LAGAANA (ANNANCALE VII) – The boating community on the Lagaana Colony is banding together to mount what is being called the largest search and rescue operation in colony history.

Sea-faring vessels of all sorts, assisted by satellite imaging from space, are searching for the crew of The Enchanted, a racing sailboat that set the record for circumnavigating the planet two years ago. Captain Gurashi Bhatt and his three-man crew were attempting to break their own record when they were caught in a sudden hurricane.

Such violent storms are not uncommon on this oceanic world, but it is unusual for them to develop this late in the year or with such rapidity. Bhatt and his crew sailed through a smaller hurricane last year, weathering the storm, but losing a mast and any hope of breaking the record in the process.

“The sea, she is a harsh mistress,” Bhatt said at the time. “But I cannot stay angry with her. She is my true love.”

Bhatt is something of a national hero among the Lagaanans, having won their prestigious regatta, called the “Jahaaz Chalaana,” a record five times prior to his retirement. Bhatt now competes only with himself, setting out each year to break his record.

The area where The Enchanted ran into the storm is isolated, located some 600 nautical miles from the nearest gumbaj, the local name for the colony’s domed underwater cities. Searchers are also working blind, as there have been no transmissions from the crew since they reported encountering extreme wind velocities.

“We hope that they are sailing on course with a damaged transmitter,” said Admiral Hapti Mallikarjun, who overseas maritime rescue operations for the Lagaanan Oceanic Navy. “The ship’s emergency transponder never activated, which would indicate that it is still afloat and in one piece.”

Some veteran sailors are not as optimistic, however. Salimuun Ekachakra, who has fished in the area where The Enchanted was last reported, said the missing crew could have met a harsh demise.

“Those racing boats have to sit shallow in the water,” he said gesturing with his hands. “Bhatt’s boat doesn’t even have a below deck so those poor bastards were up in the wind. If they got blown over, then it would be the bheeshan machhli for sure.”

The bheeshan machhli is a carnivorous fish of Lagaanan legend that is said to grow to lengths of up to 10 meters. Despite its prevalence in local folklore and adamant testimonials from fishermen like Ekachakra, no specimen of bheeshan machhli has ever been captured.

Putting aside sea monster theories as “pure conjecture,” Admiral Mallikarjun is coordinating his own naval vessels as well as thousands of private ships that are converging in the area of the disappearance.

“One way or another, we’ll find them,” he said.