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New California Dreaming - A Fallout Universe Fic

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Summary: An NCR Ranger in the Capital Wasteland, and he didn't travel 3000 miles to play post-apocalyptic tourist.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > Sci-Fi(Current Donor)HotpointFR1824119,938208353,48429 Jan 104 Jul 12No

Chapter Seventeen

The Fallout Universe belongs to someone other than me. No infringement is intended, no profit is to be made and I'm just not worth the hassle of suing anyway unless you want a share of the wages of an underpaid Civil Servant.

Museum of American History – Columbia Commonwealth – June 2277

‘Okay, I can totally see the ironic humour of it’ Coyle conceded, picking up his beer again from the bar, ‘but I still think that if you're trying to get away from the zombie stereotype that setting up home in an exhibition hall dedicated to the afterlife that you have to enter underneath a big carving of a human skull isn't going to help’ he opined, taking a swig.

Doctor Barrows, Mayor of Underworld as well as the resident physician shrugged. ‘Originally after the Great War the museum was just somewhere for people to shelter’ he said. ‘It had its own backup generators, it's built damn sturdy thanks to all the stonework and remember the original inhabitants weren't Ghouls then’ he noted. ‘Once a place is home it's hard to leave I guess, and there's always a few that argue we might be better off claiming “Zombie” as our own anyway, like homosexuals did “Queer” back in the old days.’

That didn't encourage assholes to shoot them in the head though’ Coyle countered.

Barrows laughed. ‘Maybe not on the West Coast smoothskin but we didn't have that San Francisco vibe over here’ he joked, taking another belt from the double whiskey the visitor had bought him. ‘My round I guess’ he said, looking to the bartender Ahzrukhal. ‘Same again’ he told him.

Coyle turned around to the girls who were sat on a table nearby, both with their backs to the wall and trying not to stare too much at the other patrons of the Ninth Circle. ‘Are you sure you don't want a drink?’ he checked.

‘We're fine’ Allison replied quickly, trying not to make eye-contact with any of the locals, particularly the tall scary one who seemed to be the bouncer.

‘Is it me or are your friends a little skittish around Ghouls?’ Barrow asked in amusement as the bartender poured him another.

‘You should see them around Super-Mutants’ Coyle replied, downing the last of his beer as Ahzrukhal took out another from a crate and opened it for him.

‘We were right about the Super-Mutants’ Allison sharply interrupted.

Coyle frowned. ‘Well a broken clock is right twice a day but that doesn't mean you can usually count on it giving you the right time’ he replied.

‘Jerk’ Allison responded, crossing her arms and with an annoyed expression.

Barrows gave Coyle a look of disapproval too, there was no need to be obnoxious, especially with ladies. ‘So you're really okay with giving me a blood sample?’ he asked Coyle again.

‘As long as you're not going to take a lot, and you sterilise the needle first, I'm fine with that’ Coyle replied. ‘Got to tell you though, you aren't the first person I've heard of doing that kind of research and you're not exactly blessed with a lot of qualified help’ he said.

Barrows chuckled. ‘I've probably been working on the problem since before your grandparents were born and I doubt many people had access to all the technology I did when I did the preliminary studies and drug trials’ he said confidently.

‘That's probably true’ Coyle conceded. ‘So if I've got it all straight you people pretty much had the run of the whole of DC to themselves for at least, what fifty years after the Great War?’ he asked, intrigued.

‘Longer’ Barrows replied. ‘Until the radiation from all the cobalt bombs the Reds detonated around here died down no humans could get close, and no humans meant there were hardly any Super-Mutants too’ he said. ‘We traded pre-war goods and equipment out to the surrounding regions which had less rads but less salvage too, some of us made a fortune that way, not that Tenpenny will let any of them move into his damn tower even if they do have caps coming out of their ears’ he complained.

Coyle took a swig from his new beer. ‘So I guess all the boarded up houses in town were down to you?’ he queried after swallowing it.

‘Most of them I'd think’ Barrows confirmed. ‘After a place is stripped out of anything valuable just nail some planks over the door to let everyone else know’ he said. ‘It was a safety thing too because a lot of floorboards and timber joists were burned for firewood during the long winter after the bombs dropped so an awful lot of houses aren't too safe to enter.’

‘I guess you must still have a lot of medical supplies stockpiled from the days you had the city to yourselves because the maintenance guy downstairs said he'd swap them for scrap metal if I'd bring some back’ Coyle remarked.

Barrows nodded. ‘We've got a lot of most everything except the sort of crap we never thought we'd need to keep a supply of’ he responded. ‘Until the Raiders and then the Brotherhood of Steel showed up getting out there to get basic spares wasn't a problem’ he said. ‘At least we've still got plenty to trade for what we need’ he said, sipping his whiskey. ‘Quinn's got some good contacts and a few ways to get around the city without getting his brains blown out which helps’ he added.

‘Not met him yet’ Coyle replied, he had only been in Underworld half an hour before he got talking to Barrows and realised he was likely the best source of useful information. The Ghoul Doctor was only too happy to talk after Coyle agreed to let Barrows take some of his blood and maybe a small tissue sample too, he needed them to aid his research into a possible cure, or at least a treatment, for radiation-induced ghoulification.

‘Quinn's a wandering merchant, you'll usually find him in Carol’s Place unless he's out working’ Barrows told Coyle. ‘If you want to buy anything though see Tulip downstairs in Underworld Outfitters’ he advised. ‘She'd be grateful of the business, passing trade dried up when the Brotherhood and Super-Mutants started trying to turn The Mall into a recreation of the Battle of Anchorage.’

‘Thanks’ Coyle replied. ‘I think I can get myself a bed for the night at Carol's Place, right?’ he asked.

‘You sure can’ Barrows confirmed. ‘If you're really interested in the history of DC you might want to talk to Carol too’ he suggested. ‘She's lived in Washington since before the Great War and was one of the founders of Underworld’ he said before downing the rest of his drink. ‘I need to finish off some work before dinner and turning in for the night’ he said. ‘If you come to the Chop Shop in the morning I'll take those samples and I'll give you some stimpacks for the trouble as thanks.’

‘No need for that’ Coyle replied, ‘happy to help’ he said.

‘I insist’ Barrows replied, standing up. ‘Not like we need the things much anyway’ he said. ‘A good dose of radiation fixes us right up most times.’

‘Well if you're sure I'll be grateful for them’ Coyle told the doctor. ‘Just one more thing though’ he continued. ‘What I said about Underworld not being a good name for a Ghoul Town goes double for calling a doctor's surgery “The Chop Shop”, it just doesn't send the right message’ he sagely advised.

Barrows chuckled again. ‘I guess our parts come off and can get sewn back on more easily’ he replied.

‘Just keep in mind I'm more fragile than most of your patients when you poke me with the needle okay’ Coyle requested. ‘That's all I ask’ he said, finishing off his beer.

Tulip, proprietor of the local store “Underworld Outfitters”, was far too visibly and audibly enthusiastic to have customers for a change for anyone entering her place of business not to realise they could easily pick up a few bargain purchases.

When Coyle got her talking, which wasn't hard either, Tulip revealed that she had bought the establishment from another Ghoul named Masters who had made his money during the good times and then cleverly, or despicably as she saw it, sold the store on to her for a high price just before the economy was about to tank. The prior owner of Underworld Outfitters had been a scientist before the war too apparently and had helped Winthrop fix the power and get the township's “Mister Gutsy” combat robot running so his leaving had been considered a blow for the community. Quite a few Underworld residents would dearly like him to come back Tulip said, including Doc Barrows who had liked having another educated man around to bounce ideas off, but she stated for her part the only thing she wanted to bounce off his mind was a baseball bat.

‘So do you see anything you like on the shelves?’ Tulip asked, indicating her wares for sale as she inspected the weapons Coyle was offering in part exchange for his purchases.

‘I guess you've got some more ammo under the counter’ Coyle replied. ‘I'm really after .308 Winchester or 7.62mm NATO’ he told her.

‘How much? I've got forty or maybe fifty in stock’ Tulip replied brightly.

‘I'll take it all, plus a box of 10mm’ Coyle told her. ‘Is that jacket for sale?’ he asked, pointing towards one which wasn’t with the rest of the clothes and armour on display.

‘The brown, brahmin-leather one?’ Tulip checked, ‘sure is’ she said after Coyle nodded.

‘How much you asking for it?’ Coyle asked.

Tulip looked at it appraisingly. ‘Well that's quality workmanship in the stitching’ she said. ‘Good, thick hardwearing leather and the zip isn't even busted so I'd have to ask for at least... sixty caps’ she suggested, her tone indicating she knew full well that was too much and she doubted she'd get it.

‘You’re kidding?’ Coyle responded dismissively. ‘I wouldn't pay twenty-five.’

‘I couldn't let it go for less than... fifty’ Tulip stated.

‘If you'd said thirty I might have reconsidered it but come-on’ Coyle replied, giving the Ghoul shopkeeper a smile.

‘I paid forty for it myself’ Tulip lied unconvincingly. It clearly bothered her to do so, this really wasn’t her ideal career.

Coyle took another look at the jacket. ‘Thirty-five’ he said. ‘That's my final offer and I'm probably only going that high because I just had a few beers.’

‘Sold’ Tulip agreed. ‘Do you need anything else?’ she asked, starting to add up the transaction in her head.

‘Is that an army rucksack?’ Coyle asked pointing to a green, medium sized backpack.

‘Yeah, they found it in the back of a National Guard supply truck I think’ Tulip replied.

‘I'll take that too’ Coyle told her. ‘Just charge what you think is fair’ he said before turning towards Dreamer. ‘The jacket and the backpack are yours, you need something to wear that'll offer a little more protection than that old flight-suit’ he said.

‘Um... thanks’ Dreamer responded surprised. ‘What about the rucksack though?’ she queried.

‘I need you to be a more efficient pack-mule’ Coyle replied. He wasn't making her carry his own pack any more but that didn't mean he was going to let her get away with not hauling her share. Allison already had her own bags to haul around.

‘Even with the part-exchange for these pistols and the R91, which isn't in very good condition’ Tulip said truthfully. ‘You'll still have to stump up some caps to make up the difference.’

‘Thought as much’ Coyle said regretfully. ‘Do you know how much the place upstairs charges for a bed for the night?’ he asked the Ghoul.

‘A hundred and twenty caps I think’ Tulip replied.

‘One of you two is sleeping on the floor tonight because I'm not paying for two beds at those prices’ Coyle stated firmly. ‘I just don't have the caps to spare.’

‘Why don't you sleep on the floor?’ Allison retorted.

‘Because firstly I already did that last night because Dreamer needed a decent sleep, secondly because I'm older than you and my back didn't like it and thirdly because I'm paying’ Coyle replied sternly, getting out his bag of caps to settle the bill with Tulip. After the deposit he had paid out to Reilly's Rangers for the mapping job he wasn't exactly awash with cash.

Allison and Dreamer looked at each other. ‘We'll flip a cap or something’ Allison suggested.

‘I call nuka-cola logo down’ Dreamer said, reaching into her pocket for a bottle cap.

If Tulip could be described as a mite talkative then Carol, owner and manager of the Underworlds closest thing to a hotel, was loquacious in the extreme. Once she got over some initial reservations about having a conversation with one of the museums rare “Smoothskin” visitors she proceeded to talk Coyle's ears off with stories of Washington DC before the war, witnessing a nuclear exchange first hand and the death of her father, the history of Underworld since the Great War, her relationship with her now missing adopted son, her relationship with Greta who helped her run the place (and who Coyle surmised was her long-term girlfriend), the despicable proprietor of the Ninth Circle and the ever increasing cost of getting hold of abraxo for cleaning the kitchen ware and detergent to wash the bed linen with.

If there was one saving grace to having to listen to the two-hundred plus year old woman drone on and on it was that both Allison and Dreamer were quickly reaching the conclusion that Coyle might have been wrong about Super-Mutants but he was correct about Ghouls, listening to Carol for too long might result in your brain seizing up but she clearly didn't want to eat it. In fact other than an occasionally interesting anecdote or observation most of what she had to say was just too mundane to think of her as anything but an old coot enjoying the chance to tell stories to someone that hadn’t already heard them a hundred times.

Coyle still seemed interested though. ‘Seriously, you remember when they rebuilt the Washington Monument?’ he asked Carol.

‘Oh yes’ Carol confirmed, nodding. ‘Those damn Commie infiltrators collapsed the original one with a bomb you know, trying to sap the nation’s morale during the fighting in Alaska father said’ she recalled. ‘The Army Corps of Engineers worked twenty-four hours a day to rebuild it’ she said. ‘I was only a little girl at the time but I remember being out in The Mall and singing the national anthem when they took away the scaffolding’ she said. ‘Oh I should be thinking about getting some sleep’ she realised, noticing the time.

‘You and me both’ Coyle replied, checking his own watch.

Carol looked a little embarrassed as she remembered she had meant to raise another matter with the nice young man from California, although needless to say her cheeks didn't blush. ‘You won't be getting up to anything lewd with those girls tonight will you?’ she asked awkwardly. ‘It's not that I'm a prude or anything you understand, it's just that other people staying over might object to the noise keeping them awake.’

‘I don't sleep with either of them’ Coyle replied quickly. ‘Not in the way you mean anyway’ he told her.

‘Oh, I'm sorry I misunderstood the situation’ Carol apologised, turning to Allison and Dreamer who were now playing cards at a table nearby. ‘Girls not your cup of tea?’ she asked. ‘I fully understand’ she added sweetly.

Coyle's eyes widened. ‘No I like girls’ he said hurriedly. ‘I'm just not having sex with either of those two’ he explained.

‘So are they a couple?’ Carol asked him.

‘Only in my mind when it wanders to a happy place’ Coyle replied.

Carol rolled her eyes. ‘Honestly what is it with your men?’ she asked rhetorically. ‘I swear if I had a cap for every time I've kissed Greta and found every man in the room staring at us afterwards I'd be rich’ she complained.

At this point Coyle's mind went to a distinctly unhappy place and he shuddered as he remembered being forced to watch a Lesbian Ghoul porn film made by the Golden Globes Studio in New Reno. It was probably his own fault for being the only human that went to the bachelor party of a Ghoul Ranger, a mistake Coyle would never make again, although it had to be said the groom still probably got the worst of the evening thanks to the lap-dance from the Super-Mutant stripper.

Later that evening as he started taking off his armour and prepared for bed Allison was spreading out a blanket on the floor next to it. ‘I thought you won the cap toss?’ he queried.

‘I did, it's her turn to have to prop you up so you don't snore’ Allison replied, grinning.

‘The bed we had at Rivet City was softer’ Dreamer complained, from where she was sat on it bouncing up and down on the mattress.

‘Either wear a bra under that t-shirt or stop that’ Coyle told her curtly then paused. ‘Sorry, I'm trying to suppress a memory of two naked Ghouls on a water bed’ he apologised, grimacing for a moment before he pulled his Desert Eagle from its holster and placed it under the pillow.

Allison started to pull off her boots. ‘I've got a question about that blood sample the Doctor wants from you’ she said to Coyle.

‘Yes?’ Coyle replied, taking off his gunbelt and hanging it over the bedpost so his MP9 was in easy reach too. The rifles were under the bed alone with most of their other belongings.

‘If he needs normal blood to compare with their blood why doesn't he just take it from bloodpacks?’ Allison queried. ‘I mean you can find them in First Aid kits all over the place and the hospitals in the city must have loads of them?’

Coyle grinned. ‘The red stuff in bloodpacks isn't really blood’ he replied, mildly amused at her ignorance as he started to unbuckle his combat armour. ‘You don't think real blood from before the Great War would still be useable do you?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘It's a synthetic replacement they originally made for the military’ he explained. ‘Shelf life of forever, just as good at carrying oxygen as regular blood and doesn't even need to be refrigerated’ he told her. ‘It's not even red really’ he continued. ‘They just used to add dye because people objected to having stuff the colour of milk dumped into their veins.’

‘I never heard that before’ Dreamer interjected. ‘Did you learn that from a book?’ she asked.

‘Technically from a computer terminal plugged into a GECK holodisk library database’ Coyle replied. ‘Dad made me study an hour for every hour I spent learning to shoot, track or throw a spear’ he said. ‘He wanted me to become a teacher like him, not go in the army.’

‘What did your Mom want?’ Allison asked, intrigued by this extra piece of information about his background.

‘Grandchildren’ Coyle replied, grinning. ‘She's no happier with me than he is’ he said. ‘Every time I go home she tries to set me up with some unattached female’ he said. ‘Last time it was some girl from the Ortal family who'd just moved in across the road’ he recalled. ‘She'd just become a doctor so Dad said he thought she'd be a good influence on me too.’

Allison frowned, not that Coyle could see it from where she was on the floor. ‘What was she like?’

‘Pretty enough, glasses but cute with them’ Coyle remembered. ‘We went on one date but it ended half way through dinner when I happened to mention that I thought the Followers of the Apocalypse were a load of misguided peaceniks who weren't loyal enough to the NCR’ he said. ‘If I'd known she was a member I'd have laid her first and then mentioned it over breakfast’ he added regretfully.

‘That's a horrible thing to say, it's like you’re using her for a night then getting rid of her’ Allison said indignantly.

Coyle smirked. ‘No I meant after a night of sex like that she'd have forgiven me anything’ he said. ‘They should have named me Casanova Coyle not Cassidy’ he declared. ‘Or maybe I should have “Don Juan” as my middle name instead of Nagor.’

‘So why exactly are you single?’ Dreamer asked sounding slightly unconvinced.

‘There are a few reasons but me being totally full of it is probably high on the list’ Coyle replied, laughing.

‘At least you know it’ Dreamer replied, laughing with him.

‘So you said this girl your Ma wanted to set you up with had glasses’ Allison said. ‘Do you like girls in glasses?’ she asked, trying to sound nonchalant. He had bought Dreamer some after all she thought, wondering if that wasn’t just one of his occasional bouts of niceness at play.

‘I don't much mind either way’ Coyle replied honestly. ‘For the most part I'm looking lower down’ he added, just as honestly.

‘Yeah we know’ Dreamer responded wryly, getting into bed.

‘I was just amazed he knew the colour of my eyes after telling me the reason he wore those shades was to make it easier to look down my top’ Allison said to Dreamer from the floor on Coyle’s side of the bed where he was now sitting.

Coyle took off his boots. ‘As protection from being hurt I still can't say much good about that outfit you bought to wear in Helltown but I'm damn glad you did’ he said before chuckling. ‘I can't really do it that much though because I haven't worn the sunglasses in here and when I told Carol I wasn't screwing either of you she thought I must be gay’ he remarked.

‘Why did you tell her that?’ Allison queried, wondering how that topic had arisen during a conversation that hadn't been remotely that interesting at the point she and Dreamer had left it to play cards.

‘She thought we might make a lot of noise’ Coyle explained. ‘You know if that rumour starts to spread I might have to ask you to help me stamp it out’ he said. ‘I mean we'll have sex and you can tell everyone we meet about it.’

‘I'm not having sex with you just so people don't think you're gay Cassidy’ Allison told him firmly.

‘Me neither before you ask’ Dreamer interjected.

‘So much for friendship’ Coyle muttered. ‘If you were worried about people thinking you were gay I'd help you out’ he complained, getting into bed with Dreamer.

‘I guess you're just a better person than me then’ Allison replied sarcastically, causing Dreamer to have to hold back laughter.

‘We're leaving early in the morning right after I give the doc the samples I promised and maybe talk to a few more people’ Coyle announced, ignoring them. ‘We'll use the old Metro lines again to travel north until we get to Friendship Station out in the suburbs when we'll go back to travelling on the surface’ he said. ‘There's not supposed to be any obstacles between there and Canterbury Commons, not geographical ones anyway’ he added trying to get comfortable. ‘I don't bite you know’ he told Dreamer who was clearly trying to keep her distance. ‘Even the smell isn't too bad at the moment and this bed just isn't big enough to keep that kind of gap between us.’

Allison sat up. ‘It's okay Dreamer, he won't try anything’ she said quietly. ‘He's a jerk sometimes but he's not that kind of jerk’ she reassured her.

‘I'll consider that a complement of my character, if maybe a barbed one’ Coyle responded as Dreamer nervously shuffled a little closer. She didn't really think he do anything to her without her consent it was just that she had lived with slavers then raiders so long that her subconscious expected any man nearby to view her as available for sex, consenting or not and usually not.

Later that night when Dreamer found herself dealing with Coyle's snoring and tried to push him on his side to stop it she exerted a little too much force and rolled him completely out of the bed to land on Allison. Her scream and his swearing woke everyone up far more effectively than anything Carol had worried about them getting up to.

Note from the Author:

Doctor Barrows is the leading citizen and town physician in Underworld. He is researching a possible means to prevent or reverse ghoulification but needs human tissue samples for his work. Ahzrukhal is the owner of the Ninth Circle bar and owns the contract on Charon his brainwashed bouncer and bodyguard.

Given that only the Ghouls could have survived living in DC just after the war because of all the radiation they should have had plenty of time to collect the best salvage and make plenty of money off it. This could explain why the Ghoul Roy Phillips and his people (which include former pre-war scientist Michael Masters) say they have the caps to afford living in Tenpenny Tower. Masters is a trader, certainly a better one than Tulip who isn't the wasteland's most professional merchant (too eager to do business).

Carol, owner of Carol's Place in Underworld has lived there since the Great War, she's apparently an item with Greta who helps her run the business. Sorry for the joke about Lesbian Ghoul porn, there really is an Adult Film Studio in New Reno called Golden Globes (Fallout 2) and a brothel in town offers ghoul and super-mutant "entertainment".

You can meet a doctor from the Followers of the Apocalypse organisation called Emily Ortal in Fallout: New Vegas. Her family come from New Arroyo (across the road from Coyle's parents as you now know).

As always I hope people like my explanations for the unexplained (or daft) things we see in Fallout 3 including the boarded up houses, the two-century old Bloodpacks and the Washington Monument not being like it is in real life.
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