Notes: Thanks for the comments: McGeezel, THOMASPENZHORN11, Pyeknu, Vilkath, osterreicher97, kreeft123xx

41°21'41.40" N -71°28'53.00" W

Over two hundred feet in the air, a US Coast Guard Jayhawk circled, preparing to land. Of its two passengers, one was almost jumping down in her seat while the other leaned over to take a good look around.

"This is so cool." Vickie grinned. "Did you see everyone's face when the helicopter picked us up at school?"

"Yes, for the third time," her sister groaned.

"Well, you have to admit, it was cool."

Amy shook her head, then asked over the intercom to the seaman who sat across from her. "Do you know if Newfoundland is going to meet us?"

"No, ma'am, we were just told to give you a lift."

"So, you're not-parahuman friend's going to be there, Amy?"

"You heard him," she looked down as the helicopter prepared to land. "He's not sure."

"Hopefully, someone will tell us what's happening; I'm surprised Mom allowed us even to fly down here."

"I'm sure the military asked nicely," Amy grinned. "Anyway, you heard that one of their ships was attacked."

"Right, but still, oh, look, look," Vickie leaned over to see what she was doing and pointed towards a landing pad surrounded by quite a few military vehicles. "You're popular. By the way, do you know how we're getting home?"

"Dad's already driving down. Little too far for you to carry me, even if we are only an hour away from Brockton Bay."

"We got here in less time than that," her sister pointed out.

"Did you forget we're in a helicopter?"

Moments later, the Jayhawk landed. The girls were unstrapped and, with heads down, escorted to the nearest vehicle.

"I'm Lieutenant Commander Dobbins," a young woman in service dress blues shook both girl's hands. "Thank you for coming if you will follow me."

In the car, Amy asked, "Is Newfoundland going to meet us wherever we're going?"

"I don't believe so, at least not at this time. Astoria was the one who contacted the Newfoundland. Although she has already headed back to sea."

"Oh, that's too bad; I wouldn't mind making another new non-parahuman friend." Vickie smiled at her sister.

Twenty or so minutes later, Amy withdrew her hand from the more critical of the two.

"Thank you," the woman groaned gratefully, her breathing becoming normal. "You're a treasure."

Amy nodded and smiled absently. It was odd; from the look of things, she had been seriously wounded from an explosion, especially the chest, face, and hands, but some of it appeared to be already healed. Good work: whoever had done it had probably saved the young seaman's life as well. It was interesting, but the parahuman healer was interrupted from her musing by the nurse who escorted her to another bed.

"Hey," the man grinned painfully. "Thanks for taking care of us."

"My pleasure." Amy then ordered, "Now sit still."

"That's so cool; I can feel my toes again," he happily cheered. "I agree Sandi, she's a treasure. Oh hey, Lieutenant."

Although specific details about what happened hadn't been forthcoming, the commanding officer of the patrol boat had been introduced earlier and informed her that there were three fatalities. The parahuman healer spoke to the two very thankful sailors for only a few more minutes, then headed off, allowing him to talk with his two crew members alone.

Two grim military police officers and Lieutenant Commander Dobbins waited for her in the hallway.

"Thank you, Miss Dallon." She smiled, then pointed down the hallway. "We have one more wounded for you to look at."

Amy wasn't sure how this man was even alive. Besides being burned over half his body, shrapnel had damaged the man's lower torso and amputated part of his left leg and right foot. But there it was again. Someone had stabilized him enough to make a difference. From his bloodwork, though, she immediately could tell this guy was a heavy drug user.

"Gods, what a mess. I need lots of protein; he had almost zero body fat, so the fattier, the better. Actually, if you happen to have, say, several of those huge cooking oil boxes, even big boxes of lard, grab Vickie from the canteen and let her lug it over for you."

The Lieutenant Commander nodded to one of the nurses who disappeared down the hallway.

"He's a Merchant, isn't he?" Amy asked, taking a seat on one of the chairs in the room. "Beyond being caught in what appears to be an explosion, his body's riddled with damage from drug use. I recognize some of it from the thinker-tech stuff Skidmark peddles."

"Are you positive, Miss Dallon?"

"That he's a member of the Merchants?" she shrugged. "Not one hundred percent positive, but it's a good, educated guess."

Washington DC – White House

Daniel Robertson, Northern Virginia Democrat and current sitting President of the United States of America, entered the conference room. News of the incident off the coast of New England had interrupted his breakfast with his wife and daughter. But that was not why he was angry.

Having spent time in the Army, which allowed him to go to law school, he was no stranger to sudden violent death. It had been part of the job. However, this was no accident; someone had fired on and sunk one of their Coast Guard ships in home waters, something that hadn't happened since December 7, 1941. Most of all, he wanted to know why exactly he was going to have to call three grieving families today.

In the room were the eight members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard.

Considering the circumstances of the meeting, he noted that someone was missing. "Director Costa Brown is not in attendance?"

"We believe her presence would be disruptive at this time," General Justin Mallard, US Army and Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, explained.

"The reason is we are currently investigating some disturbing information coming out of the New York office of the PRT about this incident," the Director of the FBI added. "Agents involved with Operation Ovechkin were contacted by someone within that office when the news broke this morning."

Acknowledging that tidbit with a frown, he turned to the Coast Guard Commandant, "What happened, Kerry?"

"Sir, according to our initial reports, at five-thirty-five AM this morning, the patrol boat USCGC Spinner was tracking a strange radar echo coming from west of Fishers Island, which is south of New London, Connecticut. The commander of Station New Haven ordered the ship's captain, Lieutenant Paul Alcaraz, to investigate. It was also noted that when the other craft became visible some twenty minutes later, there was still difficulty in viewing it on radar."

"Tinker tech?"

"Yes, sir, that's what we believe, according to our good friends from the FBI," the Commandant acknowledged with a nod to the Director. "The boat was named 'Flying High' and owned by a parahuman named Skidmark. Another parahuman Squealer is thought to have built the vessel."

The President looked up at the images of the two individuals on the screen next to him with a frown and wrote something on a pad of paper.

"The 'Flying High' immediately opened fire with energy weapons, disabling the Spinner and killing three of its crew. Unfortunately, the patrol boat's two machine guns proved ineffective in damaging the armored tinker-tech boat. The crew members of the Spinner also added that the other craft started playing with them, circling around their stricken craft, and using it for target practice."

"Audrey, do you know if the two parahumans were on that boat?" the President asked the FBI Director.

"Yes, sir, we believe so."

"And one of your girls, Michael, was involved?"

"I wouldn't exactly call the Astoria one of ours, sir," Admiral Parks, US Navy, said with a smile. "But she responded to the Spinner's distress call like any Navy ship would have."

"Good thing, too," the Commandant of the Coast Guard added. "I doubt anyone else would have reached them in time. Astoria reportedly engaged the 'Flying High' at some five nautical miles with her secondary and primary guns; it did not survive the encounter."

"If she's like her namesake, sir, the New Orleans class USS Astoria had five- and eight-inch guns. A little overkill, but" the Admiral shrugged.

The President asked, "And you're still not convinced these shipgirls are not parahumans? You had one of your people meet the Archerfish; what did he say?"

"Inconclusive, sir, but he doesn't believe so. Although what else she could be, we're not sure. He does have orders to interview the rest of them if possible. I might also add that our friends at the PRT are struggling, too. One of their members of WEDGDG keeps coming up with the color Hazy Grey."

"And what happened next, sir, makes it even more peculiar. Lieutenant Alcaraz had a sinking ship and two seriously wounded crewmen; the Astoria gave permission for them to come on board." The Commandant gave a half smile at the confused looks around the room.

"They were all told to hold on to one another and suddenly found themselves in the infirmary of a US Navy warship. Corpsmen, or what looked like corpsmen, got to work on the wounded. The rest of the Spinner's crew were escorted to a location nearby, given refreshments and a place to relax while the Lieutenant was escorted onto the bridge."

You could hear a pin drop with how silent everyone had become.

"The bridge?" an Airforce general then scuffed. "Really, they must all have been hallucinating."

"It was a pretty convincing hallucination then. The outside might have been just an endless ocean, but inside was an active World War Two warship with its crew at General Quarters. From there, the Lieutenant contacted Captain Newsom, commander of New Haven station, and confirmed what happened. However, due to her proximity, Astoria ordered her ship to head towards Station Point Judith."

"Plans were made at that point to send the Spinner's wounded to Walter Reed; however, Astoria already contacted Newfoundland, who in turn reached out to the parahuman group New Wave requesting the assistance of the healer Panacea. Astoria informed us that besides our wounded, she managed to find one survivor from the 'Flying High' who was currently in critical condition. Considering the urgency, we picked her and her sister up in a Jayhawk from their High School parking lot."

"Is Astoria still at Point Judith?"

The Commandant of the Coast Guard shook his head. "No sir, she remained long enough to give a report and to drop off the survivors and the wounded. However, she promised to write an official after-action report and pass it on. Before she departed, though, she said that Archerfish offered to retrieve our dead from the wreck of the Spinner."

The group then began to ask questions, the engagement once again discussed, and what could be improved so that it doesn't happen again. The Navy brought up their overall concerns and agreed that re-opening one of the bases towards Maine might be possible if Congress approved. The Coast Guard pointed out that with an increase in their budget, the situation might have been mitigated with additional patrols, including both air and sea.

The President wrote a few more notes, then sat back and spoke. "Kerry, first of all, I want to speak to the families of the Spinner before this is officially reported. The White House news conference is scheduled for noon; I'll have Sonny push it out if necessary."

"Michael," he said to the Navy Admiral. "I would like you to reach out to Astoria and speak with her if possible. This country owes her a debt of gratitude."

"The others have been invaluable too, Mr. President. Between Archerfish's ongoing intelligence gathering and the information we gathered from the crew on the freighter that the Yuudachi captured has been absolutely fantastic."

He then turned towards the FBI director. "Write something up, Audrey; even if we don't make it official, let them know that we appreciate all they are doing. More importantly, find out what's going on with the PRT. I want to know who knew these two parahumans were in the area. And why we weren't notified that they had a ship with such combat capabilities. Next time, we might not be so lucky."

With his day positively ruined, the President of the United States reached over and pushed a button in front of him. Perhaps ruining someone else's day will make him feel better.

"Lizzy, please contact Director Brown; I wish to speak to her immediately."

Brockton Bay Northern Docks

The two Wards stood on the sea wall overlooking the northern part of the docks, viewing the spectacle below. Usually, they wouldn't be anywhere near here. However, the whole area was much safer, allowing the Wards to expand their patrols. Although Assault and Battery were at the Boardwalk having dinner in case something happened.

"Dad used to tell us stories when he was a kid of coming down here and watching the ships sail in and out of the port. Grandma used to send him down here every Friday to buy fish right off the boat for dinner, too. I didn't think that this was still a thing," Clockblocker explained, his feet swinging over a wall where he was perched.

The two had spent some of the evening watching the fishing boats come in, but what they found interesting was a group of young women dressed in red and white who mingled and danced among them. On the docks was a large group of other Brocktonians watching the spectacle, sharing drinks, and eating. It was some sort of festival they weren't even aware had been planned.

"So, who are the girls?" Vista asked.

"They are Miko or shrine maidens," a voice spoke from behind them higher up the hill.

Clockblocker spun around, startled, then laughed, "Hi, sorry we didn't see you. You said they were shrine maidens? Is that like a religious thing?"

The well-built, shirtless Japanese man, nodded, taking a tip of what looked like a bottle of beer. "They are female priests who, as you can see, are currently performing a kagura, or sacred dance. They are welcoming the fleet home and praying to the kami, thanking them for the bountiful harvest and safe return."

"Oh," the young ward looked excited. "It's like the Blessing of the Fleet. They used to do that every year but stopped because, well, you know."

"Indeed," the man said, finishing the bottle and then opening another one with the flick of a finger.

Vista turned back around as the group of girls moved toward another boat. "I don't think I have ever heard of a Miko."

"I doubt you would have, but things have," the Japanese man frowned. "Changed. Fishing has been poor, and the seas dangerous until now. They are also celebrating that two more boats will be joining the small fleet soon."

"The DWA was dredging the smaller channels the other day. Probably made it easier. My mom said they were hiring a lot of people. Uncle Eric even managed to get a job tearing down old buildings. I heard once the Saint Margret was cleared, they are going to use the rubble to expand the docks or something."

"Then your family has prospered as well, young Clockblocker."

"Yes, sir. I'm sorry; I see that you know who I am. This is Vista. Do you mind if I know your name?"


"Thank you. Do you think they mind were up here watching?"

"Not at all," the Japanese man said. "In fact, go on down for a closer look. They will be most welcoming."

"Will you be joining us?"

"Perhaps later; I think I will sit here, enjoy my beer, and watch the sunset."