An army of nightmares fell on the leaderless soldiers. The Other, crying out commands in his strange language, led the charge. The men of the Sphere fought back for awhile, but were in such chaos that they fell into a disordered retreat, running on small boats or their floating tanks. Most would be slaughtered by a relentless mutant pursuit.
The mutants warriors were from a tribe that had suffered from the same disease that the monastery was, and the Fortune Teller had given them the cure. They were, by their code of honor, her servants now. When The Other had contacted them, they had jumped at the chance to help.
Kurt was still alive. He had realized the doctor was giving the soldiers their location a moment before the attack, and had found a building and hid in it. It may have not been very heroic, but Kurt had never been one for heroics.
Fate had survived too. He had been shot in the gut, but not fatally. He played dead as the soldiers looked over them. The doctor had checked for pulse, but Fate had learned long ago how to slow his heartbeat down to near invisibility. Unlike Kurt, the moment The Other started his attack Fate had got his hands on a rifle and started shooting.
“Vhere's Clooney?” Kurt asked when he saw Fate picking through the dead. They were piled up in the buildings, layers of them.
“He's a dead duck,” Fate said thoughtlessly. “He got shot right in front of me. Couldn't have faked it. Unless he has a spare head. Sorry.” He added the last word when Kurt winced at the imagery. “I'm more concerned with what happened to Derek and Zoey. I'd bet they're the ones who knocked that building down on the ship. Unless we just got really lucky.”
Kurt nodded as tears welled up in his eyes. “Oh god. I hope zey're not dead too.”
“They probably are,” Fate remarked, completely oblivious to Kurt's tears. “But try and be optimistic. I got to go check on the Fortune Teller, she if there's any change. Chow.” Fate began a leisurely walk through the battlefield back to his keeper.
Kurt didn't give up so easily. He searched for hours, long into the night, for any sign of Derek and Zoey. He found no trace of them, not even their bodies that would have at least given him closure. When the sun began to rise he flopped down next to a few dead men and fell asleep.
“Kurt! You're alive!” Kurt opened his eyes and saw Zoey standing in front of him, Derek not to far behind her. “We thought you were dead!” She turned to Derek. “I guess Fate was wrong, huh?”
Kurt utter joy at seeing them alive was temporarily stifled by realization. “Did you talk to Fate? Did he tell you I vas probably dead?”
“Yes, why?” Derek answered.
Kurt smiled. “I talked to him and he zaid the same ting about you. Rat bastard wanted to keep us searching all night!”
“Way to be a jerk,” Zoey said to no one in particular. They all laughed, and excited hugs were exchanged. They talked for a bit and Kurt filled them in on the mutants and Derek filled him in on the fight with Cornwell and the doctor's death. All of them broke down in sobbing when Kurt told them about Clooney.
It was that exact moment when Clooney walked in on them. “Thank God!” he exclaimed. “Fate said you were dead!”
They all looked at each other. They didn't know whether to laugh or cry. So they did a little bit of both.
A few hours later they were rowing back to the monastery in Kurt's boat, with a large supply of the disease's cure between them. They had all yelled at Fate for playing such a mean trick, but hadn't been able to remain mad long. They were too happy with the rush of being alive, and of finding out that everybody else was alive too.
They talked and joked and remembered as they rowed, but finally Derek got to the meat of the issues.
“I'm going after the Ark,” he said, cutting into the middle of a pleasant conversation.
“The Ark? As in Noah's Ark?” Clooney asked.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Derek responded, although in truth he'd never even heard of Noah's Ark. “The Fortune Teller told me about it before she was injured. Apparently it contains a bunch of stuff to rebuild the world. Animal DNA and a cloning machine, stuff like that. The Fortune Teller needs it, and asked me to get it for her.”
“What does she want it for?” Zoey asked.
“Not quite sure, she never said. But I bet to help rebuild the world.”
“Sounds like a worthy cause,” Clooney remarked. “Where is it?”
“Somewhere in the Scheldt,” Derek said, and he felt Kurt stiffen next to him. “I hoped Kurt could tell me where.”
“No,” Kurt said coldly. “Never heard of it. No point in looking for something in the Scheldt unless you've got exact coordinates. The entire svamp looks exactly the same, zere are no landmarks to follow and no maps. Usually it hangs a big mist around it, so you can't see two veet in front of your face. Bands of feral mutantz roam around, und pounce on anything meaty.”
Derek wouldn't be discouraged. “Doesn't matter. I've got to find the Ark. I'm not going to let the Scheldt stop me.”
“You'll be dead in days without a guide,” Kurt remarked.
“Know any good guides for hire?” Derek asked.
“I know vone. Und you can probably get him to come along for free.”
Kurt smiled. “Me. I haven't been to de Scheldt in a long time. Although I don't exactly like it it is my homeland. Be interesting to see if anythings changed.”
“Thanks, thanks a lot Kurt,” Derek said.
“We can continue this conversation on land,” Clooney said, grinning. The monastery was in sight.
The following days were full of activity. They distributed the cure through the town, which was accompanied by a celebration. Clooney arranged a small memorial service for Giba. Bates worked with Kurt to create a mathematical method to search the Scheldt. It was all so busy Derek didn't get a chance to talk with Zoey until the day they were leaving. He found her in the infirmary, hovering over George.
“How is he?” Derek asked. George was twisting back and forth in his sleep, muttering under his breath.
“The cure worked fine, the disease is gone,” Zoey said. “But he's really screwed up by whatever Connel did to him. He can't even eat or drink on his own, and needs sedatives to sleep.”
“Well, Clooney can take care of him while you're gone. Anyway, get your stuff we've got to get going,” Derek said perhaps a tad too insensitively. He wanted to get going. He had a purpose for the first time since leaving the Sphere, and was eager to get at it.
“I'm not going with you Derek,” Zoey said, checking George's temperature. “If George is going to get over this he needs to have a friendly face around. Besides, Clooney doesn't know how to take care of him like I do. If I leave now, he may never recover.”
“But we're a team!” Derek exclaimed, “I need you! You're so good at just taking command whenever it's needed. I can't lead people. You're my friend, you're supposed to have my back, isn't that what friends do?” Although Zoey thought the last question was rhetorical, Derek honestly didn't know the answer. “Besides, you could always treat him when you get back! Why do you think-”
“Can you promise that I will come back?” Zoey interrupted him. A silent void abruptly filled the room, and Derek's irritation was cut short. “If I go with you, can you promise that I will still be alive to take care of George?”
Derek couldn't bare to tell her the truth. “With what we've faced out here I doubt anything the Scheldt could beat-”
“Can you guarantee that?” Zoey snapped.
Derek broke eye contact. “No,” he said mournfully.
“That's what I thought,” Zoey said. “I can't leave George here without anyone else. If I die then he'll never recover, just waste away. Have you ever been tortured Derek?”
“Yes.” The answer was not what Zoey expected, as the details of Derek's time on the Leviathan had slipped her mind. Derek's will to argue had been broken regardless. Derek imagined being water boarded for a month without any hope of relief. He understood why Zoey needed to stay. “Ok,” he continued after a long pause. “I understand. George needs you, and you really care about him. And what I'm doing is stupid and dangerous, and you can't take that risk. But I might be gone for months, or even years, so before I go I want to let you know that I...” he trailed off. He meant to say “I love you” but the words wouldn't come. “I expect to play a lot more twenty questions with you when I get back.”
Zoey embraced his strong form in a tight hug. “I'm looking forward to it,” she said, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Goodby Derek.”
“Goodby Zoey,” Derek answered, accepting the hug. It was strange. The goodby had no feeling of finality to it. Something at the back of his mind told him that this was not the last time he would see Zoey, and that was a comforting thought. Besides, she had kissed him!
Kurt's boat was loaded up with supplies and the two set out towards the north. It would take a few days to reach the Scheldt, but Kurt would make the time pass quickly with jokes and stories. The sun shined and the water was warm, but not warm enough to be irritating. Derek kept feeling his cheek where Zoey had kissed him.
“You know, I ve do zis,” Kurt remarked, “I vonder if der vill ever be a myth made up about uz.”
“What? You mean something like 'The Ballad of Derek and Kurt'?”
“No no no. 'The Ballad of Derek and Kurt the Improbably Handsome'.”
Derek snorted. “Yep, I think that's exactly what our story will be called.”
“Und it vill be full of monztars and evil warlordz and we'll rescue beautiful princeszes together.”
“Right, and we'll get our own radio show.”
“Und people will write books about uz vith some creative licenzing. And ve vill become heroez of our own mythology.”
They carried on like this for quite awhile, becoming more and more ridiculous as they went along. For the moment all was right in Derek's world. He had a mission that he could complete and the girl he loved had given him a kiss. He had faced Cornwell and beaten him, he had faced every enemy he came up against and beaten them.
There was nothing he couldn't face.