[This post is from Matt’s point of view.]
He had never been fully comfortable with the assertion that once Thom and Marin were gone that he would be the one to lead. Of course, he understood it, knew where it came from and why it had arisen, but he’d never been truly at peace with it. He suspected that his wife felt the same, but for her own reasons.
“What will we do if they’re not all right, Phelan?” he asked softly. “What do we do if New Hope isn’t there anymore?” That settlement had never been huge—perhaps two dozen families and perhaps another two or three dozen singular souls beyond those—but it was large enough to be noticed and they’d come to their aid before, as the Valley’s much more formidable numbers had come to aid them in the past. Lara was a good leader and a strong woman, the only leader that New Hope had ever known, vastly different from the experience in the Valley, where leadership ebbed and flowed between a small group of the original survivors. They still formed a sort of leadership council, but for all that it existed, the truth was that everyone looked to Matt Astoris for true leadership, for the final word. The more their settlement grew, the more deeply uncomfortable it became.
And yet no one would have ever let him give it up, and something in him wouldn’t let him do it anyway even if they would.
“I suppose that will depend rather heavily on the particular flavor of their ‘not all right,’” Phelan said softly, gazing at nothing for a few seconds. “Either way, whatever forces are marching are going to require some kind of response.”
“Mm.” Matt crossed his arms, frowning. “Again, that’s going to depend on what the status of New Hope is. Gods and monsters, I hope it’s just raiders, Phelan. I hope it’s nothing more than that.”
“Do you really think that’s the case?”
“I don’t know,” Matt said, his stomach sinking. “I just know it’s what I hope. Raiders we can deal with at the same time shit’s rising. If it’s raiders because of shit rising—well. Then it all starts to get more complicated.”
“And if the rising shit is actually moving the raiders around like pieces on a chess board?”
Matt took a deep breath and exhaled in a sigh. “Then we’ve got a lot of work to do, don’t we?”