The Mermaid Kingdom

The Mermaid Kingdom


Aqua City, one of the oldest outposts of the Fish Folk, is home to one hundred thousand souls. Fishmen, Fishwives and Fishlings dwelled there, having driven off the shark, the colossal squid and others to claim this portion of the World Ocean as their own. From time to time, the Fish Folk had to deal with other denizens of the Deep, such as humongous sharks the size of whales, but these monsters were more of a delicacy than a threat. Armed with spears, tridents and crossbows, the Fish Folk made short work of any sea creature foolish enough to come after them.

The Fish Folk reign supreme in the World Ocean, but they are a curious, highly adaptable bunch. Their society is divided into Clans, forming a highly complex Caste System. There are Hunters, Artisans, Seekers, Breeders, Collectors, and Warriors. The different Clans are headed by different leaders, Patriarchs and Matriarchs whose wisdom and experience help guide them on the right path. Above the Clan Leaders is the Order of the Ancients, which rules all of Fish Folk society.

"Don't linger in the Desolate Place," says Raw the Matriarch, all but guaranteeing that the entire School would proceed to do just that. The ancient Fishwife's voice drifted into the minds of every Fishman and Fishwife present. The School numbered sixty individuals, thirty eight males and twenty two females. They'd left Aqua City hours ago, intent on a tour of the Unknown Regions. The young had to be taught about that which, according to the Law of the Fish Folk, they would avoid for the remainder of their long lives...

As soon as Raw the Matriarch swam away, two members of the School dropped out of formation with hardly anyone noticing. Ochre looked at Starry, and flashed her a fanged smile. Two meters tall, with ebony scales, and a majestic obsidian crest, the red-eyed, muscular Fishman was quite the specimen. Ochre was used to having the Fishwives glance amorously at him, thus earning him the contempt of their mates. To say he was prideful didn't do justice to the term...

"Ochre, don't even think about it," Starry said, and she shook her head as Ochre grabbed her hand, pulling her away from the rest of the School. The Matriarch led the others back to Aqua City, but Ochre had other plans. For over an hour they swam like this, hand in hand, until they reached...it. The Desolate Place. A massive complex of glittering towers made of a strange material. The remnants of some unimaginable entity's last redoubt, or perhaps something even stranger.

"Starry, you have seen Twenty Tempests, you are too old to believe in ghosts," Ochre chided her, and the slender, blue-scaled, small-crested Fishwife resisted to urge to swat her friend upside his scaly head. Starry forced Ochre to let go of her hand, and they began exploring the Desolate Place together. As usual, they went from metallic tower to metallic tower, wondering at the strange objects they encountered along the way, before concluding at The Square.

"What manner of being made this thing?" Starry wondered aloud, and Ochre looked at the strange artifact, which resembled the Fish Folk, save for a few differences. The artifact was huge, easily the size of a small mountain, and it towered over the other steely towers. While it had a face, upper body and arms like the Fish Folk, it lacked their definitive feature, their crest, as well as their majestic tails. What a strange artifact indeed...

"The Ancients would have you believe that the water did not always cover the entire world, and that once, landbound creatures dwelled in the world that once existed above," Ochre said, shaking his head. Ochre, whose own grandfather, Azure, was a member of the Order of the Ancients, could be quite the doubter when it came to the Old Ones arcane knowledge. The young Fishman seemed designed to challenge everything in existence, including the knowledge of those far beyond his years...

"Azure the Elder would blow a gill if he heard you say that," Starry admonished Ochre, who shrugged his massive shoulders. The Fishman took the three-meter trident which never left his person and gingerly poked the strange artifact with it. Starry shook her head, marveling at Ochre's rare combination of boldness and immaturity. The artifact began to glow, and then a rectangular structure projected from beneath it, displaying what the surprised Fish Folk thought to be strange creatures...

"What have I done?" Ochre wondered, his telepathic voice blasting into Starry's skull, to the point that the annoyed Fishwoman slapped his shoulder. Ochre did not seem to notice, for he was transfixed by the strange images displayed by the unnatural projection in front of the strange artifact. Starry took Ochre's hand, pleading with him to get away. In the World Ocean, everything eats or is eaten, and when confronted by the unusual, the wise flee to live another day, while the foolish linger and are consumed. This was the Law of the Ocean.

"Ochre, I don't like the look of this, we should go," Starry insisted, but Ochre shook his head. On the projector, a series of strange images were shown. Creatures the likes of which neither Ochre nor Starry could imagine appeared, wearing strange garments, and moving about in a strange, waterless realm in which they walked upright. These finless, scale-less, tail-less creatures dwelled in a realm of blue skies and dry land, surrounded by strange metal structures similar to those in the Desolate Place.

"Starry, stop being a Fishwife, I think these creatures are the creators of the Desolate Place," Ochre said, crossing his arms. Starry sighed, knowing that Ochre would not leave the Desolate Place until his curiosity was sated. This was the same Fishman who'd once brought her the severed tentacle of a Colossal Squid as a present, for her nineteenth Tempest. Ochre was brave and strong, but lacked the good sense that the World Ocean gave flounders. What was to be done with him?

The ancient humanoid artifact, which has lain beneath the World Ocean for twenty thousand years, began to spew forth its knowledge. Powered by geothermal energy, built eons ago by men and women who thought the world belonged to them, it examined the two humanoid monsters hovering before it. With mechanical senses it had not used in many millennia, the ancient artifact scanned the monsters, and found both human and piscine DNA in their genetic structure. Close enough, the machine computed, as it shared its knowledge with them.

The year was 2187, and with Global Warming in full swing, much of the Planet Earth was under water. Japan, China and much of Asia were no more. Much of Europe had gone down beneath the waves. The continent of Africa remained largely unscathed, and in an ironic twist, had become the last bastion of humanity. South African scientist Samantha Ramaphosa conducted a bold experiment to assure the survival of the human species. She cut a lot of corners...

"Dr. Samantha Ramaphosa, you've performed cruel experiments on thousands of Zulu men and women, along with Xhosa men and women, and even a few European and Asian refugees, how do you plead?" said Judge Ellen Bengu, of the Supreme Court of South Africa. Samantha Ramaphosa, a tall, attractive, brown-skinned woman with green eyes, the daughter of a black South African father and Irish mother, drew herself to her full height before addressing the Court.

The Supreme Court of South Africa, located in the City of Johannesburg, had seen much scandal in recent decades. This was after the place where the fate of millions of European and Asian refugees had been decided. When Europe and Asia fell to the rising oceans, millions of them begged Africa for help, but the majority of African nations, remembering colonialism and the Sanctions of the late twenty-first century, refused. South Africa welcomed the refugees with open arms, and was now the most powerful nation on the continent of Africa, after Nigeria and Ghana, of course.

"People of South Africa, humanity will die if it continues along its current course, if we are to survive, we must change and adapt, the Earth is doomed, the Ocean will swallow it, we must adapt to life in the water, it is the only way," Dr. Samantha Ramaphosa said sharply. The biracial female scientist, educated in genetic engineering at the University of Johannesburg, smirked as she locked eyes with the men and women of the Jury. Black, white and brown, male and female and transgender, they were all only human...and scared.

"Dr. Ramaphosa, you've performed genetic experiments on thousands, putting fish DNA in them without their consent, you will be found guilty of Crimes Against Humanity," said Special Prosecutor Edward Sisilu, a tall, dark-skinned career attorney. Dr. Samantha Ramaphosa glared at the prosecutor with the kind of hatred that a man directs at a cockroach that skitters about on his kitchen floor. Such fools won't exist in my world, Ramaphosa thought triumphantly.

"Everything I've done, from those genetic experiments to casting the successful ones out to sea, is for the good of Mankind," Dr. Samantha Ramaphosa crowed proudly. The Trial of the Century continued, televised across Africa, and in every outpost where humans still dwelled. Among the five hundred million human souls still alive on the rapidly shrinking dry lands of the planet Earth, every last one learned of the not so good doctor and her illicit experiments.

In the end, Dr. Samantha Ramaphosa, former Head of the South African Scientific Institute, was condemned to forty years in prison. The not so good doctor did not linger in prison for long, though. A mere decade after the Trial of the Century, shifting tectonic plates beneath the African continent sent the last redoubt of humanity tumbling into the Ocean. Humans tried to hang on in boats for a while, but eventually, the entire species died out as the Earth vanished, replaced by the World Ocean. What became of Dr. Samantha Ramaphosa's experiments, though?

Abandoned at sea, the thousands of mostly African men and women whom Dr. Samantha Ramaphosa experimented on quickly discovered how profoundly they'd been changed. Starving in their tiny boats, and weakened by the merciless sun, some of them went into the water, and quickly discovered that they could breathe under water. Some of them proved adept at chasing, catching and consuming the fish, and the few species of marine birds that remained. These genetically enhanced men and women abandoned the vanishing world of the land, and embraced the bountiful, dark realm of the Ocean.

When the Continent of Africa, last redoubt of humanity, sank beneath the waves, the Fish Folk, as the genetically altered humans called themselves, did not miss it. They began their conquest of the Deep as their unaltered human brethren died in the sinking world above. With humans gone, the populations of shark, orca, minke whales, blue whales and sperm whales made a successful comeback. The Fish Folk had plenty to eat as they began to conquer the Sea, as their now dead homo sapiens brethren once conquered the Land...

Twenty thousand years after Africa sank beneath the waves, taking humanity with it, the Fish Folk are masters of the world. The World Ocean covers every square inch of the planet Earth. The only life is marine life. The Fish Folk reign supreme. What has become of the supreme technologies that were once a staple of humanity? These ancient technological wonders, artifacts of a long-dead world lie dormant, awaiting the return of their extinct masters...

"These strange things created us?" Starry asked, gasping at the implications, and Ochre shook his head, gently pulling her into his strong arms. The normally bold and adventurous Fishman felt shaken by the ancient artifact's revelations, but he did not let it show. As far as Ochre was concerned, the Fish Folk had always existed, and nothing could ever threaten their supremacy over the World Ocean, or the Universe itself.

"Starry, my love, these strange things are dead, as befitting a species of fools, and the world is ours," Ochre said, and he gently kissed her on the forehead. Hand in hand, Starry and Ochre swam away. As abruptly as it had begun, the ancient artifact stopped displaying the projections, and shut down. After a while, the Fishman and Fishwife found it hard to believe the artifact had ever been activated. It went back to being dormant, waiting for new seekers perhaps. Ochre and Starry had their fill of such forbidden knowledge, and returned to Aqua City...
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