The Steel Plague

Discussion in 'Fan Art/Fan Fiction' started by Black Prince, Jul 30, 2020.

  1. Black Prince

    Black Prince The Fool on the Hill

    55
    Jul 8, 2020
    Yeah I can see why. But one can assume that their tenuous alliance is quickly fading away, and will probably turn to open conflict sooner or later. They're allies of convenience, and neither side has ever been above doing that for their own benefits. But I can definitely understand your apprehension. I shifted away from it mainly because I felt like there wasn't much to say about them except open war.

    Which is fair on you, but most of it is only hinted at. If I could rewrite Fallout 3 and 4, I would.

    Yeah there are no FEV anymore. The goal of their searching in the north was to find FEV, but it's not there. They've been in the Northern Wastes for decades and haven't found it. There's not much I can do about retconning Vault 87, but as far as this story goes, Fallout 4 did not happen as depicted and thus those Super Mutants do not exist. This Unity Army has been on look out for FEV for decades and is now being worn down by the Brotherhood, which has solved its manpower problem in the same way: local conscription.
     
  2. Black Prince

    Black Prince The Fool on the Hill

    55
    Jul 8, 2020
    April 1st, 2283
    Aboard USS Conflict (AM-445)
    In the Queen Charlotte Sound


    I think I'm gonna be sick...

    Albert, wearing a heavy blue foul-weather parka over his Power Armor undersuit, hung over the roped railing on the fantail of the moving ship, feeling green in the face. He could feel every single time the ship hit a swell, every time it lurched in the waters of the Sound. The sky overhead was terribly grey, casting an unfortunate mood on the crew as the ship made its way northward along the coast of the Mainland. He was facing towards the Mainland, trying to see the Coast Mountain range through the thick ocean fog. There were some glimmers of far-distant lights flickering on land, but it was too far to even detail them, to even speculate on their sources.

    The ship hit another swell, and he felt his stomach doing gymnastics turns within him, and he leaned back over the ocean and let go off the rest of his breakfast with a grunt. Stepping back in a stagger, he ignored the cajoling and mocking of the deck crewmen - laughing at his lack of sea legs and his weak constitution - and made his way inside the superstructure of the ship. He struggled to open the hatch, and had to be helped by one of the deckhands, who made it look quite effortless. With a murmured thank you, Albert entered into the ship and closed the hatch behind him, the closing part far easier than the opening.

    He walked down the passage way, lit by brilliantly white florescent overheads, and passed by offices repurposed for the scribes attached to Strike Team Rhombus. The hatches were closed at the moment, and he had no desire to interrupt them anyway, as he made his way towards the mess deck. There were some of the Knights and Troopers assigned to the team sitting around in their fatigues and underarmor, drinking the terrible coffee as they waited to reach their landing point at Queen Charlotte - on Graham Island, the largest of the isles in the Queen Charlotte Islands. As he sat down in the blue-colored booth, resting his head in his hands, he thanked his lucky stars that the Brotherhood hadn't assigned him to the ships.

    Somewhere in his memory, buried deep in all of cloudy white noise that now occupied most of his past, he could remember being on a ship. It was...wooden...like this, but rickety...all damaged looking...and the land was cloudy too...the owner was a strange guy...what did he do again? The ship hit a swell and he nearly threw up the rest of the contents of his stomach, and it completely knocked him clear from any ruminations or thoughts of the past. He pressed his head against the table, trying to steady himself on the ship as it moved back and forth. How did people used to sail the world? How did they not hurl themselves overboard? I hate this shit so much... He could smell the scent of lunch coming from the galley, but he had no appetite whatsoever.

    "Damn, you look greener than a Super Mutant," he heard Veronica's voice, looking up to see her sit down in front of him, holding a cup of water and a cup of coffee in two hands. She pushed the water towards him, and he took it in his hand and steadily drank from it, slowly and easy.

    "You're in the splash zone..." he grimaced, trying to grin, as he set the empty cup down, "but thanks, I appreciate it."

    "Don't mention it," she took a sip from her cup, staring into his eyes. She's beautiful. Why am I thinking this right now? What the fuck is wrong with me? "how are you feeling, besides seasick?"

    "Well, my head still feels like scrambled eggs, but I guess I just have to get over that, you know?" Albert shrugged, still bitter about his memory loss. He had adjusted to it, and Veronica had told him that - at the very least - his personality hadn't changed, but he felt like there was a burning hole in his brain. How much was fucking wiped clean? What don't I remember? What have I forgotten? He was thankful, at least, that he did not forget Amata, "did you figure out anything from the maps yet?"

    "Not a damn thing. We've been charting the raids the entire way around Vancouver Island. I don't think they're on that Island, though. My guess is that they're operating from the Mainland, and they use the harbors of these islands to strike south. The other Scribes think the opposite, that they come from the Islands and raid the harbors on the Mainland, but if that was true...they would've already hit Seattle. Victoria isn't too far from the city," she explained, most of it going over Albert's head. Would've gone over even if I wasn't seasick, "hopefully the locals at Queen Charlotte can tell us something. If nothing else, it'll give us a few days to stretch our legs."

    "Why do you think they call this place Queen Charlotte? The town...the island chain...the patch of sea we're sailing through..." he smirked mischievously, "I guess Charlotte was pretty good in the sack for whoever was in charge of naming this place, huh?"

    "I'm glad that brain frying didn't change that about you, Al," she laughed, "I don't know what I'd do without it."

    They laughed together, and he felt the seasickness finally - after only a few days - begin to subside. Or, at the very least, fade to the back of his mind. He considered himself lucky beyond all reason for having Veronica as a close friend. She's so patient. I don't know how I would've dealt with it if she lost her brain...I probably would've lost my own in the process...and he was glad that at least the memories of her seemed fresh in his mind - if still foreign like the rest of them. As a thought about exploring the island when they made landfall crossed his mind, they suddenly heard a whistle followed by rapid-fire electronic klaxons blare over the speakers in the ship. While he and the other ground troopers sat in their seats confused, the sailors among the group suddenly shot up from their positions and began running down the passage ways. A tinny-voice, like a Pre-War recording, interrupted the klaxons briefly, "General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your battle stations!"

    "What the fuck is going on?" He stood up, adjusting his foul weather jacket as Veronica looked on nervously in her winterized fatigues. A sailor, wearing their blue coveralls emblazoned with a Brotherhood insignia on the shoulder, tossed them both life jackets.

    "You there, green-face!" The sailor, a gruff and stout man with a barrel chest and his left cheek puffed out from chewing tobacco, pointed at Albert, "come with me!"

    Too confused to argue, Albert followed the sailor through the passage ways, heading out of the hatch and onto the fantail, leaving Veronica behind. They quickly ascended, almost running, along the length of the ship towards the foc'sle. They reached front of the ship, and in the middle of it was a large machine-gun-like weapon sitting in the center, with other sailors hauling large boxes of ammunition, which were large drum-like devices, sitting alongside of it, and then rushing back into the ship. The sailor - his nametag said his last name was Baker - gestured towards the gun, "this is a twenty milly-meter cannon. I need you to grow some balls and be my ammo monkey. Can you do that?"

    "Yeah, just tell me how to do it," Albert nodded his head, feeling the urgency of the situation dawn on him. Baker bent down and demonstrated how to fit the drum magazine onto the feeder of the cannon, and showed him how to remove it. He then made Albert demonstrate.

    "Too fucking slow, but you'll have to do," Baker grunted as Albert took up position next to the gun, "and if this bitch gets jammed - she likes to jam at the worst possible time - I need you to fish in there and fix it."

    Great...

    Baker walked over towards a control box sitting against the superstructure and took out two headsets, heavy headphones with a microphone attached to them. He fitted his on over his head, and looked at Albert waiting for him to do the same, "flick the red switch on the right ear. We're hooked up to Combat right now, they'll tell us what to look out for. Try not to talk so damn much on the line...Alvarado hates that shit..."

    "Surface contact. Forward, bearing 023. Moving on a collision course at high speed. Forward Gun, you are clear to engage when you have visual contact."

    Albert watched as Baker cocked the cannon, and readied himself - breathing heavy in and out - for the battle coming up.

    "Surface contact. Forward, bearing 338. Moving on a collision course at high speed. Forward Gun, you are clear to engage any and all further surface contacts."

    Baker flashed a devilish grin as he heard the words 'you are clear to engage and and all further contacts.' Albert looked out to sea, but could see nothing through the dense fog.

    "Surface contact. Port side, bearing 272. Moving on a collision course at high speed. 03 Level Gunners, you are clear to engage."
    "Surface contact. Starboard side, bearing 066. Moving on a collision course at high speed. 03 Level Gunners, you are clear to engage."
    "Surface contact. Aft, bearing 202. Moving on a collision course at high speed. Fantail Gunners, you are clear to engage."


    "There he is!" Baker cried out, and suddenly the cannon leapt into action. Albert wasn't ready for it, as the concussive blasts echoed through his ears. It was like a grenade machine gun, and he looked aside to see the blasts crashing into the rough sea. And then he saw the approaching ship. It looked like a fishing boat at first, but then he saw the flashing rockets glimmer off of the deck, crashing into the water and nearly striking the Conflict. But Baker, undeterred, kept firing onward. Albert watched as the cannon blasts finally lined up, and coated the approaching ship with holes from the cannon. Through the thick fog, he could see the ship catch fire, turning into a matchstick as quickly as it appeared, "more ammo, damn it! Pay attention!"

    Albert leapt to it and unhooked the empty canister, throwing it aside on the deck and bent down to grab one of the full drums. Fuck! It's heavy! He grimaced as he lifted it up with all his strength, attaching it to the cannon. As soon as he hooked it up, Baker threw the gun back into firing, blasting away to their right. Another ship loomed out of the fog, the flashing barrels of small arms fire illuminating it in the shrouded clouds. Albert heard the whizzing bullets slam against the deckplates and the bulkheads, but Baker kept firing, a wicked grin on his face as this ship was filled with cannon holes. Suddenly, the ship exploded in a furious yellowy blast.

    "Hah! Hit their magazine!" He shouted joyfully as the ship burned itself down into the dark sea.

    "Surface contact. Forward, bearing 020. Moving on a collision course at high speed. Forward Gun, you are clear to engage."

    Another ship moved out of the fog, at a far faster rate of approach than the previous ones. Baker struggled to keep up with it, as it zig-zagged its way towards the Conflict, "son of a motherfucking bitch!" He swore, spitting the brown liquid of his tobacco on the deck, "just line up, damn it!" The cannon roared but its rounds landed hopelessly in the rough seas, as the speedboat swerved and headed right for the Conflict. Albert got a good look at it - a small white craft loaded heavy with men - before he felt the jolt as it crashed against the ship. He and Baker were thrown clear from the cannon, hitting the deck with a rough thud. Looking up from the ground, he saw ropes fly up from the side of the ship, and attach themselves on the bulkheads.

    "Boarders!" Baker shouted down the microphone as he leapt to his feet, before Albert was even able to stand up. He went over to a box near the superstructure and forced it open, grabbing an R91 Assault Rifle and walking quite casually over to the railing. With total disregard for himself, he leaned over and aimlessly shot down towards the ship now attached to the hull, expending a whole magazine before withdrawing, as bullets flew overhead towards him, "get up, you fuckin' bitch!" he shouted at Albert, helping the poor Wanderer to his feet and leading him to the ammunition box. Albert grabbed his own rifle and they readied themselves on the deck, waiting for the boarders to climb up, "you ready to die today?"

    "Fuck no!" Albert shouted back over the din of the fight, the aft and side gunners still blasting away at the approaching targets. A hatch opened behind them as Brotherhood troopers, now fully kitted out, rushed to greet the boarders. They started climbing up the railing, and the first unfortunate man was struck by a hail of bullets from six different guns, falling limp back into the rough sea. The others were just as unlucky, and one of the braver Brotherhood Troopers - Sergeant Ashton - stepped forward and tossed a grenade down at the ship. It exploded and rendered the ship loose, and it began to sink alongside the Conflict as the ship steamed towards the closest harbor.

    As they celebrated their victory by throwing off the remaining hooks tying the boarder ship to their own, the Conflict was wracked by a sudden blast coming from somewhere astern, "Fire Party, report to the fantail." the voice over the radio announced, "all contacts eliminated. Damage control parties, report to your gear lockers."

    Albert breathed a sigh of relief as he sat up against the bulkhead, exhausted from the short-but-bitter fight. Baker spit tobacco down on the deck and laughed, "you troopers are all the same, huh? This was pretty mild for them!" He chuckled as he helped Albert to his feet, "now, we got a fire to fight."
     
  3. Black Prince

    Black Prince The Fool on the Hill

    55
    Jul 8, 2020
    April 1st, 2283
    Queen Charlotte
    Graham Island


    Veronica walked down the battered aluminum gangway, which still held the tattered and faded design from when the ship was in service with the Old World Navy. Against a blue background, written in white, was 'USS CONFLICT (AM-445)' and below it, underneath an image of the ship between two detonating explosions in the water, was the phrase 'SI VIS PACEM, PARA BELLUM.' On the pier was a contingent of the sailors, smoking cigarettes on the foggy harbor and watching as the repair teams worked to fix the damage done on the rear end of the ship. Oil lamps hung on wooden posts, illuminating the rotting ancient pier the Conflict had moored to in the now darkening eventide. The lightposts went down the pier, casting a yellowy gaze on the fishing vessels and ferries moored up down the chain. She felt a chill burn through her, and she pulled tight to the black robes she was wearing, dipping her head under the hood. The other Scribes had not taken kindly to her flaunting the uniform regulations, but she held her ground on it. I found these, fair and square.

    On her back was a backpack filled with some supplies for an extended expedition on the island - a journal to keep notes, some medical supplies, a portable weapons repair kit, and a ballistic fist that had been salvaged out of an old Army truck found laid up outside Spokane. Around her waist was a belt, connected in the middle with a Brotherhood-engraved belt buckle, bearing her holster holding a AEP-7 Laser Pistol and a canteen. Walking off the gangway, she turned around and waited for her companion, who was still chattering away with one of the sailors. God...can't he hurry up?

    "-oh no for sure, man! When we get back, definitely," she heard Albert whoop, louder than the rest of the conversation, "I'll drink your ass under the table, no question."

    "Sure won't," The gruff-looking sailor smirked as he thumped Albert on the back as the Wanderer followed Veronica's path on the gangway, "good luck."

    Albert was wearing a blue foul-weather parka overtop his armored Vault Jumpsuit - Veronica could see the unmistakable Vault-Tec patterned clothing underneath - and Brotherhood-issued boots. He had a heavy-looking backpack on his back, in his hands he held his AER-9 Laser Rifle, and ontop of his head he had a black woolen knitted watch cap, a cigarette dangling from his mouth, "what's with the robe? It makes you look like an elf or something."

    "What's with the Vault suit? Makes you look like some kinda mercenary," she grunted, as they stood beside each other. I hate that smell...she turned her nose up as she smelt his cigarette smoke, "can you blow that somewhere else?"

    "Huh?" He blew smoke out from his mouth, letting it flow freely out, before grinning, "oh, sorry..."

    "Why the Vault suit? What about the Power Armor?" She asked, trying to ignore the cigarette.

    "The fuckin' crane is broken," Albert grunted, gesturing towards the twisted metal on the fantail. Oh. That was a crane!? "and the gangway will fucking break in half if we try to walk across it. Hell, this pier will probably collapse if someone in Power Armor tries to walk on it. Paladin said it'd be better if we just went in without it, and I can't really argue with 'em. The crew's pissed though, 'cause they had to take out a whole bunch of their spare gear or something to fit the damn things on board," he took a drag from the cigarette, "as for why the Vault suit particularly...well...it's comfy..." Albert shrugged, and she laughed a little bit. Still the same goofball...

    "Knight, that shit will fucking kill you," Paladin Brewster stood at the other end of the gangway, wearing the typical winterized uniform of the Brotherhood foot soldiers, a green fur trapper hat on his head with the flaps down about his ears, a backpack on his shoulders and a Plasma Rifle in his hand. He was a younger man, maybe only a few years older than Veronica, with pale skin and a bald head, "you know that, right?"

    "I'm not dead yet," Albert smirked as the Paladin strolled down the gangway, flanked by similarly dressed-and-armed troopers from Strike Team Rhombus. There were Knights Greenchurch, Huxley, Mandel, Thater, and Robinson, carrying Laser Rifles, and behind them were Sergeants Blackburn and Cox - 'regular army' troopers attached to the team - carrying R91 Assault Rifles. The Strike Team mustered on the pier, standing around Paladin Brewster as he prepared to issue them orders. It feels like a real military...a real army...a real purpose.

    "Our objective is to assess the situation on the island, and to ascertain whether or not the Pirates have been setting up a base of operations in the Queen Charlotte Islands," The Paladin explained, as Albert tossed his cigarette under the heel of his boot, "I've divided up our mission into teams of two. Knight Freeman, you and Scribe Santangelo will be tasked with Queen Charlotte, and working with the locals to build trust in the Brotherhood and - if possible - to ascertain whether or not this port is a frequent stop for our enemies. Greenchurch, Thater, you'll be tasked with making contact with the locals at Skidegate, doing the same mission as Freeman and Santangelo. Huxley and Robinson, you'll also be doing the same thing, but you'll be taking a boat over to Sandspit, across the bay. Blackburn, Cox, you'll be helping me secure the Conflict and to coordinate efforts in keeping the crew from tearing this town apart. Does anyone have any questions?"

    "When will we report back to you?" Veronica asked, crossing her arms.

    "If you don't find anything, report back here Thursday morning, 0600. The Conflict will be getting underway in the afternoon, so make sure to be back aboard by then. If any of you find anything, I want you to report back here right away," he emphasized this latter point, "no heroics. No gun-rushing. No foolishness. You will come back here, and we'll come up with a gameplan. Understood?"

    "Yes, Paladin," they echoed in unison, and they then broke off into their respective parties. Veronica and Albert began their long walk down the pier, while the other groups remained commingling behind them. She had noticed that her and Albert had stuck to themselves, slightly isolated from the rest of the Brotherhood knights socially. We're part of their special operation team, but we still can't share a beer. Huh... she looked towards Albert, who was busy fiddling with his Pip-Boy while they walked down the stretch.

    "What are you doing?" She inquired, watching as he intensely poured into what looked like the device's map feature. Veronica had seen it well, on Kurt's device, although his seemed more worn down, and the interface was yellow instead of green.

    "I'm pulling up the local map," he brushed her off, as the screen suddenly came into focus with the island chain. It focused more intensely on the town they were in, with the old Pre-War roads still clear, "ah, there we go. They're probably all blocked off in the snow by now, but fuck it, at least we know, right?" He smirked as they walked down the frost-laden pier, heading towards the lights of the town, "so, what should we do first?"

    "We should find a place to stay. Maybe they have an inn? Or a hotel?" She suggested, smiling a little wistfully as she remembered the dingy places that she had stayed in during her trip through the Mojave. That wretched place in Northside when Kurt went to Zion...God...it was awful! "That should be our first goal."

    "Good idea, but no," he shook his head, flashing a devilish grin - the harbinger of an idea that she knew she'd hate, but go along with anyway, "we're gonna hit the bar. Come on, you need a fucking drink."

    She laughed, "no, you need a drink," she shook her head as they crossed from the wooden pier onto the cobblestone ground, the snow that covered it piled high on the walls like a frosty dyke. Albert walked with her into the town, which seemed to be frozen - literally - in time from when the Bombs dropped. It was almost like an afterimage of a time so long ago, the ancient houses and buildings still well-repaired, or at least as best as could be done in the frozen north. In the darkening evening, there wasn't very many people on the streets, illuminated by the oil lamps, but every house seemed to have their lights on. They walked down the road, looking at the closed shops with some amusement - fish markets, produce stores, blacksmiths, and everything in between - until Albert saw it. He saw it before Veronica did.

    "Let's go! Let's go!" He whooped with a loud laugh as he picked up the pace. Veronica struggled to keep up, trying to not rush and slip on the icy ground. The tavern came into full view of the oil lamps as she neared it. It was a two-story stone building, with a wooden roof that seemed to have been freshly re-installed. A sign hung from a post attached to the wall above the door, emblazoned with a faded image of a woman in a white dress and a high wig, the words 'The Queen Consort' above the image. Albert didn't even seem to notice it as he swung the door open, rushing in with Veronica slipping in the door behind, a bemused look on her face.

    She walked in, lowering her hood, and was immediately hit with the scent of equal parts tobacco smoke and liquor. The pub was well-lit, burning candles sitting on every table and a great roaring fire against the left wall keeping the place not only warm but illuminated. There were some old fishermen and harbormen types sitting at the bar and in the booths and at the tables, drinking and smoking the night away. Albert and Veronica walked up to the bar, Albert resting his rifle against the bar itself, and took a seat on the stools.

    "Hey, what do you have to drink here?" Albert asked the barkeep, a balding man who was wiping down the counter. He simply gestured to the large array of bottles and taps behind him, "oh, well, uh, I'll have a beer...uh...surprise me."

    "Very well," the barkeep nodded, and then looked at Veronica, "and you, madam?"

    "A water, please," she put her hand up, shaking it as if to say 'no booze for me.'

    "Jesus, Veronica, we come to a fucking bar...and you get a water?" He grimaced as the barkeep came back with his beer, resting it down, "how much?"

    "Two shillings," the barkeep replied, monotone as he filled up Veronica's water from the tap. This is definitely radioactive...I hate dirty water...the Mojave was so much cleaner.

    "Shillings?" Albert's eyebrow raised as he dug through his coat pockets. He pulled out a bag and produced four silver coins, minted by the Brotherhood at Seattle. It had been a matter of some confusion and a degree of adaptation to settle into the new habit of using coinage instead of caps for the both of them. Veronica had been greatly intrigued by the usage of caps on the East Coast - at least in Capital - that paralleled its usage by the Hub merchants in the Core Regions. Both of them had gone through a learning curve using the Brotherhood coins, nicknamed the Frost Currency. There were two variants: the Eagle, which was a silver coin with an Eagle on the head-side and a Brotherhood crest on the reverse, and the Maxson, which was a gold coin with a side profile of Roger Maxson on the head-side, and a Brotherhood crest on the reverse. Backed by the military power of the Brotherhood of Steel, it was more powerful than the NCR Dollar or the Hub script, "will this do?"

    "Let me look..." The barkeep took the coins from the bar and examined them, looking at the quality of the four Eagles. As if he's a metallurgic expert! "Is this real silver?"

    "Yes," Veronica chimed in, "and backed by the Brotherhood."

    "Don't care much for those blokes here," the barkeep shrugged as he took the coins into his possession, "but silver's silver."

    Albert sipped at the beer, which was a deep amber color with little foam at the top, and smiled at the taste as the barkeep walked back to wiping down the counter, far enough from the pair to not disrupt their conversation - but close enough to hear it, "I've been waiting years for a nice, cool beer. Do you know how fucked up it is that most of the alcohol I've drank has been age-old liquor, sitting in abandoned houses?" He laughed, shaking his head as he put the beer down on the counter, "why don't you drink?"

    "Makes me foolish," she shook her head, "I like being in control."

    "That's the twist, you know," he opined, taking his beer in hand as he drank out of it, almost downing the whole beer in one sip, "you're never really in control."

    "Are you already drunk?" She sniggered, sipping at her water. Surprisingly, it's fresh...and pure!

    "No, I'm being serious," he looked into her eyes intensely, a look that she had seen on two men - him, and Kurt. Two, so different, and yet so alike, "God..the Fates...the Universe...Atom, whatever...your life is never yours to control. Things happen to you, you're forced into circumstances...all you can do is react to them. But in the end, your reaction is just a culmination of all of the other things that have happened...you're not even in control of that. It's just...a byproduct of your environment," Albert reached into his pocket and fetched two Maxsons, "hey, barman, how much will two gold coins get me?"

    "Gold coins!?" The barkeep looked astonished as he walked over. Inspecting the gold, he stared at it most inquisitively, admiring the handiwork of the Yakima Mint, "well...I suppose...you can have anything...this will cover me for a month!"

    "Give me a bottle of brandy, and two glasses!" Albert replied jovially. Oh no... "And another beer!"

    "At your command!" The barkeep's demeanor had suddenly changed, and Veronica witnessed the exchange firsthand. Splashing his cash like it's nothing...where have I seen this before? He brought over the bottle of brandy and laid the glasses down before the pair, and soon after brought another beer over to Albert, exchanging the now-empty glass with a full one, "is there anything else I can help you with?"

    "Well, we'd like a room. Do you have spare rooms?" Albert asked, beating Veronica to the question.

    "I've got one spare room on the second floor, and it's a single as well..." Veronica's eyes rolled at it. Great... "You can have it, the gold coins will cover it!"

    "Great, thanks!" Albert smiled, a little too warmly for Veronica's liking as he poured them both a glass of brandy. As the barkeep went to walk away, Albert stopped him, "and, hey, I got another question. You know anything about the pirates around here?"

    "I'd rather not talk about them..." The barkeep eyes darted around the room, looking around at the other patrons of the bar, "...that's not a conversation for here..." he looked nervously at the patrons, and then walked back to his position down the bar, "perhaps...another time..."

    "Fair enough..." Albert shrugged as he sipped at the beer, picking up the brandy glasses and passing one to Veronica, who hesitantly took it in hand. He raised it up in a toast, "to our shared good fortune, yeah?" He chinged the glasses together, and took the first shot. Veronica shot hers back, and it was a bitter - vile - drink. She wheezed and coughed as it went down, "ah, you're such a priss, huh? We'll work on it."

    "Doubt it..." she shook her head, already feeling a wave of intoxication take her over. It seemed that as soon as she managed to overcome it, Albert had poured her another shot. She tried to refuse it, but he was insistent. Maybe...just one more...She took that one, and it went down a little smoother. It doesn't even taste that bad...a little bit of apple in it! "Maybe it's not that bad."

    "See? You're coming around!" He laughed as he poured a larger glass for the both of them, "don't shoot this down. Just...sip it, you know? Real refined like..." Albert grinned, "you seem like a classy lady!" His face quickly turned red, as the realization that he was...flirting...with her dawned on the both of them, "you know, like the old movie stars...like Vera Keyes...have you ever seen those old holotapes?"

    "Kurt came back from some place with backpack filled with them..." She thought back to when he returned, weary and exhausted, from the Sierra Madre, located somewhere near the Grand Canyon, I still have her dress, "they weren't that good, to be honest with you."

    "What the fuck are you talking about?" Albert grunted at her, shaking his head, "Ten Nights in London is a fucking classic. I don't even know what London is, but it looked pretty cool on the film...even if the quality was degraded..."

    "It's not real romance, though," she sipped at the brandy, chasing it with the water, "it's...too fake...too gushy. You know, real romance, it's...it's got ups and downs. It's got soul behind it. It's not just like...two attractive people find each other in a bar room, you know?"

    "Are you calling me attractive?" He grinned devilishly. Oh no... "anyway..." he drank a good portion of his beer, and sipped at his brandy, "tell me about this...Kurt guy...was he your boyfriend, you know, before you decided...you know..."

    "First off, I didn't decide anything. It's how I was born..." She snapped back, not realizing the harsh tone she took until Albert seemed to retract back, "and, anyway...he was a friend. Was. Not anymore."

    "Well, who was he?" Albert asked, nursing both drinks in his hands, taking a sip from each, "a Brotherhood knight? Some wasteland wanderer? A gambler?"

    "He..." She paused, trying to find the right way to describe him, "he...was all three. And more..." her voice seemed to falter as images of the not-so-distant past flickered in her mind, "Kurt was a Courier, with a messenger company that's popular in the Southwest. He took a job, delivering this important package to New Vegas - that's Las Vegas - and ended up getting shot in the head and robbed for it. Somehow, he managed to drag himself out of that grave and walk halfway across the Mojave just to kill the guy..."

    "Sounds like a badass..." Albert grinned, drinking his beer in celebration of the Courier. It lit an angry, wrathful fire in Veronica's heart.

    "Well, he betrayed us. He betrayed the Brotherhood," she snapped back, anger dripping from her voice, "we let him in, made him a Knight, and he betrayed us. He killed them all, blew up the bunker that was our home. He said he did it under orders...but he ended up betraying the guy who ordered it too..."

    "Jesus..." Albert's eyes widened at the very thought of it all, but he said nothing else.

    "He's...I don't even know what he's doing right now..." She grimaced, and downed the rest of her glass to the astonishment of both herself and Albert, and then grabbed the brandy bottle and poured herself another large glass, "I hope he's dead."

    "Well..." Albert bit the inside of his lip, as he shot back the rest of his drink and poured another to keep up with Veronica, "...let's...uh..." he stood up, slipping the brandy bottle into his pocket and taking both glasses by hand, "let's go find a table...maybe change up the atmosphere..." he led Veronica over towards a table at the corner of the room, beside the roaring fire place. They sat down across from each other, staring intensely into each other's eyes. She could see the...shock and confusion in his eyes. The worry lines on his otherwise boyish face. The three-day growth on his cheeks and chin. His lips, crossing and turning from the anxiety of the conversation, "so...uh..."

    "Listen..." she took a large swig from her glass, tempering her nerves, "I...I didn't mean to get all deep, you know? Just...let's forget it..." pushing the conversation to a new topic, she continued, "do you remember anything from your past?"

    "It's...like...a blur, I guess," he shrugged, drinking the rest of his beer quite eagerly. Trying to drown it... "when I read the journal entries...it feels like another person wrote them. I can remember...images...like pictures, but it's not me. It feels like I'm watching a movie, of someone else's life. Like, I know it's me, but it doesn't feel like me."

    They sat in silence for some time, ruminating on their thoughts as they finished the bottle of brandy. When it was all done and gone, without a word, Albert rose to his feet and stumbled over to the barkeep, getting the key for the room and fetching their gear still leaning against the bar. They walked up in silence, up towards the room. Unlocking the door, Veronica could see - though her vision was spinning from the alcohol - that it was a small room, and felt the coldness of it. A single bed sat against the wall, with an empty fireplace on the other end of the room. A window overlooked the cobblestone street outside, and there was a desk table underneath it. Albert, without saying anything, laid down his gear before the fireplace.

    "I'll sleep here, you can have the bed," he gestured towards it as he laid wood in the fire, lighting it with a short blast of his laser rifle. She collapsed into the bed, not bothering to undress - not that she felt inclined to anyway - and pulled the covers over her. As she drifted off into a drunken sleep, she heard Albert fiddling with his Pip-Boy radio. A wistful song began to play as she felt sleep overtake her.

     
  4. Black Prince

    Black Prince The Fool on the Hill

    55
    Jul 8, 2020
    April 1st, 2283
    The Fiordlands
    The Broken Coast


    The beating ceremonial drums echoed against the walls of the labyrinth-like cavern, the sound emanating from the ceremonial chamber in the heart of the mountain complex. Roaring loud war cries and chants from ten thousand warriors, their faces adorned with religious paint and the men's hair tied in the ceremonial fashion, according to their rites, carried themselves like phantoms through the halls, their swords chattering against the metal shields and the butts of their rifles pounding against the rock below their booted feet. A walkway was formed between the great body of the warriors assembled, as priestesses shrouded in fine white robes, carrying whale-oil torches, led the procession down into the deep bowels, walking slowly to the beat of the drums. Behind them, under guard of heavily-armored sword-bearing warriors, was a congregation of shaggy slaves - prisoners condemned to be sacrificed to the One-Eyed God. Whatever the rationale for why they were marching forward, spurned on by the ever-increasing drum beat and the prodding of the sharp swords and spears behind them and about them, they would not leave this chamber alive.

    They had come from as far north as the Anchorage, as far south as Astoria, and as deep inland as Calgary. Some had been bought as slaves on the market, and rebelled against their masters - then sentenced to this fate. Others had been captured in warband raids on towns, earmarked for this very purpose. And others still were warriors of their own tribe, who had cursed the Gods and had defiled their Folk. In this procession was Athelred, one of the esteemed thrall-warriors of Vancouver, who had defiled his master's wife. His master had ordered him to be bound, chained, and sent north to the Fiordlands, the hair knot of the tribe unceremoniously cut from his head. Underneath the shaggy, curly, perm-like black hair, his burning blue eyes were locked on the man on the the throne before the ceremonial ground now arrayed before him.

    Sitting on a high throne, beside the drummers and his retinue of loyal warriors, sat Hang-Jaw, wrapped in the heavy woolen hooded outfit over his ceremonial armor - made of Southman Gold and adorned with the symbols of his Tribe. In his hand, balanced on the sharp point on the ground in front of him, he held his sword by its hilt, watching as the priestesses walked into the wide open ground before the throne of the Lord of the Broken Coast. Above him, the great skeletal head of the Killer Whale hung with its mouth open, heads of slaves stuck to its teeth. The priestesses walked up along the platform towards the throne, and arrayed themselves around Hang-Jaw, their torches casting shadow upon the slaves now lined up below, the warriors making a shield wall around the captives. As the slaves lined up in a single line, facing towards the throne, the drums ended their beating and the warriors silenced themselves, as Hang-Jaw rose to his feet, lowering his hood to reveal his long flowing blonde hair, and the dreadful scar upon his face that left his left eye blind. The warriors reckoned that he was Woden Incarnate.

    "By the rite of our people, and of our Folk, you will fight to your death," the Lord announced, as the warriors behind the slaves threw down crude swords and shields to their back feet, "your death in honorable combat will cleanse you of your sins, and bring good fortune to us and to your people."

    With that, he sat back down, continuing to balance his sword on the wooden platform. The slaves stood around, unsure and confused. But Athelred did not fall into the same trap. At once, he fetched the sword and wooden shield behind him and swung at the slave closest to him - a woman reduced to tears. The sword, poorly constructed and barely sharpened, wedged itself in her neck. The Mainlander warrior ducked as he felt the blow coming of a sword behind him, barely managing to deflect it with his shield, and then picked up the woman's designated sword as she fell, bleeding to death.

    The drums began to beat again, and the warriors let out howls like wolves as the slaves began their melee. Athelred began dueling with the slave in front of him, a younger man like him with a boyish face. He ran forward in a frenzy, letting out a cry of rage as he charged towards Athelred. But he was too quick - dodging the charge and then stabbing the man in the back. His opponent fell to the ground, screaming bloody murder as Athelred moved on to his next victims - two men dueling half-heartedly. Coldly and brutally, the pale man of the Mainland walked up to them and struck them both with one swipe of his sword, cutting their sides open. They too fell to the ground, screaming to the last. But Athelred had no time to bother with them.

    "Fight me, you cur!" A burly man - almost Chinese in appearance - with a bald head and a prominent beard shouted out. Athelred recognized him from their trip to the Fiorlands as one of the warriors of the Anchorage, captured in a raid on a merchant ship. He had boasted about his feats in battle, and the men he had slew with in mortal fight. Let him prove it this day. The warrior's chants grew louder, the whistles and the cries of the spectators as the two warriors lined up to each other, as the weak slaves killed themselves on each other's blades beside them. They circled one another, eyeing each other up. Athelred could feel the sweat bead on his forehead, as he analyzed the Anchorage Warrior. His stance...offensive...he'll strike me first...let him waste his energy...I have more than enough of it...he angers easily...

    "Come on, then!" Athelred swirled his sword in his hand - like a showman - taunting the massive orc before him. He beat the blade against the wooden shield, and screamed out, "are you weak? Are you scared?"

    The onlookers let out a triumphant roar, now fully engrossed in the spectacle. The meaty opponent screamed out something in his tribal tongue, unknown to Athelred, as he charged forward. He swung his sword and Athelred parried it, tossing the attacker off balance and then began his own assault. The burly man stepped backwards, on the retreat until he bumped into the shield wall, the warriors forcing him back towards Athelred. Spurned forward, with nowhere else to go, he ran straight forward, his sword pointed directly towards Athelred. Come on...come on...come on...he thought in the mere seconds between his charge, and the sword connecting with his shield. The weak wood splintered and shattered as the metal pierced through, Athelred twisting his body out of the way as the leather straps came undone from his arm. As he freed himself, he noticed it. The perfect opportunity.

    The sword's stuck!

    Without hesitation, he swung his sword around - quite sloppily - and brought it to bear against the enemy's neck. Whether this sword was sharper, or his force was far more powerful, he did not know, but this blow severed the man's neck, his decapitated head flying off his shoulders, bounding on the rocky ground as the body fell limp to the floor. A warrior kicked the head into the 'arena' like a football, to the growing amusement of the spectators. Athelred flashed a grin - a triumphant and proud smile - as he turned back to finish off the rest. There were only two others still alive, one man clutching his chest on the ground, bleeding profusely, and a woman standing over him. As he noticed them, he watched as she brought her sword down upon the man's head, cleaving it in two. She then looked up at him, both of them staring into the other's eyes for a split second before martial combat began. He noticed that she had red and blue warpaint, Athelred recognizing it as belonging to the Bowron Tribe, from the deep Inland. A proud tribe, but matriarchal...

    "Let's go, bitch!" He roared, knowing it would bring fury to the heart of the Bowron tribal. She gritted her teeth and moved forward, holding her shield up defensively. Athelred, on the other hand, stood quite casually, mocking her as she moved forward with his body language. Seeing some opportunity, the woman rushed forward, her flowing auburn hair - caked in blood and dirt - whipping from the speed she gained. Stupid bitch! Athelred sidestepped her and extended his foot out, the tribal tripping over his leg and falling to the ground. She hit the cave floor with a thud, but Athelred simply smiled and move back, "that's the best you've got?!"

    "Deadman! Fighten!" She screamed out as she stood up, her nose crooked and bleeding profusely. Letting out a louder cry - this time more pain than rage - she rushed forward, Enough playing. In her blind anger, mad from the pain, Athelred saw that she made a mistake. He brought his sword down upon her wielding arm, nearly severing it at the elbow. Yelping in pain, she dropped the sword - ringing off of the rocky ground - as Athelred brought the wooden hilt down upon her face, grabbing her by her hair as he smashed her face in. One blow. Two blows. Three blows. Again and again. Again and again. Until she ceased to struggle and scream. Letting go of her hair, she fell to the ground - dead or close to dying - and Athelred, victorious, walked to the center of the area. The warriors screamed for joy - or for murder - as the drums began to beat ever louder.

    "Is this your idea of a fight, Hang-Jaw?" The Vancouver thrall roared over the chaotic beating, looking directly at the most powerful man on the Mainland, "send your fighters! I'll show you a real fight!"

    The warriors screamed louder, beating their own swords against their shields and slamming their rifle butts on the ground. The drums continued their steady uptick beat. Hang-Jaw remained silent. With a wave of a hand, two of the warriors on either side of him drew their own swords and jumped down from the platform. Now here's a fight! They wore metal armor, metal from old cars and ships refitted and welded into a proper armor, and carried heavy shields - made of similar material, and sharpened steel swords. Their helmets were likewise metal, but they had skulls of some sort of mutated fish mounted to the top, a ceremonial tradition of the Broken Coast.

    "Is this the best you've got?" Athelred mocked them as they moved in on him, "I could do this with one hand!"

    The first warrior moved forward, making a heavy overhand swipe towards the rebellious thrall, but it fell short and Athelred brought his own against the man's arm, causing the warrior to falter and to drop his sword at the worst moment. Grabbing it from the ground, momentarily holding two swords, he cast the first one aside and fought the man and his companion off with their own sword. First, the fool. Then, his friend! Seeing an exposed neck seam, he brought the sword to bear and swiped at the exposed skin between the helmet and the armor. It found its mark, and the man let out a sickening cry as he fell to the ground, writhing in pain. But Athelred had no time to deal the final blow, as the other warrior moved forward. He took a swipe towards the thrall, grazing his cheek with a superficial cut.

    But it did nothing but enrage Athelred.

    "That's it?!" He screamed out, blood flowing from his cheek, as he parried and blocked the barrage of sword blows sent his way. Athelred then launched into his own, battering the man back and back until he too was forced against the shield wall. A drive through the weak point in the armor - in the abdomen - dealt with the man, and the shield-bearer behind him. The sharpened sword went clean through his opponent and struck into the chest of the shield-bearer, both men falling to the ground as he pulled the sword clear. Twirling his sword as he walked over towards the wounded warrior on the ground, the crowd had now suddenly fallen silent. Even the drums had stopped beating. There were murmurs, Athelred could hear them as he brought the sword down upon the incapacitated man's head, severing it from his shoulders. Gasps, astonished cries, and then silence.

    "I expected better!" Athelred yelled to Hang-Jaw, and then he felt a surge of anger. A surge of rage. Of blindness to reason and logic. He stormed towards the platform and jumped up on it, rushing up towards Hang-Jaw before the one-eyed Lord could even stand up to move his sword. The Lord of the Broken Coast was now at the mercy of the thrall, Athelred's sword only centimeters from his Adam's Apple. Athelred could see the other warriors moving towards them, ditching their swords as they pulled out their pistols and firearms, "I am not afraid to die. If only to kill you."

    "Then do it," Hang-Jaw spoke without emotion, his voice not even faltering although he was seconds - mere centimeters - from certain death. His eyes went up, and locked with Athelred, "but I have a better idea for you. Would you like to hear it, thrall of Daiv?"

    "I am no one's thrall," Athelred spoke defiantly, holding his sword steady even as the retinue moved to ready themselves to fire. The room was deathly silent.

    "I will give you your freedom, Athelred of Surree," the Lord smirked, an oily and snakish smile, "in exchange, you will be my right hand. My chosen man. You will lead my finest warriors into fight. You are man made for war, a man built for the Fight, and the biggest war we have ever seen in this land will be coming to our shores," he leaned back on the throne fashioned from whale leather, "you can kill me, and die where you stand. Or you can live, and you can fight until you die."

    Athelred paused, holding the sword where it was, thinking. If I drop this, he might just kill me anyway...but if he is anything...he is superstitious... "Swear an oath by the Gods, that you will not turn on me and kill me as soon as I drop this sword."

    "I swear, by the glorious Ancestors and the Mighty Gods, that no harm will come to you if you swear fealty to me as my chosen man," Hang-Jaw spoke, his voice projected throughout the cavern as the warriors behind Athelred murmured uncertainty and growing anxiety. But Athelred was convinced, for if he struck him down here, his men would be driven mad by superstition. He lowered his sword, casting it back into the slave pit, and stood before the Lord of the Broken Coast.

    "What is your plan, my Lord?"
     
  5. Black Prince

    Black Prince The Fool on the Hill

    55
    Jul 8, 2020
    April 2nd, 2283
    Queen Charlotte
    Graham Island


    Albert walked through the cobblestone market square of Queen Charlotte, looking at the various vendor stands erected all about. The disparate inhabitants of the island all seemed to be gathered here, purveying the different produce brought in from the Mainland on the ships now docked in the harbor. Fishmongers proudly declared that their fish - unlike any others - were non-radioactive and unmutated, vegetable sellers swore up and down that their produce had been cultivated on pure virgin land north of Vancouver, and salvage stands had hodge-podges of old ship materials, broken down weaponry, and everything in between. He had forsaken his coat for simply wearing his modified Vault suit, as the temperature had gained a few degrees, and he attracted many uncertain stares and whispers from the locals.

    "Don't buy anything..." Veronica whispered in his ear as he looked at the stock of a seller of fish. Sure...unmutated my fuckin' ass... "they'll throw a fit if we blow all our money here!"

    "Yeah, yeah, I know," he waved her off as he looked at one of the fish. It was labeled as a Rainbow Trout, and had brilliant mixes of colors along its body. He had seen pictures of trout before, but this fish was massive. It was nearly the size of his torso, and he looked up to the fishmonger - a middle-aged woman with dark hair smoking a cigarette, "hey, you sure this ain't mutated?"

    "Sure as I was born," she swore, crossing herself before him, "caught that one myself, I did. We catch all of our fish out in the Sound every day, that's right. Maybe the bombs made 'em bigger or whatever, but so what? You eat Brahmin, don't you?"

    "Good point," he conceded, and then cast a sideways look at Veronica before turning back to the fishmonger, "so how much?"

    "Albert!" Veronica huffed, but Albert paid no notice to her. Just trust me, woman...

    "Ten shillings," she gestured towards the fish, "that's a fair price, I think."

    "How about five Eagles?" He bartered with her, smiling a little bit as he haggled, "real silver, you know? Better that the shillings, right?"

    "Hm..." she pursed her lips, looking at the coins that Albert had produced, "well...that's fair...I think...real silver, you said?"

    "Real as I am standing here," he grinned, echoing what she had said earlier, "but I'm not really interested in the fish, to tell you the truth...I want some information," he told her straightforward, and he could practically hear Veronica's face flush and her mouth twist to an awed grin as he moved closer to the woman, "you can keep the fish, and I'll give you ten Eagles, if you can tell me about the Broken Coast pirates."

    "The...I...well..." the woman stammered, eyeing the now ten silver pieces in Albert's hand, "give me the coins first..." Albert obliged, passing the coins to the woman's hands as she leaned over the fish to whisper to Albert, "you aren't safe here. This is one of their havens....They've got locals to, you know, radio them information in return for not pillaging this place to the ground. Chances are they already know your ship is here..." Albert's eyebrow raised, "splashing Brotherhood coins around here...I know that ship of yours in harbor is from the south. You stick out like a sore thumb, and chances are someone's already gone and radioed to them."

    "Do you know where they're located at?" Albert asked, an increasing sense of dread now falling upon him, "do you know if they're here on the island already? You gotta give me something, damn it!"

    "Keep your fuckin' voice down! They'll kill me...or worse.." she hissed, and looked sideways in paranoia, "they're somewhere on the Mainland...I don't know where...I try not to know...some years, they're just a bunch of rabble, you know, like raiders, but others...they become an empire...their new leader, he wants to strike south...I've heard rumors that they're planning on taking you all, pushing the Brotherhood out...apparently you've done a number on their old territories, and they want revenge."

    "No surprise there," Albert shrugged. I've heard this story before...someone out to kill the Brotherhood...."well, thanks for the information."

    "Stay safe, Vault Dweller," she bowed her head to him, and as Veronica and Albert walked away. They said nothing as they made their way out of the market square, Albert's mind caught in a hurricane of thoughts and fears. We've sailed right into a trap...like a cat walking straight into a bear trap...they never thought about catching us here, but now that we're here...they're gonna kill us all...He bit his lower lip and clenched his fists. The meager forces of the Conflict couldn't hope to hold back an attack here, especially if the locals were sympathetic to them. They'd be up against the wall, with a busted ship and no way to escape. They'd be lucky if they got out into the open ocean.

    And, then...they'd be cornered. The pirates could strike them at every opportunity down the Sound, past Victoria, and straight to Seattle. They'd get into safe waters near Victoria, sure, but there was no guarantee that they could even make it that far. They barely made it into Queen Charlotte. This is a fucking mess...fuck this...he shook his head as they walked down the streets, feeling more unsafe than walking through a Super Mutant Vault or a slaver-raider den, "we need to get out of here. Now," Albert broke the silence, whispering into Veronica's ear, "we'll grab our stuff from the inn, and make tracks back to the ship. I won't feel safe until we've gotten out of this fucking place."

    "I agree," Veronica concurred as they continued on their way, "if the woman is telling the truth, we need to get out of here. If the people here can contact the Mainland, they probably got word to them last night. They might already be here."

    Albert could do nothing but nod as they approached the inn. Walking through the door, the barkeep simply nodded at them as they walked towards the door that led up to the rooms. He did a quick scan of the pub, and could see some unfamiliar men sitting in the corner, hiding their faces from view. Shit. He counted at least ten of them, gathered at the long table at the back end. Calculations flew through his mind, trying to find a way to escape without getting into a firefight. If we jump out the window....no...the fall will break our legs...maybe if we sneak out the back door...no, the only way out from the top is through that door...maybe if we let them come to us...fuck, they've got us....that fucking barkeep...Anger burned itself in his heart, rage from the betrayal. They had been set up, rigged for disaster and for death. And there was nothing he could do except face the fate before them.

    They walked up the stairs without a word, closing the door to their room behind them. As the door slid into position, he pressed his back against it and started directing Veronica frantically, "get your pistol. Get everything you can to fight. We've got one on our hands," he ordered as he rushed towards his rifle, throwing on his coat and his backpack and engaging the settings on his laser rifle, "they'll be coming for us."

    "Al....this is gonna be a fight we can't win," she told him, a little defeatist in her voice - enraging Albert, "we need to find a way out. We can't fight them."

    "There's no way out except that way," he pointed towards the door as he locked and readied his laser rifle, dialing up the settings to ensure every shot vaporized its human target, "we have no choice, damn it. And you got me fucked up if you think I'm gonna sit here and fuckin' die!" He hissed back, silencing her as she readied herself. He walked up towards the door and placed his hand on the knob, hearing the shuffling of feet below him, "are you ready?"

    "Ready..." she said, but her voice told him otherwise. We got no choice...we gotta go now....He nodded and twisted the knob, walking carefully out the door first and raising his rifle up. Each step down was agonizingly slow, as if time slowed to a crawl. At the first step, he felt fear. Fear of death, of dying, of being captured. Then he felt desperation the second, his mind trying to find another way out - a way that did not exist. After that, he felt a frantic sense of anxiety, as the walls around him seemed to close in and wrap their hands around his neck, suffocating him with every inch forward. Then, as he neared the end, he felt nothing but rage. The burning anger and wrath of a heart set ablaze with the desire for self-preservation and a thirst for fight. Now, he wanted the fight. He wanted to kill them all. To watch them burn.

    He stepped off the last step and walked out towards the bar, and could see that the men had spread themselves out in the bar, sitting in various spots around the pub. One man, a stocky fellow with a strange hairstyle, brandished a knife at the door, blocking their escape. Another man, sitting against the wall to the far corner, was hidden from view except a cigarette burning. This man spoke up, not taking his feet off of the table in front of him, "you'd better put down those fancy rifles, or else we're gonna have a bloodbath here."

    "Go fuck yourself," was Albert's reply as he sent a laser blast into the closest man, sitting at a table right in front of him. The man's skin burned down the muscle, which disintegrated down to the bone, until he was nothing but a pile of ash on the seat and floor. The other men then leapt into action, drawing their pistols, but Albert and Veronica were quick to the draw. Some of them fell before they could even produce their pistols, burning to the ground. In the fray, Albert deliberately aimed a blast at the barkeep, who tried to make a break for the back door. He burned before he could scream out in agony, and Albert felt a distinct...joy...watching him disintegrate.

    But his thoughts were cut short as Veronica yelped behind him, "no!" he shouted out, as she fell to the ground, clutching her side as blood began to pour out. No, it's not that bad...just get to a doctor on the ship, she'll be fine....

    "Albert!" She yelled out, and he heard it too late. In his lapse of judgement, the cigarette smoking raider had stepped forward to him, holding a sword with a golden hilt. As he brought the hilt down on Albert's forearm, he got a good look at the man. He was a pale man, with intense blue eyes - like the swirling ocean - and his hair shaggy and curly unlike the others now gathering around them, and his face contorted in pleasure as the hilt connected with his arm. The laser rifle fell to the ground as Albert grabbed at his wounded arm.

    "I'm impressed, Brotherhood," the man bowed his head in a strange sense of respect as his men moved forward, grabbing Albert by the arms and pulling him into the open, roughing up Veronica in the same way, "you'll make a fine addition to my crew, I'm sure. The spirit of the War Father runs in your veins! It has been some time since I've seen a man with such...tenacity!" He seemed to laugh, but it was more like a wolf's cackle.

    "Fuck you, asshole," Albert hissed, and then he felt the hilt strike him in the chest.

    "My patience has its limits, Brotherhood," the man returned venom with venom. He turned towards his men, "bag them, and let's get out of here. Before their people realize they're missing."

    "I'm gonna fuckin' kill you, you motherfucker!" Albert cried out as the bag went over his head, "I'm gonna wear your skin like a fucking coat when I'm done with you!"

    "As much as I love this man, silence him," he heard the man say, but could not see his face. Albert's heart raced in a fury and his mind burned with anger as he fought against the arms around his own. But then he felt something like a needle drive into his neck, and he felt the tenacity slipping - his mind starting to wander and fade away. I'm...gonna...kill every last...one of you....
     
  6. Black Prince

    Black Prince The Fool on the Hill

    55
    Jul 8, 2020
    April 3rd, 2283
    The Northern Seas


    Veronica drew back her fist and collided it with the pirate moving forwards, connecting with his nose and sending him lurching backwards. He clutched his bleeding face in his hands as the rickety ship's bobbing shook both of them off balance on the wooden deck planks. In one quick motion, Veronica moved forward and grabbed him by his legs and threw him backwards over himself. She brought down a powerful open-handed strike on the man's throat, and crushed his windpipe. She rose to her feet, the swaying light of the interior of the ship rocking back and forth over the fighting cage that had been erected in the old berthing. A sharp pain dug in her side, only numbed by the constant dosage of morphine fed into her. The slavers had her on a mix of the morphine and Psycho, making her mind swirl in chaos as more opponents tried their hand at taking down the Brotherhood Scribe.

    "Go on! Go on! Send him in!" A roar cried out from the darkness outside the cage, as the gate swung open and a man was pushed inward. Albert...no...Albert rose to his feet, wearing his Vault Jumpsuit with metal and leather braces still attached, and held an electrified prod in his hand. On his face was a look of pure sorrow, an apologetic gaze in his eyes as he rose the prod upward and took a fighting stance, readying himself for her attack as he placed himself in the defensive, "finish her! Do it!"

    "I'm sorry, Veronica," Albert spoke to her, holding the prod tightly in his hands as she put up her own hands - looking for a weakness in his position. I'll make it quick...I won't kill him, just...just hurt him a little....They spun around each other, revolving like cogs in a machine as they circled, looking for the weakness in the other. Their eyes didn't break from each other, each looking into the other's eyes with unspoken apology and sadness by the fate that had been forced upon them. Through the muddled chaos that had been forced upon Veronica, her mind torn apart by the chemicals waging a war within, she wanted to lay down and die. But that wasn't an option here...and neither could do anything except to make the battle quick.

    Albert saw her thinking - her mind wandering - and moved in first. In a lightning strike, he stepped forward two paces and brought the prod up over his head, swinging downward onto Veronica. But he wasn't fast enough. She shifted and grabbed him by the forearm, holding it in place hovering just next to her neck, locked in an iron grip that was more from instinct than passion. They locked eyes, his in fear and hers in a cloudy haze, before he brought his fist into her stomach. He wrenched himself out of her grasp, dropping the prod in the process, and she staggered backwards, the wind knocked out of her.

    The raider-pirates howled with joy as the woman who had brought down more than a dozen of their men faltered in the hands of her own friend. Albert drew back, the prod now out of reach of both them as they readied themselves for another round. She took an offensive stance and moved forward, her mind operating on its own drive for self-preservation. Veronica moved at light-speed as she knocked Albert off of his feet with a swipe of her legs and then doubled onto him with a strike to his face, practically throwing him halfway across the cage. Right next to the prod. No!

    "Damn it! Don't make me fuckin' hurt you!" Albert roared as he picked up the prod and jumped up to his feet. She could not say anything except a cry of desperation and rage as she moved forward in a frantic attempt to take him out, but he side-stepped her and brought the prod down on her back. Electrical currents flowed from the impact point and coursed through her nervous system like a bolt of lightning, frying her senses as she fell limp on the ground. Clamoring to her feet, he struck her again in the stomach, clearly feeling him holding back a full hit in favor of reservation, and caused her to fall against the fence. The bloodied scribal role she wore was now frayed at the edges from the electrical voltage, and she could only look up - defeated - at Albert, who threw the prod aside and walked towards the cage's exit, "I'm not playing this fucking game! Let me out!"

    Veronica, as her vision grew ever-hazier, saw the gate open and Albert walk out into the darkness, with two men coming in after him and grabbing her up by her arms. She felt them pull her out of the cage and drag her limp body through the berthing, the jeers and the insults of the raiders carrying themselves into her ears as she was dragged into the passage ways - dimly lit and rusted - back to her cell somewhere deep within the ship. She seemed to hit every knee-stopper on her way, but her mouth could not let the agonizing cry out. The mixed dosages of the drugs coursing through her made everything fade into a swirling and cloudy scene, hidden in shadows of deckplates and bulkheads as they dragged her limp body through the corridors.

    A hatch opened and they tossed her in, her head hitting the ground first before her body as the hatch tightened behind them, locking her in the room only lit by the porthole shining the afternoon sun in through the murky and darkened glass - stained from years of neglect. Fuck...she pushed herself up - with great trouble - and worked her way over to the rotten and dirty cot assembled for her, right underneath the port hole. She laid down on it, feeling her body ache and scream with pain but smothered by the intoxicants that flowed through her. They wanted to keep her awake - aware - at least long enough to reach their destination. Wherever that was.

    She wasn't sure if it was the Psycho, or if she really was that mad, but she felt a rage building inside of her as the ship rocked back and forth on its way to an uncertain port. They had been at sea for days now - although it seemed like weeks, as the drugs had stolen away any sense of time - and she knew that they couldn't possibly be out for much longer. But she feared wherever they were going - and the likelihood of them escaping seemed to be growing dimmer by the hour. They're probably looking for us...and they'll never find us...she wondered, in a brief moment of clarity, what the Brotherhood was doing about their disappearance. Had they been attacked too, killed to a man on the island? Had they fought off the attackers, and pushed out to sea? Were they now sailing up and down the Sound, searching for any sign of her and Albert? Or had they given them up for dead, cut their losses, and left for Seattle? The latter option - while the least tasteful - was certainly the most likely to her at that moment.

    Why would they come after us? We're dead...we've been dead...she shook her head, feeling tears grow in her eyes. Why did she leave the Mojave? Why did she even come out this way? All of the turns in her life that led up to this moment arrayed themselves before her like a flickering hologram, passing through her like sand in a hand. She hit her head against the cot, feeling a burning rage towards Kurt....If there was one person to blame for all of this, for every wrong step and every failure, it was him. If he hadn't betrayed us, I could've stayed behind...I wouldn't have left... but her thoughts were returned with only silence from the heavens, accompanied by the creaking of the aged ship as it moved through the rough oceans of the North.

    She pushed herself up from the cot and looked through the porthole, wiping away the dirt. As she peered through, she could see great mountains coming up from the coast, dead trees lining the dead shores. And she saw ships passing in and out of the great chasms in the land, as the ship careened towards the closest canyon. She felt dread, and fell back into her cot, waiting for her uncertain fate to pass to her.
     
  7. Black Prince

    Black Prince The Fool on the Hill

    55
    Jul 8, 2020
    April 3rd, 2283
    The Fiordlands
    The Broken Coast


    Athelred had once been known as the Ruthless, the Chief-Slayer of the South, who had brought down tribal warriors ten times his size in armed combat. To his enemies in the Kingdom of Columbia, beyond the mountains of the Broken Coast, he was Scourge of God who conspired with the Devil to bring the World back into the darkness of the post-Atomic age, a terror unleashed by the Divine for their sins and the cleanser of the land which had fallen from God's light. But now, his honor gone and his shame outweighing all the glorious deeds he had done in life, he was Athelred the Oath-Breaker. And the name hung over him like a specter, like the shining torches along the caverns path that led into the deep labyrinths of the Fiordlands, where the pirates of the Broken Coast made their home.

    If the Brotherhood knew we were here, they could bomb us into submission. They could end us with an air attack, and bury us under rubble! He thought to himself as he walked away from the harbor cavern, blown into the mountain face decades before with slave labor, that housed many of the ships that sailed out as far north as Alaska in search of gold and slaves. His ship, the Marauder, was an aging cargo ship, fitted with artillery batteries on the forcastle and fantail, with machine gun emplacements along the rails, and was - normally, anyway - a slave-catcher. It would sail, filled with warriors, up to distant lands and capture tribes wholesale, sack towns and carry away loot and women and able-bodied men for service in the Broken Coast. But now it served a different purpose - as the flagship of the most glorious and greatest adventure ever undertaken by the men of the Broken Coast.

    They would strike south into Seattle, and break the Brotherhood of Steel once and for all.

    Once, the Broken Coast has sent warriors as far south as the Mirelurk worshipers of Coos Bay and brought back Pre-War relics of the devastating War from the old Anchorage Line. He himself had taken part in the raids to the South, but the Brotherhood's increased presence from Seattle thwarted their raids. No longer could they stray out of their harbors unmolested, and a run even to Portland would surely lead to attacks from the shore by the Brotherhood and their allies. The spear of Steel had broken the backs of the raiders, forcing them on ever-more desperate raids on the interior kingdom, where their skills as seamen faltered in the face of the forest warriors. With rumors of a greater power than the both the Broken Coast and the Brotherhood, a conglomeration of towns and cities of the old lands of the American South, filtering upward, anyone with a brain could see the writing on the wall. The men of this strange southern land would have to fight their way through thick forests and cannibal tribals, but they would find a great white north weakened and exhausted from decades of unending war. And a land ripe for conquest.

    Not unless we forge our own empire...but even Athelred knew that the current state of affairs within the Broken Coast was chaotic, and hopeless. The clan system, which had served the Coast and its raiders well for decades - perhaps even centuries - was now showing the cracks and the faults in it. Every few years, the clans would erupt in chaotic infighting to put their own Lord on the throne. A succession crisis - which always erupted - would lead to the loss of all the gains the previous Lord fought over. He himself had seen three Lords come and go, and with each crisis the territory of their empire fading away to the Columbians, to the Brotherhood of Steel, and to even tribals. But a part of him was planning - biding his time - knowing that Hang-Jaw had already shown him weakness, and spelled his imminent doom. His mistake in trusting me. Even here, even now, Athelred was planning his takeover. The Oath-Breaker would live up to his name, revel in it, embrace it as he drove a sword into the throat of Hang-Jaw.

    The warrior entered into his quarters, an outer-lying cavern adorned with very little in the way of loot. At one point in time, he had his own house in the ruins of Vancouver, adorned with loot taken from his enemies. But here, he had little more than a bed made of straw, a trunk for his armor, and a chair ripped out of one of the decaying ships. Illuminated by torches hanging from the ceiling, it was pitiful squalor - but it ignited a fire within him. This was rock bottom, literally, and he would have to climb himself out from it and push upward. But he didn't even have the opportunity to sit down to rest his heels - after such troublesome business in the outer islands - before one of the messengers rushed into the room.

    "You're wanted for the interrogation of the Vault Dweller," the messenger spoke, "go to the Cave of Trials."

    Athelred grunted in response, rising to his feet and wandering back out into the maze of the caves, heading down deeper into the system as he went towards the lair of the priestesses. The men of the Fiordlands had strange ideas on how to break prisoners - as opposed to him. If Athelred had his way, he would break the Vault Dweller on a rock, destroying every bone in his body and making each nerve ending scream out in agony and in pain - wanting but never getting the release of death. He would make him feel every pain imaginable, to yell out his secrets in a vain hope of being spared- the only relief he'd ever receive would be a swift death. It was brutal, vile, but it was effective. He was an expert in the art, and it was an artform in the hands of such a skilled master as Athelred.

    But the men of the Fiordlands believed in breaking the mind - and not the body. The priestesses had a strange brew, concocted from mutated fruit obtained from the islands of the Great Sea. It was boiled into a hot tea and consumed in that manner. Some of the raiders used it as a highly potent chem, and in fact most of them used it in their religious rites. But it's other purpose - far more useful to Athelred - was to break the mind's of high-value prisoners. It could rewrite their consciousness, break them into a blank slate, and rebuild them in their image. Or take the pieces of their mind and leave the person as a broken and shattered psyche. It didn't matter to Athelred, only the results. And he would get results - one way or another.

    "Ah! Let me go!" He heard the cries come from the chamber as he entered the well-lit cavern. Lanterns lined the walls as the white-dressed priestesses poured a wooden cup full of the elixir. In the center, chained to a rock, was the Vault Dweller, still wearing his jumpsuit. Two warriors, holding their swords, stood beside the dweller on either side. The man fought against the chains that bound him, but in vain, as Athelred walked beside him, "I'll fucking kill you, you fuckin' bastard. Just wait until I get out of this. I'm gonna tear your fucking throat out. I'm gonna shove my boot so far up your ass, you'll fuckin' taste leather."

    "Is it ready?" Athelred, ignoring the empty threats, spoke to the priestesses. They did not reply as they turned away from their cauldron and approached, slowly and with their useless reverence, the Vault Dweller, holding the cup before them.

    "What the fuck is that? Get the fuck away from me!" He shouted out, trying to pull against the chains.

    "Hold his mouth open," Athelred commanded the warriors, who held down the Vault Dweller against the rocks, with one holding his mouth open as the priestesses, murmuring their prayers and doing their religious rites, poured the contents of the cup down his throat. The Vault Dweller kicked against the rock and fidgeted in discomfort as the scalding liquid went down his throat. The warriors released their grip, and Athelred moved in towards him, "you'll take some comfort in knowing, in the last moments of your life, that your friend will be my most favored slave. What fun I'll have in breaking her!" The Oath-Breaker grabbed the Vault Dweller by his collar, "and you will tell me everything I want to know, starting with the Brotherhood! Tell me everything!"

    "I...I..." The Vault Dweller's eyes rolled back into his head, as his body fell limp against the chains. Athelred, his eyes red with rage, turned towards the priestesses, gathering in a circle around the Vault Dweller, praying.

    "What is this? Why is he asleep?!" He roared out, his anger growing in intensity by the second.

    "We do not controls the whims of the Gods, Oath-Breaker," The High Priestess spoke, speaking for the entire group, "he is in the hands of the Gods now."

    "Fucking whores! Useless!" He screamed as he threw punches - fruitless and meaningless - into the Vault Dweller. One after the other, as hard as he could muster, the punches went into his chest. But the Vault Dweller hung limp on the chains, driving Athelred even deeper into anger as he struck him over and over, again and again.
     
  8. Black Prince

    Black Prince The Fool on the Hill

    55
    Jul 8, 2020
    April 3rd, 2283
    ??
    ??


    Albert awoke, as if he had been asleep his entire life. As if the entire life he had before was simply a dream, a dream within a dream. As if all of the struggles and toils and joys and pleasures had been nothing more than a fantasy in the minds eye. The wounds that plagued his body, the crushing pain in his abdomen from the barrage of his captor, faded away in an instant. In its place came a distinct warm feeling, like the healing hand's of a mother on a childhood wound. A mother...Mom....his consciousness torn itself apart in the seconds as his eyes opened. And the place he was at now was not the dark and damp cavern, the torture chamber of the Raiders. He was in a green forest, with strange birds he had never seen before flying overhead. The post that held him down, the jagged rock that he was chained to, was no more. He was simply sitting up against a tree, as if lounging the day away. And as his eyes passed over the scene, he could see a beautiful forest, spanning as far as the eye could see. A bubbling river passed underneath a mountain and, on top of that great mount was a wooden hall, larger than any building he had ever seen in his life. A massive stone bridge, adorned with banners he had never seen before, spanned over the canyon separating it from the forest. Behind it all, shrouded in deep clouds, was the outline of a great tree - flowing and brilliant as if in spring bloom.

    He rose to his feet, collecting himself, and began to walk slowly towards the bridge, looking at the blossoming flowers in the grass and feeling the cool wind on his face. Albert walked towards a small pool of water, in a grove of trees, and knelt down to have a drink - feeling his mouth drier than it had ever been before. As he drank eagerly from the puddle, he saw himself in the reflection of the water. The scars on his face had faded away, the bruising from the battering he had received all gone. And instead of his deep emerald green eyes, they were steel-colored grey. But it wasn't a dull grey, but rather brilliant, almost florescent. Startled, he tried to rise to his feet, but in the puddle, he saw flashes of a life that he had almost forgotten.

    He was running. Running out of a cavern. At breakneck speed. Running away from certain death, and away from the only life that he had ever known. Behind him, he heard the hissing of Vault 101's great cog door. He didn't stop to look behind him as he pushed open the cracked and faded wooden door. With a simple push, the door fell off its hinges and he rushed out into the open. And he was blinded by the Great Sun, its ambassadors of light coming down upon his eyes for the first time in his life.

    A great light poured out from the pool, as if the Sun itself was there, and Albert raised his hands up to shield his eyes. But as he stepped away from the water, memories flooded back into his head. Memories that had been blocked - thought lost in the mists of time - came back with a torrent. It all came back at once. The Brotherhood. The Enclave. Dad. Amata...all of it in an instant. Staggering back, as the weight of his past bore down on him unrelentingly, his head turned towards the great hall on the mountain, and somewhere - deep in his soul - it called for him to approach. Leaving the pool behind, with a clear mind now unified, he walked with a purpose towards the stone bridge.

    It came into view as he rounded over a hill once more, and could see warriors standing watch on its entrance. They were unfamiliar, their uniforms alien to him. One of them wore gold armor, his chestplate looking like a chiseled abdomen, with a muted crimson leather skirt. On his head was a helmet that sloped down, showing only his mouth and his eyes, with a feathery plum above it. In his hands was a circular gold shield, bearing a rayed sun with twelve spokes running off of it, and a great long spear. On the other side, another warrior stood in chainmail, with a heavy suit of armor on his body. His shield was white, bearing a red cross, and in his hands was a longsword. Feeling the call in his soul once more, Albert crossed over the hill and approached the warriors. Both of them moved to the ready, raising their shields and their swords to him.

    "What is your business?!" The man with the long spear shouted out in a language foreign to him, but somehow Albert knew it, "who are you?"

    "I am Albert Freeman, and..." Albert faltered, "..and I don't know how I got here?"

    The two warriors exchanged a look, and lowered their shields and swords. The man with the cross-shield pointed towards the hall, "you may enter, Wanderer, but it is not your time."

    "What do you mean, it's not my time?" Albert asked, his voice betraying his anxiety, but the men returned to their watch-standing, replying to his question only with stone-cold silence, "hey! I'm talking to you!" But the men did not reply, and instead continued to face towards the forest in silence. With nowhere else to go, Albert continued down the stone bridge, heading towards the hall. On each archway on the bridge, seven of them total, stood at the stone pillars soldiers underneath on either side. There were American and Chinese soldiers, standing facing one another as if the War between the two nations had never happened. There were Roman soldiers and some strange barbarian warriors, the images familiar to him from childhood history lessons, and more soldiers down the line wearing increasingly unfamiliar uniforms. All of them had the same eyes as him, brilliant steel grey. But it brought him a sense of peace, a greater peace than he had ever had before. And as he crossed over, he saw a face. A face that he thought he would never see before, standing with a refined and unblemished suit of power armor.

    "Sarah!?" He shouted, picking up his pace to a run as he rushed towards her. The two met each other in a warm embrace of comrades, separated by the mists of time and fate. Even in the cold steel of the power armor, here, he could feel the warmth of her heart. She looked down on him with the same steel eyes that he had.
    Her eyes were always blue...but this is different..."I never thought I'd see you again...where are we?"

    "There's a lot to explain and so little time," Sarah shook her head, smiling warmly, "I'm glad to see you again, Al, but you aren't supposed to be here..." her eyes seemed to betray some sadness at this, and he wanted to ask why, but she continued on, "follow me up to the Hall. Please."

    He obeyed and followed her up the stone path, lit by torches that seemed to burn endlessly. More banners flew, some he recognized - like the Old World American flag and the flag of Britain - but others seemed foreign to him entirely. They fluttered in the cool wind that passed through this place, "what happened to you, Sarah? What really happened?" He asked as they walked up the path, rounding the mountain in a circular fashion.

    "They lost the faith, brother," She shook her head, "there is nothing more to say. No more tears to be shed."

    The words, though simple, pierced through Albert's mind like a divine revelation. And he could see it in his mind's eye. The betrayal. The cornering. The murder. They flashed in his mind like a dagger, and as he came back to himself, he was standing before a great door, of which there were hundreds lining the outer walls of the great wooden fortress. On the door's center, emblazoned in gold, was a symbol of three interlocked triangles, surrounded in a circle by strange markings that he did not know or recognize. Sarah raised her hand up and knocked on the door three times, and the massive doors swung open.

    The sight inside was utterly alien to him, but yet, all too familiar. There were men and women in all sorts of uniforms, battling each other or sitting beside each other and laughing. He could see Brotherhood and Enclave soldiers laughing away with themselves, as if the battles they had fought had never even happened. He could see American and Chinese soldiers fighting the same battle that they had fought centuries ago. Men dueled, and laughed, and embraced each other, and dueled again. Their wounds healed before them, as if by magic, as they rounded into another duel, "why are they sitting together?" Albert asked as the pair entered in, the doors closing behind them - shut by no man, "they're..we're enemies!"

    "Not here, brother, not here," Sarah shook her head with a smile as they walked through the hall, passing by a woman who stood taller than the both of them. Her fair skin seemed to glow with the sun itself, her blonde hair flowing down to her lower back. She wore an armor that shone like the heavens, and her eyes were the same steel color as the rest of them, "here, we are all friends."

    They walked for some time, passing by soldiers who had fought each other in life, and drank together in the next. It was otherworldly, and Albert could not help but feel as though he was in a dream. And yet, it did not seem like a dream. It was more vivid than anything he had experienced in his life before - even the spirit walk in the marshes of Point Lookout seemed to pale in comparison to this. The two continued on, passing through more doors and walking up stairs, heading deeper into the hall. Eventually, they reached a door, guarded by the same women that he had seen in the hall before. Standing together, on guard, their effervescent was almost blinding, and he felt like he wanted to raise his hands up to block it. But he didn't.

    "You must enter alone, brother," Sarah turned to him with a wistful look upon her face, "it is not your time to be here, but I hope that one day you will be here. And you and I will celebrate until the end of time."

    "What do you mean? What's going on here?" Albert shook his head. She was here...and just like that, it could be gone, "Why can't you come too? Where are we?"

    "You will understand soon, brother, just trust in me," she placed his hands in hers, "do you trust me?"

    "Of course, why wouldn't I?" He was even more confused now, his mind shooting in different directions. But she clenched his hands tighter.

    "Then go," she released, and pointed towards the door. With that, she stepped away, and began to walk back down the stairs from where they came. He stood for a moment, hesitating, but he felt compelled to walk forward. With uneasy, but determined, steps, he moved forwards to the door. It was emblazoned with the same symbol as the one on the other doors, but this one glowed with brilliant and florescent colors. As he approached the stairs that led towards the door, two of the women, moving as if their feet did not touch the ground, opened the doors for him. A blinding light shone out of the room, but Albert moved forward anyway.

    He entered in, and the doors slammed shut behind him, and the light suddenly died down. He was in a great wooden throne room, empty with the exception of a man sitting in a suit of T-51b Power Armor, silver like the Brotherhood's but bearing the same markings as he found on the doors, shrouded underneath a hood. Banners bearing the same symbol fluttered on the rafters made of spears, and from an open window, two ravens flew in and landed on the figure's shoulders.

    "Who...are you?" Albert spoke as he approached and stood before the throne, almost trembling at the power he could feel emanating from the figure.

    "I am the Wise One, the Hooded One, the Slain God, the Hanged God, the Father of Victory, the All-Father," he rose to his feet, and lowered his hood. As he lowered it, Albert could see that the man appeared to be old - older than time itself - with a long flowing white beard and equally long silver hair. One of his eyes was plucked out, but the other shone out with the same steel as the rest of them, "I have taken many appearances...many disguises...in my time, child," he suddenly changed his appearance, flashing between a hooded man, with a bent hunchback and holding a long stick, to a mighty warrior with a sword in his hands and a glorious set of armor on his chest, and then back to his previous appearance, "I appear to many men as different as they are. And this appearance suits you, does it not?"

    "I suppose it does," Albert conceded, "where am I? Why am I here?"

    "You have been brought before your time, child," The hooded man walked towards him, the earth seeming to shake with every step that he took. He towered over Albert as he moved towards him, "you must see...you must truly see..." his hands, closed behind his back, came around and opened themselves to him, and his palms, Albert saw everything.

    He saw burning forests, cities on fire. He saw missiles flying and people running. He heard bullets chattering and women screaming. The roar of battle. Tanks drove over crumbling ruins only to be destroyed by machines in flight, as they moved down a corrupted land. The entire land burned beneath an army, bearing the symbol of the Brotherhood of Steel. He watched as they moved their way towards their own destruction, led by himself and by...Veronica...and waiting at the end of the line was a man, shrouded in fire, holding an axe that glowed blue in the darkness. The fire disguised him, blocking him from sight. And he watched himself as he moved forward, and the two men fought underneath the cloud of smoke and ash and flames.

    And then the God before him closed his palms, the vision snuffed out as quickly as he had seen it, "wait! What the hell was that?!" Albert protested, "I need to see more. Who was that guy? Who were we attacking? Why were we attacking?"

    "The Hall of the Slain requires more warriors, child," the Wise One spoke, his voice booming into Albert's ears, "the Inciter calls men to do battle, so that the final battle may be glorious indeed. But it is not your time to join the Wild Hunt, child. The destiny that has been spun for you has yet to be completed. Your destiny lies there, on that battlefield, and you must fulfill it. Fight brave, and fight honorably, child," he brought his right hand up and, before he placed it on his head, he looked the Lone Wanderer in the eyes, "listen to my counsel, Wanderer. You will fare well if you follow it, and you will be wise if you remember it," and before Albert could reply, he pressed his right hand on his forehead, and Albert could feel his whole being burn and glow in the sunlight.


    "Take his body away! He's useless to me!"

    Albert heard the words ring in his hears as the chains were unbound from him. He opened his eyes, and he was back in the cavern. White-robed priestesses stood around an altar, a statue of the same God that he had just seen - in his warrior form. As a warrior moved around to grab him, the raider stepped back, his eyes filled with startled alarm and dread, "Gods preserve us!" He shouted out, as Albert lunged forward. Before the warrior could react, Albert drew his own sword from the scabbard and stood at the ready in the middle of the cavern. The priestesses turned around as one and gasped, and the other warriors looked at him startled. Even the head warrior - the one that had captured him - seemed to recoil with fear.

    "He carries it!" The head priestess, the same one that had brewed the concoction that had brought him into the stupor, pointed, "he carries the sight of the Gods!"

    "Nonsense!" The head warrior grunted and drew his own sword, stepping forward, "fight me, Vault Dweller! I'll make it quick."

    Albert obliged, and moved forward, imbued with a spirit that was not his own. Whether it was the drugs enhancing his performance, or if it was desperation and fear of death guiding his sword hand, or if it truly was divine intervention, he did not know. But he moved forward at a lighting pace, parrying and deflecting every attack that the warrior threw against him. Albert could see, out of the corner of his eyes as he dueled, the other warriors standing - waiting - and unsure if they should join in. What the hell is going on?

    "You bastard!" The warrior shouted as Albert deflected another one of his heavy-handed blows. Albert then went on the offensive, battering the enemy with sword strikes that moved him ever closer to the cave wall. And with one clean, precision blow, he struck the sword clear from the warrior's hands. He brought his own sword up to the man's neck, who simply grimaced at him, "go on! Do it! You'll never make it out of here alive!"

    "Where is she?" He roared, the power of his voice not his own, "tell me, or I'll gut you like a fish!"

    "She's in my quarters, peasant!" The warrior spat on the ground, "you'll die before you reach her, cur!"

    Albert fought with himself, wanting to drive the sword deeper into his neck, but, feeling the stares of the men behind him, stepped away from the man, picking up his sword from the ground as he walked backwards, out of the cavern. The warriors stood like statues, watching the Wanderer walk away, and the priestesses returned to praying, their murmuring something now totally different than it was before. And as he exited the cavern, he turned heel and began to run. Running. He ran fast as he cut his way through the labyrinth, striking down his enemies before they even realized who he was.

    After criss-crossing through the network of caves, he came across a dimly-lit and barren room, with Veronica sitting in the center. A chain held her tight from the post of the bed, and as he rushed him, her eyes met his. And she looked at him, with a startled expression on her face, "Albert!? What happened to you?"

    "No time to explain," he spoke, not realizing he was echoing words that he had heard before, "hold still," he brought the swords down on the rusted and broken chain, snapping it where it connected to her neck. She freed herself and rose to her feet, embracing him in a hug, but he simply passed her the spare sword and gestured towards the exit, "come on, we have to leave."