A Letter

May. 2nd, 2016 03:09 pm
aaaaaaaagh_sky: Wil Smith looking smudged, wearing a pilot's uniform in Independence Day (Philly - Blood Prince)
The Blood Prince isn’t a man who sleeps much. He’s got an ice gang to train with and a city to run. Nobody gets shit done while they’re sleeping. Nap here, nap there, get up and get moving- but never waste a whole night sleeping in one solid block. And never do it anywhere predictable or someone’ll take advantage of you when you’re down.

Nevertheless there is a note waiting for him when he wakes up an hour before sunrise, and his defenseman can’t account for how it got there.

Prince-

I warned you when my people first arrived in the Philadelphia area that there were enemies coming. I know you don’t think a whole lot of a bunch of armed outsiders on your doorstep, and you probably don’t draw much distinction between the ones in plain armor versus the ones in red and black. History tends to lump outside powers together when it comes to stories of technologically advanced people who want things that locals have protected for a long time, after all. I think I can tell you a few things that may change your mind, at least a little bit.


His defenseman looks up at the sound of the Prince’s snort.

First of all- I’m willing to play by your rules. The Outcasts won’t. They’re here for the factory and they have nothing to lose. They’d be happy to sweep through Philly and put a plasma bolt through the head of anyone they see in Flyers colors, then wait for the other gangs to fight each other into exhaustion. I have no intention of doing that. I held them off from your city by stampeding those river monster things you have through their encampment, at least until my reinforcements could arrive. My people are keeping them off balance now, so they can’t join up with your rivals here in the city.

You can check on that if you want. The Royals would probably be only too happy to slip the Outcasts past your guards if they thought it would break your streak. I don’t think they’d understand that it would just get them a reputation as traitors once the gunfire started.

At any rate, the point is that the Outcasts and my people are temporarily at an impasse while they try to figure out how to fight their way into your city and take what they want by force. The Brotherhood of Steel has no desire to take over Philadelphia. We’re just interested in the suicide zone. I am prepared to do this the Philly way if I have to- I believe the standard procedure is to form a team and enter that annual tournament, yes? That's a few months from now, which neither you nor I have, but if you accept out of season challengers, then you’ve got one. Please see the last page of this letter for our roster and team pictures, plus our availability dates for a proper throw-down in the Arena.


Flip. Flip. “Fuckin’ hell. Chumpy, she’s got sponsors lined up.”

“She who?” says the bewildered defenseman.

The Prince rolls his eyes and flips back to where he’d left off.

Second- I’m prepared to make some offers in addition to the Arena throwdown that I think you may be interested in. I get the impression that you’re a man with one eye on the Hall of Fame, or whatever you have around here for gangers who fight well enough to merit a legacy. I’ve attached a list of those to the end of this letter as well.

And finally, considering what I’ve seen of you and your people and your interaction with the Pitt, I think you may appreciate the attached accounting of the Brotherhood’s dealings with Lord Ashur over the past several years. We have that much in common, if nothing else.

I await your reply on the matter of the out-of-season challenge. Painless Parker, our team physician, should be around in an hour or so to bring any messages you might want to send.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Paladin 101
Capital Wasteland Brotherhood of Steel
Team Captain, DC Caps


“Fuckin’ hell. Well, this is gonna be interesting.”
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (marked up)
It was supposed to be grassland. The light between the trees? It was daylight when Ellen saw it first. She left the cave (it smelled, it smelled so bad, and that was without the burning) and she went into the forest and there it was, down at the end of the trail. Daylight.

But, uh. This wasn’t daylight.

This was- well, it was bright and it was high above and that was fine, but it wasn’t the light of the sun. This was the light Ellen grew up with- fluorescent light. The faint bluey tinge, the flickering, all very familiar. Almost homey. Almost. The Vault was never this cold. This was- this was as cold as the big blue room the past few months, or as cold as the Anchorage sim, almost.

Vault light and this kind of cold didn’t match. It’d be like sun shining off steel walls.

She turned around. No forest. Just cinderblock walls and rows of seats and a scoreboard shiny and new as a picture.

She turned back. There was a wall in front of her, half Plexiglas, half something solid. Segmented, like an old wire fence. It went on to the left and on to the right, but in front of her it was only as high as the top of Voodoo’s head had been. The Plexiglas was scratched and foggy and when she tried to follow a crack in it downwards, she found a latch.

There was someone on the other side, moving, a man sliding along as fast as a bead of water over hot oil.

She looked over her shoulder again. Still no forest. Past the wall- past the gate- the man was sliding about in a circle.

She looked down. There were skates lying against the wall, black and silver. There was armor, red and white, and a helmet, open-faced. There was a stick as long as she was tall.

Over her shoulder, one more time. No door behind. Just the door ahead.

She was not very surprised to find that the skates fit perfectly.



It was ice below and mist above on the other side of the gate. Smooth ice, at least. Not like the lake. The Bar’s lake had ripples and lumpy places and cracks and you had to be careful of them or you’d fall. This was smooth as glass. It had marks, but they were under the surface and they were straight edges or perfect circles. It had long thin slices that arced away in perfect graceful pairs.

It had a reflection-

You have to know what you’re doing to stay on your feet on the ice. A stick to prop you up, even a nice long L-shaped one, won’t do much if you let things startle you and start flailing.

Then again, hitting the ice and rolling away probably hurt less than the alternative. The ice just hits you all over at once. A stick whooshing through the air with a sound like a baseball bat? That’s just bad news.

And it’s never really any good at all when somebody wearing that much body armor with a huge red winged wheel painted on the front bends over you with the biggest grin in the world and holds out a hand. . .



There was no clock on the scoreboard. She wished there was. Someday she’d have to tell Paladin Gunny about this (if she ever figured out how), and he’d want to know just how long she managed to stay on her feet, on ice, while trying to pound an armored man into unconsciousness with her bare hands.

(Getting away wasn’t an option. You had to know how to skate properly to do that.)

Okay, not bare hands. Gloved hands. Nice big gloves so thick her fingers looked like Fawkes’. But they were gloves, not power gauntlets, and he had a freaking stick. Hers had broken the first time she tried to fend his off. So, yeah. Bare hands.

(He never said a word. Never so much as let out a sound.)

Bright side was, nothing was stopping her from pulling him down with her when she fell except that stick. And if she lunged in at him fast enough she could get under said stick’s swing and manage a couple of punches before they both hit the ice.

(And he just. Kept. Grinning.)

Not so bright side, he had no problem with the same tactic. He was a lot heavier than she was. And he was faster. Stupid physics.



Huh. Something else she’d have to tell Gunny. Blood bounced on ice.



It was a good helmet. Her skull was still in one piece. Her face was bleeding and she was pretty sure only one of her eyes could open enough to work, but her skull was still in one piece, and she hadn’t passed out. So that was something.

Getting up from the ice- well, that was going to be a little tri-

No. No, it wasn’t. ‘A little tricky’ implied that it was possible. This was more of an ‘it’s not going to happen’ kind of thing. You needed less broken arms to do that.

She let out a breath (hey, she still had her teeth intact- Painless was going to be very sad at not getting to work his dental arts on her, but Oh Well) and got that one eye to open. The winged-wheel man was standing over her, leaning on his stick, his grin replaced by a sober look.

He didn’t say anything. After a while he held out a hand.

She wriggled her jaw, tried not to wince. “Not-“

Not after last time, it was supposed to be. He seemed to understand; he gave a small smile. “It’s okay,” he said. “I’m not a dirty player. No more fighting.”

“Ah.” She closed her eye again. “You won.”

“Mmmyep.”

He sounded pretty happy about that. Big surprise.

“You fought pretty well, though. I mean, for your first time out.”

She opened her eye again.

“Look,” said the man, all sober again. “Sometimes you can’t win. The other guy’s bigger, or stronger, or better. Sometimes he’s all three. “ He rapped padded knuckles against his armored chest. “Like me. You were never going to win.”

She didn’t know how to answer that.

“You get into a fight you can’t win, you fight anyway,” he said. “You fight hard. You put everything into it. You still have something to fight for even if you’re never going to win.”

“Hn?”

“Respect,” he said. “The next time you can look yourself in the mirror, you’ll be able to look yourself in the eyes. You didn’t lose because of something you didn’t do. You were just outclassed, and you fought like hell anyway. You can respect yourself after a loss like that. Fight like that, and even if you lose, the crowd’s gonna respect you for it.” He tapped his chest again. ”I’m gonna respect you for it.”

“Oh.” (Anything else would have too many consonants in it.)

“Tell you what,” he said. “I can patch some of this up and you can take the rest of it to a doctor you know. Trust me, I know how to set a bone or stitch up a cut- done it for myself plenty of times. And take this, will you? You lost, but I owe you something for giving me a good fight anyway.”

It was, Ellen thought as she closed her fingers around it, an amazingly heavy stick.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (one hand up)
It started when the cow got out. Well, it started a long time before that. But the important part is the cow.

Okay, no, the important part is what was chasing the cow. Since when did they have yao guai at Milliways? Let alone yao guai that big?

(They had bears that big in Zion. Not that Ellen knew this.)

It wasn’t a Deathclaw or a fire ant queen, just a bear, an oversized one. She didn’t need help for a bear. Not when her cow was in danger. Best to take what she was wearing- her Gauss rifle, her sword, her stealth suit- and go after it. Nobody at the Bar needed a monstrous yao guai surprise.




The cow got away. That was a good thing. There was a chase and a few tricks and a diversion of paths in the woods and the cow went down the left path while Ellen drove the bear down the right. So that was good.

The bear kept running.

(The Sorrows could have told her this would happen.)




She should’ve stopped, maybe. Should’ve let the bear go, gone back, warned the patrons. Let people who knew forests and trees find it. Maybe someone could chase it out of the world, back to where it came from. Someone who wouldn’t get lost.

There really were an awful lot of trees in every direction, and even with the goggles the bear’s trail was incredibly spotty.

… come to think of it, when she turned around, so was her own.




Go far enough into a forest and you are supposed to come out the other side. The mountains at Milliways only have one side- get to the top and you’re going down the same way you came up. The forest gave the impression of working the opposite way. Get to the middle, and the middle went on forever instead.

That, or she was going in circles, following a scent trail that drifted over the ground like it was made of smoke.



The forest ended. There was rock. It went up.

It wasn’t the mountains. The mountains slanted. This was just rock and it went up. It went up to the left and up to the right and up and up and up and up.

(The rockface Evergreen Mills was carved into was her only point of reference for the concept of ‘cliffs’. It didn’t help.)

There was a hole in the rock, at least. A cave mouth. Looked bad, smelled worse.

But the trail led in, so that was something.



Bears are bad news. Giant bears are worse. Lots of giant bears are even worse than that.

Giant bears behind you are no good at all.

Giant bears made of fire-



A lot of things about the Brotherhood of Steel aren’t well known, even to its oldest members. Mostly they’re to do with the beginning. The Founder didn’t write that much down. Some things needed knowing, some didn’t, is how the Scribes see it these days. Maybe he thought things needed forgetting.

But he started with ordinary soldiers, and then the fire from heaven fell, and when the dust settled and the black rains were over he’d made knights and paladins of the fighters, and scribes of the others. And that was the end of anything expected, or even ordinary.

(It started, after all, a long time before the cow got out.)



The thing with Gauss rifles was that they were loud, and not really made for fighting for your life in close quarters. If you didn’t get kicked back into the enemy or the nearest wall by the recoil you’d get knocked deaf by the echo. Swords, now, those were something else. Especially the kind that crackled blue with electricity at the slightest provocation.

Like hitting an only partially real bear made of fire, and making it disappear.

Or like hitting a very real bear made of fire, and making it roar so loudly the cave walls shake.

Or running the aforementioned bear made of fire through. . .



Oh. Now there was a way out of the forest.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (Zion)
It's a long haul across a lot of territory if you're planning on making it through Utah. Longer if you're doing it with the deliberate intent of being as careful as possible. The place is crawling with hostile wildlife, hostile tribals, and just general hostility of every human and other living kind.

Voodoo and his companions are good at surviving hostility by this point. Not everyone is.

Like the shaven-headed fellow with all the tattoos whose neck is bent at an incredibly awkward angle, up to the side of the path ahead.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: The Quaker star symbol, a black four-pointed star imposed over a red four-pointed star (PA - Friends)
Who lives by the sword, dies by the sword; but who lives by compassion will one day see compassion shown them. This is how the Friends have survived the years since the seas boiled and the skies fell. Not in theory alone, either, but in practice. There's a reason for the mural painted in the Welcoming Hall, the one of the woman and the hairy yao guai and the one-headed Brahmin; the woman's name was Girolama, who became one of us not long after the War, and I want now to tell you why she's depicted with those animals.

At one time of her life, Girolama lived in a scav-town west of here, one that was trying with all its might to grow its own food and prosper. This was before she learned what it meant to be a Friend, when she still carried a gun and fought her fellow human beings like any other outsider. One day she and a man were standing evening guard against the raiders and slave-takers that roamed the wastes when a great, hairy beast- like a yao guai, but with black hair all over, if you can believe that- suddenly appeared walking up to them. They were both horribly frightened, and her companion ran, because the beast was too big and too tough for his ammunition to do any real harm to. But Girolama had noticed that as the yao guai walked, it limped like it was in terrible pain. And even though Girolama still carried a gun in those days, she still always tried to help anyone in trouble who offered her no harm. So she thought perhaps something might be happening here, and instead of running or shooting, waited to see what was wrong with the animal.

The yao guai came right up to the gate, grumbling and whimpering, and when it was very close Girolama saw that it couldn't even put the least little bit of weight on one paw. It looked at her, and lay down, and put its other paw over its muzzle.

Girolama fearlessly walked up to it and when it offered her no harm, reached for the injured paw. It let her do so. She saw as she took the paw on her lap that it was terribly wounded and festering, and she also saw marks around its neck, like the kind a slave-collar leaves on a human even after it's pried loose. Someone had chained up the yao guai and done it great harm, and somehow it had escaped, but it could not heal on its own. So Girolama took what little she had of medical supplies and bound the injured limb. The wound was rather a bad one, but Girolama kept the yao guai with her and nursed her carefully, giving the creature her own food and subsisting on next to nothing till the yao guai was quite well again.

The yao guai was so grateful, and became so much attached to her kind doctor, that she refused to leave. Now, this was a scav-town and there was very little to spare for anyone, so not one single soul from the highest to the lowest, man or beast, was allowed to lead an idle life. Girolama said she would teach the creature to earn its keep, and so she did. There were two Brahmin in the town, although you wouldn't recognize them; they had red fur above and white fur below, and stubby horns, and only one head each. They were nowhere near so big as the Brahmin are now, but they could still carry any load the scavvers bound on their backs. Girolama taught her yao guai companion to guard and watch over them both when the humans had to sleep. The yao guai and Brahmin became great friends, and no doubt the Brahmin felt much comfort in having such a powerful protector.

But it happened, on one very hot summer's day, that while the Brahmin were at pasture the yao guai fell asleep. Some raiders were passing that way and seeing the Brahmin grazing quietly, and apparently alone, they stole one of them and carried her off. The other, the bull, would not cooperate, but fled to wake the yao guai. She awoke; but when she went after the cow she was not to be seen. In vain the yao guai tried to follow her trail, but the raiders were clever enough to conceal themselves, and she had to go back to the scav-town alone, shuffling in shame with her head held low.

Now, this was a bright yao guai, but like any other, she could not speak. Girolama thought she might have fallen to temptation and attacked the cow, but there was no blood on her muzzle or claws. So she said to spare the yao guai's life, because no one ought to die unless there was clear proof, but she ordered that the yao guai do the Brahmin's work as far as she was able, since she had failed in her duty otherwise.

The yao guai meekly submitted, and allowed the daily loads of scrap metal and baskets of scavenged food to be tied on her back, and carried them safely home. As soon as she was unloaded she would run about for some time, still hoping to find the Brahmin.

One day, as she was hunting about in this fashion, she saw a band of raiders coming down the road. As was usual with them, they'd lashed the spoils of their last battle together to bring somewhere they could be sold; and to the yao guai's great joy, their beast of burden was her lost friend.

She instantly charged the company, who were unprepared for a great black beast and could not get their guns free quickly enough. The raiders scattered, and the yao guai had no difficulty in driving them towards the scav-town, where Girolama met them.

The raiders, much alarmed by anyone who could tame such a monster, confessed their theft, and Girolama forgave them, and was very kind to them; and confused by the fact that no one wanted to kill them, many of them gave up their violent ways and agreed to live like civilized people. The Brahmin, of course, returned to her former owners. And the yao guai was much petted and praised for her goodness and cleverness, and lived with Girolama till the end of her life.

So Girolama realized that it was a good thing to extend kindness to the dangerous, and offer forgiveness to the violent; but it was also a good thing to have powerful guardians. When she left that scav-town and joined us here in Philly, she brought the yao guai with her, and took to rescuing and taming the creatures the ice gangers round up and battle for their bloody amusements. They protected her, and her friends, out of loyalty and thanks for their compassion. To the day she died, she showed love to the most dangerous and violent of creatures, and they showed her love in return in the only ways they knew how. We continue her tradition to this day. We do not fight, and we do harm to no man, but we reach out our hands to the ones who need it most and give them such compassion as we can.

And we make very, very sure that everyone knows this, so nobody starts anything they're not prepared to have end in claws and blood.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (Canada - Bear warning)
The North American continent is big. Not stupidly big- it's not Asia or anything- but it's still pretty damned big, especially when you're a) walking and b) periodically set upon by mutated things that want to eat you. It is probably best not to speak of the ruins of Cincinnati, or of what lurked in the landscape of thorns where Hoosier National Forest once stood, or of the stretch of road punctuated solely by massive granite sculptures of Popeye chararacters, who watched over the endless empty miles with blank gray eyes, forever.

Unfortunately that leaves the ruins of East St. Louis to talk about, and that wasn't even nice before the war.

At least a binocular sweep of the place from a nice safe distance indicates there's lights in what's left of some of the buildings, and shapes that look more human than otherwise.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (Brotherhood of Steel)
The Blood Prince isn't the only power in the city of Philadelphia, according to Painless. Dr. D was kind enough to confirm the dentist's statement. There are other ice gangs and they all have their own leaders, and any one of them could probably take control of the city in the next year's tournament if they had a little assistance. The Royals are supposed to have the strongest membership and the best chance; they cost the Flyers an awful lot of good blood last year. Bring in some better equipment, maybe an outside team member or two-

Ellen put up a hand and stopped the discussion right there.

Philly's a city, and one that's working, at least as far as she can see. Its system of government isn't the most stable, but... it's working. It's a mess, but it's a more unified mess than the Capital, which is more of a super-loose confederation that more or less views the Brotherhood as a de facto government of sorts. It's got a food supply, and a water supply, and it's largely kept the raiders out. And while there's a hell of a lot of internecine violence in the areas where ice gangs demand tribute and payment from the residents, it's not nearly as bad as the Pitt. Not to mention that she's yet to see any slaves captured or bought or sold, which is a big thing. It's a mess- but it's a mess that works. They've been in the city less than a month. Everything they know about the place, they know from either Painless or Dr. D. Intervening now, on anyone's behalf, would be the equivalent of chucking a grenade down a fire ant tunnel. Mission or no mission, Outcasts coming or no, they don't interfere with anything until they have a better picture of the situation.

The next few days are going to be busy. Tomorrow they're going to make contact with the Friends, and find out how people with a reputation for never engaging in combat can walk the streets of a city like this without being slaughtered out of existence. There's supposed to be a Vault in the area, too, and a trade delegation from another Vault somewhere nearby; they're part of why the city can eat, apparently, so it's probably wise to meet with them and find out how they've managed all this time. There's a meatface- apparently that's what the locals call ghouls- who's supposed to have his finger on the city's pulse better than anyone else, but he doesn't much like outsiders, so it's going to be tricky getting to talk to him. There's an exhibition match coming up on the Arena's ice- not that Ellen particularly wants to spend Brotherhood time and resources watching grown men and women beat each others' heads in for sport, but Painless swears it's a good way to meet everyday Philly dwellers en masse, and Dr. D reluctantly agreed with him. Plus, well, it seldom hurts to get a look at potential enemies' or potential allies' fighting styles. There's a lot to do.

And the Outcasts are coming, somewhere in all of that, looking to blow past the Blood Prince and grab General Atomics for themselves before she can make her move.

And the reinforcements are coming from the Citadel, looking to her for orders.

This isn't RobCo. RobCo was easy, by comparison. RobCo was just- well, it was her idea to begin with, and then her pet project, and by the time it was her responsibility she'd already laid the foundations and then some. There was no sense of everyone breathing down her neck and every eye being on her. If she'd failed to get the RobCo plant working again- well, it would've been a waste of time and resources, but that would've been it. Nobody would've died for it. Nothing would change except her reputation.

If the Outcasts take General Atomics somehow, it'll restart the Brotherhood civil war in the Capital. If they fail, but she doesn't succeed in securing it, they'll just keep trying. Casdin might order them not to, but given that this bunch slipped out of Fort Independence without his okay, she doubts orders from him will slow anyone else down. They won't be likely to bother if General Atomics ends up in Citadel Brotherhood hands. Reclaiming the place is, after all, reclaiming pre-War tech, and not even the most reactionary Outcast could fault Elder Lyons for doing exactly what the Brotherhood was supposed to do.

Theoretically- theoretically- they could remove General Atomics from the equation. The area's a suicide zone; no one in the city would be particularly stricken if the plant were to be somehow wiped off the face of the Earth, either by orbital death ray or by some more conventional means. Given what Ellen's seen of the robobrain population in there, that would be a mass mercy kill- but it would also be sacrilege of the highest order. Lyons and Casdin might have different priorities, but they both hold to the same core Brotherhood belief that the technology of the ancients is both vital and necessary to the rebuilding of the human race. Destroying General Atomics to keep it out of Outcast hands might spare the Citadel Brotherhood the mess of a new civil war, but only because it would bring both the Citadel Brotherhood and the Outcasts together in arms against her. She's dead sure of that.

The other alternative- which the Outcasts may be considering, or not, she doesn't really know- is the polar opposite: remove the city from the equation. Take out the leadership and gut the power structure of all the major ice gangs and force the surrender of the survivors, then install a puppet leadership scheme in their place. The Blood Prince isn't the only one who knows history; Ellen's history texts talked about America's long-ago acquisition of Hawaii, and about power struggles in half a dozen South American nations. If the existing power structure isn't congenial to your liking, overwrite it all and cut down anyone who stands in your way until there's no choice left but to accept the outsiders- it's happened before, and it could probably be done again. The thing is that Ellen has a conscience, and while she's called down fire from heaven on her enemies to cleanse the world before, plain old slaughter and the breaking of backs doesn't sit well with her. She's all too aware of how close she stands to the Red Rider of the Apocalypse. She's not about to throw in her lot with the White.

So.

Convince the Blood Prince to give them permission to access the place on an ongoing basis, or come up with an alternative based on what works for the locals. And do it fast.

( "We believe in technology, in the triumph of the creations of the ancients over the horrors and evils of the Wasteland. We believe in trust. Trust in technology. Trust in our fellow Brothers. Trust in our elders. Ah, and we believe in victory. Our forces have dwindled, but still we fight on. Super mutant, Enclave, it matters not. Surrender is not an option." )

And believe, with all her heart, that it can be done. If nothing else, Elder Lyons believes she can do it. So... she'd better live up to his faith in her.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: Yellowed grass with a fuzzy dark treeline and dark sky in the background and a whitish obelisk top in the foreground (Canada - grass and treeline and concrete)
Back before the Great War, if for some reason you wanted to travel from Washington to Las Vegas without taking a plane or a train, you got in the car and you made for the nearest interstate, and you didn't think twice about it until your kids in the back seat started screaming at you to stop at the next hotel with color TV and a pool. But that was then, and this is now, and following the remains of the interstate blindly out of DC will get you eaten by Deathclaws if you're lucky. The safest routes follow older, smaller roads- where roads still exist at all, since DC was a massive strategic target- and they aren't particularly direct. All the direct ones go to places Voodoo and his people really don't want to be.

Fortunately, a few of the old US highways lead to places that weren't completely pounded flat by the Bomb, and some of the old state roads may have fallen to pieces but still make their presence felt, and if you have a compass and an understanding of just how far magnetic North has moved since your own time and enough patience, you can make good use of that to get to places that just might have more humans than horrors.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: Wil Smith looking smudged, wearing a pilot's uniform in Independence Day (Philly - Blood Prince)
The Blood Prince leaned back in his chair. His knuckles were pressed together; he steepled his index fingers and the tips of his thumbs. "Lemme see if I've got this straight," he said. "A bunch of foreigners show up out of nowhere and start poking around my city, then come back here and tell me they want permanent access to a chunk of it that nobody survives visiting, and I'm supposed to think letting them go for it isn't supposed to come back and bite me in the ass?"

Ellen willed herself not to fidget. The Knights had warned her about the disclosure approach. "Sir," she said, "we're willing to trade-"

"No offense or nothing, Paladin, but 'trade' means you got something I want and I got something you want." He fixed her with a flat look. "I ain't all that sure you can make good on your end of that. You're a long way from home, you got two men in armor and one man in a dress-"

"It's robes. And they're armored."

The Prince ignored him. "-one of my own people keepin' you from walking into the river, a cow, and some kind of freak-ass robot. That's not a whole lot compared to what you want."

"Sir-"

"I'm not a stupid man, Paladin. You got in and out of GA and your man didn't die. I let you keep trying, I'm gonna wake up one morning and find out you got the robots to join your team. Next thing I know you start drafting my people out from under my nose, and I wind up having to round up everyone who's left and fall back to my auntie and uncle's compound in Bel Air."

"…. That's kind of an impressive series of leaps of logic," Ellen said after some stunned blinking. "Um."

"Hey, I may not be what you're used to dealing with, but I know what history looks like," said the Prince. "I got a season pass to the House of Franklin. I can read."

"I see," Ellen said. "In that case I should probably tell you that there's at least one group intending to force your hand on its way…"




He'd listened. He'd said some words Ellen didn't understand, although she probably didn't need to. He'd said he'd give it some thought, and then sent her away. It… wasn't what she had hoped, but was probably better than she could have expected. One of the Flyers, a tall, sallow man whose orange and black armor was held together with more straps than Ellen would've thought possible, led them back through the halls of the former prison. "We'll come find you when he decides," he said. "Don't do anything stupid in the meantime."

Ellen chose not to answer that.

When the Pen's gates closed behind them Ellen didn't say anything, but let Painless take the lead. As they started back towards the House of Franklin, Kang quietly said, "Permission to speak freely, ma'am?"

"Go ahead, Knight."

"This isn't Evergreen Mills, ma'am,' said Kang. "This is a whole city. You're not going to be able to sweep in here with a couple of extra Paladins and a couple of extra mole people and expect to take the factory and hold it. Factories need parts and resources, and if the city turns against us…"

"He doesn't have to fight us to get us out. I know," said Ellen. "All he has to do is choke off our supply lines. This place is in better shape than the old RobCo plant, but it'll still take us a long time to get it back up to full function, assuming we can secure it in the first place."

Kang nodded. "We're gonna have to get on his good side," he said, his helmet-muffled voice taking on a gloom-tinged tone. "Just to have a chance."

"I dunno, you guys," said Painless carefully. "There might be a couple other ways."

Ellen blinked, and glanced at their guide. "What do you mean?"

Painless shrugged. "Seems to me you need the city on your side, more than the Prince, specifically," he said. "Now, understand, I'm not saying anything against him, and frankly I think he's the best thing to happen to this city in a long time, but he's not the only force in this city. Not everybody loves the Flyers. You get some of the other ice gangs on your side, and you might not have to worry that much. Frankly, you probably want to do that anyway. The Flyers've won the City Cup fifteen years running, but streaks have to end sometime, and then you're gonna have this argument all over again."

Conklin, who had been silent the whole time, suddenly let out a low, hoarse laugh. "Unless we take this Cup ourselves," he said. "Didn't you win some kind of fight tournament in the Pitt, Paladin?"

"That wasn't on ice!" Ellen snapped. "And all Elder Lyons wants is secure access, not a whole city!"

"Didn't you just have orders to investigate Evergreen Mills, El?" Jerald said innocently. "Bring back an intel report? Something like that?"

"Shut up, Jerald," Ellen said. "Look, let's just- let's just get back to base, okay? I need to find out more about this city and everything going on here before I see the Prince again. Nothing good ever happens when you get caught flat footed."
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (Default)
It's a long bit of walking from Philadelphia to DC, but Voodoo and his people have a few advantages in that regard. One is that Ellen's provided them with a map of the route she took, including landmarks along the way. Another is that, while it's a good distance, it's nowhere near as long as the trip from Canada or New York to Philly. Perspective can be key.

The route on the map doesn't go anywhere near I-95 for most of its length, though. And there's a thickly drawn band around a not inconsiderable piece of territory- most of which is inside the curve of what used to be Interstate 695.

Doctor D

Apr. 6th, 2015 01:24 pm
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (Default)
Ellen closed the Milliways door behind her and stepped out of the ostensible 'ladies' room'. They'd fixed it up better than anywhere she'd seen in the Capital other than the Citadel, but they'd also repainted it, and they'd done their best to match the same décor and aesthetic style as the Franklin Girls' Dresses. It was a positive relief to return to Doctor D's office; while the colors were on the ridiculously vibrant side, there were no faked draperies or mythological figures trailing slogan-strewn ribbons. "Sorry about that," she said to the dark-haired man as she took her seat. "Necessity."

He nodded. "Whatever you say, Paladin," he said. "You've been extremely civil this whole time. I can forgive a momentary disruption."

Ellen considered the man a moment. Compared to the ladies who populated his establishment, his clothing was almost subtle. He wore a dark grey vest laced tightly over a deep red shirt with weirdly puffed sleeves, fastened at the cuffs with carved buttons made of a material she couldn't place. His magenta trousers stopped about halfway down his calves, from what she could see of them under the desk, and gave the impression of being attached to socks- at least, they also had buttons on the sides, and she couldn't figure out a reason for that otherwise. She had a feeling he didn't leave the House of Franklin often. His shoes weren't nearly worn enough to have treaded the Philly streets.

"Would it be pressing my luck to ask you why you dress like that?" she said. "I mean, obviously the ladies are wearing those- I don't even know- for advertising, but.... well, it all seems just a bit-"

"Ludicrous?" he suggested.

"I didn't want to come out and say it."

"No, no, Paladin, rest assured I've been thinking that every day since my merry little band was forced to set up operations here," said D. "Would you believe it was a survival decision?"

Ellen just looked at him.

"No, seriously," said D. "I would say it was complicated, but what it ultimately boils down to is that my colleague Shields and I found ourselves so far off course in our attempt to reach Chicago that we ran out of supplies, and then ran out of financial reserves."

"I'm surprised it wasn't the other way around, considering you were coming from California," murmured Ellen. "Who would accept paper money along the way?"

D held up a finger. "Ah, true, very true," he said. "Which is why we'd converted our dollars into bottlecaps long before. Any water merchant worth his or her salt recognizes a cap almost anywhere on the continent. Unfortunately, as we proceeded on our course we discovered to our horror that we'd been moving in a primarily eastward direction rather than a northeasterly one; we were so far off course that we'd never be able to turn back and make it to Chicago with what remained to us. Especially not given the presence of a den of iniquity and violence notorious among traders and fugitives to the west of here-"

"You avoided the Pitt?" said Ellen. "How?"

"Sheer dumb luck," said D. "In that we encountered a young woman stricken with the most repulsively suppurating form of skin cancer I've seen outside Bakersfield, and scars of a nature I won't speak of here. We did our best to treat her, although by that point we didn't have the capacity to do more than basic symptomatic care, and in return she advised us on how best to avoid the roving raiders and slavers of the region. She left us not long after; I've wondered since then how much longer she survived, poor thing."

"Okay," said Ellen. "So you made it around the Pitt and got across Pennsylvania somehow. I take it you were out of medical supplies by the time you reached Philly?"

"Unfortunately so," said D. "Although we still had some of our equipment, which, frankly, was more difficult to replace than components and chemicals. Shields and I sat down for a real heart-to-heart and decided that the Chicago aspect of our mission was just going to have to be scrapped. Philadelphia had as much need as the city of the Broad Shoulders, so we'd put down roots and start our work over again here."

"I can understand that part, " said Ellen. "How did you get from a medical mission to this?"

"Medicine, my good Paladin, costs money," said D. "And requires moderately secure facilities in which to function. Shields and I found that the old schools and other buildings that might have offered us a haven in which to function had already been claimed by the worst sorts of organized ruffian, and that the city's ruler had no particular interest in driving them out. Our hired guards had long since left us for lack of pay. The only secure place either of us could find to spend the night was, frankly, a local brothel; the master of the house, an older fellow who called himself Uriah, had paid off one of the ice gangs to leave his business alone through the end of the month."

He leaned back in his chair and interlaced his fingers on his stomach. "Uriah, as it happened, had not invested much money in the health of his ladies. I don't know how much you know about venereal diseases-"

"My father was a physician, and the major radio broadcaster in the Wasteland regularly puts out public service announcements on the subject."

"Ah, good. Then you're aware that the fission is the kind of thing you don't want to live with for the rest of your days," said D. "The first stage can be concealed with the right clothing; the later stages... not so much, although they can be treated and the disease's progress at least arrested if not cured entirely. When we mentioned this to Uriah, he offered to let us stay on his grounds in exchange for whatever medical care we would provide. Even in a hole as wretched as this, given the givens, people will generally opt for a healthy whore over a visibly diseased one. We set up camp in an available room and set about scavenging the supplies and components necessary to synthesize some basic antimicrobial chems."

Ellen thought of Ashur, and of what he'd said of his own path to power. "There are worse ways to survive," she said.

"I'm glad you agree," said D. "As it happened, we were successful beyond our best expectations of the time; the disease organisms here haven't seen treatment chems in generations. Uriah was profoundly grateful, as were the ladies. Uriah's ladies became the companions of choice for a not insignificant portion of Philly's patronizers of prostitutes. Unfortunately, cutthroat capitalism is disturbingly literal in this town, and one of his competitors took matters into her own hands."

Ellen winced.

"Indeed. The ladies of the house, while enterprising to a fault, had few resources beyond the basics they'd managed to scrape together, and none of them were prepared to strike out on their own, particularly not with Uriah's murderer operating with impunity not far off. Unfortunately, the subsequent vote on how best to proceed ended in my being elected Uriah's successor and inheritor of his worldly goods, which I agreed to on the sole condition that we find a way to begin offering other services than merely venereal." He grimaced. "And while the existing clientele was willing to accept a few basic medical procedures on the premises, it was all but impossible to persuade them we were capable of anything better, at least the way things used to be run. When the woman who murdered Uriah started sending out feelers to determine just how much harder she'd have to work to put us out of business, I took what profits we'd accumulated and paid the Flyers enough to find us somewhere else to set up shop, preferably out of her reach. The Blood Prince used to use this place as a hunting ground- you wouldn't know it now, but it used to be infested with the kind of low-life scum who couldn't play well enough with others to make it in an ice gang. Once the Flyers rampaged through the place and wiped them all out, we were free to move in. I took the opportunity to match our image to the man it originally honored and to put the word out on the streets that we now offered a great deal more than merely- forgive the phrase- poontang."

Ellen whistled softly. "That's... kind of impressive, actually," she said. "And it's been working for you?"

"Surprisingly well," said D. "We're not at the point where we can phase out the prostitution angle just yet, alas, but it paid the protection and supply bills well enough to expand our medical and educational offerings- not to mention that Shields uncovered the secret of producing one of Philadelphia's legendary ancestral flavor sensations, a type of condiment called 'cheez'. If she can work out how to expand her cheez production facility enough to meet the city's demand for it this may not have to be a bordello much longer, especially since we've been able to educate our employees to the point where the majority of them could probably pass an NCR medical qualification exam."

"Congratulations, then," said Ellen. "I hope business picks up for you."

"Thank you, Paladin," said D. "Having said that, I hope you won't mind if I ask you a few questions myself. I'd like to think I'm entitled at this point. Assuming that prying into Brotherhood affairs doesn't get me denounced or worse, of course."

"Sir, you're more than entitled," Ellen said. "I think it's safe to say that you and your colleague aren't the only ones who've changed since leaving California...."
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (marked up)
Fawkes got Ellen the holotape recording from Miss Agatha, and a set of her written sheet music besides. Bahorel's, ah... philosophical... work came a little bit after that. They're really all that Ellen came to the Bar for this time around, so it's time to go back to the House of Franklin and give the good doctor his-

Well. They're all Ellen came to the Bar for. Ellen wasn't the only one who came through that door, though.

Time to find Voodoo and see what his situation is.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (extraordinarily stupid thing)
Ellen had been in the presence of huge marble statues before- in the Temple of the Union, and in the belly of the old Congress building. She hadn't expected one to be staring them down as Madame Keturah led them into the building. It was a colossal, seated figure of- well, the face was a little cracked and dingy with time, but-

"That's why they call you the Franklin Girls?" she asked Theodosia. The red-haired woman wore a Dress like the others, one patched together from a dozen different kinds of fabric with more-or-less matching colors, but with skirts of narrow enough dimensions to let her stand next to Conklin's immobilization board without getting in the way. "Because of him?"

"This whole place was dedicated to him once," said Theodosia, nodding reverently towards the statue. "He was a great scholar and diplomat, and an especially great lover of the ladies."

"…. And they put that in a museum?" said Ellen, who somehow couldn't picture people of the pre-War United States she'd learned about in history class being willing to admit such matters existed.

"Honors done to a man without admitting of his faults are meaningless," said Keturah. "It's said he lived by thirteen virtues, one in any given week, and left the others to ordinary chance until it was their turn."

"Chastity being one of those virtues," said Thedosia. "If even a man so great that his memorial lasted through the War could only embrace it four weeks out of a year, one can hardly expect anyone else to do much better."

"So why not make sure that a superior option is available to the good people of Philly in their own weeks of less stellar self-control?" came a man's voice from behind the statue. Ellen held up one fist; the rest of the party stopped at once. "Welcome, newfound friends, to the House of Franklin. I'm Doctor D, and my lovely and talented employees are at your-"

The dark-haired man was perhaps six feet tall and dressed in the most outrageously colored pre-War clothing Ellen had ever seen. He bore no weapon, except for what looked like a walking stick crusted at one end in sparkling chips of glass. His skin had the pallor of someone who made a point of not going outside, but that might have been his emotional state; certainly his genial expression gave way rapidly to shock at the sight of Knight Kang's armored form. "-service," he finally managed, and swallowed before looking back up. "We're not going to have any trouble, are we?"

Ellen could feel the others fidgeting. "I don't plan on there being any trouble," she said. "So as long as nobody here starts anything, we won't either."

"Good," said Doctor D, "good. I must say, I wasn't expecting to encounter anyone from the Brotherhood of Steel here, of all places."

"You know us?" said Kang. Ellen wasn't sure, but thought she saw Doctor D holding back a flinch. "All the way up here?"

"What can I say, my good man? I have contacts and a long history behind me," said Doctor D. "But all of that can wait. What brings you to my doorstep today? Specifically, I mean. Obviously it's a medical issue of some import."

Ellen glanced at Keturah, who made a slight 'go ahead' gesture with one half-concealed hand. "It's a head injury, Doctor," she said. "Knight Conklin here was caught off his feet by a sentrybot's RPG round and thrown into a wall, where his head bounced off the inside of his helmet. He hasn't regained full consciousness since leaving the General Atomics grounds, but he's responded to pain and still has pupillary responses. I'm not equipped to treat a head injury like this myself, so our guide-" She nodded to Painless Parker. "-recommended we bring him to you."

"I see, I see." Doctor D came forward, his sparkling stick tapping against the floor with each step. "Well, you're in luck. I am a fully trained and accredited medical practitioner in my native state of Redding. And thanks to the proclivities of the ruling factions of this fair city I've had more than my fair share of experience with concussions and skull injuries. The helmets favored by nine tenths of the ice-gangs in this city only protect against a genuinely endangering impact once, but they will insist on wearing the things until they've all but fallen off… I can almost certainly treat your man- pending further examination to ensure no unseen injuries complicate the situation, of course- but like everything else in this city, I'll require compensation for it."

"That's all right. Madame Keturah warned us of that already," said Ellen. "Can you give me an idea of what kind of price is involved?"

Doctor D turned to Keturah, who murmured rapidly to him in a tone too low to follow. D nodded, and turned to examine the prone Knight more carefully. "The initial payment will be in bottlecaps," he said, "since regardless of the outcome we're going to be expending money on chems to reduce intracranial swelling and inflammatory response. This being the House of Franklin, the remainder of your price will be a contribution to the House's archives." He swept his glittering stick in a trail of sparkling fire towards the statue. "We strive to emulate the old master's example in whatever ways we can. Bring us a previously unfamiliar work of science, invention, education, governance, music, or philosophy, something we can take apart and keep, and that will fulfil whatever medical obligation your man here may incur. Two, if you're feeling generous."

The Franklin Girls were watching her; Ellen resisted the urge to drag both hands over her face. "All right," she said. "All right. We can do that. May I leave one of my people here to keep an eye on him in the meanwhile?"

"I had a feeling you would say that," said D. "If you insist."

"You'd better believe I insist," said Ellen. "Kang?"

"At your command, Paladin."

"Thank you, Knight," said Ellen. "All right, people. Let's get Knight Conklin to wherever the good Doctor intends to treat him. The sooner we can start our search, the better."
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (wut?)
Well, they'd crossed half of Philly and tried every ground-level door and empty doorway, and not a one had led to Milliways. Ellen couldn't really say she was surprised. The door never seemed to work when she was near other people. But she had to try, for Conklin's sake. “Painless?” she called.

“Yes, ma'am?”

“How much farther do we have to go?”

“Almost there,” said the dentist. The string of teeth around his neck rattled as he pointed down a side alley. “Doctor D operates out of an old museum down there. There's usually one or two Franklin Girls on the street this time of day.”

“Good. Conklin's looking worse.” She glanced over at the Knight's pale, clammy face. D0G was doing his best to keep the man stable, but the droid had been designed for guard duty and combat, not medical transport. “Unit 83?”

“Two human targets within fifty yard scan radius.”

“Are they armed?”

“Minimally. Probability of ice gang membership extremely low.”

“Probably Franklin Girls, then,” said Painless. “You might want to pull back that robot.”

“Unit 83, stay on point, but maintain a distance from Knight Conklin of three yards or less,” Ellen said. To Painless she noted, “I'm not taking chances. He stays where anybody who might get the wrong idea can see him.”

“If you say so,” muttered Painless, “but I'm pretty sure the only idea anyone's going to get looking at this bunch is that there's a new team in town.”

Ellen waved him off and pushed ahead of the robots, Kang coming up close behind her. The building ahead had been struck by the War as much as any other, but scaffolding surrounded the worst of the fallen masonry, and a few places looked as if it had been repaired with concrete or bricks taken from other ruins. Someone had even gone to the trouble of carving new columns to match the original ones that still stood around the entrance. And in between those columns-

Huh.

Well.

Ellen had seen Wasteland prostitutes plenty of times. There was Nova, in Megaton, and several in Rivet City. There'd been Dukov's 'party girls', who probably counted even if they only ever had one... ah... client. Most of them didn't look too different from anyone else. Oh, Nova wore her leather jacket extra tight in some places and wide open in others, and that one fellow in Rivet City had gone out of his way to bulk up part of his Brahmin-skin trousers, but for the most part they dressed just like anyone else, if maybe a little better.

These women were not like that.

These women wore Dresses. They deserved the capital D; there was enough fabric in those voluminous skirts to make up two or three everyday dresses each, and they rustled as they moved. A mole rat could have hidden under one of them and Ellen would never have known it was there. Their top parts were fitted closer, but every conceivable edge had some form of floppy, ruffled fabric sewn on for emphasis. One woman wore what looked like some kind of sack over most of her hair, cinched in close to her head with a strip of red leather; the sack also had ruffly fabric trimming around the edges. The other must have been wearing a wig, because Ellen could not possibly believe real hair could be pulled up so high or frizzed up with that many curls on the side- or that anyone with skin that dark could have hair that color, at least not without a lot of chemical treatment.

“... so that's a Franklin Girl, huh,” muttered Kang. Ellen had forgotten he was there. “Well, this is gonna be interesting.”

“How do they do anything dressed like that?” she blurted.

“You'd be surprised,” said Painless, who had come up behind her. “Trust me, they've had practice- hello, ladies!”

The dark one smiled. “Why, hello there, Painless!” she all but cooed back. “Good to see you again! I thought you were leaving town.”

“I was, but these fine people-” He gestured to Ellen and her companions. “-had enough caps to persuade me not to give up on this city entirely just yet.”

“Really, now.” The woman with the sack on her head leaned forward a bit, her skirts (she had to have been wearing at least two) rustling. “And just who do we have the pleasure of thanking for your continued company?”

“Madame Keturah, Madame Prudence,” said Painless, “allow me to present to you Paladin 101 of the Capital Wasteland Brotherhood of Steel, and her companions Knight Kang, Scribe Cancio, Knight Conklin, uh-”

“Just Voodoo.”

“Right. Voodoo, um-”

“Ma'am,” Ellen interrupted, “as much I'd normally let Painless here keep talking, we've kind of got a medical emergency, and he says you're equipped to handle that kind of thing.”

“I was gonna say,” said the dark woman, all business, “there's a few too many of you for our regular service. What've you got?”

“Head injury.” Ellen gestured to D0G to step forward. “Knight Conklin here was thrown into a wall hard enough to strike the inside of his own helmet.”

“Hmmf. Let me see-” The dark woman gathered up her skirts in one hand and swished down the steps of the building to where D0G stood. “I don't see bleeding. Sir Knight, can you hear me? My name's Keturah.”

Ellen glanced over at Painless, then back to Keturah. “He was semi-responsive at best after the injury,” she said. “We did our best to immobilize him.”

“Good.” Keturah was too busy gently pulling first one eyelid, then the other, down. “Because I don't like the look of these pupils at all. Steady breathing, at least. Has he vomited?-- Prudence, I've got incomprehensible sounds here and some pain response. Go get Elizabeth and Theodosia and a spine board.”

That... well, that was better than Ellen had been expecting. “We can carry the spine board-”

“I'd assumed as much. I want the other girls to see this. They're only partly trained and any educational opportunity's a good one,” said Keturah. “We should be able to help him, but it's going to cost you.”

“I'd assumed as much,” Ellen said. “What kind of price are we talking about?”

“I don't set the prices. Talk to Doctor D once we've got your man inside.”

Ellen gestured to the others to do what the woman said; as Voodoo came up beside her she muttered, “See if you can find a door while I follow up with these people.”

It would have to do. At least, for now.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: Donald Glover wearing eyeglasses and a red plaid shirt. (Painless Parker)
One thing Ellen had to give the robots of General Atomics: they followed their programming to the letter. Their security programming, specifically. The instant the last intruder's foot crossed the invisible line extending fifty yards out from the General Atomics front gate, it went quiet- all the lasers, all the plasma bolts, everything.

"AND KEEP YOUR WORTHLESS COMMIE ASSES OUT!"

... well, nearly silent. Nothing could shut up a Mister Gutsy short of total destruction.

It didn't matter. They weren't being shot at any more- that was what mattered. Especially since from what she could see of D0G's supine passenger, Knight Conklin was still unconscious and unmoving.

---

Waiting for people to return from a combat zone is never easy. Sometimes you have to put your brain somewhere else or you fret yourself to death while it happens. Card games are good for that, especially when they're card games you've never played before. Learning new rules is something to concentrate on. Scribe Cancio was pretty sure the so-called dentist was lying through his teeth about some of them, but hey, it was something to concentrate on.

At least until Painless spotted something out the Red Rocket station's window and stood up so quickly he overturned the card table.

---

Painless glanced up from the unmoving Knight and did his best to stifle the knot in his stomach. "He's responding to pain, which is a good sign, but I don't like the quality of the responses," he said. "Just how hard did he hit his head, anyway?"

"Not sure. There was an explosion right before he hit the wall. My audio compensators were filtering out most of the sound," said- Kang, that was it, the man's name was Kang. "It was pretty bad, though."

"Crap." Painless started to rub at his own face, then dropped his hands. "Yeah, that's- I'll be honest, that's extraordinarily bad. I'm just a dentist, not a doctor. I've had to treat traumatic unconsciousness before a couple of times, but that was ice gangers getting knocked off their feet in a fight. This is a little outside what I've got the skills to handle."

The Knight, and the- mole people? Was that what they'd called themselves?- turned to look at Paladin 101. 101 didn't seem to notice; her eyes were on the unconscious man's pale, clammy face. "If he'd just gotten stabbed or shot or something I could deal with that," she said to no one in particular. "Voodoo, we may have to get a-"

She paused. She looked up at Painless.

"Wait. You mentioned people who did medical treatment in this city, didn't you?"

Painless hesitated. "Well, yeah, but-"

"Is there any chance at all that they'd be able to help with something like this?"

"Doctor D might," said Painless. "The Franklin Girls are good with a lot of trauma. I'm not sure about this, though."

"It's better than anything either of us can do," said 101. "D0G, once we've immobilized Knight Conklin properly, we're going to take him and follow Painless to wherever these Franklin Girls are. Unit 83, you take point and make sure nobody gets in our way."

"Order accepted."

"Voodoo, your people and Kang will be guarding the sides and the rear. You and I will be looking for every possible entrance to the country of the mole people between here and the Franklin Girls." She grimaced. "I'll deal with the repercussions if we happen to find one."

Painless raised an eyebrow, but since nobody seemed inclined to explain any of it to him, left it at that.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (Mr. Handy)
The door opens onto the dimness of an underground garage storage room, and then closes. "Well," Ellen says as she pulls up her stealth suit's headpiece, "we're back. Ready to go for a mapping expedition in the suicide zone?"
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (Vault Boy)
Philly is, as post-apocalyptic metropoli go, a well-maintained and well-patrolled city. This is not a difficult standard to reach, however, and it tends to fall art in the face of overwhelming wildlife.

Hippos are pretty damn overwhelming. And they've apparently been sighted all over the southern roads out of the city heading towards DC.

One of the older market folks, a gray-haired woman with a face like badly preserved leather, has indicated that the easiest way to avoid the hippos is to head north into the city a ways and make for the northeast part of town. There's apparently a southbound road that swings around the worst of the hippo area and doesn't cost too much travel time by comparison.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: (Mr. Handy)
Mission

General Atomics International is a worldwide leader in household and military robots and robotic-related products and services as well as in vital industries such as atomic energy, communications and financial services. Our mission is to constantly improve our products and services to meet all our customers’ needs, allowing us to prosper as a business and to provide a reasonable return for our stockholders, the owners of our business.

Values

How we accomplish our mission is as important as the mission itself. Fundamental to success for the company are these basic values:

  • Presentation: Our products are the end result of our efforts, and they should be the best in serving our customers worldwide. As our products are viewed, so are we viewed.

  • Profits: Profits are the ultimate measure of how efficiently we provide customers with the best products for their needs. Profits are required to survive and grow.

  • People: Our people are the source of our strength. They provide our corporate intelligence and determine our reputation and vitality. Involvement and teamwork are our core human values.


Guiding Principles

  • General Atomics is a family. We are all involved in each others' lives. We must treat each other with trust and respect.

  • Integrity is never compromised. The conduct of our Company worldwide must be pursued in a manner that commands respect for its integrity and for its positive contributions to society.

  • Continuous improvement is essential to our success. We must strive for excellence in everything we do: in our products, in their value, and in our services, our human relations, our competitiveness and our profitability.

  • Quality comes first. The quality of our products and services must be our number one priority. From the entry-level domestic robot to the mightiest nuclear reactor, every one of our products must be the best we can achieve.

  • Customers are the focus of everything we do. Our work must be done with our customers in mind, providing better products and services than our competition. We serve not only the customers of today, but the Americans of generations yet to come.

    Remember- the America of Tomorrow depends on the work of General Atomics today!

GA

Dec. 22nd, 2014 11:03 am
aaaaaaaagh_sky: Wil Smith looking smudged, wearing a pilot's uniform in Independence Day (Philly - Blood Prince)
The horrified murmur died down; the Prince shook his head. "Paladin," he said, "I gotta say- you've come a real long way just to commit suicide."

The National Guard Armory, Ellen remembered, had been so full of robots and automated defense systems that no one had successfully penetrated it and come out alive in two hundred years. And that was just an armory. General Atomics was a source for robots. American manufacturers had been paranoid about espionage and sabotage before the War; no doubt the robots had been put into defense mode, and were probably still carrying out their last commands…

She kept it off her face, though, and managed an expression of polite puzzlement. "Bad part of town?" she said.

"Naw, the neighborhood's fine, it's the plant we don't fuck with," said the Prince. "Every couple months some wizwit can't hack it on the ice, so he tries to crack GA instead. Figures he'll come out with enough old world tech to compensate. Story is, the robots report to a central brain or something, and if you can get all the way in you can get them to obey. It's bullshit if you ask me. All's I know is, they go over the wall, they get past a robot or two, and they go down. The lucky ones get ashed on the spot."

"And the unlucky ones?"

The Prince shrugged. "I can't prove anything, but seems like the day after these guys go in, if you look over the wall, there's damn near always a new robot rolling around with one of those glowing brain domes on top."

Ellen shuddered.

"Yeah. Now, I'm not saying these guys have your kind of gear." He gestured towards Kang and Conklin, who were as heavily armored as Ellen, and armed with plasma weapons. "Most of them scrape together about what you'd need to last a season on the ice, maybe get themselves a couple of good guns. I dunno, maybe you three would last longer. But I'll tell you what, even if you had a full top line to go with your defense team, you'd still be outnumbered by every single failure who ever went over those walls plus all the old robots besides. You can't last forever, not against that kind of numbers. You want to die? Take my advice. Turn around and go the way you came. I'll give you a map to Charm City. Just walk into the EZ and wait. It'll hurt less."

He seemed, Ellen thought, to mean well. She'd heard plenty of disparaging and hostile voices in her life. There'd been enough threats from the Talons, enough condescension from a dozen other quarters- this didn't sound like that. Maybe it really was as dangerous as he said.

Too bad.

She drew herself up as straight and tall as anyone five feet two inches tall could manage in the face of a room full of armored heavyweight warriors. "Sir," she said evenly, "I appreciate the warning. Unfortunately, I've still got orders."

"Orders don't mean a whole lot when the man giving 'em doesn't know what he's sending you into," the Prince pointed out.

( you don't fucking crucify yourself to save a goddamn VIP, Ellen )

"No, that's true, but it's a little different when he knows what he's sending," Ellen said. "I'm not planning on fighting those robots. Not yet. Elder Lyons sent me as a scout who knows how not to be seen. My mission is to find out what's in there, and get out alive with the information. Not to fight those things, or- or take anything with me. Those young men who go in there are trying to prove something and make a name for themselves. I'm not. I know better than to make that mistake."

"Hnnf." The Prince crossed his arms over his chest. "Still think you're gonna die."

"Maybe, sir, but I've been to a lot of places where I was supposed to die and made it out alive anyway. I'd like permission to take that chance."

"Permission?" That got a look of disbelief. "Shit, you don't need my permission to go out there and die. You come out of GA alive, now, we're gonna talk about permission. I'm not gonna waste my time thinking about shit that I know's not gonna happen." He jerked his chin at Painless. "You. You're the guide? You go ahead and take these four up to GA. If they don't live long enough to pay you, I will. I don't want one of my people losing out because of a bunch of clueless outsiders."

He turned to one of the orange-daubed gangers nearby, muttering something; the audience was over. Ellen let out a sigh and looked to Painless, who shrugged.

Well, it could have gone worse.
aaaaaaaagh_sky: Wil Smith looking smudged, wearing a pilot's uniform in Independence Day (Philly - Blood Prince)
It would have been nice to gather her thoughts and talk to Jerald or one of the Knights before doing anything else once she got back home, but Ellen didn't have that luxury. The door to Milliways had opened straight from the doors of the Eastern Pen into the Bar, and would take her back to the same spot. There were Flyers waiting; there'd barely be time to cover her accidental Bar visit by stumbling, let alone compose herself properly.

Well. She'd just have to hope she didn't ram a foot down her own throat with the Blood Prince the way she had with Rikki.

The stumble, it turned out, wasn't even needed. An unfamiliar building full of unfamiliar armed strangers was exactly the sort of thing to get Dogmeat's attention. As Ellen stepped back into her world and through the doorway, the heeler charged past her, heading for the nearest of the Prince's guards. Jerald lunged for the dog's fortunately sturdy leather collar before he could leap; Ellen breathed a sigh of relief. She'd heard weapons being drawn the instant Dogmeat started moving.

"Enthusiastic, isn't he," said a man's voice dryly from the other end of the room. "Where'd you get him, the Friends?"

Ellen looked up, and paled. The speaker was dark-skinned, with a closely-trimmed mustache and short-cropped black hair. His armor, unlike the stuff their ice ganger escorts wore, was the sort of heavily reinforced gear you'd expect to find in the ruins of a Bureau of Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco, Firearms and Lasers barracks. More than that, where the others had daubed their gear with orange paint, or sometimes orange and black, his was marked in both colors and purple besides. "I'm sorry, sir," she said. "Dogmeat's usually better behaved than that.

The man raised one eyebrow. "Dogmeat, huh?" he said. "Okay, I take it back. The Friends wouldn't sell a dog with a name like that."

"Given that I have no idea where these Friends are, let alone whether or not they'd sell me a dog, I'd probably take your word for it," Ellen said. "And if you don't mind my asking, sir, do I have the honor of addressing the Blood Prince?"

Jerald, she knew, was wincing. She didn't have to look his way to know it. The man she was addressing lifted his other eyebrow at that and leaned back on his heels, arms crossing over his chest. "Good question," he said. "Who would you have the honor of addressing if that's not me?"

"My next guess would be the captain of his guards, or possibly his second-in-command," Ellen said. "Either way I wanted to be sure of who I was apologizing to."

The man snorted, but it was an amused sort of sound; he gestured to the guards to put away their weapons. "Yeah, that's fair," he said. "In which case- yes, you have the honor of addressing Carroll Clayton Hiller, better known as the Blood Prince, captain of the Flyers ice gang, and West Philly's longest-standing championship son. Your turn."

Whatever Ellen had been expecting of a man who called himself Blood Prince, it wasn't that. Something more like Lord Ashur, all formality and cautious menace, maybe, or like Thor Odinson or Diana, who were both royalty in their own worlds… well, it didn't much matter what she'd expected. She was here now, and this Blood Prince was watching her expectantly. "Ellen Park," she said, "Paladin 101 of the Capital Wasteland Brotherhood of Steel. These two armored gentlemen are Knights Kang and Conklin, my escorts, and the man in the robes is my husband, Scribe Jerald Cancio of our Order of the Sword."

There was a cough behind her.

"And the man with all the teeth around his neck is my guide, Doctor Painless Parker."

"Pleased to meet you, Paladin," said the Prince. "101, huh? Victory tally?"

"Um-" Ellen's brow creased briefly. "I'm not sure I understand, Prince."

The Prince indicated the ganger guards on either side of the room. "Every one of my boys and girls here got to where they are now by winning a hell of a lot of ice battles," he says. "The ones who've kept up a streak of wins like to make sure everyone knows it. Shows in the names they use."

"Oh- no, no, afraid not," said Ellen. "I'm not an ice ganger, just a soldier."She paused, and added, "I lost track of how many battles I came out of alive a long time ago."

(Her father, she knew, would never have approved of a statement like that. But he wasn't here, and anyway a man who prided himself on beating his enemies in combat for fifteen years running didn't strike her as someone who would be particularly kindly inclined towards the modest or the peaceable.)

The Prince nodded. "Fair," he said. "So if you're not here to get yourself and your boys into the Arena, why are you here? The Capital's been out of touch longer than the Pitt."

"Well, sir- it is sir, right? I hope?"

The Prince waved one hand absently. "Yeah, sir's good."

Ellen nodded. "Well, sir," she said, "the Brotherhood of Steel's recently spoken with a woman who originally came from this city."

She'd said as much to the guards at the gate, but those had just been guards. And this was no Lord Ashur situation, where all she needed was to get in, get one person, and get out. Nothing good could come of withholding their actual purpose in the city from the man at its controls.

"She told us about the ruins of a factory from before the War. We were sent to scout the grounds out if at all possible, and report back on whether or not a recovery mission would be worth the Brotherhood's time."

The guards' mutter had that peculiar edge that only comes of vulgar words spoken too quietly to hear at a distance. It scarcely mattered; she could fill in the blanks a dozen times over. The Prince's more-or-less genial expression flattened at her words. "Is that so?" he said.

"In all honesty, sir, the woman hadn't been in Philadelphia in so long that she couldn't tell us anything else worth knowing about the place," Ellen said. "Including whether or not it was even still inhabited."

"'Whether or not-'" The Prince stared at her. "Just how long ago was this woman here last, anyways?"

"Long enough ago that it was still called 'Philadelphia' rather than 'Philly', sir," said Ellen, but he kept right on staring. "She'd… well, she'd been born before the War."

"Before the War? Was she a meatface or something, like Wagstaff?"

"If a 'meatface' is one of those people with all their skin coming off who've been exposed to so much radiation they should've died-" The Prince nodded, sharply. "-then no. There was technology involved- suspended animation, of a sort. She'd essentially been frozen for two hundred years, and the last time she'd seen Philadelphia, the bombs hadn't even fallen yet."

The Prince's eyes narrowed. "Are you bullshitting me, Paladin?"

"No, sir," said Ellen evenly, "I am not. I am not very good at bullshit."

"She really isn't."

"Not helping, Jerald."

"Hmmmph." The Prince's flat expression deepened into a scowl. "This woman," he said. "She have a name?"

"Judith Seitz."

"Never heard of her," said the Prince with a dismissive shrug. "Doesn't mean anything. You could be making it up for all I know. You mind telling me exactly what factory this Seitz woman told you people you could take from my city?"

Ellen heard Kang shifting his weight behind her, like a man getting ready for a fight. "Stand down," she murmured, and then raised her voice. "She was talking about the ruins of General Atomics International, which she said are in the northeastern part of town."

"Oh."

It was never good to hear an entire room's worth of people react exactly the same way….
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