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New Dear Hearts and Gentle People (M)

Kreed · 62 · 3237

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Offline Kreed

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Well...picking off the messenger before he had a chance to deliver the news might have change things. A clever group wouldn't venture out to investigate in the darkness; they'd have caught on that their friends weren't coming back. However, it wasn't commonplace that a bunch of raiders, strung out on chems and lack of sleep, were the most rational of thinkers particularly in a group. Akuma glanced back as Fulbeck finished off his shot before turning back to him. If the sudden shift of a barrel toward their face had caused any alarm - as it rightfully should - the traveler made absolutely no indication that they were expecting anything other than that.

"Okay, so." The moment the gun was out of their face, they continued as though nothing had happened. They kept their voice a high whisper, so that it carried over the light wind and up the slight distance still between them. "Contingency plan. They may still come out. They may not. Give it ten...fifteen minutes. I'll signal you if I think it's time to move on. If I give that signal, follow me a safe distance behind up the fire escape and we'll enter through the roof."

With any luck, they weren't coming out while Akuma was talking. The worst case scenario would be having the raiders show up with their back to them. There would be no way for Joe to pick them all off fast enough with a rifle. Especially not after three shots. He'd be having to reload halfway through even if they managed to be still enough to hit. "I'm gonna run back down before they make their move. Nice recovery."

With that, Akuma went back down the hill and disappeared into the dark.


Offline Jabbathejack

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For a moment, Joe froze, his rifle pointing skywards as he stared at Lucy. With the respirator in the darkness, they looked far more unsettling than in daylight. Not far off the people they were hunting, when it came to looks. Adding to the sense of unease was Lucy's general calmness, even when faced with a loaded weapon.

"Alright." He whispered hoarsely. "I'll look out."

Joe breathed a faint sigh of relief as Lucy melted away into the darkness. Then he turned his sights back onto the building, waiting to see just what sort of people they were after.

Patience. That was what a lot of people out here lacked. For a few minutes, Joe kept to his sights, breathing slowly and carefully as he watched the building.

Then it happened, a slight movement by the opening of the roof. One of the raiders, taking a glance at the world around them, trying to see numbers of attackers and positions, most likely. Joe held still, not wanting to give away his position if he didn't have a clear shot. Hopefully, his inaction would help lift their confidence enough to give him a line of sight.

Sure enough, the movement came again and this time, Joe could see the shadow of a rifle scope, scanning the area, looking for them. Taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling, Joe squeezed the trigger. He used the gun as a sight point, knowing that the one to operate it wasn't far behind. A moment later, there was a scream and he knew his shot had hit home.


Offline Kreed

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Akuma wasn't sure what to anticipate when it came to the raiders, but sending a second lone scout out on the roof wasn't it. These guys were a special name brand kind of stupid. It was a shame, too, because they had a strong tactical advantage given their location. Maybe they had gotten cocky and complacent over time, or maybe they just happened to be the remnants of what was once a functioning operation. Maybe they seized the location after a lucky firefight with the previous occupants. There was really no telling, and - in the grand scheme of things - it didn't matter especially anyway.

The ripples of the roar of Joe's last shot spread out and died til the air was calm again and the silence settled over the parking lot like a fine veil that the ambiance of the night couldn't quite pierce. It swelled until it was heavy and threatened to burst at the seams. It felt to Akuma like, were it ten years ago and their trigger finger still green, it was a real long minute and a half. These days, though, they were barely settled back into place before they saw movement.

They couldn't believe it. Lordy be, those idiots were coming out the left front door. Three raiders all but spilled from the entrance, and Akuma was surprised with the state of them: two young, underweight raiders - one of each sex - and a tall, grizzly looking older woman whose expression could probably be used as a pot scrubber. It took all types to maim the weak, they supposed, and it wasn't their place to judge on who could and couldn't be a menace to society. They let the matter go and pulled the pin on their frag before sending it sailing.

It met its mark, arching neatly over most of the parking lot before bouncing once. "Frag! Move!" Escaped the older woman's lips in a gruff bark, and she rushed to the right, forcing the younger woman aside with a hard shove. Behind them, the grenade detonated halfway through its short descent back to the pavement. The building shook, and the sliding glass door of the entrance shattered and was shifted off track. The blast sent the young male raider to the blacktop with a pureed torso and an arm detached at the elbow, and the other two shot several feet forward and down in a sharp diagonal. Their bodies audibly slapped against the pavement, and shrapnel from the grenade hissed in a metal rain for a few seconds after. Akuma was silent, ears ringing, but over the squeal they could hear the screams of one of the women in agony. As the dust settled they could see the young woman facedown and propped up on her elbows, screaming bloody murder. The back of her scalp had been blasted forward by the impact and hung forward in her face like a shitty combover. Both thighs stuck out at odd angles; either her femurs or her hips or both were shattered to pieces when she hit the ground. Beside her, the old woman was a motionless, smoking figure. Both women were doubtlessly pumped full of shrapnel.

Akuma fought instincts to pull the trigger of their pistol and take the young woman out of her misery, knowing her cries for help might draw more raiders out. Sure enough, like a pack of dogs drawn to a whimpering puppy, a figure appeared to peer around the corner of the nearest door, while two more cautiously poked the barrels of their rifles out the right entrance, casting a yellow light from their scopes to the ground. When the light caught sight of what remained of their comrades, one of the raiders let out a curse.

"Fuck. They fucking destroyed them..."

"Help me", sobbed the woman on the ground.

"Oh shit...Julia's still alive!"

Nobody made a move. Julia's body shook with both her cries and - likely - her adrenaline. She tried to crawl forward with her arms, but her lower body was dead weight. She didn't have the strength, and she barely moved before she stopped and rested her face on the ground. In the split second following, her exposed skull popped like a gourd and painted the sides of the building as one of the raiders squeezed their trigger.

"Dude! Why the fuck did you do that!?"

It was the raider on the left side of the entrance shouting to the pair on the right. Akuma didn't move a muscle, except for the index finger waiting on the trigger of their pistol. It twitched with anticipation. Best, however, to see how this played out first.

"Did you see her? Should I have left her like that?"

"She could have been fixed up. We have stimpaks inside. You didn't have to fucking kill her!"

"And did you want to go out there and drag her back? You fucking idiot, you'd have been in pieces too. Besides...ain't wasting fucking chems on a lost cause. Boss only kept her around for the free pussy anyway."

The third person, who had yet to say a word, quietly retreated back inside. The other two followed, but continued their shouts from within the safety of the building. They were, if nothing else, going to be easy to track and currently distracted. Akuma glanced up at the ridge and flashed their pip-boy. It was time to go inside.


Offline Jabbathejack

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Oh shit. Carnage. Joe winced as he stared through the sight, his aim trained on the one survivor as she screamed. His finger twitched, but he held off firing, knowing that as horrible as it was, having her there screaming was in their favour.

As he watched, the others made tentative glances outside, but still he held fast. It was almost a relief when one of the raiders finished her off, doing what he had wanted to do.

He blinked at the flash of green light in the darkness; Lucy's signal. An instant later, he was scrambling down the incline, keeping his head down as he went.

Joe paused at the bottom, ducking behind the cover of an old car as he waited to see if any of the raiders had enough brains to keep an eye out for their attackers. Sure enough, there was the crackle of gunfire and the dust not far from him stirred at the impact.

Keeping behind the car, he brought his scope up and focused on where the gunfire had come from. With both of them at different angles, then maybe one of them would have a clear shot when they came again.


Offline Kreed

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"There he is! The fucker is hiding behind that car!"

The raiders had finally caught on and picked up some movement. Akuma lowered their head so that they were harder to spot in the dark, but as small as they were, there was little reason to go prone in the tall grass. As they waited -- and it didn't take long at all -- the two raiders on either side of the entrance started peeking around the corners of the doors, taking cautious shots toward the vehicle where Joe was holed up.

As dumb as they were, it was decent sense to aim for the car even if the bullets didn't come out the other side, because a few well-placed bullet holes with enough depth would undoubtedly send sparks somewhere where there ought not to be any, and the nuclear engines of most of these prewar automobiles were in tact enough to be a real hazard once the flames got to them. Frankly, it wouldn't do to let that happen.

Akuma found themselves in a pretty good place for taking fire as far as line of sight went; they were dead centre between both front doors of the Super Duper Mart, so seeing both heads pop back and forth from behind the walls wasn't the issue. The real problem was distance. Rosette was a damn good pistol, but pistols had a tendency to loose oomph after fifty yards. They were closer than that, sure, but between the darkness, the wind, and the fact that they were on an incline... well. They weren't keen on getting too much closer just yet, so it was worth a try.

The first shot whizzed overhead of the raider closest to Joe and went through the glass with a pop. The man disappeared back inside - at least as far as Akuma could tell. Still, the hole in the door gave a pretty good reference point, and when raider number two poked their head out to try and get another shot at Joe's cover, they found themselves with two new holes in their chest.

It took the raider a minute to register why he'd dropped his gun and staggered back, but once he crumpled to the floor, Akuma crawled down the hill in their crouch to try and get a better aim at the second raider. Problem is...he was taking his sweet time coming back out. Maybe he was waiting for one of them to peer out first. Hell, it sure wasn't gonna be Akuma. He could wait all night.

"You alright Fulbeck?" He called out. He had no qualms giving up his position now. The raiders knew they were out there, and that there had to be more than one of them. Only way the raiders had a one up on Akuma and his tag-along was if they stayed in the same place long enough to get gunned down...which they wouldn't.


Offline Jabbathejack

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Joe kept his head down as the bullets dinged off the body of the car; it was decent cover, but he knew he would not be able to stay there for long under fire. He heard an answering shot and he hoped that Lucy was taking full advantage of the raider's focus on him.

There was a pause in the gunfire and Joe lifted his head to peer out tentatively. He narrowed his eyes, trying to distinguish any movement in the dark. Nothing. He frowned, ducking down once more. He could not assume that they were dead, merely that they were quiet. He had no idea how many were even there in total.

He started at the sound of Lucy's voice.
"Yeah." Joe raised his voice in reply. "We're fine."

They must have heard the voices too, as the gunfire started up again, bullets ricocheting off the wing of the car. The crackle of fire died down, reloading, Joe presumed. Was that a flash of movement in the door? Joe held his breath and pulled the trigger. He heard a cry of pain answering him, but from where he crouched, he could not even see where he had hit them.

Tick. Tick. Tick. The steady, subtle noise filled Joe with a deep sense of unease. The car. Shit.

Without even checking to see if he was being marked, Joe ran, skidding behind a bus shelter as the car he had just been crouching behind exploded. The blast made the shelter shudder with its impact, peppering its surface with shrapnel. Joe's ears were ringing painfully and he could feel the telltale prickle of radiation against his skin.


Offline Kreed

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Given the short timeframe between the car catching fire and the explosion, Joe was lucky to get away with his back burning up. Akuma began to move down the hill, ducking back into the grass to avoid a falling chunk of metal before sliding down the rest of the way to the asphalt.

They made a beeline for Fulbeck and his place at the bus shelter, whipping about so that they had their back to him. In the moment that Akuma spun around though, the faint roses of blood blooming in Joe's shirt had not been overlooked. The man had not come out unscathed and likely had gotten some shrapnel they'd have to pick out later.

The Geiger counter on Akuma's Pip-Boy gave a few weak tick-ticks -- some low, residual radiation from the explosion. Not enough to bother breaking out the Rad-Away for, anyway, but Akuma hastily opened a velcro pocket on their jacket and popped a pill of Rad-X just in case. As they swallowed, they hugged the edge of the shelter and crouched, waiting for a sign of movement from within the store before barely poking their head and gun out and firing at the shadows shifting in the dark building. With any luck, they'd either draw the raiders out or pick them off. Neither side was going to have a decent chance at night like this. There was a reason the phrase was 'a shot in the dark'.


Offline Jabbathejack

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Joe gritted his teeth, catching his breath. His ears were still ringing after the blast, but the few small wounds that peppered him had already started to sting. He had been lucky and he knew it, but how long his luck would last, he had no idea.

He looked up as Lucy appeared, firing at the raiders and he nodded, trying to show that he wasn't badly hurt. Taking a deep breath, Joe brought up his rifle and reloaded it.

The remaining raiders returned fire, but it was impossible to tell exactly how many were still there and in what state they were in. Without a clear shot though, he knew he would just be wasting his bullets by firing blindly. He risked a look, searching for more cover that would get him closer to their targets, but he wasn't going to risk crouching by a car any time soon.

He sent a few shots towards the mart's bullet riddled doors and then he made a rush for it, flattening himself with his back to the wall beside a Nuka Cola vending machine. Joe paused, waiting to see if his break for it had been spotted. Silence.

After a pause, he realised he could hear shuffling not far away.
"...You hurt bad?"

Joe didn't hear the response, if any. Psyching himself up, he broke his cover and kicked open the mart's door, firing at the shadowy figures within as he went. He caught one in the chest, seeing his body fall back, his assault rifle sending up bright flashes as it fired uselessly at the ceiling.

The raider's companion fired, but Joe was ready for him and he rolled over his shoulder behind the corner of the wall.


Offline Kreed

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Well. Kicking down a pair of automatic sliding doors was something else, but it wasn't too hard to do especially considering they were made of glass. As the doors fell off track and cracked on the tile below, Akuma followed in Joe's wake. Behind the larger man, they were practically invisible from the front. Combining that with the darkness of the Super Duper Mart, Akuma disappeared and went undetected in the firefight's chaos.

It was hard to be sure, but in the flashes of firing guns, Akuma could only make out two more faces. While Joe busied himself with the raiders, Akuma switched their light on their Pip-Boy and scanned the ground for bodies. Close to the wall, just behind the space where the door had stood, was the fresh corpse of one of the raiders. Quickly, Akuma scanned the immediate surroundings and spotted the hunting rifle resting a few feet away. They turned off their Pip-Boy and rushed for the weapon, turning heel to finish off the last standing raider shortly after Joe had gained his full attention.

In a few, rapid shots, the final raider fell from their place on top of the aisles, punctuating their defeat with a solid thud and subsequent clatter to the tile below. Akuma stood ready, rifle hot in their hands with two shots left before reload, and took in the sounds of eerie silence and smell of smokey-sweet gunpowder. Other than the tendrils of smoke and dust in the air, illuminated in stripes by the moonlight creeping in through the decaying walls and grimy windows, the old store was still.

Slowly, Akuma turned to where Joe had barricaded himself and waited to see if the man would emerge on his own.


Offline Jabbathejack

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The deafening sound of gunfire in the small area died down and Joe caught his breath, reloading quickly. From the silence though, the raiders were dead.

Gingerly, Joe rounded the corner and made his way past the bodies and into the shop floor.
"You all right?"

It didn't look as if Lucy had been harmed at all, but it didn't hurt to ask. Remarkably, Joe wasn't badly hurt after all he'd been through. A few pieces of shrapnel had struck him here and there, peppering his side and his shoulders; they were beginning to sting. All things considered, he had been lucky. Damn lucky.


Offline Kreed

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"I'm fine." Akuma flipped on the light of their Pip-Boy. Now that they had cleared out the bulk of the raiders, it would serve them to look for stragglers.

The white light hit the thousands of dust particles floating in the air, causing a hazy glow in a fuzzy circle around them. Shattered glass and bullet shells glistened like stars on the faded, broken tiles. Around the pair, the air was thick with the dry mist of two centuries worth of decay. The light fell on Joe's back. Akuma hummed in acknowledgment before moving back to the door. Flashing the light of the Pip-Boy out into the darkness revealed the reflection of big, yellow eyes in the grass. Susana was still waiting in place.

Akuma clicked their tongue and the yao guai rose from their place and began to lumber over. With they boots, Akuma began to shift shards of glass to the side, looking for the glittering remnants of glass by shifting their light as they moved.

"You should take a look and see what those raiders have on them. See if they have anything useful and take what you need. I'm pretty well-armed...I don't mind leftovers."


Offline Jabbathejack

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With Joe's ears still ringing painfully, their voices sounded strange in the large mart, tiny and insignificant. Joe nodded, giving the yao guai a wide berth as he headed over to check the bodies. He kept his rifle ready, just in case.

He started with the ones near the entrance, finding a small pile of caps, various types of ammunition and a decent looking hunting knife that he tucked into a pocket on the side of his borrowed trousers. He found a pair of boots that looked about the right size and he pulled them on, saving his feet from too much punishment. On one of the bodies, he found a small pack and he peeled it from their shoulders, giving the interior a quick peek before he began to fill it.

Shouldering the pack silently, Joe headed into the large open room in the centre of the mart and he paused, scanning the silent aisles, connected by the crude wooden walk ways. He froze, realising that a body was hanging from the wall above a doorway. Mutilated horribly, it was hanging up as a warning to others. Grimacing, Joe pushed on. He was used to seeing death, pretty much everywhere he went, but this was a level of cruelty that few bothered to stoop to.

As he went, he managed to add a battered assault rifle and a hunting rifle to replace the one that he had borrowed from Lucy. Both were in need of maintenance, but he was confident that he'd be able to do a decent job.

Joe vaulted lightly over a counter, finding a small side room. Inside, he found a row of shelves with a fair few chems. Mostly buffout and psycho, stuff that he didn't like to use, but still he filled his pack. What they didn't want could always be sold.

Dropping to one knee, Joe spied a safe beneath a counter and he used a bobby pin to spring the lock. Peering into the dark interior, Joe grinned as he saw a couple of stimpaks.

Joe saw the movement in the corner of his eye, just a flash of a shadow moving, but even so, it was enough to make Joe turn around and reach for his rifle at the same time. A raider jumped from the shadows, screaming wordlessly from behind a blood stained hockey mask as they swung a bat aimed for his head. Joe threw himself backwards, firing wildly. A bullet thudded into the raider's side, but it wasn't enough to stop them and the bat missed Joe's face by inches.

The raider swung again, too rapidly for Joe to think about anything but getting out of the way. He collided with the steel shelves and with a roar, Joe threw his weight against them, toppling them down on the raider. Drawing the knife, Joe jammed it deep into the gap of flesh visible below the hockey mask and held it there, his body pinning the raider down.

His hand was slick with blood, but after a moment, the raider lay still. Pulling himself to his feet, Joe peeled back the mask, revealing his face.

He was just a boy. No more than sixteen, if that. Joe looked down at his body for a moment, staring at his empty, glassy eyes and then he stooped down, wiping his bloody knife on the dead man's stained shirt.

Feeling almost numb, Joe headed back towards the entrance.
"Found another out back." He grunted the words, his throat feeling suddenly dry. "Don't think there's anyone else."


Offline Kreed

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Akuma let Joe go on ahead to scavenge around; Lord knew nobody needed the loot more than him in that moment. Wandering the Wastes barefoot? A few glass or metal shards short of a guaranteed death by a sepsis-lockjaw-cocktail. While the blond wandered deeper into the Super Duper Mart, the smaller of the two began a more thorough examination of their immediate surroundings. Food and drink supply could be collected on the road, sure, but there was never a guarantee, especially when it came to clean water. Better to collect non-perishables in anticipation of famine rather than clinging onto the hopes of a lucky find.

Through the settling dust, around the nearest left corner of the store, a faint flicker caught Akuma's attention. They turned and leaned to one side. A Nuka-Cola vending machine, still (somewhat) operational buzzed and shook with the age of centuries old wiring. Inside, several bottles sat untouched, waiting to be collected. The southerner made a beeline for the machine. It was hard to beat that drink-and-cap combo. Akuma pried open the door and grabbed the two full, sealed bottles hidden among the empty or broken containers.

From the back of the store, a commotion rang out and Akuma nearly dropped the bottles in their hand. Susana's ears flattened against her skull and she growled, placing herself between Akuma and the source of the noise and moving no further. Akuma's hand shot to their pistol on instinct, but they only made it halfway down the aisle before Joe had reappeared, seemingly in one piece though decidedly ruffled.

Akuma lowered their gun. The click-click of them turning the safety back on and pushing the hammer forward seemed strikingly loud in the stillness following the noise of the earlier struggle. "You're all shook up. What happened?"


Offline Jabbathejack

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"A boy." Joe paused, his grimace intensifying. "Just a fucking kid. Came at me with a bat."

After a moment of silence, Joe slid his new pack off his shoulders and held it open for Lucy to see.
"I found a few things back there. Chems. Ammo."

Not to mention the boots that he now wore, giving some much needed protection. Joe was glad for the change of subject. Surely he should be used to death by now? Shit like this happened every other day.

"That reminds me." He held out the heavily modded hunting rifle that they had let him use. "Here, I found myself another. I'll fix it up to suit me just fine."

"Thanks." He added, not wanting to seem ungrateful. "As for armour, I wasn't too impressed by what they were wearing. Mostly that shit sadism stuff."

Not like it protected anything much. If you wore stuff like that then you were betting on scaring your enemies enough so that they didn't bother you.


Offline Kreed

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Ah. Kids were always tough to handle. Most of the time, they were only involved in schemes like that out of necessity; it was their only means of survival, or else they'd been convinced it was. Given the futility of settlements in the wasteland, where even the elements in and of themselves would kill by the dozens, it was hard to argue that pillaging with the biggest and baddest wasn't the most practical approach to self-preservation.

Any would-be emotional response was completely unreadable beneath Akuma's mask, and they didn't reply right away. Instead, they focused on Joe's haul and took a look inside his bag, nodding in approval before backing up.

"What kind of chems did you grab?" Some of it was worth splitting between the two of them, but most every day raiders didn't know how to combine chems together to make even better shit. Akuma's intention wasn't on heavy use for themselves - although depending on what it was, they weren't entirely opposed - but hybridized drugs tended to fetch higher prices if you knew where to sell.

"You're welcome." Akuma was brief in accepting their rifle and shouldering it. At their height, it was a somewhat comical sight and a wonder the butt of the gun didn't scrape the ground, but at the right angle, it seemed to fit naturally on the smaller person's shoulders despite its length. It was an item they were no stranger to carrying.  "Shit armour is better than nothing, but I ain't about to dress you up in something you don't wanna wear. That's your call, sunshine."

From nearby, Susana snuffled loudly as she shoved her face into a raider's bag. After a few moments, she was crunching loudly. It appeared she had found her own reward for her efforts, how ever minimal they had been in the firefight. Akuma watched her for a few moments before turning back to Joe. "I don't expect anyone else to turn up with the party decorations we left out front being what they are. We should take advantage of our location and set up here for tonight. What do you think?"