Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The three black aerocraft came about for a landing, rotors spinning deafeningly. They hovered for a brief moment over the dusty ridge, and several figures fell from each, producing glowing, crackling weapons as they fell. Then the vertibird squadron rose, their rotors turning to the vertical; and the ridge was quiet once more, save for the spark and crackle of the airdropped soldiers' armor and weapons.

Somewhat over a mile away, a ragged man in a stylish fedora watched the movement, his right eye pressed to the scope of his rifle. His finger was inside the trigger guard, but not on the trigger itself.

"What do you see?" came a hideous voice from behind the ragged man, both croaking and rasping in the same breath.

"Enclave soldiers," the ragged man replied. "And don't do that, Cyrus. You startled me - if I'd pulled the trigger by mistake, we'd have startled them and had to start all over again."

"Eh," Cyrus said, his voice sounding like a frog being pressed through a meat blender. "Besides, would you prefer that I tap you on the shoulder when I want to speak?"

The ragged man took his eye of the scope, looking at his travel companion's diseased, rotting visage. He turned away again.

"No, I guess not."

Cyrus pressed for more information. "What's their composition?"

"The Enclave scum? There's about nine of them, I think. Seven of them are power armoured, six of those with that Tesla Armour of theirs. Don't know where that comes from, the Brotherhood archives don't have anything on it. The two that aren't armoured look like officers."

"What are they doing?"

"Right now they're looking around, getting the lay of the land. Wait - one of the officers is pointing. They're splitting up. Half and half, with the odd man going with the westbound squad. The other one's heading our way."

"Ambush?" Cyrus asked.

"Yeah," the ragged man agreed. "We'll set up some mines in the ravine, maybe rig up a shotgun around the corner, have you there to close the trap. I'll come behind them and make sure that none of them escape."

"And the other squad?"

The ragged man picked up his sniper rifle, standing slowly and stretching. "Hopefully the officer in the first squad will have a radio set on him. We'll grab it, relay an track order through Three Dog. The Brotherhood can give us the location of the second squad once we're done with the first. Then we double-time it over and mop 'em up."

Cyrus stood impassively, watching as his employer began to unpack mines from his pack. "How did you know the Enclave was going to land troops where it did?"

The ragged man froze. Slowly, with effort visible on his face, he told Cyrus, "I have sources."

"Sources," Cyrus echoed.

"That's enough out of you!" the ragged man shouted, suddenly possessed with rage.

Cyrus said no more.


The ambush went flawlessly.


Power-armoured corpses lay scattered across the ravine, cut down from two sides. The Enclave officer, one arm charred by a stray plasma bolt, hung suspended against the ravine wall. Cyrus held him with ease, his ghoulish strength proving its use. The officer seemed reluctant to resist; he was well aware that Cyrus was holding him by the neck.

"What is your mission objective?" the ragged man asked.

"I can't say," the officer said, terrified.

"Cyrus is a lot closer to you than your so-called President," the ragged man threatened. "And when I say close, I don't mean it in the fraternal sense. In fact, thinking about it that way, he's not very close to you at all."

Cyrus's fingers jerked. They left red marks on the officer's throat.

"He's not really close to anyone," the ragged man confessed. "I don't think he likes people."

"All right! All right!" the officer gasped, coughing. "We were on recon! Trying to find pockets of sedition and vice, as are so common in this foul, desolate land! Is that what you wanted?"

"Maybe. Were you looking for anything in particular?"

The officer paused. Cyrus's fingers jerked again.

"All right!" he cried. "I was just - thinking, all right! We were looking for stuff - arms stockpiles, Brotherhood outposts, Super Mutant infestations, that kind of thing. Just reconaissance - please don't kill me!" The officer began to cast his eyes about the ravine, as though noticing the carnage for the first time. "Oh god, oh god, you killed everyone! Oh god, god, god..."

Cyrus slammed his free hand over the officer's mouth. The babbling stopped.

"That can't be good for him," the ragged man told Cyrus. "Let him go."

Cyrus released both hands. The officer fell to the ground in a curled-up ball.

"Where are the nearest Brotherhood units?" the ragged man asked.

"Nowhere near," Cyrus told him. "The closest ones are those tracking the other unit."

The ragged man was silent for a moment, thinking.

"Want me to simplify things?" Cyrus asked. He flexed the fingers of his right hand indicitavely.

"No," the ragged man said. "Just- no. We'll sort this out. Pick him up, we'll take turns carrying him to the next group. Hand him off to the Brotherhood there."

"You sure?" Cyrus asked. "He's Enclave scum, after all. They murder civilians."

"Yeah, I know," the ragged man replied. "But - no. We'll take him. Grab his laspistol and let's move."

Cyrus stooped to the still-foetal officer, plucking his laspistol out of his holster as he did so. He tossed the laspistol aside and rose with the officer on his back, wheezing a sound like death.

"If we run into any radscorpions en route, it'll be your job to deal with them," Cyrus told his employer.

The ragged man laughed. "I think I'll manage. Come on, let's go."

They jogged out of the blood-soaked canyon, Cyrus wheezing with every step. Black vertibirds passed overhead as they went.

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