When the Prince came to, he could feel the steady rocking of a wooden boat underneath him, and could feel rain gently falling onto his face from the cloudy midday sky above. He attempted to sit up and survey his surroundings, but his head felt woozy. Someone had found his body along the shore line, and placed him into a small boat. He heard a familiar voice behind him – the voice of someone he never thought he’d hear from again: “Easy there….you’ve been banged up real bad there Doc. Or should I say; the Cannibal King?” His vision was beginning to blur again, but he turned around and focused his eye sight on the man before him. “Siren? Is that…really you?” He reached out his hand but lost the strength and blacked out once again letting the gentle rocking of the boat lull him into a deep sleep.
This time when he became conscious, it was nearly nightfall, and a small fire had been lit in an old paint canister to keep him warm. The light of the lantern on the small boat illuminated his surroundings. There sitting before him was the Siren Prince himself; a former cellmate and prisoner of the Blood Eagles. They’d shared many months of imprisonment, torture, and had even been shown off as a freak side-show. The Quack reached out for Siren, but he recoiled as he drew near.
“Don’t think that just because I saved you that I’ve forgiven you for what you did. You can rest here until your injuries are healed, and then I want you gone. I don’t need the 5-0 snooping around my boat looking for the Cannibal King.” Siren tossed a crumpled up paper over by the Quack. He unfurled it to see a sketch of himself along with a bounty placed by the 5-0. Siren dove headfirst into the water below and did not return for several long minutes.
When he surfaced from the water he brought up what looked to be like some kind of mutated plant from the river’s floor, and a couple of two headed fish. He began cutting them up and seasoned each with a dash of salt and pepper. “Seaweed for me, but I know that isn’t quite your style now is it?” every word from Siren’s mouth was dripping with bitter judgment, “Oh well – fish will have to suffice for now. It’s too dangerous for you to be roaming the woods right now for…. dinner. The 5-0 are going to be on high alert since you slaughtered that patrol back there.” He threw the plated fish down next to the Quack, and sat on the opposite end of the small boat with his back to the Quack. He looked down at his fish, guiltily. “So….you aren’t going to turn me in then? I thought you would be a loyal mutant to the 5-0 after we parted ways. I see you remedied that whole scaly skin problem. Couldn’t fix those gills though, huh?”
“As a matter of fact I chose to keep the gills,” Siren said. “And no, the 5-0 and I had one brief meeting, I learned about ‘etiquette’ or whatever they’d like to call it and well, it’s not important. I was able to cure some of what the ringmaster inflicted upon me, not that THAT’S any of YOUR business. It involved a lot of crawling through Uncanny Caverns and lying in pools of water, whatever — I was wet — a lot. That’s neither here nor there. But, you see we settle disputes differently, you and I. For example I have attempted to help the people of this wasteland, while you slaughter, maim, and eat whoever stands before you.” The Quack was beginning to remember the horror and carnage he had wrought on their Blood Eagle captors. He knew it was fresh in Siren’s mind as well. The Freakshow would always be the trauma that bound them.
“If it wasn’t for me you’d still be locked in that cage like an animal,” The Quack said, “I did what I had to do, and those fuckers had it coming, and you know it.” Siren scoffed and shovelled some seaweed into his mouth. “It wasn’t enough for you to just escape – to just run with me. No. You had to fulfil that sick and pointless fantasy for revenge against the Blood Eagles. Do you know how predictable you are at this point? And just like you did with this 5-0 patrol, you let one get away, and now you have two factions looking for your ass – not to mention mine! You’re really a piece of work, you know that?” The two sat silently for several minutes while they finished their meals.
Once they had finished, Siren threw a rowing oar at the Quack. “I’m gonna need some help rowing this up the river to my boathouse because of the extra weight. You can rest there like I said, and then I never want to see you again. You’ve caused me enough trouble as is, and I’m not interested in it anymore.” The Quack grabbed the oar and began rowing upstream with Siren. He let out a grumbly, “Fine by me,” and the two continued upstream in silence for many hours. The tension between the pair was beginning to annoy the Quack, and he grew bored of the long silence, so he began to fill it with conversation. “I’m sorry that I didn’t go with you the night we escaped, but I’m a different person now. I’ve changed. I’ve joined a faction of raiders called -”
Siren chuckled before interrupting him. “ – The Vultures, oh I know all about them. Not bad per se, but here’s the thing; you’re all the same. You’re only in it for yourselves. I guess we all have to be at this point. But you haven’t changed a bit, and you’re using them just as much as they are using you. Love your new outfit, by the way.” The Quack just stared at Siren. Siren continued, “You only care about getting back to that Enclave Bunker to free Eldritch, and you don’t care who you have to hurt to get there – including me.” The Quack was furious with Siren, but also saddened because he realized what he was saying was correct.
When the two finally arrived at the boathouse, Siren dove into the water and used a pulley system to draw their small boat into the larger one. The Quack attempted to hoist himself into the boat, but could feel his crippled arm convulsing with pain. His head became fuzzy and he could see his vision starting to tunnel once again. Siren reached his hand down into the boat. The Quack looked up at him. “Why are you helping me? If I’m so selfish, and so violent, why would you save me knowing what I’m capable of?” Siren stood up looking off to the shoreline.
“I don’t want to be part of these faction wars. I’m tired of the needless bloodshed when we have the real threat of the Scorched Plague to deal with. I’m tired of seeing all these people who can help each other refuse to because of the banner they carry. The 5-0’s mission….I believe in it, but they are corrupted by politics just as much as the Vultures. You should hear how this new faction of Responders talk about people who are different from them, or have differing ideologies — they turn people away who aren’t like them, they brutalize others to help themselves, and they have their reasons, but I don’t have to be a part of it. I knew you before allegiances were pledged. I know you.” Siren offered his hand once again and the Quack took it, and was hoisted into the boat house.
The Quack spent the night in the captain’s chamber, and in the morning he awoke feeling renewed. He searched the deck to find Siren, but there was no sign of him. Being so far off shore in the running water made him uncomfortable, and he didn’t want to take his chances leaving on the boat fearing it would drift away. Not wanting to give Siren more reason to disdain him, he thought it best to settle into the quarters and take a look around. After rummaging through some drawers, he discovered several local maps marking various supply routes of the 5-0, the FSM, the Vultures, Settlers, and other various Raider factions. He had an entire system of trade mapped out all along the waterways for just about every organized group that was worth a damn. Looking around the cabin he noticed various wooden crates, and decided to crack one open. Inside were supplies: food, water, medical supplies, chems, weapons, ammunition – this fucker had it all.
“What are you doing over there?” The Quack spun around to see Siren pulling himself onto the deck and out of the water. He made his way over to the crate dripping water as he went. He shut the lid to the crate angrily. “Those don’t belong to you. Don’t go opening shit that’s not yours?” He said it like a question and he brushed past the Quack examining the quarters for any further sign of intrusion. The Quack followed him back into the captain’s quarters pushing open the door to find a rather comfortable looking room which could only be described as being filled with possessions which were definitely not Siren’s.
“Well that’s interesting, isn’t it? Did you steal all of this? Oh – that’s rich – I’ve been getting lectures on ethics from a thief! I’m sure the ringmaster would be so proud of you. The obedient little mutant finally grew a backbone?” Siren turned around and punched the Quack on the side of his face. He recoiled from the blow.
“Fuck you. The Ringmaster is not a way to gauge a moral compass. Yes I’ve stolen. Yes, I’m stealing from those who hoard their wealth. There are those of us out here that want nothing to do with your war. Some people out here just want a normal life you know? So what if I have a TV with no channels? You know what? I don’t expect you to understand. Just get in the boat and I’ll take you ashore. I want you to get the hell off this boat, and never come back.”
The two rowed to shore, and Siren steadied the boat by tying it to a nearby rock. The Quack dismounted and looked back at his old friend. “I don’t want us to part like this again – both of us at a crossroads. You could come with me you know. The Vultures could use a steady supplier.” Siren scoffed at him and frowned. “No thanks. You could just as easily join me, lay down your arms, but we both know you’ll never do that.” The Quack balled his fists, and turned away from the shore. “You know I can’t stay here knowing that Eldrich is being treated like a lab rat.” Siren sighed and undid the rope on the rock. “Then we are at an impasse – again. Maybe one day you’ll see that there are more important things than revenge.”
The Quack began making his way back through the forest, but he wasn’t heading home empty handed. He felt the crumpled map in his pockets marking the various supply routes in the area. If Siren wouldn’t help him secure medical supplies, then maybe he could conscript the Vulture loyalists to raise a little hell on the supply lines of their enemies. Who knows? Perhaps there would be some useful medical data he could scrounge up and craft new and effective medical supplies.