Edward Crane sat anxiously at the control board, awaiting the arrival of the General herself. Although her official title was not General (She didn’t have a title at all), it seemed like that title fit her the best.
He looked down at the screen again, to see what Rick was up to now. The Ghoul, dressed in a dirty and torn military fatigue outfit and long black cargo pants, was still ranting and screaming at the camera, which he had been doing so for the past 25 minutes. His saliva was all over the lens. Crane sighed and pressed down on a button to open up communication. “Mr. Deere, please refrain from putting more saliva on the Camera Lens,” He muttered into the speaker.
“I will put my saliva all over this goddamn camera until you give me back my weapons, my mask, my shotgun, and my motherf-“
Edward closed the coms back up, leaving the Ghoul to his mad ravings. He wondered how anyone could have so much rage built up inside of them like this ghoul had. And he never tired of it. He just kept yelling and yelling and ranting and ranting.
While Edward was reflecting on this, the automatic doors behind him slid open. He turned around in his seat, and saw her walking ellegantly towards him with that usual scowl on her face, and a cigarette wedged in between her index and middle finger. She wore a black button-up suit with a red undershirt, and a skirt that reached down to her shins. Her high heels made an eerie clicking sound as she walked.
“How is he doing?” She asked.
“Well, he’s angry,” Edward shrugged. “He’s just been sitting here and yelling for the past half hour or so.”
She took her seat in the adjacent chair and looked on into the teleprompter. Rick had now turned his attention to the wall and was unleashing his fury on it. His punches left no dent or mark in the metal, but that didn’t stop him from unleashing hell on it.
“I don’t know why we’re bothering with this guy…” Edward leaned back in his chair. “He’s a nutcase, Ms. Castile.”
“Not a nutcase. Just rabid,” She said, watching the ghoul smash his fists into the wall with great interest. “And rabid, I can work with.”
“I’m not so sure the others would want to work with rabid, though,” Edward pointed out. “If I wanted to assemble a team of mercenaries, I wouldn’t want this guy anywhere near it.”
“Well, then it’s a good thing you’re not the one assembling this team,” Ms. Castile said with a disinterested tone, before placing her finger on the button and putting her mouth to the microphone. “Mr. Deere?”
Rick’s onslaught on the wall was momentarily halted as he heard another voice speaking to him now. “What?” He said, turning his attention the speaker that was lazily hung in the corner of the room.
Ms. Castile pressed a button, allowing for the wall he had been relentlessly thrashing to slide down into the floor. In this new room, there were two adjacent walls filled with shotguns, mininuke launchers, melee weapons, pipe weapons, assault rifles, sniper rifles, grenades, and even a few laser weapons.
“Please proceed into the next area and select your weapons,” Another voice, which belonged to Edward, instructed him.
Up until this point, Rick wasn’t quite sure of what was going on. The other day he had been surrounded and detained, and today he was locked up in a white room. None of it was making sense. But gathering up a collection of weapons? Now, that made sense to him.
With a diabolical chuckle, he browsed through the selection of weapons, picking off a shotgun on the wall, as well as the ammunition that came with it. From there, he went to the section of melee weapons and picked off an axe, and then down to the heavier items, where he picked out a laser pistol and a few frag grenades.
He felt satisfied with his selection, until his eyes came to rest on something large and magnificent resting at the end of the wall. A missile launcher, as clean and fresh as it was in the factory, with 3 missiles resting just aove it.
Rick approached the missile launcher slowly, and grinned as he detached the weapon from the wall and held it firmly in his hands. He looked down the sight, but did not press the trigger as it was loaded, before strapping it to his back.
“Okay, you bastards, I have what I want,” Rick yelled, not knowing if there was a camera in the room or not. “Now what?”
Just as he said that, a door opened up behind him. This door led to a room that was much larger than the other two. This room seemed to have a makeshift fortress in it, comprised of wood and lumber. The fortress was quite small, and there were two entrances on either side of the building with a second level which seemed to as a sniping position. There was a small corridor in the center of the second level.
The first thing Rick noticed about the place was what was guarding it; In front of the doorways, there were 3 robots with laser rifles pacing the floor, as well as two robots just above them on the second floor, with laser sniper rifles.
“Now, we are going to evaluate your skills and resilience in the field,” Ms. Castile informed him. Edward began pressing a few buttons to manage the aggressiveness and accuracy of the training bots. “Your objective is to simply extract a briefcase containing vital information, and return it to me. Shoot to kill. Think you can handle that, Mr. Deere?”
“Handle it?” The Ghoul scoffed, pumping the shotgun once in his hands. “I’ve handled the toughest communist sons a bitches in the entire chinese army! I almost single handedly drove the chinese out of Anchorage! And if you think a few rusty tin cans are going to stop me, then-“
Before he could finish his gloating, the snipers took aim and fired upon Rick, who only just managed to take cover behind some steel barrels that had been placed. In fact, the path towards the fortress was littered with barricades and cover. Most likely to give Rick a chance…
“Your aim is shit, robot scum!” He shouted, taunting the robots, before dashing from behind the barrels and towards a concrete barrier. Both robots missed again, but managed to take a chunk out of the barrier.
“You missed again!” He pointed out to the cyborgs. “I thought you trash cans were supposed to have lock on targeting!”
The synths did not respond to his taunting, as they were not programmed to do so, and simply kept a look out for the ghoul to show his face. The Ghoul repeated the process of ducking between cover, slowly making his way up to the front. Eventually, he made it up to the front and the 3 Synths up in the front raised their rifles, waiting for the man behind to pop up. However, he did not pop up. Instead, a grenade flew out from behind the cover and next to the bots.
“Grenade!” One of them called out, causing all 3 to run away and hit the deck. They awaited the inevitable explosion, but to their surprise, it never came. Instead, Rick leapt out from behind his cover and took 3 well placed shots at the cowering robots. All of the shots landed, and the Synths were reduced to-
“Scrap Metal!” Rick hollered, walking over to the grenade, which still had a pin in it, and put it away.
The Snipers were still standing on the balcony, moving forward to greet the ex-marine with a barrage of shots, only for Rick to duck away and pick up one of the Synths and use it as a human shield. The snipers continued to fire, but the metal body of the synth absorbed most of the shots. Rick took advantage and whipped out his laser pistol once again, shooting both unmoving snipers down quickly.
“Pathetic!” Rick said, casually tossing the deactivated synth aside. “I'll be able to send what's left of you back to the mechanic, in a box!”
While Rick reveled in his momentary victory, Edward sighed and rubbed his temples. “He’s got a lot of skills, but I am telling you, he’s too-“
“I know he’s unpredictable, Mr. Crane,” Castile hissed, waving her hands to shush the man so that she may continue to observe the actions of Rick.
The Ghoul in question had decided to walk through the right door, into a tiny room that lead into a narrow hallway. Down that hallway, were 4 more synths on guard, as well as two turrets. Rick ducked back behind the wall, mulling over his options on how to proceed. After a while, he made a decision.
He banged his fist on the wooden walls, creating a loud enough sound to alert the Synths down the hall. One of them raised its rifle and went to investigate. Rick could hear the footsteps getting closer and closer, and detached a pickaxe from his belt.
“Identify yourself,” The bot ordered, turning the corner. He spotted Rick too late, however, and the ghoul planted his axe firmly in the side of the synth’s head. A few sparks flew from the hole before the robot lost power, and Rick yanked the body out of view of the other synths. However, the other 3 were already alerted by the death of their comrade, and moved quickly down the hall.
“You idiots better run if you know what's good for you!” Rick spat, but the programming in the 3 synths did not allow for turning and running. Instead, they charged around towards the sight of a pissed off ghoul with a shotgun aimed directly at them. Two shots sounded off, and two synths dropped dead. The third one fired off a laser, but Rick managed to sidestep that and get a third shot off. The synth flew backwards, and ceased moving.
Having dealt with the synths, Rick pulled out his laser pistol and quickly dispatched the two turrets in the ceiling, letting them fall harmlessly to the ground after a barrage of shots.
“Let me ask, when does this test start?” Rick asked aloud, not entirely sure if the people running this thing could hear him.
“You could show a bit more respect to the people who have just presented you with the opportunity of a lifetime, Mr. Deere,” Edward spoke through the microphone, having grown weary of this Ghoul’s ego and desperately wanting to humble it.
“Or you could come down here and I can rearrange the shape of your ass with my foot, but I guess you’ll just send a bunch of your junk-monkeys to take the fall for you!” Rick replied, continuing his trek through the simulation.
“I’ll have you know that-,“ Edward stopped himself mid-sentence, running a hand through his greased, receding hair. “No, I will not stoop to your level, Mr. Deere.”
“You can't even reach my level,” Rick noted.
Edward cut the mic again, and glanced up at Castile. She had a sly grin with the cigarette in the corner of that grin. “It seems he’s getting under your skin.”
“He isn’t…” Edward murmured. His bony hand glided over to a red button in the corner of his section of the control panel, and held a finger over it. “Do I have your permission to use him?”
“Oh, you don’t need my permission, Mr. Crane,” Castile shook her head, with a hint of amusement in her voice. “What you do with this test run and your robots is up to you. I’m just here to observe.”
Mr. Crane cast his sour glare back towards the button, and jammed it down into the console without a single hint of regret.
Rick, meanwhile, was moving through the fort with great ease. Aside from the occasional synth guarding the corner (which he dismantled.), He encountered no resistance in his route towards this briefcase. In fact, it was starting to get boring for the Ghoul. That is, until he entered the courtyard.
It seemed barren at first. Just a dirt floor, accompanied by exercise equipment, a few pigskins, a lonely basketball court, and an area with circular tables surrounded by chairs. The only sound was the creaking of the basketball goals.
“What do robots need all this stuff for?” The Ghoul asked aloud. “Don’t they just… drink oil and beep? And die easily?”
Rick didn’t have much time to ponder that question, as his eyes spotted a sliding door at the far end of the courtyard. It was a solid sheet of metal, with two small windows at the top. It seemed lock tight, which meant that there was probably something really important behind it. And a briefcase was something really important.
Unfortunately, it was, in fact, locked tight. Trying to pull the door up did nothing. And it seemed that there was no way to unlock it.
“What’s the matter, huh?” Rick hollered out, pulling harder on the door. “Locked the door because I hurt your feelings?”
There was no response from Edward or Castile. Instead, there was sound of something opening up behind him. There was also the sound of steel clanging together and un-oiled hinges moving about. And then, there was just heavy footsteps.
Rick turned quickly, and saw a terrifying contraption of metal and weaponry marching right towards him. It was slow, but it was menacing, with a machine gun on one wrist and a grenade launcher on the other hand.
“Any clever comments now, Mr. Deere?” Edward suddenly piped up through the microphone, seemingly pleased with having the Ghoul cornered.
Rick was silent for a moment, watching the massive construction continue its slow march towards him. “Am I supposed to be afraid of this trainwreck?” He yelled, before laughing hardily at his own comedy. “It’s funny because it looks like a train!” He cackled.
“Very funny,” Edward growled, still not a big fan of having his work mocked and embarrassed by a Ghoul, whose brains seemed to have deteriorated into a state of nothingness a long time ago. At this point, it felt less like an evaluation of Rick, and more of a test for Castile’s lead scientist.
Edward pulled a lever on the console, and the machine gun on the robot whirred to life. It took aim at Rick, who was bolting out of the corner and running for cover. The bullets were hot on his heels, however. If they had been any closer, his legs would have been minced meat.
“I guess the conductors didn’t teach you how to aim!” Rick bellowed. He began circling the metal beast, who was quite terrible at maneuvering his massive feet to move in such a motion. Distance was soon created between the bullets and he.
“I’ve seen fat chinese men move faster than you!” Rick taunted, to which the robot replied by having his right hand shot out of his arm like a missile. The hand wrapped around Rick and pinned him down to the ground, forcing the ghoul to struggle and kick like a caged animal as the robot marched over to him.
“You are a walking pile of locomotive shit! Thomas the Tank Engine wannabe!” He screeched, reaching down into the bottom of his heart to pull out every vulgar word and insult he could throw at the beast, who put his right arm down and reconnected it with his hand. With the Ghoul in his grip, he slung him through the air and down into the dirt, like a ragdoll. And the bot did it repeatedly, sending the previously secured weapons flying across the courtyard, save for his axe.
Edward was thoroughly enjoying himself. After listening to this man scream into the camera all day and bad mouth his inventions, it was extremely rewarding to watch the Ghoul be put into his place.
After a while, Edward pulled another lever, and the robot simply let Rick dangle in the air by his feet, with a line of blood trickling out of his mouth and dropping down into the dirt. Every part of his body was racked with pain.
“How are you feeling, Mr. Deere?” Edward asked innocently, though he grinned like a devil behind the safety of his control panel.
Rick looked up at the robot. His red, beady eyes met the robot’s soulless ones, and to the surprise of Edward, he grinned. “You’re gonna have to try harder to kill this son’uva bitch.”
In one quick motion, he reached for his axe and ripped it free. He then drove the weapon deep into the joints that connected hand and arm, and judging by the sparks and explosions that resulted, he had hit a critical position. The hand immediately jarred, and Rick fell harmlessly to the ground.
Edward’s expression immediately changed, and the shifted the lever back up. The robot replied accordingly, lifting his foot up and throwing it down in order to squash Rick, but the Ghoul was already out of the way and crawling towards his missile launcher.
The robot marched forward again, at the same slow pace, giving Rick some time to get there. He dug his fingers deep into the dirt and pulled, coughing up a bit of blood as he went. Victory, he knew, was in his reach, if he could just get to that launcher. If he couldn’t then it would be over. 200 plus years of fighting and surviving, all coming to an end in a test run. Dying as some bastard’s guinea pig.
“Not today!” He hollered, slapping his hand down on the missile launcher and pulling it over to him. He sat up, hauled the thing up to his shoulder, quickly took aim at the center of the beast’s chest
“Goodnight,” He muttered, and he pulled the trigger. The missile flew from the chamber and through the air, before hitting the robot directly in its chest. A thick storm of fire and sparks erupted from the robot’s chest, and a shower of molten metal and wires fell to the ground. The bot reached up and grasped at the hole, before collapsing to his knees and sending a shockwave throughout the fort as the systems began to fail. And then, the rest of it fell to the ground, just at the feet of Rick Deere.
Rick took a deep breath, and looked on at the pile or unmoving scrap, before he let out a small chuckle, which gradually grew into a laugh. “I’ll send you back to the railroad... with my condolences,” He wheezed. He hauled himself up to his feet, using the Rocket Launcher as a crutch.
Edward, meanwhile, was slamming his fists onto the console repeatedly. His pet project was just completely embarrassed, right in front of Ms. Castile. How he had yearned for that beast to prove it’s worth in the field, march through a camp of raiders and super mutants, and lay waste to them all. And it couldn’t even survive the task of taking out one ghoul.
“That’s why I chose him for this team, Mr. Crane,” Ms. Castile said, her eyes still locked on the screen. Rick was now ripping the grenade launcher free of the robot’s hand. “Any normal man would’ve been murdered on the spot by your contraptions. But not him…”
“He’s a monster,” Edward said in a trembling voice.
“A monster that we control,” Ms. Castile said.
Edward brought himself up to looking at the screen again. Rick was now blasting the door wide open with the unused missiles. “You think you can control that?”
“Indeed,” Ms. Castile nodded. She pulled a cigarette case out and selected a fresh one, popping it into her mouth. “He’s like a rabid dog. Just wants to kill things. Kill and eat whatever is in front of it,” She lit the cigarette. “Only way you befriend such a creature is by supplying it with meat.”
Rick was marching out of the shattered door, with a brown briefcase in his hand. “As long as I point him towards a group of people and tell him they’re death will be for the greater good, he’ll be of no concern.”
“I’m not so sure,” Edward said.
“We will see soon enough,” Ms. Castile said. “I will be sending him down to Tampa with Ms. Hart. As a bodyguard…”
Edward sat up in his chair and sighed. Tampa, he had seen in that recent letter. He knew what was down there, but he didn’t see any point in going down there for him. So much time and resources had already been wasted on trying to get him, but to no avail. And no matter how critical the losses were, she never gave up.
“Ms. Castile, with all due respect, he’s not worth this…” Edward shook his head. Ms. Castile did not look up. She was still focused on Rick, who was standing atop the robot with the briefcase held above his head in triumph.
“It is not a he, Mr. Crane. It’s just a machine.”
(Note: I finished a lot of this at Midnight, and did not do a proofread. If you find any gramatical or continuity errors, I'm adressing it as you read this, dw.)