90 Days Later
Defender Wallace Ranik took his turn with his squad walking at the head of the column. He was surprised at the pace the were moving. Specialist logistics said they would reach Lost Hills sooner than planned, even with a stop in Austin. Ranik hoped that they didn't stay in Austin too long. Ranik dropped to a knee and raised his weapon as small arms fire began whizzing toward he and his men. He shook as he felt a galncing shot to his shoulder. "Heroes never die!" his armor announced, injecting Med-X into his system. Ranik was getting used to all that. He couldn't distinguish between drugged up or not drugged up anymore. Behind him, two red and black Outcast trucks pulled up, teir squads dismounting to face the small threat. They took up defensive positions, one driver calling for the column to hold up. "Raiders, just a small village ahead," he said to Defender Colby. "Make it rain," Ranik smiled inside his helmet, wirling his finger. Immediately Colby was barking coordinates over the comm. He looked up as a flight of Vertibirds swooped ahead. They swung in low ahead of the column, unloading weapons fire and ordinance on a small village, scattering it's inhabitants. Protector Casdin was taking no chances losing his men and equipment to locals. Ranik stood up as the smoke ahead cleared and he could see the birds landing in the now-deserted town, squads of Outcast Airborne spreading out quickly clearing buildings. Ranik stood up as the convoy ground forward again. He spied the ruins of a still intact Pre-War firehouse. "Nice," he thought to himself, "that will make a good hotel for my squad tonight."
At RobCo Facility, right before the journey started
"We're far enough now, the charges are set, should we hit the switch?" Hannah said, in which Ranik replied "Yes, nobody is going to take what we once owned." Hannah then hit a switch, and a large explosion could be heard in the distance, "Some locals may have been killed, but it doesn't matter now, what's done is done." Ranik stated. (I tend to control other characters a lot lol)
Today (90 days after)
Samantha wasn't even tired from all the walking they had done in the 90 days they were out, or maybe she was, but just couldn't feel it. They came across a few small raider camps along their way, but it was easy. Occasionally they would have to drink irradiated water, since it seems they had used most of the clean water well walking, but it was fine, the armor had filters after all.
Ramsey ran back to Ranik, he was on point with another Outcast, Gordon. Those Raiders were carrying some heavy arsenal, good thing they had Vertibirds. It had been 90 days now, 90 days of barraging their way through the wastes. According to the maps, they were already in Northern Texas, they would be reaching Austin by tomorrow afternoon. Ramsey's lips formed a small grin, maybe he would finally be together with his family again. He saw Jen and Aaron now, they are waiting for him. Ramsey almost hugged the air, but stopped. His smile faded quickly as reality took over again, he as still gone from them. They reached Ranik just as the VertiBirds commenced the hell fire, he silently prayed for the poor souls, but his faith has been questioned over the past few weeks. He looked to Ranik, then to where he was looking. It was an old Firehouse, and Ramsey already knew the answer. They had found a place to rest.
Ramsey entered the Firehouse with Defender Carter to check it for hostiles. After a little bit of kicking doors open, shouting for an answer, and searching rooms, it was pronounced clear. The Outcasts entered, some of them would sleep in the vehicles. It was getting dark, already 11:00 by Ramsey's time. He waved to Jackson and Ranik as he watched them set up bunks, he would keep watch tonight, he couldn't sleep anyways. The roof of the building was no different than inside, it was dusty, ransacked, and eroded. Ramsey grabbed a nearby chair and sat in a good position. He could see for miles, it was the clearest he had seen it in months. He looked out, nothing but desert, a few trees, and some destroyed buildings. Then something made him shutter, so much that he had to grip the roof ledge. It was far distance, in the exact direction of Austin, he saw the city glowing in the night sky. Ramsey had nightmares that night.
Three months ago, Scribe Hamilton had watched Independence erupt into nuclear fire. These days, she spent most of her time walking, wishing she could lash a have dozen robots to a trailer, to pull the tired Scribes and Specialists. There seemed to be a split in the Brothers. Some returned to the original ranking system of the Brotherhood, while others retained their Outcast ranks.
"What's the matter you pansy ass Pinko? Getting tired?" Pyle said.
"Shut up, or i'll break your tubes again," Hannah retorted.
Hannah swore Pyle was getting sassier. Mr. Gutsys didn't have a real personality, but it sure seemed like he was developing one. She was probably just tired, never having gotten a real chance to rest since the MDPL-16 encounter. They hadn't lost any people to the raiders, but several were wounded, and with Alex gone, morale was low with the medics.
"Looks like it's my lucky day," Pyle said, spinning about.
Some of the cannibalistic slavers from the ruins of Jackson had been tailing them for a few weeks, hoping to catch some stragglers, or steal some weapons at night.
Pyle launched a volley of plasma, spun, and fired an arc of 10mm bullets, taking down the two slavers that had gotten too close.
"Son, you better get that seen to right now! Diagnostics suggest that you've had that wound for almost ten weeks!" Carter couldn't help but wonder whether it was all pre-recorded or this thing had a mind of its own. It was sassy for a body-shell, anyway, and had spent some time now scolding him over what was literally a small graze on his left leg. In these past ten weeks, he'd learned what marriage was like - annoying voices screaming down your ear constantly about tedious mistakes. He'd heard Hannah mentioning something to another Specialist, how Pyle was acting up a bit. Maybe this was what happened to every AI on a long distance journey? He severely doubted it.
"Are you listening, soldier?! You report to your squad's medic and get that patched PRONTO!" The armour's voice bellowed.
"Mute." Carter responded in a slow, clear voice. The voice fell silent. Carter sighed with relief, and--
"... No, YOU shut up, maggot!"
Carter groaned and connected his palm with the front of his helmet. He'd have to get this thing replaced.
Ranik squinted inside is helmet as his squad neared the Outskirts of Austin. Protector Casdin, ever conservative, wasn't risking sending his full force into Austin. Ranik turned to Defender Colby. "You have the beacons?" he asked. "Yes sir." she replied. Casdin had sent retrieval beacons with Ranik's squad in case of danger. They could be extracted by Vertibird if major hostilities were encountered. Ranik didn't want to take chances either. "Knight Martin," he said, "eyes sharp. Muties everywhere. Remember the mission, we find other Brotherhood of Steel and we leave. We want to make it back to Lost Hills." Martin nodded. Ranik smiled to himself, almost a laugh as he said 'Knight Martin.' Ranik knew that some of his Brothers were reverting to their Brotherhood rannks. He couldn't fault them for their dedication to the Brotherhood. Not in the least. Afterall, it was their dedication to the Brotherhood that had kept them together. Ranik himself felt more sentiment toward his Outcast rank of Defender. Hopefully, he'd be able to keep it when they returned to Lost Hills. For now, Ranik watched Martin track from side to side with his minigun. He'd traded his flamer in for it at the supply truck. 90% of the Outcasts had set up camp outside of Austin. They had entrenche, setting up artillery on the city to cover any extraction from potentially hostile forces. Ranik still felt uncomofrtable. There was every chance his squad would be overwhelmed and slaughtered before any etraction could be mustered. Jackson had begged Ranik not to go, but Ranik couldn't be issuaded. Ranik had begun to live by a simple motto to get home: You want something done? Do it yourself. Ranik wanted to get home. The only way to do that was to get in there and do what needed to be done.
Knight Captain Jackson observed the city from long range. He had about the disgusting vermin that roamed the streets, blades acting as their arms and legs. Still, it didn't matter. They all bleed. Jackson liked his old title. Protector just didn't fit anymore. This was a new age. They'd be welcome with open arms back at Lost Hills. Breathing heavily, Jackson watched as Ranik and his team grew ever smaller in the distance. Jackson brushed his hand by his ever-present revolver, and headed back towards camp.
Ramsey caught up with Ranik, he needed to know what he was heading into. His hand grasped the commander's plated shoulder, "Ranik, you've got to think about this. The Brothers that you've been informed of are a small batch, consisting of only about 25. And that was 10 years ago." Ramsey shook his head, "When I escaped this hellhole the Brotherhood were barley heard of, and they were constantly hunted by Enclave Biosoldiers. I'm sorry to say, but I doubt they still exist." The veteran commander looked at Ramsey with soul piercing eyes, "Ramsey, you have served the Brotherhood long enough to know our code, never leave a brother behind. If this means clearing this whole damn city out, then we will do so." His stance was stern, he was not going to be persuaded.
"Very well my friend, let us continue." Ramsey walked past his superior, he had to trust his judgment. After all, Ramsey didn't plan on liberating the city himself. He was beginning to wonder if he had forgotten about his kin.
Defender - and he was sticking to Defender, until they reached Lost Hills, at least, as they were still technically Outcasts - Carter wasn't about to allow Ramsey and Ranik to march to their demise, after everything they'd been through. And if they did perish, then he would die with honour alongside them. After spending several hours oiling his armour and weapons (and figuring out how to replace the angry drill instructor-esque persona of his armour with a flat, robotic monotone; success!) at the camp they'd established, he'd realised that Ranik's group had departed towards Austin, and he was now hurrying to catch up with them. Enforcer Vain had mentioned something about training him in using this revolutionary new MR-5 armour for the next time he was in a combat scenario - but that would have to wait. He could live without it for now. After twenty minutes of running, he slowed to a steady walk alongside the squad, nodding a silent greeting towards Ranik as he caught his attention.
Ranik understood Ramsey's concern. He recalled that Ramsey was from here originally, that the Brotherhood had picked him up during a re-supply stop on the way to D.C. twenty years ago. He respected Ramsey as a soldier, a Brother, and one of the closest friends he had in this harsh world. He knew Ramsey was looking out for the Outcasts. He also knew the real reason that Knight-Captain Jackson had ordered this mission. To see if Ramsey's family still existed in this hellhole city. Such was the Outcasts' respect for him that they'd risk soldiers lives to find his loved ones. Such was Ranik's respect for him that he volunteered to go. Defender Ranik would never be considered disloyal to the Brotherhood or the Outcasts. Moreso, he'd never be considered disloyal to hs friends. Ramsey walked ahead and Ranik stopped him. "Ramsey," he said, "I hope you realize the real reason we're going tinto this city." Ramsey paused as it dawned on him that these men were truely his brothers. "Thank you, Defender." Ramsey said. Ranik nodded to his friend. "We'll find them."
Jackson walked into base camp. Turning past a couple soldiers admiring the gear they had captured in their newly acquired overcoats, Jackson continued on, until he found Casdin, who was planning something in the war room tent with Lawrence, Gavin, and O'Haire. Casdin smiled at Jackson, who returned it with a friendly wave. Apparently, they were debating. "I think we should clear the city out. Look what we did at FairFax." Gavin started. Lawrence disagreed. "We got extremely lucky at FairFax, brother. All the right things happened. No, we should move on once we know if our brothers still exist here." Gavin was unconvinced. "But we could clear out the city easily!" Gavin said. O'Haire intervened. "Don't go native on me, Gavin. We're not here to protect the civilians. I know you have your roots here, but don't go native on me. The last thing we need is another Lyons fake." O'Haire said, his irish accent carrying slightly over the others. Jackson watched the four, but remained undecided.
From down the Colorado river came the white cloud and huff-and-puff sound of a riverboat's steam engine. The OUtcasts could see from this distance the vague form of a ship approaching. It was a patchwork vessel, its formerly wooden sides adorned with heavy sheets of various metals, adorned with rust themselves. Several holes in the side of the ship were specially reinforced for guns to be poked through.
The loud whine of a steam whistle carried ghostly across the grounds around the Outcast convoy.
Viktor Howlett sat at the wheel of the Barghest, watching these power-armored people walking towards Austin's walled section. In convoy. A bad move if ever I saw one Viktor thought to himself. He pushed the Barghest into gear and slowly moved it towards them. He looked at the large group moving along. They were in black, but they weren't Enclave, otherwise they would have gunned for him and tried to shoot him. Which would have been a bad move.
He looked over at Dean, his rescued Enclave wonderdog. These guys might know what the fuck the FEV was. Worth asking Viktor thought to himself.
"So, what d'ya think, buddy, do we talk to 'em, or try to shoot at 'em and get our asses handed to us?" Viktor asked the dog. Then he realized that the people had noticed him, and were trying to flag him down. While he was making himself look like a lunatic by talking to a dog.
"Fire it up, Martinez!" Hannah said. Specialist Martinez powered up the Verti-bird. He manuvered it to point away from the convoy.
"Test one, now," He said, as he gave the trigger the briefest of squeezes. Four forward-mounted 7.62 Vindicator miniguns and three forward-mounted gatling lasers roared into life, then died again in an instant. "Test two, now," he said, pulling the second trigger. Two rocket launchers dry fired, so as not to waste the rare rockets. "Test three, now," as he pushed the big red button. Bomb bay style doors opened on the bottom of the bird. Eight mini-nukes would be loaded there.
Once the bird settled down again, Hannah checked the two pintle-mounted m60s in the doors. Not the cleanest job they'd done, but this bird would give them some serious aerial firepower.
"We're finished with this bird. You'll have some aerial support, this time. And if you find any stashes of strong liqour, bring all you can find. We're running low on fuel for our trucks. And Carter, if the suit still bugs you, swing by, and i'll fix it," She radioed to the soldiers getting ready to enter the city.
Holy shit! Viktor thought. V-Birds. Maybe these guys were Enclave after all. No, wrong type of armor. The Brotherhood used the same armor as these guys, or at least they did in pictures and stories. Maybe these guys were the Brotherhood, coming to help what was left of the Texas Brotherhood. God I hope so Viktor thought. If they were Enclave, he was in serious trouble.
Ranik paused as he heard the sound of a fusion motor grinding toward them. He strained his eyes to see a peculiar vehicle headed toward them. It wasn't peculiar in shape or size, it was peculiar in that it didn't immediately open fire on them upon approach. Ranik raised his hand, and kept his gun at the ready just in case. In recent times, he'd learned some degree of trust to locals, but this was an unknown man in an unknown area. Ranik didn't want to take any chances. Knight Martin and Defender Colby flanked him on either side, brandishing a minigun and AER9 respectively, while Carter, in his usual manner, seemed to just survey the scene. Ramsey stood oddly relaxed, it seemed, which to Ranik was more of a good thing. The several other Outcasts with them also kept their weapons ready. Colby punched in coordinates on her tracker, allowing for either extraction or an artillery strike, should it be needed. "Defender Wallace Ranik," he called out as the vehicle ground to a halt, "Brotherhood of Steel Outcasts. Please identify yourself, stranger." The squad tensed up in slight anticipation.
Oh, he's talking to me!Viktor thought.
"Viktor Howlett. Austin native." Viktor called as he stepped out of the Barghest. "And this here's Dean."
Viktor finished as Dean leaped out the passenger window. Some of the "Outcasts" looked at each other, seemingly surprised to see a healthy dog with all of it's hair.
"Yeah, thought he might surprise you. I have a few questions you might be able to answer." Viktor said. He really needed to revise his people skills. Four years without human contact had apparently damaged them.
(Going offline for a bit, be back later.)
Ramsey squinted at the man, he seemed just like any other Wastelander, but something was different. He seemed... familiar. He did say he was an Austin native, maybe Ramsey had seen him back when he was in that hellhole. This man, Viktor, seemed a bit off. Maybe Austin's horrors caught up with him, they sure as hell did with Ramsey. He never slept as much as the regular person, and when he did there was only nightmares, he always paranoid of his surroundings. What had that city done to him? Ramsey took a few steps toward Ranik, who was in conversation with the man. He had a few questions for this Viktor, mostly about how he was on the outside.
Ranik spoke without raising his weapon. "Fine looking pup you got there, Howlett" Ranik said. Ranik looked the man up and down. A typical wastelander. Lots of gadgets and gizmos, nothing of real technological quality. Still, Ranik, and indeed most of the Outcasts had a changed view after fighting alongside Jacob Vaughton and Roland Rockfort back in D.C. Locals could indeed be a helpful lot, providing they came across the right kind of local. Bren Tenkage was the opposite, reckless, dumb, a the type of local Ranik despised. This Viktor Howlett seemed good enough though. He hadn't shot at them. Plus, Ramsey hadn't been in Austin in years and a fresh set of eyes, ears and legs around this God-forsaken hellhole would be a huge help. "Before you ask away, I got some questions for you." Ranik was trying not to come off as rude but had to get to the point, "you answer straight and there won't be any problems with us. You a scavenger?" Ranik asked, "Local to the area? We could sure use some local help. Be warned though, there are about five hundred more of us just a couple miles out of town. Artillery, trucks, heavy weapons, Vertibirds. I don't mean to threaten, but if anything happens to us at your hands, thats what you'll answer to. And if you can help us, I'm sure we'll have a bit of something we can send your way. We're looking for two things: fuel sources, and the Brotherhood of Steel." Ranik said, extending a hand. "Also, Defender Ramsey here may have some questions if you know anything about any local families in the area. He can tell you more." Ranik nodded. "You help us with these, we'll help you with what we can, and you'll be considered a friend of the Outcasts."
"I guess you could call me a scavenger. I'm trying to find some way to smuggle people out of the Enclave-heavy areas. Fuel sources are all over the place. Just look for gas stations on what used to be the city limits, unless you mean fuel for those Enclave Whirlybirds you got there. I don't even know what those things run on, never mind where to find it. Not sure about the Brotherhood either. Used to hear stories about em when I was a kid, and rumours about em ever since. Word is, there are little isolated cells all over the city, but they won't risk showing themselves, on account of em not being able to contact each other for a concerted uprising." Viktor said. He'd just made hiself seem extra-useless. So he picked a gun from the back of the Barghest, taking the crumby looking R91 from the bottom rack.
"Enclave." He said to the dog as he put it in Dean's mouth. The dog bit down, crushing through the wood and steel components, leaving the gun a mangled mess. Viktor was looking less and less useless by the second.
Ranik looked at the dog for a second, then nodded. "Well Howlett, I can't tell you we're here for the people, other than for the Brotherhood, and what's left of Ramsey's family. We're not saviors, or divine intervention, or gods come down to crush oppression. We've been likened to all that ever since we left D.C. Truth is, we're trying to get home too. We were exiled by the Eastern Brotherhood, and now we're simply returning west to re-unite with the real Brotherhood. I know some of them are - or were - here. I can tell you we won't settle here, but we won't leave without finding the remaints of the Texas Brotherhood of Steel. Hopefully we'll be able to take them to Lost Hills with us. If you have any more info on them, it'd be appreciated. Our birds run on a fusion base. Fuel works too, but to be most efficient we need fusion power. I know that most ground vehicles run on it, because we have many trucks that do, but our birds are low, and we won't abandon them here. Austin is a big city. I'm sure there's fusion cells somewhere." Ranik looked at Howlett's Barghest. "How does that thing run?"
"Its a refitted HUMV. I repaired the fusion core with the functioning parts from other cars. Got the how-to off of a terminal in a service garage not too far from here. It took almost a year and so many RadAways I probably sweat the stuff now. Sorry, babbled a bit there, didn't I? You can get fusion cells from most vehicles around here, especially the vintages. Hell, there was a vintage auto show in a warehouse about a mile from here as the crow flies. On foot, going around rubble and Enclave camps makes it about four." Viktor said, pointing in the direction of the warehouse.
Not saviours, just here to find the Texas Brtherhood. Viktor could understand that. And Ramsey, he'd heard that name before. One of the most prominent, if not the biggest, scavver families in Austin. One of them even made a break-out a few years back. After what Ranik here said, he was probably one of the assembled Outcasts here. Viktor would have to somehow find a way to bring the Brotherhood's objectives in line with his own, or to bring his own in line with the Brotherhood's. Otherwise, he'd have to go back to doing things the way he'd already been doing them, and might as well have never met these tin-can wearing, laser weilding, jalopy flying cowboys.
I guess we'll see how this all plays out Ranik thought to himself. This Howlett guy seemed legit enough. He was a scaver. Ranik probably liked scavers the best out of all the different "types" of wastelander they'd come across. Rockfort back in D.C seemed like an alright fella. Vaughton was an honorary Outcast now, so Ranik no longer considered him a "wastelander." Scavers had most in common with the Outcasts. While not overly tech-savvy, though this guy seemed to be a head above most, scavvers have an amazing nack at finding all sorts of useful gadgets and gizmos out in the wastes. Ranik couldn't count the number of AEP7's and AER9's brought back by scavers in D.C. These were by no means rare, but they were laser weapons, and laser weapons always have a use in the wastes. Sometimes they'd bring back even more rare items like salvaged T-45x Power Armor. One man even managed to recover a pistol of extraterrestrial origin. Casdin held tightly to that. "Well Howlett," Ranik started, "if you know your way around Austin, we'd be glad to have your help." Howlett seemed to consider it for a moment. His answer was cut off by a commotion among the Outcasts. Several had started firing their AER9's and a group of figures rushing towards them. Ranik turned and lifted his Combat Shotgun, rattling off a few shots that didn't do much noticable damage. He heard Ramsey gasp just before Knight Martin's minigun spooled up and drowned out therest of the noise with a spray of 5mm ammo. Ranik took quick note of the skittering motions the figures moved with before the last one dropped. Ranik kept his shotgun ready and approached the nearest one, being flanked by Carter and Ramsey. Ranik was horrified at what layed in front of him. It had once been human, but the legs and arms had een replaced with blades. What sickened Ranik most was the head and face. Now hung on by just a single metal piece, there was a gaping hole where the neck should've been. The skin on the face was nothing but scar tissue pulled tightly back over the skull. It's eyes were narrow slits and mouth was covered with a leather strap. The nose was just a hole in the front of the skull. It wore flimsy leather armor and Ranik noticed a symbol on the right shoulder pad. A circle of stars surrounding an E. It was some type of Enclave soldier? Ranik turned as Howlett approached the group again. "What the hell are these things?"
"Bioslodiers. Nasty business alltogether. Ex-human freaks that can cut your head off faster than you can think. Meaner, faster and spikier than any living creature has a right to be." Howlett said. "The Austin Enclave's favourite new pets."
Dean (the dog) growled at the sight of the Biosoldiers. The dog could clearly smell the Enclave on these things. So the regional command had got wind of the Outcasts. That would make life a lot harder. Howlett shook his head at the sight of the dead monstrosities. They used to be someone's friend, or family. The Enclave had no right to do this to them. No right at all.
So the Enclave were "re-purposing" Wastelanders with their technology and using them as soldiers. That was either one of the the most ingenius or horrifying things Carter had ever thought of. Probably both. "Interesting. How long have they been producing these soldiers? And how many are there?" Carter inquired, reloading his shotgun as he spoke.
"Too long and too many." Viktor said, looking down at the carcases. With a disgusted look on his face, he began to shift them off the road, piling them on the pavement. He poured vodka over the bodies and lit them up, throwing a few ECP's in on top so as to burn the bones and melt the edges off their metal components.
Viktor looked at the men around him. He had done it for no good reason other than hiding the bodies, and the smoke from those flames may well attract more. That was Viktor's plan.
"Lets go. Ranik, Ramsey, and Carter, is it? You all hop into the Barghest. The rest of you, hop on that trailer over there, yep, the one with the busted protecron in it. good, now take the brake off, and I'll get the Barghest hooked up to it. Then, we hightail it outta here." Viktor said, jogging over to the Barghest as he finished. Once the Outcasts got over the initial shock of being ordered around by a local, they went about their given tasks with respectable pace, and even helped guide Viktor into place with the Barghest's towbar.
"Lets roll people." Viktor said, putting the Barghest into High Gear Ratio, slamming it into first and taking off as fast as first gear and a trailer would allow. He was in third by the time the first corner came, and didn't bother changing down. He just roared to the men in the trailer to hang on as it swung out around the bend. Ranik looked like he was about to be sick.
If Vaughton and Rockfort weren't strange enough, this Wastelander could operate an automobile, quite effectively at that, which was one of many reasons that Viktor baffled Carter. That fact, and his trusty super-mutt, were most perplexing indeed. "This is quite a vehicle," Carter commented at his usual, level tone, but apparently Viktor didn't hear him over the sound of the engine and the tyres. So he raised his voice a bit. "Where exactly are we going, Mr. Howlett?"
"You said the Whirlybirds needed fuel, so we're takin the scenic, i.e. Enclave free route to the warehouse with the old cars in it. There should be enough old-ass fusion cells in there to run your birds. You'll need a lot more than the modern ones, but these cells are the only ones in the outer city big enough to fit in a Whirly's engine. I saw the cell container of a crashed bird not too long ago, so if yours are the same model, the connections should be fine." Viktor shouted over the roar of the engine.
"Oh, and what the hell is the FEV? Dean here was injected with the stuff by the Enclave, or so the computer attached to the cage I found him in says." Viktor added. If he was no longer used to these people at some point, at least he'd know what the Enclave did to Dean. "And, by the look on Ranik's face, I'm guessing you think I learned to drive from books and more than enough trial and error. If you're thinking that, you're dead right. If you need to puke, please use the windows provided."
Ranik hung on to a side bar in the Barghest, occasionally glancing back to make sure none of his squad mates were flying out of the trailer. Howlett was taking them deeper into the city of Austin it seemed. Ranik was used to riding in the slower moving trucks in the Outcast convoy or the Vertibirds. His head bobbled about in his helmet as the Barghest bounced through the streets. Even the swooping and climbing of the VTOL's was more smooth than this. Ranik didn't ask questions though. He figured there was probably a good reason that they were cliipping along so quickly. Especially with those Enclave bastards and their "Biosoldiers" roaming around. Howlett had disposed of the bodies of the several that they had encountered quite nicely, albeit very obviously. Ranik had radioed in the situation before they departed with Howlett and gotten acknowledgement from Knight-Captain Jackson that all Outcast forces would be setting up defensive positions with the artillery farther out of town. Any attack that went toward them would be well defended. However, the distance meant a ground extraction would be nearly impossible, should things go wrong with Howlett, though, from what he was gathering, Ranik could see this man shaping up to be a better ally than anticipated. The most likely way out to safety would be by Vertibird. Ranik knew that Enforcer Vain had been left in charge of the Vertibird squads in his absence, and if they requested it, she'd be inbound in less than 5 minutes. We'll see if those Enclave freaks can stand up to the Outcast MR-6. Ranik smiled to himself inside his helmet. The ride seemed to be a bit smoother now that he wasn't thinking about it so much.
Carter nodded as Ranik spoke, smirking to himself as he imagined Sam tearing apart a horde of these Biosoldiers. He would have said something relevant, but he was more interested in this Wastelander's dog. "FEV stands for Forced Evolutionary Virus, but it's not really a disease, despite the name. No, it was intended to cause drastic changes in a creature's physiology and cognitive ability, but the actual effects can vary. Usually you get turned into a big green brute with the strength of five men and mental capacity of a Mutfruit upon prolonged exposure. If it's given in controlled doses, however, it can produce more "refined" effects, so to speak, which is what I imagine was the case with your dog." Carter explained. A few seconds after he'd spoken, though, it occured to him that it was probably gibberish to a Wastelander. Still, he did ask.
Hannah had just finished loading the mini-nuke bomb chamber with Specialist Martinez. A spray of rocks and dust kicked up from behind the Barghest as it peeled out. The gravel kicking up merely annoyed Hannah as she did a final check of the bomb bay. Enforcer Vain jumped into the bird, and said "Follow them."
Hannah looked around quickly, and seeing no other outcasts nearby, quickly climbed into the cockpit, next to Specialist Martinez. Hannah mentally oriented herself to the cockpit. Sure, it looked just like the Tranquility simulations, but there weren't any failsafes on this bird. She gulped, and brought the bird off the ground. By now, the Barghest had a significant lead. Hannah pushed the bird, manuvering roughly, but she caught up. Enforcer Vain and Specialist Martinez were manning the m60s in the doors. While Samantha was unfazed by the manuvers, Martinez was looking quite sick. eventually, Hannah smoothed out, and was able to hold position fairly well above, and behind, the Barghest.
Ramsey observed Viktor's features. Yes, Ramsey had seen this man before, back when he was living in Austin. He remembered the man somewhat well, he was from an Irish family that moved into Austin at the wrong time and got stuck in the Cataclysm. How he got out, Ramsey didn't know. The last he heard of the fellow Austinite was that he was killed in a poor assault on an Enclave camp. Nobody really knew what caused it, all Ramsey knew was that each member of Viktor's family was hunted down and killed by Biosoldiers. He shook his head at that thought, he cursed the Enclave's damned methods. Ramsey looked around at his fellow Brothers riding with this back-from-the-dead Austinite. He turned to Viktor after he and Carter finished a conversation.
"Viktor, this could be a strange thing to ask but," Ramsey paused for a moment, looking for the right words, "Aren't you suppose to be dead?" Viktor gave Ramsey a confused look, like he had no idea what he was talking about. Ramsey explained further, "Before I escaped with the Brotherhood, it was said that you, and your family, were killed by Enclave."
Ramsey waited for an answer, and with a quick glace around him, so did everybody else.
"The Enclave probably didn't want a manhunt outside the walls, so they just said I was dead. Me and Dean here, we broke out through one of those old defunct crossing points and got the hell outta that deathtrap city. Ever since, I've been trying to find my way back in so I can get more people out." Viktor said to Ramsey. He definitely knew that voice. Another boy, two yearsolder than himself. Jayden or something was his name. No, not that long.
"Jay Ramsey. Jay P. Ramsey! How the hell have you been man?" Viktor shouted over the noise of the engine as he swung the Barghest around another corner.
Ranik looked around as they continued to cruise through the streets. Apparently this Howlett fella and Ramsey knew each other. That made Ranik feel a whole lot better about the whole situation. Ranik turned to make sure all of his Outcasts were still in the trailer. They were indeed there. "Hold on!" yelled Howlett as he gunned the engine. Ahead of them, Ranik could see two more of those hideous Biosoldiers. The first turned in time to be run down, but the second jumped up onto the hood. Ranik leaned out the window as the thing tried to gain stablity. It swung one blade and Ranik ducked his head back inside. He stuck his Combat Shotgun out the window and listened to the men in the trailer. They were firing at a third one that had appeared alongside them. The one on the hood swung down onto the speeding Barghest, but tumbled to the ground dead as he was greeted with a shotgun blast from Ranik. Ranik watched the last one drop and finally tumble to a halt before fading away into the distance. "Whoo," Ranik said in relief. The group continued on toward the auto district in hopes of finding some fusion cores for the Vertibirds.
The boat's horn tooted again, and now the full shape of the craft could be seen steadily slowing down. The steam whistle lost pitch until it completely stopped, and then the ship sat dead in the water, smoke pouring from every orifice.
A few figures, too distant to be identified, bailed out from the ship's deck and started making their way towards the small group.
"Goddamn! I knew I should have put a snowplough on the bumper and not another stupid winch!" Viktor grumbled as he turned on the wipers to get Biosoldier bits off the windscreen.
He heard a strange noise coming from the direction of the river. What the hell was that. Never having heard a steam whistle before, he turned to Ranik.
"What the hell was that noise just there?" Viktor called, the engine almost drowning out his voice.
Ranik turned his head, trying to find the source of the noise. "Sounded like some kind of whistle," he yelled to Howlett. Ranik scanned the city scenery, something catching his eye. Something big. "What is that?" he said, pointing to the river. A massive shape had appeared, billowing smoke came from it's stacks and it let out a third long whistle. "Eyes sharp," Ranik yelled to the Outcasts. Howlett brought the Barghest in close to the river and Ranik could see several men walking towards them. One man looked very familiar. Very familiar indeed. "Well I'll be damned," Ranik said, astonished.
Roland trotted up to the group after a few minutes, holding a .44 magnum in his right hand. Giving the group a head-tilted observation, after a few seconds a smile expanded right across the front of his face.
"Defender Ranik," Roland said calmly, "It seems fate always manages to drag me along to one of my acquaintances from Independence." He extended his cybernetic arm to the man in hopes of a handshake. "Good to see you again."
"So it does, Roland Rockfort." Ranik nodded, shaking his ally's hand. Despite being a waster, Ranik did feel better seeing a friendly face. Rockfort had been a stalwart ally at Fairfax, after all, and there was indeed much more to this man than met the eye. "Scaving in Austin now?" Ranik said, "anything useful?" Ranik was genuinely happy to see Rockfort. The Outcasts never forget their allies. Plus, Rockfort really did have an eye for tech. Hopefully he'd help uncover some technological gems as long as they were here, not to mention being another gun to help find Ramsey's family and/or the survivors of the Brotherhood of Steel here. "Well, nice to see such a re-union," Howlett said, interrupting, "we gotta be gettin' to them fusion cells." Raniknodded and climbed back into the Barghest. "You're welcome to join us, Rockfort," he offered.
"Plenty o' room in the trailer. Or, you can ride in the trunk if you don't mind a gun rack in yer ass." Howlett joked. He wasn't really good with the humour, having rarely spoken to another human being in the past four, maybe five years. Dean wasn't great for trying out conversation on. Howlett could have called him every foul name under the sun and Dean still would have stood there panting and wagging his tail if Viktor had said it with a smile on his face.
Ranik and the others seemed to know this Rockfort guy, and they all seemed to like him, and considering they had power armor and big guns, Viktor wasn't about to disagree with them and tell Rockfort to find his own damn way to that warehouse. Once everyone was in the trailer, and the tailgate was up again, Viktor set off in the direction of those fusion cores. He wanted to seem helpful. After all, these were the only people who could help him get people out of Austin. All Viktor had to do was make sure that he could wriggle his own objective in alongside the Outcasts.
Fireman0504 If the Barghest already has a turret on top I apologize
"Howlett!" Ranik yelled over the engine, "you ever think of mounting a turret on this thing?" Howlett looked at Ranik, then the road, then Ranik. "Yeah I have," he said, "but who would fire it? Dean here has no thumbs!" Ranik nodded acknowledging. "How about an automated one?" Ranik said. "Howlett looked at him. "Now where in the fuck would I get one of those?" he laughed. "We got some," Ranik said, "we shouldn't need them when we get to Lost Hills. We could outfit this thing with a couple MkI turrets. They'll track targets for you. We get the fusion cores and get back and I'll have the Specialists look into it," Ranik said, "it shouldn't be too difficult." Howlett nodded at Ranik's offer. "At least it should give you some punch against these Biosoldiers," Ranik said, noting that they weren't particularly heavy armored. "Bet we could soup up that trailer too, make it a regular weapons platform," Ranik wnted to repay this man for helping them through Austin Not only that, but he was a friend of Ramsey, so Ranik, in turn was a friend to him. Casdin and Jackson and the rest would understand. Gavin especially, as he was a soldier who came here with Ramsey. After seeing what the Enclave was doing here, he wanted to offer at least something to them.
Roland looked around the interior of the Barghest and took in the feeling of being able to sit and feel the inertia of a moving vehicle beneath him. He hated being stationary, and as such decided to keep moving after this escapade was over. All he would have to do was-
"D'oh!" Roland smacked himself in the forehead with his non-cybernetic arm, reached out and tapped Viktor on the shoulder. "Hey guy," He asked calmly, "You know anywhere I could find a steam gauge assembly?"
Ranik stepped out of the Barghest as it finally came to a stop in front of a large abandoned factory. "This is it," Howlett said. "Everyone down. Eyes sharp. Let's get some gas," Ranik said. With that, the Outcasts disembarked from the trailer and started towards the door. Ranik didn't like the look of this place. It reminded him of somewhere else he'd been. It reminded him of entering the warehouse during The Scourge. He looked down at his leg and unclipped his Combat Shotgun. Not this time' he thought, as he walked toward the door. The rest of the Outcasts, and Rockfort and Howlett followed closely.
Click clik click click click... Click. Roland waas the last one of the group to retrieve his gun from the myriad folds of jacket that were currently shrouding his form. To his surprise, he actually pulled a pair of .357 Magnum pistols, 'exotic' kit that he almost never used due to the scarcity of its ammunition and the apparent lack of replacement parts around the area. Nevertheless, the trader appreciated their power when he was in a tight spot, and it probably wouldn't be the first time he had used them in a tight spot either. He made sure that his combat chestplate was securely attached to his chest and lowered his biker goggles into place. Things are gonna get bloody soon... The trader shivered at the thought of what he was going to go through in that warehouse. He'd heard rumors about the Enclave Biosoldiers and their bloody grafts- swords for limbs and detatched heads, beasts that feel no pain and can bend their limbs at will. It would be... Creepy.
"Ranik... We're gonna be alright, right?" The trader asked as he cocked his .357 pistola and followed the group into the warehouse.
"We'll be fine. Unless we die, of course." Viktor said as he walked past Rockfort, shotgun over his shoulder, hound at his side.
Viktor looked in the door of the warehouse, scanning the area, looking at Dean to see if the dog smelled anything. The dog just looked up at him with it's usual dopey expression. No Biosoldiers. But then, the monstrosities were fast enough not to be there one minute, and be impaling you the next. He scratched his head and walked through, looking around for pickups. They'd have bigger cells, more likely to be useful to the Outcasts. He led them around the sportscars, with one of the Outcasts stopping to admire one of the German ones.
"Over there. The Dodge or the GMC. The Chryslus has a big enough cell, but it won't last." Viktor said.
Hannah had gotten pretty good at flying a real bird. She pulled a lazy turn around the building, scanning for any trouble on the ground. The area looked as clear as any ruined suburb could. The bird slowed at a corner of the roof just long enough for Samantha to jump out. Hannah set the Vert-bird down near the Barghest, with the mounted guns covering the warehouse's door. Hannah looked back to Specialist Martinez, and gave him the "Go on" head nod. Specialist Martinez went pale, then regained his color, and hurried to follow the soldiers into the building.
"Enforcer on the roof, Specialist behind you, in case you run into any tech issues," Hannah radioed to the soldiers entering the building. She flicked a switch, and the doors of the bird closed.
Specialist Martinez caught up with the tail end of the group of soldiers. He looked like a kid in his dad's clothing, the way the combat armor engulfed him. He unholstered a 19mm pistol, and awaited instructions.
Carter nodded as he heard Hamilton's voice over the radio. He aimed his shotgun around, peering at one wall for a moment then rapidly spinning one hundred and eighty degrees and examining the next, taking a few steps aside then repeating the process like it was some sort of strictly-routined dance. The rest of the Outcasts were considerably more relaxed, and probably would've told him there was nothing to worry about if they didn't know that their insistence would go unheeded. After seeing how those Biosoldiers could appear seemingly out of nowhere, Carter wasn't letting his guard down.
Ranik scanned slowly and carefully from side to side. He wasn't letting his guard down in the least. Ranik knew full well the terrors that lurked in the dark corners of these buildings. He knew even better what would happen to a soldier who didn't respect this knowledge. Specialist Martinez and Knight Martin walked ahead of him. Knight Martin stood by while the Specialist pulled the fusion core out of a large truck. Suddenly, Dean started growling and the group tightened up. Just as this happened, Ranik caught a scittering motion out of the corner of his eye. A dozen metalic clicks and the Outcasts stood ready to fight. The problem was just where their enemy was exactly.
Carter froze as he heard noise, then instinctively looked up. Nothing. Then he began scanning the room for any sign of Biosoldiers. He looked for any ventilation shafts (because things always climbed through ventilation shafts, of course), broken windows, or anything that would show where their enemies were or at least where they might have came from. If that dog would stop growling, it would probably have been a lot easier to isolate the source of the noise and drop the ugly bastards before they got close, but that wasn't going to happen and he wasn't going to argue with Super-Mutt. He let out something which was half-way between a groan and a sigh as he lit up the flashlight at the top of his helmet to illuminate wherever he was looking. The rest of the Outcasts in T-4x followed his example.
Samantha jumped off the Vertibird once it was close enough to the roof, and she went to the one staircase that was on the roof, and almost immediately two biosoldiers jumped her from the stairs (just mentioning she changed her loadout when she got on the VTOL, she now has a Combat shotgun and a ripper. Hehe.). She blasted the first one with her combat shotgun, at least 3 times before the second one started to tear at her MR-6 armor. Once the first one was dead she kicked the second and took out her ripper and tore at the things claws, taking off one of its hands, she then took off its head with her shotgun. Then she proceeded to the staircase and made it to the 3rd floor. (gonna wait until next post to continue)
Carter immediately took off towards the stairs as he heard gunfire on the upper levels. He didn't bother to check who, if anyone, was following him, merely hurrying up the steps as fast as his Power Armor could carry him. As he turned a corner, one of the things leapt at him. Unfortunately for that particular Biosoldier, the leather-clad monstrosity had, in fact, jumped into the path of several helpings of buckshot, which sent it flying in the opposite direction. Carter glanced around for any more, then continued. Either somebody else was on the top floor or Enforcer Vain was in trouble.
Samantha continued down the stairs until she made it to the 3rd floor, where she saw the most horrible thing anybody could imagine (Valic, is it ok if this is one of the "breeding grounds"?). It was a breeding ground for these biosoldiers, bodies, lifeless, having limbs being replaced with metal by robotics, and finally the brain replaced by some sort of computer. Horrible. There were a couple dozen of them on this floor, most of them headed downstairs well some stayed up, and Sam decided to stay in the shadows to not alert the things.
Ranik was listening to the commotion upstairs but trying to maintain order within his squad. Carter had taken off to assist Enforcer Vain, who was coming from the roof. All now had their helmet mounted lights on and were moving in the direction of Carter. "I wish I'd brought a flamer instead of this," Knight Martin grumbled. Ranik took point himself. The followed a few bodies to where Carter was crouched. He waved to Ranik to get low and Ranik approached him. They peeked around the corner of a doorway to see the "Breeding Grounds" Ramsey had talked about. Here, sedated locals were being surgically altered to become Biosoldiers. "We gotta shut this shit down," said Ranik. Carter nodded. "Shit," Ranik said, noticing a large figure sneaking around, "Sam's in there!"
Carter was still slightly in horrified awe of the sight of the Breeding Grounds. It was unlike anything he'd ever seen. The Biosoldiers themselves were freaky enough, but this was something else... Carter nodded at Ranik. "How many Pulse grenades do we have?" He asked, searching through his own supply satchel for any of the anti-electronics weapons. "That's the best way I can think of to disable these machines. Hope Sam's smart enough to stay clear of the blast." It then occured to him that the amputees were probably being kept alive by the same machines. He sighed and procured a Pulse grenade, glancing back at the other Outcasts.
Ranik armed a pulse grenade. "Necessary losses," he said quietly, "life as they know it has been taken from them anyway." Other Outcasts were arming their pulse grenades as well. Carter gave the signal and they tossed their grenades in. Ranik watched Sam duck and cover as she narrowly avoided the blast .The shockwaves stopped the machines dead. Unfortunately, several pods began opening, and emerging from them were Biosoldiers. "Martin!" Ranik whispered, "front and center. Light those fucks up!" Ranik heard a whine as Martin's minigun spooled up and stepped up to fire as well, as did the other Outcasts, at the newly emerged Biosoldiers.
Samantha sat crouched behind one of the tables reloading her Combat shotgun before revving her ripper, before she taped the ripper to the shotgun, Not the most original design, but it will have to do she thought. She then jumped over the table and immediately embedded the rippers saw into a fleshy part of a biosoldier, then shooting the shotgun, with the ripper still embedded, at the thing, Easy way to kill them, she thought. She was then caught off guard by one behind her, this one was stranger then the rest, instead of blades, it had chainsaws. It sliced and scratched Sam's armor, before she wedged the ripper into what was left of it's skull, and finishing it off with a buckshot. Then more of the chainsaw wielders came out of a room to the left.
Ramsey spun around the plywood wall, barley dodging the menacing blades of the Biosoldiers. He should have guessed it sooner, this was a breeding ground. He had seen these in other abandoned buildings around Austin, but now it seemed they were spreading out. By the looks of it, these Biosoldiers are looking for more captives, that only meant one thing. Austin's population had dropper severely. A sudden chill ran up his spine as he heard the creature "purr" above him, it was on the ceiling. Ramsey rolled to the floor, again just dodging a killing blow. Almost instinctively, Ramsey kicked the demon across the "face" and rolled to his feet. The Biosoldier, slightly dazed from the kick, received a hole through the main circuitry implanted within it's once-human skull. Blood, bone fragments, and electronic material littered the ground. Ramsey reloaded his Sniper Rifle and turned back towards the oncoming beasts, all 18 years of surviving against these bastards kicked in. One of them, already bleeding from a wound in the midsection, charged Ramsey. The Outcast, now in more of a trance than actual consciousness, defected the rusted blade with his steel armor around his wrist. With his other hand came his rifle's butt swinging, smashing most of the metallic skeleton. The creature hissed and lost his balance, falling over. Ramsey finished the job by executing the squealing beast with a clean slice through the skull with his Machete.
Ramsey ran to Carter's side, watching him transform Biosoldiers into guts and bone. He saw the second wave of them enter the room, this time sporting chainsaws instead of simple blades. I see the good American Enclave have preformed a few upgrades, great, Ramsey scuffed as he thought, Just fucking great.
Viktor snarled wordlessly as he performed his tried and tested killing technique on these things. A gun stock to the skull, a boot to the chest, and some buckshot generously applied to the cranium. Of course, the first two parts to that formula took him dangerously close to the Biosoldier's beweaponed extremeties, but if it worked, it was worth doing. Viktor looked to the right, firing his shotgun into the next Bisoldier's midriff, the spread of buckshot blowing a hole the size of a human head through it. Viktor had never been happier that he drilled the choke out of the barrel. Sacrificed about half a dozen yards of effective range, but at the right distance, it could just about bisect a Biosoldier if fired into the breadbasket. And that was always fune to watch.
Dean, on the other hand, lacking hands with which to use a weapon, bit deep into the fleshy part of a Biosoldier's leg and rolled over, shredding the meaty bits, and grinding the bones between his impossibly strong teeth. Then, as the Biosoldier fell, he let go and latched onto its head, crushing it like an egg. A crunchy, electical-circuitry-loaded egg. Then, typically, the mutt looked around to check if anyone had been watching his amazing display. Viktor scratched Dean behind the ears, and moved up with the Outcasts. No way in hell he was getting left behind in this charnel house.
Ranik followed closely behin Knight Martin. Martin sprayed the room with 5mm bullets, cutting down a Biosoldier and destroying some of the machinery producing these atrocities. Another reared up before Martin could turn to his right. It tumbled backwards as Ranik pumped about four rounds of buckshot into it's face an upper extremities. Martin nodded in thanks. Ranik looked behind him to ensure that Roland and Viktor were keeping up. Defender Colby paused to wait for them and was tackled by a Biosoldier. "Colby!" Ranik shouted, turning back to aid his comrade. Just as it raised it's arm for the killing blow, the Biosoldier was in turn tackled by Dean. The dog shook and ripped until the Biosoldier's head came free of the metal fastenings. Ranik helped Colby to her feet before patting Dean on the head. "He really is a good pup," Ranik said to Howlett.
Roland sprinted for the rest of the group, having become stranded behind a wrecked Corvega. Observers would notice that there was a makeshift leather-and-foam neckbrace around his neck. Observers would also notice what was now a flaming wreck of a Corvega and several dead Biosoldiers. "What the fuck are those things?" Roland shouted, reaching out with his robotic arm and punching one of the Biosoldiers right in the head. "I know they're Biosoldiers and all, but these're abominations of nature! How could the Enclave keep on making these things?!"
Specialist Martinez cowered in the truck when the monsters attacked. Soon enough, the fighting stopped, and things quieted back down. The instant Specialist Martinez decided it was over, one last beast vaulted into the cab with him. Specialist Martinez panicked.
BANG. BANG. BANG. click. click. click.
A bloodied beast lay dead atop Martinez. Martinez had gotten a bad slice on his torso. Though the combat armor stopped a lot of it, he was still bleeding from a long cut across his belly.
Ranik hauled the Biosoldier's body off of the Specialist. He then looked into the cab to see where blood was begining to pool on the floorboards. "Here," Ranik said, jabbing a Stimpak into Martinez. Ranik examined the wound quickly. "The stimpak will clot the blood quickly and it should scab over. It'll also help with pain. Can you walk?" Ranik helped the Specialist to his feet. "Stick close to Martin," he said, "we need your expertise removing these fusion cells." Ranik walked over to Defender Colby, who was talking to Viktor Howlett about Dean, who'd basically just saved her life. "Shall we get our goods and get out?" Ranik said to the two, before opening the hood of a truck.
Viktor disconnected the terminals on the power cell and helped Martinez heft the heavy power cell out of the truck. Then he moved around to where the more militant Outcasts were standing, his shotgun ready. Dean came bounding up next to him, always on the lookout for more Biosoldiers. That Enforcer Vain girl was standing over to his left in that hulking suit of power armor. That suit looked like it could take a minigun drum without breaking stride. Viktor wondered what the chances of getting his hands on it were. Slim to nil, looking at the weapons these guys were packing. Combat shotguns with rippers stuck to the side, laser rifles, plasma pistols. They were like the Enclave on steroids! Viktor was never happier that they were on his side as a group of standard Enclave soldiers stuck their heads in the door to see who had set off the alarms in the breeding room.
"Stop right there!" Ranik heard a voice yell. Ranik, through all his years, had learned when a voice said to 'stop right there' it usually meant harm and typically that harm only came if a person actually stopped right there. He turned with his shotgun and fired, staggering the first Enclave trooper before catching a laser blast to the shoulder that floored him. He looked up in time to hear Knight Martin's minigun spool up and spit fire across the second and third Enclave soldiers and down the across the wall in case any men were in the corridor. He heard several screams and the thud of slumping bodies in the hallway. Viktor Howlett and Roland Rockfort both had fired on the man Ranik staggered, putting him down. "Have some juice and get back in the fight!" Ranik's Medic Armor said. The shock of the hit dulled and left as Colby helped Ranik to his feet. Ramsey dispatched a wounded Enclave soldier. "Forgive me, Father," he said aloud. Specialist Martinez was on top of them like a hyena on a carcass, salvaging anything he could of their weapons and armor, Carter and Samantha Vain helping him out. Specialist Hamilton would have a nice supply of tech and fusion cells to take back to camp. Ranik turned to Howlett. "Do you know of any more Enclave patrols that may be in the area? Or surveillance on the building. I don't want them to get the jump on us again. That turned out much better than it could've," Ranik said, rotating his arm to work out the pain.
"No idea. I only found out that these places set off alarms in the camps right now." Viktor said. The alarm probably only went off because they turned off the life support on the meatsacks, or whatever those things they turned people into.
Viktor looked around the factory. There would be more soldiers showing up, but this city block would be clean of Biosoldiers for an hour or so, now that the local breeding nest had been taken apart. Viktor scratched Dean behind the ears. The dog was lethal in a melee, which, oddly enough, made him more dangerous to Biosoldiers, while a comparatively small threat to standard gun-toting grunts. Viktor then took the time to restock his shotgun with shells, pulling shells from his belt and slipping them into the gun one by one, in quick, fluid movements.
He looked up as he saw the Outcasts looking at him. He shrugged as one of them repeated his question about the other patrols in the area. Then he pointed towards the south door of the wawrehouse.
"I cleared out that camp about threedays ago. Less likely to be attacked from that direction, but if we do get jumped, it'll be by heavily armed soldiers escorted by Biosoldiers, which will probably have an Alpha Male or a Den Watcher in their ranks." Viktor said. He had taken the useful parts from a long internal monologue that included quotes and at one point, a roleplay. He had to get used to voicing his thoughts out loud again.
"Ok," Ranik nodded, "Lets get the tech and fusion cores loaded onto the Vertibird on the roof so Hamilton can get it out of here." Hamilton had been circling at high altitude and was probably low on fuel. One of the Fusion Croes could go into her Bird. Ranik sent Defender Colby to the roof to signal to Hamilton. "Then we'll load back up and get out of here by ground," Ranik finished. Immediately the group got to work, recovering anything valuable and loading it into Hamilton's waiting Vertbird. Power cells, Enclave Armor and weapons, absolutely everything. Ranik paused to give Roland some steam gauge assemblies. They had to move quick, stripping everything before the Enclave arrived with more men and Biosoldiers. Then Ranik got an idea. "Howlett, do you have any demo charges by chance?"
"I take your demo charges and raise you five cases of thermite. I was saving these for a rainy day, but right now, it's pouring." Viktor said, handing Ranik half of his thermite stash, contained in sealed lockboxes. Each one had enough thermite to melt a pack of Biosoldiers to chunky soup, or leave Tesla Armor nothing but some charred chips of ceramic and steel.
Viktor poured some thermite onto thr ground and ignited it, burning a nice little hole through the asphalt on the car park. Ranik raised his eyebrows. This was potent stuff. Viktor seemed surprised. This stuff produced more heat than the last lot he'd used. He scratched his head, slightly worried now. He was carrying five cases of this stuff underneath some gun racks inside a goddamned HUMV! That probably broke every Pre-War Health and Safety Regulation ever written for the transport of dangerous materials. Viktor didn't want to think how badly his last few crashes could have gone if he hadn't packed that stuff so carefully.
"What I'm thinking, is we rig up a few of these bad boys with some sensor modules and an ignition source. Those Enclave bastards and their little Bio-buddies will come in here all unaware to find that, not only their little horror making machine is broke, but they've triggered some carefully placed devices, meant to bring about their demise. Of course, by the time they realize it, they'll be watching from whatever hell they end up in. How's that sound?" Ranik said, "can it be done?"
Jackson yawned as he drank some whiskey. Downing the contents easily enough, he threw the bottle to the side, bit down on some crusade rations, and spat back out the vulgar contents after chewing through them slightly. He motioned for O'Haire. "Any word from Ranik yet?" Jackson said. "No, sir. Him and the laddies are still doing their recon run." O'Haire said. Jackson nodded, sighed, and stepped towards the VTOL makeshift landing pads. The VTOLs hadn't been re-painted yet, and had maintained both the standard black and green colors, and the camouflage variant, the signature pattern of the Crusade's Airborne. Jackson put his hand down on the hull of one, and leaned for alittle. It was too damn hot for combat or anything else anyhow.
"With liberal application of explosives, Ranik," Roland said as he took a few meditatively-deep breaths and pushed the thought of even more Biosoldiers to the back of his mind, "Anything is possible. Short of flying without gliders or Vertibirds, or diving into the Earth's core, or... You get my point." He reloaded his .357 pistols and placed the two guns back into his pockets before he took out a switchblade and set about salvaging pipes and connecting joints from each part of the Cars he came across. The Steam Gauge assemblies Ranik had salvaged for him were part of what he needed to repair the Gray Lady, but he needed the new pipes to weld in and replace the old ones.
"So where to next, then?" He asked kindly, looking around the remains of the bloodbath. "I could use some more piping, but again, the decision is you guys', I'm just along for the ride."
Ramsey stared at the dystopian Austin skyline, observing each spotlight, building, and wall he could. He got a good view from the top of the building they had just cleared. If the Frost Bank is right there, just east of the Capitol, then New Austin would be just a little further west of it, meaning the Union HQ would be somewhere 1 1/2 miles north of it... Ramsey's mind raced as he tried to locate places he had not seen in the past 11 years, That would mean, if it had not been overrun, Jen and Aaron would still be there. A small smile formed under his worn armor, little by little, hope was returning to him. They had just taken out an entire Breeding Nest with little casualties, and this was only a fraction of their force. They could beat this, Ramsey knew it. He saw it now, a free Austin. He had read much about it in texts from before 2156, before the Cataclysm. For once in his life, Ramsey could live in peace with what remains of his family, he wouldn't have to constantly fight off the menacing Enclave or their nightmarish creations. He would finally be happy.
"Ramsey! Come on, we're blowing this shithole!" The voice came from the bottom of the staircase, it belonged to Ranik. Ramsey admired the man's spirit in this matter, he was always right onto the mission, no matter what. Ramsey often wondered if the man had a family, Ramsey had never asked him. He decided not to ask, the answers may not be something Ranik desired to remember. Ramsey drew one last glance at Austin's skyline, and then returned to the vehicle outside.
Ranik got on the comm system as the Barghest carrened toward a place Ramsey called "the Union HQ." Apparently they'd be safe there for the night. In the meantime, Ranik had gotten through on the comm to the Oucast camp through a secure channel. "This is Defender Wallace Ranik of the Outcast Bravo Patrol. We are calling in a status check coded 1265937, acknowledge." "Receiving code 7395621. Go ahead with status, Brother," the voice crackled back. "Tell Knight-Captain Jackson we've sent him tech and fuel via Vertibird piloted by Specialist Hannah Hamilton. The area is heavily populated with Enclave and we are making camp for tonight with a local organization to which Defender Ramsey belongs, known as The Union. I will be in contact tomorrow, and with assistance, we will continue attempts to link up with any Brotherhood of Steel patrols still here and to recover more fuel. Also, tell Jackson that Roland Rockfort sends his regards and well-wishes." Ranik finished. "Received Bravo Patrol, acknowledging and relaying message to Knight-Captain Jackson. Rest well tonight and may Steel be with you. Outcast command out." Ranik closed the link down for the night and watched carefully as two guards approached at some kind of checkpoint. Apparently they were entering Union territory.
Richard Mangus readied his Ak-47 as he watched this vehicle full of soldiers approach their checkpoint. "Yo Devin, who the fuck are these guys?" His companion squinted his eyes at the jeep. He emitted a small gasp and turned towards Mangus, "Rich, you blind or something man? That's Brotherhood of Steel, coming to save our asses!" Richard grabbed a pair of binoculars from the table next to him, imminently peering through them. In full detail, he saw the small, yet amazing, brigade of Brotherhood members ride towards them. Inside the jeep was 2 wastelanders aswell, one of them looked familiar to Richard. He waved his hand to Devin, "G-Go get HQ on the radio, tell who's comin'... hurry!" He ordered to his eager friend while still glued to the binoculars. At last he rose, hearing Devin muttering to HQ in the background. "Finally, our angels have arrived." Those words begging to come from his lips since the day he was born.
Ramsey stepped off of the Humvee, his platted boot clanking against the dirty road. Ahead of them was a Union checkpoint, two men occupying it. They seemed excited to see them coming, as was Ramsey. One of them ran up towards their group, wielding an Ak-47. Ranik took charge and confronted the man, not telling him much, but enough to make the man nearly tear. Ramsey wanted to tell him who he was, he wanted to ask him about little Jen and Aaron, but that would wait. It would only hold them back right now, he would wait until he finally got to talk to his old friend, Miles Parker.
Ranik sighed in relief as the Barghest came to a stop. They had been sent about a mile down the road to a heaily constructed and heavily enclosed and fortfied building. The guards opened the gate willingly as the squad of Ouctasts approached. "Welcome to the Union HQ." one of the guards said. Ranik nodded in appreciation of the hospitality. This place was a fortress. There were armed soldiers inside patrolling every corner. There were barracks, a mess area, and armories all around. Most of the weaponry carried was very outdated, far undermatching that which the Outcasts used. Ranik looked the place up and down. Someone approached him. It was a civilian woman. They had civilians here too? She wrapped her arms around Ranik's armor andstood on her tiptoes to kiss his helmet. Ranik didn't know what to tell them. To tell them that they were the reason the Outcasts were here would be wrong. To tell them only certain citizens were allowed to leave and the rest had to stay behind. Ranik hung his head. These people looked to them. He shook it off. They couldn't go local. Not now. Not when they were this close. They could help while here. When time came to leave they must go. Suddenly, Ranik's thoughts were jarred fromm this conversation as Ramsey approached him. "Ranik, let me do the talking here, I'll get everything worked out," he said. "Will do," Ranik nodded.
Carter looked around the building in his usual state of silence. It seemed so... outdated, to him, even by the standards of a world gone through an apocalypse. Then again, he'd never really been inside a paramilitary base that didn't have lasers and Power Armor as standard issue, so he was probably just being judgemental. But the people, the clothes they were wearing, the weapons... was that guy over there who was staring at the group clutching an AK-47 to his chest? Okay, definitely outdated. Still, though, all the activity was astounding. All the open space in the room they were standing in. That was one good thing about this base, he thought. Much more suitable than Independence's claustrophobic corridors. It reminded him of one of the main halls back at Lost Hills. Lost Hills...
He stopped that train of thought right there. He was comparing this place to Lost Hills. He knew where that sort of thinking would lead and he wouldn't allow it. Leaving the realm of his mind and dropping back into reality, he offered a brief, weak waving motion in the direction of the staring man with the Kalashnikov, who almost jumped into the air in response. Carter couldn't help himself but smirk. Shaking his head a bit, he turned his attention to Ramsey and Ranik, wondering what they had in mind.
Samantha caught a glimpse of something moving on one of the roofs in the dead of night, then a whole pack of them following it. Then they stopped and stared towards Sam, and then continued on their way. "What were those things..?" Samantha asked Howlett.
Ramsey turned from Ranik, the man was obviously in some sort of internal conflict. All these people, all of them thinking that the Brotherhood was here to liberate them. It made Ramsey cringe on the inside, it made him think off all the lost hope that would be created. He sighed, "They've lasted this long, maybe someone else will be our angel..." Ramsey whispered to himself, making certain nobody heard him. He looked up. It was as he remembered the HQ, except for all the upgrades. They had added walls and turrets fortified along the barrier, and he could easily see the sniper post in the old UT Tower. In the distance he could see the streets littered with Enclave and Union bodies, it seems that they've been truly at war with their oppresses. Ramsey approached one of the guards, a man Ramsey could identify any day. "Richard Mangus, I see your still breathing out of one hole." Richard looked at Ramsey with a confused glance, to him Ramsey was just another Outcast. "H-How do you know my name? Who are you?" The frightened man, who had once been one of the toughest Ramsey had ever known, stepped back. Ramsey shook his head and then removed his helmet, grinning slightly. "What Mangus? Don't recognize the man that's saved your ass more than a hundred times?" The man quickly realized who he was talking to, causing a wide smile to cover his face. He ran up and hugged Ramsey, "Goddammit Ramsey, I swear, the next time you decide to leave I'll break your legs personally." Ramsey stepped back, he'd love to continue talking to the man for hours on what happened in the last 11 years, but these were serious times.
"Listen, Mangus, we'll catch up later, but I need to talk to Parker. He needs to know our plan." The words escape Ramsey's lips with a monotone. The smile dissipated from Richard's face, he sighed. "Your right, yes, we need to talk to him. Come on, I'll take you." Richard walked on, heading towards the infamous leader of the Union, Miles Parker. Ramsey turned towards Ranik for a moment, who was waiting patiently. "Ranik, I'm going to talk to the leader here, Miles, you guys stay here and rest for a moment, God knows we all need it." With that Ramsey departed with his reunited friend.
"Fuck me sideways!" Viktor yelped. Sweepers. "EVERYONE INSIDE! NOW DAMMIT! MOVE!"
Viktor jumped into the Barghest and lunged it into gear. The Outcasts jumped on board the trailer as the checkpoint barrier lifted. Not like it would have stopped the armored-up HUMV. Nice gesture though. Showed a little solidarity between the people of Austin and the Union. Viktor pulled into an empty building, gutted of it's original contents and filled with beds for families and wounded soldiers. Children came running up towards the massive vehicle, with a trailer full of Brothers of Steel. It was a half-and-half mix of those who wanted to be seen with the Brotherhood and those who wanted to see a functioning automobile.
The kids went berserk when Dean jumped out of the back seats. At first they scattered, but seconds later they were hanging out of the poor dog, playing with his ears, scratching his back, the smallest one was picking the dog's nose. Dean just gave Viktor a look that pleaded for rescue. Viktor just leaned on the Barghest and tried not to laugh. The hapy atmosphere rapidly evaporated as word of Sweepers spread.
Samantha was shocked, "What are.. Sweepers? Some kind of broom?" she asked, "..Or are they those mutants that I seen. Cause Iv'e never seen them before.."
Ranik sat down on the floor, his back propped against a wall. "Defender, do you want a place to sit? We have a seat for you right here," Knight Martin said, indicating a spot next to Defender Colby. Ranik waved his hand. He was good here. He needed a moment to clear his head. He knew deep down that helping these people was the right thing to do. He also knew his oaths and his mission. Ultimately, that's the man Ranik was. Loyal to the Outcasts, loyal to the mission. He'd been a Brother of Steel - and a soldier - for as long as he could remember. Born in Lost Hills, forged in blood and fire of open war in the Capital Wastes, trampled by his superiors, only to rise a better Brother for it among those exiled by the traitor Lyons. Ranik was and Outcast, and a Brother of Steel. He burried his head in his hands. He wanted to see his own family - if he had any left in Lost Hills - and his long lost wife. He remembered his locket. He opened it and looked at the picture. Hopefully she had the same twinkle in her eyes as she had before Lyons had taken them to D.C. They were supposed to be there for a year, maybe two. Then Lyons took all the locals under his wing. Thats why this shit was happening. He didn't want it to happen again. He stepped outside for a second to get some air, too see that the Barghest and Samantha were gone.
Roland, who had been in the trailer of the Barghest for the entire measure of the encounter, was jerked to life as word of these mysterious 'Sweepers' spread. His immminent sense for danager (High Perception ratings for the win!) told him that something was afoot, and he didn't want to be taken surprise by those events.
So out came his Grease Gun, and in went another clip of ammunition. He walked out of the Barghest's trailer and went over to Viktor and Sam. "Yeah, I missed the board meeting on Sweepers. What are they?"
Ranik looked around outside. Howlett, Samantha, and Roland were all gone. So was the Barghest. A cool wind blew through the buildings, creating a low howl in the black night. Defender Ranik shivered a little as he stood there looking around. He unclipped his Combat Shotgun and clicked on the flashlight on his helmet. He looked up to see if the sentries were moving. Something was off tonight. Ranik felt very uneasy. He turned quickly as he heard a long shrieking scream. Ranik was no more than 5 feet from the door. He took a look at the door. As Ranik turned back to the darkness, he was hit in the chest by something, that knocked him to the ground and he lost the grip on his weapon. Ranik rolled to his feet, looking up he saw a lone Biosoldier standing in front of him. He looked behind him to the door and ran for it, hearing a thick click as the deadbolt was closed. The locals didn't want that thing getting in, unfortunately Ranik was left out too. Ranik ducked as a heavy claw hit the door and rolled to the side as another tried to swipe at his guts. Ranik darted for his Combat Shotgun but the Biosoldier tackled him again. This time one of the heavy claws found a mark. It punched clean through the back joint of Ranik's shoulder armor, emerging on the other side. Searing pain ran through Ranik's body as he tried to move his arm. Ranik heard his armor say something, but he couldn't tell what. The pain dulled slightly as he was injected with Med-X. The Biosoldier ripped the blade free. Ranik rolled to the side as the second blade embedded into the ground. Ranik kicked out, landing a heavy boot in the beasts chest, sending it to it's back. It flopped to it's "feet" again. This time it stabbed Ranik in his thigh. The blade was greatly dulled by the armor, but it broke through. Ranik tumbled to the side. He turned his head to see his Combat Shotgun laying right beside him. Ranik grabbed it and fired one-handed into the Biosoldier's chest, felling it. Ranik staggered to his feet and fire four more bursts of buckshot into the flopping creature. It stopped moving and Ranik staggered to the side and collapsed as the heavy door opened. Defender Colby and two Union soldiers emerged to quickly drag Ranik back inside.
Roland heard sounds of a scuffle near the doors of the Union HQ. Thinking nothing of it, Roland made his way over to the doors and stopped just in time to avoid being spotted by the Biosoldier attacking Ranik. He had arrived just at the point where Ranik had gained the upper hand, however, and basically cowered in that pile of crap while Ranik dispatched the biosoldier. The cowering continued until the strange sounds of the Biosoldier and Ranik's curses stopped. He then shook hard, stood from the pile and sprinted inside the HQ as fast as his cybernetic legs could safely carry him.
Ranik's eyes blinked rapidly as he felt himself wake up. He looked to his left to see his helmet sitting on the table. He grunted as he tried to move his arm. It was very stiff, but fortunately, the Med-X injected by his Medic Armor made the pain dull and bearable. Defender Colby sat by his bed. "Glad to see you awake, Defender," she said, "I had to sit here because those locals wanted to cut off your arm." Ranik glanced at his wounded appendage to make certain it was still there. "I'll see DeAnders about it when we get back to camp," Ranik said, grunting some more as he sat up. He was injected with more Med-X and this time a Stimpak as he felt his shoulder oozing blood inside his armor. "Any word on anyone else?" Ranik asked Colby.
Enclave Sergeant Robert Johnson walked along the gantry of the industrial yard that served as the regional command for this sector's garrison. He had been summoned from California on Colonel Raikov's (does that name ring a bell?) specific orders to terminate the leaders of a Brotherhood of Steel splinter group who were moving through Austin. They had already destroyed a Biosoldier breeding ground and killed over three dozen investigating soldiers and forensic personnel by blowing up the building afterwards. Johnson would enjoy dealing with them. Maybe even capture one and torture them.
(Right, the game is on. Whoever comes up with the most brilliant way to kill the Warrior Weapon gets to do the deed in that fashion or some other equally creative manner. Entries on the Talk Page.)
Ranik hobbled to the door and looked out the window. It had only been a few hours since Ranik was wounded by the Biosoldier. Colby laid a hand on his shoulder. "Defender Ranik," she said softly. The others are holed up around the complex. The locals say that even throughout the complex Biosoldier movements isolate the individual buildings." Ranik hung his head. "My God," he said, "these people are so oppressed by the Enclave that they can't even move throughout their own territory." As much as he didn't want to say it or succomb to the facts, they were that these people needed their help. Ranik would not admit it though. He'd stick to the original missio, recover tech, locate the Brotherhood of Steel, extract members if necessary, recover tech, and return to Lost Hills. Ranik hung his head. He was torn.
Ramsey smiled. The gray hair, worn face, still dumb-looking Muttonchops, "Been a long time, eh old friend?" Ramsey said, his voice hidden with glee. The elder man, his face ridden with experience and worn with time, turned from his maps. "Good God.." Miles Parker gasped, almost as if he had seen a ghost. "There's a face I thought I'd only see in the cemetery, and just when I was thinking the dead couldn't come back to life." Ramsey smiled once more, just the sight of his friend took away all of his troubles, all of the war and death. "Gettin' some gray around the edges my man, heh. Come here brother." Ramsey hugged Miles, patting him on the back. After a few seconds of silence, both men just glad to see each other, Miles returned to the maps. "Jay, come." He waved Ramsey over, "Look, I've got a billion stories and questions to lay on you, but we gotta do that later, over a beer or somethin'." Ramsey understood, they were still at war, although he's already looking forward to that beer. "Bout' 8 years after you left a full scale revolution sparked, nearly everybody in Austin of their own free will joined the Union and joined the front. We captured this baby," Miles smacked the metal wall of the fortress, "about 3 years ago. It used to be an Enclave weapons factory. That alone supplied us with all we needed to take our city back!" He hit the table, knocking over a cold mug of coffee.
The old man sighed, raising himself back up to an at-alert stance. "For God's sake Jay, please tell me you brought the fucking cavalry. I didn't lose you for 10 years to have you come back with some spiffy new armor." He gestured at Ramsey's power armor, marked with the Outcast's paint. Ramsey stepped forward, "Miles, forget the Goddamn cavalry, I brought a fuckin' army." Giving Miles the 'follow me' sign, he made his way to the south balcony. Just as he was about to gesture towards to glowing light in the distance that was the rest of the Outcasts, he noticed the movement, the lack of people, and the dead Insurgent sprawled across the dirt. Taking a second to process it, that was all the creature needed to make it's move. Spotting the massive demon sprinting towards him, Ramsey pulled out his rifle. "SWEEPER!" He called out, alerting any nearby soldiers. Then, without even getting a two second glance at Miles, who already had his .357 Revolver out, the Sweeper smashed into the balcony. The metal bent and snapped, the brick crushing under the creature's force. Ramsey flew from the three story building, randomly squeezing his rifle's trigger. He felt a rib crack as he hit the side of the fortress, and then he felt himself rolling on the grassy dirt. For a second he heard voices calling out commands, then he heard gunfire. And for a split second, he even heard.. yes it was, he heard Jenn's voice.
Fireman0504No one else is doing anything with it. I want to finish it, but I need more than me to be posting. I want to get these guys to Lost Hills and put some closure on the situation and also know if I should add Ramsey to the West Coast Outcast page. More people need to be interested than just me though.
"Bring that fucking thing down!" Ranik snarled at the top of his lungs, limping toward Ramsey, who was dragging himself to his feet. Ranik blasted off shots from the hip with his Combat Shotgun, the buckshot spraying in the direction of the Sweeper. Knight Martin emerged from a doorway and began spraying minigun fire all across the rooftops, the tracers following behind the creature until meeting with it's flesh. Union troopers bustled about, firing as well and to Ranik's left, Defender Colby dropped to a knee, firing off shots with her AER9. Ranik didn't bother taking aim, helmetless, he gritted his teeth through the pain and just stood in the courtyard, his nose wrinkled in a snarl, and his jaw jutting out to match. He was exhausted, he was hurt, and worst of all, he was pissed. With all the fire hitting it, it charged Ranik, who was unquestionably in the open. It raised it's claws to strike as he pumped shot after shot into it. Finally, it staggered and fell, skidding to a halt mere inches from Ranik's feet. Ranik kept shooting. Point balnk he pumped shot after shot into the dead thing until finally all he heard was metallic clicks. Colby grabbed his shoulder and he threw his shotgun down onto the dead beast. "How do you people live like this?" he called, "with such oppression! No person deserves this! Who has done this? Who is responsible! Name him! And I'll see to it that he is eaten by his own pets!" Ranik reached down and slammed another clip into his Combat Shotgun before discharging it into the fallen beast again. "Defender, we cannot risk the Outcasts, the Exodus, our progress. You are wounded and exhausted, you need rest," she said calmly. "No," Ranik said sternly, "I will contact Protector Jackson in the morning. Any part of this town not solely occupied by these people, will be levelled with artillery. Anything not levelled by our guns wll be levelled by our bombs from the Vertibird. No quarter will be given to Enclave soldiers. We don't need to risk our men to free these people. We have the means to deal death from afar. We have the means to batter them into submission. These people deserve freedom." Colby hung her head as Ranik stormed back into the barracks.
Viktor, meanwhile, was having trouble at one of the other buildings as a sweeper barged into the doors again and again. Viktor, Samantha and a trio of Union Soldiers were herding the women and children housed in the building into a service tunnel that linked this building to the one Ranik was in, which functioned as the camp barracks. Dean was near the doors, snarling and barking at the doors. Viktor knew the dog would howl the second that thing started to force the doors far enough to get in. He and Sam left the soldiers to herd the last fifteen women and children into the tunnel and lead them to the barracks. Otherwise, these people were at risk of taking the east tunnel, which led to a sealed section under a building lost to Biosoldiers almost seven months ago. With the howl of dog and twisted metal the Sweeper finally smashed the warehouses door and charged in, howling its unnatural howl.
Viktor opened up on it with his M1A3 pump shotgun, the Sweeper howling as the buckshot peppered its hide. Like Ranik had just done, Viktor emptied his shotgun's entire capacity into the beast. Unlike Ranik, Viktor did not have several soldiers at his back. Dean launched himself onto the Sweeper's back, sinking his teeth into its shoulders in a valiant effort to buy his master time to reload. Sam stepped up alongside Viktor, firing her Zhu Rong pistol in one hand, and her SMG in the other. The small caliber, low-energy projectiles merely angered the beast. However, the Zhu Rong managed to set what little hair it had on fire, lightening the mood somewhat.
The Sweeper jumped Sam, launching her across the room. She sat up, winded, just in time for the beast to hit her with enough force to knock her helmet off. Then something large, grey and vaguely square crashed into the Sweeper with the roar of a revving engine. Viktor pinned the Barghest's accelerator down with the stock of his shotgun and clambered into the back seats, poking his head out through the turret mounted on the roof. Pinned to the walls by a HUMV which was trying to accelerate, the Sweeper didn't stand much chance as Viktor opened up with the mounted minigun. The stream of bullets almost decapitated the mewling horror as it screeched and roared as it lashed out in a vain attempt to reach Viktor with those vicious claws. Then, as it stopped struggling, and Viktor stopped firing, all went silent again. Viktor sat down, holding his head. His ears were ringing. That was why he wore earmuffs every other time he fired that damned thing.
Ranik sat down on the cot heavily. The springs sqeaking loudly in the quiet room. Ranik hung his head in his hands. What was he doing? He was turning local. He was being no better than the traitor Lyons. He knew he'd be questioned now, he'd lose respect, he'd lose it all. Everything he stood for he was going against. This wasn't an individual settlement though. This was Austin, this was the former Capital of Texas. If the Outcasts could do good in a major city would that work? No it couldn't. They couldn't save the people of D.C and that was the former Capital of the United States. He shook his head. He'd never make it back to Lost Hills. He be branded a traitor for real this time. He might as well've just stayed with Lyons at this point. Defender Colby entered the and approached Ranik. "Defender," she said, "I've contacted Protector Jackson, he says the bombardment will begin immediately." Ranik looked up. "What?" Ranik gasped. "I explained the situation," she said, "that we need artillery support. I gave him coordinates at the opposite end of the city." Ranik looked at her. "You did what?" he said. "They haven't seen they atrocities committed here. This is far worse than D.C. Someone needs to intervine. Why shouldn't it be us?"
Ranik knew exactly what she meant. Before he could respond a group of women and children wandered in from a back room and there was another commotion outside and the sound of far off explosions. This didn't seem as frantic. Ranik stood up and put his helmet on. Grabbing his Combat Shotgun he turned just as the door burst open. A man walked in, followed by 4 other soldiers toting miniguns and assault rifles. They all wore T-51b Power Armor that was hastily repaired in places, but bore the unmistakeable wing, wheel, and cogs symbol of the Brotherhood of Steel. Ranik stopped in his tracks. Could it be? "I've been told by scavengers, drifters and ev'ry one in between that you fellas've been lookin' for us," he said loudly to Ranik, "so here we are. Not all of us, but a decent ammount." Ranik stood there before the man offered a hand. "Paladin Samson Kline," he said, "Brotherhood of Steel." Ranik extended a hand back to the Paladin. "Defender Wallace Ranik, D.C. Brotherhood Outcasts. Man, am I glad to see you."
Robert Johnson stood on the top of an Ike Battle Tank, watching as Sweepers and Biosoldiers were scrambled from their underground dens and their warrens in Austin's derelict buildings. Sweepers had found a Union stronghold. Apparently the one the Southern Enclave forces had assaulted seven months ago was bigger than first thought. An observation officer, who had been watching the Sweepers from a church spire with his telescope came rushing over to Johnson's tank, an excited look on his face.
"Sir, sir, I have some very important news, sir!" The little man said. He outranked Johnson, but people still seemed to call him Sir. Probably because he wore Tesla Armor, like the high-ups in this area did. The observer climbed up onto the tank and whispered something into Johnson's ear. Fucking hell. The Austin Brotherhood, and the Outcasts were at that Union camp! This attack could make Johnson's carreer.
"Mobilize forces. We swamp them with Biosoldiers and Sweepers, and when the roof is falling down on their swollen heads, we move in for the kill." Johnson said to a runner next to him. Soon, thirty power armored soldiers were moving in the wake of thirty Biosoldiers and a good dozen Sweepers. His CO would be a little peeved that the move wasn't cleared with him first, but he'd understand when Johnson handed him this Ranik's head on a silver platter.
"Ohh shit that things strong!" Samantha said, "Knocked off my friggin' helmet!" She then put her helmet back on, but realized she had this huge scar on her left cheek, "And the thing left a scar! Are you sure it's dead!?" she said. They then continued through the service tunnel until they made it to the building where Defender Ranik was. "We're back." she called out.
Roland looked over at Sam's triumphant call, noting she had her helmet off and there was a free-flowing, jagged scar across the side of her face. "Geez, Sam," Roland said, "Got enough face on that scar there? We should get you to a medic."
Colonel Ian Chase sat at his desk in the Austin HQ. On the display was a map of Austin with Enclave forces in green Brotherhood and Union forces in red and unknown quantitys in yellow. It looked like a group of Enclave forces were moving in on a group of yellows and reds. The Enclave there were led by a sergant Johnson. He pulled up Johnson's radio-set, "Sergeant, who the hell gave you permision to go in there with an Ike!?"
Ramsey, bloodied and fallen, rose from the disturbed ground. His instant reaction was to turn at fire, but just as he did, he found the Sweeper to already be dead. One Union Insurgent armed with an RPG had blown the creature to pieces, leaving a nasty clean-up for maintenance. Hiking his rifle upon his shoulder, Ramsey walked over to help a downed Miles up. As the elder man got to his feet, dusted himself off, and grabbed his .357, he was already in conversation. "Well now Jay, you may be losing your touch. I always remembered you for your perception, guess you've grown weak over the years..." Ramsey chuckled, "One to talk, old man." With that they returned to the Command Room, watching as Union soldiers rushed out to aid other Sweeper attacks. True, it seemed that the Sweeper raids were getting more and more aggressive, Ramsey saw this as an omen to dire events to come.
Upon walking into the barricaded fortress, Ramsey saw a reassuring sight. The Austin Brotherhood, although technically merged with the Union in the late 2190's, they still considered themselves a separate branch. That meant they preformed their own operations, only telling the Union of them if they needed more men for the mission. It wasn't a surprise to see them here at this time, defiantly due to the arrival of the Outcasts. It wouldn't be odd to see some of these men recognize some of the Austin Brotherhood from the home state of California. Currently Ranik was busy conversing to them, most likely about connection with Lost Hills. Miles, loud and impulsive as always, yelled to one of the head officers, "Kline, you bastard! You never repaid me for savin' your ass back in 76'! As I remember, you promised me a beer." Kline looked over, obviously annoyed by the Union commander's uninvited blurt. "Shut the hell up Miles, it's gonna get you killed one day." With that he flicked Miles off and returned to Ranik, who seemed amused by the random vulgar.
"God Damn stubborn hump... Come on Jay, we still gotta get everything straitened out. I'll call Marcus up to-" Ramsey cut him off, "Miles, where's Jenn and Aaron?" Miles let out a long, drawn out sigh. Clearly thinking of what to say, Miles finally just came out with it. "Listen Jay, we did all we could, but they had your damn reckless spirit. Aaron left about 3 years ago in search of you, damn fool couldn't accept the that you were announced dead, but I guess that makes us the fools now." Ramsey expected that of Aaron, but he thought it would have been earlier. But he knew the man better than anyone, Aaron is okay, he'll be back soon. "What about Jenn?" That was when Ramsey started to see grief and guilt fill the worn man's eyes. "Jay, I've regretted this day for a long while now. Little Jenn was captured about a year ago by Sweepers. We tried our best to get her back, but we couldn't do anything. I'm sorry." Ramsey's heart dropped, his body felt cold, he could even feel the blood drain from his face. "I'll leave you some time to think." With that Miles left Ramsey a grief and shocked man, barley able to compress a though. Ramsey simply sat down, breathed deep, and fell into tears.
Ranik paused his conversation with Kline as they heard gunfire pick up outside. Knight Martin burst through the door. "An attack! A whole Enclave Company. Count roughly thirty Biosoldiers, thirty infantry, five sweepers, and armor!" Ranik gasped, "Armor?" Kline looked at him. "Ikes, Enclave battle tanks." He turned to his men and ordered them to assist with the defenses. "We got nothin' to take 'em out," he said to Ranik. Ranik put his helmet on. "Colby, gimme the comm." Colby fumbled and gave Ranik the comm unit. "Message code alpha, code alpha, I need immediate patch to Protector Jackson." Ranik said into the comm. It crackled back, "Jackson here." Ranik paused for a second to relay information from Knight Martin. Outside he could hear gurgling screams of Union troops and Martin opened the door in time to let two of Kline's four Brothers of Steel back inside. Kline was calling in his own reinforcements and advised an ETA of roughly one hour. Perfect for what Ranik was intending. "Protector, this is Defender Wallace Ranik requesting immediate artillery strike, priority urgent, coordinates, 23 Lat 62 Long, Enclave forces in the open. Fire for effect!" The comm crackled again. "Defender Ranik be advised, that artillery strike is on your position!" Ranik looked up as a Sweeper crashed into a window, instantly being riddled with 5mm rounds by Knight Martin and 5.56 rounds from the other Brothers, as well as laser blasts and any other types of ammo anyone had. Ranik went back to the comm. "Protector, we are under heavy attack and are in danger of being overrun. Request artillery immediately." What seemed like hours went by as the gunfire outside intensified. "Bombardment commencing," the comm crackled, "may Steel protect you." The comm shut off and amidst the gunfire outside, the shouts of battle, and the creatures hitting the doors, Ranik heard the unmistakable whoosh of incoming shells. "Everybody down!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, watching his brethren both Outcast and from Austin, along with the Union troopers protecting Miles, hit the floor, "INCOMING!" Ranik's world was plunged into explosions and darkness. To himself, he simply prayed he'd see his wife in Lost Hills again.
"Sorry, Colonel, I'm under the direct command of the Senate. You're a formality. So, I suggest you get a few soldiers down here to take on not only a Union outpost, but these Outcasts and Paladin Kline of the Texas Brotherhood. This could make both of our carreers." Johnson shouted down the comm, trying to overcome the noise of the Ike he was sitting on top of.
Then, Johnson heard a completely different roar. The bass boom of artillery, out beyond the city limits.
"EVERYBODY DOWN!" Johnson roared as his soldiers instinctively ran to the nearest concrete building. The Sweepers and Biosoldiers, having no concept of fear, pounded along as if nothing was happening. The first shell erupted on the perimeter fence of the Union stronghold, tearing it apart. Along with five Biosoldiers busily picking the chainlink apart with their gruesome claws. The others rushed through the gap, but Johnson had to run for cover as shells began to hammer down around the Ike. Thakfully, the shells were High Explosive. They could flip the tank, killing the crew, but they wouldn't destroy the valuable piece of equipment. He hoped.
"I hope to god your right sergant!".Ian Chase again looked at the map if the outcasts were there as well Nothing was certain now it would take more than a single company to be sure.He called up the task rotor."Divert a transport bird back to HQ il take a shocktrouper squad in.Prep my equipment for transit"
An unmistakable ringing filled Ramsey's ears, it was the sound of Aftershock, as they called it in the Steel. Although slightly deafened by the artillery, he could still hear the thumping cracks of bombs. Debris showered over his back, it seemed that the left wall was hit, causing brick, metal, and anything else in that area fling into the air. He looked to Miles, who was covered by other Union soldiers. Besides a few cuts and scrapes, the man was fine. His hearing slowly returned to him, allowing him to hear the screams, gunfire, explosions, and growls of the Biosoldiers. Ranik was up and ready for battle, followed by the Austin Brotherhood. Ramsey, now back at normal capacity, grabbed his Sniper Rifle from under a chunk of brick and made for high ground. Swiftly, the Sniper made his way to the second floor balcony, immediately mounting the DKS-501 Sniper Rifle across the bent metal railing. Peering through the scope, he saw the full scale battle going into order. Union soldiers behind makeshift cover, Steel members hailing the Enclave with laser fire, and then Biosoldiers rushing towards them. Ramsey fire three rounds, downing two of the abominations and severing a third's bladed leg. The legless creature squirmed on the ground for a few moments, and then, against most laws of the human body, bent backwards and started to walk on it's arms. The monster only got so far until it was gunned down by one of the 50mm mounted Chainguns.
The Artillery ceased, but the battle didn't. The Ike Enclave armor was moving up the frontlines, taking out most in it's way. It seemed that the Union's outdated RPG's were too weak for it's fortified plating. Soldiers were throwing Molotov Cocktails on the beast, trying to at least burn out it's drivers, but the tank roared on. The battle was thinning out now, everybody mostly focused on the tank. Every once and awhile small firefights would erupt, but it seemed that most of the people were hiding from the constant bombardment of the Ike. Ramsey climbed up the railing of the building. His plan was to get to a better vantage point where he could pick off the Enclave still positioned behind rubble and debris. With a determined mind, the Outcast sniper made his way across the roofs.
Ranik trotted outside as fast as his wounded leg would carry him. He gritted his teeth as he hefted his Combat Shotgun. He fired a shot and cringed. He fired another round, watching as it punched a Biosoldier of it's feet. Not a fatal wound, but the minigun fire spraying across it's prone body was. Ranik looked up over the small wall. Along the line Ranik could see Martin, Kline, Colby, and the other Outcasts and Austin Brothers firing at will. He could see Enclave troops floundering in the the wall of fire, but they were overcoming the comparatively weaker Union troops. Ranik could see the tank pushing through the barricades as it's main gun hammered a Union minigun nest. Bodies flew as the sandbag bunker exploded.
Ranik could hear something else those. Another whoosh. More incoming shells. "Back inside now!" Ranik screamed. His brethren were already moving, Defender Colby stopping briefly to help Ranik to his feet. The last thing Ranik saw outside was explosions blossoming around the tank and engulfing the second wave of Enclave troops, along with some of the more unfortunate Union troopers. A shell hit directly outside the door and it pitched Ranik back into the building. Martin and Colby dragged his half concious form behind a counter as Kline barked into his comm unit trying to keep his men out of the area. Ranik had long since lost track of Roland, Sam, Viktor, Miles, and Ramsey. He hoped to God they were all finding some form of cover or another. He looked up as a half burning Enclave soldier was pitched through the wall, flopping to a rest near the counte, blood pooling around him. Ranik could see some of the pieces of building begining to fall in. The shelling paused and the Brothers dragged themselves toward the door again. The fire outside was still going, but had slackened quite a bit since the last round of shells. Outside was utter devastation. Ranik sent Martin to escort the women and children held up within the building back down through the underground tunnel network. At least they would make it out of here alive. Outside was utter devastation.
Roland was crouched by a low wall just within the range of the artillery bombardment when the first shells hit. The final shell detonated about forty yards away from him and shrapnel whizzed over his head. As soon as Roland felt those pieces of shrapnel fall to the ground, Roland ran for the door only to find that it had shut, and he couldn't get in. Rockfort searched desperately for an entrance to the tunnels he had seen during his brief time inside the Union base. Roland looked and found none, then proceeded to pound on the door. He knew that, over the gunfire, the sounds would probably be drowned out, but he could still hope. Eventually the door began to yield a bit, and then Roland took his opportunity and sprinted inside the building, slamming the door shut behind him and running off after Ranik.
"Nah, it'll heal in a while, it's fine don't worry," Samantha said to Roland after he had commented on her scar, "..just a scratch." She then grabbed herself a Chinese Assault Rifle. Then, just as she was grabbing her weapon, she seen Ranik calling for artillery. And within seconds the whole place erupted like an earthquake. She quickly hid under a table well the artillery was being fired, and then got up and followed Ranik out the door. She kicked away a biosoldier and drowned it with a whole clip, but then before she could even think, A TANK came out of nowhere! And then she heard something along the lines of "Get In.. Now!" from Ranik, but she was too far out already. She ducked inside a second building for a few minutes well the artillery fired, but then the whole building collapsed on top of her. Minimal damage, she thought to herself as she quickly dodged the debris, and seen a tank in ruin. She then ran back too the building with more and more Enclave troops closing in on her. (Happy Fireman?)
Ranik crunched along the debris. The base was in the middle of an immediate evac. Roland had found him and Martin had led a group of civilians to safety. He still had Colby and Paladin Kline still had one of his men left. He guessed that Ramsey was with Miles and up ahead he saw Viktor madly revving the engine of the Barghest. Suddenly, he saw people climbing into the trailer. Miles was there, Ramsey had somehow made it through the barrage and was there, and Knight Martin was ushering women and kids into the trailer. He heard a female voice yell out as Samantha Vain joined the group again. To his left, he saw one sturdily built man dragging himself clear of the remains of the Ike. Ranik climbed into the Barghest as Colby and the last Austin Brotherhood member climbed into the trailer. Samantha jumped in the Barghest, as did Kline. Ramsey was firing his sniper rifle from the window and Samantha took up the turret mounted minigun. Roland grabbed a spot in the trailer as well, but not before scooping up the obviously angry Dean. "Head south," Kline yelled above the engine as the Barghest lurched forward with everyone aboard. "We'll head into the Austin Brotherhood Stronghold. We call it the 'Forbidden Keep.' It's secure even from the Enclave. We can plan our next move there." Viktor nodded as he gunned the engine, knocking over a Biosoldier, and spattering a Tesla Armored Enclave trooper. Ranik couldn't help but think of the man pulling himself from the absolutely twisted wreckage of that tank. How he could have surivived was as puzzling to Ranik as who he was. He figured he'd find out soon enough.
Samantha picked up an Enclave Gatling Laser and got onto the Barghest, clipping her weapon against her back. "Sam, mount the turret!" Ranik called out, and she did so. And, with the Gatling Laser she picked up moments ago, she hooked it up alongside the Minigun, so that she could control both. "Ready, start 'er up,"
Carter was taking a casual stroll through the recent battlefield, pumping a shotgun blast into the torso of each Biosoldier corpse he passed and into the head of every downed Sweeper. As it stood, he didn't fully know how the freaks operated, so he resolved to putting an extra helping of buckshot in each of them. He hadn't gotten a decent look at any of the ones he'd killed after they went to the ground, nor those his Brothers and these Union insurgents had downed, so he had to be sure. Better safe than sorry. Now that he thought of it, it was probably something to do with being on edge rather than making sure they were dead - a shell had gone off not three metres away from him during the battle, and, admittedly, he was still feeling rather jittery. After seeing one of the blade-limbed beasts on the floor still squirming slightly, having lost both its legs and a chunk of its torso. It was pathetic, in a sort of amusing way. Noting that he'd expended a full drum on the rest of the corpses, he planted one boot on the creature's mangled chest and, with his other foot, administered a powerful kick to the side of its head, breaking it from the metal brace that held it to its shoulders and sending it flying through the air like a football.
With a faint, satisfied smile beneath his helmet, he gradually grew aware of what a massive target he'd just made himself for snipers and hurried over to the Barghest's trailer, clambering inside just as the vehicle began to move.
Ranik hobbled off the Barghest as the heavy steel doors closed, forming the familiar seal of the Brotherhood of Steel. It had been nearly two years since Ranik was able to look at the seal with any pride, let alone be allowed within any halls bearing it. The Austin Brotherhood had allowed Ranik and his squad of Outcasts refuge here. Ranik looked as many of the Union insurgents gaped in awe at everything. Apparently, they'd never been allowed entry either. "Hell of a mess out there," Paladin Kline said, approaching Ranik. "I apologized for my rash tactics," Ranik said, hanging his head, "I cost three of your men their lives." Kline looked at Ranik. "Son," he said, "we live in a shithole of death and being blown to smithereens out here, well, it's an easy, almost humane way to go. The fact that you took so many of them Enclave sons of bitches with them. It's worth it. I've fought tooth and nail alongside Miles' Union boys. They got tenacity, but that's all they got. See them women and kids over there? If a few of my boys have to get martyred to get them out, it's what needs to happen They go into the Scrolls of Honor. And the rest of us are grateful for their sacrifice." Ranik looked at him puzzled. "Have you gone local?" he said. Kline shook his head. "Not by choice. We gotta protect the people here. Every one saved by us is one less Biosoldier the Enclave sends to kill us." Ranik nodded. It made sense. "So, have you recovered tech from the area?" Kline nodded. "Lots of tech, problem is, with the Enclave in control, we have no way to return it to Lost Hills. All that Master Sergeant Johnson. He runs the show. Colonel Chase is just a puppet, but Johnson. You take him out, you cut the head off the Enclave in Austin, and we get our tech back to Lost Hills. We also get some r and r. My Brothers are tired of this war. They want to be back in California, in the safety of Lost Hills. Theyearned the reprieve, you know? We got sent out here ten years ago. Most of 'em got wives and kids waitin'. You know what that's like?" Ranik nodded, still hanging his head. "Twenty years with the traitor Lyons, chasing the Super Mutants and abandoning our oaths for technology so we can save every backwater yokel and hick out of some vain notion of heroism. There aren't heroes in these times. Only survivors." Paladin Kline looked at Ranik. "Indeed, Brother. These are grim days."
Ranik hobbled to the infirmary, removing his helmet and clipping his Combat Shotgun on his back. His arm ached and his thigh caused him to walk with a limp. Scribes began removing his armor and treating his wounds. They began making repairs to hs armor and weapon, and replenishing his supply of meds in his Medic Armor, which had long since exhausted itself keeping his wounds from degenerating during the fighting. Ranik was greatful for his squad to have made it to safety and re-united with some of the Western Brotherhood, their true Brothers. Now he needed a little time to recouperate, then they could figure out how to break the Enclave stranglehold on Austin, once and for all.
Roland looked over at Defender Ranik, producing a stimpak from his pocket. He handed the Defender the stim and then stepped away slightly, looking over at Howlett, the Outcast, the assorted union members and now the Brotherhood Knights assorted around him. Yep, they might just be able to pull off kicking the Enclave out of Austin. With a team like this, the mixed backgrounds and ego clashes, there was bound to be a little discontent, but 'eh. It comes with the job.
"So," Roland said, standing at the side of his commanding officer- there really wasn't much of any other way to describe it now- "What's the plan?"
Ramsey munched into a dry ration of food as he listened to Kline and Conners, another Brotherhood knight, talk about Lost Hills. Ramsey looked up at Kline, "Hey man, send letters once you get there. I've heard so much damn talk about this Lost Hills and I haven't got the slightest idea what the hell it's like." Kline smiled at the idea, a mail system in the wasteland. Bullshit. "Forget that Jay, I'll send you a damn photo." The two of them laughed, it reminded Ramsey of the older times when they would have to stay in bunkers like this for weeks while on the KOS list for the Enclave, they were good times in some sort of sense.
Ranik and Roland were talking about the plan, Ramsey decided to go check in on them.
"Gather up." Ranik said as he fitted his helmet on his head again. He was feeling much better. His wounds were sewn up and tended to, his Medic Armor and Combat Shotgun had been repaired, and he had a fresh supply of stims in his armor. He was having trouble with his full range of motion, but it was nothing that wouldn't come back once fully healed. He couldn't wait that long though. In talking to Kline, he'd come to the facts that the Austin Brothers wished to return to Lost Hills as well, most of them anyway. Kline had informed him of and area known as The NEst. The center of 'production' of Enclave Biosoldiers and Sweepers. The Nest was deep into the urban jungle of Austin. The Battle at the Union HQ had taken a toll on Enclave forces in Austin. Ranik knew the Outcast artillery was capable of lobbing shells throughout most of the city. The bulk of the Outcasts would be in relative safety while indirect fire did it's devestating duty. Ranik nodded to Ramsey as he joined the group. "Good to have you back, Jay." Ramsey nodded, but said nothing. Colby and Martin knelt down, and Sam stoodby. Viktor sat leaned on a crate petting Dean while Roland tinkered with some gizmo. Carter was meticulously checking his own weapon, but Ranik knew he was listening nonetheless. Paladin Kline had gone to address his own men.
"This is the final assault," Ranik said, "we are going for the Hail Mary here." The group looked on. "With artillery support and infantry support from the Austin Brothers and Union Freedom Fighters, we are going to destroy The Nest. The central production area for Biosoldiers. Now is the time. With the Enclave reeling after our standoff at the Union HQ, a decisive assault could catch them off guard. Crippling this line and killing Master Sergeant Johnson, would effectively throw the Enclave forces here into disarray. The Union would be much more able to handle them. This will not be an easy task. Johnson is a Warrior Weapon. Info on him says he was in the class of Jacob Vaughton." Ranik's eyes drew to the dusty group. How he wished his friend Vaughton was here. Silently he wished him well. Then his gaze returned to his Outcasts. "Austin Brotherhood intel says that the official commander of the Enclave in Austin is Colonel Ian Chase. He is a secondary priority target. If the opportunity arises, he is to be terminated. We are going to move through the Union network to reach our rally points, as are the Union and the Brotherhood. I have contacted Jackson and he will wait for our call to begin the bombardment. This will be a rolling advance. As soon as the shells hit, we will move behind them. Anything shellshocked and coming from the bombardment will be killed. This is lenient, as Paladin Kiline is unable to give a definite estimate as to how long it will take to move into position. Any number of complications can occur, so our forces are on standby. If this assault succeeds, it would lift many years of Enclave suppression off the city of Austin. This city could even fall under Brotherhood rule, which would be just one more accomplishment on your already long list. I'm more proud to fight beside you group than any other soldier in the Brotherhood. May Steel guide our hands in this fight."
Applause and cheering filled the room as Ranik finished his speech. The man truly was incredible. He has lead this group of weary Outcasts to become a driving force in the Wasteland, going through desperate times and joyful ones, he has withstood it all. They all did, Jay, Carter, Jackson, Sam, Casdin, and even Roland. All of them were heroes in Ramsey's book, they would go down in legend among the Union and all of Austin. Jay grimaced at the idea of leaving them to stay in Austin, but it was where he belonged, no matter what. He loved his brothers, but his true family came first. If that meant spending his remaining years looking for Aaron and Jenn, then he wouldn't look back even once. He loved them, something he at times thought impossible in this hell, but it would always prevail. "Hoorah!" Ramsey cheered, following him were more and more Hoorah's. Yes, they were going to do it, they were going to liberate Austin. Their angels have finally come.
The cheering died down after a few minutes, and then everybody was dead set on getting prepared for war. Kline and his batch were going over tactics and operations, all of them ready to throw heart and soul at the Enclave. Roland and Viktor were prepping aswell, Ramsey was mildly surprised. After all that Roland had seen here, Ramsey half-expected him to run off when we weren't looking. It'd make sense too, any sane man would do the same. Too bad everyone here's insane. Ramsey walked over to Miles who was busy getting a piece of shrapnel out of his leg, "You gonna be alright there buddy?" Miles looked up and chuckled, "Jay, after all the shit we've been through; killing Biosoldiers with 2 by 4's, hijacking that one Ike Battle Tank, jumping out of 5 story buildings into old vehicles, and you think a damn piece of metal in my leg is gonna stop me from freeing our city!?!" Jay ate his words, the man had a point. They have been through some rough shit. For some reason Jay thought of his uncle, Jacob. He thought of how that man, in a way, started this whole war. Yes, it wasn't his fault, but if only he would've know what would come of his discovery, maybe... No, the man's dead anyways, there's no use in trying to change the past. With a solid look at Ranik, who looked back, Jay nodded to the man and proceeded further through the tunnels. Being a sniper, he would have to get to his position before the battle started. He gave Marcus a hug, kissed his Mitsvak for good luck, and went out the tunnel exit. He already heard patches of gunfire, probably the Union outposts. Ramsey ran to the top of an abandoned safehouse, it's roof giving Ramsey a great vantage point over the streets. Here he would wait for the shells to hit, and then all hell would break loose.
Ramsey prayed, he just begged to God that this would work. Oh God, please work.
Roland looked down at the assorted parts on the white rag before him. He had dissassembled his grease gun and was cleaning the components and now sat putting each part back together. Pondering for a little while, he eventually slapped the gun back together and pulled the catch, which surprisingly didn't shatter the gun. He looked at his Desert Eagles, then moved towards one of the Union members who was nearby. The poor guy was girded in combat armor and was carrying all kinds of ammunition but didn't have any guns.
"Hey, kid." Roland said. He held out the D'Eagles, offering them to the poor guy. "You're not packing heat. Maybe it's a good idea for you to be carrying it, just in case." Surprised, the kid took the guns and attached them to his face as Roland walked away. He peeped into a ruined building and found that, to his surprise, there was a hatchet leaned against the wall just inside the blasted doorframe. There was a skeletal corpse near there; doubtless all that remained of what may have been a looter, several years ago, whose skin and flesh rotted away or was picked clean by the carrion beasts that lurked in this horrid city. He hefed the hatchet, tossing it end over end with his left hand before finally catching it and jamming it into the wist band of his jacket. The man was also carrying what may have been a Glock at one point, but time and disrepair had torn the formerly perfect gun apart. Oh well, Roland thought, At least I still have the hatchet.
Ranik crept, half-crouched through the shadows of the night in Austin. Daylight was begining to give the merest flicker of blue beyond the buildings. Ranik could see it clearly as he looked through the grating. Floodlights hummed deep in the sewers. Union checkpoints that he and his squad of Outcasts were following to the rally area, where he'd be met by Paladin Kline and his Brothers of Steel, and the main bulk of the Union forces. They'd crossed paths with many insurgent sabotuer teams, headed for the sewers below the walls leading into the secure Nest Compound. He heard metalic clanks above him. Holding up a fist, that stopped Colby, Carter, Martin, and Sam he looked up to see a Biosoldier. He held his breath, recalling his earlier fight with one of it's brethren. It seemed to almost sniff the air, though with no nose that's not quite what it was doing. That was all the time that was needed, a small pause and the target of opportunity was eliminated by an insurgent's bullet. Blood ran into the sewer and around Ranik as he moved past, the others following suit. After about an hour of walking, they came out of the sewer, emerging from a shattered piece of road and moving up the crater. They were somewhere in midtown Austin. Ranik wispered into his comm. "Standby Guardian," he said. "Contact, bombardment at the ready," Knight-Captain Jackson's voice softly crackled back. The small group of Outcasts made a break for a nearby building. Ranik looked at the door, a small seal of the Brotherhood was stamped on it. They moved inside, quickly being greeted by thier Austin Brothers.
"In one piece, Defender Ranik, pleasure as always." Paladin Kline extended a hand. "So close to the Nest?" Ranik said as he looked at the Scribes milling about, making final preparations in what was clearly a longstanding Brotherhood of Steel outpost. "Friends close, enemies closer," Kline grinned, "how do you think we got so much intel on The Nest." Ranik nodded. These were true Brothers of Steel, completely unlike Lyons' band of wannabes back in D.C. Calculating, calm, experienced. Ranik was happy to be finally going into combat with the Brotherhood again. The real Brotherhood. The guys who understood how to win battles. Kline grew serious suddenly. "The attack is set as soon as your Outcasts begin the bombardment. We will advance as planned, stay among us. I have two hundred men strong. The Union has many more. Insurgents eliminated sentries during the night, and sappers have rigged the walls to go down around the Nest. We move in and kill anything and anyone not killed by the bombardment. With the walls down, we should have a good advance beyond the Enclave's outer defenses. Steel will guide our hands this day." Kline extended his hand once again, and Ranik took it in the Knight's grip. He looked back at the Outcasts. "Prepare to advance," he said calmly before opening his comm channel.
"Guardian, this is Hammer, commence bombardment when ready." Ranik listened for the response. "May Steel guide our shells as they deliver our wrath to our enemies, that they strike true and hard, and that when the fight is past, only the strength of Steel emerges victorious." Jackson crackled on the comm. Ranik listened to the whine of incoming artillery. The first shells hit and Ranik hefted his Combat Shotgun. In his first major battle since D.C., his thoughts drifted to the morning charge into the smoke of Fairfax. The butchery there. He prepared for more now and said a silent prayer, kissing his locket as they advanced toward the wall of explosions.
Ramsey saw the bombs explode in fire and debris. It was time. Ramsey looked over at Marcus, who had joined him mere minutes ago, "That's the signal, lets go!" The two of them strapped their rifles to their backs and ran towards the fiery inferno. Already he could hear the small arms fire begin, and then the heavy fire. Explosions, 50 Cal. Shots whizzing by, Flamethrowers, all of it was in motion. A swarm of God knows how many Biosoldiers emerged from their vile nests, sprinting into the frontlines, blades ready. Jay screamed to an field officer over the rain, just now he had noticed the rain, "You need to move up! Your whole regiment is gonna blow to shit by the Enclave artillery if you don't advance!" The Field officer looked at Ramsey for a moment, slightly confused, he then acknowledged the warning. The guy was probably half-deaf due to those bombs. Ramsey and Marcus ran with the 22nt Union Regiment as they blasted their way through Biosoldier and the occasional Sweeper. Ramsey had his 10mm SMG out, firing into any Enclave he could see. To his left he saw the familiar Brotherhood Power Armor, probably Austin branch. As he remembered, Ranik and the other Outcasts were farther ahead via Sewers, they were to set up somewhat of a rally point up there for Union Insurgents to advance to. Ramsey just hopped that at least someone would get there, but considering the chaos down where the 22nt was, he somehow doubted that. He heard Colton, thank God for a familiar face, yell orders to his fellow brothers. Doyle Colton was a Austin Brotherhood squad leader, and a good friend of Ramsey's. He was glad that the man still was alive and fighting for his city, good man.
From the ally of two large buildings emerged a nightmare, an Evolved Sweeper. Ramsey had only seen one before, and that was while he was nearly 9 miles behind enemy lines. All that came from the Outcast sniper was a gasp, then he was deafened by fire. The Sweeper, massive as it is, rammed head first into the right side of the 22nt, sending a good number of Insurgents into the air. RPG's whistled through the air as all attention was on this beast, but the monster shrugged the rockets by like they were darts. It plumbed through Union lines, taking Insurgents and Brotherhood down with it. A squad of Flamers ran in to intercept it, immediately dousing the beast in flames. Ramsey sighed, not even that killing machine could withstand that much damage, they killed it. Just as Jay was about to turn back to the front, an ear-piercing roar filled the night sky. Ramsey turned to see the Sweeper emerge from the flames and wiped out the entire Flamer squad in one swipe. Screams of fear and anguish replaced the sound of gunfire and battleshouts as the abomination stomped through the regiment lines, Biosoldiers swarming around it's feet. Ramsey cursed, he looked to Colton who was busy preparing an RPG, "Colton, we need to get out of here! We gotta save as many as we can and get to Kline and the others!" Colton looked up at Ramsey, for a second he was in disbelief. "Hot damn, nobody fuckin' told me you came back!" He looked around for a second, watching as the Sweeper jumped on another group of retreating Insurgents, "Shit! No time for a reunion, your right. We gotta get the hell outta here!" He fired off his RPG and called together any nearby soldiers, that was 5 Knights and 4 Insurgents, one of then was a Medic. "Listen men, you're under my command now. Justin(The 22nt Field Commander) went down as soon as that fucker," Colton pointed to the Sweeper, "busted in here. Now we're gonna get the fuck out of here and to Kline at the Rally Point!" Colton started off into an ally, "Come on!"
Adrenaline filled Ramsey's vains as he and Colton's makeshift squad made their way through the ruined allies of Enclave Territory. To the side he would occasionally see a wounded or dead Insurgent, probably who made their way here in an attempt to escape the carnage outside. He heard more bombs hit, that was the third bombardment in the past hour and a half. Ramsey gulped, it was only a matter of time until the Enclave sent a swarm of troops over the the Outcast base camp, where Jackson, Casdin, and the others were. According to a radio operator with them, Jacob, Kline and Ranik's men are getting hit pretty hard. That was bad, that meant that they were headed right back into what they retreated from. Ramsey just hoped that there were more troops there, and that the Enclave didn't have any more of those Monsters that obliterated the 22nt.
Roland shook his head as the buzz of a nearby mortar shell rang in his ears. He loaded another magazine into his Grease Gun, took aim at a closing sweeper and shot it in the paws. The thing front-flipped over and skidded to a stop just in time to trip up a few closing Biosoldiers. Roland quickly found himself confronted by three of the buggers with Ranik still heading away towards Ramsey's group. He pulled out his hatchet and swung at the first Biosoldier, the sharp blae cleaving through its skull. He then dropped another one by kicking the blades off its knees and curb stomping it. He shoved the hatchet back into his waistband and struck out at a third Biosoldier with his fist before sprinting off after Ramsey and Ranik.
The Evolved Sweeper turned its attention back to another group that had been watching it. Prey to it. It wasn't controlled by the Enclave, so if it were Enclave it wouldn't matter. Prey. Prey. Kill. The Sweeper began rushing at them with a passion. Not really. It lunged at the first one, Ramsey, but he just barely dodged. Luck. Kill. Now. The thing hadn't shaken off the fire from earlier yet, so it was still burning bright in the sky, and was now attempting to light them. Unfortunately, however, Samantha stayed back with Ramseys group and had already climbed up the things back and was stabbing at its eyes. The Sweeper now had Ramsey by the neck with its tail, but then loosened its grip as Samantha RIPPED ITS EYES OUT. It madly thrashed to no prevail and fell over, and then Samantha emptied her clip into it and began following Coltin again.
The advance had slowed to a crawl. The artillery barrage had torn up the ground up to about the walls and now was thinning. Reports from Knight-Captain Jackson revealed that the previous night, the Enclave had sent a detachment to deal with the Outcast artillery. The guns were heavily defended by the Outcasts there, but in focusing their attention on the Enclave at the Outcasts' main position, they could not concentrate on providing the necessary support for the Brotherhood advance. Shells were still falling though, but minigun and plasma fire was streaming down from the Nest's walls. Ranik ducked as the Austin Brother ahead of him was hit square in the chest with a plasma blast, falling silently onto his back. "KEEP MOVING! DON'T STOP!" Ranik urged the men around him. To his left, he could see Paladin Samson Kline kicking his men into action and making sure they didn't slow down. To Ranik's right, Knight Martin raked the walls with is minigun. Then, hell erupted.
With a blast that shook the earth, the walls collapsed. Enclave troopers were crushed in the debris and staggering men were picked off. The sappers had done excellent work, with the main gate crashing down. Unfortunately, behind the walls were the flood of Biosoldiers. They scampered forward as Ranik, Kline, and several of the Brotherhood Paladins ordered their men into close order formation. Disciplined volleys of fire cut down an innumerable ammount of Biosoldiers, but they kept coming, and soon, Ranik was ducking, dodging, swinging, and letting off close range shotgun blasts as the melee erupted. The Austinites held. Insurgents and Brotherhood soldiers alike, years of hatred, years of oppression, years of rage released in every stroke and every shot. Slowly, the advance began grinding forward again, despite losses. Ranik managed to keep Colby and Martin around him, but Kline, Carter, and the rest had gotten lost in the fray again.
Suddenly, up ahead, like the fury of an angry god, a Sweeper tore through the doors of out of the compound buildings. It howled it's defiance as it loped toward the main advance. Threatening all as it reared. Ranik aimed his shotgun but didn't fire. An explosion burst on it's chest, followed by a second on it's neck that nearly tore it's head clean off. Mini-nukes began falling like rain on the compound. Ranik could make out shapes in the flashes. Nightmare movements of Enclave artillerymen desperately trying to evacuate their positions. Flickers, screaming, explosions. Chunks of debris were thrown up as bits of Biosoldier and Enclave trooper alike were rent asunder. Ranik heard a small voice in his head. Or was it his comm. "Hammer, this is Guardian. We're still watching over you." Ranik listened as the sound of rotors filled the air. He looked up to see a low-flying Vertibird, painted in the familiar red and black and bearing the cog and sword symbol of the Outcasts. Pride filled his heart as the familiar sight of Knight-Captain Jackson stood in the doorway. Ranik keyed his commm as the first of the Vertibirds swooped in low to let it's heavy weapons soldiers disembark directly on top of the Enclave compound. "Strike from the sky Brothers!" Ranik yelled into his comm, as more birds swooped in.
Viktor could do nothing but stare as the Brotherhood finally marched to war. To free Austin! For victory! A tear ran down his cheek as his chest swelled with pride. He slewed the Barghest around , pulling a rather impressive donuut maneuvre among the advancing Biosoldiers, crushing them under three-and-a-quarter tonnes of steel and burning rubber. There was an insurgent standing on the back seat, firing the mounted guns into the heaving mass of soldiers. Viktor hadn't got her name when she had jumped into the HUMV with him, but Dean seemed to like her. And up there in the turret, well, she was magnificent. Screaming profanities at the Biosoldiers around them and whooping elatedly as the Outcast Air Support arrived, raining fiery hell down on those bastards in the Nest. Viktor slammed the Barghest into gear again and gunned the engine, slamming into a Sweeper as it charged towards a Brotherhood flamer unit. Then he slammed it back into neutral, stamped on the brakes and spun the wheel. He knew just how far he could push the vehicle without flipping it, and he was doing just that, scattering the Biosoldiers as the swarmed forwards, and crushing those that didn't move.
"YEAH MOTHERFUCKERS! COME AND GET IT WHILE ITS HOT!" Viktor roared at the top of his lungs as the massive HUMV splattered the Biosoldiers in its path. Then he slid it into reverse, revving the engine and screeching along the streets, mangling all in his path as the Barghest's steel bumpers fucked the Biosoldiers out of the way. The girls in the turret was just laughing and singing as she continued firing, and Dean was barking in the passenger seat. This was the best chance the Union had of winning this war.
Johnson had watched as the walls had fallen. He had watched as that Outcast, Samantha Vain had ripped through his soldiers like an angry god. It had burned in his heart that these mongrel swin were attacking them. It was an affront to him. They were below even the Biosoldiers and Sweepers. They were lower forms of life! And yet, here they were, going head-on with the best soldiers in the region. Johnson wanted to vomit at the thought.
"Advance. Men and women of the Enclave, advance! Once more into the breach! For America! For a better tomorrow, ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH!" Johnson roared as he led a crack team of Enclave Elite in Hellfire Armor, carrying Gatling Lasers and Heavy Incinerators into the fray. They pushed to the front of the fighting, tearing holes in the Union formation ahead of them as they rushed to get to the Outcasts, a foe truly worth fighting. Ranik would beg for mercy at Johnson's feet.
A Biosoldier sprang up towards its opponent, but quickly found that it had been bisected between the hips and the ribs by a whirling chainsword. As the upper half of its torso sailed through the air, a burst of 10mm pelted into its neck (or its metal equivilant thereof), eventually breaking it and sending its head flying in another direction. Carter span around to parry an oncoming swing from another Biosoldier's blade, forcing it back momentarily before it could attack with any of its other limbs before promptly filling that one with lead, as well. His Ripper noisily but gracefully sailed through the head of another Biosoldier before it could get a strike on him. With all this adrenaline pumping throuh him, the Biosoldiers suddenly didn't seem as alien or frightening as they once did to Carter. Now, they were just the enemies of the Brotherhood like any else. And in the name of the Brotherhood, they would perish.
Noticing that the battlefield around him was relatively clear, he stopped revving and sheathed his Ripper, then holstered his SMG before reaching for his Combat Shotgun, taking a hold of the grip and bringing it around just in time to decapitate another Biosoldier that was heading his way. It was at this point he heard a yell, followed by the constant screams of Union soldiers. They seemed to be getting louder, as though the thing butchering them was getting closer. He rushed over to his fellow Outcasts, awaiting what approached them.
A biosoldier approached Roland, its lifeless eyes boring invisible daggers into Roland's chest. Despite the fear and annoyance welling up inside him, however, the merchant stood fast. He rammed his shoulder into the man-beast's head-gimble assembly, knocking its face clean off and keeling the beast over. He hopped as another biosoldier swung for his legs, then brought his entire lower body down on the biosoldier with crushing force, smashing it to the ground. He held his grease gun one handed, crouching and leaning back as he shot int othe approaching mob of zombie-like creatures before he heard the screech of the Barghest's tires behind him. Turning away from the rubble pile as a few more Biosoldiers broke into his position, Roland jumped at the vehicle. His cybernetic hand found purchase on the vehicle's trailer, and the merchant found himself dragged back asswards from the end of the trailer. Roland pulled hard and threw himself inside, landing with a thunk on the floor.
Ranik listened to the screams of the dying and, even through his respiratior, he could smell the stench of the dead. The Union troops around him were immolated as their light cloth armor caught fire from the heavy incineraters. Beyond the flames of the breach, Ranik could see the Outcast Airborne, clearing the complex of buildings Outcasts, led by the charismatic Knight-Captain Jackson, clearing buildings and being embroiled in combat with Enclave troops. Ahead of Ranik was an issue far more pressing. A man. A Warrior Weapon, leading his men, the most elite of the elite, into the breach to confront them. The advance had stopped. The man, Johnson, was a butcher. Union troops and Austin Brothers alike fell before he an his unit. Hellfire helmets leered across the breach at Ranik and all seemed to pause as the two sides sized each other up.
Ranik fired a shot into one of the gatling laser armed troopers, seeing his head recoil and blood sprut from buckshot holes in the exposed neck of his undersuit. Then it erupted again. This time man against man. No abominations, no mechanical creations, man against man, albeit an enhanced man. The combat seemed to swirl around as Ranik came face to face with Johnson. The man's Tesla Armor crackled and his voice was metallic and steely as he spoke. "This is the rightful place of the American People, this is the rightful place of the true human race. The Pure human race." Ranik shook his head. "I know what you are, Johnson, and you are no pure human. This city does belong to the people, and you are no longer their oppressors. Today you die." Ranik fired a shot that went high as Johnson came up under his guard. Ranik maintained a grip on his weapon, however, spinning with the butt of it and missing as Johnson ducked and evaded. It was well, and truely, Defender Wallace Ranik's moment of reckoning, and deep down, he knew that what happened in these next moments, would decide if he was going to make it home to Lost Hills, to be with his wife again. All that was left to be decided was his fate, and how he would meet it.
Leaping out of the trailer somewhere nearby an embattled squad of Brotherhood soldiers, he rained .45 death on the the closing Biosoldiers. Along the way, he noted that Ramsey was amongst them, but moving to break away. "Ramsey!" Roland shouted. "Where are you going?!" The merchant quickly moved off after his Austinite sniper counterpart. After all, the man had a better knowlege of the area and had survived longer in this hellhole than he had. It was pretty much a given that the newcomer would follow.
Johnson grabbed an Outcast as the mongrel went to stab at him with a machete. He redirected the attack, and rammed his Okatana through the bastard's chest. He dropped the body and slashed at another Outcast. He missed this time, but moved on flawlessly to decapitate a Texan Brother of Steel. The head spun off into the rain and the wind.
"Ranik! Wallace Ranik! Face me dog! Where are you? Your life is at an end you mongrel son of a bitch." Johnson roared over the sound of the battle.
Viktor spun the Barghest around, slewing the trailer through a group of Enclave Soldiers. The human ones. If they could be described as human at all, condoning the Biosoldiers and Sweepers as they did. Roland had disappeared from the trailer, running off after Ramsey. Viktor shrugged, what harm could it do? He sped the Barghest back to friendly ground, then jumped out. Dean barked and followed him. The girl in the turret shouted something and leaped after him. Viktor smiled at that. Maybe after all this, he could settle down, without the constant threat of torture and conversion to a Biosoldier.
He, Dean and the woman from the turret took off after Roland, catching up with him after about five minutes solid running.
"Where are you headed to then?" Viktor shouted over the roar of guns to Roland as he slapped him on the back.
Ranik swirled through combat, using techniques picked up from Jacob Vaughton in D.C. combined with blasts from his Combat Shotgun. He blew the faceplate clear of an Enclave trooper before turning and dropping another with the butt of his weapon. He'd lost track of Robert Johnson, but could hear him. He called for Ranik to face him. Ranik would not leave him wanting. "Johnson," he called out, "you are an abuser of the people and oppressor of Austin. Your rule is at an end. Tonight you will rest in the rubble of your own industry."
"I'm going after Ramsey." Roland stated bluntly as a few bullets whined past his head. Checking the magazine on his Grease Gun, he fired a few shots into the chest of a charging Enclave trooper. The .45 "sledgehammer" roundsknocked the soldier flat on his back, stranding him. Roland put a few more rounds into the downed soldier. "It looks like he and his unit are makinga move for the Nest, I might just have to follow him in."
Without thinking, Carter aimed at an Enclave Elite's head and fired. Although the rest had barely done anything to the helmet, a single pellet had precisely penetrated the soldier's visor. Blood spurted out of the hole in the plexiglass shortly afterwards, and he collapsed like the heap of ceramics, servos and flesh he was. He flattened to the floor as something whizzed past his head, and looked in the direction it came from to see another of the bastards holding a Gauss Rifle a few metres ahead of him. Making a quick, crouched dash towards the soldier, he cracked him over the head with the butt of his shotgun then quickly put the barrel to his armoured chin and pulling the trigger twice. He swore, span around and fired one-handed as he realised another Biosoldier was heading his way, its chest soaking up the buckshot and his Power Armor soaking up the recoil, the end result being a headless Biosoldier being sent reeling. He paused to look around the battlefield. No black and red in sight. Where was Ranik? More importantly, where was Johnson?
As if by some unseen command, the battle-lines parted between Johnson and Ranik. Johnson locked eyes with Ranik through his Tesla Armor helmet, while Ranik stared back through the lenses of his antiquated T-4x Medic Armor. Each knew that the other was burning fiery holes in the other's head with their gaze. They both seethed with hate, facing their respective sworn enemies. Johnson flourished his Okatana and drew a Desert Eagle in the other hand. He fired at Ranik as the Outcast moved to the left, returning fire with his shotgun. Each man's rounds bounced off the other man's armor. All but one. One of Johnson's bullets clipped Ranik's shoulder, penetrating his undersuit. Ranik fell to the ground, firing once more with his shotgun. The blast didn't penetrate Johnson's armor, but the sheer concussive force pitched him backwards like a super sledge.
Johnson grunted as he forced himself back to his feet. Ranik snarled as he did the same. They moved towards each other. Ranik had that sick feeling of doom in his gut that had overtaken him at Fairfax. That feeling that he was going to die. He went for a punch at Johnson, who dodged, reversing the strike and answering with a kick to the thigh. Ranik staggered, and Johnson landed another punch on the venerable Outcast. Ranik's head swam as Johnson punched again and again. Only one thing stood out to him. A girl, back in California. He wanted to see her again. He had to see her again. He would see her again. With a roar of pent-up hate, rage, contempt and a reason to go on, Ranik pushed his body past its limits. Every muscle burned and every nerve-ending was set alight by the force with which he burst upwards into Johnson's chest. He sent the Warrior Weapon staggering, and before Johson could recover, Ranik had landed a kick, just like he had seen Jacob do to the Crusaders.
Ranik followed up with a strike with his gun stock. The blow cracked Johnson's head backwards, but the Master Sergeant wasn't done yet. He kicked out at Ranik, desperation lending him strength as he sent Ranik sprawling. Johnson kicked Ranik's legs out from under him, and raised his Okatana to land a killing blow.
"Last words, dog?" Johnson sneered.
"Woof-fucking-woof!" Ranik responded as he fired his combat shotgun upwards into Johnson's groin. Just to be sure Johnson was dead. Ranik rolled to his feet and fired into Johnson's head until the drum clicked empty, and Johnson's head was smeared across the breach.
Miles Parker gave out a roar of victory, Johnson was Dead! Cheering and celebration took over the gunfire. This area was clear, and Johnson, the antagonist of the Enclave, was dead. Miles ran over to Ranik, truly Austin's angel of freedom. The man had come into their city with no regret, no fear it seemed and had successfully killed the head of the Southern Enclave. Tears of joy and cheer ran down the Union commander's wore face, this was it, they were going to win this war. Ranik stood next to Johnson's body, although his armor covered his face, Miles could tell the man was in disbelief. The Worn leader put a fatherly hand on Ranik's plated back. "Son, damn I would be the proudest man in the world to really call you that, your our angel Ranik, our Angel of Freedom." Pride filled the worn man's heart, their angels had come.
Miles had taken to a destroyed tank, standing on top of the wreckage. He could see a massive crowd of Union troops, the occasional Brotherhood Knight in the ranks. Ranik stood beside him, Miles had urged the man to join him on the tank. With a wave of his hand, the Union leader had silenced most conversation within the crowd. He could still hear distant gunfire and explosions for the battle still waged on. Taking a deep breath, Miles had begun his speech. "People of Austin!" His voice boomed throughout the courtyard they were in, truly amazing for a man of his age, "You have suffered an eternity of punishment and cruelty from these dogs, but it is now that we fight back! Our Angels have come, like carvery from God they came and started this fray with the single idea of liberating us!" A cheer echoed in the courtyard, people shot their guns in the air, but they silenced after a minute. "But celebrate not now, for this war still goes on. The Enclave is still in full force, gripping onto our city like a hungry leech! It is now that we must strike, it is now that we must retake what is ours! Go my people, advance to the nests and then onto the Capitol, by this time tomorrow, we will be Free!" The speech was broadcasted through the Union radio waves, battleshouts and cheers rumbled the ground. Everybody was moving forward to retake their city, their land. Miles looked to Ranik, who still had not spoken. "Come brother, we must finish this fight." With that Miles ran with the crowd, it was time to rid their city of these Enclave dogs.
Ramsey gave Roland a friendly hit on the shoulder, the man had turned out to be quite the comrade, a friend aswell. Colton, still leading Ramsey and the others, said that they were headed to the heart of the nest. He said there were still captives there, living Austinites waiting to be disgustingly turned into Biosoldiers. Ramsey hated the thought of that, he'd seen friends turned into those monsters, you can always tell because they give the abominations the armor of the victim, which always has their name on it. He's personally killed good friends turned Biosoldier, twas' a shame. A cheer suddenly erupted, it was Union. Rich, the radio operator, let out a victorious laugh. "They've done it man, they really did it!" Colton turned to the hysterical man, "What? What did that do!?!" Rich grabbed both of Colton's shoulders, "They killed Johnson! It was that Brotherhood leader, Ranik! He's our angel!" Everybody was silent for a moment, taking the news in. Colton let out a hearty laugh, followed by everybody else. They were gonna do this, they were gonna win! Jay's eyes began to water, he could only imagine the victory that Miles is feeling, let alone Ranik, their savior.
After a few minutes of victorious laughter and shouts, Colton ordered a hush. "Listen men, this is a good thing, we all know that. But that was not the end, we still have to take out the nests and then onto the capitol. We're gonna get in there fast and quick, free the captives, and maybe plant a good deal of explosions on our way out, a proper goodbye in my opinion." A smile covered his face. Colton put his helmet back on and armed his Assault Rifle, "Lets hit it!"
Ranik hung his head. In pain he realized that there was still more fighting to be done. Gunfire still crackled from the Nests, even as the Brotherhood and Union troops surged forth once again. Ranik stooped one last time over Master Sergeant Johnson. A horribly misguided rendition of his friend Jacob Vaughton; and a wholely lesser version. He said a silent prayer to God that Jacob may forgive him for the killing of his "brother." It needed to be done. Gingerly, he picked up the man's Okatana and placed it on his back. He had no skill with the weapon, but it was a war trophy. Putting a fresh mag into his Combat Shotgun, Ranik trotted to rejoin Carter, who'd stopped and waited for him. His muscles ached and his shoulder burned from the wound given by Johnson's Desert Eagle, but Med-X and Stims were quickly filling his system. He swept up a flight of stairs to find four Outcasts spraying minigun fire back and forth, ripping apart abominations left and right as they flopped around. A hand grabbed Ranik's shoulder from behind him. Ranik cringed as the pain hit and he turned to see the familiar faceplate of Knight-Captain Jackson. "Nice to see a familiar faceplate," Ranik said through gritted teeth. "We're pushing them back," Jackson said, "and when they can go back no further, they die. Plain and simple." Ranik looked, satisfied with the gory business as vengeful Union troops joined in. Ranik watched as the Barghest went screaming by below a catwalk, then moved on. There was still work to do this day.
Walking down the opposite stairs, Ranik had his weapon at the ready. Without warning, one of the Outcasts in front of him was jumped on by a Biosoldier from above. It's foot-claws pierced the man's armor as he let off a futile laser blast. Ranik felt himself pushed aside and heard a great whine, then flesh being hewn apart a Carter pushed past with his R91 Ripper, slcing the thing from collarbone to groin in a matter of seconds. Ranik knelt down to administer aid to the wounded man as two more Outasts with miniguns sprayed two Biosoldiers from the mesh above them. Leaving one man with the wounded Outcast, Ranik kicked in a door. He was greeted by a near miss with a plasma pistol to which he promptly reponded with buckshot, spattering the Enclave officer all over the far wall. When he emerged from the room, he saw another familiar face. Paladin Samson Kline. He was leading another Enclave prisoner out. The Officer wore a greatcoat and had Colonel's insignia on it. "Ian Chase," Kline said, "I'm taking him to Miles to see what we do with him, now that his muscle is dead. By the way, Defender Ranik. Your boys here to some hella good fightin'." Ranik responded with a nod. "They do. Everyone has."
"So," Roland said as he looked over at his sniper counterpart, "I guess it's time to breach the breach?" IGnoring his redundant question and chuckling slightly at the notion, he skittered down the debris pile Ramsey and his squad had been taking shelter on. He reached the ground just as Viktor, Dean, that Union Girl and the Barghest went hurtling past him into the massive hole in the wall.The merchant smiled to himself, watching as the crazy Austinite driver hurtled past. And then a Biosoldier was upon him.
Roland recognized these biosoldiers as slightly different from the rest. For one, it was dressed in slightly better armor. For two, it was carrying some sort of pneumatic launcher on its left arm instead of a second blade. And third, it had fucking giant metal teeth. The thing raised its arm and shot something out of that pneumatic launcher. Roland barely had time to dodge as- was that a fucking HARPOON that thing just shot at me? Roland thought as he rolled out of the way. Sure enough, a second and third harpoon shot out; the second one missing and the third one pinging off a wall and landing in the Barghest's chassis, dragging the biosoldier along with it. Roland quickly gunned down the other two.
"There's fucking new ones, now?" Roland thought to himself. "Well then, might as well teach them a lesson in etiquette." And with that lesson in mind, he wrenched the harpoon gun off one of the biosoldiers' arms, lifted it up and held onto it like the Biosoldiers would. Yeah, this was gonna be a long night in Austin. He sprinted off, back to where Ramsey had came from and showed him the gun. "It looks like some of the biosoldiers have a few new toys," he said.
"Hop on board, boys! Train leaves in five minutes!" Viktor shouted as he circled the Barghest back towards Roland and Jay. Dean barked what Viktor assumed to be an echo of what he had just said, and then he saw a Biosoldier with a fucking harpoon gun clamber back to its feet, having lodged its harpoon in the chassis. Viktor sighed and hit it with the door. It flopped back to the ground, while Viktor climbed out and delivered a shotgun blast to its chest.
"Plenty of space in the back seats and the trailer. Take your pick lads, bbut be fuckin quick about it, now that these freakshow nightmares have guns." Viktor called to Roland, Jay and the other soldiers with them. Without any hesitation, they climbed aboard, crouching in the trailer, weapons at the ready. If Jay could snipe from a trailer bouncing along at high speed, then he was even better at that shit than Viktor could remember.
Roland hopped into the back of the trailer wordlessly, letting out a short burst at the encroaching horde of Biosoldiers. A few more harpoons whistled through the iair, past the trailer, anchoring into the ground with a loud thunk. The merchant assumed it went without saying that the word of the day was "faster"- such as now-
"Viktor! Get this thing moving faster; those Biosoldiers are getting a bit close, and I conjure they're not coming for tea and cookies!" Roland fired another short "burp" of Grease Gun fire into the crowd of biosoldiers, watching as one went down. A harpoon whizzed towards him, but his enhanced optics saw it coming and his cybernetic hand reached out and snatched the low-speed projectile before it hit him. The tip was barbed, nasty, covered in blood and bone matter- probably from its last victim. He took out his hatchet and snapped the taut wire with it, placing the harpoon to the side of the Barghest's trailer before sitting down.
If all else failed, he could just chuck the spears back at them.
Ranik fired another burst of buckshot into a Biosoldier, watching as the mist of blood disipated where it'd just stood.Souddenly, something pinged off his chest armor. He looked down to see a scratch, then looked on the ground to see a jagged harpoon laying there. He looked up in time to duck the clawed swing of another Biosoldier and blow it's guts out with more buckshot. Ahead, yet another lobbed a harpoon his way, Ranik ducked and it glanced off the Outcast behind him's shoulder armor. Annoyed, the man swung his minigun around and painted the wall behind the Biosoldier red. Ranik looked over the gantry to where the advance was still going on. Texan Brothers of Steel and Outcasts were weathering the harpoon rain due to their Power Armor, but the Union insurgents were having a difficult time. Their cloth and leather armor was considerably weaker so many of the harpoons were finding their marks. Men lay impaled in the streets or grievously wounded screaming on the ground. The assault couldn't falter now. Ranik looked up to see an Outcast Vertibird sweep in low, firing it's minigun and several missiles into the horde of Biosoldiers, whose largely unarmored flesh was rent asunder with ease.
Ranik trotted further along the gantry with Jackson, Carter, and a few other Outcasts. They burst through a door. Inside was another large conveyor system, not unlike the one Ranik had seen a few days ago. This time, the stasis tanks were all empty, their residents long since called out to defend their Nest. Easy pickins. Ranik thought as he began to prep explosives. Just as he was finishing, he noticed grating on the floor and heard muffled shouts. Switching on his helmet lamp, he illuminated a face. Startled he raised his weapon, but when the face recoiled, he noticed it was the face of a small girl. "Jackson, Carter, come see this," he called. The other Outcasts trotted over and the three men wrenched the gate back, revealing twenty or so people, prisoners, awaiting "treatment." Defender Colby approached. "Knight-Captain, the explosives are set, we should-- what the hell?" she said, shocked. "Get them out of there," Jackson said flatly and the Outcasts went to work pulling the people out of the hole.
The building rocked and shuddered as the explosives went off. Ranik could hear the interior floors collapsing as he moved on with the Outcasts in the advance. The Nest was nearly cleared. Allied troops were discovering prisoners everywhere, and the buildings of the Nest were taking time to clear. The Capitol was in sight though, just as the sun was peaking over the skyline.
Ramsey could still hear the scattered gunfire and the occasional thundering boom from the artillery blasts, but not nearly as much as earlier in the day. It was night now, the battle would calm down for the most part until dawn, that's how these things always seemed to happen. Even the Enclave needed rest after all. Unfortunately, their Biosoldiers didn't. He looked up to see Colton and two other Knights in front of him, the three of them leading the way for the rest of them to the Nest. To his side was Roland, looking determined and confident as ever. He hoped that the man would hold his cool even after seeing the horrors of the nest, Ramsey was barley able to years ago when he first saw one from the inside. They were running down an abandoned street, the roads littered with all sorts of bodies. They had left the Barghest a few blocks behind, not daring to risk being detected this far into enemy lines. This was 9th street, the scene where the 5th Union Insurgents were suppose to capture and then go on to reinforce the front line on 6th street, where Ranik and the others were at the moment. It seemed that the battle ended in a massacre on the Union's side, probably due to Enclave artillery judging from the craters. A crashed Vertibird was embedded into a nearby building, Jay couldn't tell if it was Enclave or Outcast. It didn't matter really, whoever was in it was dead now. After about another 15 minutes of running, Colton ordered a halt. A quick scan of the area and he was back with the rest of them, forming a huddle. "Well men, the nest is right up on the next street. It's currently being assaulted by the 13th on the other side; that will provide a distraction for us to infiltrate through the back and free those captives. After doing that and setting a few charges, we're gonna get the fuck outta there, detonate the explosives, and return those civilians to New Austin." He exhaled, it was quite a mouthful indeed, "After that, well, we're gonna get back there on the front lines, meet up with Kline and the rest, and continue to take this city. Everybody got it?" Ramsey looked around as everybody gave a determined nod, this was it, they were going in. "Okay then, let's get on it. Everybody, on me!" With that Colton charged off to the nest, the rest of the group following his tracks.
It was the stench of the place that bothered Ramsey the most, it smelt of fear, death, and plaster. They had just entered through a vent in the back, taking a few guards with them. According to Ramsey's memory, they were in the weapons department. All around him he could see machines making the nightmarish steel blades, along with the devious head contraptions. Adam, their makeshift demolitions expert, placed a good charge or two on the main system core of this section, "That'll knock out this weapons department, along with some of the other section's power source." Ramsey nodded, the man was doing good, he hoped that Adam would last long enough to see this thing through. Victor walked past Ramsey, observing the nest. Maybe this was his first time inside of a nest, Ramsey had to admit that it was a hard thing to process. Colton waved everybody over, telling them to hurry up. They had to get this thing done before the 13th stopped fighting. Ramsey loaded his weapon, he had a feeling that things were gonna go bad real soon.
Jenn H. Ramsey slowly ate her tainted rations given to her by the Enclave dogs. She'd been in this prison for nearly two months now; why they waited until they turned her into one of those monsters, she didn't know. It was hopeless, she knew it well. She already watched as they took David, Greg, and Amanda White into "Room 101", the chamber where they turn people into abominations. She cried for a long time when they took Amanda, the poor girl was never able to see Aaron again before her death. It saddened her to know that she died a broken heart. Jenn had wondered what her two brothers would do right now. Other captives had told her to end her own life before she was taken to 101, but she couldn't do it. When ever she had considered it, she heard Jay telling her that whatever happens, you must always survive for as long as you can. Oh how she missed him, his comforting smile and courageous spirit. Although she had convinced Aaron and Miles that she was over Jay's death, she really wasn't. It pained her every waking moment to think that he died alone. It drove Aaron insane, making him go on a hopeless trek to find their beloved brother. No, she would never see Aaron again aswell, she too would die alone. Some hope had arrived not but a day ago, someone seemed to overhear one of the guards talk about the Union starting up an assault with the help of some other force. People had come up with many ideas of who the other force could be. Some suggested it was the Desert Rangers, some said it was that one religious cult from Oklahoma, maybe even the Tibetan making a come back, but none of them seemed reasonable. Some people had even dared to think that it was the Brotherhood of Steel, but that wasn't possible, the Brotherhood were never going to come, never.
Jenn watched as another prisoner was taken from the cell, she shut her eyes and plugged her ears to prevent herself from hearing the man's hopeless screams for mercy and help, his begging for forgiveness, telling the guards that he would kill any Union member he saw, that he would join the Enclave ranks and tear children to pieces if he had too. The man was finally silenced by a nightstick to his face, reducing his screams and pleading to mere sobs. Tears started to drip from Jenn's cheeks, it was hopeless.
Roland stalled near a door that was adjacent to the weapons room, a door marked "Subjects". He took his grease gun out slowly, moving over to the door. "You hear that?" He said quietly, placing an ear to the door. "It sounds like someone in there's being beaten... Wait, now it's quiet." A Brotherhood Outcast approached the door nearby Roland, placing his un-helmeted head up against it. "Yeah, I hear it too."
Roland cleared his throat. He'd been hiding pretty much the entire time, except for when he had confronted the Bodysnatchers from the safety of the back of the Barghest. Now, however, it was him against the Enclave's worst nightmares. It was time to stand up for that.
"I'm going in there." And, without a second word edgewise, the Mmerchant dissappeared through the door.
Wel, not necessarily "dissappeared". More like the doorframe dissappeared and Roland barrelled through it. Holding his Grease Gun one handed, he vented the skull of an Enclave Soldier wearing Riot Armor with his ancient weapon, and picked the poor guy up off the floor. He looked over the cells, then quickly looted the guard's corpse. A shotgun and the armor, a few mementos, but no key. Roland sighed. "It's never easy, is it?"
He looked at the door to Jenn's cell. It wasn't a solid energy barrier like he saw in most Enclave facilities, it was just a simple metal door with a deadbolt lock on the outside and a single grate in the top to slip food through. It didn't look too tough. To Roland, at least.
"Batter up," He said as he wound up with his cybernetic arm and let loose. The kinetic force of the first punch wasn't much, only putting a modest dent in the door. Roland felt the blow in his neck, silently thanking whatever deitys were out there for the invention of the neckbrace before he drew back again. This time his fist started to warp th eentire door. A third and final blow was landed, and the door flat-out flew off the hinges, clattered against the far wall and fell to the floor with a thud. The merchant, still holding his Grease Gun, flicked the night vision on in his left eye and looked around the room, finding the occupant huddled in a corner.
"Well what are you waiting for?" Roland said nonchalantly. "Jury's out on this place, time to go." Jenn stared at him, dumbfounded for a second. "Come on," Roland said a second time, grabbing Jenn's wrist and hauling her out of the cell. Disregarding her, he proceeded to use the butane torch in his middle finger and break open the other cells using it.
Jenn looked up at this man, this strange and mysterious man. Who was he? She didn't know. Where was he from? She didn't know that either. All she knew was that whoever this guy was, he just somehow infiltrated this nest, killed the guards, and freed Jenn. There he stood, with his metallic hand waiting for Jenn's grip. What could she do, refuse it? She took his hand. He continued to free the other prisoners with some torch coming from his finger, strange she would say. Cheers of gratitude and freedom filled the dark chamber they were in, some of the freed Union members went and armed themselves with the Guard's weapons, kicking the dead bodies a few times while they were over there. This metallic man still had not identified himself, but he seemed to take command of the situation. After everybody was out of their cells he ordered them to move on down some hallways, claiming that the rest were waiting. Jenn still held tight to this his hand, it was cold and lifeless, yet it seemed to still be human. This was it, she was not going to die, at least not today. From outside she could now here thundering explosions and gunfire, what was happening? Maybe the Enclave were finally exterminating her people, oh God she pleaded that wasn't true. Jenn and the rest of the escapees were running down the dark and claustrophobic hallways, all of them following their enigmatic savior. They reached a group of men, some of them Union, some of them the Austin Brotherhood. Now that was a sight, the Austin Brotherhood finally taking the offensive. She recognized a few of them, like Colton and Jacob, but there was someone else. He wore Brotherhood armor yes, but it was painted red in some places. Maybe he was a special rank or something. He came over to greet the metallic man whom Jenn still had not learned the name of. But something happened, the red armored man fell to his knees in front of Jenn. Who was he, did she knew him? Then he took off his helmet. A few seconds of analyzing confirmed her thoughts. Tears poured from her eyes as she ran over and hugged him with all her might, he did the same. He came back, Jay had finally returned.
Jay gripped his little sister like there was no tomorrow. She was alive, she was all grown up, she was Jenn Hannah Ramsey. Nothing else mattered at this moment, the war, the Brotherhood, their objective, nothing. This was what he was fighting for, this was why he went through this whole campaign of fighting, death, and destruction. Jay was truly absent of what to say, he had no idea what to tell her. He had no words for how he abandoned her, how he left her here to suffer, how he betrayed her and Aaron. But he didn't have to speak, for she beat him to it. "I missed you" She managed to get out between sobs, Jay stroked her mangled hair, "So did I Jenn, so did I." Behind them the rest of the squad went over the plan, greeting the released prisoners and informing them of the situation. Jay stood up, Jenn still gripped to him. He pulled her off of him, "Listen Jenn, we have got to get moving. The revolution has started, we're taking the city back from the Enclave thanks to the help of the Brotherhood of Steel." Her face lit up at the last part, "I'll explain more later, but we have to finish our mission. Do you know of any other cells with prisoners?" She took a moment to take it all in, "No, they just finished up turning the other block's residents into Bio's. We were next." Jay nodded, it was a shame that they couldn't have been here sooner. He turned to Colton and Roland, "Colton, place the explosives and meet us out front. Roland, round everybody up and follow me, we're gettin' the hell out of here." With that Jay, Roland, Jenn, and the others ran for the exit while Colton and his Knights went on to blow this place back to hell.
"So we're riding the bullet to the heart of the Austin Enclave?" Roland nodded, cocking the action on his Grease Gun as he looked over at Ramsey. "That sounds good."
A biosoldier burst from a side passage. A mighty shoulder slam blew the Biosoldier off its feet, but it was still alive. Not to be one-upped, Roland ripped the beast's entire fucking arm off. He dismembered the blade that was wrapped in the Biosoldier's fleshy stump and bent the bottom part into a circle, sliding it into a busted lead pipe from the previous Biosoldier nest. He crimped the end of the pipe shut around it and slid the "machete" into his coat, alongside his hatchet. He quickly caught up with the rest of the group, leaving the biosoldier squirming on the ground.
Defender Wallace Ranik advanced at the vanguard of the battle alongside Miles, Knight-Captain Jackson, Paladin Kline, and the rest of the Austin Brotherhood of Steel and survivors of the Outcast drop assault force. Shells whizzed overhead, sent from far off positions of the Outcast artillery. The capitol steps were in sight as explosions blossomed around the Enclave defenses and the flames of the Nest burned behind them. Thick clouds of black smoke cascaded up into the morning, a red dawn that spoke of untold bloodshed. Rumbles of warlike thunder echoed throughout the valleys of the urban jungle. With pride, Ranik halted at the foot of the capitol steps. Then he heard it. A gutteral, unholy sound that was half roar, and half the scream of a thousand tortured souls. Turning, Ranik witnessed the horror of the Queen Sweeper as it reared up over the flames. Immediately opening fire, Brotherhood of Steel soldiers and Outcasts were tossed aside like toys. Some got up and staggered into cover, others layed motionless. The Queen roared it's defiance as Brothers dragged wounded clear. The attack on the Capitol faltered as the Sweeper drove the weary Brothers back from the fighting. "NO!" Ranik called out, "NOT NOW! NOT AFTER WE'VE COME THIS FAR! ADVANCE!" Ranik ran forward, followed closely by Knight Martin and Defender Colby, then by Paladin Kline and Samantha Vain, and finally by Knight Captain Jackson. Miles stopped retreating, calling to the Brotherhood of Steel and the Outcasts. "You, men of valor, Angels of Austin! Have you not fought and gained and lost and wept this day? Has not Wallace Ranik, the Savior of Austin, lead and fought beside you and wept with you and gained and lost this day? Yet into the fight he goes! Who will not now be a man of valor? Who will not now, in this hour of change, forge the city of Austin anew. It is now, under the eyes of God Almighty, that destiny beckons you! Will you not answer His call? Who here wants to live forever!" At Miles' beckoning, one by one, Brothers of Steel and Outcasts plunged back into battle. All Ranik could see was the roaring beast, the final obstacle between him and Lost Hills. He could hear explosions and gunfire and the whiz of artillery and thud thud thud of Vertibirds. This was it. He glanced behind him. There was indeed still valor left within the Brotherhood, for they were still beside him.
Jay heard explosions shake behind him, it was the Nest. Colton and his men had successfully destroyed the main Nest, just one step in this entire cascade. He, Roland, Victor, and the others ran now with the 5th Union Insurgents. They were headed to the Capitol to help Miles, Kline, and Ranik take the fortress. To his right was Jenn, a 10mm SMG in her hands and the iconic medic symbol on her shoulder. She was back into the battle, even though Jay didn't like it. No, he cringed at the fact that little Jenn was on the field fighting, but he couldn't stop it. He never could, not now, not when they were kids, never. She was a fighter, she was Union. Victor had taken up using his vehicle to make raiding runs through the Enclave lines, weakening their defenses. Besides him, this regiment was just a group of 168 conscripted men, women, and teenagers who wanted to be free. It was a shame that they would most likely die in the process. He wished Colton was here, he would lead these people right, but Colton was elsewhere, killing Enclave as usual. They would round the next block and they'd be in the battle, helping his brothers fight for the greater good. Then he saw it, it was a Sweeper all right, but it was huge. He spotted Ranik and the others fighting it, they needed help. Some people started to retreat, but even more stayed. Jay looked around at these people, they were poor, starving, exhausted, and tired of this war. It needed to end, it needed to end today. Jay grabbed a bazooka from a dead Insurgent and held it in the air. He let loose a massive battlecry and fired his RPG at the monster. Following him, all of the 5th fired their weapons and yelled in vengeance, today was their day.
"In the name of Austin and the Brotherhood, charge!" Roland shouted, leaping down over the low wall of rubble Jay and the others perched upon, drawing his hatchet and machete and charging the Queen of Sweepers. Gone was his previous fatigue and fear, replaced with a burning anger and hatred of these abominations. He closed the distance between himself and the Queen Sweeper with surprising speed and buried his hatchet in the monster's hide, using the weapon to propel himself up onto the Sweeper's massive spiked back. He then began to repeatedly stab his "machete" hilt-deep into the beast's back, feeling arteraial spray coat his entire front side.
The beast retaliated by flicking him off its back like a massive, cybernetic flea. Landing headfirst next to a Bodysnatcher's disembodied pneumatic harpoon launcher, Roland lifted the ugly thing off the dead beast's arm and fired a single harpoon, which embedded itself in the sweeper's skull. It roared in defiance and charged at him.
The Queen roared. There was a harpoon stuck in its skull. Roland retracted to the harpoon in an attempt to pull it towards him, but the harpoon simply came out, without even moving the Queen. The Queen whipped at him with its tail, missing but hitting one of the other Outcasts. The Queen wrapped its tail around this Outcast and brought it to its mouth. It bit and swallowed, and then dropped the other half of the power armored body. The Queen charged Roland again with its acid spit ready.
And the charging Queen took a shotgun blast right into her open mouth as she hacked up a good mouthful of that acid. Viktor stepped into the room, Dean by his side. Viktor had learned that it was a good idea to shoot any spitting Sweepers just as they were about to launch their salvo. The Queen screached as the acid dripped down onto the floor in front of her, and all over her forelegs. She howled, but seemed more enraged than hurt. And that, as a wise man once said, was a very, very bad thing. But Dean was on it. The Wonderdog, as the Outcasts had taken to calling him, took a running jump at the Queen, latching his teeth into its heavy browridge as the beast thrashed about. But even Dean's FEV enhanced strength couldn't hang on for long, and he was cast off by the massive Sweeper.
"Bad Sweeper!" Samantha shouted as she fired her Zhu Rong at it. Sadly, the Queen was just as resistant to fire as her Evolved Sweeper kin. The great beast just roared what seemed to be amusement. Samantha rapidly backpedalled as the Queen ambled after her, firing her Zhu Rong in one hand and her SMG in the other. Why didn't I take one of those Assault Rifles Jacob offered? Samantha thought as she moved back, desperate to make some space between her and the Sweeper Queen.
Viktor fired again, his shotgun's flechette rounds doing impressive damage to the Biosoldiers that were swarming, yet again. However, the Queen's hide was almost impenetrable. And when a shot actually got through that armored skin, the bitch thing just shrugged them off! Was there no way to kill this freak, this nightmare?
Samantha jumped behind cover, and noticed a conveniently placed AK-47 sitting in the hand of a dead Union soldier. She grabbed it and loaded the clip with the 7.62x39mm rounds she found on the body. Not aiming, she sprayed the beast that was now headed for Viktor. When she thought it was safe, she jumped and rolled over the car she was using as cover and seen the Queen attempting to eat another Union soldier. She took aim and and fired at the eyes, the Queen roared and spat acid at the Union soldier, lighting him on fire. The Queen sprinted towards Samantha and grabbed the car she had been using as cover and chucked it at Samantha. She dodged and noticed that Roland had made a second attempt to get on the things back. The Queen turned around with Roland still on its back, and charged towards a stone wall. (Hope you don't mind destroying a part of Austin!) The Queen roared and smashed through the wall, not even Roland could hold on from that. The Queen was gone, for now, but the building was now resting on only two walls! "Everybody! Get out! That buildings gonna collapse!" Samantha heard a Union soldier say, she was already far enough though.
The building collapsed to rubble, anybody that was inside had to be dead. What about Roland..? Samantha thought. Roland didn't get out in time. (Roland can do that thing he did in The Outcasts RP, and dig out lol) The Outcasts then heard a loud roar, and another building just a block away collapse. The Queen was coming back for more.
Ranik fired his shotgun blindly from behind cover. Most of the Brothers of Steel and the Outcasts were hunkered down in the ruins of collapsed buildings. This helped a little, but the frustrated Queen would just bat entire piles of rubble out of the way. Ranik peeked up to see an Austin Brother tossed high in the air, then swallowed whole. Ranik nearly vomited in disgust. Then his comm chattered to life. Jackson looked at him, as did Kline. "...Outcast Air Squadron Alpha, what do you need? We are armed, fueled, and coming in hot," Ranik listened to the familiar voice of Hannah Hamilton. He looked up to see six Vertibirds, flying in a wedge formation, high above the battlefield. The Queen's armored tail flicked up and the birds ascended away from the danger, circling around and strafing on a second run. "I want mini-nukes on that thing!" Ranik screamed in desperation. "Roger," was Hannah's response. Ranik watched as the lead Vertibird broke away from the squadron, this had to work. Another Outcast was battered away as he was trying to drag an Austin Brother's wounded body clear. The Vertibird swung low and Ranik countered it's payload. One, two, three, four, five, six mini-nukes. Explosions blossomed along it's back and Ranik could see huge chunks of flesh blown clear. He fired with his shotgun some more, hopeless shots that did nothing. The beast shuddered and collapsed. Ranik heard it scream in defiance as it began to get back up. It wasn't like before. The scream sounded hurt. They'd hurt i. The allies poured fire on the stricken Queen, which looked now like a wounded animal. It's coordination was failing and it was struggling to defend itself. The other Vertibirds dropped their payloads but the Queen still lived, though badly wounded. "Heading back to re-arm," Hannah said, professionally. The damage was done, the Austin Brotherhood, the Union, and the Outcasts just had to finish the job.
Jay watched as their eagles soured above them in the sky, dropping waves of Mini-Nukes on the monstrous beast they were fighting. The Sweeper was engulfed in explosions and fire, followed by a massive barrage of various gunfire and RPG rockets from all of the Union and Brotherhood soldiers. It let out a howl of pain, it was slowly but surly dying. Union and Brotherhood alike charged it, firing all sorts of guns at the confused abomination. Jay hoisted his RPG onto his shoulder and fired a burning rocket into the monster's neck, blowing a sizable hole in it's flesh. Blood and some strange acid spewed out of the wound, the Sweeper itself running in circles in a blind rage. Jay and 2 others ducked behind a fallen pillar as it's tail swiped above their heads. To his left one unlucky Union girl was batted 60 feet into the air by the pure force of the Sweeper's tail. Jay heard her 2 second scream of vain before her body smashed against a building, initiating a horrible crunching sound. Jay looked behind him at Jenn, who was tending to a wounded Brotherhood Knight. He envisioned Jenn being gruesomely killed like the poor girl who was splattered across a wall somewhere to his left, no, it had to end now before they all perished. Jay rose up and sprinted to Ranik who was perched behind some rubble with Kline and Miles. After a quick salute Jay went to ease, "Ranik, we liberated the east Nest and blew the damn place to rubble. Colton and his team are going around to flank the Enclave, they'll be attacking any second. We've got to kill this Sweeper and continue the assault before Colton and the others are slaughtered." Jay turned to Miles, "Hah, I see the old man's still got fight left in him. Come on Miles, we need you to lead the Union. Kline and Ranik have got the Brotherhood under control." Miles grabbed his M4 Carbine and walked up to Jay, "When did you start ordering me around, eh? Damn bullshit..." Jay let a chuckle loose and ran on, Miles at his side. The Sweeper was nearly dead, then they could finally move on to the Capitol. Jay had a queasy feeling about that though, truly nobody had ever seen the inside and lived. God knows what is really lurking in there.
"Martin! Use the Fat Man!" Ranik screamed at Knight Martin. Martin was Ranik's heavy weapons trooper. He'd fought alongside Ranik for years in the Brotherhood and then as an Outcast. He was part of Ranik's squad that held The Gate at Fairfax. He was a dependable man, and a disciplined soldier. Ranik watched as he sprinted forward. Jay had gone with Miles to support Paladin Colton's attack on the Capitol. Ranik looked over at Carter, across the clearing, he was leading Brotherhood and Outcasts alike. His normally reserved nature out the window as he was screaming and kicking Brothers of Steel into action. The volume of fire did not let up. Defender Colby was beside Ranik, injecting Med-X into her own arm. Blood flowed freely from beneath a gaping tear in her armor. Knight Captain Jackson was the model of cool. Calmly firing his .44 at straggling Biosoldiers on the ground. Kline was barking at his men, making sure the fire didn't slacken. Ranik looked across the courtyard again, to see Viktor, Dean, and Samantha Vain moving to join Jay and the Union, as well as Roland digging clear of rubble. Ranik's eyes settled on Knight Martin.
Martin did a baseball slide, skidding into the fallen Austin Brother clutching the Fat Man mini nuke catapault. From one knee, he raised it up to fire. Ranik watched in horror as before he could do so the Queen's tail swept him up. It lifted Knight Martin high in the air, opening it's gaping mouth to devour it's next meal. Martin retained his grip on the Fat Man. Ranik rose, firing buckshot up into the beast as he walked forward. It was hopeless. Ranik watched as Martin raised the Fat Man, not taking a second look down to see if any of his comrades were coming to his aid, he launched the mini nuke. "NO-!" Ranik screamed as the explosion engulfed the Queen's head and the brave Knight. Ranik was pushed off his feat as raining pieces of brain and tissue came down. He blurrily saw Martin's body thrown clear of the blast. The Queen toppled and fell, it's lifeless body coming to rest. The stump of it's neck pumped blood onto the ground. Dizzily, Ranik stood up, looking around. He caught sight of Knight Martin's body and rushed to his side.
Kneeling down, he took the lifeless Knight into his arms. He felt hot tears running down his cheek. There was nothing anyone could've done for Knight Martin. Never had he witnessed such an act of courage and selflessness. Now his friend was gone. Removing Martin's helmet, he looked down at the fallen Knight, his eyes closed, his face spectled with blood, and his crew cut hair, matted down with sweat and blood, it's light blonde stained maroon. Ranik let him lay as Colby touched his shoulder. "Stay with him," Ranik said through the tears, standing up. "Defender I-" Colby started, but was cut off by Ranik. "Get his body onto a Vertibird and send it back to the camp," Ranik said. Defender Colby nodded as Ranik stooped down to take Martin's holotags. He checked his Combat Shotgun and started off in the direction the other remaining Brothers and Outcasts were moving. Towards the Capitol, to finish the fight.
Roland was pinned. He had managed to free his torso from the small pocket the rubble had stored him in, but that had only succeeded in collapsing the rest of the rubble around him. There was a gash on his forehead that was bleeding profusely, and his eyes rolled in their skulls. It wasn't like Independence, where he had merely been trapped behind a pile of rubble and was able to tunnel through. No, this time he had been pinned under the rubble, in the collapse, with only a small gap through which to breathe. His vision faded to black briefly as he finally hauled himself out of the rubble.
His whole body, well the human parts at least, hurt. He had at least two cracked ribs and his left leg had been partially crushed, leading him to be unable to stand. So he shouted one feeble "MEDIC!" and then collapsed, face-first, onto the hard Austin turf.
Jenn amazingly, through the deafening sounds of battle, heard someone call for a medic. His voice was familiar, yet new. She looked around for a moment, watching for any potential threats, and then, once the coast was clear, she strafed towards the wounded man. Even from a distance she could tell he was in bad shape. It seemed that the building he was under collapsed ontop of him, how he even managed to crawl out was no less than a miracle. She skidded across the rubble to avoid a spray of bullets from some Enclave turret, she cursed for not seeing that on her way over. After breathing for a moment she looked at her patient. And then, with a steady hand, she uncovered the man's face to see her savior, Roland Rockfort. It was him, the man that saved her from the Nest, the man that reunited her to Jay, the man that saved her life. After a quick second of shock, she decided to repay him the favor. Jenn immediately went to work on the man. She started by dragging him out of the rubble and onto a solid surface. He was surprisingly heavy for such an average guy. She then checked him for injuries. He had 4 broken and fractured ribs, a major concussion, his leg was twisted, and his left shoulder was dislocated. Along with that, he was covered in very serious cuts, bruises, and welts. In her medical opinion, there was no way a normal human being could've lasted this long, not to mention the initial cause. No, she couldn't do this alone. This man needed major medical attention, and fast. She scrambled back for her radio, God please get a signal. Static, Static, and there it was, she got a signal. A second's relif was all she needed. Jenn quickly brought the out-of-date microphone closely to her mouth, as to drown out all the gunfire. "This is Jenn Ramsey, previously 2nt Battalion, now with the Southern Assault Army. I am on the corner of 11th and Guadalupe in the ruins of some factory. I need immediate medical attention for a key member of the resistance!" She waited anxiously, baiting her bottom lip. Then she heard a long-awaited response, "I hear you Jenn, this is 4th Battalion operator Yales. We've got a few squads a block away from you, I'll send some of them over. Just stay tight, over and out." She set the radio down and returned to Roland. His breathing was getting audible, a good sign. She waved her hand through his slicked back brown hair, "You're gonna be alright, I'll make sure of that."
Jay gripped his salvaged AK-101, his sniper rifle was safely strapped to his back. No, there would be no need for sniping here, they were infiltrating the greatest target of their lives, the enigmatic Capitol. To his left Jay watched as a determined Ranik charged the Capitol, leaving behind him the corpse of Knight Martin. Jay cringed, it never got any less easy loosing a comrade in battle, even more so if he were a friend. Viktor and Miles were right beside Jay, both of them ready to give their lives for a place all of them have come to know as home. He heard from a radio operator that Jenn was tending to Roland a few blocks down, that was good and bad news. Good news was that Jenn would be away from the battle, bad news is that Roland would not be by his side in this fray. He knew that man would make it through, he always did. Jay charged with a whole army of different regiments and battalions, now just called the Southern Assault Army. All of Austin's forces have combined into 4 armies, the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western Assault armies. All of them were pushing the Enclave back to their central base, the Capitol. News was that the Western and Northern were already making the attack, and the Southern, what he was in, was only minutes away. Nobody had really any idea what was going on with the East, most are saying that their being attacked from behind by an Enclave counter-assault. It didn't matter at this point, they were too deep to pull out now, this was it. The Capitol then came into view from behind a corner, it's gates blown open by Kline's men. Motors and missiles downed the colossal walls, sending brick, metal, and dirt flying. It was at that moment that every single soldier able to rushed through the destroyed wall, swarming through the large cloud of smoke created by the blast. Jay ran in with Miles and Viktor on his tail. Not but a second after they charged in, a surge of machine gun fire eradicated the first wave of Insurgents. Jay dove for cover, that being a fallen pillar from the wall. Miles and Viktor followed, providing cover fire for other troops as they ran. Miles gripped nudged at the two, "We have to kill that MG tower, it's mowing Insurgents down like rats!" He had to yell to keep up with the constant noise of battle around them, "Viktor, you still got rockets for that RPG?" Viktor quickly checked and nodded, he knew what to do. "I'm on it Miles. Jay, keep me covered." The wore-torn Ramsey nodded, cocking back his Ak-101. "3..2..GO!" Jay rose first, spraying down two Enclave soldiers. Viktor rose a second afterwards, taking a moment to aim his shot, and then he fired. Both of them quickly ducked back behind the pillar. The Explosion rocked the ground, sending debris and body parts through the air. A "Hoorah!" came from Miles, who leaped the pillar and continued the assault, Jay and Viktor right beside him. And a whole army of loyal militia at their tail. With a massive bloodlust and vengeance in mind, The Union hereby entered the never before seen Capitol interior, alongside them the courageous Brotherhood of Steel. Jay found himself praying, this time not for the souls he was about to take, but this time for the souls he was about to save.
Ranik surged through a breach in the walls. It wasn't more than an hour ago that he'd managed to slay a Warrior Weapon on the blood-soaked rubble of a breach just like this one. Now he had two things on his mind. The first was a girl. His wife in Lost Hills. She had to be waiting and she had to be hoping that one day he'd return to her. Ranik could almost see her beautiful smile. The other thing on his mind was much more pressing. Much more primal. Vengeance. Vengeance for the people. Vengeance for the Union. Vengeance for all of the Austin Brothers of Steel and the Outcast he'd seen shot, eated, slashed, dismembered. Vengeance for Knight Martin. The Enclave needed to pay, and they needed to pay dearly. They needed to pay in their blood. Ranik felt two shots ping off his armor. "Lock and load, soldier!" it said to him. Ranik pumped buckshot into a fleeing Enclave riot trooper, dropping him. He turned and fired again, gutshooting another Enclave soldier as he started up the steps of the Capitol. Sandbags and pre-fabricated barricades led up the Capitol steps. Ranik fired again, striking a trooper in the face and launching him backward into his little bunker. There weren't many Enclave soldiers left. Ranik heard a great noise from the east. They'd long since lost track of the Eastern battlegroup. Ranik looked up as the MG nest atop the stairs exploded. Another great sound to the East. Ranik paused as the Eastern wall came down. Smashing through was an Ike Battle Tank. Sitting on top of the turret was none other than the Enforcer, Samantha Vain herself. Three more Ikes followed in behind her, as well as a host of infantry. Ranik could see Union insurgents, Austin Brothers, and even a few Outcasts scattered amongst the infantry force. They surged up the hill as the Ikes battered Enclave positions with their cannons. A truely awe-inspiring sight. Enclave resistance in the East quickly crumbled.
Ranik turned his attention back to the stairs and continued his ascent, followed closely by Knight Captain Jackson, Paladin Kline, and dozens more Brothers of Steel, Outcasts, and Union troops. Gunfire ripped apart the Enclave troops atop the stairs, which now were pitted with craters and running red with pooling blood. Scattered weapons and bits of armor, as well as bodies layed everywhere. Ranik peppered another Enclave trooper, who staggered before receiving a .44 round to the head courtesy of Jackson. Kline swung his R91 in wide arcs, quickly neutralizing any targets that presented themselves. Ranik look back as he reached the top of the stairs. A Union banner bearer was unfuring the old state flag of Texas. The lone star white and proud in the wind. Beside him, another Austin Brother was unfurling a banner of the Brotherhood of Steel. The Sword and Cogs waving beside the Union flag. These two men stopped on the top and presented their banners as the assault forces surged past them. With the roar of Ikes behind him and the sound of thousands of jubilant voices, and the vision of his wife in his mind, Ranik put his shoulder down and smashed through the heavy wooden doors. He rose to his feet as he came inside. This was it. Ranik's weapon hung at his side as he gaped in awe at the interior of the building.
Roland flickered back into consciousness. The weight of his injuries felt like a ton of bricks weighted down on his chest. He was very surprised. Not about the crushed ribs; those happened every time something extremely heavy bore down on him in a magnificent manner, I.E what just happened. But the force of the impact had been enough to completely and totally bend his right cybernetic leg out of shape- surprising, considering it was framed in titanium- and dislocate his left cybernetic arm, which was also surprising.
"Well That's going to take some Krazy Glue to fix..." Roland mumbled incoherently to himself as he gazed around himself in a completely detatched manner. Eventually he looked up and noticed that Jenn was dragging him by the collar of his trench-jacket. Said jacket was likewise damaged by being dragged through small puddles of Sweeper blood and being ripped to shit beneath a falling building. Either way, jackets could be replaced. He looked back towards his 'savior' and smiled a bit.
"Well, look who's returning the favor." He said, a bit more coherently than before. "I guess I owe you a beer or something, ma'am. Either that or we're even."
Ranik shook off the initial awe and horror of the interior of the Capitol. Raising his weapon again, he snarled three words to the allied troops moving in behind them: "Kill them all." Ranik fired his Combat Shotgun, hitting a scientist square in the chest and laying his body out over some computer equipment. He groaned as the equipment sparked and Ranik fired again at the vat behind him, within which was a fledging Biosoldier. The fluid ran all over the sparking equipment as the Biosoldier flopped out, no longer living. The scientist convulsed as the electrical equipment ran heavy voltage through his wounded form. A cruel death for cruel people. Ranik couldn't believe that the Enclave claimed to help the people. They'd turned the Capitol of Texas, a supposed building of the order they promised to bring, into a center for their cruel creation process. They needed to die. Ranik's thoughts briefly drifted to Jacob Vaughton. He'd been ex-Enclave. Ranik was glad he could put an "ex" in front of that. Jacob was a man of honor. He did help the people. He'd said the Enclave regarded him as a failure. Ranik couldn't help but think now, that his good friend Vaughton must've been the Enclave's only success. Ranik tracked as a man in a long white doctor's lab coat made a break for the door. He fired twice, dropping the man. He walked over to where the man was still trying to crawl. "Scum," Ranik grunted without looking down, he fired a shot into the back of the man's head. He flet a slight burn as he was hit in the shoulder with a laser blast. He turned to see some brave, but stupid, scientist holding an AEP7. The battle was in earnest now. The Enclave fighting core was all but wiped out. Now a scientist had just shot him. Gunfire continued in the background and troops rushed by as Ranik stalked toward this foolhardy Enclave bookworm. He fired again and Ranik felt a burn through his chestplate. It was merely heat. Ranik bashed the pistol out of the man's hand with the butt of his shotgun and brought it around quickly, dropping the unfortunate scientist with a blow to the face with the weapon. Ranik's black and red armor was menacing as flames began to erupt along the walls high above him. He reached down, gripping the man's throat and lifting him up again. Ranik's breathing was audible to the man through his respirator. "You think you own the world," Ranik snarled. The man choked some illegible words out. Ranik buried the muzzle of his shotgun into the man's guts. "You are dead. The Enclave is dead." he grunted, discharging his weapon into the man's guts, blowing a clear hole out of his back. The man spit blood as Ranik let him fall to the floor. Vengeance was still to be had this day.
Knight-Captain Jackson watched Ranik as he strangled the Enclave man and put a shell clear through his gut. Jackson smiled inside his helmet. He would have done the same thing. The things he had seen inside the Capitol Building was despicable; almost worse than what he had seen at Fairfax. It still gave nightmares of the worst variety, seeing his fellow Knights shot like bowling pins by the Crusade. Sure, Jackson wasn't suicidal anymore, but he would be if his comrades hadn't been by him through trial and trial hence. Shouldering his R91 Ripper, Jackson, stepped on the back of a mortally wounded scientist, his legs blown clear. Blood flowed freely, and his entire body shook and shivered. The man's uniform, once a kilo-white color, was now scarlet red, stained by his own bodily fluid. Stopping him with his powered armor foot, Jackson flipped the man over, kicking him onto his back. The man's eyes were an icy blue; his hair, a cropped dirty blondish color stained with blood. Jackson pried a dead biosoldier from a wall cell, breaking it's arms off by severing it with his trench knife. Taking the brutish blade, he placed the tip on the man's chest, who was still pinned, and took his other power armored foot and pushed the blade through his sternum, the man spasming and spazzing as he jerked, weakened, and lay still. Confident that the skinhead was dead, Jackson kicked the the body down a slight inclined ramp to a slight divet in the floor where his blood might drain. He turned towards Ranik. "I think we should continue with our foray into the Capitol Building. There may be more of our Brothers here, awaiting rescue." Jackson said, moving to a cold, partially opened blast-door sprayed with blood in a random shape and notion, it's shape askwe with one half of the door crookedly resting against it's hinge. Slinging his R91 Ripper over his shoulder, Jackson took a moment to make sure his revolver and trench knife. and then motioned for Ranik and Colby to help him with the door.
Ranik watched Jackson dispose of another of the Enclave Scientists with typical cold and cruelty. He despised these men as much as the next Outcast. It was good to see Jackson returning to his old self. Jackson was a good friend of Ranik. It'd seemed like years since he fought side-by-side with the man. Really it'd only been a couple of months, and he'd seen him a few days ago when they entered Austin. Nevermind all that, now wasn't the time for nostalgia. Ranik tapped Colby on the shoulder and she joined him in opening a heavy steel door. Ranik glanced back as a few more Outcasts and Paladin Kline, as well as more than a few Austin Brothers of Steel were beginning to turn their attention toward the next room. Ranik looked above to one of the catwalks as a burning Enclave Doctor was thrown over the side by vengeful Union insurgents. They'd soon have to leave though, Ranik thought, they didn't have the respirators like the Brotherhood did with their Power Armor. They'd be overcome by the smoke. Ranik heard a voice behind the door. He stuck the muzzle off his gun around the door and fired twice, then went in after hearing a heavy crumpling of a body. An Enclave Officer layed on the floor bleeding out. Jackson quickly cut his throat as he lifted his Plasma Pistol, which Ranik quickly scooped up, tossing it to Defender Colby. No reason they couldn't recover some good Enclave tech while they were here. The Brothers of Steel and Outcasts spread out among the cells of the Prison Area, half starved captives were in the cells. Many of them looked up weakly, then hauled themselves to their feet as they realized liberation had come. Ranik approached a cell. The man within's hands were stretched out toward him. Ranik recognized the cog and sword tattooed on his bicep. These were Brothers of Steel. Who knows how long they'd been here. Ranik grasped the man's hand in the Brotherhood warrior's grip. "Knight Captain Jackson," he called, "we must free these men! They are our Brethren!"
“Vengeance will be their freedom, brother!” Jackson shouted back to Ranik. His R91 Ripper in one hand, Jackson used the other to mash buttons on the prison control console he had spotted upon entering the room. Hopelessly lost, Jackson turned the console thingy over to a Union techie, who slew his M4 over his back and began working with the device to free the many trapped prisoners. His rifle still in hand, Jackson eyed an enemy as it took shape in the form of an Enclave guard rounding the corner, his back turned to Jackson and the console as he searched for the source of talking. He only wore a power armor helmet and his boxers, seeing as he had most likely been roused from sleep as the attack had begun. However, it made no difference to Jackson, who drew his combat knife and approached from behind. The man hardly had time to scream before Jackson kicked his legs in from behind, forcing to his knee as Jackson grabbed his shirtless back, driving the serrated knife own with cruel efficiency. Blood seeped and sprayed as the man quit struggling almost immediately. “From steel hence you came, hence to steel shall you return.” Jackson said, muttering an old brotherhood curse as he withdrew the knife and let the corpse fall to the ground lifeless in a growing pool of it’s own blood. Sheathing his combat knife, Jackson turned towards the Union techie, who nodded to him as he pressed down on a last button. All at once, numerous prison cells began to release their occupants, most of which fell to the ground lifeless. Only the fitter, more muscular ones had the strength to thank their respective god for freedom and deliverance. Jackson caught a brother in his own arms, eyeing the cog and sword tattoo. Slinging the man with one over his shoulder, Jackson nodded in respect to the Austin Brother. “Steel has returned to you, and it shall have its vengeance, brother, in your freedom.” Jackson said, earning a weak smile from his new friend.
The plexiglass dome that made up the helmet of a fleeing scientist abruptly blew apart, scattering across the room in tiny fragments. Another shot administered the same treatment to her head. Carter shouldered his shotgun and hurried over to the now-slumped corpse, detatching a small bag from the formerly sealed envrioment suit and checking its contents. Energy cells. He took the AEP7 from its holster and put both his prizes into a shoulder-bag he'd picked up earlier in the building. No point in just leaving the tech for the locals after the battle was over. With that, he continued his prowl into the room, covered by Defender Finley.
"I'm a cowardly fool!" Another scientist cried as he ran out in front of Carter, making a beeline across the room. The Defender grunted, span around and settled a one-handed aim with his shotgun for the man's back as he fled, firing twice in quick succession and sending him flying, his own momentum and the force of the shots carrying him forward through the door he intended to escape through. Finley gunned down another with his sidearm. Although his helm and his silence gave nothing away, Carter was enjoying this. It was little more than a massacre of almost defenseless civilians, but it felt righteous. These bastards deserved every bullet, every wound, every scream of agony for what they'd done to the people of this city. Every one.
Carter was rigging up a satchel charge on the door to a room a scientist had locked himself into when he heard the clanging of hefty boots over metal flooring. He froze. Then he smiled. Finley flipped over a steel table and mounted his Minigun on it, taking position while Carter began laying down a few mines in front of the main door to the lab, before hurrying behind cover himself. This was going to be interesting.
Jay smiled. A wave of fire spewed from a Union Insurgent's flamethrower, the man's gas mask shined a bright orange as the light reflected off of it. Infront of him were the hundreds, if not thousands, of Biosoldier holding pods, all of them now being turned into burning coffins for the wicked. Quickly and instinctively, Jay gunned down an escaping Biosoldier, it's body becoming a fiery inferno as it slipped out of the pod. The earth-shaking battle that Jay feared so upon entering this building turned out to be nothing more than an extermination. All around him he watched as Union and Brotherhood alike gunned down helpless Scientists. No, this was not like FairFax, back when he still saw hope in humanity, these people were sent by the devil. They created Austin a growing outpost of hell, trapping all of his people inside. His uncle had been the first victim, now these Enclave Scientists would be the last. There were still some pockets of resistance whithin the Capitol, but they were going fast. Miles was inspecting a line of captured scientists, Prisoners of War. Jay wondered what they were going to do with them, they couldn't just execute them, not here in Austin. He knew these men still had families. Just as Jay had thought that, Colton, that lucky bastard, ran up to Miles and Jay. "You guys have to come with me, we've got a situation." Even though Jay couldn't see his face, he could see it through his voice. It was a face of concern. Miles looked back and yelled something at a Union field officer, probably about the POW's, and then turned back to follow Colton. They ran through the chaos ridden halls, littered with bodies and blood. He saw Ranik and Jackson through a corridor, he tried to wave, but the two were busy beating a Enclave soldier. To his left he a series of explosions and minigun fire, he hoped it was their guns firing. The three finally reached a back room guarded by two of his men. This part of the capitol was strange though, it looked too normal for their strange architecture, too homely. Colton turned back to Miles and Jay, "I insist that you two put your weapons away, it might scare the young'ons." Miles spat out the water he was drinking in shock, "Children!? Why the hell are there children here-" Colton ignored him and opened the doors, revealing what looked like a living room, bed, television, pictures on the wall, all of it. What was most disturbing was what was curled up in the corner. A family, two women and four little children, all of them pale as the moon. Jay turned to Colton, "What is this Colton? Why is there a damn family here!?" Colton sighed, "Well, this is why this is a situation. We've been finding these rooms all over this sector, it seemed that the Enclave liked to keep families together." Miles let out a series of curses and, after calming down, started to think. "Colton, you have your men secure every one of these living areas that you can, keep everybody except Jay here, Ranik, Kline, and myself out of those rooms. God knows what people would do in blind rage." He scratched his lanky black hair, "Jay, go get Ranik and Kline, they need to know about this, damn." Jay nodded, "Consider it done, I'll be back in a second." With that he ran off back to where he last saw Ranik, Jay just hoped the man understood.
Ranik finished helping Jackson beat an Enclave soldier to a bloody pulp. The man layed in a heap on the floor, bleeding through cracks and tears in his armor. Motionless. Ranik went into another cell and picked up the man within. His leg was broken and he couldn't walk. He winced as Ranik picked him up. "Thank you Brother," the man said weakly, "I am forever in your debt." Ranik noted the Brotherhood seal tattooed on the man's exposed chest. "Think nothing of it, Brother," Ranik said back, "what is your name?" The man looked up at Ranik, who layed him down on one of the Union's makeshift stretchers near the front entrance, where the wounded were being taken away. "Gavin," the man said, "Knight Darius Gavin, Austin Brotherhood of Steel." Ranik nodded, the man suddenly looked puzzled. "Why is your armor colored as such, and who are you?" Ranik couldn't explain the tremendous series of events that had led to the Outcasts being here, and ultimately the freedom of so many people. "Just a Brother," Ranik said, before turning back toward the interior of the Capitol, where scattered fighting was still going on. Just as Ranik got to Knight-Captain Jackson, who was carrying yet another Austin Brother clear, Ranik heard a tremendous series of explosions. He looked down a far corridor where he saw Defender Carter and another Defender who he couldn't make out laying down a hail of gunfire into a room. Ranik did not envy the poor bastards at the mouth of those guns. He hadn't run into Sam or Viktor or Dean in a while. He hoped they were doing fine. He had seen Roland all bent and twisted to hell, being dragged away by a Union Medic outside, where resistance was all but destroyed.
Just as he went to help Jackson, Paladin Kline and Ramsey approached. "Brothers, you need to come see this," Ramsey said urgently. Ranik helped Jackson hand the injured Austin Brother to another Outcast and then the duo followed Kline and Ramsey to another section of the Capitol. Ranik looked around at the strangely peaceful architecture. Scattered bullet holes in the walls were the only tell in the otherwise peaceful scene that there was a battle in the other areas of the Capitol. The group approached Miles Parker. "What've we got?" Jackson said cooly. Parker raised his eyebrows. "You're not gonna believe this," he said.
Ranik looked at the Enclave families. Families so seemingly innocent. They weren't, however. Ranik raised his weapon. "Stop!" cried Paladin Kline. Ranik lowered his weapon, pausing. "Don't stop me, Kline. These people are Enclave, these people are on the side of tyranny. These people were witness to the atrocities committed against the people of Austin and the Brotherhood of Steel. Your men," Ranik spat in disgust. Kline shook his head, as Jackson turned toward Ranik. "They did not commit these atrocities," Kline said calmly, "they are chidren and women. Families of those we've already killed." Ranik turned toward the Paladin. "They earned their righteous death!" Ranik said, sternly. "Wallace," Jay intervined, "killing these people, it is not the way of the Book." Ramsey was referring to his religion book, one that Ranik had read parts of during Fairfax. "Your book says 'an eye for an eye,'" Ranik said. Jay looked at Ranik calmly. Jay knew that Ranik was broken after losing a dear friend in Knight Martin, he knew that Ranik would seek vengeance for every fallen Outcast on the field of battle. He also knew that killing women and children made them no better than the Enclave, and that deep down Ranik knew this too. He calmly talked to Ranik. "We are no better than the Enclave if we kill these people here. Pockets of resistance remain, who knows what kind of struggle they'll put up if they learn of atrocities committed here, in blind rage," Jay said, with reason. "What do you propose we do?" Ranik said. The Enclave families looked on as their fate was decided. "We exchange them to the final Enclave pockets, and they leave Austin forever," Jay said resolutely, "Wallace, I know it is vengeance you seek, but you have much more honor than to kill innocents." Ranik let his weapon fall to his side. He was not like the Enclave scum. He stood by Knight Captain Jackson and watched as the Austin Brothers of Steel led the civilians out for exchange. Ranik noticed the gunfire in the Capitol had all but ceased.
Ranik looked on from a tower on the Forbidden Keep, and watched as the Enclave Capitol burned, it's smoke casting a massive black plume that could be seen for miles. The flames burned long into the night. Of the 160 Outcasts that entered the field of battle today, 107 walked away. The Austin Brotherhood of Steel lost 56 men, and the Union Insurgents had paid a steep price of more than 300 men. The Enclave had been routed. Even now, the battered remains were retreating from Austin. Ranik didn't know where to, nor did he care. Vertibirds kept watch on their movements, a constant reminder to keep walking away. Stripped of armor, weapons, and vehicles, they formed an almost pitiful column into the desert. Ranik may have even felt sorry, were it not for their crimes against humanity. The Biosoldiers were all but extinct. The population knew that a few may lurk scattered throughout the city, but the Insurgents were already rounding up kill-teams to vanquish these foes. Every sweeper within Austin, including the queen, was dead. Ranik knew that some roamed the wastes, but these would not return to Austin. Ranik relished the victory, even as his own wounds healed. They'd be moving out soon, to Lost Hills, and all that had kept him through trial and woe, would be regained. He let his eyes close, and drifted to sleep for the night, allowing release to his battered, exhausted, and weary body.
Viktor sat watching the Capitol burn. he reached out, scratching Dean's ears as he sat on the kerb, his back against what he assumed was a warehouse at one point. He had a bandage on his arm, and another on his thigh. There was some gauze taped to his side too. Just as the Outcasts had stormed the building, Viktor had stepped in and taken a salvo of laser pistol shots from a group of panicking scientists. He'd been dragged out not too long ago, and had only been conscious for the past fifteen minutes or so. According to the medics, he was lucky the people shooting at him had been too panicked to take proper aim. Viktor looked around for Jay or Ranik or Carter, or Sam. Well, Sam was kinda insane, but her heart wasn't in the wrong place. He really owed the Outcasts a lot for their help. The whole of Austin did.
Then he looked around again, spotting Roland Rockfort. His jacket was in tatters and he looked like he was about to pass out. Had he been inside the Queen's building when it had collapsed? Viktor waved feebly, his side sending flashes of pain through his chest to remind him not to use his right arm too much. Roland could barely manage a nod. Then Viktor looked around again, spotting that man who had joined Ranik late in the battle. Jackson. The Outcasts seemed to answer to him, he'd been the one who called in the artillery and VTOL bombardment. Maybe I can ask him how to repay this debt the Outcasts have left us in . . . Viktor thought to himself as his eyes glazed over and he passed into the first peaceful sleep he had had in weeks.
Roland looked down at his mangled legs for the umpteenth time in the last few minutes, and each time he didn't bother to hide his unbridled surprise at such an event. The legs were goddamn titanium, after all! It must've been a lot more concrete than he had originally thought to warp his legs like that.
"Hold stil," the angel voice spoke from behind him, and Roland, unable to do anything else, conceded. He felt his head laid back on the concrete sidewalk as Jenn circled around to his left side, presumably to work on his arm. "This might twinge a bit," the medic said softly, so softly that Roland barely heard it. He managed a nod before he faded into the darkness of unconsciousness again.
Jenn managed to work Roland's arm back into its socket, but he found that the man's arm was surprisingly heavy for what appeared, from the outside, to be a perfectly normal arm. However, when she rolled back the sleeve to fix some of the lacerations on his arm, she realized he was no normal man.
The first thing she noticed was that the lacerations were not bleeding. Odd, but the ones she had seen so far hadn't gone far past the epidermis. However, the deepest gouges- the ones closest to the shoulder- weren't bleeding either. And, even more odd, was that the arm was actually set in a framework of a shiny silver metal. Beneath the metal were several bunches of long black tubes. "What the hell?" Jenn thought to herself as she further examined the tubes. It was going to be a long day.
When Roland finally returned to consciousness, he found an oddity amongst his belongings. Jenn was nowhere to be found. A large length of Gauze was tied around his forehead, which was already mildly bloody. The beginnings of a moderate-to-severe headache were already buzzing behind his eyeballs, which made him sensitive to the street-lamp overhead. Lifting the Grease Gun laid at his side to shoot out the street-light, he found that the skin on his left arm had been entirely rolled back. Inclining his head, he looked down at his legs to find that they had been stripped of skin too, from the knee to the foot. Grumbling something incoherent, he attempted to stand up and, with the aid of a crutch, pulled off the impressive feat. Now that he was up, he looked around. Ranik appeared to be in a meditative "do not disturb" mode, Jenn and Jay were communicating with eachother in a ruined building off to the side somewhere. Viktor, however, was pretty much left to himself in the corner with Dean and his Barghest.
Linping his way over to the Barghest, he hoisted himself up onto the bumper next to Viktor. "Well that was fun," he said, deadpan. However, he noted Viktor was asleep at the moment he said that. So he shut his mouth and sat on the bumper as well, just kind of relaxing.
Fireman - One Week Later
Ranik looked around as he picked up his helmet and Combat Shotgun. Ensuring it was clean and repaired, Ranik checked the chamber and the mechanism. He had meticulously repaired, oiled, and cleaned the weapon since the battle for the Capitol. He had done the same with his armor. It moved with the smoothness and effeciency that it had in the begining of the battle, and at Fairfax, and countless battles in between. Ranik surveyed the Outcast camp. The artillery was being stowed for transport, and the trucks were filled to the brim with captured Enclave tech and armor and weapons. All meticulously boxed and carefully protected. He gave a nod to Knight-Captain Jackson as he passed, clicking his weapon into place on his back. He gazed, most impressed, at the trio of captured Ike Battle Tanks. Sam had done well getting these. Valued Enclave armor was just another of the gems recovered by the Outcasts. The Specialists had captured many secrets of bio-engineering. Their plans were to put it to use medically, repairing and getting wounded men back into the fights faster than ever before. A great many Austin Brothers of Steel assisted. Some were even coming back with the Outcasts, to Lost Hills. Back home. Many of the insurgents were assisting too, indebted to the Outcasts for the liberation of Austin. Ranik approached a familiar vehicle and laid his hand on the side. He patted Dean on the head. "Well, Howlett," he said, "guess this'll be goodbye soon." The dusty scavenger grinned. "Ranik, we can't thank you enough," he said. Ranik paused. He knew what to say. "A great man," he started, "once told me, 'he who sheds blood beside me this day, shall be my brother eternal.'" Howlett looked at Ranik, taking in the words. Ranik laid a hand on his shoulder. "You bled beside me, Howlett, and there are no words of thanks between brothers. You owe us nothing." Howlett smiled and nodded. Ranik grasped his hand in the Brotherhood warriors' grip. There were more goodbyes to be said today.
Making his way across the Outcast Camp, Ranik stopped to bid goodbyes to Miles Parker and Paladin Colton. Ranik felt almost as if he had to defend himself from Parker's barrage of praise. The man meant well. He'd been awaiting these days his whole life. New theywere here. Even the sun was a little softer over the Austin skyline. Ranik made his way over to the pile of scrap being amassed and shifted by Roland Rockfort. The man seemed to be recovering well. Ranik stopped short of his longtime friend He'd appreciated the time he'd spent getting to know Roland these days in Austin. It wasn't often an Outcast said that about an outsider. "Roland," he called. The merchant looked up, smiling. "Well, my good Defender," he said, a lopsided grin crossing his face. Ranik smiled too, this time being visible without wearing his helmet, which was clipped onto his waistpiece. "Did you get the boxes I had sent for you?" Ranik said. "Thank you for the scrap metal and the steam gauges. The Grey Lady needed them. The crew is moving them on as we speak," he smiled, "and thanks for the other gifts, too." He referred to the five gatling lasers Ranik had given him. It wasn't often an Outcast gave out tech, but Roland had been alongside them in their most trying hours. Fairfax and Austin. Knight Captain Jackson had allowed it. Ranik looked at the ground as Roland stood up. He was about Ranik's height. "So I'll bet this is the last we'll be seeing of you?" Ranik said heavily. Roland smiled. "Oh, I don't know," he said, "the trade winds just may blow westward someday." Ranik smiled. "See that they do, I'll let our people in Lost Hills know that you're a friend of the Outcasts," Ranik said. He gripped Roland's hand as well and moved on, leaving Roland to continue the task of loading his steamship. The Insurgents that were now a part of his new "crew" were anxious to see the world. Apparantly Jay hadn't been the only Austinite with wanderlust.
Ranik walked toward the burnt out houses that'd protected the majority of the Outcasts from the elements during their stay, as well as allowed cover during the Enclave push to claim the artillery position. A push that failed. Ranik spotted Paladin Kline directing Austin Brothers of Steel within. "Paladin Kline," Ranik called, heading over to him. "Defender Ranik," Kline said back, in a friendly mocking tone. "What can I say, sir?" Ranik started, "but thank you. For your hospitality, your support, everything." Kline casually waived off the thank you. "You don't gotta say nothin'," he said, "buy me a shot of whiskey at Lost Hills and we're even." Ranik's eyes widened slightly. "Lost Hills?" he said. Kline nodded. "Yeah, I'm gettin' too old for this shit. I got a couple pups here that'll keep the place on the up and up. I'm comin' with you guys. No place to retire like the comforts of home, right?" he said. Ranik nodded. "Plus," Kline continued, "I got a wife and two kids there. Oldest boy should be an Initiate by now." Ranik smiled, "We'd be honored to have you with us," he said. "Pshh, honored?" Kline chuckled, "we'd be honored to go with. You and your boys here are the reason we'd saved the damn city. Without you, I'd'a died here. Nothin' ever woulda changed. Stop bein' so damn humble sometimes, Wallace, you did a damn good thing here. Plus, look at all the tech we got. The fellas at Lost Hills are gonna be messin' their drawers for years with all the stuff you boys are bringin' home." Ranik allowed himself a rare moment of satisfaction. It was so hard, because all he wanted at this point was his wife. He could feel her arms. The Outcasts had done well though, they were truely among the most elite units in the Brotherhood of Steel. Ranik threw Kline a wave as he walked away, the man continued his task of overseeing truck loading.
Ranik passed by Carter and Defender Finley. The duo had reaped a toll on the Enclave in the Capitol and Ranik threw them a wave. They were with Defender Krumm. Apparently he had some holotapes from D.C. that had a list of alcoholic beverages. Finley and Krumm were convincing the normally reserved Carter to let them have a make a few drinks to "lift the boys' spirits." Ranik chuckled to himself as slapped his helmeted head before slowly shaking it from side to side. Ranik went over to where his good friend was standing, talking to Protector Casdin. Ranik saluted the Protector and looked at Jay P. Ramsey. "Brother," he said slowly, smiling at Jenn Ramsey, as she smiled shyly back. Ramsey didn't say anything. He embraced Ranik in a hug. "Thank you Wallace," Ramsey said, almost tearfully. "You are my Brother in Arms, Jay, there is no need." Jay stopped him. "There is, you've re-united me with my sister. My little Jenn. That is more than I could've ever hoped for." Ranik smiled. "Word around camp is that you are staying here," Ranik said. Ramsey nodded. "I'm part of the Austin Brotherhood of Steel again," he said. "So you are, Paladin Ramsey," Ranik said. Jay smiled and wrapped an arm around his sister. Ranik could tell Jay had valued his time with the Outcasts, but he knew the all-imortance of family. "My brother, Aaron, has gone looking for me," Jay said, "I will await his return, then we will be a family yet again," Ramsey said. Ranik nodded. "Remember Jay, you and your family will always be welcome among the Outcasts at Lost Hills, no matter what becomes of us," Ranik said. He embraced Jay again, bidding final farewell to his Brother. The convoy was nearly loaded. "God be with you on your final journey, Wallace," Jay said.
"Let's move out," Ranik heard Casdin's order over the comm. He watched with pride as the first Ike ground forward at the head of the column, Outcasts riding the armored beast's hull, which had been hastily painted in black and red. Sam Vain hung out the top hatch, immensely proud of her toy. It was followed by a truck, laden with tech and more Outcasts. Then another, and another. Halfway through the colmn the second Ike moved forward. The trucks were pulling artillery and the final Ike was at the end of the line, a heavily defended rearguard. Ranik looked up as a flight of Vertibirds swooped overhead, already scouting. They would have more than enough fuel to reach Lost Hills. Jay had guided them to Austin, and now Kline and the Austin Brothers knew the way back home to Lost Hills. The road would wind through Midessa and into the lands of New Mexico, across the ruins of Santa Fe and into Arizona, where they'd veer northward into the New Republic of California and Lost Hills itself. Mechanized, the journey would only take about three weeks, by estimate. Ranik was a happy man. He could wait no longer to see his wife. Ranik looked out at the gathered Union troops, waving Union, Texas, and Brotherhood of Steel flags and issuing jubilent cheers that almost shook the ground. They fired weapons into the air and sang songs of victory as they waved goodbye to their angels. Ranik waved one last time to Viktor and Dean, then to Jay and Jenn. On the horizon, he could see the smoke of the Grey Lady moving back down the river toward the sea. Ranik breathed deeply and turned his attention westward as he leaned back against the vibration of the Ike Battle Tank. The Outcasts were not walking this road anymore. Trucks gained in Austin meant every man had a seat. Ranik watched the horizon. It was only a matter of time before he felt the warm embrace of his wife again. His helmeted head hung as he looked at his locket. Only a matter of time.
Jackson twirled his revolver. It would only be a matter of time before he'd have to face the Elders with Casdin. Boy, will I get a kick out of that one, Jackson thought. Even if they did accept his men back, it be hard to explain to them how he had mutinied, even if it was from Lyons and his natives. Jackson had followed Casdin, and along with him had brought the code down on his knees and cracked it in half for the others to follow. When Jackson had left as well, that had been the final straw. Two Knight-Captains leaving had been more than enough to bring about a justful split, but two Knight-Captains mutinying would be the only thing the Elders would hear. How could he ever tell the Elders? They wouldn't have it. He wouldn't even get a chance to explain his story. Or maybe they let him talk before they shot him and the Outcasts were annihilated. Holstering the weapon, Jackson looked towards Ranik. "Wallace..." Jackson said."I don't know how the Elders will react to us mutinying. But just in case, I want your radio man to let Casdin know we should probably have the entire cadre weapons-ready on arrival. I also want your crew weapons ready no matter what Casdin thinks. VTOLs with the wounded in the back, Ikes up front." Jackson said. Colby was listening to this exchange. "What's going on? I thought we'd welcome with open arms?" She said angrily. Jackson raised a hand. "We will, Defender. But there's a chance me and Casdin will have to pay a price for it. There's also a chance that the entire company will have to pay a price for it. I'm just preparing for the event I'm afraid of." Jackson said. He continued on. "You realize, Colby, that no matter what we did that we thought was right, we mutinied against an Elder. An Elder. You should happy, Sister, that you are not the one to break our story to the Elders. Either they will see us with sympathy in their hearts and courage in ours, or will shoot both me and Casdin, and then attempt to kill all of you." Jackson said. O'Haire raised an eyebrow. Finley was pissed. "Bullshit. You telling me that we went on this half-hearted crusade just so we could get shot by another enemy force that was comprised of our own brothers?" Finley said, drawing his laser pistol and aiming it across the truck at Jackson. Instinctively, Carter whipped out his own laser pistol, aiming at Finley. "I'm tired of this bullshit you've been pulling on us, Jackson! Ever since Germantown, it's all gone down the goddamn bullshit drain thanks to you! We've been on the move ceaselessly! And it's been proven that your not stable!" Finley screamed, shaking his laser pistol. Jackson didn't say anything, remaining quiet. Colby looked at either side, her hand on her weapon.
"Stay that pistol, soldier," Ranik boomed as he stormed across the back of the truck. Finley's head cocked quickly to the side as he began letting his guard down. "Defender Ranik," Finley said, "how many times did you keep Jackson from spattering the desert with his own brains?" Ranik had his hand on the stock of his weapon. "Aye, how many times? And how many times did I drag you out of a pitched battle? Do you remember Fairfax? When you lost your left eye? Or you Colby," Ranik said, motioning to the female Defender. "How many times have I picked you up and carried you out of harm's way?" Colby's hand relaxed from her hip. "At least six or seven, Wallace," she said shakily. "We are Brothers, altogether cast out by those whose mission was perverted and selfish. Knight-Captain Jackson is our Brother regardless, and you know this Finley," Ranik said, sternly. (Impartial Mediation Perk to the rescue!) Finley lowered his pistol and hung his head. Carter lowered his weapon and Jackson looked, almost stunned at Ranik. "Brothers do not kill Brothers," Ranik said to Finley. Finley turned to Jackson, looking him faceplate to faceplate. "Forgive me, Knight Captain," the Defender said, extending a hand, "we remain Outcasts together, Brothers in Arms. Brothers in Steel." Knight-Captain O'Haire stepped up, "Aye, how can they not accept us back? Look at the wonders we've recovered! The lost jewels, the still burning embers of society long thought lost." Ranik looked at the younger Knight-Captain. "You are correct, Knight-Captain, but desertion still carries the penalty of death." Ranik turned as the canvas-flap was thrown open, then saluted as Protector Casdin climbed in. "VTOL's have reported contact with Lost Hills," he said sternly. "Knight-Captain Jackson, it is time," Casdin said, putting a hand on Jackson's shoulder. "Steel be with you," Finley said. Jackson turned back. "In Steel we trust," he said. Ranik hung his head. He hoped, against hope, the Elders would accept them. He wanted to be with his wife. He wanted to see his Brothers and sisters survive. He knew the possible fates that may befall them. "Ready your arms," he said, "the Elders may not recognize us after two decades." The Outcasts all over the column were making themselves battle-ready. Ranik hopped out of the truck into the sun. "Sometimes I hardly think we recognize ourselves," he said to himself, quietly.
Roland looked back out over the cityscape, with its blasted skyline and smoke pillars rising from the ruined Nest up to the lofty heavens, the sky painted a beautiful blaze-orange. Red Sky at Night, Roland thought, remembering the old sailor's mantra clearly, Sailor's Delight. The merchant had indeed had a good and delightful day, now that he was leaving Austin. However, he would be back. Especially now that the place was cleared of its horrifying Biosoldier and Sweeper parties. He'd signed a contract with the Austin Brotherhood, where he could stand to be paid almost twice his standard fees for the energy weapons he picked from the wasteland, and Viktor had said that he would be glad to buy scrap metal off him for a fair price. Not to mention Jay and especially his sister, Jenn. Not only because Jenn had saved his life back on the blasted streets of Austin, and not because Jay had treated him pretty well and had had his back when Roland invaded the Nest, but because (and secretly, Roland didn't want word getting out) Jenn was actually kinda cute.
Shrugging off his thoughts of the future for the moment, Roland turned back to address the assorted newbies aboard his ship. They were ex-Union soldiers and Enclave scientists who had either defected or surrendered peacefully, but only one thing mattered on this boat. It wasn't where you came from, you were here now. Enclave or Union, they were men, women, children, and equals whether or not they believed it. It wasn't who you liked or hated, you never had a conflict on this boat and everyone would be buddy-buddy in a few months, anyways. No, it all hinged on the caps. Those round-edged little flakes of iron that stood in as currency in this strange, ruined world. "What do we do, sir?" One of the more forthcoming men, a dreamy-eyed soldier type dressed in the remains of Enclave power armor, asked.
Roland smiled a bit. "Why do the newbies always ask that question?" The merchant chuckled. "We're still moving, ain't we? The current is our navigator, the tides our god and ruler, the winds the fair sea goddess' caress upon your- well, that's not something to discuss in pleasant company. First meal's in an hour, lights out at sundown. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the ultimate dream for people stricken with wanderlust. This boat is the symbol of freedom and anarchy, the last bastion of freedom, where no soul-eating empire can lay a hand on us in defense or attack. This," And here Roland threw out his hands in an all-encompassing gesture, "is nirvana. This, is heaven. This, is the Grey Lady."
One of the ex-Union members snigered. Roland looked over at him with a questioning gaze. "You're a bit bonkers, aren't you?"
Roland shrugged. "Yeah, a bit."
"Let's get this show on the road, then." Jackson said, breathing heavily as the VTOL set down in the desert region, home to Lost Hills. How would the Elders react? He would know soon enough. It had been so many long years since Jackson had left here at Lyon's side. He had been but a young man at the time, not the grizzled old veteran that had been transformed from numerous military engagements and the scars of the Enclave's horrific actions. So it was with great joy, too much joy, that upon seeing the walled fencing surrounding the concrete elevator housing, Jackson dropped to his knees, sagging in his power armor as he let loose tears from his helmet less face. Too many things had gone through his mind. Meeting the Midwestern Brotherhood, losing his friends Stigma and Kruger during the Scourge, remembering the little tyke who would grow up as Sentinel Lyons, the fights and Germantown and watching his fellow knights fall in the Siege. "Brother..." A voice called out. "Brother.." It called out again. Jackson was too drowned in the moment. "Brother." It said again. Jackson finally found himself engaged again in reality. He was home. They all were. Jackson, helped up by Ranik and Colby, found himself at the fore front of returning to an old age from a new one. His scarred face looked upon the power armored Paladins guarding the front gate. One of them recognized him. "Jackson. You cocky bastard." He said. Jackson recognized the voice immediately. "Hello, John." Jackson said, grasping the outstretched hand. "We heard you were coming. It had the NCR folks mobilizing cause' they thought we were gonna attack em'." John said, both of them laughing. "Brought the whole cadre, eh?" John said. Jackson nodded. "The Elders probably want to speak to you. And get something to scrape the shit off your armor. You look like a black and red mongoose hyped up on buffout." John said, opening the gate to let Jackson and the Outcasts into their home from exile.
Ranik turned his helmeted head around. They were back. All the dammed up emotions of twenty years flowed through Ranik's mind as he gazed upon Lost Hills. Looking behind him, in the distance to the East, he could see the dust plume of the approaching convoy. The rest of the Outcasts inbound, and with free passage, for now. There was still the matter of the Elders to deal with. Ranik tapped one of the Paladins on the shoulder. "Excuse me, Paladin," he said, "do you know the residence of an Ashley Ranik?" The man cocked his head slightly. "Knight-Sergeant Wallace Ranik?" he said quizzically. Ranik hadn't recognized the man without seeing his face. "Defender Ranik," he said back. The man reached out his hand, "Paladin Ranesa," he said. Ranik remembered instantly. He'd taken his oaths alongside Christoph Ranesa twenty years ago. Ranik greeted his old friend with the Warrior's Grip. "It is good to see you Brother," he said, "Have you seen my wife, does she yet live?" Ranik said, becoming urgent. Ranesa nodded slowly. "Aye, not a day goes by that she doesn't come to the gates and stare at the desert. Long conversations we've had. We didn't think you'd ever be back. We thought Lyons' assignment was a death sentence." Ranik looked somberly to the ground. "It may yet be," he said, "and I must see her again, before I know for sure." Paladin Ranesa nodded. "She's still in Quarter Room 223," he said. Ranik thanked Ranesa and walked over to where Jackson was talking with Casdin and another of the Paladins. Ranik glared at the man for a second before speaking to his superiors. The man had called their colors shit, and Ranik had taken a great offense to it. Now was not the time to act out, however, and there was a more pressing matter on Ranik's mind to attend to. "Knight-Captain, Protector, forgive my intrusion, but I would like to ask for a brief leave. I have business of a very personal nature to attend to here, before it is too late," he said. Jackson understood immediately. Casdin nodded as well. Without any further delay, Ranik set off down the familiar passages and corridors that made up Lost Hills, intent on reclaiming whatever love he could from his lost wife.
Defender Ranik walked slowly down the corridor, attracting confused looks from other Brothers of Steel at the sight of his black and red T-45d Power Armor, dusted from weeks in the desert. Ranik approached the door Christoph had given him. It was his old quarters, where he and his newly-wed wife made love a day after they were married. A day before he left with Lyons. His fingers shook as he typed in the code on Room 223. The door slid open and Ranik walked slowly inside. He looked around a doorway into the small kitchen area. There she was. The girl he'd dreamed of so many nights in the wastes. The face that saw him through the Scourge, the Schism, the trenches in the Mall, MDPL Mass Relay, Germantown, Fairfax, Austin, and so many more nights. He stepped into the doorway as she turned around slowly. Her beautiful face hadn't changed from what he remembered. She looked as beautiful as he'd dreamed. "Hello?" she said slowly. Ranik was speechless. She took a step forward. "They spoke of newcomers outside. Are you?" She took another step forward. Ranik slowly dropped to his knees. She looked at him tenderly. Slowly, Ranik removed his helmet, revealing himself, and the single tear that ran down his cheek. She approached him slowly, examining him from across the room as she approached. "Wallace?" she said slowly, her voice trembling as her eyes welled up with tears. Ranik hung his head and began to sob. His helmet fell to the floor with a heavy thud as she knelt down and embraced him. He wrapped his arms around her and suddenly he was remembering it all. The smell of her hair, the touch of her skin, the softness of the velvet Scribe's robe that she wore. "I'm so very sorry," he said through his tears, knowing he didn't deserve her forgiveness. She merely shushed him and held him tightly. "You're home now," she said, "and we're together." Ranik felt his breath ease between sobs. There was so much he owed his wife, and did not know where to begin. He began with a kiss. The moisture from her lips as sweet and warm as he'd remembered from decades ago. He felt her body in his arms and held her as she breathed against him, giving release to long years of want. He begged her forgiveness, which she offered whole-heartedly and unconditionally. At this, Ranik wept further, as he knew he didn't deserve it. He tried to explain to her his youth, and his rationale that going with Lyons was his duty. She accepted it. Truely, she did love him as much as he loved her, maybe even more. Ranik sat with her on the floor for what seemed like hours, holding her in his arms and just enjoying being with her again. They talked of Lost Hills, and the funeral service, and how Ranik and the others in Lyons' expedition were all listed KIA and added to the Scrolls. Most importantly, Ashley told Ranik about the birth of his son, Adam. Then she told him where to find him in Lost Hills. With a soft kiss on the lips, Ranik reluctantly let go of his wife's hands to go across the complex to find his son.
Ranik walked down another corridor to the East Wing. After talking with his wife, he'd learned a great many things had happened in his absense. In this moment, he was praying that these wouldn't be his last few hours on Earth, and that he wouldn't be treated with bad blood from the most significant change of his absense. Talking with Ashley, Ranik had learned of the existance of his son, Adam. Ranik was headed for the area where Adam held patrol. He'd just been promoted from Initiate to Knight. Ranik walked through the door and out into the far East Barracks. He was greeted by a score of Brothers, most of whom he didn't recognize. One he did. A window into the past. The man's bright blue eyes and fair face matched Ranik in every way, but his crew cut recruit hair and scarless features showed in stark contrast to Ranik's grizzled and weathered face. Ranik stopped across the room. The man looked up from his T-51b Armor, which he was putting on. "Yes, Sir," Adam saluted. Ranik did not return the gesture. Adam stared at the man, seeing obvious familiarity in Ranik's helmetless features. "You wear the black and red armor of the Outcasts," Adam said, "word across Lost Hills says you men have returned from way out East. They say that you men abandoned the traitor Lyons to his fate. Why do you then wear shameful colors and refer to yourselves as 'Outcasts?'" Ranik stared at him. "How old are you, Knight?" he said. "Almost twenty two," Adam said back. Ranik nodded. "And your family, do they reside in Lost Hills?" Ranik asked. Adam shook his head. "My mother does, but she weeps for my father. He was killed in action on Lyons' expedition. I never knew the man." Ranik stared at his son. "Can I ask, then, what you'd say to him if he were alive today?" Ranik said. Adam shook his head. "I have nothing to say to him. I never knew him, and he's caused so much pain for my mother, that I'm not sure it were a good thing if he even came back," he said. Ranik looked at the floor, another tear running down his cheek as the words cut into him. "Then you've nothing more to say to me," Ranik said, turning away. Adam took a step forward. "Father?" he said. "Yes," Ranik said, begining to walk away. Adam jogged after him. "You're dead," he said, "that's what they've told me. That's what they've told mom. They said you were killed in action. I watched them add your name to the scrolls." Ranik shook his head. "How can I be dead, when I stand before you?" he said. "I only ask your forgiveness, Adam," Ranik said solemnly, "but I don't even deserve that." He knew that the boy didn't understand, that maybe he never could. He needed to go back to the Outcasts though, for now his furlow was over. Now would be the time when he and about 700 other men would have their fate decided.
Defender Hal Carter observed the shape of Lost Hills through a porthole on the side of the Vertibird as it grew closer and closer on the horizon for some time. As it seemed the closest as it would get, the VTOL Carter, Ranik, Colby, Finley, Jackson and Vain were flying in landed, and one by one they got out. Carter came second to last and had to move away from the door very quickly out of the inkling fear that Sam would step on him in that walking tank of hers. She seemed slightly amused at his adverse reaction at first, but both of them had more important things to think about. Everyone did. Hallen swallowed whatever was beginning to block his throat and breathed slowly and deeply. The air tasted crisp and unfamiliar through his helmet's ventilator - nothing like the perpetual smell of Super Mutants, rotten corpses and brahmin shit from back in D.C., or the unusually clean air in Austin. Tiny particles of sand caught up in the wind pattered against his armour, some clinging to his visor before rolling away out of his sight and gliding off somewhere behind him. As Jackson spoke to one of the guards on the door, his eyes settled on the elevator down to the main Lost Hills complex. A smile came to his weathered features. He was home.
But for some reason, it didn't quite feel like that. It seemed almost anticlimactic. His smile, a rarity in itself, had quickly vanished as he began to rationalise that feeling. He'd spent more of his life in one God-forsaken hellhole or the other on the far side of the country than at Lost Hills. Hell, he could hardly remember his own family here. He'd suffered so much for this base that had done nothing to help him... Everyone here has, he reminded himself. He knew where that sort of thought led to. That was why the Outcasts had been formed - mainly due to being disenfranchised with Lyons and the Citadel. Regardless of whether he was really appreciating what he'd done and how he was being recieved for it all, he'd came so far... he couldn't just... desert, or something, now, could he? It'd be counterproductive and it would probably get him shot at this point. He swallowed again and listened to Jackson speak to the Paladin on the gate.
"... scrape that shit off your armour..."
Carter literally twitched as he heard that. 'Shit'. That Paladin who'd been takling to Jackson had just called the very thing that had separated him and the others from Lyons' cadre of wankers (that, and differing ideologies, of course), "shit". His fingers stretched and flexed for a moment before balling into fists as the revelation boiled inside his skull. How dare he refer to the colours of the Outcasts as such. It felt like one slap in the face after another for what he and his brothers had stood for, lived for, fought for and died for for twenty fucking years. He was conisderng to "speak" his mind, his hand subconsciously edging towards his holstered SMG, when somebody put a hand on his shoulder.
It was Finley, of all people. Finley, who'd been having near enough the exact same thoughts a few months back, but directed towards the leaders of the Outcasts rather than the Brotherhood as a whole and was considerably more vocal about it than Carter ever could be. He had to respect him for that. "Come on, Brother," Finley said, patting him on the shoulder again. If Finley was trying (albeit unwittingly, he probably didn't know what exactly was going through his head unless he'd developed psychic powers since they last spoke) to help him out about treasonous thoughts then he had to be doing something wrong. Carter nodded once solemnly and returned the gesture, clapping his Brother on the back before making his way towards the elevator with the rest in silence.
Everything was coming back to him now. All the sadness and anger he'd merely pent up and kept a brave face through for so long was coming back to him now. He honestly felt like punching somebody in the face or bawling his eyes out or some combination thereof. But he couldn't do that, not now. "Strength in Steel," he whispered to himself as the elevator went down. He'd need it more than ever now.
Jackson had taken the first elevator trip downwards into Lost Hills. It was all a dress rehearsal for him. He hadn't been here for so many long years. His mind wandered as he approached Ranik, Casdin following Jackson, but stopping at the elevator entrance. "Ranik." Jackson called. His voice was coarse; of course, he was slightly nervous, although it was silly of him. Ranik motioned good bye to the young man he had been speaking with. Stepping into the elevator, Jackson inquired. "A friend of yours?" He asked, curious. "My son." Ranik said, obviously very proud, considering the happy, jovial tone of his voice. Jackson smiled. It reminded him of... Jackson pushed the thought out of his mind as the elevator screeched to a halt at the fourth level of Lost Hills. The door screeched as it opened, and Jackson was the first to step out, flanked by Casdin, Ranik, O'Haire, and Colby. Two Knights flanking the doorways snapped salutes, with Ranik and Colby returning the gesture as lower ranked Knights. Jackson, Casdin, and O'Haire nodded in a polite military manner, and then followed Jackson as he headed towards the wide auditorium that held a conference room. However, this would not be in private. It would be a matter of proving to the Elders that he and Casdin were not treasonous fools who should be executed. At the doorway, Jackson surrendered his weapons, then entered the doorway, his entourage following suite. His footsteps were heavy thuds as he headed for the auditorium door, where loud talking could be heard. Jackson's eyes fluttered with happiness as red and black mixed with military gray power armor.
The talking stopped as, if timed on purpose, the Elders appeared at the fore front of the room as Casdin and Jackson approached their seats down the center aisle. Jackson approached the front as the Elders, all grizzled old men, took their seats at the fore front, their robes flowing likes rivers to either side of them. The foremost Elder amongst them, an elder named Jameson. His voice crackled like thunder. "Knight Captain Jackson. Knight Captain Casdin. Knight Captain O'Haire. Knight Sergeant Wallace Ranik. The voices of your men. Please, take a seat." The old man said, gesturing with his hand. Each man took their seats. His voice crackled again. "Knight Captain Jackson. Please, explain your story." He said. Jackson noted with displeasure Casdin's jealousy, then stood, straight as an oaken tree. "It began with Lyons, Elder." Jackson said. "Explain." One of the Elders said, this one named, Wylin. "He was going native, Elders. His voice spoke up of helping the populace, and putting technology second!" Jackon said, anger in his voice. "Never the less, you rebelled against an Elder; the only eastern Elder." Wylin said. "Quiet, Wylin." Jameson said. His crackling voice motioned for Jackson to continue. "We could not take it any longer." Jackon said, his hands curled into fists as he stood at a podium, the Insignia of the Brotherhood on the wall acting as his back drop. "He was wasting resources on wasters! Wasting precious technology on on wasters! His scribes did not even complain! The Head Paladin would not even hear our arguments, and that damnable fool Lyons----!" Jackson was stopped by Jameson. "Watch your tone, Brother. Continue, but be weary of your language in our presence." Jameson said, his voice thundering. Calming down, Jackson continued. "I spoke with Casdin. We couldn't let his treachery continue. We conspired, Elders---- but it was for the good of the Brotherhood! Had we not, Lyons would have tricked us into going native as well!" Jackson cried, watching his voice. "And so one day, following Casdin's lead, we rebelled. There was open mutiny, though no shots were fired. Arguments, flowed, Elder, but we did not hold back!" Jackson said, anger returning to his voice. Murmurs of agreement began to appear amongst the crowd inside, and Jackson felt the sympathy he deserved.
The Elders looked and whispered amongst one another. Their words were quiet, and they betrayed nothing in their silent voices. Jameson stood up once again, his voice ready to thunder. "Knight-Captain Jackson, we have heard your story. But we also assume it is not finished. Please continue." Jameson said, motioning with his hand. This time, Casdin spoke up, at Jackson's insistence, but the Elder Wylin stopped him. "Your time will come, Knight Captain Casdin." The annoying Elder said, and Casdin politely sat back down. Jackson stode up again. "And so we departed in great numbers, Elders." Jackson stopped for a moment, cleared his throat, and began again. "And so we departed, in great numbers, from his native, naive, fortress, which he called the Citadel. They did not oppose, but rather they nodded in respect of our decision, although there were many thoughts of bloodshed. And so I followed Casdin," Jackson said, motioning towards Casdin, "with my lieutenant, Knight Sergeant Wallace Ranik at my side. For a time, we flourished in the wastes, receiving periodic shipments of technology from a waster named the Lone Wanderer before he infiltrated and stole an experimental launcher from underneath us. Eventually, some of us departed on a journey to capture technology, although that is something for another time, Elders. What is important is that we were attacked by something called the Crusade, Elders. We had first discovered them in a place known as the Germantown, named most likely for german townies and such. The fields about were scattered with Super mutant corpses, and----." Jackson stopped as the Elders and other Brothers grinned. "Surely they cannot be all bad, yes?!" Elder Muldoon said, laughing with the others in a coarse, fragile voice. "It was not as we had suspected, Elders." Jackson said. "They fought with a fanatic zeal that only the most devoted of Brothers could match. They would fight to the last man, Elders. Their incessant, alien weapons chattered frequently, and the elites amongst them; I believe they called them Airborne; they seemed as if they were worth five Brothers in melee and single combat. Their devotion to their cause of eradicating the enemy was... almost bordering on hysterial zeal and fanaticisim, as if they were fighting for one man with control over them. Never the less, we escaped from them, but in the process had angered them. So began the the Siege." Jackson said, stopping there. "Thank you, Knight Captain Jackson; that is quite enough. Now, we would like to hear the Knight Sergeant's own words from here on." Elder Jameson said. Jackson saluted, then sat down with military precision.
Ranik looked up at the Elders, surprised. "My words?" he said slowly. "Proceed, Knight-Sergeant," Elder Jameson said, his voice tinged with the experience of a thousand battles. Ranik stood up slowly, clearing his throat. "With all reverence and respect, Elders, I wish to be addressed as Defender Wallace Ranik. If you see so fit," he said. The room chattered a bit as the Outcasts and Brothers of Steel alike wondered how the Elders would see this. A display of disrespect, or would they allow it. After a brief few words their gaze returned to Ranik. "Proceed, Defender," Jameson stated. Ranik began his testimony. "At the outset of our journey Eastward, intentions were pure enough. We came upon D.C. from the north, making way through the Raider city known as The Pitt. Lyons was as hard as the rest of us then, he led the Scourge with skill and zeal. The city fell before us. Paladin Stigma and Paladin Kruger were lost in the fighting. I myself was wounded. Paladin Casdin... saved my life in The Pitt. I owed him my loyalty," Ranik stated. "And that was reason for defection?" said Elder Valen. "No," Ranik said. "Lyons... he lost his way, somewhere along the way. We settled in the Citadel, for the better part of a decade we labored," he said. "Recovering technology," said Valen again, sharply. "No, Elder," Ranik said. "I patrolled D.C. alongside Paladin Casdin for ten years. Our missions were recovering food supplies for the wastelanders, defending the settlement known as Rivet City, keeping watch over a wasteland radio station so it could broadcast 'The Good Fight' to the people and defending a group of wasteland scientists on an ill-concieved endeavor to bring water to the people. I was put in charge of the Washington Momument outpost for three years. I held the line there. For one year, Elder Lyons sent me and two other men into the wastes to capture a Mass Relay Station. I completed my objective," Ranik continued. "Perhaps, he was trying to make contact with us?" said Elder Muldoon. "No Elder," Ranik said, "the relay station was five clicks west of a slaver hub called Paradise Falls. Elder Lyons had intended to liberate the camp. We were... overrun by Raiders before his plan was enacted. My men and myself barely escaped with our lives. For my failures I was sent to the trenches around the Washington Monument to battle the Super Mutants. I watched many of my Brothers die in needless combat. Sarah Lyons was placed in charge. When successes occured, she was praised, when failure was met, it was I who was blamed. She's been given the title of Sentinel." The room chattered again Apparently Sentinel did have meaning within the Brotherhood of Steel.
"And the Schism?" said Elder Jameson. Ranik looked somberly at the ground. His blue eyes dulled and weary. The scars on his weathered face showing deeper than ever, his hair streaked with grey fell around his neck. He cooly pushed it back into place. "Elder Lyons corrupted the Brotherhood of Steel in the Capital Wasteland. He was recruiting any random waster that stumbled into the Citadel, and he was spending more resources and costing the lives of more good men, defending the backward settlements than actually completing our mission. The Brotherhood became a bed of nepitism, favoritism, and stupidity. If you weren't one of Lyons' lapdogs, you were more meat for the grinder. Like me. Like us." The Elders deliberated briefly, all the while, Elder Jameson stared at Ranik. "Have you any more to say, Defender," Jameson said. "I do," Ranik said, "but it is not likely relevent here, nor may it be appropriate to these quarters," Ranik said. Jameson stretched out his hand, "By all means, Defender, we asked for your statement," he said. "Very well, with your insistance, Elders," Ranik continued, "my decision to follow in desertion was influenced by the Brothers before me. Paladin Casdin saved my life at The Scourge. Knight-Captain Jackson had fought with me and battled Lyons himself verbally to keep me from being shot after losing the relay station. Defender Carter and Knight Martin and Defender Colby and Finley, and all the rest of these men and women, I would die for. It was Lyons who cast us out. By my eye, I do not see it as desertion, but exile. In exile, we forged our own bonds, Strong as Steel, and continued our mission. We recovered technology beyond which has been merely dreamed of or lost to time or our enemies. We recovered technology that could benefit us in warfare, as wel as could benefit the human race in aid. All without Lyons and his army of yes-men." Elder Jameson cocked his head. "Defender, act with maturity," he admonished. "Apologies, Elder," Ranik said.
"Tell us about The Siege," Elder Muldoon spoke up. "The Siege," Ranik said with a smirk, "was the finest hour of the Outcasts. We captured more technology in that two day battle than Lyons captured in twenty years. We defeated our foe utterly and without mercy. There is no other force I would rather be beside in those hours of woe," Ranik said, drawing scattered applause and a small cheer from the Outcast audience. "And the defacement of your armor and insignia, as well as the rank titles as set forth by Maxson?" said Elder Wylin. "The titles were agreed upon by all, Defending and Protecting the creeds and oaths set forth by the High Elders. The red and black were colors of penance and exile, they were first instituted by myself. I felt it fitting of our predicment. It is I you can blame, but I will not yield our colors from my armor. With respect, of course, Elders," Ranik stated. Jameson looked at Ranik squarely, "I believe we've heard enough, Defender," he said sternly, as the other Elders deliberated. "Are there any more who would like to share in this forum?" Jameson said, nodding as Ranik saluted sharply and retook his seat.
-Miles away in Austin
Jay smiled as the mourning sun rose over the ruined Austin skyline. Even now he saw Union members at work, clearing the streets and rebuilding, erasing the last of the Enclave presence in the city and forging it into the thriving settlement it once was. He tried to avoid looking near the east stadium, where the stench of burning bodies and a cloud of dark smoke rose to the clouds. It pained him to know how much of that smoke was from Union and Brotherhood bodies, but their sacrifice was not in vain. After the Liberation, Ranik and his brothers continued their trek to Lost Hills, where they belonged. He missed them, he missed his brothers. Maybe he could travel there one day, be reunited once more. But no, that would not be for a long time, he had much work here, at home. Jay left the balcony he was standing on, wiping the dust off of the suit he was wearing. It took quite some convincing to get Jay out of his typical combat ware, but it was a special occasion. Miles was holding a ceremony, an official announcement to the people of Austin about the future of the city. The idea was to reestablish Austin as a peaceful community and a sanctuary from the harsh life of the wasteland. Miles had already talked with the council about opening the city up to the trade route aswell, which most all of them had agreed upon. Oh yes, the future was looking good for Austin, he just hoped it would last. Jay strolled down the halls of the Frank Erwin Center, glancing at the many soldiers set on guard. The announcement was taking place in the middle of the convention center, and if Jay hadn't been selected to accompany Miles, he would be on guard as he preferred. As the veteran sniper entered the main room, he was greeted by a crowd of thousands. Marcus quickly spotted his old friend and ran over, pushing through a dense crowd. "Shit Jay, I thought you were gonna bail on this." Marcus was dressed up as Jay was, but he still had a rifle strapped to his back. "Yeah well... I could imagine how pissed Jenn would be if I left her alone here, not to mention Miles." Jay replied, adding a chuckle to the last part. Just as Marcus was about to give some snappy comeback, a shout came from the stage. Marcus yelled a curse at his caller and returned to Jay, "Come on man, their bustin' nuts up there. The announcement is starting in a few. Lets go." Jay nodded and followed his old buddy, pushing through the crowd.
Jenn bit her lip as she stood alongside her girlfriends, all of them donning beautiful, restitched, century-old dresses. Although she claimed she hated the dress, inside her mind she felt like a true woman, she couldn't hide her female origins anyway. Jay still hadn't shown up, that stubborn mule, she guessed that he skipped out on this once again to be on guard. But then, to her surprise, Jay, being led by Marcus, stumbled onto the stage and was greeted by Miles. She sighed a sigh of relief, Jay even made the effort to dress nice. After everybody had calmed down was listening to Miles make a introduction to his speech, Jenn was busy scanning the audience for Roland. Secretly, she had hoped the adventurous merchant would have returned for this celebration, she never really got a good chance to introduce herself. Jenn gave up hope, if he was in the crown, she would never spot him. He was probably across the country by now, sailing the vast seas. She just hoped he decided to visit sometime soon. getting off of the though, she looked up at Miles speaking into the mike and a line of people behind him. Jay, Viktor, Colton, Marcus, the 10 councilmen, all key members of the Union. A tear dripped down her cheek as she saw her brother standing boldly on stage, a hero of Austin. Yes, they were free now, and they will be, forever.
Jay waved to Jenn once he noticed her staring at him. She was beautiful in her dress, she looked just like her mother, at least from the photos he had seen and the scattered memories of her. Jay was not really listening to Miles' speech, he had heard it all before. Instead he was thinking of his brothers, most likely in Lost Hills by now, receiving metals and awards for their campaign. He wondered if the Elders would consider their spit from elder Lyons an act of treason, but then again Jay was not very interested in the matter when Casdin had decided upon the mutiny, he just followed the man that promised his city freedom. It didn't matter, those men are now heroes to thousands of people and will be for years to come. Jay himself had been praying for them ever since they left his sight. He silently saluted, seeing Wallace, Carter, Sam, Jackson, everyone standing by his side, saluting with him. It would be some time before he saw his brothers again, but they will always be with him in spirit, and even in death. Under his breath, Jay issued a final prayer and ended it with words of his own, "God bless you brothers, may you live long and prosper."
Good times were to come.
Viktor was on-stage, leaning on a set of crutches. The reason was a little embarrassing. He'd broken his ankle stepping off a cerb after putting down one of the last Sweepers in the city. Dean was sitting obediently next to him as he leaned on those crutches making eyes at people in the crowd. Given the "Friend's Sister Rule", he wasn't making any at Jenn, but her friends were all subject to a wink or two. Viktor then took to thinking of Roland and the Outcasts. They came as heroes. Jay was the only one tied to Austin, but they had all pitched in, they had given them that last push to force the Enclave out of Austin. Viktor owed them everything.
Viktor smiled, a single tear running down his cheek as he looked around at free Austin. He ran a calloused hand through his shaggy hair and stroked his coarse beard. He could do with a clean-up. Looking like he hadn't washed in weeks wasn't going to be a good thing now that Austin was free. He blinked as one of Jenn's friends waved back at him. It was that girl from the battle of the dome, the one who'd jumped in the back seat and taken over the Barghest's turret. Viktor hadn't recognized her with her hair down and a dress on. She was also missing the frequent obscenities she'd been screaming during the battle. Viktor smiled. Things were certainly looking up.
It was almost like a storybook. Well, not exactly being because the "heroic knight" was actually a dishevelled merchant in a grimy two-piece suit and black trilby, and the "beautiful princess" had given up all hope of looking for him.
An annoying buzz had settled in behind the forehead stretch of the hat brim where Roland's concussion and scar had formed quite nicely, thank you very much for that Mr. Collapsing Building. Regardless, he had popped a few Advils when he was in the ship's galley before coming back, and was currently poking his way through the huge crowd, eventually appearing miraculously at the forefront and within Jenn's field of view. The merchant almost immediately turned his head off to the side; she was beautiful. Well, at least as beautiful as one got in the wasteland today, with whatever dresses and makeup could be savaged from the buildings around. He attempted to catch her eye in a very roland-esque way. That "Roland-esque" way was to find the nearest "soap box" (in this case a fallen piece of re-barred concrete), stand on it, and wave his arms like an idiot. However, noting that no-one else in the crowd was doing it, he quickly jumped down off of the concrete slab and stood at the front of the crowd, hoping his "signal" got through to her.
Jenn fiddled with her dress as Miles continued his speech. Sure the man had a way with words, but after living with him since the age of 8 she kinda ignored his speeches. She already knew the point of it, from what Jay told her, all Miles was doing was exaggerating it. Looking into the crowd once more, she now noticed some fool jumping and waving, probably to one of the 10 girls she was standing with. After focusing on his a little bit, she noticed the familiar face and metal arm, it was Roland! A wide smile spread across her face as she noticed the adventurous merchant, he actually came! Jenn preformed a shy wave, keeping it as subtle as possibly. Miles told her and her friends to remain quite and still until he turned on the salvaged record player and initiated a dance. She had to admit that it was pretty corny on his part to add a dance to his victory speech, but what the hell? Most people here hadn't danced in their entire lives, and it was good to see everybody happy for once. Few anxious minutes passed until he finally turned the on and played September of My Years by some Frank guy, Aaron was always telling her about him. One after one gentlemen came up and took each of the girls to dance, her gentleman was Roland. He held out his hand, without saying a word, Jenn gripped it and the two started to dance. She felt comfortable as she pillowed her head in his shoulder, she felt happy.
Jay watched as the entire crowd of Austinites grouped with a partner and started to dance to Frank Sinatra, a musician that Aaron admired very much. Two women had approached Jay, both of which he danced with, but his mind was elsewhere. Jay thanked them and kissed their hands, a customary gesture of appreciation, and walked off. To his left he spotted a familiar face dancing with Jenn, this caused Jay to chuckle. Never would he imagine them an item, but who was he to judge? Jay walked over, Jenn not seeing him due to her head being buried in his shoulder, but Roland looked at the approaching Outcast with a hint of fear. The man was probably thinking that Jay was gonna kick his ass for dancing with his sister, but it was all but that. Jay put a hand on Roland's shoulder, "Treat her well my brother, but hurt her and I'll shove my foot so far up your ass that the bump in your nose with be my boot." Jay finished with a chuckle. He knew that if Jenn was to be with anyone, Roland was beyond acceptable, he was a brother. Inhaling deeply, Jay strode off, leaving Roland with a traditional Brotherhood goodbye, and headed out the back. Once outside the dome and onto the balcony, the veteran sniper found Miles smoking a cigar, staring at the Austin skyline. "Beautiful isn't it?" Jay stated, drawing the man's attention. "You bet your ass it is, I've been waiting for this all my life, and now that I have it, it's all the more beautiful." Jay walked up next to him, lighting a cigarette himself. "We're free Miles, we can live the rest of our lives in peace instead of fear. If the Enclave come back, we can fight them now, on our terms, not theirs." Miles nodded. "You're right Jay, I guess you're right..." The two spent the rest of the afternoon watching the sunset finally rest over Austin, neither speaking a word.
Roland looked at his shoulder where Jenn had her face couched, and smiled cooly. He looked at Jay as he said his conditions and issued an ultimatum, and nodded with a quiet chuckle. "Trust me, I won't be crossing lines with her, you can count on that." The merchant replied in a calm voice; hoping that Jay got the right meaning out of that statement and didn't end up making a crude joke. Not in the presence of a lady. Jay retreated into the distance and left Roland to dance.
At that particular moment, he felt like he had it all. He had the girl, he'd gotten ad within striking distance of "Honorary Outcast" status; and he'd helped to free a city. Best of all, he'd made quite a few friends- Jay, Viktor, and to a lesser extent, the stalwart Ranik and his band of mighty Outcasts. He would have to spread the good word about his team of marauding power-armored friends.
Yep, this would do nicely for the closing to a storybook tale. Except, of course, for the bloodshed, killing and death. But he repressed those bloody thoughts; that would be something bad to dwell on. And he would have had to explain his mild PTSD to Jenn, which would be a horribly sour note to leave on in the morning, or whenever he decided to head west and visit Ranik.
Ah well, savor the moment and all that. Sinatra was still working through his ballad, he still had Jenn in his arms and the Grey Lady, his other true love, sitting at anchor, waiting for his return. Life was good now, and that's all that could be asked for.
The Elders waited as the room remained completely silent. With this, Elder Jameson turned to Jackson. "I think we have heard enough. Judging from the preliminary reports from some of our returning Brothers, it has been gathered that Knight-Sergeant, err, Defender Ranik and his men were exemplary at Austin, by recordings of Casdin and Jackson before this meeting. We also commend Knight-Captain Jackson on his actions at the Siege, and with Casdin on his actions at Austin as well." Jameson said, then let Muldoon take over, who stepped up to his own podium. "Regardless," Muldoon started, "we cannot deny that Knight Captain Jackson and Knight Captain Casdin's actions in mutinying were, in fact, mutiny." Murmurs rose up about the crowd, with some of the Outcasts hinting at anger and bitterness. "It is without a doubt that we have come to the conclusion that Knight Captain Jackson and Knight-Captain Casdin have committed military treason, regardless of the fact that Elder Lyons was in fact going native. Treason is a crime punishable by death or exile; the highest of our crimes. All stand." Jameson crackled, his voice still thundering. All stood, with Knight-Captain Jackson and Casdin, along with Ranik, at the front. "Knight-Captain Jackson, you are hear by stripped of your rank, commission, and command. You will serve twenty years, and another ten serving as base non-combat support staff before you may return to active service as an Initiate. Upon the adjournment of this hearing, you will be escorted to your prison facilitations; your equipment is to be impounded for the day you return to active service." Jackson didn't say a thing. He knew this was coming; it was what he had been afraid of. Outcries rose up from both the Outcasts and some of their steel-colored counterparts. "Silence!" Jameson roared. Everyone muffled themselves. "Knight Captain Casdin, you are hear by demoted to the rank of Knight-Brother, and are hear by stripped of your current rank, commission, and command. You are now relegated to base security for a service length of ten years on Level Two. You are to be stripped of your equipment, which will be replaced with Brotherhood combat armor and standard weapons." Jameson continued, then moved on to O'Haire and Ranik, as well as Colby and Finley, Jackson and Casdin's chief lieutenants. "Knight-Captain O'Haire, you are to take command of Knight-Captain Jackson's unit at the conclusion of this hearing. It has been deemed that you were only following the orders of a superior officer at the time of mutiny." Jameson said. O'Haire nodded, bitterness in his eyes. He briefly looked over at Jackson, who nodded in respect. O'Haire knew it wasn't the truth; he had, in fact, given the idea to Jackson and Casdin himself. Jameson went on. "Defender Ranik, you are hear by promoted to the rank of Knight-Captain. Finley and Colby will be your XOs. It also has been determined that you and your comrades were not at fault. Unless there are any remaining comments, I declare this tribunal adjourned." Jameson said, waiting for what he expected to something from Ranik.
Ranik hung his head as tears welled up in his eyes. This couldn't be. Casdin, Jackson, the rest of the Outcasts. They were better than this. They deserved better. A sentence of thirty years meant Jackson's career was effectively over. This ruling could not stand. The Outcasts would be dissolved and all their traditions, their honor, their achievements would be thrown to the wind. No, this would not stand. Ranik cried out. "Elders," he said, attracting their attention again, "permission to approach the podium." Elder Jameson stopped Muldoon before he could say anything. "Knight-Captain Ranik, have you more to say?" Ranik nodded. "With respect, Elders," Ranik said, "these men, all these men, have borne witness to some of the thickest fighting, some of the most horrendous atrocities, some of the saddest moments, that another soldier would see in ten lifetimes." Jackson stepped forward, putting a hand on Ranik's shoulder. "Wallace, no," he said quietly. Ranik pulled his shoulder away. "These men, left a traitor to continue on the mission we all undertook. They upheld our oaths with loyalty and with more honor than can be imagined. Mutiny be damned. Lyons cast us out. We were in exile, until we found our way home. We've traveled thousands of miles. Through marsh and desert, rock and stream. Hill, valley, and everything in between. For fourteen months we battled the people and creatures of the wastes. In Tennessee, in the ruins of Memphis, we were accosted by slavers, men out to sell us into service of the wastes. We destroyed them utterly and took what was theirs. To bring back here. We trudged the bayous of Louisiana. The swampfolk there were backward and cruel. Their voodoo and their cannibalistic rituals could've been our undoing, but we endured. In Austin, we liberated the city from the yoke of the Enclave. Capturing armor, weapons, Vertibirds, and armored vehicles. We are the Outcasts. Known far, wide, and everywhere in between. I followed these men because they were our way back to the Brotherhood of Steel. They had nothing but the objective of Lost Hills in mind. They had nothing but our oaths in mind. In our exile, we saw nothing but suffering. It appears that in our return to those who we would call our Brothers, that our exile will continue with imprisonment. We have remained loyal even unto now, which appears to be the end of our days." Elder Muldoon spoke as Jameson looked on. "Knight-Captain Ranik," he said, "these men are superior officers and mutineers. They will be sentenced according to their crimes. They are fortunate we are overlooking the sentence of death on this matter." Ranik stood his ground. If nothing else, he would be remembered as a man of honor. "I will not shed my colors as an Outcast, and I will not retain the rank of Knight-Captain. Casdin, Jackson, Lawrence, O'Haire, Gavin, and McGraw all did what was right for the Outcasts. During the journey back here, all reverted to their own Brotherhood of Steel ranks. All were so loyal to you here at Lost Hills, you who will now throw that loyalty away. They were cast out by a man who'd've led us all to our deaths in the Capital Wasteland. A man who cared only for those Brothers who paid tribute to he and he alone. Those who felt loyalty to the people and not to each other. I followed these men from that hypocrite, and if given the chance back, I would do so over again. You are trying to dissolve and wipe away all that we are. Look before you Elders, and you will see that we are more than just a hodge podge of exiled Brotherhood units, we are more than a rabble, sunbeat, soggied, and exhausted from the wastes. We are Brothers with one another. We are your Brothers. If Jackson's sentence will remain twenty years imprisonment, and Casdin will be stripped of rank and title. I will serve the sentence of imprisonment as well. You will not take our traditions from me. You will not take our colors, you will not take our symbols, and you will not take our pride. Shackle me if you must, lock me up if you must. I am an Outcast, a Brotherhood of Steel Outcast, and I will remain so until my dying days. These men embraced the Brotherhood again, I will take their punishment for my disloyalty." Muldoon raised an eyebrow. "Would you be willing to take a bullet, for your Brothers, Defender? Ranik's jaw stiffened. "Aye." was his only response. "You'll have to shoot me too," Defender Finley said, stepping forward. “Me as well,” Colby then said. “And me,” Carter stepped up. “Me too,” Samantha Vain said, stepping forward. A chorus of other voices chimed in. All of them still wearing the red and black of the Outcasts, then spreading into the ranks of the Brothers who’d embraced the Brotherhood of Steel traditions again. With an army of Outcasts behind him, Ranik stood his ground. All he could do now was await the Elders’ response.
Knight Adam Ranik looked on as his father stood before the Elders. So impassioned, so honorable, so loyal. Maybe what he’d said, about not forgetting his family, about regretting leaving he and his mother, about wishing he’d stayed behind. Maybe it was true. He acted as if these men were his family. Adam could only imagine how he felt about his true family. His imaginings were right. Adam suddenly felt an urge to accept his father. A need for his father to be clear of this. He was a man of honor and not he, nor any of these Outcasts deserved the fate they were being appointed by the Elders. “I’d take a bullet too,” the young Knight said, stepping forward.
And so the impassioned warrior spirit of Wallace Ranik had swayed the Brotherhood of Steel. In such words of conviction, the Elders saw not traitors, but the true heroes that stood before them. In light of Elder Lyons' rogue status, Paladin Casdin and Knight-Captain Jackson were pardoned of their desertion. With a will of steel, Wallace Ranik refused to repaint his armor and return as Paladin. Along with about 100 loyalists, and with the Blessing of the Brotherhood of Steel, Ranik was granted permission to found the Western Brotherhood of Steel Outcast Division. These men and women, veterans of the Capital Wasteland, Austin, and the breadth of the American Wastes in between, became one of the most revered fighting units of the Brotherhood of Steel. With his loyalty laying to the Brotherhood of Steel, Paladin Casdin passed command to Knight-Captain Jackson. Jackson, opting to also revert to the Brotherhood of Steel, passed command to Wallace Ranik. Defender Ranik, in a ceremony in front of the remaining Outcasts, was ceremoniously promoted to Protector. With him was left the duty to defend the ways of the Outcasts. So ended the Exodus of the Outcasts.
RP NOW CLOSED