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May 20th, 2285

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

8:34 PM.

Milwaukee County Stadium. The run-down place used to be a baseball park for the Brewers,  which was Wisconsin’s pro baseball team. In its final season, the Brewers went 18-144. It was the worst record in the history of baseball.

Of course, given that the world went into a nuclear war soon after, no one had much time to laugh at them.

This field of suffering was now home to a different kind of suffering. Instead of miserable fans and angry coaches, the stadium now housed brainless ghouls and other lowly creatures. There was not much here for anyone.

But for Tyrus Carr, the press box provided a good vantage point for target practice.

BANG

One shot flew from his rifle and down towards the field, embedding itself in the mushy body of a bloatfly. The poor creature exploded upon impact, mucus flying in all directions. The ghastly inhabitance of the stadium cast their lazy glares towards the source of the bullet before shuffling on their way to nowhere.

He pulled back the lever and the bullet casing fell harmlessly to the floor.

BANG

This time, it was a ghoul that was the unlucky victim. The body of the creature tensed up as the bullet ripped through its skull, before collapsing to the ground in a crumpled, bloody mess.

He pulled back the lever. The bullet casing fell. A new target was selected. Another unfortunate bloatfly had wandered into his sights

Click

Click

He looked down at his trigger, then the magazine. Out of ammo.

“Damn…” He muttered. He was just getting on a roll, too. He glanced around the table, but there was only one magazine left. It appeared he had lost track of how many rounds he had lying around.

“Guess that’s it then,” Tyrus shrugged. He took the remaining magazine and loaded it into his rifle, before letting it rest on the announcer’s table. His hands drifted over to the portable radio, pressing the power button and swapping to a station.

“… of course, that would be an insult to Super Mutants,” The man on the station began. “Alrighty, gang, I know you cool cats out there are tired of my old jokes and just wanna’ boogie, so here’s Earth, Wind, and Fire with a little Wonderland for-“

“God, no,” Tyrus spat, quickly changing the station to something tolerable. He landed on a new station, which was in the middle of playing Joe Turner’s Shake, Rattle, and Roll. Tyrus figured that was probably going to be the best he could find.

With his station set, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wrapped sandwich and began snacking on it as he surveyed the giant ballpark. He didn’t know much about sports before the war, but he imagined that it had to be a pretty big deal for them to build a stadium this large.

That was probably what helped lead to the fall of society. The spending and splurging on things unneeded. What purpose was there in baseball? All the manpower, steel, time, effort, money, wood, cloth, and other resources that went into making it happen…

And just down the road, there was a stadium specifically for hockey. A little further down the road from there, a place for basketball. A few theaters surrounding them. Next city over, a massive football stadium. Just across the lake, more of the same. Millions, maybe billions of dollars?

And for what? A game?

It made no sense to him, but he supposed that it didn’t matter now. The world had already ended. No use in preaching eco-conservation at this point.

He had more important things to worry about now. Like the static that was overriding his radio right now. Joe Turner’s voice was being twisted and morphed by some sort of interference, and he began messing around with the dials on the radio.

“Oh, come on…” Tyrus sighed, turning the radio back off and on again. Each time, however, he only got static.  “Damn…”

“Tyrus Carr, I presume?”

In an instant, Tyrus had wheeled around in his chair and yanked a pistol out of his holster, aiming it squarely at the head of whoever had snuck up on him like this. He didn’t know how anyone would find him this far out from civilization, but he didn’t really care.

The person in question was an older woman, dressed in a conservative skirt that reached down to her knees and a buttoned up blouse. Her hands were clasped firmly behind her back, and the gun pointed at her head did not seem to intimidate her in the slightest. A file was held tightly in her hands.

“Is this how you greet all your visitors?” She asked him.

“What the hell are you doing up here?”

“I was out on a stroll,” She shrugged.

“Don’t play games with me!” Tyrus stood up, nearly knocking his chair over in the process. “You know who I am?”

“Of course.”

“Then you should have known better than to sneak up on me,” Tyrus growled. “Who are you?”

“No need to throw a tantrum, Mr-“

Tyrus fired off a single shot into the floor, just barely missing the edge of her shoes, before aiming the gun back at her head.

“… Are you done?” She asked. Her slight frown had not left her face since this conversation began.

“Who’s with you?” Tyrus demanded.

“No one.”

“And you’re unarmed?”

“Do I look like I’m armed to the teeth, Mr. Carr?”

Tyrus slowly started to lower his gun. “How’d you find me up here?”

“Expansive scouting and tracking tactics,” The woman answered honestly. “You’re a very hard man to follow.”

“That’s the idea,” Tyrus said. “What do you want?”

“I just wanted to chat. That was all,” She said. “I was going to send one of my underlings out to you, but they were all rather adamant about staying away from you.”

She walked past him, ignoring his cold glare and took one of the empty seats at the announcers table. Her eyes were locked firmly on the field below them.

“I’ve sent men out to find super mutants, pyromaniacs, homicidal ghouls, and other lunatics of the wastelands, and yet they draw the line at you…. That’s quite impressive, Mr. Carr.”

“I’m flattered,” Tyrus folded his arms. “You still haven’t told me what you want.”

“You’ve never seen this ballpark in its full glory, have you?”

“Cut the shit, woman. What do you want?” Tyrus huffed. He was starting to get impatient with this woman and her audacity.

“Oh, indulge me a little, would you?” She sighed. “I’ve traveled all the way up here, wasted countless funds on your tracking… the least you could give me is your time.”

“I don’t owe you anything,” Tyrus said. “Now I’m not going to ask again. Tell me what you want, or I will kill you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Very well… my name is Helen Castille. I represent Salvator Industries.”

“Good for you. But that doesn’t answer my question.”

“Are you always so cynical?”

“You did all the scouting, right?” Tyrus said. “You should know.”

Helen laughed a little at that line. “Fair enough… come, have a seat.”

Tyrus glanced at his seat for a moment, eventually deciding to sit down. He kept his hand close to his holster, however, ready to defend himself if this woman tried anything funny.

“Salvator is a project of mine,” She began. “A little operation that I think would be a… benefit to people.”

“You need someone killed?”

“Patience, Mr. Carr… you wouldn’t be out here taking potshots at bloatflies unless you had some time to kill, right?”

Tyrus grunted.

“Anyways… we are a private military. I suppose you could call it that. An operation in an area relatively untouched by the hands of these petulant dictators. Brotherhood, Legion, NCR… all untouched by their hands. And, depending on the success of this venture… it will remain that way.”

Tyrus seemed unconvinced. “Touching… but I don’t see how any of that is my concern.”

“Salvator offers you two things, Mr. Carr… we will provide a home for you, as well as payment many times above your usual rate,” She said. “We would have many uses for your work in the field.”

Tyrus remained emotionless has he looked back to the field. “That sounds like a long contract… I don’t operate on a time basis. I need a target.”

“We’ll have plenty of targets for you, Mr. Carr…”

Tyrus chuckled a little. “Amazing. You wasted my time, even though I had nothing to do today,” He sighed, standing back up and slinging his rifle back over his shoulder. “Stop following me. If I find one of your scouts, you won’t be getting him back. Keep me out of your delusions.”

“Are you sure?” Helen asked him as he began heading for the door. “I think it would do you some good to get out of Institute land.”

That forced Tyrus to stop. A slight grin crept across Helens face as she finally got his attention.

“… Excuse me?” Tyrus turned his head slightly.

“You heard me,” She said, standing back up. She shook the file and said “Your talent for sharpshooting is impressive… but I was more interested in what we found before that.”

The hair on the back of Tyrus’ neck began to stand as she opened the file. He continued to stand facing the door. His heart was uncharacteristically racing.

“Let’s see here… Adonis Matthews. Male. Aged 45. Tortured and mutilated to extract information regarding Railroad checkpoints… Death from traumatic brain injury sustained during interrogation. X8-40 assigned to case.”

She took a piece of paper and flicked it out of the file, letting it float towards Tyrus and settle just at the heel of his boots. “Garrett Lynch… Male. Aged 38. Sustained 16 gunshot wounds attempting to defend wife, who was of synthetic origin. Deceased was armed and threatened Institute agent. X8-40 assigned to case…”

“… Kevin Miller. Male. Aged 22. Harbored synthetic humans in family barn. Killed when he tried to attack Institute agents. 6 rogue synths found and reprogrammed. X8-40 assigned to the case.”

Tyrus turned back around, seething. “Where the fuck did you-“

“Harold and Lisa Williamson. Synthetic Human. Biologically aged 48 and 46. Death from smoke inhalation and 3rd degree burns in burning home. X8-40 assigned to case. Reprimanded for the death of the Synths.”

“Enough-“

“Nancy White, Joseph Barrett, Collin Tucker, Fred Steiner…” She kept flipping through the pages, letting them fly from the file. “… Caldwell, Hawkins, Porter, Jeffries, Davis… X8, X8,  X8, and X8…”

She put her finger on the paper that was at the very back of the file. “… Margaret “Maggie” Evans. Age 7…”

Tyrus had heard enough. Quickly, he reached out and grabbed Helen by the throat and threw her against the wall. His gun was once again out and wedged into her chin, ready to fire.

“You better have a really good reason that I shouldn’t kill you right fucking here!” Tyrus barked, his hands trembling in rage.

Helen, despite getting thrown onto a wall and having a gun pressed against her throat, kept her composure and her steely gaze. “I don’t have a good reason. Not one that would satisfy you. I suppose killing me would send all of Salvator down on you, but I don’t suppose you care about that.”

Tyrus pulled back the hammer with his thumb. “Who do you think you are, woman?”

“I could ask you the same question, Tyrus… who do you think you are? Because you and this X8-40 seem like two very, very different people… and yet…”

His grip on her neck tightened. She gagged a little, but still remained as calm as she could.

“Go on, then, Tyrus…” She managed to say. “Show me what X8 looks like.”

Tyrus’ finger got dangerously close to the trigger. He so desperately wanted to blow her brains out against the wall. And yet as he got closer to finally sending out the bullet, he hesitated. The standoff went on and on, with Tyrus weighing his options.

Finally, he let go of her neck and slowly back away. His gun was still pointed at her head however. “I don’t know what you were hoping to accomplish. But it’s time for you to go. Now.”

Helen rubbed over the part of her neck that Tyrus had grabbed and said “Very well. At least let me collect my notes, hm?”

Tyrus scowled, but he said nothing to stop her.

She took her manila folder and went to the pile of papers on the floor, kneeling down to pick them back up. “I don’t hold this over your head, you know. I know better than anyone what the programmed, indoctrinated mind can make a man do…”

Silence.

“I didn’t bring this stack of papers to expose you, or instill you with guilt… you carry that already. I brought this because I know you seek to… distance yourself from this. Put as much ground between Tyrus and X8 as possible, right?”

Silence.

“You have a choice now on which contracts you take. You’re free to choose who and who not to kill. And it’s liberating, right? To know you can kill and go home with your conscious semi-cleared.”

“But while you are out here, pretending to be enlightened, the thing that you run from continues onward. All this here? These innocent people that you had so many qualms about when you killed them? This continues on…”

“I haven’t come to offer you absolution for this… what I can offer is an opportunity, profitable in the material sense, and profitable for your peace of mind. What good is your desertion of X8 if more and more X8’s continue to pop up, hm? You can outrun the institute, but you can’t outrun your own conscience”

“Though you choose to pretend you are cold, I know you have a heart,” She shrugged. “Somewhere under this façade, there’s a man who wants this… things like this, to end.”

“We are an organization capable of doing just that, Mr. Carr. You and I have a common enemy…”

She put the last file back into the folder and stood back into the folder.

“And a common goal…” She said “And no, we will not stop pestering you if your answer is no…”

“I’m listening.”


June 3rd, 2285

Salvator Headquarters

3:45 PM

Helen Castile sat comfortably in her office. Everything was finally coming together for Salvator. Tyrus Carr had flown in a week earlier. Though it took some time, the sniper finally came around to giving the operation a chance.

And with his arrival, the team was nearly complete. Now, there was just one last puzzle piece to plug in.

The door to her office swung open, and Rick once again barged into her office. His mask was off now, which was quite a rare sight. He looked the same as most other ghouls. Bald head, cracked and leathery skin, blood-red eyes, and noseless. Though, most Ghouls looked half starved and bony by this point. Rick, however, was built like a tank. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of that yet.

“Boss-lady,” Rick nodded, his words slightly skewered by the cigar hanging out of his mouth. “How’s it hanging.”

“Just fine, Mr. Deere.”

“Great, great… I brought Highlander along,” He nodded to the door, where Duncan was standing.

“Oh, very funneh,” Duncan rolled his eyes. “You ever gonna stop with your shitteh’ comedy routine?”

“When I’m dead, maybe,” Rick shrugged, taking the cigar out of his mouth and plopping in a chair. “What’ja need, madam?”

“The last recruiting mission for you,” Helen said, placing a manila folder on the table and opening it. Inside were black-and-white pictures focused on the same man, either by himself or within a large crowd. “Notice anything odd about this man Mr. Deere?”

“Uh… shit, I dunno,” Rick shrugged. “Looks like a decent fella… looks really pale, but…”

Then, he noticed it. His eyes had an unnatural glow to them, and his pupils didn’t look natural either. “Ah, I see it… what’s wrong with him?”

“Nothing… he’s a synthetic human,” Helen revealed.

“So he’s… not human?” Rick put together.

“No… he’s artificial. A robot, of sorts. All the mannerisms and routines of the modern man, but all the circuitry and wires of a computer…” Helen said. “A few days ago, we received word of this robotic man being spotted by some trading caravan…”

“Ah… so, we’re just going to fly in and convince him to tag along?”

“No… you’ll be shutting him down.”

“… Forcing him to tag along…” Rick corrected

“Force is a strong word. His programming has been corrupted in recent years. He’s but a shell of what he once was… if we can find a way to restore him, then we’ll have another valuable asset to our organization.”

Rick frowned and leaned forward “What do you mean corrupted? Is he gonna start trying to shoot at us if we get close?”

“No, no, nothing like that. He’s just… broken, I suppose. An aimless wanderer who can’t make heads or tails out of existence… docile, and unaware…”

“Ah… shit, we used to get fellas like that in the war-“

“Yes, I’m sure you did,” Helen cut him off. She truly had no interest in letting Rick get into another long-winded war story. “So… I’m sure you and Duncan will have no problems with this?”

“Course not!” Rick said. “We’ll get Terminator here and bring ‘em back, no problem! Ain’t that right, Wallace?”

“Ugh…”

(TO BE CONCLUDED IN PART 9: THE SYNTH!)

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