The trip to Altern’s complex was laborious and fraught with many missteps. After hours of swimming in a single direction, Ramata would notice something, some clue or other, that would force them to backtrack and often change directions. It wasn’t that the complex was hidden, or even that hard to find, but since none of them knew where to go – trying to find the place proved much harder than they’d expected.
Had they seen anyone along the way, they might have been able to ask for directions. Trouble was, they saw no one at all. A few solitary, sea cucumbers watched the trio as they swam overhead and, at one point, what Adam though was the shadow of a manta turned out to be a sand shark shuffling around under its silty cover.
Finally, after all the turnarounds and misdirection, it became obvious to them that they were getting close to something. Along Ocean’s floor, spread out according to someone’s plan, small hovels built from coral began to crop up. The first few that appeared didn’t register with the group. But after noticing four or five, Adam spoke up.
“Slow down a sec.”
Ramata, never eager to slow their pace, wanted an explanation.
“Just look down there,” Adam pointed.
“At the coral?” asked Spot.
“And over there,” Adam pointed further away, where another of the coral huts sat in the distance. “And back there.” He pointed back the way they’d come.
Now Ramata was interested. “We must be getting close to something. It’s like a grid…”
Ramata was right. The huts were laid out in a grid. Directly under Adam, Ramata, and Spot was one of the coral boxes. A quarter mile or so to their left, to their right, ahead of, and behind them, were exact duplicates.
“What do you think they are?” asked Spot.
“We’ll never know from way up here. Let’s go look.” Ramata lead the way down to the small building below them. The group got closer and Ramata went all the down to look inside the hut. Two spiny urchins sat together within it. There were also a few plants inside growing from the ocean floor and in one corner of the hut was a cage holding an eel.
One of the urchins caught Ramata peeking into one of the hut’s four windows (one on each wall) and immediately barked something. Ramata didn’t understand and couldn’t respond so instead swam back up to the hut roof top where Adam and Spot waited.
“There are urchins in there!”
“Great! That means we must be close,” Adam smiled.