For a Drink of Water
The last rays of sunlight shone weakly through the irradiated clouds. Dusk finished its unstoppable march toward night. Darkness descended once more upon the Capital Wasteland.
James Monroe looked out over the ruins of Washington, D.C. as he walked his beat. The roads were cracked and broken. Cliffs and chasms had turned many of the roadways into impassable barricades. The shattered, collapsed buildings blocked off entire sections of the city, turning the metropolis into an impossible maze. It looked like an endless forest of charred ruins. No plants grew within the city. No trees. No bushes. Not even weeds could survive in the irradiated soil. The atomic bombs had certainly done a number on the once proud capital of the free world.
The derelict aircraft carrier Monroe stood upon was one of the few things in the city to survive relatively unscathed. Of course, it was possible the thing hadn't been there when the bombs hit. It may have been at sea at the time and only come to port later. No one was really sure. 200 years was a long time, and details like that tended to get lost in the shuffle.
Directly below him flowed the irradiated water of the Potomac River. It carried the tainted rainfall and groundwater toward the Chesapeake Bay. Monroe could hear the water flow around the hull and the metal support beams that had been driven into the ground to keep the vessel stable.
Water, water, everywhere, yet not a drop to drink...
Monroe snorted as he thought about how useless the lethally radioactive water was. It was even worse than the groundwater, which would still make your hair start falling out if you drank it for a few days. He took his hourly sip from his canteen. His little holstered supply of purified H2O would have to last him all night. He shook it a bit before reattaching it to his belt. The sloshing was one of the most beautiful sounds in this damned world, if you asked him.
A shrill, mechanical sound drew his attention away from the desolate vista below. Some of the irrigation equipment was malfunctioning. Black smoke started to pour out of one of the generators. A mechanic rushed over and desperately shut it down, scrambling to make repairs and get the thing back online.
Nearly the entire flight deck of the aircraft carrier had been converted into a high tech bread basket. Planters and greenhouses covered most available surfaces, with narrow passageways in between allowing workers and security to make their way through. Cannibalized equipment from the aircraft carrier's interior had been used to create irrigation pipes to transport purified water to the crops.
The ship didn't need the parts anymore. It had beached itself on the river bottom, rupturing its lower decks. Besides, no one would know how to pilot the thing even if it were still whole. It would never travel the seas again.
Back on the flight deck, Security Officers like Monroe had to spend more time guarding the water than the crops. Both were equally valuable in the Capital Wasteland, a sack of tubers being worth substantially more than a man's life. However, water was easier to steal. It was also more pressing. A person could go weeks without food before starving. Thirst, however, would kill you within a few days.
Monroe made his way to the end of the re-purposed flight deck. He lit up a cigarette. It wasn't actually tobacco, of course. No one would waste fertile soil and purified water on anything other than nutritious produce. Rather, it was a synthesized chemical that emulated the long extinct plant. It was funny that scientists would spend the time and energy to create cancer sticks when there was so much radiation around that could kill you for free.
This was the only place he could smoke in peace. His parents weren't around to yell at him for poisoning his own body anymore, but his kid sister Ellie would raise hell if she caught him smoking. Monroe smiled as he thought of the little twerp. 11 years old and she was already forceful enough to boss around men as big as him. Even the other dwellers of Rivet City, the name of their oasis in the wastes, were prone to let her have her way. He was grateful. She would need a strong will if she was going to survive in this world.
The radio in Monroe's helmet crackled to life. The sound of the dispatcher scratched into his ears.
*chrzzt* Security Team C *chrzzt* CIC immed- *chzzt* Re**t, Security Team C report to *chrzzt* -IC immediately. Over.
The Security Officer sighed. He was scheduled to go off-duty soon. From the sound of things, that wasn't going to happen. He flicked his cigarette over the side.
"Copy, Control. Lieutenant Monroe, on my way. Over," he replied.
The interior corridors of Rivet City were cramped, as always. Monroe ducked underneath the equipment crates hung suspended by mesh nets attached to the ceiling. Every square inch of space had been put to work as the population had increased over the years. What had once been a small settlement of less than a hundred had grown into a bonafide metropolis of over three thousand. The cramped quarters didn't bother him. He had grown up here. Besides, his experiences outside the walls of his home had long ago convinced him that a little claustrophobia was a small price to pay for safety.
The CIC had once been the command center of the entire ship. It still served a similar purpose, albeit as the headquarters of Rivet City Security. The computer consoles lining the walls had long ago been ripped out and disassembled for parts. Cables connected hanging light bulbs to the makeshift post-War power grid. The original grid had broken down years before.
The rest of Monroe's Security Team had already arrived. He nodded his greetings to the other nine men. They all nodded back. They exchanged small talk as they waited for whatever it was they had been summoned for to be revealed to them.
Like the computer consoles, the original chairs had been disassembled. The more wealthy citizens paid top dollar for even the minimal padding that military chairs offered. Monroe sat down on one of the metal folding chairs that had been set up in a grid in the front part of the CIC. Curtains separated it from the private area that included the secure files, the radio dispatcher, and the office of the leader of Security, Commander Harkness.
Said Commander walked out of the curtained area. The rest of the Security personnel stood and saluted. Harkness returned the salute.
"At ease, gentlemen," he said in his perpetually grim tone. It was hard to tell when something had gone wrong, with him. He always sounded unhappy. Harkness was not the kind of man that smiled much. Still, he was the most skilled and professional member of Rivet City Security. He was the one who had transformed their organization from a semi-competent batch of security guards into one of the most effective military forces in the wastes. Rumor was he had led his own warband before showing up on Rivet City's doorstep a few years back. Whatever the case, no one questioned his ability to lead.
Harkness sat down at a desk in front of the folding chairs. The other Officers sat down as well. The Commander shuffled some papers before beginning.
"The shipment of water from Megaton is late," Harkness said bluntly. Monroe felt a ball of lead drop in his gut. Megaton was never late with its shipments.
The walled city of Megaton laid to the northwest and was the primary source of purified water for Rivet City. Someone there had managed to put together some kind of purifier that put anything the Rivet City Science Team had been able to come up with to shame. Rumor was it was built by some kind of scientist from before the War. No one knew for sure, since it had been around for over a century and Megaton sure as hell wasn't spilling its secrets. The only other option for bulk shipments of pure water was Tenpenny Tower, but that was further away and transporting water that far was risky. Not to mention the fact that the luxury hotel turned post-apocalyptic fortress was never able to produce quite as much usable water as Megaton.
"I don't need to tell you gentlemen how big a deal this is," Harkness continued. He really didn't. Rivet City's farm needed regular shipments of water to stay operational. Things had gotten increasingly desperate over the years as the equipment began to wear down from overuse. A single missed shipment could mean the failure of a crop, which could lead to both hunger and a lack of trade. Selling produce to trade caravans was the primary source of income for Rivet City and the economy, like everything else in the Capital Wasteland, was balancing on the knife edge of survival these days.
Commander Harkness dropped another bomb with his characteristic bluntness. "Lieutenant Monroe, you and your team will be tasked with retrieving the shipment. You will go out, find the water, and bring it back here for use. Failure is not an option, gentlemen. Dismissed."
That was the end of the meeting. Harkness got up and left without another word. The members of Security Team C were left sitting in their seats, slack-jawed. They all glanced at each other.
One of Monroe's subordinates and the closest of his friends, Adam Jefferson, summed up their feelings rather eloquently: "Well, crap."
The members of Security Team C stood in front of the bridge. A crane attached to a part of the ship just off the flight deck turned, swinging the walkway so that it went from hugging the hull to connecting the ship to the roof of what had once been a parking garage. It was the only way to enter Rivet City. It was the separation between the security of the city walls, and the perpetual danger of the Capital Wasteland. Monroe rolled his shoulders and moved forward.
"Move out, people. Stay frosty," he told his men.
They went Outside.
Team C moved over the bridge. Jefferson took point, like always. He had the best eyes, which was funny considering they were a uniform black. Monroe wondered if his skills as a tracker were due to natural ability or from his life before being mutated. Jefferson was a 'ghoul', a relatively rare form of mutant. Radiation had shriveled his skin, turned his eyes black, made his voice raspy, and rotted his nose off. He looked like a shriveled up corpse. A lot of places in the wastes would have barred him from entering any populated zone. Thankfully, Harkness had been smart enough to recognize talent when he saw it. He had been able to convince Rivet City's leadership to permit a more integrated Security.
The parking garage had been nicknamed Sentinel by the local population, due to its location before the bridge. The beams from the Officers flashlights cut through its darkened interior as they made their way downward. The bare, rusted hulks of nuclear powered cars cast long shadows against the stained concrete. They had long ago been stripped of any usable parts; only the frames remained. The Officers all kept an eye out, not wanting to be ambushed. Even if no sapient enemies had breached the building, there was still the risk that one of the numerous forms of mutated animal life had squeezed through the cracks.
The footsteps of the Security Team echoed off the walls as they made their way down the ramps. Already, Monroe was becoming unnerved due to the silence. It was never very quiet within Rivet City. If the noises from all of the other inhabitants didn't bleed through the walls, the squeaks of the old ventilation system certainly would. In here, though...Total silence. He held his assault rifle a bit tighter.
Maybe it had been too long since he'd been Outside...
The first floor was a bit more cluttered than the upper ones. Most of the car hulks had been dragged out years before. Nearly half of the floor was walled off with wire fencing. The stained bath tubs placed toward the front of the area marked it as a brahmin pen. The two-headed bovines were the beast of burden of choice for most of humanity these days. Their brute strength was surpassed only by their ability to resist radiation poisoning. A useful trait considering the tainted water sources they would be drinking from on the road.
The rest of the first floor was taken up by a small barracks area for the traders to spend the night. No sane businessman would leave healthy brahmin unguarded. The next caravan was due to arrive in a week. Hopefully, the water situation would be handled by then.
"Team A, any contacts? Over," Monroe said into his radio. The other Security Officers back on the roof of the control tower would be able to warn them of any approaching hostiles.
*chrzzt* "That's a negative, Team C. *chrzzt* -re clear. Over. *chrzzt*
They approached the gate. "Assume positions," Monroe ordered. The rest of the Officers took up firing positions behind the wall of chest-high concrete set up about 15 feet within the Parking Garage. Among them was Michaelson, their best sniper. Monroe felt better with the crack shot resting his custom sniper rifle atop the cover.
Lieutenant Monroe himself walked up to the custom built, reinforced gate that blocked the only usable entrance to Sentinel. The key turned slowly, almost hesitantly, when he inserted it into the lock. It was strictly forbidden to allow anyone other than a ranking officer to handle keys to any secure Rivet City location. Once again, Monroe found himself cursing his promotion.
The gate screeched excruciatingly loud as he and Jefferson pulled it open. The Officers behind cover nervously readjusted their grips on their weapons. Once the gate was open enough to get through, Monroe and Jefferson sprinted to cover and drew their own rifles. Several minutes went by as they waited for some form of enemy to enter and attack.
Eventually, Monroe decided that it was as safe as it was going to get. He motioned his men forward. They filed out of Sentinel with all of the enthusiasm of condemned prisoners going to their own execution. Monroe turned around and looked at the other Security Team present.
"Just be ready if we need a quick entrance," he told the leader of Team B as he handed over the key to the gate. There could be no risk of it falling into dangerous hands.
"We'll keep a lookout," the leader of the other Team promised. The young lieutenant followed his men outside. The gate immediately screeched shut behind them. The sound of the lock closing seemed even louder than the bang of the closing gate itself. He looked up at Rivet City itself. At the mortar positions and machine guns nests placed at various points on the deck. At the securities he would be leaving behind.
Monroe scolded himself internally. He really had spent to much time Inside. He was turning into a freakin' wuss. "Move out," he ordered.
Team C made its way north. They kept the Potomac River on their left, the gurgling of the poisoned water keeping the desolate silence of the Capital Wasteland at bay. None of them dared to speak. They were tracing the trade route that ran from Rivet City to Megaton. Jefferson took point, using his honed senses to keep an eye out for anything amiss. Hopefully, they'd find a sign of what had happened to the water caravan along the way.
Occasionally, distant weapons-fire would join the river in fighting back the oppressive silence. It could have been anyone going at it. This close to the Mall, they might even be hearing the distant sounds of the Brotherhood of Steel battling the Super Mutants. Now that was a fight Monroe had no interest in getting anywhere near. He eyed the concrete forest nervously. The gaping holes in the rubble, either from doorways, windows, or just natural openings, all seemed to contain hostile shapes in the gloomy dark. Lieutenant Monroe tried to keep his nervousness off his face and body language. He needed to be a rock for his team.
Thunder cracked in the distance. Darker clouds started to obscure the moonlight. A thunderstorm was coming. Fantastic.
"Masks on," the lieutenant ordered. The Officers all put on their 'masks': a pair of goggles and an extended bit of their shirts, like a mutant turtleneck, that could reach up to cover their faces up to the bridge of the nose. Not exactly a full body radiation suit, but at least it would help keep some of the irradiated rainwater out of their lungs. Jefferson was the only one who didn't bother following the command. He didn't need to. Being a ghoul, he was immune to radiation poisoning. Well...further radiation poisoning.
Abruptly, Jefferson held up a fist. The rest of Team C immediately stopped and moved to whatever cover was available. They didn't want to risk radio signals giving them away. The ghoulified Officer moved to a position to get a better view of the road up ahead. The rest of his teammates lost sight of him. After a few minutes, he came back. He signaled a few more times, indicating he had located the objective. No survivors. Monroe swore silently. The lieutenant ordered his men forward once more.
They moved up cautiously and secured the site. Half of the Officers stood guard while the other half picked over the terrain, looking for clues.
It had clearly been an ambush. Dead caravan guards were strewn about the battlefield, their corpses all pointing in different directions. There were fewer than there should have been, though; maybe some had turned traitor. Monroe put that out of his mind as he noticed that their weapons were missing. The enemy must have scavenged them all. He also noticed shell casings scattered about in areas well beyond the defenders' perimeter, meaning they came from the enemy's guns. That ruled out Super Mutants, at least. Those monstrosities only used laser weapons. Probably raiders, then. Small blessings.
Jefferson motioned him over. Monroe approached and saw a body at the ghoul's feet. It was a male, clearly malnourished, wearing only a pair of pants that could generously be described as 'tattered'. Clutched in his hands was a weapon, specifically a sledgehammer with barbed wire looped around the tip. The corpse had numerous bullet holes in its chest.
Had this lunatic charged a caravan half-naked with a melee weapon? Judging by the dead caravan guard at the corpse's feet, it seemed like the raider had managed to be at least partly successful.
It seemed like Jefferson was reading his mind again, as he pointed to several familiar lines on the body's arms and legs. Track marks. He'd probably been hopped up on psycho at the time. A narcotic that powerful could have driven this nutcase to keep fighting long enough to kill. Who was he, though?
As Monroe turned the body over, he found his answer. A particular symbol had been tattooed...no...branded onto the man's shoulder. It was a crudely depicted anvil with a stylized 'P' above it. Even this far south everyone knew what this symbol meant.
Had the industrial center to the north intercepted their water shipment? That didn't make any sense. The Pitt was as dependent on Rivet City produce as every other major settlement in the region. Monroe gave it some more thought.
"I'm thinking escaped slaves," the lieutenant concluded eventually.
Jefferson nodded in agreement. "Makes the most sense. Hostile tribes to the north, radiation walls to the east and west. They always come back to the Capital Wasteland," he said. "Weird to find them so far south, though."
"Maybe Canterbury Commons is stepping up its operations. I heard they've got some kinda mechanic cranking out security robots," one of the other Officers speculated, referring to the trading hub to the northeast.
"Really?" yet another responded, surprised. "I heard they had some kinda giant ant infestation. Supposed to be playin' hell on caravans up there."
"Lock it down, people," Lieutenant Monroe ordered sternly. They all shut up. They couldn't afford to draw attention with useless chatter. Small talk could wait until they were all safely Inside again.
It wasn't hard to figure out where the hostiles had went after the battle was over. The brahmin and wagon tracks leading away were clear indicators of where they had gone. It seemed even the raiders weren't crazy enough to destroy such crucial resources. The Lieutenant ordered his men forward once again. They were close to completing their objective, but he still made sure they advanced cautiously. He wasn't about to have them fall into the same trap that the caravan had.
The trail led them away from the river. Further into the city itself. Monroe thought he could hear his heart beat a little louder every step he took forward. This was not a place anyone from Rivet City wanted to go.
After a few minutes, the Security Team found their raiders. They were hold up in a fairly well fortified position. It must have been an old checkpoint from the Confederacy.
The Confederacy of D.C. had been a loosely organized coalition of settlements that had grown into a formal government around a century and a half after the War. It was rough going at first, the radiation, hostile environment, and survival-driven paranoia providing numerous obstacles. However, by that point the lingering effects of the War had begun to fade away. A time of prosperity unknown since the death of the Old World was rising. People were starting to talk about expanding the central government, reforging the old United States.
Then the apocalypse came again.
No one was expecting it. One day, everything was going wonderfully. The future seemed bright and promising. Population was exploding all across the Wasteland. In fact, people were starting to drop the term 'Wasteland' altogether. Then, without warning, a wave of radiation rushed outward from the Mall. Thousands died from poisoning. The best guess anyone could form was that the human population was cut by at least a quarter. The water was tainted once again, returning to levels not seen since the days immediately following the War. People struggled just to pull together what life they had left. The Confederacy was pushed to the limit trying to maintain order throughout the region.
The deathblow to the Confederacy had come in the form of the Super Mutants. Once the radiation wave had passed, inhuman monstrosities began emerging from the Mall. Seven feet tall, super-strong, and entirely too hard to kill, their total war shattered what was left of the unified government. Anyone that could retreated to fortified positions like Rivet City or Megaton. Everyone else lived in perpetual fear, eking out whatever excuse for a life they could. Only the chance arrival of the Brotherhood of Steel, a high tech warband from out west, had kept the Super Mutants from overwhelming the entire region.
No one knew where the monsters had come from. The best guess were that they were the result of some kind of advanced experimentation from before the War. The fact that they only used laser weapons, high tech even at the height of humanity's technological prowess, seemed to support the idea that they originated in some sort of mad science laboratory. Probably some sort of military endeavor gone horribly wrong. The sins of the Old World were still haunting humanity centuries after its self-destruction.
There was no realistic means to escape the Capital Wasteland, either. Not in large numbers, anyway. Radiation walls, areas so poisoned that they would kill anyone venturing into them within hours, cut off any exit other than directly north. At first, many had tried to flee that way. They were quickly killed and looted by tribes that had no interest in these filthy refugees taking up residence in their lands. Small groups could make it. Individuals had an even better shot of slipping through. Large groups were doomed. The residents of the Capital Wasteland were here to stay, whether they liked it or not.
A drop of water hit the ground in front of the Security Team. Within seconds, the rainfall had begun in earnest. It wasn't quite a downpour, thank the Atom, but it was still enough to get them all soaked. Monroe could feel the rads burning through his gloves. He grimaced. They'd all have to get some rad-away treatments when they got back. He couldn't wait to end this mission and return to Rivet City. Even the flight deck there had transparent plastic tarps to keep the toxic rain off of the crops.
Lightning struck as the Security Team moved into position. They had to time their movements to avoid being spotted in the flashes.
Monroe climbed onto the remains of a destroyed bus. He lay prone on its roof and shimmied toward the front. He took out his binoculars and surveyed the situation.
Thankfully, a bunch of escaped slaves turned murderous raiders weren't exactly the most disciplined sort. Most of them were huddled close to a fire, their backs to the outside world. Monroe snorted. Amateurs.
Wait a minute...
It looked like the raiders were roasting something over the fire. Some kind of animal? Monroe zoomed in with his binoculars. It looked like...
So that's what happened to the rest of the guards.
The raiders had recovered water. Apparently, they had decided they wanted food as well. They were having a regular celebratory feast down there. Monroe willed his stomach to settle. He refocused on the raiders' ramshackle defenses.
They were all built of whatever scrap had been laying around. The whole place looked like a stern breeze could blow it over. Even the sentries themselves were garbage. They held plastic garbage bags over their heads as they sprinted from shelter to shelter. They would be child's play for Michaelson to pick off. Monroe motioned the Team sniper to scale a partially collapsed building about a hundred and fifty feet away from the ruined checkpoint. Michaelson nodded and a minute later Monroe heard a specific series of clicking sounds come over his radio; he was in position.
The checkpoint itself was pretty solid. It was apparently built out of an old parking lot. Wooden shacks had been thrown together inside and scavenged concrete freeway dividers set up as fortifications. The remains of a chain-link fence could be seen scattered around the exterior. There had probably been a fence around the whole area at one point. The Super Mutants must have torn it down. Monroe kept looking...
The brahmin, as well as the wagons full of water tanks, were being kept in the far side of the compound. From the looks of things, they were mostly unharmed. One of the raiders walked up and filled an entire mug with water. The bastard downed the entire thing in one swig!
Monroe forced himself to calm down. He relaxed his white-knuckle grip on his binoculars, not wanting to break the ancient tool. They had to recover that water before these morons wasted it all. He took out his assault rifle and set it to semi-automatic fire. It wouldn't be as accurate as Michaelson's sniper rifle, but it would get the job done. After checking that everyone was in position, he sent the signal over the radio.
One of the sentries fell over dead a second later. A few more seconds passed. Another sentry died. Michaelson was timing his shots so that they were drowned out by the sound of the thunder. Clever. The Team sniper sent out another specific series of clicks. The sentries were all down.
The advance team moved up. One of them, Castle, drew his combat knife and sneaked around the wooden shacks. Several minutes passed in silence. Monroe forced himself to breathe normally. None of the raiders he could see were reacting to anything, so their stealth expert probably hadn't been discovered. He breathed a sigh of relief as another series of clicks sounded over the radio. All of the hidden raiders had been eliminated.
Monroe centered his sights on one of the raiders around the fire. He sent the signal.
Most of the raiders were dead before they even knew they were under attack. Monroe's target died with a neat trio of holes punched through his back. The rest of the fire-side crew were likewise killed in seconds. The raiders that were scattered around, either going to get some more stolen water or just screwing around, took a few more seconds to take out. One of them even managed to draw a weapon and get a few shots off. He didn't hit anything, naturally.
The raider camp took a few more minutes to declare clear. The Security Officers left no stone unturned looking for survivors. Psycho junkies tended to be crazy enough to try to ambush them even with all of their buddies dead. The last thing Monroe was going to allow was for one of them to wake up, see what was going on, and rip an Officer's throat out with his teeth.
"We're all clear," Lieutenant Monroe stated over the radio. "MacArthur, Perez, get those wagons ready to move. I want to get back home as soon as possible-"
Monroe was interrupted by Castle's head exploding.
"Get to cover!" the Lieutenant shouted. He dove behind one of the re-purposed freeway dividers himself.
The shot that killed Castle had been a solid red beam of light. A laser rifle round. There were only two groups in the Capital Wasteland that regularly used that type of weapon. It was either the Brotherhood of Steel, which was unlikely, or it was...
The bestial voice roared over the thunder itself. Monroe peeked over his cover.
The enemy stood seven feet tall. They each had the physique of a pre-War body builder—one that heavily abused steroids. They were mostly naked, although that didn't matter much considering they shrugged off most of the assault rifle rounds the Security Team had started to pepper them with. Their eyes were all bloodshot and crazed. The muscles of their faces were contracted, stretched tight in a perpetual snarl. Monroe wondered how they were even able to speak with faces like that.
Team C returned fire. The Super Mutants might have been able to take an insane amount of punishment, but they were still mortal. You just needed to hit them in the right place. Monroe saw one fall to the ground as gunfire shot out its kneecap. He aimed at the temporarily immobile Mutant's head and fired a couple shots. One blew half of its jaw off. The other hit its neck. A geyser of orange blood shot out of the wound. Another down.
The red beams of light pulsed toward the Security Team as the Super Mutants moved forward. One of the Security Officers was cut down. The lieutenant swore. The beams dug into the concrete dividers. The cover Monroe was standing behind had already been cracked by some past battle. It started to break apart.
Jefferson tackled Monroe, barely getting him out of the way before a shot broke through his cover and passed through the space his chest had been a moment before. The Lieutenant nodded thanks at his subordinate. He sprinted to new cover, laser rounds hitting the ground behind him. They left circles of molten glass wherever they hit the pavement.
One of the Super Mutants' heads exploded. Then another. At first, no one knew what the hell was happening. Then, it hit them. Michaelson! The sniper was taking them down!
The jubilation had barely registered before a massive explosion shook the ground. The entire upper floor of the building Michaelson had climbed exploded in a titanic detonation that threw all of the defenders off of their feet. Monroe shook his head to clear it. Looking up at the sniper's position, he saw that the entire top of the building had been obliterated. A mushroom cloud rose into the air.
One of these monsters has a Fat Man!
The portable mini-nuke launcher could destroy all of them in short order. Why were the Mutants moving in, then? Why not just kill them all right away?
He didn't have time to speculate. The Super Mutants were closing in.
"Fall back to the sheds! Fall back to the sheds!" Lieutenant Monroe shouted. The cover would be next to useless, but the Mutants were about to overrun their position. A massive shape suddenly rushed into view. It came from behind the wrecked bus and barreled in toward his position behind the line.
Monroe barely leaped out of the way in time to avoid the concrete cover being smashed to bits by the Super Mutant's powerful swing. The monster entered the complex.
This Mutant was taller than its comrades. Its green skin was a darker shade, with numerous veins bulging over the entirety of its body. Its roar sounded louder. More powerful. Monroe had to resist the urge to cover his ears as it belted out another sound halfway between a roar and a war cry. He may have spent most of his life Inside, but even he could recognize what this thing was. It was one of the tougher breeds of Super Mutant. One of the kinds you usually only heard about during a round of heavy drinking at the Muddy Rudder bar.
It was a Super Mutant Master.
The Master hefted its weapon: a car axle with what looked like part of an engine block welded to the end of it. The Mutant's eyes bored holes through Monroe's goggles. The violent hate directed his way almost made the Security Officer flinch.
Monroe switched his rifle to burst fire and unloaded on the creature's chest. He didn't have time for precision. Most of the 5.56mm rounds failed to penetrate the monster's thick hide. The ones that did tore chunks of yellow flesh out of the roaring enemy. Dirty orange blood sprayed out from the wounds.
The Master didn't seem to notice.
The beast rushed forward once again and swung its weapon downward. Monroe lunged to the side. The 'hammer' struck the ground, creating a web of cracks in the pavement and sending a wave of dirty rainwater into the air in all directions. Monroe was unable to get his balance as the earth shook from the blast.
The Master wrenched its weapon back out of the ground. Chunks of pavement and dirt clung to it before falling off, splashing into the puddles covering the ruined parking lot. Monroe struggled to his feet. The Super Mutant swung upward.
Desperate, Monroe jumped back and held his assault rifle in front of him as a shield. The weapon was broken in two and ripped from his hands. He flew backward and crashed to the ground. The Mutant advanced once again. Monroe scrambled backward, frantically looking for his men. They were all busy firing on the other Super Mutants.
Monroe's helmet his a solid wall. He'd backed into another of the freeway dividers.
The Super Mutant Master paused to examine him. It snorted in contempt. The hammer was raised high in the air. Lightning struck behind it, turning Monroe's view of his soon-to-be executioner into a silhouette. It was weirdly beautiful, actually. It made his death a nice contrast to the ugly world he had lived in. He waited for the end to finally come.
The Super Mutant's chest exploded.
Actually, to be more accurate, it started to explode. An insanely large number of laser shots, dozens of them, impacted the Super Mutant within the span of a few seconds. Geysers of bloody gore burst out from its torso. The freak's chest was ground into smoldering chunks and paste before it even hit the floor. The hammer crashed to the ground beside the now thoroughly-killed Super Mutant's legs.
The voice that shouted the battle cry was electronically distorted, the kind of thing you hear from an intercom. It was followed by a ton more laser shots pulsing over the battlefield. Unlike the old ones, though, these were tearing into the Super Mutants. The Mutants tried to turn to face their new foe.
They were too late. They had all moved out of cover to pursue their prey.
A new group of giants entered the battlefield. Unlike the Mutants, though, these were composed of gleaming metal. Rather, they were wearing metal. The soldiers of the Brotherhood of Steel all wore full suits of power armor. The nigh-invincible warriors made short work of the surviving Mutants.
"Hail, civilians," one of the said once the area was secure. She lowered her gatling laser to point at the ground. The electronic distortion from her helmet's loudspeaker made her a little difficult to understand when combined with the crackling thunder. "Who among you is your commander?"
"That's me," Monroe said, getting to his feet. He surreptitiously sent a series of clicks through his radio. He received another series in response. Good. "Thanks for the rescue, uh, Knight?" he said to the leader of the Brotherhood squad. He thought that was what they called themselves.
"Paladin," the leader corrected. "You are lucky we found you in time. This band broke off from the main force were were engaging. We almost did not pursue them, but Star Paladin Lyons made clear we are not to allow this vile enemy to move into human lands more than possible."
Lieutenant Monroe nodded in understanding. From what he had heard, the Brotherhood was having trouble combating the Mutant threat lately. Rivet City contributed to the cause as much as they were able, but there was only so much help they could give. Besides which, only a disgustingly small number of people seemed to think they were responsible for supporting the war effort. Perhaps it had been too long since Super Mutants had last assaulted Rivet City. Out of sight, out mind, and all that.
A thought occurred to him suddenly. "One of these Mutants has a Fat Man. Have you-?"
The 'Paladin' held up a hand. "Fear not. The beast lies dead. We could hardly allow an abomination to have such...holy armament, no?" she said, chuckling. Monroe did his best to laugh along. These guys had a weird sense of humor.
"Will you be able to return to your fortress without our aid?" the Paladin asked. Monroe took stock of his troops. It looked like the Mutants had killed all but five of them. He sent a pair to search for Michaelson. They came back empty handed. Monroe's heart sank. That man had been indispensable.
"I think we can manage," Lieutenant Monroe said. The Paladin nodded before taking his troops back toward the city center. Back toward their war. Monroe sighed in relief. He picked up the pieces of his assault rifle, grimacing at the loss of his personal weapon. This would be costly to replace. He stowed the bits in his pack and regrouped with his men back at the wagons.
"Thanks for the warning, sir," Jefferson said, his raspy voice slightly muffled from his 'mask'. Monroe nodded in response. Jefferson had been crouching behind cover and might not have realized who had come to their rescue. Had the ghoul not concealed his face, the Brotherhood probably would have gunned him down as well. The Brotherhood was notoriously racist when it came to ghouls, viewing them as vile of a mutation as the Super Mutants themselves. Thankfully, they tended to stay away from the settlements that housed ghoul populations. Too busy fighting their grand crusade, probably.
"Hey, you're one of ours," Lieutenant Monroe said, patting his subordinate and friend on the arm. "Now let's get this water back home."
The crane hauled the water containers up and into the loading bay of the derelict aircraft carrier. Once all of the supplies were secured, the crane hooked back onto the bridge and swung it into position. Team C hurriedly crossed back Inside.
Monroe understood the need to secure the water first. It was more valuable than them in every way that mattered. Still, it had been all he could do to keep from pacing the floor as he waited.
Commander Harkness was waiting just inside the carrier itself. They all exchanged salutes. He examined the battered and exhausted Team C. He didn't bother asking where the missing team members were.
"Stow your gear and hit the chem showers," he said. "You've got the rest of the day off." Harkness paused for a moment, seeming to think something over. "Tomorrow, too. I'll expect your report on my desk by daybreak the day after, Lieutenant," he said, turning to Monroe. The young Officer stood up a bit straighter and nodded. Their Commander addressed them all once more. "You've done good work, gentlemen. Dismissed."
Monroe opened the door to his quarters, stepped over the bottom of the hatch, closed the door and spun the wheel to secure it, walked over to his bunk, and collapsed face-down onto the mattress. He was about to drift into a sweet, deep sleep when he was awoken by a high-pitched voice.
"What the hell happened to you?" his sister, Ellie, asked. She sounded more mad than worried. It didn't fool Monroe for a second. He knew it was just a cover. He turned his head and smiled at his only living family member.
"Shouldn't you be in school?" he asked groggily.
"It's 6am. School hasn't started yet. Now what did you get yourself into?" she said in her normal, bossy tone.
"Got into a tussle with some Super Mutants. I'll tell you all about it when I wake up," he told her.
Ellie rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right. Next you'll tell me you met some aliens while on watch." She paused to look him over again. She walked over and spread a blanket over him. "Have a good rest, big brother," she whispered, as if afraid someone would hear her gesture of affection. Monroe smiled again, nodding before closing his eyes.
All in all, it had been a rather eventful shift.
So, this is the introduction to my version of the Capital Wasteland. I tried to expand on all of the stuff I found lacking in the game, such as the lack of farmland and the absence of an explanation for why there hasn't been any kind of organized government in the 200 years since the bombs fell.
Note: Rivet City's flight deck being used to grow crops was inspired by the opening levels of Gears of War 3, where an aircraft carrier is used for such a purpose. When your worldbuilding is weaker than a Gears game, you've seriously screwed up. (I actually like the Gears setting. I wish the game's stories lived up to it.)
Note: I've spent way more time than I am comfortable admitting trying to think of a way for Fallout 3's in-universe economy to function. Eventually I came up with a primary trade good that each major settlement could have. Megaton has purified water, Rivet City has crops (this is admittedly where I split off into my own AU), etc. It's probably still pathetically juvenile, since I don't know jack about economics, but I gave it my best shot. If anyone's got some ideas, please, feel free to share.
Note: People say that Fallout 3 suffered from black and white morality. In many areas this is true. However, people tend to forget the bits of gray that were in the game. For instance, it's mentioned that the Brotherhood is racist against ghouls. The guard outside Underworld mentions how Brotherhood soldiers will fire on any ghouls they see, feral and non-feral alike. Just a thing I thought I'd include here.
Note: I tried to balance exposition with story here. I found it pretty hard considering all of the aspects of this world I wanted to introduce. How did I manage?
Note: When I first started envisioning this version of the setting I thought I'd just be writing an adaptation of Fallout 3's plot. Unfortunately, I found it really hard to get started. It was only when I decided to write a series of oneshots first that the old muse started talking to me again. I might still do the adaptation eventually, but definitely not before I finish my current Halo story. I might do more oneshots in the meantime.
Note: I know that, in the game, Super Mutants use regular firearms in addition to laser weapons. I decided to change that here for reasons I will get to at some future date.
Thanks for reading. Love you guys.