ff_adam_icon.gif ff_asi_icon.gif ff_feng_icon.gif ff_eileen_icon.gif ff_else_icon.gif ff_huruma_icon.gif ff_magnes_icon.gif ff_marlowe_icon.gif ff_martin_icon.gif ff_ryans_icon.gif wf_squeaks_icon4.gif

Scene Title HELLFIRE
Synopsis War comes to the Pelago.
Date December 22, 2019

Sparks shower down from a spot-welder and the noise of a dozen shouting voices fills the air.

The looming concrete tower of Lowes stands in stark contrast to the starry night’s sky behind it. Lights gleam out of the windows, and down at the docks level floodlights illuminate the battered gray hull of the Cerberus, crawling with repair workers putting finishing touches on the hull repairs from their first fateful encounter with the Sentinel.

Standing on an adjacent pier, watching the engineers weld the hull shut, Adam Monroe seems distracted. His eyes are unfocused, watching the reflection of the full moon in the water. Stifling a cough with a closed fist, Adam looks up from his thoughts to the flare and bloom of sparks as they rain down on the water. He watches the way Lowe’s engineers sit on their rope-and-plank benches suspended over the side of the ship like window washers of old.

Fuck,” Adam whispers to himself, turning away from the ship and storming off toward the skyscraper town.


The Pelago

December 22, 2018

8:18 pm

“The inner channel is clear.”

Under the light of several chemical lamps, a handful of ship captains stand around a folding table covered in a patchwork of sea charts indicating a rough estimate of the post-flood coastline of the United States. The stark lighting makes the wrinkles in Magnes Varlane’s face all the more prominent, makes the gray in his hair shine silver. He traces two fingers along the coast between the area on the map marked PELAGO and the jagged coast of the US.

“I went up and down this stretch, no sign of their ships. So if the other captains,” Magnes says with a motion to the radio sitting on the table, currently off and not broadcasting, “have the south and north clear, I mean the only other option is that they’re going to come from the east.” Magnes motions out to the open sea. “Folks say Crowley’s ship is a Destroyer, that’s going to be visible for miles under the right weather conditions.”

Magnes slowly turns to look over at a white-clad blonde woman standing at the edge of the light. The way she cradles a book to her chest like a security blanket is unsettling, and yet, “Else.” Magnes draws her attention away from a distant spot in the room. “What did you say about the weather?”

“Nothing but blue skies…” Else says in a sing-song voice, looking down to the floor. “The rain will put out the fires.” That much has Magnes tensing up and turning his attention over to the crew of the Cerberus — sans Adam — standing around the table.

“The Cerberus is the best ship we have to get close to the Decataur,” Magnes says with a slow shake of his head. “We get close enough, I can get onboard and sink it. I just need it in visual range. If I can see it, I can get to it.”

"I'd say that's suicidal, but…"

It's Magnes, after all.

Asi only shakes her head, arms folded tightly over her chest as she lifts her eyes from the map to observe Magnes directly. She's wearing her wetsuit under her coveralls, fingers drumming along the sleeves of it. "We see them, they're likely to see us. Do we have an idea of what their weaponry is like? I keep hearing big, but not much else."

She looks back toward the others. "Do they potentially have gyorai we need to be worried about? …Missiles, torpedoes?" Her gaze lands on Ryans in particular, wondering about him. He was a powerful telekinetic, but could he divert the course of something like that, if it came down to it?

“If we can keep them distracted, we might be able to sneak the Pup in close,” Ryans speaks up from where he’s standing with arms crossed, with one hand moving to scrub at the stiff hair along his jaw. Worn and exhausted eyes, from a lack of a decent sleep, are on the map in front of him, but he’s not really looking at it, he’s rolling Magnes’ idea over in his head. “If I pilot it, we can get it in with no noise… we still risk being seen, Huruma might be our best bet there. She might be able to soothe any alarm… but this might be the best way to get us in close. Better if we can manage a night strike.”

Blue eyes finally lift to look at Magnes’ “However, we can’t risk burning you out on one ship, even if its an important ship. Between me and the girls we can set up explosives to tear apart the hull. Asi can remotely set them off once we are clear. Maybe we can make a few more to take out some of their other ships if need be.” If they had had time, Ryans would have recommended setting up a minefield.

There is a glance to the others in the room, before Ryans adds in a rumble. “I think taking out the Decatur will do wonders to scatter them and throw them into confusion. Then we can pick them off.”

"Potentially." Huruma stands just out of what light there is coming in, much unlike Else; she lurks at the edge of the maps. Else gets a wary look at 'blue skies' and 'rain', because of course neither of those match. She moves with a more tender step than usual, casting a glance at the door and back to the layout of the Pelago.

"It will be hell if they catch us so close to the ship." The tall woman falls in alongside Ryans, more or less honing in at eye level. She looks as tired as he does. "But if you know you can do it," Huruma lets it hang there, implications of 'I'll do it' plain. She hates the idea, of course, given the circumstance- - yet do they really have another? Her voice settles into a husk made from a growl. "Faith is unpredictable. It may create a crisis. On the other hand… zealots are single-minded. It would be a gamble, at best… " Huruma pauses, pale irises ringed with tired pink. "We may need one monster of a distraction."

Since the start of the meeting, Squeaks had set herself right up in front with a good view of the maps. And she held that spot, wedged between Asi and Captain Ben. She’s been pouring over the rough approximation of islands that’s supposed to be the Pelago, while listening to the grown-ups discussing the possibilities and probabilities. She even sets fingers on the maps a few times and in different places.

“We could take the Cerberus out this way.” The teen’s suggestion comes after one such time that her fingers are touching charts. She traces a short line one direction, then switches to go the opposite. “Or this. Depending on where the Decataur comes from, and draw them away.” Act as bait, she means.

She looks up at Magnes, then swivels to look at Captain Ben. “Be a distraction, but also get them further away from here, at least not facing here. If the Pup is already launched and waiting.” Squeaks taps a finger to point out possible coves among the buildings. “Then when the Decataur gets turned away, you can sneak the Pup in from behind.”

“A diversion might be a good idea,” Magnes agreed, “even if we can't draw the Decataur away I've heard they've got other ships. What bothers me is that they hit the southern Pelagos so easily… I've been down to those settlements, they had fleets, they had folks like us. It doesn't make sense.

Shaking his head, Magnes looks at the sea charts again. “It doesn't matter how many ships the Sentinel have, they should've suffered some losses. They should've been slowed down on their approach by scout ships. Even the… the frigate bombs they sailed into our port… that's not enough to do the damage they supposedly did.”

Else looks away from the maps, clutching the book in her hands to her chest as she looks to the door. There's no one there, and yet her attention hangs on the open doorway.

“I like the idea of using explosives.” Magnes says after a moment of thoughtful silence. “You're right, sinking a big ship would— it really wouldn't be great for me,” Magnes admits with a slow sigh. “God I wish we had the other ships that left, still. We could've asked — ”

Ben!” Adam’s voice carries down the halls along with the clap of boots on concrete. “Ben!” Bursting through the doorway into the meeting, Adam is nearly breathless by the time he comes to a stop, doubled over and coughing, his hands on his knees and complexion ashen. Huruma can feel the bitter sting of fear coming off of him, but also something more sour: anger.

“Ben it's— I figured it out we have to— ” Adam coughs violently, spitting blood up onto the floor. A couple of sailors come to his side, trying to help him to a chair but he pushes them off. “Underwater,” Adam blurts out, “it was a diversion. The Decataur, the burning ships. It's— its like— in the war.” Which war only Benjamin and Huruma know, but the Nazis lost it. “They have a submarine.

Benjamin is poised to speak up again after Magnes has his say, however, this is when Adam bursts through the door. Arms are half uncrossed when he realizes there is no immediate danger. When Adam pushes the others off, the regenerator feels the weight of his body lighten, subtle help that leaves him his dignity and to keep him from falling.

At the news, eyes widen and for the first time Ben feels that first flutter of doubt. A look cuts over to Magnes and then Huruma, before he lets out a rather colorful curse, looking down at the marked out map. “I should have…” Another colorful sailors curse follows. “That’s how they did it, Varlane.” How did he miss that? Submarines were not something he thought survived the end of the world, yet, he was somehow not surprised the Sentinel had them.

“Wolfpacks” Ryans growls out in a deep growl. “Germans used packs of U-boats in surprise attacks while allies were distracted.” Even as he says the word his stomach sinks. At this moment the enemy may very well be poised to strike. “That is why the lanes are fucking clear. We were only looking at the surface. The ships are waiting for the wolfpack to cripple us and then they will come in and finish the job.” His fist punches map in front of him. “Played right into their hands.” They could have been sitting there all this time, sneaking into place while the ships above burned.

Were they too late?

Captain Ryans hoped to hell not and he wouldn't go down without a fight. “We need sonar… something… someone who can look below the surface.” He looks hopefully across at Magnes, since he lived at the Pelagos. It was obvious that Ben was desperately trying to hold on to the threads of his own hope.

A submarine? Asi's concerns about underwater threats manifesting in such a way leaves her with little to do but clench a fist with the hand that isn't already holding onto her arm. "Fucking Sentinel," she breathes out, her murmur much quieter than Ryans' bold, creative cursing. She considers the map for a long moment, inputting when she hears the shift in his voice, "We didn't play entirely into their hands. We didn't let anyone try to save the victims strapped to their greeting ship, or worse, let them sail past us — Two heads of the Cerberus weren't slain by the saboteurs they sent."

"It could be a lot worse," sounds only vaguely optimistic, but Asi lifts her gaze to peer across the table at the young redhaired Pup from another dimension. "Girl, is it too much to hope this is your time to shine?" She remembered the casual shrug, the offhanded explanation provided for the how behind Squeaks knowing what was wrong with the item Asi had held in her hand at the market.

She fixes her attention on the younger girl, holding her with the same regard she would anyone else at the table. If she hadn't believed her to be fully capable before, she did after the explosion. Asi's gaze is sharp, all the better to conceal how she hopes Squeaks' ability might help in some way.

Huruma can feel Adam's boiling-over from a distance, and much like Else she's since turned to look at the door, brow creased. She doesn't have to wait long. With Adam shoving others out of the way of his intended path, they all hear it, 'submarine'. She feels her skin bristle, a crawl down her spine. Ben seems to speak for her, as she takes a pace away from the table, jaw clenched instead of cursing out someone not even here.

Those nearest to her can feel the heat of rage burning around her, carefully pulled in as it keeps unfolding. A loop she won't win, but she can distract herself from it. Huruma moves to Adam to offer him something to hold himself up against, a silent gesture. Her eyes follow Asi, and her words to the small girl. Huruma's eyes hone in on Squeaks.

Squeaks’ head swivels and lifts to look at Adam when he makes a hasty entrance. Her eyebrows bunch a little bit as she tries to make sense of what he’s talking about, and looks are directed at the grown-ups in search for explanation. It’s when the captain declares submarines that she makes an ‘Oh’ with her mouth. Underwater, it makes sense since the whole world is flooded. Probably not very many people think to go down, or look down, when most everybody is using boats that float on the water.

Her attention fixes again on Ryans when he mentions sonar. She even takes a breath to speak up again even when Asi poses the question she was planning to answer before it was asked. A grin spreads, and her excitement is almost tangible.

“I can do that.” It’s directed at the technopath first, then her gaze shifts to include everyone when she repeats it. “I can do that.” Squeaks’ eyes dart from Huruma to Magnes and Else then settle on Captain Ben and Adam. “I did it before underwater, before I joined the crew, and I can do it again. Like how dolphins find things. It’s what I can do.”

“We need t’get to our bloody ships,” Adam is insistent, head shaking rapidly as if in disbelief of the situation. “I’m an idiot for not seeing this coming, for Volken’s people using old Nazi tactics. I’m a literal idiot.”

“We can worry about who’s an idiot and who’s not later,” Magnes says with a shake of his head, looking around at the other ship captains. “We can split up. I can feel mass changes in the water, I’ll get on Ricky’s ship — it’s the fastest one we’ve got — and we can cover more ground. I figure you’re gonna’ take the kid.” Magnes says with a motion of his chin to Squeaks.

The kid.

The surprise on the Captain’s face is out there for everyone to see as he turns to look back at the youngest of his crew. “Squeaks?” he asks, of course, she confirms it almost immediately for him. Huruma can feel that hope blooming again, just a small spark at center mass.

Turning back to the map and Magnes across from him, Ben gives him a firm nod. “Of course, she’s my crew. “ How could there even be a question. In a single moment, she was his… his crew, even as young as she was. The necklace he gave her is proof.

“Alright…” Ben looks over the map and motions to one direction. “Head this way,” his hand then swings the other way, “the Cerberus will go towards the direction the Sentinel sent the ships from. Better if we run into the Decatur than you all.” Ready or not, they were taking his ship, it was after all one of the few warships out there still ‘mostly’ usable. That said, he straightens and twirls his finger above his head to rally his crew there. “Hounds! Time to hunt.”

As his crew move out to prepare the ship to sail, he turns back to Magnes and offers out a calloused hand, “Luck and the wind be with you, Varlane.”

"Mada kimettenai ka?" The voice of Marlowe Terrell interrupts from the main doorway to the meeting in the makeshift war room aka the throne room of Lowe's HQ. She's not late in coming in to the meeting. Rather, given the lives at stake, the head of the Syndicate has been busy with preparations as well. The whole building, the whole Pelago even, notified and bracing for the arrival of enemy forces. Even if she had missed the part about the submarine. An expectant look from the woman lands on each of the faces in the room. "Ah, finally. Looks like you're all ready and spoiling," she comments with a shrug of her jacket off of her shoulders and a lazy toss of it on a nearby railing.

"Anyway, the cannons are locked, loaded and ready. My people are ready too," she says, one half of her lips curling up and dark eyes glimmering in the flood lighting.

"You will have plenty of time to beat yourself up later." Huruma makes a point to grab Adam by the shoulder and make him look her in the eyes, a gauze of calm buffering his panic against the sides of his ribcage.

"Breathe. Please." They need everyone here. She looks after Squeaks, a wry smile crooking over her lips and a hand beckoning the girl along as the captain calls them out to the water.

"Come along, pup, Marlowe has cannons." Huruma somehow manages to make it sound exciting more than terrifying. "We will see what you can do."

"Sorosoro wa," Asi replies lightly to Marlowe's hypothetical, not immediately moving when Ryans calls his men to head out. She continues to stand there with a grin on her face, arms folded, until it hits her. Hounds. She was one of those today, or until the Forthright sailed home.

So, maybe she'd be one for forever.

Her smile wiped clean, she moves to Marlowe's side regardless, explaining it as she understands it. She respects Queen Lowe too much to leave her hanging for any period of time. "They believe Sentinel have submarines, and that's why we have no ships on the horizon yet. Moving out to check for them now. Sonar." Asi reaches out to clasp the other woman at the elbow with a firm nod. "Good to see you," she belatedly greets, feet carrying her after the Cerberus' crew already.

“Primal,” may not be the response that's expected, but it's the one Squeaks gives. Reining in her excitement, she takes in the maps and charts for a full second longer — and maybe she'll have them memorized in that time — before dragging herself away from the table. Her first steps away are the shuffling sort, but then she picks up the pace. After jogging a few steps, and ducking past an elbow or hip, she catches up to Huruma.

The Pelago

Lowe’s, Dockside

“…I can make sure we get a wide-enough search pattern. We’ve got a few smaller ships, useless in a fight but they’re perfect for scouting.” Walking as quickly as he can by Ben’s side, Adam continues to list their options for scanning the water with a makeshift sonar made of a person. Huruma and the others are already ahead of them, abard the Cerberus and making preparations to cast off from Lowe’s. Ben opted to keep at Adam’s slower pace, for the ailing man’s sake.

“I think if we— ” Adam is cut off by the cry of a sea bird on a tall wooden pylon. His attention skips over to it, brows furrowed and lips downturned into a frown. Further down the dock, there’s a slight figure wrapped in a winter shawl against the damp chill in the air. Adam doesn’t recognize her, but Ryans does.

It’s Eileen Ramirez.

When Adam’s thoughts are interrupted, it serves to pull Benjamin’s attention from the weather worn planks of the dock before him, to the slim figure blocking their path. Someone not too much older than his girls, but older than her years suggest. He straightens a little, reminded of her part… a touch surprised she hadn’t already left.

As much as he loathed to think about what she was walking into willingly, Ryans could not deny that she could either turn this thing or offer enough of a distraction to give then an edge in this new war. There was a value to her willing sacrifice. Without looking at Adam, Ben says quietly to him, “Go on ahead. Brief Huruma on what you told me, I’ll be along shortly.” He isn’t sure he wants Adam to know what he is allowing to happen for the sake of survival, but he also isn’t going to stop the old man either.

His suggestion given, Ryans takes a deep breath and closes the distance between him and Eileen. There is a small incline of his head to her, a sign of a respect. “Mrs. Ramirez,” her name rumbles out softly in polite greeting.

There’s an earnestness behind Eileen’s eyes that suggests she’s envisioning a very different outcome than Ryans’ internal monologue seems to suggest. Her expression is soft, serene, without worry — because if there’s anyone who can talk Martin Crowley out of this particular course of action, it his old friend and Kazimir’s surrogate daughter.

“Hello,” she answers him in a clear but quiet voice. Aside from the lean, inky cormorant that heralded her arrival, the Englishwoman is alone, which means that Adam and Ryans are the only ones who know she’s here. There’s no sign of her husband with his broad shoulders and disapproving expression — or her brother, who is at other times like a second, fiercer blue-eyed shadow.

As she crosses, she draws her shawl closer to her petite frame. Although she isn’t shivering, her breath sounds thin and leaves her nose and mouth like wisps of fog on the water.

“I’m sorry I’m late.”

Adam doesn't excuse her tardiness as he comes to a slow stop on the pier. He looks over to Ryans and then back to the young woman, Eileen. He knows of her by name and reputation, but little else. Ryans’ lack of surprise on seeing her doesn't go unnoticed. “What's going on, Ben?”

The inquiry comes with a distrustful look from Adam to Eileen and back to Ryans again. He nearly asks more, but instead stays still and lifts up the collar of his wool coat against the cold, damp air.

The man next to him doesn’t get his answer right away, Captain Ryans attention is on the woman in front of him. “My wife always says that a woman is neither late nor early… she arrives precisely when she needs to.” There is a rueful twist to his smile, mainly because he knows where Mary got the true quote from… but the smile fades quickly.

“This, Adam, is Eileen Ramirez,” a hand gestures to her, his words a touch flat. Ryans looks at the man next to him. “She has connections and is determined to see if she can get them to spare this place.” And in case, Adam needed to know, he adds, “She cared for Delia after she got hurt and we had a nice long conversation about it.”

“Are you still set on doing this?” Ryans asks her quietly. “I’ve seen countless times what they are capable of, they might not be welcoming or as willing to listen as you think. You don’t have to do this.” At least he has some concern for her well-being.

“The Pelago is my home,” Eileen says, “but before that it was with Martin. We both believed in Kazimir’s vision of a better world.”

Believed. Past tense. She reaches up to tuck an errant, flyaway strand of hair behind the porcelain-pale curve of her ear. It’s been fluttering in the wind for longer than she’d like. “The Vanguard succeeded in carrying out his life’s purpose, and so the work is done. To destroy the Pelago is to dishonor the sacrifices Kazimir made, and to undo what he strived so hard for so long to build.”

Something about what Eileen says elicits a sharp look from Adam. He mouths the word Kraut, then looks down at the lapping ocean water beside the dock. It doesn’t take him long to pivot toward Ryans, jaw set and eyes more intense than before. “There’s no ship in the sea that’d take her out to parley with the Sentinel…” He fires a quick look back at the young woman, then back to Ben.

“I can take her out, borrow one of the fiberglass boats that won’t help in the fight.” It’s not something Ryans ever would have suspected Adam to volunteer for. “I knew Volken, Ben.” Then, quieter, “and I know as well as you what his people are capable of. I’m no use to you right now. Not on the Cerberus.” Suddenly, for the first time in a long time, Adam feels as though he has something to offer, something his decaying body can actually be useful for.

Suddenly, this wasn’t as simple for Ryans.

Absolutely not!”

The words are snapped out before he can think about what he is saying, the looser boards of the dock giving a rattle before settling again. For a moment he’s that 16 year old kid in a foreign land, fighting a war he didn’t really understand, being protected by an immortal man. Probably, the only reason he came home alive in the end. Events that stuck with him until that same face stared back at him through the bars of a prison cell. Since then he had protected Adam in turn, trying to find a way to heal him. Ryans swallows past a suddenly lump in his throat.

And now, Adam was asking him to let him go.

“This. is. suicide.” Ben pleas with the ailing man, in a quiet voice that rumble over a tightened throat.


Because Ryans knew he was going to let him. Fingers curl tight at his side as he fights for control on his composure. All warriors deserve a worthy death and after years of watching the lights fade in his best friend’s eyes — “Alright.” he finally says gruffly. — the fire of purpose was clearly there again. “Alright…” Captain Ryans concedes, condemning one of the people he cared about most in this world to death.

Eileen gives the men ample space and time for their goodbyes without surrendering the corner of the dock that she and her cormorant have carved out for themselves.

The seabird lets out a low, throaty croak that sounds like mourning. Although she has a great more deal of confidence in this expedition than either Ryans or Adam, she can certainly empathize. The hand that had fussed with her hair drops to stroke knuckles along the sleek serpentine bend in the cormorant’s neck.

Adam is as silent as Eileen is. His brows tell something of a reaction, creased in worry and raised in sympathy. He reaches out and rests a hand on Ben’s shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Try not to be so fatalistic,” he says with earnestly, gently masked by, “you’re stealing my schtick.” An uneasy smile crosses Adam’s face, and he pats Ryans’ shoulder twice. “This won't be the first time I've escorted a young woman into the proverbial dragon’s mouth. I'll try and make sure it goes better this time around.”

There is no room for heartfelt goodbyes. Adam has lived too long to go through those motions again. He looks in the direction of the Cerberus for a moment, seeing it with Ryans’ eyes and perspective, and then nods solemnly and looks back up to the taller man. “Tell Huruma I'll be back with a bottle of sake,” comes with another smile, and he steps back and away from Ben, over to Eileen’s side. “With any luck you'll get some too.”

But no one can be sure of that.

The Cerberus

Lowe’s Dockside

Commotion has filled the ship. The captain doesn't need to be aboard for the crew to understand what's coming, to have been whipped into action. Engineers from Lowe’s company are breezing past soldiers, carrying satchels of tools over their shoulders as they work to evacuate the ship before it leaves port with them aboard. The welders are the last to go, with the foreman paused on deck to deliver a final repair status to Huruma.

“…and that's best estimate,” he says with a slow shake of his head. “If we had another two or three days we could be sure. It'll hold, but I wouldn't want to hit anything too hard or the whole hull might split in half.”

Over the side of the ship, Captain Ryans can be seen making his approach. Without Adam. His first mate is headed the other way down the docks, with a dark haired woman. Something’s changed.

It's been a long time for such short a span; Huruma helped the repairs where she could, directed who she could, and so on. It's not enough and she knows it, even before the foreman approaches her on the deck near the gangplank.

"You have done your best," Huruma scrapes her tongue against her teeth and runs a palm across her scalp, nails scrubbing at shorn hair. Frustration roils around her. "It will have to do. The luxury of time has been gone for days now…" She dismisses the foreman with a hand to his shoulder and a look down the dock to where she can spot the Captain. "Thank you. I'll explain everything. Get home."

Once she's said this, however, the empath hesitates as Ben gets just close enough to the boat; her seeking look twists in concern before it trails after his wake. Huruma's expression falters, inscrutable.

Since returning to the Cerberus, Squeaks has actually spent more of her time leaning over the bow of the boat than being underfoot. All of her usual questions have been stowed away, the repairs ignored, and even the grown-up members of the crew have been absent of their small shadow. She’s been busy, though, making sounds and listening — seeing — the details that the returning waves bring back.

No one can hear it, and to the casual and uninformed look, she appears to be doing nothing important.

It is important, it’s practice. The pulses of clicks and squeaks she directs down at the water tell her what the ocean floor looks like just below. She’s been testing her range too, and getting a picture of what’s further away. The detail isn’t always so great, and straining to get a better idea sometimes leaves Squeaks rubbing her ears hoping to clear away the residual ringing and sensory overload.

"Eat," some semi-familiar voice by Squeaks' side suggests firmly. Asi lays down a portion of stir fry stabbed with a plastic fork, leaving it balanced on the railing. It had taken some searching to uncover the little Hound's hiding place. "Or don't. I'm sure a gull would appreciate the meal."

For her part, Asi turns back around with her own portion, eating what remains. In another world, it'd be unfathomable for her to eat on the move, but there wasn't a lot of time here — nor people who cared enough to have told her not to. Perhaps if she were on the Forthright it'd be a slightly different story involving the theft of her food, but here, she barely knew the names of the various crewmembers of the Cerberus. Watching the Lowe's repair crew file off, Asi lifts her head in acknowledgement at one of the passing metal manipulators. She calls across the deck to him in Japanese, and he replies back thusly.

He'd come to New York with her when she'd first sailed from Japan, the two of them little more than strangers at first. She'd been wondering how he'd been doing for the last few months. Now she knew.

While the bustle of activities continues and last-minute orders are doled out, Marlowe comes for the Cerberus and crew at a fast stride. The repair crew filing off are thanked individually, hands shook, faces looked at. It could be the last they saw of each other in this lifetime.

Once the others are off the dock, Marlowe waits expectantly looking back down the pier, and then calls the Captain over. “I think I have a few last minute toys to bring on your ship, Captain,” she starts with a thin, toothy grin. “It might at least give a few decent scares to your submarine problem.”

A forklift carrying a cage of tankard-looking objects rolls down the dock toward them, only one pallet’s worth but still it’s something. “Depth charges,” explains Marlowe quietly. “Found ‘em in storage. For you? Free, today. Consider it a thank you for your service.”

While things are noted, such as the shape of the beloved ship, he wasn’t planning to stop. He was looking to escape below and give himself a few moments to compose himself. However, as Captain Ryans is being called upon by the leader of the Pelago, he realizes quickly that it's a futile effort. His progress is halted and the old man turns to look back towards the docks.

It was worth it for the gift he was being given.

“My darling, Lowe,” Benjamin’s mood seeing to improve by leaps and bounds — on the surface at least. There is a smile offered to the younger woman, a hand pressing to his chest. “You certainly know your way into this old man’s heart.” As the forklift comes to a halt, Ben reaches over to touch the woman’s arm in thanks, before approaching the pallet and brush the calloused tips of his fingers against the cool metallic surface. “If only I was thirty years younger and single,” he rumbles out with a chuckle in appreciation of the woman. How many times had he say that to her over the years?

“These will do nicely,” Ben finally confirms, his hand making a lifting motions and it drifts up from the tines of the forks. “Your generosity is appreciated, but the Cerberus has always been in your debt.. Even if we win this, we’ll continue to be in your debt. You may have given us a much needed edge.” Not much of one, but maybe enough that they could live to see another sunrise.

«Cerberus, this is Magnes Varlane on the Trawler.» The voice crackles over all the shipboard and personal radios. «I’ve swept up from what used to be Staten Island all the way to the north shore of Jersey, no sign of the subs so far. I’m going to double back— make sure I didn’t miss anything. Over.»

Waiting just so Marlowe can situate the Captain with his firepower, Huruma only approaches once he has taken the first from its mooring.

"Squeaks is focusing on being able to find readings." is what she gets out before Magnes' voice statics over the radio. Huruma listens closely until it finishes, eyes narrowing. "Might be coming from the east. Circling around. The repairs are done and we'll float fine, but we're weak in the hull." The dark woman will help with the charges if Ryans needs it, but he does well enough on his own. They'll need to arm the charges, though. "The ship… might not make it out. We'll see…"

Huruma's assistance hits a pause, and she moves to say something, though it comes at a stilted tone, and a twist of frustration. She wants to know, but… she doesn't. "…Why isn't he here? With us?" Who was with him?— goes unsaid, but the fierce look Huruma gives him is enough. "Don't tell me he's doing something stupid."

Except he kind of is.

The voice at her shoulder draws a look up, Squeaks’ face is a mask of wonder and exploration. Probably she’d been interrupted mid-sound and hadn’t schooled her face back to normal before responding. Asi’s instruction brings the food to her attention, and she’s quick to answer appropriately.

Her feet touch the deck and her hands scoop up the dish of stir fry. “Thank you,” she’s quick to add as she turns to lean on the railing just like the technopath. Fingers wrap around the fork and the food is stirred a bit before she digs in. With head and shoulders hunching over the dish, fork working without discrimination, the young teen displays a good appetite. It’s all food and food is delicious. And no birds are going to get away with a free meal.

Asi lets out a faint laugh under her breath before taking another bite, gaze roaming rather than watching the smallish girl by her side dig in to the offered food. She'd already seen how voracious Squeaks could be when Silas had cooked out as payment for Miles' fetching hard-to-gather parts.

Her jaw works a little slower for a moment at that thought, eyes drifting toward the sea. Asi's breath slows, a strand of worry beginning to unravel in her before it's quickly twisted taut again.

There's not time for that.

She scoops away the last of her meal, forcing her focus back to the moment. To the deck she stands on, to the crew of the ship she finds herself among. The crackle of radios brings her more properly to her feet, leaning off of the railing. Asi turns, searching for the nearly-familiar figure that Ryans cuts, and waits for him to give the direction to move. It's time they joined the hunt.

A rueful smile curls the edges of Marlowe's mouth, but she waves off Ben Ryans' appreciation with a too-easy rejoinder. "And I'll forever remind you that you're a few years too late, old man." She winks once at him and turns to head down the gangway and off the boat, but turns as soon as she touches back on the pier.

The Queen of Lowe's HQ will see the Cerberus off, but stay behind in defending the hive and the Pelago. Joined by the other civilian militia and crews of Lowe's, the crowds gathering throw up a number of shouts and cheers.
"Be safe!"
"Ey, fuck 'em up good, Cerberus!"

“Weigh anchor!”

The captain’s voice bellows from where he’s settled the crate of charges, with a heavy thump and creak of pallet boards. His voice carries like the throaty roar of a lion on the savannah. The level of energy on the ship explodes as people rush to cast off lines.

“Asi,” Benjamin calls for her as he heads for the control room, “Take us out. You know the heading.” She was at the meeting after all. “Squeaks,” There is a gentle smile to his youngest crew member, slowing to a stop to address her. “You can do this.” There is no asking ‘if’ she can, just the simple confidence that she can. "Huruma will be by your side to help you.” Hopefully, keep the girls nerves down. It was a lot they were asking of someone so young.

All this time, Huruma’s questions have been swept aside for the more pressing issues. Finally, he turns to her, his emotional turmoil boiling under the surface of a calm exterior. The words are soft and rumble low, laced with emotion. “He’s gone to bring some purpose to the end of his life.” Hands grip her arms. “It’s his choice, we… we can’t…” Ben sighs heavily, shaking his head and shifting gears, “The woman he is with is former Vanguard. She feels that her ties to Kazimir could help her negotiate for the safety of the Pelago. Adam feels his own could help too.” He swallows hard against the emotions that again threaten. “It’s his time, Hooms… Let him have this small dignity.” To die on his feet and not rotting in a bed.

Squeaks will absolutely have Huruma at her back; right now, however, her mind is set on waiting for an answer. It's exactly the one she didn't want to hear. She closes her eyes as soon as Ben hits choice, eardrums drowning out the scurry of the boat for a few moments.

Being an empath is a gift, and suffering.

He can't hide from her. She knows he's right.

When Huruma opens her eyes again she allows herself the brimming shine that follows. Nothing falls. Because he is right. She hisses something only she can understand, though Ryans knows it's a curse. Huruma's jaw sets, and her mouth flattens; there is nothing more to be said on the matter.

"Nakupenda sana. Give them hell." Huruma spares just one more moment more to pull their heads together, a gesture he knows, as a spark of emotive contact comes with it. Sadness, but also fortitude, covered in defiance.

The captain only gets one parting look before she is off, tailing after Squeaks.

Some Time Later

The roar of a boat engine cuts across the open water. The Pelago disappeared in the west several minutes ago and only the intermittently visible stars light the way behind patchwork clouds. The small and battered speedboat skims across the surface of the water, ocean spray swirling in the air after each time the prow drops back down to the ocean’s surface. The wind is bitterly cold, this close to Christmas.

“You really think you can talk them down?” At the helm of the speedboat, Adam Monroe is a ghostly sight of sunken cheeks and eyes shadowed by dark circles. It doesn’t take a doctor’s eye to recognize that he’s ill, it’s plain as day even before the fitful coughing starts. Maybe that’s why he agreed to come out here. He knows he’s living on borrowed time.

Eileen doesn’t immediately answer. She’s occupied with removing her shawl from her shoulders so she can wrap it around Adam’s neck and tuck its colourful folds into his coat, forming a barrier between his exposed skin and the cold. It’s a pleasant sensation: the fabric, not her hands, unless he’s really thinking about it (and then they’re remarkably soft too).

He thinks the shawl might be woven from fine threads of alpaca. The design incorporates small but bright jewel-toned birds against a deep, leafy green. A gift from Iago, perhaps.

“You’ll hold onto this for me,” she says instead. “Keep it safe while Martin and I have our little chat.” A smile crinkles the corners of her mouth. “It’s my favourite.”

There's a distant look in Adam’s eyes as he absently reaches up a free hand to feel the soft fabric of the scarf at his throat. Eileen’s only seen that look once before, wistful old eyes like Kazimir’s — ones that had seen something, ones that had felt something — staring longing at visions of the past.

Coming back to the moment, Adam rests both hands back on the helm. “It’ll be returned to you as soon as we disembark,” has a hint of uncertainty to it, as does the downward cast of Adam’s eyes. Up ahead, the swirling fog bank that rests off the east side of the Pelago over what was once Long Island begins to part, revealing more dark ocean and the diminishing light of day.

“How much further?” Adam asks, more of her birds than of the girl herself, if there is such a distinction. But she needn't answer. Not a moment later is there a visible beam of light sweeping through the fog, a ship-mounted lamp cutting a path through the misty gloom. Adam tenses, dials back the throttle and watches as the massive bulk of some great, angular form begins to reveal itself through the fog.

The USS Decatur appears to travel the seas alone, a stark gray silhouette with angular towers and tall antenna arrays. For a warship it doesn't have many guns, just one forward-mounted turret. What it does have in abundance are satellite dishes and other arrays, red lights on the tall antennas blinking in the dark like the many eyes of some storybook monster.

Adam’s grip on the helm tightens, and soon enough the foglamp sweeps down upon their tiny ship. Soon enough, the turret at the price of the Decatur pivots with a hydraulic whirr in the same direction.

Eileen is unruffled.

Kazimir’s true believers come in many different forms and wear many different masks. Hers is serene; she lacks fear, and perhaps sense, but this has been true since he took her under his wing when she was only a few years old. As with fresh clay, she had been soft and malleable, and the intervening time has since fired her like a kiln into something delicate but unyielding.

She is only unafraid because she has known nothing different.

Forseti,” she calls out, voice carried by the wind lifting off the waves.


The Cerberus

“You’ve got ten minutes, then we’re pulling you up.”

At the port side of the Cerberus, crew members are gathered around the small mechanical winch typically used for lowering emergency rafts down off the side of the ship. Instead of survivors, the emergency raft has an entirely different occupant, a young teenage girl in an ill-fitting wetsuit. A respirator mask, goggles, and an oxygen tank sit beside her in the raft. This was the concession for use of her ability, this was the price to be paid.

In order for Squeaks ability to function, she had to be underwater when she made the sounds, so that she could feel the vibrations in the water. The oxygen tank and respirator were for emergencies, she needed silence to do her job, the less distractions and noise the better. This included the Cerberus’ engines. Once the ship cuts power, they’ll search the area in ten-minute bursts, hopefully allowing the crew to find the Sentinel’s submarine before it’s too late.

Ten minutes, no pressure. Squeaks scoots closer to the edge of the raft to look over the side. There’s a lot more water there than there was inside the building she and the other travelers first stayed. Way, way, way more. At least the building had walls to keep things contained. If she’s anxious, she hides it well and gives a thumbs-up way overhead to show she’s heard the rules again.

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” It’s a quiet chant in curiously excited tones. The teen gets up on her knees and leans against the side of the raft. A hand dangles out to touch gloved fingertips to the water. The suit, even for its poor fit, insulates well enough. But it’s still icy cold water, and she murmurs as much.

The air tank is pulled onto her shoulders, but the respirator is left to dangle. If she needs it, she’ll use it. But the bubbles and hiss-huff sound might add extra echoes. The goggles follow next, dragged onto her face and snugged comfortably into place so her eyes can be open. “Ready,” Squeaks calls back to the crew. “Set…” She leans forward, ready to topple into the water.

Up on the boat, where he belongs, Ryans has his own anxiety twisting through his gut as he watches the little girl. It felt like he was asking too much of her. Fingers drum on the railing a sign of his anxiety for those that know him well enough.

Blue eyes shift from the girl below to the ocean beyond, somewhere out there was the other source of the Captain’s anxiety. It chewed at him, but there was no way to make Adam come back. His course was set now.

Attention dropping to Squeaks as she begins her first dive, hands gripping the side of the ship tightly… trying to keep an eye on her to see her so he can yank her out if need be.

Huruma said she would be there, and she is. Albeit, in the raft where Squeaks is going to descend from. She wordlessly helps the entire way, and then while the girl puts on her last pieces of equipment. Squeaks doesn't need to hear any words of wisdom right now, though Huruma does briefly set a hand to her shoulder, empathic field pulsing outward in a press of courage. She can do it.

When the teenager preps and dives in, Huruma tilts over the edge of the raft to be certain of her drop distance. She turns a look upwards to the boat, gesturing an 'ok' towards Captain Ryans. Now to wait and see.

After the signal is given, Asi removes herself from leaning against the rail with Ryans. She stands in the chill garbed in nothing but a wetsuit, goggles set over her hairline. A tank of her own is set between their feet, ready for use if needed. Whether that be Squeaks needing assistance, or…

Well, or something else.

“This waiting is worst,” she asides to Ryans. If she weren't needing to be right where she was, it would turn her into a pacing demon roaming the decks.

Squeaks’ world is thrown into darkness as she descends down into the freezing cold Atlantic. With the dense cloud cover overhead, little light breaks through the surface. She can hear — feel — the Cerberus at her side, feel the presence of the raft too. She can’t tell where anything is above the surface, it’s an impermeable membrane separating the world of the land from the world of the ocean for her. But down here she can feel the way even her subconscious clicks carry through the waves.

Scissoring her legs, Squeaks descends into the deeper, darker reaches of the water to get away from the Cerberus. Even as its engines cut out, even as the ocean becomes hauntingly quiet, there is still a static of background noise; sea life, waves crashing against the foundations of Pelago structures, the movement of everyone on board the Cerberus making small vibrations in the ship.

Small vibrations in the ship.

Squeaks’ eyes widen when she realizes she can feel that, feel the sounds of everything moving. None of it is close, none of it is within her line of sight. Deep below the water, when she emits a purposeful sonic click, the sound reaches further than she has ever felt a sound extend since she manifested. The ocean carries her sonic ping and returns with so much sensory information, it feels like finally opening her eyes after having them halfway closed her whole life. She can feel the Cerberus, its hull, the raft, she can feel the ocean floor. She can feel the toppled buildings lost beneath the waves; sunken cars, sunken planes, sunken ships. She can feel and hear everything moving, and at first it’s impossible for her to tell how far away anything is because she has no immediate frame of reference.

But then she feels it, the familiar shapes of bridges,of other ships. Miles away.

At the upper range of Squeaks’ ability — at 90 decibels — her sonic clicks have a propagation range of thirteen miles under the surface of the water. It’s an overwhelming experience, shapes and forms alien to her cloud her ability to parse it all. There’s so much she can’t explain, so many things she can’t identify. But she isn’t looking for fine detail, she isn’t looking for something small and quiet, she’s looking for a submarine.

And she found it.


Adam is frozen at the helm, one hand adamant on the throttle and the other balled into a fist at his side. To watch Eileen, silhouette by the foglamp trained on her, she is not more than a bronze statue. But he knows better, even if she doesn’t. It only takes three breaths for something other than sea birds and the ocean to respond to her call. Dark shapes gather at the prow of the ship in the fog, huddled figures of inscrutable origin.

Their response is nonverbal, but also nonviolent. A metal ladder is thrown down over the port side of the Decatur, clattering down the hull as it unfurls. Adam finally breathes, looking at Eileen and then up to the figures on the fore of the ship as he steers to the left and advances the throttle ahead a new notches.

As the speedboat pulls alongside the Decatur, the military vessel’s true size comes into view. It may not be an imposing ship when viewed from the front, but from the side it is so long as to disappear entirely into the fog. Rotating satellite arrays flash softly with the glow of red lights, figures move on observation decks, and the unmistakable silhouette of men with rifles gather by the top of the ladder.

Adam slow the boat down, pulling up alongside the Decatur’s offered ladder. His brow is creased to his hairline with worry. But nonetheless he steps away from the helm and walks to Eileen’s side, offering an askance look down at her. “We can still turn back,” he offers in a hushed tone of voice, then looks to the ladder knowing full well once they climb aboard there’ll be no going back.

Whether they succeed or not.

“There is no turning back,” Eileen says, “only looking forward.”

One hand clasps a rung. Then the other. She hauls herself upward in defiance of gravity — and of Adam’s warning. Her light weight does little to anchor the ladder, and it ripples like a reed in the wind, although she seems not to mind this either even as the breeze tugs at her wool coat and the sheer ivory dress she wears beneath.

Halfway up, her hair tumbles free of the ornate bun at the nape of her neck and billows about until she reaches the top and the architecture of the Decatur’s deck offers her some protection from the elements.

Perhaps not from what awaits her there.

Munin.” The name is spoken like an invective, thrown back at her like a badge she’d taken off so long ago. It comes from a man who was not one of the original Vanguard, but one who joined as she was growing into a woman. His navy blue wool coat looking appropriate for that of a sea captain, long dark hair wild and unkempt in the cold wind, chin stubbled with dark hair going gray.

Martin Crowley, Forseti, is not alone on the deck. An array of armed figures stands beside him, rifles trained on the young woman who so boldly sought him out. One face among Forseti’s armed guards is one of the original Vanguard, one who watched Munin grow, one who murdered someone she loved. Daiyu Feng stares at her down the iron sights of his rifle, black eyes cold with recognition and expression without emotion.

“I’d wondered if you lived.” Martin says, even as Adam is hauling himself slowly up onto the deck of the warship, eyes wide as he sees the greeting arranged for them. His blue-eyed stare burns a hole in Eileen’s back, and everything about his movements is reminiscent of a cat caught trying to fish scraps out of the trash. “You were always his favorite, weren’t you?”

There’s judgment in Crowley’s tone, judgement not just of Eileen who should have thrown herself into the sea for the sake of the “future,” but more brazenly judgment of Kazimir and his obsession with her. “Did you come here to finally honor his wishes?” Crowley sees no other possibility.

“Yes.” One succinct syllable. Coming from almost anyone else, it would be curt, but the edges of Eileen’s voice are soft and rounded. She looks past Crowley to where Feng stands, saying nothing. He’s always reminded her of the snake he was named for: glittery black eyes and a serpentine bend through his back, lean, well-muscled. His posture is deceptively still for how swiftly she knows he can move.

Her focus shifts back to the man directly in front of her, not without affection.

She loves them both, as she had loved Kazimir. They are her family; it doesn’t seem to matter that they think her place is at the bottom of the ocean rather than at their side.

Of course, appearances are often deceiving.

“But also to remind you not to dishonor them.” Eileen lifts her chin. “This is the world he wanted. The Pelago is the manifestation of all his work, and the people who call it their home are as much his children as you or I. It is an Eden; it does not fall to the snake to cast them out.”

Silent beside Eileen, Adam straightens his back and scans a wary look along the people gathered, up to the soldiers watching from the windows of the bridge, then back down to Confessor Crowley, as he’d come to be known. Crowley offers a look to Feng, then back to Eileen. He steps forward, apart from his guard, and comes to lay a hand on Eileen’s small shoulder, lifting his other hand up to brush the back of it across her cold cheek.

“We can all profess to know what Kazimir wanted,” Crowley says quietly to her, “but who among us is qualified to truly say we understood him? The aesthetic of this world is according to his wishes, yes. A tide-swollen place, biblical. But if religious allegory were the only measure by which we judge his intentions, surely we would hope all sin washed away from the world. But,” Crowley moves his knuckles down to her jawline, then the side of her neck. “What do I see before me but evidence of that sin?”

Watching Feng with a nervous tension, Adam can feel the nervous energy in the air without need of something as fine as Huruma’s senses. “He wasn’t a religious man,” Adam finally chooses to say, eliciting a sharp look from Crowley. All of the Confessor’s attention bleeds away from Eileen for the moment, his hands moving from her as he regards Adam with an assiduous stare. Ultimately, Crowley chooses to say nothing, his smile painfully awkward and painted thin.

“Let’s talk inside,” Crowley finally assents, “somewhere warmer?”

It does not show on her face or even in her body’s subdued, almost submissive language, but Adam’s interjection emboldens Eileen. If he hadn’t spoken up, she might follow Crowley; instead, she remains firm and stands her ground, seeking out the older man’s weathered hand with her much smaller, smoother one. Her touch is porcelain warmed over as she reaches out to catch Crowley’s fingers in her own.

“Martin,” she says.

Not Forseti.


“Please. Most of these people have done nothing except struggle to survive. Don’t you think we owe them that little at least?”

In Eileen’s periphery she can see Feng, tense like a coiled viper and listening intently to the conversation over the noise of the wind and the ship. The other Sentinel look less invested, less certain of their place in this exchange.

Crowley’s mouth presses into a flat line when his name is spoken aloud. He regards Eileen with the furrowed brows of a man who just heard a cat call out his name; one part fascination, one part confusion. Instead of addressing Eileen, Crowley squares his attention on Adam, looking him up and down with a slow inspection.

“You have Detrick Syndrome,” Crowley says in a hushed tone of voice, to which Adam registers surprise in a brief flash before he remembers himself and reins in the expression. Crowley’s eyes narrow, linger on Adam, then slowly move back to Eileen.

“Nine years ago I left an ultimatum,” Crowley says with a slow shake of his head. “Do not foster sin. It was a simple request, and one the… Pelago,” the word rolls off his tongue as though a foreign language spoken for the first time, “refused to adhere to. Your own father left us with that order… to prevent sin from flourishing anew.” Crowley’s hand falls away from Eileen’s cheek, frowning.

“I owe them nothing.”

Eileen doesn't hear the gunshots that come. She recognizes Adam moving, gripping her arm, trying to interpose between her and Feng. But he's too old, too slow, too tired. That coiled viper finally strikes, and Eileen feels the jacketed round punch through her right lung and exit out her side into Adam.

Her legs crumple reflexively. Eileen falls backward against Adam who likewise collapses back against the railing and then down onto his knees. Crowley holds up one hand, motioned to Feng. Enough.

She can feel her lungs filling with blood, feel Adam’s cold fingers entwined with hers.

At least she doesn’t have to die alone.

There are no last words, no moment of illumination, or even an opportunity to reflect on her regrets. As the world dips in and out of focus, she has only enough energy to let her dark head roll back against Adam’s chest. She looks up at him with rapidly dimming eyes, lips parted around the reedy hiccup that is her last exhale.

Maybe she would tell him she’s sorry, except that she isn’t.

This is long overdue for both of them. More importantly: Their blood buys Benjamin Ryans ten minutes of extra time.

The Cerberus

It was hard for the Captain just to stands there and wait for the little girl to surface. Watching her figure fade into the darkness below was probably one of the hardest things he’s done. She was a child. If it had been one of his, he would have fought tooth and nail to keep them safe.

Letting out the breath he’s been holding, Ben works on loosening the grip on the railing, his arthritis inflicted knuckles protesting the abuse. A glance goes to Huruma, knowing she feels his anxiety of what was going on. Between them they had agreed to a time limit. “Not a minute more,” he says for her alone, in a soft rumble. If anyone could find the girl in the icy darkness, it was Huruma.

Once or twice after her initial dive that head of red hair breaks the surface for a half a second. She needs to breathe sometimes. The third time she comes up it's with shouting, water-garbled excitement. She drags herself through the water with renewed energy, and practically flails in her efforts to haul her body out of the water and back into the raft.

“It's ginormous,” she crows up at the rest of the crew. Part of it’s lost in the lap and roll of the ocean, and she grabs for Huruma to be hoisted into the craft. “There's so much down there! Just… just-just things everywhere!” And she'd explore more if she had time. But ten minutes is ten minutes.

Maybe if they survive is a haunting promise she makes herself, a small damper on her enthusiasm.

There's more important things than exploring right now. As she gets clear of the water, Squeaks points out a direction, into the heart of the Pelago. “The submarine is that way! It's inside already!”

It proves difficult to wait. Huruma waits at the edge of the water like a bear for a seal, senses following Squeaks in her bobbing swim, and then the excited rush to the surface. The tall woman shifts on the craft to get to the girl paddling her way back up. Huruma tugs her out of the water not unlike a sopping puppydog. Once she's out, Huruma can hear better. Something about knowing what the girl does and her words— bids a sudden smile.

"I know how that feels," One arm still secure on Squeaks, Huruma wipes back that tousle of wet red hair. "You heard her!" Huruma calls up, voice on the air. "Time to make this all worth it!"

Asi smacks her hand on the railing, turning to Ryans with purpose in her. She stands a little straighter, takes off without waiting for word to come down. They could at least get the ship started again, get pointed the direction of inside while waiting for specifics in the form of the tiny teenager to travel back up to the deck.

It dawns on her only after she's pulling the door open to the bridge that she's more enthused by the news of the ship's location rather than distraught at hearing how deep it had slipped past their defenses. Once it hits her, though, there's an additional buoy pushing her forward. Hopefully they'd not be too late.


Standing over Eileen’s body, Crowley looks down at her without any emotional reaction. There is irritation, but it is a fleeting and insubstantial feeling. His attention turns to Adam, next, followed by a shake of his head. “Throw them overboard,” is his cold instruction to the soldiers waiting on deck. Crowley turns his attention to Feng after that, beckoning the soldier over.

Confessor,” Feng says as he closes the distance to Crowley, while the soldiers behind him go about the process of grabbing Eileen’s small body by the hands and legs. “What now? She could have relayed our position.” Crowley seems unconcerned by that, though, and looks past Feng to watch Eileen’s corpse thrown unceremoniously over the railing and into the water. The process is repeated with Adam’s body as well.

“Take their boat,” Crowley says quietly, “five of your best men. Get inside the Pelago and wait for further instructions. If they’re entrenched this will likely be a longer altercation than Maryland and Virginia were.” Feng nods once, sharply, and is quick to depart when Crowley gives him permission. But Crowley isn’t quick to move, he’s slow, and he walks to the railing to watch Eileen and Adam’s bodies bobbing up and down on the surface of the water, then eventually disappearing below it.

Crowley breathes in the cold sea air, then exhales it as a deep sigh. “Helm,” he calls up to an officer listening on a walkway by the bridge.

“Get us in range.”


Fog rolls in like smoke on the water and sea birds, high overhead, follow the dark silhouette of the Cerberus at it cuts a sharp line through the Pelago. Navigating between the debris of collapsed skyscrapers and those monolithic buildings that still stand, the vessel is set on an intercept course for the Sentinel submarine. The ship is alive with activity, with the crew preparing the depth charges that Marlowe had put in place.

«Captain! Fog is cutting my delivery time short!» Magnes’ voice crackles over the radio in the bridge. «I’m on top of Lowe’s building right now, but I can’t see where you are to fold space down to you! Can you pop a flare?»

Magnes Varlane might be the only person who can fight a submarine if it comes down to it, and getting the old man in range has been complicated by the fog. While he can fold space in on himself and jump great distances, he has to be able to see where it is he’s going or risk teleporting inside of a solid object.

“Eight hundred feet and closing!” The Cerberus’ navigator calls out in the bridge.

It’s time.

Boots thump against the deck of the ship as Captain Ryans paces from one end to the other, making sure the depth charges are in place, ready to go over the side at the signal. Fingers open and closes again with his anxiety over the plan. Torn apart and stitched back together again, it was how they worked best.

Or maybe it’s just him. Ben straighten as the radio at his waist crackles to life, relaying messages. His head tilts towards it so he can hear. He looks around him and gives a sharp whistle to get attention. “I need a flare, but not till we are almost in position.” A flare will certainly give away their position not just to Magnes, but everyone. And Benjamin was already cringing at the need for using radios.

Order given, the Captain takes a moment to lean on the ship railing and look up at the buildings surrounding them, though in the fog they are little more than dim shades. Somewhere up there was Mary and his son. While he wasn’t a very religious man, but he finds himself looking upward and saying a silent prayer for their safety.

Having found herself a place to perch that's kept her from being underfoot, Squeaks has been a silent observer during the trip into the Pelago. She's watched the more experienced crew hustle about, doing their jobs and keeping all the things ready for whatever is coming next. She can only imagine what's going to meet them, only knowing that ahead, somewhere, that submarine is hiding and waiting. It's made her a little introspective.

Slender fingers wrap around the medallion that hangs from her neck. Maybe the act helps crush all the worry into it, makes it disappear. The captain’s pacing draws her attention while she rubs a thumb against the face of the medallion. It's not the first time she's watched him walk past, but it's the first time she's moved after him.

Unfolding herself, and standing, Squeaks hops once and trails after Ben. She pauses when another of the crew rushes by. But when the captain stops and leans on the railing she's caught up. Her movements mirror his, leaning on the railing, but her eyes are watching him and not the sky.

Having looked after Squeaks until the girl was past the dangers of the cold water, Huruma has taken it upon herself to begin rounds with the crew. First, checking in, making sure of readiness. Second, reassessing the weapons. Third, busying herself with a short discussion on the plans with the depth charges.

It keeps her from thinking.

At least until Ben whistles and her attention swivels like the dog-head she is. Huruma does not relay the order, or make sure it's followed; she is taking this one up herself, ducking down into the ship to gather a flaregun and a fistful of ammo. The dark woman is clicking them into the orange revolver as she ascends again.

"I've got it. Just signal." Terse, militant, Huruma is in a single-minded world of her own in the flurry and seeping fear on the Cerberus.

Six hundred feet and closing!” The navigator shouts.

As the Cerberus winds around the crumbling remains of the City Spire Center a flock of seabirds erupt from the blown out windows, disturbing the hanging curtains of vegetation rambling up the side of the old, ruined skyscraper. The birds head over the ship, crowing noisily as they do.

Four hundred feet!

The roar of water rushing along the sides of the Cerberus’ prow and the vessel skips across the water like a leaden stone. The fog is so thick here, billowing curtains of gray against the dim light of day. Drizzling rain continues to fall relentlessly from the sky, further impeding visual confirmation. The soldiers at the depth charges wait tensely, fingers curled into the netting around them, waiting to haul the explosives overboard.

Two hundred feet!

Benjamin can feel the tension in his neck, in his back, in the air around him.

“One hundred feet!” The navigator calls out, “We’re right on top of it!”

It’s now or never.


The Cerberus’ captain bellows loud enough for all on the boat to hear, his distinct voice unmistakeable, sending everyone into action. Those men handling the charges will find them suddenly lighter, as Benjamin lends them a hand.

Once the last of the bombs splash into the ocean, he looks to see if Magnes has joined them, yet. His crew for the moment has done what they can, it will be up to the other old man to clean up the rest.

Other than the shallow breaths behind her teeth and through her nose, Huruma has no words to add, ears tuned to the countdown. She fixes the flare skyward, eyes skimming bodies and senses rippling through to give them a boost. They can do it.

Right on top of it. Huruma's frame tenses and she pulls the trigger; a pop, and a whistle, the smell of incendiary left behind as the round ascends through the fog. It bursts into fire partway, arching up in a fiery point of light.

Go, go, go! Charges away!” The riotous call of the crew rings across the ship, followed by the simultaneous release of netting filled with the explosives provided by Marlower Terrell. As they crash into the water, a cry comes from the bridge.

Hard to starboard, full speed! Get us away!

The depth-charges rapidly sink down below the surface of the water, leaving an eruptive trail of bubbles as they move into an intercept course with the submarine. The Cerberus’ engines whine and the ship pitches toward its starboard side as it begins to turn as sharply as the vessel can muster. The groaning strain of recently-repaired steel reverberates through the ship, the hastily-made patch job to the hull — while stronger than it should be thanks to Marlowe’s efforts — is pressed to its limit under the maneuver.

In the same moment, as the pink-red flare burns in the fog, space above where the Cerberus was dimples and ripples, folding in on itself and then revealing in a distorted blur the silhouette of Magnes Varlane, his heavy wool jacket flared out behind him as he drops precariously down onto the aft end of the ship. He braces himself, a thrum of vibrations emanating outward from him through the water. He can feel it too, the cigar-shaped mass in the water.

The first explosion comes before Magnes can even say anything, a plume of water and steam blasting up out of the water with such a close proximity that it rocks the entire ship. The second blast fires a heartbeat after that, then a third, and a fourth. Each one sending so much water into the air that it feels like it’s raining in spite of the bitter cold in the air. Everyone on deck is soaked by the seawater, clothing and hair weighed down by freezing cold.

Magnes curls his fingers in the air, as though gripping something. At the same time the Cerberus list back toward the direction of the blast, and the ringing in everyone’s ears subsides to the sound of straining and buckling metal. While Magnes wrestles with the mass of the damaged submarine, the Cerberus continues to list toward the direction of the depth charge explosions.

We’re taking on water!” A crewman shouts from below decks, the sound of his footsteps thundering up the stairs after his voice. “Hull damage! The patch buckled!

The water beyond the Cerberus is churning like a boiling pot of stew as air erupts from the inside of the damaged submarine. But Magnes, teeth gnashed together, is not willing to risk survivors on the vessel. With the vehicle crippled and unable to move, it is at the whim of the old man’s devastating ability, unable to move out of his unseen grasp. A sudden explosion of air up from the water, like a whale breaching to blast out of its blowhole showers the deck once more. Magnes exhales a ragged breath, collapsing down onto one knee, gasping for air.

“It’s done— ” Magnes gasps out, “It’s destroyed. It’s destroyed. It’s done.”


The Decatur

Metal stairs clank under Confessor Crowley’s boots as he makes his way up to the bridge of the Decatur. He stops at the open door, turning to grip the railing with both gloved hands. Dark silhouettes of skyscrapers are just starting to come into view, but the dense fog shrouds them. He looks down to the dark ocean water, brows knit together, then turns to look back over his shoulder into the cabin.

One thousand feet and closing,” The navigator calls out to the Confessor, and Crowley closes his eyes and nods. Turning to look back to the buildings. Breathing in deeply, Crowley turns from the railing and walks inside the bridge, coming to stand beside the navigator and look out over the churning waves.



The Pelago

From the observation deck of Lowe’s there is no clear view of the battle in the Pelago. The sound of eruptions at a close proximity means that Marlowe’s depth-charges were at least deployed, and the burning light of a single flare starting to flicker out is a cipher in this mystery. The fog is thick, making the neighboring skyscrapers look like tombstones in the gray, making everyone at the observation deck feel smaller. The cannons are waiting, but with the atmospheric conditions as they are, any ship would need to be at point-blank range to hit.

But then, there is something in the distance. Several of the people on the observation deck move toward the handrails when the orange glow first appears on the eastern horizon. It looks like the sun, starting to rise up from behind the fog. But the hour of day is too early. It is not the sun.

Two lines of orange light trace upward from the distant water, burning in clear arcs on a trajectory toward the Pelago. The fog blooms in their presence. Blood runs cold.

It’s not the sun.


The Cerberus

Twin lines of orange light burn on the horizon, rising higher than the skyscrapers, streaking upward to a point where they nearly disappear, but then seem to hang in the air like fireflies suspended in smoke. Benjamin Ryans has seen this glow before, and the horror of what the Decatur truly is dawns on him as the orange glows begin to brighten. The Decatur is a destroyer.

Those are missiles.

Amid the screaming and shouts aboard the Cerberus, amid the gurgling noises of the vessel taking on water, Magnes Varlane sees those twin lines of fire in the sky and chokes back his fear and pain, wiping blood from his nose as he stands up straight and disappears in a flat, thin line of nothingness.


The Pelago

High above the skyscraper islands of the Pelago, two spears of white-hot fire streak down from the heavens as if thrown by God himself. Across the rooftops and walkways of each Pelago island, screams rise up in unison as the horror of what is about to happen dawns on each resident. The futile attempt of dozens of ships to scramble away from the oncoming path of the ballistic missiles is crushing, as are the panicked cries of civilians trapped in buildings that are destined to become tombs.

A flicker appears in the air seven hundred feet above the Empire State Building, then vanishes, then reappears again a few hundred feet higher than that.Magnes Varlane skips through the sky, falling briefly and then folding space in on himself again as he leaps and bounds his way across the heavens toward the oncoming path of the missiles.


Magnes’ eyes are focused on the lines of fire in the sky, their parabolic arc, the way the fog is dissipating in the presence of the afterburners.

I don’t know if we’re really linked.

His muscles tense, fists clench, jaw sets.

I just want you to know.

Each flicker of distance is like a knife into Magnes’ chest, his heart beats faster and faster, he can taste blood in his mouth and a stabbing pain behind his eyes.

You’ll do fi

The Cerberus

Overhead, one of the missiles explodes in mid-air, turning into a bloom of vibrant flames in the sky. The shockwave from the air blast is high enough not to devastate the pelago, but nonetheless causes the fog to burn off and blow back and away from the epicenter of the earthquake-like force. The Cerberus groans under the force, a hot wind blows across the surface of the water, and the explosion — miles in the air — comes but two seconds before the second.

But there is no one left to stop it.

The Pelago

As soon as the fog clears, the moment that the cannons atop Lowe’s have a clear shot, there is a thunderous explosion from the Empire State Building. The entire structure erupts in a plume of choking black smoke and vibrant hellfire. The building that has stood as an icon of what New York was splinters like a tree struck by lightning. The top of the building is eradicated in a split second and the shockwave from the explosion topples every Pelago island around it like dominoes. Flames rise up into the air, a mushroom cloud of debris and black smoke licked by tongues of orange silences each and every screaming voice.

Before the debris thrown into the air even can hit the water, seven buildings are toppling into the sea. The sound is deafening, a roar of destruction and horror, the grinding of stone and crackle of flames, the crash of water as monuments to the old world fall down into the sea. Everyone atop Lowe’s watches this devastation, seeing the path of the second missile would have put them in the same wave of destruction, would have destroyed everything that is still standing in the Pelago.

Marlowe Terrell is left with nothing but ice in her veins, ears ringing, blood pounding. Until she sees something that isn’t the desolation, that isn’t hellfire. Until she sees what the fog had been hiding to the east, now revealed by the destruction of ballistic missiles, visible through columns of black smoke.

Ships. A half dozen Sentinel ships.

The eponymous leader of Lowe's HQ paces restlessly, palm covering the portable radio set that hangs off one ear as she listens to the channel chatter. There is nothing she can do about the fog personally, and the signal lights situated around the upper levels of the HQ have been ordered off for now. While they who man the cannons wait, the rest of the building has been a buzzing hive.

Women, children, elderly, all ordered onto evacuation boats and setting sail away from the Pelago, away from the watery battlefield. Many have fled. More have chosen to stay and defend. Too many, Marlowe thinks, but that's all the more reason to do what they do now.

The wind at the top of Lowe's HQ whips about, bitter and cold. Turning away from her post in watching the departing boats filled with innocents, she strides quickly to where her commanders stand in wait for her signal.

The sounds of explosions and the flickering flare in the sky turn her attention. She can't help the involuntary gasp of breath sucked in between clenched teeth as Magnes disappears off the top of the modded skyscraper roof. Under her breath, she utters both a swear and a prayer for those on the Cerberus.

Marlowe backs away from the precarious outdoor railing and speaks into the mic in her hand. At one point in its life, it was probably a baby monitor. Put gadgets in the hands of a bored syndicate leader with matter manipulative abilities and a background in engineering, though… "All levels, make ready! Cannons load, make ready!" Her voice commands over speakers situated throughout the building, no one will have missed it. "On my—" Her command cuts short when the orange lights rocket upward.

Oh. God. Damnit.

She swings around and shouts to those on the upper roof deck first. "Incoming! Take cover!" That's all she needs to say and the others already know. The first blast that clears the fog away brings a moment of surprise, then elation. "It's a miss!" cheers out one commander. "It—"

The second explosion sends everyone atop Lowe's down, frightened screams, a chorus of yells and yelps sounding around. Cries of dismay follow when all turn to see the destruction wreaked upon the Empire State Building. They watch helplessly as nearby buildings topple, the groaning, dying protests of the last supports echoing their insides, drowned in horror at the loss.

Marlowe covers her hand over mouth, pressing hard upon her lips to keep from crying out as well. It doesn't stop the sting of wet in her eyes nor the new stab of ice cold rage that fills her mind to the brim. She slowly turns around again to stare towards the East River-turned-Atlantic, and to the sight of the Sentinel fleet in a chevron formation making their way towards the Pelago.

A sword pointed towards their home, having made the first stab into their hearts.

She can hear the wailing voices below, rising up to join the heartlessly cold wind. With an unblinking stare out towards the ships on the water, Marlowe lifts her mic once more.

"All Levels… For our loved ones. For our hearts. For Us…"

She pauses, breathing deeply, a laser stare at the Decatur in the distance.


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