“So this is the idea,” Carter said as he stared down the iron sights of the slug gun. “Carlton will try to get the creature to surface. Once it breaches, aim for the eyes or throat.” He lowered the weapon. “You have twenty rounds. Carlton says that’s a little less than three clips worth of fire–take your time if you have to, but make sure each shot hits.”

     “Are you sure you we can’t just fire at him when we see him?” Steven asked. He was leaning against a window on the cabin’s starboard side.

     “Won’t work,” Carlton replied, keeping his eyes on the waves. “The jacket will disintegrate as soon as the round hits the water. After that, the core will basically come to a halt and sink.” He grabbed a bottle of ginger ale off the dash and took a sip. “Remember, this is the first time we’ve tried to kill a harrow other than Blades. From what we’ve seen, these things are hard as hell to put down. We need to make every shot count.”

     “I’ve got no problem with the plan,” Steven said, removing an en-bloc clip from his pocket and inserting it into the Garand. “I’m just not sure our friend will cooperate.” He gazed over at the fathometer. “Of course, our sea monster needs to be here for the plan to have a shot in the first place.”

     “It’s around,” Carter said. He clumsily loaded a slug into his gun. Damned arthritis, the thought, hoping the others didn’t notice. “It’s just a matter of patience.”

     “We can’t be sure about that,” Steven said. “We don’t know where those photos were taken. For all we know, the damn thing could be on the other side of the Atlantic.”

     “Do you have a better plan?” Carlton asked.

     A warm glow could be seen forming far in front of the ship’s bow. Carter gazed out at the horizon, watching as the sun began to creep into the sky. “We know Dheania is here,” Carter said. “She’s not going to want this thing to too far from her.”

     Carlton had a shotgun propped on the dash beside him. He’d cracked open his own box of slugs and loaded them before they hit sea. While Carter was thankful that he was ready to step in if problems occurred, he doubted Carlton would be willing to stray too far from the wheel. If the creature was as big as they thought, then it would likely rock the ship like a toy boat in a bathtub when it surfaced, and while they could easily just heave-to and anchor, Carter knew that they would have to be on the move to prevent the harrow from getting an easy shot at the hull.

     “We’ve got something,” Steven said. He motioned toward the fathometer.

     Carlton looked over at the monitor. “Sharks,” he said. “White tips, probably. I’d say they’re about 7, 8 feet in length. They’re just following the boat.”

     “What are they after?” Steven asked.

     “Food,” Carlton said, taking another sip. “In the old days it was common to just chuck your trash off the rear of the boat. Sharks would come around, find the food, and follow the ships. Of course it’s illegal now, but there are enough environmentally challenged fishermen out there that it’s not uncommon, so some sharks just learn. And of course if you’re going for any large predator you’ll be chumming to bring the them to you, and sharks aren’t exactly the mindless monsters you see in movies. They can connect the two easily enough. Plus,” he said, pointing at a series of dots on the fathometer, “little fish like to use boats as cover. Easy pickings for a school of white-tips.”

     “Carlton.” Carter motioned back toward the fathometer, where the bottom seemed to rise.

     At first Carlton thought it was a reef–there was plenty of coral in the bay–but it didn’t take long for him to notice the mass was following them, slowly rising as they sped forward. “God damn, Dr. Carter. Looks like we’ve got company after all.”

     Steven grabbed a strip of leather and raced outside to the bow. He quickly strapped himself to the railing and double checked his safety. Carter followed by moving toward the cabin’s rear, stepping onto the main platform before slinging his gun over his shoulder. There, he climbed the ladder to the crow’s nest and waited.

     Carlton watched the fathometer as the creature approached. He wondered what its top speed was–any powerful streamlined fish would be able to keep pace with the Oceanus, but this thing appeared to be moving at speeds closer to that of a marlin. Then he noticed the mass begin to move upward, passing beneath them for a full second before disappearing off the monitor’s screen. “Well then,” Carlton said as he grabbed the controls and then, shoving the gas forward he smirked. “Here we go.”

     What at first seemed to be the head of a colossal whale burst the surface beyond the Oceanus‘ bow, its jaws closing just a few yards from the boat’s deck. For a moment, Steven stared deep into the dark, cloudy eye that was peered out from between the monster’s deep folds of flesh. His first thought was of how massive the eye was–he guessed that it was nearly twelve feet in diameter. It’s like the fucking leviathan, he thought. He then broke free from hesitation and fired a shot into the eye.

     Almost immediately the creature’s cornea burst, spattering separated blood and serum across the deck. The creature pulled its head away from the Oceanus, and the resulting suction nearly pulled the vessel beneath the waves. Above him, Carter wrapped the strap of his shotgun around a pole, and with a bit of quick maneuvering managed to fire a single shot that struck the creature in the neck. A dribble of dark blood oozed from the wound. The beast began to fall beneath the waves, pulling the water down with it. Once more the Oceanus was dragged down, while Carlton did his best inside the cabin to fight the current.

     Carter braced himself against the ladder. He felt a dull ache in his knees and wrists as his joints seemed to grind. He gritted his teeth and bore with it, somehow managing to steady himself as the vessel rose again. He remembered the advice Carlton had given him before they left: I’ve removed the plug, but it still takes time to load. It’s easier just to load a new shell right after you shoot it. Fumbling with his fingers he pulled another shell from the open box and inserted it into the tube, before retraining his aim down the sights to track the beast’s shadow as it swam beneath the waves.

     The creature rose again, this time off the port-side, sending a massive wave that threw him off balance. He heard the crack of the Garand below, followed almost instantly by the sickening sound of flesh being split open. The creature pulled back beneath the waves. He forced himself to stay calm as the vessel dipped once more, but he remained tense until the ship righted itself again. Gazing down beneath them, he could see the monster’s silhouette as it swam beneath the vessel; although the Oceanus was 80 feet long, it seemed as if it only about half of the creature’s length.

     Once again the beast reared out of the water for an attack. Carter took aim at the head, following the creature’s movements, carefully attempting to train the weapon onto a vulnerable spot. Once he had a target in his sights, he squeezed the trigger and the gun slammed against his shoulder, sending a painful shockwave through his arm and chest. The bullet hit its mark in the back of the beast’s throat, forcing it to quickly pull itself under.

     By now the creature’s putrid smell was being overpowered by smoke. Inside the cabin, Carlton struggled to keep the ship upright against the thrashing waves. He’d hoped a kill shot would have come by now, but the creature didn’t seem to be getting any weaker. With every shot, the beast would twist and flail, sending wave after wave toward them. It’s a fucking trawler, Carlton thought. He knew the engines were not up to the task–if this went on for much longer, they would end up at the bottom of the bay.

     As the creature’s head passed over him, Steven fired yet another shot into what was now an empty socket. Maggot-white tissue spilled across the deck as another wave threw the bow upward. It seemed that the harrow was no longer capable of coping with this agony–as it fell back beneath the surface, it began to thrash wildly, sending the ship rocking in the waves.

     As it surfaced one last time, Carter fired a shot into its belly, and the creature wailed. The sound was not only deafening but disturbing–an unworldly scream of pain and frustration. Though it nearly drowned him out, Carter could hear Carlton screaming in frustration. The engine cut out. They were dead in the water with a colossal beast that could take out their ship in a single bite.

     Inside the cabin, Carlton grabbed his shotgun. Stepping on deck, he fired, holding the trigger down as he rapidly slid the pump back and forth until the magazine was empty. Each shot blasted a silver-dollar-sized hole into the creature’s flesh, but the beast still didn’t die. Instead, it began to thrash even more, pushing the ship to the tipping point.

     Carlton hurriedly reloaded his gun while bracing himself for the imminent capsize. Then, he took aim at the creature’s eye socket and repeated his rapid-fire fury. The creature began to seize, but it still wouldn’t die.

     Steven dove back into the cabin, grabbing an emergency raft and ripping ripping the cord. The rubber vessel exploded into form, sliding up and down the rocking deck until Steven could grab and steady it and push it out onto the bow of the ship. As he and Carter loaded their gear inside, Steven gazed up at the crow’s nest in horror as another wave rotated the vessel; Carter’s grip failed, and he crashed into the waves below.

     Before Steven could even approach the lifesaver, the beast’s tail crashed down on the stern, shattering the deck and hull. Steven realized that he no longer had time–all he could do was get inside the raft and hope for the best.

     It was then that he noticed something else moving beneath the waves. As the water darkened several large, torpedo-like shapes began to appear near the surface. With smooth and precise undulations of their tails, each shape pulled alongside the beast, and as they began to tear off chunks of its flesh Steven finally finally realized what was happening.

     They won. The beast was weak enough to embolden the white-tips, and they were going in for the kill. They targeted the major blood vessels with stunning precision, spilling massive amounts of dark blood into the water. As the beast’s thrashing died down, the waves slowly subsided. The dragon was dead.

* * *

It was several minutes before Carlton found Devon Carter. The old hybrid was barely keeping himself afloat, using a stray cushion to keep his head above the water. With a few seconds of agonizing effort, Carter managed to pull himself into the raft. He was drenched; his fur hung from his hands face, but despite the shivering and his aching joints he seemed fine. “Carlton?” he asked, staring out at the oil-like blood that drifted around them.

     “Yeah?” Carlton replied. His was filled with relief.

     “I just want you to know, if you ever come up with another plan, I’ll shoot you myself.”

     Carlton laughed. “Well, it worked.”

     “I’ll take that into consideration,” Carter said, “when I ask you to pay me back for my boat.” He paused for a moment to catch his breath. “So, now what? Our radio’s at the bottom of the bay now. Tell me you packed flare guns.”

     “We can paddle,” Carlton said. “Shouldn’t take more than an hour to reach Bay Road from here.”

     Carlton reached into a rucksack and threw Steven a pair of wooden oars.

     “You’re kidding, right?” Steven said.

     “Do you have any idea how hard it was to keep that ship upright?” Carlton asked. “I’m worn out, and the old man here is practically knocking on death’s door. So as the youngest, fittest man on this raft, you get to do the rowing.”

     Steven grinned. “Which way’s the shore?” he asked.