Havok Publishing

Toby’s Call

By H. Halverstadt

The water sparkled green at the far end of the Northwest Coast, a beautifully masked death trap. At least it was a break from the witch hunt playing on all the holocubes in town.

Toby kicked a rock and made sure to stay high on the jetty, well away from the water. Farther out to sea, a school of salmon headed for the nearby river, only to be scattered by the arrival of a harbor seal. It grabbed one and was about to swim off with its prize when two giant, dark red tentacles grabbed it with strong suckers and forced it down under the water.

He shook his head. This bay used to be safe to swim in. Now three people are dead. When I find out who…

Squid or not, the bay was beautiful. He had felt drawn to it after that rejection notice from Espada-BioBay. He had really hoped he would land that job. At this stage of the Danube settlement, there weren’t a lot of marine biologist jobs open.

Toby stepped back from the water’s edge just as a bottlenose dolphin popped up, droplets dripping down its shiny gray-blue snout.

“Blue, why are you here? I don’t want you to be eaten.” He tapped his AI and waited as it turned his words into clicks and whistles.

The dolphin pulled herself up and whistled back. Toby waited again for the wrist unit to translate. “We stun big squids. Human hurt. You come.”

His eyes widened. Why would a human be in squid waters?

“There aren’t any boats here.”

“Call skybird.”

“Call the Air Rescue? This isn’t another game, Blue?”

“Not game. Call skybird. Human hurt.” The dolphin pointed her shiny nose out to sea. “Big rock.”

Toby tapped his wrist unit twice. “Emergency call, Danube Air Rescue. There’s a dolphin reporting an injured human on a rock at sea near this location.”

A woman’s voice responded back. “We have confirmed your coordinates. Please stay at your location so we can ping your wrist unit. Do you have any other information?”

“No.”

“Thank you.” The connection terminated.

The dolphin whistled again. “Come. Now.”

“Blue, the Air Rescue said I should stay here. The helicopter will come faster than I swim, and it won’t try to eat me.”

“Too slow. We help. Leap comes.” Another dolphin popped up a few meters away and hastened toward them.

They‘re going to tow me? “My translator will have to stay here.”

“Agreed. You come.”

After peeling off his jacket, socks, and shoes, Toby removed his wrist unit and earpiece, laying them on a nearby rock. At least the copter could locate it. In the water, Blue and Leap positioned themselves side by side.

Toby jumped. As soon as he had a hand on each fin, they were speeding through the water, the salt spray stinging Toby’s face.

They approached a large rock, about a meter high. On the edge was a small, partially shattered boat, the word BioBay just visible on its hull.

As they swam closer, Toby saw an unconscious man, up to his waist in water and sinking, slumped against the rock. Beyond him, a phalanx of dolphins faced off against a half-grown giant squid, its rich colors visible a few centimeters under the surface.

The pod parted. As he swam in, Toby felt the whoosh of a suckered tentacle just missing his leg, and adrenaline propelled him to the rock in seconds. The gravel stabbed his bare feet, but he ignored it. He grabbed the man from behind across the chest and hauled his almost-deadweight to the top of the rock. They were safe from the squid here. Squid couldn’t tolerate open air.

When Toby waved off the dolphins, they scattered, the squid chasing after them.

Toby shook the man’s arm. “Hang on, sir. Help is coming.” An ID tag fell out of his shirt. It had a name, title, and a picture: Espada, BioBay Seeding Team.

The man blinked and moved his head. “Conn.”

“What?” Toby clapped the man’s shoulder, but he jerked away as if in pain. “Con what? Come on, keep talking to me!”

The man opened his eyes. “Conn. My name.” He lifted his left arm a few centimeters. “Ow!” He grimaced.

“Conn Espada? Son of the BioBay CEO?”

Conn squinted at him. “You should have let me die.”

“Nobody deserves death by squid.”

“I do.”

Toby pushed wet brown hair out of his eyes. “How could you think that?”

Conn turned and waved toward where the squid had been. “This … would have been justice.”

The pieces finally made sense. “You were the one who seeded colossal squid alongside the pygmy.”

Conn nodded.

“Half the population of Danube wants you for murder.”

“I know.”

“What happened, man? Were you drunk?”

“Not drunk. Grieving. My mother was dying. I should’ve given the job to someone else.”

Toby paused for a deep breath. “This bay is my haven. I wanted answers—justice, somehow—but not prison, like the others.”

Tears filled Conn’s eyes. “You’re kinder than the rest.”

Maybe I’m not. He hadn’t wished harm on Conn, but he had referred to whoever did this as an idiot more than once. Hot shame filled his cheeks.

“Don’t listen to them, Conn. Everyone makes mistakes. The sperm whales will eat the squid.”

Conn’s pupils went unfocused. “No. The whales are delayed. Space shipping problems.”

“The dolphins! They might be willing to help. They can stun squid if they work together.”

Conn’s eyes widened just as the helicopter appeared above them. A black-haired woman in an orange uniform dropped from it and pointed a medical scanner at Conn. “Looks like you’re in bad shape. Hold still.” She immobilized Conn’s arm and put him in a harness.

She turned to Toby. “Be right back for you.”

In the copter, Conn ignored the medic and motioned to Toby. “Name?”

“I’m Toby. Toby Galanos.”

“Toby, thank you. Can I persuade you to work for BioBay?”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Once tasked with mapping our world, H. Halverstadt now forges her own with the help of her rocket scientist husband. She has a degree in Geographic Information Systems, but her favorite way to use it is writing clean, far-future, multi world science fiction filled with adventure, mystery and intrigue. You can follow her at her website where she has reviews of clean speculative fiction for all ages and occasionally gives away free books!


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6 comments - Join the conversation

 

  • I thoroughly enjoyed your story, Heather! Nice intro of setting/elements as it unfolded! I’m partial to water-based fiction and loved the communication AI. Great job! I want more of this story!

  • Great story. I got a chance once to go into a pool with dolphins, but what a thrill it would be to ride through the water on one!

  • Love the very subtle world building, and ‘The whales are delayed.’ is not a line I expected to read. Nice.

  • Great story. I would not like it if there were giant squid in Galveston Bay. Although, now that I think on it, that might be cool…

    A nice mix of mystery, sci fi, and thriller!

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