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> Fallout: Florida , The Sunshine State's Post-Apocalyptic Wastes
RaderOfTheLostArk
post Dec 3 2020, 06:37 PM
Post #81


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



QUOTE(SubRosa @ Dec 3 2020, 01:13 AM) *

One thing I like about your story is that I can use Google to see where everything is. Given that, have you considered making a Google Map of all the Mariah Fic sites? I did it for the Stormcrow fic, and it turned out to be really easy.

When you aren’t a member of an ingroup, you tend to be looked down on as someone in an outgroup.
Ain't that the truth.

The Aegis spider bots sound really creepy!

“Seems like a lot of things happen only in Florida!”
Seems like the Florida Man ... meme is still alive and well. wink.gif

I was wondering if the Dissidents would turn up for the big final brouhaha! Cool.


Mhm, I do have a map. I posted it once or twice on here, but now that you mention it I really should just link it every new chapter. Here's the map so far. I've included some extra places not in the story that I hope to have little lore tidbits about on the map. It's also layered so you can easily tell what locations are in which region of the state. There's very little I've put up yet beyond the Panhandle, but that will come in due time.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?hl=en&am...8323126&z=9

Aha, you did catch my subtle reference to Florida Man. wink.gif

This post has been edited by RaderOfTheLostArk: Dec 3 2020, 06:39 PM


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Renee
post Dec 7 2020, 04:30 PM
Post #82


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



I notice Mariah's demeanor has shifted in this new chapter. She's now not as headstrong and defiant. She's working with others now. Thank goodness for that. I was worried about her having her fingernails removed during a torture session, or whatever. indifferent.gif

This story starts off with a lot of apprehension. And then the part when the robots start activating is really mysterious. How are they coming online? That's creepy. At least it breaks up what could have been a slam-dunk defeat for the better-equipped Brotherhood though, right?

A cliffie at the end. indifferent.gif [censored].

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RaderOfTheLostArk
post Dec 11 2020, 07:38 PM
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From: Lilmoth, Black Marsh



Fear not, Renee, for we are resolving that cliffhanger now.

This chapter got pretty long, and it was initially going to be even longer. I was reluctant to end this chapter right where it does because I wanted the first part of the next chapter to go with this one. But I think it works out alright this way. I don't want a chapter to drag on too long but I also don't want to be too arbitrary in how it cuts.

Here is the Fallout: Florida map. https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?hl=en&...9550934&z=9



Chapter 11: End of an Era (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the F.A.C.T.)


[Fallout Soundtrack – Radiation Storm]

“Surprised to see me, dollface?” Gerald said with his trademark smugness. He was still standing behind Mariah, but she knew the expression that was on his eminently punch-able face.

“What are you doing here, Gerald?” Mariah said, keeping her voice from trembling.

“Same reason everyone else is, of course. Put that combat rifle of yours down on the ground.” Mariah did as he said. Non-compliance wasn’t an option here and she was hoping any little bit of time she could stall for would result in somebody saving her. “Now kick it away from you.” Mariah obliged, pushing it away with her feet.

“I mean how did you even get here? You should be locked up in that cell of yours. . . . Must be the inside man you have in the GCU, right?”

Gerald chuckled, something he seemed to be quite fond of doing. “Perceptive as ever, aren’t you? I figured you would know about that, by now. Smart woman. And beautiful. Oh, what I would give to see what’s under that armor of yours. . .” Mariah shuddered at his increasing creepiness. He leaned in closer to her. “I could’ve shown you what a real man is.”

“Gerald, please,” Mariah said. “We need to stop the Brotherhood. They’re going to . . .”

“The Dissidents will take care of the Brotherhood, don’t you worry. We’re going to bury them just like the GCU. But if it makes you feel better, I’m sure we will leave your new Apalachee friends be—provided they don’t get in our way. They haven’t wronged us.” Gerald kept his gun trained on Mariah as he now walked in front of her. “I thought you were such a tough girl? Not so easy to be such a smarta--, or so strong, when you don’t have the upper hand, is it? It’s all just a show to fake your strength. Deep down. . . you’re just a scared little girl.” He placed extra emphasis on the word ‘scared.’

Mariah’s anger rose quickly, visible on her face, but she was not in a position to do anything about it. And while she knew he was trying to get in her head, a part of her couldn’t help but take his words to heart. Her mind went back to the days when she was a kid and her settlement was attacked, her family and many others being murdered by raiders, and her fleeing as she was told to do by her parents. She still felt some guilt over it. Mariah started to think that maybe he was right—that maybe she was just acting tough because she was weak on the inside. “I can see it in your face,” Gerald continued. How much you want to just pulverize me, grind me into the ground, make me pay for perceived atrocities. Can’t do that when you’re staring down the barrel of a gun.”

“Who do you have on the inside of the GCU?” Mariah asked, shaking with fear and even more so rage. “What is their name?”

“Come now, Mariah, I can’t tell you everything.” Gerald was still smiling obnoxiously.

“You’re going to shoot me anyway, so you might as well just tell me.”

Gerald thought about it for a moment. “I suppose you have a point. You have a way with speech. Helps to have that rockin’ body of yours.” Gerald appeared to be incapable of steering away from any sexual references. “Very well. I believe he is not someone you have met before, but his name is Jonathan Samuels. Not quite at the rank of what’s-his-face . . . Jacob? Yeah, that guy. But still, he isn’t some pencil pusher. He’d be in on a lot of the major decision-making when it happens.”

“And those robots turning on outside—were they your handiwork?”

“I’m flattered that you think I’m that smart.” Gerald pretended like he was going to blush. “But no, that wasn’t me. Not my wheelhouse. We have some intelligent, tech-minded men and women . . . but it wasn’t them either. But I have to say, mighty fine timing from whoever did do it. Or maybe they just came on themselves, I don’t know.” The two of them stood silent for a little while as they both thought about what to say next. “So anyway, I have a job to get back to, so this monologue is over. Sort of like those Old World movies where the villain was compelled to spurt a bunch of fancy exposition about his evil plan. But I’m no villain. You still think me delusional, a creep, a monster, but I have certain morals. While it’s a shame that I won’t get to see some . . . extra action from you, I’m not going to do anything to you physically. I won’t go that far. I’m simply going to just shoot you and be done with it. That’ll be enough to settle the score between you and I.” He readied his handgun again, aiming straight for her forehead. “I hope you’ve made your peace, Mariah. Nice knowing you.”

Mariah braced herself for what seemed to be inevitable. She closed her eyes and then flinched and gasped as a gun went off, but it wasn’t Gerald’s. When she opened her eyes, she found Gerald lying on the ground with a gaping wound in his head. He was twitching, barely able to make any sort of noise as he desperately clung to life. But he was able to turn toward his assailant, who stepped over him.

“That is for my dad, you b------!” The assailant fired her weapon into Gerald’s head once more. He was finally dead. Mariah finally got a look at who it was—Valentina.

A wave of happiness and relief overcame Mariah. “What a stroke of luck! Am I delighted to see you!” she said, giving Valentina a tight hug that she reciprocated.

“I’m happy to see you too, friend.”

“But, how did you get here?” Mariah continued, mostly relinquishing the embrace. She still had her hands clasping Valentina’s arms.

“Got separated from Commander Bertrand and Jacob’s group.” Valentina shook her head. “The Dissidents have shown up in force and are trying to take advantage of the robots cutting down Brotherhood and GCU numbers. I hid in this building with a few others after the Commander told us to get inside, but the rest of the crew with me fought with some Brotherhood soldiers in here and they told me to run for it. I can fight, you know!” Valentina said that last sentence exasperatedly. “I just need a chance.”

“Well, we certainly need each other now.” Mariah said, flashing a big grin, but it faded somewhat when she continued. “Hey . . . uh . . . I’m really sorry about leaving you back in Pensacola. I just didn’t want you to try stopping me from going to Holt. It still doesn’t excuse it, but, well, I thought you should know what I thought at the time, you know? I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“I understand,” Valentina said. “I just hate when my friends get into serious danger. I know that’s the way of the wastes and with the lives we live, though. But we can talk about that later. From now on . . .” Valentina walked over to Mariah’s combat rifle on the ground and picked it up, handing it back to her. “We’re a team. From now on, we fight together.”

“Absolutely,” Mariah’s said, smirking. Her resolve had returned. She readied her combat rifle. “Come on. Let’s go get the F.A.C.T.”

/////////


Mariah and Valentina made their way to the control room above the supercomputer. They crept up the flight of stairs leading up to it, finding the door to the room open. There were a couple of Brotherhood soldiers operating controls there, but they were on high alert. Fortunately, neither of them had Power Armor on. As they turned to shoot at Mariah and Valentina, the latter two were quicker on their triggers and cut the soldiers down.

“What’s going on up there? Knight Jenn? Knight John? Report,” a voice came through the intercom near the control panels. It was Obadiah’s voice. “Damn it, who’s up there? Show yourselves!”

Mariah obliged, pushing the intercom button to speak. “It’s over, Obadiah! We’re here to stop you. Give up the F.A.C.T. now.”

“Mariah,” Obadiah growled. “I warned you not to get involved further and you didn’t listen. I let you live once. I won’t make that mistake again. Regardless, you’re too late. We finally got this tech to work and put it into action. Observe from your perch up there.”

Valentina and Mariah walked to the windows overlooking the supercomputer. The F.A.C.T. was finally fully unpacked from its plain, box-shaped state. They couldn’t get the best look at it from their position, but it was one of the most futuristic-looking machines they had ever seen. It had a glass panel showcasing several blueprints of weaponry, with several sets of buttons on the sides. One of Obadiah’s henchmen pressed a couple of buttons on the machine and a surge of power emanated from inside it. In just 30 seconds, it took what looked to be rather few materials, recombined its matter, and coughed out three laser gatling weapons, generating them seemingly out of thin air. Valentina and Mariah’s jaws dropped at the sight. How could one machine do that, and so quickly?

“You see that?” Obadiah boasted. “This F.A.C.T. may be a prototype, but it is astounding what it can do. It destroys the original weapon so that it can document the design in its system, as we found out. Then you select the design that’s in there, it gives you information on what materials are needed for input, and then out come the products. It sucks up a lot of power, too, but fortunately we found some working power cores in here.” Another Knight picked up one of the laser gatlings, loaded a power core into the side, and handed it to Obadiah. “Now you see why we can’t let foolish outsiders have this tech. Wastelanders’ nature is to abuse power when they get it. And it’s the Brotherhood’s mission to prevent that.”

“You’re the one who is abusing it!” Mariah protested. “How could you have such little self-awareness?”

“I can’t make you understand, Mariah.” Obadiah simply dismissed her accusations. “You can only see the short-run. The Brotherhood understands the long-term implications of holding onto this equipment. It is our duty to rebuild civilization. And if we must cut down those who would use Pre-War tech for their own selfish ends, then so be it.”

Valentina wanted to take a turn on the intercom. “The GCU is going to win in the end, Obadiah! You’re a psychopath, and we’re going to dig your grave.”

Obadiah scoffed. “Got a GCU dog to tag along with you, Mariah? That’s a shame that you brought someone else here to die. Paladin Allen, Paladin Valerie—end them. Then secure the F.A.C.T. Paladin Victor and Paladin Sharice, you stay here with the F.A.C.T. in case company arrives—GCU or Dissident. And terminate them with extreme prejudice.” Obadiah was aware that the Dissidents were in the vicinity.

“Ad victoriam!” All of the paladins shouted in unison, saluting Obadiah and tending to their orders. Another subordinate suddenly contacted him.

“Sir, incoming squads of Dissidents and GCU!” A frantic voice called from a different intercom. “Russell is with the Dissidents and the GCU is led by Bertrand. They’re—" The voice was cut off by gunfire.

After a few moments of silence on the other end, Captain Russell’s voice echoed through the speaker. “Looks like we have a party starting up soon. We still got a score to settle, Obadiah, and I still got that one-way ticket to hell with your name on it. I’m delivering it to you personally.”

Obadiah led out an especially angry and drawn-out ‘argh.’ “I’m finally going to put you six feet under, Russell. Maybe deeper so no one ever finds your body,” he stated angrily. “I’ll make examples out of you and Bertrand.”

“The two of you better be ready to pay for your sins at Birmingham. It’s been a long time coming. And I hope you can hear this too, Bertrand. Death comes for the two of you S.O.B.s in a hail of bullets.” And with that, Russell cut off comms. The imminence of a final three-way showdown was palpable throughout the place.

“Paladins Allen and Valerie, you still have your orders,” Obadiah barked. “Kill Mariah and her pal up there.” The two Paladins immediately turned to head toward the main control room.

“Damn it, we can’t take on those Paladins,” Valentina said, fidgeting around trying to figure out something to do. “There, use the furniture along the wall to barricade the entry. These dead Knights have some superior weapons to what we have, so we can use those as a last resort. But I need you to cover me while I work some magic.”

“What are you going to do?” Mariah said as she started cordoning off the doorway.

“I’ve never had a chance to show you, and only a few chances to show to Commander Bertrand and others, but I’ve got a knack for computers. These things have always fascinated me ever since I first saw a terminal. This looks tougher than anything I’ve worked with, but I’m going to make it work. This looks like it might have control over the entire facility, so I may be able to reprogram the automatons outside. And I know what you’re capable of. We’ll get through this.” Valentina got to clacking away on buttons and keyboards. If Mariah had any lack of confidence then, Valentina’s positive attitude brushed it away.

Mariah picked up an automatic laser rifle from one of the dead Brotherhood Knights and attached some of the microfusion cells to her belt. She loaded it, ready to fire when needed. Bertrand’s voice finally patched through to Mariah’s radio. “Mariah? Mariah? Please respond! Are you there?”

“Commander!” Mariah replied. “You’re alive! Yes, Val and I are together, but we have a couple of Brotherhood Paladins heading our way. We’re in the main control room above the supercomputer and Obadiah has already used the F.A.C.T. And Russell and some Dissidents are coming, too.”

“Damn it,” Bertrand said. “So our showdown is finally happening. We’ll try to send you some help, but our numbers are low. What are their numbers like?”

“Obadiah only has four people left, but two of them are coming for us. I don’t know how many Dissidents are coming.”

“Commander Bertrand, you’re okay!” Valentina said, joining the conversation. “I’m doing my best seeing if I can get this supercomputer to help us out, but Mariah and I need help. Is Jacob fine?”

“It is good to hear your voice, Val. Yes, I’ll send him to help you out. We’re trying to follow maps and signs on the walls to where you are. Hang in there!” Bertrand hung up.

Barely a moment after Bertrand finished, Mariah could hear those Paladins, Allen and Valerie, stomping in their Power Armor up the stairs. Even with the suits, they couldn’t physically bust the door down with the barricade there. “Stand back, Paladin Valerie,” Allen said. The sound of a gatling laser spinning was quickly followed by laser rounds being pumped out to cut through the door and the makeshift barriers. The door was reinforced, but it wouldn’t stand for long.

“Uh, Val,” Mariah nervously said. “They’re getting through. We really need that magic of yours now.”

“I’ve almost got something, but I have to concentrate, Mariah!” Valentina said with some frustration at the interruption. The Paladins were almost through. “Aha! There are some turrets online inside this facility that I can access from here . . . this one should do it for us.” A turret could be heard emerging in the hallway that started rapidly firing on the Paladins. They shot it down, but not before it did serious damage to their already weakened suits.

“Impressive trick you pulled off, but you just delay the inevitable, scum,” Paladin Valerie taunted Mariah and Valentina. “Let’s get ‘em, Allen.” They soon pushed through the barricade, and Mariah uncorked an entire round’s worth of fusion cells into the doorway to push them back, cutting through more Power Armor. The Paladins had to retreat into the hall. “Enemy on our six!” Valerie suddenly cried out. What sounded like an automatic combat rifle was being unloaded on the Paladins. As they were preoccupied, Mariah reloaded her auto laser rifle, poked her head out of the doorway, and shot at them too. Weakened points in their armor gave way, and with the combined force of Mariah and this other assailant, the two Paladins were killed. Yet Mariah wasn’t sure if this was a truly friendly combatant, who was also clad in Power Armor, so she waited for them to make any moves.

“Hold your fire, Mariah,” the individual said. He held his weapon to his side and pulled his helmet off. “It’s me, Jacob.”

Mariah let out one of the heaviest sighs of relief in her life. “You’re a lifesaver, Jacob. Val will be ecstatic to see you, too.”

“Jacob!” Valentina called out, still examining the computer screens in front of her. “Impeccable timing. This computer seems to control and override just about anything in this building, and I’ve got the automatons on our side . . . right . . . now!” A block of green text on the screen scrolled onto the screen, accompanied by a robotic voice from the computer reading it out loud: ‘Defensive Automaton Targeting Systems recalibrated. New enemy target descriptions uploaded. New enemy targets engaged.’ The enemy target descriptions matched that of the Brotherhood and the Dissidents.

Jacob attempted to call Lieutenant Carmichael. “Lieutenant! Can you hear me? Lieutenant! It’s Jacob!”

Carmichael responded, “This better be good, Jacob. It’s a bloodbath out here.” Gunfire was audible through the radio.

“It is, Lieutenant. One of my soldiers, Valentina, made it into the base and it looks like she reprogrammed the robots to attack just Brotherhood and Dissidents.”

The Lieutenant didn’t respond initially. After about a minute, he called back, “Holy s---, stop firing on the robots! GCU and Apalachee personnel, I repeat, stop firing on the robots! They’re only attacking our adversaries now!” Carmichael turned his attention back to Jacob, his voice in utter disbelief. “You’re right, they just suddenly stopped shooting at us. I don’t know how you all pulled this off, but you’re a bunch of fricking miracle workers.”

“You can thank Valentina and Mariah for that,” Jacob replied. “Valentina worked absolute magic with the main computer and Mariah, well, she simply delivered again. I don’t know if it’s Luck or what, but she seems to be Providence incarnate.”

“Well done to you two ladies, but we still got a fight out here. I imagine you still have one in there, too. This ain’t over but it looks like the tide might be turning. Carmichael out.”

After Carmichael ended his message, Obadiah bellowed into the intercom again with such fury that he started fumbling words, including every profanity that he could think of. He was uncharacteristically unhinged. “I will make sure every f------ one of you feels agony and suffering and, and, anguish, and torm—, torment the likes of which you have never felt! Take . . . this!” Obadiah threw a couple plasma grenades at the room’s window overlooking the F.A.C.T.

“Get down!” Jacob yelled, shielding Mariah and Valentina from the blast. His Power Armor took a lot of damage, but it still protected him as he saved the two women.

“I got a lot more where those came from, folks!” Obadiah screamed. He only seemed to get increasingly irate with each passing second. “I still have the F.A.C.T. and I can create a whole lot more of those! I’ll—” He was cut off as a door from a high-up balcony loudly burst open. It was Captain Russell and a couple of his Dissident minions. One of them was Brendan, Russell’s lackey who was supposed to keep Mariah from escaping the Dissidents in the Fusion! factory. He was still bandaged in the places where Mariah injured him.

“Well, I was hoping Bertrand would be here by now. But what’s this?” Captain Russell said as he saw Mariah all the way across the room. Their positions were at about the same height from the ground. “Mariah! How lovely to see you again. Should have taken the chance to join the winning side when I offered it. Now you get to be slaughtered just like all these other pigs.” It was right then that Bertrand came into the room with a couple of GCU officers in tow. His position was on the same level of the floor as Obadiah’s. “And speak of the devil himself,” Russell continued. “It’s just like one of those old movies I watched when I was a little boy, before and just after the bombs. A final showdown between old foes, ready to put an end to long-simmering hostilities. I used to imagine myself in the situation of the hero, and now I get to actually live it! Destiny smiles upon me, scumbags! Time for your penance!”

“The Dissidents and the Brotherhood die today.” Bertrand retorted. “The only crimes here are those which your two organizations have committed, and the penalty is death by my firing squad. The GCU is the best hope for these wastes and it is here to stay. And I’m all. Out of. Mercy.” Bertrand added with livid emphasis, loading his weapon.

“You two morons forgot who has the upper hand here,” Obadiah said, reminding them that he still had the F.A.C.T. “I’ve already seen what this tech can do, and there is no way I will let it fall into the hands of miscreants and reprobates. There are 206 bones in the adult body, and I will break every f------ one of them in all of yours before I am done! Now, enough with this dialogue. I’m sick of your voices.”

[Fallout Soundtrack – Flames of the Ancient World]

“Imagine that. Something we can all agree on,” Russell said. “I’ve had enough of hearing you, too. Die, you filthy degenerates!” Russell and his two cohorts immediately booked for the stairwell connected to their balcony, shelling the positions of Bertrand and Obadiah, along with their soldiers, thoroughly enough that the latter two groups had to find cover behind whatever debris or standing tech that they could. It was an even three versus three versus three for the three factions.

“We need to get the F.A.C.T. shut down now, Val!” Jacob said. “We can’t let Obadiah use it anymore. Can you turn it off?”

“I’ll try! I should be able to do that, but this mainframe isn’t making it easy. The Brotherhood must have spent a long time trying to get this thing to work.” Val said as she returned to rapidly pressing keys.

“I’ll go down and help Bertrand,” Mariah said.

Jacob grabbed her left arm before she could leave. “No, Mariah. You’ll get eviscerated down there. Stay here with Val and help her in any way you can. Defend this position if anyone comes,” Jacob said, re-equipping his helmet. “I have a lot more protection right now than you do, so I’m going to help the Commander. We will win this, just stay put for now.” He then sprinted out of the room, his Power Armor causing tangible trembling in the floor. Mariah was frustrated, but she knew Jacob was right.

“Obadiah, quit hiding behind your suit, you coward!” Russell chastised the Brotherhood leader. “Fight like a real man, for once!” Debris from computers and furniture were flying all over the place.

“Says the man who constantly defers to guerilla tactics and ambushes!” Obadiah shouted back, revving up his gatling laser and firing away on the Dissident position, chipping away at their defense.

Bertrand, for his part, was waiting for any opening. Paladin Victor started marching on his spot, putting too much faith in his Power Armor to protect him while trying to pin the GCU down with gunfire. Bertrand maneuvered behind another pile of rubble and started pelting the Paladin’s armor. When the Paladin was distracted with Bertrand, one of the other GCU soldiers popped out of cover and started shooting the weakened points of armor. The Paladin made an effort to retreat to cover and lob a plasma grenade at the GCU, but as Victor tried to pull the pin the other GCU soldier inadvertently shot the grenade before it was thrown. Paladin Victor was emulsified into a green goo before he could react. That same GCU fighter, however, was quickly shot dead by one of the Dissidents. All these events happened in less than half-a-minute. A couple of errors cost two of the factions one of their combatants. Russell and the Dissidents now had the upper hand.

“Take that, you carpetbaggers!” Russell said, cackling. “That’s some wasteland justice right there, and we ain’t finished yet!”

Mariah was getting restless standing around, feeling like she wasn’t doing anything. Her impulsive nature was starting to get the better of her, though instead of rushing down to the battlefield, she crawled up to the edge of the control room overlooking the combat, where it was blown open by Obadiah’s grenades. She found a vantage point where she could take out one of the Dissidents. She unloaded her automatic laser rifle at him, burning him severely before it quickly killed him. Brendan, the other Dissident, saw what she was up to and started shooting her way. She was barely able to retreat in time.

“Mariah, stop! You’re going to get yourself killed!” Valentina pleaded with her.

“I can’t just sit here and do nothing, Val! And I don’t know these anything about these electronics even close to what you do. I’m useless right now,” Mariah said.

“No, you’re not. We wouldn’t be in this position to win without you. It is okay to stay put once in a while, you know.” Valentina assured her. Mariah felt slightly ashamed as she thought about her reckless actions again. That impulsive nature of hers couldn’t be suppressed all the time. “Hang on! I think I got it! Yes!”

The computer mainframe read out loud a new message. ‘Rerouting power. Connection to FABRICATION ACCELERATOR FOR COMBAT TECHNOLOGY offline. Mainframe shutting down.’ The visible surge of energy that was present in the F.A.C.T. dissipated.

Obadiah’s following outburst was a series of angry, unintelligible sounds rather than coherent sentences. But he did regain the ability to speak in an understandable fashion. “I will skin all of you and hang your corpses for everyone to see! The F.A.C.T. is mine! MINE!” Even his living Paladin subordinate, Sharice, was uncomfortable being next to him. “Just you wait, all of you are going to feel—.” He stopped blathering when he discovered his gatling laser’s power core was empty. The power core in his Power Armor was also depleted. He had been so focused on keeping the F.A.C.T. in his hands that he didn’t pay attention to his dwindling supplies. Obadiah got out of the suit since it was near useless now and switched to an assault rifle. Everyone exchanged gunfire for another couple of minutes, and by the end of that series the three faction leaders were the only ones left standing. Paladin Sharice, Brendan, and the other GCU soldier all had been riddled with bullets. There was now little cover left to take. Each of the leaders was waiting for someone else to make the next move.

“Both of you will suffer for the lives of my men and women cut down. I’m right on the cusp of my storybook ending, and I’ll be damned if either one of you takes it from me,” Russell said. He was less sardonic and angrier now. “The Brotherhood will soon be dead and the head of the GCU serpent will be severed.”

There was some shooting going on outside of the room. Mariah hoped it wasn’t reinforcements for Obadiah or Russell. She was going to take it upon herself to get involved again, but with a bit of a different tactic. She gave Val a signal to keep quiet and come with her as they went to the doorway that led into the control room and, as quietly as possible, contacted Bertrand. “Psst, Commander.” The shooting outside would help mask their conversation.

Bertrand was very annoyed at the interruption. He replied at a low volume as well. “Mariah, this is REALLY not a good time right now, you know.”

“No, please, Commander, listen. I have an idea to—”

“Mariah, whatever thought it is, forget it. You are not getting involved here. This is not your fight and I am not going to have you endanger yourself more than you already have.”

“I’m not jumping down there or anything, I promise. But I got an idea to break you out of this stalemate.” The bodies of Paladins Valerie and Allen that were still up with the two women still possessed two frag grenades that Mariah discovered. She discussed with Valentina and Bertrand what she was thinking, but Bertrand immediately rejected the notion.

“Forget it. You could still get shot. You are not getting involved in this anymore. If I have to die, then—”

“With all due respect, Commander, I don’t think you have any better ideas.” Just as Bertrand was adamant about her staying put, Mariah was as steadfast. “Please trust me on this.”

“Mariah . . . ugh, damn your hardheadedness. Fine. But do NOT put yourself in a position where Russell can shoot you. The only thing he’d love more than that is to perforate my body with lead.”

Russell, for his part, went back to trash-talking, attempting to get Obadiah or Bertrand to overreact. “Come on, men. You scared to die? You should be. I’ve been at this since before either of you dung-eaters were even born. As long as I cripple the Brotherhood and the GCU, me dying is just fine. My life’s work will be complete. You only delay the inevitable now. Get out here so I can finally end the both of you.”

“Shut your f------ mouth, Russell,” Obadiah berated him, seething so intensely that his body could practically explode with all his pent-up anger. “And you’re awfully quiet, Bertrand. Finally realized you’re in over your head?”

“I don’t need to say anything more until I’m through with the two of you,” Bertrand snapped. “I’m a man of action, not talk.”

“Maybe that’s your problem, Bertrand,” Russell chided him. “If you stopped to think and talk things through once in a while, maybe you wouldn’t constantly screw up. Maybe you wouldn’t have been to so quick to murder my fellow citizens.”

“A murderer claiming somebody else is a murderer? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. You’ll say and do anything to rationalize your actions. You’re a wannabe arbiter of justice. We did NOT murder anyone at Birmingham.”

“You two demonstrate once again why the Brotherhood is the only hope these wastes have. Both of your nations act tough on the outside, but inside you know they hang by mere threads,” Obadiah said. “They’re unstable, ready to eat themselves up from the inside, continually squabbling, and barely able to repel outside forces.”

Russell always had a remark ready, and this time was no different. “This coming from the guy whose organization doesn’t even have a nation. Ha! Should’ve taken up comedy instead of this line of work, Obadiah. You’re a funny guy. But I’m cutting this career of yours short.” Their constant bicker made for a good distraction for Mariah’s plan to work. On her signal, Valentina lobbed one of the grenades to Russell’s position while Mariah shot her laser rifle his way to pin him down. “Son of a . . . damn you, Mariah!” He yelled. As the grenade exploded, all that she could see was a giant pile of wreckage. Russell’s snarkiness had ceased.

As that happened, Valentina lightly tossed the other grenade just over the ledge to where Obadiah was. When it clinked on the ground, Obadiah instinctively reacted by running away from it, though there was no other place to scatter to then out in the open. He figured he would try shooting at where Bertrand so that he couldn’t shoot back, but the grenade’s explosion was close enough to cause him to stumble and involuntarily try to protect his eardrum closest to it. It gave Bertrand the window of opportunity to unload the rest of his rounds into Obadiah, who had no more Power Armor to protect him. Obadiah dropped to his knees, gurgling blood, and clutching his chest while he dropped his remaining gun. “I’m . . . sorry . . . Elder Maxson. . . . Long live . . . the Brotherhood.” He then slumped forward to the ground—dead.

Jacob finally made it into the room, ready to fire on the enemies. “Stand down, Jacob,” Bertrand raised his hand. “They’re gone. Russell and Obadiah . . . they’re finished.” He was breathing heavily, exhausted from the events of the day. Valentina and Mariah hugged each other and cheered as the four of them emerged victorious. Bertrand let out a rare laugh. “Easy there, ladies. We aren’t out of the . . . woods yet. Come on down here . . . if the coast is clear.”

“I was met by unexpected hostiles in the halls, but they should be clear. Still, be careful, ladies.” Valentina and Mariah rushed down there as quickly as they could, still wary of potential foes coming out of the woodwork. Nobody came, so they made it down to the floor with Jacob and Bertrand. Both women embraced Bertrand. He grimaced at the pain at first, then laughed again and reciprocated.

“Mariah, you’re our angel . . . once again,” Bertrand thanked her. He was still breathing hard. “You did good. No . . . you did fantastically. And Val . . . to say you went . . . above and beyond . . . is an understatement. I’m sorry I haven’t . . . given you more chances to . . . demonstrate your prowess.”

“I’m just happy you made it, Commander,” Valentina said.

Bertrand finally caught his breath. “Well, we’re not out of the woods yet. We need to see how our comrades are doing outside. Jacob, secure the F.A.C.T. If there are still some Brotherhood and Dissident stragglers, when they see this in our possession and hear that their respective leaders are dead, they’ll be quick to surrender. Mariah and Val, I need you to—”

Three gunshots rang out, hitting Bertrand in the back. “Commander!” Valentina and Mariah shrieked, their faces in shock. Jacob grabbed Bertrand before he hit the floor. They turned to see who the assailant was.

It was Russell.

The cockroach managed to crawl gingerly and quietly out of the rubble. He was bloodied all over and in immense pain, but he made it out to pull one last trick. The best he could expel was a snicker. “You can’t . . . kill the Dissidents. We will . . . be free.” He tried to use whatever ounces of energy he had left to reload his weapon to try to shoot the rest of the group. In a blind rage, Jacob laid Bertrand down gently on the floor and rushed toward Russell. Russell managed to reload his gun and shoot at Jacob, but his Power Armor was still in decent shape despite being marred by his battle in the halls. He kicked the gun out of Russell’s hand, grabbed him by the throat, and shoved him up on a wall. For the first time, Mariah could see a look of fear on Russell’s face—and it would be the last. Jacob reeled back his right fist and whaled into Russell’s head, beating it into a bloody pulp. His face became unrecognizable, but Jacob still kept punching him. Russell got away before, but he was most certainly dead now.

Even Mariah and Val couldn’t take it, having to look away from Russell’s remains for fear of vomiting with how viciously Jacob beat him. “Jacob, please! He’s dead! Stop!” Valentina cried out. Even Mariah had to plead with him to cease. Bertrand, however, was still gasping for life. Jacob came back to his senses, tossed Russell’s body to the side, and rushed back to the group.

“Commander, I, I, I still have my Stimpaks,” Mariah said, taking one out as she stuttered. She had one out before Bertrand put his hand up.

“No, Mariah . . . it won’t work. You can still . . . use them for yourself,” Bertrand barely had the strength to speak.

“You’re dying! I can still save you!”

“Mariah, please,” Bertrand grabbed her hand. “You’ve done enough here. It’s . . . my time. My wounds are too great. It’s okay. I did . . . what I set out to do.”

“Commander. You can’t . . .” Jacob’s said, his voice trembling. He took his helmet off. Save for his anger she saw when Gerald was being interrogated by him and Bertrand, this was the only time Mariah could think of where she saw emotion from Jacob.

“You’re the commander now, Jacob. You will just refer to me as Emmanuel now. Or . . . Bertrand. But I’m not your superior officer anymore.” GCU commanders sometimes went by their first names with their title while others went by their last name. “We knew this day would come . . . at some point. Just would have been nice if . . . it was because of retirement. But I’ve . . . lived a good life. I can’t overstate . . . how proud I am . . . of all three of you.” Tears were streaming down everyone’s faces at this point. “I count you all among my legitimate friends. Even if I . . . had to interact with you as a . . . commanding officer only.”

“Commander Bertrand . . .” Mariah said, her voice breaking.

“I know there’s big things waiting for you, Mariah. And you, Val. And Jacob . . . you’re ready. I’m . . . at . . . peace. Goodbye. I’ll see you soon . . . Marisol.” Bertrand’s breathing slowed until it finally stopped. Jacob checked his pulse even though he knew what the result would be. Bertrand was gone. Death came for Obadiah and Russell first, but for the survivors it felt like a pyrrhic victory.

Jacob, Valentina, and Mariah simply sat there, silently sobbing. A lengthy moment passed before the silence was gently broken. The facility started to lightly tremble as tiny bits of dust and other debris drifted down to the ground. Lieutenant Carmichael called into their radios. “I hope to God every one of you in there is still alive and has some more miracles left in them. We’ve just about finished off the Brotherhood and Dissidents but we’re now all in a deep pile of s--- because we’ve got a dreadnaught coming our way. For the love of everything, please tell me this place has some more defenses left over, because these remaining robots aren’t going to cut it. Otherwise, everyone living is screwed regardless of which side they are on.” A sudden roar was heard echoing throughout the facility and on their radios.

Dreadnaught. That was the creature Carmichael told Mariah about.

“We’re on it, Lieutenant,” Jacob replied. “Alright, Mariah and Val. We’ve still got work to do. We will come back for Comm. . . Emmanuel Bertrand after the Battle of Tyndall Air Force Base is over. Val, I need you to get back to that computer and see if there are any turrets or robots or whatever that we can power up. Anything that you can find. That machine seems to be able to control everything electronic in this facility, at least the major things, even if an override is needed.”

“You got it, Jac—, er, yes, Commander,” Valentina said, rushing back up to the control room.

“Mariah, take this Power Armor.” Jacob attached the helmet back to the rest of the suit and then stepped out of it. “I need you to get outside and help out the rest of our people with whatever they require.”

“But won’t you need this?” Mariah asked.

“You need it more than I do. I’ll secure the F.A.C.T. and provide cover for Val if absolutely necessary, but I’m certain—well, mostly sure—that all threats in this building are gone.”

“I have no idea how to use this thing!” Mariah protested. She had witnessed only a few suits of Power Armor, let alone stepped inside one. It was an intimidating set of equipment.

“You’ll get the hang of it, trust me. It takes a bit of getting used to, but you’ll get the hang of it. And you always deliver when we need it most.” Jacob put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. While Mariah was still a bit hesitant, his belief in her instilled her with enough confidence.

“I won’t let you down,” Mariah said as she stepped into it.

“I know you won’t,” Jacob said. Mariah felt awkward in the Power Armor at first, but just entering it gave her a feeling of incredible strength. It would take a bit of practice to use to its fullest potential. She rushed out of the room as quickly as she could, trying to get the hang of the suit as she went.


--------------------
"[Insert awesome/inspiring/cool/smart/pseudo-intellectual quote here.]" - Me
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Renee
post Dec 11 2020, 08:13 PM
Post #84


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



Gerald the creep is gone, thank the Nine Gods. I wonder if this Jonathan Samuels is also Jonah, that guy from the New Church who was mentioned earlier.

Okay, finally we see the F.A.C.T. in action. It does indeed create something into something, apparently from nothing. How weird. Didn't somebody say this is similar to some device in Star Trek?

Val starts controlling all the robots, how hilarious.

QUOTE
It was an even three versus three versus three for the three factions.


Not including the Apalachee. Where are they during all this? Well I guess it doesn't matter. All three leaders lost their lives. Good lord.

This post has been edited by Renee: Dec 11 2020, 09:05 PM
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RaderOfTheLostArk
post Dec 31 2020, 10:50 PM
Post #85


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From: Lilmoth, Black Marsh



@Renee - Nope, Jonah is not part of the GCU. That's all I'll say about him for now. wink.gif

As for the F.A.C.T. it isn't quite from nothing. As Obadiah indicates, it needs a weapon to deconstruct the matter of for a blueprint, but making subsequent weapons requires significantly less materials and significantly less time to make it. Almost instantaneous. It's only a taste of its potential.

And if you want a little spoiler that isn't really much of a spoiler but does hint at the future...


And you will see about the Apalachee right about now.


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



With the end of the years merely hours away, it's a perfect time to finally finish part 1 of the Fallout: Florida saga! It's frustrating that it is taking so long to write the whole thing. I really want to show all the story beats that I have planned ASAP. I have the basics of the story in notes and in my head, but the finer details are what need to be developed.

To be honest, there's something about my writing at a few pieces of this chapter that I don't like, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is. Sentence structure? The flow of it? Dialogue? I don't know. Maybe it's just the whole "you are your own worst critic" kind of thing. I do that a ton. But I do think this is good enough to publish. And I want to have it out as a send-off to the first part of the entire saga on New Year's Eve. A turning-over-a-new-leaf in multiple ways, as you will see.

So, without further ado, here's the last chapter dealing with the Panhandle. The adventure has only just begun.


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



Chapter 12: Every Ending is a New Beginning


Mariah went out a different door than she used to enter the building. She had been in there for so long that she had to reorient herself to where everything outside was. As she got around to the front where the battlefield was, she saw that all the combatants had retreated to their sides as a hulking beast came from her opposite direction. It was the Dreadnaught.

Mariah was stunned at the sight. She hadn’t seen any creature like it before. Coming from the Gulf of Mexico, which Tyndall was right on the coast of, it had been alerted by all the noise from the warfare. The only descriptions that Carmichael gave back in Panama City were not vivid, but they were accurate—it was a giant turtle-like creature. The shell of the monster was dotted by barnacles, algae, and moss. The face was still sort of turtle-shaped, but it had rows of sharp teeth similar to that of a shark. The tail was scaled and long. It had tough skin and an even tougher shell. A reddish hue ran along most of its skin and shell. And lastly, that loud roar it belted out was unnatural. How such an unholy amalgamation came to exist was confounding.

What was readily apparent was every living person at Tyndall was terrified of the behemoth. It was fortunate that the creature was still slow-moving because it was extremely resilient to attacks. While it would react in anguish at some of the gunfire, it still kept moving. It already destroyed much of what remained of a few buildings, and it was going to make it to the main part of the complex soon. Sometimes it would swing its tail to attack prey. Other times, it swung its head or chomped. And still other times, it could store water in its body to spew out and knock down opponents with extreme force. It already used those abilities on Brotherhood, Dissidents, GCU, and Apalachee alike.

Mariah had no clue what she was supposed to do against a beast like this as all of the factions were hunkered down on their respective sides. Mariah got a glimpse of the GCU side and took off her helmet briefly to show it was her. “Mariah! You’re alive!” Commander Masako called out to her. “Quickly, help us bring our wounded out of here! This monster has taken a serious beating, but it is still going, and we need to get our soldiers out of here.” The Dreadnaught had suffered many wounds, but it didn’t seem like it was that close to dying. The fiend was baring down on the wounded combatants, shaking the ground as it kept moving. It didn’t feel like anyone here was going to make it out alive.

Mariah tended to her orders. Thanks to her newfound strength in the Power Armor, she was able to carry away seriously injured GCU and Apalachee fighters. The creature thrashed around as the last few operational turrets popped out of their hiding spots, undoubtedly the work of Valentina. But they would do little but distract the creature. As they were in the process of reloading, the Dreadnaught took out the ones it could reach with its head or tail. For the last couple that were too far away, it spouted a deluge of water that was so forceful it separated the turrets from their bases. They were the last of the base’s functioning defenses.

Mariah ran to get the last couple of wounded soldiers when the Dreadnaught turned its attention to her. She froze in fear when they locked eyes. As it charged after her, she fired her combat rifle as fast as she could, though it was in vain. It viciously headbutted her, sending her flying 20 feet back and knocking the wind out of her. If Mariah didn’t have the Power Armor, she would most certainly have been killed by the sheer force. She lifted her head up to see the monster draw closer. It was getting ready to charge.

“Face me, you beast!” A voice called out to the Dreadnaught. It was Chief White-Feather, and he was carrying a Fat Man. When the Dreadnaught crashed into one of the buildings, it broke open the walls into an armory that otherwise would have been near impossible to break into. When the monster turned toward the voice, Chief-Feather shouted a war cry and launched a mini-nuke square at its head. The creature roared in anguish one last time, gurgling as a large chunk of its head was blown off. It slumped toward one side. For a moment, everyone was afraid it was still going to move after the hammering it had taken, but it stopped moving and breathing. The Dreadnaught was finally finished.

The Battle of Tyndall, at long last, was over. The GCU and the Apalachee were officially victorious.

Mariah recovered enough to pick herself up gingerly, the Power Armor critically damaged. The remaining Brotherhood and Dissidents, their numbers depleted, had surrendered. She was breathing heavily, some of it in relief. She looked around at the devastation caused at the base. So many lives lost over one piece of technology, albeit a powerful one. Tyndall still held plenty of secrets to uncover. Luckily, however, the GCU and Apalachee wouldn’t have to fight someone for them.

As she gently walked back towards her comrades, Mariah couldn’t help but feel she was being watched from afar. As she stopped and turned around, there was man standing on a hill, far enough from the action but still close enough to survey the events with the naked eye. He had his arms folded, wearing a large black coat. The bottom part flared out slightly from the top and was open in the front. He was a rather stereotypical mysterious-looking person, but she could see enough of his face to know it wasn’t someone she had ever seen before. Why in the world would somebody be wearing something like that in the Florida heat? It wasn’t as hot as many other days were since Mariah arrived, but it was still Florida in the summer.

As Mariah and the man in the black coat locked eyes for a few seconds, the man simply unfolded his arms and strolled away like nothing happened. She wanted to go after him to see what was up, but she was exhausted, and she had to report back to her allies.

“You sure saved us in the nick of time, Chief,” Mariah said as she returned, grimacing in pain. “Thanks for saving my hide.”

“The Dreadnaught unwittingly provided us with the means to defeat him, breaking open that armory. Truly, the Great Spirit was with us.”

“Well, whatever the case may be, we won,” Masako said. “But I can’t help but feel like the cost may have been too great. We lost a lot of fine men and women today.”

“It had to be done, Masako,” Lieutenant Carmichael said, stepping forward. He put a hand on her shoulder. “The F.A.C.T. was too important to let it continue to be in the wrong hands. I’ll see to it that our soldiers' sacrifices are remembered.”

Mariah wanted to rest, but she remembered that there was one other issue she had to resolve. “Wait, I almost forgot. Do you guys personally know a man named Jonathan Samuels?”

Carmichael scratched his chin as he racked his brain. “Oh yes, he’s one of Bertrand’s higher-ranking officers. Hard to keep track of all the officers below the seconds-in-command in each division sometimes. You’ll find him with Bertrand, I’m sure.”

“No,” Mariah said, her voice coming close to breaking at the mention of Bertrand’s name. “Commander Bertrand is . . . he’s gone. I was with him in the end . . . along with Valentina and Jacob . . . well, Commander Jacob now, I guess.” A dark pall fell over the group. No one was sure what to say next. Even Carmichael’s rough exterior let down. “But wait, if Samuels is not here, then where?”

“Why do you need to know this, Mariah? What is so important about him?”

“He’s the traitor!” Mariah suddenly blurted, startling the group. She explained her encounter with Gerald and what he told her.

“I’m not sure we can trust what a Dissident has to say, though,” Carmichael said. “He could have been totally screwing with us. But if that’s the case, then . . . oh, my God.”

[Fallout Soundtrack – Followers’ Credo]

They turned to find a soldier limping and bleeding heavily towards them. “Lieutenant!” The soldier gasped. “Lieutenant, we’ve been betrayed!”

“Slow down, soldier. Someone get a medic here right now!” Carmichael ordered. “What are you talking about, soldier? Stay calm.”

“One of our own, sir.” The GCU soldier was having to stop every several words to catch his breath. “We found him communicating with the Dissidents when he thought he was alone, and he shot all of us. I had to play dead, but all of my buddies are actually dead. It was . . .”

“Johnathan Samuels,” Mariah finished his sentence for him.

“Yeah, actually,” the soldier replied, stunned that she knew what name he was going to say. “Yeah, Corporal Samuels.”

“We have to warn Commander Jacob and Valentina! He’s probably going after the F.A.C.T. in a last-ditch effort!”

“S---, you were right, Mariah. We need to contact them right now.” Carmichael said, tuning the radio to the correct frequency again. “Jacob, do you read me? Jacob!”

Valentina answered on the other end. “Yeah, we’re here. But Jacob was wounded pretty badly. I’m patching him up right now, but the assailant stole the F.A.C.T. We don’t know where he went and we didn’t get a good look at him, but he wore . . . a GCU outfit.”

“That’s got to be Samuels, then, the b------. We almost lost a second commander today after just losing his own commander. Stay put, Val. We’re sending people to your location. Mariah, do you have enough left in the tank to help us pursue Samuels?”

“I think so,” Mariah answered. She was exhausted, but the rush of adrenaline gave her what she hoped was enough of a second wind. And she wasn’t going to let Samuels get away with his crimes.

“Alright, troops!” Carmichael called out to everyone. “Make sure we have the Brotherhood and Dissidents all rounded up and cuffed. I need some of you to secure the area. One of our own is working with the Dissidents still and he’s about to make out of here with our main objective. Now!” He started picking out a few soldiers to go with Mariah. “Chief, can you go with them?”

White-Feather nodded. “Let’s go and finish this, Mariah.” Mariah gave a thumbs up and retrieved her combat rifle.

//////////


Mariah, White-Feather, and a group of GCU and Apalachee fighters in tow heard a door burst open right before they reached the back of Tyndall’s main building. The man that must have been Samuels was trying to run as fast as he could with the bulky F.A.C.T., which had by now reverted to its boxed state. He heard everyone chasing him, and with his free hand shot at them with a submachine gun, slowing down his chasers but missing them with his bullets. He was still out in the open, and with Mariah’s crew still in hot pursuit he had no choice but to duck into a hangar with several dilapidated fighter jets. They had him cornered.

“It’s over, Samuels! You’re not getting out of this one. We know all about you.” White-Feather shouted at him.

“As long as I’m alive, it ain’t over,” Samuels called back. “You may have won today, but you’ll never stamp us out. Our day will come.”

“Why’d you do it?” Mariah asked incredulously. “You were supposed to be one of the GCU, and you betrayed everyone here. A ton of people died here today because of you. They might have made it out of here alive if not for you.”

“Hurts, doesn’t it?” Samuels wryly replied. “Hurts to have so many of your people die. Now you get to experience it. You know nothing about me, little Ms. Hero.”

“Care to enlighten me, then?” Mariah mostly just wanted to shoot him when she had the chance. Yet she also desired—no, needed—to know why he did it.

Samuels thought about whether to entertain the question. He finally relented after deciding that it was necessary to justify himself. “I come from the Birmingham area. About five or so years ago, I joined the GCU. Back then, I was fully conned into buying into what the GCU was selling. I thought the Dissidents were just a bunch of arrogant blowhards that didn’t want to play nice with everyone else. At the time, I thought the GCU was looking to unite everyone across the wastes under one banner, trying to rebuild civilization and make things better.

“And then the Birmingham incident happened. Countless friends and family of mine massacred who had nothing to do with any issues the GCU was involved in. That’s when the Union showed its true colors. The façade was broken. It wasn’t about unity for them. It was about control, power, forcibly instilling its own vision like they had some sort of divine right to everyone’s territory. I finally understood what the Dissidents were about: Freedom. Sovereignty. Self-determination. Any hope for widespread unification died when the world did. I eventually met with Captain Russell and other leadership, and we figured that me staying as an officer in the GCU would be more conducive to our goals. So, I waited. I moved up the ranks to Corporal. I became more ingrained in the strategy and tactics of the higher-ups in the GCU. And we finally started turning the tide in our favor. Even when you came along, Ms. Hero, we were still coming so close to our goals.

“But now, obviously, we’ve hit some serious setbacks. Yet like they say: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. And I’ll be damned if I let you take this from me. I’ve worked too hard to get to where I am now.”

“You’ve already lost, Samuels.” White-Feather said. “This can only end one way, and we all know what that is. I’m sure you’re too far gone, but you can still do the right thing before the end. Give up the technology. Now.”

Samuels laughed derisively. “You’re right about one thing, Chief. You aren’t going to convince me of anything. If I have to die, I’ll at least do it knowing I was on the right side of history.”

“Right side of history? You know how many people died because of you?” Mariah snapped. “You’re a coward. You’re arguably even worse than the rest of the Dissidents, except for Russell. At least we knew what they’d be from the get-go. We’ll take particular pleasure in offing you.”

“Then let be in a barrage of lead. I’ll take you all with me!” Samuels popped out of his hiding spot and starting shooting at everyone. He was able to do that a couple of times, but he didn’t kill anyone. When he came out a third time, multiple GCU and Apalachee personnel perforated his body. Samuels was dead before he hit the ground. Victory for the GCU and the Apalachee had finally arrived, albeit at a high cost.

The power core in Mariah’s armor had finally depleted, but she was ready to get out of the suit anyway. With no more danger around, she finally stepped out of her stuffy, confining suit. She collapsed to the ground, completely fatigued from the day’s events.

“Are you okay, Mariah?” White-Feather asked, kneeling down. He handed her some purified water.

“Yeah. Thanks, Chief,” Mariah said, gulping down half of the bottle in one go. “So . . . it’s finally over?” White-Feather nodded silently. “Honestly, doesn’t feel much like we won. Just that we . . . I don’t know. Didn’t lose the worst.”

“The wasteland has a way of doing that,” Masako said, walking up from behind. The base had finally been secured. “It beats down everybody. Until we restore civilization, it’s going to keep on mercilessly slamming us to the ground. The lawlessness feels like its own entity, doing everything it can to make humanity give up. But we can move forward. We have to. What we build now will achieve victory in the long run. It’s a worthy endeavor.” Masako had a matter-of-fact way of speaking, never condescending but emotionally balanced.

Mariah pondered Masako’s words. “I guess you’re right.” She took another long guzzle from the bottle of water. “I guess you’re right,” she said again, this time muttering to herself.

//////////


[The Ink Spots – Maybe]

Commander Darius’ crew had a great deal of success with their mission. While they had come across some Mirelurks, it wasn’t too hard for them to handle. They luckily did not have to go into the ruins of Laguna Beach or Panama City Beach, or else they would have gone up against a whole infestation of the aquatic abominations and who-knows-what. The bunker they were looking for turned out to be real, near the outskirts of Laguna Beach. His squads managed to track down some Brotherhood scouts, who had apparently found the bunker themselves and used it as their own base of operations. How they found the bunker already wasn’t immediately known, and it would be one of the subjects of interrogation of the surrendered faction.

Whatever the case was, the Brotherhood had hoped the bunker would have sufficient power for the F.A.C.T. to be operated by the time they got it. They did find some other Pre-War tech, but after taking possession of the device it became evident that the F.A.C.T. would not work on the computers there. They did not provide the necessary power and infrastructure for it and it was designed specifically to be used at a supercomputer like the one in Tyndall Air Force Base.

The GCU force that traveled there had outnumbered the Brotherhood by a sizable margin, and there weren’t any Dissidents that showed up. That indicated that Obadiah and Russell had put most, if not all, of their eggs in the Tyndall basket. The GCU suffered some casualties, but not anything near the scale of what happened for the factions that were at the Air Force base. A heavy but short battle resulted in victory for Darius and company. Now the GCU controlled both this bunker and Tyndall and could uncover many of their secrets for themselves. But there were still other investigations that needed to go on, like studies of the dead dreadnaught and how Jonathan Samuels had funneled information out of the GCU.

/////////


A memorial and celebration of the life of GCU Commander Emmanuel Bertrand was held back in his adopted home of Pensacola in the following weeks. Most of the speakers at his funeral were unsurprising—among them were Commander Darius, Commander Masako, Lieutenant Carmichael, and now-Commander Jacob. Many GCU personnel attended, though some were not able to come as they had to attend to their normal duties. They would be able to pay their respects later. Many of the Apalachee, including Chief White-Feather, were present as well in solidarity.

At the memorial, many aspects of Bertrand’s life were covered. He was born in Haiti in 2080, only three years after the Great War. As much as the War had ravaged the whole world, Haiti was one of the worst-off countries. Already struggling economically for an extended period of time, the devastation of the island nation was so severe that just about all signs of civilization were wiped out. There had been intense civil strife on the island leading up to that fateful day, and the fallout exacerbated it exponentially.

Bertrand’s parents tried hard to shield him and his older sister, Fabiola, from all the dangers in Haiti—the collapsed government desperately trying to maintain control, gangs similar to raiders, the irradiated animals and even plant life that were hostile to humans, and disease. But there was only so much they can do. When Bertrand turned 18 years old, their parents shipped him and his sister out on a boat heading for the United States in the hopes that they would find a better life there. The two young adults pleaded with their parents to come with them, but there was little room on the boat and limited resources. Their parents were also coming down with an illness and feared spreading it, feeling too weak to make the journey anyway. The parents and children bid each other farewell, heartbroken. They would never see each other again.

The boat captains feared they would be unable to make the full trip to the United States with their limited supplies. A few of the boat’s passengers fell ill and died on the way and the captains made some mistakes in navigation. Weather conditions, impacted greatly by the Great War, also made the journey dicey. All of these factors led to them making landfall in Varadero, Cuba, far off course, in the hopes of finding more food and water and to find places to give a proper burial to their fellow Haitians. It was here that Bertrand met a Cuban girl only a few days younger than him named Marisol, who was part of a group of Cuban refugees trying to escape the island themselves. The Cuban government was in league with China, the arch-nemesis of the United States, in the lead-up to the Great War. Some of its members survived the bombs and continued to oppress their citizens even more so than Pre-War. This group of refugees had finally found their break to leave for the United States and, finding a sort of kinship due to their similar circumstances, joined the Haitian refugees, agreeing to share whatever supplies they could. Two boats left, with Marisol joining Bertrand and his sister Fabiola on theirs.

The target destination had been to land in South Florida. Navigational mistakes as well as unfamiliarity with the territory, however, diverted their course much further north to Tampa Bay. Their stay would be short due to the high levels of pirate and raider activity in the region. The refugees sought refuge within the domain of a mysterious organization colloquially referred to as ‘the Society,’ based out of the ruins of the University of South Florida in Tampa, but they were refused entry. There was nothing else resembling a stable, larger-scale community in the area, and the desire to find somewhere that was stable led the refugees even further north, this time on land. Travelers coming from the north spoke of a relatively secure, fledgling nation called New Florida.

The Haitians and Cubans finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but more tragedy struck. Many of the refugees fell ill and died from disease, complications from radiation poisoning, exhaustion, or attacks from irradiated animals. Among these victims was Fabiola, Bertrand’s sister, at only 23 years old. It was at that point that Bertrand and Marisol became very close and fell in love, finding comfort in each other as basically everyone they knew was gone. They finally reached New Florida, the borders of which were far smaller than what the GCU’s part of New Florida was today and called it home. Bertrand would join New Florida’s military out of a sense of duty to protect people—the way he wished he could’ve done for others like his sister over the arduous journey from Haiti, and the way his parents protected others. About a year later, Bertrand and Marisol would get married. The Gulf Coast Union formed on July 4, 2110, and New Florida joined as one of the founding members. At that point, Bertrand had already been in the military for a decade. He was soon after transferred to Pensacola and became the Commander only a few years afterward.

But the cruelty of the wastes would strike again in 2120. After 20 years of a happy marriage, Marisol became sick from an accumulation of rads and an unspecified disease. They did not have any children, leaving Bertrand by himself. Grief-stricken, Bertrand would pour himself into his work to take his mind off of his loss. Sometimes he considered giving up completely. But he found a lot of promise in one of his younger officers, who had only been in the GCU force for five years: Jacob Parker. Bertrand took Jacob under his wing and they became close friends outside of work. Despite the fact that Bertrand was black and Jacob was white, Jacob became like the son that Bertrand never had, while Bertrand became like a father to Jacob. His real father he didn’t really get to know after he disappeared when Jacob was young. Jacob’s talent and tenacity led to him becoming second-in-command of the Pensacola division behind Bertrand. Having someone basically become family to Bertrand helped to keep him going, to soften the blows of all the losses Bertrand experienced up to that point. The mentoring that Bertrand gave to Jacob would lead to the latter assuming the position of Commander in the present day.

A bunch of other people that knew Bertrand personally had some words at the end of the funeral, when anyone could speak. Mariah and Valentina, however, did not. They could not bring themselves to talk in front of everyone, electing to sit with each other silently throughout the memorial.

/////////


September 25, 2130

Mariah had only been in the Panhandle for only about close to two months, but the cacophony of events since she arrived made it feel like several years. Yet the past couple of weeks or so were relatively uneventful, which was just fine by her. Mariah came back to Pensacola and helped around doing various jobs here and there, including scavenging from the ruins of the nearby University of West Florida. She stayed at Valentina’s home and the two of them hung out whenever they were both not working.

Jacob, meanwhile, had settled into his new position as the Commander of GCU’s Pensacola division. And while she was not even close to the second-in-command, Valentina became an unofficial aide of sorts to Jacob thanks to her actions at Tyndall Air Force Base and their friendship. She became one of the go-to people for tech-related issues, particularly when it came to terminals and computers. She also demonstrated some promise and talent with her combat skills, although they were still somewhat raw.

The thorough defeat of the Brotherhood and the Dissidents meant they were done troubling the region. The survivors of each were exiled out of GCU lands, sending the former back to the Midwest and the latter north into Georgia. In addition, the Brotherhood and the Dissidents had to give up any technology they had acquired to the GCU. They would be provided with some means to survive treks through uncivilized areas, but that was it.

The GCU also kept their word with the Apalachee, holding the F.A.C.T. but handing them the land in what was once the Apalachicola National Forest. The Apalachee and regular GCU citizens had made strong headway into eliminating the hostile wildlife there. The Apalachee retained autonomy over their internal affairs but concerns that dealt with the GCU and its citizens had varying levels of joint decision-making between the two groups.

Mariah, Valentina, and Commander Jacob were sitting at a table in the Blue Angel Inn back in Pensacola. It was the evening. Panhandle Radio played softly in the background. They laughed, traded stories, and had a few drinks, though not in excess. Some of the stories even involved people that passed, such as Bertrand and Valentina’s father, Gabriel. It helped to ease the pain. While they still faced dangers due to the lives they lived—not to mention the general perils of the Sunshine Wasteland—the past few weeks were a nice reprieve from the hectic times dealing with the Brotherhood and the Dissidents.

Still, the events were fresh on their minds, particularly the death of Bertrand. In some ways, it still felt a bit surreal even after several weeks had passed since the memorial and funeral held for him. As if on cue with the changing of their thoughts, the DJ was putting in the next tune: “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” by The Ink Spots. Perhaps there was no more song title more ironic than that following the Great War, and it was a popular tune in the Old World.

A moment of silence followed the beginning of the track as their thoughts reverted to their former Commander. Jacob spoke first. “If only Commander . . . if only Emmanuel could have lived to see the results of our work. Would have been a nice send-off into the proverbial sunset.”

“He was thinking of retiring soon?” Mariah asked.

“Yeah. At least from combat duties. He used to talk about it happening in a year or two, but after all that happened at Tyndall? Maybe he would’ve done it first chance he got. It would be one hell of an end to a career. I suppose it still was, though obviously . . . would have been nice to end it differently.”

Mariah took another sip from her drink. “I thought your speech at the memorial was really nice. So, he was like a father to you, huh?”

Jacob nodded silently. “When I was young, my father ran out on my mother. At least that’s what she thinks. Just left one day and didn’t come back, but why he did I can’t say. It’s been a long time. I’m not sure if he did abandon us or if he just got killed out in the wastes. Hard to know for sure a lot of times when you live, well, pretty much anywhere.” He took another swig of his drink, a local brew called the Pensacola Punch. “But we can all relate on that to some level: Losing a father. Including Bertrand, as you heard at the memorial. He had a really rough life. This might sound awful, but . . . maybe this was for the best, the way he went out. He died in one last act of valor. With all the people he’s lost, if he retired, he might not have been able to handle the solitude. Work with the GCU was the way he took his mind off things and if he didn’t have that anymore, the loneliness would have completely crushed him. At least now he can see his parents, sister, and Marisol again this way.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Valentina said. “It’s still hard to see someone who took such interest in my development personally and professionally be killed right in front of me like that. He was sometimes overprotective, but I knew he cared and believed in my capabilities. Sometimes, it was hard for me to feel like I belong in the GCU forces, but Bertrand liked me a lot. Even as a low rung on the ladder, he interacted with me a lot more than most people in the service. It . . . meant a lot when his final words were to me were about how proud he was of me. He was sometimes like a father to me, too. Especially with my actual dad being. . .” Valentina’s lips started to tremble again as tears started to silently stream down her face.

Mariah put a comforting arm around Valentina’s shoulders, although she, too, started to feel emotional again. She cleared her throat and gathered her thoughts, changing the subject to the relief of all of them. “So, what exactly did you want the two of us to meet you for, Jacob? Somebody that we are supposed to meet, right? How come you haven’t told us who it is yet?”

“It’s a . . . surprise of sorts, for lack of a better term. Somebody I think you and Val should meet, but that’s all I am saying until he gets here. I’ll let him tell you why I’ve kept it under wraps,” Jacob said.

“Is it somebody that we should know?”

“Not necessarily,” Jacob waved his hand. “I don’t see how you would have heard of him already. Val may have heard of him briefly before, but it’s not an individual she necessarily should have already known about. Until now, that is. And here’s the man of the hour himself.” Jacob stood up as a man in a GCU uniform walked through the Blue Angel Inn’s front door. “Sergeant Waller. Long time, no see.”

“Good to see you, too, Parker,” Sergeant Waller said, shaking his hand.

“Wait, a Sergeant?” Valentina quickly stood up to salute one of her superiors. “I, uh, it’s good to meet you, Sergeant. Sorry, I didn’t know who you were. . . .”

“At ease, soldier,” Waller assured her, extending his hand. “It’s quite alright. You had no need to know of who I am beforehand.” She shook it in return.

Mariah wasn’t sure how to address him. “Um, hello, Sergeant Waller. Nice to meet you. I’m Mariah.”

“Don’t worry, young lady. I know exactly who you are,” Waller said as they also shook hands. “I’ve heard about many of your exploits already. Jacob here has told me quite a bit about the two of you and what you did at the nearby Air Force base. Impressive work by both of you. Now, has the Commander informed you why I am here?”

Mariah and Valentina shook their heads.

“I thought it would be best to hear what you had to say directly from you, sir,” Jacob said.

“Kept it a surprise, huh?” Waller took a moment to clear his throat. “Well, ladies, let’s cut right to the chase. I have a proposition for you. Your ability to solve problems interfering with GCU operations has not gone unnoticed. And these problems go far beyond the Panhandle. The Dissidents and Brotherhood were real thorns in this area, but they were just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. I have come from what is known as the Big Bend region of Florida, around where the former state’s coastline turns decidedly south. Specifically, I come from near the old capital, Tallahassee. We have called it Old Tallahassee since the Great War and New Tallahassee was established where Wakulla Springs once was. Old and New Tally, for short.

“Anyway, Old Tally was hit hard in the War, and we had kept it off-limits for citizens and GCU personnel alike in case the radiation was still too dangerous. But for some time now, it’s clearly been taken over by someone. Whoever it is seems to have re-established the city and has effectively kept us from ever controlling it. It appears to often keep to itself, but when it doesn’t, it causes a lot of trouble. Bands of ghouls, robots, even humans have come out of there and attacked settlements. We don’t know why they get aggressive, or why in the world someone would try to bring back the old city. But we do know it isn’t for anything good.

“Additionally, there have been some problems with at least a couple of other groups in the greater Big Bend region, and unfortunately we do not know much about them either. But we are trying to keep what little information we have under wraps. News about the attacks from Old Tally have already gotten around—not like you can stop any reports from that spreading anywhere and we aren’t looking to. But any potentially sensitive intelligence about either situation needs to be kept close to the vest.

“So, before I brief the two of you any further on the state of affairs, let me finally make my formal offer: How would you like to come to New Tallahassee and help us out? I assure you that you will be suitably compensated in terms of pay and accommodations. Particularly for you, Mariah, this is not a formal induction into the GCU. We have processes for that. But we have room for, for lack of a better term, special agents that assist us in certain military operations. If you do wish to eventually become an official part of the GCU military and enforcement, there may be something for you depending on how these troubles are solved. And specifically for you, Valentina, this is a promotion. Of course, there are still plenty of superior officers to answer to, but rest assured you will be much more involved in what we do.

“Now, what do you say, ladies? Take a moment to think it over if you need to. You shouldn’t rush the decision.”

Mariah and Valentina looked at each other, hoping the other would be the first to indicate their choice. When neither did, they looked to Jacob for advice. “What do you think, Commander?” Valentina asked. “Did you know all the details?”

Jacob nodded. “I have to know what’s going on in nearby regions whenever communication is possible in case issues there spill over to the Panhandle. I am aware of some of the finer details about what’s going on around the two Tallahassees. I informed Sergeant Waller of my thoughts on the matter. Personally, I think this is a great opportunity for the both of you. You can really make your mark on helping to truly re-establish civilization in the Sunshine Wasteland—and hopefully beyond. For you, Valentina—Mariah as well, but Valentina particularly so—I believe it is best if you find yourselves some new scenery. A new start of sorts. To move on from the pain and suffering you’ve experienced here in the Panhandle. I’ll truly miss the two of you, but I also truly consider this to be for the best. And given how close of friends you are getting, I imagine that you are a package deal,” Jacob said with a slight chuckle and smirk. The last part was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it was true that neither one of them wanted to leave alone for different pastures.

Mariah and Valentina laughed. “That’s true,” Mariah said. “You get one, you get the other. The two women looked at each other for affirmation of the decision, nodding. “Alright, Sergeant Waller. We’re in.”

“Excellent,” Waller said with little fanfare, though he was clearly pleased with the answer. “We will be heading out tomorrow. So, get yourselves some good rest tonight. Say your farewells to the people you know around here. Finish whatever business you need to by early tomorrow afternoon. We need to head out ASAP. I’ll explain more when we leave for New Tallahassee. Welcome aboard.”




END OF PART 1: THE PANHANDLE
UP NEXT – PART 2: THE BIG BEND REGION


This post has been edited by RaderOfTheLostArk: Dec 31 2020, 10:51 PM


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"[Insert awesome/inspiring/cool/smart/pseudo-intellectual quote here.]" - Me
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Renee
post Jan 1 2021, 05:23 PM
Post #86


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



Ah, so this Corporal Samuels is the traitor. Has this name been mentioned before? I don't remember. I pride myself on trying to figure out plotlines. I thought the traitor was somebody not connected to GCU at all. unsure.gif

Is power armor supposed to be air-conditioned? Like a cool suit?

Oh my gosh what a dolt this Samuels is.

White Feather hands Mariah some purified water. I like how you distinguish what kind of water she's getting. smile.gif Overall I like the righteousness of their actions, at their less-civilized level of existence (compared to ours now in 2021). In other words, it seems like GCU is doing what they think is right, Dissidents are doing what they think is right, and so on. Everybody wants to rebuild society in their own ways, and some are more considerate than others. I suppose early America was like this, as we tried to break away from staying a British colony. Colonists were doing what they thought was right, and same goes for the British, and Native Americans.

I like that: Old Tally and New Tally. I hope those gals know what they're getting into.

QUOTE
To be honest, there's something about my writing at a few pieces of this chapter that I don't like, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is. Sentence structure? The flow of it? Dialogue? I don't know. Maybe it's just the whole "you are your own worst critic" kind of thing.


I know, I get this too with my own stuff sometimes. unsure.gif Usually if I go back and look at what I wrote a few years ago, sometimes I can see what bothered me. And then I want to edit stuff, even though it was written years ago!

You just have to continue to tell the story. Just get it told. smile.gif Do the best you can, et cetera.

This post has been edited by Renee: Jan 5 2021, 02:32 PM
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SubRosa
post Jan 2 2021, 03:04 AM
Post #87


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From: Between The Worlds



That was a quite a fight with Godzilla the Dreadnaught. A good capstone to the big final battle. Then finally the traitor cornered like the rat he was.

And we are off to Big Bend!


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RaderOfTheLostArk
post Jan 13 2021, 05:55 PM
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From: Lilmoth, Black Marsh



It's a bit refreshing to take a bit of a different approach now that there is a new situation down in the post-apocalyptic Sunshine State. Without spoiling too much, obviously: Big Bend is going to be where the real meat of the main story arc for Fallout: Florida begins.



Part 2: Big Bend
Chapter 13: A Tale of Two Tallahassees


September 30, 2130

Mariah was feeling like she might have found a place to settle down in the Panhandle, but now she was back to something that she was all too familiar with: Travelling to someplace new. Despite being well-acquainted with sojourning, it still was not something that she was keen on doing again. Yet this time was different in some ways. Instead of feeling like she was aimlessly wandering from place to place, Mariah felt a distinct purpose in coming here to the Big Bend region of Florida. She was going in without being totally blind about what was happening in these lands. And she had someone in Valentina that she knew and befriended already instead of completely starting from scratch.

The two women had made sure to bid farewell to all those they knew, though for Mariah that wasn’t many people. Valentina had gotten to know a lot of people in the time that she resided in Pensacola, and it was harder for her to leave than Mariah. But she was dedicated to the GCU, and their request for help in a new area would not go unanswered by her. Mariah was swayed more by an abstract desire to aid people in general who needed it rather than for the GCU specifically, though she had warmed up somewhat to the organization over the past couple months. With the crisis dealing with the Dissidents and the Brotherhood out of the way, a new call for assistance from a different land beckoned to them. It was time for Mariah and Valentina to put the past issues behind them.

The route to New Tallahassee took them through the Apalachicola National Forest, which gave Mariah a chance to say goodbye to Chief White-Feather. He bestowed a prayer to his Great Spirit upon Mariah. She wondered if this Great Spirit was wholly unique to the Apalachee or simply their name for a deity that already existed outside their culture. In any case, she was grateful for the gesture. White-Feather also conferred upon her the complimentary nickname of “The Sojourner.” It was symbolic in several ways. Like Mariah, the Apalachee were well-traveled, and sojourning to them was synonymous with gaining wisdom, fortitude, bravery, and so on. But perhaps most importantly, it was also the nickname of a legendary, ancestral figure from Apalachee oral traditions who came to their people, and even to outsiders of the tribe, in their time of need. Since that figure’s life long ago, other Apalachee heroes have been bestowed the honor of the name. While Mariah wasn’t sure whether she was the first non-Apalachee to receive the title, she appreciated the accolade. She liked the moniker, though she wasn’t entirely sure why.

But there wasn’t any more time to chatter. Mariah bid her Apalachee friend farewell. Valentina did not get to know White-Feather, but they exchanged pleasantries all the same. Before they left, they got to see some of the foundation of the budding Apalachee state in the old Apalachicola National Forest. Several hubs for trade with GCU citizens had been hastily established on the forest’s outskirts. Surprisingly, much of the Forest was still relatively lush and green compared to the nearby lands despite the Great War. They all hoped these new settlements, and the partnership between the Apalachee and the GCU, was the start of something monumental and positive for the region.

The official boundary between the Panhandle and the Big Bend region ran roughly along the former county delineations between the pair of Leon and Wakulla Counties and the group of Gadsden, Franklin, and Liberty Counties. Even though much of the visible Pre-War demarcations were wiped out in the Great War, it still made a convenient boundary from yesteryear for the GCU to use.

//////////


The convoy that Mariah and Valentina traveled on had a varied number of modes of transportation. Kolossi pulled several carts while others were hauled by Brahmin. Mariah, Valentina, and Sergeant Waller were riding in a restored Pre-War car, a rare sight in the wasteland. Some GCU mechanics had parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents that were in the same trade and had passed down their knowledge and preserved magazines about how to build and modify cars. A couple of favorites included “Corvegas Today” and “The Future of Automotives.” A few automobile experts that were still around were even alive before the bombs dropped, some of them managing to stay human (though they were now old and mostly frail) while others were turned into ghouls by excessive radiation.

[Fallout 2 Soundtrack – Many Contrasts]

As the cavalcade entered old Wakulla County, Sergeant Waller had already been filling in Mariah and Valentina about the current situation that the Big Bend division of the GCU was contending with.

“So . . . who exactly are these two groups, the Old Guard and the Enclave?” Mariah asked the Sergeant.

“We aren’t entirely sure,” Waller replied with a hint of irritation, not at Mariah’s question but at the fact that the GCU military leadership had not uncovered much information on them. “Witnesses that have come to us haven’t had many interactions with them. They aren’t exactly friendly folks, either group. But we have gathered a few important pieces of intel. For one thing, dialogue that our citizens have had with them has demonstrated that the two groups hate—or better yet, despise, loathe—each other. We’ve even seen the result of a few skirmishes between them that have left both Old Guard and Enclave members dead. Whatever they are doing here, it’s definitely not anything that we would sanction.

“At the same time, however, they are not the faction—or for all we know, the factions—that operate in Old Tallahassee. GCU citizens that have been harassed by the Old Guard and the Enclave have reported being questioned a lot about the city, how to get in, what’s in there, and so on. Multiple reports seem to demonstrate that this Old Guard makes a particular claim to ownership of this city, because they have asserted themselves as the continuation of the old state government of Florida. If that’s the case, looks like someone else has already beaten them to it. Meanwhile, the Enclave has proudly declared itself as the continuation of the U.S. federal government. It would make sense, then, that these two groups want to eviscerate each other. The relationship between the state and federal government administrations Pre-War was . . . strained, to say the least.”

“So we’ve heard. Apparently, the Dissidents, being more or less remnants of old Alabama, hated both of those governments too,” Valentina said. “They’ve outright said so.”

“Then you’ve seen that some resentments just never die,” Waller said. “Well, whatever the case is, we’re going to see that this little grudge match doesn’t amount to more trouble for the GCU. We’ve already got our hands full with whatever is in Old Tallahassee. And, it seems, so does this Old Guard and this Enclave. Be prepared for the likelihood that, however this entire situation gets resolved, it’s going to get even messier dealing with three or more factions. This is uncharted territory for us.”

As the crew came closer to New Tallahassee, Mariah and Valentina could already see the aesthetic differences between here and the Panhandle. There was a more futuristic feel to this area. Old Tallahassee, back when it was still Wakulla Springs, had been a major Pre-War tech hub, especially compared to the Panhandle. Of course, a lot of this tech was severely and negatively impacted by the bombs dropping, but there were still echoes of the scientific and industrial eminence of the area. Some faded posters for businesses and local political candidates, among other things, still clung to the walls of some boarded-up buildings. Some of the taller buildings even mostly stood up, although the colors had diminished in vibrance. A few of these structures were now home to some scavengers, hoping to pick out some Pre-War treasures to make some money.

At about 2:30 PM, their convoy came up to one of the gates leading into New Tallahassee from the west. There was a commotion just inside the city. At first, it just seemed to be the usual business, the hustle and bustle typical of a major city. But upon closer inspection, it was clear something out of the ordinary was up. “What the hell . . . ?” Sergeant Waller muttered under his breath. The vehicle came to a stop. Mariah, Valentina, and the Sergeant all got out of the vehicle to see what was going on. Laying on the ground were a small band of dead ghouls, a few of them visibly degenerated to the point that they were obviously feral. There were also a couple of humans that accompanied them in death on the concrete. A bunch of the city’s residents had crowded around the scene as several GCU officers were trying to get them to disperse. One of them caught sight of Waller and called out to him. “Sergeant!”

“Callahan, status report.” Waller said to the soldier, getting straight to the point.

“Another small-scale attack,” Callahan said, shaking his head. “We assume they came from Old Tally, but they don’t have on those ‘New State of Florida’ logos that the others had. Probably to conceal their origin. They appeared to be doing some recon, because witnesses saw several of them in town well before this attack asking questions.”

“Trying to keep a low profile? What were they looking for? And what about these ferals?”

“We’re still asking people, including other GCU soldiers that were on duty here. Some people say they were asked about a ‘Langston,’ so that sounds like a lead. Nobody seemed to know who they were talking about, though. Got some people searching through residency records to see if we have a ‘Langston’ on file. As for the ferals, the non-feral ghouls were able to keep them under wraps until things went south. Someone noticed strange activity lying in wait, so I guess that is what set off this group. Seems the non-feral ghouls were able to keep the ferals from attacking their human compatriots and from jumping out right away, but I don’t know how that is possible.”

“Any casualties?”

“We had several injuries, but nothing that a few Stimpaks can’t handle.”

“Very well. Report back to me ASAP when you find something noteworthy. Before you go, let me introduce you to our new help. This is Mariah and Valentina,” Waller said, pointing to them respectively. “Ladies, this is Desmond Callahan, Commander of the New Tallahassee garrison for the GCU. Callahan, these are two of our heroes from that battle at Tyndall Air Force Base back in the Panhandle.”

“Oh, yes, I believe your two names have been specifically mentioned. Well, welcome aboard, ladies,” Callahan greeted them. “I wish we could be more accommodating, but as you can see, we have a situation on our hands that requires our immediate attention. I hope for more proper introductions later. Unless Sergeant Waller needs you for something right now, feel free to familiarize yourself with the city. Once you get situated, we’ll call on you.”

“Yes, meet us at the main GCU station downtown at 5:00 PM,” Waller added, giving them directions to the location.

“Affirmative,” Valentina said, already reverting into her formal GCU demeanor.

“Sure thing,” Mariah said.

“Alright, show’s over, people!” Commander Callahan shouted at the citizens that were still crowded around the scene. “This is official GCU business. Disperse from the area immediately.”

“More zombie freaks attacking our great city?” Someone called out from the crowd. “When are you kicking out these walking corpses? It’s only a matter of time until the ones living here attack us.” Some of those in the crowd were muttering or audibly voicing their approval, while others looked away uncomfortably at the man’s words.

“I said to disperse! Now! Or you’ll be held for interfering with military affairs!” Callahan yelled, already having lost his patience. His threat was effective at getting the citizens to quickly leave.

Mariah and Valentina were disgusted by the anti-ghoul sentiment. “Bigots here too, huh? Ghouls are people too.” Valentina said.

“Tensions have been getting particularly bad between ghouls and non-ghouls lately.” Callahan said, shrugging. “Most of the ghouls live in one district in this city because of the harassment, forming their own little community. But you still see them around elsewhere.”

“And the GCU or the city government have done nothing about this problem?” Mariah asked.

“Look, it’s not our job to handle it,” Callahan said with a hint of dismissiveness. “I don’t like it either, but there is nothing I can do. I don’t give a damn what your skin condition is as long as you don’t cause trouble in this city. And if ghoul or human starts it, then we end it quickly. You’ll have to take it up with the mayor or the city council if you get the chance to meet them.”

Mariah was about to object further, but Sergeant Waller cut her off. “Mariah, we have other objectives to focus on here. You may not be formally inducted into the GCU, but this partnership still requires you to abide by certain guidelines. I don’t support the behavior of those citizens either, but we all need to stay focused on the task at hand. You can’t go crusading about all this other stuff.”

“But . . .” Mariah’s naturally defiant side was shining through again, but Waller and Callahan visibly did not have any tolerance for it.

“Mariah, wait,” Valentina gently but firmly placed her hand on Mariah’s shoulder to get her to stop. She knew that Mariah’s behavior was not going to go over well with their superiors. Instead, Valentina was going to try a more diplomatic route. “Sergeant. Commander. Is there a way—just for a little bit—to go down to wherever the local government conducts business? Just to help us get a lay of the land since we’re new here. Maybe they will know something that we can use in this investigation. We’ll be focused on the main reason we are here, I promise. Right, Mariah?” Valentina looked at Mariah, not-so-subtly hinting to her to go along with it. She didn’t want to lie to the Sergeant and the Commander, so instead she gave another good reason for her and Mariah to meet the city’s administration. Valentina did, however, want to talk to them about the tensions related to the ghouls.

Mariah thought for a moment, recognizing Valentina’s approach was the more effective way forward. “Yes. Sorry . . . Sergeant. Commander.” It was not easy for her to get those words out, still feeling some indignation at what she saw as their superiors’ callous disregard for the ghoul plight in the city.

“Very well,” Waller relented. “If you really need to see those politicians, you can show them your GCU badge, Valentina. But do not get caught up in some other mission. Understood?”

“Affirmative, sir,” Valentina replied, saluting.

“Mariah?” Waller waited for her reply.

“Yes . . . uh, sir,” Mariah said.

“Good. Well, go do what you must do. See you both in a couple hours.”

//////////


Mariah and Valentina got a map of New Tallahassee, finding where the local government center was. Their efforts at gaining an audience when they arrived, however, were in vain. Sheila, the city clerk—a middle-aged woman with fully silver hair, dyeing it that way to cover up some premature gray hairs, though her skin was in good shape for her age—told them that the mayor and the council were knee-deep in meetings with each other and prominent citizens of New Tallahassee and other settlements. “Sorry, but it’s nearly impossible to book something on such short notice, especially when you aren’t known to the council. You seem like lovely, bright young ladies, but there is only so much I can do. However,” Sheila paused, searching through her calendar. “There may be something else that is open later this week. But I’d need to know who exactly the two of you are and why you need to talk to the city government. For our records. Unfortunately, dears, I cannot simply tell them that you are GCU. They won’t let you in on that basis alone.”

Valentina spoke after she found the right words. “We would like to speak them on a couple of things. We want to discuss how to resolve these tensions with the ghouls, because it can’t end well for the city. Secondly, we’re conducting an investigation regarding the attack just inside the city gates earlier this afternoon. Maybe the mayor and the council can give us any sort of information that the rest of the GCU hasn’t thought about or uncovered.” She kept her promise to Sergeant Waller that she and Mariah would not put so much focus on the ghoul situation.

Sheila gave them a sweet smile. “Well, you aren’t the first one to bring up the ghoul situation. I feel bad for those poor souls. They were human once. We can just be so mean to each other, you know? I wish that were enough to get you in, but our government won’t accept that as good enough for an audience. As for the earlier attack . . . hmm,” Sheila pursed her lips as she thought about it. “I think that might work. I can’t guarantee it, but try coming in at 8:00 tomorrow morning. Sometimes they will have some ‘free’ time that they can work something in or see a general audience. And occasionally, people who need to meet the council and mayor are late for appointments.” Sheila leaned in to whisper the next sentences. “They are politicians after all. Got to seem open and listening to the public as much as possible.”

“Well, I guess we’ll try that then. Thank you so much, Sheila.” Mariah replied cordially.

“Indeed, thank you a lot, Sheila.” Valentina chimed in warmly as well. She pointed out the clock to Mariah. It was 4:30 PM. “Come on, Mariah, we need to be at the station soon. Let’s get there with time to spare.”

“Anytime, sweethearts,” Sheila responded happily, waving as the two of them waved back and walked out the door.

/////////

Mariah and Valentina arrived at the station about ten minutes before 5:00 PM. Sergeant Waller and Commander Callahan were already waiting for them in one of the offices as the front desk receptionist directed the women to them. “Ah, you came in before the appointed time,” Waller said. That’s good. I was always taught that being on-time was late and being early was on-time, so you two are off on the right foot.”

“So, do we know who this ‘Langston’ is?” Mariah asked.

“Not exactly,” Callahan said as he was still looking at some paperwork. “The terminals and paper files for residency records don’t have anybody by that name. So, if they are in this city, well, they shouldn’t be. They haven’t gone through the proper channels. Nobody likes paperwork, but the law’s the law. Though since we need more information on why this ragtag group of misfits wanted this Langston so badly that they were willing to die to nab him, we can’t afford to just kick him out once we find him. Maybe he can shed some light about what goes on in the Old Capitol.”

“But how do we not know what goes on there? If it’s safe enough that humans are living there, why hasn’t the GCU gone to fight back?”

“Because for one, we don’t know what exactly these people are capable of yet,” Waller said. “I don’t like taking hits and not being able to fight back either, but we aren’t trying to start a full-on war. Besides, they’ve got that place locked down tight, and I mean real tight. We haven’t seen anybody going in. They have some serious defenses up with turrets and robots and guards, human and ghoul. And there could still be some lingering radiation. In fact, I’d count on it. But I figure they’d have to have a lot of RadAway, Rad-X, RadShield, and so on if that’s the case as they have regular humans walking about. We’d have to send some of those with our own troops to be safe, though, and we don’t need them marching into a death trap whether they get rads or not.”

“So, we haven’t ever sent any stealth units in there for recon?” Valentina asked this time.

“A few times, but they’ve never made it back. Comms have gone nowhere with them, so we assume they are KIA. The furthest we’ll go now is send some scouts to spy from a distance. That’s mostly how we have the intel that we do now. And then there are those Old Guard and Enclave louts to deal with, so we can’t put all our eggs in one basket.”

“We have had a few recent influxes of people to the city lately, mostly ghouls but some humans,” Callahan said. “Some move on to other cities, but a lot of them have sought asylum and residence here. If this Langston is here in town, I bet he’s one of them, only trying to lay really low to avoid attention.”

“So, he’s probably from Old Tallahassee then,” Mariah reasoned. “If he’s one of those newcomers, at least some of them must be refugees and that’s why that gang wanted to find him.”

“Exactly.”

“How do we go about finding these new arrivals then? This city must keep a close eye on them,” Valentina said.

“Indeed. There’s a part of town specifically designated for people looking to move into the city as they go through the paperwork channels. Temporary housing. But we’ve had times before where they snuck into other residency districts and we had to remove them by force. There are a few small settlements outside the city walls where people we’ve had to kick out go to. But I bet this Langston knows he’s being hunted and being outside of the city is going to be too dangerous for him. He’ll try his damnedest to stay within our confines.”

“He must be very resourceful if he got out of Old Tally though,” Mariah remarked. “If few—if anyone—gets in, whoever runs the city would have made it extremely difficult to get out. He could be anywhere.”

“Good point. That’s why we’re going to question people around town about any new entrants they remember seeing,” Waller said. “See if they have heard of this Langston character. The two of you, however,” he said, pointing an index finger each at Mariah and Valentina, “are mostly done for the day. You’re still not familiar with the lay of the land, so we’re going to have you both get acclimated some more. Those past couple of hours are you just scratching the surface. But remember: Stay focused on this mission. When you are out and about, still see if you get any answers about Langston, but Callahan and I are doing most of the legwork tonight. Tomorrow, though, is when things really ramp up, so see to it that you are ready then. That’s when the real work begins. Be here at 9:30 AM.” Waller then motioned with his right hand that they were free to go. “Dismissed.”

Valentina saluted the Sergeant. Mariah hesitated at first, still feeling sort of awkward about this slightly more formal role she had with the GCU. She finally saluted, which led to Waller giving away the faintest hint of amusement, blowing air through his nose as if to chuckle without opening his mouth. “You don’t necessarily need to salute if you aren’t an official GCU soldier, Mariah,” he remarked. “But I do expect a general sense of respect and for you to follow orders when I give them.”

“Oh. Uh, okay,” Mariah replied awkwardly, following Valentina out of the room and into the station lobby.

When they were outside and out of earshot of anybody, Valentina spoke again. “9:30 . . . that gives us some time to go down to the government center tomorrow morning. Hopefully, Sheila can get us in.”

“Yeah. At least we have some time to think about what we want to say tomorrow. Have to make every second time count with the mayor and council. I’m . . . not really sure what to say to them,” Mariah said, scratching the back of her head.

“We’ll figure it out,” Valentina assured her, smiling. “I don’t know about you, but I am ravenously hungry. I saw an inn called “Wakull-Over-Ya.” She giggled at the name. “Clever play-on-words, I suppose. What do you say?”

As if right on cue, Mariah’s stomach rumbled. “Count me in,” she said as the two of them laughed, going down the street to see what this inn had to offer for food.

This post has been edited by RaderOfTheLostArk: Jan 13 2021, 05:59 PM


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Renee
post Jan 15 2021, 08:28 PM
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From: Ellicott City, Maryland



Good to know the Apalachee survived all those battles, and will continue alongside with the GCU. Hopefully their pseudo-alliance will last and last.

Corvegas and Chrysluses (Chrysli?) also live on, although they are rare. I did go through a phase during which I tried to see if there were any automobile mods in Fallout 3 back when I began playing that game on PC. nono.gif Nope, couldn't find any, although there is a good motorcycle mod.

Mariah is already getting hot-tempered at this Callahan guy!

That's cute when she doesn't know if she's supposed to salute or not. salute.gif Who is this Langston? Guess we'll find out.

This post has been edited by Renee: Jan 15 2021, 08:29 PM
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