Dread & Circuses Jumps The Shark
rating: +40+x

Victor gazed up at the steely blue sky, its subtly unfamiliar hue serving as a grim reminder that he stood on an Earth that was not his own. The cobalt blue sea before him was similarly foreboding, its opaque surface frothing with a quiet anger that did not seem wholly natural. He would have dismissed the feeling of dread as irrational, were it not for the miles of 100 foot-tall sea-wall lining the coast. The great wall was branded over and over again with a blue emblem that could have been mistaken for the SCP Foundation’s logo, were it not for four distinct details; the indentations in the outer circle were pointed instead of squared, each indent was occupied by a shark’s dorsal fin, the three arrows pointed outwards, and they were topped not with arrowheads, but fists. For punching.

“Shark! Punching! Center!” Lolly shouted as she jumped up and down on the docks, punching at the air. “I am going to punch so many freaking sharks!”

“I still don’t fully understand why that’s the most effective means of engagement,” Victor murmured, looking down at his chainmail clad fist.

“Careful; that sounds like something a Selachian sympathizer might say,” Lolly warned in a sing-song voice. “Though honestly, I’d wish they let me use my cartoon mallet. Can you imagine me bopping a Great White and then stars start spinning around its head? And I wish Iris was here. I’d like to see her punch some sharks with that bionic fist of hers.”

“She said she’s not supposed to get it in seawater,” Victor explained. “That, and that she’s objectively too valuable to the company to risk her life for some shark bits.”

“And you’re not?” Lolly asked with a sympathetic frown.

“No,” he exhaled with soft resignation as she patted him on the back.

“Don’t worry, I’ve been here before. All you need to know is that they freaking hate sharks, and you’re either with them or against them. When in doubt, punch a shark out. Also, we’re not supposed to say the word shark, but that’s really hard because everything here’s about sharks.”

“And with good reason,” a scratchy old voice shouted from behind them. “There can be no neutrality in matters of Selachians. Apathy aids only the Selachian.”

The misappropriated quote had come from a white-haired, sun-browned man with a scraggly beard. The beard failed to hide a face covered in a ring of small scars from when a shark had almost bitten his head off thirty years ago. His shark-proof, chainmail suit was adorned with dozens of seashell-shaped insignias and commendations, and his right hand was just a solid metal prosthetic moulded into the shape of a fist.

“Captain Otomo!” Lolly squeed as she threw her arms around him. “Victor, this is Captain Otomo of the SPCS Kurfursten, our contact in this reality. I first met him when I was twelve years old and I wandered into this reality from the Library. I saw the emblems everywhere and I thought the place was crawling with Essie P and I had a freaking panic attack. Otomo - who even though I know seems gruff is really super sweet - ran up and asked what was the matter, and I just begged incoherently not to be locked up, and he asked what the hell I was talking about, and I was like ‘aren’t you the Essie P?’, and he just laughed and said ‘sweetie, we’re the SPC – Shark Punching Center!’ and then he punched a shark right there! Don’t even know where it came from! It is confusing your logos look so similar though.”

“Our logo is based on what a Selachian looks like when it’s heading straight at you underwater,” Otomo told her. “What the hell is the Foundation’s logo supposed to be? Foundation, bah! They waste resources locking up anomalies while their oceans writhe with Selachians, and they think we’re the joke? You’re not Foundation, are you boy?”

“No sir, Victor Chan. I’m with Marshall, Carter, and Dark,” Victor introduced himself as he shook the man’s left hand.

“Except here they’re Marshall, Carter, and Shark,” Lolly corrected. “Which means, wait… is Iris a shark here? That’s so weird to think about.”

“Lolly said that you can acquire a Megalodon for us?” Victor asked.

“Acquire? I can kill it. I don’t take Selachians alive,” Otomo growled through gritted teeth.

“That’s fine. We just want the teeth for trinkets, and Ms. Price thinks Megalodon fin soup will sell well at the Pretty Penny’s in Hong Kong.”

“Well, you’re in luck. It’s their mating season, and we’re likely to find one out by Old Marsh’s Reef looking for some tail,” Otomo nodded. “But be warned, those are shark infested waters. I mean, all water is shark infested, because there’s no such thing as an acceptable number of sharks, so if you insist on accompanying us I can’t guarantee your safety.”

“I’m not planning on going for a swim, sir,” Victor smiled, only for Captain Otomo to glare at him like he was some landlubber who couldn’t tell the difference between a saw shark and a swordfish.

“Do you know how I lost my hand?” Otomo asked, holding the metallic fist up so that he could examine it in detail.

“… I can make an educated guess, sir,” Victor replied.

“That’s right; punching a shark! I wasn’t going for a swim, either. I was on deck and was too damn proud to wear my chainmail gloves. Bare-knuckled Otomo, that’s what they used to call me. Selachians are damn near indestructible, did you know that? They don’t get cancer, they can survive in the crushing abyssal depths indefinitely, and they have enormous livers so you can’t even drink them under the table. Believe me, I’ve tried! Most importantly, you can’t stab or shoot sharks since their denticle micro-plating leaves them invulnerable to everything but blunt force. The face is the most vulnerable place to strike since it’s where their olfactory sacs and gills and electroreceptors are, but it’s also where their damn mouth filled with hundreds of razor-sharp teeth is!”

Otomo paused his rant for a moment to gaze out in tranquil fury at the unforgiving sea before him.

“I had punched hundreds of sharks before that day, never once missed before, but once was all it took! I plunged my fist straight into the maw of the merciless sea dog, and in one bite it was gone down its gullet! They wanted to fix me up with a state of the art, articulate prosthetic, but I told them no! If I was going to replace my hand, I wanted it for one thing and one thing only: punching sharks!”

“A bold choice sir, considering that even a hook would have been more practical,” Victor remarked.

“Good luck punching a shark with a hook,” Otomo shook his head in contempt. “You sure you want to come, boy?”

“I need to confirm that the specimen is authentic,” he nodded.

“Well, do your best not to wind up as chum,” Otomo cautioned, then turned to appraise the Clown. “Lolly, what have you done to your shark suit?”

She had, in fact, used her reality-bending abilities to morph it into a flared mini-dress made of chainmail.

“What? I’m a girly girl. I don’t like wearing pants,” she shrugged nonchalantly.

“Those suits cost twenty thousand dollars a piece,” he said gruffly.

“I’ll fix it before I give it back,” she promised.

Otomo replied with a sceptical groan.

“Enough chit chat. We’ve got sharks to punch,” he announced as he motioned for them to follow him to his ship.

“Lolly, just clarify one thing for me,” Victor whispered quietly as he grabbed her by the shoulder. “Are sharks in this reality really such an enormous threat, or are these people just crazy?”

Lolly’s response of a shrug and a ‘fifty/fifty’ motion of her hand did not set him at ease.

The sharp, storm grey hull of the Kurfursten sliced through the choppy waters at over seventy knots. Captain Otomo stood at the bow, his narrowed gaze fixed on the horizon, looking for any sign of the Megalodon, mightiest of all Selachians.

“This water’s pretty murky,” Victor voiced as he walked up from behind him. “How will we know when we’re close?”

Victor flailed backwards as a Mako shark leapt from the sea, jaws wide to engulf his skull. Otomo punched it back down without even averting his gaze.

“We’re close,” he muttered. “All fists at the ready!”

As Victor scurried for shelter, the corvette’s crew replied with a fanatical ‘aye aye’ and manned the perimeter of the deck, fists clenched and eager to knock out a few pointy teeth.

From every direction, hundreds of dorsal fins breached the surface, all of them speeding with singular purpose towards the SPC vessel.

“Holy Hasselhoff, that’s a lot of sharks!” Lolly cheered, hopping with excitement.

“Fists at the ready, Miss Lollipop,” Otomo ordered.

“Aye Aye Captain!” Lolly saluted, leaving her vulnerable to an attack by a tiger shark. It pinned her to the ground, its weight crushing down on her and its gnashing teeth inches from her face. “Damnit. Surprise cuckoo attack!”

A pair of doors opened in her forehead and a Swiss cuckoo bird wearing a boxing glove popped out and punched the shark, sending it flying back into the ocean.

“How was that, Captain?”

“Lolly, if you’re not going to take this seriously you might as well wait below deck,” he chastised her as he mercilessly pounded a whale shark that was floundering helplessly on the deck.

“Me? You’re the one fighting a shark that doesn’t even have any teeth,” she shot back, threshing a thresher shark as it flew over her.

“Baleen teeth are still teeth!” he claimed, kicking the poor filter feeder off the deck.

“It’s a giant carp, punch a real shark!” she said as she grabbed a saw shark, magically animating its nose into a chainsaw, and used it to bifurcate a Great White.

“I’ve been punching real sharks since before you were born, and that didn’t count either!” he shouted while engaged in fisticuffs with an unusually wakeful sleeper shark.

“All your rules really take the fun out of this, you know?” Grabbing a hammerhead by the tail, she started using it to hammer as many other sharks as she could. “Can I at least hit sharks with other sharks if I don’t morph them?”

A leopard shark had bitten on to Otomo’s metallic fist, but that didn’t stop him from punching a blue shark with it anyways.

“Absolutely,” he smiled.

“Meg ho!” the lookout shouted. All the sharks still in the water made a hasty retreat as a dorsal fin as tall as a man breached the surface, charging for the Kurfursten with the speed and accuracy of a colossal torpedo.

“Brace for impact!” Otomo shouted mere seconds before his ship was rammed, sending everyone flying to one side. They rushed to the opposite edge of the deck to see the hull being crumpled in the jaws of the massive shark.

"Victor! Victor come see this! It's a Megalodon!" Lolly shouted. Victor pushed his way out of a pile of dead and dying sharks and crawled over to the edge of the ship, fumbling with his water-covered glasses.

“Are you satisfied that’s the genuine article, Mr. Chan?” Otomo asked in a cavalier tone that Victor found truly baffling.

“Yes I’m satisfied, it’s the size of a city bus! How are going to kill it before it sinks the ship?” he demanded.

“How do you think?” Otomo replied, holding up his fist. “Fumiko, you’re up!”

A young woman wielding a long Kusari-Fundo, a chain with an iron fist at each end, jumped upon the railing. She spun the flail around and around to build up speed, and then swung it straight at the Megalodon, striking two simultaneous hits to the nose. It immediately released the ship from its grasp, disappearing beneath the surface.

“Is it retreating?” Victor asked. Fumiko shook her head, and a rather obscure Doctor Who quote popped into Victor’s mind.

“What do you call it if you don’t have any feet, and you’re taking a run up?”

The Megalodon breached the water, leaping upwards at dozens of feet per second, its gaping mouth big enough to swallow any of them whole.

For one instant - one shameful, horrible instant that he would keep secret to his watery grave - Otomo was overcome with despair and hopelessness at the sight of such an enormous monster. What could he do, what could anyone do, against such ravenous, insatiable destructive power?

But then his courage returned to him, for the answer was obvious.

Punch it!

A small sonic boom emanated from Otomo’s fist as it broke the sound barrier, glowing white hot from the friction of moving through the air at such unfathomable speeds. The instant the shark was hit, it went tumbling backwards to splash belly-up in the ocean. It did not right itself, for that one blow had liquidated its brain, which was now slowly leaking out of its tiny ears.

Otomo stood stoically upon the deck as his crew cheered fanatically, and blew the smoke off his smouldering fist.

“There’s your Megalodon, Mr. Chan. Ready the sea winch!” he ordered.

“That was awesome!” Lolly cheered, throwing her arms around his tree trunk of a neck. “I’m having the best day. This is so much more fun than last April Fools. That thing is massive! Once it's strung up we all have to take a photo with it, otherwise no will believe such a crazy big fish story.”

“Big fish story?” Otomo asked. She smiled and stretched her arms out twenty feet in each direction.

“Yeah, as in I once caught a fish this big!”

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