Panic, fear and the desperate need to gain control.

It was what filled her thoughts, her mind and her very being. It caused her body to tighten and freeze, and made her heart beat violently in her chest; erratic pulsing inside her ribcage, so hard and powerful that she thought that alone would kill her. It weighed heavy on her chest, closing in around her lungs that already felt as though they were being stomped on; desperately stretching for breath that was just out of its reach.

Her back was pressed crushingly hard against the end of the aisle. The old paint covering it was chipped away and covered with dirt and grim; the wide, metal panel felt so cold, and a stark contrast against her fevered and hot skin. Feeling comforting and soothing even through her armor and dirtied yellow and blue Vault 101 jumpsuit.

The blood pulsating through her veins moved quickly and roughly, making her skin throb with a matched rhythm of her heart until it was nearly painful; the pressure of the cool aisle against her made it even worse, but she wouldn't move. Everything in her mind shrank away from the idea of moving. They might hear her.

The light and dirtied skin of her steaming cheek brushed against the aisle as her eyes looked to her right. Her ears strained to hear the footsteps before their owner would emerged next to her; fighting an internal battle to quiet her breathing so she could hear. But she didn't hear anything.

She rested her head back against the hard, metal aisle and her eyes slipped shut for only a moment as she tried to get ahold of herself. They fluttered open with panicked jolt and looked ahead, pure fear showing in them even in the dim lighting.

A few lights, still clinging to life, hung above her and scarce hole in the roof showed light in from the sun outside. The only reminder that she hadn't gone to hell. An old, stale, worn down and decrepit hell.

They were coming closer. She could practically feel then drawing nearer, like wolves to an injured fawn. A hopelessly combat ignorant fawn. The thought made her stomach clench and her muscles tighten as she fought away the wave of panic.

Why had she done this? What in the Goddamn world made her agree to this? Why didn't Moira warn her? Why did she send her here to die?

Tears gathered as the words rushed at an unimaginable speed through her mind. Her nostrils burned before the tears rose, unshed, in her eyes with a wave of fear as everything in the world started to overwhelm her.

Breathe. Breathe.

She shut her eyes for barely a moment and she took in deep, shaky breaths. Chanting the words in her mind as she prepared her next action faintly in the back of her head, trying not to panic at the thought of it.

Breathe. Breathe. Go!

Her body reacted instantly at the command as if it wasn't under her control, not even wasting a second. She wheeled from the cover position of the aisle, her foot landing on an old box of cereal, making her lose her footing and fall to one knee. She clawed her way back to both feet and took off like a shot.

Her rifle, heated by her warmth, was clutched so very tightly in her hands and against her at a pressure that made the sharp components dig numbly into her skin and she wondered faintly if it would warp the metal.

Her shaky legs strengthened suddenly with each quick step. The sound of her shoes pounding hard on the tiled floor was drowned out by the chaos that erupted.

Her head ducked low as the world around her exploded into a chaotic mix of gunshots, whizzing of bullets and exploding merchandise. Fragments of cereal boxes, glass bottles, display aisles and canned goods raining down onto her as she dashed across the store.

She took a sharp gasp as she passed the opening between the cover of the isles to the counter ahead, and she could feel the bullets whiz even closer past her. Hearing them cut through the air like they would her flesh, right next to her head; feeling the quick brush of air against her flaming hot skin as they zipped past; the occasional, quick and nearly numb cuts that appeared across her as they skimmed just over her flesh.

She dove over the counter as soon as it was close and landed not so gracefully on the other side; her breath escaped her lungs upon impact. Glass and tin cans crushed underneath her, cutting through her cheap armor and into her skin, but she didn't notice or even care about the blood that trickled across her from the numerous cuts and gashes that covered her.

She pressed herself tightly under the counter, curling into a ball and trying to make herself a small as possible as the bullets whizzed overhead and torn apart the top of the counter, impacting and digging deep into the wall ahead of her.

The onslaught of gunfire rang in her ears until she couldn't even hear her own thoughts. It was deafening, thunderous and it didn't stop. She thought it would never stop.

God, she didn't want to die. She just wanted to find her dad. She just wanted to help Moira so she could get some caps and survive long enough to find her dad. Could she tell them that? No, that's stupid. They didn't care who she was or what she wanted. They didn't see all the angles to her motives; they just wanted her dead because she was on their turf. Maybe she could back out? Just leave? Would they let her? No, that's stupid. She's in the real world now and the real world doesn't give a damn. God, how the hell was she going to get out of this?

But it began to quiet slightly, so minor she wasn't sure if her mind was warping the world around her. But it slowed more, until it finally stopped. She barely registered an unintelligible yell that echoed across the store over the ringing of her ears.

As soon as it started, it stopped. The store fell into a deathly quiet.

She waited for the gunfire to sound again; to hear the crunch of obliterated goods underfoot; to hear commands be yelled between the Raiders. Any second.

But every second stretched on as the chilling silence became heavier and heavier on her chest. The quiet was too much. It was more dangerous. Her hands were gripped so hard around her rifle, she wasn't sure if they could ever release.

They were slowly converging on her, she knew it. Any second. Just any second.

Stop, stop. Calm. She chanted in her head as she took in a deep, shaky breath.

They were going to kill her if she didn't do anything. They were going to walk up and shoot her at any moment.

Taking in a breath and blinking away the tears that blurred her vision, she shifted. Glass and tin cans clattered and moved underneath her, sounding like a scream in the stilled silence. She froze in panic as she waited for the hellfire to begin again.

But it was quiet. So quiet.

She shifted again and slowly moved to her knees. She lifted up her head slowly, a painful throbbing building under her skin as she anticipated the hard bullets to rip her apart as soon as she peek up. But as she slowly raised her head, it continued to stay intact. And the eerie silence stayed.

She peeked over the counter and her eyes darted franticly for a dark form that could be one of them. The Super Duper Mart was just as still as it was silent. She hesitantly raised her rifle, still tight in her grasp, and settled it on the cold counter - almost feeling painfully freezing in contrast to her skin.

Suddenly, something moved. Her breath caught in her throat as her heart rammed hard into her chest. A dark form, barely distinguishable in the dim light raised its head and looked around quickly. Her hands were trembling so badly, she could barely grasp the trigger.

The form froze and lifted up something in its arms. A thunderous shot rang out and she jumped, her finger impulsively flinching and tightening around the trigger, forcing three shots ring out quickly. She screamed in surprise and tightened her hold on the gun that jumped in her arms.

Sudden adrenaline filled her as the Raider stumbled back and fell to the ground. The dim lighting allowed her eyes to lock on something dark and liquid gathering around him. The Raider was being surrounded by a pool of his own blood.

Her body began to shake and tighten all at once and her mind blurred and focused in the same instant. Her mind screamed and calmed and her world shattered and slowed and she wondered if she had gone insane or if the shot had somehow hurt her instead. Her ears rang and so did her mind. Her eyes locked hard on the body that laid.

Suddenly, another Raider jumped from his cover and aimed at her. She took a quick gasp, almost sounding like a shriek, then her sights, still trained on the first Raider, moved to the second and her finger pulled the trigger jumpily, sending three more shots into him. The Raider erupted with an agonizing yell and fell from sight behind the aisle.

The door behind her burst open with a frightening crack, and a Raider appeared though the doorway with a knife in hand. She screamed as her heart stopped, started and went to her throat in the same instance. Wheeling from the counter, her back slammed hard against the wall beneath and her barrel aligned with his form.

Her finger pulled hard and tight at the trigger. Her grip didn't falter as earsplitting gunshots filled her ears as she unloaded every round into him until the gun continued to click as it rang empty. The Raider's mouth fell agape as a blank look of death filled his eyes, before he collapsed.

Her eyes were stunned and wide as she starred, shell shocked, at the dead form.

Her body shook uncontrollably and her skin crawled as her mind wheeled and came back with the same words.

I killed them.

A sudden bile rose in the back of her throat and she vomited violently.


When she came back to Moira, she was a changed person. She wasn't the girl with the finely manicured and painted fingernails; with the flawless, porcelain skin that had never seen the sun; with the perfectly placed eye liner and lip gloss; with the carefully styled and blown hair; with the nicely ironed and primed clothes.

No, not anymore. Her nails were broken, chipped and grimy; her skin was marred, bleeding, burned and dirty; the remains of her makeup were gone, besides the faint black of her mascara under her eyes, looking like bruising; her hair was tussled, dirtied and a mess; her clothes were torn, stained and crumpled.

Something inside her broke and something about her changed. She wasn't the innocent, sheltered Vault girl, whose only care in the world was passing the G.O.A.T., making friends and finding a boyfriend.

Now she was someone whose worries consisted of, would she survive the day? What would it feel like to be shot, or stabbed, or whatever other things Raiders might do to her? Would she have enough food? Did she have enough ammo? Or a safe place to sleep?

Now she was someone who was plunged into the harsh world without even a warning and told to sink or swim. She had never killed anything more than a Radroach before, and now she had just killed three human beings. Hadn't shot anything more than a BB gun and now she had just shot an automatic weapon that she wasn't very sure how to reload.

Now she was the Lone Wanderer, a fate that wouldn't change no matter what she did. She had to survive, that's all that mattered. Battered, broken… none of it mattered. Because, through the fire and the flames, she'd carry on.


A/N: Dragonforce is the greatest action scene inspiration ever… of all time.

Okay, this is a one-shot/prequel to The Lone Courier. You don't have to read 'TLC' if you want to understand this, - I just wrote it as a bit of character development - but The Lone Courier might be more interesting if you read this.

On the time-line, this is set when Moira asks you to check out the Super Duper Mart as research for her Wasteland Survival Guide.

I wrote this because, A: I really wanted to show Lone (the Lone Wanderer) fighting solo in DC.

And B: I wanted to show that you don't just come out of a perfect, sheltered life and instantly be able to kill a group of guys and be all 'I'm awesome. Oo-rah!' Lone is battle hardened and she will kill without much difficulty, but she wasn't always that way. She was once a frail, inexperienced vaultie that had no idea what to do in the Wasteland. Survival took precedence, so she had to adjust and adapt.

Drop me a review and tell me what you think? :) Super long Author's Note out.