Chapter Seven

"Blast!" the Doctor stomped his foot on the bottom of the boat while he and River paddled back to the shore as quickly as they could. "Damn it, I should have gotten back into the raft with Rose before we started talking to Circady. Now she's missing and it's my fault!"

"You do realize playing the blame game isn't helping anyone," River said to him as they paddled.

"I realize that but I just left my mate unprotected when we knew they were taking people. Not to mention Jackie will kill me if she finds out," the Doctor said.

"Well, they had her in some sort of bubble thing so they obviously want her alive," River said. "You were talking about negotiations so maybe they took her as a bargaining chip."

"They better not have or they're going to be very, very sorry," the Doctor said, his eyes blazing with anger.

As they neared the shore, they saw a few people standing near the town scanning the ocean. They saw them and pointed and some of them ran back into the town.

"And we've been spotted," the Doctor said. "Are we gonna get kidnapped by them now?"

"I s'pose we surrender to them and see what happens, sweetie," River replied as the townspeople who didn't run back to town started running towards them.

"Wow, this is turning out to be one hell of a day," the Doctor said, jumping out and dragging the boat up onto the sand.

River got out of the boat and put her hands up when two young men and a woman ran towards them.

"We come in peace," she said to them. "Friends. We come as friends. My parents followed Tania into the town. We want to join them. His mate was kidnapped by the merpeople."

One of the men had a shaved head, brown eyes and a heart-shaped face with a cleft in his chin. The other man was middle aged with short salt and pepper hair and a slightly lined face with a bit of stubble on his angular jaw and dark blue eyes. The woman had long ginger hair that was braided and reached down to her ankles. She had a black eye and she stayed in the back, away from the men. River noticed that her face was haggard and there was a scar running across her forehead. She wondered if the men had been abusing her. The men were wearing white shirts and brown trousers with brown leather boots and the woman was wearing a sea-green dress that went down to her ankles with sleeves that went down to her wrists.

"Merpeople?" the younger man said, drawing closer to the Doctor and River.

"That's right, merpeople," the Doctor said. "That's what you're dealing with. Pissed off merpeople who don't like you fishing in their territory. I suspect that's why they started kidnapping the people in your town, to get revenge. However, we were trying to speak to the prince of the merpeople when they stole my mate and took her under the ocean. Her parents went into town to speak to the elders and we want to do the same. Will you take us without killing us in the process? Please?"

"Maybe we should listen to them," the woman said timidly.

The middle aged man spun around.

"NO ONE ASKED YOU!" he bellowed at her.

"I'm sorry but who are you?" the Doctor said.

"I'm Joshua. This is my father, Prentice and my mother, Adelaide," the young man said.

"Thank you, Joshua. I'm the Doctor, this is River," he said while he walked around Prentice. "Adelaide, can you take us to the elders?"

"You deal with me, Doctor," Prentice said.

The Doctor spun around and Prentice backed up when he saw the hard look on his face.

"No, I don't believe I will," the Doctor growled at him. "You see, I'm guessing from the black eye and long scar across Adelaide's forehead that you like to beat on her. Well, I despise abuse, especially towards a woman and I don't like dealing with people who try to bully others and treat them like rubbish just so they can feel more empowered. I am speaking to Adelaide and you will allow me to do that because, Prentice, I could do to you what you do to your wife and I have a feeling you won't like that."

Prentice glowered at the Doctor but he could tell the Doctor meant business so he stepped back towards his son and stood with him while the Doctor turned back to Adelaide.

"Can you take us to the council house?" he said gently. "No, don't look at your husband, look at me. Can you take us, Adelaide? You can answer truthfully, I will protect you."

"Yes, I can take you,"Adelaide said softly.

"Will you? We only want to help stop the kidnappings and bring peace to your town."

Adelaide nodded. She glanced at her husband and noticed he was livid but she looked back at the Doctor and like her husband, she could tell he meant what he said about protecting her. He beckoned to the Doctor and River and River got between the two men and the Doctor, keeping tabs on them while Adelaide led them back to the town.


It had been about thirty minutes since Circady led his men and their hostage away from the trench and out further into the ocean but Rose had been impressed by their speed. They went a lot faster than she expected and she was glad she was floating in the bubble instead of being dragged by her arms after them. They were still near the bottom of the ocean and the water was still dark with only the meager illumination from the glow balls to light their way. But the mermen swam without hesitation and Rose guessed they either had night vision or knew the way so well that they needed no light to guide them. But suddenly, the guards shifted the position of their bodies and pushed down on the top of the bubble and Rose felt herself going down into another trench with Circady following after them.

For several minutes, Rose couldn't see anything around her and then suddenly the sides were being lit by embedded glow balls and she could see the uneven rocky surface of the trench. Then she saw a light below her that grew larger and larger the closer they got. Rose looked up at the guards and knew that even if the Doctor could find a way down this far that he'd have to have some sort of protection against the extreme pressure. She wondered if the TARDIS could come down here but even so, the Doctor and her friends would still have to have a source of protection outside her doors.

The light grew and she could see the opening of the trench below her. Then they swam out of it into a lower part of the ocean and off to her left, Rose saw a city. But unlike the little mermaid, it didn't look like Greek architecture or even made out of organic substances like coral. The buildings were made of glass and metal and looked almost space age in its design. The buildings were lit by large glow balls, inside the windows as well as gigantic glow balls on the top of the buildings. Looking at it, she guessed the city was about a mile wide but from her vantage point she wasn't sure how far back the city stretched. There were several merpeople coming in and out of the city and a few of them paused to look at her. Rose waved to them but the merpeople gave her a look of contempt and went on their way. Rose looked back behind her and could see the ocean stretching out under the seabed, almost like a mirror image of the ocean above, except the seabed here was closer than it was above the trench.

The guards swam into town and Rose could see something similar to streets and alleys in between the buildings. But unlike the Little Mermaid, she could see no dolphin chariots or merpeople riding sea life. Everyone was swimming and several people stopped swimming and bowed their heads in respect to Circady as they passed. They swam through the watery passageways until they finally reached a huge building that was decorated with glittering gems all over its metal surface. Rose thought the gems might be diamonds and rubies and emeralds and sapphires but she was on a different planet so perhaps they only resembled Earth gems. She admired the view and the way the glow lights made the gems sparkle. There were several windows in the front along with a large arched doorway. The doorway was open but there were several guards around it. The guards put their fists to their chests and bowed their heads as they swam through the doorway. Inside was a large room and more gems decorated the walls but there seemed to be no furniture and no steps or stairs, although Rose figured they just swam anywhere they wanted to go inside the building. There was another arched opening at the back of the room and they went through it. Each room seemed to be bare except for the gem studded walls. But when they got to the heart of the building, they entered into an enormous room and Rose finally saw some sort of metal dais near the back of it. A merman and woman were reclining on it, giving them a bored look when they entered. The man and woman were wearing gem necklaces and gold bands around their foreheads with gems encrusted in them so Rose guessed they were the king and queen. Beside them was the only other furniture in the room, a series of metal capsules that looked like giant pills that were resting on their ends. The capsules had no windows in them and Rose counted ten of them, arranged neatly side by side along the left wall. Suspended above them was a large glow ball that was hanging down from the ceiling, supported by metal chains bolted into the metal ceiling. The guards lowered the ball to the floor in front of the dais and to Rose's surprise, it stuck there.

She watched while Circady swam up to the people on the dais while the guards swam just above her and kept watch over her. She could sense static electricity buzzing through the water and she wondered if that was what was holding the bubble to the floor. Circady swam up to the floor and prostrated himself on it until the king or queen must have said something to him telepathically because he rose up and stared at them. The staring continued but Circady kept pointing back to her which confirmed Rose's theory of telepathic communication. Then Circady turned to the guards and one of them left the room. He returned a few minutes later, holding a silver band similar to the ones around the king and queen's heads. The band was unadorned though. But the moment the guard returned with it, the bubble suddenly dissolved and the other two guards seized Rose's arms and forced her towards the dais. Rose struggled to get out of their grip but it was useless. Circady grabbed her head and held it still while the other guard put the silver band around her forehead. Then everyone let go of her, although the guards stayed nearby while Circady swam to the dais.

Who are you?

Rose blinked when he heard a male voice in her mind.

Human child, a female voice said in her mind. Think to us, we have made telepathy possible. Answer my husband's question, who are you?

Rose, my name is Rose, Rose thought, hoping they could hear her.

Rose, I am King Corlianus and this is my wife, Queen Davina. My son says that another human with you tried to negotiate peace between the merpeople and the humans, is this true?

Yes, Rose thought to him. We mean you no harm, we want to help bring peace and stop the kidnappings. Why are you taking the people of Seashell?

If you mean the humans that live near the ocean, Davina thought to her. We take them because they have taken some of our people.

They took our people first, Circady thought angrily. So we take theirs and convert them to replace the ones they took.

Rose wondered if Tania knew about that or if the merpeople were lying about the townspeople kidnapping the merpeople.

The ocean is my realm, Corlianus said, rising up off the dais. It has been so since time began and we are the rightful owners here. If the humans wish to remain, they must obey my rule and do as I say! I am king, part of a long line of merpeople who were here long before the humans came. This is our world and the ocean is our hunting grounds, not theirs!

I'm sorry they invaded your territory, Rose thought to him. But surely you and the humans can live peacefully?

As long as they accept my rule, Corlianus thought back.

I doubt they'll accept that, Rose thought.

Then there is no peace between us. We will continue to take and convert their people and make them our own. Including you.

Rose's heart raced at that. She kicked her legs, trying to swim away but the guards seized her.

Put her in the conversion chamber, Corlianus said, pointing to the capsule nearest the dais. She will become one of us and then she will help make the humans see reason.

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