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> Fallout: Florida , The Sunshine State's Post-Apocalyptic Wastes
RaderOfTheLostArk
post Aug 1 2022, 02:47 PM
Post #141


Mouth
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Joined: 4-May 17
From: Lilmoth, Black Marsh



@SubRosa - Something I always thought was particularly interesting in Fallout was the comparison of past and present. So many philosophical questions come out of that. As for DJ Lowe, I was inspired by an actual DJ in the Tampa Bay area of Florida who, while his name is obviously different, he similarly has a tagline that rhymes with his name.

@WellTemperedClavier - Glad to see a new face join the story! And you must be one of the newcomers to Chorrol that joined in my absence, so allow me to give you my "welcome, aboard" myself! Here's a fishy stick. I'll give your own story a read whenever I can, too.

@Renee - Porcupine. And I haven't gone into too much detail about his past, but he was an Old Guard experiment and, despite that and radiation, did not become a hostile animal. But he's got more spunk and toughness that his size indicates. I haven't described what Ezra looks like yet, but you'll see soon enough. He will be met face-to-face.



A little bit later than I hoped, but here's the end of Chapter 18! Meet DJ Lowe, The One-Man Show!

*****************


Chapter 18: Inhibiting the Inhibitors



***Chapter 18.3***


The inside of the building was well-lit and quiet, save for some faint mumbling upstairs. Whether that was the sound of NSF soldiers or DJ Lowe doing his thing wasn’t clear from where they were standing. A couple of doors could be heard down the hall and around one of the corners, warranting further caution from the GCU crew. A door to a stairwell was on their right side as they walked down the hall with their weapons drawn. Plastic placards were screwed into the wall next to the door, one of them reading “radio station – 2nd floor”. Waller quietly tapped the placard and pointed upward to his unit, who nodded in affirmation.

As they ascended the stairs, the mumbling was replaced with a song that was being played on the radio, though which song it was wasn’t clear yet. Hearts started pumping as they realized their destination was right around the corner, with likely a couple enemies standing in the way. But curiously, the quillback wasn’t on edge. On the contrary, he seemed rather tranquil, happy to be in the company of his newfound friends. Waller, however, wasn’t going to take chances. He pointed to his weapon silently to signal his unit to keep their guard up.

It turned out that the apprehension was unwarranted, for when they turned the corner the crew saw two dead NSF guards sitting outside the door to the studio the DJ was in. Curiously, there were two “calling cards” featuring a stylized logo with the outline of Florida, one that the GCU crew had not seen before. The guards seemed to have been surprised by whoever their assailant, or assailants, were. If it weren’t so fortuitous, Mariah would have been getting annoyed at the fact that all these would-be obstacles were already overcome. It didn’t make any sort of sense. Were NSF forces really that strained? Was somebody else that was also opposed to the NSF responsible for the lack of NSF defense in the area? What was going on? Mariah couldn’t help but feel that the tides would turn back against them at any moment.

In any case, Waller was just about to break the door down until he heard the song had ended. A cocky voice went into a radio host spiel. “And that was ‘Love Potion No. 9’ by The Clovers. Catchy song, but as the ladies know, ol’ DJ Lowe the One-Man Show doesn’t need any concoctions to find love, ha ha HA! How are you all doing this fine day, eh? If you’re a lady,” Lowe said, briefly changing his voice to sound low and seductive, “I can make it finer. Ha ha HA! Anywho, Governor Davidson wants you all to be rest assured that his administration has got the recent troubles in this city well in hand. And to show you just how normal things are, I’ve got another couple of classics on tap. But you always play classics, DJ Lowe!” Lowe said in a purposely goofy, scratchy voice. “I know, I know. I always give the people what they want. Especially if they are females.”

Does this guy ever stop talking? Mariah thought to herself. Akila was clearly right about DJ Lowe’s thoughts about himself.

“But I’m not just an admirer of the female form,” Lowe continued, suggesting the answer to Mariah’s question in her head was ‘no.’ “I’m a big fan of the female voice. And we’ve got some great lady singers, human AND ghoul, over at the Governor’s Club in downtown tonight starting at 7:00 PM. But for now, we’ve got another Pre-War great. It’s ‘Sh-Boom’! . . . By “The Crew Cuts”.

As soon as the new song came on the radio, that was the GCU unit’s cue. When it was clear that Lowe turned off his microphone, Waller busted the door open. The sudden action turned the voice of the self-satisfied DJ into a startled, almost shrill one. “AAAAHHHH! What did I say?! I didn’t…” Lowe exclaimed, whirling the chair around and getting up higher in his seat, as if it would get him further away from the intruders. “Wait . . . you’re not NSF.” Lowe wasn’t quite a scrawny man. He appeared to be of an average height for a male and had some muscular definition, but he was thin and far from an imposing figure.

Lowe’s gaze met Mariah and Valentina. Struck by their beauty, he recomposed himself, slicking his black, gelled hair back. “Ahem. . . . Hello there,” he said in that low, would-be seductive tone he used earlier.

“Can it. Not interested.” Mariah quickly retorted.

Lowe still had a look of hope on his face as he turned to Valentina, but she simply shook her head with a stoic expression. He sighed, throwing his hands up and slapping his hands down on his chair’s arms. “Ol’ Lowe’s on a cold streak. Knew I should’ve taken some Mentats,” Lowe muttered to himself. “Alright, what’s the big idea? Can’t you see I’m working here?” He gestured towards the radio controls.

“That’s not your priority,” Waller said impatiently. “You need to focus on assisting us. Whatever songs you need to keep playing to make things seem normal to your listeners, do it.”

“Yeesh. Are you competing with the NSF to see who is bossier?” Lowe said, folding his arms. “Another instance of The Man trying to keep me down.”

“And I’ll keep you down if you aren’t cooperative,” Waller said testily.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Take it easy!” Lowe put his hands up as if to calm him. “Look, what do you want? How’d you even get in here anyway?”

“Your guards at the door are dead,” Mariah said matter-of-factly. “Did you have anything to do with that? What are these calling cards with the shape of Florida that we found on their bodies?”

Lowe grinned and sat up straight in his chair. “I’m flattered that you think that. I’m a pretty strong guy, if I do say so.” He flexed his right arm, the bicep of which had a little but not much definition, in a failed attempt to impress Mariah. She pursed her lips to one side of her mouth and lowered her eyebrows, showing she was still unamused. “Lighten up a little, lady. But no, I didn’t have anything to do with it,” Lowe said, back to being serious. “Don’t know anything about those cards, either. If you had nothing to do with it, I have no idea who did. So, who are you people?”

“Sergeant Waller. We represent the Gulf Coast Union,” Waller replied. “We’re here to topple Ezra Davidson’s regime and to thwart whatever these other insurgent groups are trying to do. And you need to help us in that regard.”

“Sergeant? You’re GCU? The little nation outside the city walls? So, you ARE going to liberate this city!” Lowe said excitedly, quickly clapping his hands several times. “Oh, ho ho! This is great! Finally going to stick it to The Man! NOBODY keeps DJ Lowe down or tells him what to do! Well, not for long, at least. Okay, I’ll help you. But on just one condition.”

“You’re not in a position to bargain, Lowe,” Waller said, his impatience already rising.

“Then why come to me, huh? You obviously need me. You don’t even know what I’m going to say!”

“Then what is it you want?” Mariah said. Waller shot her a look. He was expecting to be the sole negotiator and didn’t want any potential complications. Mariah threw her arms up. “What? He’s right.”

“Thank you!” Lowe said emphatically. “It’s simple. All I want . . . is to keep this radio station after you curb-stomp Ezra.” The song on the radio had ended then, so Lowe set the next one to play without interjecting his own commentary to the listeners. He started playing “We Go Together” by The Moonglows.

The GCU crew was surprised. Waller wasn’t buying that that was all there was to it. “What’s the catch?”

“Maybe it’s hard to believe for someone in a position of power, but I’m just a regular guy. I don’t want for much. Money’s nice, sure. Property? Cool. But the radio is my calling. It’s my life. And I just want to get my voice out there, man. There’s this incredible freedom that comes with talking out over the airwaves. And in this day and age, the radio is one of the few things that people can always rely on for some level of comfort. I’m here for the people. All I want is for DJ Lowe’s voice to be heard all across the land.” Lowe motioned his hands as if to paint a picture of what he was talking about. “Well, and women, too. But I don’t need you to give me those. Every woman goes crazy over a DJ. Well, except for . . .” Lowe gestured one of his hands wildly toward Mariah and Valentina.

“Fine. You have a deal,” Waller said. It took little thought to consider Lowe’s proposal, if that was really all there was to it. “Now, back to business. Dr. Langston here says that there is a device here that inhibits communications to anywhere outside the city. Where is it?”

“Dr. Langston?” DJ Lowe said with a raised eyebrow. “Aren’t you that guy that the NSF has been going crazy about finding? You sure stirred up a hornet’s nest. Isn’t that how that saying goes? Anyway, that must be that thingamajig in that locked room over there.” Lowe pointed to a door on the other side of the room. “Going to need a key, though. Can’t help you there. Maybe it’s . . .”

Before Lowe finished his sentence, Mariah took out a lockpick and walked over to the door. It had an unassuming look, as if it didn’t protect a mechanism that was key to Davidson and the NSF keeping their grip on the city. After playing around with the lock for about 30 seconds, Mariah got the door open.

“Well, then,” Lowe said with a look of bewilderment. “Nevermind, I guess. But you’ll need a lot more than that to handle that computer in there. Even a top-flight hacker would . . .”

Now it was Valentina’s turn to demonstrate her capabilities. She walked through the now-open doorway courtesy of Mariah’s Lockpicking skill. Before her lay a large control panel and some large wires leading to the roof, indicating that the comms inhibitor itself was on the roof so that its signal was not blocked. It took a couple minutes for her to hack into the computer, but she got through and disabled the comms inhibitor. It struck them that the computer looked very similar to the one Valentina had to hack in Tyndall Air Force Base, when the GCU and the Apalachee waged that climactic battle against the Alabama Dissidents and the Brotherhood of Steel. It wasn’t one of those RobCo computers, as was so prevalent in the Old World.

“Wow,” Lowe simply said, his mouth agape. “Hot AND talented? Now that’s my kind of women!”

“Mariah and Valentina may be green, but they are quite capable,” Waller affirmed. “That’s why I have them with me.”

“No kidding. Mariah and Valentina . . . what lovely names,” Lowe said, daydreaming about the two women succumbing to his charming abilities that he had inflated in his mind. “Well, I guess that’s that. Any way that I can help, you just call on your pal DJ Lowe—The One-Man Show! Just . . . don’t get me killed please. Can’t talk on the radio if I’m dead, you know.”

“We are doing all that we can,” Waller said. “Just keep doing what you’re doing as if nothing has changed.” Waller turned his attention to his unit. “Grab those walkie-talkies off the guards. Hopefully, we’ll be able to hear what has happened at FAMU and the Menendez building. Then we can regroup with Javier’s group.”

“Roger that, Sarge!” Lowe said gleefully as the GCU crew started leaving. It was time to put the next song on the radio, and Lowe chose “60-Minute Man” by Billy Ward and the Dominoes.

Of course Lowe would pick that song, Mariah thought.

“You all take care of yourselves. Especially you, Mariah and Valentina,” Lowe said. “Don’t forget your most adoring fan, DJ Lowe, after all this!”

For once, the comment managed to get a slight smile from the two women, even though they still had no romantic interest in Lowe. “Somehow, I don’t think we will,” Valentina said. Even that positive reaction from the two of them was enough to make Lowe’s heart flutter.

The GCU crew grabbed the walkie-talkies off the dead NSF guards and dragged the bodies into a broom closet right next to Lowe’s studio, though there were still blood stains on the floor. Langston also picked up one of those calling cards with a stylized logo featuring the shape of Pre-War Florida. “I have seen this symbol before, but I cannot recall where that was.”

“Probably best to take a couple of them with us, then,” Mariah said, picking up one of the cards herself. “Doesn’t look like an Old Guard symbol. Maybe the Blackcoats?”

“Maybe. They don’t seem like the type of organization that does that, but who knows? We still have no intel on them,” Waller said, rekindling his frustration at knowing nothing about the shadowy cabal. “But if it was them, why wouldn’t they disable the comms inhibitor themselves? They oppose the NSF, too. Whatever the case, we need to get moving before any NSF soldiers realize what is happening and come snooping around here.” With their work done, the GCU unit went back down the stairwell toward the door they used to enter the WVFS station.


***END OF CHAPTER 18***


--------------------
"[Insert awesome/inspiring/cool/smart/pseudo-intellectual quote here.]" - Me
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WellTemperedClavier
post Aug 5 2022, 01:16 AM
Post #142


Agent

Joined: 15-April 22



Thanks! I wasn't on the classic Bethesda forums, so I missed the whole "fishy stick" thing, but I do know of it secondhand. Much appreciated.

Up to Chapter 7. Seems like a true Fallout situation. The Dissidents are definitely troublemakers here, though the GCU isn't quite squeaky-clean either. I suppose moral compromise comes with trying to manage a country.

Regardless, the GCU does seem to be in pretty good shape. Clearly, they've gone for a pretty inclusive approach, which is serving them well. I'm not sure exactly how I feel about the New Life folks, yet, though they seem pretty harmless.

Something like the F.A.C.T. would be a game-changer. I could see it helping the GCU maintain hegemony (and, potentially, giving them an unhealthy amount of power), or enabling the Dissidents or some other faction to break away. The BoS certainly has motivation.

Now Mariah's found it... but the poison's taken it's toll. A tense situation, indeed.
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Renee
post Aug 7 2022, 05:11 PM
Post #143


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Joined: 19-March 13
From: Ellicott City, Maryland



It's good you are reading all the back stories there, Clavier. I'd like to do this too, there's a lot I've forgotten. Only so much time, though...

What a really weird scene Waller and the others are walking into! laugh.gif Like Tallahassee's version of Three Dog. Jeezus, what a love machine he purports to be!

Ha, this music's great!

"Ah, hello there!" wub.gif ... "Can it! Not interested." ... Omg DJ Lowe is so gross!

I like how obvious their skillsets are in this scene. Mariah has some Thief perks for sure, while Val's trained more in Science. 🖥 Even the DJ seems to have a version of Lady Killer, although it's not really working so well for him today.

There's so much going on with all these groups and organizations in Postwar Florida. I wonder where it all will lead.
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SubRosa
post Aug 8 2022, 04:21 AM
Post #144


Ancient
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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



Curiouser and curiouser. The calling cards on the bodies makes me wonder if Pickman was in town looking for new models?

DJ Lowe does not seem to be perturbed by the dead men outside door. I wonder if he knows they are there?

That's right DJ Lowe, stick it to the Man!

Mariah and Val show why they are on the team quite efficiently.

Loved the Adoring Fan reference. smile.gif


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RaderOfTheLostArk
post Aug 8 2022, 03:39 PM
Post #145


Mouth
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Joined: 4-May 17
From: Lilmoth, Black Marsh



@WellTemperedClavier - Yep, I took a bit of inspiration from the NCR for the GCU in the sense of there being some level of moral greyness, though of course with a Gulf Coast flavor to it. You also used the term "byzantine" to refer to the political situation in the region, which is great. As long as its understandable, that's what I was going for. I think it's much more interesting when more than two factions or viewpoints are involved in a dispute.

And thanks for taking the time to read the previous parts of the story. I wouldn't have blamed you at all for skimming or skipping through it since there is a lot there. Similarly to Renee, it also helps to hear your reactions in case I forgot something from then since I had such a long hiatus from writing the story.

@Renee - Hey, cut DJ Lowe some slack. He's just missing a bunch of Speech checks lately. tongue.gif

@SubRosa - Thank you for catching the Adoring Fan reference! I enjoy when people notice the little references I put in. I'm a big fan of the inclusion of Easter eggs in stories, games, etc. It's like playing a little game while reading a story.



Speaking of references, there's a callback to a previous Fallout game that likely no one here will know of unless I link it. So look out for some bolded text with a YouTube link. (It's Fallout 2, which I have only played a couple hours of and is not anywhere near the part of the game that is in the video.) You should watch the whole video, but the specific thing I'm referencing is what I set the timestamp at.

And without further ado, onto Chapter 19! (Would've rhymed if it was Chapter 22...)


*************



Chapter 19: Capital Punishment


Chapter 19.1


For the first time in a while, it finally seemed like things were trending positively for Mariah and company. Murphy’s Law apparently had been in full effect: Troubles from the Old Guard and Enclave; the presence of Blackcoats and no closer to knowing who they are; getting into a firefight with Silas Hawthorne and his Old Guard underlings while being attacked by creatures that were experimented on some time ago; getting attacked by some sort of animal-human hybrids in close corridors; and then getting stuck in the city. But now a communications inhibitor, key to Ezra Davidson’s grip on Old Tallahassee, was down. They hoped, and in some cases prayed, that Javier’s group was successful in disabling the other inhibitor.

But ever the vigilant one, Waller reminded them to stay on their toes. “Well done on this mission, but it isn’t over yet. We need to get back to base. The NSF may be back on the prowl here in downtown, so stay alert.”

As if heeding his words, their quillback companion’s spikes had flared up again. The group stopped before they went back through the door they used to enter the building in the first place. “What is it, little buddy?” Mariah asked.

The quillback turned toward the opposite direction. A few NSF soldiers had turned the corner, assault rifles in hand. “There! More insurgents!” one of them shouted. They must have somehow known Mariah and company were in the building. “By order of Governor Davidson, stop! Put away your—”

“Open fire!” Waller bellowed. He, Mariah, and Valentina unloaded on the NSF patrol, who ducked into corridors connected to the hallway. Even Langston did what he could, even though he wasn’t much of a marksman. But there was only one way for the GCU unit to go, as they had no defenses themselves. “We don’t have any cover! Fall back outside!” Waller ordered. Without hesitation, the group busted through the door.

But as they stepped outside, they found themselves cornered. Four other NSF soldiers awaited them, one of them with a firearm at point-blank range behind Akila, who had her hands on her head. “Well, well,” one of the NSF smugly said. “What have we here? Drop your weapons. Now. Or else this traitor gets it.” Clearly, he was referring to Akila, who had her eyes closed and an emotionless expression.

The NSF soldiers from inside the building came out from behind them, pointing their weapons at the GCU group. There was nowhere to go. “Stand down,” Waller said calmly to his unit as his mind raced to think of how to get out of this rut. As much as Mariah wanted to turn on the impetuous side of herself in this situation, she knew they had no choice. She glared at the NSF soldiers as she placed her weapon on the ground. The quillback skittered behind her ankles—even he seemed to understand the predicament they were in.

“So, you thought you could just waltz into downtown and get out without trouble?” A different NSF soldier, a ghoul, started speaking. “Big mistake.”

“So, this was just one big trap, huh? Probably should’ve done something before we took out your little toy up there.” Mariah said, turning on her defiant tone.

“Mariah, please,” Valentina pleaded, worried that the soldiers would decide right then to end their lives.

“Actually, no. Why any of our superiors thought leaving downtown so unattended was a good idea is beyond me. But I guess it worked out to some extent. We got Dr. Langston himself. Oh boy, are you in trouble now, doctor. Governor Davidson is furious with you, you know. We’ve got orders to bring you and any insurgents with you to Governor Davidson himself, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. See that building over there?” The soldier pointed to the tall structure which served as the Florida Capitol building in the Pre-War era. A large portion of it had been rebuilt by NSF workers and Davidson’s robots, but it was still far from the pinnacle of what it once was. “For you outsiders, that’s what we call ‘The Spire,’ and that’s where we’re going. Now move.”

But before the NSF squad could start marching them to the Florida Capitol building, a new combatant entered the fray, standing atop the wall that obscured the stairs and the level of ground they were on. Though the rays of the sun obscured who he was, his silhouette could be made out enough to show that he was striking a heroic pose with his hands on his hips. “Unhand them, ruffians!” The mysterious man triumphantly said. “No one escapes the reach of sunshine justice!”

“Who the fu—,” the talkative NSF soldier said confusedly. “Who is—? What—? I should kick your f****** ass. Who is this?”

“Hey, is this the guy we saw in WVFS?” One of the soldiers from behind the GCU crew said.

Without answering, the mysterious man leaped down with blazing speed, throwing projectiles at several NSF soldiers. Several of the other NSF soldiers shot at him to no avail. Mariah, Valentina, and Waller took advantage of the confusion to grab their weapons off the ground and kill several of the NSF troops, while Akila took vengeance on the one who had his gun at her back. Even the quillback joined in, shooting several spines right into the throat of another NSF soldier. In a matter of seconds, the fight was over. Seven NSF troops were dead, and everyone else was alive and well.

Akila collapsed to the ground, not from injuries but from the sheer stress of the situation. The strange man held out his hand to help her up. “Are you okay, citizen?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Akila replied, taking his hand to get off the ground. She dusted off her pants. “Thank you for saving me and my allies. But . . . who are you?”

Everyone finally had the chance to get a good look at him. He was . . . dressed as a superhero?

“Why, I’m FLORIDA MAN!” The man shouted emphatically. “The shining ray of justice! The champion of the daylight! The incandescent bane of evildoers everywhere!” Florida Man wasn’t quite buff like the superheroes of comic books, but he had a decent build to his muscular structure. His outfit was mostly white, with orange boots, bracers, the area around his waist, and his mask; though his eyes, nostrils, and mouth could still be seen. Parts of his costume bore aquatic creature motifs like fins and alligator scales, and his chest bore the stylized symbol of Florida with sunrays that the GCU unit found on the calling cards on the dead NSF soldiers upstairs. It seemed that this Florida Man was to thank for a lot of their good fortune here. “As long as there is lawfulness to distribute in this state, I will be there!”

“Um, is this serious?” Mariah said, asking the question that her flabbergasted companions wanted to say. “This can’t be serious.”

“It would appear so,” Langston said in confirmation.

“I mean, I’ve heard of the Silver Shroud and Mistress of Mystery and all that. But . . . Florida Man?” Even many wastelanders knew of those popular Pre-War comic book characters like the Unstoppables, Captain Cosmos, and even K.D. Inkwell.

“Back in the Pre-War days, ‘Florida Man’ and ‘Florida Woman’ were nicknames used to describe residents of the state who performed bizarre acts, usually crimes done in a strange way. They featured frequently in the news, making them the target of many jokes in-state and around the country. The Florida state government commissioned a comic book company in this state to turn ‘Florida Man’ and ‘Florida Woman’ into superheroes instead of buffoons in an attempt at a positive spin on the monikers.”

“So, he’s what, discount Manta Man?” Mariah asked sarcastically.

“I suppose you could say that. The Unstoppables and other Hubris Comics characters like Captain Cosmos considerably overshadowed Florida Man and Woman, even here in Florida. Clearly, however, Florida Man lives on.” Langston appeared to take this bizarre situation all in stride.

“He does, indeed!” Florida Man proclaimed. “And he will never rest until the blazing rays of justness come searing down on the foes of righteousness!” Florida Man’s tone, however, suddenly changed from triumphant to what seemed accusatory as he narrowed his eyes at Langston. “Say, haven’t I seen you somewhere, before?”

“What? Uh—” Langston was taken aback, as if he suddenly recognized who Florida Man was. The side of himself that was at a loss for words was rare to see. “Er, no. I am sure we have never seen each other before.” Waller’s suspicions of Dr. Langston, unsurprisingly, heightened again. But he decided to wait until they returned to the Temple of New Life to question Langston about his reaction.

“Well, we should definitely thank Mr., uh . . . Florida Man here, in any case,” Mariah said. “So, thanks, Florida Man. Can we count on you to help the GCU? We have a lot of enemies in the city, and we could use all the help we can get.”

“Of course, ma’am!” Florida Man exclaimed. He seemed to completely forget about Langston. “You all appear to be upstanding people. If this GCU is on the right side of justice, you can always count on the singing rays of justice from Florida Man!”

Waller briefly brought Florida Man up to speed about recent events, who Waller and his comrades were, and how Florida Man could help the GCU. “And with any luck, we’ll be able to communicate with our forces from beyond the city soon. Perhaps we can call on your services in law enforcement once this ordeal with Davidson is over. Take this walkie-talkie to listen in on NSF comms.”

“Very well, Sergeant! And you, young lady,” Florida Man addressed Valentina. “Here is my card. Always remember you can call on Florida Man’s assistance in your time of need.” The card had no sort of information about contacting Florida Man, so how he expected her to call on his assistance was beyond her.

“Oh, we found a few of them on those soldiers you killed upstairs,” Valentina said with a nervous laugh, still puzzled at the very existence of this self-professed superhero before them. “But, uh . . . thank you. Florida Man.”

“Capital!” Florida Man said jubilantly, proud of the city pun he just made. “I only have a limited number of these cards. It isn’t easy getting a hold of the paper for it—a problem I shall rectify once we liberate this city and its good-natured inhabitants. Farewell, citizens!” And with a speedy, superhumanly high leap onto the wall, Florida Man ran off to dole out more justice. The group stared in awe at Florida Man’s physical abilities. How did he do that?

“Well, that was something,” Waller said dryly. “We don’t have any more time. We need to get out of downtown and back to base ASAP. Hopefully, Javier’s unit will be back when we return to the Temple of New Life.” He turned to Akila, who had recomposed herself. “Akila, why don’t you come with us? In case other NSF know that you helped us too.”

“You’re right. I don’t think there is any choice. You can count on me.”

“Great. Welcome to the squad. Just follow my lead. Now, let’s move out.”

-----------------

NSF troops were starting to filter back into downtown and the surrounding area, making the GCU unit’s return to the Temple of New Life dicey. The return trip took longer than to get to the WVFS station, and by the time the group approached the Temple the sun had almost set. Waller listened in on the NSF’s comms and found out the FAMU comms inhibitor was destroyed as well. But what happened to Javier’s group and the battles around the Menendez building was unclear. Little was heard about the Old Guard, the Enclave, or the Blackcoats.

Waller spoke up when his unit came up to the alleyway they used to leave the Temple of New Life earlier in the day finally came into view. “I hope that’s a good sign that we haven’t heard anything about Javier. It may mean that they escaped capture or a worse fate. Or not. I obviously do not wish to think of the latter, but in my position, you must be ready for anything.” Waller checked around them to make sure nobody had seen them.

“But what about the other factions in the city?” Mariah asked. “Seems strange that we heard nothing about them either.”

“Indeed. Maybe they know we’re listening in, or that one of the other groups are,” Waller speculated. “We’ll go over our next course of action inside the Temple and fill Roger in on the day’s events. And I would be remiss if I didn’t note this: You all did a great job today. It takes a lot of guts to pull off what we just did. Even Mariah’s new buddy assisted,” Waller said, pointing at the quillback. The animal cocked his head curiously at Waller’s finger, unaware of the accolade bestowed upon him by the GCU sergeant.

“Thank you, sir,” Mariah and Valentina replied at the same time. It always felt good to be recognized for their work. Langston, though, said nothing.

“That goes for you too, Akila.” Waller said, assuring her that she could also speak.

“Oh. Um. Thank you, sir,” Akila said. As happy as she was to be with a company of people that were trustworthy and she wasn’t surreptitiously working against, it was still a bit of an adjustment period.

But there would be no time to reflect on their accomplishments nor calculate their next move. As Waller opened the Temple’s side door and walked in, the group noticed a pool of blood on the floor and that some of the lights were turned off. He turned to the quillback, who hadn’t reacted in a way that indicated danger was nearby. “A struggle occurred here, but the quillback isn’t sensing anything,” Waller whispered.

Mariah knelt next to her animal friend. “Hey, little guy,” she said quietly. “Anything off around here?” The quillback simply gave an inquisitive look.

“We can’t take any chances. Keep your guard up,” Waller said, voice still lowered. The group obliged, keeping their firearms up to their chests. As they walked out into the main lobby, they didn’t see any sign of Roger or anyone else.

That is, until a gravelly voice pierced the silence. “It’s advised that you put your weapons down.” A light switch was suddenly flipped as eight soldiers clad in NSF uniforms walked into the room, automatic firearms trained on Mariah and company. But none of them were the source of the voice.

“Stand down,” Waller bitterly said to his unit, who obeyed his command. “Who the hell is that? Reveal yourself,” Waller said.

“Certainly,” said the low voice again. A tall, intimidating man suddenly appeared, casually leaning on a counter in front of them. He had been using a Stealth Boy to conceal his presence.

Langston gasped. “Constantine!”

“Vernon Langston. Welcome back to Tallahassee,” Constantine replied with emotional neutrality.


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SubRosa
post Aug 11 2022, 03:18 AM
Post #146


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From: Between The Worlds



I wonder who this Mysterious Stranger is? The one from the Perk? Or perhaps the one who killed those guards at the radio station and left the calling cards on them?

It's Florida Man! Now that is perfect! laugh.gif If the Capital Wasteland can have the AntAgonizer and the Mechanist, then Florida definitely has its titular Man.

And another player has entered the chat. I wonder if Constantine has already found Javier's crew? We shall see soon enough...


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WellTemperedClavier
post Aug 16 2022, 03:51 AM
Post #147


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Joined: 15-April 22



Finished Chapter 10.

Did a bit of reading on the Apalachee. It does seem that some were being sent to Oklahoma as late as 1901(!), often with promises of getting land. These promises turned out to be lies, in many cases.

Mariah's vision is intriguing. It does seem to be setting her up to play a bigger part in the Sunshine Wasteland, though in a suitably ambiguous way. As a free agent, she can move between the various factions. Some of them, anyway. While the Apalachee could take out the Bullsharks fairly easily, there's no real counter for the BoS's massive tech advantage.

While Mariah making an accord between the GCU and the Apalachee is a useful one, I do have to wonder how long the GCU will respect this treaty. Without the FACT, the Apalachee don't have much recourse if future GCU administrations change their mind.

For the time being at least, it seems they can work together. And work together they must, since the Brotherhood is a dangerous foe. With Gerald's presence, it seems that the Dissidents are also involved, which only deepens the danger.
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Renee
post Aug 18 2022, 01:52 PM
Post #148


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Yeah, the D.J. kept failing Speech checks because Mariah and Val both have high Charisma of their own! laugh.gif

Is the quillback domesticated? It seems really comfortable around humans. Or maybe it's one of those animals which is wild, but has those genetics which allow it not to be afraid, but also affable, and maybe more perceptive than usual. Then again, I imagine most small animals in the Falloutverse must have higher Perception. Due to Darwinian forces of the best being able to survive...

Ah no. They've been cornered. Whoa, but not for long. Wow, all of them got pwned. Is Chuck Norris anywhere on set today? laugh.gif

No, it's not Chuck, it's FLORIDA MAN!!! 🦸Wow, he saved them all. What a coincidence that both our Fallout stories have super characters this week: a super villian (Mouse Man) in my story, and a hero in yours!

Florida Man seems like he's got Teflon for brains, just like the classic characters in the comics from our parents' generation. Right, how is somebody supposed to call the dude if his card hasn't got info?!

"Capital!" laugh.gif

Whoa, Constantine is here. smile.gif You're going to have to refresh my memory here. He's sort of a "good" guy, right?


Edit: come and think of it, Florida Man seems to have that odd ability to just 'show up' like the bot we meet in Goodsprings, right? That bot (forget its name) just shows up occasionally in the Mojave as we're going throughout the gameworld.

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RaderOfTheLostArk
post Aug 20 2022, 07:30 PM
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From: Lilmoth, Black Marsh



@SubRosa - It wouldn't be Florida if it didn't have Florida Man/Woman! You'll certainly see and hear more of him later on in the story.

@WellTemperedClavier - Sounds like you are getting fairly close to being caught up. Thanks for taking the time to read it all. Yep, I researched a bit about Native American tribes, and there are a lot of them with a rich history that were or currently are in present-day Florida. At some point in Fallout: Florida, I want to include the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes, who are a couple of the more well-known tribes in the state and play a role in state politics (especially the Seminoles).

@Renee - Constantine is Ezra Davidson's right-hand man, so no, he is not a good guy. But as you will see below, he isn't exactly evil either. That robot in New Vegas you are thinking of is Victor. Florida Man isn't creepy like Victor, but there is more to the wannabe superhero than meets the eye.



Here's Chapter 19.2! And with it, some dark secrets are revealed.

**********


Chapter 19: Capital Punishment


***Chapter 19.2***


An up-close look at Constantine revealed that the towering figure had black stubble around his chiseled jawline and sported a black crewcut. It was hard to find any fat on his 250-pound frame of pure muscle. No wonder he was the head honcho to a psychopath with a penchant for dictatorial control.

“I’m somewhat surprised you came back, Vernon,” Constantine said, still betraying little emotion. He got up from leaning on the counter and walked toward the GCU group. “Brought some new friends to clean up your mess, did you? Typical.” Constantine uncorked a swift right hook that audibly slammed into Langston’s cheek. A couple of rotted teeth shot out from Langston’s mouth as he hit the ground.

“Hey! Leave him alone!” Mariah found herself blurting out. She had meant to keep the statement in her head, but once it left her mouth, she was going to stand defiant, as scared as she was of Constantine.

Instead of getting angry, Constantine kept his composure as he looked at Mariah. “And what are you going to do about it…” He leaned toward her, lowering his head to her height. “…Mariah?”

Shivers shot up Mariah’s spine at the mention of her name. “How do you know my name?” Mariah said. She tried to sound brave, but there was shaking in her voice.

“I have my ways,” Constantine replied, brushing the flecks of flesh off his knuckles that came from Langston’s ghoulified face. “I’ve learned quite a bit about you and your friend Valentina, here.” Valentina became more nervous at the mention of her name as well. “You’ve been making some noise in the Sunshine Wasteland over these past few months. There are certain people who have taken an interest in you.” He looked Mariah in the eyes again. “So, you’re here to topple Davidson, are you? Bold. But I don’t think you truly realize the situation that Langston here dragged you into. What exactly did he tell you?”

Mariah wasn’t sure what Constantine was trying to play at, but she figured it was information that Langston already told them. “Hate to disappoint you, but you won’t surprise us. We already know he served with the Old Guard. We know he used to run with Davidson and that he helped him bring a bunch of robots online. And we know Davidson wants Vault 100 for . . . some reason.”

“What else?”

Mariah cocked her head to the side. “I mean, he’s showed us some documents and other stuff. But what do you mean, ‘what else’?”

Finally, Constantine displayed something over than neutrality. He let out a single chuckle and looked down at Langston, who was slowly getting to his feet after the blow Constantine dealt him. “Always keeping secrets. Always trying to save your own skin—metaphorically, at this point. Looks like you’ve got some more explaining to do to your friends here, Vernon.”

“What are you talking about?” Mariah said, unnerved about what could be coming next. Was Waller right that there was something more to Langston after all?

“I’m saying your friend the doctor here left out some critical details about his past. Details that probably would’ve ultimately kept you from working with him. Care to tell them, Langston? Or should I?” Langston had gotten back to his feet, though still woozy. Yet he kept looking at the ground. He was clearly ashamed of something.

“Dr. Langston . . . what happened?” Valentina asked. “You have to tell us.”

“Oh, he can’t. Because he’s a coward,” Constantine said, waving Langston off. “First off, his specialty isn’t robotics. Davidson doesn’t need him for that. He has helpers for that, but he is an exceptional mind when it comes to anything mechanical. No, Langston’s area of expertise is anatomy and biology.”

“What?” Mariah said, not sure whether to believe Constantine. “But . . . why would you lie about that, Dr. Langston?” Langston’s head was still hung in shame.

“That’s because he doesn’t want you to know about the experiments he’s performed. Experiments including unwilling human subjects and turning animals into bioweapons.”

“You’re lying!” Mariah shouted. “He may have worked for Davidson and the Old Guard, but he’s . . . he said he was trying to atone for it. He wouldn’t have helped us if that was . . .” She trailed off as the turn of events started to set in.

“Oh, I suppose Langston’s guilty conscience sometimes gets too heavy for him to bear.” Constantine said, looking away from them as he paced back and forth, hands behind his back. The rest of the NSF guards still had their firearms at the ready in case anyone in the GCU made a sudden move. “He’s changed in some ways. But he was, still is, and always will be, a spineless pr***. At some point, he would’ve tried to wipe any evidence of his past dealings he didn’t want anyone else to know about.”

Even the quillback, who had been hiding behind Mariah’s right leg, seemed to have some grasp of what was being said. Perhaps it was because his human companions had all trained their gazes of disbelief or anger at Langston. The quillback hissed at him and acted as if he was ready to shoot some of his spines at the ghoul doctor. Langston seemed to not even notice. Perhaps he was wallowing too deeply into his feelings of remorse.

“You lied to us, doctor!” Valentina shouted at Langston, a rare angry outburst coming from her. “Experiments on people and animals? How could you do that?!”

“Oh, that’s not all,” Constantine said, almost sounding giddy at the fact he was exposing the doctor’s past. “He mentioned that he worked for the Old Guard and for Davidson. But you know what else he left out?” He let the moment of silence hang for an uneasily long time before he turned back to the group. “Another particularly important employer of his. He used to work for Vault-Tec.”

Mariah and Valentina gasped. “V-V-Vault Tec?” Mariah stammered. “THE Vault-Tec? Why . . . why would he leave that out?”

“Because like Langston, there are many things Vault-Tec didn’t want people to know,” Constantine said. “See, they advertised the Vaults as safe havens for people to avoid the Great War’s destruction. And it’s true that a small number of them were designed that way. But many if not most of them had an ulterior purpose to them. Unbeknownst to almost everyone in these Vaults, secret, often unethical and cruel experiments were conducted on their populations, as we came to discover.

“Now, what exactly this was in Vault 100, we don’t know yet,” Constantine continued. “A lot of this information is still new even to Davidson and I. Langston was very good at concealing his past in Vault-Tec even from most of those who knew or currently know him well. We have good reason to believe that he was heavily involved in whatever experiment Vault 100 operated under. Davidson is extremely interested in it, though, almost as if he has some idea of what is there. In any case, it seems that our discovery of Langston’s Vault-Tec ties was ultimately what led him to flee this city like a little b****.”

“That is not who I am anymore,” Langston weakly protested. “I know I cannot completely make up for the past, but I . . . I . . .”

Waller had been quietly steaming as the conversation unfolded, but he couldn’t contain his rage any longer. The blood vessels in his forehead looked like they could burst at any moment. “YOU MOTHERF*****! I KNEW YOU WERE HIDING SOMETHING! I’LL F****** KILL YOU, YOU—”

Langston drew back as Waller lunged at him, but Constantine stopped Waller by grabbing his GCU uniform and throwing him backward to the floor. “I reserve the right to beat Langston senseless, not you! Besides, you know a thing or two about hoarding skeletons in the closet,” Constantine lowered his voice as he leaned over the sergeant. “Don’t you . . . Waller?” Waller’s uniform had his identification on it, but Constantine said his name in a way that indicated he was already familiar with the GCU soldier.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about—”

“DON’T F****** LIE TO ME!” This time it was Constantine’s turn to scream. He grabbed Waller by the throat and lifted him all the way off the ground. It was an incredible feat of Strength as Waller was a tall, muscular man himself. Everyone in the room, even Constantine’s fellow NSF soldiers, trembled in fear. “Maybe you need a reminder!” Constantine yelled as Waller gasped for air. “Remember years ago? A convoy of ghouls and humans at Monticello? You led a unit of GCU soldiers as you scouted for some raiders and ghouls responsible for some nearby attacks! And what did you do? You unthinkingly opened fire on us! You and your unit! You assumed that we were the ones causing trouble! You MASSACRED most of the people that I knew!”

Constantine finally threw Waller to the floor again with all his might, injuring the sergeant. “You were there? It . . . was an accident, I swear,” Waller groaned. “It’s one of my biggest regrets. I never—”

“Shut. The. F***. UP.” Constantine said emphatically. “Your pathetic excuse for remorse does nothing to bring any of them back!”

Mariah and Valentina despaired at how much both Langston and Waller hid from them. For all their bickering back and forth, it turned out they both had a lot to make up for.

After a stunned moment of silence, Constantine continued. His voice now had a slight quiver to it, which was unexpected coming from a man so intimidating. “My wife. My daughter who had just barely turned 18. My son who was still a young boy. All cut down by the gunfire.” Constantine paused, putting his hand up to his chin to keep it from trembling. “Like many wastelanders, I once thought that ghouls were just monsters. But our old settlement became too irradiated to live in, and my family . . . they took in a severe amount of rads. I saw as the flesh gradually peeled away from their skins. They became ghouls.” Constantine took out some keepsakes from his jacket: his wife’s ring, one of his son’s baseballs, and one of his daughter’s hair buns she used before ghoulification erased most of her hair. “I saw that they were still my family. And that’s when I knew that ghouls were still the same people they were before.”

After another moment of quiet, Constantine then put the keepsakes back in his jacket, continuing his dialogue. “From that point on, I swore that I would find a cure to that horrible condition. To somehow reverse ghoulification. To stop them from becoming feral. To prevent others from experiencing the same pain that I did. I eventually found Davidson. He promised that he and his colleague, Vernon Langston, would cure ghoulification. They had a stake in the game, after all, being ghouls themselves. Davidson proclaimed how he was founding a place for the outcasts. The downtrodden. The people who felt the most hopeless in this hellscape we call the world. Davidson boasted how he would one day build a nation for these people. That this New State of Florida would be what the GCU claimed to be but wasn’t.”

Mariah noticed that Constantine never once gave any sort of deference to Davidson. As afraid as she was to speak, she had to know why. “Why don’t you call him ‘Governor’ Davidson? Aren’t you his right-hand man?”

Constantine looked at the floor, scoffing at the notion. “Perceptive of you to notice something was off. Yes, everyone knows me as Davidson’s aide-de-camp. And for a long time, that was true. But things have changed.” He looked up at Mariah. “I’m tired of it, Mariah. I’ve become disillusioned. All that Davidson promised has been lies. He may seek to harness the powers of ghoulification while eliminating the drawbacks, but it’s all for his own purposes. The deranged bas**** is convinced that he is owed control of the wastes. It’s a long story as to why he thinks that. And honestly, even I don’t know all of it. But I know there is a lot that he has kept to himself. No matter.” Constantine started pacing slowly with his hands behind his back again. “He’ll get his comeuppance. So will Langston here. And Waller. But I’ve got plans for those two.”

“I think you have a lot to answer for, too,” Mariah said, regaining some confidence. Although she felt bad for some of what Constantine had gone through, he was still an enemy and had his own misdeeds he committed. “You aren’t exactly clean, either.”

“You’re not wrong,” Constantine replied. Mariah expected at least some protest from him. “I will make up for my own transgressions. In fact . . . I’ve already started to.”

“What do you mean?”

Constantine gave her a half-smile. “Tell me, Mariah: Did you enjoy your stroll in downtown? Didn’t see too much resistance, did you?”

Mariah’s eyes lit up at his implication. “So, it was because of you! That’s why we ran into so few NSF soldiers. You deliberately set it up so that the NSF would be responding elsewhere, like at the Menendez building, so we could sabotage the comms inhibitors. To loosen Davidson’s grip on the city. You let the Old Guard and Enclave in so they could cause more trouble to strain NSF forces and you could try to cover up the fact that you pulled the strings. You could blame it on sheer numbers of the opposition.”

Constantine nodded. “I can’t take credit for everything, but I take a lot of the responsibility for these outside forces being inside the city. When you can’t get through damn-near impenetrable walls, you must go under them. Though I must give recognition for how it has all worked out to someone else. Multiple people, actually.”

“And who are they?”

“My new employers.” Constantine snapped his fingers at one of his NSF subordinates, who brought him a long black coat that appeared to be a duster. It looked just like the one that Mariah had seen that Blackcoat at Tyndall Air Force Base wearing!

“You’re a Blackcoat, now?!” Mariah exclaimed.

“No, that’s just what everybody else calls them when they don’t know who they are,” Constantine said, waving his right hand at her dismissively. “They have an actual name. Harbingers.”

Finally, they could put a name to these mysterious figures! It would be some measure of relief if it weren’t for Mariah and company’s current predicament. “And who do these Harbingers work for?”

“Come now, Mariah. I can’t tell you everything. But truth be told, I’m still learning a lot about them. Still, they have shown me that there is a better future for these wastes. ‘Harbinger’ is an apt title for them.” Constantine took his jacket off, taking out his deceased family’s keepsakes that were in it and placing it in his new coat as he slipped it on. “Your mayor in New Tallahassee also has dirty secrets, but I believe it’s been a long enough spiel from me.”

The mayor too?! Mariah thought to herself. Something certainly seemed off about him when she and Valentina met him back in New Tallahassee, but she didn’t necessarily suspect something nefarious.

But when Mariah was about to ask the mayor, Constantine quickly cut her off. “I don’t have time to explain everything. I’ve got special plans for Langston. And especially Waller. Mariah and Valentina, on the other hand . . . I won’t kill you, like I will these other two at some point. It seems my new employers are too interested in the two of you to do that. However, I have been told I can do something else. If Langston has even a shred of decency, he probably told you about it already.” Constantine paused as if for dramatic effect. “You’ll be going to the Zoo.”

Mariah gulped at how ominous that sounded. In Pre-War times, that phrase would probably indicate a family-friendly outing. But now it sounded more like a death sentence. Then she remembered the fear Langston felt when he first told them about it. That same fear came bursting forth as Langston finally spoke up. “No! Please, Constantine! Do not put them there! You cannot—”

“Oh, caring about people other than yourself for once, Vernon?” Constantine asked sarcastically. “Too little, too late. You’re going to lead me to Vault 100 before Ezra figures out where it is. In fact, we’re going to pay the ‘governor’ a visit at the Spire. But first, you’ll watch as I torture Waller. Seems that the two of you hate each other judging from him going after you, but you won’t be able to stomach what I’m going to do to him. When all is said and done, I’ll put an end to your miserable existence, too, Vernon.” Constantine then addressed his subordinates. “Tie up the hands of Waller and Langston. Put Mariah and Valentina to sleep. And I suppose their little pet can go with them, too.”

One of the NSF soldiers took out a tranquilizer and shot the quillback, which had started chattering and readying its spines again. The animal then quickly fell asleep. Two other soldiers grabbed Mariah and Valentina and started choking them out. The ladies flailed about to no avail. As they slipped into unconsciousness, the last thing they could hear was their commanding officer futilely yelling at the NSF. “Get the hell away from them! Let them go!” Constantine ended his protests by kicking him in the stomach.

Soon, the darkness set in. When Mariah fell into deeper sleep, she began experiencing a horrific nightmare.


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SubRosa
post Aug 22 2022, 01:37 AM
Post #150


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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



So time for some revelations about Langston. I am not surprised. I mean, I never imagined that he was an angel or anything. I always thought of him as similar to any number of Nazis from Operation Paperclip.

Wow, everything is all tied together I see. Constantine, Langston, and Waller, and what is really going on here underneath it all. So I am guessing the Vault is where they were experimenting on reversing ghoulification. Knowing the Fallout games, I assume that whatever actually happened there would constitute a War Crime today.

So Harbingers? Now that is quite an ominous name.


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Renee
post Aug 30 2022, 01:55 PM
Post #151


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From: Ellicott City, Maryland



Constantine sounds like a real prick. Then again, Langston has some weird stuff going on. Not that this warrants getting slammed to the ground. Maybe the ghoul did some experiments with one of Constantine's family members...

Wow. You know, there is some weird [censored] which used to go on in some of those vaults for sure. In Fallout 3 for instance, that one vault with all the cloned humans, all with the same names.

A-ha, there it is. Family members. I don't like Constantine at all, but he does have some points.

Sheesh. sad.gif

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RaderOfTheLostArk
post Sep 14 2022, 01:45 PM
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From: Lilmoth, Black Marsh



@SubRosa - That's a pretty good analogy with Operation Paperclip. Maybe that was a subconscious influence on how I set it up. The name "Harbingers" just came to me one day and I thought that was the perfect name for them and their goals.

@Renee - "Ha ha, Gary!" "Gary?" "Oh, Gaaaary!" Yep, every so often a good old-fashioned, moustache-twirling bad guy obsessed with power is fun to see, but it's much more interesting to give villains a motive.



Sorry for the delay as real life has kept me busy the past few weeks, but I've got the end of Chapter 19 right here for you all.

**********


Chapter 19: Capital Punishment


***Chapter 19.3***


Mariah opened her eyes at the sounds of piercing screams and roaring fire. She was already standing, frantically looking around at a settlement on the brink of destruction. She started running around trying to find the source of the screams so she could help, but there was no one around. Mariah ended up in front of a charred two-story building, sensing some sort of personal tie to the place but unable to pinpoint what it was. That’s when it struck her.

The building was where Mariah had grown up in. This settlement was once her home.

Mariah’s father and mother had done a lot of work on a crumbling Pre-War home, like many of the other people in the settlement had done for their residences. Mariah lived with her parents and younger sister and brother up until she was a teenager—when raiders hopped up on chems came and laid waste to the entire settlement. While she had thought about her lost home and family many times over the years, this dream was the most vivid and realistic of them all. Mariah tried to reassure herself that this is all it was: A dream.

“Hello, Mariah,” a voice familiar to her intoned to her left. At that point, the screams around the settlement stopped.

“D-dad?” Mariah turned quickly to him. “Oh my God!”

Mariah gasped at the sight of her father, but not because of the reunion with a loved one. Her father looked like a shambling corpse. Some bits of flesh across his body were missing, showcasing the muscle once protected by his skin. Bullet holes riddled his chest, and the left side of his face was charred from the smoldering flames engulfing the area. Other parts of his skin were black and blue. Yet there her dad was, talking to her as if nothing was wrong.

“Look at you, all grown up,” Mariah’s father said. But he didn’t talk to her as if he was happy to see her. He sounded vindictive and passive-aggressive. “I guess that’s what happens when you get to live. When you run away as everyone who cared about you dies horrifically.”

“Wha…what?” Mariah was taken aback, still processing her father’s form. “I…I didn’t…you told me to run! I didn’t want to leave you all behind, but you said you would hold off the raiders!”

“And here you go again, telling yourself all these lies so you don’t have to face the truth,” her father said, shaking his head. He spat on the ground. “Is that how you get yourself to sleep at night?”

“How could you say that, dad?” Mariah shook her head violently trying to wake herself up. “No. No, this is a dream. I know what you told me. This is all just in my head,” she said quietly to herself.

Somehow, her dad still heard her words. “Oh, a dream, huh? You think it was a dream for me? For your mother? For your siblings? Hey, Jennifer! Our so-called daughter thinks this is all a dream!”

“Is that right, Allen?” Mariah’s mother said, leaning against their house. She wasn’t there when Mariah looked at the house, but she instantaneously appeared at the sound of her name.

“Mom?” Mariah said in a quivering voice at the sight of her mother. Similarly to her father, Mariah’s mother looked like a corpse. Yet she leaned nonchalantly against the front wall of their home with her arms folded.

“Our darling daughter finally decided to come home. That guilt sure must be heavy on you, dear.” But her mother didn’t speak out of concern, either. She sounded resentful. “Off to play hero, again? You always played hero with Leah and Quinn. They looked up to you so, so much. And yet you left them behind. Your father and I, too.”

This is my mind playing tricks on myself. It always does. Mariah thought to herself. Just be calm. It’s not real. I know what happened.

“And now she tries so desperately to be a savior once again. Like she couldn’t be for us,” Mariah’s father chided. He said it right next to Mariah’s ear, startling her as she didn’t hear him move. “All of us. All gone. You think you’re some messiah? Why don’t we ask Leah and Quinn?” He pointed behind Mariah.

As Mariah whirled around, her siblings were suddenly there as well. They, too, looked like they had just risen from the dead. Mariah was the oldest of the three, followed by her brother Quinn and sister Leah. “Why did you leave us, M? You were supposed to always be there for us,” they said in unison, calling Mariah by the nickname her family often used for her.

“I didn’t leave you!” Mariah cried out, kneeling on the ground to reach their height. Despite their decaying appearance, she touched her siblings’ outside shoulders to try to reassure them. “Dad told us all to run, remember? I tried finding you, but I couldn’t.”

“Heroes don’t make excuses, M,” Mariah’s mother said bitterly, now directly behind her. “You just always go running around the wastes trying to make amends for the past. Trying to make something of yourself. But you can’t. We died while you lived. You’re not a hero. You never were.” She then leaned right into Mariah’s face. “And you never will be,” she said with a sense of finality.

Mariah didn’t have any words. She often struggled to reconcile her memory of what happened to her settlement with what the critic in her mind told her. Mariah’s own mind basically gaslighted her. It often left her wondering if she really was weak and a coward.

As Mariah sat there in the dark cloud of her thoughts, she sensed another person’s presence. She turned to some figure that she could make out very little of. Mariah couldn’t tell what exactly they were wearing as it was somehow obfuscated to her. The face appeared as nothing but static and then colored, vertical bars. It was like what she had heard about those Pre-War things called televisions showing if a TV program wasn’t appearing on the screen.

“Who are you?” That was all Mariah could muster. She thought it strange that none of her family were reacting, but when she turned all four of them were lying on the ground dead. It was as if they had never gotten up to begin with. “Tell me what the hell is going on!” Mariah demanded of this mysterious figure, quickly facing him again. “Answer me!” Whoever this figure was, he had not been there in reality when her settlement burned to the ground—or so she thought, at least. Mariah was questioning her recollection of events again.

The figure simply extended their right hand calmly, palm facing up. When they spoke, it was clearly a male’s voice, echoing as if multiple copies of him were speaking out of his mouth at the same time. He sounded like his voice had been modulated to sound deeper—while mostly human, there seemed to be a robotic quality to it as well. “Come with me, Mariah.”

Mariah was still scared, yet she strangely started feeling calmer at the sound of his voice. “Who…who are you?”

“Someone who seeks to cast a light into this dark, depraved world. Like you,” the strange man—if you could call him that—said reassuringly. “I know how it feels to be gripped by a debilitating sense of failure. That all my efforts mean nothing. But I can show you how to overcome all of this. How you can be a part of something greater than yourself. How you can bring true change to this carcass of a planet so that humanity no longer kills itself over the scraps.” The man somehow extended his hand farther out to her. “Come with me. Together we can cleanse this world. We can repair the damage done by the Great War.”

“What are you talking about? How can that be possible?” Mariah had no idea what all of that meant, but she felt compelled to touch the man’s hand. Suddenly, everything around her disintegrated into a bright white light.

**********


Mariah woke up with a jolt, finding herself panting heavily in a hot sweat. She was laying on a wooden floor in the bedroom of a decrepit metal shack. Moonlight poked through holes in the roof. When she finally got her bearings, Mariah cried quietly for what seemed to her like an hour.

After her outpouring of emotion, she got herself up off the floor and brushed herself off. If it weren’t for the moonlight and some holes in the wall, the room might have been pitch black. Next to a mattress that Mariah figured she had rolled off of in her nightmare was a cracked mirror. She gently grabbed its handle and found a smooth spot to look at herself in. What was once beautiful, blonde hair had been matted down and considerably darkened, caked with dirt and sweat. Mariah ran her hand through her hair to straighten it out and remove some of the grime. Mariah then walked over to the wall and peeked through one of the holes. Surveying the surroundings revealed a bunch of rundown buildings, an empty street, dilapidated shacks, and overgrowth of flora.

She was in “the Zoo.”

***End of Chapter 19***


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Renee
post Sep 24 2022, 08:55 PM
Post #153


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Yeah, GARY!!!! laugh.gif That's the vault I'm talking about; everyone's named Gary!

Whoa this is intense. It's a dream, right? Yesh it is. Phew. A very vivid dream. Dad's not being very nice. Mom's not being very nice. You've written this part very well, Rader.

And mom's wrong about Mariah never becoming a hero, Mariah's already done heroic things!

Ah crap she's in the Zoo. 🦏 What is this Zoo, anyway? unsure.gif

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SubRosa
post Sep 26 2022, 07:42 AM
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It feels like this is a dream (well, nightmare) that Mariah is starting within. Yep, bad times from the past, the unhinged her from an 'ordinary' life, or at least what passes for such in the wasteland.

And so here we see the inciting event that pushes Mariah to be who she is. Her need to save who she can, because of who she could not. Plus an unhealthy dose of survivor's syndrome.

Somehow this final messianic figure fills me dread. Maybe it is just Fallout being Fallout, things always get worse.



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RaderOfTheLostArk
post Nov 23 2022, 04:29 PM
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@Renee - Thank you. Remember that this is just Mariah's mind playing tricks on her. The Zoo is . . . well, you'll see in a moment.

@SubRosa - Yep. I only made a couple short mentions of her past, but I wanted to incorporate it in a way that was more integral to the overall story, not just in how it made her who she is.



My apologies for another delay. If it isn't life getting in the way, sometimes my creative juices aren't flowing. But I've got the next installment right here. Thank you to those who are sticking with this. I know it's a bit difficult to do so considering the erratic schedule I am keeping to. But I will do my best to be more consistent with writing this story.


_______________________________________________________



Chapter 20: Night at the Zoo


It was easy to see why this sprawling prison, a sectioned-off part of the city, was called The Zoo—the area was teeming with ubiquitous plant life and noises of various creatures. No doubt it housed some psychotic individuals, too, whether they deserved to be in this place or not. And Mariah hadn’t even stepped out of the run-down building she was in yet. The feeling of the environment was just that visceral.

“Focus, Mariah. You can get out of this. You’ve gotten out of sticky situations before,” Mariah said out loud to herself, still shaking herself out of the feelings she just experienced from her dream. She wasn’t injured, which was a nice start. But when she opened the door of her room, she found someone who wasn’t so lucky. The corpse of a man on the floor of this main room was still clad in Temple of New Life robes, though it wasn’t Roger. That blood on the floor in the Temple that Mariah and company found before Constantine ambushed them was most likely his, but where was he? What did Constantine and his underlings do to him?

Mariah tried to push the pessimistic thoughts away as she focused on the task at hand. She noticed that there was a book in the left hand of the dead apostle. Looking closer revealed it was that central tome that Roger had shown her before, the Synthesis. “Maybe there’s something here that can tell me more,” Mariah said to herself. She doubted that it would shine any light on her situation, but she needed to try something, anything. The passage that the dead man’s thumb was on was one of the many sermons—if that was what they were called—from The Redeemer, this mystery man who founded the Temple of New Life:

The fundamental flaw of this world is that the Old World refuses to die. It desperately attempts to cling to survival through the last vestiges of humanity. They may not realize it. They may not even have a strong concept of what the Old World really was. But the roots of the ideologies and strife of the Old World persist. Instead of creating something brand new, humans insist on rebuilding the old, even if unintentionally.

But that is why we are building something different, something wholly other. The only way to free ourselves of what destroyed us is to understand what destroyed us in the first place and why. Every worldview of those before-years—political, religious, areligious, cultural, and so on—in some way led to the Old World’s demise. All these old concepts must be shed for humanity to truly rebuild and become something greater. Otherwise, we will repeat the mistakes of the past.

Take heart, dear reader. While those individuals and groups still shackled to the greed, lust, and short-sightedness of the Old World will do all they can to stop us, we are on track for a much greater purpose. Know that you are a critical part of this trajectory. One day, our efforts will be vindicated when we build the New World and show others the Light.


It felt as if the very words of The Redeemer, this enigmatic man so central to the Temple of New Life, spoke right to Mariah. It was a very strange feeling to her, one that she had seldom experienced before.

But unfortunately, it gave her no direction for how to save herself from her current predicament. Mariah turned her attention away from it, standing up and turning to the front door of her shack. She took a deep breath. “Well, here goes nothing.”

[Battlespire Soundtrack – Into the Spire (Caitiff)]

Save for moonlight, only flickering streetlights lit up the dilapidated street that she stepped out into. One of them illuminated a half-eaten corpse of a man along with a severely lacerated Radfrog, lying next to an irradiated, hunched-over palmetto tree. Mutations caused the palmetto to grow several giant branches. The Radfrog must have been eating the dead body, but what killed the Radfrog?

Next to the corpse was a .357 magnum and some ammo cartridges. How a weapon could get into a prison was beyond her, but she wasn’t going to question it. “Perfect,” Mariah muttered to herself. But when she reached for the equipment, a sudden rusting startled her. She quickly looked up and fell back as the palmetto tree swung one of its branches at her! Sharp palmetto leaves almost doled out the same fate to Mariah as it did to the Radfrog. “Holy s---!” Mariah yelled, catching her breath as her heart rate suddenly accelerated. She quickly covered her mouth following her outburst, remembering that more dangerous flora—or fauna, or other prisoners—could come after her at any moment.

Next to Mariah was a large tree branch, though not from the mutant palmetto. It was long enough for her to use to pull the gun and ammo toward her, which she did. With the equipment in her possession, Mariah got off the ground and dusted herself off. I guess the best option is to follow down the street, or what’s left of it, Mariah thought, now keeping her commentary inside her head. As she traversed down the path, she turned to look at the palmetto, which felt like it was looking right at her despite having no eyes. Happy to get the metaphorical last word, she scrunched up her face and flipped both of her middle fingers toward the botanical assailant before continuing down the road.

**********


Mariah had no means of gauging how much time had passed. She surprisingly had not yet encountered any enemies as she walked down the tatterdemalion street and her thoughts turned to Valentina and their Quillback companion. Mariah couldn’t help but feel pessimistic about what happened to them, but she was determined to find them before leaving this prison.

Mariah then made it to an old intersection of what used to be storefronts, now mostly rubble. Most of them were connected to each other. Holding her weapon to her side and crouching down, she quickly ducked into one of the buildings, hoping to find anything she could use for armor. In the back of the former store, behind a counter, was a dead body with a note. Reading the note, Mariah found that she had died by suicide by shooting herself in the head, distraught at her unjust imprisonment. Mariah put a hand on the deceased woman’s shoulder. “I’ll avenge you. I’ll avenge this whole city,” Mariah said under her breath.

The note also gave permission to access a stash hidden in a closed but unlocked giant safe in the corner of the room. The woman hoped that somebody else could make good use of it, and that’s what Mariah was determined to do. A laser pistol, energy cells, and makeshift metal armor were stashed inside the safe. The woman’s firearm was also a .357 magnum but with a scope, so Mariah emptied it of its bullets and took the scope and spare ammunition lying around as well.

Suddenly, Mariah caught a whiff of smoke coming from the east. Equipping her .357 magnum and donning her new armor, Mariah went back outside and followed the smell, crouching and hugging the wall. When she got further down the street, she found a campsite across an open way with a small tribe of people hanging around it. Mariah looked down her scope to get a better look. The surrounding ruins had effectively turned the campsite into a dead end. The only connecting streets were the one Mariah was coming from and a large street ahead and to her left, separated by a median strip lined with dead trees.

These people weren’t human, at least not fully. They looked a lot like the humanoids she had encountered in the lab when she and her allies were infiltrating Old Tallahassee in the first place, humans with animalistic features like scaly faces and webbed feet. They were unfriendly then, and they were certainly going to be unfriendly now.

They also had Mariah’s Quillback companion. It could’ve been any Quillback, but there was a tranquilizer dart still in its side. Unless the Harbingers or the New State of Florida had thrown another sedated mutant porcupine in this place, it was definitely Mariah’s buddy. If he hadn’t still been out cold, he almost certainly would have evaded capture with his spiny defense measures.

Mariah suddenly realized they planned to eat him!

“Oh, no you don’t!” Mariah said. Without giving it a second thought, she darted behind a rusted car that was closer to the campsite. Making sure her gun was fully loaded, she aimed down the scope and fired straight into the head of one of the tribesmen, killing him instantly. His compatriots got up in a panic and frantically scanned their surroundings for Mariah, but she picked off a couple more. The loud sound of the .357 magnum was undoubtedly going to draw unwanted attention, so Mariah tried to kill the tribe quickly so she could rescue the Quillback and find somewhere else to hide.

But as usual, a sudden complication arose.

[Wasteland 3 Soundtrack – Encounter Combat]

As Mariah reloaded her weapon, an arrow struck the windshield of the car she hid behind. “Whoa!” She exclaimed as she flinched. She saw to her left more of these human-animal hybrids coming down a connecting street. Several of them had bows and arrows but most were relegated to primitive melee weapons. They must have been a part of the tribe that Mariah was making short work of, coming back from searching for more food.

“It’s a full-blood!” One of the hybrids grunted. “Kill her and add her to the meal!” The tribesmen at the campsite banded together with their comrades and ran toward Mariah’s position. There were too many of them and she didn’t want to risk getting struck by their ranged weaponry, so she fled back down the street she came. But as she sprinted, she had no idea where she was going to go to get away from these hybrids. Some of the buildings were inaccessible and others might turn out to be dead ends.

Then a familiar voice called out to her from one of the buildings. “Mariah!”

“Val?” Mariah called back out, gasping as she was running out of breath. She spotted Valentina in a two-story building to her left.

“Get in here!” Valentina motioned for Mariah to come inside a building the former had been using as a base of sorts.

Mariah burst through the door as the two of them slammed it shut and locked it. “Am I . . . glad to . . . see you,” Mariah said, panting between every couple of words.

“Likewise, but we can exchange pleasantries later. The windows were already secured, but I need your help to barricade the door,” Valentina said as she started pushing on a heavy hutch. Mariah pushed with her to get to fortify their defense. “There’s a water fountain here if you need it, though it isn’t exactly clean.”

“Not . . . surprising,” Mariah said. She was going to have to accept the rads that came with the drink as she took several big gulps.

“What were you thinking taking on those people?” Valentina chastised Mariah. “They’re insane! I saw them slaughter some other prisoners earlier. And they were making these weird animal noises. Why would you—”

“They have Quinn!” Mariah blurted out.

Valentina cocked her head to the side in confusion. “Who’s Quinn?”

Mariah realized that she had only just now named her Quillback friend. Whether it was subconsciously a result of her dream she had prior to waking up, she named the Quillback after her deceased brother. “Oh . . . that’s what I named the quillback, I guess. Just now, actually. That was my little brother’s name.”

“Oh. That’s really sweet to honor him like that, Mariah.” Valentina said, touched.

“Well, I had a dream where . . .” It struck Mariah that now was not a good time to explain her nightmare. “I’ll tell you about that later. We need to figure out what to do about these guys.”

“Come to think of it, they look a lot like those people we saw in the underground lab. Maybe they’re some of Langston’s experiments.”

Langston hadn’t even crossed Mariah’s mind since she woke up. “Probably are. I still can’t believe it. I mean, I know he worked for Ezra and the Old Guard and all, but I didn’t think that would be the nature of his work. He said he just worked on automatons, didn’t he?”

“Yes. And if we see him again, we’re going to give him a piece of our minds,” Valentina said. “I don’t care if he is contrite now. He’s going to face justice.”

“Oh, I’ll give him more than a piece of my mind,” Mariah said, cracking her knuckles. “Waller, too.”

Valentina sighed. “People in the GCU like Sergeant Waller make me miss people like Commander Bertrand and Jacob even more.”

Their conversation was cut short as the hybrids started banging on the doors and boarded-up windows. Mariah and Valentina could tell that their defenses weren’t going to hold up for long.

This post has been edited by RaderOfTheLostArk: Nov 23 2022, 04:29 PM


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Renee
post Nov 24 2022, 01:16 PM
Post #156


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Welcome back, Rader. Good to see you. ☢ It's weird how last time a story was posted in this thread was September. It seems like months and months ago. Maybe because it's been so cold already this mid-fall. 🍁🍂

No worries about lack of creative thoughts. Either the words are there or they aren't. Only thing is you might want to remind us of names, what's going on, etc. For instance, I remember Langston (the ghoul scientist) was getting the [censored] beat out of him for ... I don't remember why. Experiments, I think. Yeah, he was experimenting on live, human subjects? And there was a colonel who'd caught them as they roamed through Tallahassee. And they're all in BIG trouble.

One of the reasons Fallout: Florida is awesome is (within my own mind) it strengthens the events which go on in my own Fallout story. It's like we're building upon the fictional post-apocalyptic world, chapter by chapter. cake.gif

The part where it says "and Mariah hadn't even stepped out of this part of the run-down place ..." indicates she's at least not tied down or locked up. Phew. I like how there are apostles in this story! That's something we don't have in modern religious times.

Radfrog. laugh.gif Oh wow, she's got a gun. Mariah's a full-blood. indifferent.gif They're fighting now. Weird how this 'prison' allows so much free roaming. Why do I get the feeling they're all being watched? Maybe that's why this is called The Zoo.

Valentina, and the quillback. I believe that animal's gotta be somewhat domesticated. It's real comfortable around people. Even warned them occasionally, iinm.

Uh oh, looks like they're trapped.
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SubRosa
post Today, 12:27 AM
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The title makes me think of this song.

As soon as you described that mutated tree, I was thinking it was going to attack Mariah!

Quillbacks and complications. Who is M going to attract with all that shooting? Hopefully a friend.

Uh oh, more of the Half Blood tribal cannibals. It might be time for Mariah to relocate...

There's Val! Now that the dynamic duo is barricaded in against the zombie horde, they are going to have to come up with a plan to get out of this sticky situation, and get Quinn back.


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