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.
Metro Central Station – Columbia Commonwealth – June 2277
Coyle stepped over the body of the last of the feral ghouls which had screeched and attacked as soon as they spotted the three interlopers in their underground lair. Allison had managed to take out two of them at long-range with her rifle, and Dreamer had practically blown another in half at point-blank with her combat-shotgun, but as ever the Ranger's quickness on the trigger and freakish accuracy meant that most of the deranged creatures had swiftly fallen to “Wanda” his customised R91. ‘Less than half-an-hour ago we were talking to things like this’ Allison noted, refraining from checking any of the bodies for valuables because they looked so misshapen and decayed. ‘I thought you liked ghouls?’ she queried.
‘Like super-mutants I try to judge each one as an individual not making sweeping racial generalisations about them’ Coyle replied. Being less squeamish than Allison he had already started to check the pockets of the dead ghouls for caps or other loot, even if he expected the pickings to be meagre.
‘But how do you tell the difference between the good ones and the bad ones?’ Dreamer asked.
‘If a ghoul screams incoherently and runs at me like a lunatic, looking like he wants to rip my head off, I shoot the bastard, that's my policy’ Coyle replied reasonably. ‘Hey, RadAway!’ he exclaimed, finding some on one of the bodies along with a few caps. ‘You really should have taken this yourself’ he sagely advised the corpse he had just found the anti-radiation drug on.
‘This one is wearing old combat armour’ Dreamer observed, reluctantly starting to check the bodies herself because Coyle was doing okay for his efforts so far. ‘He's got dog-tags on too’ she continued, checking them out of curiosity.‘I guess he was in the National Guard back before the Great War’ she supposed. The Columbia Commonwealth's National Guard had been deployed to Washington DC before and after the Great War, trying to maintain order and then aid survivors, but the fierce radiation had rapidly depleted their numbers even before the mass desertions began.
‘If you're going to suggest hauling the poor son-of-a-bitch down to Arlington to bury him with full military honours for doing his duty and staying at his post you can count me out’ Coyle told her.
‘I just thought I might be carrying his old backpack’ Dreamer replied, adjusting the shoulder straps of the army rucksack Coyle had purchased for her along with her new leather jacket.
‘If you're going to wildly speculate about things, he might
conceivably be your great, great, great, great grandfather too’ Coyle suggested. ‘But that's not likely either’ he added sardonically.
Not being interested in robbing the dead, or at least not these particular dead, Allison was looking around, still finding the station and the metro system itself fascinating, and amazed that the old world had been capable of constructing such marvels. ‘Do you think that rumour is true about the Brotherhood collapsing some more of the metro tunnels with explosives if it looks like they’re going to lose control of The Mall?’ she wondered. Doc Barrows had mentioned it as a possibility while he took a blood sample from Coyle to help with his research from shortly before the trio left Underworld that morning.
‘We know they're already bringing down buildings above ground to try and contain the super-mutants so it's logical they'd move onto the only other way the things could rapidly expand their turf’ Coyle replied thoughtfully. ‘If the Brotherhood is as short on manpower as it looks then it’s in their interest to try and create choke-points where the opposition can’t use their superior numbers effectively’ he continued. ‘The Steel Plague did exactly the same thing to us in the Angel’s Boneyard during the New Adytum campaign’ he recalled. ‘They managed to make the butchers-bill a lot higher than it would have been otherwise’ the veteran soldier continued sadly, remembering how many of his comrades had fallen to Brotherhood bullets, lasers and explosives in the bloody ruins of Los Angeles.
Now rifling through the jacket pockets of another dead feral Dreamer felt a familiar shape in her hand which was snagged on a loose thread. Her eyes flicked to her companions to make sure they weren’t looking her way before she pulled it free.
Dreamer looked at the thing in her hand for a moment before squeezing her eyes shut, opening them a few seconds later. ‘You’d better take this’ she addressed Allison, gently pitching the Jet Inhaler to the other girl, Allison catching it by reflex. ‘I still don't know if I can trust myself with one of those for very long’ Dreamer admitted, voice trembling slightly.
‘You should be proud you're able to give it up at all’ Allison replied, giving Dreamer a smile. The Doctor at Rivet City had cured Dreamer's physiological addiction but the psychological one was a different matter.
‘I've given up drinking dozens of times but nobody ever praised me for it’ Coyle complained, ducking to avoid the Jet Inhaler when Allison threw it at him in turn, although in this case she was aiming for his head and it was moving a lot faster.
‘You should pick that back up’ Dreamer told Allison. ‘It's worth twenty caps.’
‘You should go over and crush it under your boot’ Allison countered. ‘You're
worth more’ she stated firmly.
‘I know’ Dreamer replied. ‘I've been sold’ she attempted a joke but it was hard to smile about that and her delivery of the line was less than comedic.
Allison suddenly felt awful. ‘I didn't mean it like that’ she responded quickly, misreading Dreamers intention of the line. ‘You're worth more to us’ she told Dreamer. ‘Say something nice to her’ she instructed Coyle, seeking support.
‘Nice?’ Coyle responded, pursing his lips. ‘Um... I'm glad now that I didn’t blow your head off when we first met’ he told Dreamer after thinking about it for a moment.
‘Something nicer’ Allison insisted, glaring at him.
Coyle groaned, this wasn't exactly his forte. ‘If we were back on the ferry, it was capsizing and I had a choice between saving you and my gauss rifle I'd probably save you’ he told Dreamer, putting in more effort.
‘Is that really the best you can do?’ Allison protested after staring at the man incredulously for a while, throwing up her hands in disgust.
‘My M72 Gauss Rifle is the best damn gun made by man and it has extreme sentimental value’ Coyle defended himself. ‘You know what’ he continued after a pause, ‘I don't feel like being nice or tolerant of touchy-feely crap today anyway after that crappy nights sleep so you two can emote on your own’ he told them sternly before turning away and stamping off towards the next tunnel, heading north. Dupont Station was the next in the old DC Metro's Red Line and it wasn't too much further on according to the map. ‘When you two have finished being introspective and maudlin catch up’ he called back to them, checking that his assault rifle had a full magazine just in case there was something nasty lurking up ahead. As with many of the tunnels old train carriages partially blocked the way but there was usually space either side to make your way through.
Dreamer walked over to where the Jet Inhaler was lying and after a short hesitation brought her foot down to crush it, the drug contained in the now broken ampoule mixing in with the rest of the grime that coated most of the station floor. ‘You're right, that was more than worth giving up the twenty caps it could have been traded for’ she told Allison before the pair of them started to follow Coyle who had already disappeared from sight thanks to his quick pace.
‘So much for trying not to get noticed’ Allison observed as the sound of Coyle starting to sing the echoed back down the tunnel towards them. To be fair shooting the Feral Ghouls had already likely blown any chances they had of catching any possible foes ahead unawares she knew but he was still ignoring his own normal advice not to attract attention unnecessarily.
‘New California knows how to party
New California knows how to party
In the city of Arroyo
In the city of good old Shady
In the city, the city of Junktown
We keep it rocking, we keep it rocking
‘I swear he has wilder mood-swings than I do when I've got bad PMS’ Allison remarked to Dreamer as they followed the sound of singing along the old tunnel. ‘He does sing pretty good though’ she had to admit and the acoustics in the tunnel were helping too.
Dreamer nodded. ‘Yeah, he's a little crazy’ she agreed. ‘Not bad crazy though, I've seen my share of bad crazy and he's not that’ she said authoritatively. Dreamer knew her lunatics, she had been intimate with several over the last few years and generally not by choice.
Other voices up ahead as they neared the next station broke into Coyle's singing, the most distinctive to Allison and Dreamer being a woman's exclamation of “He's got an assault rifle” followed by a man's response “Ooh, I love it when they fight back”. Dreamer somehow doubted whoever had said the latter would still think so in a couple of minute’s time, rightly assuming Coyle had just run into raiders in the next station and also that the gang had no idea whatsoever what was going to happen to them if they provoked him. The gunslinging amateur vocalist from the West-Coast might not be “bad-crazy” but after seeing him in action a few times it was undeniable that he was seriously bad-ass, maybe almost as much as he professed to be, Dreamer considered.
Allison winced when she heard the crack of a pistol. Honestly couldn’t the man manage to go even fifteen minutes between getting into fights she wondered? For a split second she worried if he was alright, but then a bellowed ‘ARROYO REPRESENTS’ followed by the sound of an R91 going full-auto confirmed he was still breathing and the same might not be true of whoever it was who had shot at him.
By the time Allison and Dreamer arrived, sprinting to join him as soon as the bullets started to fly, Coyle had dropped his now empty R91 and was taking apart what was left of a small Raider Band with his Desert Eagle in his left hand and his MP9 in the right. Between the quantity of high-velocity lead he was putting out the arrival of two more armed companions by his side the raiders started to panic and in a couple of cases to flee.
‘Okay so he's a lot
crazy’ Dreamer corrected herself before cutting loose at the nearest raider with her combat shotgun. The spread of buckshot and rate-of-fire of the weapon helped make up for her still not being a particularly great shot, even with the glasses, but it was the psychological impact of the sound that most impressed she thought. Damn it was loud.
Joining in herself Allison winged a raider with her hunting-rifle, working the bolt to chamber another round as the raider screamed and dropped the lead pipe he was wielding. From the looks of it most of the gang weren't much more than kids, poorly armed with a smattering of pistols mixed in with melee weapons, mostly baseball bats and knives. A little voice in the back of her mind reminded Allison that until she met Coyle she hadn't ever shot at another human being, let alone killed one, but the realisation that doing so was bothering her less and less every day wasn't very pleasant in itself.
‘Fuck this, I'm outta here too’ one of the older, more senior raiders who hadn't already fled yelled out. This quickly resulted in the others deciding that discretion was the better part of valour as well. Not being inclined to shoot any of them in the back, even if the little fuckers had started it, Coyle let them run and soon the only raider left alive within the main chamber of Dupont Metro Station was the one Allison had wounded.
Holding his left hand across his chest, hand clamped awkwardly over the hole in his side, the raider had pulled out a rusty switchblade and was holding it out in front of him in a manner that most reminded Coyle of a character in an old pre-war film trying to ward off a vampire with a crucifix. ‘I'll cut you’ the raider threatened, the quality of the threat diminished by the terror in his eyes and the way the pain from his injury was making him wince.
‘Don't be fucking stupid kid, just get lost’ Coyle told him, the adrenaline rush that had resulted from the fight already fading. ‘Be grateful you look like you're not old enough to shave and don't have anything on you worth the price of a bullet’ he said.
‘He's just a boy, I shot a boy’ Allison realised aghast.
‘Yeah and you nearly missed the little bastard entirely’ Coyle responded. ‘That's sloppy shooting’ he chided. ‘At that range I'd expect you to place the round slap-bang in the centre of the targets chest every time’ he told her.
‘I almost killed a little boy’ Allison repeated, ignoring him.
‘I think you're missing the point’ Coyle told her. ‘The problem is that you almost missed
him’ he said. ‘He's barely even nicked.’
The raider youth looked from one of them to the other. ‘I'm not
a kid’ he insisted.
‘Take a hike junior before I pistol-whip you’ Coyle growled. The raider looked like he couldn’t have been much more than fourteen, back in the NCR he would still have been in school for at least another two years.
‘I'm not scared of you’ the boy declared unconvincingly, still menacing them with his knife.
‘Okay, that's enough of this shit’ Coyle muttered, holstering both his pistol and sub-machinegun and walking straight towards the boy. The raider youth attempted a wild stab at the ranger but Coyle easily avoided the blade, grabbed the boy's wrist and twisted hard making him drop the knife.
The raider struggled but unfortunately for him Coyle was more than enough of a bastard to take advantage of his injury and he jabbed at the bullet wound causing the boy to gasp out in pain.
‘Don't hurt him!’ Allison cried out.
‘He needs to learn a lesson’ Coyle replied curtly.
‘Um, I've got an idea’ Dreamer spoke up before the lesson turned even more violent to the point of being terminal. ‘Sometimes the younger kids at little Lamplight needed to be brought into line’ she said. ‘Drag him over to that bench there’ she instructed Coyle, getting to it first and putting her shotgun out of reach as she sat down on it.
In the end getting his first bullet wound and having his friends run off and abandon him wasn’t the worst thing the boy had to deal with that day. The feeling of humiliation lasted almost as long in his memory as the scar did on his body.
‘This - is - what - you - get - for - fucking - about - with - raiders’ Dreamer had told the boy, interspersing each word with a hard thwack to his backside as she spanked him over her knee, Coyle stood to one side laughing so hard that there were tears rolling down his cheeks.
‘I'm sorry I shot you’ Allison called after the boy who fled as soon as Dreamer let him go. ‘Get whoever bandages you up to wash their hands’ she advised the boy who had looked practically as embarrassed when he was being spanked as he did hurt, angry and scared. ‘And boil the bandages first to make sure they're clean too’ she recommended.
‘Well that was fun’ Coyle declared, grinning. Retrieving his R91 from the ground where he had dropped it, ejecting the empty magazine and loading another before starting to check the dead raiders for loot.
‘That wasn't fun, I could have killed that boy’ Allison responded. ‘I didn't even notice how old he was until after I shot him.’
‘I bet he would have killed you if he'd gotten the chance’ Dreamer told her. ‘Probably raped you too if you survived the older guys doing it first’ she added seriously, ‘and maybe even if you didn't
survive them doing it first.’
Allison shook her head sadly. ‘But they're just children’ she said, taking a closer look at one of the bodies. It was a girl of maybe seventeen, her raider pigtails making her look even younger from a distance.
‘Some of the gangs like to recruit them young so they can train them up properly’ Dreamer explained. ‘Maybe they were sent down here to fight feral ghouls as practice or something?’ she theorised, it might have been an initiation ceremony too the latter explaining why they seemed so inexperienced and ran away so quickly.
‘Doesn't look like they've got much worth taking anyway’ Coyle remarked, checking the condition of a handgun one of them had been carrying. ‘It's not even well-maintained’ he said. ‘On the other hand if they looked after their weapons better we might be dead so I suppose I shouldn't complain too much about how little I'll get for this’ he told himself.
Allison approached Coyle. ‘Aren't you bothered by how old they are?’ she asked him.
‘They started it and I didn't kill as many of them as I could have’ Coyle replied evenly. ‘You need to shake this off because we’ve got two more metro stations to get through before we head up to the surface and after that it’s still a good walk to Canterbury Commons.’
‘I don't want to shoot anyone else today’ Allison told him earnestly.
‘Shouldn't be a problem, you almost didn't shoot the last one’ Coyle replied wryly.
‘Stop always trying to be funny’ Allison responded sharply.
Coyle looked her in the eyes. ‘How do you think I've managed to go on this long without suffering a nervous breakdown or ending up a total sociopath that isn't picky about who it is I kill?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘Find your own way to cope and don't criticise mine’ he told her coldly.
‘Oh’ Allison replied, breaking eye-contact. ‘I'm sorry’ she apologised.
‘You apologise too much as well’ Coyle told her. ‘Let's go’ he said.
‘Don't you want to check all the bodies?’ Dreamer asked.
‘No’ Coyle replied flatly. ‘Let's just get out of these fucking tunnels and into the open air’ he said.
‘Okay’ Dreamer agreed, nodding. ‘Come on’ she told Allison.
‘Open air is good’ Allison agreed, the two of them following Coyle again.
‘I actually kinda like it down here’ Dreamer admitted.
‘That's because you grew up in a cave’ Allison replied. ‘Like a troglodyte’ she attempted a joke just in case Coyle’s coping mechanism had merit.
‘Better than being an in-bred, moonshine-swigging redneck from the Blue Ridge’ Dreamer countered, playing along.
‘Hey I get enough of that crap already from him, cave-girl’ Allison objected.
‘You started it hillbilly’ Dreamer retorted.
‘Now y'all don’t be starting feudin, fightin and a fussing back there you hear’ Coyle interrupted, attempting to copy their accents. Dreamer's wasn’t as strong as Allison's but it was still extremely southern to his ears.
‘Butt out and take a chill pill dude’ Dreamer replied, managing to mimic his own accent quite well.
‘Yeah, so you like totally need to get a grip Bro’ Allison added, not doing the accent nearly as well but it was close enough. He really did talk a lot like that sometimes, particularly after a few drinks when he wasn't trying so hard to be understood. With travel across the United States having been so difficult for so long regional accents and dialects had made a big comeback after fading for much of the century before the Great War.
‘Kiss my grits, Dixie Chicks’ Coyle muttered.
Allison giggled. ‘Like what-ever’ she replied.
By the time they eventually reached Friendship Station and climbed the old, seized-up escalators to the surface Coyle could only hope that this ganging up on him and relentlessly mocking his accent was only a short-lived temporary phase because he was frankly a lot better at dishing it out than he was at taking it.
Note from the Author:The Metro system under Washington DC is infested with raiders, feral ghouls and occasionally super-mutants. Several of the tunnels are collapsed and in the game you can't actually travel along the Red Line all the way to Friendship Station from Museum Station under The Mall because the route is blocked off by rubble. However, given that there is still steam coming out of some of the pipes where the collapses have happened they don't seem to be that old. It's pure fanon on my part but I can easily see the Brotherhood blowing a few tunnels to help contain the super-mutants, particularly after the things gained the upper hand in The Mall (which happens between now and the Lone Wanderer emerging from Vault 101 in August).
No prizes for spotting various film and TV references or that Coyle was singing his own words to California Love by 2Pac.