Elizabeth broke the surface and opened her helmet to take in the fresh air. She floated easily in the gentle swell as the sun set over Ghast. She remembered how much she used to love the ocean. In her younger days she would have jumped at the opportunity to study Ghast, but the indigenous population didn’t allow alien study…and now that she was finally here, she hated the sea. She served the Corporation as a marine biologist for thirteen years before it sapped all the joy from her soul… before joining the diplomatic corps. The money was fantastic, but now she got stuck with all the lousy ocean missions…now, she was the official Earther ambassador to this fetid puddle of bile.
She waited only a few minutes before spotting an Earther ship de-cloaking nearby, a few hundred meters above the waves. As it scanned, an array of strobes and lasers criss-crossing the surface, it lowered a thick hose and began siphoning sea water up into it’s holding tanks.
Elizabeth felt something move beneath her. It barely brushed her fins, but it’s silhouette was enormous… and the ocean became perfectly calm.
Just then, the head of a sushi-man surfaced next to her. Well, she called them sushi-men. In their own unspeakable language, they called themselves “Shepard’s of Ghast” (whatever!). It was Veine, her diplomatic escort. He chirped something that her helmet-com translated as: “You don’t belong here, it is forbidden….. come with me!” as he grasped her elbow and pulled her away.
Elizabeth had slipped away from him earlier that day to come to these coordinates, in the forbidden zone, to investigate the illegal Earther poaching that the Rhee Federation were complaining about. The Ghast did not allow alien extraction operations…ever. They were willing to trade, but alien operations always upset the delicate environmental balance.
The water just below the ship began to boil violently. Elizabeth broke from the sushi-man’s grasp so she could watch…as three long, massive creatures shot up out of the water, chomped on to the hull of the hovering ship with round, toothy jaws and ripped it to pieces as they fell back toward the sea. Hundreds more of the creatures leapt up to snatch the smaller bits and chunks from the air before any of it hit the water. There was a brief feeding frenzy before the churning abated and violent ripples receded again…returning the sea to a gentle swell.
The sushi-man chirped again: “Did you see what you were looking for?” He didn’t wait for an answer, but grasped her elbow again and directed her away. She sealed her helmet and swam down ahead of him.
She felt intense satisfaction. Her mission was over…it was a success. The Corporation would analyze her report and devise a strategy to detect and defeat those snake creatures so it could poach (steal) the chemical elements it wanted. She would be consulted…and promoted… and become even more wealthy.
Her escort allowed her to swim even further ahead, which seemed odd. She stopped and turned as he asked, “Have you transmitted what you saw to your people yet?” She nodded, a little off guard. He continued, “We know you are not here to STOP your poachers.” She glanced around, sensing danger.
“We transmitted it too…” he continued, “In fact we are streaming live.” She looked down to see her own body-cam still activated. The water pressure changed perceptibly.
“I am the ambassador. If anything happens to me, it will mean WAR between our people…”
“War…..yes.” was all he said.
But she was angry now. “You rotten, slimy, bottom feeders, If you think a simple minded, school of talking sushi can threaten Earther power and technology…the Masset made that mistake and look what happened to…” The current shifted. She screamed, “Hey!!! You can’t hurt me… I have diplomatic immuni…”
Another long toothy creature shot out from the shadowy depths and swallowed Elizabeth in one tiny gulp.
***This is another image and short story scheduled to be published soon in our new book (our 4th book), “A Short Burst” an illustrated collection of flash science fiction. You can find all our books and other products at www.sallemander.com or search EEWbooks at Etsy.com. -Marsha