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VATROU The Barron

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So a quick note from me. I’ll continue adding more when I’m able, and the story won’t just follow a set amount of characters. Often I’ll be bouncing around between settings along the same timeline. Some interactions between other characters at similar times in different locations and whatnot. I’ll be exploring my Lore further and character growth.

Chapter 1

The year is May 3rd 2300. With Mr.House’s victory in Vegas twenty years prior the Legion has begun to fall into collapse. Caesar has died and Legate Lanius has assumed control of most of the Legion’s forces, while the NCR has elected a new President focused more on Exploration than war, he has the majority of the public supporting him and has developed more advanced agriculture and deepened relations between the New California Republic and New Vegas. Bringing electricity and water into barren lands. Christopher Briggs the the President of the NCR has sent a few expeditions along the coastline heading North avoiding Legion lands. They have discovered many new lands and peoples, some will make good alliances and others will become new enemies. However upon landing on the shores of Alaska they will come to realize the new dangers that await them.

The Vaults atrium was packed with new recruits all longing to become Arctic Rangers, to wear the starred wolf badge and earn a living for their families wherever they may be; standing above them all on the second level was a man in his late forties with black hair braided in parts and a full beard covering his chest. He wore the armor everyone in the room envied or respected; for he was the High Chief of the Rangers themselves. North Ashland, decorated, respected, and capable tactician. He strode about back and forth inspecting the bunch of rag tag Wastelanders who had gathered, many in leather armors holding single shot rifles.

North stopped squarely in front of a microphone and spoke commandingly.

“Welcome all! You have made a brave choice to gather here today. The life of a R anger is a perilous one, and you will be expected to fulfil your duties. Get shot slap a bandage on it. Lose a limb tape up the wound. Die, and walk it off. This is not a job! Nay I say! It is a way of life. We are a lifeline to many and the only Law most will ever see. You may come from Villages or Farms, you may be Fishermen or Criminals. But this is your chance to turn your life around, to devote your life for the people. For there is no one besides the Rangers that has taken this task. During the next year you will enter basic training. It will test you and weed out those unfit for duty. From there your real training begins. Good Luck. You will need it.”

North lingered on but a moment as the new recruits shuffled on out. Some inspired by his speech others more confused than before.

Elsewhere in the War Room. Arctic Wolves Jonathan and Claire sat awaiting North’s return.

Claire!!” Jonathan bellowed out. “Feet off the Table!! According to subsection..”

The sound of Claire’s boots hitting the floor with a thud and subsequently his voice interrupted Jonathan’s rantings.

Oh will you shut up about the rules and regulations! Not everyone is as uptight as you are.”

Jonathan’s brows furrowed as wrinkles spread all across his face.

WE! Are the epitome of the Arctic Ranger! And as such must present ourselves as..”

As Jonathan continued his rant he was interrupted by High Chief Ashland when he walked into the room.

“Jonathan!” North said with a chuckle. “Do I need to get you two a room? So you could continue to profess your love to each other.”

Jonathan fell silent as he saluted the High Chief while as he did Ranger Claire just gave a quick two finger salute.

“Yo. Good to see you North, I thought Jonathan here would yell my ears off till they bled.”

North let out a slight chuckle. “Well seems like I saved you from your imminent death. So now that you’re done flirting, I have a mission for you two. Should you survive that is. I’m starting to doubt that now.”

“Sure North, what’s the mission?”

“I think I’ll live being paired up with Claire.”

North smiled as he set a folder down on the table. “We’ve seen reports of small ships of unknown origin. A landing party was seen near Cordova, dressed in Riot armors similar to ours. No hostile actions so far, we must assume that might not last for long. Especially once they encounter Lythropes or Bloodpack raiders. So you’re to investigate and make contact if they seem affable.”

The two Rangers read through the report thoroughly before either of them spoke. While North simply drank a full stout of wildberry mead.

“High Chief?” Jonathan spoke raising his head. “It says the initials N.C.R were seen on the shoulders. Might they be from some Government”

North shrugged.”That’s what I assume. Anyways finish reading that and gear up. I want you two moving shortly.”

The Rangers nodded as they continued flipping through the papers.
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Chapter 2

Somewhere in the forests near Cordova combat boots stomped all around a campsite where tents had been pitched the previous night. The Troopers and Rangers that made up this expedition were only twenty strong and had basic armaments; the Rangers being the only exception to this as they were decked out in the signature Veteran Dusters and possessed Brush guns as well as other arms befitting their ranks.

“This place ain't so bad there’s plenty of trees and look!” The Trooper held out a canteen of water. “Checked the radiation levels of a nearby creek and well, it’s just fine. Has some residual radiation, but it’s well within acceptable levels.”

“Good find Private Beckard.” A tall Ranger with clean cut hair said as he smacked Beckard across the back. “Alright if anyone needs to top off their canteen ask Beckard to show you the way, then show anyone else that asks. Lets get this campsite packed up. I want to see if we can find some locals. Keep your guns loaded and ready for trouble don’t know how civilized these people may be.”

A collective “YES SIR!!” Echoed throughout the campsite.

The Troopers moved about briskly as the site was cleaned up within an hour. Tents were rolled and dirt was shoveled onto the firepit, one of the Privates stopped to inspect something he saw out of the corner of his eye. An odd large white mushroom that seemed to have strings or webbing of some kind attached to it. As he peered closer it jumped up from the ground and scurried off leaving the Private flat on his ass gasping for air.

One of the Rangers darted over to his side.”Private are you injured!”

He shook his head as he caught his breath.”N..No Sir. What the hell was that, some kind of bug!?”

“Did it bite you Private?”

“No Sir. Just took off as soon as I got close.”

“Well.” The Ranger said taking a look at the direction the Private was pointing. “Let this be a lesson to all of you, don't go poking your noses where they don’t belong. We have no idea what the native flora and fauna is like. Best to assume it’s dangerous till we figure out otherwise.. Right then let’s get a move on, we’re burning daylight.”

The Troopers filled in a line as they nervously looked over their shoulders, this was a strange land it had only been a few days and things had already become quite odd. The forest would sometimes have an eerie clam with nothing but the sound of wind blowing through the trees. Other times eyes would peer out from the branches belonging to birds that had a gray plumage.

They would march on for hours before they made their next camp, and as they moved closer towards the big cities more and more Factions would take note of their presence.
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Chapter 3

“So?” North spoke setting down his stout of mead. “I assume you know the details by now.”

The two Rangers nodded, while North continued speaking.

“Good then, I’ll be taking my leave.” He began to stand when he was called out to.

“High Chief!?” Jonathan spoke up. “Should we be concerned that we may have a tag along?”

North stopped his hands had barely left the table when Jonathan addressed him. “No. If you’re referring to my trouble making Daughter she’s off to see her Girlfriend, I think she brought ales and Ashe told me she had plans to keep my Daughter busy for the day.

“Ah. Things seem to be going well for them.” Claire spoke with a slight smile.

“Verily so. My Daughter Vivian and Ashe have been seeing each other for a few months now, I think she does Ashe well, Vi tempers her; keeps her from overdosing on Chems.”

Jonathan solemnly spoke. “I read the file on her. It’s simply a miracle she still has her sanity, what she went through as a mere child would have broken any grown man.”

“Quite.” North murmured. “But that was long ago, Ashe has good people supporting her now. Now however It’s about time you all get ready.”

Jonathan stood first followed by Claire who rose to his feet sluggishly.

“Right boss, we’ll hit the armory and make sure we have enough firepower for whatever is thrown our way.” -- “Jonathan, need anything?”

“Certainly! I have plans to pick up my shoulder mounted machine gun, and missile launcher.”

“Seriously!? You planning on wiping out an army?”

“I see why not. 10 mm rounds are plentiful and if we come across something foul indeed, a well placed missile will end it thoroughly.”

“Okay. You do that, I prefer weapons with more tact, you know a Dragunov and a old fashioned revolver break action chambered in trusty .357 rounds. Not all of us are built like tanks you know, Mister Mad Titan.”

“You two have fun duking it out here, In the meantime I’m sure nothing bad will befall these strangers.” North said snarkily

Claire stopped speaking and Jonathan stood still.

“Now I trust whatever issues you may have you can put them aside. I do have other Rangers to command.”

“Forgive me North, got a little carried away.” Claire said before turning to Jonathan. “Sorry about that, you know. Being rude and all.”

“Say no more, our gripes will have to wait for later. But don’t call me Mad Titan again, that’s not who I am anymore. My abilities serve a higher cause than myself.”

“No more mushy stuff than?” Claire asked.

“But I like mushy stuff. Hugs create camaraderie.”

“Coming from you they just create broken bones, that and your Pysker powers tend to give off a different vibe.”

North began to walk towards the doorway before he stopped and looked back, it was a big gamble. But Claire needed to fit in with the other Arctic Wolves. He was part of an elite group composed of only seven members, every other Wolf before him has partnered at one time or another. That was how bonds were made, North only hoped that it would all work out in the end.

Hours had passed since then. And with Jonathan and Claire both equipped in the traditional Arctic Ranger armors, which long ago were Winterized Riot gear now just covered in a long duster and customized to each ranger’s preference. Claire liked minimal gear, just the standard armor and duster. Jonathan on the other hand had the pauldrons of the T-45d powered armor built into his armor’s shoulder joints, and wore thick furred boots. Belts of 10 mm ammunition hung off his waist, and missiles filled their pack.

As they walked through the Vault, the murmurs of it’s residents echoed throughout the halls.

“See that. It’s Jonathan the Mad Titan. They say he can grow to the size of a giant.”

“Quit being stupid. We all know it’s some mind trick, otherwise how could he walk these halls. He’s one of those Psykers, the ones with strange powers.”

“Who's the wimp next to him?”

“You mean the guy with the crimson hair? He’s Claire. Got quick fingers and quicker aim they say. Guy could pick your pockets before you knew you had any.”

“How’d he become a Ranger?”

“Same as anyone. Started over and proved himself.”

“He’s young though.”

“Hot too.”

“Hey quiet all of you. They’re looking this way.”

Claire chuckled while Jonathan simply walked on. “There goes the rumor mill again. Right what preference of transportation do you like? Wanna go for something simple like the Horse?” Claire said.

“I prefer the Worcas.”

Claire raised a brow.”The Wolf, Orca mutant hybrids?”

“Yes. They hold my weight, and don’t get spooked easily.”

“Alright. Not as fast as a Horse or Northern Stag. But works for me.”

The door to the Vault slid open as they entered the security room. One of the guards addressed them.

“Good Hunting to you boys.”

The two Rangers walked through the entrance and over to the stables ready to set out.

Chapter 4

One thirty five PM, Anchorage time. A woman with long raven hair and voluptuous curves sat at a desk while she ran her left palm over her face in exhaustion. Reports had come in all throughout the last few days of what was foreign troopers called the NCR, her scouts had hung back and performed reconnaissance collecting as much information as they could without making direct contact. The folder that compiled their findings had already been sent off to the Arctic Rangers at Vault 118. What ever these foreign troops wanted with Alaska it was best that the Rangers confront them first.

Her faction the Bush Company had a long history with the Rangers, in fact she herself was a Ranger roughly ten years prior. She had taken the mantle of Madame after the previous one had passed away, and she has not regretted her choice. In fact she felt a sense of pride, solidarity even among the working class girls who strutted about half naked. But sex was not the only service they performed, it was well known that the Bush trained and employed Spies and Assassins to do the dirty work of others. They would of course never accept a contract to kill anyone lawful but everyone else was fair game.

Since the arrival of the NCR other factions had begun to move, her greatest fear would be if Zhang forces intercepted these foreign troops and executed them. For they long had held a grudge with all those born on American soil. These former Chinese sleeper agents and Soldiers that evaded capture founded their own settlement in the state’s capital of Juneau. Contact with Stonewall; Juneau’s Major faction of former raiders indicated increased activity on their side. It wouldn’t be long before they made a move she thought. As a knock rapped on her door.

“Madame Valmet? It’s Red Rose, may I enter?”

Valmet sighed and set down the papers and brushed aside the strands of hair that fell in front of her face. “Enter.” She said showing signs of her fatigue.

“Madame, a new report for you. The Vanderbilts have sent agents to investigate the presence of NCR troopers.”

Valmet balled her hand into a fist and rested her jaw on top of it. “Just what I need, what could the arrogant and egotistical self proclaimed Mafioso gain by sending out his agents.”

Red Rose was about to speak before she was cut off by Valmet. “Perhaps he wishes to expand his influence, yes that might be it.”

“Madame, that does seem to be the case. Given his past dealings with other Factions and his rapid expanse over the criminal elements of the region; it is a possible conclusion.”

Valmet dropped her head silently into her hand, taking but a moment to think this through.

“Madame?”

Her head quickly raised and she addressed Miss Rose. ”Radio this information to North, he needs his men to intercept these troopers before Vanderbilt does, there’s no telling what he’d do to get his way. More importantly I am worried about the Zhang. We don’t need any other factions clashing over this.”

“Understood Madame.”

Red Rose rushed out of the room and headed down to the communications room. As Valmet lounged back in her chair. “Two hundred years. Two hundred years, and nay a peep from the outside world. What will the future bode for us now.”

Chapter 5

6:37 PM Cordova time

NCR troopers have just reached a lone Cabin out in the woods, that they had cautiously approached. “Ranger Veilmont?” One of the Troopers asked. “Should we move closer, the place looks abandoned?”

Matthew Veilmont sat crouched in tall brush alongside the other troopers. He raised a pair of binoculars and eyed the windows. Small windows, glass partially exposed through the boards nailed on the outside. Veilmont thought to himself as he lowered his arm and turned to the others.

“We go in, you three.” He said pointing them out. “Move around the left side. The four of you.” He said pointing out four other men. “Go around back, the rest of you with me; we’ll advance slowly.”

They crept up towards the Cabin unsure of what to expect. The troopers gave out hand signs giving the all clear. Rangers Veilmont and Samuels breached the door as it opened with no resistance. The other troopers called out. “All clear!!” They began scanning the rooms.

Once they had opened every door they gathered in what appeared to be a Living room. “Everything's all clear.” Veimont spoke.

Samuels turned to one of the troopers. “Lieutenant Richards! Check this place for supplies, bring Beckard with you just in case you find trouble.”

“Yes Sir! Come on Becard, let’s see if there’s anything in the fridge.”

One of the troopers spotted something on the table. “Veilmont, Sir! Might want to take a look at this. Seems to be a map.”

Veilmont strode over.”Good find Private First Class Harper . Let’s take a look. Hmm, it’s marked. Looks like we’re at this marker. Cabin number three hundred and five. That means there’s a lot of cabins.”

While Veilmont looked over the map, Richards and Beckard were in the Kitchen going through the cabinets. “Not much food here Richards, just loads of, homemade beer?”

“Wildberry Mead.” Richards said looking at the label. “Yeah all homebrews. They must really like their drinks.” Richards said as he cracked one open taking a whiff of it.”Whew, smells sweet. So wanna bet a shoeshine this is drinkable?”

“Ha! I’ll take that bet.”

“Well Beckard, here you go, bottoms up.”

Beckard held the bottle and prepared himself to take a drink form it. “Let’s hope I don’t get sick.”

Richards egged him on as Beckard took a gulp and downed a mouthful of Mead.

“Ahh, way too sweet.”

“You feeling alright though Beckard?”

“Yeah, i guess. So wanna tell the Rangers what we found?”

Richards nodded and the two walked back into the main room.

“We’re a ways off from any civilization.” Veilmont spoke. “Looks like there’s a small village in Cordova about a day and a half out from here. But these.” He said with his finger on a point on the map. “These are starred, unlike the dots scattered about I assume these mean cities or major settlements.”

Richards and Beckard walked on in.”Were back, didn’t find much just Cram, stale chips, and loads of Homebrewed Alcohol.”

Ranger Samuels looked over to them. “Well this map has been useful, that radio in the corner not so much. Wires have been chewed on, rodents or the like. For now let’s assume these people have a radio station or two, and see what we can pick up in the morning. Lieutenant Duran, see if you can’t re-wire our radios into the antenna.”

“Right away SIr!” She saluted and pulled out a tool kit.

Veilmont turned to their Field Medic Jessie Keller and spoke.”Keller, see what medical supplies you can find; pair up if something were to happen.”

Keller nodded, and took another trooper with her; while the others began to settle in for the night. Wood was brought in from the pile outside. And if they needed more there was an axe and saw to fell a tree.

Chapter 6

7:03 PM Anchorage time. Bush Company Headquarters.

Vivian and Ashe were holding each other in an embrace on a metal framed bed with Ashe resting on Vi’s ample bosom. As they finished an old Holodisk scavenged from the Library just blocks away. Vi who was part Caucasian and Yupik as was her father had her hand resting on Ashe’s waist.

“Still can’t believe you found one of these old things, I thought almost all of them had been lost to time.” Vi spoke softly over the ending credits of the Holodisk.

Ashe the short raven haired girl, who had more scars than cleavage on her athletic body. Lifted her head.”Found it behind a collapsed wall, no one looked behind it because no one could move the wall by themselves.”

The light flickered across the wooden walls of the small room devoid of decorations. While Vi sat there staring into Ashe’s eyes for a moment's time.

“You dosed up on Chems didn’t you, for that?” Vivian shifted her weight and began to sit upright.

“No, for you. But since you’re so ungrateful maybe I won’t bother next time.” Ashe furrowed her brows and her scars wrinkled slightly.

“Ashe..” Vi said as she sighed and tried to speak more calmly.”You know that’s not what I meant, I get worried when you dose, I know you can take the toxins but it still scares me. Anyone else but you would probably die.”

“I am fine. I’m always fine. Chems don’t work on me like they would you.”

“I don’t want you relapsing, I’ve seen what happens when you relapse. You’re just not you, you have an unnatural hunger for chems and it drives you mad.”

Ashe snapped her head towards Vi, out of indignation.”I’m not like the others, their blood may run through my veins, unlike them I have my sanity, and my anger. I won’t lose myself before I do what must be done.” Her eyes glanced over to the empty bottles of mead and ale, as she was looking for an excuse to storm off and cool down. “We’re outta Ale, I’ll be back.”

“Ashe..” Vivian said as she leaned forward.

“I said I’ll be back.”

Ashe stood up from the bed, and stormed off slamming the door behind her making her way downstairs from her room, past the moans and squeaking beds for paying customers that were being entertained in private rooms. The hallways were dimly lit giving the wooden walls a warm sensual feel, and the wooden walls have been replaced numerous times over the centuries that almost no one knows where it all came from.

Once Ashe rounded the corner into the main lobby where topless women served drinks and women danced on stage over tossed bills. Lights strobed up and down the stage as customers eyed the spectacle that was Rave Mouse, she may not have been as endowed as the other Strippers, or as tall but the rainbow of color that dyed her hair and the piercings that covered her body tantalized and titillated the audience and she gyrated on stage with unnatural movements.

Ashe walked past without batting an eye at the scene. She knew Mouse, and although she quite enjoyed the wild dancing on stage it was pure torment on her bones. But that’s not what she was here for a bar overloaded on drunken patrons lay just before her, and a woman with spiked hair worked the bar as Ashe walked up.

“Evenin’ Ashe. What can I do you for?”

“More drinks Evelyn , maybe some strong ones.”

The Bartender eyes her a bit, but then reaches under the counter.

While she sets the bottles of alcohol on the counter top. Another patron just farther down is acting like a drunken fool. “Soo I says to the wh***, just get down in the water and we’ll ride your ass across the river.” The few other men all dressed in work garments and one with a workers tool belt, belted out a drunken laugh. “Hey, what? That one of ‘em freaks. Yeah, one of them damned Bloodpack Wh*** Children.” The room fell deathly silent as not a sound was made, Rave Mouse had even stopped dancing on stage.

“Even have that.. Wh*** Friend of yours. Yeah what was her…”

The man barely spat out the last word as Ashe’s smaller scarred hands had already wrapped around his neck with a speed that stunned the onlookers. Her own inhuman strength lifting him off the floor. One could say in this moment Ashe’s Jade eyes were black as coal from the seething rage. The man’s face turned blue as the life was chocked out of him while he struggled to no avail. Not a single soul intervened nay did anyone move a muscle the Bush’s Enforcer wasn’t one to be angered. She didn't wield a nearly nine pound twin headed spear for show after all. And in the Bush Company disrespect was punished severely, even death was an acceptable form in unique situations such as this. This would be the last time a drop of alcohol touched his lip as his hands fell to his side and his eyes rolled back into his skull.

Chapter 7

May 4th 5:36 PM Wittier - Vanderbilt City and Gambling Hall; formerly the Buckner Building.

Inside the halls of Alaska’s largest city under a single roof a former Military barracks that had all the amenities one could ask for. Indoor pools, Shopping centers, Repair shops, and of course Gambling. The Buckner building was to have everything but most of all it sheltered most of Whittier’s residents during the final hours of the Great War. A nonessential target as the building was merely city property kept in shape through the budget as a Historic building.

These halls contained many souls all under the influence of the Vanderbilts, after Jordan Bates the previous President of the Buckner Building had an unfortunate accident. Or so his daughter tells the story. Everyone knew of course that her father was a tyrant, who drank and beat his own wife but never his daughter. He spoiled her, though no baubles could erase her own fear of the man; only herself and Barron Vanderbilt knew what really happened, that Carol fell in love with the hired help and begged the man to murder her own father.

Barron who under his own greed and lust for power expanded the operations of Carol’s gangs of thugs and drug runners. Taking the entire city as his territory; greedy as Barron may be his people either love him or fear him, but never without reason. And deep in these halls the sounds of bones breaking and knuckles slamming against flesh resounded through the building. As a large crowd bet and drank watching two men duke it out in a ring under spotlights all who suffer from the strongest bare knuckle brawler disease.

A man tall and slim approached a spectator who watched intensly while the current Chap fought it out for everything. The title, his wealth,his home. His raspy voice spoke. “Worried about the Boss are you? Don’t be, just look at him. Although his opponent is a Samoan, one of biggest I’ve seen in fact; Barron is handling him quite well. He adapted his style for accuracy and defense. And that stance of his is like a Hoplite; left arm held out like a shield to deflect blows, right arm poised to strike at a moments notice.”

The woman obviously befuddled turned and spoke. “What is a Hoplite, Wraith?”

He cursed under his breath. “Smoothskins.” Before speaking in a manner that she could hear.”Before your time, well before your time.”

The woman dismissed the Wraith’s ramblings and continued on watching the show with eager anticipation. As Barron ducked under a right strike deflecting it up and off to the side, his own right impacted the Samoan’s jaw sending out a resounding echo of smashing flesh as his head recoiled back and he took a step back regaining his footwork.

The Samoan went for a left hook as Barron side-stepped back with his right foot only to have the punch clip his left shoulder sending him off balance as he twirled to the side and the Samoan went in for a uppercut. Barron against the chain fence of the ring shifted his stance to his favored left straight connecting with the Samoan’s face and nose, while his uppercut went through the air.

Barron watched as the Samoan fell to the ring floor with a heavy thud. As the crowd stood speechless. They had been at it for six rounds, the farthest anyone has made it thus far. The crowd cheered and broke out into a roar, as Barron walked off the stage and spied a Wraith over to the side of the ring. “Boss. Good fight for a warmup. Should’ve ended it quickly.”

A smirk ran across his weary face.”That would be no fun Smithe. And I aim to please my fans. But enough about that, I trust you have news for me so let’s talk elsewhere.”

The Wraith nodded as they strolled to Barron’s office. Where Pictures of old lined the walls, and a liquor cabinet filled to the brim. Barron sat in a wooden chair hand engraved and decorative, with a firm but yet comfy cushion.

“The boys will make land tonight, they sailed across the channel and as we estimated will reach these visitors before North and his Rangers.”

Barron poured a glass of Whiskey into a glass of ice, and offered Smithe a glass.

“Good, I’ll be sure to make our guests feel right at home in my stockades. We’ll know our enemy and what riches their lands hold.”

“Sure thing boss, so long as they don’t mobilize en mass against us.”

“Let me worry about that, once I show North how hostile they can be I’ll make him march off to war.” Barron grinned as the whiskey glass pressed against his lips, the ice clinked as the liquid flowed from the glass.
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Chapter 8

Forests of Cordova 6:53 AM Earlier that day.

Alma Duran had worked through late in the night splicing wires and soldering metal. The rooftop antenna that connected to her field radio gave her a spotty connection at best. But the Rangers appeared happy enough with her work given the limited materials she had to work with. The burned tips of her fingers turned the knobs and she kept adjusting till she found a signal.

“Thi.. Mag.. ..dio Here wi.h the ne.s. Re.orts.”

One of the Rangers spoke up interrupting everyone attempting to listen to the broadcast. “Anything you can do Duran? We can barely make out that garbled message.” He said with a slight irritation in his voice.

Duran nodded and pulled Harper closer. “You’re going to need to hop on the roof and turn the dish, it should be mounted on a pivot. Turn it slowly and listen to my directions.”

Ranger Samuels looked to the man.”Be careful up there soldier. Take Private Ira Kane with you.”

“Of course Sir!” Harper responded with haste. As they went outside and climbed up on the roof.

As Harper scrambled up on to the roof, Duran began shouting orders.”Start by turning it clockwise..” Duran and the others listened to the broadcast as it’s reception worsened. “STOP!! Turn it counter clockwise!” The signal jumped about until it stabilized. “STOP!! STOP!! Don’t touch it any further! We got the signal! I repeat, we have the signal!”

Ranger Veilmont stood by the window peering outside as Kane helped Harper off the roof, whilst the radio broadcasted clearly. A gust of wind blew through the trees on an otherwise clear summers’ day.

“That’s all for the news, see you all in an hour, till then here’s some music, What a Wonderful World. By Louis Armstrong…”

Ranger Felicia Buck walked back inside after scouting the nearby area, taking off her helmet she joined the group. “Wow, we got music now. Good job Duran. Anything of note Veilmont?” She said as her boots trailed in dirt.

Disappointed Veilmont spoke. “Not a thing Buck. We missed the show.”

Buck sat down on the floor next to them. “I say we stick around for a few more hours, give Keller a bit of rest eat and then move out. Using the directions you gave me I scouted on ahead, didn’t get close enough to the Village, everything looks clear at least. No Raiders, no Beasts. It’ll likely take a most of the day before we reach the location.”

Ranger Veilmont nodded in approval. “Sounds good, Duran get some rest.”

Duran stepped away shoulders slumping in exhaustion, towards the bed rolls laid out the previous night. The sun shining on her back while the others sat around and discussed their plans.

-- Current Time 8:23 PM - Cordova Time --

Heavy boot steps from the NCR Troopers stomped over dirt and grass while Ranger Buck whacked away branches with a machete. Until they reached the outskirts of the Village, all wooden buildings and ramshackle shacks. Nets and Tools laid about with the smell of manure and fish lofting in the air. The one thing that stood out among all of that, was not a soul in sight. No Villagers, or Fishermen. The Rangers took positions and sprinted towards cover, the back walls of houses and some log piles provided plenty of cover.

“Samuels. This isn’t right, could be an ambush.” Buck whispered from behind a shed.

Samuels scanned the area and cocked his head to look at Buck. “May be, May be. Keller, hang back. Veilmont see that wheelbarrow in the street? Try and reach it, tells us what you see.”

Veilmont nodded and rushed the wheelbarrow. Pushing himself against it. With a better view of the Village he could see that something had been dragged through the dirt roads, shoes and weapons littered the road. “Something attacked. Bullet casings and articles of clothing lay in the street, hold on.. You hear that Samuels?”

“I don’t hear a thing, what does it sound like?”

“If I had to guess, buzzing.” Veilmont took a second to listen longer. “And it’s getting closer.”
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VATROU The Barron

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Chapter 9

Writer’s note. There’ll be something interesting next chapter.. I can’t wait to write it out.

Cordova 7:23 PM. Barn Restaurant and Inn.

Old Man Burris, or Nathan to his friends had gathered what townsfolk he could, those fortunate enough not to have been killed. A man named Redding had tried to make a run for the gun shop on the other side of the village past the shacks and markets on Ingress street and Chase Avenue, but the Bald Giant Hornets had already honed in on him, impaling him with their propelled stingers. Steve watched through a telescope and grimly relayed what had happened.

“Damn it Redding. I told you to stay with the group.” Nathan spoke with a clinched fist.

“Grandfather, calm down please. You don’t want your heart to give out.”

“Constance, my dear. It’ll take more than this for me to keel over.” Nathan turned to another resident Kevin Wyatt. “My friend how much food and ammo do we have?”

Kevin shook his head dishearteningly.”Not enough Nathan. We’ve plenty of ammunition, but for Thirty people we’ll run out of food before the week. Unless we can get to the shack out back we simply won’t have enough.”

“Damn the Harding brothers! Fools the lot of them. They brought this upon us.” Nathan yelled out as he gripped his chest.

“Come now Nathan, you should listen to Constance, can’t go having you kick the bucket yet. The Hardings are dead, the first to die after the Hornets swarmed the place. Don’t know how the hell they got their hands on the Queen, but the rest took care of them.”

“Your. Right. Let’s get the doors barred off before these insects try to barge their way in. Someone grab the nail gun in the hall closet, and break a few tables for wood. Gonna need to keep them at bay long as we can till the Rangers arrive. If they ever arrive. I don’t know if they heard our signal, we lost the tower before we heard back from them.”

“Let’s get a move on people, they be coming any minute…” As Nathan stood by the door alongside a few other townsfolk, shots rang out. Automatic fire, a grenade even. “Hold on, who's out there, give me the telescope!” Nathan took the telescope from Kevin's hand and peered through the lens over by the gun shop armed men in unusual military style fatigues, and Riot Gear fought back the encroaching swarm.

“Buck!! Do you have any more grenades, I’m all out!”

“Just one Samuels! And it looks like I’m going to be using it, SHRAPNEL INCOMING!” The grenade’s explosive power shredded a box full of glass bottles, sending shards in all directions.

“Get down Beckard!” Duran yelled as she tackled him to the ground.

“Just what are these things, this swarm is massive! Running low on ammo, these things move far too quickly. Can’t get a bead on any of them.” Veilmont said as he chambered a few 45.70 rounds into his gun.

As Nathan watched them face off against a full hive of Hornets, he knew they wouldn’t last. “Constance.. Bring me the loudspeaker.”

“Grandfather. But.” Constance was cut off by her Grandfather's stern face. “Yes Grandfather.”

Nathan took the loudspeaker in hand and flipped the on switch, as he opened the door. “REACH THE OTHER SIDE OF THE VILLAGE!! HURRY!” He set down the loudspeaker and the other men at the door understood what needed to be done. They and Nathan picked up flamers and sprayed a burning trail of fire through the air keeping the Hornets away from the entrance.

Veilmont looked across the village lot which had numerous houses to see men setting fire to the gigantic black and partly yellow insects. If they were going to make a decision it had to be now. “DO AS THEY SAID! We make a mad dash while we can!” The other Troopers were quick to agree, as they ran wildly across the land. Wilbert was stung and lifted into the air by one of the bugs, as Buck yelled out.”WILBERT! They got Wilbert, damn it all!” Wilbert wasn’t the only one Orville O’Harris took a stinger in his leg after a Hornet shot it from its abdomen. Samuels ran over and threw him over his shoulders all while the other troopers covered them best they could. They felt the immense heat coming from the streams of fire as they ducked into the building. Nathan and the others right behind them.
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Chapter 10

Off the Shores of Cordova, Prince William Sound 6:59 PM

Off the shores of Cordova a ship sailed ever closer to its docks. A Pre-War personal Yacht the size of a large fishing boat. The crew all Vanderbilt’s men dressed in fancy suits wielding submachine guns, shotguns and rifles. There were fifty men armed and ready to go ashore and unknowingly into the nest of Giant Hornets. As the boat cruised into the docks the only thing to greet them was a flurry of stinging insects. The men went into a panic taking limited cover on the boat.

“There’s too many of them! We can’t dock!!”

“We must the Boss wants these newcomers.”

*Thump* went a stinger as it pierced the port side of the boat.

“There must be hundreds of them!! Why Cordova! Why now!”

“No way of knowing now, but we can’t take this assault and there’s no way we’re storming the docks and overtaking the Giant Hornets. We have no choice we’re turning back.”

“Bring us around!! And quickly! They’ll swarm the ship!”

The boat pushed through the waters as it turned about and made it’s way out of Cordova’s port.

“The Boss won’t be pleased.”

“No. No he won’t. Let’s just hope he’s already let off some steam. It’s our only chance.”

Barn Restaurant and Inn 7:39 PM

Survivors rushed the door holding planks of wood taken from just about whatever they could find, popping nails into the door as fast as they could. Samuels turned to their saviors clearly bothered by the giant insects.”What were those things!?”

Buck spoke right after Samuels so quickly that Nathan had no time to speak.”What he means to say is thank you for helping us.”

Nathan gave these outsiders the once over before speaking up.”Well you’re welcome, wish I hadn’t though. We were already short on supplies, and your injured friend likely has poison coursing through his veins. Those things are Bald Faced Giant Hornets, and they’re exceptionally venomous. I’m Nathan. By the way.”

Veilmont sat crouched next to Keller as she removed the stinger.”We need to apply antivenom Veilmont. Help me hold him down.” She said as she quickly wrapped his leg applying ointment before making it taut.

“Of course.” Veilmont said as he held O’Harris down by his legs and torso.

Kevin rushed over a bottle in hand.”Not sure I’d do that. Your antivenom might not work. Unless it was made with the venom of the creature that stung him, in this case the Giant Hornet.”

“And what do you propose, let him die?” Keller said angrily.

“No.” Kevin said as he kneeled closer.”Here give him this Waxen Jam. It will purge the toxins from his system, it’s also quite unpleasant. It will save his life.”

Keller looked into Veilmont’s eyes and said.”You trust him?”

Veilmont nodded.”If they wanted us dead, they’d have left us to the Hornets. We’re trusting you stranger.”

Kevin steadily poured the concoction into O’Harris’s open lips. As it collected in his mouth the taste was far from being unpleasant, it had a slimy consistency and above all it smelled like someone’s feet. The Trooper tried to cough it up, but Keller and Kevin held his mouth shut as he gulped it down.

“It has a rancid smell. How long?” Veilmont said while he plugged his nose.

As Kevin stood up he spoke casually.”Not too long, should be healthy in a few minutes.”

O’Harris began to speak, coughing and gagging for fresh air.”That’s the worst thing I’ve tasted in my life. It smelled worse than Beckard’s feet.”

“You alright O’Harris?”

“Yeah Doc. I’ll live, but I’ll need something to wash it down.”

“Well good to see your friend will make it, but I still need to know who you people are? Your definite strangers to this land. What are your goals?”

“We’re..” Buck said looking at O’Harris. “With the New California Republic, and we’re here to make contact with the local powers. Specifically the friendly ones.”

Nathan began to sweat, he showed signs of agitation at the words NCR. But never could he imagine the New California Republic would make their way to Alaska.”I.. Uh - see. Uhmm.” He said as if to clear his throat. “You’ll want to find the Arctic Rangers then, hopefully they’re on their way. We sent out a distress signal right before the Hornets took out the radio tower, we still don’t know if the Rangers received our message.” Nathan said partly distressed as he concealed his Colt 1911.

Veilmont joined them.”Those Giant Hornets why are they here?”

“Couple of idiots managed to sneak a Queen out of her nest, and after getting her to town the rest of the nest followed. My guess whatever they used to calm her down wore off, and their plans for her went up in smoke after that. Anyways, I um need to check on our supplies, adjust the rations for more mouths.” Nathan said eagerly looking for a way out.

“Thank you again Nathan, to all of you.” Buck said as she eyed some markings on Nathan’s gun. “That symbol.” She said inquisitively. “It’s the thirteen commonwealths. The symbol of the Enclave. Odd, that mean anything to you?” Her tone taking a more aggressive approach.

A defensive Nathan spoke. “No it’s just an old handgun. Many guns are, um scavenged. It’s just something old I swear.”

“Now miss.” Another Villager walked up. “You’ve no right to speak to Nathan like that. We saved your skins it’s best to not stir up any trouble.”

Buck reached for her gun as the other Villagers did the same. Veilmont stepped in hoping to defuse the situation.”Look. It was just a question. We’ve no need to resort to hostilities. Any chance you're mistaken Buck?”

“Could be sir. Not about that symbol though, I would recognize it anywhere. It could be something scavenged.”

Veilmont inched forward to Buck.”Then we’ll leave it at that. Just a misunderstanding. Apologize to the nice people Buck.”

“I was simply mistaken. That’s all. Forgive my misunderstanding.”

“Good. Good Buck. Let’s all just calm down. We’ve no need to resort to violence. We already have giant insects outside the doors.”

Nathan grabbed the arm of one of the Villagers.”Let’s worry more about the Hornets. It was a mistake.” The crowd quieted down but the tension was still thick. Outside however in the edge of the forest something was stirring in the trees. Hornets would soon be the least of their worries.

Chapter 11

- Vault 118 -- 7:23 PM -

A woman with a sleek waist and curly feathered blond hair that touched her shoulders walked past a table as she gingerly ran her fingers over the top of the large oaken table. Carved and cut into sections from massive tree trunks. She held reports of the various goings on regarding far flung villages and the movements of the highest ranking Rangers.

And in his chair sat North Ashland a platter of hot food to his left a warm drink to his right and in the middle more papers. He looked at her weary eyed.”Miss Heartgrove? What reports have the Rangers sent in?”

Sera stopped and sat on the edge of the table one leg over the other just a ways off to the right of North. “Just general reports sir.” North picked up his drink and took a sip as Sera continued reading. “Lance Thompson seems to be off the grid again, he’s likely charging into raider territory somewhere. - Cobra, however checked in from Nome. He took care off a Tyrant - or Kushtaka in Inuit tongue. -”

“I’m well aware of what a Kushtaka. Poor Otter. Animals shouldn’t get too comfortable around Humanoids, it just causes trouble and death.” North commented. Interrupting Sera as she spoke.

“Yes of course. Just being accurate. Now then - King stopped by Mendoza’s territory in Huffman. The reports Mendoza files can’t be right, spectral beings, walking dead. Hogwash. I’m sure it’s just Cultists using some hallucinogenic gases. King will report her findings, and give Mendoza a hand in rooting out some entrenched Cultists.” Sera stood up stretching her back as she slowly sauntered about the room again.

“And finally. The White Swallow. She hasn’t checked in for weeks now. Either she’s gone on one of her Walkabouts. Or somethings happened to her.”

North sat down the fork he was using and turned to Sera.”Swallow, in danger. Unlikely. She’s a resourceful one, that and few want to bother with her. She’ll fry anyone one her bad side with a few zaps from her fingers.”

Sera gave a slight nod, and spoke unconvinced.”Yes a powerful Psyker she may be, still still resorts to swords and crossbows. Not as effective as more modern weaponry. Good for animals she may encounter not well armed raiders or slavers.”

“Now onto Claire and Jonathan, they’re still a days out from Cordova. Which means Barron will already be in the lead.” Sera said finally reaching the last page as she set down the clipboard.

“We’ll be playing tag with Vanderbilt soon enough then. He’s greedy and short sided. He knows not what could happen. Godspeed you two. Before anyone else begins to move.”

- The Forest - A Days Out from Cordova - 7:41 PM -

“We’ll be making camp soon, want to play another round of poker again tonight? I’ll go easy on you - for a while that is.” Claire said with a wide grin.

Jonathan distorted his face at the thought in annoyance.”After last nights game, no. I owe you twelve bottles of expensive ale you swindled out of me.”

“Hey.” Claire said gleefully. “I gave you the chance to gracefully bow out, but nope. Still kept going. I swear gambling was made for suckers like you. - Wait. See that over there? Those docks are new.”

“I do see them. And they seem to be crawling with Santa’s little Slavers. They’re up to no good that is for sure.”

“Let’s go and introduce ourselves, I’ll make for that nearby tree line, you charge down the middle. I’ll cover with my sniper.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Jonathan said.

“Don’t go dying on me, I still want those twelve bottles.”

Jonathan smirked and whispered.”Ever the Con Man.” Before riding off.

Chapter 12

Barn Restaurant and Inn - 7:45 PM Cordova time -

The tension was thick like fog clouding the minds of those who took shelter in the Restaurant, the NCR included. Although the incident was partially resolved many doubts still lingered and the Alaskans had begun harboring feelings of anger and fear towards these strangers. No one besides the NCR was aware of what the word Enclave meant, why would they.

The NCR had their suspicions regarding Nathan, about if he indeed was an Enclave remnant and if so why he was in Alaska. None of them could fathom a reasonable explanation. The only thing they knew for certain was the locals weren’t as welcoming before.

Veilmont peered out the cracks in the window his face pressed against the wood nailed along it’s width. “There’s soo many of them. We can’t stay hold up here forever.”

“I agree.” Samuels spoke eyeing the other side of the room where the Alaskan’s kept to themselves. “They don’t like us now, this is really bad. And we don’t even know that this Nathan is Enclave. There’s no reason for them to be here, is there?”

“Not that I can think of.” Ranger Brick Moss said as he stood up from a bar stool.

- 7:53 PM -

As the minutes passed and dinner was being prepared, the NCR had moved into one of the back rooms so to give the locals their space.

“Sun's getting low, three or four hours from now and it’ll begin to set.” Buck spoke as she moved away from the window.

“Do Giant Hornets sleep?”

Veilmont walked over and spoke.”Let’s hope so. There’s a chance we could slip out, maybe. Depending on what entrances aren’t boarded.”

The sounds of light footsteps could be heard approaching the door, followed by someone rapping on the door. Samuels walked over opening the door with his left hand.

A young woman stood in the doorway, as she quickly but somewhat nervously glanced in the room before her eyes focused on Samuels. “Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes.” She paused looking at the strangers. “I don’t know what you have against my Grandfather, he’s a hard working man. He raised me ever since I was a child.”

Samuels looked her over.”You’re his granddaughter? Miss, it’s not so much your Grandfather more so what he could be affiliated with. Does the word Enclave mean anything to you?”

She paused. And took her time to respond.”None. My Grandfather is a good man, he’s done no wrong to anyone. Whatever you believe him to be is wrong. ”

“There’s a chance we are Miss. But the Enclave are dangerous, they plotted genocide once and would surely do so again. If there is a chance your Grandfather knows anything, something just a small as were he found that gun of his. It would help us stop them.”

Constance’s tone turned to mild anger.”He’s not involved with people like that, no one is. The Ranger see to that. If they’re as bad as you say, then leave it to the Rangers.”

“We don’t know Miss. If we’re right then there’s too much at stake for that.”

“You’re wrong!” Constance yelled.”You don’t know anything.”

Rushed footsteps came running down the hall. As an arm jerked Constance back. “Get away from her! You stay back now!” Nathan said holding back his granddaughter with his right arm extended pistol in hand.

“Grandfather?”

“Get back down stairs Constance. These strangers are not to be trusted.”

“Bu-t.. Grand..” Nathan pulled her back.”No excuses, I want you back downstairs with the others.”

Constance stood flabbergasted looking at her Grandfather. But ran downstairs a few moments later.

“You people hold no power here, Murderers! The Old-World is no more you saw to that; leaving us relics to rot away.”

“So you are Enclave!” Buck sneered.

“No longer. The world would have been better off, my Granddaughter would have never experienced monster bees, or need to fear of Slavers.” Nathan yelled with a fury as he balled his fist.

The Troopers tried to move forward, go for their weapons but Nathan kept his gun aimed at anyone who budged.

“No matter who I was, you have no power here. Kill me and you’ll make enemies out of everyone in this state, there’s no Enclave here, no hate for them.” Nathan said as he waved his gun around trying to keep the NCR Troopers back.

“When the Rig and Navarro fell we heard the last transmissions we would ever receive. I’ve been here all my life, me and others went native. There was nothing left no reason to continue. Just a small number of us to repopulate after the slate was wiped clean. I never stepped foot outside of Alaska. No one did. I’m just an --”

Outside explosions erupted as gas enveloped the town. The Giant Hornets buzzed madly about before falling into a daze and nodding off to sleep. It was then that an impact shook the building. Nathan and the NCR rushed downstairs each forgetting momentarily what was said, as Nathan only thought of his Granddaughter.

A colossal spear, or arrow pierced the building; as large as a piece of rebar. It had outstretched hooks that sprung out and gripped the door.

Nathan stepped forward in absolute fear.”No.” Was the only word he uttered before the door was ripped completely off it’s hinges.

The people panicked and ran to the back of the building. Leaving only the NCR with their weapons drawn. Smoke filled the room as massive figures rushed inside past the gunfire holding giant plated shields. They knocked the NCR Troopers aside while the Rangers took position.

Through the smoke these towering figures set foot into the building, their eyes a golden glow. One approached with the others fiercely guarding it. As it left the smoke it’s features became apparent, long protruding horns like that of a Deathclaw; plated arms and legs with claws extended, and a thick coat of grey fur. It scanned the room before it took another step it’s claws clicking on the floorboard.

“YOU!” It said in English.”You are to come.”

The Rangers sat behind overturned tables. “And if we refuse?”

“You will be taken by force. We are a hundred strong.”

Veilmont looked to the others.”What will you do with us?”

“Our Clan head will speak with you, cooperate and no harm will come to you, resist and I will take great pleasure to rend your limbs apart piece by piece.”

Samuels and Buck convened quickly, coming to a conclusion.”We don’t have many options then, but what about the people here?”

“They are of no concern to us. It is best they leave while they can, the smoke will keep the Hornets asleep for now.”

“I guess we’re leaving with you then.” Samuels said.

“Your weapons will be taken from you, and you will follow closely. Leave our sight and the rest of you will be hunted down.”
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Chapter 13

The Forest - A Days Out from Cordova - 7:45 PM

Claire lead the Worca towards the tree line of the Forest while he watched Jonathan circle around waiting for Claire to get into position while he decided the best angle of approach. Jonathan knew that whilst he was formidable not every Slaver would succumb to his Psyker abilities; that is to say the immense fear his gigantic projected form assails upon his enemies. He would need to put his trust squarely in the hands of Claire for this battle to be in their favor.

The Docks were the Slavers worked was on a slight hill overlooking the waters’ edge, the ground extending from that the ground flattened out although rocks were littered about. A number of carts fashioned from the husks of cars and boats sat nearby with chains dangling from the sides.

Jonathan looked toward the Slavers through his binoculars, he could tell two, maybe three of them were inexperienced for this line of work. One of them a young man barely out of his teens thrusted his hips into the air in front of a helpless female captive probably trying to impress her or the group, she looked older but not by much. Another head clean shaven with some sort of tribal tattoos down the sides of his skull, he held his rifle with only a few fingers as it hung on his right side by a single hand. The last possible one is an unassuming male, he didn’t have any markings of a hardened Slaver, no inks or scars even his weapon was average an old varmint rifle. His powers would likely work on those three; It’s the last four that bothered him. He could tell by the way they dressed, and acted they were professionals. The four of them wore more protective armor, they even had pieces of combat armor imbedded into their gear. They held their weapons securely and took no interest in what the young boy was doing. Thier only concern was unloading the shipment. These were the ones to focus on, and Jonathan hoped Claire could pick them out.

On the other side of the clearing where Claire had set up, he had the Slavers in his sights as he took a moment to see Jonathan giving a few quick flashes from his flashlight. Claire opened fire on one of the leaders taking his left eye out and removing him as a threat. The Slavers were quick to react as they searched for the Sniper; Jonathan jammed a Slasher into his arm before he charged down the middle, his towering form sent the rookies into a panic as he aimed down his rocket launcher right into another veteran, the slaver looked in shock through his goggles as he tried to scramble out of the way. But the explosion took a chunk out of his leg, throwing him to the ground.

Claire had just finished off the last of the rookies, they had tried to run, the young kid tossed his gun and took off, but before he reached the forest a round tore through his neck. The other with the tattoos hid behind the carts. It took some careful shooting but Claire sent a round through his ankle leaving him writhing in pain and his head exposed as he tumbled to the ground. The last one had almost regained his bearings as he shot Jonathan a few times in the back, but the small rounds didn’t have enough penetration power to punch through the armor. A shot to his leg and another his lungs sent the Slaver to the ground crashing onto a large rock.

The other veteran took himself a hostage the woman from earlier. He held her tightly with his gun pressed against her temple, he yelled out through his teeth that were chipped away and broken.

“STAY BACK - OR I’LL BLOW HER BRAINS OUT!! THEY’LL LOOK REAL NICE ALL OVER MY ARMOR!”

The Slaver dragged her back along with him towards the docks, while Jonathan not wanting to risk rushing him tried to circle around. The Veteran from earlier with his leg blown off regained consciousness and although bleeding to death he reached for a grenade and chucked it over with all his strength. The grenade landed feet away from Jonathan as the other Veteran took off running towards the boat dragging the woman along by her wrist.

Jonathan had no choice but to seek out cover, whereas Claire had a better shot. The woman trailed to the right side of the Slaver leaving him exposed on the left. Claire shot a round into his shoulder blade, as he dropped over the side of the boat the woman ran towards the Rangers in a mix of terror and elation.

Claire left the trees and joined up with Jonathan as the woman fell to his feet. “There’s eight more of us on the boat.”

“Don’t worry ma'am, we’ll free the rest of them.”

Claire looked towards the boat as it bobbed up and down in the water; the Slaver’s head barely hanging off its edge. “We did good. Let’s free the rest of them and see if the Slavers of Santa’s Sweatshop left any goodies behind. I could go for a few cold drinks.”

“And we got ourselves a boat, should make reaching Cordova easier. Well let’s get to work.” Jonathan said as he strutted over to the docks.
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Chapters 14 - 24 a total of 45,280ish characters. Give or take ones written out of character.

Chapter 14

Forests on the outskirts of Cordova’s Village - 8:10 PM - NCR

None of the Troopers liked this, these mutants, could speak english and walk upright like a man. They shared some features with that of a Deathclaw but remained wholly unique all their own. The group of them leading the front carried all the weapons in burlap sacks with what they assumed to be the leader not far ahead. Veilmont noted they formed a box to ensure full control at all times. Their alien yet humanoid appearance was shocking to say the least.

Samuels watched them as they walked, they stood on what appeared to be claws or hooves. And kept balance with their long tails. All while clad in thick furs and minimal clothing. He assumed those that had wrappings on their chests were to be female as they also seemed to have a smoother more human like face.

The forest became denser with roots bursting from the earth and rocks strewn about. Ranger Brick Moss decided it was high time they learned a little more about where they were headed.

He stepped forward only lightly before the mutants took an offensive stance whipping spear blades towards his neck. Brick had utterly stopped moving not a single finger budged as the sharp but crude blades inched up his neck.

“Hey now, just wanting some answers. You got my weapons so there’s no need to kill an unarmed man.” Moss said knowing the danger he placed himself in.

The Leader stepped towards him eyeing him suspiciously. And after a few words in an unintelligible language it had convinced the spear bearers to back down. “You! Keep moving! There will be no next time.”

“Wait, hold on a minute. Can’t you at least tell us where we’re going?”

It sneered just like a human would talking to a savage.”No!”

Spears towards the back of the group prodded the group to move on, Moss had only annoyed the creatures. Keller walked up to Moss still keeping formation as to not provoke their captors any further.”You alright Moss?”

“Yeah, a close shave there but I’m holding up just fine. Wish I knew what crawled up it’s ass and died.”

“They don’t seem to like Humans in the slightest.” Keller replied knowing that they were under watch.

“Guess not. Let’s just hope they don’t like the taste of human flesh.”

Moss’s actions severed as an example. And for the next few hours they simply kept walking silently.

The Mountains outside of Cordova - 10:03 PM -

The Troopers and Rangers had done nothing but walk for hours uphill in treacherous terrain, once the tree line thinned out again they could tell the elevation had changed. But it wasn’t long before they saw the first smoke reaching to the sky. And from that came the sightings of a village. Huts made from earth and clay with smaller mutants running about children as it were. Carcasses of massive Whale like creatures with armored beaks and mandibles caked in dirt were being butchered. The creatures kept them encircled as they moved through the small village towards a larger hut.

By then they had already picked out the leaders of the Party. They pulled aside the Rangers and sat the Troopers down while the leader dragged the Rangers off and into the hut.

A gray furred female awaited them around a fire where slabs of meat were laid out cooking on a metal top. “Sit.” She said as she turned over the slabs one by one.

The Rangers had no other choice but to obey.

It sat there staring at them with it’s golden eyes a strip of beads hanging off it’s left earlobe.

“You come to this land for what purpose? Our kind learned of your presence not too long after you stepped foot on this land. Why?” She said then turning her attention to the food before her, all of it was too much for a single human the Rangers couldn’t help but notice. Yet she sprinkled some sort of seasonings over the meat paying no mind to their wandering glances.

“I think I speak for us all, when I ask. What will you do once you find out?” Veilmond said cautiously.

She lifted her eyes then set down a spice jar.”It depends. I might well kill the lot of you. Depends on many things.”

“You could do that now, couldn’t you?”

“Don’t test my patience.” She replied sharply.

“Fine, Fine. We set out to chart unknown lands, to see what became of the rest of the world. Meet new people, make friendly where we could. And report back home with our findings. Now I have a question the obvious one aside who are you?”

She raised her head arching her back.”You mean apart from when you ask what we are, I’ll get to that. For introductions I am Schrodinger Zell, of Clan Zell. My Clan. And we’re considered friendly towards humans, I’m sure you’d consider otherwise. Any other Clan and you’d be skinned and hung like trophies or cook in a pot.” Schrodinger flipped the meat once more pulling out nearby plates.

“So there’s more of you. Well I suppose we have to be grateful you found us first.” Veilmont said as he noticed she was plating the food, for not just one but six plates.

“You should eat, while you can.” She said setting down a plate for each of them.

“I suppose this means you won’t be killing us?”

“For the moment at least. Now then, you’re here for one reason and one reason only. The Elder One wanted me to inspect your motives. He rules unofficially over us, over the Clans and Branch Clans. He and the Cserit convened about the decision. We are the Autleeir Tah, and we make up three dominant species. Those you seen thus far are the Huerra, Warriors who protect the boundaries between us and Mankind. The Cserit guide us in the matters of culture and politics.”

As she spoke the Rangers inspected the meat, at first glance it looked fine but when they smelled it there was a pungent odor of earth. Cutting it was far tougher even with the utensils provided.

Schrodinger had picked up a piece and pulled it apart with just her claws as she shoveled it into her mouth, chewing but a few moments.” Earth Whale is tough, but it is a sustainable creature and feeds ten of my kind per carcase. Now then you have advanced to the point that you can send surveyors and explorers into the world, tell me what Governance do you use?”

Moss spoke next as Veilmont was cutting into his meat.”We use a democratic federation, supporting principles such as democracy, personal freedom and rule of law. We’ve grown to encompass Arizona, California and parts of Mexico. As of 2285 we have ceased the acquirement of new lands to focus on our local growth.”

Schrodinger said naught a word but continued to eat, finishing off her plate well before the Rangers did.

“You’ll have your own guarded hut for the night, your men have all received something to eat by now. You will be returned to them and we will decide what to do with you in the morning, I should warn you leaving your hut is not permitted unless you need to relieve yourselves. During which you will be accompanied until you return. If we spare you you will receive more answers, rest till then.” She said as more of her kind escorted them away.

Minutes later another Tah had entered her hut, his horns were different they grew curling towards the back of his head and his claws were well trimmed.

“They’re still alive I see. We have much to discuss then.”

“Yes Roosevelt, sit. I will go over what I learned.”

“I was waiting for you to say that. They pose a fascinating new opportunity for knowledge. You did ask them about their own history of course?” Roosevelt sat before the fire, it’s glow dancing over his white fur.

“No. Those are questions only you would bother to ask. I only inquired as to what was important.”

“Shame. I can only hope they live long enough then.”

“Don’t let personal desires cloud your judgement.” She said snapping at him.

Chapter 15

Whittier 9:35 PM - Vanderbilt Gambling Hall.

Stoolman one of Vanderbilt’s men hesitantly and with good reason so, approached Barron’s Penthouse Suite. Certainly the fanciest room in the entire city, with lavish decorations all inspired by Old Time Gangsters. Brand new furniture, paintings of old, and cigar smoke filled the room. A knock rapped on the door, and Barron wearing a black velvet night robe stood up in his slippers and mosied along the wood laid floor.

Stoolman fidgeted nervously as the door swung open smoke wafted from the open spruce door and into the Hallway. There Barron stood hands tucked into the robe while he glared at Stoolman who had roused him from his lounge chair at this late hour.

“Boss, the well..” Stoolman said as he stuttered.

Barron crossed his arms in clear annoyance, Stoolman shook as he felt shivers down his spine.

“The, Party you sent to Cordova returned Boss. Empty - um - handed.”

Barron snorted as he chuckled. “That’s it? Empty handed, my best men returned empty handed. Ease up Stoolman, you look tense. Perhaps sit down for a bit.” Barron said as he whipped his left hand across Stoolman’s face.

“LEAVE IDIOT! NOW!!” Barron charged past Stoolman who was pushed off to the side while Barron headed off to meet with Smithe.

9:47 PM Vanderbilt Gambling Hall - Guard Quarters

Smithe walked along side Barron as he had the men standing at attention as they walked into the room. Barron strolled up to them taking a pair of brass knuckles out of his pockets as he stopped and turned to face them still wearing the same robe. “Can someone please tell me why, just why I don’t see any not a one, of the foreigners you were ordered to take into custody? Because I’d really love to hear your response, fascinate me boys. With whatever complex excuse your pea brains can create.”

“Boss. Cordova was infested with Giant Hornets, an entire nest. That we were unprepared for.”

“Giant Hornets?” Barron said as he chuckled. “Oh well that’s understandable.” He said as he looked towards Smithe.

“Smithe.”

He responded by breaking leather as his pistol cleared his holster and took aim at the underlings head.

“Now. Will someone explain to me what really happened.?” Barron spoke as waved his hand about.

“That is just how it went down Boss, I swear! We aren’t lying!!”

“Is it? You’re sticking with that?” Inquired Barron.

He nodded shaking and terrified. Barron gazed into his eyes, and then shot back a look towards Smithe who with one shot put a single 45 caliber round into the middle of the man’s skull.

“Right then, who’s next? How about you, the one with the shaved head right down the center.”

“I.. Uh. Freddy? Did you save one of those stingers?”

Barron glanced over to Freddy who stammered back. “Boss, Sir. I. Yeah, it’s just in my pack.”

“Okay I’ll bite, bring it out.” Barron said somewhat jokingly.

Freddy rushed over to his pack tucked just under his bunk. And rustled through it producing a large stinger.

Barron stood there looking surprised. “I guess he was telling the truth. Smithe. Well give him a proper burial later.”

“Noted.” Smithe said as he rasped out the word.

“Well then. There’s still the matter of you all returning empty handed. So you’re all going back out there. I’ll get you armed up, we’ll take some more boats with us. And this time we’re doing this right, my way! Bigger guns! Gather everyone up, well not everyone. Still need to protect the city in case the Russian decides to make a move on me.”

“Barron.” Smithe spoke.”You’re moving out personally?”

“Damn right. Time to show this ploughing lot how to get things done around here.”

Smithe walked over.”I’ll prepare the men while you get changed Boss.”

Chapter 16

The Mountains of Cordova - 10:48 PM

The tent the NCR troops were confined to was of moderate size to accommodate them, it’s support beams were simple wooden poles that held up the hide tent. Furs lay about round the fire pit, some had multiple arms others were clear. The Troopers had just finished the plates of Earth Whale they had been given as other Tahs moved to clear the plates and utensils when the Rangers entered through the flap over the entrance.

Field Medic Jessie Keller stood up and walked over to them checking them once over for any signs of injuries. “Ranger Veilmont, I don’t see any signs of abuse or torture. Do you know what they want from us?”

“Can’t say I’m all too sure. They’re a somewhat civilized lot that I know as tribal as they may be.” Veilmont said peering over his shoulder as the last Tah who left the tent glanced his way. “Whatever the case may be, we should get some rest while we can. I know not what they have in store for us..”

“Man why can’t they just kill us and get it over with?” Beckard moaned. “Quiet Beckard! We have no idea what these Mutants have in mind. Let’s not give them any ideas.” Buck said hoping to calm him down.

Alma Duran fidgeted nervously. “You don’t think they eat, human do you? They look like Deathclaws but more human. I bet they eat human..”

Solomon and the other Rangers noticed movement outside, they were under constant watch and none of them forgot that, but the fear still gripped their hearts. It didn't help that they knew nothing of these creatures’ motives. “Alright, let’s get a few things straight we know they are Mutants of some kind, Humanoid with their own culture and intelligence. I say it’s doubtful they eat human flesh, we saw the large animal carcasees so they hunt.” Solomon added.

“Humanoid my ass.” Harper yelled out.”Just look at them man! How in hell to they look remotely human!”

“CLAM YOUR ASS HARPER, before I ram my bootheel up it.” Veilmon said raising his fist. “Have you forgotten they posted guards on our tent, let’s not risk angering our captors any further.”

Elsewhere - 11:01 PM - Schrodinger’s tent

Schrodinger sat on her knees as she gently raised a cup to her lips. While Roosevelt discussed what to do with the Troopers. “I want to see what they do after this. They’re afraid unsure. And they’re letting their emotions flare.”

She let the cup rest on her lap as she calmly spoke.”That’s exactly what I want.”

“You aren’t testing them, you are aren’t you? Cleaver. For a Huerra that is.” Roosevelt quipped.

Schrodinger glared as she responded promptly. “Be careful what you say. You are in my territory, temporary as it may be. I will not hesitate to gut you.”

Roosevelt chuckled at the threat. “The Elder One would not be pleased in my passing, however I will note your threat.”

“They will be monitored throughout the night, I will see how they break under their fear.” Schrodinger said as she stood up. “Leave til sunrise, then we shall decide.”

“Of course. Then we’ll begin the second part of the plan.” Roosevelt said while he walked towards the tent flap.

Chapter 17

12:23 AM - The Middle of Prince William Sound - En Route to Cordova by boat

Claire tightened the sails of the makeshift boat as Jonathan steered into the winds, the Worcas swam alongside the boat excellent swimmers much faster than the boat at full sails. However on the boat they stayed dry under the cold ocean breeze, as gusts of wind blew sea air caught the sails and propelled them forward. “Looking good, at this rate we’ll reach Cordova soon. Heh, check out the Worcas they look awfully happy.” Claire said as he tied a knot around the mast.

“They’re in their natural habitat, they deserve some time in the sea.”

Claire stood up and walked over to a Ham Radio.”Going to check in.”

As Jonathan carefully manned the wheel he yelled out.” Make sure to report the Slaver activity.”

“Will do.”

Claire turned the dials and lifted the receiver.”Ranger Claire calling Vault 118, service number 87-43-19. Pick up Archmage.” -- “Hey hey! Claire how’s it going. What you got for me?” Archmage responded.

“Making our way to Cordova, took out some Slavers from Santa’s Sweatshop who set up a small dock along the coast line. Managed to free thirty seven slaves and confiscated a boat. Which has expedited our mission.”

“Sounds good real good man!” - “kree-eee-ar!!” A loud hoarse rasping scream could be heard over the radio. - “Orc says hi as well.”

“That old Carrion Pigeon still kicking!” Claire asked.

“You betcha! Training up a few new ones, Orc won’t be around forever. Still Slavers are becoming more brazen. Well I’ll let North know what’s up.--”

“Hold on Archmage, there’s something up ahead, some boats docked over at Cordova. Gonna check back later.”

“Keep safe out there.”

12:47 AM Cordova

“Hey Barron, we got incoming.” Smithe said rasping out the words. “By water another boat.”

Barron raised a scope he had in his satchel and peered through the scratched glass. “Rangers, no doubt about it. Damn. Look friendly boys!! We got Rangers on the way.”

12:57 AM

“Ahoy! What brings the Vanderbilts all the way to Cordova!” Jonathan called out.

“RANGERS!! Good to see you, we have a slight problem. Some of my boys, were out. Fishing. Yeah earlier today when they saw some smoke coming from Cordova. Being the good natured folk we are they checked it out and found the place swarming with Giant Hornets. So I rounded up some men to save any survivors..” Barron said coming up with the best lie he could come up with.

Claire nodded noting the change in tone and speech pattern, clear signs of lying. “Didn’t know you were such a great guy Barron. Heart of gold right there.” Claire knew of course Barron was lying, but he could also see the town was infested and driving the Vanderbilts off by calling them out would just make things harder for them. “Well since we’re already here, what say we give you all a hand. It’s what we do best.”

Barron inwardly cursed at their presence, but he didn’t want to do anything that would incite the Ranger’s wrath. A part of him knew why they were really here. And he could guess they knew the same of him. Backing out now would just confirm those suspicions; working together was the only thing he could do at this point. He’d have to let the Rangers ahead of him or risk becoming their enemy.

“Mighty fine offer Rangers. I’ll take you up on that. We’re still setting up our positions, give us a hand before the Hornets take notice.” Barron said as politely as he could.

Jonathan looked at Claire and gave a slight nod as he handled the situation well.

Chapter 18

1:17 AM USS Sovereign Enterprise - Supercarrier

Basilio Favale a man of few words and a constant furrow in his brow sat at his desk, the Commander of Manticore a renowned Mercenary group and one of the few Factions with a working Pre-War Aircraft Carrier. The USS Sovereign Enterprise had out at sea and nearly capsized when the shockwave beat across the port side hull, it was a miracle to be still afloat let alone that anyone survived. Basilio can trace his ancestors back to the original crew who amid the radiation decided to dock at one of the smaller islands Dutch Harbor where the locals greeted them as they emerged from their fallout shelters. Now the descendants of the original crew are Mercenaries for hire, and with a knock on Basilio’s door will be put to work once again.

“Captian! Message from Archmage of the Rangers Sir! He wants us to check the waters of Prince William Sound for Slaver bases. The pay is good Sir!”

Weary eyed Basilio raised his brows to meet the man.”It’s going to be another long night. Commsman return to your post and inform the crew we’re leaving port.”

“Sir! Yes Sir!” He said as he sprinted down the narrow halls.

Basilio reached for a pipe and stuffed it with tobacco as he lit a match and gently held it while it ignited the wad. Smoke began to snake out of his Office and towards the hallway as he took deep breaths suffering from exhaustion. He reached for a Radio and tuned the channel.

“Commander Madison Ward, and Lieutenant Commander Cynthia Synder report to my Office immediately for debriefing. That is all.”

Basilio filled away a few paper as he inhaled puffs of smoke until the room had filled with a heavy haze.

1:32 AM

A large man stunted as he may be standing at only five feet five inches rounding the corner. Basilio took notice of him but waited until he had closer the drawer to his desk before he spoke.”Ward dressed in combat armor and ready to go I see.”

“Of course Captain.”

“Where’s Synder?”

“Just down the hall Captain she’ll be here any second..”

It was then that a redhead short haired girl barged into the room her chest racing as she ran the halls.

“ Lieutenant Commander Synder present for duty!”

“Ah Lieutenant Commander.. I.” Basilio’s eyes drifted to a corner of her lips where some liquid had been left behind smeared over her lips. “I know the hour is late Lieutenant Commander, but please clean yourself up after you’re done with after hour pleasantries.”

She immediately wiped it away with a cloth in her pocket.”Sorry Captain. Just finishing up.”

“Now then we’ll be heading to Prince William Sound to root out any Slaver nests I’ll be leading the attack, Synder get prepped for the T-45 suit.”

Synder’s face lit up like a Christmas tree as she couldn’t hold her glee.

“Captain, may I speak?” Ward calmly asked.

“You have permission Ward.”

“When's the last time you slept Captain? You look exhausted. If I may I’d like to lead the attack.”

Basilio set down his pipe on an ashtray. And looked sternly at Ward before relenting. “Too long Commander.”

Ward continued.”I wish to relieve you of duty until you’ve received a full nights rest.”

Synder quickly agreed.”I second that Captain. We’ve more rest than you do. Sit this one out Sir.”

“Fine.” Basilio said in defeat.”Ward you’re in command of the Bridge. I’ll retreat to my chambers shortly. You two are dismissed.”

“Sir!” The two said in unison. As they filed out of the room.

Chapter 19

The Mountains of Cordova - Night Recap -

The Troopers of the NCR slept in nervous fear; they were uncertain what was t happen with them and although the Ranger put up a brave front they too barely slept. The morning sun crept over the camp signalling the new day and with it they would soon learn of their fate.

New Day New Time - May 5th 6:57 AM - Tah Camp

With the sun rising in the sky Troopers laid in bed hoping to catch a little more rest before their captors revealed what they have in store for them. A few Rangers were up and about as they needed to be. While the rest slept on.

Schrodinger’s Tent - 7:05 AM

Incense burned giving the tent a fresh fragrance as Schrodinger sat on her knees quiet and motionless, her chest rose and fell and she controlled her breathing. Her mind was at ease and she was in full control of herself knowing who she was and where she came from. It was the same morning ritual every Huerra performed and it lasted for a full thirty minutes.

7:33 AM

Roosevelt pulled back the tent flap to Schrodinger’s tent as she started to rise; she had just finished the last of her meditations and had begun to wrap a tight cloth around her waist and chest area knowing full well of Roosevelt's presence.

“Are you you? Schrodinger.” Roosevelt cautiously asked.

“I am I. My faculties are under my own control.” Schrodinger said as she tied the last knot in her loincloth.

Roosevelt let loose a sigh of relief as he approached her. “How did they fare last night?”

“Poorly.” She said as she picked up a lone set of an earing and threaded it through her earlobe. “They are paranoid, far from brave noble warriors yet they don’t seem vile either.”

“So is there hope for them, for us?” Roosevelt said as he took a seat by the fire.

“Maybe.. I am not sure.” Schrodinger paused as she picked up a nearby rock and ran it down the length of one of her clawed fingers. “The Great Hunt perhaps. If they are noble warriors then we let the Great Hunt decide.”

Roosevelt stared wide eyed at her, as he fathomed the possibility. “Are you sure? Even for Huerras the Great Hunt is a serious undertaking, how many will you send?”

“Three of the Warriors, along with my Son and another Tah. Carnegie will watch over them, and Churchill will watch over Carnegie. We let the Great Hunt decide their worth may they be redeemed. Bring them here.”

“Don’t order me around Schrodinger, you have not the authority to do so.” Roosevelt snapped back.

“You grind on my nerves, ARMSTRONG!” Schrodinger called out.

“Yes Clan Leader.” He said as he opened the tent flap.

“Bring the Warriors we captured.”

“Of course Clan Leader.” He said moving swiftly.

The five Rangers soon were brought before her as she glared intensely back at them. They mustered all their courage and met her gaze head on.

“You have two options, death. Or the Great Hunt. In the forest there are a great number of beasts, some more dangerous than the last. Three of you will leave under the watch of two of my own, the rest will stay. I believe you’ve met my Son Carnegie.” She said as she motioned to a familiar Tah, the one who found and lead them to their camp.

“He and the other sitting beside him will follow you, I need not remind you what would happen if you try anything once on the outside. You will be watched from the trees and reports will be sent back to me. You shall head out and bring down one of these beasts for your freedom, Carnegie shall lead you to your prey.”

Ranger April Decker spoke. “That doesn’t sound too bad, we should be able to handle that with our guns.”

A smirk spread across Schrodinger’s face. “There is one thing I forgot to mention, you may only hunt with what you find. Craft your own weapons or be lucky enough to stumble across a firearm. Your weapons will remain here with us.”

“Right. Forget I said anything.” Decker responded.

“Choose among yourselves who will go.” Schrodinger said.

Chapter 20

The Giant Hornet Infestation of Cordova

All through the night the two Rangers had fought alongside Barron’s men as clips were emptied and explosives lobbed over the makeshift barricades many of Barron’s men lay wounded or dead as skilled as they were the truth was they were no more than over glorified security guards many of whom had yet to see actual battle. But here they were as the fighting raged through the night against what was an overwhelming number of giant insects the Rangers had offered advice as to how the fighting should proceed but Barron’s arrogance knew no bounds and refused any assistance in leading his army.

And while the town, the Village lay in ashes the remaining Villagers emerged from the nearby forests. Barron immediately took it upon himself to take all the credit for the victory although the Rangers had won all the key battles rooting out the Queen’s nest and personal guard of warriors. The Villagers were dubious of his claims and they had reason of course and the Rangers laughed as he embellished the story.

“Right well good on you Barron, you won back the town from a giant swarm of Hornets; your good deed done for the day unless of course there is anything else you needed to do here?” Claire said.

The look Barron gave was cold enough to freeze molten steel as he exhaled and smiled back.”You know I think we are done here, Boys! Were moving out, do thank the kind Rangers here for their aid..” Barron turned and strode towards the boat trampling off as the Rangers enjoyed their little victory. Smithe followed behind as Barron pulled him aside.

“I need a Military! I need a Commander who obeys my orders, one smart enough to lead my men on the Battlefield and one malleable enough to use as my pawn. Find someone! ANYONE! I will not let this embarrassment stand.”

Smithe nodded as he boarded the boat Barron stomping off to his room to crack open a bottle of Whiskey and unwind. Though for the rest of the day he would be avoided by all of his men..

The Rangers however began to question the townsfolk about what had happened here. Nathan had told them about the local boys who had tried to capture a Hornet Queen but succeeded only in bringing the entire nest upon them, and of the strangers they had saved until the Autleeir Tah had came to drag them off. Claire and Jonathan looked bewildered; what now if the Tahs had taken an interest they could be anywhere in the mountains alive or dead.

“I think our best course of action would to first report in to high command, perhaps there was some Clan movement days before that we knew about.” Jonathan said as he set his radio down on a table.

Claire on the other hand noticed the damage done to the radio tower in town and spoke up.”Might want to send a repairman to fix a tower, looks like the Hornets wrecked this one pretty badly.”

“Will do.. Archmage this is Jonathan service number 56-71-11 please respond.”

“Hey hey! Jonathan what can I do you for, need a little magic to keep things going?”

“You can say that, we’re in Cordova and Barron’s forces are in the retreat. I doubt he’ll show up again for a while, but enough about that. We have a broken radio tower here that needs fixing, and here comes the bad news. The Autleeir Tah have captured the NCR scouts.”

“Whoa whoa man, that ain't good. You boys need to be careful around them; don’t need another long and bloody war between them.”

“I know that Archmage, I was hoping you heard about some strange movement regarding the Tahs days prior? Anything that could tell us where they are?”

“Sorry my man nothing that I know of, but hey there is one thing. A few days from now the Tahs come down the mountain to do some trade with us in the Hub just off of Glennallen and Richardson Highway, it’s a small gas station and strip mall place. Double time it there and you could ask the Tahs there if they know anything.”

“Thanks Archmage. It’ll have to do for now.”

“Sorry I don’t got more for you guys but be careful, heard some Lythropes were seen near Tonsina off the Richardson Highway. Alright if that’s all I’m signing off mate.” The receiver fell silent as Jonathan and Claire looked towards each other they had a possible clue, not a good one but it was the only one they had.

Chapter 21

7:01 AM Prince William Sound - USS Sovereign Enterprise

Commander Madison Ward stood on the bow of the ship as the waves splashed against the hull while they made their rounds. The docks was right where the Rangers said it’d be but they knew the boat had come from somewhere as lookouts kept watch over the bank. As the Mercenaries of Manticore patrolled the seas on land the NCR talked amongst themselves.

7:45 AM Zell Tah Camp

The Rangers had been returned to their tent and told the others the bad news. It wasn’t the first time they encountered Tribals no they saw their share of them in Seattle and Vancouver, though Vancouver had far more civilized lands, even a working Government calling themselves the Salish. So Tribal Culture was nothing new, but it could be tricky to navigate safely. Usually they could run if things got rough, but the Tahs were far more organized and Intelligent than average Tribals.

The Rangers bickered amongst themselves about who would go. Since Veilmont and Samuels were in charge of the Expedition force, having both of them go would pose a threat to the future if any the expedition had. So Veilmont decided that Decker and Moss would be the ones to accompany him. Veilmont used a mid range brush gun, Moss a shotgun and Decker a Sniper as primaries. That normally would be a good choice if the team needed to split up, but with their weapons confiscated they’d need to improvise. True Moss was extremely capable with close range encounters and prefered melee weapons, but they needed to be crafty in order to make use of their surroundings. Veilmont hoped that they could perform this task.

7:53 AM Captive Tent

The flap of the tent was pulled back and Carnegie and a Female Tah who looked roughly the same age as he walked inside. They could tell from the thin pieces of cloth wrapped around her chest and waist; her horns curled back and her fur was a light brown.

“Goodday. I am Akame.” She said before sitting down with a book clearly made after the war under her arm. “Schrodinger decided that it’d be best that you have an idea of what to expect. The Great Hunt is no easy feat and to you all, who are strangers to this land you are already at a disadvantage. So let’s cover two of the beasts you’ll be looking for.”

“Hold on there miss.” Samuels said. “Why exactly are we being tested? Other than for our very survival of course.”

“Our relations with Humans are strained. And there is great fear of you outsiders. You see we, my and Carnegie’s generation is the first to be born in an age not embroiled in war. Before that we were degraded like animals to be slaughtered and stuffed, or kept as slaves and pets. And now we have a cause for alarm. But that should serve as a quick explanation.”

“And this Hunt proves what exactly, that we are to be trusted? I don’t see how that works.” Veilmont interjected.

“Our culture can be. Complicated. But yes the idea is to gain trust. Which is why you’ve been well treated, your injured given medical treatment and why you’re no t in chains or dead yet. Though being held captive isn’t the greatest way for that point to come across. Still let’s get on with things.”

Veilmont wasn’t satisfied in the least. Perhaps these Tahs were being too fearful and in their haste to address the fear of their own kind came to a rushed conclusion about how to go about dealing with him and his team. But it was too late for that now. Veilmont let out a sigh and spoke on.”Fine. Do continue.”

“Certainly then. This is an Alaskan Survival Guide. And it details many natural wildlife. You’ll be given this copy for your needs, but before that we’ll talk about two potential prey. The Wendigo or the Great Mountain Bear.”

“Friendly names I take it?” Decker snarkly responded.

“Sarcasm I see. Oh but they’re absolutely harmless, when they don’t want to kill you of course.” Akame responded.

She turned to the page where a illustration of a Wendigo appeared, and a few of the Troopers gasped in fear. Akame slowly read it’s description. Albeit skimming over unnecessary detail. “A Wendigo is a herbivore, who guards its territory aggressively. It will gore any trespassers with its Palmate antlers, and stab them with its independent finger. Quills line the neck and hind area making it difficult to close in for the kill.”

Akame flipped a few pages and showed the illustration of a Great Mountain Bear. A Giant Four Armed beast mutated from a Grizzly, the the Polar one was far larger. A small scale reference had it taller than any known Mutant, almost Behemoth sized. “The Great Mountain Bear, often revered for it’s sheer strength it is the largest Predator ever encountered. Its long and thick forearms create small quakes under its weight while the smaller arms are used for carrying young or berry picking.”

The Rangers had seen a lot the Wasteland had to offer but these were abominations the likes of which no one has ever seen. The task before them is daunting but not impossible. Veilmont readied himself. “So when do we leave?”

Carnegie perked up from the back of the tent.”Whenever you have your Warriors picked. We will set out.”

“In that case.” Veilmont said standing up. “We’re ready to go.”

Akame stood in response holding the guidebook in her claws.”You’ll need this. For what it’s worth, I’d like to learn more about you all under better circumstances.”

Chapter 22

May 6th 10:00 AM Rangers enroute to Gellenalen

A massive fire burned in front of the Tonsina River Lodge; men danced and chanted in unison hymns in a language unintelligible to the normal man. The morning sun was hidden behind a thick wall of clouds as rain and thunder crashed around them. “For Fenris the mighty one we praise! For Fenris the ferocious one we fear!” The Tribals resounded these words.

“To Fenris we offer this sacrifice unto you!” A woman bound by her wrists and ankles struggled at her binds. As the priest lifted a blade into the air the woman let out muffled screams in fear. While the blade captured the reflection that the lightning casted over the blade. The Priest sunk the blade deep into her chest and pulled out the blade only to shove his bare hand into the wound, his fingers tugged at her heart as he yanked it still beating from her warm corpse.

The Tribals gathered round and with teeth sharp as fangs tore into her skin as the Priest began to devour her heart the warm blood dripping down his neck over his furs.

Rangers Claire and Jonathan edged to the clearing of the bushes as they saw the Lythropes feasting on the poor victim. “What now?” Claire asked.

“We try to move around. Too many Lythropes, not enough time on our side. We need to get moving, there’s nothing more we can do here.”

They backed up the Worcas as they attempted to make their way past unnoticed. Elsewhere however the NCR Rangers had finished packing up camp from the night before things were uneasy between them and their Tah Guides and Captors. The previous day saw no signs of any worth while prey and they needed something to appease the Tahs. They had encountered a Vulpine a large quilled Fox like creature almost as if someone had spliced a Fox and Porcupine together. It had dashed away before it felt threatened enough to shoot its quills at anyone, which can penetrate as deep as four inches into the flesh.

The Rangers had makeshift bows and spears but getting sticked with hundreds of quills was something they’d sooner avoid. Decker was in the bushes taking a leak while the others plotted their course. “We’ll head North West then loop around and try South.” Churchill said as he ran his claws over a map.

Decker rushed back to the group buttoning up her pants as she ran. “Found something. Paw prints, big ones. Saw them round that tree back there while I was looking for some cover.”

Quickly they ran over and it was as Decker said, paw prints leading eastward. The Tahs studied how they were formed and where the tracks led. “There’s a river not far from here. It may have gone to feed or drink.” Churchill stated as he stood up and looked towards the direction of the river.

Chapter 23

May 6 9:34 AM - Bush Company Headquarters

The air was calm as patrons from the previous night awoke next to naked companions of their choosing. But although the customers slept and the workers kept at their jobs others had been gathering information as it was their main directive as the Bush Company. A woman in leather boots stomped through the halls leading to Valmet’s office. Hair shaved short wearing a low cut blouse made from hide with a pair of seal skin trousers. She barged in short of breath having ran quite a distance.

Valmet sat at her desk nursing a cup of tea as she looked up to greet Holly who had just entered the room. “I assume the news is dire?”

“It is. I brought you reports of movements of the Zang Empire. They just started to move and it will take them weeks to reach Cordova but I assume they have no interest in the NCR based upon current statements from our operatives.” Holly said as she took a chair and exhaled.

“Then what. Why are they mobilizing?”

“We surmise it’s to put pressure on the other Tahs, the ones who are opposed to human co-habitation. That and I think they plan on making an assault on Anchorage.”

Valmet drank some of her tea as she flipped through the reports. “If they are moving to aggravate the Tahs, how long until you think they decide to act?”

“By our estimates, a matter of hours. The Tahs are sitting on a powder keg, and it’s primed to blow. We already surmised that their unprovoked abduction marks their current political unease. We think the NCR were taken to appease the current political powers and to keep the Pro-War groups at bay.” Holly took a moment to pause.

“Right now with the Zang encroaching on their doorstep it will give the War groups reason to act, putting the NCR at further risk. We know not which Tah faction has taken them but we can only guess that they’re still alive as no declarations have been made at this time.”

“Damn!” - Valmet said as she slammed her desk. “Have you sent word to Ashland?”

“Yes, a courier was on his way already.”

“I just hope the Rangers work fast enough, otherwise we might be facing another war on our hands.” Valmet said her voice filled with uncertainty. “What of Stonewall? Why haven’t they stopped their advance yet?”

“That’s the thing, they haven’t tried yet. We assume that they’re not currently interested in interfering at the moment. We know they had their share of issues the past few months, cave ins and toxic gas underground. But we’re not sure why they haven’t acted yet.”

“Rest up for now Holly. I fear we’ll need to work soon enough ourselves.”

“Yes Ma'am!” Holly said as she left the room leaving Valmet to her thoughts. So. The Zang want to pressure the Tahs, I wonder why Stonewall hasn’t stopped their advance yet. Something must be happening in their underground city. But what? Valmet thought as she began to drink from her cup only to see it empty.

Chapter 24

(626 words. Also a recapper chapter. But it should still be a good read.)

Vault 118 - 11:05 AM

North Ashland the High Chief of the Arctic Rangers sat at his personal desk which was hand carved out of hickory a rustic designed roll top desk. In his office there was another flat top desk which he used when meeting people. North sat under the light from a desk lamp dipping a quill pen in a jar of ink taking long strokes in between dips. While North wrote a door opened to his office a woman with blonde feathered hair walked in holding a clipboard to her left breast. North glanced towards the door to see Sera Heartgrove walking towards him.

“Have a seat please.” North said turning fully to face Ms. Heartgrove. Her right hand reached for the chair pulling it back as she seated herself setting the clipboard down as she ran her fingers through her hair so she didn’t get wedged between the chair and herself.

“High Chief. I have the field reports you asked for. Things have become messy.” Sera said her face distorting with concern. “Rangers Claire and Jonathan finally encountered Barron Vanderbilt and his men, and disposed of the Giant Hornets plaguing Cordova; Barron claimed he was lending a hand to the townsfolk - but we already knew he was making a move on the NCR. Still the incident passed without hostilities, which I can only assume i something Barron wanted to avoid.”

North reached under his desk and opened a drawer retrieving a bag of Grizzly Chips known for their famed Bear mascot in a top hat. “Hungry Ms. Heartgrove?”

She waved his offer off.”Not at present High Chief. Now as we know, Manticore is seeking Slaver bases along the Prince William Sound. They saw some action, destroyed a few ships and discovered a makeshift port. They made sure it was completely leveled before moving on. We sent a courier with their payment. Money well spent.”

“Manticore gets results. That is for sure.” North said as a chip crunched in his teeth.

“Indeed.” Ms. Heartgrove nodded in agreement.” Now moving on, last time Claire and Jonathan checked in, they were trying to sneak past a group of Lythrope Cultists; they had lookouts in place and the Rangers engaged the cult.”

North lowered his hand that held a couple of chips. And grimaced in disdain. “As dangerous as these wolf cultists are. The Znag have begun to move haven’t they?”

“Unfortunately so.” Sera said her voice growing ever more with concern. “Normally our arrangement with Stonewall; the former raider clan and current absolute power within Juneau, would keep the Zang in check. The Zang being former Chinese extremists, mutant haters and anti american terrorists. Which means they practically hate everyone in Alaska with a religious fervor. We don’t yet know why Stonewall allowed them to pass en mass from Juneau on their way to what we assume is their goal to mount an attack on Anchorage. This has also stirred the Tahs, who the Bush; our allies in the field of espionage and expert assassins. Believe the Tahs are currently in a state of fear and panic over the arrival of outside forces. Or the NCR and the implications they have on their fragile peace with humans.”

“We’ll need to find out what happened to Stonewall. And allocate forces to Anchorage to repel the Zang. Wonderfull.” North said with a long sigh.

Meanwhile - Schrodinger's Camp - 11:23 AM

“Schrodinger. Clan Head. I bring news from our scouts and reports from the Cserit conclave regarding current political tensions.”

Schrodinger lifted her head and spoke authoritatively. “Approach.”

The young Tah cautiously came closer. He read the reports he had been given.”Scouts said that the hunting party found tracks of a Great Mountain Bear. Soon if they kill the beast, they will prove themselves in our culture. But the real issue is that other Huerra Clans are making a move on us. The Cserit conclave said they tried their best to calm their fears and anger, but many of these Clan Heads are old and the memory of Human aggression is still fresh in their minds. The Elder One made a proclamation condemning this violence, still many Clans have openly disobeyed his command.”

“How many?” Schrodinger inquired.

“Three, or Four Clans at the least.” He said as Schrodinger scowled in anger.

“Prepare our warriors! Inform the Humans and double the guards. We can only hope the other Humans bring back a trophy soon. Then the other Clans will have no choice but to accept them or face banishment.”
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Chapter 25

11:59 AM - Tonsina River Lodge

“WE CAN’T KEEP THEM AT RANGE!! THEY’RE MOVING IN FOR THE KILL!!” Claire yelled out as the Lythropes rushed to close the distance between the Rangers losing a number of them to gunfire. They screamed “For the honor of Fenris!!!” each abandoning self preservation to overwhelm the Rangers on the grassy field just outside the Lodge.

In droves they circled both Claire and Jonathan, warriors with bare feet in the waist high grass, Claire cradled his revolver in between his hands looking left and right for an escape route. While Jonathan unclasped the snaps of his knife sheath drawing it into his left hand flipping it into a saber grip. He also drew his hand axe from his back that was dangling in a belt loop. The Lythorpes whooped and hollered as they dashed without care or concern for their well being one swung his right arm which had a blade mounted to some gauntlet high towards Claire's’ left shoulder; Claire stepped back to his left trying to avoid the blow. But the Lythrope wouldn’t let up so easily, he swung and slashed relentlessly forcing Claire to take the defensive by dodging.

Jonathan had his own troubles to worry about though he knew he needed to protect Claire who was being driven back towards the edge of the circle the Lythropes formed. Jonathan’s massive frame and overpowering presence that was his Psyker ability drew the already crazed Lythropes closer all seeking to prove themselves unto their deity. They charged and Jonathan hacked downwards from a right angle into the stomach of a charging warrior; his hand axe dragging the innards out with a pull.

As Claire is pushed back towards the ever growing numbers of Lythrope warriors he sidesteps forward hoping to break his retreat. He glances back to see the warrior that was slashing at him sliding forward as he stops his charge to shift his attack. Here is where Claire has his chance. Cocking the trigger of his revolver he fires his first shot into the warrior’s left leg; his revolver slightly jumping as the smoke clears. Claire takes aim again noting the blood and apparent agony the warrior is suffering. The warrior clenches his leg and begins his charge anew with seething anger; teeth bared. But as other warriors wanted glory and bloodshed they became less patient to keep their formation - more and more broke from the circle and the battleground became a clustered mess under the afternoon sun; sun flashing in the eyes of everyone trying to spill blood on the battlefield in the open lot just outside the lodge.

Warriors driven into a blind zealous rage to prove their worth to their god, the Warriors now only twelve strong had abandoned all form of tactics swinging their weapons wildly. Although the battlefield was chaotic both Rangers kept to their training and personal experience, Claire tried to slip out of the battle to distance himself from the Warriors, he was a crack shot at range and though his skills with a revolver were impressive it was far too difficult for him to aim when his enemies were pressed up against his chest.

Jonathan reveled in battle, the perils of being so close to death, the dripping of sweat mixed with blood. He let out a chuckle as he drove his axe deep into the chest of a Warrior from his left clavicle down to his ribs, Jonathan yanked back his axe hard as he could to free it from the flesh it had bit into and turned his attention to another.

Claire meanwhile had gained some breathing room, not as much as he’d like but enough so to make his shots count as he cocked back the hammer and fired off a round towards a Warrior’s right eye as it struck just below and tore through his check. Each Warrior that fell allow Claire to gain more distance until he reached medium sniping range. He knew that it wasn’t long before more charged him and that he needed to pick those circling Jonathan off so he could bring out his big guns. Claire reached for his Dragunov and squeezed the trigger firing off two shots one only a few seconds after the others as Claire adjusted his aim. The first ripped through a warriors jaw the other smacked into another's skull, Jonathan glanced over and proceeded to strike another down as Claire attracted the remaining Warriors his way. As but one remained to deal with Jonathan he dispatched it quickly trusting his knife into his throat and took this chance to switch over to his Shoulder Mounted Machine Gun, as the Warriors now realized they just found themselves caught between a sniper and a machine gunner with no easy way to reach either of them; Jonathan mowed them down as Claire picked off any stragglers.

As Jonathan stood letting his gun wind down, Claire walked over through the pile of corpses. “Wild bunch, good thing they have no love of tactics or self preservation otherwise we could have been overwhelmed.”

“We should check the Lodge, see if there’s anyone else inside, maybe a survivor or two they snatched up along with the girl.” Jonathan said whilst he and Claire moseyed on over tried from the battle. They had spent a lot of energy dodging near random attacks, a little scratched and some small wounds here and there but just fine otherwise.

Following a thirty minute search, they turned up more sacrifices nearly eaten to the bone. “Nothing that could be done about it now, no children from the Lythropes, these must be primarily warriors serving under a priest.” Jonathan said as he tossed a sack of strange meat into a fire to burn. “We better get a move on then, we’re nearing Gellenalen.”
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