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ROCKY RIDGE WASN'T HAPPY. "Do we have to do another project?" he whined to his teacher. "Mrs. Karp, that's not fair!"
In the first few weeks of the new school year at Trident Academy, Mrs. Karp's third-grade class had already completed reports on famous merpeople and a project where they'd collected krill and shrimp. Every one of the twenty students hoped they wouldn't have to do another big assignment.
Mrs. Karp smiled. "This lesson is different. We're going on an ocean trip."
Rocky and the rest of the class cheered. "Yes! Awesome!"
Kiki Coral gasped. But her mergirl friends Echo Reef and Shelly Siren clapped their hands and swished their tails. For many in the class, this would be their first ocean trip. They would leave classwork behind to learn in a deep-sea environment. "It's about time we did something fun," a mergirl named Pearl Swamp snapped.
"Where are we going, Mrs. Karp?" Kiki asked.
"An article in the Trident City Tide reported that a pod of whales is expected to be directly above Trident City tomorrow morning. We will visit them. In fact, Dr. Evan Mousteau will join us in a few minutes to tell us about whales and even teach us a bit of whale language."
Mrs. Karp continued, "I expect you to be courteous to Dr. Mousteau. After he leaves, we'll go over surface safety rules. Your parents can feel secure that the guards from the Shark Patrol will be on the alert all morning, not only for sharks, but also for any sign of humans."
Echo could barely speak. "Humans!" she whispered to Shelly and Kiki. "I've always wanted to see a real, live human. Maybe tomorrow will be my chance!" Everything about humans fascinated Echo.
"Are you sure it's safe? My parents have never let me go above water," Echo said to Mrs. Karp.
Mrs. Karp patted Echo on the shoulder. "Don't worry, we will only go if it is safe."
Then Kiki shyly asked, "Which whale dialect will we be learning?"
Mrs. Karp raised her green eyebrows. "Excellent question. I wonder how many of you know that whales talk to one another?"
No one raised their hand except Shelly. Kiki smiled at her.
"Since the visiting pod is made up of humpbacks, we will focus on the humpback whale dialect," Mrs. Karp told the class.
Kiki nodded, still smiling, but in truth she was worried. Really worried.