We paused at the top of a hill overlooking the scene: forty or fifty derelict ships, some bigger in sheer mass than the skyscrapers downtown.

Woah.

Leviathan’s waves had slammed them all into the coastline, smashing them against one another and turning more than a few into something unrecognizable.

Oh look, they found a way to move the ships!

Even with Tattletale’s hint, I wasn’t sure I could have found where Cherish was lurking.

Which beached ship?

“How do we find her before she finds us?” I asked.

Oh, I’m sure she knows you’re coming already. But you need to stay out of her power’s range.

“We don’t.  She knows where we are.”

I scanned the wreckage with my eyes.  Would Siberian pop out?  Hookwolf?

“They aren’t attacking.”

Hm.

Did they leave already? I mean, Siberian is fast, and Cherish would be able to know where they are, like Lisa says, from the other side of town.

Tattletale shook her head, but she didn’t speak.

My bugs began searching for signs of life.

Maybe Cherish killed Siberian and/or Hookwolf, having planted the info about her whereabouts in order to draw them into her power’s range now that there weren’t too many of them to handle?

“You outrange her,” Tattletale spoke.  “You detect them, you attack before she can whammy us.”

Makes sense.

“Yeah.”  Fat lot of good it’ll do with Siberian there.

I was getting a sense of why there wasn’t any foot traffic here.  Even on land, the force of Leviathan’s tidal wave had sent age-worn sheets of metal flying over the landscape.  Ragged edges of rusty sheet metal waited under every step I took, scraping and stabbing against the soles of my costumed feet.

“16… female… seeking any gender… like long walks on the beach with painful metal everywhere…”

Tattletale was relying on Bentley’s weight and durability to handle anything that waited underfoot.  He was still panting hard from the run.

Looks like Atlas isn’t alone in needing rest.

When the local industry had collapsed, the Boat Graveyard had been something of a staging ground for the irate dock workers.  Shipping companies based in Brockton Bay saw the signs of what was coming and trapped other boats in the harbor as a form of protest, to ensure they weren’t walking away empty-handed.

Huh.

I like these bits of local history. 

Police had made arrests, but actually moving the ships out of the way required sailors, and the move had mobilized enough of them that clearing the upper areas of the docks of the ships became all but impossible.  Things capped off with fights, gunfire and a deliberate sinking of a container ship by one of the protesters.

Damn!

Opinions varied on whether the incident had been a symptom or a cause of the collapse.  Either way, the result was the Boat Graveyard- an entire section of the coastline where boats had sat for so long that they’d rusted or taken on water.

I kinda love it now.

Either way, I decided to trust her and took off.

I’d done my part, and I’d have to trust Bitch to complete the task.

Good luck, Rachel.

I was making more forward progress than Tattletale, though I could feel Atlas fatiguing.  It wasn’t the same as the fatigue I experienced, but he was slowing down fractionally in his wingbeats per second.

Ah, yeah, he’s been through quite a bit today.

It stood to reason.  He was big, and he hadn’t eaten since he was created.  That was compounded by the fact that he’d been going full-bore with minimal chance to rest.

Still, we had the advantage of being able to fly over obstacles, which was something I was gaining a greater appreciation of since I’d gotten the hang of flying him.

Man, where was Atlas in 12.5?

With Atlas being tired, not wanting to lose track of Tattletale, I kept our flight close to the ground.

“Where is she?” I called out, as I met her pace.

Any clues?

“Boat Graveyard.  Beached ship, she’s in the hold.”

Oh wait, they’re talking about Cherish, not Siberian.

“Coil told you this?”

“No, but he’ll forgive me for figuring it out, given circumstances.”

I’m pretty sure I knew this already (though I misremembered it as the Trainyard rather than the nearby Boat Graveyard), but if Taylor didn’t, I can’t recall why we do.

Maybe she just forgot.

“If you’re sure.”

It wasn’t a short trip.  Our destination was north of the market, and the market was a distance from my house.  We were making our way from downtown to the Boat Graveyard.

Yeah, that’s pretty far.

Oh hey, I forgot the Market was one of the waypoints that got erased on this version of Ridprime’s map. I suppose we’ll likely be traveling through the remains of that on the way to the Boat Graveyard.

“And can you loan me Bentley?”  Tattletale asked.

“I’m starting to wonder why I’m on this team,” Bitch grumbled.

You provide them with mounts! And go around splashing people! Isn’t that fun! 😀

“You have to ask?” Tattletale grinned as she approached Bentley.

“I know it’s just words,” I told Bitch, “But I’m glad you’re back.”

Y’know, I’ve been hard on Rachel for a long time in the context of her relationship with Taylor, but recently? I’ve finally started seeing actual hints of friendship coming from her. Occasionally. Outside the miasma’s effect, she’s nowhere near as hostile towards Taylor as she used to be, after the events of 13.5.

Apart from the punch, but honestly, Taylor had that coming in the moment. :p

She stared at me like I was speaking Klingon.

Qu’vetlh mu’ ‘ach jIQuch wItI’nISmo’ ‘e’ vISov.

Klingon spelling looks weird as fuck.

“Let’s go,” Tattletale said, as she climbed onto Bentley.  He growled, but she didn’t seem to mind.  Maybe his bark was worse than his bite and she knew it?

He’s a hellhound. Pretty sure his bite could crush a steel plate if he wanted to.

She scowled.  “I haven’t trained ’em to do that.”

Of course. Too friendly.

“You’ve got ten minutes to teach them,” Tattletale grinned.

Pfft.

“Unless you’d rather go and kiss people?”

“Whatever.”

“You’ll see about curing the others?”

“Yeah.”  Bitch pointed, “But it won’t work with my dogs.  They kill any parasites while my power’s working.”

Oh yeah, good point.

Wait, “while [your] power’s working”. What about Bentley? Does him being stuck in hellhound form until you specifically revert it mean you can not be using your power on him at all times and thereby have it not kill the parasites?

Right.  I could remember curing Sirius of heartworm.

I shrugged.  “Another way?  Maybe if you dose some fresh water with the new parasites, spit in it, then splash people?

I suppose that might work.

Let’s also take a time-out to consider that not everyone has costumes that allow skin access.

People are going to start getting better fast, with the water changing, but let’s make sure our side is okay?”

Bitch nodded once, curt.

Sure, this sounds like a decent plan.

I sighed.  “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.  I think we should give chase.”

“Head to where Cherish is?”

Sure.

I nodded.  “It hasn’t been too long, so they won’t have much time to prepare any counterattack.  It does still leave the problem of finding the others and curing them before something bad happens.”

Yeah, you should probably do that too. At least Lisa’s power might help you find them.

“If the cure is contagious…  Bitch, you think you could work on finding and curing the others?”

On one hand, good idea, outsourcing it like that.

On the second hand, are you sure you want to give up your strongest offensive player short of Ballistic and Sundancer in the meantime?

On the third hand, you may have just asked Rachel Lindt to go around kissing people and I’m not sure she’ll take kindly to that. :p

“How?”

I spoke up, “Cure your dogs.  Spit in their mouths, whatever.  Then see about tracking down the others, ambushing them, and having the dogs lick their faces?”

That is the best way to get cured.

“AHHH HELLBEAST ATTACKING ME IT’S GONNA TEAR MY FACE OFF wait what it’s licking me OH hi rachel what the hell?”

If Noelle is set to become not an Endbringer, but something far more dangerous, it’s possible that even the Endbringers think that’s a bit much. That might be why Leviathan seemingly homed in on her. Alternatively, it might be the exact opposite, that Leviathan wanted to retrieve this massive threat they’ve been waiting for.

“Hookwolf’s under the influence of Bonesaw’s miasma,” I added.  “Don’t know what his reasons were for staying here, but the miasma seems to have eliminated that.  He’s with the Nine.

Oh right, good point.

Maybe permanently.  Bonesaw will keep it from killing him, I guess.”

Yeah, that’s what I was just thinking too.

“So they got their candidate?”

I suppose to some extent they might still follow the rules. Every member of the Nine has either died or had their turn… except Jack. If the nominees survive a round of Jack’s testing, then the Nine take one volunteer and leave.

“And,” I addressed Bitch as I spoke, “They might be looking for more candidates to round out their group.  If they left Siberian behind to try to recruit Hookwolf, and they tried a pretty aggressive strategy against Panacea, then they might make another stab at recruiting you.  Or Regent.”

Or Armsmaster.

“Or Noelle,” Tattletale added.

Noelle is also an option, but she’s safer than most of them, especially now that Crawler’s down.

Why did that give me such a bad feeling?

Fuck.

What if it’s Noelle that becomes the final threat and the prophecy about Jack is because he manages to bring Noelle with him in every timeline in which he leaves the city?

Though that last part seems odd. Why would he be able to do that in every timeline?

“I mean, her numbers weren’t that good as far as our mortality rate going up against the Nine, so maybe she’s wrong about-”

I stopped as Tattletale shook her head.

“Depends how you interpret it,” she said. “The kid sounded pretty certain.  Anyways, keep going.”

Weren’t there some flaws I found in the wording when they asked for those mortality rates? Something like that?

“Siberian’s somewhere downtown, her real body in some kind of case, maybe.”

“I think we might have run into her,” Tattletale said.  “I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to details, mostly just trying to avoid trouble.  But I’m pretty sure she was hauling around something big.

Ohh, yeah, I suppose he’d be able to do that.

Fuck, I think she might have had a friend.”

“A friend?”

That’s worrying. Someone we know? One of the nominees, perhaps?

“Hookwolf.”

Fuck, I should’ve written it down before continuing. He was my first guess out of the nominees, but then I started thinking about how he didn’t really want to join the Nine. But none of the nominees did, at the start, not even Rachel.

I nodded slowly.  “Where was she headed?”

“North.”

“Where did Coil stick Cherish?”

North.

And Hookwolf has been working with Coil so he might– no, Coil wouldn’t give up the information that he knows where Cherish is. It’d reveal his connection to the Undertravelers.

Tattletale made a face.  “North.”

If there had been a wall in reach, I would have punched it.  “Wonderful.”

“Explain?” Bitch asked.

Is she not putting two and two together between “the Nine know where to look for Cherish” and “Siberian is headed in that direction”, or is it Taylor’s sarcasm she’s not getting?

“They’re heading over to Cherish’s location, I’m almost a hundred percent positive,” Tattletale explained.  “If Siberian’s heading there to rendezvous with them, then any further encounters with them are going to be ugly.  Doubly so if they have new blood on their team.”

I guess the Nine aren’t quite done yet.

But are they done with Brockton Bay, now that Jack knows about the prophecy?