After They Broke Our Fists
rating: +57+x

Only the tips of Denver's skyscrapers still protruded above the sea: glass tombstones for citizens that were washed away years ago. Within one of those lonesome monoliths, a young man in a red and black life jacket watched the surf. Despite the knowledge of what lurked within that water, he felt a sense of calm as the sunrise illuminated its surface. He brushed a greasy lock of his hair out of his eyes and sighed.

"Devon."

Behind him stood a middle-aged woman dressed in faded tactical gear labeled with an emblem of a fist superimposed on a sunburst. Her hands were folded behind her back. She approached and joined him to look out over the water.

"Beautiful day out, Captain Quine," Devon said softly.

"Red sky at morning, sailors take warning," she replied.

They both shared a chuckle. Quine gestured to the stairs with her gloved hand.

"Come on, champ," she said. "Everyone's packing up. We're heading out."


Devon and Captain Quine joined the rest of the crew in what was once a lobby, now flooded and filled by a small, patchwork barge. The term 'Disaster' has been scrawled messily on the side in red paint.

Devon and his captain made their way to the pilot house. There, a one-armed teenage boy named Max loaded fist-shaped slugs into two shotguns. Between each slug loaded, he would twirl the ammunition between his fingers effortlessly.

"Show-off."

Devon snatched a slug out of Max's grip and replaced it with a power bar.

"Bon Appétit."

Max rolled his eyes and flipped Devon off. He then smiled as he tore into the ration.

As Devon helped Max finish preparing the weapons, Captain Quine approached an older woman named June who sat by a small SONAR station. She kept opening a toolbox on her lap, examining its contents.

"Any of them escape yet, June?"

An old man in a grease-soaked mechanic's jumpsuit emerged from the hatch that led to the engine below. He chuckled at his own joke, thoughtlessly tracing his fingertips along the wedding band that dangled from his throat.

June smiled and shook her head.

"No, not yet, Roger. No lack of trying, though. Gary used to swear these things would sprout legs."

"If I had a nickel for every time that happened," Roger chuckled again.

"What would you do with a whole quarter?" Quine grinned. "Think she'll hold for one more day?"

Roger shrugged.

"I'm surprised she didn't give up the ghost back in Sandpoint. But yeah. So long as you don't have me ram her into an iceberg, sure, why not?"

"Excellent. June? Did you get the SONAR fixed?"

The old tinkerer patted the device in response.

"Last night, yeah. If they come after us we'll be able to tell. At least until it shorts again."

"It will have to do. Thank you."

The captain then looked around and raised an eyebrow.

"Where's Layla?"

"I had her working on some last second hull reinforcements," Roger explained. "Hang on."

He quickly vanished below deck once more. A few moments later the mechanic returned, a young woman equipped with welder's goggles and a blowtorch in tow. By her side was a worn harpoon gun; a quiver of makeshift ammunition dangled from her hip.

"Glad you could join us." Quine grabbed a nearby grease pencil and began to draw on a nearby window.

"Alright, here we are at Republic Plaza," she explained. "According to the last radio message Salvation Fifteen sent out, they should be anchored about thirty miles south of us, near the mountains. That makes this is the final leg of the trip. We'll navigate out of the city, and should be able to catch them before too long. Once there, we'll be safe. Unfortunately, this will put us in open water for a good chunk of the trip. That means I'll need everyone on guard."

"Hey, Captain?" Max chimed in. "If this is the last leg, why are we using the barge? Why not just load up in the jet skis and make this a final sprint?"

"We barely got her through Wyoming, captain," Devon agreed. "Maybe a faster approach would be better?"

Quine shook her head and chuckled.

"What happens if we arrive and find Salvation Fifteen has moved on? Besides, we'll need whatever supplies we have left when we get there."

The captain's expression became solemn.

"It's been a long road, friends. No shortage of sacrifice from all of us to get here. I know we each lost a lot along the way."

Roger tightened his grip on the wedding band around his neck.

June briefly hugged the toolbox.

Max stared at the stump where his left arm used to be.

Layla and Devon both closed their eyes.

"You have all been more than I could have ever asked for in a family. Thank you."

Quine placed the cap back on her marker and smiled at them.

"Let's get the 'Disaster' on the road then, shall we?"


The morning was quiet. Their small barge made its way out of the waterlogged skyline of Denver and headed due south. The sun grew high and hot in the sky; eventually, a cruise liner appeared on the horizon. Most of the crew smiled at the spectacle. Those smiles soon vanished, however, when the "JAWS" theme came from the pilot house.

"June?" Captain Quine headed over to the SONAR station where the old tinkerer stood.

"I… thought it might be funny?" she mumbled, stepping aside. "Looks like we have company."

"Fucking hell." Quine and June grabbed the nearby shotguns. "Max?"

"Fins surfacing ahead, Captain. Five so far. Make that six. Seven!" Max shouted back from his perch atop the barge's storage containers.

"Layla, Devon, get to the bow! I got the stern!"

Quine didn't need to repeat herself. Devon and Layla took up position, each armed with a rifle.

"Think you'll actually hit something?" Layla flipped off the safety.

"Who knows? Maybe they'll be nice enough to hold still for me." Devon took aim.

Bullets and the smell of gunpowder filled the air.

"Three!" Layla counted, her most recent shot piercing an oncoming hammerhead down the middle of its snout. She swiveled, smiling as she picked up a new target and pulled the trigger. A lifeless corpse bobbed to the surface, a massive hole in the right side of its head. "Four! You got to keep up Devon!"

As she reloaded, a bull shark lunged out from the water. The bolt of her rifle wouldn't pull back. Layla fumbled, her eyes lost in the void of its oncoming maw.

BANG

The bull shark flew back, slamming into the water. A jagged second mouth had appeared under its throat.

"You can crank up as high a kill count as you want, it will mean little if you're fucking dead!" Devon said, reloading. "Three by the way."

"Shit!" Max shouted from his vantage point. "More coming in from the rear, and sides. We're being surrounded!"

A ring of fins had nearly encircled the tiny barge. Something rammed it from below. The craft shook, knocking Devon and Layla around like bowling pins.

"We're running out of ammunition!" Devon warned the rest of the crew.

"Can't this junk go any faster?" June's shotgun kicked as a slug tore off an entire dorsal fin.

"It's a god damn barge!" Roger shouted back. "What the hell do you want me to do? Jump into hyperspace? We're at max speed!"

There was a series of splashes, followed by dull thuds. Several sharks had jumped aboard and flailed their way toward the pilot house.

"Cover me!" Captain Quine closed the distance quickly, removing her gloves. Her polished metal fists gleamed like fire under the sun.

The punch crumpled the first shark's snout like a wrecked car, its eyes flying out of its sockets from the sheer force. The second shark tried to move in; it was met by a chop that cleaved its head in twain.

The third shark lunged and bit Quine's left arm. She smashed the top of its head down and pried it off. The fourth fled to the railing, only to be seized by its tail and ripped apart.

She threw the bodies overboard. The ocean turned a deep red. Inches of pulped, bloody shark paste seeped over the barge's sides.

"Yeah! Eat it!" Max shouted from his perch. "Fucking eat it, you selachian motherfuck-"

The towering shadow of a megalodon briefly eclipsed the stern before the pilot house, along with June and Roger, vanished into its jaws.

Max's taunting was drowned out by terrified screams and the sounds of twisting metal and shattering glass.

Captain Quine threw herself from the stern, falling from the shark's mouth into a heap of debris on the ship.

The barge stalled. More fins surfaced and closed in.

Devon and Layla emptied their rifles into the megalodon. Layla pulled the harpoon gun off her shoulder and loaded it from her quiver, a small boxing glove affixed to the end of the harpoon.

"Devon, get the big gun!"

"That'll blow the entire back off the —"

"The pilothouse is gone! We're going to have to outrun them on the jet skis!"

"For fuck's sake, just do what she says!" Captain Quine dug herself out of the debris. Her mechanical arms hurled scraps at the flailing megalodon as it pulled itself along the deck after her.

Devon vanished, then returned with a Javelin missile and launcher. He handed it off to Layla, then went to help his Captain. Max abandoned his perch for the safety of the bow.

The crew was clear. Layla fired. The missile vanished into the megalodon's throat; it then lurched forward.

"Well that's fucking great," Max shouted. "What the hell do we do now!"

"Take cover!" Quine pushed her crew away.

The explosion tore across the surface of the vessel. A surge of shark meat and blood crashed across the deck. Devon blinked, caught in the wave of viscera. His clothes and life jacket were now caked in sticky fluid.

"Oh, man…" He looked at himself, then turned to the remaining half of the megalodon sticking to the craft. The bleeding hulk slowly slid off and back into the sea. The barge was now taking on water.

"You'll live, champ," Quine said, patting Devon on the shoulder, then moving across the deck and throwing off a tarp. Beneath were two Jet Skis, strapped down for transport.

"Come on let's go!" Quine shouted as she released the tethers. "Max with me, Devon and Layla on the other! Help me!"

With no further ado, the jet skis hit the water.

As they rode away Devon looked back over his shoulder. Their home vanished beneath the waves.


The sharks faded into the distance, outpaced by the jet skis. As the miles melted by, their destination crept larger and larger on the horizon. Devon heard Layla give a sigh of relief behind him as he steered. He gave Quine and Max a thumbs up. Quine replied with a small smile and nod.

"Devon!"

A harpoon whistled past Devon's head. He snapped his attention back to their path. Layla was reloading; a shark's carcass bobbed to the surface. Her harpoon was embedded in its head. Dozens more fins emerged ahead of them, forming a loose blockade.

"Run it!" Captain Quine shouted over the whine of the jet ski's motor as she zig-zagged through the water. Max took pot shots with his pistol at any sharks that got too close.

Devon followed Quine's lead. Layla's harpoon gun hissed again and again as she left a trail of carnage behind them.

"Almost there…" Devon mumbled under his breath. "Come on, come on."

There was a splash. Two sharks shot out of the water in tandem, knocking Captain Quine's jet ski upward. Quine and Max briefly hung in the air before they hit the water with an inelegant crash. The jet ski skittered off; dozens of fins lunged around it before it vanished beneath the tides.

Devon turned. He held his breath and waited. When Max's head sprang up, they gasped in unison; the one-armed boy swam in desperation for Devon's craft. Blood trailed from his left shoulder. A cluster of three fins surfaced behind him. Devon opened the throttle and closed the distance.

Two harpoons found their marks, leaving a single pursuer.

"Devon, I'm out!" Layla shouted.

The shark swimming after Max lurched out of the water. It had a fist-sized hole in its head. Captain Quine surfaced soon after and swam to Max, grabbing him by the collar. She hurled him into the waves by Devon and Layla's jet ski. As they pulled him aboard, the blockade closed in.

Captain Quine headbutted an incoming shark. "Get out of here!"

"Captain, n-"

"That's an order! Go!"

Devon turned the craft around and took off at full speed. Layla and Max watched as an army of fins descended upon their commander. The waters churned with crimson foam as shark carcass after carcass surfaced.

Some had holes punched through them. Others were missing fins. Still others were torn completely in half.

As her head shrank out of sight, they could just make out her slipping beneath the churning sea of chum one final time, a blanket of over forty dead sharks serving to mark the grave.

Max gave a sad chuckle as he looked back.

"Shark fin soup…"


The jet ski ran out of fuel a quarter of a mile away from Salvation Fifteen. The three survivors drifted towards the cruise liner quietly, its tall form anchored near where the mountains still managed to peak above the surface.

No one spoke. They paddled their craft in silence as they limped along. On occasion, one of them would look back out to the open water. Their eyes would linger, then return to the task at hand.

"I'm not seeing anyone up there, guys." Max eyed the towering ship with his telescope. "Didn't they say they had, like, a hundred or so people aboard on the broadcasts?"

"It’s a big ship," Layla answered. "They could all just be inside."

Max nodded.

"Right. I guess we made it then."

"Home sweet home," Devon agreed and pulled out a radio. "Salvation Fifteen, this is the survivors of the barge 'Disaster.' We are approaching from your starboard side, please respond."

There was a long stretch of quiet.

"We see you, 'Disaster' survivors. Glad you made it. Please make your way towards the stern, we'll be sending a rope down to you shortly. You're safe now."

They each let out a sigh of relief.

CRACK

The sigh was short lived. Before their eyes, a massive claw emerged from the water. It plucked up Salvation Fifteen like it was a bath toy. The vessel split in half; it was then slammed into the mountainside, left to tumble back down to the water below — where it proceeded to explode.

The claw then retracted back into the sea, vanishing as swiftly as it had arrived.

"No way," Max whispered.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," Layla said. "That's not even a goddamn shark!"

Devon just sighed.

The three survivors looked on in defeat. For a while, they let the silence speak for them.

When Devon got tired of what it had to say, he broke it: "Hey, Layla? Do you remember what Captain Quine said started all of this?"

"Yeah. Something about some big fish in the middle of the ocean finally waking up. End-of-World K/O Failure Scenario, or something like that."

"Right."

Devon went quiet again.

"That's a stupid fucking name."

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