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Chapter Ten

Well, we-all got inside the lobby of the place, and my hackles rose when I heard the hisses and snarls of ferals all th'Hell over in there. Just then, a security camera's little red light drew my eye by poppin' on and buzzing around to cover us. Security doors swung closed with a *bang* over four of the room's five exits, including the way we come in. An intercom mounted on the wall crackled to life and a voice like a three-pack-a-day ten-decade cigarette habit come out of it. "Hey, you! Over here, quick!"

Well, I didn't have a crowbar on me to get the exit door open, so's I ambled over there. "Who'm I talkin' to?" says I.

"No time for that, human," says Mister Swallowed-Gravel, "just hurry your ass to the big room on the east end of this complex, and up the stairs there. Get a move on! I've closed off the security gates to keep our brethren off your ass, but I could open 'em all back up again any time, if you take my meaning." With that, I heard the intercom click off. Turned to look at Cass, shrugged, and ambled out the one set of still-open doors. Still lots of signs of a nasty firefight here, lots of piles of energy-weapon ash, glowing green goo, and dead monks all over the place; I kep' pickin' up all sorts of lasers and plasma guns, microfusion cells, electron charge packs, and what-have-you as we went, stuffed 'em all in Eddie's storage bin. Damn things sold for a pretty penny, after all, an' there was a *lot* of pretty pennies in that hall. Found another dead Nightkin just inside the door of the big assembly room; looked like he'd kicked the door clean off it's hinges, (there was a dead ghoul under it,) and then something had vaped most of him from the belly button to the sternum. Smelled of roast pork. He had another Stealth Boy on him, though, which I took. Most folks make the mistake of leavin' 'em turned on full power until the microfusion cell burns out in an hour or so; the Nightkin, though, were trained in how to use 'em right, could make a power pack last for a *long* time in one. I knew a few tricks myself.

We got up the stairs, to another security door and intercom/camera pair, and Mr. I-gargle-with-ground-glass says, "OK, I'm unlocking the security door. No funny shit, human, or else!" Well, we step in the security door, an' I'm expectin' to see one of the monk ghouls. Instead, I find a little, chubby, balding guy in a labcoat, dark hair and a brushy mustache, maybe thirty, sitting at the security console glowering at me with a laser Tommy-gun pointed at my belly.

Well, I'm right puzzled by this, an' I says, "Where's the ghoul feller been talkin' on the intercom, then?"

Mr. Milquetoast opens up his mouth and that same gravelly voice comes out of it. "None of your crap, human, Jason wants to talk to you upstairs, so move your ass."

"Waitaminite, who're you callin' 'human'? You're no more a ghoul'n I am. You looked in a mirror this week?" Lets face it, ghouls look like something undead out of a pre-war horror holotape: rotting flesh, peeling skin, yellowed, rheumy eyes, patchy hair an' all. This feller was a perfectly normal example of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, save for his voice.

"I said," says he, punctuated with a *click* as the safety on that laser SMG snapped off, "I don't want to hear any of your *shit*, human! Now get through there and up the stairs, damn you!"

Welp, they's a lot less of me than there was of that Nightkin at the door, so I an' ever'body headed on deeper into the complex. Looked like this was part of the R&D labs, and there was a *lot* of the monk/ghouls hangin' around up here, most of 'em lookin' thoroughly frustrated and disgusted. I says, "Which one of you would be Jason?"

A completely *weird* voice from behind me, lots of seriously strange harmonics, says, "I am Jason Bright, the prophet of the Great Journey. All the ghouls you see here are members of my flock. Welcome, wanderer." I turn around and see something the like of which I've never seen before, and probably never will again; a Glowing One, in a suit and tie. Now, some of you might never have seen one, they's pretty rare; ordinary ghouls are made by exposure to a hellish dose of radiation, but the Glowing Ones? They's taken so many rads that they literally *glow*, and can release bursts of radiation to boot. Their brains generally are pretty cooked, too; I've never heard one actually talk before. Only kind rarer is the ghouls we call "Reavers", and that's because they's so radioactive and so tough that people speculate they was caught at Ground Zero or perty close when one of the bombs went off; generally takes a *big* posse to take one of those down, since they's always crazy, hostile, *massively* radioactive, and can take a big man's torso off his hips with one swipe.

Turns out this bunch are followin' Jason 'cause he's some kind of prophet, and he's leadin' them to their version of the Promised Land, on some old passenger rockets that were bein' built here at Repconn before the War. They was almost finished gettin' 'em flyable when the Nightkin (who they call "invisible demons") broke in and took over the basements, where all of the actual rocket factory and launch facility is. The Nightkin warned all the ghouls not to come down there and they'd let 'em live; and now the ghouls see me as some kind of potential emissary to go ask the Nightkin to leave, pretty please and with sugar on top. Oh, and if I *don't*, "for our own safety" they can't let us leave until the Nightkin *and* the ghouls are gone. Oy, vey. This mess gets more twisted the deeper I get in.

Well, I told Cass and Eddie to stay up there, one can sneak in where three can't, y'know, and scuttled off to the basements. If'n I get myself killed on a fool's errand, least they'll be OK. Got down to the first of the basement production facilities, and connected one of the Stealth Boys I had up to my Pip-boy's power supply, kicked it on at the lowest level (it bein' mighty dark down there, only the emergency lights workin') and faded out of sight. I may be crazy fer tryin' this, but I ain't *stupid*. Turns out, there were only five or six of 'em left of the original band, prowlin' around down there; they'd pretty much trashed the facility lookin' for something. Caught one of 'em alone in the chief engineer's office, looked calmer than most, not that that's sayin' much, going through the file cabinets obviously reading files and throwing the ones that didn't have what he was looking for ever'where.

No time like the present, I thinks to myself, and turn off the Stealth Boy and wait for him to notice me. "Errrr? What's that, Antler? We have a visitor?" He notices me then, and says, "An assassin, more like! I say kill it, for safe's sake!" He looks at an old longhorn skull sittin' on the desk in front of him, with his head cocked like he's listenin' to it, and then he says, "Hmm? OK, I'll ask. Hi, human, why you come here?"

Oh, boy, he's nuts all right. I takes me a deep breath and start in talkin' to him. Introduces himself as "Captain, once. Last name Davison. First name...don't remember." I refrain from askin' him if he's any relation to Charlie Davison, the engineer; no profit in confusin' the poor nutjob. Turns out he and his troops are a remnant of the Master's army, been wanderin' around pretty well lost-in-the-head in the desert, without guidance ever since the Master was killed in 2161. (It bein' 2281, this batch *was* holdin' up, brain-wise, better'n most.) They were kinda goin' to pieces without leadership...and then Davison here picked up a bull's skull that started talkin' to him. He says, "...since then, things have been going really well."

Turns out, they found an invoice somewhere showed a shipment of Stealth Boys sent here from a RobCo production facility sometime pre-War, and he and his followers are here to get it at all costs. They ain't found hide nor hair of it yet, and Davison says, "...it must be in the one room we can't search." Seems they trapped one of Jason Bright's group down here in a dead-end room, and he's been holdin' 'em off since. "This ghoul tough, not squishy like the others," is how he put it. And, of course, they think the shipment is in there with this ghoul. I don't tell Davison that if it is, the ghoul probably ain't in there no more if'n he's smart, but I agree to go talk to him, see if'n I can poke around a bit. Davison also warns me not to let any of his troops see me, 'cause "...they aren't right in the head, like I am," and they'll shoot first and ask Antler questions later.

Well, doggies, what a day. Crazy religious ghouls, paranoid Nightkin, what next? I stealth up an' head down into a subbasement; looks like a delivery area and warehouse, sure enough, though the tunnel to get trucks in from outside has been blocked by a cave-in. Up on the catwalks around the old freight-handling cranes, one ghoul, surprisingly enough not in the monk's robes and carrying a .308 caliber scoped rifle. I turn off the stealth field and he snaps up the rifle, then lowers it a little more slow-like, says, "Hey, you're not one of those things, who the Hell are you and how'd you get in here?" We get to talkin' an' I tell him what I'm after and what's really goin' on, an' he agrees to help me search, so we can have a chance to get out in one piece if we can get the Nightkin to leave. Well, first place I check is the freightmasters office, and sure enough, the Stealth Boys'd come in...then one of the janitors had discovered 'em, scared the Hell out of some of the female help with 'em and got fired, and they'd sent the whole mis-shipment, less a very few, back the next day. Hoo, boy, this waren't gonna go over well. I told Harland, the ghoul, to stay there while I took the bad news back to Davison.

Well, sure enough, Davison was pissed off, 'til I pointed out that the return invoice had a shipping address on it that they might be able to find. 'Bout then, Antler told him that that was a fantastic idea, and he headed out to gather up his troops and leave in a big hurry. I stealthed up, watched 'em leave, then went with Harland to check in the generator rooms for some of the prisoners that had been taken, only to find that Harland's girlfriend was a casualty. Well, he says, "Damn it, I'm gonna miss that crooked, gap-toothed smile," but don't really seem too broke up over it, and we head back upstairs to let Jason and the others know the Nightkin were gone.
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April 2015


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