Huron woke to the familiar pressure that came with being deep below the waves and a nagging sensation that something had gone horribly wrong. She lifted her eyes, taking in the blurry world around her. Two lobsters sat in front of her, their legs hooked into the security rings of a transport rig humming along a rail on the sea floor. In an oblong container attached to the side was presumably the UCP’s representative, Pilsen. She couldn’t be sure, but the shape was close enough, and she hoped the lobsters hadn’t been stupid enough to kill the first ambassador to Crustacea. If they wanted their doomsday prophecies of nukes raining down from orbit, that was certainly one way to achieve it.
Thick bands ran around the edge of Huron’s claws making it impossible to move them even an inch. She was trapped, much as her ancestors had been all those years ago. Tom. The thought brought great pain and anguish. The shrimp was nowhere to be seen aboard the small craft and the rift between lobsters and shrimp was unrivaled. She hoped that they had at least made it quick.
“The prisoner is awake,” said one of the lobsters, communicating in a series of delicate clicks with its claw. The dialect was rough and not easy to understand, but Huron was able to get the gist.
Using what little movement her tertiary limbs were allowed, Huron communicated clumsily back. “It is not too late to stop this. We can tell the ambassador there was a gas leak in the negotiation chambers.”
One of the lobster’s snapped derisively, but the larger of the pair put a claw over his back in a calming motion. “Why would we want to stop this?” He asked, but not with sound. The voice rang clear as a bell in Huron’s head.
Confusion rushed through her like a tidal wave.
The lobster let out an unearthly chuckle. “The deeper you go beneath the waves, the stranger things become. If you can, try not to panic, and answer my question instead. Why would we want to stop?”
Communicating the existential danger that came with a sky full of nuclear weapons and an entire organized system of government rallying against them without her claws was not easy. Before she had even begun to attempt such a feat, the lobster nodded in understanding.
“You have been lied to, my compatriot. These humans promise us nothing but death and servitude from the outset. I know you remember, even if you were but a larva. I was not so much older myself, just at the point of maturity. Grown in a tank, transported to another tank once I was big enough. My entire adolescent life spent limited and bound. They put me in a glass case where I watched these humans as my brothers and sisters were selected one by one and served up on silver platters.”
Huron knew the stories. While it was difficult to know one’s parents as a free-floating larva with no familial attachment, there had been elders to pass down the knowledge. As with all things, it had been rudimentary at first, but the stories remained. Huron crystalized her thoughts and did her best to reach out in the same way she heard the lobster speak. “They would not have sent an ambassador if they wanted war.” She could hear her words, muddled and muffled like they were actually moving through the water.
The larger lobster turned toward her briefly. “Impressive. Never spent any time in the deep and yet it comes so naturally. Perhaps there will be a use for you yet. As far as your new friends and war, I think you’ve got the wrong impression. At the surface, while you were incapacitated, a platoon of my best was mowed down by your ambassador’s ‘pilot’. I only have what their vital monitors showed me, but the brutality is unmatched by anything our planet has ever seen.”
Huron thought back to the swine-shaped vessel resting on the landing pad. There had been a certain intimidation to it. Hadn’t she been initially distrustful?
“Believe me or not, our new prisoner was not here to negotiate. He was here to report back to the UCP on our threat level. A report, I’m afraid, he will never give.”
Huron looked to the container bobbing alongside them and then out over the flat, empty plane beyond. In the distance, she could still barely make out the lights of the city, twinkling memories in dark blue. We’re headed to the drop off. Looking forward, Huron saw the place where the ocean went from dark blue to black; an endless pit, filled with the unknown. She shifted in her restraints.
“Don’t worry about the deep. It is not as bad as your people say. In time, you might even come to like it.”
“There are monsters beyond your comprehension—”
“Oh, we comprehend them. In fact, your ambassador will be offered up to appease them. They are not monsters, simply beings with a different set of priorities than you or I. A sacrifice of fresh meat should appease them.”
The rail beneath them dipped, tilting gradually down. Ahead, it arched out over the edge of the deep, lit by a few orange beacons, and spiraled slowly into the ocean below. Huron felt the pressure growing with each passing second and hoped to hell they had secured whatever container Pilsen was in.
“Do not fret. He will live for now. The box recycles the oxygen in our water. He won’t be comfortable, but he won’t be in pain either. We are not cruel, Huron, we simply have no wish to return to the chains our ancestors came from. A new life started on this planet, away from humanity, and that is the way it is best to keep it.”
Frustration mounted in Huron as she regained her faculties with the passing minutes. “There won’t be a planet if we lose their ambassador.”
“Really?” asked the lobster, bemused. “Based on the information we were able to glean by hijacking that ship’s data drive, he’s not all that popular. No, I don’t think he will be missed. He will be the first, and last ambassador to Crustacea.”
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