He remembered being dragged down, his eyes opening and closing while he passed in and out of consciousness. He remembered strange unknown voices, voices he’d never heard before, voices that seemed rough and coarse against the background of the scraping of his body against the hard soil beneath him. “Yes captain, right away,” one of the voices responded to a jumbled mess of orders. Slowly he closed his eyes again, fading out of consciousness again.
Minutes later he came to again, his eyes fluttering open. He tried to move, to push the creatures in front of him away from him, but his hands and legs were restrained, his arms tied behind his back rather tightly. The creatures paid no mind, and instead were focused on trying to take the heavy metal off of him. They tugged and pulled on him but couldn’t get it to come loose. It did not take long for more brute methods to be used as they began prying metal sheets off of him where they could. “Hey,” he groaned, “stop that,” but it fell on deaf ears and the only one that seemed to hear raised his hand quickly and brought it down on his face. Asleep, again.
He came to in a cell, still restrained, surrounded by dead bodies. The restraints were still there, so he could do very little other than look around. He glanced down and noted that, for the most part, they had been unsuccessful in their attempts to undress him. Bits were missing here and there, but for the most part it was intact. Why was he still here? “Hello!?” he called out, his voice coarse and incapable of reaching much further than the door. His throat felt like it had been destroyed, sandblasted to death. No answer came -- he was alone. He struggled briefly against the restraints, to no avail, and ultimately resigned to resting his head against the metal walls. Being in prison had never felt so calming, he had to admit. A far cry from what he’d expected jail to be. He closed his eyes, and let his body take control.
Suddenly, after what felt like a few seconds, but was more than likely a few hours, his eyes shot open again. He was choking! No, he wasn’t choking, he was drowning! He flailed wildly, his eyes moving around looking to see what was going on, his arms reaching around for any kind of steady object to grab onto. This body, it wasn’t his. It moved so differently, it felt bigger, unnatural, like it didn’t belong in this world at all. Was he dreaming? Hallucinating? What had they done to him? Was this… the Brotherhood? All he could see was darkness, the surroundings blinded by a glaring white light above him. He was holding his breath, but there wasn’t much time left, his lights would go out soon if he didn’t find a way to get out of there.
With a heavy thud his fist landed against something, the blow cushioned by the fact that he was under water. Glass? He pulled his fist back again and tried to hit it again, but had no luck. He was sinking now, and felt his feet touch the bottom of the pool, even though he was nowhere near tall enough for that to have happened. Not caring to pay mind to that now, he pushed off, and tried to launch himself up to the top of the pool. Perhaps he could get out that way.
When he came up, he opened his mouth to gasp for air, but all that came out was a loud roar. “RAAAR!” His arm wrapped around the edge of the pool, and he climbed out, throwing his leg over the edge as well before rolling out of it, throwing himself over the edge and landing on the metal grating of the observation deck. His voice was not his own, either. Everything had changed, up was down, down was up, and nothing was as it should be. Coughing out the water that he had taken in during his forceful awakening, he noticed that the water wasn’t blue, but green.
In the distance, sounds of gunfire alerted him. As he rose to his feet, he noticed that someone or something had been watching him. A giant hulking figure clad in metal armor, though ‘giant’ was now a lot more relative than it had previously been, because when he rose to his feet, he was even larger than the figure that had been watching.
“Nice to see you survived. I suppose the captain was right, after all,” the figure remarked, his voice coarse, rough, not the sound of a human but of something else, different. The flow of the sentence was too intelligent to be a mutant, so perhaps this was something new, something unfound and unexplored, a new breed of… something. “Only the strongest make it through,” he followed up, as if that was meant to be some sort of consolation. The figure finished penning something down on a paper in his clipboard, before turning away and heading to a door. Before he disappeared from sight, he gave a singular order, “follow me.”
He had little choice but to do as he was told, and so he stepped forwards towards the door. His footsteps were heavier, shaking the metal observation deck. Bits of metal clung to his skin, but he did not feel ready to look down yet, not ready to quite see what he had become. Perhaps he didn’t want to know the answer.
When he turned the corner into the corridor, it turned out to be roughly what he had expected. The hallway seemed to resemble some sort of pre-war facility, built with great care and in a much more efficient way than they could manage nowadays. It was empty, though. The figure continued moving ahead, moving with great purpose and dedication, knowing exactly where he wanted to go. In the light of the hallway, it became more clear what he was, the green skin betraying his identity.
“You’re a mutant,” he slowly said, stopping dead in his tracks in the hallway. It didn’t make sense. Why wasn’t he dead? “You’re a mutant. And so am I.”
The mutant stopped as well, and turned around, and unlike a human who could just turn their head slightly, he was forced to pivot his entire upper body just to look at the man speaking to him. Well, man, just like height, that term had now become relative too.
“Yes, we are. You seem surprised,” the mutant commentated. “Which is normal. I remember my turning. You should consider yourself lucky -- not all strains are as forgiving as ours.”
“Strains...? What do you mean?”
The mutant laughed that characteristic super mutant laughter. “You’re from the Capital Wasteland, aren’t you? You’ve seen our ‘brothers,’ you’ve seen what they are, or more specifically, what they are not. They have no retention of their memories and their brains seem to shrivel up as a result of their turning.”
“I… don’t understand.”
“You don’t need to. Follow me.”
The supermutant turned again and walked away, and he followed him, because there was no alternative. It felt too much like a fever dream to be real. Was this what death was like?
As they turned yet another corner and walked in through a door, the area revealed a large open space that was retrofitted into a training grounds, where several groups of supermutants were training together, engaging in hand-to-hand combat, shooting practice, and other forms of combat training. On a viewing deck above, a supermutant stood dressed in slightly different gear. He recognized this supermutant. And it seemed the supermutant recognized him too.
The supermutant that had originally guided him there ushered him up the stairs, only remarking, “the name’s Alistair,” before sending him off and returning to his duties. Compared to the other supermutants, he was dressed inappropriately, only wearing the shredded remains of a white labcoat. Whether it was his or it had been looted from somewhere was a mystery. It was unthinkable that a supermutant would be intelligent enough to retain use out of a labcoat, however.
He climbed the stairs to go meet this supermutant that was different from the rest, and when he stood in front of him, he did not quite know what to do, and instead just waited for some sort of introduction.
This supermutant sized him up, looked him up and down, before raising his hand and placing it onto his shoulder. “What is your name,” the supermutant asked.
He was owed an answer, for he could not conjure the memory of his own name. All he could remember was fighting and death. Blood and guns. Rust and steel.
“I don’t know,” was all he could muster, “I don’t remember, all I can see is...”
The supermutant rudely interrupted him, not wanting to hear the rest of the story it seemed. He took his hand off his shoulder and looked out over the training grounds. “I’ve heard that story often enough to know that you know nothing for now. The turning is still fresh, your memories will return. But you, you are forever changed. Your new name is Ares.”
“Look at yourself,” the supermutant said, gesturing towards his back where a reflective window sat in the wall.
Ares walked closer to it and inspected himself. It was true, he was forever changed. He was larger, bulkier, stronger than he remembered. His hair was gone, his beard was gone, and his nose was severely bent, and despite that did not hurt, not anymore. “What did you do to me…?” He raised his oversized hands, larger than they had been even before, and touched his face. It was unmistakingly his own, as most of the features that were him before were still there. But it was also not him. Not his body, not his face, not his voice, not his memories.
There came no reply to the question, which was most likely for the best. Instead, an explanation followed. “Overwhelming, insatiable in battle, destructive, and man-slaughtering. That is Ares. That is you. You will fulfill your new purpose not because I ask you to, but because you are this purpose.”
Ares still could not believe what had happened to him. He dropped his hands back down to his side, and slowly sized himself up. The exoframe of the power armour he’d worn still clung to his body like a cage, and on the front of the armour, the plating of the T-51B power armour was still attached, embedded into his skin. Below the insignia of the Brotherhood, the carving “Ad Victoriam” that he’d scratched into it himself remained. A pitiful and distasteful reminder of what once was.
This realization filled Ares with anger, and he turned around, having found new life force. “Yes,” he responded, “I am.”
The supermutant laughed, sounding more human than supermutant. “Good,” he responded, “you can call me captain Elroy. You will join the rest of the mutants downstairs and train with them. Show them what you’re made of. Not all of us are as… let us say, intelligent, as we are, you and I.”
Ares did not wait for the rest of the orders, nodding affirmatively and stepping down the stairs. The captain continued speaking, his voice becoming louder as Ares moved away. “A lot of them are from the Capital Wasteland. Remind them that you are no longer what you once were, or they will put an end to your new existence quickly.”
This comment was soon reinforced by the staring eyes of several super mutants, who had caught wind of the fact that a former knight-sergeant of the Brotherhood, a tin can and their sworn enemy, had joined their ranks.
From above, the voice of the captain rang out, “test his strength if you wish, muties,” he said, copying the term he had heard from Ares before Ares was Ares. “Cull the weak from our fold.”
Several supermutants presented themselves, but only one of them stepped forward to face the challenge. “YOU TIN CAN, ME CAN OPENER,” he proudly proclaimed, and began stepping forwards to fight the newcomer.
There was little else to do but to put an end to this test of strength, to ensure that the muties understood that despite his past, Ares was the new alpha in the pack. Their lacking intellect made them much more predictable, however, and it was clear that it would not take much to impose on them the fact that Ares was a comrade now.
The two of them locked together in a wrestling-like grip, holding on to each others head. They were equally matched, which was surprising. This mutant had been ‘turned’ possibly decades ago, and so he had had all the time needed to hone his superhuman strength and grow into the turning. Ares, however, had turned not much more than an hour ago, and was still getting used to his new physique.
He had always been big, meaty, strong enough to lift a pack brahmin as a figure of speech. But now, perhaps it might have been true.
With little regard for the safety of his ‘’fellow’’ mutie, Ares let go of the opponents head with one hand and used it to uppercut him in the stomach several times, though that favour was swiftly returned. The blows felt less like blows now, the added strength of the supermutants dulling the blows as if they were pats. For so long he had considered them ‘subhuman,’ but this strength was incredible, and if it was true that there was an FEV strain that could retain memories and intelligence, then perhaps they were not subhuman but above humans. It certainly felt like it.
It was clear, however, that Ares would not win this fight with sheer force alone. Even in his Brotherhood days, he had often resorted to brute forcing his way through problems, but that did not mean he had forgotten his training. He grabbed a hold of the muties head again, holding it in his armpit, before he bent his knees and allowed himself to roll backwards onto the ground, making a sacrificial throw. Together with the mutie, he rolled over backwards until he was on top of the mutie, a special technique practiced by the knights for CQB. He raised his fists into the air, and began pounding the muties face, who slowly but surely began bleeding. It took a lot more than it would’ve taken for a human -- perhaps the FEV made their skulls thicker, or their bones stronger -- but it wasn’t impossible. Ares began breezing with every punch, until suddenly a hand grabbed Ares’ hand and stopped him.
“You’ve made your point, Ares,” Elroy said.
Alistair re-entered the room, bringing along another fresh recruit, who seemed equally as confused as Ares had been. Captain Elroys voice rang out. “Alistair, take Ares to his quarters, and show him around in the process. You can leave the fresh meat to me. Return to your training, muties.”
Ares, with newfound confidence, walked to Alistair, passing the new recruit. “You seem different,” Alistair remarked.
“You have no idea,” Ares replied.
Together they walked through the facility, and Alistair made sure to show off the finest details. There were several barracks, where the less intelligent muties made their home. These barracks were often a gruelling mess, barely clean enough to sleep in, although they did at least lose the itch to store body parts in bags in their common areas. Instead, there were just items strewn about. Most of the ‘better’ mutants had private quarters, and were employed as officers to some degree to lead the dumber muties. There were not many of these more intelligent mutants -- the FEV used was more dangerous than the common strains, Alistair explained, and most subjects did not survive. Adding to that, there were only limited quantities available. Only the best subjects were handpicked by the captain himself.
There were also the deathclaw cages. One of the deathclaws was being operated on by another labcoat wearing supermutant. This was most likely the deathclaw that had its jaw unhinged in the fight earlier, although the angle made it impossible to tell. All in all there were a good amount of deathclaw there, enough to tear apart the Green Emerald if they decided to.
Nothing the Brotherhood couldn’t handle, Ares knew, but enough to make that fight hurt hard enough that the Brotherhood would need to return to the Capital Wasteland to replenish their supplies and numbers.
Then there was a workshop -- a rare thing in the Commonwealth, at least on such a scale -- where weapons were being manufactured. It wasn’t anything particularly high tech, and certainly not pre-war, but it was a step up from pipe rifles that blew apart the moment you loaded them. Whatever organization this was, they had their stuff in order and were ready to make use of it.
When they reached Ares new quarters, he was happy to find that it was a step up from the Prydwen too. First of all, it was private, so no sharing of the bunks. Second of all, it looked a lot less ransacked than the Prydwen, and even came with a shower, though Ares couldn’t help but wonder how many muties even made use of them.
“If there’s anything you need, let me know, and I’ll see what I can scrounge up,” Alistair imparted before taking his leave again.