Cable frowned, and stayed prone on his hill top. He peered through the binoculars, trying to figure out just what exactly he was looking at.
Your own death is what you’re looking at.
He thought, realizing he’d zoomed in too far. When the binoculars refocused, he was staring at a rather sizable radscorpion in the valley below. It hadn't seemed to notice him yet, but he doubted that would last long. Couldn't they sniff the air or something?
His spear lay on the ground next to him, his meager belongings tied to its head, just below the blade. He reached to his waist and pulled one of his two 10mm pistols free. The pistol’s sights got caught on the leather and the metal scraped the dirt as he jerked it free. The scorpion perked up.
Idiot! He cursed at himself, scrambling to get his other pistol free. Both guns entered into his hands, and he felt his heart leap into his throat as the gigantic arachnid turn in his direction and start scuttling towards him.
He waited, knowing he had to time before he shot. He was well trained. His father was an ex-soldier, after all. Fighting was hereditary, that made sense. He’d been taken shooting once or twice. The scorpion was twenty feet away now. With a warcry, he squeezed down on the triggers, unleashing hell on this dumb bug.
Both guns clicked, their triggers stopped short by each one’s safety.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
He hurriedly flicked the switches with his thumbs, and the scorpion was far too close for comfort by now. He unleashed a swarm of bullets on the bug, yelling as he did so. The action of arming his guns had knocked his aim off, and his first few shots missed before he managed to actually line up his aim at the bug. There was cracks and pops as the bullets penetrated the creature’s carapace, and brownish-yellow goop splashed out of the holes.
His pistols clicked empty. And the scorpion was still coming. It didn’t even look disturbed. How come its tail didn’t rattle? Didn’t their tails rattle? A quiet bug was scarier than a noisy bug, but then again bugs didn’t really make noise. He threw his guns to the sides, and let them skid across the ground.
He screamed and threw himself sideways as, in a whoosh of air, the scorpion stabbed its stinger forward. The jagged thing smashed into the ground with a thump where Cable had just been standing a moment earlier. He rolled as the thing flicked a claw to the sides, stabbing the ground. Dust flew into the air and Cable squeezed his eyes shut on reflex.
Are you trying to get yourself killed!?
He blinked them open, and was greeted with the sight of the thing’s stinger hanging right over his head. He yelped in surprise and rolled again. The scorpion stabbed down into the ground, and Cable rolled again as it smashed downward again in repetition. He collided with something, and looked down at what he had rolled on top of- the wooded shaft of his spear. He stumbled to his feet, grabbing the spear and using it as a staff of sorts, to help shove him off the ground. The scorpion got him on the backswing, whipping him right in his rump with the arch of its tail.
Cable cried out as he was launched off his feet, and sent flying into the dirt. He hurriedly rose again as the thing came at him, and made certain to untie his bag of stuff, letting it drop. The scorpion came at him in a blur, and it stabbed at his side. Cable sidestepped the blow, knocking the stinger away with the shaft of his spear. It swept at him with its claw, and he leapt over the blow, and jumped back as its mandibles went for his leg. He stumbled, however, off balance from his jump.
It jerked forward, and snapped once more with its claw, aiming to take his foot off. He drove his spear down and used it to stop the attack short, the scorpion’s claw closing around the weapon. He smiled at his own ingenuity.
The scorpion drove it’s stinger into Cable’s side.
He screamed in agony as pain instantly exploded at his side, and he stumbled away. The thing hung back, as if waiting for the poison that had now filled his blood stream to do its job. Cable would die, certainly. In an odd moment of clarity, he realized that. He had no anti-venom and, even if he could, the only antidote he would ever be able to synthesize was inside the scorpion.
I’m going to die.
He looked up from holding his side, and understood there was only one thing he could do if he even had the slimmest hope of surviving the next few minutes.
He raised his spear, and charged. The scorpion actually seemed surprised by this, and it reacted slowly, striking out with its stinger once more. Cable had been expecting this- he’d fought scorpions before. Smaller ones, but they all thought the same. However, to charge was usually suicide. He was just doing it because he was espcially desperate.
He sidestepped the stab but didn’t knock it side or dodge, he didn't have the time to anyway. He let it whiff the air alongside him. He leaped, soaring under a hasty claw swipe and, with a scream, drove his spear into the scorpion’s face, right between its two beady eyes.
The thing croaked and gurgled, foam rushing out of its mandibles as it died. He removed the spear from dead bug, blood oozing behind the stab wound, coating the blade of his spear. He stumbled to his bag of items, falling to his knees, and rifiled around inside.
He withdrew a stimpak, the last of three, and injected it above the wound, trying to reach the vein that fed directly into the artery. He smashed down the syringe’s plunger and medicine shot into his body. He yanked the used stimpak out and tossed it away. Some of the numbness faded and he no longer felt like death. He wasn’t saved. No, not by a long shot. He just wasn’t dead yet.
He hurried retied his bag to his spear, retrieved his pistols, and continued off. The endless, bland wastes stretched before him as he trudged on into the valley.
He didn’t know how long he’d been walking. He used his spear as a walking stick or a cane. Sometimes it was the only thing keeping him upright.
Cable was uncertain when it came into view, but his mouth could’ve watered when it did.
The Space Needle and the Seattle skyline stood out among the dull plainness of the surrounding around. The shrubbery was uninteresting, and all that was important sat inside that city.
He coughed, and stumbling, cursing his loss of momentum.
If I fall, I’ll…
Cable’s foot slipped out from under him, and he toppled to his hands and knees.
Never get back up…
He vomited onto the dry ground, the air filling with an acidic stench, but he felt no better. His body was unable to fight off the toxin on his own. With shaky, unsteady fingers he reached for the pouch at the end of his spear.
Stimpak… He thought, mind bleary. More time… need more time… The pouch’s drawstring wouldn’t come undone, and his fingers looked gigantic. Had they swollen or was it just his mind hallucinating?
His hands slipped from the bag and he fell forward with a dull thump, passing out in his own vomit.
The tribal perked up. He scratched his head, glancing about the open-concept kitchen and dining room. He’d started daydreaming again and she apparently faulted him for it. But it wasn’t his fault his mother was such a dreary conversationalist.
“Mrs. Thompkins.” She beckoned, not giving him any other information on purpose. She liked to leave him high and dry so that he’d embarrass himself on how much he hadn’t been listening. He didn’t actually care, but it was annoying that Mom thought he cared.
“Yeah, I agree, she’s a stone-cold bitch.” Cable said offhandedly, going back to his thoughts. He did have a book in his hands after all. Couldn’t she take a hint?
Once that would have provoked a jaw dropping reaction. Now it only got an eye roll. He wasn’t certain why he bothered. Maybe because he knew his mother didn’t really care, but it annoyed her so he went out of his way to respond as such anyway.
“No.” She said in a sing-song voice that would’ve made Cable punch her in the face if she wasn’t his mother. “She got a working Corvega.”
Cable shrugged. “So? Before the war, everyone had working Corvegas. Not even everyone has them now. We just luck out because we’re so close to the Den. Not to mention, Mrs. Thompkins is married to, yes, Mr. Thompkins who’s, coincidentally, the richest man in town. And they’re the one of the only out of three. It’s not a big deal.”
His mother frowned. Cable lay on their living room coach. It was well-made and new, just recently bought from the carpenter’s shop. His back was to her as he read some book, and she slowly rose from the dining table, where she had been listening to a radio and sipping from a glass of wine, to look at him.
“What’s wrong, Cable?”
The boy shrugged, his eyes flitting back to the book’s pages.
“Cable.” She said again, sitting down on one arm of the couch at his feet. “Please talk to me.”
He was silent a moment, before lowering his book, Lost Horizons, and speaking.
“Do you ever get bored?”
His mother canted her head at him. “Sure I get bored, I-“
“No,” he interrupted. “Not like that. Bored of… all this.” He gestured to the interior of their house.
She frowned again, and reached out to touch his leg.
“Of course I don’t get bored. I have you, your father. We live a very comfortable and fortunate life. Not so many others are as lucky as we are.”
Cable pulled his leg out of her reach. “But do you get bored? Don’t you ever wish for something more… exciting? We praise the Holy One and the Chosen One in sermons, but do we actually know anything of how they lived?”
His mother tried to interject, “The memories-”
“They were both people who took action. Just sitting here in this city, not having to work for anything, it’s sickening.”
“Cable!” His mother said in a stern voice, holding up a scolding finger. “I don’t like this line of thought from you and you’ll speak nothing further of it. Am I understood?”
Cable looked up at her quietly, and nodded. He couldn’t hide the glare in his eyes.
“Good.” She said with nod, and then went back to her wine.
Cable pulled Lost Horizons back up, and continued to read. It was obvious what he had to do. He needed to leave Arroyo.
But he had to do it with… fashion.
Cable was vaguely aware of voices. They were indistinct, and rung in his ears.
“He’s still alive.”
“Looks like poison. He self-medicated.”
“Lucky bastard, he is. What’s the call?”
“Take him. The Paladin will want to see this.”
He didn’t get to wonder further, as when he was lifted off the ground, the wave of nausea that hit him knocked him unconscious.
Cable bolted upright, and groaned in pain as he did so. He was naked almost entirely, dressed only in the compression shorts that he normally wore underneath his clothes. He looked down at the bandage wrapped around his abdomen.
He glanced around, concerned, and immediately focused on people staring at him.
There were three. A bald old man in red robes stood over him, a slightly younger man, but still old, in black combat armor was at the back of the room leaning against a wall, and a much younger man in massive, steel-colored armor stood by the door. Power armor maybe?
Cable watched them warily, before the one in combat armor spoke.
“We have some questions we’d like to ask you.”
Cable didn’t respond as he took in where he was. He was on a stretcher, and in some kind of medical room. There was equipment around and a surgical tray sat next to his stretcher.
“Where am I?” Cable asked.
“Fort Willamette.” The black armored man answered.
Cable sat so that his legs were dangling over the side of the stretcher.
“And who are you?”
“I’m Paladin Christen.” The man answered. “We are the Brotherhood of Steel.”
Cable’s eyes widened.
The…. Brotherhood… of Steel?
He knew all about them. Their past, their controversies, the dealings with them the heroes of Arroyo had. Cable had taken the time to learn all of it, he’d even met a Knight once. But he’d never expected the Brotherhood to rescue him and want something from him. This was like… a dream come true. Maybe they’d need him to do something? Or perhaps they’d give him power armor? Some cool guns too?
“What do you want?” Cable asked, much more receptive now.
“Answers, regarding this.” The Paladin motioned to the man in red robes. The robed man reached behind himself and produced Cable’s Vault suit, showing the number 13 on the back.
“Are you a Vault Dweller?”
Cable shook his head. “No. That belonged to my mother. She was, not me.”
“And Vault 13. Did she leave it? Is it still inhabited?”
Cable frowned. If the legends were true, the Brotherhood had been directly involved with the events that surrounding the Enclave and raid of Vault 13. Wouldn’t they know? “It hasn’t been for thirty years now, all the dwellers left it. It’s not even close to here…”
“And went where?” The Paladin followed up, and something about his inquisitiveness off put Cable. He was took eager, and was watching Cable with intense eyes. Cable wasn’t getting any charitable or nice vibes from Christen.
“A village, to the northwest.” Cable said, answering vaguely on purpose. Yes, the Brotherhood were supposedly good guys, but something about this line of questioning was making him uncomfortable.
“But to south of here?”
“Yes. In NCR territory.” When Cable added that tidbit of information, the Paladin’s face fell.
“I see.” The Paladin sighed, glancing to the red-robed man. “Well, it was too much to hope for.” He motioned for the power armored man to step forwards. The robed man passed Cable his jumpsuit, and he hurriedly redressed in it, pulling the synthetic boots over his feet and zippering up the elastic material of the jumpsuit. They handed him his leather jacket as well and he pulled that on.
Cable pulled that on, and glanced at the Paladin. “My weapons?”
“Knight Erring will take you to them.” The Paladin said, nodding to the man in Power Armor. Cable hopped down from the stretcher and followed the Knight out. They entered into a hallway that had an air of crisp efficiency, and he thought he could hear people chatting somewhere.
Cable stayed silent as the Knight lead him down the hall, and then outside. There was yellow grass here, and brick buildings were spread about the yard. In the distance, Cable saw a fence.
So this is a military base.
He thought as the knight lead him across the grounds, they rounded a corner, and suddenly Cable was staring up a gigantic pipe that stretcher from here and to the north, so long that it eventually disappeared from view. The pipe itself must’ve been ten or so feet in radius at least. It was absolutely massive.
“Aren’t we going to get my weapons?”
The Knight stepped over to a door that was at the base of the pipe. It was valve-operated, and he twisted it open. The swung aside, and the Knight gestured for Cable to enter. He did so, and peering around the darkness of the tunnel’s interior. He glanced down at what was at in front of him. A railcar of sorts, just big enough to fit a person, and a railroad that stretched out of sight.
“What is this?” Cable asked, in awe. “Where does it go?”
“Alaska.” The Knight responded, and Cable was aware of the warrior looming above him.
He turned around to stare directly at the Knight’s massive, armored chest, and then looked up.
Erring met his eyes.
I don’t think I’m getting my weapons back.
Cable thought belatedly as he lurched to the side, trying to get around the knight. The man moved supernaturally fast, and caught Cable with an unconcerned hand. Cable struggled, beating at the man’s arm, but only ended up hurting his own fist.
“Why are you doing this?” Cable asked in shock, squirming. He was terrified on several levels, but the most horrific thing was that he had no idea what the Knight wanted with him. The Knight half-carried half-dragged Cable to the railcar, and dropped him in it. Cable tried to leap out, but the Knight backhanded him across the face. There was a crack as he felt his cheekbone break, and stars danced across his vision. He sunk low in the railcar, which was really more of a mining cart, groaning, as the Knight reached over, tugged the steel lid over the railcar, and pulled it closed. Cable heard the click of safety lock being attached outside.
What…. What just happening? He thought, his mind dulled. He passed out quickly from shock and pain, just as he heard the screech of the mine cart’s wheels being given a shove forwards.