In the distance, Adam could already see a manta coming their way. Admiral Pinch and the Urchin Army were no doubt atop the manta, delighted at the prospect of handing over such vile trespassers to King Altern.
“Look, Spot, seem familiar?” Adam directed Spot’s attention to the manta.
Spot sighed. “Our old friend, Admiral Pinch.”
The manta stopped a good distance above the three travelers. Adam, Ramata, and Spot looked up at the manta’s underside. Urchins dropped off the manta, at first one-by-one, then they plummeted in droves, slowly sinking to Ocean’s floor, landing on top of each other, and rolling around to claim a spot of individual space.
Soon, the urchins covered all the seabed around, where they chattered and barked amongst themselves.
“We could still swim for it,” said Adam. “These things can’t follow.” Wide-eyed and nervous, Ramata looked with hope at Adam. The water-folk turned to Spot.
“We’ll be fine here,” Spot said. Hope drained from Ramata’s face.
The last few urchins dropped off the manta like paratroopers without any chutes. On Ocean’s floor, one urchin among the many rolled its way to a front-most position. The other urchins quieted.
“And I thought taking you home would be the last I saw of you,” chittered Admiral Pinch.
“Well, Admiral, as a wise Turtle once told me, ‘That’s what you get for thinking.’” Adam said with a smile.
“Snarky, water-man. You may be certain that Altern will fix that part of you.”
“Good, good,” Adam said with no hesitation. Ramata and Spot looked at each other, unnerved by the cool, even tone in Adam’s voice. “I hope you take us to the King soon. That’s why we’re here, after all.” Ramata smacked Adam on the shoulder but he refused to acknowledge it and went on with his steady-handed charade. “Are we ready to go? Don’t you think you’ve kept us waiting long enough?” Even Adam was surprised at his confidence and surety. He knew answers were close.
“I warned you once, child, about your impudence. Don’t-”
“Admiral, take us to King Altern or leave us be to find the King ourselves. There will be no more talking.”