Invasion of the hazmats, p.1
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       Invasion of the Hazmats, p.1

          
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Invasion of the Hazmats


  INVASION OF THE HAZMATS

  By Susha Golomb

  Copyright 2017 Susha Golomb

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  PART I – JOURNEY TO THE ABYSSMAL ZONE

  Chapter 1 – A Less-Than-Willing Sorcerer’s Apprentice

  Chapter 2 – Power Pebbles

  Chapter 3 – Not a Diplomat

  Chapter 4 – Road Trip

  Chapter 5 – Crash Tag

  Chapter 6 – Reading, Writing and the Sleep Spell

  Chapter 7 – Bubbling Along

  Chapter 8 – Spiders

  Chapter 9 – Dr. Who?

  Chapter 10 – Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!

  Chapter 11 – Lost in a Lake

  Chapter 12 – I’m a Poet! I Know it!

  Chapter 13 – Free at Last

  Chapter 14 – Into the Abyss

  Chapter 15 – Seahorses

  PART II – CASTLE DOWNALOT

  Chapter 16 – Gloria Mundi

  Chapter 17 – Oops

  Chapter 18 – Jaws Will Drop

  Chapter 19 – Know Your Enemy

  Chapter 20 – The Not So Secret Garden

  Chapter 21 – The Salt Lake

  Chapter 22 – Glori the Secret Keeper

  Chapter 23 – Runaway Bride

  Chapter 24 – Miriam Vanishes

  PART III – HUNTING HAZMATS

  Chapter 25 – Lake Francis...Again

  Chapter 26 – The Maiden Voyage

  Chapter 27 – Pink Unicorns or Fluffy Kittens

  Chapter 28 – Miss Sweet and Reasonable

  Chapter 29 – Feed the Birds

  Chapter 30 – Feather Pillows With Feet

  Chapter 31 – I Yam What I Yam

  Chapter 32 – The Pirate’s Secret

  Chapter 33 – Into the Woods and Under the Sea

  Chapter 34 – Leaving Things Out

  Chapter 35 – The Great Reveal

  Chapter 36 – Three Sisters and Four Mad Dogs

  PART IV – A MONSTER LIKE ME

  Chapter 37 – Nothing But a Halfandhalf

  Chapter 38 – The Pathfinding Spell

  Chapter 39 – Back at Casalot

  Chapter 40 – Goodbye...

  Chapter 41–...And Farewell

  Epilogue

  Note to the Reader

  Appendix

  1. Seahorses and Geography

  2. The Land of Little Lakes

  3. Verona

  4. The Dolphins Become Scribes to the Bubble People

  INVASION OF THE HAZMATS

  PART I

  JOURNEY TO THE ABYSSMAL ZONE

  CHAPTER 1

  A LESS-THAN-WILLING SORCERER’S APPRENTICE

  I wasn’t born with a fish tail. It isn’t even a permanent arrangement but it means I could finally visit my adoptive grandparents, formerly known as Grandma and Grandpa Mermaid. Who knew the stories my parents told me when I was little were true?

  I was officially here on a summer visit—my first—with my grandparents but plans change. Sidetracked is probably a better way to describe it. I am now officially apprenticed to the rogue Sky, Zazkal.

  The work/study thing was an add-on, meant to give me some basic life skills in magic and to give Zazkal some basic life skills, period. Since he hated being with other people, it was a sort of punishment for kidnapping me and my sampo. What he really wanted was the sampo, but since we can’t be separated, he was stuck with me, too.

  Zazkal was waiting for me when I arrived. He did not look happy to see me. No ‘hello’. No ‘how was your trip?’ As soon as I showed up, he turned tail and I followed. He led me directly to his workshop, the largest of a series of interconnected natural openings inside the remote coral atoll where he lived and worked.

  “Memorize the name and location of everything in this room. The least you can do is learn to fetch things when I am working.”

  That was it. My entire first lesson. He swam off muttering under his breath about wasting time. I couldn’t decide whether to be offended or overwhelmed.

  Every wall in the big room was covered with ceiling-high wicker chests of drawers. All the chests were bolted down and all the drawers were latched shut, not unlike the cabin of a ship, and for much the same reason, only they were under the water instead of on it.

  I swam to the nearest wall and began pulling open one drawer after another. Every one of the unlabeled drawers must have contained a dozen or more jars and bottles of strange-looking stuff.

  I decided to be overwhelmed.

  Groaning, I floated limply to the floor. For a full five minutes, I sat there staring wide-eyed at the endless supply of supplies.

  Finally, I took a deep breath, swam over to the nearest chest of drawers and got to work.

  Three hours later, Zazkal was back with an armful of bright green seaweed. He dumped it on the big worktable in the middle of the room and started barking out orders.

  “Get me pink sand, red algae and compound 221B.” Miraculously, I managed to find all three before he finished assembling an assortment of bowls and tools from a drawer in the worktable.

  He slammed shut the drawer, started fiddling with the jars and rattled off his next list. I knew I was doomed even before he finished.

  “Good. Now get me hydroxy-oxydoxy number 6, sea cucumbers…pelleted, not powdered, tincture of scalymoss and fractated coral shards in that exact order, and quickly.”

  I somehow managed to find the hydroxy-oxydoxy and the sea cucumbers but then I gave him the wrong kind of scalymoss and was now floating nervously in front of a cabinet that held at least twenty different kinds of coral, afraid to ask him which one he wanted. I floated just a little too long for Zazkal’s limited patience.

  He blew up and threw the jar of algae, or maybe it was the pink sand. Who could tell? Zazkal threw the jar all the way across the room, no easy task underwater.

  “Useless, useless, useless. You’re nothing but an undersized ten-year old with a mouth bigger than your brain. I refuse to have you hanging around, interfering with my work.”

  I cracked.

  “What is this? Education by intimidation?” I hollered back. “You’re supposed to be my teacher. Anyway, you can’t kick me out and I can leave whenever I want. I’m not your prisoner anymore.”

  The first day was going much better than expected. Here we were…already on speaking terms.

  “Allow me to remind you, Miss Miriam Mermelstein,” he said with quiet menace, “that taking on an assistant was not my idea.” The water around his head actually sizzled, he was that mad. Maybe I should tone it down a notch.

  “It was your grandparents’ idea to make the punishment fit the crime and right now, the alternative of permanent exile is starting to look a lot more attractive.”

  The truth was, Zazkal couldn’t care less about permanent exile, but he desperately wanted the use of my sampo and had already kidnapped me twice to get it. The sampo has a homing spell on it, so the only way to steal it is to steal me, too. My little drawstring bag can produce just about anything that will fit through its opening, in other words, an endless supply of the ingredients he needs for his research in deep-ocean magic.

  For Zazkal, the only good kind of time is alone time. His reputation is that he’s the best magician and the worst-tempered fairy in the Seven Seas. My sampo not only gives him instant access to the rare and not-so-rare ingredients he needs for his work, but it effectively eliminates face-time with all the people he normally has to be nice to if he wants to get his precious supplies.

  “Zazkal,” I said, trying hard to speak in a more conciliatory tone, “I have learned an awful lot of these already, but I have no idea what any of the labels mean. It makes it a lot harder to remember. Half of my time with you is supposed to be as a student anyway. Couldn’t you use that time to teach me what all this stuff means? It would make it much easier to remember if it made sense. Besides, once I understood more, I could just take things out of my sampo for you. Isn’t that why I’m here?” I swallowed hard, nervously waiting for him to speak.

  Fixing me with one of his now familiar icy glares, he finally spoke.

  “All right, Miriam,” he said through clenched teeth. “I can see it will be some time before you will be any good as an assistant. Besides,” he crossed his arms in front of his chest and glared at me, “it’s unthinkable for me to spend my time with an illiterate.”

  “I read all the labels on your stupid jars. I am not illiterate.” Most…of the labels would have been more accurate, but I thought I was doing pretty well, since I had only just learned to read Sky, as these air- and water-breathing sea-fairies called themselves. Even in my mind, I was careful to say Sky and not use the ‘M’ word

  “Well, I can see there’s no help for it,” he said acidly. “We’ll spend the rest of the morning reviewing the contents of some of my inventory, and this afternoon, I will begin teaching you to write.”

  “What a waste of time!” he muttered, loud enough for me to hear, adding a dirty look to make sure I got the point.

  Anyone with an ounce of sense, I thought, pressing my lips together to keep the words inside, would have realized that if you are going to have an assistant, someone has to spend time training her. Any normal person would have planned for it.

  Still… Writing underwater required magic. This would be the first real magic I would learn.

  I kept my mouth shut and listened, trying not to ask questions, while Zazkal began to explain the system he used to organize his supplies. As time passed, he began to warm to his subject. He may not have been very agreeable on most things, but when the topic was magic, and the listener was clearly interested, he became enthusiastic and articulate.

  He’ll be a pretty good teacher, I thought with some relief. At least, as long as I pay attention and don’t ask dumb questions.

  CHAPTER 2

  POWER PEBBLES

  Once I learned what and where everything was, Zazkal gradually reduced his conversation back to grunted instructions. My mornings were spent watching quietly while he worked. I floated close by, trying to figure out what was going on and ready to fetch, return and clean up as requested. I had lots of questions, but not enough nerve to interrupt.

  Still, it would be a long time before the excitement of being a ‘sorcerer’s apprentice’ would wear off. Watching magic happen was very different from the way I used my three fairy gifts, which worked more or less on their own.

  The sampo that Zazkal so coveted was a birthday present from fairy friends of the family. There was also a pair of grafted-on wings and a fern-seed coat that made me invisible, all intended to help a traveling ten-year old get safely to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

  Their house wasn’t over the river and through the woods, but in an ancient coral-reef makeover, now known as Casalot, a combination community center and high-rise apartment building.

  Of course, there was also the family fish scale. Grandma gave it to Mom and Mom gave it to me providing me with the necessary magic to let me make the switch from legs to fishtail, making the whole trip possible.

  My afternoons, on the other hand, turned out to be pretty boring. Writing insea, that is, underwater, used a spell to bypass hands and send the words directly from the brain to the stuff they used for paper. It took me less than ten minutes to learn the spell that activated the writing process. Actually being able to do it was different.

  While Zazkal played with my sampo, my time was spent in tedious, repetitive practice with improvements coming in very small increments.

  After the first three days, I could not understand why both Zazkal and my grandparents insisted on me spending so much time learning to write. What for? So I could label Zazkal’s bottles? Doesn’t that sound like fun? I only had six weeks before I had to go home for school in September. Shouldn’t I be learning more important things?

  Meanwhile, I began to notice some basic distinctions in the kind of work he was doing during my fetch and clean workshop mornings, and one day I commented innocently how like cooking much of his activity was.

  “What do you mean ‘cooking’?” he said, lifting his eyebrows and stopping his work to look at me. “Be explicit.”

  “It just seemed to me,” I answered, “that the formula you use to mix your ingredients is like a recipe. Then, instead of applying heat to make things change, like we do on the land–” he grimaced. “I mean outsea,” I quickly corrected myself, “–you repeat another magic formula. That incantation is your ‘cooking fire’.”

  Zazkal smiled. Not a very big smile mind you, and only slightly marred by the arch in his brows, but a smile nevertheless.

  “Cooking, Cultivating, and Concentrating. Most magic,” he said, moving into lecture mode, “is generally accomplished by one or more of these three basic methods, usually a combination.”

  “The Three C’s,” I chimed in.

  “Yes,” he answered dryly. “That’s the way we explain it to little children.”

  “Oh.” Reduced from ten to two years old by one short sentence, my ego plunged to an all-time low.

  Still, I was never someone who knew when to keep her mouth shut. I had more to say and I wanted to say it. At least I took my time and chose my next words carefully.

  “I only know one formula. That’s the one you taught me for writing with. But I can’t just say the words and make the writing appear. I have to really work at it. Is that what you mean by Concentration?”

  “Well done, my little koi,” he said with only a hint of sarcasm. I was caught between my dislike of being referred to as a goldfish and the first thing remotely resembling a compliment I had heard.

  “You still write like a five year old,” he said. You can’t do any kind of magic until you master writing.

  “Go away,” he said impatiently. “Practice. Don’t practice. I have work to do.”

  I resolved to take my writing practice a lot more seriously.

  It was about a week later. I was sitting in the storeroom next to the workshop practicing writing and getting pretty good at it. I looked up and saw Zazkal floating in the doorway staring at me. He looked mad.

  “Where did you get that?” he said sharply. I had gotten into the habit of holding my pet rock in one hand when I practiced writing. It helped me focus.

  “Don’t look at me like that.” When the subject was not magic, I was a lot less intimidated by Zazkal’s bad manners. “I’m not in the habit of taking things that don’t belong to me, you know. I found it on the Maiden Voyage after the pirates left.”

  The falling-apart fishing boat with the mismatched name had belonged to four seriously weird-looking and weirder-acting people. On my way to visit Grandma and Grandpa Sky, I had gotten caught up in their fishing net and hauled in with a bunch of random fish. None of us were what they were looking for.

  My rock was just a big pebble really, hardly big enough to qualify as a rock, but it was so pretty, all blue and green swirls and warm from the sun…so I sort of pretended that they were pirates and that this was an uncut jewel that had fallen from their treasure box. There was, of course, no way I was going to say this to Zazkal.

  “May I see it?” he said with uncharacteristic courtesy. I opened my hand and showed him the stone. He took a good long look at my pet rock and at me, then swam up to one of the three gently bobbing globes that lit the storeroom, reached out and put his hand right through it.

  The globe part of the fairy light closed over his open hand like a soap bubble, leaving no entry. He withdrew his fist, the hole in the globe followed the contours of his hand so that there was never any visible opening. The light had gone out.

  Zazkal opened his fist and showed me the small stone that he held. It was bright with blue and green swirls that seemed to move as I watched. I’m sure that if I held it, it would feel warm in my hand.

  I had seen how the fairy lights worked at Casalot. I knew that each globe held a small, shiny stone. They were the light bulbs of the fairy lights.

  “My pet rock is a power-pebble? That’s what the pirate treasure was?”

  “I’m going up to the surface to get a traveling bubble ready,” he said. “Get the sampo and meet me at the bubble. We’re going to Casalot to see your grandparents.”

  CHAPTER 3

  NOT A DIPLOMAT

  A little less than two hours later, we were swimming into the Great Hall at Casalot. Grandma and Grandpa were there chatting with a small group of Sky. Even from a distance, you could not mistake Floradora’s small size and red hair or Mele’s dark curls. It takes a lot of curl for hair to stay curly under water and Grandpa had plenty.

  They saw us swimming over, and looked first pleased and then grave.

  “Is everything all right?” Flora said.

  “Everything is fine. Miriam is doing very well,” Zazkal answered politely, obviously willing to pay my grandparents the compliments he withheld from me. I would’ve sworn the fish thought I was an imbecile. Probably he does.

  “I came to talk to you about something else altogether.” Flora, Mele’ and Zazkal swam through a cluster of empty fairy lights that served as a kind of floating curtain over the floor doors and into a smaller room where they could talk privately. Since nobody said otherwise, I followed along, trying to look inconspicuous. Zazkal was his usual, short and to the point.

  “Miriam, show your grandparents what you found on the boat after the Hazmats left.” He knows who they are? I thought. Then seeing Grandpa and Grandma nod in acknowledgement, I realized that I was the only one in the room who had no idea of what was going on. I held out my power pebble and their eyes widened.

  “So that’s what the those shapeshifters were smuggling,” Mele’ said. His smile faded to serious.

  “Apparently.” said Zazkal. “Have you heard anything?”

  “There have been rumors,” Flora answered, “that some of the abyssmal cities are having problems. We use the fairy lights for our convenience,” Grandma said to me. “An inner room like this would only be good as a storeroom without them. It’s nice, but not really necessary.

 
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