On most days, life fifteen hundred feet below sea level is peaceful, predictable even. This isn't one of those days . . .
"I just want to go on record and say that I respectfully disagree with this decision, sir," Ray's voice breathlessly crackles through my earpiece.
I laugh. "Noted."
"I'm glad you're enjoying yourself because this may be the last stunt your father can get your sorry ass out of," he continues, sounding more like the guy I've known all my life.
I almost laugh again when I realize he's right. Shit. In the excitement of the chase, I totally forgot it's my birthday. The big one-eight. From now on, I'll be responsible for my own actions, just like every other remaining adult on Vanguard. So I'm going to have to make this mission count. And I need my wingman's cooperation to do it.
"Irrelevant. Bigger risk; bigger reward. This catch will feed a couple of thousand people, maybe even half the station. The extra effort is more than worth it. So I'd appreciate your full support, Lieutenant."
"Roger that." It's clear from his tone that Ray's finally on board. Now that I've realized the implications of a failed objective, I also get back to business.
The hunt started out as usual with the two of us taking our Skippers to scout for resources. We quickly widened our perimeter because even at this depth - after more than two decades of fishing the same waters - the local bounty had been depleted. That's when we came upon the biggest oarfish either of us had even seen. It was at least twenty feet, making it about the length of our submersible crafts. We followed it west for a few miles before I released my harpoon for the first time.
It missed by a foot to the right.
We cruised along the ocean floor and several miles later I tried again. This time the shot grazed the dorsal fin, but not enough to secure it. I was about to go for lucky number three when a gigantic Bluefin tuna came out of nowhere. Dwarfing the slim oarfish, it must have weighed close to three thousand pounds.
"Whoa," we said in unison.
The fish was beautiful and I knew that I had to bag it. That's when Ray's objections began. He thought it was beyond the size we're authorized to pursue, but now that he's agreed to follow my lead, I turn full throttle after the new target.
Flinging its massive tail back and forth, the tuna criss-crosses in front of me, making it impossible to lock on. I'm going to have to drive it toward the reef, closer to shore, and force it into a better position.
Twenty minutes later, I'm ready to take another shot and it hits its mark. But the tuna isn't going down without a fight. The massive fish - with the harpoon sticking out of its back - pulls the line off the spool until there's nothing left to give. Nothing, but me in the small and suddenly very vulnerable craft, sitting five hundred feet below sea level.
"Are you sure about this, man?" Ray breaks the silence as the Skipper is dragged forward.
I laugh nervously. "Do or die, right?"
"Uhm, no. Do or don't do are actually your two choices right now. You can still release the line."
In the back of my mind, I know he's right. But instead of letting the fish go, I speed up. The extra slack in the line just encourages it, and it continues to pull my Skipper forward. My heart's beating in my throat, but then I get an idea. Telling Ray to circle around to face the fish, my catch will have no choice but to slow and change directions. Whether it goes right or left is not important. Either way, Ray can easily spear it from the side, thus ending the chase and letting us go home to a hero's welcome.
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Vanguard | In ProgressScience Fiction
Will Scott has never seen daylight. He was born eighteen years ago aboard Vanguard, an undersea base where the remaining members of humanity took refuge after destroying the environment. During a botched mission to catch food, the cocky teen discove...