"Sail On, Ceylon"
Erika von Meer's two fellow colleagues from Scripps relax outside of their Indian Ocean Marine Institute dorms, waiting for their friend to arrive.
Colleague 1: (Scowling at her watch) Looks like we're going to be a twosome again
Colleague 2: (Scratching his leg) She's probably at SAMMY'S place
Colleague 1: Don't say it like that, they're probably just obsessed with their experiments, you know how Rikka gets when she's on the verge of proving a theory
Colleague 2: I'm pretty sure she did... weeks ago - I overhead Dr. Da Silva chatting away about some rat in the lab with fish scales growing all over its tail
Colleague 1: That would explain why some of the major pharmaceutical companies have sent recon scouts over here
Colleague 2: Sorry, that just pisses me off - OUR studies are just as important and yet you don't see OUR professors inviting us to their homes or drug pushers hovering over OUR heads
Colleague 1: (Slight smirk) Speak for yourself
Colleague 2: HEY
Colleague 1: The lab tech and I had a private little party at his apartment the other night
Colleague 2: You slut!
Colleague 1: I know and he was good, too
Colleague 2: Think von Meer has her own special Sri Lankan slurpie?
Colleague 1: When? - she's always working with Dr. Ranasinghe
Colleague 2 twitches both of his eyebrows in unison.
Colleague 1: (Snapping him with her hat) YOU PIG - why do you men always want to go there?
Colleague 2: Because... we can... because... we want to... because it's warm and gooey and...
Colleague 1: Enough already - shh, here comes Erika
Colleague 2: HEY RIK
Erika: (Casually walking over) Hey, you two
Colleague 1: How's it going?
Erika: (Distant) Good, good - are you done with your field testing?
Colleague 2: Later this week
There is an uncomfortable silence.
Colleague 1: Listen, we were thinking about hitting some of the dance clubs later tonight, want to come along?
Erika: I can't, Sam and I are going sailing today, we'll be out pretty late
Both colleagues shoot glances at each other.
Erika: (Aware of their look) We need to do some deep-water experiments, it's complicated
Colleague 2: (Slightly sarcastic) Of course
Erika: You two need to watch yourselves
Colleague 1: Pay no attention to him, he's just being a goof - I'm sure your relationship with Dr. Ranasinghe is completely innocent
The blonde is silent for a second and then blinks.
Erika: I was talking about the riots in the eastern provinces, there will probably be a state-ordered curfew in effect - I don't want to have to convince the American consulate to bail out your sorry butts again
Colleague 1: Oh... right
Colleague 2: That was only ONE time and we were only SLIGHTLY drunk
Colleague 1: We had no idea that was a religious icon, honestly, we didn't!
Colleague 2: It was worth it just to see the look on Da Silva's face
All three chuckle as a bikini-clad Samadara enters the courtyard and walks over to the threesome.
Sam: (Smiling) Sorry to interrupt... Erika, are you ready to go?
Erika: (Picking up her sack) Absolutely - I'll see you two later
The colleagues wave and watch the two women leave.
Colleague 2: Yeah... they're really going to be doing scientific stuff on a boat in bikinis - heh, I wish I had my camcorder
Colleague 1: You are such a sleaze... although, I will admit that it seems rather odd - she didn't even try to argue our suspicions
Colleague 2: Rikka used to be such a party girl, she never would have passed up clubbing before
Colleague 1: Whatever, we'll all be out of this pit in a few more weeks, c'mon, let's go!
As Erika looks behind her and watches her friends take off in a Jeep, Samadara gently touches her arm and nods towards the small sailboat.
Sam: Would you prefer to go with them? - we can always do this another time
Erika: No, our work needs to be finished - my play days are over with
Sam: They don't have to be
Erika: I want them to be - now, if you don't mind, Dr. Ranasinghe, we really should be on our way
Sam: (Squeezing her shoulder) So serious - do you realize you lapse into formality whenever you are put on the defensive?
Erika: (Ignoring her) Please take the helm, I'll manage the sail
Sam: It's a way of being cold and distant, keeping human emotion suppressed
Erika: (Untying the ropes) I didn't know you were teaching a psych class?
Sam: (Helping out) In order for you to face the challenges ahead, Eri, you mustn't be so rigid
Erika: (Clenching her jaw) Are we ready to go now?
Sam: Are you?
The two set sail and spend about three hours in open waters, conducting a variety of strenuous experiments. As the afternoon sun begins to diminish, an exhausted Erika stretches out on the deck.
Erika: It's Griffin's birthday today
Sam: (Writing in her log book) Do you wish to be with him?
Erika: (Absently) No... in fact, I don't want to go home
Sam: You've already requested a three-month extension, I'm sure Dr. Da Silva will grant it to you
Erika: No, I mean I don't want to leave here... ever
Sam: I know my country is beautiful but...
Erika: I don't want to leave IOMI... or you
Sam: But your family is in California
Erika: I don't care
Sam: It is important for you to continue your experiments
Erika: I can get my doctorate here
Sam: But we're not equipped for what you will eventually need
Erika: We'll figure that out when the time comes!
Samadara puts down her book and takes a seat next to her pupil.
Sam: (Noticing the tan lines) You're starting to burn
Erika: It's only skin, right?
Sam: (Applying some sunblock) This will take away the sting
Erika: What takes away the sting for you?
Sam: (Carefully rubbing her back) It never goes away, really - you're just born used to it
Erika: (Turning around and facing her mentor) May I see it again?
Samadara sighs and ponders the query.
Erika: (Taking her hand) Please?
Sam: Go ahead
Using her fingertips, Erika slowly pulls off Samadara's shell bracelet, exposing the circular marking underneath.
Erika: (Tracing the outline of the symbol) It's exquisite... I want to see it glow
Sam: (Pulling back) It only changes when it is in contact with another source
Erika: I still don't understand the whole thing
Sam: You will soon enough
Erika: You keep telling me this and yet I barely know how to spell Nereidium
Sam: Once your marine transgenic studies are complete, we can shift your sole focus to this
Erika: My studies ARE complete - well, nearly - with your help over these last few months, theories that I thought would takes years, even decades to prove, have now been solved in weeks
Sam: I know
Erika: Dr. Da Silva wants to trumpet it to the scientific world, he's talking Nobel Prize
Sam: Arjuna is an eager ass - he has no conception of the significance of your findings - they are not ready for public consumption
Erika: I am aware of this
Sam: I will handle him... you need to be able to handle the Nereidium
Erika: If you teach me, I will learn
Sam: (Looking off over the waves) We'll drop anchor here, the cove is not that far
Sam: (Getting ready to dive into the water) Come, there is a beach I want to take you to
Erika: (Looking at the sky) It'll be dark soon, are you sure?
She is answered by the sound of a splash.
Erika: (Following) Alrighty
The two arrive on the shore where a solitary torch is lit.
Sam: How do you feel?
Erika: (Squinting her eyes and trying to catch her breath) A little dizzy, I think I got too much sun today
Sam: Actually, it's because of this location... you're standing directly above one of the three veins
Erika: This is where the Nereidium is?
Sam: Yes... the vein here is very weak but accessible - the one off the coast of Western Ireland is strong but nearly impossible to get to...
Erika: And the one in Duquesa Bay?
Sam: Strong... and easily accessible - now do you understand the importance of returning to your home?
Erika: (Looking away) I'm starting to
Samadara reaches around Erika's shoulder and offers a warm embrace.
Erika: (Scanning around) What exactly is this place?
Sam: It was a ceremonial beach used by the Veddhas
Sam: The island's native aboriginal inhabitants - they dwelt in the forest but would come here once a year to worship
Erika: Worship what?
Sam: (Thin smile) I'll be right back
Running into the surf, Dr. Ranasinghe disappears into the waves. Erika starts to panic after five minutes and is about to go in after her when Sam resurfaces. With the mark now aglow on her wrist, she makes her way towards the shore with trident in hand.
Surfaced on July 1, 2000
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