Astrid kicked her legs as hard as she could, shooting through the water over Swen’s Atoll. The grey monster shot up from behind and passed her like a bullet, only to roll over and propel itself directly toward her. At the last moment, it rose just enough to pass above her without touching. Seeing him from the surface, it was difficult to tell just how big Alister was, but seen from here beneath the waves, he was huge—over ten feet long and weighing about a thousand pounds.
“Alister play. Alister play,” the device in Astrid’s hands translated the dolphin’s signals.
From twenty feet to Astrid’s left, came another sound. Alister’s partner called out to him.
Astrid didn’t know for sure, but she suspected that John was trying to get Alister to pay him some attention, rather than lavishing it on the surface-dweller. Five consecutive days of swimming with him had certainly given Astrid the impression that Alister enjoyed her company. She couldn’t say the same about his companion.
She dove down and flipped over, swimming in the reverse of the direction she had been going. As she approached where the boat was anchored, she saw Penelope and two female dolphins playing with the scarf. Then she saw Adeline, who was signaling to return to the surface. Astrid followed her until both their heads popped above the waves. The girl inventor was surprised to find it darker than it had been when she had submerged.
“We’ve got to go in,” said Adeline. “The clouds have rolled in and the wind is picking up.”
“Okay,” Astrid replied. “Let me get Penelope.”
Pushing the regulator back in her mouth, Astrid dove down to where her aunt was floating, tapping her on the shoulder. When Penelope looked, she signaled to head for the surface. When their heads reached the air, they could see that the ocean was already becoming choppy. They quickly climbed into the boat.
“Were we expecting weather?” asked Penelope.
“It’s Hurricane Diego,” said Eleanor. “It was supposed to be far north of us, but it’s turned our way.”
She pulled up the anchor and then took her place behind the wheel, starting up the engine and steering toward Dolphin Island. The dolphins swam along behind them for a while, riding the wake, but then disappeared.
“That was great fun,” said Astrid. “I can’t believe that Alister is saying whole sentences—well, at least a two word sentence.”
“I think our translation is problematic,” said Adeline. “The dolphins use gestures and other signals, but I think they should be saying more. I think we are only getting a little slice of what they could say to us.”
By the time the boat was cruising into the lagoon, the waves of the open ocean were five feet or more.
They pulled the boat as far onto the sand as they could and tied it to not one, but three trees. Then they hurried inside the little house.
Eleanor turned on the radio and dialed into the weather.
“I’m going to pull up the storm on the Internet,” said Astrid.
“I’m going to puke,” said Penelope.
She staggered to the front door and stepped outside. The others could hear a retching sound. Astrid stepped out to make sure that she was all right and found the sky so dark she could have been forgiven for thinking it was night. The wind was so strong that it pushed her two steps to the left. Steadying herself, she stepped over to where Penelope knelt in the sand and bent down over her.
“Are you okay, Aunt Penelope?”
Her aunt arched her back and heaved again in reply. Astrid pulled her aunt’s black hair back to keep it out of the pool of vomit in the sand.
“I think I’m going to be turned inside out,” gasped Penelope at last. “I haven’t felt this bad since the after party at the Grammy’s.”
“What were you doing at the Grammy’s?”
“Getting sick. That’s really all you need to know. Well, I think I’m done.”
She began struggling to her feet. Astrid helped pull her up and then threw her shoulder under the elder Maxxim’s. She led the way back inside and into the office, where Penelope crawled into her sleeping bag.
“Here, Penelope, drink this,” said Océane, stepping into the room with a glass of amber liquid.
“What is it?” came the croaked reply.
“It’s ginger ale. It will settle your stomach. We keep it on hand because Eleanor gets seasick too.”
“Is she sick now too?” wondered Astrid.
Océane nodded. “You should drink some too, Astrid.”
“I’m not seasick.”
“I need something stronger,” said Penelope. “I think I need to be put in a medically-induced coma.”
“I’m sorry,” said Océane. “I’m afraid we don’t even have motion sickness pills.”