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John Delaware

[ The Surface ]

Something there is that doesn't love a wall. The phrase etched itself in John's mind but he couldn't place why. It was a poem, sounded like one, at least, from some Old World writer whose bones laid still and dead long before the world set itself on fire. He couldn't remember where he had heard it, whether from some random scrap of paper found in the Commonwealth, or maybe something older, more personal. Parent, maybe? John's father had never been one passionate for poetry, though the occasional line or two spoke to him in a way others could not. But his mother remembered the arts of the Old World: the songs, the writings. Perhaps human casualties weren't the only losses of the Great War. Something more than that, a culture.

What tales of woe could be written of their current situation, John wondered. Of the countless bodies that seemed to litter the Necropolis, how many were once like them? Hapless, desperate, craving the thrill of adventure.

But what prompted John's train of thought was seeing It firsthand: the Wall, a looming foundation of metal taken from the Necropolis, old vehicles and pillars of steel. Then the tone came back, that eldritch noise that followed them upon first entering the tunnels. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Talon Company leader draw her pistol, training it at the sky.

A crack of thunder, the resonating of bullet hitting...something else. A ripple of blue light that concentrated, then spread out across the horizon above. A force-field: a goddamn force-field

Anticipating the arrival of more of those flying beasts at any time, what John heard instead was the clanking of loud, metal footsteps on the cracked wet pavement, not unlike the sounds Khaliya and Jeremiah made: Power Armor. Three approached from the bank, all in Power Armor, all bearing the standard of the Brotherhood of Steel. The one in front bore a unique sigil different from his compatriots, the gears replaced by a roaring lion, not unlike those seen borne on the shields of medieval knights. His armor was worn and battered by exposure to battle, hissing slightly as droplets of acid rain rolled down oversized pauldrons.

Of the two he was flanked with: one was the largest man John had ever seen, a hulking form covered head-to-toe in Power Armor arguably more scarred than the first, though a much different model, older maybe. Reminding John more of a tank than a man, the only indication of life within the suit was the subtle rise of heavy shoulders signifying breathing, his expression the militaristic might of his helmet.

The third wore a suit of Power Armor that matched his behemoth of a comrade's, a cowboy hat comically perched atop the helmet in what John could only surmise as a Mojave metaphor standing before his eyes. Regardless of the brief amusement he felt, John noted immediately that these men, trapped or not, still possessed immense firepower. If there was one thing the Brotherhood could take a lesson in, it was subtlety.

Marvin's hushed note of "The Pride" spurned John back to attention. It was clear the Ghoul had experience with, or at least prior knowledge with this sect of the Brotherhood. John had heard of their ranks simply through experience, but never once did he hear anything about a 'Pride'. Given how many chapters the Brotherhood had, it was bound to be some sub-faction in one of them, John had neither the interest nor the resources needed to look into it.

The strange Mercenary who left the coin once more issued a...declaration? In his old language, directed towards the Brotherhood members before them. John wasn't sure what the merc was hoping for; multilingualism was about as rare as a pacifist Super Mutant, and just as unbelievable. Expecting the Brotherhood to speak anything but English was a stretch in John's mind, but given today's events alone, he decided now wasn't the time to judge what was reasonable or not.
John Delaware

[ New York City Metro - Blue Line ]

Ears ringing, dazed, noise bored deep into his skull. The monster had taken its prize and flown off with its brethren, leaving only the wake of its carnage as proof it had been there at all. The creature had torn through the lobby with the careless abandon of a child, albeit a child with the size and strength to level a small town. John was disoriented, unsure if his ears were bleeding or if that damned ringing would ever stop. He'd grown accustomed to the sound of gunfire and explosives, but that roar was unlike anything he had ever heard. It was some joke of evolution, he supposed, that a monster of such power needed even more in its arsenal than its sheer state of being.

There was no love lost felt between John and the Talon mercenary the beast claimed as prey. The fool had put them all at risk from a bad case of nerves. If he'd kept his mouth shut and his wits about him, he'd be with them still, not tossed around like a dog's chew-toy. Still, John was aware of the callousness in which he regarded the departed. Sometime years ago, this would have troubled him; after all, empathy was what distinguished men from animals, right? But empathy was counterproductive, and John had killed far more men with sadder stories than that.

The strange mercenary speaking his strange language approached the puddle of blood and viscera that served as the mercenary's memorial, kneeling down before it. He took something from his pocket and laid it atop the grisly scene - that piqued John's interest. Waiting for the man to stand and leave, John approached in turn, uncaring if the mercenary saw him or not.

With a single gloved hand, John picked up the silver coin, examining it front-and-back. He had no justification other than his own curiosity, but that was enough for him.

'Caesar Dictator. Magnum Chasa.' John repeated the words in his mind, trying to associate them with something. The language was obviously Pre-War, that much was apparent. Though John had rarely heard anything other than English in his travels, the words looked similar to inscriptions he'd seen on Pre-War government buildings: courthouses, schools, the like.

Of course, the words "Caesar Dictator" were English enough to understand. The imagery on the coin was eerily similar to Pre-War money John had seen scattered around the Commonwealth. Whether this was a recreation of the Old World or something even older, John didn't know, nor did he have that much interest in finding out. Snippets of history like that were unimportant in the grand scheme of things. No one cares about the history of a coin unless you can buy or make something with it.

Taking a moment to wipe away the blood with his thumb, John let the coin catch itself in the light a moment more before he nonchalantly stored it in his satchel. It was unique, something the detective had never seen before, and he would find more value in it than a puddle of blood on the floor. Not like the fool would need it now. John couldn't help but smirk cruelly at the thought of a Talon grunt raising themselves from the dead just for one last cap. He wouldn't put the idea too far past them.

While the rest of the group was recuperating from their near-death encounter, John found some sort of solace in Marvin's almost-annoyed grumble. He supposed the two of them were old spirits, their centuries difference in age notwithstanding. But old spirits needed something youthful to give them purpose, and John had it figured that that was Frankie's role in all this. After all this time, he could barely remember what he was like at her age. Far less jaded, that much was certain.

As long as he could remember he had always wanted to be an investigator. The late-night weekends of his youth spent listening to radio shows: exciting gunfights, confounding mysteries, dashing heroics - it was everything a young boy could want. It's what John wanted to do, to be.

That same mysteriousness, the allure of the noir aesthetic, John remembered seeing it in his father as well. Richard Delaware was the Old World come back to life: handsome, well-groomed, almost never seen without his suit-and-hat. His past was as enigmatic as the way he expressed himself, even to his own family. There was always that sense of disconnect, the feeling that John never really knew his father. John inherited Richard's talent for observing people, but never grasped his father's gift of gab. A charismatic smooth-talker who combined a professional-yet-easygoing demeanor with a dashing smile, Richard may-as-well have been the settlement's official representative. It was him who would speak to the roving traders and caravans that stopped by their little town, telling them all they wanted to hear and more.

It seemed that no matter who Richard spoke to, there was a sense that he knew all of their strengths and weaknesses right off the bat, and adapted his tact to take advantage of it. It was talent, no doubt about it. But John couldn't help but wonder sometimes if his father was even genuine with him, or was simply putting on whatever face worked on him the best.

'Wonder what he'd think of me now...' John let the idea hang bitterly in his mind as a conclusion to his thoughts. No matter how much he tried to avoid it, he could imagine it perfectly. Richard never shouted, never raised his hand against his wife or son, never threw or smashed things. His anger, his disappointment was always expressed by a look. It wasn't even a glare, no, just a narrow-eyed look in your direction that said all the worst things you wanted to hear, to feel. Whenever John got into trouble as a boy, there would be that look, piercing into his very soul, lasting for what felt like entirely. Then there would be some declaration: "No radio for a week," something like that. Then Richard would walk away, and it would be over.

And there he was, thinking again, even after he told himself he was finished. John scoffed to himself at his own lack of discipline. Was he that narcissistic to enjoy hearing his own thoughts? Maybe so.

With a quick pat-down to ensure his suit wasn't compromised, John took up near the rear to follow the rest of the group up the stairs, daring one last look back at the crimson puddle, missing its silver gleam. Was that guilt in his mind that he had taken it? No. Couldn't be.
John Delaware

[ New York City Metro - Blue Line ]

John had found himself both exasperated and amused by the Texan's actions, though his amusement derived more from the remark made at his expense more than anything else. Course, whether the rest found his jape funny or not didn't really matter much to him. World was a cold and bitter place; diving into John's morbid sense of humor was like drinking whiskey for the first time: caustic, vitriolic with a hefty dose of 'Why the hell would anyone do this?' But the next time would be a bit easier to swallow, as would the next time, and the time after that, until a few years down the road and that vitriol is all you can feel anymore. John couldn't help but smile softly - a genuine smile. He reminded himself of something his father had said years ago about never choking on your liquor. For some odd reason or other, John remembered the words clear as the day they were spoken:

'Sharing a drink with a man is like shaking his hand: you only do it for the first time once. A weak handshake is a weak man, and a weak drinker isn't worth your time.'

John's smile quickly faded as the sense of hollow nostalgia he had for so long kept buried beneath guilt and drivel threatened to rise up again. Oh, how the wound pained him, no matter how many times he cleaned and dressed it. He had hardened his expression, his mind, his demeanor; but his heart remained exposed, bleeding onto the pavement.

As the group began reacting to the Texan's grand escape, one of the mercenaries began spouting orders in a tone that spoke volumes of past combat experience. Any two-bit mercenary worth their salt was combat-seasoned, sure; been in a few firefights, boasted about some mighty thing slain or another. But a tone like that was different than just mercenary talk. It boasted gravitas; conduct; an unspoken, no, expected measure of respect from the others. On top of speaking a language John could only surmise as gobbledegook, this mercenary, if truly he was one, bore a past that set him apart from the rest of them. But unlike Marvin, who shared John's purposefully vague method of explanation to avoid unnecessary digging, this man's deviance was worn plainly, whether out of pride in identity or an inability to hide it.

Either-or, the mercenary quickly caught himself, falling in line with the others, though it was clear such an act was unfamiliar to him. Part of it reminded John of the Gunners back in the Commonwealth. Self-stylized freelancers who were little more than Raiders with prettier toys, devoted to emulating Old World military. Chains-of-command, organized recruitment, clear regiment, it was all a waste of time in John's mind. Lot of good that training did once the nukes started flying.

Khaliya's response to the Texan's mishap was...startling. Her shift from steel golem to superhuman sprinter was enough to briefly throw him off balance at the sight. Servos and pneumatics coordinating themselves in nearly-perfect sync, shattering the tile floor like cardboard before she yanked the Demolitionist back with inhuman strength. Then the tone shifted. Confidence turned into immediate tension as Khaliya slammed herself back into the nearby wall, clutching Short-Fuse to her chest.

That buzzing sound, like the wings of a giant mutant insect. That alone was enough to hike John's breathing. The last thing he wanted was to try and face a swarm of giant bugs, he'd sooner offer that damn armored Ghoul a cigarette. Then the clicking: a raw, guttural sound that stiffened the hairs along the back of his neck.

No, this wasn't an insect.

Khaliya's orders were clear, don't move, don't breathe, don't speak. Nerves were firing off as John sensed the familiar feeling of adrenaline coursing through his veins. But this was different. He was used to fighting men: Raiders, drunk morons who needed a punch to the mouth, even Synths were little more than normal-looking men on the outside. But whatever this thing was sounded big and hungry.

Slowly moving back against a wall at Khaliya's second command, John slowly sunk down til he was nearly level with the ground, eyes refusing to lost sight of this...abomination that tore through reinforced concrete, pavement, and tile like tissue paper. Up until now, he could boast at having never seen a Deathclaw in person, and right now he was wishing to have that privilege back. The thing was terrifyingly big, with flesh seemingly carved from stone, and powerful limbs like steel pistons. A massive maw large enough to fit a small child whole were filled with serrated, gore-stained teeth, with each breath between clicks emitting a foul, odorous concoction that bore the stench of human flesh. One didn't have to smell it before to know what it was, it was unmistakable.

The beast's fingers ended in talons the size of machetes, carving through the walls of the lobby with ease that made John terrifiedly uncertain whether such a feat was attributed to the monster's strength, or its claws' sharpness. But most terrifying was the way the Deathclaw moved, swiveling its head seated atop a neck rippled with muscle. It was searching, hunting, on the move. And they were all prey.

Whether the monster's entrance was due to Short-Fuse's disruption or if it was an inevitable scenario, John found himself quite willing to sacrifice the Texan to these abominations if it meant briefly appeasing their hunger.

Out of the corner of his eye, John saw Marvin reach for who he assumed was Frankie, given the suit's much-shorter stature, pressing himself back into the same wall just a few feet away. The Detective kept his eyes locked with Marvin's, as best as he could convey under his dome-shaped helmet. He wouldn't dare try to shimmy his way over to the duo with this thing searching for them, but as long as he kept a bead on them -- and it -- he was content.

But he found himself wondering in the midst of all this whether he could even hope to attempt to keep the promise he made to the small medic. His gun, his sole source of power, security, protection, now felt like little more than a water pistol staring down the fiend. A quick draw and quicker thinking will get a man out of most situations alive, but this was a first, even in John's experience. Of course, no one else would know that. On the surface, he seemed collected; hand twitching but clear-minded.

Then Emil spoke, the damn fool. John wanted to yell at him, shake him by the shoulders in a brief moment of unexpected emotion that yes, the eyeless, clicking monster was using sound or smell to track them.

That makes two: Short-Fuse and now Emil as possible sacrifices to the demon's hunger.

Seconds felt like hours as the rapid sound of his own heart beating pounded in his ears. There was nothing for John to do, other than sit still, and act as unappetizing as possible; which, given the state of his heart and liver, was a fair assumption that even if the Deathclaw took a bite out of him, it'd find him an unpleasant meal.

Even farther from his peripheral than Marvin and Frankie were, John spotted the strange Mercenary he had been pondering earlier shifting slightly in his place, as if readying his arm for something. Before John could ponder what, there came the echoing clatter of a stone falling down the stairs to the back of the lobby, resounding off of enclosed walls and cavernous tunnels.

Then silence once more.
John Delaware

[ New York City Metro - Blue Line ]

"Christ." John's expletive put to words what most of the others were probably thinking as they stepped foot into the station lobby. It wasn't often one was able to sit down and consider how large the scope of loss was 200 years ago, how many died in the flash of atomic light...how many died after, their final moments coming to realize the newfound hell on earth.

The thought sent an uncomfortable shudder down John's spine, one that seemed to put him especially on-edge. It was like looking upon a gruesome crime scene, yet, somehow, this seemed worse. Murder was deliberate; personal, almost. Showed the depraved lengths humans were willing to go over some petty grievance or another. But this was objective, dispassionate. To push a button and see entire nations destroyed. No one stopped to think of those caught in the crossfire.

The whole thing sat like a bitter taste; wretched, unpleasant. Yet on the surface, John seemed unflappable, as if letting the entire sordid affair run down shoulders already burdened by the rest of the world's weight.

John made his way towards another one of the kiosks, letting the Paladin tinker with her own. His movements were slow, cautious, honed by experience. A single misstep could make the wrong sound, shift the earth in just the right way. It was a matter of placement, weight, emphasis. Besides, last thing he wanted to test was how well his gun would hold against Power Armor, should that damned Ghoul show back up. He hadn't had the pleasure of seeing it, of course, but he suspected he wasn't missing out on anything particularly fond to look back on. Besides, that's what the mercenaries were around for.

Wiping a caked layer of grime from the screen with the back of a gloved hand, John typed a few commands into the keyboard, accompanied by the whirring of centuries-old wiring and machinery coming back to life. That was the thing with old terminals: big, clunky, slow, not much to look at. But they were designed to last, their insides containing the last echoes of the Old World.

The home screen of the terminal was almost eerie in its contrast with the rest of the lobby: cheery-phrased snippets of all New York once had to offer, sights-to-see after taking the metro. Public access terminals like this usually weren't encrypted, didn't need to hide any data when your sole purpose was to sell tickets and lure in tourists. Anything else he'd have to find would require digging through files the old-fashioned way.

John soon found himself briefly lost. There was no goal, no motivation to searching here, the Paladin had already found whatever information the group would need. But for a moment, he was seeing how the Old World worked. There was always something fascinating about terminals. Some had text logs left from former users centuries ago, others had key-information of what life was like before the War, the state of America, the rest of it. Others like this one, they were just simple, information no one would find important or even worth the look. But it fascinated him, a bit, at least.

Finally turning to face the rest of the group, John muttered in agreement, "I'll sleep in a hole in the ground if it means I can take this damn thing off." He moved back towards them, leaving the terminal behind without even a second glance; he had read all he cared to.

Apparently not willing to wait for any of the others, the demolitionist ran up the stairs with an almost child-like glee, something that threw John off momentarily.

"Fifty caps he won't make the night."
As sad as it is to say, I've made zero progress, and I have a work shift conveniently from 5-11...so I want to apologize if I don't turn anything in :(
Figured since it's been 12 hours since my somewhat-vague post I'll give a small update! I've already got a few character concepts in mind, would have done more but I had a shift at work. Tomorrow I have the day off so I can devote that to building, harassing friends for opinions, and pulling something together!
Potentially interested! Subscribed and brainstorming in the background here! May throw something in!
John Delaware

[ New York City Metro - Blue Line ]
@Alfhedil

Ghouls in Power Armor, Paladins arguing, and a Texan demolitionist. There had to be a joke in there somewhere. Finally as relaxed as he could be, now that the present danger seemed to remain in the tunnel, John set about pacing, more out of boredom than anything else. He'd never been one for standing still, not unless a drink or a woman was involved. There was the added benefit of keeping his legs stretched and moving. Staying still too long, it froze you up, made your feet clumsy. But his legs weren't thanking him at the moment. Each step brought that familiar ache in his bones, no doubt from arthritis starting to set into his joints. A few hard falls will do that to you.

Back home, there were usually enough drinks around to make sure he stopped feeling anything. But there was always the morning after to remind him of what's left. As bitter as the piss the Commonwealth called beer. He'd flirted with the idea of trying a harder chem here or there to see if it'd do the trick. He'd certainly been offered a hit in the past. But no, he had at least enough moral fiber to know where that road would take him. Some of those addicts...started looking more like Ghouls than Ghouls did. Course, he probably wasn't much better looking than they were, but he had his mind, at least. Cynical, maybe, but still sharp.

Frankie had moved on from Monika and started tending to Emil, who had a tear in his suit as well. 'Jesus, half of them'll be ferals by midnight.' John thought to himself with almost shocked disbelief. Not even to the first checkpoint, one potential hostile, and two suit breaches. Well...he's faced worse odds. It was times like this he really needed a cigarette.

The stunned silence left by the male Paladin's momentary insubordination was placated by Khaliya's new commands, head above-ground. On the one hand, open space seemed less tactically sound, not as defensible. But if Old-World stories were anything to go by, nothing holy grew underground when mixed with radiation. John would take his chances in the streets: if anything, the roads and alleyways would be more familiar for him, and his quarry.

But playing it safe when the Necropolis had a loaded deck, well, that was a gamble John was less-than-thrilled at taking. With the group coming to formation once more, John stayed around the outskirts of the middle, keeping a close eye on Frankie, as he could. The overgenerous one took a spot near the rear guard, and the rest seemed to find a place most comfortable for them. But John didn't have a soldier's mind, he just walked with the rest of them, keeping an itchy trigger finger at the ready.
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