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“Do you hear that on the radio?”
“Not just another Minuteman cast from Carl?” I asked.
“No, this is something else… hang on.” MacCready stopped walking, pulling the radio from his belt and started fiddling with the dial. “Woah… Tasha pull this up on your pip boy.”
We had just finished dropping off supplies at Vault 81. I was feeling restless and MacCready and Cait were always ready to head out into the wild with me so I’d released the rest of the Minutemen squad that had accompanied us and took both of them with me in a hike across the wastelands. Looking for supplies, trouble or both. There was still plenty of territory out here we hadn’t fully explored yet.
At MacCready’s instructions I slung the AR over my shoulder and started fiddling with my pip-boy until I heard it too. “That’s a distress call… from a fucking vault?”
“And here I thought it was gonna be a boring day of shooting Death Claws in the arse,” Cait grinned.
“Always looking at butts, Cait,” MacCready smirked.
“Aww, don’t go gettin’ jealous now. I’m always looking at yours,” She reached out and gave his rump a sound smack.
I couldn’t help but chuckle. I adored these two. “You know if we fight Death Claws then I have to use the sample kit and bring back things for Curie. And the last time she wanted a damn eyeball.”
“Yeah but she’s hot when she’s doing all that science stuff,” MacCready said.
“He’s right yah know. Wouldn’t mind taking a bite outta that one.”
“Neither one of you are allowed to corrupt poor Curie,” I said with a laugh and started walking in the direction of the signal we were getting.
“Hang on now, you seen the way she looks at you? She’s just waitin’ to be corrupted.”
“She walked in on me during a workout. I had my shirt off. I might have flexed for her. Thought she was gonna faint.” MacCready grinned.
“Mmm… all sweaty were yah?” Cait gave him an overly suggestive once over and MacCready flexed his arm for her.
I burst out laughing at the pair of them, thinking about Cait’s comment about Curie. Curie was beautiful. And smart. So different in personality than Cait or MacCready but we all fit together somehow. When I had the three of them to myself those were the best memories I could hang onto.
“…. You’re fine enough I’ll give you that. I’ve got me eyes on someone else though.”
“You’re not the only one.”
I had paused, a combination of being lost in my thoughts and trying to get the direction the signal was leading us when I realized both of them were looking at me. It wasn’t the first time either one of them had given me that expression. It was… flattering. More than that. I felt numb to a lot of things when it came to emotions that weren’t rage or grief. But more often over the last year, after I’d gotten to really know them, their stories, their secrets, they had started looking at me differently. In a way that suggested a lot more than just respect or awe… something deeper. More intimate. Curie looked at me the same. They wanted me and I knew it wasn’t just sexual. They wanted more.
I’d be lying if I said didn’t want too. If I was honest with myself I felt the same about them. But sometimes the reminder of what I’d lost took hold. I remember what happened last night and had to work to keep the frown off my face. I didn’t know if I was ready to give them what they wanted. To start really… living.
I cleared my throat, averting my gaze from theirs and looking back down at my pip boy. “This way.”
“You want to do what?”
“Just hear me out,” said the woman who had introduced herself as Overseer Barstow in that gravely voice the Ghoul’s had.
We were in the remains of an incomplete Vault. Two days ago, myself, Cait and MacCready had found it, cleared out the raiders trying to get in and made contact with the woman inside. We hadn’t been able to get to her right away on account of a cave in, and a pile of rubble in the way. I had radioed in for a small crew to come find us and a day later we’d managed to get a pathway clear into the area Overseer Barstow was trapped in.
It was a huge cavern, clearly a half finished Vault Tech Project. Curie was currently standing next to me, she’d come in case anyone on this side of the debris needed medical attention. The only person who was here was the now ghoul Overseer and few feral ghouls that Cait and MacCready had just cleared out.
I was not a fan of Vault Tech. Not after what they’d done to me, and not after finding evidence of their fuckery all over the Commonwealth. I hated them nearly as much as I hated the extinct Institute. And now this fucking Overseer was trying to sell on me continuing the project she had started. On getting more people to come here, build up this facility… and experiment on them.
“…this could redefine society.”
She kept talking and my fury was rising. Maybe it was because Overseer Barstow was everything that Vault Tech had been. Maybe it was because she wanted to continue experimenting on people with such a cavalier attitude. Maybe it was because I still felt like if I hadn’t been stuck in that cyro chamber I could have saved the life of my husband and my son. Maybe I was just broken beyond repair.
In the end the reason didn’t matter. I lifted my gun to her temple and pulled the trigger.
The gunshot ran out loudly in the chamber, echoing around us. Curie startled, Cait and MacCready came to my side guns up and battle ready looking for the threat.
“My goodness. Why did y-”
“Let’s go.” I interrupted Curie. I didn’t look at any of them as I holstered my weapon and stalked out of the cavern.
I was standing behind the cage, winding the strips of tape around my knuckles. There was a bottle of something strong, probably laced with someone else too on the stool next to me. Next to it was a needle full of the drug called pyscho.
I hadn’t been in the Combat Zone since I’d freed Cait from it. Since then a group of gang of Raiders had taken control of the building and Tommy, former Owner was long gone. It was a disgusting place, and reeked of cheap liquor, b.o., blood, and puke.
I had sent them all home; on missions, I didn’t care. After vault 88 I’d been stuck in a loop of what ifs and what I just couldn’t seem to let go of. In a healthier time I would have gone to seen a therapist. Dealt with my grief and all that. This wasn’t that time and all I knew right then was my rage. I was so fucking angry at all of it. I finished taping and grabbed the bottle, taking a big swallow. I picked up the shot of pyscho, staring down at it, then over at my opponent on the other side of the cage and back.
Cait would be furious if she knew I was here. That this was in my hands. So would-
“Please do not do this,” A soft accented voice. Curie.
I jerked my gaze up and she was standing there all alone. “Curie? How the hell…?”
Curie was nervous, but determined I could see it on her face. She moved to stand in front of me, touching my hands. “Please. I know you are in pain. In mourning. That you grieve for them. Can we not ease your pain another way? I am sure there is a way, that I could find it.”
Her words stabbed me. Pulled at emotions that were not my rage. I tired to deflect. “Do you come alone?”
Curie paused before shaking her head. “I asked them to wait outside. I wanted too… try to reach you. Cait is furious. MacCready has… a most serious look on his face. Please. Natasha…” She so very gently touched my cheek, holding my gaze in her own. “Come with us. Let us help you in another way.”
My brow pinched. My jaw clenched. “I’m just… so fucking angry, Curie.”
“Yes, with reason. So many good reasons. But, it is not all you are. I have seen this. I know this. Perhaps, the thing you need most to be reminded of is that you are not alone. We can help you. We want to try. Please,” Curie said the latter so softly, giving my hand a gentle squeeze.
The reminder that I was not alone was dirty pool. A single tear spilled down my cheek before I could stop it. Curie caught it with the gentle touch of her fingers and very surprisingly kissed my cheek right after. Her lips were so soft, and sent a jolt through me that was anything but anger. I looked at her, and saw the faint blush in her cheeks, the courage she was displaying by being here. For me. I thought of Cait and MacCready outside. My new family. I wanted them, I realized. I was bone tired of self destructing. I wanted them to help me get past all this. Maybe even start really living again. I took a breath, squeezed her hand back and nodded. “Okay.”
Curie’s face lit up and it was the most beautiful thing I’d seen in a long time. I smiled back at her.
“Damn this is fucking cute. Anyway you ready General?” Boomstick Rodney was the stupid ass name the Raider leader had given himself. He waltzed across the stage with his posse and my hackles immediately started rising.
“Change of plans. I’m out this match. Get someone else. I’ll give you the caps for-”
Before I could finish, two of his goons shot forward and grabbed Curie by the arms, yanking her backwards, one of them pressing a bolt pistol to her temple. That beautiful expression transformed into one of fear and my rage was quick to boil right back to the surface.
“Get your fucking hands off her!” I grabbed the bottle, ready to break it and slit some throats, eyeing the group, sizing them up. Calculating who I could take. How I would have to do this. If I could do this, without them hurting Curie.
Boomstick Rodney chuckled. “Fairs fairs in here, General. You agreed to the match and I’ve got a fuck ton of caps on it. So either you fight, or I take it out on this pretty girls hide.”
I took stock of the men again that surrounded us versus the one waiting for me on the other side of the ring. My better bet was the ring truth be told. “Fine. But if something happens to her-”
“Yeah yeah, we know,” Boomstick Rodney waved a dismissive hand and I had to resist the urge to cut it off. “All you gotta do is hold up your end.”
I cast Curie an apologetic glance that I had come here and gotten her into this. I was even a little mad at the damn fool for following me into my own personal hell but, she cared didn’t she? That’s what people did when they cared about you. I wouldn’t loose her. Not for my own mistake.
I set the bottle down and picked up the pyscho, injecting myself with the drug without second thought. I heard the distressed sound Cuire made at my actions as they took her off the stage and into the crowd. All that became a distant noise as the drug hummed through my body, making me feel powerful and even more, sent my rage to brand new heights. I throw open the cage door, stalking into the ring.
The fight didn’t last long. He thought being bigger would serve him, and it might have but he never landed a punch and I bashed his fucking face in. I had his blood on on my hands, little specks of it on my shirt and my face when the bout was called and the crowd was cheering.
I left the ring, hopping off stage and walked over to where Boomstick Rodney and his little crew where holding Curie. She looked horrified, deeply worried and somewhere in my drug induced brain I had reason enough to feel bad about the way she was looking at me. “It’s done. Now let her go,” I picked up the closest bottle I could find, uncaring what was in it and downed half the contents.
“Brilliant performance General,” Boomstick Rodney clapped. “Brilliant. But see… now I’m thinking…”
I stilled. “Excuse me?”
“I said I was thinking…”
He started talking. Thinking he could deal. Blackmail. Keep Curie at his side a little longer to get me to go another bout. I wouldn’t have been well received to his threat had I not been jacked up on pyscho. Drugged as I was, I was even less level headed.
He should have let her go.
I grabbed another dose off the table, injecting myself again. I heard Curie’s warning shout. Truth be told I remember very little after that.
I know I threw a bottle in Boomstick Rodney’s face. Kicked a table into another guy. Someone was bashed with a chair. My fists. I broke a battle and slashed someone’s throat, I think it was Boomstick Rodney’s but I couldn’t be sure. I managed to get hold of a gun, all the while shouting at Curie to get down, screaming in my rage. At some point it all became too much for my body to handle and I collapsed onto the dirty floor. I remember seeing Curie over me, hearing her shout for someone. I remember hearing Cait curse, MacCready shouting warnings. Gunfire and screaming and chaos.
After that, I sunk down into the black and for the first time I didn’t really want to be there.