The urchin’s spikes bristled and it squeaked out sharp and loud. The manta turned hard to the right in a slow, wide arc. It stopped right behind where Adam floated in formation. “Don’t turn around unless you’re spoken to,” whispered the fish in front of him. Adam didn’t have to respond. He was scared speechless. Adam guessed that the Admiral was making his way to the front of the manta. He guessed right. Admiral Pinch’s voice rang out behind him: “Water-man, what are you doing with school 32042?”
No one answered the Admiral’s question. “Water-man?” the Admiral repeated.
“Turn around, Adam,” whispered Adam’s neighbor. “He thinks you’re water-folk.”
Adam knew that if the Admiral thought he was water-folk than he needed to look and act like water-folk. Trouble was, he’d never met water-folk. How do water-folk act? How do they talk? He gently rotated his body around to float face-to-face with the massive, gaping mouth of the manta, ready to swallow up the entire school in one thirsty gulp! Admiral Pinch stood high above the school, on the tip of the manta’s upper lip.
“I was lost…” Adam stammered.
“What?” squawked the Admiral.
“I was lost…and the Diamond Fins stopped to help me,” Adam yelled.
“Lost?” Admiral Pinch squeaked something to the urchins next to him and soon the water filled with a chittering, squeaky chorus. “A water-man lost? Is this a joke?” Admiral Pinch’s voice almost burst with laughter. “Well, lost water-man. Would you like for us to take you home?” The squeaks of the other urchins irritated Adam’s ears. They were laughing at him.
“No, sir. I’ll be fine. Thank you.”
The squeaks suddenly stopped. Admiral Pinch focused down on Adam. “What’s that you say?”
Adam heard from behind him, “You have to go with them, Adam. You are not allowed to refuse an Army escort.”
“No way,” Adam said. “No way, no way, no way.”