driving very fast Avoire got me to the jetport in time to catch
the evening flight to the New African Moon. I was even able to
pick up my luggage from the hotel. I boarded the shuttle, strapped
in, and was promptly thrown back into my seat by the takeoff.
The shuttle was old, and the flight was mostly geared towards
technicians and laborers, not commercial travelers, so they didn't
bother to adjust the gravity or take off or land smoothly or anything
like that. It took less than an hour, but it was a very very long
hour by my reckoning. When I got off I had to run to the ladies
room and be sick. I knelt in the stall for several minutes until
the floor stopped feeling like it was dropping out from under
me, and then I staggered to the sink and ran some cold water over
my head. This gave me a piercing headache, but it was better than
I was able to walk without vomiting, I went over to the ITG booking
desk and arranged to get on the flight the next morning to New
Arctica, and also to spend the night in the spaceport hotel. The
gravity on the New African Moon was much lower than I was used
to, so I felt rotten the whole time I was there, and even though
I certainly wasn't looking forward to another shuttle ride, I
was so glad to get off the moon I would have taken the shuttle
back to New Windhoek if that's what it took.
flight to New Arctica was very longalmost three dayssince
we had to stop at Pangea and Gaia on the way. I was annoyed to
spend so much time in my cabin, and annoyed to miss the sights
of Pangea and Gaia, and even more annoyed I'd probably have to
go back at some point. The only good thing about the long trip
was that it gave me plenty of time to write up my report and read
all about New Arctica and why I needed to go there.
Arctica was settled about sixty years ago by a joint Japanese-Chinese-American
venture. It's mostly ocean, and the polar ice caps extend down
to the 45th parallel. It has lots of its own fish-like creatures,
which turned out to be edible by humans, so the original plan
was to turn it into a giant fishery and export frozen fish to
the rest of the galaxy. Space travelers and other planets bought
the fish in large quantities, but of course Earth refused to import
it, despite intense lobbying by the three governments that had
funded the settlement (they all insisted the fish would be perfectly
safe while expressing grave doubts about the safety of products
from New Africa).
about fifty years ago, the New Jo-Burg Facility had its major
breakthrough with gene splicing of Terran and non-Terran DNA.
They started working on the dragons and then on the fruit from
Fischer Island, and then someone got the bright idea to start
experimenting with the fish from New Arctica. Lots of creatures
were made, most of which either couldn't survive or couldn't be
eaten. About thirty years ago someone came up with another bright
idea, which was to add the genetic material of whales to the mix.
took them more than a decade, but eventually they made viable
fish-whales and started populating the ocean with them. The fish-whales
were between ten and forty meters long, capable of breathing both
air and water, swimming on the surface and at great depth, communicating
by sonar, sensing things by electromagnetic charge, giving birth
to live young as well as producing great quantities of roe, and
so on and so forth. They could be harvested for all the products
that people wanted from Terran oceans but couldn't get legally.
one point of view the fish-whales were a great success. A single
specimen could produce whale blubber, ambergris, red or black
caviar, shark fins, and high-quality tuna flesh, for example.
from another point of view it was all a big failure, since Earth
still hasn't given import permission.
report Mr. Thwaite sent me was so complicated I had to read it
three times before I could make any sense of it, but once I did
I saw why he wanted me to go to New Arctica immediately, although
I didn't see I would be able to do anything useful.
report was from a scientist on Novy Mir. The specimens he had
been given by the New Arctica Board of Trade had all seemed fine,
and the people on Novy Mir had just finished their ten-year trials
and were about to recommend import permission be granted.
this scientist had taken a trip to New Arctica last year. While
there, he had deposited portions of his sashimi and shark fin
soup and caviar and so on into climate-controlled containers in
the lining of his jacket, and smuggled them back to Novy Mir.
back on the space station, he had started running unofficial tests
on his samples, and had gotten radically different results from
the official tests he'd been doing. Some of the stuff he'd found
had been relatively benignhigher concentrations of heavy
metals than in the official samples, for exampleand some
of it had been much more alarming. He provided lots of charts
and graphs I didn't really understand, but what I did understand
was that the DNA of the unofficial samples was not the same as
the DNA of the official samples, and he was concerned it could
have carcinogenic and possibly even mutinogenic effects, although
he had not been able to run the ten-year trials yet, of course.
He concluded by stating that he was running tests on himself for
cancer (which was relatively easy to cure) and mutations in his
reproductive cells (which were not).
sent Mr. Thwaite a message asking if he thought it would be okay
for me to eat the food they gave me on New Arctica, and he wrote
back saying I would have to use my best judgment, which wasn't
a very helpful answer, so I wrote to the researcher on Novy Mir,
whose name was Avram Osipov, to ask him. His message, which I
got only a couple of hours before landing, said:
Dear Ms. Tremaine,
I did not see any sign of damage to anyone on New Arctica.
I haven't found any mutations in my own DNA yet. My advice:
try to eat as little as possible, but don't make a fuss.
didn't make me feel a lot better, but I didn't see anything I
could do about it, so I disembarked with everyone else at New
Kyoto, New Arctica.
was met at the gate by a young woman named Hatsumi Chen. She was
only about 1 meter 50, and very pretty. The first thing she asked
me after "Did you have a good flight?" was why I had
bumped my trip up a couple of weeks. Obviously I couldn't tell
her the truth.
had another outbreak of avian flu over on Pangea," I told
her. This was true. "They said they might have to quarantine
me if I came, so I decided to come to New Arctica first and then
work my way back." Actually, they'd told me I probably wouldn't
have to be quarantined if I came, but I figured Hatsumi wouldn't
know that. She said she'd heard about the outbreak, and promised
me there was nothing like that on New Arctica. She spoke very
good English with only a trace of an accent.
Kyoto looked like pictures I'd seen of Japanese cities back on
Earth, except smaller and colder. There were a few black-glass
skyscrapers downtown with holo-ads in Japanese characters floating
over them, and some temples, and a couple of parks with small,
carefully sculpted evergreens and hump-backed bridges, and then
we were out in the country, which was basically flat. In the city
the snow was mostly cleared away, but out in the country it must
have been a meter thick. Everyone I saw was wearing parkas and
heavy boots. I didn't have either of those things, so I bought
some in the spaceport.
road ran along the top of a low bluff overlooking the ocean. The
water wasn't frozen, but there were big piles of ice on the beach.
Hatsumi told me they had just had the big ice breakup. She said
in the winter it often got down to -50. I said that sounded way
too cold for me, and she said lots of incomers thought so, but
for Arcticans it was the best time of year, because you could
ski everywhere and skate out on the ocean and generally have a
about an hour of driving on the flat straight road, we came to
a low gray building that was partly on the shore and partly over
the water. It had the words "New Kyoto Research Station"
floating above it in English. As I was watching the words changed
to Japanese and then Chinese characters. The sky and the snow
and the ocean and everything else was gray, so the red letters
were the only bright thing around.
were only a couple of other cars in the parking lot. The inside
of the station was gray concrete with exposed piping. The whole
thing looked like it could be hosed down easily, like a vet's
or a slaughterhouse. We wound around through a few corridors without
seeing anyone, and ended up in a small room with worn dirty carpet
and dishes and appliances and the smell of bad coffee. There were
two people waiting for us there: a tall Caucasian man with graying
hair, and a young Asian man.
good, you made it," said the Caucasian man as soon as we
came in. "I'm Bob Thomas, head researcher here, and this
is my assistant, Lin."
shook hands all around. Bob offered me some coffee, but even though
I was pretty hungry and tired after all my traveling, I wasn't
that desperate, so I said no thank you. Then Bob said everyone
had been awfully surprised at my schedule change, and I explained
about the avian flu, and said something about how I hoped I wasn't
inconveniencing anyone, and he said no of course not, and told
me if I felt up to it I could starting touring the facility right
The New Kyoto Research Station
started out our tour of the Station walking down more echoing
concrete corridors, and then we went through a big airlock and
into a part of the facility that was much colder.
thought I'd give you a look at some live specimens first,"
Bob told me. "This is where we have our birthing and spawning
tanks. The fish-whales can be either live-birthed or spawned from
roe. We decide depending on a number of factors. Obviously spawning
is much more efficient, but for new experimental species we often
do live births. We inseminate with AI, or do in vitro fertilization."
I wanted to know how they did all the procedures, so Bob took
me to their treatment tank. It was at least 30 meters across and
10 meters deep, and lined and floored with concrete.
drive or lure them in here, and administer a tranq in the water,"
he explained. "Then, once they're out, we immobilize them
with these belts"there were belts hanging from the
ceiling"and do whatever procedure is necessary."
was nothing in the tank just then, but the size of it gave me
a little shiver, thinking how huge the fish-whales must be, especially
when Bob told me they couldn't fit the really big ones in there,
and had to catch them out in the open and shoot them with harpoon
tranqs if they needed to do anything to them.
we saw a spawning tank full of translucent roe. I could see the
tiny fish bodies curled up inside the eggs, which were about the
size of my fist. Bob said they could adjust things so they produced
either the large fertile roe or the small roe for caviar. Then
we went to the baby tank, which had the newly-hatched fish-whales
they're live-birthed they have to stay with their mothers till
they're weaned, like whales," Bob explained, "but if
they're spawned they're on their own, like fish. Species doesn't
matter: the same species can be raised either way." The baby
fish-whales ranged in size from the length of my hand to the length
of my arm. Most of them swam around in the water, but occasionally
one would beach itself on a platform on the side of the tank.
I could see their gills and their blow-holes. One breached and
live here for six months," Bob said, "and then move
into the adolescent tank." We went into another room, and
saw fish-whales the size of my body swimming around. They seemed
aware we had come in, and a couple of them jumped out of the water
you've still got your parka," said Bob. "Once they reach
one year we raise that wall over there," he pointed to the
far wall, which was on tracks like a garage door, "and let
them loose. They're fitted with tracking devices, so we always
know where they are. Let's go on to the outdoor tanks."
went through a small door leading out onto a platform that extended
over the ocean. There were several circular fenced-in areas in
the water, each about fifty or sixty meters across.
we need to bring in an adult for observation, we drive them into
here," Bob told me. "You're in luck: there's one in
T1, the farthest tank on your right."
turned to my right, and sure enough, I saw the back of something
about ten meters long break the surface and then dive down out
of sight. I knew that it was only a small one, but it was still
explained they had dug out the sea floor under the tanks, so the
fish-whales could descend to a comfortable depth if they wanted
to. I asked him what they ate, and he said the adult ones provided
for themselves by hunting native fish, or, depending on species,
by eating native plankton-like creatures.
find it gives them a slightly unusual taste, compared with Terran
fish or whales, but most people like it as well as or better,"
he told me. "At first they were unable to digest the native
life forms properly, but then they adapted to it, and now they
will choose native fish over Terran ones, and often lose weight
on a diet of Terran feed. We're still not sure how they did it."
asked him if this concerned him, and he said no, it was much easier
to let them feed themselves off of native food, and no adverse
affects had been noticed yet, and he didn't expect there to be
any. Then he toured me through the labs and the feedrooms, and
then showed me to my room, where my luggage was waiting for me.
room at the Station had unpainted concrete walls and exposed piping
just like everywhere else in the building. The heating system
rattled and groaned in the night, which kept me up. That, combined
with the space lag, made me pretty tired the next day, so when
we took a small boat out onto the water to look at full-grown
fish-whales I hardly even had the energy to feel queasy.
the sea was pretty flat, with hardly any swell, so I was pretty
much okay and after a little while I left the cabin and went out
onto the deck.
told me the fish-whales mostly stayed within about ten k of the
Station, except for once or twice a year when they'd make some
kind of a migratory journey and swim all the way over to the other
continent, about a thousand k away. He said they didn't know why
they did ittheir behavior was often inexplicable. For example,
they didn't know how intelligent the fish-whales really were.
They seemed to be somewhat trainable, but no one had made any
experiments to see how much.
like this," said Bob, pointing to a group of sleek backs
swimming rapidly towards us. "They seem to know what our
intentions are towards them. So if we're just coming out to observe
them, they come right over and beg for food. But if we want to
catch one for some kind of procedure, they're much more elusive.
A couple of times I've had all the others come over, but the one
I want will stay away, like it knows. And rounding them up for
slaughter is getting to be more and more difficult."
then one of the fish-whales knocked against the boat, causing
it to rock wildly. It expelled a big plume of steam through its
air hole, making a surprisingly loud bellows noise. Then it dove
down out of sight, making the boat rock again. I could see a ring
of smooth water widening out from where it had been. It must have
been over 30 meters long, and in its own way was almost as frightening
as the dragons.
their way of begging," Bob told me. "If we don't feed
them, they start nudging the boat more and more. One time we kept
waiting to feed them to see what they would do, and this one here
pulled back a little ways, picked up some speed, and rammed us.
We nearly went over. So now we always feed them right away."
and another man came out with big buckets of cut-up pieces of
fish. When I asked, they told me it was native fish. It looked
and smelled about the same as Terran fish, although I don't know
all that much about fish. They hooked a bucket onto the arm of
a catapult-like contraption on the deck, pulled a lever, and shot
the fish pieces up and out, so that they landed in the water about
twenty meters away.
used to just drop the fish over the side," Lin told me, "but
now if we do that, they come up much too quickly and destabilize
the boat, so we had to come up with this baby." He patted
the catapult. "I built it myself," he said proudly.
He shot off another load.
fish-whales had gathered around the food and were quarreling over
it like dogs, shoving each other and slapping each other with
like I was saying," Bob continued, "last year we couldn't
hardly bring them in for
slaughter for love nor money. We used to just come out here, harpoon
a few, pull them in to the Station behind the boats, and get to
work, but last year they went about forty, fifty k farther out
than normal, and once we finally found them, they led us all over
Creation. It turned out that even our high-powered slaughter boats
could hardly keep up with them when they were swimming at full
speed, and they were damn agile, too. Then, when we finally got
some, the others tried to ram our boats. We shot at them and they
swam off, but they followed us just out of gun range all the way
back to the Station. And they made the most awful racket the whole
time we were cleaning and processing the ones we'd gotten."
fish-whales had finished eating and came back over to the boat,
so we turned around and headed back for the Station.
gave me access to all their research results and records, and
the next day I uploaded them onto my Perdie and studied them,
but they didn't tell me very much. Everything they'd given me
checked out with the official reports from Novy Mir. I couldn't
really think of what else to do, so when Hatsumi asked me if I
wanted to go in to Little Tokyo, a town just up the coast, I said
sure. We drove over that evening.
Tokyo didn't look at all like the pictures I'd seen of Tokyo back
on Earth: there were no skyscrapers, no flashing lights, and hardly
any traffic. There were a few temples that looked very red and
jolly in the snow, and a park with interestingly-shaped small
evergreens, and a bunch of prefab concrete buildings that looked
a lot like the Station, only smaller. Hatsumi parked in a public
parking lot on the edge of town, and we walked in. It was completely
flat, and except for the park, there were no trees, so there was
nothing to stop the cold wind from blowing down the street and
right through our clothing. I decided I didn't like New Arctica
very much, but I didn't want to say so to Hatsumi, who was telling
me about how much she loved her home planet and how she didn't
want to leave, even though she'd been offered a job on Earth and
her mother wanted her to take it.
went into a small restaurant whose name was in Japanese. We had
miso soup, and then Hatsumi ordered all different kinds of sushi
and sashimi, in Japanese so I didn't know what was coming. When
it came, I looked at all the fish, which she told me proudly was
all locally grown, and wished I had become a vegetarian. Hatsumi
told me she ate at this restaurant several times a week, it was
her favorite, and she didn't seem to be showing any signs of permanent
damage, so I ate as much as I could, but every time I had to swallow,
my throat closed and I had to force it down. Of course, I don't
really like raw fish anyway. It was one of the only times I've
ever thought of going into the bathroom and sticking my finger
down my throat after a meal.
supper we went out to a bar. Everything there was in Japanese
too. Hatsumi said Little Tokyo had the highest concentration of
Japanese people on New Arctica: of its ten thousand inhabitants,
more than nine thousand were Japanese, unlike New Kyoto, which
was split pretty evenly between Japanese, Americans, and Chinese.
boyfriend is supposed to be here," she said once we'd gotten
our drinks. And by the time we had finished our drinks, a young
man came over, sat down next to Hatsumi, and kissed her cheek.
She introduced him as Taki, and told him what I was doing there.
a Terran," he said in good English. "We hardly ever
get any of those out here. If they come to New Arctica at all,
they never get out of New Kyoto. They never experience the real
said I was eager to experience the real New Arctica, and asked
him for suggestions. He said coming to the bar was a good first
start, but I should build on it by coming out with him and Hatsumi
and some of their friends the next day, which was a Saturday.
They were going to go hover riding, he said, which apparently
was the activity of choice on New Arctica. I said that sounded
great, although inside I was kind of doubtful. It sounded cold.
But I was hoping I might hear something useful.
Real New Arctica
spent the night in the only hotel in Little Tokyo. My room was
literally 3x3x3 meters. Hatsumi had explained to me that this
was the fashion in Japan, where tiny things were prized and space
was hard to come by. My bathroom was about the size of something
in a space shuttle. I didn't see why there should be such a need
to economize on space in New Arctica, which was about 99% empty,
but apparently this was what people were used to.
and Taki came over early the next morning, before the sun had
fully risen, but I was more than glad to get out of my minuscule
room anyway. We had a breakfast of hydroponically-grown rice (because
New Arctica was way too cold to grow rice normally) and hydroponically-grown
pickled plums (ditto). Then we got into Hatsumi's car and drove
down the coast road. To our right was flat snow all the way to
the horizon, and to our left was flat ocean. Occasionally a fish-whale
would breach and fluke, but that was the only break in the flatness
all around us.
about an hour we came to a parking lot on the bluff overlooking
the ocean. Several other cars were parked there, some of them
with trailers loaded with hovers. They looked exactly like the
hovers we used back home: saddle, handlebars, hoverjets on the
bottom. I counted ten people waiting in the parking lot. All of
them were about my age, and all of them were Japanese.
introduced me as a visitor from Earth without specifying why I
was visiting. Everyone spoke English, although some better than
others. After greeting me, everyone started unloading the hovers.
There were twelve of them and thirteen of us, but Hatsumi said
she'd ride with Taki so I could have my own. I was also able to
borrow a wetsuit that was only slightly too short from one of
the men. Within a few minutes the parking lot was filled with
the sound of the hoverjets, and we set off down the road.
also provided me with a helmet and radio. She explained over it
that we were going to ride down the road a little ways-traffic
was so light, she said, that we didn't have to worry about meeting
anyone coming the other way-to a place where the land dipped down
to the sea, and then go out over the water. "If we're lucky,"
she said, "we'll see some fish-whales up close! Sometimes
they like to come look at the hovers."
enough, the land dipped down till it was level with the shore,
and we turned left and went across the beach and onto the water.
I had never gone hovering over the sea before, and I found out
that even though it looked flat from a distance, it had considerably
more swell than a lake. I kept smacking into the tops of the waves
went around in circles for a little while, until I had mastered
the waves and the others had gotten all the racing and cutting
doughnuts out of their systems, and then we headed out towards
the horizon. In a surprisingly short time we were out of sight
of the shore, which made me nervous but didn't seem to bother
anyone else. My hover had a compass and a Satellite Tracking System
on the handlebars, but the readouts were in Japanese.
formed up in a circle again, and the leader, a very short girl
named Tomo who had entertained us in the parking lot by doing
flips over the hovers, starting cutting across everyone else's
wake and doing jumps. Soon several others joined her, and it turned
into a kind of game of tag, where each person tried to jump as
many other people's wakes without letting anyone else jump their
wake. The rest of us tried to keep circling sedately, but it was
difficult with all the chop from the racers.
said Hatsumi's voice in my ear. "Fish-whales!"
looked off in the direction I thought was away from the shore,
and saw several sleek backs appear briefly and then dive back
coming towards us!" I said.
I told you: they like to look. Don't worry: they won't come too
that moment Tomo saw the approaching fish-whales and shot off
towards them. I heard Hatsumi shout something to her over the
radio, and Tomo reply, but of course I had no idea what they'd
wants to jump the fish-whales," said Hatsumi. "I told
her it was a bad idea, but she's doing it anyway, and Aki and
Yoko are following her."
rest of us stopped circling and watched as the three hovers raced
towards the fish-whales. I could see Tomo heading straight towards
a smooth slick spot where one of them had just breached. She crossed
it and then said something in the radio.
says it's no fun, they don't leave any wake," Hatsumi told
turned around and starting coming back in our direction. The back
of one of the fish-whales cut right across her path, and instead
of swerving she jumped straight over it.
she screamed into the radio. She circled around, and said something.
says she can see it, it's right beneath her," Hatsumi told
me. "She wants to jump it again."
was about to ask if she thought that was safe, but I didn't have
to because just then a huge tail came out of the water and lifted
Tomo's hover up into the air. It sailed several meters and crashed
down on its side. The hoverjets sent it shooting across the surface,
with Tomo underneath. Since she was still connected to the handlebars,
the deadman's switch wasn't pulled out and the hover didn't stall.
Several people screamed. Then they screamed again, because another
one of the fish-whales had come up behind Yoko, grabbed the skirt
at the bottom of her hover with its teeth, and started shaking
it back and forth. Aki tried to go over to her, but a tail swipe
sent him skidding across the water. When he brought his hover
back under control and tried to go back to her, a fish-whale blocked
his path, and every time he tried to swerve around it, it herded
him back towards the shore.
Tomo had managed to turn the jets on her hover off, swim out from
under it, right it, and get back on it. She started it up again
and tried to go over to Yoko, but she too was cut off by a fish-whale
and herded in the direction of the shore. She shouted something
into the radio, and Hatsumi shouted back.
contacted the station," she explained to me. "They're
coming out, but I don't know if they'll be here in time."
it's letting her go!" I said. The fish-whale that had bitten
Yoko's hover had let go of it and given it a hard nudge with its
nose. Yoko tried to ride off, but because the skirt was damaged,
the hover kept sinking down on its left side and drifting off
to the left.
coming back!" screamed Hatsumi, but Yoko's fish-whale didn't
attack, it only shoved the hover in the direction it wanted it
to go in, which was towards us. Every time the hover drifted too
far to the left, it would shove it back on course. Aki tried to
go over to her again, but another fish-whale cut between them
and stopped him.
should go," I said when they started drawing close to us.
"Probably they want all of us to go."
can't leave them!" shouted Hatsumi, seconded by several of
can we do?" I asked. "They're not hurting them now,
and I doubt they'll let us get close."
can't leave her!" repeated Akira, the person nearest to me.
He powered up his jets and started out towards Yoko. A small fish-whale
that must have been swimming under the surface suddenly breached
in front of him and swept at him with its tail. It didn't make
contact, but the waves it created drove him backwards. Every time
he tried to turn, it cut in front of him like a cutting horse
separating a calf from the herd. He was close enough I could hear
when he increased the power to his jets.
I shouted without even meaning to, but he didn't hear me, or didn't
pay attention, and tried to jump the fish-whale's back. It was
only about ten meters long, so it was agile enough to jump as
he went over it, catching him with its back and sending his hover
flying. He and the hover hit the water separately, several meters
apart. Everyone screamed.
eats him!" shrieked Sakiko.
fish-whale didn't eat him; it waited a few meters away as he righted
his hoverwhich had stalled as soon he had been thrown off,
jerking out the deadman's switchgot back on it, and started
it up again.
tell him to come right back," I said into the radio. "I
don't think they're going to hurt us if we leave."
said Hatsumi. She spoke into the radio. I didn't have to understand
Japanese to know that Akira and Aki both argued with her, but
Tomo agreed immediately, and Yoko, her voice trembling as her
fish-whale escort nudged her back on track, chimed in in support.
all powered up our jets and started going slowly towards the shore.
None of the fish-whales tried to stop us, but several of themthere
must have been more than twenty of themcircled around us,
making sure we didn't try to bolt off anywhere. One came quite
close to me. It must have been at least 25 meters long, and looked
sort of like the world's biggest dolphin, only with gills. It
rolled slightly sideways as it went past and eyed me intently,
and I was aware of the intelligence behind its gaze.
escort remained with us until we reached water shallow enough
I could see the bottom, and then waited just offshore until we
rode up onto the road. When we turned right and started back to
the cars, I could see the pod shadow us down the beach until we
reached the parking lot.
the time we got off our hovers, Tomo had recovered enough from
the shock to laugh through her chattering teeth and claim it as
a great adventure. Aki and Akira were both angry as well as cold,
though, and Yoko was in tears. It turned out that one of the fish-whale's
teeth had grazed her leg as it was shaking her hover, and it had
ripped her wetsuit and scraped her leg.
big!" she sobbed to me. "Big teeth! I thoughteat
me!" We bundled her, Tomo, Aki, and Akira into one of the
cars with lots of warm clothing, and started loading up the hovers.
Yoko's hover was barely functional by then: the left side of the
skirt was ripped all to shreds.
Station must have deployed its fastest boat, because it had already
arrived by the time we had loaded up the hovers. They hailed Hatsumi
over the radio, and told her to take the four who had been attacked
back to the Station to be checked out and also interviewed, while
they drove the pod back to the station.
they got to us, the people from the Station conferred for a little
while over what to do with the renegade fish-whales.
group was about ready for slaughter anyway," I heard Bob
say over the radio. "We'll probably just go ahead and get
the job done while we've got them."
told me someone else would take me back to the Station, since
she couldn't fit any more people in her car, and drove off. The
rest of us stayed by unspoken agreementor maybe only spoken
in Japaneseto watch the boat drive the pod to the Station.
main boat deployed three small hoverboats with two people each
on them, and two more people on hovers. They formed up on three
sides of the pod and began to move towards it. The fish-whales
remained stubbornly still. One of the people in the hoverboat
nearest to us fired a gun into the air. The fish-whales milled
around a little but still refused to move. The same person fired
directly at one of the fish-whalesthe gun must have been
loaded with birdshot or blanks, I thought. The fish-whale turned
and lunged at the boat, driving it backwards with the wave they
created. Several of the people in the parking lot cried out.
people on the boats and the hovers appeared to hold a little radio
conference, and then went back over to the main boat and got different
guns. I assumed these were loaded with real bullets or tranq darts.
They went back to their positions. Someone fired into the air
again. The closest fish-whale dove down into the water and came
up under the hoverboat containing the shooter, lifting it up into
the air and throwing it sideways. Both the people in it fell out,
and the shooter lost his gun. In the parking lot we all screamed
fish-whale ignored the two people swimming back for the main boat,
concentrating instead on smashing the hoverboat to pieces. Several
of other members of the pod came over to investigate.
of the two remaining hoverboats picked up the swimmers and brought
them back to the main boat, while the people in the other hoverboat
and on the two hovers all opened fire on the fish-whales. I saw
that the people in the hoverboats were armed with harpoon tranqs,
and the ones on the hovers with guns. The fish-whales nearest
them were soon covered with darts and also bullet holes, but that
didn't slow them down. In fact, they made several feints towards
was wondering why they didn't just attack when I saw several more
members of the pod circling around behind the hoverboat and the
hovers. Taki saw the same thing, and shouted a warning into the
radio, but it came too late: the fish-whales came up under the
boat and the hovers and threw them into the air.
were now four people in the water. Their bright red life vests
and wet suits stood out sharply against the gray ocean. Three
of them started swimming towards the main boat. They crawled along,
flailing and awkward compared with the fish-whales, but the fish-whales
fourth person had kept a hold of his gun, and instead of dropping
it and trying to escape, he fired it at the nearest fish-whale.
The bullet caught it in the eye, and I could see the blood gush
out. The fish-whale bellowed and jerked all over, and then went
dead," said Taki. "They will leave now."
they didn't. Two other fish-whales closed in on the shooter. He
fired at one, but the bullet buried into its side without appearing
to do any damage. It thrashed angrily and then lunged at the shooter,
catching him by the shoulder and lifting him up out of the water
and shaking him. The final remaining hoverboat came zooming over,
but before it could reach him, one of the fish-whales broadsided
it and knocked it over. The two people in it floundered around
in the water, splashing and shouting. One of them tried to swim
over to the main boat, but he was intercepted by a fish-whale,
who nudged him towards the shore. Other fish-whales started driving
the second man in the same direction.
fish-whale that had been shaking the shooter let him back down
into the water, but didn't let go of him. It also began swimming
towards the shore, quickly passing the other two people. It beached
itself, dropped the shooter, and pushed itself backwards off the
sand and into the water with its flippers. It snapped at the other
two men as it passed them, but only, I thought, to scare them.
Then it started swimming powerfully towards the main boat. More
and more members of the pod joined it.
They..." said Taki, but his English left him and he couldn't
say anything else.
we go down to the beach?" I asked Taki.
let's go help them," he said. He said something in Japanese,
and we all began jogging hurriedly down a narrow sandy path that
cut deeply into the bluff face and ran steeply down to the beach.
The others were yelling in Japanese as we ran, their voices rising
into shrieks when at least eight fish-whales converged on the
boat from all sides. It tried to speed away from them, but two
of them leapt out of the water and crashed onto its deck, while
two more grabbed its skirt with their teeth.
by this sight, we ended up sliding on the snow and sand to the
bottom, and struggling across sand and piles of ice to where the
man who had been bitten was lying. He had been slowly crawling
away from the water without making any apparent progress, and
I realized the tide was coming in and soon the entire beach would
be under water, judging by the tide marks on the bluffs. I looked
back up to see what was happening to the main boat.
two fish-whales that had landed on the deck started thrashing
around, knocking down the cabin and large pieces of the railing.
The two who had bitten into the skirt began ripping out large
chunks of it, and the rest started throwing their bodies against
the boat, smashing in the sides. It tipped over, spilling several
people into the water. Again, the fish-whales ignored them, concentrating
instead on tearing up the boat. One of them got hit by a powerjet
and reeled back, startled, but recovered quickly and threw itself
against the underside of the boat. The powerjets suddenly went
must do something!" said Taki in my ear.
I asked him. "I don't think the fish-whales want to hurt
didn't know how many people had been in the main boat, but seven
of them were now in the water. The fish-whales made no move to
attack them. The people gathered together about ten meters off
from where the fish-whales were destroying the boat like sharks
in a feeding frenzy, and started arguing and shouting at each
other. I couldn't hear the words, but from their hand gestures
I was willing to bet they were arguing over whether to swim for
safety or to try and fight off the fish-whales. Five of them began
swimming to shore. The other two hung back for a moment before
reluctantly joining them. The three from the hovers and the hoverboat
had almost reached the shore.
and Makihiko had knelt down by the man who had been bitten and
were trying to stop the bleeding from his shoulder. Keiko, Tadashi,
Sakiko, and Haruaki were huddled over them, offering suggestions.
The man tried to sit up, but they pushed him back down. Then a
wave washed over the whole group, drenching the feet of those
standing and causing the injured man to cough violently.
me to the cars," he said in English. Taki and Makihiko lifted
him up and began carrying him to the parking lot.
take him to hospital," Keiko told me. "We wait and help
three from the hovers crawled up out of the water then. One of
them was Lin.
going back to China!" he shouted, kneeling by my feet and
coughing up water. I asked him if he was okay, and he said he
was, but he didn't ever want to see another fish-whale in his
life, and he was never eating fish again and in fact he was going
to join a monastery and spend the rest of his life contemplating
the eightfold path and never having anything to do with animals,
Americans, or Japanese ever again.
first five from the boat came staggering up out of the ocean.
None of them were hurt. Most of the fish-whales had retreated
and were waiting out on the horizon line, but two of them were
still smashing up whatever parts of the boat were left.
sixth man came onto shore and joined us. He turned around and
saw that the seventh man had stopped in chest-deep water and was
standing there watching the destruction of the boat.
shouted the sixth man. "Bob, dammit, come on!"
biggest fish-whale turned from the remains of the boat and seized
a hover that was floating nearby. It reared up, shook the hover
in its teeth, and then hurled it up in the air and dove down and
struck the hover with its tail. The hover burst into pieces, which
flew thirty or forty meters before splashing back down.
damn you!" shouted Bob, shaking his fist at the fish-whales.
A big wave came and washed over him, knocking him off his feet.
damn you!" he shouted once he was standing again. Another
wave came and knocked him back over, and the fish-whales continued
to ignore him. There were no pieces left of the boat longer than
two or three meters. The last two fish-whales turned and swam
out to the rest of the pod.
for crying out loud, come out of the water," yelled the sixth
man, crossing his arms over his chest and hopping up and down.
His wetsuit had gotten ripped in two places, and there was a cold
wind blowing off the bluff.
I shouted, "come on, Bob, there's nothing left to do, we
have to go home."
to the girl," called the sixth man. "We've got to get
pod had disappeared over the horizon.
cried the sixth man, "we'll track them from the Station.
We can't do anything here. Come on, we have to go home. I'm freezing
my ass off."
reluctantly half-swam, half-walked to the shore. The waves kept
knocking him down. "We have to find them," he said as
soon as he reached us.
will," said the sixth man soothingly. "From the Station."
must be an aberration," said Bob. "A genetic aberration."
agreed the sixth man. "We'll go back to the Station, we'll
put them down, we'll look at their genetic records, and we'll
stop breeding from that line. You know, I had my reservations
about that shark blood."
wasn't the goddamn shark blood!" yelled Bob.
let's go, we're cold," said Keiko, coming up and taking him
by the arm.
touch me!" shouted Bob. He slapped her face, making her stagger
back and almost fall. She started to cry.
God's sake, man!" The sixth man took him by the other arm.
"You're not thinking straight. Lin, take the others back.
Bob: you, I, and you," he nodded at me, "we'll all go
back by ourselves, and we'll get warmed up, and we'll start tracking
them, okay? Okay? Come on, man, let's go." He started marching
Bob up to the parking lot.
Keiko's car," Lin said to me, tossing me the keys he had
taken out of her pocket. "I'll stuff the others into the
rest of the cars somehow or another. For God's sake, keep Bob
away from everyone else, okay?"
said I would do my best, and followed after Bob and the sixth
man. Bob had started to shout about the fish-whales again, and
then, when we got to the car, he began shivering violently, and
wretched up a bunch of water on the car wheel.
sixth man opened up the car, rummaged through the front compartment,
and brought out a first aid kit. "Here," he said, handing
Bob a small pill and bottle of water. "This will make you
feel better. I'll drive, you stretch out in the back and relax,
and you'll," he nodded at me again, "sit in front with
all got in and took off. I could see Lin stuffing people into
the remaining cars. At least they'd be warm. I introduced myself
to the sixth man, and he said his name was John and he was the
Station chief. Bob abruptly dropped off to sleep.
said John with satisfaction. "I hope he doesn't die of hypothermia
on the ride back."
said I hoped not too, although since we were all sweating heavily
in the wetsuits we'd never had time to change out of, I thought
it wasn't too likely.
man's distraught," said John. "That was a bad business
said uh-huh, and then John went on to tell me Bob had been having
an affair with Keiko for the past several months, even though
she was young enough to be his daughter and Bob had a wife who
was living back in New Kyoto because she couldn't stand living
at the Station, and all in all it was a big mess but he'd been
afraid to speak to Bob about it before, but now he'd really have
to do something, even though he hated interfering in the personal
lives of the people at his station.
you think it was the shark blood?" I asked.
made them go crazy like that? Yeah, what else could it be? I kept
telling Bob we were mixing in too much shark DNA and it would
come back to bite us, but he kept arguing it wasn't the sharks
we had to worry about, it was the orcas."
see, for the past year or so the fish-whales have been showing
signs of what we've been calling 'unusual intelligence,' as well
as violence. Bob always insisted it was the orcas. He said they
were 'making themselves smarter,' whatever that means, and he
blamed the orcas. I guess the worst incident was when two of them
turned on one of our assistants during a slaughter."
it was terrible. See, they'd been giving us more and more trouble,
refusing to come in, attacking people, that kind of thing. Then
about two months ago we were doing a routine slaughter, only five
of them, and it all went wrong. We were moving the second one
into the tank, and it must have guessed what was going onlike
I said, they'd been getting smarter about it, more suspiciousbecause
it just leaped up and knocked Wang into the tank, and then the
next one in line started throwing itself against the gate until
it broke it down, and the first one picked Wang up in its mouth
and tossed him into the air, and the second one caught him with
its tail like a tennis player catching a ball, and threw him out
of the tank and against the far wall."
poor guy, he had major lacerations, a broken collarbone, concussion,
the works. As soon as he got patched up he handed in his resignation
and moved back to New Shanghai. Last I heard, he was selling shoes.
And now this. The way they went after us, it was like they had
told him about how Tomo had jumped one of them, setting off the
John said. "Like I said, it looks like they're getting smarter.
We're going to have to do something. Change the breeding program
for sure, and maybe go ahead and slaughter all the current lines.
Although I don't know how; that was our best boat they smashed
up. We'll have to call for reinforcements, I guess."
stopped talking, which let me think my own thoughts. I thought
about the report I'd read, and the possible mutinogenic properties
of fish-whale flesh, and whether they themselves were mutating.
I also thought about the fact that I'd seen a major safety breach
at both the large-animal facilities I'd visited since I came offworld.
That seemed like a big coincidence to me. I couldn't believe someone
was arranging for me to witness the large-animal attacks, because
for one thing it would be crazy, and for another it would be almost
impossible to set up. So all I could conclude was that things
were badly wrong on both Draconia and New Arctica, and I had come
along at just the right time to witness the problem.
was starting to wake up again by the time we arrived at the Station,
so John and I were able to get him out of the car and into the
medical center without too much trouble. John asked me if I'd
been hurt, and I told him I hadn't gotten anywhere close to any
of the fish-whales, so all I was was cold, and I just wanted to
go back to my room, which I did.
Leaving New Arctica
came out of my room at suppertime, looking for something to eat.
There was a cafeteria on the second floor of the Station, and
I had been given a card with free meals on it. The cafeteria was
mostly empty when I showed up, so I didn't feel so self-conscious
as I went up and down the line, looking for something that didn't
have fish-whale products in it. I ended up eating cheese pizza.
It had been sitting out for a while, so the cheese had gone hard
and nasty, but I was pretty sure it was safe.
showed up just as I was finishing. "Is it good?" she
told her it wasn't, but I had been missing pizza and even bad
pizza was better than no pizza.
good," she said. She looked worried, so I asked how everyone
was, and she said they were all fine, just bruised and cold. She
ripped a paper napkin into shreds as she asked me what it was
like back home. She took a piece of burned crust off my plate
and broke it into lots of tiny pieces while I told her. Then she
said, "You see we have big problems here, Honey."
said yes, I'd noticed.
the thing is, you see, is that, well, they think it might be better
if you left. Because there's a lot they need to do right now,
slaughtering a lot of fish-whales and so on, and they're afraid
you might get hurt if you joined in, and there won't be anything
else for you to do."
said I understood, and asked when they wanted me to go, and she
told me tomorrow, and I said that was fine, and she said she'd
drive me back to New Kyoto in the morning, and I said I had to
go pack, and I did.
sent a message to my boss while I was packing, asking what I should
do now that I was being kicked off New Arctica, and when I got
up the next morning, there was a reply waiting for me, but it
wasn't from Mr. Thwaite, it was from Senator Bryson, whose idea
it had been for me to go on this trip. The message said:
Dear Ms. Tremaine,
It seems you're causing quite a stir wherever you go! This
is a good thing. The New Arctican and Draconian representatives
have been bending my ear about Terran interference and trade
monopolies. Too bad you couldn't stay longer on New Arctica.
There's a flight in the afternoon to Pangea: go there and see
what's up: the Pangeans are desperate to import live birds to
Earth as pets, and they've been leaning on me pretty hard.
was excited about finally getting to go to Pangea and see the
birds, so I was cheerful to Hatsumi and Taki on the drive over
to New Kyoto. When we arrived at the spaceport, they gave me a
little package of freeze-dried red caviar, a souvenir, they said,
of Little Tokyo. I don't like caviar, but I thought it might come
in handy, so I said thank you very much and put it in my suitcase.
Since it was freeze-dried and hermetically sealed, I was allowed
to take it with me, although I was warned I wouldn't be allowed
to open it on Pangea. I told the customs official that was no
problem and arranged to have it sent to Novy Mir instead. Then
that afternoon we took off.