The Old Man and J.C.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
In certain circles the name Van Cleef is synonymous with hunting gigantic sea monsters. Since the late 20's he'd carved a niche for himself by boasting a gift for finding rare and wonderful marine life and then killing them. He'd roar his trade in ports around the world: "Here I be! The foulest man e'er to be keelhauled by his Ma! There be nothing beshat by Neptune that I canna hunt down! If it have fin, if it swims, I can take it down for a tuppence and a case o'grog! I've found Nemo, cooked 'im and et 'im!"
But after decades of hunting down monsters of the deep Van Cleef found himself with a diminishing market. He was hunting his prey into extinction. Not only was his source of income drying up, he found he was slowly losing his reason to live, his raison d'etre evaporating. He was without white whales to pit his wits against. Morose and withdrawn and without any challenges left for him Van Cleef melted away from public sight.
It took me two days to finally track him down to a dangerous bar on a wharf frequented by smugglers and degenerates. The bar itself was typical of places like this- cheap rum soaked into the floorboards, sailors asleep, unconscious or dying on the said floorboards and arguments were settled by spearguns at ten paces. I found Van Cleef eating roast parrot and playing Battleships with a barman, who had his arm gnawed off by a Tiger shark, out the back.
'You should charge your mobile phone batteries once in a while, I've been looking all over for you,' I say, pulling over to join them uninvited.
Van Cleef responded by spitting brine on the floor.
Look at him- face like a jar of spiders and the personality of a cudgel. A
Schimmelpennincks cigar jutting toothpick-like out of his mouth, a mouth that is a misery of decaying teeth re-arranged by bar brawls, a reptilian tongue and gums blackened by disease. He looks like he could survive a direct hit from a torpedo. He blows his nose on an algae-coloured handkerchief and says in a rusted voice, 'Rumour is you've been trying to clone Jesus.'
'Things not going too well for you then?'
Van Cleef and I had to work together twice before and we've walked away both times with a profound loathing of each other and a vow to never work together again but LEVIATHAN was a different kettle of fish, so to speak. I quickly fill him in on the details. 'Are you trying to tell me that there is a rapidly mutating sea creature that shares DNA with Jesus swimmin' 'round the ocean?'
'Well it could've been a lot worse. There's a JC called BASILISK that can kill people just by looking at them.' The news seem to worry him more.
'What you are trying to tell me,' he wheezes,' is that there are more of these f-cking things out there?'
'...um...yeah. About 400 or so all told.'
He keeps staring at me so I go back to the subject at hand. 'Look, we have a bunch of guys specifically trained to deal with this sort of situation...'
'...this sort of situation bein' the capture or possible elimination of an enormous underwater Jesus with self-replicating tentacles...'
'...called the Krakenguard,' I continue, ignoring him,' who are getting assembled as we speak. But they lack experience. So just tell me yes or no right now. Can you lead these guys? Are you in?'
Van Cleef doesn't even hesitate for a heartbeat and says, ' I'm in.'
The hunt is on,