Abysshead

Summary: A diver tracks a strange organism emerging in the depths. While it was changed by artificial augmentation, she knows what it and pities it.

Doctor Marina Reyes clutched the harpoon gun as she descended deeper. The frigid ocean around her seemed to sap the warmth from her body, despite her powered diving suit's temperature control. The abyssal blackness was impenetrable to the eyes of her birth, so she required the suit's multimodal sensor fusion to navigate. Most terrifying to her was the knowledge she was note alone.

Reyes knew there was a time, not so far into the past, when humanity believed itself master of the Earth and its seas. So much so, they feared their capability to forever destroy their homeworld's ecosystem. Such thoughts were simultaneously misguided and accurate, as were the philosophies that presently replaced them.

Reyes saw something twitch in the hull of a dead ship. Her augmented reality display identified it as the hulk of a Korean fishing vessel that went down in a storm three decades ago. The hull loomed silent and dark before her, a tangle of rusted metal and rustacles. It was the sort of place they favored as a layer, discrete and isolated on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

Clutching the weapon in hand, Reyes recalled what she saw in Manila. In the flooded seaside slums, entire cults formed around them. They were devious enough to use humans to further their own aims. They were capable of reading humans like open books, and with some practice, even cyborgs and artificial intelligences. Her own suit's AI was limited specifically so it would resist the digital sophistry they were so fond of. That did not mean she was safe.

Out of the darkness, Reyes saw three eyes open before her, red orbs stacked atop each other like a malevolent traffic light. In the abyssal depths, they were as bright as supernovae. She threw her hand in front of her visor, allowing the sensors to interpolate its position. She saw a long, sinuous shape emerge from the dead trawler, and she clutched the weapon tighter. She had one shot to take it out, before it returned the favor.

Reyes was familiar with them, in both their natural and augmented forms. Humanity had taken them, like so many other species of the old world, given them biotechnical augmentations, genetic memories, and the ability to reproduce. They repaid human kindness with cynical manipulation, especially as their four tentacles possessed optical backscatter sensors and the comprehension to read human emotions based on them. She pulled the trigger.

Reyes did not need to physically see the target to know she had struck it. The supercavitating harpoon dragged a fullerene line behind it, which followed a pre-programmed trajectory around it. She recalled the fictional monsters they reminded her of, the aboleths of a thousand fantasy games. As the line went taught, she heard clicking in her helmet.

Reyes detected a bio-acoustic signal from the target. It was a burst between 1 kilohertz to 120 kilohertz, with occasional blips above and below. The waveform indicated a double beam sonar source, just as the creatures' original forms did. She looked at the three eyes widen, just as they realized they were captured. Something made her feel guilt, although it vanished a moment later.

Reyes recalled these horrid leviathans were once dolphins. Human experimentation had uplifted them to sentience, but cursed them with sociopathy. These creatures adopted the manipulation that raised them, becoming monsters similar to the aboleths of popular culture. They'd spread their influence above and below the waves, but something of their origins remained.

Reyes activated the flotation devices in the capture line. This one was brought in alive, unlike many of the others she had to fight. It would be brought back to the Initiative for further study. As she heard the mournful sonar cries, she wondered, she hoped, one day it would be a dolphin again. Just as humanity could make monsters, so to did she hope it could heal them.