"Bad Travelling"

For thousands of years, humans have told stories of sea monsters: Jörmungand, Cthulhu, Kraken, Leviathan, Scylla and Charybdis, and the Sirens. They ignite our fantasies, filling us with adventure and dread. They are the stuff of myths, legends, and in some cases, versions of realities. If you are a maritime sort, you know these stories, and chances are superstitious about them.


What about sea monsters on a different planet?

 

"Bad Travelling"

Love Death + Robots: Season 3, Episode 2

Available on Netflix


"Bad Travelling" is a sea monster Love Death + Robots short that not only tells of a ship and its crew being attacked by a monster from the deep, but it also explores the morality of the people forced to make a terrible choice.


Our story begins when a sailing ship carrying a cargo of Jable Sharks is attacked by a Thanopod, which is essentially a giant, ravenous crab. Launching itself onto the ship, it cuts through a portion of the crew, killing and consuming them, until it breaks into the ship's hold. After the crew has settled down from the attack, they draw straws to see who the unfortunate soul will go down to the hold to see what is happening. The loser of the straw pull is the ship's second in command, a man named Torrin.


As Torrin enters the hold, he comes face to face with the Thanopod. Using the upper torso of one of the dead crew as a puppet, the Thanopod speaks to Torrin. It wants passage to an island called Phaiden, or it will kill and eat the surviving crew. Not having much of a choice, Torrin strikes an agreement with the Thanopod that it will help it reach Phaiden island under the condition the Thanopod will not attack or harm him. The Thanopod agrees, even vomiting up the key to the Captain's quarters which it had swallowed when eating the ship's captain during the initial attack. As Torrin leaves, the Thanopod tells Torrin that it will be hungry again soon and wants meat.


Torrin returns to the remaining crew and delivers the message. Before the crew can ponder the ramifications of the demand, Torrin breaks towards the Captain's quarters and successfully retrieves the captain's pistol. Now armed, Torrin's first order of business is to give the Thanopod a meal, thus buying them time. After the initial attack, Torrin sacrifices the crew member who tried to depose Torrin. With the lead mutineer dead and eaten, Torrin now has control of the crew.


The first order of business is that the crew decides whether to go to Phaiden Island as the Thanopod demands or risk their deaths by tricking the Thanopod and delivering it to a deserted island away. After the vote is done, Torrin counts the votes. Before he shares the results, Torrin tells them he has marked each vote so that he knows how each person has voted. He then informs them that the vote was split, so he executes two crew members who he alleges voted to take the Thanopod to Phaiden Island and feed their bodies to the Thanopod. By doing so, he firmly entrenches the belief the crew is now in favor of saving Phaiden Island, and he has bought the crew time to execute a diversion by feeding the Thannopod. He then sets out to plan a different destination and sail there.


During the voyage, we discover why the Thanopod wants to go to Phaiden Island: it has hatched several young Thanopods! We also watch as the crew attempts another mutiny against Torrin. Once again, Torrin supresses this mutiny, allowing him to feed the Thanopod and its hatchlings. Later, we hear from Torrin right before he kills the last of his fellow shipmates that he was the only crew member that voted against taking the Thanopod to Phaiden Island. Torrin curses them all as cowards since he chose the greater good while his crewmates chose self-preservation. These choices are core to the story: moral judgments and the justification of one's actions for those judgments.


With the crew now dead, Torrin confronts the Thanopod. A fight breaks out between the two, leading Torrin to set the ship ablaze, igniting the hold loaded with Jable Shark oil. Torrin manages to escape as the Thanopod and its young are consumed by the fire as the ship explodes. Having survived the ordeal, we see Torrin rowing to nearby Phaiden Island.


"Bad Travelling" steps into the past to tell a tale of morality and the justifications we make for the actions we commit. Torrin executes his crew mates and feeds them to the Thanopod and its young, allowing him time to plan and execute a diversion but at what cost? Is Torrin moral for murdering a few to save hundreds or even thousands? Would you sacrifice yourself to certain death to save the lives of others, or would self-preservation kick in? It falls back to the question of which is more important - the needs of the few, or one in Torrin's care, or the needs of the many? Do we look at Torrin as a hero, a villain, or perhaps as something in-between? These are the questions "Bad Travelling" asks us. These are the decisions Torrin not only made but has to live with for the remainder of his life.


Warp 9 on the SciFi drive!

 

The Story Behind "Bad Travelling"

Space Pirates: Full-Throttle Space Tales #1 edited by David Summers, written by Neal Asher

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