It’s cooler now. Hell, it’s most of the way through Halloween. And, as sometimes happens, Ricca has itself a bogeyman.
“I saw it with muh own eye!” said a rather smelly man who had been brought before me by one of the guys working in Intel. He dragged the guy before my throne and told him to speak. After the guy with the beer stink on him said that, the Intel guy leaned in close to whisper to him, prompting the drunkard to add, “The Kraken!”
I looked to the Intel guy. He stepped forward. “The Kraken once again stalks our waters.”
I waved my hand and slouched up on my throne with my back on one side and my legs hanging off the other side. My armor stood on a stand next to me, along with one of my Dudebots on the other side to act as a sort of robot doppelganger bodyguard. “I’m aware of the legend of the Kraken, but this is like a thing here?” I asked.
“We call it Akkorokamui, but to outsiders it is the Kraken. We have sightings. On occasion, small ships are lost. Fishermen’s boats fail and wreckless yacht owners with no sense run out of gas far from land. Then, there are boats whose crew signal for help but the boats are never found, or we find only pieces.”
“I haven’t heard about this before,” I said.
He shrugged. “It happens infrequently, but this man has an important tale for you.”
He reached out as if to push the drunk forward but stopped himself before he touched him. Instead, he gestured for him. “Tell the Empress what you saw.”
“Of course, begging your pardon Empress. I wanted to let the important people speak. I sailed in on the Agamemnon, originally a Greek ship. Like most Greeks, they’re willing to take in a man on ’em from anywhere in the world. We had a load out of China headed for the United States, and expected to make good money after stopping over in Ricca. Well in the middle of both, we found another cargo ship drifting and unresponsive.”
He paused here to take a deep breath and steady his hands. “I thought the Captain had rocks for brains when he called for a few guys to go check on it. It could have been pirates or a disease or a bunch of guys getting drunk and fighting, but it didn’t have to be our business. For criticizing the whole thing, the Captain put me in charge of the boarding party and told the rest of the men that if I just pretend to look they can leave me there. I equipped myself with a little Dutch courage and we went across.”
He looked past me and the throne, back into his memory. “The winds seemed so calm. The water was so rough, but the wind was still. Gave me the heebie-jeebies so bad I was first up the ladder. I ordered them to spread out so nobody would see me pretend to look around. I checked the containers to see if there was anything worth taking. Got a few things worth having, a new laptop and so forth. As I walked, I thought I noticed something from the opposite side of the ship as we boarded from. If it was pirates, I could justify hauling ass back to the ship. I walked around a cargo container to see what it was.” He shook his head.
I shifted to a seated position and leaned forward. “Was it some indescribable, squamous, eldritch thing that caused insanity at the mere sight of it?”
“No,” he looked up and focused on me. “It was the tip of a tentacle. A tentacle with suckers as big as my head. And I heard things from below that I hadn’t noticed until then. I ran for the boat and I must have been screaming, because I had all the men back with me. The first ones wondered what happened. The ones who showed last had been inside. A couple of them didn’t say anything. The last one coulda passed for an albino, but was born in Ghana. I didn’t care if I got fired. I started drinking the second I touched land. He and I were left behind when our ship left and I don’t give a crap. I don’t think he did either. I remember the way he smiled when he lifted that revolver to his head. I think he knew where the bullet was in the cylinder. I had locked eyes with him, and he smiles real wide but with no teeth. Then he says, ‘It chewed through the bottom,’ and pulled the trigger.”
The man stood there, hands clasped hard on each other. The Intel guy stepped up and patted him on the shoulder, then handed him a wad of cash. The sailor left turned and quietly walked away.
“That was a hell of a story,” I said to my Intel guy.
“Any other sightings?” I asked.
He tapped his dark sunglasses, then answered, “We tried to raise the Agamemnon. When we received no answer, I asked a Psycho Flyer to check after it along its course. Nothing. It appears it disappeared. I asked another pilot to take their Flyer over and check around where the other ship had been spotted. I didn’t expect much from that man’s imprecise knowledge, however. We failed to find it. We failed to find a lot of ships along that lane.”
“Do you believe him?” I asked. “The man’s an admitted deserter and drunk.” Now, I thought it was a neat story. I also think I’ve fought plenty of impossible things. A good chunk of my citizenry are Deep One refugees. Did I ever figure out how H.P. Lovecraft heard about them? Some family history of fish fucking, perhaps?
My Intel guy had his own idea. “I believe something is happening. I think the Akkorokamui is real, but another plausible theory states that someone is attacking the shipping in the Pacific. The man could be a delusional drunk whose ship was destroyed by a United States submarine blockade. It really could be anything…” he trailed off, lowering his face and tapped something on his glasses.
I patched in, Intel having no secrets from me, so we both saw and heard the distress call. “This is Riccan Privateer designation Fairy Godmother. A Riccan sailor stood on the deck of a small yacht. Water splashed over the thing. Others fired guns nonstop at something in the water. Suddenly, a tentacle stretched up a good twenty feet, with some bigass suckers on it and came crashing down on the man and his camera.
I instantly directed an order for Psycho Flyers to scramble with a couple of squads in light armor to try and recover anybody. They were warned to fly high and watch for calamari with an attitude. As soon as I sent the orders, I looked at the Intel guy. “I’ve got people going. I think we can safely assume we’re dealing with a killer giant squid.” That’s what these things always turn out to be anyway. Big squids. Well, not to be confused with Big Squid. I hear that guy’s lost a lot of weight dieting though. Good for him.
He shook his head. “This is said to be an octopus.”
“Get me a crew, a boat, and lots of things that go boom. Then you can say it was an octopus.”
He just stood there. I clapped my hands and called over a servant and whispered to him, “Would you be so kind as to walk over and slap this man for me?”
The servant bowed respectfully, stepped down to stand in front of my Intel guy who was doing more stuff with his glasses like inform Pagan what I’d just said. The servant bowed to him as well, then open-hand slapped him across the face. It was probably the most polite bitchslap I’d ever seen, and I’ve met Canadian pimps. We’re actually extending lines of credit for some pimps now in a pilot program up there. Money here or there to fix a crooked tooth, get a boob job, maybe secure a proper boning venue. It’s setting me up for a real Robin Hood vibe around there, I think.
Away from boning venues and back to boning knives, the Intel guy looked up at me, then bowed. “I beg your forgiveness, but superiors have asked me to confirm you wish to be personally involved with hunting the Kraken.”
“Yep. I want to be personally involved with killing it.”
He opened his mouth to ask, but I hopped off my throne and pointed into the sky. “This is no ordinary threat to my nation. This is a giant threat. This is the Kraken. This is a big fucking deal and I, the biggest fucking deal of a killer, shall be the one to slay it. Most people see a massive octopus capable of sinking ships, and do you know what they think?”
The Intel guy’s holding in what he thinks, so I walk over to him and hold his head against me, stroking his hair. “Tell me what they think. Come on, you know you want to, or else I’ll have to hold you like this until it becomes really awkward.”
“They think they’d rather not run toward an octopus so big it sinks ships!” he blurted out. I let him go and he bowed while moving back. I really don’t get why. Am I ugly now? Do my boobs smell funny?
“Glad to hear the sass. Considering your job, I thought you’d be more prepared for speaking with me plainly. Save the obfuscation for all the rubes we charge to eat pieces of the Kraken.”
“I’m surprised your first reaction to learning about the existence of a giant monster is a desire to go kill it.” He looked around, then began to back off.
I waved it off. “Eh, it seems like a fun way to pass the time. Think I got room to have it mounted?”
He managed to keep a straight face, as hard as he must have been. I mean, as hard as that must have been. “I don’t believe I can answer what you do in private, Empress.”
“I was speaking of taxidermy. It’s like graverobbing, but if you killed the person and stuffed them so you could keep their dead body around your house as an object of value. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go shopping.”
“For an outfit?” He asked.
“I’mma get a harpoon!” I declared.