He nudged Bandit awake, then headed for the pond as quickly as he could. And of course breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing that his laser sword was still right where he left it. Barely discernible, shimmering tantalizingly in the deep, but still there.
Somehow he would have to retrieve it because without it he was in trouble: that blade was both the single most useful tool he had, and a personal family treasure he felt awful about losing.
But just looking at the cave made him uneasy. Every time he pictured himself diving in to get his sword, he of course pictured the creature materializing out of the shadows to assail him again. Without a powerful weapon, or at least a decent plan, he was devilfish chow.
He stood before the pond, hefting his new disrupter pistol, wishing he knew whether or not it could do enough damage to fend off such a creature. More than once he pondered just jumping in and swimming after it as fast as he could, but he had seen firsthand how fast that thing was. Then he thought that perhaps he could jump in with the disrupter armed. Designed for use on the high seas, it was water-resistant to a depth of—
Max about jumped out of his skin when a dark shape emerged from the blue hole, cutting through his thoughts as easily as it cut through the water. Stepping back in spite of himself, he watched the blur of tentacles, briefly spotting a stump among them, overtake one of the fish, engulfing it in its dark arms. The thing he found most chilling was the fact that he had been so certain it was there the whole time. Just waiting for him.
As the creature propelled itself back to the cave, Max raised his disrupter and fired. The beam streaked through the water, leaving a trail of superheated bubbles in its wake.
And somehow missed by nearly a foot, even though he had aimed right at it.
He squeezed off several more shots as the creature sped up to escape its incomprehensible attacker in another cloud of that same black fluid. A dead fish, caught by one of Max’s stray shots, floated to the surface as its surviving fellows began to settle down. After a few moments, the thinning dark haze was the only sign that anything had happened here.
After another moment, Max looked down to see Bandit staring up at his disrupter pistol with wide-eyed awe. He lowered the weapon and patted the cub, reassuring him.
Max stood there for a long moment, pondering the devilfish’s escape. His aim had been true for at least one of those shots, of that he was certain. He had had the creature right in his sights…
Then he remembered something, and he finally understood. It was something Mom said once, something like reflection, retraction maybe… He couldn’t quite remember the word she had used, but he understood the concept. Whatever the word was, it meant that water bent light, as she had put it.
Which meant that his aim was no good from up here.
It began to dawn on him that he dwelt too much on his parents’ skills and abilities, on wanting to be as strong as them, though he understood all too well now that this battle could not be won by strength alone. Recalling the battles and challenges either of them had overcome against superior enemies and seemingly hopeless situations, he knew he would need to figure out a way to even the odds, if not turn the tables on the creature, in order to win here. Yet he just couldn’t come up with any situations of theirs that bore any resemblance to this problem…
Max holstered his gun and looked around. Seeing it was the best tool available, he picked up the fallen branch again and hauled it over to the water. Bearing in mind how fast the creature was, he waded warily into the shallow end, using the long branch to pull the dead fish ashore.
Its head was mostly gone, but the rest of it was okay. He and Bandit looked first at the slightly cooked fish, then at each other, not really needing their growing rapport to know they just had the same idea. Max turned and headed back for the campfire.
He would resume this endeavor after breakfast.