The Ford Thunderbird was deceptively roomy. Not so roomy that Ku could fit in the front with me. Just roomy enough that, sprawled out, her hair acting like an impromptu blanket, she could stretch out across the leather interior of the back seat, hair preventing her rough skin from slashing open the seats. The car didn’t even ride low with her there, a testament to the fine engineering, and the fact that the damn thing was built out of two tons of stainless steel. That would mean that paying for gas would be a bitch. Here I’d been complaining about SUVs for most of my adult life, and this thing would probably make them look sensible and affordable by comparison.
My train of thought was desperate to focus on anything except the bizarrely attractive figure spread tantalizingly across the back seat.
It’s not something I was unused to. Betty was similarly fond of going around naked in the house, and she was both mercilessly self-confident, and proverbially attractive. You might think that over time, the effect would be lessened, as I developed a tolerance for it. And if I had a regular, healthy sex life, who knows, that might be true. As it was, though, I was doing everything I could to avoid staring. To avoid…
God, how I loathed romantic comedy. I wasn’t in a relationship with Betty- not that kind, at any rate. We weren’t lovers, or mates, or even good old fashioned boyfriend and girlfriend. That didn’t change the intense pang of guilt I felt for having some other strange, inhuman woman lounging around naked in my back seat.
“Are you alright? Do you need any water?”
“My scales are quite wet enough.” She peered silently out of the window. “This is so strange. How do you get used to it?”
“What?” I asked, as we passed up the road.
“How… hard it is to sense anything.” She rested a hand on the window. “How limited it is up here. The only things I can smell are you and I, and this little god of yours.”
I considered that statement. Sharks… I knew they had good senses. Good underwater senses, specifically. The ability to detect electrical fields of prey, a superb sense of smell- both traits which were far stronger underwater. What must that be like?
“How do your people plan to invade?” I asked, trying to find a subject that was less awkward than staring at her, and settling on the subject of impending genocide.
“I do not know the specifics. I was against the plan from the beginning, and for this, a coup against my authority was formed by the military leaders of my people. They never shared the specifics, but it shall be a terrible war.”
“Yeah, you’re not kidding, there. I mean, we’re not exactly helpless, here. We’ve had a lot of practice, and while you’re impressive…”
“The war will be swift, and bloody for both sides. It is a war of survival. Whoever wins, it would be unacceptable to me.” She crossed her arms, eyes closed. “My people seek an answer to your weapons of war. To your technological supremacy, to the terrifying gods you wield. They have turned to dark places in the hopes that they may survive. The sooner I can find Bastet, the sooner I can stop them from making bargains that will destroy both of our peoples.”
“We don’t use gods. It’s just… technology. Using the rules of the world to control things. If you understand the world, you can make it do what you want.”
She shook her head, but did not elaborate any further. I frowned, and continued. “You said before that my people started this. I can buy that- but how exactly did we do it?”
“I do not know.” She sighed, looking out the window. “I lived in a gilded cage. All I knew is that your people had caused the death of dozens, perhaps hundreds of my citizens. Those who had lived for centuries… snuffed out. With Bastet at my side, I can stop this, as well. My father told me stories of her.”
“Well, her name’s Betty, now. Queen Betty.”
She stared at me in the rear view mirror for a few seconds. “Again. Such a name. Do you do this to all you meet? Force new names on those who have not asked for them? To diminish a god’s name is to diminish the god. How does Bastet stand such a thing?” She was silent for a moment, and then frowned “But then… You are unusual, aren’t you?”
“Not really,” I said, and sighed. “I’m an ordinary human. No special powers. No magic- not anymore, anyway- nothing… unusual. All I’m good for is keeping a roof over Bastet’s head.” I approached the driveway, and turned on to the rough gravel, making my way back up, the Thunderbird climbing the slope without apparent effort. Ku opened her mouth as though to argue with me, and then closed it, with an unreadable expression on her face.
As I shut down the engine, getting out of the car, she finally spoke. “I do not think you are telling the truth. I’m not sure if you are stupid, or a liar, but you are denying something about yourself. I can smell it on you.” She leaned forward as she climbed out of the car, her face close to mine, her eyes heavily lidded. “Have you mated with Bastet?”
She nodded once, sharply, and stood straight. “Good. That is good to hear.”
“You… probably shouldn’t get attached to me that way. I’m not very good luck.”
She smiled, showing quite a number of sharp teeth. “Don’t worry, I will let you know when I want to hear your opinions.”
It was amazing, even miraculous, in a kind of shit-awful way. Twenty seven years I’d gone so desperately lonely that I would’ve accepted a proposition from literally anything, and I’d finally discovered that I was incredibly attractive, but only to incredibly dangerous monsters while in world-threatening situations. And worse, I was no good at making a move. Part of that was probably abandonment issues and lack of experience, but I felt it reasonable to say that the sharp teeth and violently jealous streaks weren’t helping matters any.
I shivered, and stared up into the woods. I still remembered the vivid nightmare I’d had the night I’d left this place, just after my mother died. Stress. Trauma. I’d never mentioned it to my uncle, the dream I’d had.
It was your fault.
Just guilt. A child’s misplaced guilt. An old memory.
“Are you alright?” Ku asked, her voice very soft and gentle.
“Yeah,” I said, voice rough.
“You have lost someone, haven’t you?” she asked, persistent, getting a bit closer to me, hunching down a bit.
“More than one person,” I said, and smiled. “It’s nothing.”
“It is never nothing.”
Her arms went around my shoulders, and she embraced me. Despite the roughness of her skin, the vicious power in every muscle, she was incredibly gentle. She squeezed me gently, smooth fingers pressed lightly against my back, her neck lifted to tuck my head lightly against her collarbone. It was warm, warmer and softer than I would have expected; her underbelly all soft and smooth, unlike the sharper skin on her back. I was silent for a moment, and then I returned the embrace, squeezing her. To my surprise, tears were running down her cheeks. “You’ve lost someone, too, huh.”
“My father. He is not dead, but-“ She was silent for a moment. “He might as well be.”
I nodded. Then I gently released her. “Come on. I’ll make us dinner.”
I would have promised her we’d save her father, or her people, or we’d stop the war. If any of that had been within my power, if I was the kind of person who could do any of that.
But what I could do was make dinner.
It was nearly 2 AM by the time I’d finished preparing the fish cakes. Ku watched with fascination as I set the frying pan on the stove-top, the oil becoming curiously refractive as the heat washed through it.
“I can feel things in that device. Is it some kind of god?” she asked, her eyes wide. I tried to figure that out for a moment.
“I don’t think so. You can sense where living things are, right?”
“Yes. Only across short distances up here, though. The air blocks my senses. I don’t know how you humans can bear it. But, that is not what I was talking about.” She waved a hand. “I can feel gods all around in this house. Surrounding it, filling it.”
I frowned. “You can sense gods?”
“Of course. Can’t humans?”
“Not so far as I’ve seen. What kinds of gods?”
“Small ones,” she said, dismissively. “None sapient, not anymore. The only strong ones are out in the woods.” She nodded her head towards the rear of the house.
“That’s ominous,” I said, an eyebrow raised.
“Really? Why should it be? You do not think that there is anything a god could do to harm you, do you?”
“I’d… always considered there to be quite a lot, really. Sometimes I have dreams about all the things they could do. Really unpleasant ones, in fact.”
She gave me another odd look, then watched with excitement as I set one of the fish cakes into the thin layer of oil, sizzling filling the air. “Oh! So, how do those gods work?”
“That’s electricity. In an air environment, it’s… easier to control. It follows the paths we tell it to. We can use it to make heat, to make things move if we set it up right… Even how to remember things. We generate it in places, send it through wires that can conduct it properly, to homes, and then use it.”
She nodded gravely. “You see what I mean when I say that your gods are mighty.”
“They’re…” I frowned. “Look, they’re not magic. They’re not the work of gods. They’re just the way the world works. And that’s a good thing, because it means that anyone can use them, and teach others how to use them.”
“Yes,” she murmured softly. “Exactly like the gods. Do you have a map?”
“Ah? Uh, yeah, in the living room, there’s a map in the big book on the wooden stand.” I considered mentioning that it was an antique as I heard her ruffling through the pages, but was interrupted by the sound of ripping paper. I winced, and decided that there was little point in protest now.
A few minutes later, I walked into the living room with a large tray covered in the fried salmon fish-cakes, the smell filling the air. Ku sharply looked up from the scattered maps, her eyes widening. “Are those all for me?” she asked, clapping her hands together with delight. I nodded, having kept a couple of them in the other room. It might be racist on my part, but I didn’t intend to get between a shark woman and her food. “Such a generous host! I can see why Bastet tolerates your casual blasphemy!”
“You’re a princess, right? Surely you must have had some pretty decent food in Atlantis.”
“You would be surprised.” She sighed. “Food is a connection like any other. My meals were… spartan, and usually raw.” She grimaced. “Nothing like these wonderful things.” She crunched into another of the cakes, a smile splitting her features as she chewed and swallowed, blowing on the steaming potato to cool it off before taking another bite.
There was a lot to consider. But I was fucking tired. I lay down in the bed in my room upstairs, after showing Ku the large king-sized mattress that used to be in my parents room. She thanked me, and returned to the maps. “A point of nexus,” she explained, studying them. “I will know it when I see it.”
I lay down in the bed, and was asleep within seconds. And my nightmares were strange. Betty, sobbing on the ground. Ku, wandering and empty-eyed. A fox with black and silver fur and a gigantic grin on its muzzle. And a man with white hair, a thing with white hair, lunging, screaming-
I woke up when I fell right out of the bed, at about 7 AM, my heart racing too fast to get back to sleep. The bed was empty and cold, and I realized it was the first night in a year that I hadn’t woken up to find Betty lying next to me.
I had an interview later that day. There was a Shark Belly franchise, in the small town at the end of the reservoir, and I had put in an application there. The idea of working there now seemed a bit silly- I’d started my career in fast food to find the fish people, and now I had a pretty good lead on them- but I wasn’t the kind of person who could let an obligation like that slip.
No matter how much I wanted to. No matter how much I should.
I settled down in the downstairs living room. The old desk my father had built out of pine sat in one corner, and there, I set up my laptop to organize my thoughts. Over the past few months, I’d spent some time with Li Xue Zi, learning stories about Randall and the Order of Set- The mysterious, rogue organization of demon hunters and somewhat questionable antiheroes who had apparently protected the world from the things in the darkness from some time in the seventeenth or eighteenth century up until the late 70s.
Harold Schmooli- former journalist, once bum, and current best-selling writer- was the one who was actually writing the book. He’d written a book about the cult last year who’d been responsible for the plague and the summoning. He’d also cut me a check. Most of that money remained in a bank account, as I was reluctant to cut into it. I could live an easy life for at least a year or two on that money, but it hadn’t been money I’d earned. I’d been just a bystander, watching things happening. It had been Betty who’d saved the world. Li Xue Zi. Phoebe. Even Harold had been the one who brought the evidence that took down the Church of the Survivor and ensured they’d never try something like that again. My sole contribution was getting so badly beaten that other people fought- and died- to protect me.
I shook my head, clearing the sleep and lingering guilt out of my thoughts, and opened the research documents. I’d been researching other members of the Order of Set. Randall had been relatively young for a member of the Order, but there had been other contemporaries who’d survived the Order’s collapse. People who had been real heroes, like my uncle. Despite the awful things he had done- despite the awful things they had done- they had saved the world again and again, and nobody knew that. They deserved something more.
And with Li and Harold’s help, I could at least give them a bit of recognition. People probably wouldn’t believe it any more than they believed that lawyer’s blog, but still.
John Pertwee, Olympic biathlete; David Kopesh, mountaineer; and Patrick Ewing- no, not that Patrick Ewing. These three, along with my father and my uncle, were responsible for tracking down a cult that had been operating out of Quebec. The cult had been the descendants of fur trappers who, along with their families, had begun to eat the flesh of men. The mission went ugly, the cult turned out to have supernatural abilities. Certain members of the cult were fed on a steady diet of human flesh, making them into Wendigo- superhumanly strong, tough, and hungry, growing with each bite of flesh that they took. David and Patrick were killed and eaten. The others managed to escape, and returned with heavy military support, bombing the Keepers of the Feast to the ground, and wiping away every last trace of them. John lost his arm during the conflict, and wound up retiring to a peaceful life, with the Order’s blessing. Still alive, if you can believe it.
The story was one that Oliver told to Li Xue Zi, and my father always regarded it as one of the more terrifying ordeals he ever went through. Describing the sight of his old friend, brought down, devoured raw, brought tears to his eyes, and strong though he was-
I shook my head, wincing at my own writing. There was a reason I left the writing to Harold. He knew how to get to people. When I looked at my own work, it was nothing but an embarrassment. I continued futzing with the story, trying my best to remember the details as I scribbled down my notes.
My mind wandered back to the dream. That was what had woken me. And probably what had brought my mind to this particular case. I shivered slightly at the idea, stomach twisting a little. It was probably nothing more than simple stress, the terror of a seeming shark attack the day before, expressing itself in strange ways.
The door opened, and said shark smiled, dripping with water. “There is a very nice creek here. I have never seen so little water in one place. It was fun! Though somewhat bland and flavorless.”
“You probably shouldn’t drink that water, I think there’s a scrap-processing yard upstream. The tap-water’s fine.”
She frowned at me. “Water constrained? Stagnant? How can that be palatable?”
I sighed. “Hey, it’s your choice. But if you get sick, we’ll know what to blame.” I stood up. “I’m going to go out for a few hours-“
“What? No! I forbid it!” She crossed her arms petulantly, glaring at me. “What if I find myself pursued? What if I get hungry? What if there are visitors?”
‘You can’t protect yourself?” I asked, an eyebrow raised.
“I’ve never had to,” she said, looking down at her feet, her expression suddenly embarrassed.
“How old are you?”
“Old enough for that question to be impertinent,” she snapped, frowning at me.
“There’s food in the fridge that you can eat as is, and nobody ever comes up that driveway. You’ll be fine, believe me. Just concentrate on finding the way into Atlantis, alright?”
“What if I get lonely?” she asked, pouting at me, her black eyes shadowed by the tilt of her head.
Betty never really showed vulnerability. She would tease about its suggestion sometimes, but even when she was brutally beaten, she didn’t show weakness. Either she hid it beneath a deep coating of arrogance and mockery, or she didn’t feel it at all. We both knew she relied on me, but there was no vulnerability in that. It sometimes felt as though she… took it for granted, that I would leap to the opportunity to help her. She understood me enough to know that I’d be for her. But sometimes, it made me feel like I was just… taken for granted.
These are feelings I’d never share with her. I knew that Betty couldn’t afford to be vulnerable. She’d loved and lost so many times that there was no way she’d allow herself to be weak like that again. If she was so sentimental, she’d have died long ago. She had to be what she was. I didn’t resent her for that. I didn’t care any less for her because of that. But…
It felt nice, to be needed. To know that if I died, I wouldn’t just be replaced.
Ku was standing close to me now, her head tilted, her body surprisingly warm. “You want to hold me, don’t you?”
“You’re really playing with fire, here.”
“Why? You’re not Betty’s mate.”
“No, but she still tends to be jealous and possessive. And knowing her, she’d leap at the opportunity for a fish as big as you.”
“Then I suppose that says something about how valuable you are.”
“It’s not about me being valuable. She’s just like that.”
A slow smile spread across Ku’s mouth, shark-teeth lined in a perfect zig-zag. “I was not referring to your value to Betty.” She leaned in, and nuzzled her cheek against my throat. “I will wait, but please do not dally any longer than you must.” She sniffed at the air. “And when you return, we can see how… dedicated you are, to your priesthood.”
You know what the fantasy novels never mention? The human sense of smell- while magnificent and varied in many ways- is not used in any but the most gross of social manners. If someone’s gone too long without bathing, it offends us. That’s about the limit of it. For emotions, for relationships- with the exception of the old perfume on the collar –we don’t use the sense of smell. Our body odors tend to be weak, and we wash them away constantly, so we don’t pay much attention to them. But animals do.
Like Betty, Li, and Ku.
It was like walking around naked, and so I screamed in my head the entire way down to the car, because my reactions were so goddamned obvious to them.
The Shark Belly franchise was at one end of the strip. It’s something I hadn’t realized until relatively recently- The vast majority of towns in the US look basically like this one. The strip of road that connects to the highway, the best paved and newest road, where all the franchises cluster. Radiating out from them are the homes, the old businesses, the farms. But the beating heart- or maybe the gurgling stomach- of the town is in its franchises, those familiar buildings that can attract the eye. The guarantee of getting what you’re looking for, even if it isn’t actually very good.
There was a metaphor there, but I was depressed enough as it was.
The Shark Belly was on one side of the road. The parking lot wasn’t as smooth as most of the others; It was sloped stiffly to one side, and the only open spaces were there. I sighed, and drove into one of the spots, setting the parking brake, the car letting out a deep metallic groan as the parking brake set itself into place. Then I approached the restaurant.
The manager was young. Really young. Depressingly young, although the only person being depressed was me; working under someone who had to be five years younger than me. He stood at the cash register, and smiled at me. “Oh, hey, uh, can I get your order?”
I reassessed. His eyes were stoner-red, his chin stubbly, a bit of acne on his face. Kind of overweight, but not obese, which differentiated him from a fair number of people in the restaurant. The only people who appeared to be underweight were an old couple, a pair of women with deep bronze skin, one of them almost skeletally thin, the other merely underweight, who sat at a table and were apparently splitting a very large container of FischStix.
“My name’s Horace. You’re Mister Pertwee?”
“Oh, no, dude, Mister Pertwee’s my dad. I’m Daryl.” He smiled, and the conversation died as he waited for my reply.
“Uh. You’re the manager, yeah?”
“Oh, yeah, dude.”
Another pause. “I called you about a job earlier?”
“Oh! Awesome, awesome, dude, we’ve been needing a new guy to work the restaurant, um, Walter’s good on cleaning and cooking, but he’s kind of… Heh, yeah, we don’t usually let him interact with the customers. Can you, like, do math?”
“Awesome, dude, awesome!” He chuckled. “Alright, uh, there’s some tax stuff- Walter! Hey, Walter!”
A man who I could only assume was Walter loomed out of the darkness of the back of the store. The man was huge. I’ve met big men, though I’m not one myself. He had to be at least seven feet tall. And he didn’t have the awkward, stretched out look a lot of excessively tall men had. His shoulders were so broad he had to turn aside to make it through the aisles between the cookers. He wore an eyepatch over one eye, and a long and jagged scar ran down his face from his hairline, across the covered eye, down to his cheek. Stringy blonde hair hung around his face, and the other eye was shockingly blue.
“Walter here’s kind of slow, but let him focus on the cooking, and he’s great. Right, Walter?”
Walter nodded once, slowly, his eye fixed on me with a paralyzing ferocity.
“Don’t let him scare you, he’s got his heart in the right place. So, Walter, me and- uh, what was your name?”
“Horace,” I managed, my voice a little high and reedy.
“Horace, are gonna go check the tax and employment stuff. Just shout if a customer comes in, okay?”
Walter nodded again, no less menacingly.
“So,” I asked, frowning over my shoulder as we walked into the small, terminally untidy office, noticing the large poster of Bob Marley on the wall. “How’d you become manager?”
“Oh, uh, like, my dad owns the store, and he said I should get some management experience in, so, like, he hired me to work as manager?” Daryl grinned cheerfully. “That’s awesome that you’re up for working here. We’re kind of short-staffed this week, too. Our usual guy is taking a week off for his girlfriend or something, so you’ll kind of be jumping in the deep end, is that cool? I can start you on some shifts starting Monday.”
“Works fine for me,” I said, and gave my best management smile.
“I hope you enjoy working here! We can kinda get some weird customers, but it’s pretty chill most of the time. My dad lets me run the place, and as long as you let me know what’s going on and you don’t do anything bad, uh, it’s pretty much don’t ask, don’t tell.” He leaned closer. “Do you smoke?”
“No, but thanks.”
“Yeah. Yeah. Cool, man. Just let me know. Makes the days pass quicker, y’know? Anyway, it’s mostly pretty calm-“
There was a firm knock on the door. I turned, just as it opened, revealing Walter standing there. The skeletal old woman was standing at the cash register, a frown on her face, one bony hand on her equally skeletal hip. “Hey! You! Smokie Roberts!”
“Aw, man,” murmured Daryl. I saw an opportunity, and stepped smoothly up, passing through the doorway and smiling warmly at the old woman.
“May I help you, ma’am?”
“Wendy! I didn’t do what I did to get called ‘Ma’am’, young man!” She glowered up at me. “When the hell is the Long-Fish Sandwich going to get here, huh?! Three weeks they’ve been advertising the damn thing!”
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” I said, with all the genuine contrition I could muster. “The promotion’s been delayed by shipping issues, but it’ll be starting next Monday at participating restaurants.” It was like riding a bike. Admittedly, a bike with nails in the seat and barbed wire on the pedals, but familiar nonetheless. “Is there anything more I can help with?”
“Yeah, kid, get us another of those Mocha-Dick sized FischStix.” She glared at me.
“We’ll have those right out,” I said, turning to nod to Walter as I punched in the order. Daryl smiled gratefully at me, and disappeared into the office, shutting the door as Walter lumbered back to the fryers. I turned back towards the woman, and found her leaning very close to me, staring. Her hair was snow white, and her eyes were milky, like a blind person’s, but focused perfectly on me. Her mouth was closed into a sharp frown, and her face was shrunken, withered with age. Despite the hot day, she was dressed in a massive overcoat with a notable fur ruff around her shoulders. “Ah… anything else?”
“What the hell are you doing here, boy? You’ve got bigger fish to fry.” The woman glared at me, as Walter slid up beside me. She took the bucket from his hands, and left exact change on the counter, turning towards her companion. “Nooky! Let’s get going.”
The two elderly Native American women left, leaving me perplexed. But only for a moment before more orders started coming in, and I was too distracted to do anything but go through my first day’s shift.
Eight hours later, I walked out of the Shark Belly, sweaty, my head slightly spinning, but feeling good about myself. This lasted for exactly as long as it took me to examine why I was feeling good, and realize that it was because I’d just helped out two other people to prolong a period of their suffering under corporate franchise rule. That made my good mood a bit shakier. I did the math on how much I’d made in those eight hours, and after applying state and local taxes, I felt a little bit worse.
On the plus side, Daryl had let me grab a bucket of Chicken of the Sea Wings. I didn’t know what was in them, but it was enough to keep my body going for a bit longer, and that was most of what I was looking for in my meals, nowadays. I got into the car, and checked the gas gauge. It was still nearly full, which put off the pain for a bit longer. A car this old, this heavy, and this fuel-inefficient would have a mileage that would make almost as big an impact on my wallet as its front fender would on any poor unfortunate deer that ignored the right of way.
I got to enjoy a brief moment of guilt about the impact on the environment, and then I said the hell with it and started the engine, and the worries all faded away. The drive back to the house was relatively calm and relaxed, a smooth ride up through the mountains. Already it was becoming reflex, and the sun was just on the edge of the valley, casting a golden light over everything as it set. The day was warm and cloudless, but there was a chill nip in the air as I drove along the peaks of the hills surrounding the reservoir; the summer was ending, and winter was never terribly far away up here. But that was okay, because right now, the sun was bright and things were alright.
As I pulled into the small concrete pad that was all my father had ever completed of the garage, according to Randall’s extremely rare stories, I noticed something shift in the brush. I frowned, resting a hand on the flashlight as I stepped out of the car, slowly lifting it towards the rustling bushes. My mother had always been paranoid about rabid raccoons, and I’d always thought it was silly, but in the dusk light, it was difficult to see into the shade of the underbrush, the bright golden light obliterating the contrasts. I flicked the flashlight on.
There was a flicker of black and silver fur, and then whatever it was disappeared up the slope, into the forest. I sighed. Probably just some poor creature trying to get enough food to make it through the winter. Or an evil god that wanted me dead. With my luck, probably both.
I opened the door, to find the fridge door hanging open. I winced at that, and shut it, after checking to make sure nothing had spoiled. Then I entered the living room.
Ku sat on the floor, her legs crossed, her eyes wide as she stared up at me. I sat down on the couch, and peered over at the maps. “You found it?”
“Yes.” She waved her hand over the map. “Three entrances.”
I leaned over the map, and studied it. Three points had been marked. One was out in Canada, nearly 600 miles away. One was in an apparently wild and uncivilized segment of upstate New York, on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. The last one…
I stared. “What makes these points right for crossing over, exactly?”
“They are the sites of powerful conflux. Where a being has torn open a hole between this world, and another.”
The last one was familiar. I’d only been there once, when I was just a child, with my mother, but I remembered it.
I tapped a finger on the map, frowning. “Which would be easiest?”
“This one,” she said, tapping on the point in Canada. “That is the oldest, which means it is the least likely to be defended.”
“Alright. Now we just have to figure out how to sneak you past the border.”
The towering embodiment of one of mankind’s greatest pelagic fears gave me a chainsaw smile. “How hard could that be?”