Merbee Au by Yoakiyume from tumblr ( https://youkaiyume.tumblr.com/post/185566659718/lol-guess-whos-super-late-to-mermay )
Summary: Charlie has been hired on as an assistant for Dr. Powell at the local Marine Research Center, which also happens to be the Monterey Bay Aquarium; she’s just the runner of information—nothing too glamorous but it was interesting work; she would often accompany him on his field research in the Pacific Ocean for days to weeks at a time. One time though they went further south during the Orca migration than they had before, and… she found something.
Chapter 1: Charlie
March 27th, 1994. 9:07 a.m.
“It’s Charlie.” She called back behind her as she pushed her hair over her shoulder where it was supposed to be, placing a crate down on the dock.
“Charlie,” the middle-aged man said, coming towards her from the ramp that lead towards the main research building. “We are almost ready to go; do you have everything?” Dr. Powell stood in front of her, instead of his pristine white lab coat she always saw him in he was wearing cargo shorts and a Monterey Bay Aquarium polo shirt.
“Yes, Dr. Powell.” She stood up, wiping the sweat from her brow and squinting at him in the bright sun. “I’m all packed.”
“Great! This will be a very valuable teaching lesson,” his eyes flashed behind his glasses, but Charlie reasoned it was just the sun glinting off his lenses. “No need to continue to do this heavy lifting, the institution has hired a crew to do that for us; I’ve also personally picked a few to join us and help the sailing crew. Please go check up on the other supplies and make sure everything is packed, ready and organized-“
Dr. Powell kept prattling on about his list of supplies and Charlie’s mind caught on to a seagull that cried in the morning sky.
“Ok,” Charlie cut him off but didn’t mean too; he seemed flabbergasted, but she just smiled tightly at her apparent rudeness. “Yes, I’ll go check up on the supplies and make sure everything is packed and ready for departure.” She looked down at his hands that held a clipboard. “Do you have a list?”
She raised her eyebrows and he seemed a bit cautious about handing it over but did so anyways. “Right, well—I’ll see you at noon sharp.” He had told her and cautiously watched as she took it and strolled past him towards the ramp and stairs of the docks.
“Noon sharp,” Charlie repeated, spinning on her heel to give him a small salute and lopsided smile, spinning around fully and whipping her hair back behind her. Dr. Powell watched her walk away with a slight frown, then looking back down at all the supplies she had brought down by herself.
Charlie found herself entering the main building of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), checking in with the front desk and flashing her badge before she moved down the hallways and went to find Uncle Hank’s office; Uncle Hank wasn’t her actual uncle, but he had been a large part of her childhood and with her family since her father had started here over 20 years ago—and he died suddenly 12 years ago…
“Uncle Hank?” Charlie called out as she entered the workshop space, small boats and golf carts were spread thin along the workshop, and Charlie often helped Hank out here repairing the vehicles when Dr. Powell had only menial desk job tasks for her just to keep her busy.
“Charles is that you?” an old man’s voice called out from inside one of the patrol boats that usually cruised the harbor, its engine was smoking last week, and Hank still hadn’t figured out what caused it yet.
“Yeah it’s me,” she called out, standing on the outside of the boat as it sat secured in its holdings as Hank climbed around on it.
“Whatcha doin down there and not up ‘ere?” He said, banging inside the motor compartment. Charlie grinned and climbed up the siding and found her way next to him and seeing what he was working on.
“Oh, Hank.” Charlie cooed, grabbing his arm and pausing him. “Have you tried…” she trailed off in her musings, and Hank just stepped aside and let her work. He picked up her clipboard of tasks to complete and climbed down from the boat.
Hank came back a couple hours later, the checklist marked off with some notes and he noticed that Charlie was covered in grease and knees deep into the engine. “Charlie.” Hank called out but she was muttering to herself. Hank frowned, making the lines on his face more pronounced.
“Charlie!” Hank called again, climbing up the side of the boat. Suddenly Charlie hopped out of the engine compartment, turned the key in the ignition and the boat roared to life once again—but this time there was no more smoke.
Charlie grinned largely back towards Hank, her honey colored eyes gleaming in the light. Hank nodded appreciatively, before thrusting the clipboard forward. Charlie’s eyes widened as she turned off the boat and stumbled towards Hank.
She gripped the clipboard tightly and checked the list, and her eyes shined as she looked back up to Hank once again.
“Uncle Hank, you didn’t-“ She started but he just shrugged nonchalantly.
“But I did.” He gave her a secret smile, rubbing his hand on her head and messing up her hair even more. “Besides, I needed you to get more practice in on how to fix different machines since I’m not going with you on your expedition this time.”
Charlie frowned at that, looking down at the clipboard instead. “We knew it wouldn’t be forever, plus this one is too long. I’m needed here with my team to make sure all the equipment is being run smoothly.”
Charlie sighed as she nodded, hugging Hank tightly. He smiled fondly at her and hugged her back.
“You’ll do great, Charles.”
Charlie thundered down the ramp and towards the docks where Dr. Powell was, and was thoroughly surprised to see how large the ship was that they were taking out- it was a deep-sea tuna fishing boat, a Seine boat. It was large with huge nets and poles that towered above them—there was a lot of rigging and a lot of moving parts on that boat, and she was expected to fix them all with her small team of one (1) other person, an untrained guy that went by the name of Memo.
“Charlene-“ Dr. Powell started as Charlie walked up to him still in awe about the boat, she shoved the clip board in his chest.
“Charlie,” she corrected again, Dr. Powell’s cheeks flushed in embarrassment as he flipped through the clipboard. “Everything in order?”
“Yes,” she was still in awe.
“Great, climb aboard.”
They finally left the harbor and were on their way to southern waters to study the Orca’s as they moved past the southern American coast; Orca’s didn’t have an exact set migration timeframe, it was a general part of the year, and it was a coin toss whether or not they would be able to catch them when they went out, but they were still curious creatures.
And personally, Charlie adored them. They were fascinating creatures, not actually whales but categorized alongside dolphins, just a much larger version. Unlike dolphins as well, Orca’s preferred colder waters.
Charlie climbed up the rigging a little ways, looking back towards the city as they pulled farther and farther away from land; the aquarium sat in the bay, its flags flying high on the flag pole above the building—but they were too far away to properly see them.
Charlie grinned excitedly; she had never been on a multi-week expedition before!
April 2nd, 5:03 p.m.
Charlie took it back. This was boring. The rigging was operating fine, they didn’t need a ship this large for a team as small as they were, and she and Memo were keeping up on checking on all the engines, pressure gauges and valves and keeping the big girl running. Memo wasn’t actually a mechanic like she was, he was the medic who just picked a couple things up from her and Hank; it was nice to have some help from the crew, but this one guy… Burns is what he went by, he kept giving her dirty looks as she worked her way through the underbelly of the boat, like she didn’t belong.
But she didn’t see him fixing anything, so she didn’t think he had much to complain about.
They had only been out on the open water for a few days now and were well into the waters of Mexico, and they needed to stop for supplies because the boat was using more fuel than they allotted for.
The fishing vessel was brought safely into Port Morro Redondo, and Dr. Powell said something about staying for the rest of the day and that they would leave tomorrow late morning.
Honestly, Charlie couldn’t be happier. Four days on that boat and she was already going crazy because Dr. Powell didn’t need her for anything, so she was left to her own devices constantly.
This gave her a chance to find something to do, maybe she’ll pick up crossword puzzles or something.
But then there was a surfboard rental on the beach and cheap swimsuits, and she was gone to the ocean that she was just bored of- but she was bored on top of it, not in it.
Some other members of the expedition had found themselves in the water as well, others found port food, or port… entertainment. But out here, Charlie was alone. Free to feel the warm waters against her smooth skin, free to lay on her back on her board in the calm water and stare up into the sky, listening to the seagulls cry out as they chased each other around the sun. It was easy for Charlie to lay back and enjoy the rocking motions, it was easy for her eyes to slide close, and it was easy for her to fall asleep.