By His Command


ff_adam_icon.gif ff_asi_icon.gif ff_delia_icon.gif ff_huruma_icon.gif ff_lowell_icon.gif ff_noah_icon.gif ff_ryans_icon.gif wf_squeaks_icon4.gif

Scene Title By His Command
Synopsis The Sentinel arrives in the Pelago.
Date December 21, 2019

There’s a soft, wet gurgle in the dark.

Slouching down in the noisy gloom of gray metal corridors, a lone man is dragged off into the lightless space between huge, loudly humming engines. No one heard his scream, no one saw his killer. The gloved grasp around his mouth were a precaution taken by a practiced hand. The knife cleaned off on his body done with a fluid motion. The bright red blood frothing out of multiple lung punctures drizzles across the floor until the figure is wholly out of sight. Not even the tips of his boots poke out from the nook the soon-to-be corpse was pulled into.

Then, a black-clad figure steps out from between the engines, the overhead lights reflecting off of the blood-spattered lenses of horn rimmed glasses. The knife is slid slowly back into its sheath at his chest, and he turns toward the engines, retrieving a compact green-gray block of putty from his belt, affixing it to the side of the whirring machine. Dark brows furrow, and slowly two metal prongs and a plastic cap are slid into the brick of clay.

By his command,” the man in the horn-rimmed glasses intones…

…his work complete.

Thirty Minutes Earlier

The Cerberus
The Pelago Waterways
December 21st
6:16 pm

“No, I said fuck you. Do I need to repeat myself? Oh! Look, I already d— ”

Captain Ricky Daselles finds himself ejected from the docked Cerberus by way of a swift punch to the face. Blood running down his nose and mouth, Tricky Ricky is hauled arm in arm by crew members to the gangplank and hurled down it onto the dock. Standing some twenty feet away, Adam Monroe just hangs his head and pinches the bridge of his nose with his forefingers and thumb.

“Alright,” Adam tries to rein back in order. “Does anyone have a serious objection to our plan?”

The sun is setting in the west, though the people on the deck of the Cerberus would be hard-pressed to tell for how dark it already is outside. The skies have been overcast for a few weeks now, and a very light snow is falling from the thickly clouded skies. Gathered on the deck of the Cerberus, a small group of ship captains and volunteers willing to brace the city against the Sentinel have been discussing how best to defend the Pelago from an outside attack.

Ricky Daselles took affront to the idea of using his ship as bait, and he’d swore at the Captain one too many times for the crew’s taste.


Next to Adam, Captain Ryans stands with a bit of a crooked smile of amusement. Hands clasped behind his back and the collar of his heavy long coat turned up against the sea breeze. He could have easily tossed the man off the boat on his own, but there was something about the crew acting before you can. There was no doubt the loyalty of his crew.

It was somewhat satisfying.

Benjamin glances at the other two heads, a brow raised. Huruma will feel a sudden twist of uncertainty before he stops one of his crew, leaning over he whispers orders for the young man to keep an eye on Captain Daselle. He knew too much of the plan and that worried Ben. “Report back if you see anything.” He trusted his men, but others were another thing. This was far too important.

“It’s a solid plan,” the captain of the Cerberus states flatly. “And a damned good one, but only if we have everyone on board.” Pun intended most likely.

Slapping her hands together, Delia wipes the stray bits of Tricky Ricky stench from them. Her sleeves will smell like the man until the next load of laundry goes in a few weeks from now. The onions are always the worst scent to mask and Ricky's always had a strong odor about him. The redhead blames it on the velour.

She watches the rest of the people gathered, before stepping up. "I'll take a boat if there's no one else to do it," the offer is half hearted. The expectation is to die and she would much rather be with her family if when the time came.

A shoe sails over Delia and the other crew members who escorted Tricky Ricky off the boat. And it's headed right for the stinky man.

It came from a position not far away from Adam and Captain Ryans, likely from the skinny kid looking like she might throw its mate next. Squeaks has found herself a perch that puts her almost head and shoulders above the crew, on something that only she would think to stand on because grown-ups are just naturally too big.

The teenager gives Delia a look, curious, when the woman volunteers to take a boat out. But it's only wondering, because she follows that glance with one to Ryans next. She's sure of her part, but knowing how things might change is important.

Huruma is arguably the least perturbed one of the three heads, having been surveying the interaction until Ricky overstepped his boundaries and got a hook from another crewman. She just smiles thinly as he's dragged off, looking to Ryans as he seems to gather it will be worth keeping an eye on the guy anyway. A nod, because of course she agrees.

"I'm not getting that." Huruma asides to Squeaks after her shoe flies, matter-of-fact. She frowns to Delia at the offer, narrowing a look up at the rest. Well?

Following the ejection of the other Captain, Asi releases a slow sigh from where she stands on the deck, slowly turning back to size up Ryans. Whether or not his plan was good, it was bold, and that could stand to make all the difference. She was 'on board' regardless, though she questions the success of that daring plan if other craft weren't.

Dressed against the cold, sword slung over her shoulder, and hands in her pockets, Asi decides rather firmly her place isn't in helping the Cerberus convince the others of the Pelago to join them, only to execute her part that would ensure their success.

“We didn’t need his little dinghy anyway,” Adam says with a roll of his shoulders and a scoff that unfortunately turns into fitful coughing. He grimaces, wiping his mouth with the side of his hand, and notices down the boarding dock that the crew who escorted Ricky off the boat are stopping to talk to someone else. Adam makes an eye over at Ryans, then Huruma, and motions with his chin in that direction.

The two crew members who’d ejected Ricky comes back up, throwing uncertain looks over their shoulders. “Captain!” One calls out, moving ahead while the other hangs back as a stranger in a heavy winter coat and scarf comes up onto the ship. Adam eyes him for a moment, squinting, trying to make out something other than the fisherman’s cap, scarf, glasses and—

Ben.” Adam whispers, too quiet to have been intentional.

“Captain, we’ve got a civilian looking to come aboard. Says he’s a survivor from the Virginia massacre.” The crewman looks back to the tall man who sweeps off his knit cap and lowers his scarf, and Captain Ryans immediately recognizes the face.

Noah Bennet, Department of Evolved Affairs. It’s been years.

The sight of the shoe flying through the air, pulls the Captain’s attention to the teen perched above them. She is rewarded with a smirk from Ryans. “She’s a bit like you were at that age, Delia.” It’s an aside comment really, before he addresses her more directly. “While I appreciate your volunteering, I need you for another—”

Whatever else he was going to say trails off for a moment as he’s called, though Adam speaking his name gets a side-eyed glance. Then he turns a bit to look over at the gangplank and the arrival of…. “Bennet,” he rumbles out with surprise. Despite a dull ache in his back, Ryans straightens a bit more in his place. Hands unfold and fall to his side casually, despite working for the same organization, he is wary of the man in front of him.

After all, Benjamin Ryans had surrounded himself with evolved once deemed too dangerous to be allowed into the world by that very same group. Helped them escape that prison… “A survivor?” A brow ticks up slightly, his smile pleasant if guarded. “How am I not surprised?” That same smile tugs to one side. “Bennet, good to see you survived the Purge. I had no idea you were hanging around in Virginia, might have looked you up when we’ve stopped in for fuel.”

Turning to look at the stranger coming up the gangplank, Asi's hands come from her pockets. A survivor? She studies him as he reveals more of himself, looking him over for injuries. Was he a survivor, or had he run without even fighting? She clears her throat in an attempt to stow too harsh a judgement of that, given her own history, and her arms fold before her.

She doesn't feel they've got time for any pleasantries, even so. Head inclining, Asi asks across the deck, "If you survived, I hope you came with information. What are their number? How many ships and men both?"

“It didn’t have a match anyway,” Squeaks quietly points out to Huruma. Her posture straightens as the new stranger boards the ship. She doesn’t recognize him from anywhere that she remembers immediately, but her eyes flick to nearby crewmembers and then Captain Ryans so she can gauge her own reaction.

Not that it matters a whole lot. The teenager still defaults to suspicion that makes her eyes a little squinty. The remaining shoe is tossed aside, so she can fold her arms over her chest and eyeball the Bennet-person like she might a dark tunnel.

When the stranger appears on the dock, Huruma watches, and the crewmen there with him. It's something that tickles at her head- - there is a familiar sensation in her field of ability, and it carefully touches closer as he boards. It is nigh a moment too soon when she pegs him; just before revealing his face, Huruma's features seem to sharpen, pupils small and the lines of her cheeks and jaw stark in her grit of teeth, curl of lip.

Ryans may decide to play it diplomatically, but not her. Not yet. For her, it's more personal- - and distrustful.

Huruma is silent as she ghosts past her captain, moving forward and coming to an equally abrupt halt in front of Noah. Her long coat flaps its split hems at her knees, and it lends her the aura of one battling against the wind, teeth showing in a thin sliver between lips and brow creased.

She says nothing, the pinpricks of black on white staring through him instead.

Huruma’s presence causes Noah to pause, a flicker of dread slipping past his steel trap of a mind. He looks at Ryans with one slowly rising brow that only continues to rise when he sees Adam. “Given your company I think we both made the right decisions,” Noah says with a hint of self-deprecating humor, glancing at the crewman who brought him aboard.

“Captain,” the crewman, a young ex-marine named Michael Lowell, calls ahead to Ryans. “His story checked out with what Myron was saying the other day,” is as much vetting as anyone is willing to give Noah.

“Twelve ships,” Noah says, stepping ahead of Lowell. “Mostly military vessels, small Coast Guard cutters. Their flagship is the USS Decataur, but you probably already knew that.” Noah offers a look over at Asi. “I was out on a survey boat checking where the Carolinas used to be, came back in the middle of the attack. The Norfolk settlement was already on fire. I saw demolished boats as far as the eye could see…”

Looking back to Ryans, Noah slowly shakes his head. “I sailed north with Captain Myron. There wasn't anything we could do. When I heard you were here I…” Noah’s brows knit together. “I got sentimental.”

How sweet,” Adam snipes, sneering at Noah from a safe distance. “Ben, pitch this sack of shit overboard. We don't have time for his kind.

Noah flicks a look at Adam. “I understand you're upset but this affects all of— ”

I don't think you do,” Adam snaps back, starting to walk forward. “But maybe we lock you in the brig for forty or fifty years and then you can— ” Just when he was about to start shouting, Adam breaks into a violent and fitful cough and claps a hand over his mouth, leaning away from the argument.

“Huruma. Adam. Please.”

This comes from the Captain, the words cool; but not an order. It carries no authority. With only that, Ryans is asking the others to back down. However, his eyes are on Noah, like a hawk eyeing another predator, his face nearly as unreadable as the man in front of him. “As you can see. While we know each other, my crew on the other hand…” Fingers scratch at the shadow of a beard as he looks between the two heads. “…trust is a fragile concept in this new world. Especially, when it comes to someone…” he out at the crew and then lets loose a soft chuckle, “Well, someone not like us,” his hand spread out to include his crew as he says that, his stance clear. He does have non-evolved on his crew, but each has had to earn their place and trust.

He makes no comment at being sentimental.

A thin brow tips upward, questioning, hands folding behind his back again, “Do you have more intel than that, Bennet? You’ve always been a man of resources, I can’t imagine you’re not now as well.” A hand moves to motion another crew member forward, “Otherwise, I have the protection of this Pelego to plan.” It’s blunt, but no reason to sugarcoat it. He knows most of the people on his deck, it’s been years since he’s seen Bennet. “And no time to do it in.”

There's a lot to take in from the exchange, very little of it to do with the attack on Virginia. The fold of Asi's arms tighten, her gaze lingering on Adam like it might help her gear the rest of what he had meant to say. 40 or 50 years?

It was safe to say she was among the party that didn't trust the newcomer, hackles silently raised as she turns back toward the man in the horn-rimmed glasses. Outwardly, she presents impressively, waiting to see if Bennett has any additional information.

Delia's been silent until now, hiding amongst the crowd when the newcomer arrived. Adam and Huruma’s reactions to him were enough for her to find herself extremely unwelcoming of the man. When Adam’s spasmastic fists of coughing begin, she races up with a frown on her face. “Captain,” she says, not Dad, “maybe he should wait below if there’s nothing of value he can offer.” Somewhere not in the planning room because strangers, especially strangers that cause the first and second mate this much grief, shouldn’t be privy.

After her piece is said, she leans down to offer Adam a cloth to cough into and murmurs something close to his ear. Those closest can pick out the word coffee.

“I'm sorry Ben,” Noah says with a slow lowering of his hands, “That's all I saw. But they— they razed the entire city, scattered it into the ocean. I could see the fire for miles.” Offering a nervous look to Adam and Huruma, Noah shakes his head slowly. “Look, I didn't come here to offer you a magic wand or… an easy solution. But they're only a couple days out at best.”

Shaking his head, Noah looks around at the crew. “The least I can do is help try and defend this place. Or… help you make a retreat if it turns out we won't be able to help the people here. Whatever you think I could do to be of service,” Noah says with a look to Delia, then back to Ryans. “I should at least try.”

How noble,” Adam sneers, eliciting a momentarily apologetic look from Bennett.

“Captain,” Lowell chimes in. “Delia might be right, sort of,” he seems reluctant to agree with. “We could use all the hands we can get, I'm sure there's something we could find for him to do.”

The initial reply of Bennet and the snide comments from Adam happen around Huruma in a cloud. Ben's words of calm warning at least have her staying her hands from wrapping them around Noah's neck. She remains where she stands, distrustful, a physical barrier to the man in the horn-rimmed glasses.

She feels around in his head like an octopus with a jar, squeezing her unseen limbs in under that flicker of dread.

"Where was this noble, compassionate, sympathetic man before?" When she finally speaks, Huruma's tone is a rasping growl of words, enunciation drawn out in a sneer. "If I were the Captain, I would be oh so happy to string you out as a figurehead for my boat."

"But I am not, so count your blessings, slime." Huruma's features grit in a show of teeth, nostrils flaring before she angles away, circling back to Ryans' side. He has heard her opinion, but it is not her who decides.

There is a flicker of something unreadable as Captain Ryans listens to the others and for a long moment he’s quiet. Huruma, of course, and feel the myriad of emotions that come from trying to make a hard decision. This wasn’t a light decision to make. There was not just the safety of his crew, but also of Noah’s. Huruma was only voicing what the others may be feeling.

After a moment Ryans sighs out heavily through his nose. He glances first to Adam and then to Huruma. Brows furrow and each is given an apologetic look. “Lowell is right. We need everyone we can get.”

Finally, the Captain takes the few steps he needs to closed the distance between him and his former colleague. His voice pitches lower, much like a growling dog inserting it’s dominance to one he sees as a threat. “I know the type of man you are, Bennet, and you know the type I am. So you’ll know I am serious, when I say….” He leans a little closer. “If for even one moment, I think you are a threat to my crew I will snap your neck so fast, that you won’t know what fucking hit you.” Ryans was ever loyal to the people loyal to him.

Taking a step back, he motions forward the crew member he stopped before. “You will be taken to a bunk where you can rest and will have eyes on you at all times. What you will be doing, I will decide on and let you know.” The slow smile he offers Noah is without humor. He’d rather throw the man off the boat; but Ryans also knew that in a time like this, you keep your friends close, but your potential enemies closer.

So that would be that, it seemed. Asi's brow starts to furrow for a moment before her expression smooths as she looks out over the rest of the ship. They were all in a tight, dangerous spot. One man could make a difference, but one man could also damn them. Sometimes, you weren't afforded the luxury of turning a hand down… as much as it sounds like many would like to.

Herself included, based on Huruma and Adam's reaction to Bennet's presence, if she was being honest. Instead, she unfolds her arms and steps out toward the new face. "Welcome to the Pelago," she greets coolly, in what she figures to be a friendly gesture. It's accompanied with a thin smile for effect. "I hope you're ready to defend it from harm."

There’s so many different opinions about the survivor that’s come on board. Squeaks’ eyes flick from Delia and Lowell to Adam and Huruma. She’s naturally more ready to be suspicious of strangers, extra hands needed or not. But when the captain’s stance becomes clear, she huffs a breath. One hand grabs hold of something — probably as meant to be climbed upon as the thing she’s standing on — but sets her attention on the man in the glasses.

With two fingers the young teen points at her own eyes. Then she points those fingers at Bennet. She’s going to be watching, for sure. And she’s small enough that she can slip through most places without being noticed. Her second hand grabs onto another makeshift hand hold, and she lowers herself down onto the deck.

She all but disappears amongst her crewmembers, head and shoulders shorter than everyone and skinny besides. But Squeaks threads and sneaks her way through them with ease. Sure and quick feet carry her to another, better point of seeing above those all those heads and shoulders. The best place for watching, just forward of the gangplank and higher than before.

“Of course,” is Noah’s smooth and steady response to Captain Ryans, only fleetingly looking over at Huruma afterward to ensure that she's not sharpening any knives immediately. As Noah agrees to the Captain’s stipulations, his posture slacks some and he looks at Ryans with a furrowed brow. Then, over to the other crew members his expression sags just a little. It's clear that he's experiencing some uneasiness, and Huruma feels that tremor of nervousness as palpably as she feels her own anger.

“Come on,” Lowell indicates as he grabs Noah by the arm, “I'll show you to the guest suite.” As he pulls him forward, he continues with the tongue-in-cheek welcoming. “The continental breakfast is served at sunrise, turndown is at 8, and room service is twenty-four hours.”

Noah closes his eyes in response to the sass and draws in a slow, sharp breath and exhales a heavy sigh through his nose. “It's not too late to turn back, Ben.” Noah offers quietly as he passes the Captain. Adam disagrees.

“We've made our choices,” Adam insists, brows furrowed and frown deeply creased across his mouth. “I made the mistake of being on the wrong side of history once. I won't make the same mistake twice.”

Of course,” Noah says with a slow raise of both hands and a relent from his pursuit of Benjamin’s ironclad certainty. Instead, he's seen to the stairs to the belowdecks by Lowell, leaving the remainder of the crew up above.

“Captain, do you want—” Whatever the midshipmen that came with Lowell were going to ask is drowned out by a cry from up on the second deck.

Captain! Captain! Stern side, fires!” The cry is called down from spotters higher up on the ship, relayed like a game of telephone from ear to ear. But Ryans and the rest of the crew don't need a height advantage to see, now, what the spotters were calling out. Out on the horizon there's fiery glows dancing on the dark, evening waters. With the naked eye it's hard to make out what the fires are, but they look like burning ships. Not wreckage of ships, but seaworthy vessels completely wreathed in flames and carried on the whim of ocean current.

Watching Noah go, Benjamin’s eyes are narrowed in thought. The warning makes him stiffen like a warrior waiting for a blow of a sword; and, Huruma can feel his doubt and uncertainty, under the stoney determination. Maybe he should have sent Noah off the boat.

However, whatever was churning in this man’s mind is interrupted by the watch. Benjamin hurries to edge of the boat. “Well…” He rumbles out softly. “That’s convenient.” Suspicions about Noah mount, a touch of worry sinks in. However, that is brushed aside for the moment. “Monroe. Send out our fastest runners to warn the Pelagos and I need Marlowe here.” He grips his friends shoulder briefly, a moment of contact, a show of comradery.

“No matter what happens here today,” Benjamin speaks up for those close enough to hear, turning to look back at the group. “We will win. History is full of battles that were the spark to a much bigger inferno. Let’s be the spark, ladies and gentlemen… Let’s show those bastards what happens when you push our kind one too many times.” There is a wicked turn to his smile as he turns back to look at the approaching fires. “They will no longer keep us down or make us afraid to be who we are.”

Turning back to those gathered suddenly, Benjamin motions with his hand and shouts for everyone to hear, “Get to work, folks! We’re out of time.” He himself had explosives to make.

However, the Captain takes a moment to grab Huruma’s arm and pulls her close, voice pitched low into a whisper. “I know I don’t have to ask…” but he is. “Watch Adam’s back for me.” His fingers squeeze lightly before releasing her. “And if I go down, please… take him, find Mary, and get my family safe.

Noah's trek down to where he will remain barely gets another look; Huruma does look to Lowell, tipping her head to him as he totes Bennet away. A be careful, if anything.

Cries from up top reach her before the words do, and she follows to the edge of the boat, pale eyes on the horizon. Huruma's features harden some, and she swears that for a moment she can smell the burnt charnel. She frowns as Ben turns to address crewmen, keeping her eyes on the smoke beyond the sea. Listening to him speak behind her, it only says one thing— It's time, then.

Huruma's chin lifts when she turns at his last words of inspiration, watching the crew scatter to stations and purpose. The hand at her arm tugs her back before she gets even half a step, face to face with Ryans when he whispers.

"You are right. You don't have to ask." He doesn't need to ask her to keep tabs on Noah, either. She's doing that on her own. This is her brief preface, followed by a hand on his shoulder, "I will." Huruma pivots partly away, a strained smile lingering for the Captain. "You're all my family too."

The sign of the flaming ships on the horizon is plenty to distract Asi away from Bennet's presence. Irrational though it is, her thoughts turn to the flotilla of ships that sailed for the Stormfront, wondering how they're faring about now. Hopefully, better, than the crew of those ships were.

Ryans' words cause her to turn back, the electric warmth of worry stowed to give a bigger stage to the cold determination that's stoked by hearing his pledge regarding the upcoming encounter. It flares when he orders the ship to return to what they were doing, and she purposefully begins making her way to the bridge. There were still exercises Asi wanted to put herself through to prepare for the fight, to commit patterns to memory and stretch her legs, so to speak. It had been a long time since she'd last used her ability extensively, after all.

Tipping her head back, Squeaks first looks up at the spotters when their calls start traveling down. As her head swivels so she can look in the direction of the fires, she stretches up on tiptoes for an even better look, and cups one hand above her eyes like it might help even more. A sharp needle of fear rests itself for a second in her chest — she’s got friends traveling away from the Pelago and into dangerous waters. But experience reminds her that everyone has their part to play. There can be time to worry about the rest of the Travelers when her job is finished. When the Pelago is safe again.

She turns to find the captain while he’s speaking, and trades her concerns for grit and determination. Just like when facing all those dangers in the Wasteland, it’s time to be focused on the present and get ready.

Jumping from her perch, the teenager weaves her way through the hustle and practiced movement of the experienced crew members. But she moves with a purpose also, the sort that comes from growing up in the middle of a war, from being trained since being little to fight in that war. Squeaks hurries, but with a purpose and knowing what’s expected of her, and not rushed with unnecessary energy. She ducks around some bodies and avoids elbows as her crewmates get to work efficiently, so that she falls in to follow the captain as he finishes speaking with Huruma.

Being in the vicinity, Delia can't help but hear the aside to Huruma. It sets a grim expression on her face, realization of the situation's gravity really sinking in. This isn't just pirates, slavers, starfish, or white whales, it's something she may not walk (or swim) away from.

Without a look, sound, or parting remark, she makes her exit, heading for the command deck.

On the deck of the Cerberus the crew has moved into a frenzy of organized movement. Artillerists scramble below decks, spotters begin climbing up into position atop the cabin, boarding repellers checking their rifles and machetes.

“Ships incoming! Ships incoming!” A spotter atop the old radar array calls down, and soon those burning hulks are coming into clear view. There's a dozen ships, most of them smaller vessels like motorboats, but then mid sized yachts, and one enormous heavy lift barge, all aflame. But it's the screams that set the tone for this display…

It's the screams.

Chained to each burning ship, live prisoners in cages and in some cases lashed to the sides of the ship by ropes, scream for help or simply in abject agony as flames rise up their bodies. The sides of the vessels have been marked in smears of paint: CONFESS and REPENT

The vessels are warnings, mobile pyres upon which the “guilty” are set to burn for their supposed crimes. There were stories of Confessor Crowley, stories of his barbarism and dramatist nature, but nothing prepared the crew of the Cerberus for the notion that all of it was a reality. Not a bit of exaggeration.

Adam stares wide-eyed and slack-jawed at the display as the first of the burning ships begins to pass by. Crew members lower their rifles, spotters lower their binoculars. Adam covers his mouth with one hand and slowly shakes his head in disbelief. “This is worse than a bombardment…” Adam whispers, then hustles to the edge of the ship and looks out to a few other vessels nearby that have begun to break away from where the Cerberus is, turning to flee from the horror set upon the Pelago.


The USS Decataur

Within the dimly lit command center of a Vanguard-refit naval warship, Confessor Martin Crowley stands with hands behind his back, listening to the pop and crack of voices chattering over open radio lines.

«They're burning— oh my god they're burning!»

«Repeat? What's burning? I see fire on the horizon.»

«This is the Divergent Tide, what's going on. We’re two hours out from the Pelago. Someone tell me what's going on?»

«We can't do this. Ryans is insane.»

«Don't you dare! Hold your ground!»

«Oh my god. The screams. Someone— so something!»

“Forward confirms all of the Emissary vessels have reached Manhattan’s ruins, Confessor.” A radio technician says, slowly turning to regard the stone-faced Crowley looming at the back of the room. “Orders?”

Confessor Crowley takes a step forward, brows furrowed and eyes closed, listening to the panic and screams over the radio as he tilts his head to the side, appreciating it all. He raises one hand, slowly, then shakes his head. “Hold…” He's listening for something. “Patience.”


The Cerberus

Below Decks

Clanging footfalls report each step Noah and Lowell take on their way down below. Noah walks in front, hands at his side, Lowell not far on his heels. Once they reach the hallway at the base of the stairs, Noah turns to regards the sign above one closed door. Secure Communications. He looks back to Lowell, languidly.

“Benjamin trusts you.” Noah has a hint of surprise in his voice, and the tone causes Lowell to tense. “How long have you been with him?” The man in the horn-rimmed glasses begins to turn, moving through the open doorway toward the noisy engine room.

“A while,” Lowell says at Noah’s back, brows furrowed. “You worked with him?” He tilts his chin up, incredulous. “How long?”

“A while,” Noah parrots back as he passes through the threshold and looks at the humming engines and the one mechanic on duty, back to the door, hunched over a toolbox selecting a set of equipment for Ryans’ larger plan. Lowell walls beside Noah, then steps in front of him, firing a frustrated look over his shoulder at the older man.

Then, turning to the mechanic Lowell calls out. “Ryans wants you above decks,” and he jerks his thumb over his shoulder. The mechanic stands up, looking at Lowell and nearly ready to move until he sees Noah. Then, he just tenses and furrows his brows.


The Cerberus

Above Deck

Adam, remembering his orders, turns from the railing and the burning ships to one of the midshipmen and claps him on the shoulder. “Take the Runt, get to Lowe, get her here.” The sailor nods sharply, then breaks away to head for the back of the Cerberus where a smaller vessel is docked.

From the bridge, Asi has a clear line of sight to the burning ships and the bodies strung to them, hatred coursing through her. Were it up to her, she would opt for giving them the mercy of a quicker death. It isn't, though she would gladly be the one to bring them in closer for a cleaner shot should the order be given.

The navigator isn't currently at their post, so she's free to run her fingertips along the console of controls by the wheel, stopping short of interfacing fully with the ship as she overhears the radio. Her brow starts to furrow as she hears the other craft cycle between needing a clear update and needing a better backbone. She turns her head to follow the trajectory of the crewmember who'd been closest by the communication station on the bridge as they start to pace at the overlapping calls going out on the open waves.

The Captain stands quietly for a long moment watching the boats, hearing the screams, refusing to take his eyes off of the chaos. Hands clenched tight at his sides, he works in reigning in his emotions. Near him, boxes rattle with his barely contained fury, expressing itself in the only way it can. Thought the rage still burns, Benjamin growls out a soft, “Smart… very smart.”

A crewmember next to him, swallows hard and looks at Ryans with a horrified look. “Captain? Shouldn’t we…”

“No.” Voice tight, filled with heavy guilt and regret; Benjamin condemns those poor souls to a horrible and agonizing death with that one word. He will have nightmares over this decision if he lives past this day. “That’s what they want. They want to demoralize us, divide us, and make us waste ammo.” Which was a precious commodity as it was. A hand scrubs across his mouth as he turns to looking over at the fleeing ships. “Damn the cowards…” He snaps out and turns suddenly to run for the bridge; lightening his step with the use of his own ability.

Ben needed to try and salvage this.

In no time, the Captain of the Cerberus is slamming the door open into the command center, which has a much better view of the chaos. There is a purpose to his stride that takes him to the communications console. Snatching up the mic, he lets that feeling of purpose carry him…

«To all fleeing ships, this is the Cerberus. Return to your posts. I repeat, return to your posts.» Ryans leans on the console, mic held close to his mouth watching the burning boats. «I know you’re frightened, but you’re making a mistake.» He looks over at the others in the room, «This is what they want. To divide and conquer us, before we can do anything. You’re playing right into their hands. Don’t you see? They are scared of us. They know we are stronger if we work together… if we stand as one, but if they scatter us…» Letting go of the mic, Ben look upward, a silent prayer to whoever might be looking down on them. His voice softens, turning matter of fact as he keys up again, «… they will pick us off one at a time.» The cord stretches as he moves over to where he can see the boats working to leave. «Let what’s happening wash over you… and fill you with fury. If we don’t stand united against these assholes, it could be your family burning on those boats next. Stand. Fight. Live.»

It was hard to keep up the appearance of confidence once the mic is off and the radio waves go quiet for a long moment. His hand tightens around the mic in his hand, eyes closing and brow furrowed as he waits, if he can just turn back even one boat… it would be a victory. Even the smallest victory can be the key to winning the war.

“They are probably monitoring the radios…” He finally starts, addressing those on the bridge. “I want communication tight and vague.” Benjamin motions to the flaming boats. “Priority is make sure those don’t run a ground and damage anything.” Angry blue eyes turn to the horizon. “If possible… I want the Confessor brought to me alive,” the Captain growls out. They probably can guess what he plans to do with him, as the old man moves to watch the burning ships.

First looking up at Captain Ben when he stops, then following that gaze to the fiery glow that’s getting closer, Squeaks frowns. She takes a step closer, hands grabbing the rails like she might decide to climb up for a higher perch, but further movement stops her. Her head swivels and she finds the captain running. Her eyes follow — because she wouldn’t be able to keep up running even without the crew hustling around — until the man has disappeared inside the command center.

The teenager turns then, gaze lingering on the approaching, burning ships. Her brows furrow at the screams, but neither sound or sight of it is terribly unfamiliar. The greatest difference is the ships. But after a breath, she turns from that to stay focused. Her attention shifts to Adam and the Huruma. A step takes her toward Adam first, but after a tilt of her head she turns to join Huruma instead. Her eyes wander up to look at the tall woman, implying the intent to follow her in the captain’s absence, then settle on watching the crew at work until the time to move comes.

Huruma can smell the burning flesh on the sea air before the ships even get close enough. She knows the scent well enough by now. One of the other crewmen is divested of his binoculars soon after he tears them away from the distant smoke and fire; Huruma tips them to her face as he turns around to find a place to spit up a wad of bile.

The wash of turmoil in her field that encompasses the boat is just that— a tempest of horror and fear, but also a steel that matches the anger of the captain. This is her territory, and she reads it like a book. The pain of her fellows shows in the crease of her brows and the tightness of her tall frame. "Tuokoe." Huruma pulls the viewfinder away from her eyes, mouth in a severe frown, voice a hushed whisper. "Nakuomba…"

"Are you taking the Runt?" As Ben's voice rumbles out over the command speakers, Huruma turns a look and a vocal question after where Adam has gone, quietly noting her little shadow nearby. "Stay with me if it pleases you." It will keep her focused on one person, at least.

“I’m staying here,” Adam indicates, motioning with his head to the crewman jogging toward the smaller ship, “letting the kids do all the running. Stepping in closer to Huruma, Adam fires a look over at the burning ships, then to the vessels that turned to flee. “This is heads-on-pikes territory…” Adam muses aloud, voice low and brow pinched in a perpetual furrow of worry.

“I don’t much like what comes after that.”


The Cerberus

Below Decks

There’s a soft, wet gurgle in the dark.

Slouching down in the noisy gloom of gray metal corridors, a lone man is dragged off into the lightless space between huge, loudly humming engines. No one heard his scream, no one saw his killer. The gloved grasp around his mouth were a precaution taken by a practiced hand. The knife cleaned off on his body done with a fluid motion. The bright red blood frothing out of multiple lung punctures drizzles across the floor until the figure is wholly out of sight. Not even the tips of his boots poke out from the nook the soon-to-be corpse was pulled into.

Then, a black-clad figure steps out from between the engines, the overhead lights reflecting off of the blood-spattered lenses of horn rimmed glasses. The knife is slid slowly back into its sheath at his chest, and he turns toward the engines, retrieving a compact green-gray block of putty from his belt, affixing it to the side of the whirring machine. Dark brows furrow, and slowly two metal prongs and a plastic cap are slid into the brick of clay.

By his command,” Bennet intones his work complete.

“By his command,” Lowell echoes, snatching a satchel from the floor and a blocky radio detonator as he moves. Bennet turns his attention up to the stairs that lead to the above decks, then walks past them and puts his back to Lowell. Like a shadow he slinks into the dark beside the stairs, then disappears into the radio room.


The Cerberus

Above Deck

“Come on,” Adam motions in the direction of Ryans, unaware that Huruma has just felt a spike of terror and then the static absence of brain death coming from below them. As she feels that pang, Adam notices a subtle change in her expression, but before he can voice his concern, a larger one rears its head.

A thunderous explosion rocks The Cerberus as its port side blows out into the water in long, horizontal lines. Smoke and flames waft up from the rupture, above the water line and not enough to sink the vessel. But the moment the blast rings out the engines die and the vibration in the ship that seemed unnoticeable is suddenly screaming in its silent absence.

There's shouts from below, calls for alarm, confusion.


If it wasn’t for his ability, Benjamin might have found himself on the ground as the command deck rocks. “That son of a— Asi, Delia! Organize crew to get ready to rescue people, also make sure we don’t lose anything.” He looks between them both, “Keep eyes out, for Bennet. All else fails evacuate.” He hurries out to where he can see Huruma and Adam. No doubt they will both come to the same conclusion. “Squeaks!!” He shouts for his youngest, his voice loud over the chaos. He points at his old friend, and orders, “Get Adam safe.”

Then he does something he doesn’t normally do… The Captain doesn’t take the stairs, he drops off the edge and falls to the deck, but doesn’t break anything as he land. It’s almost weightless. “Huruma! With me.. “ He grabs a rifle from the hands of one of his crew and hurries for the billowing smoke and straight towards the danger. Though he is considerate enough to wait for her. When close enough, not only does she feel his rage, Huruma can hear him growl, “I should have killed that son of a bitch…” but how could he know? He looks at the pale eyed woman, “Won’t make that mistake twice.”

If Marlowe Terrell were not already the busiest woman in the Pelago today, she was about to be. "Shit," Asi murmurs, a flare-up of warning lights visually indicating what she'd already heard and felt. "Shit." Out of the desire to not be idle at a time like this, her hands start moving on their own, fire suppression systems flicked on for the engine room, zone by zone, which hopefully trigger on as intended. She steps back as crew more knowledgeable steps forward for the controls, turning belatedly at the sound of her assumed name. A firm nod is given somewhere between the Captain and his daughter, acknowledging them both.

"Bit of a rush job, don't you think?" Asi asks no one in particular, looking from their burning engines to the burning ships out at sea. If it were her, she would have waited for a more advantageous moment to cripple the vessel, but maybe the rat they'd let on board knew something they didn't.

As the explosion causes the Cerberus to pitch, Squeaks grabs hold of the railing. Both arms and even a leg wrap around it and she clings tightly to keep from being tossed overboard or into the midst of the hustling crew. She definitely doesn’t need to find herself underfoot where she’d trip someone or get stepped on. She rides out the rocking that way, letting her feet find the deck as soon as the movement steadies — as much as the sea is steady even in port.

“What — ” She begins to ask, with her eyes darting to crew, then Huruma and Adam. The question doesn’t get a chance to finish formulating, where to start when they all know it’s no good takes too long. And luckily she doesn’t have to finish wondering.

As the captain begins calling down orders, her head swivels and she looks at him. Squeaks raises a hand high overhead when her name is called, more to show where she’s standing. That hand turns to a thumbs up before letting her hand drop again. “We stick together,” she tells Adam, giving him a side-eye kind of look. there’s no suspicion, just curious regard.

"I am familiar." Huruma replies to Adam's mention of the after-pikes with a furrow of her own. She is in familiar space too; maybe that's why they get on even without the shared experiences. She is still looking down to him when she feels it- - dread, fear, panic, pain, and then nothing. Something predatory and prideful wrapping itself around the void left behind. She knows it. Her eyes refocus and her brow creases angrily in the split second leading up to the blast.

Huruma braces herself on the rocking deck with an audible snarl. Single-mindedness takes over, the glaze of a hungry look manifesting in her eyes. Ryans hardly needs to beckon her; she's only a fair stride behind, weapons slung around her waist and coat flaring as she just jumps over the rail in Ben's wake. He'll catch her, of that she clearly has no doubt.

"We shouldn't have made it the first time." Huruma doesn't need to do an 'I told you so'. She won't rub it in more than this. Her voice is a hiss. "I am going to do to him exactly what I said I would." Huruma will not be shy about overtaking the captain on their descent into the ship, her field pulsing outward and reaching a thousand hands out for Bennet— and Lowell, being just as close.

Through the choking smoke and flickering sparks of blown wiring, Benjamin and Huruma hear groans of pain and loud coughing fill the air. Stumbling out of the smoke, an engineer covered in soot and burned across the side of his face collapses to his knees, struggling to breathe from smoke inhalation. A scream erupts somewhere behind him, a muffled gunshot, and then silence.

It doesn't take long to see the damage done by the explosions, C4 Ryans predicts from the shape of the blasts, from the lack of real fires. The smoke is from the engines, not the explosive devices. But something is worrying, the growing silence. Huruma can feel multiple emotional signatures around them; fear, pain, panic.

Lowell bursts out of the radio room, a red bruise on his cheek, gun in one hand. “It's Bennett!” Lowell screams, pointing toward the smoke. “That way!” Huruma gets pants of fear, anxiety, and uneasiness from him. But it's all very calm. Very collected. Practiced.

The Cerberus

Above Deck

Looking down at Squeaks, Adam’s brows furrow and be momentarily seems lost in the girl’s eyes. They hadn't had too much time together, but in this moment of tragic terror, he is momentarily captivated by her. Then, with growing disquiet, he nods. “Very well, my brave knight.” There's a hint of sarcasm in his voice, but only just.

Adam seems intent to head to the command bridge. “There's backup power in the bridge, I need someone who’s good with electronics to help me patch the emergency power over from the radios to the artillery. We can call for help or we can defend ourselves and I'd prefer the latter to the former.”

In the distance, some of the boats that were fleeing are turning around, others have stalled in the water in the aftermath of the explosion on the Cerberus to see if the old ship is crippled or destroyed. No one on deck seems such of which.

Over the side of the ship, the Pup pulls away, motor roaring, as crew depart to find Marlowe. If anyone can repair the damage, it's her.

The longer Asi thinks about it, the more it makes sense that something else is coming. Her eyes dart for the horizon, scanning for any shapes curling into view, even if it's just a mirage in the flames off the ships sending a message. Her brow starts to knit, turning back to Delia. "What if those other ships are also lined with explosives?" Just waiting for other vessels to approach to assist, or waiting until they drift into the Pelago to cause additional mayhem. "Any more losses can't be afforded. Those are dead men as it is, their ships need sunk for our safety." Ryans had ordered them to not lose anything.

Either way, she expects trouble, and the absent hum in her feet from the engines serves as a reminder that they're not fit for much if anything comes for them. They needed power. She stalks the bridge, looking for the right panel for what she's hoping to accomplish. "We can signal intent over the airwaves before firing, but we can't take the chance those things aren't a danger to us."

Determination, even though she’s afraid and anxious, is what meets that look from Adam. It’s not hard to tell that Squeaks has been in this before, maybe not this one fight or any exactly like it, but definitely this kind of fight. The kind of fight for freedom. Her eyes stay on him even after he’s looked away, wondering. “We defend ourselves first,” she decides. It isn’t a hard choice to make, help could be too far away to get there in time to do any good. And it still leaves falling back as an option while still getting the old man to safety if that need comes.

One hand strays to the heavy knife that hangs from the back of her hip, making sure it’s there. Its weight is unfamiliar, just like the small pistol that balances it on her other side, but she’s glad for all the teaching and practice Brian had her and the other Kids do in the Wasteland. Something, maybe the screams of the dying or the explosion on the boat, tells her she’s going to need that training soon.

As Adam begins moving for the command bridge, the young teenager is quick to fall in with him. She hustles alongside him, jogging every third or fourth step to keep up to his longer strides. “It’s just matching wires,” Squeaks thinks out loud. “Reds to reds, black goes to black and don’t mix things up. And I think Asi’s already there. She’s a… I don’t know. She knows machines and electric things.”

The Cerberus

Below Deck

Tugging the sleeve of his coat down his hand, Ryans covers his mouth against the smoke. It’s not particularly effective, but it allows him a little filtered air. When one of his men stumble out of the smoke, his ability keeps the man from falling too hard. However, he can only hope someone grabs the man in passing, because Lowell is suddenly there. He’ll find a rifle pointed at him, even though the smoke stings Ben’s eyes.

Not exactly privy to the information that Huruma is receiving through her ability, the Captain can only trust what he knows of the young man and the work he’s done for them. So her relaxes a little. “What the fuck happened?! How—” Blue eyes catch the red mark on the man’s cheek. Eyes narrow and look past him into the smoke.

Ryans knows better than to just barrel in, it was suicide. Bennet was one of the craftiest bastards he has known.

Looking to the side, it’s hard to know what the old man is doing as he seems to search the smoke filled room… that is until the screeching sound of metal and falling debris fills the hall. This is followed shortly, by a section of hull swinging into the space between them and the direction of Bennett. He wasn’t going in unprepared. A glance goes to Huruma, before the sheet of metal moves forward, ahead of the cautious Captain.

The smoke is thick enough to coat the inside of her mouth and nose; Huruma coughs against the acrid failing of the engines, lowering her head below a belch of sooty air. The crew on this level feels like a fistful of ants whose mound has gotten a kick. Frantically scrabbling for what they can, fear of that giant boot coming down from the sky.

She peers past Ryans at Lowell when he lurches out of the radio room, eyes narrowed back. Fear and the like are there in him, but she knows he isn't a coward, either. He's been here too long to be. Huruma steps back at the groan of metal, keeping the telekine between herself and falling shards of boat.

Huruma steps in beside Ben when he moves the sheet out of their path, and he can see the refocusing of her eyes- - that dilation, contraction, silent search- - he knows to be her 'hounding'. She unsheathes the long knife at her hip, other hand on the butt of her pistol, and slips into the haze.

The smoke in the engine room is thick and choking, roiling in black billowing clouds from the ignited fuel in the engines. Even when the repair work is done, they’re literally burning gasoline right now. If the fires aren’t put out, the ship will blow, and it’s burning through precious reserves. With his metal shield hovering in front of him, Ryans spots a prone figure laying in a heap on the ground in a pool of blood, one of his crew, gutted like a pig.

Before his lips can part to spill expletive, there’s a shadow at his right with gleaming lenses in horn-rimmed frames. Huruma feels him, feels the languid swiftness with which he moves, like a lanky hunting cat. When he moves to blindside Ryans, Huruma is able to pull him back and away, watching as a powerful thrust of a fixed blade knife crosses in front of Ryans’ throat, hooks his dogtags, and cuts them from his neck to clatter to the floor.

Noah Bennet has nothing in his eyes, just a steely deadness of a man who blames people like Benjamin for the death of his wife. Ben knew the resentment had always been there, but this — siding with the Vanguard — it was beyond reproach. Bennett lunges in again, blade clashing with the shield of metal as Ryans is able to bring it around, but the sudden report of a gunshot from behind changes everything.

Huruma feels a sudden pain in her back, lancing and white-hot, then warm and wet. Her legs give out for a moment, causing her to crumple to her knees. Lowell stands just ten feet away, handgun out and eyes equally possessed of a deadness and detachment. “We never had a chance,” Lowell says to Huruma and Ryans, gun trained on the former, and pulls the trigger again.

The Cerberus

Above Deck


Halfway up the stairs to the command room, Adam and Squeak shear gunfire erupt from the stairs to the engine room, two swift pops. His teeth gnash together, hand grips the railing tightly. “Fuck,” he hisses, then hurries up the stairs, breathing becoming shallower and wetter with each step. As he bursts into the command room, Adam waves one hand in Asi’s direction.

“We’re dead in the water,” Adam proclaims, “we need power rerouted from the emergency comms to the forward battery,” and he indicates the massive turret on the front of the ship. “We’ve got to be able to defend ourselves!” But Asi had already come up with half of that plan, though her targets in mind were burning effigies of terror sailing out of control toward the Pelago.

"All ships, this is Asi for the Cerberus. The burning ships are a trap, they cannot be allowed to reach us or the Pelago. Opening fire," is as much warning as she broadcasts before letting the receiver fall from her hand and swing on the cord, refocusing on transferring power once that obligation is complete. The door swinging open earns Adam and the girl behind him only a glance before she looks back down again in the middle of rearranging wiring.

"Yeah, yeah," Asi hisses in the middle of what she's doing, exhaling patiently through her nose as the power flips over. Not entirely, but enough. "I am willing to bet my life there are more explosives… on those ships," Her hand is pressed to the consoles, subprocesses spidering away from her fingers to dance down and up wires until they meet the correct part of the ship's systems. "So don't shoot me for this." As she speaks, the .50 caliber guns mounted on the top deck they occupy swivel, barrels pointed in the direction of the ships. "Fire," she breathes, the intention darting out from her fingertips.

The report of gunfire below has Squeaks pausing to look back, her eyes wide. There shouldn’t be shooting happening on the boat — there also shouldn’t have been an explosion — but it’s the shooting that makes the danger for the Cerberus and the crew all the more real. Her weight eases backward as she weighs on finding the source. Small as she is, she knows she could probably go unnoticed.

Her head swivels back to Adam when he swears, and his sudden boost of energy spurs her own on. She takes the stairs two at a time until she’s caught up again, and even puts a hand on the man’s back to help him up the last couple of steps, so she’s right on his heels when he bursts into the command room.

While Asi begins calling over the radio, the teen quickly joins in the whole rewiring process. Things from one side are spliced and then twisted together with parts from the other side, all while the technopath does her thing, and with a lot of actual running back and forth. Sparks from one connection are met with a yelp and a few colorful words. But the job is completed without significant setbacks.

Stepping back from the work, Squeaks looks out the window as the guns are aimed, then up at Adam in silent question.

The Cerberus

Below Deck

Metal clatters loud in the small confines of the room. The sound caused by their only cover falling away; less out of surprise, but more out of a necessity. It allows Benjamin to shift his attention and be prepared for what happens next; but, it also could be considered a taunt.

Come and get us.

When Lowell fires, the Captain is ready for it. A hand flies out and fist closes, ignoring the ache of arthritis. It’s a tricky use of his ability and there is always a chance that it won’t work. Still he lashes out with it to not stop the projectile. That would take too much effort. Instead, he uses the momentum to deflect it towards Noah. For an old man, there are times that Ben moves as quickly as any of his crew, turning to look at his other opponent. It will be a wild shot, but the next won’t be. Noah suddenly feels the knife in his hand give a sharp twist, in time with the movement of Ryan’s wrist and the knife ripped out of his hands.

The knife doesn’t fly to Ben, instead it flies past him towards Lowell when the old man throws his hand out in the direction of the young man, directing the blade with deadly accuracy. “It’s a shame, Lowell…” Ben looks like a Dad disappointed in a disobedient child. “You were one of my best.”

The lancing of pain at her back only tells her one thing when it comes with the crack of hammer; the shock of a bullet burrowed into her shoulder falters her with an audible hiss through teeth. After a second to survey herself and the bubbling emotions around her, those pale eyes dart up to meet Noah's frame, pupils pinning.

At one knee, a growl moves outward from her with a noiseless push of her ability. The field lashes out with a hundred spiny fingers, digging into Lowell and Bennet talons deep and thrashing them to the core, a ravage of fear and pain and despair. The miasma is unkind, flowing around Ryans as if he were a rock jutting from rapids.

It is the second shot that has her lunging forward, adrenaline whiting over the jagged pain of her wound. Practice makes perfect— the bullet glances past, the knife jerks wide, and Huruma snarls inward for the opening left behind, her blade a sharp tooth seeking something soft.

Noah takes the redirected shot square in the chest, lurching back into the wall but not dropping. There's a black spot middle-right on his chest, the round punched through his jacket but not whatever he was wearing below. He'd come armored, he'd come to fight. He came into Benjamin Ryans’ house with intent to kill.

As Huruma lunges in following the shot, Bennet’s mind is awash with terror and panic pulsing outward from her like a strobe. He fights it, she can feel it, not in that he's denying the feelings but channeling them into rage. Her knife finds purchase in his palm, splitting between ring and middle finger. Bennet grunts, Huruma’s blade pushes his hand into his shoulder and the knife pins it there. Again, no sound, just a sharp whine of breath.

Bennet moves with fluid force, pivoting and rolling as his only good hand grabs Huruma’s arm and the two tall, strong fighters pivot through the hall like dancers in a ballroom. Bennet smashes his forehead against hers, sweeps a kick out at her leg, feels her grip loosen on the knife and sweeps a hand up under her arms, knocking her grip away. He pulls the knife out of his shoulder, spins it around and holds it backwards, then drives it down with as much force as his panic-stricken mind can muster.

But the blade, wavering by Huruma’s face, is blocked by her own powerful grip on Noah’s knife-wielding arm. The two are locked in close combat, close enough to smell each others' breath.

It is not as evenly balanced for Lowell.

He stares down at a knife in his midsection like a bewildered animal. A hiccup of breath comes next, and Lowell staggers to the side, scrambled backwards when the fear hits him, loses his footing and lands on the floor on his back. Four rapid gunshots fire off at Ryans, each one bent away from him and redirected to floor, walls, and ceiling. Ryans, implacable, looks large over Lowell’s prone form.

The Cerberus

Above Deck

More gunshots sounding from below decks make Adam’s expression tense further. His already ashen complexion looks paler, starker, before he jolts to life when the main battery of the ship fires twice.

The roar of the twin cannons firing shakes the ship and reverberates through the glass of the bridge windows. Plumes of white smoke and flames dance in front of the barrels, and it takes two seconds before there's a reaction from the burning ship Asi targeted. But when it's struck, the ship explodes in a massive ball of roaring flames, black smoke, and fiery debris. An explosion far too large for a ship of its size.

She was right. They were weapons.

On confirmation of Asi’s suspicions, Adam looks down to Squeaks and retrieves something from his jacket. A matte, black, fixed-blade knife. He grips it firmly, looks down at her…

…then spins it around and offers it out to her, grip first. Go, the gesture wordlessly offers. Help Ben.

The second series of shots fired somewhere below has Squeaks’ head half turning to look at the door she’d come through just minutes ago. The boom and crash sounds of the cannons reminds her of the ships outside, the ones with the screaming people, and she remains to witness the startlingly bright fireball that used to be the lead ship.

Her eyes dart from the smoldering wreckage to Asi, offering a single, teeny nod to the woman. Following Adam’s movement, she tenses with readiness to move again. A vague wariness creeps into her expression when he first pulls out the knife, but when she lifts her gaze to meet his it’s set with a dauntless cast.

Fingers wrap around the knife’s handle, and she watches him a second longer. He also gets a small, single nod as she lifts the knife from his hand in a tight grip. Then Squeaks whips herself around. The distance to the door is covered in a few quick steps, and she can be seen jumping over the railing before the door closes the door to the command room closes.

There's no pleasure that can be taken in being right, but there is some relief — her assuming the worst of their enemy would save lives instead of being an unneeded waste of resources. Asi is keenly aware of the sounds of gunfire from below as well, but her hands stay steady on the console as the large guns swivel for the next ship, adjusting carefully before they start to whine. When the report of the next volley shakes the glass of the bridge again, she waits for the next explosion patiently, hoping the shots find their mark. She peripherally sees the exchange of the weapon going on near her, turning toward it only after Squeaks has taken off. Her brow furrows in a moment at seeing the child being sent off to intervene in the life or death struggle belowdecks. In another world not ravaged by apocalypse, she wouldn't have allowed it to pass, but here, every fighter was needed, and every hand knew what they signed up for by being here.

Squeaks' departure does leave Adam unattended, however, and Asi remembers how poorly he had been during the confrontation on deck only… could it have really been only minutes ago? She shifts her attention briefly back to the other ships both burning and friendly, waiting to see if any open fire on the remaining vessels. The hope that the other defending ships will take the threat seriously given the explosive reaction her first target had to being shot is strong, but the system she'd been immediately able to pull power from had been communications.

"Adam, is it?" Asi asks before actually looking back at him. Her expression is flat and stern. "Do you actually need minding," Her brow pops up with the query, implying it's not something she thinks needs done, before finishing with, "or can you look after us a moment if something else unexpected happens?" She gestures with one hand to the paneling and wires — the work she's mostly done, but needs to finish — and with her other hand pulls the still-sheathed katana from her body, holding it out in his direction. The man was one of the three heads of the Cerberus; she trusts he'll know what to do with it.

The Cerberus

Below Deck

Benjamin Ryans stands over the fallen man, staring down at him from up high. When the boat is rocked by the explosion of one of the burning ships, there is a snarl from the big man. There is a flicker of a glance at the hull, before he shouts, “I suggest,” Lowell suddenly feels the gun in his hand yanked with force from his hand into the Captains, it isn’t turned towards him however… no need… “that you tell me what other surprises are awaiting us.”

Lowell can feel pressure where the knife sits sunk into his chest. The feel of muscle giving under the blade as it slowly twists. Just enough to send searing pain through the younger man.

“To think, I believed your sob story and let you on my crew.” The Captain didn’t take well to these sorts of betrayals. “Were you a plant for them all this time?” The ship was a family and he was serious about the safety of his family. At the moment, Ryans was restraining himself. Huruma would be the only one that would know the fury boiling under that calm exterior.

Moving with a natural grace, Huruma matches Bennet step for step and strike for strike; as she catches the downward arc of her own knife in his hand, her teeth show in a feral shine, then a smile as her nose rankles below pale eyes. He can hear the seething anger in her breath and see it in the single-minded face of a predator smelling blood in the water.

The rage that Noah forms from the flood of fear and panic shifts and tilts sideways. His head does a loop from the inside. Fear is replaced with a twist of softness, the lightning of negativity replaced with a swarm of butterflies coalescing into devotion. The drop in him is cloying in its sweetness and heavy in its pull of his emotions; the empath seeks to make him a thrall, associating idolatry with her presence with a crushing weight.

For all that she flips it like a light switch, the change washes over him like spilled paint.

Her grip on his knife hand tightens, and she steps to angle a leg forward, ankle behind ankle before she pulls him inward as hard as she can muster. The other leg comes up in a burst of speed to deliver a hard knee to his gut. Rule #1, don't get close to her when she's angry. You wouldn't like her when she's angry.

Unfortunately, Noah drew the shortest straw in the history of straws, and Huruma intends to bring him him to his knees.

Bennet collapses onto his knees exactly as planned, and as he drops his knife Huruma is fast enough to snatch it from the air. He exhales all of his breath in one blast, crumpling to the floor, his arms struggling to keep his body up. The fatigue of fighting has simply become too much for him. He gasps, loud and desperate breaths, trying to force his arms to move, force his body to fight.

Across the hall, Lowell exhales a breath of his own with a blast of blood spattering on his lips. Droplets of it spot on Ryans’ cheeks. There’s a moment where Lowell starts to collapse, but holds his footing. The scream that comes next from the twist of the knife rings through the smoke-filled hall. Lowell struggles, gasping wetly for breath. “People like us,” he says through blood-pinked teeth, “are going to destroy the world.” Conviction, fanatical conviction, until the very end. He affords Ryans with no real answer to his question, just that blind conviction in his ideals.

Behind Ryans, Bennet collapses onto one elbow, briefly occluding where one hand is. He recovers something from his jacket without Huruma noticing, fights against her psychic onslaught with a desperate will. She catches the barrel of a small revolver a split second too late as it aims up at her from the ground. “You should’ve killed me when y— ”

Running steps turn into quieter but still hurried ones when Squeaks gets below deck. It’s possible that even running steps might be might be missed, but no one wants to take that chance. The knife is shifted from its forward grip, to a reverse one with the blade running parallel to her arm, as she hustles down the hallway. The smoke and shadows are used to her advantage, darting from one space to another for concealment, using places most of the rest of the crew couldn’t use while she follows the sounds of fighting.

It isn’t long before she finds them, just in time to watch Bennet collapse. She presses herself against the wall, eyes darting up to Huruma then angling to catch a glimpse of Ryans’ back. Then back again to the man on the floor. She sees him move for his jacket and tenses, her heart pounds and the grip on the knife tightens. As he starts to speak, starts to move again, so does she.

Children often leap on the back of an unsuspecting taller person in play, and any other time her movement might be perceived as such. Squeaks jumps to throw all her weight onto Bennet’s back, to sit on him the way a smaller kid would a grown-up while declaring, Giddy-up! Those words don’t follow, but that knife does. With gravity pulling her down, she drives that knife down also. Both hands shove the blade, trying to sink it into the soft spot where the neck meets the shoulder.

With the knife curled down in her grip, Huruma stands over Noah with a sneer and a shine of her eyes; the fight that he puts up is slapped down again and again from the inside out, the woman whose feet he's crumpled at lording over him.

Her anger is so intensely focused that when she notices the tiny cannonmouth she answers with a snarl, for his words and his audacity- -

Huruma's intent also allows her to miss the skittering little mind darting closer in the confusion; the knife in her hand is tightened around as Squeaks comes leaping down onto Bennet's back. It is time enough to spur Huruma into movement, a boot throwing out to stomp down on Noah's gun-hand, heel grinding against pistol and flesh into the floor. Her hand moves out to grab him by the forehead and push back, knife seeking to help the teenage girl finish the job, point to his jugular.

“Only idiots like you are going to destroy it,” Ryans growls out, yanking the knife from the dead body. There is no one at home to hear him, the last of the man’s life gone from his eyes. For a long moment, Lowell’s lifeless form hangs in the air, before the Captain’s ability cuts out and it collapses in a boneless heap at the man’s feet. “But not if I can help it.”

The flat of the blade is run along his pant leg to clean it, while Ryans stares down emotionless at the body. Only one left…

As soon as he turns, Ryans is just in time to see little Squeaks drive down the knife. There is a twist of regret that the world requires that of a mere child. However, that same act, seals her place on the crew.

A look at the corpse at his feet, Ben bends down and fishes around the collar of the deadman until he finds the medallion there. A symbol of the hounds, only a few had earned them. Those most trusted… it pained him that he had been so blind to Lowell’s true nature. Freed of the collar he looks at the silvery surface, drawing a thumb across it leaving a smear of blood. It was a rough symbol of the three headed hound of Hades etched on it.

With a scowl and a hard yank the necklace is removed. Then standing, Ryans turns back to the pair and the skewered body of Bennet. He gives Huruma a glance to make sure she is okay, before giving Squeaks his full attention. “That was brave… and stupid. Just like the rest of us.” The bloodied necklace is held out to the young girl with a smile, a sad one. The situation wasn’t the happiest one.

His voice rumbles softly, as The Captain of the Cerberus declares, “I think you’ve earned this, little hound.”

She had. The crew of the Cerberus was bound by blood, bound to serve, bound to fight, and here in this moment bound to protect their home.

The blood on the necklace held out by Benjamin Ryans won't be the last blood spilled. Not by adult, not by child.

Because this was just the start.

The Cerberus

Above Deck

Reaching out slowly, Adam takes the sword in hand and nods once. He may be rail thin, may be frail, but he has centuries of experience on each and every person he's ever fought. That's got to be worth something. As he takes the sword and turns, looking out the windows of the bridge to the deck and the smoldering wreckage of a ship sinking into the ocean waters, a sense of dread hangs over him. A sense of familiarity.

“How many wars?” Adam asks the air, but Asi does not hear him, blended with the ship’s systems as she is. From his vantage point, he can see Ryans, Huruma, and the young girl he'd armed coming up from below decks.

“How much blood?” Adam asks.

The sword in his hand feeling heavier than ever.


A World Away

30,000 feet over China

Prime Timeline

Confusion sinks in as Adam sees himself reflected in the aircraft’s window again. The sunny skies high above the clouds glare brightly in his eyes. He turns away from the window, only then realizing he has a drink in his hand, the ice almost entirely melted. Looking up as a flight attendant walks past, Adam says nothing, but quietly focuses his troubled eyes on her, and then back to the window.

The clouds were parting, land finally visible where once there was but ocean.

“Ben…” Adam whispers to himself, brows furrowed.

“I might need to book another flight.”


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