Though my first shot went wide, pinging off the side of the tunnel, the beast slowed its barrelling pace. It glanced back towards the light. The rifle kicked back against my shoulder a second time, and this time the bullet hit home. The thing stopped, clutching its side and peering now forward into the gloom.
“Are you with them?” Its voice had the same grating quality as the green meanies I’d overheard before.
I started to ask what it was talking about, but was cut of by a clamour of human voices echoing down the tunnel.
“It’s getting away!”
“Open fire, you ninnies!”
As the beam of a laser arced through the air above my head, I dropped to the ground behind a piece of rubble. Guns sounded in a short fusillade, quickly replaced by a ragged cheer.
One voice whooped wordlessly. Another remarked, “We got the b*****ds. F**king mutants don’t stand a chance against the Lion’s Pride.”
The second was cut off by a woman’s voice, though I couldn’t make out her words. I didn’t need to. Their voices were enough to bring me to a decision. Although I stayed safe behind that piece of rubble, I rose to my knees, “Hey there!” I shouted.
The sound of weapons being readied came bouncing down the corridor. “Who’s there?” Called an authoritarian female voice.
“Just a wanderer after a way into the Ruins. I mean no harm.” I kept my hands raised as I climbed to my feet.
“What’s your business here, Wanderer?”
Dressed in identical outfits made of some heavy-looking metal, and armed to the teeth with weapons of all shapes and descriptions, it was pretty clear that the group meant business. Strong odds were that I wouldn’t see another sunset if I gave the wrong answer. “I need to get to Galaxy News Radio.”
One of the male voices scoffed, “On his own? He’s dreaming.”
The woman—apparently the one in charge—silenced him with a gesture, “Why don’t you step into the light, Wanderer?”
My legs shook as I made my way towards them. If I’ve learned one thing out here in the Wastes, it’s that humans are the most dangerous things going. Ghouls, Mirelurks, Deathclaws, they’re all might fearsome critters, no doubt, but they’re predictable. You know that if they see you, they’re going to try kill you. People on the other hand… there’s never knowing for sure. I watched a mechanic in Rivet City beat his assistant to death with a wrench because she dropped a bolt, and I’ve seen a gang of marauders adopt a squalling kid left alone after they raped and murdered its mother, and raise it as their own. Sure, I hadn’t seen those things yet, but I already knew enough to be leery of all people.
Seeing the woman for the first time, I might have mistaken her for a man if she’d not spoken first. Broad-shouldered, barrel-chested, and square-jawed, she stood taller than most of the men that surrounded her. There were six or seven of them, all hard-faced and staring at me like I was some slime that had come crawling out of the sewers. She looked me up and down, “Why you ain’t nothing but a scrap of meat and bone… What’s your business at GNR?”
“I’ve been told Three-Dog has information that I need.”
She waited for a moment, as though expecting me to go on, then smiled, but the effect was anything but reassuring, “The Brotherhood of Steel is well supplied with information. We may be able to help you.”
I recalled that Moriarty had mentioned them, but not what he had said about them. And I wasn’t willing to accept the words of people out here on good faith. “Mayhaps you can, but my business is my own.”
She lashed out, a swift kick bringing me to my knees before she grabbed my throat in a vice grip. When next she spoke, the note of kindness had vanished from her voice, “Listen here you little strip of s**t. I am Lieutenant Natasha Lyons, leader of the Lyons Pride, and I am authorised to kill anyone or anything that I deem a potential threat to the security and stability of the Brotherhood’s effort to restore order to the United States of America. And right now, Wanderer, you’re seeming mighty suspicious, so how about you drop the act and tell your business before you can’t ever tell anyone.” She had drawn a laser pistol from a holster at her side while she spoke and pressed it against my forehead.
There was no way of getting out of it. I wondered briefly how far the news of my quest would spread across the Wastes after I’d told it to this squad of soldiers, then sighed. Maybe my dad would hear of it one day soon and pause somewhere to give me time to catch up, or maybe it would just die out here, forgotten amidst the squad’s other concerns after they were done with me. I sighed, and told Lyons my reason for wandering through the Metro tunnel, how the state I was in was a result of a battle with a hive of Ghouls. I told her of the scientist and Moriarty, and where I’d come from.
As my story went on, she lowered her weapon, and when I’d finished, said, “You’re lucky we found you.”
“Because you wouldn’t ever have made it to GNR if we hadn’t. The entire area is overrun by Super Mutants. There’s been hard fighting here the past two days, and it’s only now that we’ve started to regain the ground we lost.”
I nodded gravely in understanding, even though I was dancing on the inside at the news. If my father had travelled fast enough, he could have made it here before the fighting began, and at that point I was wagering good odds that he had been trapped in by the fighting. I knew for certain that he wasn’t dumb enough to set out into the kinds of dangers that Lyons was talking about. I was so sure my quest was nearing its end that I was near prepared to run to GNR and Super Mutants be damned.
“What’s more lucky is that we’re the squad that’s been assigned to freeing GNR. Feel free to tag along, help us fight if you want to, but stay the hell out of the way. We don’t need some dumb kid getting dead because he was too excited by bloodlust.” I nodded again silently and fell into step in the midst of the group as they set off.
The terminal would once have been a grand building, made up of enormous, airy chambers; carefully laid brickwork; and intricate steel mouldings as decoration. Vestiges of the grandeur remained, but these offered only glimpses at once was. I had to work hard to envision what the place would once have looked like. It never ceases to be a shame, when walking through such places, to think of humanity as it must have been in its heyday, and the things we were capable of creating: buildings that tower above the landscape for miles around, works of beauty that stand a testament to the vision of the creator. That world that was is unimaginable for the likes of us that live in its ruins.
The station opened onto a vast garden square with a toppled fountain in its centre. A rusted children’s playground stood off to the right, while the backdrop was a mixture of lasting and fallen buildings. Most were little more than tumbled piles of rubble, but a couple, including GNR, rose so tall I had to crane my neck to see the tops of them.
“I don’t like this.” Lyons’ voice brought me to awareness of the silence. The wind whistling over the earth was an eerie sort, seeming to carry on it the lament of dead souls.
“Movement at ten o’clock… It was something big.”
I glanced where they guy had indicated, seeing only a mess of steel girders and concrete chunks.
“Movement at one o’clock.”
“Six is clear.”
“They know we’re here.” The last was Lyons, her voice cold and low, “No better places to make a stand. Willow, Chekov, watch our backs. Wanderer, keep down. Everyone else, radiate.”
I resented the way she spoke to me, but admired the training and easy familiarity evident within the squad. Their movements were precise, the pattern spreading in a measured movement, like the ripples that spread from a pebble being dropped into a puddle. Communicating only through gestures, the squad was constantly on the move, each member keenly aware of the position of their fellows. After Megaton and Grayditch, where most everyone was interested only in their own affairs, I found it almost inspirational to see the co-operation. I stayed on the threshold between the station and square, waiting. Waiting.
“Contact!” The cry echoed through the still air a second before the two sides opened fire. The tell-tale bangs of projectile weapons came from every direction, underpinned by the low whine of lasers. Deciding that the entrance probably wasn’t the wisest place to be stood, I whirled about and repositioned myself near a window, poking my head out to see if there was anything for me to shoot at. My line of sight stayed clear for a while, but then the green meanies—Super Mutants, Lyons had called them—started pouring into the square.
Using my hunting rifle, I managed to get in a couple of pot shots, killing at least one of them, but the squad was hard-pressed and being pushed back towards the terminal. I saw one of the guys pop out from behind a piece of cover with a weapon as big as himself propped on his shoulder. I’d seen him carrying it earlier, but hadn’t been able to fathom what it was. A few seconds later, I found out. A small puff of smoke emerged from the end, then a massive explosion rocked the square, evaporating Mutants and creating a colossal crater in a flash of brilliant white light. The flash was followed by a concussive wave that knocked me off my feet. Then, my Geiger counter went nuts. The crazy b*****d had used a mini-nuke to clear the area.
“YEE-HAH!” He whooped, but the celebration was short-lived as a mutant raced out from behind a wall and caved in his skull with one crushing blow. A barrage of bullets felled the mutant, but that help came too late. The battle resumed, though it lacked the desperate ferocity of the initial conflict, and the Lyons Pride gained the upper hand pretty quickly. Over time, the flow of mutants slowed to a trickle, then stopped completely, and the battle became slaughter. I was exhausted by then, and I hoped to never have to witness to a massacre of that kind ever again. Sure, it wasn’t exactly humans being slaughtered out there, but the wanton waste of life made me sick to my stomach.
Even though I had no choice—it was kill or be killed—I hate that I played a part in it, however small. I hate that so many lives were lost in that square because of some stupid tug-of-war, and I hate that there are probably countless times where exactly the same thing has happened, all over what’s left of this country and all over the world.
We gathered in the middle of the square once the battle was over, Lyons on the lip of the crater and the rest of us within it, completely ignorant to the scratching sounds coming from my Pip-Boy. “Congratulations,” began Lyons in a sombre tone, “we won a hard-fought battle here today and I am proud of all of you. Before we celebrate, however, I would like for all of you to bow our heads in silence for a moment in memoriam of our fallen comrade. Olav was a bit hot-headed, but a good man nonetheless, and the Pride will be-”
Her stirring words were cut off by a roar that seemed to rend the very air around us. As one we turned, and became witness to one of the most terrifying sights in the world.
No doubt it was a Super Mutant, but twisted far beyond any resemblance to a human. Four men standing on each others’ shoulders wouldn’t have equalled the thing’s height. Muscles bulged all over in a way unimaginable on a person. Spikes of bone protruded at random points all over its body, and what little skin wasn’t covered by coarse black hair was a deep swamp green. The squad scattered as the Behemoth raced into the square, roaring and swinging its weapon—a fire hydrant welded to a massive steel girder.
Although a fearsome sight to behold, the beast’s size made its movements almost ponderously slow, giving us more than enough time to escape the range of its strikes. The squad spread out to open fire, and I followed their lead, clambering up the steps of GNR to slide behind a pile of sandbags for cover. There, I joined in firing upon the Behemoth, using the assistance of V.A.T.S. to send each slug into its head, although I may as well have been firing mosquitoes for all the damage I seemed to doing. It wasn’t until one of the squad members got their hands on the mini-nuke launcher that the tide of the battle shifted. The explosion tore the Behemoth apart, sending an arm spiralling through the air. It fought on though. But there was no need for us to do the same. I stood back at watched in sadness the ballet of death. Time and again, the beast stumbled, pushing off an upright piece of masonry to take yet another errant swing at the ants that had killed it. Blood gushed from wounds big enough for a person to curl up, and the rank smell of burning flesh was overpowering. Eventually, it just couldn’t fight any more. It fell, struggled to rise, and gave up, its limbs twitching as choked groans of agony came from its ruined throat.
I stood there a long time, just watching it die.
Disclaimer: The preceding is a narrative account of the author’s playthrough of Fallout 3. It is not paid content. Fallout 3 and all related trademarks remain the property of Bethesda Softworks. OnlySP.com team members have no personal or professional affiliation with Bethesda Softworks or any related companies.