Freedom of Naethari: Chapter 23

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Chapter 23: Clickbait

Naiya and her fellow Naethari have killed Edward Pierce and gained their freedom, but there are others who want the Naethari for their own ends. Can they keep their hard-won freedom?

 

The silence became heavy after her words and then the two men holding Luiza manhandled her into the computer chair and their squad leader instructed, “Play the file, but no tricks.”

 


 
Author's Note: Here's chapter 23 of Freedom of Naethari. A couple of days late this week because I've got a cold and haven't had much energy or focus to get much of anything done. Further chapters are available on Patreon.~Amethyst.
 


 Chapter 23: Clickbait

Luiza kept her gaze and her smile on the one of the two men holding her down, and on the bodycam that he wore as she tried to project an aura of nonchalance. She already knew the contents of the file on the computer, she should, since she was the one who had recorded it and saved a copy on the desktop. The men holding her looked uncertain for a moment, glancing from her to the computer. Had they made the general hesitate? Would he be willing to listen to reason?

Naiya needling him like she had been doing was a double-edged sword, and they all knew it. It had kept him off balance, divided his focus, and made him paranoid, and maybe the extra caution would make convincing him to back off a bit easier. On the other hand, General Warren Carmichael wasn’t a man who took well to being outmaneuvered and placed at an enemy’s mercy.

She decided to give him a push and risk twisting the knife just a little and she did her best to remain outwardly calm and project the persona that Naiya had established for herself. “Tick tock, Warren, it’s decision time. I’ve already killed Morales and seven of your men, and we’ll be only too happy to add more to the body count after the way you’ve been hunting us down. What’s the matter? Are you afraid to see what ace I have up my sleeve? Or are you getting cold feet now that I’ve got you where I want you? Or maybe you’re just afraid that your men will find out what this is all about, what their comrades have been dying for?”

The silence became heavy after her words and then the two men holding Luiza manhandled her into the computer chair and their squad leader instructed, “Play the file, but no tricks.”

It looked like her former CO really was paranoid. Did he think that she had rigged the computer to blow up or something? Luiza simply took in a long slow and quiet breath to keep herself calm and focused as she prefaced, “This isn’t all we have, Warren, it’s just what we thought would get your attention the most. This was streamed live at midnight from the account of a very popular American Streamer, social influencer, and activist. At last count, she was the third most popular Streamer for activism, equal rights, LGBT rights, and animal rights. She won’t be in third spot for long once this makes the rounds on U-tube. Watch and learn, Warren.”

She clicked on the video file to show an attractive woman in her late twenties. She looked a bit butch with her auburn hair cut short and in a side shave, and had several visible piercings in her ears, left eyebrow, and one in her nose as well. She was walking on a beach in the dark, dressed in a long dark colored skirt and a Green Peace t-shirt with a worn denim vest over top that bore various pins and patches with LGBTQI pride and various activism slogans and logos. She was probably using a phone in selfie mode to record herself as she walked along the beach and the view jostled occasionally.

After a moment she stopped, scanning the camera around the beach and the moonlit water before looking into the camera with a smile. “Hey, everyone, Janice here. I know this stream was a bit short notice, but thanks to all of you who are watching tonight. If you’re new, then remember to hit those like and subscribe buttons for more content like this. I’m streaming live from a beautiful beach in Cuba right now and there’s a bit of a story behind this…”

~o~O~o~

Two hours earlier…

From behind our rocky cover, I watched the woman walking along the quiet stretch of beach where I had Natalie arrange the meeting. She was fit, looked a bit butch, and reminded me of my sister a little bit before she had become a Naethari. I guess that Nat hadn’t been kidding when she said Maddie was her type. I could hear her clearly, and just had to wait for the right moment to strike.

Natalie’s ex-girlfriend stopped to look down at the note that I had written earlier in the sand, far enough from the water’s edge so that the tide wouldn’t wash it away and then began her spiel. “Hey, everyone, Janice here. I know this stream was a bit short notice, but thanks to all of you who are watching. If you’re new, then remember to hit those like and subscribe buttons for more content like this. I’m streaming live from a beautiful beach in Cuba right now and there’s a bit of a story behind this.”

She paused to look around and, to her credit, she didn’t seem afraid. I probably would have been if I were her, summoned to a dark and secluded beach by an ex, even with the promised ‘big scoop’. She probably felt safer knowing that this was being livestreamed and that if anything happened there would be a lot of witnesses despite the seclusion of the beach. She was giving a bit of the backstory now, explaining how the ex-girlfriend that she worried was dead had come out of hiding and offered her the scoop of a lifetime. She babbled a bit, maybe she was more worried than I first suspected, something that her elevated heartrate and the growing scent of fear seemed to support.

She finished her story and looked around nervously as she forced a laugh. “Heh, or maybe Nat was fucking with me when she told me to be here now… or this is some sort of trap. Clandestine meeting on a deserted beach, I should have…. hey! Stop it with the knife emojis, everyone, this is spooky enough as is!”

I guessed that we had let her stew and built up the suspense enough, so I peeked out from behind the rock and called out, “You’re Janice, right? Our mutual friend sent us.”

Janice jumped at the sound of my voice, and I felt both guilty for scaring her and just a little bit vindicated after how she had broken up with my friend months ago. She managed not to shriek or anything and kept her cool except for that jump and a slight shaking of her hands as she held her phone. She barely hesitated as she replied, “I-if you were sent by Nat, then what is your name?”

“I call myself Naiya,” I replied calmly, causing her to visibly relax. “We’re here because Nat said that you’re good at what you do and that you can be trusted to do the right thing.”

“We?” She looked confused for just a moment, but that confusion turned immediately to stunned disbelief as I slither-crawled from behind the rocks in my full Naethari glory, joined by Kara, Jenny, and Kieshala. The four of us were where all of this began, so it seemed only fitting that it should end with us as well. We were all wearing bikini tops to preserve our modesty in front of the camera, but nothing else that would hide what we truly were. She looked at us with a mix of confusion and disbelief written all over her face. That quickly turned to anger though. “What the hell?! I don’t know what your game is, but this joke at my expense…”

“This is no joke,” Kara interrupted as my mate slither-crawled to my side. “This is serious, deadly serious. If you don’t believe me, feel free to take a closer look.”

We knew that this was going to require physical proof, a close look and some hands-on contact. Kara offering hadn’t been part of the plan, but she probably sensed my discomfort at the thought of anyone other than those I was close to touching my tail, and my mate was protecting me. Camille Hart may not live rent free in my head anymore, but she had left a mark on my psyche that I feared would never completely heal.

Kara allowed the other woman to closely examine her under the flashlight in her phone; her tail and fins, where they met the human flesh of her midriff, her Shalkai, pointed and swept back ears, and even where her vuhac emerged from her forearms. When Janice attempted to run her hands along the vuhac itself though, Kara gently but firmly pulled her hand away. “No, do not touch those, the poison inside the barbs would kill you.”

Janice’s eyes widened, her hand jerked back in Kara’s firm grip, and she slowly nodded. It seemed that she was convinced though, especially after Kara had moved her tail and fins as they were being touched. For a long moment, the Streamer just gaped at Kara and the rest of us and tried to string words together. “You… I… what… how? Mermaids?”

“No. That is a human word, we are called Naethari,” Kieshala managed to explain, holding back the anger that the M word usually caused in her. She knew as well as I did that we needed to be approachable to spin this in our favor, and she was making great efforts to seem as non-threatening as a Naethari can be. “I am Kieshala Spellweaver of Clan Moonreef.”

Natalie’s ex nodded absently as she tried to process what she had just been told and shown. “How many of your kind are there? Why haven’t we seen you before?”

Kara was watching Janice carefully, gauging her emotions and seemed satisfied that she wasn’t likely to get hostile as she released the woman’s wrist and offered, “I’m Kara, and this is my sister, Jenny.” As she gestured to her sister, who was approaching closer along with Kieshala, she gave the story that we had prepared. “Of the four of us, only Kieshala was born a Naethari. She is still learning English, but she has told us that they live in the deepest parts of the ocean, it’s like a whole other world down there. Including us, the worldwide Naethari population is less than a dozen. The ocean depths are a dangerous place and environmental issues have impacted the population.”

There was some twisting of the truth there, of course, but it was all technically true, even the population part, if we included those who would soon become Naethari. The environment did affect our population too since there weren’t many places where we could stay hidden and encourage some mana growth and the native environment of the Naethari wasn’t even on this planet. Janice’s eyes widened again, “So, you’re an endangered species?” Then she seemed to catch on to something else important that Kara had said. “Wait… only Kieshala was born that way?”

“One of the most endangered on Earth,” I agreed. Another half-truth since we were very much endangered on Earth, especially from a certain military general. The general population didn’t need to know that there was a thriving population of Naethari on another planet. “And yes, Kara, Jenny, and I were born and raised as Humans.”

After that, we told Janice and her viewers almost everything. We named Edward Pierce, Camille Hart, and Dr. Alan Harris and recited their crimes. We told her about how I was conned, how Kara and Jenny’s family were kidnapped, the experiments, how their family and so many others had died from those experiments, the death rates, our captivity, the plans to put us on display like animals in a marine park, and how Kieshala, and later I, were tortured. We left out how exactly they had changed us since we honestly weren’t awake for the process, as well as our magical abilities, Pierce’s death, and certain other sensitive details that we didn’t want widely known. Practically everything else was free game though, including how Natalie and Maddie had kept us safe and helped with our escape.

Recalling some of those things for a stranger and her live audience wasn’t easy, it almost felt like giving in, but we needed to secure our freedom and our rights. Jenny cried as she and Kara revealed their former identities and recounted their kidnapping and how they woke up in a swimming pool with different bodies. She liked being a Naethari now, we all did, but the trauma was still there. “We just want to be left alone,” she sobbed as Kara, Kieshala, and I consoled her.

As our stories were told, Janice’s expression grew more and more horrified and infuriated in turns. As we held Jenny and consoled her, I explained, “My family and Nat helped us to escape from Pierce and regain our freedom, and now they, and we are being hunted. General Warren Carmichael has been shielding Dr. Alan Harris from justice. He wants to use us as weapons of war.”

Janice looked stunned after our story, fury in her eyes as she watched us console Jenny. “Is there any evidence to back any this up?”

I produced a flash drive from the waterproof pouch that I was wearing. “This contains a data packet including files that my family retrieved from Edward Pierce’s private server before it was destroyed along with his mansion There is video footage, and various notes on us from both Alan Harris and Dr. Natalie Emerson. There are also some files from General Warren Carmichael’s personal laptop that show his ties to Harris, his search for us, his intent, and bodycam video footage showing an attack on two women including the death of my sister, Madelyn MacArthur. At midnight this data packet was also sent to every major news and media agency in North America.”

There was more than enough in those data packets to prove the guilt of both Harris and Pierce, they had kept very detailed files on their research and its subjects, after all. What we had on General Carmichael did show his ties to Harris, and where the so-called scientist was being kept, but other than that there was no real proof of criminal actions, even his blackmail of Aaron Frost, though at the very least, the ties to Harris, Maddie’s ‘death’, his own notes on us, and his plans would hopefully be enough to generate enough negative press and public outcry to get him off our backs until we were safely somewhere else. I still kinda wanted him permanently out of the picture, but if he was smart, he would be catching the first plane out of Cuba and looking for somewhere to hide.

Natalie’s ex-girlfriend looked thoughtfully down at the flash drive I placed in her hand. Then she turned serious as she looked once more into her phone and, by proxy, at her followers. “Okay fellow activists, I can assure you that these Mer… Naethari are very real. They’re also in danger, so let’s do what we do best and take this to the net! Show your support for these people and get the word out there. If we work together, we can make a difference. #NaethariFreedom and #NaethariRights. I’ll leave the information in comments section, and I’ll post another video once I’ve looked through this evidence to tell you all what we have and what we can do for the Naethari. Tell me what you think in the comments and, if you’re new to my channel, remember to hit those like and subscribe buttons.”

She quickly tapped something on her phone and then let out a long sigh. “Shit. When Nat promised me a big scoop, I didn’t think it was going to challenge my whole world view. I should get back to my hotel, my phone battery is getting low, and I think I’d rather be somewhere very public for a while and try to enjoy my vacation if the military is involved in this. Could you… umm… pass on a message to Nat for me?”

“Sure,” I said with a shrug. “We need to get back to her and the others in case they need our help anyway.”

“Thanks. Please tell her thanks for trusting me with this and… I’m sorry… about how I broke things off. I should have trusted her. She deserved better and I hope that this new girlfriend she told me about knows how lucky she is. I’ll be in Havana for two weeks, so let me know if you need some more exposure or anything, I’ll try to get my viewers storming the net for you girls either way.”

We watched her leave until we were sure that she had gotten safely to her rental car and then the four of us took once more to the water. We needed to get back in case the others needed us. I hoped that Luiza would manage her role alright if I couldn’t get back there before Carmichael’s people showed up. I thought that she would, but Kieshala was worried about her and wanted to hurry back. It was cute how close those two were getting.

We hurried back to the little cove that hosted our current villa as fast as our fins could take us. We needed to avoid any boat traffic though, since I knew that Carmichael had boats patrolling the coast with sonar. The sound would make them easy enough for us to avoid, but we had been on that beach exposing ourselves for over an hour and we all shared Kieshala’s worry for the other members of our clan. If Carmichael turned tail and ran, we’d accept that and take the opportunity to get while the getting is good, but if he insisted on continuing his pursuit of us, then we would end him.

© 2022 - 2024 Amethyst Gibbs
All Rights Reserved

The original mermaid image is © Kateryna Shevtsova | Dreamstime.com

Further chapters are available to the public on my Patreon page.

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Comments

going pubic

risky, but it could work

DogSig.png

A Hairy Comment

joannebarbarella's picture

Dot!

Rofl

Amethyst's picture

If I'd been drinking anything when I read Dot's comment and your follow-up, it would have been all over my monitor.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

I wonder

Wendy Jean's picture

Where is their band Merry Naethari are going with this? Only the author knows for sure.

They're trying to limit

Amethyst's picture

They're trying to limit Carmichael's options, and if they're public and people actually believe it, there would be public outcry if they suddenly disappeared, especially with what they have on him.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Parallels ?

SuziAuchentiber's picture

A community of "creatures" who every day face the risk of persecution and physcial harm seek understanding and acceptance and the chance to live their lives in peace.
Reminds me of another group but dang if I can't quite place them . . . !!!
Hugs&Kudos!!

Suzi

Yup

Amethyst's picture

I'm glad someone is picking up the parallels I've been so carefully including here :D

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3