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Aquanaut 2

Alpanon Oct 24th, 2017 (edited) 2,473 Never
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  1. Dawn came and the light of the sun began to warm the shivering wet figure of Arthur Stew, who had spent the better part of the night crying. When his raft had capsized the life-preservers had pulled themselves up to the surface right away, but this had left the canvas below water and the mast pointing downward. Too shaken by the fiery wreck of the Heyerdahl to care, Art had simply fallen on the raft and cried until his strength made him collapse. That’s where the dawn’s early light found him, wet and cold and apathetic. All throughout the night the Heyerdahl had filled the horizon with a red glow as flames erupted from it, and as the skies turned blue and the brightness of the day replaced the darkness of the night it wasn’t as magnificent a sight, but it kept Art in the pit of despair all the same.
  2. No one was coming to rescue him. He was on his own. He would die like this.
  3.  
  4. The raft kept on bobbing along the waves and drifting further away from the ship. That was just as well; every sea monster within thousands of miles must’ve been heading to the wreck, their minds intent on satisfying their ravenous hunger. This at least meant none of them had any time to pay attention to Art. Ironically he would’ve welcomed the quick death of being consumed by sharks over what he faced now. He didn’t have the drugs to make his passing any easier, he didn’t have the will to hold his head underwater and drown himself. All he had to look forward to was suffering. What did he ever do to deserve this? How had the entire ship been compromised? Had any shuttles made it off? How many escape pods had made it out there? Supposing they each had at least one person, or two like they were supposed to have, it’d be… oh man, the fact that he’d taken off in one pod on his meant someone would have to be left behind, didn’t it? Or… no, he couldn’t remember if there were extras, or if the number of pods was just for the people who didn’t fit in the shuttles, and…
  5. Art found himself wondering about the vaults inside the Heyerdahl. How many people had sealed themselves in them when the fires began, only to find themselves trapped inside as the ship crashed? The wreck would eventually sink. Would the people die of starvation like he would, or from lack of oxygen? Or would they die because the fusion reactor blew up? How would being in a planet-sized ocean affect the exposed engine? Would it use the hydrogen to burn up the whole world? No, that was ridiculous; they used to make movies about that type of thing 60 years ago. 60 years before the ship left, that is. How many more years had passed since? Art’s mind was still a jumble from the stasis, and it was only now that he was beginning to fully realize how badly. He shouldn’t be out here in this condition. It would take at least three days of relative rest to get someone up and running after an extended stasis, and even then it would be a full week before physical performance reached a point where you could go on a bloody adventure at sea. He was, simply put, both physically and mentally UNSUITED for survival. Who could blame him for failing when everybody else did too?
  6. And why couldn’t those idiots put out a simple fire? How much stuff had fallen off the ship as it was burning? Spread across the entire circumference of Mare, lost into the depths. And what if there were escape pods out there, spread out over thousands of miles of water? They might be able to communicate with each other, and then one by one they would be found by the monsters and the others would wonder what happened until only one was left and they would know it all too late. Humanity had no future on this world, and they all would disappear without Art ever meeting a single one of them ever again.
  7.  
  8. For a while Art continued wallowing in self pity, but there was one shimmer of sunlight in his life, and that was the actual sunlight. The nights didn’t get that cold out here, but his body had little to no protection against the cold after spending so long in hibernation, so Art had been uncomfortably chilly all night. Now the warmth of the summer sun was making his existence slightly less miserable, and soon his despairing, apathetic lounging around became the apathetic lounging of a cat. And like a cat, he too felt extra comfort would not be out of the question.
  9. The problem was of course that in order to not just lie down on the life-preservers he’d have to get in the water and turn the raft around somehow. Or… no, wait, wouldn’t it be smarter to untie the canvas and then just bring it up from under the preservers and re-attach it? Now why was it that he always thought of the dumbest solution first? Because of the confusion in his brain after the deep freeze, that’s the ticket. And if he hadn’t been all confused and had acknowledged the limitations of his mind and body he would’ve given some thought to his actions before and made a knife out of the metal of the lightning rod instead of messing about in the water and attracting undue attention from the locals.
  10. A bitter laughter, mixed with sobs, escaped from Art’s lips. Now why hadn’t he done that? The damn rod had been there all along, and he would’ve been able to defend himself at least a little with a knife. He might’ve been able to make a screw-driver or something to work on the damaged electrical components, too. But oh no, he hadn’t thought of that at all. He’d been too damn messed up to think properly or plan ahead and because of that he had no escape pod to protect him from the harshness of the weather should there be a storm and he’d gone through all that food and water so quickly without even rationing it and he hadn’t even gotten to eat half of it!
  11.  
  12. “FUCK!” he shouted and sat up, his ass falling into the ring of one preserver. Indignant and upset, he felt like choking someone. But there was an up-side to all of this; he’d realized his mistakes, hadn’t he? Which meant his brain was working. And if his brain was starting to work, that meant he had hope of making the most of his situation, didn’t he? All he’d need to do was think about the conditions he found himself in and make some deductions.
  13. Like for one thing there was the fact that the Heyerdahl had fallen into the sea. On one hand this meant that his situation was hopeless and yadda-yadda-yadda, but on the other hand, as he had already realized, the ship probably caught the attention of every single monster within thousands of miles, maybe across the entirety of Mare since sound travelled so well underwater. So what that meant was that they wouldn’t be interested in his life pod anymore, now were they? What use was little old Death Trap when there was a much grander prize to be had? His heart went out to the poor bastards trapped inside the vaults of the Heyerdahl, but they were the ultimate bait.
  14.  
  15. Feeling a surge of energy from his ingenious realization, Art began to look for his beloved Death Trap. Where was it?
  16. He realized rather quickly he had drifted a considerable distance during the night. He couldn’t see his pod. He couldn’t see it in any direction. But that was fine, he had one point in the horizon that wasn’t moving anywhere, and that was the Heyerdahl. He could use it to aid in his navigation. If only he’d put in the effort to memorize the stars and constellations, he might’ve been able to move around at night. Of course if he’d been reasonable last night he would’ve kept close to the pod and he wouldn’t need to find it. No use fretting about that though, he had to figure out his most immediate problem first.
  17. Art took hold of the fire extinguisher and began to pull on it. His line of reasoning was that he’d pull it up and then turn his mast upside down, then he’d get in the water and undo all the knows on the canvas. That would take a very long time, wouldn’t it? And then there was the one preserver that contained his entire water supply. The opening was now underwater, so he’d need to turn that around too. Would it really be easier to do it this way rather than to turn the raft upside down again? But how was he going to turn it around on his own? He couldn’t make massive waves on his own, and the buoyant preservers would seek to set themselves up at the top while the canvas would tend to sink no matter what he did, so it was better to just do this carefully and slowly. That was fine. As ling as the Heyerdahl didn’t sink, he’d know which way… the Heyerdahl was. He didn’t actually know which way he’d been drifting from his pod. Was he closer to the ship now, or further away? Which cardinal direction had he ended up in in relation to his destination, the Death Trap? Which way was he supposed to go?
  18. Again, a problem he’d figure out later. For now he was busy as a beaver, yes sir. No use taking on more stress from problems that weren’t immediate.
  19. …even though it was his lack of foresight that had brought him to this situation in the first place. Ah. Shut up, shut up, shut up! Work! Get that mast out of the water, and… and his mast was broken. The extinguisher was there, but the lightning rod had come off. His mast was once again too short to be useful.
  20. “Fuck it” Art said out loud and kept himself busy. Work kept his mind off of despair. Being busy, being active, that’s the key. Keep moving ahead towards a goal, that was how you survived.
  21.  
  22. Without a clock Art had no accurate way to measure the flow of time, but he felt it took an uncomfortably long time to undo the tangled knots that kept the canvas attached to the preservers. It was also incredibly heavy and he could barely lift one end over the side of his raft. Every moment he was afraid something down below would grab him and drag him down. This HAD happened before so his paranoia was perfectly justified. And if the canvas went down, it would take down his flippers and snorkel with it, because he’d left those in the “tent” he’d made, and that was like a secure pouch now that it was upside down. He ha to believe that gear was still intact. Losing half his mast was bad enough. Please God. Please.
  23.  
  24. It took even longer to get the canvas hauled up and attached properly, but once it was there Art felt a whole lot better. It had been busy work that didn’t really increase his chances of survival all that much, but the shade of the now much lower-ceilinged tent would help him manage his dehydration. There was no way in hell he was going to go through all this effort a second time without a proper meal, so he could only hope that the weather wouldn’t get too bad before he was safely inside his pod again.
  25. His pod that didn’t have any food in it, mind you. No, don’t mind that. Just get back there!
  26.  
  27. As his final effort Art turned the water supply preserver around until he could drink from it and took several greedy gulps. Working had made him thirsty, very thirsty. His stomach was also empty of food, but he filled it with water instead. Nothing else to do, really.
  28. Having satisfied his baser needs he lied down and admired his last remaining possessions, the flippers and the snorkel and mask. With these he would be master of the sea, so he would. To make sure he’d never misplace them he put them all on right away, and then he lied down on his stomach and looked into the sea just in case there was something down there worth seeing.
  29.  
  30. What Art saw down there was mostly water, and some rocks, and some schools of regular fish, and some drifting plant matter, and very little else. It was too deep here for him to see to the bottom, as bright as the water was here. No way he could dive down to retrieve the lightning rod if it had fallen there, that was for sure. What did that matter though; he was finally on a proper raft again. Now he’d need to figure out where to head.
  31. For some time Art tried to figure this out by starting at the Heyerdahl’s flaming wreck and the position of the sun. How distant had the ship been when it crashed? He had no clue since he’d been vast off his raft when it cam down and from there on out he hadn’t really been mentally fit to think about things. Post-stasis a man’s mind was prone for some extreme mood swings. He remembered this now as if it was just one of those facts everybody knew. After his extensive training it only made sense that he did remember it that well. But in the end he was only human.
  32. Maybe the only human.
  33.  
  34. Shaking off the possible desperation of being the last man on Mare, Art decided he’d make his way towards the east, which was where the aft of the Heyerdahl was pointed. The ship had come from the north, or so he thought. He felt like going north-east would take him to the vicinity of the Death Trap. That seemed reasonable.
  35. Setting himself up on his back with his head facing roughly northeast, Art lowered his feet into the water up to his shins, as worried as he was of their fate, and began kicking slowly. He didn’t have the kind of strength to move the raft at any decent speed, and he while the sea was rather calm there was still the distinct possibility he’d be swept off-course by oceanic currents. Eh, if that happened then he couldn’t help it. He only had so much strength to go around until he found food – which his pod didn’t have any of – but for the moment getting to the Death Trap – which had no food – was the only thing he could think to do. He COULD have tried going to the Heyerdahl itself, but that’s the likeliest place for all the monsters to congregate too. They were probably preparing to wake old Cthulhu and Dagon back there already.
  36.  
  37. After an unpleasantly long time spent kicking and momentarily getting up to check his course, something horrifying happened. A SOMETHING bobbed against his leg, and Art pulled his feet aboard the raft so quickly the whole thing rocked. He darted up and lifted his fists up, ready to bop every goddamn shark in the nose.
  38. Instead he saw something yellow and round in the water. A… ball?
  39.  
  40. For a moment Art stared at the yellow sphere bobbing up and down with the waves. Then he fell headlong on the raft and grabbed it before fate could snatch it away from it. It felt rubbery in his hands and seemed almost translucent, but he was certain he knew what it was. Here now was fruit, and fruit was food! It didn’t matter what kind of alien biology had produced this thing, he would eat it. It was the size and shape of a pear now that he held it in full view rather than a ball, but that was fine. Who cares what shape a fruit is? It was his now and he could… Art’s eyes glanced more. There was more fruit in the water!
  41. “Ahahaha!”
  42. Clumsily using his hands to propel the raft Art guided himself closer to the floating fruit, painstakingly, all too slowly, but inevitably, and for a while he occupied himself with nothing but collecting any he could find. Once he couldn’t see any more in his immediate vicinity he ordered them up in a line and counted. Nine pieces of fruit, all roughly the size of a pear. Without even trying to count calories in them he assumed he had enough here to keep him going for three days tops, with three pieces a day. This was being generous, seeing as his physical condition didn’t really allow for that kind of fasting. He’d have to keep his eyes open so he could find more. And this was all assuming these things weren’t toxic. But why would fruit be toxic? Wasn’t it meant to be consumed? Why yes, yes it was! But not by humans; all this stuff had evolved to suit the needs of the particular biology of Mare.
  43. Ah, to hell with it. What would be today’s meal, then? Art eyed up the fruit and decided on three pieces. One of them he picked at random as the third, but the other two were an easy choice; they were the only ones from the nine he’d found that stood out. One was a shade of green rather than purely yellow and felt harder. This he presumed was still a little raw. The other was softer and browner, and obviously past its prime. Conducting a quick experiment he confirmed that the raw one floated the best and the overripe one had the least buoyancy. Here was a little factoid of science he should commit to memory so he could share it with the generations to come. Hahaha.
  44.  
  45. He ate the overripe fruit first, hoping it had begun to ferment so he could escape reality with a little drunkenness. He had no luck with that. Biting through the slightly rubbery skin his mouth was at first awash with the sugary pulp that tasted slightly like pine-apple, and then with a fish-oily aftertaste that lingered and made him curse his fate once again. Seeing no other option he finished eating and tried to wash his mouth of the unpleasantness that lingered on his tongue. His stomach immediately felt a little better, but the small piece of fruit had served only to make his innards ready for more. Should he just eat more now? If he didn’t he’d be miserable and lacking in focus and strength until he eventually did, but if he ate more now he’d have less to eat over the course of the rest of the day. There was always the possibility he might find more fruit adrift, but if he didn’t… well, that would be a problem later on, wouldn’t it? If he starved himself his enfeebled body would simply collapse on him so keeping up his strength as well as he could, would be the best, right? Put off starvation until later so you have a chance to live now? Yeah.
  46. Art bit into the raw fruit and found it lacking in both pine-apple and fish-oily taste. In their place he discovered an unpleasant bitterness that made his jaw muscles cramp, like biting into a lemon.
  47. “FUCK!”
  48. He ate the whole thing eventually. It may have been easier on his taste buds to just gobble it down quickly, but the damn thing was chewy and he had trouble breaking it down. Art felt immense relief when the fruit was gone, and his belly felt considerably less empty now. That should’ve given him a more optimistic view on his situation, but it really didn’t. He kept trying to maintain a steady course to a destination he wasn’t certain was where that course would take him, and as he did so he thought about things unrelated to his current circumstances. For example, Art thought about steak. He thought about hamburgers and fries, hotdogs, kebab, tacos, pizza, chicken wings, curry and rice, he thought about fish and fowl and beans and chilli and all the things he could have been eating. He’d never been exactly a gourmet chef but nobody had ever turned their nose at his cooking. He certainly wouldn’t do so now. The planet-wide sea was bound to be full of things that could be edible and tasty, and if only he could get his hands on some of them there’d be no telling what he could cook up. Mostly fish and prawn now that he thought about it. And seaweed. And all this terrible fruit.
  49. The majority of the day passed excruciatingly slowly. The dried up salt in his hair bothered Art but he couldn’t wash himself with anything except his drinking water so he’d just have to put up with it. After considerable pondering Art managed to find a silver lining in the fact that he wasn’t seasick despite all the rocking. That was nice; he’d probably starve to death if he started puking out his limited food supply.
  50. Several hours passed and Art grew too weary to keep kicking to make his raft move, and thus he found himself at a loss. There was no way of determining where the currents would take him if he didn’t interfere, and when he went to sleep he might actually end up further away from his destination than he had made way to it while awake. He couldn’t keep this kind of movement up every waking hour either. Sailors crossing the Atlantic or the Pacific alone would have to wake up once an hour to check their course, but they had equipment to help them determine it. He had only his eyes and an estimate. This whole process was a hopeless exercise. He had nothing even remotely resembling a life-pod in view. If there was he could try the flare. But he had only the one. If it failed to be seen by anyone, he’d be in an even worse situation as he’d be without the flare without having gained anything. And if more monsters attacked him, the flare might be the thing to save him.
  51. Art noticed the raft was already beginning to drift off-course. Of course it was off course. Eheheh. What was the point of fighting that? He might as well let nature take its course. Long ago he’d made the decision to get aboard the Heyerdahl and that had meant dying on Mare. He’d accepted that. He’d hoped and expected that death to come many, many years later, in the comfort of a proper settlement, knowing that his deeds had helped pioneer a new society of humans on this world. It wouldn’t be his that that society would never come into being. He’d done about as well as you could expect a man to do, he’d come down to this world as one of the first people and he’d lived in these conditions for two days already, going on his third. That was… that was actually kind of pathetic. He should live on for a few weeks at least, even if he was alone and there was nothing to work towards. He owed it not maybe to mankind or his deceased comrades, but to himself. He could make a game out of it. Keep on living just to see how far you can get. What else is life anyway?
  52. Seeing that in the horizon the sun was beginning to lower and a yellowish glow was beginning to overtake the blue of the sky he decided to eat one last meal for the day, his first ripe fruit.
  53. The taste proved to be bland and inoffensive, the texture didn’t offer much difficulty and all things considered he didn’t find it an unpleasant eat. He tried to chew slowly and savour it but the fruit was gone all too soon. He tried to rinse his mouth as a means of replacing proper dental hygiene but that wouldn’t fly on the long term. Not that he’d live long enough to lose any teeth or get cavities. Another silver lining right there.
  54. To entertain himself Art wondered about the nature of the plant that produced fruit that would float up as it detached from the plant itself and then began to sink as it ripened. But if the fruit still floated when it was at its best as it seemed to do, wouldn’t that mean it only sank once it wasn’t supposed to be eaten anymore? Was it intended to attract something above the waves? Was there something on Mare capable of flight? A species of flying fish perhaps? Or was the purpose of the sinking timer to make sure the fruit migrated far away from the parent plant before returning to the ocean floor? Then what was the point of it being edible? Fish would poop the seeds out some distance away just the same way the currents would spread it, so maybe the plant covered both bases. Was this fruit from a regular plant or from the sentient kind he’d met before?
  55. Art put his head in his hands as the horror of that sank in. He might have eaten the unborn children of sapient creatures. No, noo, no he couldn’t have. It was just fruit. Those plant women had breasts, so they nursed their young, which meant they gave birth rather than spreading with fruit or spores. That had to be it, yeah, he was fine. Just fine. He wasn’t eating anyone.
  56.  
  57. The sun set and Art stared at it for the entire time. He felt the chill of night but couldn’t really help it. He stayed up looking at the stars, wondering if he could learn to recognize the patterns well enough to use them as navigational aides. He didn’t remember if you could see Sol from Mare. You probably couldn’t. How many stars did the skies of Mare and Earth have in common again? Ones visible to the naked eye? Looking at infinite space always makes a man feel small, but drifting on a tiny raft on an endless sea is even more effective at that. Art had experienced solitude while backpacking in the wilds and he’d once climbed Kilimanjaro to witness the stars of Africa disappear before the dawn but even that had made him feel connected to the universe rather than isolated from it. Out here he was just so completely and utterly alone he…
  58. He heard a plop and something hit him in the chest.
  59.  
  60. The impact was hard enough that it knocked Art and caused the raft to rock violently. A sensation of wetness spread out over his body from where he’d been hit and for a moment he feared it to be blood. He’d held his eyes shut while looking for a wound, but having found one opened them to witness light. Whatever the liquid was, it glowed in the dark. He could see a greenish, unearthly glow all over his body. The sight was so mesmerizing he forgot for a moment that he’d been attacked in the first place. Then the realization set in that whatever was out there could see him with perfect clarity while he himself couldn’t make anything out in the darkness. He heard something go plop again. Did the creature dive down? Was it gone? He tried to look around in the light of the moon, the stars and the glow on his own body, but he couldn’t really make much out in the blackness. If there was anything out there what could he do about it anyway? Was this stuff corrosive?
  61. Art cupped some seawater and splashed it on his chest to try and wash the glowing stuff off, succeeding only in spreading it out on the raft and leaving a small strand trailing behind his raft. If he hadn’t been visible before, he was now.
  62. “Shit, shit, shit!”
  63. The flare! He could use the last flare and light things up. Maybe that would scare off whatever had attacked him. But if he did that, wouldn’t he just be even more visible? Would a creature that lighted up its prey even be scared of light just because it was nocturnal? What else could he do? The extinguisher was still there, he could still use that. But he’d need to actually see his enemy to hit it; spraying out randomly would just leave him open for an attack from behind or from the sides. That wasn’t any good either. For the time being his only choice was to take a sturdy and stable position – or what passed for one on this raft – and wait until he heard the plop of the water’s surface being broken again. Then he’d know which way the attack was coming from… unless it came from below. Scenes from Jaws now presented themselves in his mind. We’re going to need a bigger boat indeed. This raft consisted of materials that any creature with sharp teeth and strong jaws could bite through, releasing the air that held him above the water and sending the heavy canvas plummeting down into the ocean depths, leaving him adrift. Adrift at sea, in the middle of the night, with dangerous predators in the water, with luminescent goo on him… that was bad. That was actually THE WORST it had been since he’d gotten here. He’d escaped the slug with some difficulty but then he’d had somewhere to escape to. Now he had nothing like that, just this raft. Just his nameless raft. It was bad luck setting out to sea on a vessel with no name. He ought to have given this thing a name. Like the Espoir-Faux or something. Ahahaha.
  64. Plop.
  65. It was at this time that Art figured out how poor a human being’s ability to deduce the direction from which a sound came from was. He definitely had heard the plop, but damned if he knew where it’d come from. He kept a low posture, half-crouched, his legs wide; trying to stand steadily and put up his arms in what he hoped was a good guard for his face and throat. Turning around in place wasn’t an option, but if another attack came he’d be able to take it without being knocked on his ass this time.
  66. Splurt. He was caught in the back of his head and he fell over due to his weight being distributed unevenly in favour of his front, resulting in Art face planting in the water. He panicked immediately upon being enveloped by the darkness, and as he flailed around and got to the surface he saw the green glow spreading off his body in every direction, illuminating his body and his immediate vicinity in the water as clear as day. He must’ve been clearly visible for hundreds of meters underwater. He rushed back to his raft and climbed up with an urgency he could scarcely believe he could summon forth from his tired body, and there he fell on his belly again, hanging on to the raft for dear life.
  67. Scrunch, scrunch, gulp.
  68. “What the…?”
  69. There was something on the raft with him. Something that was eating his food supply. Art lifted his head up and looked with worry to the shadowy figure huddled at the back of the canvas tent where his fruit were stored. He couldn’t quite make it out but it looked like it was another humanoid…
  70. Splurt. Art’s eyes were blinded as the goo covered his face and with a cry he brought his hands to his face to wipe it off as quickly as possible, fearing it may harm his eyes. He felt the swaying of the raft as something crawled past him and once again he heard the plop of something falling into the water.
  71. Then there was silence. Art washed his face and felt immense relief at having found the luminescent goo was not corrosive. He put his mask on to protect his eyes from future attacks all the same, and then he sat with his back to the fruit, waiting. He stared into the darkness and looked at the glow in the water spread and fade, grow more distant as his raft drifted further away, and eventually it was all gone. He heard no new sounds no matter how long he listened for them, and after many long hours of keeping watch he began to doze off. Despite the danger Art was unable to fight off sleep and so he fell unconscious while still in a seated position.
  72.  
  73. Art woke up before the sun came up. At first he couldn’t understand what had roused him from his sweet rest but he very quickly came to realize that he was in an extremely awkward and uncomfortable position. It was true that the raft hadn’t been particularly pleasant to begin with, but now it was as if he was lying down with only a single life preserver to hold up his weight, right under his back, while the rest of his body had nothing save the canvas between it and the water. He tried to sit up and to his horror found that when he put his weight on the canvas it sank down and he was pulled down along with it, water pouring over him quickly and the damn canvas falling over his head, trapping him in.
  74.  
  75. Fortunately Art was wearing a life-jacket and was pulled up to the surface again immediately. Unfortunately he was still trapped under the canvas, which was weighing him down. He struggled to get out from under it, flailing around, until finally the old parachute released its hold on him and slowly sank into the ocean’s depths. He couldn’t keep buoyant while holding up the canvas so he had no choice but to let it go, and along with it sank his fruit, his water and the last flare. Looking around Art saw that the life-preservers had all been separated, as they were the fire extinguisher had sunken as well. His raft was gone.
  76. But how was any of this possible? He’d tied the knots well, there was no way they could’ve just come loose on their own. You’d need to be able to actually handle knots to pull them loose, so whatever had done this had to be dexterous enough to… no, what if something had just chewed through the ropes? But if that had happened, wouldn’t he have been woken up while it was happening? Even with sharp teeth you’d need to saw on the rope to actually cut it, just biting down wouldn’t… and the teeth would’ve gone through the preservers too, so… so…
  77. Plop.
  78.  
  79. The life-jacket he’d used to build the raft was now atop one of the preservers. Art slipped inside the one he’d been sleeping on and stared at it. The sun wasn’t up yet, but he could still see. It was only then he realized why. The sea around him was full of the glowing green stuff. The thing that had attacked him during the night and stolen his fruit had come back, and it had dismantled his raft. Not only that, it was now right there, fiddling with one preserver and jacket. Art could actually make out the shape of…
  80. Tentacles?
  81.  
  82. The jacket was placed on the top of the preserver to create a floor. Above this floor climbed a small mass of writhing tentacles, and above those tentacles was a girl. Looking at the size of her she couldn’t have been much older than six years old, tentacles aside. An octopus or squid mermaid, that’s what she looked like. Her hair was a wet mass of red falling down all over her head, covering her face and reaching down to grant modesty to her bare chest. It looked extremely unsettling to see the mass on tentacles replacing her legs writhe around as if they were acting of their own accord while the top part of her body squeezed her hair dry like she was just a normal girl who’d gotten out of the water. It was still too dark for Art to make out anything else, but this child’s appearance had made him forget the horror and despair he should’ve been feeling at the fact that his situation had worsened beyond all hope.
  83. Seeing where the third preserver had floated Art kicked to it and used a piece of his harness to attach himself to both of the ones he had left. Having done this he climbed out of the water and uncomfortable sat on them, hoping to keep his legs away from potentially hungry predators. And then he waited. The squid kid didn’t seem to have any interest in him at the moment, and so Art found the time to consider his situation in a new light.
  84. Fact number 1 was that she was a child. Just a child. This meant she wasn’t likely to be particularly dangerous.
  85. Fact number 2 was that if there was a child, there should be an adult. This was VERY dangerous.
  86. Fact number 3 was that she had only shown interest in his food and the raft, not Art himself. This implied she needed food and shelter, meaning the likelihood of an adult’s presence was very low.
  87. Fact number 4 was that she didn’t seem to either care about Art’s survival or was incapable of understanding the concept of him maybe drowning without his raft. The additional fact of all life on Mare being aquatic in nature seemed to support the hypothesis of her being ignorant rather than malicious.
  88. Accepting these facts led Art to deduce that he could very likely form some kind of connection with the natives here, at last. A non-threatening creature like this would pose no danger if he approached her, and if he managed to get her to understand his predicament she may prove capable of arousing the sympathies of her elders, leading to greatly increased likelihood of survival on Art’s part. This was of course only possible if he managed to form that connection with her, which would require some kind of common language between them, and as the Queen’s English wasn’t spoken by the natives of Mare, this posed a problem. With adults he might’ve been able to communicate more easily as their intellect was likely greater and more adept at coming up with solutions to such problems, but what could he do with a child? In any case he had to approach her, and doing so might be threatening to HER. She was capable of spraying ink as a means of defending herself, as he had learned. She would likely try to blind him and escape if he came near. As of now the distance between them didn’t seem to bother her. What ought he to do?
  89. The conclusion Art came to was to wait for the sun to actually come up. With dawn’s rays warming and illuminating them he might look less dangerous to her. Or maybe she was a nocturnal creature and found daylight more threatening than darkness? In any case Art needed light to work and the glowing goo he now knew to be ink had dispersed by now. It was getting difficult to keep the floating squid in his sights, but as the preserver and vest were orange he was still able to follow them. Using his hands as paddles he kept correcting his movements to keep within close proximity to his target but being careful to keep far enough away not to become threatening. The squid had finished drying her hair and was now braiding it, her tentacles making smacking sounds as the suction cups attached to one another and pulled off. Listening to this for a while Art realized she was using these smacks to create a tune of some kind, and after a while there came a low humming from her direction. It kind of made him want to sing too. Having no better ideas he began to whistle Under the Sea.
  90. As soon as the squid kid heard the sound of his whistling she stopped what she was doing and dove inside the lifejacket, somehow managing to fit inside it completely. Art knew squid could fit themselves in very small, cramped spaces, but the humanoid part of her body had made him expect her bones would get in the way of that. Now he had scared her off once again though.
  91. “Shit” he muttered and zipped his lips to make sure he’d keep quiet until dawn came. It’s not like he had anything to eat or drink anyway.
  92.  
  93.         ***
  94.  
  95. What was the longest time a human being had survived adrift at sea? Piscine Patel wasn’t a real person but he’d managed 227 days. What about real people? Did Polynesians travelling across the Pacific count as lost at sea? How long had the real Heyerdahl taken to cross the Pacific on the Kon-Tiki? Whatever. It seemed like a preposterous notion to die at sea anyway. You’re literally surrounded by a practically infinite supply of food and water, only the water is undrinkable and the food can only be caught if you chase it in its natural habitat, where you can’t breathe. All things considered Art hadn’t been out here for all that long, so he shouldn’t be throwing in the towel yet. He knew there was always hope if you kept going… even if he didn’t actually believe it. On top of all his other problems his back was starting to hurt from hunching on the life preserver. The thing was designed to float so he really should’ve just dropped down into the water and let it keep him afloat so he could relax but the fear of the unknown was too much. The sun was well on its way up now though so he could soon see what lurked beneath him. Once he did he might not be so wary of it anymore. He didn’t want to get eaten but he didn’t want to starve to death while he was uncomfortable either. All choices were looking pretty bad, actually.
  96. Then there was the little octopus girl. She had been keeping to herself mostly, but Art couldn’t help but notice the occasional jets of water that shot out from below her preserver to direct it into the same direction his was going. Despite her obvious distrust of him she seemed to dislike being alone even more and had chosen his company as the preferable option.
  97. Scientific curiosity had been aroused in Art’s mind. Did she breathe with both lungs and gills to enable her survival in and out of water, or did she breathe through her skin like a frog? How much energy did it take to produce all that glowing ink or mucus or whatever he should call it? In the Earth’s seas there was something called a vampire squid that shot out ink that was bioluminescent. Still, a girl that size needed to be kept fed regularly and shooting out all that goop wouldn’t have helped matters. Thinking about it like that Art was more sympathetic to her stealing his food supply. Was she lost from her parents, or did her species not live in groups? What was a group of octopus people called anyway? School or pod? Octopi didn’t socialize much on Earth. So many new social structures awaited discovery on Mare. Shame Art wouldn’t be any part of that. He licked his dry lips. He could take a mouthful of sea water and just spit it out without actually drinking…
  98.  
  99. Morning came. Art looked down into the clear water, at the fish and the writing weeds and the corrals and mushrooms and crabs, he saw all the way to the bottom, kind of. The visibility was like an Alpine lake, the bottom must’ve been around 30 or maybe even 40 meters down right now – which was delightful, it was shallow enough to seem safe yet so deep he couldn’t just go down there – and watching as the creatures down below scurried about their fishy lifestyle was entertaining enough. He floated above them slowly and after confirming there was nothing to be seen larger than himself – or even the size of his arm – Art finally let his feet drop into the water and sighed with relief as his hunched posture was given relief.
  100. His sound did not go unnoticed. The little octolady came out of hiding briefly to peek at him from inside the life-jacket. Her hair had completely dried up by now and looked rather badly matted where she hadn’t braided it. She needed a comb and a brush badly. How long had her hair gone unkempt like that? Did her species even have tools for maintaining a head of hair? Living underwater you’d never run into a situation where it dried up so would you need to? She disappeared from sight when she didn’t notice anything worth paying attention to. That was her mistake, because Art certainly did.
  101. They drifted over a chasm or a ravine or something; it must’ve been another 20 meters drop below the rest of the ocean floor, with shadows obscuring most of what was down there. And then there was the light. The light! Art kicked with his feet to stop his preserver from just floating along with the waves so he could stay and stare down. The light was not the organic light of bioluminescence, but artificial light of man-made make. A life-pod was down there! Down 60 meters below the surface, so close and yet so far away, the orange-yellow warning lights blinking out an SOS in Morse code. Why had the pod sunk down instead of floating? It had to have been damaged coming down even worse than his. To make matters worse when the pod was that deep could the people in it even safely leave? They could open up the top hatch and try to swim for the surface but judging from the luck the expedition had had so far they’d end up with the bends coming up from that deep quickly enough not to drown. They were probably still down there, waiting to run out of air. Or maybe they already HAD run out of air and were dead. Fuck, fuck, fuck!
  102.  
  103. Art tore off his life-jacket and slipped down into the water, turned around and began kicking his way down. He got a dozen meters down, kept swallowing to deal with the pain in his ears and reminded himself that the lowest free-dive ever done was to over a hundred meters down. He kept equalizing the pressure as he went lower, ignoring the burning in his calves. He was not physically fit enough to be doing this and he knew it. He would probably black out from a combination of the strain, the lack of oxygen and simple dehydration. He saw the pod was marked number 9. This had come down well after him, so maybe there was enough air in it for the people to have made it. He reached the ravine’s edge, he…
  104. “BLURGH!” Art cried out when something wrapped around his shin, causing him to empty out his lungs. He panicked, turned around, kicked, saw that the thing wrapped around his leg was the little octopus girl and realized he had to get air NOW!
  105. Getting back up to the surface was a painful swim that felt like it lasted forever. To his horror Art’s vision blurred before he broke the water’s edge, and when he did he gasped like a madman. Hyperventilation ensued. That had been scary. Unnecessarily scary. And the girl? She’d let go of his leg and had climbed up on his preserver now. She was looking at him verily, like her feelings had been hurt by his behaviour.
  106. “I…” he panted, “need… to… get… do-“ he coughed a little, then brought up his hand and pointed downwards with his index finger. Was any of this getting through to her?
  107. Then he noticed she wasn’t escaping when she heard him talk. That was weird. Had she been so concerned with being left alone she’d decided not to be scared of him anymore?
  108. As if to refute his thoughts she slinked back into the water and emerged again on her own preserver. The swim had undone her braids, so she squeezed her hair dry again and started to remake them. How was he supposed to interpret that then?
  109. Just keep breathing, he told himself. He could make it down if he had to, and when he did… he’d have another person, maybe two other people, just stuck at sea like this. Now that he thought about it the situation wouldn’t really be improved, would it? But at least there’d be other people to share his misery. The might even be some rations down there he could share in on. And water… he could really go for some water right about now. His head hurt. All he’d need to do was get down there, open that hatch and things would move along in SOME direction. It couldn’t be any worse, could it? If the people down there had already suffocated, it’d mean he’d have access to all their supplies, as macabre as that sounded. He could make another raft out of the materials down there, and that would make up for most of his losses.
  110. It was a terrible thing to think, but the idea that there was someone alive down there was less appealing than that they were dead. Art found himself wishing his fellow survivors had died. What a wonderful person he was, it didn’t take him too many days out at sea to turn into a beast of a man, did it?
  111. He’d gotten his heart-rate under control again. As long as he didn’t get interrupted this time he’d make it down. He’d find out if anyone was alive and then he’d work off of that. No use thinking about what ifs, for now just dive, dive damn you!
  112.  
  113. And dive Art did. He turned his head to check if the little squid had decided to follow him again or not and saw that it was not so. This was good; no scares meant he could actually focus on getting down. He reached the edge of the chasm slightly more easily this time too. His calves still hurt, and so did his ankles. All this activity after the long inactivity of the cryo-sleep was terrible, but he could do it, and had to do it. Pod 9 was now within his reach and he reached for the hatch at the top, planting his flippers on the dome for purchase.
  114. The hatch opened with little resistance and he was almost sucked in as water rushed to fill the pod. He kicked up to catch the massive air bubble that was released, stuck his head inside it and took a deep breath so he wouldn’t have to return to the surface right away.
  115. He saw nobody inside, to his surprise. Had the pod been launched without people in it? Then he realized something even stranger. The pod had been halfway filled with seawater already. What was that supposed to mean?
  116. Then it hit him. Whoever had been in here had already left. The life-preserves and the life-jackets were gone. He got inside the pod and checked for the first-aid kit. It was gone. So was the fire-extinguisher. All electronic systems on the inside had been turned off and when he touched the screens they didn’t react. Everything was dead despite the lights on the outside working fine. He opened the storage space and some more air was released. He breathed it and looked inside, where he found absolutely nothing. Everything had been taken from here. But how was it that the power on all systems was off and couldn’t be restored? Good old Death Trap had been damaged so the systems didn’t work properly but it still had had power, here the only thing that seemed to be working was the system with the emergency lights, and from what he recalled they ran off an internal power-supply that wasn’t connected to the rest of the pod. He swam out and checked where the power-cells were located. All three slots were empty. Whoever had been here had taken the cells with them when they left. That was good thinking, they were useless down here but might have some use elsewhere. This didn’t change the fact that he’d wasted time and energy on absolutely nothing and still had no food or water.
  117.        
  118. ***
  119.  
  120. An impact woke Art up and he flailed around with his fist up in a pose that might’ve passed for a guard among drunken geriatrics. For the briefest moment he had no recollection of where he was or why and when it all came back to him his shoulders slumped. He was still at sea, still slowly dying. Then he thought to figure out what had woken him up. Something had hit him in the chest. Looking down he saw that there was a piece of the local fruit, half-eaten, lodged between his hip and the life-preserver. This is what had hit him. Now where had it come from?
  121. He looked over to where the squid girl was hidden. She was nowhere to be seen, but her little nest was much closer to him than she had been comfortable with up to this point. So she’d found fruit and had thought to share some with him. What luck that it had been caught somewhere instead of just sinking down! If he’d been awake he could’ve caught it in the air but he’d lost consciousness at some point. Damn.
  122. The fruit was sweeter to him now than it had been before. The aftertaste didn’t bother him as much. He’d have liked more. He didn’t see any, but at least he had something in his belly now. And that moisture! The nectar of the gods, the elixir of life! Such terms may have been used to describe it by someone who had more presence of mind. Art didn’t though, he returned to his idle drifting and to looking at the clouds. This is what he’d been doing when he fell asleep, wasn’t it? It occurred to him he should’ve been paying more attention to the time of day or to where he was headed. If he kept his eyes peeled, he’d see other life-pods. Hell, if other survivors had thought to make rafts they might just run into him!
  123. Art looked around with this in mind. He couldn’t tell if he was closer to or further from the Heyerdahl. It was quite clearly burning though. Was the ship floating on the waves or caught in some shallows? Could a ship that size float? Probably not. There must’ve been quite a bit of earth and rock supporting it up, and getting closer to it might’ve been safer in the sense that there’s be less chance of creatures attacking from down below. But if the ship’s engines exploded… well, at this distance he might be killed by such an explosion anyway. Getting further away might’ve been a bit smarter than staying close to the wreckage, but the ship was the only fixed point in his surroundings that he could orient himself by. And what good was orientation anyway when he’d be attacked by alien fish monsters soon enough. Art looked down. He was over some much deeper water than he’d been when he awake last. 80 meters? A whole hundred? More? There was something red growing on the ocean floor. Kelp? It might’ve been beautiful to explore at some other time. Now he was just worried as to what might’ve been waiting for him down there. Should he keep looking down to make sure he had proper warning when something might attack, or should he keep his mind off of it to keep his sanity? Sanity. That’s a laugh, what use was a rational mind in circumstances like these? He had no materials to work with and he couldn’t just up and grow gills. Opposable thumbs and abstract thinking had made man king of the savannah, but man was not built for the water. Ships and boats and submarines and drones were what man used to reign over the water. He’d just always played in it instead of relying upon his abilities to really survive in it. He’d caught fish with wooden spears for a laugh but he didn’t have bloody wood to make bloody spears. All he had were his hands. How was he supposed to catch fish with his bare hands?
  124. A thought occurred to him. Many thoughts. All of them concerned slow fish. Fat fish. Fish sizzling on frying pans. Fish that had never met a human being and hadn’t evolved to think of them as threats, no survival instincts telling them to rush away from the claws about to grasp them. To catch a fish so juicy sweeeeet~
  125. There was a plop signalling the squid girl had dived down and Art realized he’d been singing Gollum’s song out loud. He was also reminded of the fact that this girl, and many others, were humanoid in shape. Fish on Mare would recognize the shape of hands. There went his dreams about some plump, meaty thing full of eggs getting cooked in butter and maybe he’d have a frothy beer, a case of frothy beers, because that’s just what the doctor ordered, couldn’t one of those damn clouds cover up the sun for a change?
  126. Then Art’s back hit something solid and he jumped, tumbled over his head and found his legs up in the air with his upper body under the water for a fraction of a second before his lifejacket dragged him back up. As this happened his head hit something that felt very much like a truck tire and when he was finally back to the position he’d started in he saw what he’d been hoping to find all along: another life-pod.
  127. Life-pod #11. That’s what it said. Nobody responded when he shouted. Art took a piece of the rope attached to the preserver and tied it around a ladder-rung before climbing up. The top hatch was closed. He knocked. No reply.
  128. There was a plop and Art looked down to the edge of the water. The squid girl was busy imitating his knot to attach her preserver to the pod as well. Her tentacles did all the work in this case, her hands were holding another piece of fruit was she nibbled on it. Where was she finding them? Underwater? Or was this still one of the ones she’d stolen from him? Art felt angry. He might’ve DIED because of this creature. He should’ve smacked it around and taken his food back. But… it was just a child. He shook his head and opened the hatch.
  129.  
  130. Down inside pod 11 there was nobody. Of course. That would’ve been too much to ask. To Art’s delight the lights turned on when he flipped a switch and the pod’s computers blinked on. Hah! Finally! He could, he could contact someone! But where was everyone?
  131. He checked the power cells. They were 100%, 100% and 99% charged. Good, good. No problems there. He checked and saw that life-jackets and preservers had been removed. The med-kit was still present but some contents had been removed. There was one bottle of water and one nutrient block left. That was quite a bit, actually. Whoever had been in the pod had done well with their rationing. Unless of course they’d died already. Cheerful thought.
  132. Art drank a third of the bottle’s contents without a single thought for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow or for anyone else’s potential need of it. He’d gone without water long enough. He unwrapped the nutrient block and took as big of a bite as he could fit in his mouth at once, then wrapped it up again and chewed slowly, his cheeks bulging like those of a hamster. He swallowed bits and pieces slowly and finally washed the crumbs down with one more gulp of water. He returned the bottle into the storage as well and then turned to the computer. He opened up the communications array. It was offline. The internal network was offline. There was no grid to work with, nothing to carry the signals. What the hell? All pods were supposed to be equipped with radios at least!
  133. He banged at the panel and cursed. Why wasn’t it working? Who had built these pods? The CHEAPEST contractor? What the hell!
  134. Plop, plop, plop, splat.
  135. “Uhh…” the squid girl whined. Art turned to look at her, not believing what he was seeing. She’d climbed down the ladder to follow him and had fallen off the last rung. Undeterred, she slithered and crawled around the pod, found a chair and climbed on to it. She seemed to find it comfortable and curled up like a cat, her head hidden under a mat of tentacles.
  136. At least she wasn’t breaking anything. Art returned to the computer. The pod was still sending its location! That was something. He opened up a map of the immediate area. With no GPS support or any land formations the map was completely bare of anything that could be used to identify where you were, except for the distances between the various blimps from the other pods. Each had an identifier. Pod 4, good old Death Trap, was not on the map. Neither were many other pods. Pod 2 was the lowest number he could see, had pod 1 ever been launched? He couldn’t say. He was only a couple hundred meters away from Pod 9. But why hadn’t he seen Pod 11 from there? He fiddled with the computer and saw that Pod 11 was not anchored. Of course, it was drifting, so while he’d been at Pod 9 this one had been somewhere else than where it was now. What about the rest? The closest one was Pod 6? It was 200 meters towards the Heyerdahl. There was a signal coming out of the ship, but did that mean anyone was still alive and running it? He saw a total of 25 pods on the map, but the signals weren’t terribly strong, the radius was only 2km, and the Heyerdahl’s was the only one that had a signal that would carry out further. How many more pods were there further out, and how many that had been damaged the way as Death Trap had? He couldn’t even begin to estimate how many survivors there may or may not be. How many people had boarded each pod? They were designed for two people, making planet-fall without strapping yourself to a chair would’ve been quite problematic. He felt a twinge of guilt over having landed on his own. But had this many people even been out of cryo-sleep by the time the ship went down? He knew he’d gotten off long before the ship absolutely had to be abandoned, so there would’ve been time… Art only now began to think about the physical condition of his fellow survivors. So many people who had been out of cryo-sleep for even less time than he had, all thrust into this situation without having time to wake up properly. At least he’d had some time to get used to being on his own two feet again…
  137. He found other signals. Shelters 1-6 the computer said, each scattered outside the 2km radius the pod signals could reach. Shelters? They’d been launched off the Heyerdahl before it came down. Those were where most of the people would be. Some of them more than likely still under, unaware anything had gone wrong. And how much gear and supplies, even food and water, did they have? A lot, a whole lot, that was for damn sure. More than enough for him if he found one. Art licked his cracked lips. He wouldn’t need to worry about rationing if he got to one of the shelters. But… there’s the thing. A shelter was too big for flotation devices to work. They’d have sunk like anchors. How deep would they be? The signals didn’t tell him about the depth. But he had a map now. He could work with this. He’d survive for a while with what he had available to him, he’d get himself set up and he’d make contact with other survivors, and then he’d collaborate with someone to get into one of those shelters. Sooner or later there’d be someone else responsible for making hard decisions and figuring out what to do, and he’d have to just follow orders. He could do that. He’d be part of civilization again, what passed for civilization now, and they’d… they’d do okay. Yeah.
  138. Art wondered who had been in this pod though. Who had left and why?
  139. He opened up the log book, the one damn thing on his own pod that had worked. He listened to the log. His smile faded. He sat down on the chair opposite the sleeping squid. He buried his face in his hands. THIS pod was the true Death Trap, not the one he’d landed in. Oh god why? Why did it have to…
  140.  
  141.         ***
  142.  
  143. Log #1
  144.  
  145. Uhh, yeah. I’m Science-officer Grant; I’m a biologist, a marine-biologist. I’m in pod, uhh, number 11, with Ensign Lafayette. The ensign is unconscious; he’s suffered some kind of head-trauma during planetfall. I’ve wrapped his head in bandages but I’m not a doctor, I don’t know if it helps much. All I really learned during first-aid training was how to stop bleeding and clean wounds and that’s what I’ve done. If he’s got like brain damage or something I can’t do anything. So he’s out, it’s just me here. According to the sonar we’re floating over a drop of around 400 meters, and that’s too deep to drop an anchor, so I’m just letting the current carry us for now. I can’t raise anyone on the coms, all the systems are probably shut down because of whatever happened to the Heyerdahl. For the time being I’m going to jury-rig some diving equipment to go down to the bottom and look for some materials to build a proper radio with. According to the beacon-pings there’re plenty of other survivors around so I’ll hopefully get in touch with them soon. So, uhh, if nobody hears from me after this assume I got eaten by big fish? Heh. Over and out.
  146.  
  147. Log #2
  148.  
  149. There’s good news and bad news from pod 11. The good news is that Lafayette woke up and doesn’t seem to be in any danger of dying for now, say hi Ensign
  150.  
  151. Hi….
  152.  
  153. Shame about that, I was going to live off of his corpse for months.
  154.  
  155. What?
  156.  
  157. I’m just kidding ensign. Anyway that’s the good news. The bad news is that with the mixture of gas I could cook up here and the gear I could build from stripping bits off the pod here and there I can only get to a depth of around 250m safely, going any lower would cause complications. For the time being I think it’s better to just wait until the current takes us somewhere shallower.
  158.  
  159. And if that doesn’t happen?
  160.  
  161. Then we’ll tow the pod. I’m building an engine for a sort of sea-glide right now, though that will mean the air-conditioning will have to be dismantled. Over and out for now.
  162.  
  163. You don’t say “over and out” on audio-logs, sir.
  164.  
  165. Really?
  166.  
  167. No, that’s just for radios.
  168.  
  169. Well I’ll be.
  170.  
  171. Log #3
  172.  
  173. This is Ensign Lafayette speaking. Last night myself and Science-Officer Grant were woken up by a bumping noise coming from the bottom of the pod. We opened the bottom hatch but couldn’t see anything down below due to the dark water and the bright light contrasting. We turned off our lights and dropped a flare into the water and we saw… we saw goddamn mermaids. But these weren’t the nice kind. They had TEETH. Looked like crossbreeds between women and sharks. They circled around the flare for a bit, and then disappeared. We shut the hatch and Grant wanted to see about rigging a sail to take us away from here, building a sea-glide would be too dangerous as it would require us to get into the water to operate it. He got up topside to turn the parachute the pod used to break after entering the atmosphere of Mare and I took some painkillers. I heard him shouting, there was a splash, he screamed, another splash, then nothing. I got up and didn’t see him anywhere but there were fins coming out of the water. I got back in and shut the hatch. I looked at all the stuff we have in this pod and thought about the weapons they could be used for. Harpoon-guns were supposed to be standard-issue gear for these pods, why the hell isn’t there even one here? I can’t find survival knives or personal defence barriers or stasis-grenades or anything. I spent six months learning how to use and maintain that gear and now somebody forgot to pack it up? I’m going to see to it that whoever is responsible will be the first person on Mare to be publicly executed. I took the fan-blades Grant wanted to turn into the propeller for the sea-glide and shoved them inside the Fab to make a nice short knife and a machete. They should be ready any minute now, and once I’ve got them I’m going in the water and seeing if I can…
  174.  
  175. *THONK*
  176.  
  177. What the fu-
  178.  
  179. *THONK*
  180.  
  181. No. You’ve got to… Okay. Fuck it.
  182.  
  183. Log #4
  184.  
  185. I’m back. Those fucking mutants managed to bite through the flotation-gear keeping the pod on the surface. I went into the water with hot knives, fresh off the press, too hot to touch so I tore my shirt up and used that to handle them. I chased the shark-women off but saw no sign of Grant. May he rest in peace, but I’ve no time to grieve him. The pod would’ve sunk if I didn’t do something about it so I tore up pieces of my molten up shirt and used those as filling while I got back up here and fed pieces of the life-jacket to the Fab to make some kind of sticky stuff. I had to set the damn thing to work extra-fast because air was seeping out and with the AC dismantled there was no way to refill them. What this means is that the power-cells were drained quite a bit and I think there might’ve been some damage to the Fab’s circuitry from overheating, but the crisis was averted for now.  The pod is not sinking at least, but I’ll need to build some kind of air-pump to refill the flotation devices. After that I’ll need to think about… shit, I don’t know. Food and water? I’ve got my share now that Grant’s gone but it won’t last forever. That radio he planned is not going to get built any time soon so how do I contact others? What do I do if the sharks come back? I’m tired. Spent so long frozen, I doubt my performance levels are much above an elementary school student.
  186.  
  187. Log #5
  188.  
  189. I’m not an engineer or a Science-Officer but I do feel like I’m competent enough to take one’s place. Taking the engine that Grant had been building and using it to pump air into the pod’s flotation devices gave me an idea and I decided to test it out. Could I use an air-stream as something like a jet to propel motion without the propeller fans? Turns out I can! But can I move something as heavy as the pod with it? No, not against the currents anyway. So I need a smaller, lighter vessel. Taking the remaining life-jacket and the preservers, the parachute and the engine, I’m thinking I should be able to build a raft that can keep me dry and out of the water. Looking at the closest pod on the map, if I head straight to it I should reach pod #22 in something like fifteen minutes. That’s my goal for now. From what I’ve deduced of the sea currents carrying me, If I wait for eight hours or so I’ll become within just a few hundred meters from pod #4 but I don’t feel like waiting any longer than I have to, so pod #22 it is. I’m leaving something behind for any unlucky sonnova bitch who might find this pod and need it, but for your own safety, leave it while you can. Once that pod returns to the shark infested waters, they will be attacking again. I’m sure of it. Head for pods 22 or 4 ASAP.
  190.  
  191.         ***
  192.  
  193. So there you had it. Pod 4, Death Trap, was a no-go, taken over by Seaweed and whatnot. Art knew his only option then to be pod 22. Now how far out was that? No, wait. Pod 6! Pod 6 was the closest one right now! If he just got out and started to paddle his way there he could still reach it! But on the other hand he KNEW that Ensign Lafayette had headed out to pod 22 so the chances of there being at least someone alive there must’ve been higher… Why hadn’t Lafayette’s message mentioned pod 6 anyway? It was obviously the closest right now, so if the pod’s circuit was a consistent one then it should’ve come this close previously. Was there something else going on, or was the just over thinking it?
  194. No. There was no such thing as “over thinking” something in a survival situation. The fact of the matter remained that Lafayette had made note of pods 4 and 22, while the computer clearly showed pod 6 as being the closest. If pod 6 had been in such close proximity during the circuits pod 11 had run previously, Lafayette would’ve made note of that, but he hadn’t, leaving as the only possible explanation the fact that the path being travelled by pod 11 had changed. What did that mean for Art, then? He couldn’t think of any reason to stay here at the very least. Heading out to the unknown was somewhat disheartening though. Despite the pod having no functional air-conditioning it was still cooler in the shade of it than it had been in the scorch of the sun. The sturdy walls around him made him feel safe. He could hear the sea and he could feel the pod rocking on the waves, but he couldn’t feel the wetness of water, a thing he had quite gotten used to. The pod represented the kind of refuge you just couldn’t find in the open water. But just 200 meters of open water separated him from pod 6… and pod 6 was anchored, wasn’t it? It ought to be. That meant it was in shallow water, somewhere he could see the bottom and feel confident in knowing what was around him. It was likely pod 6 had someone already occupying it, maybe even two or more people, but was finding more people and having less space such a terrible thing when there was safety in numbers to be considered? No! The more he thought about it, the more appealing pod 6 was. What threat could there possibly be in those 200 meters, why he’d been out there for so long and hadn’t been eaten yet so it’s not like he’d get eaten on the way, either! The sharks potentially awaiting somewhere along the current made it even more imperative to leave pod 11. He was close to reaching actual safety now. He was… 233m away from pod 6, moving away diagonally. It would be for the best to just head out now, the longer he waited the further he’d have to go. But was there anything worth salvaging here? The med-kit, obviously. Art took it out. The water and food he had left, absolutely. Then what else?
  195. Looking around Art thought about the innards of the pod. With the AC stripped, there should be plenty of wiring and some computer chips and circuit boards inside the walls of the pod that were no longer in use. Electrical components, stuff you could use to build… things. Or repair broken things. He didn’t really have anything to carry all that in, though. The seawater would likely ruin them completely. Unless…
  196. He looked at the chairs. If you tore apart the covering on those seats, you could maybe use it as a sort of water-proof bag. The headrest was of the right size, even. Yeah, he’d do that before leaving.
  197.  
  198. Art peeled off the covering of one of the headrests and then stuffed the medkit inside it awkwardly. The size and shape wasn’t very compatible, but it would do. He stuffed the leftovers of his nutrient bar and the waterbottle in to keep them company. Then on second thought he took another bite out of the bar and another sip to wash it down before ripping off a seatbelt and using it to tie the “bag” shut. This one wasn’t waterproof at all, but it wouldn’t need to be anyway. The next one was the problem.
  199. He slid off the panel that had once covered the insides of the air-conditioning system and looked at the pieces. There was plenty here worth taking, but he didn’t quite know what he SHOULD take. For the time being he yanked some freely hanging pieces of wire off the wall and began wrapping them into coils around his arm. Then he panicked and turned off the pod’s computers so he wouldn’t get electrocuted. Smart.
  200. After stuffing a couple meters of insulated copper wire inside his bag Art felt he’d spent enough time here and used the other seatbelt to bind this “bag” shut much more carefully than the first one. It worked out okay. Lastly he tied the two bags together and threw them over his shoulder. He was about to leave when he noticed the squid girl. She was still asleep, he hadn’t woken her up with his busywork. Could he really just leave her here? The sharks might eat her if the pod ended up in their territory again. The idea of abandoning a child seemed far too cruel to do, alien squid or not. Art walked over to her and was about to pet her head and wake her when something banged on the bottom of the pod and startled him. He jumped to the computer and turned it on. If the pod had struck some shoals that’d be one thing, but if it hadn’t…
  201. According to the computers the depth was still over a hundred meters. They weren’t on any shoals, that was for sure. Then what had…
  202. There was another bang, then another and another in rapid succession, followed by a loud bang and the pod suddenly flew against the current, then began to sag on one end, a gurgling noise emanating from down below.
  203. It was pretty obvious what had happened. The sharks were already here, and they’d bitten through the buoys keeping the pod afloat. It would sink and there was nothing he could do about it now.
  204.  
  205. The squid girl had woken up and looked rather groggy. She didn’t seem to understand the situation at all, and there was no way Art could explain it to her when they had no common language. He rushed to her side and grabbed her in his arms, causing her tentacles to wrap around his arms rather tightly. Even her suction cups came attached to him, he could feel the pull through his shirt. With the girl held in this manner he began to climb the slanted ladder to escape. Up top he saw the tell-tale sign of sharks in the water – the back fins. Of course he could also see the bodies as well, and he could see the arms and heads that were so human, yet still had the colourization of sharks. So very odd to look at that, he thought. Now what was he supposed to do? The raft would be instantly destroyed should any of the sharks decide to try snacking on it, and there were at least four in the water. It occurred to him that pod 9 may well have been sunk by these creatures as well. Back on Earth he’d encountered his fair share of sharks and they certainly didn’t consider him dinner there, so why were the sharks of Mare so aggressive? Obviously humans didn’t belong to the same food chain on either planet.
  206. An idea occurred to him, an idea so stupid and foolhardy he wanted to dismiss it completely rather than entertaining it, but as the pod began to sink he realized there was very little else to do. He pulled the raft aboard the pod and tied together the preserver the squid had been travelling on with it, adding his new bags on to the pile. Tied altogether like this the damn thing looked like an abomination but it would do for the distance it needed to cover. All he really needed to do was get rid of the sharks, even if only temporarily.
  207. He tried to lower the squid girl on the raft, but she wouldn’t let go.
  208. “Please…” he muttered, knowing it was futile to try and speak to her. She squirted out a faint trace of her bioluminescent ink, which slowly trickled down into the water. And that gave Art another idea, one that would work in tandem with his original one and might made it very slightly less suicidal. Yes, this might work. It was do or die now. He couldn’t hope to out swim the sharks, no way, and there was no way to keep himself from ending up in the water with them, so if he was to have any hope of defeating them and surviving this situation he would have to make like a wolverine and attack the bear. So to speak.
  209. “Hold tight little one” he whispered and jumped into the water, right on top of one of the fins, his feet landing on the shoulder blades of the shark woman. The frightened creature dove deeper, leaving Art in the water with three curious sharks approaching him. As he had expected, however, the squid girl released a mighty cloud of ink, colouring the sea around them a bright green. The ink wasn’t as magnificent a sight during the day as it had been during the night, of course, and it didn’t even glow properly, but the sight was enough to make the sharks circle around them at a distance, clearly vary. And this was just what Art needed, a window of opportunity. He waited for a few moments to pick out a target – he had no way of knowing if sharks hunted in hierarchical packs on Mare but their mammalian features seemed to suggest the possibility, seriously all of them had breasts hanging out in the open, that was very distracting – and when he found the one he assumed to be the leader on account of her size, somewhat more mature build and the amount of scarring, he took spurted into action.
  210.  
  211. Sharks are the top of their food chain. An adult shark does not really consider ever being attacked by something that is not another adult shark, and most certainly it doesn’t expect to be attacked by what is perceived as prey. Hence it is easy to confuse the simple creatures by charging them. Art had surmised the Mare sharks would be no different, and thus he charged the matriarchal shark, kicking with all his might to obtain a swimming speed that rather paled in comparison to even the slower prey that these creatures most likely consumed. Human beings are not built for competitive swimming against fish. The speed he approached with was sufficient for his purposes, however, as the confusion of the situation made the fish-woman stop in her tracks. This allowed Art to close the distance and attack her weak point for massive damage.
  212. “Boop” he said. Or gurgled, he couldn’t really speak underwater. That didn’t matter. What mattered was his hand, the one that didn’t have a squid wrapped around it, coming up and bopping the shark woman on the nose from below, his hand pushing upwards on the nostrils. It was the nose of a human woman, on a pale white face with fangs neither quite human nor quite shark. They were too clean, too straight, but paying attention to that wasn’t important now. What was important was Art’s gamble paying off; the shark woman’s head followed the hand leading her nose up, and with her head went her body, and as Art swam upwards and began to move his hand forward the shark moved backwards, until she was on her back and he was on top of her. Art moved until both their heads were pointed downwards and finished this confrontation with a push, sending the confused shark swimming head down into the depths while he himself returned to the surface for some air. Success!
  213.  
  214. Art breathed in very quickly and intently before returning down, giving his squid cannon a little pinch on her side to encourage another squirt of ink. He had no clue how much energy she spent on producing the stuff but as long as she had that stuff he would make use of it. To Art’s delight the sharks had all abandoned the surface and were now circling him at a respectable distance underwater. The one he’d jumped on had gone down to the assumed leader and the two were trying to recover from their mystifying experiences some twenty meters below the rest. The two remaining seemed to be at a loss as to what to do about this new development, and so Art picked the one closest to himself and repeated his attack. This one failed, however, as the shark retreated. Turning around immediately Art noticed the one he’d ignored swimming up at him very fast, but as soon as she saw he was looking at her she switched trajectories and returned to circling around him. Another pinch and another cloud of ink later Art had returned to the surface for a longer, less erratic breathing session. He returned underwater with confidence, and noticed that while all four sharks had now returned to circling around him, they didn’t seem very eager to approach him. Now the time had come for the big trick to be put into action. Art dove to the bottom hatch of the life pod and opened it. The sharks looked on with curiosity as he entered the pod. Water flooded into the lopsided thing and it began to sink even quicker, but that was fine. He didn’t need the damn thing anymore. He shut the hatch behind himself, made sure all computer systems were still running and climbed up quickly to the roof. As far as the sharks knew, he was now inside the pod.
  215. While on the roof he began to consider grabbing the power cells with him while he was here. There wasn’t really much reason not to take two. One would need to stay for his plan, of course. And so he took the cells out of their sockets while waiting for the pod to sink. This last part carried a number of risks. He shut the top hatch of the pod. Assuming the sharks had paid attention, their hands should be agile enough to open either hatch. When they did, water would flood into the sunken pod, and when water flooded it the exposed wiring would deliver quite a bit of current into the water. He didn’t think it would be enough to kill these creatures, seeing as they were bigger than humans by a fair bit, but all the same he felt a little bad about it.
  216. Art held on to the squid girl very tightly as he sat on their little raft and waited for the pod to finally disappear below the waves. As soon as water could carry the raft he knew the most dangerous stage of his plan would begin. If any of the sharks found it necessary to come up to the surface they would see him huddled on the precarious life preservers, but should they remain down below they might ignore it altogether. More importantly, with all the ink in the water – dissipating though it was – the raft would be more difficult to notice in the first place. And so Art looked straight down into the ocean depths and followed the descent of the pod, watching as all four sharks kept circling it. None of them were following the raft. With a sigh Art lowered his feet into the water and began kicking in the direction where pod 6 was supposed to be. As he did so it occurred to him to wonder why it was he couldn’t see it despite the computers stating the pod was less than 300m from his current position. If he couldn’t SEE the pod, where exactly was he even heading right now?
  217.  
  218.         ***
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