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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)HotpointFR1824119,938208353,45429 Jan 104 Jul 12No

Chapter Four

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

Waking up feeling a lot better for a good nights sleep on a mattress surprisingly free of bed-bugs, Coyle's day had immediately turned for the worse when getting up shortly before Eight AM he immediately tripped over the prone form lying on the floor next to the bed under a rough blanket. It said a lot for how much the other guests in nearby rooms must have drunk the previous night that neither Allison’s scream at being trod on, or the hefty thump of Coyle hitting the floor hard, woke anybody else.

Fighting back the urge to yell at her Coyle got back up and started to put his Recon Armour on. ‘I'm going to find somewhere that deals in guns and ammo’ he told her.

‘I'll come along, I still need to get new clothes and a box of .32 calibre bullets’ Allison responded, having quickly gathered her senses after such a rude awakening. ‘And a helmet, I think I want a decent helmet’ she added, getting up and looking for her recently acquired boots finding them next to Coyle’s backpack.

‘Can you afford to buy all that?’ Coyle asked, pulling the top half of his armour over his head.

‘If I'm going to be riding on the back of your bike I can't afford not to buy a helmet and some leathers’ Allison replied. ‘You might have to buy my breakfast though’ she continued, studiously ignoring the expression of annoyance she guessed would be appearing on his face.

‘That'll be the last time, from now on everything I spend on you gets deducted from your pay’ Coyle told her flatly, tightening the straps on his armour so it wouldn't move around or chafe too much when he moved.

While Coyle got together the items he wanted to trade, and retrieved the bulk of his caps from one of the motorcycle panniers they had carried with them, Allison finished lacing her boots, yawned, stretched and collected one of her own bags containing her money. ‘I should have slept on the bed’ she said regretfully.

‘Your choice, I promised not to pounce on you if you did’ Coyle pointed out.

‘If I had I might have been able to turn you over so you stopped snoring’ Allison told him.

‘You'll know in future’ Coyle replied, ‘in the 13th they always put me in a tent at the edge of camp sharing with a guy named Miller because he was our demolitions guy and half-deaf from one too many explosions so the snoring didn't bother him’ he said.

‘Lucky bastard’ Allison mumbled under her breath.

My hearing's pretty good though’ Coyle advised, ‘and he wasn't that lucky, he blew his own hands off defusing a Brotherhood plasma mine’ he told her. ‘The room is paid for until ten-thirty, we'll go buy our crap, eat, come back here collect the rest of our stuff and be on our way.’

‘No lunch first?’ Allison asked, meals were a very important part of life for anyone that had missed more than a few.

‘We'll shoot something on the way into DC’ Coyle replied.

‘Not mole-rat or dog’ Allison requested, ‘can you eat dog?’ she asked curiously. ‘I mean with the allergy and all?’

‘It doesn't sit right at all, makes me nauseous real quick’ Coyle replied, putting on the gunbelt holding his holstered sub-machine gun before picking up his FN-FAL and shouldering it by its strap.

Nearly two hours later Coyle found himself in what purported to be the best place in town to buy “duds” and now frequently checking his beat-up but still functional pre-war wristwatch as he waited for the girl to get out of the damn changing room. ‘Would you hurry the hell up’ he insisted.

‘The first one didn't fit’ Allison called back, ‘I'm putting on the other outfit’ she announced.

‘We haven't got all day’ Coyle complained. Trading for ammunition a couple of stores over had taken minutes at most, he had simply pointed out what he wanted, let the storekeeper check out what he offered in part-exchange and haggled for a little while on how many caps were needed to make up the difference. They didn’t have any 7.62mm NATO for his FN-FAL but .308 Winchester would chamber just as well, being nearly identical, and he had purchased a box of that as well as some 10mm and some overpriced .44 magnum JHP which he would have passed on if he wasn't completely out of reloads for his Desert Eagle. Now he had bullets for it the Eagle was holstered at his left hip which both helped balance the MP9 on his right and hopefully made him look even meaner.

Allison pulled back the curtain and stepped out. ‘So what do you think?’ she asked, spinning around to give him a better look.

Coyle looked her up and down. ‘I think that the leather pants are okay but the top half would work better as armour if your midriff wasn't bare and if it wasn't so low cut’ he replied. ‘I mean it's working for me as a look but...’

‘I'll take it’ Alison told the storekeeper, ‘and the combat helmet, the one that's not too dented’ she added.

‘If someone slashes you across the gut with a blade don't come crying to me’ Coyle told the girl, ‘I've seen more practical outfits on raider chicks, swear to God’ he declared, raising his right hand as if taking an oath. That the storekeeper had marketed it as a “Mercenary Adventurer” outfit was downright laughable he thought to himself. Real mercs wore proper body-armour like any sane individual expecting to see combat would. ‘Just pay the man and we'll go’ he told the girl.

‘You know I've got some very nice lingerie out back if you’re interested’ the storekeeper announced, noting that for all his negativity about the girl’s outfit the guy she was with was definitely giving her cleavage an appreciative look. ‘My brother is the best tailor around here and had some satin left after a custom order for a guy from over in the Capital Wasteland’ he said.

Coyle turned and looked him in the eye. ‘I'd look stupid in it’ he said flatly.

The storekeeper blinked and looked confused for a second before pointing at Allison ‘No I meant...’

‘He's trying to be funny’ Allison told the man, ‘you get used to it’ she said.

‘I was succeeding not trying’ Coyle responded. ‘Say do you know where I can pick up a full set of Combat Armour in good condition?’ he asked the storekeeper, he had established earlier that the only ones in the store were in dire condition and would offer less protection than the lighter Recon Armour he already owned.

‘If you're heading East, and can persuade them to let you in, the closest place is probably Tenpenny Tower’ the storekeeper replied. ‘A trade caravan runs between here and there occasionally when they need something they can't get from somewhere else’ he said. ‘They've got the caps to have anything shipped in they want’ he continued, ‘the man to speak to there about clothes and armour is Anthony Ling’ he advised.

‘Pa always said they’re really stuck-up at the Tower, think they're better than everyone else’ Allison interjected, ‘you're better off going to Rivet City or maybe Megaton if you don't want to go anywhere near Super-Mutant territory’ she opined.

‘Well you're supposed to be the expert’ Coyle noted. ‘How much for the shades?’ he asked the storekeeper, indicating a pair of sunglasses on the counter.

‘Ten caps’ the storekeeper replied.

‘Eight’ Coyle counter-offered.

The storekeeper frowned. ‘Nine’ he said.

‘Deal’ Coyle agreed and paid for them. ‘Lost my last pair out near Charleston’ he said, putting them on.

‘That was careless’ Allison observed.

‘I came off my bike and broke them’ Coyle told her.

Allison took another long look at the helmet she had decided to buy. ‘Does that thing come with a guarantee?’ she asked the storekeeper.

They had attracted quite a crowd when they left town, or rather the motorcycle had as they were clearly second-billing to the show as people who had rarely if ever seen a working vehicle stared as Coyle and Allison fixed the panniers back to the bike, hooked his two rifles on the side and got on. Given that he really did like an audience Coyle gunned the engine a little more than was necessary and they roared away from Helltown with Allison clinging onto him for dear life.

Just out of town Coyle throttled back and they re-joined Interstate 66 and continued along it heading west at a more sedate and fuel-efficient pace, keeping it well under thirty even on clear stretches. Fifty caps had purchased a large jug of what he suspected after tasting it and spitting it back out was a mix of low-grade moonshine and wood alcohol and while you wouldn't want to drink it because it would very likely turn you blind it had topped off the fuel tank nicely before they left.

As they approached DC the scars of the war two-hundred years earlier became more evident. Although they had more warning here than on the West Coast, with many of the Chinese Bombers and their limited stockpile of ICBM’s shot down before they could deliver their atomic payloads, enough had got through to shatter much of the area. Blast waves had scoured small towns from the map often leaving only a few odd buildings standing that were made of sterner stuff than the norm, stone churches, reinforced concrete structures and the like.

From what Coyle had heard from talkative drunks at the bar the day before the US Military had gone all-out to protect the Capital City itself, and the wreckage of Chinese Bombers downed by interceptors could still be found in a few spots. Old tales passed down through generations of survivors spoke of a flash in the sky high over DC, something Coyle guessed was a low-kiloton airburst from its effects, with a few buildings collapsing as a result but most of the city still remaining surprisingly intact. At least the buildings were still intact anyway, almost everyone who wasn’t underground either died immediately or over the next few days and weeks as their hair fell out and they succumbed to radiation poisoning. The most likely explanation to Coyle was that although the Chinese had not managed to land a decent sized city-buster on the US Capital one or more enhanced radiation devices, neutron bombs, had nonetheless done the job of wiping the population out nicely. He also suspected from the fallout levels and the remaining radioactivity which had leached into the underground water table that some of the warheads that exploded in the region must have been dirty as hell, perhaps with the same cobalt jackets which had left The Glow back in California so dangerous even now.

Eventually they had to leave Interstate 66 because it was increasingly shattered and impassable, an earthquake inducing surface burst nuclear detonation having rent the steel and concrete roadway asunder leaving only rare sections intact for more than a few hundred yards. They then continued down local roads that were often little more than dirt tracks for a few miles further until eventually they came to rough broken terrain that required them to get off, as much for the sake of the motorcycle’s suspension as themselves. Following the path of least resistance, and banking on Allison’s belief that the going would get easier eventually, Coyle pushed the bike through a winding path through the rocks and debris finally reaching the top of a low hill.

Using the view to best advantage Allison looked around. ‘This is the Capital Wasteland’ she said confidently. ‘That's Girdershade, just like Pa described it, snuggled down there under the elevated highway’ she said, pointing off into the distance.

Coyle looked where she was pointing. ‘Those shacks?’ he queried, the place was tiny.

‘It used to be bigger’ Allison told him, ‘trade caravans used to pass by more often and there was a bar and a place to hole up for the night but then raiders moved into Evergreen Mills not so far northeast of here, and then more of them set up home in Fairfax further on so the caravans started skirting around way to the south to avoid them’ she explained. ‘If you want to keep away from the raiders, and I guess you do, we’ll want to head southeast from here towards Warrington and Tenpenny Tower and then from there we turn northeast and head for Megaton, keeping our distance between both lots’ she advised.

‘Anything in Warrington?’ Coyle asked, getting out and unfolding his map, finding Fairfax on it first.

‘I think Pa told me there used to be a trader based out of an old store who dealt with the folks who they wouldn't let into the Tower which isn't so far away, suppose he might still be there’ Allison replied, ‘and zombies’ she continued, ‘there's loads of zombies.’

‘You mean ghouls right?’ Coyle responded, ‘friendly, surly or outright crazy?’ he checked.

‘Keep your guns handy, especially if we're there after dark for any reason’ Allison advised, ‘they come out of the old railroad tunnels when the sun goes down and attack anyone they see.’

‘Feral’ Coyle decided, sane ghouls were a lot less averse to coming out during the day, at least when they didn’t have to worry about bigots gunning them because they thought they were the undead.

‘Just remember that with zombies you have to shoot them in the head’ Allison cautioned, inadvertantly putting herself in Coyles "bigot" category.

‘That's a myth, shooting them in the heart or causing enough damage generally kills them just as well’ Coyle told her. ‘The only reason they seem to be hard to kill is that feral ghouls are nuts’ he said, ‘it's just like people taking Psycho and Buffout together can absorb a lot of lead before they go down’ he explained.

‘If you say so’ Allison replied doubtfully, he didn’t believe in vampires either so she wasn't convinced he was half as smart as he thought he was. ‘Might be worth seeing if we can camp down at Girdershade tonight, ask anyone there what the local news is too’ she suggested.

‘Sounds like a plan’ Coyle agreed, pushing the damn bike up too many slopes had tired him out anyway and he needed a rest.

A sudden roar had both of them spinning around. ‘Yao Guai!’ Allison cried out and was reaching for her Hunting Rifle as Coyle grabbed hold of his FN-FAL and smoothly drew it from its rifle-holster attached to the bike.

The mutated bear was charging up the slope towards them, they had either ventured onto its hunting grounds and it was defending its territory or else it was just mean but either way nearly a thousand pounds of mutated fur and fury was heading towards them at high speed, its claws gifting it great traction as it surged up the hill.

Despite the instant adrenaline surge and his heart-rate climbing through the roof Coyle looked outwardly calm and steady as he raised his rifle, pulled back the cocking handle and lined up his shot. Grateful not for the first time that as well as the more common 5.56mm Service Rifle in general service the NCR Army had also utilised a weapon firing the full-powered 7.62x51mm cartridge, Coyle aimed and pulled the trigger.

With almost twice the muzzle-energy of the more commonly encountered assault-rifles in the wasteland, such as the 5mm AK-112 or the 5.56mm R91, the FN-FAL also made more on an impression on the firer, thumping back noticeably hard against the shoulder of Coyle’s armour as he fired. With the bear only fifty yards away it wasn’t the most difficult piece of marksmanship to place the shot centre mass and the Yao Guai noticeably lurched to the left when it impacted and drove itself deep into the animals flesh, flattening and expanding as it did so, rending flesh apart.

The second round from the FN-FAL did more visible damage as it struck the animals jaw and shattered it, sending teeth, flesh and bone flying away as the Yao Guai continued its attack unabated, seemingly careless of pain or injury and reminding Coyle of facing Deathclaws, or even that nasty encounter with one of the few remaining Wannamingos that roamed the western wastes. One of his patrol had needed to hit that thing multiple times with a captured Brotherhood Turbo-Plasma Rifle to stop it before it turned them all into chunky kibble Coyle remembered, still bothered by the memory.

Coyle's third shot smacked the bear just above its right eye, punching clean through its thick skull and shattering the area around the eye socket before ploughing into its brain. The animal continued on sheer inertia for a few more seconds and had just enough time to be struck in the shoulder by a .32 calibre round from Allison’s Hunting Rifle before collapsing to the ground, still twitching.

‘I got it!’ Allison exclaimed excitedly, practically bouncing up and down with glee.

Coyle turned to the girl and rolled his eyes. ‘Oh yeah, you got it good’ he said sardonically, before checking around to see if there were any more of the damn things about.

‘I'm going to knock out some of its teeth as a trophy’ Allison declared.

‘Save yourself the trouble and pick up a couple I blew out of its head’ Coyle advised. ‘And while you're at it take the combat knife you took from the raider bitch and carve us off a few steaks’ he told her. ‘You did finish sharpening it right?’ he asked.

‘I had to do something when I couldn’t sleep because of your snoring’ Allison replied, he had little difficulty sleeping through the scraping noise. ‘Yao Guai is kinda gamey’ she said, ‘and chewy’ she added disparagingly. The mutated animal wasn’t exactly the most appetising thing to look at either.

‘You're damn fussy about what you eat for an unemployed wastelander’ Coyle opined.

‘I’m not an unemployed wastelander’ Allison retorted, ‘I'm a guide’ she defended herself, at least she was now. ‘And you won't eat dog’ she pointed out.

‘Not the same thing’ Coyle replied, ‘unless you’re allergic to bears just get used to the idea we're going to eat the damn bear’ he told her in a tone that left no room for debate on the subject. ‘And that's a lot of meat so if we can smoke any of it, or find some salt to preserve it with, it'll be Yao Guai on the menu for a while’ he told her.

‘Okay, but why do I have to butcher the thing?’ Allison wanted to know.

‘Well for a start you were the one that yelled out claiming she killed it’ Coyle replied smugly, ‘and secondly you can consider it part of the job you're so proud of too’ he continued. ‘You never asked for a detailed job description did you?’ he asked rhetorically.

Allison decided to give up arguing and reached down to her boot where she carried the knife just like the previous owner of both boots and blade had done so. ‘I'll hack off a big chunk I can cut into thin strips for jerky later before I do the steaks’ she said, heading towards the bear.

‘Clever girl’ Coyle replied. ‘Oh hell I'll give you a hand to speed things up’ he said like he was only doing her a huge favour by doing so as he drew his own knife and went to join her.

When they eventually finished carving up the more worthwhile parts of the animal, ending up with at least seventy pounds of fairly good quality meat which they stuffed in a cloth sack for now, they continued onto Girdershade to be greeted with suspicion from one resident and an enthusiastic lecture on the history and merits of Nuka-Cola from the other.

It was fairly obvious to anyone that Ronald Laren, the sole male resident of Girdershade, was desperate to the point of fixation to get into the pants of Sierra Petrovita, the sole female resident. Well it was obvious to anyone except the aforementioned Sierra anyway. She seemed blissfully ignorant of his intentions and regarded him as a friend and protector, certainly not a slightly depraved suitor of sorts.

About the only positive thing you could say for Ronald Laren was that he clearly wanted the object of his desire to give it up willingly and he hadn’t tried to force the issue physically despite the fact they were in the middle of nowhere and the only thing stopping him was presumably a moral compass still largely pointing towards north. Allison suspected that beyond the fact she was extremely attractive Sierra’s extreme kookiness had resulted in the man being quite fond and protective of her really and that deep down he might be sticking around to look after her as much as he was in the hope of finally showing her there was something in life more exciting than Nuka-Cola and her collection of related merchandise.

At first Allison had thought Coyle was humouring the woman when he seemed to take an uncommon interest in her “Nuka-Cola Museum”, with Laren conversely thinking it was just a ploy by the stranger to get his filthy hands on Sierra by feigning enthusiasm in her crappy collection, but after twenty minutes of listening to Coyle and Sierra engaged in rapt conversation about the merits of the unfairly maligned Cherry Nuka-Cola it became apparent that the visitor from California was indeed a hard-core fan of the stuff. Eventually Laren and Allison just couldn't take it any more, looked at each other and each noting that the other had lost the will to live they quietly left Sierra’s shack to talk outside about just how vile it really was with Laren giving Allison a sage warning to never under any circumstances try Nuka-Cola Quantum.

Eventually as Laren built a fire in order to barbeque Yao Guai steaks on later Coyle emerged from Sierra's hut with a grin, a frosty Ice Cold Nuka-Cola from the woman's refrigerator and the news that Sierra was making up a marinade for the meat consisting largely of her favourite beverage mixed with vodka. While the meat was prepared Allison and Coyle quizzed Laren about the area and asked if he had heard any interesting rumours, he admitted they didn't get many visitors but that a guy he knew called Grady was doing a job for him and was expected to return any day from DC with a package and maybe some information if they were going to be back anytime soon.

As they ate Ronald Laren pretended to like the marinated steaks immensely. Allison not having anywhere near such strong designs on her own companion's body stated point-blank that she wouldn't have thought it possible to make Yao-Guai meat even less tasty and with Laren looking on with a longing expression he more usually directed at Sierra she threw another steak that hadn't been drowned in Nuka-Cola on the grill, the sun starting to set over the wasteland as the meat sizzled and Coyle wrote down the recipe for Mississippi Quantum Pie in his notebook.

Note from the Author:

Wearing some kind of body armour in the wasteland is a wise precaution. Coyle currently owns a set of relatively lightweight Recon Armour but is expecting trouble hence his hunt for the much more protective Combat Armour that was US Army standard issue before the Great War of 2077. Allison meanwhile has purchased herself a Mercenary Adventurer outfit. The Desert Eagle in .44 Magnum is a common handgun in Fallout 2 (on the West Coast) but isn't seen in Fallout 3 (you can obtain .44 Magnum Revolvers though). Tenpenny Tower is the hang-out for the wealthiest people in the Capital Wasteland, it's a good location to shop at.

Yao Guai are the aggressive mutated bears of the Capital Wasteland. They aren't as dangerous as Deathclaws however and especially not as dangerous the almost unstoppable west-coast Wannamingo. Other dangerous hazardous fauna of the wasteland include Radscorpions, Giant Rats, Giant Mole Rats and Mirelurks. Some of these creatures are the result of genetic mutation caused by exposure to radiation whilst others are due to the Forced Evolutionary Virus (FEV) that also created Super Mutants.

Ghouls are humans who were subjected to too much radiation and were unfortunate enough not to die. Some have turned feral, becoming insane and attacking any human they see whilst many others still possess their reason and are perfectly okay to deal with. Unfortunately their appearance has resulted in considerable anti-ghoul sentiment with them being branded "Zombies" as a term of abuse and some people actually believing that the only way to kill one is a shot to the head like in old horror movies. In the NCR ghouls have the same citizenship rights as regular humans but the New California Republic is fairly atypical in its enlightened attitude.

Evergreen Mills and Fairfax are two raider strongholds in the capital wasteland. If you go to either location large numbers of heavily armed raiders will try and kill you so given that Coyle and Allison are trying to reach DC proper unharmed (by way of the trading settlement of Megaton) the route Allison suggests is wise.

The tiny settlement of Girdershade is towards the far western edge of the Capital Wasteland. It's really too small to exist as a viable community and it being an old trade trading post in terminal decline is my fanon explanation for its existence. The two residents are eccentric Nuka-Cola fanatic Sierra Petrovita and Ronald Larin who only sticks around because she's there.

In Fallout 3 DC itself is in much better condition than it should be after a nuclear war, whilst conversely two centuries after WWIII the Capital Wasteland should look a lot more recovered as regards plant-life than it does. My explanation to try and make sense of it are Neutron Bombs wiping out the people but leaving many of the structures intact in central DC, and extremely long-lived isotopes from Salted Bombs rendering the area lifeless afterwards for a lot longer than a normal nuclear blast would.
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