3/30

Zahhab Region, daybreak—I’m at Zahhab again, but without the drama of the last visit. A treasure request sends me in search of the Opal Telescope (don’t worry—I checked the expiration date this time: 8 days). The closeup map shows an insignificant little blip somewhere near the western coast line. It takes a while of comparing maps to find its probable location, but once I’m in the right area it’s easy enough to find.

Next I follow a rumor about a shadow seen near Mushroom Rock, somewhere north. Along the way I cruise the shoreline, finding those blue starfish I last saw on the turtle spawning expedition. But for some reason I can’t interact with them. I’ve been suprised and a little disappointed at the lack of starfish in this game, considering they’re such a staple of aquarium petting pools. I clearly remember preventing my then 2-year-old son from mutiliating one at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

With my eyes on the seafloor, I nearly crash into Mushroom Rock. The screen goes black for a second, and when it fades back I’m confronted with the maw of an immense whale shark. Seriously, this thing is the size of an airliner, and it carries its own ecosystem with it.

I follow it for awhile, letting it take me out to the open sea. I realize that I’ve only mapped about 25% of the Zahhab, and fully half of that consists of open water. Lots and lots of empty blue as far as the eye can see. Spooky. It reminds me of that kid in Moby Dick who falls overboard during a whalehunt and spends a whole day bobbing alone in the sea. When a rescue boat finally picks him up, his mind is gone. All that emptiness has fried his brain; he spends the rest of the book a catatonic idiot, unreachable and unresponsive.

Hey, speaking of Moby Dick, there’s the white whale himself, about 400 feet below me, just a ghost in the abyss. I also see a small group of marlin gliding by, way, way out there. I paddle around in the void as long as I can stand it, then head west. Somewhere near the continental shelf, I find something called the Caiman Relic, which I later learn is somehow connected to King Gigide in the Twilight Temple of the Amazon. I also find some beautiful rock outcroppings blooming with soft coral the colors of a New England autumn.

Back (reluctantly this time) at Nineball Island, I find an uncharacteristic tableau. Usually everybody’s standing on their own, staring off into the distance and thinking their own moody thoughts. Today, GG, Lil’ O, Hayako, I and even Nancy are all clustered around the little patio table, with papa Jean reading the paper to us like it’s Sunday morning after church.

“What are you reading, Cappy?”

“Well kids, it says here there’s a new skin cream that, if applied directly to the forehead, is supposed to have special healing powers.”

“Golly, maybe it could cure the world’s diseases!”

“Maybe it could raise awareness of the sacred magic of mother nature!”

“Maybe it could make us a buttload of money!”

“But Cappy, where can we find the organic ingredients to make this medicinal ointment?”

“Well, judging from this, I understand it’s derived from a special kelp that grows only in the northern portion of the Zahhab Region of the Red Sea.”

“Saaaay, didn’t we just come from there?”

And it looks like we’re going back again, but not today.

By the way, before Nancy leaves, she updates us on the mystery man who asked us for the photo of the orange sea slug. It seems that he can now remember his name…well, not quite his name, but his initials—M.L.

Hmm, now who do we know who has those same initials? I wonder… *

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