2600 words (20 minutes to read)
In an unspecified location within the eastern Commonwealth, a Ghoul and a former Enclave soldier just dodged a bullet. The day could not get any better.
The woman who until a few moments ago pointed her rifle at them now lies on the dirt, fainted, and a girl is rushing towards her.
Fred Zinjan, the Ghoul dressed like a wanna be superhero, leaps forward. The running girl immediately stops running as she sees his axe.
Leo Sanderclive closes the distance between the two, his hand holds firmly the grip of his plasma gun. He demands the Ghoul to declare his intentions, ready to defend those civilians if need be.
The Ghoul stretches his withered face into a weird grin, sheaths his axe and tries to trike the most heroic pose possible, staring intensely at the sky with his hands firmly on his hips: “Beware, Soldier! Bask thyself in my glow and fear not for my intentions, for I am a… Superhero!”
Silence and the feeble howling of the wind are the only answer, then, after a couple of endless seconds, a voice shouts: “Moron!”
The young girl shoves the so-called Superhero aside and throws herself at the fainted woman.
Heartbroken, Fred turns to the soldier, only to meet his stern, steely eyes.
The situation softens a couple of minutes later, when Fred decides to share what little food he has left to help the girl wake up the fainted woman (who they now learned is called May).
Half an hour later, they are all sitting under a porch, staring silently at each other with a little bit of suspicion, then, May breaks the silence: “Th-Thanks. For the food. I’m sorry ‘bout my behaviour from before, I thought you were with the Parentis. Those bastards and the raiders took everything from us. Even my man, Crest… haven’t seen him since yesterday… bet he went there to get himself killed…”
May tells Fred and Leo about her own family. They have been there for little more than a year, looking for a relatively safe, if not very fertile, area. They took barely a few months to find out they were close to a Diner where raider gangs use to gather. A Diner run by a family named Parentis.
“… Those freaking Ghouls have a Super Mutant too… every time they come here to steal our things, he just stands there… huge, like a freaking hulking statue…”
As May’s story ends, Leo and Fred share a brief look. Though their motives are clearly different, they are thinking alike now.
Fred stands up and pulls the same heroic pose he did before: “Stay assured! You shall never hear about this Parentis anymore!” he then turns towards Leo: “You seem… capable!”
Leo is still resting against the wall, silent.May speaks again, her voice trembling: “We’ve got nothin’ for you. Can barely feed ourselves… but please, go find my partner. He’s a good man… they’ll kill him.”
Sanderclive gets closer: “You found me unconscious, brought me to safety in your home. Haven’t judged me by my uniform. That’s enough for me. Now, give me all the details you have ‘bout these Parentis.”
Band3r floats steadily over the ruined road, leaving only a light trail of smoke and dust behind.
Its voce synthesizer repeats the same sentence once more to the Ghoul’s ear: “We there yet?”
Francis blurts out: “Almost there! Y’are such a pain!”
Before Band3r could reply, its camera spotted the entrance of a Drumlin Diner in its field of vision. The robot reckons that defensive turrets would be programmed not to shoot Francis, so it floats right behind him, trying not to irritate its future source of beer.
Another Ghoul welcomes them inside the Diner. The paraverbal analysis shows Band3r that the second Ghoul flaunts superiority towards Francis.
The Ghoul gets closer to study the robot Francis brought in and drums his fingers on the spherical structure: “Nice one lil’ bro! Ya was slacking off lately but this thing ya found! Good catch!”
Francis mutters something and ventures inside the Diner, while Band3r keeps all of his cameras creepily fixed on the new Ghoul.
The robot seems to be frozen for a few seconds.
Then Band3r raises his pincers-arm high and…pats on Jake forehead a couple of times: “I see this is how people greet each other in these parts!”
Jake bursts out laughing: “Ah ah ah! I like this lil’ can! Francis! Clean it up and make sure it ain’t messed up, we can sell it to the next gang.
Oh, wanna know who else’s arrived? Bittercaps! Remember him? The guy who cooked those drugs for our friends…”Band3r takes note of everything the ghouls say and turns its eye outside, looking for one of their ‘friends’, but since he can’t find none of them, he begins exploring the Diner’s kitchen.
Inside the kitchen it finds two very different cooks: the first is a tough female ghoul preparing a burger with tatos, the second one is a man evidently (according to Band3r sensors) suffering from tachycardia, hyperventilation and heavy sweating. Even in his conditions, he seems extremely focused on his chemist set.
Bittercaps glares suspiciously at the new floating thing that just entered the Diner. He is somehow happy that someone else is the focus of all attention now.
That weird and insisting coff coming from “Mama” Parentis is getting on his nerves: “What if that ghoul turns into a glowing one? What if she has a virus? I definitely don’t feel comfortable ‘round gangsters… I need a calmex, right now!”
He is abruptly brought back to reality when the bot suddenly asks him “Hey dude! How’s that Calmex comin’ along?”
Bittercaps begins to tremble like he’s seen a Deathclaw.
He didn’t even notice that Anne left the room.
To calm immediately down, he decides to take the Calmex he’s been cooking in secret.“So?” Jake approaches Bittercaps “You done with the Psychos? I Wanna try one!”
The Calmex kicked in.
“As a professional, I strive to do a top-notch job. And I must say that a Handyman will be… handy… to ease my job.” He looks smug at Band3r, as the handyman pours another beer into his tank.
The huge Super Mutant fixes his glasses and studies the turrets on the roof of the Diner where the Ghoul and the little robot just entered.
He sees plenty of potential cover given by the rubble and trash laying around.
Moving silently from cover to cover he reaches a vantage point, hidden by brambles and rubble, and after a couple of minutes, he watches and the ghoul named Francis walks out, reaches for a toolbox, and comes back in.
A sudden gust of wind brings forth the smell of dead meat, a stench that stresses his human conscience. He decides to crawl closer to the Diner and get inside the perimeter, through a breach in the fence.
He silences a swear against his own huge green body, when the fence moves and rattles as he tries to crawl.
Alerted by the metallic noise, someone from inside the Diner opens the door and scans outside. The mutant has barely the time to duck and cover behind the carcass of a car (approximately the same size as his body), holding his breath for an interminable number of seconds before relaxing when the door closes once again.
He feels relieved not to have been discovered, but then he realizes that with that body of his, he probably shouldn’t be afraid of anything. “I guess my human mind is still dominant…”
He slowly comes out of his hideout, in time to see a couple of figures on the horizon, walking to the Diner. Behind them, the sun is setting.
Leo and Fred are walking in a tense silence: their objective is now on sight.
Behind them, the setting sun, and before them the road leads to the entrance of the Diner May described. A couple of MK1 turrets sprout from its roof, and light comes out from the windows. It seems that whoever is inside, is not at all afraid to be found.At nearly 20 meters from the Diner, a couple of silhouettes moving inside capture Leo’s attention, while Fred catches a glimpse of something big wandering silently behind the Diner.
They keep closing in, until one of the silhouettes Leo spotted stands and turns towards them.
Band3r is fascinated by the human who, for about two hours, has been working non-stop at his chemist’s set, while a weird, green, humanoid figure is constantly keeping an eye on him.
A couple of Parentis referred to that humanoid as “Sloth” or “Slotty”, and Band3r calculates that he could snap them both in half with no effort at all.
He could. But the robot is somehow sure he will not. He seems somehow inexplicably frightened.
“Could it be that he’s just a bunch of proteins with no brain! That will make him the perfect friend!!”
The creature seems to have a big “dent” in the side of his head.
Band3r grabs a can of beer and offers it to the green giant: “Whass’up mate! You are ginormous! What’s your name?”
The super mutant stays silent for a moment, as if he’s trying to remember his own name. Then utters a single word, while trying to press his own mass against the wall: “Ss-sSloth…”
Band3r was not expecting that reaction and tries to calm the monster: “Easy mate! We’re friends! F-R-I-E-N-D-S! You want a beer?”
“N-No! Sloth can’t… can’t eat beer! Sloth too little!”
Band3r floats backwards a bit, his three glassy eyes rotate while his electronic brain looks for a possible solution.
It opens the can, pours it all in the fuel tank, removes the tab and drops it inside the can, creating an improvised rattle and immediately begins to shake it.
Sloth watches and as his eyes widens, a big, idiotic, smile begins to appear on his face.
“Eh eh, eh eh eh, tin man fun. Sloth… Sloth don’t crush!” he grabs the improvised rattle and starts playing with it.
“Very well! We’ll be best friends then!” Band3r says while floating back to Bittercaps who has been following the scene with a mixture of anxiety and perplexity. Especially focusing on the huge size of Sloth’s biceps.
After the robot gave the mutant the rattle though, a thought crossed his mind “As long as Sloth is quiet, I’m happy!”He goes back to business, cradled by the Calmex.
While he’s working on his Psychos, he manages to hear something the robot tells him, something that will stay with him for a long time.
“It’s a good thing to have friends, Drug man!”
Outside the kitchen, Jake suddenly stands up.
“Who the hell ’s comin’? We ain’t expecting guests or deliveries today and look what a nice boodle we’ve got here!”
He bursts the door open and shouts towards the two figures on the road: “Da hell are ya? What ya want?”
A bit off guard by the surprising welcome, they both stop at a couple of meters from the door.
“Easy pal! My name is Fred Zinjan but everyone calls me ‘Red Fly’ and my friend here is Leo Sanderclive. We are looking for a group named Parentis, do you happen to know them, by any chance?”
Jake hesitates for a few seconds: “Who send ya?”
Fred presses on: “You misunderstood, we are just a couple of wanderers: I am Fred and he is Leo. That is all.”
Still not satisfied by the answer, Jake replies: “I ain’t deaf dude. Just wanna know. We among gentlemen? Looking for business of what? Come closer! Show me ya’ face!”
Silently, Fred steps into the light in front of the Diner. Now that he’s not in the shadows anymore, his skin, withered and marked by radiations and his darting muscles reveal his ghoulish nature.
“Oh!” Jake is surprised to see another one of his kind “You don’t see many of us around! Come in bro! Come in! Francis, grab son beer!”
After letting the ‘Dynamic Duo’ inside, Jake leans with his back on the bar, eyeing Leo, with his grey outfit and his familiar logos on. He then turns back to Fred, that weird Ghoul with an axe on his back: “So, thick-skinned one, tell me… why ‘ya lookin’ for the Parentis?”
“We have heard they can provide various goods, we want to take a look at what you offer, thou I must say I would not mind to eat something now. Anyhow, are you the Parentis? Are you in charge here?”“Sure! We’re the absolute best ‘round here! Francis bring something to drink to the boys here!”
Francis mutters something and reluctantly obeys his brother.
The mutant can hear at least two voices inside the Diner from outside the door. He could take a look inside from the windows on the side, but he doesn’t trust the muddy ground that could betray him in an instant. As he wanders around for a place he could safely (and silently) go inside, his eyes stop on a grotesque spectacle: beneath him a perverse open-air slaughterhouse. He can clearly see bones, arms, legs, blood… and a human body reverse on his stomach. Bullet holes the size of meatballs along his back.The view is suddenly unbearable, the stench and the unnatural position of the corpse threaten his mind’s sanity.
A sudden, piercing, pain grows inside his head.
He catches the glimpse of a detail his mind had not analysed yet: among the abandoned bodies, the tiny legs of a couple cats, which he strangely feels really attached to.
A powerful, inexplicable rage begins to rise, and something breaks inside that being. No longer human, not yet super mutant.
Bittercaps turns to Band3r: “Hey mate, too much people here, I don’t like it…”
The robot nods and lets him go on.
“I’m a chemist. I create things. What do you want?”
“Fine! Easy! Nothing Easier! Help me get away and we’ll become friends then!”
The robot begins to shake its metallic appendices while producing ringing noises: “We are already best friends! Do not worry! Let me handle this!”
He can’t finish the sentence though, because a deafening metallic sound comes from where the Parentis brothers are talking with the two newcomers.
Francis, on his way to the kitchen, ends up with his ass on the floor for the second time in a single day.
In front of him, a pair of huge, powerful, green legs.
He raises his head and terror paralyses him.
The bloodshot eyes of a Super Mutant towering before him, brandishing a weird weapon, turn his whole body into jelly.
Jake, suspicious towards the two newcomers, was ready for action and pulls out his weapon, aiming at the Super Mutant: “HOLY SHIT! Francis get the hell out! Could this day get any worse?”
“There’s no where to hide you little shit!” with a sentence allowing no reply, the Super Mutant strikes Francis with his strange weapon.
Fred and Leo exchange a nod. They’ve found the Parentis, and that Super Mutant doesn’t look friendly towards them, so it’s a chance they won’t miss.
Leo ducks to cover behind a table while Fred charges on Jake, striking with his axe with great vengeance and furious anger.
Jake makes it only in time to scream “Sloth! Com’ere you dumb idiot!”
Everything happens in a few, confused instants.
Francis’s last words seem to be “Rosalita! Activate! Activate!”
Metallic noises come from the stairs that link the basement to the kitchen, accompanied by a metallic voice surprising both Bittercaps and Band3r, and followed a moment later, by the threatening silhouette of an Assaultron.