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"Finally," he said aloud in the still air.

Stood on a mountain of rubble and concrete, Isaac Storm looked on the vista of New York, his home. It'd been a long trek back from the Commonwealth. The young hero had volunteered himself to be part of the massive trade caravan that was built to send aid to The Minute Men, who'd finally taken back control of Boston in the name of the people. 'The Good Fight was winning' - that was the chatter on lips. Slowly but surely, evil powers were being vanquished and this once-great country was getting back on its feet. And so, Isaac had been a bodyguard on the long road to the Commonwealth, stayed for a week or two, then headed back on his own. And now he was back, on the edge of New York, in the wake of familiar sights.

There was still a few nights of camping ahead of him, before he'd get back to the settlement of New Brooklyn, so he looked about for a suitable building to settle down for the evening. It was about to get dark and there was no point in travelling through the night, unless you were ready for trouble.

Tomorrow would be a precarious part of the journey. Just a little south of him was a known raider town, home to some big-time gangs. This was their territory. And he'd be brushing close by as he headed for New Brooklyn. He could've gone around - given the town a wide berth - but to hell with it, he'd just have to be extra careful.

He found shelter in a two storey building with boarded up windows, setting up his bedroll on the second floor. After making a small fire and charring some squirrel meat for dinner, he spent 20 minutes cleaning his trusty pistol.



Taurus P90 aka The Raging Bull. 50 cal. Isaac's most prized possession. He'd gotten it as a present from Katie Wensdale. She'd modified it herself, and even put little aesthetic touches here and there to remind the young hero that 'Big Sis' was always thinking of him. He disassembled it smoothly, shined it up real nice with some oil and a rag, then put it back together, checked the slide and tested the trigger action before giving it a kiss. Once it was loaded, he lay down with a single airpod in his right ear, and listened to the radio until he fell asleep.
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The sun was setting over the raider base. It was one of the bigger ones known in the area and tended to be quite successful in their raids. Tonight was not unlike the others. Caps and supplies stocked up, innocent lives lost for defending the good guys. Zara had seen it all and had chilled her heart. There was no stopping the Diamond Backs once they had their sights on you. Unfortunately, those whom hated the raiders did not differentiate between willing members and unwilling staff.

Zara knew she had but one choice. She needed to leave, though she had no clue where to go or how to get there without dying. There was nothing for her to take with her so it was just a matter of patience. Waiting until the freshly fed and drunkard men toppled over to their night long slumber.

The fires began to burn out, one by one. Basking the base in nothing but moonlight. Zara figured this was as good as time as any. Their leader was asleep in bed with his latest spawn incubator, the night shift guards were thin in posts due to the partying.

She tiptoed around people and the tamed wolves kept as pets and guard dogs. She pushed hard on the wooden door that gave the impression of security. Lightly biting her lip, she leaned against the wall and walked as carefully as she could. Pausing only a moment when one guard passed overhead. She could feel her heart pounding in her ears as she held her breath. Escape was certain death as any servant could spill about the Diamond Backs weaknesses.

Feeling the coast being clear, she took off running towards the ruins, wanting to hide as quickly as she could. She didn't bother looking back, which was a downfall she had. A couple of the guards saw her book it, ringing out the alarm. It was only moments before she had half a dozen men after her.

'Fuck me.' She thought to herself as she attempted to duck and dodge the arrows whizzing past her head. Glancing up, she saw the overhang of a fallen floor of a building. The wooden beams and joists visible within. She jumped with all her might and managed to snag one of the rebars within the structure. Grunts and groans gave her away as she pulled herself up to the second floor and hopefully out of the eyeline of those chasing.

Ducking low beams and jumping over holes in the floors, she ran her way through what used to be a nice hotel. What she didn't see or expect was the sleeping form on the bedroll. She ended up by tripping right over Isaac, crying out in shock and smacking her head off the wall he was by. Raiders voices below as they called out to each other that one heard her cry.
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The alarm in the distance woke him easily. One of his blue eyes peeked open. One hand fished under his blanket and switched off the hand-radio by his side so he could listen for a moment. It sounded like trouble at the raider town. Maybe they were being attacked. Perhaps it just some wasteland critters trying to breach the defences. Either way, he felt far enough away from the town that he wouldn't need to get up.

At least, that's how he felt at first. Until the shouting voices he could hear, seemed to be slightly closer. Surely they weren't heading for the ruins, were they?

"Get her!" was a much, much clearer voice this time. They were indeed getting closer. Too close for comfort.

"Ah shit," Isaac muttered to himself, gun in hand, still lazily spread-eagled on his back, one leg sticking out from under the blanket. "Why me, universe? What did I do to ya, this time?"

He thought a little too long about getting up. He should've just done it. Because before he could, he heard groan and a strain before, down the other end of the broken building, a person appeared. Isaac could see the silhouette form in the moonlight, all the inner walls of the floor collapsed enough not to obstruct his view. And that silhouette form started bolting toward him. Isaac still hadn't moved, but now he raised his gun, looking sidelong down the barrel, pointing it at the person who was rushing toward him. Taking a shot lying on one's back like this was hard, and this gun's recoil would make it all the more difficult, so Isaac waited for the target to come closer. The person was approaching fast, hopping and skipping over holes in the floor, ducking low beams. Isaac had 3 pounds of pressure on a 4 pound trigger. Just a little closer.....

"She's getting away!" was the rusty, evil-toned voice of a pursuing raider.

That made Isaac pause for thought. This person was running from the raiders. He relinquished his aim as he realised the situation, so glad that he didn't just blast a potentially innocent person. As he did, she almost blew past him, but her foot caught on his leg as he got to his feet, tripping her and sending her head first into a wall. She cried out and Isaac was up, a little too late to silence her when he pulled her into his embrace, his hand covering her mouth.

"Sshh," was his instruction.

They were face to face - damn-near nose to nose - one arm around her waist, his free hand still over her mouth until he was sure she got the message. But one of the voices of her pursuers made Isaac break eye contact and let her go.

"I heard her! Top floor!"

He dipped down and started stuffing all of his things into his backpack. There was no time for the bedroll. Slinging the rucksack over his shoulder, he grabbed his gun off the floor and was on the move before he'd even risen back to his full height, grabbing the girl's hand and pulling her along to follow. They snaked through the broken down building quickly and quietly.

"Boss wants her alive!" was another voice.

Isaac counted three voices, at least, but he couldn't be sure. They got to the top of the main stairwell and paused. Unless she'd resisted, he was still holding her hand. "How many?" he whispered as he looked back at her.

Four raiders converged at the bottom of the stairs and charged up toward them. And their shouts of surprise and alarm was a clear indicator that they did not expect to see a man lean out from behind cover with a big canon pointing right at them.

"Shit!"

"!"

"Huh!?"

BANG!

....The first shot hit one square in the chest and sent him flying back down the ground floor. The recoil sent pains up Isaac's arm all the way to his shoulder....

BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG!

The raiders tried to flee but it was too late, only one getting away, managing to dive behind cover on the lower floor. The surviving raider's arm was mangled from a bullet, but he fired back with his own gun and Dante leaned back into cover upstairs.

"Guys! There's someone else here!" the raider shouted. "Go get help!"

The raider and Isaac traded a few shots, but none found their mark.

"We need to get out of here," Isaac said to the girl, keeping the raider downstairs busy with a shot or two.
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Zara's eyes got wide when she felt a strong hand slip around her head and cover her mouth. She wasn't expecting another being up here. After all the times she's spent wandering these ruins, not once had someone dared to come this close to the base. Her mind quickly jumped to assassin, though she couldn't linger on it too long.

Being dragged by her arm across the floor, she tried to keep her eyes open for any of the holes she had dodged on her way to falling for this man. He seemed to know where he was stepping though as they moved nearly silently towards rhe stairwell.

At his question, she lifted five fingers "Six, but don't.." She was about to plead for her life before the shoot out started. She quickly began scanning their location for a secondary way out. There was through the floors, as she got up, but she was sure more raiders were coming and they'd see them.

Tapping his shoulder, her eyes widened for a moment as she remembered one way. Putting her fingers to her lips to keep him hushed, as if it would make a difference with the gun fight. She moved silently towards what used to be an emergency exit towards the back.

Heading down the back stairwell, she held his hand tightly as they passed the first floor doorway and kept going to the underground parking. Without a word, she let go of his hand and sprinted through the echoing space towards the carport door.

With her heart racing, she stopped and looked out the door to scan the roads. Her breathing was loud and hard, not use to running so much. She glanced behind her to see if Stranger was still following her. He seemed to be, which was a good thing and a bad thing. He had a gun and could defend her; but also he had a gun and could use it on her.

Finding the coast clear for now, she ducked into shadows cast by the moon light towards the outskirts. She hadn't been this far before so it was all new. Even the random stuff left behind was catching her attention. Her eyes spotted a glinting locket on a table as they went to run past.

Stopping in her tracks, she went back for the locket as if it was necessary.
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When she tapped Isaac on the shoulder and put a finger to her lips, Isaac gave a brisk nod, his breathing heavy because of the adrenaline. She started to sneak off and Isaac fired another shot off down the stairs before following her, trying to stay as quiet as possible. The injured raider at the bottom of the stairs fired more shots back, not realising that they were gone.

The girl led him down a different stairwell, descending beyond the groundfloor and to the basement level parking lot. Perfect. As soon as she let go of his hand, Isaac changed his empty gun clip to a fresh one, all the while running after her. Out of the parking lot and into the dead streets, Isaac followed the route she was taking until he suddenly took the lead. He looked back to see why she had stopped, then halted himself to watch her go start looting a table for something that'd caught her eye. Looting at a time like this!

"Really?" he asked breathlessly, once she caught back up. There was an exasperated smile on his face as they got back on the move. "Come on."

They ran for another twenty minutes, taking a left turn here, a right corner there. On his left arm, Isaac wore two wrist-watches. One of them was like any other watch, it showed the time. The other was a compass. He used it to make sure that they were steadily heading south-west and deeper into New York. After the running, they walked for 5 minutes to catch their breath. After that, they were jogging. Isaac had to be sure that no one was following them.

It was late. Luck was on their side that no animals, bugs or feral ghouls had crossed their path and attacked. They made a good distance between themselves and the raider town. Isaac began looking for a good, sturdy building to make camp - they needed to rest soon as the girl was exhausted, her breathing and wheezing sounding like she might collapse at any moment.

"There," Isaac pointed 200 yards down the street to the big townhouse on the corner. It was three floors tall, its walls looked in tact, and the buildings around it were rubble, so the top floor would have a good view of the surrounding area. "We can rest up in that townhouse over there."
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Zara picked up the locket, rubbing it off on her tank top. Her eyes moved up to meet his for a moment. She sheepishly put it in one of her pockets before returning to him, unpausing their current task of escaping. 'At least he didn't leave me for dead.' Her thoughts spoke to her.

After their running, her lungs hurt, her legs hurt and she felt like she would lay down right there and not get up for hours. She crouched as she rested her arms on her knees and began looking around at the buildings too. Her eyes did spy the one he had, but had crossed it off as she didn't feel like climbing again.

Hearing that being his choice, she hung her head and groaned. "That one? Hope you plan on sleeping on the main floor cuz I can't make it up more stairs." She boldly assumed they were now traveling together, not just escaping the raiders then parting.

She began the dragging walk toward the bulding of his choice, very much mimicking that of a teenager. She got inside the door and looked around. A dirty but still intact couch sat along one wall, the television across the room from it. "You can have the couch, since I made you leave behind the bedroll you had." Once again assuming they'd be on the main floor.

--Meanwhile--

Back up had arrived to the hotel where their injured and fallen members were. One had stayed with the injured one to tend to wounds he had while the others began searching the hotel.

"Second floor. They were last seen on the second floor." One of the female raiders barked out, taking lead on this scouting mission. She ran her hand along the wall freshly damaged from the bullets. Climbing the stairs up, she had her 10mm drawn and ready to go.

Spotting the make shift camp, she headed over to it and put her hands right kn the burnt wood. Hot or not, she didn't care. "It's still fairly warm. I see one bedroll. The dirt hasn't been displaced by another." She pointed out to her fellow raiders. "I'm thinking the girl and one, possibly two others."

"There is only one bedroll, so wouldn't that mean only one?" One of the newer members asked.

Tasha rolled her eyes and looked at him. "One to sleep and one to guard. Never assume someone sleeping is alone. Not out here. Not in these lands." She growled at him as she tried to look for other hints.
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Isaac felt bad for the girl. She was half-dead from exhaustion. They got inside, both stood at the door, Isaac silent as he tried to listen for movement inside the building. The place seemed empty.

"You can have the couch, since I made you leave behind the bedroll you had."

"What do you mean, doll?" he asked with a smirk. "We're going up. Top floor." He looked pointedly at the stairs and when he saw her reaction, his smirk turned to a full grin. "Don't worry, just two more sets of stairs and you can collapse in a heap until morning comes."

He took the lead, doing a routine check on all three floors before finally setting his stuff down in the bedroom with the street view. He mentally acknowledged her offer of the couch. It was a nice gesture, but he wouldn't be sleeping tonight. No. Now, he was paranoid that trouble wasn't far behind. "This place has been lived in recently," he mused out loud, taking note of the oil lamps, the ruffled bed, the signs of discarded trash. But all supplies were missing. "Whoever it was, they're long gone by now."

He switched on the three oil lamps in the room, brightening the place so that he could get his first clear look of the girl he was with. "Wow," he appraised. "Bit of a cutie pie, aren't ya."

She was indeed cute. Her eyes were interesting, in particular. So sharp in shape, the two-tone hue making for a mystery. She was skinny, more malnourished than the average wastelander. Isaac guessed she'd been a prisoner of the raiders. And a prisoner for a while too. He didn't stare overly long, no more than a few seconds, before turning to leave the room. "There's a few snacks in that rucksack, if you're hungry. Water too."

He set about securing the building; making sure the doors and windows on the ground floor were shut properly. He set up a rope from the third floor bathroom, tied securely to some piping and ready to throw out of the window and climb down, should they need to escape. Lastly, set up a tripwire at the front door, tied to a trigger of a small shrapnel grenade. Anyone trying to sneak in would be in for a nasty surprise.

He made sure to let his new friend know about the trap downstairs when he returned, taking a seat by the window where he could keep an eye on the street below. Stretching and cracking his neck to one side, he light out a sigh and put his feet up on the broken radiator.

"Name's Isaac," he finally introduced himself, his eyes on the street. "Isaac Storm. How'd you end up on the run?"
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Hearing his voice clearly for the first time, she couldn't help but give a slight brush. The deepness, the tone, even the accent seemed to be fitting of the stranger. His words though, top floor caused her whole body to slump where it stood. Mouth ajar as her eyes moved up the stairs to they disappeared on the next floor. He was mad, he had to be. Crazy mad, to think she would have the energy to go up to the top floor. Not to mention removing any real chances of escape if the raiders caught up to them. She figured they'd have lived if they had to vault out a second story window.

Surely he was joking right? Nope, they ascended the stairs. Second story, third story. She pointed up "Don't want to see if they have an attic as well?" Her tone almost sarcastically rude.

Following him into the chosen room, she blinked as the oil lamps came on and ruined what vision she had for the dark. She remained quiet as he sized her up, doing the same to him. He didn't look nearly as rough as the raiders she was usually around. "If you say so, though I feel I look a little grungy. You're actually quite easy on the eyes yourself." She smirked, moving to go look out the window.

His mention of food and water did make her salivate but she wasn't about to go rooting through someone's rutsack. She almost lost a hand once or twice that way from said owner of the sacks. Been accused of stealing as well when there was nothing of value to steal. Nope, if he was intent on sharing, he'd have to get it out and hand it to her.

When he finished setting up the traps, she moved to the bed so he could have the window unobstructed. She sat down on it, tucking her fingers under her legs, palms down. "Zara Singh is mine. I haven't Bern on the run long. In fact, it may surprise you, this is the first like.. hour or two I've been on the rub." She admitted to him, knowing full well he pegged her for a novice wastelander from the beginning.

"I've lived in the raider base for thirteen years and just.. I can't do it anymore. I refuse to do it. So I left. Tonight they were celebrating a recent ambush, were all too drunk to care of their own noses."
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"I've lived in the raider base for thirteen years and just.. I can't do it anymore. I refuse to do it. So I left..." Isaac kept his gaze on the outside, mostly because he didn't want her to see the pity in his eyes. He couldn't imagine what she'd been through, all these years. Raider's weren't known for their mercy. Inside, Isaac cursed the people of the past, who went to nuclear war and gave birth to this hellhole. "...Tonight they were celebrating a recent ambush, were all too drunk to care of their own noses."

"Good thinking," was his first words in reply to her sad story. Then he looked over at her. "But they cared enough to come after you. And they might still be out there. So we have to stay sharp until we're far enough away. Do you have anywhere you can go? What am I saying, of course you don't." The young man out a loud breath as tried to think, placing a thumb and forefinger on the bridge of his nose. Where was the nearest town from here? "Hmmm... I think Grasscroft isn't far from here. Straight west, if memory serves. We'll head in that direction tomorrow. See if we can't find you a place to live, kay."

The girl really could use a break. She looked so drained, so skinny. "Hey, I said there was food n stuff in my bag. You sure you're not hungry?" Isaac got back to his feet and retrieved his rucksack, rifling through it before pulling out his water canteen and throwing it on the bed beside her. Then he brought a couple of ration snacks, tossing her a pack before opening one himself and sitting back down. This time he didn't put his feet up. He was sat facing her, leaning forward a little, intent on seeing her get something in her stomach. It was just some beef jerky and a pack of peanuts - good for a little bit of energy, in a pinch. "Don't be shy, I'm not gonna charge you," he quipped, popping a peanut into his mouth and giving her a reassuring smile.
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She bit her lip as she heard him speak of the exit party she had coming after her. Of course they chased her down. Hunter wanted her to himself. Always had. No one was able to touch her except for him. She was thankful that for some reason or another, his attempts never turned her into an incubator. Then there was the knowledge she had. Most slaves overheard the minor weaknesses. She knew all of them, including Hunter's personal ones. She was a huge security risk if she survived the escape.

Snapping back from her thoughts as something landed on the bed beside her. She gave him a weak smile, thankful for something to eat and drink. "I have no caps to give you if you would charge me. I just have learned early on to not go into someone's rucksack, even if invited to. Those that invite me to, tend to accuse me of stealing and demand my head. Those that didn't invite me, threatened my hand or head. So it's just safer to stay out." She sipped from the canteen. She wad a bit surprised to find it not as bitter as the radiated water she normally had access too.

"I just need to get away. I don't care where. Anywhere close and they will find me. Hunter will be looking for me personally. I know far too much about him and his crew, including the base. He would rather a bullet between the eyes than to let me live free. Of course, he'd prefer if I just stayed put and never had an independent thought of my own." She shrugged before tearing a beef jerky apart.
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"I have no caps to give you if you would charge me. I just have learned early on to not go into someone's rucksack, even if invited to. Those that invite me to, tend to accuse me of stealing and demand my head. Those that didn't invite me, threatened my hand or head. So it's just safer to stay out." She sipped from the canteen.

"Sheesh, fair enough," replied Isaac. He supposed he couldn't be surprised. It only made sense that the savages would be turning on eachother when given the chance. "Not much in the way of trust and friendship as a raider, huh."

"I just need to get away. I don't care where. Anywhere close and they will find me. Hunter will be looking for me personally. I know far too much about him and his crew, including the base..."

The young man perked up at this point, a twinkle in his eyes, the wheels in head turning. He damn-near missed the rest of what she was saying. So, the girl's got some secrets about the Diamond Backs, he thought to himself. This raider gang was a big player on the eastside of New York. Quite the terror. If they could be brought down... Hmmmm.

"Well, we'll head out at first light," he told her. No use in talking about it now. They would have time. "For now, try and get some rest."

After they finished their snacks, Isaac put out the three oil lamps, then got back comfortable at the window. An hour passed in relative quiet. Aside from two cats skulking past, there was no activity outside. Isaac periodically rubbed his eyes to stay sharp. Taking a watch was boring as hell. Time passed slower than molasses. But a boring watch was better than the alternative. And, little did Isaac know, that alternative was on it's way.

Somewhere, far in the distance, Isaac heard the sad howl of a wolf...............
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Zara didn't like the look that flashed across his features when she spoke of knowing secrets about the Diamond Backs. It made her feel dirty. Like when the raiders would use her to gain the trust of others. She shivered against the chill that went down her spine. She hated feeling used, she hated being kept around simply because of something she had to offer. Just once she wanted to be asked to stay because of who she was, or for companionship.

Shaking her head, she finished off the rations he gave her and laid down. Making sure her back wasn't turned to him, she didn't trust him enough to not hurt her or to take advantage of her. Slowly her eyes did drift closed though, falling into a deep sleep, despite how untrusting she was of him or her situation. Her body was looking for sleep and was going to take it whether she wanted to give it or not. Even the nightly howl of the wolf woke her up.

--

Tasha and the crew had gone back to talk to Hunter about the runaway. About how she had someone or two skilled waiting for her on the outside. About how it turned into an ambush, as if Zara had planned to meet the strangers. She spoke of what they found and how they just seemed to disappear into thin air.

"People don't just vanish! She's out there and I want her brought back. ALIVE!" He snapped at her, slamming his fist down on the table beside him. The vein in his neck pulsating with anger. He had bred her a couple weeks ago, she could be carrying an heir to his little kingdom here. She could tell outsiders how to fight back and everything Hunter had worked so hard to achieve would be gone. He was livid that his pet had decided to run away. He knew he should have tied her up, chained her or something to keep her put. She had been getting antsy, even a little rebellious the past couple days.

Taking a dozen of their more sober men, Tasha began the hunt for the suspected trio of trespassers. A few wolves on chains were being used to track them. To pick up the scent of the girl. No one cared to learn her name but for now, she was just going to be called Traitor.
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Dozer


When Violet growled and howled, tugging on her chain eagerly, Dozer shouted to Tasha. "Hey Tash! I think Violet's got something, over here!"

The raider braced his feet, trying to keep hold of the chain holding Violet in place. She really wanted to follow the scent. Dozer managed to keep her in place until the crew got there. When Tasha gave the order, Dozer let himself be dragged by the wolf who followed the trail down the street, turning a corner here or there. "Easy girl."

"Oooh, I can't wait to get my hands on the fuck who killed Tater-Tot."

Dozer was in agreement. "Oh don't worry little man, we'll get em. And when we do, they'll be begging for death."

"Grr, I told you not to call me little man!"

They must have been going for ten blocks before the road opened up into a small highway. After that they were back on the small roads, travelling through ruins. Dozer hoped that Violet knew where she was going. Tasha would beat him to death if he'd led them all on a wild goose chase. Where she finally stopped was a tall townhouse at some crossroads. She growled and barked, Dozer letting everyone know that this was the building.

"Yeah, we have eyes, you dumbass!"

"Shut up, little man," was Dozer's reply.

"Grrrrr, I won't tell you again, you piece of shit, don't call me little man."

Tasha gave the order to check the building and unfortunately for Dozer, he was closest and went first. He and Violet rushed into the entrance, and as the door opened, the resulting explosion would be heard by everyone except Dozer and Violet.

Dozer and Violet wouldn't hear anything... ever again.

*******


It only just occurred to Isaac, as he was ducked down under the windowsill, listening to the raiders outside, that Zara hadn't shown any signs of carrying a weapon. He looked back at her, then fished a hand onto his belt and unclipped the big knife. Silently, he tossed the knife to her, still in it's sheath. It wouldn't perform very well against a bunch of guns, but it was better than nothing, and it was all he had.

Then the explosion happened. Not as loud and powerful as a regular grenade, but loud enough to make Isaac wince. The door to the bedroom blew open with the force of the blast. Isaac chuckled as he new, whoever triggered that was absolutely in the afterlife, right now. He peeked over the windowsill to see the raiders scrambling for cover, making a commotion. Once the noise died down...

"Hey assholes, will you keep the noise down?" Isaac shouted. "Some of us are trying to sleep."

"We know you've got the girl in there! Hand her over, now!"

"And what if I do?" Isaac shot back, smiling. He looked at Zara and gave her a wink. It perhaps wasn't the time to be joking about trading a former slave to a bunch of bloodthirsty raiders. Especially when Zara was so recently freed and probably untrusting of everyone. This occurred to him as Tasha was making a trade offer, so Isaac made sure Zara knew he was on her side with his next action. He rose into view of the raiders, leaned on the windowsill, scanned the crew, then brandished his gun and took a shot at the easiest target. The resulting cry of pain said that he'd hit the man but not killed him. Isaac ducked back behind cover, laughing, as a barrage of return fire hit and chipped at the window. Beaming a crazy smile at Zara, Isaac was actually enjoying himself. "Look, you guys should go back where you came from. The downstairs of this building is rigged with more traps than you've got people. You have no chance here. The girl ran off a while ago, it's just me here!"

"Fucking liar!"

"I swear........ She transformed into a butterfly, gave me a blessing and fluttered off into the night....... God's honest truth." Now the young hero was just being ridiculous. But all the while he was talking utter nonsense, between each line, he was whispering to Zara that there was an escape route in the bathroom. "The woman you know as Zara was actually just her caterpillar form."
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Zara woke up to the sounds of the talking below, though she kept her eyes closed as tightly as she could. If she didn't make it seem like she was awake, or even there, they'd just move on right? There was no way they had tracked her here already. The duo had been walking for well over an hour at this point and she felt like she had only gotten to sleep. Little did she know that her light breathing had become deeper, almost held at some moments. Her eye lids fluttered with each movement her eyes did below them. She was trying to focus in on various zones to see where they could be coming from or if they were ambushing from all angles.

The sound of the explosion was hard to ignore though. She shot up and covered her own mouth to prevent herself from screaming out in shock. Yup, they found the house, they found her. They were going to get her. Hearing the words from Isaac's mouth made her just stare at him in utter shock. 'And what if I do?' Her heart was racing as she kept shaking her head. Eyes begging him to not give her to them.

She ducked back onto the bed, covering her head as she heard the rain shower of metal bullets being shot at the exact window that Isaac was just at. What was he doing? Trying to piss them off more? They knew where she was and they'd be getting back up if too many of them ka-boom'd all over the place. The smile on his face frightened her as well. Was he really getting off on this? He was one messed up twisted person, whom seemed to be attempting to keep her safe.

Hearing the whispers, she nodded her head, moving to slide off the bed but keep her head down. She scurried off towards the room that had to be the bathroom. What escape route had he set up? She didn't think either of them would survive a three story fall to the cement below. Seeing the rope, her eyes widened as she got excited.

She grabbed it and threw it over the edge of the window and rappel herself down the side of the building as silently as she could. Unfortunately in her haste, she didn't grab his knife off the mattress, leaving her defenceless if any of the raiders saw her come down. Luck was on her side as the moon was on the other side of the building, providing a massive darkened escape route for her. Once her feet hit the ground, she didn't wait for him before rushing off to find cover behind some fallen cement walls. Where to go now? He had mentioned something about Grasscroft being west but wouldn't that lead them right towards the raiders? Wouldn't they go there to look for her as it was the closest place? She needed to convince him of somewhere else to go. Even if it was off his beaten path, she didn't want to be where Diamond Backs would think to look.
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When Zara started towards the bathroom escape route, Isaac jumped back up and let fly a few rounds from The Raging Bull. That painful rush of 50-calibur recoil running up his arm, all the way to his shoulder... he enjoyed it. It made the gun feel like an extension of his own body and reminded him of his old lessons.

I aim with eye. I shoot with my mind. I kill with my heart.

The muzzle flash, in the dark bedroom, lit up Isaac's face to show bright blue eyes awash with excitement and a teethy one-sided grin. Here, in the middle of the gun battle, was a young man completely in his element. The wasteland was ruthless, unforgiving and dangerous. Animal or man - to survive you had to be the same. Isaac had learned that the hard way when he lost his mother. Such a tragedy had destroyed the boy he was. But that only allowed him to be built back up by the wandering hero who crossed his path. Cairo 'The Courier' Storm. It had taken some convincing by young Isaac to get Cairo Storm to teach him how to be a soldier of The Good Fight. But The Courier eventually did relent and take on Isaac as an apprentice for a year. And built back up, Isaac was... his heart just as big, but now with ice in his veins.

After trading volleys a couple of times, Isaac snuck away towards the back of the building, about time he made his own escape. Unfortunately for him, two of the raiders had made their way around back to surround the townhouse. They saw the rope dangling from the third floor window, right about the time that Isaac was halfway out.

"They're trying to escape!"

Isaac dove back inside, escaping gunfire. He couldn't see Zara and worried for her safety, hoping that she got away or at least found a good hiding spot, while he figured a way out of the situation. The raider's began calling to eachother, maintaining a lock on the front and rear entrances, as they probed carefully for a way in. Isaac glimpsed one of the raiders creeping to the front entrance, but didn't get time to shoot as Tasha unloaded her Uzi in his direction. It wouldn't take them long to realise that there were no more traps downstairs, and then they would rush in for the final showdown.

Think quick, Isaac, he urged himself.

After going down the 2nd floor, he realised that there were indeed windows on the southside of the building (the front and rear entrance facing east and west, respectively.) He snuck and checked out of the window. No sign of the enemy. Quietly and carefully, he slid the window up and open, and popped his head out. Coast still clear. With that, he went back up to the 3rd floor, ran to the bathroom window and squeezed off two shots at his foes, who shot back. Then, sprinting into the bedroom at the front of house, he threw his last grenade out of the window and rushed down to the 2nd floor.

The grenade bounced with a Clink before... "Grenade!" ...it exploded into shrapnel.

The diversion was chaotic enough that he had time climb out of the window, hang from the ledge and then drop to the floor. The impact on the concrete almost broke his ankles and he dropped onto his ass.

"Ugh. Shit," he moaned as quietly as possible. He got to his feet, a hand on the wall as he looked both ways. "I hope she remembered what I said about Grasscroft."

And with that, he made a run for it. As soon as he got over the road, he turned around and started blasting again, getting the raiders attention before disappearing behind the houses. He could hopefully lead them south and away from Zara, then meet up with her at Grasscroft. The nearby town had it's own militia who defended the settlement from threats. It was about as safe a haven as they would get for now.

After 20 seconds of running, he could hear shouts behind him. He smiled as he ran. His plan was working.
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Zara managed to get behind a wall as he was spotted during his escape. It was dark enough that she wasn't easily spotted. If one had focused in her direction though, they would have seen movement in the night. She hugged the wall as the grenade exploded, lighting up the area with a quick flash. "Please be from Issac, please be from Issac." She whispered to herself, trying to peer back to the building to see if he escaped.

Not seeing more than the raiders scramble to reassemble themselves for building penetration, Zara cursed under her breath. She didn't see him pop out another window, nor see him making a run for it. To her, he was still trapped inside the building and she had no weapon to try and rescue him. Squaring up her shoulders, she tucked her hair behind her ears as she prepared herself for a winless melee attack on the raiders.

Just as she was about to bolt for the closest raider, more shots rang into the night air. Was that him? What was he doing? Their intentions were get away from the raiders. Not draw them closer. Moving to the corner once more, she pressed against the cement wall and looked around it. The raiders she could see were going in the opposite direction of her. They seemed to be going towards the sounds of the gunfire. "Fucking moron." She muttered herself and shook her head. "Get your ass killed then." She shook her head, pushing away from the wall.

Slowly she began her walk through the shadows, heading west towards Grasscroft. At the very least, she could get herself a weapon and maybe trade a day or two of work for something to eat and a bedroll. Sticking to the shadows, she picked her way over the rubble. She managed to find herself on the second story of an apartment building that had leaned over onto a hill. Not very skilled at rock climbing, she did her best to maneuver her way down the side. Sliding the last foot though, she scrapped up her left forearm and right leg.

It was already sunrise by the time she managed to see the city over the horizon. Beyond exhausted, hungry, sore and very irritated, Zara approached the gate guards. She looked ready to pass out, having been up for nearly a full 24 hours now and constantly on the move.
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Saiyan
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Pistol Pete was chewing slowly on his chewing tobacco as he watched the young woman approaching the front gate. Paul, the other gate guard on duty, was stood statue-like. Pete was the superior officer on duty, Paul would let him do the talking. When the woman got closer, he could see that she was exhausted and wore a few injuries. He spat and continued chewing, looking for any tattoos that might signify she was a raider, but she had none that he could see.

"You alright miss?" he asked. "You look like you've been to hell and back."

He would normally tell outsiders sternly, 'What's your business?' but the girl was a sorry sight. He couldn't bring himself to be stern with her. His tone was sympathetic and he could tell Paul was looking at him in his sideview. The young guardsman was probably confused, but Pete was experienced to know that sometimes you had to judge the situation and change accordingly. This woman had no weapon on her, and her clothes were bare enough that she couldn't really hide one. She was without a weapon in the dangerous wastes and looked like she hadn't slept peacefully in weeks. Pete would bet that she'd been running from trouble too, with the fresh scrapes on her arm. Maybe she could use a break, this once.

Whatever she answered to his inquiry, he told her; "Paul here will take you to the guards barracks where you can get some rest. We'll give you a day to get yourself sorted. After that, you'll need some caps or do some work if you want to stay longer. That's the best I can do for you."

If she agreed, Pete would give a nod to Paul, to follow his order, and Paul would lead the way.

***


Isaac Storm gave the raiders the run-around all night. Firing off shots at them and fleeing, taking corners, getting lost in the mazey ruins around them. He'd even took one of them down, leaving only Tasha and three others following him. And one of them was injured, with a bullet in his arm. It had been a fun night.

In the end, Isaac watched the sun rise as he lounged on the broken roof of a building.

"Shit, we've lost them!" he heard Tasha shout. He was tempted to fire a shot at them for giggles. He smiled at the thought. But he decided against that when he heard, "We need to fall back to base... report to the bossman that she's gotten away."

"Someone in the Diamond Backs must've helped her out. There's no way this wasn't planned."

Isaac watched them leave and then waited for a half hour before getting down to the ground and heading in the direction of Grasscroft. He moved carefully, and regularly checked to see if he was being followed. After an hour, he was just travelling normally. It was still a long walk away to Grasscroft. Isaac hoped Zara had made it there. He didn't want to abandon her. After all, there was no way she could just set up in Grasscroft. It was too close to the Diamond Backs base. She needed to get further away, and Isaac knew a settlement in Manhattan where she would be very safe. If he could just catch up to her, he would follow through on his vow to help her. All the way. It wasn't a vow he'd actually made to her out loud or anything. But once Isaac got himself into to some trouble, he would always vow to himself, to see it through.

He just hoped she'd be there when he arrived.
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Zara dropped to her knees as soon as she was within talking distance of the guards, a mix of dirt and pebbles being displaced by the sudden impact of her body. Deep breaths were ragged as she inhaled, knowing she needed to breathe to speak. His question, if she was okay received a gentle head shake, though it was accompanied by a smirk with his observation. "I'm - I'm exhausted. Diamond back settlement." She gestured behind her vaguely as it was more effort to point than it was worth. These were city guards, they wouldn't be going in search of the settlement. They probably already knew where it was anyway, the statement was more of just so they knew why she was running and looked like hell. She had been to hell and was coming back.

Hearing his offer of a bed to rest her head was music to her ears. She slowly rose herself up to her feet, stumbling a couple times. She wasn't sure her legs would get her that far but she was adamant on making it that far at least. She nodded her head with a gentle smile. "Thank you. I do intend on doing work, I just need rest first." She whispered to Pete before following the one called Paul into the gates of the city.

For it being the middle of the night, the place was alive with people. Most shops were closed but there were a couple open like the blacksmith for weaponry and armour. She was lead down a hill which passed a tavern or someplace that had a few drunks at it. A few young women utilizing their bodies for caps that weren't very well hidden. Zara wrinkled her nose at that idea, shaking her head. Why would anyone stoop that low? She didn't think she could ever do it. Prude? No. Pure? Hell no. That had been taken from her a long time ago. But to willingly set your standards so low?

She paused when she saw Paul start going up another hill, towards the large wooden and scrap metal building up top. A couple single lights haphazardly attached to the walls. A hill? She had to do another hill? Her legs burned as if she had dipped them in acid. 'Come on' was barked at her by her escort, already half way up the hill. Stones had been placed as a loose excuse for a stair case.

Once brought in to the barracks, Paul explained the deal she was offered so she wouldn't be seen as an invader. Being shown to her temporary bed was rather quick and silent as there were others actually sleeping. The woman who showed her apologized for it not being comfortable but Zara waved off her apologies. She didn't need comfort. She needed safe. Last time she tried to sleep, she wasn't safe. Finally getting to lay down, Zara was out within moments.

~~

Morning came much sooner than Zara had hoped, pulling the blanket over her head to block out the sounds of people getting ready for duty or coming off night-shift. She was hoping to get a bit more sleep, curling up into a ball as if that would also keep the sun from lighting up the inside. Once shift change happened, she managed to get a bit more sleep in the silence.

Noon came and she was prodded with a foot to wake up. Couldn't sleep the day away like she had been needing to do. Body demanded rest but the deal and the city demanded she make her own way now. She slowly sat up and nodded, waving her hand gently to Pistol Pete, showing she was awake.
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"Up you get, sleepy head," Pete said, gentle but firm. He took a step back waited for her to rise. "I've found you some work at the local tavern, The Three Legged Dog. The owner, Pinocchio, is a nice enough guy. I'm sure he won't work you too hard. There's a washroom through that door there." He pointed at the bathroom. "Get yourself cleaned up, I'll be waiting outside."

The veteran town guard watched the roads, down the hill, below. Grasscroft was steady bustling with lunchtime activity. He imagined circle merchants would be outside over the next few hours. Heading to and from places like New Brooklyn and Liberty Heights, Uptown and Sycamore Grove. There might even be some distant runners from the Commonwealth settlements. Grasscroft sat fairly close to the border of Boston, East New York and West New York, making it a sort of centre-point of commerce in the wasteland. Over the decades, it had grown from a small settlement, to about as big a city as one might see in New York. Only Liberty Heights could compare. And with that size, and good leadership over the generations, it was prosperous and safe, with well trained militia to withstand raider attacks and the weekly waves of feral ghouls.

When the young woman appeared, he flicked his head pointedly down the hill and then lead the way.

"Grasscroft is a nice enough place," he told her. "It's safe too, as you can probably tell." As if on queue, half a dozen guards armed with assault rifles went past them, heading up the hill. "Pinocchio will pay you decently - enough to get yourself some food and another bed. If he likes you, he might offer you more work. Who knows, maybe you'll settle down here."

They walked through the streets, having to watch themselves as crossed right through a soccer game. Dodging the children as he laughed, the ball came toward him.

"Pistol Pete! Pistol Pete, here!"

He kicked it towards the kid that called him.

"Hey that's not fair!" shouted another.

The got onto Main Street - the big road through the town, and from there they shortly found the tavern, The Three Legged Dog. Pete stopped in front of it and gave her a dry grin. "It used to have four legs, but umm... a few too many bar fights."

He went through the saloon-style batwing doors and raised a hand to Pinocchio, who was behind the bar. "You're back," he greeted with a smile. Pinocchio was tall, slender man. He had slick black hair, warm brown eyes and an equally warm smile. "And I suppose that this is my helper for today. My name is Pinocchio, how do you do?"

He held out his hand to shake.
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Zara rubbed her face as she trotted off towards the bathroom he had pointed out, slight nods of her head in the process. Work sounded like a good idea, though she'd like to have slept longer. Couldn't do that, work always needed to be done and if you were lazy out here in the wastelands, you'd just become food for those more driven to survive. Besides, this work she'd actually get paid for instead of just 'do it or die' rules. That felt pretty uplifting, knowing she'd be able to actually earn something for herself.

After washing her face and using her finger to clean her teeth the best she could, she ran her fingers through her hair to get out any knots that had formed in her sleep. She used some water to dampen it so it wasn't poofed up in the wrong places and looking messy. She walked out to Pistol Pete as she gave him a weak smile. "Thank you for the opportunity and the safety to rest. It was much needed." She explained to him, sticking close enough to him that she wouldn't get lost. "Has anyone come calling for me? I'm expecting a friend of sorts." She didn't know what to call Issac. Was he a friend? Was he actually going to come here to meet her? Did he survive? She had a ton of questions but no one would know the answers.

Watching him with the kids made her smile a bit, loving how lively the city was. It was bustling and in a good happy way. Not the grumpy, horny men who focused on pleasures of the body and funds of the pockets. Kids were actually safe to play in the paths, adults moved around without checking over their shoulders every few moments. This seemed like a very pleasant place to be after all. Maybe Issac was right about directing her here, despite her raider owners being only a few stones throw away.

Meeting the tavern owner actually brought a wave of nerves upon her. She hadn't felt them in years so she wondered why this man made her feel that way. She wanted desperately to impress him so he'd keep her on his staff. Extending her hand to shake his, she gave a single nod of her head. "Yes I am. Zara is the name and I am willing to do almost anything and almost everything. I have skills in cooking, cleaning, waiting tables, and even tending bars. Though I'm sure you're reserving that for someone who has proven themselves more." She told him as she met his eye so he'd know she was an honest person.
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