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Title: In All This Blood and Thunder (5/?)
Author: MustInvestigate
Disclaimer: I only own action figures
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: none
Warning(s): advanced geekery, WIP
Summary: Rorschach unwittingly enters the Fallout universe. Probably won't make much sense unless you've played at least the main storyline. Possibly not even then.
Note: Set in 1976. Thanks to Doctor Manhattan's random technological phlebotinum, gaming technology leapt directly from 1972's Pong to...this, why not.

5. Greyditch

“Giant ants? I got less than no interest in giant ants.”

“Must return father to boy.” Bryan Wilkes had caught them in the parking lot, big brown eyes overflowing as he begged them to find his only living parent.

Rorschach is beginning to wonder why every wastelander with a problem waits until he happens by to demand help, and why they zero in on him. After a few weeks on the outside, he is no cleaner or friendlier-looking than the locals. He also wonders why it is so pleasing to be asked, why he truly expects no reward.

“Wilkes is ant food. Mystery solved. Let’s hit the city.”

Young Bryan had tearfully wished he was a big strong man like Rorschach, able to go after his father himself.

“Unwise to proceed without securing rear, risking possibility of ambush if retreat is unavoidable,” Rorschach replies flatly, unable to shake the memory of the boy’s awe and hope.

“Secure your own rear,” Jericho snorts. “Fine. You’re the boss. Literally – seems I’ve got no choice but to follow you. But if I miss out on putting a few well deserved bullets in giant mutat congressmen because you got us killed by goddamn bugs, you’re going to the top of Nixon’s enemy list.”

* * *

“You didn’t tell me they breathe fire,” Jericho chides as they make their way back to Bryan’s hiding spot, an individual fallout shelter the size of a phone booth (and offering about as much protection from a nuclear blast). He shoulders the flamethrower he found in the tunnels under Grayditch, ruddy skin greasy with fireproof ant nectar. “Fucking fire-breathing giant ants are worth a detour!”

Rorschach only grunts in response. He is preoccupied with the task ahead of him: informing young Wilkes of his father’s death – Jericho, sadly, had been correct – and that the scientist neighbor Bryan so admired had created the monsters, then cowered in safety rather than end his own plague.

The scientist’s stripped corpse is even now being consumed by his beloved ant queen, deep in the bowels of the city. That thought will bring Bryan comfort.

Rorschach wrenches open the shelter’s door. “Father is dead,” he tells the boy. “Have avenged him, punished killer.”

Bryan only nods, slowly. “I guess I kind of knew. Thanks for finding him, anyway. I’m on my own now.”

He surveys the wreck of a town before them, most of it in flames, with the remnants of the mutant ant colony inching closer. Seeing them, Jericho cheers, and quickly chases them down with his flamethrower.

“Anywhere you could go?” Rorschach asks.

“You’ll find me a new home? Gee, that’s great!” Bryan perks up immediately.

“Did not volunteer to – ”

“I have an aunt who lives on a giant ship, and owns a hotel, or something.”

“No,” Rorschach says, and takes the boy’s arm, pulling him out of the shelter. “Boy needs a father.”

Jericho jogs happily back to his side, smelling of sweat and ozone.

“Another detour,” Rorschach tells him, bracing for argument.

He is pleased when Jericho only shrugs. “Lay on, kemosabe. You haven’t steered us wrong yet.”

He is more than pleased, he realises, that this man trusts his judgement so completely. He is warmed all through by the regard, and is barely irritated when Jericho whistles as they near their destination.

“What the hell is this, Mad Max’s summer cottage?”

“Megaton,” Rorschach replies shortly. “You’ve lived here for some time.”

Jericho is a tenacious fighter, which makes his unhinged mind and poor hygiene worth tolerating. He guides Bryan more upwind of the other man as they pass through the rusty gates.

“It’s got a bar!” Jericho announces happily, as Rorschach leads them into the saloon. “A bar with booze! Can we drink that in here, or is it only part of the ambiance?”

Rorschach grunts an affirmative, looking for Gob.

Jericho yanks a filthy bottle out of a barfly’s hand. “This is my kinda recreation, Inky. Fuck Pong, when’s this bastard coming on the market? Hell, if it’s out for Christmas, it’s going in Kissinger’s stocking, but only if he’s a very very good egghead.”

Rorschach barely notices his ranting. “Have heard Moriarty often urinated in still.”

Jericho pauses and examines the whiskey in his hand, then shrugs. “What’s a little digital piss, huh?”

He drains the bottle in one smooth gulp, and staggers. “Does anyone else suddenly feel stupider?”

Rorschach finds Gob cleaning glasses and kneels to speak seriously to Bryan. “Gob is good man. Show respect. Do not make fun of face.”

“Hey, pal,” Gob greets him. “Want a drink?”

Rorschach shakes his head. “Boy’s father eaten by ants,” he says, cutting straight to business. “Raise him as your own.”

The world seems to freeze, all but Rorschach and Jericho. A cold icicle of fear stabs his chest – the madness has infected his mind, too? He is doomed to spout gibberish like the rest of this benighted settlement?

“I think you broke the game,” Jericho says. “Should have dumped him on the aunt he mentioned, instead. Damn. I was just getting started!”

He sees an endless field of tiny squares, and then the world begins again.

“Y-yes, wel-come home, s-son,” Gob stutters, the words made of warring letters. Bryan nods jerkily in response and joins him behind the bar.

“Hot damn, it’s back on! What do you think, kid – calls for a celebration?”

Jericho snatches and drains another bottle from the bar without waiting for an answer. “Hoo boy, that one wiped away algebra and my mother’s name. Keep ‘em coming, melty green barkeep – hey, wha’ the fuck happened to your face, buddy? Steamy romance with a hot plate?”

Rorschach leans against the wall, momentarily content to watch Gob run Bryan through taking inventory and use of the dented police baton under the bar. Already teaching mathematics and manners; as he suspected, Gob is a natural father.

part 1 - part 2 - part 3 - part 4

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