He clutched the small pistol to his chest, hiding behind a column forming the entrance to a pre-war bank. His heart raced and blood poured from the gash that appeared on his thigh, as he sat and listened to the unrelenting hail of lead and barking maniacal laughter on the other side of the column which was chipping away slowly behind him.
Tears formed at the corners of his eyes and he thought about how this would be the end of him. He took a hand and wiped away the tears, and reached around and pulled off his pack and set it in front of him. After a long and ragged breath, he unloaded the clip from his pistol. Three bullets plus one in the chamber. That could stop some raiders, but that was laughable to a super mutant. “God dammit.” he muttered, while rifling through his backpack to find more bullets, though he was growing more and more concerned that his run in with the slavers on the lincoln memorial had reduced his armaments to nothing more than the pocketknife in his back pocket and the pathetic peashooter he had assessed to be nearly useless.
He desperately searched through his measly supply of water and pre war tech to find any form of hope, but finally gave up, thumping the back of his head against the column he rested on. His fists balled and his sadness turned to rage, his idiocy had led him to this. The bullets stopped behind him and he scrambled to his feet, ready to dash out and meet his tormentor, but he stopped in his tracks when the barking laugh turned to words. “Your time is up, little human. We rule downtown.”
The mutant was right, he had no chance to get out of this. But he realised that while the monster was focused on moving his jaw, he wouldn’t be loading his minigun. The boy ran out from behind the corner and slammed one knee into the ground, locking one arm at the abomination. BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM. the gun jolted in his hands as he fired off the last of his clip into the mutant. It was done, there was nothing else he could do unless the mutant was arrogant enough to come and kill him with his hands, but the pocket knife would practically tickle the brute.
He sat there feeling sorry for himself for a while and bleeding over the steps before he realized he was not, in fact, dead. He looked up to find a practically decapitated super mutant lying on the ground just over a hundred feet from him. He was shocked, but then he remembered there had been five shots, and he had only four bullets. Someone else was there, but as he tried to rise to his feet to retreat he found he couldn’t any longer. The bullet that had torn its way through his thigh had finally taken effect, and his vision began to blur, he managed to stay conscious long enough to make out the shape of something coming closer and a dry rasp of a voice say “Fucking tourists.”
As the boy laid unconscious, he remembered how things used to be. His name was Thomas Mars. He had lived most of his life, as far as he knew, in what could only be described in that day and age as a quiet town on the edge of the chesapeake bay watching ships battle the irradiated oceans of the east and trade with the hellish wastes to the west. He had watched the world move around him until he decided to join a crew going to the ever growing “capital wasteland” and its mysteries and wonders.
Their ship wasnt the biggest, and their crew was merely five including himself, but the sidewinder had a certain charm of her own, and so did her crew. The crew was a strange mix of stories, but an amusing generalized personality, after years of working together they all seemed like one and the same. There was cap, the haggard old helmsman that was the only person in the world who could manage the sidewinder, the ship got its name because the steering would more than occasionally jam when turns were taken too hard.
Jona and Pablo were the first real memebers of the crew, along with another named Chandler who had been killed in a fire fight one evening with the brotherhood outcasts as they shipped some pre-war tech out from DC. Chandlers replacement was found in a young woman named Sushi, no one knew her real name, they only found her trying to drink from the potomac with a rather large machete by her side, and when she vomited up the radwater they took her in, and later that night when a mirelurk climbed aboard, she apparently gutted it so quietly the only evidence was the mirelurk carcass on the deck of the boat in the morning.
No one knew why she had the machete, or even where she was from, and because she had her throat mangled to muteness, no one could tell if she knew, herself. Sushi had been with them for years since and was twenty two when Thomas joined, Jona and Pablo were somewhere in their early fourties, and Cap had to be somewhere in his sixties. That was years before Thomas’ current predicament, and the whole crew had either died or disbanded.
Even though it was all those years ago, he remembered how it felt leaving home, the nerves weighed on him like the giant pack his mother insisted he take, enough provisions to feed the crew for the trip. The crew laughed, and there were more than a few nights that they sat up and told Thomas of their first journeys, and how they either had no mother to give them a pack, or that their pack was even more massive.
It was a wide cruel world out there, but mothers never change. The crew liked Thomas before they had even agreed to take him aboard,all except Sushi, who didn’t seem to particularly like anyone except for Jona, and even Jona couldn’t have told you why. They had all known Thomas since he was a kid, they had all known his mother, the sudo-sheriff of the “port” known as HellsMouth where most people came through to trade. It was really just an old hotel on the boardwalk of some long-unnamed town where nothing ever seemed to happen anyomre, the post-war conflicts seemed to move around it, the trade seemingly sacred to the few factions that ever noticed it.
The crew was made up of the tenants of the hotel, stopping in often and becoming acquainted with the hotel and its many strange features and few strange residents. Thomas was just another person they had come to know and when he asked to come aboard, they had no reason to say no, and with the growing mutant presence and brotherhood patrols the extra gun would come in handy in the binds they would certainly find themselves in.
Thomas, regardless of the history between his unfortunate situation in front of the bank, recalled his first voyage exceptionally well, and firstly his nervousness came back to him, he could picture it as almost a tangible mass, black and bubbling, and promising all the same. This was accompanied by a strange sense of home as well, because the journey started from his home, down the same pier he had walked day in and day out, through the same salty deathly air he had bathed in all his life, and down to the water that ruled his world. Every journey from home must inevitably start from home. He strolled down the pier, pistol at his side, and knife in his boot.
He got all the way to the end of the pier before he finally snapped out from his self absorption and heard thunderous quick steps approaching from behind. He turned to find his mother, a miniscule woman carrying a massive pack over her shoulder, clutching one strap with both hands like santa with his goodies. She was going maximum speed possible and only just keeping up with Thomas as he walked nonchalantly. “Jesus!” thomas said, lunging to grab the massive pack from his mother’s slight shoulders, and said it once again after he had it on his “What did you put in here? Extra anchors?” he asked his mom under the strain.
He couldn’t quite recall what his mother said, but he remembered the answer was long and listed a great deal and ended with a diatribe about his father and a hug. There were lots of tears, as well. He was genuinely very moved by his mothers words at the time, he remembered they meant a lot, but the years had faded them and all he recalled was her face and her tears and telling her he would be back soon. The entire crew heard it and held back laughter and melancholy, every one of them had a story just like this.
They all watched the minute spectacle from the ship, wanting to welcome Thomas aboard and get on the water. Their progress was halted, though none of them minded, or showed it anyways. Though, there was never any telling with sushi. After a fond farewell Thomas was pulled aboard to cease further delays from passerbys, and the tour commenced. Jona clapped him on the shoulder and told him about their goods “here we have mainly guns, heres the ammunition, and in these crates we have prewar tech, and clothes are here. Now we have the consumables on top, and at the back of the ship near our quarters, the more valuable goods, special order stuff.” jona walked Thomas through the boat to their quarters, just four bunks built into the walls. It wouldve been a very nice vessel 200 years ago. “your bunk is the top over here, and you might wanna go ahead and put that pack in your locker, if it’ll fit. Gonna show you upstairs, and the nest, too.”
Thomas was led to the captain’s cabin, a large room that was supposed to be the navigation center for the ship but was converted to sleeping quarters, though it was hard to see under the smattering of large whiskey bottles that topped every surface. Thomas would’ve been concerned but he was too excited to care. He passed through a small path that was free of bottles, and exited to a heavily armored terrace and climbed a guarded ladder to the nest- an elevated turret with a minigun and a few thousand rounds of ammo.
“this is the baby, we call her lil bitch cuz shes a nasty one, saved our asses plenty of times. We all take shifts on her while we are out. There will never be a time that someone isn’t on her when we aren’t in port. One of the few rules of the ship, never fall asleep in the nest. We have a radio and you can listen to GNR and anything else that pops up, but you cannot fall asleep or your ass is grass.” Jona said to Thomas. No one else in the world talked like Jona, apparently he grew up in some vault up north and came down to ‘see the sights.’ as he said. Pablos head popped up from the armored ladder chute after a brief conversation about minigun operation, and a promise of future lessons in that and cleaning it. “Ey, we are gonna cast off, we need to crank the engines.” Pablo said, mostly to Jona. “i gotcha, head on down and ill get there in a second.” Jona said, then turned to Thomas, “This is an important part of the ships regiment, so follow us, you’re gonna have to learn sooner rather than later, us old folks can hardly do it any more. You and Sushi are gonna havta start doing it soon, these old bones aren’t cut out for it.” he laughed a little and swung his legs over the ladder chute and slid down the outside, joining pablo on the terrace. Thomas thought perhaps it was best to simply use the ladder, and they all went to the back of the ship.
It smelled of oil and gasoline and the fainted hint of stale sweat. Sushi was already down there when they arrived, her face was the same mask as always but Jona piped up and said “Well look at you, all excited. Go on and get on your mark.” the faintest whisper of a breath escaped Sushis nose, Thomas didnt realize it at the time but that was a laugh. Jona picked up what looked like a psycho syringe, and jammed it into a little cut out hole in the engine. “ok, 3, 2, 1, and hit it.” Jona counted down and once Sushi hit it, the engines monstrous roar erupted in the small room, deafening Thomas. Jona shouted some things at him but he couldn’t hear, and Jona walked him out, chuckling.
“Hahaha, couldn’t hear me at all, could you?” Thomas blinked and pinched his ear to get them working again before saying “No, i can’t hear shit.” To which Jona laughed more before saying “Sorry about that, it was a calculated risk. We all need to hear it full force our first time so we can do it without covering our ears. Gotta hear the engine and your co-operator. But you hear that?” Thomas listened very closely, and thought it may be because he was still deaf, but he couldn’t hear virtually anything from the engine room. “No?” Thomas answered. “good, thats how we want it. We insulated the insides of the engine room so the only noise we make is the blades in the water and us gliding over it.” Jona explained, then shouted up to cap to get them moving. And they were finally off, the hellmouth shrinking slowly next to them until it was a distant point.
Two days passed and the crew all putsed around like they should, meals were talkative, days were quiet. They all knew they had time to tell their stories so just sitting around and not telling them was the best way to stretch them out. On the third day, Jona came down from the nest and found Thomas who was sleeping to change shifts and said. “Now listen, Thomas. We are close to DC and this is where it gets really bad. Watch the banks, we are sure to run into something, so call down to captain when you see something. 5 millimeter bullets aren’t pricey, but they aren’t free. Let’s avoid what we can.”
Thomas headed up, as usual, and passing through caps quarters saw the old unresting man at the wheel, bottle in his hand. “Hey, cap.” he murmured in his half sleep. “Hey kiddo, get up there quick, we need someone on that gun ASAP.” Cap said, as sharp as ever. Cap hadn’t left the wheel in those three days on the water, no sleep and Thomas hadn’t seen him eat, either- though he drank like a fish. Thomas wondered how he did it, just watching the water, unresting. These thoughts soon were snuffed out as thomas got in the nest. The banks were stirring and thomas couldn’t figure out why.
Thomas had always noticed the little things, or so people told him. He saw the trash on the banks shift and fall into the water, the mirelurks that would sometimes dot the banks had disappeared and when he looked back they were nowhere to be found. Something was amiss and the fact he couldn’t see anything unsettled him. He told cap something was off through the speaking tube and he could tell he had a scowl on his face when he said “yeah, kid, somethin’ aint quite right, but stay frosty, tell me what you see.”
There was a long and terrible silence besides the creaks of the boat, the radio was off, the lurks had gone, and the gunshots had all faded away. A single statue of a man inside a circle loomed from the distance, but before it was a lone super mutant. Thomas breathed a sigh of relief before reporting in “damn. It was just a mutant. I can take it ou-.” “NO!” Cap shouted, cutting Thomas off. “Do not fire, Thomas, that isn’t some pissant mutant, that there’s a behemoth. You fire on him and we are sunk, you hear me?” Cap sounded nervous, Thomas’ hands began to sweat and he took them off the gun entirely.
But a shot rang out anyways. Thomas jumped, and Cap started cussing at thomas until he realized Thomas had not fired. He saw the shot, but it didn’t register until seconds later. A volley of laser rifle fire cascaded over the mutant from just behind a building, and then they stepped out. The Brotherhood. “Damn fools.” said the captain, stomping his foot. Three heavily armed, power armor clad knights came trotting towards the mutant, who screamed at them and hurled the stone man next to him, but missed wildly. Fucking mutants could never throw worth shit.
However, after that he charged; the weight of his feet shaking the buildings around him, sending waves of garbage off the banks and into the river. The brotherhood knights went from running towards to running away, their guns still trained on the massive creature. It was on them in seconds, though, there was no hope of retreat. It swiped one of them and slammed him through the wall of a building like a bullet. The next to go was under the giants massive foot. For a moment the knight actually held it up but it wasnt enough, the joints of the suit failed and the knight was crushed. The final one dropped his gun and ran for the river like a bat out of hell. The giant gave chase and caught site of the boat, and seemed to roar. Thomas panicked and looked down to yell at his crew members, but there was Jona on the deck with a hunk of metal slung behind his shoulder, and then a single thump and a shrieking whistle as he launched something. The mini nuke hit the mutant in the chest, or so Thomas thought. Thats where the blinding light came from, and then he was awake.
Thomas looked up at the ceiling of underworld surrounded by concerned, if rotting faces. To say he was scared was an understatement, but only his eyes could show it, his body too weak and agonized to move. Willow, the one who would later be announced his hero, was talking to Dr.Barrows about his wounds and what they could mean in tandem with the smoke that came from the lincoln memorial.
Mister crowley was what held Thomas’ attention, however. The old ghoul was talking about the fact they “already had three damn random smoothskins.” and arguing that they “dont need another goddamn gun wielding asshole” who he was sure was going to kill them all. And in fact, if Thomas had a gun and his mobility and heard that, he wouldve. Mister crowley made sense, though, another unknown spells trouble for anyone- especially ghouls. Nurse Graves fended him off in place of the doctor, telling him to get out. He was ushered away by winthrop and his mister gutsy, Cerberus.
Nurse graves turned back around to examine Thomas’ condition and noticed his wide eyes fixed on her, and jumped slightly, and then laughed politely before quietly informing the room that he was awake. “well thats good.” said the doctor, coming to examine Thomas further. Thomas had enough energy to flinch, being tied down was not his favorite thing in the world and the whole room terrified him, too many unknowns and not enough firepower to compensate.
“you have about ten minutes before you need to get out of this bed and head up to carols place and out of my hair. GI jane over there is in critical condition and i cant deal with you right now. Heres 3 med-x and ive stimmed up the wound. Take it easy and try not to come back.” said doctor barrows, and Thomas was stunned. He was broke. No bed for him. Maybe he could trade something for a place to sleep? But probably not. He closed his eyes again and sat there to think about his options, but before he could get the ball rolling doctor barrows chimed in again, “you got me?” “Yes.” Thomas said, though he was more concerned on how he was going to get it done rather than confirming that he was, in fact, going to get it done. He closed his eyes once more and thought hard, then fell asleep again.
He woke up in a pool of sweat and a terrible pain in his leg. He tried to sit up but failed, his shuddering arms barely able to lift him off the examination table. He was cold despite the radiation and small fires around the room to illuminate the place. He came to the conclusion moments later that half a dose of localized med-x would make the world a better place, and ten minutes after administering, he was warm and as mobile as he could be. He found a crutch at the end of the end of the bed and hobbled his way to the main room of UnderWorld and stopped at a massive black tangle of stone bodies. “what the fuck did i get myself into?” he inquired under his breath after an underworld resident passed him by mumbling something about how he wished he could get out to the wastes.
He hobbled over to the stairs, passed what appeared to be a shop where two ghouls were chatting. Once he hit the stairs his leg was dully throbbing, but he looked up to the top step and wondered if he could make it. One step. “fuck.” One step. “fuck.” One step. “fuck.” and then a fourth and he was sweating and weak. He sat and watched the scene a little more closely. People looked exactly the same as always, just wandering around and chatting, popping in and out of the doors that dotted the walls. Thomas was taken aback by the normalcy. The mall right outside, these zombies seemed to just go right on living like normal folks.
Thomas’ eye caught the half hair/half scalp of a ghoul who was going to come up the stairs. A ghoul dressed in wasteland journeyman fashion locked eyes with him and said “oh, you’re awake. Glad to see it. Why you sittin here on the steps, kiddo?” he asked, and then followed up with. “oh yeah, and what’s your name? Im Quinn.” Thomas was very tired and didn’t really fancy a talk, so he simply said “Thomas.” “Good to meet you, Thomas. Im assuming youre heading to the bar? Underworlds got pretty good hootch. Probably some med-x somewhere, too.”
Thomas looked confused and the pain was numbing his brain so he couldnt even begin to tell him he didnt drink. However, quinn seemed to realize the predicament. “you’re lookin for a bed, not booze. You chose the wrong stairs, we need to get you over there.” Quinn pointed to the other balcony and studied Thomas, eventually deciding he couldn’t get there on his own, and probably couldn’t pay regardless. He muttered under his breath and grabbed thomas and hoisted him up and practically carried him down one, and up another set of stairs.
“Shit, youre made of friggin bricks, kid.” Quinn said, using all his strength to push open the door. Greta and Carol looked up at him from shooting the breeze and immediately started in on him. “who is that?” “what are you doing quinn?” they both dropped their duties and trotted over to him to grab Thomas.
After a few minutes of grappling with Thomas’ heavy body and getting him into bed, Greta searched his pockets while Carol debriefed with Quinn. “Hey, he doesnt have any caps, quinn. Why is he in a bed he cant pay for?” Greta said, irritated. “calm down, Greta. Hes got a pack down stairs, we will figure something out.” Quinn was a nice guy, but he was tired and irritated. “ill go grab it.”
Thomas was left with two fairly irritated ghouls who talked about throwing him out. “we arent a charity, we cant keep putting people up.” said Greta. “I know, i know, we’ll put him on a bench if he hasnt got the caps.” Carol retorted.
It seemed like forever before Quinn finally came back with Thomas’ bag. But Thomas was all too aware there werent many caps in there. “here it is” Quinn said, shouldering open the door and flinging the bag towards Carol. She immediately unzipped it and probed around. “Gee, kid, got a lot of crap in here… just an old book and a lot of old metal junk i cant use.” she paused and rooted around more, Thomas was almost notorious for his collection of pre war tech and junk. No one but the brotherhood, cap, pablo, a few merchants, and Thomas himself knew their real value. Carol passed them up and rooted around and found a small satchel of 50 caps, and the pistol he had come in with.
“Damm. This thing looks nice.” said Carol, studying it. It was shiny and silver and was in the best condition of any gun underworld was likely to see. “This’ll get him a night.” She said, looking at Quinn who simply looked at Thomas who was still remarkably holding onto his consciousness. He shook his head the inch he could manage, the room already spinning, and quinn gave a quick frown and told Carol “No.” “well then he’s not sleeping here, we’ll put him out on a bench. We cant keep letting the bed go to these freeloaders.” she snapped. Thomas and Quinn were a little disappointed, but they knew they couldn’t ask for a favor like this.
Quinn, like the friendly young ghoul he was, headed to pick Thomas up. As he wrapped his arms around Thomas’ frame, there was a crash through the door and in stumbled a fifth party.
Willow looked around a little confused and locked eyes with carol. “This is the tourist’s.” and with another massive crash there was the mutants minigun on the floor. “that should square him up til’ he’s back on his feet. Let him sleep.”
A small piece of thomas’ mind clicked into place again and he mouthed “thank you.” He knew she saw him, an infinitesimal smile crept onto her lips. She searched his face breifly as the others stared at her and the massive gun on the floor. She excused herself and thomas’ eyes rolled closed again, finally. He was once again in a dream.
His eyes adjusted back from the blinding light that shone in them moments before from the nuclear blast, and all there was of the giant mutant was a black mark and various bits of flesh, and one cowering brotherhood knight. After Thomas’ ears adjusted, too, he realized the knight was sobbing.
“You ok, kid?” Jona said from the main deck, not looking at Thomas, just staring out with a cold expressionless gaze towards the ruins he had just fired into. Pablo came behind Jona and lifted the gun off his shoulders as Thomas looked on, not able to find words. “Kid?” Jona finally turned.
“yeah, yeah, im fine. What was that? Why did that happen?” Thomas asked, his mind not catching up with his astonished mouth. Jona scoffed, and walked to the nearest speaking tube and told the captain to “get us the fuck out of here.” While Thomas’ mind processed, and suddenly he was on the main deck next to Jona, his legs carrying him in his trance.
“we arent going to help them?” He asked. And again Jona scoffed. “Thats brotherhood business. This ship keeps its collective nose out of brotherhood business.” The knight on the shore had turned and dropped to his or her knees, then to their hands as well. The sobbing had not ceased. Thomas just stared at the soldier and the water as they cruised along, and then the knight and his crying were gone.
Thomas followed Jona up to the captain’s cabin after a quick nod from Jona prompted him. “Poor bastard. They can’t ever prepare you for that.” Cap said, another bottle in his hand. “We are less than a mile from rivet city, no?” Jona asked the captain. “thats correct. Only a minute or two till we can see it. Why?” Cap replied, still scanning the waters. “They’re too close to the place for my liking. What are they doing so close? I don’t like this. We are sitting on too much tech to have the brotherhood breathing down our necks at this leg of the journey.” Cap looked over at Jona, a natural grimace had formed over his lips over years of the job, and told Jona to calm down.
“I will once we are there. I hate this. They keep coming closer and closer to our routes. The outcasts are already on us, we don’t need another hindrance.” Jona was clearly shaken, but Cap just nodded, decades of experience keeping him cool and calm. “Just another SNAFU, we have dealt with changes before. Wouldn’t be much of a job without them. Calm down Jona, we are almost there.” One of Caps fingers pointed out from the wheel, and Jona and Thomas both looked up to see the massive city roll into view, and fairly close. Jona looked like he was about to say something, very definitely having a conversation in his head, but then sighed and with another minute nod, Thomas and he were heading for the main deck.
“grab that line over there.” Jona said, pointing to a mass of rope down the boat. “That was just a taste of life out here, Thomas. And it’s getting worse. If you wanna quit, no one’s gonna think less of you.” The words hit Thomas hard. He hadn’t seen the world like this before. Everything but his safe little boardwalk on the water was far away before he had seen it up close like this. And now he was in it. Jona didn’t say anything else until they were in the city after docking and talking to the guards.
“Walk around. Clear your head. Maybe get a drink. We are going back to the hellsmouth after this, so give us an answer when we get back.” Jona said it and handed Thomas half of his pay, and walked off to the market to sell his goods.
Thomas spent a while just sitting there, a little shell shocked. And then he got up and walked to the market, but only passed through on his way upwards, and then through a maze of the ship’s innards, through the guards barracks that he was hurried out of and then he was on the roof. He sat down on a bench next to a makeshift baseball diamond and watched the sun start to set on the opposite side of the water from the ruins of the nation’s capital.
A man who was looking over the edge of the ship for a long time finally snapped out of his trance and walked over to Thomas. “Hey there, you feelin alright? You don’t look so hot.” Thomas’ eyes didnt move from the sunset as he told the man that he was not, in fact, alright. The man sat down next to him and offered him a cigarette. “The name’s Lopez. Whats yours?” He asked after Thomas waved off the cigarette. “I am Thomas Mars.” Thomas replied looking at the sun go down behind the rows of old buildings across the water. “Well, Thomas Mars, what’s got you so down? I’ve got a little experience being down myself. Maybe i can help.” And with that the sun had set and left only a pink sky and Thomas looked over to the man and told him the story.
After the story Lopez looked over at where he had stood earlier while looking out over the side of the ship, and then back at Thomas. Anyone could see the thoughts flash behind the older man’s eyes, but he said nothing for a long time. “It’s been a long time since i’ve been out there, son. A long, long time. And i’d like to say that’s the way i want it, but it’s just not true. I’ve been on this boat for too damn long and i hate it. I hate where i am. But we keep going, no matter where we are, if we have people around us who need us. After hearing that, my life ain’t so bad. And neither is yours. Maybe even those knights you saw had it good before that. That Jona fella’ you were talking about is still on that boat, and so is your captain, and that other guy, too. They keep doin’ it, so maybe there’s more to it than you realize, yet. You should stick with ‘em, and ill stick with mine.” The man looked once again to where he stood and sighed and smiled. “We keep living for all this, and its all worth it in moments that sneak up on us, like this. I dont know that this makes much sense to you, but it means a lot to me to see how good ive got it. Im gonna head inside, but i think where you are on that ship sounds pretty good, the wasteland’s a funny place, youll get to see the beauty in it, too. Just you wait.”
Thomas watched the man leave and sat for a while more and thought about the sunset he had just seen, and looked around at the baseball diamond he was sitting in and he smiled, maybe Lopez was right. There was more beauty in this place than he had seen in the hellsmouth, even despite the ugliness. He wanted to stay. He had his answer for Jona.
The ride back was peaceful. Every day Thomas watched the sunset, and on two occasions he watched it rise from his seat in the nest. He thought of the conversation he had with Lopez a lot. He began to appreciate the horrific world around him. It was terrifying and frightening, but it had a beauty that couldnt be found at the hellsmouth.
They finally meandered to the boardwalk of the hellsmouth and Jona handed Thomas the second half of his pay and asked him for his answer. “Jona,” Thomas said. “I couldnt think of anywhere id rather be.” Jona insisted on getting a picture to commemorate his official place in the crew, and when the bulb flashed, Thomas was once again awake.
Thomas sat up almost immediately under his own power, and only hurt minorly. He hoisted his leg up and was greeted by a flashing pain, but found that once on the floor it could bare weight and he walked fairly easily. He walked immediately up to Carol and asked how many nights he had. “id say… four more days. You were out for two.” Thomas was shocked, first by the fact that he had been out for two days and secondly that he has being shorted a day. He haggled his way up to one week and then asked for the next five days cancelled so he could get his caps. She huffed and puffed and eventually told him he could have a three hundred caps. He took it and walked out.
He walked down to underworld outfitters and found Quinn chatting up Tulip, and smiled and said his thank yous and said hello. “Anytime, its no problem. I dont mind sticking around underworld, its a lot like home. Im glad youre ok.” Quinn replied. Thomas rummaged around in his bag for the caps he had lying in the bottom, and threw in 100 of the ones he had just gotten from Carol. He passed the tidy sum over to Quinn.
“Really, Quinn, thank you.” Thomas said, holdig out the caps. Quinn smiled and shook his head. “No need, kid. I dont need a reward for helping out.” But Thomas was determined, and put the purse in Quinn’s hand. “Hey, you did me a solid. You deserve something for the trouble. I’m not that light.”
Quinn thanked him for the reward and put it away. “So what are you gonna do now?” Quinn asked after putting up his reward. “Well i’m hoping Tulip can help me out there, i need some supplies and then i guess ill head out.” Quinns brow furrowed. “So soon?” he asked. “yeah, i need to head out. Some bad people might be following me, and this place would be a prize for them.”
Thomas pointed to a case of bullets behind tulip and asked, “how much per bullet? 10 milimeter.” “3 caps a bullet, 50 caps for twenty, 200 caps for a hundred.” She replied. Reasonable, but not great. “And how bout those cans of beans? Or the steaks?” Thomas inquired. He thought about asking for the mac and cheese, too, but decided not to. Protien was what he would need. “6 caps for the beans, 8 for the steaks.” Thomas smiled, that wasnt bad at all.
“alright, ill take a fourty bullets, and two steaks and three cans of beans. Do you know anything about pre war tech?” Thomas replied. He was hoping to offload some tech while he was there, he had some fission batteries that were killing his back. Not many ghouls knew the value of it all because they never traded to the brotherhood, but Thomas was hopeful.
“No, sorry.” Tulip said plainly, but Quinn chimed in. “What are you looking to sell? I know a scientist at rivet city who’s paying top dollar for our tech. Apparently its hard to get where hes from.” Thomas set three fission batteries on the counter and Quinn smirked. “Ill give you back all those caps you gave me if youll give me those right now.” Thomas’ brow shot up. Makin all his caps back was beyond what he thought he could get for those batteries. “Fuck, sure. That sounds great.”
Thomas pushed the batteries towards Quinn and Quinn gave him back the caps. “alrighty. Now one hundred bullets, three steaks and three cans of beans.” Thomas was beaming, happily restocked.
“Call it 250 caps, then we’re square. Thanks, Quinn. You’re a whiz with all this.” Tulip said, making eyes at Quinn. However, Thomas did not exactly revel in looking in her eyes, so he avoided the spectacle. Quinn smiled at her and his loot, and the two men packed up their loot and bid Tulip au dieu.
“Well that was fortuitous.” Thomas said. “Yeah, thanks for the batteries. I walked you around and then came out with a fortune. So you never told me, where are you going?” Quinn inquired. “Dont quite know. North, for now, i need to get out of DC. Came from the Jefferson Memorial, fumbled through downtown in the metro before i ran into Galaxy News. And from there i got into the mall and now im here.” Thomas was feeling quite talkative. He liked Quinn already.
“Damn. All that just to end up here. The muties and the ghouls down in the tunnels didnt get you, so i guess it worked out. But for you smoothskins thats almost scuicide.” Quinn looked at him with a little admiration and a lot of surprise. “Yeah, well, it wasn’t the best idea. Went through the lincoln memorial, too. That was real dumb.” Thomas chuckled and smiled, he had done a lot in the last week.
“And now north, eh? Its hellish out there. I know downtown is, too, but its bad out there. Things are different.” Images of his past filed along behind Quinn’s eyes, and Thomas’ brow furrowed as he asked, “What do you mean?” Quinn snapped out of his trance as they passed the giant mammoth and Trex outside of the first doors, and Thomas began to eye them both. “Just that… out there it’s a different kind of hell. In The Mall it’s simple, just kill to survive, kill the ones trying to kill you, don’t kill the ones trying to help you. But, out there, it’s different. Sometimes the worst thing for you is someone else’s help.”
The ghosts continued to haunt Quinn as both he and Thomas made their way through the unmanned front desk and out the door, Thomas thought it best to cease his inquiry. They finally hit the warm sun of DC and both of them shook off their troubles and perked up before running into tulip on her watch.
“Hey tulip.” Quinn said. Thomas smiled and waved. “Oh, hey Quinn. Brought out the tourist for a walk?” She replied, giving a small laugh. “Nope, he is actually on his way out of the mall, apparently he’s going up north.” Quinn said, making the smile on her face vanish. “you’re not serious.” She said, sounding more than a little concerned. “Of course i am, or at least i thought he was when he told me.” Quinn looked at her more closely, wasn’t like her to care about ‘tourists’ business.
“No, no, he can’t. You’ll get killed out there, Thomas. You can’t go.” She said, he eyes panicked, they darted from Quinn to thomas and back. “I’ll be fine, dont worry. I have everything i need to fight an army.” He patted his bag and smirked, thinking of the deal he just got. Tulip sat in a strange silence. It’s not like she was a huge talker, but this silence had something behind it. Thomas and Quinn both looked at each other, silently hoping the other had a suggestion.
Tulip finally broke the silence. “Are you going with him, Quinn?” she asked. Of course Quinn wasn’t, but he thought about his answer. If she were someone else he might have lied. But he opted for the truth. “No.” was all he said, and she sat there for a moment, thinking. Then she walked briskly last them, and into the museum.
Thomas looked at Quinn and asked “what the hell was that?” and Quinn just shrugged, adjusting his pack and walking on. Thomas took another hit of med-x, and followed.
They walked for a while and hit a metro entrance and Quinn stopped and asked Thomas, “Are you ready?” and Thomas laughed nervously, he didn’t quite know. Judging by how dry his mouth was and how sweaty his palms were on would guess he wasn’t, but he couldn’t exactly stay, either. He sighed, and nodded, and Quinn held the gate open for him as he slipped through, keeping as quiet as possible.
But there was a noise. Thomas heard it first and stopped in his tracks, and when Quinn heard it he pulled out his hunting rifle. Footsteps were fast approaching, echoing along walls with the jangle of gear, and they were completely exposed in the tunnel leading down to the metro.
Thomas pulled out his pistol and aimed up the steps, and whispered for Quinn to get the fuck through the gate. The footsteps were almost on them and they both realized that there was nowhere else they could have been headed, they were coming down the metro after them.
The duo didnt need to tell the other, the pair of wasteland veterans flew into an open service door, and aimed back up the tunnel where they had just been. Tense moments passed and the two saw a figure come down the stairs. They were both about to unleash fury on the poor soul when they realized it was tulip.
“Fucking christ.” Thomas breathed, almost dropping his gun. “We nearly killed you! Fucking christ!” Thomas told Tulip as she squeezed through the gap. “Well that wouldnt have been a very nice thing to do to your new travelling companion, would it?” Tulip replied. Both Thomas and Quinn’s brows furrowed. “what?” They said in unison.
Admin C- so there were some errors in my last posts of this story. I hope i addressed all of them, but this is it.