August 18, 2277:
Our first night in the wastes was less than amazing. We stayed awake until dawn, keeping an eye out for anything hostile. Nothing presented itself, but we did hear some things moving around out in the darkness.
Not that sitting back to back with your girl isn’t nice. Nicer, surely, when you do it inside a building with a locking door, though. Maybe some 2x4’s nailed across the door; or a sliding bar at the very least.
I’ll also mention that it’s true the food was still good. In a manner of speaking, anyway. While it didn’t make us sick, strictly speaking… washing down cram and instant noodles with several shots of vodka do not make for what one would term a happy GI tract.
I’m pretty sure that the area within thirty or so feet of our hideout could have been considered to be undergoing another apocalypse. I love her dearly… but God. Damn. I had no idea the human body could produce smells like that. I can’t claim innocence, either. It’s a good thing we didn’t have a fire burning.
We finally went to sleep around dawn, leaning against each other and backed into a corner. Sleeping fitfully until what my Pip-Boy informed me was just after eleven AM.
I woke up with a truly epic headache. I’d have chalked it up to the vodka, but I’ve been hung over before, and this was something else. It felt almost like my head was going to explode from some internal pressure. The headache, it would turn out, would stick with me the entire day.
We had to forgo any sort of a shower, since there was no apparent running water nearby.
“We need to ditch these clothes.” Ria declared, unzipping the front of her jumpsuit.
It slipped my mind before, but I suppose I should note that I generally refer to Arianrhod as Ria. Easier on the tongue by far. She doesn’t seem to mind in the least.
“I know you’ve got an exhibitionist streak, but do you really think this is the best time for that sort of thing?” I replied, trying hard not to look.
“Get your mind out of the gutter.” She shot back, picking up a partially burned book and using it as a fan to try and dry the sweat that was freely running down between her breasts. “It’s hot as fucking hell out here.”
“It’s August. I still don’t think going around naked would help, anyway. Sunburns are no joke, and you and I don’t exactly have skin that’s used to UV-exposure.”
“True.” She conceded. “But the fact remains that our jumpsuits and the armor both have vault logos emblazoned across the back. Since the vault door has a big, matching one-oh-one plastered across it, you can bet the locals will get ideas about us if they see us in these outfits. I don’t want to be singled out as someone who could get them into paradise; do you?”
“Not particularly, no.” I admitted, sullenly.
While I’ll confess I don’t really like the vault jumpsuits, they were nonetheless far and away better than the immediate alternatives.
Ria was right, though – between the logo, and the sheer cleanliness of the clothing; we’d be marked as outsiders on the spot. Standing out is never good when you’re only two people with two pistols and four magazines between you.
“We also need supplies.” She added. “That vodka isn’t doing us any favors for hydration.”
“There’s also the matter that being drunk off your ass isn’t conducive to survival.”
“Fuckin’ A.” Ria replied.
She continued swearing under her breath, and pulled the front of her still-unzipped jumpsuit out, trying to direct the fan-generated breeze to areas below her waist.
“Where should we try first…?” I ventured.
“Not sure. Just after the sun came up, I saw a couple houses down the street that looked inhabitable. We could try looting those. May even find someplace more defensible to stay awhile…”
I glanced up, from my position sitting at her feet. “If nothing else, we could get out of the sun, awhile. Doubt we’ll find an air conditioner, though.”
“Agreed. Quickie before we go?”
“I don’t… really think out in the open would be such a good idea…” I noted, unsuccessfully attempting to suppress a blush.
Even after years together, she can still tease me with almost pathetic ease.
“Fine, be no fun.” Ria returned, grinning.
She offered me a hand, and pulled me to my feet. That done, she zipped her jumpsuit back up, and we pulled our vests on.
We moved off down the street. Immediately, I spied the building Ria mentioned having seen.
Amazingly, the place still had its walls intact, as far as we could tell. Front and rear doors, even. No signs of life externally, but I had to confess that anyone who had lived out here for any length of time would almost assuredly have had to learn to conceal their presence.
With windows boarded up as they were, it was nearly impossible to tell whether anyone was inside.
Stopping at the door, Ria gently tried the handle. It wasn’t locked.
“Should we knock?” She asked, wearing a slight grin.
“You think they’d let us in if we said we were selling Mary Kay?”
“Then no, I don’t think announcing ourselves would do any good.”
I removed the riot helmet from its place on my belt, and pulled it on.
Laughing softly, Ria did the same.
She nodded, and silently twisted the door handle. On three, Ria gave a soft push on the door. The fact that the door didn’t squeak as it moved inward suggested rather strongly that someone did live there.
We moved in, pistols raised and covering corners as well as we could.
The front room appeared to be a combination kitchen and dining room. There were electric lights in operation, and a functioning refrigerator against one wall.
Ignoring it for the time being, we moved on. Coming through the doorway, we were immediately set upon by a woman. She didn’t initially attack physically, but rather came at us demanding answers.
Wanting to know if we worked for someone. I could barely understand her.
The woman quickly grew frustrated with jabbering in our general direction, and pulled a small revolver from her pocket.
Ria and I both still had our pistols raised. The woman who had never even bothered to identify herself – or given us a chance to introduce ourselves – caught two rounds of 10mm; one in the face and the second in the throat.
Morbid as this may sound to you, we had both aimed with the intent of not ruining her clothes.
Unfortunately, as it turned out her outfit wouldn’t fit Ria. The skirt was so short that it didn’t leave anything to the imagination on the dead woman – who was four plus inches shorter than Ria. The “top”, such as it was, was a good four cup sizes and ten inches too small. We took it anyway, since downright tawdry as it was, the outfit was of decent quality, and would probably be worth something; if we ever found a group of sane people to trade with.
We searched through the nearby cabinet, but found no other clothing. It appeared that for the time being at least, we were stuck with our Vault attire.
We moved the wardrobe over to block the back door from opening, then took one of the chairs from the dining table and wedged it into place at the front door; to at least delay entry.
Now at least moderately secure, we raided the refrigerator and sat down to relax.
The dead woman had had precious little in the way of arms. She had been armed only with a thirty-two caliber revolver that would have been considered a piece of shit even before the war. A handful of ammunition that was so corroded I’d have been surprised if it had even gone off rounded out her protection kit.
We found some small amount of food, and water that wasn’t completely filthy. The survey meter built into my Pip-Boy concluded that the water bottles were irradiated; but not dangerously so. Living on it long-term wouldn’t have been advisable, but considering that there was only a few days worth of the stuff left, we decided it wouldn’t be too much of an issue.
It did, however, raise the question of how the dead woman had been surviving here. She was obviously settled in, and didn’t look like she had been planning on leaving anytime soon.
There must be a water supply nearby, then. If not… perhaps that city we spied yesterday?
“Still…” Ria mused, sipping at one of the bottles of water. “If this psycho was any indication of the rest of them, getting that water could be interesting.”
I agreed; taking a drink myself, after she passed me the bottle. The water tasted terrible.
“What do you think all those Nuka Cola caps were for? Seems like an odd thing to collect in this day and age.” I asked, changing the subject.
“No idea. Could be an obsessive-compulsive disorder driving her to collect them; could be some new, crazy religion… hell, it could be fucking money for all we know.”
“I suppose. What now?”
“Now?” Ria repeated, standing and stretching. “Now, I say we dump that bitch’s corpse in one of the dumpsters outside, lock this place down, and get some real sleep. We found enough supplies to last a few days. We’ll worry about more later.”
Cold? Absolutely; but a good idea is a good idea, and my darling girl is ever the pragmatist…
We unceremoniously dumped the corpse into one of the dumpsters outside, and closed the lid without even any final words for the deceased.
That done, we returned to our new house, and battened down the metaphorical hatches before night fell. The house wouldn’t stand up to any sort of real assault… but it would at least slow down an attacker enough to give us time to wake up and grab weapons to mount a defense.
While searching around the bedroom, we found a considerable stash of drugs, mostly in auto-injector form. Neither of us recognized most of the trade-names on the labels, but I did see one with a name similar to a heavy-duty amphetamine that my dad had prescribed occasionally, back in the vault.
If she had been out of her skull on stimulants… it would certainly explain the aggressive and erratic behavior. The thought brightened our outlook somewhat, since it suggested that at least some of the people might be sane and reasonable.
And yes, I do realize the irony of someone who just shot a random woman, hoping for reasonable discourse in future dealings.
Surprisingly enough, we found a second set of sheets under the bed that were actually more-or-less clean. We quickly changed them out for the equally surprisingly filthy ones that had been on the bed.
For the first time since Amata woke me in my bedroom in the Vault, I got to sit down and take my boots off. Thank the universe for insoles with activated charcoal, I can tell you that much.
Ria didn’t stop there, though. She quickly shed the rest of her clothes, and fell into bed.
She loves to sleep naked. Something about the feeling of skin-on-skin contact was soothing to Ria. It’s another of those things I really don’t understand, but I like both the view and the feel enough that you won’t generally find me dissenting. Since we had already checked the sheets, mattress, and pillow for lice and other unpleasant surprises, I had no intention of arguing this time, either.
I followed suit, and climbed in after her. We were so exhausted after the previous night’s perpetual on-edge state that we didn’t even bother with anything perverse, and instead were asleep within minutes.