Puerto Rico, Space Island
From her fight their conversation went through dolphins to more personal subjects. When the afternoon neared evening she asked him to give her his hand. It took only a moment for her to send his body a command to heal itself of sunburn damage. Then she let go of his hand.
"There. Sunburn taken care of."
He rotated his shoulder blades. "I don’t feel anything."
"I caught it before it got bad enough for you to feel it. Not that you would have felt much. I long ago boosted your body’s self-healing abilities."
"You did? Hmm. Is that why I didn’t get a cold last year when that Asian variety was going around?"
"Yeah. Hit your On button. It’s time we visited the dolphins."
As they turned their go-boards in her brother sniffed the air. "How are the hot-dogs here?"
A silver-sided catering truck had driven down-island while they were on the water.
"Pretty good. Gourmet dogs."
"I’m starving. We got time to eat?"
"Just a snack. Save your appetite for when we get back to the hotel."
A "snack" turned out to be four hot-dogs for each of them loaded with condiments, chili and cheese for him, mustard and relish for her. Neither of them thought it strange to classify this amount of food as a snack.
Prinny certainly did. She ran across the beach and jerked to a halt in front of Sylvia, restraining herself from giving the monster a hug.
"Oh, are you all right? Did they hurt you? Why didn’t they let you out of jail sooner? Oh, you’ll spoil your appetite for dinner at our house!"
Laughing, Sylvia said, "I’m not hurt even one little bit." She gathered Prinny into her arms and they exchanged vigorous hugs.
"I stayed in to take care of a woman who was hurt. And this will not hurt my appetite. But I can’t accept an invitation from you, not now I’ve been in a bar-room brawl. Your parents would be upset to have such a bad example for you and your brother at their table."
"Oh, no, they wouldn’t." She drew a cell-phone from a side-pocket of her jeans, then stopped as she realized that Sylvia was not alone. She looked up the considerable height between her short figure to Rickie’s tall one. Her eyes widened at the sight of his muscular body, the definition of his muscles not hidden by the wet Miami Police Academy tee that he wore.
Sylvia introduced the two of them and they shook hands. Then Prinny called her home. Shortly she was in rapid-fire defense of Sylvia, which did not get far before she handed her cell to the shapechanger.
"If I heard my daughter correctly you’re afraid we’ll be ashamed to have you for dinner. Let me tell you, we will be very annoyed if you avoid dinner for this reason. Now, you come over here right away."
Sylvia laughed. "OK. OK. But we can’t be there right away. I have to introduce my brother to the dolphins."
"Your brother is here? Then you definitely must come over. Or I’ll have to be very severe with you the next time I see you. We’ll wait till 8:00 and anyone here who’s starving can just have carrot snacks."
Sylvia agreed to try to be there at 8:00, but said, "The dolphins may delay us. If so, start at 8:00 and we’ll call as soon as we can and re-schedule. And — thank you so much."
She handed the cell back to Prinny who put it to her ear.
"Aww. Do I have to? I wanted to introduce them to Miranda. Oh! Yes! I’d love that!"
Prinny closed and pocketed the cell.
"I’m going to help fix dinner. Now you be sure to come tonight." She shook her finger at Sylvia, laughed, and dashed to get her bike.
The Connellys finished their food, discarded their trash in a trash barrel, and walked south for a hundred feet or so to the edge of the dolphin rest area.
They waded into the water but before she donned her mask and snorkel she spoke in a low voice.
"I’m going to hide my ‘quipment and change. Don’t freak, OK?"
He grinned at her and answered in a similarly quiet voice.
"Freak? I’m looking forward to it."
Underwater the slanting sun was still high enough to give the shallow water a luminous green shade dappled by dancing highlights and shadows. The choppy surface above them stirred long strands of seaweed into motion. Long banners of greenery waved. Some new-grown strips of coral were close enough to the surface to show as crimson and brick red.
The sea monster extended her esoteric underwater perception. She detected no humans nearby and extended it further. She "saw" first one then three dolphins in the middle distance and extended it still further, to about a mile. That was as far she could see with much detail, though she could detect boats, ships, large boulders, and such several miles away.
Sylvia swam far enough out that even binoculars could not see the short length of the snorkels which were above water. There she removed the snorkel, face mask, and swim fins and let them loose. The snorkel floated to the surface; the fins began a slow descent to the bottom and the denser mask a faster descent.
Sylvia turned to face her brother and gulped in water and more water. A momentary feeling of suffocation was displaced by a feeling of cool fullness as the water flushed remaining air out the gills under her ribs. It felt good enough that if she could have sighed she would have done so.
She pointed a finger at her nose, which had sealed itself, then at her opening and closing mouth as it took in water and forced it further inside her. She then pointed a finger on each hand at the gills. Rickie nodded his head in understanding and gave her a thumbs-up sign.
Lastly she extruded the fangs in her mouth and the claws on hands and feet, then grew swim webs between the claws. Now completely in her shallow-water seaform she snatched the snorkel from the surface, upended her body in one sinuous movement, and dove.
On the way to the bottom she snagged the slowly sinking swim fins and picked up the mask from the bottom. A few yards away was the heavy boulder toward which she had been aiming. Reaching it she grasped an edge with one hand, planted her feet on a firm part of the sea bottom, and lifted the edge up enough to hide her equipment.
Her brother had followed her down a dozen feet or so and watched. He began to return to the surface when he saw her arrowing upward. She let him extend his snorkel above the surface and begin breathing again. Then she began swimming further into the dolphin retreat, slowly enough that he could keep pace with her.
After a few minutes the monster’s dolphin speech box had completed growing. Sylvia began calling all dolphins in to a conference. She heard several return her call then began to relay the call outward. Then further outward still.
The rendezvous point was a concrete block with a flat top just a foot or two beneath the water at mid-tide. Miranda used it to watch happenings on or above the water, such as clouds and birds and people who swam or surfed nearby. She also sunned herself.
Sylvia did not understand this last. Dolphins lived submerged most of the time. They did not have pigment that could darken to protect deeper tissues from the sun, and their skin was damaged if it dried out very much. But younger dolphins all seemed to need or at least enjoy sunning themselves, as Miranda did now.
The young dolphin’s sonar detected their approach from perhaps a hundred feet away. Moments later the sea monster heard the muffled underwater sound of a splash as the young dolphin flexed her body and did a near somersault up off the concrete block to dive into deeper water.
"Shark Eater! You’re back! I missed you!" Miranda said in dolphinese as she neared them in a rush. At about twenty feet away she suddenly halted. As did Rickie.
Sylvia slowed, stopped, and twisted back toward her brother, just in time to see the two of them fall in love at the first sight of the other — or at first sonar ping in the case of Miranda.
It was easy to understand for Rickie. He had always loved animals and it was his greatest regret that their mother’s allergies kept them from having pets. Later he had refused to get pets because of his job. He did not want them to be alone while he was on duty, or have them suffer separation from him if he was killed. And Miranda, though twice his size, was still obviously a child and awfully cute.
But what Miranda saw in Rickie — or painted with sonar — Sylvia could not guess. She just knew that the young dolphin did. Her body language gave it away, a sort of shy nervousness, a turning away from him, then back, then away, then back again.
Miranda crept closer, if the way she swam could be called creeping. She angled off to the side, passed Sylvia and then Rickie, who was a few yards back from his sister, and curved back behind Rickie.
Rickie responded by curving off to the side and circling back. For a minute or two they circled a common point between the two of them. It was almost a dance.
The circle became closer until they were face to snout. Cautiously Rickie took a deep breath from his snorkel and submerged completely. He lowered his head and bumped Miranda’s snout with his forehead. She responded with a gentle bump of her own.
Then she flirted away and rose up far enough above the water to breathe. As did Rickie, who rose higher still, until he could look at the young dolphin with his mask off, under the blue sky of late afternoon. She looked back at him from above the surface.
Sylvia approached the two of them. She could not talk with him in her underwater form, but she had briefed him on what she planned to do, in broad outline, and how to behave around Miranda and the other dolphins, including how not to give sexual cues.
She spoke to Miranda in dolphinese.
"Adopted child of my family, this is a body child of my family, RikKikKi." Which was the closest she could come to "Niece, this is my brother Rickie."
"He likes you very much. I believe he would like to adopt you as his niece. But we have business to discuss. I must tell you and your family about the trick I have played on your enemies. Rickie already knows it and will wait on your sunning place while we talk."
"Shark Killer! He is wonderful! I want to adopt him, too!"
"Your family must agree to this. We will talk about that later. Now come to the meeting."
"He is not going away?"
"No. Just to wait on the sunning place. Now go to the meeting place and I will talk to him."
The sea monster could not talk verbally, but she could rise out of the water and give Rickie the OK sign. Then she slapped her chest and pointed down and back to show where she was going, and pointed at him and the sunning place to let him know their agreed-on plan was still in effect.
He replied with an OK sign and a salute before he put his mask back on and swam on toward where he would wait.
The talk with Miranda and the other dolphins took place near another sunning concrete block around which underwater vegetation danced to the eternal music of the surface waves.
It began with Sylvia announcing that the human swimming with her was her brother and under her protection. Normally that would not have been necessary to say, but some dolphins were not happy with humans. It was barely possible that they would harm him and other humans who were strangers to them.
Though not Prinny. She was already an adopted niece of Miranda’s family. Besides, in the weeks before almost every dolphin regular had met her and knew her for a dolphin-friend.
Next Sylvia told them of her fight with the four fishermen. This included some imitation of out-of-the water fighting. Then she told them of biting off the nose of the one man, of which they highly approved. Finally she told them that a great human conference — the closest she could come to court-of-law — would judge her and her fight with the men. That she believed the men would be banished from the island.
This had a greater emotional impact on them than it would have humans. Banishment from the extended family of a dolphin band usually meant death. Dolphins were vulnerable when they slept and depended on awake band members to keep watch for danger.
The younger dolphins of the group were happy and considered matters closed. The older dolphins knew it was not. They thanked Sylvia for her efforts but said, basically, that they would wait and see if matters worked out as she believed they would.
With that the meeting broke up and Sylvia and Miranda raced to "Miranda’s" sunning block where Rickie waited. It took a bit of effort to get the two young ones away from each other.
At 8:00, showered and (in her brother’s case) shaved, the two siblings went to dinner. It was a great success.