New California Dreaming - A Fallout Fic

Discussion in 'Fan Art/Fan Fiction' started by Hotpoint, May 25, 2009.

  1. Slaughter Manslaught

    Slaughter Manslaught Vault Senior Citizen

    Dec 11, 2006
    Great writing, Hotpoint!
    Took me some time until I found that not only you were writing X-Com/SGC, but also Fallout material. Both very good.

    Also, love how the inferiority of the Yellow Super Mutants is noted. The Master's battlehardened hordes would never get roflpwned the way those lamers have been.
     
  2. Hotpoint

    Hotpoint First time out of the vault

    39
    May 24, 2009
    The story continues...

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    NEW CALIFORNIA DREAMING -PART XVII

    Museum of American History – Columbia Commonwealth – June 2277

    ‘Okay, I can totally see the ironic humour of it’ Coyle conceded, picking up his beer again from the bar, ‘but I still think that if you’re trying to get away from the zombie stereotype that setting up home in an exhibition hall dedicated to the afterlife that you have to enter underneath a big carving of a human skull isn’t going to help’ he opined, taking a swig.

    Doctor Barrows, Mayor of Underworld as well as the resident physician shrugged. ‘Originally after the Great War the museum was just somewhere for people to shelter’ he said. ‘It had its own backup generators, it’s built damn sturdy thanks to all the stonework and remember the original inhabitants weren’t Ghouls then’ he noted. ‘Once a place is home it’s hard to leave I guess, and there’s always a few that argue we might be better off claiming “Zombie” as our own anyway, like homosexuals did “Queer” back in the old days.’

    ‘That didn’t encourage assholes to shoot them in the head though’ Coyle countered.

    Barrows laughed. ‘Maybe not on the West Coast smoothskin but we didn’t have that San Francisco vibe over here’ he joked, taking another belt from the double whiskey the visitor had bought him. ‘My round I guess’ he said, looking to the bartender Ahzrukhal. ‘Same again’ he told him.

    Coyle turned around to the girls who were sat on a table nearby, both with their backs to the wall and trying not to stare too much at the other patrons of the Ninth Circle. ‘Are you sure you don’t want a drink?’ he checked.

    ‘We’re fine’ Allison replied quickly, trying not to make eye-contact with any of the locals, particularly the tall scary one who seemed to be the bouncer.

    ‘Is it me or are your friends a little skittish around Ghouls?’ Barrow asked in amusement as the bartender poured him another.

    ‘You should see them around Super-Mutants’ Coyle replied, downing the last of his beer as Ahzrukhal took out another from a crate and opened it for him.

    ‘We were right about the Super-Mutants’ Allison sharply interrupted.

    Coyle frowned. ‘Well a broken clock is right twice a day but that doesn’t mean you can usually count on it giving you the right time’ he replied.

    ‘Jerk’ Allison responded, crossing her arms and with an annoyed expression.

    Barrows gave Coyle a look of disapproval too, there was no need to be obnoxious, especially with ladies. ‘So you’re really okay with giving me a blood sample?’ he asked Coyle again.

    ‘As long as you’re not going to take a lot, and you sterilise the needle first, I’m fine with that’ Coyle replied. ‘Got to tell you though, you aren’t the first person I’ve heard of doing that kind of research and you’re not exactly blessed with a lot of qualified help’ he said.

    Barrows chuckled. ‘I’ve probably been working on the problem since before your grandparents were born and I doubt many people had access to all the technology I did when I did the preliminary studies and drug trials’ he said confidently.

    ‘That’s probably true’ Coyle conceded. ‘So if I’ve got it all straight you people pretty much had the run of the whole of DC to themselves for at least, what fifty years after the Great War?’ he asked, intrigued.

    ‘Longer’ Barrows replied. ‘Until the radiation from all the cobalt bombs the Reds detonated around here died down no humans could get close, and no humans meant there were hardly any Super-Mutants too’ he said. ‘We traded pre-war goods and equipment out to the surrounding regions which had less rads but less salvage too, some of us made a fortune that way, not that Tenpenny will let any of them move into his damn tower even if they do have caps coming out of their ears’ he complained.

    Coyle took a swig from his new beer. ‘So I guess all the boarded up houses in town were down to you?’ he queried after swallowing it.

    ‘Most of them I’d think’ Barrows confirmed. ‘After a place is stripped out of anything valuable just nail some planks over the door to let everyone else know’ he said. ‘It was a safety thing too because a lot of floorboards and timber joists were burned for firewood during the long winter after the bombs dropped so an awful lot of houses aren’t too safe to enter.’

    ‘I guess you must still have a lot of medical supplies stockpiled from the days you had the city to yourselves because the maintenance guy downstairs said he’d swap them for scrap metal if I’d bring some back’ Coyle remarked.

    Barrows nodded. ‘We’ve got a lot of most everything except the sort of crap we never thought we’d need to keep a supply of’ he responded. ‘Until the Raiders, and then the Brotherhood of Steel showed up, getting out there to get basic spares wasn’t a problem’ he said. ‘At least we’ve still got plenty to trade for what we need’ he said, sipping his whiskey. ‘Quinn still has some good contacts and a few ways to get around the city without getting his brains blown out which helps’ he added.

    ‘Not met him yet’ Coyle replied, he had only been in Underworld half an hour before he got talking to Barrows and realised he was likely the best source of useful information. The Ghoul Doctor was only too happy to talk after Coyle agreed to let Barrows take some of his blood and maybe a small tissue sample too, he needed them to aid his research into a possible cure, or at least a treatment, for radiation-induced ghoulification.

    ‘Quinn’s a wandering merchant, you’ll usually find him in Carol’s Place unless he’s out working’ Barrows told Coyle. ‘If you want to buy anything though see Tulip downstairs in Underworld Outfitters’ he advised. ‘She’d be grateful of the business, passing trade dried up when the Brotherhood and Super-Mutants started trying to turn The Mall into a recreation of the Battle of Anchorage.’

    ‘Thanks’ Coyle replied. ‘I think I can get myself a bed for the night at Carol’s Place, right?’ he asked.

    ‘You sure can’ Barrows confirmed. ‘If you’re really interested in the history of DC you might want to talk to Carol too’ he suggested. ‘She’s lived in Washington since before the Great War and was one of the founders of Underworld’ he said before downing the rest of his drink. ‘I need to finish off some work before dinner and turning in for the night’ he said. ‘If you come to the Chop Shop in the morning I’ll take those samples and I’ll give you some stimpacks for the trouble as thanks.’

    ‘No need for that’ Coyle replied, ‘happy to help’ he said.

    ‘I insist’ Barrows replied, standing up. ‘Not like we need the things much anyway’ he said. ‘A good dose of radiation fixes us right up most times.’

    ‘Well if you’re sure I’ll be grateful for them’ Coyle told the doctor. ‘Just one more thing though’ he continued. ‘What I said about Underworld not being a good name for a Ghoul Town goes double for calling a doctor’s surgery “The Chop Shop”, it just doesn’t send the right message’ he sagely advised.

    Barrows chuckled again. ‘I guess our parts come off and can get sewn back on more easily’ he replied.

    ‘Just keep in mind I’m more fragile that most of your patients when you poke me with the needle okay’ Coyle requested. ‘That’s all I ask’ he said, finishing off his beer.

    Tulip, proprietor of the local store “Underworld Outfitters”, was far too visibly and audibly enthusiastic to have customers for a change for anyone entering her place of business not to realise they could easily pick up a few bargain purchases.

    When Coyle got her talking, which wasn’t hard either, Tulip revealed that she had bought the establishment from another Ghoul named Masters who had made his money during the good times and then cleverly, or despicably as she saw it, sold the store on to her for a high price just before the economy was about to tank. The prior owner of Underworld Outfitters had been a scientist before the war too apparently and had helped Winthrop fix the power and get the township’s “Mister Gutsy” combat robot running so his leaving had been considered a blow for the community. Quite a few Underworld residents would dearly like him to come back Tulip said, including Doc Barrows who had liked having another educated man around to bounce ideas off, but she stated for her part the only thing she wanted to bounce off his mind was a baseball bat.

    ‘So do you see anything you like on the shelves?’ Tulip asked, indicating her wares for sale as she inspected the weapons Coyle was offering in part exchange for his purchases.

    ‘I guess you’ve got some more ammo under the counter’ Coyle replied. ‘I’m really after .308 Winchester or 7.62mm NATO’ he told her.

    ‘How much, I’ve got forty or maybe fifty in stock’ Tulip replied brightly.

    ‘I’ll take it all, plus a box of 10mm’ Coyle told her. ‘Is that jacket for sale?’ he asked, pointing towards one which wasn’t with the rest of the clothes and armour on display.

    ‘The brown brahmin-leather one?’ Tulip checked, ‘sure is’ she said after Coyle nodded.

    ‘How much you asking for it?’ Coyle asked.

    Tulip looked at it appraisingly. ‘Well that’s quality workmanship in the stitching’ she said. ‘Good, thick hardwearing leather and the zip isn’t even busted so I’d have to ask for at least... sixty caps’ she suggested, her tone indicating she knew full well that was too much and she doubted she’d get it.

    ‘You’re kidding?’ Coyle responded dismissively. ‘I wouldn’t pay twenty-five.’

    ‘I couldn’t let it go for less than... fifty’ Tulip stated.

    ‘If you’d said thirty I might have reconsidered it but come-on’ Coyle replied, giving the Ghoul shopkeeper a smile.

    ‘I paid forty for it myself’ Tulip lied unconvincingly. It clearly bothered her to do so, this really wasn’t her ideal career.

    Coyle took another look at the jacket. ‘Thirty-five’ he said. ‘That’s my final offer and I’m probably only going that high because I just had a few beers.’

    ‘Sold’ Tulip agreed. ‘Do you need anything else?’ she asked, starting to add up the transaction in her head.

    ‘Is that an army rucksack?’ Coyle asked pointing to a green, medium sized backpack.

    ‘Yeah, they found it in the back of a National Guard supply truck I think’ Tulip replied.

    ‘I’ll take that too’ Coyle told her. ‘Just charge what you think is fair’ he said before turning towards Dreamer. ‘The jacket and the backpack are yours, you need something to wear that’ll offer a little more protection than that old flight-suit’ he said.

    ‘Um... thanks’ Dreamer responded surprised. ‘What about the rucksack though?’ she queried.

    ‘I need you to be a more efficient pack-mule’ Coyle replied. He wasn’t making her carry his own pack any more but that didn’t mean he was going to let her get away with not hauling her share. Allison already had her own bags to haul around.

    ‘Even with the part-exchange for these pistols and the R91, which isn’t in very good condition’ Tulip said truthfully. ‘You’ll still have to stump up some caps to make up the difference.’

    ‘Thought as much’ Coyle said regretfully. ‘Do you know how much the place upstairs charges for a bed for the night?’ he asked the Ghoul.

    ‘A hundred and twenty caps I think’ Tulip replied.

    ‘One of you two is sleeping on the floor tonight because I’m not paying for two beds at those prices’ Coyle stated firmly. ‘I just don’t have the caps to spare.’

    ‘Why don’t you sleep on the floor?’ Allison retorted.

    ‘Because firstly I already did that last night because Dreamer needed a decent sleep, secondly because I’m older than you and my back didn’t like it and thirdly because I’m paying’ Coyle replied sternly, getting out his bag of caps to settle the bill with Tulip. After the deposit he had paid out to Reilly’s Rangers for the mapping job he wasn’t exactly awash with cash.

    Allison and Dreamer looked at each other. ‘We’ll flip a cap or something’ Allison suggested.

    ‘I call nuka-cola logo down’ Dreamer said, reaching into her pocket for a bottle cap.

    If Tulip could be described as a mite talkative then Carol, owner and manager of the Underworlds closest thing to a hotel, was loquacious in the extreme. Once she got over some initial reservations about having a conversation with one of the museums rare “Smoothskin” visitors she proceeded to talk Coyle’s ears off with stories of Washington DC before the war, witnessing a nuclear exchange first hand and the death of her father, the history of Underworld since the Great War, her relationship with her now missing adopted son, her relationship with Greta who helped her run the place (and who Coyle surmised was her long-term girlfriend), the despicable proprietor of the Ninth Circle and the ever increasing cost of getting hold of abraxo for cleaning the kitchen ware and detergent to wash the bed linen with.

    If there was one saving grace to having to listen to the two-hundred plus year old woman drone on and on it was that both Allison and Dreamer were quickly reaching the conclusion that Coyle might have been wrong about Super-Mutants but he was correct about Ghouls, listening to Carol for too long might result in your brain seizing up but she clearly didn’t want to eat it. In fact other than an occasionally interesting anecdote or observation most of what she had to say was just too mundane to think of her as anything but an old coot enjoying the chance to tell stories to someone that hadn’t already heard them a hundred times.

    Coyle still seemed interested though. ‘Seriously, you remember when they rebuilt the Washington Monument?’ he asked Carol.

    ‘Oh yes’ Carol confirmed, nodding. ‘Those damn Commie infiltrators collapsed the original one with a bomb you know, trying to sap the nation’s morale during the fighting in Alaska father said’ she recalled. ‘The Army Corps of Engineers worked twenty-four hours a day to rebuild it’ she said. ‘I was only a little girl at the time but I remember being out in The Mall and singing the national anthem when they took away the scaffolding’ she said. ‘Oh I should be thinking about getting some sleep’ she realised, noticing the time.

    ‘You and me both’ Coyle replied, checking his own watch.

    Carol looked a little embarrassed as she remembered she had meant to raise another matter with the nice young man from California, although needless to say her cheeks didn’t blush. ‘You won’t be getting up to anything lewd with those girls tonight will you?’ she asked awkwardly. ‘It’s not that I’m a prude or anything you understand, it’s just that other people staying over might object to the noise keeping them awake.’

    ‘I don’t sleep with either of them’ Coyle replied quickly. ‘Not in the way you mean anyway’ he told her.

    ‘Oh, I’m sorry I misunderstood the situation’ Carol apologised, turning to Allison and Dreamer who were now playing cards at a table nearby. ‘Girls not your cup of tea?’ she asked. ‘I fully understand’ she added sweetly.

    Coyle’s eyes widened. ‘No I like girls’ he said hurriedly. ‘I’m just not having sex with either of those two’ he explained.

    ‘So are they a couple?’ Carol asked him.

    ‘Only in my mind when it wanders to a happy place’ Coyle replied.

    Carol rolled her eyes. ‘Honestly what is it with your men?’ she asked rhetorically. ‘I swear if I had a cap for every time I’ve kissed Greta and found every man in the room staring at us afterwards I’d be rich’ she complained.

    At this point Coyle’s mind went to a distinctly unhappy place and he shuddered as he remembered being forced to watch a Lesbian Ghoul porn film made by the Golden Globes Studio in New Reno. It was probably his own fault for being the only human that went to the bachelor party of a Ghoul Ranger, a mistake Coyle would never make again, although it had to be said the groom still probably got the worst of the evening thanks to the lap-dance from the Super-Mutant stripper.

    Later that evening as he started taking off his armour and prepared for bed Allison was spreading out a blanket on the floor next to it. ‘I thought you won the cap toss?’ he queried.

    ‘I did, it’s her turn to have to prop you up so you don’t snore’ Allison replied, grinning.

    ‘The bed we had at Rivet City was softer’ Dreamer complained, from where she was sat on it bouncing up and down on the mattress.

    ‘Either wear a bra under that t-shirt or stop that’ Coyle told her curtly then paused. ‘Sorry, I’m trying to suppress a memory of two naked Ghouls on a water bed’ he apologised, grimacing for a moment before he pulled his Desert Eagle from its holster and placed it under the pillow.

    Allison started to pull off her boots. ‘I’ve got a question about that blood sample the Doctor wants from you’ she said to Coyle.

    ‘Yes?’ Coyle replied, taking off his gunbelt and hanging it over the bedpost so his MP9 was in easy reach too. The rifles were under the bed alone with most of their other belongings.

    ‘If he needs normal blood to compare with their blood why doesn’t he just take it from bloodpacks?’ Allison queried. ‘I mean you can find them in First Aid kits all over the place and the hospitals in the city must have loads of them?’

    Coyle grinned. ‘The red stuff in bloodpacks isn’t really blood’ he replied, mildly amused at her ignorance as he started to unbuckle his combat armour. ‘You don’t think real blood from before the Great War would still be useable do you?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘It’s a synthetic replacement they originally made for the military’ he explained. ‘Shelf life of forever, just as good at carrying oxygen as regular blood and doesn’t even need to be refrigerated’ he told her. ‘It’s not even red really’ he continued. ‘They just used to add dye because people objected to having stuff the colour of milk dumped into their veins.’

    ‘I never heard that before’ Dreamer interjected. ‘Did you learn that from a book?’ she asked.

    ‘Technically from a computer terminal plugged into a GECK holodisk library database’ Coyle replied. ‘Dad made me study an hour for every hour I spent learning to shoot, track or throw a spear’ he said. ‘He wanted me to become a teacher like him, not go in the army.’

    ‘What did your Mom want?’ Allison asked, intrigued by this extra piece of information about his background.

    ‘Grandchildren’ Coyle replied, grinning. ‘She’s no happier with me than he is’ he said. ‘Every time I go home she tries to set me up with some unattached girl’ he said. ‘Last time it was some girl from the Ortal family who had just moved in across the road’ he recalled. ‘She had just become a doctor so Dad said he thought she’d be a good influence on me too.’

    Allison frowned, not that Coyle could see it from where she was on the floor. ‘What was she like?’

    ‘Pretty enough, glasses but cute with them’ Coyle remembered. ‘We went on one date but it ended half way through dinner when I happened to mention that I thought the Followers of the Apocalypse were a load of misguided peaceniks who weren’t loyal enough to the NCR’ he said. ‘If I’d known she was a member I’d have laid her first and then mentioned it over breakfast’ he added regretfully.

    ‘That’s a horrible thing to say, it’s like you’re using her for a night then getting rid of her’ Allison said indignantly.

    Coyle smirked. ‘No I meant after a night of sex like that she’d have forgiven me anything’ he said. ‘They should have named me Casanova Coyle not Cassidy’ he declared. ‘Or maybe I should have “Don Juan” as my middle name instead of Nagor.’

    ‘So why exactly are you single?’ Dreamer asked sounding slightly unconvinced.

    ‘There are a few reasons but me being totally full of it is probably on the list’ Coyle replied, laughing.

    ‘At least you know it’ Dreamer replied, laughing with him.

    ‘So you said this girl your Ma wanted to set you up with had glasses’ Allison said. ‘Do you like girls in glasses?’ she asked, trying to sound nonchalant. He had bought Dreamer some after all, she thought, wondering if that wasn’t just one of his occasional bouts of niceness at play.

    ‘I don’t much mind either way’ Coyle replied honestly. ‘For the most part I’m looking lower down’ he added, just as honestly.

    ‘Yeah we know’ Dreamer responded wryly, getting into bed.

    ‘I was just amazed he knew the colour of my eyes after telling me the reason he wore those shades was to make it easier to look down my top’ Allison said to Dreamer from the floor on Coyle’s side of the bed where he was now sitting.

    Coyle took off his boots. ‘As protection from being hurt I still can’t say much good about that outfit you bought to wear in Helltown but I’m damn glad you did’ he said before chuckling. ‘I can’t really do it that much though because I haven’t worn the sunglasses in here and when I told Carol I wasn’t screwing either of you she thought I must be gay’ he remarked.

    ‘Why did you tell her that?’ Allison queried, wondering how that topic had arisen during a conversation that hadn’t been remotely that interesting at the point she and Dreamer had left to play cards.

    ‘She thought we might make a lot of noise’ Coyle explained. ‘You know if that rumour starts to spread I might have to ask you to help me stamp it out’ he said. ‘I mean we’ll have sex and you can tell everyone we meet about it.’

    ‘I’m not having sex with you just so people don’t think you’re gay Cassidy’ Allison told him firmly.

    ‘Me neither before you ask’ Dreamer interjected.

    ‘So much for friendship’ Coyle muttered. ‘If you were worried about people thinking you were gay I’d help you out’ he complained, getting into bed with Dreamer.

    ‘I guess you’re just a better person than me then’ Allison replied sarcastically causing Dreamer to have to hold back laughter.

    ‘We’re leaving early in the morning right after I give the doc the samples I promised and maybe talk to a few more people’ Coyle announced, ignoring them. ‘We’ll use the old Metro lines again to travel north until we get to Friendship Station out in the suburbs when we’ll go back to travelling on the surface’ he said. ‘There’s not supposed to be any obstacles between there and Canterbury Commons, not geographical ones anyway’ he added trying to get comfortable. ‘I don’t bite you know’ he told Dreamer who was clearly trying to keep her distance. ‘Even the smell isn’t too bad at the moment and this bed just isn’t big enough to keep that kind of gap between us.’

    Allison sat up. ‘It’s okay Dreamer, he won’t try anything’ she said quietly. ‘He’s a jerk sometimes but he’s not that kind of jerk’ she told her.

    ‘I’ll consider that a complement of my character, if maybe a barbed one’ Coyle responded as Dreamer nervously shuffled a little closer. She didn’t really think he do anything to her without her consent it was just that she had lived with slavers then raiders so long that her subconscious expected any man nearby to view her as available for sex, consenting or not and usually not.

    Later that night when Dreamer found herself dealing with Coyle’s snoring and tried to push him on his side to stop it she exerted a little too much force and rolled him completely out of the bed to land on Allison. Her scream and his swearing woke everyone up far more effectively than anything Carol had worried about them getting up to.



    ----------

    Note from the Author:

    Doctor Barrows is the leading citizen and town physician in Underworld. He is researching a possible means to prevent or reverse ghoulification but needs human tissue samples for his work. Ahzrukhal is the owner of the Ninth Circle bar and owns the contract on Charon his brainwashed bouncer and bodyguard.

    Given that only the Ghouls could have survived living in DC just after the war because of all the radiation they should have had plenty of time to collect the best salvage and make plenty of money off it. This could explain why the Ghoul Roy Phillips and his people (which include former pre-war scientist Michael Masters) say they have the caps to afford living in Tenpenny Tower. Masters is a trader, certainly a better one than Tulip who isn't the wasteland's most professional merchant (too eager to do business).

    Carol, owner of Carol's Place in Underworld has lived there since the Great War, she's apparently an item with Greta who helps her run the business. Sorry for the joke about Lesbian Ghoul porn, there really is an Adult Film Studio in New Reno called Golden Globes (Fallout 2) and a brothel in town offers ghoul and super-mutant "entertainment".

    You can meet a doctor from the Followers of the Apocalypse organisation called Emily Ortal in Fallout: New Vegas. Her family come from New Arroyo (across the road from Coyle's parents as you now know).

    As always I hope people like my explanations for the unexplained (or daft) things we see in Fallout 3 including the boarded up houses, the two-century old bloodpacks and the Washington Monument not being like it is in real life.
     
  3. Hotpoint

    Hotpoint First time out of the vault

    39
    May 24, 2009
    The story continues...

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    NEW CALIFORNIA DREAMING - PART XVIII

    Metro Central Station – Columbia Commonwealth – June 2277

    Coyle stepped over the body of the last of the feral ghouls which had screeched and attacked as soon as they spotted the three interlopers in their underground lair. Allison had managed to take out two of them at long-range with her rifle and Dreamer had practically blown another in half at point-blank with her combat-shotgun but as ever the Ranger’s quickness on the trigger and freakish accuracy meant that most of the deranged creatures had swiftly fallen to “Wanda” his customised R91. ‘Less than half-an-hour ago we were talking to things like this’ Allison noted, refraining from checking any of the bodies for valuables because they looked so misshapen and decayed. ‘I thought you liked ghouls?’ she queried.

    ‘Like super-mutants I try to judge each one as an individual not making sweeping racial generalisations about them’ Coyle replied. Being less squeamish than Allison he had already started to check the pockets of the dead ghouls for caps or other loot, even if he expected the pickings to be meagre.

    ‘But how do you tell the difference between the good ones and the bad ones?’ Dreamer asked.

    ‘If a ghoul screams incoherently and runs at me like a lunatic, looking like he wants to rip my head off, I shoot the bastard, that’s my policy’ Coyle replied reasonably. ‘Hey, RadAway!’ he exclaimed, finding some on one of the bodies along with a few caps. ‘You really should have taken this yourself’ he sagely advised the corpse he had just found the anti-radiation drug on.

    ‘This one is wearing old combat armour’ Dreamer observed, reluctantly starting to check the bodies herself because Coyle was doing okay for his efforts so far. ‘He’s got dog-tags on too’ she continued, checking them out of curiosity.‘I guess he was in the National Guard back before the Great War’ she supposed. The Columbia Commonwealth’s National Guard had been deployed to Washington DC before and after the Great War, trying to maintain order and then aid survivors, but the fierce radiation had rapidly depleted their numbers even before the mass desertions began.

    ‘If you’re going to suggest hauling the poor son-of-a-bitch down to Arlington to bury him with full military honours for doing his duty and staying at his post you can count me out’ Coyle told her.

    ‘I just thought I might be carrying his old backpack’ Dreamer replied, adjusting the shoulder straps of the army rucksack Coyle had purchased for her along with her new leather jacket.

    ‘If you’re going to wildly speculate about things, he might conceivably be your great, great, great, great grandfather too’ Coyle suggested. ‘But that’s not likely either’ he added sardonically.

    Not being interested in robbing the dead, or at least not these particular dead, Allison was looking around, still finding the station and the metro system itself fascinating, and amazed that the old world had been capable of constructing such marvels. ‘Do you think that rumour is true about the Brotherhood collapsing some more of the metro tunnels with explosives if it looks like they’re going to lose control of The Mall?’ she wondered. Doc Barrows had mentioned it as a possibility while he took a blood sample from Coyle to help with his research from shortly before the trio left Underworld that morning.

    ‘We know they’re already bringing down buildings above ground to try and contain the super-mutants so it’s logical they’d move onto the only other way the things could rapidly expand their turf’ Coyle replied thoughtfully. ‘If the Brotherhood is as short on manpower as it looks then it’s in their interest to try and create choke-points where the opposition can’t use their superior numbers effectively’ he continued. ‘The Steel Plague did exactly the same thing to us in the Angel’s Boneyard during the New Adytum campaign’ he recalled. ‘They managed to make the butchers-bill a lot higher than it would have been otherwise’ the veteran soldier continued sadly, remembering how many of his comrades had fallen to Brotherhood bullets, lasers and explosives in the bloody ruins of Los Angeles.

    Now rifling through the jacket pockets of another dead feral Dreamer felt a familiar shape in her hand which was snagged on a loose thread. Her eyes flicked to her companions to make sure they weren’t looking her way before she pulled it free.

    Dreamer looked at the thing in her hand for a moment before squeezing her eyes shut, opening them a few seconds later. ‘You’d better take this’ she addressed Allison, gently pitching the Jet Inhaler to the other girl, Allison catching it by reflex. ‘I still don’t know if I can trust myself with one of those for very long’ Dreamer admitted, voice trembling slightly.

    ‘You should be proud you’re able to give it up at all’ Allison replied, giving Dreamer a smile. The Doctor at Rivet City had cured Dreamer’s physiological addiction but the psychological one was a different matter.

    ‘I’ve given up drinking dozens of times but nobody ever praised me for it’ Coyle complained, ducking to avoid the Jet Inhaler when Allison threw it at him in turn, although in this case she was aiming for his head and it was moving a lot faster.

    ‘You should pick that back up’ Dreamer told Allison. ‘It’s worth twenty caps.’

    ‘You should go over and crush it under your boot’ Allison countered. ‘You’re worth more’ she stated firmly.

    ‘I know’ Dreamer replied. ‘I’ve been sold’ she attempted a joke but it was hard to smile about that and her delivery of the line was less than comedic.

    Allison suddenly felt awful. ‘I didn’t mean it like that’ she responded quickly, misreading Dreamers intention of the line. ‘You’re worth more to us’ she told Dreamer. ‘Say something nice to her’ she instructed Coyle, seeking support.

    ‘Nice?’ Coyle responded, pursing his lips. ‘Um... I’m glad now that I didn’t blow your head off when we first met’ he told Dreamer after thinking about it for a moment.

    ‘Something nicer’ Allison insisted, glaring at him.

    Coyle groaned, this wasn’t exactly his forte. ‘If we were back on the ferry, it was capsizing and I had a choice between saving you and my gauss rifle I’d probably save you’ he told Dreamer, putting in more effort.

    ‘Is that really the best you can do?’ Allison protested after staring at the man incredulously for a while, throwing up her hands in disgust.

    ‘My M72 Gauss Rifle is the best damn gun made by man and it has extreme sentimental value’ Coyle defended himself. ‘You know what’ he continued after a pause, ‘I don’t feel like being nice or tolerant of touchy-feely crap today anyway after that crappy nights sleep so you two can emote on your own’ he told them sternly before turning away and stamping off towards the next tunnel, heading north. Dupont Station was the next in the old DC Metro’s Red Line and it wasn’t too much further on according to the map. ‘When you two have finished being introspective and maudlin catch up’ he called back to them, checking that his assault rifle had a full magazine just in case there was something nasty lurking up ahead. As with many of the tunnels old train carriages partially blocked the way but there was usually space either side to make your way through.

    Dreamer walked over to where the Jet Inhaler was lying and after a short hesitation brought her foot down to crush it, the drug contained in the now broken ampoule mixing in with the rest of the grime that coated most of the station floor. ‘You’re right, that was more than worth giving up the twenty caps it could have been traded for’ she told Allison before the pair of them started to follow Coyle who had already disappeared from sight thanks to his quick pace.

    ‘So much for trying not to get noticed’ Allison observed as the sound of Coyle starting to sing the echoed back down the tunnel towards them. To be fair shooting the Feral Ghouls had already likely blown any chances they had of catching any possible foes ahead unawares she knew but he was still ignoring his own normal advice not to attract attention unnecessarily.

    New California knows how to party
    New California knows how to party
    In the city of Arroyo
    In the city of good old Shady
    In the city, the city of Junktown
    We keep it rocking, we keep it rocking


    ‘I swear he has wilder mood-swings than I do when I’ve got bad PMS’ Allison remarked to Dreamer as they followed the sound of singing along the old tunnel. ‘He does sing pretty good though’ she had to admit and the acoustics in the tunnel were helping too.

    Dreamer nodded. ‘Yeah, he’s a little crazy’ she agreed. ‘Not bad crazy though, I’ve seen my share of bad crazy and he’s not that’ she said authoritatively. Dreamer knew her lunatics, she had been intimate with several over the last few years and generally not by choice.

    Other voices up ahead as they neared the next station broke into Coyle’s singing, the most distinctive to Allison and Dreamer being a woman’s exclamation of “He’s got an assault rifle” followed by a man’s response “Ooh, I love it when they fight back”. Dreamer somehow doubted whoever had said the latter would still think so in a couple of minute’s time, rightly assuming Coyle had just run into raiders in the next station and also that the gang had no idea whatsoever what was going to happen to them if they provoked him. The gunslinging amateur vocalist from the West-Coast might not be “bad-crazy” but after seeing him in action a few times it was undeniable that he was seriously bad-ass, maybe almost as much as he professed to be, Dreamer considered.

    Allison winced when she heard the crack of a pistol. Honestly couldn’t the man manage to go even fifteen minutes between getting into fights she wondered? For a split second she worried if he was alright, but then a bellowed ‘ARROYO REPRESENTS’ followed by the sound of an R91 going full-auto confirmed he was still breathing and the same might not be true of whoever it was who had shot at him.

    By the time Allison and Dreamer arrived, sprinting to join him as soon as the bullets started to fly, Coyle had dropped his now empty R91 and was taking apart what was left of a small Raider Band with his Desert Eagle in his left hand and his MP9 in the right. Between the quantity of high-velocity lead he was putting out the arrival of two more armed companions by his side the raiders started to panic and in a couple of cases to flee.

    ‘Okay so he’s a lot crazy’ Dreamer corrected herself before cutting loose at the nearest raider with her combat shotgun. The spread of buckshot and rate-of-fire of the weapon helped make up for her still not being a particularly great shot, even with the glasses, but it was the psychological impact of the sound that most impressed she thought. Damn it was loud.

    Joining in herself Allison winged a raider with her hunting-rifle, working the bolt to chamber another round as the raider screamed and dropped the lead pipe he was wielding. From the looks of it most of the gang weren’t much more than kids, poorly armed with a smattering of pistols mixed in with melee weapons, mostly baseball bats and knives. A little voice in the back of her mind reminded Allison that until she met Coyle she hadn’t ever shot at another human being, let alone killed one, but the realisation that doing so was bothering her less and less every day wasn’t very pleasant in itself.

    ‘Fuck this, I’m outta here too’ one of the older, more senior raiders who hadn’t already fled yelled out. This quickly resulted in the others deciding that discretion was the better part of valour as well. Not being inclined to shoot any of them in the back, even if the little fuckers had started it, Coyle let them run and soon the only raider left alive within the main chamber of Dupont Metro Station was the one Allison had wounded.

    Holding his left hand across his chest, hand clamped awkwardly over the hole in his side, the raider had pulled out a rusty switchblade and was holding it out in front of him in a manner that most reminded Coyle of a character in an old pre-war film trying to ward off a vampire with a crucifix. ‘I’ll cut you’ the raider threatened, the quality of the threat diminished by the terror in his eyes and the way the pain from his injury was making him wince.

    ‘Don’t be fucking stupid kid, just get lost’ Coyle told him, the adrenaline rush that had resulted from the fight already fading. ‘Be grateful you look like you’re not old enough to shave and don’t have anything on you worth the price of a bullet’ he said.

    ‘He’s just a boy, I shot a boy’ Allison realised aghast.

    ‘Yeah and you nearly missed the little bastard entirely’ Coyle responded. ‘That’s sloppy shooting for you’ he chided. ‘At that range I’d expect you to place the round slap-bang in the centre of the targets chest every time’ he told her.

    ‘I almost killed a little boy’ Allison

    ‘I think you’re missing the point’ Coyle told her. ‘The problem is that you almost missed him’ he said. ‘He’s barely even nicked.’

    The raider youth looked from one of them to the other. ‘I’m not a kid’ he insisted.

    ‘Take a hike junior before I pistol-whip you’ Coyle growled. The raider looked like he couldn’t have been much more than fourteen, back in the NCR he would still have been in school for at least another two years.

    ‘I’m not scared of you’ the boy declared unconvincingly, still menacing them with his knife.

    ‘Okay, that’s enough of this shit’ Coyle muttered, holstering both his pistol and sub-machinegun and walking straight towards the boy. The raider youth attempted a wild stab at the ranger but Coyle easily avoided the blade, grabbed the boy’s wrist and twisted hard making him drop the knife.

    The raider struggled but unfortunately for him Coyle was more than enough of a bastard to take advantage of his injury and he jabbed at the bullet wound causing the boy to gasp out in pain.

    ‘Don’t hurt him!’ Allison cried out.

    ‘He needs to learn a lesson’ Coyle replied curtly.

    ‘Um, I’ve got an idea’ Dreamer spoke up before the lesson turned even more violent to the point of being terminal. ‘Sometimes the younger kids at little Lamplight needed to be brought into line’ she said. ‘Drag him over to that bench there’ she instructed Coyle, getting to it first and putting her shotgun out of reach as she sat down on it.

    In the end getting his first bullet wound and having his friends run off and abandon him wasn’t the worst thing the boy had to deal with that day. The feeling of humiliation lasted almost as long in his memory as the scar did on his body.

    ‘This - is - what - you - get - for - fucking - about - with - raiders’ Dreamer had told the boy, interspersing each word with a hard thwack to his backside as she spanked him over her knee, Coyle stood to one side laughing so hard that there were tears rolling down his cheeks.

    ‘I’m sorry I shot you’ Allison called after the boy who fled as soon as Dreamer let him go. ‘Get whoever bandages you up to wash their hands’ she advised the boy who had looked practically as embarrassed when he was being spanked as he did hurt, angry and scared. ‘And boil the bandages first to make sure they’re clean too’ she recommended.

    ‘Well that was fun’ Coyle declared, grinning. Retrieving his R91 from the ground where he had dropped it, ejecting the empty magazine and loading another before starting to check the dead raiders for loot.

    ‘That wasn’t fun, I could have killed that boy’ Allison responded. ‘I didn’t even notice how old he was until after I shot him.’

    ‘I bet he would have killed you if he’d gotten the chance’ Dreamer told her. ‘Probably raped you too if you survived the older guys doing it first’ she added seriously, ‘and maybe even if you didn’t survive them doing it first.’

    Allison shook her head sadly. ‘But they’re just children’ she said, taking a closer look at one of the bodies. It was a girl of maybe seventeen, her raider pigtails making her look even younger from a distance.

    ‘Some of the gangs like to recruit them young so they can train them up properly’ Dreamer explained. ‘Maybe they were sent down here to fight feral ghouls as practice or something?’ she theorised, it might have been an initiation ceremony too the latter explaining why they seemed so inexperienced and ran away so quickly.

    ‘Doesn’t look like they’ve got much worth taking anyway’ Coyle remarked, checking the condition of a handgun one of them had been carrying. ‘It’s not even well-maintained’ he said. ‘On the other hand if they looked after their weapons better we might be dead so I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much about how little I’ll get for this’ he told himself.

    Allison approached Coyle. ‘Aren’t you bothered by how old they are?’ she asked him.

    ‘They started it and I didn’t kill as many of them as I could have’ Coyle replied evenly. ‘You need to shake this off because we’ve got two more metro stations to get through before we head up to the surface and after that it’s still a good walk to Canterbury Commons.’

    ‘I don’t want to shoot anyone else today’ Allison told him earnestly.

    ‘Shouldn’t be a problem, you almost didn’t shoot the last one’ Coyle replied wryly.

    ‘Stop always trying to be funny’ Allison responded sharply.

    Coyle looked her in the eyes. ‘How do you think I’ve managed to go on this long without suffering a nervous breakdown or ending up a total sociopath that isn’t picky about who it is I kill?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘Find your own way to cope and don’t criticise mine’ he told her coldly.

    ‘Oh’ Allison replied, breaking eye-contact. ‘I’m sorry’ she apologised.

    ‘You apologise too much as well’ Coyle told her. ‘Let’s go’ he said.

    ‘Don’t you want to check all the bodies?’ Dreamer asked.

    ‘No’ Coyle replied flatly. ‘Let’s just get out of these fucking tunnels and into the open air’ he said.

    ‘Okay’ Dreamer agreed, nodding. ‘Come on’ she told Allison.

    ‘Open air is good’ Allison agreed, the two of them following Coyle again.

    ‘I actually kinda like it down here’ Dreamer admitted.

    ‘That’s because you grew up in a cave’ Allison replied. ‘Like a troglodyte’ she attempted a joke just in case Coyle’s coping mechanism had merit.

    ‘Better than being an in-bred, moonshine-swigging redneck from the Blue Ridge’ Dreamer countered, playing along.

    ‘Hey I get enough of that crap already from him cave-girl’ Allison objected.

    ‘You started it hillbilly’ Dreamer retorted.

    ‘Now y’all don’t be starting feudin, fightin and a fussing back there you hear’ Coyle interrupted, attempting to copy their accents. Dreamer’s wasn’t as strong as Allison’s but it was still extremely southern to his ears.

    ‘Butt out and take a chill pill dude’ Dreamer replied, managing to mimic his own accent quite well.

    ‘Yeah, so you like totally need to get a grip Bro’ Allison added, not doing the accent nearly as well but it was close enough. He really did talk a lot like that sometimes, particularly after a few drinks when he wasn’t trying so hard to be understood. With travel across the United States having been so difficult for so long regional accents and dialects had made a big comeback after fading for much of the century before the Great War.

    ‘Kiss my grits, Dixie Chicks’ Coyle muttered.

    Allison giggled. ‘Like what-ever’ she replied.

    By the time they eventually reached Friendship Station and climbed the old, seized-up escalators to the surface Coyle could only hope that this ganging up on him and relentlessly mocking his accent was only a short-lived temporary phase because he was frankly a lot better at dishing it out than he was at taking it.


    ----------

    Note from the Author:

    The Metro system under Washington DC is infested with raiders, feral ghouls and occasionally super-mutants. Several of the tunnels are collapsed and in the game you can't actually travel along the Red Line all the way to Friendship Station from Museum Station under The Mall because the route is blocked off by rubble. However, given that there is still steam coming out of some of the pipes where the collapses have happened they don't seem to be that old. It's pure fanon on my part but I can easily see the Brotherhood blowing a few tunnels to help contain the super-mutants, particularly after the things gained the upper hand in The Mall (which happens between now and the Lone Wanderer emerging from Vault 101 in August).

    No prizes for spotting various film and TV references or that Coyle was singing his own words to California Love by 2Pac.
     
  4. Hotpoint

    Hotpoint First time out of the vault

    39
    May 24, 2009
    The story continues...

    ----------

    NEW CALIFORNIA DREAMING - PART XIX



    Friendship Heights Station – Columbia Commonwealth – June 2277

    Back before the DC trading network began its slow implosion quite a lot of business had passed through Friendship Heights on its way to Canterbury Commons, the small township lying twelve miles to the northeast of the Heights having developed into a regional trade hub. Pre-war merchandise, rare in much of the wasteland but plentiful in the former capital had been salvaged in vast quantity then traded northwards via Canterbury to the settlements around Baltimore and beyond, the proceeds of this allowing the importation of food from less desolate regions.

    Until the radiation levels in the city had dropped to levels that were relatively safe for humans long-term ghouls had undertaken most of the scavenging in DC and it was they who had initially begun to operate the trade routes, though often forced to work through human intermediaries because of the tendency of assholes to take pot-shots at them. Ghoul scavengers would haul their finds to Friendship Heights where they would be met by merchants operating short-haul brahmin caravans to Canterbury Commons and then long-haul merchants not wanting to get any closer to DC than they had to would take over from there.

    Many had made their fortunes trading goods out of DC, and even today a few of them could still be found living the high life over in Tenpenny Tower, but to those still trying to eek a living off the meagre profits available from a slice of the drastically curtailed flow of goods in 2277 times were hard.

    The only reminder of the boom times to be found in Friendship Heights to be found when Coyle and his companions got there at the end of June 2277 was a small trading post and outdoor cantina that stood atop the old Metro station. Even that last remnant of a more prosperous era was seemingly about to close because the merchant owner simply couldn’t afford to keep paying the wages that the single mercenary who stood guard while he conducted business demanded, and the cook wasn’t much happier at the prospect of a cut in pay either.

    Bartering a few items for three servings of noodles, those being the cook’s specialty it seemed, Coyle, Allison and Dreamer sat down at one of the tables set up underneath a steel and glass awning between two buildings and began to eat while the merchant remonstrated with his mercenary bodyguard not to up-and-quit before he could find a replacement that would work for less money.

    ‘Here, eat what Lulu gives you and be strong’ the cook told them as she placed the noodles in front of them. ‘Lulu seasons with spices and adds mirelurk pieces so enjoy’ the young woman added with a smile.

    ‘Coyle is always wary of people that talk about themselves in the third person’ the NCR Ranger jokily whispered to Allison and Dreamer once Lulu the cook returned to her pots and pans.

    ‘Yeah it’s creepy’ Allison agreed, ‘good noodles though’ she had to admit after trying some.

    Guessing that the owner and his two remaining employees slept in the tent nearby Coyle couldn’t help but listen in on the argument raging inside it where the grey-haired old man that owned the place was continuing to try and persuade his mercenary to stay for now. Until a few months ago there had been two guards it seemed but with the other one already let go unless the sniper-rifle toting woman who remained could be prevailed upon to stay raiders would surely descend upon the spot immediately the owner believed.

    Dreamer was of the opinion that the female mercenary was likely a former-raider herself, the purple-dyed hair worn as pigtails was practically a unit insignia, but from the sounds of it she had been loyal and effective enough when actually paid and she was a skilled markswoman. Raiders had attacked the small trading post recently but between the mercenaries sniping skills, the cook joining in with the hunting rifle she kept handy and the R91 the trader himself carried the raiders had soon fled leaving their losses behind.

    ‘Can I get a Nuka Cola and two glasses of water here please Miss?’ Coyle requested of the cook.

    ‘Purified water’ Allison added, not wanting to drink something that had barely been filtered after coming out of the Potomac.

    ‘These noodles are really good’ Dreamer told the cook when she brought over the drinks.

    The cook nodded. ‘Everyone says that Lulu is good at her job’ she replied. ‘Lulu also makes the best brahmin cheeseburgers in the Capital Wasteland but Lulu used up the last of the brahmin mince last week when a search party from Canterbury Commons stopped here to eat and ask questions’ she said.

    ‘Search party?’ Coyle queried.

    ‘Man in charge of party told Lulu they were looking for his sister’ the cook replied. ‘Girl called Cheryl left Canterbury to try and get medicine from the Brotherhood in the Citadel but she never came back so big brother goes to look for her with his friends.’

    ‘Cheryl?’ Allison repeated, frowning. ‘I think Pa once mentioned a family called Koch that lived in Canterbury Commons, the youngest was called that’ she recalled. ‘Real Tom-Boy he said but she was pretty and he thought he might try and get one of my brothers hitched to her once she got older.’

    ‘I hope she’s okay’ Dreamer said, sipping at her glass of water.

    ‘Lulu thinks she is probably super-mutant chow by now’ the cook stated then pursed her lips. ‘Lulu wonders what side-dish goes best with human meat’ she pondered.

    ‘Fava beans’ Coyle told her.

    ‘And you have to wash it down with Nuka Cola Quartz’ Allison chipped in, winking at Coyle.

    Dreamer was about to ask them how they possibly knew that when the mercenary came storming out of the tent. ‘I’m leaving’ she told the cook. ‘We talked about you coming along, you want to?’ she asked.

    ‘Lulu will pack up her things and leave with you’ the Cook confirmed. ‘Lulu wants a better job too’ she said.

    ‘You can’t both leave’ the owner of the trading post protested.

    ‘Watch us’ the mercenary replied curtly. ‘I’m going to gather up my shit and if you can’t pay me the caps you owe me I’m going to take the balance in ammo from your locker’ she said.

    ‘Another few days, maybe a week, that’s all I ask’ the trader pleaded.

    ‘I’m not staying here working for you for free’ the mercenary snarled. ‘That’s practically like being a slave and I’d sooner die first’ she told him with sincerity.

    The trader decided to try another tactic. ‘I might not be able to cover your wages right now but you’re still getting your food for free and I replace and bullets you hire’ he said. ‘It’s not like there’s a lot of other jobs out there right now Vikia’ he pointed out.

    ‘Not in the Capital Wasteland but I’ve heard they’re hiring up in The Pitt and I still know some guys over in Paradise Falls that’ll put in a good word for us’ the mercenary “Vikia” replied. ‘After they see me shoot and taste her food they’ll put us on the payroll right away’ she said confidently.

    Dreamer narrowed her eyes, if this woman had friends in Paradise Falls she was probably an ex-slaver as well as being an ex-raider. ‘I think I’ve lost my appetite’ she said, pushing the half-finished bowl of noodles away.

    Coyle threw Dreamer a quizzical look. ‘Are you sure because after we leave here it’s four or five hours walk to where we’re going and you could be hungry by the time we get there’ he advised.

    ‘The smell of slaver scum is making my stomach turn’ Dreamer replied coldly.

    Vikia turned around and smirked at Dreamer. ‘It’s the slaves that smell, but I guess you know that’ she responded. Correctly assuming the customer had been a slave herself once, maybe even at Paradise Falls. ‘Not enough guts to eat a bullet from your own gun or open up your wrists later in the cage?’ she asked scornfully, walking up to the table.

    Dreamer was off her chair fast enough to surprise everyone, especially Vikia who found a switchblade at her throat. ‘How about I open you up?’ Dreamer hissed, pressing the sharp steel blade against the mercenary’s skin. Dreamer had never been a very good shot but up close with a knife she wasn’t to be messed with as several raiders and all too many unfortunate wastelanders had discovered to their cost.

    ‘I’d just like to note that this particular confrontation wasn’t my fault for once’ Coyle pointed out to Allison before drawing his Desert Eagle and aiming it at Lulu who had been reaching for her rifle. ‘You back yours, I’ll back mine’ he told the cook, almost apologetically.

    Allison thought she had better stop this ending violently because Vikia looked more angry than scared and Dreamer more angry than rational. ‘How about everyone takes a deep breath and relaxes’ she suggested.

    ‘How about this bitch takes her last breath and then I slit her throat instead?’ Dreamer replied.

    ‘Dammit I was enjoying those noodles’ Coyle complained, waving the cook away from her rifle with his Desert Eagle before getting up off his chair. ‘Dreamer I didn’t buy you that jacket so you could get blood sprayed all over it’ he told her. ‘Now get a grip and calm down.’

    ‘This slave-taking raider slut deserves everything she gets’ Dreamer spat back at him.

    ‘Dreamer, listen to me’ Coyle said softly, trying to pacify her. ‘You’re just projecting your own anger at what you’ve done in the past on her’ he told the girl.

    ‘I’m what?’ Dreamer responded in confusion, voice rising in pitch.

    ‘I’ll explain later but for now could you please not force me to knock you out’ Coyle requested, he was prepared to crack her over the head with his heavy pistol if that was required to prevent this turning even uglier but he’d rather not.

    Dreamer blinked. ‘You wouldn’t’ she replied doubtfully.

    ‘Yes he would’ Allison told her simultaneously with Coyle saying “Yes I would”.

    Slowly removing the switchblade from Vikia’s throat Dreamer took a step back, though she didn’t break eye-contact with the mercenary. ‘Not so much fun when you can’t just shoot them from a couple of hundred yards away is it?’ she asked, a look of hatred written across her face.

    ‘I’ll see you again slave’ Vikia vowed, utterly unimpressed by the ex-slaves bluster. ‘Through my telescopic sight most likely’ she added, smirking again.

    Coyle holstered his Desert Eagle. ‘Try and I’ll put a bullet through it coming from the other direction’ he replied evenly. ‘I’ve never seen you shoot but I guarantee I’m better’ he stated.

    ‘What’s to stop her coming after us when we leave and shooting us in the back?’ Allison wanted to know.

    ‘You wouldn’t do something like that would you?’ Coyle asked Vikia, stepping between her and Dreamer.

    Vikia smiled, it wasn’t exactly a warm one friendly one.

    ‘Damn, I hate doing this to women’ Coyle said sadly before his right hand snapped upwards and forwards in a vicious palm-strike unarmed-combat move. It not only smashed Vikia’s nose it lifted her clear off her feet and sent her flying backwards to land unconscious on the ground, the back of her head hitting hard enough to add a little something extra to her headache later.

    ‘Holy shit!’ Allison exclaimed.

    ‘Ranger takedown move’ Coyle explained. ‘My unarmed combat instructor learned his shit in San Fran from The Dragon himself’ he continued. ‘We should be going now’ he encouraged his companions.

    The owner of the trading post looked down at Vikia wide-eyed then turned to Coyle. ‘Wait, can I offer you a job?’ he asked.

    ‘If you can’t afford her rates you sure as hell couldn’t afford mine’ Coyle replied, picking up his Nuka Cola and downing it in one go before dropping a few caps on the table to cover the drinks and a tip.

    ‘You have got to teach me that kung-fu move or whatever it was’ Dreamer told Coyle, picking up her rucksack.

    ‘Maybe when I think you’re past the stage of randomly snapping and attacking strangers without enough provocation to warrant it’ Coyle replied sternly.

    Dreamer looked sheepish. ‘Sorry’ she apologised. ‘Bet she deserved it though’ she added.

    ‘That and more, most likely’ Coyle agreed. ‘But in this outfit I’m the one that gets to pick fights with people’ he told her firmly. ‘And we never, ever put personal issues before a good meal’ he chastised her. ‘My complements to the cook and my commiserations to the chick’s nose’ he told the owner of the trading post.

    ‘If you’re ever in The Pitt come visit Lulu for a good meal’ the cook called after them when they left. ‘Lulu doesn’t want to be around Vikia when she wakes up’ she said with a grimace, looking down at her friend.

    Starting off at a brisk pace in case the mercenary regained consciousness quickly, and didn’t have enough of a sore head to dissuade her from following, Coyle and his companions were soon a couple of miles clear of Friendship Heights and were passing what remained of the old ring-road that had been called the Capital Beltway. The further you got into the suburbs the fewer intact buildings there were to see because the timber-framed structures weren’t nearly as resistant to blast damage and the anti-missile defences and jet interceptors which had guarded the Columbia Commonwealth from Chinese ICBM’s and Bombers prioritised the defence of the city itself. Nuclear air-bursts had scoured much of the area once you were past the beltway, and the subsequent fires had burned up most of what was left, but despite that and the two centuries of decay that followed there were still occasional glimpses of what had once been.

    Passing a derelict children’s playground Coyle stopped to take a look, wondering if any kids had been on those swings when the bombs came but guessing that the sirens would have sent them looking for shelter long before the mushroom clouds sprouted.

    ‘Can you imagine how many people must have lived around here once?’ Allison wondered, leaning against an old slide.

    ‘More than in the whole of the NCR if you counted in the suburbs around DC I’d bet’ Coyle replied, kicking a rusty tin-can that he found by his feet.

    ‘So how many people live in California?’ Dreamer asked him curiously. She knew from Allison that Coyle claimed to be from a city of “hundreds and hundreds of people” but didn’t know if that was an unusually large town for the West Coast or not.

    Coyle spotted another tin-can and kicked that one too. ‘Just over a million in the Core Regions’ he replied. ‘Maybe another couple of hundred thousand if you include the unincorporated territories in Baja, Nevada and northern Oregon’ he added.

    ‘A million people’ Dreamer said in astonishment.

    ‘That’s only about a fortieth of the population of California before the Great War but since we were the first people in the country to get their shit back together I guess that still puts us way out ahead of anyone else’ Coyle supposed. ‘Of that million we’ve only got fifty thousand under arms though’ he continued. ‘I mean serving in the NCR Army or the Rangers’ he explained.

    ‘You’ve got an army fifty thousand strong?’ Dreamer repeated incredulously. ‘So why did they sent you over here all on your own?’ she wanted to know. ‘I mean it can’t be because they wanted to keep a low profile...’

    ‘Because you’re not that’ Allison interjected before Dreamer could say it herself.

    Coyle shrugged. ‘Trying to comprehend the thought-processes of senior officers is a sure-fired route to madness’ he replied. ‘Some of them were probably hoping I’d get myself killed’ he reasoned. ‘Others who’d seen me in action probably figured I wouldn’t need the help and the rest were just pen-pushing bureaucrats who couldn’t find their own ass with both hands and a Geomapper Module’ he opined. ‘If they’d known that the Enclave was operating over here as well as the Steel Plague they’d have probably sent a full-sized expedition though, those fuckers are plain evil not just arrogant, asshole jerkoffs like the Brotherhood.’

    ‘Evil?’ Dreamer queried.

    ‘As in they would have genocided practically everyone in the entire country if my cousin hadn’t smacked them down’ Coyle told her. ‘They’re too damn high-tech for comfort too’ he continued. ‘The only plus side to it was that the tactics the NCR learned the hard way taking Navarro from them worked great when we marched into Maxson and put Lost Hills under siege a few years later’ he said. ‘We should get moving’ he said, checking his watch. They had plenty of time to get to Canterbury Commons, the sun wouldn’t set until gone 8PM and it wasn’t even 1PM yet, but it would be nice to get there early and look around before having to find a bed for the night.

    ‘You know what would be good right now?’ Coyle asked rhetorically a few minutes later as they made their way along a broken stretch of road that led north-east towards their destination.

    ‘It’ll either be a Nuka Cola or a song’ Allison told Dreamer. ‘Or maybe a song about Nuka Cola.’

    Coyle ignored her. ‘I’ll take requests’ he offered.

    ‘How about a marching song?’ Dreamer suggested. ‘Come on its miles to Canterbury and it’ll help the journey go quicker’ she told Allison who had groaned.

    ‘Good idea and since I was talking about it just now anyway here’s a good popular, patriotic NCR classic’ Coyle announced with enthusiasm. ‘Now before you complain about the tune this uses we may still be south of the Mason-Dixon line but this is Maryland not Virginia and the Confederacy can kiss my ass’ he declared before taking a breath and starting to sing.

    Bring the good old bugle boys, we’ll sing another song
    Sing it with a spirit that restores the Old World gone
    Sing it as we used to sing it fifteen-thousand strong
    While we were marching through Maxson


    Hurrah! Hurrah! We paid the butcher’s bill
    Hurrah! Hurrah! We proved we had the will
    And so we sang the chorus from the border to Lost Hills
    While we were marching through Maxson


    How the tribals shouted when they heard the joyful sound
    How the brahmin mooed those that our commissary found
    How the xander-root it even started from the ground!
    While we were marching through Maxson


    Hurrah! Hurrah! We paid the butcher’s bill
    Hurrah! Hurrah! We proved we had the will
    And so we sang the chorus from the border to Lost Hills
    While we were marching through Maxson


    They let him go on for another two verses because he had really got into it but then fortunately for them, and unfortunately for the animals concerned, they encountered a group of giant ants that Coyle used for target practice once they attacked the passing humans. Wanda, the customised R91 he had bought from Sydney was more accurate than most of the assault rifles and he was able to quickly shoot off the ants antenna to disorientate them before finishing them off.

    Quinn the Underworld-based travelling ghoul merchant and scavenger had warned Coyle of ants being a problem when you started to get near the old Corvega Factory which was rumoured to harbour a nest of the things and it looked like he was right there. Despite this Coyle still nevertheless maintained that Quinn’s confirmation of Allison’s belief in vampires living in Meresti station was nonsensical superstition that ranked up there with the belief that brahmin spoke English to each other when they thought nobody else was around to listen or that the supposed “ghosts” down in Baja were chubacabras not Brotherhood members with Stealth Boys.

    Finally reaching Canterbury Commons after two and a half hours more walking everyone’s feet were starting to object to hiking over the sometimes broken terrain, Coyle’s voice was getting croaky after a few too many songs and Allison was wishing her leather pants didn’t start to chafe after a while.

    Like most of the rest of the Capital Wasteland the small township was starting to get run down, with a few boarded-up buildings and very few people to be seen. A note was pinned to the door of an old barbers shop right at the entrance of town advising customers that Manny Koch the barber had gone to DC to look for his sister and apologised he wouldn’t be available to cut hair until his return but that was the only thing that greeted the visitors on arrival until a tough looking man with a revolver holstered on his hip and a pump-action shotgun leaning back against his shoulder wandered out to meet them. ‘Welcome to Canterbury Commons’ he greeted the newcomers in a friendly enough tone of voice but his expression remained guarded. ‘I’m Dominic D'Ellsadro, the peace-officer in town’ he introduced himself. ‘Can I ask you business being here?’

    ‘Just delivering someone to where they want to be and trying to find a bed for the night’ Coyle replied.

    ‘You’re packing some serious hardware I see’ D'Ellsadro noted. ‘I hope you aren’t planning to cause trouble because we’ve had enough of that around here recently what with Junders Plunkett paying us a visit not long ago.’

    ‘An officer of the law will get no trouble from me Sir’ Coyle replied, removing his helmet and sunglasses to seem less threatening.

    ‘We should take their guns Dom’ someone else spoke up, Coyle turning to see a young woman had appeared holding a sub-machinegun.

    ‘Not without better cause than that they’re strangers’ D'Ellsadro replied. ‘Don’t I keep telling you that a town which lives off trade has got to be more welcoming to visitors than a damn cave which lives off fungus?’ he reminded her.

    “Damn cave”? Dreamer thought to herself, taking a good look at the girl. ‘Machete is that you?’ she asked eventually, trying to recognise the face.

    ‘Who’s asking?’ the woman replied suspiciously.

    ‘Don’t you recognise me?’ Dreamer asked, ‘oh yeah the glasses’ she realised, taking them off.

    ‘Dreamer?’ the woman queried, ‘shit it is you!’ she exclaimed when Dreamer grinned back at her.

    ‘You know this girl then Machete?’ D'Ellsadro checked.

    ‘She’s from Lamplight like me, just a couple of years older’ Machete replied. ‘She came up with my nickname’ she told him, pleased to meet another Lamplighter.

    ‘Gotta ask, is there something wrong with proper names like maybe Jane or Deborah?’ Coyle inquired.

    ‘Our names mean something’ Dreamer told him. ‘In Lamplight you have to earn them’ she said.

    ‘Where I come from Cassidy means something’ Coyle replied.

    ‘What exactly?’ Dreamer wanted to know.

    ‘Well thanks to the dude I was named for, his daughter and myself in particular it means “Don’t fuck with anyone called this” and yes that had to be earned’ Coyle told her.

    Machete looked at him. ‘This your boyfriend?’ she asked Dreamer.

    ‘No’ Dreamer replied.

    ‘Good for you’ Machete responded wryly.

    ‘Seriously though, you really don’t want to fuck with him’ Dreamer told the other former Lamplighter, putting her glasses back on so she could see properly again. ‘He really can back up his bullshit’ she said seriously ‘Most of it anyway.’

    ‘That’s a barbed complement if ever I heard one’ Coyle muttered to himself. ‘So are we good to enter town?’ he checked with D'Ellsadro.

    ‘No reason to keep you out, especially since Machete don’t often get to meet one of her old friends’ D'Ellsadro replied.

    ‘Thank you Sir’ Allison responded. ‘Can I ask a favour?’ she requested. ‘My Pa used to come here trading and he said if I ever needed a place to go or needed a job I should look up a friend of his Ernest Roe.’

    ‘He’s the mayor, got the big house down the street but he’s probably in the diner with his nephew right now’ D'Ellsadro replied. ‘What was your Pa’s name?’ he asked. ‘Might know him myself.’

    ‘Jack Brenner’ Allison told him.

    ‘So you’re Jackalope Brenner’s little girl’ D'Ellsadro replied, smiling. ‘How is the old man doing?’ he asked.

    ‘He passed on’ Allison told him, ‘my brothers too which is why I’m here looking for work’ she explained.

    D'Ellsadro sighed. ‘Sorry to hear that sweetheart, I liked Jackalope’ he said sadly. ‘And his boys too?’ he continued. ‘That’s terrible’ he sympathised.

    ‘It was a while ago now’ Allison told him. ‘I might have come here sooner but I already had a job then and even after I lost it I had no way to get here safely.’

    ‘I needed a guide, she needed protection, it worked out well’ Coyle told him. ‘So I guess we should go introduce you to the mayor then?’ he said to Allison.

    ‘Yeah, I guess so’ Allison agreed, less than enthusiastically.

    ‘Maybe you want to stay here too now you’ve met a friend?’ Coyle remarked to Dreamer.

    ‘I wouldn’t mind staying a few days but I think I’ll stick with you for now’ Dreamer replied. ‘You’ll still need a local guide and it’s not boring tagging along.’

    ‘I’ll get back to walking the perimeter, make sure that we don’t have ants trying to get at the Brahmin again’ D'Ellsadro told Machete.

    ‘I’ll come see you and take over later’ Machete replied, exchanging a nod with her boss.

    ‘No rush, spend some time with your friend’ D'Ellsadro responded, smiling at her. She was the closest thing he had to a daughter and he worried she didn’t get to spend more time with people closer to her own age.

    Allison looked around as the towns chief lawman walked off. Canterbury Commons wasn’t too bad a place to set up home she thought to herself, more to try and convince herself of that rather than accepting it deep down.

    ‘Are you okay?’ Coyle asked Allison, she didn’t look very well all of a sudden.

    ‘No not really’ Allison replied. She felt awful, until actually getting here she was able to put it all to the back of her mind but now standing here in Canterbury Commons and about to go see the mayor she had to face up to the situation and not ignore her feelings.

    ‘It’s probably those noodles’ Coyle theorised. ‘Good thing we didn’t eat them all.’

    ‘No it’s not the noodles’ Allison told him. Her stomach was now doing flip-flops though and her hands were getting sweaty. ‘Can I...’ she began, voice faltering. ‘I mean, I want... I want to keep travelling with you’ she told him.

    ‘Why?’ Coyle asked, confused. ‘I thought you hated all the fights I get into, you do remember all the fights?’ he checked wondering if Allison had taken leave of her senses.

    Allison was also wondering if she had taken leave of her senses but not for the same reason. ‘I just really like being around you’ she said awkwardly. ‘Despite everything’ she added, and “everything” covered a lot of bases the rational part of her mind insisted on reminding her.

    Mystified, Coyle looked to Dreamer for a clue. ‘How can anyone be as book-smart as you are and as waste-smart as you are, and still be so dense?’ Dreamer asked him when she realised what he wanted, eventually rolling her eyes and tracing an imaginary picture of a heart in the air in front of her.

    ‘Okay, it’s proven, I’m officially a fucking moron’ Coyle swore at himself under his breath before turning back to Allison. ‘I like having you around too’ he admitted. ‘At first I just needed a guide and it was nice to have some company but you’re the first person in years whose opinion I realised I gave a shit about’ he told her. ‘I don’t normally try to justify myself to other people but I do it with you all the time.’

    ‘But If you like me so much then why are you still such a jerk’ Allison wanted to know.

    ‘Because if they needed a unit of measurement for being a Jerkass that would be called the Coyle as well’ the NCR Ranger told the girl from the Blue Ridge Mountains. ‘I didn’t feel so guilty about it with other people like I do with you though’ he admitted.

    ‘Cassidy I need to know how you feel about me’ Allison insisted.

    Coyle shuffled his feet. ‘Okay... so bringing you all the way back to Arroyo with me is going to completely ruin the suspension on my bike but I plan to if you'll let me’ he said, trying his best.

    ‘If this is romance then those stories you used to make up had it all wrong’ Machete told Dreamer.

    ‘Come on, you can buy me a beer’ Dreamer replied, putting one arm around the other Lamplighter and leading her away.

    They were nearly to the diner when Dreamer heard Coyle start to sing behind her and she smiled.

    How lucky can one guy be?
    I kissed her and she kissed me
    Like the fella once said
    Ain’t that a kick in the head



    ---------

    Note from the Author:

    In Fallout 3 there's a raider gang holed up in the location where I've got the Friendship Heights trading post (and outdoor diner) here. I'll leave it to your imagine what happens to the trader in the six weeks or so between this point in New California Dreaming and the start of FO3. Vikia and Lulu are raiders/slave-drivers you get to meet in The Pitt (Pittsburg). Vikia isn't very nice at all (particularly regarding her position on the worth of slaves which is why I've given her the backstory of being a former Paradise Falls slaver) and Lulu is a good cook but slightly nutty with a tendency to refer to herself in the third person.

    We learn of a search party led by her brother heading out from Canterbury Commons to look for Cheryl thanks to some notes you can find in FO3. The expedition doesn't end well...

    The NCR took Navarro off the Enclave some time after Fallout 2. Lost Hills in the State of Maxson was the headquarters of the Brotherhood of Steel on the West Coast, as ever the NCR used sheer weight of numbers to overcome a better equipped enemy (quantity has a quality all its own).

    The Ranger Takedown is an unarmed combat move from Fallout: New Vegas, the Dragon was a martial arts expert who lived in San Francisco in Fallout 2. My population estimate for the NCR is simply the 700,000 we know they had in 2241 with a 1% growth rate since (it's perhaps conservative).

    Ernest Roe is the mayor of Canterbury Commons in 2277. Dominic D'Ellsadro keeps the peace there with the help of Machete another former Little Lamplight kid.

    And at the end there finally something the Coyle/Allison shippers have been waiting for (there must be some of you out there)!
     
  5. Hotpoint

    Hotpoint First time out of the vault

    39
    May 24, 2009
    The story continues...

    ----------

    NEW CALIFORNIA DREAMING - PART XX


    Canterbury Commons – Columbia Commonwealth – July 2277

    Coyle woke up lying on his side on a bed in an unfamiliar room facing the window and there was a naked girl spooning up to his back. It was in fact the same girl as it had been the last time he had found himself in this situation, only now he wasn’t stricken by a hangover and his memories of the previous night were much clearer.

    ‘She’s too good for you so don’t fuck this up Cassidy’ Coyle whispered to himself before grinning.

    With the town having more accommodation than people these days Mayor Roe had willingly given them the use of one of the abandoned houses for the duration of their stay, saying it had belonged to a caravan master who had left six months ago seeking better prospects in The Commonwealth. The furnishings of the pre-war brick townhouse weren’t exactly in pristine condition, the floorboards creaked and the stairs up to the master bedroom at the front of the house were rickety but the bed itself was in decent repair with a mattress in good condition and that was pretty much all Coyle had cared about to be honest.

    Outside dawn must have come a while ago and with the sun climbing in the sky the thin curtains in front of the window weren’t enough to keep out much daylight. ‘Are you asleep?’ Coyle asked, rolling over to face Allison who opened her eyes to look at him.

    ‘I was before you woke me up, talking to yourself’ Allison replied, smiling at him before yawning. ‘Don’t worry I won’t hold that against you’ she told him.

    Coyle moved in closer and kissed her, a gentle peck on the lips developing into something more passionate that lasted a while. ‘If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold that against me?’ he asked with a sly smile after they eventually broke off the kiss.

    ‘I thought I already was’ Allison replied, giggling. ‘You need to shave’ she informed him. He needed a haircut too for that matter but at least his increasingly shaggy blond hair wasn’t scratchy against her skin.

    ‘For you, anything’ Coyle replied then paused. ‘Can we have sex again first?’ he asked hopefully.

    ‘Depends’ Allison replied noncommittally.

    ‘On what?’ Coyle queried.

    ‘The time’ Allison told him. ‘I said we’d meet Dreamer for breakfast at eight-thirty’ she said. Dreamer was staying with Machete on a spare bunk at the town’s police station, Dreamer having the idea that it might be hard to get any sleep if was in the bedroom next to Coyle and Allison somehow.

    ‘You’re not seriously telling me that breakfast takes precedence over us having sex?’ Coyle queried, not sure whether to be incredulous or indignant.

    ‘I can get sex whenever I want but they stop serving breakfast at nine’ Allison replied, amused by the expression on his face.

    ‘Who says you can get sex whenever you want?’ Coyle wanted to know.

    ‘This guy’ Allison replied, reaching down under the blanket, frankly amazed at her own boldness.

    ‘Let go of that’ Coyle told her immediately. ‘I haven’t checked the time yet and it’s cruel to start something if you’re not going to finish it’ he said, frowning. ‘Where’s my damn watch?’ he asked, looking around.

    ‘On the nightstand next to the bed on my side along with your Desert Eagle’ Allison replied, she hadn’t let him put it under the pillow where it would have been normally.

    ‘Okay, so you check the watch and if we don’t have time for sex do me a favour and put me out of my misery with the automatic’ Coyle requested deadpan.

    Allison laughed then rolled over and reached for the wristwatch. ‘How much time is enough time?’ she asked.

    ‘Depends’ Coyle replied. ‘Is the foreplay optional?’ he asked.

    ‘No it’s not’ Allison replied curtly before picking up the watch and looking at what it said. ‘It’s not even seven in the morning yet’ she told him.

    Coyle grinned. ‘Awesome’ he said happily.

    ‘Just don’t make a habit of waking me up this early for sex’ Allison told him, putting down the watch and turning back towards him. ‘Leave it to at least seven-fifteen’ she added coyly before they started to kiss again.

    The sound of some kind of commotion going on out on the street immediately interrupted them. Shouted abuse and the clattering of metal far too loud to ignore resulted in Coyle snarling and jumping out of bed. Still naked he drew the curtains, opened the window and leaned out to see what was going on, his modesty only hidden from the street by the window being just above waist-height. ‘What the fuck?’ he exclaimed, nonplussed.

    ‘What is it?’ Allison asked from the bed, he really did have a nice ass she thought to herself looking her new beau up and down.

    ‘There’s a chick out here wearing what looks like some kind of fetish outfit yelling at a guy on the other side of the street who’s got a bucket in his head’ Coyle replied, half turning back towards Allison with a suitably confused expression on his face. ‘If I was back home in one of the big towns like Shady I’d think it was either street theatre or two S&M enthusiasts having a public argument’ he told her before looking outside again.

    With the window open Allison could now clearly hear what was being said outside but that didn’t mean it made much sense. ‘Here alone AntAgonizer?’ a man’s voice asked, his grand tone clearly intended to try and project gravitas and authority but in reality it just made him sound extremely pompous. ‘Unable to replace your minions after the last defeat I inflicted upon you?’ he added sarcastically.

    ‘My armies grow in number every day Mechanist but yours must be dwindling for each time we face each other at the head of our forces I see less of your pathetic robots’ a woman replied. ‘I, the fearsome and terrible AntAgonizer, only come here by myself to scout alone today because no worthy leader is unwilling to undertake a task they would assign to their soldiers’ she stated imperiously.

    ‘I need not my eternally loyal troops at my side to face you Antagonizer’ the man replied. ‘Know that I repair each of my noble machine warriors after battle so that although they may fall they rise up again in the cause of righteousness.’

    ‘Those two are really hamming it up’ Coyle observed.

    Allison pursed her lips. ‘I think Mr Roe mentioned something last night about a pair of kooks around these parts that were nuttier than a sack of squirrels’ she recalled. ‘Said they came into town sometimes and caused trouble fighting each other but most folks were too sorry for them to gun them down.’

    The Ranger sighed at the shenanigans in the street. ‘Would you two idiots keep it down’ Coyle called out to the quarrelling pair outside loudly. ‘Don’t you know what time it is?’ he asked in annoyance.

    ‘Silence knave or I will dispatch you myself as a warning to all that seek to challenge me’ the woman called back to Coyle.

    ‘Do not fear stranger’ the man wearing the bucket on his head interrupted. ‘I will protect you from this villainous harlot’ he said. ‘For I, The Mechanist, am the sworn protector of all that dwell in Canterbury Commons!’ he declared.

    ‘Ha’ the woman calling herself “The AntAgonizer” responded dismissively. ‘This pathetic town will fall to me like a ripe mutfruit’ she continued. ‘Today Canterbury Commons and tomorrow the World!’ she declared holding a large kitchen knife aloft like it was a sword.

    Coyle rolled his eyes at the pretentiousness and pulled his head back inside the room. ‘Can I borrow your hunting rifle?’ he requested of Allison.

    ‘Sure honey’ Allison replied. ‘You’re not going to kill them are you?’ she asked nervously.

    ‘Mom always said it was bad luck to kill lunatics’ Coyle responded, picking up Allison’s rifle from where she had left it and working the bolt to chamber a round. ‘That was why I didn’t shoot you when we met.’

    ‘Why did you think I was a lunatic?’ Allison wanted to know, pouting.

    ‘Because I had a sub-machinegun and you were threatening me with a switchblade you weren't even holding right’ Coyle explained, going back to the window. He leaned out of it again, took aim with the hunting rifle and fired a single shot.

    ‘My costume!’ the woman outside screeched.

    ‘Just get lost before I shoot off the other one’ Coyle yelled down at her. ‘And as for you bucket-boy’ he continued, now addressing the man, ‘If I have to come down there I’m going to take a hammer to that tin hat while you’re still wearing it’ he vowed.

    ‘Do you have any idea how long it took me to put together this outfit?’ the woman complained loudly, now sounding more indignant and whiney than she did haughty. ‘There will be a reckoning for this infamy’ she pledged shaking a fist in his direction.

    ‘Just stick it back on with some wonderglue’ Coyle advised. ‘Now fuck off!’ he added before pulling his head back inside and slamming the window closed.

    ‘What did you do?’ Allison queried.

    ‘I shot one of the antenna-looking things off the stupid helmet she’s got on’ Coyle replied, putting down the rifle. ‘So where were we before we were rudely interrupted?’ he asked rhetorically, getting back into bed.

    ‘You’re even more ornery when you’re horny’ Allison told him, giggling at her choice of words.

    ‘Sex and violence’ Coyle responded, pushing a stray lock of her hair out of the way of her face. ‘It goes together like milk and cookies’ he said before started to kiss her again.

    From the door of the police station Dreamer had been watching events unfold with Machete. Like most of the rest of the town they had been woken by the commotion outside. ‘If I was you two I’d leave because the next bullet he fires is likely to be into someone’s ass’ Dreamer called out to the AntAgonizer and the Mechanist who were still stood around looking like they didn’t quite know what to do.

    The wannabe super-villainess and super-hero looked at each other before the AntAgonizer made the first move and put away her knife before bending down to pick up the ant-like antenna which had been shot off her bug-eyed helmet. ‘Until next time Mechanist’ she said to her would-be nemesis, making sure not to say it too loudly.

    ‘Until next time evil-doer’ the Mechanist replied, also keeping his voice down before they both headed off in different directions.

    Machete yawned. ‘Normally they show up with a load of ants and robots which kick the shit out of each other until one side gets the upper hand and the other one runs off’ she told Dreamer. ‘Dominic won’t let me deal with them properly, he says they’re not really dangerous, except to each other but they’re bad for business too so I reckon eventually the Mayor will ask us to solve the problem one way or another.’

    ‘What’s their story anyway?’ Dreamer asked.

    ‘The girl’s family were killed by ants when she was a kid and it gave her the idea that ants were superior to humans’ Machete replied. ‘Somehow she learned how to control them and started attacking the town which is when she managed to kill a robot that belonged to Scott our town mechanic’ she continued. ‘Scott blew a gasket and decides he’s going to become a super-hero in order to stop her, he puts on that metal jacket and the bucket and they’ve been fighting each other ever since.’

    ‘If I’d made up a story that lame back in Lamplight they’d have changed my nickname’ Dreamer replied.

    ‘Yeah, I’ve heard better from Sticky’ Machete agreed. ‘Do you remember that annoying little shit?’ she asked. ‘He must be nearly sixteen by now, getting ready to get kicked out of Lamplight.’

    ‘Difficult to forget him’ Dreamer replied. ‘Always wanted me to make up stories with him in them as the hero’ she remembered.

    ‘That guy you’re tagging along with is a hell of a good shot’ Machete commented, yawning again before heading back inside.

    Dreamer yawned herself, damn things were contagious. ‘That was nothing, if I’d invented that guy as a character in one of my stories you’d have all said it wasn’t plausible that anyone was remotely as good with a gun as he is’ she replied, following Machete. ‘That’s the problem with fiction, it’s got to make sense because otherwise nobody will accept it’ she said. ‘Real life just isn’t as restricted’ she added, closing the door behind her. Real life had less bad things happening to good people and less happy endings too she thought to herself sadly.

    Back when Canterbury Commons had a lot more people there had been more than one place in town to eat but now Joe Porter and the diner he owned had the default monopoly. Fortunately Porter was a decent enough cook, and he didn’t abuse his lack of competition by overcharging, so nobody objected too much to having to eat there breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    With Manny Koch and three other townsfolk out searching for his sister Cheryl the small township was even quieter than usual, at least now the two local lunatics had made themselves scarce. As a result there was no problem for Allison and Coyle in getting a booth in the diner when they finally arrived for breakfast, finding Dreamer already there talking to Mayor Roe’s nephew Derek and Mayor Roe himself engaged in an animated conversation with lawman Dominic D’Ellsadro at the other end of the diner.

    Joe Porter was frying up catfish fillets which had been rolled in cornmeal and they smelled fantastic so at Allison’s insistence Coyle ordered three servings for breakfast, Dreamer joining them at the booth. Like many wasteland creatures the catfish which had lived in the tributaries of the Potomac before the Great War had mutated to a great size but predation by Mirelurks kept their numbers low and Porter could only get his hands on them occasionally.

    ‘So how are you this morning?’ Allison asked Dreamer as she sat down opposite herself and Coyle in the booth.

    ‘I’m okay’ Dreamer replied. ‘How was your night?’ she asked sweetly.

    ‘Pretty good, not great, but pretty good’ Allison replied, trying to keep a straight face when Coyle narrowed his eyes at her.

    ‘You know for the sake of my fragile ego you should have said that I rocked your wasteland’ Coyle complained. ‘Several times’ he added.

    ‘Your ego is about as fragile as a four-foot thick vault door’ Allison responded. ‘I was understating his performance though’ she admitted, grinning before planting a kiss on his newly shaven cheek.

    ‘Spare me the details’ Dreamer requested as Coyle put his arm around Allison. ‘This town is dying’ she said, leaning forward across the table and keeping her voice low.

    ‘Well it’s certainly no burgeoning metropolis’ Coyle agreed.

    ‘I was talking to Machete and she says that the population has dropped by nearly two-thirds since she got here not much more than two years back’ Dreamer informed them. ‘The only reason it hasn’t died completely is because the local trade caravans base themselves out of here and bring in just enough caps to keep the place going.’

    ‘Money makes the world go round’ Coyle observed, looking up as Joe Porter approached carrying three plates. ‘If that tastes half as good as it smells you’re in the right line of work’ he told the cook as he placed the catfish fillets in front of them. ‘I don’t suppose you’ve got any coffee?’ he asked hopefully.

    ‘Nope but I can get you three mugs of yaupon-holly tea mixed with chicory’ Porter offered.

    ‘Yaupon-holly?’ Coyle queried.

    ‘They sometimes call it cassina, it gives you the same buzz as coffee’ Porter explained. ‘The chicory helps with the taste.’

    Coyle smiled. ‘Can’t resist trying it if it’s called cass-something’ he said. ‘What about you two?’ he checked with his companions.

    ‘I like chicory, I’m in’ Allison replied, Dreamer nodding to indicate she’d try a mug herself Porter returning with three mugs of the beverage while they tucked into their catfish.

    Sipping at the cassina and chicory drink Coyle decided that it wasn’t too bad, certainly better than the roasted coyote tobacco and honey mesquite brewed in the Mojave to make so-called “Black Coffee”, and he wondered if he could get the holly to grow back in California. It certainly had plenty of caffeine in it which was a benefit for a self-professed Nuka Cola addict.

    ‘So are we going to stay here long?’ Dreamer asked after swallowing a mouthful of catfish.

    Allison thought about it. ‘I think we can afford to stay a few days can’t we Cassidy?’ she checked.

    ‘Maybe three or four’ Coyle replied. ‘Getting on okay with your old playmate then?’ he asked Dreamer.

    ‘I always like Machete, she was fun and mean as hell’ Dreamer replied. ‘She ended up here because she thought Big Town would be too soft for her.’

    ‘Isn’t that place supposed to be under constant raider, slaver and super-mutant attack according to that other Lamplight girl you met at Rivet City?’ Coyle queried.

    ‘Yeah, Machete had heard as much already from travellers and merchants before I told her about Trinnie but she’s made a home here now’ Dreamer replied, putting down her fork and picking up her mug.

    ‘What do you want to do after breakfast?’ Allison asked Coyle.

    Coyle looked thoughtful. ‘We should really do some proper weapon maintenance’ he replied. ‘If you don’t know how to strip down and clean your combat shotgun I’ll show you’ he offered to Dreamer.

    ‘Sounds like fun’ Allison replied sardonically.

    ‘It’s more fun than having your gun jam on you during the middle of a fire-fight’ Coyle responded chidingly. ‘After we finish that I’m going to talk to everyone in town and see if they know anything more we haven’t already picked up about the Enclave, the Super-Mutants or the Brotherhood.’

    ‘Good place to do that’ Allison agreed. ‘The travelling merchants working out of Canterbury bring back all the news, rumours and gossip.’

    ‘Yep’ Dreamer agreed. ‘The kid was telling me just before you two got here about a big fight that took place not long ago in Fairfax between the raiders and the Brotherhood Outcasts’ she told the others. ‘Sounds like it was a hell of a battle, loads of dead raiders and a couple of Outcasts too despite their power-armour’ she said.

    ‘Maybe we could go for a picnic outside town later’ Allison suggested. ‘That would be nice don’t you think?’

    Coyle shook his head. ‘Too many ants’ he replied. ‘Damn things always ruin picnics’ he continued ruefully. ‘Maybe if they weren’t eight feet long...’ he considered, trailing off as he sipped on his cassina and chicory again.

    Later that morning after stripping down, cleaning and oiling their guns Coyle began talking to the people of Canterbury Commons, starting with Mayor Ernest Roe who not only ran the town he basically ran, or at least coordinated, most of the trade routes still operating in the Capital Wasteland.

    Four merchants plied their wares in the area, Lucky Harith, Crow, Doc Hoff and Crazy Wolfgang, all following the same trade routes which took in the most populated and important locations in and around DC. Each specialised in a particular line of goods; weapons, armour, pharmaceuticals or miscellaneous items and they all had their own little personal quirks too. Roe was however strident in his opinion that although at least a couple of them were “eccentric” they were all honest traders, albeit ones that didn’t mind too much who they did business with he admitted.

    Now that the super-mutants had made recovering salvage from DC and getting out alive a problematic enterprise the main driver of commerce in the Capital Wasteland was slavery it seemed, with most everything else feeding off the profits and requirements of that business. Paradise Falls sold slaves onto Pittsburgh with “The Lord of The Pitt” paying for them with a mix of caps and newly manufactured ammunition from the factory complex there. Local raider gangs meanwhile needed ammunition to maintain their antisocial lifestyles so a barter system had developed in which the gangs brought any prisoners they took to the raider’s main camp at Evergreen Mills and the prisoners were then sold onto the slavers in return for bullets fresh from the ammunition presses of The Pitt.

    Slaves flowed out of the region and caps and bullets flowed in, with a few middlemen taking their cut of the profits. There was a good reason why both Paradise Falls and Evergreen Mills were on the trade route followed by the travelling merchants of Canterbury Commons, they were where the money was.

    Lucky Harith and Crow traded in weaponry and body armour respectively, the raiders and slavers always seeking to get their hands on those. Doc Hoff made most of his money selling drugs to the raiders, salving his conscience by overcharging them and using the difference to allow the undercharging of decent people, even sometimes giving medical supplies away. Crazy Wolfgang meanwhile dealt in “junk”, or rather the miscellaneous items and little luxuries which people needed just as much as they did armaments or pharmaceuticals.

    Canterbury Commons was supported by dirty money, caps earned through the blood and sweat of slaves and the suffering of wastelanders at the hands of raiders all over the Capital Wasteland. For a man raised in the vehemently anti-slavery and pro law-and-order NCR the realisation made Coyle more than a little uncomfortable but Ernest Roe himself rationalised that without the trade in slaves, arms and drugs there wouldn’t be the economic base to support the few remaining settlements like Megaton or Rivet City. Seeing the disapproval in his eyes Roe also invited Coyle to tag along with a merchant in order to see first-hand the good they did and the people they helped on the way.

    If talking to the boy’s uncle had been saddening then the conversation Coyle had afterwards with fifteen year old Derek Pacion was fun, at least the part after the boy mentioned both his parents had been killed by raiders in separate attacks anyway. Young Derek was a comic-book obsessive and thanks largely to Crazy Wolfgang bringing them back the boy had a surprisingly complete collection of pre-war Grognak the Barbarian comics, along with a selection of others.

    Derek had been amazed to discover that brand new comics were being produced these days on the other side of the country but to Coyle’s chagrin he thought that some of them sounded really dumb.

    ‘Captain California sounds like a blatant rip-off of Captain Cosmos’ Derek stated firmly, crossing his arms.

    Coyle shook his head. ‘No the origin stories are totally different’ he stalwartly defended the greatest fictional hero of the NCR. ‘Captain California was originally a US Army Air Corps pilot assigned to the USSA as a Test Pilot whose Delta IX rocket crashed and they partially re-built him with pieces of combat armour’ he began. ‘He transferred from the Air Corps to the Infantry and became a decorated hero fighting the Chinese in Anchorage before being badly wounded again by a Hēi Guǐ assassin with a gauss-rifle’ Coyle continued the tale. ‘He was just barely kept alive with bio-med gel before being injected with an experimental super-soldier serum developed by scientists in Mariposa and Big Mountain Research and Development Centre’ he said.

    ‘Are these real places?’ Derek asked doubtfully.

    ‘Yes’ Coyle confirmed before continuing. ‘So after giving him the serum which saved his life and made his organic parts almost as powerful as his cybernetics he was reassigned to Sierra Army Depot in Nevada for evaluation’ he said. ‘When the Great War began General Clifton the base commander ordered that he be placed in frozen cryogenic suspension and told Skynet to thaw him out when America needed him again most.’

    Derek frowned, it all sounded a little too far-fetched even for fiction. ‘What’s Skynet?’ he asked.

    ‘Skynet is an Artificial Intelligence which managed the Sierra Army Depot and was later downloaded into a robot fitted with a special cybernetic brain’ Coyle explained. ‘Well anyway in 2243 after the Chosen One blew up the Poseidon Oil Rig...’

    ‘Who’s the Chosen One?’ Derek queried.

    ‘My cousin actually, big hero where I come from’ Coyle told him patiently before continuing again. ‘So like I was saying in 2243 Skynet returns to Sierra Army Depot and having seen the state of the wasteland first-hand it decides to thaw out the super-soldier and after explaining what’s going on in the wasteland, and who the good guys and the bad guys are, the soldier travels to Shady Sands, that’s the capital city of the NCR, and long-story-short he eventually becomes Captain California, fighting for the old world values the NCR has brought back like democracy and the rule of law.’

    Derek frowned. ‘A frozen super-soldier from an old war in the past sounds like a stupid idea for a hero’ he opined.

    ‘No he’s awesome’ Coyle enthused, remember how excited he had been at Derek’s age when the latest issue would arrive in the mail from LA Comics in New Adytum. ‘Later on in the series Skynet salvages the flying saucer the Vault Dweller found his alien ray-gun in and uses parts from it to make Captain California a flying surfboard to get around on.’

    ‘Now that’s really stupid’ Derek maintained. ‘And who the heck is the Vault Dweller?’ he wanted to know.

    ‘My great-grandfather’ Coyle told him, ignoring the slight to Captain California’s flying surfboard. ‘He’s also a big hero where I come from, there’s a statue of him outside the NCR Senate Building.’

    ‘I suppose you’re going to tell me that you’re a big hero where you come from as well?’ Derek asked sarcastically.

    Coyle shrugged. ‘Well I’ve been awarded the Star of the Sierra Madre twice and the NCR Distinguished Service Cross four times but we weren’t talking about me’ he replied. ‘And watch your tone kid’ he warned.

    ‘Okay so what are the best issues of Captain California do you think?’ Derek asked more politely this time, his parents and his uncle having tried to raise him to be civil and respect his elders.

    ‘Well most people say number twenty-three from the “Captain California versus the Enclave” arc when he fights the three clones of Frank Horrigan’ Coyle replied, ‘but personally I think the best Captain California comic ever was number fifty-three when he infiltrated Lost Hills Bunker to sabotage a new prototype vertibird gunship the Brotherhood was making and while he was there he met Jeremy Maxson by chance and punched him in the face’ Coyle said, grinning.

    Derek pursed his lips. ‘I still think that Captain Cosmos would kick Captain California’s butt’ he decided eventually after some consideration.

    ‘Reasonable men can differ’ Coyle replied. Dumb kid he thought to himself but planning to ask for something from the boy he sensibly pretended to respect Derek’s heinously ill-informed opinions regarding the relative merits of comic-book superheroes. ‘So can I ask a favour?’ he inquired. ‘There’s a few caps in it for you’ he added, gaining the kids full attention.

    Dreamer had ended up spending most of the previous couple of hours with Machete and Allison, talking about childhood in Lamplight and how it compared with Allison’s experiences growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but as they made their way towards the diner to get a cold drink they were intercepted by Coyle going the other way who thrust an old sack had been carrying over his shoulder into Dreamer’s hands while keeping hold of some kind of small rifle himself.

    ‘What’s in here?’ Dreamer queried, shaking the old sack which was half-full of something that rattled.

    ‘Old tin cans’ Coyle replied. ‘I borrowed the kids BB gun’ he continued, showing the small lever action airgun to her. ‘I’m going to teach you how to shoot’ he told her.

    Dreamer took a better look at the BB gun. ‘With a kid’s toy?’ she responded, raising an eyebrow.

    ‘Got to start with the basics and the ammo’s cheap’ Coyle said. ‘Once you can start hitting tin-cans every time at ten yards we can move onto something with a little more kick’ he continued. ‘I first learned how to shoot plinking tin-cans with one of these.’

    ‘How old were you?’ Dreamer asked him.

    ‘Six’ Coyle replied.

    Machete laughed. ‘At least he didn’t start you off with a slingshot’ she said to Dreamer who scowled at her in response.

    ‘I’m too old to play with BB guns’ Dreamer protested.

    ‘Are you getting any younger standing there arguing with me?’ Coyle asked her.

    ‘No’ Dreamer replied.

    ‘Then you’re just making it worse for yourself every second’ Coyle replied. ‘Now suck it up and come with me’ he told her, leading off towards the outskirts of town, Dreamer following after a moment’s indecision.

    ‘If you hit all the cans you’ll win a teddy-bear’ Allison called after Dreamer, laughing herself.

    ‘Don’t laugh too hard honey’ Coyle called back. ‘After this I’m going to get her to teach you how to knife fight using rubber knives made from an old tyre I saw earlier’ he informed Allison.

    ‘Ha!’ Dreamer exclaimed. ‘Prepare to get rubbed out hillbilly’ she said.

    ‘Enjoy your play-date with my boyfriend’ Allison retorted loudly. ‘Make sure to share your toys you two’ she added before something occurred to her. ‘That’s the first time I’ve called him my boyfriend’ she realised. ‘Felt right’ she said, smiling to herself. ‘It’s hot out here, maybe I should bring them out a couple of Nuka Colas’ she suggested to Machete.

    ‘I’d give them half an hour, she should be missing less by then’ Machete advised.

    ‘Good plan’ Allison agreed. ‘So can you give me any pointers on knife-fighting?’ she asked. ‘I mean I figured what with the name...’


    ----------

    Note from the Author:

    In FO3 Canterbury Commons is cursed with a wannabe super-villain styling herself "The AntAgonizer" and her equally pesky "nemesis" calling himself "The Mechanist". They're both more delusional than dangerous but they're still a pain in the neck for the townsfolk. I hope readers liked Coyle's suitably direct (and comedic) response to them interrupting his newly-acquired love-life.

    They were going to have a mirelurk-like mutated catfish in FO3 at one point but didn't in the end. I've just brought them back as a food-source appropriate to the region. Yaupon Holly (Cassina) and Chicory are both coffee substitutes with a history in the Southern United States. The wasteland brew "Black Coffee" is a drink from the Honest Hearts DLC to Fallout: New Vegas.

    Derek Pacion, nephew of Canterbury Commons Mayor Ernest Roe, is a big comic-book fan. Any similarities between Coyle's childhood hero "Captain California" and any other superheroes is purely coincidental (I've never heard of NASA Astronaut Steve Austin AKA "The Bionic Man", Captain America or the Silver Surfer... what are you trying to imply anyway?). Anyhow, Mariposa Military Base was where FEV was invented (Fallout 1 and 2), Big Mountain Research & Development Center is featured in the One World Blues DLC to Fallout: New Vegas, Sierra Army Depot is where you find Skynet in Fallout 2 (and you actually do find a soldier in cryogenic freeze there from before the Great War), and you can get cybernetic upgrades in FO2 made from Combat Armour (also from FO2 is Frank Horrigan an FEV-mutated end-boss who wears customised, oversized Enclave power-armour). One of the special encounters you can have in FO1 is finding a crashed flying saucer from Area 51 with an Alien Blaster in it.

    Seriously, for a fictional character in a fictional comic invented for a fanfic written about a fictional universe Captain California has a great back-story (which works surprisingly well within Fallout canon) and in my opinion people should start writing Captain California stories immediately!
    :P
     
  6. Shang

    Shang First time out of the vault

    9
    Sep 14, 2011
    Where's the rest of the story? I've really gotten into it. I rarely read fanfics but this one kept me reading from the very start. It's great!
     
  7. Muff

    Muff Water Chip? Been There, Done That

    861
    May 5, 2006
    Agreed, this has to be one of the best fan fics I have ever read and is a damned sight better than the FO3 story line.
     
  8. Hotpoint

    Hotpoint First time out of the vault

    39
    May 24, 2009
    It's not finished, I've just been back writing one of my other stories for the last few weeks.

    And it is already over 100,000 words long you know. :wink:


    I've got to say that "better than the FO3 storyline" is damning with faint praise. :P
     
  9. Hotpoint

    Hotpoint First time out of the vault

    39
    May 24, 2009
    The story continues

    ----------

    NEW CALIFORNIA DREAMING - PART XXI


    Canterbury Commons – Columbia Commonwealth – July 2277

    ‘The way I figure it, tagging along with the trade caravans is the safest way to travel around and meet people’ Coyle told Allison and Dreamer as they looked down at the hand-drawn map he had spread over the bed in the room he and Allison were sharing. ‘The route they take goes past most of the settlements and they stop to rest at the larger ones’ he continued. ‘I’ve already discussed it with Roe and he says the caravans will probably be grateful for the company and the added firepower.’

    They had been in town five days now and Coyle wanted to move on, getting back to his scouting and reconnaissance mission. So far he had met two of the four traders that used Canterbury as the base for their operations and what knowledge he had gleaned from them indicated there might be some profit to be made, both in information and money, if he took the path most travelled for once.

    ‘So we just follow the next caravan that leaves town all the way back to Rivet City?’ Allison queried.

    Coyle shook his head. ‘No, I want some time at each place so we travel with one caravan then stay behind when it reaches somewhere interesting and pick up the next when it arrives’ he replied. ‘If we plan on getting back to Rivet City in about a month’s time I should be able to raise enough caps on the way to pay off a good chunk of what I owe Reilly too.’

    ‘I think it’s Doc Hoff that’s running the next caravan, deals mostly in medical supplies’ Allison said, pursing her lips. ‘Pa used to say he was a miserable cuss, kinda gloomy you know.’

    ‘My gang used to buy their drugs from him sometimes’ Dreamer recalled.

    ‘If he had to deal with customers like that I’m not surprised he’s miserable’ Coyle observed. ‘Why didn’t you just kill him and take what you wanted?’

    ‘Because if you fuck with the caravans who trade with Evergreen Mills then the raiders there will track you down and skin you alive’ Dreamer replied. ‘They’re the biggest, most powerful gang in the Capital Wasteland and only the dumber crews will cross them’ she explained. ‘The Doc supplies a lot of their drugs, they get guns and ammo from Lucky Harith... well you get the picture’ she said. ‘It’s not like raiders can just wander into Megaton or Tenpenny Tower to barter for shit they need.’

    Coyle nodded his understanding. ‘Not smart to bite the hand that feeds you.’

    ‘Nope’ Dreamer agreed. ‘They go near Big Town, the caravans I mean’ she noted, studying the map with the trading route on it and pointing to where the settlement was marked. ‘I suppose I could visit, see if any of my old friends are still alive’ she suggested, looking to Coyle to see if that would be okay.

    ‘If you want to that’s fine by me, but I’m surprised you aren’t thinking more about the fact the caravans stop at Paradise Falls before that’ Coyle responded giving her a knowing look.

    ‘Last time I was there I had a slave collar around my neck not a combat shotgun in my hands’ Dreamer replied. ‘Makes a difference’ she said evenly.

    ‘You’d better not be thinking about revenge or picking a fight like you did with that chick before because I won’t encourage you by promising to back your play if the odds are suicidal’ Coyle warned her seriously.

    ‘Surprised you’d be scared of a few Slavers?’ Dreamer replied.

    Coyle smirked. ‘No I meant suicidal for you, I’d be alright’ he said.

    ‘What so you’re immortal?’ Dreamer asked sarcastically.

    ‘More like extremely lucky when bullets are flying around’ Coyle corrected her.

    ‘I shot you didn’t I?’ Dreamer pointed out.

    Coyle shrugged. ‘That was buckshot, hard to avoid the spread’ he replied. ‘I can’t dodge lasers either’ he continued sadly, ‘but I did once duck under a plasma bolt from a P94’ he said. ‘The Paladin carrying the thing was so surprised I managed to put a fifty-cal through his helmet before he could pull the trigger again’ the Ranger recalled.

    Allison and Dreamer looked at each other. ‘Coming from anyone else I’d never believe it’ Allison observed.

    ‘That’s okay Honey, I wouldn’t believe anyone else could do it either’ Coyle told her. Not unless they were a blood relation anyhow he thought to himself, firmly believing that somewhere in his DNA there was an inherited combination of genes that amounted to an innate potential for developing “Mad Skills” in whatever area he chose to study or train for. An academic from the Followers of the Apocalypse who had written a thesis on the Chosen One of Arroyo had come to the conclusion that the man had simply possessed “a near ludicrous level of competence” which was easier for most people in the NCR to accept than the notion he was guided by tribal spirits.

    “Doc” Hoff who was the next trader to reach town probably didn’t have a formal medical training, Coyle frankly doubted there were many institutions on this side of the Rockies that could supply one, but he did at least dress the part of an educated man and his vocabulary and manner indicated he was at least a cut above the average wastelander education-wise. After Mayor Roe convinced Hoff that the trio who wanted to accompany him on the first leg of his trade route were trustworthy Coyle took some time to get to know the Doc himself and after an interesting argument regarding whether the post-apocalyptic world was destined for recovery or collapse they ended up playing a game of chess over dinner with the Ranger suggesting a bet on the result to make it interesting, the loser had to pick up the tab for both dinners.

    As normal almost everyone in town was in Joe Porter’s diner for their evening meal, with only Dominic D'Ellsadro and Hoff’s mercenary caravan guard missing as they patrolled the outskirts of town and talked firearms. For some reason unknown to Hoff Mayor Ernest Roe had laughed when he found out about the bet but the Mayor didn’t elaborate on what was so funny as Coyle ordered the most expensive thing on the menu and for the Nuka Colas to keep coming.

    Allison had initially tried to follow the game but not knowing the rules too well and therefore missing some of the nuances of play and sacrifice she soon lost interest. Joining Dreamer and Machete at their own table after an hour she was wondering how long a game of chess actually lasted when a cry of anguish from Hoff caused everyone to look in his direction.

    ‘What the hell was that?’ Hoff wanted to know, staring at the board.

    ‘Flying Liver Attack’ Coyle said smugly, leaning back in his chair. ‘Checkmate in three’ he added.

    Hoff stared at the board. ‘I haven’t lost a game in five years’ he said in dismay, not that he got to play very often but still.

    ‘I’d offer a rematch but my cousin only taught me the one killer strategy and you know that one now, the rest of my game is pretty mundane so you’d probably beat me’ Coyle admitted. ‘If it makes you feel better you took defeat better than he said the radscorpion did.’

    Allison looked to Dreamer. ‘You don’t think he was being serious before about the chess playing radscorpion do you?’ she asked.

    ‘I really hope not because that might mean what he said about the talking deathclaw was true as well’ Dreamer replied.

    Hoff sighed and conceded the game by knocking over his king. ‘Radscorpion?’ he queried.

    ‘It was smart but the sporeplant that taught the Flying Liver Attack to my cousin was smarter’ Coyle replied. ‘Never could figure out how the plant moved the pieces though’ he added, frowning.

    ‘We’re okay, it’s bullshit’ Dreamer reassured Allison who looked relieved.

    Mayor Ernest Roe was grinning at Doc Hoff’s expression and came over to join them. ‘Cheer up, at least you didn’t end up lying on your back in the dirt like Lucky did when they tangled’ he said. ‘Nothing nasty, just sparring, but Lucky ended up paying for his lunch because he accepted a wager too.’

    ‘I know a couple of moves he didn’t’ Coyle explained when Hoff raised his eyebrows. Lucky Harith the arms-dealer wasn’t just a good shot he was also a highly accomplished martial artist.

    ‘He beat Crow at spear-chucking before that, won dinner from him as well’ Roe noted. That was damn impressive too given that the armour-specialist Crow was originally a Tribal and his skill with a spear was the only thing that kept him alive for several years.

    Hoff blinked. ‘He beat Crow with a spear, Harith at hand-to-hand and me in a battle of wits?’ he asked incredulously. ‘That’s... that’s inconceivable’ he stated disbelievingly.

    Coyle reached for his Nuka Cola, it went well with everything he found. ‘Never go up against a Californian when a free meal is on the line’ he advised, taking a swig from the bottle.

    They planned to set out early the next morning, Coyle rising before 6AM and finding Doc Hoff already loading up his pack-brahmin outside the Mayor’s House. The caravan guard meanwhile was cleaning his R91 nearby and loading magazines for it, inspecting each bullet for signs of corrosion as he did so and discarding any that looked doubtful. ‘Not seen one of those before’ the guard noted professionally, looking at one of the three long-arms Coyle had placed next to his pack.

    ‘It’s a gauss rifle, assembled it last night after your boss mentioned seeing Super-Mutants near Germantown on your last circuit’ Coyle replied.

    ‘I’ve seen one of those in an old book, a gauss rifle I mean, and it didn’t look like that’ the mercenary replied, finishing his task and loading a magazine into his assault-rifle. His name was Pete and apparently his older brother Alan worked for Crazy Wolfgang making caravan-guarding sort-of the family business these days. He looked to be in his very early twenties but seemed competent enough from his manner and the way he handled the R91.

    ‘That was probably one of the Chinese ones they made to try and even things up with U.S. Power-Armour’ Coyle replied. ‘This is an M72 made in Germany before the Great War, it’s semi-auto rather than single-shot’ he continued. ‘I took “Germantown” as a sign I might need it’ he said, with a wink.

    Dreamer emerged from Machete’s house, carrying her own pack and yawning. ‘Breakfast?’ she inquired.

    ‘Porter’s fixing some grits’ Coyle replied then grimaced when he realised what he’d said. ‘I’ve been spending too much time with Allison’ he moaned, ‘I’m starting to sound like her’ he added in dismay.

    ‘Less than a week of getting in her purty pink panties and she’s already done turn you into a Good ‘Ol Boy’ Dreamer responded, laughing. ‘I bet that’s like a total buzzkill, right dude?’ she said, smoothly switching from a good impersonation of Allison’s dialect and accent to Coyle’s.

    ‘Fo shizzle’ Coyle agreed sadly. ‘You’d better take Wanda’ he said, reaching for his customised R91 and handing it to her. ‘She’s got a lot more effective range than your shotgun and out in the wastes that’ll help a lot.’

    Dreamer looked surprised as she took the assault rifle from him. ‘I thought you said I still wasn’t a very good shot?’ she queried. Dreamer had improved her marksmanship with coaching but to her chagrin Allison had made better progress with her knife-fighting skills than the former Lamplighter had with her aim.

    ‘You’re not, but at least I’ve managed to get you to the stage where you wouldn’t miss the broad side of a barn’ Coyle replied. ‘Just remember to use the sights and if the first shot misses keep pulling the trigger until you eventually hit what you’re trying to hit’ he advised. ‘You might be tempted to go full-auto but don’t spray-and-pray because it’s a waste-of-ammunition.’

    ‘Yeah, you already drummed that into me’ Dreamer replied, after a few lessons with the kid’s BB gun Coyle had gone onto show her how to properly handle a real rifle. ‘I’m surprised you’d give this to me not your girlfriend’ she said, sighting along the rifle towards a ruined building in the distance.

    ‘Allison’s hunting-rifle is more accurate and she gets good use out of it’ Coyle replied. ‘Mostly I still expect her to do more with her five shots between reloading than you will with your thirty’ he said.

    The caravan guard laughed. ‘She’ll draw more fire though’ he noted.

    ‘True, and if they’re concentrating on you because you’re throwing more lead it’ll give Allison and me more time to pick our shots’ Coyle told Dreamer.

    Dreamer narrowed her eyes at Coyle. ‘I want combat armour like yours’ she told him firmly.

    ‘Okay, sounds fair’ Coyle agreed. ‘At the next opportunity I’ll try and shoot the next bag guy wearing some in the face so you get a good set without an extra hole in it’ he promised.

    They set out half an hour later after a quick breakfast and some goodbyes, tearful in the case of Dreamer and Machete. Less than a mile out of town Coyle started singing and subsequently less than one and a half miles out Doc Hoff told him he could either stop or go back to Canterbury and wait for Crazy Wolfgang’s Caravan to travel with instead.

    Coyle muttered something about the Untamed Wild East being full of uncivilised tone-deaf savages that wouldn’t know a good, catchy tune if it bit them on the ass but he complied with the demand and trudged on with a scowl on his face hoping that something would attack soon so he could shoot it.

    The pack-brahmin wasn’t fast and by necessity it set the pace so it took a while for a trade caravan to get from place to place. For this reason working on a caravan was usually described as long hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror when a giant radscorpion, deathclaw or something even worse attacked.

    The route the caravans took around the Capital Wasteland had gradually changed over time as new settlements occasionally sprang up and old ones faded in importance. When Doc Hoff first took over the caravan he now operated from its previous owner the route had gone out southwest as far as Girdershade and north past the former Kingdom of Tom. In these financially depressed times however there was simply no money to be made in trekking out that far and if it wasn’t for the curse of a social conscience the caravans wouldn’t even make the short detour north they did after leaving Canterbury Commons.

    ‘Where are we going anyhow?’ Dreamer asked, there wasn’t anything in this direction apart from that farm run by the weirdo ex-mercenary and that was a lot further than Hoff said they were going.

    ‘They call it The Temple of the Union’ Hoff replied. ‘I promised to drop off some medical supplies and there’s a sack of food on the brahmin for them too.’

    ‘Some kind of church?’ Dreamer queried.

    ‘In a manner of speaking’ Doc Hoff replied. ‘They’ve got themselves a prophet at least, or maybe you could think of him as the Pied Piper’ he added with a smile.

    Dreamer turned back towards Coyle who had taken up a position with the Caravan Guard at the rear of the small column, his FN-FAL in his hands and the Gauss Rifle hanging from his pack where it could be easily accessed. ‘Do you know what he’s talking about?’

    ‘It’s a settlement of escaped slaves, Roe told me about it once he decided I wasn’t the type to rat them out’ Coyle told her. ‘You were off reminiscing with Machete at the time I think.’

    ‘We screw over Paradise Falls on deals and use the money to help them out, give some stuff for free and the rest for cost’ Pete the caravan guard chipped in. ‘We might have to deal with scum like Eulogy Jones but there’s nothing to say we can’t use his caps against him.’

    ‘That’s noble’ Allison said with a smile.

    ‘Also he’s really hoping to get the opportunity to lay one of the girls at the Temple’ Hoff told them. ‘Isn’t that right Pete?’ Hoff asked his employee wryly.

    ‘It’s not like that, I like her is all’ the caravan guard responded awkwardly. ‘She’s smart and pretty and sweet’ also a little skittish he thought, which didn’t make approaching her, or coming up with the right thing to say, any easier.

    ‘And she’ll remain completely oblivious to you unless you man-up and make a move’ Hoff told him. ‘If you don’t trust the Doc then get a second opinion from your brother. You know he’ll say the same thing.’

    ‘Can we please change the subject’ Pete requested, a charging Yao Guai would be great right about now he decided.

    ‘Alright but keep in mind that one day we’ll get there, she’ll have moved on and you’ll have missed your shot’ Hoff warned the mercenary seriously. The Doc was a cynic who was deeply pessimistic about the future but he certainly didn’t begrudge other people a slice of happiness if they could get hold of it.

    At the back of the column Coyle scented blood and smiled evilly. The guard was young and easily flustered, this meant an opportunity for amusement had presented itself and it would be a travesty to let it go to waste the Ranger decided.

    Ten minutes later Coyle saw his opportunity when the guard stopped looking around for a short while. ‘If you don’t stop checking out my girlfriend’s ass there’s going to be trouble’ he addressed Pete coldly.

    Pete started. ‘I wasn’t’ he denied.

    ‘Yes you were, you’ve been staring at her ass for the last quarter-mile’ Coyle stated.

    ‘No, I might have been looking in her direction sometimes, past her I mean, but I wasn’t checking out her ass honestly’ Pete insisted. ‘Not even once.’

    Coyle narrowed his eyes. ‘Are you insinuating that my girlfriend’s ass isn’t worth looking at?’ he growled. ‘That she’s not pretty enough for you or something?’

    ‘No Sir, she’s real pretty and...’ Pete choked out.

    ‘And you were checking out her ass?’ Coyle interrupted him.

    ‘Cassidy, leave him alone’ Allison said loudly, turning back towards him. ‘He’s yanking your chain’ she informed Pete apologetically. ‘He likes to do that to people because he’s a jerkass.’

    ‘Hey I was just relieving the tedium of the journey’ Coyle protested.

    ‘That wasn’t funny’ Pete complained. ‘I thought you were being serious.’

    ‘I thought it was funny’ Doc Hoff interjected from the front of the caravan party.

    ‘Don’t encourage him’ Dreamer said seriously. ‘I mean it, don’t’ she warned.

    Coyle sighed. ‘I had a spotter that was a killjoy like you two when I was still with First Recon’ he said. ‘No sense of humour whatsoever’ he continued. ‘Good at his job though, we were the first team to put a hole in Joshua Graham’ he recalled. ‘I heard he was also on the third team to do it too after I transferred from Recon to the Rangers’ he said, frowning. ‘That skirt-wearing son-of-a-bitch just won’t die’ he complained. ‘If I ever get another chance myself I’m using an anti-materiel rifle’ he decided.

    When they finally reached “The Temple of the Union” Allison was disappointed to find that it was really just an old office block that had somehow withstood a nuclear blast better than its neighbours albeit still partially collapsed. Something grander and more distinctive out here would have been more likely to attract unwanted attention though she supposed as they approached the building, Doc Hoff out in front and calling out to the people inside that the strangers with him were okay.

    A large metal gate barred the entrance and a woman with an R91 stood guard at the window above it on the next floor up, any glass which had once filled them was long gone. ‘You don’t usually bring visitors Doc’ she noted suspiciously.

    ‘They’re just travelling with the caravan for a while, no threat to you’ Hoff replied.

    ‘Hamlin will be the judge of that’ the woman replied. ‘Assuming I don’t shoot them just in case’ she added, making sure that her assault rifle was clearly on display.

    ‘Hospitable place’ Coyle remarked sardonically. ‘If I was here to cause trouble I’d just shoot you and blow the lock off the gate’ he called up to the woman.

    ‘You’re not helping and they’re paranoid for a reason’ Hoff reminded him. ‘I’ve got the drugs and the food you wanted’ he told the woman at the window.

    ‘Lower your rifle and open the gate Simone’ a voice behind her instructed.

    ‘Okay, but if they sell us out I’m going to say I told you so’ the woman with the rifle replied fatalistically before putting it aside and pressing the button which released the lock on the gate.

    Leading the brahmin with him inside Hoff entered the building first, there was a stable on the ground floor with the residents keeping a brahmin of their own there already and the two beasts mooed an introduction to each other. Coyle followed on behind wanting to talk to the man in charge but when his nose twitched and he subsequently sneezed he turned right round and walked back out. ‘They’ve got a dog’ he told Allison in annoyance. ‘You talk to them, I’ll wait outside’ he said.

    ‘He’s allergic’ Allison explained when the caravan guard threw her a quizzical look.

    ‘Captain California has his weakness to Xenonite, for me its dog hair’ Coyle said unhappily as he leaned his FN-FAL against the outside wall and began taking off his backpack looking for somewhere to sit down.

    ‘We’ll try not to be too long’ Allison told him as he sat down not too far from the gate leaning back against the wall with his rifle and pack next to him.

    ‘Take your time sweetheart, I’ll work on my tan out here, catch a few rays’ Coyle replied. ‘Ultraviolet I mean, not gamma for once’ he continued. ‘And could you ask them to tie up their dog’ he requested.

    ‘Will do Honey’ Allison replied before going inside.

    After handing over the food and pharmaceuticals which Hoff had brought for them the escaped slaves did offer their hospitality to the strangers, such as it was given the circumstances. They were poor and had little in the way of caps or possessions to speak of but most of them were personable enough if understandably wary of new people. Fortunately Allison wasn’t as abrasive as Coyle which was a blessing in the circumstances and Dreamer made a mental note to suggest the hillbilly handle introductions in future because as the people-person of their little band she was less likely to start trouble.

    After a few minutes a man left the building with Doc Hoff and approached Coyle. ‘The girl said you might want to talk to me.’

    Coyle nodded. ‘You the head man?’ he inquired, looking up at him.

    ‘I’m Hannibal Hamlin, I suppose you could think of me as the leader of our group’ the man replied.

    ‘Nice to meet you’ Coyle said, standing up and offering his hand to shake which Hamlin took firmly. ‘Nice grip’ he observed.

    ‘One positive of a life of involuntary hard manual labour’ Hamlin replied. ‘There weren’t too many others’ he added wistfully.

    Inside Allison and Dreamer were trying to get to know the other escaped slaves that had chosen to live in the small community, they lived upstairs on the first floor with their own rooms and a communal area for cooking and eating. Alejandra Torres, the girl that Pete the Caravan Guard apparently carried a torch for was pretty like he had said and Dreamer had a good idea what her chief duties had been as a slave by her body language around men and the way she was reluctant to look Pete in the eyes when he tried to strike up a conversation. Another of the escaped slaves, an old man the others called Bill was making some kind of tea using sassafras root and his own docile demeanour indicated he had been enslaved for most of his life and was well broken in causing Dreamer to idly wonder why he had ever deserted his master because he certainly wasn’t the rebellious sort.

    The big guy Caleb Smith was another matter. He might have been a slave once but he didn’t act much like it and although less outwardly hostile than Simone, the woman with the R91, he had something about him that Dreamer picked up on quickly. ‘What gang were you with?’ she asked him eventually, confident of her suspicions about the man.

    Caleb frowned. ‘How did you know?’ he queried.

    ‘Used to be a raider myself not too long ago’ Dreamer replied. ‘And a slave before that’ she added.

    ‘So what are you now?’ Caleb asked.

    Dreamer started to reply but then realised she wasn’t exactly sure. ‘Coyle’ she called outside to where he was talking to the man in charge of the merry band of escaped slaves. ‘What am I?’ she asked.

    ‘A pain in the ass’ Coyle called back.

    ‘No I mean if Allison is your guide then what am I?’ Dreamer wanted to know.

    ‘Another mouth to feed’ Coyle replied.

    Realising she wasn’t going to get a decent answer out of the man as long as he could keep coming up with wisecracks Dreamer gave up and turned back to Caleb. ‘According to what he’s said before I’m either a guide or a conscript in an army that I haven’t ever been within three thousand miles of’ she informed him. ‘Or a backup singer’ she remembered to add.

    Coyle had been listening with interest as Hannibal Hamlin the leader of the escaped slaves now living in what he had named “The Temple of the Union” told his story and explained his vision for the future. He had been born free but was enslaved at fourteen spending over twenty years of his life as someone else’s property. After his eventual escape he had wandered aimlessly until the chance discovery of a piece of a statue where it simply should have been struck him as a sign of what he had to do and thus began his crusade to gather more escaped slaves and lead them to freedom.

    To be fair discovering the carved stone head of President Abraham Lincoln so many miles north of where it should have been on top of the rest of his body in the Lincoln Memorial was an inexplicable enough mystery to warrant a certain amount of pondering the serendipity of the find. Nonetheless as he listened to Hamlin tell the story Coyle couldn’t help but think a rather more mundane explanation than the former-slave believed was responsible and that Hamlin’s desire to return the head to the Memorial and establish it as a headquarters for the anti-slavery movement was a chancy proposition at best.

    ‘It’s a symbol’ Hamlin maintained. ‘One that people can rally around and look to for inspiration’ he continued earnestly as he tried to recruit the strangers to his cause. ‘Caleb is a stonemason and he will reattach the head to the body as a signal to all slaves everywhere that freedom is at hand.’

    ‘It’s not the choice of symbol that’s in question, Lincoln is as good a one as any’ Coyle responded, ‘the problem is that if you were to relocate from here to somewhere that high-profile all you’re doing is giving the slavers a convenient target and from what I’ve already learned about the Capital Wasteland they’ve got you massively outgunned.’

    Hamlin smiled. ‘Once word spreads slaves will escape in droves and rally to our cause’ he said confidently. ‘Have you ever heard of a man called Spartacus?’ he asked rhetorically, not expecting the stranger to have done so.

    ‘Spartacus had the advantage of starting out with a force of experienced gladiators who had time to train the rest of the slaves who flocked to him before they faced decent opposition’ Coyle replied. ‘If you want to emulate his initial success you’d be better off ambushing slaver patrols to gain combat experience and collect weaponry you’re going to need later anyway’ he advised.

    ‘Although he regrets the life now Caleb was once a raider before joining me and Simone was a mercenary before she was captured and enslaved’ Hamlin replied, indicating the woman who had been guarding the gate. ‘They can train others to fight.’

    ‘If she was good at being a mercenary she wouldn’t have been captured’ Coyle retorted. ‘Also you might want to consider that the Super-Mutants in DC are slowly pushing the Brotherhood back so eventually the whole of The Mall is going to be their turf’ he warned Hamlin. ‘You really don’t want to be in the Lincoln Memorial with a couple of dozen of those things toting automatic weapons walking up the steps.’

    ‘If they ever get past the Brotherhood outpost at the Washington Monument we’ll leave’ Hamlin told him. ‘We’re not stupid even if we believe beyond question that righteousness is on our side and our cause is just’ he maintained. ‘If we hold the Memorial for only a short while it will be enough to send a message right across the Capital Wasteland that as Lincoln freed the slaves so shall I.’

    ‘Lincoln had more soldiers and weapons than his enemy that’s why he won’ Coyle responded evenly. ‘If you follow your current path you’re more likely to end up like John Brown who ended up dangling from a rope’ he warned. ‘You might end up a symbol yourself like he did, they might even write a song about you too, but you’ll still be dead.’

    Hamlin straightened up. ‘I’m prepared to lay down my life for the cause’ he declared.

    ‘Very praiseworthy but you’ll get better results making the slavers die for theirs’ Coyle told him wryly. ‘For one thing most of them are only in it for the money so if you make it too unprofitable or dangerous they’ll just quit because they lack your conviction’ he said. ‘If you’re going to move to The Mall regardless of what I say then make sure first that you’ve got enough guns to arm the slaves that rally to the cause so you’ve got a fighting chance when the opposition come gunning for you.’

    Doc Hoff had been listening in silence but for some reason he suddenly chuckled. ‘I’ve got a suggestion and I think you’ll appreciate the irony’ he said. ‘Lucky, Crow, Wolfgang and myself are always being asked by Pronto the arms-dealer at Paradise Falls if we can get him better merchandise’ he said. ‘We’ve never obliged before because we don’t much like the slaver bastard for obvious reasons but what if we told him we’d give him a break if he was to collect say twenty assault rifles for us?’ he suggested.

    ‘Twenty assault rifles which would end up in the hands of Hamlin and his people you mean’ Coyle replied, unable not to grin at the notion of the slavers not only unwittingly bankrolling Hamlin’s crusade as they already did but also arming it too.

    ‘I’m sure that Lucky would be willing to fix any up for free if that weren’t in working order’ Hoff said confidently.

    ‘Chinese Assault Rifles might be better than R91’s if he can get them’ Coyle advised. ‘They don’t require as much maintenance because they’re idiot proof, not much more than an AK-47 chambered in 5.56mm NATO really’ he said. ‘It’s a better weapon for someone that isn’t well trained, like say an escaped slave, easy to use but still good and lethal and they throw plenty of lead downrange.’

    ‘We’d need a lot of ammunition’ Hamlin pointed out.

    Coyle smirked. ‘From what I’m told Paradise Falls sends most of their slaves up to Pittsburgh and they’re paid a good chunk of that in ammunition’ he said. ‘If someone, like say me, was to intercept a shipment of their ill-gotten gains that should help you out’ he said to Hamlin. ‘You get any 5.56mm for your new rifles as my donation to the cause, and I’ll keep the rest.’

    Hamlin raised his eyebrows. ‘Do you want anything from us in return?’ he asked.

    ‘Just don’t mention me to anyone, I’m trying to keep a low profile’ Coyle requested. ‘And if you hear anything about the Enclave, the Brotherhood or anything else important or unusual send it my way via Doc Hoff or one of the other merchants’ he said.

    ‘Ambushing slavers doesn’t sound like something that someone trying to keep low-profile would do’ Hoff remarked sardonically.

    ‘You’re assuming that I’ll leave any live witnesses behind and won’t make it look like it was raiders that did it’ Coyle replied. ‘Their relationship around here is a little too cosy anyway’ he opined, ‘helps keep up their profit margins.’

    ‘It sounds like you’re contemplating cold-blooded slaughter’ Hamlin observed, not sure whether to disapprove or not.

    ‘No, I always get a deep feeling of satisfaction when I shoot a slaver’ Coyle flatly denied the accusation. ‘It’s not cold-blooded at all’ he maintained. ‘Shouldn’t we be going soon?’ he asked Doc Hoff. ‘Tempus fugit as they say in Legion territory.’


    ----------

    Note from the Author:

    Doc Hoff is one of the four merchants that operate a trade route around the Capital Wasteland. He specialises in drugs and other consumables with Lucky Harith dealing in guns, Crow in armour and Crazy Wolfgang in miscellaneous items (he says junk). Each of the merchants travels with a brahmin to carry their wares and is accompanied by an armed guard. They aren't named in FO3 but I thought Pete was as good a name as any for the one that works for Doc Hoff.

    Joshua Graham is a character from Fallout: New Vegas. As of this point in 2277 (as far as Coyle knows) he's still a senior officer in Caesar's Legion and was already renowned for being very difficult to kill with the elite snipers of the NCR First Recon having reported him dead five times. Coyle was the first but it didn't stick!

    The Temple of the Union is one of the places where the trade caravans stop which indicates the merchants trade with the rebel slaves led by Hannibal Hamlin. Given that Doc Hoff and the others haven't ratted Hamlin out to the slavers of Paradise Falls (even though they also stop there on their route) that indicates to me that the merchants must sympathise with the slaves. Hamlin's best fighters are former raider Caleb Smith and former mercenary Simone Cameron. They're not much of a match for all the slavers in the capital wasteland though so Hamlin really did need to have a better plan for what to do after he relocated his people to the Lincoln Memorial.

    One of the side-missions you can undertake in FO3 is to collect twenty Chinese Assault Rifles for Pronto the arms dealer in Paradise Falls. You don't find out the specifics why so I thought I'd fill them in. When Hamlin's slaves do take over the Lincoln Memorial in the game Hamlin switches from a Hunting Rifle to a Chinese Assault Rifle, Alejandra Torres from a pistol to a Chinese Assault Rifle and Bill Seward starts carrying one too so it fits quite nicely methinks!
     
  10. Sub-Human

    Sub-Human -

    May 31, 2011
    This is pretty amazing, to be honest. Wish I had time to read all of it in one sit, though.
     
  11. Hotpoint

    Hotpoint First time out of the vault

    39
    May 24, 2009
    The story continues...

    ----------

    NEW CALIFORNIA DREAMING - PART XXII

    Wheaton Armoury – Columbia Commonwealth – July 2277

    ‘Exactly how many unexploded atomic bombs are scattered around here anyway?’ Coyle wanted to know as Doc Hoff told him about the next location his caravan passed, the aerials on top of the old military complex already evident on the skyline ahead.

    Hoff smiled. ‘Well if the stories about Fort Constantine to the north are true quite a number’ he replied. ‘As for Wheaton there’s an ICBM in there which was caught on the ground when a small counter-force nuke set to surface-burst landed nearby’ he explained. ‘The shock-wave collapsed most of the buildings and damaged the missile in the silo enough for the warhead to break open and irradiate the hell out of the rest of the bunker.’

    ‘Are we going to have to take some RadAway in the near future?’ Allison asked nervously.

    ‘Nah, the Doc says the radiation isn’t that bad anymore unless you go underground’ Pete the caravan guard reassured her. ‘Anyhow we don’t stop here very long and only skirt the perimeter of the base, we don’t go inside.’

    Hoff nodded. ‘Between the plutonium from the damaged warhead and the background radiation from the Chinese bomb it used to be a lot worse’ he said. ‘Even the ghouls stayed away because they didn’t want to end up Glowing Ones and there were plenty of safer places to go scavenge through first’ he continued. ‘A raider gang moved into Wheaton once the count outside the bunker itself dropped from lethal to merely “you’d have to be mentally deficient to stay here long” and they’ve been making a living occasionally hauling out crates of weapons ever since.’

    ‘Wouldn’t that involve going into the bunker?’ Coyle queried.

    ‘They draw straws to see which one gets to go in when they need a few more rifles to trade’ Hoff replied. ‘If you get the short straw you don’t have to do it again for at least six months.’

    ‘That’s an unusually smart policy by raider standards’ Coyle observed.

    ‘They’re not really your typical gang any more now that they make their money selling guns not looting and pillaging’ Hoff replied. ‘They’re also the only one that I sell a lot more RadAway and Rad-X to than Jet or Psycho’ he said. ‘Crow makes money selling them radiation suits too and Lucky Harith buys the guns from them.’

    Coyle frowned. ‘Aren’t the guns a mite radioactive themselves?’

    ‘He makes sure they’re dusted off before he takes them but Lucky also has a policy of selling them on to slavers and other raiders as fast as possible’ Hoff told him.

    ‘Fuck those guys’ Pete commented with heartfelt conviction. ‘Looks like they’re coming out to meet us Boss’ he pointed out to Doc Hoff having spotted a small party of three raiders emerging from the east gate of the complex.

    ‘They’re very heavily armed so please try not to provoke them’ Hoff requested as the converged with the group heading their way.

    ‘Is that a flame-thrower?’ Allison asked nervously, seeing what one of the raiders was carrying on his back.

    ‘It’s the other dude with the sniper-rifle that stayed by the gate who’s concerning me more’ Coyle told her.

    ‘They’ve usually got someone with a rocket-launcher as backup too’ Pete noted. ‘These guys don’t fuck around and remember we’re on their turf.’

    They met the Wheaton raiders about a hundred and fifty yards out from the gate, no range at all for the sniper-rifle, and Coyle made sure to take off his sunglasses to look less threatening because he didn’t want to provoke anything. The raider with the flamethrower moved off to one side so he could bathe Hoff and the others in fire if necessary without endangering his friends and the other two were carrying R91’s in good condition. ‘Hey Doc’ one of the raiders, presumably the leader greeted him.’

    ‘Good day to you Mr Lynx’ Hoff replied with a nod of recognition.

    ‘Like I keep telling you Doc, it’s just Lynx without the Mister’ the raider replied. ‘Who are these three?’ he asked, indicating the heavily armed stranger and the two girls.

    ‘They’re just travelling with me for mutual protection’ Hoff replied. ‘Did you hear about the Super-Mutants over near Germantown?’ he queried.

    Lynx spat on the ground. ‘Fucking monsters are turning up everywhere these days’ he said. ‘Guess I can see why you’d want a few more guns with you’ he said, looking Coyle in the eyes, sizing him up. ‘You a Merc?’

    ‘I get paid money to fight in wars’ Coyle replied, obfuscating slightly as this was technically true for a professional soldier like him as much as it was an actual mercenary. The difference was that the latter fight other people’s battles while the former fought their own, or at least those that their government told them to.

    ‘Thought so, nice gear’ Lynx replied, looking over Coyle’s weaponry and armour before turning back to Hoff. ‘We’re after some RadAway’ he told the merchant. ‘Billy took a bad dose after the dumb fuck tore his radiation suit.’

    ‘Twenty-five caps each, twenty-two if you buy ten or more’ Hoff replied. ‘Need any Rad-X too?’ he checked.

    ‘Nah, Billy also forget to take any before going in the bunker so we’re still okay for that’ Lynx told him. ‘Told ya he’s a dumb fuck’ he continued, grinning. ‘We’ll take ten and a couple of Med-X to tide him over because the boy’s in pain.’

    ‘Stupid fuck hurt his back too carrying out a whole crate of rifles on his lonesome’ the raider with the flamethrower explained, laughing.

    ‘I told him to lift with his knees’ Lynx said, rolling his eyes. ‘Still he did the job I suppose so I guess we should look after him because if we don’t the next guy that draws the short-straw won’t go’ he rationalised. ‘Don’t suppose you’d take an R91 as part-exchange for the drugs?’ he asked Hoff hopefully.

    ‘Sorry, caps only’ Hoff apologised. ‘Lucky would be pissed if I bought any guns from you, I’d be intruding on his bailiwick so-to-speak.’

    The raider leader nodded his understanding even if he didn’t have a clue what a balliwick was. ‘I get that. Guns are his thing, drugs are yours’ he said, getting out a large pouch of money and starting to count out caps as Hoff retrieved the pharmaceuticals from his pack-brahmin.

    After they bade farewell to the raiders, heading off south to skirt around the edge of the Wheaton Armoury following an old road, Allison took out a water-bottle and drank some before offering it to Dreamer. ‘They were nice enough’ she said.

    ‘Downright civilised even’ Coyle agreed.

    ‘If you hadn’t been with me they’d have shot the shit out of you’ Hoff stated flatly. ‘When they run out of hardware to salvage they’ll go right back to their old ways, mark my words’ he said. ‘A wise man once said that society is only three meals away from anarchy’ he continued, ‘once they can’t support themselves by selling old guns they’ll just use the ones they still have to take what they need.’

    ‘That’s a little pessimistic isn’t it?’ Allison replied.

    ‘A pessimist is what an optimist calls a realist’ Hoff told her.

    Coyle turned down the water-bottle when Dreamer offered it to him so she returned it to Allison instead. Hoff and his guard had their own water. ‘He’s right about the meals’ Coyle agreed. ‘Fact is, agriculture is the basis of civilisation and it always has been’ he said. ‘Hunter-gatherers do nothing but that but if you’ve got a reliable food surplus thanks to crops and domesticated animals you can increase your population while still investing man-hours into other things like improving technology, raising the overall standard of living and building infrastructure for the long-term’ he continued. ‘People say that the best thing my great-grandfather ever did for the NCR was driving off the Khans that were raiding Shady Sands but in reality it was probably teaching the settlement about crop-rotation.’

    ‘His Pa’s a teacher in case you were wondering why he sometimes talks like this’ Allison decided to explain. ‘It’s like he gets the occasional urge to educate people instead of shooting at them’ she said. ‘His Ma’s a genuine gecko-skinning, shaman-believing, face-paint wearing tribal.’

    ‘I had a slightly schizophrenic upbringing but as you can see I turned out fine’ Coyle interjected, not necessarily all that convincingly. ‘And Mom only wears face-paint on special occasions like family weddings these days’ he corrected his girlfriend.

    The tribal influence would explain the spear-throwing expertise he used to hustle Crow out of a free meal Hoff reasoned. ‘We’ll be stopping for the night at the next point of call, it’ll be getting dark by the time we arrive’ he told the others. ‘I’ll bet Agatha will be thrilled to spend some time with new people’ he said. ‘She doesn’t get out much these days.’

    ‘Who’s Agatha?’ Coyle queried.

    The rest of the day’s journey wasn’t entirely uneventful, they ran into the path of a pair of radscorpions that Coyle thought would make for good target practice for Dreamer although after she missed with half her assault-rifle magazine he began to think he should have made her practice a lot more with the BB gun.

    ‘Can somebody help me please’ Dreamer pleaded as the huge insects continued to bear down on her, the others watching from further away.

    ‘I’m shooting it’ Pete said, raising his own assault rifle.

    ‘Don’t, she needs to learn a lesson’ Coyle told him. ‘Dreamer. Use the damn gunsights and aim for the face of the nearest one’ he told her, unmoved by her request for assistance.

    ‘You asshole’ Dreamer yelled at him but did as she was told. Lining up the front-sight with the two in the rear and aiming between the eyes of the closest radscopion. ‘Short bursts’ she said to herself, pulling the trigger.

    Three rounds impacted with the mutated creature but failed to even slow it down, they were built very tough and thickly armoured. The second burst had more effect and the third and fourth seemed to have stopped it but by then the customised R91 was empty and the other radscorpion was nearly in striking distance. ‘Oh shit!’ Dreamer cried out, dropping her assault rifle and reaching behind her for the combat shotgun hanging from her pack.

    Allison’s hunting rifle fired, the bullet impacting the radscorpion and penetrating its exoskeleton deeply enough to be noticed, distracting it from Dreamer for a moment.

    ‘Fuck you!’ Dreamer swore at the thing, pulling the trigger of her semi-automatic shotgun over and over again at near point-blank range, blinding it, blasting its face apart and then mashing its brain.

    As the radscorpion collapsed Dreamer span around to face Coyle. ‘And fuck you too!’ she shouted at him angrily, heart pounding and adrenaline surging through her veins.

    ‘Nice shot, you shouldn’t have helped her though’ Coyle told Allison. ‘They got that close because you lost mental focus and forgot everything I taught you when the heat was on’ he informed Dreamer placidly, ignoring her fear-driven seething rage.

    ‘I could have been killed you asshole’ Dreamer screeched.

    ‘I’d have taken them out myself if that looked likely, absolute worst case scenario one dose of venom, probably not enough to be lethal’ Coyle replied, the continuing calmness of his own voice diametrically opposed to hers. ‘You can shoot, not that well but you can’ he said. ‘What you need to do now, besides practice your aim, is not let your fight-or-flight reflex override the rational part of your mind’ he told her. ‘Also that first radscorpion is getting back up’ he warned her.

    ‘Eep!’ Dreamer cried out and spun around to see the giant insect shakily trying get back on its feet. ‘Stay down!’ she said, walking up to it and then finishing it off with her 12-gauge.

    ‘Okay, now as Dad would have said, that’s a lesson that should stick’ Coyle declared, ‘and for homework I want you to strip and clean both your firearms’ he said. ‘Miss your mark like that again though and you’ll be writing out “The gunsights on my rifle are not there for decoration” two hundred times in detention’ he told Dreamer sternly.

    ‘Would you be really pissed if I shot your boyfriend in the hand again?’ Dreamer asked Allison in a way that meant Allison wasn’t sure if she was kidding or not.

    ‘How about I don’t sleep with him for a week instead’ Allison counter-offered an alternative punishment. ‘She’s right, you are an asshole’ she told Coyle.

    ‘I prefer to think of my teaching style as a combination of tough love and negative reinforcement’ Coyle replied. ‘And you’re joking about the not sleeping with me thing aren’t you?’ he asked with concern.

    ‘Nope’ Allison replied. ‘I prefer to think of my teaching style as a combination of no love as negative reinforcement’ she told him, scowling.

    Coyle’s face twitched, she was too sharp for comfort. ‘Got to stop falling for the smart ones’ he muttered to himself as Pete chortled.

    ‘The poison glands in those bugs are worth something’ Doc Hoff noted. ‘I’ll give you fifty caps for them’ he offered.

    ‘Thanks’ Coyle replied.

    ‘I was talking to the young lady that killed the things’ Hoff told him.

    ‘She used my rifle, I gave her the shotgun and I paid for the damn ammunition’ Coyle protested.

    Dreamer snorted. ‘No you didn’t, mostly you took it off dead raiders.’

    ‘I paid for the other ammunition I shot the raiders with’ Coyle persisted, everyone pointedly choosing to ignore him. ‘Doesn’t anyone else see the inequity in it costing me money as well as time and effort to advance her education?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘I mean the ingratitude I could cope with, Lord knows I’m deeply unappreciated in my time, but...’

    ‘Give it up Cassidy’ Allison interrupted him, mid-whine. ‘Honestly, you’re like a child sometimes.’

    Coyle’s jaw dropped. ‘Am not!’ he denied, voice rising in pitch.

    When they eventually arrived at their destination Agatha turned out to be an old lady living in a house nestled in cliffs surrounded by rocks and only accessible via a rope bridge spanning a chasm. It was a very isolated location and highly defensible which helped make up for the fact she had a very tall and rather noticeable radio transmission tower in her front yard.

    Agatha’s husband had passed away some years before leaving her with the transmitter, some wonderful memories and a large quantity of arms and ammunition most of which she had sold off over the years, keeping his favourite scoped magnum revolver for sentimental reasons. To Coyle’s shock she was also the only sweet old lady he had ever met who kept her own nuclear deterrent in the form of a micro-nuke her husband had “put by for a rainy day”. She didn’t have a launcher for it but figured that threatening to “hit the damn thing with a hammer” if uninvited hostile guests ever intruded on her peaceful retirement would do the trick.

    Doc Hoff and the other merchants looked after Agatha, bringing her supplies and acting as company when they visited, making her feel less lonely. Sometimes as today they would camp there overnight too, fixing up a canvas lean-to tied to the transmitter outside, and sharing a meal with the old lady before she played them a tune on her violin.

    ‘I was expecting something more up-beat when she produced the fiddle’ Allison whispered to Coyle after Agatha finished playing a short piece from Bach, bowing to applause led by Doc Hoff.

    ‘You mean with harmonicas, a Jew’s harp and a washboard for accompaniment’ Coyle replied sardonically.

    ‘Thank you, you’re all too kind’ Agatha told them, beaming. ‘Any requests?’ she asked.

    ‘Something from Paganini perhaps?’ Coyle suggested, his own musical tastes were quite broad although they didn’t stretch to something you’d listen to while chowing down on roadkill marinated in moonshine like he suspected his girlfriend’s did.

    Agatha laughed. ‘Very well, you’ll forgive me for not attempting Caprice No. 24 now that I’m getting on in years though’ she said, starting to play a rather less demanding solo from his 5th Violin Concerto.

    ‘This is an oasis in a cultural desert’ Coyle declared when Agatha finished, applauding wildly.

    ‘I only wish my instrument was better’ Agatha responded apologetically after taking a bow. ‘If I had my great-great-grandmother’s Stradivarius I could do the music more justice but I’m afraid that with this pale imitation I can only render a shadow of the beauty of the composition’ she said.

    ‘Sounded pretty good to me’ Dreamer told her.

    ‘You’re sweet’ Agatha replied, smiling at her. ‘Would you like to hear anything Doctor Hoff?’ she asked the merchant. ‘It’s the least I can do after you brought me those delicious punga-fruit.’

    ‘Perhaps some Dvorak before we turn in?’ Hoff requested hopefully.

    Agatha brought her violin back up to her chin. ‘Always a man of such good taste’ he praised his choice before beginning.

    Later after the old lady had gone to bed Allison and Dreamer sat with Coyle by the rope bridge, Hoff and Pete having already bedded down for the night under the lean-to. ‘So people play that kind of music a lot where you come from?’ Allison queried, keeping her voice low so as not to disturb the sleepers not too far away.

    ‘Not really but there’s a symphony orchestra in Shady’ Coyle replied just as quietly. ‘Only part-time musicians of course, there’s not that much of a following for classical, but they’re not bad’ he said. ‘I went to an outdoor concert they held in the desert outside of town once’ he recalled. ‘Ended up slugging a guy that got drunk and thought it would be funny to heckle’ he added, wisely opting not to mention he had later ended up taking the guy’s hot-looking date back to the barracks where he was staying.

    ‘Do the stars move?’ Dreamer asked randomly.

    ‘What?’ Allison responded, surprised by the question.

    ‘The stars, they’re sorta in patterns’ Dreamer said, pointing up at a group of them. ‘Do they move?’ she asked again. ‘Think about it’ she said in annoyance when the other two looked at her nonplussed, ‘I grew up in a cave and my eyesight sucks without these glasses, just answer the question.’

    Coyle chuckled at her expression. ‘The constellations, the star patterns I mean, keep the same shape but they move together through the sky as the year progresses’ he told her. ‘Although it’s more the Earth moving around the sun rather than the stars moving that does it’ he noted. ‘That one there is Polaris, the North-Star, and that stays put’ he told her, pointing it out, ‘It’s useful for navigating by because it’s always...’

    ‘North, I get that’ Dreamer interrupted him.

    ‘The constellation it’s in is called Ursa Minor, that’s “Smaller Bear” in Latin’ Coyle translated. ‘The one next to it is Ursa Major, or the Great Bear’ he continued. ‘Some of the tribes in California regard them as being sacred because our flag is a two-headed bear’ he said. ‘For that matter tribes outside the NCR sometimes call us the “Bear People” and say our success in war comes from having such a powerful totem animal.’

    Dreamer stared at the constellations in question for a while. ‘They don’t look much like bears’ she said eventually.

    ‘You have to use your imagination but I agree, they don’t really’ Coyle replied, smiling. ‘You’re still pissed-off about the radscorpions aren’t you?’ he checked.

    ‘Yes’ Dreamer confirmed.

    ‘Thought you would be’ Coyle replied. ‘Shooting star, make a wish’ he said, pointing at a streak of light off to the west.

    ‘Sorry?’ Dreamer responded in confusion.

    ‘If you see a shooting star you make a wish and if you don’t tell anyone what you wished for it comes true’ Allison explained. ‘Or it’s supposed to anyway, I’ve made wishes on shooting stars that didn’t.’

    ‘Are you certain those were real shooting stars not just two-century old satellites from before the Great War re-entering the atmosphere?’ Coyle asked her.

    Allison frowned. ‘They do that?’

    ‘Sure, loads of crap still up there in gradually decaying orbits’ Coyle replied. ‘You can see them with telescopes’ he said.

    ‘So how do you tell if they’re real shooting stars not falling junk?’ Dreamer queried, pursing her lips.

    ‘Perhaps the test is whether or not the wish comes true or not’ Coyle suggested. ‘Still angry about the radscorpions?’ he checked again.

    ‘Yes, and stop asking’ Dreamer replied.

    ‘It’s getting late we should go to bed’ Allison decided.

    ‘Together?’ Coyle asked hopefully.

    ‘Yes but only because I’ll have to be there to stop you snoring and waking everyone up’ Allison told him.

    ‘So you’re both still angry about the radscorpions then?’ Coyle verified.

    ‘Yes’ they said together.

    Coyle sighed. ‘You’re not going to like the deathclaw wrestling when we move onto the next part of the curriculum’ he said glumly, getting up and heading back to where he’d put his bedroll.

    When she woke up the next morning Allison found that Coyle was missing although his backpack and rifles were still there. Where he’d got to was answered not long after when he appeared carrying the body of a large molerat over one shoulder and with his combat knife tied to what used to be the shaft of a garden rake in his other hand. ‘Heard a couple of them snuffling about nearby earlier’ he said. ‘I’ll just go collect the other one’ he continued, throwing the dead molerat down on the ground before heading back to the rope bridge.

    Allison looked at the animal, Coyle’s spear had gone right through its neck. ‘Planning a big breakfast?’

    ‘They’re mostly for Agatha’ Coyle replied. ‘Meat should keep a while, she’s got a generator and a working refrigerator’ he said. ‘Oh and when I get back with the other molerat I’ll need someone to come help me carry back the Yao Guai that was hunting them too.’

    ‘Yao Guai?’ Allison repeated.

    ‘Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you’ Coyle said, voice fading as he headed off with a distinct spring in his step. ‘Unless you’re one of the bear people that is in which case the bear is fucked regardless of what day it is.’

    Dreamer had been woken by the conversation. ‘What’s going on?’ she asked, sitting up yawning and stretching.

    ‘Cassidy’s been hunting’ Allison explained, indicating the molerat. ‘Do you want that or Yao Guai steaks for breakfast?’

    ‘Yao Guai’ Dreamer answered without hesitation, bear meat could be chewy but molerat didn’t digest too well.

    ‘Good, you just volunteered to help carry the thing’ Allison told her brightly. ‘I’ll get a fire going, heat up a flying pan and put on a coffee pot’ she said. ‘There’s cassina and chicory mix in Cassidy’s pack.’

    Dreamer yawned again. ‘And fresh brahmin milk to go in it too’ she noted, Doc Hoff’s pack animal being useful for more than carrying trade goods.

    ‘Did I hear someone say they were going to brew up some chicory?’ Pete asked, getting up himself. ‘Damn, we should bring a woman or two along all the time’ he said.

    ‘And you just volunteered to carve up the molerat’ Allison told him.

    As an intelligent man Doc Hoff was himself only pretending to still be asleep because that seemed to be the best way to avoid doing anything until breakfast was ready. Naturally he was stuck with washing everything up afterwards and was still bemoaning the fact he got bear-grease from the frying pan on his suit trousers when they bade farewell to Agatha and started out on the next leg of their journey.

    Heading almost due-west it was only a few miles to reach the outskirts of what had once been Germantown and although the road the caravan took only skirted the town everyone was on edge because of the known increase in Super-Mutant activity in the area.

    ‘At first there were only a few of them’ Doc Hoff recounted as they studied the area from afar as best they could. ‘Crow decided to take a closer look not all that long ago and said it looked like they were trying to bait scavengers into town by putting stuff on show that might draw them in’ he told Coyle. ‘Now it looks like they’re fortifying the whole place using the old police station as their headquarters’ he observed.

    ‘Baiting scavengers?’ Allison queried.

    Pete was looking around cautiously, his rifle shouldered and ready. ‘When Three Dog started warning folks to stay out of the Downtown DC ruins most were smart enough to take notice’ he said. ‘The Frankensteins probably couldn’t capture as many people as they needed any more so they started setting traps in other places using things like old computers that were still working and other valuable tech as cheese’ he continued. ‘Put the stuff on display and wait for some scavenger that’s not wary enough to bite.’

    Hoff nodded. ‘It only works a little while before word spreads to stay clear and then the Super-Mutants usually move on to somewhere else’ he said. ‘If they’ve decided to stay here long-term they must have a reason.’

    ‘We’re not all that far from Big Town’ Pete noted. ‘I’ve heard they’ve snatched people from there before, maybe they’ve just decided to take the whole damn population?’ he suggested.

    ‘Certainly easier than trying to take other places if they’re upping the ante like that’ Doc Hoff reasoned, thinking his bodyguard might have hit the nail on the head.

    ‘Big Town?’ Dreamer responded aghast. ‘You think they’re going to take everyone in Big Town?’

    ‘They’re only guessing’ Coyle told her. ‘I’m going to take a closer look, see how many of them there are and what they’re packing’ he said, taking off his backpack. ‘If I come running back making a lot of noise I’m being chased and you’d be doing me a big favour by shooting whatever is chasing me’ he added, checking his weapons.

    ‘I think I’ll tie the brahmin up behind that wall’ Hoff decided, indicating the remains of an old building.

    ‘It’ll be best if you set up a crossfire’ Coyle advised. ‘Stay low, keep quiet and most importantly be careful not to accidentally shoot me too’ he said, before starting to move off towards the centre of town, moving from cover-to-cover and keeping low himself.

    ‘You know he didn’t say anything about not deliberately shooting him’ Dreamer pointed out, finding a place to lie down where she could put down fire with her R91.

    ‘I think that was meant to be implicit’ Hoff told her, leading the brahmin away from the possible field of fire.

    Dreamer sighed. ‘You’re probably right’ she reluctantly agreed.

    Up ahead, using the scorched remains of timber-framed houses and collapsed concrete and brick buildings for cover Coyle started to hear the Super-Mutants talking and moving around before he spotted one. Sneaking around behind some sandbags and barricades he managed to get close enough to listen in on their conversations something that confirmed his suspicions that these things were generally less intelligent than their cousins in the west and that some of them had the IQ of an eggplant with special needs.

    ‘Wish I had big club like behemoth’ one remarked to another as Coyle listened in. ‘Smash everything’ it declared.

    ‘You dumb’ the other responded. ‘Rifle better than club’ it said.

    ‘Rifle not fun’ the first stated firmly.

    ‘Rifle kill more humans, killing humans is fun’ the second maintained.

    ‘Club not run out of bullets’ the first pointed out and Coyle could swear that the thing sounded smug at presenting such a great argument.

    ‘That true’ the second super-mutant conceded. ‘Me bored, when we go fetch puny humans to put in green stuff?’ it asked.

    ‘When told by big boss with beam gun’ the first replied. ‘Want to hear joke I make up?’ it asked. ‘Already told others, they laugh.’

    ‘Okay’ the other Super-Mutant agreed.

    ‘Knock knock’ the first began his joke.

    ‘Who there?’

    ‘Humans’

    ‘Humans who?’

    ‘Kill all humans!’ the comedy genius delivered the punch line to raucous laughter from the other.

    Coyle narrowed his eyes, even if he didn’t feel obliged to stop them killing or capturing anyone else they surely had to die for that travesty of a joke he decided, sneaking up behind them. Softly putting down his FN-FAL he drew both his Desert Eagle and his MP9 from their holsters and standing up placed the muzzles of both weapons against the backs of their heads.

    ‘Knock knock’ he said coldly.

    ‘Who’s there’ one of the Super-Mutants responded, confused.

    ‘The one’ Coyle replied.

    ‘The one who?’

    ‘The one who you don’t want to fuck with’ Coyle told it, pulling both triggers.


    ----------

    Note from the Author:

    Wheaton Armoury is an old military facility that the trade caravans pass. It's held by well-armed raiders and the bunker underneath is more than a little hot in radioactivity terms although there's a decent amount of weaponry to be found there.

    Violin virtuoso Agatha is looked after by the merchants and plays music for them. She has her own radio station which transmits classical pieces she plays, dedicating them to the merchants and others. One of the things her husband left her was a Mini-Nuke for a Fat Man shoulder-fired launcher. Agatha threatening to detonate the thing with a hammer as a last resort if raiders ever burst in on her just seemed a funny justification for her surviving so long alone!

    Germantown and its police station are heavily fortified and infested with Super-Mutants who operate from there in order to snatch people from Big Town. There are several tents outside the station and a computer out in the open which just shouldn't be there any more two centuries after WWIII. Having them set up as bait for unwary wasteland scavengers makes more sense.

    That was an actual Super-Mutant knock-knock joke from the game FO3 by the way. They need to die!
     
  12. Nology5890

    Nology5890 Where'd That 6th Toe Come From?

    419
    Nov 22, 2006
    Death to the muties! Good to see you back, Hotpoint.
     
  13. Big Danny K

    Big Danny K First time out of the vault

    74
    Sep 22, 2010
    When will you post the next episode?
     
  14. Hotpoint

    Hotpoint First time out of the vault

    39
    May 24, 2009
    The story continues...

    ----------

    NEW CALIFORNIA DREAMING - PART XXIII


    Germantown – Columbia Commonwealth – July 2277

    At point-blank range a long burst of 10mm from the MP9 in Coyle’s right hand turned the head of the super-mutant it was pressed against into a bloody mush of brains and skull fragments, job done. The single round of .44 from the Desert Eagle in the Ranger’s left hand however only staggered its own target, causing the hulking mutant to merely drop its rifle and collapse to its knees with a grunt of pain. ‘Hard head’ Coyle observed, pulling the trigger twice more in quick succession to finish it off.

    Based on his previous encounter with the things back in Seward Square Coyle had expected the rest of them would head straight towards the sound of gunfire, with little if any use of basic small unit tactics such as obtaining cover-fire before manoeuvre. Holstering his MP9 and pistol and quickly retrieving his FN-FAL he wasn’t at all surprised as another super-mutant charged in without waiting for support. It promptly took a .308 Winchester bullet in the throat mid-way through an enraged bellow then a second round on the chin which completely shattered its jaw rendering it unable to do justice to either its initial cry of rage or subsequent scream of agony.

    Coyle pulled the trigger a third time, the round from the battle-rifle impacting the FEV mutated human in the forehead, punching through the leather flying-helmet it was incongruously wearing then the thick skull behind. The sheer on the bullet caused it to tumble slightly and increase the damage it was causing as it kept going, eventually smashing its way out the back of the super-mutant’s head in a burst of gore.

    Already functionally brain dead, and with blood spurting from the hole in its throat, the super-mutant was still somehow on its feet and as yet hadn’t as yet even let go of its assault rifle. ‘Son-of-a-bitch is too dumb to know when it’s dead’ Coyle muttered before it finally fell sideways.

    More bellows and rapid heavy footsteps got Coyle’s mind back in the game, mouth twisting into a feral grin and a look in his eyes that would frankly have been downright disturbing to a feral ghoul if one had been present to observe it. Consciously Coyle knew that other, likely saner, people might have weighed up the situation and handled it a mite differently, in fact even the more rational part of his own mind was currently screaming at him to reason this through a little better, but you’ve got to be true to yourself right?

    It sounded like there were an awful lot of them though and judging by how tough the last three were if several turned up simultaneously the FN-FAL might not be able to put them down fast enough. Moreover they sounded like they coming from different directions and he really didn’t want to get surrounded, much better to retain the initiative. ‘Plan B’ Coyle said to himself putting aside his battle-rifle, ‘Apply more firepower to the situation and hit them head-on’ he decided, reaching behind him to take hold of the Gauss Rifle slung on his back.

    Coyle raised the weapon above his head. ‘Behold... Excalibur!’ he presented his M72 to the wasteland still grinning like a loon before putting his game face on and going on the attack.

    Not all that far away, still keeping low and out-of-sight but well within earshot, Allison had tried to stay calm as the initial sound of weapon’s fire indicated that her new boyfriend was once again tempting fate to kill him. Based on her own experiences of seeing him in action, and if even a fraction of his West-Coast war-stories were true, fate had failed miserably to keep up with Cassidy Nagor Coyle so far making Allison wonder if the bitch had just given up trying to kill him years ago and was now mostly going through the motions of making him look in mortal peril for the sake of appearances.

    ‘Shouldn’t we go help?’ Pete asked, not that he wanted to tangle with the things but he felt obliged by his conscience to ask the question at least.

    ‘If he wanted it he’d ask’ Allison replied evenly, trying to sound like she honestly believed her boyfriend actually knew what he was doing as opposed to just thinking and acting like he did.

    ‘What the hell is that?’ Dreamer exclaimed as an entirely new sound, a strangely pitched crack slightly reminiscent of a high-powered rifle at a distance but nevertheless distinct from the other gunfire made itself heard.

    ‘Gauss Rifle’ Allison said with certainty, unlike the others she had heard Coyle’s M72 being fired before. ‘Well if any of them are wearing armour that ain’t gonna be worth a bucket of warm piss now’ she continued, using a phrase of her Pa’s that he’d have likely whupped her good for repeating herself when she was growing up.

    Back at the Germantown Police station the Super-Mutant carrying an oversized sledge hammer and wearing clunky self-made metal armour had charged straight at the puny human as soon as it spotted him. Moving faster than any biped that large and densely muscular should be able to it sprinted towards the little man, bellowing at the top of its lungs as it raised the sledgehammer above its head ready to strike down the interloper.

    Coyle smoothly raised his M72 and pulled the trigger, the magnetic coils in his gauss rifle putting the first round in the chamber under immense acceleration. By the time the small calibre metal bolt left the barrel it was hypersonic, almost instantly traversing the distance between the muzzle and its target.

    Going straight through the crudely-shaped steel breastplate of the Super-Mutant with ease the 2mm EC projectile was nonetheless deformed just enough by penetrating the thick armour to increase the diameter of the hole it was creating in the flesh underneath. This in itself was not however the most critical damage it was creating en-route that being the accompanying hydrostatic shockwave before finally as a serendipitous coup-de-grace the hypervelocity slug went through the creature’s spinal column.

    Emerging back into daylight in a spray of blood the remaining momentum of the gauss rifle round saw it subsequently going through a brick wall some distance behind the FEV Mutation, and then putting an impressive crack in a concrete post some eighty yards beyond that. Meanwhile the inertia of the onrushing Super-Mutant meant that it actually almost reached Coyle in the end, albeit while sliding flat on its belly after crashing face-first to the ground. Paralysed, bleeding internally from ruptured organs and no longer much of a threat all things considered Coyle paid it little heed, there were plenty of other foes that needed the same treatment.

    When taking on multiple opponents Coyle had learned it pays to be very skilful, ideally very lucky and most importantly make sure to kill them in the right order. Quickly finding himself confronted with another four of the things after going on the offensive Coyle had first dispatched the one with the sledgehammer before it smashed his head in and then switched targets to the one in the middle-distance holding the rocket launcher.

    “Boom, headshot” Coyle thought to himself as he blew most of the bazooka-toting mutant’s brains out, ignoring the bullets heading his way from the others for now. Dropping to one knee for a more stable firing platform, and to reduce his own target profile, Coyle then took aim at the closest enemy still in the fight, this one also clad in improvised armour and spraying bullets full-auto from the Chinese Assault Rifle at its hip as it walked towards the Ranger, screaming in rage.

    Wishing that Dreamer could be watching this excellent demonstration of the principle that one round that hits is worth more than a whole magazine that doesn’t Coyle made another headshot and then swung his gauss-rifle around towards the final target in view.

    A bullet dinged off the side of Coyle’s helmet and broke his concentration as he looked down his gun-sights at the Super-Mutant emptying an R91 at him from a distance. ‘Asshole’ Coyle swore as another bullet now hit his combat armour just as he pulled the trigger on his M72, leaving a dent in the chest-plate and hurting enough to throw off his aim.

    Missing the mutant entirely the apparently wasted gauss-rifle round zinged off towards the horizon where some two miles away it would eventually blow a hole in what was likely the unluckiest Enclave Eyebot in the Capital Wasteland. This random loss of another valuable piece of machinery was used at a meeting at Adams Air Force Base the following day to help justify the continued development of a superior eyebot model, one protected by better armour as well as possessing superior armament for self-defence. Certain elements in the self-declared “Government of the United States” remained dubious of the program however and still regarding it as a misdirection of resources quietly waited for the opportunity to shelve it yet again.

    Magazine expended the Super-Mutant’s R91 fell silent. Before it could reload Coyle took careful aim, idly noting that this one was also wearing a flying helmet albeit with the goggles pulled down this time. Presumably they meant as some protection for the thing’s eyes the sharpshooter reasoned as he squeezed the trigger.

    ‘The goggles, they do nothing’ Coyle helpfully informed the now deceased mutant after putting a round through the left lens.

    Listening out for further trouble the NCR Ranger could still hear at least two more coming from behind and he moved position to lie prone behind the corpse of the Super-Mutant which had been carrying a sledgehammer. It made a handy substitute for sandbags when the last pair of brutish mutations appeared, blazing away with Chinese Assault Rifles before two well-placed shots in quick succession brought them down.

    Coyle got up and began to dust himself off, inspecting the dent in his body-armour with sigh before looking around smugly. ‘Okay Spirits, check it out’ he said. ‘Am I good or am I good?’ he asked his dead ancestors before starting to walk back towards where the girls were, intending to pick up his FN-FAL on the way. It had cost him some hard-to-come-by ammunition but the spoils-of-war should be worth a goodly amount of caps and anyway his inner egomaniac liked to show off his skills.

    Straight outta Junktown, crazy motherfucker named Coyle
    More muties I smoke my Rep gets bigger



    ‘Whoa, Big Hoss’ Coyle stopped singing when the largest Super-Mutant he had ever seen stepped out in front of him. ‘What, did someone dip a powerlifter?’ he asked incredulously, looking the thing up and down. It must have been at least half again as bulky as a regular super-mutant and the extra weight was clearly all lean muscle.

    With what looked to Coyle like one of the Tri-Beam Laser Rifles the Brotherhood sometimes carried held in its right hand, muzzle fortunately still pointing away from him, the oversized Super-Mutant noted the bodies of its fallen brethren and seemed pretty pissed about it judging by the expression on its face.

    Coyle looked it right in the eyes. ‘I know what you’re thinking’ he spoke up. ‘Did he fire twenty shots or only nineteen?’ he continued deadpan. ‘Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is an M72 Gauss Rifle, the most powerful coilgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?’

    Clearly the creature either felt lucky or was less than impressed by the threat because it bellowed and began to aim its Tri-Beam.

    With faster reactions Coyle snapped up the barrel of his Gauss-Rifle and fired first. One shot, right between the eyes.

    It just stood there frozen in place, a neat hole drilled in its forehead with blood starting to drip out of it and eyes glazing over. ‘Another one too dumb to know it’s dead’ Coyle decided, lowering his M72 and wondering if he was going to have to tip the corpse of the damn thing over.

    Then the Tri-Beam fired, just slightly misaimed, and Coyle screamed as two of the three parallel beams hit him just below the chest on the left side, the ablative properties of his combat-armour only able to absorb and carry away part of the energy before the flash-heated metal scorched the flesh beneath.

    Dropping his M72 Coyle fell sideways still screaming. Meanwhile the groggy but nevertheless still very much alive Super-Mutant tried to shake off the effects of being shot in the head and eyes-unfocused and blurry attempted to fire once again at the badly injured human that was now lying on the ground squirming in agony.

    Coyle’s inner voice pointed out that he really needed to fight back the pain or he was a dead man. How the hell anything could apparently shrug off a gauss-rifle hit to the head at short-range was a mystery that he very much wanted answered later but there wasn’t going to be a later for Cassidy N Coyle if he didn’t start moving.

    The Super-Mutant fired again just as Coyle rolled to the right, all three beams missing entirely. As the Ranger did so, and trying to ignore the extra pain the movement caused, he drew his Desert Eagle and unable to place his shots any better right now he aimed centre-mass and pulled the trigger over and over again as fast as he could.

    Judging by the reaction the Super-Mutant certainly didn’t exactly appreciate having the .44 magnum pistol fired into it repeatedly but if Coyle was hoping for more than just provoking another angry bellow he was greatly disappointed. The bullets had surely penetrated its thick hide, more blood was coming out, but they hadn’t gotten deep enough to hit any vital organs and the way their blood clotted to seal off injuries the flow would cease long before blood-loss was an issue.

    ‘Cassidy!’ a woman’s voice cried out, distracting the oversized mutant which turned to look where it was coming from.

    ‘No’ Coyle ground out as the thing turned. ‘Take the pain you fucking wimp’ he snarled at himself, forcing himself up off the ground, feeling areas of skin now melted to his armour being torn free by the movement. According to his nose he also smelled an awful lot like the hog-roast at his cousin’s wedding.

    Allison had started moving as soon as she heard Coyle scream, despite Dreamer and Pete yelling at her to come back she had started running in the direction of the Police Station chambering a round in her old hunting-rifle as she went.

    ‘Cassidy!’ she called out for him again before coming face to face with an angry Super-Mutant that was huge even by their standards and bleeding from multiple wounds. She shot it but it ignored the additional minor wound entirely and raised some kind of weapon at her she didn’t recognise.

    Behind the thing Coyle sprinted into view, armour blackened and smoking. He took a flying leap onto the Super-Mutant’s putting his left arm around its neck to hold on as he stuck the muzzle of his MP9 in its right ear and held down the trigger.

    ‘Oh shit’ Coyle swore, his moment of triumph abruptly ended when he realised which direction the now definitely deceased mutation was likely to fall with the extra weight hanging off its back.

    Allison watched wide-eyed as the huge mutant fell backwards, crashing to the ground on top of her boyfriend. ‘Oh God, are you okay?’ she said, running to him. ‘Say something!’ she implored.

    ‘Little help’ returned a muffled reply after what seemed like an eternity later. ‘You’ll need something to lever this thing off me like a metal pole’ Coyle managed to gasp out despite being pretty certain that to add to his previous laser-burns at least couple of his ribs were now broken.

    While Allison called for the others Coyle couldn’t help but contemplate his current situation, suspecting that this painful conclusion to what had been a very one-sided fight was his ancestor’s way of instructing him not to underestimate the local opposition and perhaps also teach him some badly needed humility. ‘Thanks for the lesson, consider it learned, but I think you overdid the negative reinforcement’ Coyle muttered from underneath at least half a ton of mutant.

    ‘Shit’ Coyle recognised Dreamer’s voice, she must have chased after Allison to already be there so quickly. ‘What the hell happened? Are you alright under there?’ she asked.

    Coyle thought about that. ‘I usually prefer being on top’ he replied, proud that his ability to snark was undimmed by mere agonising pain. ‘NOW WOULD YOU PLEASE GET THIS FUCKING THING OFF ME!’ he requested as politely as he felt was appropriate under the circumstances.

    Dreamer looked at the massive corpse pinning the Californian to the ground and frowned. ‘I think we’re going to need a lever’ she decided.

    ‘Good idea’ Coyle replied sarcastically. Why is everyone else always at least three pages behind he wondered?

    Half an hour later Coyle learned that he should have read further ahead himself, or rather asked more questions rather than assuming he already knew all the answers. ‘But I thought you said you knew all about Super-Mutants, I mean other than getting the eating people bit wrong?’ Allison asked him as Doc Hoff worked on Coyle’s injuries, the Ranger being propped up with his back against the side of an old house. It had taken two shots of Med-X before the pain was reduced enough to enable them to get his armour off and seeing the full state of the damage Hoff had then given him another one before injecting three stimpaks into his arm.

    ‘I never met one like that before in my entire life’ Coyle replied through gritted teeth, wincing as Hoff started wrapping a bandage around his torso.

    ‘I’ve seen a couple before’ Hoff told him. ‘Got a good look at one that a Brotherhood Paladin with a Gatling-Laser had taken out down near Rivet City’ he said. ‘They call them Overlords I think’ he recalled.

    ‘Fuckers just don’t get that big and tough back home’ Coyle responded, wincing again as Hoff continued to work. ‘I’ve shot holes in Power Armour with that rifle, blown the heads off deathclaws at five-hundred yards, but the son-of-a-bitch was barely fazed’ he said, still frankly astonished at his M72 not getting the job done.

    ‘I hate to tell you this but they get even bigger than that in these parts’ Hoff informed him. ‘The Brotherhood call the really big ones Behemoths, and they’re pushing twenty feet in height supposedly’ he said seriously. ‘The theory is that after a few years they start going through a second forced evolutionary change with Overlords being the intermediate stage.’

    ‘You’re kidding?’ Coyle responded incredulously.

    ‘I wish I was’ Hoff replied, finishing up. ‘I’m going to give you another couple of stimpaks to keep you going but to be honest you need a better qualified and experienced physician than me’ he said. ‘My title of “Doc” is more honorary than earned you understand.’

    Dreamer appeared cradling an armful of rifles. ‘Pete thinks he can blast open the door to the Police Station but if we’re going to be bringing all of these and that heavy-assed rocket launcher too I don’t think we can carry much more with us’ she said. ‘Chances are it was cleared out of loot by scavengers years ago anyway I’ll bet.’

    ‘She’s probably right and besides which it would slow us down if we overloaded ourselves and the pack brahmin’ Hoff agreed. ‘Trust me, it’s in your interests for us to reach Paradise Falls quickly before an infection sets in’ he advised.

    ‘The doctor you say is there is good?’ Allison checked.

    ‘Cutter?’ Hoff replied. ‘Yes, she’s very accomplished, probably as a result of plenty of practice treating abused slaves and digging bullets and shrapnel out of unlucky slavers’ he confirmed.

    ‘How is she with burns?’ Coyle inquired.

    Hoff smiled. ‘Another thing you’ll encounter in these parts is flamethrowers aplenty so I’d say she’s dealt with plenty of burn victims too’ he replied confidently. ‘Chances are you’re going to need at least a couple more shots of Med-X to get you there though so you might want to get your system flushed out by her too because otherwise you’ll likely be nursing the start of a serious painkiller addiction.’

    Coyle nodded, he didn’t want to end up a junkie. ‘What do I owe you for all the drugs anyway?’ he asked.

    ‘I’ll happily take that missile launcher and the rockets for it off your hands’ Hoff replied. ‘Even if I can’t sell to anyone else Lucky would love it’ he said. ‘I’ll even throw in some extra stimpaks and some radaway if Pete says it’s in good condition.’

    ‘Sounds fair’ Coyle agreed. ‘Can I get a hand up?’ he requested. ‘Oh yeah, gonna be sore in the morning’ he said, grimacing as Allison helped him rise. The Med-X took the edge off but he wasn’t so much burned as he was practically charred in places and even breathing was painful thanks to the cracked ribs. If he hadn’t been wearing the armour the beams that hit him would have killed him outright so he decided he should regard the burns as a reasonable price to pay for survival.

    ‘I can’t begin to imagine how much pain you must have been in when you ran and jumped on that thing’s back’ Hoff commented.

    ‘The adrenaline helped’ Coyle explained. ‘And it would have hurt a lot worse if I’d let it kill my girl’ he added sincerely. ‘Don’t you dare hug me right now’ he told Allison quickly who looked like she was about to.

    Allison giggled. She’d been so worried about him it was as much a release of tension as anything else. ‘I could kiss it better’ she offered. ‘You know I like my meat well done’ she couldn’t resist adding.

    ‘Hey can I have that fancy laser-rifle you were shot with?’ Dreamer asked hopefully.

    ‘No you damn well can’t’ Coyle replied curtly. ‘I earned that thing the hard way’ he said with conviction.

    Dreamer shrugged, she didn’t expect him to say yes. ‘You might want to grab one of these assault rifles for yourself if we’re going to Paradise Falls’ she advised Allison. ‘Look dangerous enough and they might not hassle you but if they think they can get away with it they’ll put a slave-collar around your neck and pimp you out to some scumbag before you can get so much as a shot off with that bolt-action.’

    ‘She’s probably right’ Doc Hoff concurred.

    ‘Of course I’m right, I’m speaking from fucking experience’ Dreamer stated coldly. ‘I’m going to clean my guns and load some extra magazines’ she said, turning on her heels and walking off.

    Allison adopted a wry smile. ‘You always take me out to such lovely places’ she remarked to her boyfriend.

    ‘Sorry but the closest place I know of that delivers is a Chinese Restaurant in San Francisco and the food would be cold by the time it got here even if the delivery guy wasn’t eaten by something himself on the way’ Coyle replied apologetically. ‘You should go talk to Dreamer, she’s starting to stress out’ he added, a great deal more seriously.

    ‘I know, are you sure you’re okay?’ Allison checked, she desperately wanted to fuss over him but didn’t think he’d appreciate it.

    ‘I don’t ever remember saying I was but I don’t think I’m going to imminently kick the bucket and she needs her hand held more than I do right now’ Coyle replied.

    While Allison talked to Dreamer and Doc Hoff helped Pete load the brahmin Coyle sat down on a concrete block and started to reappraise his thinking. Based on their outright stupidity he had dismissed the local Super-Mutants as a non-threat to the Republic until now but if the local bastards kept on mutating to more dangerous forms then eventually there might be an entire army of veritable walking tanks on the East Coast that might end up marching west.

    Most soldiers in the New California Republic Army weren’t armed with more than the standard-issue NCRA Service Rifle manufactured by the Gun-Runners and Coyle would frankly rather take a BB Gun up against a Yao Guai than a 5.56mm up against one of these “Overlords”. Even an anti-materiel rifle wasn’t going to drop one quickly, assuming they and their ammunition could even be produced quickly in sufficient quantity which was far from certain. After all, the reason why the Service Rifle was even introduced was because arming the whole of the NCRA with the more expensive FN-FAL and its pricier 7.62mm ammunition was considered too expensive even with the Republic on a war footing.

    He was thousands of miles away from NCR support, hell the only capable military formation out here that could put up a fight was already in retreat and they were an enemy of the Republic anyway.

    Coyle squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again pushing any negative thoughts from his mind. ‘Just have to beat them myself’ he decided, wondering how he was going to manage that but not doubting for a moment that he could. ‘Rookie mistake based on lack of Intel’ he said, looking down at his bandages. ‘Next time I’ll just have to remember to keep shooting until they fall down’ he told himself. ‘No more assumptions that just because I know the rules back home I know them here and no more goofing off’ he continued, getting up off his seat ‘I am a professional soldier, a Ranger in the service of the New California Republic and a warrior of the Holy Thirteen’ he declared loudly. ‘I am not here on vacation I am here to do a fucking job and I will get it done!’ he vowed.

    Dreamer and Allison stopped talking to each other, turned and looked at him. ‘He’s talking to himself. I think Hoff overdid the drugs’ Dreamer observed.

    ‘Could be worse’ Allison replied with a shrug, ‘at least he’s not singing.’


    ----------

    Note from the Author:

    The Super-Mutant Overlord of the Capital Wasteland is not something you see on the West Coast. The strain of FEV found in Vault 87 seems to not only result in generally less intelligent mutants it also keeps evolving them into even stronger forms.

    Never having encountered a Super-Mutant which was so much stronger than the ones he already knew of Coyle assumed incorrectly that an M72 Gauss Rifle round to the head was a sure-fire one-shot kill, in this he was sorely mistaken. In game terms Overlords have over three times the hit-points of their strongest West-Coast cousins, fortunately they don't come at you in groups!

    Tri-Beam Laser Rifles are often carried by Overlords. Coyle would be familiar with them because they're carried by the Mojave Brotherhood of Steel. They cause a great deal of damage.
    [/i]
     
  15. Hotpoint

    Hotpoint First time out of the vault

    39
    May 24, 2009
    New California Dreaming - Part XXIV

    The story continues...

    ----------

    NEW CALIFORNIA DREAMING - PART XXIV


    Paradise Falls – Columbia Commonwealth – July 2277

    ‘So I’m really hoping that thing there isn’t one of those “Behemoths” you were talking about before’ Coyle remarked to Doc Hoff as they cleared the summit of the last hill before their destination and the slaver settlement of Paradise Falls came into view. It hadn’t been a particularly pleasant hike to get there from Germantown, even with the assistance of some more Med-X, but it took more than being fried extra-crispy to completely stop the Ranger’s wisecracking.

    Hoff chuckled. ‘They’re not that big and they don’t usually carry ice-cream cones the size of a dumpster’ he replied as they looked down at the brightly painted, multi-story-tall metal statue of a man which towered over the rest of what had once been a pre-war strip mall.

    ‘Just wanted to be certain because if it was I was thinking about heading back to Agatha’s place to see if I could swap a few rifles for her mini-nuke’ Coyle told him.

    ‘I doubt many would object to those particular buildings which survived the Great War being incinerated by atomic fire’ Doc Hoff opined.

    Coyle gave him a knowing look. ‘Aren’t they your customers, and the cornerstone of the local economy for that matter?’ he pointed out.

    ‘Doesn’t mean I have to like them’ Hoff replied, turning back towards one of Coyle’s companions. ‘Is she going to be okay with this?’ he asked quietly, indicating Dreamer. ‘She doesn’t exactly look overjoyed to be here’ he noted, the former slave having now gone extremely pale and seemingly almost transfixed by the sight of the slaver encampment ahead.

    ‘Girl’s got more issues than Lad’s Life’ Coyle muttered to himself. ‘Dreamer you know the rules about only having psychological breakdowns on your own time’ he said loudly, breaking her out of her trance.

    Dreamer blinked. ‘What?’ she responded, transferring her gaze from Paradise Falls to the NCR Ranger.

    ‘The flashbacks you’re having about the last time you were here aren’t productive’ Coyle told her flatly. ‘You need to be focused and clear-headed or you’ll get us all killed.’

    ‘How did you know what I was thinking about?’ Dreamer wanted to know.

    ‘Because I bet I’d have pretty much the same expression on my face if someone dragged me back to Helios One’ Coyle replied evenly. ‘Long story with a lot of good soldiers from both sides getting killed in it’ he responded to a quizzical look he had received from Allison. ‘Ask me about Operation Sunburst and our casualty rates for it some time’ he told her, shaking off an unpleasant memory of his own.

    ‘I’ll be alright in a minute’ Dreamer promised. ‘Just hit me harder than expected seeing that shit-hole again, especially now I can see it clearly at a distance’ she added, tapping her glasses.

    ‘When we get down there I want you locked, loaded and with your game-face on’ Coyle ordered. ‘Both of you’ he continued, looking from Dreamer to Allison. ‘You might want to wear these’ he suggested, taking off his sunglasses and passing them to his girlfriend. Added to the combat helmet she had on and with a Chinese Assault Rifle cradled in her arms she might look dangerous enough to counter the fact she was young and pretty enough to be worth plenty of caps.

    ‘What about Dreamer?’ Allison asked, putting on the shades.

    ‘If you want my opinion that combat shotgun she’s carrying, and her looking daggers at every slaver son-of-a-bitch in sight, should be enough to warn them off trying something’ Pete the caravan guard chipped in.

    ‘Good point’ Coyle agreed. ‘If you are going to dwell in the past make sure to look monumentally pissed-off at them not scared’ he told Dreamer. ‘And for what it’s worth aiming the barrel on that thing low, like you’re planning the messiest piece of gender-realignment surgery in history, will make for a very effective threat if you need one of the fuckers to back-off’ he advised.

    Dreamer took a look at her shotgun and smiled evilly. ‘I like that idea’ she decided.

    ‘I could have done without the mental image myself’ Pete commented, grimacing.

    By the time they got down to Paradise Falls and made their way around the side of the settlement to where the entrance was Dreamer had managed to suppress most of her worst recollections of the place and get her breathing back under control. A short spell of nervous hyperventilating as they got within a couple of hundred yards of the place had made her head swim and Doc Hoff had been looking in his stuff for a bag for her to breathe into before Allison taking her hand to steady her had done the trick instead.

    ‘She’s not ready for this’ Hoff told Coyle seriously as they neared the entrance to Paradise Falls, two bored-looking slavers with assault rifles guarding the way through.

    ‘Statistically the best cure for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is being sent back into action’ Coyle responded. ‘Also we’re a long way from the closest shrink even if we had the time to get her counselling’ he added wryly.

    ‘This isn’t a war’ Hoff countered.

    ‘Yes it is’ Coyle curtly disagreed. ‘It’s the war that never ends’ he contended, ‘civilisation against barbarism’ he explained his thinking. ‘You’d better go talk to the barbarians at that gate ahead too’ he added, chuckling at his own attempt at wit despite the pain it caused.

    Hoff nodded and striding ahead of the rest of the party whose pace was set by the lumbering pack- brahmin he went to meet the slaver guards. ‘Grouse’ he greeted the one in charge of the gate who acknowledged him with a cursory nod of his own.

    ‘Who’s that with you Doc?’ the other slaver stood with the one called Grouse queried, his R91 brandished for effect.

    ‘Let them tag along with me on the last stretch of my route past Germantown for mutual protection’ Hoff replied. ‘I suppose you know about the Super-Mutants there?’

    ‘We heard’ Grouse confirmed. ‘Guess you tangled with them?’ he reasoned, noticing as they approached that one of the strangers with Hoff looked injured, stripped to the waist with bandages wrapped around his torso.

    ‘We did unfortunately’ Hoff replied.

    ‘Lose anyone?’ Grouse queried. He didn’t really care too much either way had but the conversation killed some time at least.

    ‘Fortunately not but my friend there got lasered-up badly enough that I think he’ll need some time with Cutter’ Hoff responded.

    Grouse shook his head. ‘You know the rules’ he said. ‘Nobody gets into Paradise Falls unless they’re slavers or selling slaves.’

    ‘Or unless they’re trading’ Hoff reminded him.

    ‘That gets you access because we need the drugs and medical supplies, it don’t cover any hangers-on’ Grouse stated firmly before spitting on the ground for effect. ‘That rule’s been in place since my Dad ran this town and Jones was smart enough to keep it.’

    Hoff smiled knowingly. ‘Not that you’re averse to bending that rule if someone slips some caps your way’ he noted.

    ‘That just counts as another kind of trading, as in favours not stimpaks’ Grouse replied, unmoved by the argument.

    ‘I’ve got guns to trade’ Coyle interjected having gotten close enough by now to join in the conversation.

    Grouse smirked. ‘Which would get you Pronto’s interest not mine’ he told the stranger. ‘Where’s my percentage?’ he wanted to know.

    ‘How about an assault rifle, one that’s in better condition than the one I see you with now?’ Coyle offered.

    The slaver shook his head. ‘It’s a buyer’s market thanks to those bandages’ he replied. ‘What else can you throw in to sweeten the deal?’ he asked. ‘I’m thinking ammo’ he added, looking like he had his heart firmly set on it.

    ‘Come on dude, I’m hurting enough already’ Coyle replied. ‘Why hit my wallet too?’

    ‘Because I can’ Grouse replied, smirking again. The only good thing about being stuck with the job of guarding the gate by Eulogy Jones was the opportunity to make a little something on the side.

    Coyle groaned for effect, with the pain in his torso it wasn’t completely feigned though. ‘I’ll throw in a full magazine’ he improved his bribe.

    ‘Three’ Grouse responded. ‘Two for me and one more for my friend’ he said, indicating the other slaver guard with him. ‘Gotta share the wealth’ he said, knowing that was his father’s failure to do so that allowed Eulogy Jones to kill him and take over the reins of leadership without much opposition vocal or otherwise.

    ‘If I didn’t need to see your sawbones this bad I’d walk away’ Coyle complained. ‘As it is though, you’ve got a deal’ he reluctantly agreed before heading back to the brahmin to pick out one of the rifles he had taken from the Super-Mutants at Germantown.

    ‘You going in too Doc?’ Grouse asked Hoff. Sometimes the trader went into the settlement to deal with Pronto and Eulogy directly, other times slavers came out to him if they wanted to barter for what he had to offer.

    ‘I will this time’ Hoff replied. ‘Pete will stay out here with the brahmin.’

    ‘What about the pussy, they staying out here as well?’ Grouse inquired, looking over the two women that were with the caravan with interest. The one in the tight leather outfit that showed some skin might benefit from gaining a few pounds but what was on show was still worth further investigation to his mind.

    ‘Luckily for you no because we’d eat you alive’ the other girl, the one wearing glasses with the combat shotgun in her hands and an R91 slung on her back responded coldly, her tone breaking Grouse’s increasingly lascivious train of thought.

    ‘He looks like something you’d leave on the side of the plate to me’ the one in the leather outfit toting the Chinese Assault Rifle and with a 10mm holstered on her hip commented disparagingly, looking back at Grouse with an expression of distain her sunglasses failed to disguise. ‘All gristle, no meat’ she continued. ‘At least not where it counts I’d bet’ she added.

    Grouse laughed, very unusually for him because he had earned his nickname from always being so miserable. Constantly bitter and complaining at everything because he hadn’t inherited the top job which he thought should be his by right it was an apt nickname. ‘When a woman talked that way to my daddy he’d usually end up eating her for real’ he responded in amusement. ‘Maybe I should follow his example?’ he suggested, taking a step towards them.

    ‘You could try but then you’ll never have any kids that’ll say what their daddy used to do’ Dreamer told him, swinging her combat shotgun around so the muzzle was pointed at his groin. It was just as much fun to do as she’d thought it would be, contemplating pulling the trigger for a moment before common-sense prevailed.

    Turning to Doc Hoff Grouse laughed again. Twice in one day the trader thought to himself, had to be a record he decided. ‘I can see why you decided to travel with them for protection’ Grouse remarked to the merchant, clearly entertained by the exchange. ‘You can put the rifle and the magazines down there on those sandbags’ he told Coyle. ‘If they’re crap when I check them you won’t get back out of Paradise Falls alive.’

    Dreamer surreptitiously looked Grouse up and down. The bastard didn’t seem to recognise her, why would he given that she had been just one of likely thousands of slaves he had met over the years? She sure-as-hell remembered him though, the man who had first put a slave collar around her neck after other bastards had dragged her to Paradise Falls in chains wasn’t likely to be soon forgotten.
    He didn’t seem remotely as frightening here in the flesh than he was in her teenage memories however. Now she suspected he was nothing but just another blowhard asshole with a gun, some lazy schmuck looking to make some easy caps either by extortion or trading in people that wouldn’t put up enough of a fight to make it risky.

    ‘Rifle looks okay’ the other slaver informed Grouse, inspecting the one that Coyle had just placed on the sandbag in front of him. ‘We letting them through?’ he checked.

    ‘Yeah’ Grouse confirmed. ‘Just make sure they all behave themselves in there Doc’ he instructed the trader. ‘I don’t want Eulogy giving me shit because I did you a favour letting you vouch for these strangers.’

    ‘It’s not really a favour to me letting them in if you charge admission Grouse’ Doc Hoff wryly observed. For his part Coyle was just making a mental note to head back this way before going home and be the last thing the slaver asshole never saw before his head got blown off. ‘I know it’s not gallant to get you to carry in the guns we’re trading but I can’t carry much of a load at the moment’ he then apologised to Allison and Dreamer.

    ‘Just as long as we get our percentage of the profit’ Dreamer replied.

    Coyle narrowed his eyes and swore under his breath. ‘Why is everyone trying to kill or fleece me today?’ he muttered.

    ‘Maybe you deserve it for past sins?’ Hoff suggested, only half in jest. ‘Or perhaps future ones’ he added.

    ‘I’ll atone’ Coyle replied, momentarily looking towards Grouse and the other slaver again. With my FN-FAL as a 7.62x51mm flaming sword of justice he thought to himself.

    Once they got inside, Hoff exchanging greetings with a few of the other slavers he had traded with over the years, the travelling merchant led Coyle and his companions to the local clinic. He pushed open the front door after knocking politely. ‘You two had better wait out here with the guns, I’ll be back in a minute’ Hoff advised Allison and Dreamer before stepping inside with Coyle. ‘Are you around Cutter?’ he asked loudly.

    ‘Where else would I be?’ a prematurely grey-haired woman responded, emerging from a back room. ‘Customer for me Doc?’ she inquired, noting that the stranger with the merchant was bandaged up.

    Hoff nodded. ‘Friend of mine’ he responded. ‘Laser burns’ he added.

    ‘If you’ve got the caps to cover my fee take off your guns, sit your ass up on the bed there and I’ll take a look’ Cutter told Coyle. ‘Brotherhood trouble?’ she queried of Hoff as her new patient made his way over to the clinic’s portable operating table. It had been salvaged from an old hospital like most of Cutter’s equipment but at least it looked clean enough Coyle decided as he unbuckled his gun belt and hung up his MP9 and Desert Eagle within reach, placing a rolled up t-shirt next to them to wear later.

    ‘No’ Hoff replied. It was a reasonable question given that the Brotherhood of Steel were the group that most typically carried directed-energy weapons in the region.

    ‘Better have not been Talon Company that shot him up then’ Cutter said, they being the next most likely candidates to be toting lasers. ‘Eulogy is trying to get on their good side and he’d be pissed if he found out I patched up someone they tangled with’ she noted, putting on a pair of examination gloves.

    ‘It was a Super-Mutant that lit me up’ Coyle informed her.

    ‘We ran into them over at Germantown’ Hoff confirmed.

    Cutter raised her eyebrows. ‘Surprised you ran into them and lived’ she remarked.

    ‘Almost didn’t’ Coyle replied. ‘Combat armour kept me alive but the Tri-Beam Laser Rifle I was hit with heated it up so much it scorched the hide off me’ he continued. ‘I’ve injected a couple of stimpaks and a few Med-X to keep me mobile but I really need proper treatment.’

    ‘I’d better give you another hit before I take off those bandages because that’s really going to goddamn hurt, just to warn you’ Cutter replied. ‘I’ll add the cost of it to your bill.’

    ‘When you’ve finished with the burns do me a favour and flush the rest of that chemical shit out of me, I don’t want to end up a junkie’ Coyle requested. ‘Might as well get rid of any radiation I’ve picked up as well.’

    ‘No problem, but the deluxe service isn’t cheap’ Cutter warned him.

    ‘What use is a healthy bank balance without a healthy body?’ Coyle asked rhetorically. ‘Like my daddy always said to me, “you can’t put price on good health son”.’

    ‘I beg to differ’ Cutter replied, pointing towards a piece of paper stuck to the wall that priced her various services from X-Rays to tetanus shots.

    Coyle frowned at the charges then sighed with resignation as he was in no position to haggle. ‘You’d better get a good price for the rest of the guns I’ve got to trade or I might have to ask the guy that runs this place for a job’ he told Hoff.

    ‘I’ll go talk to Pronto now’ Hoff replied. ‘I’d rather not watch this anyway’ he continued. ‘Or smell it again for that matter’ he added, turning to leave.

    ‘I guess there’s no market for charred human flesh scented colognes’ Coyle reasoned as Cutter started to work, giving him another shot of Med-X before unwrapping his bandages.

    ‘I bet you could sell some over at Andale’ Cutter replied, reaching for some surgical scissors.

    Walking across the compound Allison considered that one advantage to carrying a heap of rifles in your arms when walking in the direction of the local arms dealer was that nobody felt the need to ask what you were doing there. This suited her fine since she felt no inclination to talk to any of the slavers that resided here and hoped that her visit was as brief as possible.

    Allison’s father had warned her about Paradise Falls many times when she was growing up. In fact the widely travelled Jack “Jackalope” Brenner had occasionally told his children a story, perhaps embellished, about having barely escaped capture by the infamous “Black Widow” Penelope Chase who ruled over the slavers three decades ago. To say it felt eerie to be here in person as a result was therefore an understatement although at least she didn’t have Dreamer’s understandably horrible memories of the place and unlike the former slave she wasn’t always casting her gaze towards the other end of the old strip mall where the cages were.

    ‘I thought it was only Harith that traded guns to us?’ a young man wearing metal armour and with shaggy blond hair asked as they walked past him, the slaver having given Allison an unsubtle and appreciative look up and down before addressing Hoff. He was in his early twenties and handsome enough that in other circumstances Allison might have been pleased with the attention but right now she would have much preferred to be unnoticed. ‘That’s what my father says’ the slaver added in a manner that indicated he regarded his father’s pronouncements as if they were akin the Word of God.

    ‘This is the exception that makes the rule’ Hoff replied.

    The slaver looked confused but decided not to press the matter further as an older man calling out his name attracted his attention. ‘My father needs me’ he said, hurrying away.

    ‘Give Ymir my best wishes Jotun’ Hoff called after the slaver. ‘The mutfruit never falls far from the tree’ he continued far more quietly so that only Allison and Dreamer could hear, ‘they’re both assholes’ he said.

    The “Lock and Load” was the only store in Paradise Falls and as the name suggested mainly dealt with the sale of guns and armour, although the inventory generally left much to be desired and business wasn’t ever that good. The owner and storekeeper Pronto had often complained previously about his lack of stock to the visiting merchants from Canterbury Commons which was why Doc Hoff was unsurprised at the warmness of the welcome when he entered and his female companions dumped a pile of rifles on the counter to trade. ‘This is going to clean me out Doc’ Pronto said, grinning as he worked out what his mark-up would be selling them on.

    Hoff looked professional. ‘You can have the Hunting Rifles for the same as you pay Lucky, and I know what that is, but I want at least a hundred and seventy-five caps each for the R91’s’ he replied. ‘They’re all in half-decent condition, no rust on the internals and the rifling isn’t worn out.’

    Pronto winced, that was more than he was planning to pay and would cut down his profit margin considerably. ‘I’ll go to a hundred and fifty’ he offered.

    ‘No deal’ Hoff told him flatly. ‘Pick them back up, we’ll sell at Evergreen Mills’ he told Dreamer and Allison who played along starting to gather up the hardware again.

    ‘Have a heart Doc, you’re killing me here’ Pronto responded.

    Hoff sighed. ‘Tell you what’ he said. ‘I’ll drop it to one hundred and sixty-five if you can do Lucky and me a favour’ he requested.

    ‘What kind of favour?’ Pronto queried, frowning.

    ‘There’s a Merc outfit which asked Lucky to source them some Chinese Assault Rifles but he’s not finding it easy to come up with the number they want’ Hoff replied. ‘If you could pass word around and collect a few for us then we’ll add you to our preferred customer list.’

    ‘Same deal as Flak and Shrapnel get?’ Pronto checked, he knew his more successful arms-dealing rivals at Rivet City got a much better deal from the Canterbury Merchants than he did.

    ‘Same deal’ Hoff confirmed.

    ‘Okay sure, one-sixty-five per and I’ll see if I can get hold of those rifles’ Pronto agreed. ‘How many are you after?’ he asked.

    ‘Twenty should do it’ Hoff told him.

    ‘Twenty?’ Pronto repeated, aghast. ‘That’s a big ask Doc’ he pointed out.

    ‘It’ll be worth it to you’ Hoff promised.

    Pronto pursed his lips. ‘Shit, all I can do is try I guess’ he said then laughed. ‘Maybe some schmuck will walk in one day I can talk into collecting them for me’ he suggested, doubting it would possibly be that easy. ‘Don’t suppose you’ve got ammo to sell too?’ he asked. ‘The shipment from The Pitt was supposed to arrive last week but we got word that it got held up and won’t be here until the day after tomorrow’ he said. ‘If I had a few hundred rounds right now I could overcharge like crazy.’

    ‘Sorry, no bullets to spare’ Hoff apologised. If the slavers were suffering a temporary ammunition shortage then that would explain why Grouse wanted the extra magazines thrown in earlier so much before allowing entry to Paradise Falls he realised.

    ‘Pity’ Pronto responded. It had been worth asking at least he thought. ‘I heard Eulogy is pretty pissed about it’ he said, shaking his head. ‘Evergreen Falls always want us to pay at least fifty percent in ammo for the slaves we buy from them and we can’t send a crew south to collect the next batch until we’ve got the bullets to cover the bill.’

    Hoff scratched his nose. ‘My trade-route doesn’t go straight from here to Evergreen Mills so hopefully your guys will overtake me and I’ll arrive in time for the Raider’s to splash out the fifty percent they do take in caps in buying chems from the Good Doctor’s magic bag.’

    ‘Here’s hoping’ Pronto agreed. ‘Got to say’ he continued, deciding to change the subject. ‘The new bodyguards you’re travelling with are a darn-sight easier on the eye than Pete was’ he said. ‘Love a girl in glasses’ he added, winking at Dreamer.

    ‘Pete’s waiting outside the gates, these two are just temporary hires’ Hoff explained.

    ‘Yeah?’ Pronto responded, intrigued by this piece of information. ‘Interested in coming to work for me?’ he asked Dreamer.

    ‘No’ Dreamer replied flatly.

    ‘Me neither before you ask’ Allison added for her part.

    ‘Shame’ Pronto said regretfully. ‘Don’t suppose I could offer you all a drink?’ he asked, his attention still fixed on Dreamer. ‘Whiskey?’ he suggested, smiling.

    ‘Water, hold the radiation’ Dreamer requested. Coyle would be a while getting patched up and she was a little thirsty.

    ‘Cute and a cheap date too’ Pronto observed, ‘where have you been all my life?’ he asked rhetorically, trying his best to be charming.

    Dreamer rolled her eyes. ‘Avoiding you’ she told him.

    After chatting to Pronto for another half an hour or so Doc Hoff gave his apologies and said he should really check up on Pete and see if anyone else wanted to trade. Although drug-use wasn’t near as endemic amongst the slavers as it was raider groups there were still a few “repeat customers” as Hoff liked to style junkies. Eulogy Jones tolerated them as long as they didn’t let their habits interfere with their jobs but if they did then at best they’d shot or at worst find themselves on the inside of one of the cages being sold to make up for the losses incurred by their sloppy work.

    Allison and Dreamer managed to put up with Pronto and his increasingly desperate passes at the latter for another ten minutes before they decided to escape too and go see how Coyle was doing. If Cutter knew her trade as well as Hoff maintained, and her stock of the pre-war pharmaceuticals included a few of the various wonder-drugs which had been developed before the Great War, it shouldn’t take too long to fix him up even if he would still likely move stiffly for a while and be sore as hell.

    They had barely gotten ten yards out of the Lock and Load when their path to the Clinic across the compound was blocked by a stern looking woman with a raider-like hairstyle and disturbingly cold eyes. Dreamer recognised her and inwardly flinched, Carolina Red was a psychotic bitch who had liked to torture slaves who didn’t sell for entertainment adopting the hobby from her equally disturbed father.

    ‘You’re the one Jotun was talking about’ the slaver confronted Allison. ‘Stay away from what’s mine or I’ll pluck out your eyes and make you eat them’ she threatened, entirely too convincingly for comfort.

    Allison had no idea how to react or what to say, it was all she could do to stand her ground and try not to look as frightened as she felt.

    ‘Look we’re just here to trade we don’t want trouble’ Dreamer spoke up. If it had been any other slaver she might have threatened right back as a show of strength but that wasn’t the right approach with an outright lunatic. It was much better to try and calm things down than escalate the situation into the violence which Carolina Red practically lived for.

    ‘What’s the matter?’ the slaver asked Allison, ignoring Dreamer. ‘Can’t talk for yourself or fight your own battles?’ she added as a number of other slavers started to gather around to watch. None of them particularly liked Red but they wouldn’t mind watching a good cat-fight.

    ‘Take a hike before I pistol-whip you’ Allison told the slaver as forcefully as she could, remembering Coyle using the line once.

    Carolina Red cocked her head to one side then reached out took off Allison’s sunglasses and tossed them away backwards behind her, not bothering to look where they landed. ‘What are you going to do now slut?’ the slaver asked, smirking.

    Allison looked past her over her shoulder. ‘Nice catch boss but you can take your other hand off your gun’ he said. ‘I can handle this’ she added confidently.

    The slaver blinked then span around expecting to see the guy in bandages she knew had arrived with the pair. Instead she only saw the sunglasses lying in the dirt. ‘Shit’ she groaned realising she had been suckered just before an automatic pistol being held like a hammer impacted the back of her skull and she dropped to the ground like a sack full of fission batteries.

    Allison looked around at her audience. ‘I did warn her’ she pointed out, holstering her pistol just as the rest of the slavers burst out laughing. Jotun might have felt the need to do something, he was practically the only resident of Paradise Falls slaver or slave that didn’t dislike Carolina Red to one degree or another, but seeing that his father Ymir had joined in the laughter too he held his ground.

    ‘If she doesn’t wake up in an hour you’d better drag her to the clinic’ Allison said, reaching into a pocket and scattering a few caps on top of the unconscious Carolina. ‘That’ll cover part of the bill.’

    One of the other slavers picked up the discarded sunglasses and brought them over. He was clad in expensive combat armour rather than the cheaper gear most of his compatriots wore and the others got out of his way when he walked over to Allison indicating he had some authority. ‘Not seen you here before’ he noted, handing over the sunglasses. ‘Mercs?’ he queried.

    ‘Yep’ Dreamer told him as Allison put the shades back on. ‘Our boss was travelling with Doc Hoff when he got shot up’ she said. ‘He’s in the clinic, we had business in the store.’

    ‘I’d say you were too young and pretty but people have thought the same thing about Eulogy’s right up until they were gutted by them’ the slaver commented. ‘I’m Forty’ he introduced himself.

    ‘You should have paid more attention to your skin-care then because you look at least fifty’ a voice interrupted him from behind. It had an accent which reminded the slaver of one of the older members of the Brotherhood of Steel he’d encountered over the years.

    ‘Hey Boss’ Dreamer greeted the man as Forty turned to face him.

    ‘I hope you two haven’t been getting into trouble without me to keep you in line’ Coyle said, walking towards them from the clinic. He was wearing his “Kowabunga Tribe” T-Shirt and looked and moved a great deal better than he did earlier. ‘I heard the commotion inside and I just knew it would be you at the heart of it’ he chided.

    ‘We didn’t start shit Boss’ Dreamer defended herself.

    ‘Finished it though’ Allison added, indicating the comatose figure sprawled on the ground.

    ‘I can’t take you anywhere, it’s like fucking Helltown all over again’ Coyle muttered.

    ‘That wasn’t our fault at Helltown’ Allison retorted, playing along.

    ‘Don’t try feeding me that crap, you weren’t the one that had to wash that poor fucker’s brains out of your hair’ Coyle complained. ‘You know I was being serious about the skin-care Dude’ he told the slaver wearing combat armour.

    ‘Forty isn’t my age, it’s my name’ the slaver growled at the newcomer.

    ‘Lots of brothers and sisters and a father that ran out of ideas for what to call the next kid?’ Coyle theorised.

    ‘Its how many men I’ve killed’ Forty informed him angrily. ‘Not counting slaves.’

    Coyle frowned. ‘Okay, but isn’t it inconvenient having to keep changing your personal stationary every time you kill someone?’ he inquired. ‘Seems like a pain in the ass to me’ he observed. ‘I guess that’s the reason you’ve only ever killed forty men right, to save on replacement business cards?’ he suggested.

    ‘What do you mean only?’ Forty responded tersely. ‘How many people have you killed?’

    ‘I stopped counting at two-hundred and fifty’ Coyle replied. ‘It seemed crass keeping a tally after that point’ he explained. ‘Also people had already started calling me the Lord of Death and who the hell would want that?’ he asked rhetorically.

    Forty snorted in derision. ‘Brahmin-shit’ he responded to the outlandish claim.

    ‘Fortunately I’m way past the point in my life where I give a shit about whether a man that admits he’s only killed forty men takes me at my word or not’ Coyle told him. ‘Did you get a good price for the guns?’ he asked Allison.

    ‘Yeah’ Allison confirmed.

    ‘Good, paying my medical bill almost cleaned me out’ Coyle replied. ‘Let’s go.’

    ‘I wasn’t finished talking to you’ Forty told Coyle who had started to turn away.

    ‘Hey hanging with the cool kids might do wonders for your rep but it’s not doing mine any favours’ Coyle replied sarcastically.

    Now practically enraged at being talked to that way Forty reached for the Chinese Assault Rifle slung on his back but his hand had barely got a third the way to the grip when he found himself with the gaping maw of a Desert Eagle .44 Magnum aimed right between his eyes. ‘Crap’ was all he could muster as looked from the muzzle of the weapon to the amused expression on the face of the man holding the thing.

    ‘They also call me the Fastest Gun on the West Coast’ Coyle informed him. ‘Think I’m talking brahmin-shit about that nom de guerre as well?’ he asked seriously. ‘It means name-of-war’ he translated, correctly doubting he was dealing with an educated man.

    ‘No, I can believe that one’ Forty answered carefully. Other slavers were now reaching for their own weapons but that wouldn’t help him much as the second bullet fired in any fight that broke out now would likely be the one travelling through his head.

    ‘Never seen a draw that fast before myself either’ another man interrupted. Coyle half-turned to see a black man in a sharp, well-cut pre-war red suit flanked by two girls in pink summer dresses stood nearby watching. ‘I’m Eulogy Jones and I’m in charge here’ the man announced.

    ‘He started it Eulogy’ Forty spoke up, addressing the latest arrival.

    ‘No, he was a smarter talker than you which pissed you off so you decided to resort to violence’ Eulogy disagreed. ‘Problem was it looks like he had you outclassed there too.’

    ‘If you like my draw then you should see me shoot because that’s my real talent’ Coyle said immodestly. ‘If this is your dog call then him off and I’ll holster my piece’ he requested.

    ‘Stand down Forty, let me talk to the man’ Eulogy ordered, Forty starting to lower his hand away from his rifle and Coyle lowering then holstering his pistol in return. ‘There now, isn’t that better?’ Eulogy asked, smiling.

    ‘Much, from where I’m standing’ Coyle replied. ‘Ladies’ he greeted the two girls with the slaver chief, bowing his head towards them slightly before re-directing his full attention on their boss.

    ‘Forty there is loyal but he’s not exactly a people person and he’s not one for book-learning’ Eulogy noted. ‘Best second-in-command I could hope for though because he is smart enough to know I run this place better than he ever could.’

    Coyle kept his left hand near his Desert Eagle and his right was resting on the grip of his MP9 just in case this turned nasty again. ‘Man’s got to know his limitations’ he observed.

    ‘He’s mean enough to help keep the rest in line, probably have to bust some heads now to remind them of that and reassert his authority after this’ Eulogy said. ‘I’m told you came here to see Cutter and sell some guns that right?’ he queried.

    ‘Right on both counts’ Coyle confirmed. ‘Your sawbones Cutter does good work, and quick too.’

    ‘That she does’ Eulogy agreed. ‘You came here with Doc Hoff, so are you affiliated with the Canterbury Merchants then?’ he wanted to know.

    ‘Just friendly with them, travelling with Hoff for mutual protection’ Coyle replied. ‘I don’t normally trade guns, Lucky Harith still has the local franchise on selling arms if that was going to be your next question.’

    Eulogy nodded. ‘I thought you smelled more like a mercenary than a trader’ he said.

    ‘Better that than cologne eau de charred flesh I guess’ Coyle replied cryptically.

    ‘Looking for work?’ Eulogy asked, he thought of himself as a good judge of people and this guy might as well have “Bad Motherfucker” written on his Tee-Shirt as “Kowabunga Tribe” whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.

    ‘Not right now but I’ll likely be back around here in a few weeks and if you’re still interested in hiring I might be interested’ Coyle replied. ‘We’re not cheap though’ he warned.

    ‘Quality never is’ Eulogy responded. ‘Guess I’ll see you around’ he continued. ‘Make way for the Lord of Death and his crew’ he ordered, chuckling as the slavers parted to allow Coyle and his companions to leave.

    As they left the compound Coyle stretched out his arms. ‘Hoff dropped in on me after he left you at the store, Cutter had just left to go get something to eat after smearing some slimy crap on my burns and telling me to stay put’ he said quietly. ‘He mentioned something about these assholes sending a shipment of caps and ammo south soon’ he continued conspiratorially. ‘I’m thinking ambush’ he told them brightly, a distinct spring in his step as he contemplated a pile of money, loads of free ammunition and a pile of dead slavers.

    ‘I’m in’ Dreamer told him.

    ‘Me too’ Allison concurred. ‘Did they really call you the Lord of Death?’ she queried.

    ‘Yep’ Coyle confirmed. ‘Later on it was “Lord Death of Murder Mountain” after I took apart a raiding party from the 80’s gang up by Battle Mountain in Northern Nevada’ he recalled, ‘but to be honest it was all just getting silly by then’ he said regretfully.


    ----------

    Note from the Author:

    The slaver settlement of Paradise Falls is ruled by Eulogy Jones who took over from the previous leader Harmon Jurley, father of Grouse. Most of their business seems to be selling slaves onto The Pitt and they're likely on good terms with the raiders of Evergreen Mills who keep slave pens full of captives for sale.

    Pronto runs Lock and Lock, the only store in Paradise Falls while Cutter runs the Clinic there. A few other resident slavers of note include Eulogy's second-in-command Forty, Jotun and his father Ymir and the psychopathic (by capital-wasteland slaver standards) Carolina Red who has a thing for Jotun.

    You earn the title "Lord of Death" for getting two hundred kills in Fallout: New Vegas, being promoted to "Lord Death of Murder Mountain" later on. The 80's are a gang that operate in Northern Nevada and Utah along the old Route 80, Battle Mountain is a real place and seemed a good place for motorcycle riding Ranger Cassidy Coyle to clash with a motorcycle riding post-apocalyptic band of outlaws (he's one reason the 80's stopped trying to push further west towards Reno, though their own nom-de-guerre for him uses more bad language).
    [/i]
     
  16. The_Noob

    The_Noob It Wandered In From the Wastes

    130
    May 28, 2012
    Looks pretty good, but sadly its about Fallout 3.

    I would've read it otherwise if it were actually about NCR.
     
  17. SnapSlav

    SnapSlav NMA's local DotA fanatic

    Jul 1, 2012
    Very good stuff! It certainly isn't the best writing I've read, and a couple "quirks" of your punctuation style are a bit irritating, but the quality of the story more than makes up for it. I've only read the first "Part" thus far, and I'm amazed by the detail and accuracy of your "non-canonical" depiction of the Fallout universe is to the actual canon. Fallout 3 was easily my least favorite game of the series (ignoring BOS, which.... I just pretend never happened), but from what little I've seen, you really do the series as a whole justice. I look forward to continuing reading- and potentially dreading when I reach the end -your work! =D
     
  18. Horatio

    Horatio First time out of the vault

    39
    Jul 9, 2012
    As for me, i dread abandonment of writing of this story, because i like it.
     
  19. smilodom

    smilodom Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    344
    Apr 17, 2008
    Any news here?
    i miss it badly
     
  20. TheWastelander121

    TheWastelander121 First time out of the vault

    73
    May 11, 2016
    Where is the rest of the Story it's 2016 and the last it's been updated was July 12 ,2012. Is Hotpoint dead? because if so we really need someone to carry on his legacy if that's the case.