead of her lonely afternoon, Solstice wadded back to the shallows to spend time with her new mer friends.