Not Again - An adventurous night on the ocean is in store for Nixie, teen girl, and her sea otter Miki. Original speculative short story/flash fiction previously published on gohavok.com
Through the mist, a faint glow hung over the water. I shifted my hydro-scooter into neutral and flicked the light off. The glow wasn’t Samuel’s spotlight. Besides, hadn’t he mentioned that the constables’ fuel allowance had been cut?
My scooter bobbed in the waves, a bit of salt spray dampening my boots. Frizzy bits of hair stuck to my face. Miki chirruped from her spot inside my coat and poked her nose out. I rubbed her head, hoping to calm both my sea otter and myself.
If it was Samuel, I didn’t want to be thrown in the brig for breaking curfew. Not again. He took mentoring me seriously. Of course, as the constable, he had to be harder on me than other teens in our town. But I didn’t have to like it.
“Let’s head home, Miki. We can make this girls’ night and ride around another time.”
But my eyes caught nearby movement backlit by the glow. Something didn’t seem right. It looked like a boat, but what if it wasn’t Samuel’s?
“Want to go check it out, Miki?”
She wriggled out from under my jacket and leapt into the water. I cut the engine, pulled my backup oar off the side of the scooter, and unwound the tow rope, working as silently as possible.
She chomped down on the rope. Together we headed toward the mystery glow, Miki towing as I rowed. My heart pounded in my ears. Every slosh of the oar set me on edge. As we approached, a human shape moved in the boat.
Then the shape froze. “Hear something?”
I stopped rowing. The voice was foreign. Panic tightened my throat. What were we doing here?
A spotlight shone from the boat and picked me out of the dark. My arms shot up to cover my eyes.
I turned the key and the engine roared to life. Miki scrambled onto the scooter as I aimed for home. Why couldn’t it have been a neighbor, or even Samuel?
I didn’t make it five feet before thick strands slapped against me. A kelp net. Before I could react, it tore me off the scooter. From the corner of my eye, I saw Miki leaping off and a figure riding a hydro-scooter toward me, then I hit the water.
The cold shocked me as I sank, arms pinned to my sides. I thrashed about, hoping to catch a weak spot of the net, desperate for air. Something solid cracked against my shoulder. The net jerked and began dragging me backward.
Bubbles escaped from my mouth. My head throbbing, I frantically kicked toward the surface. Already my body grew numb.
My face broke through the water. I gulped in air as never before.
Hands grabbed the netting and dragged me over the edge of the boat. I fell onto a pile of kelp, struggling to sit up in the slippery mass. Kelp poachers. I’d heard about them but had never seen any until now.
“What now, Cap’n?” A man with messy hair still gripped the net. “Someone’s bound to have seen our spotlight.”
The captain scanned the horizon. “Head back to the ship. We’ve needed a new cabin boy, and she just might do.”
“Excuse me?” I managed, my teeth chattering.
The captain smirked. “Can’t risk you blabbing. You should’ve stayed home.”
“You should’ve let me go,” I said with as much bravado as I could muster, then whistled. Miki landed on the kelp next to me. “Get ’em, Miki!”
She leapt and bit the deckhand in his calf. He howled. Hissing, Miki launched at the captain.
I flung handfuls of the net over my head until I could crawl free. My hand landed on my oar. It must have gotten caught up in the net.
“Someone’s coming!” the captain hollered. “Keep the otter off me while I start the engine!”
Behind me, a familiar siren rang from Samuel’s boat, colored lights flashing, but it was still several hundred feet away.
I gripped the oar with stiff hands and lifted it from the tangle. The deckhand tried to snag Miki while she snarled and snapped at him. For just a moment, the captain hunched over the engine, distracted. I swung at the back of his head. The resounding crack would have been much more satisfying if it had knocked him out, but instead he wavered before twisting around, his face contorted.
“I’ll kill you,” he spat out.
“Miki, scram!” I readied the oar as she darted into the water.
“All you had to do was stay home.” The captain stepped forward and pulled a short dagger from his belt. “Why couldn’t you?”
“I’m curious.” I clenched my teeth and tried to look brave.
He took another step.
Miki came flying out of the ocean. All thirty pounds of her hit the captain and knocked him down, rocking the entire boat. The dagger flew overboard. She bit deep into his shoulder and held on.
Samuel’s piercing siren stopped as he guided his boat alongside ours. “What have we here?” He shone his spotlight on us.
“Nothing much.” I nodded at the two. “Miki and I caught a couple of kelp poachers.”
He stepped into our boat with his pistol aimed at the men. The deckhand raised both arms in surrender.
“Miki, good girl. Quit.” She let the captain go and joined me on the pile of kelp.
Samuel cuffed the men, and, once they were aboard his boat, called back, “Could you round up the scooters and bring that boat in for me?”
“Yes, sir.” I turned to start the engine.
“Oh, and Nixie?”
I held my breath.
“You must be chilled to the bone. Drop by my office once you’re done. You can warm up by the fire while we have a chat about your post-curfew shenanigans.”
“Thanks, Samuel,” I groaned. “You’re so thoughtful.”
He laughed and took off.
I sighed. “Miki… Maybe we should have stayed home tonight.”