Writers can get people into and out of trouble with a handful of eloquent words and some convenient coincidences. It’s no wonder then that we are the first people you turn to for advice on how not to die and stuff. With this in mind, I have decided to take on the heavy burden of writing some guides for that very purpose – to save lives!
Disclaimer: Following these guidelines may result in death.
Next up on the list of things you, the Hero, may get into trouble with is a besieged cruise ship.
Problem: Big ship, big trouble
Goal: To not drown
Description: Water. Pirates (maybe). Sea monster (probably)!
Difficulty: Harder than an iceberg
It was a hard fight, but eventually your captain, Chief, forces you to take a vacation (because you’re American now) after that last case. Your partner got killed, goddamn it! No one wins a fight with the Chief, especially when he’s angry-chewing his cigar, so here you are in the middle of the ocean on the USS Waterboarder (yes, it’s a Navy ship that’s also a cruise liner; don’t overthink it, you’re on vacation), staring in a totally not creepy way at the men and/or women in their swimwear from behind your sunglasses. Sun, sea, relaxation: it’s awful. No one’s shooting at you, there are no cars to chase, no bombs to diffuse, and you feel entirely out of place. But then…disaster! Thank God!
From the bowels of the ocean, slippery, questing tentacles reach up for the ship. Or pirates attack, but that’s boring. Just as you are dozing off, the ship jolts violently and there are screams from all around. The vibration and low, distant grumbling of the engines increase while the speed rapidly drops away. You know something is very wrong, and it’s about damn time.
Note 1: The first thing to do is to heroically leave everyone else to fend for themselves. There are staff aboard to initiate emergency stuff and things, so you can use this time to run back to your cabin and get that gun you sneaked aboard. You could simply have hit a reef, but a Hero knows when things are extra-specially wrong.
Also, put on the Personal Floatation Device – life jacket – found in your cabin, lest you get thrown overboard. Don’t worry, you’ll find a much cooler looking one later on, after having put this one on an attractive member of the opposite sex who’s clearly too dim to find their own.
Note 2: Like all good American detectives who are out of their jurisdiction, you’ll want to shove your badge in as many people’s faces as you can and tell them how important you are. It’s time to start calling the shots, because no one else can. Next stop, then, is ye olde wheelhouse to let the captain know that he needn’t fear, for there is a city-slicker cop aboard. Make sure to grab as many passing crew members as you can to demand they tell you what is going on. You know they don’t know, but it’s for dramatic effect.
Note 3: The captain will either be a calm, posh Englishman who knows nothing and puts etiquette first, or a bald, angry-looking American ex-Navy man who knows everything but will die very soon. Determine which this is and either take charge or politely offer your assistance, respectively (once the captain dies, in the latter case, the rest of the crew who have worked together for years will naturally turn to the complete stranger who knows nothing about ships or the sea to order them about, so don’t worry).
In either case, you will determine that the engines are at full power, yet the ship is going nowhere. Communication has been lost with the engine room, and no one can be spared to go and down and check on them! Thank Poseidon you’re there!
Note 4: Your journey to the engine room will be an enlightening one. You will inevitably enter a deck that is entirely deserted. Eerie. Foreboding. Luggage scattered about the corridors. Cabin doors open and banging. And then…blood. But no bodies. Ragged holes will be punched through the outer walls, lined with slime. You’re going to need a bigger gun. But this is just a set up for later, so no need to worry about being attacked.
Down below, things will be worse. As soon as you reach the bottom of the stair well, ‘splash!‘, the flooding has begun. Either the bilge pumps aren’t working or the water has bypassed them somehow – through holes punched through the steel hull by something slimy, perhaps. Make your way through the dark, hot corridors lit by tension-building red lights in search of the engine room and answers.
Note 5: The first encounter! Your Hero senses will be tingling maddeningly by now, so it will be little surprise when you force open the strangely stiff engine room door and come face to sucker with a bloated, sickly-green tentacle. The engine room people, for that is their subspecies and job, will be dead. All but one. The final one will be pressed into the wall, his face slick with sweat, and staring wide-eyed but silent at the searching tentacle. As it flops and squelches about in search of the snack it knows is still there, make your choice.
Who knows what kind of fumes could be down here – is firing your gun wise? Would it even hurt such a…thing? There will inevitably be a convenient fire axe on the wall nearby, but the tentacle could feel the vibrations of your steps! Take a deep breath, Hero, and make. Your. Choice.
Note 6: You have made the wrong choice. The good news is that it was inevitable this early in the narrative. The bad news is that now the last engine room person is dead. Should you shoot the tentacle, it will screech (which is weird, because it has no mouth) and start searching frantically, causing ERP to panic and try to run. He’ll be crushed and dragged out through the hull.
If you head for the axe, the tentacle will immediately attack you. You’ll run, you’ll dive, you’ll kick, and you’ll eventually get the axe. But upon chopping into the tentacle, it will flail around and crush ERP. The tentacle will withdraw and leave you with your guilt.
Note 7: Now you have a new problem: the ship is beginning to sink. Through the magic of your Hero presence, it is sinking a lot slower than is believable, so that’s good. Depending on the ship’s design, centre of gravity, and where the giant tentacles are, the ship could start listing to one side, or sink aft-first. In this case, it will certainly tip to the side first and then the aft will start to sink. So be prepared to climb your way back to the top deck. Luggage will fall towards you like falling rocks, threatening to knock you down the increasingly steep slope towards the ocean.
After several painful impacts, near-misses, and probably saving a damsel in distress (or whatever the male version of a damsel is if this is the 2010s), you’ll reach fresh air again and discover the lifeboats have been launched. Some will be yanked under the water as they row for safety, and some passengers will be too afraid to get in the boats. You know the only way these people will live to see tomorrow is if the tentacled sea-beast dies.
Miscellaneous: There are a few things to keep in mind as you progress.
- Be on the look out for your love interest
- Keep your eyes open for the twist – did someone summon this monster? Is there a badly-timed terrorist plot aboard too? Are there any Cthulhu worshippers around?
- Make sure you get locked inside a rapidly flooding room at least once, and escape at the last moment (probably thanks to the love interest – if you’re a straight male, make sure to tell her you’d be dead if it weren’t for her; if you’re a straight female, make sure to tell him that you didn’t need his help and you can take care of yourself)
- Put yourself in a situation where you have to dive under flames, swim too far to possibly hold your breath, and only just make it
- Take a phone call at some point from your Chief, checking that your vacation is going well and that you’re relaxing. Tell him it’s boring
Note 8: Now it’s time for the montage and dramatic music. Just imagine it in your mind. Unless the crew tell you about some kind of experimental nuclear/anti-matter warhead aboard, which is perhaps a stretch even by your Hero standards, you’re going to have to improvise. There is bound to be scuba diving equipment on board, and definitely jet skis. Gather some brave crew members – and perhaps that obnoxious out of place tourist will unexpectedly volunteer (probably a Texan in a Hawaiian shirt and Stetson who’s been chewing tobacco and getting in everyone’s way) – and arm them with fire axes and flare guns, and send them off on jet skis.
Your only hope of drawing the beast further out of the water is to anger it. Traversing what remains of the ship by jet ski and chopping at any tentacles you all come across should do the trick. Remember that at this point, you should be shirtless except for some kind of life jacket that looks more like body armour, and your exposed skin should be covered in heroic cuts and scratches, so take care of this while no one is looking.
Note 9: Most of your brave crew will die. The ship will start to sink faster than ever with the sea monster thrashing about in pain and anger. Fires will consume the few dry parts of the ship and ignite the fuel spreading over the water; explosions will shake your bones. A survivor will probably ask if it’s working, and then be swallowed whole by the giant beak of the hideous monster as it violently breaches the surface.
Now you have to stay alive long enough to build the tension. Shoot it with your remaining bullets, ski past and hack it with your axe, barely avoid getting crushed by furious tentacles and, eventually, hurl the axe in slow motion at it’s eye. With the tension built, you can reveal the last jet ski, rigged with oxygen tanks. Open the valves, lock the throttle in full roariness, and release the Kraken killer!
Note 10: You should probably escape at this point. There will be a conveniently straight corridor leading to the outside of the ship and you’ll probably be chased by a tentacle or two, killing the remaining survivors, but that’s fine. Remember to turn and aim your flare gun at the monster’s mouth just before you reach the end. Have your witty one-liner ready.
Now you will erupt from the jagged maw of the sinking ocean liner (in slow motion, obviously) as the monster explodes in far too big an explosion for a few oxygen tanks and a jet ski. -1 Hero point if you look at the explosion.
Congratulations: You have survived the ocean-liner-sinking monster. Tentacles are hurty, but a fire axe is hurtier; you got some engine room people killed, but you saved all the bikini-clad passengers. Now you all just have to row to that conveniently nearby paradise island to await rescue. Luckily, someone brought a volleyball.
Next time on A Writer’s Guide…something without tentacles!