Weapon put down his scuba gear on the remains of a park bench and caught his breath for a moment. The sun was setting low over the ocean, right next to the blinking lights of the oil rig, a common sight these days, these obsolete sentinels inhabiting almost every port deep enough to admit their gigantic understructures.
A popular spot with human divers once, Weapon recalled. Famous for its macabre colonies of mutant fish, some shaped like polyurethane straws, others coloured advertising red, or yellow – these ones caught the tourists’ eyes, a generation nostalgic for its own litter, accumulating unnoticed in car parks and laneways, spilling into the sewers and storm drains, clogging canals, pipeways and outfalls.
Not that there’s any need to worry about any of that anymore, so long as the crocs are on-side. Weapon checks his gear methodically. His will be a two hour underwater expedition, featuring a meeting with King Croc, a reef tour (escorted by crocs), decompression at some unspecified depth and finally a stagger back up the glass-ridden beach to this park bench, where he will dump the lot, sit back and roll himself a cigarette or two.
Not many people could say they’ve had any decent sort of experience (let alone success) negotiating with crocs, not in the wild in any case. It seems the secret’s not so much what you look like but how you smell. There’s a specific odour they’ve isolated that stops crocs gouging their prey to small quivering chunks, encouraging them instead to communicate directly with humans, in many languages.
Weapon recalled his first experience of the odour. Its effect is so toxic to humans that they basically wave a sample of it over a batch of disprins, then prescribe them (to croc negotiators anyway) for a period of three years before you’re even allowed anywhere near the scientific farm’s main croc pit, affectionately dubbed “Parliament House”.
Weapon had passed all trials and tests with flying colours. The day he first got inside Parliament the crocs didn’t even know he was there. He cleaned his teeth, drank beer and clowned around on a pontoon for a good hour. Not even a yawn. It was so funny he almost didn’t dare laugh, then he decided to go ahead anyway, letting out a good old-fashioned belly-clutcher. Not so much as a peep from the parliamentarians.
Not so much as a “how about dinner?” from the leader of the opposition there, his face hidden by a strategically-placed rock. And as for the Prime Minister, well butter wouldn’t melt. Smiling for all the world like he was a fruit cake. The King himself emerged finally from his brilliantly disguised croc hole/den and placed his hand on Weapon’s shoulder.
“You,” said KC to Weapon, “are a prince among men. It is a shame that we will have to rip you to shreds, once the effects of the odour have worn off. It would be best to negotiate with me now, while I still find your piquancy alluring, for I am afraid that soon enough I shall not be able to restrain my courtiers, whose stomachs have grown saggy with nothing left to scavenge in this harbour save plastic bags and the oil-saturated bodies of scaldings!”
“Yea,” exclaimed Weapon in Latin. “I think you have the right of it there, my liege. Only problem is, I’ve been taking this stuff for three years now, and the chances of it rubbing off or wearing out or any other such tommy rot, are about as remote as my head from Uranus. So get used to it, Kingo. We’ve got a lot of work to do. I trust I have your backing here? I do have your 100% unqualified support don’t I?”
“Whatever,” the monarch sighed.