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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.
Sure, I'll throw in some tentative interest! In one RP currently and working an office supplies store during back-to-school (Help me), but I'll see what I can't conjure up!
John Delaware

[ New York City Metro - Blue Line ]

Firing positions
The order had been uttered only a second-or-two before John's anxious nerves fired off in unison, his right arm sweeping across his body towards his hip, a motion that was as fluid and experienced as a soldier's, revealing his past experiences. But there was a stumble at the end as John all-too-late remembered that he had moved the Blaster to his satchel. His recovery, drawing his revolver from the bag, was sloppier than his initial quick-draw; the flaw of unfamiliarity.

Nevertheless, John outstretched his right arm, finger brushing near the trigger towards the bleak maw of the train car that Emil and Devon had practically stumbled out of moments before. As soon as he did, his killer instinct had came to the forefront. No longer was he the grizzled alcoholic dressed like a television character. No, his stance, his grip on the gun, his eyes (which none could thankfully see) all bore the mark of a trained killer. It was like flipping a switch, old habits.

But there was just silence. Damned, damned silence. John was growing sick of it, his mind filling in noises where none seemed to be. Even the creaks of the Old World turning over in its sleep sounded to him like the footsteps of a titan; the displacement of the earth a shambling Feral; the storms in the distance like cracking gunfire.

That was the worst of it, John concluded. At least in this part of the Necropolis. In battle there was adrenaline, focus, fear refined into strength. An enemy to fight, to kill. But in the dead of silence there was just the self. Fear cannibalizing itself, turning to paranoia, anxiety. Men would start shooting at shadows - then each other - then themselves.

It gnawed at him, his heart beating in his chest like a drum in his ears. The helplessness of not knowing where or what to shoot.

"Fuck..." John muttered under shaky breath, recollecting his nerves.

Tension in the group seemed to settle, at least enough for them to start lowering their weapons. Holding out a second longer than the rest, John slowly returned the Blaster to his satchel, not even realizing how his arm ached from being outstretched til he had done so. It was out of the corner of his eye he saw Frankie tending to Monika, a brief wave of suspicion coming over him like the chill of winter. Though she appeared to recover from her outburst well enough, it did little but only disturb John's already-shaky view towards her, and, by extension, the rest of the mercenaries.

There was a simplicity to motivation. The Brotherhood had its issues, no doubt, but clarity wasn't one of them. At the very least, John could respect that. The Paladins leading them, they could all make their speeches and illusions of camaraderie, but they were here for the technology. Just like John was here for the Synths. And the rest, he supposed...were here for the ride.

But if Emil's description ran true: a Ghoul fused to Power Armor. Well, maybe he'd have something to shoot at after all.

As he kept watching the group recover from the encounter, he noted one of them offering his own weapon to Devon, something that John couldn't help but scoff at. To give away your gun to a stranger was asking to be shot in the back. Altruism, goodwill, all of it was a sham when it boiled down to survival. World changed, but people hadn't. This newcomer, whether out of misguided helpfulness or whatever-the-sort, he was asking for trouble.

You could help all you want, but the world won't thank you for it.
I'm a spontaneous idea generator. While there's no real rhyme or reason to where I get my best ideas, consistent areas are usually either while I'm bored at work, or while I'm waiting for the water to heat up in the shower (usually after midnight lol)
John Delaware

[ New York City Metro - Blue Line ]

"Great. One's a poet and one's a singer."

John couldn't help but scoff softly underneath his helmet. The mercenaries with them were hardly grizzled veterans. Their fear, anxiety, it bled out of them like an open wound. John didn't know much about any of them and didn't quite care to. They were chatty, uneasy, eyes alert but never seeming to look past the surface. At least not to him. He couldn't help it, the years spent noticing flaws, discrepancies. It ruined him. For hours he could stare at a painting, ignore the imagery, the beauty, and see only a crack in the fault line, a slight discoloration where the painter had made an all-but-unnoticeable mistake. To never see beyond that, appreciate the painting for it's message: that was John's punishment.

As the group walked, John's movements seemed to finally settle into a gait comparable to his own outside the hazmat suit. His muscles moved themselves while he was lost in thought, working far better together than his own mind could do. The weight of the suit wasn't a hindrance but a factor, one that was dealt with accordingly. Whatever it was, in those brief moments of unconscious control, John had forgotten he was wearing a suit at all.

At the front of the group, Marvin was once more speaking with the head Paladin. But this had to be more than just business: they had just gone over the map minutes earlier-- least what felt like minutes. But now she was offering her hand to shake. Trying to read the body language of someone wearing Power Armor was about as effective as shooting it with a BB gun. All he could see were the layers of steel and pistons, the curved features of the helmet, somehow dispassionate, yet wrathful. Nevertheless, her action said enough, an attempt at acclimating herself. No doubt, the Paladin was smart enough to know just how the Brotherhood was viewed by the others, and was probably attempting to actively change that image, first with Frankie, then with Marvin.

Though, immediately going for the token teenager and Ghoul of the group seemed rather on-the-nose, least in John's mind. But, if that was on-the-nose, then what was he?

"Starting to turn hypocrite, old man. Losing your touch." He thought to himself with a bitter humor.

Finally leaving his thoughts be to focus on the mission at hand, it had settled in just how...quiet everything was. It was a twisted irony: nothing around, no Raider, or Ghoul, or even a Radroach scuttling about, yet the air was somehow more tense, a palpable sense of unease. John felt the fingers at his right hand twitch, an unconscious muscle response to impending danger, usually would happen right before he went for his gun. Damn it all, it was affecting him too.

The group finally came to the sight of a massive tunnel collapse, one that stopped them dead in their tracks. Now, they had two options: either head above ground, or send a poor, lost soul or two inside the tunnel to scout it out. A test of altruism, then. John said nothing to the Paladin's subtle request, instead leaning his back up against the tunnel wall in a half-resting position. He'd watch what would play out.

Almost immediately, one of the mercenaries from the trio volunteered himself. Looks like they found their hero. Then someone else volunteered to accompany him. Jesus, had they snuck into the group? This person, this voice, it was unfamiliar. He hadn't remembered seeing them in the tunnel before moving past the Wall. Either she was that good at hiding, or he was losing his touch.

With a mere shrug of response at the possibility of either, John's attention immediately turned to one of the other mercenaries: the red-headed one from earlier...at least, he was 90% sure it was that one - Christ, he hated these suits.

There was a tear in her suit, at the right leg, immediately causing her to take notice and grab a patch. Torn this early in...never a good sign. But then she stopped, froze, like locking eyes with a wild animal. Then she cried out, a different language, John couldn't have told you which, prompting him to shoot up from his place against the wall.

John grimaced under his helmet as the woman seemed to recover and get back to her feet, trying to blend into the group as she had once before. But something told John that wasn't going to be possible. Whatever that was, whether nerves or...something deeper, John wasn't exactly fond of it. No, these mercs weren't grizzled veterans, that much was now clear. Too human to be that.
John Delaware

[ Fleetwood Subway Station ]

Even from the nondescript cover of his hazmat suit, John's stride and posture remained distinctly leisurely, hands awkwardly at his hips in a manner mimicking where his coat pockets once were, now a whole layer beneath the lead-lined and reinforced suit. Even after trying to adjust to it's feel, he - and others - still found themselves facing discomfort. His first steps were slow, deliberate thuds, a noisy gait that contrasted heavily with the lightweight maneuverability he'd prided himself on in years past.

Closer to the front of the pack, the small Paladin stopped to rendezvous with Marvin, almost certainly about the map he had taken from the storage kit. John silently wondered to himself how the two felt about working together. While his experience with the Brotherhood proper was slim-to-none outside general rumor and speculation, it was fairly common knowledge that all chapters, regardless of region, shared a certain disdain towards mutants of any kind. This disdain trickled through generations of soldiers, spreading to the point that even non-feral Ghouls were treated as lepers at best, and abominations to be shot on sight at worst.

'Leper, Outcast, Untouchable, Unclean, Castaway... Pariah.'

And John smirked softly under his helmet.

Still, he found the Brotherhood's nationalistic sense of superiority vexing. The world, and all the institutions that were part of it burned up in nuclear fire centuries ago. Human, Ghoul, Super Mutant...Synth, all of them were maggots, feasting off the life that was once there, writhing in the same patch of Old World ash.

He overheard the Paladin's next words, about a three-mile trek to reach the station. On paper, a walk that distance was hardly an issue - particularly for a group like this gathered together. It was what would await them on the trip that would provide the obstacles. Any manner of beasts lurked within the Necropolis. John had heard the stories, entire Brotherhood patrols going in only to never come out, ceaseless storms that would have put the Commonwealth's Glowing Sea to shame, factors that were all the more reason he had no business traveling within. Which was exactly what any rogue Synths would be thinking.

But then she stopped. It was sudden, alert, like when a suspicious sight or sound, just out of the corner of view processes itself in the mind. Whatever it was, John could hear it too. A hum, mechanical, but not hydraulic-based or fusion powered. It was like the inner mechanisms of a giant clock, yet it was distorted, as if the sound was filtered through a barrier. Whatever it was, it etched itself in his brain, leaving behind a God-awful ringing sound, as if the more he focused, the more his mind resisted -- or was it the sound resisting being heard?

After moments-- no, minutes? Seconds? The Paladin came to, and John with her. Whatever it was, it put her on high-alert. Their next motivation wasn't so much "make it to the station" as it was "get away from here." John wouldn't question it, he'd have been lying if he said he wasn't eager to escape the source of the noise, himself.

It was when one of the mercenaries recited a line from...something, something Old World, that John finally seemed himself again, his thoughts his own. The sign of present uncertainty had unbalanced him, thrown his mind off, but it returned as quickly as it had left, and John seemed none the different for it.

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." A bit too dramatic for John's own tastes, but he supposed he wasn't one to judge. His reply was a blunt, acerbic "Cute." And that was that.
John Delaware

[ Fleetwood Subway Station ]
@Polaris North @Dread

"Looks like I'll be going to the front. Good luck you two."

John locked eyes with Marvin for the brief moment before he turned to join the front of the group. Though he said nothing in response to the Ghoul's farewell, he offered a nod, not dissimilar to the one he gave upon introductions minutes earlier. But something in his eyes looked different. They weren't cold or hostile, but in a way, understanding. John was never one for long, heartfelt goodbyes, especially not with people he'd just met. But this was the best he could do: an unspoken sentiment that Marvin not be the first one killed.

And in that brief flash, the moment had faded, and John was left alone with Frankie.

“Ew, no thanks. Besides, those things will kill you, dude.”

"Suit yourself. I'm banking a bullet's going to kill me before my lungs do." John replied coolly with a loose, almost unnoticeable shrug, letting the lone cigarette join its brothers in his pocket. Ignoring the brief, yet sharp sting of rejection that he, frankly, had not felt in a few years' time, John masked the wound with cynical indifference. Pushing any uncertainty to a dark, rarely-visited corner of his mind, John focused on finishing preparations. Knowing full well he wouldn't be able to keep his holster handy on the bulky hazmat suit, John drew his revolver from his hip, slowly, deliberately so as not to seem threatening. He held it in his hand awhile: a sturdy five-pounds of black-finished metal and hard plastic, it's hefty weight felt more like a steadfast comfort than a burden.

Indeed, the Blaster had seen him through more danger than any other gun he'd used before. But he remembered how much the weight had dragged him down in his youth. It wasn't the metal, the gun itself that burdened him, but it's purpose - all the bloodshed it carried. But it wasn't the gun, was it? Guns were just tools, things, like any other object. No... the burden was him - and him alone. His gun in another man's hands: could make the difference between life-or-death. Could save a family, a settlement, maybe; wielded in defense, to protect, not for murder.

Swallowing back hard, John moved the Blaster to his satchel with the rest of his on-hand equipment. It wasn't an optimal place for fast drawing, but it would have to do while the suits were still necessary. Making sure all hoses, tubes, and connectors were adequately sealed, John twisted the dome-like helmet on with a sharp hiss signaling that a full connection had been established.

Taking a few moments to adjust to the suit's weight, John almost immediately decided that he wasn't a fan. The suit was bulky, clumsy, engineered for protection rather than dexterity. Even the simple action of clenching his fist felt cumbersome and unwieldy, as if the suit was actively resisting motion.

“So, um... Mind sticking close by?”

Turning to see Frankie's smaller form - also suited up - looking towards him, John seemed to take a moment to process her request. Though he wasn't able to see her face past the reflective helmet, he could hear the almost sheepish tone of her voice, as if asking for help, for close company was new to her. John understood that well enough. His own work forced him to walk the lonesome road, to bear all the pain and guilt with nothing but X3's unsympathetic gaze as response. No one to trust in this world but yourself, that was the mindset he had taken and kept for so many years. But maybe he was wrong.

"I'll keep you safe." The words had left his lips before he even had a chance to process them. He hadn't said something like that since... Barnum. And the factory came rushing back. The tense atmosphere: agitated cries and curses of Raiders down echoing tunnels and dark walkways; the foul smell of blood, urine, chems, and booze on stale wind; the unnerving creaks and groans of the Old World setting in its foundations. And the girl locked in her cage. And the detective come to save her.

I'll keep you safe. A foolish promise made by a foolish man. Words he couldn't keep then and can't keep now.

"Khaliya to group, we're moving out. As I'm sure you've noticed since I'm speaking to all of you directly, your suits have a built-in short-band radio. Should be able to find the controls at the neck of your helmets, but for the sake of easy communication I would recommend leaving it on open channel."

Not realizing how long he had been silently standing there contemplating his own thoughts, John nodded once to Frankie - at least, as good a nod as he could muster given the bulk and shape of his suit - before starting behind Khaliya, adjusting his pace and position so hopefully the medic could keep an eye near or on him at all times. Indeed, not having any official instructions aside from staying alert gave John a certain level of freedom, a freedom he would keep to his advantage throughout the journey.
John Delaware

[ Fleetwood Subway Station ]
@Polaris North @Dread

Still bearing the look of disgust that seemed more appropriately aimed towards rotting garbage, John kept close enough to Marvin and Frankie to avoid mingling in with the others. The fledgling subgroups all kept to themselves, building individual foundations of trust that amounted to little more than, 'I'll shoot you last.' John wanted as little as possible to do with either of the Brotherhood Paladins or his friend from the Institute, and he'd have sooner put a bullet in his own head than chat about energy weapons with the trio of mercenaries not far from him.

Frankie's sudden exclamation of "Sweet!" drew John out of his reverie, immediately tracing his eyes back to the girl as she scampered to the storage trunk, her earlier fatigue now nowhere to be seen. His response was a silent, but poignant raised eyebrow that concealed the small smirk threatening to cross his otherwise-apathetic expression.

With a quick scan of the contents of his satchel to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be, John reached for a Geiger counter and hazmat suit from the trunk, ignoring the maps provided in favor of his own. He stuffed a few of the patches in his bag, content in knowing that there was at least some security in that. John had seen his fair amount of radiation from his travelings around the Wasteland, but he wasn't willing to risk growing an extra arm or two if he could help it.

Turning just in time to hear Marvin's request to the group as a whole, John couldn't help but chuckle slightly. It was a quiet noise, but clearly distinct to those close to him. Not a joyous, or jovial sound, but cruel and contemptuous.

“Not bad. I know I feel inspired to run into danger.”

Trying his best to step one foot after the other into his hazmat suit, John turned to look at Frankie. "Eh, his sounded better." He answered simply, motioning with a cock of his head back to Marvin.

Pausing briefly, as if thinking something over, John reached into the breast of his coat once more, drawing out his now-lighter pack of cigarettes. Saying nothing, he opened it up, deftly plucking a single cigarette and holding it out to Frankie. "Here. Keep you from falling asleep on the job." He said, returning the pack to his coat pocket.

Yet, despite the nonchalant confidence in his actions, John's mind was woefully uncertain. Why should he care that the girl was tired, short on sleep? Certainly the rest of them were, perhaps even more so. Maybe it was practical: the last person you want tired and unfocused is the one removing a bullet or stitching your leg up. But maybe it was something else. Something personal; a bit of kindness here or there, one drop of goodness in a growing sea of selfish pragmatism. If it wasn't her, it would have been someone else, John told himself. A few bottle caps to a stranger down on his luck, maybe; a pack of gumdrops for a street urchin with a tear-stained face. Something little, something insignificant. But then. Then he could feel like the hero again.

It was when the Paladin started barking out orders like an Old World commander that John felt his bitterness return in full swing. Spread out and stay alert. Might as well have been his life motto at this point.

"Time to go." John put bluntly, wishing in the back of his mind that he'd savored his last drink maybe a little more.
John Delaware

[ Fleetwood Subway Station ]
@Polaris North @Dread

There was an air of unease surrounding the trio, each of them suspicious of the other for understandable reasons. Those who keep secrets can often identify each other, and John and Marvin both shared that same look in their eyes; an understanding, maybe, that what they showed to the world wasn't their true self. There was almost a sort-of camaraderie to it. But there was conflict as well, the dreadful sense that both of them would go to great, even dangerous lengths to ensure those secrets were never revealed.

The curse of knowledge, even the thought of it sat like a bad taste in John's mouth. It added only to the bitterness that swirled inside him, poisoning his mind, his body. His two companions could have seen it, the disgruntled look on his face. It wasn't anger or resentment, but complete dissatisfaction; like John was trying to look for something off in the horizon, a sign of something better, a sign that this wasn't it. But the years dragged on, and now, he stared out into the distance and lamented only that there was nothing there at all.

Returning to the present, John's eyes regained focus as he looked -- properly looked -- at Marvin and Frankie both. The Ghoul's expression was hard to read, no doubt due to the years of radiation exposure burning away most of his cartilage and soft tissue. While his tone remained polite, it lacked the genuine pleasantness he possessed just moments earlier retelling his story. Something about the girl, maybe.

She was small, unnoticeable, one to duck her head down, mingle into a crowd, and never be seen again. Hardly the Femme fatale that John had grown up hearing about, but there was something refreshing about her, a hardened hopefulness that could be seen in her voice, her actions. Not naivety or flights of fancy, but that spark of life and energy amidst the decay, the bloodshed, the cynicism. People lose that spark too quickly, John surmised. Maybe it was that same spark that drew Marvin to her in the first place, made him, if only for a moment, take down that wall.

Feeling that familiar gnawing pang in his chest again, John, brows furrowed, decided he was done thinking for the moment. About to say something else to the duo, he was interrupted before he could begin by a new commotion from the tunnel, the sound of dozens of heads turning at once. John, instinctively following suit, let his eyes settle on an old caretaker, a worn poster clutched tightly between leathery fingers.

The Caretaker soon addressed the crowd, his voice old and decrepit, yet carrying the weight of the Pariah's influence in every syllable. John couldn't help but scoff at the 'unfortunate' news that the Pariah had traveled deeper into the Necropolis without them. To John, it practically screamed the word "trap", but he shouldn't have expected anything less from their enigmatic benefactor.

It was what the Pariah wanted that intrigued John more than anything else. Not weapons, armor, or advanced military technology that would have the Brotherhood storming the gates to plant their flag. But blueprints, data storage, paper documents, things that would be scavenged for components at best or strewn aside at worst.

But, of course, someone had to have the last word. The Talon Company leader rose to her feet, saying what many of them had probably been thinking. What was the point in gathering old, seemingly useless equipment and documentation?

Then the shorter of the Paladins cut in, trying to make the most of the situation at hand and unify the group together. "Jesus, they're making speeches." John muttered under his breath, clearly unimpressed by what he saw as self-indulgent ego-stroking. Anyone could make a speech, talk about unity, about pride in accomplishments. But they were just that, speeches. And John had grown tired of hearing them.
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