Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
I’ve travelled distances that make oceans seem like ponds. I’ve dealt with solar flares and meteor storms, flown half-blind and bleeding from situations that would make a sane man scream for his mother.
As I look up at the snow-white spume that tops this towering wall of grey water, I realise I am a tiny being and for all that I’ve endured, the depths of my terror had not been plumbed until this moment.
“Ketse! Stop staring! Get your sodden butt in here so we can close up!”
Christa, captain of this tub, grabs my belt and hauls hard. Once she gets me moving, the spell is broken. I don’t want to stare into the abyss anymore. I nearly knock her down as I scramble inside and throw myself into my couch. With a rapid series of hisses and clicks, the harness engages.
She slams the hatch and slaps the locking lever down under its restraint. Throwing herself into her own couch, she shouts over the mounting noise.
“This one’s going to be bad. Brace up, there’ll be good finds after this tide!”
“Bigger the wave, bigger the fortune!” Gerder’s cry is greeted with cheers.
The treasures to be found in its wake are small consolation as a wall of water nine hundred metres high descends upon the rain-scoured piece of misery we’re tethered to with the sound that white noise wants to be when it grows up.
I’m spun, shaken, hurled, and dropped. Strapped down inside a thousand tonnes of salvager, being thrown about like this makes the forces at play outside terrifying.
There’s an impact that rattles my teeth and I see Christa go pale as the damage data reaches her via neural link.
I shout across: “One more like that?”
She grins: “Two! What do you think this is, some orbital utility scow?”
There’s a period of freefall, then a second impact that’s harder than the first. There are screams and curses from the crew. I catch Christa’s eye. She mouths: “No more.”
We’re dragged a fair way across something bumpy, then the nauseous, sweeping rush-and-lurch of surfacing behind the wave lets us know we’re going to see another day.
“Time to earn your keep!” She’s not giving us time to celebrate because she knows it’ll turn maudlin. Only failed waveriders live to see old age.
A salvager is a submersible ship designed to resurface even with a few holes in it. In this case, we find our redoubtable vessel – The Kelpa – is about a metre shorter, with the bow having been crushed into an even denser mass of ceremetal laminate.
In the afternoon light, the sea about us moves languidly, whilst the pitiful excuse for an island is festooned with drift caught in the gigantic nets and steel grapples we set up for just that purpose. A gigawave is birthed from the influence of four moons on the benthic deeps. It brings with it the remains of the civilisation that ruled this world before the seas claimed them.
“Treasure ho! Christa, we’ve netted a vessel!”
Emelda’s right. Lying athwart the promontory to our right is something not made by human hands, the nacreous curves of its piscine form catching the light as water continues to trickle from it.
Christa turns to me: “Looks like you’ll be back in space soon. This’ll make us all rich.”
I look about, then nod toward the alien vessel.
“I’d rather spend it on finding a way to get down where that came from.”
She grins: “I knew this place would catch you too.”