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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Stormflyx
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Stormflyx S U P E R L O V E

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Kinsley looked into Chowder’s eyes, and placed a hand either side of his neck and scratched him vigorously the way that she knew he liked. His tail wagged, and a quiet but excited whine came from his mouth in between his pants. He knew he was going to be set to work. The doctor bit her lip nervously, it had been Alex who had done all of the training with their dog, and she’d only watched and half listened when he told her how to send him out.

It was all in the arm motions, and Chowder was a good dog who understood them, and not only that, but her enjoyed being put to work. It was as she’d said, he was made for this. “You be good now,” she whispered, and he returned her words by bringing a paw into her lap, closing his mouth. He moved to look at Patty, and then back to Kinsley. Several times he looked between them. He wanted her to be safe, for Patty to keep her safe while he was gone.

The two approached the door quietly, and still slouched low, Kinsley made a gesture with her arm - throwing it out in a straight direction, before bringing her forearm into her chest - her elbow sticking out. He shot off across the distance. He was fast, like a bullet and left dust behind him.

Chowder wanted to be good, to do good. That would make Kinsley happy if he did a good job. He approached the ghouls, taking a slide at the crowd. He barked three times, getting the attention of most but there was still a decent distance between them. He would give them a good chase. After the barks, their silence was broken and the anguished screams and groans from their necrotic lungs rang out through the mist. Spluttering. Wheezing. Screaming. They came for him, and with the same motions he ran off again, he would take them in circles but before that he needed to move them from his humans.

To keep them on his tail, he barked intermittently throughout his chase…

Back in the body of the vertibird, Kinsley listened for his barking. Counting them and listening for the decrease in volume to quantify how far he had taken them. “Brown, my ears aren’t so good - keep count of his barks when he gets further, won’t you? And if he stops barking let me know…”

“You got it,” Patty said. She reaffixed her helmet and nodded towards the doctor before turning her attention to the horde of rotskins that lay ahead. Her power-armored hands gripping tightly to the minigun’s two handles. The belt-fed weapon was locked-and-loaded and trained on the ghouls incase they tried any funny business.

As Chowder zooms off, herding the bulk of the horde and keeping them busy, it seems that his barking has stirred up something in the remaining ghouls. Those who don’t claw and lunge their way towards him, turn their heads and take notice of the big metal craft and the two humans inside. Their rotting faces twist and snarl with rage as they realize what was happening just out of earshot.

Their emaciated and rag-draped bodies began to move like they had a mind of their own, limbs flailing wildly as they ran full-speed towards the vertibird. First one or two bodies made their way, but they brought the attention of more and more - now eight or nine shufflers sprinted down the ravine towards their position.

“We’ve got company! Weapons hot!” Knight Brown yelled.

She swiveled the minigun to line up with the front-most of the group and squeezed the trigger to spin the barrels. The weapon sped up to a blurry mess before emitting a terrible screeching sound and suddenly locking up. The motor of the gun strained against itself as it tried in vain to spin the barrels - only managing to produce a puff of smoke and a lot of heat.

“Oh, goddamn it all,” Patty screamed, dropping the handles in frustration. She reached behind herself to grab the laser rifle she slung over her power armor and jumped down from the vertibird’s carriage.

“Doc, put that pistol of yours to use and blast these damn rotters a new one.”

Without much more thoroughfare, Patty began to fire off bursts of automatic laser fire in the direction of the approaching swarm. Several beams of light impacted with the leader, burning away at its rotten flesh before it was nothing but a pile of ashes.

An eloquent choice of words that could have only come from the mouth of a Knight, Kinsley thought as she brought out her own pistol. It was no fandangled piece of weaponry like the fancy thing that Brown was holding, firing off with absolute confidence. The shimmering lights that were so beautiful in a way until they made contact with the ghouls. The bodies that were simultaneously bloated and emaciated at the same time. Blowing up in a spray of rotten flesh - the smell was something else entirely.

She took aim with her own weapon, so bland in comparison. Taking her time to wait for the right moment before she pulled the trigger, the screeching of them drowning out just about anything else. “Shut your hollering,” Kinsley commented. It wasn’t a yell, like what the words should have been - and it would have been had they come from the mouth of someone with the kind of chutzpah that Brown clearly possessed. Still, there was enough grit in Kinsley’s tone to allude to the amount of danger and fearlessness that she harboured under the surface.

Her while timed single shot cracked a ghoul in the head. It didn’t create quite the overall blasting effect of the energy weapon - but the putrid skull still exploded in spectacular fashion. The legs continued on their forward trajectory until the momentum ran out and they buckled.

Despite their combined efforts, the ghouls still closed ground. One rushed Patty and lunged at her, swinging its arm in a wide arc and slapping against her power armor. She raised her rifle and bashed the ghoul back and fired off several laser beams point-blank into its torso. The grotesque creature howled in agony before falling onto its back dead. Patty breathed a short sigh of relief as the thing collapsed, which was soon interrupted by a smack on the back of the head as another one of these things got a blow on her.

Patty swiveled around as the ghoul prepared to swing once more and gave it a firm kick with her power-armored foot, sending the abomination rolling across the dusty ground. As the ghoul rolled back onto its feet, Brown mustered a charge and plowed full-speed into the ghoul smearing its gore against her pauldron and slamming it against the ground again - this time it didn’t get up.

“Yeah, how’s it feel you disgusting sack of shit?” If Patty didn’t have her helmet on, she would’ve spat.

Levelling her rifle, she looked around to see if any ghouls had slipped past her and towards Kinsley. That was her main goal - didn’t matter how many hits she took, if any of the others got hurt it was on her. She’d put her body on the line to keep them safe - and the power armor helped, of course.

While she was lost in her own thoughts, Patty began to feel a weight pull against the servos of her power armor. Looking down, a couple of ghouls had taken hold of her waist, clawing feebly against the plates of metal trying to pull her down while a few more closed in to overtake her. Their arms flailed wildly as they battered Patty with powerful strikes - each one dealing an almost superhuman amount of damage to her armor and more importantly her pride.

Kinsley fired off a few unsuccessful shots into the air, and each bullet disappeared into the glow of the atmosphere around them until her little pistol was fresh out. For the most part, and to her credit, Brown had kept the creatures at bay. Now it seemed that she was being thwarted. Broken creatures stumbling around and grasping at the woman, trying to pull her down into their new domain - their eyes ravenous and skeletal fingers desperate for her.

One of them stumbled around with a clumsy foot - trying to make purchase on her power armour as if it were a ladder to victory. Kinsley wasn’t prepared to let it, and there was a degree of a special kind of recklessness involved in her quick decision. She reached for a long piece of broken pipe, rounded at the end, and she moved to the distracted ghouls.

She gripped the pipe tightly at the end and gave a wholloping golf swing with it, taking the ghoul’s head clean off its shoulders with an almighty whoosh - sending it hurtling against a solid metal wall. The thing simply cracked like an egg and slopped down the wall, a viscous mixture of flesh and bone. Kinsley wasn’t done either, she continued her melee assault to free Brown.

Kinsley’s assault didn’t go unnoticed. In the momentary lapse in the ghoul’s attention, Patty seized the opportunity to turn the tide. Managing to pull one of her legs free, she raised it as high into the air as her suit of power armor would allow her and slammed it down, shattering the skull of one of the ghouls into a fine red paste. One-by-one the rotskins fell as she regained control of her rifle and fired off what remained of her microfusion cell into their twisted and obscene bodies.

When the fighting was over, the mangled corpses of ghouls lay on the ground in a heap of flesh, bone, and ash - utterly unrecognizable from people they used to be. Patty took a deep sigh of relief and glanced around - with the quiet din of battle fading she could hear a comforting sound.

Bark! Bark! Bark!

“Chowder’s still… kicking…” Patty said, trying to catch her breath in the space between words.

She took a long breath in and cleared her throat, turning to look at Kinsey. A sense of respect overcame her as she noticed the bloodied pipe in her hand. Beneath the helmet a grin of satisfaction crossed her face.

“Nice fucking chops, doc,” she laughed, “keep it up and we might make a knight out of you yet.”

Kinsley let the gored pipe drop from her grip, and became aware of a painful throbbing in her leg. As she looked down, she made out that she had been cut by something. It couldn't have been the deformed hands of the ghouls, it was too clean and precise for that. It was then that Kinsley noticed that there was a piece of torn metal protruding from the entry way. She'd sliced herself in some part, before or after, the assault. Hard to tell now, only that it stung. A bleeding laceration six inches long to her calf. "Well then…" she remarked at it.

She didn't hear Chowder, but she gave a ghost of a smile upon hearing he was alright and still out there. Hopefully wearing out the rest of the nightmarish creatures so that they wouldn't return.

"No interest in that title, Brown.. " she said wearily, looking up at her colleague with respect in her eyes too. "We should check on other Brown and Algarin…" The stinging in her leg was hot, and the blood sticky. It would be worthwhile to take a quick breather to take stock, patch up, and plan their next move.

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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Andreyich
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Andreyich Anyone who disagrees with me is worthless

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Visibility was key. The paladin stood watch several yards from the warehouse doors. Surrounded by the rusted out hulls of pre-war cargo trucks offered some shred of comfort. Enough cover to take shelter from whatever threats hid beyond the hills without straying too far from his comrades inside. They were taking a while, McDowell and Grimshaw. Moss tried the squad com to no avail. He glanced to the hills, curious and hopeful the young knight scouting was faring better.

As if on queue, Estevez appeared. He wasn’t alone.

"Hey! I found something! I saw a bit from the vertibird, I got the Knight-Sergeant's hammer out of a crate and I found my rucksack. I think if we keep going past the creek that the box was stuck in we might find the bird or... well, what's left of the rest of our team." The young Knight called out, stepping in to the warehouse ready to give the hammer to Gregory who he was expecting back by now. But Paladin Moss seemed interested in staying outside, looking for or at something. Daniel leaned the hammer on a wall inside the warehouse before stepping back out to trace the gaze of the Paladin. “Oh. Sorry, Sir. Didn’t notice them on my way back.”

He unslung his M14, extending the bipod and attaching his optics before placing his gatling laser on ground beside himself. “I’m sure they told you Sir but I’m a good shot, hit bullseyes well beyond the effective range of my weapons back in D.C.. I can pick off a few while they’re getting here and once they’re in range you can help out. If there’s much left the Gatling Laser will deal with them and if not I’ll use my recharger or knife, maybe McDowell’s super sledge. No point wasting ammunition. Let’s get some cover inside, alright?”

Assuming the Paladin had no objections Daniel took his gear inside, setting up his rifle on a window facing the raiders. Satisfied with both bipod and optics he would take aim at a raider, centre mass. His rifle was long barrelled and spat .308s, and as such he didn't waste time aiming for the head. He wasn't interested in showing himself off, rather in preserving bullets. A headshot would be more impressive of course, but if his weapon would more than deal with what makeshift armour Wastelanders in such a shithole could have then centre mass would be the ideal target.

So Daniel took aim, and pulled the trigger. Only as the bullet flew it dawned on him he was taking his first human life.

The shot sounded like the bottle cap flicking off of a Nuka Cola. A strange way to begin a firefight, but Moss had little choice about that now. His young comrade moved hastily into combat. Fired the first shot. No thought to diplomacy, not that the paladin would have entertained that anyway.

Moss took a position behind a cargo truck parked with its length shielding them from the incoming raiders. He could see the M14 peeking out from a window in the warehouse as well as the sparks from enemy fire. None of it close to Estevez. The silencer had done its job.

Seconds passed before the first of the raiders came around the truck. They wore a blend of thick fabrics and scrap fashioned into a metal cuirass. Despite the dirty, makeshift nature of it, the material might actually be an issue for his laser rifle. The raider ran with their pipe pistol forward, firing twice. One shot flew high above his shoulder, while the second glanced off the thick chestplate of his armor. Moss stepped forward and swung the butt of his rifle. It caught the raider on the ear, knocking them into the truck before the rifle fell directly onto their crown. The paladin heard a sickening thud as the raider crumpled onto the ground.

Others ran by the truck without notice. Some shaking in mid ran, as if electrified, before falling into the dirt. Others fortunate enough to avoid Estevez’s attention, instead finding cover behind the other vehicles. Moss dealt with them as needed.

The field had nearly cleared when one of the smaller vehicles caught flame. Suddenly the raiders concentrated their fire on this single target and, before Moss could act, it erupted. The explosion flung him back several feet onto the rusted remains of another car.

A breath, a squeeze, and a bullet spat. It seemed to Daniel as easy to kill these raiders as radroaches, he was told it would be hard to take his first human life and it worried him that it wasn't. But when you're at threat of being killed that neither here nor there, and so he repeated the cycle. Breathe, squeeze, adjust.

But as he was picking off the targets, it seemed the raiders weren't as stupid as Brotherhood leadership described Wastelanders. The car the Paladin's cover was by became the target of the foe and after moments of heavy fire it exploded sending the men momentarily airborne.

Daniel knew he had to do something, lest they swarm his stricken leader and end his life. The Knight lowered his rifle and with an exercised motion unscrewed the silencer, before flicking his rifle to fully automatic. Returning it to its bipod he took aim at the largest grouping of raiders and held the trigger down until the magazine was exhausted. Hopefully this would suppress the foe along with killing a few. It might even scare them off entirely, but if not then at the very least he hoped the sudden cacophony would being the attention onto Daniel long enough for Paladin Moss to recover and possibly even flank the raiders.

But now that the attention of the Raiders would be on Daniel he knew he wouldn't want to catch their bullets. His magazine was empty and so he removed it before slapping in another. But he was feeling clever, perhaps in a burst of arrogance. He propped the barrel of his rifle on the sill of the window to make it appear to those on the outside he was taking cover behind it, while in truth he sprinted on to a window further away with his recharger pistol drawn. He would wait for the sound of more shooting (with luck at the position of the propped rifle) before once more peeking out and unleashing laser fire on the raiders. With even more luck, they would be now at a distance that his pistol would not lose any efficacy due to range.

So the young knight wasn’t so green after all. The paladin ignored the stiffness in his back and rolled off the bed of rusted steel. It wouldn’t be long until the raiders recognized the tactic. While Estevez let loose onto the field, Moss found a defensible position.
They’d lost ground. Whatever tricks Estevez was using were certainly keeping him alive, even at the absence of the M14’s report left Moss unnerved. Still, the tide was pushing against them. The trick with the vehicles won the raiders more ground and there were plenty more of the pre-war relics to set off.

Moss glanced back at the warehouse long just long enough to salute. Slapping a fresh cell into his rifle, he spun out from cover and charged into the field. The raiders had taken up scattered positions, perhaps a strategy to avoid falling into their own traps. It also made spotting them quickly a challenge.

A round sparked off his left pauldron. He whispered a prayer of gratitude and lifted the laser rifle high enough to fire. The red beam seared his assailants metal cuirass and severed their exposed bicep. He caught a glimpse of the arm falling away as a clank on his right alerted him to another raider. Once again he turned and fired from the hip. The shot flew low, catching his opponent in the knee and sending him tumbling. He cringed. Normally the paladin would fire again, mercy more than anything, but it wasn’t yet clear if he had the shots to spare. Besides, another raider was calling.

The paladin dropped to a knee behind a small cement barrier, his freshly bludgeoned foe still twitching on the ground beside him. They’d made a dent. A second to reload, then onward. It was slow work, but between Estevez on overwatch and their superior armor it seemed to be working. He stood, promptly firing at a raider dashing to cover.

Heard a heavy thud. His left shoulder jolted back before the rest of his body followed. Bits of metal, of his pauldron pinged off his helmet. Something had broken through.

Moss rolled back behind the cement barrier. Pulling the fresh corpse on top of him, praying the young knight acted fast.

It seemed Daniel wasted a whole lot of .308 for nothing, as the men did not scatter in fear for his automatic burst. But, at least his trick with the propped rifle worked. Shots rang out hoping to hit his previous position, but he wasn't there and thus got a chance to let out a burst of laser fire from his pistol to the crisping of much flesh, and the noise sickened him. But it was necessary.

He muttered "Ad Victoriam." as the Paladin saluted him, until the faintest bullet trail came into vision at the same time as the racket of a high calibre rifle. The shot slammed into the shoulder of Paladin Moss, making the Knight drop to cover. They had a sharpshooter with a weapon that would with just a few lucky hits turn any man even with power armour into one of the dead.

Hurriedly the Knight crawled to his rifle, glad he didn't try to save time not reloading it earlier. The Paladin was in trouble now and he had not a second to spare. He didn't bother with the bipod simply resting his rifle on the window sill, scanning the battlefield for his prey. He caught sight of his mark and after getting him in his crosshairs fired.

The young Knight missed. The fellow was clearly not just a jet-for-blood lowlife of the wasteland, he zigged and zagged before stopping to return fire. The. 50 flew fast, hitting the Knight square in the chest. It would have hurt a lot if not for his Recon gear underneath the power armour but instead it was just a punch or kick.

But while this was his first rodeo the young man wasn't an idiot to underestimate what he dealt with. He skipped two windows before taking new cover. He unfolded the bipod this time to take proper aim. The rifle's optics scanned the scene, eventually coming upon the threatening raider. He fired, and his bullet hit flesh. Problem was, Daniel didn't realize the raider he hot was already dead. The high-powered rifle he was holding was swiped aside and a shot flew at the Knight's chest again. It ricocheted, flying upwards to lodge itself in his helmet just nanometres away from having been deflected into his throat. The slightest shift, and Daniel would have been dead.

He dropped back to his cover, sitting against the wall. His breath was getting faster and faster as his hands got a definite shaky quality. Cold sweat rolled down the soldier's face while bullets whistled on either side of him. The mind of Daniel tried to control his panic, and through it decided to contact the Initiate and Knight Sergeant. He didn't know how far they were but he had to try. "Get up here, now! – in combat!"

Hearing his own voice steadied Daniel's nerves, and as he scrabbled for his Gatling Laser he contacted the Paladin: "Sir, I'm sorry. Their Marksman is too good. I'll use my laser to lay down some cover, get back here fast. I… I can't deal with them like this, they're too good. Let's get them inside or at least closer, get in a situation our armour makes more difference okay?" though Daniel was still perfectly articulate, the Paladin would more than be able to hear the fear in the young Knight's voice.

As he held his Gatling Laser the lad looked side to side wondering where to strike until an idea struck him. He walked back to build up some momentum, before running forth and bursting through a wall. The moment the lenses of his heavy weapon saw the light of day it instantly began to spew searing beams across the landscape. He didn't hit much, all of this intended as just cover for Moss to get back. He noticed a cluster of raiders hiding behind a car and momentarily focused his fire on it resulting in another explosion.

"Hurry, Paladin!" Daniel cried out, keeping up the hail of fire as he slowly retreated himself to the depths of the warehouse.

The small fireball gave way to a plume of smoke. At least this time Moss was clear of the explosion, save the bits of debris sprinkling down from the sky. Warning helped. Let him brace, even if the shock of the thing still frazzled his senses.

Taking advantage of the haze, the paladin scrambled to his feet and ran back toward the warehouse. Ahead of him, far too the left, a chunk of the ground seemed to burst into the air. A failed attempt at his life. He ran faster, struggling through the growing resistance in his power armor’s joints. He couldn’t endure another shot. Estevez was right, this guy was too good.

But fortune was the side of the paladin. He barreled into the warehouse, sliding a stop and slamming the doors in one motion. A hole punched through the door a few feet from his head. The size of a mutfruit.

“Get down here and help me barricade these doors,” Moss shouted, anger and embarrassment flaring. "Yessir." Came the quick reply of the Knight, who rushed over with what debris he could grab and - just in case - some satchel charges.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Odin
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Odin JIHAD CHIQUE ®

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The journey through the tunnel was uneventful, which to any seasoned wastelander was never a good sign. When things got too quiet there was generally a reason for that, like a gang of muties holed up ahead or a deathclaw nest preventing anyone from settling or exploring an area. The molerats escaping the area had been a good sign of that, but McDowell had pressed onwards, perhaps hoping for a good death, or perhaps because he sought to impress the paladin. Slightly surprising to him, but perhaps less so to anyone that knew her, he had taken notice of the soft crunches of footsteps behind him. Perhaps these initiates were less cowardly than they’d been in DC. Or perhaps the crew had just gotten lucky with a decent initiate for once.

The stompy footsteps of the power armour were like an echoey alarm going off, at least to McDowells ears, but at least the background noises of the tunnel, such as dripping groundwater and other background noises from the blowing wind above did a halfway decent job of drowning it all out. These footsteps, however, would very suddenly stop, almost so sudden that in the darkness, it was hard to tell where exactly Gregory had gone.

“Initiate,” he suddenly said in a very uncharacteristically hushed tone, “there’s… something ahead.” The description was about as vague as it could get, but the reasoning for that would become abundantly clear when Laura would come to see for herself.

Ahead, a decently sized group of deathclaws of varying sizes were chained up to the bedrock as if they were slaves. They seemed to be sleeping, so at the moment they were not quite as big a concern as they would have been had they been free and awake. What was more distressing, however, was the group of… humanoids that were huddled around something in the distance, not too far from the deathclaws. They had gone unnoticed, for now, but if they were to go any further, that was unlikely to continue being the case.

The swarm of molerats had elicited a verbal response from Laura, but the chained-up Deathclaws simply stunned her into silence. The tunnel opened up ahead into a larger cavernous formation with plenty of space for the huge, dreadful beasts to curl up next to each other. It was dark and hard to see anything in the cave, but the slow rise and fall of the sleeping behemoths was unmistakable. Every muscle in her body was telling her to run, a primal instinct embedded into the most ancient parts of her brain that fired on all cylinders when confronted with the apex predator that was a Deathclaw, but she forced herself to stay put. McDowell wasn’t afraid either.

The obvious question, once she had recovered from the initial shock and regained some of her composure, was who or what the hell had managed to capture and restrain the monsters? Laura’s gaze followed to where the Knight-Sergeant’s visor was pointing and she spotted the congregation of shapes at the far end of the cave as well. Willing her hands not to shake, Laura brought the scope of her laser rifle up to her wide, unblinking eye. It took several seconds for her to recognize what she was looking at. The humanoids were dressed in long cloaks and plate armor and were of such size that she initially mistook their forms for power armor, but the reality was far more absurd and bizarre.

They were Super Mutants. The green skin and exaggerated features were found on no other creature that she’d ever heard of. It was a deeply unsettling realization. If they had been clad in power armor they could feasibly have been Enclave remnants. Laura had heard of the way they’d turned Deathclaws into living weapons. But Super Mutants were… well, they were idiots. How could any of them have the intelligence and cunning to chain up multiple Deathclaws and live to tell the tale?

Before she could say anything, she winced as the comms-unit in her helmet suddenly came alive with a wash of static and a barely distinct voice: “Get up -- now -- combat!” Laura took a step back and glanced up at McDowell. It hadn’t just been her earpiece, it had been his too. Whose voice was that? The Paladin’s? The only people with access to the close-range frequencies that the Recon Squad used were the other members of the squad and the comms-unit was tuned out of any other frequencies. “Shit,” Laura whispered. Trouble was brewing topside.

A glimpse of movement from the corner of her eye caught her attention. She quickly looked through her magnifying scope again and her stomach dropped into her shoes. The Super Mutants had turned their heads and were looking straight at her.

“Go! Go!” she hissed and slapped a flat hand against McDowell’s armor, her respect for the man’s rank entirely forgotten in the fear of the moment. “The Paladin needs us and we’ve been spotted!”

Gregory seemed lost in thought when Laura called out to him, and the message barely registered. He stared at the figures huddled around… something in the distance, before half-mindedly taking a step back. At the last second he turned his body and began maneuvering the heavy power armour towards Laura. A task that was easier said than done, the gyro’s whirring under the pressure. Whatever had happened to them in the crash, it was Gregory that would pay the price for it now. He tried to go easy on the mechanisms, but there really was no helping it, so he started forcing it.

Normally, someone in power armour would be moving at roughly the same speed or slightly faster than someone without one, but in this case Laura was probably better off running ahead at the snails pace Gregory was going. It didn’t take long for the muffled, but audible screams behind them to be heard. “Stop moving, stupid man!” Footsteps followed quickly, about as muffled as that of Gregory’s own power armour.

Well, there were many things that Gregory would do, but stop moving was not one of them. It took every part of his undersized child-like brain to control himself and actually do the smart thing for once, rather than stopping, turning, and fighting like he was trained to, but he managed under the wisdom that he was unarmed and not particularly keen of boxing with a deathclaw. “Laura!” he yelled under his ragged breath. The fact that he was forcing the power armour to move made it a bit more strenuous than it should have been, after all. “You better have a damn plan if you’re gonna make me keep flee- tactically retreat!”

Laura’s brain frantically rifled through the available tools and options at her disposal while they turned and ran back into the tunnel, but those were mercifully limited and it took her no more than a few seconds to figure out what the best course of action was. Even so, her throat constricted at the desperate nature of it. Under ordinary circumstances Laura would never have resorted to such drastic measures but she didn’t see another way out.

“Keep moving, Knight-Sergeant! I’ll collapse the tunnel behind us and obstruct the enemy’s advance!” she yelled, intuitively turning to military jargon to match McDowell, subconsciously aware that her plan was likely to go down better with him if she dressed it up as a legitimate tactical maneuver. There was no way that he would be able to outrun the Mutants or, God forbid, the Deathclaws if they were unleashed to hunt them down, and she wasn’t about to leave him for dead. Not on her watch.

But they needed more time for that plan to work. Laura skidded to a halt and pulled one of her unlit molotovs free from a pouch on her abdomen and, thinking quickly, set the cloth rag stuffed into the bottle on fire with a gentle squeeze of the laser rifle’s trigger. She turned and threw it towards the cave. The bottle sailed through the air, missing McDowell by a few inches, and exploded into a roaring pool of flame near the mouth of the tunnel, wide enough to cover the breadth of the underground passageway. She prayed it would buy her enough time. It had to do.

While McDowell forged ahead, Laura produced the rest of her explosives arsenal from her tactical vest and, with trembling hands, forced the pins of the fragmentation mine into the wall of the tunnel, embedding it into the rock. Using a piece of combat webbing Laura wrapped her two frag grenades around the mine. She turned her head to look at the temporary inferno at the tunnel’s edge and she could swear that she saw the towering forms of the Super Mutants on the other side of the flames, their faces distorted by the shimmering air.

“Come on... “ Laura hissed as she tied the knot to the webbing, her gaze flitting to McDowell and back -- he was almost out of the impending blast’s danger zone. With one last punch she hit the mine’s arming switch, got to her feet and ran after him. Behind her, the molotov cocktail’s fire died out.

“Get them!” one of the Super Mutants yelled.

Laura wheeled around, dropped to one knee and raised her rifle to her face. She took a deep breath and closed one eye shut. Her heart was racing but she willed it to slow down. Three, two one…

Thud-thud, thud-thud, thud-thud--

In-between two heartbeats Laura pulled the trigger and the searing beam of laser energy ignited the explosives.

The shockwave that raced up the tunnel hit her like a brick wall and she was thrown to the ground, her laser rifle prevented from flying away and out of her hands only by virtue of the strap slung around her torso. With an almighty crash and the roar of a subterranean god awakened, the roof of the tunnel caved in and sent a cloud of dust and debris to follow in the shockwave’s footsteps for good measure. Laura closed her eyes and let it wash over her. If the entire tunnel was going to succumb and bury them there wasn’t anything she could do about it anyway. She had to trust that her gut feeling had been correct and that the power of the fragmentation devices was only enough to collapse a portion of the tunnel.

And so she waited, the agonizing seconds creeping by as the rock and dirt that surrounded her groaned and rumbled in complaint, for the dust to settle, her ears ringing and her vision swimming from the impact.

“Oh no you don’t.” A hulking figure stepped through the dust and the falling pebbles that very well could have pre-empted a larger rockslide. With a very heavy-handed touch, he grabbed Laura by the collar of her uniform, and dragged her backwards out of the danger zone, or at least as far as he could before the roof collapsed even further. The spot where she had been previously was now covered in rubble, but there was no time to contemplate life and death at the moment. Not their life and death anyway. Paladin Moss and Estevez were at this point a far more likely concern, at least for Gregory.

“Get up, Initiate,” he commandeered again, having regained his composure. “There is work left to do.” He let go of her collar and turned to the large wall that they’d need to scale up to re-enter the warehouse. Right now he sure as hell wished he wasn’t in power armour.

“Thank you, sir,” Laura mumbled as she got to her feet, half-aware that she would have been paste if it weren’t for McDowell’s compassionate intervention. She steadied herself until her head stopped spinning before she looked back the way they came. Visibility was practically zero, but there were no sounds of furious pursuit coming their way. Her plan had worked and they were still alive.

“Ladies first,” he offered, not because he was trying to be prince Charming -- although even if he had been, it would not have come across that way at all -- but rather because he was dreading the experience of trying to go up that wall. Power armour was made for jumping off of stuff, not going up stuff.

The brief and unbidden question of whether the Knight-Sergeant wanted her to go up first so that he could enjoy the view flitted through her mind but she squashed it immediately. McDowell didn’t seem the type and it wouldn’t do well to think ill of her squadmates without provocation. Laura still didn’t agree with his decision to push ahead and ignore the warning signs of the claw marks, and her explosives arsenal was now down to a single molotov cocktail and pulse grenade, but it had turned out well in the end. Now they knew what was down there, and with any luck they had trapped the Deathclaws and Super Mutants forever. Despite the risks, Knight-Sergeant McDowell had acted gallantly. Laura felt herself warming up to him. She nodded and started to climb.

It would take Gregory several minutes to reach the top of the hole, climbing out of it with a very, very ragged sigh following. The sounds of gunfire weren’t too far off. Did the muties follow them? Have another exit? Whatever it was, Gregory wasn’t about to wait for things to come to them. Not after having just fled from a bunch of uglies. Maybe it was foolish of him, but his frustration about being caught with his pants down got the better of him. He stomped past Laura, a different tread in his step now, no longer careful, casual, or anything of the like. This was the step of a man that was seething. She followed him cautiously and decided not to say anything.

Where he had previously shoved an entire container down the hole, he didn’t bother going through the same hole he made. Instead, he went directly to the area that would lead to the front of the building. As he approached the container blocking the way, he gave it a good one-handed shove, and by combining his natural strength and the power armour, casually threw the container to the side. It had probably been empty, which allowed him to do this, but it looked impressive nonetheless.

Through a stroke of good luck and coincidence, he noted a super sledge leaning against the wall, unknowingly to Gregory his own, and grabbed it with a new ferocity. With a loud bang he rammed his arm into the large, red warehouse doors that separated the warehouse storage area to the shop front where Estevez and Moss were now holed up, or at least trying to hole up. Louder than he had spoken the entire duration of the mission, he shouted, no, screamed, “AD VICTORIAM, PALADIN MOSS!” Without waiting for orders, the frustrated, seething caricature of a pre-war jarhead raised his foot and planted it firmly against the very door paladin Moss and knight Estevez were trying desperately to keep closed. He pushed it forwards, and kicked the door open with a power that shook the hinges of the door, only barely holding on to the doorframe.

Almost immediately, a rain of gunfire started pinging off his chestplate, although that wasn’t so worrying. Knight-Sergeant McDowell was wearing what one could only call a pre-war tank on his chest, so small-arms fire were not quite the concern they would be to someone running around in their knickers and some leather armour. No, the real problem was the heavy handmade anti-materiel rifle that went off somewhere in the mix, planting an easy .50 round square into McDowells chest. Whatever the shooter had shot at him, it left a sizeable dent and kicked the air out of McDowells body. For a moment, the gunfire stopped, as if they were waiting to see whether McDowell would go down or not. Hell, it seemed like even McDowell was a little confused as to what had just happened. It felt like someone had just thrown a fat man at him.

Slowly but surely, McDowell stumbled backwards, keeping himself upright but only just barely, as he struggled for air. “Mother… fucker...” Still, there was no second shot, so perhaps they were hoping that McDowell would just fall over and die already. It must’ve been surprising that McDowell stepped forwards again, readying his sledgehammer, only to end up reaching for the large door and pull it back as he stepped back inside. For a moment it looked like he was going to shrug off the hit, and perhaps he might have done so had it not been for the fact that paladin Moss was watching.

Once the door closed, that second shot did ring out, punching a hole the size of a mutfruit right next to the other mutfruit sized hole. Bits and pieces of metal flew through the air, but McDowell seemed completely unphased by that, or perhaps just entirely unaware as he stumbled back towards a wall and leaned against it with his hand, trying desperately to catch his breath. “Kni-knight-sergeant McDowell, sir,” he managed to push out of his throat, “reporting for... duty.”

He neglected to tell them about the supermutants and deathclaws below the structure. Whether that was by choice or just because he forgot, nobody could tell, but it seemed like they had more pressing matters to attend to at the moment anyway.
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Cazzer1604
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Cazzer1604

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Gripping the pistol with both hands, Owen led the way from the vertibird. He understood the importance of the lancer if they hoped to survive. Their one and only chance to get out of this hellhole. Maybe their only chance to find the rest of the squad. Seeing the ghouls shuffling around the ravine, certainly more than fifty now, Owen struggled to imagine any other way of getting out alive.

The scribe kept low, hugging the outer wall of the vertibird as he crept around the side. There should be a ladder. Something for the engineers to use for repairs. He considered breaking silence to ask Sami, but then it appeared. Simple metal rungs like the handlebars on the paladin’s T-60. A little bent up from the crash, but usable.

“Climb up,” Owen whispered. “Focus on getting us airborne, okay? I’ve got your back down here.”

Sami obliged, silently. His stomach had begun twisting in knots as soon as they left the relative safety of the Vertibird, but here, at the precipice of the key moment, it had begun to do so violently. Right foot and left hand first, he pulled himself up onto the first stage of the ladder. The handles were slippery from the moisture of being in that deadly red cloud that had caused this situation, and Sami took care in his climb.

As he did that, Sami could hear a barking in the distance, surely Chowder enacting his orders from the good doctor. What a dog, Sami thought to himself, wishing the best of luck to the canine champion.

Upon the fourth cycle of his vertical movement, one of the rungs snapped off from his weight, and for a moment Sami was in freefall, until his reflexes managed to catch one of the lower rungs. However, the sudden jarring stop resulted in the Lancer's body and head swinging into the hull of the Vertibird with a loud clang. Sami's head had hit the cold steel on the same point it was bleeding, intensifying the throbbing pain he was already feeling. His right thigh became deadened and numb from the impact, and overall, Sami was even more rattled than before.

He cringed as he expected the noise to attract the remaining ghouls, but nothing seemed to happen, miraculously. Surely Chowder couldn't have encouraged ALL the rotskins to chase him? Regardless, Sami regained his footing and continued to climb. Not long after, he reached the top of the wing, and instantly saw where the lightning had collided with a crater of pierced metal still smouldering. Placing his tool bag in front of him, he frantically but quietly tried to find the opening of the panel.

However, the hushed nature of his actions wasn't required for very long. He heard Patty announce the opening of the minigun's bullet parade and braced his eardrums for the thundering sound of thousands of 5mm bullets being emitted from six steel barrels. But such a noise did not arrive.

Sami didn't have time to think about it, he quickly got to work on repairing the broken servos, redirecting electricity and power away from the destroyed circuits and replacing what he could in terms of hardware. He wasn't a specialised electrician, but he could do the job well enough for them to attempt to get airborne once again. He exchanged tools skillfully, like a gunslinger draws his weapons, and soon enough, he believed he had done all he could. He fucking hoped so.

Amidst the chaos of whatever the Knight and the Doctor were getting up to on the other side of the Vertibird, Sami descended hastily from the wing, but again slipped off the ladder and landed awkwardly on his ankle, twisting it. Sami cried out in pain and cursed in frustration, leaning against the Vertibird after performing obligatory hops and hobbles. After wincing, Sami informed the Senior Scribe of his apparent success.

"All done. Let's help them out and get the fuck out of here." After saying this, he cocked his MP-40 and prepared himself for combat.

Owen fired two quick shots and watched the feral tumble into the dirt. Another came up the side, flinging its withered arm faster than the scribe could guard and clapping him on the ear. He stumbled back, fired low, then kicked the ghoul back. A shot from inside the vertibird burst the creature’s head into a pulpy red mist.

“You get inside. Nobody else can fly this thing,” Owen shouted, doing his best to emulate a competent knight. “I’m right behind you.”

They moved slowly around the vertibird toward the open door. The pilot sprayed his submachine gun, covering their entry and downing two ghouls. Sami clambered in, ran towards the pilot's seat and took his seat, balancing the gun on his lap. He uttered a quick prayer aimed at the Vertibird gods as he prepared the vessel for takeoff. The next flip switch would determine whether or not his repair efforts bore fruit, the lives of the whole team on the line.

He held his breath as he flipped the ignition.

The engines roared to life, audibly not damaged, but functioning well enough. Sami couldn't contain his ecstasy of the angelic sound. "WOOOO! WE'RE GOLDEN, BABY!". He wasted no time in getting the Vertibird to lift off of the ground, hovering just out of the reach of a feral. After checking that Owen followed him into the ship, he concentrated on locating the two women causing a ruckus somewhere nearby. Slowly rotating the airborne 'Bird, he pinpointed Kinsley and Patty not too far away, surrounded by dead ghouls in all manner of states, almost unanimously bloody or dismembered.

He lowered the Vertibird carefully near them, so that they could get on comfortably. As he did, Sami shouted "I've got one order of 'the fuck outta here' for two wonderful ladies!" Sami was aware of the vulnerability the ship was in if another ghoul horde came out of nowhere, so he followed that remark up with "Take it or leave it, let's go!"

Tattered cables from the safety harnesses waved outside of the vertibird. Owen managed to tame the cable on the right long enough to tie it off around his belt. With no small amount of uncertainy, the scribe leaned out from the edge of the door and grabbed the doctor’s hand. She climbed aboard with ease, but her eyes remained fixated on the field. He thought something was wrong with Patty until the knight boarded through the other door, weapon waving side-to-side as she demonstrated just how little help she needed.

Just as the gratitude for their survival surfaced, Owen realized what held the doctor’s concern. Not all of them had made it. Her dog, Chowder, was still out there.

“We’re all here. Take us away, Brown!” Owen gripped her hand a little tighter, despite Harper sitting firmly inside the vertibird. Turning toward her, he whispered, “There’s weakness in crying. It’s okay.” His brow furrowed. “Nobody’s going to judge you. I’m not going to judge you.”

The engines roared as the vertibird ascended. Patty, ever vigilent, fired down onto the ghouls chasing below. Lancer Brown insisted on flying just high enough to clear the trees. Whether this was a product of fear about his inexperience or that the bird might still fail, nobody knew. And that was fine. What mattered was finding the rest of the squad. They all scanned the ground below for signs of where the others might have landed. For the dog instrumental in their escape who at least some of them believed might have survived as well. After all, the wasteland had already given its challenge. Weren’t they due some reward?
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Hank
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Hank Dionysian Mystery

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Laura bit back a curse after McDowell threw open the door, took a bullet and closed it again -- now was not the time, nor was it her place, to berate the Knight-Sergeant. She was relieved to see Paladin Moss and Knight Estevez but the confusing situation was killing her. Who the hell was shooting at them from outside the building now? Laura sidled up to the wall, away from the windows or the door, her laser rifle in her hands, a scowl on her face. Her eyes found Moss’ and she saluted quickly, but refrained from straightening up for fear of a .50 bullet taking her head off. The holes that had been punched through the door were warning enough.

“Sir, we’re sitting on top of a nest of Deathclaws and their Super Mutant masters,” the Initiate said without preamble. There was no time. She had to trust that he would simply believe her at her word. “There’s a tunnel in the floor of the docking bay that leads into their lair. When the Knight-Sergeant and myself were spotted, we returned and I collapsed the tunnel behind us to prevent enemy pursuit.” She paused and her eyes bounced between Moss and Estevez, noticing the impact marks on his suit of power armor as well. “Sorry, I have to ask; who’s shooting at us, sir?”

Daniel didn't particularly care that they were sitting on a nest of Deathclaws and supermutants when the path to them was sealed, more or less ignored that rather going straight to answering the Initiate's question. "Raiders. Most of them are just the same idiots you'll see in D.C., lower even than that given their guns. But there's a few of them that… They're trained. Professional, they've dealt with power armour before or at least learned how to." by way of explanation the Knight turned his head upwards to demonstrate the ricocheted .50 nearly having hit his throat. "What next, Sir?" he asked, turning to Paladin Moss.

They might as well have been talking to the wall. Hidden behind the bulky T-60 helmet, the paladin’s face contorted. He stepped forward, each step causing the ground to quake a little under the weight of his frustration.

“Are you suicidal, sergeant?” Moss boomed, placing a gauntleted hand onto McDowell’s chestplate. “Was I duped bringing you on? What in the hell kind of combat awareness consists of entering a hot zone and promptly revealing our position? This is my squad, soldier. Your life is mine. Risk yourself or my anyone else in the squad and I’ll put you down myself!”

The paladin lingered with his hand pushing firmly against the knight-sergeant. Stared long enough for any sense of cliché to dissolve, leaving only the unforgivingly cold promise of retribution. Then, with a small push, he turned away and cursed loudly. Paced the floor of the warehouse, glancing at the tunnel, then the doors, and back in an endless loop.

Finally, standing waist deep in the mouth of the tunnel, Moss pointed to Grimshaw. “You have explosives,” he stated, or was it a question? “Set them up here. We will blow the way back open. Whatever was down there will be killed. Suffocated or crushed or killed by the blast.” He began to nod erratically. “Escape into the tunnels. We’ll, follow them, down. We will retreat below ground and we'll, we’ll flank the raiders. That damned sniper.”

With those words the situation changed. While a pack of raiders moved ever closer to the warehouse, inside, the freshly christened paladin struggled to assemble a coherent plan. And it was obvious. Awkward to pretend it wasn’t happening, challenging to square the Paladin Moss from before with the trembling man there now.

“No, I’ve got it now.” Moss nodded and gestured toward Estevez and Grimshaw. “I want you two outside. You’ll hunt the sniper. Once the fifty is out of the way the rest of us will clear the stragglers. That’s.... That’s what we’ll do.” He ignored the prospect that another large caliber weapon could easily be hiding somewhere in the hills. Just continued nodding as he turned to McDowell waving a finger. “Knight-Sergeant, I want you to run distraction. Draw the sniper’s fire. Our guys’ll take them down first.” He glanced at Grimshaw and Estevez, noting their anxious looks. “This is how we survive, people. This is an order!”

Watching the Paladin lose his cool was unnerving and Laura had to resist the urge to look at the ground when he turned his attention to her. The first, rambling, incoherent ‘plan’ he came up with was impossible and she dreaded having to tell Moss that she barely had any explosives left. Fortunately, he changed his mind and Laura’s spine stiffened when he ordered her and Estevez to hunt down the enemy sniper. That was more like it. She hadn’t taken on a raider with a .50 caliber rifle before but creeping through the wasteland was one of her strengths. She knew that it was important for morale that Moss recovered his confidence and as such, she was determined to carry out his orders flawlessly and prove to him that his thinking was still sound.

“Yes, Paladin Moss. Ad Victoriam!” Laura said and saluted. She glanced at the Knight that was to be her hunter-killer partner and she nodded at him, as if to say ‘we’ve got this’.

Gregory had the equivalent of a wasteland thousand yard stare, not much seeming to penetrate the man at this point. It was unclear whether he’d given up hope -- which was unlikely given he was a soldiering type that did not think too much about the situation at hand to begin with -- or whether he was just confused on what to do, lacking any orders from above. The paladin did little to improve this, his rant against McDowell being more than justified, but the following ‘plan’ being something that an upstart initiate would’ve come up with in tactical training. Luckily, Moss recovered, and the plan afterwards made a little more sense. Still, it was iffy. All it would take was a good shot with the .50 cal, and McDowell would be a goner. Not something that was on McDowell’s mind, admittedly, but a realistic guess for anyone else all the same. Initiate Grimshaw and Knight Estevez would need to move quickly if they wanted to have the hulking tank of a man that was McDowell survive more than five minutes.

He reached down and grabbed the sledgehammer that he’d dropped, his fists tightening around the handle until his knuckles went white. Metaphorically speaking, because nobody could actually see whether they turned white, as they were clad in a good amount of steel. “Ad Victoriam!” he bellowed once again, and with newfound confidence he marched his happy self to the door, satisfied that the plan now made sense, and he no longer had to call his own shots.

Where Laura might’ve wished to execute the plan to restore Moss’ confidence, Gregory was more occupied with performing his task to regain Moss’ favour. It was for that reason he held back a little, did not give in to his idiotic, but strong, ways and instead stood by the door, ready to open it and go outside to draw fire. He glanced back and the comm lines would suddenly crackle, revealing a very out-of-character McDowell. “Ready when you are, paladin, knight, initiate,” he said, rolling his shoulders slightly, the mechanisms whirring and protesting as he did so.

An alarm blared in his power armour for the second time. Warning! Critical power! Replace fusion core! The beginning of the message might’ve been caught on the comms, but McDowell was quick to shut off the comms to make sure that the latter end of the message would not be heard. With some good luck, his power armour would last until they were clear. They could figure out what to do after that.

Looking between the Paladin, the Initiate and the Knight Sergeant Daniel kept quiet after recalling who they were up against. After mirroring the salute of his comrades to their leader Daniel turned to the Initiate with a resigned sigh. He felt it was best they wait their enemies out, perhaps kill them in a crossfire as they came inside the warehouse but orders were orders.

"Alright then." he began, grabbing his rifle. "They know about Gregory and the Paladin, they know about me. But they don't know about you, so you'll be our little trump card. Did you see any side entrances exploring this place? If I could bait him out, you could seal the deal. But we only got one chance, the report on that laser of your's will make you a target right away and the fact you're not wearing power armour will make all the other raiders see you as the best target. If we can't get him in the first try, then we'll switch with you the soft target becoming the bait. Deal?" Daniel finished, ready to spring into action.

That was a relief. “Deal,” Laura echoed in agreement. It was a solid plan and she was glad that Estevez seemed to be on the same wavelength as she was. He struck her as a level-headed sort, from what she’d seen of him so far, and that was a welcome change of pace after McDowell’s brash stubbornness and the Paladin’s emotional outburst. It helped to calm her down and steady her own nerves. She took a deep breath and brought the reassuring weight of her laser rifle to bear. For someone that had practiced with solid ammunition on the range her whole life, switching to an energy weapon and learning proper marksmanship drills had almost felt like cheating. Firing a weapon without having to accomodate for bullet drop or travel time was like running without training weights.

“There’s a side entrance in the loading bay,” Laura said, her eyes looking up and to the left as she brought the warehouse’s layout back into her mind’s eye. “I’ll slip out and use the abandoned cars for cover. They won’t see me coming.” She nodded to herself to reaffirm her plan. “See you on the other side, Knight.”
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Hank
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Hank Dionysian Mystery

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featuring @Andreyich and @Stormflyx


The door opened mercifully quietly and Laura slipped out with wide eyes and a low profile. It was quiet, save for the low rumble of the radstorms in the distance and the parched wind that haunted the hellscape of the wasteland. The raiders had stopped shooting for now. The first thing she did after she settled into cover behind one of the abandoned cars was to grab up a fistful of dirt and sand and rub it on her face until her skin had the same drab brown tone as the earth. Combined with the neutral dark-gray tones of her fatigues, the Initiate would be much harder to spot than the hulking power armored Knights had been.

She glanced sidelong at the warehouse and then risked a peek over the hood of the car towards the direction of the raiders and immediately spotted the tell-tale gleam of brandished weapons, trained on the damaged front door of the building. She ducked back into cover. There was no way to tell which of the rifles she’d seen was the .50 cal -- not from this distance, and not so briefly. She dared not risk a longer peek, however. Laura would have to trust that Estevez and McDowell would make for a suitable distraction.

Daniel for his part picked a suitable window, before waiting a minute or so until he believed Laura had enough time to set up in a good spot. Gregory of course went outside berserk as Daniel had come to understand was his nature and thus he wasted no time in peering out of his cover, checking the scene with his optics for the elusive sniper. "I'll look for him but chances are he'll find me first, then's your one chance. When I saw him he had a hood and bandana with the same raider armour as the rest but by know he could have done anything to change his look. He has the longest rifle though, easiest way to tell of course." The Knight said over comms. He shot two raiders, then a third who it seemed was looking to sneak up on the Knight Sergeant.

But nothing of the main target, until a shine of optics. Yet… The shine was far too much, and it became clear to the young Knight it was a propped shard of glass to give a reflection for deception. "He's up near a car Eastwards, the-... ." Alas, he didn't have a chance to finish his sentence. A bullet hit the lad square in the forehead, shattering his headlamp and sending him dazed to the ground. Through what he suspected was a concussion Daniel hoped Laura would kill the bastard and protect McDowell, because for himself Daniel was sure as hell as out of action.

As soon as she saw the muzzle flash of the large firearm and heard its report echo back from the hills, Laura sprang into action. She knew where he was now but she was too far away to get a killshot. For all of its advantages, laser shots don’t do well over long distances. Keeping her head down and her movements quiet, Laura advanced towards the sniper’s position in the carpark. Fear sank its icy daggers into her gut when Estevez’s voice cut out abruptly and she hoped it wasn’t because he’d been shot dead, but there was no time to contemplate that possibility. She focused on the mission, a clear objective, and swallowed away her emotions.

The .50 caliber rifle fired again, sounding a little closer now. Laura slipped from cover to cover like a ghost, moving perpendicular to the sightlines of the raiders and using the sloping quality of the foothill landscape to her advantage. She was presented with half a dozen opportunities to take down any of the other raiders that had their sides or their backs turned to her as she moved past them but she let each moment pass without incident. It wasn’t worth giving away her position to tackle lesser prey.

Once she was within a few dozen meters of the sniper, Laura took a deep breath behind the cyan-colored shape of an old vehicle and waited. Seconds crept by agonizingly slowly before the sniper pulled the trigger again, the noise of its discharge loud enough to be felt in her guts now. Laura jumped to her feet, the scope of her laser rifle practically glued to her face, and with a triumphant snarl she found the bandana-clad raider squarely within her sights, his own scope fixed on a target in the distance -- probably McDowell. The raider’s face was hidden behind a gas mask and he was clad in a black jumpsuit with strips of cloth, dyed green and brown, that broke up his silhouette. But not even the makeshift ghillie suit could hide him from Laura now. He caught her movement from the corner of his eye, however, and he turned his head to look at her.

Laura fired.

A perfect killshot. The sniper’s head dissolved into a molten pile of ash that blew away in the wind and the rest of his body went slack, spread-eagled across the hood of the car he had been using as a firing platform. Laura exhaled slowly and allowed herself a smirk. The first time she had taken a life had bothered her, but not anymore. Not when it was life or death. Her mission complete,Laura made to return to the warehouse but stopped and looked back towards the sniper -- and, more importantly, his weapon. The rest of the raiders were still distracted elsewhere, but not for long. She had to act now.

Laura sprinted up to the dead raider and wrestled the sniper rifle from the claws of his hands. It was a modified hunting rifle, surprisingly light and in excellent condition. She resisted the urge to whistle appreciatively; it was pre-war, military-grade, and she recognized the scope as being of higher magnification than her own and the switch on the side suggested it was night-vision capable. Glancing up quickly to make sure she still had time, Laura slung her laser rifle across her back and fished the rest of the dead raider’s ammunition from the pockets of his jumpsuit. His gear was homemade but it was clear he had taken his role as sniper seriously. Again, her eyes widened in surprise, as the man had been carrying enough .50 caliber bullets to keep the weapon supplied for the foreseeable future. “Thanks, pal,” she whispered.

Having finished stuffing her pouches with magazines and bullets, Laura began to sneak back to the warehouse in earnest, clutching her newfound prize in her gloved hands. She made it about 30 meters of the way back when something else made her freeze in her tracks.

A dog’s barking, getting rapidly closer.

Laura shot to her feet and looked out over the graveyard of cars.

Good. Good. Good. The four fast paws of the faithful blue heeler tore across the ground, the same dust he'd left Harper in had followed him, even if she hadn't. The same crowd of dead things too. He barked, continually, intermittently when he could. When he could catch up with himself, when he wasn't getting too close to the ghouls to nip at them and corner them in all of their mindless screaming. He had brought them so far from that danger.

The cracked ground below, and the obstacle course of branches and upturned things had given him a healthy distance and had allowed him to keep it. They couldn't clear a jump like he could. Most of the time they stumbled. The sniper shots had been like a welcome call to him, the sound of people and he'd brought his whole damned flock of forsaken with him. In his line of site, a shape - and on the air just enough of a scent to have him power through his fleeting stamina just a bit more.

It he barked for her attention even more, she was not alone but it was his job to get to her. With Laura in his sight, he had a new target and mission. He closed the distance between them, flock still on his mind and so he barked again, taking grip of her wrist in a gentle mouth, dragging her backwards, swiveling her incidentally to face the wave of rotskins clearing the mist now - their groans and agony like a deathly thunderstorm all of its own.

Chowder pulled at her to run.

“Chowder!” Laura exclaimed and mistook his tugging on her wrist for play fighting, as inappropriately timed as it was -- there was still a firefight going on. The noise of the approaching horde of ghouls was enough to disabuse her of that illusion and she cursed, eyes wide at the sights and sounds of the wave of abominations breaking on the far edge of the car park. The raiders were now well and truly distracted and gunfire broke out all over. It was heartening that the dog had survived the crash, but why on earth had he brought a horde of ferals to their position? By accident, or with a purpose?

There was no time to dwell. He was telling her to run, not asking to play. Laura clutched the sniper rifle to her chest and set off in a full sprint back towards the warehouse, the barrel of her laser rifle slapping against her butt, vaulting over cars and sliding beneath other obstacles as she went, pushing the limits of her lithe athleticism, with Chowder in tow. The screams behind her were straight out of a nightmare. With one last glance over her shoulder to make sure the ferals hadn’t followed them, Laura slipped back around to the side entrance of the warehouse, threw the door open, flung herself and Chowder inside and locked it behind her in one fluid movement. She was breathing hard and fast and wiped at her forehead with her sleeves, the dust she’d smeared on her face coming off with it. Chowder looked to be just as exhausted as she was, but fortunately unharmed.

She squatted down next to him. “What’s that you’ve got there, boy?” Laura muttered in-between sharp intakes of air and pulled out a piece of paper from an unbuttoned pocket in his (adorable) backpack.

Vertibird down. Algarin, Brown, Brown, Kinsley alive. Surrounded by ghouls. Fixing the vertibird. Look to the skies.


Laura read the note again, and again, and a fourth time, mouthing the words. “Look to the skies,” she breathed. A slow grin spread across her face as the reality of the situation sank in. Chowder had saved the others from the ghouls and brought them here, buying them time to fix the vertibird. There was a way out. Help was coming. Laura embraced Chowder in a spontaneous and passionate hug, showering him with kisses on his forehead. “Oh, Chowder, you’ve saved us! Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?!”

For that victorious moment, Chowder let Laura fuss him - but he was not as settled as he had been on the Prydwen. His eyes were alert, heart pounding in his chest and while he gave the woman a friendly lick, he soon made his way to the door. His nose was to the ground as he paced back and forth, sniffing desperately, his tail wagging lazily until he brought himself down to the ground and gave a cry. He couldn't relax yet. Not yet.

Exhaustion and stress threatened to overwhelm Laura for a moment and she had to bite back tears at the sight of Chowder’s distress. “They’re coming, they’re coming,” she whispered and blinked repeatedly. “The doctor and all the others, they’re coming. You did good. I have to tell the Paladin, but you did good. I’ll be right back,” she said and straightened up, swallowing hard and wiping at her eyes. She steeled herself with a deep breath and made sure that her helmet was fastened properly.

“Paladin Moss!” she yelled as she ran back into the front shop, brandishing her new weapon and the piece of paper she’d pulled from Chowder’s backpack, waving it around as if it was a talisman that would deliver them from all evil. “The others -- they’re still alive, and they’re fixing the vertibird! Chowder, the dog, you see, he’s here and he brought this message!” She paused to catch her breath and held out the paper for the Paladin to take. “Pleased to report that the sniper is dead, sir. Oh, and a whole horde of ferals came with Chowder and the raiders are busy dealing with them now,” she added. “That happened too.”

Without saying anything, or even accepting the paper to read it for himself, inscrutable behind the steel of his armor, Moss stepped outside and threw his vertibird signal grenade onto the dirt. It started beeping.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Odin
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Odin JIHAD CHIQUE ®

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The moment the crew set off on their own respective chores, McDowell kicked open the door and immediately gave the raiders a big, fat, juicy target to shoot at, like a Brahmin in a chainlink fence pen. “AD VICTORIAM, MOTHERFUCKERS!” he screamed loudly into the void that was the uncultured, barbaric group of raiders ahead of him, and he instantly made way towards them. Gunfire pinged off him left and right, the varied assortment of small arms fire not doing any damage to him. If there were any that questioned the value of a good set of power armour, they would be changing their mind pretty quick after McDowell showed them what's what.

With a large, wide swing from right to left, he easily smacked one of the raiders armed with a fireaxe in the side. A crunch followed, and with the assistance of the rockets attached to the hammer, the raider was reduced to being little more than a ragdoll, flying to the left and into a large truck. The hollow thud of the container on the truck betrayed that it was empty, but the damage was done, the man stumbled for a few seconds trying to remain upright, but ultimately the combination of broken ribs.. arms.. broken everything was too much for him, and he simply fell down.

The next victim was not much better off as McDowell brought the hammer back overhead and stepped forwards, bringing the sledge down onto the man, narrowly missing the top of his head but hitting the mans shoulder with ease. Or, well, whatever was left of it. Another crunch, this time far more sickening than the relatively minor one before. The arm was easily dislocated, but did not sever -- the hammer was far too blunt for that -- so it sort of jangled around. That would be a problem, but it was one of the more minor ones for the man, as the brute force of the hammer, Gregory's strength, and the rocket boost on the hammer was more than enough to cause enough downward force to break the man's spine. He fell down, but not with the attempts to stumble around like the previous target had -- instead, he just sort of slumped backwards, and laid there, empty eyes looking into the dreadful grey sky above.

He was clearly not dead. Not yet. And in any other situation, Gregory would have planted his steel-clad power-boot deep into the mans skull, but there was no time to perform gestures of good will on the battlefield when you considered that there were at least a dozen more guys and gals, waiting to get the same treatment.

So, he left the man there, forging onwards, and the man was resigned to praying that his brothers in arms would win. Or else, there was a big fat chance he'd spend the rest of his days there, paralyzed, staring at the sky, hoping to die of dehydration sooner rather than later. A bad way to go.

The heavy footsteps echoed in the area, and made a pretty big target out of him, and while Gregory was more than capable of holding his own against a larger force for long enough to buy time for the others, that did not mean he suddenly became omniscient. Several shots rang out from somewhere, and several raiders dropped dead close to Gregory, including one that was behind him, coming from the direction of the horribly paralyzed man he had left behind. Gregory immediately opened comms, and began speaking. “Good looking out, thanks, who- RAAAAAAAAGH!” The message was quickly interrupted by an enraged Gregory smacking down yet another raider that had tried to get a bit too close with a cattleprod, grabbing him with his left arm and throwing him to the side. The comms remained open for a few seconds longer, and Gregory's "battle sounds" were sure to be heard by anyone before the comms shut down again.

Right as he was about to smack down yet another fool, Gregory heard the crack of the whip fly by overhead. Whatever calibre was large enough to be heard from inside power armour when it flew by was large enough to be a danger, and Gregory knew there was only one gun on the field right now that could possibly be that big. He looked left and right, and momentarily contemplated getting into cover, but there were still raiders everywhere trying to shoot at him, and frankly speaking, being next to a fusion-powered deathmobile that could blow up from a few bullets, especially from a .50, would be a bad idea. No, being in the open was probably better.

There wasn't much time to contemplate this hilariously bad decision -- if there was ever a place to get shot by a .50 it was probably right in the open -- because the next set of targets presented themselves, seemingly brave enough to face off against this knight-sergeant in shining Brotherhood of Steel armour. Well, either that or huffed up on jet.

Gregory lunged forwards and began swinging his sledgehammer wildly, sporadic enough that even he himself didn't know where the next strike would end up going, let alone the enemy -- no, blocking these attacks was near impossible, and if they managed to do so somehow, the rockets would certainly make it clear that blocking a rocketpowered sledgehammer was a bad idea any day of the week.

One of these hits connected, and a bloody spray of red covered the field and any nearby victims, and suddenly, just like that, the mans head was gone. “Go back where you came from, subhuman scum!” Gregory roared, barely audible over the sounds of gunfire left and right. He reached out for the last remaining raider that was in range of his hulking figure, and held him by the throat, the gauntlet of the power armour squeezing into his throat.

By some divine intervention, the man could've been saved as a sudden inexplicable yell from behind Gregory caused him to turn around with the man in his hands and all, heaving him high into the air. Exactly then another gunshot rang out, and for some inexplicable reason, the poor victim's innards suddenly splattered outwards all over Knight-Sergeant McDowell's armour, covering him in bits of organ and a shower of blood. Gregory held the body up a few more seconds, confused as to what had happened, before throwing the body down with a disgusted “ugh,” the realization that the raider had just been blue-on-blue'd by the sniper with the .50 cal seemingly not even setting in.

The battle carried on for moments longer, as the quest to kill the sniper seemingly had come to an end. While Gregory himself was not privy to the arrival of Chowder, the arrival of a literal horde of feral ghouls on the horizon certainly did not escape his eyes. “Fucking hell,” he mouthed to himself, “GHOULS?” He took a brief moment to look around at the battlefield, only barely catching the tail end of paladin Moss throwing down a vertibird signal grenade. The fact that the raiders were now turning to the horizon and focusing on the ghouls also did not escape him, and if there was ever a time to drive out these sadistic fucks and kill some radiated rotskins in the process, and clear the landing site, this was it.

Comms went open again. “AD VICTORIAAAAAAAAAAM!” Comms closed. It seemed that, while Gregory's vocabulary might have been somewhat limited, at the very least he commanded a commendable degree of skill over the Brotherhood of Steel's Latin usage.

With a sledgehammer heaved high into the sky, he began marching off towards the army of ghouls coming down into the warehouse parking lot, hammering down a few raiders that were unlucky enough to get in his way while they scurried to flee or tried to set up a defensive position against the rotting bags of flesh. WARNING. POWER LEVELS CRITICAL. Ah crap. Not now.

Slowly, Gregory slowed down to a near crawl, and instead was resigned to walking at a pace that was only slightly faster than if he'd get out and actually crawl. The consideration to get out certainly didn't cross his mind, though, because well, he was strong enough to keep going, even if the power armour was less like power armour and more like, well, just armour. The brunt of the weight of the armour now rested on his back, and he'd carry it if he had to.

Luckily, the mobility would not be a huge problem. The feral ghouls were a lot more predictable than assorted raiders, and would essentially run straight at him, allowing him to batter them down as they came. The brute force of the rockethammer was more than enough to dismember or decapitate them from time to time, since their skin had basically become nonexistent.

With his efforts, the parking lot landing site slowly became more empty as raiders fled the scene, and the ghouls were prevented from even getting to the landing site, instead chasing down straggling raiders or facing off against them. The most unlucky ghouls of all were faced with the slow, but determined Knight-Sergeant, who would put a swift end to their irradiated, dirty, sub-subhuman misery.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by lavenderdame
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lavenderdame

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The vertibird made its flight over the landscape of green yellow ambience. Wings patched up as best as they could be, it was as triumphant a moment as could be found in such a desolate place. Dr Kinsley, safely in her seat peered over the state of herself. Jellied chunks of ghoul clung to her, and her sock was wet with the blood from her cut - pooling into the inside of her boots. An irritating feeling second only to the sting of the wound itself. She looked at it with a raised brow.

“I’ve seen enough by now to know I’ve not many tears left to cry, kiddo, but thanks all the same,” she replied dryly, patting his leg with the hand he held. Still, her head turned so that she could look down below. With the mechanical growling of the vertibird, she had no chance of hearing the dog bark now - she’d leave it to the youthful senses of her teammates for that.

“We should follow the direction of the wind from our landing spot.” she said at Owen quite suddenly, turning back to him with a serious expression before sighing.

Owen plucked a small cigarette tin from his chest pocket. “You don’t judge the page of a book by its number, do you?” he asked before lighting the spliff. “I’d direct the flight suggestions to our good pilot. Maybe soften the delivery a bit.” The scribe glanced back toward Lancer Brown. “Seems a bit shaken up to me.”

Patty held onto a rail overhead with one hand, laser rifle held in the other as she kept watch on the landscape unfolding below her. Content that they were free from danger - at least for now - she rejoined her crew in the belly of the vertibird. She looked down at the blood peeking out from Kinsley’s shoe.

“You hurt, doc?” she asked.

“Just a scratch…” Kinsley shrugged in response to Patty, removing a roll of canvas from her bag. She lifted her foot off the floor, and peaked between the torn fabric of her fatigues - the cut was still clean, and the blood was at least beginning to clot at the opening now. “Nothing a quick stitch can’t fix, speaking of…” she announced, pushing herself up from her seat, taking hold of the railing to walk steady to the cockpit.

When she was close enough, she dragged herself into the now free seat. “Brown,” she said with a nod. “You doing alright?” Kinsley asked, steadying her voice to carry over the noise. Sami nodded with a faux confidence and a tightened face. His face was battered and bloody - a head wound. Risk of concussion was high, and his leg and foot didn’t look in the best shape either. A break at worst, and a sprain at best. He’d come off badly from it all, and yet he was still doing his best to get them all the hell out of there. He was a good kid, and so Kinsley placed a hand as comfortingly as she could on his shoulder. “My thinking is you get your bird going west from where we landed, if the others are still alive, they’ll be in that direction…”

"Let's hope so", Sami replied grimly, with an ounce of unassured optimism. His decision to keep the Vertibird going low and slow was probably the smartest one. He heeded Kinsley's suggestion of heading west, it was sound logic. But truth be told, with how chaotic and disorienting the storm was, the rest of the crew could have been spat out in any given direction and they could have landed anywhere. They'd need a great deal of luck to come across the Paladin and the others, as the comms system wasn't functioning at the minute so they couldn't simply send out an enquiry over the radio. Sami kept his eyes peeled for signs of activity or evidence of the Knights' presence as they meandered above the barren landscape.

He glanced over to the melancholy doctor and remembered that they were down a four-legged companion who had essentially saved their asses. "We'll find him, or he'll find us, don't worry. He's a smart one, that dog of yours", he said to Kinsley, attempting to reassure her and get some spirit back into her eyes. He thought it best to distract her from her missing friend, so he continued with: "You seem to have handled yourself well back there. Better than me", subtlety gesturing to his ankle that had slightly swollen from his less-than-elegant descent following his miraculous repair job.

Kinsley gave a soft chuckle, “you did just fine. Got us flying again, and don’t you worry - once we find a safe place to land I’ll patch you up.” Her lips tightened into a slight smirk and she leaned closer to him, lowering her voice, casting a glance to any listening ears behind them. “I got a tiny bit of emergency vodka in my kit, maybe when we land I’ll give you a sip for your trouble. Don’t tell anyone about that though,” she continued, pointing a finger at him and dragging air in through her teeth. “Don’t have quite enough to go around, so that’ll be our secret.”

Sami huffed in amusement. Was Dr. Harper flirting with him? He wasn't sure if the lack of sleep or the shock to his system was making him see things that weren't there, because the doctor was notoriously unreceptive to the point of prudish. Many had tried to charm her, Sami had even attempted himself on a routine check-up long ago, but to little avail. Despite her stoic and sometimes interpreted as robotic personality, the doctor was quite attractive to most, with her slender frame and auburn locks adding to the factor, but nobody has succeeded in wooing her, as far as Sami knew. So perhaps Kinsley wasn't as okay as she stated, or maybe Sami was reading the situation completely wrong in his delirium. Regardless, his promiscuous instinct had already committed his next words. "I'm already enjoying your bedside manner, Doctor Harper", he retorted with a foxish grin and a twinkle in his eye.

The doctor's eyes narrowed, and she was almost confused herself until she brought herself back to the bleeding over his forehead and gave a cluck of her tongue. "Alright Brown, that's one hell of a concussion you've got... " Kinsley turned back to the window, looking down below them with an enervated sigh at the sprawling emptiness and mist, at the crater of hopelessness below them.

There was nothing to be found westwards, so Sami maneuvered the Bird to circle back around and head east

“Patty, you seeing that?” Owen asked, pointing outside with the spliff between his fingers. A bundle of tall, ruined buildings stood in the distance to the northeast. “Say we find one of those supposed ‘hot-beds of civilization’. Do you think they’ll accept us or receive us as a threat?”

Patty turned about. Holding onto an overhead handrail, she looked out over the wasteland towards the ruins of a once great city. Squinting, she could just make out the high-rise towers of downtown Boston. She shook her head and sighed.

“Not sure I’d want to find out quite yet. If DC’s been any indicator downtown is probably crawling with those damned supermutants, ghouls, fucking raiders too,” she spat, “There’s no telling if there are even decent folk out here, could be the Pitt all over again.”

“Maybe.” The scribe observed the horizon, its detail blurred by the distance. “I certainly hope you’re wrong on that.”

After a while patrolling the 10 or so kilometres surrounding the crash site, the crew began to lose hope of finding their compatriots. Maybe they died on impact. Maybe something sinister or hungry (or both) had found them before they had. Maybe they'd headed further towards the Commonwealth to finish the mission by themselves. How could Sami ever know? He couldn't fucking find them.

He sighed and leant back in the co-pilot's chair, exhausted, frustrated and lost as to what to do if they couldn't locate the Paladin and his merry band. Do they press on? Do they cut their losses here and now and head back to the Prydwen with their tails between their legs? Aside from Patty, the survivors were the least combat-oriented members of the squad. Surely they couldn't be expected to fulfil the parameters of a mission specified for at least 4 Knights with only 1?

As he pondered the consequences and circumstances of announcing defeat, a blip! coming from one of the panels instigated a curious frown from the Lancer. Sami leaned closer towards the screen, scowling with mouth agape from shock at the prospects of what it could mean.

Blip!

"Holy shit", he mumbled.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Lo Pellegrino
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Lo Pellegrino The Pilgrim

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Small sound, massive shift.

“That’s a beacon?” Owen asked, probably for the fourth time.

The lancer sighed loud enough for him to hear across the vertibird. “Yes, it’s a beacon. Keep asking me that and I’m going to think you don’t believe me.”

“I believe you,” the scribe replied. He stepped behind the co-pilot’s chair, observing Frank’s corpse in the seat beside them. “It’s just strange, you know? Why turn it on now? I mean, a beacon is meant to call for help. They didn’t just realize falling out of a vertibird was the ‘right time’.”

Working through the idea in his head, Owen began to nod. He turned back toward Patty and Harper. Neither made eye contact, which said a lot considering the limited space. The scribe raised his hands in surrender and gazed outside.

A bright red plume of smoke streamed up into the sky. Pink clouds loomed over a set of warehouses surrounded on all sides by trees, a paved lot that reminiscent of a medieval moat, and a number of broken down pre-war vehicles. There was dark smoke, too. An offensive, tarry odor clung to the air. Rubber and metal, burning.

They all understood. Not the details, of course, but the smell told them plenty.

Owen double-checked the utility ladders as Patty took sorted out the minigun. The good doctor studied them both in a way that made Owen stand a little straighter. Like they could even spare a body if Harper noticed something ‘concerning’. The vertibird began to rise, putting more distance between them and potential threats that seemed to be waiting.

“I got movement,” Lancer Brown reported.

Patty whistled. “It looks like that horde from earlier came this way,” she paused and her voice changed. “You think that means Chowder came over here?”

“Might have to rethink my feelings on dogs,” Owen chuckled. “Oh shit, I see them. One of them. Between the trucks, that’s power armor!”

“Preparing to fire,” Patty announced.

The barrels of the minigun spun to life, its whistle a warning for the crew. Owen could feel the pitched, metallic rattle of its report in his legs. He, like the others, watched as the relatively small, 5mm rounds came down like rain. Each drop causing a tuft of earth to burst from the ground like an orchestrated wave. The show culminated when the rounds found their targets: the remnants of the horde converging onto the warehouse.

They popped like balloons. Bits of meat, bone, and decayed flesh flung here and there. Their bodies torn apart by the barrage with little more than pulp and a bloody smear left where they stood.

Averting his eyes, Owen reminded himself the ghouls were feral. Wild, hateful things without a shred of humanity left in those rotten husks. The person was gone. Phantoms in place of people. He repeated this several times, trying desperately to push the image out of his mind. Whatever the ghouls were, they were entirely too human.

“Pretty sure that’s the knight-sergeant out there,” the lancer suggested, lowering the vertibird toward a clearing in the lot. “Looks like he cleared us a little spot. We should still make this quick.”

As if underscoring the point, Samuel touched down the vertibird. Patty stood poised for combat behind the minigun, her side overlooking the lot, while Owen’s old anxieties resurfaced. He stared at the warehouse with a hand on his pistol. He squeezed the grip when the big, barn-style doors rolled open. The doctor laid on his shoulder. Reassuring, grounding, and knowing.

Owen heard her gasp when the dog came running out first.

“Load up everyone,” Moss grumbled through the squad comm. “We’ve had enough surprises for one day.”

Owen and Harper helped the squad board until only two remained. The knight-sergeant finished off a ghoul apparently maimed during the battle, while the paladin waited impatiently. You could feel the tension. All of them overstimulated, senses keyed into anything that might hint of a threat.
The lancer turned in his chair. “Uh, sir?” Brown shouted outside. “I’m picking up some strange... vibrations, I guess. Something’s --”

First the thunderclap, then the wave of dust as ground opened. The front of the store and warehouse lurched forward, sinking like a foot pressed into wet sand.

Moss lunged for the vertibird, nearly ripping Owen’s arm out of its socket while climbing aboard. He glanced over Patty’s shoulder into the field. The knight-sergeant crept toward them painfully slow, covering little of the dozen or so yards between them.

“Take off,” the paladin whispered. He rushed to the co-pilot’s chair and repeated himself, this time louder. “Take. Off.”

A hush fell over the squad. Some protested loudly, others politely, and a few with silent disdain.

Then it appeared.

Faint movement in the haze caught their eye. Too obscured by the dust to know just what was coming until a clawed hand the size of a man’s chest swiped at the clouds. They didn’t need to see more to understand.

“Everybody hold on,” Lancer Brown warned.

The haze formed a ring beneath them as the vertibird ascended. Just wide enough to see Knight Sergeant McDowell standing on one edge of the haze and two deathclaws on the other. Patty turned the minigun, ready to assist, but as she took aim the vertibird continued to rise. Clouds rolled in from the edges, shrouding the deathclaws ready to pounce upon their prey and McDowell, who watched his last hope soar into the distance.




Conversation was short, visibility was good. Most kept to themselves, thinking back on the morning like a strange nightmare. Not the paladin, though. While they collected themselves, their leader kept busy looking for potential places to make camp and regroup. Posted himself behind the Lancer Brown, much to the pilot’s chagrin.

“The building over there, you see it?” Moss asked, but it didn’t sound like a question. “It looks like there’s even a landing pad. Put us down over there.”

Whatever the squad felt, they went back to work. A new location meant potential threats. Patty continued to man the left minigun, while Estevez and Grimshaw readied their rifles by the right doorway. In the back of the vertibird, the scribes readied their gear. Medical supplies to finally see to the squad’s wounds and reference materials to overcome any obstacles the pre-war structure might hold.

Moss approached right door as the vertibird landed. “Knight Brown, take Grimshaw and Algarín and check the perimeter. Make it a quick sweep for activity,” he instructed. “Kinsley and Lancer Brown stay on the bird. I want to know if we can rely on it for a longer trip. Estevez and I will clear the building.”

“Watch your back in there,” Owen cautioned, eyes focused on Estevez. When the point was made, he acknowledged the paladin. “Looks like an old military facility, sir. Not the most fortified from the looks of it, but you never know.”

Without another word, Algarín joined Grimshaw, and Patty outside of the vertibird.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Hank
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Hank Dionysian Mystery

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Their victory rang hollow and Laura’s joy turned to ashes in her mouth.

“No,” she said, her voice hoarse, as the vertibird began to ascend. Her eyes were fixed on McDowell, super sledge in hand, armor covered in blood and viscera. He had cleared the landing space, distracted the enemy sniper, dragged her out of the collapsing tunnel. He was stubborn, foolhardy and rude, but he was a brother. Wasn’t this a Brotherhood? “No!” Laura exclaimed, louder, and turned her head to lay the full weight of her accusatory gaze on the Paladin. Even within the confines of his unmoving armor, one hand on the railing to steady himself, she could see the stiffness in him. Something unyielding. He had made up his mind. She’d been so glad to see the vertibird and the others and shocked to learn that the pilot had passed, but all that paled in comparison to the emotions she was feeling now.

It would be so simple. One shot between the pauldron and the cuirass of the T60 power armor would shear his arm clean off; the Paladin would be dead within a minute. Then she could convince Lancer Brown to descend and rescue McDowell. For a long, horrible second she seriously contemplated the idea and her fingers tightened around the grip of her .50 caliber rifle. And then she looked away, the moment gone, her angry resolve broken. The Paladin was her commanding officer. Waiting for the Knight-Sergeant jeopardized the entire mission by exposing them to the risk of a lunging Deathclaw taking down the vertibird. It was his call to make, not hers. Her anger was replaced by fear. Now she knew what she was worth to the New Canaanite. What any of them were worth.

She trained her rifle on the landscape below, like a good soldier was supposed to, but she couldn’t see for the tears in her eyes.



featuring @Stormflyx


After the vertibird had landed, Laura jumped out of it and onto the ground below with a wince and a groan. Her sprained ankle, heavily abused during her frantic sprint back to the warehouse after Chowder’s arrival, was protesting vigorously to the idea of carrying her weight. The same fear she’d felt before crept into her chest again. She had to be able to keep up. Moss wouldn’t save her if she got left behind, she knew that much now.

She listened to the Paladin’s orders impassively and kept her gaze averted. When he was done, Laura glanced at Owen and Patty and pointed to her foot. “I need the doctor to take a look at this. Be with you in a minute.”

Hobbling over to where Dr. Kinsley was, Laura grabbed her attention with a halfhearted wave and conjured up a wan smile. She couldn’t hide the fact that she had been crying, however, and made no attempt to do so. “Good to see you made it in one piece, doctor. I got your message.” She had recognized her handwriting from the ‘prescription’ that she’d written Laura earlier. “Chowder’s a real hero, you know that?”

The doctor eyed Laura's walk, the slight drag of her foot with each step. Another sprain, she thought - and Moss wanted her to do a search of the area, she had tsked at the suggestion, but otherwise kept quiet on it. She wasn't going to further upset the apple cart. Still, Harper had readied her medical roll, and gave the young Initiate a small smile.

Laura's appraisal of Chowder's deeds was more heartwarming than she'd expected it to be. Harper cast a glance to him, curled up and resting now under her seat. She thought on how proud Alex and Victoria would have been to hear that. Their ever present ghosts occupying her mind, "he's a good dog," she said softly in response, the words catching in her throat.

"Sit," Harper said, indicating to an empty chair with a wave of her hand. The wetness and redness on Laura's cheeks and in her waterline did not go unnoticed. "I'm glad to see you too, Grimshaw. Are you alright?" She asked, her brows arching in a measure of concern, her voice lowered more than usual.

The Initiate did as she was told and sat down on the appointed chair. She did not reply to the doctor’s question at first and it looked for all the world to see like she was sinking, deflating, into the seat of old wood and long memories. Then she sighed and wiped at her cheeks. “Knight-Sergeant McDowell and I explored the warehouse before you guys arrived. We found those Deathclaws that came out of the ground in there, chained up to the wall, with a bunch of Super Mutants watching over them. It was so strange…”

Her voice drifted off until her eyes snapped back into focus. “They spotted us and I collapsed the tunnel behind us with my explosives during our retreat. I thought that would keep them down there, but I guess you should never underestimate a nest of Deathclaws, huh? Well, anyway, he pulled me out of the collapse after the blast knocked me over. I’d be paste if not for him,” Laura explained and she smiled faintly. There is work left to do. So stoic. “I’d be dead if not for Gregory. Big, stupid, brave Gregory.”

Cradling her sniper rifle on her lap, as if the cold metal of the killing instrument could somehow bring her any comfort, Laura shook her head. He got his hero’s death after all. “So, no, I’m not really alright, doctor. I’m sorry.”

Once the Initiate had sat, Harper drew down to her knees to better assess her. While placing her hands on Laura's ankle, the doctor listened to her words. As she began undoing the laces of her boot she continued to listen without comment or interruption, carefully taking the boot off and placing it beside them both. It sounded like they'd been through their own share of hell, and perhaps those left with the aircraft had been lucky. Would she have survived the conditions they had been in? Would Brown, Algarin, and Brown? She looked over towards them, watching them where they were. With a shake of her head she sighed.

"Don't be sorry," she eventually said, placing a hand on Laura's leg gently, giving her a faint smile as she turned her head to face her again. "Everyone is in shock, you're allowed to process this however you need to. Don't be sorry."

Laura was a grown woman, and yet when Harper caught her eyes, she saw a young girl, innocent of all of this and untouched by violence and the reality of survival in the wasteland. It was an injustice to the woman that Harper knew she was, and the woman who had apparently blown the tunnel… But it was something she couldn't switch off. No matter how much she tried. With tears in her eyes and a choked voice, she was a child again. She withdrew her gaze with another shake of her head, focussing again on Laura's ankle.

"I don't really want you walking on this…" Harper remarked with a click of her tongue. "But I can bandage it, and you can do your mission… But then you rest…" For a moment, she found herself holding her ankle, running a thumb carefully over the bruised skin.

It was comforting and a little surprising that Dr. Kinsley said there was no need to be sorry. For all of its strength, that kind of compassion and understanding was rare in the Brotherhood. But then the doctor hadn’t been for the Brotherhood for very long, either. They were both relative outsiders and newcomers. Laura nodded and cleared her throat. “Thank you, doctor,” she said, a little more power to her voice. She looked down at Chowder as well and her face broke out into an earnest grin.

“You should’ve seen him, doctor. He came running so fast, faster than anything I’ve seen, barking all the way, guiding those ferals flawlessly into the ranks of the enemy. We were under siege by raiders, you see. That’s where I got this,” Laura explained, and lifted the large rifle in her arms. “The Paladin sent me out to hunt down the enemy sniper. Chowder found me after I was done, and then we ran back to the warehouse together.”

She fell silent for a moment and looked back at the doctor. A frown had appeared on her face. “There was a moment, before that… before the Paladin sent me outside… it was like he’d lost it. He was talking about going back down into the tunnel, speaking incoherently, jabbing his finger at everyone. Then he recovered and came up with the other plan. I wanted to do it right to help him keep his cool,” she blurted out and the tightness of her jaw suggested what she thought now, in hindsight, of her concern for the Paladin’s state of mind. Then Laura sighed. “Well, anyway, Chowder did great.”

That was a cause for concern. So the Paladin had lost it? She glared at him while his back was turned, unaware that there was quite as much ice in the stare as there was. Harper bit at the corner of her lower lip before she got to wrapping Laura's ankle. The wound the heavy bandage tightly, and, considering that the Initiate had quickly moved the conversation on, Harper would too. But she certainly wouldn't forget it.

"He was probably just showing off," she huffed dismissively, waving a hand at Chowder. Her words were harsh, but there was an uptick of a smirk across her lips. "Poor guy is tuckered out now, excitement has caught up to him… I'll let him sleep while Brown and I fix up the bird here."

Laura laughed at that. “He’s earned it,” she agreed before looking down at her swaddled foot. It felt much better now that it had some support. She just hoped that it would still fit in her boot. “Looks good, doctor. I’ll do the perimeter recon and then take that rest you ordered.” The Initiate tucked her hair behind her ear and wiped at her cheeks and eyes again, exhaling a deep sigh while she did so. “How do I look?” she asked suddenly, keeping a neutral expression while she presented her face to the other woman for inspection.

"Rest, and elevate it," Harper added, with a finger pointed at the ankle. "See me afterwards. I'll stick you and Brown together… Two working legs between you…" she commented in less of a structured sentence, and in more of a spoken train of thought, giving her forehead a rub with the back of her hand. "And you look good, all things considered. Better than me…" she grimaced, the ghoul splatter still present on her person. "But that's a given, you've still got plenty of years of youthful glow ahead of you."

“Says the radiant twenty-seven year old redhead,” Laura joked with a smile. “That’s what you look like, at any rate.” Talking to Kinsley had made her feel much better even though it couldn’t blunt the loss of McDowell completely. It was good to know that there was somebody among the recon team that cared about her as more than just a tool to complete a mission with. She hoped the rest of them were more like the doctor and not like Moss. She put her boot back on, got up and tested her weight on her foot. It still felt a little sore but it would carry her just fine for now.

She placed a hand on the side of the vertibird. “See you in a minute, doc. Take good care of her,” Laura implored with a smirk and gave the machine a hearty slap.

“Oh! I almost forgot.” Laura lifted the strap of her laser rifle over her head and held out the entire weapon for Kinsley to take, along with the fusion cells that powered it. “Take this, just in case any creepy-crawlies come calling, alright?”

Harper held out her hands and took the weapon, her eyebrows raised and her mouth hung open. "Huh," she said, shrugging her shoulders in surprise. It was a fancy gun - or at least Harper thought so. Big too. Her eyes widened at it, and it made her wonder when exactly had been the last time someone had willingly given her something. "Well, gee, thanks kiddo," she added, turning the weapon over to observe it.

Eventually she nodded, and looked back to Laura. "Be careful on it. You start running you risk further damage, you fall on it you risk further damage… If it gets too much, turn back around." The serious tone was back, as if it had made her feel uncomfortable to sit in the happiness of a gift for too long. "Definitely no setting explosives…" Harper warned with a sharp glance.

“No explosives, no running, got it,” Laura grinned. She waved the doctor goodbye and returned to the others, a little bit of a spring back in her step.
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Odin
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Odin JIHAD CHIQUE ®

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A wide, arcing overhead swing put a swift end to the miserable existence of the rotting ghoul, it’s head not making quite the satisfying crack Gregory had hoped for and instead simply splattering like a melon, including the soggy wet noise of bodily fluids splattering all over the place. The roaring noise of the overhead vertibird alerted McDowell to their position, although he was a little busy to acknowledge them right away, having to turn right to smash an approaching ghoul reaver with his arm, smacking it to the side like it was nothing. As if the crew on board the vertibird knew what was occupying him, the sudden whirl of the minigun on board put a swift end to most of the ghouls around him, most of which just splattered into a gooey pool of limbs and radiated green blood.

He saluted them quickly, thanking them for their help, but it most likely went unnoticed in the midst of the battle going on. The vertibird put itself down on the location he’d cleared for them, and while Gregory made sure that a ghoul that he’d put down earlier stayed down, Moss approached the vertibird, getting ready to take off again. Gregory tried to follow suit, moving the power armour at a sluggish pace towards the machine meant to take them out of here, trying to fend off ghouls as they lunged at him from their dark corners between the trucks and cars.

Most of the crew had boarded by now, and McDowell was busy clearing the way while trying to keep most of the baddies away from the vertibird, drawing their attention so that the last few could board. Paladin Moss was waiting for him, possibly intending to be the first one in, and the last one out. If that were the case, fate was about to play a cruel joke on him and McDowell both.

The earth cracked, and the building sank a good few inches. Gregory paid no mind and soldiered on, not noticing the threat until it was too late. Those in the vertibird would spot it long before he did, so when he finally turned his head slightly to see what the loud thunderclap had been, he was staring right in the eyes of a deathclaw the size of two or three pre-war cars stacked on top of each other.

There were a few seconds between this realization and the first hit, and in those seconds, McDowell turned to face the paladin, who was now missing from his previous spot and had instead launched himself into the vertibird at record speed. McDowell couldn’t blame him for that, he’d want to get out of the way of such a large deathclaw too. He couldn’t quite make out what Moss was saying to the rest of the crew, but the vertibird began to lift, slowly at first, then quickly. There was no way he was making that.

There were at least a hundred things that were racing through McDowell’s head at that time.

Only one of these thoughts was loud enough for McDowell to face it.

The crew might’ve noticed a sudden hesitation and rush in his step when he was still trying to reach the vertibird, slowly as he was moving due to the lack of power in his power armour, but that changed when this one thought won primacy over all the others. He stopped dead in his tracks and instead turned around to face the deathclaw.

“FACE ME!” he yelled spreading his arms wide and taunting the creature, and though the comms were off, some might’ve sworn they could’ve heard him yell it. “FACE ME YOU LIZARD!” he yelled again, readying his sledgehammer. The ghouls were still swarming the place, and the deathclaw lazily smacked a few of them aside to get to the hulking Knight-Sergeant.

In the background, the vertibird was now airborne, and while they might have used the minigun to assist him, it remained eerily quiet. There was no 5mm from the spitfire barrels of the gun, no “ad victoriam” warcry from any of the crew, no sudden thud on the ground from Estevez or Moss launching down in their power armour to assist.

No, besides the deadly roar of the deathclaw and the equally loud warcries of the Knight-Sergeant, it was deadly quiet to McDowell. Was this... betrayal?

Despite the mechanisms of his power armour not being powered, McDowell managed to produce a deadly swing with his sledgehammer, the rockets of the weapon adding whatever force he needed to swing the weapon. One of the deathclaws launched itself at him at the same moment, and managed to hit him square in the neck, dislodging the knight-sergeants helmet and sending it flying off into the dustcloud left behind by the vertibird. The sledgehammer managed to hit the beast straight in the jaw, dislocating it with great ease, though that did not much more than anger it it seemed. And, as luck would have it, there was a second deathclaw not too far off.

They’d sealed the tunnel, and McDowell had assumed the deathclaws couldn’t tunnel fast enough for them to reach them this quickly. He had assumed wrong, perhaps, but there was little time to ponder that mistake now. All there was was blood and steel, and a long fight ahead of him. But there was no escape, only death, because even if he managed to beat two deathclaws in a single fight, the ghouls were still there, patiently waiting, and the raiders were most likely still out there too, licking their wounds and keeping an eye on the lone knight-sergeant while he fought for his life. No, there would be no recovery.

Knight-Sergeant McDowell turned on his feet and, assisted by the rockets of his sledgehammer, swung in a wide arc to cover his back after the second deathclaw had circled him. Once again he hit the creature in the face, not quite how he wanted to, and managed to daze the creature, sending it slinking back into the dust to seek another approach. “FACE ME!” he yelled again, turning around with a certain determination in his movement, yet not being able to shake the fear that a deathclaw could pounce from the smoke at any time.

He glanced into the air briefly, just long enough to see the vertibird disappear over the dust into the distance. So it was betrayal after all. The man whose rank he had idolized for all his years had left him behind like a disposable asset. He had abandoned his own second in command, for fear of two deathclaws. “Fuck you, Moss! FUCK YOU!” he said, out of breath and in a half whisper, once again turning on his feet to face the deathclaw that he had only narrowly seen from the corner of his eyes.

He was too late, the deathclaw crashed into him and grabbed him around the waist with those monstrously large claws, and held him up into the air, raising him just barely over the dustcloud. The only other bodypart of the deathclaw that was not shrouded by the dust was it’s head, and it roared at him viciously with it’s jaw hanging half loose.

By now the reality of the situation must have set in with McDowell, because all he could do was laugh. “You think you scare me, you overgrown piece of shit? RAAAAH!” he screamed back, his face uncovered. He tried to kick at the creature but there was no way he was reaching past the arm length of the deathclaw, who dangled him like a toy. Then, suddenly, McDowell was floating. No, he wasn’t floating, he was falling. With a sudden crash he landed against the wall of the warehouse, going right through it, and only kicking up more dust. The entire was turning into one big dust cloud, made worse when a section of the wall collapsed and the roof came down with it.

Once again, McDowell closed his eyes, and simply laid there like he had when they first crash landed. That time, Moss had gotten the rubble off of him and ‘saved’ him. It would be a little different this time. The same sounds, the same movements, but it wasn’t Moss’ T60 power armour helmet shining a light on him, it was the face of a hideous radiated monster. “You look much better like this, Moss,” Gregory told himself, “without the helmet, you ugly rat.” The deathclaw pulled him out of the rubble and instead threw him the other way, sending Gregory skidding through the dirt, much like the ragdoll raiders and ghouls Gregory himself had been throwing around earlier. He had the benefit of wearing power armour, but that didn’t protect him from hitting his now uncovered face on a rock. A sudden spike of pain burst through his entire head, and his nose now seemed to be bent in a few different places where it really shouldn’t have been bent.

When he finally came to a stop, he slowly tried to get back up, stumbling a bit, but finally managing to do so. He turned to face the deathclaws again, who appeared through the dust like stalkers. The one with it’s jaw loose was much larger, and seemed much more agitated. The smaller one might’ve been a female, or it was a younger one, and seemed to be following the lead of the larger alpha. It was weird. McDowell didn’t remember deathclaws working in pairs unless they were part of the same nest. And even then, finding two deathclaws working together in such an organized way was… weird.

“Haha,” Gregory managed to get out, leaning on his knee with one hand while trying to remain upright. He spat out some blood and wiped his mouth with the cold metal of his armour, which was by now bent and destroyed in a lot of places. “You think I’ll… cough… die that easily, you skinks?” Slowly he straightened his back, and stared the two deathclaws down. He had a deathwish, for sure, and this was a better way to die than most other ways. The broken nose hurt, his entire body hurt, he no longer had his sledgehammer. But what hurt the most was the fact that the man he had sought to take after had left him there. He coughed loudly once or twice, coughing up more blood, before laughing to himself. “Ha, I’ve killed entire groups of muties by myself, put them down like rabid animals, and this is how I die? Shameful, McDowell, shameful,” he told himself.

The deathclaws, on cue, both roared at him, sending bits of spit and saliva his way. Gregory raised his arm to shield his face, as if this was just a heavy wind, and lowered it quickly to fight, expecting the roar to be a prelude to an attack. But the deathclaws just stood there.

A sudden voice came from the dust, a voice that Gregory didn’t recognize. Was he hallucinating? “Is that true?” the voice said, deep and dark and definitely not one of theirs. “Entire groups of ‘muties’? Is that what you call us?” The figure came forward, and took it’s place in between the two deathclaws, putting its hand on their head, calming them down or controlling them somehow. His face was horribly malformed, covered in scars, but it was unmistakingly the face of a supermutant. Just… not one Gregory was used to. This one seemed to be more intelligent than even McDowell himself, speaking as if he was a human, not a mutant.

Slowly the figure stepped forward, and now that McDowell could see more clearly, the black rags and the metal plating revealed that he was one of the figures that he and Laura had seen in the tunnels prior. How was that possible?

“You’re-” McDowell pushed out of his throat before a horrible cough took over.

“Yes, I am. And you...” the figure answered, “will no longer be.”

When the figure approached even closer, Gregory tried to step forward and take a swing at the supermutant, not wishing to go down with his pants down, and instead wanting to go down fighting, perhaps kill the mutie before the deathclaws finished him off. But the mutant was faster, stronger, … better.

The mutant extended his arm rapidly and wrapped those cold, green fingers around McDowell’s neck, pulling him off the ground. Such strength! was all McDowell could think. Even in power armour, he didn’t think he could lift another person in power armour off the ground, and this supermutant did it as if it was nothing. McDowell struggled, fruitlessly, and the supermutant just stared him down. Finally, when McDowell stopped, his face showing how weary he was of the fight, the supermutant spoke again.

“I see,” was all the thing said, before throwing the knight-sergeant down into the ground and stepping on his face with a brute, resolute stomp of his foot. The lights went out, forever.
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Cazzer1604
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Take off. Take. Off.

The words hung heavy in Sami's heart, and caused his stomach to twist and turn and fold upon their repetition inside his head. The crew said little after the orders were spoken. The Paladin spoke them softly, yet with the weight of a thousand McDowells. Sami himself became a vessel, zombified in his reluctant compliance. He dare not refuse, not if Moss was so willing to toss aside his most loyal subordinate so easily.

His face was uncharacteristically stoic as he piloted the Vertibird, paying the skies ahead far more attention than he had previously. Lesson indeed learned. The past few hours had been a brutal whirlwind, and not one that Sami had prepared himself for, nor ever thought he's be involved in. There were a million things going through his mind, guilt first and foremost.
While under orders, he had left a man to die. He didn't know Gregory McDowell at all really, and he was not one to get overly-attached to strangers - a lonely life spent in the Wasteland quickly makes sure of that. But he had never directly caused a comrades death before, and not without so much disregard for it from what was meant to be the man ensuring their survival.

The whole event made Sami think. Like, seriously think about his situation, and what his priorities were. The question that had occurred to him before was exponentially more present now. What the fuck was he doing here?

Of course, none of his pondering escaped out of his mouth. The Paladin in question had positioned himself right behind Sami, scouring the horizon like a hawk, no doubt searching for the next landing spot that hopefully be less crash-y. Lancer Brown wanted to turn around and give Moss the what-for, he wanted so intensely to curse him out and rant at him for forcing Sami to hold McDowell's life in his hands, and throw it away as if he was one of the many feral ghouls the team had collectively slaughtered. But he remained silent, his caution around the commander reinforced, and his doubts about the Brotherhood and its fanatics heightened.

A gruff growl came from the space above Sami's head, sternly ordering the pilot to land on what looked to be some sort of military or emergency services outpost. The latter was more likely, as it's defensive capabilities were minimal, from what Sami could see.

The Paladin had predictably told Sami to stay put while the others explored and fortified. Sami mused at the fact that he and Kinsley were to stay behind. He would fix the machines, and she would fix the people. He felt that he had the easy job.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Andreyich
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Daniel lay where he was after being hit in the warehouse, largely ignorant to anything save the ringing louder than a point blank minigun report in either ear. It died down eventually, and with that came the realization of other things. The dizziness and blurriness assaulting his vision were a two pronged attack that made orienting himself nigh impossible. But he was just about able to make out the Paladin stepping out of the building. Hoping to follow him Daniel got upright, before falling down. Several such false starts recurred before at last he was on his feet. Now then, what was he up to? Oh, yes, following the Paladin. He didn’t notice the arrived horde of ghouls, nor the dust-raising Deathclaws. Getting to the Paladin and the Vertibird, yes that was the mission. It was weird what part of the soldier’s consciousness were working well and which ones weren’t, because the ones to notice this very fact were good as new, not to mention the ones hoping others wouldn’t see the almost drunken way he got to the chopper.

Only getting aboard was more of his mind liberated from his injury and he was becoming slowly aware that Gregory was being left behind from the rest of the squad. All the worse for poor McDowell’s fate, Daniel for now couldn’t process all this. “W...wait….” he managed weakly, the words stifled by a hysterical laugh. It would likely last longer than anybody hearing it through his helmet and the air would find comfortable, but eventually it ended with the young Knight asleep.




The lad opened his eyes, instantly noticing several changes in his environment. He was sans helmet, everything outside of the Vertibird was jetblack and he was alone in it. Except… there was that unknown lightsource making everything bright. “No… no. No-no-no-no-no-no!” he cried clutching his head as once more those he believed to be his ancestors materialized around him. His vision though was filled with the images of Gregory now being abandoned to an inevitable death. They were so sharp, the image of the man alone before mutated beasts as though right before him.

“Were we wrong?” a figure in T45 power armour demanded. “Were we wrong?” The phrase echoed through the hundred spectres going well past the confines of the vertibird. “Papa, why did you fail Gregory?” demanded a child by his feet. “Is it the same reason you will fail me?” the girl continued, the movement by words making it apparent a laser scorched her dead just above the cheek. The whole display made Daniel recoil with a high-pitched cry but his attempts to distance himself were in vain. The same man in ancient plate held him by one shoulder and his grandfather by the other. “You dishonour your blood.” The historical Knight said. “You bring shame upon your Brotherhood, upon the family name. You had all those books, all those lessons, all that training; shouldn’t you know better than to be a coward?”

Daniel was squirming in their grips, they were somehow painful through the power armour he himself was wearing. “Please I-” the young Knight started in his defence, but a chorus resounded: “Silence!”

“You disgusting creature.” This was Maria Livesey, another one of Daniel’s grandparents. “We died for the Brotherhood we died for our comrades and what do you do? You run! You cannot live with your failures, you wasted ever more time outside of the ranges on stupid trifles and to what end? You couldn’t hit a damn raider.”

“But-” the young man tried again, only to be cut off by who was apparently a Friar with a rock lodged in his throat. “McDowell, he was a hero. He put himself under the attention and weight of fire of all those heathens but you? You didn’t even attempt to return this act.”

A gob of spit came into the victimized Knight’s eyes, which when cleared revealed a bearded man donning a morion helm leaning upon a pike. “It should have been you, Daniel. It shames me to say it, and I would never have thought anyone else in history could think so. But I wish you my boy, my flesh, my progeny, I wish you would have died instead of the honourable Knight-Sergeant.” Tears were running down his face as if from a faucet, and through gasps for air Esteves just about managed to say “I’m sorry.”

”YOU’RE SORRY?” Daniel’s face was splattered in blood as a decapitated figure in familiarly massive T60 power armour raised him before thrusting him against the wall. He was face to face with a throat squirting more and more blood, but all the ancestors came closer to stare upon him so he could see every long dead pore.

“Is that really all you can say?” a voice hissed in his ear, one he couldn’t turn to reply to. “I don’t think he needs to. He was given everything, but he is worth nothing. Perhaps it better he doesn’t wake up, perhaps it better he no longer burdens his squad and squanders that which he bears?”

“Join us, boy. We would hate your company of course but do it nonetheless.” A voice said. “Oh don’t worry about it my boy, it is damnation for his ilk!” chimed in another. “It would be better than to go on defiling our memory.” His grandparents said as one. “An end to thy guilt, thy misery.” Boomed the plated warrior. Daniel looked down to see that - without any prompt - his recharger pistol had materialized in his hand. His hand was trembling, but through his partial (but present) consent it slowly rose reaching height of his breast. But this ever dramatic moment was interrupted a momentary shake bringing Daniel to consciousness.




He was in the Vertibird, but for real this time (or so he hoped). Daniel looked about, seeing they were landing somewhere and in anticipation of exploring unknown grounds the Knight loaded a fresh magazine into his M14, flicking the safety off. The man then disembarked from the vessel, giving a half-hearted “Yes-Sir.” at the orders he was given. He could still feel the effects of his self-diagnosed but likely accurate concussion, but for the most part he was physically much better for the sleep he had. “Lead the way Sir.” He said, tapping his headlamp alight only to remember it was broken and that same spot hurt alot. He cursed under his breath, sprinting for a second to catch up to the Paladin. “On to glory, Ad Victoriam.”
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Andreyich
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Mildly concussed but invigorated by all that had so recently transpired, Daniel stepped off to follow the Paladin in clearing the building as ordered. Yet, as he went after the man he found his trigger discipline very poor and the crosshairs of his M14 trained upon the neck of the Paladin. Back on the vertibird, he had without a moment of thought changed his rifle’s ammunition to armour piercing.

At some point after a room or two was checked to be free of foes and the pair was out of speaking-volume earshot of the squad, Daniel couldn’t hold it in anymore. “You had no right to do what you did.” He said, contempt dripping off of his voice.

Slow and groaning, Paladin Moss turned toward the young knight. “You really want to poke that bear, kid? It’s not too late. We both took some hits back there,” Moss offered before, scanning the large open space. An old mess hall, likely. “Maybe I misheard you. Because if I didn’t, well, I might need to rethink your field promotion.”

"Do you even-" started the reply of Daniel, the accusatory words rehearsed several times in his head. Only as his sentence stopped did he come to realize what the Paladin had said. A whole speech was prepared in the green warrior's head about how Moss by his actions spat on his holy book, about how the Brotherhood of Steel was known as a Brotherhood for a reason and that as Paladin he was to be the most gallant and chivalrous of them all. But in five sentences all those words were swallowed and forgotten. "A-a promotion?" he stuttered. Really, climbing the ladder to eventually become Paladin was one of the few things in life Daniel wanted.

He stopped in his tracks, his attitude to the Paladin changing in moments as he was played like a fiddle. But… Something in the Knight's head rebelled. Something that told him to heed the meaning of his rank, to remember who he was and why. That something fought hard and eventually it did manage to push through after compromise with the rest of his mind. Daniel clutched his head as a pang of suffering came from what was his concussion, but felt like his guilt and consciousness. It settled down though, and through heavy breathing the Knight asked the Paladin a question. "Alright, alright… just, please, Sir. Be honest with me. If you were in a similar situation where us coming to get you was a great risk for the whole squad, would you understand if we left you behind the same way to save ourselves? Does… Does God forgive us for what we did?"

The question hung in the air. Moss glanced over his shoulder at the unexplored halls and corridors of the facility, which while unknown seemed almost certainly empty. It was a small compound. Perhaps an outpost to stage civilian rescues or some other purpose far removed from combat. No distractions. No escape from the question.

“With my heart I believe and am justified,” the paladin recounted, his voice little more than a sigh. “I walk the path of the Lord, which shall never be put to shame.”

Placing a hand on the young knight’s shoulder, Moss sighed, “A leader must act. There is no room for doubt. Remorse is an intoxicant we cannot afford.” He stepped back and gestured to the entrance. “This place will do for tonight. Rally the squad. We’ll make camp here. Get our bearings and regroup. Once everyone is collected I’ll announce your new role as knight-sergeant. Before you go,” the paladin paused. “Initiate Grimshaw seems surprisingly capable. A skilled sharpshooter. Not the worst role for a female knight, I think. You think she’s ready?”

The Knight's breathing got heavier with every syllable of the Paladin, a hope his words would bring some sort of resolution to all the thoughts going through Daniel's head. He was about to give a salute, before the Paladin asked him a question.

"Well, Sir," he began thoughtfully. "she is a great shot sir, yes. Quick thinking too. I wouldn't have suggested it unprompted but I have no reason not to, now that you mention it. Your judgement, I suppose. Ad Victoriam." he gave the planned salute, before turning on his heels to call the rest of the squad inside.

“Ad Victoriam,” Moss replied before beginning preparations inside.

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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Cazzer1604
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As the rest of the team got themselves on their way under Paladin Moss's orders, only Dr. Kinsley and Lancer Brown stayed behind, and of course the hero of the hour, Chowder, remained sleeping in a cubby hold within the vertibird that he'd found. The doctor tracked them all as they left, standing in the doorway of the ship, her hands in the pockets of her fatigues, fingers idly twitching within the fabric.

When they were gone from her sight, she turned on her heel and made quiet steps back to Lancer Brown in the cockpit. Surely at the forefront of everyone's minds was the note that had soured the relative success of the rescue. That McDowell had been left behind. She'd already tried to soothe Grimshaw over it, and there was certainly a tension simmering between their Paladin and her fellow Senior Scribe.

Still, she and Brown had a task of their own, but she gave him a scrutinous look. Tracing him from head to toe with her watchful eyes. "Alright," she began, removing a hand from a pocket, placing it flat on the back of the pilot's chair. "Shoes off."

Sami was lost deep in thought before the doctor once again came over to visit him at the helm. He blankly stared at the grating in the metallic flooring of the Vertibird, with thoughts of anger, guilt and despair rattling around inside his shaken mind. When the doctor snapped her orders, Sami shifted back to reality, startled at the command. As he came to and realised what she meant, he lightly chuckled and joked in reference to his stripping, "Wow. You get me alone for two minutes, doc…"

As he remarked, he unbuckled his boots, only to experience a fair amount of unexpected difficulty with removing the right one. Clearly, his ankle had swollen. What a battered and bruised bunch the squad had become, and they weren't even where they were meant to be yet. He winced and groaned as he gently but impatiently removed the brown leather casing that engulfed his pained leg. Eventually, it gave way, revealing a dark wool-covered blob that was meant to be his ankle and foot, noticeably larger than its unharmed sibling attached to his other leg. Presumably, Dr. Harper had asked him to remove both so she could compare what the injured foot was meant to look like, but he did so because it was what she told him to do.

Removing the socks were much easier, though smellier. His rushed morning had not left him much time for showering, a reality that he regretted more and more as the comforts of his Prydwen cabin lay further and further behind them. Presenting his swollen ankle to the doctor for inspection, Sami looked upon her eyes, which were relatively soulless and solemn, even moreso than normal. He didn't know Kinsley's story, but she obviously had one to tell, and it didn't seem like a particularly happy one. He didn't probe her for it now, though. It wasn't the time. But Sami did feel the closest to her on an emotional level, having spoken to her the most. Otherwise, he'd only really had a chance to get to know Frank, and look how that turned out. He hoped that his choice of companions weren't correlated to their untimely deaths, not only because of how woefully misfortunate that would be, but also because he was very fond of the doctor so far. She was kind and compassionate, despite the fact her presumably tragic worldly experience was probably telling her not to be, and she was brave and competent and many other good things. But most of all, she was human. Unlike the caricatures and gung-ho soldier types that made up the majority of the Brotherhood's ranks, Kinsley had something about her that Sami respected. She was different, and not like the others. Perhaps they were kindred spirits in that respect.

"So, what's the damage?", the Lancer inquired, not expecting good news.

“Well,” Kinsley began with a long sigh and a tilt of her head as she inspected him with narrowed eyes. “It isn’t broken,” - there was little optimism in her voice however, as she placed two fingers either side. It was incredibly swollen, more so than Grimshaw’s. “Probably not a fracture either,” her lips pursed. She wasn’t all that equipped to deal with it, and it’s not like they were in the best circumstance for her to be able to take her time. To x-ray him, apply a splint, some ice - have him on rest.

No, they had a ship to fix and fly - potential dangers lurking. All that Kinsley could do was prevent it from being injured further, and treat it correctly in the quiet moments such as this.

She couldn’t yet shake free the image of McDowell from her mind, the absolute hopelessness he must have felt had been written all over him during his last stand - but, he at least held the line. She tried to avoid thinking too much about how it would have been to have been in his position. That kind of violent death was not the kind she was drawn too, a quicker one was preferable. Still, McDowell had been their Knight Sergeant, and now he was under the rubble. What was on everyone's minds was of course, that Moss called it - and his manner of doing so.

Would he call it on her one day?

It was a raw and confronting thing to think about, and now was not the time for her to be having such bleak and spiralling thoughts. She averted her gaze from Brown’s ankle while she grabbed more of the same bandage she had used on Grimshaw. She looked at Brown, the worry in his expression, and yet still he had something of a kindly energy about him. Like whatever the news was, he’d still carry himself with a spring in his step because that’s how he was built. That he’d take it on the chin and keep going for the sake of everyone else. Kinsley realised in that moment just how important he would be -- far beyond the skills he displayed as a pilot and mechanic.

Of all the team members, she knew Brown best. Or, she’d encountered him many more times than anyone else. Usually with a different woman each time, always smiling though. It was easier to be annoyed by that in the relatively safe confines of the Prydwen, where trivialities like that mattered. Here? Not so much. She was somewhat loath to admit it to herself, but she was glad that Brown would be the person she’d likely spend most of her time with. He wasn’t difficult, intrusive, or aggressive in any way, or on a power trip that seemed to be something of a commonality in the Brotherhood. Samuel Brown was so laid back, he was practically horizontal. Yet, she still sensed that something was amiss with him.

As she got to bandaging his leg, pulling tight for good compression, she glanced sidelong at him. “Your ankle will heal, and I’ll clean up your forehead there - is everything else alright?”

Sami looked up and into Kinsley's eyes, always assessing, forever diagnosing. She knew that something was gnawing at his mind. Was it that obvious?

If it was anyone else, he'd simply say 'I'm fine' and try his best to leave it at that. But he trusted Doctor Harper. And he couldn't trust anybody else to be anything but a good, loyal, die-hard Brotherhood soldier who might have court-martialed him at what he said next.

Sami huffed, shook his head slowly and leaned back in his chair, taking a defensive-looking stance, planting one hand on his knee to support his back. He swallowed and took a deep inhale that doubled as a sigh before replying.

"I just left a man to die. I didn't have much of a choice, I couldn't have refused, but I did it." Sami paused, but Kinsley didn't say anything, she simply listened to what was to come, so he continued. "And I feel fucking awful about it. McDowell was a big, angry man, and I don't think we'd have been best buds. But I effectively killed him."

"And Moss… Moss didn't even give a shit! He's said nothing since. Nothing." The Lancer was letting his emotions increasingly line his words as he ranted. "Not an apology, not a justification. Not even a 'these things happen squad, but we need to stay strong. Ad Victoriam!". He mocked the Paladin for that last part, even mimicking the salute. "It's like any of us are expendable to him, like he'd let us all die, head back to HQ and chalk it all up to 'bad intel'".

Sami sighed again. "I thought the Brotherhood was meant to be different. I joined so I wouldn't have to look over my shoulder, because we watch each others' backs". He hesitated saying the next part, because the realisation had set in midway. "But if we're all as expendable as McDowell is, then I'd rather be back to surviving on my own. At least then there's not a false pretence of security and trust."

Rant over, Samuel waited for Dr. Harper's reaction. Perhaps he'd let too much of his mind slip. He considered the possibility that the Paladin was just within earshot, and what he'd do if he barged in with the knowledge of what Sami just said. But he didn't feel like he was the only one with these frustrations. At least he hoped so, otherwise this was going to be one lonely and potentially deadly mission for the Lancer.

For a while, Kinsley said nothing. She simply let him level his breaths again, and when she was sure he was done she relaxed her posture and took a seat on the floor beneath him, sucking in a breath through her teeth. "Well I'm glad you didn't let that one stew." Her brow quirked up, and she tilted her head back until it touched the edge of the control panel.

"It wasn't your fault, Brown," she said while maintaining eye contact with him. Her countenance somewhat stern - clinical. Like it was all she could do to manage her own feelings. A slight veneer of disinterest but her tone told a different story. It was warmth enough to take the bite out of the air around them. "You didn't let him die, you didn't kill him. It wasn't your fault. I need you to know that." Kinsley ran the back of her hand over her forehead again, blinking slow.

"Moss… Is under pressure, no doubt. We're on this mission and we all know that it could well be a one way trip. McDowell knew that too…" Kinsley said with a forlorn sigh, trying to be as diplomatic as possible considering the situation.

Brown wasn't wrong though, Moss hadn't acknowledged the grief that hung like a stormcloud, threatening to burst. Moss hadn't said a word about McDowell, and from what Kinsley could gather - the man had performed some heroics. She'd spent her life breaking awful news to families. She would forever be a part of their life, the first ripple of grief for them. There needed to be sensitivity in those moments. Seeing the Lancer so furious was unexpected, and his anger had been formed in a place inside him he probably didn’t like to dwell around in.

She turned her head to where Frank had been sat. They'd lost two people, two brothers - and not a damn thing had been done about it.

She held a breath, pinching the bridge of her nose as her eyes closed tight momentarily. It was exhausting. Kinsley was exhausted. Everyone was already exhausted. They needed something for morale. Brown needed something for morale. “If Moss can’t say something for our fallen, that doesn’t mean you have to be silent. Take that feeling you have here-” she brought a closed fist to her chest, her eyebrow arched and her expression harboured an altogether different kind of seriousness. “Take that, and use it to honour McDowell, and Frank too… To celebrate the lives they lived.” She then seemed to deflate a little after her words and she broke her gaze to close her eyes. “He didn’t die because of you. You didn’t kill him.”

The doctor's gentle voice soothed Sami's emotional irritation. She had tried to put a positive spin on it, of course, but she was trying to polish a fresh steaming pile of brahmin shit. He still felt guilty for his actions despite what she had said, but he knew he'd get over it, eventually. What mattered was going forwards, and making sure he never had to do such a thing again.

Her last suggestions sparked an idea in Sami's head, something had to be done that wasn't particularly pleasant, that everyone else had neglected to do. Well, at least something that the Paladin clearly didn't give enough of a shit about to order its doing.

Frank was still slumped lifeless in the chair, his grey corpse stained red. Sami looked over to him, and he could feel Kinsley realising his intentions in his peripheral. Sami shook his head in disapproval of the loss of the pilot, the man whose quick thinking and flying skill had saved the lives of four members of his crew. He was a good man, and he deserved a decent funeral. As he considered this, Sami could feel the immense weight of the photograph Frank had given to him in his last moments. It was all a damned shame.

Turning to Kinsley, he asked gravely "would you care to help me to move his body outside? The repairs can wait."

"Of course," Kinsley answered quickly, bringing herself back around from her tired state with a shake of her head. "I'll try and take most of his weight," she offered as she stood up - placing gentle hands on Brown's ankle again, even bandaged as tightly as it was, it was still badly swollen. "Then after that I want you to keep your foot up. I'll need to see to your head too, but let's clear this first, okay?" Sami nodded in agreement, he wasn't going to argue with her.

Kinsley gave him a smile, and it wasn't just for show. She was relieved to have calmed him for now. A funeral was a good way to hold onto their humanity. "And Brown…?" She said, with a slight change to her cadence. The doctor realising she didn't need or want to feel so shy and aloof around the Lancer. "I'll have your back. Don't know just how much good that is, but I'll have it. Chowder too."
Sami smiled at the promise. Sometimes, such words could be empty and insincere, but not in this instance. The doctor had a good heart, and he felt comfort in being able to confide in, and maybe even truly trust in her comradeship. And Chowder's loyalty was unarguably the most solidified certainty Sami had even known. The pilot glanced over to the sleeping canine, now so at rest and peaceful compared to his antics earlier that day. "I appreciate that Dr. Harper. But hopefully you won't need to."

Kinsley cleared her throat and moved behind Brown in the chair, placing a hand on each of his shoulders, "come on then, let's get to it… We'll even toast this hero off," she suggested in a whisper-like voice, rubbing the Lancer's shoulders some, as if it would relieve whatever anger may have been left - or maybe it was simply to make the man feel good before a shit job.

They managed to carry Frank through a combined effort of lifting, shimmying, dragging and hobbling. But sure enough they managed to get the corpse to a digable patch of dirt. Fortunately, it had seemed to have rained here fairly recently, so the earth was moved easily enough. Sami did most of the shovelling, shrugging off Kinsley's protests that he shouldn't spend too long on his feet. He needed to do this, and the doctor had already done more than her fair share. They didn't have time for six feet, so they had to settle for three, give or take. No doubt molerats or ghouls would smell and find Frank's body anyway; this whole thing was more of a morbid formality than anything.

They rolled Frank into the ditch, and re-covered the haphazard grave as quickly as they could. The late pilot's death was rushed, it was only fitting that his ritual of passing be the same, as sad as that may be. Sami struggled to find any words after the burial was finished, and neither could Kinsley.
Instead, the doctor had offered the vial of vodka that she had stashed in her medical, and the two chinked bottle and mug as Sami finally found the courage to say something in memoriam.

"To a good man'', he murmured, with a tear creeping out and trickling down his cheek. The two necked the vodka, it's warm sting a welcome feeling amidst the numbness the situation had fostered. Kinsley once again felt it necessary to place a supportive hand on Sami's shoulder as they turned and walked away, yet again accuracy assessing the need for a comforting human touch.

Scratched into the makeshift gravestone were the words:

Frank McCarthy.
Pilot. Saviour. Father.


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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by lavenderdame
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lavenderdame

Member Seen 11 mos ago

Feat. @Lo Pellegrino & @Hank

A quick sweep. Whatever Owen thought of the paladin, it was an apt description. They landed several yards left of the structure itself. Between them and the building there was an old, rusted over fence, some sandbags, and a low walls designed to protect people from falling into the river rather than deterring intruders. Behind all of it was, of course, the river. There was a ramp as well as stairs leading down onto the pier, though they’d need to get closer to see more.

Rubbing his temples, the scribe turned to Patty. “I can’t do this,” he groaned. “Paladin Moss just abandoned McDowell. How are we supposed to just move on from that?”

Grimshaw appeared around the corner before the knight could answer. Owen didn’t know the initiate as well, but it was too late. He’s been too careless with his volume and she’d undoubtedly heard.

Hearing the Scribe’s words put a moment’s hesitation in Laura’s footsteps -- not because she disagreed with them, but because she was surprised to hear someone else voice the same feelings. Laura glanced between Algarin and Knight Brown as she stepped up to them, hesitated some more, and decided to speak her mind. “I don’t know. I was hoping you guys could tell me,” she muttered.

Patty shook her head and kept an eye out around the building - part to make sure it was clear of danger and part to keep an eye out for Moss or eavesdroppers.

“You don’t move on from losing a brother,” she said, “It’s something that sticks with you, and it should stick with you. We shouldn’t have left as soon as we did. Even if McDowell was a lost cause we could’ve at least fought. When we were in the bird I almost had the shot on those fucking deathclaws before we took off.”

She took a long, deep breath and reflected on the scene that had just played out hours earlier. McDowell was surrounded by raiders, ghouls, and finally by two deathclaws. It was a gruesome scene to behold: he was a Goliath who struggled against man, beast, and machine before the wastes consumed him. She knew the situation was hopeless. What could they have done - realistically? He was so far away from the rest of the team, over-extended and undersupported. He shouldn’t have been out there solo.

Patty knew the dangers of going alone. She was rudely reminded of that lesson herself that morning when she was bogged down in a mass of ghoulified bodies. It was her pride, her need to prove that knights rose to the occasion that put her out in front. If it weren’t for Dr. Kinsley’s bravery, she could’ve as well been KIA as well. They all could have. That was the point of a Brotherhood - you had to be able to rely on your brothers to get the job done. McDowell didn’t have that.

“Why was McDowell alone?” Patty asked aloud, the question was clearly meant for Initiate Grimshaw, “What were his orders?”

Brow raised, the scribe pursed his lips. “It’s hard to imagine, but maybe knowing what the hell happened back there would give this whole thing some color,” Owen conceded. He scanned the area before waving a hand. “Mind filling us in?”

"Sure," Laura said. "When we first crashed near the warehouse the Paladin ordered McDowell and myself to reconnoiter the interior. We discovered an underground tunnel that led to a cave where we saw those Deathclaws, and what looked to be their Super Mutant masters." She paused briefly to let those words sink in. "We collapsed the tunnel and returned topside when Estevez radioed for backup. Raiders were attacking the Paladin and himself. Ultimately the plan was that McDowell would distract the raiders and draw the enemy sniper's fire while Estevez and myself were to hunt him down."

Laura held up her new rifle again, unable to repress the pride she felt. "That was a success. That's when Chowder and the ferals arrived, however. I returned to the warehouse with him to deliver the doctor's message to Paladin Moss. McDowell remained outside, on his own initiative," she explained. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. She didn't want to throw their comrade under the bus but she also wanted to rationalize what had happened… and she had to be truthful.

"You should know that there was something wrong with the Knight-Sergeant's armor ever since the crash. I don't know if it was a core or a servo problem or whatever, but he had to fight to get it to move the whole time." Laura paused again and looked at Patty and Owen in turn. "He never mentioned this to the Paladin." She bit her lip. "But Moss knew what was down there. He knew what was coming up. I told him myself. I think that's why he ordered the lift off."

Owen blinked. “Okay, not sure what to make of the underground mutant and deathclaw thing. The situation was definitely more complicated than I thought,” he admitted, rubbing a finger against the stubble on his chin. “But it still sounds like Moss left McDowell behind. I think Patty’s right. We could’ve done more and, hell, who’s to say this won’t happen again?”

“It’s a lesson learned,” Patty said, “The wasteland is damn near as ruthless as a teacher can get, but she teaches nonetheless. From now on we can’t afford anyone going off solo and acting the hero.”

Patty looked between the two of them and shook her head, “It’s a damn shame what happened to McDowell, but we have to learn from his mistakes. If you need something, speak up, alright? We have to stick close to our brothers. We can’t afford another casualty. If you need me for anything, let me know, I’ve got your backs.”

Patty glanced around the courtyard of the Coast Guard building, taking it in fully for the first time since beginning the patrol. A few rusted out, prewar vehicles sat long-vacant in the parking lot. Patty glanced inside their hollow interiors. It was hard to imagine now how one of these could have ever run. Inside one sat a skeleton, held together by some unknown force, frozen in a moment in time like a fly in amber. Atop its off-white dome sat a dusty hat, white, with a black band around the base. On the band were written the words “Coast Guard.”

Patty reached into the car and took the hat from atop the former Coast Guard serviceman, dusted it off with her hand and raised it towards the other two, “Coast Guard. Pretty neat, huh?”

“You should talk to Paladin Moss,” Owen suggested, for the first time seeing Patty as Knight Brown. “He might listen to you. Not just because of your experience, but you get it. Knight’s don’t just wear armor and pull the trigger. They represent something. I see that. He must see it. Maybe it’ll remind him.”

Patty sighed, her attempt to create a moment of levity didn't seem to take hold. She nodded to Owen and acquiesced.

"I'll try to get him alone and talk to him," she said.

Forcing a smile, the scribe looked over the river. Followed its flow a while before turning toward the building. “I don’t see anything off here. Curious what they found inside though. I could go for a beer right about now.”

Laura was relieved to know that it seemed that her comrades were determined to be people that she could count on. If it was just Moss that was so cold and ruthless and the rest of them watched their backs, she felt that they would be alright. “Me too,” she said and smiled at Owen. “Let’s go and report to the others.”
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Odin
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Odin JIHAD CHIQUE ®

Banned Seen 4 days ago

He remembered being dragged down, his eyes opening and closing while he passed in and out of consciousness. He remembered strange unknown voices, voices he’d never heard before, voices that seemed rough and coarse against the background of the scraping of his body against the hard soil beneath him. “Yes captain, right away,” one of the voices responded to a jumbled mess of orders. Slowly he closed his eyes again, fading out of consciousness again.

Minutes later he came to again, his eyes fluttering open. He tried to move, to push the creatures in front of him away from him, but his hands and legs were restrained, his arms tied behind his back rather tightly. The creatures paid no mind, and instead were focused on trying to take the heavy metal off of him. They tugged and pulled on him but couldn’t get it to come loose. It did not take long for more brute methods to be used as they began prying metal sheets off of him where they could. “Hey,” he groaned, “stop that,” but it fell on deaf ears and the only one that seemed to hear raised his hand quickly and brought it down on his face. Asleep, again.

He came to in a cell, still restrained, surrounded by dead bodies. The restraints were still there, so he could do very little other than look around. He glanced down and noted that, for the most part, they had been unsuccessful in their attempts to undress him. Bits were missing here and there, but for the most part it was intact. Why was he still here? “Hello!?” he called out, his voice coarse and incapable of reaching much further than the door. His throat felt like it had been destroyed, sandblasted to death. No answer came -- he was alone. He struggled briefly against the restraints, to no avail, and ultimately resigned to resting his head against the metal walls. Being in prison had never felt so calming, he had to admit. A far cry from what he’d expected jail to be. He closed his eyes, and let his body take control.

Suddenly, after what felt like a few seconds, but was more than likely a few hours, his eyes shot open again. He was choking! No, he wasn’t choking, he was drowning! He flailed wildly, his eyes moving around looking to see what was going on, his arms reaching around for any kind of steady object to grab onto. This body, it wasn’t his. It moved so differently, it felt bigger, unnatural, like it didn’t belong in this world at all. Was he dreaming? Hallucinating? What had they done to him? Was this… the Brotherhood? All he could see was darkness, the surroundings blinded by a glaring white light above him. He was holding his breath, but there wasn’t much time left, his lights would go out soon if he didn’t find a way to get out of there.

With a heavy thud his fist landed against something, the blow cushioned by the fact that he was under water. Glass? He pulled his fist back again and tried to hit it again, but had no luck. He was sinking now, and felt his feet touch the bottom of the pool, even though he was nowhere near tall enough for that to have happened. Not caring to pay mind to that now, he pushed off, and tried to launch himself up to the top of the pool. Perhaps he could get out that way.

When he came up, he opened his mouth to gasp for air, but all that came out was a loud roar. “RAAAR!” His arm wrapped around the edge of the pool, and he climbed out, throwing his leg over the edge as well before rolling out of it, throwing himself over the edge and landing on the metal grating of the observation deck. His voice was not his own, either. Everything had changed, up was down, down was up, and nothing was as it should be. Coughing out the water that he had taken in during his forceful awakening, he noticed that the water wasn’t blue, but green.

In the distance, sounds of gunfire alerted him. As he rose to his feet, he noticed that someone or something had been watching him. A giant hulking figure clad in metal armor, though ‘giant’ was now a lot more relative than it had previously been, because when he rose to his feet, he was even larger than the figure that had been watching.

“Nice to see you survived. I suppose the captain was right, after all,” the figure remarked, his voice coarse, rough, not the sound of a human but of something else, different. The flow of the sentence was too intelligent to be a mutant, so perhaps this was something new, something unfound and unexplored, a new breed of… something. “Only the strongest make it through,” he followed up, as if that was meant to be some sort of consolation. The figure finished penning something down on a paper in his clipboard, before turning away and heading to a door. Before he disappeared from sight, he gave a singular order, “follow me.”

He had little choice but to do as he was told, and so he stepped forwards towards the door. His footsteps were heavier, shaking the metal observation deck. Bits of metal clung to his skin, but he did not feel ready to look down yet, not ready to quite see what he had become. Perhaps he didn’t want to know the answer.

When he turned the corner into the corridor, it turned out to be roughly what he had expected. The hallway seemed to resemble some sort of pre-war facility, built with great care and in a much more efficient way than they could manage nowadays. It was empty, though. The figure continued moving ahead, moving with great purpose and dedication, knowing exactly where he wanted to go. In the light of the hallway, it became more clear what he was, the green skin betraying his identity.

“You’re a mutant,” he slowly said, stopping dead in his tracks in the hallway. It didn’t make sense. Why wasn’t he dead? “You’re a mutant. And so am I.”

The mutant stopped as well, and turned around, and unlike a human who could just turn their head slightly, he was forced to pivot his entire upper body just to look at the man speaking to him. Well, man, just like height, that term had now become relative too.

“Yes, we are. You seem surprised,” the mutant commentated. “Which is normal. I remember my turning. You should consider yourself lucky -- not all strains are as forgiving as ours.”

“Strains...? What do you mean?”

The mutant laughed that characteristic super mutant laughter. “You’re from the Capital Wasteland, aren’t you? You’ve seen our ‘brothers,’ you’ve seen what they are, or more specifically, what they are not. They have no retention of their memories and their brains seem to shrivel up as a result of their turning.”

“I… don’t understand.”

“You don’t need to. Follow me.”

The supermutant turned again and walked away, and he followed him, because there was no alternative. It felt too much like a fever dream to be real. Was this what death was like?

As they turned yet another corner and walked in through a door, the area revealed a large open space that was retrofitted into a training grounds, where several groups of supermutants were training together, engaging in hand-to-hand combat, shooting practice, and other forms of combat training. On a viewing deck above, a supermutant stood dressed in slightly different gear. He recognized this supermutant. And it seemed the supermutant recognized him too.

The supermutant that had originally guided him there ushered him up the stairs, only remarking, “the name’s Alistair,” before sending him off and returning to his duties. Compared to the other supermutants, he was dressed inappropriately, only wearing the shredded remains of a white labcoat. Whether it was his or it had been looted from somewhere was a mystery. It was unthinkable that a supermutant would be intelligent enough to retain use out of a labcoat, however.

He climbed the stairs to go meet this supermutant that was different from the rest, and when he stood in front of him, he did not quite know what to do, and instead just waited for some sort of introduction.

This supermutant sized him up, looked him up and down, before raising his hand and placing it onto his shoulder. “What is your name,” the supermutant asked.

He was owed an answer, for he could not conjure the memory of his own name. All he could remember was fighting and death. Blood and guns. Rust and steel.

“I don’t know,” was all he could muster, “I don’t remember, all I can see is...”

The supermutant rudely interrupted him, not wanting to hear the rest of the story it seemed. He took his hand off his shoulder and looked out over the training grounds. “I’ve heard that story often enough to know that you know nothing for now. The turning is still fresh, your memories will return. But you, you are forever changed. Your new name is Ares.”

“Ares?”

“Look at yourself,” the supermutant said, gesturing towards his back where a reflective window sat in the wall.

Ares walked closer to it and inspected himself. It was true, he was forever changed. He was larger, bulkier, stronger than he remembered. His hair was gone, his beard was gone, and his nose was severely bent, and despite that did not hurt, not anymore. “What did you do to me…?” He raised his oversized hands, larger than they had been even before, and touched his face. It was unmistakingly his own, as most of the features that were him before were still there. But it was also not him. Not his body, not his face, not his voice, not his memories.

There came no reply to the question, which was most likely for the best. Instead, an explanation followed. “Overwhelming, insatiable in battle, destructive, and man-slaughtering. That is Ares. That is you. You will fulfill your new purpose not because I ask you to, but because you are this purpose.”

Ares still could not believe what had happened to him. He dropped his hands back down to his side, and slowly sized himself up. The exoframe of the power armour he’d worn still clung to his body like a cage, and on the front of the armour, the plating of the T-51B power armour was still attached, embedded into his skin. Below the insignia of the Brotherhood, the carving “Ad Victoriam” that he’d scratched into it himself remained. A pitiful and distasteful reminder of what once was.

This realization filled Ares with anger, and he turned around, having found new life force. “Yes,” he responded, “I am.”

The supermutant laughed, sounding more human than supermutant. “Good,” he responded, “you can call me captain Elroy. You will join the rest of the mutants downstairs and train with them. Show them what you’re made of. Not all of us are as… let us say, intelligent, as we are, you and I.”

Ares did not wait for the rest of the orders, nodding affirmatively and stepping down the stairs. The captain continued speaking, his voice becoming louder as Ares moved away. “A lot of them are from the Capital Wasteland. Remind them that you are no longer what you once were, or they will put an end to your new existence quickly.”

This comment was soon reinforced by the staring eyes of several super mutants, who had caught wind of the fact that a former knight-sergeant of the Brotherhood, a tin can and their sworn enemy, had joined their ranks.

From above, the voice of the captain rang out, “test his strength if you wish, muties,” he said, copying the term he had heard from Ares before Ares was Ares. “Cull the weak from our fold.”

Several supermutants presented themselves, but only one of them stepped forward to face the challenge. “YOU TIN CAN, ME CAN OPENER,” he proudly proclaimed, and began stepping forwards to fight the newcomer.

There was little else to do but to put an end to this test of strength, to ensure that the muties understood that despite his past, Ares was the new alpha in the pack. Their lacking intellect made them much more predictable, however, and it was clear that it would not take much to impose on them the fact that Ares was a comrade now.

The two of them locked together in a wrestling-like grip, holding on to each others head. They were equally matched, which was surprising. This mutant had been ‘turned’ possibly decades ago, and so he had had all the time needed to hone his superhuman strength and grow into the turning. Ares, however, had turned not much more than an hour ago, and was still getting used to his new physique.

He had always been big, meaty, strong enough to lift a pack brahmin as a figure of speech. But now, perhaps it might have been true.

With little regard for the safety of his ‘’fellow’’ mutie, Ares let go of the opponents head with one hand and used it to uppercut him in the stomach several times, though that favour was swiftly returned. The blows felt less like blows now, the added strength of the supermutants dulling the blows as if they were pats. For so long he had considered them ‘subhuman,’ but this strength was incredible, and if it was true that there was an FEV strain that could retain memories and intelligence, then perhaps they were not subhuman but above humans. It certainly felt like it.

It was clear, however, that Ares would not win this fight with sheer force alone. Even in his Brotherhood days, he had often resorted to brute forcing his way through problems, but that did not mean he had forgotten his training. He grabbed a hold of the muties head again, holding it in his armpit, before he bent his knees and allowed himself to roll backwards onto the ground, making a sacrificial throw. Together with the mutie, he rolled over backwards until he was on top of the mutie, a special technique practiced by the knights for CQB. He raised his fists into the air, and began pounding the muties face, who slowly but surely began bleeding. It took a lot more than it would’ve taken for a human -- perhaps the FEV made their skulls thicker, or their bones stronger -- but it wasn’t impossible. Ares began breezing with every punch, until suddenly a hand grabbed Ares’ hand and stopped him.

“You’ve made your point, Ares,” Elroy said.

Alistair re-entered the room, bringing along another fresh recruit, who seemed equally as confused as Ares had been. Captain Elroys voice rang out. “Alistair, take Ares to his quarters, and show him around in the process. You can leave the fresh meat to me. Return to your training, muties.

Ares, with newfound confidence, walked to Alistair, passing the new recruit. “You seem different,” Alistair remarked.

“You have no idea,” Ares replied.




Together they walked through the facility, and Alistair made sure to show off the finest details. There were several barracks, where the less intelligent muties made their home. These barracks were often a gruelling mess, barely clean enough to sleep in, although they did at least lose the itch to store body parts in bags in their common areas. Instead, there were just items strewn about. Most of the ‘better’ mutants had private quarters, and were employed as officers to some degree to lead the dumber muties. There were not many of these more intelligent mutants -- the FEV used was more dangerous than the common strains, Alistair explained, and most subjects did not survive. Adding to that, there were only limited quantities available. Only the best subjects were handpicked by the captain himself.

There were also the deathclaw cages. One of the deathclaws was being operated on by another labcoat wearing supermutant. This was most likely the deathclaw that had its jaw unhinged in the fight earlier, although the angle made it impossible to tell. All in all there were a good amount of deathclaw there, enough to tear apart the Green Emerald if they decided to.

Nothing the Brotherhood couldn’t handle, Ares knew, but enough to make that fight hurt hard enough that the Brotherhood would need to return to the Capital Wasteland to replenish their supplies and numbers.

Then there was a workshop -- a rare thing in the Commonwealth, at least on such a scale -- where weapons were being manufactured. It wasn’t anything particularly high tech, and certainly not pre-war, but it was a step up from pipe rifles that blew apart the moment you loaded them. Whatever organization this was, they had their stuff in order and were ready to make use of it.

When they reached Ares new quarters, he was happy to find that it was a step up from the Prydwen too. First of all, it was private, so no sharing of the bunks. Second of all, it looked a lot less ransacked than the Prydwen, and even came with a shower, though Ares couldn’t help but wonder how many muties even made use of them.

“If there’s anything you need, let me know, and I’ll see what I can scrounge up,” Alistair imparted before taking his leave again.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Stormflyx
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Stormflyx S U P E R L O V E

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Lord, Hear My Prayer

The fire burned in the belly of an old, rusted out oven. Smoke collected in a cloud on the ceiling, seeking outside through the many holes above. Night was fast approaching and the setting autumn sun cast made the smoke glow a faint gold that reminded Moss of honey. A sight made all the more beautiful once he stepped out of his power armour.

A line of metal soldiers, all Brotherhood of Steel, stood idle along the far wall of the mess hall. Lined up to block the entrance should any passers by investigate the smoke, but well within sight to prevent funny business.

It gave Moss some relief. He knew this was as dangerous as any other moment, but outside the armour felt different. He felt like a man again. Flesh and blood.

He left the others to their own devices, slipping away to the old restrooms. Found a mirror in decent enough condition to look himself over. The blood stood out first. Red smeared down his forehead, but it was the deep ache in his left side that concerned him. The explosion those raiders orchestrated nearly did the job. Threw him onto a car and power armour or not, he was lucky to be alive. One piece of metal bent the wrong way could’ve done him in. He grimaced and returned to the squad.

“Kinsley,” he said, pointing to the gash on his head. “Do you have a moment?”

“Moss,” she replied in a crisp tone, blinking slow with her hands relaxed in her pockets again. Chowder sat beside her, awake and alert again – knowing that food was next on the agenda. He wagged his tail some.

In the time between, she’d cleaned herself up too. Brushed away the splatters, scooped up her tangles of hair and had wiped her face. Her own wound bandaged over for now. She was as presentable as she could be, given the circumstances.
Outside of his armoured shell, Harper was surprised to see that the man still held all of his stature. He was as strong looking as a Paladin should be, the scar across his face lending an intimidating touch to those who were bothered by such things, and his thin and piercing eyes did nothing to soften that.

Harper gave him a polite nod and began walking to a quieter area of the mess hall, out of earshot of the others, more importantly. The dog had tried to follow, looking up at Harper with his expecting eyes, but a wave of her hand and he sat back down, his ears flicked back and his gaze shifted to Moss.

“Take a seat,” she said, placing her supplies onto a surface, her back to him as he got comfortable. She knew he was wounded, a quick inspection with her own scrutinous gaze told her all she needed to know, and yet she asked the question anyway, “how can I help?”

With a groan, Moss unzipped the top portion of his jumpsuit. The under armour lowered and revealed purple bruising along his left ribs, as well as old scars.
“I need to know if this is something I need to worry about. Also,” he trailed off and rubbed his temples. “I’m not sure if you have any advice, but I’ve had this piercing migraine since... well, I got all of this.”

"Well, you weren't worried enough when it counted," Kinsley replied dryly as she examined his sides, pressing two fingers at the base of the bruise with a thick furrow of her brow and a quiet, contemplative hum. "If it was internal bleeding, you'd have dropped over on your walk," she clarified. "Bruised ribs are most likely, possible fracture," she sighed, closing her eyes as she exhaled. A third semi-serious wound already.

"What did you fall on?" Kinsley asked, a slight touch of curiosity to the words, her fingers had moved to his neck and worked underneath his jaw. She stood squarely behind him, feeling the tension he was holding. "Try to relax," she offered "any history of migraine or headaches?" She asked him quietly. "Anything else besides the head pain? Sound or light sensitivity? Dizziness? Nervousness? Anything at all…"

She tried not to think about what she'd heard from Grimshaw, what Brown had expressed… She was trying to listen only to the symptoms, but it was hard even for her to not picture McDowell falling through the earth… How did she feel about Moss now?

“Bruised ribs I can handle,” Moss replied gruffly. “Those raiders used the old cars outside the warehouse like booby traps. Caught us by surprise and sent me flying a good ten yards back onto another car. Two rough landings in one day.”

He released a slow exhale, a sharp pain stabbing in his left side. “My head hasn’t been on straight since then. Never been one to feel overwhelmed, but earlier... I wouldn’t call it nervous. Frantic, maybe. Not normal for me. Migraines, sure. Ever since childhood. But that was different. Suppose that’s beyond your training,” he explained, adding point to the last statement. “Bruised ribs. That helps. Anything else I should consider?”

“Consider slowing down for a moment,” Kinsley said as a suggestion, even though she knew that wasn’t possible. “Without proper medical equipment, I can’t check for cerebral hemorrhage… Post trauma headache is most likely, Moss.” She stepped back from him, coming back to his front, examining the trail of blood across his forehead to find the open wound. “When we’re in situations like we were today, our body can produce an excess of chemicals that makes changes within us that stick around like echoes…” she explained, choosing her words as best she could to make it easier to understand. “Shrinkage, expansion…”Kinsley added in a murmur.

“All I can do is keep my eyes on you, if you start feeling numb in your face, find me immediately.” She let her eyes meet his for that statement, severity etched into the lines that sat in the corners.

The way his tone changed did not go unnoticed, and as she moved to her bandages, back to him. “Not really beyond my training, I’d have to know more about it, what made it different — as you said.” She left that ball in his court as she took a dressing from the pack, having no real idea whether or not the Paladin would open up or not. She gave a sidelong glance in the direction of the others - aware of the thick tension still hanging.

Moss followed the doctor’s gaze and lowered his voice. “Cade is already aware. I didn’t encounter much radiation as a kid. My childhood home was largely spared from all that hellfire. Found out why while out with a few friends. Turns out a bomb did fall, just didn’t go off,” Moss squinted and pinched the bridge of his nose. “It sat half buried in this crater. We must’ve been rough housing or something. Next thing I know I’m tumbling down there. I hear this loud smack and light’s out. Wake up later to find some of the adults dressed in hazard suits hoisting me out. Like some weird parody of angels coming to my rescue. Ever since I’d get these migraines. Usually when traders came around or if I went by the old bomb. A lot more since I left there.”

Whatever spell the doctor had cast thawed a little. The paladin cleared his throat and straightened his back, no matter how much it hurt to do so. But the effect she had on him was clear. If not to Kinsley, then to Moss.

“Do you pray?” he asked, eyes unfocused and directed at the squad.

Hellfire was an interesting word for it, Kinsley thought, and Angels too.

Moss's story was interesting enough to conjure a change of expression -- curiosity. She stepped back, and looked him over. Now she was holding a tightness in her jaw. She looked him up and down following that. "I see…" she finally spoke out. That story was worth looking into, worth remembering for later. She had something of a theory of the Paladin’s origin, but really, was it her business to unlock that mystery? She looked over her shoulder to see Grimshaw and Lancer Brown. Maybe it was her business. Was Moss waiting in anticipation for his bomb to go off? "A knock like that could have gone a lot worse, in many ways… But, still that sounds like quite an experience. You had a lucky escape. I can only theorise on the correlations for now… Again, a post traumatic response to the accident, the following confusion and change…" Harper remarked, rubbing her cheek.

"Oh, and no. I don't pray. I don't believe anyone listened when I did… So I stopped." She gave a slight shrug, casting her gaze out to their team. Not wanting to talk God with the Paladin, there was really just a bad feeling about it. In that light, it was like his leaving McDowell came from fire and brimstone. "They're good folk, Moss," she said after a pregnant pause. "So were the ones we lost today."

“The Lord moves in mysterious ways, doctor,” the Paladin countered. “His ways are not our ways. Not an easy example to follow. You need faith.”

He let the statement hang in the air until the treatment was done. Moss stood, zipped the jumpsuit shut, and nodded. “I appreciate the help. I’ll pray you find your answers.”

“Mysterious indeed,” Kinsley uttered, her eyes narrowing just a touch. She found no remorse from Moss, not yet, just evasion. Maybe Lancer Brown was right. Once more, the doctor turned her back to the Paladin, examining the tools in her kit with a different perspective; scalpels, needles, and syringes lined up in a neat row. “No need to pray for me either, but thank you all the same.”

“Oh, there’s a need. Of that I’m certain,” replied Moss before taking his leave.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Andreyich
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Andreyich Anyone who disagrees with me is worthless

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Moss’s last words had left quite an impression on Kinsley, and she kept replaying them in her mind - what exactly was it that he was so ’certain’ of? The brief clues to his religious motivations troubled her more than she would have liked to admit to herself. She found herself thinking about how others would fare under his scrutiny, his intimidating gaze and the authority that he had been given. They were all much younger than she was. Impressionable, keen to make something of herself and perhaps the only reason that Kinsley found herself ‘immune’ to Moss was that she was none of those things, youth had left her and she was here for a single reason: to heal the crew should they become wounded.

So she occupied herself with that, away from the team as they chatted away in the near distance, Kinsley was stood over her table, writing down on paper her notes for the day, the gloom of the mess hall causing a strain on her eyes. As she muttered to herself, she completely missed the sound of approaching footsteps…

Two knocks punctuated the silence, announcing the entry of the now Knight Sergeant. He was still within his power armour but with helmet in hand while rolling back the hood of his Recon armour. A fairly large tearing of skin was on top of a mound on his head. Daniel would have "walked it off" if it wasn't something so visible on his head but given that it was precisely that he decided to go the Doctor. Maybe she'd give something for the headaches, maybe a little disinfectant for all the sweat and dirt rammed in there by the skin-tight hood.

"Scribe Kinsley, do you have a moment?" he asked, an interrogative eyebrow raised. If she'd say she was busy he'd without a second thought turn back to return later.

The ringing in her ears was present, but she still heard the sound of a knock, she turned around to see Estevez looking torn up, even in his power armour. Why was everyone in bad shape. The doctor rubbed her eyes with a closed fist, stifling a yawn while she regarded his question. All she had were moments. "Sit down Estevez. Or should I call you Knight Sergeant now?" Even with just a cursory glance at him, it was clear the wound was gruesome but nothing that she couldn't mend.

Nodding gratefully he took the seat, not really bothering to point out his wound given how obvious it was. "I've had my lights beaten out of me in training but never something that hurts like my head now." he said, looking at his surroundings. "Either will do, Doctor." the Knight Sergeant replied, apparently oblivious to any implications.

“Well, they probably don’t tear you up like this in training,” she remarked, already prepared with a dampened swab to clean him up. As she pressed it to the wound, she clucked her tongue and gave another sigh. She knew the drill - that they had to scope out the area first, but Estevez really shouldn’t have been allowed to wander like this. She’d have to speak to Moss again, even if she really didn’t want to. “Is this your first mission?” she asked, starting him off in conversation before she brought a needle out.

The Knight Sergeant chuckled as his healer said they didn't tear him up in training like that. "Don't know about that." he said, thinking back to some of his encounters. "When I was sixteen I was feeling like I was the best. I beat all the other boys and… well, I relaxed. A Paladin asked me why and I told him, so that's when they brought Henry to me. He didn't treat me well in the training grounds I'll tell you that. He had a year on me and half a foot, but more importantly he'd seen things in the wasteland. When he was done I'd coughed up half my body weight in blood and they had to pull him off because he was about to pull my nose off with his fingers. Taught me a lesson I can't forget. I've never been shot or stabbed, but l know what pain is Doctor; I mean it when I say my head hurts, it's not just a boo-boo in there."

As if to demonstrate, there wasn't the slightest tremble, flinch, sigh, grit of teeth or any other sign of hurt as the swab touched raw flesh. "But no, this isn't my first mission." he continued. "I've been out through the wasteland, though never as long as we have so far I'll admit. Never killed a man until today. It was… very, very easy." He hadn't had a chance to speak to the Paladin about this as he had planned when first realizing it, his head preoccupied with Gregory's death and his promotion during the conversation with Moss. Only now the thoughts resurfaced in a momentary slip, the previous passions only at this moment wearing off on Daniel.

Kinsley tried to imagine a sixteen-year old Estevez, his story playing out in her mind as she worked. She got to thinking about what Victoria would have done at sixteen, definitely not fighting and training to be a soldier. She was softer than that, always was. She liked painting, reading… Kinsley shut her eyes, blinking the thoughts away. “I’ll take your word for it then, tough guy,” she added with a small chuckle of her own. Estevez had ambition, that much was true, and while Kinsley certainly questioned the motive behind Moss promoting him, she wasn’t going to let him in on that thought. He needed morale, after all.

She raised a brow at what he let slip to her though, and she thought on an answer for a while. Occupied her mind with threading the needle, readying to stitch. “It’s not something you have time to think about when it’s you or them. You’re locked in a moment, and everything else is drowned out until you either pull the trigger or the trigger is pulled on you… How do you feel about it now?” she asked gently as the first of his tear was pulled back together.

The Knight replied with a chuckle of his own at being called tough guy. "Not bad for a nickname, not bad at all." Yet another chuckle came, though this one was without any humour. "Well, that's the thing. Moss at one point talked to me, sized me up. Said the wasteland would chew me up, then spit me out; I'm not ready for it. All the older Knights told me about how your first kill messed you up. It's hard, there's remorse. I believed these words. But looking back, I feel nothing. I saw the whites of these men's eyes, I heard their death throes and their cries for mother. Meaningless, all of it." he paused, taking a good lock at Kinsley. He knew that mental health was important, but he also knew a Knight that went crazy going down a cycle of taking medications prescribed for a mental condition that had side effects needing a medicine that cause side effects that needed… And so on and so forth. Beyond that, Daniel didn't really want word he was a crazy to come out of this talk. But then again it was all too late to stop now.

"The Paladin is a man of the book and I'm sure he's killed a lot of people by now. I was going to talk to him about this, really, but I didn't get a chance. I keep going over in my head these little mind games to give myself remorse for the raiders. Maybe they had fought off the Enclave here long ago and seeing men in power armour and with a vertibird they thought they were back and were trying to protect their homes. Maybe some other outfit of power armoured men was wreaking havoc around here. Maybe like so many raiders back home they just have no other way to feed their kids." A thoughtful pause kept the scene quiet save for the Doctor plying her trade. "Nothing. I feel nothing. I didn't even think to put out the ones dying out of their pain and suffering, I wouldn't waste the bullets. I could go back out there with my gatling laser and do it again, this time take even more now that I know how."

Kinsley listened to Estevez, every word. Each stitch falling with his confession, it wasn’t something she had a lot of experience in. She wasn’t a trained soldier like he was, but people had died on her table, in her care. “We aren’t given a script in life, Estevez,” she began, pulling at the thread. Her stitches neat and precise, and her hands working on years of muscle memory given her time to produce an adequate response. “The nature of this beast is that is can be brutal, uncompromising. As much as you want to tell yourself they were once good people, we can’t be sure that they haven't always been bad. Evil is… hard to define. You were trained to do a certain job, and that job isn’t easy…” Kinsley paused again, unmoving.

“When I was not much older than you, I walked the wasteland. I remember we met raiders. One of them was very injured. Very, very injured.” Taking a breath in the conversation, Kinsley began again with her work. “Had we not acted, he would have died. I was trained to save people, and I didn’t give any thought to whether this man had committed wrongs, or whether he had committed rights. We did our jobs and then we moved on…” She cleared her throat, and turned to be able to look Estevez in the eye, “my point being - your experience is not going to be the experience of your cohorts - today you may feel no remorse for this, the next time you kill it might make you sick to your stomach… Do you want to feel remorse?” she asked at last.

It was a lot of words to consider, words that the young soldier never had thoughts even parallel to before. "The years have given you wisdom, Scribe Kinsley." Estevez said while thinking as a sort of sign he wasn't daydreaming. The beginning of her first words compounded with the story confused him, their morals seeming quite different if not quite antithetical. Eventually he began a slow and rather tentative response.

"Maybe I will feel sick, maybe not. I'm certainly not feeling any less averse to the idea. Anyway, it's not an issue of if I want to feel remorse or not Doctor. I…" Daniel paused, looking for an analogy with his hand waving through the air. "I wish I wouldn't feel pain. It would make me a better soldier. But if I wasn't I'd know something is very, very wrong. If I can kill hundreds of men without blinking once or shedding a single tear then all the better for my duty. I would make Paladin in no time! But that's not the problem. The problem is it's not supposed to be like this. They say the feeling of power is addictive, and everything in this world you do is a hidden slippery slope. In twenty years from now I don't want to shoot a child because it means finishing a mission faster. But if I go down that path then the wishes of Knight-Sergeant Estevez won't matter to Paladin Estevez. So I'd rather the Knight Sergeant do what he can while he's still in power."

“Pain is the reminder that under all of the armour, and at the end of the day, we’re still human.” Kinsley answered softly. “Without it, we’d just be machines. If you choose to skip the pain then you’re skipping all the good feelings too - everything that makes you who you are. You’re not a better soldier if you just become a point and shoot machine, Daniel,” she added. There was something very poignant about him saying it while still within the confines of his armour, only his face sticking out. A comforting squeeze would be lost on the cold steel. It was heavy to think about. “All the better for duty, maybe. But being a soldier is more than killing and combat. Sounds like all you’ve done is fight,” she sighed, finishing the last of his stitches with a neat loop. He was so young, and these questions of morality were weighing heavily on him.

“I see more than that in you. You can be a lot more than a gun on the frontline…” Kinsley brought pinched fingers to the bridge of her nose, eyes scrunched, her thoughts scrambled and turned over - she barely knew if she was making sense. “You know that Paladin comes from the latin Palatinus - of the palace, essentially. In history a Paladin represents heroism and chivalry. Legendary peers and protectors… A true Paladin wouldn’t kill a child for any cause.”

Kinsley placed her tools back on the table, picking up a fresh gauze to finish cleaning him up. “Sounds like your bump to the head knocked a few questions loose. It’s good to think about these things, and… there’s nothing wrong with you for it. I’d be more worried if you didn’t question the things around you, and how you’re feeling…”

The Knight Sergeant's brow furrowed with comprehension taking a few moments. He thought his counterpart had taken his analogy too far and too literally, but he understood the point she had made. She certainly wasn't wrong all he'd really done is fight, or otherwise prepared for it.

He hadn't really gotten resolution to what was troubling him, in fact things seemed to only get more complex. But Daniel it was the right complexity, he had to give Kinsley that. "Well, thank you Doctor." he said, thinking back to Paladin Moss, the Outcast Brotherhood Paladins, and the armoured men tormenting Daniel in his dreams. "You've read your etymologies Doctor, but brush up on your history." he continued, standing up and bowing in gratitude. He hadn't managed to bum some pills but perhaps for the best — an addiction in the field would be nasty business. "Thank you Doctor. From the depths of my soul: thank you. There's not much I can offer that isn't part of my duty, but if you ever need something of me do not hesitate to ask. I'll be seeing you about. Ad Victoriam." with that the Knight-Sergeant saluted, did an about-turn and headed off on his business.

She had nothing left to say, and simply waved him off as he made his way back towards the campfire. Meanwhile, she let herself have that moment to slump down into the chair. The conversation had left her with more questions, weight, and a new sense of responsibility. Another worry line found its way to her forehead as she tilted her head back, giving the ceiling a long hard look before she closed her eyes.

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