Carps Gone Wild #10014 Published

Carps Gone Wild

Axle Brady had needed a break. The daily, unending grind of hunting traitors, heretics, changelings, xenomorphs, and a man who had pushed over a medical doctor had gotten to him. The feeling of not being good enough when someone died to the forces that constantly harassed nanotrasen, from outside and in. The donuts at the security office weren’t enough. The coffee that nice moth bartender had given him wasn’t enough. No, he needed a proper break.

Everyone was able to take time off from shifts due to TerraGov enforced worker rights - Nanotrasen adored their non-human outreach programmes to combat this - but even that wouldn’t be long enough. Luckily, as a long-standing head of security, he had a fair bit more authority in choosing how long he wanted a break from the station. After signing some forms, playing some favors, and pulling rank when necessary, he managed to snag himself a nearly two-month-long leave of absence from his position.

Together with a not-insigificant amount of cash from his rainy-day funds, he managed to find himself on a transport shuttle to a beautiful ocean world recently cleared for habitation after terraforming efforts had finished exactly 20 years prior. Untouched by the more visible effects of humanity, (housing, transportation, light pollution) the planet was a serene, beautiful light-blue marble among the black of space. It promised to be even more gorgeous when setting down, due to the rare circumstance of having a small ring system as well as several small moons.

The shuttle docked at a space elevator, where Axle got off and wandered through an arrivals terminal, grabbing a brochure about the colonization efforts as well as one about the natural flora and fauna of the planet. After looking through some of the food shops available and deciding to grab a light lunch, he headed to the center of the station and strapped in for the 40-minute ride down to the planet’s surface.

From the colonization brochure, he found a few interesting facts and figures about the world - 90% water, and the few bits of land mass promised to be highly arable. 28.9 hour days promised longer nights, but the moons, plural, ended up making nights more of a “dim light” than a dark one. Most of it was fairly boring, however. Scattered with advertisements about various colonization companies and even the more mundane luxury items. He briefly glanced at the cost of some of the housing, and reeled back in shock as it was around ten times over what he’d ever be able to afford.

But the colonization brochure wasn’t what he was interested in - he was here to fish. Opening up the second pamphlet he picked up, he was greeted with a two-page, full-holograph assortment of fish. All imaginable colors of tropical fish appeared, ranging from some being barely an inch long to some reported larger than 55 feet - practically whales at that size, and with enough meat to make the chefs back at the research station do a double-take.

After a while of browsing through that pamphlet, he finally heard the elevator’s announcement that touchdown would be occurring in one minute. He couldn’t wait to get off, not in part thanks to the fact that the planet’s gravity plus the acceleration of the elevator slowing down for the second half of the trip felt like twice what terra felt like.

A minute later, he unbuckled himself from his seat and wandered out into the ground-based arrivals lounge of the space elevator. He had already eaten above, so his current objective was to find his way towards one of the fishing and boat rentals. A lot of the islands around this large one were still open for the public so long as visitors didn’t litter, so he snagged up a small grill and some charcoal as well.

And some rum. He needed a long drink to think about the stress from that research station.

An hour and a half later, he had in his possession a small electric motorboat, a sturdy fishing rod, a tacklebox, a camping grill, two bags of charcoal, a map of the nearby islands, a hunting knife, a bottle of rum, and what was promised to be the best legally-available bait for fish between five and ten feet in length. Honestly, he wasn’t sure quite what he’d do if he managed to catch a ten foot long fish, but he’d successfully wrestled a changeling with an armblade strong enough to cut steel in half to the ground in the past, so a fish probably wouldn’t be that big of a problem.

Boating out to one of the more remote islands, he set up his camping grill, scrounged up a bit of shelter in the form of a lean-to, and got back onto his boat to fish. There was enough edible plants both on that island and in the bountiful, shallow water nearby it, but no island dinner’s complete without a meat component.

About six hours and one of the best meals he’s had in a year later, Axle Brady sat on “his” beach, looking out at the sun as it began to enter its sunset. The fish was excellent, and the local flora he grilled along with it were exceptional as well. A shame that there were no aquacultures back on-station, as some of the kelp-like plants produced excellent fruit. But enough about the station. He was here to get away from all that stress, all the worry, all the assistants.

And now it was time to decide between the alcohol and a night of staring up at the ring system glimmering in the sky and a very-visible galaxy of stars, free from the light pollution of inhabited worlds, or going out fishing again.

He went out fishing again.

Deciding to go even further away from the central island, he ended up finding himself in much deeper waters - unlike before, where he could see the sea floor 50 to 60 feet below him at it’s deepest, the water seemed like it just kept going down and down here.

As he continued out, he began to see waves on the water - abnormal for such a calm day otherwise, and he didn’t feel any wind on him at the moment. He had abyssmal luck with fishing, which was unnatural in its own right, but with the waves now, he felt that something might’ve gone wrong. The terraforming machines used were mostly atmospheric, but there was something about construction in the sea itself - but that had been done for two decades now, so that couldn’t have been it, he thought to himself.

Axle looked out into the water, but noticed that the normally deep-blue water had turned an odd hue, nearly purple. The sky wasn’t particularly purple, and there weren’t any bioluminescent plants making the water purple, so what the hell was doing this? He looked further out and saw the regular blue water, looked back down, and saw the “water” move.

Fuck.

Two hundred feet in front of him, whatever the hell was beneath him surfaced in a jump - it had what looked like 4 flippers large enough to be wings, a scaled body, and… the four eyes of a space carp. Except the thing was huge, larger than any dragon he’d ever seen. Larger than anything he saw in the pamphlet on fish wildlife, too, clocking in at what must’ve been over a hundred feet long, easily. Now, Axle Brady was fairly confident in his fighting skills. He fought fungal blob spores that spread across entire stations, he fought wizards with genuine magic, he fought cults wishing to summon elder gods. But he had a goddamn knife against the largest animal he’d ever seen - and that thing had teeth twice as large as he was. ‘Course, it wasn’t like he had much of an option, what with it having spotted him with those huge, black eyes. It was either eat or be eaten for Axle, and he was in the mood for carp.

Grabbing his knife out of his jackboots, (he’d never leave home without ‘em) he stood up in his little motorboat and gunned the engine. The soft whirr of the electric engine became much louder as it shot out across the water towards his prey - or the last thing he’d ever fight.

The sea dragon roared at him and he felt his cap get blown off his head from the sheer pressure of air it made. At least the thing didn’t breathe fire, he figured.

At the last moment before he’d crash right into the thing’s maw, he jumped the boat off of one of its front flippers and gained some elevation - bringing him right up to its eyes. One hand wrapped around the hilt of the knife, his other palm flat against it’s end, he brought it crashing straight into the eye closest to him, and tore it around in the gelatin-like vitreous humor, watching blood and fluids gush out.

It SCREAMED with rage. As he hung on for dear life on a spine, it dove into the water, fifty, one hundred, one hundred and fifty feet. Barely holding his breath and his grip on the beast, Axle prayed that it would resurface soon - and it did, but it was doing so in a backflip, aiming to crush him under its mass.

At the apex of its jump, he tossed himself off that spine, and as far as he could get away from the dragon.
As it crashed into the water, he saw that he was at least clear of most of it’s body, but not of the wave - getting launched yet again, he barely saw his boat, which had miraculously not been destroyed in his initial trick, before nearly crashing head-long into it. Could he pull the same trick off again? Probably not. Should he try it if he wanted to live? Probably not. Was he going to do it? Damn, he wanted to, but he knew that it wasn’t what he SHOULD do.

His honor demanded he fell the beast, but his self-preservation won out - it wasn’t brave to charge into a situation where he knew he would die, it was stupid. And more importantly, he knew of a way to beat it, he just needed some friends.

Once again in his boat, praying to Space Jesus, Cthulhu, the Emperor of Mankind, and any other particularly powerful deity that would listen for a chance at survival, he turned tail and ran. The dragon was busy enough trying to deal with the pain and the possibility that Axle was in its newly-formed blind spot to hear the soft whirr of Axle leaving in his boat - and by the time it noticed, he was long gone.

A few hours later, everything packed up from the island he had elected to stay on, and just now feeling the adrenaline leave his body, Axle had a phone in his hand and a list of numbers to call.

Dean Ivanov, Lukas Beedell, Lexia Black, and others on the Nanotrasen list of thunderdome champions. To be fair, he didn’t even recognize some of those names - and some he did recognize he only barely new from the security conferences held yearly on the development of advanced persistent threats to the corporation - but he was certain that if he managed to have even ten seconds with some of them, they’d be down for this next fishing expedition.

The biggest catch in a century, a chance for a name going down in history, maybe discovering a syndicate biological weapons program’s finished product…

The game was on, and the net was closing in on that dragon. It was only a matter of time.


Author’s Notes:


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