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Stories from the Verse
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Chapter 28: Kondor 51
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Previous chapter: Chapter 27: Brown 9
Sea monsters were, to Kondor's mind, the stuff of myth. He didn't believe in Nessie nor in any of the other alleged sightings of huge beasts which supposedly lived in the dark depths of northern lakes. Even the theory that they were plesiosaurs surviving from an earlier age didn't move him, and the fact that the Coelacanth had been hidden in the Indian Ocean unknown for millennia didn't make any difference. Sea serpents did not exist.
However, there wasn't anything supernatural about them. It wasn't like arguing about whether there were leprechauns or angels or God, all things Kondor firmly disbelieved as magical nonsense. It was merely a question of whether such an animal could have lived through so many centuries in hiding. That question didn't apply here. After all, he didn't grow up in this world, and couldn't even guess how rare or common sea serpents might be.
Although it took him far less time to consider this than it would have to explain it, this still delayed him. He checked and rechecked, and finally sounded the alarm. "Sea serpent off the port bow!" he yelled. Now he would find out if they thought such a thing madness or ordinary.
The cry was taken up by other voices, and the crew began to mobilize. It would not be easy avoiding the beast here, in the midst of rocks and channels. A fight seemed inevitable.
At least it wasn't pirates. Then again, pirates might be easy, compared to fighting off a hungry monster that looked like it could play the boa constrictor to a blue whale. Security was maneuvering deck cannon where they would be able to target the beast's likely approach, and loading them to be ready. They were also passing out flintlock rifles to the deckhands. He went over to see if he could help. Walter was there, so he asked him.
"So, what's this thing likely to do, crush the ship or something? Have you ever seen one like this before?"
"Well, I'm not an expert on these things, but crushing the ship is probably not something it'll attempt. Almost too bad, that, because it's probably not big enough to really do us any damage, and it'd be vulnerable if it exposed its underbelly to us that way. Of course, we could get lucky. It might underestimate us, and try that. But I don't expect that."
"Usually they try to snatch men off the deck. They're very quick at that, and it's difficult to stop them from taking at least one man if they try it. So we'll try to discourage it, drive it off before it closes. If the cannon fire doesn't scare it, we'll be trying to put as many loads as possible into its belly with the rifles. Anyway, that's the hope. And Joseph?" Walter interrupted his preparations to look at him very seriously. "You should probably get below. There's not much you can do up here, and you'll be a lot safer down there."
He thought there probably was a lot he could do topside. He still had nine shells in his pistol, which he could unload faster and more accurately than the security and deckhands combined could deliver from their flintlocks. He could get his medical kit from below and stand by to care for the injured. He was sure that there were other ways he could be useful here. But his friend hadn't intended to suggest he wouldn't be useful; he meant that it would be safer below, and that's where Kondor should be. So after giving thought to the other possibilities, he found Donald and checked with him. One pilot was going to handle navigation for the moment, and the navigators would join the others in safety.
Even as he descended the ladder, he heard the first cannon fire. There were several subsequent booms, and then a rash of higher-pitched pops. The fight continued.
He, however, had little more to do with it. The creature did approach, but took enough lead from rifles to convince it this was not the easy meal for which it had hoped. The Mary Piper lost no crew and no time, continuing on its journey.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #86: Novel Conflicts. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: