They came from underground.
The irony of that fact wasn’t lost on Simon as they drove through the streets of Montreal at high speed. Draki’s scouting had spotted three major hordes, all of which were out of their way. It looked like an easy run to the boat. Simon figured that he should have known it was too good to be true.
“Right turn, two blocks, left turn.” Simon fed directions to Amoc, who was currently driving. “We’re almost there.”
They were ahead of the horde now. The narrow streets of the city center were working to their advantage, slowing the horde down. Amoc wanted to be out there pulling it away, but he had been driving when the horde ambushed them. It had come flooding out of a Metro station as they passed by, and they didn’t dare stop now. Draki was up in the air somewhere, likely kicking himself for what they all should have realized at this point: the horde goes where it wants, underground included.
“I’m changing the second we stop.” Amoc asserted as he drove.
“Don’t forget the suit, you’ll have enough time.” Simon reminded Amoc.
“How much time are you going to need?” Amoc asked. “I know we went over it, but how much can you shave off?”
“One more right turn in two blocks, that should take us straight to the ferry dock.” Simon answered with the last directions. “I was hoping to be able to get an oil change in, but that’s not happening now. If everything’s working well, maybe five minutes? I don’t want to push the engines too hard with such a short warmup.”
“We shouldn’t need to, right?” Marcus asked. “We just need to get away from the shore, since the undead won’t go in the water.”
“I can give you five minutes.” Amoc stated.
They continued speeding through narrowing streets. Montreal was an old city, with roads that had been designed long before the advent of cars. The truck had gained a couple of new dents from slightly too close encounters on their run from the horde.
The marina finally came into view, and with it the boat that had brought Simon and Amoc to Canada six months ago. It was right where they had left it, still moored to the ferry dock. The boat was the most important part of the plan, and it had been a genuine worry that it might have broken a line over the Winter and been swept out into the river. Backup options were highly risky.
I swear I’ll give you a name this time, if you get us out of here. You’ll deserve it for saving me twice.
Simon was beginning to understand why longtime sailors talked to their boats like they were people.
Simon’s brief moment of relief was cut short by Amoc hitting the brakes hard. They were in front of the walkway down to the water, and they all piled out in unison. Simon and Marcus started pulling supplies out of the bed, and Amoc went for the jumpsuit. The sound of the horde was audible. It was already too close.
“Contact in thirty seconds!”
The shout came from above. Simon looked up to see Draki passing overhead. Yelling meant the horde was coming directly for them, and there was no point in hiding. Thirty seconds wasn’t enough time.
“Fuck.” Amoc came to the same conclusion.
Amoc dropped the jumpsuit back in the bed and pulled his sword out, placing it on the ground.
“What about the shield?” Simon asked.
“Too much weight.” Amoc said as he began the change.
The change seemed to progress much faster than normal. Amoc had said he could make it happen quicker if he wanted to, but the price was that it took a lot more energy out of him. It was only for emergencies, which this clearly was. Amoc finished the transformation in mere seconds, letting out a loud grunt as he did.
Looks like it hurts a lot more too.
“Don’t try to fight them.” Simon requested as Amoc picked up his sword.
“Just going for a run.” Amoc replied, looking back at Simon.
Before Simon had a chance to add anything more, Amoc took off at full speed towards the sound of the horde. Simon looked up to see Draki turning to follow him. He would make sure Amoc didn’t run head-long into the other hordes, as planned. That was another part of the original plan, they just hadn’t expected to begin it this quickly.
You better come back, you smug bastard. I’m not doing this without you.
“Okay, everything out.” Simon got back to business. “If it’s not fragile, throw it over the rail.”
“Right.” Marcus stated, starting to pull things out of the bed.
Within thirty seconds they had the bed empty, and the sound of the horde was moving away. Packs went on backs, fragile items went in the wheelbarrow and over shoulders, and anything else went over the rail to the dock below. They reached the bottom of the ramp and began hucking everything on to the deck of the boat.
“Don’t bother with the gangway, not going to need it.” Simon ordered as he saw Marcus going for the portable walkway. “Just get everything on the deck, I’m going to go do the startup checks.”
Marcus nodded as Simon jumped the gap to the main deck, then proceeded to the wheelhouse door while fishing for the chain of keys he had put around his neck. The boat keys were too important to keep anywhere else.
Generator first. If the batteries are weak, I need that running. Would be really fucking dumb to try and crank the main engines if the solar panels haven’t been keeping up. Then cycle the fuel pumps to get any water out of the fuel, then dry crank the main engines to get all the water out of the cylinders. Three to four minutes to main engine start. Then hope like hell the oil is still good.
Simon descended the stairs to the engine room and found the main breaker box in the dark. He had done this enough times to know exactly where it was, and which breakers to switch on first. The engine room lights flickered to life as he flipped the first. That was a good sign. Simon turned on a second set, and proceeded to the generator console.
“Argo.” Simon stated to the engine room. “That will be your name. Maybe it’s a little cliche, sure, but I think it’s the right name for what we’re doing, and what we need you to be right now: a boat favored by the gods.”
Simon flicked the master power switch, then the fuel pump switch. Fuel began flowing through the sight glass in line with the filter and water separator, showing the characteristic slight green tint of diesel fuel. After a moment the pump lowered in pitch, indicating the system was primed. Simon rotated the start toggle.
And nearly had a heart attack as all the lights in the engine room dimmed. The generator was the smallest engine on the boat, and shouldn’t have done that. The batteries were definitely low. The cranking was slow and labored, but right as Simon was starting to think there wasn’t enough current to get it running, the generator lurched over in a violent fit of uneven combustion. After a few nervous moments, it settled into a smoother idle.
“Fuck yeah!” Simon exclaimed.
“Are we going?” Marcus asked from the wheelhouse.
“We are definitely going!” Simon stated confidently.
If the main engines start.
“I’ve got everything on the deck.” Marcus added. “What can I do?”
“Stay out of my way.” Simon blurted out. “Um… no offense but you’re just going to slow me down right now.”
“None taken.” Marcus replied. “I’ll keep an eye for undead.”
Simon was too busy moving on to the next steps to respond. He moved over to the main engines and began undoing screws that opened up the combustion chambers for venting. That took another sixty seconds, at the end of which Simon returned to the generator and turned a switch that brought the engine up from idle to operational speed. The generator alone wasn’t really meant to crank the engines, but it could be done in a pinch, if the batteries had enough left in them to assist. It would have to be the bare minimum number of revolutions to clear the water out. Batteries could be replaced. Engine blocks couldn’t, if a connecting rod decided to fling itself through a wall because there was water locking up a cylinder.
Turning the start toggle with fuel shut off, the engines turned, some vapor came out, and both engines seemed to be ready. Simon closed up all the vents and flipped the fuel pump toggles on. Fuel flowed through the sight glass. Simon took one cursory glance at the oil level on both engines. They had oil, and that was really all he could check in the time they had.
“Moment of truth.” Simon said for his own benefit.
Simon flicked the starter toggle back on. The lights dimmed and the generator struggled, but the big diesel cranked and coughed to life, immediately settling into an idle.
“You beautiful bastard!” Simon exclaimed.
“I hear good things down there!” Marcus shouted down the stairs.
“You’re fucking right you do!” Simon shouted back.
The second engine came to life slower, but it still fired. The batteries would have to be checked when they got a chance, this hard start had probably done some damage to them.
“We’re going to throw lines off now.” Simon ordered as he came up the steps. “We can idle out of dock if we need to, give the engines time to warm up. Pull the lines in as I throw them off.”
“Aye captain.” Marcus replied with not a hint of irony in his voice.
“You keep that up, you’ll make first mate in no time.” Simon was feeling good enough to let a joke fly.
They were going to make it out of Montreal.
“You seen Amoc or Draki?” Simon asked Marcus, looking out the front windows.
“I thought we were going to be the ones taking too much time.” Simon stated.
Simon went back outside and jumped to the dock, undoing the mooring lines one at a time for Marcus to pull back in. When the last one was clear, he jumped back over and went back up to the wheelhouse.
“Five minutes, plus or minus.” Marcus stated, looking at his watch.
“Where the hell are they?”
Simon asked the question to himself as he looked out the windows at the Montreal skyline. The engines were now masking any sounds coming from the city, so it was hard to know what was going on out there.
Suddenly there was a thump on the deck from behind them.
“Go!” Draki yelled from outside. “Out to the left, to the clock tower, use the horn!”
Draki looked winded, and Simon also noticed that he was carrying Amoc’s sword.
What the hell is going on?
“Where’s Amoc?” Simon yelled back.
“You’ll see…” Draki caught his breath. “In just a moment, but you don’t want to be near the dock.”
Simon turned back around to the wheel and cranked the rudder full to port, spinning the boat around. He began blasting the horn at the same time. Draki and Amoc had something in motion, and Simon wasn’t going to jeopardize it while his friend was out there risking himself to buy them time.
Simon ran the throttles up once the boat was pointed out of the marina and again turned the rudder hard to port past the end, directly towards the clock tower at the end of the marina. It was midway through this turn that a noise became audible over the engines, and it immediately sent chills down Simon’s back. Looking to the left, Simon saw the horde, tens of thousands of bodies, barreling full sprint towards the marina. Amoc was leading them.
Amoc turned into the entrance to the quay, and the horde attempted to follow… but its sheer mass and speed sent hundreds of bodies spilling into the water between the quay and the shore. Simon suddenly realized what Amoc was doing. There were so many moving so fast, fixated on Amoc. They wouldn’t be able to stop. Amoc was using the crush against them.
“Fucking genius!” Simon exclaimed aloud, running the throttles up further to try and time what was coming.
“What?” Marcus asked. “What am I missing?”
“It’s going to be beautiful, just wait.” Simon replied.
Amoc reached the clock tower at the end of the quay and jumped, clearing what had to have been at least fifty feet. Simon had rarely seen Amoc put his full ability to use, but here it was needed. The undead began pouring into the river behind him. Those at the front tried to stop, but the momentum of those behind them was too great. Simon throttled down to a stop and watched as more and more bodies went in.
It truly was a thing of beauty, watching the horde spill off the quay like a waterfall. This had been a theory of his and Amoc’s ever since New York City, but there was obviously no way to test it without a genuine city-sized horde. Amoc had decided this was the time to test it, apparently.
The boat rocked slightly, and Simon looked back to see one very wet Garou unceremoniously flopping down onto the deck. Simon went back to check on his friend. Amoc was fully laid out on his back, breathing hard, chest heaving. He had only seen Amoc this worn out once.
“You…” Simon began, stopping when he noticed Amoc was leaking a good amount of blood on the deck. “What happened?”
“My running partners…” Amoc began, catching his breath sharply as regeneration started closing lacerations. “Were kind of bitey.”
In this state, and after that stunt… the wiseass is cracking a joke.
The memory of their first encounter flashed through Simon’s head, seeing Amoc beaten and bloodied on the roof of that school. He was too shocked at the time to realize the joke Amoc had made.
“Fucking hell, when Draki showed up alone with your sword…”
“You were worried?” Amoc cut Simon off.
Simon paused, at a rare loss for words. He could have sworn he saw a smirk in the lupine muzzle of Amoc’s war form.
“Yes I was fucking worried!” Simon exclaimed. “That wasn’t in the plan!”
“I’m honored.” Was Amoc’s infuriatingly smug reply. “Touched, really.”
Simon stood there exasperated, looking down, a rare thing, at Amoc. His wounds were mostly closed now.
“I’m sorry.” Amoc replied, seeming to finally read Simon’s reaction. “Things went sideways. We had to improvise.”
Amoc sat up, bringing himself to eye level despite his sitting position and Simon’s standing. Simon let out one final exasperated sigh. Amoc was alive, they were all alive, and soon to be headed south. Those were the main things that counted.
“You’ve made a mess of my deck.” Simon replied after a moment, calmer.
“I’ll clean it.” Amoc offered.
“Damn right you will.”