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.
Centreville - Virginia – June 2277
Coyle took Alison's advice that they wanted to stay well away from both the known raider stronghold of Evergreen Mills, roughly to the north of Tenpenny Tower, and the other large gang holed up in the Fairfax ruins to the east. They had therefore taken a course that hopefully maximised the distance between themselves and local bands of murdering thugs as they headed towards the settlement of Megaton.
On the way they passed through what had once been the site of the Battle of Bull Run, or “First Manassas” as Allison insisted on calling it, stopping there for a few minutes to stretch their legs as it had been a bumpy, uncomfortable ride on rough tracks and broken roadways. Coyle was frankly surprised that the girl knew that much history but when she mentioned her folks had fought the “damnyankees” in the “War of Northern Aggression” he realised just how long they held a grudge in these parts, although not before he earned a mouthful of invective for undiplomatically pointing out it was the Confederates that shot first at Fort Sumter.
Centreville itself had apparently been almost totally flattened by an airburst detonation nearby, not that it was too large a town to start with and likely wasn't actually targeted itself, it had just suffered from being close enough to DC to have an awful lot of Chinese bombers overhead when the Third World War broke out, one stray warhead exploding too close for the town to survive.
‘It's only another seven or eight miles to Megaton’ Allison told Coyle as he pulled the motorcycle up again just on the edge of what had once been the town. ‘Why are we stopping?’ she asked as Coyle indicated they were going to get off.
‘I need a leak’ Coyle explained as Allison let go of him and climbed off the motorcycle first.
‘Oh, okay’ Allison replied, taking off his rucksack and her own helmet as he headed towards the twisted remains of a tree. The rucksack was heavy and the straps bit into her shoulders a lot normally but it was even worse when they went over a bump, it would bounce around and jarred against her back.
When Coyle finished answering the call of nature, wishing he could wash his hands afterwards but not having enough water to waste on hygiene, he turned back towards the motorcycle and found Allison rubbing her back before she started doing stretches. Limber, he thought as she bent over and touched her toes. ‘Nice ass’ he informed her, walking back. The tight leather pants were very flattering he decided although she was still a little skinny he thought.
Allison jerked full upright again and blushed bright red. ‘I wasn't giving you a show’ she informed him curtly.
‘I still appreciated it, intentional or not’ Coyle replied, looking around. ‘There's not much competition around her in terms of nice scenery anyway’ he added. ‘You say that DC itself is mostly intact?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, there's like a big arc of wasteland like this surrounding it all the way around’ Allison told him. ‘I can't believe how fast we got here from Tenpenny Tower’ she said wondrously.
‘I doubt we got much above fifteen miles an hour’ Coyle replied, ‘you should have seen me rack up the mileage on some of the interstates in the Midwest, between towns they’re still pretty intact’ he told her. ‘Flat roads, straight as an arrow’ he continued. ‘Of course you do sometimes have to run like hell because there’s Raiders and still some Reavers to watch out for too’ he continued. ‘I only just got away from a souped-up dune-buggy once’ he recalled.
‘Reavers?’ Allison queried.
‘Think raiders with a serious technology fetish’ Coyle explained. ‘There used to be a lot more of them, according to what people told me when I was up near the Great Lakes anyway, but that was maybe a century ago,’ he said. ‘They're just scattered bands now, good weaponry but not that numerous.’
‘I wish I'd travelled as much as you’ Allison said wistfully.
‘Oh yeah, I've been shot at in post-apocalyptic tourist destinations all over the country’ Coyle replied sardonically. ‘It's been part relaxing vacation and part soul-searching road-trip where you get in touch with your feelings alone on the open highway’ he said. ‘I should take up poetry, become the Jack Kerouac of the wasteland’ he declared.
‘Smart-ass’ Allison responded, putting the rucksack back on first followed by her helmet. ‘Are we going or not?’ she asked, inpatient to get to Megaton.
‘That all depends on them’ Coyle replied slowly.
‘Them?’ Allison asked him in confusion.
‘The two guys and the chick, all wearing leather armour, about a hundred yards off who I'm watching over your left shoulder’ Coyle told her. ‘Don't make any sudden moves’ he instructed her. ‘At least one of them has a rifle’ he said.
‘Is he pointing it at us?’ Allison asked nervously.
‘No, which is why I don’t want you to reach for your
rifle or one of mine on the bike’ Coyle told her calmly. ‘If they get closer I'll be able to shoot them up with my MP9 if it comes to it’ he said, the submachinegun holstered at his right hip lacked effective range but in an up-close-and-personal firefight it was very handy. His Desert Eagle on the other hip conversely could put a target down faster, and would punch through their leather armour like it wasn’t there, but it wasn't a fist full of shooty mayhem like the MP9 was firing full-auto.
‘Hey’ Coyle greeted the trio loudly, raising his left hand in a wave whilst keeping his right near his submachinegun. He was still wearing the sunglasses he bought at Helltown so lowering his left hand he took them off as another friendly gesture, eye-contact was very important he knew.
‘Hey yourself stranger’ the one with a rifle responded in a friendly enough manner. ‘Is that your machine?’ he asked, ‘We saw you and the dust you were kicking up half a mile off and thought we’d come see’ he said.
‘It's mine’ Coyle confirmed.
‘Don't see too many working vehicles around here’ the other man in the group observed, he was carrying a spear and had a 10mm pistol holstered on his belt, the girl with them armed likewise. ‘I once saw a couple of four-wheel-drives race down south though’ he said. ‘The guy that runs Fredericksburg puts on a show sometimes, big money riding on the winner’ he noted.
‘Sounds like I should maybe head down there and take a look myself one day’ Coyle replied. ‘You hunters?’ he asked.
‘Yeah’ the one with the rifle confirmed. ‘You in the market for some meat?’ he asked. ‘We’ve got extra for sale’ he said.
‘You've got a weird accent mister’ the girl carrying a spear told Coyle.
‘He's from California’ Allison explained.
‘She yours as well as the bike?’ the one with the rifle asked, indicating Allison.
‘She's not for sale if that was going to be your next question’ Coyle replied before Allison could object to once again being assumed to be Coyle's property not just his guide.
‘I couldn’t afford her anyway’ the hunter said with a shrug. ‘I'll bet she ran to three-fifty maybe four hundred caps at least right?’ he asked curiously.
Allison would have scowled but despite herself she was pleased that anyone would think she'd be worth that much. Slaves usually went for around two-hundred and fifty or so in the Capital Wasteland she knew.
‘Nah not even half that much’ Coyle replied deadpan, this time Allison did
scowl. A gentleman would have said five-hundred she thought to herself indignantly.
‘Sounds like you're a man that knows a bargain when you see it then’ the hunter with a rifle said. ‘We've got some meat to sell if you’re interested’ he told Coyle again.
‘I don’t want to eat any more of that Yao Guai’ Allison spoke up.
‘You'll eat what you're damn well given’ Coyle snapped back harshly.
‘One of those that never shuts up even after you've taken a strap to them right?’ the male hunter with the spear and pistol reasoned.
‘Nah, she gets punished by me not
taking the strap to her’ Coyle replied, oh she'll chew my ear off for that line later he knew.
‘What we're selling is much
better than Yao Guai’ the female hunter insisted. ‘It's the best kind of meat around, bagged us a fresh one not two hours ago.’
‘Mirelurk?’ Allison asked enthusiastically.
‘Even better’ the girl replied with a smile.
‘Here, try some’ the hunter with the rifle said, offering a small piece of dried meat to Coyle who took it politely and tasted it.
Coyle chewed for a short while then spat it out. ‘Long pork’ he said, fixing the hunter with a stare before putting his sunglasses back on with a flourish that helped misdirect the trio's attention from him also putting his right hand nearer his MP9, ready to draw it fast if necessary.
‘Pork, oh I haven't had pork in years’ Allison said enthusiastically. Pigs were rare and incredibly expensive compared to brahmin, the poor things were too tasty to survive in numbers though some were reared by farmers in the Blue Ridge and fetched a high price.
pork’ Coyle repeated, putting more emphasis on the first word. The three hunters suddenly all looking much more nervous and jittery.
Allison looked at the hunters then her companion. ‘Coyle?’ she queried.
‘Our friends here are in the Soylent Green trade’ Coyle stated coldly.
‘What?’ Allison responded.
‘The strange meat they're selling is people’ Coyle told her flatly.
Allison’s eyes widened. ‘They're cannibals
?’ she exclaimed, staring at them. They looked so normal
, she thought in surprise.
‘Well I don't know if they sample their own goods but they're definitely capitalists taking advantage of a niche in the market for free-range humans’ Coyle commented wryly.
‘We don't want any trouble’ the female hunter said with obvious concern. They much preferred wastelanders who couldn't fight back, not tough-looking guys in combat armour carrying a submachinegun.
‘Shut up Louise’ the one with the rifle told her. ‘We're leaving’ he declared firmly.
‘I have a problem with that seeing as how if I let you go then that makes the next poor slob you kill and butcher my fault’ Coyle responded, his left hand now moving almost imperceptibly slowly towards his Desert Eagle.
Allison became alarmed, they were seconds away from a firefight and her rifle wasn't to hand. ‘Cassidy, don't’ she pleaded.
‘Listen to the lady, there's three of us and she ain't packing’ the male hunter with the spear and pistol advised, trying to sound more confident than he felt.
‘Then make sure not to waste your bullets shooting them in her direction’ Coyle suggested, he didn't want her to get hurt anyway.
‘He won't do it’ the one with the rifle said confidently. ‘He can't get all three of us, how fast could he be?’ he asked rhetorically.
Coyle wasn't quite
willing to draw first, even if he did think they deserved getting shot at, he wasn't above goading them into starting the fight though. ‘Looks to me like the one with the most balls is the chick’ he said, ‘she's taking a hell of a risk travelling the wasteland with you two wimps’ he told the male hunters.
‘Take it easy Barney, he's trying to provoke you’ the female hunter told the one with the rifle.
‘Barney?’ Coyle exclaimed. ‘You're called Barney
’ he continued with derision. ‘Oh I bet that
name strikes fear into the hearts of your victims’ he said sarcastically.
‘Shut the fuck up’ the one called “Barney” responded with a snarl, brandishing his rifle in a more threatening manner.
‘Make me’ Coyle replied with a smirk, got him he thought as the hunters expression shifted from concern to anger and the rifle started to swing around.
Allison had previously theorised exactly why Coyle had a tribal rattlesnake design tattooed on his left forearm and it wasn't too large a surprise to her when he smoothly drew and fired the Desert Eagle right into the face of the hunter with the rifle before the man could even aim. The bulkier and heavier MP9 was slower to yank from its own holster but he still managed to raise it and pull the trigger before the other male hunter could fully draw his 10mm automatic, the barrel of the pistol just clearing the holster when a long burst from Coyle’s submachinegun stitched a line from his crotch up to his chest. At this range the leather armour the hunter was wearing wasn't nearly enough to save him, although he took longer to die than his friend who was already twitching with his brains blown out the back of his head by the .44 magnum JHP.
The girl looked terrified and was still desperately scrabbling for her own pistol when Coyle swung both his Desert Eagle and the MP9 in her direction. His expression was cold and unfeeling as he prepared to end her life. The second of her companions to be shot was still heading for the ground, it had all happened so fast.
‘Don't kill her!’ Allison cried out.
The girl froze, hand on her pistol but no longer trying to draw it. Looking into Coyle's eyes, or rather his sunglasses, she started to shake. “Shit” Coyle thought, if she had just pulled that automatic he could have shot her, problem solved. ‘Take your fucking hand off the iron and drop the spear’ he ordered.
The girl “Louise” did neither, she just kept shaking looking like she might be about to wet herself or something. ‘Don't kill her Cassidy’ Allison begged.
‘Drop the spear and take your hand off the gun’ Coyle said more slowly.
‘She's scared’ Allison said redundantly.
‘She should be because if she doesn't do what she's told I am
going to kill her’ Coyle replied evenly, both of his handguns still aimed squarely at the girl, triggers half squeezed.
‘It's okay, he won't shoot you if you do what he says’ Allison told the girl as soothingly as she could, this wasn’t helped too much by the fact her own voice was trembling however.
‘For the sake of accuracy it's only less likely
I'll shoot you if you do as I say’ Coyle stated. ‘And for the record I am also not
a patient man’ he growled.
Allison realised she needed to do something, she retrieved her own hunting rifle and ended the stand-off in a direct manner. Keeping out of Coyle's line-of-fire she moved closer and smashed the butt of her rifle against the girls head as hard as she could, sending her to the ground unconscious with blood soon starting to flow from a nasty wound on her head. ‘I think I hit her too hard’ Allison observed with a frown as Coyle holstered his MP9 and moved over to relieve the hunter of her weapons.
‘You'll get better at judging that with more practice’ Coyle replied, he seemed utterly calm and unconcerned about the fact he had just killed two men.
to kill them’ Allison said accusingly as Coyle checked the two corpses for anything else worth taking.
‘Where I come from people who hunt other people for food face a trial and a rope if we catch them’ Coyle replied, looking through Barney the Hunter's pockets and finding a lighter which he pocketed himself. ‘No judges or gallows here so I figured frontier justice was the way to go’ he said.
‘You sound like a Regulator’ Allison told him in a tone that indicated that wasn't exactly meant as a complement.
‘What's a Regulator?’ Coyle queried, finding a handful of .32 rounds for the rifle and pocketing them too.
‘They hunt down and kill criminals and then they cut off their fingers for souvenirs according to Pa’ Allison told him. ‘Pa said they some of them he met weren't really much better than Raiders’ she said.
Coyle nodded. ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ he quoted.
‘What?’ Allison replied, she hadn't understood a word.
‘It means who will guard the guardians’ Coyle translated. ‘That's the problem of vigilante justice, there's a lack of accountability’ he said.
‘Don't talk tribal to me I don't speak it’ Allison told him.
Coyle sighed. ‘That was Latin’ he explained. ‘Never mind’ he added sadly.
‘So who are you
accountable to?’ Allison asked him.
‘Other than my own conscience I suppose I'm still accountable to the NCR Rangers but I’m a long fucking way outside my legal jurisdiction’ Coyle admitted. ‘The badge isn't much use beyond maybe stopping a bullet if I was really lucky’ he said. His Ranger Badge was somewhere at the bottom of his rucksack, at least that's where he had left it.
Allison looked at the corpses. ‘Their armour is worth something’ she told him. ‘We might get a couple of hundred caps for those two sets’ she said, again now thinking more like the practical wastelander she was as the adrenaline drained away. ‘Maybe less because of all the holes and the blood on that armour’ she continued, indicating the hunter that Coyle had killed with the MP9.
‘The girl's armour is still okay, strip her’ Coyle replied.
‘Strip her?’ Allison repeated, looking at him and raising her eyebrows.
‘We're going to leave her out here with a spear and just her underwear and let the wasteland judge her’ Coyle announced then paused. ‘Oh hell, I'm feeling generous, we'll let her keep her boots and a knife too, give her a better chance than I'll bet she gave the poor bastards she hunted for food’ he added.
Allison thought about that. ‘That doesn't sound too
unfair’ she said eventually. ‘I'll bandage her head’ she announced, thinking that would be a decent thing to do.
Coyle stripped the two corpses trying not to get too much blood on himself. ‘Not much ammo on these two’ he said as he worked. ‘Only about forty caps between them’ he added.
‘She's got fifteen more caps, only six spare bullets for her pistol though’ Allison responded, doing much the same with the unconscious girl.
‘Take her gunbelt and her automatic, you could do with another piece’ Coyle told her. ‘If it looks like it's worse than the one this guy over here had swap it for the better one and we'll sell the garbage on’ he said.
‘What about her caps and stuff?’ Allison queried.
‘You knocked her out and you're stripping her, her shit is all yours’ Coyle replied. ‘You can have all of this pricks .32 ammo for your rifle too’ he added.
Allison stopped doing what she was doing and blinked as she realised something. ‘How did you know it was human meat?’ she asked suspiciously.
‘I never told you what happened to my last guide did I?’ Coyle asked. ‘I ate her liver with some two hundred year old tinned beans and a nice bottle of Cherry Nuka Cola’ he told her deadpan before grinning. ‘I wasn't really sure until I saw their reaction but I always heard that we taste a lot like pork and it being human not pig seemed more likely in this hellhole’ he said. ‘They never denied it and I'd think people would
don't you?’ he asked rhetorically.
‘I guess so’ Allison conceded. ‘So you didn't
really eat your old guide and wash her down with Cherry Nuka Cola then?’ she asked with a chuckle. ‘I just want to know for certain’ she said.
‘What kind of savage do you take me for?’ Coyle responded irately, objecting to the slight on his character. ‘Everyone knows it's Nuka Cola Quartz
with human liver, drinking it with Cherry is like having red wine with fish’ he said with distaste.
Ten minutes later they were finished, and with their booty of sorts tied to the bike they rode off towards Megaton. The girl came to shortly afterwards with a splitting headache, finding herself almost naked and next to the similarly stripped dead bodies of her companions.
She howled and then cried for a while before noticing that her spear and knife were lying on the ground nearby. She picked them up before letting her headache subside and then started to walk westwards towards Fort Bannister where she knew the Talon Company mercs were based. They were assholes but they weren't crazy like the raiders holed up closer in the old Jury Street Metro and if she offered to screw a couple of them they might take her in, or at least throw a few caps her way in payment.
In the Capital Wasteland you did what you needed to in order to survive.
Note from the Author:Reavers were a faction from Fallout: Tactics set in 2198, a powerful well-equipped group they were defeated by the Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel. In the midwest region featured in Fallout: Tactics several groups utilised vehicles including Dune Buggies and I couldn't help but imagine Coyle on his motorcycle being chased by one for a while on his journey across the country.In Fallout 3 you often encounter groups of Hunters looking for food in the wasteland. Most are after Mole Rats or Mirelurks but occasionally you meet a few that have taken to hunting people instead. They'll offer to sell you "Strange Meat" when you run into them, if you have moral objections to their choice of career this is a signal to start shooting! The Regulators are the self-appointed law of the Capital Wasteland, they pay a bounty for dead criminals (raiders, slavers, cannibals etc.) but you have to prove the kill by presenting them with a finger cut from the corpse. Talon Company are a mercenary outfit operating in the Capital Wasteland who aren't particularly choosy about who they work for or what they do. They're based at an old US Army facility called Fort Bannister which lies to the north of the raider base at Evergreen Mills. Allison and Coyle are currently nearing their destination, the large walled settlement called Megaton lying just to the west of DC.