For our first commissioned art piece for KRONOS RISING, we visit the scene in Chapter 1 where the illegal shark-finning ship Oshima has hauled in a grisly prize – the bitten-off head of a twenty-foot Xiphactinus audax – prey for the pliosaur that recently escaped Diablo Caldera. Scroll down below the artwork for an exciting excerpt from the book!
Ensign Hidari glanced fearfully at Sagato’s still-bleeding remains. The look of agony on the dead man’s face was enough to make anyone cringe. He swallowed hard and nodded to his captain. A quick salute, and he turned and vanished from view.
Haruto paused for a moment, taking in a few deep breaths while he mulled over his next course of action. He had a few minutes before the hoist crews finished. Walking over to the destroyed winch assembly, he willed himself to ignore Sagato’s stare and peered out at the darkened seas beyond. To his surprise, the winch’s cable was still attached to the spool. It was so close; if it wasn’t for the wreckage, he could have reached out and touched it.
Suddenly, he spotted a pair of men he recognized from a nearby hoist. His eyebrows lowered. “You two, come here at once.”
“Yes, sir?” the men said as one.
“Shift your hoist’s arm in this direction. I want a splice made between your cable and this one.”
“You want us to salvage the cable, sir?”
“No, gentlemen.” Haruto shook his head at the confused looks on their faces. “I want to see if there’s anything left on the other end of it.”
A few minutes later, the crimped connection between the two hoists was successfully rigged. Satisfied the splice would hold, Haruto surveyed the nearly clear decks. The wounded had been evacuated and much of the debris around the ruined hoist removed. Nearby, a small group of men gathered once word spread of what the captain was planning. Normally a rowdy lot, all of those present were remarkably subdued.
Only Sagato was quieter.
“All right, men. Let’s bring her in,” Haruto said.
At his order, the sweating crew of the nearby hoist turned their motor on at a reduced power setting. Their diesel engine shuddered to life and soon was pulling in yard after yard, storing it in neat rows atop its own withdrawn cable. Like pallbearers at a funeral, Haruto and all the men present lined the railings, watching and waiting with baited breath to see what, if anything, remained at the cable’s end.
“Doesn’t seem to be much there, Captain. Almost no weight at all, sir,” the winch commander said, as he looked up from his dials.
Haruto nodded. Several of the crew could be heard placing wages under their breath, betting amongst themselves whether the cable had snapped, the hook straightened out, or simply broke off. Two minutes later, their fish came bobbing to the surface. Or rather, what remained of it.
“Hold it!” Haruto exclaimed, raising one hand to signal the winch crew to stop.
“What the hell is that?” a crewman blurted out from one side. “That’s no shark!”
Haruto ignored him. “Okay, bring it up.”
Both captain and crew stepped back as the nearby hoist arm maneuvered its load up over the railing, then swung it around and deposited it on the deck with a thud. Moving closer, Haruto dropped down on one knee to examine what remained on the end of their industrial-size circle hook. As he did so, Iso Hayama appeared at his side.
“Good lord, captain,” Iso asked. “What in the world is that? And where’s the rest of it?”
His eyes wide, Haruto grimly studied the enormous silver and white mass of teeth and gills, highlighted by an amber-colored eye the size of a cantaloupe. He took in a deep breath and held it before letting it out. Then, holding his injured side tightly, he rose to his feet.
As he looked at the anticipating faces of his crew, Haruto shook his head in what he knew was an uncharacteristic display of wonder and disbelief. He paused to straighten what remained of his bedraggled uniform and waved off a barrage of questions. Iso dutifully followed him as he walked away. He stopped when he was certain their conversation could no longer be heard.
Iso could contain himself no longer. “Haruto-san, forgive me, but I must know. What was that thing?”
Haruto started to speak, but then said nothing. He turned away and walked over to the big ship’s railing, where he stopped and stared out at the endless blackness lurking just beyond the range of their searchlights. A shiver ran down his spine and he stepped hurriedly back from the rail.
“I’m ready to hear your casualty report, commander,” he said, loudly clearing his throat.
“Yes, captain. We um . . . have six wounded, two of whom are in critical condition, and one dead, sir.” He paused, shuffling papers. “You should know that, according to the ship’s physician, only one of the injured will be fit for duty before we make port, sir.”
Haruto continued to stare out at the surrounding seas. He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a folded sheet of paper, handing it to Iso. “I want you to call this number. Tell the dispatcher who we are, give them our coordinates, and have them get a helicopter out here on the double. Tell them it’s a delicate matter. They will understand.”
“A helicopter? Is it for the wounded, sir?”
“No, commander,” Haruto said. “Let me make this clear: Nobody leaves the ship. We treat our wounded here.”
“Then, it’s for Mr. Sagato?”
“No. Have Mr. Sagato’s body and the remains of that thing on the deck prepped and placed in our forward freezer at once. Get a detail of men to assist you.”
“We’re putting him in the freezer with the fins, sir?”
Haruto turned and looked him in the eye. “That’s correct, commander. Do you have a problem with that? Or better yet, would you prefer that we sail into Key West and deliver his body to the U.S. Coast Guard personally, and the Oshima right along with it?”
“No sir . . . I didn’t mean that, I–”
“This ship is my responsibility, commander,” Haruto said. He paused to bend down, peeling the bloodstained picture of his first mate’s family off the deck at his feet. He glanced at it, then straightened and put it in his breast pocket. “As is the responsibility to write to Sagato’s widow, and tell her of his unfortunate passing.”
“Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir.” Iso bowed apologetically.
“So am I, commander.” Haruto turned back to the water one last time. He frowned and reached for his wallet, removed a business card, and handed it to Iso. “Here, I want you to punch in this ship’s transponder code and find her for me. Her name’s on the back. I want to know her exact location, and before that chopper gets here.”
“Yes, sir,” Iso said, mustering as much enthusiasm as he could.
Haruto started to walk away. “I will be in my quarters filing my report. Call me when the bird arrives.”
“Yes, sir. Um . . . sir?”
“What do you think caused all of this?”
Haruto turned and looked back at him, his face cast in concrete. “I have absolutely no idea, commander. But whatever it was, I feel a great amount of pity for anyone that finds themselves in its way.”
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