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Just for fun, a new SF/fantasy story I wrote

samzheresamzhere BannedPosts: 10,923 Senior Member
Just for a little diversion and a smile, here's a whimsical little SF/fantasy story I just completed -- feedback is appreciated (rating PG-13):

Spearfishing at the Weapons Factory
by Sam Waas

Copyright © 2014 Sam Waas

No, I really don’t feel like going out on the boat today. I’ll just stay here, hang around the cabin, maybe go for a stroll in the woods.

You go ahead, I don’t mind a bit. Really. I’m just not much for scuba anymore, don’t want to be around it, either, even as a spectator.

Yes, you’re right, I used to be into that some years back, but I gave it up. I’m perfectly happy to sit here and let someone else stick his head under fifty meters of water.

Why? Well, the last time I went scuba diving, I had a pretty bad time of it. Lost a good friend, nearly got killed myself.

I’ll tell you about it…

* * *

It was, oh, about fifteen years ago. Janet and I were still newlyweds and were enjoying an extended honeymoon. She’d recently moved out to California to be with me. We’d stocked up our boat and were lazing around, having fun in Silicon Bay.

At the time, my partner and best friend was a guy named Jack Cooper. He’s the one who got me involved in scuba diving in the first place. One thing led to another, we both liked diving, and so we turned this into a side business, underwater salvage.

After the Big One, all sorts of nifty stuff was just waiting to be retrieved—computers, electronics hardware, rare chemicals, you name it. Not to mention curios and souvenirs to sell to tourists.

So Jack and his fiancée joined Janet and me for a long weekend, mostly out on the Bay, and we were having a fun time. You see, Silicon Bay is a terrific place for spearfishing. Or used to be—could be fished out by now, for all I know.

Anyway, with the shops and homes and larger buildings being underwater due to the climate change, it’s like an artificial barrier reef. All the original fish from San Francisco Bay plus lots of new mutant fish set up housekeeping. After the area cooled off and things got reorganized, word got around how good the sportfishing was, especially with scuba gear.

So there we were, out in Silicon Bay, anchored just above what used to be Cupertino. Or maybe Mountain View, I forget which. Not that it matters.

Both of the gals already had their share of diving that day, but Jack and I were good for one more run. We’d been using a new synthetic mixture—new at the time, that was. Gave us more than an hour bottom time at a depth of a fifty meters plus.

We checked our gear carefully like we always did. Aside from the pneumatic spear guns we were fishing with, we also carried one bang stick each. You know, a long rod with a shotgun shell on the end? In those waters, you could never be sure what might show up. A Razorback Eel, SpiderStar, maybe just a plain old shark.

Funny how sharks didn’t evolve further after the Big One. I suppose they’d evolved as far as they ever needed to millions of years ago. And God knows, a hungry shark can be a fearsome thing to see, coming at you, fins down to show its aggression.

* * *

The water was slightly silty that week but otherwise conditions were perfect.

Just below our boat was an old factory that Jack and I’d visited before, collecting salvage and souvenirs. It had been used for nuclear weapons production during the war. Of course, being a densely populated area at the time, they didn’t actually arm the missiles or drones with warheads at that location, but manufactured everything else there and added the nuclear stuff out on Treasure Island. You know, where they have the War Memorial, near the ruins of the old Bay Bridge.

But the rest of the bombs and missiles were built there, and it’s a good place to look for valuable goodies. Of course, the whole factory’s a mess, floors slammed on top of other floors, entire buildings busted up. There are old offices and labs and storerooms everywhere, lots of stuff to bring back for sale.

The debris and cross-currents seem to attract plenty of marine life, too. Which was what Jack and I were looking for anyway. No salvage, just some fun, maybe a fish for grilling later.

We’d been down nearly an hour and were preparing to go home when it happened.

* * *

I’d just speared a big Squidhead Bass, maybe fifteen kilos. I was pretty busy hauling it in on my spear line. It was still giving me a fight, the tentacles around its mouth wiggling and grasping this way and that until it finally gave up the ghost.

I guess Jack was busy watching me and shooting a video, and I was of course preoccupied, so neither of us spotted the Acid Manta coming until the thing was upon us. And it was the biggest I’ve ever seen, mouth at least two meters across.

As the manta came in, it focused on Jack, he being the closest, and it let loose with its acid spray from those two jet nozzles alongside its mouth, like you’ve seen in nature shows. The red cloud totally enveloped Jack in a couple of seconds!

Jack immediately started screaming and it was horrible, his voice amplified through my earphones. I let go the squidhead and swam for Jack, hoping to pull him out of the acid cloud. But the manta turned toward me and let me have a squirt, too. What saved me was that the monster had mostly spent itself on Jack, so I only got the leftovers. I somehow managed to get one foot planted on the manta’s head and pushed off, but not before my left leg was turned to fire!

The acid or poison or whatever it is sticks to you, even underwater. I fought against the pain as much as I could, trying to get to Jack, but it was already too late. Jack had received the full discharge, and he was writhing and screaming, pulling at his scuba gear, and blood was already in the water all around him as the poison was dissolving his wetsuit and his skin beneath. In his panic he’d probably breathed in a bunch of the red death water, so it was eating him up inside just as rapidly.

If the acid manta had pursued me, I would’ve been dead. But instead it turned back to Jack.

Mercifully, Jack quit thrashing, either passing out or dying from the toxic dose, and it was good that he did, because pieces of him were now falling away from his body. A horrible way to die and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Instead I fought against the searing pain on my leg and slid down behind a crumbled wall, a temporary hiding place.

I glanced down at my left leg. My wetsuit and swim fin were dissolving, and so was the skin off my foot! But the pain lessened a bit and bleeding seemed to stop. I suppose I’d just received a tiny dose of the acid, but the pain was still causing my leg to throb and making me dizzy and nauseous, not something you want when breathing through a respirator.

(more...)

Replies

  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    (continued...)

    I watched in horror as Jack continued to dissolve, the manta now gobbling up pieces of someone who was once my friend, all still enveloped in that corrosive red fog. Just our bad luck that the immediate area where we were wasn’t subject to much ocean current, so the fog just hung there.

    Where were the bang sticks? I’d somehow twisted away from mine, dropped it, saw the stick lying on the ocean floor just near where the manta was swimming around Jack’s body. His stick was probably under him, so both were lost.

    I checked my indicator. Twelve minutes of air left. I had to get to the surface now.

    But as I moved clear of the broken wall, the damn manta spotted me and headed my direction, big lateral flukes propelling it through the water. Any other time a manta looks graceful but today it was ugly and frightening, a venomous snake-thing.

    I kicked away, hampered by having lost one fin, looked for a better place to hide. And quickly, as it was coming for me and I was too slow.

    Finally, a piece of luck! I spotted a crack in an old bent doorframe, the door askew, and I managed to wriggle through the gap too small for the manta to pursue. It stayed just outside, small beady eyes watching me, eager.

    I used my lamp to examine where I was. Shelves floor to ceiling, stacked with all sorts of litter. I was safe for now.

    Then I discovered just how “safe” I was, because I was inside a secure storage vault! And last time I checked, bank vaults don’t have back doors. I was trapped and running out of air.

    The manta was still outside the door, but even if it returned to its gruesome meal, the moment I tried to leave it would be upon me. The clock was ticking and my life was counting down.

    A sudden gentle tugging at my wrist made me jerk with fright. It was the squidhead bass, forgotten trophy that I’d dragged into the vault with me, still on the line. I slipped it off my wrist and let the fish sink sedately to the floor.

    Another trip around the vault, looking in vain for a second exit. None found.

    Then I spotted a carton on a shelf. Lasermatches!

    Lasermatches act the same way that a primer charge does for conventional ammo. But lasermatches were used to trigger nukes. They’re solid state chemical lasers about the size of a grapefruit, designed to release a huge burst of heat instead of light, setting off the bomb. They’re activated by a timing mechanism that’s set manually or remotely. Firing would de-polarize two separate layers inside the lasermatch’s core, and mixing of the two compounds would lase for a few milliseconds.

    Due to the War Treaty, lasermatches aren’t manufactured any more, so they’re valuable salvage items, since they were so beautifully designed that they still work as perfectly as they did the day they were made. They’re used commercially for blasting, mining, tunnels, knocking down abandoned buildings, a sort of super dynamite. But now I had a use for a lasermatch better than any before!

    I picked one of the lasermatches off the shelf, swam over to my old forgotten trophy, the squidhead bass. I set the manual timer on the match and shoved it down the fish’s gullet.

    Next I pushed the bass out the vault door, holding it by the end of the spear still stuck in its body. I juggled the fish enticingly, and the huge manta took the bait. He gave it a perfunctory squirt of poison and swallowed it whole!

    I ducked down into the deepest recesses of the vault and waited.

    Underwater, the blast of course carried into the vault but was buffered by the narrow door. Still, I felt like I was being squeezed flat for a second, losing consciousness temporarily, and then it was over. When I looked out there was nothing larger than my fist remaining.

    I tried to find Jack but his body had completely dissolved by now, pieces of the manta and him all mixed together, sickening.

    My air was nearly gone, the pain in my leg was intensifying again, and I had to look to saving myself. Jack was lost.

    I began to sob with a strange blend of anger, fear, and sadness as I made my way to the surface. Lucky for me, the new synthetic breathing mixture prevented the bends and I could get to the boat immediately.

    * * *

    Recuperating after surgery and partial limb regeneration therapy, I had time to think just how senseless it was to dive in such dangerous waters. So I gave up the salvage business, sold my boat and gear, and never went diving again, unless it was in a backyard swimming pool.

    In the old days, before all the marine mutations, the hazards of scuba diving were at least predictable. But nowadays, predators had become a wild card, an insane and unknown hand dealt to anybody foolish enough to dive.

    Just look at the mutations all around, product of the sins visited upon us by our violent predecessors. It cost them their lives and nearly our own. Even so, we had to struggle back from the edge of total chaos and deal with the lingering effects even now.

    And then, as if life wasn’t already so difficult, Jack and I had to risk further peril?

    But no more. I cherish my life and I cherish Janet too much to risk it all again.

    That’s why I gave it up, and that’s why I don’t go scuba diving any more. If I’m tempted, I only have to think about the terrible day I went spearfishing at the weapons factory.

    Even now I can remember vividly when I dragged myself on board, my left leg in shreds, the spurs and spikes completely burned off.

    And Janet panicking when she saw me. Her barbed tongues were fluttering in and out of her side slits, her eyehooks clattering in terror, her feed tubes waving around, changing color.

    I never want to see Janet that frightened again. And when I think about just how close I came that day to death, it scares me too, so much that my spines still click. You can even hear them now.

    ---
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