With Friends Like These … by Alan Dean Foster

With Friends Like These … by Alan Dean Foster

Author:Alan Dean Foster [Foster, Alan Dean]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Science Fiction
ISBN: 9780575131637
Publisher: Gateway / Orion
Published: 2013-08-29T00:00:00+00:00

Aristophanes Papadakis paced the outside bridge of the factory purse seiner Cetacean and surveyed the darkness. Occasionally a smoke-serpent appeared around the stem of his meerschaum and vanished wraithlike into the crystal Pacific night.

The lights of the fleet formed uncertain trails of light on the calm black water. For a change, the Pacific seemed inclined to live up to its name.

When the School came through tonight, fishing conditions would be perfect.

He tried to pick out the other ships of the flotilla. The San Cristóbal, Quebec, Typee, Carcharodon, Scrimshaw—the pride of the fishing fleets of three nations. Each vessel a food-processing factory in itself, dozens, of them, scattered starboard, port and aft in orderly rows. As flagship the Cetacean rode point, awaiting the southern charge.

And best of all, here was a great armada that would meet a charge with no guns, and fought only hunger.


“Eh?” Papadakis turned from the floating city. “What is it, son?”

“Sir, sonar reports that they’re inside the kilometer mark.” The young officer’s voice held barely repressed excitement.

“Be here soon, then. Good! Are all the other captains informed of my instructions concerning the gate?”

“Yes, sir,” replied the other. “The communications mate on duty said to compliment you on your final instructions, sir. Said they were explicit and evocative beyond the call of duty.”

“Did he now?” Papadakis smiled around the pipe stem. Mitchell and he had come up together, fishing off the municipal pier for rock cod and an occasional gift of halibut.

“Any man who closes his seine before the gate has been run gets packed in olive oil and shipped off with the first catch.”

He turned away, stared back down into the secretive waters. Wondered how Fowler had been able to pull it off. Sardines were fine to catch, and good eating, but yellowtail—now that was a noble fish. After a while he became aware that the new officer was still standing in the floorway.

“Well, come in or out, son. Can’t salt half a peanut.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” the youth replied, coming outside, “but this is my first actual catch—outside academy drills, of course. Tell me, can you see them when they go by?”

Papadakis made a sound, chomped hard on the pipe.

“Nope. More’s the pity, too. Oh, the caravaners can, they and their porpoises. But they’re so busy chasing off sharks and groupers and other predators that they’ve got no time to spend admiring things. Got better uses for their lights. Trying to cut a blue shark out of a school at night in this plankton stew is near impossible even with sonar. Couldn’t do it without the porps.”

A voice came from within the bridge.

“Two minutes, Cap’n.” Papadakis acknowledged this information by grunting louder than usual.

“Isn’t it exciting, sir?”

“Exciting? Just fish, son.”

The youth stayed quiet for a minute. Then, “Sir, I know what the book says—it seems silly—but can you really feel them?”

“Oh, sometimes, sometimes not. Doesn’t happen too often. Depends mostly on surface conditions. Then too, they’ve got to pass fairly close under your keel. The Cetacean and her cousins are big.


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