This has been in the planning stages for months, but the first chapter of the sequel to Death on the Water is finally here! It was originally going to be simply an exploration of how the Z Stacks dealt with a tragic event, but it turned into a much deeper story. I decided to start things a bit differently with a prologue here. Note that it takes place immediately after the final chapter of Death on the Water!
Hercules and Grampus quickly rushed Ten Cents to Lucky's Yard, unsure of how much time the switcher had left. Ten Cents was teetering between consciousness and unconsciousness, and at times they had to check and make sure that he was still alive. They soon reached their destination, and Hercules soon backed off.
"Hercules, where are you going?" Grampus asked, startled by what his friend was doing. "Ten Cents needs you by his side!"
"I need to inform Star and the others about what happened Grampus. I'm sure Lucky and his men will be giving him a ring shortly, but I want to show them the damage Timberwolf has done." Hercules calmly explained. "Let me know if anything changes."
"Yessir!" Grampus replied, still showing visible concern. He looked on up towards the sky, wondering if there would be anything that would help Ten Cents survive. He was an innocent tug captured on spurious charges, and he swept in to save another's life. His blood began to boil, and he wondered if anything could have been done sooner to prevent such an event from happening.
Hercules set off for the Star Dock and was feeling furious, but the reason for his anger was for a different reason. He had to confront and argue, but he wanted to do it in a place where no one could see or hear him. With Zorran vanishing, he could not afford to do anything that would blow his cover. While he was in his trail of thought, a deep whistle drew his attention to see who it was.
"Hercules, is something wrong?" OJ asked, looking at the ocean tug. "You almost collided with that quay over there, so I blew my whistle to make sure you didn't hit it. Knowing you and all, it is unusual for you to be behaving this way. Sunshine did mention you going off to find Ten Cents."
Hercules wanted to remain quiet and just hurry on to vent out his frustrations (and have a word with Sunshine about his affairs), but it was difficult to do with OJ there. The mere mention of Ten Cents' name started putting him on edge, making it more difficult to concentrate. Finally, he let out a deep sigh and said, "Ten Cents was located, but he's been taken to Lucky's. Apparently Timberwolf had stolen dynamite and was planning on blowing him up." As he spoke, each word was tinted with anger.
"My God." OJ paled at the words, and struggled to process what he was told. "Did... did they succeed?" The Navy, try to blow up a Star Tug? It was way too difficult to imagine, and practically impossible to believe Hercules's words.
"No." Was Hercules's reply. "I managed to pull him out, but Timberwolf caught us. He tried to save me, but took some hits. It was a miracle he survived." He soon made a motion as if he was inviting OJ to come and see.
OJ was dumbstruck, but his blood was boiling. However, it was best to not complain as it led to chaos. He nodded and followed the ocean tug towards Lucky's. When he arrived, he gasped. "What the-"
"Now you know why I had to go in. The wounds would have been much worse had it not been for me." Hercules replied, his voice unusually somber. "I should get to telling the others OJ."
OJ was at a loss of words, and simply hurried over to be with the master switcher. "I'll keep him close, and make sure he's safe and sound."
Hercules gave a small smile before hurrying out of Lucky's Yard. Now to get back to what he really needed to do. To confront the Reaper who had likely put Ten Cents through Hell and back with what he did. He spotted some canals and hurried over, hoping the hustle and bustle of rail traffic would conceal the impending argument.
As if on cue, Hades manifested in the water. It was a miracle that only the ships had faces in these parts, as the steam engines who worked at this part of the country would have screamed and called for help. "You need something? At a railyard? You escort boats not-"
"We need to talk Hades." Hercules interrupted. "What were you doing that caused Ten Cents to, you know, change? Why was it in your best interests to do such a thing?"
The air grew cold, and Hades gave a hiss in response to Hercules' question. Although he could resist, he would simply make his host more difficult to reason with. Finally, he muttered something in an otherworldly language and said, "I mostly did it for your sake. The bond you have with him was much stronger than what you have with the others. Even stronger than your relations with the lightship."
Hercules stood back, startled by what Hades admitted. Nevertheless, he remained cool and calm. "You heard me earlier, the bond we have is brotherly. He didn't trust me when I first arrived, but now he looks up to me for advice." He explained. "I dote on him and the others, even when I'm doing long distance contracts. What you did was ruin that bond!"
"I only strengthened that bond love." Hades retorted. "He now cannot die unless you die. Not one stick of dynamite lobbed at him will kill him."
"You mean... you mean..." The ocean tug was livid, but it was useless to rampage at a railyard. Finally, he growled in defeat and said, "Whatever you did, it will come to bite you."
"You mean us." Hades chuckled, vanishing away. "Face it Hercules, the moment you asked me to save him from plague was the moment I started influencing him."
Hercules was left standing, now wondering what was there to do. He couldn't simply let Hades get away with it! However, Ten Cents was practically saved because of him. He quietly hurried home, showing defeat...