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Jonah hadn't ever been brought to imagine that he would spend the remainder of his life in a boat - or even beyond a sparse, fleeting moment within one. He guided Liesl's eye as she gripped the fishing rod with sweaty palms. He disregarded the rocking of their skiff, and where an older man's wrinkled, decrepit digits might've brought her astray, his stayed steady and true. He pointed out towards a rippling in the water.

"They wouldn’t make that mistake if they weren’t down here. They’ve got tells. The bay keeps them fat and as long as there’s enough of them to go around it always will. As long as we’re still here.”

She nodded and clutched the rod with a shock as the fish grasped the bait somewhere beneath the waves. He helped her regain a tenuous control of the instrument and they struggled in silence for several minutes. The sun shone down on the bay and the blue, clear water shone with the renewed brilliance that always managed to raise Jonah's spirits, even as he wrestled with a engorged prey fish, which they eventually managed to hoist up onto the boat and pike - its slippery form wriggling all the while.

"Good." He wiped the sweat from his brow. "I'll finish this. Get started on those oars."

He gutted and cleaned their kill and added it to the bag containing the rest of Liesl's collection. After he tied it off, he collapsed in a state of exhaustion, and smiled at her in an attempt at camraderie. As always, her soulless, synthetic gaze bored a hole into the bottom of the boat.

Eventually, they returned to the shore. Their small hamlet, provisionally categorized as 𐤃-Site-292 had a direct look over the waters - one of the few benefits of being stationed on the edge of the world.

Despite himself, he found the mass of meat to be prohibitively heavy, and without a word, she supported and took on the load herself, back into the house - a decrepit thing, hoisted on heavy, antiquated girders designed to protect it from the routine storms that once plagued the area.

They trekked back over the sand and as they reached walked up the rickety stairs and she opened the door at the stoop, he realized that the sun was already declining in the sky, and became worried that they may have missed their friend's daily visit. As they were greeted by the darker space inside the house, he was pleased that that wasn't the case.

"Load the fish in that icebox - the device near sink there," he ordered. She complied and he went to his small bedroom in the corner, creaking open the door and pulling on a small chain to bathe the space in a warm, albeit sickly light. He sat on the musty bed and began removing his vest and long boots, exchanging them for a coat and a pair of shoes.

Just as soon as he had come in, he left, to see that Liesl had already entered her hibernation stage.

"Not so soon," he said, going to grind the coffee beans. "Today is your day."

She stood up and became filled with an assemblance of life. "Why?"

"Because, I can't keep doing this forever. That's why you're here."

She started in protest, "That's not-"

"Yes it is." He filled the coffeemaker and went to wash his own cup from the morning. "Not that I have anything against it, but to be honest, sailor - you're just not good company."

"I'm a replacement?"

He shrugged. "It’s more like I'm a junkie."

She said nothing, and he finished with his mug, making special effort to shine out the "#1 DAD" scrawled on the side, before filling it and another, generic vessel with coffee and his usual ungodly amount of sugar. He pulled a chair out from the table to sit, laying the other cup at their friend's usual spot. She asked, "When will you go?"

"Soon. Every meal takes a little more out of me. It's gentle, but I can feel it. That's not much your concern, we just need to get you acclimated to the procedure."


He shrugged. "If you were amenable to it. We'd be cutting it close. The bakery's just about ready -" he motioned with his mug at the unassuming closet space behind her. "And those tides are looking a tad edgier than usual. I'd do it, but if you were unsure, we could always-" He left the statement as a question, and took a long, sheepish drink.

"I'm fine," she affirmed. "I can do it."

"Of course you can; that's why you're here." He put down his mug. "You just - need experience, that's all."

A loud thud shook the house and they both directed their attention towards the closet. The rusted sheetmetal opened, revealing a younger man - steaming, and completely nude. He timidly covered his penis and attempted to shield himself in the space that had just deported him. "I'm sorry, I was told I'd be, uh-" He trailed off as he took in the, in Jonah's eyes, admittedly bizarre first-sight of a kitchen, a beach, a synthetic, and crotchety-looking 34-year old.

"Let me guess," Jonah's eyes squinted in effort, while Liesl handed the stranger a towel. "Peter?"

"That's me," Peter confirmed hurriedly. "Peter Dunley. Here on - special assignment, was it?"

"You're in the right place, Peter." He pulled out the place he had set for him. "Please, sit, while I grab you something to- wear."

"I've got it, sir." Liesl looked at him, and he pointed at her.

"Better idea. Liesl, if you so kindly get them from the bottom drawer in that station our friend is currently guarding, I can go grab some of my-" He turned back to the collection of drawers by the sink, digging through them until he found a tin, placing them on the table. "Fine, fresh biscuits, and we can get ready for the evening at hand."

"Sounds good," Peter said, still protectively hugging the doorway. "Sir?" Liesl inquired, and he apologized as she moved to retrieve suitable garments for her first guest.

"You know, the tube is really something," Peter said as he devoured another biscuit. "I mean the speeds just - buffet you, you know? It's incredible."

Liesl sat between the two, unable to touch the food Jonah had laid out, while the latter sparingly took a courtesy biscuit. He spoke with the practised grace of a man who had grown how to entertain the same friend time and again with minimal effort, "I know it. From the news we get here, they're doing some real things in engineering, even if we don't get to see the fruits. Still, duty's duty, isn't it?"

Peter crammed his mouth with nutrition further. "Duty." Realizing his more primal need for sustenance had somewhat overrode his table manner, Peter laid down his coffee and put folded his hands in preparation for more polite discussion. "Speaking of which, uh - how long you two been here?"

Jonah smiled. "Well, Liesl – would you like to tell the man a story?"

Liesl nodded. "I was moved out to the coast on special instruction just a few weeks ago, but the post’s been open for a couple years now."

Jonah leaned back in his chair. "'Bright lights in the swamp at night,' 'three more fisherman missing off Gills,' - eventually it got so bad they just had to send somebody out. Too much work to ignore it."
Peter laughed. "Story of my life. It’s all submersible until one more person gets killed.”


Peter's smile slowly faded as the silence of the group took a moment too long to evaporate. "So we're exterminating this thing, right? I got the letter - procedure drafts, the whole fuckabout with the Trust, the briefing. How long are we in this thing?"

Peter said, "Well, we have your gear in that trunk Liesl pulled that jumpsuit out. All custom fitted stuff. If you can get out on the surf by 2300, me and Liesl will walk you through the whole thing. Sound good?"

"Sounds good to me."


Liesl shrugged and, rejuvenated, Jonah smiled and stood. "Then I would suppose our meeting is adjourned, gentlemen. I'll get your plates."

Just after the sun had set, Jonah and Liesl sat themselves down at a small, blue-iron switchboard on the cliffside, as the final rays shooting across the sky from the setting sun began to fade out to the pitch black of the night Jonah had known many times before. Through a large window they surveyed shore where a familiar figure stood; in the face of the spotlights, which sprayed a wide beam illuminating his heavily armored silhouette across a wide stretch of sea, the fading off of which only promised a greater breadth of water beyond. Peter's hulking form hefted a large rifle uncertainly, while the wind and the sea began to thrust forward with further and further zeal. He tapped on a small microphone in front of him before gesturing at a small lever adjacent to the viewscreen for Liesl, who pulled on it.

"Peter? Peter, can you hear us?" He spoke into the rod as the shutters began to wind down, leaving them in darkness, with only the singular red light of the recorder to define their sparse movements.

"Affirmative, Central. This water is really coming in. You're sure about this?"

"Peter, as long as you're out there the procedure should work perfectly. It's all been worked out. Now, understand that we won't be able to see you for the duration of the operation, so it's critical that you do as we say and don't deviate. Is that clear?"

"It's clear."

"Peter, I'm going to hand you over to my associate now - you must do as she says just as you do what I say - I know it may feel strange, but you have to trust me. Okay?"

"For god's sake man, I get it. Just tell me what to do, this suit's heavy."

Jonah covered the microphone. "If at any time it starts to get too much or he stops responding, just hand it back over to me, and we can do this again tomorrow - okay?"


He bent the microphone towards her, and she bent down to speak. "Peter?"

"Hello? The wind's picking up, it's getting a little hard to hear. What's next?"

"Peter, first I want you to lay your gun on the sand."

A small moment of silence followed before the crackly voice of the man could be heard once more. "Repeat?"

"Lay your service rifle on the sand, and we're going to cut the lights. It's a critical part of the procedure."

Another, shorter moment followed, before he returned. "Copy. Disarming."

Jonah hit another switch on the board. Peter's voice came back up on the receiver, "Central, I may need to report a power failure on torches - 1, all the way through 4."

Liesl took over. "Negative, Peter. Everything's working fine. Just another part of the procedure. Stay calm."


Jonah looked at her. Her face betrayed no underlying tension. "You're doing very good. Just carry him in."

"Peter, I want you to look out to the water, and repeat a mantra to yourself. This will lower the creature's defenses, enabling you to pick up your gun and terminate it. You are to target the lower body, not the central eye. Do you understand."

"Understood. What do I say?"

"Repeat after me. And you need to believe it - otherwise, the entire exercise may be compromised."

"I've got it - what do I say?"

"'I am ready to be accepted. I am ready to be wanted. I am ready to be loved.'"

"'I am ready to be accepted…'"

The pair continued their exercise for hardly a minute before the water began to break.

"Ready to be w… Central, we have surface contact!"

"Repeat the mantra, Captain. You are ready to be accepted. You are ready to be wanted. You are ready to be loved, you know this."

Peter began to breath heavily through the microphone. "I know, I know."

"You need to say it, Peter."

Peter began to hurriedly rush through the stanzas as the sound of water crashing began to overflow through his microphone. Liesl looked to Jonah, who appeared to simply be taking in the performance. He noticed her gaze.

"You can comfort him if you want. Tastier meal, perhaps. You performed admirably. It's done now."
She sat stock-still as the heavy breathing continued through the microphone. She leaned slightly closer.

"Peter, it's okay. It's all right."

He was hyperventilating. "Oh Christ. It's so - I couldn't. I need my gun. My gun's gone."

"Peter, it's all right."

"Christ, I'm going to die - I'm going to die."

"Peter, it's okay. Peter, listen to my voice."

"What, what? Can I - can you let me in, can I go? Please?"

"Peter, it's not going to hurt you. It's okay. It's not going to hurt you."

The microphone grew silent beyond the sound of the wind and the waves and the air in Peter's lungs, until Peter began speaking once again. "Okay. Oka-"

The microphone continued receiving the sound of the water against the shore, but the sound of Peter had dissipated. Looking tired, Jonah reached to shut it off, and they were left in silence.

The fish the day after followed their usual patterns - practically leaping into their skiff the morning they went out, and slowly tapering off and fleeing as the sunset came upon them. In the dining room, Liesl scrubbed the few dings that the equipment had picked up in the night. The only evidence of Peter they could find was a small, red stain on the sand.

Liesl had never been a chatty companion, but she was even less for small talk following the completion of her procedure. Jonah had become accustomed to such silence. He sat back in his chair, his eyes far away, thinking of a sea away from the one they found themselves tied to, taking sip after sip of his coffee.

They sat there up until a small creaking could be heard at the last hours of the day, when the shoots of the sun were finding their way into the kitchen. A man identical to Peter walked out of his room, into theirs.

"My name is Don. I need clothes, and somewhere to piss. Then food."

Normally, Jonah would leap to his feet and accompany his associate to the loo, but he was compelled by an ancillary force, somewhere in his abdomen, to simply look at him for a moment. Don returned his look with a gaze of ignorant expectation, and Jonah simply stared.

“Bathroom’s down the hall.”

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