Friday, 13 May 2011

Whale Screamers: read an excerpt


This is the first part of the short story Whaling the Multiverse that was published last month in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Thank you to Inna Basman for her artwork: an interesting interpretation of the whale screamer in action. If you haven't got your copy fly on over there now. http://www.andromedaspaceways.com/







Whaling the Multiverse
 by
 Mark Lee Pearson


We were in a harbour tavern on the floating city of Osaka when the skinny urchin flicked the noren aside and stepped in. He stood in front of the blue cloth with the white koi design and scanned the bar until his eyes fixed upon our ship’s captain.

“Captain Montagfire?”

Montagfire, a thickset half-breed in a sea green jimbei, was slouched over the bar, chewing the froth from a schooner of Asahi. He raised his shaven head and looked over his shoulder.

“What?”

The kid approached the bar. “Are you Captain Montagfire?”
 

“What is it to you?”

“I want to be a screamer.”

Montagfire furrowed his dark eyebrows and spoke out of the corner of his mouth.

“A short, skinny wretch like you? You couldn’t tickle a trout let alone scream at a minke across the multiverse. Why, you are all skin and bone! Those lungs,” he said, prodding the kid’s chest with his titanium finger—“Those lungs are barely keeping you alive.” He turned back to the bar to order a fresh Asahi. The kid didn’t take this as his cue to leave.

“With respect, sir—”

Montagfire spun his stool around and glared at the boy.

“I don’t need your respect, fish hole,” he said, tapping his titanium finger on the katana in his belt. “Give me one good reason not to slice you up and feed you to the sharks.”

Now, I’m not one to watch people disrespecting others like that. Montagfire may have been ship’s captain, but that didn’t give him authority to treat anyone like the barnacled end of a beluga’s backside. Besides, I wasn’t in the mood for the kind of bloodbath Montagfire was alluding to.

“Give him a crack,” I said.

“What?”

“Give the impudent rascal a chance. We just lost Saline Kid. Maybe—”

“He ain’t no match for Saline Kid.”

“And you ain’t no Ahab,” cried the kid. “Who are you to judge how well I scream just from the size of my body?”

Montagfire prodded the kid’s sternum with his titanium finger. “It is customary for a screamer—”

“Pollocks to your custom! I can compete with the best in the multiverse! Come outside. I’ll show you.” The kid thrust his chin out, clenched his fists, and stormed out of the tavern. Montagfire, never one to pass up a challenge, drained his schooner, spun off the barstool, and drew his katana.

“Wait, Captain,” I said. “That urchin knows no better. His life will be short enough without you cutting it shorter.”

But Montagfire was already halfway to the door when he yelled back at me, “You think I’m some kind of fool? There ain’t no way in this damn multiverse that kid can—”

Before the captain could finish the sentence a typhonic scream rattled the wooden walls. The windows shattered and splintered onto the floor. The side of the tavern came crashing in. Chairs and tables were thrown into disarray. Everything— fixtures, fittings and even customers that got in the way—was crushed as a mighty sperm whale forged headlong through the room, bowling Captain Montagfire off his feet and pinning him to the bar.

A ship’s wheel, the last fixture left hanging, dropped off the wall and cracked open on the sawdust floor. The bar fell silent.

The kid stepped back inside and called up the flank of the whale, “Now, Captain Montagfire, will you give me a chance?”

“Get this whale out of my face and perhaps we can talk business.”

The kid grinned at Montagfire then winked at me. I winked back. I was right; he was impudent but he was a character, too.

“Get this damn whale out of my tavern,” cried the landlord. “I’m trying to run a business.”
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