For the next week, Maggie spent as much time as she could absorbing information on the world she hadn’t known existed. Maggie herself had been an accountant for what she described as a ‘wholly unremarkable’ clothing label based in New York City. She also claimed to have no real skills or reason that could explain her surviving the apocalypse for so long, but Amoc doubted that statement. Determination and resourcefulness were definitely there in spades, even if they weren’t fully quantifiable skills she could put on a resume. Amoc’s proof of that was that Maggie didn't have any reservations about going to ground zero of the apocalypse. Many warnings were given, but Maggie wasn’t dissuaded. Maybe it was driven by a desire for revenge for her lost friends, but he wouldn’t turn down a motivated pair of hands at this point.
The Argo made it down the mid-Atlantic coastline, stopping often for fuel, hunting, and other miscellaneous supplies. The undead were always present, especially in the larger coastal cities like Atlantic City and Newport News. Evidence of survivors was still frustratingly difficult to find, not only because cities were littered with the debris of a frozen moment in time, but because being out in the open near a population center was a sure death sentence. Anyone that had survived this long would be well hidden, like Logan’s compound in far northern Quebec.
Amoc knew there were more people out there like Maggie’s group, but finding them would never be easy. Maggie’s group had stayed hidden on the high floors of an office building. It was quite possible that if they hadn’t transmitted that radio signal, Amoc’s group would have passed through the city never knowing they were there. Radio was a possibility they hadn’t thought of before, and finding powerful equipment capable of reaching long distances was now a high priority. Assuming they survived Washington D.C.
One last stop was made in the Chesapeake Bay, at a tourist destination known as Tangier Island. It was as frustratingly close as Amoc had come to finding survivors by just stopping and looking around. The island held evidence of recent activity. Several areas of the island still looked maintained, not overgrown as he would have expected. Someone must have been living here as recently as only a month ago, but an overnight stay turned up no evidence of current inhabitants, and no evidence of where they had gone.
Late into the tenth day of their trip south, while traversing the Potomac River, a very recognizable sight came into view on their left side.
“Quantico.” Amoc stated, looking out over the water. “We’re not far out now.”
“Marine Corps, right?” Simon asked. “Could be some useful stuff in there. Might be a good place to call it for today.”
“I think so, yes.” Amoc agreed. “I’ll check in with everyone else, but I don’t think anyone’s going to argue against avoiding D.C. at night.”
“Speaking of D.C., you feeling anything weird yet?”
“A little, yes.” Amoc confirmed. “Which is… worrying, this far out from the city.”
“Well don’t twist my arm to stop here for the night.” Simon replied sarcastically, as he started turning for Quantico in the distance.
“What should we expect in D.C.?” Maggied asked, having wandered into their conversation.
“I don’t know.” Amoc legitimately had no idea. “But tonight I’d like you to have one more Dreamwalking session with Draki. I have a feeling that it’s going to be important to be very familiar with that experience, especially if you’re adamant about coming into the city with us.”
“I am.” Maggie was resolute. “And Draki’s got some great stories from Victorian era London, so I’m happy to sit down with him again. Says I’m the first that has really wanted to hear them. Seems like he really loves telling them too.”
Amoc and Simon just looked at each other for a moment. Maggie had adjusted to her expanded world faster than anyone else Amoc had witnessed, and was even daring to challenge their barely established status quo.
“Well how often do you get to talk to someone who’s nearly two hundred years old?” Maggie reasonably asked. “He lived in a time most of us only know about from books. I could pick his brain for hours. And I have.”
Had they really been so busy with survival that they hadn’t sat down to talk to each other about their lives before the apocalypse? A lot of Amoc’s stories were ones he’d rather not share, but he hadn’t stopped to think that others might have stories they want to share, if someone had just asked. Maggie’s challenge of their status quo was proving they all still had a lot to learn from each other.
“Something to keep in mind.” Amoc mused.
“Look I get it.” Maggie continued. “Survival’s harsh. Hell, two weeks ago I watched everyone I knew die. That’s hard. It makes you just want to ball up inside and never get close to anyone ever again. I came across those people that had done just that, time and time again. Mentally they were already dead, they just hadn’t gotten there physically. But what’s the point of surviving and fighting for the living if you’re not going to live?”
“I can get behind that.” Simon agreed.
“What about you, Mr. Garou?” Maggie asked Amoc, when he didn’t initially respond.
“I think I know part of why you’ve survived this long.” Amoc concluded. “I thought I was fighting for the living, but I’m beginning to realize that’s about more than just physically staying alive.”
“It had better be.” Maggie added. “Because I don’t see much point to being alive otherwise. So talk to your friends more. Ask Draki about what really caused the Irish potato famine. I think even you’d be shocked.”
That was one Amoc hadn’t heard before.
“We’re leaning towards stopping at Quantico for the night.” Amoc stated, changing back to the subject at hand. “Figuring it might have some useful supplies, and it puts us maybe an hour out from the heart of D.C.”
“Well you’ve got my vote.” Maggie agreed. “Sure as hell don’t want to see what D.C. has to offer after sunset.”
“I’ll go check in with Draki and Marcus.” Amoc stated, as he moved to exit the wheelhouse.
Draki and Marcus were at the back of the boat, working on the small greenhouse they had constructed in the area that used to hold fishing pots. A few of the plants had started to develop sprouts. It would be months still before they would start budding, but it was promising.
“Quantico’s coming up, we’re going to stop there, if there’s no objections.”
“Thought that looked military.” Marcus observed. “Likely worth checking out while we still have daylight.”
“Draki?” Amoc asked the Gargoyle.
“Yes, I’ll be ready to scout the base once we dock.”
Amoc still wasn’t clear on what was bugging Draki, but it was definitely something, and it had been there since he had learned that Amoc had been a Hunter before the apocalypse.
“That settles it, then.” Amoc concluded. “I’ll go tell Simon to bring us all the way in.”
Amoc returned to the wheelhouse, where it was only Simon at the helm. Maggie presumably had moved down into the crew cabins.
“The crew agreed.” Amoc began. “No mutiny today, it seems, captain.”
“You know most pirate ships were democratic.” Simon retorted. “We don’t really go by Navy rules here, so we’re really more like pirates. Mutiny was just another word for election.”
“I didn’t know that.” Amoc replied. “But now I feel like we need to raise a black flag or something.”
“The Argo… terror of the Hudson and Potomac Rivers, and occasionally the mid-Atlantic.” Simon mused, then changed tracks. “You ever think about what meeting before the apocalypse would have been like? The two of us, that is?”
“Sure.” Amoc began. “I would have given you a brochure for my family’s company. Or maybe a quote for an installation if you were a customer. Or in your case maybe just some consulting on how to install a system in some construction project.”
“Hah, yeah, suppose it would have all been very normal and boring.” Simon conceded. “It’s easy to forget that a lot of what you did was so completely ordinary. And I’ve not got any problem with the… other stuff. Expectation and tradition are two powerful forces that have led to a lot of pain, for a lot of people. It’s also really hard to get away from, but you can try, and have been trying, and I’m here for that all the way.”
“Thanks, that means a lot.” Amoc appreciated Simon’s statement of trust. “Being honest, I’ve really struggled with understanding why you would trust me, of all people, knowing what I am and what I’ve done. But for some reason you do, and I’ve tried to make sure I’m earning that. I’m not convinced I have yet.”
“Wow.” Simon began. “That is some self-loathing bullshit there. You have more than earned it at this point, and I won’t have you saying otherwise. How the hell did you make it as a Garou with self-esteem like that?”
“Being able to stand people like you, I guess.” Amoc laughed.
“Yeah, that I understand.” Simon replied, amused. “Surviving years in New York construction takes a certain kind of person. That person is definitely an acquired taste.”
“Humans were always too salty for me, never understood why you didn’t give Vampires heart attacks constantly.” Amoc replied, forcing a matter-of-fact tone.
Simon looked over at Amoc and blinked.
“You’re fucking with me again.” Simon concluded.
“It never gets old.” Amoc replied. “And it’s kind of just built in, that habit. Maybe part of what made me a good Hunter.”
“Yeah, definitely glad I was never one of your targets.”
“That makes two of us.”
The base was coming into full view now. A number of boats were still moored. The amount of algae on the boat hulls said they had been here since the apocalypse.
“Looks like the base marina’s coming up, you know the routine.” Simon stated.
“Right.” Amoc said as he moved out of the wheelhouse to grab the mooring lines.
“Oh and Amoc.” Simon began, and Amoc paused. “Seriously. I meant what I said. I trust you. You may not fully believe it, but I do.”
He says it with such confidence, it makes me want to believe it too. Only thing I can do is make sure it’s never misplaced. Trust is a very easy thing to lose, and a very hard thing to earn. Kin trusted me, but Kin knew they had no choice. Simon survived on his own for a long time, and could do that again. So this is his choice. That’s worth a hell of a lot.
“Thanks Simon, I’m trying.”
“That’s all I ask.”