October 28th, 2287, 10:36 pm
I awoke in the dark, and the rain, which seemed appropriate. It was about ten-thirty, according to my Pip-Boy, and I was drained, tired inside.
I was awake, though, and I decided to go to the satellite relay. The thought made my stomach twist, but I figured I would just try to sneak around, grab the locket if i could find it, and vamoose before anyone noticed I had taken it. At worst, I figured, there would be one or two, maybe as many as four raiders. I could probably take them, and if I couldn't? Well, I wasn't trying to die, but maybe there was an afterlife, and whatever the case, it couldn't be much worse than how I currently felt.
Dinner, or breakfast, was cold. I remember once, I was listening to some political or philosophical discussion, on the radio, and one of the guests said that he figured where we'd gone wrong was when we'd started piping electricity into our homes. It had made us soft. "That", I thought at the time, "is the dumbest thing I've ever heard anyone say. However, that was incorrect. I now believe that it is in the top ten list of dumbest things that anyone has heard anyone say. I miss my stove. I have taken two cold showers since...that day. I remember each distinctly, with a special appreciation for the way you can feel every cold drop go down the hollow of your back.
I would also have gone for a cup of hot coffee, even that crap during the war. Or tea. Or hot chocolate. Mmmm, with marshmallows. Or...I sighed, finished up eating, and tried to get myself ready. I brought my 10mm pistol, of course, and a .44 snubnose magnum I'd scrounged up somewhere. I only had five bullets for the magnum, but I figured it was good to have something strong as backup for the 10mm. I also had three grenades, and used one in an enforced test-fire after I was examining it and broke the pin (it was rusty). I'd clipped them to my belt, and I was staring out at the rain after scrounging through one of the houses when my arm brushed one of them and the grenade fell right off. I managed to grab it as it did, and, lacking a better option, hurled it out of the window and far into the street. I had enough time to wonder if it was going to go off, when it did, with flat, loud BAM. In retrospect, I should have ducked, although I was apparently well out of range thanks to the intense force with which I had thrown the bomb.
That little episode determined me to check the pins of the other two grenades, and also to simply place them in a satchel, rather than hang them. It seemed somewhat less dangerous, even if they were not immediately to hand. And then, I decided, it was time to go, before my stomach finished twisting itself in knots, and started on my legs.
As I began hiking east, crossing the river in the shallows and heading into the hills, it occurred to me that this was the first time I would be intentionally, purposefully heading out to kill people. Well, yes, only incidentally to the retrieval of the item. But, still, the odds were, I, Erin, was going to shoot someone tonight. And, since I had nearly blocked out the thought and the memory amidst the other things, it occurred to me with doubled force that I had already killed 4 people. I hadn't wanted to, and I didn't, at the moment, feel especially bad about it, but I had done it. Me. I wondered for a moment if any of my friends and family would have expected that.
This train of thought, and the memories with it, distracted me, and I climbed up a hill to find a small camp. Despite evidence of recent habitation, such as some candles, I assumed that the camp was abandoned, searched and found a few drugs and some ammo, and just went back to walking east. That was when I saw a dark shadow slide by to my left, looking like a dog. I froze, then crouched, looking around while trying to move as little as possible. I couldn't see anything, as I tried to stay frozen, and finally turned my head a little to the left, enough for my eyes to catch the figure of a man with a gun. He was behind me!
This was a bad surprise, even for the last week, probably thanks to the build up. It was bad, so bad my stomach cramped into nausea and my mouth filled with bitterness. Then, having spun and raised my weapon, I brought down the sights on my target, led very slightly as he was walking - and realized he hadn't seen me. Then, deliberately, I shot him in the head anyway. I waited, turned, and shot his dog that was arrowing in on me from the side. "Thought I forgot about you?" I muttered. I'd figured the shadow had belonged to an attack dog.
I paused. If the man was not a raider, I had just murdered him. On the other hand, even if he was a raider, perhaps I'd murdered him anyway. After all, he hadn't been hostile. He hadn't sicced his dog on me, or even raised his gun. He'd been walking back to camp, and I'd effectively ambushed him and killed him. And his dog. Like me and my dog. I felt sick.
I felt a little less sick when I found him. He definitely looked like the others who had shot at me, and who were presumably also raiders. I looked to the east, where the radar dish of the installation loomed imposingly. If I'd had to guess, I would have guessed that this guy had been either an advance lookout for those in the building, or heading to join the raiders. I decided to call it that, and began circling to the south of the dish, where I encountered a couple of the giant flies.
I debated momentarily whether to shoot them or not. On one hand, I didn't want them at my back, while on the other, I didn't want to alert the guards, if there were any more. On the gripping hand, I had heard quite a few gunshots myself, so they weren't that abnormal, and the 10mm wasn't that loud. With luck, it would sound further away. It turned out to be a good bet. I tapped the two flies, quickly, and then crept towards the tower that supported the radar dish. On an exterior walkway, about two thirds up, I spotted a raider, on guard duty accompanied by a guard dog.
I shot him with the, and he dropped to the walkway. Then I looked for the dog, but it had vanished. Waiting for a moment, I saw it heading towards me, waited until I had a good shot, and put one through its head. I waited, listened, checked, and saw no one else before I crept towards the building. I circled to the right and came at it from the side, avoiding the front. I thought there was someone inside, but I couldn't tell until I'd gotten close enough to spot the shoulder someone inside leaning against the wall near the window of the concrete structure. Then I stepped on something, it cracked, and the person stepped away from the window. I started shooting, hoping for a lucky graze I guess, he started coming out of the door, and I put two bullets into his chest, dropping him.
I stopped again and collected my breath. The building looked relatively small, and I heard nothing from the door, so, after my breathing returned to normal, I headed inside. To find a hallway, sloping down and into the earth. Wonderful.
Attempting to avoid making any more noise than absolutely necessary, I crouched and continued down the corridor, eventually coming to be in a sort of U-shaped hallway surrounding a central two story room, with stairs down on the left branch, and access and windows into the main chamber as well as other rooms.
I peered through the middle window, looking into the central chamber, which appeared to be the primary motor, machinery, generators, and computers for operating the dish. There was also a raider on one of the walkways. I shot him. That got the attention of another, which I waited for, and then shot when he came to investigate. His dog might have managed to bite me, as it had come up behind me, but that was when my mutt tore into its neck and took it apart.
After finishing cleaning up the threats in the upper story hallway and the main room, I decided to head down. Rather than take the stairs, in case someone was trying to ambush me, I sent the dog out ahead to check for anyone, then slipped into the main room myself, jumped from the walkway down to a handy crate, and from there to the floor, as quietly as I could while narrowly avoiding two skeletons in the corner.
I saw no one, heard no one, so I snuck towards the last, final hallway. I carefully peered down it, and saw a woman that I'd heard earlier. I carefully aimed, breathed out, squeezed...and blew the top of her head off. There was silence for a moment, then another raider popped out of a room or alcove next to the woman I'd shot, and I shot him. Then there was another one, charging me with a stick of some sort. He received two in the chest. I swung back to where the woman had been, to see a fourth raider with a fucking hand-held minigun!
The hand-held minigun. I remembered that. "Send these weapons to our brave boys in Alaska! Over 3,000 rounds per minute! Man-portable! Shred a commie in the blink of an eye!". Of course, Nate had pointed out, once he was back, that it also used under-powered rounds that were inaccurate at any great range; but while I wasn't a commie and will never be, I was at close range, and I doubted very much that it would make a difference. So I ducked around the corner and waited while the raider sprayed a burst at where i used to be. Then it stopped.
There were two other things Nate had told me about miniguns. First, they were heavy, and hard to aim. Second, they needed a moment to "spin up" so to speak, before firing. So, when the firing stopped and I heard the motor wind down momentarily, I popped back out, and simply shot the raider twice as he or she - some of them were wearing heavy leather or canvas - started to react.
Though I spent some time in further creeping around and being scared, that turned out to be the last of them. I finally began to relax after several minutes of looking and listening. Rather than being ambushed, I'd managed to ambush them, and I had just taken out...
I looked down at my gun, warm in my hands.
I had just killed...I couldn't even be sure, maybe nine raiders? Should I include the man in the camp atop the hill? I didn't know, but I'd just killed a lot, a lot of people. I mean...I almost started to giggle...this was, like, serial killer territory. I could just imagine the tabloid headline: "Killer Lawyer Needs a Lawyer!", or "Judge, Jury, and Executioner, This Lawyer Does It All!". Or more hopefully: "Local Hero Cleans Out Gang, DA Confirms No Charges!".
Except...there wouldn't be any headline, would there? The only newpapers I had seen, so far, were ragged, ancient things complaining about Eddie Winter, or how far we were going to go in our war with China. I hadn't spoken about anything before the war to the Abernathys, not wanting to reveal that, just yet, anyway, but they hadn't volunteered anything. There was obviously no police force, no courts (three! years! of! study! a small voice in my head screamed in sudden fury), no road maintenance (obviously), no military that I could see or hear - I'd passed a crashed vertibird and a decrepit suit of power on the way to the installation - and all of that meant...no country.
On some level I'd had to have known it, right? I mean, but...but no. The lack of a justice system hadn't been why I'd been willing to start killing without a thought. How many people had I killed? Well, the first one, that woman with the shotgun and the soot-blacked eyes, firing from too far away at an expectant opponent. I'd heard the shots, moved away from them, but when I realized that they were close, at me? I hadn't run, or hidden. I'd simply, calmly, crouched, held the gun out, and blown her arm off.
It had been so easy. Why, because I was afraid? Well, yes. I hadn't been that calm, not any of these times. I just hadn't been quite as foolish, quite as unlucky, quite as stupid. And -
- the memory came hard, fast, cold. Clearer in retrospect. "...I'm not giving you Shaun!". Frosted glass, cold. A flsh of light, the report. BOMMmmm! Reverberating. Nate, limp, flying back, blood. "...At least we still have a backup." I looked at my hip, the .44 strapped there. The backup.
I lurched into a corner and heaved, the smell of vomit mixing with the smell of blood and shit from the dead bodies, the dead bodies that I had made so, in the room. My heart hammered in my chest, and I gasped, retching.
Come on, I thought, get it together. I thought on that face. Balding. Scarred. Flat, with a sort of sneering brutality indulged in for the sake of a lazy, cynical cruelty. I felt a spark, an ember flare, then flash into wildfire. Hate swarmed up, covered the horror, the disgust. Good. That was better, cleaner. I took that hate, held it, used it to push off the floor.
Then I looked at the bodies. Holes in them. Loosened bowels and sphincters leaking shit and urine. I looked at them. Then I looked at the minigun.
And I put those raiders back upright, in my mind. Standing at a farm, facing a young woman who is standing up to them, shaking hands clutching a pistol made of pipe and twine and wood and a nail for the firing pin. Her parents are watching in horror, holding back their other daughter. The younger daughter screams, begs her sister to stop, to just let them take what they want. Her father is telling her it's not worth it, what's a few...
She's angry. She stamps her foot, asks why they think they can just steal what they want. Tells them that if they want food, they should grow their own. Screams that it's not fair, that it's not ri-
The leader, the woman I shot, the one who had the minigun first, she doesn't even reply, just grins, raises the weapon, and saws the girl in two with one long burst. She's still alive, for one horrible moment, as her torso falls, her eyes, wide, her lips moving, showered in her own gore. The woman laughs, walks over to the family, slaps the father casually in the face, insulting him, crowing over his inability to do anything for his daughter.
I put that vision away, all too real in the words and faces of the Abernathys. I began to search the room for a locket, hoping it wouldn't be too hidden, and continued to think. It hadn't been that I'd killed them. I was still - well, it was bad, yes, but. Well. No. No, I hadn't disliked it at all. I had...enjoyed it. I had even felt a gleeful, mocking sense of superiority as I'd killed something, over the last few days. Faint, perhaps, overlaid by fear and triumph and uncertainty and, above all, grief, but there had been that spiteful, hateful, smirking cruelty there. A sense of: my life is ruined, so I'll ruin the world. That look, on the face of the murderer of my husband, had spoken that feeling in every impression I had of it.
But these people, they had deserved it. And...well, if it helped me to vent my grief and hate at them, well, their deaths were doing some good for someone, then. If my brain wanted to feel guilty about that, just had to have something to feel guilty for, then it could, but at least I would know it to be bullshit, and I would be alive. Because there was another lesson from the Abernathy's story: weakness, or stupidity, or an unwillingness to do violence, would get me killed.
I found the locket in a toolbox, tossed there with other random junk. A person's life, reduced to a trinket. For what? So some degenerates could strut about, relaxing with drugs and booze and flashing their weapons at anyone they wanted to rob, butchering anyone they wanted to murder? So they wouldn't have to dig in the dirt, or build a house, or work hard, or trade? To take the food out of the hands of those who grew it - to destroy their futures and hope - under pain of violence and death, just because they didn't want to do hard work themselves. To destroy another human just so you wouldn't have to do perform the most basic, fundamental duty of a living creature: to seek its own provision. Not parasitism, not one species preying on another, but cannibalism, murdering and eating their helpless own.
No, I was not like the man who shot my husband, stole my child. They were like him. The same idea, the same perspective, if not the same actions.
I decided that I was going to kill them all.
- - -
I couldn't carry away everything I wanted to. I did do my best to resemble a pack mule, however, which apparently was the signal for every wild animal within two miles to come bother me. I think I spotted two deer, ran into a pack of wild dogs, and encountered a nest of rat-beavers. Nothing caused me any problems, other than sometimes having to drop things in order to engage in the festivities. I unloaded my salvage at Sanctuary Hills, and then returned the locket to the Abernathys.
They were...so grateful that I felt guilty, maybe a little unclean, that I'd trespassed on their pain and sorrow. Conny Abernathy especially seemed to...unclench. She spoke of her daughter a little, and even said that it had been worth it, even with how it had turned out. And they essentially invited me into their home, and even let me put up a bed. I actually did take a nap, given that it was by then about noon, and I slept a bit long, but it was, for once, deep sleep.