May 13th, 2285
Rock Springs, Wyoming
Rick’s chopper landed just on the outskirts of town, kicking up some dirt and grass that had been undisturbed for many years. As he had looked out the window during the ride here, Rick chuckled over Wyoming’s unharmed state. No one cared enough to nuke it, yet no one was still here.
He took a step out, followed by his robotic entourage. In truth, Rick was starting to become just a little tired of his new band of troops. They were loyal and took orders well, sure, but he couldn’t joke with them or have an honest conversation with them. There was just pre-programming and orders in their head.
It was nice and all, but… He did like having something to talk to.
“What are your orders, Sergeant Deere?” One of the drones asked.
Rick took a lookout into the city of Rock Springs. It appeared to have been mostly left intact, as nobody really cared enough to wage war over Wyoming. Looking like one of those western towns from Eastwood’s movies, pretty much all the buildings were aligned on one street. Old general stores, a small theatre, a handful or motels and camping areas, and a giant church at the entrance. There were some houses at the edge of the horizon, but he hoped he wouldn’t have to go out that far.
“Spread out, search the town,” Rick ordered. “Get a positive ID on Duncan Graham and neutralize him only if you have to. We’re taking him alive,”
“Understood,” The robots nodded, quickly heading into the town with their guns raised. They immediately set out to check each building individually, all seeming to follow a set path.
Rick would join them in a moment. First, he needed to take care of some personal business.
He took a seat back on the chopper, and pulled out a little book. He didn’t know why he continued to do this. Nobody was ever going to read this nonsense besides him, and even then he barely read it half the time anyways. He figured that it might be just out of habit, as if he wouldn’t know what to do in his spare time if he didn’t do this. Maybe he just found it therapeutic.
Whatever the case was, he took a pen out of his pocket and flipped through the pages, briefly glancing over all the scribblings that he had put in there. Pencil, Ink, Charcoal, Crayon, and even a paint in a few places. Some of it had faded, some hadn’t.
He flipped to a clean page and began to write:
May 13th, 2285
It’s been a few months since I was forced into being recruited by this Salvator company… They had me run a few trials against some robots. I don’t know if they were set on easy mode, but I walked away without much of a scratch.
I was gonna bash their brains out of their skulls, but then I got to talking with the lady running this show. She ain’t too bad. Said that the only reason she went with the sleep-dart approach was because of my “reputation” in the wastelands. I took that as a sort of compliment.
Work here’s been pretty good. I’ve been flying all around the USA trying to collect a few nutjobs and screwballs for this team she has in mind. It’s supposed to be some sort of elite, commando strike force. She hasn’t told me much about it yet, other than I’m supposed to help round up the troops.
There’s some weird faces here. There’s this Jap that’s been running around with some demon armor on him. Some sort of Samurai or Ninja. He’s good with a blade, but he’s too young. He’s gonna get killed out here, I think. Maybe I’m wrong.
There’s also this really uptight fucker who’s giving me a lot of bad vibes. Arsonist with a mean streak a mile long. He’s got that psycho-look in his eyes. I haven’t talked to him all that much, but when I have, he creeps me the fuck out. Talks like Hannibal, and I ain’t looking to get my face eaten off. Helen said he’d be under control, and for her sake, I hope she’s right.
They’re not all bad though. I’ve talked with James a little bit, and he seems alright. Honest guy, does honest work, building little machines and weapons with his time. Sometimes it’s hard to understand him with that deep south draw in his voice, but he’s good at Cards, at least.
Then there’s this goddamn Super Mutant in the fort. He’s a real odd case. Really passive and peaceful sort. I don’t know very many Super Mutant’s who have their head screwed on right, and I don’t know any who don’t like a good fight. But this fucker hates all that. He likes cooking.
I didn’t believe him at first, but he cooked up a slab of Yao Guai his first night here. Served it to the rest of us. I let the others go first in case he was trying to poison us or some shti, but I haven’t had food that good since before the goddamn War. From the hide of a radiated bear, too. I don’t know what he did, but holy hell, he can cook. Then he tried to get all philosophical on us and he bored me to tears. He and the samurai seemed to have fun debating, though.
And we got more coming in. Some Doctor is heading in from Rhode Island, and I’m here trying to get some mercenary with a vendetta to come in and join our little band of misfits.
I read up a little bit on him, and I see what type he is. Helen’s men do some A-plus scouting, I’ll give them that. He’s a Vault Dweller, apparently. Came from a vault where the gimmick was that they rounded up a bunch’a different folks and waited to see how long it’d take one group’s ideas to take over. Sounds pretty stupid, but compared to some of the shit I’ve seen in Vaults, this one was fucking tame.
He’s got a sad little underdog story. Vault gets raided when he’s a baby, Mom goes psycho and tries to kill them when he’s a kid, then his next home gets raided and torched to the ground by the Legion. Speaking of them, I haven’t written about them in this thing all that much, but fuck them. They’re the lowest form of a nation. Slavers, rapists, and self-righteous cunts. Leaving people up on crosses. Sick, sick bastards.
So yeah, he’s out on some revenge shit. I don’t blame him, but I’m going to have a hell of a time talking him down. Hate and vengeance, that’s the most powerful thing you can put into a soldier. Sure, we got loaded up on painkillers, super pills, and they gave us that same old speech about defending the land of the free, but back then, if there was one thing they knew that could get us killing, it was straight-up hatred. Give us a story about this Chinese war camp where they tortured our men to death, tell us this story about them gunning down their own citizens, and we were rearing and ready to go.
But he’s one man. Barely even that. He ain’t even hit his 30th birthday yet. He can’t keep fighting the Legion like this. I gotta reason with ‘em…
Anyways, that’s what I got sitting on my plate right now. Probably more than I’ve had in the last few years. It’s all been really quiet ever since DC. Maybe I’ll
Rick’s writing was interrupted as he heard the sound of gunfire in the town. He glanced out the side of the chopper and cursed to himself.
“Goddamn robots,” He muttered, quickly shutting the book and tossing it aside before taking off down the road and towards Rock Springs. He fumbled around with his assault rifle, trying to get the thing loaded before he entered the town.
He passed by the “Welcome to Rock Springs!” sign, and saw that his drones had already had their numbers cut in half. Granted, there was only about 7 of them, but still seeing 3 of his guards destroyed in the street was not a good sight.
What also wasn’t a good sight was what appeared to be gunning them down. At the opposite end of the small town were men armored up in traditional roman armor, wielding guns and keeping the center of the street on lockdown. A few of them were on horseback, also armed with rifles
The Legion was here.
The rest of the robots had taken up a defensive position behind some cover, buy they wouldn’t last long. The Legion had them outgunned by a 3 to 1 margin to start, but now it was an outright losing battle. Rick, however, was already in the midst of it by the time he realized their numbers.
Rick took cover in a nearby alleyway, pressing his back up against the brick wall as the bullets ripped past him. A few landed in the corner of the building, but none ended up in him.
“What’s the Legion doing up this far…” Rick muttered to himself. Last he checked, they had been receding for the last few years. Word was that the head honcho got murdered in New Vegas, and the power struggle erupted. Them being this close to the North was definitely unexpected.
He attempted to peak his head around the corner, but that only resulted in more bullets reigning down on the building’s corner, chipping off chunks of cement and brick. Rick scooted further down the alleyway, to ensure his face wouldn’t get blown off by the incoming bullets. He heard another robot or two go down in the streets sometime during that engagement. He had no idea where the others.
It was eerily silent for a moment, before he heard one of the soldiers bark at the others to move out. He heard the clip-clop of horses moving in on his position.
“Duncan Graham! You have committed crimes against the Legion-“
“Hey, hey hey hey, woah woah!” Rick cut him off. “I’m not your guy! I ain’t Duncan!”
“You lie poorly, profligate!” The legionnaire answered back. “You will suffer greatly..”
“No, I’m serious!” Rick hissed, yanking his mask off. “I’m coming out! Don’t shoot!”
“And why would I consider mercy for you?”
“Because I ain’t your goddamn guy, numbnuts!” Rick hissed. “I’m a ghoul. Here the scraggly voice? And see how I haven’t blown your ass up? I’m not a fuckin’ smoothskin.”
There was silence from the enemy for a moment, before Rick finally got an answer. “Show yourself.”
Rick cautiously walked out of the alleyway, gun and arms raised over his head. “See? I ain’t him.”
“Identify yourself,” The man commanded. He was the only one there with a helmet on. The rest were hooded and wielding rifles. This guy had an axe clutched tightly in his right hand. Rick figured that this made the guy the commanding officer.
“And why are you here with your…” The veteran kicked one of the lifeless robots, causing its head to snap back and roll across the road “These hollow men…”
“Doing the same thing you’re doing, I guess.. I’m looking for this fella. Scottish, likes to blow shit up.”
The Legionnaire did not look amused with Rick’s sarcastic humor. “On your knees.”
“On your knees,” he repeated, a bit louder this time. The men behind him aimed their weapons at Rick, urging him to do as commanded.
Rick grumbled to himself, but caught something out of the corner of his eye. Up on the rooftop, there was a figure slowly moving across the ledge of the old theatre, behind the entire line of the Legion. He didn’t appear to be in their uniform.
“Alright,” Rick said, a bit more calm now. He went down to his knees, setting his rifle down by his side and putting his arm behind his head.
The Veteran did not make any move towards him yet. “You know who we are, dissolute?”
“Yeah… you’re the Legion guys…. Nice skirts.”
“Hold your tongue,” The legionnaire spat, tightening his grip on his axe. “Your disrespect will not be tolerated. I will execute you here if I have to.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry…” Rick said. “Didn’t know you guys got so offended…”
“You speak to the Praetorian Guard, the most elite fighting force of Caesar’s Legion. You will address us as your superiors. Is that clear?”
“I… sure, pal…” Rick said.
The Legionnaire did not like that answer. “Bind him!” He ordered to one of the men. “We will bring him to camp and break him in…”
“Oh come on, fella, cut me a break… I could help you fools find this Duncan guy.”
“We will find him with or without you. You are not worthy of even aiding us, worm…”
“Get a grip, you trojan prick…” Rick snapped. “I know where he is right now.”
“I’m serious! You could have him hogtied and being dragged back to camp at this very moment, if you would just listen to me for a second…”
“I have no need…”
One of the other legionnaires went behind Rick, pinning him to the ground with his kneed and beginning to wrap binds around him. “You wanna bet on that? This guy who has blown you guys up over the past few months, if not years… this guy who has evaded your capture on every conceivable engagement… you think it’s just as easy as “we’ll find him”?”
The Legionnaire was silent once again, pondering this idea as Rick’s face was put into the pavement. Thankfully, the old ghoul heard his captor shout. “Hold, Rexus.”
The man behind him complied, but did not remove his knee. “You seem to know quite a bit about the exploits of this fugitive. Tell me then. Rick… what knowledge have you about this man that could possibly help us?”
Rick glanced back up at the building. The figure had moved into position, and was kneeling down. A rather large weapon was aimed at the group.
“I know that you should have looked up sooner,” Rick grinned.
“What-“ Was all that the Legionnaire could say before the infamous sound of a grenade being launched out of the barrel was heard. His heart dropped as an explosion went off behind him, chucking legionnaires across the street and scaring the horses. They bucked off their riders and scrambled for the edge of town.
Rexus’ got off of Rick, equally startled by the explosion. Rick seized his moment, grabbing the fully loaded gun that he had sat down and immediately popping a few bullets into Rexus’ head. He collapsed to the ground, brains splattered across the pavement.
“Retreat!” The Legionnaire commanded to his remaining men, as another grenade was launched out and blew up a few more of them. As they scatted, Rick managed to get back to his feet and back away from the incoming explosions, aiming down the street and firing back at these skirt-wearing sissies. He managed to lock onto the fella with the axe, and promptly put a few bullet holes in his skull. He dropped to the ground and skidded across the asphalt.
A few legionnaires managed to get out of the town in time, but most had been torched and blown apart thanks to the hellfire being rained down by the vigilante. Those who hadn’t been blown up were put down thanks to Rick’s great aim. There were small fires and giant craters in the street, where the grenades had landed. A few windows had been shattered, as well.
“Heh… bastards…” Rick grinned, dusting some of the asphalt off of his pants and shirt. He approached the corpse of the axe-wielding legionnaire, hacking up a large loogie and spitting on the now deceased soldier.
“I don’t know what the fuck a Profligate is… but this Profligate is alive, fucker,” Rick sneered, kicking his head in the same violent way that he had kicked the robots head earlier.
With his revenge taken, he strolled up to the theatre and stared at the figure above it. He was still crouched down, his eyes glued on the horizon as he watched the remnants of this squadron run for their lives.
Rick could finally get a good look at this guy. He wore a toboggan over his head, and had a bandana with some sort of insignia wrapped around his mouth. The guy was also armed to the teeth with a rifle, the still-smoking grenade launcher in his hands, as well as a few other explosives and knives on his body. He appeared to be in some grey cargo attire, complete with kneepads and elbow pads.
“Hey… Now, I don’t mean to throw accusations out, but… I think you might be Duncan!” Rick hollered up at him. “That right?"
The man looked down at him. “What of it?” He asked.
“I’ve been looking for you.”
“Everyone is, lad,” Duncan said. “You’ll have to get in line…”
“Wow, you are… far less intimidating with that voice,” Rick laughed. “I mean… I’m sorry, I just can’t take you seriously. “Fur the king’a Scootland, am I right, laddeh?”
Duncan chuckled a little bit at that. “What do you want?”
“Well, I’ve been sent here on business,” Rick said. “You’ve heard’a Salvator, haven’t ya?”
Upon hearing this name, Duncan put his head down and audibly sighed. “Goddamn it… Look, I told ye’ bastards I ain’t got eny’ interest in joinin’ yer book club. So you can take yer’ robots and fuck off.”
“Touchy, touchy… I thought you scots were supposed to be thick skinned and hardcore,” Rick said.
“And I thought you people’d take a fuckin’ hint,” Duncan spat back. “I ain’t leaving. I appreciate the help, lad, but I ain’t leavin’…”
“And why not?” Rick folded his arms. “Don’t like the thought of actually having some backup for once? Because you’re an cool lone wolf, right?”
“I’ve got a fight here to worry about,” Duncan said. “I don’t have time for your shenanigans.”
“Who the fuck says shenanigans in a real conversation?” Rick cackled. “Jesus, you sound a lot less cooler than you look.”
“Get outta here before I decide to waste a few more grenades.”
“Calm down, you big baby… Why don’t you come down here and talk face to face?”
“What’s that gonna change?”
“Nothing! I’m just tired of having to fuckin’ yell at you from down here…”
Duncan grumbled something to himself, but obliged anyways. He disappeared from view for the moment, probably having to go back down whatever staircase he used to get up there. After a brief moment, he emerged from the theatre. He had removed his bandana and cap and wiped a few beads of sweat off his forehead.
“Look… I get it, you guys are all… justice and shite like that, but I’ve got my own brand of justice here…”
“So I see,” Rick said. “Don’t mean shit though.”
“The fuck you mean? You see them bastards running?” Duncan laughed. “You see these bastards and their limbs missing,” He gestured to the carnage around them. “I’m makin’ ‘em all pay here…”
“Yeah, and you know what else I see, ‘laddy’?” Rick folded his arms. “I see a slew or replaceable, expendable warriors who will probably be replaced by next week.”
“So what? They’re still paying.”
“They ain’t paying for anything, they’re already dead,” Rick pointed out.
“One less slaver, one less blind sheep, one less headache…” Duncan shrugged. "Don't matter if they're paying, because the rest of the wastes are still profiting
Rick shook his head, laughing. “Yeah, pretty impressive… and while you were here, messing around with these fucks, the Legion itself probably raided and pillaged 2 or 3 different settlements… probably took a few more slaves, added a few more soldiers… But of course, you just killed like… what, 10 of them? 12? Well, A fuckin plus, General Wallace, you’re really slowin’ em down.”
Duncan frowned, looking at this man skeptically. “You don’t know that.”
“But you know that deep down, don’t you,” Rick pointed a finger at him. “That this… in the grand scheme’a things, this little skirmish… didn’t mean shit…”
“Well what am I supposed to do, jackass?” Duncan hissed. “Let them march unopposed? Let them keep on running amok and putting more people in the hole or in labor camps? Let-“
“Let another Geyser Rock happen?” Rick finished.
Duncan’s eyes widened, his nostrils flaring. “How do you-”
“I read your file back at Salvator. I get it, kid... I’m sorry ‘bout your town, but you need to start looking at the bigger picture.”
He backed away from Rick just a little bit. He hadn’t heard that name, Geyser Rock, in quite a long time, and he did not want to be reminded of it. He was a little upset that this man knew this much about him.
“Just how much does this fuckin’ company know about me?” He asked with a scowl. “Don’t… You don’t bring that shit up with me, you hear me?”
“You wanna take a walk?”
Duncan looked the man up and down. “No, I don’t want to take a walk.”
Rick snorted. “You know if you didn’t have your head so tightly wedged up your own fuckin’ ass, I could help you out.”
“I don’t need yer’ bloody help!” Duncan snapped. “Look around! I’ve been doing just fine…”
Rick shook his head. “Come on… could you at least escort this old ghoul back onto his helicopter? Just in case the Legion shows up again. You know, since you are the protector of this town, population zero…”
“Walk yourself, pal,” Duncan said. “I got work to do.”
“I’ll leave you alone if you do,” Rick said. “Promise. Hell, I’ll get the company off your back if you do me this favor…”
Duncan shut his eyes and sighed. “… So I just walk you back to your Helicopter and you leave me be? The whole company leaves me be?” He huffed
“Sure, bud… Absolutely. Just walk me back, and I’ll be out of your hair…” Rick said.
Duncan shook his head, and angrily pointed his gun towards the edge of town. “After you, lad…”
Rick nodded and began walking back through the town. Duncan was to the left of him, tightly holding his gun to the point where his knuckles were turning white. He walked with his head down, having no interest in talking to this man.
“So, how long have you been playing vigilante dress-up?”
“Well, since you know so much… I figured you’d know that…” Duncan grumbled.
“You’re really touchy, aren’t ya?” Rick noted. “Whats’a matter…”
“You bastards have been buggin’ the piss outta me for the last few months. Answer’s been no, it’s still no, but you people don’t want to get it through yer thick fuckin’ skulls that I ain’t leaving this place to play hero on the East Coast. There are people here who need my help.”
“Yeah, this place is just… absolutely lively with people,” Rick gestured around. “I’m sure the worms appreciate your work, Captain…”
“There’s people all over the west, pal…” Duncan said. “People who ain’t got the weapons or the balls to take the fight back to the Legion. I do…”
Rick sighed. “Listen, pal… I get it. They hurt you, and you won’t let it go ‘til they’re all dead… I get it, you got this little mission here… You’re out for blood. Out for vengeance, ain’t that right?”
“Damn straight,” Duncan said. It looked like they had finally found some common ground
“I’ve been down that road, pal… Taking vengeance and all that,” Rick said. “It’s a hell of a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong… but it ain’t gonna get you anywhere.”
“I don’t know. I’ve created a lot more graves for those sickos,” Duncan countered.
“But the more graves you put up, the more soldiers they get, and the angrier they get…” Rick said. “At the end of the day, it ain’t even putting a dent in their numbers
Duncan was silent.
“I get it. You think justice is just killing their numbers and witnessing the death you’re bringing, because that’s all you can do alone... You strike me as a sorta revolutionary. All about justice, and stopping evil, and all that good shit… That about right?”
“I… I guess…” Duncan said.
“That’s admirable, boy… but look around. You ain’t got no one backing you up. You’re a one man wrecking crew, and you’re surviving out here… but have you beaten them back? Have you slowed their advances? Have you been pushing them back to Arizona or have they been tailing you to this shithole?”
Duncan was once again silent.
“That’s what I thought… You’re real young, kid. Too young to be doing this shit… 25, right?”
“27…” He said.
“So still pretty damn young… you see that shit you did back there?” Rick said. “I’ve read over what you can do, and I ain’t putting any doubt into what you can do on a battlefield…”
They were quite close to the chopper now. “But what I’m saying is, you’re wasting it. There’s a group’a people like you that we’re putting together. A strike force that’d make the Enclave cower… People that are doing good shit. Keeping the peace and whatnot…”
Rick looked over at him. “And while we’re out there, actually keeping people out of harms way and actually taking down dictators… You’re sitting here beating your dick to exploding scouting parties. You’re young, and you’re one hell of a guerilla… But you ain’t spending your years or skills wisely. Because that totalitarian war machine you've been fighting? You haven't done jack shit to it besides get it angrier...”
They were now at the chopper. Rick hopped onto the carrier, and he glanced back at Duncan, who had his head down. He seemed shamed.
“So… what am I gonna do? Just leave and let the Legion… keep getting away with it?”
“We’ll get to the Legion,” Rick said, though he wasn’t sure of that given the distance apart. But, for the sake of argument, he would say they would. “But you… you need some people at your back. You ain’t going to make any progress on your crusade alone…”
Rick plopped back in his chair. “So… you got two options… Either you step up onto this chopper, you come flying back to Salvator, and you start actually making a difference with some like-minded folk… Or, you could stay here, pretend you’re doing something, while you keep ignoring the cold hard dose of truth that the fuckin’ Legion is still marching on, and you’re just a minor little pest to them right now.”
Rick shook his head. “Suit yourself… have fun on your little joke of a crusade… Pilot!” Rick called out. “Get us-“
“Wait!” Duncan snapped. “Wait…”
Duncan shook his head, and with a heavy sigh, took a step up onto the bird.
“Ah, I knew you’d come around!” Rick laughed. “Welcome onto the team, recruit! I’m Rick Deere!”
He sat down across from him, in one of the chairs. “I’ve been here all my life… fighting these pricks…” He looked out the door.
“Don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty of pricks to fight… And it’s a lot better on the East coast than this desert, mountain-filled shithole… This place was a shithole before the war… They didn’t need any nukes for that!” Rick laughed.
Duncan glared back at Rick. “One week.”
“One week… I’ll give it that,” Duncan said. “If I still regret this after a week… I want to be taken back here…”
“Hmph… You’re gonna have to take that up with Miss Helen…” Rick laughed.
“Alright…” Duncan sighed.
“Listen, kid… you may not think this is the right choice. But trust me when I say, when it comes to fighting the good fight… I’ve got 200 years worth of experience on the matter… You’re going to be doing something that matters. Promise…”
Duncan didn’t seem too convinced, but he simply nodded. “We’ll see…”
“Alright… by the way, I didn’t properly introduce myself,” Rick said, extending his hand out. “Rick Deere.”
Duncan glanced down at his hand, before shaking it. “Duncan Graham.”
END OF PART 7
(Next Part: The Sniper)