“Yet another day aboard the Crisis, sitting around waiting while our officers go off to do who-knows-what,” Kulio grumbled, working the winch that lowered the forward boat and the aforementioned officers. “When do we get some action?”
Dar grunted. “Kid, you ain’t ne’er had it so good. You got no notion of the stuff they cleans up afore we e’er sees it. There be horrors in the vasty deep the like of which none of us wish to be seein’.”
“Well, maybe not close-up, like, but there’s bound to be some stuff down there worth seeing. I didn’t sign up to wait around!”
“Oh, well, mebbe I kin help you with that!” Dar winced and turned around to see Rosie standing by with an evil grin on her miniature face. The halfling had a positive talent for going completely unnoticed until you had your foot, ankle, and possibly leg up to the knee lodged firmly in your gullet. One little halfling should not be able to contain so much malevolent glee at making people regret their ill-considered statements. Kulio, the poor fool, only looked intrigued. He was a slow learner, apparently.
“You got something we can do?” Kulio asked.
“You betcha. Concho came up with an idea for seein’ underwater an’ I think yer just the person to try it out!” The gnome materialized, holding up a glass hemisphere the size of his chest.
“Is that a fishbowl?” Dar asked, realization dawning.
“Well, not JUST a fishbowl,” Conchobar said with some asperity, looking defensive. “It screws on to this ring here, see?”
“Which you have attached to a big oiled canvas bag, I detect,” Kulio said.
“And a hose,” Rosie added.
“And some weights!” Conchobar finished.
“So, what yer have invented here,” Dar said dryly, “Is an ehr-normus fishing lure.”
“No, it’s an underwater survey apparatus!” Conchobar corrected hotly.
“Into which yer intend to seal one of the crewmembers.”
“We can pump air down the hose to inflate the bag, and they can tell us what they see by shouting back down the hose,” Rosie explained.
“Yer have lost yer—” Dar began, only to be interrupted mid-sentence.
“I’ll give it a go,” Kulio said. Dar spluttered.
“Yer ALL mad,” he managed, finally. “I warsh me hands of ye.”
It took some time—and cussing—to stuff Kulio into the oiled sack and secure the fishbowl. Not wanting to be completely helpless, Kulio made sure to take along a selection of knives and keep them in easy reach. If everything went to pot, he was going to cut himself out of the sack and to hell with Conchobar’s test. The gnome finally declared the preparations complete, attached the hose, and Insawa helped Dar unceremoniously dump the bag-of-Kulio overboard, where it slowly sank in a cloud of bubbles. Rosie hurried to the pump and began working.
“Ooh, not as airtight as I was hoping,” Conchobar muttered. “ARE YOU ALL RIGHT DOWN THERE, KULIO?!?” he shouted, pressing his ear to the end of the hose.
“S A LITTLE DAMP!!”
“Sorry about that! Can you see anything!?”
“Glass’s all fogged up, dammit!”
“Oo, that’s a point,” Conchobar said, making a note on a clipboard. “Can you wipe it off?!”
“Yah, yah, I can see a bit. It’s awful dark down here, though! I can see the officers! They’re swimming down toward this wrecked ship on the bottom!”
“An . . . BESMARA’S TITS! Those are some bloody enormous sharks! I never seen sharks so big! Pull me up! They’re coming!”
“No!” Conchobar yelled, batting Dar away from the winch. “It’s fine, Kulio, the sharks are far away!”
“NO THEY ARE NOT!!!”
“The glass is like a telescope! Everything will look much closer than it really is!”
“Are you SURE?!”
“I made the thing, after all!”
“Damn near pissed myself. Oh, no, what are they doing . . . they’re ATTACKING the SHARKS.” A series of loud booms echoed up the hose. “Besmara, what the hell! My ears are ringing! There’s shark bits everywhere!”
“That kind of sounded like a pistol,” Rosie remarked.
“It did, didn’t it,” Conchobar agreed. A massive corpse suddenly surfaced off the starboard side of the ship. “Wow, that is big.” Another series of booms followed several seconds later, along with more hysterical shrieks from Kulio, and a second corpse joined the first.
“PULL ME UP!!!”
“Don’t be a sissy!” Rosie bellowed. “The sharks are dead!”
“Imma wring yer little halfling neck!” Kulio yelled.
“You and what army? What else is happening?”
“Nothing, they’re just swimming down to this coral maze. It’s kinda pretty, really.”
“Well, let us know when something else happens.”
Long minutes of back-and-forth “Anything?” “No!” followed. Rosie made Dar take a turn at the pump.
“Oh, hey, something’s happening!” Kulio shouted. “There’s this kind of blue glow . . .”
Rosie pointed overboard. The seawater was, indeed, glowing faintly. “What is it?” she demanded.
“I dunno. Can’t really see.” A spark leapt from the pump to Dar’s arm and he winced, cursing. Conchobar’s eyes went wide.
“Everybody down!” the gnome screamed. The blue glow pulsed. Electricity arced from the water, forming tiny glowing balls that danced like fairy lights and vanished with a crackling, sizzling noise. The pump squealed as it violently overheated and burst.
“Wow, what a show!” Kulio shouted. “This is amazing!” Then: “Hey, the bag is shrinking!”
“Just hang on!” Conchobar shouted. “A little technical problem up here . . .!”
“Hey! Pull me up!”
“Not yet!” An enormous jellyfish, glowing faintly blue, surfaced alongside the ship.
“GET ME OUT OF HERE!”
“Screw this, I’m outta here!” Kulio announced. Ripping noises echoed up the tube, then gurgling noises. The water bubbled violently.
“Gosh, I hope he’s all right,” Conchobar said, peering over the side.
“No thanks to you,” Dar told him. A long minute passed, then Kulio surfaced, gasping and waving a knife.
“Imma . . . kill . . . all . . . you . . . fuckers . . .”
Conchobar grinned and pulled out his clipboard again. “Experiment success!” he enthused. Kulio glared up at him. He eyed the rope leading from the winch down into the water. He fingered his knife. Conchobar screamed in horror as Kulio neatly severed the rope that was holding the apparatus to the ship; it instantly vanished into the water. The hose parted company with the ruined pump with a slurping sound and followed in mechanical solidarity.
“Noooo!” Conchobar yelled. “My fishbowl!”
“Had enough adventure, I take it?” Dar asked as they hauled Kulio back aboard.
“Yes, thank you.”
The officers soon returned and the remainder of the afternoon was spent hauling goods up from the ocean floor. “That’s how it should be,” Kulio announced. “Exciting adventure, then loot.”
“Sadly, there’s nothing back on shore ter spend it on,” Dar grumbled.
“Something will turn up,” Kulio said.
“Your optimism is starting ter annoy me.” Yet, when they reached the dock, now nearly completed, there was another surprise awaiting: a crowd of scantily-clad women, clearly waiting for Crisis to return. The crew gathered at the side of the ship to gape while the officers climbed down to speak to them. The ladies and the officers headed toward the now-repaired fort while Rosie returned to the ship.
“What’s going on?” Dar demanded.
“They’re prostitutes,” Rosie said, shaking her head. “They want some kind of asylum or somethin’. Think the Cap’n’s gonna accept.”
“Did you PLAN that?!” Dar demanded.