Originally published at: Undistress (2) | The Associated Worlds
IMS Sukórya’s Joy, Cerulean Ocean, 1340 Gradakhmath 4
At first, we thought it was a whale.
Looking back, you may not understand our mistake. We did have submarines in our time, after all; indeed, Joy had passed a pair leaving Kanatai Bay, at dock in the port of Sukórya. But those early submarines still looked like ships; lean, low-slung ships with a cut-down superstructure, but still ships, with bridges, deck guns, and the slashing shapes of their dazzle paintwork.
Joy was moving slowly south and east in the dawn light, under just enough power to keep steerage way. After the message we had received, the whole crew were on shift for the rendezvous in anticipation of whatever might happen next, and the passengers – from Sybarite to steerage – were lining the rails. (Passengers were not to be informed of our change in course, so naturally the entire ship had figured out something was going on over esklav and pastries.) And then she came, broaching about eight hundred yards off our port bow. A long dark shape in the mist, black and rubbery skin glistening, still awash but for its humped back.
It was big, bigger than any whale we’d seen or dreamed, but what else could it have been? Not the promised support, that was for certain.
Until I stepped out on the bridge wing and trained my glasses on the whale, only to spy men scrambling out of the “hump”. I confess it took me a few moments to realize that one of them was carrying a signal lamp.
…message repeats – esseldár’s champion to sukórya’s joy, mariatis, maintain course and speed and prepare to receive breeches buoy, commodore teresu will provide details in person…
– Tanis Ophris, second officer