The Prawn Shop

- 3 Months before the Fall of Atlantis -
Fergal scratched absently, chipping away small chunks of cooling magma from his side as he absently paced around the large cave, he had spent decades decorating to perfection. His store and den combined into one luxuriously comfortable home, it was filled with treasures beyond quantifiable measure, bought, traded, or recovered over those decades. Greek antiquities, Egyptian artifacts, lost heirlooms from the 1st Crusades through to the sunken Spanish treasure fleets lost on route back from the West Indies. Fergal was so successful in his field, that he was the only Shark regularly sought out by the Atlantians themselves for trade, valuations, and same day loans when their love of gambling brought them undone.

Stepping to the front of his store, he grabbed the edges of a large round stone neatly blocking entry into his home and with muscles bunching tightly under his biker’s jacket, he rolled it to one side with an audible grunt of exertion. To Fergal’s surprise, if only mild surprise, there were already customers waiting, evidenced by the stationery mechanical Crawler, favoured by the Atlantians, parked to one side and three of the aquatic humanoids waiting with barely concealed impatience for the store to open.

“About time Fergal,” the central of the three Atlantians, and the most foppishly dressed of them as well, spoke with clipped tones. The two Atlantians to either side were typical guards or hired muscle, well-armed with gas powered harpoons and well-trained also. These two remained silent, their weapons held low and non-threateningly as they regarded the large form of Fergal, himself more than capable of blocking the doorway to his shop and home. 

“Good morning to you as well,” Fergal replied in a neutral tone and a broad smile, stepping backward into the store to allow them entry.

Mis-reading Fergal’s response as submissive, the Atlantian nobleman stepped forward with an authoritative gait and entered the store, quickly followed by his two hired thugs who stayed to either side of him. Looking around the store with greedy eyes, the nobleman’s mouth dropped open in awe at the many recognizable treasures and artifacts and his eyes suddenly narrowed. Fergal noted the changing expressions on the nobleman’s face with a soft sigh of expectation and just a little exasperation as he leant casually against one curved and segmented support beam that rose from floor to ceiling, its upper end lost in the gloom and seaweed dangling from the roof of the cave. 

“Well,” the nobleman began, almost salivating with his growing greed. “I had heard of your shop, of course, but this is just something else.”

“Yeah, it’s not too shabby I guess,” Fergal replied with a shrug. “Picked up a few nice pieces over the years.”

Peering into the gloom beyond Fergal with narrowed eyes, the nobleman continued “And, you live here all alone? No family or anything?” he continued speculatively. At this, the two hired thugs cast each other a side eyed glance and shuffled uneasily.

“I’ve always been comfortable with my own company,” Fergal shrugged in response, noting the reactions of the thugs as well.

“Yes, yes, of course,” the nobleman agreed, barely registering the responses from Fergal. “Such a lovely place you have too. Be an awful shame if something…. were to happen to it and all these wonderful treasures.”

Becoming bored with the routine, Fergal stepped away from the curved and segmented support beam and moved to the centre of the cave, coincidentally giving him much more room to move.

“Listen pal, let’s skip all the silliness and just tell me what you came for? Buy, sell, trade or loan?”

“I don’t think you should take that sort of tone with me Fergal,” the nobleman responded haughtily, lifting his nose in the water as he spoke with his eyes flashing dangerously at some perceived slight. “I have a mind to teach you a lesson for such impertinence.”  Both guards, blinked slowly in resignation and hefted their weapons into a ready position.

“Ok then,” Fergal signed, “Last chance,” as he slowly stretched his neck to one side. “Get back to the business at hand, or I’m going to rip the arms off these two,” he gestured to the two hired thugs casually.

“And, then I’m going to beat you to death with the soggy end of those arms and leave the scraps for Snippy to enjoy.”“And, just who is Snippy?” the Nobleman asked with a frown, his certainty that Fergal was alone becoming shaken at his casual and very confident statement.

It was at that point, that the support beam and five others like it quivered and shook slightly and a gigantic crab’s head descended from the obscured roof of the cave, to peer with beady eyes at the three Atlantians. Pointing causally at the massive Japanese Spider Crab looming above them all, Fergal simply replied with a word, “Snippy”.

Both Atlantian guards slowly and deliberately lowered their weapons as the nobleman paled and raised his empty hands defensively before him.

“Right you are, Fergal. Right you are,” he nodded, carefully bringing a large shoulder bag around from behind his back and opening it with steady movements that he hoped would be deemed non-aggressive by the looming crab. “Here,” he pulled out a curious apparatus and handed it forward to Fergal slowly. “I’m looking to sell this.”

Taking the item from the now somewhat cowered Atlantian nobleman, Fergal stepped back to his work bench to better examine it, keeping his expression neutral as he did so regardless of his early estimation of the items value.

“So, a sextant, reasonably common enough navigational instrument, popular in the 1700’s and the first recorded description of the concept was found in the writings of one Issac Newton around the late 1600’s,” he described the mostly brass object. “Reasonable condition, by the looks of the telescope and,” he paused tilting it to inspect where the index and horizon mirrors would normally be installed. “Well, both mirrors surprisingly intact as well. Not too bad, I guess. Where did you say you found this?”

“I don’t believe I did say, actually,” the nobleman answered shrewdly. “And, yes, it is in very good shape, almost impossibly so given it’s estimated 400 odd years of age,” he continued. “Worth a small fortune, to say the least. It even bears the mark of it’s owner, or maker, or some such,” he offered hopefully. “Just near the bottom.”

Fergal frowned and shook his head at the nobleman’s expectations of value, trying to dismiss any attempts at inflating the price as he turned his attention to the small inscription at the base of the sextant, muttering to himself as he did so. “An ‘N’ is an odd mark for a maker or an owner he mused,” more to himself then the nobleman as something about the mark triggered a vague recollection for Fergal. Picking up a small cloth, he gently cleaned away some accumulated grime around the single letter, before the cloth floated gently through the water, dropped, and forgotten as Fergal stared in wide-eyed wonder at the inscription revealed by his cleaning.

“Mobilis in Mobili,” he read it quietly to himself in awe. “Moving within a moving element,” he translated the Latin phrase, swallowing hard and glad that the item partially obscured his facial reaction from the Nobleman. A few moments of stunned silence passed before Fergal lowered the Sextant and asked, “Right, it’s in good enough condition as I said, and bares some obscure mark, so how much you want for it?”

The nobleman frowned and tried to read Fergal’s face, but the Loan Shark was too experienced and too skilled at this game after all these years, that despite his inner excitement and wonder, nothing was given away externally to his customer. 

“Five thousand Spanish doubloons,” The Atlantian nobleman started the negotiation at ten times what a pristine specimen of such an artifact would normally fetch.

“Five hundred,” Fergal countered instantly, without batting an eye.

“Two thousand, and not a doubloon less!” the nobleman growled in frustration.

“Done!” Fergal nodded once and turned back to his work bench to retrieve a strongbox.

“Err... done,” the nobleman muttered in confusion, blinking quickly as he tried to work out what had just happened, too suspicious to be excited about the windfall. 

Counting out the coins, Fergal dropped them into a pouch and handed them over, guiding the three Atlantians to the door with the bulk of his impressive body. On the other side of the entrance stone, a dark shape moved slightly as the three Atlantians emerged and slowly began making their way back to the mechanical Crawler. 

“That’s the fastest you have ever closed a deal,” came a whispered voice from the shadows of the entrance stone. “That must be one hell of a Sextant.”

Without taking his eyes off the Atlantians, Fergal responded in a low voice to the Goblin Shark lurking in the shadows, unsurprised by his presence. “My dear Spoiler, the single capital letter ‘N’ under the umbrella of that particular Latin phrase is the emblem of the legendary Captain Nemo himself.”

Spoiler Shark’s eyes widened in surprise as he too turned to watch the Atlantians board their craft and close the Perspex canopy firmly. “Could they have found the resting place of the lost Nautilus?” he asked, referencing the fabled submarine of the eccentric inventor and explorer.

“I have no idea, but I hope they don’t try anything with that contraption of theirs,” his voice trailed off as he heard Spoiler Shark’s soft chuckle.

“When I overheard the conversation in your store, I may have taken the liberty of depositing a dozen hagfish inside the cabin of that Crawler,” he admitted gleefully, referencing the mucus-like slime producing sea creature that releases just a spoonful of slime when threatened or agitated that expands with half a second to 10,000 times it’s volume in a mass of weblike stringy mucus.

“Well,” Fergal began, “I hope the vibrations of the mechanical crawler don’t frighten…” his voice trailed away as the transparent canopy of the crawler became instantly opaque as the cabin filled with a mass of stringy, sticky mucus-like slime with a dull, wet, explosion.
Fergal and Spoiler Shark just looked at each other in stunned amazement for several heartbeats before bursting out in laughter as they swam casually back into Fergal’s Prawn Shop.