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The five of us rushed back up on deck. And, sure enough, there it was. The volcanic island first described by Scott and Davis. The island of our dreams (including my recent erotic ones).

The first thing we did was to finish cleaning up all the storm wrack. Then, once that was accomplished, Professor Stewart got together with Kalama to organize a division of labor concerning the island.

"I think we should do an aerial survey of the interior of the island," he said: "...while simultaneously mapping the coast line from sea level."

"I agree," she replied: "But, who handles the former and who handles the latter?"

Celeste raised her hand: "I'm pretty good at hang-gliding. And I've also done some para-sailing in Acapulco. Just have the speedboat you brought with us tow me up to take-off speed. Then, when the time is right, I'll separate from the tow rope and use one of those portable video cameras to record what I fly over!"

"Capital!" the professor exclaimed: "And we can similarly use Polaroid photographs to handle the coastal cartography."

Shawna volunteered to be the shutterbug for that second task. While Brad Deane (one of Kalama's research assistants from UH) just as quickly volunteered to drive the speedboat. And, for some reason, I felt a momentary twinge of jealous resentment over that! Oh, it disappeared as fast it came. Yet, I was still puzzled as to _why_ I had felt that way. I couldn't see any legitimate reason for it! It's not like I had been dating either of those ladies during the past twelve months. And, those wet dreams about Celeste had been just that. Wet dreams, about an unattainable girl.


In any case, I got chosen to help out Kalama and Professor Stewart in the main lab. So, I was among the first people on this expedition to get the facts about Protosyngnathus manticora after the first really detailed examination by Kalama.

"Very strange," she said: "In size, it's about fifty percent bigger--at best--than Hippocampus bargibanti.* In coloration, it's the same shade of green as H. guttulatus. But, morphologically? It looks more like Solegnathus spinosissimus tnan anything else!"

Professor Stewart and I concurred. I then asked about the presence of venom.

"Assuming there's any at all, is it as potentially deadly to human divers as the stuff found in modern scorpaeniformes?"

"That's a good question," she said: "Take a look at this."

She brought us to the other saltwater tank into which we had put the second of the two recovered specimens. The one we had initially looked at under the microscope. Into this tank, she dropped a plastic water bag full of brine shrimp larvae (perhaps better known in the pet shop trade as "sea monkies"). And, sure enough, this particular scorpion-tailed seahorse sucked them up like a Hoover vacuum cleaner.

"Now, observe this," she told me: "Noah; if you would do the honors?"

She then handed him a plastic water bag, containing a live female sea goldie, which he then released into that tank. The moment that fish hit the water, she began swimming around, understandably trying to get her bearings. Yet, the very second she swam by P. manticora, it impaled her with its barbed tail! That's when I saw it for myself. The female sea goldie...

...shrank to the size of a sea monkey. And I immediately gave voice to the same thought Professor Stewart must've been having when we _both_ witnessed her get "vacuumed up," as well.

"Holy Shit!"

"It looks," added the professor: "...as if we'll have to redefine that phrase, 'potentially deadly.' "

Chapter End Notes:
*H. bargibanti: a coral-dwelling pygmy seahorse, first discovered in 1969.

H. guttulatus: the long-snouted seahorse.

S. spinosissimus: the spiny pipehorse.

Sea goldie: nickname for Pseudanthias squamipinnis, the lyretailed coralfish. So nicknamed because the female resembles a marine version of the totally freshwater-dwelling true goldfish!
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