“They sent the wrong people for this,” said Super Sleuth.
“What do you mean?” asked Domina.
“Neither one of us do well in water. It’s not our specialty.”
The body of the sailor lay face down on the deck of the luxury yacht. Well he was dressed like a sailor anyway, but Super Sleuth could tell this man didn’t sail for a living. No muscle, soft non-calloused hands, a spray tan and gelled hair. Just a costume. The US Coast Guard vessel that had brought them here, lingered a hundred yards away, the men on board waiting nervously as the heroes did their work. The yacht, called the Forgotten Bridesmaid of all things, had reappeared after a week of going missing.
Everyone aboard appeared to be dead but it wasn’t that ghastly feature that led the Coast Guard to call the American Hero Society. It was the traces of radiation coming from the vessel. An old government policy from the days of the Cold War dictated that anything involving radiation was to be dealt with by the American Hero Society. Super Sleuth was surprised anyone even remembered it. The Society wasn’t what it used to be, after all, and was only able to send two of its reserve members. Super Sleuth was a talented investigator with heightened senses and Domina was a divinely inspired tech genius and inventor.
“How much radiation are we talking here?” asked Super Sleuth adjusting his mask. Those things got itchy.
“More than normal,” said Benson, the Coast Guard liaison, over the radio.
“You know the same could be about the average plane ride,” said Domina. She was decked out in her Catholic themed battle gear and helmet. Crosses everywhere. On her back she wore her power pack which powered all her gadgets and weapons, including the pulse rifle she was holding.
“That’s all we know at this point. The rest is up to you,” said Benson.
“Of course,” said Super Sleuth.
His senses were telling him a galaxy of things. He tried to focus on the important stuff. Dead bodies. Not dead long, decay had only just set in. Salt water footprints everywhere. Below deck, something pulsed with radioactivity. Faint, but Super Sleuth’s powerful eyes could see it all the same.
“We could be dealing with supers here,” Super Sleuth said.
“Ya think?” Domina remarked with a laugh. “It’s written all over this place. Sensors picking up a lot of interesting things.”
They continued their sweep. It was the same everywhere. Death and decay. But no violence. Not a single drop of blood or signs of struggle. Everyone was just dead. It was the strangest thing. Super Sleuth recognized the tell tale signs of drowning in every body they encountered. Every single one. How could that have happened? They found their way below deck.
“I feel woefully unprepared for this,” said Super Sleuth.
“That’s why you have me,” said Domina, holding up her rifle.
Her voice was lovely and distracting. The scent of her perfume punched through the reek of death here and set Sleuth’s senses on fire. Her body was alive and full of energy. He could smell it on her. Her nervous sweat, her adrenaline. The sound of her beating heart, so loud in this quiet place. He’d had heightened senses as long as he could remember and had long ago adjusted to living in a world where people could barely perceive even a fraction of it. A world where everyone seemed to walk around with blindfolds that covered their entire bodies. No one realized how bright and loud and smelly the world was. And the lies. People lying every day about everything. From what they ate to where they’d been. Even to each other, face to face, they lied. Their hearts and eyes and sweat glands gave them away but they were all oblivious. Super Sleuth read the world like a book. A bright, loud, smelly book.
And then there was Domina. Her real name was Sheila. He’d overheard her then boyfriend call her that. Funny how often people forgot how good his ears were. There was no shortage of good looking women in the Society, but something about Sheila caught his eye. It was her honesty. It could have been because she was Catholic, sure, but she didn’t lie. Not like everyone else. She laughed and cried and smiled and meant it. She was so real in a world full of fakers. And Super Sleuth loved her for it. But she was a woman of God, and she already had her heart set on another. So it was. But he couldn’t deny the way she made him feel. He had to tell her. He couldn’t lie to her like this forever.
“Domina,” Super Sleuth said.
“Yeah?” she asked. He turned off his communicator. She did the same.
“How are you?” Sleuth asked.
“Good, I guess. Why?” she asked.
“Well. I don’t know. I just… I wanted to tell you…” he paused. What was he doing? She was engaged to be married to the Alchemist. This wasn’t right.
“Is something the matter?” Domina asked.
“I…” He couldn’t say it. What was wrong with him? The yacht rocked. They turned their communicators back on.
“Please tell me that was a wave,” said Super Sleuth.
“Negative. It came from the yacht,” said Benson.
“Damn it,” said Super Sleuth.
“Wait, I got something. Engine room, now!” Domina said, running down the corridor to another stairwell.
She blew the door off with a well aimed pulse shot and ran inside with Sleuth right behind. The smell was overpowering now. The engine room was big, but crowded with machinery, both human and alien. Standing near one machine was a man dressed in blue and yellow spandex and fish scale boots and gloves.
“Tim?” Super Sleuth mumbled in disbelief.
The man turned, dead eyes staring at the two like a shark on the hunt.
“Whale Lad?” Domina asked.
“It’s not Whale Lad anymore. I gave up that name a long time ago. I’m the Shoal now,” said the man.
“What are you doing here?” asked Super Sleuth.
“Saving the world. Just like old times,” he said.
“Who killed the people upstairs?” asked Domina.
“This machine right here,” the Shoal said, patting the crustacean looking engine in front of him. “It submerged the yacht, briefly turning it into a submarine and killing everyone aboard.”
“And who made this machine?” asked Super Sleuth.
“Well, that would be me,” said the Shoal.
“Get your hands up and step away from the crab engine now!” Domina yelled.
“Oh no, the gene stock used for the engine is actually from the lobster family…” the Shoal’s words were interrupted by a rifle shot. His knee buckled backwards and he fell.
“Cuff him,” Domina said, tossing her restraining device to Sleuth.
“That was a mistake,” said the Shoal as Sleuth cuffed his hands behind his back. “I would have spared you because of our past history, but if you get in my way I will destroy you.”
“Good luck with that. You’re coming with us,” said Super Sleuth.
“Did you forget what my powers were?” the Shoal asked.
“You were a good swimmer,” Super Sleuth said in flat deadpan.
“I can also talk to the creatures of the sea. Now that the engine is part lobster, guess what that makes this yacht?”
The engines roared to life. The Shoal head-butted Super Sleuth and shouldered him aside, hobbling to the back of the engine room.
“Shut it down!” Domina commanded. She shot and missed the Shoal’s other leg.
“Creatures of the sea! Come to me!” The Shoal commanded. A dozen octopus people crawled out of fleshy pockets in the wall wielding spears and clubs.
“What the hell are these?” Domina asked.
“God my face!” Sleuth screamed, still recovering from the head-butt.
“The yacht’s moving! Are you two okay?” asked Benson.
“Hold please,” Domina said. She fired into the group of octopeople as they charged her.
Super Sleuth regained his faculties and went after the Shoal. An octopus man lunged at him with a spear. Sleuth grabbed the spear and knocked the creature aside. They were actually quite delicate things.
“Shoal!” Sleuth screamed. The Shoal looked back as Sleuth threw the spear into his back.
“Ah! My back! You speared me! What’s wrong with you? I could have died!” the Shoal yelled.
“Relax. You’re fine,” said Sleuth.
“You don’t know that! They could have tipped the spears in poison!” said the Shoal.
“Well then you better come with us if you want any medical help,” said Domina, shooting the last of the octopeople.
“No. No capture. Not for me.” The Shoal reached for the engine. It groaned and then exploded.
“Grab him and go,” said Sleuth. The Shoal laughed. Then he took the spear out of his back and shoved it down his throat, killing himself.
“Jesus!” said Domina.
“What the.. why?” Super Sleuth stuttered.
“No time to think. Let’s get out of here!” Domina yelled.
After a close escape, Super Sleuth and Domina were rescued by the Coast Guard vessel. Benson debriefed them and then offered them some hot cocoa because he was damn impressed with their performance.
“What the hell happened back there? Did he just go nuts?” Domina wondered when they were alone.
“I knew him. We were teammates when I first joined the Society,” said Super Sleuth. “That wasn’t him. Something changed him.”
“What?” she asked.
Super Sleuth shook his head. He didn’t know, but he would find out.