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.
Girdershade - Virginia – June 2277
Sierra waved them off in the morning whereas Ronald just sort of stuck his head out of his shack, grunted in their direction and went back to bed. The ground was firm and even enough to ride on in the direction they were heading so after a quick inspection of the tyres Allison and Coyle got onto the motorcycle and headed off southeast, taking a winding course towards Warrington.
After a couple of miles dirt tracks gave way to stretches of metalled local roads making the going much easier on both the machine and its passengers. As the sun rose higher in the sky Coyle found a long uninterrupted straight and opened the throttle up a little more, accelerating up past fifty and terrifying Allison who begged him to slow down which he did reluctantly after her pleading became louder and more desperate. They slowed down to what seemed like a more sedate thirty-five for a while, although even that was notably faster than Allison had ever travelled in her entire life until she met Coyle, and eventually as they neared Warrington Coyle pulled up to a halt on top of a rise so he could look around and get his bearings.
‘Christ, this country is in a bad way’ Coyle observed, getting off the bike after Allison had already done so, taking off his helmet hanging it on the handlebars. The radiation had killed off much of the vegetation as far as the eye could see and without the grass and scrub to bind the earth together the rains had gradually washed away much of the topsoil leaving rock outcroppings as a common feature.
‘You can't grow much around here’ Allison noted, talking off Coyle's backpack and her own bags and putting them down next to the bike. ‘A lot of the trade that comes in is food from the plantations down near Fredericksburg’ she said, ‘once they've got it moved overland on the old I95 to Quantico it's put on boats and taken from there up to Rivet City’ she explained. ‘The plantations are worked by slaves, a lot of the people taken by the slavers based out of Paradise Falls probably end up getting whipped to death down there eventually’ she added sadly though it was better than ending up a slave in The Pitt where your life-expectancy was months at best.
Coyle sighed, if he had a company of Rangers to hand he’d feel inclined to do some old-school emancipation in these parts, show the slavers what life was like at the other end of the whip, maybe even lynch a few as a stern warning to the others. As it was however he was both thousands of miles from backup and way out of his legal jurisdiction in any case. The NCR didn't claim to be heir to the US Government, they left that to the Enclave. ‘Quantico was a big Marine Corps base, wasn't it hit pretty hard in the war?’ he asked.
‘You could pick up a lot of rads if you spent too long there but they don't do the run all that often, maybe a few boatloads every couple of months’ Allison told him. ‘Rivet City trades stuff that people scav from the DC ruins for the food coming in’ she said, ‘because DC is so intact someone is always finding something valuable’ she continued. ‘There even used to be a market for the electric motors and nuclear batteries in cars but there were so many salvaged and sent north to the townships up near Baltimore, or south to Fredericksburg, that after a while the price dropped to nothing and people switched to trading things that made enough caps to be worth risking running into Super-Mutants or Raiders.’
‘I guess capitalism always finds a way’ Coyle observed, looking around. ‘Well this is
still America’ he added with a smile. Even before the formation of the NCR, trade caravans running across the wastes had already started to tie California back together, if the profit margin was good enough you could always hire enough mercenaries to keep the raiders away.
‘Pa always said the city would have been stripped clean years ago’ Allison commented, ‘but it was too radioactive for anyone but ghouls for a long time after the war and then the Super-Mutants started appearing and the raiders started cutting off the land routes one by one’ she said.
Coyle nodded. ‘What about the Brotherhood?’ he queried.
‘They fight the mutants a lot, and sometimes they kick the hell out of a raider band that gets too big for its boots, but there ain't too many of them so it's more like they keep a lid on things than ever solve the problem’ Allison replied. ‘Still every dead mutie or raider is a public service.’
‘I doubt the Steel Plague is doing it for the public good but I guess the result matters more than the motivation’ Coyle replied. ‘You said the other night that Rivet City is an old aircraft carrier?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, huge damn great thing just off shore according to Pa’ Allison confirmed. ‘Every so often some raiders or a few super-mutants try to get in but it's like a fortress and the city guards have a lot of military weaponry so it never comes to anything’ she said. ‘The only way in is over a bridge they swing across’ she told him before looking at the height of the sun in the sky. ‘We should get moving if you want to try your luck getting into Tenpenny Tower and then make it to Megaton today’ she advised. ‘I don't know how many of the roads are good enough to travel quick on.’
‘We should be okay, we'd have to make really crappy time, and probably push the bike a lot of the way, not to make it before the sun starts going down’ Coyle replied. ‘You're used to getting around at walking pace’ he noted, taking a cloth from his pocket to mop his brow before reaching for the backpack and retrieving a bottle of purified water, taking a swig before passing it to the girl.
‘Going to be a hot day’ Allison observed, taking a drink herself before handing it back.
‘It’s the humidity I don't like’ Coyle told her. ‘It gets hot back home but the air is a lot drier so it doesn't make you sweat as much’ he recalled. ‘You're going to get damn warm in that leather outfit’ he observed. It was fairly form-fitting, not giving her skin much room to breath, and it was almost black.
‘I'll be fine’ Allison told him, she was a lot more used to the climate. ‘What did you think of Girdershade?’ she asked.
‘I had a tool-shed bigger than that town’ Coyle replied, returning the water-bottle to his backpack.
‘No I meant what did you think of the people?’ Allison explained.
‘One's not playing with a full deck, but she's sorta sweet and I like her choice in hobby so she's okay, and the other is a sexually frustrated jerk’ Coyle opined.
‘She's pretty don’t you think?’ Allison asked.
‘Worth looking at’ Coyle agreed, ‘I'd have made a play for her if I thought she would have noticed and Laren wouldn't have pulled that sawn-off shotgun on me’ he said. ‘I can see why he stuck around so long though.’
‘You know it's kinda romantic’ Allison said with a smile. ‘Ronald pining away, love unrequited for a woman that doesn't see it’ she continued. ‘he's close to heartbreak I could tell.’
?’ Coyle spluttered. ‘If there's anything wrong with him it's not heartbreak it's blue-balls.’
‘I knew there wouldn't be any romance in your soul’ Allison told him disparagingly.
Coyle snorted. ‘Romance?’ he repeated with derision, rolling his eyes behind his sunglasses. ‘To a hillbilly like you romance is having your cousin telling you that “you've got a real purty mouth” and then taking you Brahmin tipping’ he declared, doing a bad impression of her accent.
a hillbilly’ Allison vehemently denied.
‘Okay, so where are you from then?’ Coyle asked.
Allison looked awkward. ‘The Blue Ridge Mountains’ she admitted, ‘but that doesn't make me some redneck’ she insisted.
‘Over in Ohio they called you people from the Virginias rad
necks because of all the contaminated water they say you drink to try and grow an extra finger’ Coyle joked. ‘It's for the banjo playing I heard’ he added, chuckling.
Allison glared at him. ‘Yeah well...’ she began, trying to think of something she knew about California she could disparage, ‘surfing sucks’ she declared.
Coyle bawled with laughter, Allison flushing red with a mix of anger and embarrassment. ‘You're an asshole’ she told him sternly. ‘You call me names and make jokes about where I'm from and I’ve never done anything like that to you’ she said, ‘I mean apart from when I called you an asshole just then’ she corrected herself.
‘The moment we met you threw a fucking spear at me!’ Coyle reminded her. ‘Oh shit you're not going to cry are you?’ he groaned, looking at her expression. ‘Look, you're right, I’m an asshole’ he conceded, ‘is that enough of an apology?’
‘I'm surprised you don't threaten to just leave me out here, or sell me to a slaver, or let the next Yao Guai we meet eat me’ Allison responded irately.
‘What would be the point, you know I'm not enough
of an asshole to actually do
any of that now’ Coyle replied, well he hoped she did.
‘Just stop making jokes at my expense’ Allison told him sternly.
Coyle grimaced. ‘I'll try but I can’t make any promises’ he replied honestly then adopted a serious expression. ‘But I can
promise that even if I do yank your chain a little, and make jokes at your expense sometimes, that if anyone else
does I’ll knock them on their ass’ he told her.
‘You know when I told you before I knew plenty of words’ Allison replied, ‘well one of them is hypocrite’ she told him. ‘Now get on the darn bike’ she ordered, reaching for the bags.
‘Yes Ma'am’ Coyle replied, quickly doing as he was told and putting his helmet back on.
‘I don't care if you’re paying me, or if you think you're smarter than me’ Allison told him, putting the bags back on rucksack first, ‘I won't take your crap’ she declared before climbing back on the motorcycle behind him. ‘And you'd better
knock anybody on the ass that calls me names’ she added.
‘I think I've created a monster’ Coyle muttered to himself, kick-starting the bike. ‘And I didn't even have to dip her in a vat of FEV’ he added sadly.
There wasn't much going on in Warrington, or indeed all that much left
of Warrington to be honest, Coyle considered, but approaching an old trading post they did get to witness an interesting fight between a pair of giant radscorpions, each almost the size of a small car, and a large deathclaw which didn’t seem all that bothered by being outnumbered. Moving a lot faster and with considerably greater agility than you might expect from a creature that size the deathclaw shrugged off multiple strikes of venom and repeatedly slashed at one of the the oversized arachnids until eventually claws that would rend steel plate won out and the first succumbed to the cumulative injuries it had taken, collapsing to the ground.
Sitting on a large rock while Allison chose to stand Coyle watched as the deathclaw turned to its remaining foe, thick dark blood dripping from its claws and ferocious teeth bared in challenge. ‘Ten caps on the radscorp’ he said as they watched the fight from a safe distance.
‘You’re on’ Allison agreed, she knew that the deathclaw had already taken a lot of damage but those things were tough beyond belief. Multiple Assault Rifles were often needed to bring one down quickly, you could empty the magazine from a handgun point-blank into its head and achieve little more than make it really pissed off.
The two mutated creatures slowly circled each other, the deathclaw was likely by far the more intelligent of the pair but they were usually too aggressive to use any form of tactics and frankly didn't need to for the most part. The radscorpion periodically struck out with its tail, and snapped its claws aggressively, but the deathclaw was unimpressed and either avoided or ignored the other creature’s attacks for what seemed like thirty seconds or so before it must have grown bored, or else even more bold, and once again went on the offensive.
‘Wanna make it twenty?’ Allison asked sweetly.
Coyle frowned, he had been banking on all that venom coursing through the deathclaws veins having finally caught up with it by now but the damn thing just kept on going like an old radio with a fission battery inside. ‘Okay, ten more’ he accepted the raised bet.
Allison grinned but the expression was short-lived as the Giant Radscorpion managed to clamp a claw on the Deathclaws right leg and ripped off a sizeable chunk of flesh. ‘Crap’ she moaned as the creature almost collapsed due to muscle and tendon damage and then backed off. She must have subconsciously reached for her rifle because Coyle waggled a disapproving finger at her.
‘If you're thinking about cheating and putting a couple of rounds into the radscorpion I'll do the same to your guy and my rifle is better than yours’ Coyle told her with a chuckle.
must have thought of cheating too to know what I was thinking’ Allison defended herself. ‘We're going to have to shoot the winner whoever it is’ she noted.
‘Yep, no laurel wreath for the champion’ Coyle agreed. At least it shouldn't take too much ammo to finish the victor off, they were both pretty banged up by now. ‘Shit!’ he exclaimed as the deathclaw suddenly managed to regain the initiative with a powerful slash of its claws that half severed the radscorpion's sting.
‘Come on!’ Allison yelled out excitedly, ‘get that ugly bug’ she implored the deathclaw.
‘You know further south in the territory Caesar's Legion is based in they have these fights in big arenas. Old sports stadiums that are still standing’ Coyle told her. ‘Usually deathclaws against radscorps or yao guai’ he continued, ‘sometimes a few slaves with spears get thrown in instead to entertain the crowd as they get ripped to pieces’ he added with obvious disgust at the notion.
The deathclaw finally got in a killer blow and the second giant radscorpion fell dead or dying onto the wasteland soil. ‘To the victor belongs the spoils’ Coyle said dejectedly, getting up from the rock and reaching for his FN-FAL on his bike as Allison practically bounced up and down in triumph.
‘It's seen us’ Allison told him as the deathclaw turned and set eyes on them, no longer distracted by its two defeated foes.
Coyle took aim as the deathclaw started limping towards them at a fraction of its normal top speed, slowed by its injured leg and the cumulative effect of the radscorpion venom. ‘You cost me twenty caps’ he growled, letting it get closer before putting two rounds in its upper chest and then delivering a coup-de-grace headshot that finally felled it. ‘Plus the cost of the bullets’ he added bitterly.
‘You can get good money for a deathclaw hand’ Allison declared brightly, her own mood much better. ‘Up to twenty-five caps sometimes’ she told him. ‘And the poison glands from a radscorpion go for maybe thirty apiece’ she added enthusiastically.
‘Well that'll pay to replace my ammo and then some at least’ Coyle replied. That was in fact a fair chunk of change for the venom but he knew in some places it was used as the base for an effective anti-venom while in others people dipped spear-points or darts in the stuff to add a little extra effectiveness to such weaponry.
‘Fifty-fifty split?’ Allison queried. ‘We might be able to sell them on straight away at the traders.’
‘Sounds fair enough I suppose’ Coyle agreed. ‘Before you get too near that deathclaw put another round into it’ he warned.
Allison looked at him askance. ‘I'm not dumb, you always
assume the thing is playing possum’ she said and taking her hunting rifle headed for the deathclaw, shooting it almost point-blank between the eyes for no reaction before taking her knife and starting to saw off its right hand, humming a little tune as she did so.
When they got to the trader they got less caps than they hoped for but on the plus side Coyle did get to buy some extra ammunition and a bag of some kind of local mutated fruit which tasted a lot like a peach but had the texture of an apple. Allison swore it was perfectly edible and ate one first to prove it before Coyle did so, after which he ate two more in quick succession before they headed off again, not having eaten any fruit in a while.
Finally pulling up outside Tenpenny Tower in the early-afternoon Coyle could only assume that it must have been built to a much higher structural standard than the other buildings that had once surrounded it because the apartment block stood alone, it dominated the local wasteland and was the main landmark for miles around. A few snipers up on the penthouse floor could easily pick off anyone approaching the building with hostile intent, and a sturdy concrete wall ringing the building at ground level added to the security offered by the well-equipped guards that greeted Coyle when he managed to offer a bribe high enough to be let in. They were greeted by the Security Chief, a man named Gustavo who struck Coyle as being experienced and professional, though not of course quite professional enough not to be willing to take a few caps for opening the main gate for a couple of strangers.
While Allison gawped at the cleanliness and good-condition of the building once they got inside the musak playing from the hidden speakers nearly drove Coyle straight back out again. He held his nerve and treated it as just another obstacle to be overcome and trying to ignore it he went looking for the trader recommended to him back in Front Royal, finding the unsurprisingly well-dressed Anthony Ling in his store on the buildings ground floor which he had named “New Urban Apparel”.
Ling looked Allison up and down first when they entered, the girl having taken off her helmet as soon as she walked in. ‘Those boots just don’t go with that outfit’ he told her, ‘and have you ever considered something that might be considered an actual hair-style?’ he asked condescendingly. ‘The wasteland urchin look is so
2260's’ he opined.
Allison's jaw dropped and she reached for her hair before finding a mirror and looking at her reflection. It didn't look too
bad did it, she wondered? Maybe I could try getting it cut short, or those pigtails raider-girls sometimes wore she thought.
‘Are you here seeking a new look for the young lady?’ Ling asked Coyle. ‘For a small fee I'm sure Susan Lancaster our resident courtesan could assist with fashion suggestions’ he suggested. ‘Or grooming advice’ he added.
‘No, I think she looks fine as she is’ Coyle replied.
‘Really?’ Allison interjected, a beaming smile spreading across her face.
Coyle frowned. ‘Well he could be right about the hair’ he conceded, causing Allison to look in the mirror again, ‘but no we're here for me’ he told Ling. ‘I'm in the market for a nice set of Combat Armour in A-1 condition and I was told in Front Royal that you stock high quality merchandise’ he said.
Ling smiled. ‘I'm glad to see that my establishment's reputation has spread so far Mr...?’
‘Coyle’ he told him. ‘I'm afraid it'll be part-exchange for the Recon-Armour I’m currently wearing if that's okay?’ he checked.
‘Hardly unusual in these economically depressed times I’m afraid’ Ling responded sadly. ‘When trade was more lively in this part of the world there was so much more spare cash around, and even wastelanders and mercenaries often owned two or even three full sets of apparel’ he said nostalgically, ‘unfortunately those horrid raiders have had a deleterious effect on commerce.’
‘Times are hard’ Coyle sympathised.
Ling nodded. ‘Fortunately many of our residents made their fortunes beforehand, ensuring we in the Tower can still afford to live the lives we deserve’ he said with a smile. ‘Why our very own Edgar Wellington II made an absolute mint from the trade in salvaged electronics before things turned for the worse’ he noted.
‘This place is amazing’ Allison enthused, starting to look around. ‘Pre-War clothes!’ she exclaimed, looking with interest at a pink summer-dress.
‘I'm afraid Madam would have to bathe before I allowed her to try anything on for size’ Ling responded apologetically. ‘Nothing personal I assure you, it's merely that the dust and grime of the wasteland is so ever-present beyond these four walls’ he said.
‘Okay’ Allison replied, she wouldn't want to get something so pretty dirty anyway.
‘So what deal can you give me on the Combat Armour?’ Coyle asked, ‘I'll need a helmet too’ he added.
‘Well I can give you a generous hundred caps for your current ensemble and the Combat Armour and Helmet will set you back another two-hundred and seventy-five’ Ling offered.
‘This Recon Armour and the helmet are in good condition, they're worth a hundred and twenty-five at least’ Coyle replied.
Ling shook his head. ‘I'm afraid that while your current ensemble does seem to be relatively undamaged by combat those unsightly scratches do lower re-sale value’ he told him, indicating the surface scars.
‘We came off our motorcycle a couple of days back’ Allison explained.
Ling raised his eyebrows. ‘A motorised vehicle?’ he queried, ‘is it still in your possession?’ he asked, intrigued.
‘It's outside’ Allison told him.
‘And it's my
bike not our
bike’ Coyle stated. ‘It's not for sale if that’s what you were going to ask’ he told Ling.
‘Pity’ Ling replied. ‘Well seeing as you are clearly a man of greater personal wealth and refinement than I first thought perhaps I can be more generous in the hope that we may have dealings again’ he said, banking on the notion that someone with a functioning motorcycle might prove a useful contact in future. ‘Shall we agree to two-hundred and fifty?’ he offered.
‘Can I inspect the Combat Armour and Helmet first?’ Coyle asked. That much would make quite a dent in his ready cash but it was worth it to him.
‘Of course Sir’ Ling agreed with a smile, moving to retrieve them from a storage cupboard where they were hanging up. Coyle looked them over and although worn and dented in a few places they were in more than reasonable condition.
Coyle handed a bag of caps to Allison. ‘Pay the man’ he told her, starting to strip off his Recon Armour with, to Allison’s mind, Ling paying a lot more attention to that than he seemed to be her starting to count caps onto the counter. That did help explain the storeowners interest in, and knowledge of, fashion at least she decided.
After buying the armour Coyle wanted to leave straight away but Allison was desperate to stay a little while longer and suggesting they might be able to pick up some useful information from people at the Tower's own bar they made their way there after Ling directed them towards it. When he saw the exorbitant price of the drinks Coyle nearly dragged Allison straight back out again but the pleading expression on her face made him relent and he shelled out for two beers which were served by a robotic barman of all things.
They had been in there a few minutes, occasionally chit-chatting with another bar patron and taking their time with their drinks when a woman's voice interrupted them ‘So you’re the visitors with the motorcycle everyone is talking about’ she asked.
Coyle turned and couldn’t help but instantly adopt as winning a smile as he could muster. ‘That we are’ he replied to the extremely attractive young lady in a great dress she filled out admirably. ‘Everyone usually calls me Coyle but you can call me Cassidy’ he told her, ‘and you are?’ he asked.
‘Susan’ the woman replied, smiling back. ‘Susan Lancaster’ she told him.
Allison looked from one to the other, he told her to call him Cassidy
, she thought irately. Susan Lancaster? Wasn't that the girl who Ling said was the local courtesan, she remembered. That meant she was just a damn hooker but with a better job title Allison knew. ‘And I'm Allison’ she said, ‘Allison Brenner’ she announced.
‘Charmed’ Susan replied, her tone indicating she was anything but. ‘So whereabouts are you from?’ she asked Coyle.
‘He's from California’ Allison told her. ‘Isn't that right Cassidy
?’ she asked rhetorically, putting a great deal of emphasis on his first name.
‘Well you've come a long way’ Susan told Coyle, ‘much further than your companion judging by her accent’ she added, very provincial she thought.
‘I needed a local guide’ Coyle explained.
‘Oh, I assumed she was someone you picked up in a bar or a slave market to keep you company’ Lancaster remarked. ‘Of course a man of means would likely have chosen a more fetching companion in those circumstances’ she added.
Allison glared at her. ‘Or perhaps he's not as shallow as some and prefers girls with more in their heads than their blouses’ she said coldly.
Susan Lancaster smirked. ‘They do
say the hired help is getting uppity and forthright these days don't they’ she observed caustically.
‘Yes and they say the hired whores
think they're a lot better than they are these days too’ Allison responded, smirking back.
Coyle decided to pay close attention to his beer. Say what you like about male aggression and testosterone but a barfight between two men was a hell of a lot more civilised than this he thought to himself.
‘Staying long?’ Lancaster asked him, now pointedly ignoring the jumped-up wasteland girl.
‘No we were just about to head out to Megaton weren't we Cassidy
’ Allison replied for him, stressing her use of his first name once more.
Coyle looked at her. ‘But you were the one that wanted to...’ he began. ‘I'll just finish my beer’ he said as Allison delivered a glare that was in danger of burning through his new armour. Susan Lancaster was nice to look at, but she looked pricy, he doubted he'd get a freebie in the sack and it would make for an easier life if he didn't piss off his guide too.
‘Such a pity, look me up the next time you’re at the Tower’ Lancaster told Coyle, ‘now you've been here once you hopefully won't need a guide to find us again’ she suggested.
‘His sense of direction is awful’ Allison stated, ‘he was heading to Nevada and ended up all the way over here’ she said. ‘Probably best if he's always got a good guide to steer him away from danger’ she suggested, pointedly looking directly at the "Courtesan".
Coyle downed the last of his beer. ‘And with that insult to my navigational skills we're going’ he said.
Allison slowly and deliberately finished hers, eyes fixed on Lancaster the whole time.
A few minutes later as they got back on the motorcycle outside Coyle couldn’t help but comment that he'd seen considerably less vicious knife-fights to which Allison replied that if he did come back here one day then he would be better off screwing Ling because it would be cheaper and less likely to leave him with something requiring antibiotics.
Note from the Author:I hope people like how I'm trying to flesh out the economy of the Capital Wasteland and make it all make more sense than it does in the game. Having the area survive by trading salvaged technology to the less desolate regions surrounding it in return for food is the only way I could see it making any sense at all. Rivet City is well positioned to trade via water and we know that canonically some water trade does occur into the Capital Wasteland because of the existence of the ferry the Duchess Gambit which brings in Punga Fruit from Point Lookout. Additionally the recipe for Mirelurk Cakes (a specialty in Rivet City) calls for breadcrumbs and there isn't any bread being produced in or around DC. For that matter the other two kinds of fruit commonly found for sale, Mutfruit and Crunchy Mutfruit, must be coming from elsewhere too.Caesar's Legion mentioned in passing was another faction in the abortive Fallout game known as Van Buren. They had adopted the styles and habits of Ancient Rome and had an economy based on mass slavery and conquest. Deathclaw vs. Giant Radscorpion fights in old sports arenas used in colosseums definitely seems their thing!Tenpenny Tower near Warrington is where the wealthiest folk in the Capital Wasteland can be found. Their money must have come from somewhere originally so having the likes of Edgar Wellington III being the inheritor of the profits of a successful salvage business is just my fanon explanation.Anthony Ling owner of the clothing store New Urban Apparel situated in the tower keeps a good stock of better quality garments and body armour, including the Combat Armour Coyle purchased in part-exchange for his previous Recon Armour. Having "nouveau riche" ex slaver and upwardly mobile courtesan Susan Lancaster clash with Allison just struck me as a funny exchange especially with Coyle uncharacteristically cowering into his beer.