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  1. Glad you're liking it. I know I'm throwing a lot of characters out, but I've been excited about introducing Jericho and Viktor. Also, Miles isn't going after the generals per se. They actually want to avoid them and their individual armies. You won't need to wonder about Viktor for long. I plan on explaining his deal soon, next chapter probably. I'm happy you're liking Jericho and his crew. Jericho is very much an opposite of Miles, and where Miles has built up his own team, so has he. In any case, I've kept the shadow of Jericho Thorne in the background for too long. I'm glad he's finally in play.
  2. The Regulator compound was different than what Rain had expected. It was situated far from any other settlement, in a secluded forest of dead trees. It felt like they had traversed the whole forest before they finally reached a clearing where the base was. The base wasn’t nearly as large as what she had seen in her vision, but it didn't take long to understand why. What was once a large and expansive barracks was now a destroyed shell. It looked like it had originally been surrounded by a protective wall, mostly made of giant logs whose tips had been sharpened. Most of the wall was destroyed, the logs laying all around the base. The inside wasn’t much better. Nearly all of the buildings had been burned to ashes or at the very least showed signs of heavy damage. The sturdier steel buildings were stained and blackened. It was interesting to note that despite supposedly being abandoned for many years, the grass had been cut and maintained so it wasn't overgrown. The center of the complex had been transformed into a large graveyard, each grave had been marked with wooden crosses. Rain glanced over at Miles. His face betrayed nothing of what he felt, but she could feel his inner anguish. After stopping at Ridgeville to collect their pay, he had hardly spoken to anyone aside from Tali in the two weeks they had taken to reach the compound. He had moved forward with a determined gait, as though he were forcing himself to continue. One thing was clear. This place was painful for him, and as they had finally approached the compound, he had paused and closed his eyes, like he was trying to keep his memories at bay. Tali stayed close to him, her hand grasping his tightly in a show of support. Rain, with her heightened empathetic senses, felt as though his feelings were crushing her. She was suffocating. She found herself shoving herself in between Miyuki and Rocco. Miyuki noticed, putting her arm around her and pulling her close. Miles took a deep breath and pointed to a small shed near the back of the compound. It was guarded by two armed men, lazily stretched out in some lawn chairs. The shed was the only undamaged structure in the place. “That shed wasn't here before. They must have built it.” He left the rest unsaid. The shed must have been built for George Maxwell. “What about the two idiots guarding the thing?” Rocco asked quietly. Instead of answering, Miles began moving to the compound, no longer trying to hide his approach. The rest of the team was forced to follow behind. The two guards were so engrossed in their own conversation that they failed to notice his approach. When they finally did it was too late. Miles had drawn his gun and wordlessly executed them before stopping at the entrance to the shed. It was covered in heavy chains, with many large padlocks keeping them together. At the bottom of the door was a small slot, an empty metal tray barely sticking out from it. Tali tried to interject. “Miles, I know you're upset, but you just killed two of Jericho Thorne’s men. You know that's going to….” “Get them off.” Miles interrupted. “Gabe, get those chains off.” Gabriel took a moment, his eyes going back and forth from his leader to Tali. With a sigh he shot the padlocks off before yanking the chains off and throwing them aside. Before anyone could say anything, Miles kicked the door in. Immediately, the team was repelled by an indescribable stench. Rocco and Tali visibly recoiled and moved away. Miyuki fell to her knees, looking sick. Aside from Miles, who had already entered the building, Gabriel was the only one who seemed unfazed. Despite the smell, Rain felt compelled to follow Miles inside, but Gabriel grabbed her arm roughly and pulled her back. He didn't look at her, but there was a look in his eye she hadn't seen before, and a feeling coming from him. A sense of desperation to keep her from seeing inside. “Whatever's in there, you don't need to see it. This is not for us. Just…..stay back. Let's give the captain some space.” The others obeyed and moved far away from whatever horror awaited in the shed. They sat in a circle, each unable to find anything to say. So they just sat in silence. * Miles looked at the creature that was supposed to be George Maxell. He had curled into a corner of the shed. He was missing most of what made a human an actual human, such as eyes and fingers and teeth. He was horribly thin, and it seemed a miracle that he was even still alive. Miles guessed that the Doctor had eventually grown bored with Maxwell, and had sent him here to rot away, lightly guarded in the assumption that Miles would never return. The walls were smeared with waste and blood. The smell was horrible, but Miles didn't notice it really. It was as though it couldn't reach him. This was the man who had saved him from the life of an orphan, who had taken him in and made him what he was today. And he had given them up. He had betrayed his own out of fear. Miles was surprised to notice that he didn't feel as angry as he thought he would. Instead he just felt a sense of sadness and loss. Maxwell had always been a such a strong man, but what remained of him, shaking in the corner, was hardly recognizable. He didn't deserve this. No one deserved this. Miles forced himself to speak, as Maxwell no longer had the ability to see. “Maxwell. I’m here. It's…..it's Miles.” Maxwell shot further back into the corner, shaking his head wildy. He could no longer speak. Miles felt a tear running down his face. He wasn't sure why his adoptive father was so afraid. Maybe to him, Miles was a dream, a nightmare that he couldn't even be sure was real. Did he think it was just another form of punishment? Another ghost come to haunt him? Miles knelt down and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. “It's okay. I've come to stop it all. Everything will be okay.” Everything would be okay. * It felt like they had been waiting for hours, although it was probably more like minutes. Then they heard a single, echoing, gunshot. The suddenness made her jump and instinctively reach for her gun. Miles exited a moment later, ignoring them and walking numbly to a far off grave that sat by itself. Rain shifted and noticed how wet her diaper was. It would have to wait. It wasn't the right time. “Is that Aiden’s grave?” Rain asked aloud. “I would imagine.” Tali answered. “We've never been here. From my understanding, Miles never came here again after what happened.” Rain watched as her leader sat by the grave. Surprisingly, she noticed some flowers on the grave. They were dead now, but still, they had clearly been placed there recently. Fresh flowers were a rarity anyway in this wasteland, leading her to think they had been grown by someone. Since it obviously wasn't Miles, who had left the flowers? Rocco yawned and laid back on the grass. “Y’know, it sounds harsh and all, but I'd say the old dude got what was coming to him.” Miyuki shot him a dirty look. Tali looked horrified. “How can you say that? I don't think you could have paid me to walk in there. He's obviously been through some terrible things.” “Well, he is a traitor. He gave up his friends and family without a fight. I just think the punishment should fit the crime is all. You agree don't ya, Miyuki?” Miyuki just shut her eyes tightly. “Just shut up, Rocco. Please.” She was hugging her knees, as though she was trying to shrink herself, and she had a sad expression on her face. Rain kept watching her leader as he sat by his son's grave, speaking softly. “Has he said anything about Aiden’s mother? I got the impression she wasn't in the picture.” Tali pursed her lips in something almost like annoyance, then she seemed to feel bad about it afterwards. “She died in childbirth. I guess they were both pretty young at the time, and Aiden was kinda unplanned. I don't think they were super close, but Miles didn't want to leave his son alone. That's why he brought him here.” Rain could sense a bit of jealousy behind her calm face, but it was overwhelmed by the sense of concern for Miles. Tali was obviously tempted to go and comfort him, and Gabriel looked fairly concerned as well. They seemed to know that there wasn’t anything they could say to help. Miles didn't stay at the grave for long. He stood and walked back to them, a look of chilling determination on his face. Gabriel stood. “You want us to dig a grave for Maxwell? It won’t take long.” “No. Burn the shed down. A pyre will suffice for him. We're in a hurry.” “Captain?” Gabe asked? “What are you talking about, Miles?” Tali asked. “We're going after Thorne. This…..I can't let this go. I'm going to kill him.” The group looked around at each other with eyebrows raised. Miles wasn't the rash type, but it was hard to blame him for feeling angry. Tali was the only one who tried to speak to him, sensing his mood. “Miles, we talked about this before. We can't go after Thorne. It's impossible.” “Well, we have faced some pretty bad odds before. Maybe we could pull it off.” Rain said. She wasn't trying to argue or take sides, just pointing out the facts. Tali shook her head. “We've tried before. About a year before you showed up.” Rain could have rolled her eyes at yet more history that she was unaware of, but Tali kept going. “There was some kind of rebellion or civil strife. A few tribes were causing trouble. We thought that would be a good time to strike when he was distracted.” “This is different.” Miles said angrily. “Jericho knew we would try and take him out when he was weakened. He planned for it and set a trap. We barely got out alive. Gabriel nearly died.” Gabriel just shrugged. “I've almost died a lot. We risk death all the time.” “We aren't talking about a couple hundred Super Mutants, Rain. We're talking nearly a thousand raiders, all them united by their sole hatred of us.” “A thousand spread out and spread thin.” Miles argued. “And this time we have a secret weapon. Rain and her powers.” “What?! She can't control her abilities, Miles, and you want to drag her into your war?” “I'm not debating this. We're going after Thorne. That's an order.” Rain sat uncomfortably watching the scene play out. It could have been her wet diaper that was bothering her, but really it was just….disconcerting to see Miles and Tali argue. Miles had walked past them, apparently thinking the matter closed. “I think we should vote on it.” Tali said. She had said it so quietly, and she looked almost surprised that she had said it at all. The whole group looked at the ground awkwardly. This wasn't how things were supposed to go. Miles stopped and turned back, a look of shock across his face. He spoke in almost a growl. “What?! A vote? Are you kidding me?!” Tali just looked at him, clearly resolved. “That's how we do things, right? None of us are compelled to follow an order. I'm sorry but I can't condone this.” Miles glared at her coldly but agreed. Gabriel sided with Miles, as did Rocco. Miyuki surprisingly sided with Tali. Then it was Rain’s turn. If she sided with Tali, the vote would be even and the operation would be ended right there. But Miles was staring at her now. This was important to him, and more importantly, he believed in her, in what she could do. Maybe her powers could turn the tide and put an end to all of this. Plus, if Jericho was dead, Miles would have no reason to keep fighting. Maybe he would settle down with Tali once his past was put to rest. “I'm in. I'm with you, Miles.” She said, looking him in the eyes and nodding. She glanced over to Tali, who had her head down, utterly defeated. She felt bad, but if Tali had won, Miles might have never forgiven her. “It's decided. We'll start with the individual tribes who support him and head north. We'll hit them fast and hard, then keep moving. This ends when Jericho Thorne is dead and not a moment before.” He walked off with Gabriel to set the shed aflame. He didn't say another word to Tali. She looked like she wanted to go after him, but Rain tugged on her sleeve before she could. “Do you think you could change me? If you're not too angry with me?” She sighed. “I'm not angry. I'm just scared. This can't end well, Rain. You can’t understand what you just agreed to. Anyway, it’s done and Miles will probably be mad at me for a bit, but I'm right and he knows it.” “Don't worry, Tali. I'll do my best to help us through this. In case you missed it, I’m pretty badass now. I don't think you need to worry.” “I hope so, cutie. Anyway, let's get you changed, okay?” * A few weeks later. “Something must be done.” A voice cried. This is unacceptable. You've gone easy on him all these years, and this is the result.” “Miles and his band must be stopped, Jericho.” Another voice said. “He should have died a long time ago. Now it must be done.” Lucas Hudson sighed from the corner of the room, watching his leader with interest. The leader of all the tribes in the south had gathered in Jericho’s lair, at the top floor of a former hotel that now served as a sort of royal court. Jericho sat at the front of those gathered, like a king on his throne, although he wouldn't call it that. Honestly, despite the luxury the hotel had to offer, Jericho hated the place for some undisclosed reason. In the weeks that followed Miles’ visit, he had gone on a rampage with his small band, terrorizing the tribes and causing many casualties. To his credit, he only attacked groups that were out and about, like the Mad Dog’s chem lab, or the Viper’s weapon supply depot. He hadn't gone after their homes, where women and children were gathered. Not that this mattered to the angry tribes. They had been wronged, and only blood would satisfy them. Hudson was a bit nervous as he had inadvertently set all this in motion. Now he had been summoned to the capital for the first time in years. However, this probably meant that he was going to be tasked with dealing with Miles. To be honest, Hudson kinda liked Miles, but it was his territory that the jerk was destroying. He would relish the opportunity to hunt Miles down. Jericho allowed the chieftains to yell and curse. He himself looked bored and almost depressed. He still had a baby face that made him look young, but the duties of ruling seemed to have weighed heavily on him. His fiery tattoos looked somehow less fearsome than they had. Viktor, his bodyguard, stood beside him. He was a tall man, thin for his size, but still impressively muscular. With his long brown hair that fell to his shoulders, and a long and full beard, Hudson always thought he looked like a Viking from the history books. Viktor however, liked to consider himself more of an old fashioned knight. His weapon reflected this as well. It was a double edged broadsword he had found in a museum somewhere. He had it slung across his back and no doubt it was still wicked sharp. “Why don't you say something, Jericho?” the chief of the Flying Hawks asked. “Your fondness for our enemy is well known. Have you grown so weak that you'll allow this to continue?! If you won't act then maybe it's time for someone else to be in charge.” Viktor took a step forward. Just one. Hudson chuckled to himself. That's all it took to make the leaders of these fearsome tribes back away and shut their mouths. Viktor was a stoic and quiet man, even more than Miles, but his skills were well known, even if no one had actually seen them. Hudson remembered a particularly tough fight, maybe a year before Miles had first shown up. Some tribe whose name he couldn't even remember anymore had started a fight with Thorne. They had lost. Badly. In a final act, they had holed up in their fortress. It was on a hill in an empty field, a view in all directions. They had strong walls and deadly snipers. No one had been able to force them out after some serious losses, Jericho sent Viktor alone to deal with them. Hudson had laughed at the time. It was ridiculous to think that a glorified bodyguard could somehow handle what an army couldn't. He was wrong. It took less than three minutes before the gates were opened from the inside. Hudson would never forget the inside of that fort. It was like a whirlwind of carnage had torn through. All fifty or sixty men had been decimated, many cleaved right in half. No one knew how in the world one man with a sword had killed so many so quickly. Yet it was the same every time Jericho reluctantly sent him out. Viktor left alone, and left no survivors in his wake. Viktor was the final solution, the person sent when Jericho needed a message sent. Even looking at him was terrifying. He had a presence of some kind that just couldn't be challenged. He just had an this air of invincibility. Viktor was without doubt the deadliest man in the state, maybe the world. Hudson glanced over at Sylvia, Viktor’s wife. How a gloomy giant like him had snagged such a beauty was a mystery. Her long dark hair was kept in a neat bun, her olive skin glistened, and her dark eyes stared anxiously at Jericho. Along with her husband, she was one of his oldest friends and closest confidants. She was also an excellent chemist and kept the capital well supplied with stim-packs and other medical necessities. Because of these reasons, she always had a place in Jericho’s council meetings. Finally, Jericho spoke. “The matter will be dealt with, as I've spent the last few days telling you. I'm not sure what else I can promise you all.” “When?! Miles and his group cause more destruction every day while you sit here doing nothing.” There was a sound from the end of the room. The elevator was coming up floor by floor, dinging with each floor. Jericho looked up and smiled faintly. “I had to wait for her to arrive. Now you'll see how this problem will be handled.” Everyone looked back as the elevator door opened, revealing a pale woman with fiery red hair. She was clad in leather armor, and strode forward confidently. Her movement always reminded Hudson of some kind of wild animal, a feral beast. Yet here she was. Indara, ruler of the eastern territories. Now Hudson was intrigued. Was Jericho summoning all his generals? Did he intend this to be another attack like the one on the Regulator compound? He didn't relish the idea of seeing Yates and his dead looking eyes. As for Barnabas, he always caused a fuss when he came to the capital, being a Super Mutant. “Thanks for coming, Indara. I'm sorry for pulling you away from home.” Jericho said with an almost warm smile. “You asked me to come, and here I am. I'm assuming it has to do with Miles.” She looked over at Hudson with a mocking grin. “What have you been doing, Hudson? Can't handle your own territory?” Hudson bristled. He wasn't a big fan of his fellow general. She always looked as though she knew some private joke that no one else did. It was mildly irritating. “Why do you think I'm here, you ginger bitch?” “Indara alone will handle Miles. I have another task for you, Hudson. How many men did you bring with you, Indara?” “Fifty. More than enough. I do have a favor to ask though, if I may.” Hudson fumed as Jericho nodded for her to continue. Hunting down Miles should have been his task, but he couldn’t protest openly. Why in the world would Jericho summon them both? “The Crimson Hands recently raided another tribe, some small one. There's so many and they all have ridiculous names.” Jericho sighed. “I never prohibited raids. I wish I could, but the tribes have their ancient grudges don't they?” He made a point of ignoring the outraged looks the gathered chiefs gave him. “They took slaves though. They're planning on selling them to some slavers from out of state. I would have dealt with it myself but I was eager to get here.” Jericho sat up a bit, and a familiar flame seemed to light behind his eyes. He looked at the tribes gathered, and now they did seem to fear him. “One thing. Slavery was the one thing I outlawed. Have I not let you all operate as you please? I outlawed one thing, and this is how I'm repaid?” Sylvia took a step forward and cleared her throat. “Send my husband to handle them, Jericho. Viktor would be happy to solve this for you.” Jericho looked over at his bodyguard awkwardly. He looked as though he was about to refuse when his old friend spoke for himself. “I can do it. I'll leave in the morning if that's okay.” “If you're sure. I hate to bother you with this.” “I'm here to help you in whatever capacity you need. You never need to worry about sending me out.” Indara clapped. “Great! I’m glad that's settled. Now, do you think I can get a room for the night? I'm a bit tired from all the travel.” Jericho nodded, giving his female commander a knowing look. “That's fine. I'll speak to you later about the finer details of my errant friend and his punishment.” Indara smiled and gave a small looking bow, then she left for her room. The chiefs seemed pleased, but would have continued to complain about other things if Jericho hadn't shooed them away. Suddenly Hudson found himself alone with Jericho, Viktor, and Sylvia. He stepped up, ready to argue until he saw the look his leader was giving him. “Hudson, I find it strange that Miles has decided to attack us so suddenly, don’t you?” Hudson could feel a cold lump forming in the pit of his stomach. Sylvia glanced at him briefly before excusing herself. The tension seemed suffocating. “Miles has held a grudge for a long time, man, you know that.” “Did you also know that old man Maxwell was put out of his misery? After all these years, do you think Miles just decided to drop by his old hangout for no reason? No one outside of myself and those close to me knew where Maxwell was kept.” “I mean, he has a kid buried there.” Hudson said weakly. Jericho stood up, his hands clenching into fists. “Are you going to keep lying to me, Lucas? Did you not think that I had heard about your little journey down below your territory, where Miles operates? You go down there and a week later, he's killing my people. Did you Miles and let your mouth run? Or did you purposefully betray me?” Viktor began walking toward him now, slowly unsheathing his sword. “On your knees.” Hudson backed away a few steps. Part of him wanted to fight, the other half wanted to run. But Viktor was looking down on him, almost daring him to try. He wouldn't be able to get away, and fighting Viktor was pointless. He knelt down at last. Feelings of hopelessness and disbelief raged in his head. It couldn't end here. “Come on, boss. Is this how you're gonna end it? I've been loyal to you, man. I've always had your back and you’re gonna ice me just like that?” “Don't move. It'll be worse if you move.” Viktor ordered, his deep voice echoing the empty room. Jericho looked on impassively as Viktor raised his sword up high. Hudson bared his neck despite his fear. “Jericho, come on already, for fucks sake! I'm sorry! It was a mistake!” The blade descended as he winced and took a deep breath, preparing for the pain to set in. He shut his eyes tight, not wanting to see it coming. It never did. The polished steel blade had stopped just inches from his neck. Hudson let out his breath and sank down to his butt. He felt numb. He wasn't a man easily frightened, but he was shaking now. “Fuck you, Viktor…..fuck you.” Jericho walked over and helped him up. “You are loyal, Lucas. I've never had reason to doubt that. To be fair, Maxwell has haunted my dreams for a long time now. I've been wanting to put the poor bastard out of his misery, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But this has happened because of you, so I had to fuck with you a bit. You'll follow Viktor to deal with this slaver issue. Once he's done I want you to free the slaves and make sure they get home safely. Leave Viktor to get back on his own.” Hudson got up, annoyed that his legs were still shaking. “I'll get my men ready then.” He headed for the elevator, ready to be gone and away from this place. “Hudson.” Jericho called once more. His eyes had a familiar cold fierceness. “Don't ever betray me again.” * Sylvia watched her husband packing his bags. She hated to see him go, and was almost regretting offering him to begin with. He was such a quiet man, it could be hard to tell what he was thinking, but he had always been this way. They had been childhood sweethearts for as long as she could remember. He had always let his actions speak louder than his words. She rubbed his arm. “You aren't angry with me, are you? I know I shouldn't have answered for you.” Viktor shook his head. “It's okay. I understand why you did it. Jericho wouldn’t have asked me himself.” “He's been different, Viktor. These last few years…..” “I know. Imagine how hard it must be….to be him. All the people who hate him, want him dead, and he hates himself more than anyone else.” Sylvia let her hair out of her bun and opened the safe in their room, pulling out a single black box and handing it over. It was a small parcel, but it's contents were of vital importance. “Tobias…....I mean Jericho used to enjoy this stuff y’know? Now he just seems to go through the motions.” “He enjoyed outsmarting his enemies, Sylvia. He enjoyed stopping those who wanted us all dead or in chains. Everything else weighs on him. That's why we're here. To be strong for when he can't be. We owe him that much.” “I'm worried about him. What happens to all this without Jericho Thorne?” Viktor wrapped her in his big arms. She clung to him, taking comfort from his embrace. “You don't need to worry, Sylvia. I won't allow anything to happen to him. As long as I'm still standing, he'll be fine.” “I know. On another note, I know you don't need me to tell you, but make sure you get some place safe after…..” “Daddy!” A tiny voice cried and a small figure dashed into the room, leaping into Viktor’s waiting arms. “Are you going away?” “Let your father get ready, Aimee.” Sylvia told the five year old little girl. As usual, she was full of energy despite most likely running around terrorizing the fearsome raiders that guarded the place. She was sorta like royalty here, or at least acted like it. Viktor held her up, a small smile appearing on his face, a smile that he seemed to reserve for his daughter. “Just for a week or so. You'll behave for Mommy, right?” Aimee rolled her eyes. “I always do, even when she makes read boring books and do homework and stuff. I'm the best, Daddy, you know that.” “You complain about your lessons every chance you get, young lady.” Sylvia said with a roll of her eyes. “Heaven forbid I try to keep you from becoming like the rest of the brainless morons around here.” “Aww…..I'm telling on you, Mommy.” The girl said, despite not knowing who exactly her mother was talking about. “Daddy, are you leaving cause Uncle Jericho asked you too?” Viktor kissed his daughter on her head before putting her down. “That's right. If you do some things for me, I'll bring you a present.” “Presents!” Amiee cried happily. “What is it? Tell me! I'll do anything!” “First of all, I want you to behave and listen to Mommy. I know you like to give her a hard time when I'm gone.” “Nu-uh! I already told you, I'm the bestest behaved girl ever. What else?” Viktor knelt down. “The next time you see Uncle Jericho, give him a big hug okay? He probably needs it.” “I’ll go right now!” The girl proclaimed, ready to fly off in search of her prey. Sylvia caught her just barely. “Not yet, Wild Thing. Jericho is probably talking to Indara right now. Wait until later okay?” “Indara is here?! Cool! Can I go see her? Please…..it's been literally a billion years since I last saw her. She was teaching me fight last time, so I can be strong like Dad.” Viktor shook his head and sighed. “I'd rather you became smart like Mom. It'll get you farther in life. Anyway, leave Indara be until she isn’t busy, okay? Believe it or not, I think Uncle Jericho missed her too.” “Sylvia snorted. “Oh, I'll bet.” * Jericho stretched and yawned as he watched the red haired beauty leave his bed. She walked over, still naked, to a small chess set he kept on a table by his window. She didn't seem to care that she was nude in front of a window, but then again not many could probably see her, considering they were on the highest floor. From his perch, Jericho could look down at his city, his empire, filled with men and women who openly wanted him dead, as well as many others who only secretly wanted him dead. The few old friends he had left were rapidly shrinking. Some died…..others left, unable to bear the cruelties he inflicted on their behalf. “Do you play?” Jericho asked. “We just finished playing.” Indara answered playfully. “Did you miss me that much? Are you lonely here without me?” “I meant chess….but yeah, I've missed you.” Indara shrugged and stretched like a cat, her eyes watching his reaction. “I'm not much for games. I like hunting real prey, not plastic pieces.” “Miles and I used to play, back in the day.” Indara have a bored look and began to gather her clothes. “Seriously? We're talking about Miles now? Way to kill the mood.” Jericho looked up at the ceiling. “Chess can tell you a lot about a person. Miles was very aggressive in our matches, bold and brash, hoping to force me to make a wrong move. But I always kept him at bay with a strong defense. I always told him to think more defensively.” “And that told you what exactly?” “He's never needed to think defensively because the Regulators always taught him to attack, to overwhelm his opponents with speed and precision. He’s never been like me, like us. Hunted and constantly under attack, always fearing the next plot. That's the difference between us. That's why…..I'll always beat him.” Indara gave a big grin, tossing her clothes back on the ground and getting back into bed. “Don't worry. I'll teach him a lesson. Are you sure you don't just want me to kill him?” “That has proven very hard to do, hasn't it? But no, I want to send a message. Can you manage this for me?” “Is that Brotherhood of Steel guy still with him?” Indara asked as she twirled her hair. Her eyes narrowed when he answered. “Can I kill him?” “Still bearing a grudge, huh? Hate to disappoint you, but I'd like you to stick to the plan if possible. It'll hit harder, trust me.” She hopped back up and put on her underwear. “I should get ready then. I'll be back soon, don't worry.” Jericho raised his hand to stop her. “You don't have to go….yet. If you don't want to.” He hated how pathetic he sounded, but with what was about to happen, he didn't want to be alone for tonight. Indara only seemed a little surprised. She nodded and slunk back into bed. “You don't want to do this, do you? You really like Miles, don't you?” Jericho closed his eyes, trying very hard to remind himself that he was in the right. “Miles is a good man, one of the best I've had the honor of meeting. I've put him through a lot of pain and suffering…..and before this is over, I'll put him through a whole lot more.”
  3. Yes, it is I! I've actually been in a writing mood so I've come to gift you all with more of this story that I guess people like for some reason. Enjoy. Another town, another mission. This one incidentally fell into their lap. They had travelled to the town, Ridgeville, to trade. They had a surplus of scrap and needed to get rid of it in favor of more useful things like food, which had lessened considerably from winter. Tali and Gabe were normally loath to sell potentially useful materials. Gabriel used any scrap metal to repair his armor, while Tali would use whatever junk at could in order to make random things that either exploded or at the very least could be chucked at enemies. Ridgeville was located inside one of the many cities that dotted the landscape. Not many built their homes in cities. Between mutants and smaller raider groups, cities tended to be more dangerous. On top of that, there were less opportunities for hunting, and the like, making successful scavenging a must, and trade more vital than ever. Either way, the town itself was rather impressive. Scaffolding connected the various buildings that served as homes, and the whole town was decorated with lights of various colors. At night Ridgeville must of have been exceptionally beautiful. The town encompassed a large amount of the city, probably several blocks. The streets were well populated, and despite their complete lack of any walls or other defensive structures, the people seemed at ease. Clearly this was not a village used to trouble. Looking around, the answer as to why started to become more clear. Almost every building had turrets set up, much like the kind they employed at their bases. In any case, it hadn't taken long for them to get recognized. Always eager to help, and with the promise of better trading deals and supplies as payment, Miles accepted and the job was explained by the town sheriff, a grim looking man named Murphy. The man was rather ordinary. To be honest, Rain was to caught up with eyeing the various stalls filled with goods to pay much attention to him. She would let Miles handle the business aspect, she just needed to know where to aim and who to shoot. “So how can we help you, Murphy?” The old sheriff took off his hat and leaned in close to whisper to the group. “There's been a murder. Happened yesterday. I’ve kept it quiet for now, but soon enough people will get suspicious. Then they'll be out for blood. As bad as it sounds, we can't afford for the town to shut down because of this. But if you can solve it before they notice….?” Miles nodded sympathetically. “Tell us as much as you can, and we'll get to it. What happened?” “The victim was a woman named Rebecca Powers. She owned a little store at the edge of town, dealing in old electronics mostly. Not a particularly popular store, but she did alright. She was…..well she was very private woman, kept to herself mostly. She didn't seem to really like it here, nor did she like most of us all too much. Honestly, she probably wouldn't have bothered with the store if she could've avoided it.” “Keep going. Do you have any idea who did it?” “That's where we're lucky. We know exactly who did it, or at the very least have a good suspicion. There's a drifter whose made himself rather unwelcome in most towns. Goes by Zhang. Asian fella, about your height, real shifty though. Not much else I can give you besides that. But we'd like him brought back alive if possible.” Miyuki rolled her eyes. “So we're looking for a shifty Asian, huh? At least he'll stand out.” Murphy blanched. “I didn't mean no offense. We welcome all people here.” “Why are you so sure it was him?” “His normal method is to sneak into a town and steal whatever he can, then hightail it out before anyone notices. We got warning from a nearby settlement that he was around, so we knew he might come here and we were watching out, but he still slipped in. I was informed that he was in Rebecca’s shop, but by the time I got there it was too late.” “She was dead and he was gone? I’m assuming he stole her things as well?” Murphy sighed. “I don't know if he took anything or not. I didn't frequent the joint and we haven't looked for any type of inventory log. Rebecca didn't suffer fools though, that's for sure. My guess is she caught him and tried to deal with it herself. It…..it wasn't pretty, Miles. He cut her up bad. Now she might not have been the most friendly of people, but she was one of us. We're simple people and whatever our flaws, we look after our own.” Miles nodded. “So it's a small town's justice then? I'm betting it won't be pretty.” “There'll be a trial. We're not animals. But yeah, it probably won't be something you'd want your little one there to see. That a problem?” Rain snapped back to attention at that. She had been focused on a food stall that was frying something that smelled pretty damn good. The others were snickering at her, and she turned back around to hide her red face. Miles chuckled but didn't bother correcting him. “If you could give us an idea of which way he went, we'll get after him.” “He was last seen heading north.” Murphy pointed. “Closest town is only a few hours walk. Maybe he's still there, selling off his goods or resting at an inn. If not, he might be rushing towards Jericho Thorne’s area.” “We'll catch him. He's days away from Thorne’s territory.” After a quick stop at the food stall, they headed off. For her part, Rain was regretting wearing pants instead of her usual skirt, but she had wanted to wear the Regulator jacket that Miles had given her and it looked better with pants. Still, even in her lighter diaper, she felt like she was waddling. Miyuki gave her a nudge, nodding her head towards Miles. “It's no wonder he thought you were Miles’ kid, look at you. You match and everything. How adorable.” “Maybe you're jealous he didn’t give you one, huh? I mean, I joined last after all, but I guess the captain likes me better. Must be hard for you.” Rain said smugly. “Pfff. Dream on, little girl. I'd say he’s painting a target on your back with that thing. He's probably hoping you'll act as a decoy.” Rain brought her hand to her mouth in mock surprise. “Wow. To think Miles would trust me to act as his decoy. Hey don't worry, I'm sure you can find something to punch…..or whatever, make yourself useful, y’know?” Miyuki laughed menacingly, wrapping an arm around her neck and putting her in a light headlock. “You better watch it, missy. I will not hesitate to pull down those pants and spank your diapered behind.” “Oh. I thought you only liked spankings when Surra was involved. Were you a bad girl, Miyuki?” “That does it. Can we stop guys? Rain needs to relearn some manners. Maybe we'll work on potty training afterwards.” Tali smiled back at them, shaking her head. “Behave you two or I'll put laxative in one of your meals tonight, only I won't tell you who.” Miyuki let her go at last. “You're more used to it than me, but I don't want to risk it. The jacket does look pretty good on you though, seriously.” Rocco chimed in from behind them, fanning himself with his hat. “Uh….could we hear more about Surra spanking you, Miyuki? Please? I'm a lonely ghoul.” Miyuki gave a disgusted look. “That's an image I didn't need. You should be like Gabriel, at least he's a gentleman.” “Hmmm? What?” Gabe asked. “Sorry I was uh…..lost in…..thought. I very vaguely recall something about spankings?” “Oh my God! You too?!” “What? My rugged good looks only get me so far, and the eyepatch doesn't help as much as you'd think. If I were a younger man then maybe.” Rain ran ahead with her hands over her ears. “Ewww. No, stop, there's a child present! Don't scar me with this grown-up talk.” Miyuki pointed at her. “You started this. Get back here and suffer with me!” “Gee I would, but I need to be closer to Miles. Y’know, as his decoy. Have fun though.” Rain giggled, sticking out her tongue. Rain rushed to the front and took her place beside Miles. He subtly extended a fist for her to bump. “Nice one. A little mean, but she did used to beat you up after all, right?” She shrugged and gave an evil grin. “I'm too busy laughing right now to feel bad. Check back later.” From the back she could hear Rocco fishing for me details. “I mean, was there a whip? You don't have to say it out loud, just blink twice if there were whips involved.” “Rocco!!!” * They walked through the ruins of the abandoned city, heading for the next town. As she had thought many times before when traversing a city, Rain marveled at the idea that people once inhabited places like this, populating the huge skyscrapers that were now empty and foreboding, almost like sleeping giants. She tried to imagine people walking the streets, busy going one place or another. She tried to imagine those giant buildings perfect and whole, standing tall and proud under blue skies, instead of desolate and crumbling monuments with broken windows and overgrown moss. She looked over at the multitude of rusted and broken down vehicles, wondering how such devices could have ever worked. In a few, there were still crumbling skeletons at the wheels, having taken their last breath inside a steel can. Where had they been going? Maybe they were rushing to safety when the end came, or stuck in traffic that surely existed back then. Rain had to turn away from a few vehicles when she saw multiple bodies in them. One even had some….very small ones in the back. With a sigh, she tried to envision one more time what this city might have looked like before mankind was crushed by their own weapons of war. A somber musing, and one that was quite sad as well. Her reverie was cut short when what looked like a settlement appeared on the horizon. They had barely walked an hour, it seemed too early to have reached their destination. Miles and the others had stopped in their tracks, and the sudden tension in the air said that they had indeed stumbled on something unintended. Looking again at the settlement ahead she could vaguely make out a flag flying, a flag that depicted a devil surrounded by flames. “That can't be.” Tali whispered. “Off the road!” Miles ordered. They moved off the road and crouched down beside some cars. They hadn't seemed to have made themselves known yet, though Rain could see armed men patrolling the perimeter. Gabe grunted and nodded toward the camp. “No doubt about it. They belong to Thorne. Probably one of the generals judging by the size.” Miyuki shook her head. “That makes no sense. They're way too far south. You think this is some kind of attempt at expansion?” “Who cares why they're here?” Rocco asked. “Do you see the other flag? Which general is it?” Sure enough, a second flag was flying near the first. The wind was blowing too much to see it though. Rocco nudged her. “Kid, you ever seen a picture of those old time plague doctors?” He continued as she nodded. “If you see one now, get ready to run. That means the Doctor is around. You don't want to get captured by him.” The Doctor was named Thomas Yates, a regular name that hid a more sinister persona. A general of Jericho Thorne, he ruled in the far northwest. Miyuki was terrified of him, in fact, everyone seemed to be afraid of the Doctor due to his penchant for torturing his enemies. “No. Look now that the wind has died down.” Miles said. “It's an axe, right?” Sure enough, the banner was a red axe over a black background. So it was another general, Lucas Hudson, and ruler of the southern border of Thorne’s empire. “What the hell is Hudson doing down here?” Miles queried. “Last I heard, Thorne had set up pretty clear borders. It makes no sense.” “So what now? We can go around I guess.” Rocco advised. Miles seemed to consider it, but then smiled thinly. “No need. We'll just pass right through. Maybe we can ask about our thief. Either way, I don't like the idea of leaving them there without knowing why.” “That's crazy! We're talking about at least a hundred men in there.” Rocco objected. Miles looked back, his bright blue eyes narrowing in a look that dared another complaint. It didn't seem like he was taking no for an answer. “Just watch yourself. Hudson is a fairly reasonable guy. So long as we don't give him cause, we'll be fine. Everyone keep your hands away from your weapons. We'll approach slowly with our hands raised. Let's go.” They headed toward the huge encampment, with Rain feeling more apprehensive with each step. Somehow, a man nicknamed the Axe, didn't strike her as a reasonable guy. Not to mention, she remembered her vision of the attack on the Regulators. Miles was stopped from getting to Thorne by a fire axe in the back. With how much Miles hated anything to do with Thorne, she found it odd that he wasn't demanding an immediate attack. The guards saw them quickly, and soon a party of fifteen raiders had come to meet them. At the head was an ugly man with a bushy dark moustache. He gave an order and the men spread out to surround them. The moustached man glared at Miles, recognition burning in his eyes. Miles however, seemed calm as a still pond. Either he didn't recognize the man, or he was being very diplomatic. “I need to speak with Hudson. Send word we're here.” The man shoved a finger the captain's chest. “You don't order me around you bastard! Tell me why I shouldn't kill you right here!” Miles didn't so much as look at him. “You'll die if you try it. We aren't here for a fight. Now run and fetch your commander.” “You don't remember me do you? You attacked my tribe many years ago. I nearly died thanks to you.” “I tend to forget all the stupid assholes I’ve killed or nearly killed. Count yourself lucky.” The man clenched his fists, only barely restraining himself. “You got balls. I should have torn them off at your base five years ago. You have no idea how happy I was when we burned that shithole to the ground. I killed so many of your friends. Come on, draw your weapon, I fucking dare ya.” Miles finally looked at the man, murder in his eyes. It seemed like conflict was inevitable. Gabriel looked as though he was ready to jump in front of Miles if need be. The others all seemed to be reaching for their weapons. “Wait! Wait!” a small voice cried out. A young man was rushing toward them from the camp. He was thin as a reed and seemed only a year or so older Rain herself. The man with the moustache tensed up, a Rain could feel an intense frustration coming from him. The boy reached them at last, heaving and sucking on large amounts of air. The distance was so little, Rain couldn't help but marvel at how out of shape the boy was. “Mr. Hudson……he……ah….he wants to see them……He sent me…..to escort them.” The man grunted and stroked his facial hair. “You don't look like you can escort anyone, Kyle. Pathetic. Look at you, you're huffing and puffing from a light jog!” “I have asthma…” Kyle whined. “Bah. No such thing. Don't fake an illness because you're a weak little girl. Hell, there's a little girl right here who could probably kick your ass.” Rain felt her eyebrow twitch from annoyance, but the thin young man trembled anyway. “Why would she want to?!” He asked bewildered. “You piss me off, Kyle!” The man yelled. “It would seem we're done here.” Miles stated. “Lead the way, young man.” Kyle took another deep breath and pivoted on his heel. They passed the snarling group of men and began their way to the camp. The camp itself was hastily constructed, with tents crowding almost every inch of ground. The reception inside was just as bad. Most of the gathered raiders jeered and booed at them. Lewd jokes were directed at Tali and Miyuki. Many yelled curses at Miles. And of course, numerous jokes about the “little girl” in the group persisted as they made their way to the biggest tent near the back of the camp. For the first time in the day, she was happy she hadn't worn a skirt. Her diaper being exposed here would have been too much to bear. Kyle led them inside where two men stood by something amazing. It was a car, but it had been beautifully restored with a cherry red paint job. The metal parts seemed new and the whole vehicle was polished lovingly. Lucas Hudson, the Axe, was immediately noticeable. He was shorter than Miles by just a bit, but looked very well built. He had dark tan skin and he was wearing what looked like prewar military pants and a white tank top that was discolored with grease. His head was shaved at the side, and the hair he did have was styled into a mohawk. He glanced briefly at their group before signaling that they should wait. Rain glanced over at the corner where his fabled fire axe stood nearby. The other man was much older and was beaming over the vehicle proudly. “We did it sir. Look at how she shines. I honestly wasn't sure we would find the parts we needed, but just look at her.” Hudson was smiling happily. He headed over to Kyle and slapped his back, almost knocking the poor boy over. “Look at that, boy! Have you ever seen anything like it? Check it out, Miles. Look at my baby. It took years but she's almost ready. I bet you're jealous, huh?” “Very impressive, Hudson.” The old man looked suddenly confused. “Uh….sir? What else is there to do? We've restored her as best we can already.” “What the hell are you talking about? We're going to get her running. It's been my dream for years. I'm tired of having to walk all over the damn place.” “Sir, I thought you simply wished to restore the vehicle. I'm afraid there's no way to get her running.” Hudson blankly looked at the man. Beside him, Kyle stiffened in fear. “What do you mean?” “I thought you knew. The technology for those vehicles was lost hundreds of years ago.” “Then what have we been doing all this time? You were recommended as an expert in old cars. Now you say you can't fix it?!” Kyle tugged meekly on Hudson’s arm. “Stay calm, sir. Please?” “I am calm. I’m calm. I'm so fucking calm. Please…..continue old man.” The man seemed to realize his precarious position and began looking at the exit longingly. “I am an expert at fixing them up, yes, but no one knows how to get them running, they used nuclear fusion after all.” Hudson appeared to be getting more and more red and had begun pacing around. “So let's…..just do that then.” “Ludicrous. Such an art was lost long ago. It’s impossible.” Hudson looked over and pointed to Gabriel. “I heard the Brotherhood had a giant fucking robot and vehicles that flew. Flew! In the fucking sky!” “I-I'm sorry, sir. There's simply no way. I didn't mean to mislead you.” Kyle looked more and more worried. “Sir, please. Remember what we talked about. Count to ten remember?” Hudson kept pacing. “Yeah yeah, I know. I’m good. One…..two……three…..four……ah fuck it!” In a split second he had his axe in hand. The poor old man barely had time to scream before the blade had descended down on him. Hudson kept counting with every swing, until he reached ten. He took a final deep breath before tossing the axe on the ground. He looked over at Kyle, who had sunk to his knees despondently, a hand over his face.” “Boy! Clean this up and get our….guest out of here.” “I hate my job.” Kyle complained. “Why do I bother? It's always the same.” “Kyle!” Hudson yelled, gesturing to the bloody body. “We have guests. Don't be rude, get this guy outta here.” The boy got to his task unhappily. He took the body by the arms, whimpering as he struggled to drag to corpse away. Rain couldn't help but feel bad for him. “And bring me a new shirt! Good kid, Kyle. I'm friends with his father. He's always been a sickly kid and I promised to help toughen him up. A task I might add, that has rivaled the restoration of my baby. He has been helping me work on my anger though.” Miles smirked. “Oh, I can tell.” “Miles, I'm afraid you've caught me at a bad time and my good mood has suddenly spoiled. What are you doing here?” “I was going to ask you the same thing. You're far from your territory.” Hudson shrugged. “My former mechanic said the last part I needed for my baby was down here. Besides whose gonna mess with me? I'm Thorne’s man after all.” Miles had tensed up again. The two enemies glared at each other openly. This was the man who had halted Miles in his tracks, who had assisted in the destruction of his home. The situation seemed likely to explode at any second. “I see you got a Kyle of your own. How's it hanging, girlie? I've heard a lot about you. They say you're quite the fighter.” Rain met the bloody general’s gaze. “I'm afraid I don't know much about you.” “Not much to tell. I used to be in a caravan run by my father. We were trading our wares in Jericho’s territory. But my dear old pa was a tad greedy. We reached a road with a toll and instead of paying, my father killed the guards and we had to flee. He thought that Jericho was a nobody and wouldn't deign to pay the rather small toll. That was a bad move. I fuckin told him that too.” “Did he come after you?” “Of course. Jericho himself led a group to get revenge. So there we were, outgunned and outnumbered. I was never one for numbers and trade, so I grabbed the nearest thing to me and started swinging. That very axe there. But my father and everyone else had already fallen. Needless to say, Jericho was impressed and offered me a place with him.” “Now you see who our enemy is, Rain.” Miles said coldly. “The type of people for which nothing is sacred, not even family.” The Axe chuckled. “Let's be civil now, Miles. Here I am being polite. Now I'll ask again. Why are you here?” Tali spoke instead, trying to ease the situation. “We're pursuing a thief who murdered a woman nearby.” Hudson scratched his head. “I don't suppose he was a squirrelly Asian fella by chance? Cause if so, take a look outside.” They pulled open the tent and looked to where the general was pointing. Sure enough, there was an Asian man hung by the neck from a lamp post. “The little bastard tried to steal food from our cook, Bertha, who happens to be as big as a Super Mutant and about as friendly as one too. Not a great cook either, but that's neither here nor there. Believe me, it was a mercy when I finally ended his misery.” “Well that’s that I guess.” Rocco sighed. “Saves us the legwork.” “See? I did ya a favor. You can even keep all the reward too, that's how nice I am.” Miles turned, ready to leave. “We're done here then. Til next time I suppose.” Hudson has finally torn off his bloody shirt as Kyle returned with a clean black t-shirt. “Leaving so soon? Don't feel like reminiscing? I was just gonna say how much you still surprise me. I mean, I watched you get shot to hell and even stuck my axe in your back. Yet here you stand, like nothing had happened.” Miles turned, his fist clenched. “No. Not like nothing happened. I will never forget, Hudson. One day, I will kill you. You and Jericho both. I came here because you're the least horrible, but the more I stand here, the angrier I get.” It was true. In fact, Rain couldn't think of a time when Miles had ever been this angry. It seemed to roll off of him like an aura of hatred. Normally, he was the picture of calm. Miles never lost his cool. Ever. “You're lucky it's me then, considering the others would have already killed you. Might wanna remember that.” Miles seemed to reign in his fury and calm down. Only barely. “The other generals still around?” “Sure. Indara is just as wild and beautiful as ever. To be fair, we generals don’t see much of each other these days.” “What about the Super Mutant?” Rain asked. “Barnabas? Yeah he's around. My personal favorite actually, he's funny as hell. Then again, the idea of a big Super Mutant who rides on giant brahmin and wields a chainsaw might sound funny at first until you see the ugly fucker coming at you.” “The Doctor?” Miles asked. It looked like he was willing to put aside his anger in order for information. The axe swinging general seemed all too happy to talk as well. “Yeah, Yates is still around. Everyone hates him. But he's feared, that's for sure, and in an outfit like ours, fear equals strength. There's even talk of him taking over in a coup.” That got Miles’ attention. “A coup? Is that really possible? Could Thorne be overthrown?” Hudson wagged a finger at him. “Don't get your hopes up. Yates is a goddamn psychopath. He's hardly interested in leading his own men. People like to talk. But Jericho……well he's been off the last few years. It seems like wiping the Regulators out took something out of him. He's not the same. The other tribes see this, and they've never been content under an upstart like the boss, as you know.” “If so many want him dead, maybe they should help me instead of trying to kill me.” “Nah. They still hate you more. Besides, Indara and I wouldn't allow it, Barnabas neither probably. Then there's Viktor. He's always nearby and ain't nobody looking to take him on. I get you hate him and all, Miles, but Thorne has done a lot of good since taking over.” Rain found herself speaking up. For some reason she couldn't help herself. “He's done a lot of harm too. How much blood is on his hands?” Hudson nodded, looking thoughtful. “Oh yes. He's done a ton of harm for sure. No argument there. What can I say? The man's a damn paradox. Despite acknowledging that you're our enemy, Jericho seems to really like you. I’d even say he admires you.” Miles was practically fuming at that, his hands balled into fists, and his knuckles turning white. Hudson kept talking, unaware. “He hates torture, but he gave that Maxwell guy to-“ Finally he seemed to have realized that he had said too much. But Miles had already drawn his weapon, the barrel of his gun directly in the general's face. “What was that? What….did he do to Maxwell?! Tell me now…..or die.” “Miles….” Tali warned, reaching slightly to place a hand on his arm. Gabriel also stepped forward. “Some caution please, captain. Remember where we are.” George Maxwell was the man who had taken Miles in, and was like a father to him. He had been captured by Thorne and had ultimately led the raiders to the Regulators front door. Lucas Hudson was apparently not a man to be threatened. He took a step forward and put his hand over the weapon. “Are you….seriously threatening me right now? Are you honestly going to come into MY camp and threaten me?! Do you have any idea what I could do to you with a single word?” Miles pulled the hammer back on his weapon, and they all realized that at that moment he would have fired without hesitation. Even Hudson seemed to have become grimly aware of his position. “Fine. You didn't hear this from me though. After we grabbed the old man, Jericho asked him to give you up, and then he became really angry when he did. I don't know why, maybe because the old guy hadn't even been smacked around or anything when he gave you up. Jericho was furious. After the battle, he gave Maxwell to…….to the Doctor.” “How long? Is…is he still alive?” “Well……last I heard he was. In a manner of speaking.” Miles had lowered his gun, but his whole body was shaking, whether from anger or something else was unclear. “Where is he? Is he with the Doctor, at that rumored asylum in the far west?” Hudson sighed. “No. Jericho wanted him to be surrounded by the one's he betrayed. At the one place he knew you'd never go back too.” Miles turned and walked out without another word. The answer was clear to them all. They were going to get George Maxwell, and he was at the Regulator headquarters.
  4. Well......yeah. I'd say we just passed part one of like....three. The main conflict is coming soon, I'm working hard on it. Part three is when things will start to crawl to conclusion. And then.....well yeah, you'll see. It's gonna be a doozy.
  5. I'm up for it. We're gonna be getting into the meat of the story. I'm pretty excited.
  6. Rain dreamt of needles. She was in a dark, cold room, unable to move. The air had a sterile smell to it, almost sickly in it's cleanliness. When she felt the first needle jam into her arm, she screamed, but couldn't get away as more stabbed into her arms. The pain was extraordinary, only made worse by the feeling of multiple syringes being forced into her skull. She screamed helplessly into the darkness as the pain went on and on. Just when she thought she might go insane from it all, she heard a feminine voice. “You're doing so good, baby. Stay strong. We're right here with you.” There was something about the voice that soothed her and pulled her away from the pain. She didn't recognize who was speaking, yet there was something familiar and safe about it. “I can’t do this anymore.” She heard herself cry out. “It hurts too much, Mommy.” A cold voice spoke from the shadows. “It's only pain. It's only temporary. This will all be worth it in the end. You're going to change the world.” * Rain opened her eyes, staring up at the decayed and ruined ceiling. She wondered for a moment where she was. She could hear chatter, voices, the sound of movement. Her hand brushed against something on her stomach that caused her to look down. She was wearing a clean shirt, but it was raised up exposing her midriff. Her whole stomach was wrapped in bandages. Looking further down, she saw a familiar pink diaper around her waist. It felt heavy and cold, but that didn’t surprise her. What did surprise her was Rocco looking down on her. If it had been Tali or Miyuki she wouldn't been all that surprised, but Rocco……well that was surprising. “Ugh….where am I? What are you doing here?” Rocco smirked at her, though he seemed uneasy for some reason. “You're in the sick bay, still in the village. You had three, I repeat, three bullets in your gut. Luckily your armor slowed them down and they were easy to reach, but one of them was lodged against your rib. If not, you probably would be dead. Not to mention all the lacerations and four broken ribs. You were in a bad way is the point.” Rain tried to sit up, but the pain quickly forced her down again. “I feel like shit. My whole body hurts.” “That’s what you get for charging into a hail of gunfire. Bullets tend to hurt, kiddo. Don't get me wrong, you looked like a badass, but on the smart scale I'd give that move a negative three. You've been out for two days.” “The mutants?” Rocco paused, staring at her intently before answering. “Gone. They ran off after you….uh…..did whatever you did. What’s up with that by the way? I mean, could you always do that….magic whatever thing?” Rain sat up a bit, suddenly more aware. Now she understood why he had come to visit her. He was afraid, and trying very hard to hide it. She couldn't help but feel hurt by his fear, but to be fair, her powers scared her as well. “I've never done that before, Rocco. At least, not that I know of. Believe me I’m as surprised as you are.” Rocco kept staring at her, his hands wrung together. “So…..did you remember anything?” “Not really.” Rain said before smiling a bit. “I did hear my mother's voice. It was……really pretty, like she sounded really nice…..and pretty y’know? I'm trying really hard to keep it in my head just in case I don't hear it again.” “Hey….I’m sure everything will, y’know…..come back eventually. Anything else?” Rain nodded. “Yeah. It was just before I lost consciousness I caught a thought from someone, real quick. But…..someone recognized me. Someone here knows who I am.” “Whoa let’s slow it down a bit, kiddo. How can you be sure it was legit, this thought? I mean, you were pretty out of it after your little display. It could have been a trick of the mind or something. “I know what I heard, Roc. It was real.” She left out that her dream had shown her another interesting aspect about herself. These abilities didn't seem to come from no where. While she was still unsure exactly how it had happened, it seemed clear that she was the result of some type of experiment. But what kind of screwed up science could give her such powers? Their conversation was cut short when the curtain by her bed was drawn aside and a woman entered. She looked about Tali’s age, with dark hair and crumpled scrubs indicating that she was a nurse. She looked like she had been running herself ragged. “Hope I’m not interrupting, but I figured you probably needed a change by now. You mind if I check?” Feeling her cheeks redden, she pulled the blanket tightly to herself. “Change? What about Tali?” The nurse didn't seem to slow down any, reaching for a new diaper and hunting for the wipes. “She's been busy since the attack. She's a better doctor than she gives herself credit for, better than anyone left anyway. Don't worry, I’ve been taking care of you the last two days so you're in good hands.” Rocco stood, ready to beat a hasty retreat. “I'll give you some privacy. Uh…I’ll tell the others you're awake.” Rain took a deep breath. She had to ask, despite fearing the answer. “Rocco? How many others out there are like you? How many people are afraid of me now?” Rocco looked down at his feet, his face the picture of remorse. The nurse had stopped what she was doing and was doing her best to keep her face neutral. Their silence said enough and she waved him off. Once he had left, the nurse closed the curtain and removed the blanket. She opened the wet diaper and began gently cleaning her up, being careful not to move the injured girl too quickly. She fanned out the new diaper while giving Rain a happy looking smile. “I'm glad you’re awake. Let me know if you're in any pain and I'll try to help as much as I can. The stim-packs should have taken care of most of the damage. I'm Erin by the way.” “Nice to meet you, Erin. You mind answering my question? How many people are freaking out about me?” “Well…..about…..half? Everyone is really grateful for what you did. I'm really grateful. I'd be dead if it weren’t for you. I was in with the wounded just waiting for those mutants to come charging in. You saved all of us.” Rain gave a small nod. “But they're scared of me, right? I saved them…..and they're scared of me, right?” She knew the answer, but she needed to hear it. Erin had lifted her legs up by this time and slipped a new diaper under her. She poured some powder and then taped it up, not quite as snug as Tali normally did, but well enough. She seemed hesitant to say more. “There have been a few people who are worried that you might be……dangerous. They want you gone. I'm sorry, I know it's not right, they're just, I don’t know, scared I guess. Samuel is trying to talk them down.” “So I guess we'll be leaving soon, before I get run out of town.” “It's not that bad. Just some stupid people making noise. Miles wanted to stay for the rest of the winter, help rebuild and make sure the mutants don't come back. Honestly though, we might end up leaving and setting up elsewhere, the damage is so extensive.” Rain nodded and listened as Erin filled her in on what was going on. It was nice to hear that Samuel Agrippa had managed to survive, she hadn’t seen him during the battle and had briefly heard that he had been killed. As it turned out, more people had survived than initially thought, but there were many wounded and supplies were running low. As for Agrippa, he had lived but his leg had been horribly twisted. Despite the best efforts of the medical team, it would probably never heal completely. Eventually, the nurse left after a final pillow fluff and Rain was left to her own thoughts. But her mind was swirling with everything that had occurred. It now seemed like her powers, more diverse than she could have imagined, were the result of some experiment. It was all tied to her past, but the answers to that mystery still seemed far off. After a day or two of rest, she was finally able to get back to her feet. The time off had been nice, if not a bit lonely. Miles and Gabe had visited when they could, with Gabriel telling old Brotherhood stories to help pass the time. Miyuki and Rocco had gone scouting for any more threats. Tali only visited once, looking more in need of a bed than anyone. At Miles insistence and with nothing to do, she began practicing with her new powers, or rather, failing spectacularly. She spent the better part of two more days staring intently at a water bottle, trying to make it move, or fly across the room, or do anything. Each attempt was a failure, and she grew more frustrated with each try. Finally though, she was able to leave the dark and dreary sick bay, stepping out into a gloomy, yet still bright world. The cold was bracing, but the air was cool and fresh, compared to the stuffy interior she had lived in the last few days. For all the reported damage, the villagers had done an amazing job of repairing the place. Homes had been rebuilt, the dead had been buried, and there was a general sense of relief among the town. Then she reached the middle of the village, where a small congregation, no more than fifteen people had gathered to apparently discuss her. In the front of the pack, standing on the still destroyed remains of a house, was an older woman in ragged clothes, her hair streaked with gray. Her voice rang out as she gestured wildly with her hands. “We all know what needs to happen! That girl has to go, she'll only endanger us further. We have to stand up for ourselves now, whether it's against Agrippa or his hired killers. She needs to go!” “She saved us! She nearly died for us, we can’t kick her out.” a dissenting voice cried out. Rain recognized the man as one her men from the final barrier. The woman rounded on the man, pointing a bony finger at him. “She saved us? How? With what unnatural powers did she save us and what do they mean? What is she? A mutant, some kind of witch? How do we know she won’t become more of a threat than the mutants?” Even though it was a small group, Rain still sunk into herself as they cried out for her to be kicked out, removed, burned at the stake, and anything else they could envision in their minds. After a job like this, she should have felt like a hero. She liked that feeling, but it was becoming more and more scarce. Whenever she fought people, regardless of how horrible, the fact that they were human beings plagued her mind. Killing people always made her feel wrong. But fighting monsters and mutants, that should have made her feel good, righteous even. She saved a whole town, with help of course. People would have died if not for her, so how could a few dissenting voices make her feel so crummy? As she was standing there awkwardly, the woman making the speech noticed her, and things got predictably worse. Insults were hurled at her from every angle and when she tried to back away she found herself boxed in. “Witch!” “Monster! Freak!” “We won't let you destroy what little we have left!” She tried to speak to but her voice couldn't seem to reach them, and she became more meek as they closed in. “No…..no…..please. I'm not going to hurt anyone, I only wanted to help. Please I swear!” Someone grabbed her arm, she felt another grab her hair, pulling so hard it took her breath away. As the group closed in, their hands reaching for her, grabbing her, she felt herself panicking more and more. She thrashed in the townspeople’s grip, finally getting an arm free. “Stop it! Get off of me!” She swung her arm at the crowd and watched in horror as four or five of them went flying backwards, landing heavily on the frozen earth. The rest backed away, their paranoia edging into complete terror. For her part, Rain began to feel far less scared than angry. The fury seemed to rise up inside her, and a glance at the woman who had led the charge against her was all it took for her to unleash it. She raised her hand to the woman, and it was as if a giant invisible hand took her into it's grip. Slowly raising her hand further, she lifted the screaming woman into the air. Her fear now replaced by a sense of righteous fury, she began squeezing her hand shut slowly, feeling a resistance that she imagined to be her tormentors body. “Argh…..please stop…..can't…..I can't breathe…..oh god, my ribs….please.” Rain held her there in the air, trying to reign in her emotions. The headache she had gotten the first time she had used her power had returned with a vengeance, but still she couldn't bring herself to let the woman go. The villagers had regained some of their bravery, and she saw guns being pointed at her from every angle. They didn't fire though, maybe afraid she would send them back at them. Instead they begged and pleaded with her to relent. She heard a gunshot from further away, and the crowd backed further away. “That's enough! Get back, get away from her you idiots!” Samuel Agrippa limped forward, his leg in a crude looking metal brace. He was leaning heavily on one of his men, and Rain saw many others with him, all armed. She recognized some of them from the battle. They quickly got between her and her tormentors, and they actually seemed more interested in protecting her than the townsfolk. “Hey now, kiddo. Everything's okay now. Nobody is gonna hurt you, okay? But I need you to let Wanda down now.” Hearing the woman's name didn't stir any kind of forgiveness from Rain. She wanted to crush the woman like an insect, and in a few more moments she might have. Miles and the others were rushing her way. Miles looked fascinated at what was happening, the others simply looked worried. Rocco stared at her with open horror and lagged behind the others. “Rain that's enough. It’s over…..put her down.” When she didn't comply Miles raised his voice and called to her again. “Rain, that's an order! Put the woman down now.” His voice finally seemed to get through to her, and as though she were waking from a dream, she let poor Wanda go. The woman fell to the ground gasping for air. She was pretty sure she saw Miles breath a sigh of relief. Suddenly feeling nauseous, Rain sank to her knees, sighing with relief as Gabe and Miyuki flanked her, almost daring anyone to get close to her. With her stomach turning and her head splitting, she felt her diaper swelling rapidly, and with a final indignity, she felt her bowels give out. Kneeling on the ground, she felt the back of her diaper expand as her body forced a slimy mess into the waiting garment. Thankfully, it was quiet so no one would be the wiser, provided they didn't smell her anyway. “She tried to kill me!” Wanda whined once she had recovered. “That….thing needs to go!” “You went after her first, you dumb bitch! You're lucky I didn’t let her kill you. All of you, disperse immediately and get back to your homes.” The crowd grumbled, but obeyed. None of them would even meet Agrippa’s gaze. He looked down at her and almost tried to kneel before he remembered his leg. “I'm sorry about those idiots. They've basically lost everything they had. Their homes, their friends and family. I guess for whatever reason they were just…..afraid they would lose more. Doesn’t make it right though, damn them.” Rain couldn’t make herself answer. She couldn't even focus with her head pounding like it was. She saw Miyuki wrinkle her nose a bit, no doubt knowing who was the cause. Tali had knelt down beside her at some point, wrapping her arms around her shoulder. Agrippa sighed unhappily. “Miles, I'm sorry about all this. I know it seems ungrateful, but it may be best if you leave us once your able. I don't trust these idiots not to do something stupid. Fear is all they've known for a while, and scared people can do some dumb things.” “That's probably best. We were going to stay and help out, but that’s not going to be possible it seems. We'll leave as soon as Rain recovers.” Tali helped her stand up, but she could feel her knees knocking and the world was spinning. “I just wanted to help. I didn't want this. I tried to be a hero.” Rain sobbed. She tried to take a step and suddenly she felt her leg give out. Agrippa caught her by her waist, inadvertently causing her to groan as his fingers dug into her wounded stomach. “Easy there. I got ya. Listen to me, yeah? You are a hero, to me and a whole lot of others. And believe it or not, you're a hero to those others as well. If you hadn’t saved their bacon, they wouldn't be alive to hate ya, now would they?” For some reason the old ghoul’s words made her chuckle. In fact, she was halfway to laughing as Tali hauled her battered body up and began to carry her away. “I’m so glad you're okay, baby. Let’s get you cleaned up and then let’s get out of this place. I'm ready to get back to my own bed, believe me.” “Yeah……me too. I'm stinky, Tali.” Rain said in a haze of delirium. Her head was easing up at last and her stomach felt better after her accident. Tali chuckled. “It's not so bad. I'm pretty sure we've all smelled worse. Dead bodies for example, or that time Gabriel tried to cook.” “Yeah. That was pretty bad…..” “Anyway, it’s no big deal. You've had a crazy few days, that's for sure. At least it looks like you're able to control those powers of yours, that's neat.” Rain sighed, leaning her face onto Tali’s shoulder. “I can’t get them to work when I want them too. It’s more like I can use them when I'm panicked or in danger. Plus, my head hurts so bad when I do use them.” “Well……practice makes perfect I suppose. It's a good back up weapon and hopefully will help keep you safe out here. That's all I want.” They reached her tent at last, and Rain was happy for the privacy. It was nice to feel away from everyone else. Tali laid her down on the bed gingerly, but she still had to do her best not to squirm when the mess in her diaper smashed against her bottom. The feeling was horrible and she was really regretting being conscious for this diaper change. The last time she had messed herself she was asleep for the aftermath, and had then done her best to not think about how bad it must have been for Tali to clean up. No such luck this time. “Okay….how should we do this? I'm gonna need you to keep your legs up for me. Can you manage that?” “I…..I don't know. As injured as I am, that might be tough, but I'll try.” “Do you need a hand?” A voice from outside the tent asked. Tali opened the tent enough to peek out. Rain could see Erin’s face looking in with concern. “Sorry, I didn't mean to pry. I was coming to check on her after the commotion, and I’m assuming she needs changed. I can help if you need an extra hand.” Rain shook her head vigorously. This was bad enough without another person to witness her humiliation. Tali looked back between them, looking regretful. “Baby, I'm not sure what else to do here. I can ask Miyuki for help if you want, but something tells me she wouldn't be the best person for this job. We gotta get you clean though.” An image of Miyuki gagging during the whole change was enough for Rain to count her out. Erin was a nurse and she had changed her before, so she was the best bet, but it didn't make it any less humiliating. After her reluctant nod, Tali waved the young nurse inside. It wasn’t until Erin was inside the tent that the smell hit her, and Rain couldn’t help but snicker at what the poor girl had gotten herself into. Tali put on a brave face and got ready to begin. “Okay. I’m gonna get started here. Erin, I'm gonna lift her legs up, could you just hold them up so she doesn’t have to?” “Got it.” “Let's open this up then. Okay. You know, it's not so bad.” “I don’t know what you’re smelling then, cause its pretty bad from my end.” Rain had nearly gagged as soon the diaper had been opened. “I swear if this happens every time I use my powers, I will never be using them.” Erin laughed. “That would suck. Your powers are pretty cool to be honest.” “Maybe, but pooping my self is not so cool. Not to mention they hurt to use anyway.” As Tali began methodically cleaning her, she did her best to hold still with her abdomen still in pain. The change seemed to take forever, but after a lot of wipes, she began to feel clean again. It was a relief for both her body and her dignity when she was finally put back down onto a clean diaper. “That wasn't so bad, was it?” Erin asked cheerfully as she was being taped up. “I guess you’ll be heading out then?” Rain stood up and pulled her skirt back up. “Yeah. I’m ready to go home anyway.” That was an understatement. The town was already becoming almost suffocating, between all the people who liked her and the people who hated her. Too many people in general, really. She was excited to get back to the steel and concrete base she was used too. “Well, I hope you stay safe out there. Maybe we'll see each other again one day.” “I hope so. Take care Erin, and thanks for the help.” They gathered their things and took down the tent, with Erin sticking around to help, then they headed out together and made their way to the village entrance where Miles and the others were already waiting. A crowd had gathered to see them off and most of them actually cheered and clapped at the departing team. Agrippa was speaking to Miles and handing over a bag full of caps for a job more or less finished. “I can't thank you guys enough.” Agrippa said with a smile, leaning on a homemade crutch. “To be honest, I didn't think you guys would make much of a difference. It's nice to know that the rumors were right for a change.” Miles extended a hand. “Take care of your people, Samuel. If you ever run into anymore trouble, we'll be back as fast as we can.” Despite some trouble with the townsfolk near the end, Rain still hoped they would be alright. She worried, as they probably did, that the mutants would return after they left. She sincerely hoped they didn't, and these people could rebuild in peace. Gabriel was in his armor, minus his helmet, and knelt down to offer her a place on his shoulder. For once she didn’t feel so guilty for hitching a ride and she sat comfortably before they prepared to set off. “You ready to get out of here, superwoman?” Gabe joked. “Please. I feel like more of a freak than before. Now I'm not just a girl in a diaper, but the weird diaper wearing girl who can do shit with her mind.” “Hey, at least you're in good company. Look at the team around you. An immortal, a former Brotherhood of Steel soldier, a mad scientist, a ghoul, and well……Miyuki. Add you and we sound like a superhero team from those old comic books.” “I am not a mad scientist!” Tali objected. “Hmph. It’s a bad sign when I'm the most normal person in this group.” Miyuki snorted. Before they could leave, Tali rushed back to Erin, sorting through her bag the whole time. After a bit of whispering, Tali pulled out a camera she had found while scavenging before winter hit. Upon realizing her plan, the team unleashed a collective groan, although Miles seemed amused, smiling softly at his lover. Gabriel pretended to smooth his short cropped hair, Rocco tipped his fedora, and Miyuki presented her best scowl Tali rushed back and wrapped an arm around him, her hand reaching up and taking hold of Rain’s. Even if it was ridiculous, it felt nice in a way. Rain would have done anything to have a picture of her real family. Still, she was here with her new family after saving a town from annihilation. It felt right. For a moment her doubts and fears about herself faded into the back of her mind and she allowed herself to smile. After the grumbling died down thanks to Tali’s relentless glares, the photo was taken and the picture shot out from the camera. It was perfect. * A few months later: Rain was enjoying a rare night of dreamless sleep when she was jolted awake by someone entering her room. Maybe so much time spent avoiding death had sharpened her senses. Then again, Tali’s giggling was by no means subtle. “Oh, are you awake?” Tali asked. “Good. Hurry up and get dressed. It’s party time!” “Party time? It is very much sleeping time. And a party for what?!” “It's been one whole year since you joined us, and since we don't know when your birthday is, we all decided that this was a good of a time as any. It's your sweet sixteen, so hurry up!” Sixteen. Well she was probably right. No doubt she had probably turned sixteen at some point during this last year. Given that her age was one of the few things she had remembered, it was worth keeping track of. After an impromptu diaper change, she followed Tali to the main area of compound. The others had already gathered and cheered at her arrival. The common area had been decorated with everything you would find at a prewar birthday party. Streamers, balloons, and lame party hats. They had really gone all out. “You guys! This is amazing. I can’t believe you did all this for me. Where did you even get all this stuff?” Gabe perked up, fiddling with the party hat that looked tiny on his massive form. “Tali had me keeping an eye out during the winter. I found an old party store during one of my scavenging missions.” “I've been planning this for a long time.” Tali said proudly.” “You're only sixteen once, Rain. Enjoy yourself.” Miles said with a small grin. Miyuki slung an arm around her. “When I was sixteen, I was eating out of gutters and barely surviving. You're lucky.” “Buzkill.” Rocco muttered from an old recliner. Things had gotten better between them, but there was still some kind of uncertainty, some gulf, that lingered ever since she had first displayed her power. Rain was concerned it would never go away. Tali clapped her hands together, practically jumping with excitement. “You have gifts to open, little missy. There would have been a cake, but I sorta blew it up.” Rain wanted to ask how she had managed to blow up a pastry, she didn't think she’d get an answer. She took a seat on the ground in the middle of the group as gifts from each member were laid at her feet. Gabe gave her a fancy looking laser pistol which was cool considering their rarity. A new knife was Miyuki’s gift since she had lost hers in a raider on their last mission. Miles presented his gift next. “I can't take full credit for this since Tali helped make it, but here you go.” The gift was a coat, long and brown, much like his own. “The Regulators are gone, but it’s my hope that one day they will rise again, maybe led by you. Wear it with pride.” Rocco gifted her with two bottles of Nuka-Cola Quantum. It's unfortunate side effect of causing her pee to glow was worth it, given how wonderful or tasted. Then came Tali. Her gift was small, fitting in her hand. She revealed a golden locket on a small gold chain. Inside was the same picture that had been taken at Hope’s Folly just a few months ago. Tali had managed to copy it and make it small enough for a locket. It was such a thoughtful gift. This whole party was. They had never celebrated birthdays before, but Rain realized that if Tali hadn't given her a birthday, she would never have had one. Dr. Sellers had never cared about such things. “Thank you. All of you. I can't tell you how much this means to me. I…..I don't even know what to say.” Tali wrapped her in a hug. “You don't have to say anything. We love you, Rain. Anyway, it's a party! Someone start the jukebox.” “And drinks!” Rocco cheered. “Drinks for all! Except for the birthday girl that is, cause I'm already getting a dirty look.” They spent the rest of that night dancing and having a good time. They talked and relieved old glories from past battles. Rocco lost an arm wrestling match to Gabe, but the old man lost the subsequent drinking contest and passed out on the couch. Miyuki taught her how to effectively throw a knife into a target. For this night at least, the only thing that mattered was having a good time. Before she headed back to bed, Miles stopped her and just by looking at his face, she knew what it was about. “Rain, I know you've been practicing like I asked. I just wanted to tell you to keep it up.” “Nothing’s helped though. I just sit there and stare at different things, but nothing works. I think I've gotten maybe on glass to move an inch across a table and I threw up after.” “Remember when Gabriel was teaching you to shoot? I do. I watched you closely. You used to get so frustrated, swearing up and down that you would never get better. How about when Miyuki was teaching you how to fight? Remember how long it took you to get to a point where you held your own? Practice, Rain. That's all it takes. You have a gift that could change the world. Now you have to learn to use it.” “I know. It's just…..I don't know how to get better. I don't have anyone teaching me this time.” Miles chuckled. “Well if you figure it out, I'd love for you to teach me someday.” Rain laughed a bit, but she could see he wasn't going to take no for an answer. He had been pushing hard for her to learn how to command her abilities. Taking a surprising amount of personal interest. He was the opposite of Rocco, who blanched every time she even hinted at using her power. No, Miles watched her and encouraged her, delighting at any perceived improvement. Rain sighed. Miles had gone and put a damper on her good vibe. “I know, Miles. I'll keep trying.” He smiled at her and put a hand on her shoulder. “Good. That's all I ask. I know you'll do great.” Back in the confines of her room, she hung up her new jacket and placed her locket on her nightstand beside her bed. She covered up and stared at the ceiling. Then she looked at the locket one more time. She focused as hard as she could, trying to summon that feeling of power once more. It was there, she could feel it, but it was nothing like before. She watched as the jewelry shook and jumped slightly, but then the power dissipated and it lay still once more. Well, it was worth a shot anyway.
  7. Thank you to everyone who responded and gave me encouragement. I can't express how much I appreciate it. I feel better now. I just needed to get some of these things off my chest. I tend to get overwhelmed and I just can't talk to my family. They all have their own issues. My wife has severe anxiety and I can't burden her with more. I have to be the strong one, I just have to. Normally I am. Either way, thanks again for the kind words.
  8. So for the first time ever, I called a help line. Not because I was feeling suicidal or anything, just down and probably having a lot of anxiety. The person who spoke with me was very kind, but it didn't really help. I thought maybe getting some of this guilt and self-hatred off my chest would help. Instead I feel like I've brought it full force and center stage. I'm not normally someone who seeks help. I keep my problems to myself. I'm just at a point in my life where I thought I would be doing better, not just for me, but for my family. I just can't seem to move forward. I can't help but hate how I can't seem to be better. I need to do better. But I feel stuck. I need to get a better job, but I've been looking and I just can't seem to find anything. I feel like a failure. Anyway, I spent about 17 min. awkwardly forcing myself to talk to this complete stranger about how I'm frustrated, and how I feel like I'm failing the people I care about, or just failing in general. And she was nice and friendly and all that. Then she said she needed to go. And I get it, I do. So many people are probably looking for help and need it more than me, but I just felt devastated for some reason, like I was getting cut off from this weird therapy and I wasn't ready. So I got off the line and just start fucking bawling, and I'm not one to cry often. It's ridiculous really. I don't know what I was expecting. I guess I was expecting it to make me feel better, and it just.....didn't. I don't know what's wrong with me lately. I've just been in this dark place I guess and I'm struggling to see the light. Sorry. Just needed to vent. I'll get over it.
  9. Depended on the time. Like I said, this has happened multiple times. Sometimes they were taken out of their bag and set on top of the pile. Two were taken from the larger trash bag, with one still in it's individual bag still and the other out. Both set on top, still rolled up. Seems weird to me, I don't know. If they were normal looking diapers, yeah. These kind....well like I said, I'd rather not have people jump to conclusions.
  10. I don't know. They weren't missing, just set on top of the pile. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but it just feels deliberate. Like someone knows about them and wants to expose them. I live in a complex with a lot of kids too. I just don't want my neighbors thinking the wrong thing, even if they don't know its me. Plus, I'm a night owl so I throw my trash away late most of the time.
  11. So I've noticed a strange and worrisome development lately. The last few times I've gone to my apartment's dumpster, I've discovered my used diapers on top of the trash and out of the bags I tied them in. The first time I thought it was maybe a racoon, but the way they were set on top is just weird to me. I had them tied in their own bags, then those bagged in with our trash. Am I being paranoid? It's like someone is digging through the garbage, taking my diapers out of both bags and leaving them in plain sight on top of the pile for anyone to see. Seeing as how they aren't plain white, it's even worse. What the hell is happening?
  12. All i will say is that her powers will progress over time and will have limits, severe ones. Also, I think the emergence of her powers will add to the levels of emotion. Lol. I think they will. I know they will. Anyway, I'm glad you're liking the journey.
  13. She dreamed again. The same dream she had been having for some time. A woman screaming, someone telling her to run. A little boy trying to speak to her. She knew somehow, she could tell that this was one of her dreams. She didn’t know who the boy was. At first glance, she thought it was Miles’ son, Aiden. However, this boy was different, he had longer hair, less dark, though he looked about the same age. Besides, she could tell that he was connected to her, not Miles. He was trying to tell her something, but she couldn't hear him. She could hear……footsteps? Yes, echoing footsteps. Everything was blurred, like her memories were flashing by too quickly, and she couldn’t make anything out. She awoke, not screaming as she had in the past. Only a light gasp escaped her lips. She sighed, resigned to the fact that she might never be able to piece together the shattered remnants of her mind. It was like a jigsaw puzzle, taunting her brain with pieces of information, but never all the pieces. At this point, and after nearly three years, she had practically given up ever remembering her past. “Another dream?” Tali asked from beside her. Miyuki had told her about the Miles incident, and she had been all over her since, doting on her more than she usually did. She was no doubt hoping to pry out what had happened. Rain had stayed quiet though. She figured Tali knew about Miles and his murdered son, but the vision was still too fresh in her mind to talk about. It was Aiden and his death that would forever fuel Miles and his need for battle, meaning that Tali would never get her wish. She would never settle down with him…..and he would never stop fighting. Rain sighed and turned to her. “Yeah. Another useless dream that told me nothing.” “Don't worry. I'm sure it's just a matter of time. You'll figure it out.” Rain stood up and walked to her dresser, picking a new pink diaper for the day. She handed it over to Tali and laid down for her routine change. “I don't really care at this point. From what I've seen, memories and pasts are full of pain. From what I've gleaned of my past, it's no different. Whatever happened, it ended up with me fleeing and a hole in my gut.” Tali looked at her inquisitively as she opened up the diaper and began cleaning her up. “What do you mean? What you've seen?” Rain sighed again. “Look, I told you, just talk to Miles.” “I’d rather talk to you. If this is about what you can see…..Miyuki told me.” The knowledge hit her like a truck. “She told you?! She told Rocco, now you, Miles knows too, mind as well fill Gabe in while we're at it!” Tali finished diapering her and rubbed her shoulder affectionately. “She was worried about you, I'm worried about you. Why didn't you tell me? Did you not trust me or something?” Rain sat up suddenly. “That’s not it! You don't get it. It's just…..everyone seems to think I'm something special and I'm not. Miyuki was freaked out when she found out, Rocco wants to avoid me, and Miles and the old Oro lady think…..I don't even know what.” “You are special, Rain. We all saw that. Look, I'm just saying I would have understood. You can talk to me about anything, you know that right?” Rain shook her head, annoyed that Tali didn't understand. “I don’t want you to see me…..differently. At least with you I could just….be. I could just be me, without all this other stuff.” Tali took her face in her hands. “Listen to me. What you can do isn't extra stuff as you put it. It's part of who you are. You shouldn't ever feel the need to hide a part of yourself. We're your family now, and I promise you, we will love and accept you no matter what.” Despite her assurances, Rain didn’t feel any better, although she accepted Tali’s embrace happily enough. She was afraid though. She was afraid of the things she could do and the things she could see. It was also incredibly frustrating that she could see the events of others pasts, yet her own constantly eluded her. Tali stayed with her for some time, stroking her hair and trying to console her, before she got up to go back to……whatever she had to do. Rain stayed in bed, unable to shake the sense of melancholy that had fallen over her the last few days. Tali looked at her helplessly. She wanted to help, to say anything that might help, but she just didn’t know what to say. “Look, I'm gonna go check on some things finish my little project I've been working on, you know, the one you interrupted the other day. I'll come by and hang out with you later, okay?” She said, trying to pry out a smile from the girl. “Yeah…..I guess.” Tali grimaced and hesitated to leave. “Did you see something about Miles? Is that why you're so upset?” Rain curled further into her covers. “I know about his son now. Aiden. I guess that was something I was gonna learn about eventually? Nobody tells me anything until I stumble on it on my own.” Tali sighed and leaned against the doorframe. “Aiden is……tough for Miles to talk about. He took about a year before he told the rest of us. I’m sure he didn’t mean for you to see it the way you did.” “Too late, I already did! Rocco told me not to spy on people, like it was my fault, and said I should just have conversations with people. But everyone hides…….everything!” Rain had sat back up, for some reason seething with anger. “Hey, hey….calm down. Everything's……” “Everything's not okay!! How could anything be okay?! I can’t even remember my real name, but I get to be haunted by the terrors and tragedies of everyone else. All of them in my head, so vivid they might as well have happened to me. It's not my fault! I didn't ask to be this way! It's not fair!” Rain could feel something inside her, a force, a whirlwind violently trying to break free. She looked around a bit panicked. She felt like she wouldn't be able to contain it any longer. She felt herself flood her new diaper, she could see fear in her caretaker, but Tali quickly overcame it, rushing forward and enveloping her in a tight hug. “I know…..I know it's not fair, baby. I'm so sorry. All I can do is promise to help you if I can. Please don't be upset, I'm here for you. It's okay.” Whatever she had felt suddenly dissipated as she let out a choking sob. “I'm sorry, I’m so sorry. I don't know what's wrong with me. I've just been so bummed out lately. I feel out of control and I don't know why.” “It's probably just cabin fever. Trust me, it gets everyone. Look at Rocco, he's going through withdrawal now that he drank all the booze.” Rain felt exhausted, despite so recently having woke up. She could feel her eyelids getting heavy and before she could reply, she fell asleep once more. * Tali held the sleeping girl in her arms for a little while, wishing with all her heart that she would have pleasant dreams. She felt guilty that she hadn’t sensed the torment that Rain was living with. She had been so buried in her own projects, she had failed to see it. She gave the girl another quick diaper change, this time into a heavier diaper, and then tucked her back into bed. As much as she wanted to stay with her, she had other things to do. She headed for the door and was nearly out when something caught her eye. The wall had cracked ever so slightly, starting from the bed and travelling all the way to the door. Not only was Tali sure that the crack was a new addition, she was nearly positive that it hadn't been there moments ago. It was like……Rain caused it. When Rain had gotten upset, there was something……something that had made the hairs on the back of her neck stand tall. It felt like an air of danger, surrounding her. Tali gave the girl a final glance before turning off the lights and heading to the medical bay at the far end of compound. Rocco was already there, looking as pale as his ghoul skin would allow. He was paying for his drinking habits terribly, the withdrawal of his unfulfilled addiction forcing him to stay hunched over a bucket. “Ughh…..it's about time, woman! I’ve been here for ages, you know.” The ghoul groaned. “I was busy with more important things.” Tali was more than a little miffed with him at the moment. His careless words had hurt Rain, and Tali was not the forgiving sort. “Oh, well I sure hope my agony hasn’t inconvenienced you in any way. I'm dying here.” Rocco complained, heaving into the bucket once more. She searched her medicine cabinet until she found the Addictol, a chem that would flush a person's system clean and relieve the nasty side effects of withdrawal. She strode over to the ghoul, needle in hand. “Listen here, ghoul. You hurt Rain’s feelings the other day. She's going through some stuff right now, so I expect you to make it right and apologize, got it?” Rocco looked up with bloodshot eyes. “Rain? When did I talk to her again? Things are all bit muddled together.” “With how you've been carrying on the past months, it's hardly a surprise you can't remember anything! Really, it's embarrassing. Get ahold of yourself for pities sake.” “Ugh…..I just keep dreaming of that chick back with those creepy cultists, you know? I think she was really into me, but stupid Arax……chopped her head off.” Rocco shook his head a bit, still groggy. “Anyway, I don't remember talking to little Puddles.” Tali smacked him over the head and leaned in close. “You'll apologize or I'll put something in your food that will make a hand grow out of your stomach!” Rocco looked at her with wide eyes. “Okay okay……I'll apologize. Although, I could think of a few things I could use an extra hand for, you know what I’m sayin?” With a satisfied smile of her own, she jammed the needle into the ghoul’s arm. He yelped and jumped away from her, rubbing his arm. Luckily for him, the chem was already working it's way through his veins. After a few moments he was looking like a new ghoul. Whoo boy! I feel fuckin fantastic. Thank you for that. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go for a run. I'll stop by and see Puddles later, yeah?” Tali fixed him with a glare that said he had better and then ushered him out of her office. Miles walked in after, he must have been waiting. The way he smiled at her still made her heart pound as it did the first time she had seen him. Back then she had been the village idiot, or mad scientist depending on who you asked. She was someone that was whispered about by children and dismissed by her elders. She was considered crazy for her endless work on a certain robot, one that she was convinced would save her village from the ever frequent bandit raids. Then two men came to the village. Miles and Gabriel. They offered to take care of the bandits themselves, and to her surprise, the elders agreed. They probably had more confidence in Gabe and his power armor than the dark haired man beside him, but they agreed. Tali had been hidden amongst the crowd, but as they were leaving, Miles had looked at her, his beautiful blue eyes locking onto her, and she knew somehow that he was who she was meant to follow. She had rushed the completion of robot, her frantic pace incidentally causing the disaster that made Mr. Happy homicidal, and rushed after the two. She arrived right on time to help. Once the bandits were dealt with, Miles had looked at her and smiled, extended his hand, and asked her to join them. Nearly five years had passed since then. Their little group had grown and Tali had slowly grown even closer to Miles. She was proud of the work she did, she loved helping people. But she was getting tired too. Before she left with Miles, she hated the slow and boring life she had at her village. Now, after years of throwing herself in harms way, she was beginning to understand what she had lost. What she wouldn’t give for that kind of peace now. She shook herself out of her own thoughts as Miles sat down on the cot. He knew the drill and quickly removed his shirt. As she always did, she measured the length of the corruption on his arm, seeing if it had spread further. As a result of his body rejecting the implant that made him effectively immortal, every time he healed, the sickly corruption spread. “You look better, Miles. The rest has been doing you good. You look less pale, anyway. How are you feeling?” Miles shrugged. “I feel fine. I do feel more rested, but I tend to sleep a lot. I’m not coughing as much either, so that's good.” Tali grimaced at his arm, at the purplish veins ran through it. Since the fight against the Disciples, the corruption had spread to the top of his back, mostly around the neck. On his front, the yellowish sickness had only moved a few centimeters. The important thing though, was that it wasn’t spreading during times of rest. She put on her stethoscope and moved to his back, listening to his breathing. “When you do cough, is there any blood?” “A little, yes. Less and less everyday. How’s my arm looking?” Tali sighed. “It's not looking good. It hasn’t gone away even a little.” “But it hasn't gotten any worse.” Miles pointed out. “That’s good right? That means it's not getting worse.” Tali sighed and put her stethoscope away. Things were worse than she had thought. “It’s not getting worse……not getting better. You know what that tells me? It means the effects of this implant are permanent, Miles. There's no healing from this and it will only get worse with every fight and every wound.” Miles raised a hand. “Tali, I know what you're gonna say.” “Well you should know! There's no coming back from this, you understand? When is it going to be enough? How much longer are you going to put yourself on the frontlines for?” “As far as I'm concerned, I should have died when Thorne attacked. So every time I don’t die, I consider it a damn privilege. I have a gift, and I think it should be used to the benefit of humanity.” Tali shook her head bitterly. She used to love hearing him talk like that, but lately the words seemed to ring hollow. “So that's it? We'll just keep fighting until one or all of us die?” At that moment, the radio crackled to life and make voice began frantically begging for help. “Is anyone there? To anyone who is listening, please, we need help. Super Mutants have been attacking us all winter. We've tried to hold them off, but the attacks keep coming. If anyone can hear this, we're desperate and need help immediately.” Tali closed her eyes in frustration as she heard the plea for help. Of all the times for that damn radio to go off. Never mind that it was still winter, or her lecture about taking it easy, Miles was already set on going, she could see it in his eyes. Miles clasped her hand tightly. “I want you by my side, Tali. I know you're worried about me, not yourself, but please….understand I cannot stop yet.” Tali nodded sadly and squeezed his hand back. She couldn't leave him, couldn't abandon him no matter what. If he insisted on continuing down this path, then destructive or not, she would follow him every step of the way. She wanted to say something else, but the radio already had Miles on the move, he was ready to fight again. “Lets get everyone ready. Especially Rain. She may end up being our trump card.” Tali nodded, keeping her own suspicions about the girl to herself, and headed to wake up Rain. Once again, she was dragging that young girl into danger. This fight promised to be just as bad as the others, maybe worse. At the very least maybe the action would help knock Rain out of her own thoughts, if she lived through it. * It had been nearly dawn when she had been awoken. Dr. Veronica Sellers, the woman who had found her bleeding and wounded in the rain, looked for the first time since she had known her, afraid. “Get up, Rain. Hurry now. We don't have much time.” Rain shook her head groggily. “What's wrong? Did a brahmin get loose or something?” But Dr. Sellers had already yanked her out of bed, throwing her clothes and packing her belongings. By the time Rain was lucid enough to understand that something was seriously wrong, she was being pushed to the back door of their shared hut. “I don't understand, what's happening?” Rain cried. “There's no time, child. Super Mutants are heading this way, far too many for me to fight off on my own. What on earth is keeping such a large pack together is beyond me, but you must escape before they get here.” Her bags were forced into her hands as she was forced outside. “Give me a gun, I'll help you!” “No, no! I never taught you to shoot, you can’t help. That's on me. For now, you just run. I'll slow them down, give them a show for as long as I can. You get gone, girl, and do so right quick, ya hear?” “No! Please, come with me! I can't just leave, I can’t be alone, please!” Rain clutched at Dr. Sellers clothes desperately. For nearly two years, this woman had given her shelter and food. She had given her a life, it seemed inconceivable to leave her now. Victoria Sellers just spat contemptuously. “I ain't got time for this now, Rain. I didn't patch you up to let you die here. Get running, don't stop, you just keep running. Go on now! Please.” Rain glanced over the woman's shoulder, seeing the large mutants rushing toward the hut. They were screaming and bellowing. A group stopped to slaughter the brahmin. Dr. Sellers pushed her further before turning back, her knees shaking as she took up her shotgun. She didn't look back. Instead of running, Rain hid behind a tall tree, crouching in the overgrown bushes. She felt compelled to witness the last stand of Veronica Sellers. The old woman threw herself in the fray, blasting one mutant after another. For their part, the Super Mutants were too shocked by the sudden assault to do much aside from stare slack jawed as the woman tore into their ranks. By the time they snapped out of it, Dr. Sellers had taken cover. Still, the fight didn't last long. A group of four rushed her, unconcerned about the danger or the certainty of death. All it took was the last mutant swinging a wooden plank. The board knocked her weapon away, and as she stood defenseless, the next blow hit her in the side. Dr. Sellers skidded across the ground and lay still. From her hiding spot, Rain watched on through tears, her hands clutching her mouth as she forced herself not to cry out. That’s when the leader stepped forward. At first glance, many Super Mutants tended to look the same, large green skinned abominations. To those who paid attention, this was untrue. Each one had their differences. Rain knew right away that this mutant was different. He was just a bit taller than the others, who deferred to him and stepped quickly out of his path. This mutant had a curious intelligence behind his eyes, which were fixed hatefully on the beaten woman laying in the mud before him. Finally, the leader had deliberately made himself distinctive by wrapping the American flag around his right arm like a tourniquet. It was fitting in a grim way. It was the mutant’s way of saying that the old world was dead. The flag, which once held such meaning, was now fit only to decorate the new masters of the world. The creature looked down at Dr. Sellers with such disgust, as though she were a bug that he detested to look at. In his right hand he held a large hammer, too huge for any ordinary person to bear. He raised it high above his head, clasping it with both of his enormous hands and brought it down with such force that the woman at his feet seemed to explode from the impact. That was the last sight Rain saw before turning and running. As she fled, she could hear the mob of marauders roaring in victory. * Rain opened her eyes and stretched from her sleep. She was seated quite comfortably on Gabriel's shoulder, his massive power armor the perfect perch. She had only dozed for a few minutes, and she wondered at the dream she awoken from. But really, it made sense. They were on their way to save a village from a particularly large group of Super Mutants. Now, since large groups were mostly abnormal, it only made sense the think that this group was the same as the one that had attacked the farm. If that were true, she would have ample opportunity for revenge. Rain was no stranger to winter, and it was always an interesting time. They had all bundled up in their warmest clothes. They had also done their best to cover as much of their bare skin as possible, but every once in a while, some snow would make contact, giving a strange burning sensation. It wasn't painful exactly, but it wasn't pleasant either. The winter was dangerous in more insidious ways. The freezing temperatures would sap a persons strength if they weren't careful. They had travelled far quickly, and soon their destination would come into view. The village was known as Hope’s Folly, a decidedly grim and fitting name. As they made their way to the town, they encountered two things that stopped them in their tracks. The first was a massive pit containing the burned and charred remains of untold numbers of Super Mutants. Clearly, the town had been fiercely defending itself. Yet just a few yards away stood a large graveyard that stretched on into the distance. The team stood in its presence for a good few minutes, as though they were obligated to take in as much of the destruction and loss of life as possible. They had to see, so they knew what they were fighting for. “You still good up there?” Gabriel asked, his voice distorted from his helmet. “Hell yeah. I'm ready to go! We've been cooped up too long. I can’t wait for some action.” “Hmmm. Maybe. Just be careful, yeah? Remember your training and don't let the battle go to your head. This is beginning to look like it's going to be a hard job.” Rain smirked to herself, still excited at the prospect of annihilating some Super Mutants. “You don’t have to worry. Now that we're all here, the battle is as good as won. Don't tell me you aren't a little excited?” “I'm a soldier. Have been my entire life. I don't relish fighting or killing, but I've accepted that it's something I'm good at. As long as I can help make things better, that's all I care about. That's enough for me.” Gabriel didn’t give much away about himself. Ever. But occasionally Rain sensed a reservoir of regret from the old man. At first, she thought it was simply due to his departure from the Brotherhood of Steel, his family of over twenty years. However, she was beginning to sense in him a feeling of…….self-loathing almost. He was a soldier, he defined himself as a soldier, it was integral to his very being. But it seemed that this soldier was not at peace with some of the things he had done. Maybe that's why he left the Brotherhood and joined Miles, for a chance to atone for whatever wrongs he felt he had done. And he wasn’t the only one either. Miyuki seemed to be both extremely proud of her skills, and also bitter at how she had gotten them to begin with. Miles was full of regret for his failure against Jericho Thorne. Rocco…..well…..he was hiding things, but what they were, Rain couldn’t guess. The ghoul caught her eye and gave her a thumbs up. He had come to her earlier and apologized for an interaction he didn't seem to remember. Either way, the thought was appreciated. He clearly wanted to make sure they were good with each other, and hey, it was a nice thought. It took another hour before Hope's Folly came into view. The name truly didn't do it justice. It was a mess of destroyed buildings and charred rubble. The people were in even worse condition. They huddled together in the squalid remains of their homes, beaten and broken by both the cold and the violence. Rain stayed perched atop Gabriel as they made their way inside. Guards with bloodshot eyes watched their every step. The exhausted inhabitants looked at them with mixed feelings. No doubt the merc team looked odd to them, in their black combat armor, with their weapons, and their robot. They made an impression to say the least. But the man who came to greet them was not impressed. He was, oddly enough, a ghoul and he introduced himself as Samuel Agrippa. He had become the leader of the community by virtue of being the last man standing. He had evidently been part of a council when it existed, and was not well liked by a portion of the city due to his appearance. Yet now they needed him, and he had answered their call without hesitation. Rain saw Rocco nudge Miyuki and whisper to her. “Damn, he's ugly. I mean, I thought I was ugly, but this dude is like, the king of ugly dudes.” “Idiot.” Miyuki muttered. “What? I’m just saying.” Agrippa practically walked by them, motioning them to follow. “Yeah, I know who you are. Don't think I'm not grateful for you coming here, but I doubt it will help.” “Why do you say that?” Miles asked. “We've fought Super Mutants before.” Agrippa scoffed. “Of course you have. Everyone and their grandma has fought them. Their numbers are the issue. No offense, but I need bodies for the defense of the city and you're not enough. I need weapons and people to use them and you're not enough.” “Hold up a minute and talk to me.” Miles asked. “How many men do you have now?” The ghoul sighed impatiently. “About sixty, but a good number of them are farmers or boys barely old enough to hold a rifle. We have a few wanderers who got stuck here when the snow came. We also got about twenty guys who are wounded in the medics tent, and another thirty or so in women and children.” “We're fucked.” Rocco whispered with a shrug. Agrippa nodded. “Even with all the damage we've done, they still outnumber us three to one. We won't be able to stop them again. I'm not even sure how you all got past them, but then again we don't know where they are based. Can you believe that? How can they hide a force that massive?” “There’s a way to win, Samuel.” Miles said. “We just have to find it. We can use what resources you have to mount a defense, a defense that will utterly break this army. If you trust me, we can win this.” Agrippa thought for a couple minutes, looking at his destroyed city. “Do you know that we had prepared for the winter better than usual this year? We had ample food reserves, medicine, clothes. We were set. It’s all gone now, we have caps for payment sure, somehow our money has survived for all the good it will do us. Even if we somehow win, I don’t know that we can rebuild.” “Winter is nearly over. The snows are melting, it's not as cold, that's why these creatures are roaming about. We travelled here, so that means you can travel as well. You can hunt, buy food, buy clothes, whatever you need. But not if we don’t triumph here, right now.” “You think we can win? Nobody has spoke of victory in some time. Alright, it's not like we have a choice. They'll be back either way. We're up for the fight. What's your plan?” Miles looked around the town for a while, trying to come up with a plan. Oddly enough, he had the faintest of smiles as he did so. “Someone told me once that I needed to think more defensively. Well, here's what I got. I'm assuming the Super Mutants always charge the front gate? They never attack the sides?” Agrippa nodded. “Yeah. They aren't one for strategy. They like charging straight at us and crushing us to bits. If they were smart enough to come at us from all sides, I doubt we'd be having this conversation.” “Sixty men…..okay. We need to set them up where they can do the most damage. We will set up three lines of defense. We'll move the children and wounded to the furthest part of the camp. The first line, closest to the gate will consist of Myself and Gabriel, along with twenty men.” Gabriel nodded as Agrippa considered the idea. The ghoul nodded with a sigh. “Fine. I'll be in the frontlines as well. I'm not one to lead from behind.” “The second line will also have twenty men, lead by Miyuki and Rocco. The third and last line will have the final twenty, lead by Rain.” Rain hopped down from Gabriel at this point. “I don't want to be in the back! I can fight just as well as the others.” The others shot her a disapproving glance. She could practically feel Gabriel staring her down. One didn't question the captain in the open like this, but Miles didn't seem to mind. “It's not an insult, Rain. Mutants will get past us, that's a fact. If even one crosses the last line, it will butcher defenseless people. You are going to make sure that doesn't happen. Am I clear?” “Yes, captain!” Rain shouted. She was still frustrated, but she would do her job to the best of her ability. Miles looked over to a bridge that ran across the village. “Tali will take position up on the bridge with five of your best shots, I don’t care from which lines.” Mr. Happy moaned unhappily. “What about me? Am I to be kept out of the action when I'm so good at annihilation?” Miles looked at Gabriel and shrugged. The power armored knight thought for a moment. “Happy should patrol the perimeter in case they do attack from the sides, but assuming they don't he can attack them from behind and cause a bit of chaos.” Agrippa nodded grimly. “Well, we have a plan then. I guess all that's left is to wait and see whose left standing at the end of it.” In record time, sandbags and debris were piled up into three lines, ready for the storm that would soon come. Rain was about to walk to her post with her twenty fighters following behind her, when Tali found her. Tali looked extremely proud of herself as she handed over a long object in a canvas bag. Rain had wondered what it was as they were travelling, but she hadn't bothered to ask. Now she took the object warily, figuring it must be something great for Tali to have her grinning her “mad scientist” smile. The object was a curious device. It looked like a rifle, but there was a large glass dome in the middle of it which housed what appeared to be a concentrated ball of electricity. “What is this thing? It looks like a gun.” Tali smiled wider. “It is a gun. This is what I was making that day that you interrupted me and got me shocked.” Rain winced and raised an eyebrow. “To be fair, you didn't really look like you knew what you were doing.” “Bah. I never do. I tinker, that's my thing. This baby is my masterpiece. Gabriel brought a lot of cool blueprints from the Brotherhood, including something called a Tesla Cannon. However, those things were massive, way too unwieldy. I needed to make it smaller without sacrificing too much of its power, no easy feet I might add. Hit something with this baby and it'll be blown to bits in glorious fashion!” Rain held up her hands with a laugh. “Whoa, okay. I can see your very proud of your new toy.” Tali held up a finger. “Your new toy! I made it just for you. I call it……the Electro Blaster!” Rain winced a bit, but hugged her friend anyway. “Thank you so much. We'll work on the name, okay?” “One important tidbit. I haven't been able to figure out how to reload the thing on the go. It has to charge on a specially designed charging station back at the base. I'd say you have twenty shots at most, so make them count. And hey, kick ass today.” * “Here's another crate of ammo.” Agrippa grunted as he set the box by the others. “You think we can win this?” “Nope. We'll be dead by sundown.” Rocco said with a grimace. “Maybe you should focus on yourself, Agrippa.” Miyuki watched the pair of ghouls closely. There was something different about how Rocco was acting. He had an attitude and it only seemed to be around Samuel Agrippa. He pointedly refused to even look at Agrippa, and the other ghoul had noticed, although he refused to dignify it. Miyuki interjected, shooting Rocco a look and leading Agrippa away. “Don't listen to him. I don't know what his problem is.” Agrippa laughed. “I know what his problem is. I'm used to it. He hates ghouls. Most of the people here hated me. Now I'm their only hope. If that isn't ironic.” “That's ridiculous. Rocco is a ghoul too. How could he hate ghouls?” “I'm guessing he's pretty new at being a ghoul. Probably only became one a few years ago? I'm old, pre-war in fact. Does your buddy own any mirrors by chance? No? New ghouls often hate any reminders of what they've become, I know I did. Seeing me is an unpleasant reminder of what he looks like now.” Miyuki nodded, a little surprised. She had known Rocco for a long time, since before they had hooked up with Miles. He had never struck her as a particularly deep person. He liked to fight and drink mostly. When Agrippa left to head for the front, Rocco decided to elaborate. “I was serious by the way. We're screwed here. Agrippa was right before. In a situation like this, he needs bodies, not us. We don't do defense, we sneak up and hit the enemy before they know anything.” “Don't worry so much, Rocco. If anyone can turn the tide, it's us. I think we'll give these mutants a surprise they won't forget.” Rocco sighed. “Right. Well I'm out of smokes anyway. This is as good a day to kick the bucket as any.” * They heard them before they saw them. There must have been at least forty of them. The mutants came running at full speed, green skinned, roaring as loud as possible. The first wave was armed with blunt objects like bats or wooden planks. They rushed in expecting an easy win. They soon learned differently. Miles waited for them to get close before ordering the first line to fire. They fired and short burts, the bullets stopping the monsters as though they had run into a wall. Many of the creatures were torn down in a barrage of gunfire, but many kept running, wounded and despite all odds. “Keep firing! Don't let them get close!” Miles yelled. The line kept firing, felling more and more of the creatures. More fell once Tali and her snipers joined in. By the time the mutants reached them only fifteen or so were left. “Get ready. They're gonna be on us any second!” Agrippa yelled. The Super Mutants tore into their ranks. Men were thrown into the air like toys as the green monsters wreaked havoc through their line. Miles and the rest found themselves trying to fend off the monsters in their midst as another wave, this time with firearms, came screaming at them. Miles ducked as a mutant swung a metal crowbar at him, falling to his knee before aiming his rifle upwards and tearing the green abomination down with a hail of gunfire. He heard a yell from behind him, turning as another Super Mutant bore down on him, knocking him over with a swipe of it's hand. He aimed once again but the mutant grabbed the weapon by it's barrel and flung it aside. The monster's foot stomped down on his ribs, shattering his body, but he was already healing fast as he rose up and pulled one of his pistols free. One shot later, the monster had fallen, dead at last. In the split second he had fallen however, the rest of the mutants had arrived at the line, some rushing past and heading for the second line. Miles could only hope the other lines would hold. He brought his second pistol out and began firing at any creature who was near. He looked for Agrippa, but didn’t see him in all the chaos. He fired rapidly, taking down three, then four of the enemy in mere seconds. But they just kept coming. Gabriel was fighting a losing battle, surrounded on all sides, as he tried in vain to rally the fleeing villagers to him. His laser rifle took down creature after creature, but soon the monsters had their hands on him. Miles tried to rush to him as the mutants closed in, but was suddenly knocked off his feet from behind, feeling an intense agony through his whole body. He looked up, vaguely realizing he couldn't move. His fingers twitched uselessly. The blow had broken his spine. Standing above him was one of the biggest Super Mutants he had ever seen, wielding a massive hammer. There was an aura of intelligence about it, an air of superiority that seemed to radiate from it. He moved over bodies of humans living and dead with no care whatsoever, as though they were ants beneath his notice. The beast didn’t even look down at him, already moving on, pausing to adjust an American flag it had tied around it's arm. He watched helplessly as the horde of monsters made their way further into the village. * The second line held longer. The fight had moved into a stalemate as the defenders had hunkered down behind their barricades. Survivors from the first line had joined them and now a firefight of attrition slowly ebbed on. Rocco and Miyuki directed their fighters as best they could over the noise and chaos, but with every four or five mutants they brought down, they lost one of their own. Tali and the snipers were pinned down above them, and even worse there was no sign of Miles or Gabriel. Rocco almost poked his head out of cover when the man beside him was suddenly gunned down, making him hunker down more. Two more fell shortly after, their blood staining the grayish snow. Miyuki let off a salvo before rushing over to him. “We're getting slaughtered here! We need to move back to the final line before we're overrun.” Rocco barked out a laugh. “We'll die back there just the same. Why bother?” “Rain and a bunch of wounded are back there and too many enemies have gotten by us as it is. We need to move now!” Rocco leapt up, killing a mutant that had a dismembered human arm in it's hand. “Fine, fine! Fuck it! Everyone fall back! Move back to the final line!” The others didn’t need much prompting and they began a slow retreat, firing back at the advancing horde. They saw a bigger mutant walk to the front and give an order. The creatures smiled wildly as they began tossing small objects into the air. “Grenades!” Miyuki shouted as the explosives began raining down on them, showering her in gore and debris, as people were blown to bits and body parts were thrown into the air. In panic, everyone gave up a tactical retreat and started fleeing as fast as they could. The mutants rushed forward to gun down them down unopposed. Miyuki ran, stumbling and blind, trying to get the blood out of her eyes. She felt a gnarled hand grab her arm and pull her along. “Come on, come on. I got ya.” Rocco muttered, sounding out of breath. “I don't know about you, but I'm not having fun anymore.” * If Rain had been upset at being put in the back, her disappointment didn't last long. Super Mutants began trickling in at a steady pace, and suddenly the lives of the wounded behind her felt heavier. The men and women she was in charge of, to their credit, didn't seem to mind following the orders of a small, diapered girl. Also, for farmers and others who had rarely held weapons before, they were decent shots, proving how adaptable the village had been forced to become. Rain had taken aim at the first mutant who stumbled in, her weapon belching an arc of electricity that literally tore it's arm off, killing it instantly. She soon learned that even if they survived the initial shot, the current of electricity coursing through their bodies normally finished them off. But as more and more kept charging at her line, she couldn't help but feel frustrated. She had no idea what was going on up front. Were the others alive or dead? She could hear distant gunfire, and suddenly heard explosions and screaming. She kept her focus as her group continued to gun down the charging behemoths. Despite the situation, Rain was having a literal blast with her new weapon, imagining every creature as the one that killed Dr. Sellers. Then there was a lull, and the screaming free louder, came closer, and Rain ordered a cease-fire. The snow was growing fiercer, obscuring their vision. Each snowflake that touched her skin left a faint tingling sensation, and left an ashy smudge when she rubbed it away. For what seemed like an eternity nothing happened. The screaming had stopped, the gunshots had ceased. The world had descended into an eerie silence. Finally, she saw them, a staggering group of survivors, maybe ten or twelve in all. Among them she saw Rocco and Miyuki, and she took some comfort in knowing that they were still alive. Her relief was shattered when she saw large figures emerging from the snowdrift behind them, stalking them and waiting for their chance. Rain waved her hand forward and yelled to her men. “Let's go, they need back up. Move up!” As one they surged forward, firing at the monsters as they went. The unexpected assault seem to stagger the beasts back, and they reached the survivors without a problem. As they moved back to cover the bullets started flying on earnest l as the mutants renewed their assault. Three people died before making it back to the sandbags and Rocco took a hit to his right leg. Rain kept firing, sending arcs of electricity whenever she saw a monster get close. The snowfall gave the creatures camouflage however, and yet they didn't seem to have a problem aiming at all. Finally back to the sandbags, they waited in tense anticipation as the towering abominations slowly closed in. They had nowhere else to go. Behind them lay the village’s wounded and weak, it’s young children, cowering in the large brick building just a few feet behind them. There was nowhere else to go. * Miles kept playing dead as his body fixed itself. The mutants had mostly moved on, though he could see a few of them trying and failing to reach Tali and her snipers. He looked over to where Gabriel had stood but all he saw was a mountain of Super Mutant dead. He was about to make his move when the mountain seemed to move. The bodies were shifting upward and falling away. At once a metal arm burst through and Gabriel emerged, shrugging the large corpses off of him. His armor was blackened and scarred, riddled with bullet holes, but Gabriel didn't seem worse for the wear. Miles stood up and moved to his second in command, staying crouched and hoping to avoid notice. As he moved over the bodies of the fallen, he found the body of Samuel Agrippa. A quick check showed that the ghoul still clung to life. He was covered in blood, making it tough to ascertain his injuries. His leg was twisted to an unnatural degree and Miles was forced to move on. Gabriel gave a wave when he saw him coming wiping his helmet to get the grim and gore from his sight. “Captain. Glad to see you in one piece. Damn muties fell on me, thought I was gonna get crushed in my own armor. Things are looking bad.” Miles went to speak but began coughing roughly. He fell to one knee clutching his chest and unable to breath. Gabe knelt down beside him, showing as much concern as he could under his helmet. Finally, the attack subsided. Miles ignored the blood in his palm, wiping on his leg before Gabe could see. “Tali is pinned down and who knows what's happening with the others. It’s time to hit them from behind. You with me?” Gabe smiled and helped him to his feet. “Captain, you don't even have to ask. Let's get back in there. I don’t know where my rifle is, but this suit of mine can still pack a punch.” As they prepared to move, Mr. Happy flew by them his saw blade whirling. “I got tired of waiting! Let me at the beasts!” They followed behind the crazed robot, the three of them smashing into the mutants trying to reach the snipers. Not expecting an attack from men they thought were dead, the mutants quickly fell to their furious assault. With Tali and the others safe, they called the snipers down and together they sprinted to help the others. * They were losing. Badly. The Super Mutants moved inexorably forward, giving no care to losses or wounds. They drew closer and closer, their fire cutting down the ragged and desperate defenders. Rain had switched to a fallen soldier’s hunting rifle, hoping to save the last three shots of her electric weapon. They were running low on ammo and fighters alike, but still they fought on. That's when she saw him. The mutant with the American flag tied to his arm. The same one that killed her guardian almost a year ago. A primal rage filled her, a heat, a tightness in her chest. Without thinking about what she was doing, she scooped up her electric gun and slung it over her shoulder. She gripped the hunting rifle and leapt over the barricade. Miyuki called after her. “Rain, what the fuck are you doing?! Get back here!” Rain kept moving forward,, ignoring her heavy and saturated diaper. She kept moving, firing as she went, her eyes focused on the monster who had haunted her dreams. When she ran out of ammunition with the rifle, she tossed it aside and knelt down, pulling a sawed-off shotgun from her boot. She was getting ridiculously close to the mutant’s line. They noticed too late the danger the small girl posed. Her first shot destroyed a mutant’s head and as it fell she reloaded and fired at another. She could feel bullets hitting her armor, which thankfully stopped most from getting through, but the impact took her breath away nonetheless. A shot hit her in the arm, another grazed her thigh, and another still her shoulder, almost spinning her around. But she kept moving, kept firing. The leader had finally taken notice of her, moving toward her with a determined gait. Unable to reload, she dropped the shotgun and sent an arc of electricity at her foe. He staggered for a moment then began to sprint to her. Before she could get another shot off, the creature knocked her into the air with one arm. She landed heavily and found herself in between the two forces. Her weapon was too far away and the mutant leader had fixed his forces on her. She saw guns pointed squarely at her and knew that this was the end. What happened next couldn’t be explained. Just when she thought it was over, the mutant leader…….smirked. Something about that smile enraged her further. She wouldn’t back down, not to this monster. There were too many people who would die if she failed. She screamed helplessly and raised her hand in a weak attempt to defend herself as gunfire erupted for a final time. A silence descended once more, so silent in fact, that Rain thought she was already dead. Yet when she opened her eyes, a different sight awaited her. The bullets had halted in mid-air, yet they still spun in place as though they retained their velocity. Rain stood in the open field, her hand still raised, dumbfounded. The mutant leader moved forward, as unable to understand what it was seeing as she was. The defenders behind her looked on in awe and disbelief. Rain could barely comprehend what was happening, but she noticed that when she lowered her arm a bit, the suspended lead seemed to lower as well, as though responding to her movement. Her head began to pound and throb worse than ever before, and in a moment of pure instinct, she pushed her arm forward, and the projectiles responded in kind. A hailstorm of lead death went hurtling back at the ones who fired them, killing scores in a single wave. Their leader rose slowly, bleeding from a dozen wounds and now……missing an eye. It stormed to her in a rage, yet the others were too shocked to follow. Similarly, the defenders behind her were rooted in the spot. She was alone. With her head pounding and her vision fading, she tried to repel the creature with the same force she had used before, but it wouldn’t come. A meaty hand reached forward, grabbing her by the face and lifting her off her feet and into the air. She felt the monster’s hand begin squeezing, but at this point she was almost beyond the pain anyway. She couldn’t see what was happening, but the grip on her skull seemed to lessen a bit. She heard renewed gunfire and suddenly she fell to the ground again. Miles stood in front of her and the mutant leader was roaring in pain. Miles kept firing with both pistols, his fire tearing the mutant’s arm to shreds as it sought to defend itself. With a final shot, Miles shot off its arm at the elbow. Still struggling with consciousness, she looked around weakly. From what she could gather, Miles and some survivors had attacked the creatures from behind. She saw Gabriel literally punching his way through the surprised mutants, his steel fists red with blood. Their arrival emboldened the remaining defenders and they too rushed into the fray. She heard the leader give one final roar of rage, it’s deep scream reverberating in her chest. Then they fled, what was left of them anyway. Miles and the rest followed and harassed them until they were out of the village. She felt Tali by her side, gathering her up into her arms. “We did it, Rain. We won. It's over.” Rain squinted at her surroundings. For every person cheering for victory, another was staring at her with questioning eyes and terrified thoughts. Her head was pounding, all at once she was assailed with voices coming from everywhere and nowhere at once, from people whose mouths weren't even moving, but she could hear them anyway. That's when a final revelation hit her. A panicked thought from somewhere among the survivors. A male voice filled with panic and fear. “This can't be happening! How is this possible?! She should be dead! How can it be her?!”
  14. I'm happy you're enjoying the story. With my posting speed, I almost think it's better to read in bulk. I'm really excited for the next chapter. There's going to be a huge battle and at the end, everything will change!
  15. Hey, it's always nice to hear, amigo.