Online Publication

Steel Ocean by Amanda Grant

I stared at the green sea and soaked in the view. The waves tossed against the pale blue sky, and the steam stacks of The Orthodox contrasted with the small sails. Perhaps I took this view for granted, as almost no one else went sailing anymore. Fear of the Genetix— products of genetic experimentation placed in the bay by the Sovereign—kept all but the bravest well away from the water.

I focused on The Orthodox, a ship I had practically grown up on. The wind whipping through the clear sky dissipated the steam coming from the Orthodox’s steam stacks, whisking through the small sails on the boat. I strolled below deck, walking into my room. It was a small room, with a bunk in the corner and a green rug covering much of the floor. There was a quilt with my name, “Cari”, embroidered on it, and in the left corner was a pale green pair of wings. The wings were a fabric of sorts, stretched across a wooden frame. Along the spine, exposed gears hinted at the mechanical complexity inside. . There was also a baby “dragon” wrapped up on a shelf near the bed. To most people living in Britlanta, this would be very odd, but for me these things were normal. The baby “dragon” clumsily plopped down from the shelf, and chirped as he rubbed against my leg.

“Hello, Belfrie, my friend!”

I had gotten this little “dragon” a few years ago, much to my mother’s dismay. A small laboratory had experimented on Belfrie, and he had grown wings. This was intentional, but the lab wasn’t satisfied, but instead of him getting killed, I got to keep him – after some creative release from the lab. He couldn’t even breathe fire, though, so I was unsure why people still considered him a dragon.

I grabbed the set of wings, and walked up to the deck, startling my father who was standing near the wheel of the ship. I had interrupted his conversation with his first mate, Score. My father, Captain Mal Thross, had been captain of the Orthodox for 22 years now, and he loved the sea as much as I did.   Sovereign’s experiments dwelling in the ocean, who were mistake after mistake on the government’s part. Though sometimes violent, my father knew their more docile side as well. Mal turned around, his piercing grey eyes slightly widening in surprise.

“Hallo, Cari! Should’ve known it was you! Are you going flyin’? I nodded and walked over to the   mast. “There’s a small island nearby that’s full of coconuts, which are in high demand right now.”

Father turned again to talk to his first mate. The wind picked up, and strands of my sunbleached blonde hair whipped out of my bun. I cinched the wings onto my back, and felt the gears inside spin to life. The technology was known in Britlanta, but not many people used wings. They preferred the airships for travel, even for a short while. I began to climb to the mizzenmast, but overhearing Father’s words to Score stopped me.

“They have dropped yet another trade with the Alsbron mechanics . I am hoping this will give us certain opportunities for a deal with them. You know they need minerals from someone who sails.” Score said excitedly.

My pa just shrugged.

“Well the Alsbrons especially think we are crazy, Cap’n. Earthrunners if I ever saw one. The whole lot of ’em too.”

I shook my head and began to climb again. Trading for materials with people was risky. No one trusted someone who sailed anymore. But the coconuts and minerals we could collect from the islands supported us, and were still needed in Britlanta, even if people didn’t want to admit that.

I made it to the crow’s nest and perched, putting on the gloves attached to the weblike material of my wings. Belfrie flapped at my side, wobbling in the slight wind. I saw the island up ahead as I jumped off the mast. The ship swirled by me as I headed in a beeline for the island. The ocean shimmered, and the island was covered in tropical trees. Each scene was a splash of bright colors that I loved to observe. Belfie was right beside me, enjoying the flight as much as me.. My hair had almost completely fallen out of its bun, and was in a small braid whipping in my face. I smiled. Each time I flew was a new experience, a new thrill. I did a barrel roll, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of metal. I straightened out, but saw nothing in the water. Probably just a trick of the eye, I thought to myself, and as the wind picked up I landed on the island quickly.

I began to look for the telltale signs of fresh water, where I might find minerals in the stones. Britlanta had depleted their minerals and rocks, to some extent, and the surrounding islands had plenty to spare. And if I didn’t find any minerals, I could always grab a few coconuts. I quickly searched, and found a few smaller minerals, but no large ones. Often we would barter with natives, but according to the map I viewed before I left, this island did not have any inhabitants. Heading back closer to the shore I grabbed a few coconuts, and stuffed them in my pack. Back on the shore I climbed onto a large rock, attempting to see where The Orthodox was. I almost gotten to the top of the rock, when a boyish face, with a pair of cautious hazel eyes framed by curly brown hair popped up from behind the rock.

“Ah! Who are – ”

But I never got to finish my sentence as the boy tumbled off the rock, into the ocean. The last thing I saw of him before he fell was his a bronze colored tail.

End Part 1

I stumbled off the rock and ran towards the water. Was he okay?! I looked out onto the calm ocean and saw a splash, slightly to my right. The boy was sitting there, swimming comfortably to the shore. I stomped over, confused and slightly angry he had just startled me like that. He could have died!

“What were you doing up there?! What on the waves is going on with your feet?!” He pulled out of the water onto the sand, and I could now see what he was wearing. It was a mesh-like tail, with plating around it, making it strong. It was painted in shades of orange and red, especially on the wide fin, where his feet would be. It was beautiful.

“What is that?!”

He finally acknowledged me, and turned his attention away from his odd metal tail.“Whoa, one question at a time! First of all, sorry to startle you. To answer your first question my name is Ryax.”

He folded up the bronze tail until it was around the size of a backpack. He slid his damp arm through one of the many straps and the bundle of metal sat on his back comfortably. His clothes were simple breeches and a black shirt, still dripping.

“As for what this handy thing is….well actually you are the first person to see it. It’s a mechanical mermaid tail that I made, meant to help people swim.

“Now it’s my turn for questions. What is your name?”

I look at the little thing on his back, surprised that that could help anyone swim.

“I’m Cari, a collector for the ship The Orthodox.” He nodded. “I use minerals from you guys. And so does my dad.”

“And who might that be?”

“By the waves you’re full of questions Cari! I haven’t even answered your first barrage! My dad is Rhett Alsbron.”

I pale, suddenly very confused. Ryax does look like an Alsbron but He has yet to ramble about sky flight, or the Genetix, unlike most Alsbrons on first meeting. But now I know where he got the skills to make that tail.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, Cari, I came here to get some berries for pigments. Don’t you worry yourself, as you can see, I can swim.” He nodded and walked off, his curls bobbing ever so slightly as he walked.

“That….that…sea sponge!” You know what, it’s fine,” I assure myself. I climb up to the rock again, and I see Ryax, on the edge of the beach, wandering further away from me. I open my wings again, and jump off the rock, headed straight for my ship. I land softly, and Score approaches me.

“We are going to leave right now. Your father is hasty about getting back.”

I’m a bit surprised, typically I go to the island a few times to collect. But soon we are off, headed for Orsin.

We arrived at the docks late that night, and my father and I were quiet as we rode home in our steam carriage. Belfrie stayed asleep much of the ride, and when we got home

My dad and I discussed the trades a bit, but he and I don’t talk a lot, although I considered myself closer with him than my mother She missed me and my father while we were away, and think she wished I had chosen to give up my unusual love for the dangerous ocean and become a lady of finesse like her. Despite our differences, though, I loved her.

The next few days were quiet, but on the third day my mom came to talk to me. Her black hair framed her round face, and she looked tired as she sat next to me on the sofa.

“Cari, would you … consider staying here with me the next few excursions? You know I miss you, and there have been rumors of more Genetix than usual.”

My heart dropped, and I hung my head. Staying with her would mean going to one of her parties, and I couldn’t face their discrimination again. The girls my age would be fawning over men, and turn around to glare at me. There were always disadvantages to being a sailor.

“I’m sorry mom. I really can’t though.”

She nodded. “I suppose it makes sense, especially with the deal with the Alsbrons. Your father needs your help now more than ever.”

I nodded again, not showing my surprise at the deal. I supposed it was made because the Alsbrons did need what we had, but we had never like the Alsbrons because of their love for air flight. They were especially discriminatory. But they did pay well. I felt responsible to help my dad, and it wasn’t like I didn’t care about my mom… I did try to spend time with her.

The next day I was in the market, giving coconuts to my usual vendors. I had just finished visiting my last one, and I was headed to visit a friend for my mom. I turned a corner and ran straight into a boy with curly hair and hazel-green eyes.

“Ryax!? Sorry to run into you”

He smiled. “Hey Cari. It’s alright. Do you live you in Orsin?”

“Yeah I do…” I pause unsure what to say next.

Also… can I ask you how you made that?”

“Can I show you?”

I pause. What am I getting into?! I have to remind myself that he is an Alsbron, and that that he is actually an annoying person. But the science he has… It wouldn’t hurt to see that, right?

“Sure, I don’t have anything else I’m doing today” I say, hesitating.

“Cool, my workshop is right over there. I have all of my ideas stored in there.”

“So, are you a mechanic?”

“Yes but not for air flight like the rest of my family. I love the ocean, and really want to show other people that it isn’t quite as dangerous as perceived. You might understand that, being a sailor an all.”

My perspective of him changed a bit… I didn’t understand him at all the first time we met, but now I think I did.

“I understand that quite a lot, actually.”

We walk a bit further, out behind a hill right near the sea. The famous Alsbron residence was nearby. RIght in front of us was a ramshackle shed.

Ryax gestured to it, almost with pride. “My workshop, Milady”

I walked into Ryax’s workshop, the warm humid air immediately enveloping me. I took a look around, and all I saw was metal of all sorts piled around me. In the corner was a giant tank, almost large enough to fit a person. It was steaming, and I realized why the room was so humid. Ryax simply beamed, and he seemed even more relaxed than before, and his green-gold eyes were sparkling. This place, whatever you called it, seemed to take that edge off Ryax, leaving his inquisitiveness and idealistic views to create mechanics.

“So, what’s the fish tank for?”

For a moment he doesn’t respond, and he reaches under one of the tables, and a stack of blueprints. It is a tail, that is similar to his first one, yet is shades of purple and crimson.

“I need someplace to test if they float, don’t I?” He winked, as if he and I shared something only we know. He placed the fully stretched out tail in the water.

He turned a valve near him and said, “Let’s wait for a minute for that. Something special will happen.”

I look back at the glass, approaching it. I can see the fine mesh at the top, and the hammered thin metal for the elegant fins on the side and end.

“Ryax, it is beautiful!”

He stammered a bit before choking anything out. “You are one of the first people that I can show my work to, honestly. Am I being too outgoing though?

“Ryax, even though we have just met, if you want to show me something, don’t worry.”

I was slight surprised at myself for saying that, but I suppose it was true. I had never met someone my age who didn’t fear the ocean.

“Oh! I was going to show you something else!”

He ran around the cramped workshop, and seemed to blend in with his stuff. He just belonged here. He dove under a table, and shifted some painted metal plates out of the way.

“Hah! I found the blueprints. It is sometimes hard to find things in all of this…creative organization.”

I relaxed a bit, and I saw under Ryax’s interior, especially the one he put on on the island. He was a boy wanting to be understood, and to share. Maybe coming here wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Ryax wiped off a table, and laid out the wrinkled blueprints, right underneath a steamy window. Outside I could see the outline of the Alsbron house, a house I had always looked on with contempt, but perhaps I looked at it a bit differently now.

Ryax dropped something, and my gaze tore from the window. Ryax looked up, his face flushed with embarrassment.

“Sorry, I am such a klutz. Here’s wanted I wanted to show you.” He gestured to the blue prints. “I am calling them Ocea Breathers. I made them for people…who don’t have lungs like mine.”

“Lungs like yours?” My thoughts all of a sudden tumbled into confusion. What was he trying to tell me here?

“Well, when I was about thirteen, my uncle taught me how to swim. My father was very against it, but I loved it. There seemed to be something understanding about the ocean.”

To me it seemed that his eyes seemed to grow just a shade darker, and just a bit more sad while saying this. “I understand what you mean about the ocean, kind of understanding…” I trailed off unsure how respond.

“But I got a disease that hurt my lungs, enough that I struggled to breathe well after the disease passed. I was devastated, because it meant that I couldn’t swim anymore. And so learning from my father, I used my mechanical skills to create a set of mechanical lungs. My uncle helped with the biology part, because he was a surgeon. I added gills, too. If you look close at my neck you can see the small slits.” He tapped his chest, right where his lungs were. “That is how I can swim so well with the tails. But I want others to feel the same way I do. So I made this.”

I opened my mouth a bit, awed by his inspiration. Ryax was different from the rest of his family, and even more, he understood the seas. I studied the blueprints, and was surprised at the intricacy. “Wow. Thank you for showing me this Ryax”

He smiled a small, almost awkward smile. He broke eye contact with me and looked out the window. “Oh sparks, Cari, it’s late. Sorry to ramble, you should probably get home.”

I nod, slightly disappointed, but I head out. He was right.

“Bye Cari! Thank you!” He held my gaze for a minute, his eyes full, and then turned to the tank. Right before I left, I noticed the tail in the tank had changed color; it was now to yellow and green.

End Part 2

I boarded the ship, Belfrie on my shoulder. It had been rough leaving this time. My mother had looked hurt as I hugged her goodbye. The whole crew seemed tense as we boarded the steamer frigate. The words The Orthodox shimmered in red as the sun hit the bow. The red reminded me of the tail that Ryax had shown me. Uhg! He seemed to not ever leave my thoughts now, and it was getting infuriating. He just talked to me because I listened to me, I reminded myself. Then why had he held my gaze like that as I was leaving? It was all too confusing, and so I shoved it aside and helped prepare to leave the port.

My father came to talk to me a bit later, while I was in the map room. The map room had several portholes, and they provided a beautiful view of the ocean. My dad and I both loved it there.

“Cari, I made the deal with the Alsbrons. But now, as our main collector, we need you to work harder at getting minerals and stones to fulfill the trade obligations.”

I nod, unsurprised at much of this.

“Considering that I heard from a fellow sailor that there is a limestone reserve on this island.”

To my surprise, he points to the island I visited a few days ago.

“Why don’t you scout it out and see if it is worth sending more men out to get the stone. It is in a cluster of islands not too far away so we should be there by evening.” He stood up to leave, and I gazed out the portholes again.

Belfrie walked into the map room, looking tired. He hopped up to the table, and began to growl, his head fins flaring. I had no idea what was causing his aggressive behavior. Suddenly something splashed outside in the water. I couldn’t be positive but it looked like a tentacle to me. Odd . . . there typically weren’t Genetixs at the surface, and squids certainly didn’t live in this part of the ocean. I looked outside again, and this time for sure I saw a tentacle. It was followed by a snake-like head, just skimming the surface of the water. What was a leviathan doing on the surface!? They were one of the first experiments, but people rarely see them. I run up the stairs, and onto the poop deck. Mal is sitting there gesturing at the leviathan to Wylie, another sailor.

I turn to look at it as it dives down to the deep. It seems to have no ill will, but it is very odd to see one so close. The tentacles blend with the sea, and soon I lost sight of the Sovereign’s mistake.

“Why is it here?”

“My dad responds with a shrug. “I can’t tell you for sure, but I have my suspicions.”

I was disappointed in his vagueness, and I dwelled on it for much of the day.

Later, I hear a “Land ho!” and I know it is time to fly again. I run to my room, Belfrie following me. I strap on the  , and soon I land on the familiar island. I thump softly in the sand, and fold my wings against my back. I head toward the south side of the island, looking for the telltale traces of limestone. Belfrie flaps above me, keeping a watch for things I can’t see. I find a small ravine, with plenty of limestone for the Alsbrons. I pull out the map and mark it, and headed back the way I came.

As we walk, Belfrie shivered, and he looked nervous. A twig snaps near me and my hand goes to my waist, where I have a small knife. I stay frozen for a moment, but continue walking, my hand still resting on my knife. Dusk had fallen and the sea glowed red under the sunset. I walk onto the shore, and to my left I heard a splash. I froze, and wondered if I was just making things up. Belfrie growled in the back of his throat, and I knew I wasn’t imagining anything. A familiar head pops out of the water, his bronze tail flashing.

“Ryax!”

“Cari! Fancy meeting you here . . . seems to happen quite a bit, doesn’t it?”

“My dad keeps sending me to this island. How come you’re here again?” For just a moment I wonder if he is following me.

“I just really like this island. It was the first I explored on my own, and it is relatively close to Orsin.”

I sudden thought struck me. “Did you swim here!?”

Ryax seemed embarrassed, but answered anyways. “Not today, but sometimes I do. Which reminds me! I uh…have something for you.” He dove under the lapping waves, leaving me very confused. I tried to find where he was, but all I saw was the ocean.

A minute or two later he broke the water, a small grin on his face. His hair and clothes dripped as he sat on the sand. He took off his tail and set it on the beach, instead of on his back like usual. Instead, he took an almost identical tail off his back and shoved it into my hands. “You can try it out if you want. It’s the color changing one I showed you in my workshop. I brought it with me on my boat.”

I gasped and felt my cheeks heat up. I was touched by him wanting to share what he had done with me, but also I was quite nervous to try it.

“Ryax…this is beautiful.”

Sensing my hesitancy Ryax attempted to reassure me. “Don’t worry, I will be right there.”

I nodded, and resolved to at least try it. Ryax handed me the tail, and attempted to show me how to extend it. He placed a hand on mine as we pulled out the last support. I hoped he didn’t notice my blush. He moved his hand and told me to sit down.

“Slide the tail on and kind of push off into the deeper part of the water. I will be right behind you.”

I gasped as the water hit me, but it was actually quite warm. The tail weighed on my legs, but not uncomfortably. The waves pulled me back and forth, and I saw Ryax bobbing near me.

“Cari! Start pushing with your legs. It will take you to a calm spot.”

I got to a deep part, and my tail swished in the water. It propelled me forward, keeping me steady in the water. Ryax splashed to a stop next to me.

“How’s it feeling?”

“I love it!” My hair was dripping, and it had fallen out of its bun, but I loved that too. I felt free in the ocean. I kicked harder, and soon Ryax and were swimming side by side. I had to keep my face above the water, unlike him, but he was patient. The island got further away, and soon was shrouded in evening mists. Ryax and I stopped, treading water with our mechanical tails. My tail flashed yellow and greens in the warmer part of the sea. The sun was close to setting, and the whole ocean seemed to shine. Considering what I was wearing on my legs, this whole scene was very odd, but it to me it was opportunity to see the world in ways I hadn’t.

“Thank you for letting me use this . . . ” It was odd to consider I had met him just a few days ago, given what was happening now.

“Yeah… thank you for trying it out, and earlier listening to me rant about my ideas.” His eyes searched my face, and I noticed his wet eyelashes, dripping salty water. They hid his deep, always changing eyes that matched the ocean perfectly. He looked to see me staring at his eyes and smiled. We leaned ever so close, and I could smell Ryax’s sea spray scent, mixed with a comforting earthy scent. Our lips touched, softly and hesitating, and and I tasted a hint of sea salt. Our tails beat with each other, and the waves lapped lightly against us. We broke off slowly. Ryax spoke first.

“Thank you Cari, for listening when no one else would.”

I nodded, embarrassed a bit. Not many people would even talk to me, let alone kiss me. I reached for his hand, and laced my fingers with his. We dove under the water, not saying a word. It was too soon before we reached the the small island. I picked up my wings that I had left on the shore, along with my grey jacket. My clothes were dripping, but the experience had been worth it.

“Goodbye, Ryax.” I gave his hand a small squeeze, and began to climb the rocks to fly back to my frigate.

“Bye! See you again when you get back to Orsin?”

I nod with a smile, and finish climbing the rocks. I see a small sailboat pulled onto the shore, with Ryax climbing into it With a leap I glide out to my ship, and the wind begins to pick up. Clouds have started to obscure some the sky, making me slightly uneasy. It would not be a calm night .

End Part 3

I was awoken by shouting and rocking much later that night. I threw on a nicer shirt, and ran to chaotic top deck. Rain was pelting, and the ship was going every direction. Belfrie ran at me, his   flared out in fear. He had never enjoyed rain.

Score noticed me, and raised his eyebrows. “You had best be inside, missy! There ain’t much you can do up here.”

Disappointed, I headed down stairs, but I knew Score was right.

I couldn’t sleep with all of the rollicking, so I went into the map room. The portholes showed the kicking waves, now a grim grey color and the sky, the same color as the ocean. I wondered how Ryax was faring with his small sailboat and I began to worry. I chewed my nails and watched, but there was only so much I could do.

I sat for upwards of an hour in the map room, looking out the windows and calming Belfrie. The storm finally calmed down slightly, and I could see Orsin in the distance. We had started to head back to Orsinto get another ship and more men, once I had reported that there was indeed limestone on the island. I went back to staring out of the windows after a cabin boy came to check that everything was functioning below deck. The water continued to churn, although the rain had let up.

Suddenly, without warning our ship lurched to the side slightly, and I could see a smooth back of something out of the porthole.

What was that!?

Our ship righted, and continued as if nothing had really happened, but I had seen the Genetix. It was possibly an Amphi, one of the rarest ones, and a breed that could go on land if needed. I had no idea why there were so many active Genetix, but I resolved to figure out. I told Belfrie to stay below, and I went to the poop deck. Water dripped down my back from the rain, but I payed no attention to it. Instead I pulled out a spyglass. I trained it on where I had seen the Genetix. Sure enough there was a ridged back, with smooth skin, and it had small yellow spots closer to where the head would be. And it was heading straight to Orsin. Mal wasn’t around, so I called Score over.

“Score! Come look at this!”

I wouldn’t have called him, but it was unusual for a Genetix to be headed solely in one direction, especially towards land.

“What is it Cari?”

I handed him the spyglass, but he doesn’t see anything. “Cari, what are you trying to tell me?”

“There was a Amphi!”

“Well, I am not surprised, it isn’t uncommon for them to surface after storms.”

“No, you don’t understand! It is headed towards Orsin.”

“Nonsense! The don’t head for land. Keep calm, and it has probably headed back down to the surface already.”

I was infuriated that he didn’t listen to me, but I couldn’t do anything about it just yet.

Three hours later, we were in port. I ran off the ship in a hurry, towards the shore near the Alsbron house. All I could hope for was that Ryax had made it home safely, and that he would believe me. I ran on the wet, sand and I saw his sailboat. My lips parted as I smiled in relief. I approached the sailboat and knocked on the hull, and Ryax walked up from the small cubby in the bottom.

“Who is there?” I waved up at him. “Oh Cari! you’re ok!! I got worried.”

“I’m glad you’re okay too! But I really need to talk to you…”

“Was it about…last night?”

I blushed a bit, “No! But…Hahah you might not believe me actually.”

“Trust me, I would believe a lot of crazy things.”

“Well there is…an Amphi headed straight towards the city.”

“Okay…I believe you, but I need a quick explanation?”

I related to him what happened during the storm, and his eyes grew wide as I reached the end.

“I have kind-of-plan though. I can pilot a ship well enough, so I kind of wanted to take The Orthodox and try to stop it.” I muttered.

We made eye contact, nodded, and walked towards the docks where the ship was. Before we left, Ryax grabbed the bare necessities from his workshop, as well as our tails. Before long, we were on The Orthodox, with Belfrie as my trusty sidekick. No one else was present. Nervously, I took the wheel, and slowly we inched out of the dock. The steam stacks were warming up, slowly propelling us forward. I took the spyglass, and I could see the Amphi, getting closer by the minute. I handed the spyglass to Ryax, and he gaves a grim nod.

“Any plans on how to stop it?” he queried.

“Possibly. But we will need to hurry. I think it might be Sovereign mandated. I have no idea how, but they were released by the Sovereign, who is to say that wasn’t intentional? We could at least head toward it, to see if we can maybe capture it?”

Ryax sighed. “If it means safety for our families, and for you, then let’s do it.”

I turned up the engine power, and the sails picked up the wind, and tossed white caps on the sea. Belfrie is very still, and and we watched with anxiousness from the spy glass.

“We are getting really close!”

The wind started picking up, and I focus on steering. Suddenly I hear a splash, and Ryax shouting “No!” I turned from the wheel momentarily, and I realized with a shock that Belfrie wassn’t on board anymore.

I ran over to the edge with Ryax, looking into the ocean.

“He started trying to attack the Amphi.”

I saw a little red stain in the water, and the Amphi seemed to smirk at me. The lizard-like face had bloody smudges around the corners of it’s mouth, and I began to feel bitterness bubble up from deep in my stomach. How dare it. How dare the Sovereign. For a split second, I almost understood the people’s fear of the ocean. It seemed dark and unforgiving.. The boat started to tilt, and I realized I left the ship to its own devices. I ran to wheel, and tried to bury my bitterness. Think of the people that will get hurt if you don’t stop this.

Ryax taps my shoulder. “I have an idea. Trust me, okay?” I nodded, but hesitation held me back for a moment.

Ryax slipped on his suit, and dropped into the ocean, right next to the Amphi. It reared it’s head, and started to give chase. I steeredn the ship away from Orsin, and Ryax and the Amphi go along. This was really as far as Ryax had gotten with his plan, and to me it looked like he wasn’t finding anything that indicated  . The long tail of the Amphi hit the boat, and The Orthodox tilted dangerously. A pile of rope landed on my leg, and suddenly an idea struck.

I grabbed the rope, and made a huge loop with it. The loose end I tied to a mast, and I dropped the loop in the water.

I shouted over the splashing, trying to get Ryax’s attention. He surfaced, looking confused.

“Ryax! Put the rope around its neck!” He nodded without a word, and dove back under. He swam faster and faster, and I lowered the anchor of the ship. Ryax managed to get the loop around part of the Amphi, but to my dismay it kept swimming. The anchor tugged at The Orthodox and the ship moved ever so slightly. Ryax was attempting to calm it, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen the way he was doing it. The ship moved a bit more, but I let go of the wheel on a leap of faith. The ship was righted, and I inched towards where my tail was. I slipped it on, and I noticed the Ocea Lungs right beside it…I wondered ig it was worth it to test them now. I quickly threw the contraption over my back and over my mouth, before I could regret it. I dropped into the chilling ocean, unprepared for the waves hitting against me. The Ocea Lungs seemed to work, and I could hear them chugging behind me. I rushed towards the Amphi and Ryax, with only a smidgen of a plan in mind. My legs seemed heavier in the churning water, and the boat near me was rocking unpredictably. The outline of Ryax and the monster got closer, until I was swimming opposite Ryax. He looked at me in utter surprise, but he couldn’t say anything.

I went above the Amphi, dodging the long tail, and stumpy legs to get there. I was looking for something specific, something that had been on Belfrie when I had released him. I felt a sting of hurt at remembering Belfrie, but it spurred me to release this animal.

I dove down, almost directly on the Amphi’s head. And then I found what I was looking for. A small chip, right behind the gill slits. A mandation chip. I reached down, trying to take it out, but suddenly I got hit with something long and slimy, spinning me out of the way. I spun almost directly into The Orthodox, but swerved just in time. The Ocea Lung began to chug, and the air got thinner. I had damaged it, and I didn’t have much time left. I swim under the Amphi, getting Ryax’s attention. I pointed to the gills and he nods, seeing me up there. My air was getting thinner and thinner, and I grabbed a rope hanging from the ship, and heaved myself into the air. I swung back and forth, and I attempted to climb up the rope, but my tail hindered the process. I felt myself slipping, until suddenly, all was still.

The boat had stopped moving, and the rope I was clinging to stayed still. I didn’t know if this was good or bad, but I didn’t want to leave it to my imagination. I swung onto a small porthole, giving me just enough hand hold to slip the tail off. The straps swung, but eventually it was wrapped around my back, enough for me to climb. I got to the poop deck quickly, and I observed what I could see in the sea. Ryax was swimming on the surface, looking shocked. The Amphi was slowly sinking, onto the shallow bottom. I realized how close the shore we were, and also the crowd that had gathered on the shore. I shivered, the cold water seeping in, and my adrenaline wearing off.

The only thing I seemed to be able to look at was the now peaceful Amphi, no longer government mandated through the microchip. The salamander like monster stayed on the bottom of the bay, but it was breathing fine. There was only a small wound where the chip had been. The Orthodox was rocking back and forth lightly, and Ryax was swimming right next to it. He shrunk the tail as I cast him one of the nearby ropes to get in. He looked as worn as I was, and one of his arms had a long scratch down it. He climbed up the rope and threw on the shirt he had left on the deck. He turned to me, looking panicked.

“First of all…You tried the Ocea Lungs!? That was so…Dangerous! And stupid!”

He walked over to me, and seemed to inspect me, almost to make sure I was breathing. I opened my mouth to tell him I was fine but instead he wrapped his arms around me, encasing me in a warm -but also wet- hug.

“I just wanted to help. And admit it, I did at least a little.”

Ryax sighed again, but there was mirth in his eyes. “That trick with the chip was really cool. I ended up just kind of taking it off, but I think I hurt the Amphi a little.”

My voice caught. “The government put one on Belfrie too, when I stole him from the lab…he was especially aggressive before I removed it.” I couldn’t fill what was missing anymore, and I began to cry, just a little bit. It blended with my damp face, but Ryax still noticed. He took his hand and wiped at them, very gently.

“Now I am more mad at the Sovereign than I was originally.” His eyes looked pained, as he spoke again. “You know this coming month or two won’t be easy ones.”

“I know…These people have yet to accept the deep blue for what it is. And your Ocea Lungs and tails will be a new thing as well.”

“Everything is so new… There is no telling how that crowd, will react either.” He gestured at the crowd gathered on the beach, staring at the now calm Amphi.

We stood on the deck, and I could see Ryax’s ramshackle workshop. I sighed feeling sentimental. It had been less than three days since the first time I was in there. Ryax placed a hand on my shoulder, and I felt slightly comforted. No matter what was changing I had my family and my friends.

“Cari, I had an idea. The citizens of Orson are quite mad at the government. They can see the damage caused by the Genetix, and there are others out there, still mandated. I think it is time for a revolution.”

***

Amanda Grant, 15, is a Utah writer and poet who is constantly surrounded by notes, whether it be sticky notes from writing or musical notes, as she plays the flute, ballroom dances, and loves listening to music. She runs a blog called The Library Rebel.

3 thoughts on “Steel Ocean by Amanda Grant”

  1. K, first of all i have read about 3 paragraphs and im in love! Your descriptions are beautiful and i have no trouble picturing the scenery in my head. But i did have some suggestions. Some of the words are missing. It isn’t super hard to read it without them since you can usually just guess, but it would help with comprehension. Also when they are kissing you don’t really describe a lot of the emotion that could be tied to that. The only real problem is that i’m hooked! And i need more. Now that he contest is over i think you should add some more to it.

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  2. Thank you so much for the feedback!! This really helped. I definitely plan on writing more, my characters deserve it.
    I didn’t even notice the missing words, thank you for bringing that to my attention.
    And the kiss scene…I was embarrassed to write it because I’m just a teen, but I shouldn’t have let that stop me from writing it without emotion. I will probably go back an fix that in my own copy.
    This meant so much to me, thank you 🙂

    Like

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