The First Ambassador to Crustacea (11)

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11. Behemoth

Pilsen had plenty of time to think. After his brief chat with the leader of the lobster rebellion, he liked his odds of survival even less. Still, he hoped for a miracle. From the darkness, he plotted his political return. He would tell the tales of the brutality he faced on Crustacea and martial a force large enough to make the planet pay for its political crimes. The people loved a war-time politician. Nothing was better for one’s career than others dying in some land close enough to mean something, but far enough away to censor the bloodshed.

 A loud click beneath his box and a sudden tilting sensation broke Pilsen from his dream. The harsh, cold reality of his imprisonment slammed into his chest. He could feel his weight shifting slowly into his shoes. They were nice shoes, meant to impress. Instead, they were covered in muck at the bottom of a damp box at the bottom of a damp planet. Life had its own sense of humor.

 The box lid slid open, revealing the gloomy ocean beyond and Gabriel, standing silhouetted against it. “Hello again, Ambassador Pilsen.”

From a standing position, the creature looked even larger than before. Pieces of its shell were missing or cracked. Pilsen projected as much strength as he could muster. “Have you reconsidered your planet’s diplomatic future with the UCP?”

Gabriel shook his head. “No, no I haven’t.”

“Right.”

 “But if it would please you to know, Huron fought to try and rescue you.” Gabriel stepped aside and motioned a claw toward the incapacitated crab. She was barely standing, her black eyes looking lazily around, stunned. “It was a fool’s errand, of course, but valiant, nonetheless. I’m beginning to understand why the people like her.”

“A valiant political servant.” The people also loved politicians that died for a cause, but it was a shit way to get reelected.  

“I suppose you see yourself as much of the same?”

 “I do what’s asked of me.”

Gabriel nodded and flicked a switch on the side of the container.

Cold water rose slowly to meet Pilsen’s feet and terror found its way into his throat. Time was well and truly out.

 “Relax, breathe. We’re only equalizing you. There would be no point in drowning you.”

Pilsen let out a sigh of relief. “Mercy after all?” He tried to keep his mind off the retribution the people of Crustacea would be facing either way.

“No, not mercy. She won’t come after you if you’re dead.”

“She?”

“Deep breaths, Ambassador Pilsen.” Gabriel backed away steadily. “If you hold it in, your lungs will explode. Trust me, that’s far more painful.”

“W-wait. You can’t be seriously considering this.  I am an appointed ambassador of the UCP! This is at least three steps past the line for war crimes!” The war crimes had started with the kidnapping of a messenger, but there was no point in telling the brutes that. Pilsen’s mind raced, trying to find any way out. He wasn’t sure how far it was to the surface, but he was sure he couldn’t make it without dying from some manner of pressure sickness.

It was only then that he realized Gabriel wasn’t the one backing way. A thin line ran down the middle of a metal platform from Pilsen’s position to the edge of the shelf. Strange chunks of rock clung to the surface, surrounded by ghostly white debris. The farther he moved from the shelf, the harder it got to make the pieces out. The orange lights of relative safety faded to inky blackness. What in the hell have you gotten yourself into, Pilsen? There was nothing in the UCP’s ambassador manual about getting kidnapped by a hostile race of lobsters.

A flash of bright white temporarily blinded him. Pilsen jerked in his box, moving back from the sudden, painful light. The afterimage was still burning in his eyes when the light flashed again. This time, there was less pain, and he was able to make out lines of bulbs on the edges of the platform. They flashed on and off rhythmically, casting long shadows through the murk. With each passing flash, it became a little easier to take in his surroundings.

White spots hung in the air like lazy snowfall. The rocks lining the platform were multicolored, sharp, and familiar. Pilsen leaned closer to the glass, trying to get a better look at them. The water moved up to his ankles. In the brief moments of light, he could make out beautiful, multicolored shells. There were claws of varying sizes and what he now recognized as the Crustacean’s natural armor. He was traveling backwards through a graveyard.

The container stopped and rotated so that it faced the abyss. Water trickled up past Pilsen’s stomach. He no longer felt the cold. Fear took over every emotion, sending his heart hammering in his chest. This is not how I die. All that pension, wasted. There would be no one to benefit from his life insurance policy aside from a few very exotic, very dead houseplants.

A spark, glinting in the darkness. Pilsen leaned forward, nearly touching the glass. It was a mech suit, hovering just on the edge of the light’s reach. It looked old and bulky, but he knew one person that would have brought it along. “Zip!” he shouted aloud, wincing at the sound of his own voice in the confined space. He pounded at the glass, trying to get her attention.  Sound carries through water, right? He continued to make all manner of racket he could with what little space he was allowed. The water crept over his chest.

The mech suit started to turn. “YES! Zip, I’m over here!” I’ll recommend her for a thousand commendations. She’ll never have to work a grunt job like this again. Neither of us will. The spark that had lit the flame of Pilsen’s political ambitions was back once more. The future was bright. Brighter for him of course, but there was still a hazy shine to Zip’s as well. She could be his driver, or something. That was better than working out in the ass end of the galaxy, right?

The light flashed white and Pilsen’s joyous pounding on the glass barrier stopped. A horrible, wide creature composed almost entirely of teeth and eyes rose from the deep. No. The water reached his lower lip. How had it gotten so high? Attack the big mech suit. Go for the big shiny thing. The creature did not go for mech suit. 

A hundred eyes, all milky white, set atop a wide, barrel of a frame, shot toward Pilsen at alarming speed. The creature’s arrival was preceded by a wake that shook the container back and forth, but he hardly noticed. Water passed his nose, and he held his breath, what little was left of it. The creature’s jaws were open wide, revealing a yawning chasm of thick, pointed teeth. I hope it’s quick.

Around Pilsen, the sides of the box clicked and separated. To his dismay, he did not die immediately from depressurization. He drifted upward, the little air in his lungs making him buoyant. He floated away from the platform, making no effort to try and escape. This was the end, and it had been a wasted life.

A line of micro missiles erupted from the mech, streaking toward the creature, but hitting with little effect. Some things are just too big, reflected Pilsen. Then, there was nothing but the overwhelming mass of the creature, looming before him, and eventually passing around him. A deep, guttural groan shook his body as the creature’s mouth closed. Pilsen let out his last breath, bubbles floating upward toward nothingness. Blinding pain, crushing him from every conceivable angle. Confusion. Nothing.  


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