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“Sergeant C-Collins. Serial num-”

The blade sliced a large portion of skin off of the man's arm. The rest of the prisoners-those alive anyway-fought to keep their stomachs from rebelling.

“One last time, Collins. You get one last chance before I start having real fun.” 

The mutilated man forced himself to look up at his captor. Armour once white like the long gone snow, was drenched in blood, the shades varying from old rust to new crimson. His face was uncovered, having taken off the balaclava, goggles, and helmet. He was young, maybe eighteen or nineteen. He had long brown hair tied into a loose ponytail, and a rough beard with a mustache and goatee. His face was not without scars, on the left side of his face he has been badly burned, leaving it mottled and red near his chin and neck. The right side had a long, shallow one that went from right above the end of his eyebrow to the left side of his lower lip. His eyes were the worst part, however, they were a deep blue and held nothing. No remorse, no anger, no fear, nothing. 

To Collins it was like staring at a Deathclaw from afar, through a scope. When it eventually smelled you and looked at you, you could tell it wasn't angry or hungry. No, it was simply curious as to when it would get the pleasure of ripping out your guts and eating you alive. 

“S-sergeant Co-”

“Poor choice, Collins. Now let's see...” the man said as he walked over to the remaining prisoners, his knife held loosely in one hand. He watched the Sergeant as he walked past the prisoners, watched his eyes for a flicker of recognition in his eyes. When he walked past a woman, young and beautiful, he saw it. 

“Ooh, my, my. What's this? A little battlefield romance? Between a commanding officer and-what rank are you, dearie?” 

“Private First Class Lorne. Serial number nine-zero-five-eight-”

A solid left hook stopped the woman's recitation. The Sergeant fought against his chains for a second before realizing his mistake. The man still saw it though.

“Do stop that, all of you. It's rather annoying. So a private, Collins? How cliché. Well I’ll make it simple for you. Tell me how to get into the purifier and I’ll let your girl here go. You and the others will have to die of course but it'll be quick, unlike the others.” He said gesturing to the corpses in the center of the room, mutilated, violated.

“But if you don't….” He pulled the woman to her feet and trailed a hand down her naked body. “I'll make you watch as I have my fun with her. With both my tools, if you get my meaning. I'll make you watch as I slowly kill her, and I'll enjoy it so much. So what's it going to be, Collins? Information for her life and a quick death for you and the other two. Or defiance and a slow, humiliating death for her and an even slower death for all of you?” The man gave a twisted smile, one that showed the depths of his depravity. 

Collins was at a loss, he wanted to save Michelle from this….monster but he owed everything to the Enclave and President Eden. He looked at Michelle, and his heart sank as she slowly shook her head and mouthed ‘I love you, Andrew.’ He resigned himself to his-and her-fate as he looked at the man-this inhumane animal-and started.

“Sergeant Collins. Serial number one-four-four-seven-nine-eight. United States Army.”

The man laughed at that, a dark and evil laugh that made Collins skin crawl, and turned to the now-tearful woman.

“Oh, we are going to have so much fun.”


 

“So, Kodiak, what do you think of the Enclave?”

Paladin Glade said. He was a large man even outside of power armour and was the Pride’s resident weapons expert. 

“I think they're men, just like you and me. I think they're tough and smart. I think we're in for a war. But aside from that? I think they're the second most deserving of a bullet in the whole Capital Wasteland.” The dark man replied. He was the Pride’s jack-of-all trades and an easygoing man.

“You can say that again. Bastards murdered innocent civilians to take the Jefferson Memorial. Too afraid to fight us.” Knight-Captain Colvin’s voice crackled through the radio. He and the Pride's other resident sniper, Dusk had set up in one of the myriad ruined buildings that existed in Downtown D.C. 

“Shame about that kid's father. He's a good guy” Colvin said as he watched the Pride walk down the road leading to the Capitol Building, covering each other's backs. 

“Oh yeah? How do y'know him, Colvin?” Glade asked, intrigued at the mention of the kid Three-Dog called the Lone Wanderer. 

“Back at the GNR Plaza, Sentinel Lyons, Paladin Vargas and I were training Redding and Jennings when the Sentinel and Paladin Vargas ran into him. Took down three muties with a hunting rifle. Headshots. Then he hooked up with us to push the muties back. Saved Redding and Jennings life with that Vault know-how of his. Took down that behemoth too, and patched all of us up at the cost of his own supplies. Said ‘Dad always taught me to help those in need.’ You hear the stories and shit but...when you meet the kid it's easy to see why people look up to him.” 

Colvin’s tone was one of reverence and Sarah had a hard time disputing how much of a hero the kid was. Because that's what he was. A hero. He had saved other members of the Brotherhood afterwards too. Paladin Hoss, Paladin Downey, and now Knight Pek owed their lives to his valour. He had roamed the Wastes looking for his father and had taken the time to help people along the way. Reilly's Rangers, Three-Dog, Megaton, Bryan Wilks, Arefu, all owed him something. 

Don't forget yourself and the Brotherhood. 

She knew he had saved her when he pulled her down right before a Super Mutant Master had fired at the spot her head was, as she had stupidly not been wearing her helmet or even the undersuit helmet. He hadn't even said anything beyond a smile and ‘That was close.’ before he had taken off his own combat helmet and stuck it on her head. 

“Damn, really? That's terrible that he lost his Dad. Didn't Three-Dog say the kid has been looking for him since he left that Vault?” Glade asked. Sarah decided to answer before Colvin did.

“Yes. And from what Dr. Li said, he only had a week with him before the Enclave killed his father.”

“I saw him at the Citadel, a couple weeks ago, right after the Memorial got taken. He was holding an old lab coat and crying. I think it was his Dad's.” Knight-Captain Dusk broke in. 

Silence reigned for a minute as they absorbed what had brought low the mighty Lone Wanderer, before Gallows of all people broke the silence.

“We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.”

“Very true.” Sarah murmured as they climbed the Capitol Building steps to where there was supposed to be an Enclave outpost. Their orders were to eliminate them and gather intelligence and technology. The Pride had been on a couple ops like this for a month now, ever since the Enclave had appeared. This was the third one this week.

Or it would've been if it hadn't been wrecked already. The outposts Vertibird was untouched, surprisingly, but the same couldn't be said about anything else.

There was blood everywhere and the Enclave’s pet Deathclaw was torn to shreds. Weapons were scattered around, broken and destroyed, and the outpost terminal was blown to bits along with the satellite generator. Glade appropriately put the Pride's thoughts into a rather eloquent sentence.

“Hoooly. Fuck.”

“Yeah, I'm with you there Brother.” Kodiak said as he examined the Deathclaw. It's jaws and throat were blown apart, probably by a grenade that was shoved down it's throat. It's right claw was missing two talons which appeared to be shoved in the creature’s eyes.

“Gallows, you see something off about this scene?” Sarah said as she noticed something was missing.

“No bodies. Blood must be the beast’s. I've only seen this level of brutality in one other place.”

“Where?” Colvin asked as he surveyed the area for possible snipers.

“Evergreen Mills. Raider camp. Somebody systematically captured a single Raider a night, decapitated them, then left the head at the edge of the camp. Raider chief was barely literate but kept a journal. It culminated when the attacker released the behemoth captured there, let it run amok, then killed it-with a mini-nuke shoved down it's throat-and left the Raider chief on the side of the building, attached to it via railroad spikes.” Gallows spoke in his constant, consistent monotone.

“Jesus…” Dusk said over the radio.

Sarah was about to order the squad to look around when a man, naked and bloody, burst through the Capitol’s doors. Immediately every gun was trained on him. 

“P-PLEASE YOU GOTTA HELP ME! HE-HE'S AFTER ME!” He shouted as he walked closer.

“Who's after you?” Sarah said as she trained her laser rifle on him. 

Before he had a chance to answer, his head exploded in a shower of blood and brain matter. Slowly a man walked out from the shadows of the Capitol Building interior. He was dripping with blood, and he held a .308 sniper rifle in his arms, pointed towards the floor. Sarah's eyes saw on his left arm there was a Pip-Boy 3000, the miniature computers Vault-Tec gave to all their residents. She only knew one person who wore one. The man slung the weapon on his back and removed the helmet and balaclava he was wearing. She barely recognized the man past the long hair and scars. 

“Why, hello Sentinel Lyons, long time no see. I see you met Corporal Warner. He decided to see if he could outrun me. He couldn't of course. So what brings you to our lovely center of government?” His tone was jovial and casual as if one were discussing what was better about a good brahmin steak.

“Sweep and clear of Enclave outposts. What happened here?” She said as she let her rifle down.

“Capture and interrogation. I've been hitting a few of these outposts.” He said as he pulled out a knife and scratched something into his helmet.

“Why?”

“Find a way into the purifier. Find their HQ. Find more outposts.” 

“I see. Is that the Deathclaw’s blood?” It was still dripping, slowly onto the ground. It was quite frankly, slightly terrifying. 

“Hmm? Oh no. Well some I'm sure, but this is mostly the soldiers. My interrogation techniques are...a bit messy.” He chuckled darkly at that. A sound which made Sarah's hair on the back of her neck stand on end.

“Did you receive any information from the soldiers?”

“Name, rank, serial number. Aside from that….nothing. I still have two prisoners would you like to have a go at it?” He said as he tossed the knife in the air before catching it by its point. 

“I'll see what I can do. Where are they?” She asked as she motioned for Colvin and Dusk to form up on the Pride. 

“Inside an office storage room inside. Follow me.” He turned on his heel and walked back inside. Sarah fell into lockstep behind him. 

“May I ask you something?” Sarah asked, quietly. He immediately stopped and turned to her, a feral grin on his face.

“Why of course, Sentinel. What's your query?”

“How have you been since...y'know?” She didn't want to pry but this crazed, bloody man didn't match up with her memory of a brave, kind teenager from two months ago.

“Ohh, I've been. I've been up north mostly. Hunting. That's how I got these scars and a few you can't see.” He said as he gestured to his face.

“Hunting? What have you been hunting?”

“Enclave, Raiders, Slavers, Talon Company….Enclave are the most difficult, especially after they figured out I was after them.” He laughed again, dark and low. 

“How did they figure out it was you?” She asked slightly unnerved at the prospect that he considered going after dangerous people hunting. 

“Well it's easy to figure out once they saw the name I carved into the soldier's backs. And chests. And every other patch of skin big enough. They really stepped up their game once they figured out what I'd been doing to the ones I captured.” He said idly.

“What were you doing?” She asked as the grip on her rifle tightened.

“Do you really wish to know, Sarah Lyons?” He said as he looked her square in the eye-slit of her helmet. His once warm and kind blue eyes were now empty, devoid of anything. 

“I wouldn't have asked if I didn't.”

“I raped and mutilated the women before I burned them alive. I flayed some of the men alive and left them to bake in the sun. Others I carved.” He said as he cocked his head to the side as if he was remembering his actions.

“Why?” She said in a whisper, horrified at what he had said, and bit back some of the bile that rose in the back of her throat.

“They took away the one person in the entire world who had loved me. I want them to think of me as the thing in the dark. I want them to be afraid every time night falls on the Wasteland. I want them to speak the name Carter Raine in fearful, hushed tones.” He said with a quiet, hate-filled voice. 

It occurred to her this was the first time she had ever heard his name, from him or anyone. It was different, but it somehow fit him.

“Now, do you wish to question my prisoners or not, Sentinel?” Carter said impatiently. 

“Yes, lead the way Carter.”

That was evidently the wrong thing to say, because as soon as his name left her mouth, he stiffened.

“Call me Wanderer or Raine if you must, but never-never-call me that. The last person who had the right to call me that is gone. Anyone else who dares to speak it will die. And I'm rather fond of you, Sentinel. Or your face at least. I'd rather not violate and incinerate you. Come now, they're just through here.”

He turned away without a sound and walked down the dilapidated corridor before turning around and stared at the stock still Sentinel.

“Chop-chop, Sentinel. I'm on a schedule.” He sing-songed as he made an exaggerated motion at the clock on his Pip-boy. She found her bearing and soldiered forth after him until they reached an out of the way storage room. It would've been completely unremarkable, if one didn't take into account the large amount of plasma weaponry and MK.II power armour resting in a heap outside.

Or the steadily widening pool of blood underneath the door.

“Time to make an entrance…” Carter said more to himself than the Sentinel, and kicked in the door, sending it swinging wide and the last prisoners-Sergeant Collins and Private Quinn-jumping backwards at the sound.

“Ah-tenshun, maggots! I've a special visitor for you: Sentinel Lyons of the Brotherhood of Steel. Now, I know there's some bad blood between your organization and the Sentinel’s-what with you being the remnants of the good ol’ U.S. of A. and them being the descendants and offshoots of renegade soldiers who went A.W.O.L-but give a smile would you? Or I'll give you one.”

Quinn visibly recoiled at the sight of his captor and the Sentinel, but Collins’ eyes were ablaze with hate and rage. He fought at the chains that held him in place, not caring how they rubbed at the raw muscle that Carter had exposed to the air.

“Come to see what your beast has done?! He will kill you too! He'll kill everyone! He'll kill you and rape you and burn you and he won't-”

Collins cut himself off as he saw Carter walk over to Michelle's corpse-and it hit him that she was gone and dead and he could have saved her but he didn't-and begin to saw into her neck.

“LEAVE HER ALONE! SHE'S DEAD! LEAVE HER ALONE YOU MOTHERLESS BASTARD!”

Carter looked up from the dead woman and offered a lopsided grin at Collins.

“Funnily enough, I did have a mother. But she died giving birth to me. So in a sense I am a motherless bastard. I was certainly born out of wedlock. And do shut up, I am trying to saw through a woman’s neck with a knife I haven't sharpened in a week. It's rather time consuming, but I have wanted a skull to use as a crotch protector-it sends a statement you see-and her skin would be quite a lovely start to this skin cape idea I have planned.”

Sentinel Lyons could not be silent anymore and had to put a stop to this-this-this madness induced orgy of violence and sickening behaviour. 

“Raine. Stop.”

Carter looked at Sarah and his eyes shone with unbridled fury for but a second before it passed, and they were dead once more.

“As you wish, Sentinel. Tsk, and I was going to finally find out what her mouth felt like without her trying to bite me. But, oh well, I shall acquiesce to your request.”

Carter stepped back from the body, letting it drop onto the two others, and replaced his knife into it's sheath. He then made his way to the Sentinel’s side and leaned in.

“I find myself bored, Sentinel. I leave these two in your capable hands while I go through their gear-and you needn't worry, I have no use for their horned armour and plasma rifles-but if you need me, simply shout.”

“Very well, Raine.” His voice seemed to snake it's way through her helmet’s filters and into her ear, like a Centaur’s tongue. It made her shiver inside of her armour despite the summer heat and the lack of temperature control.

 “Gentlemen, I leave you with the Sentinel. Play nice. And if by some implausible and nigh impossible sequence of events, you free yourself and harm the Sentinel...I will eat you alive. Ta, gents.”

Carter opened the door and stepped through, closing it behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Quinn broke down crying and mumbled something about a Mary and a Father in Heaven, while Collins drew himself up and stared dead on at the Sentinel.

“I wasn't lying. That beast will kill you. That's all he is anymore. A Deathclaw caged in human form. He exists to destroy and annihilate.”

“And who made him that way, hmm? Who killed his father, and broke him? Oh, yes, you did. You made your bed, now lie in it.”

“Oh we made him, I know that. But you damned idiots let your beast off his leash. Let him wander the Wastes, free to hunt. Do you even care how many he's killed?”

“No, I don't. I don't because while he's...broken, he is nothing compared to the Enclave. I've read the old reports. I've seen the casualty lists. You dumbasses messed with F.E.V in California. Tried to wipe out anyone not a pure strain human, and not one of yours. F.E.V goddammit! You people fucked with the stuff the Master used to create the fucking SUPER MUTANTS! Do you care how many that virus would've killed? What am I saying, of course you don't, because it would've only killed the impure humans.”

Collins had no answer for that. He didn't want to believe that the Enclave would have ever killed so many innocents-they wouldn't, they would never kill American citizens-but he did remember his father telling him why he never got to meet his Papa. ‘We fought a man descended from a Vault Dweller and we lost. We lost when we took his family and we sealed our fate when we tried to fight him when he had half of California at his back.’ Collins didn't know who they had fought or why, he just knew that his father was always uneasy around the tribals in the Midwest and hated the Brotherhood and the New California Republic-whatever that was.

“I'm not going to tell you anything so get it over with you neo-knightly prick.”

“And what about you?” Sarah turned to Quinn who was still mumbling-praying she realized.

“I-I won't say an-anything. Me and th-the Sarge won't say anything. Jus-just do it. It's be-been an honour, sir.” Quinn was still crying in between words and turned to the Sergeant, who offered him a solemn nod of recognition back.

“Alright. In the name of Elder Owyn Lyons and the Brotherhood of Steel, I, Sentinel Sarah Lyons find you both guilty of murder, theft and other crimes against the whole of humanity. I sentence you to death. Do you have any last words?”

“Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven: Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.” Quinn stilled at the word amen, and waited for what would come next.

“And you?”

“Put your beast down. Before he bites off the hand that feeds and all others.”

And then, with steady aim, Sentinel Lyons fired her laser rifle at each of the men's heads, the powerful beam snuffing out their lives. 

All at once, the Sentinel couldn't stand to be in that room anymore. It was too dark, too bloody and she was the only thing alive in their. The walls were too close and the smell was beginning to make it's way past her helmet’s filter.

When she practically fled from the charnel room, she found Carter waiting outside the door, his balaclava back on and helmet in his lap, scratching something into it.

“Sentinel. How'd it go?”

“They didn't tell me anything, so I passed judgement on them.”

“Hmm. So that was why you shot them. I suppose I shouldn't be mad-it was your duty, as Sentinel and all that goes with it-but I am and it may have to do with the fact that I don't come over to your place and break your things, so I would ask that you refrain from breaking mine in the future. I meant what I said. I am rather fond of your face, and I would hate to see it charred.”

“Is that a threat, Raine?”

“Oh no, no no no. It's a statement of fact. I don't threaten people I am genuinely fond of. Case in point; I threatened to rape and mutilate Collins’ girlfriend if he didn't tell me a way into the purifier. He didn't so I followed through. Here are some statements of facts; I am rather fond of your face, I loved my father, I abhor the Enclave, and I find the Brotherhood...interesting to say the least. Not many organizations these days over two hundred. You people have staying power. And firepower.”

“You're sick.”

“Hmm? I don't believe so, Sentinel. I may not have an M.D.-but then who does aside from some pre-war ghouls-but I was trained as a doctor. I feel...well, rather peckish in all honesty, but that's the extent of my problems. Unless you meant sick as in my mind in which case, oh yes. Yes I am a twisted bastard. And it's ever so much fun.”

“Fun? FUN!? You consider violating, mutilating and humiliating women fun?! You think it's fun to cut a man's skin off while he's still alive?! To burn them alive!? Your father would be ashamed of you, Carter.” Sarah could scarcely believe that this was the same bright-eyed teenager with a Vault Suit from two months ago. Whoever...whatever this was, rattled her. She recognized the way his head tracked her movements, how his hand loosely grazed the rifle by his side, how his body seemed to tremble and be still at once. His fight-or-flight response was kicking in. And he wasn't one for flight.

“Dearie me, Sarah, you are rather stupid. I told you what I would do if you said that. Do you think yourself invincible? Because beneath that rusted suit of T-45, is a women-who as much as she wishes she was-made not of steel, but flesh and bone. I could go on and on about what I shall do but-” And the he lunged at her, knife drawn. She dodged what she thought was his first strike, but then the knife was in his left and aiming straight at her armour’s exposed knee actuator. She knew that if be damaged that, she might as well be one legged. Without the actuator to power the valve control for the hydraulic lubricant, the leg would lock up and the fluid build-up would cause a cascading systems failure. Starting with her respirator.

She managed to kick him away before the knife connected with the knee but he quickly regained balanced and dove low into her stomach, his shoulder bearing the brunt of the veritable wall of metal. She grabbed the back of the combat webbing on his back to throw him off, but she knew she was in trouble when she felt the suit grow heavier. The bastard had managed to make her extend herself, exposing the secondary power line that connected to the fusion cell powering the armour and allowing him to jam his knife into it. She knew she needed help and she needed it now, so she threw him off and hit the distress pulser on the the side of her helmet.


 

Tertiary hydraulic lubricant pump is underneath the right bracer, too armoured.

Redundant small energy output wire connects to the main power line through left armpit, pull and twist down and to the right.

I feinted left, then right, before using that small gap as the Lyoness dodged right then left to grab ahold of the wiring. It would cause her left arm to grow even heavier than it was. She knew what I was doing and threw a solid set of right hooks at my head, sending me reeling back. But I knew I had succeeded. I held the proof in my hands.

Respirator tubing sealant grows weaker with age. The right side is the more cracked of the two, but the left is an easier target with the stiffening of the left arm.

I opted for both and grappled with the Lyoness, using the maintenance bar on the chest plate as a handlebar, shoving her into the wall. With both hands on the respirator tubing, I jumped up and pressed my feet onto the Lyoness’s chest plate and pushed up, feeling the right give way before-

That's a .223 Remington steel jacketed round going through your biceps and triceps brachii and partially fracturing the humerus, effectively debilitating your right arm.

And that is a attuned energy projectile weapon version 7-or, as is more colloquially referred to as; a laser pistol-laser cutting through your right abdominal poly-ceramic composite plating and causing localized third and fourth-degree to your transversus abdominis, internal oblique and external oblique and your layers of skin.

So she had called for backup. Well that's a shame. This was going my way, and I was just getting to the fun part. This should prove a break from the monotony of hunting uncooperative Enclave, but the pain is rather annoying.

That is a modified R91 urban assault rifle produced by Stent Security Solutions. The steel has been refinished and the slide has been replaced with a slide from a Type 93 Chinese Assault Rifle; it's pulltab is spade shaped instead of the typical straight rod. The wood on the stock has been patched with a mixture of Wonderglue and sawdust.

Now this must be...Paladin Vargas. It's a GNR Plaza reunion then. Lovely.

And his foot is on my right arm. I am going to incinerate him.

“Paladin Vargas...pleasure to see you again-and I must say you seemed to have gained weight, if the immense pain of my arm is anything to go by.”

“Quiet, boy, only reason I haven't painted the floor with your brains is cause the Sentinel is telling me to only knock your ass out.”

Oh that doesn't so-


 

“Sentinel, you alright?” Glade asked her as he ran past the now unconscious Carter and came to the Sentinel’s sitting form.

“Not in particular, Paladin. My power armour is half destroyed, I didn't get anything from the survivors, and the hero of the wastes has turned into a butcher of men and tried to kill me. And damn near succeeded!”

“...bad day, huh?”

Sarah just stared at the man for a while before she began to laugh at the sheer under exaggeration of that statement. She laughed until she felt like crying. 

“Uhm, Sentinel, why is the door bleeding?” She looked up and saw Kodiak staring at the door that led into the room of death and madness.

“It's not the door Kodiak. Open it.”

So he did. And he stared inside, stared at all that the Lone Wanderer had wrought. And he was reminded all too well of his former home, the Pitt. The stench, the blood, the depravity.

“My God…”

“God doesn't exist in that room, Kodiak. Not anymore.”

“And he never shall.” 

“JESUS CHRIST GALLOWS! Don't do that to me dammit.” Sarah lowered her laser rifle that she had brought up on the freakishly quiet man as soon as he spoke.

“Apologies, Sentinel.”

“Huhhh….accepted, Gallows. Alright Pride, let's head back home. We're done for the week. I'll have some men from the Plaza pick up the haul. Who wants to carry Raine?”

The members of the Pride looked at the Sentinel strangely before she caught their meaning.

“The Wanderer. His name is C-Raine. Just Raine.”

“Hmmph. I'll carry the bastard, but I call dibs on the first box of Abraxo at the Citadel. I know all that blood is going to stick to my armour.”

“Thank you, Vargas. All right now somebody help me up because he cut most of my suit’s wiring to shreds?”


 

To properly heal the burn tissue, you would need a small skin graft and several stimpaks, possibly a Med-X to dull the pain of the deep tissue damage.

But it seems that that Mr. Gutsy medic had handled the wound treatment rather well.

To properly heal the bone and muscle damage, you would require several rounds of stimpaks, a splint and time. You could quick fix it with a combined shot of Psycho, Med-X and several stimpaks, but overconsumption of chems would be to your disadvantage at this time.

They hadn't even given me a stimpak or Med-X. And I was certainly not lacking in either of them. At least they had the decency to leave me with my Pip-Boy and pants. Had they-yes, they had checked everywhere seeing as how the K-Bar strapped to the inside of my thigh was gone.

I was in the middle of reading my notes regarding the Enclave when I heard the knock at the door.

I wasn't going to respond, by any means, I was a prisoner for Christ sakes.

“Hello, Raine. It is nice to see you again, it has been too long.”

Owyn Lyons was, as ever, the quintessential picture of a kindly old grandpa.

It was all an act of course.

“Hello, Elder. I doubt you it's nice to see me, seeing as I tried to murder your daughter.”

“Mmm, when Sarah told me what happened, I wanted to have you executed. Right then and there, I even found myself reaching for my pistol, but Sarah talked me out of it.”

Well that's unexpected. 

“And how in the world did the Sentinel do that?”

“She told me about your...mental health.”

Or lack thereof. 

“Well, I haven't the faintest clue what she told you, but I am perfectly healthy, mentally and physically. Now can I please have my equipment and armour back? I am a very busy man these days. So many places to go, so many people to...meet-excluding your daughter of course.”

My, that stare could wither a Sentry Bot’s resolve.

“I'm afraid that for the time being I'll have to insist you stay here, until such a time when you have stable state of mind.”

Upward strike to the nose with 40.034 Newtons of force will break the nose, allowing for a sprint to the door. Too many unknowns to approve of this course of action.

“So I'm a prisoner?”

“In the most basic sense of the word, yes.”

“You are going to keep me prisoner while the Enclave runs roughshod over the Capital Wasteland? The person who is your best weapon against them? Tell me, Elder, have you considered that you may be suffering from an advanced form of dementia or possibly Alzheimer's? Because you've seem to have forgotten who I am. Setting aside the fact that you're men have done almost nothing to stop the Enclave, and that I've effectively rendered them deaf and blind in whole sectors, I am not someone you wish to make an enemy of.”

“I have the full confidence that we can handle a single man, no matter how dangerous.”

Overconfidence, one would say.

“Yes, I believe that was the same sentiment Ashur had before I brought his little Raider empire to it's knees and killed a city.”

“What did you say?”

Tsk, tsk Owyn. I thought your armour would have a smaller chink.

“I said that Ishmael Ashur shared that same confidence that he and his men could handle me. Over the course of two weeks, I climbed up from the lowest of the low, to his personal killing machine. Then I killed him, his wife, and his entire army of Raiders. But then, of course I was betrayed by the slaves I sought to free. I had made a child an orphan before I knew what I had done. Because she was born with a complete immunity to all forms of radiation. And the bastards wished to use her as their cure. So I killed them all. Tore them apart, shot them to death, threw them into the steel forges. And I kept going. I silenced all of Pittsburgh. It is a city of steel and bone now.”

Oh, dear, I do believe he reviles me now.

“Who are you? What did you do with the boy whose face you wear? Because he would never MURDER AN ENTIRE CITY! KILL INNOCENTS! HE WAS BETTER THAN THAT! HIS FATHER-”

You don't get to talk about him.

I wonder if the old Lyon has any fight in him.

“I wonder who will become Elder WHEN I RIP YOUR THROAT OUT!”

I ran at the Lyon, knowing I would never make it out of this alive if I succeeded. 

Hmm. Perhaps I am mad?

Ah well.

I saw he had drawn a laser pistol from his robes, but did not care. 

Before he could get a beam off, I tackled him to the ground near the door.

Oh, I knew they heard that.

I bit the hand that reached for my throat as I smashed the Lyon’s head into the broken tile floor.

His blood tasted strange. 

Less like iron, more like silver.

Strange.

And that's the door.

I knew I should have gone for the throat first, but hind-


 

“Dammit, Owyn, he is not James! Trying to help his beast of a son won't bring him back. The boy has not only attacked you, but your daughter as well. When will you deal with him, when he murders his guards when-”

“ENOUGH! I am your Elder, Reginald, and you will obey me! We can help him.”

“How? We don't have the means to rehabilitate him, no one does! Even before the War, his case would be damn near impossible to handle. He is a dangerous sociopath, Owyn, perhaps he always was.”

“Not always.” Sarah was in the Solar with her Father and Head Scribe Rothchild, with the latter stitching up the former’s head. She knew that Carter was unstable, but she didn't think he would attack her Father in the heart of the Citadel with two Paladins stationed at the door. But then again, she wouldn't have thought he would be unstable a day ago.

“Sentinel, I've read your reports but for all we know he was simply playing a role-”

“No he wasn't. You didn't see him. You didn't see the look of happiness when he saved Jennings or Reddings life, you didn't see him laugh with Three Dog as they talked about the Good Fight. You didn't see him when his Father died. You can't fake those emotions, not that well. Whatever has happened to him is recent and a complete identity change.”

“She has a point, Reginald. He was devastated when James died. And he only reacted badly when I mentioned him.”

“The same happened to me, Father.”

Rothchild stepped back from her Father and began to put away the needle and bandages. He wasn't the best medic, but his hands were far steadier than the Gutsy they had.

“So I suppose we are just to overlook the fact he is a confessed murderer, rapist and serial killer because he has daddy issues? My, our moral standards certainly have fallen low.”

“Reginald! James was our friend!”

Rothchild dropped the medical bag he had finished repacking onto the nearby couch before he rounded on his Elder.

“And he is dead! And as much as I wish he were here, all we have left of him is his disturbed son! I hate that he is the last connection we have to James, but that is all he is! I'd rather lose that connection than have my oldest friend and a woman I consider my niece be at risk because you have grown sentimental. If you wish to cling to something, cling to your memories.”

Reginald picked up the medical bag and stormed out of the Solar, almost knocking over an eavesdropping Arthur Maxson.

“Uh-uh, hi Elder, Sentinel. I just remembered Paladin Gunny wants me to scrub his power armour so I'll just-”

“Squire. Come here.”

“Yes, Elder.”

The boy practically dragged his feet to the couch, his head hung like a man approaching the guillotine. 

“Why were you listening in on a private conversation? And just how exactly did you get past the Knights on guard duty?”

“Um, well I heard Paladin Vargas talking to Knight Artemis about the Lone Wanderer and how he's not really a hero and that it’d be better if you just executed him and then I saw Paladin O’Connell and Scribe Reginald helping walk you here and Paladin O’Connell was talking with Paladin Hoss outside that cleared out room about how it was all up to you what they do with the Wanderer and then I came here. Through the vents. Sir.”

Her Father just stared at the boy for a few seconds before he sighed a heavy sigh.

He had been sighing like that more and more lately. 

“Arthur, the Lone Wanderer is a man. He can be both good and bad. So far he has done mostly good. But he has also done some...terrible, terrible things. Things that would be considered war crimes before the Great War. So we have brought him here to see if we can help him.”

“C-could I see him? He's always been nice to me, and he even helped me with my aim.”

“Wait, is that how come you haven't come close to shooting me in a month?”

Her Father’s glare at being preempted was rather intense.

“Yes. And again, I'm sorry for shooting you. Really so very, incredibly and whole-”

“Arthur.”

“Err, yes, Sentinel?”

“It's okay. I know you didn't mean it.”

“Thank you.”

“You're welcome.”

“Ahem. If I may interrupt your conversation?”

“Oh, sorry Elder.”

“Apologies Father.”

“Accepted, both of you. And no, Arthur you may not see him. He is...unwell.”

“Is he sick? Did the Enclave hurt him? Super Mutants? Talon Company? He doesn't like Talon Company because they try to hurt his friends, Reilly’s Rangers-”

“No, his is not an illness born of the body. It is a sickness of the mind. He took the death of his father, my friend James, extremely hard. Add the compounding pressures of being the...well hero of the wastes, and he went down a bad path. A very bad path, Arthur.”

“H-his dad died?”

“Yes, he did. At the Jefferson Memorial a while ago.”

“Was that why he was crying last time I saw him?”

“I...I suppose it was.”

“He told me he wasn't crying. That he just ate a really spicy brahmin steak. He gave me his copy of Grognak the Barbarian before he left.”

Her Father’s eyes went glassy for a few moments as he listened to the last of their founder’s line. He was feeling Arthur's pain for his friend as well.

It didn't help Sarah’s internal turmoil at that point either, she could not reconcile the kind, gentle boy with the sadistic, cruel man no matter how hard she tried.

“No matter what happens to him, please remember something Arthur.”

“Yes, Elder?”

“He was kind and brave and merciful. And he was your friend. Remember him that way, if we can not help him.”

“I...I will Elder.”

“Good. You're dismissed. And tell Paladin Gunny to start having you work with some of the younger Initiates. In this world, you'll need to know how to handle a gun.”

“Yes Elder. Goodbye, Elder, Sentinel.”

“See ya, Arthur.”

“Farewell, Squire.”

As the boy practically ran out the door, her Father let loose another one of his deep sighs.

That was the fifth one that day.

“Father, I want to see him.”

“What? Are you mad, Sarah? No! I will not allow you to be in the same room as that man. Not alone, and not without a suit of T-45. It's too dangerous.”

“Father, please. He'll...well he'll half listen to me at least. I know he will. And if you're scared for my safety, we'll strap him to a standing bed frame or a radiator or a gurney. I'll wear combat armour and never go close to him. But it has to be me. And only me.”

“Impossible. Even if I did consent to all of the other proposals-which I haven't-I would still have at least one other person be present when you talk to him.”

“Father, if there's another person, he'll be too distracted trying to play them, he won't listen to me.”

“And just why would he listen to you, Sarah?”

“Because...because he's fond of my face.”

“What? What does that even mean?”

“I think it means he thinks I'm pretty. Or something, but he was very clear about making that known to me. So maybe I can use that.”

“You want to use his twisted attraction to you as an in?”

“I-Yes. I do.”

Her Father put his head into his palms and sighed, yet again. And muttered under his breath for a few minutes seeming to argue against and for it. Playing devil’s advocate.

“Two conditions.”

“And they are?”

“One: You must record every conversation with him. Every single one, so I can give them a listen and try to understand him.”

“That's fair. And the second?”

At that, he looked up and stared at her, his eyes seemed to bore into her.

“If he were to get free and attack you, I will have him executed. These are my conditions.”

“I accept your conditions. I'll begin working with him tomorrow.”

“Very well. Now, go get some sleep, Sarah. I can see you haven't yet.”

Her Father always did manage to pick up on any hint of failing on her part.

“Yes, Father. Goodbye.”

“Sarah?”

“Yes, Father?”

“I love you, child.”

“I love you too.”

As she closed the door to her Father’s Solar, she could swear she heard him sigh again.


 

“Raine. Wake up.”

Mmm, I don't quite want to, Sentinel. I'd rather stay...hanging? 

Perhaps I will.

“Why hello, Sentinel. How very nice to see you again. Nice armour, I see you've taken cues from me. And...my, my, my you've gone and trussed me up like a caught yao guai. Kinky. I like it.”

“I managed to convince my Father that I could get through to you, and one of the requirements was that you be chained. Since we've seen what you can do with your bare hands.”

Oh, that touched a nerve. 

Still mad I tried to kill the Lyon, I see.

Ah well.

“I would apologize for attacking him...but I think we both know I wouldn't mean it. And as for getting through to me, how and why would you do that, I wonder?”

“Well, you said that you were fond of my face, if I remember correctly. And as for why...well you saved my life and the lives of some of my men. Or the Lone Wanderer did. And I owe it to him to help you, as best I can.”

Talk about misguided sense of loyalty.

Although, I suppose there are worse people to...get through to me. 

Owyn could have had Gallows do it.

“Well in that case, help away.”

“Gladly, tell me about your father.”

Dislocate the distal phalanges from the first metacarpals and pull down with the full arm. Begin a running sprint towards the Sentinel. Attempt to capture the Sentinel’s skull with both hands. Extend proximal and distal phalanges into the cornea, apply 35.585 Newtons of force to puncture. Rapidly beat skull against floor, to reach an excess of 4983.04 Newtons of force, and fracture the skull.

Can't quite do that when my fingers have been zip tied together, but thanks.

“Mmmm, and what do you wish to know about my father, Sentinel?”

“Anything, really. What was he like, did he enjoy his life, what did he do in the Vault.” 

He was a doctor you ignorant, daughter of a traitor whore!

No. No, no. 

Can't say that. 

She's only playing at ignorance, Owyn did what was better for the wasteland, and for one to be a whore one must spread their legs. 

“Well, he was kind, but clinical. Loving, but distant. Caring, but cautious. But he loved me and he tried. By God he tried. I never wanted, but was never spoiled. I was instructed, but never disciplined. He taught me everything he knew. About anything. He enjoyed his life, enjoyed healing the hurt, mending the broken. He was a doctor-the best I've known. Including myself.”

Too much.

I said too much.

Can't keep my mouth shut.

Too proud of Dad. 

Not half the man he was.

“Well, he must have been extraordinarily talented then, because I've seen you at work.”

“Ahh yes, the Initiates Redding and Jennings. How are they, Sentinel?”

Ah.

So then one or more is gone.

“Jennings is a Knight now. He's on a long range recon against the Enclave right now. But Redding...she died a week ago. Super Mutant attack on the Mall outpost.”

“Truly, my condolences. She seemed like a rather enthusiastic person.”

“She was. But enough about her, this is your little moment. Tell me what the Vault was like.”

“Hmm. How about you tell me about...when you first killed a man. What it felt like.”

“No.”

Play along or I'll bite my tongue out to spite you.

But then I wouldn't hear myself. 

Mmm, decisions, decisions. 

“Tit for tat, Sentinel. Or you could show a little more skin. It's been...well I can't see my Pip-Boy, but I assume it's been a day or two since you imprisoned me here. A man has needs.”

“Afraid not, Raine. Rules are rules and me wearing armour is one of them. Or else you don't get to talk to me.”

Just a peek at that neck.

Pale and smooth and clean.

Oh.

Well, if they didn't want to see what would happen, they shouldn't have taken off my pants. 

Dear God, I hope they don't clean the plates. 

The pants, yes.

But not the plates. That shade of brown and crimson is very hard to create.

“A shame. As you can see, I find you rather...tantalizing, Sentinel.”

“I-Really. Seriously?”

“It's a natural reaction, Sentinel. I'm not ashamed of it, so no need for you to be ashamed on my behalf. Besides, you forget, I am nineteen. Roughly 33.2 percent of my thoughts are about the feminine form.”

“You're nineteen?”

Perhaps I should just bite my tongue anyway.

Save me from inadvertently spilling anything of use.

This is what I get for not having any social interactions outside of interrogations. 

“Yes. May I know your age, Sentinel? Or is that rude to ask?”

“It is rude, but I doubt you seriously care. I am twenty-nine.”

“Respectable. I considered younger due to the condition of your skin, and lack of smile lines, but then again I considered older due to your tactics and knowledge.”

Oh, how I would love to see her face in the throes of passion, the climax of pain, and the tranquility that is death.

Not in that order perhaps.

Dear me, I really need to stop thinking these thoughts.

“So, when is your birthday?”

“Tell me yours, and I'll tell you mine.”

“December.”

“December…?”

“Your month.”

“October.”

“Twelfth.”

“Twenty-third. Auspicious, don't you think?”

“In a way, I guess. So, the Vault.”

101.

Home sweet hell.

Who ever devised the social experiment for the Vault had quite simply been retarded.

How would you observe it?

How would you handle mankind’s innate want for freedom?

How would you account for the futility of the experiments if the world ended in nuclear fire?

What were the experiments supposed to accomplish?

Really, Vault-Tec was doing things because they could, not because they had a goal.

For example, Stanislaus Braun and Vault 112.

But they did get a pass for creating the G.E.C.K.

Now if I could only find one.

Or two.

One to take apart, and one to use.

The terraforming versions that is.

The community building version was impressive in it's own way, truly.

But the ability to bring life to lifelessness?

Why, it was almost magical.

Oh, it seems she thinks I've gone catatonic.

“Ah yes. The Vault. Good old 101. Well, not really good. Run by a paranoid, abusive dictator, designed never to open, knowledge suppressed. But hey, it was home. For a time.”

“Did you have friends?”

“Oh yes. I had a fair few. Janice and Jim Wilkins. Freddie Gomez. Christine Kendall. Paul Hannon Jr.-when he wasn't being a bother. And how could I forget Susie Mack and Amata Almodovar and Jonas Palmer.”

“You sound fond of them.”

My you're a regular Sherlock Holmes.

That wasn't fair. 

You're more a Mycroft or Watson.

“I was. Especially of the last three. Susie may have put up a tough front, but she was sweet and kind inside, tasted it too. Amata...well let's not talk about her. But Jonas? Oh, Jonas was a good man. Smart as my father, with a rebellious streak a mile wide. He and my father were the ones who got me my first gun. An Abilene Red Ryder B.B. gun. The rest of my friends were special as well. Jim and Janice loved to play Grognak the Barbarian with me, or Captain Cosmos. Freddie...Freddie was a bit slow on some things, but that guy could tinker. Give him a broken toaster, a toolbox, a Nuka-Cola and a day, and it'd be better than new the next. Christine was always writing these stories and poems and had me read them over. Little drabbles that had potential. Paul and me were on the baseball team together, me the pitcher and him the designated hitter. We had fun.”

Bite it.

Bite it in half then spit it in her face.

Too much.

Too much.

Why can't I shut up?

“You miss them.”

“I did. Then I stopped caring. Oh, I miss certain aspects of them. How tight Susie was, how she babbled when she reached her limit, how Jonas discussed theories over new treatments, how Jim and Janice pranked each other, how Freddie would always be tinkering with his Pip-Boy, how Christine would light up when I told her her story was good, how Paul got his first homerun and broke a window and then we ran into our dorms like mad men.”

“So you and this Susie...were you guys dating before you left?”

“Quid pro quo, Sentinel.”

“What?”

Really?

I can get not understanding Latin. 

It was a dead language before the bombs fell.

But not understanding a rather common phrase?

Unacceptable. 

“It's a Latin phrase, Sentinel. It means, roughly, ‘this for that’ or ‘something for something’. And since you refuse to avail yourself of some armour and what you felt when you first killed a man, tell me about your friends.”

“Oh. Well, I have a few friends. Glade, Kodiak, Colvin, Dusk,Vargas, Gallows-”

“No, no, no. Those are your squadmates. Friends are people outside of your own facet of the Brotherhood.”

“In that case...then I don't have any.”

You sound disappointed about that.

Not sad.

Disappointed. 

Curious.

“Well, I believe you have one at least.”

“Really? And who is that? You?”

Once.

“Once. But no, I mean Arthur. The child sees you and your Pride as the pinnacle of the Brotherhood. What all should aspire to be. Refreshing change from the hoarding behaviour his predecessors had. And I believe he is infatuated with you.”

My, that smile is both sad and joyous.

It is also intoxicating. 

Mmm.

“So my only friend-by your parameters-is a ten year old boy with a crush on me.”

“Well, yes. You should be thankful. At least when you pass away-in the very distant future-the next Elder of the Brotherhood will be both a Maxson and a good man. And he is quite happy to chat about most anything if you ask him. Very personable.”

“He really is isn't he? You do know you just told me about my friends-or my lack of them-rather than me tell you about them, right?”

Yes.

Damn my love for my own words.

“It seems I did. Well, since I have already answered my own question, I suppose I can answer yours. No, we weren't. We hadn't been together in that way for two years. And even then, we weren't...going steady, as it were. She lost herself in me when her life became too hard. I lost myself in her. We were friends. Friends who had spent whole nights intertwined, but friends.”

“And why did you lose yourself in her?”

“I was sick of it all. Sick of the Vault. Sick of the Overseer. Sick of his jackbooted thugs. Sick of being a caged animal. Sick of thinking about her and not being able to stop.”

Do not latch onto it.

Do not lat-

“When you say ‘her’ you don't mean Susie, do you?”

“I tire of conversation, Sentinel. Leave me.”

“What? It's just a ques-”

“I SAID LEAVE ME YOU VILE DAUGHTER OF A WHORE, BEFORE I BREAK THESE CHAINS AND WRAP THEM AROUND YOUR THROAT BEFORE I RAPE YOUR CORPSE!”

Oh, did you forget I am not your friend?

Not the Lone Wanderer?

Not the Hero of the Wastes?

That I am just a very, very angry man with a predilection towards ultra-violence?

Your mistake.

“Very well, Carter, maybe you'll be in a friendlier mood tomorrow.”

“COME CLOSER AND SAY THAT YOU BITCH, AND WE'LL SEE WHOSE FANGS ARE SHARPER; THE LYONESS’ OR THE MAN’S!”