Chapter 24:

The Ebb Tide V - "Reed's Reprise"

Destiny Marine

“Myra is the reason I’m here today,” Panama began to his captive audience. As Isaac and Babs watched from their catwalk, Reed wiped her face and pushed loose strands of hair away. All the fighting and movement had left her coated in the bay water pouring through the hole in the ship from the outside. She grimaced; her left arm and stomach were especially soaked, and the bays of Arcadia weren’t known for their cleanliness. Down below, the layer of water continued to rise, covering up to about three-fourths of the cargo’s hold height now. Crates bobbed along the surface while the highest stacks remained above the water line.

Leaving Babs behind as a decoy, Isaac tried to sneak down the catwalk and then find a way to cross to the other side, but a new wall stopped him in his tracks. He punched through that one, but a new wall flew toward him just as fast, and Isaac didn’t have enough energy in him to break through that one as well, especially if they still had to fight Jackson after all this. Isaac dove out of the way of the incoming wall, and looked back towards Panama and Reed.

“I met Myra while I served the Navy,” Panama explained. “Smart, funny, beautiful - you name it, and she had it. But that wasn’t all. She had a dream. She had something she actively worked towards, something greater than herself.”

“The Restorationists?” Reed supposed.

Panama shook his head. “The Restorationists want to completely change this country from the ground-up. All Myra wanted to do was restore the right to vote, a right taken from us by the military government. But for that…just for wanting that, the State Police disappeared her in the middle of the night.”

He looked at his remaining hand. “I had just dropped her home from a date. If only had I known…why do we live in a world where a person you knew one day could be gone the next? Worse still, I never got any answers. I still don’t. She could be alive in captivity for all I know. Or they could’ve taken her to jail and shot her in the back of the head that very night.”

Isaac kept quiet - Panama's story and his vision of justice seemed far too uncomfortably close to his own. Reed also kept quiet, just trying to settle herself. Water dripped down her left arm and stomach. Energy slowly built back up in her sword, creating a low humming noise that echoed through the cargo hold.

Panama certainly noticed, but continued nonetheless. “Unlike her, I had no dreams. I joined the Navy because I was conscripted; I apparently had promise as a cultivator and only unlocked it once I learned that extra money would be sent to my family during my conscription period. But then sickness took my family, so what was the point? What’s the point in anything? I had no wants or desires - I was there because someone forced me to.”

In contrast to the earlier flares, the energy in Reed’s sword seemed drained now, only giving off light crackles.

“But Myra showed me how to want,” Panama said, raising his hand to the cargo’s hold ceiling. “She showed me what it was like to believe in something. And they eliminated her for this belief. That left me in disarray for my remaining years in the Navy. I trudged along, showing no improvement in cultivation. Improvement didn’t matter to me. Eating or sleeping didn’t either. I just wanted to lie down all day. Do you know how hard it is, forced into something you don’t want to do? To be among people you despise?”

Isaac and Babs shared unsure glances with each as he continued. “That’s why Jackson will forever be my friend. He introduced me to the Restorationist cause. Myra wouldn’t want me to lie around all day. Myra would want me to dream, so I’ve started dreaming and haven’t looked back since.”

Panama crouched down and pressed his stump against the water; ooze formed and stopped the bleeding. “That’s why I respect you, half-man. At your age, I wouldn’t have cared if my comrades got hurt.” He stood back up to full height. “But that’s why I need to kill you three as well. My comrades and I are working to Restore humanity to its old glory - for the sake of them, for the sake of all who come after me, I won’t allow you to stop us.”

Isaac noticed the calmness in him as he spoke. So, we’re down here because we’re working to change this country, but so is Panama. Why are we fighting then? Because he’s a Restorationist and I…I have no plan on how to actually change this country? Come to think of it…do I even know what Restorationism really is? In a different life, I would've joined Kassandra. I might've been standing where Panama stands now.

The dripping water pooled below Reed’s shoes. “Wants, wants, wants. I guess everybody has a want. Maybe that’s why humans will always fight - everybody has different wants, and some people decide their wants are worth more than others. Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world with no wants? If we could ever make something like that, then maybe nobody would have to die anymore.”

Red lights flickered from her sword, picking back up in intensity. “But that would just be a dream world. In the real world, you want to kill me, and if I had no wants, I’d just roll over and die here. But that’s no good. This is Squad Reed’s first mission, and come hell or highwater, we’re making it back in one piece, your desires be damned.”

She pointed her sword at him. “Myra showed you how to dream, sure, but did you ever stop and think about if she wanted you to have this dream? This dream that’s led you to kill people and become a drug smuggler and all that jazz? Or are you just using your memory of her as a prop to support your own nonsense, ‘cuz it’s not like she’ll say no?”

For the next few moments, the only sound in the cargo hold was the regular rushing of water. Panama glanced down at his good hand again, then slowly closed it. “You’re a good woman. You can think. Myra would’ve liked that. Unfortunately, I can think too, and some speech from a random woman I’ve never met before isn’t going to change my mind. You three will have to die, right here and now.”

Reed’s left arm exploded. She looked down at it in shock, then her stomach exploded. Blood and entrails and fingers flew from her body as she collapsed in a heap. She managed to hold onto her sword with her good hand and arm, but the upper half of her body dangled off the edge of the crate as blood pooled below her and dripped down into the water.

Wind burst from Babs and Isaac readied his fists, but water surged from beneath the catwalk, completely breaking it in two. As Isaac leapt to another crate to save himself from plunging into the water, Babs used her breathing to glide herself into the side of a crate; as she struggled to climb back over it, water turned into ooze menacingly below her.

“You fools!” Panama roared in laughter. “Did you really assume that my ability was limited to water I could touch?”

Reed didn’t have an answer for that one. The energy slowly dissipated from her sword as Isaac struggled to come up with a plan. Waves of ooze slammed into the crates at the bottom of his pile, forcing him to leap away.

“I can manipulate any of the water in this cargo hold!” Panama boasted. The ooze surged towards Babs, just narrowly missing her ankles as she climbed onto the top of a crate. Isaac tried to circle around to take Panama from behind, but a wall rose to meet him. When Isaac punched through it, he felt something tear in his arm, and he fell onto another stack of crates, just narrowly avoiding falling into the water.

That’s when Isaac noticed that, even though she still lied face-down, Reed had raised her good arm, sword still in hand. With the last of her energy, she swung the sword downwards in one final guitar strum.

Almost lazily, Panama raised the wall in front of him to shield himself. He didn’t even need it. The sword wave ducked underneath it, sailing harmlessly into the water below.

Panama chuckled. “That’s all you could-”

The sound wave re-emerged from behind him. It had traveled through the water, hit the metal floor of the cargo hold, and rose back out of the water, moving even faster now. The target had never been Panama in the first place; the true target was behind him - a light fixture with its glass bulb. The sound wave smashed the light bulb, sending out bits and pieces of glass, including a large shard headed directly for-

The new wall didn’t rise in time. A red streak of blood sprayed from Panama’s throat.

He looked up at Reed for a moment, a single moment, his eyes not saying anything in particular, just wondering about it all.

Then Panama fell face forward and slowly began floating away.


As Isaac caught his breath, Reed’s body went limp and her grip on her sword gradually loosened. As Babs glided herself over to her, Isaac found a route through the crates to arrive alongside her as well. When he arrived on top of her crate, blood pooled around his shoes. He reached down to retrieve the sword from her before it fell, but she refused and slowly brought her arm back towards her, taking the sword out of harm’s way with it.

With an uneasy look, Babs flipped Reed over. Isaac almost recoiled from the sight - he wasn’t a doctor, but he knew that they were called your “insides” for a reason. Much of her left arm was gone, too, with bone and sinew visible between blown away bits of skin and muscle.

The medic was still topside and there was little time, so Babs got to work right away, wrapping bandages and linen around her stomach while doing what she could with the organs. Everybody had brought a small amount of medical supplies with them; Isaac handed over his bandages and watched as Babs sent small shock waves of Rddhi into Reed's organs to keep them working. Isaac felt useless and antsy just standing there, so he decided to offer what little support he could by holding what remained of her hand.

Reed gave him a glassy side-eye. “Take me to dinner first, Isaac,” she mumbled. She then looked back up at the ceiling of the cargo hold. “You guys like that move?" she wheezed out. "Sound waves move faster in water. He didn't know what hit him."

Isaac held her hand closer. “You’re gonna be alright, don’t worry. We’ll get you out of here.”

A weak smile emerged on her lips. “You’re an…awful liar. Hey…but we sure gave them one hell of a fight, right?”

Babs worked feverishly, gesturing for Isaac to lift her slightly so she could wrap the bandages around her back. Her entire stomach was covered in gauze and tape now, parts of them showing an uncomfortable amount of red.

With her wounded arm now freed, Reed slowly lifted it to reach inside her greatcoat. With a weak grip, she produced her pack of cigarettes and held it up to Isaac. "Pick a good one."

Isaac didn't understand her exact meaning, but as he peered inside the carton, he realized every cigarette had something written on it. Wasting no time, he grabbed the first one he could - in a lazy scrawl, this one said HAPPINESS IS A STATE.

"How fitting," Reed mumbled as Isaac placed the cigarette in her mouth. She raised a weak finger and lit up. Smoke trailed away from her mouth as she smiled.

"Okay. I'm ready to die now. Let's do this."