It startled me:  the explosive flash of light, the hypersonic boom as that something entered our atmosphere at unearthly speeds.  Omnipresent throughout my oceans, I immediately sensed its strike-point and I was instantly there.  It was a secluded bay very near shore on the coast The Children call California.  But I arrived not soon enough:  some mysterious event had already transpired.  I couldn’t imagine what.  The alien object was there, no doubt of that, though it was tiny, no bigger than a small pearl.  Not surprisingly, it pulsated, radiating a tremendous energy I knew was not of our world.   But what most surprised me was that the object was neither adrift in the waves nor settled on the bottom as I’d expected to find it, but embedded in the chest of a dolphin, who was floating passively near the surface, making no efforts to swim and even struggling to breathe.   

            As I watched and wondered, three dolphins approached.   Because I am invisible as well as omnipresent, they didn’t see me, but I could see by her silvery aura that one of them was a visionary.  I knew her, named Nania.  I watched them intently as these three surrounded this mysterious dolphin.  Koa the eldest whistled in Lilliaba, the many-voiced language of dolphins, to her companions in singwave, their talk-frequency.  “A strange one.  Responds to nothing.”

            Rimi, the youngest, singwaved in reply, “Seems barely alive.  Perhaps injured.”

            “Perhaps,” voiced Koa .  “Seems in shock, can’t swim.  Could drown, should be with our colony.  What say you, Nania?”

            “A young one,” my visionary answered as she circled their discovery. “But still—why no body marks?”

            “A mystery,” answered Koa, finally drawing back from the curiosity.  “Likely lost.  What puzzles most is his silence.  As if hearing not, nor understanding.   Gives no identity signal.  Seems lifeless.  Nothing’s what it looks to be.  I wonder even this extreme—is this truly dolphin?  When I scanned him, I saw something small, round, dense in his chest—look yourself—near the lung opening.  Like a pearl.  But radiates, yet unstable.   It’s ultra-high frequency—not subsonic drone, like cancers.”

            “I see it,” whistled Nania, as she transmitted a burst of seeker-rays into this unsuspecting dolphin’s chest:  finest, fastest echoes returning to her through her jaw and through the melon of her forehead:  where these echoes formed a picture within her mind’s eye that revealed to her the tiny pearl-shape within that body.

            “So dense,” singwaved Rimi, who also scanned it. “What?” 

            “How know?” answered Koa.  “But alien to dolphins.  Perhaps alien to Oceanus.  Scanning his brain base I see seeker-rays not active.  So—perhaps a dolphin, perhaps not.  In emergency.  Responding not, though half-conscious.  In peril of drowning.  Brain half shut down, yet not damaged.  Or has it ever worked?  A Language Master would see more.”

            Rimi asked, “Recall the strange steelhead who drew us here?”

            Koa remembered, and I, the omnipresent and invisible, passed into her and followed her remembering:  recalling the steelhead swimming erratically near them.  Koa had scanned it, detected minute traces of powerful radiation within the steelhead.  The first mystery.  When the strange fish had sped away, Koa and Rimi had followed easily, continuing to read the unusual radiation in this creature.  They’d pursued him until he’d led them to this cove.  Here they’d found something even stranger than the steelhead—this puzzling, helpless dolphin.  Or not-dolphin.  

            And where was the steelhead now?

            Koa scanned with seeker-rays the nearby waters, but the fish was gone.   She voiced, “The steelhead radiates the same pulse as the power object in this dolphin’s chest.  How so?”

            “And what to do with this one?’ singwaved Rimi, all three now facing the pseudo-dolphin, their flukes at rest, hearing the labored breathing whenever their helpless discovery rose awkwardly for air.

            “First,” responded Koa, turning southwest toward the faraway colony, “we report position, conclusions.  Call a Language Master.  Make a support group.”  She transmitted a series of low-frequency distance singwaves, giving her information.   In moments this message traversed the thirty-seven miles of ocean to their dolphin colony, who swam south in shelf-waters among migrating gray whales.  Soon Koa and her companions heard the return signal:   Understood.  Bring your mystery.

            Immediately, Koa called two others who’d been hunting nearby to join them.   One with Nania maneuvered into support position beneath the unfortunate dolphin’s flippers.  Koa and Rimi swam one on each side in second support, to replace them at intervals.  Another dolphin swam foremost, navigator, projecting seeker-rays ahead and below.   This support group then bore the helpless one away at half-travel speed southwest toward the dropoff, the edge of the continental shelf, and toward their traveling colony.

            So my beautiful dolphins had helped me to understand a little of this mystery.   And if I stayed with them no doubt they would help me understand more.  In the meantime I entered the consciousness of the mystery dolphin, not expecting to learn much.  Of all this happening around him and within him the barely conscious creature knew nothing.   But as my attention lingered there I began to perceive something unexpected:  a fleeting residue of chaos and panic adrift in certain cells of his blood stream.  But I saw no more than that.  

            I followed them all as they swam on.  Eventually many dolphins came swimming toward them, some making little breath leaps approaching and continuously clicks and whistles converging in eccentric harmonies.

            Koa slowed the support group to a halt, seeing the Language Master approach.   They maintained at the surface, that their burden might breathe whenever he would.  The Language Master swam among them and halted before the miracle dolphin.   She began a fast clicking, but the probe was brief.  She paused a moment to look at the lifeless face and passive body:  seeing an impossible young dolphin, no distinguishing marks on his face, none on his body, not a scratch.  As if the body had never been in ocean.

            The Language Master singwaved to Koa beside her.  “I see what you see.  Responds to nothing Lilliaba, no frequency.  No response to rescue signals, yet no brain or hearing damage.   And—however possible—responds not to Eternal Family keys that’re part of every dolphin of Oceanus.   I say—this one’s never known Lilliaba, understands nothing.  I truly doubt he’s dolphin.  Astonishing.  May not even be lifeform.  And this further makes me doubt—voiceworks not functioning.  Nor seeker-rays.  How can this be lifeform?  Vlorio’s soon here.  This’ll be his newest Incomprehensible.  Most strange—that object in its chest—so dense, such pulse, such powerful radiation.   Like nothing I’ve seen.  The creature must be machine.”

            From a short distance behind them they heard in singwave a voice they all knew well, as did I. “Sacred Profanities!  What’ve you found?”  And moments later, Vlorio, ninth-order Guardian and Voice of the colony, glided into their water and settled beside Atia, peering closely at the barely-conscious mystery.  Vlorio continued.  “All amazing, yes, but I fear this creature.  I’ve listened to you the last mile.”  

            He scanned with ultra-seekers the power-object in the mystery’s chest.   Then singwaved, “Yes, fearful.   See the object’s erratic pulse?   Possible?—what Atia believes—humans created a perverse machine?—perhaps explosive—though it seems the perfect image of a dolphin?”  

Koa knew she was alone in her opinion, but must strongly express it.  “I urge more thought.  Speak to this creature, be that possible.  Atia can give his voiceworks ultra-shock.  Force upon him speech in basic forms.”

            Atia was reluctant.  “You assume lifeform.  Not I.   This must be machine.  Even if lifeform—must also desire to speak.   Any see desire in this one?   We waste time.  This thing that seems dolphin—but isn’t—must be abandoned.   Let the machine destroy itself.”

            Others whistled agreement.

            But Koa persisted.  “Too cautious.  Both power and creature we must know.  Too rare a chance.  Perhaps not uncontrollable.  But abandon this?  Without knowing more?  I believe it a gift, this miracle.”

            Vlorio peered closely again at the somnolent danger, then singwaved to the others,   “Enough danger in Oceanus without inviting more.  Yet I respect so much Koa’s wisdom I’ll risk one further probe.”  He scanned more forcefully with ultra seeker-rays this body that so worried them.  Vlorio soon switched to lower frequency, a soft hum that wound higher the longer Vlorio probed.  Then, as all observed, the power object began to vibrate erratically, amplifying its unearthly power to something unimaginable, perhaps catastrophic.   Vlorio and the other dolphins were suddenly all moved to panic, ready to flee.

            Koa, healer before she was a Guardian, dared another idea.  She transmitted into this dangerous being’s solar plexus her strongest healing ray:  octave/counter-octave:  and within moments the object in its chest slowed its vibration till it was barely perceptible.  Koa in singwave whistled to Vlorio, “Look—healing rays quiet it.  No machine responds to healing rays.”

            Vlorio was slow to voice opinion.  “Shadows in Darkness!  You may speak true, Koa.  A deadly mystery!  Yet as the body shook—it no way resembled lifeforms.  Perhaps humans now create machines to respond to healing rays as if lifeforms.  Humans in our lifetime—ingenious.”

            “Koa’s not alone,” interposed Rimi, “I suspect lifeform also.”

            “Accepted, Rimi,” responded Vlorio.  “Though still I doubt, however much I wish to be wrong.  I do long to study this...amazement.”

            Atia whistled, “You’d risk it?—when so many are destroyed if Koa, Rimi mistake it?”

            “Yes, true.  I too fear we invite death,” answered Vlorio.  “Can’t risk it.  This creature’s not dolphin.   We see no intelligence, no emotion.  It’s likely machine.  But...such mystery.  What could this be?  Stars in Oceans!–imagine’  But chancing many deaths to study it?”

            “Vlorio!” urged Atia, “All are frightened.  I beg you act.  Before this kills many.  Abandon it!”

            “Wait,” interrupted Koa.  “I say we make a grave mistake.  It’s quiet now. ”

            Vlorio protested.  “Healing rays may not again save us.  Too dangerous to delay.  Many could die.  Even if lifeform—would require so much help—to swim, feed, protect.  Colony can’t do it.   My Voice is this—support group must take him to our outcasts island, without escape.  Abandon him, move everyone far away.  My own mission takes me elsewhere, no more time for this, nor has our colony time.   Take him away.  This must be done.”  

            I was already beginning to see the truth of the creature so I could not agree with Vlorio.  I believed Koa correct and I was not disposed to let them make such a gross mistake as he’d demanded.  I needed to understand this strangest creature as much as they did. 

As twilight spread slowly through the sun-waters, the escort group arrived:   two dolphins resumed support beneath the creature’s flippers and two others ready nearby to serve as second supports if need be.  Nania, Koa and Rimi followed as the group swam away at half-travel speed southeast toward their desperate destination.

            The sky darkened to twilight, and second supports projected seeker-clicks into all their water ahead and below:  reading in the echoes anchovy masses near the edge of the dropoff; schooling squid in a rising cloud a whalebody wide, up from deeper, colder realms now that the Sun was going.  These dolphins also read kelp beds heaving and twisting at the surface in their path, and they circled wide of these.    

             They were still an hour to the river’s mouth, their destination, when I intervened.    The sandy shelf a hundred twenty meters below them rose gradually.  By then an ebbing three-quarter Moon shimmered above them, shedding a soft light into their upper ocean.  I located and lured four nearby tiger sharks away from their pursuit of a school of tuna by imitating the distress skri-signals of a wounded dolphin.  The sharks raced eagerly away from the tuna toward me.  

So it was then that the escort group suddenly heard loud, methodical thrashing to their right.  Koa projected ultra-seeker-rays that direction:  detecting shark-shapes, four of them, all closing at high speed directly for the obvious, helpless dolphin, the killers’ agitation in their crescent tails and gaping jaws.  

            Koa’s alarm-signal alerted them all.  Every dolphin, except the two supporting the outcast-to-be, stopped swimming and scanned the onrushing sharks.  The sharks loomed distinctly in the moonlit water.

            Rimi, Nania and two other dolphins separated from the supports and their burden and all four instantly accelerated to such speed that their gray rocket-bodies flashed away in furious turbulence.  All four exploded heads and beaks like battering rams into the bellies and gillworks of the attacking sharks, several body-lengths in front of him.   Violent tearing of flesh, organs bursting, cartilage shattering was audible to all.  The four dolphins then drew back from the cloud of blood and torn flesh so suddenly afloat in the waters around them.  Four shark-shapes sank lifelessly into the dark water below.   

            But the ultimate consequence was just what I suspected it would be:  the object within this creature’s chest once again accelerated wildly.  Koa soon calmed the erratic pulse with her octave/counter-octave healing ray.  She continued transmitting longer and more intensely than before.  Nania, soon beside her, doubled that effort with her own projection of octave/counter-octave:  until the dangerous pulsation slowed, then diminished so rapidly that it ceased pulsing altogether.  

            Both stopped transmitting and scanned the power-object with ultra-seeker rays, seeing the strange object now, for the first time since they had encountered the mystery dolphin, completely inert.     

            Then I saw further evidence of what I was suspecting:  I could now feel inside the creature—life was there, just as Koa and Rimi had suspected.  This was no machine.  Where the volatile, fearful object lodged in its chest, I perceived a perceptible heat now begin to rise.  And expand.   Suddenly a new vitality began filling those lungs:  this strange, sudden quickening gave life to the singwave whistle-voice in the creature’s blowhole:  so that suddenly there arose within him a flood of unexpected, repressed, agonized emotions that quickly became words, which this creature uttered in singwave basic forms, a wonder to all present, including to myself. “Help!  What’s happened ?  Make it stop!”

            Instantly Rimi propelled to him, beak-to-beak, and singwaved. “Speech from the Dead!  Or is it the far distant voice of a great unknown power, taunting our little world, through the body of this almost-dolphin?  Speak again!   Tell your secrets!  What more do you know?”

             In awe, the other dolphins gathered round this amazement.

            Again, the creature expressed itself in urgent basic forms.  “It makes me speak.  Take it away!  No sharks!   I remember nothing.”

            Rimi singwaved to him, and all his companions heard, and understood the great import. “Alive!—you are lifeform!  We’ll not let you die!  Not machine.  Who is it that speaks within you?”

            The creature could only utter this: “I know nothing.”

            Koa, amazed, looked to Rimi and voiced, “What can this be?”

            Rimi, amazed as any, spoke a sudden dawning awareness.  “Is it possible?—this unknown being in dolphin-body we transport is a gift, a mystery to unpuzzle?  Despite Vlorio’s fears.”

            “So I want to believe,” singwaved Koa, “but we appeal too late Vlorio’s command.”   Wanting it desperately not to be too late.

            All these dolphins circled this one so unlike them, and now so suddenly vocal.   Black night was above and below them, and each dolphin was uncertain of their course.  

            Nania was that rarest one-in-a-thousand who had been born with the visionary gift that allowed her to see through the atoms of the material world and into the beyond where she could behold the ineffable world of astral light and its energies and all the other wonders of that world.  In those mystical moments she saw visions whose meanings were not always clear and were often deceptive, but which in fortunate circumstances could reveal information and insights that could guide her to see a true path forward.  Or give her premonition of events of great importance to all the colony.  I had always believed she would be one of the great visionaries.

            So it was the visionary trance-state swept over her in that moment of crisis and Nania penetrated the veil that keeps this rare astral world hidden from ordinary beings:  she saw a trembling of light in the impenetrable astral darkness below, where no light should be:  but one now that she alone could see.  That tremulous white light continued rising from the depths toward Nania.  As it came closer she also saw it had a shape and was not merely this shimmering, white quintessence of light, but the shape of a dolphin.  Yet not like any dolphin of Oceanus, for its body was not flesh and blood, but consisted only of this radiant luminescence.  The dolphin glided without any apparent motion of its own into their company, and then as effortlessly circled the mystery dolphin and his two support dolphins; though none of them, excepting Nania, saw any of this.  Twice this luminescent dolphin circled them.   Then Nania in her visionary seeing watched the white luminesence that was the body of this dolphin suddenly disintegrate its dolphin shape and detach into shimmering, gossamer filaments that swirled upward and quickly evaporated:  until Nania could see nothing left of any of it, neither dolphin-shape nor luminescence.  Her astral vision dissolved.  Only their material world of Oceanus remained.

            Contrary emotions arose and swirled inside Nania, causing her to shiver.  She turned to Koa, wanting to tell her...but tell what?  

 Koa stared at her, suspecting that Nania’s visionary sight had shown her what Koa and the others could not see.  Nania singwaved to her.  “I visioned a dolphin.  All luminescent, white, shining.  It circled our mystery dolphin twice, then dissolved into nothing.  Yet it marked our helpless dolphin, I’m sure of it.   Marked him miraculous.  I understand it not fully, but yes, I say we must keep him alive, must comprehend him.”

            “But Vlorio might not accept your vision,” urged Rimi, gliding to face her, “even if we do.”

            “Then let it be only our vision,” Nania responded, still struggling to comprehend.  “For now.  This warns us our mistake abandoning him.  I feel certain.”

            “I too,” voiced Koa, elated also. 

            Rimi pushed his beak between the other two.  “I too say we must keep him, make him dolphin.”

            Koa saw the wonder of it, felt a sudden exhilaration.  She breath-leaped into moonlight, and then submerged and settled beside them again.  Their mystery dolphin pressed close to her.  Even so, she struggled with her loyalties and apprehension.  “Yes, I too want to keep him.  But how not honor Vlorio’s Voice?  As well honor my bond as Guardian?”

            But Rimi already anticipated, confident, fluttering flukes as he offered what no other would have dared to speak.  “Let’s hide our helpless lifeform, prove Vlorio wrong.  We make this helpless one a dolphin—so he swims, feeds, survives.  Till we see him more.  Know what he is.  Why he hosts this great power.  Vlorio will forgive us all.”

            Nania scanned the tiny jewel in his chest and singwaved, “We’ve drained the object’s power, Koa.  Look yourself, still no pulsebeat.  Perhaps all danger’s gone.”

            Koa scanned again the creature’s chest, saw the object inert, apparently impotent.   “I think so too.  Earlier, the power pulsed after octave/counter-octave diminished it.  Now it seems lifeless.” Even so, Koa worried, considering the disobedience Rimi proposed; but more certain each moment they must end disobeying.  

            “Still,” Rimi continued, “this demands caution.  Some one must watch him always.”

            Nania, daughter as well as a visionary and healer apprentice, was ready.   “Lirias my father could be that one.   For now.”

            “Why Lirias?” voiced Koa, who knew him well.  “His interests are all private.”

            Nania answered.  “Yes, private, but he’s Language Master.  This creature foremost requires that.  My father will study well this deep mystery.  He wants to be useful, though it seems not so.”

            Koa knew she herself must decide. “So you think it possible to teach this one survival in time?  Only one Moon till we meet Vlorio again.”

            “It must be enough,” answered Rimi, always ready for the unthinkable.  And elder Koa too, not for novelty or excitement, but because her heart demanded it.   

            She singwaved, “Then yes—let’s hide him, and make this one a dolphin.”



Lirias the half-blind in recent years had assumed that all the momentous events of his life had already either exalted him or else crushed him, and that he would live the rest of his years anticlimactically.  He would remain what he was, a dolphin without significant purpose, freed of his former high obligations, living out his life only indulging his personal whims and curiosities, none of them of much consequence to the colony he had so diligently served until his great misfortune.   Though he was also wise enough to know, more than most, that monumentous events may come to anyone at any time, and that they very often arrive in innocent, unassuming forms.  

            So in time he would remember this otherwise dreary overcast afternoon in which he swam the surface near two rubber zodiacs a mile from the Pacific shore.   Eight passengers were in each boat, all well clothed against the chill of November, but each of them now oblivious of weather since Lirias had swum among them.  His dorsal rose conspicuously out of water.  He made little breath leaps when he passed between boats, delighting these humans who had ventured out seeking migrating gray whales, but who instead had found this dolphin who seemed to enjoy entertaining them.

            No such purpose animated Lirias.  He was attracted to humans for his own peculiar reasons, often useful to the colony but also, as his daughter Nania thought, satisfying extreme, dark moods that, even so, no one in the colony would ever blame him for.

            The sea was calm for all the overcast. Lirias rode the easy waves now, head out of water, a steady fluke-stroke below maintaining him, rising and falling as the swell rose and fell.  But always his eyes on them, these creatures that were his obsession.  They reached out for him.  Several took photographs and they chattered among themselves like children.  They squealed and laughed.  This face of theirs Lirias knew well.  He heard a human sound he knew well also, their word for what he was—dolphin—the word he’d first comprehended in his captivity.  In time he’d comprehended many other of their words there as well.   

            Lirias eased himself below water, passed under one boat and surfaced at its backside.  All the passengers were looking for him where he’d been, only their backs now visible to him.   With his flukes he tossed a frigid spray of water at them.  Several screamed, and then he bumped the boat with his flank, causing two or three to fall helplessly back into the boat.  These made more yelling and some swearing.  

            Lirias again lifted his head out of water and watched these humans, who were no longer delighted children, but suddenly angry at each other and unconcerned for their entertaining dolphin.  A large one tried to stand in the boat and he pushed another one.  The boat rocked dangerously.  One shouted, then grabbed the arm of the angriest man and ordered him to sit down.  He did.   Still others continued yelling and two females began crying.  These faces, much more interesting than the former, Lirias also knew well.

            He remained within a few meters of the boat as it drifted in the swells, his eyes out of water, seeing all of it.  The shouting and anger subsided.  The one at the motor yelled a last time for everyone to sit and be quiet, and he revved the motor slowly and maneuvered them back in the direction of shore.   Lirias followed at his small distance.   His attention remained on them, all much sobered; until he heard a dolphin voice approaching far south, singwaving his name.   

            He recognized Koa’s voice.  “We bring a mystery.  And Nania.”

            Immediately Lirias abandoned the two boats, but he swam only leisurely toward the approaching dolphins, for he no longer believed that any mystery could interest him.  As he swam, his seeker-rays told him the rocky bottom was ninety meters below and that multitudes of red snapper were feeding among the rocks a few hundred meters ahead of him, where six small thresher sharks also hunted.  A mile and more to his right three adult gray whales chuffed at the surface on their way to Mexico lagoons.

            Still a mile from Lirias, Koa singwaved to him again.  “Most unusual this helpless one we carry.  Can’t swim, but possesses a power unimaginable.  I knew you’d be curious.”

            Nearer, Lirias scanned all these oncoming with seeker-rays and detected the apparently lifeless dolphin borne by the support pair.  Soon they were all met and settled together, facing, flukes at rest.     

            Lirias singwaved to Koa. “If it be such importance, why bring him to me, who have no importance?”  Too quickly Lirias scanned the curiosity’s body, and therefore detected nothing unusual.

            Koa singwaved to her father.  “This creature is...we know not what.  Doubtfully dolphin, so Atia claims.  I agree.   But in its chest, some object, great potency, though origin unknown, like its carrier.”  Lirias scanned with his limited seeker function the creature’s chest more carefully this time and detected the object so spoken.

            “I hear no potency,” Lirias singwaved.  “Hear only something dormant.”

            “Fortunate for us,” responded Koa.  “I found this creature drowning; this object within it, unstable.  In crisis it pulsed erratically, then alarmed us amplifying.  Ready to explode.  I stopped it with healing rays.  As you see, all potency’s extinguished.  We hope forever.”

            “Yet the creature still lives,” observed Lirias, circling it, perhaps more curious than he would admit.

            “Yes, still lives,” continued Koa.  “But more that’s strange.  Though we believed it no dolphin, its sudden power caused the creature to speak in basic forms, verifying it lifeform.  Though which?   Inhabiting dolphin body.   We thought you’d help us—observe it, tell us what you learn.”

            Lirias scanned again the inert power within the phenomenon.  “So...now he’s powerless, he’s mine.”

            Koa blew away a long fine string of bubbles.  “Not even then, Lirias.  Yours only now, and only if you wish it, until we see better what to do with him.  Full truth—Vlorio ordered the creature outcast, abandoned.  Too dangerous he thinks, burdening the colony.  But he’s lifeform, we know now—so we’ll hide him, teach him survival, then convince Vlorio.  We see him again in one Moon.”

            “Hide him with me?”

            “Who better?” intervened his daughter.

            Lirias rose to the surface-shine, blew spray, breathed, and re-settled before Koa.  He knew her Guardian’s loyalty.  “You’d defy Vlorio?”

            Koa’s confidence had increased, and she singwaved, “Vlorio will see his mistake.   This creature’s a marvel.”

            “I help him swim?”

            “Yes,” voiced Koa.  “Nania assisting.  Creature lacks most functions.  No one comprehends.  Who knows what in him lies latent?”

            “You make me his nurse.”

            Koa breath-leaped a moment, to dampen her irritation; she needed Lirias allied.  Resubmerged, she allowed Nania to continue the conversation. “More’s here than anyone yet knows.  You surely see that, Father.  How many care for such mysteries?  Few like you.   You know you’re fortunate we offer him.   You only pretend not to care.”

            Lirias paused a moment, resisting the impulse to scan again the power object.   Then he singwaved, “What caused it to accelerate?”

            Koa answered, “Sharks.  Fear.   Terror.”

            “What countered it?”

            Koa directed the octave/counter-octave into Lirias.  He felt its force.  

            He approached the docile carrier as he considered the creature; then singwaved, “What’s the object’s origin?”

            “Unknown.  Not Oceanus, I believe.  Thus a rarest mystery.  May we leave him?”

            Lirias knew it for the rare mystery it was, and he could only make his honest reply.  “Of course.   Though most tragic the object’s lost power.”


            Parted from the others, Lirias and Nania followed the support pair and their burden toward a sheltered cove an hour’s swim away.  Nania swam to the side of her father’s good eye.  Since leaving the others, Lirias had been silent, contemplating the mysterious dolphin whose powerless flukes a few meters ahead of him were tossed arhythmically, like something broken, whenever the support pair surfaced with him to breathe.  Despite his hesitations, Nania knew her father was already fascinated by this creature that was now his to examine.  She was happy for him.  Nothing since his release from captivity had so engaged him.

             He voiced, “The power still interests me.  So foolish to deaden it.”  She welcomed the resumption of her father’s talk.

            “There’s more to him than anyone yet sees,” she singwaved.

            “You vision that?  Or only try to bond me to him?”

            “Yes, visioned it.  Vividly.   Light, radiance:  revealed in dolphin form.  Circled twice our mystery dolphin.  I saw that—just after sharks attacked.  Not only the power—the carrier too is something rare.  No accident he’s here.   Nor is he insignificant.  I see a gift from faraway powers.”

            “Perhaps.  What more you’ve visioned?”

            “My vision’s limited.”

            He was silent several moments.  Then, “It’s my curse I disbelieve your truest visions.  What value this creature?”

            “I know only what I visioned, what I told you.”

            “You told Vlorio what you saw?”

            “No.   He left before my vision.  Vlorio can know everything—in time.” 

            When they with their burden arrived at their cove, the feeble gray of winterlight had extinguished upon the far horizon of the ocean, and the cold darkness through the dense gray overcast swept over them.  The cove was a natural harbor among tall and seaworn rocks, twenty meters front to back, where any creatures might comfortably shelter from danger behind the one enormous boulder, big as a whale, that blockaded half the covemouth from relentless waves. 

            Father and daughter sustained comfortably at the surface beside the semi-conscious pseudo-dolphin, still supported beneath each flipper.   The depth in the cove was five meters and the water heaved forward into the cove and rose and slapped at the rocks with each big surge of waves, then pulled back and sank a full meter as the surge withdrew.  

            “Creature’s less helpless than it seems,” Lirias singwaved.  “Release support.  Watch.”  The support pair withdrew from beneath his flippers, as Nania watched the transformation first sink a half meter before suddenly his flukes down-stroked, lifting him back to the surface.  His flippers pumped several times in alarm, but not in unison.  He nonetheless stabilized and blew spray from his blowhole into air, then inhaled rapidly twice before resubmerging beside them and stabilizing himself.

            “Already you understand him,” she singwaved.  “May he swim as easily.”

            Her father answered, “He will.  Whatever the being within, the body’s dolphin, built to swim.”

            Father and daughter maintained their vigilant sleep circle through the night, their helpless one sleeping and breathing safely at their center of their circling.  Both father and daughter slept little, each awakening continually to private and new speculations.  The Sun was well up before their mystery awakened, and as they awaited him they shared ideas. 

             “You scanned the power object often last night,” she singwaved to her father.

            “It’s rare, not he.”

            “Was rare,” she countered, testing him.  “Power’s gone.  Still—not curious to know the creature?”

            Momentarily suspending their conversation, they turned downward and away from the still sleeping mystery-dolphin, and glided toward the rock-strewn bottom, where feeble winter sunrays barely penetrated.  As they dove into this semidark, they turned a slow spiral near but opposite each other, as if an invisible sun held them to their perfect distance apart, orbiting.  Lirias let loose a stream of bubbles that drifted in elegant curvature away from his blowhole toward the surface, toward the sleeping wonder above them.  When finally they rose to the surface, they settled again beside him.

            Lirias continued their speculation. “The creature—easy to unpuzzle.   Consider—since we know it be lifeform—likely it’s not higher order possession—such transformation wouldn’t have so exhausted its consciousness.  Whatever the creature, it’s disoriented by its dolphin body. Thus it’s been brutally surprised.  So the inhabitant’s a lower, likely common order, and of Oceanus.  Surely you follow me.”

            “Impressive, Father.  No wonder they want you in Guardian councils.”

            “They want me no more.  But you slept no more than I.”

            “No.   Several hours in trance I opened to the transformation.  But very little new I saw.   Mostly his distress.”

            “My theories, your insights only show the creature not important.  Loss of the power’s tragic.  What remains—barely interesting.”

            She halted before him, still a body-length beneath the shining surface, her flukes relaxing. But no relaxing the look she made him, an intensity rare for her with him.  “Be not fooled.  Think beyond that idea.  Why here?—this transformation.  Why at all?   There are answers—I believe.  No accident.  You’re given this chance with him—underestimate it not.”

            “So.   Twice I’m warned—once by Koa, now by you.  Perhaps both right.  But now I’ll leave you your prize, I’ll bring back food.  Then I leave to consider all this.  And give you time to make him more dolphin.”

            This creature awoke to see the fury of bubbles that was Lirias’ wake as that dolphin accelerated and swam through the cove mouth, seaward and away.  The mystery continued to rise by himself to the surface to breathe, fluidly, always in time.  Nania approached slowly, till their beaks nearly touched.  

            She singwaved to him in the basic forms he had comprehended the day before, and this miracle of comprehension recurred today again as he heard her explain, “I’m Nania, here to help.  Understand?”

            He did, and, as before, the blowhole mechanism that produced its own words activated.  “I understand.  What’s happening?  I hate this thing in me.”  The effort to say even so little seemed to tire him quickly.  

            Subduing her amazement at this communication, she responded, “To help I must know more.  You’re mystery.  To us, to yourself.  Still no memory?”

            “No.   I fear what’s inside me.”   

            “No danger, its power’s spent.  I protect you.  But you must learn much.  To swim, to talk.  In time we’ll know more.  We’ll solve your mystery.”

            He singwaved basic forms.  “Nothing helps me.  Only sleep.”

            Nania made a little breath-leap out of water, startling him.  But quickly she resubmerged a meter down, confronting him as before.  “You understand dying?” she asked.

            He seemed to refocuse its eyes, looking directly into hers.  “Dying?   Yes.   What I fear.”

            She answered, “This retreat to sleep you crave.  That leads to death.  Understand?”   She didn’t wait for his answer.   “You survive by living.  Hear me.  I direct, you obey.  For now.   Or die.”  She commanded him.  “Move flukes as I do.”   She pumped her flukes slowly and propelled ahead several meters.  He watched her, but hesitated.  She nodded her beak, insisting.  His flukes moved, and his body jerked forward several body-lengths.   He pumped flukes again and moved forward faster than before.  “Again,” she urged.  He pumped and swam ahead more smoothly yet.

            “Yes, built to swim.  We’ll swim.   Till you’re confident.  Then swim outside the cove.”

            At that moment Lirias re-entered their shelter and stopped to watch the anomaly swim straight, but jerk to his stop.  “A beginning,” Lirias voiced to them in basic forms.  “Soon you’ll have him ready for me.”  Her father then opened his beak and spewed forth many herring, still whole though limp and lifeless.  These floated to the surface between the three dolphins.  Without further comment Lirias turned and swam away, disappearing. 

             “Who’s he?” the newest dolphin asked her, watching the dead fish drift at the surface near them. 

            “My father.  Lirias.   But eat.  Then we’ll talk more.”

            Nania took a fishtail in her beak and offered it to his mouth.  His beak opened and snapped the fish from her.  He opened his beak again for another; she gave.   The third, fourth and fifth he grabbed from the water without her help, and consumed them ravenously.  

            His second day of dolphin life, and further days, continued in more sustained trials of swimming, and in more conversation with Nania.  She told him that her father would be his real teacher, and help them all begin to understand this puzzle that he was.  

            As I watched all of this transpire, I could see one of the results emerging from the dolphins’ decision not to abandon this creature and let him die, but to preserve him and let him become some as yet unknown part of their destiny.   Some of that new order might possibly involve some redemption for Lirias.  My personal belief was that he deserved redemption.  

From his earliest years Lirias had been precocious, had understood the social complexities of tribal colonies not his own, of why and in what ways sperm whales were indifferent to the gregariousness of the baleenas, or why orcas could not so easily as all others had done relinquish their dependence on Rite of the Sea.  Her father’s foremost skill was his ability to penetrate the subtlest frequencies of language, be it the inter-tribal Barraba-mode or the sperm whale Tabeez, the Abiolo of belugas and unicorn dolphins, or any of the myriad forms of Lilliaba spoken by the various tribes of Oceanus’ dolphins.  At seven years he had mastered Vlana, the ancient dolphin language that had not been widespread for twelve million years, yet from which all dolphin names to this moment derive.  Though any Language Master, and all the Guardians, comprehend the ancient Vlana.

            So it was expected of Lirias that in time he would become, first, a Language Master, and then a Guardian.  In that same year he mated with Chloria, and a year later Nania was born; and in the next year he became a Language Master.  There was no doubt among dolphins that Lirias would master in his lifetime all twelve degrees of the Guardian, a rare accomplishment.  

            Yet this glory for him was not to be, for fate, or a bizarre counterfate, intervened and made of that future something profoundly otherwise.

            Lirias and Chloria one twilight summer evening cruised the warm oceans a few miles from the island of Oahu, when a sleek large powerboat approached them.   Not suspecting danger, these two dolphins swam near it, to mount and ride its bow-wave.  But before they had ridden a hundred meters a net dropped over them; the boat slowed, its engines suddenly silent.  They were both easily and quickly drawn from great Oceanus and hoisted on board, where they were disentangled from the nets, and then cradled separately into canvas carriers.  Finally they were placed in two shallow tubs of water on the boat’s deck.

            A day later Lirias was delivered by truck, still in the prison of his tub, to an aquatic park in Honolulu, where his captors freed him into a seven-meter deep tank with six other dolphins, all of these seven having been emprisoned long ago.   What happened to Chloria he never knew.

            The other prisoners helped Lirias adjust to the regime of public performances and seclusion in the tank.  The one compensation was the wonder of close contact with the eccentric species of humans.   For once he’d accepted his captivity and had learned to execute his performance obligations like his companions, Lirias became fascinated with his proximity to the strange creatures that before he had only seen at great distances, and then only briefly.  In particular, though he had at first resisted cooperating, he came to enjoy the daily communication with his trainer.  It’s possible that in time he even loved him.   

            That Lirias hated the confinement, the monotony and pointless repetition of his life there, and that he came to despair of ever seeing his mate and child and Guardian friends of the colony again—that was certain.  Yet the blond trainer was kind, sincere and devoted to communicating with him.  And this communion stirred something unimagined in Lirias, for he had never believed humans to possess the emotional and spiritual depths his trainer revealed to him daily.   Equally stimulating was the opportunity to study the language of humans, as he listened to the trainer.  Eventually he comprehended single words, and understood emotion that communicated through voice tone and pitch. 

             This study expanded for him in his second year of captivity when they placed him several days a week in a shallow tank where multitudes of humans came and touched him when he was near the perimeter.  At these times he heard distinctly individuals speaking words both to him and to each other in a variety of emotions.  It was during this time that he began to see how varied were the possible emotional responses of these creatures, and how easily these responses could be changed by apparently trivial circumstances.  

            None of the other captive dolphins liked being in the small tank among the humans.   But to Lirias it became an anticipated pleasure.  He disliked the unexpected poking and pinching; but the novelty of seeing these creatures’ behavior and the opportunity to hear words and emotions that he would never see in his training or performances amply compensated.

            But even so much intellectual stimulation was not enough eventually to prevent a despondency from growing and accumulating, until the malaise had poisoned his mind and heart even against so much that was positive and inspiring.   Late in the third year of his captivity he passed from despondency to despair to anticipating suicide.  Other captive dolphins had killed themselves, as his companions had told him.  As they had also told him that from their own prison no dolphin had ever been released unless it had become too old or incapable of performing.  

            One morning of a brilliant clear summer day Lirias propelled himself at extreme speed across the longest diameter of the tank and crashed his skull into the wall, at the last instant moving his beak downward and slightly left so the impact would be as much as possible to his brain.  

            Unfortunately, as he ever afterward believed, he did not die.  The trainer quickly found him floating, apparently lifeless but still breathing, and the doctor moved him to a shallow tank where they could examine and then treat him.  He regained clarity that evening.  By the next day his examiners had concluded that he had merely fractured his skull but had otherwise done no damage to the brain.  

            It was another two days before these examiners realized he had blinded his right eye by damaging the nerve endings that connected it to the brain.  Lirias of course knew this immediately.  He had also discovered that same day something his examiners would never know:  that he had severely damaged that part of his neo-cortex which operated his ultra-high seeker functioning, which gives all dolphins the transcendent ability to send out and receive the finest pulsebeats of sonar, whose subtle echoes reassemble to their mind’s eye in pictures, even in darkest night, letting them not only hear what they are scanning, but also see it, as with their eyes any dolphin sees objects in daylight.

            A week later Lirias’ human captors realized his disfunction and released him to great Oceanus, his old home.  Within a second week he had found his daughter Nania and his former colony.   But he found none of his former life as a Guardian, for the damage to his ultra-seeker function made it impossible to perform many of the basic Guardian functions, many even of the basic dolphin functions, since no longer could he see with his ultras anything in his mind’s eye, nor could he store in his memory any of such data that the Guardians constantly exchanged and compared and discussed among themselves.

            In this crippled condition Lirias in time created a solitary life for himself, spending little time with the colony and seeming only to enjoy the company of Nania.   But even her company he would not permit when he thought her moved by pity.  Eventually he developed a predictable routine, and even he perceived the irony of it.  

            He sought out humans, in groups or alone, near piers, in boats, in certain safe beaches, and he attempted to interact with them in more and more imaginative ways.  For that curiosity he’d developed in captivity seemed to be all that was left for him.  He listened to and recorded in memory and analyzed their words.  He watched their behavior with each other, and when he could, he stimulated their behavior, and the more extreme their reaction, the more he enjoyed it.  



I still possess memories of ancient ice ages and even older ages of warm iceless seas when strangest creatures swam those old oceans and gigantic land beasts and even humanoid creatures walked on those shores.  All those are extinct now and only I remember them.  So you can understand why and how little I regard the arising and the passing of any new species; how even less am I am able to see great significance in any single events that transpire in my oceans, and even less regarding any individuals.  

            But the power object that was the cause of this mystery changed those evaluations.  I knew that its power was much more than these dolphins suspected, and that it was probably not finished expressing itself, though they believed it had.  It seemed monumental events were unfolding here in my oceans, of a kind only seen once in long eons of time.  Lirias and Nania I had paid some special attention to in the past because of Nania’s exemplary visionary talents.  And now that they’d become so intimately associated with the radiant jewel and its mysterious carrier I studied them even more closely.  

More days swimming, feeding and talking basic forms, and I could see this dolphin-not-dolphin began to enjoy a comfort with his body, and with Nania, and with his sheltering cove of ocean.   Even though Nania reminded him constantly that the great ocean beyond their protective cove was of supreme power and unforgiving of incompetence, and that soon she would take him into it, and they would exist there.   Whenever she mentioned this he thought not of big waves or great depths or the myriad unknown, but only of the fear that still haunted him.

            “Sharks there?” he voiced in basic form, the morning she prepared him to go exploring with her.

            “Yes, sharks.  But no danger, when any dolphin’s with you.”  So yes, he trusted her, but fear lingered.  

            Koa and Rimi entered the cove on a morning darkly overcast and greeted Nania, but no more was spoken.  They all simply turned, their mystery at the center of them, and they swam out the covemouth and into the formidable rolling endlessness of my oceans. 

            These four progressed slowly, dorsals cutting water, in the direction the tide moved, so that they swam up the backs of waves and were pushed forward into the troughs.  Even so, often when the neophyte breathed he drew in water with air; though his panic-reflex eventually diminished when he realized that even then, instinctively, an inner flap of blowhole closed to prevent a deeper, accidental intake of water into lungs:  then sprayed the unwanted water out.  

            Still he struggled, ever mindful of big waves, especially in the troughs between them.  He must breathe in the rhythm wherein the others breathed, must keep their pace, even as he felt his muscles tiring.  But they continued on, in silence, not wanting to distract him from his concentration.   Occasionally he heard the seeker-rays of one or another, he knew not which, probing the waters ahead, all of it a mystery to him.

            When aching in his flukes was more than he thought he could endure, they seemed to know it and halted.  Then he settled two meters below the surface-shine exactly as they did, and let his flukes hang, grateful for rest. The ache eased from his muscles; at their shallow depth their water merely pulsed ahead with a gentle motion and then relaxed as waves passed and passed again over them.  At rest their breathing all seemed to slow automatically, consuming and exhaling minimal air.            

Nania singwaved to him, “Remember breath-leaps I showed you?”   He did; it had been a game he’d enjoyed.  “We’ll swim again, deeper than before.  Then for air we’ll breath-leap.  Above wave crests.  Easier for you.  Understand?”   He thought he did.

When they resumed, his first attempts were not forceful enough and he breathed not clear of the ocean spray.  Then they had to stop while he blew out water and quieted his alarm, before they swam again.   Or he was leaping too high; and so had to struggle, watching the others move ahead of him.  

            But soon he coordinated all that was expected and he maintained his position and speed among them underwater and at the peak of his breath-leap.  Soon they were swimming faster than before and his effort was less, and there was only a faint throb in his muscles.  As the creature adapted and his consciousness became more like a dolphin’s, I began to hear his thoughts and feel his emotions.  Today as they all swam on, I perceived in him an excitement, a thrill that arose in him, each time they all five leaped together:   the amazement of the moment, here in the ocean among them, swimming like them, alongside them, as if he were truly one of them.  Wonder of wonders.

            The third time they stopped to rest, he heard an unusual sound just ahead—barely audible in the distance.  Koa clicked seeker-rays in that direction:  seconds later the echoes returned, softened by what the rays had- encountered. 

            “What’s that?” he asked her.

            “Food,” she answered.  “Anchovies ahead.  You hear my seeker-rays bouncing off them.”

            Minutes more he saw them, as they neared a dark cloud glittering in the sun-water, he felt the dolphins around him perceptibly increase speed.  Suddenly they were upon the flashing mass of anchovies near the surface, all these tiny fish panicking and desperate to escape; though no escape was possible, since so many dolphins circled their perimeter, keeping all these millions of milling mealfish in a compacted swarm a whale-length in diameter.

            As he stared, amazed, Nania next to him singwaved, “These I won’t feed you.   You catch yourself.  Watch.  Do as we do.”

            “Alive?” he responded, confused.

            “And better,” she voiced.  Nania then wheeled away and darted at the massing million mealfish.

            He witnessed dolphins one by one surging into the anchovy mass with open mouths, while other dolphins continued circling, compacting the herd.  Nania had disappeared inside; moments later she reappeared and returned to settle beside him.

            “You now,” she whistled.

            Escaping anchovies darted continually in front of his eyes, until his hunger suddenly commanded him.  He closed his eyes and hurled himself openmouth into the frenzied ball of mealfish:   anchovies massed against his face, several squirming in his mouth and throat.  Without thought, throat muscles flexed and mashed the anchovies: instantly stopped all fish squirming in his throat.  Delicious salty juices flooded his taste buds, noticeably more savory than the dead fish he’d eaten in the cove.  The rich juices slid into his stomach.

            He fed again.  And again.   Savoring each mouthful.  Realizing each time also the sudden new power in his flukes that raced him into these anchovies, that kept him beside the other sleek, beautiful dolphins.  Thrilling.   He was one of them.  Wonder of wonders.

Later that morning as the five dolphins swam leisurely a few miles from the still visible shoreline, a tall-masted sailboat came upon them plowing seaward, tacking, unhurried.   The others swam immediately in constant leaps toward the boat’s bow-wave to ride it, though Nania singwaved that he must stay beside her and watch only.  As the sailboat passed he saw a bearded man on deck hauling in rope, smiling down at them, sun-tanned.     

Omnipresent and invisible, I had been watching the mysterious creature intently.    I had become more and more confident of my suspicions about his origin, and I had been waiting for just such a circumstance to present itself, as this one had today with the appearance of the sailboat and one of The Children being noticed by our pseudo-dolphin.  When the sailboat came near them I synchronized my awareness with his and I sensed in the memory cells of his brain a sudden energy vibrating.  I heard a thought flash in his mind:   A man!  From my world!    

            So my suspicion was confirmed, for I had been certain from the start that the power object was a transforming agent and that only one class of creature on Oceanus could reasonably survive such a transformation, and benefit from it.

            His excitement overflowed into basic forms that he voiced to his companions.   “I know that!  That one in the boat!  Who I am!   My world!”

            Excited herself, Koa faced him beak to beak.  “That one we call a human.  You say you’re one?”

            “Yes!  What I was!   Like that one!  My world!”

            Koa made a little leap of joy; then spoke to Rimi and Nania. “Beyond amazing!   You see?—he’s human, transformed, of some second- or third-order miracle.  Not a spirit-transmorph as someone suspected.  Or mythical being trapped in time-transformation.  But human!  Here, swimming with us!  Speaking!   Surely this means we’re right to hide him.”   Then Koa spoke to him.  “Tell everything!  What more’s awakened in your memory?”

            But there was nothing more, and he could only answer, “Nothing.  I know there’s more.  I try to see more—but see nothing.”  For a long silence no one spoke in the dawning of this wonder; until again he finally voiced, “But why now am I dolphin?  Why?”

            Koa finally answered, “The power inside you.  Yet not something we understand.  Though all wish to know.  I can only witness.  And be amazed like you.”

            To this one entrapped she added, “So we penetrate your mystery.  A little.  Some doubt, but not I.  We’ll discover the what, how, why of you yet.”


The newest dolphin awoke the next morning and the others were gone; though I, now more fascinated with this creature than ever, was also present, though unknown of course to all of them.  Lirias alone rested in sun-water in their cove, looking at him, lightwebs wavering across his body.  “Ready to journey?”  

            Considering, this novice traveler rose for breath, his blowhole only emerging into air.  He breathed, then resettled.  He thought to ask where, but it was all the same, a great unknown, and he would trust this father of Nania too, as he’d trusted all of them.  “Yes, ready.”

            Lirias moved slowly past him, brushing his flank against the transformation’s beak as if to turn him in the direction he himself swam.  Thus, this student followed his teacher, who moved ahead a meter beneath the surface, allowing the marvel to come alongside.   “We go where the current takes us,” Lirias voiced pleasantly.  “I’d know more about you.  But who knows about you?  Not even you.   I’ll teach you some things.  Help you speak faster.  Beyond basic.  You’ll use full singwave.  Then talk expands.  Already you swim better.”

            The speech of Lirias was slower than the others’ had been, more precise, methodical.   Lirias seemed to have great patience, and already to perceive his student’s lurking doubts and fears, and to be confident of pacifying them.  The student relaxed and warmed to his mentor.

            “Swimming’s all I do.  Yes, better.   I understand your talk better.   Not fast talk, but talk we make now.”

            “You remember being human?”

            “No more than that.  Why can I not remember?”

            “No one yet knows.  But will.   Recall your transformation?  How the power entered you?”

            “No.   Something terrible.  Made me this.   The thing in me caused that?”

            “Certain.  But its origin no one knows.  Though all want to know.  And will.   Now let’s rest.  There in that light.”

            They were upon it before he saw it, a passing shaft of sunlight penetrating a rare gap in the cloud cover and penetrating ocean as well, revealing in the two hundred meter wide brightness of its column a glittering school of salmon swimming shoreward, already the foremost of them disappearing into the gloom beyond this sudden bolt of sunlight in ocean.  

            Both halted in the light, several body-lengths below the surface.  Lirias faced him, lightwebs flickering over their bodies.  “I’ll probe the object in you.  No harm to you.  I have suspicions.”  Before the transformation could consider this, he heard but did not feel high-frequency seeker-rays projecting into him, a fine steady hum.  These stopped.  Then another projection, this one the sound of static electricity, each burst ending with several pops that startled him.   “Nothing to fear,” Lirias repeated; then transmitted another lower frequency that whined louder, but again stopped.

             Lirias saw his subject anxious, and soothed him.  “Enough, we’ll keep swimming.  Nothing gives what I want.  Something else may, perhaps.”

            They swam away and passed beyond their illuminated ocean and into the cloud-covered sea that had been all he’d known since his transformation.  He heard Lirias continually clicking ahead and below.   Rare times an echo returned to them, slightly modified:  a meaning for Lirias, none for him.  

            They swam, and halted, and swam again.  Until Lirias’ clicking returned a hollow echo that caused him to slow; though Lirias resumed speed a moment later, his innocent companion beside him resuming speed as well.  Within two hundred more meters Lirias halted them again, but still remained in swim-position.  He seemed waiting.  Both saw a bed of kelp stalks suspending several meters below the surface and drifting toward them with the current.  As the kelp passed nearby, the naïve one saw three thin sierra mackeral dart from their hiding and away from the dolphins.  

            Watching them flee, he did not see the large shadow, shark-shape, approaching twenty meters distant and rising out of darker water below them, its crescent tail sweeping side to side.  Lirias, seemingly unconcerned, looked to his unaware companion and singwaved, “Brave one—look this way.  A curious visitor comes.”

            He looked.  Alarm spread from his stomach into his chest even before he was sure what he was seeing.   When he did see he froze, terrified:   stared at the menace that now exposed sinister razors of teeth, whipping its tail faster the closer it came, until the still-not-dolphin, terror now overwhelming him in body and mind, knew he could not escape before the savage beast had him.  His consciousness had by now fractured and lost all focus, and he saw only one immense impending, chaotic doom about to crush him.  Hardly had he enough awareness to realize something of equally disastrous import, that the object in his chest had suddenly accelerated pulsebeat frantically, wildly.

            Of course Lirias, who watched both shark and victim with intense awareness, saw it all otherwise and simultaneously.  When the onrushing shark was three meters from his target, Lirias directed his own high-frequency stun-ray at the tiny nasal brain of the shark:   which instantly countermanded the shark’s instinctive circuitry, shutting it down.  The shark’s eyes clouded, its crescent tail stopped pumping, and it sank without power or consciousness into the dark depths from which it had risen.

            A second later Lirias transmitted the same mid-frequency octave/counter-octave Koa had shown him into the miracle dolphin’s chest and, just as Koa had done, Lirias by that act immediatley neutralized the wildly augmenting power, diminishing it until it seemed again lifeless.  Even so, the carrier dolphin remained shaken and unable to speak.  

            Lirias slipped his own beak beneath the other’s flipper and pushed him toward the surface, a few meters above them.   The victim’s body knew to breathe only by a conscious effort, which seemed suddenly slipping beyond him.  Then he submerged, without willing it.  Lirias thumped him, flank against flank.  

            Struggling to keep hold of consciousness, he looked at Lirias, but could only speak the feeblest words of his terror.  “The shark.  The thing in me.  Again.”

            Lirias remained facing him, maintaining with a slight effort of flippers and flukes.  “Slowly.   Breathe easy.  You’re safe.  I protect you.  Breathe again.”  And the afflicted rose as directed, this time powering himself into a breath-leap, then re-submerged to face again this one who’d saved his life twice in one terrible moment.

            The human-dolpin struggled to speak, and for a moment he could not; yet when he did his speech flowed more generously, more fluently than before.   “What happened?  Why?  You said the thing in me died.”

            “No,” Lirias corrected him.  “It wasn’t said that.  Others.   I hoped it had not.  Yes, still potent, perhaps fully.  But—you see how safe now you are—how easily I control it.”

            “Not if I’m alone.”

            “You’ll never be alone.  We’ll not allow harm to you—by this power, or by sharks.”

            “No—make the thing die again.”

            “Impossible, I believe.  Has life, greater than anything we know.  I’m certain now—its life the same as yours—if it dies, you die.  But this also—you live as it lives, and that may be in time something astonishing all.”

            This was Lirias’ singular genius:  he could see beyond the outer margins of what others saw.  And he dared what few others would.  That genius could lead him to danger, even great danger, but it could also lead him to knowledge inaccessible, even forbidden to others.   And so it had this moment, and this dangerous knowledge was now mine as well.  

            Lirias voiced again.  “Now come, we swim back to our cove.  You need rest.  I’ll watch over you.  Always.”   

            They swam in silence some minutes side by side, the anxious one glancing continually for danger.  Till Lirias singwaved, “You whistle-talk better.  Power awakening gave birth to basic.  This new event’s again enriched it.  You begin to singwave.  You see how easily we talk now?”

            But his mind and heart were focused only on this—“I want it to stop.”

            “Fool’s wish—stopping great power, once you’ve gripped it, or been gripped.   Quiet your fear, I’ll help you learn it.   This foremost:  no one else must know the power’s re-awakened.  Not even Nania.  This for your good.”

            This extremely surprised him.  “Why?”

            “Others fear the power, as you fear it.  Recall—they’d abandon you as outcast.  No proper end for you, amazing one.  But fear it not.  I’ll control it.  In time I’ll tell everyone.  But not now.”


Three days later while he waited for Nania and the learning-to-be-dolphin to meet him, Lirias meandered alone along a coast of rocky cliffs.  Clouds from deep sea massed darkly overhead and threatened heavy rain.  All those within ocean sensed it coming.  Where he passed in much diminished sun-water he saw a cloud of white and gold-backed kingfish abandoning deeper seas to search for seclusion from the agitated ocean.  This bright cloud of thousands swerved near him, then away, flashing like precious metal.  Large schools of gray herring crowded for safety near the few shallow beaches he passed. 

                Beyond those and again among rocky shores, he heard a sound he knew well.  Humans diving.  Lirias found two of them nearby, in black skin for underwater, yellow tanks on their backs, how-they-breathe in their mouths; confidently pulling abalone off a rock face with a metal pry, oblivious of him.

            He approached them within a body-length; they turned and saw him hovering.   One diver looked and held up a captured abalone.  Two others hung in the net at his belt.  He raised the second hand and beckoned the dolphin closer.  Lirias descended.  He let the soft hand touch his beak; but he quickly slid past it, that he might bump the net of abalone, jostling shells.  Awkwardly the diver turned, eyes through the oval window startled, puzzled, the hand holding the abalone gone limp and drifting at his side.  Lirias eased behind him, then adeptly nipped the abalone from his limp, forgotten hand and swam away.  He, the thief, resettled, flukes down, still near the divers, showing them the shellfish in his teeth.  

            Their hands waved wildly as tiny bubbles flew from their mouths in spurts.   They moved toward him.  Lirias let the abalone slip away and fall to the sand below him.  Both divers propelled toward it, while Lirias swam to the rock face and removed easily another abalone with a jerk of his teeth.  He then swam back to the divers, and dropped his abalone high over them:   it clanged against one diver’s tank, and fell to the sand below them.  

            Startled again the divers looked above and saw Lirias, who now declined toward them.  Four arms and hands jerked and gestured at him.  He heard little squeaks of words, meaningless to anyone.  Lirias very much enjoyed all of it.  

            However, a sudden pulsing in the water distracted Lirias from his enjoyment.   He turned to look, and saw what he’d expected:  a covey of mantra ray, more than a hundred, a vast flying carpet gliding over sand and rock in a wave of overlapping, undulating wings, so many, many steely dark eyes at the vanguard wedges of bodies.  One flank of this covey of fliers glided within five meters of Lirias and the divers, as all these myriad rays slipstreamed around them, hundreds of gray wingtips undulating past and away.  

            As these manta rays passed, the divers retreated to the rockface, ready to climb out.  Lirias had no fear of the rays and might even see them as a passing beauty; but he had no time:  for an exotic voice spoke to him, the speaker unseen and unsuspected, though thoroughly known.  

            The voice distressed him, for though it was as delicate and cheering as the flight of manta rays, it was one to fear, capable of infinite modulation and mood and torment.

            As the last mantas disappeared, Lirias saw the dolphin Talella gliding toward him out of their wake.  She saw Lirias as if she’d expected him, and she propelled away from her manta escorts and settled beside him.  “I’ve searched for you.  Two days.   I sensed you needing me.”

            Astonished to see her, he breath-leaped to compose himself, to prepare for her.  But she knew him too well, and before he could speak she singwaved, “Why distrust me?   I always help you. My loyalty’s proven, I mothered Nania when both you and mother had vanished.”

            Lirias settled again, now facing her.   She would not get him so cheaply.  “That was not mothering.  You only made her visionary.”

            Talella tossed her beak.  “No, you made her that, father.  She was born that.  I only helped her seize it.  Why still worry?  She stopped needing me.  Rarely I see her.  Were it not so.”

            Then he saw her purpose more clearly—trying to divert him.   He singwaved, “Say your purpose.  Looking for me, you say.”

            She circled him twice, nearer the second time, trilling a singsong that meant nothing, playing with him before answering.  “I visioned you.  Needing me.   So I came.”

            He hardly believed it.  He glanced to see the divers, now that the mantas had passed, climbing down off the rock face and kicking slowly to the abandoned abalone, a whale-body away from the dolphins.  Lirias looked at Talella; he knew to hold his attention firmly on her.  “I last saw you a year ago, more.  Why come to me today?   You hide something.”

            She too glanced to the divers, but voiced to him, “These clumsy creatures still charm you.  You waste yourself.   You might be something greater.”

            He singwaved, “Your second?  Never.   Nania has true gifts, she admired you, still she won’t be your second.  You can’t deceive me.”

            Talella settled in swim position facing him.  “I tell you, Nania will leave your colony.  Whatever she now believes.  She’s had too much voyaging.  She loves the shadow world.”

            He would like to disbelieve; but he’d too long feared it to be true, exactly what Talella now warned.  But then again he knew it, her trick:  that Talella spoke of Nania only to divert him.  He must re-remember his intent, and he voiced, “Why come here?”

            She eased perceptibly away from him, but singwaved confidently, “To help you.   Tell me how.  Something troubles you.  Something new.  You lack allies, always have.  So confide in me.”

            In horror he realized:  she seemed to know what he thought he alone knew—an exotic power was in his custody.   

            Hardly possible.  Yet at least seemed so close to knowing it that one next word, one movement of his, one reckless thought, would link whole the fragments she’d somehow already perceived.    But knows…how? 

             He breath-leaped again to calm the dizziness that fluttered through his brain, then resubmerged singwaving, “Yes, I have worries, but can’t share them.  I thank your concern.”  He wanted to swim away from her, immediately.  He knew he could keep nothing from her if she wanted it enough, if she probed enough.

            She saw him fearful, wanting to withdraw from her.  It caused her no worry; there was time.  There was Nania.   Her voice became less insistent; became even friendly.  Other subjects would be more agreeable.  “We might still be friends.  I tried to heal you.  Tried.   You thought I betrayed you.” 

            Gratefully he saw she would not entangle him worse, that now he could leave.   He let his flukes hang.  “That’s forgotten, it’s no matter now.”  But a moment of rancor remained in him, yearning for expression.  He allowed it.  “Though it comforts me much these days not to need your power anymore.”  He turned from her and propelled away:  sensing suddenly, but too late, that he’d spoken exactly what he should not have. 

              Talella watched him go.  So you have found something else, poor Lirias, to heal and comfort you.  I like that.  For both of us. 


            Lirias swam away from her through the rising pre-storm swells as if phantoms pursued him.  He swam miles before he dared singwave in the direction he knew his daughter to be approaching.  “Nania, identify, but wait at the cove.”  After his third repetition of the signal, he heard her reply.  “It’s Nania, I wait.”

            Though it was still twilight when Lirias arrived, the thunderheads massing there had cloaked air and ocean all in darkness.  Their new dolphin was beside her, acutely alert listening to Lirias’ energetic singwave, though he understood little of it.   Fortunately:  for it was fearful news.  

            Inside the cove waves heaved and slapped against the rock.  Lirias began a slow aimless circling of the cove.  Nania caught up and swam beside him, their orphan following now between them. 

            Lirias must tell her all.  “Foremost, I must share my secret with you.  The power in our mysterious dolphin I’ve reawakened.  And—controlled it, kept it steady.  By octave/counter-octave.”  Even this much alarmed her, and she knew there would be more.   She shuddered.  He finished.  “And this—I know, the power can heal my eyes, my ultra-seekers.”  For a moment she didn’t understand.  Then a flush of joy arose in her and dispersed the mistrusting that would dominate her; but the joy could not displace all of it.  

            Yet neither could she savor her joy nor battle mistrust, for the next moment Nania sensed in her father’s agitation Talella’s recent presence.  Nania burst out with it.  “Talella!  You saw her!”   

            “Yes, Talella.  Moments ago, where you and I were to meet.  She knows—not everything, but more than she should.  How?  Somehow she knows about him, his power.  I know she’d take him from us, if she could find a way.”

            “Not take him from the colony,” Nania voiced, as she clicked seeker-rays ahead.   “But too harsh.  She’d want to feel the power, try to use it—but no, wouldn’t steal it.”   

            “Disbelieve that, Nania,” he singwaved with greater energy.  “Vlorio we may talk to.  Talella waits for no one, nothing restrains her.  You still admire her—she never confused me like that.   You forgive her.”

            “Not now, not after she deceived Vlorio.  I’d voyage with her.  Though not to my source.  I’ll always owe her—she showed me my utmost gift.”

               “Our helpless dolphin you don’t owe her.   She must not have him.”

               Nania spoke to him her own deeper perception.  “She needs no force.  She’ll trick you, make you give him to her.”

            “No, I’ve seen her do that.  I’d resist.   But she’s danger.  You must take him away—you, take Rimi, go with Koa to Gringal.  I’ll stay and misdirect her.”

            “I’ll do it,” she answered, “but you’re too cautious.  Still too angry with her.”

            Perhaps he was.   It would make him all the more vigilant.


            This was another something that linked me to Lirias.  It was an imperfection, a flaw ingrained in both of us, for a similar mistake in judgment.  As you know from his encounter with Talella, he well knew the malevolent side of Talella because he had long ago been seduced by it and had colluded with it when he believed it was to his advantage.  It was almost inevitable.  And he was still entangled with her.  Nania’s mother Chloria had recognized her daughter’s visionary gifts and had modestly nurtured them, but she was no visionary herself and her teaching was limited and would never fully develop her skills.  When she and Lirias had been captured, Talella for years intervened, mothered Nania, made her her apprentice and fully developed Nania’s prodigious talents.  When Lirias returned from captivity, he was too acutely aware of the debt he owed to Talella; he abased himself, became seduced, and for a time he too even apprenticed with her, until the moment aforesaid, when Talella betrayed their honored guardian Vlorio, Voice of the colony, and both father and daughter denounced their bondage.  Though, as you see, Talella still tried to charm them, and even sometimes briefly succeeded, as you witnessed in Nania’s few kind words just now about her former teacher.

            The similar imperfection, the flaw that haunts me is of such an ancient origin that I barely remember that origin.  Early in those most ancient of days, I too was seduced and mated with an Immortal whose malevolence I was too freshly born to comprehend.  I was one of the newest Immortals.  I believed nothing could harm me and I had limitless knowledge and power, for I had been given the ability to create Visionaries of ocean’s higher beings, dolphins and whales.  Mating with that malevolent Immortal, who would one day be known as the eater of her children, I fathered a daughter who would one day surpass her mother in malice and cruelty.  I named her myself:  Lamia.

            That daughter would also have the power to create Visionaries of ocean’s mortals.   In the beginning I was proud of that.   And in my pride could not foresee that the malevolence of the mother would dominate the soul of the daughter; that all those visionaries of her making would become indifferent to the evolution of the oceans’ mortals that it was my purpose to develop and foster.  Or they would become worse, would work to undermine the harmony and prosperity of dolphins and whales, who were the highest evolutionary achievement of my oceanic stewardship.  

            My daughter Lamia, like her father, is omnipresent and invisible, but unlike her father, she acknowledges no higher authority than herself, neither Oceanus nor the greater overlords.  She exists only to accumulate power for herself alone, that she may dominate all other beings.  She is the imperfection, the flaw of creation that I must strive to overcome:  forever, apparently.  Talella is Lamia’s supreme achievement.