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- Chapter 35: Groaning Sea -


  Claire and the three companions were near the deepest part of the Alaska Bay. Claire has going to the north as taught by the orca of "Scale Faction", but it seemed to be suspicious whether the abductors kept the same course all the time.
  Under the surface of the water, the kelp forest grown enormously along the coast spreads, and when turning the eyes on the water surface, there are a series of peaks that have snow on the other side of the coniferous trees covering the north earth. In the intertidal zone connecting the two vegetation of land and sea representative of the nature of northern countries, red and brown algae stick to the rock to the point of the high tide line. It is a relatively warm Alaska current flowing around the inside of the bay by breaking the northern part of the cold California ocean current that is fostering the rich greenery of this region close to latitude of sixty degrees.
  Various seabirds fly over the waves looking for abundant fish. The birds of prey that eat fish exclusively; bald eagles are making nests on the top of the shoreline fir or spruce. There are animals whom Clare and Cherokee are unfamiliar with, being mixed with familiar seals among marine mammals. Northern sea lions resemble Otaria living in the Southern Hemisphere, but they look much bigger and fierce.
  It was sea otters that Claire never saw similar creatures. Unlike northern sea lions, they are tiny peddle living in dozens to hundreds of "District" units. They are eating bait or playing by swimming around during the day, but in the evening they are wrapped in kelp blankets and sleep floating on the sea floor.
  They are beasts who uses "Extension of Forelimb" Douglas taught. Let's see the demonstration of breaking shellfish once later, Claire thought.
  Certainly, they have small forelimbs that seem to be dexterous instead of pectoral fin. The innocent sea otters are full of velvety fur in their whole body and are constantly grooming. Due to the dense furs that can store the air, they can keep their temperature while they are soaked in cold seawater. And due to this beautiful fur, the sea otters were forced to eradicate temporarily by the race who do not have fur, and who want to use "Extension" excessively unlike them.
  The four whales asked their local creatures, including their same races, Joey and the killer whale's whereabouts. The long-awaited information reached their ears when ten days passed since they left the Johnston Channel.
  The source of information was nothing but sea otters. Sea otters, whose body length is only about four feet, hid behind kelp bush and tried to get past them, when large creatures who is 10 to 20 times as large as them arrived. Then Cherokee played a variety of plays with kelp, which he learned from orcas of Vancouver.
"Here, this is the seaweed roll of humpback whale... No! rhythmic gymnastics. Look at me."
  Although Cherokee did not think that the game with orcas is useful in such a place, the sea otters who are originally pleasure‐loving were interested in the humpback whale dancing around and young ones of them came out. They soon opened up to each other and began to play games together. Mostly he seems to get on well with low age animals.
  The sea otters, who have a relatively short history after advancing the ocean in the marine mammal races, could only speak "Interlanguage for Blowers" in one word, but they can managed to communicate with each other somehow with some gesture fins and forelimbs. When Cherokee tried to enter into the subject and imitated a whistle of orca, all the sea otters who had been forgiving before now jumped into the kelp forest.
"Hey, what are you doing? I just imitated it. It's okay to leave it out."
  Then the sea otters appeared timidly looking around.
"Because they are in the menu of "Fur Faction" as well."; Douglas said.
"Well then, are they just too sensitive?"; Jansen said.
  A female sea otter said with a trembling voice.
"Horrible killer whales came the day before yesterday. All of the male 'District' was killed."
  Sea otters are usually living separately with sexes. All the sea otters here were females and children.
"Were the killer whales not taking whales like me?"; Claire asked.
"It may have been. Don't know. I was hiding in the forest. We held a funeral of the dead males yesterday. We rolled them in kelp and depart them. Sad..."
  Claire asked with gentle and soothing voice to the grieving sea otter female.
"I am sorry, only one afterward. Do you know which direction the killer whale went to?"
"It is towards the bay in the west."
  The sea otter pointing with pretty forelimbs towards the direction the killer whales went to. The whales nodded looking at each other's face. There is no doubt as the homicidal maniac group of the killer whales. They torture the group of the sea otters to death as if kelp or stone toys.
"Thank you, everyone of the sea otters. Please cheer up."
  Claire left behind the sea otters while regretting to make the sea otters have reminded of painful events. She hope that at least they can stop sorrow and regain cheeriness with a new game from Cherokee that were taught by orcas.
  The four whales aimed straight ahead to the west. Claire felt her heart getting hot when thinking that she will be a face to face with Joey at last.
  The party was swimming while keeping a high pace and arrived at the bay which the sea otters had said before dusk. When the late sunset of the high latitude area approached in a few minutes, Douglas captured something with bass sonar sending forward. About twenty shadows of thirty feet in total length and same numbers of small shadows were moving forward at almost the same speed as themselves. Jansen also confirmed. Finally they caught up.
  Claire also sent sonar to check the son's shadow. Is one of those little shadows Joey's?
  When she tried to watch better by ear to see her son with a general election in prospect, another huge shadow appeared in sight.
  It was a tremendous size "Giant Floating Rock" that is over ten times the size of Douglas. Actually, on the banks of the bay they came, there was a nest of "Furless Seal" and large and small "Floating Rock" frequented in and out. Outlaws killer whales, who have progressed by excluding all obstacles, seemed to have no intention of challenging this big "Giant Rock" indeed, and tried to change the course. "Giant Floating Rock" went straight forward without being conscious of the existence of whales. It was almost simultaneous that the sun went down and the shadow of "Giant Rock" covered it.
  Suddenly, the great acoustics as if shaking the ocean floor roared forward. At that moment Claire looked like a huge "Giant Floating Rock" was overwhelmed.
"That made it!"
"Does that rascal have no ears!?"
  Two older whales cried almost at the same time.
  There are reefs here and there on the ocean floor near the entrance of the bay and some of them are raising near the sea level. The "Giant Floating Rock" has overcome one of them whether progressed without noticing the danger or missed the rudder because of the heavily rising waves and strong winds just at that moment. The huge "Giant Floating Rock" that hit a reef tilted the body and stopped moving.
"Shit! We are in hot water."
  Jansen snapped a short tongue and said.
"What?"
  Claire looked back at Janssen who was rarely frightened.
"That is 'Oil-Eater'. The matter is getting serious."
"Does it eat whale oil?"
  Cherokee is surprised and asked.
"No, that's the story of ordinary "Whale-Eater Giant Rock". The bastard in front of us eats a lot of oil of 'Child of Meta-Ceti'."
"Oil of 'Child of Meta-Ceti'?"
"This planet we live also has subcutaneous fat. There are places in the ocean where it seeps little by little, such as the edge of the Indian Ocean or a corner of the Gulf of Mexico. 'Floating Rock' plucks the skin of 'Child of Meta-Ceti' and pulls her fat like a lamprey. Any 'Rock' eat more or less her fat. There is also a rumor that 'Rock' without life can move around without sinking thanks to fat of 'Child of Meta-Ceti'. And those rascals take a dump of oil going the sea. Though talking about dirty things, the crap of the bastards gather in a spherical shape and drifts on the waves without quite easily disappearing. If you inadvertently swallow it, you will definitely get an upset stomach. If it is a turtle or a bird, it could be a fatal blow. It surely float on the place where it is the path of 'Floating Rock', so look for carefully someday. Indeed, the dump of "Floating Rock" is badly dirty unlike the feces of any living beings. In comparison, our feces decompose quickly and it becomes a food of other creatures. So it's clean. In any case, 'Floating Rock' spread poison into the sea as die involuntarily and shoot. This type of huge 'Giant Rock' gathers a large amount of oil among 'Rocks'."
"Yes. 'Oil-Eater Giant Rock' has recorded that it rides on reefs here and there, collides with 'Rock', died with sick on the way. When 'Giant Floating Rock' gets scratched, 'Black Fat' flows out in large quantities, and innumerable living creatures is killed by the poison. I have seen the body of 'Giant Rock' once. Though I was relieved because it was long since it died there. It is unbearable for us whale races if 'Black Fat' would leaked out near the 'Fertile Sea'. It is said that the harvest would be reduced for many years in the surrounding waters where 'Oil-Eater Giant Rock' died."
  Douglas also supplemented Jansen's explanation.
  Young Claire and Cherokee were confused in the head since a serious incident broke out and they stuffed a lot of knowledge that they had not known until now.
"It's normal that fat is contained within the 'Child of Meta-Ceti' body. We will understand too enough tomorrow. Then we had better to run away here. Otherwise---"
  At that time suddenly glaring light rose from the dark sea level. It is as though the sun that once fell out rise again from the west. However, the source of light was nothing but "Giant Floating Rock" else. Although the light was seen through the air, it stumbled as if she was seeing it under the water, and gradually stretched out and spread.
"What on ocean is that!?"
  Claire got up to the surface of the water and gazed still feeling awe the light that challenge the darkness of the night tries to rip it.
"That is the light that living things can not touch. I know many creatures with light living in the deep sea. But all they have is the same cold light as the moon and the aurora. Do you know what the sun is like?"
"That is puerperal fever of Meta-Ceti."
  Claire responded Jansen with a voice without intonation, watching the flame of fire as if the soul was robbed.
"Yes. It is made from the labor pain of our mother of all living creatures. So it is grimly hot. Only because it is shining over the universe, we can still be given grace by it. We should not approve it absolutely. It is not as much as the sun, but that is hot light, too. There was a stupid youngster who had curiosity and came close to 'Giant Floating Rock' that broke and was feverish olden days. He drowned though he is whale, because his spiracles were burned as approaching too much and the seawater entered the lungs."
  Flame wrapped in 'Giant Rock', crawled around the sea surface while changing appearance variously, and grabbed toward heaven. The wind brought a stormy sound. Staring at eyes, the dazzling light seemed paradoxically producing darkness. Dark black strange things were spreading to the sky and the sea more and more. However, the flames that burn red did not clearly show off the appearance of their own fallen child, but it highlighted only the eerie shadow of dying "Giant Floating Rock" like a ghost.
  Claire became stunned by the sight unfolded at the moment that can not be regarded as the thing of this world. When have I stop blowing...
"Let's go. Don't be here."
  Jansen pushed Claire's flank. She suddenly came to her sense and shouted in a dismayed voice.
"Joey is dangerous!!"
  Yes, the abductors were much closer to "Giant Floating Rock". Their shadow caught immediately before the accident was no longer able to see which direction they headed for. If still they have stay by "Rock", the virulence of oil or fiery heat will definitely drive Joey to death."
"Don't be silly! That crafty villain killer whales can not hang so long in stays. They still ought to have escaped. We can search again later!"
"No! The killer whales may have left Joey behind! If that so, there is no one who can help my son except me!"
  Claire tried to run away mindlessly. Jansen's jaw caught her pectoral fin a moment early.
"Release, please!"
"Hey, you guys also help! Sorry but I'll use force to a female for the first time."
  Jansen firmly kept the fin of Claire, struggle desperately, with a chin just enough to not hurt. Douglas and Cherokee also tried to push her back by making walls.
illustration "Please be patient now, Claire!"
"Joey boy must be safe!"
"Joey! Joey!"
  On that day suddenly a calamity went down the quiet northern wild paradise, the flames danced wildly burning the night sky like a fanfare telling the opening the crazy feasts of death and anguish of countless numbers of life. A crying voice of the mother whale, who was blocked from reunion with her son by the heartless shine, sounded empty in the sea be making silence.
"Joey!!"

  The three whale males forcibly took the minke female who was in a hysteric state to a distance considered to be safe enough from "Giant Floating Rock". They decided to be waiting at the offshore up side of the ocean current until the situation could be determined overnight. Depending on the direction of the wind and the tide, "Black Fat" may be blown on the shore.
  Claire, who realized that it was in vain how much rampage, was pretending to sleep quietly and sometimes unexpectedly put in power and tried to escape from Jansen's jaws. But the old male whale never let go limp while pretending to sleep like her.
"Hey, it is ten years earlier to break out me, Claire."
  He opened one eye and grinned towards Claire.
"How dare you say bouncer while rising against the employer and taking away the freedom of action? You will be sorry for it!"
"I still fulfill my duty of bodyguard, don't me, Master?"
  Claire, who was no match for him in size and power, glanced at the lone cachalot. Since I am faster for swimming, I hope that there is a chance to remove the fin from that jaw, she thought.
  The four whales revealed the night without sleeping a wink. In the morning, the devastation was clearly evident in the eyes of everyone. The surface of the sea which had been painting a fine thin wave pattern until yesterday was covered with dark black liquid the whole surface and strangely calm.
  This is "Black Fat"; fat of "Child of Meta-Ceti", it turns into poison when going out of her body; Claire thought.
  Oil flowing out of "Giant Rock" grew in the direction of the southwest and became a black band. It was about ten miles long and still expanding.
  The "Giant Floating Rock" which became impossible to swim was exposed the miserable big figure on the position of the reef which it had ridden, but the small "Floating Rock" and "Flying Rock" are flocking around, and the fire was extinguished before they know.   "Furless Seal" is not only immune to incandescence fire that keeps life off, but it even seems to have the ability to quell its radiance. However, even that "Furless Seal" could not return oil which was lost from "Giant Rock" back into the belly of "Rock" against the entropy god.
  The four whales slowly moved along the outer edge of the "Black Fat" flow while watching the creepy scenery in the distance.
"It is something said well that follow "Oil-Eater Rock" if you want to see the hell."
"Hey Jansen. Please let me release. I will not do something unreasonable. Rather than that, let's look for Joey dividing among us."
  Claire appealed to the bouncer who did not release her with pectoral fin overnight after all.
"What shall I do, Old male?"
  Jansen turned his eyes to Douglas.
"Hmm... All right. Listen carefully instead, Claire. You should not enter a watershed where the sea level is black. Oil choke the spiracles and suffocate us whales. Do not open your eyes where 'Black Fat' is drifting in the water. Because resulting in blindness. And also close your mouth. Oil stick to the baleen and make us not be fed, and breaks a digestive organ if you swallow it as Jansen said. Either way, take extra care. When rising up to respiration, make sure whether the sea surface is not filled with grease, appear the spiracles firmly in the air and blow. If you find Joey or another whale, be sure to call a companion without trying to help alone. This should remind. Will you promise me?"
"Yes, I will."
  Claire finally got released freely. The traces of Jansen's teeth arranged in two rows are clearly attached on the back of the pectoral fin with gray spots.
"Decoration was created, he-he."; Jansen made fun of Claire.
"No more! I wish I had been born in a toothed whale."
  The four whales started to search for Joey in the sea of danger immediately.
"Joey! Joey!"
"Boy Joey! We the older brothers came to help you!"
  Claire broke up with her colleagues and continued to call her son's name while bypassing the black belt. When blowing and breathing in, she felt that disgusting components were mixed in the atmosphere. On the way, she crossed over a group of gray whales getting away from the shore precipitately.
"That's horrible, lah. Oil soak into mud completely. Bristle worms and amphipods have been covered with grease."
"It's all over, lah. 'Foison Sea' is closing up, and the world is the end."
"This is not a time for telling joke, meh!"
  They were evacuating to offshore while complaining. Claire also met other evacuees of seals and dolphins. Claire asked those animals; "Did you see killer whales with minke whale kids?", but every whale for themselves and so satisfactory reply did not come back.
  The current sea surface was not dyed black yet, but a mass of "Black Fat" like sawdust was up and down everywhere. Amidst extraordinary calmness, Claire prick up one's ears whether her son's voice could not be heard. When she stared her ears, a very faint sound like a singing voice somehow was transmitted from the silent black ocean.
  Claire turned pale when the identity of the sound was revealed. She remembered that she had heard something close to this before. That was when she came across a long "Ghost" in the South Pacific. The faint voice trembling high and low was a groan of the pain of the various creatures dying. As if it was waiting for her understanding the meaning of the sound, the anguish song began to be heard from here and there of black cloudy seas and everywhere in the ocean filled with a big chorus of groaning.
  Claire wanted to occasionally close her ears, instead she opened her eyes and focused her attention on the front view. A thin oil already spreads in the form of a film on the surface of the water, which received a light of the sun and shone a rainbow-colored luster. However, the vortex pattern turning into seven colors was nothing but a trap that made a living thing obstructive. "Black Fat" which increases in thickness as it goes forward absorbed light darkening like a scab and was flowing all over. Oil that has settled in the sea poured on as fear rains over the seaweed and the small creatures that live there. The rocks at the ocean floor had already been overwrapped with greasy appearance. The forest of kelp also had a blackish mist. Between the heavy sunken oil and lightly oil spreading on the surface of the water, oil that does not dissolve in water is stagnant as if suffering and struggling by being thrown into seawater. That suffering possessed to the living creatures, and it brought to repulsive death them.
  Due to the greasy covering the surface like a canopy, the inside of the water looked pretty bad. Claire disobeyed Douglas' words of saying, and put her eyes on the dark ocean. Because she seemed that herself also screamed for being swallowed by innumerable screams when closing the eyelids and directing consciousness only to the sound. Then, she saw something moved near the water surface ahead.
  When she got close to, it was a seabird. The whole body is covered with "Black Fat" and can not distinguish the race. In spite of not knowing that it was a trap and thinking that it is a calm waves-free sea level, this bird just fell down to stop the feathers and could never fly away again. The bird sometimes bowed the head distressfully and desperately looked up to the sky to return somehow, but the wings were just scratching the dark and sticky sea surface in vain. In a few minutes, water will soak in the feathers, the bird is destined to freeze or drown.
  Claire shook her head and left there. Next time she found a bigger shadow. It was still a young individual of that cheerful sea otter. Although he was saved if he had evacuated earlier on the shore, it seemed that black tentacles of greasy attacked while still wondering around the waves apart from colleagues. The sea otter, who became a pitiful figure like as a solid mass of alga waste spoiled the beautiful smoothness fur by oil, was convulsing the body unnaturally.
  The child of the sea otter muttered with a weak voice.
"Mam..."
  Claire rushed into the filth of "Floating Rock" without regard to herself. She somehow tried to push up the little life in a precarious state on the black treacherous sea, but the sea otter's body was awakened by the waves and only slipped on her big back. When she finally succeeded in lifting him, the child's body did not move yet. Cold water got stuck between the fur, which is playing the role of keeping warm with the air layer usually, and took away the body temperature from the small body.
"Oh!"
  Looking around, many animals were stuck in the sea surface like a dark opaque mirror. They were dancing deadly dance that showed the discontinued wriggling in the process towards a permanent stop. The sea was filled with oil and death.
"Joey! My son!"
  Claire swam around madly the dark sea full of groaning and suffering. When she saw a dying animal or an animal that has already died, she immediately rush to see whether it is her son, and when she found it different, she went to ascertain the next corpse. She was already in the midst of the "Black Fat" zone. She inhaled grease and choked every surfacing time, she did not mind even if it entered the eye without tears flowing, she still pushed through the black ocean.
"My son..."

  Based on a slight carelessness injury of one "Giant Floating Rock", the creatures living in the Alaska Bay were hit by an unprecedented catastrophe. More than thirty thousands birds have died. This number would further swollen if it include birds who causes fatal gastrointestinal disturbances by swallowing oil attached when grooming feathers. Thousands of marine mammals including five thousand sea otters became victims of "Black Fat". In addition, numerous small creatures such as fish and plankton living in the sea have lost their lives as breathing difficulties and hit poisoning.
  Damage caused by "Black Fat" which "Giant Floating Rock" shed was not finished at the spot. Poison will propagate to birds and beasts on land by eating fish that swallowed oil. The oil that soaked in the sandy beach and the ocean floor will not decompose forever, and it will leach out every time the wave is washed. Small creatures with toughness as races will begin to show life's activities again in a few months, but it may take years for the same rich ocean to recover. Those who have used "Foison Sea" as "Dining Area" every year, will have to prepare to take down dividends for the foreseeable future. Even if the groan would stop, no one knew it would be when the mourning voice cease to be heard from this sea.

  When consciousness returned, Claire was surrounded by the three colleagues. She felt that black misty things are still drifting in front of her eyes. But here was clean underwater without oil. Fresh air flew into the lungs. She blew as panted and greedily devoured the air. Oil is stuck on the skin, the baleens in the mouth felt sticky, and her chest disgusted and felt sick.
"Where am I?"
"The consciousness seems to have returned."
"We have to make this female bind piercing the fins yet."
  Jansen, who found her losing herself and drifting in the black belt, said.
"Everyone searched for you here and there, Sister. You are quite reckless."
"Where is Joey?"
  Claire murmured with the head not clear yet.
  The three whales quietly watched each other, but eventually Douglas opened the mouth seriously.
"He has not been found yet."
"Is that so..."
  She was settled as it was and quietly silenced, but suddenly spoke to her companions as if she awoke from sleep now.
"I had a very scary dream. Even though it is night, dazzling light is shining on the waves like the sun, and it's jerking around. It was a beautiful and fantastic light as if I could be inhaled. Then something unfamiliar black things overflew into the sea from there, and they are surging rapidly. It surrounds the creatures, tormenting with a horrible poison and killing it. Many living things have died; such as sea birds, sea otters, seals, fish... male, female, and little baby... Was Joey among them?"
  Then she looked at the three whale's eyes and asked like to petition.
"That was all a dream, was not it?"
  Everyone was silent, could not accept Clare's line of sight and fell down their eyes.
"Please... Please say that was a dream... Please!!"
  A gust of summer wind blew over the sea of Alaska, like drowning out the sobbing voice of one female whale.


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