Sludge Thompkins in: The Phantom From the Deep! (pt. 1)
rating: +13+x


[BEGIN ARCHIVED TRANSMISSION]

There comes a time in a man’s life where he has to shut up, sit down, and wait for something.

You can’t just have whatever you want whenever you want it, they say. There are processes. We have procedures. Take a number and be patient like the rest of the adults.

I get that, sure. It would be rude of me to charge in and just do things like some kind of animalistic abomination. Think of what would occur! To the decor! And the treatments, upon the windows and such! If I got up off this couch and just, just walked right in to the Consul Adjunct’s office right the hell now without a care in the world, why… think of the children! There could be riots!

These rules were put in place for people that don’t weigh almost a half ton. After the first time I came through here, the Consul Adjunct’s secretary had to manually nail down every lamp, pencil cup, and appliance in here so the Great Thrashing Chaos of 515 (me, twelve years ago) would never happen again. Unfortunately for the knickknacks, I just keep happening. They have a bracket in this office’s expense allotment report that just has my name written in it, with no explanation. It doesn’t need one.

The couch groans threateningly under my metal ass, and the secretary fires a thermobaric warning glare in my direction. The settee wasn’t designed to put up with this kind of treatment and it’s filling out its two weeks’ notice. You and me both, buddy.

I’m starting to lose it. I’m commiserating with the furniture.

Hi. I’m Sludge. Sludge Thompkins. You may know me from my other adventures, or from the wanted posters in some parts of the Federation, or around Norfolk as “that huge freak in the ghoulish power armor”. No, I do not thirst for the flesh of children. No, I am not a robot. Not completely, anyway. No, the warning decals on my armor are not for show, and you should keep at least a ten-foot distance from me at all times, regardless of what you see the blonde lady and big bearded guy doing. Yes, I do want a cigarette right now. Thanks for asking, chum, you’re a lifesaver. How does a mechanized monster like me smoke? Well, the world and I are strange, frightening, mutated wrecks for the same set of reasons. Use your imagination.

I let out an agonized pneumatic groan. “Can I go in now?”

The secretary looks up from her computer, over her glasses at me. She’s an iron-haired lady with dark skin, a soul as metallic as my skin, and the patience of a glacier.

“You’ll see the Consul Adjunct when he’s ready for you and not a second sooner, Mr. Thompkins.”

I toss my hands toward the heavy wooden double doors to his office, like a child being denied a juicebox. “But there isn’t even anybody in there!”

“Throwing a fit isn’t going to make him call you in any sooner. Read a magazine.”

I pick one up off the end table and look at it. An old issue of TIME. It’s dated March 24th, 1997.

I hold it up. “This is five hundred years out of date, Ms. Fazli.”

She goes back to typing. “Call it a history book, then. Educate yourself. Quietly.”

I hiss petulantly out of another cylinder. I can’t frown, so my actuators have to stand in for facial expressions.

“How many times have we done this, Ms. Fazli?”

She shakes her head. “Too many times.”

“So why can’t I just go in.”

“Because the world doesn’t revolve around you, Mr. Thompkins. How many times have we done this?”

People with such merciless countenance shouldn’t be allowed to wear knitted pink cardigans. It gives them an unfair advantage.

“Exactly. So you should know how this works by now. Act your age.”

“You don’t even know how old I am. I could be a very advanced teenager.”

Without looking up, she fires back, “You’re thirty-one. But you wouldn’t know it from the constant grousing. Happy belated birthday, by the way.”

It’s times like these that I really, really wish I could frown at people. “Thanks. And how the hell do you-”

“I’m secretary to Consul Adjunct Dellaroche, Mr. Thompkins. Who do you think compiled your personnel docket in the first place? Do you think the Consul Adjunct actually, physically signs your paychecks?”

She holds up a stamp that has a very familiar signature carved into it.

“I know your birthday, your place of residence, your mother’s maiden name, even your old blood type. Your very existence makes up about fifteen percent of the work I do in this office. Because you are who you are. And it has effects on people, whether you like it or not. So please, Jacob, extend me the same courtesy I’ve extended you for the past seven years, and wait patiently for Mr. Dellaroche to be ready for you.”

By the end of this, she’s got her eyes right on my lenses. She’s not shooting lasers at me. She’s not angry. Just tired, busy, and a little disappointed.

There’s no goddamn way Ms. Fazli doesn’t have kids my age. She knows the tricks. Only a mom would know to use my actual first name like the detonator of an underfoot proximity mine.

“Okay.”

The couch creaks one more as I shrink into myself. Then we’re both quiet.

I pick up the magazine. It’s old as hell, but apart from some aggressive yellowing it’s still intact after about five centuries. Not sure how that’s possible. Maybe some Tribunal reclamator team dug up some old time capsules. Front cover is a fanciful painting of a lone man in a black suit standing on a lonely cloud, looking out into an empty blue sky, away from the viewer. Caption says, “Does Heaven Exist?” Opening it up (carefully - my metal mitts aren’t exactly made for handling historical documents), the headline feature is about the decline of religious sentiment in late 90s America, in the face of modernization and a rapidly progressing cultural landscape with values no longer compatible with longstanding spiritual traditions.

That’s fucking hilarious. Reading through it, I’m giggling so much I have to shut off my speakers to avoid pissing off Ms. Fazli further. These people had no idea what they were in for.

I wonder what life would be like today if they’d shut up and got to work instead of… what was the word she used? Grousing. I can’t believe an actual corporation wasted so much ink and paper on what effectively amounts to 90 pages of whining. Unbelievable. We might actually be better off.

I spend so much time laughing at the weakness of the old world and fantasizing about challenging Bill Clinton to single combat that it feels like only a blink has passed when Ms. Fazli says, “Alright, Mr. Thompkins. Go on in.”

The magazine hits the table with delicate speed and I’m steaming past her desk before she’s on her next breath. It’s all I can do to not crash straight the hell through Dellaroche’s office doors.

He’s sitting at his own desk, by a pretty grand single window overlooking the steaming carcass of downtown Norfolk. I don’t know how he does it. If my only view was one of a corpse that’s been rotting for the past five centuries I’d just close the blinds.

Dellaroche keeps his office clean, but lived in. There’s a lot of… nerdy grandpa energy in here. Puzzly little gadgets and desk toys, stately wooden furniture, a bottle or two of the good stuff, a computer with two monitors, phone. He clearly spends a lot of time in this place. No pictures of family. I’ve never brought it up and neither has he.

The man himself is bronze-skinned and hale for a guy in his late 50s. He definitely keeps in shape, and if you found yourself distracted by his gray hair he’d probably be able to get you in a nasty headlock. A long, stony face that never got accustomed to smiling. I wouldn’t have a lot of call to jocularity either if I’d been a Consul Adjunct for… I dunno, ten billion years. Maybe he likes it here. Something in his eyes tells me he doesn’t, though. There’s that steely glint in his eyes you don’t see in people who’ve had their ambition beaten out of them.

He doesn’t bother telling me to sit down, because he doesn’t keep a chair sturdy enough to support my weight. I just lock my leg joints in front of his desk like a deranged artist’s latest protest.

Without a word, he looks up from his computer briefly, hands me a file, then resumes typing.

Okay. I flip through it. Inside is a picture. Blurry. Hard to make out what exactly… yeesh. I dunno. I’ll just show you.

001.png

Yeah, I’ve got no idea. Let’s ask, shall we?

“The hell is that thing?”

Dellaroche quits typing, sets his keyboard aside, leans back in his chair, and lights a cigarette. He points at the file in my hands. “Your next job.”

I look back down at it, then up at him again. “Give me the bulletpoints, my eyes are bruised from mashing them into magazines the last half hour.”

Dellaroche would ordinarily tell me to fuck myself with that kind of attitude, but my play is well placed - he knows he kept me on the hook and he feels bad about it.

“That thing’s been walking out of the water onto the eastern shore of Wreck Island for about a week now. Every day, around sundown. Walks up out of the surf, stands there in the shallows for about an hour, then turns around and walks back into the sea when the sun hits the horizon. Consistent. The settlers are starting to get concerned. And so is the Tribunal. So now it’s my concern. Which means it’s your concern.”

My ocular shutters blink at him. “Where the fuck is Wreck Island?”

He huffs a cloud. “Off the southeast coast of Delmarva. Just one border colony, but expensive. People need incentives these days to willingly settle in full view of the Atlantic.”

I get the picture. “You want lookouts.”

“The Tribunal wants to repopulate the eastern coast of the Federation all the way to the sea, yes. We need people out there. We’re looking toward the future, Sludge.” The words don’t match his facial expression. He doesn’t buy a word of it.

“But no one wants to live there. Because shit like this keeps happening. Y’know, maybe it’d be for the best if we just left the coast alone, huh? Considering it doesn’t quite belong to us anymore?”

Dellaroche just shrugs. “Not my call. Those people are settling under Tribunal charter and they’re entitled to its protection. That’s you, in case you forgot. Go there, figure out what that thing is, and make it go away. Kill it if you have to, I don’t care. Just make it so the settlers aren’t pissing themselves anymore.”

“Have the colonists done anything? Tried to get near it, yelled at it?”

Dellaroche pulls his keyboard back and resumes typing, smoke between lips. “Everything we know is in that file, Sludge. Ferry tickets are enclosed.”

“… How many sets of ti-”

One. Your little friends aren’t my employees and they can pay their own way if they want to tag along. Now beat it. I want a report on this desk within a week. And don’t die.”

He goes back to not paying attention to me. That’s it, then. I steer myself out of the room, say goodbye to Ms. Fazli, and hit the elevator down to the ground floor.

You might be wondering why a 900 pound cyborg with more onboard weaponry than your average tank is taking marching orders from a guy that looks like a retired gym teacher. Well, I’ll refer you to my friend Archimedes, who probably could have knocked over this building with a pencil, a couple of his beard hairs, and a two-by-four.

… Leverage. I’m talking about leverage. Read a book for once in your life. After this one, I mean, we haven’t gotten to the good part yet.

After the onset of my mutations and everything… happened, the Tribunal became interested in me. Because I had become a source of incredible power, and that only ever exacerbates other powerful people’s insecurities. A teenager with a body more poisonous than an arsenic and strychnine smoothie, loaded with more pathogens than a spilled bathtub of pure cholera? Big problem. You can’t just leave him there, he’s a public health hazard. People are going to start dying. They uh, did die, actually.

So they took me from my mom before my sister was even cool, crammed me into an experimental suit of power armor to stop me leaking all over the place, and gave me work. The paychecks are mostly just there to make me less likely to wander off someplace, I know what the deal here is. I’ve known for almost fifteen years, even though none of them will say as much to my face. They need to keep me nearby. Because while they’re definitely afraid of me, they also need me. That’s power, baby.

Also they’ll probably go after my mom if I default on the contract I signed. That wasn’t in black and white anywhere, but I’m not stupid.

Fortunately, I’m mostly fine with it. I get a government stipend, I get this fancy suit so I can have something resembling a life, and in exchange all I have to do is the occasional odd job. They could have dumped me in a quarantine cell and left me there until the stars go out, as they are keen to remind me whenever I cop an attitude. I’m toxic and hard to kill, but without this armor, I can’t even fucking walk. I wouldn’t stand a chance.

It’s a noose, sure, but it’s not like I can hold myself up anyway.

I collect my sniper cannon from the security desk (it’s too heavy for the guard to lift out of the enclosure, so I have to fetch it myself), and step out of the high Tribunal building and into the sun again. One thing about having a normal body that I don’t miss. Norfolk in the summer is like trying to breathe through an electric blanket at all times. That is, if you can get a breath in edgewise with the endless swarms of mosquitoes and clouds of biting midges. I don’t know how all these fleshy folk put up with it.

I hiss and thud my way down the street, looking to all the world like something that crawled out of a pre-Blue cheeseball sci-fi horror movie. The Menacing Metal Man of Massive Massacre! That’s how people used to react, at least, but I’ve been in and out of here for years at this point. Nowadays the only ones that gawp at me are people from out of town. Hell, kids don’t even cry at the sight of me anymore. It took a while, but now I’m just another freak.

Norfolk. What is there to say about it, other than “Why, gods, why couldn’t you have picked literally anywhere else to spare from your wrath?” To this day people aren’t entirely sure why America’s armpit wound up less ravaged than most of the rest. They mostly gave up theorizing once we realized the Blue doesn’t really have a method to its madness. It’s just madness. The Everglades have been boiling for the last few centuries. Most of Los Angeles got swallowed by what people think was probably some kind of geostationary metastable black hole, but frankly could be goddamn anything. No one who crosses the event horizon to investigate has ever come back. The greater Chicago area is an uninhabitable frozen hellscape that still hasn’t thawed despite being surrounded by more-or-less normal weather for five hundred years. Things keep crawling out of Kansas so frequently that we can barely kill them all fast enough.

And then there’s Norfolk. Swampy, muggy, generally unpleasant, and somehow just as uninteresting as it was before the whole world weirded itself inside-out. This entire Maryland-Virginia-Carolina zone is strangely stable, and is now one of the most populated parts of the American Federation. There are similar pockets of relative normality elsewhere. Most of the Sonora is fine (as long as the Boneheadz keep defending it from the stuff coming out of Death Valley), Highup Colorado is uh… too high up for anything to get to them. A few others. But none quite as big or inhabitable as here, so now the buttcrack of the East makes up most of America’s human population. To our enduring chagrin.

Outside a ramshackle sheet-metal cafe a few blocks down, I can see Kate and Daisuke at a table, drinking and waiting for me. There’s nowhere for a thing like me to sit, so I just pull up on the other side of the fence.

“Hi.”

Daisuke smiles. “Welcome back.” He pushes a stein of beer across the table toward me.

“My hero.” I unreel a plastic hose from somewhere around the right side of my collarbone and dunk it in the suds. There’s a barely-audible whirring sound as the pump draws the beer up and routes it down into my armor to be processed. The computer tells my brain what the beer tastes like. It’s not exactly the same thing as having a sense of taste, but similar enough that I can barely tell the difference anymore. It’s terrible. Cheap yellow stuff. But it’s beer, so I’ve never been happier.

Kate’s face is painted steel, like it always is. She eyes me expectantly. “So?”

I hand her the file. She thumbs through it. When she gets to the picture, her eyebrows pop up.

“The fuck is that thing?”

I snort. A bubble in the beer stein goes bloop. “That’s what I said. Keep reading.”

The two of them look over the file, and I fill them in on what the Consul wants.

Daisuke takes a sip of his own beer and says, “Could be a revenant. But that would be bad news for us.”

“For me, you mean.”

He frowns at me like I just said something extremely stupid, but Kate interrupts before he can reply.

“Could just be some kind of fata morgana. I can count the pixels in this picture, they didn’t even get close. You said they haven’t interacted with it at all. Might not even be there. We show up, stick our hand through the thing, and get it over with. Easy.”

“… I show up.”

She gives me the same look as Dai.

“We’re coming with you. Unless you’re gonna make this difficult.”

I won’t, but the ferrymen might.”

“We’ve got money, it’ll be fine.”

Dai smiles. “I don’t have any money.”

Kate scowls at him, and his beer. “Okay. I have money. It’ll be fine. We need to find a damn job soon or Daisuke is gonna have to start selling his body.”

The extremely large bearded man bats his eyelashes. “Well, at least there’s plenty to go around.”

I shrug. “The islanders might float us a buck or two in thanks?”

She rolls her eyes. “Fringe colonists aren’t even gonna have couch cushions to rifle through. But we’ll see. Maybe this thing’s a ghost pirate and we can steal its treasure. I’d rather have a huge pile of cursed gold than nothing at all.”

Daisuke asks, “When do we leave?”

I shrug. “Tickets aren’t dated, but Dellaroche wants a report in a week.”

Kate: “Then we’d better stock up now.” She stands up.

I wave my feed hose indignantly at them. “Now c’mon, there isn’t even anything in this for you guys. It could be dangerous, why don’t you just sit this one-”

Kate: “Shut the hell up, Sludge.” She drops some money on the table and walks out of the gate. Daisuke just pats me on the elbow and smiles, not needing to put it into words.

They’ve never let me go out on one of these by myself before. Trying to talk them out of it is just a formality at this point, one of those rote things you just feel like you have to do even though it’ll never change anything.

Kate and Dai are powerful. They’re on the Tribunal’s lists, their names are known in most Federation cities. Most people who recognize them will not fuck with them, because they’re walking catastrophes.

Kate has the body of a gymnast who gets in bar fights occasionally. Probably not even 130 pounds. If she has her sword with her, that goes up to about 230. The thing is almost seven feet long and she swings it like it’s made out of paper. That’s earth magic for you. She can plant that thing in the ground and split the very earth itself, crack open chasms or drag up clashing stone jaws underfoot. One Kate in the wrong place could bring down an entire skyscraper, or slaughter a militia to the man if they weren’t ready for her. And they aren’t. Most people aren’t even ready for her attitude, much less her capacity for destruction.

Daisuke looks like a 350 pound earthmover or meathead, but he isn’t. He’s a telepath. I probably don’t need to explain how dangerous that is. An evil version of Daisuke (a mental image that just sort of fails to load properly) could probably bring down the entire Federation if he had enough patience. My skin hasn’t seen sunlight in fifteen years and even I don’t envy him. Once people learn you have the power to listen in on their thoughts or control their brains like a fucking nerd at a keyboard, they start to treat you different. Daisuke is one incident away from a permanent Tribunal quarantine, and he knows it. Talking to him though, you’d think he’s the one man on Earth that’s never had a single worry. I don’t know how he does it.

They have reason to be unconcerned. They’re part of Earth’s new handful of demigods. The kind of shit the Greeks painted on pots, the kind of shit comic books spent almost a hundred years trying to describe.

The Tribunal hasn’t done anything about them because they know they could kill either of them with a single well-placed bullet at a reasonable distance. They do it all the time, it wouldn’t even cost them anything.

I could do that too. This repurposed artillery cannon on my back isn’t just for fucking show. And the trick is, the Tribunal couldn’t do that to me. My body cares about bullets about as much as a bowl of oatmeal does. Kate and Dai are dangerous, sure, but there’s easy and conventional solutions to both of them.

I could kill this entire city just by taking my armor off.

That’s why it doesn’t have an “off” button. It’s why the three of us stick together. And it’s why they come with me on Tribunal business. It’s not because they’re paranoid, or some kind of animalistic pack instinct. It’s because if we didn’t have each other, we’d each have probably died our own personal deaths from ostracization, ennui, and self-destruction a long time ago. That’s worth more than all the money in the world, and it’s more powerful than ten thousand years of pain.

With such vague mission details we’re not entirely sure what to buy, so we just near-bankrupt ourselves on whatever ammunition and food we think we’ll need for a week. Hope for the best, expect catastrophe and hellfire, et cetera.

Going toward the marina, Kate says, “If it is a revenant, what’s the plan? Guns and swords are kind of a temporary solution to a permanent problem like that.”

I reply, “Talk to it.”

“If you can get a word in edgewise without it tearing your arms off.”

Me: “Depends on the revenant. I’ve heard that some of the ones that still know language can be talked down. Dangerous if they’re unstable, though. Revenants don’t have therapists.”

Daisuke: “Maybe if they did in life, they wouldn’t have gone the way they did.”

Kate: “I’ve never heard of a revenant listening to anything, other than agonized screams cut abruptly short.”

Me: “Something tells me if this was a deranged revenant, it wouldn’t be standing still in the tide doing nothing day after day. The colony wouldn’t be there anymore, for one. It’s something else.”

Kate: “The fuck does the Tribunal want this specific settlement for anyway? There can’t be anything valuable out there.”

Daisuke: “The ocean is out there.”

We all know what that means, and let it have the pause it deserves.

Kate: “That’s fucked up.”

Me: “That’s the Tribunal.”

Kate: “They probably put up the signal towers before the fucking plumbing.”

Me: “Probably.”

Kate: “One of these days, I swear. If I put my back into it I bet I could kill every fucking reptile in that building and still have enough time to wash my hands for dinner.”

Me: “And then the entire eastern seaboard would fall apart.”

Kate: “I think I’d be a pretty goddamn great warlord.”

Me: “Nah. You don’t have the temperament. I’d make Dai king of America but he wouldn’t take the job.”

Dai: “Nope.”

Kate: “We’re doomed.”

We get to the marina after about twenty minutes. It’s busy - sailors stacking things and moving things and being things. Really incredible. So incredible I won’t share all the details with you, out of fear of dazzling your head right in. We get to the pier the tickets specify and try to single out someone who looks like they have authority. I go for one of the ones wearing a hat. I think hat means boss in naval circles. He’s standing at the start of a jetty that’s serving an intimidating-looking cargo cruiser, looking at big men driving forklifts and carrying things.

He points at me with his cigar before I can get a word out.

“Must be the agent they talked about. Or you’re my new power converter. Got that paperwork?”

I hand him the stuff. He doesn’t even look at it, just puts it in his jacket.

“Anchor’s up at 7 AM on the dot. Be on time or left behind. Trip to Smith Island be about seven hours. We stop and offload their supplies, then drop you off at Wreck, maybe four hours later. Should have you there around dusk. Return trip is exactly four days later, dusk, same place we dropped you. Miss it and you’re walking back - I don’t risk going to Wreck without a fat Tribunal guarantee. Make sense?”

“Clear as crystal, cap’n.”

Kate interjects, “How much for tickets on?”

The captain blinks at her, and huffs a cloud. “None dollars and zero cents. This ain’t a passenger ship, lady.”
I spread my hands indignantly. “So what am I, some kind of power converter or something?”

“You’re cargo, paid for to the pound, by the Tribunal. I don’t take civilians on little boatie rides. It’s a cargo ship, not a luxury cruise.”

Kate rolls her eyes. “Okay. Let me rephrase. How much,” she holds up her wallet, “for tickets on?”

The captain looks at her billfold like it’s a dead squirrel. “What are you, stuck? No civilians. You don’t have enough to make the liability worth it. The only reason he’s coming is because I’ve been commandeered. Now clear off before I call the port authority.”

He turns his back to us.

Kate looks mad. Daisuke looks like Daisuke.

This is that breaking point that every mutant gets caught between. Frustration. Temptation. Because, it’d be so easy, right? The three of us make our money killing monsters and other mutants. We do it all the time. I could kill this guy by falling on him. Kate could cut him in half before he’d be able to get a hand on his gun. Daisuke could force him to sign the papers and regard us as honored guests, rewriting his mind to make him think that it’d been his idea.

But you can’t do stuff like that. Not more than once, at least. Not without turning into something else.

I face the two of them. “Guys, it’s fine. I’m going this one alone. It’ll just be for a few days. Go get some easy job in the meantime, I’ll be back before you know it.”

Kate is still unhappy. “I don’t like it.”

“I know, sourpuss, but that’s life. It’s just some ghost or whatever, like you said. We’ve dealt with way worse. Besides, it’ll be nice to flex these servos without you two chumps holding me back the whole time.”

Daisuke nods. “Everything we do is dangerous, Kate. Sludge is very capable. Most of his body is metal and he has a very large gun. He’ll survive without us.”

I gesture toward Dai, to indicate to Kate how outnumbered she is. Her expression softens.

“… Fine. I’ll allow it. Let’s go get drunk.”

Then we leave, to empty Kate’s wallet with gusto.


***


The next morning, I’m onboard the Tradewind Dancer, a name so at odds with the bloated utilitarian stockiness of this tub that it has to be deliberate. The captain shows me to a cargo storage space and basically tells me to keep the crates company for the next ten hours and not get in anyone’s way. Works for me. I sit down, deactivate my body’s motion suite, and go back to sleep. I wake up a little bit later, feeling more or less rested, but fuck me if I’m going to stumble my heavily armored ass around the main deck, and sitting here in the dark counting the boxes doesn’t sound any better. Less chance of accidental maiming I guess, but eye-wateringly boring. I measure out about five hours’ worth of sedative and let my autoinjector unit sweep me away to sweet oblivion.

You normally don’t dream under the influence of tranquilizers. It’s a different kind of sleep - silent and numb, shut up in the closet of eternity. Training for death.

But it happens anyway.

A world with no ground. It goes down and down. Everything green and blue. Light fades away into the distance, too tired to keep swimming. Beyond its reach… shapes. Things suspended, hanging in the abyss, too enormous to understand. Things that can move, but aren’t. They are either unaware of me or they don’t care that I’m there. No reason to care about one single molecule above the rest. If I could move, I could swim upward, the direction that air would be. But I don’t need it. And it would never arrive regardless. I know this is all there is. I am not content, but not disturbed. I am at ease, but fearful. I am neither dead nor alive.

I am floating.

Where they want me to be.

Then I’m awake, back in my mineral shell with the coat of gravity about my shoulders. And much happier for it. I shudder once and put it behind me. Fucking tranqs must have expired or something. Always check the sell-by dates on your psychoactives, kids.

I missed the offloading at Smith Island, I guess. I loiter up on the main deck for a bit (gingerly - my gyros aren’t configured to give me sea legs) and look out at the water. The sun is setting behind me, throwing glittering orange sparks across the big wet. But it gets darker as you look out east. The sparks die in the expanse, the orange turns to purple, then black. The surface looks fine and innocent enough, but that’s all it is - a surface. Beneath it is the fucking Atlantic. Thousands and thousands of cubic miles of water and the things that wait in it.

Before the Blue, I guess the sea was fine. Or fine enough that people sailed across it for hundreds of years without much incident. Lucky them. These days it’s a surprise if you can live by the beach without… well. Without the Atlantic happening to you.

Sun’s setting. If I can get off of here and briefed by the locals quick enough, I might be able to hit the coast and catch a glimpse of whatever thing the sea’s decided to spit up this time.

Lucky me.



[END TRANSMISSION]

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