*Burning wood crackling.*
Okay, I’ve got the water boiling, and I’ve administered enough Med-X that I should be able to get the stitches in place without too much discomfort. Just got to give it a minute to kick in.
Ooof... my leg and hip are a mess. ED-E and I were in a hell of a spot this afternoon. When I kicked out the door of that little shanty lab in the irradiated crater, there were no fewer than five feral ghouls trying to claw their way in.
I got lucky off the bat, and the door caught one of them full on the chin as it fell outward, snapping its jaw clean off and knocking the ghoul to the ground. Things went downhill from there, however. One of the big ghouls took a round of buckshot to the torso and just kept on coming, swatting me right off my feet and landing me ass-deep in one of those murky pools. I barely had time to register the manic ticking of the PIP-Boy’s Geiger counter, though, because he and one of his buddies were wading in after me.
The other two were focused on ED-E, who was doing his best to bob and weave on his repulsors while firing up his laser array. He managed to blow off the leg of one the ghouls below the knee, but the other closed on him and gave him a solid blow that made a horrible crunching noise and sent him spinning out of sight behind the shanty lab. The upright ghoul went stalking after him.
I had to see to the two in front of me before I could worry about ED-E, though. Without time to get all the way back to my feet, I knelt in the foul-smelling water and pulled the lever-action shotgun up just as the ghoul that had swatted me came into arm’s reach again. I fired with the barrel practically resting under its chin, and the ghoul’s throat caved in while a gout of rancid bone and gray matter exploded out of the back of its brainpan.
I’ve never had much cause to use scatterguns myself before this little expedition into the Mojave, but I’ve done my share of post-combat autopsy reports on victims of birdshot and buckshot, and I can tell you right off that they’ll leave an exit wound big enough to stick your hand through -- with your fingers spread wide, no less.
The other ghoul, seeing its comrade crumple into the pool, pitched its head back and let out an ear-splitting shriek -- of rage, hunger, pure aggression or, god help me, sadness, I’ll never know. It gave me enough time to push all the way to my feet, work the lever-action, draw a bead, and fire... only to have the hammer make a pitiful clanging noise as it came down crooked, jamming the action without firing a shot.
I stared stupidly at the firearm for a split second, then reacted instinctively as the ghoul finished its scream and leapt forward again, swinging the useless shotgun like a club. The damn thing snapped in two as it connected with the ghoul’s side, and, grimacing, I followed up on my momentum as the ghoul staggered sideways by jabbing the jagged edge of the barrel deep into its torso, just below the ribcage.
The creature howled again, but much lower and more pitifully as it scrabbled ineffectually at the stock of the shotgun protruding from its side, as air and viscous blood hissed and bubbled out of the wound. I pulled the revolver from the makeshift holster on my hip and put a mercy round through the thing’s temple, then bounded back up out of the pool and onto the path in the direction I’d last seen ED-E.
Just before I reached the corner of the shack, I heard another scream, and the ghoul that had chased after ED-E came pinwheeling backwards in my direction, smoldering from numerous laser burns and with portions of its shredded clothing actually on fire.
ED-E, with a large dent in his side and several of his sensor antennae either bent or snapped clean off, came floating after it, relentlessly firing until the ghoul was down and all sign of movement had ceased.
I let out a long breath, smiled, and was just about to call out to ED-E when searing pain bloomed in my leg. I looked down just in time to see one of the ghouls -- the one that had had its leg blown off by ED-E -- sinking its fingers into the meat of my calf, an instant before it yanked back on its newfound grip and pulled me off balance.
I tumbled to the ground, flailing wildly for some purchase to pull myself away from the wretched thing, but it pulled itself up determinedly and dug its teeth into my left hip, biting clean through my clothes and into the flesh.
Yelping with pain -- I’m not too proud to admit it -- I managed to get my fingers back around the handle of my revolver and fired a round into the thing’s eyesocket before it had time to make too much of a meal of me.
Gritting my teeth against the pain in my calf and hip, I kicked my way out from underneath the dead ghoul. Fortunately, for all their strength they don’t weigh much -- they’re basically corded muscle and leather wrapped around dry bones -- and I was able to extricate myself from the tangle with the corpse without too much trouble.
Favoring my wounded leg heavily, I limped over to ED-E and, leaning on him for support, we made our way back east out of the radiated pools before any more ghouls caught wind of us.
Once my heartbeat slowed and the air smelled clear again, I realized that the nausea I was feeling wasn’t just adrenaline withdrawal. A scan of myself with the PIP-Boy’s diagnostics revealed that I had received such an appalling dose of radiation that I’d be lucky to make it through the day with my hair and teeth intact if I didn’t do something quickly.
First, I stripped off my soaked clothes and washed myself as best I could with my remaining clean water, then pulled on some dry clothes from the bottom of my pack. I found some shade under a mesquite tree and hooked myself up to a Rad-Away drip, sitting and trying to mop out my wounds at least temporarily while it slowly scrubbed my system of the rads. The stuff goes through me like cheap booze, but I’ll take frequent runs to the latrine over radiation poisoning any day of the week.
With the drip connected, my ability to tend to my cuts and gouges was limited, so I finished swabbing them out, looped bandages around the worst of them to keep them at least partly covered, and promised myself I’d see to them more thoroughly later on.
I may not keep a lot of promises to myself, but at least now I can say I’m keeping that one. Jess would never have believed it.
I woke up a few hours later and realized that I must have nodded off while waiting for the drip to finish. Sure enough, my bladder felt like I’d drunk the better part of Lake Mead, so I pinched off the tubing, unhooked the empty Rad-Away bag, pulled the needle out of my arm, and thanked the mesquite tree for its shade by giving it a generous watering.
I yanked my boots back on -- I hate wet boots, especially irradiated wet boots, but it’s better than burning off the soles of your feet on the sand and asphalt -- made sure ED-E was still functional, and started north again back into Primm.
This time, I stayed on the road the whole way.
When I reached Primm, I tracked down Meyers and gave him the pardon, then followed him into the casino. I made some half-hearted introductions, then wandered off amidst the cheering to refill my water canteen and bottles and as much clean -- or relatively clean -- linen as there was left in the casino.
Once I was finished, the citizens of Primm were filling Meyers in on recent events or gradually drifting out of the casino and back to their long-neglected homes. I walked out among them, limping out towards the wall around the town, and got a little fire going so I could boil up some water.
ED-E’s going’s to need some repair work, too, but he’s not at risk of infection, so I’m going to triage myself first in line and look after him in the morning. No offense, eyeball -- you did good work today.
<<UserID:Webb>> Hmm, leg’s numb enough now that I should be able to suture the worst of the wounds without passing out, but that damn Med-X is making me a little woozy. Let’s see...
There we go. Mentats. These’ll clear the haze.
*Crunching and chewing sounds.*
Hate to dose myself like this, but even though Primm now has a sheriff, a populace that has returned to their homes, and a casino that’s gradually being aired of the stench of weeks of seclusion, they still don’t have anyone I’d trust more than myself to stitch me back together.
Okay, good. Good good good. Seems like those mentats are kicking in. No more wooziness. Hell, I feel like I could see in the dark.
Good good good. Needles, clamps, forceps, and hemostats are boiled, and I’ve swabbed all the bite and claw wounds with alcohol. Wish I had some iodine. Could really use some iodine. Wonder if there are any unlooted hospitals in the Mojave? Have to look. Try to find some pre-war maps, maybe, get an edge over the other scavvers.
Something for later, though. For right now, have to get on with surgery. God, I could do this all night. Going to need both hands, though, so I’ll shut off the PIP-Boy for now.
Signing off. Off off off.