The Return Trip


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Scene Title The Return Trip
Synopsis The proverbial road back home again is one filled with just as much adventure— and more danger— than the one that brought the Pelago flotilla to the isles of Japan in the first place.
Date November 8, 2020 - March 15, 2021

Kobe Herb Gardens

November 8, 2020

Someone's got a guitar tonight, sitting up by the bonfire they have going. There's no particular occasion, just… a need for that extra brightness right now, as the days grow cooler and the nights longer. The woman's voice is soothing, even for all its snappiness. The monologue she sings is done with the aid of two others singing with her, one rapping out a beat to follow along with.

Asi sits facing the sea from the crest of their claimed hills, knees tented with forearms braced against them, arms clasped. "I wish you could have seen it before," she says suddenly to Silas. "Back when the world still had life at night. When we set up illuminations of the trees in the dark so you could see every shade of fall and appreciate it all the better."

Her eyes lift to the clouded light cast by the moon for a moment before she reaches down in the small box between them, filled with recently-fried maple leaves. Scavenging for the flour and oil had been trying and of questionable quality, but it was something she insisted on having before they leave. Before long, they would leave the mild winter in favor of warmer waters on their trip back to the Atlantic.

The crunch of the momiji carries with it a saudade she continues to bear because this really might be her last chance for anything like this, even if the nostalgia from previous falls hurt as it floods back. She takes it for what it is, simple recipe and all.

"Kyoto was prettier," Asi notes wryly. "But Kobe, especially here, looked nice too." She lifts one hand to gesture at the shape of wires and poles headed down the slope. "If you took the cable cars, you could see it all. Where sky and sea met, where color and city collided. How it looked like the forest was a wave washing down."

It's unlike her to wax poetic, but here she is. There's a lot of feelings she's never touched on openly that she skirts around even now.

"People say a lot about the spring flowers of Japan, but the fall colors… that's where it's at. That's the best time of year." The other half of the precious fried maple is popped into her mouth. Only a few pieces remain between them. "I'll miss it, when we go back."

Silas sits in silence beside Asi; when she gestures, he watches, and tries to see it — tries to see the ghost of what was, layered over what remains. Aces is choosing her words with uncharacteristic care here, and in what she's said he can glimpse the shadow, at least, of what she leaves unsaid.

So Silas sits and watches, takes in the song and the dark and the fire, and now and again he grabs a piece of momiji and eats it. Momiji — fried maple leaves. Something fried that even the South hadn't come up with; that thought brings a ghost of a smile to his face. He'll have to ask someone how to make it before they weigh anchor; it'll add a bit to his limited Japanese repertoire besides karaage, and it'll be a nice surprise for next year.

He can almost imagine it. He's not sure if they used paper lanterns for the lights — probably not — but he smiles faintly, nevertheless, as he visualizes it. "Wish I could've seen it then," he says. He turns his head slightly, watching Aces as she watches the view. "Glad I get to see it now."

Then he leans back, his gaze now swinging up. The sky is cloudy, but now and again there's a clear patch he can peer through and see the stars. It's not hard to pick out the constellations — they may have come halfway around the world, but latitude-wise, they're not that far from New York — but they seem clearer here. "You know. This is about as far as I've ever been from home. Physically, at least." Maybe in terms of probability, too; Silas Mackenzie Goes to Japan is probably a hell of a lot less likely than that bodybuilder guy being the Terminator, honestly.

He's glad he's seen what he can now, and so is Asi. Her mouth tightens into a line rather than raise acknowledgement of that appreciation, nodding. When he turns his eyes up to the sky, hers find him and she wonders at the improbability of it all. That he'd have found his way back again, and they'd have made their way here together.

It's why she laughs abruptly when he says what he does. "I'm pretty sure your trip to the Other New York counts, Snickers," she scoffs with amusement. "That's— you added a fourth dimension there." She shifts her posture, leaning back and to the side on one arm to see the same view of the stars he does, shoulder to shoulder. "But still, I'm glad you had a tour guide this time."

There's no swill bottle to go with their fried snack this evening, nothing to take the edge off of what she reflects on next. Despite them entering the month she normally relegates to mourning, there's a greater need to be sharp now. Because: "I'm worried about the route back," she admits. "It not being a way we've ever gone before. I don't know what we'll see, who we'll run into… if we'll have to make the trip back up America by land if we come across pirates." Tongue in cheek, she adds, "More pirates."

"少し怖そうかもね1," Asi mutters.

Silas chuckles at her observation about adding a fourth dimension, but the distance between realities remains, to him, a thing difficult to really calculate; trying to figure how far it is between that world and this one is like asking how far is it to yesterday?

But that's the kind of thing you've got to make the trip to realize, he muses… and then scolds himself. Because wherever he's gone and wherever he may go, the fact is that here and now is here and now, and it should be enjoyed for the gift it is. So he grabs another piece of momiji.

"There probably will be pirates," he agrees soberly. "But we're not exactly helpless, either. Else'll give us advance warning," probably, "and Jenny makes for a bad enemy. And so do we," he says firmly. "We'll have Des and her crew close by, too," He grins. "We did alright with that last batch, and that was just you and me."

Then he relaxes, smiling. "Anyway. We're not weighing anchor just yet; there'll be plenty of time to plan and strategize once we're at sea, and plenty of work to do in the morning to get us to that point. But that's then; for now… we've still got some momiji, and morning's a long way off yet. Seems a shame not to enjoy the moment, don't you think?" he asks, grinning as he takes a bite of his maple leaf.

Asi relents with a sigh, eyes still up on the stars. A long way yet, he says. She's not sure she agrees, even if he's right.

But she palms the smaller of the remaining pieces and pops it into her mouth, letting herself mull her attitude in the time it takes to decide to chew while there's still crunch left in the snack. "We've got a formidable crew between us," she reluctantly admits after savoring the lightly sweet crisp. "That's true. And that's not even counting…"

There were a few crazy enough to want to join them on the way back. To begin their own journey there and back again. She knows some of the people seated at the nearby bonfire are among their number.

Her mouth quirks to one side. "But," Asi acknowledges, "We should enjoy the moment." She looks over her shoulder to the sound of the music and then back to Silas, rustling the container with the remaining two momiji. "Let's finish this up and find Else so she gets her turn with the guitar," she suggests the hint of a smile. "And roll the dice on if she sings something creepy or nice tonight."

Silas snickers. "The Else Kjelstrom return tour, one night only. Perfect," he says, grinning as he clandestinely grabs another momiji out of the box. "I do look forward to hearing her song set," he says. "Just so long as Yellow Submarine isn't on it," he adds gravely.

Asi laughs, even though she doesn't mean to. May they all be so lucky.

Somewhere on the Pacific Ocean

November 10

Waiting until typhoon season was well and truly past has ensured the first day of travel to have come and gone smoothly, despite color on the horizon hinting at potential weather. The flotilla of ships— more than they left with— remain traveling in an east-southeast direction after having wound around the Kii peninsula, with the intention of hitting Hawaii on the return trip to North America. It was a small target in a big ocean, but the only one of substance they could even be sure was still above water.

The skies above are dappled with clouds, threatening to shield them from the sun but never quite managing it. The breeze is with them today, though, without any nudging needed from the aerokinetic that joined them when they left Kobe. Standing in the shade of the wheelhouse, Asi peers forward and up toward the skies, checking for signs of birds.

None now. They were well and truly underway.

Asi can see Else through the wheelhouse windows, slouched toward the bow of the ship with arms crossed over her chest. She is not in her usually whimsical mood and her only movement is the involuntary whip of braided blonde hair and loose strands against the seaborne wind. Else’s dark eyes, not clouded by oracular vision, scans the horizon for distant shores she cannot see. Just as Else cannot see beyond the curve of the Earth, neither can she see beyond this moment. She does not trust what has come before, or what will come after.

“It weren’t supposed to be,” Else says to the air, a hint of frustration in her voice. “Nothin’ in the ground but dirt and time,” she adds. “An’ yet…”

"And yet," Silas echoes quietly, his eyes fixed on the horizon. There's a hint of a grin on his lips, his hat is rakishly set, and he's doing his level best to look the part of an intrepid captain as he keeps watch over the horizon. Fair skies, wind at their backs, limitless blues of sky and sea ahead. He can't see what's to come ahead, but today, at least, seems like a good day.

"Still wish I'd had a chance to meet old Nakamura. Try and get a figure on what he'd been driving at," he says, glancing to Else with a bit of sympathy. That's not his only reason for wishing he'd had a chance to meet Nakamura, of course — Silas never had gotten a chance to thank the old man for sending him a friend. "But…"

Silas trails off, shrugging. Even Kaito Nakamura hadn't been able to dodge death, it seems. But maybe…

#BFA877|Witness. An unending circle of death.##

He grimaces at that memory, closing his eyes for just a moment. Awful lot of hope to pin on eight pages of gobbledygook, a necklace, and an old hand mirror. Better than not hoping at all, though.

Silas chuckles, shaking his head. "Well. We made it there, at least," he finishes. Then he frowns thoughtfully, eyes returning to Else. "Did you enjoy getting to see Japan again, at least?" he asks Else.

Else offers a side-long look at Silas, dark eyes narrowing for a moment. “Yes,” she says in spite of herself, then turns to look back at the ocean, wind in her hair. “But only because it proved there’s still new things under the sun.”

The radio in the wheelhouse of the Second Star crackles to life. «I’m about to trade off with Spades for the day.» From the Featherweight, Captain Destiny leans out of the wheelhouse and waves her arm in a wide arc with a big smile on her face. «Take care of m’first mate for me, yeah? Des out!»

Taking care to hang the device back up where it belongs, Des makes her way out on deck, pauses long enough to line up a high-five with her crewman, then heads below to get out of the sun until it comes time for her evening watch.

Asi watches the exchange between Silas and Else without hearing it, reaching for her radio. "Understood. Should be smooth seas ahead." She clicks the handheld off and sets it back on the dash, eyes closing briefly as she takes in a deep breath, oblivious to the ruminations on deck.

An exhale later, they're that much further ahead.

The Hawaiian Islands

November 30

Land again at last. They're behind in terms of how long they wanted it to take to get here, but they've finally won against difficult winds.

Following the trail of smaller islands toward the so-called Big Island of Hawai'i has been a slow-going process. The cluster of ships in the 'Pelago-bound flotilla proceed carefully in their forward march, zig-zagging with the wind to fight against currents less-ideal for their travel.

O'ahu's former ports were the hardest to navigate around— Flood-tossed ships having created dominating clusters of unusual reefs closer to shore. Still the group sailed in close enough to verify that there didn't appear to be civilization to connect with. The former famous and infamous Pearl Harbor was swept away, seemingly wiping out all persons and resources with it.

It's a grim picture painted as the flotilla fastidiously avoids shipwrecking itself on these remains to move forward again. They free themselves of those ghosts soon enough.

The peaks of the remaining islands to the southeast are in sight thanks to clear skies and calm seas once they break free of that landmass, and so they proceed past Moloka'i toward Maui and Hawai'i. With that closing distance, the radios on the ships crackle with life. With music— the surest sign of nearing civilization.

And something else. Something odd, coming from between the peaks of the Valley Isle(s). A buzzing sound carrying between them, sounding out over the sea.

The sound of music coming over the radio is not something Silas had expected, something that makes him stand up straighter in the wheelhouse; a ukelele cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow is something he expected even less, but it's catchy.

"Sounds like there's life out here after all," Silas says. "Enough to maintain a broadcast station. Enough radios to make it worth it to maintain a broadcast station," he muses, glancing to the radio.

This is the moment where Asi would be stepping into the wheelhouse to see for herself, but she lingers on the deck, eyes toward the sky. The color of her eyes shift, flaring a neon green as she pulses and reaches out with her senses for whatever is making that buzzing noise in the distance. Her head turns one way… then points right at the gap between the islands as the white cat aboard the Second Star leaps up onto the sill outside the wheelhouse with its head pointed that same direction.

They don't have to wait long for what's causing it to take shape.

An airplane coasts over the shallow waters between Maui's two bodies of land, banking and curving round the bigger half of the now-split island. Asi's eyes go wide as she looks up at the propeller aircraft, which proceeds on its flight path without stopping for them. The other Japanese expats on the deck with her begin to point and gawk as she whips her head back around to look up to the wheelhouse, to Silas.

From the Featherweight’s wheelhouse comes bursting the small blonde ball of energy that captains her. Her blue eyes are wide as saucers as she looks up at the sky, wondering if what she’s seeing is real. “Holy cats!” she exclaims, flapping her arms over her head. To get whose attention? The jury is out.

With her hands cupped around her mouth, Destiny shouts to the other boat. “Do you see that?!” Realizing how silly an attempt at drawing attention that was, she scurries back to the wheelhouse and pulls down her radio, but waits. They may not want to fill the waves with chatter.

Silas pops out of the wheelhouse just in time to see the actual goddamn airplane; his lips curve into a slow smile as he raises an arm, tossing off a wave. Maybe they see the flotilla, maybe they don't, but it's been a long time since Silas saw an actual goddamn airplane.

He looks to Asi and the rest, a broad grin spreading over his face… then to the Featherweight. "Sure do!" he yells back. "Let's say hello!"

He starts back for the wheelhouse, and the radio within. Maybe things aren't as rosy as they look, but hoping for the best has served him fairly well so far.

Still leaning over the railing, watching the surf, Else’s attention is not on the aircraft but rather the shadow of the Second Star in the water. She makes a soft noise in the back of her throat, searching the pattern of that shadow, still troubled by everything that came and went in Japan. She straightens, hands gripping the railing, and looks over to Silas, then across to the Featherweight. Else has no dire warning, no advice. She only has questions.

A short time later

Kahakai Pōhai

The Island Nation of Hawai'i

"Kaapena2!" A man waves the flotilla crew over, eyes on Silas in particular. A broad, friendly grin accompanies the action. "Over here."

The invitation into port had been confused but curious. Having been sighted by the returning aircraft had done them favors in that a lack of artillery or other weapons of aggression had been seen from the air. The beach they landed on, worn into existence over the last decade, only a thin band of sand deposited at the base of green hills, still making for a more comfortable landing than to the ruins of Hilo visible to the south. The outskirts of that city are still above water, but by all means, it seems it's been left behind.

There's new growth in the hills. A community among the boughs and slopes, on slices of land flattened enough to grow food on and walk comfortably on. There are families here, not just survivors trying to scrape by, and Asi's pace is slow to keep up with the group as she marvels at that. In turn, she finds children who have known nothing but life after the flood peering at them, whispering "Malihini3." while they pass.

They've entered now what seems like a village square, the buildings here broad and long and meant for hosting community rather than individuals, long fronds serving as the buildings' roofs. The man waving them on is seated at a long wooden table, others sat at it— community leaders, if one had to guess. People of various ages, a number of them more elderly, take in the sight of their visitors, some squinting in scrutiny.

The Hawaiian people seem to be doing just fine after the flood, having adapted and reclaimed their island while leveraging what they can of resources that remain from before. Few pale faces can be found in the community, and none sit at this table presently. "E komo mai4," is offered up anyway, an invitation to join them. "Can't say we get travelers through here very often… Where was it you said you were coming from?"

A warm basket of what looks like strips of bread or cooked, seasoned potato are laid down and left for whoever wants to try them.

The small blonde has been peering around the community with an open fascination and appreciation. There are wide smiles for anyone she passes, and waves to the children, regardless of what they whisper. From where she stands, this looks nice. And if they’re going to be hospitable, she can more than afford to be friendly.

Never mind that Destiny is always friendly.

“We’re coming from Japan!” the Featherweight’s captain provides in a cheerful voice. “We’re headed back to the Pelago of Manhattan. I’m one of the Council of Captains, and I’m hoping to return with new trade routes established. Working together can only help us all!”

So friendly.

"What she said," Silas says, grinning amiably. His expression sobers a bit, but the amiability remains. "We're from the Archipelago of Manhattan, formerly New York; I'm Captain Silas Mackenzie and this is Captain Destiny."

"We ventured out to find other communities out here, far from home, in the hopes of establishing friendly relations and trade; we have goods from both the Pelago and from Japan, if you'd be interested in trading," he says earnestly, looking over the faces of their hosts to try to assess how well the pitch is going over.

"As Des said — it's our belief that working together can help us all," Silas finishes with a deep nod, before reaching out to take a piece of… whatever it is their hosts are providing. Bread? Potato? Maybe breadfruit or something? he wonders briefly. One way to find out.

Destiny and Silas' openness regarding where they're going and what they have to offer is met with some interest. Open trade? The older at the table seem surprised, while the bearded man who's invited them is arching his brows.

"In today's world? That must have been a hell of a journey…" He's grinning again soon enough. "A bold one, at that." The man looks down the table, seeking signs of either approval or dissent. An elderly woman with her hair plaited back lifts her hand in a subtle gesture to continue. He nods. "We'll have to see what we can do in terms of trade. In the meantime, so long as your crews remain peaceful with us, we're happy to welcome you ashore here in Pouhai. There's some other settlements on the Islands, we'll hail the radio tower and circulate word."

"Might have a few interested visitors swing out this way when that happens," he acknowledges in a chuckle.

Asi seems slightly uncomfortable at hearing that, a reaction she tries to mask by inviting herself to the breadfruit chips. Already she's making plans to be scarce and let the more friendly of them take point there. Or at least, she would, except the Japanese travelers with them are looking to her expectantly for a translation, which she has to quietly provide.

"We're not exactly built for visitors, but we do have a few floating beds a few of you could use if you'd like to stay ashore," a heavily-tattooed woman suggests, brushing locks of dark bangs behind one ear so she can consider the group as a whole. "If you need to find me later, ask for Nalani."

That prompts a long series of introductions around the table, some names more American-typical, some Hawaiian, even some sounding more Japanese. After a certain point, Asi gives up on translating, and quietly introduces herself by first name only when it comes around to her.

Asi's discomfort isn't noticed, at first; Silas is focused on their hosts' reactions, and so far he's cheered by what he sees. "We are honored and grateful for your warm welcome," he says, beaming. It's only when Asi's translations start to die out that Silas starts to pick up that something's out of the ordinary, glancing her way with a question in his eyes.

Once the introductions have been made, Destiny – who’s been practically bouncing with excitement – waves enthusiastically to everyone with both hands. “You’ve been very kind so far! If we need anything, we’ll ask if you’re down to help.” It’s proposed in the simplified language of the young – slang, shorthand and all – but it’s carefully crafted. The onus isn’t placed on their hosts to cater to their whims. A lack of desire to assist the weary sailors is presented as an acceptable response.

Leaving Asi to Silas, Des distracts from their, well, distraction by making conversation. Asking about the island’s fruits and what the wildlife is like. Most importantly, she wants to know, “Is it safe to sleep out under the stars? There’s a lot of them no matter where we are, sure, but I’ve been trying to show my friends the way the constellations shift, and…” She trails off, suddenly looking self-conscious.

While Asi is only shaking her head in an attempt to quickly shift focus away from how this is just too many people for her tastes, Nalani is letting out a warm laugh. "Come," she says to Destiny with a wave of her hand. "Let me show you."

Kids playing a game of tag nearby are screeching in delight as the welcome table all begin to go their separate ways, one of the older seated at it waving for Silas to stay to talk trade. "マハロ5," one of the Japanese travelers tells the 'face' of the Hawai'ian group, receiving a clap on his shoulder and a large grin for it.

And just like that, they've been made welcome in this oasis amidst a desert of sea.

Several Days Later

Night has fallen, a cloudless sky burdened by a nearly full moon casting a pale glow on the paths leading to the community house. Torches and lanterns light the inside of the former bingo hall comfortably filled with the curious and the obligated who've come to listen to the full tale of the travelers from across the sea.

Not just of their current voyage, but the state of the world beyond.

"We were able to pick up other signals for… maybe a year. Satellites went out quick, though, and the news over conventional radio was bleak. After we picked up some broadcasts indicating Sentinel attacks, we went dark, stopped trying to reach out." Nalani has her arms folded over her chest as she relates the state of things here. She's standing over by a long cafeteria table while she speaks across the room, not a soul standing upon the raised platform at one end. It is used as a ledge for several to sit upon, though, while they listen. "Nobody came for us, maybe because it was obvious to them the military bases and the coast were washed out by the tsunami, but everywhere else…"

Asi is seated at a round table and doesn't bother standing, but she nods and lifts her voice. "In Japan, the Sentinel swept from North to South any settlements of note that had outlasted the Flood and storms that followed. The JSDF posted a resistance, but the Sentinel had a technopath with them. Smart tech turned against them, and what was left was…" From where she sits, she trails off instead of finishing that thought. "You were lucky," she surmises instead. "That they bypassed you here. They were thorough, especially in dealing with anyone Special in the communities they ravaged. Evolved, some call them." Her eyes shift to read the room a little better, to see what the general reaction there is to mention of the Evolved.

She finds little that helps her in forming judgment. There are some looks shared amongst residents, but she can't read them.

"I'm given to understand the situation in the US was even worse than that. Chaos and war tore the mainland apart, part because of the Sentinel and partly because…" She only shakes her head. "There's coast-based water settlements like the one we hail from, but further inland, especially around the larger cities … not even sure the ground grows anything in some places anymore. Nothing worth having, anyway." Asi sees no need to cut corners, to give any of these people false hope that where they come from is any better than what they have here. "You hear of some other settlements every now and then. Delphi, off the coast of Virginia, is sizeable. When we stayed on Goodnews Island off Alaska, some travelers there mentioned 'Anchor', a settlement near where Anchorage was flooded out. Long-range communication between where we've come from and where we've been, though, isn't really a thing."

She nods over to Silas. "What we're trying here is really the first stab at that. Trade, and information, from one coast to another, like we're starting the world all over again."

"'Starting the world again' isn't a bad way to put it," Silas muses soberly. "Between the Flood and the Sentinel afterwards, a lot has been lost; a lot of places out there are just hanging on, trying to eke it out from day to day with what they've got. But it's my belief that together, we can do more. Maybe we can start building towards a future again."

With that earnest plea out there, Silas gives a small smile. "That's why we set out — to make the first steps towards building something again. To set up lines of communication, chart what's out there. To establish friendly relations with others out there who've lived past the end of the world… and who might be interested in maybe starting on what comes next."

Silas shrugs, still wearing that faintly self-conscious grin. "That's why we're here."

“I was in New York when it all happened.” Destiny’s voice manages to sound both small while still filling the space around them. “My dad, ah… He could tell something was coming straight for us. Like he could scent it on the wind or hear whispers in the air.” Which is a misleading way of saying that their information came from sources with more knowledge than most anyone else was lucky enough to tap into.

“I didn’t really get what was happening for a long time. I was young, you know? But he said the mainland decided to fight over control of resources. And in the wake of–” The blonde shrugs her narrow shoulders. They all know what the Sentinel did. “I guess there just wasn’t anyone left to handle power plants and stuff. I guess some went into meltdown. And now…”

She’s the one who would love to tell everyone that there’s sunshine ahead and rainbows will be peeking through the clouds soon, but even the tiny Captain can’t do that. “What you all have here is great. And I don’t want to take from that.” At first, she sits up, then she pushes herself over the edge of the table she’d been sitting on so her booted feet can plant firmly on the floor.

It does nothing to make her any more impressive, but at least she looks like she’s taking it seriously, rather than treating this as a meeting of the Breakfast Club.

“I hope that I can go home to the Pelago and the Council and tell them about you all and what we can bring to your table. I want them to know first and foremost that we are not done. And if we don’t reach out and offer helping hands to even our farthest flung neighbors? Then we are lost.”

Des swipes a hat made of straw — she made it herself! — off her head and squares her shoulders. “I am not letting the Sentinel win.” She stands stoic for the space of two deep breaths before she finally cracks into a small bunch of giggles. “Do you think that’ll work? I’ve been practicing it for hours.”

Destiny's description of what happened with her father is what causes a ripple in the room more than anything else said. Counsels previously privately kept surface in a renewal of those looks between each other. An uneasiness. Asi's eyes flit across the room to take it in, control on the ability which would set her eyes aglow held tightly in check. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees the aerokinetic who journeyed with them look to her, and she only slightly shakes her head.

It's likely the diminutive captain isn't aware of how she defuses the air with her dramatic display that devolves into giggles, but Asi notes it. The sandy-blonde second mate of hers notes it, and eases, his expression easing. He seems to breathe again.

And the unspoken, invisible tension eases.

"Well," Nalani says mildly, arms folded before her. "If it doesn't, maybe the promise of a two-way trade might." Her gaze swings back to Silas and she firms up a small smile in return for his. "I think everyone here's interested in living past the end of the world, and living past the boon we were given to survive a little longer than most."

A murmur of agreement rises to that, even if it's just a scattered murmur.

Asi lifts up the drink she has, able to capitalize on the sentiment even if she sometimes otherwise plays things hamhandedly when it comes to diplomacy. "To building something again!" she declares, merely echoing Silas' call.

The enthusiasm in the replies this time, though, is much greater.

December 24

Near Midnight

The people of Pōhai, in their desire to start that new relationship, stressed to the seafarers that given the time of year, they didn't need to set out right away. And so their hospitality endured, especially given the help they received in return from the travelers from afar. But… time was carrying on.

Asi plops down into the sand next to Silas, looking out over the tide as it washes its way up onto the beach some feet from them. She takes in a deep breath at first, closing her eyes and listening to the sounds of those calm waves for a moment before she lifts up the thing that had plopped down into the sand with her.

"Don't drink it all in one place," she cautions with a poorly concealed smirk, one half of her mouth curving back for all her intentions. The bottle offered is unremarkable in the dark, even with the light of a nearly-full moon. "It's something they make local. My take on it is it's strong, not good. But it's something."

She swings her arms back around in front, one hand hooking around the other wrist as she captures tented knees between her forearms. "I'm probably a few minutes early," Asi concedes. "But happy birthday."

The moon and the stars, the balmy sea breeze and the sands, still warm from the clear tropical day; it's a perfect moment. Then Asi settles down beside him, and proves that even perfect moments can get better. Happy birthday sees him give her a bit of a side-eye, but even that's tinged with amusement. "You know," Silas says after a moment. "I kinda hated my birthday for a long time," he says, in what is most definitely an understatement. "A few years ago, I never would've imagined I'd end up havin' one like this."

"But you know… this really is one. A happy birthday, I mean," he says, taking the bottle and studying it. He chuckles. "Guess we finally ended up goin' somewhere warm after all."

The quirk of her head to one side, accompanied by the raise of her brows and a thin smile just between them indicates Asi's amused agreement. So they did end up going somewhere warm. "Let's hope it's a sign," she says. "Warmer weather, happier birthdays… the world might spit in our faces for daring, but hey, we can hope anyway."

She finds herself startled suddenly as the white-coated cat that's made this whole trip along with them chooses that particular moment to find a seat in her difficult-to-access lap, startling her and causing her to break the hold around her shins. Blinking, she lets out a surprised scoff and knows not what else to do but allow the invasion of space, allowing the cat to lie down against her. "«I don't know what you think you're doing»," Asi whispers to it in her native tongue. "«I'm not fishing, and we're not friends.»"

Alas, the cat cares not. It even begins purring after finding itself cosy against her, her arm shifting to better support it with a half-hearted scowl.

"I'd love to believe there will be more like these," she murmurs abruptly. "Birthdays. Days. Not here, but just… generally."

"Better," Asi clarifies and lifts her eyes to the sea, taking in a deep breath only to sigh out. After all, it was a tall order.

Silas keeps his silence as Asi speaks, smiling faintly; his grin broadens a bit with delight as the cat joins them. "Well," he says at last. "I'm gonna try to keep at it. Having more, I mean. More and better. And if the world spits in our faces…"

He trails off for a moment, looking out at the sea… then he chuckles, glancing back to Asi. "Won't be the first time."

"But if nothing else… we've started something. Here, and at the Gardens. Maybe… maybe it's something that'll make things better."

The corner of Asi's mouth kicks back when Silas comments it wouldn't be the first time they've dealt with the cards being knocked out of their hands. It's this moment she'll think about months down the line when everything has been turned on its head again. But one can't contemplate the end of the world until it's laid out for them.

And for now, all there is is this moment, this beach, and the company to be found in it. She even lays one hand on the cat's back, still in denial they've not reached some kind of companionship.

"As nice as it would be to stick around in paradise, it all won't matter if we don't finish the return trip home," Asi acknowledges, only a little rueful to leave behind what they've found here. "At least it's helped us build up our tolerance– it'll be easier to say no to the Bahamas now that we've said no to Hawai'i, don't you think?" Her grin widens with a quiet laugh between them both. "I don't know… what do you say, we head out soon?"

No addition of captain to patronize him with this time.

Silas laughs. "Yeah…" he sighs ruefully, watching the sea… but the grin on his face remains bright and clear. "Yeah," he repeats, more firmly. "The people here are great, and I don't think they'd mind if we stuck around awhile longer… but the trip's not done. Still gotta make it home and tell everyone about the world out here," he says, staring out at the sea, his smile broadening.

He muses for a moment — there's still Panama ahead, with all the unknowns that entails — but that'll be something to worry about later, once they're back at sea. "Besides. Leaving while they're still happy to have us just means they'll be glad to see us come back next time," Silas says, grinning hugely. "Trade!"

Asi tries to swallow back her amusement, but it overflows from her anyway. She airs her agreement in a grudging tone, smile still lingering. "Thinking ever forward, you are," she praises him, and shifts to put a hand in the sand to begin coming to her feet.

29 days later

The Coast of Panama

The Pacific Ocean

The flotilla of ships gone across the sea and come back 'round again have regarded this part of the journey with the most scrutiny, the most uncertainty. Coming this way was a calculated choice, but it's no less of one fraught, potentially, with danger. There was talk on the curve south, following along the coastline, of stopping to explore inlets that didn't exist on a map of the world that came before– of seeing just how far inland they went. In the end, rather than risking a wild goose chase that could cause beaching and damage and to lose even more days than they had already to lackluster winds, they proceeded south toward the promise of the former Panama Canal.

… Which they had no information on, distressingly. They were riding out an intense hope that there would be a path through, still– one with not too high a cost to pay, or one that didn't turn out to be a trap.

Asi stands on the Second Star as the boats float shoulder to shoulder with one another, peering at the far-away inward gape of water between land with squinted eyes. Something bothers her she can't put her finger on about the fact they've not encountered anyone around here yet. Tsunami debris from the Flood spackles the coast in areas not fully-reclaimed by green in a way that's both expected and yet still possesses dents close to shore that indicate maybe someone was there… at one point. Maybe even now? It's hard to tell from this far out, exactly, even though the spyglass.

But where were boats? There should have been some sign of civilization around a place so well-known in the world from before, shouldn't there?

"公園は同じ6," one of the Japanese wayfarers notes to her from their windcutting craft. "全部隠しもの7."

"«I know,»" Asi replies, glad someone else is having the same thoughts she is about this. "«That's what bothers me. I don't want to walk into the same trap twice. Especially if these ones aren't friendly.»"

"«So what, then?»" Another one of them asks with an upward jut of his head.

"他の方法がないだろう8?" She frowns. "しょうがないよ9" Only then does she draw in a long, protracted breath to sigh it out shortly. Her head turns slightly like she's heard something, brow starting to draw into a furrow. A flicker of seagreen in her eyes later and she blinks that nothing away, coming back to the moment. She looks to Silas.

"I think the best call is to have Nao give us as much wind as we can 'til we get through the pass. If we're faster than they are, an attempt to pincer us won't matter." The aerokinetic on the other boat turns his head at hearing his name and nods once, arms folded. Asi still shakes her head slightly anyway. "And if the unfriendlies gain, we– politely encourage them to back off."

"Politely," Silas echoes blandly, his expression neutral. I guess polite is all a matter of what you're comparing it to, he thinks, but does not say aloud — he's not in the mood to banter right now.

Asi's plan makes sense, though. If there is anyone still alive in Panama, they'll have to deal with them sooner or later… but that might be better accomplished on a later southward expedition from the Pelago, not at the end of a lucrative expedition around half the world. "Sounds good. Make it so," he says, nodding once before turning his attention back to the coast. Something about this place makes the back of his neck itch, and if anyone lays in wait out there, he wants to see them before they see him.

Aboard the Featherweight, her captain stands at the prow of her ship, arms out like the female protagonist in a famous movie about a vessel whose fate they very much hope to avoid. With eyes closed, her fingers dance along the currents of the wind, as though touching the keys of the old pianos she’s commandeered over the years.

Or plucking at strings.

A capricious expression shifts whimsy into uncertainty with a downward sloping of brows and mouth.

And off they went.

With a call across the three boats to ready them, they waited until the aerokinetic finished channeling his focus, and then a roaring rush of wind met each of their sails, motors cranking to speed. Asi squares her weight low, remaining out on the deck with Silas.

It's odd. The way they cut through the water and the nearby leaves on the trees seem so still as they jet into the chokepoint. They're through and moving at a good clip— and Destiny's fingers twine in the air while on her boat her crewmate Spades minds the wheel and sail with help.

After a certain distance into that, though, the shores behind them suddenly erupt with life of their own, the aggressive whine of speedboat motors calling tinny in the distance behind them. Gaining quickly.

Asi's head turns back in that direction, shifting and breathing out a curse. They have a lead, for now, but those boats would certainly gain on them. Her teeth bare briefly, gritted for that. They'd definitely face direct trouble soon. She moves to collect the gun she'd obtained at the start of this trip, and then—

She blinks twice, rapidly, her eyes glowing again with the use of her ability. "Something else is out there," Asi breathes out to Silas, bewildered.


Silas's eyes narrow. Speedboats are inherently designed for speed above all, and can be tricky to maintain. A small flotilla of them suggests either someone's defense force or pirates; a small flotilla lying in ambush leans strongly towards the latter.

And unfortunately, despite the head start, it seems inevitable that they're going to catch up, sooner or later. For a moment, he flashes back to the stunt Jenny had pulled back in the battle of the Starling, and he files it away as an ace in the hole for later, once the fight's actually started.

The mention of something up ahead, though, sees Silas's eyes swing to Asi. Something else? Something techy, enough so that she can pick it up from here. Something to serve as an anvil, maybe, while the speedboats are the hammer. Shit. "Dead ahead? Is it moving? Can we change course and slip by?" he asks.

"No–" Asi states with less and less clarity, her head swiveling back where they've come. She points to indicate where the thing she senses is lying. "It's… I swear it's…"

Her glowing eyes widen as the speedboat trailing them is suddenly and violently thrown off its course by something that breaches out of the water and directly into the side of the boat. Hunkering down as though it'd happened to them directly, she holds on tightly to her retrieved gun and hushes out a fearful, "Ohhh shit." Asi's gaze flickers back and forth, failing to understand why this particular series of events have happened.

"It was just– still. We went over it, and nothing. Like it was frozen. And now…" The speedboat barely manages to not capsize, rocking violently and having lost all speed, turned about in the water. The distance growing between them doesn't afford a clear look at the scramble happening by their would-be ambushers, but it can be imagined given the thrashing they just received.

Then it happens again.

A mechanical shark the likes even Roald Dahl couldn't imagine soars out of the water clear enough for them to see at this distance, a sharp-pointed drill for its nose spinning droplets away violently as it dives toward the speedboat's hull. Again Asi flinches and brings herself low, one hand tight on the ship railing. She looks forward this time, reaching out with her senses.

She doesn't raise an alarm about seeing anything else like that ahead.

"What the—" Silas starts to ask, eyes widening in shock. A robot shark? Why is there a robot shark?! Why are there multiple robot sharks?!?! Who the fuck designs and builds multiple robot sharks?!

He's reminded of the history of the Safe Zone. The robot horrors, one of whom had presumably gotten Monica's arm. But that's another world, what the fuck are they doing here?!

Then he lets out a breath. Doesn't matter. "Let me know if there's any more of those things ahead, in case the next one isn't quite as picky about lunch," he says, trying not to sound as shaky as he feels. Still, as unnerving as this situation may be, they've gained some time from it, some distance; maybe it'll be enough to secure their getaway. "Full speed ahead!" he calls, his hand falling to the pistol at his belt, hand wrapping around the grip hard enough to turn his knuckles white.

A simple sneeze is all it takes to convince the tiny captain of the Featherweight to come away from her position of too damn close to the possibility of going overboard. The blonde goes scurrying and sliding across the deck, trying to get a better vantage point on the waters they’ve just passed through. Her blue eyes are wide as saucers.

“Oh. Heck.” That’s something Captain Destiny can say she’s never seen before. “They come in sharks?!” There are memories from another world of the beasts that roamed the land, but the seas? Well, if the world is more water than land… “But why though?!” she asks of the uncaring universe in a terse whisper. Honestly, she’s just in awe about it right now.

“Do you think we can outrun a robo-shark?” There’s a manic chuckle that she gives her first mate as she grabs the frame of the door and levers herself into the wheelhouse. The way she reckons, her vessel is going to be the easiest to wreck of their little envoy.

But the little things trickle in, like the blood that trickles from her left nostril. “Spades,” Destiny gasps, wide eyed with astonishment and slapping the man on the shoulder, “I think I just did something amazing.

"Is it going to keep us from getting killed?" Ace asks, more frantic than he's ever been because never before have their lives been on the line quite like this. "Because if so, do you mind doing it again?!" His eyes dart in the direction of the aerokinetic on the third boat providing them the windspeed they need to continue forward, praying the man's strength holds until they're clear of– of

Whatever the hell this is.

Spades holds on tightly to the steer while he whispers encouragement for them all to move faster, knuckles white but never transparent. "Fucking Vanguard," eventually comes in his murmurations. "Fucking Sentinel," follows. He knows naught what else could be responsible for that kind of horror. If it's the fault of yet some other terrible organization, he doesn't want to linger long enough to find out which, either.

On the Second Star, Asi knows as well as Silas does that their guns are as like to do nothing good for them as they are to help, but she keeps a tight hold on hers anyway. "Nothing ahead," she calls out after she takes a moment to assess. "Nothing yet." She doesn't look back, can't hear over the engines and rushing wind the sounds of tinny distant screams, metal and flesh being wrought apart, but she imagines it well enough.

"What do you think?" Asi suddenly asks Silas once they near the end of the canal, seemingly having been bought time by the ship that otherwise would have been chasing them. "What do we do? Veer north and hope there's not more by the shores, or keep going and hope there's not more out in the open waters?"

Well, when you phrase it like that, Asi.

Silas thinks for a moment, gears in his mind whirling. "Out to sea!" he calls. They hadn't run afoul of these things until they'd entered the canal proper — more to the point, any kind of machine is going to need maintenance every so often if it's operating in salt water, and that, to Silas, suggests a dry dock of some sort.

"Get us back to open waters!"

“Gosh, I hope so.” Des swipes under her nose with the back of her hand. “Yeah.” She stares at the red slick left behind. “Yeah, I definitely did the thing.” A shaky breath of laughter follows. “Primal.

But Ace’s very real fear isn’t lost on her. “Hey,” blue eyes settle on the white knuckles on the wheel, her voice is gentle, “I’ve got us, okay? I’ve got us.” Does she? Letting her optimism in the driver’s seat, she decides yes, and layers one of her smaller hands over his. She didn’t come this far to die on the sea and let down everyone she cares about.

Over the radio, she calls to the other ships. “What’s the plan, Stan? The water fights, but the fewer distractions, the better!” That should go without saying, but it isn’t the strangest thing Captain Destiny has said.

When Silas gives his call, Asi goes toward the prow of the second star, gesturing widely with one arm. "前、前!" she shouts at the top of her lungs for the windcutter's crew to hear, continuing to windmill her arm to make sure the called direction is well-understood. To Destiny on the radio, it crackles a moment later to pass on the same instruction.

«Straight ahead, back to sea.» Kiseki, the metalbender who's been with them since the beginning, sounds shaken but determined. Spades looks up from where his eyes had dropped to Destiny's hand over his, laying his other over hers briefly to squeeze it before adjusting their course to match the slightly shifting breeze.

Destiny offers Spades back a quick smile as she gives her verbal confirmation over the radio. “了解!” Then, she heads back out to keep an eye on the seas, wiping away the rest of the blood on her sleeve.

Only once the waters begin opening up before them does Asi dare to look back at where they've come. The speedboat is entirely gone from sight. At first she thinks a ripple on the water in the distance is a trick of the light, but the boat's elongated bow is sticking up from the water… and sinking down into it. Were they closer, other debris might be better visible.

But that's nowhere they want to be. Pushing the limits of their craft and their abilities, the flotilla breaks free of the canal and veers slightly West as well as North, heading for deeper waters and a lack of shoreline as quickly as possible.

The eyes of every spare hand go looking back for signs they, too, are being pursued. Disturbance in the wake they've left far behind suggests that perhaps they were, too.

The decision to lead them back out to sea, though, seems to have had the desired effect. Shaken as they all are, they don't break their pace until the land behind them is but a speck.

The moon that night hovers high and bright, nary a cloud in sight to obscure the brightness of it. The flotilla's boats all float close together, crew scattered amongst them to take winded stock of the day and reckon with what now was left to await them.

"We're so close and yet so fucking far now," Asi is among them in saying, one hand on the top of her head, fingers dragging her hair back from her face in an attempt to decompress the earlier stress away finally. "We've got, what…" She looks down at their paper map spread over a table in the Second Star's galley. "Multiple countries to still edge around no matter what path we take back up, no telling what the rest of this area looks like in terms of traffic."

Countering Asi's clear regret for her lack of knowledge comes a softer-spoken interjection from Spades. "This– isn't much, but this is what I've heard from some others who passed through Delphi on occasion." He sidles up to the map to gesture toward the cluster of islands in the Gulf. "From here, that I know of, it's Cuba who we'd stand to worry about." Tapping on the island, he indicates, "Remnants of their Navy get territorial about outsiders near the capital, which I'm assuming is still somewhere near Havana, just– you know– the not underwater parts." He pulls his hand back and rubs at the side of his neck, looking to the others.

"So theoretically…" Asi goads him on since he seems to be intent on drying up for words otherwise.

"Theoretically, maybe if we went around the east side of the country, we run less a chance of running into unfriendlies," Ace stammers back around to say, gesturing with a loop of his finger back down at the map he's stepped away from.

"We do that, and there's significantly more land masses that way for us to potentially run into people," Asi balks, her hand swiping down the back of her head and coming to swing by her side. She stares off at nothing in particular with a burning gaze, trying to rein in her snapping. She knows it's not helpful, and that all this talk dances wide around the fact they don't know if they'll run into more aquatic murderbots no matter what direction they go from here.

"Alright," Silas says quietly, looking thoughtful. "We know Cuba's touchy; much as we might want to look in on them sometime down the road, but that might be better accomplished by a direct expedition. For now they're a known hazard," he says, nodding to Spades.

"There are significantly more land masses to be had if we take the eastern route, true… but that might not be a bad thing, either. We might be able to find a place to reprovision along the way, and there might actually be someone friendly between here and there; if we can get some information on what the lay of the land is here, that'll be worth its weight in gold. And maybe we can find out what's up with Mecha Jaws, and whether we need to be on the lookout for anymore of 'em between here and home."

He falls silent after that last; the word home has got a weight to it these days, now that they're so far from it.

Destiny has been quiet while the others attempt to determine their route, waiting to hear what they have to say. Weighing it. Spades has his ear to the proverbial ground more than she does.

If we decide to go past Cuba on the western side,” the little blonde begins, “I think I can probably keep our trouble to a minimum.” Probably isn’t the strongest assurance, especially when she hasn’t really explained what she can do. “And if you radio ahead about any other disturbances,” she means the shark, “I can handle that as well.”

Briefly, she glances at Silas, then looks to the others. “I agree with Smiles. If we do opt for the eastern side, we might find friendlies. It could be another great opportunity.” She doesn’t expect another Hawai’i, but maybe there could be something. Something. Des shrugs her shoulders. “I’m good with people. We might get lucky.”

Ace shoots a sidelong look at Asi when Destiny and Silas agree with him that there's better chances for friendly interactions through the eastern route.

She doesn't have the wherewithal to even note it, in the midst of biting her tongue hard and trying to not let her inherent distrust of absolutely everyone overtake the majority opinion. One way or another, they're going to have to move forward, after all. She knows at least that much. "Yeah," she agrees with a strain of pain in her voice despite efforts to keep clear of just that. "Yeah, information would be helpful. Especially if there's a chance we run into more of those things out there."

Taking in a deep breath, she ventures, "On the off-chance we run afoul of anyone… do any of us know Spanish?" Looking at the map again, gesturing in the direction of Haiti, she points out, "I'm fair in French."

"I took… high school Spanish," Spades mutters, rubbing the side of his neck. "So I mean…"

On a complete shot in the dark, Asi repeats the question in Japanese to Nao, and the aerokinetic nods. She blinks once.

Silas frowns slightly at Destiny's input; he still remembers what Odessa had said about her ability. He nods slightly at her assurances.

He nods, as well, at Spades when the Featherweight's first mate talks about knowing high school Spanish; it's not the most promising for their chances, but that will at least hopefully be enough to maybe find an English speaker to interpret — assuming there is one.

Silas is prepared to settle for that for now, but then Aces strikes gold with her shot in the dark; Nao's nod sees Silas's eyebrows rise, a huge grin crossing his face. "Well doesn't that just beat all," he says. "We might be able to make this work yet."

He nods resolutely, looking to the others. "Having someone who can speak the language is gonna make things worlds easier when it comes to negotiating," Silas. "It might be a good idea to hit Nao up and see what I can pick up… but honestly…"

Silas looks to Spades. "I'd say you'd have a better chance of getting something useful out of it in the time we've got, since you've already got at least some of the language under your belt." He glances from Spades to Destiny, one eyebrow raised, to see what the Featherweight's contingent thinks of that suggestion.

Des’ shoulders come up, sheepish. “También lo hablo. Mi hermano era argentino. I learned young.” She glances at Nao and gives a small nod. “Between the two of us, we should be able to keep us all out of trouble, linguistically. So,” she offers up to Silas, “You work with Nao, if you like, and I’ll help Spades brush up and build on the basics.”

Nao's head turns in surprise, eyebrows popping up. "«We should have had this conversation months ago,»" he notes with a startled laugh, still in Japanese. "«Could have saved a lot of trouble.»"

Asi tries to have some grace about it, nodding to Silas. "«Can you teach some?»"

"«Sure,»" he agrees.

With a sigh, Asi forces a grim smile. "Well, we'll all have something to do the next few days, then, won't we."

Days that, for all her fears, don't go nearly how she worried they might.

February 13, 2021

The Windward Passage

The Atlantic Ocean

The flooding and the shifting of the atmosphere that accompanied it punched holes in the certainty of the winds in this region that got them this far. Their chosen path clipping the coast of Jamaica to head through the Windward Passage is a slower one than any of them anticipated, with winds that want desperately to throw them west or south. Zig-zags help them to progress their intended direction, but it's one that takes time.

It does give them an extensive if distant look at the land masses on either side of them, though. The parts of Cuba and Haiti that aren't sunk due to the Flood are ridged lines in the distance– but they're there. Eventually, they curve toward the northwest tip of Haiti, wagering that they'll either find a place to anchor or a place to dock. Based on the map of the world before, they hit the more southern side of that tip first, scanning the coastline for open beach and finding plenty of green pushing up against it while they curve north.

Completely by happenstance, they come across a fishing boat. The mixed crews of the flotilla and the craft are able to understand each other through games of telephone well enough that their harmless intent is exchanged. The boat is well-worn through the years, cosmetic affect on it entirely given up on, and the motor it had is no longer in use in favor of the sails strung to it. The three men and a teenager aboard kind of look amongst themselves and then back up to Asi after she opens in French that they're just travelers passing through.

She stumbles then, not sure where to really go from here. "I, uh…" Her head turns to Silas more than her eyes as she wonders, "Should we trade anything? Just ask for information and go?" Trade is a word said in hesitance. She's not sure there's much those on the boat would have on-hand for trading, given they seemed more likely to believe they'd be hassled for anything valuable on them.

"Information, yeah," Silas says quietly. "We need to know the lay of the land, any hazards this time of year on the way north. That's a starting point," he says, doing his best to project confidence.

Des picked up a lot from her otherworld counterparts, but French was not among those acquisitions. Some of it makes sense when she hears it, her brain able to parse it somehow, but she’d never be able to parrot it back, let alone speak a thought of her own devising. “Maybe we should see if we can go ashore for a day or two? We could probably stand to resupply on produce,” she suggests quietly.

"Pourrions-nous à terre?" Asi asks as she turns back to the smaller boats, who once again seem surprised by the ask. "Nous avons voyagé longtemps."

The three of age on the boat seem hesitant to have one speak first over the other, until one finally breaks the ice to wonder, "«Where are you traveling from?»"

"Du Japon," she answers, with a slight smile to acknowledge just how long of a way they've come. Those on the boat immediately seem impressed, and she doesn't know how to handle that exactly. Her hand comes to the back of her head and she tries to remember more of the French she's not spoken much since Remi's crew broke apart. "Ah– nous allons à New York– Est-ce dangereux au nord d'ici?"

"Oui," answers the teenager among them, feminine voice rising from that slight form. She furrows her brow at the elder among them when he frowns. They told her of the danger, they should well know, shouldn't they? It brings him to sigh and he wobbles his head to and fro, the longest tips of his tightly-curled salt-and-pepper hair swaying with that movement.

"Vous pouvez débarquer," he allows in a rush of words when he settles. "et nous pourrons en parler davantage."

One of the other men sighs and he looks up to their boat. "English?" he asks in a tired impatience.

"Ou– yes," Asi answers with a nod, then looks to Silas again, which leads him to look up his way as well. "Notre capitaine," she indicates.

"I can come up, and show you the way," he offers, walking directly to the side of his boat to look up at theirs.

It doesn't take Silas long to consider. Part of him wants to rush ahead, to get back home, and he's pretty sure that he's not the only one who's looking forward to making it back to the Pelago. But despite the fact that they're closing in on familiar waters once again… they've still got a long ways to go. The path ahead isn't without danger, either; the Stormfront is still ahead, and for all that they've sailed those waters before, there's no telling what kind of mood they'll be in when they arrive. Familiar waters can kill just as easily as distant seas, after all.

And they've still got a job to do. People to meet and greet, on behalf of the Archipelago of New York. And finally, Destiny's right, they could stand to pick up some more citrus.

So he gives his most affable grin. "We'd be grateful!" he says jovially, gesturing for someone to put down a ladder. "Come on aboard; show us the way. We can talk, share some news of the world!"

The ladder goes unfurled off the side of the boat, and up comes their new passenger. The Japanese crew aboard offer curt nods of their head, and the Haitian passenger seems to understand communication on that front's going to be more difficult. "Hello," he says anyway, and then rounds back to the ones he's been speaking with. A wave below to his fellows, and then they're off at their own page to head back, too.

"News of the world, eh?" he asks as he looks back to Silas, placing a hand on the railing of the Second Star. "A lot of people put a lot of effort into making sure that sort of thing wouldn't happen. You're very brave, you know."

"The island survivors here, we all get by. It is mostly quiet here. Occasionally, gas pirates come through." He tuts before noting, "And then they leave, once they realize we have nothing of interest to them."

More gravely, he notes, "I would not go into the Gulf. The fighting over the oil there… the Sentinel owned it all these years, but something happened some months ago."

Asi glances between Silas and Des over that.

Des murmurs something low to Asi in Japanese, a brief attempt to seek assurance from someone else, when she realizes she needs to find it in herself instead. So she gives her head a quick shake to signify never mind, then lifts her hat off her head to sweep it to her chest and give a little bow forward of respect to their visitor.

“The Sentinel were driven out of the Archipelago of Manhattan,” the captain says, voice strong. “I’m hoping that means they were disrupted here as well,” she asks with a tilt of her head. She has a terrible feeling that the result is people tearing each other apart for scraps, rather than working together to create a greater whole.

Silas glances to Des, then back to their guest. "Their fleet went on the warpath for some reason; laid waste up the coast. Tried to break the Pelago. Got broken, instead; their flagship was taken, their fleet shattered. That was a year and some change ago," he says, his gaze involuntarily straying to Asi for a moment. There's a flicker of something that's hard to put into words — some mix of guilt for not being there and gratitude that she's alive. He doesn't let himself dwell on the past for too long, though; they are, after all, on the job here.

"That's part of why we're traveling, though. Because you're right; for a long time, they worked to keep the world torn apart. To keep anyone from building anything," Silas says slowly. "But now that there's not a boot on everyone's necks… maybe… we can start again. Start trying to build things. To put the world back together again. To learn from the mistakes of the past and maybe, just maybe, start laying the foundation to build a better future."

Silas shrugs. "That's my hope at least."

"Huh," their guest says out loud, context for the fighting nearby suddenly making more sense. He stares off at the northern horizon like he's watching the situation described play out in his mind's eye. When he looks back, he dips his head in return to Destiny's hello.

In that interim, Asi notes and doesn't return Silas' look. She only places a hand on his shoulder as she walks past and heads to the helm to get them going again.

"I don't know that everyone else sees it the same way you do," the Haitian among them notes. "But…"

"That's a nice thought, isn't it?"

Once she's near the wheel, Asi calls back, "Where to?"

Komin Jeremi


The Next Day

"Hey," calls Baptiste, the man who had helped guide them into port the day before and had left with an armful of goods given to him by the Second Star's crew. He comes treading down the path toward the docks the flotilla is docked near and around, one hand waving in hello. The teen from yesterday follows after him, a basket filled with water jugs weighing her steps down more than the bag of food he carries. "We're back."

Unlike other places they've stopped in the past, the people here were private– the community leaders preferring to not have visitors enter directly. The Pelago-bound flotilla wasn't turned away entirely, but this was a short stop to shore up on items needed… and then be immediately on their way before they could draw attention here.

"Bonjou ankò!" the young woman calls as well with a broad smile.

"The community says 'thank you', and sends this in return," Baptiste says as he trudges down onto the docks proper.

“Oh!” Destiny gasps, her breath an astonished whisper. “Wow.” She turns and smiles wide to her fellows. This is going to help a lot. With so much unknown ahead of them, that made fresh supplies an uncertainty. This is a welcome bit of luck that will allow them to stretch even further, and a little less lean.

“Thank you!” the diminutive captain chimes brightly in return. “So much!”

Silas smiles broadly; they'd given a gift, and now that gift has returned.

"Bonjou!" he calls back. Then he nods to Baptiste. "And we appreciate this; it'll make the trip home a lot easier. Our thanks in turn to the commune," he says, offering a deep nod.

"An endless circle of thanks isn't a bad loop to be trapped in," Baptiste notes with a brief grin. "The gifts from your crews yesterday were appreciated as well." He looks between Destiny and Silas both with a meaningful nod. Asi inclines her head in his direction from where she stands on the Second Star, arms folded against the rail she leans on.

"It is not much longer now to your destination compared to where you've been– be careful in this area. Keeping wide of the coastline may be a safe bet as you return home."

The young teen hands off the crate of water she's carried down to one of the Japanese travelers, who accepts it with a grateful and deep nod despite knowing well that Jenny's able to help them with their water. The gift is still a gift, and in most circumstances one needed and appreciated. He takes the crate back aboard the Second Star with a hop, and Baptiste sets down the overflowing bag he's brought with him between him and the Captains.

He strikes out a hand. "Safe journey to you," Baptiste wishes them, and looks past those on the dock with him to the other members of the crews, too. "To all of you."

Des is brimming with curiosity about the bounty Baptiste has brought with him, but it can wait. She’s the first to reach out and clap her hand to his to shake on their fellowship. “Maybe we’ll be able to send more gifts someday soon, as we’re able to establish more trade routes.” She grins ear to ear, excited at the prospect of people helping people again.

“I wish you and your community well!” With her hopes shared, Destiny steps back to give space to Silas.

Silas extends his own hand, shaking with Baptiste in turn. "It's good to have things to be thankful for," he agrees with a grin. "We thank you, as well, for the advice. And should you ever find yourself far to the north for whatever… maybe stop in, pay us a visit. The Pelago's not a bad place," he says with a grin. "Just look out for storms," he adds as an afterthought.


March 1, 2021

The trip now seems determined to end the same way it started. There's been weather they've traveled through in the wet churn of fall back across the sea, and even in Hawai'i there were some days of fierce and brief storms, but this…

This makes them feel at once so close and so far from home, bearing down through one of the Stormfront's errant children. The Carolinas, whatever was left of them, feels as though they've been washed away by the fierceness of the storm the flotilla travels through. Each ship rocks unsteadily, a fight underway to keep them from either capsizing or ending up floating in the direction of Raleigh rather than northward-bound. Even the hulk of the pirate vessel come from the East China Sea that sails with them struggles.

The wind whips against the windows as the flotilla tries to give back forward movement in the name of being able to skirt wide around this storm that grows hateful where the warm air of the tropics meets the frigid winter air driven down from the north. Nao's best effort to redirect them using his mastery over the winds left him injured, bleeding from the nose where he tried to fight a force greater than any one man could stand against.

He's told of how the Stormfront came to be in the first place— due to the misguided hope that nature could be tamed rather than fed until it broke free of all bonds. It only unsettles the aerokinetic worse. This is the land they've come all this way to see? The distance between the Stormfront's churning home and the Pelago feels all too close together. How could they bear living in such a place?

But the ships carry on, the lights among them shimmering and small things as day turns to night to day again before the storm releases them and they see signs of sun streak across the horizon. A glanced check to the GPS system aboard the pirated military vessel traveling with them reveals they'd drifted as far West as to be nearly over Fayetteville. None aboard are exactly sure how far the waters receded inland here when the Flood came … all they can see is that there is considerable green around them in all directions on the device's screen.

Slow and easy takes them north and east again, and when the skies above them are at last clear— cold and brisk, too— the ships are better able to look between each of the boats and take stock of everyone's state. Gouges from debris are cleared and patched thanks to the combined abilities of those traveling home, and once they're confident no further storms will come to bear down upon them…

The aerokinetic with them lifts his arms once more to give them a wind to catch and take them onward.

Coastline that was formerly New Jersey

March 13, 2021

They've been close for what feels like an eternity. There's still miles to go yet before the Pelago will arrive into view…

But they're close.

So close that Kiseki, the metallokinetic, has stubbornly set the radio open to listen. There's been a half-day of nothing but static playing inside the cabin of the Second Star, but…

Asi's eyes shift when she hears the first warbling of sound, lowering the hot water she's been sipping from. Her forehead knits, certain she's only hearing things… what she'd like to hear, rather than what's actually happening.

But then she hears a whoop of excitement come from the deck of the Featherweight, where Destiny's crewman calling himself Spades has burst out onto the deck of the Trawler, dancing with a much larger radio cradled to his chest, its incredibly long antenna glinting in the setting sun. "Coming to you live from New York!" he shouts out at the top of his lungs. "It's– Saturday Night!" He throws his head back and cackles madly.

Never would this man thought he'd be so relieved to even hear of a singular place again, but here they were, rounding the curve toward…


The radio inside the Second Star warbles with what the other machine's already received–

"and we–"

Asi blinks once hard. Those were definitely words, not just wishes that sound like them.

"–as always, DJ Lancelot–"

She comes up onto her feet, spilling her drink. "できた," Asi breathes out in disbelief. Ace on the Featherweight continues to carry on with his laughter that echoes across the water. For her part, she abandons the cabin and the mess she's made to head out onto the deck of their own ship. "Silas!" she yells up to the bow, breathless.

That's it. That's all she can manage. Then her expression breaks with an incredulous grin and she lets out a small laugh that threatens to steal all her strength.

They did it. They really did it. They went across the world and back.

They weren't there yet, of course, but this was the proverbial wind in their sails to keep them going just a little farther.

Not much longer now.

Through labors and dangers, over wild waves and across distant seas, they've reached across the world and come back again, and all of it has earned them this — a perfect moment, home so close they can hear its voice on the radio. Spades breaking into a merry jig on the Featherweight seems only right, and when Aces comes on deck she finds Silas wearing a smile, too, broad and beaming, that seems to make his very eyes light up with a sense of pure, unselfconscious joy unmarred by the shadow of care.

Silas laughs and holds his arms out wide for a hug.

Asi's not even wearing her coat, but she couldn't care less as she strides across the deck, oversized sweater swishing before she throws her arms up to answer Silas' call, burrowing a tight hug around him. "やっとできた. We really, really did it," she laughs in a near whisper, like if she says it out loud too loudly, something might come to keep them from arriving after all.

"はい," Silas says quietly as he holds her tight, his happiness audible in his voice. "はい."

The shouting on deck roused Captain Destiny from her sleep. Running up the stairs and bursting through the door of the wheelhouse, feet bare and hair a tangle of blonde from her pillow. “What is it?!” she cries, frantic at first with worry.

But Spades is dancing, and across the way, Silas and Asi are embracing on the Second Star. Destiny’s face lights up, a wide smile breaking across it. “Is it— Are we— ?” The look on their faces says it all.

Destiny throws her head back and lets out a jubilant cry to the skies before breaking into a run to fling herself at her first mate, arms wide, laughing the whole while.

Radio set down on the deck, Spades accepts Destiny's running at him by catching her and lifting her up into a spin, hands seeking hers when her feet hits the deck again. Even if it's to music that continues to cut in and out… this is a moment worth dancing to.

And there were so few of those left in this world.

The Archipelago of Manhattan

March 15, 2021

7:23 am

The sun rises through the spindling fingers of towers slowly being worn away to nothing by the sea, casting long western shadows that reach toward the ships at long last returning. Where they left two ships on a brave voyage afar, they return as a hodge-podge of five… the fifth vessel being the largest.

It's a vessel rivaling the Cerberus III itself, down to its military bearing. There's faded white lettering of an 037 against its side, and from the front a large yellow sunflower is seen across the building, the painting of both artifacts well-faded. A small tower with a communications disk sits plopped in the center of its deck, most armaments on the deck appearing rusted and unusable upon closer examination.

The Second Star and Featherweight are first forward in the returning flotilla, though, and the smaller windcutters traveling with them from Japan ride slightly ahead of the Kuihua– the sunflower-bearing vessel.

The Cerberus in question, one of the Pelago's craft dedicated ever to its defense, emerges from the shadows of Manhattan's spires in its duty of sentry.

Silas collapses his spyglass, a grin still on his face. That they'd run into one of the Pelago's sentries on the way in had been inevitable; that it's Ryans' crew they'd meet brings a smile to Silas's face. Of course, most things bring a smile to Silas's face right now. "Welcome wagon's here!" he announces. "Cerberus III is comin' to meet us! Slow us to half speed!" he calls, moving towards the cabin. "Aces! Wanna tell the Pelago hi for us?" he calls, still grinning.

The wake caused by the Second Star widens as the ship slows, and next to the wheel Asi takes up the receiver for the radio. She could just use her ability, but there's something so satisfying about the analog engagement here.

Cerberus III, this is the Second Star and friends– seeking permission to come home.»" She lets off the broadcast button and waits, one hand on the wheel.

On the side of their ship, one of the crew waves to the windsurfing craft that's traveling behind them in a broad gesture to signal all's well.

Over on the Cerberus figures too small to make out stand at the Cerberus III’s railing. There is a good chance that there are several weapons pointed their way. Those watching from the returning boats can see a small figure hurry out to join the crowd, only to have a taller figure peel off several moments later and head inside the door.

Time ticks by before, a familiar gruff voice crackles over the radio. «”Second Star, this is the Cerberus III. Good to hear your voice.”» Captain Ryans has decided to answer the call.

«”Welcome home, friends.”»


The smaller figure stays at the railing as a sort of sentry. As the Second Star draws closer, and the name on Cerberus III’s hull becomes clearer, so does the remaining form on the prow of the warship. Squeaks’ face is a familiar one, probably almost as familiar as Ben’s voice. And she's waving, full arm overhead to signal the other ship’s welcome.


The silhouette which had momentarily disappeared behind the horizon of the ship's hull returns a moment after the Captain's voice comes over the radio. Huruma's long coat hides a lingering hitch in her step, well-masked by her distinctive presence. Her good hand brings a set of binoculars briefly to her eyes before she palms it down to Squeaks. The whisper of steel against steel comes as the tall woman leans against the rail of the Cerberus; there's disbelief in her gaze, though a slim smile across her lips.

"If I am hallucinating… somehow I do not mind." Huruma tips her head down to the redhaired girl beside her.


Asi has the receiver still in hand, hiding the small smile on her face with its presence. Her eyes are twinkling regardless, reflecting her relief and joy to be back where she feels she belongs.

"They're welcoming us back," she announces out to those nearby her, as if Squeaks' boisterous waving weren't enough of a visual cue. Then she depresses the button again to relay out, "«We've got goods and tales both in abundance here…»"

"«See you at the Salty B tonight to tell you all about it?»"

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