Fish Stocks Limited HTML version

Quantum Fishics; strange, extremely logical ideas which, like a drug, promised
mystical insights but left their user with a memory of excitement and a headache. The
thought also occurred to Stan, who knew it already. Fishmael, when this idea of the
nobility of uncertainty oozed into his consciousness, recognised it as what it was – an
attack on his ideals – and spat noisily over the side of the boat before taking his pipe
out of his pocket and chemically cleaning the inside of his head with it.
Chapter 25 – A Sea of Mist
Just before the Smug came up, Fishmael retreated below to his cabin, like a snail
illuminated with that star's salt, retreating back into its shell, and locked the door,
having left orders for the navigation of the ship with Jer ry, who manned the helm, and
orders for Mungo to stay aloft in the crow's nest on the look our for anything pale and
fish- like, be it tail- fin or dorsal. The course, which had meandered under Fishmael's
erratic influence at night, was now set straight for the day, away from the City, away
from the happy entrapment of culture and uncouthness, wealth and poverty. When one
considers the vastness of the foggy deep that covers Expiscor, and the relatively small
hemisphere of visibility from the topmast, it might seem that the mission our
protagonists now found themselves upon was stamped with futility from its
conception. Think, however, of how often we embark on such missions. How many
romances start not only by a chance meeting, but then by further happy coincidences,
such as the sharing of an interest, the reciprocal appreciation of each other's unique
beauty, the mundane practicalities of geography and working hours that allow for
regular meetings and so on. How many battles have been won by a lone pigeon
carrying a scrap of paper thousands of miles to a pigeon loft a few square metres
across to call for reinforcements? In our immune systems, how many times have
antibodies been raised to multifarious pathogens, saving our lives time after time?
Indeed, what fortuitous circumstances allowed for a ball of rock to be situated the
right distance from a star, with the right chemical composition and the right
environmental conditions for life to arise and be sustained until creatures of any level
of intelligence arose in the first place?
Miracles are so commonplace as to be ignored by most people. If we stopped and
stared at everything miraculous we would simply get nothing done. If we were at all
capable of appreciating miracles, we would spend at least a decade contemplating the
incredible chemical processes which convert those most basic elements, light and air,
into two pieces of carbon-based, conveniently combustible wood, without ever having
time to rub the two things together and start a fire to stop ourselves freezing to death.
Nonchalance is an evolutionarily acquired characteristic, if you nonchalantly believe
in such things.
All this considered, then, we must accept the impossible probability of this
unlikely band of mariners actually finding their fish. It is the way of things that
sometimes being so hell-bent on some end or other is in fact sufficient to guarantee
success. The shelf upon which the trees of the Hundred Boughs and the buildings of
the City rest is a large mesa of roughly one- hundred kilometres square, the flat table-
top of which is just twenty metres or so below the mist. The sides of the mesa drop
precipitously once one passes over the edge, until the mistbed is one-thousand, ten-