Tano The Slayer
“You're destined for great things, Tano. Remember that,” his mother cooed softly to him.
“I'm not. I'm just strange. Who ever heard of a blue fish? Every fish is brown. Even you're brown,”
“You're unique,” his mother insisted, but Tano simply scoffed.
Every night this conversation took place until Tano grew from fry to adult, even as he avoided all the other fish as much as was possible. They didn't like him, he knew. What his mother called 'uniqueness' they called 'strangeness'.
While alone one day, just as the edges of the lake were beginning to freeze over, Tano set to explore some rocky ruins that he had discovered days before, but had not yet been able to get to. It only took moments for him to find his way through a niche in the rocks and get inside to explore.
The tunnels inside were dark and thin, but Tano wasn't a particularly large fish and easily made it through. The tunnel abruptly opened up to a large chamber with a gaping hole near the roof. In from that hole, rays of sunlight filtered in showing just how much sand and debris was in the usually clear water.
At the bottom of the chamber was the source of the disruption. A creature Tano had never seen before was struggling in the sand. It looked rather like it couldn't breathe and it flailed wildly. One side of it was covered in a wound that was bleeding rapidly, filling the surrounding water with blood. Beside the creature was a small bundle wrapped in a bag made of a foreign material.
“Excuse me,” Tano called out to the creature. It paused in its struggling and stared at him with wide eyes. Then, it opened its mouth and let out a garbled phrase that Tano could barely understand. “Important...take... Basta...” It pushed the bundle toward Tano weakly.
“Basta?” Tano repeated, staring at both the creature and its foreign object.
Before Tano's eyes, the creature fell limp to the sand and went still.
Warily, Tano looked down at the bundle. Carefully, he swept aside the wrappings of the bundle to see that in it was contained a sort of box. Studying it, he could see no clear way to open it.
With a last glance at the stranger, Tano scooped the bundle up into his mouth and carried it up and out of the chamber into the sunlight above. Up here, he was very near the surface of the water. He had, like all other fish, been forbidden from going near the surface, but he felt this situation demanded some lenience on the rules. He had to find out where that creature had come from.
Taking a deep breath, Tano swam upward and dipped his head out of the water and into the air above. The cold air stung his scales and he felt distinctly itchy at the lack of water surrounding him. Then, he took a good look around.
He noticed at once that the world was so much bigger than just this lake they lived in. Huge objects that he couldn't name were everywhere. Everything was foreign and new to him. It was with amazement that he gazed upon everything, taking it in.
Near the edge of the lake, Tano paused as he spotted some movement. A large gray creature, many times the size of him, was lapping up water in a way that Tano had never seen.
“Hey! Hey, you!” Tano shouted, his voice muffled through the bundle in his mouth.
The creature looked up, but couldn't seem to spot him. It ducked back down to continue drinking.
Frantically, Tano dipped back down under the surface and swam as fast as he could toward the edge of the lake. When he was only a short distance from the edge - another place they had been forbidden to ever go - he rose up again. The creature was not far from him now, and his rising above the surface caught its attention. It stared at him hungrily.
“Wait!” Tano cried out.
The creature paused, but didn't reply.
“Do you know what a basta is?”
“A basta?” the creature finally spoke. Its voice was far different from any fish Tano had heard, and also far different from the creature that Tano had received the bundle from. Tano could see many teeth in its mouth.
“I'm supposed to give this to it, whatever it is,” Tano explained, showing the creature the bundle in his mouth.
“Hold on, I'll ask,” the creature told him, then let out a loud bay, startling Tano. Moments later, another creature, very similar to the first appeared at his side. Then, a third appeared, except this one was much larger.
“Machee, what are you getting up to now?” the largest creature asked.
“Nothing, Ma. This fish just wants to know what a 'basta' is,” the creature, Machee, told her and Tano suddenly realized that he was young and this must be a mother and sibling.
The adult started at the word. Her eyes landed on Tano and she leaned down very close to him. “Where did you hear that name?”
“I was told by some other creature, who gave me this to take to Basta,” Tano told her.
The adult creature again started at the sight of his bundle. Carefully, she scooped it out of the water with her paw, and put it on dry land. She sniffed at it, then pawed at it.
“I don't know what this is, young fish, but it must be important if it needs to be taken to Basta,” she told him.
“Can you take it to him?” Tano asked. He really just wanted to get back to his home right now.
“Oh no, I couldn't. I can, however, take you to take it to him. It's not too far from here, less than a day's travel,”
Tano protested immediately. “But I can't leave this lake! I'm only a fish,”
“A fish destined for greater things than I,” the creature told him. “Wait here, I shall return.”
Tano was reluctant, but he stayed there as the adult creature left. The two young ones waited there with him.
“I'm Machee. This is my sister, Bealeva. My ma's name is Parsha,” the first creature introduced.
“I'm Tano. But what are you?”
“Don't you know? We're wolves,”
Machee sounded amused at his ignorance and Tano felt a stab of ignorance. He ducked back below the surface to restore his oxygen supply and also to leave the sight of the wolves, who were both watching him with curiosity.
Parsha returned then, carrying a small spherical container, again made of of material Tano had never seen before. She dipped it into the lake, filling it with water.
“Climb in,” Parsha requested, holding the opening so it was facing him.
Tano paused, looking back out over the lake that he was about to leave behind. He wasn't entirely sure that he would ever return. His thoughts turned to the time spent growing up here and he grimaced. He wouldn't miss it much, and he was sure his mother would understand.
Reassured, Tano swam into the container and stiffened as it was drawn out of the water. The water inside sloshed and he winced as he neared the edge. Carefully, he settled himself near the bottom of the container and hoped the ride wouldn't be too bumpy.
There was a splash, then the wrapped bundle landed at his side. With that, the trip began.
Tano was beyond bored by the time that Parsha lowered the container to the ground and told him that they had arrived. He heard her speaking to other creatures, though he couldn't see who from the depths of this container, then he was lifted up again and they continued moving.
It didn't take nearly as long for him to be lowered to the ground again this time. Parsha leaned over the container to speak to him.
“We're going to put you in a clear bowl, to make it easier on all of us,” she told him.
Tano didn't reply. He didn't have much say in the matter, whether he wanted it to happen or not.
Without more warning that just her words, his container was tipped and he was plunged into a larger container. This one had much more water in it, and some plants, which were swaying with the current that came from one corner.
His bundle had been separated from him and set just outside the clear surface of the container. Outside, Tano could see Parsha standing with another wolf. They were in some sort of inclosed shelter.
“Tano, this is Basta, the Great Wolf King,” Parsha introduced.
“Um, hi,” Tano greeted.
Parsha winced and Basta looked amused. After a moment, Basta spoke. “Great Tano, you have done us a great deed,”
Tano didn't reply, absorbing Basta's words.
“Do you know anything at all of the object you brought us?” Basta asked.
“I don't understand anything,” Tano admitted.
Basta dipped his head. “I suspected not. Let me bring you up to speed. Parsha, if you will,”
Parsha lowered herself in a respectful bow to Basta for just a moment, then exited the area. Basta waited until he was sure she was gone until he began speaking again.
“The following conversation is of the utmost confidentiality. You must tell no one of what we speak tonight,” Basta paused, looking tired. “Now, tell me how this object came to be in your possession.”
“Some creature landed in the lake where I live. He told me to give the object to you and then died,” Tano told him shortly.
“Was that creature a bird?” Basta asked.
“I don't know, but he couldn't breathe, and was hurt really bad,”
“He must have been attacked,” commented Basta pensively.
“Why? What is that?” Tano looked down at the object which sat so innocently in front of the tank.
“That, Tano, is potentially the object that could save the world, or the object that could destroy the world, depending on whose hands it is in,”
“And you're the one who'll save the world with it, right?” Tano asked nervously.
Basta laughed. “But of course. Now, Tano, what do you know of life outside the lake you called home?”
“Nothing. A fish's life is simple,”
“I can see that. You must be told, then, of the circumstances. There are many different animals in the world today, and we don't get along very well at all. After a great tragedy, and the extinction of an important species, the animals decided that they needed a council in order to keep from totally obliterating any more species. Thus, this place was created. It is an old abandoned human habitation,”
“Yet another species. They can't communicate with us, however, and we don't even try to work with them anymore. They are complex creatures and not to be messed with unless it is a matter of life and death. Either way, we have taken their old habitation for our own. Here resides an elected animal of all those who can be here. I am the leader of all wolves, or the spokesman, more,”
“How come there isn't a fish here, besides me?” Tano asked, indignant.
“There is. In some places, the communication is still bad, such as the lake you came from. Most lakes, and the creatures in them, are unaware of the goings on of the above world. We let them be as they are, living their simple lives,”
“Then why isn't he telling me all this instead of you?”
“I wasn't busy. He has much to plan for, at the moment.
“Anyway, that object in front of you, like I mentioned before, is the only thing that can save this world. There is a threat coming that is beyond our control. It comes from the world that is beyond ours, up where the stars shine,”
Tano didn't know what stars were, but Basta's voice sounded ominous enough that he knew whatever was coming had to be bad.
“The humans are oblivious of it, they can't sense it, but our crow soldiers can. One of our soldiers, the bird that gave you that object, was returning it from the hands of our enemies, the rebels who disagree with our animal council. By this point, though, it is too late to simple use the object to shoot the monster coming out of the sky. Now, we have to send someone up with the object in order to direct it properly so it doesn't destroy the Earth,”
“I'll do it,” Tano offered, before he really comprehended what he was offering. His mother had always told him he was destined for great things.
Basta looked startled. “We couldn't ask you to-”
“No, I want to,” Tano insisted firmly. “I don't have any other use in this world. I'm just a fish, after all.”
Basta hesitated a long moment, then nodded tightly. “I'll inform the others of your offer, Tano. If they agree to it, you'll be sent out as soon as possible, before the monster comes any closer,”
Tano didn't reply and Basta nodded once again and left the room. Tano was alone for but a moment before Parsha entered, looking concerned.
“Tano, what happened?” she asked.
Tano didn't answer her, too deep in thought to attempt to explain why he had just done what he did.
“Tano, the Great Fish King wishes to see you,” Parsha informed Tano, padding into the room where his tank was kept.
“He wants to see me?” Tano questioned in surprise.
“He requested you by name but wouldn't tell me why,” Parsha explained. She dipped her container into his tank and filled it with water, then paused to allow him to swim into it as well. He did so.
Tano settled at the bottom again to wait out the trip, but it wasn't nearly as long as he was expecting and he being poured into another tank very similar to his own.
In the tank, he found another fish, about twice his size, which was a bright shade of green.
“You are Tano?” the fish asked.
“Yes,” Tano replied, relieved to be in the presence of someone he could relate to even the slightest bit.
“And you've volunteered to take the bomb into the Great Beyond to destroy the monster?”
The fish considered him for a long moment, then commented.”Then you are very foolish, but I commend you for your bravery,”
Tano wasn't sure how to reply to that so he stayed silent.
“Are you aware that this is a suicide mission?”
Tano paused. He had not. He had simply offered without really thinking. Still, he couldn't back out now.
“I see you didn't. Let me explain exactly what you will be doing. Stealing technology from the humans, we have designed a small ship that will carry you up and into the great beyond. From there, controllers down here will maneuver you through space and right up to the monster. This is the part we have to send someone up there for. The bomb will only detonate under certain circumstances, and those can only be made by someone actually up there, which is where you come in. Because of your proximity to the bomb, you will not be able to escape as it blows up, destroying the monster,”
Tano felt sick at the explanation. The King continued studying him, then finally turned and looked at someone else. A container was lowered into the tank and Tano knew it was for him. He swam into it in a daze and didn't even notice as he was transported back to his own tank.
“This is General Orion. He's a tiger,” Parsha introduced. Tano stared at the striped creature before him, in awe at his size, which was larger than even Basta.
“I'm the one over your mission,” Orion informed Tano. “I'll be the one to make sure everything that can go right, does go right.”
“And what about the things that can't go right?” Tano asked.
Orion paused. “I'll make them as painless as possible,”
It sounded fairly useless to Tano, but he accepted it. He was already in a sealed deal, not able to back out now. He had to go through with it.
“You'll leave in an hour,” Orion told him, then left the room, seeing that Tano had nothing else to say.
Parsha watched him go, then turned back to Tano. “Machee and Bealeva have a surprise for you, Tano,”
“I don't know if I want any more surprises,” Tano protested, feeling wary and just wanting to rest for the next hour.
“You'll like this one,” Parsha promised, then let out a short howl.
Tano watched as Machee and Bealeva entered, carrying a small contained between them. It was filled with water. With some help from Parsha, they dumped the water into his tank. To his surprise, out tumbled none other than his mother.
“Tano!” she cried, swimming over to him hurriedly.
“Mom?” he asked in a choked voice.
“Oh, I was so worried when you disappeared! I thought the other fish had done something to you!” she fret.
“I'm fine,” Tano promised, glancing sideways at Parsha, who watched the scene with sorrow in her eyes. She could relate to Tano's mom, he guessed.
“They told me you have some important quest,” his mom started, looking at him worriedly.
“They wouldn't tell me anything else about it, though. What exactly are you doing?” she asked.
Tano hesitated for a long moment, gathering his thoughts. Finally, he replied. “It's just as you always said, Mom. I am destined for great things. It's time to fulfill that destiny,”
She stared at him in confusion, then, slowly, nodded. “Then I'll support you all the way, Tano,”
“All secure?” Orion's voice crackled over the radio that had been set up in the small pod he was going to the Great Beyond in.
“Yes,” confirmed Tano.
“Lift off in twenty seconds,” Orion informed him.
Tano stayed still, trying to calm himself. He was in a small pod filled with water in the craft they had built with human technology. When it was time, his pod would break open, spilling out the water and he would have just enough time to get to the bomb and explode it before he ran out of oxygen to breathe. It had all been set up so all he had to do was knock it in a certain place and he would activate it.
The countdown began and then there was liftoff. The pod, though stabilized so he wouldn't shake too much, vibrated so much that he felt dizzy.
Minutes later, Orion announced, “And you're in the Great Beyond,”
He traveled on with no word from Orion. The silence was all piercing, as the craft had no motor. Tano swam in small circles around his pod, anxiously awaiting the announcement from Orion that it would be time.
“Tano, it is nearly time,”
Tano braced himself.
Another familiar voice appeared over the radio. It was Parsha. “Good luck, Tano,”
“I always told you that you were destined for greatness, Tano. Now I see I was right,” his mother's voice added. Tano could tell someone had told her he wasn't expected back from the tone of her voice.
Basta got on next. “We'll miss you, Tano. You're far braver than I,”
Orion's voice was soft when he reappeared over the radio. “Ready, Tano?”
“Good. You are in position. I'm opening the pod in three...two...one,”
Tano tensed up, aimed for the bomb, then dived as the pod opened and the water started to spill out.
Only a buzzing filled the radio now - the sign that the other end had been disconnected, or in this case, utterly destroyed.
“Is the monster gone?” Orion asked and the whole room held their breath.
There was a moment, then one of the crow soldiers nodded. “It is gone,”
Orion let out a breath of relief even as Tano's mother let out a cry of mourning.
“Do not weep for Tano,” Basta said softly. “For he has saved the world. He will be hailed as a hero from now on. Generations of animals will remember his name; the name of Tano the Slayer.”