June 4th, 2285
Rick was the first one off of the plane, anxious to stretch his legs after the plane ride down here. It hadn’t been a long trip, but one of the drawbacks of his Ghoulish traits was the soreness of his joints.
Actually, now that he thought about it, that was probably just a result of him being an old bastard.
“Come on, sidekick, let’s move!” He yelled back into the plane once he saw that Duncan hadn’t exited yet.
“Argh… keep yer’ pants on, I’m goin’,” Duncan called back. The plane ride over for him had been hell. Rick talked nonstop about the war, rock and roll, and whatever else came to the Ghoul’s mind. It had only been a few hours, but it felt like days had passed. The man simply didn’t have an off switch.
Slowly, Duncan wandered out of the plane and cracked his knuckles. The city in front of them was about what you’d expect; crumbling, overrun with decaying cars and vines wrapping around the buildings. They could see quite a bit of the ocean from here, which was green and filled with sludge and dead fish carcasses.
“So… where do we start?”
“Helen said this robot of ours fancies a jazz club… Free Man’s Club, or something like that,” Rick said. “Figured we’d check there first, see if anyone knows anything else about this robot…”
“And when we do find him?”
“Bag’em and bring ‘em back here,” Rick shrugged. “Shouldn’t be too hard. He’s borderline brain-dead, remember?”
“I know that, but… what about when we get’em back?” Duncan asked. “Like… how’s she gonna reset’em? I dunno how these synths works… up until yesterday, I thought they were bloody myths…”
“I ain’t too sure how they work either, but Helen’s got a lot of science shit that I don’t right understand,” Rick said. “I got faith, though, she’s smart… she wouldn’t send two of her best men out to go find a pile’a scrap metal if she wasn’t sure she could get back in workin’ order, right?”
“I dunno what to think of her,” Duncan said, glancing down the road and seeing a half-starved dog chewing on something. It’s head perked up when it heard the two coming, and it quickly darted off into one of the alleyways. “She seems like the type to throw all her pawns away to win… you know?”
“I guess… but all the pawns at Salvator are robots. Scrap-heads with guns, that are expendable. Us, we’re the backline… me, I’m like the 2nd in command of this op, and you-“
“The queen, that’s the 2nd in command in chess.”
“Nah, that’s the General…”
“… The general?”
“Yeah. See, a queen ain’t good for nothing. She sits there, mooches off the king, gets fat, pushes out a few baby rooks, then dies,” Rick explained. “Now, a general, you know, actually does his shit. Moves all around and kicks everyone’s ass. You ever read a history book where the queen walks around and cleans house on the other army?”
“No, but that’s not the bloody-“
“And so, I call it the fuckin’ general. 2nd only to the King,” Rick finished.
“… That’s the dumbest fuckin’ thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Well you wouldn’t know, you’re just a fuckin’ pawn.”
“You just said the robots were the bloody pawns!”
“Well the general has changed his fuckin’ mind. It’s mostly robots, and you. You’re the pawn that dies first,” Rick declared. “You’re the pawn that the fuckin’ dog accidentally eats and shits out…”
Duncan was going to respond, but he held his tongue. Arguing with Rick was like slamming your head into a brick wall. Every time he raised a valid point, Rick would just respond with some middle-school insult and declare himself the winner.
“I should’a just stayed put …” Duncan groaned.
“Oh, quit your complaining, Highlander… tell you what, if it’ll stop you from moanin’ and groanin, I’ll make you a, uh… a knight. Knights are a Scottish thing right?”
“No, it… you know what, yeah. It is a Scottish thing,” Duncan nodded.
“Well then congratulations on your promotion,” Rick clapped him on his back. “Now… let’s find this robot.”
The Josiah Freeman Jazz Club was Tampa’s hottest jazz club when the city was still a peaceful coastal town. A popular venue for lonely businessmen to go and drink their financial troubles away and maybe get lucky with one of the female talents up on the microphone. Even after the bombs dropped, the club was still a hotspot.
It was now an odd intermingling of the savage world that nuclear fallout had wrought, and the sophistication of that old way of living. Men in suits sat playing cards in the corner against other men dressed in leather armor and rifles slung across their backs. Caravan leaders mingled with bandits. Ghouls mingled with Smoothskins. It was an odd establishment, to say the least
Up on stage, a band comprised of African American talents were beginning their cover of an old classic just as Rick and Duncan walked in. They were not nearly the most odd-looking fellas to walk in, and perhaps not even the most armed. Very few heads turned when they stepped in.
“Phew… this place reeks of hippies…” Rick commented. “Come on… shouldn’t be too hard to find a robot in here…”
Rick lead Duncan up to the bar, taking a seat and waiting for the bartender to scoot their way. The man behind the bar was a skinny man, sporting a greasy ponytail and a piercing on his lip. It almost looked like he was wearing makeup
The old ghoul couldn’t help but think about how much he wanted to punch his weasel teeth down his throat. He wasn’t sure why, but this man just looked like an asshole worthy of his contempt.
“Get a fuckin’ load of this guy,” Rick whispered over to Duncan, jutting a thumb over to the barkeep.
Duncan smirked a little. “Be cool, lad… remember, he might be our only lead on the whereabouts of the robot…”
“Right, right… Hey, fella. Down here,” Rick waved him over. The man looked up and nodded, heading their way.
“What can I get you boys,” He asked them, with a warm smile and his voice rather flamboyant.
“Oh, nope, no, can’t do this,” Rick shook his finger, promptly standing up. “You talk to him, I’m gonna go see what’s happening… not here.”
The barkeep gave Rick a wary glance as he quickly walked away. “What’s his deal?” He asked Duncan.
“Yer’ guess is as good as mine, lad,” Duncan shrugged. “I’m willin’ to be the radiation’s finally goin’ to his mind…”
The Barkeep chuckled a little bit. “Guess so… so what can I get you.”
“Ah, I ain’t in the mood for drink right now… but I do need some information,” Duncan whispered.
“A… strange fella. Robot. Glowy yellow eyes, sorta pale… you seen’a man like that around these parts…”
The barkeep arched an eyebrow. “How do you know him?”
“I’m… an old friend of his,” Duncan decided now that that would be the story he was going with. “Me and him knew each otha’ from, uh… New York.”
“New York, huh?” The Barkeep said, grabbing a glass and trying to wipe the smudges off of it with an old cloth. “Well, I know who you’re talking about.”
“Great. Know where I can find him?”
Duncan’s eyes widened. “Here? Right now?”
“Yeah… sitting over in the corner by himself…” He pointed. “Comes in just about everyday and sits there. Never brings anyone with, never buys anything, never talks… he just kinda sits there and stews, you know?”
“Oh… well that’s great,” Duncan nodded. “Thank ye’ very much.”
“No problem… and hey, look,” The Barkeep said just as Duncan was standing up. “Go easy on him. I don’t think all’s right with him…”
“Noted,” Duncan said. “Thanks, lad…”
Duncan stood up and went to find Rick. He had to move through some people and utter some “excuse me’s” on the way. He managed to spot his ghoulish comrade over by his lonesome, arms folded and visibly uncomfortable with his predicament.
“Enjoyin yerself’ lad?” Duncan asked, a slight grin on his face.
“Sure am… surrounded by a bunch a jet-headed hippies and a buncha’ fruitcakes… Livin’ the fuckin dream,” Rick hissed.
“Ah, don’t worry… you know, the guy back there wanted me to let you know his address-“
“Fuck off,” Rick spat. “Did you get any information?”
“I did, actually…” Duncan said, scanning the booths. “He said our guy waaaas…. Right there,”
Duncan pointed to the booth in the very far corner, away from the lights and music. His hat was pulled down, shielding his face from the public along with the popped-up collar of his overcoat. They could see his hand on the table, however. Metallic and filled with frayed wires.“Sure enough…” Rick said. “Alright… let’s get this done.”
1103 Jackson Avenue. Josiah Freeman Jazz Club
Rick plopped down in the booth, looking at the robot.
“Leave,” A distorted sound came from deep within the hat and coat. “I have nothing to offer you.”
“Ah well, that’s not my call to make… see, to me, you look useless,” Rick said bluntly.
“Rick,” Duncan frowned.
“But, My friend here… as well as a few others at our little homestead of ours… think you have a lot to offer. Specifically in the field of, eh… spy-stuff and good-shootin’s.”
Rick frowned behind his mask.
Last known whereabouts of Unit 66-HTA
Mission: Extraction of data files. Apprehend target: Unit 66-HTA
“Listen, lad…” Duncan interjected before Rick could make the situation worse. “What my friend here is tryin’ to say is, we’re here to help you.”
“Thank you,” The robot said. “But I am not interested.”
“You’d rather sit here and rust away in the corner?”
“It would be preferable,” He said. “Who are you?”
Use of Lethal Force Authorized.
Civilian Casualties: Acceptable.
“We’re representatives of Salvator Industries,” Duncan said, taking a seat. “We’re a buncha crime-fightin’ do-gooders lookin’ to make life a bit more tolerable for people such as yerself.”
“A tall task…”
“But doable,” Duncan said. “Our superior seems to think you’d benefit a lot from, eh… let’s say, a makeover. New parts, skin… a couple uh-“
In an instant, a gun was yanked out from under the table, pointed directly at Duncan’s head, right between his eyes.
“Shit!” Duncan hissed, putting his hands up. Rick responded by reaching for his gun, but the revolver in the robots hand transferred to his head the second he tried to move.
“I know Salvator,” The robot put his head up, revealing his mangled face. Half of it flesh-like and humanoid… the other half metal framing.
Preparing Offensive Capabilities.
“Your messengers do not seem to understand,” Six spat. “I do not want your help… I do not want to join your company. I want to be left alone.”
“Man you better put that fuckin’ gun down or we’ll be sending you to Salvator in a cardboard fuckin’ box,” Rick hissed.
“You are in no position to negotiate,” Six said. “You will leave. Now.”
“Lad, can you at least gimme two seconds to explain myself befer’ ye’ go pullin’ gun on me?” Duncan asked.
Six did not answer. The gun remained locked on the two.
Thompson Submachine Gun, Model M1921: 100-round C-Drum Magazine Loaded.
Colt Government Pistol, Model 1911A1: 9-round standard magazine loaded.
“I dunno’ what happened to ye’, but it wasn’t pretty I guess,” Duncan started. “But lad, nobody deserves to just… waste away in a corner booth like this.”
“Deserve? You think this isn’t a choice out of free will?” Six asked. “I’ve seen what the world has to offer… I prefer to stay here.”
Weapons and systems optimized.
The door to the Jazz Club was flung open, and in stepped one of the largest men anyone there had ever seen. He ducked slightly to fit under the door frame and stood there, glaring around at the patrons of this club. A lot of the conversations on the side died down as every eye in the establishment locked onto this newcomer. Even the band at the front stopped to gawk.
Six looked over, and his aim faltered. “No…”
“Patrons of the Josiah Freeman Jazz Club,” The man began, his steely gaze hidden behind a pair of round-lens sunglasses. His voice was deep, but robotic, like he was reading from a script. “I have reason to suspect that a dangerous criminal is being harbored in this establishment. You will comply in my investigation of this establishment. Any attempt to interfere or delay this investigation will be treated as aiding the fugitive.”
“Woah, woah, hold on,” The lead singer . “Slow down, pal… we get a lot of riffraff through here, what gives you the right to come in here actin’ a fool like this, huh?“
The man’s tommy gun immediately rose up, and 5 bullets immediately ripped through the musician’s skull. His body stiffened before he slumped over and collapsed, taking the microphone with it. People leapt up from their seats and screamed. Others reached for their weapons, throwing tables up and taking cover.
“Holy shit,” Rick uttered.
“Run,” Six sprung up, running for the back door. “Follow me! Now!”
Rick and Duncan, not wanting to stay in here and fight this freak, got up from their seats and ran for the back door as well. Behind them, gunshots began firing off and the screaming picked up.
“Who the flying fuck is that?” Rick asked as they began jogging through the backroom, past the dish-cleaners and storage closets.
“Vincent,” Six answered.
“I take it he’s ‘ere for you?” Duncan asked, loading up his rifle as they moved along.
“Yes,” Six said. “We need to get out of here now. Those men won’t be able to hold him long. Hurry!”
They exited the club through the back door, back into the empty streets of the concrete ruins of what was once Tampa. “You have transportation.”
“Yeah… we got a vertibird not too far from here. We can get in there and get outta here quick,” Duncan confirmed.
“Hold the fuckin’ phone, what does that nutcase want with you?” Rick demanded. “Last I checked we were grabbing some sad little synth, not a fuckin’ escaped convict.”
“All synths are escaped convicts. Escapee’s from the Institute,” Six elaborated. “Vincent is their top-of-the-line courser… I have files, data in my head…”
“Slow it the fuck down, scraphead,” Rick barked. He was rattling off a lot of nonsense that Rick wasn’t grasping. “Explain slowly, like I’m an idiot.”
“You are an idiot,” Duncan pointed out, which got him a dirty glare from the ghoul.
Six sighed. “I, was made by an organization. I escaped the organization. I escaped with sensitive information stored in my system. Vincent wants that data back.”
“See, that wasn’t-“
Just then, the door they had just exited out of came flying off of the hinges, sliding across the street and coming to a rest just at the heels of the trio. Immediately, they froze in their tracks and looked back over their shoulders.
Vincent was standing there in the doorway, his gaze locked firmly on the deteriorating synth. There were a number of bullet holes in his trenchcoat, but he was unharmed. There was blood coating his hands, but it was almost certainly not his.
“Unit 66-HTA,” He called out coldly. “You are-“
Duncan took aim and fired off a number of shots into the hitman’s chest and stomach, but he did not even flinch. He continued to deliver his speech, listing off the supposed crimes Six, but they were drowned out by the noise of Duncan’s gunfire.
By the time Duncan’s gun was fatefully clicking, Vincent was still standing. There was just some new holes in his clothes.
“Surrender and die,” Vincent said.
“Ain’t it supposed to be surrender or die?”
“No,” Vincent held his gun up and unleashed a wave of bullets towards them. Despite the recoil of the gun, Vincent managed to keep the gun leveled and perfectly accurate. Duncan ran left and dropped down onto the street to avoid the bullets flying over his head. Rick and Six took off back down an alleyway, hoping to lose this monster there.
“You are aiding a known criminal,” Vincent warned the downed Duncan, walking over towards him. “I have been authorized to kill all who aid this rogue synth.”
“We’re tryin’ to take him in too, pal,” Duncan spat.
“Impossible,” Vincent said, “You have no right. He is property of the Institute.”
“Oh, I got plenty’a right, lad… wanna see my license?” He said. Quickly, Duncan pulled a grenade he had silently pulled the pin on and rolled it towards the courser. Though he was seemingly immortal, that didn’t stop the sheer force of the grenade from blowing him off of his feet and back towards the Jazz Club.
Duncan quickly picked himself up and ran towards the alleyway, glancing back over his shoulder. The hitman was already getting back up. His clothes were ripped and singed, but his skin was in one piece.
As he ran through the alleyway, an arm reached out and grabbed hold of Duncan, causing him to grasp. He was yanked into the building by his ghoulish friend. Six was sitting down, staring straight ahead.
“Shit… thanks for running away,” Duncan grumbled.
“I wasn’t dying out there,” Rick said. “Did you get him.”
“He was gettin’ back up.”
“Are you fuckin’ serious?”
“Yeah… I don’t-“
“Shhhh!” Six waved his arms around and gestured for them to get down. They appeared to be in an old diner of sorts, and were situated behind the counter. Most of the windows had been boarded up a long time ago, and there was plenty of mold and dust to go around. Outside, they could hear the heavy footsteps of Vincent, slowly stomping down the alleyway.
Six nodded for them to follow, quietly moving through the diner and towards the front entrance along the walls.
Rick turned a few dials on his pip-boy, dropping the audio to an almost inaudible volume, and began whispering into it. “Pilot, this is Rick Deere. We need an emergency evac at my location.”
“Command accepted. What is your emergency?” A robotic voice came back through.
“We are under fire at 1103 Jackson Avenue. One target, armed and dangerous.”
“Affrimative. I am on my way,” The pilot said before the feed cut out.
“He better get here in-“
Vincent’s massive frame came barreling through the boarded window and wall, trampling over Duncan and making Rick jump back. Six raised his revolver to fire, but Vincent hand shot out and grabbed Six by his throat, hoisting him up into the air and throwing the synth back across the counter.
Rick grabbed his shotgun and jammed it directly into Vincent’s back and fired. The courser stumbled forward a little bit, before he slowly turned around and glared at the ghoul.
“… I’m sorry,” Rick squeaked.
Vincent growled and grabbed Rick by his shoulders before he flung him up against the wall. With the ghoul disoriented, Vincent began throwing bone-breaking punches into Rick’s gut, fracturing more than a few ribs and nearly putting a crack in the wall itself
Rick slid down the wall, struggling to breath. “Fuckin’… freak… show….” He wheezed.
Vincent grabbed hold of his pistol and placed it up against the head of Rick, ready to execute the partner of his target, until he heard Six yell out “Vincent!”
He turned his head, momentarily distracted, and Six shot twice. Two bullets, expertly aimed, went through Vincent’s sunglasses and directly into his eyes. The shots blinded him and caused the courser to finally react to the pain that they were dealing to him.
“Grah!” He shrieked, punching the wall where he though Rick would still be. The bruised and beaten, Ghoul, however, had been pulled away by Duncan during the momentary distraction. Confused and unable to see, Vincent began wildly swinging his massive paw around as he clutched his eyes, waiting his system to make the automatic repairs.
“You will not escape!” Vincent roared, knocking out another boarded window with his swing. Duncan slung the ghoul over his shoulder and made for the doorway, along with the terrified Six. He kicked the door open with his boot and bolted outside, leaving Vincent to struggle in the darkness.
“Come on! Chopper should be here any second!” Duncan cried, running as fast he could down the street.
“MY… fuckin ribs!” Rick wheezed.
“Shut up, Rick!” Duncan spat. “You ain’t dead yet!”
As they ran, they heard the distinct sound of propeller blades drawing closer and closer to them. At the end of the street, their Vertibird came flying around the corner, slowly heading towards them.
“There it is!” Duncan cried in relief
“I am arriving at your location,” The pilot’s voice came back through the pip-boy
His joy would not last long, however. Behind them, they heard the glass doors to the diner shatter. Six turned and saw Vincent storming out of the diner, no longer clutching his eyes. He took his tommy gun off of his shoulder and took aim once again.
“Pilot! Fire on the man at the diner!” Six cried.
“Error! Voice authorization failed. Command denied.”
“Shoot that motherfucker!” Rick cried.
“Voice authorization accepted. Thank you, Mr. Deere.”
The turret on the vertibird spun up and fired down on Vincent, shredding through his body and forcing him to drop his gun. He was sent flying back across the street once again, his body now a mess of holes and scorch marks.
With Vincent temporarily dealt with, the vertibird landed just in front of the trio, and the doors slid open. Duncan hopped in first, throwing Rick onto the floor and leaping up inside. “Come on, robot, we’re getting out of here!”
Despite his doubts, he had decided that it was better to risk his chances with this new organization than to try and run from Vincent once more. Six stepped inside as well, just as the aforementioned hit man was getting back up onto his feet.
“Go, pilot, go!” Duncan cried. “Now… goddammit, now!”
“Yes, sir,” The pilot responded, closing the door and pulling the vertibird up into the sky. Vincent, in a bit of frustration, grabbed the door of a nearby abandoned car and slung it at the aircraft, missing it only by a few feet. As they began pulling away, the last they saw of Vincent was him standing there, his fists balled up and his angry gaze locked in on them.
“… Mother fucker…” Rick sighed, before he began to laugh. “Not even the goddamn terminator… can fuckin’ stop us!”
“He won’t stop looking for me,” Six reminded him.
“Fuck him… he wants to come pokin’ back around, I’ll…” Rick tried to stand, but he collapsed back onto the ground, holding his ribs. “I’ll… get some pain meds… then I’ll wring his ass.”
Six shook his head and sat down. “Thanks… you know, I didn’t think you would do that.”
“Do what?” Duncan asked, collapsing into one of the seats.
“I thought you would hand me over and save yourselves,” Six answered honestly.
“Lad, we ain’t just some bunch’a crooks n’ raiders.”
“We’re Salvator-Goddamn-Industries!” Rick spat, pulling himself towards a seat.
Six looked up, and with what was remained of his former face, he smiled. “Thank you.”
“No worries… now… let’s go somethin’ aboot yer’ face, aye?”
(Epilogue Coming Soon! Thank you for reading the series!)