Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Whales have long been creatures that inspire awe in humans. When we discovered them out here, that mystery only deepened. At what far distant point, and how, did a star-roving behemoth come to dwell in the oceans of Earth? The xenologists used the Latin word for star to name the new family group, from which the common name, Astruma, came easily.
I’ve been herding these monstrosities for a decade and even now, they fascinate me, take my breath away and make me feel so small. My ship, the ketch ‘Fairtrade’, is an old tub, lumbering her thirty metres about on long-obsolete gravitic cores and having to hitch a ride on transluminal haulers to get between herds. The lads in the new cutters, all dash and sleek and barely fifteen metres long, ridicule me at every opportunity until a herd needs gentling or a bull gets surly. Then Petey Mendez and his rustbucket get to be real popular.
I don’t know which wag christened the bull of the Epsilon herd ‘Moby’, but he gave that damn great beast a heritage it seems to be determined to live up to. Like my granpappy said: “Name things with care, for names bestow as well as limit.” Today the one hundred and sixty-seven metres and Lord-knows-what tonnage of Moby has stove in two cutters and cracked a relay station. He’s royally peeved at something and no-one wants to go out and play.
“He’s coming round the asteroid, Petey. Must be doing nigh-on eighty knots.”
I do the conversion in my head while wishing herdsman usage of Earth nautical terms would cease. Astruma use a chronophasic ability to move. It seems rude to measure something about transposing time and space in yocto-increments in such an archaic way.
Oh well, time for the Mendez secret weapon. I cue the audio and let it play. The dichotomy of using such tranquil beauty in the face of such incredible danger is just so Zen. I close my eyes and let the song take me away.
I paid a fortune for this recording. Captured in the depths of the Mariana Trench, the song of a thirty-two metre female blue whale lasts for a couple of hours. I have a hundred kilowatts of antique valve speakers rigged between the inner and outer hulls. The outer hull of all ketches is high-ferric alloy; they were the last of the deep space ironsides before ceramics, laminates and sleight fields redefined shipbuilding.
I lie peacefully meditating in the biggest man made amplifier ever to grace the void as Moby eases his charge and heaves-to alongside. Before the hour is out, I have the entire three hundred plus herd hanging motionless about me, all exactly aligned to my ships’ bearing and all completely tranquil.
As the recording finishes, I open my eyes to see a single ebon eye the diameter of a cutter regarding me through the cockpit veiwports. In that moment, we share something that surpasses all fumbling communication attempts. I see the intelligence behind his eye and he sees whatever he sees in the tiny creature in the metal tube that makes noises that reach so far into both our ancestral memories.
Homo Sapiens and Mysticeti Astrum stare at each other for a minute or two more, then he blinks and moves off. I watch his glistening hide stutter by.
Ahab would have understood, although I doubt he would have sympathised.
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