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Title: In All This Blood and Thunder (6/?)
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.

6. Commuting

They exit Megaton quickly the following morning. This time, they flee not bullets but Rorschach’s extremely fuzzy memories of the night before.

He should not have accepted one of Jericho’s “quantum” Nuka Colas.

He certainly shouldn’t have accepted four of them.

Or spent a solid hour attempting to matchmake the redeemed whore (whom Rorschach had rescued from an unbearable and brief life as surely as young Wilkes, and was equally responsible for) with her co-worker.

Owns business, good provider.

Solid family man.

Smell not unbearable.

Would make honest woman of you, am sure.

Will not be beautiful forever.

Jericho had interrupted the one-way conversation, slurring his love for natural redheads (which made Rorschach strangely uncomfortable) and suggested the three of them stress-test the bounciness of the bedsprings upstairs. At that, 98-pound Gob tackled Jericho around the knees and lightly bruised his face with several dozen punches. Seemingly moments later, the two combatants were dancing together on the bar to the radio’s crackly rendition of Butcher Pete, high-kicking bottles across the room.

Much, much deeper in the fog of memory and the fetid gloom of early morning hours are other scraps, surely only twisted dreams, of Nova’s lap…and tears pattering the inside of his beautiful face…screams of Mommy

Surely mere dreams, Rorschach thinks, uneasily. Mind plays tricks under the influence of too much…caffeine…

He’d woken in the puddle surrounding Megaton’s namesake, skin red and fizzing from advanced radiation poisoning. Jericho was finally located in Lucy West’s shack, and after a brief exchange of pointed slurs, the two men were on their way to the city before the rest of the indolent settlement stirred from their soft mattresses.

Jericho lights yet another cigarette. “An hour of sleep and I’m fresh as a fucking daisy! This is the world for me, kid.”

“Where do those come from?” Rorschach asks. “And what are you lighting them with?”

Jericho ignores his questions. “And listen to you, using pronouns and everything! You and me, Inky, this is our world.”

The old man farts explosively and grins. “Yessir, this is our world.”

It is impossible to travel stealthily with Jericho in tow, but they no longer need to.

“See that? That’s a good place for an ambush,” he says, and runs hopefully into it, flamethrower lit.

Jericho flushes out a pair of zombie bears instead of the expected raiding party, and a harsh caw of laughter forces its way out of Rorschach’s throat as the mercenary backpedals, unleashing a stream of panicked profanity.

“What the fuck are these?” he yells, dodging a ragged paw with claws as large as his forearm.

Rorschach knows somehow. “Yao guai! Very dangerous, but good meat.”

He runs in a wide arc around the bears and Jericho, racing up a rock outcropping before they can reach it. He remembers something else. “Three Dog says not to feed them!”

“That’s what I’m trying to avoid, smart ass!” Jericho stumbles and takes a blow to the head, blood blobbing from a long cut at the hairline. He bellows in pain and unholsters his assault rifle. “Eat hot lead, Yogi, yaaaaaargh!”

Rorschach leaps, sledgehammer whipped high and falling like an anvil, and caves in the bear’s solid head with one blow. A couple of Jericho’s bullets slam into his thigh.

“Behind you!”

The dead bear’s mate rears up on its hind legs and bellows. Rorschach rolls off the corpse, grunting as he lands on his injured leg and pain stabs anew through the limb. Crippled by his own hired help – he’s sure no Wastelander has suffered such indignity before.

Jericho blasts the beast with an entire clip, driving it back. Rorschach gets to his knees, still within the thing’s striking range. In fact, if it falls to all four again, it’ll land on top of him. He swings his sledgehammer again and with more luck that strength catches it on the knee.

Jericho drags him across the ground one-handed, still firing with the other, while Rorschach jabs a stimpack into his leg and hopes the damaged muscle will regenerate quickly. The yao guai follows, limping and sniffing the air.

“There’s a 10-millimeter in my boot,” Jericho grunts as he reloads. “Grab that, get some more bullets in this thing, and we may make it out alive.”

Rorschach grimaces with distaste. “Have no use for guns.”

He also has no skill with them, and knows he is as likely to hit himself as the beast. He remembers the rusted, greasy metal of the BB gun Father gave him on his 10th birthday, the sick emptiness of dealing death to a radroach from afar at no risk to himself. He carried out his dis-infestation duties from then on like a man, swinging his Vault 101 Little League bat.

He wishes for a bigger bat.

He hears a skittering behind them, like the giant ants of Greyditch but much heavier.

A phrase rises up from his gut (the enemy of my enemy…) and he impulsively kicks out, knocking himself and Jericho to the side.

“Goddamnit, kid!” he bellows, then gasps, “You have got to be kidding me!”

A scorpion the size of a Buick barrels through the space they just left and attacks the yao guai, driving its stinger deep into the mangy belly.

“Haha, yeah! Fuck you, Smokey – ten bucks on Charlotte!”

“Charlotte was spider,” Rorschach mutters, catching his breath.

Heedless of attracting the entire wasteland, Jericho brays laughter and cheers the scorpion on. The two are evenly matched and fight viciously for several minutes. The scorpion emerges victorious, but pitifully so, missing legs and his proud stinger hanging low. Rorschach kills it with a single punch and wrenches out the stinger. It still drips venom, and he knows it could be very useful in crippling enemies – perhaps tied to a stick, like a spear? But the wasteland’s trees are charred corpses that splinter when merely leaned on. A rake handle, perhaps, and some surgical tubing to secure it? No, it is too dangerous a thing to keep on his person while he looks for the right parts. He throws it away with regret and butchers both yao guai.

“Here,” he hands Jericho one chunk of meat. “Will build strength up.”

“Thanks, killer. How do we get a fire started – oh, yeuch!”

Rorschach takes another bite and wipes blood from his lips. “Hmm?”

“I can’t believe you’re eating that raw,” Jericho turns up his nose. “Did you always eat that way? Ugh, don’t answer that.”

Rorschach regards the remaining meat in his hands and shrugs. It’s tasteless, but he already feels stronger. Ferocious, even. “Too irradiated to contain parasites or harmful bacteria. Palatable without sybaritic luxury of cooking.”

“When in Rome,” Jericho sighs and nibbles on his own. “Hah, why don’t we just hop on the Metro, zoom the rest of the way in?”

Rorschach consults the directions Gob had punched into his Pip-boy. “Agreed. Station is just across river.”

“No, really? Hah! A Metro station right where you need it. I gotta say, post-apocalyptic DC continues to be a vast improvement over the real thing.”

“Gob suggests approach from west, avoid raiders dug in on south end.”

Jericho shakes his head. “No can do, little man. You got bad guys, I got ammo, and always the twain shall meet. Let’s go!”

To Jericho’s disappointment, the raiders are dug in behind a row of derelict cars and distracted, attacking a contingent of super mutants on the opposite bank. “Hoo, look at those uglies! You weren’t lying. Let’s cross back over and get ‘em!”

“No,” Rorschach insists. “Metro entrance unguarded. Can’t waste opportunity.”

“Fine,” Jericho grouses, and drags his feet along the concrete. He brightens suddenly. “Do you still have those frag grenades from the Wilkes house?”

Rorschach finds them in a hip pocket. Jericho grins.

“Heads up, motherfuckers!”

Jericho yanks the pins from both grenades with his teeth and flings them into the raider’s nest of cars. They explode as expected, wounding several, and then the cars blow, one after another.

A modest mushroom cloud blooms over the carnage.

“And that,” Jericho tells Rorschach, throwing a companionable arm over his shoulder even as the Super Mutants’ bullets begin to ping against the concrete around them, “is why you never shelter from a firefight behind a car. Especially a nuclear-powered Pinto.”

part 1 - part 2 - part 3 - part 4 - part 5

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