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John Delaware

[ The Bunker ]

"Something powerful." John would hold Finn to those words as he stiffly moved towards the makeshift kitchen, aching in his joints with each step. An aching that spoke of brawls gone poorly, a few too-high falls, and an old bullet wound here or there. God, he was getting old. John couldn't help but smirk to himself, the thought of being old by 39. As a boy, he would have found the thought preposterous. The whole world was ahead of him, and there were plenty of stories told of old men with white beards and wrinkled faces. But that was a time before. Out here, survival had to be earned, reclaimed for one's self. It was rare to find an old face outside the Pre-War Ghouls, and even then, those that weren't dead or gone feral were about as rare as any old human.

Picking up one of the shot glasses with almost-eager fingers, John brought the glass to his lips and threw his head back in a motion clearly backed by years of repetitious experience. His face twitched reflexively as his parched throat felt the immediate burn of alcohol; the sensation prompting the detective to let out a heavy exhale through dry lips. Immediately, his body felt a jolt of energy, the pain in his bones fading like a distant memory. Placing the glass down, John cracked his neck, hitting just that right spot that everyone hopes for in such an act.

"Not bad, Cowboy." John bid aloud to Finn, mentally resisting the urge to take another shot. It's a funny thing, alcohol. John knew full-well that the drink was killing him, but he was too far gone to dream of living without it. No one wanted to live in the world straight, not the way it was now. The Raiders had their chems; mercs had their booze; even some of the old Ghouls relied on fonder memories to just get through the day. John wondered how old Marvin was, whether he followed the similar motions. Perhaps the whole thing was life's biggest irony - that the thing killing them was the only thing holding them together. If there was a God, He had to be laughing at that.

John had hoped that the smell of food would bring him some modicum of pleasure, though he'd not smelled food that good in awhile. Even Diamond City's famous noodle stand had to contend with the stink of waste and decay in the Wasteland air, tainting every bite. But no, still his mind was discontent, though the others seemed to find a place for themselves to relax, if only for a moment.

Out of the corner of his vision, he spotted the Talon leader kneel down besides Bailey. Something...yes, something caught his eye. Though he couldn't make out anything that was said, it seemed off. Not a general conversation, no. There was a focus in her stance that defied that. John didn't make a sound, simply stood still, eyes locked on the two until Prism rose from her place, moving towards where Finn stood. John's gaze followed, unfaltering, a sternness in his expression hinting at slight scrutiny, but nothing more than that.

Over the years, he'd survived too much to truly feel terror as it once was. Now it was all the same: adrenaline keeping him alive. The Institute kept him on a tight leash, let him see the outside but fencing it off to him. To wander, but never truly be a part. Somedays, he just wish X3 had put a bullet in him and spared him the trouble. Least he would have died with clear conscience. Some stab at Heaven, maybe. Faith came in short supply in the Wasteland, most were too focused on staying alive in the present to worry about what came after. John examined the concept like he did everything else: necessary skepticism. Maybe it was real, maybe it wasn't. If God existed, He'd turned His head at His own creation. John didn't blame any God for the Great War; Humanity blew itself up, they had to own responsibility for that. But if something greater, something more truly came after, well...what better time than the Apocalypse?

But the thinking made John cynical, ill. Hopefully there was enough drink around to forget. Or to at least pretend to.
Paladin Maine

[ The Bunker ]

Finn had taken to their newfound guests like a Ghoul to radiation. He spoke to them all, perfect strangers, like old friends or distant relatives come down for a visit. In some circles, such hospitality might be seen as a gift; but Maine found it baffling. As it were, these newcomers were not friends, comrades, or associates. They were strangers, likely in pursuit of their own greed more than anything else. Maine sneered at the idea behind his helmet. For all the Brotherhood had done to protect the settlers on the East Coast, to curb the Mutant and Raider threat; mercs and hired guns saw it as an opportunity to exploit citizens for caps. Some of them weren't much better than the Raiders, themselves, just smart enough to know the unwritten law of the Wasteland. Some groups on the East Coast saw eye-to-eye with the Brotherhood-- the old Brotherhood at least. Reilly's Rangers and the Regulators were two, operating under a set of morals, seeing justice done through whatever means necessary. But Talon Company, Littlehorn & Associates, all the rest in-between; Maine lumped them in with any other threat that deserved nothing less than total annihilation.

Talon, in-particular had suffered a tremendous loss after the Brotherhood set its eyes on bringing the firm hand of justice to the Capital Wasteland. They were little more now than a remnant, remembered more in stories told to frightened young children than anything else. Though they were still around, the Brotherhood had sufficiently neutered them - leaving them limping with tail set between their legs. If they tried to snap again, well, it was time to be put down for good.

As such, it was suffice to say that Maine was on-edge seeing the familiar red talon insignia branding a few of the newcomers. The symbol he wore was a sign of pride, of virtue. Regardless of the Brotherhood's current direction, there was a time when the people looked up to the gears and the sword and saw hope, saw justice. But the mark of Talon represented everything the Brotherhood stood against: lawlessness, oppression, countless atrocities.

In truth, part of Maine hoped, however little, that one of them would act out of turn. If they did, he would answer, and leave the mark of his handiwork stained in crimson.

Khaliya and Armann both disappeared from the main quarters into what the squadron had converted into a war-room. It was a jury-rigged set-up at best, hardly the facilities that the trio had been used to back home, but it fulfilled its purpose well enough. When short, half-hour treks into the Necropolis for basic supplies were as dangerous as they were, venturing out without heed was tantamount to suicide.

Then again, so was a bullet to the head. And Ruben's memory came rushing back. The Mangle had shaken them all up, bore witness to the true horrors that the Necropolis held. Girard was standing there one moment, then gone the next. Seeing Power Armor crumple like tinfoil, it affected all of them, highlighted just the danger they had marched into. But none were so affected as Ruben, who ate his gun not long after that; the second set of holotags collected. Maine remained stalwart, the fortification of resolve that the rest of them could lean to. But the fortification had been weathered, beaten against by everything they had seen, fought, won, and lost. By now, he had departed any impression of ever returning home, or at the very least leaving this Godforsaken hellhole. No, now they survived because it was all the resistance they had left. Every day, every hour they drew breath was to spite the Necropolis.

The two commanding officers had left Jeremiah behind to stand watch over the group, though it seemed a redundant gesture at best. Maine was well-aware that between him and Finn, any upset from within the newcomers could be effectively dealt with. Finn through words, and Maine through action.

And apparently, upset was already there. As the new bloods removed their hazmat suits and got settled, brief tensions began showing themselves, particularly between the red-headed woman and another man garbed in strange armor that Maine didn't recognize under any faction or tribe in the Capital Wasteland. It seemed passive-aggressive, mostly, a rough bump on the shoulder signifying hostility. But it doesn't take long for passive-aggressive to simply turn aggressive. Silently recognizing this, Maine adapted his stance to keep an eye on the two of them, on the lookout for any weapons drawn or punches thrown.

Regardless of where any of them came from, or where their allegiances once lied, Maine had to begrudgingly acknowledge that they were all a new squadron now - something Finn would take to much easier than he. But insubordination, disagreement within the ranks was strictly disallowed, and Maine was prepared to bash together whoever's heads needed bashing.

In the meanwhile, Finn was in the bunker's makeshift kitchen preparing food for them all, setting out whiskey and glasses like an expectant housewife. Maine muttered something under-breath about saving that whiskey, an utterance that came out a garbled growl from his helmet.

Before long, dinner was ready to be served, in an event Finn had waited years for. Regardless of his thoughts on the Southern-born Knight, Maine couldn't deny that his cooking beat the food back in the Citadel, and certainly was better than whatever processed "sustenance" came from the MREs. There had to be some reason they kept him around.
John Delaware

[ The Bunker ]
John could tell right off the bat: he wasn't going to like Finn very much. Exuberance and Southern 'charm' that wouldn't have been out-of-place in some of the holotapes he grew up listening to. As a boy, he loved the old tales of wandering gunslingers scouring the plains, dispensing aid and delivering justice wherever they were needed; especially upon hearing rumor that such cowboys still existed out West in the Mojave Wasteland. But now, it was a forgotten dream - a memory that, instead of reminding John of past joys, simply aggravated the bitterness he felt now.

John had zoned Finn out after only a few words, once more adopting a rigid and unapproachable stance, hands stuffing themselves in coat pockets. Though he found himself briefly contemplating the sudden reveal that Finn could, at least passably speak the strange mercenary's tongue. He had never pinned the Brotherhood as a faction prioritizing linguistics, but he could base his perspective only on his view as a layman. The roving tech-hunters were as enigmatic as they were unsociable, closing themselves off to the rest of the Wasteland. John didn't care much either way: he had no intentions of starting a feud with the Brotherhood, so long as they kept their rifles out of his business, they could collect every fried circuit board on the East Coast.

The tinny sound of music playing through old speakers filled the otherwise tense emptiness of the bunker, though John would argue on whether that was a good thing or not. He couldn't place the date of the song, itself, though that implied he could accurately date anything he heard on the radio. Country never appealed to him, though. He preferred the silky smoothness of jazz, its ailing mood. No better music to drink to. Country was the bleating of a softhearted lover, serenading an old flame with rye whiskey and...a dog, usually. But jazz was dark, mysterious, took him back to the old strip clubs and smoking rooms he had dreamed of in youth. It was a different dream, though: one he clung to rather than resented. Maybe because it was all he had left. Why else would he still wear the damn coat-and-hat?

"To hell with dinner. I'll take a glass." John broke the silence again, clearly dispensing with the pleasantries. If all that awaited him was more music and more hospitality, he'd need at least a buzz going.
Paladin Maine

[ The Surface ]

Two years. Two years they'd been away from home. Paladin Maine had dealt with the announcement of their mission the same way he always did: silent stoicism, though lacking Armann's introspective reflection. It was the silence of nothing that needed saying. They were six, then, counting the Grey Wolf, all sharing the distinction of supporting what Lyons stood for. Now only two were left, and even though they coordinated with Finn, the lone scout, there was the general uncertainty of not knowing how long any of them would last.

It was a slow death in the Necropolis. The elements of the post-nuclear hell tore at them, chipping away at their numbers piece-by-piece, but Maine was too stubborn to give in. Alexandria, Tomas, Ruben, Girard; names that repeated themselves over and over in Maine's mind. They were brothers, sisters...comrades. Though he seemed unflappable in his fortitude, it was growing clear that Maine was dealing with the tragedy in his own way. Alexandria's had hit him the hardest. It wasn't a quick, clean death. She was captured, prisoner of a long-lost war, and Maine was prepared to storm the gates of oblivion to rescue her. But cooler heads prevailed, and she was declared MIA, the only soldier they couldn't bury.

Tomas was the latest casualty of the Necropolis: snatched in the air by Gargoyles and dropped to the ground like a heavy stone. Power Armor was designed to absorb most impacts without issue, but from that height and that angle, the poor Scribe was turned to paste inside his own armor. Maine had responded in ritual, collecting the boy's holotags to keep with the others as a small memorial, a reminder.

Maine's unexpressed grief had turned to rage against both the Necropolis and the Brotherhood, itself. For fourteen years, he had served with distinction and loyalty, only to be rewarded with a suicide mission. Though he would not question, he would respond, and he was ready to let the whole Necropolis suffer.

He had made this aspect known, not through word but through action. Maine's response to hostility, whether overt or implied, was impulsive and brutal, even by his standards of violent retribution. He faced opposition with an almost sadistic glee, though he never issued a taunt or a challenge, silently reveling in his own carnage.

Despite the dire circumstances and low odds of survival, Finn remained affable, cheerful even. His verbose tales of home life and childhood occupied the deafening silence that blanketed the Necropolis. For some reason, the Knight had taken a shine to Maine, and seemed to always find an excuse for conversation. Maine's general lack-of-response indulged him, and Finn was rarely left without a topic or other to talk about. Maine did little to silence him; talking seemed to be the younger man's way of coping, and Maine expressed any annoyance with a swift and curt motion, often slapping Finn on the back of the head with enough force to displace his helmet.

Armann turned brooding and contemplative, with each loss within the squadron driving him further and further into himself. He spoke little, aside from issuing commands and tactical observations, which Maine didn't mind. The Grey Wolf's reputation preceded him, and his mindset alone earned Maine's respect. Thus, all it usually took was a single word from the elder Paladin to manage Maine's growing recklessness.

Their patrol that day had proceeded as most others had. The sound of Gargoyles in the distance, away from their usual hunting grounds, had prompted Armann to keep the trio close to the bank; Tomas' death still fresh in their mind. After waiting a few minutes more and detecting no more sound of Gargoyle activity, the ragtag squad of soldiers left the safety of their bunker into the rising torrent of acid rain that regularly plagued the Necropolis.

It was eerily quiet as usual, the sound of their heavy footsteps accompanied by the sizzling hiss of rain being the only detectable sounds in the area. Then there was a crack, a lone gunshot only a few yards ahead that resounded against the unearthly blue force field that emanated from the Necropolis Wall. The trio stopped. With the simple command to "Stay sharp." Armann took point and rounded the corner to reveal a decently-sized group all dressed in hazmat suits, led by two towering figures in Power Armor - Brotherhood.

Within moments, Armann located the shared communication channel and made his presence known aloud. But then, something familiar. Maine noticed it too; blade and spear. Khaliya. She had joined the Brotherhood years before Maine had, though under similar circumstances. Their interactions had been few and far between, though they were most likely aware of the other's reputation. The Swordwind and the Mutant-Slayer.

It was clear, however, that Armann was less-than-pleased to see her. Indeed, their last conversation earned something of infamy, a clash of ideals. Armann was the old, and Khaliya the new. Lyons, Maxson, tradition and progress. It split the Brotherhood straight down the middle, and left Armann and his squad in the warpath.

Maine chose not to react to Khaliya's blunt reply. He was Armann's soldier, he owed no loyalty to the Swordwind aside from sharing a faction. Should it come down to choice, Maine's loyalties remained with the same man who had commanded him for the lat two years. He would, however, respond to the sight of a laser rifle trained on his head. There were no words uttered but a low growl from Maine's throat, filtered through the metallic speakers of his helmet. A shift in stance, a tightening of the shoulders, clenching of fists. Whoever dared point a rifle at his company, Maine issued a wordless challenge to try, to give him cause.

However, the group reached a mutual interest, and Armann decided to let these newcomers join them at the bank. The walk back was slow, Maine and Finn both took flanking positions on either side, while Armann led the pack. There was a new sense of uncertainty in the air: what purpose these men and women came for, what purpose in Swordwind leading them? It wasn't a rescue mission, that much was clear. Maxson had forgotten about them, likely intentionally. It was underhanded, dishonorable, unbecoming of an Elder, a commander. Maine had no interest in the politics of it, but rather the character.

Inside the bunker, each of them walked through the decon unit and gradually stripped their hazmat suits, revealing men and women from several walks of life. These were mercenaries, adventurers, a disorganized team led by Brotherhood. Maine found the whole situation confusing, it made little sense. But, what did anymore?

While Armann, Khaliya, and Finn stepped out of their armor, Maine did not. Since the day he first stepped foot inside, he almost felt more comfortable in his suit than in his own skin. It gave him strength, power, endurance. When muscle, when bone fails, there is always steel. Maine remained silent, opting not to speak to any of the mercenaries. He'd let Finn take up that responsibility - knowing the Knight would be besides himself with joy to finally have new people to speak to.
John Delaware

[ The Surface ]
@HamakazeKai @Polaris North
Though he seemed affixed to watching every move of their new Brotherhood associates, John couldn't help but turn his head to look at Marvin, who seemed to be making a new friend in their suicidal demolitionist. With a quirk of his brow that he lamented the Ghoul could not see, John was prepared to make a jabbing remark or two, but decided to stay his tongue given the present circumstances. Though no one else had fired a shot, John couldn't help but feel that the group wasn't totally out of the woods just yet. Part of him wanted to keep a hand near the grip of his revolver, but John knew that faced against Power Armor, his gun would be about as effective as flinging a rubber band at it.

Most surprising to him was Bailey's outburst of emotion. She spoke more in those few seconds than John had heard for most of their journey, though his brief astonishment turned once more to indignation as she immediately took aim for their heads. "You mind putting that away before you get us killed?" He growled, daring to say more. As it was, half the group seemed either suicidally idiotic, or idiotically suicidal. Christ, if there was even a half-bottle of scotch left around somewhere, John would thank whatever indifferent deity was up there.

The silence from the Brotherhood golems was finally broken as one spoke over their shared comm channel. It was an older voice, presumably belonging to the one with the unique sigil on his armor. However long they've been here, they seemed to have at least working knowledge of the Wall's true purpose. It all seemed to be getting out of hands, plans unfolding within plans. Course, John shouldn't have expected anything less from the Institute, the Brotherhood, whoever else was involved.

Another moment passed, the first one spoke again, this time recognizing Khaliya by her title, one she quickly corrected to her formal rank. In stark contrast, Jeremiah seemed all-but-jovial to see a familiar presence, shaking each of their hands as if they were old chums.

The tension did not fade, however. Whatever shared history there was between Khaliya and this Paladin Storstrand, it wasn't pleasant. There were a lot of names thrown around: Elder Maxson; the Pride, once more; it all seeped with suppressed aggression.

Paladin Storstrand's curt dismissal of Servius' overblown greeting prompted a choked laugh from John. The mercenary, on the other hand, was far less amused, muttering something about 'arrogance' that John could only hear half of, finished with another foreign sentence. He bit his tongue again, resisting the urge to tear the man down. To John, there was no moral superiority for speaking some dead language. It had no place in the Wasteland, outside whatever tribe or settlement he came from.

As the group soon fell back into formation, the two on either side of Storstrand took flanking positions, neither of them speaking just yet. Discipline? Training? Or did no man truly breathe under those metal suits? As they all approached the bank, John couldn't help but take in the obvious fortifications made to strengthen the outer structure. It was impressive, given the scarcity of resources. Inside was a working UV decontamination system, something John had never seen before -- or even assumed existed anywhere outside the Institute or Enclave, maybe. Now feeling clean for the first time in hours, John almost enthusiastically tore off the hazmat suit, finally letting fresh, unfiltered air enter his lungs, ease of movement greet his muscles. He could've cheered. Instead, he chose to express his contentment by cracking the stiff joints in his neck and fingers. It'll cause arthritis, his mother used to scold him. At the rate his body seemed to be taking punishment, he invited it to try. With a meticulous brushing off of his shoulders and a straightening of his hat, John finally felt like himself again, holstering the Blaster at its proper place at his hip.

Inside the bunker proper was a modest, if genuine attempt at creating a home. Lit with a warm glow by various string lights powered by a downstairs generator, three bunk spaces made for each of the Brotherhood soldiers, and four more left empty, memorialized with lone holotags.

Armann, Finn, Maine were the three still-occupied bunks. The four empty ones were marked Alexandria, Thomas, Ruben, Girard. John couldn't deny a brief, if noticeable feeling of pity at the sight. Four lost, three barely clinging on, trying to carve out a home in the depths of hell, may as well be their tomb. Would someone find this bunker in 200 more years? See the holotags, maybe a journal entry or two left behind? An echo of the Brotherhood presence John was seeing with his own two eyes.

To appease his own curiosity, John forward and took each of the holotags in hand, examining them closer, reading off the listed information for no other reason than simply general interest. Detective's habit, he supposed.

Soon returning to the rest of the group scattered around the bunker, John let his shoulders relax as this seemed to be the safest place in the Necropolis for now. Marvin took lead of the conversation this time, asking their newfound associates what brought them to...was it the Necropolis or the bank? John supposed both could make for at least interesting tales.

Upon mention of alcohol, John couldn't help but agree with a slight raise of his hand and a firm "I second that." Under normal circumstances, he'd have avoided drawing much attention to himself, but the circumstances here were no longer normal, and he was too tired and too sober to care.
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 thunderous clanking of loud, metal footsteps on the cracked wet pavement, sounds shared by their Brotherhood associates: Power Armor. Three approached from the direction of 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.
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