<<UserID:Webb>> It figures: spend all morning in a basement, and then end up spending your afternoon in a sub-basement.
We’re headed with Bright and his people towards their “sacred site”... or maybe “sacred SIGHT”, I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it’s all very hush hush -- no one will tell us what it is before we get there. We’ve been walking through this underground corridor for what feels like ages, so I figured I’d go ahead and log the morning’s events in the meantime.
<<UserID:Boone>> Not a fan of silence, are you?
<<UserID:Webb>> Depends on who’s being silent.
<<UserID:Webb>> Whatever it is, it had better be worth it after this morning, that’s all I’m saying.
<<Unidentified Male>> Quit complaining, smoothskin. Sounds like everything went much better than it might have.
<<UserID:Webb>> Easy for you to say, Haversam. You weren’t the one running up and down flights of stairs all morning.
<<Unidentified Male>> At least you have working tendons and ligaments. Do you have any idea how hard it is for us ghouls to--
<<UserID:Webb>> I keep telling you, Haversam. You’re not a ghoul. You didn’t lose your hair to radiation. Male pattern baldness is a perfectly ordinary--
<<Unidentified Male>> You smoothskins, you’re all bigots.
<<UserID:Webb>> ...Excuse me?
<<Unidentified Male>> So assured of your “normality”, your superiority, that you can’t even acknowledge when someone else is different.
<<UserID:Webb>> Riiiiight... Well, to avoid further offense, I’m just going to go back to talking to my PIP-Boy. Fair enough?
<<Unidentified Male>> Whatever.
<<UserID:Webb>> Boone, you have a shaving mirror?
<<UserID:Webb>> Because you’ve barely got stubble and you don’t seem the alopecia sort.
<<UserID:Webb>> Never mind. If you’ve got one, fish it out when we stop. I want Haversam here to have a good look.
<<UserID:Boone>> Ah. Roger.
Anyway, after waking up and breaking fast on another plateful of preservatives, the three of us headed for the basement, managing to sneak past the wayward feral members of Bright’s flock on the way. The sealed basement door opened to the keycard Bright gave me before we left, and it led us down ANOTHER flight of stairs.
Once we finally reached the bottom -- or what I thought at that point was the bottom, at any rate -- ED-E’s sensors were going crazy, picking up heat and movement all over the area, though we couldn’t see anything. Remembering how he had somehow scrambled the cloaking field on the brahmin-killing mutant, which had sent the blue-skinned goon into a roaring charge, I wanted to avoid a repeat of that here.
As such, Boone and ED-E waited in the small chamber at the foot of the stairs while I pulled the StealthBoy unit I’d found from my pack, fastened it around my right wrist, and flipped it on.
Immediately, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as an electric field washed over me. The world looked slightly out of focus and wavering, almost like I was staring through the heat shimmer above a fire.
And, of course, I was invisible. I could make out vague movements when I waved my arms in front of my face, but that was about it. But I had no idea how much charge the StealthBoy had left, so I stopped trying out parlor tricks and eased open the door into the rest of the facility.
Navigating through that maze of corridors was surreal. I could tell there were mutants around -- I could hear their breathing and their footsteps and, every once in a while, catch the distortion of their stealth field out of the corner of my eye. But other than that, the place seemed completely deserted to all other senses. I think I probably took about three breaths the whole time I was down there.
At first, I must have gone the wrong way, as I found myself in something approaching a holding pen, or at least the best the mutants could do. There was no one there apart from a dead female ghoul, however, so I circled back and tried the other hallways.
Eventually, I found my way into a storage room with an uncloaked mutant, also bearing that odd indigo skin. As I entered, he sniffed the air, then glared in my direction and started to speak in that nearly-shouting tone that passes for conversational among mutants.
I was sure he’d seen me, so I dove for cover behind a filing cabinet, but instead he was talking to someone named “Antler”. Peeking out from behind the cabinet, I realized that “Antler” was actually the bleached brahmin skull on the desk next to him. He was carrying on one half of a lively argument having something to do with a crate and shipping manifests, the other half of the conversation clearly being supplied internally by whatever psychosis had led him to name a skull.
Soon, however, he broke off mid-sentence and started looking around. Apparently, “Antler” had told him someone was in the room. Still, he looked more irritated than angry, and he wasn’t holding a weapon -- the closest thing I could see was some sort of blade made from the bumper of a pre-war car. The thing was taller than I am, but it was propped against a desk on the other side of the room. I decided to take my chances.
I propped up my repeater against the back of the cabinet, unbuttoned the clasp on my revolver holster, turned off the StealthBoy, tucked it back into my pocket, and stepped out into view with my hands raised, clearing my throat politely.
The first few seconds of the following exchange were somewhat tense, but I managed to get across that I’d been sent by the ghouls to see if any compromise or peace could be brokered, and the mutant seemed to see the sense in that. I introduced myself, and he did the same. He also insisted I introduce myself to Antler, which I did, though I felt a bit silly. Like my ma always said, though: sometimes you have to swallow your pride, or an insane blue giant will beat you to death with a car.
Well, no, she never said that. But she would have, if she’d ever met Antler.
The ensuing conversation was surprisingly enlightening. The mutant’s name was Davison, and he and all the other blue skins are a special sort of super mutant called “nightkin”, created especially for scouting, spying, and infiltration by someone called “the Master”. From what I could gather, this “Master” is the one behind the super mutant army that rampaged across California way back before the NCR was founded. Davison was some sort of officer in the Master’s army, and he and these nightkin have been drifting for the past century or so since the Master was killed in what sounds like an explosion.
Lucky for the rest of us, I suppose.
Apparently, Davison and the other nightkin all worship Antler now as some sort of replacement for this “Master”.
*Lowers his voice.*
We’ve got Bright’s little church upstairs, and Antler’s zealots downstairs. This whole building is a magnet for religious loonies.
*Continues at regular volume.*
And since Antler is simply an extension of Davison’s psyche, he’s the one actually leading this bunch, so, as long as I could get him moving along, I figured the others would follow.
It turns out what had brought them to REPCONN was the same bit of communication I’d found on the terminal yesterday: reports of a huge shipment of StealthBoys coming here. Though the nightkin were made for covert ops, they still apparently need StealthBoys for their cloaking fields.
“Need” may be putting it mildly, at that. Given Davison’s desperation when speaking about the ‘Boys, it sounds like they’ve developed something almost like a chemical dependence on the cloaking effect. All things considered, I’m glad I tucked the one I’d been wearing into my pocket.
I wonder if that also has anything to do with the schizophrenia I’ve noticed in Davison and the brahmin-killer, or if that’s a side effect of all mutations. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence -- I haven’t met enough nightkin or regular mutants to make an educated guess.
Heh. “Regular mutants”. The wasteland’s a funny place sometimes. Whatever the case, it was enough to convince me to go easy on StealthBoy usage.
<<UserID:Webb>> Was that a crack about my mental health, eyeball? You better watch it, or I’m going to put that party hat back on and LEAVE it on you this time.
Anyway, if I could get the nightkin the StealthBoys, they’d leave peacefully. The problem was -- and there’s ALWAYS another problem -- the ‘Boys were supposedly in yet ANOTHER section of the basement, but guarded by a ghoul who had trapped the place from here to Dayglow with mines and tripwires, and was shooting at any mutants who tried to push their way past.
I told Davison -- and Antler, I suppose -- that I’d do what I could, and headed for the warehouse-styled chamber in which the ghoul had garrisoned himself. Sure enough, the place was trapped thoroughly, but I took my time, disarming some tripwires and avoiding others, and eventually repeatedly my little surrender game, walking out into the open, hands raised and appearing unarmed.
I called out, identifying myself and saying that I was here on behalf of Bright to help clear up the “demon” issue, and a rugged-looking ghoul peeked over the railing high above me, staring down the barrel of a .308 rifle and puffing on a cigarette.
He remained silent at first, assessing me, so I slowly lowered my hands and gestured around at the surprisingly expansive room, telling him he’d set himself up one hell of a killzone for a religious type.
That actually got a bark of a laugh from him, and he raised the rifle a bit -- not setting it aside, but at least taking me out of the sights. He introduced himself as Harland and said he wasn’t a religious type -- he’d signed on with Bright for the caps and the female companionship.
Well, there’s one question about ghoul physiology answered that I don’t think anyone had ever wanted to ask.
I hurried him along before he could wax too poetic about the leathery charms of ghoul women, and he confided that he’d come down this way during the mutant attack, attempting to protect one “ghoulette” of whom he was especially fond when the Bright followers had scattered.
A lump in my gut, I asked him for her description, then sadly filled him in on the dead female ghoul I’d found in the holding area. He was silent for a long moment, then cursed and stood up, tossing his rifle aside carelessly. He paced about, muttering, then grabbed the rifle up from where it had fallen and told me I could come on up if I wanted to dig through the old shipping records up there with him -- he’d disable the rest of the traps.
I thanked him, then told him about Boone and ED-E, suggesting he join them and wait for me to come back, and we’d all go rejoin Bright and the others together. He agreed listlessly, heading off in that direction.
When he’d gone, I climbed the stairs to the little nest he’d made for himself, trying not to think too deeply about the half-eaten radroaches I could see scattered about. A little poking about on the shipping terminals up there revealed that the crate of StealthBoys HAD arrived at this facility... only to be returned to its senders at RobCo the next day. Over two centuries ago.
I sighed and managed to spool up some paper to print out an invoice for the return, then brought the receipt to Davison to give him the bad news. He did not take it gracefully. For a second, I thought he was going to snap me in half, but “Antler” apparently put in a good word for me, because Davison visibly calmed himself, then stomped off to inform the nightkin that they were moving out to continue their search elsewhere.
I hurried back to the antechamber at the base of the stairs to get Boone and ED-E moving before a whole troop of nightkin started marching their way and was happy to see Harland there, sharing a silent cigarette with Boone and examining ED-E critically. The four of us hustled -- well, huffed and panted, in my case -- back upstairs and filled Bright in on the newly exorcised basement.
He and his ghouls were overjoyed, both at the news and at the return of Harland, who was greeted like some sort of crusader riding home after a successful campaign. I think the joyous hugs from the female members of Bright’s flock did wonders to ease the pain of his recent loss.
After that, Boone and I shared some lunch -- a can of beans roasted on a hotplate in Bright’s quarters -- while the ghouls packed up their supplies and gear and prepared to head down through the basement to the “sacred site”. They invited us to join them, and, call me crazy, but I’d put enough into this already not to see just what they’ve been so fired up about.
And that’s where we are now, traipsing down these endless corridors towards this “site”, whatever it is. I’m starting to get slightly higher radiation readings on the PIP-Boy’s counter, and there is a little bit of a glow coming from up ahead.
Yes, we’re finally reaching some sort of observation chamber, it looks like. Definitely higher rad levels. Here, Boone, take another Rad-X, just to be safe. Haversam, I don’t suppose I could talk you into--
<<Unidentified Male>> Don’t waste those on me, smoothskin. Radiation is like the warm sun for us ghouls.
<<UserID:Webb>> Can’t say I didn’t try. Down the hatch!
*Sounds of pills being shaken from a container, a cork being pulled, and swallowing.*
Ahh. Anyway, let’s take a look at this “sacred site”. What do you want to bet, after all this time, that it actually turns out just to be a big pool of radioactive waste after al -- HOLY JESUS, THEY HAVE SPACE ROCKETS!