“I know what I can see.” Ellison gave a strained laugh. “Dorian . . .”


“How could you stand it?”

She didn’t do it for public relations, Dorian thought. She did it for me! But he didn’t think he could say that to anyone.

By now, he was sure, Zoe must be staring at the same video. She’d see Luce rise, and turn, and look into her eyes.


Red Tide

The brilliant sun, the stunned human faces, the camera’s black glass eye were all fixed on her. Luce’s first impression was that everything in the world was staring straight at her; she cringed, anxiety prickling through her aching body. Swimming hurt so much that she’d surfaced to get a grip on the pain before pushing herself onward again. Then she’d stopped where she was for a second, struck motionless by a sudden insane hope. If she talked to these people on the dock, then could they somehow get a message to her father? At least let him know she was alive?

She didn’t even know where her father was now, though. And starting a conversation with strange humans would only lead to problems. The sunlight on the water was so bright that Luce’s outstretched arms appeared to be sleeved in fire. She shook her body and dived, forcing herself to move faster in spite of the pain.

They’d definitely been pointing that camera at her. Maybe she should feel guilty about that; it was an outrageous violation of the secrecy the mermaids guarded so carefully. But if the government already wanted them dead, well, maybe it was time everyone knew. The humans should know that mermaids were their own daughters, the girls they’d driven away.

Maybe that was what she should have done when she’d seen them filming her.


Tell them the whole story.

Luce kept wearily on. After a while she remembered to sing again, disguising her voice so that it sounded almost like wind. Calling. She couldn’t go quickly at all, and she needed to rise to the surface for air much more frequently than she normally would. The day passed without her covering nearly as much distance as she thought she should have. She found a secluded beach, slept a few hours and ate a little. She didn’t want to risk passing out while she was swimming again. Then she forged on just as dawn was breaking.

Luce felt different than she had for the past few weeks, suddenly awake and aware, her pain sharply defined. The world stared back into her eyes. The coast was wilder again, and Luce began to search for caves, singing her alarm-call all the while. It looked like promising territory.

She was skimming twenty yards below the surface through a green zone thick with seaweed when she saw tiny diving shapes, still very far ahead of her, their arms stretching out as they swam. Luce wanted to hurry to greet them, but the bruises on her stomach throbbed with every flick of her tail. If only she were well, she could have been with them in moments instead of drifting sluggishly forward like this. It looked like they were ducking into a cave, one after the other. Their bodies showed jet black against the gold-green dawn shining down behind them.

A cloud passed, and the water dimmed. The figures only looked blacker than before. Luce paused where she was and watched as a mermaid eddied in place for a moment. Her tail looked too short, Luce thought. Then as Luce watched the tail spread wide, split in two, bent in a way that was much too angular, and kicked what she’d thought were fins . . . The diver vanished. Luce tried to stay calm. Most human divers were harmless, weren’t they?

At that moment mermaid song began to blast and warble through the water, strongly audible even from behind rocky walls. It didn’t begin slowly and seductively. Instead it was harsh, brittle, and panicked, coming from several throats at once. Luce felt the shock of that terrified song racing through her and lashed her tail, trying to reach them. There must be a dozen soldiers in their cave, maybe more, all armed with those guns that shot silver blades. She’d have to do her best to fight, any way she could; she’d send the water crashing against them, batter them unconscious before they could kill . . .

But before she’d gone a dozen yards the songs had turned into screams. Half a dozen screams, more, loud at first then fading toward silence like a loud chord struck on a piano and left to decay.

Then there were only two voices Luce could pick out. Then one. And she was still so far away, still fighting the seizing muscles of her tail, still straining as her heart smacked at her ribs.

That final screaming voice was harsh and furious, and it wouldn’t stop. Luce was getting closer now, curtains of seaweed brushing around her torso. They must have their weapons trained on that screaming mermaid, Luce thought in confusion. Why hadn’t they already shot her? Were they torturing her?

Luce hovered at the mouth of the cave, sick with dread. The rock bent and she couldn’t see what was going on; she huddled back into the seaweed. She was so outnumbered. If she was going to rescue the girl in there she needed to have some kind of plan; anything would be better than a crazed dash into the center of a massacre!

“You better shut up now! Goddamned tail. You think you can just swish your fins at us and we’ll melt? That crap doesn’t work on us. We know too much about you. We know what you do.” It was a man’s voice, buzzing and distorted by some kind of electrical mouthpiece.

The mermaid screamed again, and Luce heard a smack.

“Shut up and answer our questions like a good tail, and maybe we’ll let you swim out of here, okay? But we can’t hear you. You’ll have to write with this. Know how to write?”

The scream had faded to a rhythmic wheeze. At least, Luce thought, they probably weren’t hurting her now, but they’d be ready to shoot her at any second. If Luce rushed in to rescue her she’d probably only guarantee the girl’s death. If she did nothing, though . . .

“I . . . Look, I can write, okay? Just stop . . .”

Luce could taste the seeping blood. She could see red corruption staining the water in long slow curls.

“Stupid tail. Remember we can’t hear you. Look. We’re looking for one of you in particular. This one. You know this one? She was heading this way.”

What was the man talking about? One in particular? Why? Luce froze, her bewilderment darkening into dread.

“A . . . What? A photo? But that looks like . . .” the mermaid began. Her voice was piercing, startled.

Another smack. “What did I tell you about writing?”

There were a few seconds of near silence: just a faint moaning and the surge of the sea around Luce’s ears.

“You haven’t seen her? You sure about that? She’s called Luce. The one we’re looking for. You know Luce?”

There was another silence, this time broken by a few rough sobs. Luce had the feeling the girl had noticed the face of a murdered friend among the dead.

Had the mermaids in that cave died because these men were hunting for her? But why would they care about her at all? She’d thrown their boat into a cliff when those soldiers fired at her back in Alaska, of course, but . . .

How did they know her name?

“What do you mean, you’ve only heard about her? She got away from us up north, killed a few of our guys, and now she’s causing us more trouble. We’re not too happy about that, all right? If you help us find her . . .”

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