Dreams are a rather fickle thing. You may wish someone to have pleasant dreams, but their own minds will work against your wishes. For one night, in the Captain's Quarters of a Dauntless-class skyship, the Captain's mind worked against the wishes of her lovers. Her ears twitching as her expressions grew more worrisome, she soon started mumbling. "No...no, please...no...NO!" Arsha Royana then sat upright at lightspeed, wide awake, panting, and drenched in sweat. She ran her hands down her face, then looked around at her quarters, then looked down at the bed to see her fiancés, Lardeth Felompha, Falnii Loftanaf, Malnar Emboramii, Gorfanth Steelhorn, and Foresna Falshenda, all still asleep. She looked at the clock to see that it was 39:25; 11 hours and 25 minutes until dawn, 1:00 of a new day. She got out of bed, crawling over Lardeth and Foresna in the process, and headed to the fridge to get some milk. After pouring it into a cup, she then cast a small flame, held it under the cup, and warmed her milk. She slowly drank her warm milk, wanting it to do the trick. After she finished, she yawned and returned to bed, climbing over Lardeth and Foresna again, and settled into her spot on the bed. "This is becoming a habit for you," mumbled Lardeth's voice.
"...The prospect of war terrifies me," admitted Arsha in a whisper. "...Maybe I should visit Thengo."
"Not a bad idea," replied Lardeth. He then pulled her close to him. "Falnii can also help."
"I don't want to abuse her gifts," mumbled Arsha. "Besides, my dreams are a little too bloody, even for her to dispel."
"Won't know unless you ask," mused Lardeth.
"...Yeah, I guess," sighed Arsha. "Good night."
"Night," returned Lardeth. Both of them drifted back to sleep.
Once the dawn broke, everyone woke up, ready to start a new day. Falnii had cooked up breakfast, bacon and eggs with toast and honey butter. "So," mused Malnar, "what's the Endeavor's Captain up to today?"
"Got a mission in the Kurontar Sea Merfolk Kingdom," explained Arsha.
"Er, Realmfleet's not very popular there these days," reminded Lardeth, thinking of what Arsha explained to him about Oyed's first defeat.
"The Caldoras asked for aid anyways," replied Arsha. "Merfolk have been disappearing left, right, and center and their investigators are utterly baffled."
"Okay, that's a little terrifying," gulped Gorfanth.
"A little?" gulped Falnii.
"Has anyone found any..." Foresna was almost afraid to say the word, "...bodies?"
"No, they haven't," replied Arsha. "People are terrified right now and the Endeavor needs to help, no matter the public opinion."
"Realmfleet, Daddy?!" protested Princess Jalmurna to King Fordro in the throne room of the Caldoras' undersea castle in the Kurontar Sea Merfolk Kingdom. "After what they put Samuje through?!"
"They have the technology needed to assist us," answered Fordro. "Look, I know you have misgivings about Realmfleet, but, right now, we need to deal with this crisis."
"I won't suffer them in our kingdom!" defied Jalmurna.
"That's not your decision to make," hissed Fordro.
"I can't let them anywhere near Samuje!" countered Jalmurna.
"Who do you think asked for them?" called Samuje's voice. She swam into the throne room and gave Jalmurna a hard look.
"...You can't be serious!" hissed Jalmurna. "After what they did to you?! I've been protecting you from them and THIS is how you repay me?!"
"I never asked for your help!" snapped Samuje. "It was never your job! Now, if you don't mind, I need to talk to Papa ALONE!"
"But...!" protested Jalmurna.
"Jalmurna Enfeer Caldora," rumbled Fordro, getting her attention, "leave us." Jalmurna floated in her spot before she swam off.
"You're ungrateful!" she hissed to Samuje. She left the throne room and the heavy doors slammed.
"And you're too damned overprotective," muttered Samuje.
"Samuje, I hate to sound like her," began Fordro, "but are you ABSOLUTELY sure you can stand a Realmfleet presence here?"
"As long as I don't go near the ship," declared Samuje, "I'll be all right. I can handle the crew members."
"Very well," sighed Fordro. "Just make sure you're properly taking care of yourself."
"I will, Daddy," promised Samuje. Father and daughter then hugged each other. Samuje then broke off the embrace a few seconds later. "Now, I'm going to be hanging out with Mama Thanmar, Mama Hurmu, Mama Brenmu, Marianes, Klarii, Drasada, and Diumal.
"Girl's day out today?" chuckled Fordro.
"Yep, got a whole day planned at the Succulent Tail spa," answered Samuje.
"You girls have fun, then," wished Fordro. "We've all handled matters of state today, so Papa Vorko, Lord Endrek, Skalomel, and I are going to spend the rest of the day in the Southern Courtyard."
"See you tonight, Papa!" bid Samuje as she swam out.
The Endeavor was cleared to land at Docking Bay 2 and the landing ramp was lowered. After the land-dwellers had cast various spells to compensate for lower light and being able to breathe and move in water effectively, Arsha, Denstra, Dalengor, and Marshii swam into the city, escorted by guards as a few citizens glared at them. "Sheesh, feel the love here," muttered Denstra.
"Samuje was one of the people's favorites of the Caldora Princesses," explained Arsha.
"Ah," realized Denstra. They soon arrived at the police station and met with Chief Inspector Tanshwar. They shook his hand before sitting in his office.
"I have to say, this whole thing baffles me," he muttered as he fiddled with a shell on his desk. "We've been turning up absolutely nothing in terms of clues."
"That's certainly troubling," remarked Dalengor.
"You think there might be wounded?" asked Marshii.
"Or worse," replied Tanshwar. "I don't want to have to tell someone's mother that..." He was interrupted by a knock on the door. "Now, see, I KNOW I told Jenshee that I was busy with you guys!" The door was flung open as a Merman angrily swam in.
"Chief Inspector Tanshwar, I demand a word!" he shouted.
"Captain Royana, may I present Mr. Gol. D. Iggir, head of the Kurontar Citizens' League," Tanshwar introduced. "Mr. Iggir, what, pray tell, are you doing here?"
"Have you seen the news?!" barked Mr. Iggir. He presented a data pad displaying the headline of the featured news article.
"'Mysterious Kidnappings Panic Kingdom'," Tanshwar read aloud. "'Police Shakeup as Serial Kidnapper Strikes Again'."
"There you are!" snapped Mr. Iggir. "There it is, in written words! This kidnapper's making a clownfish out of the police department! Now, look here, Inspector, you've GOT to catch that kidnapper!"
"Just a minute, Mr. Iggir," soothed Tanshwar, "we're doing the best we can. In fact, with Realmfleet's help, we'll catch them as soon as possible!"
"Realmfleet, BAH!" scoffed Mr. Iggir. "Look here, this kidnapper MUST be caught! If you can't catch them, as head of the Kurontar Citizens' League, I'm gonna have to demand your resignation! I don't want to make you any trouble, my friend, but this thing's gone far enough! In fact, it's gone TOO far and something's gotta be done!"
"Mr. Iggir, if you would please give me a chance!" snapped Tanshwar. "We're doing what we can with the resources we have! After all, police officers can only do so much! You know how the news builds these things up!"
"Builds things up?!" repeated Mr. Iggir. "I had six calls yesterday! Six calls from irate citizens, demanding action! I refuse to be the lobster!"
"Come on, Mr. Iggir!" protested Tanshwar. "Nobody's asking you to be the lobster! We'll catch this kidnapper!"
"You're supposed to have an efficient police department!" snapped Mr. Iggir. "Yet, you can't catch a third-rate hoodlum who seems to be Depths-bent on making mothers cry in worry and fear that they'll never see their kids again! This is your last chance! Good day!"
"Mr. Iggir, let's understand each other!" called Tanshwar. Mr. Iggir wasn't in an understanding mood as he angrily swam out of the office and slammed the door. Tanshwar was trying to keep a lid on his temper in front of Arsha and her party.
"Mr. Iggir sure sounds pleasant," muttered Denstra.
"That man's been hounding the police department for too long," explained Tanshwar. "He can't seem to understand that investigations like this require an uninterrupted investigation. The Kurontar Citizens' League and the police used to work together, yet nowadays, we're always at odds! I COULD demand his resignation, but he hasn't done anything to warrant such a demand."
"I don't want to even remotely sound like him," interjected Arsha, "but are you absolutely sure there AREN'T any clues?"
"Just two audio files that we couldn't decode at all," answered Tanshwar.
"May we see them?" asked Denstra.
"Knock yourself out," replied Tanshwar. He activated his intercom. "Jenshee, could you send up the two audio files?"
"You got it, Sir," confirmed a woman's voice.
"Thank you," bid Tanshwar. He explained more of the case to Arsha's party as they waited, revealing when this all started, who got kidnapped, the lack of any ransom notes, and who recommended that Realmfleet got involved.
"Samuje? Really?" asked Arsha. "I thought she wanted nothing to do with us anymore."
"She's trying to snap herself out of her trauma," explained Tanshwar, "according to official sources."
"That's dangerous," remarked Marshii. "It could fracture her mind even more. Thengo and I will need to see her." A middle-aged Mermaid then entered the office with two data crystals.
"Perfect," praised Tanshwar. "Thank you, Jenshee." Jenshee nodded before swimming out of the office. "Each crystal contains one of the two audio files we can't decode. I hope your crew can make heads or tails of it."
"Shalvey is a master of communications," answered Arsha. "We'll get them decoded or die trying."
"And I'm going to the Caldoras' castle with Thengo to make a house call for Samuje," declared Marshii.
"Please do what you can to help us," pleaded Tanshwar. "As Mr. Iggir mentioned, mothers are too afraid to let their children out and are scared they won't see them again."
"We WILL fix this, I promise," assured Arsha.