Mongrel: Zebe's Discovery
Zebe's strand continues with her discovery of the uses for the alien silver.
Joe Loreno, Beardy and Laura didn’t come back from their leave. Cele and Zebe decided to close the doors. “Let’s face it, Zebe,” Cele said. “We both love our projects too much to risk any further upsets.” In fact, Zebe thought, the slightest inkling of Cele’s project to the public media would blow SoHAB sky high.
Zebe’s and Cele’s reason to SoHAB was that, since they had only two staff, they didn’t have enough presence to show people round as well as work on their projects.
SoHAB were on the ball. And why not with Xanthe in the loop? Zebe doubted SoHAB even saw Zebe’s earlier request for permission from SoHAB to try for a licence to seed Zebe’s new corals through Reef waters.
Closing the Reefarium to the public for the next foreseeable months was a great solution, Xanthe messaged for SoHAB.
Zebe rolled her eyes at Cele. “Duh.”
Cele laughed and started talking about her project. “Some days I still can’t believe what the silly moneybags wanted me to do and that I did it. Then I look into the tanks and see him playing pater familas to a bunch of cetacean-humans and I have to believe it.”
“Anomalies all, but looking quite happy as far as I can tell,” Zebe said. “I look at the reason why you took that on.” They both looked at the only other person hiding here at the Reefarium with Cele.
Cele confided in Zebe quite soon after her arrival with Callum, her great-great-grandson. A small baby at the time, he was also an anomaly, but with alien blood if Cele was to be believed. Saving Callum from the EMBers was Cele’s reason for everything she did.
Callum gambolled with the dolphin people. Most of the dolphinate swam exceptionally well but Callum swam well only when he was supported by one of his playmates. “He’ll never be a swimmer,” Cele said softly. “He’s top heavy. The chunky arms and chest. And, anyway, I don’t think he should leave here. I suspect his mother to be in the area. I don’t know what to do.”
Cele would never say her great-granddaughter’s name. “Ushen, you mean,” Zebe said. “I think hang on here a little longer. Take the dolphinate out on trips, a couple of days at the time. They need more time learning their bodies. I’ll have another go teaching Callum to swim. I swear he’s better than he was.”
Why am I encouraging her? Zebe thought guiltily. If the ordinary reef water is dead, where will there be any fish for the dolphinate to eat?
Teaching Callum to swim was what resulted in the amazing revival of sea-life in the aquaria. Though Zebe still didn’t know how or why, other than having Callum swim in the supply tank, some of the aquaria had by now dozens of silvery creatures colonising them. Corals of many different species; krill, ditto; and tiny sponges, likewise.
She knew enough not to wash the supply tank out and start afresh, reasoning that while she had been teaching Callum for about half a year, the effects of his swimming water hadn’t begun until about a month ago. She freshened up the supply tank with surreptitious re-filling from outside, as near to the dolphinate’s home pool as she could feed the underwater hose end, and as many lessons as Callum could be talked into.
Cele often said that she used the Huddle’s mud all the time. Or was it that she often said to Zebe, that she used the Huddle’s mud all the time? As moisturiser. Sunscreen cream. An anti-inflammatory rubbed into her arthritic knee. Baby oil. Callum had a very dry skin as a young child, maybe even now, because how else could he be shedding silver than by having it continually replenished?
Zebe watched Cele and Callum like a hawk. Both had a silver-grey sheen to them. Cele used the mud to help the human-cetacean conversion and who knows what else. She said she brought a good supply from the valley and had begun to experiment extending it right away. Zebe itched to get into Cele’s quarters to take a look around.
Callum’s swimming water was alive with the alien silver, is what Zebe thought. The proof were the sea-creatures, her corals and Beardy’s krill. Cele, Zebe believed, had closed her mind to what the mud might contain. Zebe was certain that the working part in the Huddle’s mud was the Moogerah Monster’s silver exudate.
The alien silver turned the For-Want-of-a-Nail-a-Shoe-Was-Lost story on its head. For years Zebe had nothing to show for all her efforts reviving the different corals. Now she had all the coral she wanted, even after Joe Loreno stole her best batch.