The sky cleared, and it breached the surface of the cloud-sea, sending cirrus and cumulonimbus waves down its flanks, torn and whisked into wisps, trailing behind.
“What in the name of Hell are we supposed to do with that?”
“You cannae be serious, Captain?”
The rigging snapped in the teeth of the breeze, and the semaphore flags flitted up and down the mast, passing secret messages between the Captain and the other ships in the fleet as we prepared to set out to the hunt. The wood of the bow creaked as we tracked across the wind, staying well out of sight. You have to use primitive tech when it comes to the Pistrix saxum in general, let alone a beast of this size. You have to rely on wood and wind and bravado – you have to duck beneath their ampullae of Lorenzini, their famous detectors of electrical activity that riddle the snouts of all types of shark. The early settlers of this world soon learnt that lesson. Entire communes consumed, sending out signals to the passing monsters, eat me, eat me, eat me. The sharks obliged.
“Lift the anchors, and away!”
His gravelled voice was almost a whisper. The ship’s cat stretched and padded away, its whiskers bristling as it ignored him, along with the rest of the crew. They looked at me for confirmation. You can no more be a retired Captain than a retired Pope.
I nodded at the bristling Captain. “Carry on, son.” He turned to the crew, and they sprung into action, hauling up the anchors, whipping the galley-slaves, prepping the harpoons. What the boy didn’t know would, in this case, come back to hurt him. But not just yet.
We slipped onto the cloud-sea, using the scudding clouds as cover, dancing between rock pillars and the shoals of smaller rock-fish. Approaching the great beast from behind, riding its slipstream. The crew muddled about their tasks, keeping close to the Captain, ready to spring into action – awaiting my command.
The shark ignored our approach – we were no threat, not to a monster that vast, but that wasn’t the plan. As he gave the order for the crew to man the harpoons they turned on him, leaping. He whimpered, collapsed into himself. The semaphore flags fluttered, spreading the mutiny from ship to ship.
Quick hands moved the supplies, from the ships to the creature’s back.
Our wandering days are done, and my incompetent fool of a boy was bricked into the foundation stones, to protect the village, although the beast should do that work well enough.
It had to be done. After all, like father, like son.
And there’s no such thing as a former Captain, just another man, biding his time.