Head Paladin Lucas Sibley listened to the smooth sounds of his servo-motors whining as the rubble strewn ground crunched beneath his feet. He couldn't feel it, but this far away from the safety of Snelling, a cool north wind blew wildly through the urban valleys and rubble strewn streets of Polis. There had been massive unrest to the south in recent months. Some unknown phenomenon had occurred and was now driving people of the wastes northward. The Slavers were profiting immensely from this. Housley and his town of thugs had all but left the Brotherhood alone. They'd spread out to greener pastures. The protection of Locals wasn't the goal of the Brotherhood anyhow. The only indigenous people good for anything were the merchants and scavengers of Lindbergh. At least they had good supplies to trade. Their people made decent fighters too. With only ten Brothers, Sibley had to resort to initiating several Lindberghers into the Midwestern Brotherhood. Donning Combat Armor, at least they could cover the easier patrol routes around Snelling. The true Midwestern Brotherhood, Task Force Sabre, was spread dangerously thin. Nine Paladins in Advanced Power Armor at Snelling, Sibley himself, and the Inquisitor. Sibley thought the world of her, and hopefully, what she said was hidden away in Vault 46 was indeed the truth.
Inquisitor Alysha Sterns crouched slowly and motioned for Sibley to follow. Scanning an down into a valley through the scope of The Howl (her .308 Sniper Rifle), she judged quickly the distance to the riverbed. Wallowing in the mud were two Mudcats making a gruesome meal of some unfortunate soul. She couldn't tell if it was a Raider or wastelander or what, but it really didn't matter. They needed to keep moving. She'd considered her path through the river valley, or the run along the bluff. The Vikings had been in a particularly warlike mood as of late. Infighting was becoming more severe. All the violence meant it would be a long trip across Viking Polis to reach the Vault. They were investigating the rumored presence of a G.E.C.K. inside. Technology like that could only be safe in the hands of the Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel. The Wendigos had moved on to seek the radiation of the south. Pity the poor souls in Kato and The Roch who would have to deal with them in a few days' time. No matter, there were still plenty to be found around here anyway. It was just a matter of not being outnumbered, surrounded, and ultimately eaten by them. Stearns grinned to herself. She'd been surrounded, outnumbered, and attacked so many times she'd lost count. She was the Banshee. A legend to the Raiders. Very few were the warriors who could best her in Polis. She motioned to Sibley again as the two resumed their trek across the city.
Harris Housley grinned to himself as the fires of the tiny settlement burned. A long train of about twenty slaves formed, guarded by slavers. Marching eastward toward The Stockyards, Housley counted in his head the price of each one. That such a cold, calculating mind was wasted on misguided aspirations, was simply one more example of cruel irony in the American Wasteland. Housley, of course, just saw himself as another businessman. Men dealt arms, men dealt armor, men dealt stims, and men dealt junk. Housley considered himself a pioneer in business, for he was a man who dealt other men. Being the Foreman of the premier Slaver City in the Midwest, Housley was a powerful man indeed. Between here and Chicago there were few men as influential as he. If he could rid himself of the Midwestern Brotherhood he could control much of Polis. Unfortunately, attacks on Snelling never went well, and it looked like those bull-necked, Power Armored, tech scrounging, party wreckers would be cramping his style for years to come. He didn't worry about it much now though. Advantage needed to be taken of the refugees fleeing from the bombings in the south. Housley grinned again to himself as he looked through his binoculars. Another slave train was approaching from some doomed settlement to the south. He'd be drinking hard, eating well, and sleeping easy at LeRoux's tonight.
Cedrig Steelbeard grunted as he rummaged through the rubble of the ancient cafe, searching for something worth taking home to The Dome. He knew, somewhere behind him, his brothers stood guard as he searched for the pick of the loot. Like there was much of that, Cedrig thought. Those damnable assholes in "The Wild" had picked the area clean, probably. Cedrig hefted his axe again and looked around. Nothing. He swore loudly and slammed his axe into the cabinet off to his left, breaking open the rotten door with ease. And, of course, nothing there either. Cedrig lifted his axe again and slammed it into a table, then lifted it and brought it down again. He repeated it until the table was nothing but matchwood. Throughout the entire display, Cedrig's brothers didn't turn around. They were used to their comrade's displays of violence by now.
Cedrig grunted again. "Let's move out. There's nothing to see here," he growled to his comrades in his typical deep gravelly voice. They wordlessly hefted their rifles and shotguns and headed out. Likewise, Cedrig strapped his axe back on his back and unslung his double-barreled shotgun from its holster. He would have brought his flamer, but since he was part of a scavenging party and not a war party, mobility was preferable to destruction.
The group of Vikings turned the corner and almost ran right into a party of raiders from the Wild. No words were exchanged. Instead, Cedrig bared his teeth and issued a wordless snarl of challenge, then dove into cover as the Wild raiders responded by raising their weapons and opening fire. Five on five, Cedrig counted. It was like a rumble. Within the first minute of combat, there were casualties on both sides. One of the Wild raiders was killed when a Viking frag grenade exploded nearby. The shrapnel stuck in another Wild raider's leg, wounding him. Cedrig finished him off with a blast from his shotgun. That left three. The Wild, though, had gotten Vincent, their 5.56 rounds tearing holes in his armor and dropping him. Atli, too, had been felled when a Wild raider had managed to get him in the neck with a throwing knife. That fucker ducked, though, when Cedrig emptied his second shotgun barrel in his direction.
One of the Wild's men, trying to take advantage of the fact that Cedrig was out of ammo, rushed his position with a nail board at the ready. Unfortunately for him, Cedrig expected that, and responded by swinging his axe into the man's head and splitting it like a ripe fruit. Cedrig then ducked again as the remaining two Wild raiders opened fire on him. Cedrig carefully reloaded his shotgun when he heard a scream of pain. One of the Raiders had managed to get Iorund with a burst from a 10mm submachine gun. Iorund's brother, Magnus, howled in challenge and popped out of cover, spraying fire from his R91 and killing the bastard who hit Iorund. Iorund and Magnus then opened fire on the remaining Wildman's position, keeping him under cover. Cedrig roared his fury at the last Wildman, then sprinted out of cover with his axe at the ready. By the time the Wildman realized his danger, it was too late. Cedrig had decapitated him with his fire axe.
The combat was over. Cedrig looked towards Iorund. He wasn't going to make it. Wordlessly, Cedrig pulled out his 10mm pistol and walked over to Iorund. He pointed the pistol at Iorund's head and pulled the trigger. Better a quick death from a fellow Viking than a slow, painful one from some damn Wildman's bullets. Cedrig and Magnus began to police up the weapons and ammo in the area. At least now they had something to bring back to the Dome. But one thing first. Cedrig closed with the body of one of the Wildmen. "This is what you get for fucking with The Vikings," he bellowed before emptying an entire clip of 10mm slugs into the lifeless body.
Alan Schezar sat on the wreckage of what probably used to be a city bus. The cold air blew through his mess of black hair which, cleaned up, would make him look surprisingly like the famous singer, Johnny Cash, in his younger years of course. He was what was called the Eastern passage. To his left was wasteland, to his right was wasteland, and behind him was a cluster of troubled memories and hatreds. Ahead though, ahead was the, according to a trader he met the other day, mixed city of Polis. The trader claimed that the people were a troubled bunch, some of them at least, but most were pretty good folks. He also told Alan of the Wendigos, claiming them to be friendly beasts that wouldn't hurt a fly. He would have to test that judgment, can't be too quick to trust people out here.
Alan fitted his mask on, tightening the straps and such, and headed off. Off to Polis.
Roland Rockfort sat at the helm of the Grey Lady, watching as the clouds of fog rolled slowly across the bay. The merchant had only seen fog once or twice in his life, and as of recently he had only truly been cold when he had been out in deep ocean. His recent journey up the St. Lawrence Seaway (or was it down? He didn't really know) had landed him in some deep trouble as of late, not the least of which being the passenger he was dragging along. Marty Foster, he had said his name was, or something like that. He made Roland nervous, that was for sure. He was unpredictable, even moreso than the merchant, and that made him a risk.
The merchant didn't like taking risks in unknown waters.
He sailed the Grey Lady quietly down to the docks, and had his crew toss mooring lines. Alright, the merchant thought to himself, time to head to Polis.
Gerti Flowers watched the skirmish between the two gangs from her perch in a nearby ruin. She did not wish to trouble her fellow Vikings, who were likely in a sore mood after having lost a comrade. She waited until Cedrig's band was gone and scrambled down to the bodies. The good stuff was already gone of course, but Gerti was a clever girl. She started pulling boots off the dead warriors and tying the laces together. Once she had all five pairs hanging from her spear, she made her way back to her original hiding spot where she had left her catch of the day. The willow-limbed girl rooted through the debris until her hand touched the wet flesh of a Mudcat. With strength far in excess of her size, she began to drag the beast out of it's hiding place until she had it loose, then she tossed the back end it over her shoulder with a grunt. The girl with a crown of plastic flowers squared her shoulders and began the trek back to the Dome, some distance behind Cedrig and his brothers, dragging her catch behind her.
The water could've been... better. It was true that the Mississippi had been fairly pure of rads since around 2234, apparently some natural anomaly had occurred, opening a new spring or something. The taste though, the taste was sickening. It didn't matter to Alan, he had tasted nastier things, especially that one time up in Madison. He still gets nightmares about that cat... The Israeli Wastelander rose to his feet, wiping the remaining water off his dirty shave. He shook his canteen, full of life-giving, disgusting, Mississippi water. Alan looked at his mask, it's suffocating metal plating, ultimately severing emotional communication with the outside world, locking you inside it's own. Of course, that was Alan's own impression. He decided to leave it off for now, his Geiger Counter, although most likely broken still, read no rads. And the only other person he'd seen so far was that trader headed to the Great Lakes, and even he seemed like a nice guy. And if what he said about Polis was true, then why wear the mask? It just makes Alan look menacing and hostile, almost like some Enclave or something. He sighed, picked up his SVT-40, his backpack, and looked at his map. It said that "The Dome" was just west of here, it apparently being the capitol of this place. Alan was suspicious though, the guy who told him that went on to steal his stash of purified water that night, bastard. He'd trust it for now, but he'd be on his toes, you never know what could be there. Alan started off, his shoes leaving recognizable footprints behind. Alan stopped. A snap, a cough, something attracted his attention. He immediately ran for cover, a hail of bullet fire raining behind him. "Shit! Shit, shit, shit. I never should've trusted that little.." Alan clumsily fumbled for his rifle and waited for them to reload. Raiders, he could tell by the yelling and battleshouts. He knew it, he was too tired and starved to think clearly. Alan clocked his SVT, "3...2..", the Israeli rose and fired at the first thing he saw. A kid, probably in his late teens, wearing some type of hockey outfit. Alan's bullet hit him right in the chest, puncturing a lung. The kid fell to the ground and rolled around, one hand on his wound, the other on his comrade's leg. His partner, heartless fucker, deserted his buddy and ran off. Alan took flight, chasing the fleeing raider. He fired wildly in Alan's direction, probably attracting the attention of all his little punk friends. Alan fired twice at the raider, one hitting him in the leg, the other in the lower back. Schezar was kinda proud of himself, that was a risky shot for him, and he pulled it off pretty well. The raider moaned and yelled, cursing his leg and Alan. The wandering hunter cautiously walked up to the incapacitated thug, his rifle aimed at the other man's head in case he had anything up his sleeve. "Don't try anything stupid, one flinch and your head will be spattered all across this street!" Alan stated, trying hard to be scary. He probably wouldn't even kill the guy, he only had 9 kills to his name. All of them attacked Alan first, and it was a matter of life and death. That raider back there would probably make it 10, that is if he drowned in his own blood yet. And truly, Alan didn't have the guts to kill in cold blood, like these guys, he had a faint sense of Karma. He got closer, now within 10 feet of the bleeding Minnesotan. The guy spat, "Fuck you man! Your dead! You can't just fuck with The Wild like that, they'll fucking rip you to shreds!" Alan did a quick search for hidden weapons. All he found was a kitchen knife. He tuned out most of what the raider was saying, only hearing some parts. "....killing Flick over there, there's another 100 lashings, and hurting me? I'm fucking Lazlo bitch, you kill me and Boss is gonna personally fuck you up-" Alan put his .357 to the guys head and pulled back the hammer. "You can shut the hell up now, okay?" The man quieted immediately, now silently sobbing. "Don't kill me man, I was just listening to Flick; he told me to shoot, I swear!" He mumbled some unintelligible prayer, as if he thought some God would let him through the pearly gates. Alan sighed, he couldn't do it. "You tell me what the hell is going on here, and I'll even help you out with that leg, deal?" Lazlo looked up and smiled.
An hour later, Alan was walking away from the Dome and towards some place called The Center. Lazlo told him it was the closest trading town in the city. He also told him to take the I-95, claiming it to be the safest route there. Alan did help Lazlo out, fixing up that leg of his and giving him some water. The SMG though, Alan took that. The two walked in opposite directions, it was good to know that some people could be set straight. This time though, this time Alan had his mask on.
Head Paladin Sibley crouched behind Inquisitor Stearns, keeping his eyes on the second entrance to the room of the small building they crouched inside. Just outside, they'd heard gunfire and shouting. Some Vikings and Wildmen had just had a little falling out. In truth the border between Wild Polis and Viking Polis was a tough road to walk. The truth also was that everything in Polis was hostile. Raiders never took prisoners. In Polis, the gun was the law. Fortunately, for Sibley, he had the most smoking of smoking guns right ahead of him. A glimpse of Inquisitor Stearns, "The Banshee" as she was known across Polis, and Raiders immediately got superstitious. She'd made examples of too many for them to be steady. She had a certain way about her. She'd dismember four and let a fifth go. She'd carve a message into flesh and order gravely wounded Raiders to carry the body to their Bosses. She got her information and completed objectives through fear. That was her way. Sibley was "above" that. A professional soldier and charismatic leader. He clearly fit in running a base rather than Alysha's job in the field. His thoughts were startled as Alysha let a single shot ring out. Then silence. Inside his helmet, Sibley's eyes tracked across the doorway and the room, searching for something that wasn't there. Then he could hear it, a low growl that rose and rose. A shape burst around the corner of the doorway. Sibley let a shot from his Combat Shotgun loose, blasting the shape back and smearing blood along the wall. A second form dropped onto his back from a hole in the ceiling. Wendigos. He could hear teeth scraping against his armor as he slung the ill-fed former human off his back and onto it's own, putting two slugs into it's torso before it could move. Inquisitor Stearns was neatly dissecting another. As soon as the attack had started it was over. "They're never out this far," she said coolly, "they are definitely migrating." Sibley stood up. "How did they miss the Raiders?" he said. "We're shinier," Stearns said. Sibley could tell she was joking, only because he knew her. Her voice gave no indication of humor. "We should keep going before the sun goes down. I have a safehouse about a mile and a half ahead. We'll hold there for the night and continue in the mornin," she said. "Copy that," Sibley responded. He definitely would rather be held up and fortified away from most pressing trouble in Snelling, but alas, the life of a soldier means times of hardship. Sibley checked his weapon and followed Stearns out into the setting sunlight.
By the time she reached The Dome, Gerti Flowers had lost all trace of Cedrig and his crew, she wasn't too surprised as she was dragging hundreds of pounds of mutant behind her. She wasn't terribly worried, she knew the way back herself. Most of the sentries she passed simply ignored her, several nodded in approval or offered a muttered congratulations for the mudcat, one of the more callow warriors made a catcall after her. Gerti furrowed her brow and continued hauling the beast, and though her muscles were as unto things of iron, she was feeling extremely weary. She would eventually make her way to the small dwelling outside The Dome where she and her makeshift family lived.
Of the raider brats that comprised her surrogate family, only Munti was her actual kin. Leif, Wren, and Ulrin were orphans that had joined them for the shelter and company. Though Munti was the eldest and the tallest, Gerti was by far the strongest, and she took it upon herself to do the hunting for the family. The others scavenged what they could and worked together to cobble together things they could use or trade to their neighbors. The pickings were slim for them and they depended on Gerti's hunts to make tribute to the Top Dog. The Brats eagerly helped Gerti drag her haul into their home: a tent strung up within the walls of a ruined building. While Gerti crashed on a mattress of rags, her family took to butchering the mudcat and preparing to cook bits of it on a spit. Munti looked at her little sister, making sure she was alright, before getting back to the bloody work. She would let the young hunter rest for a bit, but they had to go to The Dome to present the Top Dog his take, some hundred pounds of roast mudcat. What they didn't eat themselves would be used to trade for the other necessities. She then looked to Leif who was trying on the different pairs of boots Gerti had also managed to snag, they were too large for the boy and Munti couldn't help but laugh.
Peter Smith slowly walked along the south-east passage into Polis.A song was playing on the radio and he couldn't stop himself singing along to it.His singing started to attract attention from the few others who used the road and he soon shut his mouth.The reception was bad this far away from Uncle Eddie's transmitter wherever that might be so he turned of the radio as well.His trip to the Roch had been a mild success in that he hadn't been killed by any Wild raiders and had got himself fixed up.
As he approached polis he could see the coulours of the Wild raider clan.He was relying on the fact that he wasn't obviously part of either raider clan to protect him though some Wild raiders might recognize him from his occasional forays into there territory.Peter was a mercenary to the bone and he worked for whoever could aford him.The people at The Roch had tried to employ him when he was there but he had turned them down on the grounds that he already had a contract with the Viking raider gang.He turned west towards the vikings and Minneapolis.
It had to be a fluke, a stupid stroke of dumb luck, that Roland and Marty made it down the Passage to Polis from that podunk-ass place where he had docked, but they did it. The oddest thing is how they had gotten there. It involved two brahmin, some ancient harnesses and a burnt-out Corvega wreck with the brake-pads removed. As it were, the farmer would have been unhappy when he noticed his brahmin missing, but as it were the guy had been killed about a month before- judging by the advanced state of decomposition his corpse had been found in.
As it were again, the Corvega about fell apart before they even got there, but they did get there. And then it fell apart. "Well," the merchant said to himself, kicking out the busted door next to him, "We're here. Welcome to Polis, Rockfort."
Sibley and Stearns looked at the wreck of the Corvega and the Brahmin outside the safehouse. Stearns lined up a shot at the two figures with The Howl. "Wild or Viking?" Sibley whispered to her. "Neither," she said back, hesitating on the trigger. The two seemed to be looking the wreck up and down, trying to figure out anything about it. How they got this deep into the city on such a ramshackle piece of rigging was beyond Sibley. "They from Lindbergh?" Sibley asked, referring to the scavenger settlement that was built in the ruins of the old International Airport. "Negative," Stearns said quietly. "How can you tell?" Sibley inquired. "See the big man on the right?" she pointed out, "His movements are too fluid, to confident, too mechanical. He's not from around here. Nobody in all of Polis has any body language like that. Sibley just stared, amazing what the Inquisitor could put together without even talking to someone. "Fine then," Sibley said, "why is he in Polis?" Stearns turned back to him, her Power Helmet looking menacing as always. "That you'd have to ask him," she said, "looks like some type of scavenger." Sibley knew the value of friendly scavvers around. Unlike his more unrefined Western Comrades, the Midwestern Brotherhood, with it's thin numbers, actively engaged in trade with merchants; that is, merchants who were not Slavers or Raiders. Sibley pushed the stick bundle from atop the dugout and ascended the stairs, followed closely by Stearns, with his Combat Shotgun ready. "Psst, you, yes you," he called, attracting attention. The duo did not flee, a sure sign that they were not from around here. He motioned them over, "get in here, before someone sees you." The duo looked at each other. Sibley did not want to attract a lot of attention. Not now anyway.
Alan watched as the power-armored soldiers beckoned the two wanderers, most likely traders, to them. The rubble he was crouched upon stunk of rotten meat and shit, as did most of this block. He would have to guess it was one of the sewer lines, probably ruptured by some explosion, causing it to spill out into the streets. He tried to ignore the odor and pay attention to the people below. Now Alan had heard of Power-Armor before, once even saw some tribals near Lake Erie wearing some of it, but that was about all. People all over the wasteland talk of armies in power-armor wandering the East and West coast which, since the Rain of Fire, had mostly died off. It was said that the infamous Brotherhoood of Steel had survived, but that too was only on the West Coast. Alan had to guess that these soldiers were nothing more than some wasters that got lucky and scavenged the armor off some of the dead. It was a bit strange how they would even know how to use it, but hell, they could've found the damn manual with them as well. Now, considering what all Alan had seen in Polis so far, these power armored guys were gonna kill those two travelers and take their supplies. It was amazing how easily people still trust each other even after the world blew itself to hell. The Israeli wanderer threw his SVT-40's strap around his shoulder and took off, looking to flank the group and get a good vantage point. He would watch the ordeal go down, and if the Polis natives did in fact attempt to take the duo's lives, the traveling miner would intervene, helping the pair of outsiders other than the supposed Raiders. Maybe, just maybe, if he helped these strangers from other strangers, they would help him. From the looks of Polis, it would seem Alan was a dead man alone and unfamiliar with the area. Schezar silently crept up along the side of some rubble, getting a good height advantage, and went prone. From the outside, all anybody could see was a few old 2x4's covering a broken window and nothing but shadows inside. It was a good thing that it was dawn, the sun's light casting a shadow over the window. Even through his mask, Alan had a good view of the area. He saw the power armored people, looking nearly satanic in their crazy helmets, calling to the two people on the road who, most likely thinking they wandered into a village or town, looked excited. Alan carefully loaded his rifle. He was running low on rounds, that encounter with the raiders earlier diminishing his count to around 23, give or take a few. He started to think about that fellow, Lazlo, that he let go. Was that the right thing to do? He was a raider after all and, after resting his leg for a week or two, would probably go back to raiding and killing. In truth, Alan wouldn't doubt it if he was just responsible for any of Lazlo's future murders'. He stopped thinking about it, it was only going to distract him from his current predicament. He just hoped this went well...
"Head Paladin, down, quickly, back inside," Inquisitor Stearns said abruptly. Sibley immediately crouched and went back in the dugout, taking a last glimpse at the wastelanders who were now scrambling to get behind their cart. Stearns dashed down into the woods. She'd heard it, a tiny click. Recognizable to none but the most well trained of ears. It was the sound of a round being clicked into a firing chamber. She dashed down a small hill and into a grove of trees, activating a Stealth Boy as she went. She became a blur in the dead trees, a shimmer that moved almost ghostly across the line of sight. Fifty hiding spots, quickly she calculated the direction, the volume, and the time of the click, narrowing it to one ramshackle building. She circled around wildly, moving swiftly and silently, making her way to the back of the shack. If the assailant was moving she'd come across him. She inched slowly into the building and up the stairs. Peeking around the door frame she saw another traveler. Clearly not a Raider, the man seemed in slight panic at her disappearance, yet remained focused on the dugout outside where Sibley was. The wastelander turned puzzled as he heard her Power Armored feet striding behind him. Turning as the Stealth Boy gave out, he was face-to-face with the mouth of The Howl. "What settlement do you hail from, wastelander, Pine Bend? Ashland? Lindbergh? Or are you an outlander? Most importantly, what business have you with the Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel? Answer quickly, and I may be feeling merciful today, and pray that I mercifully accept what you have to say," she said sternly, awaiting the response from the Outlander.
Harris Housley leaned back in his plushy chair. A shot of whiskey in his hand, Melissa LeRoux on his lap, and another slave girl rubbing his back. All the while, his men stood watch. LeRoux's was truely the House of Pleasure, the A-1 joint in The Stockyards. Everything was free for Housley anyway, but the way he was treated at LeRoux's was beyond compare. He muched a Dandy Boy Apple and downed another shot of whiskey. "Boss," a huffing Slaver said, trotting up to him. Housley didn't bother to look. "Can't you see I'm busy?" Housley responded, taking a firm grip of Melissa LeRoux's backside. "But Boss, I--" the man stuttered before being cut off by an advancing guard. "The Foreman is busy," he said gruffly. Housley flirted with LeRoux as the Slaver just blurted what needed to be said. "The Flayers, they hit another slave train. Five Slavers dead, twenty of the merchandise lost," he studdered. Housley closed his eyes, containing his rage. "Five, you say?" he inquired. The Slaver nodded nervously. "Get the fuck outta my sight before I gut ya," he said, causing the Slavef to scurry off. He motioned to one of his thugs. "Get Blasco, tell him to put out orders to all the Mercs in Polis. I want Flippa and his sadistic Raider FUCKS dead. 100,000 caps to the man who does it," he said, raising his eyebrow, "NOW." The man immediately went to find 'Suga' Shane Blasco, Housley's numero dos man. "And hey!" Housley called with finality, "make sure everyone knows that my deal still stands for my rifle in Como!"
The kids eagerly dug into their dinner, ripping greasy chunks of mudcat off sticks and stuffing their faces. The orphans knew they had a good thing going with the Flowers sisters, all they had to do was share in the chores and help with a bit of scavving and they got to eat like kings, and without the beatings the other Raider brats frequently put up with in exchange for food and shelter. Of course it wasn't entirely painless as Ulrin was reminded, playing Bloody Knuckles with Gerti in between bites.
"Gerti, finish up, we need to take this to Top Dog."
The flower-crowned child looked up at her older sister and nodded, wincing as Ulrin took advantage of the distraction to give her one last, painful rap on the knuckles. She shoved him on to his back with a chuckle that was halfway snort and then got up. While Gerti had been eating, Munti had prepared a large bundle on a stick that she and her sister could take by either end. Because they didn't fight, and didn't fancy a future as working girls, the Flowers sisters had always busted their behinds to make sure Top Dog got big, showy tributes from them, and a couple of kids delivering a few hundred pounds of fresh cooked meat usually did the trick. The girls were fairly popular among the guards at court, which for the most part just meant that they weren't kicked or thumped on the back of their heads as they went by. The two girls got on either side of the bar holding their gift and using their knees, lifted it up. They started jogging briskly towards the Dome, the bundled meat swaying only slightly on account of Munti's clever knot-work. The smell of cooked meat elicited some turned heads, but most people were too busy to pay them much mind.
Gerti looked at the Highdaway as she jogged and a shiver ran down her spine. Their mother had worked there years ago, before she died. Gerti's early memories weren't particularly vivid, but she seemed to recall that her mother was committed to making sure that she and Munti wouldn't have to wind up there. Her sister's voice suddenly sounded in her ear and she snapped back to reality.
"Ready? Here we are Gerti, let's just do like we always do and everything should be fine."
The girls were allowed to pass and they entered The Dome.
Roland had knew the wastelander was there. He had seen him moving up, observing carefully as he feigned moving about the ruined Corvega, pulling out a duffel bag here, a small container there. If the soldier hadn't made a move yet, he was getting ready to, so when the two guys in what looked like jury-rigged Enclave power armor from back in the Capital Wasteland, one male and one female from the voices, retreated back into their building, Roland went behind the cart, dragging the strange little man he had brought along with him. Crouching with his gyrojet rifle in hand, Roland occasionally peeped up and over the side of the car, noting that over the short time he'd been here, one of the soldiers had engaged a Stealth Boy and made the distance to the waster up on the ridge. This had taken place in an amount of time that he hadn't even been able to follow her path of movement! It was... Odd.
"Sounds like you have the situation under control," the merchant said, still crouching behind the Corvega. "Can we come in now? I've got supplies to trade, if you've got anything to barter for in there."
Sibley motioned the trader forward, as he lifted the top of the dugout. "Inside, quick," he said. The wastelanders scrambled forward and Sibley ushered them in. "I am Head Paladin Lucas Sibley, I am in charge of the Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel task force in Polis," he said cooly. These men weren't Raiders. One had supplies to trade. "Where'd your friend go?" one of the men said. "Inquisitor Stearns has her... methods," Sibley said, looking back out the view port. The small safehouse was a tiny fortress unto itself. The concrete walls had held up for centuries following the great war. On the table was a HAM radio, which crackled with the sound of the Brotherhood's secure channel. Sibley walked over to the medical cabinet. "You boys aren't from around here, I take it," he said, securing a box of ammo as well. The two men looked at each other. "How'd you guys get in? DaLoot? The Eastern Passage? If it's trade you're looking for, I'd advise trade at Lindbergh, or Pine Bend. You could trade with the Raiders at The Dome or The Center, but not both. They'll sniff you out and you'll start a fight. The Stockyards to the southeast is the Slaver city, unsavory place, but you can trade there too, just don't say much. The Midwestern Brotherhood is based out of Snelling, we're closed to trade. It's south of here. Most folks won't recognize you so you should be good anywhere for trade. Just be tough in the Raider cities. And don't end up on the wrong side of my men and I. We don't have an easy relationship with the naturals here." Sible sat down in a chair and picked up his Combat Shotgun. He was getting edgy, and wanted to get on with the investigation of Vault 46, then get back to Snelling. To much randomness in Polis. "So you boys got names?" he asked.
"Rockfort's the name, first name Roland. Came in from up on the lakes." The merchant said offhandedly. "Little fellow's name is Marty. He hasn't spoken much, either." Roland scratched the back of his head, looked around the bunker a bit. It reminded him of Lost Hills, Fairfax and Independence wrapped into a grittier package. He unpacked some of his goods and laid them down on a table. Amongst the detritus he put out on the table were a Tri-beam Laser Rifle, two plasma pistols, a regular laser rifle and three laser pistols.
"Take your pick if you want to buy something. I guess our next stop would be The Dome, much as I hate arming raiders. Man has to get food somehow, eh?" Roland said, punctuating his statement with a quick laugh and smile. "The Tri-beam- that's the short one here- that's my highest bidder so far. I'll settle for a price around... 900 caps? Everything else on the table, I'll sell it for between 5oo and 650 caps."
"Tri-Beam huh?" Sibley pondered, "never heard of it." Rockfort smiled and threw a sales pitch, showing off the weapon and is modifications. It looked good to Sibley, and Rockfort seemed straight up enough. He was like every other person around, just trying to make a living. "Well, I don't have nine hundred caps," Sibley said, "I got stimpaks, RadAway, and food that I can trade." The Midwestern Brotherhood scavenges everything we can. You do a deal for 500 caps and some stims and chems? I'll throw in food too if you want." Rockfort pondered a minute. "Like I said, Rockfort, business is business in Polis, just try not to end up shooting at us if you get in with the Vikings." Sibley was weary of having more enemies in Polis. Raiders, slavers, the different creatures. He didn't need these outlanders winding up shooting at him too. "So we gonna make a deal?" he said, eyeing the Tri-Beam.
Cedrig hauled the bag of weapons through the Dome on his way to the Top Dog. Ragnar would probably want to take a look at the firepower he'd recovered from the firefight with the Wild. Off to his left, Cedrig saw the two Flowers girls carrying in their own tributes to Ragnar. Cedrig took a vested interest in the Flowers' girls and their well-being. Their situation reminded Cedrig of his own when he was growing up, and yet they hadn't managed to piss anyone off too bad like Cedrig had. And that Gerti one had shown some remarkable strength for her slight frame. Maybe, when she got a little older and bigger, she could be brought under the protective wing of the Thunderheads. There was always room for another Thunderhead. Cedrig doubted that they knew about his interest in them, though. He'd managed to keep it hidden from them, and from other Vikings, through a mixture of misplaced aggression and feigned indifference. They'd seen him around, and maybe they saw Cedrig as a surrogate father.
Cedrig shook his massive head to clear it, and trudged onward towards the Top Dog. Right now, he was more worried about explaining the loss of three Vikings, something which he was hoping to offset by showing Ragnar the fancy Wildman weapons he'd recovered. At least, Cedrig hoped so. Ragnar could be very unpredictable at times, which was one of his strengths, but, when mixed with his awesome strength and temper, that meant that those who addressed him had to be careful with what they said.
"Five hundred caps, plus six stimpacks and we'll call the rest nulled." Roland said, turning the Tri-Beam's stock over backwards and handing it, butt-first, to Sibley. "Pleasure doing business with you, Paladin. Hope to see you again in the future." Scratching his head awkwardly again, right around the large white scar from his encounter with a building in Austin, the merchant began rounding up his other supplies, leaving a plasma pistol and a laser pistol on the table. Either he hadn't noticed leaving them, or he was just feigning not noticing, but the Brothers were free to take what they wished from the equipment remaining on the table. Sibley had bought his tri-beam, the others were free to take their pick, and Roland would wait outside to collect his fees when they were done perusing his wares.
On the table, in no particular order, were weapons ranging from .32 pistols to a gauss rifle, light armor, stims, chems and various other pieces of technical equipment, the centrepiece of which being a stealth boy. Being a rare object, the Stealth Boy and Gauss rifle were probably the priciest items out of the loot pile.
Munti started slowing down just enough to let Cedrig in ahead of them, the last thing she wanted to do was set one of the warriors off on a rage with some perceived insult like cutting them off. Gerti, jinx that she was, didn't notice the cue to slow down and kept right along. Caught off guard, Munti lurched forward and bumped into Cedrig. The older sister swallowed hard in panic and immediately backed off, nodding her head apologetically and she and Gerti picked their parcel back up and entered after Cedrig. Gerti looked at the warrior before the parcel obstructed her view, a mixture of fear and fascination on her face. She knew Munti didn't like him in particular, but her older sister had never explained why.
The interior of the Dome was alive with the clang of weaponry, the jeers and cheers of onlookers, and the buzzing murmur of a hundred conversations drowning each other out. Gerti noticed they had lost sight of Cedrig, who had perhaps taken another route or stopped to socialize briefly, she wasn't sure. The Flowers sisters made it to the outside of the Top Dog's box without difficulty, and after a cursory examination by his guards outside, they were allowed in. Ragnar Nordstrom sat within, surrounded by his closest bully-boys and choice beauties from the Highdaway. The Top Dog was alternating between bellowing down at the arena floor and pawing (and indeed, biting) the woman on his lap.
"It's those Flowers girls Top Dog sir, they brought their tribute."
Ragnar turned his head, a look of vague annoyance on his face until he recognized his visitors.
"Excellent work girls, the other brats could stand to learn from you," he said while leering at Munti, "And you're filling out quite nicely there Munti."
Gerti looked at her sister and recognized the merest hint of fear and disgust that crossed her features whenever any of the warriors flirted with her. She didn't know how why Munti didn't like the warriors, how her sister ended up the gentle soul that she was, or how she herself was so different from her. Nevertheless she remained quiet, deferring to Munti.
"I-if you say so master Top Dog, sir. I hope our tribute pl-pleases you."
The Top Dog had already turned back to watch his bloodsports, sparing only a brusque, dismissive wave as way of a farewell to the girls. Grateful, the sisters left the box. Before they could set out of the Dome however, one the men from inside the box had stepped outside and flagged them down.
"The Top Dog wants something from you," he said.
Munti gulped "Me?"
"Nah, the mute squirt. He knows you go off solo for your hunts, he wants you to go out further afield, do some scouting. Things're changing since the stars came down, if another Ragnarok is at hand, we need as many eyes as possible out there. You see who's coming into town, what the Wild are up to...Might be something in it for you if you caught The Banshee's trail, dig?"
Gerti nodded before her sister could respond, she could see her elder sister was terrified at the mention of the Banshee, but Gerti was excited to be entrusted with such a mission. Even if she didn't like being called a mute, she could speak, she just didn't have anything to say.
Sid Stryker jogged towards his squadron's transport. A Brahmin cart with a mounted machinegun in the back. Vinnie was already mounted up, sitting with the reins in his hands. Sid smiled. This'd be a good getaway from those Viking bastards. They'd never catch them. He ran up and jumped into the back of the cart. Reggie, Cammy and Tar hopped in after him. Sid slapped Vinnie on the back as a command to go as Cammy jumped into the seat beside Vinie. She screamed as Sid's slap keeled Vinnie over into the street. Staring up into the sky with half-closed, hollow eyes, Vinnie lay there, his throat torn open. The Brahmin was twitching, hobbled to a nearby post. Sid looked around, beginning to panic as he shoved Reggie out of the way to get to the machinegun. Cammy had drawn her 10mm pistol as Tar drew his City Killer Shotgun. The roar of a three-shot burst split the air. The scream of a large rifle firing high-powered rounds cut out Cammy's death scream as her head, neck and shoulder exploded apart in chunks of singed meat, as her jacket caught fire. Some fancy-ass fucking bullets. A single bullet shredded Tar's head, leaving his neck a smouldering stump. Another roar of gunfire and Reggie was lying in a ruined heap in the bottom of the cart, his upper body shorn from his legs by the sweep of whatever the hell that gun was. Sid dived over the Brahmin, firing his SMG to keep the attacker's head down. He took off as fast as he could, before a spray of fire shattered chunks from the concrete ahead of him. He stopped dead, spinning on his heel as a shape emerged from one of the buildings, walking towards him with a strange-looking Battle Rifle held in one hand, pointed directly upwards now that it was no longer firing. As Sid raised his SMG to fire again, the attacker had levelled his gun at him and fired a single shot, blasting the SMG clean in half. Sid froze. He slid his knife carefully from his sleeve, keeping it hidden as the stranger approached. The attacker had slung his gun by now.
As the stranger came within reach, Sid lunged without getting a proper look at his foe. The attacker leaned off to the side, evading Sid's knife-thrust and grabbing his wrist. The stranger applied an elbow to Sid's jaw, throwing him off-balance. He altered his grip on Sid's wrist, digging his tumb into the centre of the back of the Raider's palm and wrenching his hand around before Sid could roll his arm with the lock. Sid yelped as his wrist snapped and the attacker shoved him backwards into the concrete wall behind him. Sid bounced off the wall and into the man's knee. Sid was sent reeling by the impact and couldn't recover in time to avoid a punch to the side of his head. His vision blurred and he fell on his face. He rolled over slowly, getting a good look at his juggernaut of a foe for the first time. A tall, strongly-built man, with greying hair and goatee, cold, grey eyes and a look on his face that screamed murder. The man smiled a crooked smile and drew a Colt M1911 from a black leather duster with a red cog and sword on one shoulder and a white scythe on the other. This motion revealed a strange-looking suit of black combat armour with a red stripe on the right-hand chest plate. He planted an armoured boot on Sid's chest and pointed the gun between Sid's eyes.
"Name's Jacob Vaughton, and my face is the last you'll ever see lowlife," the man said calmly to Sid, before pulling the trigger. The jacketless hollow point round blew a large exit hole in the Raider's skull, smearing the back of his head over the concrete. Jacob calmly holstering the gun and scraping the chunks of Raider off his boot. Raiders in DC had reason to fear him. Raiders in DC had a reason to run at the sound of his gun, at the mention of his name. They had a reason to break down in tears when someone said "Jacob Vaughton is coming". And now, having scabbed a lift off Roland to get here, Raiders in Polis would have reasons to feel an emotion they claimed they didn't know. Abject terror. Fear of the Reaper. The Angel of Death had come. Viking, Wild, whatever. Worms wouldn't taste the difference.
Alan studdered. This thing standing infront of him, nearly 7 feet tall in it's massive power armor. They looked smaller from a distance, Alan shouldn't of been so carless about his movments. He should be a mile out of this godforsaken town by now, headed West. He looked down at his rifle, it was out of arm's reach, he dropped it from the shock of seeing this banshee materilize out of nowhere not but 10 feet away. He could make a jump for it or even pull out his .357, but chances are that this soldier would have him dead within the second. The stunnded Isreali shook his head, collecting his thoughts. There was no chance of fighting, and the fact that he was still alive now helped things. Maybe he could reason with it. What did she say? Midwestern something? He was too suprised to hear what she had said earlier. Alan winged it, "I-uhh.. I'm Alan S-Schezar, I'll give you whatever I got. Th-the backpack over there has some food and a bit of ammo in it, go ahead, take it. Just let me go, please." He cursed in his head, that had to of sounded pretty damn cowardly. This guy, or girl(He hadn't really figured out which yet), definatly saw the advantage in this. Scared shitless wastelander, defencless and carring some forigen weapons and a pricey looking Gasmask, easy for the pickings. Below he heard the other travlers taking trade with the second of the two soldiers, all this for nothing! Alan waited impatiently for the Banshee to respond, hoping with all his heart that for once someone could show some mercy. But just in case, Alan mummered a small Hebrew prayer.
Roland looked up at where Stearns was standing, looking intimidating while the sniper was cowering in front of her. Good riddance, Roland briefly thought to himself, then immediately facepalmed. This was exactly the behavior he was supposed to be ignoring back when he was having a good sulk after the fall of the Crusade. And he'd been doing a good job of it so far. Scowling, he pushed off the wall. Best to leave sleeping dogs alone.
The merchant softened his scowl a bit after hearing the report of a familiar gun a little ways off in the distance. Leaving Stearns, Schezar and Marty to stew in their own juices, he set off down the road and saw a familiar scene. A familiar man in a familiar mysterious black trench jacket executing a raider with a familiar looking semi-automatic pistol. "Jacob!" The merchant shouted, crossing the street quickly and looking at his old friend, "Somehow I knew I would find you stirring up trouble somewhere."
"Well, seeing as how you gave me a lift up here, I assumed we'd run into each other sometime," Jacob said, turning to face Roland's familiar voice. He strode back over to Roland, his armoured boots crunching over the rubble. He nodded to the other sailors standing behind Roland. Jacob knew that they were all scared of him to one extent or another, with the exception of Roland. Roland was used to Jacob's more dangerous tendencies. The killing and violence. The guns and knives and the armour. The sparring with the sailors two or three at a time. Jacob was like a force of nature. Aloof, untouchable. Completely alien to them. He nodded to Roland as he passed. The Captain and crew formed up behind Jacob as Roland moved up alongside, indicating which ways Jacob should turn.
While they were walking, Jacob could be alone with his thoughts. As long as Roland was here, Jacob could rampage around Polis, scattering the Raiders before him. Live the life of a wildcard in the middle of a Raider turf war. Neither side would talk to the other, and as long as Jacob left no survivors, no side would be any the wiser of his presence. After a time, Jacob and the crew sat down and started going over their gear. Apparently, this was where they were going to make camp for the night. So Jacob sat back on the most comfortable chunk of concrete left available and started cleaning his M1911.
Quiet like a little mouse Gerti thought as she scampered across town. The Top Dog wanted a better idea of what was going on in the aftermath of the Rain of Fire, a better idea of who was entering Polis. The flower-crowned youth saw a few outsiders, settlers no doubt, people who clearly had no idea how Polis worked. Given their location they would be easy prey to the clans or the Slavers, Gerti was halfway tempted to tell them to head to the Dome to submit to the Top Dog, but she was shy and furthermore hadn't been told to do any such thing. As she went on she took stock of the roaming bands of warriors of both the Vikings and the Wild, there were plenty of familiar faces and it seems that in spite of the tremendous spectacle of the falling flames, neither side had been overly affected.
Gerti was getting bored when she heard the shortest lived firefight of her life. An ambush, her mind whispered. She crept carefully, using her slight size and intimate knowledge of Polis' layout to find a hidden vantage point to look at the battle. She saw a group of dead Wild men and a man in black.
Not a Slaver, not the Banshee. Who is this outsider, Gerti's mind raced and then she heard a loud voice coming from just out of view "Jacob!"
Another man walked into view and started talking to the man in black, but his other words were too quiet for her to hear. Then she saw other men arrive. Eventually they started going over the corpses of the Wild men. With a frown over the lack of sacvving opportunities for herself, she continued to peek from hiding, whatever was going on with these outsiders could be something that would interest the Top Dog.
Alysha looked down at the man before her. It was easy to look down when your Power Armor was 7 feet tall. He seemed very nervous as she lowered her weapon. "What business have you with the Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel?" The man paused as she repeated herself. He glanced toward his backpack. "Save your food for yourself, Outlander," she said. Alan clutched his backpack close to himself. She leaned down, so close that Alan could almost see his blotted form reflected in her Power Helmet. "Go," she said. Alan breathed a sigh of relief as she activated another Stealth Boy, disappearing out into the woods again...
Sibley examined the snub-nosed laser rifle he'd just purchased. He didn't see much difference than a standard AER9, which, in itself was pretty rare in these parts. He began examining the weapon in more detail, then noticed the power output and the beam breakup mesh. This was essentially a laser shotgun. Sibley looked forward to using the weapon in Polis. He stood up and looked out of the dugout. It was time to get moving. Inquisitor Stearns would always catch up with him. A quick glance around and the merchants had moved on. Sibley started in the direction of the north, he still had to get to Vault 46. Keeping his wits about him, he moved to another building after carefully covering the safehouse behind him. The cover of night and the moonless sky would be his friends tonight.
...Inquisitor Stearns stood in the middle of the merchant camp as she let herself materialize, drawing a gasp from the sailors and crewmen. All but two. The first reached for a weapon and was stopped by the muzzle of The Howl, the second pointed his newly cleaned M1911 in her direction, earning a second weapon drawn by Stearns, a .44 Magnum.. In the midst of the miniature Mexican standoff, The Banshee spoke. One man was big, but the other was downright imposing. Broadly built at about 6'4" the man was menacing indeed, made moreso by the vicious weapon he wielded. A normal warrior would indeed tremble before him. His draw was unnaturally fast. At 7 feet in Power Armor, the Inquisitor did not worry. "You dealt with Head Paladin Sibley on cordial terms, and so I deal with you on cordial terms. You are privy to one of the many Midwestern Brotherhood waypoints across Polis. You will not reveal it's location to any. To do so will invoke my wrath. I've seen more of the city than any Raider, any Slaver, any creature. If you are deemed a threat, you will be neutralized. This is my one and only warning to you. Heed it well. I am Alysha Stearns, Inquisitor of the Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel, remember the name when you hear tales of the Banshee whispered in the dark halls of The Center and the firelit night that shrouds The Dome, for I am ever vigilant, and ever watchful," she said resolutely before holstering her .44 and slinging The Howl across her back. With that, she turned, her back fully to the party, and walked into the night to rejoin Head Paladin Sibley, tossing a wicked glance at the slight frame of a girl creeping in the shadows.
Gerti had been contemplating moving closer to listen in on the more quiet chatter when a giant suddenly appeared from nowhere. Suddenly all the grownups started drawing guns.
Quiet like a mouse...still like a deader. Don't breathe, don't even blink.
Gerti waited for the Banshee to kill everyone. Suddenly, nothing happened. Gerti nearly squeaked in protest, the first time she'd ever been this close to that monster and it didn't even wreck this group of outsiders, maybe the Banshee wasn't that territorial. Gerti wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, and she was so busy wracking her brain trying to make sense of what she'd seen, that she didn't even notice Stearns looking her way. As far as she was concerned, she was perfectly invisible in her tiny hidey-hole.
Maybe they're friends now? Top Dog's gonna wanna hear this...But what if he doesn't believe me? He might get angry! He might make Munti and me go to the Highdaway! I have to show him something, something that says that they were all here for true.
She stuck her tongue out the side of her mouth in a show of determination and kept her eyes peeled for an opportunity to snatch something small and compelling.
Head Paladin Sibley remembered covert ops training as he crouched and ran from shadow to shadow. Stealth was key. Stealth was alway key in Polis. Discovery could set off a firefight that would attract unstoppable ammounts of attention from either the Vikings, the Wild, or both. Sibley gripped his new weapon closely, keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of movement. He darted, with surprising speed, into a leaning shed, and he peeked out again. His maroon cloak shrouded his shoulders from any reflection. Running through a low set of sticky bushes, Sibley missed the tripwire that crossed his path. He cursed as the shotgun trap activated, panging pellets off the side of his armor. He gripped his Tri-Beam as he fell. He looked up to see a form standing over him. It was joined by another, and another. Broad, horned figures. He heard a voice through the ringing of his ears. "Well boys, looky what we got here'" the Viking Raider grumbled, his cohorts laughing. Their laughing quickly faded as Sibley stood up to his full height, a rough 7'4" in Power Armor. He didn't say a word as the Raiders laughter had now turned to horror. They took a few nervous steps backward. "Oh my G-," the first voice studdered, "Y-y-y-ou're the, the, the--" The Raider's voice was cut off by a Tri-Laser blast, which fried him, setting his beard on fire and tossing him backward. The second drew a sawed-off shotgun, which Sibley promptly batted aside, discharging the weapon. A second backhand sent the Raider reeling as the third came down with a Super Sledge. Sibley blocked the downward swing at the forearm, delivering a vicious helmeted headbutt that shattered the unfortunate Raider's face. He toppled backward and Sibley looked at the other one, frantically trying to reload his sawed-off. Sibley discharged his weapon again, frying the man, then switched quickly to his trusty Combat Shotgun to pepper the final foe in the back as he was trying to flee. "I am not the Banshee," Sibley said to himself, looking down at the charred remains of the first Viking, "but your life was forfeit nonetheless." Sibley gripped his Combat Shotgun again as he moved out of the grisly picture that once was a Viking foraging party. He'd need to shape up if he was going to make it all the way to Vault 46, especially if Inquisitor Stearns was going to continue her conspicuous absense.
While Gerti hadn't noticed Stearns looking her way, Jacob certainly had. He raised a curious eyebrow and kept an intent eye on that spot for a while. He had a feeling Stears didn't just turn and stare dramatically at nothing, as if a camera had just suddenly performed a close-up on her, but maybe whatever she'd been leering at had scattered. If it had, Stearns probably would have shot it. If she hadn't shot it, Jacob certainly would have. He kept an intent eye on that spot now, waiting for movement. To the sailors, he simply appeared to be staring into the middle distance. Finally getting annoyed with this, he stood up and stalked off towards the spot Stearns had stared at. He stepped right over Gerti. He stopped, getting a faint smell of sweat and dirt. Although that might have just been him. He looked around, at the ground, and then upwards. No one ever looked up. Except him, apparently. For a minute, he sat down directly on top of Gerti's hiding place as the young Raider girl tried to make herself as small as possible under the chunk of masonry. Jacob drew his .223 Pistol and started checking it over where he sat, surveying the area. Maybe Stearns had been glaring at some vermin. He stood up slowly, hoping that he wasn't just getting old and seeing things, and strode back to the trader camp. He sat down again, lounging back in the overturned wreckage of some form of archway. He contemplated sleeping for a while, but ignored that idea until someone decided when to sort out the watch. He could have sworn he saw movement over at the spot Stearns had glared at. Eyes playing tricks in a new place. You're getting paranoid Jacob.
Alan finally drew breath as the Banchee dematerilized infront of him, hopfully running off, he couldn't really be sure if she did. With a quick and shaky hand, the frightened Isreali grabbed his stuff, put of his gasmask, and ran like hell. Everything in his mind was telling him to get the fuck out've this city, just to continue his trek to Alaska and forget about this place, but something was holding him back. Maybe it was the "Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel", maybe those Raiders, he didn't know. Whatever it was that held his curiosity so much was preventing him from just hightailing it out of Polis. Alan looked back, he was pretty far away from that building and getting deeper into the city, most likley a bad idea. He stopped in his tracks as he came upon a group of men, most all of them strong and armed. He reconized two of them as the two traders he attempted to save not but an hour ago, another mistake in his book. He was coming to them from behind, luckly none were looking his way when he fell to the ground, hiding behind some rubble. Would they kill him if they saw him? Maybe they would just be friendly, even trade a little. Or they could kill him, like most would. He went with the highroad and started to crawl out, but something made a noise. A small whimper, maybe a gasp. Alan quickly scanned the area, noticing small figure curled up behind a pillar. A few seconds of looking confirmed it, it was a little girl!
Roland didn't seem all that threatened with the mighty Inquisitor Alycha "The Banshee" Stearns. The sniper rifle jammed in his face didn't really worry him either. If the Banshee was out to kill him she would have up and pulled the trigger, then promptly been slaughtered by Vaughton. She relayed her message, and about twelve words in Roland broke into a smile. Allowing her politely to finish, he added, "Never tagged you as one for showmanship, Inquisitor. I promise, I won't go shooting up anything you don't want me to shoot up." However, by the point he had finished his own statement, Stearns had turned off to the side and was focusing on a rather interesting pile of junk. Jacob's eye caught the same pile of junk as well, and although neither of them were assisted with cybernetic vision, Jacob was (in Roland's opinion) one of the best-trained spotters in the Wasteland, even if the grey beard and mullet were getting greyer every day.
So when the Warrior Weapon set out for the scrap pile, Roland set out for it, too, flicking on his night vision and looking over the pile. Gerti was shrouded from the front, though, and as such he could barely catch anything that looked human at all. When Jacob came back down, Roland relayed his findings. "Looks like you were right on top of something," the merchant grunted, slowly pulling his gyrojet rifle off his back, "but I don't know what. Could have just been a ghoul corpse or something, damn things take forever to rot away. I'm not going to worry about it, but we should probably get moving; head for a bigger settlement and duck our heads for the night."
The small girl's presence didn't matter to Alysha, nor did the merchant's smiling at her warning. The fact was that she'd gotten her point across. She felt odd, that she was so merciful today. Of course, if their trade would benefit the Midwestern Brotherhood, then her mercy was well-founded. She heard a small firefight up ahead and started in that direction, keeping like a running shadow across the night. She paused and let out a sigh of relief as she came upon Head Paladin Sibley, who'd just ended a miniature shoot-out with a group of Vikings. "Good to see o again," Sibley said quietly. "I needed to make sure our affairs remained in order, Head Paladin," Stearns said back. Sibley nodded. "There's no need to explain your actions out here to me, Inquisitor, you are out here constantly, you know what you're doing, I have every confidence in you," Sibley said, changing the mag in his shotgun. "We should keep going though," Sibley continued. "Agreed, Head Paladin," Stearns concurred. The two checked their weapons and continued northward, away from the merchants who they'd become acquainted with all night. They still had to pass through Viking territory, perilously close to The Dome, and past the Washington Bridge, where the area was always heavily contested with The Wild, not to mention Main Drag. They still had a tough trek ahead of them.
The raider brat was looking over the campsite, contemplating what might be convincing enough to give her story weight when the man in black, Jacob she remembered, came her way.
No, no, no! I'm the best hider. If Munti can't ever find me you won't see me you big, dumb outsider!
She nearly groaned when Jacob sat down directly over her hiding place. She briefly considered twisting Jacob's ankle in her powerful hands, but then realized that his feet were just like the Banshee's, Jacob was actually a monster in disguise. Gerti was gifted at sneaking however, a skill she honed hiding from drunken Vikings, patrols of Wildmen, and Mudcats. She knew how to move, how to avoid making a sound, and how to be patient. Eventually Jacob left and rejoined his friends.
You see monster? I told you I was the best hider. Just you wait, Gerti Flowers will save the day and you outsiders will have to leave Polis.
Roland looked at the junk pile again. This time not for Gerti, but for any particularly choice pieces of salvage. Looking about, he saw nothing for a little while. From the top, nothing. At the sides of the pile, nothing. Near the center, noth- "Oh, would you look at that." Roland looked at what appeared to be the stock of a gun just beneath Gerti's hiding place. The merchant scrabbled up the pile and very nearly stuck his face right into Gerti's hiding place, seeing nothin as he bent down to pull the gun stock. Of course, with his luck, he managed to pull out a derelict .44 Magnum lever action rifle with a bent, broken barrel and shattered action. "Well shit, that was a waste." Roland grunted, looking up to give the gun a toss-
And looking right into Gerti's face. The merchant's face twisted into something between a scowl and a grimace as he locked eyes with the raider girl for a few seconds. Gerti would have been able to note a few blinking dots in Roland's eye, they were that close together. Then he spoke. "Bad day for you, girlie." Lashing out with his cybernetic arm, which punched right through the junk and crap, caught hold of the nape of Gerti's neck and pulled hard, dragging the Flowers girl right through the small hole she had been observing from in a blast of detritus, which nearly caused both of them to go plunging back down to street level.
"Jacob," Roland shouted back down to ground level, "is this what you saw?" Placing Gerti's feet on the ground with one hand and pointing at her with the other, Roland began his slow climb back down to ground level.
Gerti let out a shriek as she was violently jerked out of her hiding place by another monster in disguise. She quickly wrenched free from Roland's grasp and scampered off. She took the time to turn her head and shout "Monsters," accusingly before jumping into another dark hole, using the cover to worm her way completely out of sight elsewhere.
Okay I need a new idea! Think of something clever. Thinking of clever things. Clever, clever, clever...
Several moments later she grinned. What better to fight one group of monsters than another?
Roland scowled. "Apparently." he whispered to himself. Shrugging, he rounded up the crew and started relaying orders. "Load up our goods and get moving down the road, fast as you can. Jacob, go with them." He looked around the area. The girl he had captured had dissappeared somewhere into the distance, and Roland had no intention of going after her any time soon. He was tired; it had been a long trip and combine that with recent events, it was just getting longer... Polis was turning out to be an annoying place.
"Just find a somewhat intact building, get under it and we'll ride out the night there." He said in a low voice. "I'll be along a few minutes after you guys, just find somewhere and get comfortable for the night. We're going to head for this place called Como in the morning, rumor has it the place has had a ghoul problem in the last few months, nothing big if intelligence-" he scowled at the word, More like conjecture, he thought to himself- "is to be believed, which it probably isn't. We move at first light tomorrow." Stepping back from the group, he puled out his gyrojet rifle and sat down at the bae of the junk pile he had just climbed. No doubt he was waiting for something to happen. His crew didn't dawdle, they immediately started bringing out the goods Roland had left in what was once a bunker but was now deserted and probably going to be a raider cesspit in a few minutes. Packing the goods into their containers and loading the containers onto makeshift carts, sleds and rollers the crew had brought along from the boat.
Having lurched into Polis mere hours ago, Dead-Eye Dick got acquainted with the city. His initial encounter with members of the Wild, did not net him any new friends. But between the local cuisine and fine scavenging, he was already enjoying himself. Dragging a sack of looted arms and equipment in one hand and picking his teeth with a splinter of bone with the other, the dulcet tones of his avian friends: Chanel and Dolce, alterted him to the presence of a large group. He dropped to his knees, his erupting pustules staining the asphalt beneath him, and crawled to get a better look at the group. He saw the meet-and-greet between the Sisterhood of Steal Pal'din and the bunch tradin' ladies and cracked his file-toothed grin.
Well I'll be, they gots them robot suits here, thems what keep the fresh flavor in. Don't you worry none missus, I'll tend to ye soon enuff
He stayed out of sight, well over a hundred yards away. Between favorable wind and the stench of the water, his own corpse like reek was well concealed. Thus he completely escaped detection waiting to see what were what. Eventually it became clear that there weren't gonna be no snacking what he didn't make hisself. His canned meal wandered off, presumably to freshen up for their date. He then realized that all them ladies were traders.
Well shoot, I reckon they might have somethin' I want. Too many fer shootin' an' I already done et, so mebe I'll mosey on down 'n be sociable. If'n I'm lucky they gots them glaser beams what opens them tin cans.
He got up and started walking forward just a bit, but mostly sideways, whistling the old bluegrass tune Where did you Sleep Last Night (In the Pines) in an effort to not catch them by surprise. His gun was at the ready, but not pointed towards them. The scraggly haired, semi-nude wanderer appeared to them in the distance, his brahmin-scrote purses swaying like a second pair of testicles.
"Well how you do," he called out, "I figure y'all trades-folk. Y'all up fer some swappin'?"
Alan watched the whole thing go down. One of the merchants, a lanky fellow, grabbed the small girl by the neck. It was a surprise that he didn't see Alan crouching not but 20 feet away, behind an old door. It disgusted him, the cruelty of these good-for-nothing meatbags. In Brumma, they were taught to pay respect to women and children, protecting them at all costs. In no situation was anybody permitted to hurt a child without reason, and it had to be a damn good reason too. Seeing this intolerable trader that he even tried to save from an imaginary threat manhandle a small girl, it-it infuriated Alan. He was only a second away from jumping from his cover and firing upon the wastelander, but the girl, apparently used to this situation, slipped right out of his grasp, running in the opposite direction. A small cheer whispered from Alan's mouth as he watched the child escape. The group of traveling merchants started off, presumably looking for some shelter. Alan, who should reasonably do the same, went against his instincts and after the girl. In all good conscious, he could not let that small girl wander alone in this dangerous wasteland, a feat he can barley do himself. Schezar, once out of sight of the merchant group, took off after the little girl. She was probably hiding, but he had to try.
Roland turned back towards his crew, waving them on faster as he moved over to speak to Jacob. "Alright, we've really got to get out of this place, I swear I just saw something else move off towards where the Inquisitor found that scout about twenty minutes ago. And besides, I don't think there's aaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" The latter was directed towards Dead-Eye, who was only now drawing into Roland's visual range. He had heard the strange shuffling noises off down the street, but only now saw their source; a club-footed, canker sore-covered, one-eyed, loincloth-wearing psychopath just barely shrouded in the darkness, standing about ten feet away.
The merchant had seen a lot in his days, fought the Biosoldiers and Sweepers in Austin, Hennard in the Capital Wasteland and the NCR and Enclave on the west coast. He'd had buildings dropped on him, claws ripping his chest open, he'd even been lit on fire in the past. He'd brought down two major armies, basically spat in the eye of the world and gotten caps for doing it.
This man, if he could even be refered to as such, topped all of those previous experiences.
The merchant, mouth agape, eyes wide, face ashen, practically leaped backwards over Jacob's head, but finding that he was almost paralyzed in fear, barely managed to shut his mouth, steady his feet and look down the barrel of his gyrojet rifle at whatever this thing down the street from him was. "What the hell... The hell are you?" he said with child-like curiosity.
Jacob immediately raised a fist, stopping the traders in their tracks as this strange man stumbled from the rubble shouting about swapping and waving a gun of some kind in the air. Jacob then raised Mother's Woe, surveying the semi-nude stranger in the distance. The man seemed downright insane, but his calls for swapping were probably intended as an invitation to trade. Probably an industry term of some kind. Jacob made a mental note to ask Roland about that later. The gun turned out to be a sidearm, and it was being waved in every direction except Jacob and the trader's. Hopefully a good sign. With all the wars over after the Rain, Jacob had been able to get back to himself, shooting first, only asking questions when absolutely necessary. He had something of a protegé in Jackal, but the old Ghoul was too soft-hearted to take Jacob's views to heart. So Jacob signalled for the traders to relax, finally slapping Roland's shoulder to show that this guy was ok. His danger sense wasn't tickling, so this stranger, in spite of looking undeniably batshit insane, was probably above-board. Jacob slung Mother's Woe over his shoulder again, but surreptitiously drew an M1911 from his duster. Hiding the gun behind one arm as he folded them over his chest, Jacob waited for the stranger to approach. As the stranger slowed once he came within good visual range, Jacob just waved him closer. Then Jacob pointed towards a surprisingly intact townhouse. Without a word, he led the traders towards it, nodding for this stranger with the chisel-toothed smile to follow.
The long-since rusted lock on the garage door yielded to a solid kick from Jacob's armoured boots and the big man hefted the garage door open with the creak of steel on unoiled steel. He nodded for the Brahmin handlers to lead Daisy into the empty garage Rather than move around to the front of the house and use that door, Jacob kicked his way through the half-rotten garage-house door, and walked up the short flight of steps to the house proper. Checking the area, and unwittingly giving away that he had been holding a .45 from the moment he slung his battle rifle as he pointed it up and down the hallway, Jacob finally gave the all-clear after checking the kitchen, living room and dining room. He then headed upstairs to check it out. Nothing serious, just a Radroach or two to stamp into oblivion, until he came to the master bedroom. A single Feral Ghoul sitting chewing on a mangled Radroach stared at Jacob for a second as Jacob stared at it. It hissed and jumped at him, but by the time it had moved a foot, Jacob had put two in it's chest and one in it's head. He looked around the room, noting the shattered windows and the hole in the wall leading to a room scattered with children's toys. Jacob cast an eye around there but couldn't look around for long. Not after seeing the tiny skeleton huddled in the corner. As he emerged from the Master bedroom, he walked into something large and hairy. After a short scuffle, Jacob found himself pinning a terrified-looking sailor to the wall in a chokehold. Letting go and giving an apologetic nod, Jacob headed back downstairs. Striding into the living room, where the stranger was making himself at home, Jacob nodded, shed his duster, throwing it onto a coat rack in the corner. On closer inspection, it turned out that the coat rack was a Mr. Handy unit that had run out of power. Jacob sat down on the arm chair opposite the stranger, leaning forward in his sitting and locking eyes with the scruffy, scraggly man.
"So, you wanted to trade? I'm not a trader. The trader'll be along shortly. But I'll lay down a few ground rules, terms and conditions if you will. One, Roland, the trader is a good friend of mine. You mess around with him and you're messing around with me. Two, We are not a filling station. Everything you leave with, you will have paid for. I'll search you before you leave, and I'll break one of your bones at random for every stolen item. Three, be polite. Now, for a little information on me. My name is Jacob Vaughton. The grass is yellow, the sky is blue, birds fly, and I kill people," Jacob said, calm, collected and assured from experience that if it came down to a brawl, he'd be the only man leaving this building alive. Just as he mentioned Roland, the trader entered the room as if on cue. Jacob nodded to him and then to the bearded stranger.
Roland had gone into the first floor kitchen of the flat that Jacob had broken the smaller group within the small group as soon as he was through the front door. Taking every alcoholic item he had on his person- from whiskey and firewater to floor cleaner and some of that pre-War hand sanitizer- he proceeded to empty as much of the liquid objects as were reasonable into his mouth. He was doing his damndest to erase the memory of the psychotic's appearance from his mind before sitting down to do business with him, and alcohol always worked. Something about it killing brain cells, which in this case was kind of good for him.
After three bottles of whiskey and half of the container of distilled cleaning alcohol, Roland burped, wiped his mouth off and stepped to the room, removing his own duster and hat and tossing them onto the deactivated Mister Handy unit where Jacob had hung his own attire. "Roland Rockfort. The sky is brown, Yao Guai roar and I sell everything shiny and shooty under this yellow sun. If you wanna make a deal, I'll bring out some of the supplies on the brahmin and you can take your pick. If you wanna stick around as a hired gun, don't bum-rape any of my crewmen, don't steal my booze and don't shoot me or Jacob, and you'll be paid well." Lowering himself carefully onto a fragile-looking sofa in the corner of the room and lighting a small fire in the fireplace, he steepled his fingers, not even bothering to cover his cybernetic arm after he had finished using the torch to start the fire. "Now then," he said cordially, "let's do business."
Dead-Eye laughed a wheezing guffaw at Roland's initial terror "Easy 'ere. Just want what do fer some swappin'," he said, shaking the bag of loot he acquired from the raiders.
"Ran into some of 'em padded sluts a ways back, try'n ta draw a bead on me without as much as a 'howd'ya do?' Downright inhospitable bunch," he explained between chuckles "But I set 'em straight," he punctuated with a reeking belch.
He shambled after them and into the townhouse where he listened to Jacob and Roland give their introductions. Something about their names buzzed in his mind, he thought he had heard about one or both of them in the Capital Wasteland or Austin, but he couldn't say for sure.
"Nice t'meetcha. Most ladies call me Dick, but if'n yer havin' trouble wrappin' yer lips 'round that yew kin call me Dead-Eye, what were my given name," he said in a tone that passed for friendly, though he followed up with a snort "I don't know where yew think I'm gonna be hidin' stuff but yer welcome to rub yer paws all over me, I understand tha urge."
Then he turned his attention to Roland "I don't right know 'bout shiny' 'r shooty but I'se in need of one 'em glaser beams what shoot green. I'll give yer everthin' in this 'ere roughsack for one of 'em, an some ammunishun fer it. Throw in the sack too, sheet. As fer a jarb, I reckon I'll have ta deecline. Thankee, but I jes don't see it endin' well, ya know?"
He gesticulated wildly as he spoke, fanning the now noticeable stench that hung about him around the room. A couple of the sailors could no longer stand the stench and subtly exited the room, trying to not sabotage the deal by making their terror and disgust known. In the meantime, Dead-Eye was taking the contents of the sack out: bloodied armor and weapons taken from members of The Wild that had crossed his path. The armaments, a variety of guns and hand weapons were in great shape, if bloody. The armor...the armor was salvageable, certainly. In most every instance, the armor had bullet holes through the heart or joints, the area at the neckline was also frequently bloodied. There was quite a bit of ammo as well, though he had helped himself to all that was compatible with his undergarment clad rifle.
"Watchyew think thar Rolin?"
Inquisitor Stearns looked carefully down the street, first ne way, then the other. She made a motion and asecond figure darted from the shadows, glint of tiny morning sunlight barely hitting his armor, causing a tiny flash, then returning to morning shadow. Head Paladin Sibley scanned the street with his Combat Shotgun as Inquisitor Stearns crossed, crouching beside him. The were progressively moving deeper into Viking territory. Already they could hear some ill-fated war party getting the hell blown out of them up on Main Drag. The old Interstate 94 highway, commonly referred to as Main Drag by the Raider clans, was the ancestral battleground between The Dome and The Center. It was the intentions of the Paladin and the Inquisitor to stay away and circumnavigate that area. Inquisitor Stearns was pondering the encounter with the traders the previous night. There were certainly a very many new faces in Polis to be wary about. Seen or unseen, there was no doubt that the events of the previous months, which had become known as the Rain of Fire, had sparked a mass migration of survivors to lighter hit areas. In all honesty, Stearns had not intended on killing any of the traders or their bull-necked muscle the previous night. They'd done cordial business with Sibley, even bringing a new modification of a weapon that could prove successful into the Midwestern Brotherhood. Stearns knew when the right contacts were made just as she knew when people should be avoided, or killed. The merchants were simply doing business with the Brotherhood the same as any from Lindbergh or the travelers would. There was no wrong in it. She then recalled a peculiar detail that she couldn't believe she'd overlooked. The small red cog and sword symbol on the hired gun's shoulder. (She doesn't know Jacob's rep, or that he's a vigilante.) It seemed like a variation of Brotherhood iconography. Perhaps, if they ever met again, she'd ask him about it. Stearns' musings were interrupted as she viewed a group of Wild Raiders through the scope of The Howl. They were headed northward, parallel to the two Brotherhood members. Headed for Main Drag. Seemed there was a lot of activity up there today. Many Raiders would be on the move. She motioned to Sibley. Another waypoint was ahead, maybe it would be a good place to lay low and avoid the days' actions.
Sibley followed Stearns' lead to the T. He knew, as ever, that subtlty was key in making it to the next waypoint alive. Always a most resourceful soldier, Sibley paused to pat some dust onto his Power Armor. The dust from the buildings was perfect for reducing the sheen and dulling reflections given off the armor. The sun was peaking over the horizon into a red sky. It this bright moment the tiniest reflection could be a giveaway. Not many Raiders dared confront The Banshee alone, but in groups, they'd sieze the opportunity. Especially oif there were two Banshees to be destroyed. Alysha performed most of her operations at night anyway, which made the most sense. The two made their way across the road and through a burned out warehouse. Making their wayout into the street again, Stearns spotted the building they were looking for and headed straight for it, with Sibley following behind closely. Sibley looked at the reverse cog and wheel symbol of the Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel. The inside of the building was unassuming, tattered furniture, broken home items, torn wallpaper, beat up cielings and walls. Stearns led Sibley to the basement, revealing a hidden door that led into a bigger area. The door was triple padlocked and deadbolted, and Stearns produced keys to each. Entering there was a rest area with military cots and all manner of Brotherhood conversion. A weapons locker, a workbench, medical station, food counter, and HAM radio, as well as a recreational radio. Stearns sat down in a chair after locking the door behind her and Sibley. Around the room were four similar doors having underground connections to other buildings on the block. Each were locked in the same fashion and only one person had the keys. The area was formerly a 1930's speakeasy, from the time when prohibition meant drinking was illegal. Stearns had converted it into one of the most secure sites in Polis. A Mr. Handy hovered around, marked with the cog and wheel.
Sibley sat down on a cot and began setting his weapons down next to it. He then took out his prized weapon for cleaning. An old, restored Colt Army Model 1860. A .44 Revolver recovered from the old Minnesota Historical Society, the pistol had belonged to Sibley's great ancestor, the noted Indian Fighter and first governor of Minnesota, Henry Sibley. He kept the weapon on him at all times, after it was carefully and lovingly restored to working order by Paladin Pennington back at Snelling. Finally admitting that it was time for some rest, Sibley layed back in the cot, looking briefly over at Stearns, whose tan skin showed gloriously as she removed her armor for inspection. She grinned lovingly at him and he closed his eyes, counting the distant blasts that were part of the days' Main Drag battle. Soon, night would fall and they would have to leave this relative safety and head out for another night. Hopefully with whatever this G.E.C.K. thing was, they'd be able to make life for the Midwestern Brotherhood that much easier in Snelling.
Harris Housley was grinning his pearly white grin as he slapped a slave girl on the barely covered backside. Shane Blasco, his right-hand man, was wandering back into LeRoux's. "Honcho, whats the word?" Shane Blasco said heartily as he greeted Housley. "Nadda," Housley replied, "you get my word out to Polis?" Blasco nodded happily, his feathered mullet causing some of the nearby girls to giggle. He resonded with a flirtatious smirk. "Missy, your bitches sure know how to work a guy," he called over to Melissa LeRoux. "Well, Sugar, they are the ones who make my money aren't they? You keep bringin' the caps, they keep bringin' the love, Baby," she said back to him, before going about her business serving drinks to the two. Housley snapped his fingers in Blasco's face. "Can we focus here Hoss," he said, "any takers on the bounty?" Blasco flopped down in a plush chair next to Housley, kicking his feet up onto the table in front of him, attracting the attention of one girl who promptly straddled him and sat down on his lap. "Well," he started, with mild distraction, "word is a couple more mercs are headed into Como to try to find The Deal Breaker, but who knows what'll turn up. If the Wendigos are still there it'll be more of the same. If not maybe we can get action started there again." Housley turned from the slave on his own lap and shot a glance at Blasco. "It's been thirteen years since that settlement was overrun. Most he guys who worked it are either retired or worm food." Blasco raised an eyebrow, "No reason a new bunch can't go out there though," he said. Housley nodded, obviously pondering the idea of more money, more booze, and most importantly, more women.
"Frogtown Company says they won't even try to find Flippa though," Blasco said, casting a worried look at Housley, "Flippa and them Flayer fucks I guess skun up a bunch of Frogtown Company's mercs. They said they don't give two shakes of shit what the price is, after seein' what those knife throwin' psychopaths did to their boys, they ain't doin' no fuckin job involvin' Flippa." Housley spat, "Pfft, weak stomach mercs. No job too big my ass." The slave on his lap promptly turned around and began rubbing her backside against the side of Housley's head. "Much as I like that pumpkin, daddy's havin' a talk," he said to the girl, who reverted to just sitting on his lap. "Man, you got enough people out lookin', Flippa will get his one day," Blasco said optimistically. "We don't even know where the fucker is," Housley said, "let alone how to catch up with him. Who wears fuckin' human skin anyway. Sick fucks out there." Blasco laughed as he rubbed his girl's breast. "Ah we don't sweat it, we just enjoy the shit we got here," he said, attracting a confirming look from Housley.
In truth, Gerti hadn't gone far. Figuring out what she had previously done wrong, she picked a new hiding spot that allowed her to completely escape detection and continued spying. Because she was positioned differently in relation to the merchants, Dead-Eye, and the wind, she had been able to smell the roaming gunman coming and she threw up in her mouth a little. Her eyes watering, she looked around for the source of the stench that violated her nostrils and saw the shambling, reedy man.
It's like a whole family of monsters! Banshee, Jacob, Bug-Eyes, and now the Corpse Man!
Eventually the lot of them moved into a townhouse and out of sight. She took the opportunity to spit and rid herself of the nasty taste of upchucked mudcat. She scratched along her tongue quietly groaning "Yuck, yuck, yucky..."
"You mean a plasma rifle?" Roland said questioningly, looking incredulously at the hick. What could this backwoods yokel want with an energy weapon? The merchant thought to himself, then shrugged and turned back to his neutral facial expression.
"Alright," The merchant said, "I think I got a plasma rifle in my stock somewhere, I'll bring it out." And just like that, Roland left the room at a stride, heading for the garage. Being completely undetectable (ha ha) as he crossed the little space between the townhouse and the garage, Roland opened the side door Jacob had kicked in, rifled through his stock and pulled out one of the Enclave Plasma Rifles he had found while scavving back in the Winter of Arms in '77. It was in fairly good condition; some of the shinier components had begun to dull and there was some grime and dirt covering it, but then again there wasn't anything in the wasteland that was perfectly clean to start with. He fished around in the Brahmin's saddlebags a bit longer and brought out about twenty microfusion cells. Pocketing the cells and holding the plasma rifle in one hand, the other one hanging limp at his side, the merchant walked back to the townhouse and placed the plasma rifle on the table in front of dick.
Roland felt a twinge in the usual place. Right behind the eye that had been replaced when he was in the institute. It felt like something burning... Oh shit. A cautious observer could notice that, one by one, the lights around Roland's eyeball were winking out. One could also notice that he was stealdily beginning to grimace, his brow furrowed in concentration. Outwardly he looked like someone was jabbing hot pokers into his face. Inwardly, he was shutting dow nthe tiny cables running from the fusion battery in his neck to his eye. He didn't know what had happened, or how it had happened, but all of a sudden a cable or something back there must have snapped, and now power was singing the back of his eye socket.
Which was bad.
He managed to isolate the broken wire and shut down power flowing through it, but in the process lost his telescopic vision, night vision, thermal vision and EM scanner, leaving him with just barely normal eyesight. His face relaxed and he visibly calmed down. Goddamn institute and their goddamn lousy wiring, Roland thought angrily to himself. There goes any chance of spotting an ambush.
Alan stopped up aginst a wall, breathless and defeated. What was he thinking? Of course the girl was going to run from him, to her, he's just another wastelander trying looking to either rape or kill her, maybe both. The fact that it was the complete opposite, that Alan was trying to prevent that from happeneing, all of it hit the Outlander very hard. It was night now, the city was quite except for the distant explosions and gunshots, most likley coming from The Drag. The same place that Lazlo had told him to go. Alan slid down to a sitting position, putting his head in his arms. This is what he got for trying to help people, a big fucking kick in the face. He was nowhere now. Alone in the dark, sitting in the middle of a wartorn city with nowhere to go. He shoudl've never left Brumma, the whole plan to go to Isreal, none of it was gonna happen. Even if he somehow did make it to Alaska, and even Isreal, what if none of it was true? What if the whole Schezar family was already dead and it was all for nothing? Yeah, nothing. Well, this was what he had set out for in the beginning anyway, excitment and adventure, the "extacy of life" that he so stubbornly belived from his father's writings. None of it was real in the wasteland, all there was out here was depression and death, nothing more. Alan laid back and stared liflessly at the moon, it's purity and innocence. No nuclear war, no death and destruction, none of it one the moon.
Something woke him up, he must've slept for maybe 10 minutes, not enough. Yelling, gunshots, screams of wastelanders, it was a Raider war party, a big one too. Alan scrambled to his feet, grabbing his rifle and gear. The pillar he was behind prevented view of the street, a serious mistake on Alan's part. He stood up and turned around, facing a Raider warparty not but 50 feet away. It was a silence that any would be dumbstrucken by. The raiders, apperntly not fully seeing Alan and possibly thinking he was a fellow raider, slowly came forward. Alan, half-awake and idealess, shot his .357 5 times into the crowd, scatterning the raiders and causeing a hail of gunfire to rain upon him. The Isreali travler was incredibly lucky it was night, or else he would be a dead man about now. He ran, to where, he didn't know. He saw the faint light from the structure the traders took residence in. It was his only hope, maybe he could cause a battle between the two groups and escape himself. To his right he could've sworn to hear the small girl, but to halt would mean his death, and hers. He could only hope that the raiders would be focused on him, and not the girl. Behind him the raiders yelled and screamed, "You can't run from the Vikings, you fucking asshole!" "I'm gonna skin your fucking corpse!". Alan ran into the building, catching the immediate attention of the occupants. One of them smelled of shit and blood, but it didn't last long. Alan ran straight through the people, pushing many out of the way as they tried to catch the running Isreali. Seconds later, the raider's warcries reached the building.
Seeing no way around the wreckage of the building before him, Dean Harkin simply raised his hammer and pitched in through what remained of the wooden door. The heavy block on the end of the haft smashed through the old wood with ease, producing a clean hole in it which he widened through heavy and liberal application of his boot. "Fuck are you doing, Harks?" One of the younger mercs hissed urgently. "Makin' all that noise in Wild turf? You gonna get us all killed, jackass!" As if only to aggrivate him, Dean began attacking the thing more loudly and violently until it fell off its hinges. The look of abject terror on the younger man's face elicited a few sniggers and chuckles from the rest of the team as Dean casually hefted up his hammer and rested the haft against his shoulder, sneering slightly. "Chill out, man. Fuck the Wild. Some of them find us, we can take 'em, no doubt. It's the other mercs we gotta worry about. They'll all be headin' this way sooner or later." Dean said with a grunt, looking between his assembled rag-tag team. "Everyone'll be scramblin' to get the Flayers before we do. And hey Anders, if the Wild are so big and so powerful, how the fuck they let another gang operate this close to their turf?"
"I thought we was gonna go straight to Como and see if we can't find Housley's old piece," one of the other mercs admitted. Dean shook his head. "Nah. Can't be dealin' with Wendies just yet. Honestly, you expect Anders not to shit himself against those freaks? Poor kid's lucky we're takin' 'im with us on this job 'gainst them Flayers." Again, laughter. Anders balled his fists and pursed his lips like an angry litte girl pouting furiously at their parents when they didn't get their own way. "Hey, fuck you, Harks. I'm gettin' paid the same as you." The younger merc snapped, staring daggers at Dean. "If ya come back with us," One of the mercs closer to Harkin muttered. Harkin gave a brief, bitter laugh of his own before gesturing over his shoulder at the now-cleared entrance of the building, and all jeering and conversation was put to one side as they headed inside, up the stairs, down a hallway and then down another flight of stairs, eventually emerging on the other side of the building. A long stretch of road lay before them, and Dean sighed as he cleared his throat, preparing to organise the band of mercs. However, he didn't need to. Dawson, a man with a City-Killer and a Combat Helmet, wordlessly took point, so Harkin slung his hammer and brought up his rifle as he crept close behind him down the street, eyes darting between the buildings with the rest of the team at his side.
(Anyone can assume the role of any of the mercs should they want to. Besides Harkin, Anders and Dawson, there's about three more nameless ones you can control. Meh. Anyway, where exactly would the Flayers be hiding out?)
Gerti, still spying on the townhouse, was getting a bit weary when the sounds of gunfire snapped her to attention. She realized that the gunmen were Vikings and she realized they could be charging towards a trap. There were at least three monsters in there, if not the Banshee as well! She squeezed out of her hiding place and started waving her arms, screaming breathlessly.
"Banshee! The Bansheeee! Wendigo King! Aieee!"
Some of the Vikings turned her way and unable to completely make out her silhouette in the darkness opened fire at Gerti. Confused, Gerti tried to catch her breath to shout out something identifiable as a warning when a bullet ripped through her midsection, sending her flying backwards. Dazed and bleeding, Gerti started crawling away in the opposite direction, blacked out, and rolled downhill in front of the townhouse.
"Jesus!" Roland shouted as some random guy ran through the middle of the room. One second he was kicking his feet up on the table, taking a sip of whiskey, the next second a strange man in a gasmask had rushed through the center of the room and his whiskey was now in his lap. Roland immediately decided against going after the guy, by the time he had made it to the back of the house the waster would be gone at the rate he was moving. Instead, he set about putting out the fire in the fireplace, dousing the coals with what was left of a bottle of water that had been sitting on the kitchen counter, with a skeleton beneath it. He then returned to his sofa, shrouding himself in shadows as the darkness settled in again.
After a few minutes of this, Roland lit up his butane torch to make a little light. Bad move, as it were, because his luck in remaining un-noticed in the house wasn't to hold for long.
Thud. Roland heard something hit something a ways away, out near the front rooms of the townhouse. "Did anyone else hear that?" Roland quipped, picking the Gyrojet rifle off the floor next to the couch and loading some of his precious few 13mm rockets into the gun. Making his way to the foyer, where Jacob had entered the first time, Roland cautiously opened the front door, and was immediately greeted by the sounds of shouting and gunfire. The merchant shrugged; apparently this is what happened whenever he came to town somewhere. Raiders or some sort of faction war.
Roland preferred raiders.
Stepping out the door, Roland realized for the first time just how dark it was in Polis without his night vision, and boy was it dark. Designating the doorstep as "clear", Roland raised his Gyrojet rifle and stepped out into the dark. Sweeping his gun left and right across his surroundings, the merchant failed to notice the completely unnoticeable Gerti laying at the foot of the steps- right until his right foot caught on her leg and he tripped, planting his face on the pavement. Roland grunted, pushing himself back to his feet and shook whatever had tripped him, when he heard whatever tripped him grunt or moan or something in a low tone that he barely heard.
Roland scowled. It was that raider who'd been ogling his suplies earlier, the one who'd cut and run when she'd been caught. The merchant immediately thought, I should just drop a mini-nuke right here, and walk away. Just walk away. Followed by several more bloody thoughts before he sighed, muttered "dammit" and grabbed one of her arms. It was either get dragged into the townhouse and be taken captive by a bunch of psychoes in here, or stay out there and bleed to death before being cannibalized by a bunch of psychos standing on their doorstep with heavy weapons. Slamming the door shut behind him and roughly tossing Gerti into the sitting room where Dick and Jacob were squatting (and shooting Dick a dirty look that said "Don't touch"), He turned back to his seat and started gathering together the rest of his weapons.
Walking and talking, Roland said, "Jacob. We've got bad guys inbound. Probably raiders looking for blood or their little lost sheep here." Roland then pointed at Gerti. "Get your guns and get everyone up to the second floor, then dig in and find a hiding place up there. Dick, you're on scout duty. Get outside the building and make yourself scarce, if you see anyone with guns coming this way relay the information back to us on the second floor. Don't shoot unless they shoot first, we don't have the time or supplies to ride out a prolonged siege and we're not prepared for head-on combat with a full sized raider band. I'm gonna go lock down the brahmin and put out the fires around the area to reduce our visibility."
The merchant finished gathering up his supplies, pulled on his trench-coat and headed for the side door. "Let's get moving, people, no more wasting time." He said bluntly.
Jacob crouched next to Gerti. A small girl. Raiders were using kids now? Jacob wanted to wretch. Although that could have been Dick's less than pleasant odour seeping across the room. Jacob lifted her up and headed for the second floor, accidentally bumping the little Raider girl's head on the bannisters on the way up. Wincing at the dull clunk of her head impacting timber and shifted her away from anything capable of causing brain damage. When he finally reached a room that faced out onto the street, he curled Raider-girl up in one of the Wardrobes. He closed the door and jammed it shut with a chunk of timber ripped from one of the doorframes. It wouldn't hold anyone for long, considering the door panels were half-rotten. Even the little Raider girl could kick her way out in a matter of seconds. Jacob then jogged back downstairs, retrieving his duster and Mother's Woe before charging back upstairs and taking a firing position by the window in the same room as Gerti. Mainly because it held a commanding view of the street below, but also because he could club She-raider back into unconsciousness with a relatively short chase, if any chase at all. Jacob pointed to the other windows in the room as a pair of Sailors came in and waved another into the kid's room. In spite of the stench, he was quite happy to have Dead-eye as a spare gun in the house as well. Jacob shuddered at the thought of searching the loin-cloth wearing stranger. It was an empty threat, but Jacob had said it anyway.
"Hold!" Jacob snapped, cuffing one of the sailors as his finger hovered over his trigger. No sense getting into a gunfight even Jacob was a little wary of. Sure, he could handle Raider parties in DC, but with the Crusade and mutants and that dope from Vault 101, they would likely be nowhere near as large as the parties here. Part of Jacob was wary. A part of his mind that he hadn't felt stirring in a long time felt elated at the chance of facing a large group of Raiders again. He took a slow breath and stared down into the streets. He could feel his heartbeat slowing as he slowed his breathing and concentrated on his gun and the Raiders moving methodically down the street.
Roland, meanwhile, flitted about around the townhouse's exterior, switching between slipping through the shadows and sealing off any superfluous holes in the wall of either the garage or the townhouse itself. He didn't want to be caught off guard on the second floor because some idiot raiders had come through a hole in the wall he hadn't seen while canvassing the area. This was the biggest raider band he'd ever seen in his years, and he'd seen some large gatherings. Three large-scale conflicts; once in California and twice at Jerusalem. Now combine that with the numerous smaller conflicts he'd been in, and you had one wary Roland on your hands. Silently shifting the last few scavenged cinderblocks into a makeshift barrier on the townhouse wall, Roland slipped back into the townhouse, climbed up to the second floor and tapped Jacob on the shoulder to warn him of his presence before taking up position in one of the few remaining second floor windows.
Meanwhile, around a bend and just out of sight of the two parties approaching eachother, two figures made their way down the road. The first, a tall, square-shouldered guy in a silver radiation suit, looked at a scrap of paper in his hands, being careful to keep the paper within the flashlight beams coming from his polarized helmet. Putting one hand to that helmet in thought, radiation suit guy looked over at the second figure, a lanky guy wrapped in bandages and metal plates, around whose wrists were affixed a pair of wicked-looking arm blades.
The radiation suit guy got a confused look on his face, turning towards mummy guy and gesturing towards the map. A crackly voice echoed through an external speaker on the suit, saying: "Well, by my calculations, Raziel, we're totally lost. I swore we were headed west, but there wasn't supposed to be a city for miles."
Deek Harris facepalmed mentally. Leaving Area 51 had been the easy part, realizing his compass had been left behind was the hard part. Especially when they realized he had lost it about fifty miles too late. As it were, Deek and Raziel had had a hard time even finding their way to Kain's beloved brahmin farm, which turned out to be a nice little place, where Deek and Raz had stopped and rested for a while before continuing east- a direction accidentally exchanged for west.
And now, here they were, lost in Polis at the worst possible time.
Dead-Eye continued to grin as the situation took a turn for the worse. He briefly eyed Gerti as she was tossed near him, but concluded that between his last meal and her general scrawniness that it wouldn't be worth the effort.
"Seein' as how we're still swappin' 'n what, I'll up the ante. I'll help the lot of yew shoot these here screamin' whores in exchange fer a pry bar. Otherwise I reckon I'll take my new glaser-beam 'n leave you with that thar sack. Whatchu say thar?"
"If I got a pry-bar on me," Roland conceded, "You got it if we survive this encounter." Then the merchant clammed up and went back to keeping an eye on the passing Vikings. He breathed a sigh of relief as the vanguardof the group hadn't seen them going past. Just a few more seconds, and they were in the clear...
Alan glanced behind, hoping that he had lost the trail of the Marauders, but as always, things were not going his way. The Raiders completely bypassed the trader's den, dead set on Alan. Gunshots were whizzing by, hitting rubble and walls beside him. Again, it was by fate that it was night, severing the raider's accuracy nearly a ten-fold. He looked around, still only being able to see around 10 feet infront of him, looking for someplace to hide and wait it out. To his left, he could barley make out what used to be a warehouse, now just another symbol of man's greed. In a spark of impulse, Alan dashed into the crumbling building. It's doors were wide open and covered in scratchmarks, but Alan did not take notice to this. He swung the doors shut and jammed a rusty pipe into the handles, locking it. He sat quietly behind a large storage box marked 'Fragile', listening fearfully for the raider party. He heard them stop infront of the warehouse, their cries of killing Alan stopping. Now they were questioning where they were, and how they were going to get back. One of the raiders, a young one according to his voice, started to complain, "Well shit boss, why'd we chase this fucker anyway? It's dark and 'round this time the ferals' start commin' out." Another voice, one seemingly familiar to Alan, cut the young man off. "Shut da fuck, eh Slate? I don't really give a flying fuck about this asshole okay? I just wanted to put a fuckin' bullet in his shit for brains head, got it?" Alan knew that voice, from where he didn't know, but he had heard it before. The Israeli listened in more, now out of curiosity. "...fuck you Lazlo, I'm outta here. I'm not gonna get killed because you've got some grudge, that guy should've killed you when he had the chance." Yes! It was Lazlo! Alan cursed himself many times over, he knew he shouldn't of let that filthy man go, Lazlo should be miles away right now, laying on the street without a head. A gunshot outside rattled Alan's head, causing him to stand and point his rifle to the door. Nothing came in, but outside there was commotion. "See what happens when you disobey the Wild? That fucking happens!" Lazlo's voice stung with hatred, "Now c'mon, we're gonna search for this fuck in the morning. Let's get back to Central."
Raziel scratched his burnt scalp, flaking off some bits of skin in the process. "Deek, you know where the hell we are? This city is lookin' pretty damn big and I swear I hear gunfire in the distance." The old man gave the mutated Austinite a dread look, he did not like to be incorrect about his directions. Raziel found that out the hard way during their trek to Kain's farm. Deek turned back to the skyline of Polis and continued to walk. The burnt mutant shrugged and did the same, he had the feeling that it was gonna be a long night.
Sibley stood up, listening to the commotion topside. He looked over at Stearns, who was already back in her Power Armor and had her weapons ready to go. Housley set the Tri-Beam down in a gun box and checked the actions on his Combat Shotgun and his Colt Army 1860 Revolver. At a nod, Stearns quickly unlocked the door and the two Power Armored soldiers left for the evening, carefully locking the doors behind them. Sibley kept watch as Stearns came up the stairs quietly. Very quietly. The duo sprinted across the street back toward the cover of the warehouse, both noting the fresh bleeding Wild Raider corpse on the ground. The young punk had only been shot in the last hour. Moving quickly along the building, Sibley was unable to stop in time from crashing through a door that swung open. Stearns stopped abruptly behind him as the figure emerging from the door was thrown into the ground. He was wearing a beat up set of armor and a gas mask. He lost his weapon in the fall and Sibley quickly drew his revolver. With a grunt, the man looked up at Sibley. "You again," Stearns said, before Sibley could figure out what happened. "A... friend?" Sibley said with a pause. "An Outlander," Stearns said back, "observed your transaction with those merchants before," she said. Before Sibley could speak, a shot pinged off the building beside them. Sibley turned with his revolver, firing at an enhanced figure in the dark, striking him in the guts. Sibley watched the man sink with a satisified grin beneath his helmet. The Outlander scrambled to his feet as the Raider party again emerged from the darkness and then stopped, just realizing the scene they viewed. "Well, if it ain't oua little Outlander bitch," Lazlo said, pushing his way to the front of the party, "Youa gonna have to answer the shit... for... what the fuck?"
Lazlo looked horrified, like his worst nightmares were standing directly in front of him. The fact of the matter was they were, flanking the Outlander. "You, you, the fuckin' Banshees, fuck Outlander, get ova here, they'll rip, they'll rip your fuckin'" His words trailed off as Stearns took a step forward, brandishing a Ripper. The chain blade made a shrill whine as it fired up. Worriedly, the Raiders began stepping back. Sibley, wordlessly switched to his shotgun. Lazlo couldn't hold his tongue. "Who ya comin' for Banshee, name him and we're gone." The Midwestern Brotherhood members silently walked forward. "Who do you want?" Lazlo said, his voice growing more shaky, "WHO?!?!" Shezar took the opportunity. "They've come for you, Lazlo," he said menacingly. Lazlo turned a pale white. "No, no it... not me," he tried to find his footing. His knees sagged. "Take Bingo!" he said, tossing another Raider to the dirt in front of the pair. Bingo tried to scramble back to his comrades but was swiftly gunned down by Sibley. The duo continued to advance to the trembling Raiders. "T-t-take, take Tiny," he said, tossing another Raider forward," The man tripped and was picked up by Stearns. The Ripper's motor whined and popped as the man spasmed. She gruesomely cut his ribcage open, dissecting him alive. He coughed blood as she removed his heart. A Wildman threw up, two more broke and ran. Stearns let the man fall as she threw his heart, hitting Lazlo in the chest. "No Lazlo," Shezar called, "they came for you." Lazlo now pissed his pants. Literally. "You don't know the shit you're fuckin' with here Outlander. You can't hold the Banshees. You can't fuck with shit like this." Lazlo was in full backup now, his crew following. "Watch the shit you play with Outlander," Lazlo called from his crew, now high-tailing it, "the Banshees will want you one day!" was his final warning as the crew left into the night, headed east toward the safety of Wild territory.
Alan watched in disbelief as the raider band ran away, his thought-to-be friend Lazlo leaving a trail of piss behind. That bastard, even after the Isreali Outlander spared him, giving mercy, and even helped him out with his injured leg, the man still wanted blood. Maybe it was embarrassment, some type of hubris or pride issue, it didn't really matter anymore. The hubris in Alan swelled at this moment, that being one of the most satisfying things he had ever seen. A drawn out "ahem" behind Alan sunk all pride and joy. The Outlander did a quick pivot to face a duo of towering soldiers, both their rifles pointed at his small head, ready to make him a permanent stain on the warehouse wall. He tried to plead his case, "I-I.. I re-really d-d-d.." He was at a loss as finally took into effect the gruesome killing of Tiny rotting behind the godly warriors and the bullet-ridden corpse of Bingo only feet away. What could he say to these Banshees? Nothing could amount to what had just happened, how they literally saved Alan's skin, for no reason at all. It was an awkward silence at best, the faint breaths of Alan and the timed, almost mechanical, breaths of the Midwestern Brotherhood Knights. For some reason, all Alan could think of was why the famed Brotherhood of Steel was in this dying cesspool of death and war, why would they continue to stay here? Finally, one of the Banshees spoke up and ended the silence that seemed to of lasted an eternity, "Try and run and you'll die, fighting will get you killed as well. Answer questions and nothing more." He lowered his weapon, the other one, the female, kept her's ready. "First, state your name and retire your mask." Alan was reluctant at this, did he really trust these guys? On the other hand, did he have a choice? Slowly and steadily, Alan disconnected tubes and latches, releasing a slight hissing sound. He then removed the top helmet and peeled the mask off, leaving it hanging off his vest. His head, still a black tangle of hair, The Knights stood emotionless, not reacting at all to this. "My name is Alan Schezar. I'm 25 years of age and I hail from the town of Brumm-" He was cut off by the female Knight, "He asked for your name, nothing more." Her voice had a chilling, razor sharp feel to it, making Alan's spine shiver. The male started next, taking his companion's statement for granted, "Now, what is your business with The Wild and specifically the raider boss Lazlo?" Again, Alan was scared to say. Would these angel-like figures kill Alan in cold blood for sparing a raider boss? Or would they just sever a limb? Well, it didn't matter anyway. Taking a breath in, Alan started his story. "In a nutshell, I killed one of his buddies and shot up his leg. Being the dumbass I am, I helped him with his leg and he told me that the nearest trader outpost is... well... in that direction." Alan rose an arm and pointed to the east, the same direction Lazlo and his gang ran off too, The Wild Territory. "I guess he was not too happy going back to his boss, saying that some Outlander killed his buddy and nearly killed him. And most of all that he let the Outlander get away scott free." He waited patently for the Knights to respond, to either shoot him on the spot or ask another question.
Gerti awoke in darkness, still bleeding out from where she had been shot. She breathed in and out, trying to focus on her exhalation over the noise of the raucous Vikings those inside the townhouse were hoping to avoid fighting. She had never felt such pain in all her life, never felt so weak, not even in the presence of the Top Dog or in the shadow of the Highdaway.
"Munti, help me," she whined with a sob "Munti I need you. Leif, Wren, anyone? I can't see."
She coughed and lashed out in frustration, shattering the wardrobe door to flinders with a powerful mule kick. The waning light stunned her and she struggled to focus her eyes. She could see the back of the monstrous Jacob.
"Not monsters...Munti needs my help to watch the boys. Eat the wild-men."
She blinked and passed into darkness, sleeping fitfully.
Roland's eyes went wide in shock. He heard the loud BANG! come from the direction of the wardrobe they had locked the Raider girl in. She said something, something about the monsters... Then lapsed into unconsciousness, still bleeding out of her chest wound. The merchant looked over to Jacob, pointed at him, then pointed at Gerti and the general area of her sucking chest wound. He then gave the Warrior Weapon a querying look, something along the lines of either Can you fix that? or Can you keep her from talking and giving our position up?
BANG! Deek jumped, just as he was about to answer Raziel's question to their position- preferably in a snarky and sarcastic manner ("Two miles from Alberquerque" had become a classic). The sound wasn't particularly loud or threatening, but Deek didn't want to stick around to hear what had caused it. He turned the next street corner and spotted a townhouse that looked deserted enough. Someone had even been considerate enough to leave several braziers and seal the holes in the walls.
"Well that's convenient," The old man said simply, testing the front door- which was locked, of course. Deek pulled out his Novasurge and shot the lock off the door in true-to-form Deek Harris fashion, then opened the door and stepped inside.
He was met with a series of gun barrels poking down at him and Raz from the second floor of the building.
"This apartment occupied?" The old man said sarcastically.
Raziel sighed, once again letting Deek drag him into a standoff, just like that town down in Nebraska. They barley escaped that one with their lives, and the aged mutant has his bets that those townspeople still haven't taken down the wanted posters. Of course, that one was sort of Raziel's fault, but how was he to know that it was the mayor's dog? Nonetheless, it didn't matter anymore. Right now, he should be thinking of an escape plan in case Deek's "charming" words fail them, again. There was always the door they came through, but they'd be shot down before they even passed the sofa. The windows were an option, assuming that the two old men could preform a jumping somersault out a small window.... That would be a last resort. Taking his mind off of that for a moment, he decided to observe their opponents. Big, burly, hairy men. Sailors. Behind them in a small room were two other men, one tall skinny man, apparently the leader of the group judgment from his clothing. The other was a statue of a man. Although older than most of the other sailors, he seemed to possess a history of pain and misdirection, shown so clearly on his face. Inbetween the two was a small girl, bleeding from some wound in her abdomen. Unfortunately, if he had to guess, he would guess that these sick bastards were taking turns on her. Once finished, they shot her, probably to shut her up. Raziel has done a number of things in his day, he has killed whole families in cold blood, skinned innocent men, even slaughtered a group of pacifists who's only goal was to help his band of eroded mutants, but never has he taken advantage of his killings for his own personal needs, nor ever hurt a little girl. His brothers did it, as did his sisters, but never him. Nobody would call that just, as he still killed and murdered, but something always held him back from that sort of pleasure. Now, he realizes that it must've been old Jacob Ramsey inside of him, reminding him of his dear Jean. Looking over, Raziel gave Deek a concerned look, although Deek was really the only person who could tell Raziel's emotions now, because of his burnt face and the wrappings. All of the sailors were obviously disgusted with the mutant, most of them thinking it would be God's work to kill him.
The deal sounded dubious but Dead-Eye figured it was better than nothing. Besides, he figured he could always kill everyone later if they double-crossed him. Dead-Eye clambered up the stairs after Jacob and slipped out a window, pulling himself up to the rooftop with a groan, the window sill beneath him would never be the same. Once on top of the roof he whistled to Dolce and Chanel who immediately began looking for targets to mark. He kept an eye on the approaching Vikings, noticing that they hadn't quite set out to charge the townhouse yet.
Upon first inspection he mistook their padded armor for exceptionally large breasts and licked his chapped lips, a sore bursting open. Once he realized that it was in fact, just armor, he resigned himself to enjoying the company of the small busted sluts. His erstwhile allies had not yet opened fire, so he refrained from doing the same. But then, he heard a loud crash beneath him. Although it was just Gerti breaking the wardrobe, he imagined that some of the rowdy whores had snuck in and were already fighting. He put his eye to the iron sight of the "panty-dropper," and drew a bead on the nearest raider that his precious babies had discreetly marked with their feces.
"My girl, my girl don't lie to me. Tell me where did you sleep, last night?"
He opened fire, shooting the raider through the throat. He smirked at his own cleverness, an extra orifice was always welcome. The raider dropped to his knees and desperately scratched at his neck, wheezing and blubbering.
"In the pines, in the pines, where sun don't ever shine. I would shiver the whole night through."
He quickly turned and shot another raider through the eye. The struck man hit the floor violently, gurgling a death whisper and clutching his ruined face.
"My girl, my girl, where will you go? I'm going where the cold wind blows."
He shot the next one through the heart, nothing fancy. The raider spun around and hit the floor face-first, stone dead.
"In the pines, in the pines, Where the sun don't ever shine. I would shiver the whole night through."
Bang! The fourth shot passed right through the vermilion line at the bridge of the nose. The back of the man's head exploded and his brains splattered across a nearby wall. Grey chunks running down into the ground.
"Her husband, was a hard working man, Just about a mile from here. His head was found in a driving wheel, But his body never was found."
He spat out a wad of puss and lined up his last shot and popped a fifth Raider directly in the femur, shattering it within the leg. The man fell shrieking in raw agony, his voice going hoarse within moments. He rocked his upper body as he cradled his destroyed leg, begging to an absent God.
"Music to my ears. Hyuck, hyuck, hyuck!"
Dead-Eye briefly tucked his fingers into his brahmin scrotum sack to fetch more bullets, but then looked at his new toy.
"I reckon it's time to test this here cookin'-beam."
He dropped to one knee and attempted to get his bearings with the rifle. He aimed at another raider and pulled the trigger as the motley band charged towards the townhouse.
The shots ringing out from rooftop level garnered a loud groan of defeat from Roland. If they weren't fucked before, they definitely were now. He pulled up his gyrojet rifle and fired at the first raider as the yokel and the mummy downstairs scrambled for cover on either side of the door.
Psssst! the gyrojet went as it accelerated out of the barrel and whizzed across the street at 1250 feet per second, finding a nice comfy home in the eye socket of a raider. A second one stepped over the corpse, taking his comrade's place in the ranks of the enemy as the warband swelled towards the townhouse, far outnumbering the embattled crew of sailors. They were quiete outgunned at this point, with no big guns to cause serious damage and only a few really crack shots, one of whom was up on the roof and another of whom was on the floor, bleeding from a sucking hole in his chest. "Get that man a band-aid!" Roland snapped at one of the wounded man's comrades, who started dragging the guy away from the window and towards another room on the second floor where there were fewer bullets in the air. Roland fired another gyrojet, wounding another raider by hitting him at the knee. However he just kept coming, and Roland had to waste his third of six valuable gyrojets taking the raider down a second time. The last three were donated to a raider, the pavement and a derelict lamp-post on the side of the road that blocked the shot.
Lacking the time to carefully reload the weapon, Roland switched to his only other ranged weapon- his gyrojet pistol- and fired with that until it, too, was empty. Placing both weapons at his side, Roland looked over at the rest of his crew while the bullets whined. The wounded were slowly beginning to outnumber the able, and there were two dead men who wouldn't be going anywhere until the raider band was dead. Roland scowled, plucking an assault rifle from the knot of bodies located in a room off to the side where a dead man lay clutching his gun, his glazed eyes staring out an open window at the moonlit sky. Roland would spare time for sentimentalism later, now was the time for action.
Down below, Deek crouched in the doorway, taking potshots with his Equalizers, the dual plasma pistols doing little but annoying the raiders and missing horribly at this range. The old man doubted his ability to hit anything at all at this point, with the bullets around his head cutting brief arcs of light across his field of view before finding a home in a wall or the street or one of the men on the second floor. Casualties were mounting quickly, and it was clear the embattled little party wasn't doing very well against superior numbers.
He looked back at Raziel's concerned expression and shrugged at his partner-in-crime. "Now isn't really the best time to be getting all "righteous warrior" on them, Raz. Just work on killing these guys for me."
Jacob opened his eyes slowly. Everything receded into the distance. Gunshots, screams, everything just faded. A shot streaked by his head. He felt the draft of it's passage by his ear. Another ricocheted off his bracers. Never happier he'd cut them from a suit of T-51b. He stared down into the street through Mother's Woe's scope, picking out an unfortunate Raider from the crowd. Jacob's signature HEIAP bullets blasted his chest to nice little chunks. And set fire to his clothes. The other Raiders around him, three of them, seemed to reconsider their options. Jacob didn't give them a chance to reach a decision, sweeping fire across them. Two bullets each. One lay completely decapitated by the HEIAP shots, a good chunk of his upper chest blown to fragments to boot. Victim number two went down, his shoulder atomized by the incendiary explosion and the accompanying round blowing a grapefruit sized hole in his chest. The last fell, her chest smashed to charred, bloody chunks splattered over the wreckage behind her. Jacob sighed and chose another target from the crowd. This time he missed as the Raider ducked to avoid fire from the roof. Jacob considered trying a ricochet shot, and then reconsidered. HEIAP had a nasty tendency not to ricochet, but rather penetrate and explode, as was it's designed purpose.
Jacob immediately dived backwards, ending up in a dishevvelled heap in the corner as a Raider strafed the room with heavy fire. Jacob couldn't judge the sound over the screams of a less fortunate man who lacked Jacob's acute danger sense. Jacob sat up, knuckling his back. Age and accumulated injuries were eventually catching up on him. Sure, he was a runaway first for the strongest person he ever knew, could probably beat people on speed too. And then there was his experience. While people thought of moving, he was moving. Lucky, now that he was at the point where his body's reaction time started to slip out of sync with his mind's reaction time. But goddamn if he didn't bounce off things like he used to. He got back into a crouched position before the raider strafed the whole floor again. M60. It dawned on Jacob that the man was no longer screaming, Jacob cast a glance around the room to see a sailor lying on the ground with two large, ragged bullet holes in his chest. Jacob looked around and then dropped again as bullets began to chip through the tortured brickwork of the townhouse, occassionally tracing an erratic route through the room. One bounced off Jacob's greaves. If he hadn't been wearing those, the shot would surely have shattered his shin. Muttering a quick exclamation of shock (which was the equivalent of another man convulsing and screaming for his mother), he crawled across the room and pulled Gerti's small, twitching form from the wardrobe, keeping her clear of splinters as best he could. Raider or not, he wasn't going to leave a child to get killed by stray bullets. Going soft Jacob. He immediately scuttled back across the floor and out of the room that was still being mercilessly swept with automatic fire, in spite of the best efforts from the people on the roof.
Ducking and dodging (and very nearly falling and crashing) down the stairs to the ground floor, Jacob crouched in the garage door next to the old geezer and the Egyptian relic. He sat Gerti in the corner of the hallway, away from any stray shots and propped her up with an umbrella stand. He crouched next to the elderly man and readied Mother's Woe to fire another salvo at the Raiders, who had taken covering positions in the buildings across the street. Well, Jacob hoped he was an old man. He felt genuinely sorry for a young person who moved with the deliberate actions of those on the wrong side of fifty (whose ranks Jacob was on the verge of joining). Jacob switched the fire selector on Mother's Woe to single and took careful aim at a window he'd seen a Raider firing from. Only to be fired at from another window. Fucker had the sense to relocate. That's new. Jacob felt strangely elated at the idea that he was fighting decent foes, not the standard mooks of DC. He liked the idea of having to sweat a little to earn a kill or wipe out a Raider swoop team. Gunfights in DC were comically easy. As if the Raiders were aiming for the ground around him, rather than at him. He swore as another shot ricocheted off his bracers, which, coicidentally, were covering his chest. Bastards had the sense to aim for main body mass to, rather than go for limb shots for the sake of torture. This gunfight was going to get very interesting, or very dangerous very quickly. Jacob smiled as a little spark started a little fire in his heart. The old battle fury, the old "Wrath of God" returning. And woe be to these Raiders if this shit all kicked off before they clipped him.
Sibley carefully looked the man up and down, Stearns, ever watchful, stood rock silent. The Paladin and Inquisitor did not flinch nor even take heed too the sounds of mass gunfire just blocks away. Their concern was with the Outlander before them. "The Wild are fickle." Sibley stated conclusively, "allegiance with them is shaky at best. Though, I can see plainly that you are not one of them. Any enemy of the Wild or the Vikings, or any other Raider clan that exists within Polis need not fear the Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel. If it is safe haven you seek, Outlander, I advise you to the settlement of Lindbergh, south of our fortress of Snelling. Pine Bend and Ashland, to the southeast, are also acceptable settlements. If you are a slaver, travel to The Stockyards, to the east. I do not condone your lifestyle, if that is the case, but the fate of wastelanders is of no concern to us. The slaver Foreman, Harris Housley, has put bounties on us, but I warn you, we are no easy kills. Many have tried. Stay away from The Dome, The Center, The Bullseye, and any other Raider settlement, and you will be free of our wrath. I am Head Paladin Lucas Sibley, commander of Midwestern Brotherhood Task Force Sabre." The man stood before the two Brotherhood members, almost uncertain. Sibley motioned to Stearns. "We leave you in peace, Outlander, take what you want from the dead, we have no need of it. The spoils are yours," Sibley said before turning away. Stearns looked back one more time. "Pray for your own sake, that peace is a continuing trend between us, Outlander," she said coldly, as the two warriors again disappeared into the western night, still headed to Vault 46.
Alan scratched his dirty hair, disconnecting a few tangles. It'd been some time since he'd actually had a shower, last time had to be back Buffalo when he met that Denis fellow. The lad somehow got water pumping into his place, hot water too. Man, that was a good day, except the part when the two of them got overrun by Ants, fuckin' bugs. The two Brotherhood soldiers started off to the west, obviously on a mission of some sort, something important. It had to be urgent, the two fought through a gang of Raiders, transacted with some travelers, and saved Alan's sorry ass. Most would have turned back by then and called it a day. Eh, maybe that's just the Brotherhood spirit, courageous and brave, just like the old posters. He could so easily see them sanding infront of an American flag, saluting to the people while ontop of Chinese corpses. Alan wished he had the guts to talk to them, to ask what they were doing and what they stood for. But no, all the Outlander did was star blankly into their lifeless eyes and nod. Since he was a kid he always wanted to be part of something, an organization or army. Before he discovered the truth behind Jack Ampton, he had always dreamed of joining the AWA, the great American Wasteland Army. He had watched them march and fight before as a child, rooting for them like it was a baseball game. When he was still oblivious to their plans to turn Brumma into a mining town, he often thought sourly of his parents and the rest of the town for trying to stray them away, he wanted them to come. Maybe that would've given him the chance to join and live his life to the fullest. His dreams are lost now. The AWA is gone, and Alan's love for them. Oh what a fool he was to be so drawn in by them, blind of their sinister intents. Now, a homeless and title less Outlander and outcast with no real purpose in life, watching the two proud Knights stroll away into the night really caught Alan. Before he knew it, tears started to roll down his cheek. He fell against a wall and sobbed, the stench of the two rotting bodies next to him now helping at all. He should be one of them, one of the Knights should've taken his life, ended his misery. God knows he's tried himself, but what kind of act would that be? The ultimate sentence of a coward, a weak-minded fool. He should know that life, no matter what happens, is worth living. His father said that, proudly and boldly, but look what happened to him? Alan reached up and felt the scar on his face, an ever-lasting reminded of his father's selfishness and hypocrisy. The last of the Schezar family, sobbing like an infant, ready to take his own life. It was demoralizing and pitiful. Alan was exhausted, tired, worn out, beat up, and sucked of his spirit, but he did not want to sleep. No, tonight Alan was going to take the high road. And like that, with a quick hook up of the gasmask, Alan ran off into the west.
Raziel looked over at the guy crouched next to him. It was the older man, the one with secrets and a distorted past. The ancient mutant was useless in this gunfight, barley knowing how to handle a pistol. If only these raiders would get closer.. Raziel rubbed together his blades. If only Jacob was here, ready to take him over and fight with the gun skills he used to have. Instead he simply sat here, hoping no bullets bust through this brick wall, waiting for the battle to die down. Deek was left of him, firing away at the raiders with his crazy gun, bringing out some of his younger self. The old coot got them into this though, one of these times their not gonna survive like this. With their age, the duo is just gonna drop one day, dead in the middle of a wasteland. Eh, at least Deek will. Raziel has the curse of life.
Deek slipped back into the doorway and ejected the energy cells in his plasma pistol, replacing the spent cells with a few new ones. He then raised them to shoulder level and suppressed them, looking for an opening in the ranks, a thinning, even a knot of raiders that looked like they were about to break forward for a charge- anything he could slip away through. No dice. Deek emptied another pair of energy cells, having succeeded merely in reducing maybe six or seven raiders to goo in his previous volley of 32 shots... Damn, Deek thought to himself, getting old. And indeed he was. His shooting hands were getting shaky, and he found it harder to dual-wield his pistols as he always had, but that was nothing once he got into the swing of combat. The problem was getting into the swing of it.
Pah, old age. Deek thought dismissively. Who needs it?
Roland had expended the ammunition in the assault rifle he was firing and was now stranded on the top floor, his surroundings constantly being raked by gunfire. Only a few dedicated sailors were still on their feet, most of them wounded. The rest were either dead or shot almost to death, too far gone for medicine to rescue them at this point. Out of his twenty man crew coming in, seven were going to walk away, if no more of them succumbed to death, that is.
"Everyone! Downstairs!" Roland shouted as he noticed a familiar white smoke trail fluttering towards the second floor, standing out vibrantly against the black street and dark dress of the raiders. Dragging the remaining wounded behind him as the only remaining sailors headed for the stairs, Roland was showered in powdered brick and mortar as the missile blew a man-sized hole in the wall where he had just been standing.
"Trouble, people," Roland shouted to the assorted people on the first floor, "Raiders are bringing out the heavy weapons. We need to abandon this townhouse and head for the next available piece of real estate. I'll get the brahmin from the garage, everyone else get moving. There's a barrier in the back room, knock it out and get moving. Go!"
Jacob responded to Roland's suggestion immediately. He turned away from the incoming lead-ridden death coming from across the street and took a running start towards the barrier in the back wall of the kitchen, propped up by the fridge. Before he realized he'd probably come off worse in this collission, Jacob dived into the air, launching himself across the kitchen and against the fridge, crashing it through the rotting timber barrier and out into the rubble-filled garden beyond. Jacob skidded off the now-horizontal fridge as it halted on contact with the ground, flinging Jacob onto a heap of mud, dust and small stones. Lying still for a minute to ensure that he could in fact feel his fingers and toes, Jacob reoriented himself with the environment and stood up, his world spinning around him as his ears rang. He picked splinters from his hair, beard and moustache as he staggered back towards the house, stumbling up the fridge to the kitchen. He stumbled further towards the front of the house, hauling the still-unconscious Gerti out from her position in the hallway, and towards the gap in the wall, followed by the sailors and the strangers. Jacob immediately handed her off to one of the sailors as his head started spinning again. Great. Cushions. No! Not that! Concussion!
Jacob waved his hand off to his right, in the direction of a reasonably intact warehouse, but kept going the way he was facing. He stopped, still suffering a bit of disorientation from diving into a fridge with enough force to propel it through a crude barricade. He stopped, turned left, then spun around and headed towards the warehouse. Luckily, the bandaged stranger and the man in the moon suit had taken over and were leading the sailors towards the forboding structure. Jacob followed along, staring at the ground to keep his vision steady. His shoulder ached, as did his back and neck. At least that indicated his spinal column was intact after ploughing into a heavy kitchen appliance and onwards through the barrier. Note to self, never do that a-fucking-gain.
Still flashing a file-toothed, cracked lip grin, Dead-Eye was greatly enjoying his new "glaser beam," perhaps a bit too much. He was flat on his belly, tiny rivulets of watery pus running across the surface of the roof and dripping to street level, blasting away. With his frighteningly excellent marksmanship he was frequently able to melt two or three raiders at a time until they started getting wise and spacing out.
Yew damn bitches best not get too cold to quickly once yew die!"
He cursed under his breath when the building was struck with a missile, he squeezed off a few shots, hoping to give the others a little cover while they fled. He didn't want to have to dig his prybar out of the rubble after all.
Sibley and Stearns turned for a brief observation to the south, from where they'd come. The sporadic fire they'd been hearing all evening was really begining to intensify. The gunshots had turned into explosions now and there was a lot of commotion. "We should be wary, Head Paladin," Stearns said slowly. "Don't I know it," Sibley huffed. They were perilously close to The Dome now. The epicenter of Viking raider activity. If they were discovered by a Viking raider party, chances were that there would be a firefight of epic proportions on their hands. Sibley knew Stearns was an excellent warrior, but just didn't know how he would hold up in a situation like this. She'd been outnumbered fifteen to one and come out without a scratch in fights. Normally when he saw those types of numbers, he was safely behind the walls of Snelling, firing a mounted minigun. The two broke into a sprint, crossing a street and moving through what used to be a park to the south of The Dome. Burnt out housing and apartments concealed their movements, but then again, you could never tell who or what was watching from those caved in out windows. Sibley could see the old Foshay Tower on the horizon. The tallest intact structure left standing in Minneapolis, it was now the Viking stronghold known as the "Highdaway." Both Sibley and Stearns knew the rumors of what went on there. It was not more than a center of debauchery and depravity. The Vikings were savage outright, but out amongst other people their behavior was nothing compared to what it was in there. Many a Viking brat was a result of capflow, drugs, liquor, and a night of fun in the Highdaway. Sibley stopped as he spied a figure up ahead. He couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman, but it wore a peculiar cloak. It was knelt down in the middle of the park, over what looked like the thickset form of a Viking raider. Stearns and Sibley layed down in some shrubs to avoid detection. Sibley noted the sagging eyesockets and the mouth that hung loosely open on the vigure as he returned to his work. Noting the sagging strips of cloth, Sibley looked closer. They looked like handprints. He came to the realization that the man was wearing skin. "Flippa," Stearns whispered. As she did so the man snapped up, standing and peering into the darkness, straight at the two. Silently, he drew his knife and stalked over, to the edge of the shrub line. Sibley could see his actual eyes squinting inside the eyeholes of his victim, which now dripped oozing blood in a trail that followed Flippa around. The victim's former feet dragged along the ground. Slowly, he turned back and went back to his task once more. At this time, Stearns and Sibley began crawling backwards, backtracking to circumnavigate the park. "Why didn't you kill him, Inquisitor?" Sibley whispered once out of earshot. "He performs a valuable service here in Polis, his allegiances are different, but his methods are not much different than my own. He keeps other raiders in check. The time will come, when Flippa has to die," she said, "but that time is not tonight." The two continued a few blocks up, where they'd cross into downtown Viking Polis proper, a hotbed of raider activity.
Monk Finley was standing over a trashcan fire, along with two other Viking Raiders. He did'nt know there names, and he really did'nt want to know. Mainly because that once you got too know someone, chances are that they will die a horrible death. Which, well, sucks. Settingh his shotgun down on a nearby ruined wall, with the light from the fire illumaingting the surroding area, Monk reached into his pocket. Pulling out a small brown bag, Monk pulled out a slice of beef jerkey. Chewing on it slowly, Monk reached and grabbed his shotgun.
"You know what sucks?" One of the Vikings said.
"What?" Monk repiled.
"That we have been on guard duty for the past three days. I mean, should'nt we be out doing raids or something like that?" The other Viking said, waving his 10MM Submachine gun around.
"I guess man. But, i'm fucking STARVING." Monk complained.
The third Viking kept quiet, and Monk and the talkivte Viking soon fell into slience also, waiting for something to happen. Since they were so close to Polis, nothing would happen. Unless, they were stupid or something.
Roland screwed with the harness leads on the brahmin's supply girdle for a few seconds more before hauling it out of the garage, gesturing for the group to follow and shouting "let's go!" like some sort of mantra. Somewhere along the way he pulled a prybar from the numerous tools tied down along the side of the brahmin's stash and tossed it up to the roof, where it clattered down a few feet from Dick's position. The merchant rubbed his broken eye and continued leading the brahmin along, hauling it behind a collapsed pile of rubble and out of sight.
The sound of gunfire kept crackling behind them, peppering the now-deserted building with lead and explosive materials. Breathing hard, the merchant pulled out a bottle of whiskey, removed the cork and took a long drink from the familiar glass bottle. He offered the whiskey to the other members of the group with a questioning look on his face. Deek, still dressed in his "marshmallow suit", groped in the dark for a second before flicking the headlamps on his helmet on and snapping up the bottle, raising the visor long enough to take in a fair sized draught before sealing the helmet again and passing it along.
There was no longer time to talk. The two parties had gone into a delicately-shaped tunnel supported only by rearranged junk, overhead were the support girders of what may have been a road bridge at one point. The sounds of gunfire were now tunnel echoes from far away. They had escaped, for now.
Jacob took a slug of Roland's whiskey as the man in the moon suit passed it around. The booze did nothing to help clear his head. Jacob stumbled along with the group of merchants, surveying the area and keeping his Harballer in his hands at all times. He'd have used Mother's Woe, but it's HEIAP bullets tended to overpenetrate at close range, which would be a given in any encounter in this dank tunnel, lit by Moonman's helmet flashlight. Jacob thought he spotted movement up ahead, then relaxed as a rat scurried past. With the distant sound of heavy gunfire still riddling the building they had occupied earlier, Jacob was having a little difficulty concentrating on the route ahead, in case they got caught in front of those Raiders attacking the building and a dead end, or worse, more Raiders. Even Jacob wouldn't leave alive if they got caught in a crossfire like that. He'd probably be the last to fall, but he still wouldn't be leaving under his own steam.
Jacob counted the steps they'd gone into the tunnel. It had gone dark very quickly. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small torch that ran on small energy cells and thumbed the switch. His Hardballer didn't have a rail, so he had to rest his hand on the hand holding the torch to keep the torch and gun trained on the tunnel ahead. He swallowed and steadied himself again. His head was still a bit groggy, his movements sluggish. He just didn't bounce back from injury like he used to. Going on 50, it wasn't really surprising. He stared into the darkness ahead, beginning to wonder if that constant scratching and skittering noise was just a pack of rats or something worse. He steadied his grip on his pistol, wrapping his finger around the trigger as something moved. He'd pulled the trigger and shot the quick moving shape ahead before he realized it was just a bat. His ears were ringing. His own tough shit for firing a .45 in a fucking tunnel. Everyone else seemed to be in a similar state of pained eardrums as Jacob looked around apologetically.
"Sorry about that," Jacob muttered as he turned to face back down the tunnel. Then his mind started to fuck with him. What made that bat fly towards the group of people?
Raziel's ears, or at least the burnt scars that used to be ears, were slightly effected by the ringing gunshot. After spending over a century living in a massive underground facility with closed hallways, he got used to the echoing sound of enclosed gunshots. Regaining stability within the group, the bottle of 'Firewater' continued around. The person next to Raziel, a burly man bleeding out of a minor wound in his arm, took a long swig of the strong liquid. After finishing, he wiped his mustached lip with a bloody arm. The man looked over, eying the mutated relic with disgust. He was hesitant, debating with himself if he should offer aged mummy some of alcohol. Raziel chuckled at this. It was truth, though, that he had not had any alcohol since.. well... probably Austin. He tried to remember the taste, but all he got was memories of drinking with his late friends, whom he had tried to block out of his thoughts. A look around the room gave him a revival of sorts, like he was back home, sitting with his partners, enjoying the night. He could of sworn, just for a moment, that the strangers around him were actually his long-dead comrades. Deek was Hadds, telling batshit stories about his adventures in Mexico and beyond. The man across the tunnel, Roland he believed, was good ol' Jamal, cracking up at Hadd's ridiculous tales. The man who shot the gun, Jacob, became Victor, always serious and huffing at their good times. Then he looked at himself, but instead of seeing the healthy body of Jacob Ramsey, he saw the burnt corpse of Raziel. Then, just like that, all of it faded away. He lowered his head, supporting it with a dirty hand. The man, finally deciding to pass the bottle, extended his hand to the ancient Austinite. "You uhh... You want some drink?" Raziel looked up, yeah, he did want to drink. Pushing his previous thoughts to the back of his head, he reached over for the bottle. Just as he was about to grip it, Deek snatched it away. Raziel, about to complain, was cut off by the old guy. "No, hehe, no. I've never seen Raz over here drink, and I really would like to keep it that way. I'm scared to my bones what that ol' mummy would be like even buzzed, let alone drunk. And I'm not takin' that chance if he's a lightweight or not." Some of them guys scoffed and chuckled, but Raziel had to guess Deek was right. Not even he wanted to see what he was like on the drink. With that, Raziel leaned backwards to a wall and closed his one good eye, trying to get some much needed sleep out of their temporary safety.
Taking note of the arrival of his pry bar, Dead-Eye figured it was high time to depart. He snatched up his prize, scrambled to his feet, and made off towards an adjacent roof with a running start. Leaping into the air with a grunt and a fart, he flew to the next roof, landing with a thud and a roll.
"Damn near shit mahself a bit."
Rising amidst a fetid cloud of methane he glanced around for egress from his new rooftop perch, noticing the next rooftop was too damaged for another leap. He ducked through a gap in the roof and slipped into a heavily damaged second story bedroom, falling into a dusty bed and into the embrace of a long-dead Polis resident.
"Well shoot honeybunch, I'd stick it to ye but we ain't got time fer a poke what wit dem ornery sluts outside."
He snatched a bone for future-chewing and clawed out of bed, tumbled down the stairs and scrambled out the back door. The raiders had advanced on the original townhouse and some had made their way around the back looking for stragglers, Dead-Eye's rapid and dramatic exit (and appearance) shocked these rear guards, and so he shot his way through the wide-eyed Vikings. Pausing only to stick his finger in a fresh injury among one of them, licking off the gore before running off as fast as his scarred legs could carry him.
"Shit," Roland said quietly at the mouth of the small tunnel, "they got into the townhouse. It won't be long before they come down the rabbit hole after us, we have to keep moving." Sprinting back down the tunnel to where the small party of survivors still sat, he gestured to them in the dark and flicked on a flashlight. "Come on, we have to go." Roland said, crouching down and moving into a low part of the tunnel. He looked at the hunting rifle he was carrying; the old damaged Rangemaster that his last crewman had dropped before they abandoned his corpse in the townhouse. He had his gyrojet rifle and pistol still on him, but they were out of ammo, and nowhere in the little towns around would have 13mm gyrojets for sale. No negotiation on that point. Roland sighed. "Should've never abandoned that Grease Gun," the merchant mumbled as he led everyone on.
Meanwhile, Deek took the last draught from the whiskey bottle before throwing it onto the ground and shrugging. "Whelp," he said dismissively, "it's time to go. Everyone, you heard the man. Let's move."
Gerti wavered in and out of consciousness, applying pressure to her injury. She was uncertain if she had been rescued, or captured. Nevertheless she did vaguely recognize her surroundings, having explored the city's many tunnels and hidden places in her scant few years. She remembered that one of her bolt holes was nearby, a small service area where she had stashed numerous glass bottles she had collected for their beauty.
"Norfwess," she muttered, "Safe place...norwes..."
"Oh great, and now she wakes up." Roland scowled. There wasn't much of a choice though. Checking his pocket compass, Roland changed direction and headed northwest as he was advised, jinking of into a much smaller, more jagged tunnel. It was dark, and he had many cuts and bruises by the time he got to the end, but it opened into a small alcove with a door in front of it. Roland pulled on the door, carefully edging it open before he stomped inside.
He almost tripped over a few scattered glass bottles on his way in, anything from scotch bottles to a Classic Nuka Cola bottle. He edged around the bottles, not wanting to alert any nearby Vikings to their presence, then realized his folly: they were in a massive junk pile and the Vikings weren't. How were they going to hear him? Nevertheless, he continued edging around the bottles.
Deek scowled. Apparently this bolt hole (he had learned the term IN Enclave Black-Ops training) was formerly owned by some kind of drinker. He kicked a few bottles out of the path, finding one Old Flakey with the cork and drink still in it, pulled out the cork and started drinking its contents. The agressive taste of the whiskey made him stumble and cough, then recheck the label to make sure he wasn't drinking cleaning alcohol by accident. Nope, the bottle label said Old Flakey just like always. Deek shrugged, took another swig, and made his way into the bolt hole after Roland.
Sibley looked warily behind him as he and Inquisitor Stearns picked their way through the collapsed rubble of the former I94 Highway tunnel. The tunnel would be a covering point for circumnavigation around the main area of Viking Polis. They were, as it stood now, within smelling distance of the Highdaway. The reek of Viking and now Wolfpack raiders was heavy. Sibley felt paranoid. Like they were being watched. He'd had an uneasy feeling since the encounter in the park with Flippa. Sibley, unaccustomed to they way things were out in untamed Polis, couldn't shake the feeling that the encounter with Flippa was some unspoken, mutual rule with Inquisitor Stearns. It seemed as if, Flippa and Stearns were unknowingly using each other for the same reason. Stearns had assured Sibley that Flippa was headed in the other direction. He silently hoped that the Outlanders he'd encountered earlier didn't run across the sadistic raider in their travels. His thoughts were jarred suddenly as he caught a glimpse of movement in the shadows behind them. Stearns stopped, motionless as Sibley eased his back up to hers. An animalistic howl filled the tunnel as a half-naked man leapt from cover with a heavy woodcutting axe. Sibley turned just in time to let the blow roll off his shoulder as he discharged his Combat Shotgun into the man's belly point-blank.
"Wolfpack!" Stearns growled, quickly slinging The Howl and drawing her Silenced 10mm. She rattled off shots as more raiders emerged from the dark corners of the tunnel. Sibley could swear he was hearing the sound of The Voice over a radio broadcast. "They weren't here before!" Stearns said, dropping another raider. Sibley felt a shot ping off his helmet and dropped, stunned momentarily before shaking it off and drawing his 1860 Colt Army Revolver. Raising himself to a knee, his ears still ringing, he fired a shot back at the raider armed with a .32 Hunting Rifle. The shot struck the man in the throat, dropping and twisting him around as he slid down the pile of rubble. He rolled to the side, avoiding the downward swing of a sledgehammer. Kicking from his back, Sibley planted two feet into the man's chest, sending him flying into a fiery barrel. Stearns, in the meantime, was finishing off two more Wolfpack raiders with her combat knife. Only the most lethal strokes and shooting blood were evidence of her gory dance. Helping Sibley up, the two peeked around a makeshift barricade, spying several mattresses, another fiery barrel, a broken refrigerator, and all sorts of other trinkets. On the small table, was a sloppily drawn, but easily recognizable picture of The Dome. The Wolfpack seemed to have been doing some half-assed strategizing. "Apparently, there's unrest between the Wolfpack and the Vikings," Sibley said, flatly looking at the drawing. "That goes without saying," Stearns said, turning back towards the main tunnel area.
Dead-Eye had taken to hiding in a rubbish heap to catch his breath when he saw two Vikings walk by.
"Man, did you see that crusty-ass, one-eyed ghoul run off shitting himself," One asked the other.
"Yeah, I thought I'd seen it all," said the other, "Damn near puked out a lung. I'm almost glad he got away, I'd have hated to clean his rank guts off my axe."
How dare they dirty whores disparage my good name, Dead-Eye thought while still reeking of feces, fuming mad. His one eye glittering with pure hate, he watched as the Vikings got further and further away. Once they got to what he estimated to be a hundred yards, give or take, Dead-Eye took a good look around to make sure there weren't any other Vikings nearby. Grinning his filed-tooth grin Dead-Eye sights down the panty dropper at the second speaker.
"We'll just make yew quiet, 'cause yer friend's going to want to be alone fer what comes next."
The Vikings, unaware of the danger continued to talk among themselves. "Hey," said the second raider, "Did you hear about the new girls at the Highdaway?"
"Yeah it's been awhile," his comrade said "I can't wait to get me some."
The Vikings racous laughter was cut short when the second Viking's head disappeared in a red mist of bone and brains. The first Viking stared blankly in confusion, not understanding until he finally heard the report of the rifle. Dead-Eye lurched upward, sending refuse and dust billowing outward in a choking cloud, screaming "Who's a coward now bitch?" The Viking reached for his weapon, realizing that he was probably going to be shot before he could clear leather. Gleefully, Dead-Eye kneecapped the Raider. The raider fell to the ground screaming, his weapon accidentally tossed aside in an effort to clutch his bloodied knees. Dead-Eye strolled towards his victims, whistling with the panty-dropper resting on his shoulder.
"Well now, I reckon it's time tew add a new decerashin tew my litte girl here."
He smashed the butt of the panty-dropper against the Raider's face, knocking the Viking out cold. When the Viking awoke later and saw his gear laid out neatly of him, he was afraid. When he felt a pair of hands on his shoulders, he suddenly realized he wished he had been shot first and began screaming. The cries echoed for blocks before being lost in the wind.
Alan Schezar had lost the two Knights after an overenthusiastic Molerat jumped him, knocking the former miner down a flight of stairs. His shoulder hurt like hell now, but at least he got some good meat for the road. The weary traveler leaned against a brick wall, deeply breathing in the cold northern air. He was not sure why he was following the Knights anymore, or even where they were going. For all he knew, they could be heading deep into raider territory for recon or something, putting Alan in a death-trap. But Hell, they're the only people not to have shot at him on first sight so far, and going solo in this city was something he did not want to try. According to his map, Fargo, a city on the edge of North Dakota, would be his next destination. From there he would cross the Canadian wastes and onto Nome up in Alaska, which held the Steamboat across the Bering Strait. Yes, it sounds simple, but it's been a few months and Alan is still only a couple states away from Brumma, his home town. Distant gunfire pulled his mind back to the present. It sounded like shotgun rounds, maybe a rifle, he wasn't sure. He had to guess it was the Knights, considering they were headed in that direction the last he saw them, which was around one and a half hours ago. The Israeli hunter slung his rifle and darted off, sticking to shadows and ruin. What Alan didn't see was what lurked behind him, a particular raider with an itch for 'justice'.
"C'mon boss, pop the asshole and lets hightail it the fuck outta hear, this area weirds me out." Lazlo gave his fellow raider, Vic, a dreadful stare. Murk, the other surviving raider, rolled his eyes behind Lazlo's back. "Yea Laz, that shithead got lovin' Bingo and Tiny offed, fuckin' Bingo man! I don't really care about Tiny, but Bingo!? Shit man, I loved Bingo..." Murk started to trail off, turning his head to hide his watery eyes from the other two. Vic gave Murk a hard shove and kicked him in the shin, "Wild don't cry Murk, so man the fuck up. And you're forgetting Flick, the Outlander offed him right infront of boss, in cold fuckin' blood. Next time you go on crying n' shi-" Vic was abruptly cut off by Lazlo, who raised his fist, giving his two comrades the shut the fuck up signal. The three raiders were across the street from Alan Schezar, who was focused on some gunshots in the distance. Lazlo, who had barely whispered a word since half their gang was murdered by Inquisitor Stearns, finally spoke up. "Okay, listen, that fucker back there," Lazlo pointed a thumb at an unaware Alan, "he got Flick, Tiny, and good ol' Bingo killed." Lazlo failed to mention Slate, whom he killed himself before the Banshee encounter. He also failed to mention how he so cowardly threw Bingo and Tiny into the Knight's killing path. He continued, "If this were normal circumstances, we would've capped this dick and been done with it, but something ain't right here. He's followin' the Banshees', who's lookin' for something seriously deep in Wolfpack and Viking turf." His crew was dumb sighted, really only Bingo would have known what Lazlo was hinting at. The gang leader sighed and resumed his explanation, "That Outlander has it good with the Banshees', and he also knows what's goin' on with them. We follow him, he follows the Banshees', that leads us to whatever is so important back here." He stopped for a moment, Vic and Murk starting to catch on, "Then we report back to The Center and get us some fuckin' fine ass tail, get my drift?" Now his raiders had eager grins on their faces, licking their lips at the thought of the new batch of poon back at Center. With that, the three raiders followed Alan Schezar, who followed the two Knights, who were looking for Vault 46.
Raziel ran with the group of odd sailors and merchants, and Deek, inside what seemed to be some drunk's old hideout. There were bottles everywhere, littering the ground with glass, although no whiskey. Raziel did not wear shoes, just wrapping around his feet. The skin on his feet have nearly turned to leather after so many countless days wandering the desert barefoot, a time he would much rather never go through again. What the ancient mutant was more focused on was the small, wounded girl in a tall man's arms. She was bleeding from her belly, mumbling words about something safe or something, lapsing in and out of reality. He had been wondering for some time now why the group was holding this girl, and he really hoped that it was to save her. If this were 20 years ago and that little girl had come by Raziel's followers, there'd be nothing left of her by morning. But the elder Ramsey was a changed man, mentally at least, and began to despise his old ways last year after his near-death experience with The Crusade and a certain Atom Bomb. Raziel shrugged, if he was going to ask about her, it would be later, when it was a little more peaceful. For now he would run.
Sibley looked down the barrel of his Combat Shotgun, which was held at the ready, as he crept out of the maintenance tunnel that had branched from the half-collapsed Lowry Tunnel they'd encountered the Wolfpack in. He just hadn't felt right since the near-miss with Flippa back in the park. Stories of the man were gruesome at best, but the man himself, simply gave him the creeps. Sibley just wanted to get at this G.E.C.K. device and be done with it. The sooner he was back within Snelling, the better. He waved Inquisitor Stearns forward and she took the lead. Sibley watched as she gingerly, yet swiftly picked her way forward, nearly silent as they looked down the ruined city block. They could clearly hear the crowds of rowdy Raiders over near the Nicollet Feed Mill. The former Nicollet Mall was now simple a marketplace for Wolfpack and Viking Raiders, where anything and everything could be bought, sold, and traded for. They had to be very careful now, especially because the sun was coming up. It's first rays in the pink sky just began gleaming through the buildings. Sibley could see the silhouette of a Raider, perched on the corner of a building. It's scrawny form assured Sibley that it was only Wolfpack. Still a warning would attract a horde. Stearns carefully viewed the man through the scope of The Howl. Sibley wondered if she'd shoot or hold. The answer seemed pretty simple. Stearns lowered the sniper rifle and motioned Sibley forward, directing him into an alleyway. She followed, leading down a flight of stairs that she turned back and pulled a dumpster over. Squeezing through a small doorway, she closed the door behind them. They walked down several long, dark, hallways, long since forgotten and abandoned until they came to a heavy metal door. Lining up a combination, Stearns opened the bank vault, revealing an open area with a central table and two army cots. Weapons and gadgets were laid out on the table and the safe deposit boxes were open and most filled with ammunition or other gadgets. A ham radio sat on the table and Sibley flipped it on, listening to instant chatter from Snelling. Some fast paced words and scattered gunfire lent evidence to Sibley's assumption that someone was too close to Snelling. Sibley laid his helmet on the table, running a gauntleted hand over his blonde stubble of a haircut. He looked over to where Stearns was nearly undressed, her tan skin visible between pieces of her undersuit. "Got time for some rest, Head Paladin," she said, smiling. Her brown eyes taking on the look of a woman rather than a hardened killer. "There's no rest for the weary," Sibley chuckled. The two would move out again at nightfall.
Harris Housley cursed loudly. He'd told those idiots to stay away from Snelling. He told them that Lindbergh was off-limits. He told them that the Brotherhood would kill anything that came within seeing distance of that fucking fortress. Did they listen? No. Did he care? Yes. He cared because now, there were four more slavers, hanging by their necks from fucking Twin Rivers Bridge, and four less slavers out there getting him profit. Not to mention his embarassment. Everyone in Polis knew the Midwestern Brotherhood shouldn't be fucked with. Most people were smart enough just to stay away. He had a bunch of hotshot, maverick slavers saying "Oh boss, we can get to Lindbergh." Now his boys were just a fucking example. Between Wendigos, Flippa, and these types of assholes, he'd be a fucking joke, then guess what. Johnny Mutiny time. He would be Foreman much longer. He'd heard that some Mercs were getting his old piece from Como. He hoped so. If they got that out, maybe they could open it back up. He could bring back some glory. Wouldn't have to worry about getting clipped. Housley smiled as he thought of Como coming back to life. He'd expand it. It'd be better than before. "Blasco!" he yelled down the hall to his trusty number two man, "get some shit and a bunch of the boys." Sugar Shane gave him a cockeyed look. Housley had a big shiteatin' grin on his face. That usually meant a possible profitable scheme. "We're going to Como. One way or another. We'll take a bunch of them raider hicks with us. Get a move on." Housley listened to the footsteps down the stairs and the door slam as Blasco went "recruiting."
Flippa looked around as he moved through the morning mist. He could see his own breath on the cold air. The skin cloak he wore had stopped bleeding and now he didn't have a crimson trail leading straight to him. He motioned to another member of his gang. A Flayer, as they were known. Flippa wasn't thinking much. He noted the lack of inner dialogue briefly, then the though was lost, simply to that of killing. He munched on a dry piece of Strange Meat. Tossing another to his female 'comrade,' he'd been informed that the rest of the Flayers were hiding out across Main Drag, over in shallow Wild Polis. They were headed that way to meet up with them, following their little 'hunt' into Viking Polis. He knew of the bounty placed by that Harris Housley. Flippa grinned his sharp-toothed grin as he thought of it. The arrogant slaver cowering in his tower because a couple of his boys were butchered like dogs. Flippa had to lay low now. His reputation was of such infamy, that many were looking for him. Even for a sadistic sociopath, he was feeling paranoid. Like the episode in the park the previous night. He could've sworn someone was watching him. Quickly his thoughts drifted away from that too, only to be filled with images of skun bodies and a feast of human flesh when he and his companion reached the rest of the Flayers. Flippa's mouth watered thinking about it. His hand twitched as he held his sickle-shaped knife. Stopping, Flippa caught wind of several peculiar clashing scents. He briefly sniffed the air. There was a rancid scent, but then the smell of fresh blood ahead. He motioned to his partner again as the two set about to find out what the mixing smells were. The Flayer with him wretched and heaved as they moved toward the stink. He sent her toward the hideout as he continued on to find the sources of the smells.
Roland squatted down at the foot of the stairs leading into the maintenance area, sitting down and taking a deep breath of the stale, dark air before lighting up a small kerosene lamp with his butane finger. He smelled the burning gas briefly before dipping the burning wick, cursing as the flames caught quickly, and hanging the now-lit lantern on an overhanging cieling girder. Producing a bottle of whiskey from one of his pockets, he took a long draught from it and laid back on the floor. The night definitely hadn't been what he had been expecting in terms of "peaceful negotiation", with raiders and Brothers of Steel and even a fucking shambling hick coming to assail his merchanting mission. He was glad Jacob was here, and these strangers, even though he had never met them before. The old man, even though he stank of booze and drugs and looked like he would fall in a faint breeze, could handle a gun. The mutant was alright, if he was a bit shifty.
He closed his eyes slowly and took a few more deep breaths, and then finally fell asleep.
Jacob had first watch. His Duster was hanging from a protruding chunk of steel he'd bumped his head on earlier, and now he was sporting a new cut on his forehead. In spite of the cold, he was sitting there in his T-shirt, Combat Armour and Kevlar undersuit. He didn't really feel the cold. Probably one of the Warrior Weapon-induced mutations. He sat on what could only be described as a slagheap, melted and twisted by the fire the bombs brought so long ago. He sat on that lump of steel, staring into the opening they'd entered the land of bottles from, Hardballer in one hand and his .223 Pistol in the other. One of Roland's sailors was sitting, playing an old song on his harmonica. "Dirty Old Town", unless Jacob was mixed up with his tunes. Suited Polis. Jacob looked around the small room, watching everyone, especially the newcomers. That was a break in the routine. Jacob didn't like breaks in his routine. The last major break in his routine had been the Outcasts, and while he found some dear friends, he had also been caught up in a whirlwind of chaos that had spanned almost five years of almost non-stop slaughter and three attacks on the most dangerous location in the Capitol Wastes, each one more dangerous than the last, and each time he had lost something he held dear. Dutch, his freedom, Jack, even Weston had almost died. The more he thought about it, the more Jacob downright despised changes in his routine. He looked over at the Raider girl, asleep next to one of the Sailors. They looked almost like a family, father and daughter.
Jacob picked up one of the full bottles from the ground and took a swig. The vile, liquorice taste of Sambuka filled his mouth as he spat to get that shit away from himself. Out of sheer frustration at the defeat at the Townhouse and having to run into these damn tunnels, and even thee frustration of getting fucking old, Jacob snarled, stood up and hurled the bottle out into the tunnel. The smash came after a long wait as Jacob put all of his formidable strength into the throw. He ran a knuckle-gloved hand through his hair as he turned around in his standing a few times, taking a few steps this way and that. Polis was new. Polis was different. Even New York wasn't this bad. DC certainly wasn't this bad. The Raiders here were strong, organized and experienced. For a second, Jacob even wondered if he was out of his depth. He angrily kicked one of the bottles, launching it further into the darkness to smash on some unseen surface in the deep shadows of the bolt hole. Jacob grabbed a bottle of bourbon from the ground and bit the cork off. He took a swig of the sharp, coarse firewater as he sat down, holstering his Harballer, but keeping his .223 Pistol in hand. If the Raiders here used heavier armour than the DC Raiders, he'd need it's FMJ load to deal with anything more than a few at a time.
Jacob sat back on his slag heap with his bourbon and his gun, staring into the darkness intently, content to wait for something to happen rather than look for trouble. He let out a heavy sigh. This was going to be one rough stay in Polis.
"...Well she was just 17... if you know what I mean... and how could I dance with another, when I saw her standin' there?" Alan quietly whistled and sung a tune from his youth, walking down the ruined sidewalk, heading towards a distant car tunnel that he had heard the shots come from. He was ignorant and oblivious to his surroundings, believing this to be one of the more deserted areas of Polis. The hunter's black hair blew in the wind, creating a very nice chill for the wandering Israeli. His gasmask hung from his neck. Alan had to admit, if this place was free of the raiders, war, slavers, and bloodshed, it would make quite the place to settle. What was the place that the Knight suggested? Ashberge? Or was it Pine Land? Damn, he cursed himself for not remembering that. A good civvie or merchant town sure would be helpful about now. The Knights were his only true direction. They had told him that one of the settlements was near their fortress of Sneffli- Shecking- No, something along those lines, but it didn't matter. If those warriors were headed to their Command Center, then he could follow them there, ask for directions to the nearest settlement, and hopefully stay there until the spring and the mountains thaw. Well, unless some complications ensue, such as these Knights not even heading towards their fortress at all. Then he would be truly lost. Alan kicked a burnt coal down the street, clanking against an overturned car a few yards from him. It was at that moment, and just then, that Alan Schezar froze. His rifle was up, loaded, and ready to fire. His face was pale of color and his hands were shacking uncontrollably. He knew something was following him, it had to be, Alan was not crazy. He had been hearing it, just barley, since a few blocks back. Every other half hour there would be an exhale or a rustle behind him, sometimes infront of him. He tried to ignore it, maybe it was just another Molerat, or even just some birds. What he really feared that it was his imagination. That's how Alan's father went, he even wrote about it, describing a wastelander's descent into madness in complete detail. He could kill a person or animal, but he couldn't destroy thoughts. But what he had just seen was real, there was no question. It was in a window, around two stories up. Alan only saw it for a moment, but it burned into his mind. It was tall, or at least it seemed tall. It had a seemingly crimson 'aura', and strange clothing. Now that the Israeli thought about it, it seemed as if the thing was wearing a face. His spine shivered as he thought of it, and Alan started to continue forward, gun still in hand. The pitch darkness did not help things at all. Something was ahead of him, some figure, a dark figure. Alan stopped, considering what to do. Whoever it was did not shoot him yet, so that would mean he/she is not hostile, right? He bit his lip, took a deep breath, and winged it. "H-h-hey you, o-over th-there." Alan could not control the fear bubbling inside of him, but he was already this far in, "I m-mean no h-h-harm, just a weary t-traveler. I am looking f-uhhh-for a p-peaceful town." Alan exhaled, shackingly waiting for an answer. The figure, most likely a man, waved Alan over. A weak smile overtook the hunter's face, he had found a companion. He lowered his rifle, still keeping it loaded, and started to walk towards the man. As he was walking, the streetlight above him flickered, the century-old electricity still attempting to brighten it's streets. But what Alan noticed, what froze the wanderer once again, was the 6 other figures in all directions. The man who teased Alan to approach was now visible through the weak light. A bloodcurdling grin of sharped teeth stretched across the man's face. Alan Schezar was surrounded. "Sh-shit.." is all that managed to escape Alan's lips before the 7 flayers drew blades. They came at Alan from all sides, laughing maniacally and running at inhuman speed. The leader one, the first one Alan saw, got to the helpless traveler before the rest. Alan pulled the trigger, it jammed, and he swung it around to hit the man with the butt of the gun. Like a cat, it instinctively ducked and jumped into Alan, tackling him at the waist. A low "oooff" came out of the Israeli and he fell to the ground. The man's blade, which had already made it's way across his right forearm, was now across his neck, centimeters away from Alan's precious throat. It's face was grotesque, a mix of what used to be a man and another man's skin. Dried blood splotched around the mouth and cheeks, and many scars inhabited his features. The other freaks gathered around the first one and stood hungrily, ready to peel the skin off Alan's bones. The man ontop of Alan leaned closer to Alan's face, his rancid breath smelt of corpse and rot, and his pointed teeth bared. It licked it's lips and pursed it's chapped lips. In a raspy, croaking voice, one that obviously does not see much practice, the man inched to Alan's ear and whispered, "Flippa."
Alan Schezar prayed. He prayed to God, Buddah, Jesus, Muhammad, Ra, Zeus, Satan, Lucifer, anybody. He prayed to his father, he prayed to his mother, he even prayed to Jack Ampton for help. Angie, you're beautiful. This was it, this was Alan's much prolonged death. After all this, all the betrayal, disappointment, survival, all the promises broken and truces shattered. After Angie. He would weep if he had the chance, but it was only moments until this thing gave Alan a new mouth on his neck. He had to admit though, this was defiantly not how he predicted it to go down. He always expected to go down up in the snow, maybe by a massive bear or wolf, ensuing some epic battle. But no, Alan became the victim to a gang of bloodthirsty freaks in the fuckin' worst city on Earth, and he wasn't even close to Alaska. He only made it past the Great Lakes. At least his body would feed someone once he was gone. Alan Schezar closed his eyes, exhaled, and spit in "Flippa's" face. It just laughed, flung out his exceptionally long tongue, and raised the curved blade. Then something happened. A loud bang. Maybe it was death, he didn't know, he always thought it would hurt. The Israeli was afraid to open his eyes, he had no idea what was waiting for him. Another bang. Then another and another. He heard the scuffling of feet, battle cries, and what sounded like someone far away cursing some foul stuff. It was silent for a bit, and Alan Schezar finally decided to open his eyes. It was nothing, no insane creatures about to eat him, no gunflinging maniacs, no Valhalla either. He felt all his limbs, his face, and flexed his fingers. Alan was very much alive, but was the encounter the same? Was Alan going insane just as his father did? A sense of insecurity overwhelmed him, but his fears were false. Alan has a large gash on his right arm to prove that. He took no time to think things out, to try and piece together what had happened, the wanderer simply gathered his gear and ran his ass out of there. Just like always, Alan Schezar ran.
"Shit man," Murk had his hand over his mouth, "Holy shit man, do you fucking know who those guys are!?" Lazlo and Vic, along with Murk, sat atop an abandoned machine shop, watching Alan Schezar get surrounded by the infamous Flippa's Flayers. "Fuck man, that's fucking Flippa right there! In the flesh!" Murk pointed a bandaged finger at the lead man in the party, baring a curved blade and a butcher's cleaver. "Dammit Lazlo, we gotta get da fuck outta here! Right fuckin' no-" Vic kicked the cowardly raider in the guts, shutting him up in an instant. "We do what boss says, got it? Even if he wants us to run down there nude and slap our dicks across Flippa's face, we'll do it." Lazlo was focused on the scenario playing out infront of him, as if he were part of a theater watching one of Shakespeare's tragic dramas. The man whom was about to be slaughtered, a particular Alan Schezar, had insulted Lazlo, scorned him and humiliated him, and killed his brothers, yet this is not how Lazlo wanted it to end. It was too sudden, too unpredicted. All this way just for the prey to fall to another's trap, to be savored by another hunter. No, he was going to lead what was left of Lazlo's gang to a secret cashe of weapons and flying machines that would win this war, that would enlist Lazlo as a hero, that would finally make people love Lazlo. Yes, yes he would be praised for his discovery, rewarded with the command of the Wild and the Vikings, the command of Polis itself! He would be king! And all of it, every single last pinch of power, lied in the hands of this misguided fool of a man. No, Alan Schezar would live today and die tomorrow, he would be alive today for a reason. Lazlo interrupted his raider men with a cough. The two stopped talking and looked to Lazlo. "Okay, Vic, give me your rifle, I'm gonna shoot at Flippa and his Flayers." Both of their jaws dropped, Vic talking first, "Boss, what I said before, I didn't mean that literally man, I mean, it is Flippa's fuckin' Flayers. You've heard the stories, we all have." Lazlo sighed and upholstered his .32 Pistol, "Obey the order, or you end up like Slate, both of you." Murk and Vic looked at each other, shrugged, and handed Vic's 30.36 Hunting rifle to Lazlo. The raider boss quickly aimed, Flippa was now ontop of Alan, and shot. And shot. And shot. One round his the flayer behind Flippa, puncturing his kidney, and the other two hit the ground near Alan. The Flayers scurried off, hurrying back into the shadows, leaving a dumbstruck Alan on the ground. "Holy fucking shit Lazlo, you just... Jesus.. Shit!" Murk was shuddering loudly on Lazlo's rash action against the Flayers, but Lazlo was not listening. Lazlo looked back at his gang and twirled his finger, "Ok, that's done, now let's get the fuck out of here before they come back. I just hope that idiot is smart enough to stand up." The three sprinted off, them too leaving poor Alan Schezar in udder shock.
Ignoring the rancid scents and turning back toward Polis, what should've been an easy kill and meal for Flippa and half his Flayers, turned ugly. Flippa shook his head as he viewed the extremely rough medical care being "administered" to one of his gang. The man squirmed, but did not make a peep, as one Flayer dug the bullet out of the his wound, while another sat on the back of the man's shoulders and neck to hold him down. She was shushing him quietly as she sat there. From the second floor of the apartment home, Flippa's evil, razor sharp eyes scanned for the source of the shots. He watched quietly as the dark haired traveler got up and ran. Toward the tunnel. Toward the Banshees. Flippa's mind wasn't on pursuit. There were plenty more meals to be had in Polis. Flippa knew that other raiders were out to get him. Growing up in Vault 16, Flippa, though EXTREMELY sadistic and sociopathic, could read and listened to rumors. He knew of the bounty and knew that people would be trying to cash in. He'd learned of currency through a Wild raider's pathetic attempt of paying him caps in return for his life. Now Flippa needed a way to end these threats, before any uf them got to him.
Looking back again, Flippa noted the wounded Flayer. He'd stopped moving around. A small lead piece layed in a pool of blood as the "surgeon" cut a large flap of skin from his own "cloak." He could see the wounded man's heaving breath and the female Flayer sitting on his back shushed and massaged him to calm him down. The doc Flayer laid the large piece of skin over the needlessly large would and pulled out a crude needle and began stitching it on, drawing tiny grunts from the man with each poke. The "procedure" took about twenty minutes total. In the meantime, Flippa had noted a group of Wild raiders move out of hiding, following the traveler's course. They looked around nervously as they moved. Flippa smiled. The other half of his crew was already in Wild territory. The Wild would pay. A sharp smile crossed Flippa's cracked lips. He turned once more. "Can th' boy stand?" he said. His rare act of speaking drawing awkward glances from the other Flayers. The doc nodded slowly as the other Flayer dismounted, and the wounded Flayer rose shakily, first to his knees, then gradualy to his feet. Quietly, the Flayers moved down the stairwell out to the street, and then eastward, toward where the rest of the Flayers were hiding out. The Wild were about to experience a new time of terror and dispair. And Flippa was it's harbringer.
Harris Housley held his hand up in a balled fist, as echoes reverberated across the slaver column. The slavers milled anxiously as a Wild patrol approached. They'd reached the former borders of St. Paul and South St. Paul. The were entering Wild territory proper. Any foreign group should have been worried. Housley's good standing with the Wild meant that they'd pass. "What'chya want! " a Wild Raider called out. "Headed to Como," Housley shouted back. Wild raiders began emerging from the burned out church. "Como?" the first raider chuckled. "Como's been shit fer years." Housley smiled. "Como's gonna be back up soon," he said. The Wildman looked at his buddy as he walked up. "I ain't been over there in a while, ain't there Wendigos in Como?" The second raider shrugged. "I dunno," he said, "lotta mercs, but I ain't seen Wendigos anywhere in a few months now." Housley was getting impatient. "Look boys, I'm keepin' it cool, calm and cordial fer ya here," he said, drawing goofy looks from the Wildmen, who were obviously not familiar to such terms. "We're goin' to Como," Housley said, "then the Headman will have two places to get your poon and dents instead of just the one. You boys can't tell me your mouths ain't waterin' fer more poon." The confused looks turned to smiles on the Wildmen at the mention of the poon. "Well Housley," the first Wildman concluded, "I ain't never been against more poon hangin' about at the Red Light One. You and your crew get the go. Make sure you tell the other boys you come 'cross 'bout the more poon. You won't get no guff from 'em."
Gerti awoke some time later, apparently someone had bandaged her injury so she had not bled out. She was a long ways from feeling good though, and she wished she had one of those "stims," the warriors used when they could get them. Her eyes wandered and she noticed some of her bottles were already missing or broken. Gerti realized that monsters and Vikings weren't too different in that regard, neither appreciated such things. She reached into one of the cubbyholes in the wall and took out a strange contraption, several bottles firmly fastened to some pipe and filled with varying amounts of dirty booze. She began to blow across the tops of the bottles, making an eclectic tune. Each inhalation hurt her stomach, but she had few illusions of surviving a night in a room full of strangers.
Roland was stirred from his fitful rest in short order, by the sound of someone playing the pipes, or something equally atrocious. Through the foggy vision of his good eye, his bad eye having perfectly clear vision anyways, Roland noted that there was a girl sitting at the top of the steps playing the pipes. The sailor cocked his head to one side inquisitively. He didn't remember taking any women with him from the Grey Lady as part of the away team, so who was this then?
He remembered all too suddenly. It was the wounded raider girl he had seen in the rubble outside the town house, the one who had been wounded, that had been dragged here with them. Roland scowled, she was persistent if nothing else. Digging around in his pockets, the merchant came up with a bottle of whiskey and a stimpak and set out up the stairs, the soles of his boots clanking against the metal grates of the floor. He reached Gerti in short order, his long legs carrying him in massive strides to her position. He knelt down in front of her and casually swatted the pipes away. "You have mild internal injuries," the merchant said bluntly, "do you really want to make it worse by blowing on those infernal bottles?" He then pressed the stimpak syringe into her hand. "Take that, it'll dull the pain and help you recover, but you need rest."
Then it was back down to the corner for him, down to the grubby, long-abandoned bedroll with the skeletons laying next to it, where he laid his head down on the pillow with the whiskey bottle next to him, asleep in seconds.
Deek, however, wasn't so easily distracted. Stripping out of his biosuit in the confined quarters of the junkpile-turned bolt hole was no easy ordeal, but he had managed it and was once again stripped down to his t-shirt and cargos (Merc Grunt Outfit if you're wondering), holding one of his plasma pistols across his lap as he stood guard across the little tunnel from Jacob. Occasionally a little moonbeam shining down from above would catch his arm when he shifted, making him glint metallically as though he were some sort of golem summoned from the remains of the scrap heap.
After a few awkward minutes he turned his head towards the soldier and cleared his throat. "So," he grunted, "what's your story?"
Jacob smiled as Gerti started playing her music. Used as a scavver and god knows what else (although if there was a God, Jacob was pretty sure he'd been looking away since October 2077) by the Vikings, but she still had that childish way about her. Still saw some wonder in the world. Jacob leaned forward as he heard the faint sounds of gunfire in the distance. He had a feeling no one else heard them. In fact, he'd bet limbs on no one hearing them if he only barely did. Raiders killing each other. Jacob couldn't find anything wrong with that. He pulled out a small notepad and pencil, sticking the pencil behind his ear and sitting back to think for a while. His drawing was never any good, but he had decided a while ago to try pick up a hobby that didn't involve the death of another human being. He even had difficulties leaving opponents intact when he tried to join in the boxing gym in Rivet City or the prizefighting ring in that settlement up north past the Republic of Dave. So he had taken to drawing. For a while, he'd tried doing dramatic, sweeping drawings of action sequences in his life. His drawing of himself killing Hennard was pretty much a stick figure stabbing a slightly thicker stick figure with a cross. He was getting no inspiration staring into the darkness, so he put away his materials and sighed, folding his arms and staring into the tunnel. He was getting tired. He used to be able to stay awake for days. Now, he almost insisted on going to sleep at a reasonable hour. Damn, I am getting old Jacob thought to himself.
Jacob looked over to Gerti as she sat playing an admittedly catchy tune with that bottle stick. Then he looked around the room, seeing all the bottles. Had the Raider kid put this place together? She certainly knew where it was in a semi-conscious state. There was a profound lack of Raider Interior Design, such as severed heads or gore splatter, although there was a large collection of empty bottles. But they were all interesting-looking bottles. Colourful lables, colourful glass, strange shapes. Things that he presumed would catch a child's eye. Those child-killers over in Atlantic City had used fancy-looking stuff to lure their victims. Well, they did until Jacob killed them all. She had put this place together. Jacob felt a little guilty at having broken part of her bottle collection now. Then he realised he was tapping his feet along with her tune. Going soft Jacob he thought to himself. Becoming human. He wasn't sure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. He reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a small, exotic-looking bottle of rum. He drained the bottle and set it down in the ring with the others. Then he realised he was being spoken to.
"Me? Well, I got some parts to the story I don't talk much about, but for almost twenty years now, I've been the Angel of Death in New England, The Reaper. Killing Raiders, mercenaries, crooked Regulators, bad Brotherhood Knights, Enclave soldiers, even killed a bunch of lying, betraying scumbag cowards called the Claws. Brought down a nasty lot called the Crusade, well, helped bring 'em down. Had some good brothers in arms. That all started, the bit with the Crusade, I mean, all started with the Outcasts. A finer group of men and women at arms you'll never find. Brothers in arms, Brothers in Blood. I'd lay my life down for them any day. Closest thing to a family I've had for a long time. That was where I met Roland over there. Since the Crusade and their remnants, the Last Legion, went down, I've been getting back to myself, cleaning up the country, killing Raiders and all. Kept in touch with my friends though. Haven't forgotten about them, never will. Just like the Outcasts. Was thinkin of headin west to meet them one more time. Once I start feeling like that long black cloud's showing on the horizon, I'll probably do that. Say one last goodbye to my old friends," Jacob said, running through the memories of the Outcasts. The fondest he had since his family were killed. Remembered like they were yesterday. He smiled again, then sighed. He'd probably never see the Outcasts again. Unless he really did head West when he felt like his time was up. He ran a hand through his greying hair and looked at Deek. "Never caught your name there stranger, who might you be? And what's your story? Those arms sure as hell ain't the ones your parents gave you."
Deek took another drink from the bottle sitting at his feet. "Actually, they are," the old man said with a smile. "Ma went down on a Protectron one day and out I came, metal arms and everything." After a few awkward seconds of staring at Jacob's face with a serious look, he broke down into peals of laughter that descended into a brief coughing fit before he shrugged and stared back at Jacob.
"Former Enclave personnel, Project Reconstruction patient zero. Vertibird crash, nearly killed me. I guess I have those crazy bastards to thank for giving me my life back. At the same time, I hate 'em for it," he quickly added, hoping to save some face in front of the Enclave hating Vaughton. "Some experiment over by the Trinity Test Site backfired, left me in a smoking hole listed as abandoned, KIA. I left the Enclave shortly after that, headed for Area 51. That's where I met The Mummy over there." The old soldier/scientist shook a thumb in Raziel's direction. "Got shot in the throat. Had to drag him out of the stinking underside of that place right after a nuke went off. Yes, a nuke. Saved the entire State of new Mexico that day," Deek said, smirking. He looked down at his arm, where a single golden bracelet hung around his fake wrist.
"Found a girl out there somewhere," the soldier admitted, holding up the little golden bracelet. "Younger'n me. Parents dead, house burnt down, fell in with raiders, that sorta' thing. I kinda took her under my wing, gave her shelter out in South Dakota. Then kinda kept wandering with Raziel- the Mummy- out this way, and well, here we are." He looked down the tunnel, having heard the same gunshots as Jacob. The old man kind of clammed up after that, holding his plasma pistol a bit tighter. Another battle already. Deek certainly didn't want one so soon, he was getting too old for that shit.
Raziel rubbed the stale wrapping over his right eye at the reference of that fateful incident in New Mexico, he also felt around the scar on his neck. The man Deek was talking too, Jacob, seemingly did have quite the background. Something about him made Raziel suspicious, like the traveled warrior had much more to his past than he let out. He just hoped the man wasn't with the Enclave, as Deek once was. The two were telling their life stories, Raziel's would take quite some time. He wanted to tell them how he was over 150 years old, how he lived in Austin and most importantly, what rumors they had heard of his forgotten hometown. He desperately wanted to know if the Ramsey family still survived, maybe the burnt mutant had some little nephews wandering around. Could he face them? Most likely not, but the reward of knowing was enough. These guys did seem to get around, it was a possibility that one of them had heard of Austin. Well, all he could do was hope, but he would be answered later. Gunshots were approaching, and that meant trouble. The ancient Austinite rose up and tightened his armblades. In a raspy voice, the eldest Ramsey opened his dried mouth, "Sounds' like trouble."
Jacob raised an eyebrow slowly. He'd heard it. Deek had heard it, and now Raziel Tootinkamin too? He pointed at himself, Deek, Roland, and then half-pointed at Raziel and gave a questioning look. Just how many Enclave or Institute Super Soldiers were there here in the room? How screwed were those shooters further out there? Just how "large and in charge" was Jacob now? He looked from Raziel to Deek and back. Raziel Rahmatet didn't exactly have the heavy build of himself or Deek. Although neither did Roland. But then, Roland had those robotic limbs. And so did Deek. Jacob knew nothing about Project Reconstruction other than it made injured men into robotically-enhanced soldiers. Probably didn't make anything as dangerous as a Warrior Weapon, given that it probably didn't have the aid of a memory graft to overload a human brain with martial arts and weapons training. But then, who needed all that ass-whupping stiff when you could beat people with your big hydraulic arm?
"Just how many of us in here are Super Soldiers?" Jacob asked Deek, pointing to himself, Roland, Deek and then nodding questioningly to Raziel. "There's me, I'm the best thing Raikov and Warrior Weapons ever produced, Roland over there, he's got his own story, you, the Billion Dollar Man, and possibly the Pharoh over here. Just how screwed are these shooters if they come our way?"
Jacob raised his eyebrows at the sight of Raziel's armblades. They wouldn't be much use in a gunfight, but the mutant looked agile, and in these narrow confines, an agile warrior with a blade and the element of surprise could be just as dangerous as a man with a gun. And that mutant, by the way he moved and held himself, was certainly a proficient fighter in his day.
"Well, looks like we got something of a badass grandpa club going on here," Jacob said to Raziel and Deek, with a smile.
Gerti managed to catch her bottle-stick before it struck the floor, but enough of the liquid had spilled out as it tumbled to render it temporarily out of tune. She avoided eye contact with Bug-Eyes, though she nodded gratefully when he gave her a stim. Emulating an act she had seen numerous times, she tied a rag around her arm and tapped on the inside of her elbow. Gerti was looking for a vein when she realized that she didn't want to do this in front of strangers, but the raider-girl knew it was vital to her continued existence. Biting down on her lip, Gerti managed to contain most of the yelp her lungs issued out when she poked the needle into the vein. The sense of relief was near instantaneous, and Gerti could feel a strange fizzy sensation in her stomach, it made her think of the glowing drink she once had down here.
She had heard the stories the monsters were sharing, of places Gerti didn't know and for all she could fathom never existed to begin with. "Why did you all come here? Did you come for your kin? The Banshee, the Flayer?"
"Three, actually." Roland said from inside. He had apparently given up on sleep and now headed out to where the "badass grandpa club" was still in session. "It's just me, Deek and you. Looks like Hatepshut over there is some sort of proto-Biosoldier. Saw all kinds of the likes a' him in Austin." The merchant sighed, looking around as he sat down on the remains of a car hood buried in the trash and started working on the cracked stock of his hunting rifle. He looked around when he heard Gerti speaking, and looked confused for a second.
"Flayers? Who're the Flayers?" Roland said, truly unaware of the meaning of the statement. "And who are the Banshees?" He added suddenly. Apparently despite fighting just about everyone in the city within the last three hours, Roland didn't know who anyone was. The dock workers had kept to themselves, as had the natives he'd passed on his way inland. He looked down at the rifle a bit more, fixed a bit more duct tape on it, then shrugged again. "I'm here for the caps, not to deal with your little raider problems."
"You know the Banshees, you had a talk with 'em and Jacob is part Banshee," Gerti said gesturing towards the parts of his ensemble taken from power armor, "Flayers are monsters too, they take peoples skin, peoples faces, wear 'em. If you want caps in Polis there's two you can deal with: Slavers or the Vikings. You'd have to go through Wild turf to see the Slavers, but maybe I can get you to Vikings."
Raziel stopped at the mention of Austin. He was not truly listening to the others talk about Enclave supersoldiers or the little girl talking about Raiders, he barley knew anything of the Enclave, the last he saw of them was on 2156, around 133 years ago. Roland, another one of Enclave decent, had called Raziel a Biosoldier, whatever that was, and claimed how he saw many of them in Austin. If Biosoldiers were the things he had encountered on that fateful night in the Enclave vault, and if they were in Austin, that must've meant they launched a full-on assault. The mummified mutant finally stood up and looking at Roland, "You've been to Austin!? W-when was it? Is it still standin'? Did you hear of anybody with the last name of Ramsey? Particularly a Jean Ramsey?" Raziel sounded desperate and he knew it, but had to know, he had to know the fate of his beloved sister.
"Oh jesus, here we go," Deek said, scowling at Roland. "Good job, you actually mentioned to waste about five hours of your life with that little statement. I can't tell you how many times Raziel asked me about Austin on the way here. I'm gonna go find some rum and take a nap, wake me up when you're done talking." The old supersoldier then stomped off down the tunnel towards the bolthole, carefully stepping around the remaining bottles as he headed for the grubby bedroll where Roland had been resting a little while ago.
Roland grunted in Deek's general direction before swivelling back towards Raziel. "I was there about half a year ago. Never heard of no Jean Ramsey, but there was a Jay, a Jenn and an Aaron, out on the East Coast. Austin's still standing, standing better now, since me and the Outcasts kicked the Enclave's ass there. I even got me a girlfriend while I was there!" The merchant grinned.
"Knew a Jay Ramsey. Came from Austin. Never went to Austin myself, but Jay made the place sound like Hell on Earth. Outcast sniper. Met him and the other Outcasts on a tech-hunt in Old Olney. Fought by his side at Germantown and Fairfax. It rained blood at Fairfax. Jay mentioned a Jean Ramsey, his mother, I think. Did't talk much about her though. Every time he mentioned Austin, well, he seemed to choke up. He musta left some close friends and family back there. We've all got ghosts, Jay's was Austin. Apparently, though, my good Brothers in Arms, the Outcasts, broke the place out of Enclave control," Jacob said, passing Deek a hipflask full of rum as the aged man passed him. Jacob was all for getting into telling old War Stories about the Outcasts. Or about himself. He liked bragging about clearing out Raider gatherings. At least three of which were clan alliances to try and take him out. Jacob sat forward, wondering what relation this mummified relic was to Jay.
"In answer to you, kid, I'm here to kill me some Raiders. If you can get me to the Top Dog of the Vikings and get me enough time to kill that runt, I'll get you and whatever family you got out of this hellhole. The least I can do for someone who'll get me in to bring down these "Vikings". How's that sound?" Jacob said to Gerti over in her corner after her asking why everyone was here. "And I'm not half Banshee. Part Outcast, maybe, but I'm no I took these from a lot called the Crusade. From their still twitching carcasses."
Raziel brooded over this new information. His old aunt had been named Jennifer, and Jean had always wanted to name her daughter, if she had one, after her. And Jay Ramsey, well Jay Selik Ramsey had been one of the first to enter Vault 115, back in 2077. It was possible that they where who Jean could've named her children off of, although he couldn't think of any relation to anybody named Aaron. No, but it had to be her offspring, what other Ramsey's lived in Austin? This was not a coincidence, Raziel still had family out there. The man who was talking, the ex-Enclave named Jacob, had mentioned the Jay fellow claiming Austin to be hell. What had happened after he left? Raziel knew he should've listened to Hadds all those years ago, they should've turned back right then and go back living with their families. All of them, Victor, Jamal, and Raziel would have naturally been dead by now and resting at peace. He finally realized he was mumbling to himself, about what, he really couldn't say. This was just too much at one time, it took it's toll on the ancient mutant. He put a blackened hand to his forehead, regaining some stability. Raziel looked to Jacob and Roland, "Thank you for the info, and I'm sure you're expecting some sort of explanation. To tell you the truth, much of it is not worth telling, along with myself being ashamed of my past sins, but I will tell you one thing. My name is Jacob Scott Ramsey, I was born on October 23rd, 2132. That makes me 150-something years old now, I really stopped keepin' track years ago. If I had to, I'd guess that is due to the Enclave as well. I was born in Austin, Texas, along with a younger sister named Jean. I dunno about now, but back then Austin was a damn haven, a peaceful garden in a burnt world. I was part of The Union, a scout. I don't want to go into the details, they still haunt me every night I sleep, but let's keep it at this: The Enclave, whoever they are, did this to me," Raziel motioned at his body, noting the scarred forearms and burnt skin. "They ruined me, turned me into a fuckin' mutant, a freak. Much after that is... disturbing, but I found myself in the ruins of Area 51. I did some things there that I'd rather not mention, but it took a near-death experience, the loss of a good friend, and Deek here to make me back into what I really am." The elder Austinite sighed, even he did not want to hear his own story, "And if I have my facts straight, then I presume I must be th' uncle to the Jay, Jenn, and Aaron that you spoke about."
The Wendigo licked its parched lips as it finished consuming a cave rat in the sewers below the streets of hellish Polis. The dry meat had been particularly appealing to the creature's pathetically simple animal brain. To it, everything tasted good. All it did was eat and sleep. The Wendigo uttered a series of contended grunting and slurping noises as it thought about the appeal of eating and sleeping. Munch, munch, munch. Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Suddenly, the Wendigo perked up. It had heard something! It peeked furtively over the mound of rubble to its left and spied a large figure. This figure appeared to be tasty! The Wendigo grunted at its nearby brethren before scrabbling towards its next meal. This would be a tasty, easy meal for sure! Unfortunately for the Wendigo, due to its colossal stupidity and its excitement about eating, it failed to notice several things. It did not see how large its prey was, nor did it see how the creature grasped its strange stick firmly in its large hands. The Wendigo paid for its lack of perception and poor judgment when it approached the figure and saw it spin around and slam the sharp metal end of its stick into the Wendigo's head. It was the last thing the Wendigo ever saw.
Cedrig Steelbeard hefted his axe, flinging blood and bits of Wendigo gore through the air as he roared in challenge. His roar was met by the baying of two more Wendigos from the same crevice from whence the first one had come. The first Wendigo rushed in to attack Cedrig, arms outstretched and ready to swipe. Cedrig lashed out with two brutally fast jabs, both of which collided with the Wendigo's chest and head. Before it could collect itself or respond, Cedrig kicked into the gaunt monster's stomach and drove it back before swinging the pointed end of his axe into the ghoul's head. The third Wendigo had just rounded the bend when Cedrig plowed into it with the force of a small car. He bulled the creature into the wall, his axe's haft pressed against its neck, and pushed upwards, lifting the creature up into the air and choking it with his axe before he slammed it into the wall and killed it once and for all.
Further baying could be heard in the distance as more Wendigos rushed to the scene. Cedrig drew his shotgun and blew open the chest of the first one to draw near, then did the same to the second Wendigo. The third was upon him before he could reload, but, unfortunately for it, it was very old, and its soft, calcium-deficient, degrading bones could not withstand the force of Cedrig slamming it in the chin with the butt of his shotgun. He reloaded and pressed forward. Outlanders had kidnapped or killed a Viking brother, and he would not rest until his vengeance was secure. He howled and charged through the tunnels. He knew his prey was this way.
"Oh what the hell," Roland grumbled, lifting his hunting rifle and aiming down the little tunnel offshoot the party was inhabiting. He could hear yelling. Maddeningly loud yelling as well. It was almost like a warcry of some ancient warrior screaming across the battlefield, sword held high against the oncoming hordes. Roland shrugged. It was probably nothing, the wind shifting some old metal or something.
Deek was nowhere near convinced as Roland was, however. Pulling a long iron pipe from the detritus beneath his feet, Deek drew one of his Equalizers and held the pipe in his off hand, and stalked off down the tunnel.
Chubbs rubbed his ample belly, appreciating his custom-tooled leather armor, festooned with grenades. His old suit left some of him bulging at the seams. Eyeing the haul, he turned to Carl "I cain't believe we got a dozen. That one girlie even has all 'er teeth. Might have a go 'fore we get back."
Carl had to laugh "Yeah? Well don't wear her out before we get to the Stockyard, or you-know-who will get sore. All these easy pickings are going to make us lazy," giving Chubbs a vaguely scornful eye "Where are all these people coming from anyways?"
Red Mike slapped the girl in question on her behind and spat, "Damn your donkey cock, you do that, and I'll have to take a crack at her, well...damn choice a words really."
Buckshot and Shelly were standing to either side of the line of slaves, tethered to Carl's hand. Chubbs calls out to Carl and Red Mike "Ya'll come 'ere. We need t'plan our route better."
Dead-Eye was up on the third story of a nearby building, watching the slavers pass beneath him while Dolce and Chanel were perched on the window frame. Dead-Eye leaned on the panty-dropper reminiscing on that short but sweet time he had spent with the trash-talking slut. He couldn't believe how delicate these Yankee women were, the way she passed out when she saw him gnawing on what was left of her leg. Once she'd passed again, he decided she just wasn't worth the bullet. The rumbling in his belly made him think he was getting soft, he let that bitch go and now he was hungry. She probably wasn't even thinking of his suffering! A course, he thought I cain't et 'em all if'n I'se goan ree-pop-you-late th'earth. Then these here cunts come along, with a solution. I'll be damned if'n th'lord don't work in mysterious ways. After all that thar lead slut looks well fed and I'm jes skin'n bones.
He looked his precious babies in the eyes and nodded, "Girls. Get to it."
Dolce and Chanel took wing, circling above the slavers. With nary a sound, the birds picked their indicated targets. Dead-Eye sighted down the barrel and took careful aim. Chubbs, Red Mike, and Carl were startled from their conversation as Buckshot and Shelly began screaming and cursing, they turned around drawing weapons and saw their comrades faces had vanished amidst toxic torrent of grayish-green bird shit. Chubbs began laughing uproariously as the crack from panty-dropper rolled across the wasteland. The .223 round struck a grenade on Chubbs belt, the resulting chain explosion startled even Dead-Eye as it liquefied the three slavers. The slaves, free from Carl's leash immediately took panicked flight, dragging the remnants of Carl's arm with them.
Dead-Eye began a half falling, half leaping descent through the building, cursing and spitting violently. Kicking his way through the ruined front door just as his sweet babies vomited on the surviving slavers to keep their attention.
"How dare yew waste good food like that you damn cunts? All yew had ta do was hold on to th'rope while I kilt ya! Now I gotta make due with you two sorry fucks! I'm gonna fuck a hole in each of you for each one of them you let go you damn stupid bitches."
Swinging the panty-dropper like a baseball bat, he pounds Buckshot in the face relieving the slaver of his teeth and consciousness. Shelly managed to clear the shit and vomit from his eyes just in time to see Buckshot fall and Dead-Eye stepping towards him, the butt of his rifle flying towards his face. Dead-Eye immediately began cutting the gear loose from the slavers. As he finished stripping Shelly he leaned down and whispered in an almost gentle voice.
"You'll never guess which eye I'll start with."
As he began thrusting, he turned to the now conscious and horrified Buckshot and said "This here's a lesson in preservin' yer victuals you wont soon forget, I reckon."
Jacob stood up slowly, drawing his Bowie Knife. He left his Duster with the Sailors who were staying behind with the Brahmin as he followed Deek along the tunnel, turning his immense Bowie over and over in his hand as he followed the older man in his biohazard gear. Jacob had definitely heard the discharge of a shotgun earlier, as well as a few howls and bellows, and the odd Feral-Ghoul-like yowl too. Jacob moved up alongside Deek as they reached a wider section of the tunnel, with the shouts getting louder and louder. He drew his tomahawk in his other hand, spinning them both in his grip before moving further along the tunnel. He stopped spinning his knife and 'hawk in his grip, finishing with the Bowie in a reverse-grip in his left hand and his right hand clenched about halfway along his tomahawk's haft. The edges of both weapons glinted in the scattered shafts of light that peeked meekly in through the steel above Jacob's head, giving Deek an indication of where the other retired Super Soldier was headed. As the screeches and howls got louder and louder, Jacob started dragging the edge of his tomahawk along the sidewall of the tunnel, producing an eerie scraping sound and the occassional thunk as the blade skipped across gaps in the steel. Jacob spotted what he thought looked like an emaciated, grey-skinned Feral Ghoul up ahead. He raised his left hand, giving a signal that Deek was all too familiar with from Enclave training. Jacob did it on instinct. They both froze and crouched, moving forward even slower than they had been. As Jacob closed on the Ghoul-thing, he drew back his tomahawk for a heavy-handed swing. The Wendigo didn't even get a chance to screech as Jacob hacked his tomahawk through it's left knee and sliced the saw edge of his Bowie across it's neck as it fell backwards.
Jacob stood up and walked forwards, striding into the next Wendigo. They were both caught off-guard as they met mid-step and staggered apart. The Wendigo was about to screech a warning to it's emaciated brethren, but it quickly collapsed into a heap of green ooze. Jacob nodded to Deek as the old man in the envirosuit stepped up alongside and muttered something. Jacob raised an eyebrow. Deek took his mask off again and repeated himself.
"What the hell are these things?" Deek rasped in the darkness, not at all eager to attract more of these things.
"No idea. They move and act like Ferals, but they're nothing like any Feral Ghoul I've ever seen. Maybe they're diseased," Jacob said, nudging the carcass with his boot as they stared down at the one Jacob had killed.
Gerti had been sullenly contemplating Jacob's offer when the Wendigos came. Of all the times she had ever been in this bolt hole, not once had she ever encountered one of them near here. She briefly wondered if they were migrating or if there were just more of them before snapping back to reality.
"You can't fight them all! There's always more Wendigos!"
She lurched up painfully and started heading down a tunnel, motioning for the others to follow.
"This way! We'll ditch 'em at the tee!"
She went down the dark tunnel with one hand stretched out in front of her, trusting in prior experience to see her safely to her destination. When her hand touched a metal bar, she knew she'd made it. The raider girl fumbled about for a bit, sticking her hand in a grimy hole and pulling out an old fission battery. Gerti then felt along the metal bar and found the space between it and its sibling bars: a wide grate. The girl inhaled and sucked in what little stomach she had and squeezed through. On the other side of the grate she knew there was some kind of machine from the old world, one that needed the battery. She blindly hooked the battery to some protruding wires, careful to avoid touching any part that would get her zapped. The machine restored to life offered some feeble light that illuminated the area and Gerti flipped a switch, causing the grate to open, turning up towards the ceiling.
Gerti frantically waved the others her way, pointing down one branch of the T-shaped junction.
Raziel observed the murdered Wendigo for a moment more, trying to determine the origin of the creature. It was defiantly a victim of Radiation, except for a slightly grayer hue to what remained of it's skin. The deformed Austinite looked at his own mangled corpse, covered in bloody wrapping and gruff, the small openings of skin charred black. He wondered how long he had before going Feral himself? Could he really avoid it? His thought was interrupted by a howling from the other side of the tunnel. Silhouetted against the moonlight outside stood a single Wendigo, starring at the group of diverse travelers. It started to charge, more and more of them following it from behind. Deek quickly grabbed Raziel's shoulder and turned him, breaking him from the slight trace he enacted with the ravenous gray Ghouls. The little girl, who should be resting and treating her wound, was beckoning the group towards some route she knew, obviously used to this area. Roland and his sailors got up first and ran, followed by Deek, Jacob Vaughton, and Raziel. Behind them was a swarm of feral Wendigos. Stray gunshots flew into the vicious crowd, occasionally clipping one or even dropping one of the sorry souls.
The mummified mutant caught up to the little girl, who was lagging behind due to her injury. He smiled and let out a shaking hand, not used to such interaction with the opposite sex or children to be exact, yet he was determined to help the wounded child. She merely let out a small yelp of fear upon seeing the Egyptian-like mutant, likely mistaking him for a Wendigo. Raziel backed off, just as scared of the girl as she was with him, bringing his boiled hand back to his chest. Jacob, who was on the other side of the girl, sighed and picked her up, holding her in a cradle. She quickly accepted Jacob, whom had been carrying her since her discovery near the townhouse. Raziel turned away, embarrassed, and looked up front to Roland, who was leading the group. Jacob caught up with him and the two listened in to the girl tell them where to go. Deek gave Raziel a friendly pat on the back, having seen the depressing ordeal go down, and the two continued on. The howling grew weaker and weaker.
Alan Schezar finally stopped, trying desperately to fill his lungs with oxygen. He tore off the gas mask and sucked in deeply at the cold Polis air. He'd been running for around an hour now, not stopping once, led only by pure fear and adrenalin. Whoever that man was, Flippa as he so dreadfully told Alan, defiantly had the intention on killing and/or eating the poor Israeli. He shuttered at the thought of the thing, covered in some clothing made of skin, sharpened teeth and everything. He still didn't know what saved him, some gunshots or something along those lines, maybe some good-hearted natives who saw the thing play out decided to help. Although, that would not explain why they didn't confront Alan afterwards, as most would after saving somebody's life. Maybe it was even the Brotherhood again, and Alan was just too stupid to see them. Nah, that wouldn't make sense, although neither did this whole goddamn city. He inhaled deep and re-hooked the mask, intending on retreating even more. The Outlander still could hear people following him, stalking him, waiting to kill him! Alan Schezar continued to run, pleading and pleading to meet up with the two Knights from earlier, then he could at least have some protection from whatever was lurking behind him...
Lazlo stopped for a second, taking advantage of the Outlander's break. He looked to Vic, who was chugging some bottled water. The Wild Raider swallowed and started to speak, "Holy shit boss... Jesus, how long can this mother run!? I mean.... fuck.." He could barley talk in between breaths, trying to get as much air as he could. Murk stole the bottle from Vic's hands, spilling a bit in the process. "Goddammit Vic, you drank all my water! Fucking shithead..." he held the empty bottle upside-down over his head, hopping to get at least one drop. Lazlo threw him his canteen, which had more than enough for the two of them. He glanced over his shoulder at their prey, Alan Schezar. The Outlander fuck picked his shit back up and took flight, still running southwards into Viking territory. Lazlo hit Murk on the shoulder frantically, "C'mon people, the fuckers' on the move again, damn. Let's keep movin'" The three exhausted raiders started off behind Alan.
Jacob was running at full pelt, powerful legs driving him on ahead of the other members of the group. He skidded to a halt to let Gerti give further instructions and veered off down a narrow side-tunnel, gun in one hand, carrying the diminutive Gerti with his other arm. No "Wendigos" down there. Gerti knew her stuff. The tunnel widened out up ahead, with a few sparse patches of moonlight peeking through the twisted metal and concrete above. Jacob bounded from chunk of concrete to chunk of concrete, picking up speed as the tunnel started to tilt downhill. He skidded to a halt to allow Roland and the others catch up as the screeching in the background faded into the distance. Either they were getting further away or these tunnels were some kind of harmonic anomaly where you couldn't hear something until you were right on top of it. Tunnels like that were few and far between in DC, but they were dangerous. Too dangerous to be running around with a gun in one hand and a wounded child in the other. He holstered his Hardballer and reached around his back, clenching his hand around the familiar, soothing feel of the haft of his Bowie. He drew the massive knife again, moonlight reflecting off the edge of his blade. He flexed his finger around the hilt of his knife, setting Gerti down as he started moving more slowly along the ever-narrower tunnels Gerti guided the group along. Jacob reversed his grip on the knife, setting the heel of his hand against the pommel, ready to land a two-handed stab on the first thing to jump out at him. He kept glancing over his shoulders at the group coming up behind. Would the Brahmin fit through the tunnels if they got narrower?
This city, these narrow tunnels, the screeching of the twisted metal and concrete settling, the banging of the sailors as they bumped into protrusions in the tunnels. The noise of the Brahmin, Gerti's mutterings. Claustrophobic. Jacob sighed, calming himself. He couldn't go jumping at shadows. Not when he was taking point for people other than himself. Not with a child in the group. The shafts of incoming moonlight cast lunatic shadows throughout the tunnels as they moved through alternating light and dark. Jacob coughed. He was getting old. That was the first time he'd coughed without smoke or something more dangerous in the air. He coughed again. He sneezed. Then, a sudden, unnaturally foul stench hit his nose. He gagged. People were staring at his back. He took a deep breath and composed himself.
"I'm smelling some seriously bad shit up ahead. Decay. Could be sweage processing, could be a sewage leak or a whole lot of dead things. Either way, there'll be methane in the air. Guns away. I don't want a muzzle flash setting the air on fire. Knives and machetes. Carpenter's hammers, hatchets, whatever. Keep it small so you can use it in the tunnels. If you got nothing, I got some spare knives people can borrow," Jacob said as he recognised the stench of decay and methane up ahead. Not good, not good at all.
A dull skidding sound filled the dary alleyway as the dumpster was moved away from the stairwell. Sibley stuck his head cautiously up and scanned for anyone or anything in thk alley. He could hear the dull, far-off roar of the crowds at The Dome. The Vikings were occupied tonight. Good. The Wolfpack were unpredictible. Their raid crews showed up, but were generally poorly equiped and had less stomach for fighting. Being in servitude to the Vikings meant the Wolfpack raiders were less-than-worthy opponents in a straight up fight. Sibley still excercised caution. A whelp of a raider could have a king's trophy and his own crew for splitting the unsuspecting skull of a Midwest Brother of Steel coming out of a safe waypoint in an alleyway. "All clear," he whispered to Stearns as he climbed up, followed closely by the Inquisitor. The two pushed the dumpster back over the stairwell, leaving the security of the waypoint for another cold night in Polis. Stearns took the lead and Sibley followed closely, keeping an eye behind him and watching all around. His head tracked from side to side and up and down, eyeing each nook and cranny suspiciously. He almost bumped into Stearns as she held up a fist. The pair slowly dropped to a knee as they eyed what was up ahead. Standing against the dim light cast by the Nicollet Feed Mill, was a Wendigo. Sibley could tell by the gaunt stature. He pitied the Wendigos. Former humans turned cannible. Leastwise, that's what the locals believed. Sibley knew that a healthy dose of radiation played a part. It stood, transfixed. Sibley also knew that typically, Wendigos didn't venture this far into Polis. He also knew that they hated light and were far more active at night. He wondered briefly why this one was in the city. As he did so, a few rounds laced the creature's body. It fell where it stood as Wolfpack raiders gathered around it. Staying low, Sibley and Stearns began moving paralell to the Feed Mill, keeping a few blocks down. They were in the heart of Viking territory and needed to stay unnoticed. Getting to the other side of the river and over into Brooklyn Park, where Vault 46 was, would take a skillful, and lucky night. Neither Sibley nor Stearns wanted to draw attention.
Flippa grinned needles as he skillfully flayed the skin from the flesh of the Wild sentry. The Washington Crossing at the University off Minnesota was the easiest ticket into Wild territory. Flippa cut several choice pieces of flesh from the body, storing them in the cargo pocket in his pants. (he wears the Wasteland Surgeon Outfit beneath the skin-cloaks) He also carefully rolled the skin as he went, squeezing the gore out of it. He neatly rolled it, tossing it to another Flayer. The group of six made it's way across the bridge, using the dark as a cloak. Reaching the end, they fanned out into the area. They were resourceful, and Flippa knew they'd meet again with the rest of the crew.Flippa could trust his own. The rest of the world was cruel. They didn't understand. Flippa's Flayers did what they needed to survive. With nobody pulling strings for tithes and tributes, they could live as they pleased. Flippa was headed for Midway. The area was hotly contested by Vikings and Wildmen. What better place to spread his work? What better place to find a meal? Flippa smiled to himself. He slowly turned around as he heard a voice speaking to him. "Y-y-you there," it said shakily. It was a man. Sounded, mid thirties. Flippa smiled again. A seasoned Wild raider. "W-w-w-what you got there? Turn 'round, nice 'n slow like," he said. Flippa turned slowly, viewing the Wildman. Gazing through the enlarged eyeholes of the skin's former owner, Flippa could see the abject terror on the grizzled Raider's face. The man knew Flippa. He could've made a fortune right there. The Wildman hesitated. Flippa didn't even wince as the knife-blade punched through the Wildman's back, making him drop his Combat Shotgun. The man yelped as a second hit him in the thigh, dropping him to one side.
Flippa smiled as the lithe form of a female Flayer emerged from the shadows. She walked carefully toward the downed raider, standing astride him, then slowly kneeling down so that she was seated carefully on his chest with her knees pinning his arms to the ground. He looked up at the Flayer, then at Flippa, who'd now walked up, brandishing his trademark flaying knife. "Y-y-you don't have to," the Raider bawled, "I got pull, y-y-you'll be, be, be-." The female Flayer put a hand over his mouth. "Shhh," she said gently. Flippa knelt down. His voice was somewhat hoarse as he spoke. "You, friend," he started, "have been appointed a special honor." The Wildman's eyes filled with tears as the horror of what Flippa was telling him sank in. It was the glaring and terrifying reality of Flippa's words. The canniblistic Raider continued. "You will not die today. No. That fate will be saved for your kin, your family, your friends. I have come for blood. For Wild blood. You, are to be my emissary, dear friend. Through you, I will inform your kin of my intentions. I will be honest, the part you are to play will come at a great price. We all must play our part though. You. Me. All of us. I hope you tolerate pain, friend, because this is really going to hurt." The Wildman's screams were lost in the cold wind as Flippa skinned him alive. This one would be left alive to be the messenger. The harbringer to the Wild of Flippa's attentions. The message would be sent and all too soon blood would be spilled and lives lost. Flippa gazed at the red moon as he took in the sound of the Wildman's heaving breath beneath his fellow Flayer. The Flayer stood up as Flippa gazed at his sobbing victim's skinned body and now cycloptic face. One eye to find his way, and a tongue to give the warning. "We all will play our part," Flippa said softly as he headed eastward into the night, toward the Midway.
Act V Edit
Sibley listened to the shrill wind as it whipped through the bombed out skyscrapers. Even inside his armor, he could feel the cool chill of the northern night air. The raucious rumbles of the Vikings could be heard as a dull roar beneath the wind. Sibley strained to see around a corner. A bonfire in the middle of the road to the west crackled. He could see the open doors of the first floors of two adjacent buildings, as well as several makeshift shacks, built in the collapsed rubble. These raiders were living like cockaroaches. Hollowing themselves a nest where ever they could. Still, Sibley pondered, were these raiders not a testiment to the survivability of the human race? Even in such adversity they endured. He could see clearly the outline of a mudcat roasting on their pyre spit. "That's the village of Midroad," Stearns whispered quietly, "there are Viking villages scattered all through downtown." Sibley nodded. "I thought they all lived in The Dome," he said. Stearns shook her head. "These Vikings were a raider gang that was subjugated. They were assimilated but not true Vikings. They can visit the Dome to pay tributes, but not live there. They are just as dangerous as the Vikings of the Dome. We shoudl be wary," she said. Sibley nodded as the two changed positions. Suddenly, Sibley felt nothing underneath him. With only a gasp, he plunged into the covered sinkhole. landing in the muck and struggling upward onto a sewer pipe. "Alysha!" he whispered, as loud as he could, without trying to draw attention to the site. He called again, still she didn't peek over the lip of the hole. Suddenly, Sibley heard a low growl. He turned and looked down to see a fat whiskered head emerging from the muck of the sinkhole. He'd fallen into a Viking mudcat holding pit.
He watched disheartened as his Combat Shotgun sank into the muck on the opposite side of the pit. He kicked atthe mudcat, which opened it's large mouth, clamping his leg. His advanced Power Armor protected him from the teeth of the beast, but it dragged him downward. Drawing his .45 Colt Army Revolver, he fired two shots into the beast's head. Feeling the pull slacken, he realized that a second mouth was opening in the mud. This was quickly greeted with another two gunshots. He heard a voice above him and looked up to several sneering faces. In ridding himself of mudcat troubles, he had unavoidably attracted the attentions of the "citizens" of Midroad. He fired a shot and avoided a slumping, falling body as something hit him in the head. His vision swam as he fell backward into the mud, just barely making out the shapes of the raiders sliding down into the pit before he lost conciousness.
Sibley awoke tied to a marble pillar in what must've been part of Midroad. Looking at perhaps three dozen leering raider faces. His armor and was stacked in a rough pile near the door. He was hit in the side of the head with a board as a raider began screaming illegible gibberish at him. He felt pain again as the board hit him. The could see through the blood in his eyes the raider had his Colt Revolver tucked into his belt. Sibley didn't understand a word they were saying. He couldn't help but wonder where the Inquisitor went.
Harris Housley smiled as the slaver crew entered the battered gates of the Como Zoo. Como was back within his grasp. The settlement he'd founded before becoming foreman was now Wendigo free. Members of the Frogtown Company mercenary group milled back and forth. They'd been here for days. The Frogtown Captain approached Housley, a crooked and greedy grin on his face. "This it?" the man said to Housley, who looked down in awe at his lost weapon. "The Deal Breaker," Housley said aloud, "never thought I'd see her again." He grasped his old hunting rifle. "Shane, pay the man." Housley said without looking up. Shane Blasco dropped a heavy box of caps at the mercenary's feet. "50,000 caps," Shane confirmed. The Captain reached down and picked up the box, tucking it under his arm. "Good doing business with ya, Housley," he said. "You want more?" Housley said, still smiling. The Captain turned his head abuptly at the offer. "You offerin' more?" he said. Housley nodded. "For protection of my little... investment... here, I'll pay well," he said. The Captain lifted an eyebrow and pulled on the collar of his Combat Armor, still holding the box of caps. "How well is well?" he asked. Housley chuckled a little. "Put it this way," he said, "you'll be able to spend a week in the Red Light One, and still have caps left over."
Cedrig hefted his axe. That horrible smell was in the air, the smell from the burning-air. A gun would light up the cramped confines of the tunnel and roast Cedrig alive. He didn't want that. He had a brother to save.
Cedrig trudged through the muck of the tunnel when suddenly he picked his head up. He heard voices. Someone was talking about putting guns away. There was someone up ahead. Cedrig had reason to believe that these voices he heard were those of the men who had his brother. Those dirty scumbags. Cedrig was never good with accents, and he certainly couldn't place these ones. They didn't have the vocal qualities that Wild raiders typically shared, so they must have been from somewhere else. They weren't Deadskullz, because those dishonorable roadies never left their bikes, especially not to enter tunnels, where they might have to fight man to man with a real warrior. Cedrig spit, an involuntary action that he performed whenever he thought about those yellow-livered rats.
A door was up ahead, and Cedrig was certain that these men with the untraceable voices were behind it. He grunted, hefted his axe, and, with a loud battle cry, charged and barreled through the door into the tunnel beyond. He had guessed correctly. They were in here. Their dress placed them as outlanders, as not even the slaver mercenaries wore these types of clothes that he saw. "Outlanders!" he roared. "You have stolen the body of..." Here his eyes fell on Gerti. His voice dropped and his shoulders fell slightly. He had hoped that he would be able to save a Viking brother, not this fool girl. "You have stolen from the Viking clan a Viking whelp! Prepare to meet your maker, mongrel dogs!" he barked, raising his fire axe towards who appeared to be the leader of the group, a tall man in a black coat.
Jacob ducked backwards as a large, heavily built man came crashing through a door up ahead. He bellowed about stealing a Viking whelp, who Jacob guessed was Gerti, and then charged, axe ready. Jacob ducked, feeling the wind of the passing axe above his head. He stepped up, swiping his Bowie at the incoming Viking's neck, missing as the Viking adjusted his stance and stepped back. Jacob stabbed at Cedrig again, missing again as Cedrig stepped back and swung the haft of his axe around, catching the back of Jacob's hand. Jacob grunted as he felt the impact through his gauntlet. He sheathed his knife as he spun on his heel and struck out with a backhand. The Viking blocked the attack and locked Jacob's wrist. Jacob kicked into the Viking's knee and punched the back of his hand, freeing himself from his grip. Cedrig swung his axe again, Jacob blocked at the haft, taking the hit on his armoured bracer, jarring his elbow. The man didn't bother pulling back. He stepped through and slammed the butt of his axe into Jacob's gut. Jacob stepped back. This Raider was younger than him. Ten years younger, ten years sharper. Jacob avoided another axe-swing and stepped back towards the Raider, delivering his first proper strike of the fight. A quick jab to Cedrig's head, knocking the Raider off-balance. Jacob followed with a knee to the Viking's flank and a straight forearm shot to Cegrig's chest. His follow-up body blow missed as Cedrig jumped back out of his reach. Jacob winced as he overextended his damaged left lateral muscle. The old war-wound shot spikes of sharp pain up and down Jacob's back as the Warrior Weapon eased into a fighting stance, facing the Viking Raider head-on.
"Come get some," Jacob said, watching Cedrig's eyes in the darkness. A man couldn't properly control his eyes. They were always the giveaway. Jacob dodged an attack, nearly trampling Gerti as he backpedalled to avoid disembowelment. Before Cedrig had recovered, Jacob stepped in and struck his forearm against Cedrig's shoulder. As the impact loosened the Viking's grip on his axe, Jacob clenched his hand around the weapon and grabbed the Raider's head in his other hand. Jacob slammed Cedrig's face against the wall of the tunnel and pulled the Viking Raider's axe from his grip. Jacob tossed the axe down the tunnel, hearing it rattle as it bounced from wall to wall to floor. Jacob clenched his fist around a handfull of Cedrig's hair and dragged him headfirst into the opposite tunnel wall. Cedrig struck back with his elbow, catching Jacob's neck with the hit. Jacob coughed and let go, cuffing Cedrig across the jaw before he could press the advantage.
Before Cedrig could fully recover, Jacob, still trying to catch his breath, weighed back in, not letting up on the younger Raider. He hook-punched Cedrig and threw another cross-punch for the Raider's head. Cedrig ducked and blocked the attack. He pushed Jacob's arm up and threw a series of quick uppercuts into Jacob's back and side, just above his kidneys, straight into his calcified lat. Jacob grunted as his whole chest and back tightened with pain. Jacob stepped away, holding his left arm in close to soother his pained body. Jacob palm-struck Cedrig's face as he stepped back in. Cedrig staggered away, blood leaking from a split lip as he and Jacob squared up again. Cedrig charged Jacob again, blocking away Jacob's punches as he endeavoured to grapple. He pinned one of Jacob's arms, but before he could complete the hold, Jacob had reversed it and locked his elbow, forcing Cedrig up onto his toes. Jacob punched Cedrig's chest, gut and face as he held him up in this position, but had to let go with the pain in his straining lateral muscle.
Cedrig kicked on instinct, intercepting Jacob's own kick and staggering the big man in black. The two, now forced in close again, returned to grapples. Cedrig forced Jacob's hands upwards, but Jacob forced both of Cedrig's hands out to the side and cartwheeled them around into his own hold. Cedrig pulled his arms back and trapped Jacob's in another grip. The two freed a single hand and punched eah other in the face at the same time. Somehow, they both managed to keep a hold on the foe, and went back at each other like a pair of angry bulls. Cedrig punched into Jacob's stomach as Jacob gouged Cedrig's eyes, raking his fingers down across Cedrig's face. Jacob followed with a headbutt to Cedrig's face as he tried to pull away from the brutal attack. Cedrig lunged forward, grabing Jacob's head and planting a set of knee-striked on Jacob's gut before Jacob caught Cedrig by the belt and under the arm, redirected his force and slammed him face-first into the tunnel wall. They staggered away from each other, locking eyes again as they both prepared for the next attack salvo.
In a heartbeat, Deek was up alongside Jacob. Flexing his arms and cracking his neck for the combat ahead, the ex-Black Ops soldier dropped into a low fighting stance, gesturing to Roland and the others to fall back.
"Come on then, they're buying us some time. Might as well not waste it standing here gawping." The merchant-cyborg said, leading his tiny cadre of sailors off down the tunnel again. He strode purposefully ahead, ducking occasionally to avoid a low-hanging obstacle and guiding the Brahmin by its leads where such an action was needed. Turning on a Mag-Lite hanging from his belt and shining it down the old rusty pipe, the merchant scanned left and right for any sign of bad guys ahead. This was met by the hiss of a Wendigo at one particular point, but was hushed just as quickly by a heavy-handed blow to the skull from the club-like Mag-lite and a followup backhanded strike which sent it sprawling. The merchant jammed a hatchet-blade into its skull several times, splattering gore across his chest, until all that remained of the Wendigo's cranium was a puddle of pink mush.
Continuing on down the corridor, Roland ignored the odd echoes and forged ahead, hoping he wouldn't be taken by surprise at the end of his journey- be it by raiders, more Wendigo, or the creepy fucker that he'd abandoned at the townhouse.
Alysha Stearns moved up the stalled escilator in the lobby of the bombed out skyscraper. If she didn't act fast, Sibley would be a dead man, or worse. The possibilty as very high that he would be dragged to the Dome and killed for the pleasure of the Top Dog. Nordstrom didn't need the swollen ego of slaying the "Banshee." Sibley, however, wasn't the Banshee they all knew. Now they knew he was a man. She wondered briefly if they would still hold the same fear of her. She perched silently in a window, resting The Howl on the ledge. Two Viking sentries stood outside the door of the building across Midroad. She could hear the Vikings inside roaring. Calmly, she breathed as the sight settled on the head of the first Viking. Gently, she squeezed the trigger, watching with grim satisfaction as the man's head was thrown back, tossing a splatter of blood against the wall behind him. The second turned his head, just registering the shot as a second bullet passed through his temple. Stearns backed from the window and proceeded back down the escilator. Emerging into the street, she watched the jaw of another Viking drop as the wind whipped her crimson cape in a dark flow behind her. Before he could react, he was spasmatically clutching his throat. Her Silenced 10mm having done it's work. The man silently dropped to his knees as she entered the main building of Midroad.
Drawing her combat knife, she advanced down the main corridor to the back lobby. The dark rooms opened up to thirty screaming Vikings and Sibley tied to a marble pillar. She grabbed the rearmost Viking by the head from behind, effortlessly sliding the knife across his throat. His falling body knocked into another Viking, who turned horrified to recieve a flick of a knife across his throat as well. The make gurgled a replied as he sagged and two more Vikings turned. Chaos began as Stearns revved her Ripper. The Banshee was among them! Stearns sliced through two more Vikings as several scattered toward the exits. A few stayed to fight. Stearns spun, landing a heavy kick into the face of a Viking, flooring him. She stomped down hard, her power armored boot destroying his head as she simultaneously gutted a second man with her Ripper. Flinging her knife into the eye socket of the last remaining Viking, she set about freeing Sibley as the screams outside intensifiied. She could hear bells ringing as the "citizens" of Midroad sounded the alarm. Hastily helping the injured Head Paladin back into his Power Armor, after injecting him with a Stimpak, and pausing only to retrieve his Colt Revolver from a slain Viking, Stearns dragged the limping Sibley out a back exit, down a street, through an alleyway, and back into the night.
Gerti looked on at the battle, hoping that Cedrig would not lose but at the same time hoping the monster Jacob escaped, he had offered to save her family and she knew Munti would dearly like to leave.As for Gerti herself, there was something she had to know before she could take up Jacob's offer and she might never get the chance if he killed Cedrig. The raider girl knew better than to interfere with Cedrig's battle, in the off chance that she did manage to be of actual help, he would be humiliated. So she instead shoved at Deek, hoping to keep him out of the fight before he got in it properly.
"No, this is a bout of honor. Can't let you shame your friend."
"Bout of honor-" Deek's head briefly tilted off to the side, his featureless gasmask skewing slightly to the right side of his face before his muffled voice spoke again. "Girlie," he half-shouted from behind the mask in an intensely muffled mumble, "there ain't no such thing as a 'bout of honor' no more. It's kill'r be killed."
An awkward second passed between the sun-tanned, radiation suit-equipped spy and the little raider girl, before Deek gave an aggravated growling half-sigh. Stepping away from the little group, he leaned back against a curve in the tunnel wall, scowling daggers at Gerti. One hand hovered over one of his Equalizers at all times, the other hand merely perched alongside his head, over his right ear, as if he was communicating with someone via an in-ear transmitter. Of course he wasn't, but old habits- especially ones hardwired into your brain for forty years- die extremely, extremely hard.
Alan Schezar's SVT-40 shook as he watched the female Knight amazingly infiltrate the building her Brother was in, and after many screams and gunshots, successfully exit the raider hut with her rescued comrade along her side. He had been sitting inside of an abandoned Sewing Factory for some time now, trying desperately to gain the courage to go and save the good-hearted Brother of Steel, yet failing each second. Even now, after so many travels and challenges, he still could not be the hero. The act of storming the village and saving the Knight would have not only gained their trust, but their respect as well, and that was something he wanted, very much. The two Knights dissipated into the night, leaving a village of enraged Viking raiders for Alan to try and get past. He pulled his rife back from the window, holding it close to his chest, and rested against the decaying factory wall. His father used to tell him that being the hero, no matter what the cost, was the ultimate goal in any man's life. And as Alan had seen today, he is not that man. An alarm wailed outside, gathering the attention of all the residents of Midroad, and probably the surrounding villages as well. He thought about it for a bit, the Israeli traveler could just hide out in this factory until all the commotion died down, but that would result in him loosing the track of the two Knights, leaving him stranded in this hellhole of a city. So now the poor Outlander came to a crossroads: try and get past the raider town, running the risk of getting captured without any valorous rescue or sit in this rotting building and wait out the alarm, but inevitably trapping him in this raider-controlled part of town. Alan sighed, he was never good at making big decisions, and this was defiantly one. A few moments passed while Alan gathered up all of his remaining courage, prayed a little, and stood up. He was ready, he was going to get through that town and reconcile with his Knight friends (If he could really call them friends was an over-exaggeration.) He took one big breath and turned around. In no more than a half-second, Alan was unconscious. Something, or someone, had knocked him out cold.
Lazlo looked at the limp body at his feet, bleeding from a wound on the head. The body was that of Alan Schezar, the Outlander he and his gang had been chasing for some time now. It was tempting now, the foolish Outlander at his feet, so easily undefended. No Banshees were here to protect him now, Lazlo could murder this son of a bitch right here and now. But that would not happen, for this poor sap had a purpose to fill, he was bait. "Tie 'em up boys, and get your Viking gear on, we're a' gettin' through." Vic and Murk, both of them still a little iffy about the whole plan, reluctently put on Viking armor and clothing they had gotten off of the Banshee's kills. To get through Milroad, they had to dress the part, even if that meant posing as their most hated rivals. Nonetheless, they would get through unscathed, using the unconscious Outlander as an excuse to get through. Vic shamefully threw off his Hockey Mask, replacing it with a bloody catcher's mask. "Well boss, these Banshees better be leadin' us to something good now, Headman's gonna be pissed if we come on back with nothin' but four dead Wild and this piece of shit." He ended the rant pointing a thumb at Alan, who was dreaming of green fields. Lazlo nodded, spitting on the Outlander, "This'll be big Vic, don't you worry, this little fuck is our key to the top man, just stick with the plan." Murk and Vic nodded, knowing that Lazlo knew right at least most of the time, and finished tying up the Outlander. "C'mon men, let's get this done. Pick him up." Lazlo exclaimed after grabbing on of Alan's arms. And with that, the three Wildmen went on to carry the unconscious Alan Schezar through the Viking town of Midroad.
Raziel ran with Roland and his sailors, hating himself for leaving Deek behind with that Viking. He never liked to be separated with his aging friend, especially not in places like this. But with both Deek and the other Enclave product, that savage didn't stand a chance. At least he hoped it went that way, as he would hate to be stuck here with these sea-faring merchants. Just the thought of that made the ancient mutant reconsider his choice, making him double back towards where his elderly comrade fought, and hopefully was winning. Deek was the closest thing Raziel had to a friend anyway, and that meant some sort of trust had to be involved. And leaving a friend in a fight was not his definition of trust. Just to be safe, encase that Viking had somehow killed the two Enclave deserters, Raziel stuck his blades into the wall and started to crawl across the ceiling, sorrowfully reminding him of his previous home.
Alysha Stearns laid the Head Paladin down with a heavy groan. Despite her fighting prowess, she couldn't hold him up forever. He was a good four inches taller and about 80 pounds heavier than she was, after all. The sound of Viking Raiders roared again, but seemed to be localized in town. Hefting Sibley up, she listened to him groan. His head lolled to one side. He was slipping in and out of conciousness. Sibley was goning to be of no help in a firefight, so Stearns figured she'd have to hide his body as best she could, then hope he survived long enough for her to run the Vikings back to Midroad. She layed him in a closet and closed the door, leaving his revolver loaded in his hand. She removed her helmet briefly to give him a kiss, then closed the door. Her closest safehouse was back where they'd come from, on the other side of Midroad. The frenzy the Vikings were in meant she wouldn't get that far. Plus, she had to worry about her lover, who was laying in a near coma in the closet. She liked working alone. She grabbed The Howl and headed to a window looking out across Midroad. Peering through the scope, she had to take a second look. The Vikings had a new captive. It was the Outlander that she and Sibley had encountered a few days earlier. They took the Outlander by a rope into the town. She observed them, trying to figure out what they were doing with him. Despite all the commotion, they were allowed passage without a hitch. She knew something bad awaited the outlander. The Inquisitor in her said to let it go. The heroine told her to help. Reluctantly, she listened to the heroine. She was going to head back to Sibley and track their movements. When the time was right, and hopefully not too late, they'd liberate the outlander.
Sibley woke to a throbbing pain in his head. His vision swam in and out of focus. He gripped the cold steel of the Colt Army Revolver and attempted to stand up in the dark. The world spun quickly as the ground rose to meet him. He pushed himself onto his side and vomited, a mix of blood and bile. He vaguely remembered Stearns walking him from the Viking town. Now he had to get his bearings as walls enclosed him on all sides. He could hear muffled shouts and screams. Now, though, his body simply didn't want to act. He slumped against the wall, straightening his vision.
Jacob and Cedrig squared up again. Jacob knew it was ridiculous taking someone on after giving him ten years youth advantage. He'd have to finish this quickly. Leave this Raider spitting up blood on the ground. If it dragged out, Jacob's chances of getting out of this under his own steam would rapidly get smaller and smaller. Before Cedrig knew what was going on, Jacob had stepped, twisted and kicked, his whole body moving as one unit, his armoured boot sending Cedrig reeling, staggering ever-further backwards, arms windmilling to regain his balance under the force of that canonball-like impact. He caught a hold of the tunnel wall to steady himself, barely blocking a punch. He reversed the strike and punched into Jacob's armpit, catching the nerve cluster and numbing Jacob's arm. Jacob feebly grabbed Cedrig's jacket with that hand and planted a headbutt right on the bridge of Cedrig's nose, damn-near knocking him out. Jacob clenched his hand on Cedrig's neck, slamming the Viking's head backwards against the tunnel wall, Jacob shifted his grip as Cedrig shuffled ineffectually away from him. Jacob's hand, now on the back of Cedrig's neck, tightened as Jacob doubled the Viking over and landed the point of his elbow on Cedrig's kidney. That done, he lifted his knee upwards into Cedrig's gut and ribs, forcing him back down the tunnel under a constant salvo of knee-kicks.
Cedrig set his stance. He forced his back leg ram-rod straight and pushed back against Jacob's incoming bulk, stopping the black-clad Warrior Weapon in his tracks. With an unintelligible battle-cry, Cedrig somehow summoned the strength not only to barge Jacob backwards in a gore-tackle, but lifted him from the ground and barged him against the wall, finishing off by throwing Jacob back down the tunnel. Jacob blinked, shaking his head to clear it from that sudden attack. He sat up, and then rflattened himself to the ground again as Cedrig charged towards him, apparently with the intention of trampling the massive soldier. Jacob kicked into Cedrig's knee as he charged, taking him to the ground. Forcing Cedrig face-first into the ground, clenching a fistful of the Viking's hair and punching the side of his head. Cedrig, a similarly experienced fighter, turned and rolled constantly, preventing Jacob getting a decent hold and a proper pin. Cardig finally got a decent position and punched Jacob in the groin, stopping Jacob's next punch dead in it's tracks as Jacob recoiled and shuffled back, doubled over. Jacob and Cedrig separated again, like a pair of bulls preparing for another charge. They locked eyes once more, and moved. Cedrig threw a savage cross-punch, as Jacob spun on his heel, swinging his elbow up. Cedrig's attack skimmed the tops of Jacob's shoulders as Jacob's own spinning back-elbow connected brutally with Cedrig's jaw, cracking his head back and knocking off the lights. Jacob staggered away, his head still groggy from the fight, his body aching. He leaned on the wall, chest heaving as he sucked in great gulps of freezing Polis air as Cedrig lay in a nondescript heap. Jacob spat out a moutful of blood from his burst lip and cut cheek.
"Lets go Deek. We might want to catch up with the rest of the crew. Come on Gerti, lets get you the hell out of this shithole," Jacob said, limping, staggering, leaning on the wall again and them shuffling onwards as his body started to cut off his adrenaline supplies. Getting in fights hurt.
"Yep." Deek said simply. To be honest he was slightly in awe of the just-barely-younger-than-him Vaughton, who had somehow managed to (barely) win the fight laid out before him. Curling a shining metal arm under Vaughton's shoulders and supporting the Warrior Weapon's bulk against his own, the soldiers made their way off down the tunnel.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!" Roland cursed, kicking the grate in front of him. Noting that the grate was locked shut and his butane torch finger had long since run out of charge, the merchant continued his cursing streak before a well-placed kick incedentally smashed the door in, throwing it into a crowd of wendigo- at least twenty- on the other side, gathering around a steaming pile of gore that may have once been a very large animal or several small men.
Not even wasting time getting underway, Roland grabbed the scraggly hairs on two Wendigos' heads and smashed their skulls together, breaking one's face in several places and knocking the other one's lights out. Throwing his hatchet through the little crowd, he caught one Wendigo's arm and another's torso before knocking the third one flat, the hatchet blade locked firmly in its forehead. Drawing his Austin Toothpick (a satiric reference to the Arkansas Toothpick), the merchant started hacking and whacking and smacking through the knot of Wendigos to the chorus of throaty hisses and spraying arterial fluid. When he came out the other end of the skirmish, Roland's arms and torso were covered in scratches, bruises and bite marks, and he was panting hard, but otherwise fine.
It wasn't a great help that she wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but Gerti was also at a loss. She kind of wanted to leave, or at least wanted certain people close to her to leave. These outsiders represented a good chance of making that happen, especially if they could beat Cedrig.
"I can't leave this man. I know him, and he knows something I have to know. But ah...We, we can make a deal. You don't hurt this one anymore, and you get my sister and my brothers out and I will help you. I know many hidden things here."
She held her arms akimbo and did her best to look tough.
Jacob was at a bit of a loss. Was Gerti barring his way? And sounded like she was volunteering to stay behind and take whatever flak there was going for Jacob getting her sister and friends and brothers out. As long as he didn't hurt this Viking Raider any more. That was odd. Especially seeing as how Raiders weren't exactly the best parents. Jacob stopped for a second, nodding to Deek that he was ok, that he could stand by himself. She wanted information from this big Raider? Jacob could get information from him. Jacob could make this Raider sing the chorus line from a Broadway Musical if he was given enough time. Jacob turned around, walking over to Cedrig's prone form, taking a hold of his ankle. He dragged the massive Viking along as himself, Deek and Gerti made their way towards the sound of more screaming Wendigos. Jacob already hated those things. He could really see himself becoming a grumpy old man.
"What exactly is it that you want from this big oaf of a man anyway Gerti?" Jacob asked, casting an eye in Gerti's direction as she tried to hold Cedrig's head up and stop it from bouncing along the rocks and scrap metal justting from the tunnel floor. "Once you get whatever it is you want from him, you can get out of here too with your sister and brothers, you know? I know a place Southwest of here, lots of strong people. They'll keep those Vikings the hell away. Or I could take you all back to where I come from. Could set you up in a place called Rivet City. Or an old Safehouse of mine. Place is like a fortress. No Raiders, no Viking, no Wild, no nothing would bother you ever again with me guarding you. And if you want Cedrig here to talk, I can arrange that."
"That man is no oaf, that man is Cedrig Steelbeard, and what I need to know is between him an' me. And I do want you to get my sister and brothers out, I do. But there are so many of us here, and things will be the worse for 'em if me and my sister are gone."
She paused for a moment to look and listen. She had spoken more today than she had in most of the previous week and she wasn't comfortable with making so much noise.
"I can find you again, help you out, so you can get my kin away from here. But unless you're gonna kill every last Wildman, slaver, flayer, and wendigo, and march some thousands of kids safely across the wastes, I can't let you destroy the Vikings. And I can't leave Polis."
"Kid," Deek grunted, "Between me and Jacob, after what we've been through, both inside and outside the Enclave, I think we can handle leading some riled-up Raider brats on a cross-country tour to River City, or whatever the hell it's called." The soldier pulled out his Equalizer and casually pointed it one-handed towards Cedrig, feinting firing at the Viking's head before lowering it relaxedly to his side. He turned around towards the far end of the tunnel then, hearing the sound of Wendigo slowly die away.
"Looks like either your merchant friend handled all of those maggot-sacks," The ex-special operations soldier grunted towards Jacob, "or he's buzzard chow. Either way, let's go. Don't wanna spend no more time'n necessary in here."
Inquisitor Stearns stalked the alleyway, keeping an eye on the Raiders as they made their way away from the rumble and grumble of Midroad, carrying the limp form of Alan Schezar, the outlander she'd encountered days before. She remembered exactly where she'd left Sibley, now she was out to recover the outlander. Something about these Vikings didn't quite sit right. They were moving away from the Dome, toward the outskirts of downtown. Ahead was the crumbled remains of the Central Street Bridge. The span long since decayed, was the site of the tiny Viking settlement of Water's Edge. Covered by the reach of one end of the collapsed span, the settlement was tucked snugly away from the sky and covered from the guns and grenades of the Wildmen on the far side of the Mississippi. The Vikings also were slightly smaller than normal. Still muscular, but with a lean shape. The gazed all around, as if they knew they wre being watched. Vikings usually weren't this paranoid deep within their own turf. Stearns decided it was time to start usuing their paranoia against them. Adjusting the voice amplifier on her helmet, she let go a low wail that carried across the wind and echoed through the alleyway.
Sibley shook his head as he listened to the eerie sound to the north. Staggering cautiously through the streets, clutching his Colt Army Revolver, he managed to keep a low profile moving against the lfew lights of the streets. Heading toward the noise, it was the hope of finding Inquisitor Stearns that drove him. He knew, however, that right now he was alone and would have to be extremely careful to not get ensnared in another Viking trap. Following the wail, Sibley trudged northward.
Flippa smiled as he laid his eyes on the Wild lodgehouse. The former grocery store would once again provide food to a "customer." Flippa noted the red and green around the door, identifying it as a Wild raider gang. He motioned with his hand as silently, a dozen ragged figures crept toward the doors of the lodge. Silent as the wind at night, the lone sentry was dragged to ground, gurgling blood in his throat as the doors to the store were quietl slid open.
Jeanette Bergron screamed in fury at the sight before her. In the Headman's box at The Center, two Wildmen supported the still living, but skin-lacking body of a lone Wild Raider. He was missing one eye, both ears, and most of his fingers, one arm, and his nose were grotesquely broken. He spat blood and struggled to speak. Behind him, as thick trail of blood and flesh. Despite her rage at the mutilation of her kin, she was amazed he hadn't bled out on the trip back. "What happened?" she demanded of the two Wildmen. Her voice was a cruel hiss. "We found him near the Washington Street Bridge," the first man said. "He can't talk nomore," said the second, "he told us that... the Flayer did it." Jeanette's features contorted into a sneer. "Flippa?" she hissed. "Flippa is in Viking territory. He hasn't been through here in months, not with Housley's bounty covering him." The two Wildmen looked nervously at each other. Mustering his strength, the wounded man spoke. "H-h-h-he, sent me back to send a message. He t-t-t-told me that Wildmen hurt his kin, now he's gonna inflict hurt on us," he gasped before spitting more blood. Jeanette waved her hand, signalling the two Wildmen to take their wounded comrade to the infirmary. It was doubtful he'd recover. Jeanette plopped down heavily on a leathery couch, made from tough mudcat hide. "Send word to my Sheriffs, I need to know who did what to Flippa."
"F-Fucking shit Lazlo, d-d-did you just fuckin' hear that!?" Murk's voice was a low whisper, only allowing his two comrades to hear it. He had heard a demonic wail, one that unknowingly came from a certain Alysha Stearns, a woman more commonly know as 'The Banshee'. Of course, Lazlo and his misfit gang of Wildmen were oblivious to this. "Shhh! Shut th' hell Murk, you're actin' like a goddamn pussy man!" replied Vic, who's shaky voice contradicted his previous statement of courage. Truly, all three of the imposer Vikings had heard the deathly noise, but only Lazlo knew what it meant. Banshees'. He had heard that high-pitched wail before, on a patrol with his late companion, Flick. That was only minutes before his first encounter with the Banshee. The two raiders had survived that first encounter due to blind luck, although poor Flick was killed later that week by the unconscious shithead Outlander he and his gang were carrying. Lazlo raised a fist, signaling 'Stop' to his remaining loyal retainers. The sound had come from behind them, probably from the back of the alley. He had to think fast, or he, and his comrades, would carry similar fates as of ol' Bingo and Tiny. Now why would the Banshee waste it's time on three ragged-looking raiders carrying some pathetic Outlander? Was this little fucker allied with the armored demons? No, he couldn't be, could he? Lazlo's thoughts were shattered by Murk, who dropped Alan Schezar's legs and pointed to the front of the alley. "Fuck! Look!" Lazlo followed his finger to a dark figure that had just stumbled into the moonlight shining on that side of the alleyway. The silver armor was gleaming. Vic doubled back to see another shining Banshee at the opposite end of the alley, "Damnit, another one!" he yelled, struggling to pull out his 10mm Pistol. Lazlo had no more than a millisecond to think before they were shredded, it was lucky that he happened to be looking in the direction of a hole in the apartment building right of them. "There," he pointed to the dark entryway into the ruined structure, "GO!" He fired his SMG at the Banshee behind him, Alysha Stearns. Vic turned and fired 3 pot shots at the other one, the unaware Lucas Sibley. The two Banshees opened up on the Wildmen, hitting big Murk in the hip and skimming sleeping Alan's head by inches. The three ran into the building, curiously still holding the limp Alan Schezar, who was still dreaming. The halls of this building were pitch black, covered in cobwebs and skeletons, it's walls blackened from ash. Lazlo looked back, the moonlit hole grew farther and farther away.
Alan Schezar dreampt once again. Angie. The green flowers blow so graciously in the wind as the Strawberry Fields are Forever. Nothing is real. He goes to the field and lives with the bees, you know it's all wrong, but as I think I disagree. There's nothing to get hung about. The lone oak tree calls to me as I call to it, for it is me and I am it. Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls and you answer quite slowly, a girl with kaleidoscope eyes! Moon-like flowers of yellow and green, towering over you're hair. Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes and she's gone. It's Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds! Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain, where rocking horse people eat marshmallow skies and everybody smiles as you drift past the flowers that grow so incredibly high. I'm sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the man to come. I am heres, you are heres, you are me and we are all together! Crobblock-a-fishwife, pornographic priestess, boy you've been a naughty girl, you've let you're kickers down! You are the Walrus. Sitting in the nameless garden, waiting for the sun, but if the sun don't come just sit in the English threads. Of course the Joker laughs at you. You are the eggman. Coo-Coo-Cachoo. And Across the Universe we go! Words are flowing out like rain into a paper cup. Words of open joy are growing in your restless mind, processing and caressing me until the end of the past. Nothing's gonna change my world. Alan Schezar drifted slowly as he dreamed.
The moon was full and Raziel was killing. Just like old times. The burnt mutant dropped down from the 200-year old tunnel ceiling, bringing a shower of old dust and dirt with him. The one Wendingo below him, a very unlucky fellow, met his demise from a blade to the back of the neck. It squirmed for a moment, twitching from it's severed spinal cord, and then it was still. Dead. Roland had just finished bashing through a good deal of the gray creatures, using a very disturbing blade that brought up a dark time in the ancient Austinite's life. He could only guess where Roland had acquired it. Ignoring the vile weapon, Raziel pivoted on a leathery heel and bashed a smaller Wendingo's jaw into it's neck, breaking many teeth and tendons. It squealed for a second, relapsing from the pain, and then threw an arm at the blade-wielding mummy. Raziel ducked and kicked it's legs out from under it, sending it sprawling to the cold concrete floor. Just as he was going in for the kill, another one mounted the eldest Ramsey on the back, clawing and scratching at his neck and face. Raziel jammed his elbow, which had at least 5 inches of blade proceeding from it, into the creatures lower stomach. Blood spilled onto his protective wrapping, coloring it a dark, crimson hue. The other Wendingo, the one whose face was smashed inward, was attempting to muster itself back up. One single stab to the lower neck finished the creature, letting out a deflating moan of death. From behind him the second Wendingo gripped a wound on it's stomach which, to Raziel's delight, was bleeding profusely. He walked over to the dying creature and smiled under his bloodied wrapping, knowing that he would be the last sight this thing would ever see. Just like old times.
It's screams were never heard.
Gerti nearly leaped at Deek when he pointed his weapon at the prone Cedrig. She had now lumped him in with the monsters like the Banshee and Bug-Eyes, those who couldn't be trusted. Jacob at least, seemed decent for an outsider, worth gambling on at any rate.
"I know Polis like you never could, like few ever could. If we have a deal, get going. I can you later, I'll show you what everyone in this land wants, even those who don't quite know it yet."
Sibley's vision straightened as he felt three 10 mm rounds ping off his armor and realized what had just happened. He was being shot at. He shook off the clouds during the sudden onslaught and began firing his Colt Army Revolver. The .45 caliber rounds made a heavy and distinctive crack in the cool night air as his targets quickly ducked into a nearby building. Stearns levelled The Howl and fired twice, one shot clipping the big Raider in the hip, before ducking clear of a hail of 10 mm rounds from a submachine gun. She peeked around the corner, then bolted to the low window, seeing a clear blood trail heading indoors. She could still hear the faint, but clearly frantic voices in the darkness, searching for escape. She looked up at Sibley, who trudged to her heavily, shaking his head. "You surprise me, Head Paladin, I left you safely in a closet. I would've come back for you," she said. "Save it, Alysha," Sibley said, clearly still rattling inside his helmet, "what the fuck are we chasing?" Stearns looked at Sibley, "The Outlander," she said. Sibley nodded drunkenly, "Alright," he said, "and these Viking Raider fucks have him?" Stearns shook her head, "I don't think their Vikings," she said, "but we have to move fast. This way." She plunged into another door of darkness. Sibley shook his head, "God damn it," was all he muttered before heading in after them.
Flippa smiled at the scene around him. The delicacies, the smell of freshly butchered meat. He stared blankly at a head, stuck unceremoniously through a pike. It's mouth was gaping open and all of the muscles and bones of it's face were clearly visible. Ragged chunks of green and red hair were all that remained of it's outer appearance. Looking up, he saw two of his Flayers mounting a crucified corpse on a wrought iron post from the top of the former grocery store. A proper sacrifice of meat to any deity willing to accept. The gods needed food too, after all. The scene was much of the same across the former Wild clubhouse, though, most of the bodies were stripped of the choicest pieces of flesh. Still, the warning would carry of Flippa's Flayers, and the swathe they were cutting across the Polis landscape. Flippa motioned to his gang of psychopaths. They knew what it meant. They were going back underground, back to the place they called home. There they would wait, until the time came to go out again. It would be a long and bloody journey back across Polis. And who knows who they would encounter back along the way...
"What everyone wants? What kind of leverage does that get us with getting your friends out of this place?" Jacob asked, his interest piqued. He scratched his chin, letting Cedrig drop from his grip for a second. He rubbed his face, tired now. Getting old. He raised an eyebrow and waited for Gerti to respond. He looked around the tunnels, listening carefully, in case anything that shouldn't hear was listening in. The way Gerti had put it, it was some prize to have. Jacob shuffled towards where the screaming had come from, hauling Cedrig along as he went. "Talk while we walk Gerti."
Jacob, Gerti and Deek all shambled along, a dejected-looking band of misfits dragging the still-unconscious form of Cedrig Steelbeard, a monstrous Viking. This would not look good if they came across a Viking sweep team. There was a godawful clunk as they crossed a makeshift doorway, and a gasp from Gerti as Cedrig's head bumped on it. There was a grunt, a mumble and a sudden shout. The dunt on the head had awoken Cedrig.
"Hold him!" Jacob shouted as he dived on Cedrig, essentially belly-flopping the Viking to the ground as Deek dogpiled in on Cedrig's legs. Jacob covered Cedrig's mouth in case he tried to call for backup. He felt the big Viking trying to bite through his gauntlet. Unbelievably, Cedrig still had some fight in him!
"The big metal wheel with the cipher on it," Gerti said, scratching 46 on a nearby wall with her spear.
"Stories tell of treasure behind the wheel, lots of people have been looking for it and I found it. Munti told me to keep it between us, in case we had nothing else to win the Top Dog's favor. But I'll take you there if you swear to get her and my brothers out."
Gerti walked along with them dejectedly, when Cedrig woke up and started wrestling she got really confused. This wasn't a problem she could solve by punching, or was it?
Act VI Edit
Roland wiped the blood from his machete and returned it to his belt, brushing an errant piece of Wendigo flesh from the breast of his duster. Adjusting his baseball cap a bit to make sure it stayed on his head, the merchant mercenary headed off back down the tunnel just as things began getting crazy. He rounded a kink in the tunnel just as Gerti began her explanation of the mysterious reward.
"Metal... Wheel...?" Roland scratched his head thoughtfully, running a finger lightly across the big pink scar on his forehead. Did I hear that right? He thought to himself, cocking his head to the right slightly. He looked at the scratched number on the wall. Forty... Six? He thought back to the hazy days of his youth in the Vault in Fall River, checking the data mainframe and researching the limited available information about the other vaults.
"Vault Forty-Six!" Roland suddenly shouted.
Cedrig groaned. His head hurt like hell. In fact, his entire body hurt like hell, from the soles of his feet to his chest cavity and even all the way out to the very ends of his scraggly matted beard. Cedrig hadn't been in this much pain since that time that his crew got into a brawl while quelling a Wolfpack riot. Those little fuckers can sneak up on you, and desperate men hit pretty hard.
Cedrig snapped back to the task at hand, and suddenly he remembered why he hurt so. That damn Outlander! That tall man hit hard! Cedrig roared and tried to get up. He would have succeeded, too, except for the fact that his muscles refused to comply with the directives that his brain was laying down. That wasn't good. And now these foreign forms were pressing down on him. One of them made the mistake of putting his hand over Cedrig's mouth, to which Cedrig replied by biting down, hard. The outlander withdrew his hand. Cedrig strained against his captors and his own colossal fatigue, but to no avail. He gargled and spat.
"Fuck you, outlander!" he grunted around the spittle that filled his mouth. "Fuck you and all of your ancestors! May they rot forever and look down upon you with shame as you go and fornicate with mudcats!" Cedrig exhaled and went to speak again, but only managed to grumble something unintelligible before he started hacking and coughing up the remains of his last meal.
"Augh, god!" Deek grunted, retracting his bitten arm. He couldn't believe the Viking had actually attempted to bite his steel hand. "Someone get this man a stimpack and about a gallon of elephant tranquilizers!" Bearing down his full weight on Cedrig's legs, the old man bucked and rolled with the bigger man's mighty kicks and lunges, keeping him pinned down.
"Hey now, no need for that kind of language, sir." Roland said to Cedrig, kneeling down at the big Viking leader's side. Withdrawing a stimpak from his duster, the mercenary pinned one of the raider boss's arms down with his own prosthesis. Plunging the needle into a pulsing artery on the boss' forearm, the merchant injected the contents of the stimpak before tossing the empty syringe away down the tunnel, where it broke with a satisfying clack. He finished by placing a Band-Aid over the big guy's new hole in the arm, then stood up and turned towards Jacob again.
"That fight made a lot of noise down here; no doubt the gears of war are grinding on the surface again. We should probably get going." The merchant shrugged. "Or we can just stand here with the big, irate, adrenaline-fuelled Viking for another twenty minutes, your choice."
Inquisitor Stearns adjusted the vision sensors in her helmet to compensate for the musty night time darkness inside the ruins of the large shattered building. She moved quickly and quietly through the hallways. She was tracking. Like so many times before. Listening to footsteps, voices, the frantic sounds coming through the holes in the floor. She made sure to step lightly to avoid plunging through a hole and leaving herself vulnerable to attack, not to mention to strong possibility and likelihood of bodily injury. Stearns quickly slung The Howl and drew her silenced 10mm. She turned back and nodded to Head Paladin Sibley, who was doing a much better job than he had before at being stealthy. He had lost his Combat Shotgun and now was only armed with his Colt Army Revolver. He held the gun at the ready with both hands as they moved around the building. Adjusting his helmet sights as well, Sibley, kept his eyes on the movements of Alysha Stearns. Stearns listened carefully. She could hear the voices one floor down. "Lazlo man, w-w-where the fuck are we?" one said. They were trying to be hushed, but stupid Raiders simply didn't know better. The same type of people outside would simply start yelling before they launched an attack. Stealth was not their strong point.
Stearns motioned to Sibley to take a staircase down. "The corridor to the right will lead you behind them, wait for me befor you start shooting," she whispered. Sibley simply nodded in acknowledgment and headed downstairs quietly. Stearns moved up the hall, heading past the blinking exit sign toward the staircase down. Listening closely in the stairwell, she could hear two things: The nervous steps and voices of the raiders, and the heavy armored footsteps of Lucas Sibley further behind them. He was adding a little bit to the trap. It actually impressed Stearns a bit. She could tell he was purposely walking heavily trying to herd the raiders to her. It was working. She peered around a corner into the darkness. She saw a cluster of shapes moving toward her. She stepped out, her silhouette in front of the dull red exit sign casting an imposing shadow in the hall. She saw the raiders stop suddenly, her enhanced vision picked out, though vaguely, the fear on their faces. She saw Sibley move into position behind them. They looked around in shock and confusion. "I will give you one chance to live," she said menacingly in the darkness, "release the Outlander and be on your way."
"J-just give it what it w-wants Lazlo, this ain't got the means for us to die over..." Vic's voice was older, and he really spoke the truth. He reminded Lazlo of his good friend Bingo, who's death was exacted by the armored legends in front of them. Along with Tiny. And Flick by the foolish Outlander the three Wildmen carried. Murk, behind Lazlo and Vic, was breathing heavily and panting out of fear and pain, due to the bullet in his hip. He was probably going to die as well. All because of the Outlander. The thing in front of him, Lazlo was not sure if person was correct wording, now wanted the little fuck back. Why? Why in the god-forsaken world would these heartless bastards, these demons, these banshees who have murdered so many of his brethren want to save the pathetic life of the damned Alan Schezar? And to try and bargain with Lazlo!? Although the brutish raider saw himself as a hero to the Wild, in truth the man was nothing more than a joke. A mockery. The other Wild hated him for his impulsive acts which would cause more trouble than they prevented. That was the reason he wanted to follow this annoying fool, to gain some damned respect and reconciliation for his sacrifices for The Wild. But not anymore, Lazlo was gonna go back to the Headman with empty palms and four, possibly five, dead Wild. He might as well get the deed done here, for the Headman would have Lazlo and Vic publicly hanged for this failure. After all, Lazlo always did want to go down in a blaze of glory. Vic saw the familiar gleam in Lazlo's eyes, a gleam that now, after all these years, would finally get him killed. "No, no Laz, don't!" A groan, that was all that was needed, from a waking burden proved to be a key. With an impulse, Keith "Lazlo" Harrison, son of Gregory, faced death with ecstasy. His SMG only fired twice at Alysha Stearns before the two Knights engulfed the three raiders with bullets. And, to the Banshee's dismay, innocent Alan Schezar as well.
Alan Schezar, whom had no idea of his location, finally woke to a sight that beckoned confusion. Lazlo and his band of misfits stood around him, and outside of them stood the two Brotherhood Knights. What was this? Were they here to rescue Alan? Or maybe hoping to do the deed themselves. After a prolonged silence, in which Lazlo was in deep thought, his companion next to him started to shake his head, "No, no Laz, don't-" That was about as far as he got, for the next second Lazlo was firing at the Banshee. At this point Alan had sat up and started truly wake up. Quite the fatal move, at least it seemed. Just as he realized the stupidity of this and as the Knights began to rain hell upon the raiders and the Israeli Outlander, Alan was pulled to the ground and felt a small pin prick in his shoulder, and then nothing. He heard nothing, felt nothing, tasted, smelled, saw nothing. Nothing. But, was he dead? His pulse was, his heart was, his skin was, but was he? In the eyes of the world, Alan Schezar was dead. For now.
From above the group, a raspy voice spoke, "I agree with the Merchant, more Wendingos are coming, and although I enjoy these tunnels, we should really leave." Raziel preformed a vaguely familiar, at least to Roland, drop from the ceiling of the tunnel, which he had been climbing on with his blades. At times, he wondered where he learned that skill, he could only guess it was the Encalve's work. To think he was almost one of those monstrosities. He received wayward glaces from the audience he just, literally, dropped into. His appearance was gruesome, most likely reminding Deek of the ancient mutant's old days in Area 51. He was nearly drenched in blood, most notably his blades, dark crimson in color. And to add onto it, the wrapping around his mouth was gone, revealing blackened lips and a bright red mouth, filled with those teeth, those accursed, pointed teeth. He skulked over beside Deek, who was giving his disturbed companion a concerned look. The group returned to their attention to Roland, whom they expected to have a plan. Raziel simply smiled, he was no longer hungry.
Roland's immediate reaction to the sound of Raziel coming across the cieling was to draw one of his Crusade Auto-Revolvers. The few days he had spent fighting in Austin during the Uprising had taught him to pick up the sounds of Biosoldiers skittering across girders, metal cielings, tile floors, etc. Another few weeks' total spent "vacationing" in Austin, helping to clear out the last few straggling remnants of Austin's maniac army had taught him better.
So he did just that.
Fwit went the thonged holster on the lining of his duster, and the pistol was immediately out and aimed into the dark space between his head and the cieling where Raziel had first made himself known. When the Biosoldier leapt down, Roland lowered the pistol, not entirely eased by the Proto-Biosoldier's presence. Deek accepting his presence was enough to keep the merchant from shooting him, and he seemed trustworthy enough, but something about the ancient kept Roland on edge.
The group looked expectantly in his direction, and Roland cocked his head to the side. They were looking to him for a plan? Again? Roland was no leader. He was a good speaker and a shrewd merchant and captain, but in times of war he knew only how to pull a trigger on the bad guy and (thanks to the Institute) how to do that in the best way to disable his target. The merchant shrugged, his duster's loose sleeves slapping quietly against his torso. "I got nothing." Roland grumbled, looking towards Gerti. "She knows the tunnels," And here he shifted his gaze towards Jacob, Raziel and Deek, "And you're the ones who know how to fight." He shrugged. "All I can suggest is we keep out heads low and follow the tunnel that has the freshest-smelling air in it."
Head Paladin Sibley knelt over the prone form of the Outlander. He stretched out his hand to touch the carotid artery of Alan Schezar's neck. "Expired," he mumbled flatly. Stearns turned her head sharply. "These ones too," she said, pointing to Murc slumped against the wall and Vic, who layed face up, eyes wide. A single .45 round had hit him square in the forehead. The large raider, who'd already been hit in the hip, had been shot once more in the arm, then twice in proximity in the guts. His hands clutched lifelessly and vainly to the evisceration that had his intestines pushing out of his abdomen. The Inquisitor shifted her gaze to the body of Lazlo, who layed in a pool of blood, still clutching the grip of his 10mm SMG. He was riddled with no fewer than seven bullet holes, both .45 cal. and 10mm. They ranged anywhere from his chest, to his abdomen, to his extremities. The fatal shot was clear, a 10mm wound that punched just beside his Adams Apple. Frothy pink blood swirled with dark veinous blood as it slowly leaked from his open mouth. It was clear that had ne not been shot in the neck, internal bleeding within his lungs would've surely claimed his life. Sibley stood up. "There isn't much more we can do here, Inquisitor," he said. Stearns stared at the Outlander. "Another victim of the streets of Polis," she said flatly before turning away. Sibley felt kind of taken aback. Normally he was the more thoughtful one, while Stearns was all business. "We can't save everyone who comes in here," Sibley said to her before the two started back up the hallway to the stairs.
Back at street level, Stearns darted out across the street, Sibley following closely behind. The tiny fingers of daylight were beginning to tell through the shadows of the ravaged buildings. Stearns noted the Brotherhood position. The Viking settlement of Riverside was just to the southeast about four blocks. They needed to make it to the next waypoint before daytime, when Viking patrols would take to the streets. Sibley, though functional, was heavily fatigued and in need of ammunition and rest. He also needed another weapon, since his Combat Shotgun had been taken by Vikings while he was captive. Fortunately, Stearns kept a few of them at the nearby waypoint. Unfortunately, the waypoint was near a Wolfpack Raider hotbed. The Wolfpack, though weedy, were a desperate gang. Desperate to be free of Viking oppression, desperate for a key to freedom. Two dead Banshees might just do the trick. The Wolfpack were mainly a nocturnal clan, however, so there may be a window of opportunity to slip into the waypoint in the next hour, providing they could cover the six blocks. "Northwest," Stearns said, "we'll rest, we'll heal, we'll resupply, and we'll cross the river tonight. Let's go." The two Midwestern Brotherhood members headed north to shelter.
Jacob had altered his hold on Cedrig as the Viking Raider thrashed and coughed, pinning him in an arm-bar-head-scissors hybrid hold. Presumably taken from his MCMAP training in Warrior Weapons. In a way, it was comforting to know that if he absolutely had to choke Cedrig back into unconsciousness, the last thing Cedrig would notice before passing out would be the smell of Jacob's feet. The shift in the hold also let Deek get up and stretch for a while as Roland and Raziel debated their next move. Which apparently amounted to "Get the hell outta dodge". Jacob heartily agreed with that. He stretched Cedrig's arm a little further to discourage him as he tried to subtly wriggle free before turning his head towards Gerti.
"Well, you wanted to ask him a few questions. I think now would be the opportune moment," Jacob grunted at the diminutive Vikig scavenger.
Then, turning back to the group, he took stock of the situation. The Brahmin was as good as spooked, Deek was old and looking a little tired. The sailors were looking decidedly the worse for wear, covered in dirt and mud from crawling around the tunnels in the shit and derision for the better part of a day now. Raziel on the other hand, looked right at home crawling on the ceilings and generally behaving like a Ghoulified circus monkey. Jacob himself was tired and in no small amount of pain from being punched repeatedly by Cedrig during their brawl.
"And from there, we may well have some business to attend to," Jacob said to Roland.
"Expired," The mechanical voice, muffled behind 200-year old armor and a soul of steel, spoke with a monotone to it's identical companion. "These ones too." The voice belonged to Paladin Sibley, the man who had contributed to the supposed murder of Alan Schezar and the three Wild raiders, Lazlo, Vic, and Murk. That last part troubled Alan, mainly due to the fact that he was, aginst most laws of nature, still thinking. And hearing. Now, as he remembered, he was shot multiple times in the chest, far beyond human survival. And yet, here he was, lying with his face to the ceiling, a bloodied gas mask staring lifelessly into nothing, forever a monument of encumbrance. But still alive. He couldn't move, say, or feel anything, only think and hear. Alan had a feeling that, if he could take his mask off, that he would be able to see as well. It suddenly struck him as odd that the Knight felt his pulse and, professionally, concluded that he was 'expired', dead. Wouldn't that mean he was, in fact, dead? Brotherhood soldiers did not make such careless mistakes. The two muffled voices of the Banshees' grew farther and farther away, as did Alan's hope for survival, if he was even alive. This was quite the conundrum. The Israeli Wanderer waited, and waited, and waited. He really did not know what to do at this point. He couldn't move so he really couldn't put himself out of his own misery, all that he could do was really just sit and slowly bleed to death. Quite the unfortunate death indeed. Well, Alan thought, at least I won't be eaten. Truthfully, he had a point, but was this really better? Bleeding out in a dark ruin, surrounded by three rotting corpses?
Wait. What the hell was that? It was something, possibly a cough or a gasp, but it caused Alan to suddenly become very frightened. Could it be the sociopaths, who may have followed the group, waiting to devour whatever was left behind? No, no this was different, it sounded like somebody in pain, lots and lots of pain. "..guhhh, shi-... *cough*, mother fucker." This voice was horse, and defiantly sedated heavily with pain and disorientation. Alan still could not talk, but his hearing was working just fine, and this man's constant coughs and curses sounded strictly familiar. It went on for about 10 minutes, stopped for another 10, and then Alan heard footsteps approaching him. There was a short silence, and then Alan felt himself being dragged. "Good god," the man coughed and inhaled deeply, "This could've worked better, rest in peace boys..." His voice choked up right then, signifying a feeling of great loss and sadness. The Outlander was starting to guess who this was. A sudden feeling of suction and cold air took to his dirty face as the man removed Alan's broken mask. His vision was blurry, but slowly regaining itself. A few awkward seconds passed as Alan blinked some dozen times. And, not but a foot away, the face of the Wildman 'Lazlo' starred directly into Alan's own gray pupils. With a deep breath and a horse voice, he spoke, "Hey". Alan tried to talk back, but his obvious efforts were silenced by Lazlo. "Don't even try, you're still.... waking ... up." Sections of his sentences were broken into fragments by deep inhales and exhales, that of which had to be due to the bloody wound on his neck, that was now covered with a part of someone's sleeve. "This'll.. do it for.... you, you fuck..." The reborn raider stuck Alan with some needle, one that sported a dial and who's label printed: "Stimpack". A rush of life swept over the weary traveler as all feeling returned to his limbs and extremities, along with his vocal cords. "Wha-What the he-" He was interrupted by Lazlo, "No, you shut the fuck.....up and listen," Alan immediately quieted himself and Lazlo continued, "There is only one..... single reason why you are... still.. alive, and that is.... me." He pointed a blistered thumb at his blood-soaked chest and then jabbed a finger at Alan's, "Vests. Bulletproof ones. Without those you... would've.. been shredded. Both of us are very lucky that... a shot didn't stray to our heads. Those damned..... Banshees'.... always aim for the chest, again lucky for us that stayed... true." His voice was slowly regaining some strength, but it would be some time, perhaps forever, until he would speak normal again. The enigmatic Raider stood up, towering over Alan, who was now sitting against a bullethole-ridden wall. "I'll explain more... later, we've got to get outta 'ere.... Vikings n' such no doubt heard that gunfire. Fuckers will be..... here any minute to scavenge... what remains." Lazlo extended a hand to a confused Alan, who took it with no hesitation. What choice did he have? The two men headed out, Lazlo still looking in remorse at his fallen brothers, and Alan aching like hell from the high-power gunshots that pounded his vest not but half an hour ago.
Sibley gazed around the streets of Polis. Following behind Alysha Stearns, Sibley couldn't shake the thought of what had happened in the building before. He felt remorse and guilt for the death of the Outlander. The man had never showed open hostility to the Brotherhood., which was much more than could be said for just about every other resident of Polis. They had tried to save him, but failed. Now they were responsible for his death. Wasted potential. Sibley and Stearns hugged the walls of the buildings as they stuck to the eroding shadows. Daylight in Polis would bring Viking patrols, especially with all the activity last night. No doubt Viking war parties were already on their way from the Dome to investigate the battles in the settlement of Midroad and the building. The impending daylight would see the area overrun by Vikings. Sibley clutched his revolver closely. He only had 13 rounds left, then he'd be out of ammo. Inquisitor Stearns wasn't much better. Only two more magazines for her silenced 10mm hung from her utility belt. The Howl long since having run out of ammo. Fortunately, the waypoint was just ahead.
Stearns opened the lid to the drainage chamber. The concrete enclosure was dripping with water. About six inches of standing water was at the bottom of the chamber. The Inquisitor led Sibley through a set of pipes and into an enclosure that was further down. Moving the heavy metal door, the chamber beyond was not unlike most that Alysha had set up across the cities. There were three military cots, a table, and boxes of ammo and weapons. Sibley opened a cabinet on the far wall, revealing a medical kit. He prepped the syringe of a Stimpak, flicking the needle to remove air pockets before removing his helmet and the forearm plates of his armor. Alysha secured the door and was busy removing her armor. Sibley was in great pain after the beating and needed this Stimpak to ease it before removing his armor. He grimmaced as he inserted the needle into his artery and injected the fluid, feeling the revitalizing medicine flow through his body. He sat down heavily on a cot. Removing his upper body armor, Sibley groaned as he reached across the cot behind him, grabbing a Combat Shotgun off the table. Breathing heavily as he inserted some rounds into it, clicking them into place. He then leaned the weapon on the cot beside him and pulled a heavy wool blanket up as he layed down. Sleep would come good tonight.
Alysha Stearns sat cleaning her weapons. She was down to her undergarments, a tight black set of athletic shorts and tank top. She was thinking about the Outlander. Her frustration showed as she attempted to roughly dislodge grime and dirt from her weapon. She needed to be careful as overzealous cleaning could ruin the rifling on the barrel of the weapon. She huffed as she set the weapon down, running a tan-skinned hand through her dark hair. She rarely failed, but when she did it was very difficult to handle. She was trained not to fail, to adapt and overcome. It all had happened so fast, that they did not realize. The Outlander was killed with the others. Stearns kicked her feet up onto the cot and looked over at Sibley. He was breathing heavily and his eyes were closed. The day had taken it's toll on the Head Paladin. She laid down, trying to forget about the dead Outlander. After all, the objective was not lost. They just needed to stay focused.
Munti was busy cleaning up around her little home: a large nylon tent inside a wrecked building. As usual, she kept an eye on her little wards as she worked, but her thoughts continuously turned to her sister Gerti. Her little sister had spent a few days away before, while scavenging or on the hunt, but she was worried if the Top dog's mission hadn't put her in greater danger than usual.
As if on cue, a Viking raider by the name of Gyrd poked his head in the tent with a wicked grin on his face.
"Hey Munti, looks like we'll be seeing you at the Highdaway pretty soon."
The teenager put her hands atop her broom as if it were a sword pommel and narrowed her eyes at Gyrd.
"You didn't hear about the big fight I take it? A patrol found a bunch of heavily armed outlanders, real bad dudes. We lost several comrades. One of the survivors said he saw Gerti there, said she took a bullet. Your little sister was the real breadwinner right? Don't see how you're going to make tribute now."
Munti had only been partly listening, not wanting to offend the Viking by outright ignoring him. When he said Gerti had been shot, it was like a jolt of electricity ran from her feet to her head and back down again. Struck with sudden weakness she fell to her knees, the kids rushing around her to help her up.
"Cedrig," she began.
"Hasn't been seen since then. So like I said, be seeing you."
Gyrd backed his head out of the tent and started walking off. The ordinarily subdued Munti felt a dark, inchoate rage building inside her. She held back her tears and grit her teeth. Munti lurched back to her feet with such speed that it sent the boys back with a start. She marched out of the tent intently and called out after Gyrd.
"Gyrd! I want those outlanders to die screaming. Get your crew together, I can pay you."
Gyrd looked surprised but his expression quickly turned back to a grin "Not the reaction I expected from you, but I can dig it. Blood for blood, right? Might be you're more of a Viking than I thought. Sure thing Munti, we can sort out the details, I'll just bet you're good for it."
Dan Harris stood against the crumbling war torn building, in the shadow of the Washington Monument, wearing his duster, a pair of sunglasses, and a pre-war fedora. He was growing extremely impatient, as his latest employer was supposed to meet him here a half-hour ago. He checked his Pip-Boy 3000 for the current time,
"Correction, he should've been here a full hour ago..." He said to himself, exhaling a puff of smoke from his cigarette. Just as he was about to leave, a Ghoul in a brown business suit and wig strolled around the corner. Dan frowned, but stood up strait as the Ghoul walked up to him, "About damn time you showed up,"
"Sorry, Baracuss, I had to make certain arrangements and-"
"Yes yes, I know... You're a very busy Ghoul," Dan said, interrupting him, "Now what's the job, Markus?"
"I need someone killed," Markus said, plainly,
"Doesn't everyone..." Dan said, activating his Pip-Boy to take down notes, "Alright, I need a name, a brief description, and where to find them," Dan said, eager to get down to business,
"Well... I don't know their name... but I do have a photograph," Markus said, handing Dan a wrinkled picture of a Raider. The mercenary scowled at the image with extreme hatred,
"Where is he..." Dan asked, his voice low,
"Polis," Markus answered. Dan looked up at the Ghoul, and shoved the picture against his chest,
"Do you have any Idea how far away that is Markus? It'll take me a few months to get there, not including finding the bastard, and brining something back to show you that the job is done. Get someone else to run a cross-country errand for you," Dan turned to leave, but Markus placed his hand on Dan's shoulder to stop him,
"I'll give you a large reward..." Markus smiled. Dan paused,
"How large..." Dan finally asked,
"500,000 Caps... half now, half once the job is finished. I'll throw in 20 Stimpacks, plenty of Ammunition... and a vehicle..." The Ghoul said, in a very proud attitude,
"...I'm In," Dan said, turning, "But if there are any Mirelurks along the way, you better add 5000 Caps to that total,"
Markus lifted the Garage door, reveling a Pre-War motorcycle,
"Markus, I've seen hundreds of those all around the wastes... what makes you think that this one is any different?" Dan asked, his arms cross,
"'Cause this one actual runs!" The Ghoul said, revving the engine and flashing a toothy smile. Dan smiled too, and shoved the Ghoul off his new ride. He took off his Sunglasses, and slipped on a pair of Goggles,
"I'll be back before winter hits... and you better come through with the rest of those Caps," Dan said, speeding out of the Garage, heading towards Polis.
"All right, where are you, asshole?" Michael growled. His client was running late, and Michael doesn't like the wait. Suddenly, Michael saw a figure approaching him. "Finally. Hey! You're late!" Michael yelled, glad to see the client, a rather well-to-do waster by the name of Thomas.
"It's good to see you too, Ashton." Thomas replied. "Never call me that." Michael growled, angry at the use of his middle name.
"Whatever. I've got a job for you." said Thomas. "Caps. How much." Michael said, rather bluntly.
"800 now, 800 when you get back. The job's in Polis, by the way." Thomas replied, smiling at the expression on Michael's face.
"Ok, what you want me to do?" Michael asked.
"I want you to find someone...then, I want you to kill them." Thomas said in a calm voice.
"Hmh, guess you've done this before. Alright, who is it?" Michael asked.
"I don't know the name, but I do have a picture. Keep in mind that my employers will pay you even more than I will. the 100,000 is just my offer." Thomas said while handing Michael the old photograph.
"Former Regulator. I can tell by the duster. So, another good cop gone bad. I get this alot, why so much?" Michael shrugged.
"Because, he is incredibley dangerous and a major threat to my employers." Thomas yelled, getting angry at Michael.
"Ok, chill. I'm on it. I'll leave today. I'm supposed to catch the last flight out anyways." Michael said in attempt to calm Thomas.
"Very well then. I expect you back by this winter." said Thomas, back to his calm self.
"Can't make promises. Heard another bounty hunter is headin there from the Capital Waste. Maybe I can meet 'em along the way. Job like this could profit from some group work." Michael growled, hopping on his motorcycle. "Next stop, LGMC Airfield."
"Business?" Roland said from a little ways down the tunnel. "Like, real business? Like, not shooting people business?"
The merchant shrugged, and put on a half-mocking sad face. "Daww," the merchant intoned, "but I wanted to keep wasting bullets and energy on things that look like they were gonna drop dead on their own." He scowled a bit then, and settled back into thinking. He paced across the short length of the tunnel and back again before settling on a strategy.
"Alright," He said out loud, "follow the freshest air."
Gerti took a look around and pointed down a passage.
"Go that way and take the first ladder you find to the right. If the manhole isn't blocked you should exit near a new settlement. It's very small, maybe just over a dozen outlanders. They've taken residence on the second floor of a building, keep your eyes and ears open and you should find them. You could trade with them maybe, anyways if you hang around there I'll find you or ask them where you've taken off to."
She looked down at the presumably sedate Cedrig.
"I'll stay with him for the time being. My questions are not for outlander ears."
"I hate these things" Michael yelled, already beginning to regret his decision to fly. "Aww, somebody scared of flyin?" teased one of the other mercs. "No, I just keep thinking these things are gonna crash. We aren't going all the way to Polis anyways." Michael grunted. It was bad enough that he had to fly. It was even worse that he still had a good 2-3 days ride afterward. "Crash? We ain't gonna crash!" shouted the pilot. "Shut up!" Michael yelled, "Never-fucking-ever say crash. It'll jinx us." he continued. "Crash." the pilot shouted. "Seriously, stop it, motherfucker." Michael growled, fear rising in his voice. "Crash, crash, crash" teased the pilot. "Dude, maybe you should stop, you're really freakin him out." said one of the other mercs. "Crash MacFuckity Crash Wreck." Shouted the pilot one final time. "Ok, that's it! If you don't stop I'm gonna-WHAT THE FUCK!?!" Michael screamed at the sedden explosion. "Oh shit, what'd I tells ya, man, WHAT THE HELL DID I FUCKIN TELL YA!" one merc screamed in terror. "I told you it'd make us fuckin cra-" Michael was cut off by the sudden impact. "Oh, my fuckin head" was the last thing Michael said before losing consciousness.
About five days after he left the boundaries of the Capital Wasteland, Dan stopped at an abandoned, yet intact, Gas Station. He filled the Motorcycle's tank with the last bit of gas the pump could spare, and checked his Pip-Boy map,
"Still two or three days of travel..." He said, shutting off the wrist-worn computer, and lighting a cigarette. A large explosion caught his attention as a large air vehicle streaked out of the sky. Dan leapt on his Motorcycle and headed toward the crash. He didn't know if anyone could have survived a crash such as the one he had just witnessed, but, if nothing else, he may be able to find some supplies amongst the wreckage.
Once he reached the crash sight, he began checking the bodies, seeing if any of them were alive. There was only one,
"Damn... You're one lucky bastard..." He said to the man's unconscious body, as he began looting the others for Caps and Ammo. Dark clouds spread over the area, lightning striking the ground a few miles away, "Might as well set up camp here for the night... Someone's got to protect this guy from the Mole Rats..."
Michael had spent the last hour fading in and out of consciousness, thinking back to what Skullet had said before boarding the helicopter "Man, you can never trust these things." he remembered him saying, "You got that right, I feel like they'll just up and fall right out of the sky sometimes." had been Michael's reply. Another thing he had remembered hearing the sounds of a motorcycle recently.Nah, couldn't be. Mind's playing tricks, he thought. Then, he suddenly awoke to the smell of burning wood and roasting meat. He immediately tried to move, only to realize he was no longer in the Super Stallion, and in a large amount of pain. Apparently, he had been dragged into a makeshift tent by the stranger sitting in front of him. Michael had apparently got his attention, because the man had motioned toward him. "There's food on the dish next to you" the man said. Michael managed to spit out one sentence before reaching for the food. "Did anyone make it?" the man shook his head "No, you're the only one." he said. "Shit, that ain't good" Michael said with a mouthful of roast Mole-Rat. Tasty, but dry, he thought, and then he proceeded to drift into an uneasy sleep for the next half hour.
"I knew this would happen!" Thomas shouted, having seen the explosion from his safehouse. "I knew he'd wind up doing sometihng stupid like this." Thomas yelled. "Oh well, maybe he got lucky and survived. I'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I've got a betrayal to plan." Thomas said in an attempt to calm himslef. Thomas had never trusted Michael. He thought Michael was careless and stupid. He also could tell that Michael liked to play a little bit of "Holy Knight" when people were looking his way. "I hate people like that. They are a blight on socety, and an upset to the natural balance. I've no problem with good people, but holier-than-thou biblical white-fucking-knights, I can't stand them." Thomas continued in a subdued rant, "I mean, it's people like that who killed my father, and it's people like that who'll be the death of me." he yelled again, as if someone could hear him. "I guess I should follow him to Polis, wouldn't want that waste of humanity to get lost on his way back." Thomas concluded, preparing his still-functioning Corvega for the journey.
Dan tossed the butt of his cigarette away and grabbed another from the pack. As he lit it, the man he saved awoke,
"Good to see you back in the world of the living, Sleeping Beauty..." He joked, then a bit more seriously, "Damn pal... You look like shit. Here, take this, god knows I don't need it," He handed the man a bottle of whisky. Dan got up, placed his fedora back on his head, and slipped his duster back on,
"Name's Dan Harris. I'm a mercenary from the Capital Wastes. By the looks of your outfit, I'd say your the same," He said, as he slung his Sniper Rifle over his back. He slipped a fresh magazine of 10mm rounds into his Negotiator, and tossed an M16 Assault Rifle towards the man, "I believe this is yours. So... What do people call you? Or are you one of those sad saps without a name?"
Michael sat for a brief moment after waking up. "Michael Cross. Name's Michael Cross." he said to the stranger, a fellow mercenary by the name of Dan Harris. "And thanks for the whiskey, god knows I'd need a drink after that." Michael said, strecthing to loosen his muscles. "I'd heard about you from my friend Skullet." the realization sank in "Oh shit, Skullet's dead. Poor guy, had a family and everything." Michael said sadly. Skullet had been one of his best friends. "Oh, one last thing. There's a few places in that chopper I need to search, I'll be back in a few." Michael said, already wanting to feel the rumble of his motorcycle. Mmm, that is the world's best medicine, he thought, other than booze.
Roughly 20 minutes later, Michael had finished breaking open the conainers, and had retrieved his sawed-off shotgun, his three ballistic knives, a hunting rifle, and a set of functioning walkies. He also found the case he had kept his lucky shades in, , Michael thought. Michael then proceeded to open the large conainer next to the cargo ramp. "There you are, beautiful." He hummed as Davidicus, his motorcycle, revealed itself. "Now, let's get you outta here, and back to the great outdoors." Michael said as he mounted the old motorcycle, already grinning. It had been too long, he thought.
"Shit, of all the times for you to break down!" Thomas yelled at his Corvega. Thomas was now a good three miles north of where Michael's chopper went down. He figured Michael died in the crash, so he didn't bother looking for him. He'd decided to continue on to Polis and search for the man in black by himself. If Cross does show up, Thomas thought, then that's an added bonus. Until then, looks like I'm walking to Polis.
"Well then, Cross, I guess I'll leave you to your business," Dan said as Michael emerged from the Chopper's wreckage, walking a Motorcycle of his own, "Cause right now, I have a job to do," Dan straddled his own bike, inhaled a large amount of fumes from his Cigarette, and tossed it aside,
"But if you're headed the direction I am, I could tag along with you until we hit Polis," he said revving up the motor, "Just don't slow me down..." He took off towards Polis, followed closely by Cross. The last thing he needed was a companion, he was already running behind schedule as it was, but after a wreck like that, this fellow mercenary could use all the help he could get,
"So Cross... Got a name other than Michael? An alias that your employers refer to you by?" Dan asked, trying to get to know this guy better. He didn't need any friends, but if they were going to be traveling with each other for the next few days, he might as well learn more about this Mercenary, did Markus hire him as backup just in case Dan failed? Was Michael hired to take him out once his job was done? The more he thought about it, the less Dan trusted Cross. He pushed his distrust aside. He'll learn more by the time he'd reach Polis. If Cross tried to pull anything funny, Dan will just have to use some old fashioned "Negotiating".
"My friends call me Iron." Michael said in reply to Dan's question. "Earned it during my days in Kentucky. Helped my home town outta some deep shit." Michael explained. Michael's day's in the Battle of Ash-Fyre were all but a memory now, something that made him glad. Other than Dunwich, those where some of his worst memories. "As for any other questions, I'll go ahead and fill you in on the basics." he said, "I got my bike from my father, it was a rite of passage thing. As for family, all I've got left is a Ghoulified mother, a younger brother, and one ancient great grandfather, also ghoul." Michael explained. "And before you ask, no I was not hired as backup, or to take you out. I was sent after this guy." Michael said while handing Dan a photo. It was a picture of a tall man, wearing a black duster, with a scythe painted on one shoulder.
"Great! Just fucking great!" Thomas yelled, still infuriated at the loss of his vehicle. without it, Thomas wouldn't reach Polis for another 4-5 days, so he could most likely forget about seeing Talon Co. again. "Oh well, at least I won't have to put up with that fucking Jabsco anymore." he said, feeling relieved. "And, maybe I'll find better work in Polis, or maybe even start my own business." Thomas said optomistically. Thomas had rarely been one to see good in anything, except maybe the work he wished to see done. Thomas sighed, "Maybe I'll just camp here for tonight," he said, "After all, it's a good spot. Out in the middle of nowhere, under an old highway. What's not to love?" Thomas shouted, returning to his usual sarcasm. Later that night, he would wake to the sound of two motorcycles passing by, but he dismissed it as simple travellers, nothing more.
"Well then... You've pretty much just covered all my questions. I'll just keep calling you by your last name though..." Dan said, "You can either call me Dan, or by my Merc-Title, Baracuss. I don't care," He checked his Pip-Boy radio, tuning in to a rather scratchy radio signal originating from Polis. Someone, who calls himself Uncle Eddie, was relaying the local news. Half of the message was too scrambled to make out anything, so he shut down the Pip-Boy. He noticed Cross eyeing it,
"Pip-Boy 3000, something all Vault Dwellers are given at age ten. I come from Vault 103 in the Capital Wastes. That was long ago though..." Dan explained, remembering his attempt at returning to Vault 103's safety... As well as the bodies of his parents, "Damn Raiders..." He added, removing a dose of Jet from his medical pouch, and inhaling the drug.
Jacob forced a little pressure onto Cedrig's arm as a warning not to try anything. Then he let stood up, retaining his grip on Cedrig's arm, before slowly relinquishing the hold and rolling him away. He shot Cedrig a murderous look and walked backwards out of the chamber with Roland, Deek, Raziel and the sailors, drawing Mother's Woe and taking a loose aim at Cedrig as he backed out of the room. Once himself and all the sailors had left, Jacob moved as the rearguard, listening back for any signs of trouble with Cedrig and Gerti. And for any more Wendigos. Apparently, they never came out this far. Something had made them do it. Whether it was overpopulation or something that scared them, migrations of things like that were a bad thing. He pushed the man in front of him ahead a little quicker. He wanted to get the hell out of here. If everyone wanted this prize, Jacob wanted it just to keep it away from the Wild and the Vikings. The air was starting to smell a little fresher as they daddled along the tunnel. Less of that deathly stench. Jacob watched as Roland, at the head of the group, clambered into a side-tunnel and grunted. Then he heard the ringing of steel-shod boots on a ladder. Jacob stopped. How were they going to get the Brahmin out? As he pondered that, Jacob walked into the man in front of him, no longer a sailor, but Raziel. The strange-looking Austiner kept his balance by shifting his body to an unnatural angle and rolling Jacob's not-inconsiderable weight off him. Jacob staggered a little and stood up straight, nodding to Raziel as he steadied himself.
Then he pointed to the Brahmin. Raziel's bandages mostly hid his expression, but his stance indicated he was just as confused about that as Jacob was. They might be able to rig up a rope to help them lift it, but fitting Daisy through the Manhole coulf be problematic. He scratched his chin and wheedled his way to the front of the line, indicating he needed to talk to Roland and clambered up after Deek. Raziel cut the queue by scrambling along the ceiling and climbing out of the manhole like some nightmarish spider. Jacob grabbed Roland by the shoulder, shocking him out of a conversation with Deek.
"Now, maybe I'm worrying too much about this, but how in the name of all that's holy are we going to get that Brahmin up that ladder through a manhole?" Jacob asked pointing at the narrow manhole.
Dale Archer happened to be looking through the metal slats he and the settlers had put on the second story window and down on to the street when people started climbing up the manhole. He wondered if this was a consequence of letting that Viking kid go several weeks ago, there hadn't been any immediate onslaught from her people and these people didn't quite resemble raiders so he trusted his instinct to not pop her head off had been sound. His superiors wanted a nationwide brief, and this new settlement served like a hunter's blind to observe the locals in Polis. Still he had to be cautious, his nearest colleague was likely weeks away and though these settlers were grateful for his assistance against slavers and monsters, he was basically on his own.
He quietly withdrew from the window and approached one of the settlers, whispering "We may have visitors. Tell everyone to keep the noise down and not turn on any lights. Keep a watch on the stairwell."
Gyrd checked his weapons one more time and then observed those in his group doing the same.
"We're going for those Outlanders. Word is they've got a cross section of hardware, including heaters and possibly explosives. They've got a couple of crack shots too. Banshee's like to chase heaters, so the possibility of an encounter is higher than normal. Some dead retards tried charging head on, didn't work too well. We're gonna play this smart. Flint, round up some eager Wolfpack shitheads."
"Thought you said we were playing it smart Gyrd."
"Smart means use of stealth, sound tactics, gathering intel, knowing when to back off, and finally: smart means using Wolfpack as meat shields."
Gerti sat in the darkness, watching the outlanders take off. She waited for Cedrig to collect himself.
Sibley stretched his arms out and yawned as he sat up in the old cot. He picked up the Combat Shotgun leaning against the bed. He examined it and set it back down before looking down at himself. He was still only wearing the bottom half of his Advanced Power Armor. He looked at his battered body, which was now feeling a lot better. Patches of heavy bruising covered his torso, and his eye ached from the bruising around it. He'd cut it the previous night to relieve the swelling. He also noted tenderness and deformity in his nose, indicating a probable fracture. He inhaled deeply to only slight pain in his body, but mostly to ensure his airway was patent. Standing up, he felt a world of difference. The Stimpaks and Med-X had done a good job. He reached for a syringe out of the med box and injected another Med-X into his arm. As he fastened his upper body armor on he looked around the room, noting the absence of a certain Inquisitor Stearns. Just as the thought formed, the heavy door began creaking open. He picked up his Combat Shotgun, but before he could level it, she walked in, easing his tension. She took off her helmet and began gathering ammo. "Good to see you up and awake, Luke," she said, smiling. "Good to be up and awake," Sibley said back. Stearns was wasting no time. "Sun's going down, we can cross the Mississippi tonight if we get going," she said. Sibley put his helmet on. "Well, let's go then," he said as they shut down the lights and locked the door behind them.
Flippa hacked his way through another Wendigo. Cleaving into it's neck and drawing an intensy spray of blood. Around him, other Flayers dismantled more Wendigos. Wendigos were always around, but their deprived and shrivelled bodies made for terrible meals. Flippa let the creature fall, then moved toward another. It hissed at him as he ducked beneath it's groping hands, simultaneously turning and eviscerating it with his wickedly curved blade. It fell squirming as a second Flayer set upon it. Flippa did not understand why Wendigos were this far from Vault 46, nor did he care, other than they were causing very limited progress home. This might be reason for investigation, Flippa thought.
A pile of rags was settled on the stoop of a nearby building, burned and wrinkled, nearby the drainage system that the two Brotherhood members currently occupied and were using as a rest house. As Stearns entered back into their safe house, however, the rags shifted, revealing that the pile of rags was, in fact, simply an elaborate patchwork suit, designed to look like a horrid mess of burned out rags and scraps. He quickly moved over to sit down on the stoop and wait for the Brotherhood members to come on out.
As they did, he raised a hand in greeting, and said, quite simply, "Greetings. You don't look to be raiders, so I'd assume by the fact that you're running around more heavily armed than a slaver's nightmare, you're Brotherhood." He stood on up, hopefully without any guns pointed at him, or angry gestures leveled his way. "I can help you out, if you'd like. The name's Durandal. Tech Hunter, of sorts. I hunt it down, and I make it work again. And I got a big target this time." He grins slightly, his teeth still clean despite his otherwise shabby appearance. "Back in the old days before the War, the Dome had a great giant screen that displayed each play of each game that occurred in there. I want to make that work again. Consider it my Everest. So, here's the gist. I can help you out. And you can maybe help me out, if you want. But I got a bit of a debt anyways to work out with the Brotherhood." He crossed his arms, awaiting their response.
"A Pip-what? Nevermind." Michael said, still wondering what exactley the device on Dan's wrist was. "And what exactley is a Vault? Some kind of Pre-War bunker?" he asked, still in a small bout of confusion. "Here, take this," Michael said, handing Dan one of the walkies, "It's a personal radio communicator. You know, a walkie-talkie." Michael explained. "It'll let us keep in contact over a range of about 3 miles." Michael continued, already seeing confusion rising on Dan's face. "Oh, and by the way, I'm actually from Kentucky. The Republic of the Cumberland Plateau, to be precise. It's a nice place, certainly better than Grisham's Kentucky Kingdom, or whatever he calls it." Michael said as the two began to slow down, spotting another abondoned Gas Station, a good place to make camp for tonight.
One Day Later...
Thomas continued down the ruins of the old highway, still distraught over the loss of his Corvega. "I don't need it, I don't need it." he told himself, trying to get the vehicle off of his mind. "It's all Cross' fault," he shouted, "Him and that fucking Jacob Vaughton. If it weren't for the two of them, I might actually have a rewarding job at Talon." Thomas lamented, pinning his misfortune on the two people he had sworn to kill. "Hey, is that Cross?" he asked himself, seeing two men dismounting motrcycles in the distance. "If that's him, who's the other guy? Vaughton?" he wondered. "No, can't be Vaughton, the duster's not black. Oh well, maybe I can finish this tonight", Thomas said, "Make a fucking example outta Cross and that chump following him." Thomas growled, already loading Succoria, his trusted sniper rifle. "Now all I need is one good shot", Thomas said as he reached his vantage point, a small ruined two story home, "One good shot, and I'll be free of him. Forever." he said. Exhailing, Thomas took his first shot. For the first time in his life, Thomas missed.
Lazlo moved with demonic speed, truly a man with a purpose and a dedication to fulfill it. As for Alan Schezar, movements were inched with pain and exhaustion, slowing him to pathetic crawl. This caused the determined raider to help to Outlander along, despite his distinct hate for the man. Alan had begone to wonder how, in all realism, that Lazlo has been able to really survive this long, much less out-strength Alan himself. The Wildman received a bullet to the neck and several to the chest, and even if he did have a bulletproof vest, the pain would be unbearable. At least, it was for Alan. The sun, beautiful as it is, started to rise over the ruined Polis landscape. Beams of sunlight shined through crumbled skyscrapers and homes, illuminating the ancient skeletons and vehicles of a lost time. The dawn had sparked new hope in Alan, he had survived one night in Polis, vague though it may seem. The two men crept into an abandoned grocery shop, that which was filled with rats and cobwebs. Lazlo lit a single candle, only giving off enough light for the two of them to see each other. The Wild raider spoke first, "Ok, I'm guessing you're wonderin' why... you're still... alive, eh?" The Israeli Outlander nodded slowly, intrigued. Lazlo went on, "For one, there was the vests. We... put them on you while you were out. The..... other two went to Vic and I." A look of sorrow filled his face as he mentioned his fallen comrades, "Murk wasn't gonna make it anyway, so we decided to.... not let him on the plan. Them Banshees', they were meant to get us, and we were meant to 'die'." Out of his stitched pocket, he brought out a syringe of deep purple liquid. The needle itself was obviously a recycled Psycho pin, although on the side, in crude letters, it read: Havlin. Alan knew the drug, his father used to frequent it, for it would reduce the user to a dream-like, zombified state. And as he remembered from his childhood, mixing it with the right amount of Psycho and Tranquilizer can reduce one's pulse and heart-rate to a mere fraction of it's initial beat, although people have tended to not wake up from it on occasions. He was starting to understand what exactly Lazlo had pulled off. "Yo-you're crazy Lazlo, you could of killed us all!" Alan tried to rise to his feet, but the pain proved to be too much, so he just sat up straight, "You knew the risk, you knew that your plan only had a small chance of working, but you went on with it anyway!" The enigmatic raider simply smiled, his blistered lips splitting like burnt paper. His voice, like sandpaper on concrete, was beginning to lighten up, "Why do you care? You lived, didn't you? You and I both know that you... don't give a flyin' fuck about Murk and Vic! What the hell does it matter to you as long as you're fuckin' heart is still a' beating, huh!?" Alan backed off, letting the man calm down, as well as letting him release the tight grip he had on the .32 pistol strapped to his waist. A silence, one that seemed to last forever, ensued, until Alan finally spoke up. "So, why did you keep me alive?" The Raider's face seemed to develop a devious grin, as if he wanted the foolish Outlander to ask that particular question. "You, my dim-witted friend, you are the key to the plan." Alan leaned in, interested in what part he was to portray in this play. "You see, Vic, Bingo, and I had this all planned out far before you arrived in this hellhole, and you just happened to be the right type of Outlander we needed. We's was sick of the fuckin' Wild, and we certainly didn't want to go n' die for some grudge, so the three of us started to plan. With th' Wild, you can't just pack up and leave, especially when you were up in the ranks like ol' Bingo and I. They'd send people after ya, assassins, mercenaries, anything to kill you. To add, you're head would have a price on it, gatherin' bounty-hunters from all over the place. Simply put, we'd be dead meat if we straight up ditched."
Alan was beginning to see it, but he still didn't understand why he was involved, "Okay, but what does all this have to do with me?" Lazlo rolled his eyes, apparently annoyed by Alan's ignorance and interruption. "Let me fuckin' talk, eh? Ok, so the original plan was to fake our own deaths. Simple enough, right? We got these here nifty doses," Lazlo flicked the needle,"from some junkie down south." A smile rolled across his lips, "Killed the bastard though, we didn't have that kinda caps. That brings me onto our next part: money. We started to think, 'what'll we do once we're out of Polis'? We'd be broke and starvin'. We ain't never lived out of Wild territory, and livin' on our own would take some caps, a lot of caps. It was around this time that Bingo heard about that rumor, the G.E.C.K thing ova' in 46. I happen to know of a couple organizations that would pay big bucks for it, settin' the three of us for life. There was only one problem: actually getting our hands on the thing. Many tried before, and none of them came back. In fact, 46 is said to be the worst place in all of Polis, maybe excluding the sewers." He stopped for a second to breath in, the wound on his neck burning like fire. After a very unhealthy series of coughs, Lazlo continued, "It was around this time that Vic came to us with very, very vital information. Now, Vic's been my buddy since my teen years, and he trusts- trusted me for more than anybody else in this godforsaken wasteland. And because of this, he told me, before going to anybody else, even Headman, that the Brotherhood, the fuckin' Banshee man, were headed to the Vault with the G.E.C.K. The three of us figured they would clear the way in, all we had to do from there was take the G.E.C.K, but that meant going through the Brotherhood and the Banshee, something we knew was not possible. This is where you come in with one, single task: Steal the G.E.C.K." Alan nearly choked on the purified water Lazlo had given him, spitting it on the moldy wall right of him. "STEAL IT!?! Are you fucking serious?" The Outlander started to ramble on how that would never work and how stupid Lazlo was to even think Alan would do it for him, all the while Lazlo sported a smart-ass smirk. "...not to mention, why the hell would I even do this for you? You have no leverage, no bargain, nothing!" The lone raider cut in at this point, silencing the complaining Israeli. "Oh, there is where you are wrong, Outlander. First off, the Knights trust you and, unlike myself, will not kill on sight. Secondly, do you really think I'd be that oblivious to you're 'good-soul' intentions? Of course not! We had a plan, we always had a plan." Alan raised his brow, curious of what they have on the traveling wastelander. Lazlo pointed to the needle, "Starting to feel a bit dizzy, eh Alan? Perhaps a wee nauseous?" Now that it was mentioned, the former Miner was starting to feel out of it. "That, my friend, is Thallium Sulphate. Symptoms? It starts with dizziness, nausea, but then moves onto a heavy flu, loss of hair, internal bleeding, and finally, here's the big finale, Death!" Alan's expression of curiosity now turned to horror. "That's right, you're a dead man, unless... what's that? A cure? Yes, and it happens to be in the possession of you're dear friend, Lazlo!" He pointed to himself proudly, taking Alan's sudden fear in like fresh air.
The devilish man stood up and grabbed the candle. "C'mon now, if want to live through the next 42 hours, then you'll go through with the plan and the two of us will never see each other again, got it?" Alan shamefully rose to his feet and unconsciously scanned for his SVT-40, only to see it strapped to Lazlo's back. Along with his Revolver. The genius raider stood at the doorway, waiting for an answer from the poor Outlander. He looked around, at himself, and then at Lazlo. Alan Schezar nodded. Lazlo smiled his signature smile once more, "Good, now hurry up, we've got two Banshees' to catch." And with that, he put out the candle flame.
Sibley and Stearns both raised weapons and eyes as the peculiar man in the patch coat revealed himself. Somehow, Sibley vaguely recognized the man. Sibley lowered his shotgun after listening to the man's proposal. "Durandal?" he said, drawing a crooked look from the drifter. He'd been through Snelling many years back. Didn't know where he came from, but did know that he was indeed a tech hunter, and a very crafty one at that. Sibley shook his head. "Walk with us, we have a lot of ground to cover," he said, as the man hopped down from the stoop. The waning sunlight made the three look like ghastly shadows in the night. Sibley talked very quietly as Inquisitor Stearns took point. The three figures headed for the Mississippi. The crossing would be tonight. "Durandal, how in God's name are we supposed to just walk into the Dome and take the fucking big screen?" he said, "the Vikings are weary of us out here, but unless you're one of them, you don't make it in there. You got something up your sleeve?" he said to the grinning wastelander.
The water was cool and swift down below. The bridge - or what was left of it - seemed to almost sway, even with the gentle breeze, as Stearns slid out onto the beams. Sibley followed, then Durandal. Sibley was considering his scheme, moreso how to pull it off. Trustworthy Outlanders were tough to come by, it seemed, tougher yet to encounter them a second time in life. All Sibley could think of now, was the damn water. A single slip and he'd be twenty feet in and sinking fast with his armor. That was if a Mudcat didn't drag him down. There'd been a fat pair of them on the shore minutes before, but they'd entered the water as soon as they saw the trio sneak out onto the bridge. Now and again, Sibley spied their fat heads surfacing, then sinking. Getting closer. Something told Sibley that they'd seen this before. It was like dangling a bone in front of a dog. Sibley clutched his weapon in one hand and with the other he held on to the rods and pieces of concrete that helped him along. Looking down every once in a while and noticing the Mudcats surface every time some pebbles or a rock fell into the water.
Stearns kept her eyes on the path. She'd walked it a dozen times. A shelf here, a ledge there, a beam and another shelf. At least there was some semblance of a way across. The Mudcats were always there. Everytime she crossed. They didn't bother her any more than idiot raiders and arrogant outlanders. All could be dealt with. No sooner had the tought crossed her mind than she felt a huge thud beneath her. Then a splash. She looked down to see the rising gaping mouth of a Mudcat rapidly approaching her. It didn't quite reach and plunged back down. Behind her, Head Paladin Sibley began quickening his pace. He was sliding closer as another hopped up to get him. Firing his Combat Shotgun one handed, the creature's mouth was a perfect target as Sibley sent it bleeding back into the water. Two more cannibalistic Mudcats were on it in a hurry, but the distinct "V"s in the water of at least five more were approaching from different sides.
Stearns hopped and ran along the shelves and ledges. Sibley and Durandal followed every step closely as Mudcats sprang up and snapped all around them. Pieces of rock and metal fell onto them as they hit the low bridge with increasing force. Stearns moved quickly. She, as well as the others, knew that while the Mudcats could come up onto land easily, the far bank was steep enough to cause them a problem and give an advantage to the Brotherhood and Durandal. Or they'd simply give up. Sibley risked a glance down to see a few floating pieces of Mudcat and the previously distracted monsters heading toward the group again. He looked ahead to Stearns who was about fifty feet from safety when a Mudcat finally hit it's mark, springing up and clamping it's toothy mouth around her leg. She grabbed the ledge as it fell, holding her and the wriggling beast by her arms, which were wrapped tightly around the beam she'd just been standing on.
Sibley fired buckshot into a second leaping Mudcat as it lunged toward it's dangling partner, knocking it off balance and back into the water, where it was set upon by it's fellows. Sibley fired on the second one twice, but ut did not loosen it's grip. He closed to within inches of its face and fired straight into it's eyes, blowing a hole through it and spattering gore in the water. The beast loosened and fell as Sibley helped Inquisitor Stearns back up. Safe for now, with a cannibalistic feeding frenzy below them, the three hobbled to the safety of the far bank to regroup. There was still a ways to travel.
"Holy SHIT!" Michale screamed, hearing the rifle shot ping off of a nearby wall. "Down, NOW!" he ordered, reaching for his trusty M16. "Let's see how you handle some of this." Michael growled, openning fire on nearby townhouse. "That's where he is. Keep it in small controlled bursts," Michael barked, "Or in your case, take your best shots." Michael continued, handing Dan his hunting rifle. Dan nodded in agreement. "Alright, FRAG OUT!" Michael yelled as he threw a grenade, "You wanna shootout, you got a shootout!" he yelled, sending another burst towrds the house.
"What the up n' fuck!?" Thomas shouted in confusion. "I've never miss, NEVER!" he continued, beginning to panic. "Fuck it, just gotta switch to the pistols," he said as he pulled out a .45 Hardballer and a Magnum, "Just gotta get close enough to use these." he told himself. "Maybe just maybe, I-OH FUCK!" he roared as a grenade through out of a window. "That's gonna sting in-OW!" he yelled, taking a shot to his left arm. "CROSS, I know you can hear me, you distrustful fuck!" Thomas shouted, "It's Thomas, your boss. I'm here to cancel your contract, and I want my fucking money back!" he screamed, gaining Michael's attention. "You little suit wearing shit! I'm gonna feed you to a Skek when I'm through with you!" Michael shouted at Thomas, "I'm gonna hang you by that fucking tie, you monkey suit, ass kissing, whiny BITCH!" he screamed again. "I'll show you fucking whiny!" Thomas replied, "I'll show you-OW, FUCK!" he shouted, taking another bullet to the arm. "Fuck you guys, you're not fucking worth it!" Thomas yelled, running into the nearby woods. "Well," Michael said, "Glad that's over. Maybe now we can get some fucking sleep." And with that, Michael volunteered for first watch, letting Dan get some much needed rest. "After a day like today, you're gonna need it." Michael said, before nodding off into an uneasy half-sleep himself.
Act VII Edit
"You think they already crossed it?" Alan's voice was rather disoriented, most likely due to both the poison and his exhaustion. He needed to sleep, badly, or his body would eventually just shut down. Although, to his disappointment, Lazlo probably had some other syringe for that as well. Alan hated needles. The duo stood at the river bank of the Mississippi, it's murky waters, filled with all sorts of creatures and bacteria, almost glowed an eerie color of green. The Israeli despised the thought of crossing the dreadful river, just imagining a watery grave, his body slowly decomposing and being nibbled off from various, mutated sea populace. It made him shutter with disgust. Lazlo, on the other hand, had crossed the river many times before, and knew his ways around the deadly mudcats that feasted on foolish natives. The raider knew what lied beyond the river, and he knew it all too well to be wandering around the area, but he was a man with a purpose. After all, what would Bingo and Vic think if he gave up now? Although, dead men can't talk. "It doesn't matter, we know their destination, and that's all we need to know. Now c'mon, ain't afraid of swimmin', are you?" Lazlo drew a devilish grin and started to remove gear to cross, putting all of it on a large piece of bark to float across. The man was obviously experienced with doing this. Alan shrugged and did the same, stripping his heavy outfit down to a ripped, white tee and dirty jeans. Lazlo tied a string attached to the bark onto his wrist and waved Alan in, apparently wanting the Outlander to go first. The exhausted traveler crept over to the water, now seeing the faint images of the seaweed on the river floor, looking at Alan, almost as if it was waiting eagerly to grip onto the Outlander's leg and ultimately drown him. Shaking his head, Alan finally stepped into the taunting river, quickly retracting after a seconds feel. "Jesus! Oh man, that's cold, that's really cold." He rubbed his foot, trying to return some heat to it. He looked over to Lazlo, who was chuckling, "Isn't there some bridge we could use? This seems rather dangerous." Lazlo began to laugh out loud, gripping his sides and leaning over in obvious exaggeration, "You think this is dangerous? No, you fool, you've got it all wrong. It's the fuckin' bridges that are the goddamn deathtraps." He started to number off threats with his long fingers, "Highwaymen, Wendingos, Vikings, even the Flayers, and I know you know all about them." Alan verbally expressed his fear of remembering that frightening moment in his life, something he really never wanted to go about again. Ever. Lazlo, in a rush to get to Vault 46, shoved Alan aside and dived into the frigid river. In a mere minute, he was already a fair distance from the shore when he shouted out, "Hurry your ass up Outlander, I won't be waiting on the other side!" The Israeli breathed deep, clapped his hands together, and regretfully dived into the freezing waters.
Raziel was the first out of the manhole, using his Biosoldier-like qualities to crawl out. He'd leave the problem of getting those pack-Brahmin surface-side to Jacob and the others, knowing that his suggestion would prove rather... unorthodox to his fellow companions. It would be good meat though. A small flicker from the corner of his one good eye caught his attention, coming from the second story of a partially crumbled building to his left. The mutated Austinite scanned the structure. It seemed to be abandoned, although the metal slants over the windows seemed oddly out of place. Possibly some wasters claimed it their home, and judging by Polis that he'd seen so far, they probably wouldn't be too generous to outsiders. The eldest Ramsey wouldn't make mention of this to the others, seeing as how it was only an uneducated guess and would only be a waste of time. He'd keep his eye on it though, one can never be too sure.
4 days later...
"God, I can't believe we're finally here!" Michael yelled, thankful to be away from the highways leading into Polis. "You'd better believe it, cause now we've got work to do." Dan said. "Oh yeah, I've gotta warn that one guy I'm after, what'd you say his name was?" Michael said, refering to the man in black he'd been sent after. "I think the guy your after is Jacob Vaughton, a vigilante with an outstanding kill streak. Good thing you changed your mind, cause he'd destroy you." Dan answered. "Oh ,by the way, what's a Skek?" Dan asked, remembering what Michael shouted at Thomas. "Picture a cougar. Now multiply it in size, strength, and fercoity by a factor of 7. That's a Skek." was Michael's reply. "Ok, hope we never run into any of those, cause they don't sound fun." Dan said. "Only thing worse than a Skek is a fucking giant-ass spider." Michael growled, remembering the webs they saw on the way to Polis. "If you say so. What the hell is that?" Dan said, pointing toward a figure emerging from a manhole, roughly 50 yards to their north. "I've no idea. I'd say it's a Ghoul, but those arms look a little suspicious. Come on, we'll check it out." Michael said, and he then began moving toward the figure carefully, keeping in mind the possible dangers. When he got close to tell it wasn't going to hurt him, hopefully, he yelled "Hey you! Yeah, you in the bandages, have you seen a guy in a black duster? I've got a warning for him!" Dan put his head in his hand, disapproving of Michael's apparent stupidity. "So much for a survivor." he said quietly.
The sudden voice, a break in the cold silence of this side of Polis, startled Raziel to the point of jumping, along with a certain yell that was an unconscious signal to Deek, meaning 'trouble'. The noise came from his right, out of a decaying highway leading in and out of the war-torn city. The mutated Austinite didn't hear all of what the man had said, something about a warning and a black duster, possibly a warning to retreat before being shot, Raziel truly did not know. Although unlikely by their dim-witted approach, these guys could be hostile, and Raziel alone could not handle to both of them in such an open area. He looked to the manhole, too far away to make a run for, as if these people were aiming to shoot Raziel down, he would not make it in time. So, on an impulse, the wasteland mummy darted towards the half-collapsed building, the same one that he thought to have seen life inside of. It was not the smartest move on his part, as the inhabitants of this building could prove to be far more fatal than the two travelers, but the ancient Ramsey was paranoid, and that particular fault would be his downfall one day. That day, though, was not today. The others would be safe in the sewer, assuming that Deek got the warning, and Raziel would rendezvous with them after this duo was dealt with accordingly, weather it be through talk or bullets.
"Hey! I just want to talk, man!" Michael yelled, seeing the figure, apparrently some kind of mummy, run into a nearby buidling. "He tought he heard a low hiss or a growl, but dimissed it as wind. "Come on, he's not gonna say anything." Dan said, eager to continue with his mission. "Nah, we just caught him off guard is all." Michael said. "Hold!" said the mummy, "What is your business?" he asked. "I'm here to deliver a warning to Jacob Vaughton. Maybe you could take me to him? That is, if you've seen him?" Michael asked. "Yes, I've seen him. But, I won't take you to him." the ancient being growled. "What's your name?" Michael asked, still wondering what this thing was. An agry growl was the only answer he got. "Well then, like is said before, we aren't hostile, we're not raiders or slavers." Michael said before he noticed Raziel, as the ancient mummy-thing called itself, step out of his hiding place. This mutant was truly something Michael had never seen before. Ancient, yet deadly, and those arms. Sharp as swords, but connected to him in a most unnatural way. Michael stood his ground, however. He had, after all, seen worse.
Raziel studied the two figures. They were obviously battle-hardened, armed to the neck and such, yet they claimed to be non-hostile. "Not Raiders, not slavers, and not hostile, eh? And you say you want Vaughton? I know him, I know where he is, but I ask myself the question: why trust you? I've been around much longer than you, your father, and possibly your grandfather, thus I am no fool. Tell me, who are you? And more importantly, what is your business with Vaughton?" The Ancient mutant's deep, dried voice startled the travelers, and combined with his grotesque appearance and manner, he must of been quite the sight to these Outlanders. He waited for their response, although what he was truly waiting for was his companions to emerge from the manhole and confront these men along Raziel's side.
"Like I said before, Raziel, I'm here to warn him. He might possibly be in a very minor form of danger. As to why you should trust us, we aren't here to shoot anyone. Well, I'm not at least" Michael said, hoping to reassure the mummified thing named Raziel that they weren't looking for trouble. "Now, as for you being older than my grandpa, sorry but he just turned 203. Yeah, he's a ghoul." Michael said, noticing more people emerge from the manhole behind Raziel. "Looks like your friends are here" Dan said with a smirk. Michael noticed a small look of relief on Raziel's bandaged face. Glad to see them too, eh?, Michael thought as he saw the man in the black duster emerging from the manhole, followed by an older man with some plasma pistols.
Thomas was relieved to have sighted his quarry, Jacob Vaughton and Michael Cross. Thomas, who had since abandoned his calm demeanor, now resembled something of a corporate badass, wearing his tie as a bandana, and having the sleeves of his shirt torn off at the elbow. Thomas had also incorporated some forest combat armour to his ensemble. Alothough lacking in camoflage potential, the armour did mark Thomas' newfound individuality, for he now envisioned himself as a hunter, not a monkey suit shit, as Michael so cleanly put it. Finally preparing for the fight of his life, Thomas moved into position, taking aim at the area where he sighted Croos and Vaughton. "Finally," he said, "It'll all be over."
Dale watched the strange humanoid dash into the open first floor followed by a couple of men. He didn't like any of this at all. He carefully slid the scrap metal shutter to block the window and then he approached Simon, the de facto leader of the settlement.
"Got three live ones down there, don't know if they know we're here," Dale whispered.
"Well short of blowing holes in the floor beneath us or the outer walls, there's only one way up here, and it's decently hidden. You already put someone to watch the stairwell?"
Dale nodded "Richie and Bill senior. Those three try to force their way up and they'll get a face full of hot lead."
"Good, good...Let's see, Dale I want you to try and listen in on 'em. You got any suggestions for what else we aught to do?"
Dale shrugged "Maybe get Mo to get the girls and kids ready to go upstairs, in case things get really bad?"
Simon quietly clapped Dale on the shoulder and snuck along to get things rolling. Dale, for his part, found the hole in the floor they had covered up with sheet metal and a wooden pallet. At his suggestion, they had previously put a peep hole in the metal so someone could take a peek down below. Dale took a knee and listened at the voices wafting up through the peep hole, he managed to catch some of the conversation and determined that the two men were looking for an associate of the strange humanoid, there was no indication that any of the three knew of the settlers above their heads.
Jacob sighed as he set up a little horseshoe of plasma grenades inside the manhole. The recess below it was more than wide enough to lift the Brahmin through, but the manhole itself was nowhere near big enough. He hoped plasma grenades would work. Frags wouldn't, and an anti-tank grenade would just cave the manhole in. That and Jacob hadn't seen a real anti-tank grenade in almost fifteen years. Three sailors were still down in the tunnel comforting the Brahmin, while the others were busily rigging up a lifting rig. Two lengths of scrap steel with a rope tied between them. It looked eerily like a portable gallows. Jacob pulled the pins and stepped away quickly. There was a hiss, a buzz and that gentle bang plasma grenades gave off. It had worked. Jacob wanted to dance. It had worked! They were all going to get out of here. Someone had tied a makeshift harness for the Brahmin, tied to one end of a length of thick mooring rope. Jacob passed it down to the sailors below, now trying to calm the Brahmin after the blasts. Now came the hard part. Jacob threw his Duster off, landing it on a protruding scrap shard. Four sailors hefted the portable gallows and slung the mooring rope over the top. The sailors below were to follow up the ladder, making sure Daisy didn't kick and injure herself. The remaining sailors lined up along the rope behind Jacob.
"Pull," Jacob grunted. The rope went taut, the Brahmin mooed distressedly and the makeshift lifting frame squealed in protest. But they all held. Jacob heaved again, pulling the rope hand over hand, inch by inch. The sailors behind picked up the slack, eventually building up a rhythm. Suddenly the load didn't seem so heavy when they all worked together. Jacob joined their dischordant song, pulling to the rhythm of the music. At long last, the Brahmin's head bobbed into view. Roland and Deek pulled her away from the significantly widened manhole and set her on the ground, then pulled the sailors out of the now ladderless hole. Claps on backs circulated, and a few cheers rang out in the cold air as Jacob pulled his duster back on.
Jacob raised his tired head, spotting Raziel speaking to a pair of strangers in the burned-out ground floor of a building of some description. It was beyond Jacob's interest to classify it as anything other than a Georgian-style terraced building. He strode over, setting himself up next to Raziel
"And who might the two new friends be Raziel?" Jacob asked, raising an eyebrow.
"The name's Michael Cross, and this here's Baracuss" Michael replied, "And I'm assuming you're the infamous Jacob Vaughton." Michael stated, noticing that the photo he was given had to be an old one. Vaughton had aged considerably since the time it was taken. Michael noticed Jacob nod "yes". "Well then, I've got a warning for you, Vaughton." Michael said, "A man by the name of-OH FUCK!" Michael yelled as he heard the crack of a sniper rifle, and felt the air rush as the .308 round passed just an inch shy of his temple. "Everybody get down, NOW!" Michael shouted as he noticed Vaughton dive for the cover of the nearby buidling.
"Why can't I ever fucking hit you?" Thomas yelled after missing Cross, again. "What, do you have some kinda fucking bullet-curving magic or something?" Thomas wondered. Only now had he started to miss, and only now did he realize how much of a survivor Cross was. "Fuck you Cross," Thomas yelled, "I'll just go after Vaughton." Thomas then prepared to enter closer quaters. Holstering his sniper rifle, he steaded a scavenged R91 and opened fire on their position. "I'll kill you if it's the last fucking thing I ever fucking do!" Thomas shouted as he clipped Cross' shoulder. "I'll fucking-OW!" Thomas was cut off as Michael returned fire, hitting him in the chest with a three round burst from his M16. "Alright, motherfucker, the gloves are off!" Thomas yelled as he moved toward a piece of rubble.
"Keep it in short controlled bursts, this guys a crack shot" Michael ordered after patching up the wound in his right shoulder. Luckily, Michael was left-handed, so the injury didn't affect his aim very much. "You can't kill me, I've got the angel of fucking death on my side, dumbass!" Michael yelled, nodding at Vaughton to move up on Thomas' left. "I never lose!" Michael heard Thomas shout. "You can't bet Vaughton, that's why I fucking quit this job!" Michael said, hoping to break Thomas. Michael's only real hope was that Vaughton was really who Dan Harris said he was. If he wasn't, Michael would be in some deep shit.
"Crack shot? He missed with a DKS!" Jacob called to Cross.
Jacob still took Cross' word for it all the same. He kept his head down, ignoring the chips of stone dropping on him as another shot clipped his cover. He unslung Mother's Woe and pulled back the bolt carrier. Breach clear. He let it slide back forwards, chambering a round and disabled the safety. He popped cover and fired a short burst, the HEIAP bullets breaking chunks out of the gunner's cover. Thomas dived backwards, swearing as one bullet overpenetrated and missed him by inches. Jacob shifted position again, ready to make a sprint for closer cover as soon as Cross opened fire again. As soon as he heard the burst from that M16, he broke cover and charged across a small space of open ground, sliding into cover of a burned-out bus. He crawled on his belly to a better firing position at the far end of the bus, sliding back as Bradburton fired again, chewing up the concrete where Jacob's head had been. Jacob grunted some blue language ad rose to a crouch. The second he saw Bradburton move up to fire again, Jacob squeezed off a burst. One shot skinned Bradburton's forehead. Shot should have hit right between the eyes. Jacob's hand had shaken. He'd seen that emblem. That talon on Bradburton's breastplate. His heart rose, thumping a primal drumbeat in his chest.
He sprayed another burst as he charged to new cover, moving ever-closer. Like an avalanche. Unstoppable, lethal. He vaulted through a shopfront, sliding across the floor under his own momentum. He stood up and strode towards the back door of the building, rifle raised. He kicked his way through the half-gone door and kept going, like a freight train. He ducked into cover again, avoiding more fire from Bradburton. The Talon Merc had relocated. Not bad, not bad. Jacob exhaled slowly, broke cover for a second and fired again, blowing away the hand guard of Bradburton's R91. The bullet's detonation shredded the R91's barrel.
"That's what Seven Sixty Two is for Talon! Got another peashooter up there?" Jacob taunted.
"Shit...shit...SHIT!" Thomas yelled as Vaughton moved forward, shouting taunts at Thomas "I didn't sign up for this!" Thomas yelled as he tried to run. " "I mean-AHH!" Thomas screamed as the barrel of his R91 suddenly exploded." What the hell did you do!?!" Thomas exclaimed. Thomas suddenly saw his life flash before his eyes. Not much, I know, he thought as Vaughton came ever closer. His instincts taking over, Thomas darted to the nearby building and began to make for the upper floors. I have the advantage now, Thomas thought as he moved into the confines of the buildings third floor, Vaughton moving in behind him at an inhuman speed. Thomas sat in a dark corner. I think I'll try to fuck with him, Thomas decided, and then he called out "Hey Vaughton, I know who really killed your family" Thomas paused. He noticed Vaughton stop and mutter something. "Yep, it was my father, who was freelance at the time. Sure, you got the other guys he worked with, but he was the one who really got them." Thomas heard Vaughton swear. "He told me all about it. Said he enjoyed the killings. Hell, I met a little girlwith the last name Vaughton on the way here, think she' related?" Thomas taunted. "Well, Vaughton, I killed her whole family. I even made her watch." Thomas paused, then grinned. "You hear that, Vaughton? I made her fucking watch. Then Vaughton, I went and slit her little thr-AHHH!" Thomas screamed as Jacob Vaughton, the Angel of Death, smashed him through a weak wall. The fight had only just begun.
"Holy hell," Michael said, "I've never seen a man move like that." he continued. "You've obviously never seen Jacob in action." said one of the men emerging from the remnants of the manhole, a merchant by the look of him.
"Doubt it. Vaughton's not my real surname. Long story. I don't know the real one either. As for your dad, I got him in the end. You have his eyes. Well, more acurately, I have his eyes," Jacob said, grabbing Bradburton and throwing him through a door when the younger man rushed at him, knife ready. He wasn't actually sure whether or not he was the one who ended Bradburton's father, but there was a long list of mercs to Jacob's name, so it wasn't unlikely.
Jacob threw a hook punch. Bradburton ducked under it and threw a few at Jacob's flank, the hits bouncing off his armour. Jacob's punch ripped a lump out of the far doorframe. Bradburton scrambled up the stairs, avoiding an axe kick that crashed through the steps where he'd been. Jacob lumbered up the stairs after him, swinging punches and blocking knife cuts with his armoured forearms. He lunged up the stairs, grabbing Bradburton's belt and throwing him the rest of the way up the stairs. Bradburton rolled, grunting.
"But, if you're a descendent of the man who killed my wife, my children, ruined my life, I guess I should return the gesture. Might even find peace," Jacob snarled, drawing his Bowie. "So, take your eyes first, or take your hands first?"
"You killed my father?" Thomas spat between mouthfulls of blood. "You killed my fahter!?! You bas-Aghh!" Thomas spat as Jacob delivered another kick to his stomach. "Wait, what's the knife for-AHHHH!" Thomas screamed as Jacob brought the large knife down on Thomas' right hand. "You asshole!" Thomas yelled as he managed to bring his leg around to Jacob's left side, striking him in the lateral. Thomas relished in the pain he had brought to Jacob, only to have such pain delivered to himself when jacob brought the large Bowie down on Thomas' left leg, tearing his hamstring in the process. "You bastard! You fucking bastard!" Thomas yelled, clenching his teeth in pain. "If I live-" Thomas was cut off as Jacob slashed at his left eye. "If you live." Jacob growled as he glanced at an open window. It was all Thomas heard as he felt the life slip in and out of him, as he felt the rush of the air. As he felt the ground beneath him. All that he had left was life. Life, it seemed, had enough of Thomas Bradburton. Thomas heard his father calling him, could feel the warmth leaving him, but he refused to die. Thomas struggled to hold in his spark, he struggled to hold on to the most precious gift. Funny, he thought,Funny that what I try hardest to hold on to is also what I am so quick to rob other people of. Funny, Thomas thought,That this is how it ends.
"Christ Jacob, was all that really necessary?" Michael asked, seeing the mess of a person that used to be Thomas Bradburton laying motionless on the ground. All he got was a grunt. "Oh well, maybe he's got some gear worth scavving." Michael said as he proceeded to loot Thomas' gear. "There it is" he said, "My other 800 caps. We're gonna party tonight." Michael hooted as he continued to peruse Bradburton's gear. "A sniper rifle, what's left of an R91, and some chems and food, damn I'm lucky." Michael yelled. "Can't say the same for you, though. O' course, that's what you get when you fuck with my money. Oh, nice pistols by the way." Michael snarled at Thomas. That scum is finally dead, he thought,Good riddance.
Cedrig grunted and rolled over. The hard ground of the sewer floor was really putting pressure on his body, and the fight with the Man in Black had taken quite a toll on him. Plus, the strange air down in the subterranean caverns may have caused Cedrig to faint. It was more than likely. The burning gases and the stench of disease and decay down in the sewers couldn't be healthy for a warrior, Cedrig decided.
He grumbled again and slowly rose to his feet. He saw the whelp, the child who had been with the outlanders. Strangely, she was completely intact, and it did not look as though the outlanders were around. Cedrig didn't bother wondering how she had managed to get them to leave, nor did he question why she was still alive. It was inconceivable to Cedrig that she would have switched sides. A born Viking is a Viking for life in Cedrig's mind. And, because she was a born Viking and the outlanders didn't kill her, they were obviously not affiliated with any rival clan. They weren't so bad, then.
Cedrig didn't acknowledge her presence. Viking children did not address a warrior until he spoke to them first. Instead of speaking, Cedrig stood, got his bearings, and cracked his neck. As he became accustomed to standing again, he began the tedious process of collecting and examining his arms and ammunition. After gathering his 10mm pistol, his shotgun, and his axe, and after ascertaining that they all would still function, Cedrig finally turned to Gerti. It was apparent that there was something on her mind.
"Viking child," he said. His voice grated with a sound akin to the wrecked hull of a Corvega being dragged over a bed of nails. To some, it might have sounded like the voices from their nightmares, but in those two words Cedrig tried as best as he could to muster all of what was left of the care and concern in his person. With those two words, he hoped, she would know that she could talk to him.
Raziel experienced what most would call a revelation at the sight of this stranger's mangled corpse, killed at the feet of Jacob Vaughton, a man solely responsible for the deaths of hundreds. A pity, he would have said so 127 years ago, but the sociopath mutant now had no place to speak in the sport of murder. Yet, still, an unquenchable feeling of remorse rose from within the troubled Austinite. He wanted to share his thoughts with another being of wisdom, another human who understood his plight and knew better of the meaningless slaughter that occupies everyday life. And, as if his thoughts were read aloud, Deek Harris walked up beside Raziel. The two had known each other long enough to read one and another, to know when to discuss, and when to be silent. This was a time to discuss. "It's depressing really," the old mummy's voice was riddled with horse and time, speaking without even making the slightest acknowledgment of Deek's sudden presence, as if he had sensed his lone companion approach. "We, and by we I mean excluding these two newcomers, had no idea who this stranger was, no memory of him, no information on who he was, if he had a family, where he came from, what his real motives were, no single item of his existence; yet none of it mattered after a couple of minutes, for his existence was ended today, and we truly will never know him. This Jacob Vaughton, he too is an enigma to us. For all we know, he could be the villain here, and that body could of been the hero, but no more, for we'll never know. If Vaughton truly were evil, he would lie to us, misguide our minds into believing him to be a man he is not." The two old men simply stared at the still body in front of them, stripped of his belongings, his dignity, and his life. A prolonged silence pasted between the two, both, in a way, mourning for the stranger. He'll never get a burial, a goodbye from his friends and family, the only purpose he holds now is decomposing. And that's what he'll do, and it'll be the last thing he'll ever do. Raziel inhaled deeply and smiled, "Formidonis". Deek looked over at him and nodded, "Formidonis."
Dale moved from the spy hole back to the window, following the developing chaos. He briefly turned back towards the others and waved towards the floor "Get down!" he could barely be heard over what he realized was explosive ammunition. Luckily the fight dragged out into another building and the threat of stray rounds penetrating their sanctuary became remote.
Eventually the action died down and the settlers quietly resumed their positions behind cover. Some kept a watch on the hidden entrance to their enclave while others clandestinely drew a bead on the violent outsiders. Dale was able to get a better look at the motley group, and immediately took them for complete outsiders, not native to Polis at all. He began noting their equipment and checking his Pipboy 3000B to see if there was any relevant information on these wasters.
Gerti watched Cedrig collect himself and once she had been addressed she spoke sternly, as close to a warrior as she could muster.
"The outlanders are fierce fighters, they have killed Vikings, Wildmen, and Wendigos alike in greater numbers than their own. They parlayed with Banshees and traded with them. I don't think...I don't think you can defeat them by yourself. They would have killed you, if I had not tempted them with a great secret I had hoped to use to keep my sister and I out of the Highdaway."
She stalled for a moment, trying to think of what else she might add when she suddenly came out with what was really on her mind "Are you my father?"
"C'mon guys, I think we should get a move on. For all we know, ol' Tommy boy over there might've brought some friends." Michael said, making sure he was loud enough to hear. He noticed some nods of agreement from the crowd, but Jacob was shaking his head "no". Michael asked why, and Jacob said that there were still a couple of people left in the sewer. "Ah, they'll catch up. Seriously though, we should move." Michael repeated. Suddenly, Michael jumped. He thought he had heard a familiar noise off in the distance. A fierce, cougar-like roar. Oh, shit, he thought,They must've followed us into the city. He looked around, and noted that the others had apparently heard the noise as well. With a quick nod from Dan, Michael spoke out. "That noise you heard," Michael said in a calm tone, trying to hide his worry, "Was the cry of a Skek. My best bet is that it was following either me and Baracuss, or it was after Thomas." The mere mention of his name sent another two roars into the skies, causing Michael to slide into a slight panic. "Ok, here's what we do," Michael began to explain, "First, we grab a branch or cloth, and have the guy at our rearguard drag it behind him. Skeks have overdeveloped senses, so we have to be silent, invisible, and odorless. Guys, we have to be like poison gas. Remember, silent, invisible, odorless." Michael finished. Michael had always had a deep fear of the Skeks of Kentucky. Why the hell are they this far north? Michael asked himself. Gaining more nods from the group, Michael set out towards an empty building, the same one Raziel had dashed into earlier, and Jacob proceeded to take a large piece of cloth and drag it behind them.
Before the group could take off, Dale fired a warning shot to get their attention. The settlers were initially baffled by his unexpected change in plans but they had his back; they kept their weapons trained on the people below. It was clear that the settlers had the drop on the outlanders, if they opened fire they would be certain to down several of them.
Dale called down to them "There is no way you're going while those creatures come poking around here sniffing after the trail you've led right to us. The risk to our children is too great. The lot of you are going to stay right here and put down whatever those creatures are, that's the way it has to be."
Dale seemed perfectly sincere, and he was. He figured he could help the settlers move once these outlanders were gone, if they survived whatever was coming. There wasn't any reason not to keep his word. It would be perfectly obvious to those assembled below that he was speaking the truth as well, after all, the settlers could have opened up on them from concealment at any point before now.
Roland looked over at Jacob, then shrugged. It was best not for him to get involved at this point, except for the obligatory sarcastic quip. "I would suggest you take the hands first, so he can't fight back when you gouge his eyes out." He looked around briefly, keeping an eye on Bessie as the Brahmin slowly calmed down. He put his auto-revolver away and pulled his NeoStead from the harness on Bessie, keeping guard of the perimeter of the little group's rally point.
Jacob spun, raising Mother's Woe as a shot chipped away at the concrete ahead of him. He spotted a man's face in the scope.
- "There is no way you're going while those creatures come poking around here sniffing after the trail you've led right to us. The risk to our children is too great. The lot of you are going to stay right here and put down whatever those creatures are, that's the way it has to be."
Children. There were children here? And whatever those noisy things out in the city were coming this way? Jacob sighed and lowered his gun. He'd seen enough bloodshed today. Enough human blood anyway. He rised his hands and looked in the direction of the voice. The face had disappeared from view. Jacob heard more rifles rattling in the buildings around him. They were all but surrounded. He counted about a dozen, maybe more. He might make it out of this, but most of the sailors, and likely the Brahmin wouldn't if their watchers opened up. Although, given that they hadn't fired already, they probably wouldn't without a lot of encouragement. Jacob considered just walking on until he spotted the laser pointer straight over his heart.
"Well, show yourselves, and give a few vantage points. What're the odds of corralling these things?" Jacob called to the stranger that had fired the warning shot.
"Slim to none Jacob." Michael said, noting his question of coralling them. "So, the only other option is an all out war with those beasts." Michael continued. He still wondered why they would be so far north. "Hey, you settlers ever seen anything that looks like a giant cat?" Michael asked. "If so, do you know why it might've come snoopin' around these parts?" Michael called out, hoping that they would have an answer. That's all he wanted, an answer. An answer to why these giant cougars are roaming around this particular slice of hell. An answer to how they managed to track the smell of gasoline all the way to Polis. An answer, all he wanted was an answer. "Please, just give me any information on those things. I need to know why they're this far north!" he begged. An answer, just one fucking answer, and he could have some peace of mind.
The beasts drew near as they heard the loud noises. Gunshots, of course, but they couldn't know that. All they knew was the hunt. Seeing that strange creature with the tail sprouting from it's head, they tracked him all the way to this strange place. Thunder booms and loud crackles abound, they continued to follow his trail, nearing a strange place with an odd smelling hole in the center. Plasma, they knew the smell, but not the substance itself. All they knew was that it burned to the touch and made a low fizzling noise. The Skeks called to each other before deciding to move in on the strange place, noting the trail of blood that smelled oh so familiar.
Stearns only showed her limp slightly as the small group made it's way further and further from the river. The former slums of north Minneapolis were not more than burnt out hisks of buildings, barely worse than they were before the bombs fell. Stearns' body language betrayed annoyance to Sibley moreso than pain. The right leg of her Advanced Power Armor was pinched tight around her leg, reducing her dexterity. The armor had taken the punishment, and on inspection, there seemed to be only slight bruising to the leg within, but defective gear is defective gear. It inevitably takes something away from the wearer's ability. Sibley looked behind him at Durandal, who was slowly looking around, while holding a peculiar looking shotgun at the ready. Sibley shrugged to himself. The man was a tech hunter. He'd probably tinkered and built and finally ended up with his masterpiece of a weapon. Sibley briefly looked over his own Combat Shotgun. He looked up when he finally nearly bumped into Inquisitor Stearns. She was adjusting her shin and calf armor as best she could. Sibley looked up, noting the broken street sign that read "Columbia Heights." The Heights. No Vikings, no Wild, just a melting pot of disgruntled gangs, hired guns, bounty hunters, slavers, and mercenaries. The Heights was tucked away from the Wild and Viking wars to the south. The strip of North Minneapolis was largely uncontested by Vikings or Wildmen, as nobody saw anything of value within it's boundries. There was the occasional squatter, or a piece of the local fauna, but other than that, Northern Polis was desolate. The Heights, however, was different. The Heights was home to more of the "educated" residents of Polis. While these men and women didn't have the numbers of the Raider clans, they did have equipment, knowledge, and a thirst for caps. With Harris Housley's outstanding bounties on Midwestern Brotherhood soldiers, Sibley knew that they needed to proceed with caution. Still, just beyond The Heights, was Brooklyn Park. Home of Vault 46.
No sooner than had Stearns stood back up and Sibley analyzed the situation, than a .308 sniper's round pinged off Sibley's shoulder armor. He ducked behind an old brick wall, pulling Durandal up beside him as Inquisitor Stearns sprinted to a better position. Even with her slight hobble, she was fast. Sibley ducked as a shot clipped the brick directly in front of him, the small pieces of mortar clicking against his helmet. He got to his belly and crawled to the side of the wall, peeking out and spotting Stearns taking aim at the hole in the roof of a townhome. She turned her head, motioning to Sibley. The muzzle of the Howl was nestled in a large drainage pipe. Stearns peered back into the scope. Sibley ducked instinctively as another shot hit the ground near him. Stearns motioned quickly for Sibley to come to her. Without hesitation, Sibley broke into a sprint. Another shot rang out and Sibley heard the faint sound of something falling inside a the building twenty yards away. He motioned to Durandal, who trotted over without delay. Under the darkness of night, the trio slipped into the building to look for the downed sniper.
Sibley turned his helmet lamp on low as he walked upstairs. Stearns was walking the ground floor and Durandal was camped at the door, waiting for any visitors. Sibley could barely see in the dust as he felt the front of his foot hit gravity. He looked down into the gaping hole in the floor with his dim light to see a face, mouth open and wide-eyed, staring back at him. Stearns entered the room. "There's your boy," Sibley said grimly. "Frogtown Company," Stearns stated, noting the insignia on the kid's jacket that denoted his former employment with the Frogtown Company mercenary group. "A scout?" Sibley asked. "A watchman," Stearns said. "I thought they were a Wild territory merc group?" Sibley said quietly. "They are," Stearns said, "they've been operating heavily in The Heights for months now. Recruiting." Sibley looked at the kid. "For their group?" he said. "No," Stearns shook her head, "for the Wild. The Headman put out a bounty offer to all the companies in non-Viking areas of Polis. She wants to make an all out push into Viking territory. This is the type of place you find all manner of scum willing to fight for money. Sibley checked his weapon again. "So you're saying," he began, "getting through The Heights is going to be tough."
Michael sat in the corner of a room with a window. The window had metal flaps covering it. "That's why we didn't notice them before." Michael said, noting the well thought out concealment effort. He noticed the others move into positions, and he heard the Skeks call out to each other. "Only about 300 yards to our south." Michael noted to the other sharpshooters. South is where they should be, Michael thought. He still had never gotten an answer from the settlers. Maybe it was an effort to keep him on their side. The question still dug at Michael like an angry mole. "Why are they so far fucking north?" he asked again. Then he heard one of the settlers mention something about a migrational pattern. Apparently, stuff like this was happening all over, and not just to wildlife. People, too, were moving north. This brought Michael to a new question. "Why is everyone moving north?" he wondered aloud. "Did it have something to do with those weird lights and clouds?" he continued to ask himself. Michael never did know what those light were. He knew what they might've been, but what unsure of what they were. Suddenly, he notice movement. The Skeks were moving into the street, towards where Thomas was laying. "Wait, where the fuck is Thomas?" Michael asked, noticing that Thomas' body was no longer where it had been. Michael wondered where he could be. "I saw him die, and the dead don't fucking walk." Michael said in astonishment. "The dead don't get up and walk away." he continued. The Skeks continued to move into the street. Michael snapped to and sighted his target, a medium-sized Skek, with a combat knife sticking out of its should. "Tommy boy." Michael whispered with a grin. Michael motioned to the other riflemen to go for the eyes. If they can't see, it'll make this a little more survivable.
The beasts continued into the street, noticing the slight sounds of movement around them. The ignorant beasts dismissed it as wind or tasteless birds. They moved cautiously toward the blood, again hearing they faint sounds of motion. the Alpha noted the irregularity, and began to scan his pack's surroundings, looking for any motion. Suddenly he noticed something, a slight rustling. Alpha dismissed it as wind, or the rustling of leaves. Alpha motined to his pack to follow, cringing as he aggravated his wound. Alpha wanted to make that strange beast pay. All for the hunt, he thought, all for the hunt. He loosed a growl to scatter any life that could interfere with his hunt. This beast knew vengeance. And he knew he would have it soon. His pack followed his directions without question. Both were female Skeks, giant lionesses in this post-apocalyptic hell. They followed their Alpha with eternal loyalty. Semper Fi, as the marines of old used to say. These beasts, however, followed Alpha for at least one other reason, to seek a suitable mate. Alpha fit that description, being one of the stongest of their territory. However, the two would eventually have to fight over him, lest he decide they are both worthy of his time. Alpha, however, only ever had two things on his mind since the last hunt: his revenge, and his wound. Alpha saw it as a weakness, although Alpha was ignorant to the concept of "what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger", and he was definately stronger. Suddenly, Alpha stopped. The packed followed suit and began to scan their surroundings, now noticing the strange smells that were around them. Familiar, but still distinct, as each had one similar aspect and several different ones. Most of all, they could smell fear, that sweetest of emotions. That which made your prey stop dead in its track, and that which made the hunt all the easier.
Jacob was in that state of utter calm. The bubble, so to speak. Like an animal finally released from a cage too small for it. The calm before the storm. Before that animal ripped everything it could reach to shreds. Those Skeks reeked. They weren't sick, they'd just been on the run for a long time. They stank of dirt, not disease. They were pissed. Jacob sighted one with a knife in it. Cross was eyeing that one up. Jacob scanned the area for more targets. None. These things were adept hunters. Like himself. He shifted his stance. It was hard to be the goat after being the wolf for so long. Last time he'd been the prey in a hunt had been . . . when was that? Hennard. Jacob swallowed. Hennard had been the only other living thing to hunt him that he couln't hunt back. He sighted a muscular leg in a window. He aimed, fired. The HEIAP bullet split through the Skek's leg, tearing a gaping hole through it. The Skek roared as it's fur began to burn.
"High Explosive Incendiary, Armour Piercing. God's finest gift to mankind. It punctures armour, explodes and burns. Made for Anti-Materiel and EOD. You should see the damage it does to human bodies. That'd be when they don't overpenetrate," Jacob said with a twisted smile. For him, the air started to take on and edge of the smell of burning hair. That Skek'd be in serious trouble if it didn't find some way to put itself out soon. Jacob's smile widened again. He was the hunter once more. He waved the sailors and panicking Brahmin towards the centre of the square. The easiest way to bait a predator was to tie down some prey.
Michael heard the shot ring as Jacob shot the leg of that Skek. "Almost forgot about your magic exploding bullets, Vaughton." Michael whispered. He noticed the others leading the brahmin into place. Michael felt sorry for the poor two headed cow. "It must be scared shitless right now." Michael said, noting how the skeks seemed to move towards the bait. Almost there, you ugly bitches, Michael thought as he adjusted the sights on Succoria, the sniper rifle that he took from Thomas' body. Michael then proceeded to chamber a round of .308 into the rifle. Bad move. As soon as the round chambered, the Alpha turned and looked directly at Michael's position. "Damn your perfect perception." Michael half-shouted at the Alpha Skek. Michael quickly signaled the other riflemen to open fire, Michael loosing a round directly into the Alpha's right eye.
As the beasts continued to move, one of them suddenly roared in terrible pain as a loud noise caused its leg to rip open and burst into flames. The Alpha immediatley detected a trap, but his stomach took over the second he saw it. A brahmin, one of the tastiest things the wastes had to offer. Aplha hadn't eaten in over a day, so the hunger was what guided him to ignore the sound, and even his injured pack-mate. However, Alpha soon regained control after his hunger quiet for a matter of seconds, already content with knowing that the brahmin would be devoured shortly. At that prepreise moment, Alpha heard a distinct click, then a sliding noise. He knew this sound, and immediately turned to it's source. In the small gap he could easily detect the presence of a human, perhaps the same human who injured his pack-mate. However, in the few seconds after Alpha sighted this presence, he was suddenly blinded, and in extreme pain. His right eye had lost all perceptive ability. His instincts told him to flee, but his mind told him Vengeance. Vengeance, Alpha heard, vengeance. Alpha knew it, wanted it, even savored it. Vengeance wouldn't heal his body, but it would heal his pride. It would prove his dominance. Most of all, it would earn him his meal.
Before the creatures burst on to the scene Dale managed to answer the outlander "All we know about the creatures is what you mentioned of them. We put a lot of work into picking this spot because it was relatively isolated despite its proximity to the two large raider groups in the region. Before you guys showed up, the only others we saw pass this way were a teenage girl and more recently, some crazy looking mostly naked guy."
Before anything else could be said, the monstrous creatures had arrived. While the outlanders and settlers fought, Dale ran up a couple of flights of stairs and with the help of a settler on the fourth floor, put a bridge in place that allowed him to walk above the alleyway above and onto the rooftop of a smaller, adjacent building. He continued running, down the roof access stairs and down to the first floor of this other building. The door and windows to this building had also been boarded up, for while the settlers were too few to occupy this building as well, they had set up several nearby buildings in anticipation of welcoming other settlers. He unbarred and unlocked the door and began waving at the hapless sailors the outlanders were protecting, and a few did come in though a pair of them stayed with the brahmin. Dale wondered why they didn't simply bring it inside, when he surmised that they either didn't trust him or they were willingly using themselves as bait to draw the creatures.
"Attend to your wounded here, you can use those windows to shoot out of as well."
Michael turned as the Skek lumbered toward the building, the beast having been blinded in one eye, but still having enough senses to compensate. "Damn you and your senses!" Michael shouted as he sprinted into the street, hoping to lead it away. "Hey! Fresh meat over here!" Michael yelled at the beast, which turned its scarred face, revealing a sense of rage only comparable to that of Jacob Vaughton. Michael was scared now. For only the second time in his life, he actually thought he was going to die. The Skek growled at Michael, snapping him back to reality. As the beast lurched forward, Michael openned up into its chest with a quick burst from his M16 and, luckily, the beast was struck, and halted its pounce in order to unleash a gutteral half-roar, half-howl that all but quieted the battlefield. Soon, the other Skeks were approaching Michael, who darted into another building hoping to keep them distracted. The Alpha Skek, who was now wounded, decided that enough was enough. He left his pack-mates to deal with the humans, while he retreated to the relative safety of a large drainage pipe. Michael, however, had more trouble on his hands than ever. With two Skeks following him, he dicided to leap from the second floor of the current building onto the roof of a small house. The other skek headed him off, but was soon caught off guard by a sudden blast from Jacob's magic rifle. Michael guessed that he owed Vaughton now, so he loosed another burst into the other confused skek, wounding its left shoulder.
"The Heights," the ex-Wildman's hushed voice was hinted with not only fear, but excitement. Lazlo, while having never been to the place himself, heard much of it from the late Bingo, who was born into the slums. People here were heartless, knowing no mercy, no pity, and most of all, no morals. They would take any job; burning children, slaughtering innocent women, anything for the right price. And, he knew it deep in his heart, this was the source of his fear. Headman. The Wild assumingly already figured out about not only Lazlo's defecting, but also his unordered attack on Flippa and his Flayers as well that, in turn, most likely set the sociopaths against the Wild once more. Lazlo knew for a fact that those were not things the Mistress Headman would forget, much less forgive. No, he had a price on his head now, and he knew it too. Distant gunshots, only heard through the dead of the Polis mourn, rallied the raider's attention, coming from the northeast, where his pray walked. Whoever had fired that bullet unconsciously led Lazlo that much closer to his goal. A wicked smile stretched across his ragged face. It dispersed almost immediately upon turning to see the foolish Alan Schezar, who was busy reading a century-old clipboard with century-old useless information on it. Lazlo sighed, it was a challenge in itself resisting from blowing the Outlander's brains out, but he was his key to freedom and prosperity, and so he lived. For now. "Alan, you dumbass, stop reading that shit and get up. We're movin' again, those Banshee friends of yours are nigh." The look on Alan's face, although covered by an enigmatic gas mask, was of disgust. He hated Lazlo, he hated him with a burning fucking passion and wanted no more other than to gouge his eyes out with a rusted spoon, but Alan favored life over vengeance. He wondered now, not but two days ago, how this man was at Alan's mercy, his life in Alan's hands. The irony of it humored the poisoned traveler, but he dared not chuckle, for this was not a man to anger. Alan stood up and dusted himself off, gently lying the clipboard on the dull-gray sidewalk, leaving it for the next curious wanderer to read. His hair was still damp from their dive across the Mississippi, and they were very lucky to find the various Rad-Away packets on the corpse of some poor scavenger who seemed to have met his fate through starvation. Alan mourned for him. Lazlo stood impatiently next to the Outlander, tapping his foot and waiting for the foolish traveler to stop daydreaming and pay attention. Alan came back to the present and looked at Lazlo, who held his arms out in a what the fuck are you doing? manner. "Lead the way, my master." said Alan in a sarcastic, humorous tone. Lazlo scowled and started to march North, to Vault 46.
"What's with these things?" Michael asked as the skeks continued to find the will to fight. The beasts were relentless, unending in their rage. Sure, the Alpha was gone, but now his pack was a serpent without its head. Unpredictable. Michael decided to try a new tactic, one that had only worked once. When Michael saw one of the sailors get pinned by the beasts, he fired a burst into each one's back and yelled, "Hey, you fucktarded cougars! The fresh meat's over here!". This got their attention, and in this moment, Michael watched as the head of one of the beasts erupted into a ball of fire. Vaughton, Michael thought. The other Skek Panicked as its pack-mate had just been completely destroyed. Michael took advantage of this confusion and was able to get a shot into the Skek's head, finally managing to drop the large beast. With the apparently over, Michael threw up a caution sign and moved closer to the remnants of the beasts. As he got closer, he drew his knife, Knick, and attempted to slit the whole one's throat. Michael saw it kick lightly, cause another shot to ring out across the street. I've finally got one, Michael thought, Wait'll the folks back home see this.
Between the settlers firing above and the outlanders fighting below, the mutated animals were slaughtered or convinced to switch from "fight," to "flight." Once he was reasonably certain the beasts were all gone, Dale ushered the outlanders into the empty portion of the settlement he had been directing their comrades to.
"Alright, thanks for taking responsibility, I really appreciate it. My name is Dale, I've got proxy for this here unnamed settlement. Now, what are you doing here?"
"Well, I think we've all got our own reasons. I came here looking for this guy over here." Michael said, jerking his thumb at Jacob Vaughton, "But I had a change of heart, so to speak. Now, I figure I've got myself caught up in one hell of a war party." Michael finished. "Now, before we get to comfortable, I need some of you guys to help me finish with these beasts outside." Michael stated. He saw some confusion on the faces around him. "Oh, I almost forgot. You see, skek meat is very valuable where I come from. I've acquired a bit of a taste for it m'self. So, how 'bout a deal?" Michael asked Dale, the leader of the settlement. "I'll take enough for me, and then we divide it between ol' Roland and his boys over there," Michael said while nodding at Rockfort, "And your group. I keep the pelt of the one with it's head still intact." Michael finished. He hoped it was a good offer. Skek pelt was extremely valuable in Kentucky. The meat was also valued for its unique taste and status. Many people believed that eating a skek would give you its strength. "Now, we'll let you deliberate on that for a moment. Let us know when you've decided."
"Wait." Roland raised his hands, stepping away from Bessie for a second after the Skeks had been dealt with He himself had brought down a Skek, having punched it several times in the throat, collapsing its windpipe before emptying a few .00 buck shots into its massive face. The scavenger and merchant loaded a few of his spare shotgun shells into the NeoStead's breach, then clacked it shut and cocked the gun. He tilted his head slowly to one side, baseball cap shifting imperceptibly off to the left side of his forehead.
"I don't remember me telling you who I am." The merchant slowly began raising his shotgun to hip level. "Jacob," Roland said carefully, slowly, as if he was asking for an excuse to introduce Michael's guts to the cool night air, "Did either one of us tell you who I am?"
Uh oh, Michael thought, It never fails. Michael had gotten himself into trouble again. Hopefully, he could talk his way out this time. "Mr. Rockfort, you act like you ain't got a reputation." Michael stated, lowering his weapons to the ground, hopefully that menat something to Roland. "After all, I've been to the Capital Wasteland more than enough times to hear about you." Michael explained, hoping to ease the tension. He noticed Roland had stopped raising his gun, but he still looked suspicious. "Look, Roland, if I was here for you, do you really think I would've helped you kill those skeks?" Michael asked, hoping to appeal to Roland's better side. If he had one.
Dale listened to the suggestion and countered "Your people and mine worked together and all expended ammunition. Fairest outcome is to split meat, pelts, and such as evenly as possible."
The sudden turn of events between Michael and Roland caused Dale to frown "Oh. I was hoping we could all get along. Can you guys resolve this peacefully?"
Raziel seemed to have walked in at a bad time. The elderly Austinite slowly stepped into the empty room this settler had beckoned them to, the good-hearted Deek Harris along his side. The leader of this settlement, Dale if he remembered correctly, seemed to be thanking the diverse party of men for their help in slaying the beastly creatures outside, although a dispute had broken out. Raziel entered too late to discover the cause of this standoff, but he had to guess it had something to do with this newcomer, Micheal. Roland had him at gun-point, Jacob beside him, ready to kill. Deek immediately pulled out his Plasma Pistol and aimed it at Micheal, who was claimed innocence in this ordeal. Nobody took mention of Raziel, excluding a curious glance from Dale, who seemed slightly interested in the mutant's appearance, although the man quickly regained composure on the standoff, that being the more important manner at the time. Raziel couldn't help but feel useless in this plot, his only weapons being the rusted blades attached to his forearms. He began to question where his allegiance truly stood. Was it with this chaos-invoking party of strangers that he and Deek had just met? Was it only with Deek, who so willingly teamed up with these new men out of a hunch? It was then that Raziel, or rather Jacob Scott Ramsey, thought that maybe, just maybe, he was meant to be alone. He had spent the majority of his prolonged life alone, within the dreadful confines of Area 51, and thus ceased to be a nuance to anyway, ceased to murder and terrorize, ceased to, in the eyes of the public, exist. He loved Deek, there was no doubt about that, but how much did his old friend really like Raziel? Could it be possible that the ex-Enclave soldier only stood beside the ancient mummy because of pity? The bandaged relic suddenly had too much of this ridiculous gun-pointing act of paranoia and hubris, resulting in him retreating from the room, back outside to the cool Polis air, away from his newly acquainted companions. Deek barley took note of Raziel's departure, himself too concerned with the meaningless lives of strangers. From the second story window of Dale Archer's home and community Raziel saw the curious little eyes of children, looking through the metal shades at the lone, troubled Austinite below. He deemed them harmless, considering they haven't fired upon Raziel yet and/or hurled various objects at him. The century-old mutant simply smiled through his bloodied wrapping and continued onto a nearby bench to rest and finally get some peace. This is, before the idiots inside started to kill each other.
Roland allowed one eyebrow to peep upwards slightly, still holding the shotgun at hip-level and aiming straight at Michael's organ-sack of a torso. "A reputation?" The merchant grunted to himself, his face unchanging. A tense moment passed through the group as the shrill whine of Deek's pistols slowly warming up for combat. The old psychotic looked expectantly towards Roland, giving a nod as if to say, 'Say the word and I'll blast this fucker to Kingdom Come.'
The silence stretched out for what felt like ages, encompassing what was actually a matter of minutes, before Roland finally un-tensed and lowered his NeoStead, holding it one-handed and pointing the muzzle down. "Right," the merchant finally said, his voice taking on a nonchalant, almost apologetic air, "Sorry about that. I forget I have a reputation sometimes." The former assassin and current merchant turned towards the Skeks, which were already in the process of being butchered- well, at least, those that remained mostly intact were being butchered. The ones that weren't were being worked over for meat and skin were being brushed off to the side of the street in an attempt to make a clear path into the settlement.
"We'll talk business in the settlement, where maybe this good mayor here would lend us some whiskey to ease the trouble of bartering." The merchant said, cracking a traditional Bogart smile, showing all of his teeth in one massive grimace, before turning towards the settlement.
Deek lowered his energy pistol as the party calmed down, only now taking notice of the dissappeareance of his flesh-rotted friend, who had gone to simmer somewhere off to the side of the argument. Returning his pistol to the crude holster around his waist, and checking to make sure his radiation suit was secure in its satchel, the ex-commando madehis way over to Raziel's seat. He plopped down on the bench next to the old, dried-out husk of an Austinite and turned his face towards him.
"You alright, Raz?" The former Enclave soldier grunted in his "I don't express concern very well so this is all you get" voice.
"Whiskey sounds good. After all that, I think some of us could use a drink." Michael said, relieved to no longer have every gun in the room pointed at him, especially Roland's shotgun, or that old guy's plasma pistols. Suddenly, Michael noticed something odd. "Hey Roland, have you seen Baracuss anywhere?" Michael asked, wondering where the former vault-dweller had run off to. Roland mentioned seeing him outside with the sailors. "Thanks, he's been silent most of the time we've bee here. That's not normal...at least, not where I come from." Michael said. "Hey Cross, you okay in there?" Baracuss shouted. Well, that breaks the odd silence, Michael thought. He called back, "Yeah, I'm fine. I just really need a drink.". Slowly, Michael then bent down toretreive his weapons, assuming te situation safe again. As Dale produced a couple of whiskey bottles, Michael took a seat near Roland to help with business. Michael wasn't much of a merchant, but he can manage to do some decent trading. After all, Roland might have some good stuff in that pack Brahmin of his, maybe even something worth keeping.
Gyrd's crew were checking out the scene of the battle at the townhouse looking to pick up the trail, their dogs were picking up all manner of scents. For his part, Gyrd was listening to a report from a breathless Wolfpack auxiliary.
"Tellin' you sir, they went by way of the sewers, there's all kinds of dead Wendigos down there. Plenty of live ones too or we'd have been following the signs."
Gyrd's ears perked at the word, he rather liked Wendigos. He had a little trick regarding them that he and his boys had kept out of general circulation. "Good work, get your guys up top side. My boys wills follow the sewer route, you guys stick up here with Brom and the Vickers twins, they'll keep you on track."
The Wolfpacker sighed and tried to speak, only to be cut off by Gyrd "Don't worry. You and yours will have ample opportunity to make your bones. Don't fuck up and we'll get you into the Vikings proper."
Gyrd looked at his map, it was a yellowed tourist map of the old cities with plenty of hand-written notation and routes drawn in. He waved Brom over to have a look.
"These guys are on decent terms with the Banshee, so they probably wont go visiting the slavers. It's possible they're on their way to one of those small camps that sprung up after the fire-storm, but we could be chasing those down for days. What do you think Brom?"
Gyrd's brother in arms looked at the map and pointed out an old building.
"There's some outlanders in that old tower, not like the camps. They're proper mercs and such, running some kind of trade post. Know what they're doing too, just out easy reach for us or the Wild, easily defended by just a few people. If the people we're after are out-of-towners with that much firepower, they could be connected. We set up a trap, should have 'em."
Gyrd rolled up the map and put it away "Sounds good. Take the Vickers boys and the Wolfpack guys. We're going down below to rustle up some Wendigo backup."
The Viking gang boss slipped on a hideous mask, one that made even the hardened Brom a little queasy.
Dale provided some clear, unaged whiskey in recycled bottles and passed it around. It was strong and barely fit to drink, but it was alcohol. He signaled some of the other men from the settlement to come down and bring some trade goods.
Raziel was relaxed by Deek's concern, an aspect of his person that he does not show often. "Don't worry about it my friend, it's just my years catching up with me. I can't handle this kind of hardship much longer Deek, my 159 years is beginning to reach it's limit. I have been consitering deeply about going back to my old home, where I can exist in solitude, yet far too many troubled memories and lost souls lurk there. I've begun to feel as if a burden to you, a role that I cannot play, nor do I want to. I tired of it all, I just want to rest Deek, that's all I want. I want to rest..." The ancient relic's voice was dry and horse, but the sorrow was obvious. Deek was about to speak when settleres from this hidden community emerged with food and drink, and the mention of trade was made as well. Deek stood up and brushed himself off, "C'mon Raz, let's just get somethin' to eat, neither of us have eaten since the townhouse." Raziel smiled and followed, even though he knew that this was just Deek's way of trying to change the subject. It didn't matter, Raziel wasn't hungry anyway, he still had the taste of Wendingo in his mouth afterall.
Roland seated himself at a small dining room table and removed a worn ledger from his pants pocket. Scrolling through the pages, revealing many crossed-out, scribbled, erased and smudged markings, the merchant settled on a page where prices for Skek materials were displayed. Scanning through the items and prices, the merchant smirked. "Well, for the haul we brought in today," Rockfort said, grinning, "the meat, hides and skulls'll bring our little party at least 600 in cold caps at the next trading post. That's 300 for you and 300 for me, unless someone else wants in on the caps here."
Once all was said and done, the deal was struck and sealed with a handshake, and the skek's bountiful meat, hide and bones were stowed in Bessie's containers. "Now," The merchant finally said, "Since we've all done our work, let's go in and get some food from our hosts." Roland whipped out his cap pouch as he re-entered the settlement and put down a bundle of 50 caps. "How much booze and food will that get us? I got plenty more to go around, Dale. Even got some trade goods on the Brahmin, if you wanna do a little dealing."
Dale conferred with the settlement's actual leader to get a fix on what was needed and what goals the villagers were hoping to achieve in the short term. Once he had a better idea he returned to deal with the merchants. "We don't have much use for caps, but we can barter all the same. Bullets are always needed, drugs to treat radiation too. Finally we could use iodine and salt."
The last two requests caused the leader to look at Dale curiously, but he said nothing apparently trusting his proxy even if he didn't understand him. Dale shrugged at Roland "I know it may barely be worth unloading the brahmin for a small order like this, but if you deal I'll throw in my services as a guide to a place where you can do some big business. Ever hear of a group called Jack Rabbit Express? They've got a clubhouse,as they like to call it, further in. Newish place, but they've already got the set-up to keep the local troublemakers at bay. It's a basically a fort."
"Big business?" Michael asked, wondering just how big it would be. He saw Dale nod. "Thank God. I've been thinkin' about how I'm s'posed to offload some of my newfound wealth." Michael said, opening up a pouch with his 1,600 caps he collected from Thomas. What a fucking moron, Michael thought, I mean, paying me in advance!? What the hell was he thinking?. Still wondering what he could buy, Michael took a quick mental inventory. Ammo, Whiskey, lots of whiskey, he thought. What else? Motorcycle parts, rifle parts, food(pork n' beans, sugar bombs etc.), and, uhh, fission batteries. There, that oughtta do it. Michael then noticed Roland looking at him. He then remembered the deal about the skeks. "300 each? Sounds good. Could probably milk some more out of 'em if you ever go down to the Cumberland Plateau." Michael replied. He saw Roland grin. "Figured you'd like that. Besides, I need a safe route home anyways. My bike's low, my heli's crashed, and I've got no way to radio the Commandante." Michael said, hoping to be able to ride shotgun with the Good Captain for a little while.
Gyrd and his crew had reached their destination and were busy preparing the field. Brom was concealing mines in the tall dry weeds growing out of the large cracks in the pavement and asphault. The Vickers brothers had picked out the rooftop with the best vantage point and were figuring out their range. Dagwood was setting up lines and other booby traps in buildings suited for quick cover and hiding places. Mendel had turned a Wild scout into chum and was slathering it in a likely avenue of retreat so as to draw out mudcats. Most of the others were setting up blinds and ambushes to cover the approaches, while Gyrd had the difficult and npleasant duty of keeping some Wendigos coralled underground. All of this activity was performed with such practiced stealth that they managed to avoid detection by the sentries posted at The Depot.
Jacob stood back, leaning against a wall and watching the streets outside as Roland and Cross and Dale sorted out some kind of agreement. There was something not quite coy about the whole situation. Dale seemed to be watching them a little more closely, and with a more experienced eye, than the leader of a fresh settlement should. Seemed to be eyeing them up and then running a comparison in his mind. Cross was looking fairly happy about the whole trading situation. He was as close as he could get to his irises and pupils turing into dollar symbols without it actually happening. Jacob was quite sure a less composed man might be rubbing his hands together with a look like that in his eye. The way Dale held himself, and the way he was eyeing them up, however, made Jacob wonder just how much trouble the lot of them would be in if they ripped Dale off. Maybe everyone in Polis was like this. Everything was quite new to Jacob. Everything except the violence, double-talk and bloodshed. Killers were the same wherever you went. Different names and faces, sometimes they even had a different MO. But once you scraped away the surface, they were all cold, callous, something less than human. Maybe this Dale knew that. Maybe he was one of the rare few who could walk away from the killing floor and make something of himself. He had a knowing air to him.
Jacob took a quick glance over to the sentries. They were all sittin' pretty. Nothing to report. Not that Jacob trusted a trio of yokels who didn't have anything meaningful to contribute to an established settlement. He had his right hand inside his duster, resting on Lucille's grip. He laid Mother's Woe down on the shelf next to him, in easy reach. He stared down anyone who so much as glanced at him. He almost reconsidered. He'd left the battle rifle in reach of his right hand, which was now resting on Lucille's grip. He shook his head. Getting paranoid. He slung Mother's Woe back over his shoulder and took his hand off Lucille's grip. Once they got whatever it was out of that Vault and ransomed Gerti's folks out of Polis with it. Or killed the Top Dog and Headman and let the leaderless Raiders fuck each other up while the Outlanders slunk out in the chaos. He liked the first idea more. Put settlements like Dale's at less risk of being burned down by some passing degenerates.
"We're losing daylight Roland. We gonna get a move on or stay here?" Jacob asked. "Or move on anyway? Travelling at night might not be so bad."
"I'll see what I can do you for," The merchant grunted in Dale's direction, shoving out of his chair and moving back to Bessie. He untied a large ammunition crate and two first aid kits, along with several smaller pieces of cargo, from Bessie's riggings and made his way back to the settlement's interior.
Roland smiled openly. "Take your pick from what you need, free of charge. I'll just remember to come back and barter with you for a price some other time." Rockfort wrote down Dale's name in his little ledger, then returned it to his pocket and turned back towards Jacob. He mulled over his offers in his head, briefly, and then nodded. "Yeah, probably best we get moving after Dale and his friends finish up taking their picks from the cargo. I have some more settlements I want to barter with along the way, and you can do your 'mad justice' thing as we go."
If Dale was suspicious at Roland's generosity, he gave no sign, and his face remained locked in an expression that toed the line between wariness and serenity. He helped the settlers pick out a reasonable ammount of 10mm and 5.56mm cartridges and personally went through the offered medical supplies. Dale seemed to have more than a passing familiarity with the assorted pharmacological aids. The settlers in turn offered Roland and his traveling party a meal of anterk sausage, radpoke salad, unleavened bread, and strong whiskey. Rations of jerky fit for traveling were also made available.
"If you guys are itching to leave, I can take you to the Depot, that's here those Jack Rabbit fellows are. I need to head there myself sometime soon, got some business to take care of. They're from way out of the region, some come from as far out at Texas."
Roland and his crew gratefully accepted the meal, with Deek refraining from eating the food himself, instead opting to take several rations of the jerky for himself and Raziel. Taking a wondering sniff of the food, the old scientist eventually decided to tuck into it himself, eating some of the available food. Roland left around 100 caps to cover the expenses, then turned back to Dale. While his sailors finished their meals and moved the stores of equipment back to the pack Brahmin, Roland returned to his conversation with Dale.
"Texas, eh?" The merchant said, sniffing. "Helluva place. Rough people, rough terrain, rough booze. I just helped The Union retake Austin a few months ago... Or was it years?" Roland scratched his chin, admiring the beginnings of a scraggly beard, before he turned back to Dale. "No consequence, anyways; what's done is done. Anyways, no time like the present. If you're ready, we can leave for the outpost now."
Raziel, upon noticing the diverse group of travelers pack up, rose from the rotten bench he was resting on. It smelled of ash and was black as oil, but even after over 200 years of decay, it still managed to serve it's purpose. The mutant envied this lone Minnesotan bench. Truly, Raziel was not sure where they were going. In fact, he didn't even know if they had stopped their cliche Mexican standoff, but it really didn't matter, none of it did. He crept over near Deek, who was shoving various quantities of jerky into his suit, a smart move indeed. Jerky was quite the delicacy. The mention of Texas caught his attention, in a conversation between Dale Archer and Roland. He was tempted to inquire, but he held himself back, they obviously had more important matters to discuss. Brahmin were being loaded with supplies and goods to trade, and the people around them armed to kill anybody who endangered their cargo, weather it be starving wastelander or trained mercenary, it didn't matter. A sense of uselessness gripped Raziel, whom noted that he was without a task, a responsibility. He couldn't blame anybody really, 140 years ago he would've kept his distance from a creature like himself as well. He began to wonder what the local populace's view towards mutants was. He had heard of the near-genocidal conditions along the east coast, as well as the forgiving communities in the west. Where did this certain section of hell stand? Although, judging by the wayward looks he received from Dale's settlement, he had to guess that mutants were quite the minority here. Deek nudged the Austinite on the shoulder, refocusing him on the current task instead. A cold wind blew over the moving line of traders and sailors, causing them to rub their shoulders and faces in an attempt to revive warmth. Raziel felt nothing, and he never will, despite his dearest wishes, he'll always be numb.
Alan Schezar cowered behind a rusted bathroom stall while his good friend Lazlo, armed only with a single .32 pistol, fired across the 'Lucky Jack Diner' towards a very vulgar bounty hunter. This man, who was decked out in polished Combat Armor, outgunned Lazlo ten-to-one with his R91 Assault Rifle, a very nasty gun indeed. And, despite the fact that two men would be much more useful than one, Lazlo still refused to allow Alan to use his rifle, even if it was to help him out. Although, and Lazlo probably knew it as well, Alan would not prove to be much more help in this gunfight than he is now. He wasn't a very great fighter, never was, and preferred to hide rather than fight. Exactly what he was doing now. "Fuck! Gah! My fuckin' face!" Lazlo screamed in agony. The ex-Wildman had just received a large amount of concrete shrapnel embed into his chiseled face. Alan, upon peeping out from the stall, saw that his entire left side of his face was covered in blood, along with both eyes. He couldn't shoot, he knew it too, and he also knew what that meant. He had to give Alan a gun. Trust is a hard thing to come by in the wasteland, harder than food, water, even fuel. You could think that you trusted somebody, he could be you're closest friend, you're partner-in-crime, you're amigo, but basic Human needs, hunger and thirst, have always outmatched friendship and trust. One day he could be at you're back, helping you fight off mutants and dogs, and the next he could be miles away, a pocket-full of caps and a full stomach, leaving you tied helplessly to a disgusting toilet seat and broke. Well, that little emotion seemed to be forced upon Lazlo at this point, and he just had to go with it. Either that or die, and he would really like to avoid the latter. And so, regretfully, he called to the hiding Outlander that happened to be his key to survival.
"Alan! Get over here, that fucker messed up me face and I can't shoot! Stop pissin' yourself and kill him!" He kicked the SVT-40 over to Alan, who shakily grabbed it. Bursts of gunfire and yelling came from outside the restroom and across the diner, the bounty hunter obviously enjoying his job. The Israeli stood up and faced a temporarily-blinded Lazlo. Opportunities like this came once in a lifetime. Here he was, face-to-face with his murderer, except this time with the gun in his hands. He could shoot him, take the antidote, and finally leave this wretched city, like he should've the first time the Knights confronted him. So, what was holding him back? Why is this particular raider's heart still beating? Why the hell couldn't he shoot him!? Another burst from that R91, along with another section of dry wall, rattled the Outlander's concentration. This was a split-second decision, Lazlo's vision was going to clear soon, this was it, now or never! He raised the rifle, pulling back the hammer and aiming down the sights. There it was, Lazlo's head, in plain view, defenseless and unknowing. Alan's finger barley skimmed the trigger, knowing that he could squeeze it right then, and end all of this. "C'mon Outlander, what the fuck are you doing? He is shooting at us! He is going to kill us!" Lazlo exclaimed in a very impatient and rushed tone, pointing in the direction of the bounty hunter, still not fully aware of how close his life could be to ending. This was victory, Alan told himself, sweet, sweet victory. Finally, Alan Schezar would come out the one on top. He held his breath, he was going to do it, he was gonna shoot! But through the sights, he saw Keith Harrison, the unlucky son of a whore and a deadman, who found brotherhood in the Wild, a family to take care of him. A place to fit in. He saw Keith Harrison, aged 29, still in the beginnings of his life. No, he couldn't do it, this wasn't him, this wasn't the Alan Schezar that he wanted to be. A murderer, a cold-blooded murderer. No, not at all.
He exhaled, lowering his rifle, and focused on the man trying to kill them both. This bounty hunter had taken cover behind an over-turned table and had them pinned down. Alan scanned the restroom. No windows, no vents big enough, no way out. Only broken sinks and stall doors. Wait, that was it! The stall door! He had read about a scenario similar to this in an old book from before the war. The door was sturdy enough to withstand a couple rounds from an R91, just enough to get him to where he wanted to go. Alan peered around the corner at the rest of the diner. He was gonna try for the counter, in an attempt to get behind it so he could then shoot the hunter's legs out from beneath it. This was crazy, an untested plan that he remembered from an ancient book, but it didn't matter at this point anyway. Alan grabbed the door, holding it like a shield, his rifle slung over his shoulder. He looked over to Lazlo, who was clueless as to what was going on. "I'll be right back. 'Roast Beef' is the code word, come out if you hear it. If you don't her anything, then I'm dead, and you will be soon." With that, he ran off, leaving Lazlo beyond confused. Amazingly, he nearly made it halfway before the hunter, hesitated by the outrageousness of what he was seeing, finally unleashed a full clip on poor Alan. Schezar then dived below the counter, ditching the stall door behind him. In the next split second, he pointed his SVT-40 at the confused hunter's shin. Firing 3 times, the man fell to the ground and cried out in pain. Alan saw this as his chance, rising up instantly and putting two rounds in the poor man's head. Silence filled the room as Alan, in shock of the stunt he just pulled, stared blankly at the lifeless corpse. After about half a minute, he remembered Lazlo, who was curled in corner of the restroom with his pistol pointed to where he thought the entry was.
Dale didn't know Texas from Bombay and merely nodded at Roland's description of the place. He glanced back briefly at the settlers who were hauling the newly acquired goods up to secure storage.
"If you'll just give me a minute Roland, I'm not exactly dressed for the road."
Dale stood up and walked to his living quarters. One of his caveats when he agreed to help the settlers start this place up was that he have his own area, away from the commons. He closed the door behind him and latched it shut then dragged a footlocker out from under the metal-frame bed. He changed into warmer clothes over which he buckled the armored vest and plates of a suit of MK II Combat Armor. Over the armor he put on a dull, gray poncho. He gathered his arms and ammunition and before stepping out he did one last check: inserting a holotape into his PipBoy and checking the encryption on the coded radio burst he hoped to pay the Jack Rabbits to broadcast for him. Satisfied, he tucked the tape under his armor and exited his room.
"Ready when you and yours are."
"Well then, let's get this moveable feast on the way." Michael said, noting the approving nods from the obviously chilled sailors. Michael hoped to soon reach the Jack Rabbit Express outpost, because he hoped they could broadcast his field report back to Kentucky. It'd been almost 3 full days since his last broadcast, and normal protocol would strike him as dead. But he knew that the commandante valued him enough to ignore protocol. He also wondered how Sara and Daniel were doing. It's been too long since I've seen them, he thought. Too long. I wonder how old Daniel will be? I'd say he'd be 15 or 16 by the time I get back, hopefully I'll be there for his birthday, Michael wondered. He always worried about his wife and son. Worried that his mercenary lifestyle would rob his son of a father like the Wastes had robbed himself of Marcus all those years ago. At least theirs always Mom, Michael thought, remembering his now ghoulified mother Ashley. He worried about her, too. Ghouls were usually accepted in the Republic. After all, the President was just recently ghoulified himself. "One thing before we go." Michael said. "I've got something I've gotta get from a local garage not far from here. I'll catch up with you guys later."
Sibley and Stearns walked through the urban jungle that was The Heights with the utmost in caution. Silence wasn't really an issue. The constant gunfire and indiscriminate gunfighting that took place in the Heights, often for no reason at all, was enough to keep most attention away from a few passersby. They did, however, have to worry about being seen. Fortunately, Stearns was trained extensively in such matters. She'd fashioned a heavy robe out of an old canvas and given it to Sibley. She herself wore a second. Now, with weapons concealed, they made their way in plain sight across the Heights. The mercenaries and bounty hunters here were more aware. Most were well-travelled and not as backward as the Wild and Vikings. They knew of the Brotherhood of Steel in any of its many incarnations. Most knew of Power Armor and laser weapons. A few even possessed some aged and battered models of them. The Midwestern Brotherhood Paladin and Inquisitor, for their part, just looked menacing as glowing eyes peered from dark hoods. They kept their heads down, mostly, only attracting a few suspicious glances from bounty hunters in the open-sided saloons and bars. The sun casted a dusty gray lull over the landscape. They walked carefully past an organized barfight, in which two brutes were mercilessly hammering each other, to the roar of the crowd.
Sibley clutched the handle of his Colt revolver, keeping his thumb on the hammer to be ready at a moment's need. Stearns was thinking slightly more subtlely. He had her fingers on a brace of throwing knives. Effortlessly she could toss one into a man's throat and drop him quietly. It wouldn't be more than another day's walk to get to Vault 46 in Brooklyn Park. With activity around the Heights begining to intensify, however, Sibley and Stearns began hugging the walls a bit more, trying to blend in as best they could. There was increasing gunfire, even for the blasted town, and it seemed to be coming from everywhere. Sibley glanced at a man nailing a bulletin to a bounty board. It was one among tens on the small board. As the man left, he noticed the brace of shackles and collars hanging from his belt. Sibley approached the board and stared deeply at the posting. It was a slave notice. The slavers were resurrecting their former settlement at Como. Sibley grunted in acknowledgement that the Wendigos really had moved on. At least for now. He was jarred from his ponderings as a heavy voice spoke behind him. "Interested in business, friend?" it said. Without looking, Sibley drew the hammer back on his weapon feeling the click. "I have other ways of making my living," he said, without turning. "Well, bounties are heavy," the man said, "Housley's always looking for business. You get any live ones that folk don't want, you got a place to bring 'em." Sibley nodded slowly, still concealing his face. He heard the jingle of the man's irons turn and walk away before Stearns approached. "Shane Blasco," she said, "Harris Housley's number two. What'd he want?" she said. "Recruits," Sibley said blankly.
Roland shrugged softly, then called out to his crew. "Get everything tied down; we're moving as soon as possible." The merchant then signalled to his party to head out the door and gather around Bessie- it was clear they were going on foot from now on.
Roland looked over at dale. He noted the Waster's garb, the unmarked MkII Combat Armor and (most peculiarly) the PiP-Boy 2000 on his wrist. Roland looked down at his own PiP-Boy, currently hanging from his belt, long since cannibalized for spare parts needed for other repairs. The merchant looked back at Dale as the group trudged onwards through the night, then said, "Where'd you get the fancy hardware, Dale? I haven't seen a PiP-Boy since I left the vault."
"Roland, catch!" Michael called, throwing the merchant an old walkie-talkie. "I'll use this to keep in touch. Don't worry, it's got a good range." He explained. Roland nodded, and turned back to his crew and yelled "Get everything tied down; we're moving out as soon as possible" he said. Michael headed out the door and saw the crew gather around Roland's pack brahmin. Michael shrugged and continued toward the garage where he had hidden Davidicus, his motorcycle. Michael longed to feel the rumble of his engine again, to hear its roar. Polis would hear a new sound tonight. The sound of thunder. The roar of a real machine, not one of those pansy-ass raider scrap-heaps. Michael knew that all of Polis would tremble. They'd cower like a frightened child, sitting in the corner, not having any idea what's going on. Michael would relish in that fact. It was what made him whole. It was what drove his thirst for excitement. As Michael came closer to the garage, he heard voices. He slowed, and unslung his rifle, his beloved M16A4 5.56mm Assault Rifle. Modified to his liking with a freefloating rail system, increased structural integrity, detachable carrying handle, and a composite stock. Michael has also used parts from the R91 to modify his M16, virtually hybridizing the guns to get the best of both, while hopefully getting the worst of neither. Michael was proud of this gun, for it would serve him well, should the need arise. As he approached the doorway, the voices grew louder. He could understand them now. One was saying "We should move on. Get this to Charlie before nightfall." Another said "What, and leave all this gear for some other asswipe to scav? Nah, I say we camp here, and take the gear to a new buyer tomorrow. Fuck the route, and fuck Charlie!" The next one agreed. "I'm with J.B. I say we take the shipment and fence it to the nearest buyer. Gotta be planty in this place." The first voice spoke again, "You're outta line, both of ya. We gotta mission, and we're getting paid to make sure this gets where it's supposed to fucking get." The second one spoke, sounding even angrier, "Fuck the mission. The merchants dead, and his fucking transport has gone to shit. Face it, Kumar, ArmsTech is never gonna find us in this mess, so we might as well make the best of it. Plus, there's even a bike we can cash in on, so this'll pay more those shits back in the Corps." Michael heard the First voice shout something in italian "Pezzo di merda, you'd fuck us all for the sake of a few caps? You're-" The voice was silenced by the sound of a gunshot. "That'll teach ya. Requiescat in Pace, you deluded fuck." the second voice said. By this point Michael knew he was dealing with some renegade ArmsTech mercenaries. Caravan escorts, by the sound of things. Only two remained. Michael saw no choice but to kill them. "What the fuck was that for, Darko?" the third voice yelled. Michael froze. "Darko?" he whispered. Michael suddenly collapsed, flashing back to the horrors at Dunwhich. The dark halls of that place still haunt him. He remembered seeing Darko perish at the hands of those monsters. He lurched at the thought of him surviving, and becoming this cold-blooded, greedy son-of-a-bitch. He rose, prepping his assault rifle. Michael Charged in, rounding the corner. In an instant the third voice cried out, alerting Darko to Michael's presence. But it was too late. The rifle's bullets tore through the man's chest, leaving only Michael and Darko. "Long time, no see, Michael." Darko grinned. "Tu pezzo di merda, time to fucking die!" Michael shouted, seeing the grin on Darko's face. "Is that anyway to greet an old friend?" Darko said, noting his and Michael's history. "Fuck you, Darko! You are supposed to be dead! I saw the monsters-" Michael was cut off by Darko. "You didn't see shit, Iron. What you saw was an illusion. After all, the dead don't walk, do they?" Darko spat, noting Michael's current state. "Whatever the case, Darko, you're dead. Whether or not you died in Dunwhich, I'll kill you right here, right now." Michael said, clicking the safety to the "off" position, and pullling back on the charge handle. "Fine, I won't stop you. Just remember, I was your friend, and you'll burn for killing me." Darko growled, noting the rising anger on Michael's face. "All you are is thief and a murderer. I'm your judge, jury, and executioner. Requiescat in Pace, you bastard!" Michael shouted, pulling the trigger and ending Darko's miserable life. Michael hoped he'd suffer. After cooling off, Michael kicked open the two ArmsTech crates. Guns, armor, and weapon mods. Michael grabbed his radio. "Roland, you're gonna wanna see this." is all he could say.
Dale looked down at his PipBoy 3000B before responding with the incredibly vague truth "I got it some place east of here."
Once everyone was ready to go Dale took the lead "A big group like this with a pack brahmin in tow won't be able to squeeze through the more subtle routes, so it's a jaunt down a main drag for us. The area had been quiet of late, but your arrival might have drawn in curious raiders. Eyes open for ambushes and the like."
He led them down ruined side streets as long as he could, before they became too narrow or debris-choked for the brahmin. The main drag, as Dale put it, looked quiet but evidence of a recent, violent history was evident: shell casings, bullet holes riddling walls and rusted out car bodies, bodies picked clean by carrion eaters, and more. "These have been here for a bit. It's been quiet, like I said, but that's no guarantee of safe passage. Careful does it now."
Eventually a tall building came into view, it was surrounded by a composite wall of junked cars, scrap metal, and concrete slabs. Most of the visible lower windows had been covered by metal plates and catwalks had been added to some of the higher stories. A stylized silhouette of a rabbit in profile was spray-painted over the crude entrance to the compound. "There's the Depot."
It was at this time that the radio given to Roland crackled and Micheal's voice came through the speaker "Roland, you're gonna wanna see this."
Dale shrugged helplessly "Always something happening. We're practically right there, if he isn't about to be killed it can probably wait."
Meanwhile, one of the sailors approached a patch of dry weeds growing out of a crater in the pavement, convinced he had seen something shine beneath. Hoping to score a bit of salvage he carefully walked by to check it out while the Cap and their guide were talking.
"What have we here?"
He reached the hole in the street and stooped down to push aside the weeds and reach his prize. Once he saw the flashing red light his eyes grew wide. An active land mine, for some reason it hadn't beeped out loud like he heard they were supposed to.
"What a gy-"
The explosion sent gore and gravel up, showering down on Dale and Roland.
Gyrd smiled when he heard the explosion. He pulled the cover off the storm drain and started prodding the Wendigos he had corralled. With his urging, and perhaps sensing humans they poured out of the drain and started running towards the back of the outsider's party.
Dale grabbed Roland and hit the floor, looking about wildly for danger.
He then looked over the shoulder of the rearmost sailor and saw the small horde of Wendigos running towards them. He looked incredulously at Roland "You people are just a big magnet for this shit."
Taking a crouching position he pointed his pistol towards the ghoulish terrors, waiting for the outlanders to scatter before taking a shot.
Michael started to sift through the mods, looking for a few things in particular. "There we are." he said, finding an ACOG Holographic Sight and a foregrip for his rifle. "Just what I've always wanted." Suddenly, Michael's radio kicked on. He heard an explosion, and then heard Dale shout "Take cover!". Michael then heard gunshots, both out of his radio and off into the distance. Michael sighed, and then decided to pack everythingup and show it to Roland later. Loading his pack and saddlebags with as much as they could carry, and cannibalizing all of the lower quality guns for parts, He then fixed up most of the armors, opting to re-armor his jacket in the process. "Better get moving," he said, "After all, they just might need my help.". After loading up the supplies, Michael kickstarted Davidicus and listened to the engine roar. "Time to save lives." He said, and with that headed into the gunfire, against his better judgement. As he approached, he saw a group of what appeared to be feral ghouls attacking Roland's crew. "I hate ferals." Michael growled. He hoped the roar of the engine would frighten them, at least until he could line up a couple of good shots. Sliding up next to a large piece of rubble, Michael revved his engine twice, and drew his newly aquired .44 Magnum and took his first shot on the unsuspecting horde.
"You get used to it after a while," Roland grunted, crouching down behind a rubble pile as the Wendigos swarmed towards his crew. He pointed at two sailors and then towards Bessie's bridle line, and told them to force forward with the Brahmin and get to the Depot. The two soldiers, either out of fear, respect or any combination of the two, nodded curtly, grabbed Bessie's bridle and dragged the spooked heifer towards the safe haven of the Jackrabbit's little island of safety.
A Wendigo caught Roland off guard briefly, and found a metallic fist planted in its slobbering maw. Roland gripped sharply at the back of the ghoul's neck and pulled hard, ripping out its trachea and throwing the wounded beast behind him, where a blast from the merchant's .357 auto revolver dispatched it. Holding his revolver in one hand and cradling his NeoStead in his cybernetic arm, the merchant shot at the rapidly-approaching knot of Wendigoes, blindly emptying his double-barrelled riot gun in the direction of the horde before slinging it, empty, back over his shoulder and using both hands to precisely aim the remaining shots in his magnum before his ammunition went dry and the horde overran him.
A pair of stiff, wet, bloody hands swept at Roland's chest, painting crimson lines down his dirty undershirt and making an awful mess. Scowling, the merchant planted a booted foot in the once-man's chest and knocked it to the ground, then stomped its torso until its ribs broke and it stopped twitching. The merchant threw a spinning backhand in another ghoul's direction and smashed it onto the road, breaking its neck on impact. Roland was now engrossed in the vicious melee, his assassin training slowly taking over - block, deflect, tornado kick to the side of the head, low block, spinning backhand, palmstrike to the forehead, block - as he turned to a bloody whirlwind, the tails of his duster floating lightly in the breeze.
Amid the melee, he caught the sound of Michael's motorcycle engine. "Turn that damn thing off!" Roland shouted over the hisses, moans and cries of the Wendigoes and sailors fighting fiercely in the street. "You'll only draw out more of these buggers!"
Jacob backhanded an incoming Wendigo, stunning the creature as he unslung Mother's Woe and slammed the solid steel stock up under the Wendigo's jaw. As it fell, he fired once into it's chest, the bullet tearing through it's heart and blowing chunks out of it's bony back. Jacob ducked under another attacking Wendigo, stabbing his bayonet into it's gut. He ripped sideways, pouring the Wendigo's intestines onto the street. As he stood up again, he sliced it's neck just to be sure. Having gained himself some breathing space, Jacob fired a short burst into the incoming crowd of emaciated grey creatures, killing Wendigos one and three in a row, but missing the considerably shorter Wendigo number two. Well, humans were never the same height, so why should mutated humans be the same height? Adjusting his aim, Jacob gunned down the Wendigo that had evaded his wrath in the last burst. The crowd of Wendigos, however, was just plain mobbing the entire group. Everyone was, to all intents and purposes, in a little pocket of resistance, surrounded by scrabbling, rabid Ghoul-things. Jacob swore as one jumped on his back. Mother's Woe was a bit too long to maneuvre with any great ease. He lurched backwards against a lampost, knocking the Wendigo off his back. He tossed Mother's Woe to one of Roland's crew near the Brahmin, waving to the man to pack it on the beast.
Jacob swore again as more Wendigos scrabbled at his duster. That thing was getting to be a liability these days! Jacob kicked back against one of them, knocking it's feet out from under it as he spun and elbowed the other Wendigo in the face. He shrugged off his Duster, pulling his Bowie and Tomahawk from his belt. He sliced his 'hawk across an incoming Wendigo's face, cutting through the bridge of the nose and slicing into it's poor brain, silencing the creature. He kicked the body off his blade and turned to another, slashing his Bowie through it's throat, the long, heavy blade opening the creature's neck all the way back to the spinal column. He kicked and elbowed as he turned, eventually backing himself to a wall so the damned things couldn't surround him. Today was not a good day. Jacob punched Wendigo in the face, got hit by another. Slashed a throat, got gouged. What the hell was driving these things on? They were more determined than the other Wendigos. In all likelihood, they were pissed at something. What it was, Jacob didn't care much. One of them had managed to land a half-decent punch on his face and that put him as far from a thinking, reasoning mood as he could get. He headbutted his unfortunate assailant, flooring the Wendigo as he swung left with his Bowie, opening another throat. He scalped a third Wendigo with a deft tomahawk swing, dropping it to the ground, it's mouldy-looking brain spilling from it's opened skull.
Gunfire. Engine noises. This was only going to escalate.
"Well, at least that means we're close to rock bottom," Jacob thought. Optimism wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Today was just shit.
The Vickers brothers looked down at the melee between the Wendigos and the outlanders, enjoying the festivities until a couple of them split off from the group, heading towards the building at the end of the road, that den of "rabbit-fucks," as Gyrd called them.
"Eyes slideways brah, those two dancin' on down. Cap cappity?"
"Toats. Blast radical, kid gloves on missus moo lessin you wanna throw your back out make-believin' at slaves."
The twins checked the shot then fired down at the two sailors, catching one in the torso. The other one had been on the other side of the brahmin though, and the shot passed over his head by mere inches. The uninjured sailor ducked behind the brahmin and pulled his comrade underneath it to safety, then he guided the brahmin to cover and ducked down behind her.
"Captain! We're pinned down!"
Brom was likewise watching the fight with a strange frown that conveyed the feeling of a shit-eating grin. Once the brahmin drivers had a good bit of distance between themselves and the rest of the group (and had been fired upon by the Vickers Brothers), he pulled the pins on a pair of frag grenades and threw them: one towards the main body of outlanders and another towards the gap between them and the brahmin.
One sailor ran into an open doorway, hoping to use the portal to get some cover and get see if he could secure the ground for his comrades. He failed to notice the tripline set out and fell forward, groaning when something large and heavy fell on his back. Dagwood stalked forward, out of the shadows and towards the sailor with his knife in hand.
"Hhhnnnn," Dagwood uttered with teeth chattering in anticipation, the twisted raider was something of a Flayer-lite. The sailor was having none of that, he raised his unpinned hand and fired his Chinese pistol.
The sadist was hit twice and ran back into the darkness, shrieking.
Mendel peeked out from his hiding place and knew that Brom had just or was about to toss grenades when the brahmin drivers split off from the group. He turned back towards the poorly armed Wolfpack members.
"Listen up, most of those fuckers are on the verge of having to reload and they're in for another shock. When you hear the explosions you fucking rush those guys. Get lucky and you'll be on them before they've all reloaded. If not...well, any who make it to the end can consider themselves Vikings."
Dale was still unused to ferals, he had encountered a few during his long trek from Aquaculture, but there was still something altogether foreign and terrible about them. He kept his focus on the task at hand though, shooting the oncoming wendigos. His gun just didn't have the stopping power to really put them down though, and so one of them who slipped past the others bore down on him before he could reload. Calming himself with a breathing technique he called upon his Agent of SPECTRUM training and employed a Judo throw to hurl the wendigo into an alley where it set off another mine.
Now that he had turned around and saw the brahmin drivers in trouble he realized that the poor, dead sailor hadn't stumbled onto a stray mine. This entire corridor to the Jack Rabbits had been turned into a kill zone.
"Jacob! We've got wendigos behind us and snipers ahead of us, you need to get some altitude!"
He pointed at a nearby building before reloading his pistol. Dale wasn't the type to volunteer relative strangers for a dangerous task, but Jacob's gun obviously had the range and stopping power that his lacked for the task at hand. Of course he hadn't yet realized that Jacob had tossed the rifle to the now pinned-down brahmin drivers.
"Already moving!" Deek shouted. The ex-Enclave spec-ops leapt over a low wall, having come late to the battle, and sprinted towards the bulk of the Wendigo horde, headlamps at full output, amplified voice screaming a warcry of "COMMANDOOOOO!" as he bum-rushed the nearest open building. The soldier punched, kicked and shot his way through the center of the horde, coming out the other side of the melee with the rubber skin of his arms hanging in shambles and his silver arms aglow in the evening light. The soldier emerged from the other side of the conflict heading straight for a blasted-out two-story office building, using one arm to punch down the door as he used his free hand to saturate the crowd of Wendigoes with glowing balls of green death. Once he had worked the door through, the commando rushed up onto the second floor and set about making himself at home up there. The old man immediately started pouring his green globs of burning-hot death towards the Wendigo horde.
"Oh fucking goddamnit." Roland grunted, chokeslamming another Wendigo into a concrete barrier and breaking its skull everywhere, splattering its contents onto the ground at his feet. The merchant pointed at his remaining sailors. "Anyone who wants to live," he shouted, "head for the building he just ran into." The merchant meant Deek who, at this point, was still raining fire down into the Wendigo group. The sailors, those who could still move at any rate, split off from the melee and started skirting around the outside of the battle, heading for Deek's "fortress" and adding their fire to the Equalizers once they got there.
Roland broke the action on his NeoStead and loaded eight shells as quickly as his fingers would allow him, then closed the breach and point-blanked another Wendigo when he heard one of his soldiers shout "Die, scumbag!" from the foyer of one of the nearby buildings. Roland rushed over to his position and found him trapped underneath an I-beam which had been dropped from the cieling, still trailing frayed ropes from where it had been dropped. The merchant very carefully lifted the I-beam off and helped the disoriented sailor to his feet, then sent him running back towards the little group of sailors holed up in the nearest building. He immediately turned back towards the battle and shouted his next set of orders.
"Pitcarne, Laney, return fire and suppress those snipers!" The merchant shouted, heading back out onto the street and introducing a rushing Wendigo to the butt of his cold grey shotgun. The merchant turned and fired his shotgun at where the tracers were coming from; Jacob's HEIAP bullets punching fist-sized craters in the concrete and mortar around the sniper's nest.
"That's the stuff, keep firing on that position-" And then everything went to hell. Roland heard the dull foompf of grenades going off in the street. One detonated about two feet from Roland, spraying him with hot shrapnel and throwing him off balance; the weight of his cybernetics the only thing keeping him from falling over. The other grenade spooked Bessie, who took off at a run, dragging Pitcarne and Laney along by her bridle straps as it made for the Depot, its only thoughts of self preservation.
Roland's ears rang dully, a hot metallic tang flowing over his lips and into his mouth. Several pieces of shrapnel had nicked his face in various areas, causing him to start bleeding. His torso was likewise damaged, bleeding from wounds varying from small nicks to a wide cut across his pecs, all of which were pushing lifeblood down his front side. Roland scowled, let out a bloodcurdling howl of rage, and rushed back into the street. The merchant jammed the barrel of his shotgun into a howling Wendigo's mouth and fired, blowing out the back of its skull and throwing it off its feet. The merchant went back into the fray, letting his assassin training take over once again.
It was too easy to miss something like a grenade being tossed into the middle of a melee Dale lamented as time slowed down for him. He flew back and hit the ground, his ears ringing. He briefly patted himself, he was numb but he was sure that his sturdy armor had shielded him from shrapnel. Dale looked around wildly, hoping he had not been permanently deafened. He noted, with some grim satisfaction that the wendigos were thinning out, this wasn't a full blown horde, more of a herd.
It's a screen, he thought It's no happy coincidence that let our assailants trap the area and have these things show up. This isn't a regular raider ambush. There's bound to be something, they haven't really pressed us yet.
Dale started picking himself up.
Mendel kicked the nearest Wolf Packers once the grenades went off "Well fucking go assholes, that's the signal!"
The packers had neither the arms or experience of the Six Kings, but they wanted a shot out of their deadend lives which they knew the Kings could deliver on if they survived. So they rushed out of cover and at the outlanders, throwing javelins, shooting arrows and small caliber guns at them rushing as quickly as they could into melee. Naturally, several of them didn't make it that far, but their sacrifices allowed the pack to start attacking with their spears, hammers, bats, and knives. Mendel was already on the move, hiking up the stairs, taking a moment to plant a mine behind him before reaching the room he had set up for his next role. He stepped over the tripline that would set off the rigged crossbow before sitting behind the bipod mounted machine gun he had rigged here. Some of the outlanders had run into a building, no doubt heedless of the traps they had put there. Some of them were still outside though, fighting the much diminished wendigos or the newly arrived Wolf Pack, so Mendel set out to work the flanks, keeping the other Outlanders from reaching the "safety of the buildings," and herding them back into the melee.
Gyrd remained in the storm drain, pointing his combat shotgun straight ahead at the entrance. He was calculating what they had used, what they would use in this fight. He intended to charge Munti for every last bullet and bomb, the grief-stricken girl had foolishly forgotten to negotiate terms. He almost hoped she couldn't cover the cost, that bitch is so damn high and mighty, but the Top Dog wont protect a girl who owes a debt. I'll have her ass at the Highdaway..
Raziel took over. Jacob Scott Ramsey was left in the dust, to wait and observe as his counter-part painted a masterpiece of sin and death, his brush being the twin armblades attached to him.. Simply put: Raziel fought, Jacob didn't. It was better that way too, for Jacob was never a great fighter in his day, but Raziel was something else, something very abstract and deadly. Jacob often considered how ironic this was, watching himself fight, and yet being a totally different person in the process. Raziel was not him, he was a person inside of Jacob, a manifestation of his twisted past and present. Nonetheless, Raziel would, once again, save both of their lives, for if Jacob died, so did Raziel, and both of them knew that. So Jacob waited, waited and watched.
The wendingos seemed to hesitate before lurching onto the dark-skinned mutant, possibly taking a moment to comprehend if he was one of them, or something different. In truth, Raziel would look similar to these creatures if he were to remove his wrapping and armor, but that was not in his line of reasoning. One of them charged the ancient Austinite, tackling him and biting at his forearms and only tasting the rusted metal of his blades. Irritated, Raziel rolled over onto the creature and impaled it repeatedly through the ribcage, killing it rather instantly. In this process, two others had set their gaze onto Raziel after finishing some poor soul, leaving him a bloody mess smeared across the eroding asphalt. In an instinct, Raziel stood up and got ready to match the two ferals'. The leading one swiped at Raziel's left side, tearing off some wrapping and drawing blood. The mummified wastelander spun his arm at the shoulder, twisting the wendingo's arm into his grasp, and then sliced at the elbow, severing bone and tendon. The creature yelped in pain, stumbling back for half a second, all Raziel needed. He lunged forwards and speared his opponent through the neck, killing it instantly as well. Though, in this facade of brutal slaughter, Raziel had forgotten about the second Wendingo that accompanied the one he just slayed, a very fatal move. The creature grabbed Raziel from behind and began chomping down on his leathery neck, trying desperately to break through the tough layer of skin. Raziel didn't have enough time to react, the thing was going to kill him in a matter of second, meaning it would kill Jacob too. Raziel could hear Jacob praying, begging God for mercy and the such. It disgusted Raziel, fuckin' coward. Luckily for the both of them, a nearby grenade blew the wendingo off of the mummy's back, sending both to the ground. A sharp ringing filled the ears of Raziel, followed by muffled gunshots and screaming. He heard Roland Rockfort barking orders, something about a building, snipers, he really didn't care at that point. He pushed some bloody corpse off of him and did as everyone else was doing, running to the a building. As he entered the building, something, some key familiarity, snapped Jacob back into control. Now he controlled his actions, his speech, his decisions, Raziel was in the background again, criticizing every move Jacob made. Jacob Scott Ramsey stood in the corner while the men sealed the doors.
"Fuckin' Bounty Hunters." Lazlo rubbed his eyes as he talked, still trying to remove the dust and shrapnel that temporarily blinded him moments. He could see now, but what he couldn't see is why he wasn't dead. That was a one-in-a-million chance that Alan had not shot him right then and there. If he were any other person, any other inhabitant of Polis, Lazlo would be a corpse on the ground. Alan could of done it with ease too, Lazlo was blind and Alan had the gun. The counter-drug for the poison in his system was right on Lazlo's belt, strapped in, nice and tight. Instead, that Outlander sealed his fate and let Lazlo live, even going on to save his very life. Was this guy the biggest idiot in the world or a goddamn saint? As much as the disbelief and confusion pondered him, he had to stay on task. The person who just tried to kill both of them was a bounty hunter, most likely with a price on Lazlo's head. He searched through the dead man's pockets, gaining a stimpack and buffout in the process, along with what he really was looking for: A Wanted Poster. "Aha! Here we go... Let's see how much they want for me, eh?" He spoke almost enthusiastically, although in truth he was quite scared out of his mind. The poster itself was now dripping with blood, but it was still eligible. It read:
- Dead or Alive, Keith 'Lazlo' Harrison - 25,000 caps.
- Dead or Alive, Lazlo's accomplice. - 20,000 caps.
Along with it was a rough sketch of Lazlo's 'accomplice', a description of both, and a photo of Lazlo himself. Lazlo laughed aloud, continuing for a whole minute, leaving Alan Schezar clueless. "Oh man Outlander, this is just hilarious. They've got you listed here too, 20k for your ass! Can you believe that man? Why the fuck would they want a worthless fuck like you!? Ahaha, look at the fuckin' picture of you! Oh wow, that's just priceless..." He wiped a tear from his eye and threw the poster behind him, walking to the street. Alan picked the poster up and looked at it for a minute, shaking his head. How did he end up here? A man with a price on his head. "C'mon Alan! Hurry the fuck up!" Lazlo yelled from the street, a certain anger in his voice. Alan scowled, put the poster in his pocket, and jogged up to the devious raider. He heard a series of explosions in the far distance, accompanied with the constant popping of gunshots. He wondered what kind of chaos is going on all over this city. This dreadful city.
Flippa felt so damn wishy-washy these days. So much to do, so little time. Just when he was about to turn in for the week, no the month, maybe longer, something drew his attention back. Something was amiss. But what? Was it the Wild? No. The Banshee? No no. The outlander. Still no. What was it? Vault 16 had everything Flippa needed for he and the Flayers, yet it wasn't enough. Power? Got that. Infamy? Got that too. Terror? They all cower. No, it was simply the urge, the desire, the absolute lust for blood. With so much going on, bounties, wars, Vikings, Wild, slavers, Banshees, outlanders, all of them doing battle throughout Polis, what was a sadistic, ego-maniacal, cold-blooded, cannibalistic serial murderer to do? Even among his own flock. It was still three days' walk from Vault 16. The sounds of absolute ecstacy drifted to him from Main Drag. Guns and knives and bombs, on my! As if by silent order, Flippa looked around to his flock, who paused and acknowledged in silent delight. Wordlessly and without delay, the Flayers headed back toward the fight on Main Drag. Even if they arrived late, there might still be some poor souls to snatch come nightfall.
Sibley glanced quickly across the bounty board, taking in the names and the faces. He wasn't a bounty hunter, but he needed to remember all he could. Stearns was adjusting the pinched calf armor of her boot. They had long since lost track of Durandal. He blended into the crowd and was gone. Sibley looked over the faces and abruptly settled on one. "It's him," he said, attracting Stearns back to standing upright beside him. "Who?" she said. "The outlander, with the gas mask. And the scrawny Viking," Sibley stated, pounding his finger on the pictures. "That's no Viking. That's Lazlo. He's a Wild pit boss. Looks like he's gone rogue. Only reason that Wildmen would hunt one of thier own," Stearns said. "And the outlander?" Sibley stated. "Just like any other, seen one, seen 'em all," Stearns stated flatly. Sibley cocked his head. "Really," he said, "so he's got a bounty here for no reason? He must've pissed the Wild off somehow." Stearns shrugged. "He's with a rogue Wildman, that's reason enough," she said, "not a loss. The mortality rate of outlanders who come in here ain't exactly small. Unless they stumble into Ashland, Pine Bend, or Lindbergh. Then they at least aren't getting shot up constantly." Sibley nodded. "So what, the outlander a bad guy?" he said. Stearns shook her head and chuckled a bit inside her helmet. "You still haven't figured it out, Luke? We're all just shades of gray," she said. Sibley chuckled slightly as the two moved on.
Sibley mused to himself at the surfacing of Alysha Stearns' "human" side. It didn't come out often, or usually for any more than one sentance, but at least it was good to know it was there. Jarring himself back to reality, Sibley took note as Stearns once again pointed out "Sugar" Shane Blasco. Harris Housley's right-hand man. He was smooth talking an outland slaver into a bargain for some "prime" merchanise. His mullet-cut hair fell around his ears and the red-streaked feathered top gave him a rooster-like appearance. The man obviously liked to toot his own horn. Gazing at the miserable looks of the trapped girls, Sibley fought every instinct he had to be the "Knight in Shining Armor." Starting a gunfight would simply leave he and Stearns hopelessly outgunned and outmatched. There was just nothing he could to help the poor girls. Sibley quickly cast his gaze back down as Blasco shifted his eyes toward the two disguised Midwestern Brotherhood members. Sibley heard Blasco's voice yell out to him. "You 'member what I said, Hoss! You find some'uns you don't want, you send 'em o'er to Como. Housley'll make it worth all yer while!" Sibley merely kept walking, following Stearns closely. He didn't want to attract attention. He also didn't want Blasco attracting attention for him. "Chickies like these 'uns fetch top cap!" Blasco's voice faded into the mill of the crowd and the bang of fighting in The Heights.
"One day," Sibley said quietly to Stearns, "one day Dekker is going to send troops up from Chicago and we're going to liberate the people of Polis. We're going to sweep into The Stockyards and free the slaves. We're going to burn down The Center and The Dome. We're going to conquer The Heights and purge the Vaults. One day." Stearns looked at Sibley. She knew, deep down, Sibley was more than that shade of gray. In a world of gray, Lucas Sibley was a white. She loved him for being a white. White, however, was just unrealistic in these times. Her gray always had to tarnish his white, especially to keep his head on the ground. "There aren't enough soldiers in the entire Midwestern Brotherhood, Luke. You know that. We lost too many in the Dust Bowl and the Chicago uprisings. It'll take decades to amass the men you speak of," she said, noting Sibley's body language. He didn't have to speak. His frustration and disappointment were evident. At least with the G.E.C.K., they'd be able to establish at least a small bit of white in this world of gray. Slowly, The Heights passed by. Loud noise and gunfighting gave way to desolate broken suburbia. They had reached Brooklyn Park, wherein layed Vault 46. A shiver ran down Sibley's spine, but Stearns stood cold, as a lone Wendigo howl carried over the wind. Guess they weren't all quite gone yet.
The gunfire crackling between the two buildings began to slow briefly as the two forces dug in and found cover. Roland scanned the first floor with his shotgun up, searching for Wendigos, raiders or stray beasties that may have skittered into the room, seeking shelter from the gunfire outside. The merchant carefully scanned the cieling, walls, floor and doorways as he passed from hall to hall on the first floor. He didn't notice the tripwire until it was too late.
A high-tension steel cord yanked the merchant upside down towards the cieling, dizzying him briefly. The ex-assassin barely had time to gather his wits about him before he noticed an extremely threatening I-beam with a very nasty and sharp shovel blade crudely fixed to the front came roaring right at his face. The merchant did his best to swing out of the way, but could not dodge entirely, gathering a long slash across his back from which blood began to flow. Roland yelped in sudden pain, finally noticing his multiple shrapnel wounds, the gash on his back and the rush of blood into his head giving him a familiar pounding headache. The pain that flooded him easily smashed aside all of Roland's rational thought processes and barely kept from destroying his consciousness and dropping him into the solace of incapacitation. The merchant exhaled a loud shout- "HELP!" and then gave up, hanging upside down, his arms nearly touching the floor.
"Dammit, the building is trapped!" Deek shouted as he fired another set of energy cells at the raider's fortified position. The old psycho had noticed just now that a grenade boquet was hanging about two feet behind him at the top of a ruined stairwell, with a tripwire set up at the middle of the broken stairs. No doubt it was meant to lead some poor sucker of a sniper into an imminent and gruesome death. The mercenary scowled. This fight just got that much more difficult, the old commando thought angrily, snatching a grenade from the bloody hands of a wounded sailor and hurling it towards the fortified raider building.
What was worse than the traps was the good guys' casualties. Roland would not like to see so many of his soldiers dead. The ex-commando counted seven dead, and four wounded, leaving only six able-bodied soldiers standing and fighting back. Even these were looking in a bad way, they were running low on ammunition and were using scavenged enemy equipment from the street fight to fight back. Soon the soldiers would be no match for a radroach; let alone combat-seasoned raiders.
Helluva night, Harris thought to himself, firing another two shots at the building without looking to see where they landed, Reminds me of that night in Killem Fields.
Dust and dirt gathered in the claustrophobic alleyways that held two, and only two, occupants: one weathered ex-raider and one exhausted outlander. In the distance, the Outlander heard a howl of a lone Wendigo, echoing through the walls of the alley and the dead trees of Brooklyn Park, the home to Vault 46. This was where these two wanderers were headed, their goal and objective, all of it was inside of Vault 46, compressed into an unknown object only known, to them, as the G.E.C.K. What it was, they didn't know, what it did, they did not know that either. All they knew was that it was worth a lot of caps, and that was all Lazlo, the raider, wanted, all the human race wanted, greedy bastards, thought Alan Schezar. Alan, the Outlander, had his doubts about this whole scheme that his raider counter-part had compiled. Lazlo wanted the G.E.C.K, a device he was clueless about, and was ready to sell it to the highest bidder. Why? Sure, he defected from the Wild, his four partners-in-crime had perished, he himself came within inches of death, all for money. That's all he wanted, a pathetic example of materialism. Alan was disgusted by it. And the only reason he was even involved in this entire mess was because of his good intentions, his outdated mercy and forgiveness. Bullshit. It doesn't exist anymore, goodness and trust were blown up with the world 200 years ago, leaving dishonesty, murder, and greed to grow and multiply. If Alan had just been like any other citizen in this damned city 2 days ago and killed Lazlo when he had the chance, he would of been halfway to Eagle Bend by now, resting in a cozy inn and eating fresh food. But no, this was Alan's fate, or at least his ignorance, that led to this outcome. A feverish feeling was all that was needed to remind him of his innate hatred for the bastard walking two meters in front of the Israeli Traveler. It was the poison in his system, another ploy by the mischievous Lazlo, to get Alan to 'go with the plan'. It was like he was getting these ideas out of pre-war action novels, filled with cheesy plots and cliche twists. They were almost to Vault 46, Brooklyn Park was just in front of them at this point. It was a monument of the cruelness of this New Age. Corpses and dead fauna filled the fields, crazed mutants, Wendigos, hid in the shadows. Of course, many had migrated away from their rotting home, but a fair amount still remained, brooding, drooling, waiting for prey. Creatures, disgusting creatures.
"Okay Outlander, chances are that you're banshee friends are here already, but we just might of jumped the gun and passed them. Either way, once we spot them, you're gonna plea innocence and lie. Lie you're fuckin' ass off, because they're going to be awful suspicious as to how you're still breathing. I mean, they did 'kill' you not but a day ago, eh?" Lazlo explained this to Alan as if he were a child, and this was where Alan got confused. "What do you expect me to say? I'm not the best at this kind of thing, you know." The ex-Wild raider sighed, again annoyed by Alan's uselessness. "Ugh, just make something up! Are you that fuckin' slow that you can't even come up with a good lie? Jesus." Alan stood motionless for a moment, trying to think of something good, and failing at it. Then something, a flaw in Lazlo's plan, finally showed itself to Alan, "Wait, how can you be so sure they're gonna even let me join in on their decent into the vault? What if they just leave me outside?" At this, a gleam brightened up in Lazlo's eyes, as if he wanted Alan to ask that question. "I thought of that, and like everything else, I solved the problem." Alan stood still for a moment, waiting for the devious raider to elaborate. Finally, annoyed once again by Alan's antics, Lazlo yelled: "Well!? What th' fuck are you starin' at me for?" Alan began to stutter, not quite sure how to respond, but was silenced by Lazlo, "Fuckin' idiot. Just follow me, the vault's right up ahead."
Gyrd's herd of Wendigos had run out and now the outlanders were fighting members of the Wolfpack up close, but Gyrd was feeling less assured. By any reasonable estimation, the traps and 'digos alone should have weeded out a few more of them. The firefight at the townhouse was getting to be more of a mystery, Gyrd originally believed that the outlanders had persevered because they had the superior position and that one band of raiders came across another. Now, he was thinking these pukes might military rather than merchants, scouting for some foreign party: maybe high-end mercs out of Daloot or Brotherhood warriors from Chicago. He didn't feel like speculating further, better to try and divine the truth from their corpses. He got on the radio and contacted his fellow Six Kings and heard from everyone but Dagwood. He spat, annoyed: If Dagwood had been injured, and got his second wind he would be very difficult to calm down after the fight. Last time they had to abandon the crazy raider and let him rejoin them on his own.
As Dale scrambled for cover he could see distant figures at the battlements of the Depot, he wondered if the Jack Rabbits would aid them. If he were in their boots he probably wouldn't, they'd have no way to tell who was who. As annoyed as he was, Dale recognized that they had no reason to endanger their safety on his behalf.
Boy was fast. Not as strong as Jacob, but a lot quicker. Probably had about thirty years youth on him too. Could duck right out of Jacob's reach and be back in with a counter the second Jacob's fist had passed him by. Not that it did a lot of good. The boy had youth and speed, but Jacob was bigger, heavier, and a hell of a lot tougher. His Combat Armour helped too. All it would take would be one good punch for Jacob to finish this. The problem was hitting the little shit. He had too much room to move. So Jacob started fencing him in. The boy moved left, Jacob blocked him off, pushing him back further and further towards the corner. Once there were walls on two sides and Jacob blocking the other, the fight would be over. And so it was. The boy backed up another inch. One inch too far to get away when Jacob bullrushed him, burying his shoulder in his gut, grabbing his belt and throwing him into the corner. Jacob piled in, grabbing the young Raider by the collar and bouncing his head against the wall until the plaster cracked and the Raider's poor, underused brains dribbled down his face through his collapsed forehead and his teeth spilled out of his mouth in a foaming mixture of blood and vomit. Poor sap must have bitten through his tongue while Jacob was hopping him against the wall.
Jacob threw the corpse away and caught Mother's Woe as one of Roland's crew tossed it to him. Jacob passed a window, opening fire on the Raiders barricaded further up the street, chipping away at their cover. Three dived for cover. Another was caught out in the open, two bullets detonating in his chest and roasting his internals. He heard a shout over the gunfire that sounded vaguely like "holy shit". Jacob moved into the next room, walking face-first into a Wendigo. Jacob slammed his gunstock into it's gut and buried his bayonet in it's throat, ripping out sideways to cease it's struggling. He shoved the body aside and sprayed a Raider head to toe in heavy ammunition, all but splitting him in half. The floor creaked below him. Moved on to half-rotten timber. There was probably a basement under them then. One board shifted under his feet. He heard a twang. "Not good," he thought to himself as he felt the snare tighten around his leg. The tension came on and wrenched Jacob's leg out from under him. The only thing that kept Mother's Woe in his hands was his shoulder sling. His leg was pulled so fast he was as good as turned upside-down. His head was slammed down onto what he guessed was the only solid floorboard left in the room as the cable pulled him upwards. It was made to hold a smaller creature though, and the trap's supports snapped, putting a shock load on again. The cable tensed, whipping Jacob upwards, and then the load came on again. The cable snapped, launching Jacob back downwards. He crashed through a weak point in the floor, crashing through the rotten boards and the leaking water pipe that destroyed them, landing in a heap in the basement below.
His ears were ringing from where his head had been bounced into the floor like a sledgehammer. He tried to sit up, but his much-punished body refused to let him move. He unslung Mother's Woe from his shoulder and pulled the bayonet out of his thigh. He couldn't see how much blood there was, but he assumed the wound wasn't as serious as it could have been. He'd stabbed enough femoral arteries in his time to know how lethal a leg wound could be if it was in the right spot. He looed up at the light leaking through the hole in the floor. Which had become his ceiling now. His vision was swimming in and out of focus. He sat up and ran a hand over his head. His head was bleeding, but not too severely. No skull fracture then. He tried to stand. Didn't happen the first two attempts. His left leg had suffered some serious abuse at the noose of that snare trap, and his right leg had been stuck with his own bayonet. He also felt a bump forming on his head where the rifles solid steel stock had cracked him in the face during the fall. Third time lucky though, and he got back to his feet. He crouched and loosened the snare, pulling it of his ankle. He looked around for a way out. There had to be a door. No way the floor around the hole above could take his weight long enough for him to climb out.
Michael thought hard about how things had gone for him. Ever since he go this job, he always got the impossible odds, the Grim Reaper's fantasies of death and mayhem. Polis was no different. As the chaos of the raider infested hell-hole surrounded ichael, he gave in to his predator insticts, te same ones that had kept him alive at Dunwitch. Michael Cross became Iron, the cold-blooded killing machine that was valued by so many. His true self sat back and watched as Michael followed the chaos, seeking to bring some rudimetary form of order to it. He hear only the hail of bullets and the muffled boom of everal grenades. "Dammit, the building is trapped!" He heard Deek, the old one, shout. Well Cross, looks like instinct isn't enough, he thought to himself. Suddenly, he saw Vaughton go ankles up, and then through the floor. Cross flashed back to the horrors of Dunwitch. The bullets, the chaos, the Ghouls, it all triggered his memories. Michael stumbled as he fought for control, struggling to keep memory seperate from reality. Michael; then saw Roland hanging frm the ceiling like a side of beef. "Hold on!" Michael shouted at the merchant-captain. e steadied his rifle and shot the snare in a rusted spot, snapping it and sending Roland back to the floor. "Now for Vaughton." Michael said, Jumping down into the basement afer Jacob. The old Regulator had just managed to stand up when Michael hit the floor with a dull thud. "You alright?" He asked Vaughton, tossing a couple of stimpacks hs way.
Sibley calmly leveled his army revolver. It was like a day on the shooting range. He cleanly and cooly dropped a third Wendigo as it rushed him. Right between the eyes. The man-thing dropped with a snarl and skidded to a halt on the sandy street. It layed in a heap with two more. To his left, Inquisitor Stearns was ducking and slashing her way through a quartet of hungry cannibals. Streaks of bright arterial blood striped her armor as they disemboweled Wendigos collapsed around her. It was truly an art, Sibley thought, the way Stearns dispatched foes. Sibley holstered his revolver and unslung his shotgun. The Vault was close. Less than two blocks. Wendigo rushes were increasing. Stearns assured Sibley that Wendigos had indeed left the area of Vault 46. It just didn't seem like it. Sibley wondered to himself if the G.E.C.K. was really even there anymore.
"It's just up ahead," Stearns said, motioning as she broke into a trot down the street. Sibley followed, keeping his head on a swivel, just in case any surprises popped up. He followed Stearns to the broken rubble of the old Brooklyn Park High School. He could see the area that had doomed the Vault. Part of the inside was exposed to the world through a small honeycomb of holes amidst the rubble where the school had collapsed onto the structure of the Vault. The spot would be a terrible place to enter, however, as reports stated that the area was sealed off shortly after the collapse. Neither Sibley or Stearns particularly relished the upcoming close quarters and the possibility of a Wendigo colony beneath the school. Quite frankly though, this was it. Game time. Stearns carefully opened the door to the school, both Brotherhood members switching their helmet lights on. Just inside the foyer, Stearns paused, causing Sibley to pause as well. "What is it?" Sibley asked. "We're being followed," Stearns said. Sibley cocked his head a little. "Wendigos?" he asked, quietly, suddenly becoming more alert. "No," Stearns said, "raiders." Sibley sighed softly. "And you know this how?" Stearns suddenly stood up as the dull light flicked on, swinging her pistol around. Sibley snapped his shotgun up from his kneeling position, bot had their weapons leveled at the two figures standing in the doorway ahead.
"Outlander," Stearns hissed.
Lazlo, the ex-Wild raider, was done for. He was cursing himself and his foolishness, all the while Alan Schezar was grinning devilishly. The devious man had it coming to him, he should have guessed that he couldn't actually get the G.E.C.K, it was a fool's dream, the wish of a mad man. And yet, here he stood, now foiled and now minutes from death, most likely. The two mechanical Knights stood not but 10 meters away, but it was dark, there were shadows, how could they recognize poor, unfortunate Alan? To add onto that, there was the fact that the two knights had 'killed' both Lazlo and Alan not but a day ago. How could they still know who it was standing in the doorway? Technology, thought Alan, it had to be, some sort of mechanical witchcraft. It didn't matter at this point, they obviously, through a soldier's processing mind, figured out who the two rugged wanderers were. Alan looked over to Lazlo, who had his back to the Knights, staring at the decaying floor and thinking all the same. He wouldn't let it end this easily, Alan knew it, if Lazlo would go out it would be in a firefight. But that was the thing, Lazlo was a survivalist, he was the kind of man who would do anything to live, to grip whatever seconds of life he could have without thinking of what it caused to others. This was not his time, and Alan dreaded to think of what mischievous plan could possibly be cooking up in the defected raider's mind. Alan looked back to the Knights, standing stone still, guns leveled, fingers on the triggers, ready to fire without a moment's hesitation. Deadly, very deadly and scary.
Lazlo damned himself. He was almost there, the plan was in the last stages of completion, the climax to his drama, the resolution to this play. This was not how Shakespeare would have ended it, he would have made it more complex, added more twists, more content! This could not be the end, the audience would be upset, the ratings would be horrible, he would be ridiculed. No, the main actor had not just yet met his demise, not yet. Lazlo put on his signature smile, he was adding onto the script. In a hushed tone, Lazlo spoke: "Play this right Outlander, keep up, follow my lead." Alan looked back at Lazlo with what must've been a look of insanity, although it was impossible to tell through his foreign gasmask, but Lazlo had a knack at predicting the Outlander's emotions. He spoke once more, "Don't even think about giving up on me now. Remember you've still got poison in you're system, and I still have you're one key to survival. So play your part and play it good, or you'll meet the reaper's scythe very soon."
Lazlo turned around very slowly, his hands up to assure the Knights that he was, in fact, unarmed. Once he had established that, he began to clap. "Well well well, well well wellie well well. Good show banshees', well played indeed! Here I was thinking that it would be me doing the pointing of rifles, you're hands in the air and begging for mercy. How wrong was I? Eh?" The Knights stayed their ground, not flinching an inch, rifle's aimed and ready. Lazlo waiting a moment for a reply, and when none came, he continued: "No words for deadmen, huh? I get it, soldiers you are, men of orders and initiative! So, O my little brothers, what does that make me? I too was a soldier, not of your caliber mind you, but a soldier nonetheless! I know logic, and logic says that my foolish friend and I should not be alive as of now, correct?" Lazlo stood with his arms spread wide, waiting for a response. Again, none came, and so he continued once more, sighing a bit in reaction of the Banshees' unspoken words. "So, if saved from death once, what makes you think that we would risk it again? We knew this was your destination, why would we come here as well, knowing you not only outmatch us, but outgun us too?" It was silent for half a minute, Lazlo letting the Knights process what the clever raider was saying. After he assumed that they understood, he went on: "There can be only one explanation, oh my brothers, and that is this: We have no desire for your deaths, all we want is information. No more, no less." Lazlo stood still, waiting for an answer.
Alan scratched his head in confusion, what could Lazlo possibly be thinking? Information? On what? That raider had something up his sleeve, the Outlander knew it, but he had to play along nonetheless, he had no choice.
Jacob Scott Ramsey ran through the crumbling walls of this horrid building, his rusted, weathered, old .32 hunting rifle, barley even operable, pressed against his burnt shoulder and ready to fire. It was not often that he used guns, rarely did Raziel allow Jacob to be in control during situations such as these, and yet it seemed that the darker, more demonic manifestation of Jacob's being had receded back into the recesses of their distorted mind, brooding and resting, yet still acting as a visual hallucination through the ancient Austinite's pupils. Raziel stood at every corner, never leaving the disturbed mutant alone, always there. Jacob heard a familiar voice then, Deek's, yelling something about traps. Traps, traps? Why would the building be trapped? And just as that thought clicked in, Jacob Scott Ramsey was out cold, knocked unconscious by a falling engine. As vision faded and his mind slipped into subconscious, Raziel walked casually to Jacob's side. He shook his and made a 'tisk-ing' sound, "A pity Jacob, a real nasty tolchock that was. You really should leave me in charge more often, dear brother, I'm much better at this than you. Life, that is." And with that last word, Raziel walked off and Jacob closed his eyes, unconscious and sleeping.
Brom walked into the wreckage of one of the rooms he had trapped and down into the basement where Jacob Vaughton was just getting his bearings and Michael had jumped down to help. He shook his head.
"You are a couple of big, tough motherfuckers. I like that! You had this coming, more than usual I mean. Trespassing? You die. Killing a Viking? You die bloody. But shit man, you and yours killed one of our kids, one with kin rich enough and pissed enough to hire the Six Kings. When that happens, you die screaming. Here, lemme show you."
He lit the rag of the Molotov cocktail in his hand and dropped it down on top of Vaughton and Michael before withdrawing.
Dagwood had found his second wind, worse, he found the prone form of Jacob Ramsey. He bit his lower lip as his brow began to bead with sweat. This was the freakiest looking person he had ever seen in Polis and he wanted to hurt him more than anything. He tied a noose around Ramsey's ankles, tossed the other end over a beam and pulled him up feet first. He then slipped on his power fist and wound up to punch.
Mendel, Gyrd, and the Vickers brothers were talking on the radio, besides a few Wolfpack members they couldn't see anyone outside. Everyone had either gone indoors or had found good cover. They couldn't see Dale who had crept into the building on which the Vickers siblings were perched. They couldn't hear him because he had taken the warnings of traps to heart and hadn't tripped the alarm the twins had set, nor did he step on the bear trap or the caltrops they had hidden in the shadows. The Six Kings did however have a very good idea where he was once he reached the roof and charged the twins, knocking one down to the street below. Avery Vickers survived the fall: hips and legs shattered, his back undoubtedly broken. He just sputtered helplessly looking up as his brother and the outlander were locked in a death grip, each trying to push the other off the roof.
"You know Jacob, often I wonder where you would be without me. I mean, look at you now, I leave for not but an hour and you're hanging upside down, about to be murdered by some nasty chelloveck. I shame, I tell you, a real danger you are to yourself, truly. My brother, why don't you just leave me in charge? It's much quieter in the background, trust me." Raziel stood behind the ugly looking raider who was getting ready to use Jacob as a human, or should it be mutant, punching bag. Of course, he did not stand behind the this brutish droog in reality, but in the Austinite's reality, which was twisted and bent in so many directions. Jacob had regained consciousness shortly after this mystery raider had tied a rope around his ankles, yet he simply did not have the strength or willpower to act, to fight for his continued survival. Jacob then spoke to Raziel, although not in actuality, only in his mind. "Go, hurry up man, help me out here! If I die, you do to, please! C'mon you bastard, take over and save us!" Raziel shook his head and chuckled, "We should've stayed in the facility, stayed with our flock, our true brothers and sisters, unlike this horrid group that you've become so intertwined with."
And like that, Jacob was pushed into the shadows, his only purpose now to watch. Raziel, in tune with his unnatural ways, bent his spine backwards, defying many natural laws and physics, and cut loose his ankle noose, falling and then flipping to his feet, now standing face to face with his oppressor. The man, who seemed to only now notice Raziel, as he was tinkering with his powerfist, jumped back in surprise. Raziel smiled, he missed the old red red krovvy, dripping, all warm-like and think, like syrup. Oh yes, he could taste it now, sweet sweet, beautiful flesh.
After a pause, for what seemed like hours, Paladin Sibley hissed a response. "We do not trade information with your lot, scum. I'd just as soon see you hung from Twin Rivers Bridge for the caws," Sibley's tone was harsh and meaningful. His eyes beneath the helmet resented the man, the crooked grin, the tattoos, the hair, the Wildman garb he wore. It was taking every inch of Sibley's being not to end the man's miserably short life on the spot. Stearns, however, was a little more calculating. "Lazlo," she said. For a moment the crafty Raider's face seemed to blank as he realized just how known he was. Quickly, however, the grin appeared again as the realization of his own fame (or infamy) dawned on him. "What information do you seek?" The question attracted the gaze of Lucas Sibley. "Only what you are willing to offer," Lazlo grinned. Stearns slowly relaxed the grip on her pistol. Sibley was a rock. Any wrong move by either party would see buckshot sprayed all over the ex-Wildman and the Outlander.
"Somewhere, in this Vault," Stearns began, "is a cure. Developed by Vault-Tec, the creation of the Wendigos was their intent all along. They left a cure. Something that can reshape the entire landscape of Polis. Those who have it will wield unimaginable power. The might to command respect of Viking, Wildman, and slaver alike. Imagine, bringing back a cure for all of your kin who've succumbed to the curse. Curing radiation sickness, reversing it's rotting effects. It's here Lazlo."
The raider pondered for a minute. His gaze shifted from surprise, to awe, to suspiciousness. "And why, Banshee, would you share this information with me?" he said. Stearns looked at him. "You are a soldier," she said, "you said it yourself. And if I can't trust soldiers, then who can I trust?" Alan looked worriedly at the exchange. Sibley could tell there was something not quite right going on.
"Fine," said Lazlo, "if you are so willing to share information, then we split the prize." Stearns nodded. "Fair enough," was her response. "The Paladin and I will go to the Overseer's office, you and the Outlander will go to Secure Storage C. We will meet back in the Atrium with the cure. Then we will leave together," she said. "No," said Lazlo, "the Paladin can take the Outlander to the Overseer's office, and you and me will go to the storage place." Stearns nodded. She was happy he hadn't chosen to go with Sibley. The Head Paladin would've put buckshot into the man's back at the first chance, and been alone in the bowels of the Vault. Who knew what still was in here. The Overseer's office was easier to locate. And of course, the G.E.C.K. was securely locked in hidden stasis there. Sibley had the code to get in. She just hoped the cure ploy would work. Raiders were definitely smarter than the act, talk, and seem. A lot smarter. She did also know, that is worse came to worse, she could best Lazlo in single combat.
Flicking their helmet lamps on, with weapons at ready, the group split up. Sibley and Alan headed for the Overseer's office, and Stearns and Lazlo heading deep down to Storage C. Stearns hoped quietly to herself that there would be something in the room to occupy Lazlo, or even convince him it was worth it to go down there. Of course, no matter what happened, Stearns knew this uneasy truce would most likely end in violence. Sibley needed to just get the G.E.C.K. from the office and they could get back to Snelling and begin unravelling the mysteries surrounding the pre-War device.
Vision blurred... Ears ringing... Taste of blood in my mouth... Yep, just another day in the office, Roland thought to himself as he forced his weary bones into an upright position. His cybernetics had no problem getting him to stand up steady and tall, but his human parts were unwilling to participate, his right arm hanging limp and lax. Gethsemane Peter at his fines, The merchant-warrior thought to himself, remembering the ancient proverb: "The mind is willing, but the flesh is unable." Or something like that.
The merchant examined his surroundings, forcing his legs to put one foot in front of the other, as he fought unconsiousness and blood loss back down the hallway. Some instinct, not lost to the haze of fatigue and pain, told him to take cover in a doorway as he reached the nearest hallway, and he crouched just in time to hear Brom chiding down a hole as he tossed a lit molotov cocktail down through it.
The merchant didn't have time ror rational thought processes, threat assessments or or elaborate plan making. Crude, harsh physical intervention would be required to rectify this situation, applied in liberal ammounts with no mercy. So the merchant fed the primal fire in his gut and stood up a bit straighter, then forced himself through the doorway at a run, roaring and screaming and cursing like a man possessed. About two steps from Brom, Roland finally realized that once he reached the target he had no way of dealing with any friends the merchant had around potentially, standing guard. His guns were still laying down on the floor where he had awakened, and his tomohawk and machete were tangled up in his numerous belts and baubles. Oh well, Roland thought as his face and shoulders made contact with Brom's torso, At least I'll be taking someone down with me.
Up above, Jacob and Michalel would hear screaming, then a loud crash, then the sound of a harsh melee. At the right angle, one could see a hole in the drywall adjacent to the hole about the size of two men.
Lazlo was amazed at his cleverness. In nearly any other situation, he and Alan would have been executed on the spot, or at least Lazlo would've been, he still wasn't sure about the Outlander's weight in the scale of the banshees' alliances, that was something he would have to study more. "Agree'd Banshee, or shall I say Knight, if I may be so kind?" Alysha Stearns stared at the mischievous ex-raider blankly, her devilish helmet not giving Lazlo the slightest bit of insight into her emotions, he had to guess that was what they wanted. " Okay, let me just give my accomplice here his weaponry and gear to defend himself from whatever might lie in that tomb, or if you're partner there viddies to filly an oobivat on poor Alan," Stearns' head turned slightly to the side, her not fully understanding Lazlo's slang terms, that of which the younger populace of Polis, or at least the Wild, had been using fro some time now. "Decides to murder, that is, dear Knight." Lazlo added, making himself understandable for the Brotherhood soldier. He turned around, facing Alan Schezar, who was still fairly confused about his part to play in the rest of the tragedy. Lazlo walked casually over to him and handed the Israeli outsider his SVT-40 rifle and .357 pistol, discreetly whispering to the man, making sure not to catch the attention of the deadly Banshees behind them, "Ok Alan, if we don't find this G.E.C.K thing, play it cool and we'll live through this. If one of us does find it, play it cool until we meet again, then either you or I will give the signal. The signal will be a smile, nothing more nothing less." He finished talking in seconds, as he was talking very fast and very silently, but Alan understood most of it, and he knew the signal: a smile. Lazlo then turned back around to face the Knights, who stood patiently, waiting for the decent into legendary Vault 46. "Alrightie gents, real horrorshow! Lets be off then, eh?" And with that, Stearns parted with her brother Knight and Lazlo his precious leashed outlander, who now walked aside the silent Knight, the one who never spoke.
Alan Schezar walked timidly alongside this mysterious Knight, who had only spoken once, perhaps twice, to the poor outlander. This Knight walked upright, shoulders abroad, head straight and level, a true soldier. The two of them were headed to the Overseer's Office, whatever that was, in this ruined Vault. Alan had never been inside of a Vault, in fact all he knew of them were stories and rumors, he often questioned their existence before he started to travel. He saw now, obviously, that they did exist, although their purpose was still an enigma to Alan. They obviously didn't save people from the Great War, as seen within the Wendigos, so why did this 'Vault-Tec' even have them built? Some noise, similar to a creak or a footstep, broke Alan's train of thought and gained the attention of the ever-vigilante Knight. Both of them pointed their rifles to where they thought the noise came from, Alan pointing his to his left and the Knight pointing combat shotgun behind him. Trusting the Banshee's better judgment, Alan turned again to face that direction. "Ok Outlander," he spoke very monotone, as if no anxiety stirred within him, like a machine, "judging by the sound and location we are in, I would assume that it is a Wendigo, common to these parts." He glanced over at Alan, who's shaky hands rattled his rifle. He spoke once more, this time seeming slightly disappointed, "Can you fight?" Alan stared at the Knight for a moment, truly thinking if he could really answer that question, and finally nodding. Just at that moment, a dreadful howl echoed throughout the corridors, causing Alan Schezar to flinch and jump, all while the Knight stood perfectly still. A few seconds passed, footsteps rapidly approached, and then, as if out of a nightmare, the decaying creature sprinted from the shadows at the duo. It made little gain-way as buckshot tore and shredded what was once a torso. It fell to the concrete floor and squirmed for a moment, whelping and crying, until the Knight silenced it with another round, this time to the skull. This man of few words stood still for a second, his shotgun still smoking, the blood on the floor still steaming and warm. At last, the Knight spoke to the speechless Alan, who still was terrified from the cannibalistic creature that was just slayed, "Where there's one there is more, outlander. We have to make haste now, it's kin would've heard those shots from outside the Vault. Follow me." The Knight began to walk with demonic speed, leaving the body to rot and decompose within these dark hallways. Alan jogged up beside the militaristic soldier, now keeping up with his speed. After a couple minutes of awkward silence, Alan finally summed up the courage to speak: "So, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to know your name. Mine's Alan, although I'm sure you remember that from earlier this week, right?"
"Head Paladin Lucas Sibley," was the Paladin's only reply. The Outlander wasn't like the raider. Still, Sibley couldn't be sure he could trust Alan. Just because he didn't act like Lazlo, didn't mean he wasn't in league with him. Sibley would keep conversation to a minimum. He needed the G.E.C.K. and neither Lazlo nor Alan would stand in his way. Sibley wanted to make Polis a better place, at least for those who wished it were. The Wild and Vikings could have what was left of the Twin Cities. Sibley only cared about Snelling and Lindbergh. The two settlements under the Brotherhood's watchful eye. The G.E.C.K. had the potential to do so. Sibley kept one eye on Alan and one on the darkness as his helmet lamp illuminated the dark corridors. Another raspy howl filled the hall as Sibley turned in time to see another Wendigo hurtling down the hall. In a swift motion, Sibley pressed the shaking Alan Schezar to the wall, drew his revolver and fired a single shot, listening and watching with satisfaction as the cannibalistic creature tumbled to the grated floor. "A true soldier is vigilant from all angles, Alan. Make sure you are too," he said to the wide-eyed Israeli. He briefly illuminated a wall kiosk and studied the map. The Overseer's office wasn't far. A dimly lit sign illuminated the way ahead. "This way," Sibley said, "stay close." He turned and was gone up the hallway again, scanning as Schezar hustled behind him. They weren't far.
Stearns snapped the neck of a fifth Wendigo. A trail of dismembered carcasses and writhing bodies followed she and Lazlo as they cut thier way forcefully through the underlevels of Vault 46. Lazlo was surprisingly faring somewhat well in the midst of the extremely close confines of the Vault. Stearns wasn't that surprised. Alleyways, buildings, and streets were his battleground. Still, he wasn't the effortless killer she was and fatigue was more telling with the young raider than with Stearns. She spun her Ripper across the belly of a graping Wendigo, spilling it's guts, then stomped on it's head as it collapsed. Lazlo was firing wild bursts of his SMG into the masses of half-rotted hands and wide-eyed faces. Suddenly, one jumped on his back, causing him to drop his weapon. Stearns hesitated as she heard him yelp. She sighed heavily as she lunged with a forward kick, sending the deformed human into the wall. It shook off the impact but was too late. Lazlo had recovered his weapon and emptied his clip into the Wendigo, which convulsed long after the weapon had fallen silent. Stearns noted the raider's slightly confused as she turned down another hallway. He heard her Ripper whine loud again, raspy screams, and the unmistakeable sound of flesh being torn apart by machinery.
Roland and Brom hit the ground together. Dazed and bruised, but otherwise unharmed; Brom shoved and kicked himself free of Roland and tumbled away. He wrenched his pistol from his holster, aimed, and pulled the trigger to no effect. Brom tossed aside the jammed firearm and pulled him knife, hoping to get the best of Roland.
Dagwood recovered from the shock of his would-be victim's resistance. Dagwood knew fear, but not consistently. Demonstrating remarkable nimbleness despite wearing the power fist, Dagwood grabbed a flare from his belt, activated it with his free hand then switched it to his ungloved hand in a moment's span. He used the light and sparks of the flare to disorient Jacob/Raziel as he closed in with the fist.
Dale had underestimated the strength of his opponent and the dimensions of his battlefield. He couldn't quite leverage Lesko Vickers off the building as he had planned. In fact, he realized that he was going to be forced over the edge himself. Conventional retreat wasn't possible, so he simply pulled Lesko off the edge with him and caught a window ledge below. Unfortunately, Lesko caught a hold of Dale's ankle, his full weight pulling the muscles in the Agent's leg.
Dale grit his teeth and planted his other foot in Lesko's face, even as the raider tried to climb up him. Once, twice, three times, Lesko let go and caught himself one level below before the Aquaculturian could turn his face into hamburger. Dale pulled himself up and through the window, then put his back to the wall. He scanned the room and then pulled his gun on the stairwell, ready to plug anyone who came for him. He knew he wasn't in any position to help the outlanders with his ankle twisted like it was.
Gyrd got on the radio again. "Jaxor, Droog, we might need to bug out. Get ready to cover our exit or to step in and fetch Mendel and Brom. I think the twins aren't going to make it."
"Well? Go ahead then, kill 'im!" Jacob Scott Ramsey's voice, although realistically only heard within the eroded confines of his mind, sounded clear as day to the disfigured Raziel, who was, at the time, in complete control of their shared anatomy. Of course, Jacob's constant talking was regularly ignored. The raider in front of them, whom had just temporarily blinded the poor mutant with a flare, quickly prepared to reduce Raziel to a thin red paste with a very heavy, very large, and very powerful metal fist-weapon. At first it caught the ever-lasting curiosity of the ancient relic of a man, him never had seen such an object before, but survival came before wonderment, a crucial key in wasteland life continuance. Ignoring his imagination process, Raziel suddenly realized the uselessness of trying to avoid the incoming blow from this raider's fist hammer and, in his first instinct for survival, raised his twin arm blades in front of him in order to block or at least lessen the fatal jab. The metal fist slammed into his arm blades with the force of a lion, shattering one, sending many of the pieces into his leathery forearm, and just skimming the other, leaving it with near to no damage. The blow sent Raziel flying about ten feet back, dust and unsettled ash flinging into the air, a single ray of light emitting from an unbroken window to the right.
"Don't just lay there! He's gonna kill us! C'mon Raz, get the hell up and fight man, do what you always do!" Jacob, a figment of Raziel's imagination at this point, watched the entire engagement from the back of the room, scared to death of death in incarnate. Raziel once again ignored Jacob's ramblings, he always hated it when his counterpart did that, he'd rather Jacob not speak at all unless spoken too, or better yet, not exist. Of course, that was just wishful thinking, Jacob would never go away, and neither would Raziel. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. Their opponent began a charge from across the room with the full intent of ending the mummified Austinite's life, probably thinking of himself as a good man for ridding the earth of a creature such as Raziel. Unfortunately for him, Raziel, along with Jacob, had the foolish idea of going on living stuck in their heads, or rather head, to be precise. Raziel rolled across the dirty floor, leaving a thin trail of blood in his wake, and successfully avoided the brutish charge of his unnamed adversary. The man, in accordance with missing his initial target, was helpless in halting the gravitational pull of his rather heavy weapon, slamming him into the brittle dry wall and straight through to the other room. Raziel heard him tumble and fall, now seeing his chance to move in for the kill and reap the rewards. A wide grin covered his gritty face as he made his way towards the temporarily incapacitated antagonist, readying his blade for the kill, licking his white, pointed teeth, his hunger growing.
Alan desperately tried to stop his trembling hands. He was the definition of scared shitless, creeping through a dark hallway in the fucking nexus of all hellholes, this one filled to the cap with cannablistic freaks. The only source of reliability he had was the menacing Knight that led the duo, a beacon of protection and an enigma of uncertainty. He knew all too well that this little deal of theirs was not going to work, it would end in bloodshed, there is no avoiding it. Either Lazlo's plan goes right and they successfully murder the Knights, get the G.E.C.K, and walk off scott free, or, in the most probable case, the Knights gun down the two lowly wastelanders and go on to save the city, unite the populace, regain peace in Polis, blah blah blah, etc etc. None of that really mattered to Alan at this point, all he wanted was to live through it all and get the fuck out of this seriously messed up city, make his way to Fargo, get shitface drunk, and forget the entire thing. Although, Alan knew that wouldn't happen. He will die in Polis. He will rot in Polis. That was about it, no getting around it really, they'd try of course, but their efforts would be futile, Alan knew it. And yet he went on, trailing behind this statue of a man, acting his cowardly shadow, holding the best he could onto the few precious moments of life he had left.
Brom may have been expecting something flashy from the merchant, something eye-catching, flashy and amazing. Something elegant and fast. Something easy to defend. But what he didn't expect was pure, unrestrained animal fury. Starting as a low growl and quickly growing into a piercing roar, Roland forced his feet to move again, his living body no longer willing to move but his cybernetic mind and limbs working as though animated by a demon until he was running forward like a torpedo, unguided destruction on a one-track course towards its target.
His left arm scissored out and wrapped around Brom's neck, his head burying itself in the Raider's torso. Roland gained enough conscious control of his living body to get a grip around Brom's waist. Both arms lifted in unison, dragging the Raider off his feet and lifting him over the slight merchant's head. Roland lifted one knee and threw Brom down on the metal prosthesis, rage glowing like embers deep in his eyes.
After trailing them "trader-bitches," in an effort to ease his mind about this potential confusion over "Jaycowb Vawtun" (and out of a need for more ammunition for his plasma rifle), Dead-Eye found himself in a quandary. He cannot determine once and for all if Jacob is just another slut or possibly the only other man alive (as there is, of course, no reliable way to check a person's gender) if said individual dies in "faar."
He reached in his brahmin scrotum pokes, rummaging through the gear he collected in his criss-cross trail of murder and violation looking for a smoke. He plucks out a bent cigarette and lit it up while Brom flapped her jaws at Jacob and that other slut. Normally, Dead-Eye would have no objection to Brom's barbecue pit (who doesn't like a good bitch brisket after all), it would interfere with his ability to resolve his dilemma. With a sigh, he begins rummaging through one of the large sacks of loot at his feet, looking for that "faar exmushinatur," that he found in his pursuit of tradable swag. He yanked out the rusted red cylinder and peeled off a few stray undergarments that had become tangled on it. He looked at the faded indicator, again surprised to find that it was full. Shaking his head at the lost trade potential he heaves the cylinder towards the flaming hole that Jacob and the other whore had fallen in.
Dead-Eye watched the cylinder arc towards the opening, spinning end over end. And in just another feat of Dead-Eye's deadeye marksmanship, he shot the extinguisher right as it enters the opening, causing a loud explosion and a dense fog of powdered, caustic, extinguishing agent to billow out. The purplish powder quickly snuffed out the flames and possibly irritated the eyes and lungs of those "rescued," leaving behind an acrid smoke.