Sitting Under Water (open)
She sat on the floor in the center of the water tunnel, knees hugged to her chest, her gaze lost in the drifting menagerie before her. She'd begun her new job just under a week ago, and this was the first time since the tour the first day that she'd been able to leave her office and commune with the fish.
She'd learned that she could keep whatever hours suited her, as the aquarium, like most businesses in Nachton kept long hours, closing only between 4 and 6 to clean the floors and feed the fish. Except the sharks, they were fed during the day so the people could watch, awestruck and slack-jawed.
So Kai, sat in the middle of the floor beneath the pressing weight of the water, held back only by glass, in the midnight quiet of an aquarium empty of every one but the staff and a few night owl guests. Her hair pulled back into a sleek ponytail, her legs bare to mid thigh where her navy shorts began, and her arms bared by a light pink polo shirt. She looked more like a college kid escaping the crush of exams, than the head of a university aquarium.
Apparently, Meridian didn't need him just right now though. He'd been given half the night off for one reason or another. He'd intended to go to the library to work some more on that puzzle Kem had given him, about the potshards, but he was out of sorts about the whole Reign thing. He'd have called her and asked her to hang out, but she had a tournament and would be in New York for the next three nights.
It was odd for him to be rather sulky and he was looking to distract himself. He'd stumbled into the aquarium and had basically decided it creeped him out. This was a lot of water and it was everywhere. This tunnel thing was sort of oppressive and he was slightly lost on top of that. But he kept wandering about figuring that he'd find his way out eventually. Well he might have found his way out but he stumbled over a lone late night patron and wound up face planting into one of the walls of water.
Ow, ow, ow, damned, damned, damned.
Rubbing his nose and jaw alternately he turned around to see if he'd caused any permanent damage.
"God, sorry, sorry. You OK? Tell me you're OK."Â?
She offered her his hand. "I'm Kai. We could get you some ice for that if you like."
At least she seemed unscathed though and she was laughing. Some folks might have taken offense to the laughter at his crash and resulting pain. Nope, not Drew, he figured at least he'd made an impression (on something other than the glass) and had been semi amusing and both those things were good.
"Oh I've done worse. No worries and no need for ice."Â?
He grinned, but gingerly felt his nose trying to feel if it was broken or not. It would heal fast enough but he'd rather it not heal crooked. Drew had no desire to look like a Native American Owen Wilson. Fortunately, it didn't feel broken.
Cheerfully accepting the offered hand he smile brightened just a bit more.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Drew."Â?
She was learning that the crocodile guy...Erwin or something had made no worries part of the vernacular of the young, and it had stopped bothering her to hear it. Though it still sounded odd with out the accent.
"Nice to meet you too, Drew."
Still smiling she took her hand back from the young man. "Is this your first time here?"
"Yeah. I don't generally go in for the aquarium vibe. Well other than the kind you can keep in the house or you know wandering through the fishy part of a pet store."Â?
Not that he frequented pet stores or anything, basically because he had no pets.
"You seemed way into the vibe though. I didn't mean to ... well trip over you."Â?
He had some lingering guilt about that. Oh, he'd get over it pretty quick but for a while he'd worry and apologize a lot.
"I haven't had time to dig in enough roots for an aquarium at home yet."
Of course she didn't even know if pets were allowed in the Den, much less a fish tank. She'd check on that when she got home later. She left Drew's eyes to watch the tank's nurse shark move over their heads. She was a stunning specimen, having grown large and plump without the threat of man and a need to fight for survival to impede her. Affection moved Kai's face as she watched for a moment longer.
"In to the vibe, hmm?" She'd never heard it quite that way, but it was a good way to describe it. He'd apologized once, so she ignored this one. It would begin to irritate her if he kept doing it so she didn't want to encourage it.
"You could say that. Mostly I was just taking a much needed break from the busy-ness of paperwork. I missed the fish." [i]She gave a small shrug of one shoulder, a movement to push away the small bit of embarrassment that statement gave her.
Drew hadn't been here terribly long and was still finding new things to do. He was finding he wasn't overly fond of big cities, it was -way- too easy to get lost. But on the other hand you could find a lot of things while lost, so he didn't hate it. And then between the woods around home and the preserve there was a lot of nature, which was more what he was used to and helped keep him sane.
"So you work here? Very cool. Sorry they don't let you out to play with the fish though. I would have thought that was half the fun."Â?
He could defiantly relate to not getting to play with the fun stuff. Once in a while Drew would just stand near the door to collections and stare at it rather longingly. He'd used those dang potshards as an excuse to go back once or twice and Ben had been nice enough to give him something of a tour. Damned Meridian had some cool stuff.
She smiled again, her experience with the place thus far had been limited to the Den and the aquarium. She was hoping that she'd get the mess straightened out soon and the hours outside the den would be more evenly divided between work and play.
"That is the best part of the fun, but the hard unfun stuff has to come first. I've just about gotten things straightened out enough that I can have more fun soon." She looked around and gestured to the space.
"Would you like a bit of a tour?"
She wouldn't normally offer such a thing, but she was loathe to return to work just yet and she rather liked this young man. He had a relaxed humor about him and she thought he might be a nice friend to have.
He'd offer a tour, but well there would be a lot of off the beaten path if he did it. Maybe Reign would come too, once she got back. The girl could be borderline antisocial. Drew didn't think she did much running around with folks other than the Den. And even then, it was mostly the kids, which was odd as she claimed not to like kids. Drew decided not to think about that as it was making his head hurt.
"Blech, I've always sucked at that whole doing what needs to be done before doing what I want to."Â?
OK he didn't suck at it, but he did have to make a concerted effort to keep himself focused some days.
Tour? What was there to see? Fish, fish and more fish and he didn't think they'd let you eat any of them. Shame too as one or two of them did look delicious. But it sounded like an adventure as well, so... why not.
"Sure. Let's give it a whirl. I'm not sure I've ever even been in an aquarium before so I'm sure I'd miss something on my own."Â?
She figured the best place to start was where you were standing.
"This is our tunnel that allows you to feel like you're in the water with the fish with out actually being in the water, it is also the largest single tank containing only species found on the Atlantic seaboard."
She gestured for him to move on and they walked to the end of the tunnel, all the while Kai pointed out different fish in the exhibit. It was a fascinating place for her as she'd not had the opportunity to see all of these fish out in the wild yet and she was looking forward to that.
They moved into a room that was dimly lit and has nine circular tanks on the walls that looked like bubbles with a cylindrical column in the center of the room. Each bubble held a different species of jellyfish and the column held nothing but clear water and hundreds of tiny silver fish that swam in a spiral in the column. This display represented the schooling habits of fish in the open ocean.
"Jellyfish are the strangest creatures, but by far one of my favorites."
He said amiably. The next bit was a bit trickier. Sure, she was cute and all but, he didn't think she wanted to be hit on just at the moment.
"I could give you some ideas if you wanted."Â?
That seemed safe enough, at least it didn't sound like he was asking her out. Well not to his ears any way.
Drew gave his attention over to the fish for the moment. Apparently, Kai took her work seriously. He still didn't like the tunnel but he did appreciate her enthusiasm. Some of them looked pretty cool, maybe not delicious, but cool.
Now the jellyfish were more up his alley. He didn't know why either.
"Kind of creepy things aren't they? I mean they just look like they are floating and I hear they're pretty mean too. I mean... how hard do I need to look out for them if I go out swimming."Â?
The ocean had been looking pretty tempting lately too.
That was a bit sad to her. Nikhila was the only friend she'd made and she'd only seen her once since her first day at the Den. Hmm, well she'd think about it later.
"Creepy...yeah you could say that. But they aren't any more aggressive than a bee. If you swat at a bee it will try to defend itself, same thing with the jellyfish. He just wants to eat and live his life in peace."
She touched the glass of the tank holding eleven Australian Spotted Jellyfish. They mad her a little sad, as she'd seen these creatures in the wild and they were much more majestic than the little ones here. Still they were lovely.
"In these waters? Not any more than you would for say sharks. If you swim off the beach near by you might run across one or two on the sand and about that in the water. But it will mostly just sting a bit, as the really poisonous ones aren't native to this area."
Drew said with a great deal of cheer and some optimism.
"Off the top of my head I can point you at a nice little pool hall, a cool jazz/blues club, a few amateur softball leagues oh and the arcade is brilliant."Â?
And that was the short list. Drew did like to get out and do things. It was fun. He didn't think he'd make a good workaholic. Hell even the old guys, his father and grandfather, who were a devoted to duty as any one he'd ever met managed to get some play time in. Which, oddly enough, made him wonder if the Chief had taken Nikhila out bowling again. That idea still cracked him up.
He reigned in his rambling train of thought and paid more attention to the jellyfish. The idea that he wasn't going to be mobbed by a rampaging school of these little buggers cheered him up some.
"Well thank goodness for small favors. 'Course I suppose you can be allergic to their sting, just like with black widows and scorpion?"Â?
Hey, it didn't hurt to ask. He'd never live it down if he were killed by a jellyfish sting.
Kai could not think of the last time she'd been to an arcade. She was certain she'd been to one before but it was a very long time ago. "Thanks, Drew. I'm sure I'll enjoy all of it. And I can take you and your friends out on the water"
After all, she didn't want to just tag along, but reciprocate.
"Yes, but only if you've a predisposition to that sort of thing. If you aren't allergic to say an ant bite, you should be fine. Unless of course you run into something highly poisonous."
She chuckled and moved them on to one of her favorite jelly fish, the Neon Rainbow. They looked like something man made and robotic they was the colored lights moved up and down their tentacles.
"How about next Saturday? We could meet at the arcade and see what happens from there?"Â?
Boy was Reign going to be surprised she had plans. Well... she needed to get out more. He'd ask a couple of the guys he'd met playing soft ball and maybe even one or two of the folks round the den if they wanted to go. Three could be an awkward number.
"Out on the water?"Â?
That was an intriguing statement. He could only guess she had access to a boat, but it could be fun.
He frowned shortly at the idea that you could be allergic to them. Well he'd just have to be extra careful is all.
"So what other kinds of fish have you got round here?"Â?
They moved to another display of jelly fish, and she nodded. "Yup, we can waterski, or jetski, or fish, or dive. I've access to a nice little boat."
With another nod, she lead them into the next room. "You like sharks?"
This area was called Shark Adventure, and was a room with three large tanks, one was an oil rig habitat, another was a coral reef and the third was an open water exhibit. Each featuring a different kind of very large shark.
The idea tickled him. Although Drew wondered how an aquarium worker felt about people fishing. Weren't they supposed to study and protect all the little Nemos out there? Maybe she'd insist on catch and release. Of maybe he could catch dinner. Yum! Sushi.
Now that sounded like a good idea.
"I do love Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. But I've never cared for Jaws."Â?
He paused, considering both options for a second before grinning.
"Let's give it a try and see what happens."Â?
He was happy enough to follow along. Drew suspected the shark tanks would be very good, no doubt quite the attraction during the day.
"Deep sea fishing is a great deal of fun. I don't know the regulations about what can be kept and what must be thrown back, but I'm sure that information is easy to find. The internet is a marvelous tool."
They walked into the shark room and Kai moved them to the oil rig first. "This is my favorite. It always amazes me how the creatures, which were here long before us, can adapt and use the things we put in their way."
She pointed to several fish that were huddled together at the base of the rig, seemingly standing on the floor of the tank. "Like those fish there, which I sadly don't actually know the name of, instead of fighting against the currents, they rest against the steel, and let it hold them up as they wait for their meal to come to them."
Then she pointed at the two large gray creatures sliding through the water. "And they reap the benefits of this unnatural habitat, by circling around and around looking for the one that strays from the safe places."
Drew did his best to sound menacing and almost kind of sort of succeeded. Or he would have he'd kept a straight face.
He watched the fish, oddly fascinated by the little buggers. Although, he did wonder if it would be bad form to tap on the glass. He was tempted to hum the theme from jaws, but had a feeling that that got really old after a while.
It seemed a bit odd she didn't know the name of the fish, and so he took a bit of a stab in the dark.
"So I'm gonna guess you're not typically a tour guide? I'm not keeping you from anything am I?"Â?
Since their attention was no longer on the tank she moved them to the next that housed a young hammer head in a corral reef construction. Though she much preferred to to watch the rays than the shark that shared the tank.