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Feat. @Lo Pellegrino & @Hank

A quick sweep. Whatever Owen thought of the paladin, it was an apt description. They landed several yards left of the structure itself. Between them and the building there was an old, rusted over fence, some sandbags, and a low walls designed to protect people from falling into the river rather than deterring intruders. Behind all of it was, of course, the river. There was a ramp as well as stairs leading down onto the pier, though they’d need to get closer to see more.

Rubbing his temples, the scribe turned to Patty. “I can’t do this,” he groaned. “Paladin Moss just abandoned McDowell. How are we supposed to just move on from that?”

Grimshaw appeared around the corner before the knight could answer. Owen didn’t know the initiate as well, but it was too late. He’s been too careless with his volume and she’d undoubtedly heard.

Hearing the Scribe’s words put a moment’s hesitation in Laura’s footsteps -- not because she disagreed with them, but because she was surprised to hear someone else voice the same feelings. Laura glanced between Algarin and Knight Brown as she stepped up to them, hesitated some more, and decided to speak her mind. “I don’t know. I was hoping you guys could tell me,” she muttered.

Patty shook her head and kept an eye out around the building - part to make sure it was clear of danger and part to keep an eye out for Moss or eavesdroppers.

“You don’t move on from losing a brother,” she said, “It’s something that sticks with you, and it should stick with you. We shouldn’t have left as soon as we did. Even if McDowell was a lost cause we could’ve at least fought. When we were in the bird I almost had the shot on those fucking deathclaws before we took off.”

She took a long, deep breath and reflected on the scene that had just played out hours earlier. McDowell was surrounded by raiders, ghouls, and finally by two deathclaws. It was a gruesome scene to behold: he was a Goliath who struggled against man, beast, and machine before the wastes consumed him. She knew the situation was hopeless. What could they have done - realistically? He was so far away from the rest of the team, over-extended and undersupported. He shouldn’t have been out there solo.

Patty knew the dangers of going alone. She was rudely reminded of that lesson herself that morning when she was bogged down in a mass of ghoulified bodies. It was her pride, her need to prove that knights rose to the occasion that put her out in front. If it weren’t for Dr. Kinsley’s bravery, she could’ve as well been KIA as well. They all could have. That was the point of a Brotherhood - you had to be able to rely on your brothers to get the job done. McDowell didn’t have that.

“Why was McDowell alone?” Patty asked aloud, the question was clearly meant for Initiate Grimshaw, “What were his orders?”

Brow raised, the scribe pursed his lips. “It’s hard to imagine, but maybe knowing what the hell happened back there would give this whole thing some color,” Owen conceded. He scanned the area before waving a hand. “Mind filling us in?”

"Sure," Laura said. "When we first crashed near the warehouse the Paladin ordered McDowell and myself to reconnoiter the interior. We discovered an underground tunnel that led to a cave where we saw those Deathclaws, and what looked to be their Super Mutant masters." She paused briefly to let those words sink in. "We collapsed the tunnel and returned topside when Estevez radioed for backup. Raiders were attacking the Paladin and himself. Ultimately the plan was that McDowell would distract the raiders and draw the enemy sniper's fire while Estevez and myself were to hunt him down."

Laura held up her new rifle again, unable to repress the pride she felt. "That was a success. That's when Chowder and the ferals arrived, however. I returned to the warehouse with him to deliver the doctor's message to Paladin Moss. McDowell remained outside, on his own initiative," she explained. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. She didn't want to throw their comrade under the bus but she also wanted to rationalize what had happened… and she had to be truthful.

"You should know that there was something wrong with the Knight-Sergeant's armor ever since the crash. I don't know if it was a core or a servo problem or whatever, but he had to fight to get it to move the whole time." Laura paused again and looked at Patty and Owen in turn. "He never mentioned this to the Paladin." She bit her lip. "But Moss knew what was down there. He knew what was coming up. I told him myself. I think that's why he ordered the lift off."

Owen blinked. “Okay, not sure what to make of the underground mutant and deathclaw thing. The situation was definitely more complicated than I thought,” he admitted, rubbing a finger against the stubble on his chin. “But it still sounds like Moss left McDowell behind. I think Patty’s right. We could’ve done more and, hell, who’s to say this won’t happen again?”

“It’s a lesson learned,” Patty said, “The wasteland is damn near as ruthless as a teacher can get, but she teaches nonetheless. From now on we can’t afford anyone going off solo and acting the hero.”

Patty looked between the two of them and shook her head, “It’s a damn shame what happened to McDowell, but we have to learn from his mistakes. If you need something, speak up, alright? We have to stick close to our brothers. We can’t afford another casualty. If you need me for anything, let me know, I’ve got your backs.”

Patty glanced around the courtyard of the Coast Guard building, taking it in fully for the first time since beginning the patrol. A few rusted out, prewar vehicles sat long-vacant in the parking lot. Patty glanced inside their hollow interiors. It was hard to imagine now how one of these could have ever run. Inside one sat a skeleton, held together by some unknown force, frozen in a moment in time like a fly in amber. Atop its off-white dome sat a dusty hat, white, with a black band around the base. On the band were written the words “Coast Guard.”

Patty reached into the car and took the hat from atop the former Coast Guard serviceman, dusted it off with her hand and raised it towards the other two, “Coast Guard. Pretty neat, huh?”

“You should talk to Paladin Moss,” Owen suggested, for the first time seeing Patty as Knight Brown. “He might listen to you. Not just because of your experience, but you get it. Knight’s don’t just wear armor and pull the trigger. They represent something. I see that. He must see it. Maybe it’ll remind him.”

Patty sighed, her attempt to create a moment of levity didn't seem to take hold. She nodded to Owen and acquiesced.

"I'll try to get him alone and talk to him," she said.

Forcing a smile, the scribe looked over the river. Followed its flow a while before turning toward the building. “I don’t see anything off here. Curious what they found inside though. I could go for a beer right about now.”

Laura was relieved to know that it seemed that her comrades were determined to be people that she could count on. If it was just Moss that was so cold and ruthless and the rest of them watched their backs, she felt that they would be alright. “Me too,” she said and smiled at Owen. “Let’s go and report to the others.”
The vertibird made its flight over the landscape of green yellow ambience. Wings patched up as best as they could be, it was as triumphant a moment as could be found in such a desolate place. Dr Kinsley, safely in her seat peered over the state of herself. Jellied chunks of ghoul clung to her, and her sock was wet with the blood from her cut - pooling into the inside of her boots. An irritating feeling second only to the sting of the wound itself. She looked at it with a raised brow.

“I’ve seen enough by now to know I’ve not many tears left to cry, kiddo, but thanks all the same,” she replied dryly, patting his leg with the hand he held. Still, her head turned so that she could look down below. With the mechanical growling of the vertibird, she had no chance of hearing the dog bark now - she’d leave it to the youthful senses of her teammates for that.

“We should follow the direction of the wind from our landing spot.” she said at Owen quite suddenly, turning back to him with a serious expression before sighing.

Owen plucked a small cigarette tin from his chest pocket. “You don’t judge the page of a book by its number, do you?” he asked before lighting the spliff. “I’d direct the flight suggestions to our good pilot. Maybe soften the delivery a bit.” The scribe glanced back toward Lancer Brown. “Seems a bit shaken up to me.”

Patty held onto a rail overhead with one hand, laser rifle held in the other as she kept watch on the landscape unfolding below her. Content that they were free from danger - at least for now - she rejoined her crew in the belly of the vertibird. She looked down at the blood peeking out from Kinsley’s shoe.

“You hurt, doc?” she asked.

“Just a scratch…” Kinsley shrugged in response to Patty, removing a roll of canvas from her bag. She lifted her foot off the floor, and peaked between the torn fabric of her fatigues - the cut was still clean, and the blood was at least beginning to clot at the opening now. “Nothing a quick stitch can’t fix, speaking of…” she announced, pushing herself up from her seat, taking hold of the railing to walk steady to the cockpit.

When she was close enough, she dragged herself into the now free seat. “Brown,” she said with a nod. “You doing alright?” Kinsley asked, steadying her voice to carry over the noise. Sami nodded with a faux confidence and a tightened face. His face was battered and bloody - a head wound. Risk of concussion was high, and his leg and foot didn’t look in the best shape either. A break at worst, and a sprain at best. He’d come off badly from it all, and yet he was still doing his best to get them all the hell out of there. He was a good kid, and so Kinsley placed a hand as comfortingly as she could on his shoulder. “My thinking is you get your bird going west from where we landed, if the others are still alive, they’ll be in that direction…”

"Let's hope so", Sami replied grimly, with an ounce of unassured optimism. His decision to keep the Vertibird going low and slow was probably the smartest one. He heeded Kinsley's suggestion of heading west, it was sound logic. But truth be told, with how chaotic and disorienting the storm was, the rest of the crew could have been spat out in any given direction and they could have landed anywhere. They'd need a great deal of luck to come across the Paladin and the others, as the comms system wasn't functioning at the minute so they couldn't simply send out an enquiry over the radio. Sami kept his eyes peeled for signs of activity or evidence of the Knights' presence as they meandered above the barren landscape.

He glanced over to the melancholy doctor and remembered that they were down a four-legged companion who had essentially saved their asses. "We'll find him, or he'll find us, don't worry. He's a smart one, that dog of yours", he said to Kinsley, attempting to reassure her and get some spirit back into her eyes. He thought it best to distract her from her missing friend, so he continued with: "You seem to have handled yourself well back there. Better than me", subtlety gesturing to his ankle that had slightly swollen from his less-than-elegant descent following his miraculous repair job.

Kinsley gave a soft chuckle, “you did just fine. Got us flying again, and don’t you worry - once we find a safe place to land I’ll patch you up.” Her lips tightened into a slight smirk and she leaned closer to him, lowering her voice, casting a glance to any listening ears behind them. “I got a tiny bit of emergency vodka in my kit, maybe when we land I’ll give you a sip for your trouble. Don’t tell anyone about that though,” she continued, pointing a finger at him and dragging air in through her teeth. “Don’t have quite enough to go around, so that’ll be our secret.”

Sami huffed in amusement. Was Dr. Harper flirting with him? He wasn't sure if the lack of sleep or the shock to his system was making him see things that weren't there, because the doctor was notoriously unreceptive to the point of prudish. Many had tried to charm her, Sami had even attempted himself on a routine check-up long ago, but to little avail. Despite her stoic and sometimes interpreted as robotic personality, the doctor was quite attractive to most, with her slender frame and auburn locks adding to the factor, but nobody has succeeded in wooing her, as far as Sami knew. So perhaps Kinsley wasn't as okay as she stated, or maybe Sami was reading the situation completely wrong in his delirium. Regardless, his promiscuous instinct had already committed his next words. "I'm already enjoying your bedside manner, Doctor Harper", he retorted with a foxish grin and a twinkle in his eye.

The doctor's eyes narrowed, and she was almost confused herself until she brought herself back to the bleeding over his forehead and gave a cluck of her tongue. "Alright Brown, that's one hell of a concussion you've got... " Kinsley turned back to the window, looking down below them with an enervated sigh at the sprawling emptiness and mist, at the crater of hopelessness below them.

There was nothing to be found westwards, so Sami maneuvered the Bird to circle back around and head east

“Patty, you seeing that?” Owen asked, pointing outside with the spliff between his fingers. A bundle of tall, ruined buildings stood in the distance to the northeast. “Say we find one of those supposed ‘hot-beds of civilization’. Do you think they’ll accept us or receive us as a threat?”

Patty turned about. Holding onto an overhead handrail, she looked out over the wasteland towards the ruins of a once great city. Squinting, she could just make out the high-rise towers of downtown Boston. She shook her head and sighed.

“Not sure I’d want to find out quite yet. If DC’s been any indicator downtown is probably crawling with those damned supermutants, ghouls, fucking raiders too,” she spat, “There’s no telling if there are even decent folk out here, could be the Pitt all over again.”

“Maybe.” The scribe observed the horizon, its detail blurred by the distance. “I certainly hope you’re wrong on that.”

After a while patrolling the 10 or so kilometres surrounding the crash site, the crew began to lose hope of finding their compatriots. Maybe they died on impact. Maybe something sinister or hungry (or both) had found them before they had. Maybe they'd headed further towards the Commonwealth to finish the mission by themselves. How could Sami ever know? He couldn't fucking find them.

He sighed and leant back in the co-pilot's chair, exhausted, frustrated and lost as to what to do if they couldn't locate the Paladin and his merry band. Do they press on? Do they cut their losses here and now and head back to the Prydwen with their tails between their legs? Aside from Patty, the survivors were the least combat-oriented members of the squad. Surely they couldn't be expected to fulfil the parameters of a mission specified for at least 4 Knights with only 1?

As he pondered the consequences and circumstances of announcing defeat, a blip! coming from one of the panels instigated a curious frown from the Lancer. Sami leaned closer towards the screen, scowling with mouth agape from shock at the prospects of what it could mean.

Blip!

"Holy shit", he mumbled.
Name: Miriam Schwartz

Age: 38

Occupation: Homesteader

Appearance: She has curly brown locks tied back and typically wears jeans for riding, a man's shirt and her old Union Army jacket, which is now showing signs of age. She is still lean and muscular for her age, thanks to years of work on the homestead.

Personality: Miriam is a little rough around the edges and it is only getting worse with age. She is independent and fiercely protective of her three sons.

Possessions: Springfield Model 1861 rifled musket, her service weapon from the war days which she has kept well-maintained used now as a hunting rifle. A Colt Army Model 1860 revolver, converted to use modern .44 brass cartridges, is glued to her hip. She also carries a large bowie knife, a trophy from her war days and her personal riding horse is a copper gelding named "Edward."

Backstory: Miriam is a hardened veteran of the civil war. She was born in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1847. In 1864 she enlisted in the union army under the name "Samson Schwartz" to avoid marriage. She served in the XXIV Corps until the war's end in 1865 when her unit blocked Robert E. Lee's escape at Appomattox and forced the surrender of the Confederate Army. After the war, Miriam moved out west to homestead just outside the town of Longwater where she has lived for the last 20 years. She never married, but has had three boys out of wedlock - Benjamin, Jesse, and Daniel aged 16, 14, and 10 who help around the homestead.
Yeehaw, consider me interested
Patty climbed aboard the vertibird and strapped herself in securely. It had been a long, restless night. Her unnerve with the mission had reemerged during the night, it weighed down on her still. However, with the paladin and the others around her she felt some of that weight seemingly lifted from her shoulders. Before arriving in the Commonwealth proper, she figured she should get some rest - thankfully she had not been ordered to man the guns. Strapped in firmly and upright, she would be able to rest her eyes behind the helmet without being too obvious.

Throughout the flight, she found herself drifting in and out of consciousness as she stood strapped against the back of the vertibird alongside the good doctor and Senior Scribe Algarin. Occasionally she would awake long enough to understand what the conversation was about and add her two cents before drifting back into a stupor. She had just begun to drift off to sleep again when the craft was struck by a flash of light. It pitched to the side and Patty woke up with a start, just in time to watch as the paladin and her fellow knights were thrown into the strange new landscape below.

“Woah, shit, what the fuck?”

Patty’s language was lost in the crunch of metal-on-metal and the shattering of glass that filled the cabin of the vertibird with a cacophonous din. Patty’s field of vision darkened and blurred as her head was thrown back and forth by the force of the impact. When she awoke minutes later her ears still rung and the first words she could make out were Owen’s.

“Why didn’t you try to wake us up?” he said.

Patty roused herself and removed her helmet. A burst of air whispered out as the helmet depressurized. She blinked wildly and took deep breaths until her vision finally stabilized. Before pulling back the buckles that held her firmly to the cabin of the vertibird, she took a moment to look around the cabin to assess the damage. Everybody seemed fine, a little shaken but nobody seemed terribly injured – even the dog was still kicking for what its worth. Lucky for us.

What wasn’t lucky, however, was what she could just barely make out the front windshield the branches of the tree that they had landed into. Panic began to rise in her chest as she hastily undid her buckles and gripped her laser rifle in her arms. Sami came stumbling out of the cockpit, his pre-war SMG gripped in his hands. She made her way past him and towards the front of the ship to assess the situation.

In the cockpit, Patty found Frank. She looked him over with sympathy in her eyes; it seemed her cursory inspection of the cabin was incorrect. Blood pooled on the front of his uniform where a tree limb had impacted with the windshield, Frank and clean through the seat behind him like an iguana bit kebab. The first causality - well, at least the first recorded casualty of the mission. There's no telling how the others were faring. Most of them had power armor and it'd take more than a little drop to stop the Brotherhood.

She shook her head to snap out of it. She couldn't dwell on them, not now. Her comrades-at-arms needed her here.

“We're going to help you Lancer, just stay calm,” she said, rushed.

Despite her attempts to stay calm, her own anxiety was close to breaking through the surface. She stopped and took a couple deep breaths. She had been through worse, panic was dangerous in the field. It makes you do stupid things, things that put everyone in danger. She breathed in and out. Refocused on what had to be done, she reached down to her waist and removed the ripper from a loop on the side of her power armor where it had been hanging.

The vertibird made a hell of a sound when it came crashing down and the ghouls seemed uninterested in it so far. Seemed safe enough to rev up the ripper for a little bit. She removed the safety and started up the tool’s motor. Revving the chain-blade with a pull of the lever, she worked her way through the tree branches, carving away at the wooden prison that held the pilot in its grasp, but every time the branch
vibrated a little too much for her liking she shot a nervous glance in the direction of the ghouls to make sure they hadn't caught on to their presence.

If her first-aid training had taught her anything it was that you shouldn't remove a bullet until you can close the wound – same for tree branches, she assumed. She cut away just enough of the wood to be able to maneuver around Frank and eventually pull him out of his pilot's seat while still leaving the branch embedded in the wound. Once a way had been cut, she motioned to Doctor Kinsley in the back of the vertibird to take her place in the cockpit.

“Let's go doctor, we need medical assistance up here,” she said, practically barking the order.

---

She exited the cockpit to look around at those who remained: the doctor, two lancers, Owen, and herself. They were not ideal fighters, to put it lightly. This crew needed a leader and she was going to give them one. Although technically outranked by both the doctor and Owen, this was a war-zone, a wasteland. This was her domain. If there was ever a time to stand up and show that the Outcasts were more than a bunch of ideologues and renegades. They were true grit, soldiers who knew how to take charge of the situation, and who fought tooth-and-nail for their brothers. Rank be damned, they were in the shit now.

“So what’s the play?” asked Lancer Brown.

Her hands shook, as much as the servos of the power-armor would allow them. The burden of responsibility weighed down on Patty unlike anything before. Before she let her fears overcome her, she took a deep breath and sent a power-armored fist up to the ceiling of the vertibird, sending a ringing throughout the cabin to calm the panic – both between the remaining members of the crew and the panic building within her own chest.

She pointed her other power-gloved finger out the front windshield or what was left of it anyway, cleared her throat and mustered a commanding tone.

“We need to take out those god damn rotskins and secure this position,” she said, ‘The vertibird is too damn valuable for us to lose and we’ll need it airborne again if we want to regroup with Paladin Moss and the others.”

Patty stood and looked around the cabin once again, this time instead of checking on the status of the crew, she was more concerned with their defenses. Sitting crooked on one of the supports welded to the side of the vertibird was one of the two miniguns that seemingly survived the crash. The other must’ve been thrown out the window along with the paladin or had been smashed against the ground when the bird flew through that tree. Either way, it was gone now.

“Seems to still be in working order, for now at least. If we can lure them towards the business end of this bad boy, we can cut the bastards down to size,” she said tapping the top of the gun for emphasis, “Any objections?”
Patty pressed a lit cigarette to her lips and let the smoke swirl its way around the inside her lungs. One, two, three. It all came out in a smooth puff of billowing white-grey smoke that floated high above her to come resting at the upper limit of the enclosure of the Prydwen’s main deck. She sat against the edge of her bed, elbows rested against her knees, head buried in her hands. The ashes from the lit cigarette fell by themselves onto the metal grate below her and floated down to the lower limit of the Prydwen’s hull.

While she watched the ashes flutter down into the abyss, anxiety clawed at the inside of Patty’s stomach – like a sharp pang of hunger that wouldn’t leave. She wasn’t the anxious sort, not like some sort of scrawny scribe. Yet, the message repeated itself over and over in her mind. In the Capital Wasteland, missions all seemed so simple. You knew where you were going, which brothers would have your back, but most importantly you knew what to expect. They were raiders or rotskins mostly; but at least you knew what they were. No such luxury this time.

“What the fuck are you worried about,” she said at a half-whisper, “Pull yourself together Patty. You’re a goddamn killing machine, the toughest damn thing out there.”

Pushing that feeling deeper down, Patty lifted herself off the bed and took another drag of the cig, “Let’s get down to fucking business.”

She meandered down to the lower decks, in a spot she had cleared out to store her duffle. She ran through her packing list once more, listing off each item in a whisper with the cigarette hanging loosely from the corner of her mouth.

“Blanket? Check. First-aid kit? Check. Rations?

The “rations” were little more than prewar tins of Instamash, Pork n’ beans and Cram. Not the tastiest, but it’s lasted this long, it’ll last until its needed.

“Gas mask? Check. Energy cells? Check. Fusion cores? Check. Tools?

Thankfully Proctor Teagan had signed off on those when she asked. A long deployment far away from home would be hell if one of their laser rifles broke down during a firefight. Better to be prepared than be caught with your ass out.

“Check. Rifle? Check. Ripper?”

She gave the ripper a quick rev, the teeth swirled faster than her eye could follow. Besides being useful as all hell, the ripper was also damn fun to play with. Just holding the thing in your hand just made you feel… powerful. She chuckled a bit to herself and reset the safety, stowing it back into her bag.

“Check.”

Besides the big stuff in her bag, Patty kept a few miscellanea: a couple packs of cigarettes, a lighter, a small knife; two sets of tags hung from her neck beneath the recon suit: the set of holotags Proctor Teagan had given her, and a trio of tags. She patted herself down to check that they still hung tight to her body. Out in the wasteland, you never knew what you’d come across or how long you’d be out.

Patty took a third long draw from the cigarette, holding it in for as long as possible before exhaling and letting the cigarette fall over the railing and into the abyss. Only one more order of business. The mess hall was bustling with activity, but there was one more man she needed to see.

---

The mess hall was busy that night, as usual. There’s precious little else to do on the Prydwen than sit around, get drunk, or take potshots at raiders from the flight deck – or all three some nights. Marching up to the barstools, she arrived just in time to overhear Greg’s lame attempt to get to know the scribe sitting across from him. She knew Greg, of course, they were both regulars around the bar; he was her senior, both in years and rank, but with some of his antics it was hard to think of the man as anything more than an over-grown child.

Poorly attempting to hide her amusement, she stepped right between Greg and Owen, smacking both the men on the back with a hearty laugh.

“Good evening gentlemen! So sorry to interrupt,” she said.

Nodding to the mess officer and lifting three fingers high above Owen’s head she said, “Three whiskeys – no, not glasses, the whole damn things.”

She reached behind her back with the other hand, digging into a pouch she kept strapped close to her body. When her hand reemerged, she tossed a hefty fistful of caps onto the counter. The caps jingle, jangle, jingled and scattered across the bar in all directions, some bounced happily against the floor with a soft chiming sound. “Should be plenty there, put the leftovers on my tab.”
Turning back to the men while the mess officer took the time to collect and count out each cap by hand, she said, “Antagonizing the eggheads again, McDonnell? You know, if you put half as much energy into your duties as you do picking on scribes, you’d have made Paladin by now.”
Hi! This looks really cool, is this still accepting applications? I'd love to join
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