I wrote this a long time ago for a fiction contest that interplay held. I think it may even still be online. Sorry for the shitty formatting. My hands stung as feeling crept back through my aching arms. I must have been firing the mini-gun for a long time… Scanning the carnage once more, I allowed the gigantic weapon to slide from my grip onto the worn pavement of New Reno’s run down streets. It landed with a clatter that sounded distant in my mind, as I was already limping down the nearest alley. My thoughts were dim, as were my senses and memory. I wracked my brain for some remembrance of what had happened, but none came. Deep in the dead-end of the alley I could see a pile of junk and broken building supports. Bricks lay strewn about the cobblestones, reminding me of the shell casings thrown far and wide over the gruesome scene I had left behind. Shuffling around, I shifted some of the junk underneath a group of steel beams and cleared a space in which I could rest. I would be hidden, but not indefinitely. Flames licked from the revolving barrels of the chaingun as bullets flew in stop-motion from my murderous hands to their mark. A rat-faced man in a leather jacket was ripped asunder, his torso transformed into a beautiful crimson mist. It caught the Sun’s rays and projected a rainbow, each color seeming somehow twisted and malformed, grotesque and frightening. I was laughing hysterically. The terrifying nightmare ended as a rat fell from the beam above my head and landed with a wet thump between my legs. It scampered off through the garbage. Oh, how I wished I could escape so easily; simply blend into the refuse and slip away. But I already had. I was the refuse of the Wastes, a lost soul ever-escaping from his own shadow and slipping away from himself at an alarming rate. I had no name that I could recall, no kin and no legacy to pass on. I had no worldly ties other than the havoc I had wreaked in my travels. I was a dog of war, a lone post-apocalyptic horseman. Pulling off my pack, I rifled through my belongings. I emptied the pack on the ground and began organizing the material before me. A Heckler & Kotch G11 rifle and its 37 rounds of remaining ammunition were the most prominent items, followed by a plasma grenade, fragmentation grenade, a SuperStim and seven Stimpacks. I had a few donuts, a rope and a dwindling supply of medical items. My Medkit had only three bandages left within. A combat knife lay in a bloodstained pile of torn flesh. I discarded it in the junk heap. I pulled two pistols, some beef jerky and six magazines from my belt. Chewing on the jerky, I cleaned the G11 and pistols, setting them loosely in their holsters. If I was going to move, I had damn well better be ready to fight. I packed the remaining items away and slung the backpack over my shoulders. I picked up the G11 and began the daunting walk back to the street. I knew something about the “family ties” of New Reno, and judging by what I had found on the gang members, they were pushers working for the Salvatore operation. This was just as well, because the few memories I had of Salvatore were visions of a crippled and weak old man. The pavement was still covered in gore where I had gone berserk, but the mini-gun and shell casings were long gone. I crossed the street without incident but a few glares and grimaces. The woman fell, headless, onto the pavement. A young boy crumpled to the ground by her side. Everything was happening at impossible speeds; I swung in circles, laughing as I maniacally mowed down everything in sight. In a flash, I jammed a combat knife into the skull of another man in a leather jacket. He moaned in horror, and even though I didn’t hear it, I savored his agony. I didn’t care how he had gotten past the mini-gun. I didn’t care about the knife in my leg. I didn’t care that I hadn’t killed all of them… but I would. A vicious grin spread out beneath the faceplate of my helmet as I continued my rampage. I came to my senses lying before a pair of polished leather shoes. “I’m glad to see you’ve decided to join us, Mr.…?” Inquired a voice from above. I could only assume it belonged to the man in the shoes. Groggily, I gazed up into his face. It was framed in back light and my fogged vision could make out no features. “Mr.…?” The voice intoned once more. “Refuse.” I replied in a grated voice. I had no name, but a title would do. “Pardon me? Refuse, you say? Odd name, but I can address you as you wish. Now, Refuse, I have a business proposition that I would like to discuss with you.” His tone was rich with condescending. “It appears that you have already struck up a bit of a tiff with an acquaintance of mine, Mr. Salvatore. If you can appreciate the consequences of your actions at all, you must realize that unless you plan to finish the job, you are dead. Salvatore does not take the deaths of family members as light fare and has a tendency to react in rather violent ways. But then, you are obviously no stranger to violence.” He chuckled. “Please, Mr. Refuse, take a seat.” A chair was set before me, and I dropped down heavily into it. The room was dark and smoky, like the man before me. His intentions clouded. A single light bulb hung from the ceiling by its power cord, shedding an eerie light that hid more than it revealed. He began again. “But where are my manners? I am Senior Mordino, and you, I’m afraid, have a very limited set of options.” “I wouldn’t exactly call two a set. You want me to ice Salvatore, right?” I had already planned on finishing the job, and his arrogant tone was irritating me. “My, we are an astute young man, aren’t we? Yes, you will kill Salvatore. If you do not, he will most certainly kill you. One way you lose and the other, you win. I don’t think the choice is a difficult one.” He smiled wickedly as he tapped a few chubby fingers on his chin. I nodded my head. “You’re not asking me to do anything I hadn’t planned on doing.” “Excellent.” “Then goodbye, Mr. Refuse,” Mordino called his guards to escort me out. The streets were empty, dismal and cold. A stormfront rolled across the wastes toward me, with obvious malice in tow. Lightning scarred the evening sky. “Something wicked this way comes,” I muttered to myself. Salvatore’s place was a few blocks away and it would only take me a short walk to get there. Choosing to wait for the storm, I sat on the steps of The Desperado and shot up a Stim. The tingling warmth spread from its point of entry throughout my leg. I never liked the feeling. I leaned my head back against the wall and closed my eyes… A house was burning in front of me. In my hand was the ignition cap from a flare. Anguished screams ran ahead of children and women as they tried desperately to escape the flames. A piercing shriek cut through the night air as the house collapsed and sent hot embers out in all directions. Flailing and screaming, a figure emerged from the rubble and tried to run from the lashing tongues only to collapse on the dirt, motionless yet still burning. I was amused by the pitiful attempt at escape. Turning my attention toward the last member of the village I was surprised to find a serene and peaceful face. I raised the shotgun to my shoulder and pumped the slide. A smoking shell flew from the chamber as a new 12-guage slug was pushed in. “You hear that old man?” I asked, “That’s the Circle of Life.” I squeezed the trigger. An enormous crash punctuated my flashback. I snapped immediately awake and unlimbered my G11 only to find that lightning had struck the casino. Debris fell around me like all the stars in the sky dropping from Heaven as I ran for cover through the deluge. Hail and enormous raindrops pounded down upon an empty New Reno as the locals rushed for shelter. Rain was a rare occurrence in the Wasteland, although hail was common. The stones bounced inconsequentially off my pockmarked armor. A quote popped into my mind, “When one has a long distance to travel through a storm, it matters not whether he walks or runs. He will still receive the same soaking.” I couldn’t remember where the quote was from; no surprise. I headed for Salvatore’s in the pouring rain and crashing thunder. A sense of foreboding swept in from my peripheral as I walked the short distance. The bunker-like building came into sight. A badly flickering neon sign seemed like a symbol of Salvatore’s old age and weakness; the sign was dying with him. There were no guards on the exterior, but I knew there would be a small army within. I approached the building cautiously and surveyed the parameter. There were no windows on the first floor and only one on the second. In the rear a ladder led to the roof of the cement building. I returned to the front of the bar with a fragmentation grenade in hand. The pin had been pulled; all that stood between the small sphere of metal and an explosion was the spoon and five seconds. My kick blew the door off of its hinges. The grenade made a dull metallic thump as it hit the far wall. All eyes fell on the grenade. Every eye was welded to it; all conversation, all movement arrested. By the time it went off, I was halfway around the building. By the time I heard the first yell I was on the ladder. I lost my footing and slipped. Grasping wildly, I caught myself and scrambled to the roof. I could see out over the city and the Waste beyond. Mountains loomed in the distance as if Beelzebub himself were reaching forth from the depths of Hell in praise of my existence. I advanced to the edge of the building and crouched by the sign, still flickering. Just as I had planned, men came running out of the doors to chase after their assailant. The first never heard the three dull cracks of the rifle. The second had a moment of realization. The third achieved enlightenment. But still they came running from the building, like sheep from a hound. My G11 continued to issue forth spews of death, but no casings emerged from the weapon. I marveled at the intuitive beauty of caseless ammunition. As I gunned down the ninth man there was a sharp click. “Damn, maybe Beelzebub isn’t applauding,” I thought as I dropped the G11 with a clang upon the tin roof. Tin roof. Metal. I was in a storm and standing on a figurative barbecue grill. Throwing off caution and fear, I tossed the loop of my rope over a vent shaft and jumped from the roof none too soon. Lightning struck the sign and sent flying metal and neon into the blustery night. Deafened and stunned I landed feet-first on the cement wall next to the second story window. With one hand on the rope I pulled the pin on the plasma grenade with my teeth and tossed it through the window. One. Two. Three. The explosion shattered the storm as it ripped into Salvatore’s oxygen tank. I had not anticipated the added blast and I was knocked from the rope and thrown outward along with the glass from the window. I landed on the pavement one story below as well as I could, being now totally deaf and very much stunned. My ears were bleeding, as was my nose. My leg had reopened; I guess one Stim hadn’t been enough. I got up. There were bodies lying in the blood-washed street. Mother Nature was doing her best to erase my wrongdoing, but the war had so weakened her that even she couldn’t heal the wounds I was capable of inflicting. I trudged into the bar to find patrons slumped over tables and crumpled like leaves on an autumn morning. A shotgun blast struck my armor and knocked me off of my feet. Shocked by the sudden pain, I was slow to draw my pistols and roll for cover. I pulled the triggers once, twice, ten times and the bartender’s body draped its lifeless self across the bar. It slid off and the shotgun struck the floor. I released the magazines from my pistols and slammed home two more with determination. I shot up my SuperStim as I approached the stairway to the second floor. It felt even more disturbing than the small Stimpacks. I abhorred the feeling. Stepping onto the landing at the top of the stairs I kicked the door open and dove in after it. I was weary but I could still move light on the heels of death. The dying guard in the corner was only worth one bullet. The standing one was worth five. The man aiding Salvatore was worth seven. Two of the bodies hit the floor at the same time, while the third simply fell over. I landed hard on the floor, pushing myself up onto my knees. Salvatore’s body had been destroyed and thrown far from his wheelchair. However, the initial blast of the grenade had thrown him far enough from the small oxygen tank that it did not kill him. He was breathing raggedly as his eyes clouded over, but still they burned with all the fury and hatred of a harrowed man. I left him to bleed to death. I woke with a start in a cold sweat. I was in a place I had never seen. The storm had passed and my wounds had healed, but I sensed a much deeper injury. Where was I? How had I gotten here? The disparaged city was a slum, a ruin, and a hive of villainy. I could see prostitutes and leering punks. I could see casinos. Why did it all seem so familiar?