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.
Front Royal - Virginia – June 2277
They pulled up a few hundred yards from what seemed to be a sizeable walled community a couple of miles off the interstate and Coyle turned off the engine. According to the ancient map he had bought with him all the way from his starting point at Vault City this town used to be called Front Royal but the sign above its gates read “Helltown” which probably didn’t do their tourist trade much good he considered.
‘Okay time to earn your guide pay’ Coyle announced. ‘What do you know about this place?’ he asked.
Allison had been hanging onto Coyle’s armour for dear life ever since she nervously got back on the motorcycle and that, in combination with her bruises, meant the muscles in her arms were aching and she was desperate to get off. She relaxed slightly and looked around. ‘Helltown’ she said, ‘it’s the main trading post before you get into the Capital Wasteland’ she continued, ‘boats hauling cargo up and down the Shenandoah River stop off here and everyone for miles around buys their supplies here because the prices aren’t too bad and the Raiders keep away’ she told him.
‘Pretty big place judging by the walls’ Coyle observed, they were made from corrugated steel and what looked like railroad ties and were better than eighteen feet high all the way around.
‘They say the people hid in the caverns nearby during the war’ Allison explained, ‘radiation got most of them afterwards but they still started out with more folks than most places’ she said. ‘There’s farms too, just a couple of miles south.’
‘Have you been here before or is this just hearsay?’ Coyle reasonably wanted to know, bad intel could bite you on the ass.
‘I've been here a couple of times, not for a few years though’ Allison admitted, ‘Pa made me stick with him and my brothers when we was here’ she told him, ‘he thought someone might snatch me, sell me on because they trade in slaves here too.’
‘Slavery in Virginia’ Coyle responded, ‘I guess the South really did
rise again’ he observed wryly. ‘Do you think I can leave my bike in there without it getting stolen?’ he asked.
‘You can check things at the gate, pay the guard a few caps to watch it for you’ Allison replied. ‘They're pretty reliable as long as you pay enough and look like you might shoot them if they go back on the deal’ she said then paused. ‘You'll get on better if you act like a badass’ she advised.
Coyle laughed. ‘I don't need to act, it's my natural state’ he claimed.
‘I've met much
bigger badasses than you’ Allison told him.
‘Chances are they were just poseurs’ Coyle replied, ‘I'm the real deal’ he said. ‘Go on, ask me how much of a badass I am’ he requested.
Allison decided to play along. ‘Okay California-boy, how much of a badass are you?’ she asked.
‘I'm so much of a badass that it they ever needed a unit of measurement for badassery they’d call it the Coyle’ he told her deadpan. ‘The only problem with that is other people just don't measure up so you’d need sub-units to make the scale useful’ he said.
‘Sub-units?’ Allison queried.
‘Yeah’ Coyle confirmed, ‘taking on a Super-Mutant armed only with a rusty penknife works out at roughly two-hundred and fifty millicoyles’ he told her, ‘three-hundred if it's totally blunt’ he added.
Allison couldn't help but laugh, it was his earnest delivery that sold the line. ‘You've spent a lot of time alone thinking this shit up haven't you?’ she asked him.
‘In my defense it's a long
fucking way to the NCR and you'd be surprised how empty a lot of this country is’ Coyle replied. ‘Come on, let's get a bed for the night and something to eat’ he said, starting up the motorcycle again.
Guard towers atop the walls gave the town good warning of anybody approaching and as they pulled up again just outside the gates and got off the bike several rifles were trained at them from above. ‘State your business stranger’ a voice demanded from the other side of the gates.
‘I'm here for trade, something to eat and somewhere I can sleep without deathclaws chewing my balls off’ Coyle replied.
‘It's five caps to get in’ the man behind the gate announced.
‘No problem’ Coyle replied.
‘Each’ the man continued.
Coyle turned to Allison. ‘I'll take it out of your pay’ he told her, earning a glare.
‘Another five for the machine too’ the gatekeeper declared.
‘How about I shoot five caps worth of bullets through this fucking gate and talk to whoever gets your job’ Coyle replied flatly. ‘Ten caps for me and the girl and I'll pay twenty for you to look after my bike once we’re in there’ he bargained.
The gatekeeper thought about that. ‘Cash up-front’ he said.
‘You can have fifteen up-front, the rest when we leave’ Coyle responded. ‘It's not like we can welsh on the deal and go without paying, you'll have my fucking bike’ he pointed out.
‘Deal’ the gatekeeper agreed and after the scraping noise of a heavy bolt being pulled back the gates started to open, Coyle pushing his motorcycle on though and Allison following behind.
Three men in leather armour, one with a hunting rifle the other two with R91 Assault Rifles confronted them inside. ‘Who do I give the money to?’ Coyle asked.
‘That would be me’ the one with the hunting rifle replied, from his voice he was the one who had been talking earlier.
Coyle reached into a pocket and pulled out a small bag of caps which he passed to Allison. ‘Count out fifteen and pay the man’ he told her.
‘You can put the machine over there under the guard tower in case it rains’ the gatekeeper told Coyle. ‘The man on top will shoot anyone that tries to steal it but he’ll charge you for the bullet’ he said.
‘He trustworthy?’ Coyle asked.
‘He's my brother-in-law’ the gatekeeper replied.
‘Depending on what your sister is like that could be a good or a bad thing’ Coyle observed, ‘man could be holding a grudge’ he noted.
The gatekeeper burst out laughing. ‘He's a fat bastard that likes to eat and Mom taught her to cook good’ he said.
‘Okay I'm sold’ Coyle agreed, ‘check the tyre pressure and give it a wipe over with a damp cloth’ he told him. ‘Don't worry about the hot wax.’
‘Say what?’ the gatekeeper responded, narrowing his eyes.
‘I'm yanking your chain’ Coyle told him, with a grin. ‘Would you hurry up and pay the man’ he snapped at Allison who was still counting out the caps, mouthing the numbers silently to herself as she did so. ‘If I'd known you counted “one, two... more” I'd have found another girl’ he said.
‘You could trade her in’ the gatekeeper suggested, ‘part exchange on something nice just in from Paradise Falls’ he continued. ‘Go to the slave-pens, find Chuck and tell him Bill sent you over and not to screw you on the price’ he said.
‘Is he another of your brothers-in-law?’ Coyle asked.
‘Nah, he's my cousin’ the gatekeeper “Bill” replied.
‘From what they told me about Virginia when I was going through Ohio he could be both’ Coyle quipped, causing all three men to laugh. He was funny, paid up and had enough balls to make jokes about them so they were already warming to the stranger as Coyle hoped they would. If someone thought you were likeable and funny as well as confident enough in your toughness to wisecrack then they'd probably not try to harm you without good cause.
Allison handed Bill the caps and then passed the rest of the bag back to Coyle. Most of his money was locked in one of his motorcycle panniers but he always kept a few to hand, fifty or so, and hopefully they would think that was all he had, the small bag not worth risking getting shot for.
As the gate swung shut again Coyle wheeled his bike underneath the closest guard tower and retrieved both his rifles before unclipping the two heavy panniers and passing one of them to Allison. She felt like a beast of burden because she was already carrying his bulky backpack, a small canvas satchel containing her own property and the Hunting Rifle she had taken from the dead raider. Between all that and her clothes it was pretty obvious why people would assume she was a slave even if she didn’t have a collar on. As they turned and headed towards the buildings she found she was walking stiffly thanks to the long bike ride over the often badly deteriorated and bumpy road surface they had travelled on and she just wanted to dump all this crap off somewhere and lie flat on a soft bed. ‘My ass is killing me’ she moaned loudly, sitting on the machine for any length of time was not a pleasant experience.
‘Tell your owner he’s been doing it to you wrong then’ one of the other gate guards called out, one of those carrying an Assault Rifle.
‘Yeah, maybe he should trade you in for a boy’ Bill joked to her, laughing.
Allison was confused for a second then went bright red as she realised what they meant. ‘I'm not...’ she began.
‘At any risk of getting knocked-up at least’ Coyle interrupted her, the guards laughing again ‘unless you give a shit about their opinions just let it go’ he advised her quietly. ‘If you act like a nice docile slave then everyone will be very surprised when they're concentrating on me and you shoot them in the back’ he said. ‘it's win-win.’
The girl thought about that. ‘You'll have to replace the bullets I fire doing it’ she said, shaking off the urge to retort to the guards. ‘I remember that there's a bar with some rooms for rent up this way in the centre of town’ she said.
‘Just point me in the right direction and stay a step behind’ Coyle told her. ‘And no making eye-contact with people if you want to play this right.’
‘I've seen how broken-in slaves act’ Allison replied, the two of them heading down the street towards where Helltown became a hive of activity.
It was a pretty high-class place all things considered. The rooms for hire above the bar had locks on the doors and lockers inside them for your goods and the heavies on the front door looked big and mean enough to dissuade thieves as well as the drunks getting too rowdy. From the looks of them some of the less than select clientele in the bar might be raiders who would come to town in peace to trade and get laid but Coyle still found he was able to relax a damn sight more than he could on the road, and after securing his stuff as best he could he decided to enjoy a beer, an actual cold beer, served straight from a working refrigerator.
‘Hey stranger, buy a girl a drink?’ a girl requested, sliding up to him at the bar.
Coyle looked her up and down and suspecting that he might catch something judging by her sickly appearance he decided to stick with just the beer. ‘I've already got company’ he replied, turning to nod towards Allison who was returning from a trip to the outhouse.
‘You can get a three-way for the right price’ the girl offered.
‘Sorry not interested’ Coyle lied, ‘tell you what, here's five caps get yourself a drink on me’ he offered, fishing them from a pocket and putting them down on the bar.
‘Oh hey, five caps’ the girl responded sarcastically, ‘check out the last of the big spenders’ she said loudly, although she did snatch them up before turning to head for another possible client.
‘Who was that?’ Allison wanted to know.
‘Girls just can’t keep away from my magnetic personally’ Coyle replied, taking a swig of his beer.
‘Or your caps’ Allison replied, ‘this is a lot bigger than the bar I used to work at’ she said. ‘Prices are higher too’ she said, noting what was written in chalk on a board above the drinks cabinet. ‘So are you going to buy me a drink?’ she asked.
Coyle sighed. ‘Barkeep, bring me another beer for the mooch here and a shot of the good stuff for me’ he called out. ‘We’ll finish these then find somewhere to eat’ he said. ‘No, scratch that, we’ll find somewhere to take a bath and then
we'll find somewhere to eat’ he corrected himself.
‘I think there's a place with girls that’ll wash you down if that's your kinda thing’ Allison told him, picking up the beer the barman placed down for her as Coyle paid him.
‘Sounds pricy when I could just get my slave to do it for free’ Coyle replied, savouring his cold beer.
Allison leaned over to whisper in his ear. ‘I'm not play-acting the role anywhere near
that far’ she said. If she had been willing to play around with guys like that she wouldn’t have lost her old job.
‘If I thought you would I'd have bought the other chick that was just here a better drink’ Coyle replied, causing Allison to look puzzled as he picked up his shot of whiskey and downed it in one. ‘Smooth’ he said, grimacing.
With a population in the low hundreds Helltown was large enough to have a water-purification plant that took water from the river and filtered out enough of the radioactive fallout to make it worth drinking. They had a lower-grade filtering process for the water used for bathing and laundry, because it didn’t matter quite so much how many rads were in the water you were washing in, rather than taking internally, but it was still a lot less hazardous than taking a dip straight in the Shenandoah.
Coyle took his time washing off the grime of the wasteland while a real slave cleaned up his Recon Armour and washed his underwear, all part of the basic service. The deluxe service with the girls was tempting but at the bathhouse he opted for scrubbing his own back as best he could with a rag on a stick while annoying the other patrons in the stalls to the left and right with his singing until eventually a familiar voice spoke up loudly, asking him to shut the hell up because she was trying to relax.
Afterwards they found a diner of sorts and Coyle ordered brahmin steaks, Allison wanting hers well done while he requested one “a good veterinarian could save”. Coyle chewed slowly, savouring the best meal he had consumed since leaving St Louis while Allison wolfed hers down in a manner that was best explained by the fact she was pretty thin and hadn't eaten all that frequently of late. The mole rat she had successfully hunted shortly before running into Coyle being the exception rather than the rule. ‘You need a better set of clothes’ Coyle told her, ‘if you wore body armour or even decent leathers you wouldn't have been so banged up when you came off the bike’ he said.
‘I found bruises I didn't know I had when the water hit me’ Allison couldn't help but agree.
‘You've got the money I paid you before, you could buy yourself a set tomorrow’ Coyle suggested. ‘I'm going to sell off the stuff I took from those raiders and a couple of other things and try to buy some ammo.’
‘I need more bullets for my rifle too’ Allison replied. ‘Think I'll get anything for what I’m wearing’ she asked.
‘More than you would have before it was laundered anyway’ Coyle replied, before taking another mouthful of his steak.
‘How can you eat that?’ Allison asked with distaste. ‘There's blood dripping out of it, people might think you're a vampire eating something like that’ she told him seriously.
Coyle laughed. ‘You don't believe in vampires do you?’ he asked rhetorically, ‘what about werewolves or the tooth fairy?’ he added sarcastically.
‘Vampires are real, I heard from a trader one time that people out near Meresti are always going missing and being found later drained of blood’ Allison insisted.
‘I'll make sure to carve myself a wooden stake and have a bottle of Dirty Water blessed by a Priest’ Coyle joked before turning around in his chair. ‘Can I get a Nuka-Cola over here?’ he asked the young girl who had earlier taken their order.
‘How can you drink that sugary crap?’ Allison wanted to know.
‘Hey that sugary crap got me across the entire continental United States’ Coyle replied as the girl hurried over with one. She opened it for him and seemed surprised he didn't initially put his hand out for the cap until he remembered he was expected to. ‘Sometimes slips my mind that’s what the money is here’ he said to Allison, putting the bottle to his lips.
‘What do you use for money then?’ Allison queried.
‘Well we used to use caps back on the West Coast too, I mean decades ago, but once factories start springing up they're too easy to forge’ he said. ‘We use paper money and sometimes gold and silver coins’ he told her. ‘Hang on, I'll show you one’ he said, reaching for what looked like a chain hanging around his neck that hung down under his armour. He pulled it up and took it off over his head, handing it to her.
Allison looked at the gold coin with a small hole drilled in it so it could be threaded on the chain and the two pieces of what she guessed was aluminium with words stamped on them, she knew they were dog-tags having heard that Brotherhood Soldiers had similar things only a lot fancier with holograms on them. ‘Coyle, Cassidy N’ she read out, ignoring the long string of numbers underneath. ‘Your first name is Cassidy?’
‘Yes, but stick to Coyle’ he replied.
‘What does the N stand for?’ she asked.
‘Nagor, after my Mom’s brother’ Coyle told her. ‘I never liked him, or at least I hated visiting him, he kept dogs.’
Allison laughed. ‘You're not afraid of dogs are you?’ she asked.
‘No I’m not’ Coyle replied in annoyance, ‘I'm allergic to them, they make me sneeze and my eyes run’ he explained, getting the urge to blow his nose just thinking about it.
‘I get blotchy if I eat cheese’ Allison commiserated, concentrating now on the coin. It had a picture of what looked a little like a two-headed yao guai on one side along with the legend “NCR”, while on the reverse was the head of an old woman. ‘Who's she?’ she queried.
‘President Tandi, greatest leader of the New California Republic’ Coyle replied, before taking another mouthful of his Nuka-Cola.
Allison handed back his chain which he put back around his neck. ‘After we leave here the next place we'll get to is a little place called Girdershade’ she told him. ‘Most folks consider that to be about where the Capital Wasteland starts’ she said.
‘How much further on is Canterbury Commons?’ Coyle asked.
‘It's way over on the far side’ Allison told him. ‘We'll probably want to skirt around a few places, get off the Interstate for sure, it runs through Fairfax and that place is supposed to be full of raiders and it's pretty broken up in places anyhow so Pa said.’
The girl who had served them moved to an old radio set and switched it on. ‘Some days we get decent reception’ she said to another customer as it came to life.
An old record Coyle didn't know was in full-swing and he listened idly for a while. ‘Somebody is broadcasting out here?’ he queried.
‘GNR’ Allison replied, ‘Galaxy News Radio’ she said. ‘They say the signal gets pretty good when you're closer to the centre of DC’ she told him.
‘More civilised than I thought in these parts if you’ve got a radio station running’ Coyle commented, more than mildly surprised about it.
‘There's Enclave Radio too but most people prefer GNR for the music’ Allison said.
Coyle blinked. ‘What
Radio?’ he asked curtly.
‘Enclave Radio’ Allison replied, ‘it's this guy calling himself "President John Henry Eden" and saying that the Enclave is going to restore the United States’ she told him.
‘Fuck me sideways’ Coyle said quietly, that was a revelation he wasn't ready for. The NCR knew that the Brotherhood was operating back East but people thought the damn Enclave was dead, buried and hopefully rotting in its murderous, genocidal grave. The Enclave had killed several of his own family, on both his mother's side, when they kidnapped the people of Old Arroyo, and his fathers when they took Vault 13 by storm. Maybe the reason the Brotherhood was here was to fight them, he wondered? Even the worst of the Maxson family was better than the fucking Enclave. ‘Shit’ he swore, pushing away the rest of his meal, having suddenly lost his appetite.
The music on the radio ended and the announcer calling himself “Three Dog” started going on about the Brotherhood of Steel fighting the “good fight” against the Super-Mutants who were overrunning downtown DC. He finished with what amounted to a call for the people to support the Brotherhood and maybe even give them some ammo. ‘I've got some fucking ammo for the Brotherhood’ Coyle muttered darkly. ‘Do you know where these propaganda networks broadcast from?’ he asked.
Allison wasn't sure what a “propaganda network” was but she guessed he meant the two radio stations. ‘I don't know about Enclave Radio’ she replied, ‘but GNR is inside the city and I’ve heard they put an aerial up on top of the Washington Monument’ she told him. ‘There's a lot of fighting going on around it between the Brotherhood and the Super-Mutant Army people say.’
Coyle grinned. ‘So if someone shot the aerial down, from a thousand yards say, everyone would think it was the Super-Mutants that did it’ he said. ‘Perfect.’
‘Why would “someone” want to do something like that?’ Allison wanted to know, giving him a disapproving look. GNR and Three-Dog were highly regarded by the majority of ordinary people in these parts.
‘Officially, to protect the people of the wasteland from Brotherhood disinformation’ Coyle replied, ‘unofficially, because it would be well worth the cost of a bullet just to annoy the bastards’ he added, his grin widening. Well at least it was sounding like his mission was well worth it, he needed to gather information on the Enclave, the Brotherhood and check out what the hell the Super-Mutants were up to for that matter. In the big picture the first group probably wanted to kill everyone, the second to gather up old technology, and maybe turn the people of the Capital Wasteland into serfs, and the third would almost certainly have a yearning to dip people into vats of FEV but he really needed the specifics on their respective evil schemes.
Allison frowned then looked at his rejected steak. ‘Are you going to finish that?’ she asked.
‘Aren't you worried people might think you’re a vampire too?’ Coyle queried, pushing it closer to her. ‘You are
a bit pale’ he noted. His appetite had come back along with the warm glow of imagining shooting down the GNR aerial but she clearly needed the protein more.
‘They probably think I'm your dessert’ Allison replied.
Coyle smirked. ‘Do you have a problem with all dairy products or is it just cheese?’ he asked.
‘Just cheese mostly’ Allison told him, wondering why he asked.
‘Miss, can I get some whipped cream to take back to my hotel along with the girl’ Coyle asked the waitress loudly, you could usually get the stuff wherever people kept brahmins. ‘You gave me the idea’ he told Allison, trying to keep a straight face.
Allison looked at him askance. ‘At first I thought you took me along because you needed a guide’ she said, then I thought it was because you were lonely’ she continued, ‘now I'm thinking you just want an audience’ she told him.
‘They're not mutually exclusive reasons’ Coyle responded. ‘We've changed our minds about the cream’ he told the waitress.
‘I just don't think he looks lickable enough’ Allison declared, trying not to blush.
‘Oh, there's hope for you’ Coyle told her appreciatively.
Note from the Author:The town of Front Royal on the Shenandoah River just off the I66 into DC really did used to be nicknamed "Helltown" back when it was the frontier, having that name resurrected post WWIII seemed apt. It's also in real life the site of the Skyline Caverns which is where I had the population hide out during the war this being basically how those who survived WWIII in Fallout 3 location Little Lamplight did. Nagor was a younger cousin of the Chosen One (main protagonist of Fallout 2), as a very early quest you had to find his dog.The flag of the NCR (which I've had put on their coinage) is a mutated two-headed bear and is of course based off the real life California flag. The western states had already given up bottlecaps for proper currency in Fallout 2 by the time of Fallout 2 and the Gold Mines of Redding in the game likely supplied much of the necessary metal.One of the missions for the character you control in Fallout 3 is to fix the broadcast equipment on top of the Washington Monument. In the game the DJ of Galaxy News Radio (pro-Brotherhood of Steel radio station) Three Dog thought it was the Super-Mutants that shot the old one down, having it Coyle that actually did it shortly before the start of the game just seems funny! The other main radio station in the Capital Wasteland is Enclave Radio, a propaganda outlet for the Enclave.The Brotherhood of Steel was historically run by the descendants of their first leader Roger Maxson. The Brotherhood were originally isolationist but not too bad (one of the member states of the NCR was based around their headquarters the Lost Hills Bunker and was actually called Maxson) but then in the 2240's Jeremy Maxson ascended to the throne (as it were) and soon after he declared war on the NCR believing that only the Brotherhood had the right to recover and control pre-war technology and thinking that it would be a quick and easy victory... the New California Republic was not about to oblige.