The Essentials


Scene Title The Essentials
Synopsis A scavenger finds a rumor.
Date March 17, 2020

Sea birds speak a noisy greeting to the cloudy skies.

The haze gray light of dawn is just an hour old, but in the settlement of Delphi the day starts before dawn. A drizzling rain falls on the raft city, tethered around the green and copper goliaths of Twin Liberties. These towering buildings look like massive greenhouses with the way the surviving glass is overgrown with algae and mold on the inside.

Ropes and metal cables extend from the Twin Liberties, tethering flotilla of rafts, barges, and boats of all kinds in an interlinked floating city that smells of sweat, sea spray, and desperation. Fishing boats dot the ocean horizon in every direction around the settlement, nets cast out into the polluted sea, fishing for both salvage and sustenance.

A lone shallow-bottom motorboat rips across the placid surf. The lone boatman, seated at the back of the vessel, holds one hand on the rudder and the other on the side of the boat as his vessel skips across the cresting waves. A net covers the front of his boat, holding down bundles of scrap metal, clothes, and burlap sacks. He weaves his watercraft between the fishing boats, paying mind to the men with rifles standing on deck.

As the boatman navigates through the fishing vessels, he follows a familiar path to an old yacht lashed up into the flotilla. Rust streaks down the vessel's barnacle-crusted hull. He cuts the engine and coasts in, looking up at the side of the ship until figures in hooded jackets appear over the railing to throw down a tether.

"Hey!" One of the men high up on the ship calls out. "Did you find any?"

The boatman squints against the drizzling rain, looking up to the crew that shouted down at him. He makes a noise, sucking in a breath through his nose, then sighs and rummages around through his haul. From within, he finds a dented brown and red tin can that reads CAFE BUSTELO in black script across the side. The boatman pitches it up and the can is snatched greedily in the hands of the crew member.

"Are you fucking shitting me? It's still sealed?!" The crew member calls down.

"You gonna keep pulling on my dick or are you gonna do your job?!" The boatman yells up at the crew. The man who took the sealed tin disappears behind the railing. When he comes back its with a pair of cranes extending over the side of the boat, lowering down steel cables with hooks on the end.

"Boss wants to talk to you, Tay!" The crewman calls down.

The boatman, Tay, sweeps his hood back from his head and squints up with a scowl.

"Course he does."


The Delphi Flotilla
Flooded Ruins of Pennsylvania

March 17th
7:16 am

Water runs off the scraped hull of Tay's skiff. The boat jostles as he hops down off of it onto the deck of the larger ship, shaking water off of his heavy jacket. "Unfuckingbelievable, Tay." The crewman he'd spoken to earlier says, peeling open the aluminum seal at the top of the Cafe Bustelo tin. "Fucking coffee."

"Yeah," Tay says, walking past the crewman, "try not t'get shot over it."

"Hey, hey. No." The crewman says, putting the cracked plastic lid back on the tin. "Where the fuck did you find this?"

Tay stops, looking over his shoulder at the crewman, then to his skiff, then back. "Take your coffee and don't ask stupid fuckin' questions." Tay says like a bark of a junkyard dog. The crewman grunts, rolling his shoulders, before turning to Tay's boat and unclasping the netting, preparing to offload.

Tay shakes his head and turns back to the deck of the ship, headed toward the cabin. There's netting hanging over the cabin's broken windows, decorated with hood ornaments from old luxury cars. Some of them are well-polished, others are encrusted with rust. Tay ducks in through the beaded curtain covering the door, fixing a look at a broad-shouldered man sitting at a lantern-lit table, scrubbing grime and dirt off of a chromed Jaguar hood ornament.

"You're lookin' long in the face," the man polishing the hood ornament says, setting it down with a clatter. "What swam up your ass?"

"Your crew's asking stupid questions," Tay says, unshouldering a small bag as he walks deeper into the cabin, walking past taxidermied statuettes of birds perched on driftwood or rusted metal pieces of old automobiles. "They're gonna get themselves gutted and thrown overboard if they're not careful."

"By you?" The older man wonders, motioning with his polishing rag to Tay.

"Nah," Tay says as he sets the small backpack down on the table with a rattle and a thud. "I wouldn't throw 'em overboard. I'd let you fuckin' clean 'em up."

The old captain's eyes narrow as he eyes the bag, then looks up at Tay. "What'd you bring me?" He wonders. Tay loosens the drawstring top, then reaches in and pulls out a fistful of old grille ornaments from wrecked cars, some of the chrome nameplates that say a make or model, too.

The captain's brows shoot up as he sees them and watches Tay lay them out. "D'you get these from the same place as the last?" The captain asks, motioning to the pristine Jaguar. Tay nods in response, then holds out a hand. The captain looks at it flatly, then up to Tay.

"No chit-chat?" The captain asks, eliciting a roll of Tay's eyes as he steps backward, paces around, and comes back over to the table. "Fine, fine." The captain says with a click of his tongue, bending down to reach under his desk and grab a sloshing metal canister of gasoline that he sets down beside the backpack.

"Four gallons," the captain says. Tay looks insulted.

"You said six." Tay counters, shaking his head frustratedly.

"That was b'fore Tuesday," the captain explains.

Tae closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose with forefinger and thumb. "What the fuck does Tuesday have to do with anything?"

"Gas shipment got hit, pirates came westward." The captain explains, and Tay lowers his hand and fixes the captain with a narrow-eyed look.

"Why? Way too fortified here. They'd have easier luck picking the bones of the Balt down south." Tay looks confused, though the captain now realizes he knows something that Tay doesn't. He grins, leaning back in his chair.

"They got driven west," the captain explains.

Tay takes the canister of gasoline in hand with a clunking slosh. "By?" He asks.

"The Starling passed by while you were Mainland." The captain says with a satisfied tone. Tay squares his shoulders, looks down to his feet, then back up to the captain.

"When?" Tay demands. The captain considers requesting something in return, but thinks Tay's likely better off distracted with that than pissed at him.

"Two weeks ago," the captain says, "but— "

Tay isn't listening, he's already turning for the door. "Tay!" The captain yells. "Where the fuck are you going?!"

Tay doesn't stop as he brusquely states, "Out."

He has a ship to find.

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