FlashFic: Sandshark Hunt

I love finding unusual NerdArt. This piece is so improbable, and yet the action is engaging and frantic. Titled The Great Sand Shark Chase, this was created by Warren Goh, a student at 3DSense Media School in Singapore as part of a class project called Desert Canyon. I was so taken with this image, I had to write the story it told to me.

The Great Sand Shark Chase, from Warren Goh at ArtStation.com

 

Ishma held her breath as a fresh cloud of sand pelted her facemask. She was thankful for the plasteel covering; sand had a tendency to shred your skin off when it hit you at two hundred metras an arn. Despite the mask and her air filter, the air tasted of salty chalk and smelled of sandfish.

An incredible sense of awe swept over her as, less than a metra up ahead, the greatest sandshark in all of the Jenta Wastes broke the surface of the undulating dunes. The massive creature entire girth sailed into the air with a grace Ishma had seen used only by the most skilled Mekish dancers. Nearly a quarmetra long, Boab was the oldest and most legendary being on Hosan.

The speakers in her headset crackled to life. “Hey, Ish. You sure about this?” Queeg’s baritone yet tinny voice held more than a bit of trepidation.

She watched the sandshark plunge back into the sand and a small grin appeared behind her facemask. Tapping the button on her comms, she knew she was going to be the one to bring that thing down. “Don’t worry, old friend. As long as you don’t miss, I’ll get you into position.” Well, she and her partner, Queeg.

Queeg’s voice popped in her ear again. “Better hurry, then. Stubbs and his crew are already harrying the beast.”

Gunning the engine again, she coaxed the rocketsled to speed even faster across the blasted landscape. In the distance, a fan of sand spewed into the air where the sandshark raced under the desert’s surface. A half dozen other rocketsleds zipped back and forth, preparing for the next time Boab surfaced so they could take their shot.

Ishma’s customized rocketsled caught up to the other hunting crews just as Boab started showing signs of surfacing again. The other crews all angled for positions near where the sandsharks head would breach the surface. Instead, Ishma moved up alongside the sand-fan. This was a dangerous move, she knew. Most crews who tried what she was about to do did not survive. Those that did never returned to the hunt.

The sand-fan ebbed and grew, ebbed and grew then disappeared.

“Here it comes!” Queeg yelled.

She had to time this just right. Ishma banked the rocketsled away from the sandshark. No errors, no screw ups. She felt the distance between her and Boab, felt the moment approaching. Then it was there.

Ishma yanked her controls over and raced back toward the creature. Angling at forty-five degrees, she opened the throttle just as a volcano of sand erupted, spewing its grainy contents a hundred fetra into the air. The cloud of beige grit rained down, revealing the massive, smooth face of Boab. Slit lids pulled back. Eyes as large as a man was tall shone all but pitch black in the harsh, wasteland sun.

The thin line that separated the top two-thirds of the creature’s head from the lower third split opened, revealing row upon row of enormous, white teeth, jagged and surely razor sharp. Boab’s orange and black scales shimmered and glistened as if they were wet. More of the beast reached up out of the ground. Gigantic, red fins mounted on Boab’s sides each created additional explosions of sand. The ribbed fins undulated in the air, creating gusts of wind that Ishma could already feel.

Her mouth fell open and she was again thankful for her filtered mask. Though this was not the first time she’d seen him—not even the first time seeing him up close—his sheer size and grace ignited a sense of awe that threatened to consume her. A part of her wondered how something like this could even exist in the universe, it was just so… unimaginably unreal. And yet, here it was.

Ishma shook her head and reaffirming her determination. No. She’d made the calculations. She would do this.

A quarmetra of sandshark is a lot of sandshark. Boab loomed over her, reaching higher and higher into the air as she and Queeg drew ever closer. It seemed certain she would slam into the giant.

“Uh… Ish?”

Ishma steeled her resolve and ignored Queeg. And still more of the creature came out of the ground.

“ISHMA?”

Closer and closer they sped. Queeg’s hand slapped on the metal rail behind her, trying to get her attention, but she drove him from her mind. The tail was the danger. If it swung in the wrong direction, it was over. But if her math was right…

The top of the tail pulled from the sand, swishing away from them. The tail stopped, shifted and started its inexorable swish back. Panic flooded into her. Had she been wrong? She’d been so careful, made so many observations. She knew every element of how the sandshark moved under the dunes, yet the tail was now racing toward her.

And the tail broke the surface. The fanned tip swept over their heads, clearing them by just a few fetras. A voice in the back of her head told her it was time, to go now!

Ishma pulled the controls over and sidled up under the arching sandshark. Blanketed in the creature’s shadow, the wasting heat faded. The respite would only last for a few seconds, but she reveled in it nonetheless.

Queeg’s voice filled her ears. “Do you see it?”

She looked up and scanned Boab’s underside, searching. “No. But it has to be he—Wait!” Her gaze landed on a small dark patch, just under the beast’s head. That was it, the only part of Boab where a harpoon could pierce the creature’s thick hide. The other hunters knew their harpoons would never break Boab’s skin, which was why they targeted its eyes. But Ishma knew the only real way to take the giant down was from underneath.

Ishma gunned the engine and shifted them right under the spot. “There! Shoot, now!”

A gust of hot air blasted them from the left. She looked over to see one of the sandshark’s fins dipping into the sand, creating a cloud of the silicon grit. The rocketsled drifted to the right, but she corrected. “Sorry.”

Behind her, over the roar of the rocketsled’s engines, she heard the harpoon cannon power up. One shot was all they needed. Queeg would fire and she’d bank hard to get out from under it before the sandshark crashed back to the ground. One shot.

Time slowed for Ishma. She glanced back over at the fin cutting through the dunes as easily as she would put her hand through water. The tiny grains glistened in the sun like stars in a clear night sky. Her gaze traced up over Boab’s underside. This thing, this creature was one of a kind. She would be treated like a queen for bringing it down, no, like a goddess. She and Queeg would be set for life.

By killing Boab, she would become the stuff of stories. She would become a legend. She would become… And a realization dawned on her. If she killed Boab, the stories were all that would be what was left. The legend of the great sandshark Boab would fade into the unbelievable myth.

Then another realization came to her. The death of Boab would rob Hosan—no, all of the galaxy—of a unique and ancient being.

If she killed Boab, she would become a monster.

This is wrong.

The heavy thunk slammed into her back as the cannon fired.

No!

Ishma shoved her controls over. Maybe she could get far enough away to make the line run short. She glanced back at the harpoon sailing through the air and knew she wasn’t going to make it. Maybe Queeg would miss? No, Queeg never missed, not when he had a perfect and clean shot like that.

She could not take her eyes off the harpoon as it sliced the air. What had she done? The harpoon was going to pierce straight through the tender patch of flesh and embed itself into Boab’s brain, killing it instantly. And it was her fault.

The harpoon closed in on the soft spot, destined to fulfill its destiny. And it missed. The massive steel arrow bounced harmlessly off the creature’s hide, just inches to the left of the target.

Shock stabbed into Ishma as she guided the rocketsled out from under the sandshark. She turned away and stared off into the distance, not caring that they were racing away from the creature heading back down into the sand. She was just happy that it was heading back down, and not flopping to the ground in a dead heap.

“I’m sorry, Ish.” Queeg said in her ear. His voice was deep and more somber than she’d ever heard from him.

“Shut up, you big idiot!”

“I couldn’t do it. I know how much you wanted it. When we get back, you find a new partner, one who won’t let you down.”

She shook her head. “No, I mean shut up! I didn’t want to either. I tried to make you miss, but I was too late.”

“Really?”

“Really.” A trickle of something wet ran down her cheek under her mask and she wondered what the hells it was from. It was just a big sandfish. “Someday someone will take Boab down. But I just want to watch him, let him play in the wastes a little more first.”

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