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Do orcas react differently to swimmers in orca-like dresses?


Question on animal behaviour. This video shows the trainers of the orcas in swimming pool with them. Why do they use orca-like dresses? Is it just for the show, or do orcas then treat them more peacefully? :)


Commentary on Tales From The Inner City

Tales from the Inner City, a sister volume to the anthology Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008) is a collection of 25 illustrated stories about relationships between humans and animals. The basic premise I set for myself was quite simple: think about an animal in a city. Why is it there? How do people react to it? What meaning does it suggest? The first story I wrote concerned crocodiles living across the entire upper floor of a skyscraper, and this more or less triggered a flow of similar daydreams. Like most artists, I often work like this, starting with a seed concept, building it as a series of investigations, exploring an idea in different forms until I have something that feels more or less complete, with some unifying feeling or theme.

Much of my work, from The Rabbits through to The Lost Thing and Tales from Outer Suburbia deals with this separation or tension between natural and artificial worlds, provoking a sense of longing for something lost, or something that can’t be fully remembered. Our current way of life is, historically speaking, amazingly strange, both in a wonderful and troubling way, a kind of glitch in geological time marked by great separations and abstractions. I’ve often felt that many material and spiritual problems suffered by myself and others may have something to do with this distance from nature in a post-industrial world, especially in urban centres. Thinking about other animals is a useful way of appreciating this, stepping back from a rather narrow anthropocentric mindset, trapped as it is in contemporary human concerns and self-obsession.

Importantly, my animals never really speak, and their natures remain inscrutable. They are beings that move in and out of each story as if trying to tell us something about our own successes and failures as a species, the meaning of our dreams and our true place in the world, albeit unclearly. In that sense, these fictional creatures have some parallels with real ones animals whose day-to-day presence might illustrate principles of life we are least inclined to see, either due to cultural distraction, physical distance or the barriers of language. We are just so busy being humans all the time, while other mammals, insects, fish and birds endure beside us like forgotten kin. And while we may never understand the lives of these other animals – it would be foolish to assume otherwise – by writing and painting stories about them we might at least stretch our imagination, and come to understand a little more of our human selves.

The original illustrations in Tales from the Inner City are almost all oil paintings on canvas, and quite large, being about 150 x 100 cm, without any significant digital work. I like the direct materiality of tradition media, and enjoy being able to use whole-arm gestures for varied textural effects at this scale, using brushes, palette knives, pieces of cardboard and sometimes a shower squeegee drag wet oil paint across a canvas in large swipes before resolving details. Prior to painting, I create a number of sketches and smaller paintings, some of which are shown below. For this book, a lot of preliminary work was digital, and took the form of photo-collage – piecing together collected found images – which is why the imagery in the final paintings remains quite naturalistic, drawing on photographic references. In some cases, I built small scenes, like museum dioramas. The opening image ‘Deer’, for instance, was based upon small toys in a little forest constructed in a cardboard box on my windowsill to recreate the desired lighting and composition.

I’m often asked which comes first, the story or the illustration. It’s a bit of both, a very to-and-fro process, one act informing the other throughout successive revisions. Initially I usually have some kind of fuzzy mental image, like partially recalled a dream: a lungfish in a gutter with a slightly human face, a cloud of butterflies descending, or factory workers riding a yak home on a snowy afternoon. I’m not always sure where these images come from, although I can usually identify a few influences, whether from news stories, conversations, or misinterpretations of something only partially seen or heard (a common source for ideas.)

Painting or writing is almost a way of trying to figure out what those originating daydreams might mean, as they are sketched out in both words and pictures in small notebooks, using a pencil or a ballpoint pen, often repeatedly, trying alternative variations of the same idea. This is an evolutionary process over hours, weeks or months, and I often end up with something quite different to that which I originally imagined. What interests me especially is the way that an absurd premise – crocodiles on an office floor, bears with lawyers, an orca lost in the sky – can begin to make perfect sense if you spend enough time writing or drawing them. Hidden meanings, fears, revelations, philosophical questions and real-life concerns seem to naturally bubble up, almost of their own accord.

The overarching thought that flowed from a lot of this work was simply this: humans are animals. It’s something we tend to forget, that we are just one species among several million on this planet. Our laws and religion tell us we are special, but are we really? One thing we know for sure is that we are self-aggrandizing, and weighed down by very human notions of superiority, so much so that we tend to separate ourselves and only communicate inwardly. Fictional writing and painting is actually part of this process, it’s an internal dialogue that forever turns inward, but at least it tries to look outward too, at non-human things, the way a naturalist does.

I often wonder if our distant ancestors had a better grasp of other animal life, being inherent naturalists. When you think about cave drawings, which are so often stories, the dominant motifs are animals and when you look at children, many of their very first words and concepts and toys are animals. Not human figures, but bears, elephants, giraffes, mice. Our daughter was born around the time I began thinking about this book and first writing these stories, and it cemented the idea that there is something very fundamental about a human longing for closeness to our non-human relatives, either through pets, stories, toys, television shows or visits to the zoo, which for a while I was doing on a weekly basis, living not too far from it, joining a small army of other new parents with strollers.

And yet we also seem to disrespect animals greatly, when you look at the way they are treated, the destruction of their habitat, the cruelties of factory farming and many other deprivations and injustices. And that’s just by our own measure. There are no doubt further problems we are yet to become aware of, such as the recent discovery that noise from cargo ships interferes with long-distance whale communication, with possibly fatal consequences. Increasingly we live in environments far removed from forests, plains, deserts and oceans, from cities to cyberspace, and then constantly feel that something is deeply missing. We are also belatedly realizing that our own fate is deeply entwined with that of our fellow creatures (something our distant ancestors already knew well) as we continue to degrade the land, ocean and air, and tick off species as they become routinely extinct, disrupting a finely-tuned network. As I was getting this volume ready for print, the last male Northern White Rhino died, just like the rhino in my own poem, bringing countless millions of years of that subspecies’ history to an end. We are living in the Anthropocene era, the first time it can be said a single species is responsible for global changes on a geological scale, and arguably a period of mass-extinction not known since the demise of the dinosaurs in the late Cretaceous.

My book is not so much about these issues, but the vague and confusing sense as contemporary humans, especially city-dwellers, that life has become very strange and complex against the backdrop of this massive crisis. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because strangeness and complexity opens the mind to imagination to possibility, a heightened awareness, a self-critical appraisal that drives us to think about the world differently. But that imagination does, I believe, need to be routinely steered back to things that matter, as an important means by which we realise the things that matter. Things that always seem bigger, older, wiser and ultimately more enduring than ourselves.


Tsunagu Hakamata &mdash Best Jeanist

Voiced by: Hikaru Midorikawa (Japanese), Micah Solusod (English), Gianfranco Mastrorosa (Latin American Spanish/TV series)

Debut: Chapter 48 (Manga), Episode 27 (Anime)

Quirk: Fiber Master

The current 3rd-highest ranked hero in Japan, a stylish individual who takes pride in his work. He believes heroes should maintain a positive appearance, both physically and socially, in order to inspire peace in society.

During the Field Training Arc, he took in Bakugo as an intern in order to teach the teen how to properly present himself as a hero, which yielded the expected results. After the Hideout Raid Arc, he was forced to take a temporary hiatus from hero work after All For One's attack cost him a lung. Despite this, he ends up moving up a rank, from fourth to third, in Hero Billboard Chart rankings due to his actions during the Kamino Ward Raid.

His Quirk is "Fiber Master", which grants him the ability to manipulate the fibers that make up clothing.

  • The Ace: As far popularity and ingenuity are concerned. He is so popular that even when taking an extended leave from hero work following his injuries from All For One, his rank actually increases to third place. He was also praised by All For One of all people for reacting to his attack even though his Quirk would ordinarily be something All For One wouldn't even bother stealing, due to the hard work involved in using it.
  • Achilles' Heel: More powerful application of his Quirk such as restraining Gigantomachia demands increasing focus, to the point he's virtually a sitting duck and necessitates others to protect him.
  • Action Fashionista: One of the top four heroes, and also a trendsetter. He has his own fashion line and has owned the real-world Best Jeanist design award multiple times as well.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The Meta Liberation Army Arc reveals he's currently missing. The League has actually ordered him to get killed by Hawks, and at the end of the arc, it appears that he has gone through with it, but as Hawks is The Mole, it's unknown what his current state is. As of Chapter 291, it is revealed he is alive, and the conversation between himself and Hawks in Chapter 299 reveals that he was put into a death-like state they replicated from the Noumu in their custody to sell Hawks as a mole. Of course, Hawks himself notes it was good fortune the Liberation Front allowed him to keep Beast Jeanist's body preserved until it was time to wake him up, and Jeanist admits his body still feels like hell.
  • Awesome by Analysis: During the attack on the Tokyo Sky Egg in Vigilantes, Best Jeanist is among the heroes isolated inside the building. He quickly gets a plant of the building and realizes the attack was a planned act of terrorism since the resulting blackout locked the elevators and exit doors. With that knowledge, he quickly takes the helm and assigns tasks to everyone, some to calm down the civilians and whoever can fly to find a way out to try to find the source of the attack.
  • Badass Baritone: In Japanese, he's voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa, who is known for having a deep voice.
  • Badass Cape: Wears one in the Hideout Raid Arc. This is justified as it's an additional source of fibers.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In Chapter 291, just as Dabi has shattered morale for the heroes and is about to use Prominence Burn to finish them off, Best Jeanist jumps out from a cargo plane with several drums of heavy wires to wrap him, the rest of the League of Villains, and Gigantomachia himself.
  • Brutal Honesty: When he first meets Bakugo he bluntly tells him that he doesn't like him and that he only recruited him for the internship so he could mould his abrasive personality into something better.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Introduced alongside Endeavor in an ad in Chapter 3. He started playing an actual role in the story 45 chapters later.
  • Clothing Combat: He can manipulate fibers, essentially allowing him to control clothing. This is much more powerful than it sounds as it is practically impossible for anyone wearing any sort of clothing to be able to resist his Quirk.
  • Cool Car: Best Jeanist's personal sports car is customized to be able to shoot out steel cable for him to manipulate with his Quirk, allowing him to quickly make impromptu captures in a hurry. It also happens to bear a striking resemblance to the Batmobile
  • Determinator: Never gives up in spite of overwhelming opposition. When he sees Bakugo's villainous tendencies, he tries to reform him rather than giving up on or ignoring him. When All For One's shockwave tears through his fiber binding, Best Jeanist makes sure to pull everyone out of the way even though he himself has no defense against the attack. Once he realizes he was misinformed about the nature of All For One's power and realizes he is as strong as All Might, and even after taking the brunt of All For One's shockwave and being rendered immobile, Best Jeanist still uses Fiber Master to prop up his body to launch a final attack against All For One. All For One also notes that the level of dedication needed to reach Best Jeanist's level of skill with such a mundane Quirk is so great that Shigaraki can't be expected to match it.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Like Momo Yaoyorozu, his Quirk is implied to have taken a lot of training and time to master, but he made a name for himself as a top-ranking pro hero with it. This works to Best Jeanist's advantage when All For One doesn't bother stealing his Quirk, because getting any use out of it would require the same amount of training and he doesn't have the time or patience for that, having other Quirks with more raw power at his disposal .
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first thing he does when he meets Bakugo at his agency is to lecture him on hisFatal Flaw, having so much pride in himself that he cares little for how it reflects on his image, his ferocious nature, and general bad attitude, and vows to correct him, by making him "presentable" to the public.
  • Face Palm: In the anime, he does this when Bakugo accidentally makes a group of children cry by shouting at them during their patrol around the city.
  • Faking the Dead: He stays "missing" after Hawks pretends to have killed him, only reappearing once the undercover gig is up. He had to be put in a death-like trance reminiscent of a Noumu when it has no orders to follow to sell it, and he complains after the fact his body still feels sore as hell.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Downplayed. Similar to All Might, the wounds All For One inflicted cost him a lung but didn't force him to retire outright. He just had to withdraw from active heroics temporarily. It is also shown that using his full power taxes him greatly post-injury, as he can be seen coughing and bleeding from his nostrils.
  • Gratuitous English: Not him, but his employees and interns respond to him by saying, "Sure, Best Jeanist!" in unison.
  • Groin Attack: In Smash!, he disciplines Bakugo by forcing him to wear jeans and then tightening them around his groin when he acts out of line.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: His Quirk is perfect for restraining ne'er-do-wells since almost everyone wears clothing. He can also manipulate the threads of his own clothing so that they're nearly invisible and make them strong enough to even bind Nomus.
    • Even Gigantomachia, a villain bigger and much stronger than Mt Lady, struggles to break free of thick wires under Best Jeanist's control.
    • Gives one to Bakugo, accusing him of wasting his potential due to always seeing himself as the strongest and acting out because of that. He spends the rest of Bakugo's internship trying to teach him about presentability and discipline. Unsurprisingly, Bakugo takes none of his lessons to heart and views the internship as a total waste of time, though considering Best Jeanist's condescending attitude and seemingly altering Bakugo's hero costume without permission, it's not very surprising it didn't stick.
    • He gives a small one to Mt. Lady for assuming All For One could be a civilian when he was coming at them with murderous intent.
    • His lecture to Bakugo may have had good intentions behind it, but inviting a volatile teenager to your agency, giving them a "The Reason You Suck" Speech when you know nothing about them aside from a few seconds of footage from TV and then altering their appearance without permission is an absolutely terrible way to get through to someone and Bakugo considers the entire thing an utter waste of his time. Later, however, after undergoing some Character Development, Bakugo internally decides to tell Best Jeanist his new hero name first, implying that Best Jeanist's lessons got through to him.
    • Best Jeanist was caught by surprise when All For One lowered his guard by openly conversing with him, and when Best Jeanist tried to strike at him without knowing what All For One was fully capable of and the many Quirks in his arsenal, All For One used a ranged combination of Quirks that bore down on Best Jeanist way too quickly for him to even know what hit him, and it tore a hole in him much the same way he did to All Might and immediately knocked him out cold. Because of how extensive his injury is, Best Jeanist has to take a lengthy sabbatical from pro hero work to heal, even missing out on the new hero rankings announcements following All Might's retirement.

    Experiment series

    The first digit of the experiment numbers reflects what series of experiments they belong to. The official series of experiments, as stated by Jess Winfield, one of the executive producers, are as follows:

    • 0-Series: Jumba's test batch, including many household helpers.
    • 1-Series: Civic disturbances.
    • 2-Series: Technological and scientific.
    • 3-Series: Psychological.
    • 4-Series: Top Secret and mysterious series of militaristic and mostly failed experiments.
    • 5-Series: Elemental and environmental manipulators.
    • 6-Series: Battlefield and doomsday experiments with galactic implications.

    For the most part, the colors of the experiment pods correspond to the series numbers however, some of the pods are colored incorrectly.


    Do orcas react differently to swimmers in orca-like dresses? - Biology

    Director: Steven Spielberg

    Starring: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Jeffrey Kramer, Carl Gottlieb, Lee Fierro, Jeffrey Voorhees, Chris Rebello, Jay Mello, Susan Backlinie, Robert Nevin

    Screenplay: Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb and Steven Spielberg (uncredited), based upon the novel by Peter Benchley

    Synopsis: During an all-night beach party on Amity Island, Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) goes for a swim and is dragged to her death by something in the water… The next morning, Amity’s police chief, ex-New Yorker Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), goes to the beach with the young man who reported her missing. The two hurry along the sands upon hearing a frantic signal from Deputy Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer), who has found washed up on shore what little remains of Chrissie… When the medical examiner reports the cause of death as ‘shark attack’, Brody orders the beaches closed. Learning that a group of boy scouts are scheduled to do a mile swim that morning, the sheriff then rushes to the local ferry terminal, hoping to head the boys off. On the boat, he is cornered by Amity Mayor Larry Vaughan (Murray Hamilton), local newspaper editor, Harry Meadows (Carl Gottlieb), and the medical examiner (Robert Nevin) Vaughan tries to persuade Brody that his order to close the beaches was premature, an overreaction. When Brody argues that it is the correct response to a fatal shark attack, Vaughan presses the medical examiner to concede that he may have made a mistake in his original conclusions, and that Chrissie’s injuries may have been inflicted by a propeller. Reluctantly, Brody gives in, and life in Amity goes on as usual—until a boy named Alex Kintner (Jeffrey Voorhees) is bloodily killed in a daytime shark attack witnessed by dozens of beach-goers, including Brody himself. At a town meeting, local business-people continue to resist any measure that will impact the summer tourist trade, and react with dismay to the bounty placed on the shark by the devastated Mrs Kintner (Lee Fierro), which is advertising the shark’s presence far and wide. Brody explains to the gathering that they will be hiring extra deputies and shark-spotters to help deal with the situation. However, in the face of relentless questioning, he is forced to admit that he also intends to close the beaches. The crowd’s angry reaction drowns out Brody’s announcement that an expert from the Oceanographic Institute is on his way to Amity. The protestors are silenced, however, when a local fisherman called Quint (Robert Shaw) offers to catch and kill the shark for a flat fee of ten thousand dollars. His offer is not accepted, but before long Amity is flooded with fisherman, both professional and amateur, all hoping to catch the shark and secure the bounty offered by Mrs Kintner. Among the arrivals is Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), the marine biologist from the Oceanographic Institute, who is appalled by the reckless behaviour of those venturing out onto the water. Hooper introduces himself to Brody, who invites him to examine Chrissie Watkins’ remains. Hooper confirms that she died from a shark attack, and angrily denounces the medical examiner. Meanwhile, it seems that the fishermen have succeeded: Brody and Hooper rush back to the docks to find that a large tiger shark has been killed. As the townspeople, including the relieved Brody, celebrate, Hooper examines the animal—and comes away almost certain that it is not the shark that killed Chrissie. An argument between himself, Brody and Larry Vaughan is interrupted by the arrival of the furious and grief-stricken Mrs Kintner, who now knows of the first fatal attack, and tells Brody flatly that he is responsible for her son’s death. That night, as Brody drowns his sorrows, Hooper makes a second effort to convince him that they must examine the contents of the tiger shark’s stomach before the animal is disposed of. The two men cut the shark open, and so confirm their worst fears: the killer shark, a much larger animal, is still out there…

    Comments: There was a time, getting on for fifty years ago, when it was assumed by the producers and distributors of motion pictures that no-one really wanted to spend a summer day inside, sitting in the dark and watching a movie. Consequently, the summer months were generally used as a dumping-ground for those productions of which little was expected in terms of financial performance, or which might appeal only to a niche audience.

    All that changed, however, in the American summer of 1975, when a single film altered forever the way that movies were made and marketed, and single-handedly created the concept of “the summer blockbuster”.


    (That’s the Australian one in the middle I don’t know why we went with purple.)

    In fact, that particular film did more: it created in the process the perfect feedback loop, by frightening the summer crowds away from the beaches—and back into the cinemas…

    While we might deplore some of the consequences of its success, including its part in the development of a “bigger is better” mindset focused upon opening-weekend takes, saturation advertising and an emphasis on the sizzle rather than the steak, there is little to criticise in Jaws itself. The film is a brilliant exercise in the blending of genres, and an object lesson in “layering”: an adventure written in broad strokes, but one supported by thoughtful characterisations and first-class performances, and with an attention to texture and detail that adds immeasurably to the richness of the finished production.

    Of course—the film had no right to turn out like that. As we now know, Jaws is one of those films that somehow succeeded in spite of itself, second only to Casablanca in creating brilliance out of chaos. (Second because, as we shall see, Jaws does not always quite succeed in papering over its cracks.) In fact, the more you know about it, the more you have to wonder how anything went right.

    Even before production began on Jaws, some significant chances were taken, with an inexperienced director assigned to the self-evidently difficult shoot, and pre-production cut short in order to take advantage of (what were expected to be) appropriate weather conditions. Then, almost from the first day of production proper, things went wrong. The short preparation time meant that shooting started before the screenplay was finished it ended up being written, and rewritten, on the fly, with scenes constructed only the night before they were filmed and the cast given minimal time to prepare. The good weather evaporated almost immediately, to be replaced by wind and rain that hampered shooting and made matching of the footage next to impossible.

    Furthermore, the combination of rain and sea-water resulted in the production being plagued by mechanical failures—most seriously with respect to the animatronic sharks via which the film’s menace was intended to be actualised.

    The consequences of all this were unavoidable: the shooting schedule blew out, and so did the budget, with a nervous Universal finally spending almost ten million dollars more than intended upon “a summer film about a shark”.

    The studio needn’t have worried: Jaws went on to make a staggering $260 million in its domestic market alone, making it America’s top-grossing film of 1975 it would go on to make $470 million worldwide. Adjusted for inflation, Jaws is currently ranked #7 on the list of highest-grossing films of all time.

    But the money only tells a part of the story—and not the most important part. Jaws is a film that crosses boundaries in a manner that only a handful of truly great films succeed in doing: an adventure film, but one whose strength lies in its characters and their dialogue a male-focused action film that appeals to most ages and both sexes a thriller that blends suspense with touches of genuine humour a horror film for those who usually wouldn’t be caught dead watching one.

    And a two-hour film about hunting and killing a shark that can make a shark-lover, love it.

    As you would appreciate—I have something of a contentious relationship with Jaws. I can’t exactly call it a love-hate relationship, because I certainly don’t hate the film on the contrary but I do hate what it wrought.

    I’ll do my best here to stay focused and treat Jaws simply as a film, and to remind myself it was built around what people thought they knew at the time, but—well, apologies in advance if I wander off-topic.

    Jaws is a movie that sets its tone from the opening frames of its credits: an ominously prowling underwater camera, and that still more ominous music…

    John Williams’ score for Star Wars is usually credited with reviving the dying art of full orchestral movie scores, but it started here, with his less flashy but no less indelible work for Jaws. Those shivery chords are not merely a perfect complement for the film’s central menace, but so very effective that – as became more and more necessary as things went wrong during production – they are likewise a perfect replacement for it: the music alone is enough to put the viewer into a state of full tension.

    That said, I have to admit that I find some of Williams’ other work on this film less successful. The “seafaring” themes that accompany the scenes involving the Orca are a bit much for my taste or, perhaps more correctly, a bit too light-hearted in tone for the material they support.

    On the other hand, this a film that really knows how and when to use its music—and critically, when not to use it at all. Too many films these days overuse their score, pouring music into almost every scene so that it loses its effectiveness. Jaws, conversely, is a brilliant exponent of silence of letting the ocean speak for itself. Long stretches of this film have no accompaniment at all. That creeping music, when it re-emerges, therefore has twice the impact.

    Jaws opens upon a night-time beach party: young adults play music, drink beer, smoke pot, and canoodle one young man catches the eye of a young woman, sitting somewhat isolated from the party proper. She smiles at him invitingly, and he crosses to her side.

    Almost instantly, the young woman leaps to her feet and sprints off. The young man accepts that tacit invitation, too, and runs after her she calls over her shoulder that they are going swimming.

    But it turns out that the young man is somewhat the worst for wear after his night’s indulgences, and he is unable to keep up with his companion—even when she adds to her general invitation a more specific one of stripping off her clothes as she runs. Naked, she sprints across the beach and plunges into the water, striking out for a buoy some distance from the land. The young man, meanwhile, gives up the chase and collapses onto the sand, vainly fighting his state of intoxication.

    The young woman pauses in her swim, floating effortlessly, at home in the water she dives, and somersaults, one leg raised gracefully above the surface like a sail—or a fin. She looks back, calling to the young man, but there is no response from him.

    Suddenly, as the young woman treads water, something jerks her beneath the surface. Fear grips her: a fear that turns to mortal terror as she is dragged back and forth, pulled again and again beneath the water. She makes a desperate grab at the buoy and for a few moments clings to this last poor defence, as her screams cut through the night she is then dragged under one last time…

    Few films provide so unforgettable an opening gambit as Jaws. The scene is exquisitely constructed: unforgettable in its switch from serene beauty to brutal violence terrifying in its implications.

    One thing, however, that I don’t think has ever received enough credit is the performance of Susan Backlinie. She had done some acting when she was cast, but she was predominantly a stuntwoman and an animal trainer, and her main qualifications for the role were her ability and her willingness to work in the water at night and to go through the difficult and potentially dangerous harness-work necessary to get the scene shot (and also, of course, to get naked and be photographed so).

    Yet it is her acting that we remember the utter terror she conveys, the human tragedy of this random, violent death. Not much happens by way of “action” over the next phase of Jaws, as the film takes its time in introducing its characters and setting up its narrative but the shadow thrown by this opening sequence is long and dark, and Backlinie’s contribution is its most significant component.

    We should note that the stories of Backlinie being seriously injured during the filming of this scene are untrue. It is true that Spielberg didn’t warn her when the jerking-around was going to begin, so those first, startled reactions are genuine but beyond that, the performance is all Backlinie’s own. The suggestion that she was really injured, really screaming in pain, is in its way a compliment but it also takes away from the power of her performance.

    The following morning dawns bright and sunny across the island community of Amity, including directly into the bedroom of former New Yorker, now sheriff of Amity, Martin Brody his equally sleepy wife, Ellen, reminds him that they bought the house in the fall now it is summer.

    One of the many almost immeasurable improvements made in adapting Peter Benchley’s novel for the screen was the decision to make the Brody family – Martin, Ellen, and their two boys, Michael and Sean – the narrative’s anchor. This is not to say that Steven Spielberg pushes them at the viewer—as, alas, he might have done at a later point in his career. Rather, he simply foregrounds these people and allows their quiet normality (as opposed to the tiresome marital difficulties that drive their narrative in the novel) to give us a measure for much of what happens later. And while the performances from Chris Rebello and Jay Mello as the boys are adequate, the interplay of Roy Scheider and Lorraine Gary, as a long-married couple at perfect ease with one another, is remarkable in its warm naturalness.

    Both Brodys are then shaken out of their remaining sleepiness, Ellen when she is called upon to clean and dress a bloody cut across the hand of eldest son, Michael – which she does with the matter-of-factness of long experience – Martin when he receives a phone-call. His side of the conversation alerts us to a report of a missing person, a possible case of drowning. He promises to be on the scene in about twenty minutes.

    Once there, Brody questions the young man, Tom, who rather shamefacedly admits he’s not sure what happened although the discovery at the scene of Chrissie’s clothes and bag suggest the worst. A whistle blows frantically in the distance. The two run towards the sound, and find Brody’s deputy, Hendricks, slumped upon the sand, looking shaken and sick. Nearby is Chrissie’s body what’s left of it.

    This is the film’s first real gross-out moment, not so much the hand jutting from the sand but the crabs crawling all over it. A fake arm was constructed for this shot but in the light of day it looked too fake, so they ended up burying a crewmember in the sand instead. The fake arm shows up later in the morgue scene, however.

    It’s too early even for the Amity Police Department, so when Brody’s secretary, Polly, arrives, she finds her boss already hard at work at his typewriter, barely lending an ear to her report of out-of-control young karate students as he writes up his report. (Not well: “CORNERS OFFICE”?) The phone rings and in response to the voice at the other end of the line, Brody adds a cause of death to his report: SHARK ATTACK.

    Learning that there are no ‘beach closed’ signs in existence, Brody rushes out to buy the necessary items to make them, running a gauntlet of citizens with comparatively minor grievances and the preparations for Amity’s 4 th of July celebrations.

    On his way back he encounters Hendricks, who tells him that a group of Boy Scouts are out on the water. They exchange jobs, Hendricks being sent back to the station to construct the signs, and Brody commandeering the departmental truck to go and call the boys back in.

    Brody drives off, just missing a summons from Amity’s mayor, Larry Vaughan. It is Hendricks who tells Vaughan that there has been a fatal shark attack at South Beach…

    At Avril Bay, Brody has just stepped onto the ferry when a car follows him onboard: it disgorges Vaughan, Harry Meadows, the local newspaper editor, and the town doctor—who doubles as its “medical investigator”.

    Cornering Brody against the railings, Vaughan and Meadows point out the damage that will be done to Amity, a community dependent upon summer tourist dollars, should the beaches be closed debating, in fact, whether Brody even has the authority to close them. As the sheriff hesitates, the two ramp up the pressure, arguing that there has never been anything like a shark attack in the Amity waters, and that maybe Brody is rushing into things: it is his first summer, after all…

    Brody can only appeal to the doctor, but finds no help there: with Vaughan’s helpful prompting, the doctor now concludes that he probably made a mistake, and that the injuries to Chrissie’s body could have been caused by a propeller. Such “boating accidents” have occurred before:

    Vaughan: “It’s all psychological. You yell, ‘Barracuda!’, and everybody says, ‘Huh? What?’ You yell, ‘Shark!’…and we’ve got a panic on our hands on the 4 th of July…”


    And so the beaches stay open…

    And the people of Amity make the most of it. Many of them lie in the sun, talking and laughing. Others swim and horse around. A man plays with his dog, throwing a stick into the water. A boy begs his mother for a few more minutes on his inflatable raft.

    The Brodys are among those present. Ellen is chatting with some locals, learning to her laughing dismay from one of them, hotel owner Mrs Taft, that she and her husband will never be “Islanders”. (Earlier, the boy who reported Chrissie missing told Brody casually that, though he lives in Hartford and his parents in Greenwich, they’re all still Islanders, because they were born there.) We see that Brody is not paying attention to the conversation: his gaze is fixed on the water…

    Throughout this scene, the camera wanders around, picking out this person and then that one in an increasingly unnerving fashion. Our first sense of something really wrong is the owner of the dog standing at the water’s edge, calling unavailingly for his pet. (Spielberg foregrounds Sean Brody in this shot, reminding us what his father has personally at stake.) Then the camera drops below the water—and the music starts…

    Alex Kintner’s death remains as confronting and upsetting today as it ever was, both in its immediate bloody violence and its profoundly unjust randomness. It sparks a panicked rush in both directions, with those on the beach rushing towards the tragedy, and those in the water scrambling to get out. Terrified survivors run to their family and friends, and reassuring hugs are exchanged. Parents are reunited with their children, including the Brodys with theirs.

    And at last, only Mrs Kintner stands alone, as a ripped and blood-stained raft nudges the shore…

    There is one more critical point in this scene. The viewer has only just been made aware of Brody’s water-phobia when the attack occurs, via a rather contemptuous remark from an elderly local. Brody is among the crowd that rushes to the water’s edge in the wake of the attack—but only to the edge: he stays there even though Michael is in the water at this stage, even his fear for his son can’t push him any further. It is Ellen who plunges in to help other people out—though not actually Michael, who we see assisting a child younger than himself. The point is not emphasised, but in retrospect it serves as a measure of Brody’s problem.

    The death of Alex Kintner, and the placing by the devastated Mrs Kintner of a bounty on the shark, prompts a meeting between Amity’s business community and the town council—headed by Mayor Vaughan.

    When Jaws was released in the American summer of 1975, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, there was an understandable tendency to read Larry Vaughan as a corrupt and venal politician intent upon instituting a cover-up and amongst the welter of Jaws rip-offs that have since seen the light of day, not a few have included a Vaughan-figure who helps make the situation worse by refusing to close—whatever it might be in context, from a national park to the ski slopes. In fact, so deeply ingrained is this by-now cliché in our collective movie-consciousness, many of these productions don’t even bother to give a reason why the whatever should not be closed.

    However, the passing years have seen various efforts to rehabilitate the reputation of Larry Vaughan, or at least to see him less simplistically. The chief argument made in his favour is that in refusing to close the beaches, he is simply doing what he was elected to do, and representing the interests of his constituents. The town-meeting scene leaves us in absolutely no doubt that, despite the death of Alex Kintner and the persisting danger, the local business leaders want the beaches kept open.

    And that’s true, as far as it goes but it doesn’t go far enough: while Vaughan no doubt has a financial responsibility here, and a very big one in this “summer town”, he has a greater one with respect to public safety. His refusal to have the beaches closed, under the circumstances, amounts to reckless endangerment—not of the townspeople, who know the truth, but of the tourists whose money they rely upon.

    But it isn’t what Vaughan does but the way he goes about it that finally condemns him. Upon his first appearance, when he catches up with Brody on the ferry, he pursues a cynical but shrewd and effective policy of exploiting the sheriff’s newness in Amity, and his uncertainty about the limits of his authority, to get him to back down about closing the beaches. Furthermore, the demeanour of the medical examiner, as he changes his cause-of-death ruling from “shark attack” to “boating accident”, makes it perfectly clear that he has been got at, and pressured into what amounts to the falsification of medical records.

    Worst of all, though, is Vaughan’s attitude towards Chrissie herself, who he dismisses as, “A summer girl”—as if that somehow makes her life of less value, her death of less importance.

    (His use of that phrase introduces a note of shared culpability: earlier we hear one of the townspeople using the contemptuous expression, “Summer ginks.”)

    As for the town meeting— There Vaughan shows himself a perfect politician, taking the temperature of the gathering before he commits himself to anything, and hanging Brody out to dry when it comes to telling the business leaders things they don’t want to hear: making him announce the closing of the beaches, and undermining him with a hasty, “Only twenty-four hours!” when he is howled down.

    The meeting then descends into a ruckus, one brought to order – in a touch whose appropriateness is amusingly evident in retrospect – by the intolerable sound of fingernails down a blackboard…

    I must admit that, these days, I find Robert Shaw’s performance as Quint a bit over the top although that said, the impossibility of thinking of the role occupied by anyone else (Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden were considered before Shaw was cast) speaks for itself. Moreover, though they are at times hard to take, the deliberate obnoxiousness and crude humour which are Quint’s trademarks serve several purposes within what turns out to be a deceptively complex characterisation. In particular, they conceal the deeper motivations of Quint’s subsequent behaviour, and the real danger he poses to those forced by circumstances to interact with him.

    But there is a danger to the viewer, too, that of overlooking the bedrock upon which Robert Shaw builds his eccentric performance and to do so would be to underestimate his contribution to the interlocking triangle upon which so much of this film’s success rests. From the moment of his first appearance, Shaw is completely credible as a working-class man marginalised by the evolution of his town from a fishing community into a tourist resort, and whose attitude towards those in charge of this new and – Quint wouldn’t use the word himself, perhaps doesn’t even know it, but it’s the one that fits – effete iteration of Amity is charged with a mixture of resentment and contempt. The unfolding crisis and the panicky uncertainty of the town leaders, while reinforcing his own understandable prejudices, are like a gift to Quint and as he offers himself as a solution to their problem, he barely bothers to hide his malicious enjoyment of the situation.

    Positioning himself as the only person with the knowledge and the skill to deal with the shark, and reminding the business leaders of exactly how much they stand to lose if the matter is not dealt with quickly, Quint revenges himself upon the town with his demand for a flat fee of $10,000 knowing that they will not accede to immediately to such a sum knowing too that, sooner or later, they must.

    The one condition that Quint places upon his services is that he is allowed to work alone: “There are too many captains on this island,” he sneers. We note, however, that in expressing his disdain for the town leaders, Quint directs none of his hostility towards Brody. On the contrary, there is a distinct touch of sympathy in the glance Quint sends towards the chief: despite his apparent authority, Quint has recognised in Brody a man as marginalised as himself, albeit in a very different way and indeed, one far worse off than himself, in being completely out of his depth.

    The other urgent matter raised at the town meeting is the $3000 bounty that Mrs Kintner has placed upon the shark. Here another ominous detail about the manner in which the town is run emerges. We recall that Harry Meadows, the editor of the local paper, was also present when Vaughan was pressuring Brody into silence on the ferry here we find him apologising for not being able entirely to suppress the story:

    Meadows: “It’s a small story. I’ll bury it as deep as I can. The ad will run on the back with the grocery ads.”

    Nevertheless, word has spread sufficiently that two local men have set out to hook and kill the shark—using, “My wife’s holiday roast” as bait.

    This scene serves two purposes—simultaneously releasing some of the pressure that has been building since the encounter on the ferry via a dose of humour, yet contradictorily beginning to build that tension again by demonstrating the size and power of the shark through the ease with which it demolishes the wooden jetty to which the bait has been tethered. This is of course one of the film’s numerous moments in which the shark’s presence is only implied but the shattering of the dock and the terrified scramble from the water of one of the fishermen conveys everything necessary.

    This scene is intercut with one of the Brodys at home, with Michael’s birthday gift of his own small boat becoming now a point of contention, and Martin terrifying himself by reading up on sharks.

    These are all real books of the time the one whose title we are able to glimpse is The Shark: Splendid Savage Of The Sea by Jacques Cousteau and his son, Philippe. As Martin flicks through its pages we are given glimpses of the photographs contained within, including several of the appalling consequences of shark attack (another touch that emphasises the shark without needing to show it), and one of a shark with a diving-tank lodged in its mouth…

    By the next morning, despite the best efforts of Harry Meadows, word of Mrs Kintner’s bounty has spread well beyond the confines of Amity. As he stares in dismay as the crowds flocking out onto the water in boats of all sizes, armed with fishing-gear of all types, Brody counters Hendricks’ suggestion that Mrs Kintner put her ad in Field & Stream with one of The National Enquirer.

    But for all those heading out onto the water, there’s one person just arriving…

    While the distance between Jaws the novel and Jaws the film is ludicrous in almost all its aspects, no-one benefitted from the screenwriters’ comprehensive makeover of the original narrative more than Matt Hooper, who was rescued from a characterisation that is (without getting into its details) frankly embarrassing, and transformed into one of the film’s unlikely heroes.

    Possibly I’m being unreasonable here, or even hypocritical, because in its own way, Richard Dreyfuss’ performance in Jaws is every bit as blatantly idiosyncratic as Robert Shaw’s—yet I find it much easier to take, perhaps because I’m far more inclined to position myself in Matt Hooper’s corner.

    But there is another and more important reason why this is so: with his own quirks and mannerisms on full display, Dreyfuss succeeds in balancing out what might otherwise be an over-intrusive performance from Robert Shaw, preventing him from dominating the frame as he could have done, to the film’s detriment.

    Two vital paradoxes emerge here. Quint and Hooper, for a variety of reasons, will clash repeatedly as Jaws builds to its climax on the water, yet at the same time the film also repeatedly presents them in parallel, as it were, united – and isolated – by their understanding of the situation. Likewise, Quint and Hooper together – which is to say, Shaw and Dreyfuss together – end up throwing a spotlight on the contrasting normality of Roy Scheider’s performance, and in turn upon Brody’s unenviable position as Only Sane Man.

    Be all that as it may, my adherence to Hooper begins immediately as his own dismay at the mayhem on the water and the rudeness with which he is greeted provoke him into a derisive cackle:

    Hooper: “They’re all gunna die!”

    (Of course he’s wrong: Jaws is far kinder in this respect than most of its copyists, nearly all of whom would include an “idiots on the loose” scene of their own, and generally use it to up their body-count.)

    Hooper finally succeeds in making himself known to Brody, who with Hendricks is making a futile attempt to control the chaos around the docks: the sheriff’s relief is palpable.

    Their first stop is the morgue.

    Hooper’s behaviour is foregrounded here: his shock upon realising that “the body” fits in one small tray, his struggle to control his nausea as he extracts from the pitiful remains all possible information about the shark. But we should keep one eye upon the medical examiner too. If we had any doubt that he knowingly falsified Chrissie’s cause of death, we have it in his demeanour here as he waits miserably to be exposed by Hooper’s superior knowledge:

    Hooper: “This was no boat accident!”

    Brody also bears some of the brunt of Hooper’s angry reaction, when he learns what has not been done as a result of the coroner’s false ruling.

    Though this scene succeeds in establishing Hooper’s professional expertise, the uncomfortable fact is that Richard Dreyfuss’ dialogue here is riddled with errors stemming from the long-standing but nonsensical cinematic notion that biologists tend to use Latin when referring to the objects of their study. When debating what species of shark might have attacked Chrissie, Hooper speaks first of Longimanus, the oceanic whitetip, which is correct but he also suggests Isurus glaucus. There is no such species: presumably this is either a slip of the tongue or an error in research for Isurus paucus, the longfin mako.

    But the main problem here is Hooper’s repeated use of the term squalus as a stand-in for “shark”. Squalus is indeed the Latin word for shark, but the word is never used in that general sense, not least because it is also the name of a genus of dogfish sharks: relatively small, bottom-feeding animals that have never been known to attack humans (although there have been incidents of them attacking dogs allowed to swim in the ocean). This is one of those film moments when in trying to sound smart, they end up sounding very silly.

    However—in the end, perhaps the most notable thing about this scene is the species of shark that is not mentioned…

    From Hooper’s conclusion, not only that a shark was responsible for Chrissie’s death, but one far larger than those commonly found in the local waters, we cut back to the docks where a noisy celebration is taking place around the dead body of a tiger shark.

    Again— I understand that in the mid-70s, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to anyone faking this scene was desirable that there was any problem with providing the production with a dead shark just by going out and killing one. Even so, killing one isn’t what they did: they kept killing sharks until it finally dawned on everyone that they weren’t going to catch one locally big enough to act as a credible stand-in for the film’s monster.

    At that point the decision was made to import a dead tiger shark from Florida, where they do commonly run to 18 feet in length (though this one is only around 13 feet, much too small to have done the damage recorded in Chrissie’s remains). The animal was flown to the set by private plane, but even so, by the time it arrived decomposition had set in, making this scene deeply unpleasant for everyone involved.

    To which I can only respond—good.

    As the excited townspeople crowd around the shark, we note that Harry Meadows, far from hushing up this part of the story, is issuing orders to his assistant: “See if Boston’ll pick it up, and go national!” Brody and Hooper then arrive, and former responds with unbounded relief and glee at what he assumes is the end of the nightmare. Hooper, however, is quietly measuring the animal’s bite radius…

    We then pull back to Quint, passing in his boat, and see him laughing scornfully.

    Brody has rushed off to drag an equally relieved Larry Vaughan to the scene, and by the time he gets back he finds Hooper at the centre of an angry mob, enraged by his suggestion that this may not be the shark they want. As Brody pulls him out of there, Hooper begins walking a thin line, not wanting to provoke the same response from the sheriff, but needing to convince him that they have to be sure that they must cut the shark open and examine its stomach contents to be sure.

    But in making his argument, Hooper oversteps his own line: intent upon the necessary proofs, he is insufficiently conscious that “whatever it’s eaten” may be a small boy a local boy. Vaughan, dismissive as he was of poor Chrissie, is outraged by Hooper’s careless choice of words, and correct that, “This is neither the time or the place.” Behind this justified reaction, however, we see a deep reluctance to face facts.

    The matter still hangs in the balance when there is a new arrival on the scene. Mrs Kintner, swathed in black, has come to see the animal that she believes took her son but she has also come to confront the man she holds responsible for its doing so the man who, she has just learned, knew there was a shark in the waters off Amity, and said nothing…

    Mrs Kintner’s verbal attack on Brody, quiet and controlled as it is, is brutal far more brutal than the face-slap which accompanies it. Vaughan, embarrassed by the scene – and, we hope, by his own part in Brody’s inaction – offers consolation: “I’m sorry, Martin. She’s wrong.”

    Nor is she. Brody knows that he has been weak, too easily swayed by arguments whose falsity he could recognise even through his own inexperience and ignorance of water matters. He could have insisted upon the beaches being closed, or at least made a sufficient ruckus to alert others to the potential danger, but he did not he did not even (as Hooper pointed out to him) take the elemental and non-controversial precautions of alerting the Coast Guard or patrolling the waters. Though there are good excuses for his passivity, they are only excuses the responsibility was his, and he abrogated it. Alex Kintner’s death is his fault.

    Brody accepts the painful reality of his own failure, which will drive his behaviour for the rest of the film. First, however, it drives him into a bottle…

    One of the most remarkable things about Jaws is that its character scenes and its dialogue are every bit as gripping as its action scenes in some respects, perhaps even more so and I think you can make an argument that the five-minute sequence which follows Mrs Kintner’s denunciation of Brody is the best scene in the film—even though it consists of little more than three people talking.

    But perhaps that should be because it consists of little more than three people talking. The dinner-table scene at the Brodys’ house is film-making at its finest: it is tense, it is funny, and it is profoundly revealing of character. It is a scene you can watch over and over for the sheer enjoyment of it.

    It opens which a touch which we must still appreciate in spite of (what was by then) the Jaws franchise’s attempt to ruin it retroactively: Brody’s interaction with Sean, who mimics his father’s gestures back at him while Ellen, amused and moved, watches in silence. Brody demands a kiss from his son – “I need it” – but it is not enough to heal the wounds inflicted by Mrs Kintner and his own guilt.

    Ellen’s watchfulness throughout this interlude is fascinating, as is the very fact that she says so little. We are reminded in this scene that she is not just a cop’s wife, nor even just a New York cop’s wife, but a 1970s New York cop’s wife we can imagine the pressure and the fear she has had to endure—perhaps silently, as now.

    We gather along the way in Jaws that it was Ellen who insisted upon the relocation of the family to Amity. As she watches her husband sinking into inebriation, we are left to wonder whether it wasn’t moments just like this that prompted her to make a stand—and whether she isn’t watching once again a scene she thought safely behind all of them.

    But it is Matt Hooper who pulls Brody back from the brink—not for unselfish reasons, but because he needs him, and needs him functioning.

    The scene on the dock tells Hooper everything he needs to know about the situation in Amity: that there is still a danger of it all being swept under the carpet that Brody is the one man with the authority and the inclination – and the character – to stop that happening but conversely that, between his ignorance and his guilt, there is also a real possibility of Brody withdrawing himself and letting events play out as they might.

    What has brought Hooper to Brody is an overheard remark from Vaughan indicating that the tiger shark is to be disposed of on the following day. If the necropsy is to be performed, then, it must be at once. Hooper’s barging in, both into the house – “The door was open.” – and at dinnertime is overtly rude, but indicative of the urgency of the situation. (His appropriation of Brody’s uneaten dinner is, however, just him.)

    But in spite of all its tensions, this is as I have said also a very funny scene—the tone set by the quiet exchange between Hooper and Ellen that starts it – “I’d really like to talk to [your husband].” “Yes, so would I.” – and the latter’s hilariously awkward conversation-starter:

    Ellen: “My husband tells me you’re in sharks.”

    The conversation – mostly between Hooper and Ellen – encompasses the former’s love of sharks and Brody’s fear of the water, as well as Hooper’s belief that the shark has not been caught, and it has the desired effect: it is Brody who suggests that they go and cut the tiger shark open—after “one more drink”…

    The result is exactly what they feared: the tiger shark disgorges partially digested fish, a tin can and a Louisiana license-plate…but no human remains.

    Brody comments numbly that he has to call the mayor and close the beaches. Hooper retorts that he, they, have to do more than that: they have to go find the real shark now at once.

    (Yet another mark of a great film is that no matter how many times you watch it, you can always spot something new. It was only on this viewing of Jaws that I properly absorbed the fact that Brody supports his assertion that he is, “Not drunk enough” to go out on the water – at night – looking for a man-eating shark – by taking with him Hooper’s second bottle of wine…)

    Using Hooper’s boat, which is laden with expensive equipment, the two men patrol the area in which they believe the shark has established its territory. They don’t see the animal, but they do come across an apparently abandoned boat that belongs to fisherman, Ben Gardner. The boat is lying low in the water, “all banged up” and with a half-circle piece missing from one side. There is no sign of its owner.

    Under Brody’s incredulous gaze, Hooper changes into diving-gear in order to examine the boat’s hull. Slipping beneath the vessel, he examines it with a powerful light, discovering a jagged hole in the boards—in which is embedded an enormous tooth.

    And as Hooper works at the hole, what’s left of Ben Gardner’s mutilated body drifts into his line of vision…

    Hooper flails for the surface, in his terror dropping both his light and the shark’s tooth. Loss of the latter evidence proves critical when, the following day, he and Brody confront Larry Vaughan, who stubbornly resists their arguments—and perhaps with some reason.

    Though he is trying to be helpful, Brody’s panicked reiteration of Hooper’s assertions – which are being made hotly enough on his own account – has the effect of making them seem exaggerated, giving Vaughan grounds to go on disbelieving. And of course Hooper can’t produce the tooth that would have supported his claims.

    (Perhaps the best measure of how Jaws changed everything is the reminder offered here that there was a time when laypeople did not know what a great white shark was…)

    Something else is in play here, however. Jaws was notoriously a film made on the run, with significant alterations to the script being made along the way to cope with or cover up its production challenges. One of the consequences of this is a raft of continuity errors, which are evident enough if you pay attention to the mentioned dates and other discussions around the timing of the fatalities—and their number. For example, Brody’s initial police report gives Chrissie’s date of death as the 1st of July, but when Mrs Kintner places her bounty, Alex’s death is supposed to have occurred on the 29th of June. It is evident that a lot of mind-changing went on during filming and post-production, and the results are not always hidden.

    Spielberg is on record as having chosen to re-shoot the finding of Ben Gardner’s body during post to make the scene more “jump-worthy”. While there’s not much question that he succeeded, it is evident in retrospect that in the first place, his body wasn’t meant to be discovered at all—which would have worked better in the context of Hooper and Brody’s failure to convince Larry Vaughan of their claims.

    Thus, we are left with Brody telling Vaughan about Gardner’s boat being “all chewed up”, and pointing out that [Amity has had], “Two people killed within a week.” But no mention is made of Ben Gardner’s death.

    It is therefore not wholly unjustified that Vaughan chooses to go on believing that the killer shark has been caught and killed. The more the others press, the more Vaughan shuts down, finally ending the conversation by complaining about the vandalism of a billboard, into which a shark has been graffitied. He then departs, telling Brody on his way out to do whatever he has to, to keep the beaches safe—short of closing them.

    As he drives off, a ferry arrives from the mainland, disgorging tourists in their hundreds…

    At first glance everything seems normal in Amity on the 4 th of July weekend. A second glance reveals signs of agitation that have nothing to do with the size of the crowds. Helicopters patrol overhead boats manned by men with guns cruise offshore Brody paces at the water’s edge, monitoring the walkie-talkie communications between the spotters.

    And then there’s the fact that no-one is going into the water.

    It is Larry Vaughan who takes care of that—not personally, but by urging a reluctant town councilor to make the first move. He then responds to a request for a TV interview (by a cameoing Peter Benchley, who nails the facile absurdity of such “human interest” bits) – stressing the killing of a shark that, “Supposedly injured some bathers…”

    The entry of the councilor, his wife and their grandchildren into the sea does begin a general movement down the beach, and soon the waters are filled with people swimming and splashing. However, as Michael and his friends carry his small boat towards the gentle surf, Brody intervenes—asking Michael to take the vessel out on the quiet, partially enclosed area of water known as “the pond” instead. The boy groans, but obeys and as he and the others head down the beach and across the road, Sean bolts after them, uttering an indignant protest about being ignored.

    And mere moments later, a fin cuts through the water behind the main group of swimmers…

    Well. Those of us who have been paying attention shouldn’t be fooled, because as this “shark” glides into the midst of the swimmers, there is no music.

    From beneath the gliding fin emerge two young boys, whose tasteless practical joke undoubtedly got more of a reaction than they anticipated—and who probably find themselves facing more blow-back than they ever dreamed, after the panicked stampede towards shore leaves several people injured.

    The head lifeguard tries to quell the crowd’s panic with a soothing announcement that it was all just a joke. As his amplified voice sweeps down the beach, it almost drowns out the hysterical screaming of one young woman as she stares in horror towards the waters of the pond…

    This scene offers our first good glimpse of the shark, as it attacks a man unfortunate enough to row his small boat between the animal and Michael and his friends, leaving its victim dead and dismembered and Michael, who has a literal brush with death as the sated shark departs, in a state of deep shock.

    (We should note this moment for historical purposes: the shark, having just killed and eaten, swims off without attacking anyone else. Going forward, it would be a rare killer animal film indeed that would privilege such realism over its body-count. Even this film ceases to do so…)

    So terrified is Brody for his son, he rushes into the water without even thinking about it, in order to help pull him out. Michael is rushed to the hospital, where his parents are reassured about his condition, though the boy is kept in overnight as a precaution.

    Having sent Ellen home with Sean, Brody then drags the hovering Larry Vaughan into a cubicle, demanding his authorisation for the hiring of Quint. It takes him a few minutes to get his message through to the shell-shocked Vaughan, who is still coming to terms with the fact that in his determination to prove – to believe – that the water was safe, he placed his own children in danger, but in the end Brody gets that signature.

    This is Quint’s big opportunity—and he is not slow to take advantage, appending to the $10,000 dollars a list of further demands that span everything from Brody “getting the mayor off my back” over zoning to a new colour television.

    But Quint’s genial mood fades as soon as he realises that Hooper is being forced upon him as a boat-hand. In spite of Quint’s declaration at the town meeting that he would have “no mates” and “no volunteers”, Brody has made it a condition of the contract that both he and Hooper should be a part of the hunt.

    Brody’s own involvement in the shark hunt has two faces. It is his job, his responsibility but on a deeper level it is also something like an act of penitence for his failures, real and perceived. Nevertheless, we can appreciate that for Brody, the only prospect more appalling than hunting for a shark on the open water is doing so alone with Quint.

    The inherently clashing personalities of Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss here pay off in the antagonism that quickly develops between Quint and Hooper. The general contempt expressed earlier by Quint for Amity’s business community focuses into a laser-like beam of active hostility directed at Hooper, who is – or appears to be – everything the fisherman most despises: an individual of privileged background, a “college-boy”, wealthy enough to indulge his hobbies as a career, without any need to actually work—that is, to do anything Quint recognises as “work”.

    To a man like Quint, everything about Hooper is offensive, from his “city hands” to the expensive equipment with which his own expensive boat is fitted, and which he brings aboard Quint’s own battered and hard-worked vessel, the Orca. From the moment he gets Hooper under his command – even before that, from the first moment they meet – Quint makes it his mission to embarrass Hooper and to expose what he considers his weaknesses by riding him as hard as he possibly can.

    Whatever we make of Quint’s behaviour towards Hooper, there is no question that this treatment brings out the very worst in its target, provoking a petulant, spoilt-brat reaction that goes a long way towards justifying Quint’s prejudices.

    However, we need to consider the matter from Hooper’s point of view. From the moment he sets foot in Amity, he is abused and/or treated with contempt by the locals, with Quint’s class-conscious attacks merely the extreme expression of a general attitude. His expertise, his motives, even his word, are called into question.

    Yet we know he has given up, or at least cut short, an eighteen-month-long oceanic research expedition in order to stay in Amity and help deal with the shark. Hooper makes no overt complaint about this, nor does anything to draw attention to his sacrifice he merely lets his colleagues know that he will not be joining them. His excuse – that he has a great white hereis just an excuse, since his purpose in staying certainly isn’t research.

    During the dinner scene, Hooper remarks that after his own departure, Brody will be the “only rational man” on the island. After the confrontation with Vaughan, however, it is clear to him that one rational man will not be enough. So he stays—risking his life in a matter in which he has no personal, no financial and little professional stake nothing beyond a recognition of Amity’s general and Brody’s specific need of him.

    And this is the thanks he gets?

    (All my sympathy with Hooper cannot prevent me from wincing at Richard Dreyfuss’ second-syllable-stressed pronunciation of “Brisbane”.)

    And there are two other aspects of Quint’s conduct that we need to consider: first, that it is dishonest: for all that he overtly questions Hooper’s qualifications and expertise at sea, any moment that he must rely upon him to do the correct thing he simply does so, knowing that he can and second, that it is dangerous, a deliberate ratcheting up of tension that both distracts Hooper from the matter at hand and plays upon Brody’s shredded nerves and feelings of inadequacy.

    In fact, this behaviour on Quint’s part is our first real intimation that a great deal more is going on with him than his reluctant colleagues realise.

    From this point, just over halfway into the film, Jaws plays out entirely upon the water. One of Spielberg’s cleverest touches in this film, another of those things that you may not consciously realise while watching, is to crowd its first half with images of enclosure. Fences abound – wooden fences, picket fences, wire fences, dividing fences – carrying with them a mingled sense of restriction and safety. The motif is insistently present from the very first moments of the film proper, so when the action transfers so swiftly and so completely to the open ocean, the effect is jolting, if only on the psychological level.

    The setting for the ocean filming for Jaws, off Martha’s Vineyard, was chosen with great care—keeping the necessary proximity to land for the benefit of the film-makers, and offering water not too deep for either safety or visibility, but at the same time with absolutely nothing but water visible in any direction.

    And once on the sea, Spielberg takes his time about things—introducing what the viewer needs to know about the geography and operation of the Orca through clever dialogue that never once feels info-dumpy. Onboard, the dynamics between the three men continue to shift and evolve. Much as Quint and Hooper despise each other personally, their expertise aligns them and isolates Brody, who is relegated to the disgusting task of shovelling out chum. Meanwhile, Quint’s riding of Hooper continues unabated.

    We note, though, that Quint’s treatment of Brody is in some ways better than Hooper’s own: while the latter berates Brody openly for his mistakes, Quint – while willing enough to mock him in a general way – only ever criticises him privately. In this we see his respect for someone who, be he ever so ignorant about the sea, is nevertheless a working man with a dangerous job. In this, it is Quint and Brody who are aligned, and Hooper the outsider.

    But these “quiet” scenes serve another, and much more important purpose: they lull the viewer into a false sense that nothing is really happening—thus setting up one of cinema’s most brilliantly executed shock moments…

    The entity who has since become known to the world as “Bruce” was realised via a set of animatronic models designed by Joe Alves: a mostly full-body construct, and two partial ones for shooting either from the left or from the right. Various external circumstances saw production of Jaws brought forward, meaning that filming began before the screenplay had been completed, and before the model sharks had been properly tested in water – any water – never mind salt water. During his very first outing before the cameras, Bruce sank, giving the waters of Nantucket Sound the first of many opportunities to eat away at his electronics.

    It is now a matter of some debate how much Spielberg originally intended to show the shark in Jaws. His insistence that he always meant to hide it for most of the film may be retconning, although we do know that it was never going to appear during either the opening attack on Chrissie or the destruction of the wooden jetty. The attack on Alex Kintner was actually planned as the shark’s first big appearance, but this was altered not because of malfunctioning models, but because on later consideration the footage of the child’s death was considered too graphic and upsetting.

    So as things stand, we get no more than a quick glimpse of the shark during the pond sequence, before its jolting appearance as Brody chums the water.

    The shortcomings of Bruce, both generally and specifically, are evident enough—though we should probably keep in mind that when Jaws was made, very few people actually knew what great white sharks looked like, still less how they behaved. Still—the fact is that this shark does things that no shark could or would do, while not doing things that it should be doing. Perhaps the most intrusive example of this is that the model sharks were designed in permanent feeding posture—yet without the real great white’s horrifying ability to thrust its jaws forward as it attacks and eats. Another distracting detail is the jowly folds at the corners of the shark’s mouth, obviously a consequence of the design of the pneumatics by which the mouth was operated.

    But you know what? – it doesn’t really matter. In this respect, watching Jaws is like watching a Godzilla movie: by the time the shark shows itself, we are so invested in it that the brain simply accepts what it sees. And of course, the fact that it is a model means that the characters can interact with it in a way that would not be possible with a visual effect.

    Moreover, this introduction of the animal, the perfection of timing in this scene, just makes the heart sing. And perfection is piled upon perfection in Roy Scheider’s physical playing of Brody’s response to his first look at the shark, and our knowledge that the verbal response was ad-libbed:

    Brody: “You’re gunna need a bigger boat…”

    Brody’s terror is one thing Quint’s shocked disbelief when he first lays eyes upon this enormous predator is something else, and tells us exactly what the men are up against. There is, meanwhile, a level of delight in Hooper’s whispered estimation of a twenty-foot-long animal, which Quint quietly corrects to twenty-five…

    (Twenty feet remains the record confirmed length for a great white shark, though others of an estimated twenty-one and twenty-three feet have been spotted. Any shark of that size will almost certainly be female though on the other hand, males are more aggressive, so perhaps we can excuse the characters’ automatic use of “he”…)

    Hooper’s outrageous response to the shark’s appearance is to try and persuade Brody to go out right to the end of the boat’s “pulpit”, a task he indignantly refuses once he understands that Hooper simply wants something to give scale in his photographs.

    Meanwhile, Quint has intercepted a check-in call from Ellen—assuring her that everything is fine, and that they have not yet found the shark…

    Hooper, we note in passing, calls the shark “darling” while trying to get his photographs, but this attitude in no way interferes with his assistance with Quint’s preparations for harpooning the animal with ropes and drags though he does attach one of his own electronic markers to the first barrel. Quint starts out assuming that one barrel will “bring him up”, but night has fallen before the animal is seen again.

    Prior to this, the three men do the sensible thing and get a little drunk.

    This is, in its first instance, perhaps the funniest scene in the film, adding to the stunning impact of the subsequent lurch in tone. It amounts to Quint and Hooper burying the hatchet – topping each other with their many scars and their tales of how they got them – though their doing so isolates Brody once again.

    But it is Brody who notices and asks about the scar on Quint’s left arm, which he explains is from having a tattoo removed. After a moment’s hesitation he tells Hooper that the tattoo did commemorate his service on USS Indianapolis. The revelation chokes the laughter in Hooper’s throat, as he stares at Quint in dawning horror.

    Brody, however, does not know the story so Quint tells it to him…

    Now— Do I get into this here? I think I have to though I’ve been abused before by people who have misunderstood what I’ve been trying to say.

    Briefly, then— In July 1945, the Indianapolis was given the top-secret assignment delivering to Tinian, one of the Northern Mariana Islands, various components of the atomic bomb including the Uranium-235 that was to catalyse the detonation. It was then ordered to Leyte Gulf, in the Philippines. However, just after midnight on the 30 th of July, the Indianapolis was struck by two Japanese torpedoes and sank within a mere 12 minutes. Of its 1197-strong crew, 880 men survived the initial attack and made it into the water. By the time help arrived – five days later – only 316 of them were still alive.

    There is no doubt that, in Jaws, Robert Shaw delivers one of motion pictures’ all-time great monologues, as he describes the nightmare experiences of those survivors—and of those who lost their lives. Particularly indelible is his recollection of when the sharks came:

    Quint: “A shark, he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at you, he doesn’t seem to be living…until he bites you, and those black eyes roll over white, and then…then you hear that terrible high-pitched screaming. The ocean turns red…”

    The problem is, though—it didn’t happen the way Quint tells it. In reality, the men who died of shark attack after entering the water were a minority the majority died of their injuries, or of exposure or dehydration, or from drinking sea water and the sharks—well, there’s no gentle way of putting this: they’re scavengers it’s what they do.

    Now—I am not for one second suggesting that this version of events is any less horrifying, any less traumatic, than Quint’s version or that someone might not, or should not, come away from such an experience with a phobic hatred of sharks. Nor am I (as I have been accused of doing in the past) trying to defend the sharks at the expense of the servicemen who lost their lives.

    Anyway, I know I’m on the same page here as both the survivors of the Indianapolis and their families, and the navy itself. Serious efforts have been made over the past couple of decades to get the real story into the public record, partly out of anger at the way that this complex and tragic incident has been variously misreported and misrepresented over the years, even by reputable publications and documentarians—who, even when they get it right in outline, nevertheless always end up focusing on the sharks, almost to the exclusion of the rest of the story.

    There is no getting away from the fact that Jaws is largely responsible for creating this scenario. This film – this scene – is where the vast majority of people who think they know about the Indianapolis got their information. And what they think they know is the clear implication with which this scene leaves us: that the men in the water would have been just fine if not for the sharks.

    What I find frustrating is that it could easily have been handled differently there could have been a way of maintaining the horror while making it clear that this is not necessarily what did happen, but rather Quint’s memory of what happened. Hooper, perhaps, could have started to interrupt – “But that’s not what—” – before realising that correcting Quint would not only be futile, but profoundly disrespectful.

    It is left to Hooper to break the mood induced by Quint’s speech, which he does by leading the other two in a rowdy chorus of “Show Me The Way To Go Home”.

    (This song became a significant motif for the cast and crew of Jaws: trapped at sea in the middle of an apparently interminable film-shoot, the lyrics gained the power to provoke a Pavlovian burst of tears from all concerned.)

    However, this companionable moment does not last long: it is interrupted by something slamming against the side of the boat, cracking the boards and allowing a dangerous flow of water into the engine-room.

    The men deal with the immediate crisis, and the rest of the night passes without incident. The morning reveals the extent of the damage, with saltwater in the fuel and the steering almost out of commission. Though their joint efforts improve the situation, oily smoke is still rising from the boat’s depths when that one barrel suddenly reappears…

    This is enough for Brody, who makes a grab for the radio. He is still trying to reach the Coast Guard when he sees, as he thinks, Quint coming for him with a baseball bat…but actually intent upon smashing the boat’s – one – radio…

    (Oh, Jaws: you have such a lot to answer for…)

    This is the moment when Quint’s mask drops, when the real significance of his earlier remark, that he never wears a life-jacket any more, becomes frighteningly clear. This is Quint-as-Ahab, of course, and like Ahab, he doesn’t much care what happens to those people who get in the way of his obsessive quest for vengeance.

    Hooper is as appalled as Brody with the radio situation, but as the barrel comes towards the Orca, he knows that there are more pressing things to be dealt with. The first barrel is retrieved – just – and he and Quint between them place another two into the shark’s hide, pursuing the animal as it heads away from them. Quint yells repeatedly for more speed, but with the Orca still belching smoke there is only so much Hooper can do. He yells back at Quint that he dare not push the vessel past a certain point.

    Even so, they catch up with the shark and as it passes the boat, Brody lines it up with his service pistol and sends a series of bullets into it. This has no noticeable effect on the animal, but it does indicate the frustrated Brody’s desire to make a real contribution to the hunt. It also demonstrates for us that he is a pretty good shot…

    To the men’s consternation, both barrels then submerge. They reappear again, at a greater distance from the boat.

    Spielberg, of course, does not suggest that the shark is deliberately leading its pursuers further and further from shore – it would take some of this film’s less clear-headed copyists to introduce that detail.

    As Quint manoeuvres the boat, Hooper and Brody snag the ropes attached to the barrel and wind them around the cleats at the stern. Brody’s clumsiness here traps Hooper between the rope and the side of the boat, with nearly disastrous consequences but once he has been rescued the men see cause for celebration, assuming the shark caught. Quint even starts talking about a taxidermist acquaintance…until Brody cries out in alarm that the cleats are being pulled free.

    Quint puts a third barrel into the shark, but even this cannot stop the animal, which begins to pull the boat in the other direction, against its own course. The opposite forces being exerted put the boat in danger of being literally torn apart it bucks frantically, with water spilling over its sides and sweeping down into the engine. Finally the cleats are torn away from the transom, freeing the boat.

    Three yellow barrels bob at a distance, then turn back towards the boat. “He can’t stay down with three barrels on him,” Quint snarls. “Not with three he can’t.”

    But go down he does—directly under the boat. There is a tense pause before the anticipated impact, which causes the Orca to lurch in the water. At this, even Quint is prepared to turn back towards land—only for the shark to follow.

    If we were unconvinced by Quint’s insistence about the three barrels, we are even less so by his plan to, “Draw the him into the shallows and drown him.” All Brody knows, though, is that they’re finally headed for shore: “Thank Christ!”

    But— Well, how do we interpret what Quint does here? Sheer bloody-minded stubbornness—or a death-wish? Hooper urges Quint to release some of the pressure on the boat’s struggling engine, and he – whistling cheerfully – does the opposite, ramping the pressure up more and more with each frantic remonstrance from Hooper…until the inevitable happens. An explosion rips through the engine-room, leaving the Orca becalmed and slowly sinking, and still pursued by the shark.

    Quint throws life-vests to Hooper and Brody he does not don one himself.

    It is a measure of the desperation of the situation that Quint then asks about Hooper’s equipment, with which (as the latter tried to suggest earlier) they might be able to kill the shark. Hooper explains that he has a dart-harpoon with which he can pump poison into the animal. The only problem is, the needle can only penetrate the shark’s soft tissue—which is to say, the inside of its mouth. And that means getting into the water with it…

    The novel-version of Matt Hooper does not survive the narrative of Jaws, becoming instead the target of some rather obvious cosmic justice for his various transgressions. It was Spielberg’s original idea to kill off his Matt Hooper too, albeit more in the sense of a heroic sacrifice, but circumstances intervened.

    The shark-cage footage in Jaws was shot by – surprise! – Ron and Valerie Taylor. A logistical problem was posed by the unnatural size of the film’s shark, which Spielberg solved by hiring former jockey, Carl Rizzo, who was only 145 centimetres (4 ft 9 inches) tall, to double for Richard Dreyfuss in this scene. (Rizzo’s greatest claim to fame at the time was doubling for Elizabeth Taylor during the shooting of National Velvet.) With everything scaled accordingly, the sharks filmed by the Taylors, which averaged a normal 14 feet, looked much bigger.


    That at least was the theoretical solution. However, Rizzo had had no previous diving experience, and was utterly terrified from start to finish (adding another difficulty to the shoot by burning through the oxygen in his miniaturised tanks). His increasing resistance to getting into the water forced the Taylors to supplement the footage featuring Rizzo with more featuring matching dummies.

    Another difficulty was getting the sharks to co-operate (no, really). One day, while Ron Taylor was working near an empty dive-cage and trying to figure out the best way of attracting the animals, one shark not only came into camera-range but managed to get its snout caught in the bridle attaching the cage to the Taylors’ boat…and promptly went berserk.

    Spielberg, viewing this sequence, thought it was the best and scariest footage of all that captured, and determined to use it in the film—thus granting Matt Hooper a reprieve: instead of dying horribly as planned, he was allowed to escape and take refuge on the sea-bottom, while the shark attacks and destroys the now-empty cage.

    And you know? – as with so much in Jaws, I think this was accidentally the right thing to do. Even in light of the 1970s’ many mean-spirited film-deaths, Hooper’s death would have been an unnecessary downer.

    But up above, all Brody and Quint know is that the cage has been dismantled and Hooper is nowhere to be seen…

    They have no more than a moment to contemplate the situation, however, nor Brody to grieve. Suddenly, the shark launches itself at the low-lying Orca, slamming down on the transom and smashing it, and forcing the boat’s stern down into the water. The upwards lurch of the body of the vessel sends both men flying—and leaves Quint sliding inexorably down his own deck towards the gaping maw of the shark, as his own worst nightmare comes true…

    And that leaves Brody: water-phobic landlubber Brody. Sickened and terrified, he barely has time to retreat into the cabin before the shark plunges through the side of it. Brody scrambles backwards, desperately seeking a weapon, but all that comes to hand is Hooper’s spare oxygen-tank. After landing one blow with it, Brody throws the tank at the animal which, to his bemusement, swims off with it in its mouth.

    As the Orca tips over on its side, Brody scrambles out of the hole in the opposite wall of the cabin and up onto the bridge, where he finds Quint’s rifle and a long wooden-handled marine spike. From there he climbs up the mast. He has barely reached the open crow’s nest before the shark lunges for him.

    Gasping with terror, Brody fights back with the spike. He loses his weapon in the struggle, but succeeds in driving the shark away—for the moment.

    Given this brief respite, Brody braces himself against the crow’s nest. By this time the continued tipping of the boat, to which his own weight is contributing, leaves him almost lying on the surface of the water.

    Sure enough, the shark returns. Brody aims his rifle—not just at the animal, but at a very specific target: during the last brief encounter, he noted that the oxygen-tank was still wedged in its mouth. He fires again and again, to no effect, as the shark closes in on him—

    Well. I had my doubts about the logistics of this ending the first time I ever saw Jaws, and I cannot say they have lessened over time. However, they have also by now been thoroughly Mythbusted, so it probably isn’t necessary for me to get into the details. I will simply say that my main objection remains what it always was, that when Brody first grabs that tank it is floating, meaning that it is empty, or nearly so that at least, it does not hold enough compressed oxygen to bring about the desired result. And even if it were full, though the rupture would no doubt do enough damage to stop the shark, it would hardly result in the spectacular explosion that does finally put an end to the film’s menace.

    Still—there’s no doubt at all that Jaws earns the right to out with a bang…

    Though of course, that isn’t the actual ending, which is far (and appropriately) quieter:

    Brody: “I used to hate the water.”
    Hooper: “I can’t imagine why…”

    Jaws is a rare piece of art—a film you can watch again and again with ease, in which there is not a wasted moment in its just-under-two-hours running-time. It’s a miracle of film-making, one all the greater for being based – let’s not beat around the bush here – on a terrible book, a poorly written potboiler that lucked out by tapping into the zeitgeist with its one good idea.

    That Jaws has lost none of its impact – none of terror, none of its fun – over the intervening decades speaks for itself. It is one of those cinematic acts of serendipity, a film that completely defies the odds – and the odds against Jaws even being good, let alone great, were astronomical – in becoming so much more than the sum of its parts. Literally everything works here at least, it works in front of the cameras, whatever disasters, arguments, breakdowns, food-fights and desperate instances of patchwork film-making were going on behind them.

    Something that the film has gained by now, or rather that we have gained, is perspective: it is fascinating to re-watch Jaws as “a Steven Spielberg film”, knowing what we know now about the director he was to become—and in some respects, sadly, the director he would cease to be. I’m not sure that any subsequent Spielberg film is as purely cinematic as Jaws Raiders, maybe. A few film-school tricks aside, like the reproduction of Hitchcock’s famous “pull-away zoom” from Vertigo during the attack on Alex Kintner, this is a clean, crisply directed film.

    There is also a youthful ruthlessness at work here, an absence of the second-guessing and sentimentality that would increasingly plague Spielberg’s later works, as increasing popularity and success brought in their train a similarly increasing self-consciousness. The later Spielberg killing a child and a dog – in the same scene! – is literally unimaginable but in 1975 he did it, just because it was right for his film.

    But while I don’t want to underestimate what Spielberg brought to Jaws, each time I watch it I am more and more aware of the magnitude of three other contributions, without any one of which the film would not be a patch on what it is, and which together raise it to rarefied heights.

    One of these, which we have discussed already, is that of John Williams, whose score rightly won the year’s Academy Award. (Williams was conducting the orchestra at the Oscars that year, and had to climb up from the pit to accept his award—and then climb down again, to get back to work.)

    The second vital factor is Verna Fields’ editing. At its most obvious – which is not to say it is ever intrusive – Fields’ cutting gives a brilliant rhythm to the film, increasing and releasing the tension throughout, and effortlessly manipulating the audience’s reactions.

    But that isn’t all she did. As we know, this was a rolling disaster of a film-shoot, full of things going wrong and sudden or necessary changes of direction, all of it bundled up in those two great enemies of continuity, water and weather.

    And yet the completed film is – as far as it can be – seamless. Where it is not, matters were beyond Fields’ control, as with respect to the previously mentioned continuity errors surrounding the dates on which the various incidents are supposed to have occurred, where the directorial change of mind came too late. Similarly, the timeframe of Alex Kintner’s death, the placing of Mrs Kintner’s ad, the town meeting and the arrival of the bounty-hunters is far too compressed to be credible. However, other than the non-mention of Ben Gardner’s fate, these are probably details that only the obsessive (or the compulsive re-watcher) is really likely to notice.

    But for those of us who do pay close attention, we are left with a sense of Jaws as quite as much Fields’ masterwork as Spielberg’s perhaps even more so. At any rate, both her peers and her bosses recognised her role in the film’s success: she too took home an Academy Award, and was subsequently promoted at Universal to the position of Vice-President for Feature Production. Yet perhaps the greatest compliment paid her was the nickname she acquired on-set: “Mother Cutter”.

    Meanwhile—the journey of Jaws, the novel, into Jaws, the movie, was convoluted enough to be almost the film-shoot in microcosm. Peter Benchley himself wrote the first draft, but struggled with the translation from novel to screenplay. Spielberg then took a stab at it, but most of that version remained unused too. The director certainly did contribute to the script, but his material was added later, during production.

    The playwright Howard Sackler was brought in for rewrites, but translated the novel so faithfully he kept all of its shortcomings, so most of his work wasn’t used either—with one vital exception. It was Sackler who had the idea to use the Indianapolis as Quint’s backstory, though at the time he provided only a short outline. John Milius, with whom Spielberg discussed the matter simply as a friend, then asked if he might take a crack at fleshing out Sackler’s draft—but did so too much, turning the speech almost into a script in its own right. His lengthy document was then handed over to Robert Shaw, and it was the actor who cut it down into its final, unforgettable form.

    Ultimately, however, the person chiefly responsible for shaping the screenplay of Jaws into its definitive form was Carl Gottlieb, who had worked with Spielberg previously as an actor, and who had already been cast as newspaper editor, Harry Meadows, when the screenplay woes began to unfold. The ever-extending production schedule gave Gottlieb plenty of time to tweak and polish his work, to integrate into his script various requests from Spielberg – and some necessary changes – and the fruits of his lengthy discussions with Scheider, Dreyfuss and Shaw about their characters.

    Like everything to do with Jaws, the final version of the screenplay gives little evidence of the chaos of its development but as with Verna Fields’ editing, the more often you watch this film, the deeper becomes your appreciation of Gottlieb’s contribution. The writing is so clever, yet so natural in its cleverness, that it is easy to overlook its real quality. Nothing is wasted here every line, every interaction, every gesture contributes to the richness of detail that makes this film such a rewarding viewing experience. For instance, I was struck this time by Brody’s shifting language on the boat, as he acquires the correct terminology through experience.

    And something else that really struck me on this viewing is that there is hardly any swearing in this movie. Brody doesn’t even utter the final word of the shark’s epitaph, though it is he who is responsible for most of the other infrequent profanities.

    That’s right: in place of the screaming insults and cluster f-bombs and callous smartarsery which are apparently indivisible from the modern action movie, we have two hours of informative, revealing, witty dialogue studded with endlessly quotable (and misquotable) lines. The idea!

    In this we may have identified one of the reasons for this film’s effortless rewatchability, though it is not the only one. I highlighted at the outset the seeming contradiction of a character-driven action film, but there is no doubt that the triad of characterisations at the heart of Jaws, the interplay amongst the three men and the quality of the acting, constitute something very special.

    Here too Jaws lucked out: not one of three main roles ended up being occupied by the actor originally considered for it although of those three, only one was inconceivable. Either Sterling Hayden or Lee Marvin might have worked in place of Robert Shaw as might either of Jeff Bridges or Jan Michael Vincent instead of Richard Dreyfuss (though the latter notion was based much more on the novel’s conception of Hooper) but casting Charlton Heston as Martin Brody would have been a disaster comparable only with the idea of Christopher Lee rather than Donald Pleasence in Halloween, and for similar reasons.

    The performances of Shaw and Dreyfuss are both something of a matter of taste, but Roy Scheider is well-nigh perfect as Brody, inhabiting his role to an extraordinary extent. He is an identification figure who never feels like one, a man often confused, frightened, even ashamed of himself, but also a man of real – not just movie – heroism.

    The central three are perfectly supported by Lorraine Gary and Murray Hamilton but there’s not a false note anywhere in the cast—not least because it is entirely comprised of character actors: real people, in other words, who look at home in their island community. There’s not an ounce of gloss anywhere in this film.

    Add to this the cinematography of Bill Butler, the primary-colour palette of blue and yellow and literal blood-red, and the production design of Joe Alves in all its minute detail (oh, those anchors on Larry Vaughan’s suit!), and really—what’s not to love?

    To this point I have generally, if not entirely, confined myself to considering Jaws just as a movie, in which guise my admiration for it is unbounded. It is a different story, however, when we consider Jaws as a shark movie…because almost everything it tells us about sharks is wrong, both biologically and (as it were) philosophically.

    This is where I tend to fall between two stools to get trapped between the right and left sides of my brain, if you prefer. That I do a pretty good job of just letting this stuff go while I’m actually watching the film is another indicator of its overall success – as you guys have no doubt gathered by now, letting stuff go is not one of my strong points – but if you think it doesn’t bother me, think again.

    While to a degree we can blame the ignorance of the time, the bottom line is that the film-makers had little to no interest in depicting their shark in a realistic manner. This is why many people argue that Jaws should not be treated as an animal film, or even as a killer animal film, but rather as a monster movie.

    (Not that this approach would negate all of my issues with Jaws, even if I adopted it: “Nobody cry”, my arse…)

    And it’s a sensible argument, except for one thing:

    That the people who saw Jaws in 1975, and after, did not react to the shark as if it were an imaginary monster rather than a real animal that this film about a shark larger than any real one so far observed – a shark that behaves as no real shark ever did – the welter of misinformation about sharks that peppers the script – the reduction of sharks from a biological miracle to a mere “eating machine”, a killing machine – all of this had dire real-life consequences that are still being dealt with today.

    “Any shark expert in the world would tell you it’s a killer, it’s a man-eater!” says Brody to Vaughan of the great white while Hooper, who begins by professing his lifelong love of sharks, makes no effort to suggest a solution other than killing the shark. On the contrary, the script puts the discredited theory of the “rogue shark” into Hooper’s mouth, the great and damaging myth that some sharks develop a taste for feeding on human beings and will go on doing so for as long as they live. Thus, closing the beaches would only be a temporary solution.

    In fact, the bitter irony of Jaws is that it was released just at the moment that marine biologists worldwide were experiencing something of an epiphany: the realisation that so many of the prevailing beliefs about sharks – that they are inherently aggressive, that all of them pose a danger to man, that they are not merely man-eaters, but preferential man-eaters – were completely false. However, the voices of these professionals, newly raised in the defence of these much-maligned animals, were drowned out by a very different reaction.

    Sharks had always been casually killed, even aside from the appalling depredations of the barbaric shark-fin industry but what Jaws did was create a whole new awareness of sharks—and a new and focused kind of fear. The film provoked—not just a backlash, but a perfect storm of retaliation.

    First, most obviously, it terrified people and terrified people tend to lash out.

    Second, it highlighted the shark as a trophy animal: in the wake of Jaws, the shark became a favourite target of game-fisherman, for whom a mounted set of jaws became a new and valuable prize.

    (One of the worst blunders in Jaws finds Quint, whose cabin walls are almost covered with his trophies, pulling two intact sets of shark-jaws out of a boiling-pot. In fact, because sharks are cartilaginous, such treatment would melt down the trophy and leave behind nothing but loose teeth and goo. Shark jaws have to be dried and picked clean. Anyone copying Quint would be in for a grave disappointment…and again, good.)

    And third, in what was simultaneously the most understandable yet most irrational of the reactions, there developed a widespread feeling that with the killing of sharks, the victims of the Indianapolis were being belatedly avenged.

    But irrational or not— Jaws triggered a worldwide slaughter that pushed a number of species of sharks to the brink of extinction, and in turn threw the world’s oceans dangerously out of balance.

    Of course, that wasn’t the intention and subsequently, a number of those associated with the production involved themselves in campaigns to try and stop the slaughter. Peter Benchley in particular became extremely energetic in the animals’ defence while their involvement in the underwater filming for Jaws helped turn Ron and Valerie Taylor into passionate shark activists. Celebrations of the film today, “Jawsfest” and other such events, now invariably include an educational component.

    It can even be reasonably argued that we know as much as we do about sharks today – even if it’s only a portion of what remains to be discovered – as a result of a fascination born of this film.

    But this is not to say that the fear generated by Jaws has dissipated. It persists—and if in less exaggerated form, then no less destructively.

    Fun fact: nearly 55 and a half million people die every year, worldwide. How many of those deaths do you suppose are the result of a shark attack? The upper estimate is eight per year or to put it another way:

    Annually, a maximum of 0.000014% of human deaths are caused by sharks.

    I just felt like typing out those zeroes.

    In fact, the list of things more likely to kill you than a shark is beyond absurd. Getting struck by lightning, or by a falling coconut, those two popular examples, are almost commonplace by comparison.

    And even if we restrict it to just animal-related deaths – even if we leave out that all-time champion killer, the mosquito, and others that cause death indirectly rather than directly – even if we leave out good old Homo sapiens (the murder-rate worldwide puts us second on the full list of killer animals, and that’s not even considering the effects of such things as war and stupidity) – the shark still ranks well behind a significant number of other animals including snakes, crocodiles, elephants, hippopotamuses, lions, cows, horses, bees, ants, jellyfish, and – I particularly enjoy pointing this one out to the anti-shark brigade – the domestic dog.

    Furthermore, whenever they try to tell you that shark attacks are on the increase, keep in mind that the figures are invariably reported numerically, not proportionally that is, they don’t take into account the relative numbers of sharks and people in the water at any given time.

    For example—it is estimated that, in Australia, for every one shark-related fatality there are something like one hundred million instances of a human being entering the water.

    And yet, in spite of this – in spite of the incredibly broad and often colourful range of ways that human beings find to die – we are still, as a society, almost required to get hysterical over that one exceptional death that happens to be shark-related and more, to take punitive action in retaliation, often over the protests of the victim’s family. That someone knowingly took a risk – and that they were bitterly, unreasonably unlucky – isn’t allowed to enter into it.

    Clearly, something is going on here other than the fact of someone dying in a rare and tragic way something that goes beyond simple, understandable, sensible fear.

    I think it’s that Homo sapiens cannot stand being reminded that he isn’t at the top of the food-chain that in spite of his (alleged) superior intelligence, he is in most other ways a distinctly inferior species—clumsily designed, physically weak, without any inherent form of defence.

    And Jaws, amongst all of its other virtues, captures this perfectly. Take another look at the false-scare scene at the beach—at the way the people in the water react to the presence of the “shark”: the mindless terror, the panicked bolt for the shoreline, the instinctive yet vicious sense of self-preservation that results in children being abandoned and the elderly trampled in the rush to land.

    It’s a scene we’ve seen before, in countless wildlife documentaries: the stampede of the threatened prey animal away from the edge of the waterhole. It is Man at his most helplessly vulnerable, his most biologically insignificant Homo sapiens reduced to the level of the wildebeest a situation that to the human psyche constitutes an intolerable insult.

    Footnote: Yes, yes, I know: I’m piling on but—

    This picture of a great white shark taken earlier this year from within a diving-cage by British photographer, Euan Rannachan, in the waters around Guadalupe Island. Look familiar?

    This, meanwhile, is “Deep Blue”, the biggest confirmed great white in the world at a fraction under 20 feet long. She’s shown here with freediver Ocean Ramsey, who did willingly what Martin Brody refused to do, and got into the photographs for scale:


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    Judge Mental

    Stranger In a Strange Land

    STATUS SCREEN
    Name:
    Alexander Lavelle Harris
    Age: 9 years
    Alignment: Neutral Good
    Past Life: Ganondorf, King of Evil

    Traits
    Affinities:
    You have acquired a natural inclination for some of the fundamental magical forces, gaining various benefits and detriments as a result.

    Aura of Power: B+ (base), D+++ (spirit, suppressed), D (ki, suppressed), E+++ (magic, suppressed), E+ (spirit, completely suppressed), - (ki and magic, completely suppressed). You bear a trace remnant of the omnipotent energies of the Triforce of Power. At this level, it can be detected by magical examination or magically-sensitive demons within a week of your passage, and is also evident to magically- or spiritually-aware beings within a day of your passage. Even regular animals and highly alert but otherwise ordinary people can sense your might if they are in your presence when you're not actively restraining yourself. You're also able to gather massive amounts of magical energy for spellcasting.

    Big Brother: C (w/little girls B w/Zelda D+ w/little boys). Little sisters are adorable, even when they aren't yours. You gain a major bonus when socializing with little girls, or when acting to protect them from the big, nasty world. The benefits of this trait automatically rank up when the subject is related to you - like Zelda - but your limited experience with little boys means this trait automatically ranks down when the subject is male. You also experience a moderate penalty when interacting with people who find the whole pseudo-sibling thing lame, creepy, or just unwanted. While you're still a long way from becoming a one-man panopticon, you are starting to lean towards being the overly nosy sort of Big Brother.

    Blooded: E+++. You have killed, and been wounded in turn. You gain a minor bonus in combat situations after you have shed an enemy's blood or had some of your own blood shed by an enemy, and on social interactions with other killers. But do you really want benefits like this?

    Corruption: F+++. Life on the Hellmouth leaves its mark. Thanks to your youth and a timely - if explosive - purification ritual, you're only slightly tainted by the chaos, evil, and death of the place, but your Corruption Resistance can't currently prevent re-contamination.

    Criminal (?): E+. You are (technically) a law-breaker. You'd normally gain a minor bonus on interactions with other criminals, but the fact that all of your "crimes" had some supernatural element to them muddies the waters considerably - to say nothing of the self-defense angle. The good news is that as far as the Moonlit World is concerned, you're still a law-abiding citizen. So far.

    Divine Favor: Certain deities are paying attention to you - in a good way!

    Familiar Bond: Your bond with Briar has been purified, renewed, and formalized, and you are now properly master and familiar partners. NEVER AGAIN.

    Filial Piety: C. You have great respect for your forebears, and are willing to go to them for advice - and more impressively, heed it. This reputation earns you a major bonus on social interactions with your elders, but also incurs a moderate penalty when socializing with your peers. If you were (much, much) less of a social (and physical) beast, you'd be getting teased as a teacher's pet and a momma's boy right about now. Hooray for interpersonal skills!

    Heart Meter: E. You have a Heart (Container)! Aside from making you harder to kill, this grants you a minor bonus to your Endurance and skills that use Ki and/or Power, as well as a more accurate sense of your own health and well-being. Hyrulean folklore credited Heart Containers with being sources of love, as well as life, but you haven't noticed any differences there. Yet.

    Honest: C+. You keep your word. This reputation earns you a major bonus on social interactions, as long as you are telling the truth, but incurs a moderate penalty when you lie. Significant dishonesty will reduce your ranks in this skill. You swear to tell the truth, though perhaps not the whole truth.

    Intimidating: B+. You look like trouble on two legs. You gain a massive bonus when attempting to push others around, whether verbally, physically, or just by being tall, dark, and scary, but you also incur a major penalty on most social interactions. Your Social Prowess and skills can negate this penalty, as long as you are acting friendly if observed when not acting friendly but also not doing something aggressive or hostile, you take only a minor penalty.

    Iron Stomach: D. You are less susceptible to stomach distress than most. You gain a moderate bonus on attempts to resist the urge to purge, and a minor bonus if this is in response to physical trauma rather than illness or poison. However, you also take a minor penalty on certain social interactions, generally with people of a more delicate constitution who can't believe the stuff you're willing to eat.

    Law-Abiding: F+++. You respect the law. At least when it's convenient to do so.

    Mana Burn: F. You tried to breathe/eat/absorb mana and ki, and it BURNED going down (as well as coming back up). The damage was negligible, but still, you may be better off not trying that again. At least, not around dragons in human guise.

    Past-Life Experience: C. You have dreams of the life (or is it lives?) of Ganondorf two or three times a night. You can recall the contents of these dreams in major detail. Having this level of recall of your previous incarnation gives it an influence on your current form, which has developed minor Gerudo skin, hair, and eye colors. Between the strength of your spirit and your refusal to walk Ganondorf's path, you can prevent any further changes than this. Still, you've been here before, and you don't plan on staying long.

    Powerful Build: D+. Though you're just eight nine years old, you have the physique of a child of eleven twelve. This grants you a moderate bonus on combat and physical checks related to strength, reach, and toughness, but imposes a minor penalty on similar checks involving speed. You also have a higher food bill than most kids your age clothing is less of a problem at the moment, since you can just buy teens' sizes, but you'll need to shop at the specialty stores in the future. It ain't easy bein' Mr. Big and Tall.

    Protective: B. You look out for your friends and loved ones. You gain a massive bonus on actions taken to defend or avenge someone you care about. Failing to help a friend in need incurs a major penalty until you have made amends, and you can come across as overprotective. It's for their own good, though, right?

    Publicity: D. Your name, as they say, is large. At this level, you're a state celebrity - assuming the martial arts practicing and/or supernatural population of Japan count as such - and are on the radar of special interest groups scattered around the world. You get a moderate bonus to social actions when interacting with people from these groups, but also incur a minor penalty on attempts to avoid their notice. Here's hoping that squee-ing foxgirls remain the most. outspoken. of your fanbase.

    Rage: E++. You have a bit of a temper. You gain a minor bonus to "aggressive" actions taken while angry, and suffer no negative effects, whether to skills or to controlling your fury. U mad, bro?

    Scholar's Soul: C++. You have shown an atypical appreciation for the academic. You gain a major bonus to reading speed, information retention and recall, and social interactions with other nerds scholarly types. You also take a moderate penalty on interactions with the less nerdy academically-inclined. Fortunately, you're already an athletic and outgoing guy. No one must will ever suspect differently.

    Totem of the Raging Boar: B++. Your actions have demonstrated an affinity for the Spirit of the Boar, who is fierce, fearless, and strong, yet also hard-headed, wild, and hungry. You gain a massive bonus in combat situations and social situations, but take a major penalty on some mental actions due to pigheadedness being stubborn and short-sighted.

    Traumatic Memories: D+++. You have seen things you rather wish you hadn't, and which you can't easily forget. You're out of step with what society considers "normal," gaining a moderate penalty to all social actions involving regular people, and a minor penalty on interactions with human residents of the Moonlit World. You can still deal with Monsters normally, and your Acting skill is good enough to cover up your issues. Always wear your metaphorical mask in public.

    Warrior Born: B. You love a good fight. This grants you a massive bonus in combat situations, as long as you are using weapons or martial arts, and on social interactions with other warriors. However, you also incur a major penalty on interactions with more peaceful and/or magically-inclined individuals. At this rank, minor acts normally considered cowardly or dishonorable may be overlooked, though multiple such acts (or greater ones) can still bring censure. How can a magical boy fight so well? YOU CAST FIST!

    Watchful: B+. You constantly keep your eyes and ears open for trouble. You gain a massive bonus to notice subtle or hidden details about your surroundings even when you aren't specifically on guard. Aside from making you appear paranoid overcautious, this extra alertness imposes a major penalty to your initiative roll and Reflex saving throw reaction time when something does manage to surprise you. But hey, it's not like you're in a Dark Lord's castle or anywhere dangerous, right?

    Young: D+++. Despite everything, you are still just a child. Your traits and skills incur a penalty equal to a quarter-rank when put in competition with those of an adolescent (age 12+). Against young adults (age 16+), the penalty is half a rank, and against adults (age 20+) the penalty is a full rank.

    Skills
    Combat Prowess:
    B++. You are an extremely skilled fighter. You can defeat most individuals who have an advantage in age, size, and/or training.
    Defensive Proficiencies: You have trained in the use of the following categories of defensive skills and implements.

    Judge Mental

    Stranger In a Strange Land

    Physical Prowess: B+++. You are extremely physically capable for your age and build. There are few humans your age who can match you, and that's before you start taking your exotic skills into account. Play nice, now.
    Agility: C+++. You are more flexible and nimble than a normal person of your size. You gain a major bonus on attempts to move your body gracefully. Not only could you try out for ballet, you'd almost certainly get in - assuming there is a Ballet For Big Men?
    Boarding: F. You can ride a board. But surely a Cali boy can do better than this?
    Climbing: E+. You can climb. You gain a minor bonus on attempts to scale (mostly-)vertical surfaces, as long as said surface includes plenty of hand- and footholds and isn't excessively high. Remember to bring some rope, and don't look down.
    Dancing: C. You can dance. You gain a major bonus when attempting to get your groove on. And if it ever comes up (again), you can dance in costume armor without stepping on your partner's toes. PRAISE DOOM! DIN!
    Dexterity: D+++. Your hands are precision instruments. You gain a moderate bonus on attempts to perform feats that require significant hand/eye coordination. Who says videogames are bad for you?
    Drawing: F+++. You can't draw. At least, not anything more complicated than stick figures.
    Endurance: B++ (B+ without Heart Container). You can keep going in spite of fatigue, pain, and injury. You gain massive resistance to weariness and general physical harm. This level of health and fitness lets you go a full twenty-four hours (and then some) without rest, and still be functional! And without using magic or ki! Sleep is for the weak!
    Evasion: B+++. You have an outstanding aptitude for getting out of harm's way. You gain a massive bonus on attempts to dodge everything from punches to explosions, and you can react in time to negate long-range threats, as long as they aren't of the supersonic or "everything explodes" variety. At this point, Harmony is no more than a blip on your radar.
    Gymnastics: F. You can perform acrobatic feats. But until you rank this skill up some more, you're going to look like you're getting ready to kick someone's teeth in whenever you spin.
    Martial Concealment: E++. You can hide your fighting prowess, both in a battle and in everyday life. You gain a minor bonus on attempts to thwart Battle Awareness and similar skills, and can hide your martial ability from people who are really unobservant. To most, though, you still look like an extra in an action movie or something.
    Pain Threshold: C+++. You can take a hit. Major injuries do not interrupt any actions you are taking, and you've reached the point where you can shrug off most non-crippling injuries with a manly grunt. Just try not to get blown up or dismembered, because that'll totally ruin your tough guy image.
    Parkour: E++. You know that the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line, and maneuver accordingly. You're able to navigate minor obstacles like grassy turf, slight inclines, and low fences when free-running, with no loss of speed or stability. . does this really count as parkour?
    Penmanship: D+. You can write. You gain a moderate bonus to attempts to produce hand-written documents. Granted, your scrawl looks like the work of an eight-year-old, but at least it's accurate!
    Reflexes: B++. You react faster and more accurately in response to changing conditions. You have a massive chance to act normally when ambushed or otherwise caught off-guard. You saw this movie where a guy snatched a knife out of the air and threw it back the way it came.

    Resistances: You are harder to hurt with certain elemental forces.

    Riding: E++. You know how to ride living beings. You get a minor bonus on attempts to sit on and direct a horse or similar domesticated animals without falling off. It's not clear if this provides a bonus when riding on another person's shoulders, but you're probably too big for that now anyway.
    Rolling: E. You know how to roll. You gain a minor bonus to speed, maneuverability, and general awareness whenever you engage in extended tumbling. It's still going to leave you awfully sore and disoriented outside of Goron Form, though.
    Sleight of Hand: E+. Your hands are quicker than the eye. You get a minor bonus on attempts to "relocate" or conceal small objects unnoticed, or to perform similar small, subtle tasks. But keen eyes will still notice that you do, in fact, have something up your sleeve.
    Soccer: E+. You know how to play the world's most popular sport. You get a minor bonus on the field, which puts you in the same league as most kids on Earth. Also, remember that outside of North America, it's called football.
    Speed: B++. You have some outstanding speed. You gain a massive boost to your movement speed, as long as you're moving under your own physical power and not by means of a vehicle or spell that does all the work for you. One problem you've noticed given your size, once you hit top speed, it's a little hard to STOP.
    Stealth: C++. You have outstanding skill at sneaking around. You get a major bonus on attempts to hide and move silently. You still can't hide in plain sight like an experienced ninja - at least, not without using magic - but you're getting there!
    Strength: B+++. You have exceptional physical power. You gain a massive bonus to your melee attack and damage, as well as your carrying capacity, maximum lift, and other general feats of strength. You are officially a big boy! Or a little man! Or something that sounds less embarrassing than either of those!
    Strength Control: B. You can use exactly as much or as little physical power as is necessary to get the job done. You gain a massive bonus on attempts to avoid accidentally damaging fragile objects or people you don't mean to hurt. You have officially fought a little girl in armed combat and technically lost! And this was a good thing!
    Swimming: D. You can keep your head above water. You gain a moderate bonus to speed and maneuverability under calm conditions (or in a pool), and a minor bonus to the same in mild currents. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

    Psychic Prowess: E. You have spooky mental abilities! Which is objectively better than not having them, I suppose.

    Social Prowess: B++. You are a very popular kid. This is reduced by Intimidating, when you try to be scary, but when was the last time that happened? Outside of a fight, that is.
    Acting: B++. You can act very well. You get a massive bonus when attempting to "play a role," whether you're on stage or off it, and people will overlook major "inconsistencies" between the things you say or do and what a normal boy your age would. As basically NOTHING you say or do is what a normal boy your age would, this is very helpful. But seriously, the Drama Club is going to try to kidnap you if they clue in to your skills.
    Allure (?): F+. You saw a succubus doing something with her aura that made you zone out in confusion for a couple minutes. You might be able to recreate it, but why would you want to?
    Comedy: C. You're funny. And in a good way! You gain a major bonus when trying to tell jokes or otherwise evoke laughter. This is the level of good (if unremarkable) jokes delivered with good timing, and is also the level at which you start being able to produce your own genuinely amusing material. Don't quit your day job just yet, but you might give serious thought to becoming the class clown.
    Cool: B++. You can keep yours, in the face of massive problems. Dude.
    Disguise: E. You know how to pass yourself off as someone else. You gain a minor bonus when creating and/or wearing costumes meant to conceal your identity or allow you to pose as someone else. It's partly Acting, but it's also Wardrobe, Makeup, and Special Effects.
    Fighter's Rep: D+. Not only are you the Under Tens Division World Champion, you beat a living vampire your age in an open match. These feats are worthy of recognition and respect within the martial arts community and the Moonlit World.
    Guarded: C+. You're very careful about who you trust, since evil demons, monsters, and ninja (oh my!) could be lurking anywhere. You get a major bonus to conceal your true thoughts and feelings.
    Haggling: C+. You know how to get the best deals. You gain a major bonus when trying to talk someone into charging you less, or paying you more, for an exchange of goods or services. You're able to haggle on the level of the average adult in a largely agrarian society, but that isn't going to be enough if you plan to keep making deals with the Fae.
    Manners: B. You have them, and they're incredible. You get a massive bonus in formal social situations, and a major bonus in informal ones. You can still make with the insults if it's appropriate to the situation, and they gain a slight sting because of how seldom you use them, and how downright classy you can make them sound.
    Oratory: D++. You are skilled at formal speaking. You get a moderate bonus when giving speeches, telling stories, engaging in debate, or otherwise conversing in an organized, public venue. You're good enough to win an argument with yourself! Now if only Shadow You hadn't responded by trying to punch Actual You in the face.
    Pranking: E+++. You have some skill at playing tricks on people. You get a minor bonus on attempts to outfox others for humorous results, though there's no guarantee they'll be left laughing with you. But that's fine in comedy, as in aught else, 'tis better to give than to receive.

    Presence of the King: You have a certain royal demeanor, and have learned to leverage it in specific ways.

    Style: D. You have a sense of style. You gain a moderate bonus on social interactions when you dress for success. Your newly-pointy ears add a certain something, and your decision to show them off has earned Lucia's seal of approval!
    Threat: D+. You can deliver a well-chosen word of warning. You gain a moderate bonus when making threats, be they subtle or blatant. Try not to make any small children cry.
    Trolling: C++. You are a prodigy of the ancient art of trolling. If successful, your attempts to troll can induce a state of major anger and annoyance in your victims, fixing their attention on you for several minutes - or maybe just break their spirits and send them home crying. Your skills are such that you have trolled people without meaning to. Oops?
    Words of Power: B. You have discovered that calling your attacks actually makes them stronger. You gain a massive bonus to the effectiveness of your spells and special techniques if you ham it up when invoking them. HAVE YOU HEARD THE WORD?

    Spiritual Prowess: A (B+++ without Heart of Spirit). You have an extremely strong soul. This spiritual weight greatly reduces the undesirable side-effects of your Past Life Experience. The divine essence in the Heart Containers likely doesn't hurt, either.
    Spiritual Techniques: You have learned various methods to leverage the raw power of your soul.

    Judge Mental

    Stranger In a Strange Land

    Ki Prowess: B++. You have an excellent amount of ki for someone your age, and your ability to harness and utilize it is similarly advanced. Exactly the same as at C-rank, you say? Nonsense!
    Ki Control (Foundational, Passive): A+ (A without Heart Container). You are extremely adept at using ki more efficiently. You gain a monstrous discount on ki techniques, and if you get into a "beam duel" or similar clash of techniques, you are massively more likely to overcome your opponent. You also have a major efficiency boost when adjusting active ki techniques to meet changing circumstances, so you don't have to use another skill - though you still can, if you want to.
    > Ki Concealment (Passive): B++ (B+ without Heart Container). You are able to hide your ki. You get a massive bonus on attempts to defeat aura-reading abilities, and can use a few major ki techniques - like staggered Body Flickers - undetected. The ninja will no longer be dismissive of your skills at all!
    > Ki Filtration (Discharge): E+ (E without Heart Container). You are able to split ki into its three component energies. You can convert 16% of your ki to 1% of your energy-of-choice: mental physical or spiritual. With an exchange rate like this, wrestling the Boar is starting to look like a good option.
    > Ki Overload (Discharge): C (D+++ without Heart Container). You have learned how to increase the power of ki techniques by imbuing extra ki into them. You gain a major bonus to the effects of Overloaded skills, and can also (theoretically) split this overcharge between two skills, boosting them to a lesser extent. And hey! The telltale glow is almost gone!

    Ki Enhancement (Foundational, Active): A (B+++ without Heart Container). You are skilled at using ki to boost your body's natural abilities. Your core enhancement technique provides a truly monstrous boost to your overall capabilities. HAAAAAAAA- *six episodes later* -AAAA!
    > Body Flicker (Discharge, Interrupt): A+ (A without Heart Container). A high-speed movement technique that looks like teleportation. You gain a monumental bonus to movement speed when traveling in a (mostly) straight line, or a massive speed bonus in situations where you need to make several stops and starts in rapid succession - such as combat. You can come out of either mode with a physical attack or a second ki technique ready to go. You have left behind "roadrunner speed" and are closing in on "hedgehog."
    >> Staggered Flicker (Active, Interrupt): E+ (E without Heart Container). A defensive derivation of Body Flicker that allows for multiple moves over an extended period of time. You're currently able to hold two low-powered Flickers ready with this technique. Discount dodging at its finest!
    >> Strike Flicker (Discharge): D++ (D+ without Heart Container). A high-speed attack technique which accelerates one of your normal physical attacks to Body Flicker-like speeds. This grants a moderate bonus to damage, and imposes a moderate penalty to the target's attempts to dodge. The shock issue with weapons has also been resolved. Think fast!
    > Brain Enhancement (Active): E+++ (E++ without Heart Container). A variation on Ki Enhancement that favors the mind over the body. Provides a minor boost to mental parameters. At least, you think it does, your applications of it have been a bit hit-or-miss - mostly "miss." Still hasn't microwaved your brainmeats, though, so, yay?
    > Environmental Adaptation (Active): D (E+++ without Heart Container). You can use your ki to speed up the rate at which your body adjusts to sudden changes in local conditions. You can adapt to moderate environmental differences such as significant shifts in temperature or pressure almost instantly and without discomfort when using this skill. If nothing else, it makes taking hot baths more comfortable!
    > Ki Armor (Active): C (D+++ without Heart Container). You can use ki to harden your body against blows you cannot avoid. Your resistance to physical harm gains a major bonus when this technique is active, and can withstand punches from a typical monster your age, as long as they're not giving it their all. Claws and such are more of an issue, so this won't stop Kahlua if she ever decides to bite you.
    > Ki Strike (Active): E++ (E+ without Heart Container). You can use ki to augment your attacks. Your unarmed strikes gain a minor bonus to damage when this technique is active, and can affect targets normally immune to mundane harm. It would still be a Shirou-tier idea to go hand-to-hand with a Heroic Spirit, though.
    > Substitution (Discharge, Interrupt): E (F+++ without Heart Container). A high-speed movement technique that involves exchanging positions with a random nearby object to avoid taking damage from an attack. You are slightly more likely to successfully use this skill in combat, but any competent enemy will realize they "missed" almost immediately. Thank the Goddesses for dumb mooks!
    > Thunder Clap (Discharge): F+. You can use ki to. clap your hands really loudly? The sound of one hand clapping remains a mystery.

    Ki Generation (Foundational, Passive): D+++ (D++ without Heart of Spirit). You have a working understanding of and proficiency at altering your body's production of ki. You gain a moderate bonus on attempts to manipulate this delicate process, and are a bit less likely to cause yourself injury when doing so. Maybe you should hang out in hot springs more often, if this is what meditating there does for you?
    > Ki Power (Passive): D (E+++ without Heart of Spirit). You generate more ki than is usual for someone of your age, build, and training. This moderate boost provides a clear advantage in contests of raw power.
    > Ki Recovery (Passive): D (E+++ without Heart of Spirit). You recuperate spent ki more quickly than normal. From two full days, you're now down to 38 hours and 20 minutes to fully recover from zero ki.

    Ki Infusion (Foundational, Active): C+ (C without Heart Container). You are skilled at "extending" your ki into things you are holding or touching. You gain a major bonus on attempts to infuse ki into non-living objects, which grants you a moderate awareness of the item in question and a minor boost to its use. All three bonuses are reduced by half a rank if the object already carries some form of energy (ki, magic, etc.), and are ranked-down if it's a creature (living or otherwise). One might call it a form of Stru-Ki-tural Grasping.
    > Ki Gardening (Active): F+ (F without Heart Container). You can use ki to encourage plants you tend to grow better than they otherwise would. Maybe this will help out your struggling Hyrulean transplants?
    > Ki Grip (Active): F++ (F+ without Heart Container). You can use ki to augment your grip. Try not to leave finger-shaped dents in the next thing you take hold of, okay?
    > Ki Step (Active): C++ (C+ without Heart Container). You can use ki to traverse surfaces that shouldn't be able to support you. At this level, you can walk across weak surfaces like slender tree branches, rice paper, or thin ice, or along major inclines without losing your balance or making unwanted noise. You can also run across uncertain terrain - mud, sand, rotten floors, thick ice, moderate inclines, etc. - or cross it at a walk without leaving a physical trail. You wonder if you could run across a row of sloped and tiled rooftops.
    >> Slow Fall (Active): F++ (F+ without Heart Container). You can use ki and a vertical surface within arm's reach to slow your descent. At least in theory.
    > Sword Beam (Active, optional Discharge): C (D+++ without Heart Container). A special technique that imbues your weapon (yes, even non-swords) with energy to increase the power of strikes, or attack at range. You are now able to reliably use Sword Beam in melee, though attempting to do so sequentially is still tricky. Levoknuckle's trick of "throwing swords" is going to take more work, but you're getting there.
    >> Spin Attack (Discharge): E+ (E without Heart Container). A derivation of the Sword Beam, which lets you spin and slash through everything within striking range. You gain a minor bonus to damage and accuracy when using this move. Try not to get dizzy!
    > Water Palm (Discharge): F+++ (F without Heart Container and Heart of Water). A special technique that lets you launch bursts of compressed water. Even LESS useful than the Wind Palm it's derived from, since you need to be in (or at least touching) water to make it work.
    > Wind Palm (Discharge): E+ (E without Heart Container). A special technique that lets you launch bursts of compressed air when you punch. You can generate a minor breeze, strong enough to blow someone's hair around or snuff a candle at close range. Somewhere, an Airbender is hanging his arrow-tattooed head in shame.

    Ki Perception (Foundational, Passive): B++ (B+ without Heart Container). You are highly skilled at reading your own ki. You gain a massive boost on attempts to analyze your life-force, and from this, derive a major bonus to comprehending any foreign influences upon your ki, whether good, bad, or neutral. In simpler terms? You know yourself pretty well. As for your enemies.
    > Battle Awareness (Passive): C+++. You are skilled at reading the flow of a fight. You gain a major bonus on attempts to predict what an opponent will do, before they do it. You can now anticipate power blows in time to come up with a response that you are actually capable of pulling off! Assuming the enemy doesn't have a speed advantage, of course, but that's what Body Flicker is for, right?
    > Ki Sense (Passive): B+++ (B++ without Heart Container). You are highly skilled at detecting and reading auras out of visual range. Your sense of unseen auras gains a massive boost to accuracy, allowing you to identify individuals you have only ever been near (though repeated near-encounters still helps), and you gain major resistance to being stunned by overwhelming auras.
    > Ki Sight (Passive): A (B+++ without Heart Container). You are incredibly skilled in the technique of reading an opponent's aura and fighting strength. As long as you can see the creature whose life-force you're reading, you gain a monstrous boost to the accuracy of the information you receive, and a massive reduction to the odds of any dangerous side-effects. Your head definitely won't explode if someone's power level is over 9000!

    Ki Projection (Foundational, Active): C+ (C without Heart Container). You are skilled at expelling ki from your body. You gain a major bonus on attempts to project ki, and can now solidify it. Okay, the shapes it can take are crude, permeable, and will discorporate after a second or two if you break contact, but still! Progress!
    > Doppelganger (Discharge): D (E+++ without Heart Container). A ki-based illusion technique that creates a visual "clone" of you. It's good enough to momentarily trick those who know you or who possess standard ki-based senses - and really, a moment's all you should need.
    > Ki Aura (Active): F++ (F+ without Heart Container). A special technique that "hardens" the ki surrounding your body into a defensive barrier. Still in the testing stages, unfortunately.
    > Ki Blast (Discharge): C+ (C without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses your pure life-force into a coherent beam of destruction. You can consistently deal damage equivalent to your most powerful enhanced punch at a range of about one hundred feet. This one will punch through thin common metals, and dent a lot of stronger and/or thicker stuff. Definitely not for use on friends.
    >> Ki Beam (Discharge): F+++ (F++ without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses your pure life-force into a coherent, continuous beam of destruction. You can consistently deal damage equivalent to a slap each second the target remains in contact with the Beam. Must be used in tandem with a Ki Blast. Something, something, Boar Destruction Wave?
    > Ki Shot (Discharge): D+ (D without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses your pure life-force into rapid-firing projectiles of pain. In one burst, you can get off half a dozen Ki Shots that each hit with the force of an unenhanced punch, or a couple dozen shots that strike like light punches. Guaranteed not to inflict worse harm than bruises!
    > Ki Shout (Discharge): F+++ (F++ without Heart Container). A special technique that lets you YELL REALLY LOUDLY. THUNDERBIRD APPROVES!

    Terminology
    Active: A ki technique with this descriptor does nothing until its activation cost is paid. Once it has been turned "on" in this manner, it provides all its described benefits until it lapses. While Alex is in combat, he can maintain Active ki techniques for two minutes per rank in Ki Prowess and the technique (or thirty seconds per plus) in less stressful situations, Alex can maintain Active ki techniques for up to twenty minutes per rank (or five minutes per plus).

    Discharge: A ki technique with this descriptor operates by expelling a quantity of ki from Alex's body. As such, they have a very limited duration compared to Active techniques, which are still anchored to Alex's body and ambient ki. Assuming that they do not resolve instantly, Discharge techniques can remain active for twelve seconds per rank in Ki Prowess and the technique (or three seconds per plus).

    Foundational: A ki technique with this descriptor is the most basic method of using ki in a particular way. All other ki techniques are derived from Foundational skills, and for the sake of convenience, are grouped under the Foundational skills which are most central to their function.
    Control is the direct manipulation of ki itself, as well as its inherent properties.
    Enhancement is the use of ki to increase the natural abilities of the user.
    Generation is manipulating the processes which produce ki.
    Infusion is imbuing ki into something other than the user.
    Perception is the fundamental awareness of ki.
    Projection is manifesting ki outside the body in a "pure" form.

    Interrupt: A ki technique with this descriptor has next to no activation or cooldown time. It can be triggered instantly, even in response to sudden and unexpected events, or when Alex is gathering power for another ki technique. However, Interrupts cannot normally be performed at the same time as other ki techniques or other abilities (like spells) at most, they can be activated sequentially.

    Passive: A ki technique with this descriptor has no activation cost or time. It is always "on" once learned, unless Alex makes a deliberate effort to suppress it, has completely exhausted his ki reserve, or is under an effect that interferes with his ability to use ki (such as an anti-magic field).

    Using Ki Techniques
    When activated, a ki technique consumes 1% of Alex's maximum ki per rank (counting both the rank of the technique and Alex's rank in Ki Prowess). This is before the discount for Ki Control is applied.

    It requires approximately 1 second to activate a ki technique, followed by 1 second of "rest" before Alex can gather ki for another ki technique.

    Alex can maintain one ki technique per rank (counting both his ranks in Ki Prowess and Ki Control). If he is currently maintaining his maximum number of ki techniques and wishes to activate another, he must first deactivate one of the ki techniques he is maintaining.

    Passive techniques do not count against the maximum number of ki techniques Alex can maintain.

    Ki techniques with similar effects (such as the speed boost from Ki Enhancement and the speed boost from Body Flicker) stack additively, not multiplicatively.

    A Ki technique that is focused on producing a single, specific result is more powerful than a technique which produces a similar result as part of a "package" of effects. For example, the speed boost provided by Body Flicker is superior to the speed boost provided by Ki Enhancement. This assumes that both skills are at equal rank.

    Magical Prowess: B++. You are an extremely skilled and powerful practitioner. You can defend yourself against most skilled spellcasters or major demons, and could give a group of lesser demons or a small army of normal humans problems.
    Counterspelling: F+. You have a very basic understanding of how to use your spells to cancel out other people's spells. The tricky part is figuring out what the other guy is doing, BEFORE he does it - so pay attention!
    Disenchantment: E. You have a basic understanding of how to unmake magic items. You gain a minor bonus on attempts to break down the "magic" while leaving the "item" intact. You've been informed that this skill has applications in the realm of Item Crafting, but you're not there yet. Still, if you can prevent any more swords from melting down, it's a win!
    Item Crafting: C+++. You have a good understanding of how to create magic items. You can make multi-use or permanent items that anyone can use, or small complex items restricted to spellcasters. Interestingly enough, this is just about the level of skill you need to make a magical bath - though it may end up not being as impressive as the one you studied in Faerie.
    Mage Sense: A (B+++ without Familiar Bond). You're incredibly skilled at detecting magical energy even when you can't see it. You can interpret monstrous amounts of information, with a massively reduced chance to be overwhelmed by powerful magical signatures. You actually COULD navigate on the Hellmouth or other areas of strong ambient magic with your eyes closed, if you had enough familiarity and practice.
    Mage Sight: A (B+++ without Familiar Bond). You're incredibly skilled at reading pure magical auras. You can interpret monstrous amounts of information, with a massively reduced chance to be overwhelmed by powerful magical signatures. Now it just needs a ridiculously chuuni name. Mystic Eyes of Magic Perception? The SharinGanon? The One Who Sees? Decisions, decisions.
    Magic Power: D+. You generate more mana than is usual for someone of your age and training. It's a moderate amount by your standards, which probably makes it ridiculous by the standards of most other practitioners. try not to spend it all in one fight, okay?
    Mana Blade: E. You know how to infuse raw magical energy into a weapon! You gain a minor boost to the damage dealt by your weapon of choice while using this technique, and are less-likely to damage the weapon itself in the process. SWORD ON!
    Mana Burst: E+++. You've learned how to release raw magical energy from your body. You gain a minor boost to your physical parameters when using this ability, but overall, it doesn't seem to be any different from Ki Enhancement. You might be better off sticking to magic.
    Mana Concealment: A++. You're able to hide your magical energy. You gain a monstrous bonus on attempts to conceal your magical aura, reducing it by three full ranks when you aren't casting spells, or four ranks if you are actively suppressing your power. You can also cast multiple 3rd-level or lower spells or a single 4th-level spell untraceably. Unnoticeable Scrying, you say? Yes, please!
    Mana Control: A. You know how to use mana more efficiently. You get a monumental discount on all spells and mana-using special techniques, and your spells have a massive bonus on attempts to overcome those cast by a less-skilled opponent. CONTROL! UNLIMITED PO- I mean, PERFECT CONTROL!
    Mana Flare: E. You can create a dazzling flash of light by manipulating your mana. You are slightly more likely to get the technique off before your target(s) can avert their eyes. The flash-blindness only lasts for a few seconds, and can be defeated by wearing sunglasses or having similar protections in place. What do you mean, you never saw this skill before? Maybe you should check your eyes?
    Mana Infusion: E. You know how to infuse raw magical energy into objects, and make it stick. You gain a minor bonus on attempts to infuse mana into objects. Results of this skill may vary with the chosen receptacle, consult your local magical expert before using. . wait, that's you.
    Mana Recovery: D+. You recuperate spent mana more quickly than normal. You get a moderate bonus to your hourly recovery, which is enough to take you from 0% to 100% in 38 hours and 24 minutes, instead of the original 48. Of course, you have MORE mana than that these days, but you're also rocking a Restful Blanket, so your real recovery time is somewhere around 34 hours.

    Schools of Magic: Your grasp of the arcane arts is as broad as it is deep, covering the following general styles.

    Using Spells
    Alex's caster level is determined by combining his rank in Magic Prowess and his rank in the relevant School. Each full rank (E, D, C, B, A) is equivalent to 2 caster levels or 1 spell level, and there are four +'s to one rank (so ++ equals 1 caster level or half a spell level). F-rank is treated as caster level 0 (or 1/2 for the purpose of calculating level-dependent spell effects), with F++ being caster level 1st. The rank-down penalty for the Young Trait applies ONCE when calculating Alex's caster level/spell level.

    Alex can cast a spell he knows - i.e. has properly learned - in approximately 3 seconds, followed by 3 seconds of "rest" before he can gather mana to cast a new spell. This method of spellcasting consumes 1% of Alex's maximum mana per spell level this is before the discount for Mana Control is applied.

    Alex can cast spells he knows via extended rituals, which let him tap into ambient mana to supplement or replace his personal reserves. This increases the casting time of the spell to 1 minute per spell level, and yields ONE of the following benefits: reducing the mana cost for the spell to 0% or increasing Alex's maximum spell level by one. Ritual spells also have a reduced magic signature compared to normal spells of the same level, as the draw of mana is spread out over a much longer period of time, making them somewhat easier to conceal.

    Note that spells which are listed as having a casting time greater than "one standard action (approximately 6 seconds)" are already considered rituals, and hence cannot be discounted or empowered using the ritual-casting method. They do, however, benefit from the increased level of concealment.

    Due to the lingering influence of the Triforce, Alex can cast spells he does not know - has not learned - using the ritual method, essentially "wishing" the effect into existence. He does not gain the usual benefits of the ritual casting method when using this approach that is to say, he must pay the 1% per spell level mana cost, he uses his normal caster level/spell level for the relevant school, and the spell's signature is not reduced, as Alex is effectively brute-forcing the magic to make it work at all. Spells cast in this way do not gain the benefits that Alex's skill in the relevant school(s) would normally grant, instead having only their normal effect, and cannot have their parameters modified (see below). Alex also cannot cast spells with costly material components in this manner, unless he has put in enough research to figure out what those components are - and if he's going to put that much work in anyway, he might as well master the spell.

    As a consequence of extended study with the Hyrulean priestly trio, Alex is able to cast cleric spells with a +1 spell level modifier, instead of the standard +2 modifier for converting arcane magic to divine magic. This only applies when he is using Dinnite spells and/or the Dinnite method, however.

    Alex is able to cast druid spells with a +2 spell level modifier, and witch spells with a +1 spell level modifier.

    Alex can alter certain parameters of known spells - including range, number of targets, and duration - by spending more (or less) mana than usual. Increasing a parameter by one "increment" increases the mana cost by one spell level, while reducing a parameter by one increment reduces the mana cost by one spell level. Alex cannot increase a spell's effective level beyond the limits of his current spellcasting ability in the relevant school, and cannot decrease a spell's effective level below 0 (cantrip).
    Range increments are: self touch close medium long extreme and unlimited.
    Target increments are: self single one per 4 levels one per 2 levels one per level mass.
    Duration increments are: instantaneous 1 round per level 1 minute per level 10 minutes per level 1 hour per level 10 hours per level 1 day per level indefinite (until dismissed, dispelled, or disjoined) permanent (until dispelled by a more powerful caster or disjoined).

    Spells Known
    Spell List (Courtesy of kfrar)

    Power Prowess: E+. By combining mana and ki, you have tapped into the essence of the Triforce that lingers within you.
    Maximum Power: C++ (C+ without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses your power into a golden aura, boosting all of your abilities to the limit. This comes at the cost of being unable to use mana, ki, psychic, or spiritual energy for other purposes while the aura remains active, although "Power" skills are still available. Maximum Power drains 0.6% of your ki and 0.6% of your mana every 4 seconds of use, grants moderate magic resistance, and sometimes causes visions that communicate one's true nature to an opponent through a meeting of fists. You're still not sure why, but maybe you could ask the Goddesses?

    Power Armor: E+ (E without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses magical and vital energies through your body, reinforcing it against harm. Grants a minor bonus to all forms of defense, and as a bonus, is no longer uncomfortable to use. Still substantially inferior to Ki Armor and Augmentation spells, but it's a step in the right direction.

    Power Aura: E (F+++ without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses magical and vital energies, creating an aura of. well, Power. You gain a minor bonus on attempts to awe, intimidate, or reassure targets, depending on the situation, generate just enough light to make yourself an obvious target, and radiate traces of divinity that don't seem to do anything significant. Yet. Power on.

    Power Ball: D (E+++ without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses magical and vital energies into a golden orb that inflicts direct damage and temporary paralysis on its target. You gain a moderate bonus to the size, damage, speed, and debuff duration of this technique. In addition to your caution regarding Hylian steel equipment, you're also worried that some Hyrulean monsters may recognize Ganondorf's old move.

    Power Blade: E (F+++ without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses magical and vital energies into whatever weapon you're wielding, imbuing it with a golden aura of destructive force. You gain a minor bonus to the duration of and damage dealt by this technique, and can now keep it from damaging your weapons! Or at least your magical, Goddess-given sword, which is really the only manufactured weapon you have that matters, right?

    Power Burst: E+ (E without Heart Container). A special technique which releases magical and vital energies in an omnidirectional explosion, with you at its heart. You gain a minor bonus to the speed, range, and violence of this technique, making it harder to dodge - though hardly more "accurate." The Burst itself still doesn't hurt you, but secondary effects like smoke or shrapnel might be a problem.

    Power Fist: E++ (E+ without Heart Container). A special technique that consists of a powerful backhand punch, infused with magical and vital energies. You gain a minor bonus to your chances of stunning and/or knocking back the target with this technique. That hand of yours glows with a not-yet awesome Power.

    Power Overload: F+ (F without Heart Container). A special technique that supercharges other Power techniques by pouring even more energy into them. Aside from increasing the cost and obviousness of such skills, Power Overload also takes a physical toll on your body when used, which seems to scale with the strength of the Overloaded technique. You may have discovered your first Forbidden Technique.

    Power Sense: D+ (D without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses magical and vital energies into an extrasensory ability similar to short-range sonar. You gain a moderate bonus to the area you can scan with this technique, as well as to its speed, duration, and accuracy. Power Sense can affect certain sensitive monsters (like living vampires) as a kind of debuff, due to the "noise" it makes, but you've also found that it's not powerful enough to overcome high-level anti-Divination wards for very long. Obviously, you need to use MORE POWER.

    Power Sight: E++ (E+ without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses magical and vital energies into your eyes, vastly enhancing their perceptive ability. You gain a minor bonus to the duration and accuracy of this skill. Your relative lack of control means your blazing golden gaze can't be hidden, risks damaging magically-sensitive materials, and makes people think you're not human. And remember, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say, "Yes!"

    Power Slam: F++ (F+ without Heart Container). A special technique which focuses magical and vital energies to amplify the impact of a physical grappling attack. Quick check: is it good or bad when you can bodyslam your opponent so hard that their head pops off?


    Archive of Our Own beta

    Hey everyone, it’s time! You will all finally find out who Izuku is interning with! (See I do keep my promises).

    THAT SAID. For full disclosure I didn’t pick Izuku’s internship off practical reasons. I picked his internship based on how fun and entertaining it would be for me to write Izuku with a certain pro hero who in my opinion does not get enough attention in fanfictions.

    *Again the choice was not meant to be practical, instead the choice was out of a sense of fun for me to do. And I think it’ll be worth it considering that this ended up being 70 pages long!

    *Heads up I will be introducing serval new characters and at times I will suggest that you google search said characters. This chapter is sort-of a cross over and I will explain more at the end.

    (See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

    Chapter Text

    The wielder of the Omnitrix looks out ahead of him with fire in his heart, excitement in his eyes, and the wind to his back. All pushing him to step forward to start his Internship.

    ‘I can’t wait to get started.’

    With a skip in his step, Izuku Midoriya marches forward across the oceanside boardwalk. The concrete boardwalk runs alongside the ocean water with a barricade of dolos intercepting the incoming waves. A few seagulls glide about following him along as if he’s going to feed them other than that the boardwalk is empty as it stretches forward to his destination.

    Nothing could go wrong it’s a beautiful sunny day, the ocean’s nice and calm, and there’s no one in sight to disturb his peace. If anything it’s all a sign: a sign that this internship is going to be great!

    After all it is off to a great start.

    Goodbye, peaceful day and hello…death.

    Like an undersea monster a Great-White Shark bursts out of the sea, flying up and over the dolos before its…feet smash into the ground right in Izuku’s path startling the boy so bad he falls backwards dropping his suitcase.

    Izuku cowers as the humanoid Great-White villain turns and glares down at its next meal, and in short, the shark is very disturbing to look at.

    Imagine a muscular man wearing a shark for a body-suit with the head of a shark as a helmet sitting over his head, which is located as part of the shark’s mouth. Seriously, the most disturbing part of the villain’s features is that his eyes are a pair of black slits within the shark’s protruding red gums and rows of sharp serrated teeth right underneath. The villain has long finned arms with sharp-serrated claws at the end, his shark-like body is a dark navy-blue with a pale white underside, and he’s wearing black shorts with a shark teeth-patterned belt.

    [AN: Google Search: Oumagadoki Zoo “Fuka”]

    All in all this guy just screams “killing machine.”

    Izuku pales at the sight of all those sharp teeth, just one bite from those things would tear right through his arm.

    The Shark sneers down at the quivering boy. “Ya look pretty tasty. I’d bet you’d make a fine snack.” He swings his lanky arm back. “RAHH!!” He swings down but Izuku’s fight or flight takes over forcing him to scramble away just before the serrated claws could cut his head off.

    Izuku quickly scrambles to his feet and throws his backpack to the side, gripping the Omnitrix.

    “Oh, no ya don’t, shrimp!” The Shark charges forward and slams his head right into the boy making him shout out in pain.

    The Shark, with Izuku pinned in place against his head, charges and throws them both up and over the dolos.

    The groaning greenette pushes himself away from the Shark’s head and kicks away just before they both plunge into the cold Pacific Ocean.

    Izuku can only watch as bubbles and water rushes over his head, and the sensation of water in his lunges forces him to choke, losing the little air he had.

    In a hurry not to drown Izuku slams down onto the Omnitrix and the blinding green light forces him out of sight.

    “Ah…” Ripjaws sighs with relief, thank goodness for gills.

    “Haha, look at that. I could go for some fish sticks.”

    Spinning around Ripjaws spots the giant-shark man swimming in place giving him a several-rowed tooth grin.

    Feeling more confident and not so out of place in the water Ripjaws growls back. “Who you callin fish-stick…fish-stick?” Okay, that wasn’t his best comeback, he can admit that.

    The Shark’s grin somehow widens more as if his own mouth will tear through his own skin. “I like ya, ya’ll be fun to tear apart.”

    Ripjaws glares right back, positioning his tail fin as to make a quick getaway. “No need at this rate your looks will kill me first.”

    And just like that the Shark’s sneering comes to a swift end. “RAHH. ” The pissed off shark-man torpedoes through the water making a beeline for the aquatic alien, his mouth open and ready to take a chunk of flesh off his prey.

    With just as much agility, Ripjaws torpedoes upward, swerving around the charging shark allowing him to swim right by.

    The Shark quickly circles around and charges again.

    Not one for a frontal assault at the moment, Ripjaws quickly dives down and takes off with the dolos to his right and the open ocean to his left with a narrow sandbar below him littered with some trash and seaweed.

    The Shark sneers. “I love a good chase.” And with that he kicks it into high gear, then out of nowhere he gains a sudden burst of speed, and pretty soon he is on Ripjaws’ tail.

    Ripjaws gasps before desperately trying to speed up. ‘I’m going to need a bigger alien!’

    He spots a drowned semi-trailer on the ocean floor. Scrambling for cover he dives inside and out the other end, slamming the doors shut before taking off.

    Shark crashes right through the heavy metal doors, bashing them to the side with his thick hided head. “Ha, ha, ha!” It did little to slow the behemoth down.

    Ripjaws dives down allowing the Shark to zoom past his head, nearly taking it with him as he swipes at him. Ripjaws rushes away, following the sloping shallows into more open sea just as the Shark circles back around.

    With some time to spare Ripjaws takes cover within a rock quarry, within the rocks are crevices and holes just big enough for the Piscciss Volann to slide right into, thankfully the cavern inside is wide enough for him to move around in.

    ‘Okay, Izuku. Pull it together.’ Leaning against the course rock, Ripjaws pants until he brings his breathing under control. ‘Did I lose him?’

    Gliding over to the nearest hole Ripjaws warily pokes his head out to have a quick scan of the area and possibly find out what happened to his attacker.

    “RAHHHHH. ” An animalistic roar echoes as the villain’s massive maw snaps in front of the unguarded Ripjaws, nearly biting his head clean off.

    Ripjaws scrambles backwards, his heart racing, and his hand at his throat as if to make sure his head was still attached even as the Shark’s head thrashes trying to break his way into the den.

    The thrashing Shark sneers at the cowering Ripjaws. “Come on shrimp. Let me have a taste. Ha ha.”

    Ripjaws snarls but with his heart racing and having been shaken to his core he is no fighting shape right now.

    Knowing he’s got his prey cornered, the Shark pulls his head out from the hole leaving Ripjaws alone within his cramped, empty, and dark space.

    While trying to get his bearings, Ripjaws adjusts himself so he can peer out of a nearby crack in the rocks and he spots his enemy circling the rock quarry like the Great-White Shark that he is.

    The Shark is smiling, enjoying his hunt immensely as he circles around and around just waiting for his prey to crack. “Take your time, shrimp. I’ve got all the time in the world.”

    ‘And I don’t…’ Ripjaws gulps before sinking further down making sure he’s hidden away and unable to be reached. ‘Alright what do I know: there’s a psychotic Shark Quirked cannibal that wants to bite my head off, for some reason, there’s no people around so no one knows I’m here, I don’t have any of my gear and they're too far away to rely on, and…I’ve probably only got six or so minutes left before I time out and then…’ Ripjaws holds himself as the image of his human form being torn apart by a shark plays in his mind. ‘What I need is a plan.’

    With literally no time to waste, Ripjaws carefully gazes into the ocean blue figuring he might as well take in his surroundings. Maybe part of this rock quarry could get him close to shore, it can’t. Every time he sees the circling villain, he flinches thinking he may get a chunk of his flesh chewed off.

    And so he keeps looking until he spots it, a chain leading from the ocean floor to a large buoy at the surface. Okay so there’s that but he needs something else, something a bit more useful. And so he scans the horizon using any crevice, crack, or hole to peer through.

    ‘There!’ There in the distance not too far away from the buoy is a sunken fishing boat!

    It’s small, torn up, and has clearly been there for a while but it may just have what he needs.

    Swimming over the nearest crack Ripjaws watches closely as the Shark ever so slowly swims just out of sight. ‘It’s now or never!’

    He darts out of the rock quarry, exposing himself, with only his speed and brains at his disposal.

    “There ya are!” The Shark immediately chases after him, but he’s got to swim up and around the rock quarry. “Let’s draw some blood! Rahh!!” With a mighty roar he torpedoes through the water right after his speeding prey.

    Ripjaws can’t afford to look back or to even taunt back, he has to stay focused on his task, his eyes scanning the fishing boat over and over for any sign of what he needs: but all he can see are a few yellow barrels, an empty harpoon gun, some weak looking rope, and that the fishing boat was apparently named the “Orca.”

    But with his speed and his ever-analytical eyes, Ripjaws spots the very thing he needs to win, and the sight brings a jagged-toothed smile to his face. Even though he’s got a lunatic shark encroaching on him at a very fast rate.

    With his mouth wide and ready Ripjaws chomps down and tears right through the chain holding the anchor down.

    The Shark opens up his jaws nice and wide, readying to deliver a killing blow, but without losing momentum Ripjaws snags the broken anchor and swings it around with him as he adjusts himself and propels up towards the surface!

    “What?!” The Shark quickly tries to adjust his trajectory, spinning around and spotting his prey high tailing up towards the surface. “I’m not done playing with ya yet!” And with his fins at his side he rockets up after him.

    Ripjaws actually smirks at the sight of the Shark’s chasing. ‘Like a fish chasing a lure.’ The smirk stays put even as the Shark creeps closer and closer so much so that Ripjaws’ tailfin can flick the monster’s nose.

    With mighty bursts of speed both fish men jump out of the sea with the Shark's maw wide open to swallow the alien whole. “You’re chum!!”

    “Not yet I’m not!” With as much courage as he can summon Ripjaws spins around and launches the anchor right towards the beast’s jaws.

    The anchor hooks around the rows of serrated teeth and the sudden heavy weight pulls the Shark down giving Ripjaws plenty of room. He throws the end of the chain which wraps around the villain’s arms and torso, before Ripjaws manages to catch it in midair just as they hit the water. Taking advantage of the situation and the chain in hand Ripjaws swims back, tightening the chain around his foe, binding him in place.

    “You little shit!” The Shark begins to thrash about and Ripjaws can feel the chains loosening under his grip. “I’ll murder ya!!”

    Ripjaws snickers. “Good luck with that!” With the chain in his claws Ripjaws torpedoes upward, pulling the Shark along with him as they both breach the water’s surface.

    Ripjaws grips the nearby buoy and uses it to swing his bound foe around in the air. The chain wraps around the large buoy reeling the shark man in with it. Ripjaws releases the chain and dives back into the water as the Shark’s heavy hide slams into it, his entire body chained up and locked in place thanks to his wrapped and twisted binds.

    The Shark gasps finding himself immobilized. “No, no way.”

    Ripjaws lifts his head out of the water. “Man I reeled in a whopper!”

    “A whopper, huh?” For some reason the villain decides to give a maniacal grin at the assumed victor. “Haven’t you ever heard of the one that got away?”

    Ripjaws soon has his answer as the Shark’s building muscles thrash in place, his teeth grinding together, and his claws clenched tightly at his sides. “Sorry, shrimp. But I’m no one’s prey!!” With a screeching roar, the Shark breaks right out of his binds, the chains tear apart as the buoy breaks apart under the intense force of pressure, pipes, screws, and chains shower down as the giant beast bares his fangs and claws before leaping up and over towards his target.

    He can already smell the blood in the water. “RAHHH. ”

    Ripjaws has no chance of escape, his guard was down, he’s exhausted, and the Shark’s moving far too fast. All he can do is stare as a pair of massive jaws greet him, the villain’s serrated claws at his sides, and a massive being crashing right for him.

    Pulses of screeching sound waves crash right into the two fish men throwing them of course from each other as their entire bodies scream in pain under the high frequency attack.

    The breached Ripjaws screams, grabbing his head as the pulses continue. “Ah! What is that?!”

    The Shark man is in a similar state. “It’s him!”

    Soon the piercing soundwaves vanish, and a deep and authoritative voice greets their ears. “Fuka, you went too far, as usual.”

    The Shark, or rather Fuka, grimaces and actually looks scared as he gazes up at their interloper. “But-”

    “Enough. You know I can’t stand excuses.”

    Fuka cowers, sinking his head further into the water.

    The ringing in Ripjaws finally gives away and after a good shake of his head he peers up at the newcomer, and by extension his savior. “G-Gang Orca?!”

    Yup the national ranked tenth hero, Gang Orca, is here! Standing tall with his arms crossed atop his very expensive looking speed boat, his black sleek cape billowing behind him making him look even larger and more intimidating, especially to those below him.

    Gang Orca is a tall, well-built man whose body has the features of a killer whale thanks to his mutant-type Quirk, Orcinus. His hero costume consists of a white suit with a high collar. The collar reaches all the way to his chin and it is decorated with diamond shapes that are made to look like teeth. This goes with a pink tie made to look like a tongue is coming out. His whole persona just screams gangster boss, and one that’s more than willing to do his own dirty work.

    Gang Orca’s piercing red eyes tear into Ripjaws as if he’s figuring out how best to filet this fish.

    Ripjaws’ maw tightens as the pro hero’s attention falls upon him, his instincts screaming for him not to move like he’s standing in the presence of a dangerous predator.

    “Izuku Midoriya.” Gang Orca reaches out his black clawed hand. “Welcome, to my agency. I hope you’re ready.”

    It takes the morphed boy a moment to form a response. “…For what?”

    He’s not sure but he’s pretty sure that the pro hero smirked at him. “To be thrown into the deep end.”

    “That was a test?!” shouts an astonished Izuku.

    Gang Orca glares down at the boy. “Did I stutter?”

    “I can’t hear you!!” roars the pro hero.

    After pulling Ripjaws and Fuka out of the sea, they all rode back to shore, grabbed the boy’s belongings, and then followed the boardwalk down to a little dock just outside Gang Orca’s agency.

    “I like to test all those that come to work under me.” Gang Orca continues as Izuku hops off the speed boat. “Gives me an idea how they react in unforeseen situations and under intense pressure.”

    Izuku nervously points to the Shark. “And him…?”

    Gang Orca gestures towards the Shark man. “This is one of my sidekicks, Fuka. I apologize for his…outburst in the end.” His menacing red gaze makes the shark man tremble. “Clearly someone needs to be disciplined.”

    Fuka turns away, his jaws shut tight, and if he could sweat then he definitely would be.

    Gang Orca turns his attention back on the U.A. student. “But you were never in any real danger though.” After all he’d step in if need be, and he did.

    But part of Izuku isn’t so sure. ‘Is that…true?’ His green eyes shift over towards the large shark man.

    Fuka notices the kid’s prying eyes, and he doesn’t take too fondly of it. “Ya got a problem, shrimp?”

    Fuka snickers but immediately shuts his trap when Gang Orca’s eyes narrow at him.

    The pro hero adjusts his tie and readdresses the boy. “Well whatever the case you show some real promise, but that’s to be expected. I wouldn’t have sent an offer if I didn’t think you could handle yourself.”

    “T-thank you, sir!” Izuku bows. “I look forward to working with you!”

    “Good, that’s just what I like to hear.” Gang Orca turns his head towards his sidekick. “Maybe you can learn something from him, Fuka.”

    “Well Midoriya, welcome to my agency.” Gang Orca raises his claw, gesturing to the very large building complex behind him. “Also known as the Ushimitsudoki Aquarium.”

    Izuku’s eyes widen as he finally takes in the massive building before them.

    He’s only ever heard of the Ushimitsudoki Aquarium never did he’d think he’d get a chance to be here considering how far from home it is, and how expensive it can be. And now it’s clear why that is. The Ushimitsudoki Aquarium is like a castle with a grand staircase leading up to its entrance lined with marble pillars, towers range from each corner of the property and a massive glass dome sits atop looking over this ocean kingdom. From what Izuku’s read the Ushimitsudoki Aquarium is one if not the best aquarium in the world, it houses more species of aquatic life than any other aquarium in the world, and plus it’s also utilized as Gang Orca’s own agency. Apparently, he took over years ago when the last curator was forced to leave his position. Izuku isn’t too sure on the details, but whatever the case this is the place he’ll be interning for the week.

    Gang Orca and Fuka lead the boy up the stairs and inside their world class facility. And somehow it seems even bigger from the inside with massive tanks surrounding him from every side, corner, and even ceiling, it’s like this place was designed to make you feel like you were underwater. Every tank is filled with hundreds or thousands of fish species. They all range from the colorful and graceful, to the ugly and alien, from the cute to the scary, and from every environment on Earth any aquatic animal you can think of is here.

    “It’s quite the collection isn’t it?” Gang Orca sounds proud as he observes the boy’s reaction.

    “I’ll say.” Izuku continues to awe at all the exhibits trying to take in as much as he can from each one. “But where are all the visitors?”

    “We don’t open for another hour. Didn’t want the general public to be in a panic when a shark villain attacks a student.” The pro jabs a clawed finger at his own sidekick who doesn’t appreciate the insinuation.

    Izuku nods in understanding. “Fair point.”

    And so the three continue through the aquarium with Izuku trailing behind as he continues to observe the displays, his eyes hoping from one thing to another as he strolls past a narrow stretch of the aquarium lined with a large wall of glass between him and the saltwater.

    As he strolls past, he fails to see a pair of black eyes trailing his movements. “Keke ke.”

    Izuku freezes in place, his senses telling him that a disturbing presence is nearby. So with a lot of trepidation, he shakily turns in place and finds a rather disturbing sight.

    A human face with a deranged toothy grin is pressed against the opposite side of the glass. “Keke ke. You seem fishy.” Her grin turns dark and threatening. “I don’t like fishy people.”

    “Wah!!” Izuku leaps away from the glass mainly because that smile is seriously giving him the creeps.

    As he leaps away, he gets a better look at this newcomer.

    They’re…a mermaid? She seems to be in her early twenties, with a slim figure, black eyes, wide grin, and pink hair that floats about in the water like a sea anemone. The upper half of her body is human but her lower half of a fish with a long slender tailfin like that of a tuna. Speaking of, she’s wearing a tuna skull-like helmet with a spine running behind her, and the bony fins hang off the bottom of the helmet like long earrings. She’s also wearing a black halter top with matching arm bands around her forearms that have a row of sharp fish-spines poking out from them. Finally, a wide silver belt is wrapped around her waist covering the area where her human-half meets her fish-half.

    [AN: Google Search: Oumagadoki Zoo “Tekka Maki”]

    The mermaid’s grin widens her sharp teeth on full display like she’s found a little guppy to tear into. “We don’t like fishy people creeping around.”

    Izuku shakes his head in denial. “I’m not fishy!”

    “Yes, you are.” Her mad grin never fades, and she presses her face against the glass even more, it creaks and bends as if she’ll break through it if given the chance. “No one’s supposed to be here. And that makes you fishy.”

    “Enough.” Gang Orca retraces his steps, even with his hands in his pockets he still holds an air of danger around him. “I see you met another of my sidekicks. This is Tekka Maki, she handles much of this facility’s security.”

    “Oh, is that so.” Izuku shyly smiles at the mermaid. “It’s nice to meet you, then…”

    Her dark grin remains unchanging as her black eyes stare right at him, making him very uncomfortable that she isn’t reacting or responding.

    Gang Orca places his massive hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Tekka Maki, this is Izuku Midoriya. He's the one interning with us for the week.”

    She continues to stare at him, her hair floating about in the water like a sea anemone, and her toothy grin unflinching. “Oh! I forgot, keke ke!” With a shove her face pops off the glass screen.

    “Forgot?” There’s an underlying threat in Gang Orca’s voice as the mermaid somersaults in the tank. “I’ve been giving each of you reminders for days.”

    “Keke ke! I can’t remember important things like that.”

    Gang Orca’s claws tighten around the very concerned Izuku’s shoulder, but his predatory glare doesn’t seem to have any effect on the bubbly yet creepy Tekka Maki.

    Izuku sweat drops. ‘And she said I was fishy…’

    Without warning Tekka Maki gasps her eyes lighting up just before she slams back into the glass, pressing her face against it and once again making Izuku jump. “Wait, so who won?!”

    “Your test! Did you kick Fuka’s tailfin? I’m assuming you did.”

    Fuka doesn't appreciate her assumption. “Whaddaya say, merbitch?!”

    She turns away from Izuku, her dark grin returning as she glares at the approaching shark man. “I bet it was super humiliating, to be beaten by such a fishy brat.”

    “He didn’t beat me!” Fuka slams his claws against the glass, thankfully it doesn't break, but it makes enough of a piercing screeching that it makes Tekka Maki flinch back. “I actually won our fight!!”

    Gang Orca unceremoniously drops the truth. “He had you bound and tied up.”

    Fuka gasps at the betrayal.

    “Stop laughing!!” Fuka slams his head against the glass. “I’ll rip ya to shred is ya don’t shut it!”

    “Make me!” Tekka Maki pulls her eye lid down and sticks her tongue out before taking off further into the tank and out of sight.

    “I will!!” roars Fuka before running off too.

    Both Izuku and Gang Orca watch on in silence as they both take off for who knows where.

    The greenette nervously smiles up at the pro hero. “They seem like a…fun bunch.”

    Gang Orca looks down at him and then back up, silently considering his description. “Sure.”

    Izuku’s pretty sure he only said that to be polite.

    “Follow me.” Gang Orca turns and begins marching away.

    With one last look towards the tanks, Izuku quickly jogs after him. They march in silence even as they enter and wait for the elevator that takes them several stories down. Izuku can only nervously look up at the hero but the hero doesn’t acknowledge him clearly wanting to get to their destination first before they speak.

    Fortunately for Izuku it's not a long elevator ride as the doors slide open revealing a large circular room.

    The room is dark, cold, and smells of sea water like a dark trench only illuminated by dim lights. The large circular room is encircled by a narrow moat, above the moat are grates with streams of water flowing through them. At the center of the room is a large wooden table. Atop the table there are stacks of papers, a few cups, and for some reason a pair of anchors with chains sit atop of it. Maybe they’re there for decoration, or maybe for…negotiations.

    But it appears they are not alone there’s someone already seated at the table going through forms and reports.

    Gang Orca marches into the meeting room, and his sidekick immediately takes notice of his presence. “Leave us.”

    The sidekick rises, grabbing his forms before heading out.

    This sidekick, like the others, has very similar characteristics of an aquatic animal, specifically as a Japanese spider crab.

    Overall he has a normal human’s body shape but his head is the carapace of a crab with a pair of long-armored legs protruding out his shoulder blades, at the ends of the legs are thin sharp claws, whereas his own hands look more like a crab’s body with thin legs in place of his fingers. He’s a thin man, with a steely ever-present glare. His uniform would get a certified pass by Iida because of how clean, pressed, and professional it is. His top reminds Izuku of a bellhop’s uniform that’s white in color, and navy-blue colored lined with golden fabric, and gold-colored epaulette on his shoulders. His uniform’s cuffs are the same aesthetic of dark blue with gold-colored lining whereas his boots are a solid baby-blue.

    [AN: Google Search: Oumagadoki Zoo “Dholak”]

    Izuku isn’t a hundred percent sure but he’s pretty sure the crab man was eyeing him as he passed them by. But his eyes were nothing but dark seemingly empty slits. If anything he may have been trying to intimidate the young lad. And it worked.

    Gang Orca takes a seat at the head of the table in the biggest and most expensive black-leather chair there is, overlooking the entire meeting room and making Izuku feel like he’s in the presence of a real mob boss. “Tell me.”

    Izuku straightens as he stands across the table not wanting to upset the hero in any way.

    “What is it you want to get out of this internship?”

    Gang Orca hates repeating himself. “Don’t make me ask twice.”

    Izuku frowns in thought. ‘What I want to get out of this…?’ Well in a way it's the reason he chose to come here in the first place. “I… have all these transformations but each one is different with their own weaknesses, abilities, and even biology.” He eyes the Omnitrix knowing full well that there’s even more mysteries yet to come. And with each new surprise, or alien, he needs to be able to utilize each and every one of them without fail, especially if he gets one, he is unfamiliar with. “I want to be sure I can utilize each and every one of them to the fullest. But I’m not sure how to go about that.” Sure he can practice his fighting skills, but he needs more than that. There’s got to be something he’s missing. “I did my research before picking my internship. You and your many sidekicks have such unique Quirks, and with such vast knowledge of so many…foreign creatures I thought this would be the best place to help me.” Plus with a disposition for fighting and training underwater, Izuku can get some practice by maneuvering in a place that can simulate a lack of gravity. After all astronauts train in water before they actually go up to space, so why shouldn’t he do the same?

    Gang Orca leans forward, considering the boy’s reasoning. “I see, I appreciate your honesty, and might I add it’s good to see you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, most people these days have a hard time admitting their faults. Often or not they fail to see how their best advantage could also be their weakest point. That said, I think there’s more we can offer you here.”

    Izuku raises an eyebrow, he can only wonder what Gang Orca’s referring to.

    “Your test revealed a lot to me.” Gang Orca places a clawed finger against the side of his head as he leans to the side. “You’re quick, strong, and most importantly smart all good qualities to have in a hero.”

    Izuku puffs out his chest, his pride swelling up to hear such compliments from a pro hero.

    “However, at the level you are now there’s a good chance a villain can still gain the upper hand over you.”

    His heart drops as his mind recalls what had occurred less than an hour ago. He can still smell Fuka’s breath as the shark man lunged at him with his jaws wide, in those few seconds he was able to count the rows of serrated teeth, each one wanting to pierce his flesh.

    Gang Orca continues. “I believe you can be quicker, stronger and smarter.”

    That immediately makes Izuku’s spirit rise.

    “To be a hero you cannot just rely on your strength or Quirk alone. One must use all of their tools at their disposal.” Gang Orca leans forward eyeing the boy with such intensity one would think he was trying to kill the boy with a mere look. “Like a beast of the sea one must use all their senses, skills, knowledge, and abilities to the fullest if they wish to survive. The accumulation of all these things will determine whether your someone’s prey or the predator.”

    Izuku repeats the words just under his breath. “Predator…or prey.”

    “While you are here there will be no hand holding, no coddling, and certainly no heart to heart bullcrap.” Gang Orca points a black claw at the greenette. “You will take every order without question, you will be punctual, and we expect you to do everything at a hundred percent.” Now here comes the gut punch. “Anything less, and I will terminate your internship.”

    The instant he said it, Izuku knows he’s telling the truth. He means it one hundred percent, guaranteed.

    “You may have come in second in the Sports Festival, but that means squat here. If you saw yourself as the big fish back at school, then forget it, that time is over. That was a pond compared to what awaits you. You’ve been thrown into an ocean full of predators and you better be ready to fight your way to the top of the food chain.” Gang Orca rises out of his seat, towering over the boy making him feel like a minnow in the presence of a killer whale. “As of this moment, you are nothing but a shrimp. A lowly spec that’s only purpose is to be chewed up and crapped out by the strong.” Essentially, he is at the bottom of the pecking order. “If you don’t like it then show me what you really are.”

    Izuku, defiantly, glares right back trying to match the hero’s intensity. “I will!”

    “Good, because you start now.”

    ‘This is not what I had in mind.’ Izuku grumbles to himself as he plops the wet mop onto the ground and begins scrubbing.

    “Ya call that mopin’?! I sure hope ya don’ wipe yar ass like that!”

    Izuku slouches over, trying his best to remain respectful and polite. ‘What a day: first I get attacked by a shark, threatened by a mermaid, and now…I’m being bossed around by a walrus!’

    Yes, after Gang Orca’s declaration he tossed Izuku aside, literally, to work under one of his sidekicks, Kaizou. The boy didn’t even have the chance to change into his costume instead remaining in his school uniform and only allowed to remove the blazer so as to not ruin it.

    Kaizou is in charge of the aquarium’s entertainment branch and so after acquiring a new hand he got Izuku to work by mopping up one of their many stages for shows and educational features.

    He’s a giant of a man and yeah, he’s essentially a bipedal walrus with brown leathery skin. Huge white tusks, and giant bushy mustache of whiskers. All he’s wearing is a giant pair of back pressed-pants, giant shoes, and a mask with goggle-like eye holes above his nose.

    [AN: Google Search: Oumagadoki Zoo “Kaizou”]

    “Circles! Ya gotta mop in a circle!” Kaizou swings his flipper-like arm around it would be funny if he wasn’t being reprimanded.

    “Ya better! We don’t need no shrimp ruining the show!”

    Izuku sighs in defeat. “Got it, sir.”

    And he gets right back to moping as Kaizou glares down at him inspecting his work.

    Unbeknownst to them standing just behind the entrance to the stage area, Gang Orca’s crustacean-like sidekick watches on observing Izuku’s miserable form.

    And the sight is oh so amusing to him. “Gishigishi.”

    The oblivious and unsatisfied Izuku lets out an exasperated sigh as he continues to mop away. ‘I wonder how everyone else is doing…’

    Far away, near the center of Tokyo there’s a prestigious building that’s white in color with large glass walls. And within its walls a top ranked hero evaluates their newest member.

    “To be perfectly frank, I don’t like you very much.”

    “Huh?” Katsuki Bakugou scowls, the last thing he came here for was to be ridiculed.

    The pro hero turns to face the young man and Bakugou is able to get a good look at him.

    He is a tall, slim man with an unnaturally long and flexible neck. He has rather long blonde hair which he wears combed drastically to the left, covering his left eye. His hero costume consists of a pair of jeans, a denim waistcoat with two large breast pockets, and a denim dress shirt with a very high collar which covers his face up to just below his nose. He wears two belts, one around his collar and one around his waist, and short dark brown boots with thick gray shafts and soles.

    “I know full well why you chose my agency.” The top ranked hero, Best Jeanist, eyes Bakugou, examining his reaction. “Because I’m one of the top five most popular heroes.” Specifically, he’s ranked as Number 4 under All Might, Endeavor, and Hawks respectively.

    The fully costumed Bakugou scowls. “Hey, look, you’re the one who made an offer for me.”

    “Yes.” Best Jeanist is exasperated as he slicks his front bang to the side. “Recently, all my recruits have been perfect little angels,” he flicks a finger at Bakugou. “so you certainly stood out. I watched the way you fought at the Sports Festival.” And he took a particular interest in how much destructive power this child holds with his Explosion Quirk alone. And the display was rather distasteful. “You have a good handle on your powerful Quirk, and a decent grasp of its application as well. You’re an outstanding talent. I’d say you’re already good enough to take on as a sidekick.” But the praise stops there. “However, you do have a fatal flaw. You believe you’re the best, and you display that belief without regard for how it reflects on you or your image. You have a ferocious nature.”

    Bakugou’s teeth grind together in anger, anger because the prick is right. Everything he said was right no matter how much he wants to deny it all. But what’s really grinding his gears is that this know-it-all prick had him pegged before they could even meet.

    “Don’t tell me you brought me here just to give me a lecture!” He stomps forward ready to get in the jackasses’ face. “Ah-” Before he can even take another step, he finds his arms tied up and bound together, even his legs are pinned against each other. Within a few moments he knows he’s been immobilized. By what? String of all things.

    “I have to correct people like you. It’s part of my duty to society.”

    Bakugou glares at the strings, unable to comprehend how something so thin and flimsy is keeping him from moving.

    “Heroes and villains are cut from the same cloth.”

    The mad blonde glares up at the source of the threads, Best Jeanist.

    “So your job here is to watch me.” The sleeves of the hero’s costume have been thinned away as the string tightens around the boy. “I’ll show you what makes someone a hero.” That’s a promise.

    The very confused and very pissed up Bakugou growls, his arms struggling to break free. “What in the hell are you doing?”

    “Isn’t it obvious? I’m educating you on becoming an exemplary pro.” replies Best Jeanist ever so smoothly like it’s obvious. “That includes being aware of the way you speak, your appearance, controlling your emotions, your morals.” Basically he wants to correct everything about the U.A. student.

    And said U.A. student does not like that, not one bit.

    “There are countless things you need to learn, but in the brief period of one week, I will stitch these things into the fabrics of your being.”

    Bakugou’s red gaze boars into the hero’s head he knows this hero means every word and he’s not going to give this prick the privilege of changing who he is, not after all that bullcrap.

    “This sucks.” groans an exhausted Izuku.

    His knees are sore after only a few minutes of scrubbing the bathroom floor. Apparently Kaizou thought it’d be necessary for him to use a brush and get on his hands and knees to scrub the floor rather than using a mop. Something about making sure Izuku won’t miss a speck of dirt on the floor. Thankfully he’s scrubbing the employee bathroom meant for the sidekicks rather than the public restroom, but it’s still far from glamorous.

    Either way it’s been hours since his arrival and Izuku’s done nothing but clean and be worked to the bone by Gang Orca’s sidekicks all across the Ushimitsudoki Aquarium. He’s been tossed around by one sidekick to another, from Fuka to Kaizou and even to Tekka Maki each one putting him through one ordeal after another.

    In truth he thought he’d be doing more hero-related work with Gang Orca and be treated as a student, rather he's being treated like any old intern the only thing missing is that they haven’t sent him off to make a coffee run. Actually a coffee run would be so much better than what he's been through so far.

    First, Fuka hauled him down to the loading dock at the rear of the property. There he had him hauling heavy cargo off into different parts of the aquarium.

    “Come on ya’re moving so slow!!” shouts the very frustrating-to-work-with Fuka. “A fucking slug can move faster than ya!! Pick up the pace!!”

    Four Arms is desperately trying to keep his cool but it’s becoming increasingly difficult he’s got one giant crate up in the front being carried by one pair of arms while also carrying two little crates in his two other arms.

    Four Arms pouts mumbling to himself as he stomps forward, trying not to collapse under all the weight. “You could help, you know.”

    “Give it some more juice!!” shouts Kaizou.

    “I’m trying.” grumbles a frustrated Feedback, his tendrils latched into a pair of spotlights.

    He’s trying to keep them running while some of the technicians run to go and repair a generator. So for now Feedback’s got to stand here and keep the lights going while a show performs down below.

    Apparently, these spotlights need a lot more electricity than he first thought and as such he can’t move or even peer down at the show below. He thinks there’s some sort of performance with a seal but they’re a little too far up for him to have a proper look.

    Feedback reels back as more electricity surges through his tendrils.

    “A little twist here. A little twist there.” Grey Matter wiggles his little grey hand inside the broken spinning filter, bits of sand break free from within floating into the filthy water.

    Grey Matter fans away the sand as it floats up to his face, he doesn’t need that stuff getting into his gills. This filter system is already filthy enough as it is. But why is Grey Matter inside a filtration system?

    From where? From inside the actual filter itself. Apparently, it got jammed up from the inside and it just so happened that Grey Matter happens to be the perfect size to squeeze inside and fix it for them, he can also breath underwater so that’s a plus.

    “There we go!” He pulls his hand away just as the filter begins to spin again, the last of the debris breaking away. ‘Hang on…’ Grey Matter eyes the increasingly spinning filter, he can feel the water ever so slightly flowing towards the speeding contraption. ‘Ironically…I didn’t think this through.’

    And before he knows it, he gets swept away in the sudden current of water. He fights against it with all he’s got but it’s no use.

    “Wahh!!” Grey Matter gets pulled right into the filter, spinning around along with the filter before being shot up the pipe leading into the tank.

    Grey Matter gets spat out into the exhibit, fresh clean water filling his gills and a sigh of relief graces his lips now that he’s out of danger. “Phew.”

    It’s such a relief that’s over, that thing was so filthy it’s good to be out. “Huh?”

    Wait, where is he anyway. He’s inside one of the freshwater tanks but which one was it?

    Spinning around Grey Matter turns deathly pale when he realizes which tank, he’s in the piranha exhibit.

    Tekka Maki sits atop the open top of the tank, her creepy grin widening as she watches Grey Matter desperately trying to evade the swarm of flesh-eating fish. “Keke ke.”

    Heatblast would be sweating if he was physically able to. He’s deep in concentration holding his hand firmly with a single finger out as he carefully welds two pipes together.

    ‘This…is harder than it looks.’ He’s really trying to keep this compressed flame from going too out of control he's sure that if he caused a fire then Gang Orca would deal with him himself, and he doesn’t need that.

    And so he keeps at it, trying to focus on the task at hand.

    Fuka, Kaizou, and Tekka Maki are all seated and going over piles of paperwork.

    A rush of wind and the doors flinging open alerting them to XLR8 who zips right into the underground meeting room.

    The speedster pulls out a little notepad and begins reading off the orders. “Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT on asiago cheese bread?”

    “Keke ke. That’s mine!” shouts a grinning Tekka Maki, swinging back in her seat with her hand outstretched behind her.

    In a blink of an eye XLR8 drops a bag right into her open palm before zooming back to the entrance and reading off the next order. “New England Clam Chowder Soup?”

    Fuka doesn’t even look up, he just holds his hand out offhandedly. “Here.”

    XLR8 is nothing but a blur as he drops a bag of food into his giant clawed hand.

    “Ancient Grain, Arugula, and chicken salad?”

    Kaizou lifts his head and waves his flipper. “Mine, obviously!”

    XLR8 speeds over and unceremoniously drops the bag right onto the table.

    “Phew.” XLR8 wipes his forehead after such a long run.

    They sent him to pick their orders from a restaurant that was over fifty miles away. But he’s back with about two minutes to spare on his time limit too no less.

    Fuka browses his bag but stops and peers up at the U.A student. “Where’s my soda, my Diet Dr Kelp?”

    XLR8 pales as a horrible sensation seeps in

    A squad of Dittos, each decked out in miniature scuba gear, are busying themselves by scrubbing away at the massive glass screen from within the tank itself. That task doesn’t seem too complicated, if it weren’t for the inhabitants of said tank.

    While most of the Dittos are busy cleaning away, they only have to deal with the occasional curious fish swimming by. However, one Ditto decided to take a ride on a graceful Manta Ray through the large open tank.

    At least he’s having fun, because another trio of Dittos are definitely not having a lick of fun. Instead three of them seem to have gotten into a wrestling match with a very angry and territorial Giant Octopus, and they’re not winning.

    Big Chill’s chest inflates as he takes a deep inhale and then he exhales, releasing a gentle yet large wind of cool freezing air.

    Much of the tundra-like exhibit drastically cools down, snow even forming across the ground and parts of the pool water freezes. A chorus of penguin calls cheer in response, the cute flightless birds were extremely uncomfortable thanks to the cooling system breaking earlier that day.

    Big Chill takes a moment to appreciate his handy work, as he does one of the smaller penguins waddles up and cuddles against his cool leg thanking him for his efforts.

    “Well,” Big Chill leans down and gives the little bird a gentle pat on the head. “At least someone appreciates me.”

    Izuku grins, wiping the sweat from his forehead as he examines the newly mopped aquarium hallway.

    It’s a mess, sure it’s mopped up but there’s puddles of water everywhere, he used too much water and apparently too much soap!

    “What do I do?” He grumbles pushing back his disheveled hair.

    His eyes light up as an obvious solution pops into his mind followed by his hand on the Omnitrix and him disappearing in a flash of green.

    The Geochelone Aerio hops up, his limbs forming into fans. With his spinning limbs Terraspin glides through the hallway, generating a strong enough wind to wipe away the excess water.

    Terraspin comes to a stop as he reaches the end of the once wet hall, his stump like feet plopping onto the ground before his feet slip right from under him, it appears he missed a spot.

    The turtle-like alien ends up falling onto his back, wobbling in place as he tithers side to side. “Dang it.”

    Terraspin throws his arms forward trying to sway himself to his feet after a few attempts he knows he won’t be getting up any time soon.

    Terraspin sighs, accepting his fate, as a curious sea turtle swims by the nearby glass wall.

    Terraspin peers over as the sea turtle eyes him curiously. The morphed Izuku plops his fin against the glass, parallel to the sea turtle’s beak. “You understand my pain, don’t you?”

    “Finally finished!” Izuku cheers as he practically skips out of the employee bathroom, dropping the brush and bucket into the cleaning supply cart.

    “Y-y you must b-b be the new g-g guy.” states a gurgly voice.

    “Yes, indeed!” responds a gallant yet disciplined voice. “Be sure to behave yourself, Sir Devilfish.”

    Izuku spins around to see two figures approaching from down the hall both of them are wearing the same white uniforms to that crab guy from earlier. And like all the other sidekicks they too resemble an aquatic-animal counterpart.

    The first guy, Izuku assuming is Devilfish, is an octopus of all things. Well nearly his whole body is human except for his head which happens to be the body of a common octopus that’s grey in color and only has about two tentacles available. He’s a slender man who walks with a permanent slouch like he’s constantly sneaking around corners and spying on others, his fingers are long and slim, curling together like he’s cooking up some kind of scheme.

    [AN: Google Search: Oumagadoki Zoo “Devilfish”]

    The second sidekick, Ikkaku, walks with a purpose, the human-bodied man stands with his head held high his head so happens to be that of a narwhal’s head with a broken tusk. Or so it appears, the rest of his long tusk is strapped to his back like a spear being carried by a respectable warrior. He’s wearing the same white, blue, and gold uniform as Devilfish and the crab, but with orange gloves around his hands.

    [AN: Google Search: Oumagadoki Zoo “Ikkaku”]

    The narwhal headed man raises his gloved hand in greeting. “Hello, there young man.” He makes a big show of bowing. “My name is Ikkaku!”

    “Oh, uh, hi!” responds Izuku not expecting such a pleasant greeting. “I’m Izuku Midoriya.”

    Ikkaku springs up. “It’s a pleasure to meet you! Please seek me out if you need any assistance!”

    “T-thanks…” Izuku shyly accepts the offer. ‘This guy…sort-of reminds me of Iida.’ He’s got that same disciplined and strict mannerisms.

    Ikkaku gestures to his fellow sidekick. “And this fine fellow is Sir Devilfish.”

    Devilfish’s tentacle-like fingers wring together as he gurgles out a hello. “H-h hey, j-j just call m-m me Devilfish.”

    “Um, hey…” Izuku gives a curt nod, he’s really having a hard time making out any emotion on the octopus’ face but like with Tekka Maki there’s an air of creepiness around him.

    “Tell us, young man!” Ikkaku jabs his hand towards Izuku. “Why are you covered in suds?”

    “What?” Izuku grabs his messy hair and a bit of suds drip down between his fingers and arm when did he get soap in his hair? Well anyway. “Oh, I, uh, was cleaning.” He gestures towards the employee restroom.

    Ikkaku nods his narwhal-head in understanding. “Oh my, but do tell, why do you look so exhausted?”

    “W-well, all the others have been working me ragged since I got here. Haha…” Izuku laughs nervously, praying that these two won’t do the same.

    “Ah, I see.” Ikkaku turns to Devilfish, both share an understanding look like they can relate to the boy’s predicament.

    “N-n not surprising.” adds Devilfish.

    Izuku blinks, what does he mean by not surprising? “What was that?”

    “Never you mind that.” Ikkaku smiles radiates that of an adult addressing a small child. “Tell you what, I think you’ve more than earned a break by now. Why not take a rest and explore a bit of our world-class aquarium?”

    Devilfish steps behind his partner, eyeing Izuku like he’s someone to be suspicious of. “O-o or you c-c can hang out in the b-b backstage areas.”

    Izuku steps back from the pair, for some reason he just feels like that Devilfish guy is going to pull something shady. “Uh, is that okay?”

    Ikkaku is quick to respond. “Of course it is!”

    “Thank goodness.” breathes Izuku as he plops himself onto the ground, his legs dangling off the edge of the concrete dock.

    After getting permission to take a break via Ikkaku, Izuku set off for a quiet and peaceful place to rest. The loading dock area appeared to be empty and with the calming breeze of the ocean he figured it was the perfect place to hide out for a bit.

    Sure he thought about exploring more of the aquarium, but a lot of guests have arrived filling the place up to near capacity. And after being so high in the ranking for the Sports Festival there’s no doubt that if he went inside, he’d be swarmed by fans.

    So here he is, hiding out in the solidarity of the loading dock.

    Izuku takes a moment to examine the place, it’s big with only the portion nearest the aquarium having a roof over it the rest is out in the sunlight, outstretched into the ocean shore.

    The loading dock consists of four separate loading ports all leading into the ocean, strewn across the area are large metal crates, plastic barrels, chains and ropes, tools, and machinery. There’s only one boat present in the entire place and it’s Gang Orca’s super expensive speedboat.

    A juvenile grin graces Izuku’s lips. “This is great.” He sounds perfectly at peace glad to finally be having a break. ‘But what is this place’s deal?’

    He hasn’t even seen Gang Orca around all day, sure he’s high up on the rankings so he gets called away on all sorts of business all across the country, but Izuku was really hoping he could at least tag along. But he’s been pawned off to the other sidekicks who are getting a real kick out of putting him through some humiliating tasks. If this keeps up…he won’t have any real progress all his classmates will outpace him at this rate.

    But what can he do? There’s got to be something.

    “Hmph. Lazing about on the job, typical of a welp such as yourself.”

    Izuku doesn’t recognize that voice, but the scrutinization sure does sting.

    A uniformed figure stomps out from the shadows, their hands in their pockets as they tower over the boy. “And the boss had such high hopes for you.”

    Izuku spins around to address the new arrival. “It’s you.”

    It’s that lanky crab guy he saw when he first arrived. “The names, Dholak.” Dholak spits. “Don’t forget it you little shit.”

    ‘What is this guy’s deal?’ Izuku smiles trying to remain polite. “I…I won’t.”

    “Hmph.” Dholak leans his head back, glaring at Izuku through the dark empty slits he calls eyes.

    ‘Maybe I should just leave.’ Izuku, unhappily, gets up from his spot and begins to walk away from the hostile crab.

    A thin armored leg, pierces into his path cracking the cement just before the U.A. student’s feet.

    Said student is scared stiff, his eyes locked onto the spear-like appendage that was only a few inches off from stabbing his own legs.

    Even so he chokes back a frightened yelp. “Hey, um, d-do you mind moving your…” His eyes lock onto the thin sharp claw at the end of the long-thin appendage. “leg?”

    “Oh…” Something’s wrong, very wrong, yet it’s somewhat familiar.

    For Izuku this feels like… old times. It feels as if Bakugou himself is glaring down at him, wanting to hurt him and beat him into the ground. Izuku’s being targeted and Dholak is not going to just let him walk away.

    Not one to go straight to fisticups Izuku remains calm knowing that he has to at least try to defuse the situation. “Well in that case-”

    Dholak doesn’t even give him the chance to calm the situation. “I bet you think you’re top shit after the Sports Festival, playing with your kiddie friends and thinking you’re number one.”

    ‘That’s…not at all how I think.’ Izuku internally grumbles to himself, he then puts on the best I’m-no-threat smile he can muster. “Well actually I didn’t come in number one, I was in second.”

    An irk mark appears on Dholak’s forehead. “Are you calling me stupid?” His voice is dangerously low.

    Clearly Izuku’s comment had the worst effect possible and he’s well aware of it, he needs to fix this, now! “I meant no offense! I’m sure you're very intelligent.” Izuku begins bowing back and forth, apologizing for whatever it was that offended the crabby sidekick. “I’m sorry for overstepping! I didn’t mean to offend!”

    Dholak’s extended leg retracts, folding up above his head as to be ready to strike again. “First you call me stupid. And now you’re pitying me!”

    “No!” Izuku is getting more and more desperate, this guy really is just looking for a fight. “I swear, I’m not!” Seriously he’s begging for mercy. “I’m only here to learn! And to work hard while doing it!”

    If Dholak’s anger was a quiet flame before then it’s a raging inferno now, even if he keeps his voice at a moderately hushed tone. “You worked hard? Gishigishi, don’t make me laugh.” His piercing gaze stares right into the boy’s very soul. “You haven’t been working hard at all.”

    Okay, now that stung. “Excuse me?”

    Izuku’s blood goes cold. “What?” Just how much of a creep is this guy?!

    Dholak raises his crab-bodied hand and stretches a thin finger at the boy. “The others may have been working you around the clock, but you have yet to really work for your place here.”

    Izuku frowns, not sure what this guy could mean.

    “If you're not willing to work for the right to be here.” His dual pincers begin to windup. “Then you’re not worth our time.” His eyes widen as a brilliant idea pops into his mind. “You know what kid. I think I’ll just get rid of you.”

    ‘Get rid…of me?!’ Izuku instinctively reaches for the Omnitrix, finding comfort that he can defend himself if he has to. ‘He can’t do that…can he?’

    Dholak strikes, launching his extended lance-like limb right toward Izuku’s head.

    “Woah!” Izuku falls back as the lance attack zooms over his face. ‘That was close…!’ And terrifying, those legs of his have a far greater reach than he first thought.

    Izuku props himself off the ground as Dholak retracts his extended pincer.

    “You’re not walking away from this.” Dholak adjusts his collar as his pincers click together. “Not unless you beat me.”

    Izuku pushes himself onto his feet. He doesn't fully understand the situation, and maybe it’s too late for reasoning, but he just has to be sure if this is the right course of action. “Is this a test?”

    Dholak throws his pincers forward, his long legs clashing together in front of him like a pair of swords. “No.”

    Okay, then. At least Izuku knows that this is the only way out.

    Dholak glare intensifies. “By the end of this fight. I’ll have you crying for mercy.”

    Izuku grips the Omnitrix, activating the dial face, he’ll show this guy that he is here to work hard, no matter what he says.

    And so with no other options available, Izuku slams down on the alien device. “Lodestar!” The Biosovortian howls as he readies himself for a fight. “Okay crab cakes, if you want a fight.” He raises his own pincer towards his challenger. “Then you got one.”

    “Gahh!!” Dholak strikes, launching his spear-like leg forward.

    Lodestar spins away evading the attack.

    Dholak throws his other claw forward but Lodestar quickly magnifies a tin sheet to intercept the attack. Unfortunately, the thin metal sheet does nothing to stop the oncoming attack, breaking through the metal sheet like paper before slamming right into Lodestar’s chest.

    Lodestar is thrown back, groaning in pain, as he’s thrown against the aquarium wall.

    Dholak retracts his extended claw as he charges forward, his claws poised to strike. “Prepare for a world of pain!”

    Acting fast, Lodestar magnifies a nearby chain and flings it forward just as Dholak springs a spearing claw forward. The flying chain wraps around Dholak’s outstretched crab-leg, Lodestar then magnifies the end of the chain, tightening it around the appendage. With a firm grip on his foe Lodestar, using his magnetic beam, swings the chain around and flings Dholak into a wooden crate smashing it to pieces.

    Lodestar releases his hold on the chain. “Had enough?”

    “You bastard.” Dholak rises out from the broken boards like a zombie out for revenge. “You’re going to regret that.”

    Dholak throws his claws to the side and swings them forward into nearby stacks of crates, barrels, and other supplies throwing them all forward at the U.A. student.

    Lodestar thrusts his arms forward releasing a magnetic pulse, but it does very little only affecting the screws of the crates, and a few other smaller metal objects but the rest of the projectiles just keep on flying toward him.

    “Seriously?” Lodestar easily bats away the projectiles, the only real threat are the empty plastic barrels but those are just nuisances if anything else.

    As Lodestar swats away the last barrel something thin and red in color fires straight for his head, the alien instinctually flinches and just in time too as Dholak’s extends claw grazes his cheek and impales itself into the cement wall.

    Lodestar gasps, sweating profusely from how close that strike is, his head is only a hair away from the sharp appendage it was that close. ‘He…he used the debris as a cover to launch another attack.’

    “You’re not taking this seriously.”

    The very wary Lodestar’s eyes trail down the extended claw towards its source who’s readying his opposite claw and giving him one of the darkest glares he’s ever been on the receiving end of.

    “I told you, you’re not walking away from this.” Dholak continues not moving his lance-like limb from its place. “Not unless you fight back. Understand?”

    Lodestar’s lips straighten as he pries himself away from his spot, marching away from the extended lance as it reacts again. “Fine then.”

    Lodestar swings his arms and releases a massive magnetic field that swallows up everything that enters its radius: pipes, chains, screws and nails, crab cages, and anything else that’s made of metal. “Think I’m taking this seriously now, crab cakes?!”

    Dholak, admittedly, looks a bit nervous as all those magnetic items swirl around Lodestar’s form.

    Swinging his arms up and over his head, Lodestar throws the swarm of metal at the sidekick. The metal projectiles shower down on the crab, but Dholak is far more agile than Lodestar had predicted.

    Dholak weaves his lanky body between the projectiles, using his elongated longs to swat and parry anything that gets too close.

    As more projectiles come flying, Dholak uses his elongated legs to springboard himself up into the air, high above the projectiles.

    Lodestar gasps as his foe twirls up in the air, curling his lance-like claws around his body. “Crab Screwdriver!!” Dholak begins to spin like a giant drill as he races down towards Lodestar.

    With that much speed built up, Lodestar has barely any time to dodge. Throwing his own body to the side as the drilling attack impales the ground, breaking the cement on impact and causing enough of an impact to throw Lodestar down.

    Lodestar wastes no time to spring himself back onto his feet as Dholak prepares his next attack. “Rahhh!!” Lodestar roars at the top of his longs as he aims a magnetic pulse right at a pair of anchors sitting nearby.

    The chained anchors rise and fly forward crashing to Dholak, forcing him back and he uses his legs and claws to block the strikes. The anchors fly up and begin to dive bomb the crab man, who parries each one away but Lodestar, not one to give up, doesn’t relent. He swings his arms back and forth, side to side, manipulating his magnetic beams to repeatedly launch the anchors back at his target.

    Dholak continues to parry, and swerving out of the way of the anchors, so Lodestar decides to change things up.

    An anchor dives in from above and Dholak steps out of the way as the heavy metaled object smashes onto the ground, rooting it in place.

    Dholak eyes the anchor just before the second anchor smashes into the ground behind him. ‘What’s this brat up to?’

    He soon has his answer as the chains attached to the anchors rise and dance around him.

    The chains spin and wrap themselves around Dholak, pinning his pincers, and body in place.

    Lodestar smirks at his handy work. “Sorry, but you can’t get rid of me so easily.”

    Dholak growls. “Evidently not.” He struggles against this bond trying to wiggle around to gain some sort of leverage. “But you're still not off the hook.” One of his claws manage to get around one of the chain links.

    His sharp powerful claw presses down on the chain, the chain link cracks and then snaps away under the crushing pressure. “You welp! I’ll tear your arms from your body and serve them to Fuka!” With one chain loose it’s only a simple matter for Dholak to break free from his bonds entirely.

    “Is that so?” Lodestar remains defiant as a massive metal trailer floats above his head.

    While Dholak was breaking himself free, Lodestar got to work at acquiring his latest weapon.

    “Take this!” Lodestar throws his arms forward and the massive trailer goes flying right for the crab man.

    Dholak does something rather unexpected. He doesn’t flee, or even try to dodge, instead he runs…straight towards the flying trailer.

    Dholak leaps forward, clapping his crab-legs together and thrusting them forward like a massive lance. And like a lance the piercing pincers stab themselves right through the massive projectile. Dholak spins his body around as his pincers pierce through the trailer making a hole big enough for his lanky body to slip right through with no issue. His pincers break through the other side, before swinging apart and making a huge gash in the side of the trailer allowing Dholak to leap out like a beast breaking from its cage.

    Lodestar gasps, his jaw dropping as Dholak lunges at him and the trailer crashes into the ocean.

    “Special Move: Pincer Assault!!” Dholak’s crab-legs thrust forward in rapid succession, striking the alien multiple times within a single second.

    Even though he’s only using two crab-legs, for Lodestar it feels like he’s being impaled by a hundred spears all at once. Each one striking him with such force he can’t even react to defend himself, throwing him into a daze.

    Dholak swings one of his lance-like appendages back and then swings it forward. The limb crashes into Lodestar throwing the young alien towards the opposite end of the loading dock.

    Lodestar’s head bounces off the ground, aching and groaning with a sharp pain as he struggles to get up. “That…really hurt.”

    His whole body is wobbling as pieces of his magnetic body form back together. Even though his body can repair itself doesn’t mean he can’t feel pain, and it sure does hurt, a lot.

    Lodestar grips his side, as he glares up at the calm and practically unscathed Dholak. “No way…”

    “Very well.” Dholak twirls around his lance-like pincers rising and preparing themselves to deliver another Pincer Assault.

    Lodestar turns and aims his magnetic pull towards the largest mass of metal nearby: Gang Orca’s very own speedboat. The speedboat rises out of the water like something out of a fairy tale, floating up into the air and over Lodestar’s own head, water dripping from its frame and splashing down around him, casting a foreboding shadow over the alien.

    The two foes glare and size each other up, waiting for the other to make the first move, the tension building all the while, each of them on their toes for the inevitable clash between warriors.

    Dholak loses patience and goes in for the kill, moving with incredible speed as he races forward. “Pincer Assault!”

    Lodestar howls as he launches the speed boat forward and it comes flying down towards Dholak who throws his own pincers forward to meet the attack.

    Seemingly from thin air, or more accurately from the ocean, Ikkaku leaps in the way of both attack and moves with such astounding speed as he grips his tusk of a spear, swinging it and thrusting it around at the oncoming attacks.

    Somehow Ikkaku is able to move his spear around with such grace and speed that he not only intercepts and blocks Dholak’s Pincer Assault but with a few well aimed slashes he slices up the speedboat allowing it to crumble and break apart and shower around him. Ikkaku doesn’t so much as blink to the falling debris, he just stands firmly in place blocking each strike with a stern look on his face.

    “That’s quite enough you two.” Ikkaku aims his tusk-spear at Dholak.

    Lodestar, glad to see a friendly face, stands down but he keeps his gaze on Dholak in case he tries to pull anything fishy.

    Dholak however is more concerned with the interruption. “What’s the big idea?! You’re interrupting my match!” Dholak’s pincers click together threateningly. “Why are you even here?”

    Lodestar looks around but he doesn’t see the source of that gurgly voice. Dholak and Ikkaku however both look up towards the top of the wall. Lodestar follows their gaze and sure enough, Devilfish, is clinging to the wall like a spider using his suction cups to remain in place.

    ‘Was he there the whole time?’

    Dholak assumes the same thing as Lodestar, but he turns his glare back on the narwhal headed sidekick. “Move out of my way, you bastard.”

    Ikkaku smiles definitely. “Oh my, I’m afraid I cannot do that.”

    “And why not?” Dholak points an accusing finger at his fellow hero. “You know the rules, I’m not overstepping my place here.”

    Ikkaku nods. “Although that may be correct, you must understand that this young man is unaware of how our agency works and thus I find that he is at a great disadvantage.”

    Dholak clicks his tongue. “So, what? Life ain’t fair, so why should I? If he doesn’t know how the world works, then I can’t be blamed for his naiveness.”

    Ikkaku humphs. “You bring up some fair points, however, I see it differently.” His gaze hardens and with a swish of his tusk-spear he directs it at his coworker. “Besides I think you’ve made your point already. Don’t you?”

    Dholak hates this, he really does, his eyes shift from Lodestar back to Ikkaku, considering how to go about his next move. He could fight them both but…even he knows when to draw the line.

    “Fine, have it your way.” His legs fold together and rest at his sides.

    Ikkaku smiles with approval. “I thank you good, sir.”

    Dholak throws his head defiantly to the side. “You and I both know that I’m not good.”

    Lodestar finally relaxes, letting out a huge sigh of relief. “Thank you, Mr. Ikkaku.”

    Ikkaku smiles at the lad. “It was my pleasure, Sir Midoriya.” He sheaths his tusk-spear onto his back.

    Lodestar eyes Dholak as if he’s going to try and attack him again. “Um, Mr. Ikkaku can you tell me what…that was all about?” What rules were they talking about?

    Ikkaku instantly understands the question. “I’d be more than glad to answer your questions. However, let's get you patched up first. Shall we?”

    Ikkaku happily leads Lodestar towards the exit as Devilfish slides down from his perch.

    Dholak’s piercing gaze never leaves Lodestar as Ikkaku leads him away and into the aquarium.

    Devilfish caustically approaches his fellow sidekick. “W-W was that r-r really necessary?”

    “There we are!” Ikkaku backs away from the hospital bed. “Feeling better, are we?”

    Izuku examines all the bandages and wrapping on his body, thankfully Lodestar’s regeneration ability is top notch, but it wasn’t enough to cover all the scratches, bruises, and punctures.

    “Yeah, much better.” Izuku smiles up appreciating

    Currently both Izuku and Ikkaku are in the aquarium’s infirmary. It’s a narrow room with a lot of dividing currents between each bed. Strewn across the walls are cabinets full of medical supplies.

    “Keke ke, Dholak really gave you a good thrashing. Keke ke.”

    “Wah?!” Izuku screams nearly falling off the hospital bed in surprise.

    “Ah, Lady Maki.” Ikkaku smiles up at Tekka Maki who had sneaked into the infirmary when they weren’t looking. “What brings you here?”

    Tekka Maki grins creepily from atop the nearest hospital bed. “Oh, nothing I just heard that this fishy creep got his ass kicked.”

    Izuku sulks into his seat. “I won’t say I got my butt kicked…”

    Tekka Maki smirks letting Izuku know that she doesn’t see it his way.

    So knowing he won’t get anywhere, Izuku finally addresses the reason he’s even in the infirmary. “So, why did he want to attack me like that?”

    Both Ikkaku and Tekka Maki peer at the boy curiously.

    “I mean, Dholak really seemed to have it out for me. Why is that?”

    Ikkaku shakes his head. “There’s no telling what goes through that man’s mind. But I do know one thing about him.”

    “Impatient?” Izuku blinks, tiling his head to the side. “What does that have to do with anything?”

    “Well you see.” Ikkaku grips his chin, deep in thought about how to best explain this. “Dholak has some high aspirations. He wishes to climb the ranking here as quickly as he can, and he’ll challenge anyone who threatens his goal.”

    “But why target me?! I’m just an intern.”

    “Even so you are an intern from U.A., an elite school for the brightest future heroes.”

    “True…” Even Izuku can’t deny the elitism there is when one attends U.A.’s Hero Course. “So, Dholak sees me as a potential threat to his…ranking especially if I decided to stick around after I graduate.”

    “Huh? But what does fighting me have to do with this ranking thing you’re talking about.”

    “Ah, well you see it has to do with-”

    “It’s because of the system!!” Tekka Maki unceremoniously cuts in, interrupting Ikkaku’s explanation.

    Ikkaku peers around her shoulder looking very dejected. “You interrupted me…”

    Izuku leans away unsure about the creepy mermaid. “System?”

    “Yeah!” Tekka Maki grins wildly more than happy to explain. “You see there’s a sort of ranking system here and it’s crazy.”

    “It’s just crazy!” She shouts this out like it’s the most obvious thing ever. “Here!” She holds up a scroll of paper with drawings of various sea animals on it, like that of a food chain.

    Izuku eyes the partially opened scroll curiously. ‘She just so happened to have that on her?’ “Think of this place as a food chain, alright.” Tekka Maki points to the top image first, which just so happens to be a picture of a killer whale. “On the top there’s the orca.” The greatest predator of the sea. “Then there’s a walrus, a crab, a narwhal, great-white shark, a beautiful tuna!” Her eyes gleam as she gestures to herself. “and a…fishy octopus.”

    Izuku quickly realizes that the images are a parallel to Gang Orca and the standing of his sidekicks.

    Izuku lights up. “Oh, that’s me.”

    “Nope.” Tekka Maki extends the scroll showing even more links in this food chain. “There’s plankton, there’s single cellomites.”

    “There’s coral, there’s rocks.” Her wicked grin graces her lips. “There’s human feces, and then there’s you.”

    And there he is, at the very bottom there’s a poorly drawn version of Izuku. The only way to tell that it’s him is that the drawing has freckles and is colored completely in green. Honestly, if she said a five-year-old drew it then he’d believe her.

    ‘That’s…messed up.’ The frowning and very insulted Izuku turns to Ikkaku for a real explanation. “That’s not right is it?”

    Ikkaku shrugs his shoulder and gives Izuku a rather sheepish smile. “In a way it is.”

    That was not the answer Izuku was looking for if his stunned face is anything to go by.

    Ikkaku continues. “For you see this food chain represents the sort of hierarchy of our facility.”

    “Yes, the higher you are up this food chain the more respect, responsibility, and authority you wield.”

    Okay, this is starting to make some sense.

    “Yeah!” Tekka Maki butts right in getting right up into the teen’s face. “But there’s only one way to go up the rankings.”

    And just like that everything clicks into place for Izuku. “And that’s…to fight?”

    Izuku turns back to Ikkaku. “But why?”

    “Simple, think back to the food chain.” Ikkaku raises up Tekka Maki’s chart. “Sir Orca strives for strength, cunning, and ability out of each of his underlings. So, in order to foster our skills he’s developed this system that drives us to challenge ourselves and each other. And we can challenge anyone, anywhere, at any time.”

    ‘Oh, okay.’ Basically it’s like a never-ending tournament. You can lose as much as you can win as long as you beat someone of higher rank, and the higher the rank the more benefits you gain.

    “And because of my potential Dholak thought it best to assert his place now rather than later.”

    “Woah!” Tekka Maki awes. “You’re like really smart for someone so fishy.”

    Something else crosses Izuku’s mind, something rather important about his whole internship. “Wait, so is this why Gang Orca isn’t personally overseeing me?”

    Both sidekicks respond simultaneously. “Exactly!/Yup!”

    Ikkaku explains further. “Why should the top predator of the sea have to interact with the lowest of the low of the food chain? When the orca is more than capable of taking on any of the strongest beasts the sea has to offer.”

    Make sense, orcas hunt literally anything: seals, sharks, dolphins, and other whales! They don’t bother with…with “shrimp.” No wonder Gang Orca called him shrimp it was his way of telling Izuku where he stands.

    So, in a way Dholak was actually somewhat right about Izuku, too. He said that the greenette wasn’t working hard for his place here and that’s true. He hasn’t done anything to prove that he can compete with the others, literally. All he’s done since arriving was do what the others ordered him to do.

    Seeing the disgruntled expression on the boy’s face, Ikkaku figures now is a time to intervene. “It’s already getting pretty late. Why not get some rest for the remainder of the day.”

    “Huh?!” Oh, no they’re pitying him! “I don’t need to rest!”

    “Yes you do.” chastises Ikkaku. “You’ve been attacked twice today and worked to the bone. So, the best thing to do now is rest up and be ready to work even harder tomorrow.”

    “Um, okay I guess…” Izuku slumps down in his seat, he would rather be useful or learn something from all this but what can he really say? “Are you sure it’s okay.”

    “Besides,” Tekka Maki chirps in. “we got to attend a sucky meeting right now anyway so no one will bother you.” Her wicked grin returns as a dark thought crosses her mind. “Of course there’s always the option of doing the night shift.”

    A shiver runs down Izuku’s spine just thinking about working in a dark, empty aquarium with prone to violence sidekicks walking around does not sound like a fun idea.

    “I think I’ll just…go to bed.”

    “Excellent!” Ikkaku gives a big thumbs up. “Hang in there Sir Midoriya, tomorrow will be a better day.”

    Izuku sighs as he plops down on his temporary bed, but the thin mattress provides little comfort after such a grueling day of hard work.

    The rest of the guest room is no better, it’s small, cramped, and cold with only enough room for a bed and for Izuku to have his stuff sit nearby.

    Izuku slumps down on the thin sheets and mattress, feeling rather unsatisfied about how his first day as an intern went. He doesn’t feel like he’s made any real progress afterall, all he’s done was be bossed around by the rest of the sidekicks. He needs to get stronger, improve his powers, and so much more but he can’t do that if he’s cleaning and helping with maintenance! Heck, he hasn’t even received any guidance from Gang Orca himself, the one he’s supposed to be interning with.

    Ikkaku’s words pop back into his mind: “Why should the top predator of the sea have to interact with the lowest of the low of the food chain? When the orca is more than capable of taking on any of the strongest beasts the sea has to offer.

    Izuku plops his head down on the pillow. ‘It…sort of make sense. I’m just a shrimp and by definition I’m not worth Gang Orca’s time.’ That sort-of makes sense. ‘But what can I do to change that, hm?’

    As Izuku ponders about what to do he recalls his conversation of Ikkaku about this place’s strange ranking system: “Sir Orca strives for strength, cunning, and ability out of each of his underlings. So, in order to foster our skills he’s developed this system that drives us to challenge ourselves and each other. And we can challenge anyone, anywhere, at any time.

    Izuku stares up at the ceiling considering those words. “Challenge anyone, anywhere, and any time…” Suffice to say that is an interesting system they got here and by winning in those challenges one can gain respect, responsibility, and authority.

    “Respect…” Izuku mulls over that word like it has some greater meaning.

    ‘Wait!’ And like that a lightbulb goes off in his head as he jumps right off the bed in a fit of excitement. ‘If I have such a low ranking then all I need to do is raise it up!’

    His smile falls away as another problem occurs. ‘But…that means I got to fight professional heroes, even if they are sidekicks, they have far more experience than me so I’m at a major disadvantage. So challenging them one at a time would take too long, even if I can defeat them by the time, I do my internship might be over.’

    Now this is a predicament plus if he did defeat any of the sidekicks, they can always challenge him too and push him down further in the rankings.

    What Izuku needs is a way to climb the ranking quickly, to gain Gang Orca’s respect and tutelage…

    ‘Wait…I can challenge anyone, at anytime, anywhere. I don’t have to go in a specific order, do I?’ A sly grin slowly forms on Izuku’s face as a brilliant, and arguably stupid, idea forms in his head.

    Gang Orca is seated at the head of the table looking down at his sidekicks as they go over mountains of paperwork: both for hero work and the aquarium. Kaizou is going over his own notes while Ikkaku pays close attention while taking the minutes of the meeting, Fuka looks absolutely bored out of his mind as does Tekka Maki who looks like she would rather be anywhere but here. As for Devilfish, well it’s hard to tell with his expressionless face.

    Dholak is standing at the opposite end of the large carved table reading off several requests for their agency’s assistance across the country.

    Dholak scans the list of cities that have requested their presence. “There’s been a few requests namely two: Geonosis City and Ho-”

    “I am here!” Izuku bursts through the doors like a cowboy looking for a duel.

    Everyone, but Gang Orca, reacts snapping their attention up at the boy.

    Dholak quickly spins around, his pincers clicking together in annoyance. “What the hell are you doing here?!”

    Izuku inhales, calming his nerves knowing he has to be brave right now. “I heard there was a meeting tonight.”

    Dholak’s glare hardens. “And who told you about that?” His voice is dangerously low as his pincers prepare themselves to strike.

    Meanwhile, Tekka Maki shifts her gaze away, whistling softly and acting like she didn’t hear a thing just now.

    Izuku marches forward, trying his best not to shake under Dholak’s steely gaze. “That’s not important. What is important is that I have business here, too.”

    Izuku peers past Dholak to the real hero of this agency, Gang Orca.

    The pro hero remains rooted in his massive leather chair, leaning to the side with his hand propped up acting like Izuku isn’t even in the room. But whether the case Izuku knows for a fact that he’s listening.

    And so Izuku takes a deep breath before explaining himself. “This place runs like a food chain, right?”

    Fuka scoffs. “You bet it does.”

    Izuku nods. “So if I understand it, I’m at the bottom of it, right?”

    Tekka Maki snickers. “Keke ke. That’s right.”

    Izuku’s green gaze locks onto Dholak’s. “And the only way to climb up the food chain is the fight for it, correct?”

    Dholak scowls, not liking this child’s tune. “Correct.” His pincers slowly extend out towards the boy until a pincer is clicking near each of his ears. “So, what? You want a rematch?”

    Izuku keeps his gaze forward, not reacting to the sharp pincers hangout near his face. “No.” Izuku leans his head to the side so he can take a look at his real target. “I’m challenging him.” And he points right to his intended opponent.

    It must have been a really bold, and stupid move, because each of the sidekicks gasp in horror even Dholak looks a bit horrified, taken back by the sudden astonishment.

    Izuku stands tall, not regretting his decision. “What do you say?” He glares right up at the head of the table. “Do you accept my challenge, Gang Orca.”

    Gang Orca remains unmoving, uncaring, like a statue unaware of what’s around him. Perhaps it’s his way of saying that the little shrimp isn’t worth his time.

    “Are you a dumbass?!” Dholak screams in outrage. “No! You are a dumbass! Who in the hell do you think you are?! You don’t stand a fucking chance against the boss!”

    Before Izuku can defend his answer Ikkaku shoots up from his seat. “Sir Midoriya, although your bravery is commendable, I must highly recommend that you stand down.”

    “With all due respect, sir.” Izuku’s gaze never leaves Gang Orca. “I will not.”

    Dholak growls. “Why you little shit.”

    Tekka Maki snickers. “Keke ke. I’m liking this kid more and more.”

    Devilfish isn’t so sure. “H-H he’s got a d-d death w-w wish.”

    Fuka grins. “Good, shows he’s got a backbone.”

    Dholak still isn’t getting it. “But why? Why challenge him?!”

    Izuku never peels his jaded eyes away from his target. “I need to get stronger, as quickly as I can. And if that means I have to take on the most dangerous predator in the sea then I will.” Besides if he goes pro then this may be an everyday occurrence. “Heroes have to fight dangerous villains all the time, some even stronger than they are, if I can’t accept that possibility now than I shouldn’t even be here.” His fists clench at his sides, driving him to fight on. “So what do you say Gang Orca? Do you accept my challenge?” He aims his fist towards the pro hero. “I will fight you, to be on top of this food chain!”

    Dholak had far enough of this bullshit. “YOU SHUT YOUR TRAP YOU LITTLE-”

    An immediate hush rushes through the underground meeting room, like if someone just paused a movie without any warning. Every single one of them slowly and hesitantly gaze up towards the head of the table. Where Gang Orca has actually straightened out in his seat, his head held high as too look down on them all with his piercing red gaze.

    Dholak looks from the boy to the pro. “B-but s-sir he’s just-”

    “A child? Yes. But a child who is willing to put it all on the line.” Even though Gang Orca is speaking rather calmly, there’s just this air of danger emanating off of him. “Midoriya, I accept your challenge.”

    “However, this is not the place for it.”

    Izuku blinks, he was kind of planning to fight here and now.

    “There is a far better stage for us to duel.” Gang Orca rises from his seat. “Just remember this boy.” His red eyes shine with bloodlust even through the dark damp chamber. “You’ve brought this upon yourself.”

    “I’m well aware of that, sir.” Izuku’s instincts are screaming for him to run away and live, but he bites back holding his ground. “But I’ve been told that I can be rather reckless.”

    Izuku isn’t sure but he could have sworn that he saw Gang Orca smile, if just for a split second.

    A few minutes later Izuku finds himself standing in the middle of a massive auditorium under the starry night sky glimmering through the massive glass dome high up over their heads. Izuku examines the rest of the auditorium, they are surrounded by massive bleachers in this dome shaped auditorium. But Izuku himself is standing on a floating platform in the middle of this massive place, the rest of his surrounding being a massively deep pool of sea water. There are a few more floating platforms scattered in the water, but they are way too far away for Izuku just to jump to.

    Apparently, this auditorium is where the aquarium put on their more exciting and bigger performances. But it being so late the only audience members are Gang Orca’s sidekicks, who aren’t going to miss out on this show. After all it’s rather exciting to see a killer whale out on a hunt.

    Speaking of, Gang Orca stands across from Izuku on another floating platform not too far away from his own.

    Izuku nervously smiles at his foe. “Is…is this the part where you ask me if I want to back out?”

    “No.” Gang Orca’s red gaze shines with deadly intent. “There will be no backing out from this.” He raises up his clawed hand, adjusting the cuff of his sleeve. “I fully intend on devouring you.”

    ‘He…doesn’t mean that, literally does he?’ Izuku shakes his head trying to ward off the nervousness and fear seeping in, he can’t back down if he fails, he won’t get anything out of this internship.

    Gang Orca gestures at Izuku’s watch. “Go on, I will allow you the chance to transform before we begin. In fact, as to give you a fighting chance I’ll allow you to strike me three times before I am allowed to retaliate.”

    Izuku frowns as he grips the Omnitrix. “Do you really think that’s necessary?”

    “Yes.” Gang Orca tenses up, his muscular build bulging as he takes a firm stance. “You are nothing but a shrimp after all. It’s not like you’ll actually hurt me.” He flexes his claws as his black cape billows behind him. “Go on then, I’m waiting.”

    Izuku frowns, he knows when he’s being insulted and it sure does sting, but he’ll show them what he’s got. And with that he disappears from sight as his entire body is enveloped by green energy.

    Izuku examines his alien form. “Been a while since I used this one.”

    Gang Orca cups his chin. “Ha, a shrimp like transformation for a shrimp. Talk about fitting.”

    Water Hazard’s eyes narrow as he aims his hands backwards and leans his upper body forward. “This shrimp packs more of a punch than you realize.”

    Streams of water burst out of Water hazard’s palm, blasting straight into the water behind him. The pressurized jets of water roar before exploding with power propelling Water Hazard forward into the air. Water Hazard begins to spin generating a whirlpool like jetstream behind him making him spin faster and faster like a flying torpedo.

    As the name suggests, Water Hazard spins through the air like a torpedo fired right out of a battleship, a spiraling mass of water propels him forward, crashing and thrashing the water below as he aims for his target.

    Said target remains rooted to his spot, not even flinching as the raging torpedo races towards him, and inevitably crashes into with such force that one would think a real torpedo may have gone off inside the aquarium. Water showers down as waves crash and rip through the massive pool.

    “You call that a special move?”

    Gang Orca is totally fine, unscathed, and rooted to his spot. Even his business attire and cape are without a single tear.

    As for Water Hazard, he is currently down on his knees, that attack having done quite a bit of recoil damage to himself. “How did you…?”

    Gang Orca glares down at the boy. “I said I wouldn’t retaliate, I never said I wouldn’t defend myself.”

    Water Hazard’s eyes narrow as he retraces the attack in his mind. ‘That’s it!’ He gazes up at Gang Orca with awe and fear as he realizes how it is, he survived that attack.

    Watching from the bleachers, Fuka turns to his fellow sidekicks. “What the hell is he talking about?”

    Fuka didn’t quite catch that. “What?”

    “The bosses Quirk, dumbass.” spits Dholak. “Just before impact he released hypersonic waves to intercept the strike.”

    Tekka Maki frowns. “I don’t get it.”

    Dholak sighs, exhaustedly. “Basically he made a sonic shield to block the attack.”

    Both Fuka and Tekka Maki awe. “Oh!”

    Water Hazard has come to the same realization and now he’s at more of a disadvantage. Unfortunately, that special move of his really is a double-edge sword.

    “What’s the matter?” Gang Orca towers over the shrimp. “Realizing how useless your efforts are?”

    Alright, time to kick this up a notch.

    “Rahh!!” Water Hazard dunks one hand into the water as he aims the other right at Gang Orca. “Try this on for size.” Water rushes into Water Hazard’s dunked hand, vacuuming up into his body.

    “FIRE FLOW. ”It’s like a volcano of water just erupted from Water Hazard’s raised palm as tons of pressurized water explodes forth.

    Water Hazard’s new special move strikes Gang Orca head on. The pro generates another sonic shield but even that’s not enough to cancel out the tsunami of water rocketing towards him.

    The hydroblast slams into Gang Orca and even with a sonic shield. The blast crashes into him at a continuous rate slowly pushing him back towards the edge of the floating platform.

    Gang Orca has his arms raised, blocking the water but the pressure is too much and it breaks through his defense allowing the water to crash and burst out when it collides with his frame.

    Seeing his opening Water Hazard cuts off the water and charges right for Gang Orca as water rains down all around them.

    “Ahhh!!” He throws his fist forward and it slams into Gang Orca just as the rain ends and a harsh silence follows as Water Hazard holds his pose.

    His fist shakily pushes against the side of the unfazed Gang Orca’s face, unmoving and not affecting him whatsoever.

    “What the hell was that?” Gang Orca snarls even as Water Hazard’s fist grinds against the side of his face.

    Water Hazard’s eyes widened in fear he had honestly thought he would have packed more a punch. But it looks like all he did piss off his opponent, specifically he pissed off a killer whale.

    “That was three attempts.” The calm yet subtle bloodlust in Gang Orca’s voice is palpable. “Talk about pathetic I thought you would have more in you. Guess U.A.’s not educating you properly.” The killing intent radiates off the pro hero as he ever so slowly reveals his fangs, glaring into Water Hazard’s very soul. “I’ll teach you what a real attack looks like.”

    Tekka Maki grins creepily. “Keke ke. He’s in for it now.”

    Devilfish crowns as he slouches in his seat. “P-p poor k-k kid.”

    The rage-filled Gang Orca grabs Water Hazard by the head and before the boy can react, Gang Orca slams the alien into the platform, cracking it and making a decently sized dent. “Regretting your decision yet?”

    Water Hazard grabs at Gang Orca’s hand, struggling to break free from the deathgrip, and chokes out an answer. “I’m…considering it-Gah!”

    The death grip on his head tightens as he’s lifted up only to be smashed right back into the ground, cracking it even further, and then again, and again, and again. Water Hazard’s shell echoes every time he’s slammed into the platform, groaning in pain as Gang Orca’s grip never weakness around him. Gang Orca lifts him up one more time and roars as he throws him down again, the impact smashes through the floating platform causing it to implode and break away plunging both fighters into the water.

    Gang Orca’s grip loosens as they’re plunged into the cold saltwater. Taking advantage of the situation, Water Hazard aims his palms right for Gang Orca and at such a close range he unleashes dual water streams. The blasts push Gang Orca away giving Water Hazard some much needed breathing room.

    Or so he would think, because peering up Water Hazard is surprised to find Gang Orca missing. He’s gone?

    As he scans the massive pool for his foe, said foe slams into him from behind plunging him deeper down into the depth.

    Water Hazard is spun downward, struggling to regain his balance. But just as he gains it back a black massive blur strikes him again, and again, and again from different directions, throwing him around the water like a ragdoll.

    Somehow between each strike Water Hazard manages to get a good look at his attacker, Gang Orca. Despite his large build, business like suit, cape, and lack of fins the pro hero is swimming about the massive pool like he’s flying through the air moving with deathly grace as he torpedoes through the water.

    Water Hazard takes aim, but Gang Orca gains a sudden burst of speed as he charges forward and slams his body into Water Hazard, slashing him as he goes by.

    The assault continues as such with Water Hazard getting thrown around while trying his best to at least weaken and defend himself from each blow.

    ‘I can’t endure this forever.’

    ‘Grrr, I need to halt his moments.’

    ‘But what can I do?’ Water Hazard’s gaze follows Gang Orca as he circles around and charges in again, slamming into his body once again.

    But even as he’s thrown to the side, his mind holds on to the image of Gang Orca circling around. ‘Maybe…’

    As the pro hero circles away to make another run, Water Hazard quickly gets to work. He thrusts his hands out but instead of generating jets of water, water begins to swirl towards his palms.

    Gang Orca begins to turn, about to strike again.

    Whether it’s fear or bravery, Water Hazard isn’t sure but whatever it is, it gives him the boost he needs, and the swirling water suddenly explodes with energy.

    Gang Orca’s torpedoes forward, his mouth shooting open, displaying his fangs, but he never gets a chance to aquante his fangs with Water Hazard’s flesh as a massive whirlpool booms into existence.

    Gang Orca is completely swallowed up by the raging whirlpool generated by the U.A. student’s own sheer will and strength. And it shows as he gets whipped and assaulted him from all sides, trapping him in place.

    “He got him!” cheers Tekka Maki. “He really got him!”

    “Way to go lad!” cheers Ikkaku.

    Dholak isn’t so sure. “You may want to hold your applause.”

    The other sidekicks settle down, knowing full well that this fight is close to finished.

    Water Hazard would be grinning if he had lips as he concentrates on keeping the whirlpool going. ‘I’ve got this.’

    A piercing screech emanates from the center of the vortex, clashing into Water Hazard.

    “Ahhh!!” Water Hazard screams as the piercing frequency waves break through his armor and attack his nerves from within and bring an end to his whirlpool. ‘That was…’

    “My echolocation.” As the waves and currents wash away Gang Orca floats in the water, his cape making him look even bigger and more intimidating as it waves behind him. “I can generate sound waves to attack my enemy’s nervous systems, paralyzing them in the process.” His claws shimmer in under the moonlight. “And allow me to devour them at my leisure.”

    And it might as well be true as Water Hazard struggles to even move a finger, his entire body feeling rigid and stiff like he’s been petrified.

    With his prey immobilized Gang orca rockets forward, snapping his jaws wide open, and while at full speed he chomps down onto the alien’s side dragging along into the depths.

    Gang Orca thrashes his head, speeding through the water, disorienting his victim.

    Water Hazard screams and cries as he’s thrashed about, trying desperately to break free of the massive jaws. But there is little hope of escape, the jaws are shut tight and if he didn’t have such an elite exoskeleton, then the killer whale definitely would have ripped out several chunks of flesh by now.

    The thrashing continues and Izuku is glad he skipped out on dinner because he’d definitely would have spit it back up by now. But even with his body begging for mercy and his stomach churning, Izuku’s own mind remains sharp as ever, remaining calm as he examines everything about his situation: his paralysis, his opponent, and how they are speeding about in this massive pool.

    ‘Come…on…’He tries with all his might to move anything: his fingers, his feet, anything at all. ‘Dammit, there’s got to be something I can do!’

    Gang Orca makes a sharp turn away from the tank wall, in his thrashing he almost didn’t see it. And Water Hazard did not fail to notice the folly.

    He tries to will his body to move, still nothing, but he can feel something else. His body may be immobilized but that doesn’t mean his powers are completely unusable.

    And so with literally no other options, Water Hazard actually manages to unleash a pair of water jetstreams. And they have the exact result Water Hazard was looking for.

    The jetstreams make his arms flail about like an unhandled waterhose, firing and whipping at all directions, and as a plus throwing Gang Orca off course.

    Gang Orca’s jaws loosen, not enough to escape, but a bit as he struggles to regain his balance only for a water blast to aim in a different direction and throw him off course once again.

    This goes on for some time, to the point that the sidekicks are debating whether to jump in after witnessing all the water blasts gushing out from the surface above.

    As his arms whip about, Water Hazard notices that his arms are regaining some sense of movement again, he can control them. ‘Guess all the motion jolted them back to normal.’

    So acting on instinct alone, Water Hazard aims his hands down and fires off blasts of water that take him and the off-balanced hero rocketing towards the surface.

    “Rahhhh!!” Water Hazard screams in defiance as both he and his opponent breach the surface, flying up into the air as he continues the water blasts.

    The sidekicks gasps and rise from their seats as they watch these two beasts fly higher into the air, well past their heads.

    Gang Orca’s eyes widen with genuine surprise as Water Hazard glares down at him. Water Hazard cuts off the propulsion, bringing his hands together and over his head before slamming them down on the hero’s own head. The strike hits hard, hard enough that it breaks the killer whale’s hold.

    Water Hazard pushes himself away as they slowly begin to fall back downward.

    “I’m going to finish this!!” He throws his hands back, spinning in place, as torrential water streams spiral out behind him propelling him up towards his opponent. “DEEP-SIX TORPEDO. ”

    Gang Orca hastily produces a sonic wave in hopes of shielding himself from the special move. His piercing screech certainly has an effect, but it can’t do anything about the momentum his opponent’s already built up, nor can he brace himself while in midair.

    He truly is a fish out of water.

    And so the Deep-Six Torpedo explodes out as the spiraling Water Hazard smashes into his falling form. Water explodes out, raining down on the entire auditorium, pool, and sidekicks who are all in awestruck of the display of power before them.

    Two heavy objects crash down onto the same floating platform, kicking up the water around them in massive waves before settling down.

    The sidekicks all stand, watching, with bated breaths unclear about the outcome but wanting to know how it turned out.

    Water Hazard is breathing way too heavily, kneeling on the cracked platform, completely drained and in incredible pain. ‘That’s it…I did it…I actually did it!’ He didn’t think he actually could, but he actually did. He came out on top!

    “I gotta admit, that was a nice show, shrimp.”

    Water Hazard’s blood goes ice cold as the waves finally settle down. He has the horror of witnessing Gang Orca standing before him. His suit is tattered and scratched sure, even his cape has a tear in it, but even so the pro hero himself looks fine and unaffected. If anything he looks even deadlier than before.

    ‘No…’ No way, his attacks, his hard work was all for nothing.

    And to add salt to the wound, Water Hazard disappears behind a veil of red light and a weak and dejected Izuku Midoriya takes his place.

    Knowing his opponent doesn’t have any fight in him left, Gang Orca stomps forward dragging out Izuku’s inevitable demise until he’s towering over the boy like a leviathan that’s risen from the depths of the Earth.

    Izuku shakily gazes up at the monster, accepting his fate.

    Said devil of the deep lowers his gaze down at the inferior being, his head held high as to look down on him. “For putting up such a valiant effort, I shall spare you. But only if you concede to defeat.”

    The huffing Izuku lowers his gaze as for a brief moment Gang Orca actually thinks he’s going to accept. But he couldn’t be further from the truth. As Izuku shakily pushes himself off the ground and onto his wobbling feet.

    It takes him a few seconds to get his balance, but even so he tries his best to stand tall in front of this monster, glaring up at him with a spark of fire in his jaded eyes.

    Gang Orca understands. “Very well then.” And so he slowly raises his sharp talons into the air to deliver the finishing blow.

    Izuku winces shutting his eyes tight as he awaits for the inevitable maiming.

    However rather than a blood gouging, a massive pat on the head is what greets Izuku instead. “Eh?” Izuku blinks up as Gang Orca continues to pat his fluffy hair.

    “Well done, Midoriya.” praises Gang Orca. “You exceed all expectations.”

    Izuku’s brain is momentarily fried with only one word able to register out from him. “Eh?!”

    Gang Orca removes his hand. “Don’t you get it yet?”

    Izuku manages to shake his head.

    “I wanted you to show me your worth and your spirit.” responds Gang Orca. “And it clearly worked.”

    Again. “EH. ” Izuku screams out in confusion. “What do you mean?!”

    “I mean I wanted to see just how far you’d go for the sake of progress.”

    Izuku calms down, finding that answer to be reasonable. “But, but what about all the errands and chores?!”

    Gang Orca actually does have an answer. “All on purpose per your needs.”

    “Yes, remember what you said when you first arrived?”

    Specifically, how Izuku wanted to learn how to utilize each and every one of his transformations to their fullest. And this instantly recalls in Izuku’s mind.

    Seeing his knowing expression Gang Orca continues. “I had my sidekicks oversee those tasks in order to give you the chance to train your various powers.” But to be sure Gang Orca continues. “Unloading the crates increased your four-armed form’s stamina, powering the lights increased your capacity to store even more electricity, avoiding the piranhas gave you a better sense of evasion, welding helped you learn how to focus your flames, running errands improved your multitasking and attention to detail, as did cleaning the tank as well as helped with your team coordination.”

    Izuku thinks on it and after mulling it over he has to admit that Gang Orca was right.

    “I even had Dholak oversee your progress and wait for the best opportunity to illuminate you on our system here.”

    “Wait…” Izuku snaps, shouting at the top of his lunges. “You mean you ordered him to pick a fight with me?!”

    “Yup, I sure did.” The pro hero sounds a little too proud about that fact.

    Ikkaku eyes his coworker. “Pray tell, is that true Sir Dholak.”

    Dholak nods. “It is. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t personal.”

    The other sidekicks frown at him, except Tekka Maki who’s too busy laughing at Izuku’s dumbfounded expression.

    “We needed to give you a push, to make you fight for the right to be here.” Gang Orca places his hand on Izuku’s shoulder looking at him right in the eye, not with malice but with respect. “And you certainly more than showed us that.”

    Izuku can’t believe it. He, he really impressed them, didn't he? And looking back on it, he can agree that all those chores were not in fact a waste of time but a means to an end. A means to get stronger.

    “Please, don’t call me sir.” Gang Orca waves his hand. “You’re working under me now kid, so call be boss.”

    Izuku blinks. “Working under you?”

    “Yeah, starting tomorrow you and I will be doing some real hero work.”

    Izuku’s entire face lights up like a kid waking up on Christmas. “Are you for real?!”

    The sidekicks all groan at the obvious dad joke, but Izuku is still too excited to even react to it.

    mine now so call me what’s appropriate.

    Gang Orca smiles down at the boy. “So, tell me. Are you ready to see what it really means to be a hero?”

    Izuku smiles up with a fire in his heart. “You bet, boss.”

    Izuku suddenly becomes shy as he remembers something else. “Oh, yeah, I sort-of…broke your…speedboat.”

    “Oh, that happens more often than you think. Who knew allowing your sidekicks to fight anywhere at any time could cause so much property damage?”

    Izuku…isn’t sure how to respond to that.

    Meanwhile in the dead of the night, a tall slim figure stalks his way through the dense woodland. Silently gliding from tree to tree like a ghost in the wind.

    Eventually the figure jumps down to the ground, without so much as a twig snapping under their feet. No one is in sight, only the moon plays witness as the figure steps out from the shadows.

    The hunter is tall and slim, wearing high-tech purple armor across his entire body. He has purple pads covering his central joints, a belt, and four central lines on his helmet to provide outlines for his face.

    The hunter roaches down, stalking forward deeper into the woods until he comes across a shabby looking outhouse.

    The bounty hunter is definitely smirking from behind his helmet as he eyes the outhouse, the entrance to Japan’s Plumber base, with high interest. “Tysa ndetu eadr srreeda.”


    Understanding Libertarians

    I’m not writing this with the idea of changing the minds of any self-identified Libertarian—before I take that on there are some windmills that must be defeated. This post is an effort to understand where they’re coming from. We all have a few friends who hold these positions, and about whom we think, “Yeah, but he seems like a nice guy. And so normal. I hardly ever see the horns, especially under that motorcycle helmet he hates being made to wear.”

    There is this belief among large sections of the Left that, to be a Libertarian (using “Libertarian” in the limited sense of Right-wing anarchist, or supporters and sympathizers of the Libertarian Party, or Randites, &c), one must be Evil. Or, at any rate, not care about the suffering of others. And, many think, they’re probably bigots, sexists, and care more about their right to smoke weed than about the homeless.

    I don’t think it’s that simple. It might seem so, because some of the core beliefs of Libertarianism easily, perhaps inevitably, lead to positions that are deeply hostile to what many of us (including me) consider human rights—as I’ve said before, if you accept that property rights can be higher than human rights, you’ll find yourself supporting the most appalling positions and never know how you got there.

    For a classic example of what I’m talking about, look here. Penn Jillette is a pretty smart guy, and, by all reports, not a jerk. But his specialty is slight-of-hand, of which this is a delicious example. When he says that taxation is the state taking things from the people “at gunpoint” he is essentially correct the state at its heart is simply a bunch of people with guns, and mechanisms for controlling the use of those guns. But the card he’s palming is that the whole reason for the state’s existence in the first place, the reasons those guns exist, is to protect private property. So when the state comes in and takes some of your property, well, it is only your property in the first place because the state defines it as such through laws determining what can and cannot be private property, regulates how it can and cannot be used, and then protects your right to keep it. Changing the definition of what property can be kept under what conditions might be really enraging, like when the GM suddenly nerfs your favorite weapon, but that remains the state’s job: to represent the property-owning class in the best way it can at a given time and place. Arguments between liberals and conservatives are arguments among those who control wealth and property over how best to manage it for their combined interests, and the heat and fury of these arguments reflects the degree to which those interests conflict, uncertainty about how best to represent those interests, and sometimes desperation over the possibility of finding any solution at all. Mr. Jillette’s argument is flawed, and if broadly adopted would lead to conditions that can only be called Dickensian but it does not reflect someone who is evil.

    This forces us to ask: What, other than holding great wealth and having the desire to keep it, can lead one to a position whose end result is such barbarity? Or, to put it another way, what is attractive in this philosophy to those who do not have immense wealth? There are any number of answers to this question, including the desire to believe that one might acquire great wealth, or having been subjected to Ayn Rand at an impressionable age, or, well, sometimes it really is pathological selfishness. But I think what is usually at the foundation of the appeal of Libertarianism is a deep hatred of coercion. And, seriously, who can’t understand that? I mean, not many of us like being coerced. We don’t enjoy being told what we can and cannot do. As a smoker who is now forbidden to smoke (or even use an e-cig, fer chrissakes!) just about anywhere, believe me, I get it.

    For now, my point is not about the problems of trying to invent a socioeconomic system based on one’s likes and dislikes, rather than on a scientific understanding of historical processes. My point is, I think they are missing something important, something that has led those of us on the Left (even the ones with whom I vehemently disagree on almost everything except, “these things are problems”) to such drastically different positions.

    The issue is coercion itself, and I would argue that human beings have been fighting coercion as long as we have been in existence. But there are more kinds of coercion in heaven and earth, Milton Friedman, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. If we define coercion as being forced to act or to refrain from acting in a certain way regardless of one’s wishes, then Man has been fighting coercion by nature since before we separated ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom. The simpler our society, and the less we understood natural processes and how to make them work for us, the greater were our choices limited by nature. But the real gotcha came when we had made great strides in understanding nature, in division of labor, in forming complex societies that were able to free us from the burden of dominance by our environment, because, in doing so, we created the situation where these societies themselves coerced us. Class society—an important and necessary step forward for humanity—brought with it for the first time a class able to make choices about how to devote the greater part of its time, but it supported these few by a system of slavery, that is, with human beings defined as property. It also, in order to protect that property, for the first time introduced the state. Other forms of property have accompanied progress, but it has, so far, always come down to a minority being relatively free of coercion at the expense of the majority whose choices were curtailed or entirely nonexistent. One of my earliest memories of my mother becoming really angry came when she was looking at the cover of some magazine, maybe “Look,” that showed a Jamacian child under the caption, “A future sugar field worker.” And she was angry, of course, because the magazine was right—that child would work in the sugar fields. There are children in Kentucky and West Virginia who, if nothing is done, will grow up to work in the coal mines because they have no other choice. Others don’t even have that to look forward to: poverty, hopelessness, and crime are in their future, and there’s nothing they, as individuals, can do about it.

    .And here is where we get to the crux of the matter: The greater part of the human race faces coercion to a humiliating and degrading degree by the necessity to secure food and shelter, not because society can no longer easily supply all of those things, but because society is organized around the principle of private profit, which by its nature coerces most of us into spending 40 or 50 hours a week for forty years of our lives merely to live. In the worst cases, generations of poverty, and artificial systemic oppression in its various ugly faces provide even more coercion, fewer choices.

    When some entitled reactionary says, “Want to escape poverty? Want to get a free education? Join the army!” what he is saying is, “I have a thousand choices for what to do with my life, you have two. So pick one, and stop complaining about being coerced.” It is easy to recognize helmet laws as limiting personal choice it is harder to recognize that being forced to spend the greater part of your life working to make someone else rich is also limiting personal choice. I not only believe the latter is coercion, but I believe it is more fundamental to how society works. Like the Libertarian, I favor full human freedom (except, of course, the freedom to exploit the labor of others, which inherently denies them freedom). Where I part company with them is that I consider freedom from material wants to be a necessary precondition for spiritual freedom.

    It is no longer necessary. If the full technical and creative force of humanity were working on it, those sugar fields could be worked by robots, the mines by machines, all of the goods needed for all of us produced with little or no need for oppressive labor, but only the sort of “labor” that is fulfilling to, well, to us geeks, engineers, those with a passion for tinkering and fixing and making stuff better. There are immense numbers of those people now how many more would there be with full education, and with the leisure that would come if there were an even division of wealth and toil? We could get there easily but such changes are simply incompatible with production and distribution based on profit.

    Yes, I hate individual, personal coercion by constituted authority, especially when (as it so often is) it’s arbitrary and stupid and an excuse for an emotionally stunted swine to find fulfillment through exercising power. I would like to see that ended. Furthermore, I am fully confident that doing so is achievable. But before we can end coercion by authority, we must create a society where authority is not needed to keep anyone in line. That means a society where people are not having their heat cut off in winter, where drinking water is not poisoned, where bombs are not raining down on the heads of children, where homelessness, untreated disease, and hunger are eliminated because the existence of those things absolutely requires authoritarian measures, violence, and the threat of violence to protect the entitled from the oppressed.

    So, my fellow Leftists, here is the disconnect: Libertarians hate coercion as much as we do, but they do not see it in some of the places that we see it, perhaps thinking that such things are the “natural order” or “just how things are.” No, it is by no means safe to believe they don’t care about human suffering. But because they do not see coercion in the blind forces of nature and society, but only in the deliberate actions of individuals and institutions, they have created an ideology whereby (in their belief) removing personal coercion will relieve human suffering. Needless to say, I disagree, but that is not the point of this post.

    And, just on the off chance a Libertarian has stayed with me for all of this (for which, thank you), I would ask you to consider that there are more kinds of coercion than just income tax, drug laws, eminent domain, and mandatory immunizations. If we are to reach a place where we can tackle coercion by authority, we must first find our way to full social and economic equality, which can not be done otherwise than by, at last, putting an end to the fundamental coercion that is private property in the means of production.


    Part VIII: The Ghost from the Grand Banks

    Darius always was fashionably late. "Where is he?" asked Cindy.

    "I don't know, love." I replied. "But Doctor Ballard is about to give another lecture."

    "I have here two artifacts from the Titanic. The first is an item that belonged to Lawrence Beesley. A dolphin pendant he said was given to him in the second class dining saloon on the day of the disaster. Legend has it that the same person, and a few others, were giving these little things out all through the voyage. All of them had different species of whale on them, they say. This is the only surviving piece, interesting."

    Hmm, I'd wondered what became of that little bit I'd given him. I thought again about Darius. He'd had some trouble adjusting to all the computers and technical equipment of the submersible we'd end up. borrowing. When he didn't show up on the dock when the Atlantis II was supposed to leave I just assumed he'd decided not to come. Then I rethought about it and decided he was going to make a "Grand Entrance" of sorts. Then Lupus whuffed a few times at something Dr. Ballard was saying. (He was disguised as the ship's dog.)

    ". and this strange coin was found inside one of the lifebelts. You can see it's quite dirty, but on one side is a windjammer, and the other an orca. We don't quite know how they got in there, but there is some writing on the bottom curve just below the ship. Unfortunately every attempt to remove the corrosion has been unsuccessful for some reason."

    I almost gasped aloud. None of those coins were supposed to have survived! Orca had made them to dissolve after a short while if they did not activate! But when I Looked at the coin I saw that it was a dud. Orca himself was down below in engineering. It seems that he'd spent some of his time in the past couple years working as a cetacean advisor on that new Star Trek movie (Em should like that one, if we can find her).

    Right next to me was Cindy, my "human" (though not so much any more) lover and what we bottlenoses call a "bondmate." (Like marriage.) On the other was Morgan, Bandit, Lupus (as a German Shepherd), and Eagle (Felina was asleep in her cabin, the lazy cat. She wasn't even in human form. ).

    They'd already made a single dive on the Titanic. Unfortunately a leak in the batteries had kept Dr. Ballard from really exploring the ship. But the way he described what he saw--a wall of black metal rising out of the muddy bottom--seemed to have affected him. But the batteries must be fixed if we're to. ahem. borrow the little submersible Alvin. Jason Jr. (JJ), the little remote control robot, is a bonus, really. Orca said all he need to do is see Em on the TV screen and poof she'll be aboard the sub with us.

    But only Darius knows how to use JJ in our group. And he's not here yet. Then Eagle tapped me on the shoulder. "He's here," he said.

    You know those were the only words I'd heard him say in a week? He's the most silent person I've ever known. "Where?" I said.

    He simply pointed out off the starboard side. Then I looked at him. He'd Shifted his head into that of a red-tailed hawk, with the eyes to match. Of course he's seen it first! Then I heard someone yell, "ship ahoy!" and everyone looked to starboard.

    "He always was a little bit late in doing things," I told Cindy. "I guess it runs in the orca family. Oh, well. I can't wait to see the look on the Doc's face," We'd managed to sign on as generic scientists, and a couple of crew members. (Orca insists on being called "Scotty." Sheesh.)

    Bandit was looking through a pair of binoculars at the mast and expanse of white canvas sail that was just becoming visible to my human vision. He gasped a moment. "Wow! That's beautiful!" He said aloud. "I've never seen anything like it! Take a look," he handed me the binocs.

    Nothing stirs a seaman's heart like the sight of a windjammer under full sail. I could just make out the name, Sothesby on the bow. Dr. Ballard walked up to me, "Can I borrow those?" he said. I gave the binocs to him, speechless and near tears. I'd seen something else in them that made me even more emotional.

    Then Dr. Ballard gasped himself. Apparently seeing the same thing I had.

    Riding the bow wave of the oncoming vessel were two pods of whales, their blows just becoming visible to those on deck. Orca on one side, humpback on the other. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. Then Ballard gasped again, "That's impossible! She was turned into a museum!" He must of recognized the name too, and considering what we were doing it must of appeared like an apparition out of the distant past. A past that is gone, but not forgotten.

    Then I interjected, "didn't someone claiming to be the owner's descendent claim her, citing an obscure reference in the will?"

    "Yeah, Dolph. It was challenged, but a month ago she was turned over. In a way, I'm happy to see her out on the waves again. The former owner. what was his name? Ah! 'Darius Orcan' was really an early environmentalist, you know. Only random chance put him on the Titanic."

    If only he knew. Which is worse comes to worse just might happen. I strained with my Senses a moment, then Spoke, [[Hey Darius, you always knew how to make an entrance.]]

    [[Thanks. But I'm sorry I'm late, I had to be sure I could operate that little underwater robot-thingy.]] His voice wasn't coming from the ship, but from the water in front. [[Yes, I'm out in front. Riding the bow wave is the only way to travel. The Singer pod on the port bow is Em's family pod. I thought it fitting that they come.]]

    [[Agreed.]] I replied cheerfully.

    [[Just a moment. Heave to!]] He said in a Captain's voice.

    [[Whoa! Who's crewing that thing anyway?]] The crew was now aloft in the rigging, rapidly furling the many sails. Which made her seem even more impressive. The mainmast was about a hundred fifty feet tall, the ship itself was about four hundred feet long and had four masts. Unlike other pure sailing ships, her hull was steel, not wood. She's one of the last of the large bark-rigged ships. Gleaming white from stem to stern. With a kind of grace that no powerboat can ever hope to match. The pinnacle of sail.

    Darius interrupted my train of thought. [[The other Disciples, and a few of those who've been windjammer crewmembers in past lives. Including your pod-brother Marcus, I might add.]]

    [[Marcus? He died in 1924. and again in 1959. what is he now?]] I was eager to find out. He and I seemed strangely connected.

    [[I'll let ''him'' tell you. You'll know him when you see him. But could you drop a ladder or something over the side? I need to get aboard. ]]

    [[Sure thing. ]] "Bandit, could you give me a hand, here?" I said. He winked. Cindy and I quietly slipped over to a rope ladder.

    The whole crew of the Atlantis II was watching the approach of the Sothesby, all were speechless at the sight of whales of two species that should be deadly enemies intermingling. The whales eventually surrounded the ship. Once Darius even spyhopped a little and looked Dr. Ballard right in the eye. The Doc just shook his head a little in amazement (something seemed to pass between the two of them. Ballard was still holding that dolphin pendant. ). The ship eventually slowed to a stop about two hundred yards off the starboard side.

    Frankly I really didn't know how I was going to get Darius on board without anyone noticing, which is what I wanted to do. Then Bandit said, "Let me and my Sibs take care of that."

    The Siblings (Bandit, Eagle, Morgan, and Lupus) stood in a circle, and Shifted to a hybrid form. Lupus looked like a werewolf straight out of "The Howling" (though without the evil look) Eagle was a bald eagle with wings and arms, as large as a human Bandit was a simple raccoon hybrid, with striped tail and snout and Morgan a humanoid horse. They then joined hands (or paws, talons, hooves) and a yellow/red/green/purple glowing sphere appeared in the middle between them. [[**FREEZE**]] They said in an overwhelming Voice.

    Time stopped, except for we Disciples. I put the ladder over for Darius, who'd assumed his hybrid shape, to climb up. When he got up to the deck he went fully human and a vintage 1912 suit appeared on him, he also changed to resemble what he did on that fateful night. "Full of surprises, aren't they?" he said to me, referring to the Siblings.

    "That they are," I replied. "Do you want to go below decks and try to do something tonight?" Surprisingly, he shook his head.

    "No, I might as well hit this nail on the head. So they might as well restart time again. "

    In response, the three said, [[**GO**]] and everyone was milling around again. Then they Shifted back to human form. Orca appeared out of one of the hatches from below decks, and walked over to us.

    "Are you ready, my son? It's about that time." He said to Darius.

    "Yes, I'm ready. I've been ready for almost seventy five years." Dr. Ballard had torn his eyes away from the amazing spectacle of breaching humpbacks and orcas long enough to see the person he did not recognize (maybe) standing with a bunch that he did recognize.

    "Excuse me, sir," he said. "Who are you? And what are you doing aboard my ship?"

    Darius looked Dr. Ballard straight in the eye, like he had in orca form. "My name is Darius Orcan, and I need to borrow your submersible."

    Predictably, Dr. Ballard's initial reaction was a simple, "what?"

    "You heard what I said, Doctor. I need to borrow Alvin."

    "You're insane if you think I'm going to let you. what did you say your name was?"

    "Darius Orcan. You should recognize the name, I am the owner of that ship off the starboard side and, you'll find, one of the major underwriters of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute."

    "He died almost seventy five years ago on the Titanic! There is no way you could be him!"

    "Take a look at me, who else could I be?"

    "A descendent, one claimed that ship, after all. But you said you wanted to 'borrow' Alvin? Well, I've got some news for you. We have battery problems and I doubt we'll be able to even make another dive. Besides, who are you going to find to run it? No one here will willing pilot her for you."

    Bottle (still using the name "Dolph Seacord") stepped forward. He was still very surprised at my statement. After all, a reveal like this had not been in the original plan (Orca has a tendency to change His plans on a dime). But he adapted quickly. "I'm afraid you're wrong about that, Doc. I'm a fully qualified submersible pilot, and I'm willing. In fact, you'll find that most of the crew is willing."

    Dr. Ballard looked completely dumbfounded. After all, who would expect to be hijacked like this? "Now I get it! You want to loot the ship! I've met your type before. You'll never succeed, Scotty here will. "

    "I'm afraid you have it all wrong, Doc." Orca said. "Because I doubt you'd want to run over any of these whales, here. More will be arriving forthwith." He must of sent out another Calling. I had a feeling these waters were going to get crowded.

    "What? How?" Ballard clearly wasn't going to try to run over a whale. But when he looked out on the water at the humpbacks and orcas still circling the ship, he looked upon the sight with wonder, not anger.

    "That will be revealed in due time, Doc. But first we have to replace those batteries. This whole thing is for nothing if we don't get the sub working. Morgan! Bandit! Someone go wake up Felina, we need her now."

    While the crew worked to replace the batteries, Dr. Ballard looked at me carefully, shaking his head quite often. I knew he did not believe me, but there really wasn't much he could do about it. The majority of the crew and most of the scientists were Disciples (or Acolytes) of either Orca (we have an ability to learn human technology quickly), Bandit (nimble hands for tiny work), or Morgan (the strength of a horse even in human form is immense). We often worked in our hybrid forms, with the jewelry keeping things invisible to the non-Acolyte humans.

    At one point, Dr. Ballard left, (apparently the mental pressure from keeping our hybrid shapes hidden gave him a headache) and came back a few minutes later chewing on a couple aspirin, holding a few photographic reprints. One of which was a candid picture of me taken on the boat deck by Father Francis M. Browne. "You certainly look like him. You must have had a good cosmetic surgeon." He said.

    "Something like that. I don't even recall that picture being taken. Snap photography was fairly new at the time, you know."

    He was looking at me strangely. I was giving him the same look I had when I was still in orca form in the water. I think it gave him a very strange feeling. Good. Orca said to try to break things to him slowly. "What is it? The loot? Do you just want a piece of her? What?" He really wanted to know.

    "I'm looking for someone." I said simply.

    "Someone? You've got to be kidding me! Remains? It's a graveyard!"

    "You think I don't know that?! I was there you fool! I don't want to harm her in any way, you have no idea. the screaming and moaning as people froze to death in the water. It still haunts me. "

    "You are insane! You really believe you're him!" Though the vehemence of my statement seemed to give him second thoughts.

    "Death is such a fleeting thing, Doctor. It doesn't last. It just depends on how many times you've been around." That was true, thought for me it's a different case because of my immortality. Others, like Marcus, have "been around" for so long that with work they might remember when dinosaurs roamed the planet (and when they were a dinosaur). To my knowledge the oldest soul on the planet is about a hundred million, and shows no sign of moving on.

    Ballard did not know what to make of it. But he was clearly disappointed in not being able to see his beloved Titanic right away. Then Orca walked up behind me. "Darius, he goes." He said.

    "After what the good Doctor has been through he deserves to go with you. Yes, it means that we might have to make more dives. But we can do more than to look for. what we're looking for and accomplish some of Alvin's real missions. To explore the ship. Personally, I'm interested what she looks like after she broke in two like that. I still get back aches, you know." He smirked (a funny sight in hybrid).

    "What are you talking about Scotty? Are you in charge of this or something?" Ballard said.

    "Call me Orca, and yes, it's my call. And before you say anything, no, I didn't know about that bombing until much later. I've purged the radical elements in the organization." Ballard was very familiar with ORCA. All oceanic scientists are.

    "Maximillian Delorca?" Ballard said. "Hmm. I heard he's a recluse. But you kind of look like him." Orca had easily taken my place, as he should. "Thanks. I think. Though. It really means a lot to me. Besides, if you are indeed underwriting this mission (and I've checked the ship's records) you can technically do whatever you want anyway. But thanks."

    "I know. I know very well, Doctor. Just have patience. All will be revealed in time."

    The sea was a dead calm that night. Like the night the Titanic sank. I started breaking the truth to Dr. Ballard very slowly. Mostly by giving him an account of the first few days of the voyage in more detail than anyone who wasn't there could ever give. I did not use any of my talent on him, I wanted him to believe me very much. But how can one convince a skeptic? Scientists don't believe in "magic," much less immortality (the fact that I wasn't really human might of been stretching things just a bit.. which is saying a lot.)

    "You know," Ballard said, "I do have to admit that you've researched your subject. You must of pieced that together from a lot of survivors' accounts." Well, that was part of it. I'd spent enough time talking to the formerly human orcas in the superpod on that day to have a pretty detailed account of the whole voyage.

    "How many times do I have to say this? I was there."

    Ballard just nodded and yawned, not willing to argue any more. "I don't know about you, but tomorrow's going to be a long day and I think a bit of sleep is in order." He wasn't going to sleep. Who could? We were about to dive on the most famous ship in history in a submarine that has a space so tiny I had a feeling that the Ballard and I were going to get to know each other quite well.

    I looked back at Cindy and Bottle, who were busily conducting checks on JJ and Alvin. The batteries had been replaced by now, and the sun was going to come up soon. But I was too worked up to sleep. So I watched those two happy people (funny how humans and bottlenoses get along), and thought about my own love two miles below my feet.

    Cindy and I helped prepare Alvin for launch. The nicest thing about this jewelry is that it gives us the ability to use hybrid forms without anyone who isn't wearing similar jewelry noticing. The point is that in Hybrid our "talents" are much stronger than in either pure form. I had to admit, Cindy had quite a comely dorsal fin. And I said as much.

    "Flatterer," she said in English. ["But I like this language much better,"] she said in Delphin. ["It's more. romantic."]

    ["It's a little cold for us out there. Besides, it's almost time to roll the sub out of her garage. The battery installation went off without a hitch. Thanks to you."]

    ["Thanks. And then after all this I might persuade Orca to give us some time alone off of Hawaii. "]

    ["You're a delight, you know that?"] I clicked.

    ["Yes, I do. I guess it comes from not being born a dolphin. This wonderful gift you've given me has literally opened up a whole new world. What did you say I was? A 'new soul?'"] She used her air-Sight (more like a bat's echolocation ability, one of our talents in Hybrid) to check the soundness of the hull, and checked off a few more things on her list.

    A new soul is just what it sounds like. This was basically Cindy's first lifetime as anything on this earth. So she's unique in many ways. ["That might have something to do with it,"] I clicked. She'd given me a whole new perspective on being a dolphin. Made it seem fresh and new again. She'd put the joy back into my life. Something I'd lost over the decades.

    We were slowly easing Alvin back from the garage. One of Morgan's Disciples, a Shire morph, was giving Morgan a very unhappy look. "Don't look at me like that, Posti." Morgan said. "I know working with all this delicate techno-stuff is not like pulling the 'majestic plow,' but you'll have to get used to it where I'm sending you."

    About an hour later, Bandit was in 'coon hybrid form inside doing all sorts of checks. His pointed, black-masked face poked above the red "turret" on the top of the sub. "Everything checks out!" He said. "We're ready to go."

    Four heavy dive weights were attached to the sides of Alvin. The lift line was fastened, and Dr. Ballad, Darius and I climbed the ladder and put ourselves into the cramped space, careful to avoid the sealing grease around the hatch. More checks were made quickly, a storm front was moving in. Oxygen, on carbon dioxide scrubber, on etc., etc.. The hatch was sealed.

    I was reminded of sardines (one of my favorite foods, actually along with anchovy pizza) in a can as the three of us were now uncomfortably cramped in a tiny space that would be our home for the next few hours. I'd actually returned to full human form just after Cindy and I had dolphin-hugged (crossing rostrums), then we'd human kissed as well. "Good luck," she'd said. She was an invaluable member of the surface dive team, and without her quick learning ability I doubted we'd ever get down.

    The sub hit the water in the growing swell, we all held on as it swung all over the place for a while. The lift line was detached, and I spoke into the radio, "Atlantis II, this is Alvin. Ready to dive."

    "Alvin, Orca here. Good luck to the three of you. And remember what I said, Daruis. If things get hairy down there forget all subtlety and go for the full reveal. I'll clean things up later. Clear to blow'n'go!"

    I flipped the switches to flood the tanks, and down we went. "Roger that."

    Ballard was looking at the two of us an understandably unhappy expression on his face. Then he smirked, "well, here we are." He said. It must have been uncomfortable for him. He was inside a seven-foot diameter titanium sphere with two people one he thought was insane, and the other a traitor.

    Nothing more was said until we I turned on a tape that had a bit of soft piano, and perhaps a bit of Rock and Roll mixed in. "How can you listen to that infernal racket?!" Darius said, clapping his hands over his ears. That was not one of his favorite kinds of music.

    "What? You don't like 'The Police?'" I smirked. And hummed along with "Message in a Bottle" and "Every Breath You Take." Then the tape switched to Sting's new solo album. The first song was "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free."

    "What's this one?" Darius said, talking them off. I told him. "Hmmm. he's no Johnny Mathis, but I like it. It's sort of appropriate, isn't it?"

    Dr. Ballard was still looking at us, arms crossed across his chest. We'd passed below the lowest level that light would reach. The farthest I've been down in my True Form is about three hundred feet. And only then on a dare. I almost fainted before I'd reached the Surface. Darius was still giving Ballard that same look he had when he was still in True Form. Ballard shook his head a couple times, and put one hand to his forehead. "Naw. " I heard him say under his breath. "I'm seeing things."

    [[What are you doing?]] I asked Darius.

    [[Well, for the past hour or so I've been giving him small visual pulses of our hybrids through Beesley's pendant. He's still carrying it, though he doesn't know it. I want him to figure stuff out on his own.]]

    [[That makes sense. He probably thinks he's going nuts, though. But I have one question. Why even bring the Sothesby if you were just going to swim out your own anyway?]]

    [[For the effect, and if we find Emily I don't know if she's going to be in a condition to swim on her own.]]

    That made sense again. I was about to respond to that, but. "Are you guys talking or something?" Ballard said.

    "No, what made you think we were?" we hadn't even been looking at each other.

    "I just got a strange feeling. I guess I'm still on shock. Why Dolph? Why do this? Wasn't helping us enough?"

    "I'll put it to you this way, Doc. Darius Orcan had a servant on that ship. The two had not known each other long, but once they got over their initial difficulties they became great friends. They were united in purpose, you see. And nothing could change that."

    "The next thing you're going to say is that you are James Bottleman, Orcan's manservant, right? I know my subject as well as you do, gentlemen. And nothing you can say can convince me that you two were there. It simply isn't humanly possible."

    Of course, "humanly" was the whole idea here. We weren't human, really, so it made things a little tough to explain. We made our check-ins with the Atlantis II every so often. After about two and a half hours in a freezing sardine can we finally reached bottom.

    "Well, here we are," Ballard said again. Then the radio came on.

    "Bob, Ralph here. We managed to take all those ORCA people by surprise and we've put them where we can keep them under control. So you can come up now. I think we can handle things from here."

    "Well, gentlemen. I hate to disappoint, but it looks like we'll have to cut this dive short. Because, one, no one above is going to tell you where the Titanic is. And two, neither am I. So we might as well start up now." He seemed very pleased with himself.

    But the radio remained silent for quite a while afterwards. Ballard's expression went from triumph to that of alarm once the radio came on again. "Alvin, Morgan here. We've got everything under control."

    I grabbed the mic. "What happened up there?"

    "Just a little mutiny. Nothing we couldn't handle."

    "Oh my God, you didn't!" I said.

    "Naw, Orca took care of it. A herd of horses on a ship this small wouldn't be a good idea. Even if they were Fallabellas."

    Well, that sounded like him. "Did he say anything else to you?"

    "Hmmm. all he said was, 'do as you must. Just don't do too much damage.' Or something. Good luck you two. We're bringing aboard temporaries right now straight out of the pods.

    "One other thing. We still can't tell you quite where Titanic is, Orca is a bit preoccupied right now. And I don't suppose our guest down there will be talking."

    Ballard was shocked his apparently carefully concocted plan had fallen apart so fast, but it's not like we were playing fair. I hoped that the temporary cetaceans up there would have fun while they could. Because I knew Orca would erase their memories of the experience afterward. "Just who are you two?!" he said. "You'll come to trial for what you've done!"

    I looked at Darius. He nodded in unspoken agreement. "Perhaps you're not asking quite the right question, Doc. The question isn't who we are. It's what we are."

    The only way we knew to find the Titanic was with Sight. But the problem was, in order to focus our clickings we'd have to use all of our talent to reinforce the natural echolocation ability. Which meant none of our energies could be put into hiding ourselves. This entailed something drastic, considering the position we were in. "Huh?" Ballard said.

    Without further explanation, I Shifted to hybrid. (Lucky thing I'd finally put a slit into the back of my shirt so I didn't ruin it).

    Ballard's reaction was surprising.

    His first reaction was to rub his eyes. Then he checked the carbon dioxide gauge, looked at Bottle again, and rubbed his eyes again. Then he smiled nervously, "You know.. for some reason I was expecting this." Good, my hinting worked, then. "What with these strange hallucinations I've been seeing for the past few hours. Is it just me, or do you look like a human/dolphin cross?"

    "Right on the bottlenose," Bottle said, grinning.

    Then he looked at me. "And you. call me crazy (which I might be) but you seem familiar somehow. And I'm not talking about your claims of who you are. But. "

    "Perhaps I do. But I can't do anything about it in here. It's a sardine can, you know. Too small."

    "No, no. you don't have to do anything." he looked at Bottle again. "Um. I hate to ask this, and it's kind of embarrassing. But can I touch you just be sure I'm not seeing things? Please?" His voice was shaking a little. He was clearly going to lose it if Bottle didn't. he nodded.

    Ballard reached out and touched Bottle's jutting chin. "You see I'm real," Bottle said. "I'm sorry I had to do this, Bob, but you see I had no choice."

    Ballard was rubbing his fingers together after touching Bottle's nose, clearly still unsure, but the contact seemed to have done something. His expression changed from that of nervousness to that which humans are known best for: Insatiable curiosity (well, he is a scientist). "Can you answer me a few questions? What are you? And why are you here?"

    "Well, I don't have much time. But I'll explain things as best I can. "

    All through the conversation, Ballard lost his distrust of Bottle. How can one not with that smiling face? He still said, "This, this is too much. But how do you figure into this, Darius?"

    I was a bit unprepared for his words (I tend to not pay attention if the conversation doesn’t include me). Apparently Bottle had explained everything but me. Oh well.

    Of course, Bottle had explained all the easy stuff, leaving me to tackle all the big issues. "Bob, (may I call you Bob? Good) We are not merely whales and dolphins that can take on human form. We do it for a purpose and we're both older than we seem. Which is why the Titanic holds special significance for us. I've told you why. I told you the human side of the story last night. I am close to four hundred years old. "

    "Wait, wait. Four hundred? That's im-pos-i. " He looked at Bottle, who smirked. "Never mind."

    "Thank you. I'd love to chat further Bob, but we can do that as we explore the ship."

    "You know I thought you'd never ask? I've wanted to see this ship my entire life. All I saw on the first dive was that black wall. As long as my friends up there haven't been killed. "

    "No. They've not been harmed in any way. Just. changed a little for the time being."

    "I really don't know what you mean by that, but I've never seen a whale harm a human before. And I don't think you people would start to now."

    So much for telling him what I did during the World Wars. Oh well. "You'll find out soon enough. But without the main sonar from the ship it'll take us a while."

    "True," Bottle suddenly said. "But we have another method of finding the ship, one guess what that is, Doc."

    He slapped himself on the forehead. "I should have known! You can do that from in here? One of your 'talents' I assume?"

    "You could say that. But Darius, I think I'm going to need your help here. But there isn't quite enough room for you to. "

    Without further adieu I became a bottlenose hybrid. Small enough for this tiny space. "How's this?" I said, Bottle winked. Ballard wasn't even startled this time. He just looked upon the both of us with wonder. Bottle and I laid on our stomachs looking out one of the three portals. I took the left side, Bottle the right.

    We scanned all over the place. But located nothing. Then I had an idea, and Bottle and I linked our Sight, boosting it's power even more. We Saw something. It was about a thousand feet to the starboard side, but we just couldn't be sure. Going the wrong way meant losing valuable time. We'd already spent nearly three hours on the Bottom, and had maybe two left before we had to start up again. ["I can't quite see it,"] I clicked. ["We still don't have enough power to our Sight. Any ideas?"]

    ["Hm. "] He returned. ["Just one, but I don't know if you want to go through with it. And I don't know how Orca would react to it. But he said, 'do what you must,' so. "]

    I got his meaning. ["I guess we have no choice."] I turned back to Dr. Ballard. "We've scanned the area. But we can't quite be sure exactly where she is. Your sonobuoys are helpful, but not quite enough."

    "What can I do to help? I'm so anxious to see her now I'll do anything." There's something between humans and dolphins that just inspires trust. Ballard felt it, I felt it, Bottle felt it. It's one of the biggest mysteries that remains unsolved on both sides of the water.

    "You can start by laying down between us, and putting that pendant around your neck, then getting in between us." I said. What we were planning was quite unusual, but if we were successful it wouldn't cause too much damage. He did, it was a little uncomfortable, but we managed. Ballard's smile (which had reappeared, finally) was about to become a bit more ingrained.

    [[Bottle, at the count of three. One, two, THREE!]] We both grabbed Ballard on the back, holding him on the bottom of the sub. We were both glowing bright blue.

    Ballard struggled a little, but that stopped as he started to glow, his skin began to turn a medium gray, lighter on his lower jaw and throat. His hair was absorbed into his head. His chin began to jut forward with a cracking of changing bone. His face distorted as his nostrils became one and migrated to the top of his head. Inside his open mouth, his teeth became sharp and conical. His forehead began to swell as a the dolphin melon grew in. His hands and feet became webbed, and his jacket began to hunch under the pressure of a dorsal fin on his lower back.

    "Ow!" he said. "What did you do to me?? I feel. strange."

    ["You did say 'anything' Doc."] Bottle said experimentally in Delphin.

    ["Is it me or did I understand you? Um, how did I say that? And what is this thing in my vision?"]

    [[Why not? We'll remove it before we get to the Surface.]]

    We let him go, and he stared at his webbed hands. He felt his face, gasped. Then he took of his jacket, attempted to lean back, did not succeed, and felt his back. Gasped again. "What did you do to me?!"

    ["You did say 'anything' Doc."] Bottle repeated. ["And this certainly qualifies as 'anything.'"]

    Ballard smirked. ["I've always wondered if you guys could talk, now I know. I guess I'm doing it! Hah! But you're right, I did say anything. Waitaminute. "] He seemed to come to a realization, and stared at the glowing pendant with his left eye for a while.

    ["This whole thing!"] he said. ["If you were on that ship you two saved lives! That's what these pendants were for!"]

    [[Do you have any clue how he figured that out? We never said anything about our actual Task. ]] Bottle said.

    [[Give him a little credit, Bottle. He's a smart person. Now, on to business. ]] I switched to Delphin. ["Now, my good Doctor. If you would please?"] I gestured for him to take his place in between us.

    ["Okay, I guess I might as well satisfy my curiosity while I'm one of you. What do I do?"] We told him, and linked our Sight.

    With the power of three of us, we easily saw it. The bow. Bottle grabbed the joystick control for the sub itself, and guided us towards the looming shape we Saw in the distance.

    The worst thing about it was all the interminable waiting. I never knew how much time had passed, nor if I was even experiencing it's passage. Time is a strange thing, after all. And I had a lot of time to think about it.

    I'd managed to extricate enough of myself from the ship itself that I was in no danger of being killed by the pressure, yet it would be easy to extract the rest of me just in case. But as I walked around in the first class stateroom that I'd limited myself to I decided that it might be a better idea to just lay down and wait. I eventually became tired, and slept.

    I was awoken by a flash from the outside of the porthole. My sleep had been a troubled one, fraught with images of going down, down, down farther than any whale had been before. I got up and looked outside the porthole. Illuminated by the flash was an interesting looking fish. A fish that looked like nothing I'd ever seen before. When I looked again when it passed over once more, I saw that it was metal! That could only mean one thing: humans. But it looked like nothing else. A mass of gray steel girders and what looked like cameras inside the framing.

    Humans have such inventive minds.

    Deep down I knew that I had slept for a long time. And when I looked in the mirror in the dim light that I could generate I saw a humanoid face that had not aged a day. I was still wearing my 1912 dress, and the stateroom still looked like new. But when I briefly expanded my consciousness to the rest of the bow I found a state of rust and decay that somehow astounded me. After all, my stateroom on C-deck close to the break-off point still looked quite untouched. My only thought was that my bonding with the immediate area around me had supported it somehow. Strange.

    I saw a name on that strange visitor from Above. It's name: Argo. I immediately thought of Darius. If they had indeed found me, and if my immortal orca love was still alive (as far as I knew, his kind of immortality did not extend to say. a knife in the heart). He would be here. I had no doubt of that.

    The only thing I had to do was wait. So I lay down and slept once more. With only my own heartbeat for company.


    Surveying for marine mammals in the Northern California Current

    By Dawn Barlow, PhD student, OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab

    There is something wonderful about time at sea, where your primary obligation is to observe the ocean from sunrise to sunset, day after day, scanning for signs of life. After hours of seemingly empty blue with only an occasional albatross gliding over the swells on broad wings, it is easy to question whether there is life in the expansive, blue, offshore desert. Splashes on the horizon catch your eye, and a group of dolphins rapidly approaches the ship in a flurry of activity. They play in the ship’s bow and wake, leaping out of the swells. Then, just as quickly as they came, they move on. Back to blue, for hours on end… until the next stirring on the horizon. A puff of exhaled air from a whale that first might seem like a whitecap or a smudge of sunscreen or salt spray on your sunglasses. It catches your eye again, and this time you see the dark body and distinctive dorsal fin of a humpback whale.

    • Figure 1. Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) play in the big swell and surf the wake of the NOAA ship Bell M. Shimada off Coos Bay, Oregon. Photos: Dawn Barlow.

    I have just returned from 10 days aboard the NOAA ship Bell M. Shimada, where I was the marine mammal observer on the Northern California Current (NCC) Cruise. These research cruises have sampled the NCC in the winter, spring, and fall for decades. As a result, a wealth of knowledge on the oceanography and plankton community in this dynamic ocean ecosystem has been assimilated by a dedicated team of scientists (find out more via the Newportal Blog). Members of the GEMM Lab have joined this research effort in the past two years, conducting marine mammal surveys during the transits between sampling stations (Fig. 2).

    Figure 2. Northern California Current cruise sampling locations, where oceanography and plankton data are collected. Marine mammal surveys were conducted on the transits between stations.

    The fall 2019 NCC cruise was a resounding success. We were able to survey a large swath of the ecosystem between Crescent City, CA and La Push, WA, from inshore to 200 miles offshore. During that time, I observed nine different species of marine mammals (Table 1). As often as I use some version of the phrase “the marine environment is patchy and dynamic”, it never fails to sink in a little bit more every time I go to sea. On the map in Fig. 3, note how clustered the marine mammal sightings are. After nearly a full day of observing nothing but blue water, I would find myself scrambling to keep up with recording all the whales and dolphins we were suddenly in the midst of. What drives these clusters of sightings? What is it about the oceanography and prey community that makes any particular area a hotspot for marine mammals? We hope to get at these questions by utilizing the oceanographic data collected throughout the surveys to better understand environmental drivers of these distribution patterns.

    Table 1. Summary of marine mammal sightings from the September 2019 NCC Cruise.

    Species # sightings Total # individuals
    Northern Elephant Seal 1 1
    Northern Fur Seal 2 2
    Common Dolphin 2 8
    Pacific White-sided Dolphin 8 143
    Dall’s Porpoise 4 19
    Harbor Porpoise 1 3
    Sperm Whale 1 1
    Fin Whale 1 1
    Humpback Whale 22 36
    Unidentified Baleen Whale 14 16
    Figure 3. Map of marine mammal sighting locations from the September NCC cruise.

    It was an auspicious time to survey the Northern California Current. Perhaps you have read recent news reports warning about the formation of another impending marine heatwave, much like the “warm blob” that plagued the North Pacific in 2015. We experienced it first-hand during the NCC cruise, with very warm surface waters off Newport extending out to 200 miles offshore (Fig. 4). A lot of energy input from strong winds would be required to mix that thick, warm layer and allow cool, nutrient-rich water to upwell along the coast. But it is already late September, and as the season shifts from summer to fall we are at the end of our typical upwelling season, and the north winds that would typically drive that mixing are less likely. Time will tell what is in store for the NCC ecosystem as we face the onset of another marine heatwave.

    Figure 4. Temperature contours over the upper 150 m from 1-200 miles off Newport, Oregon from Fall 2014-2019. During Fall 2014, the Warm Blob inundated the Oregon shelf. Surface temperatures during that survey were 17°- 18°C along the entire transect. During 2015 and 2016 the warm water (16°C) layer had deepened and occupied the upper 50 m. During 2018, the temperature was 16°C in the upper 20 m and cooler on the shelf, indicative of residual upwelling. During this survey in 2019, we again saw very warm (18°C) temperatures in the upper water column over the entire transect. Image and caption credit: Jennifer Fisher.

    It was a joy to spend 10 days at sea with this team of scientists. Insight, collaboration, and innovation are born from interdisciplinary efforts like the NCC cruises. Beyond science, what a privilege it is to be on the ocean with a group of people you can work with and laugh with, from the dock to 200 miles offshore, south to north and back again.

    Dawn Barlow on the flying bridge of NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, heading out to sea with the Newport bridge in the background. Photo: Anna Bolm.


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