Shrike held Josey out over the ledge of the Gray, over a three story drop and death on the concrete below. She was strong, much stronger than he was. Faster. Smarter. How many men had Josey killed? Hundreds? Thousands? Shrike had killed more. And was better at it.
“What matters is that you understand why. Purpose, Josey. Yours is Vegas. Mine was my brother. You killed him. It’s only fair you get the same treatment.” Shrike was saying. “But before I kill Vegas, I still need to finish with you.”
“And after that? What’ll you do? Walk away from it all?” He asked.
Shrike shook head. “No. There are others like you. Legends of the wastes who think themselves superior to the rest of us. I’ll find them, kill them too. No one deserves the kind of power you people wield.”
My name is Agent Miller. You do not know me. But I know you. I am Agent for the Office of Science and Industry, an intelligence department within the New California Republic. To some of you, those names will be meaningless. It is unimportant whether you recognize them or not. I will tell you what you need to know.
There is a woman named Shrike. You may have heard of her. She is unstable, dangerous, and, so far as we know it, a killer without equal. She is coming for you. She will stop at nothing to end your life. If you are receiving this message it is because Shrike believes the same thing I do: that you are a person of extraordinary talent or popular renown. This is why you are her target.
You are not without resources however, or friends. You will tune to the following frequency: 550.97GHz L. What follows will confuse and disorient you. But believe me when I say that the alternative that Shrike offers is much, much worse…
You received this message moments ago, either through your Pip-boy, preferred communications device, maybe even by courier; however you usually get your notices-of-impending-doom.
Deciding that it couldn’t hurt to at least tune in to the frequency Miller mentioned, you went to the nearest radio, be it on your arm or elsewhere, and tuned it to the frequency. It wasn’t much later that you heard the propellers of a vertibird. Little do you know, but you just signed on to be a part of Miller's Coalition.
One week ago the rogue hitwoman known as “Shrike” attacked New Vegas, targeting its ruler, Josey Wales. She killed Wales’ closest associates, with the exception of Craig Boone. Wales and Boone have been missing since Shrike’s attack and Shrike herself has been in the wind, although there is rumor that in the time since she has continued her murder spree around the country. Working alongside Shrike are two men: Thomas Hamilton and Randall Clark, both notorious killers in their own right.
Shrike slowly advances her plan to kill those she has deemed necessary, regardless of the collateral damage inflicted. Meanwhile, those Shrike pursues prepare. Will a competent defense form against her in time or will Shrike achieve her goal of ending the Legends of the Wastes?
1. The date is June 29, 2290 (Three years after the events of Fallout: Prophecy, four years after Godless America, immediately after Butcherbird). Your character can either start in one of two places: inside a warehouse they were just dropped off in or waiting to be picked up by Agent Miller.
2. You can be a Human, Ghoul, Supermutant, or Synth.
3. You must post a character card before posting. You can have as many characters as you want, provided that you can handle it.
4. Don't be OP (should speak for itself). VATS is disabled. Guns and gun wounds work like real life. You cannot survive three bullets to the head, et cetera. Armored characters be it metal or skin obviously have the edge.
5. You cannot kill (or control) other people's characters, without their consent. Same goes for amputations and maiming. Named NPCs cannot be directly controlled by the players, without the GM's permission, for story purposes.
6. Take the RP seriously, shit posting will get you banned. I don't care how bored you are or how many pets you've lost. Don't hijack the story and change its purpose, you're more than welcome to make your own RP doing that. Anyone who leaves (without a good reason) will not be allowed back in. This is to stop people from taking the RP hostage, by constantly leaving/threatening to leave.
7. Please use common sense when adding a character. The story relies upon the inherent threat Shrike presents. Do not make a character that Shrike would have no desire to kill (such as a bag merchant) or a character that Shrike would be incapable of killing. If your character can’t be hurt by Shrike, doesn’t care about Shrike, or isn’t afraid of Shrike, then what the heck would they be doing here?
S. P. E. C. I. A. L. (Optional):
Tag Skills (Optional):
Background: Keep in mind that your character’s background is the reason they were contacted by Miller or Shrike is coming after them. Refer to rule #7.
"Shrike's capabilities are beyond a flamethrower." Miller informed Wilkes. "Her Pheonix Enhancements make her near impervious to laser, plasma, and flame weapons. She can be brought to the melting point of platinum before she begins to experience ill-effects."
"So that guy is just a nutter. Noted. Then I'll get back to my previous point. What the fuck are we supposed to do about her? Daniel was perfectly vulnerable to guns and bombs. That's how we killed him. That's what I know how to do."
"Shrike can be injured. She is invulnerable, not invincible"
"Bullets work fine." Josey told Wilkes. "Problem is they ain't keep her in the dirt for long. Shot in 'er in the throat, head. Cass lit her up and knocked her off a building. She was down for a bit, but it didn't keep. Need to dissable all her techno-shit 'fore we can get to killin' her." Josey couldn't believe Shrike was impossible to kill. Everything died, especially if you shot it enough. For his own sanity, Josey needed to be certain he could kill Shrike.
That ain't a change. "Could always shoot 'er." Josey said to Wilkes. "Imagine blowin' her up works good too. But she always gets back up."
"What's her tech like? You got any solid info on that?"
"Shrike's defensive capabilities extend beyond her ability to regenerate." Miller said. "She makes extensive use of upper tier technologies to protect herself, such as holograms and sonic displacers. Most of what I know comes first hand from Mr. Wales, here."
The image of Shrike returned, and Miller pointed to the glowing, holographic contraption on her arm.
"This is a valence radii-accentuator. It's a holographic device that enhances her durability and regeneration. It can be destroyed uses similar technology, or by removing its emitter which will lie somewhere on her arm, in the middle of the hologram."
He pointed to the glove on her left hand. "This is a standard sonic displacer, typically used in close combat, but Shrike has grown adept with it enough to use the device to deflect gunfire."
"Her body armor is a modified version of the Stealth Suit Mk. II, an advanced form of adaptable armor. Its run by a low-grade artificial intelligence, and is capable of concealing her body heat, any noise she makes, and also enhancing her speed and percision. When faced with overwhelming force, Shrike will not attempt a frontal assault. Despite having phyiscal strength surpassing that of a super mutant, she is an assassin foremost. Her skills lay in stealth and silent kills."
"As said, she possesses considerable strength augments. Her joints are reinforced, her muscles more mechanical than organic, and she has several layers of sub-dermal armor. A point blank shot from a revolver using .45 Gov't rounds was enough to puncture her skin, but had low penetration."
"There is one other thing." Miller said. "Shrike also is capable of high range teleportation. In fact, the reason for the high security of this facility is because, should she discover its location, she could appear in this room at will."
"A regenerator, eh?" Shanks liked the sound of this challenge with every passing second. "Although, with so many technological improvements, something is bound to go haywire or get a glitch. Like a blue screen of death or the like."
"There is one other thing." Miller said. "Shrike also is capable of high rank teleportation. In fact, the reason for the high security of this facility is because, should she discover its location, she could appear in this room at will."
"And then there's that", Shanks finished, his muzzle turning into a pursed line.
"As Shank said, with so much technology in Shrike, she is actually a potential risk to herself. With so many complex systems, one simple failure could bring them all down."
"A .50 BMG has six times the stopping power of a .45 Government bullet," Clyde put in. "If a .45 can get in, a .50 will rip right through, I'm betting."
"Brute force has been tried, Mr Horton. And while it has it's place, I am not certain it will be the end all, be all. There are several many instances where Shrike should've been killed, but has refused to die. Many of these lie before the addition of her implants."
"We stop her teleporter first. I have a low grade one myself that my Synth friends use, so I should be able to work out how to get rid of it."
"The technology she utilizes has its origin in Big MT. You may be inspired by something there." Miller advised.
"The Lucky 38 is Shrike's now, so be carfeful of any operations you stage there." Miller reminded everyone. "With Josey's retreat from Vegas, Shrike has stepped in, although she has left the Families alone, and has not interferred in their operations in anyway. Additionally, the Securitrons are active, although it appears Yes Man, the AI that runs them, remains offline."
"I don't see why we can't just shoot her until all her fancy implants are destroyed," Clyde shrugged.
"They're not built to be destroyed." Miller explained. "And Shrike is highly mobile. She will not remain still, and will attempt to use her defense to block your gunfire. She will deploy holograms to absorb stray rounds, and use shockwaves from her glove to deflect them. I reiterate, she was a very competent even assassin before she acquired her implants. It will not be so easy."
"Yeah, I leap in front of bullets all the time, Clyde, and I'm still alive." Tanner said.
"I'd put you both in front of a .50, if that'd make your shit talking stop and listen to what the suit says", Shanks said, trying to pay attention in order to learn the details of what sort of assassin he was dealing with.
"So she is some kind of hyper-technological bitch with a superiority complex, I take it?" he asked Miller. "Do you have any last sightings reported? Places she frequents? Places she might appear at next? Places she has appeared at? Ruins? Bars? Military compounds? Brothels? My personal liquor cabinet?"
"Lucky 38, eh?" Shanks licked his mandibles, clearing them of leftovers that had gotten stuck. "How far are we willing to go here, by the way? If there aren't any civilians in the place, but just Shrike and her goons, I'd say we take our chances and bomb the place from afar. Sneak a selected few people in there, and then blow the place up with a remotely controlled charge."
The dogman motioned with his clawed hands, mimicking an explosion, whilst making a childish sound effect.
"The Lucky 38 survived a near direct impacts from nuclear weapon during the Great War, constructed with the purpose of surviving a blast." It did contain also typically contain civilians, but Josey knew Miller didn't care about that. If he was certain it'd get Shrike, he'd do it. "The structure wouldn't collapse, and we'd have no guarantee Shrike would be inside the building when it detonated. I've gone over the simple solutions already and none of them will prove effective, Whatever you do to defeat her will require legwork."
"No, thanks. I prefer strangling", Shanks joked, then his wolflike smile faded. "So, is there a plan for our purpose as a whole? We have like ... what? Almost twenty people crammed in here. Can't expect that a woman like this Shrike would let an execution squad like this go unnoticed. Are we to split up, and if so, what are our objectives?"
"That will be up to you. Some of you will be delegated to support roles, not everyone will be suited for fieldwork. As for objectives, we still haven't gotten to Clark and Hamilton. Stopping Shrike is only one piece of the pie, to speak metaphorically, and will likely prove difficult while Clark and Hamilton remain on the board."
"Clark has a flattened mug only slightly more beautiful than my own fair self, and Hamilton looks like he is more likely to lure little kids into a van than fire a gun at us", Shanks remarked. "I reckon that we are to take these two out as quietly as possible, so that they don't go and tell mom that the other kids are being mean to them?"
"Whoever hunts Hamilton, I will go with" Brutus stated. "He will die. Painfully, slowly."
"We'll need a team to go to Big Mountain to search for intel," Six spoke up. "If nothing there tells us how to shut the suit down, we can at least experiment with the laboratories. Assuming she hasn't stripped it down for parts yet..."
"Probably Shrike." Tanner said. "I think I'll be the most use there."
He didn't want to brag or boast, but he felt he was sort of a league above Randall Clark or Thomas Hamilton. Like, Tanner could fly. How many people could fly? Bullets weren't a threat to him, so long as he was prepared for them. The biggest threat to Tanner was himself-- the potential overuse of his photokinesis. But Shrike... she sounded like she was a real danger. And if he wasn't there when they faced her, people could get hurt.
Funnily enough, he was thinking of what Cable would want him to do. Tanner's first instinct was to seek out Shrike himself, try to fight her solo. But Cable's image of Tanner was someone who worked as part of a team, who protected life before he took it. Tanner wasn't an overly violent person, but he understood it had its place. Violence begets violence, and violence was all Shrike was.
"I'm not... I'm different than I was fourteen years ago. Not because of only, you know, what happened to me, but the things I've done, seen, had to do... they built me up. Do you know what I mean?"
"I reckon." Josey nodded. It took him a moment to respond, he seemed sort of out of it, his rage fading into lethargy. "We'd need'a fly. Teleporter she has was mine."
"I do believe our NCR friends will be able to provide us with the means," Six nodded. "I don't suppose we have a scientist among us who would be able to utilize the lab's resources?" He asked the room.
"I think so", Evangeline said softly, her synthetic lenses moving, before finding themselves fixed on the table surface. "I do not know to the fullest what has occurred or ailed you since last we saw each other, but I can only imagine. The experiences will always have their toll. I have also seen things, done things. Things I wish that I ... hadn't. But this ... "
She motioned with her head in the direction of the projection of the images of Shrike, Clark and Hamilton.
"This might just be our calling, Tanner. Yours and mine. If there is such a cruel thing as fate, then maybe it tore us down and built us up for this particular reason. To rid the world of such evil. For nothing can be gained without having something important taken away from you: whether it be a loved one, a priced possession, or a piece of yourself."
She made a short pause, not that she seemed to take notice of her own lengthy speech. "I will be coming with you."
"Ms. Jones would prove more than capable." Miller told Six.
Tanner thought that made sense. He had sacrificed a lot. More than he would've thought he was willing to, if he was totally honest. Only, he didn't think he'd had a whole lot taken away from him. It was more he'd given something up, in pursuit of something else.
Willy looked hopelessly lost in all of this. He tried to pay attention but this was just too much information too quickly. He was too polite to complain though, so he just sat there, looking faintly defeated, hoping someone would eventually notice.
"So how are we to prioritize this whole ordeal?" Shanks asked Miller. "Some here are better at killing than others. Some here are better at supporting said killers than others. Some here are better off not being here at all. We need to sort the wheat from the chaff."
"You know", Shanks scoffed with a wolflike snarl on his face. "I'd happily chase tennis balls over saving your liquified ass, zombie. Now let the veterans do the talking, and you can be right back home to your graveyard before the night shift."
"Everyone has a place here." Miller told Shanks. "But you are correct, some people will have to delegate or operate from headquarters, not everyone is capable of frontline combat."
"Not everyone here is capable at all", Shanks snorted crudely.
"I handpicked everyone here personally. I do not easily make mistakes. More importantly, Shrike handpicked each person here for elimination. It's not in her character to waste effort. Whatever she does, she does with purpose. She would not kill someone just for the sake of it."
Miller's words brought on a sense of deja vu to Josey. They had made that mistake back at the start, assuming Shrike was some deranged lunatic, out to murder simply because that was what she did. How wrong they had been.
"Mr. Miller is correct." Agent Miller said, showing not even a hint of a smile at referring to someone else by his own adopted name. "You cannot waste your time on such differences in the face of this."
"Shrike's strengths lay beyond her equipment, as I said. Even before she was an OSI assassin, or a trained Special Forces officer, she was a champion martial artist. Black belts in brazilian jiu jitsu and krav maga, extensive experience with muay thai, kickboxing, and judo. Shrike has a total aversion to guns, and will not use firearms. Be prepared for this. She is also well-educated and intelligent. She designed the medicial procedure that gave her her abilities, a procedure we have not been able to replicate. This is demonstrative of excellent planning and technical know how."
The image changed to Randall Clark again, although a different image of him, on which his off-color eyes and knives were circled in red.
"We will move to Randall Clark's strengths and weaknesses. Randall's three advantages are his large size, surgicially enhanced eyes, and knife expertise. Unlike Shrike, he has no experience with technology and is remarkably ignorant about such things. Despite his strength, he will not attempt a straight up fight, as even only two of you would prove more than challenge for him. More likely, he would run away, and stage an ambush later. Or, more likely, wait for nightfall. Randall has permanently nocturnal vision and will use this to his advantage, likely to leave you completely blind why he can still see. This is where his knife-handling skills come into play. It is reccommended you do not end up in such a situation. The best counter to Randall is to shine a light intp his eyes when his guard is down. This will temporarily blind him. Alternatively, he will be defeated by overwhelming force. Randall is not capable of longterm planning like Shrike or Hamilton and will respond like an animal does, with fight or flight."
William could see the large walk-in fridge and freezer. The door was currently latched, but appeared unlocked.
Shanks wasn't one to hold on etiquette. He grabbed what he could in the kitchen. A piece of brahim steak that he dug into with his bare teeth, tearing into it as tendons and sinews snapped from the force. A bottle of beer, or at least what he believed to be beer. He flipped open the cap on his lower set of teeth and poured to content down into his gaping jaws, either not noticing or ignoring the fact that almost half of the liquid poured out on the side of his chops, and onto his trenchcoat.
He then let out a guttural exasperated gasp and looked over at Willy, curious as to why a man like him was present. He came off to Shanks as someone with the unobtrusive nature of a church mouse.
"So why are you here?" he asked, looking around for another bottle. "The others I get, but you?" He shook his head. "Unless you mean to tell me that you are secretly the greatest killer there ever was or will be, and that this ..." He motioned with a clawed hand to Willy's figure. "... that this is just some sort of ploy. Make people feel safe and comfortable in your company. Make them feel like you are their friend, before you viciously maim them. Is that your game?"
"So one would imagine." Miller agreed. "But I do not think he will make himself highly visible. This is someone who has made an art of avoiding the NCR for his entire life. To be running from this coalition is not a paradigm shift for him, and he will not have to adjust much. You will need to find some way to lure him out. Josey believes Shrike is coercing Randall into working for her--as in, he is not doing so of his free will. If you could find Shrike's hold on Randall, you may be able to break it, then use it to your advantage to draw him to you."
"'Nother thing." Josey butted in. "We only know that 'bout Randall, 'bout Shrike owning him, 'cause he said so as he pulled his knives out'a Cass' back." The Courier said hotly. "When comes time to put him down, it's me who does it."
Willy emphatically denied Shanks' suggestions.
"I thought Miller would help me find my memories again. And make me safe from Shriek. I don't want to hurt anybody."
The farmhand looked in horror as Shanks ate. He didn't even thank the lord...
Josey nodded back. He figured he didn't need anyone else's go ahead but her's anyway. All these bloodsuckers were only here 'cause they wanted to save their own hides. Only Jones and he had any real skin in the game.
"Hate to break it to you, meat, but there's no walking out of this one without getting some red juices on your fingertips. Best thing you could do really is to accept that it's going to happen sooner or later, and let the anticipation sink in beforehand. It will make it less of a shock to you when it finally occurs."
Shanks started to drink another beer, gulping down the contents the way a family dog would soak itself from a water bowl, not noticing how much that spilled.
The door to the outside opened, in stepping a man with a ballistic vest under his jacket, machetes sheathed to his sides, and .45s holstered to the back of his belt, carrying a long metal case. Coming closer to the entourage of people, his Caucasian features also revealed hints of Asian tribal in his eyes and cheekbones.
"Sorry I'm late," he said. "Carry on, don't mind me."
Evangeline just nodded and touched Tanner's arm in confirmation, before resuming to listening to the debriefing.
The dogman wiped his wet snout off on his sleeve, licking his lips. "Because they enjoy it, meat", he snorted. "Killing is a sweet thing. Almost intoxicating. The moment you look into someone's eyes and they realise that you hold complete control over whether they live or die, is a sublime and incomparable feeling."
He reckoned that wasn't the answer Willy was looking for, so he went with an alternative approach. "Some kill just because they feel like that's the only way they will get their point across, and assert dominance. Make them feel like they are more than others, when in reality they are weak little shits who saw that the best way to prove themselves right is to eliminate the competition permanently. With no room for arguments."
Tanner stepped into the kitchen for the end of Shanks' speech and Willy's reply, then joined the two of them at the counter.
"Truth is Willy," he started up by way of interjection, "is that people kill each other because we're still stupid monkeys, barely more evolved than when we left the Serengeti two million years ago." He grinned wide at the simple man, to show he was making a lengthy joke.
"But I wouldn't worry about that. Have you ever seen a monkey, Willy?" He asked, altering the subject.
Miller nodded for the new comer to take a seat. "Agent Holland." He greeted neutrally, before adding for Morgan.
"The Big MT wouldn't necessarily force one into a confrontation with Shrike, if you're trying to avoid that. Those with technical experience may even find a visit educational."
"The world is as silly as a whore slapped dumbfounded, meat", Shanks crudely remarked. "It has taken me over 240 years to get used to it, and I am still not a happy pooch."
"Truth is Willy," Tanner started up by way of interjection, "is that people kill each other because we're still stupid monkeys, barely more evolved than when we left the Serengeti two million years ago." He grinned wide at the simple man, to show he was making a lengthy joke.
"But I wouldn't worry about that. Have you ever seen a monkey, Willy?" He asked, altering the subject.
"The idea of a preliminary skirmish with Shrike might not be out of the question." Miller advised. "It would allow you to give your enemy a face, gauge her strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with the necessary first steps to defeating her."
"They've all got one." He touched the long, pale scar over his eye. "I got this one when I was a kid in an accident. People always thought it meant I was a fighter." He smiled, shook his head. "Slipped on an exercise mat and hit my head on a table corner."
"I'll go to big Mountain... I've got some experience with figuring out new Tech, so I'll probably be up for that." Denis suggested, with a shrug.
"I also fought Hamilton before, so, if we go after him, I want in on that. I'm also your only shot of getting into Vault 101, which would be a good place to start, if you want some information on him."
"I could take out Randall, he doesn't seem too tough for me." Naomi shrugged, knowing the hatred Denis held for Hamilton.
"I'm probably the only one here, who could hurt Shrike easily." Paul shrugged, leaning back.
"It did at the time." Tanner admitted. "And I thought it made me look ugly. I had to learn that a scar doesn't define me, like yours don't define you. Our looks don't define any of us, really. They give us character.
"I can tell all this is freaking you out. I'd be the same way in your shoes, but don't worry about having to fight anyone. I'm going to make sure Miller gets you help. You just focus on staying happy. Alright?"
"There's more of them?!" Cable asked Paul increduously, although they were thinking of different things entirely.
"Capital Wasteland'll 'ave to come after the Mojave anyway." Josey said to Denis. "Don't want to miss any details 'fore we go, 'case this all connects back to Shrike's time there."
SkyrimsShillelagh wrote: "Capital Wasteland'll 'ave to come after the Mojave anyway." Josey said to Denis. "Don't want to miss any details 'fore we go, 'case this all connects back to Shrike's time there."
"That's fine." Denis shrugged, slipping his hands into his pockets.
All the talk of scars had made Shanks subconsciously and discreetly feel on his own. Somewhere deep under his rugged, grayish fur he still wore plenty of scars from his time before the bombs. Scars he would carry with him for as long as he lived. After being exposed to the FEV virus, he was unable to get any else. Knife wounds, gunshots, even lacerations and burn marks. Nothing left a dent in his flesh anymore. He had at one point lost an entire hand, just to have it grow back within a month or two, without as much as a trace of the stump. He had had his right eye gouged out a couple of years back, but within a fortnight, his vision was as clear as ever.
The only thing left remaining to see if he truly did stand the test of time, would be a gunshot to the head, but that had yet to happen. And he had no intention of being the fool to pull the trigger. Not yet anyhow...
"I want Hancock here, on Support. I don't want Shrike to get her hands on him..." Naomi added, getting a concerned look, from the ghoul.
"Hey, I can hold my own, I'll be fine..." He assured her, though she cut through his comforting words, rather quickly.
"No, you won't. She'll kill you in seconds. That's why you're staying here, with Cheyenne."
Hancock shrugged, figuring that was fair enough. He hated to admit it but Naomi was like a force of nature, compared to him. She goes toe to toe with deathclaws and fights them, close quarters. Hancock could probably kill one, sure but nowhere near as efficiently.
"I think I'm supposed to stay here too." Cable said, looking up from his notes. He paused, suddenly, in thought, and slowly looked down before murmuring, "Oh Dweller, I'm a secretary..."
"It was and it wasn't." Tanner said. "There's shades of grey in everything. I won't lie and say your life was perfect, I won't even say you were happy, but you mattered. No matter your motivations sometimes, you did good."
The Dust storms had finally settled, outside the Republic of Dave’s mesh fences. This was Rachel’s least favourite time to be on watch, when she couldn’t see far enough for it to even matter but Daddy insisted that she stood there, all the same.
She wasn’t a soldier like Bob was or Shauna or Ralph could be. She missed nine out of ten of her shots and that was when the target was still. Daddy used to get mad at that but things changed, he learned that she was just never going to be good at it, no matter how hard she tried.
He told her that he wasn’t good at everything and that’s why he had other people, to do the few things he couldn’t do alone or at all. His modesty humbled her as he had to reveal the human, under the messianic image that he’d created in order to make her feel better.
Only Dave, the greatest Daddy in the world, would do such a thing.
She continued to scan the horizon, in spite of everything that was going on and noticed that a man in dark robes approached her, huddled over a stick. Dave told her how to tell a man from a woman, no matter how obscure they were and he was often right… most of the time. Sometimes it was hard or impossible to tell but it was worth it if you could.
You usually judge the height of the figure first and then their body shape but robes made that hard as he looked like one big black blob. He huddled around a large stick, that made him look old and decrepit but as he got closer, it became apparent that it was merely for balance as he eventually broke out of his hunched walk and threw his hood back, revealing his black hair, tanned skin and dark beard to match.
He seemed rather… Handsome to Rachel. Though it was rare that she saw boys, who weren’t related to her and so, as a result, she’d often fantasize about the few traders that Daddy allowed in. The youngest of them was in his early thirties.
This man was of a different league altogether. He was stronger, had piercing eyes and had clearly seen a lot in his time. His skin was like a charter of his many battles and encounters, the kind that he could tell her about as they cuddled up on a rug.
The visitor didn’t seem remotely interested in her and merely stared her down, dropping his stick to the ground. He remained silent for a moment studying her but eventually began to speak.
“I’m here to see President Dave.”
Rachel stiffened. His tone was rather odd, though she couldn’t put her finger on it. He sounded both angry and indifferent at the same time.
“Erm… Are you an asylum seeker?”
“I’m an ambassador, from a far off Kingdom.” The Dark Man said, with a shrug.
“We’re the Kingdom. Our great King sits on a throne, made from the skulls of his enemies, with a pet tiger chained to his side.”
Oooh, savages! Rachel hoped that Daddy would let them in now. Just imagine what she could learn from them and what they could share! They have Tigers and can make furniture out of bone!
“We heard about your… ‘Rep-pub-lek’ and wished to make contact. The King wishes for me to report on your great nation.”
Rachel had to not giggle at the way that this simple savage said ‘republic.’ Bless him, perhaps she could privately tutor him and teach him how to speak normally.
“Well, if you’re an ambassador, then I need to take you to President Dad- Dave and introduce you.”
“President ‘dad?’” The Savage Man asked, inquisitively.
“You are a… Princess?”
Rachel almost said ‘yes’ to seem impressive but Daddy wouldn’t approve of her leading the poor wasteland savages on like that. It’s not their fault that they weren’t fortunate enough to be born under Dave.
“C’mon, r-right this way!” Rachel stuttered as the gates opened, with a loud creak, prompting the Savage to step inside, giving her a courteous nod.
There was silence for a brief moment, until the sounds of chair legs scraping along the floor could be heard, followed by footsteps.
“Ambassador?” Dave asked, shuffling through some envelopes as he approached before tucking them away.
“A Kingdom, Daddy! A real one, with a throne and tigers!” Rachel grinned, excitedly.
“Kingdom of whom, might I ask, Ambassador?”
Dave’s question received a rather unique answer, a sawed off shotgun was drawn from the Savage’s robes and immediately exploded into his chest, sending around twenty pieces of shrapnel straight into his lungs and heart. Dave couldn’t even flinch as he was knocked on his back, landing in a heap on the floor, furiously choking on his own blood.
“The Kingdom of Tom.” The ‘Ambassador’ answered, firing off again and splatting the President’s head across the floor.
“C-Communist! Communist!” Rachel shrieked, it was the first thing anyone should shout, the second that they saw such things but somehow it felt like it wasn’t enough.
The ‘Ambassador’ found her shouting annoying but wasn’t remotely threatened by the brat. He waited for her third shout, by which time she had drawn her gun before smacking her across the face, with the sawed off.
Shame he couldn’t empty a slug in her huge mouth.
His hand tugged the door of Dave’s equivalent of the White House open. A pathetic shack, that most wouldn’t deem fit to shit in and yet somehow this man saw himself as a God. Hamilton saw it more as a mercy killing than an assassination.
His delusions were probably unbearable to live with…
The Wastelander stepped out, into the yard as he reloaded and immediately took off. The clueless dipshits didn’t even know what was happening, until he’d reached the gates and by that time, their pathetic attempts to shoot him dead were just token, to show that they gave something resembling a shit about Daddy grits-brains.
It was probably the easiest hit he’d done in years…
So many names, so few conditions that can make this work.
As Tanner and Willy spoke, a red haired woman entered the kitchen, standing at the back and remaining silent as she observed. She wore a Vault 88 Jumpsuit, with Vault Security armour on top. While it didn't look like the great protection most could expect to see in the wastes, it made her look very important.
The projector shut off and began to retract into the ceiling. The lights began to raise again.
"Before we split up, I want to introduce you to Zulu's staff."
Six people had stood out of sight behind one of the glass walls and now, in the growing light they were visible. Miller potioned fro them to join him. Three of them wore flight suits, one a t-shirt tucked into fatigues, and two of them janitorial jumpsuits.
"These three are your pilots-- Captain Tanaka, Senior Airman Montgomery, and Senior Ariman Priors." The airman were tall, square-jawed, mid-twenties, dark-haired, and white. Your typically Top Gun types. Tanaka was a short, lean Japanese woman who looked to be in her early thirties, and like she ate nails for breakfast (which wasn't a reflection on her teeth, they were very straight and clean). Her hair was done back in a tight bun and her gaze was serious and no-nonsense where the Airmen looked very self-satisfied. "Tanaka was the Bear Force One co-pilot for five years and the captain for six. Montogomery and Priors are recent graduations from our Top Gun program, and have five years of flight experience each."
"It's an honor to work with you." Tanaka said, stiffly, making eye contact with no one, nodding once.
"Do what you're good at, Will. And do it the best you can. That's all any of us can do." Tanner said, glancing sideways at the new arrival.
"Hopefully not an ice queen", Shanks said suggestively with a wolfish grin. "Where have you been hiding days on end in the Commonwealth, meat? I think I'd recognize your red mop somewhere during all these years."
Psychomantis108 wrote: "Oh, didn't you hear?" Kayleigh smirked, bringing her hands together.
"Everyone locked up their daughters, in Vault 88, as soon as you came to town, Shanks." She paused before straightening her back.
"However, I've only been there for about five years now. Before that, I... well, lived in other Vaults, saved New York with Tanner here and did some travelling."
Shanks? Fuck, she knows who I am.
"I reckon that Naomi has been telling stories about me?" he said and it almost sounded like a lamentation. There went his chances, not that they had been great since ... well, ever since the bombs dropped. Unless he paid for company, of course. Which was something he refrained from doing, because he considered it to be beneath him. "Or have the rumors about me spread that far?"
"Quite a lot of travelling, aye." Kayleigh agreed, with Tanner.
"Had to find Dyner and... Then Rock. To think I'm the last one, of the three of us."
"I reckon that Naomi has been telling stories about me?" Shanks said and it almost sounded like a lamentation. There went his chances, not that they had been great since ... well, ever since the bombs dropped. Unless he paid for company, of course. Which was something he refrained from doing, because he considered it to be beneath him. "Or have the rumors about me spread that far?"
"Not really, we were just told by Naomi not to let you into the Vault." Kayleigh said.
"She was worried Hancock would bring you in, whilst drunk and you'd break our most prized equipment... or he would... maybe both. Regardless, we weren't to let you in."
"What happened to Rock?" Tanner asked, remembering how indestructible the Nightkin had seemed. And he thought Dyner had gone down with the Boss. Had the professor made it out?
The custodians were dismissed, likely to go clean up Shanks' vomit.
"You'll each be provided with an earpiece two-way radio." Miller reached into his own ear and produced such a device, holding it up as an example, before returning it to it's home.
"There is also equipment for you in the armory, such as lightweight ballistic armors that could be concealed under your clothes. You would reccommend gearing up before you leave, as you will dropping into dangerous areas."
Miller nodded back at her. "I have my own office here in the warehouse." He pointed down an offshooting corridor. "I am available for any questions you may have."
Tanner felt a brief and sudden surge of irrational anger at Shanks for being in the middle of this reunion, and then immediately felt guilty for his own feelings. Which was ridiculous, since they were his own concealed emotions.
And then sadness, at hearing of Rock's death. He almost wanted to laugh, which would've been incredibly embarressing. But the irony of it was that Kayleigh's journey in life had reflected his own. If he had gone with her, all those years ago, what would have changed?
It probably wouldn't have mattered.
Rock, the Boss, Dyner. It had all turned out the same.
"I'm sorry." Tanner said. "I know they were important to you."
"I wasn't strong enough to find Richard... Searched for years but he vanished off the face of the planet. He's not dead, I know that much but I don't know where he went and like the Boss, I don't think he's... him anymore."
"It's good to see you again, too." Tanner said, wanting to tell her he missed her but finding he couldn't. What right did he have, after all? After he'd shut the door in her face and trounced off with someone else. Man, he really hated himself.
Eilonwyn wrote: "I don't doubt that." Morgan smiled back.
Miller headed off, down the implied corridor, shoes clicking.
"Ain't too bad, yeah?" Josey said, standing up. His height gave him presence, although he had an unhealthy thinness to him. The gauntness of his cheeks revealed it was recent. "Now that it's us kids, gimme your real thoughts."
"Even still." Tanner said, grimacing. "Guess Naomi brought you on to... operate radios?"
"Oh." Tanner blinked, surprised Miller had done this for him. He didn't realize he was so important that he got his own earwig.
"One more voice in my head won't hurt." Tanner smiled. "You'll fit right in with all the others."
Josey didn't like that idea. He fantasized about the twin corpses of Randall and Shrike, made identical smashed at his feet. There was little else that occupied his mind. But the sliver of rationality that remained informed him it was would be suicide to go after them without numbers or a plan. And Josey had never been one for friends or planning, so he had to leave it to someone else.
"If you say so." He said to Jones. Paul was a comedian, it seemed, or insane, and Josey didn't have the patience for either.
"It looks like a children's toy but that thing can turn an adult deathclaw to ash in seconds. The only problem is that you can't replicate its ammunition. Even the alien mothership didn't have any onboard. I found other weapons on there but none of them compared... which is why I've had to ration the ammo count.
At least, I did, until I got kicked out of my house and it fell into the hands of a kid."
"I like to think that what I did helped, in the end." Kayleigh said, though she didn't sound like she believed it.
"As I was saying to Will, here," Tanner refused to call him Willy, "it's all we can do. Help and hope it's enough. And when it doesn't work out... you can take solace in knowing you did the right thing."
Willy had started wandering. It was nice to clear his head for a bit. If they needed him, they'd probably find him.
The farmhand finally found a quiet wall against which he could lean.
What am I doing here, really? The man thought.
It has all happened so quickly. I miss Joan and Kyle...
Was this what being homesick felt like?
Willy lowered himself along the wall and clutched his legs close to him, making himself small.
He was so out of his depth here.
The slit opened, letting in a faint streak of light. Nevertheless it was blinding for the unadjusted eyes of William. He had been in Heian Jinbi for exactly three days if he had counted correctly. The agent sat against the wall, his head hanging low as he shielded his eyes from the brightness.
With the open peephole came sound as well. The sound of screams in agony from the others. The ones that weren't strong enough.
Mother had told him about the exercise. Complete deprivation of outside stimuli to harden and steel the mind.
Will's cold blue eyes adjusted to the light making him look straight at the slit. His expression was that of cool calm.
He was ready.
Willy had a weird fantasy just now. It had come as quickly as it had gone though. He still had a headache. The strongest it has ever been.
"Remember your legacy, Winfield", Overseer Minerva Ridgemont had told her. As if she could forget. She was among the last of a dying breed. The numbers of the Order were dwindling and soon they would be naught but a faint memory. Though they had eyes and ears all over post-nuclear America, the number of active contributing members had faded almost into obscurity. The truth of the matter was a sadness which Evangeline found it hard to quell and fight: an open wound that just simply refused to heal. The very nature of the Order of Salem was that of a double-edged sword. They needed to remain discreet and anonymous for the most part, in order to lower the chances of raiders and other evil forces at work, to find their headquarters, because God knew that there was a good amount of people in the wastes who would happily sell them out for a bag of caps to keep them from interfering with their businesses and schemes. But by remaining as subtle as they were, they prevented newcomers to find their place amongst their ranks.
Normally active members would recruit by integrating themselves into smaller communities, find out the qualities and loyalties of each and every individual there by getting to know them personally, and of course find out whether or not they possessed the cunning, the guile, and the handywork that came with the craft of being a member of the Order of Salem.
Evangeline was different. Both of her parents were members, having met each other within the Order. She was the result of their happy little chance encounter. She had been raised and trained to be an assassin of the Order, having been a member by default the moment she was born. She had learned from veterans, spies, and informants. She knew how to make herself unseen, how to tread in the shadows, how to gather intel and information, and she knew how to kill. Though the latter was a necessary evil, in that regard. You didn't cure a disease by leaving it be.
And the Wastelands were reeking with it. Raiders, Gunners, Super Mutants, Triggermen, gangster bosses, Talon company mercenaries, crazed synths, Brotherhood outcasts, Caesar's Legion, slavers, and of course the enigmatic Cult of Ug-Qualtoth. The list went on. There was no end in sight. It was evil breeding evil, sent to torment what already broken shards of mankind there was left. The Order of Salem was one of the few instances she could think of that actively targeted these evil-doers. They were fighting a losing battle and they knew it. It was like swimming upstreams. And the fact that their numbers had dwindled to the brink of extinction didn't help.
"Remember your legacy, Winfield." The Overseer had told her.
Evangeline wish she didn't have to remember. The responsibility she was carrying wasn't something that she had asked for nor wanted. As the sole child of the old family name of Winfield, it was her duty and plight to become Overseer once Minerva passed on. The responsibility of making sure that the Order somehow survived. Though she couldn't see it. She reckoned that by the time she ascended her place as Overseer, she would be the sole member left. The last legacy of an ancient society that had survived through the Great War, and continued to influence the misguided peoples of the Wastelands, by trying to make sure that humanity thrived, even long after mankind had destroyed the world.
Every waking moment the burden grew heavier on her. There was a great sadness looming over Evangeline. Like a growing dark cloud, although she didn't show it. Didn't want to show it to anyone. Not to any of these people, not to Tanner. She was a Winfield. There was certain pride to come with that name. A Winfield didn't mope around in the darkest hour, nor did they ask for help. But just for how much longer would she be able to keep her posture?
She was running out of time. The end of an era was inbound, not just with the Order, but with this whole business with Shrike as well. She could feel it in her bones. She felt it like staring into a dark cave and having her fate staring back at her, whatever it was. And she knew that she had to enter that terrifying cave, not knowing what said fate had in store for her.
Perhaps Shrike would win? And if that was the case, then all of their troubles would be over. But if she didn't, and was defeated. Would that really change anything? This quest came to her like the lumbering footsteps of doom. Perhaps this would be the hour in which she would finally fall, taking with her all that came with the legacy of the name of Winfield and the Order of Salem: one of the last hopes for mankind's survival.
Things remained to be seen. But she had already caught glimpses of the premonitions laid out before her, and knew instinctively that win or lose, this quest would not bode well for her...
"Like Cable says, it's probably partly a desire to preserve himself but he is a philosophical man, underneath it all. He has beliefs, he likes art and such... All that's left of the boy, he was in the Vault." Denis suggested, with a shrug.
"The latter seems more plausible to me."
"Heh, I was there, when they stocked it." She said, pulling a caravan lunch out as it was less mess than anything else.
"I've been helping out with logistics here as it's not unlike the Vault. We even leant some of our equipment."
It was likely in the Supply Room. They could see a sign above one of the doorways leading out the common room. The warehouse didn't have many hallways, everything but Miller's office and the living quarters was directly connected to the common room.
"Communed with a god and sent him into an eternal slumber," Tim added in, deciding to put in his two cents.
To the supply room they went. Wilkes continued to feel like shit about being here. He was pissed off at Miller for roping them into this mess, and he was pissed off at Harriot for willingly going along with it.
The suppoy room was as cavernous as the common room, but narrower. Shelves reached up to the ceiling, each holding an assortment of drugs, ammo, clothes, medicial necessities, tools, and many other useful supplies.
Wilkes took the earpiece but stuck it into the pocket of his trousers.
"Is this how things are going to be for us?" He eventually asked, seeing as they were alone now. "A short while of peace and quiet until you get bored and drag us into a struggle, rinse and repeat? Until eventually we get battered so much that we don't get up anymore?"
With the debriefing over, Evangeline rose up from her seat. She was still weak in her legs, and more than likely had blisters on her feet. She wasn't ashamed to admit that she had trust issues, even if she wouldn't put any money down that any of these people present would cause her any harm. Nevertheless, she needed to see a familiar face.
Seeing as Tanner had disappeared into the kitchen, she decided to head that way. In the doorway she found the Barghest leaned back against the wall, half-asleep with one glaring eye open to observe her passing.
"Take a picture, meat", the dog-like assassin said. "It will last longer than you, if you keep staring like that."
Evangeline wouldn't let herself be intimidated by this monstrosity and so walked past him without a retort or as much as a single glance.
In the kitchen she would find a group of people, including Tanner, and ... she couldn't believe it.
Eva was overjoyed to see Kay again. It truly felt like a homecoming, albeit far away from her true home. "I'd happily accept whatever you had in mind", she said, still a bit weak after her odyssey across the wastes.
Her voice wasn't as hoarse as it had been, but the gravelly sound was still there. She would need more water before this quest resumed.
SkyrimsShillelagh wrote: Tanner got out a second slab of chicken. He found a pan and set it on one of the stove tops, and turned both the fan and burner on.
Evangeline observed Tanner's cooking skill with mild fascination. She rarely, if ever, ate homemade. Her cooking skills were on par with that of the regular wanderer. As the members of the Order were constantly on the move there was little time to be picky about what to eat, so more often than not, she would eat stew made from molerat and other game they came across in the wilderness while heading to their next assignment.
"You look as if you were born with a chef hat on", she said as a weak attempt to make a joke.
"Didn't have a mom, my dad was always busy, and my sister didn't have time for me." Tanner said, searching now for oil. "Besides, after years on the road, cooking my own meals, I had to get half decent, otherwise I'd've starved."
Harriot faltered at Wilkes' expression, but she endured his withering gaze. Anything was better than another month on the farm. Much as she loved her crops and her cows, she found it mind numbing after a time.
She shook her head and followed the signs, heading into a room.
"Mine neither", she said. "Out there, in the wild, you take what you can get." She grimaced at the reminiscence of previous experiences. "Worst thing I ever had to force myself to eat as to not starve was pieces from the cadaver of a Deathclaw, dead since a week prior. I was sick and bedridden for two weeks after that."
She fell silent for a brief moment. "But at least I didn't starve."
Passing from the supply room, through the common room, Harriot and Wilkes entered a long corridor lined with doors. Outside each door was a placard, and the doors for WILKES WALKER and HARRIOT WALKER were next to one another.
Harriot's door came first, and upon opening it she looked into a well-designed room. The ceiling, walls, and floor were all varnished steel. There were no corners to the room, instead rounded edges. A dark, soft rug covered the center of the floor.
It contained a storage locker, bed, television, radio, and collapsible futon. The bed looked comfortable, but was unmade, the sheets and pillows stacked atop one another. A wooden end table stood next to it, upon which was an unset alarm clock.
The futon was halfway on the rug, half off, and faced the TV, which set on a table and was pushed back against the wall.
Finally, there was a storage locker in front of the futon, to act both storage and a foot rest. A radio had been placed atop it.
The Walkers could see that the walls between rooms were on tracks, like steel fire doors, and could be rolled away, should the person on both sides of the wall unlock the tracks.
The ceiling light was dimmed, the control switch for the room next to the door, which opened automatically upon Harriot's approach.
Tanner couldn't imagine how one would begin to eat a Deathclaw.
"What did you make of the briefing?" Tanner asked, having skipped out early.
"I am .... a bit troubled, to be honest", she said. "I didn't think I would be. As much as I hate to admit giving that dogfaced gangrel creature a valid point, he was right in that we seem to be rather unorganized and unaligned in our goal and priorities. It's like we are all on the same page, but we interpret the writings on it differently, so to speak."
"I suppose not, but it could definitely weigh us down in the classic 'two steps forward and one backward' fashion. It would make a difference if we had some sort strategy with a condition report. Like: 'Group 1 will carry out this objective on this day, within this timespan, but if they should fail they will instead carry out the secondary objective and then rendez-vous with Group 2.'"
She figured that she sounded like some sort of military commander, but the truth was that she was as far away from a militaristic mindset as she could get. The Order never really carried out missions of this size and scale, not only due to their limited membership, but also because it was not among their principles to launch an all-out assault.
They were assassins, although they disliked the term. They believed in the principles of the cutting the head of a snake and the body would fall. Their missions were focused on eliminating a single target, to take them out quietly and swiftly and then watch as the masses disbanded in the confusion that would follow in the wake of their fallen master.
This time, they had three targets, all whose locations were unknown. And they all more or less commanded their own private army of men.
"I am just saying that we should have our objectives set in stone before we head out, lest we will improvise our way to the lair of the enemy. An enemy who is well aware of our existence and are most likely preparing themselves and anticipating our first move, as we speak."
"That makes sense, but I don't know how feasible it is, given the timescale." Tanner said, throwing the chicken into the well-oiled pan, alongside the broccoli. "Like, the more we plan, the longer it'll take, and the longer it takes, the more time Shrike has to kill us."
"What's her given reason? I never quite got that." Evangeline asked, still uncertain as to why Shrike had targeted them out of all people. What made them so special? "A woman supposedly without fear, yet she's trying her hardest to push us out of existence. Someone who fears has a weakness, obvious to themselves but kept hidden and well out of sight for friends and foes alike."
She didn't want to admit her own personal experience on the matter.
"Sometimes hate isn't mutually exclusive from fear", Evangeline added. "Nevertheless, it doesn't justify her actions. From what I have heard of her doings, she is beyond redemption. The world can only be mended by her timely undoing."
Her synthetic lenses flickered for a brief moment. "And even then, it will still not be enough."
Tanner wondered if that was the whole problem. They were all hypocrites, in a way. Shrike killed people. Tanner killed people. Because Tanner killed people, Shrike wanted to kill him, but now Tanner had to kill her first. Who was to say that either of them were killing the wrong people? It was a vicious cycle.
Tanner had a 'violence as a last resort' mentality. He didn't know if Shrike would listen to reason. But who was to say he couldn't try?
"I tried to put this all behind me." Tanner said. "This revenge business thing. Ten years of it was enough for me. I spent the last four helping people. Protecting them from mutants, protecting mutants from people. Had this grand idea I could be this mouthpiece between the two, an ambassador. Now I'm sucked back in."
"I respect what you've done", Evangeline said. "I truly do. I even admire it. You want to help as many people as possible, but in order to do so, you need to get your hands bloody by killing the few who wouldn't want that to be a reality. There's nothing glorifying about the things we do for the greater good, or to protect those who can't protect themselves, but nonetheless it's the necessary evil to do in order to prevent an even greater evil from taking hold."
An idea had begun to take shape in her head. But she reckoned that now was neither the time nor the place to ask him. He already seemed to be under enough pressure as it was. It would have to wait, as would her other conversation.
"That's the problem with me." Tanner said, scraping the chicken and broccoli around in the pan, getting it to a nice char. "I don't think I believe in a necessary evil. Not the evil part, but that its necessary. We make it necessary, because we're too narrow minded to find another way. But there's got to be."