You gotta shoot ‘em in the Head!
Writer’s note: This story actually takes place after the events in “The Condemned”, so is a sequel to that story. It is a fictionalized account of events that occurred in-game during the time my main toon was in Guardian, right after Crouching Tiger and Condemned totally changed my game experience-Kathryn A. “Kit” Southworth.
Kit Southworth guided her horse through the arroyo near Pitchblende, conscious of the abundant wildlife that could suddenly confront her skittish beast of burden. This type of travel was old hat for her; a Vista Ranger, she had learned to live with and off the land a long time ago. Despite her young age, she was adept at both hunting and avoiding the creatures in this land and could easily distinguish which were safe to eat and which should be avoided. She was an expert scavenger, geologist and naturalist. She had written, on scavenged paper and improvised pens, volumes on plant recognition, animal identification and metallurgy. The first rifle she had ever used, as a young teen, came off the forge from her own hands, a modified Rangemaster .30-06 so powerful she used it to track and kill armored Enforcers and Techs near her hometown of Thorne’s Bluff. Tall for a female, Kit was slim with a long, straight coif of red hair. She wore a weathered Camouflage jacket and pants, jungle boots, and an olive drab scarf wrapped around her head. Underneath the jacket was a Kevlar vest she was given by the guards in Kingman View for a service she performed there. On her back was a unique Jackal sniper rifle, considered one of the best weapons GlobalTech ever made. Next to the rifle was sheathed a katana sword taken from a tyrant she had killed in Depot 66. She was also armed with a pair of very rare Desert Eagle .50 Automatic pistols, more commonly called “Neverenders”. She had also managed to make and arm herself with a few grenades, hardly seen in the wastes. And lastly, she had clipped to her belt a rare find, a hand-held taser scavenged and repaired from a police vehicle she found in a dilapidated garage in Clinton Farm. She was confident, but not overly so; it was foolish to ever think one had the upper hand over the wastes. Kit guided her horse over gentle hills and through shallow valleys until the outskirts of Pitchblende came into view. She stopped and shaded bright blue eyes, which the glare off the tin roofs caused to squint hard, even through the survivor’s sunglasses she wore. Not allowing herself more than a moment of reverie, Kit spurred her horse down through a narrow gorge and into the town of Pitchblende. It wasn’t long until she reached the diner, and as she did so, spotted a familiar pair of vehicles.
Jonathan Campbell sat at the counter of the diner in Pitchblende, taking a long draught of the fine corn brew offered on the menu. Jon was a bit self-conscious of being in this town; it was a known way-station for Vista Rangers, as well as a supply point for Traveler parties passing through to Los Alamos. Neither group would be overly fond of a tech explorer or each other, but Jon took solace in a simple fact: On his right shoulder was a patch that stated, in bold black and gold letters, “GUARDIAN”. The Guardians were a multi-faction group dedicated to peace and balance in the wastes. All factions both honored the patch and provided agents for the respected group. Surprisingly, even the CHOTA respected the Guardian patch and provided some of the strongest field agents, particularly the ones who were used to solve problems by force. Guardians were sworn to protect the townsfolk of the wastes, providing any help they could, and for that, every faction both respected them and gave them leave. Jon sat, sipping brew and taking stock of the diner. As he did so, he managed to catch a glimpse of himself in the cracked mirror mounted behind the bar; tall; brown-eyed; dark hair with a haggard scrap of beard growing on a square chin; Mesoprene armor body suit; His hardened armor helmet, with its many communications devices, night vision goggles and Geiger counter, lay on the bar in front of him. Over his back was slung an M-Croall Shark automatic rifle. On his hips were matched Hornet auto pistols. On one leg was strapped a combat knife. Jon believed in being armed for every eventuality and tried to take a logical approach to combat. As a Tech, he preferred clinically detached exploration to armed conflict, but he was no stranger to it and kept some violent company at times. No sooner than the thought passed through his head, the batwing doors to the diner opened and in strode one of his violent companions. Tall, taller than even Jon himself, walked a hulking figure, dressed in mesoprene similar to Jon’s suit. Instead of a hardened helmet, the figure wore a red beret over a mop of unkempt blond hair. Clenched between yellowed teeth was a smoldering cigar. Slung over his back were two rifles, a S.I.R. Shotgun and a Z.I. Custom sniper rifle. Pouches containing shotgun shells and .50 ammo were sewn all over the mesoprene body suit. The suit itself was adorned in eagle fathers, lapis lazuli dream-catchers and red splashes of paint, the marks of a CHOTA warrior. The figure approached the bar, pulled back a seat and sat heavily next to Jon. As he leaned over the bar, the black and gold patch on his arm became visible, and Jon muttered, “hello, Wamplv”.
Wamplv had travelled non-stop from Warhall to be in Pitchblende by the appointed time. Normally assigned to his home area, he was requested personally by the station chief in Deadfall and his war chief had approved the request. His ancestry was Eastern European, as his parents had been from the group of warriors known as the White Crow, but Wamplv had grown up with his mother among the CHOTA following his father’s death at the hands of a group called the CoG. The beret was all he had left of his father. His motorcycle had banged and coughed through sector 3 without incident, until he had arrived in Deadfall and run into a group of Judges who had insisted on “purging” the CHOTA warrior. Two minutes after the Judges declared their intentions, all 6 of them lay dead, 4 to his shotgun, one to a hefty smack to the head and the last, from a .50 bullet while fleeing. Spoiling the bodies had gotten him nothing but a little food, some cheap ammo and the same drivel written on pamphlets that judges always used to harangue townspeople. The CHOTA warrior had mopped his brow on the pamphlets and discarded them beside the bodies, which he left laying next to the road. After all, scavengers needed to eat, too. Arriving in Pitchblende, he had headed straight into the diner, to see that Jon was already inside. He and the Tech were the best of friends and comrades –in-arms. Each had saved the other’s life on more than one occasion. Wamplv’s normally sour scowl broke into his widest grin as he sat at the bar next to his friend. Jon returned the grin. Wamplv kept his peace for a moment as he scanned the diner, then asked, “Is she here yet?” No sooner than he asked, the batwing doors swept open to reveal the red-haired camouflaged ranger. Kit crossed the room in quick, measured strides and took a seat next to Wamplv. His grin, almost ear-splitting in width, somehow got wider. “Hello, Kitty” Wamplv drawled as the redhead perched onto the stool and smiled back.
“So…together again” Jon mused as the three Guardians sat and sipped corn beer at the dilapidated bar in the Pitchblende dinner. “I assume your orders are the same as mine?” Jon removed a crinkled piece of paper from a pouch on his body armor. Wamplv and Kit followed suit. “Apparently, scavenging parties have been disappearing from the area known as Radberg. A large party of scavengers from Los Alamos recently went in to search the area for consumables and treasure and was never heard from again” Kit’s soprano voice recited almost from memory, barely glancing down at the sheave of paper in her hands. “A squad of enforcers stationed near the Foothills was dispatched to the area to search for them and disappeared as well” Despite his heavy accent, Wamplv was easily understood by his two compatriots. “At this point, the area governor has requested official intervention by the Guardians. No less than 3 agents are requested, to discover the fate of the missing parties and return them, if possible. If at all possible, these agents should be clones; that way if they are killed in the line of duty, knowledge of what transpired in Radberg may still be reported” Jon’s steady bass finished the reading of the orders on a somber note. All three Guardians fingered the metal collars around their necks, aware of the blinking lights and glossy sheen on each collar, the shared “immortality” another link that bound them. “So…my friends” Wamplv’s heavily accented English cut through the moment of sobriety. The CHOTA warrior had a way about him that inspired levity, even in the face of certain death, “what say we have one more mug of this fine brew and then make our way to Radberg?”
The ride to Radberg had been mainly uneventful. Wamplv and Kit had stored their mounts at the local garage, giving the steward plenty of chips to watch and care for the horse and motorcycle and a stern warning if anything happened to either. All three Guardians had piled into Jon’s dune buggy; its wide chassis made to carry specimens and scavenged material. It easily held all three warriors and their weaponry. The only excitement that occurred on the road to Radberg was an irradiated boar that blocked the road. Wamplv, sitting in the back of the vehicle, had stood and levered his Z.I. Custom and killed it in one shot. “Maybe they died of boredom” Kit muttered as the buggy banged and rattled over the cracked, weathered pavement. None of the Guardians knew what to expect; this patch of road was new to them. As the dreary trip seemed to stretch on for an infinite amount of time, a garage suddenly hove into view. Kit saw it first, her Ranger’s eyes sharp and alert instantly. “Jon!” she yelped, but the Tech was already on the brakes and sloughing the buggy to the front of the building in a harsh skid. As they ground to an abrupt halt, a portly old man appeared from inside of the garage, glaring harshly at the three. “Go ‘way!” he snapped at the three Guardians, “go ‘way or end up like those other fools”. The three Guardians looked at the man, at each other, then back at the oil-stained face of the rude old man. “What happened here, old man? Where are these others you speak of?” Wamplv all but demanded. “Hah! Proud CHOTA…no prouder than those fool soldiers…those…’forcers. You think you’ll do any better? They all think they’ll do better!” Kit looked at the oil-stained old man for a second then blurted, “Old father…please…tell us what happened here. Lives are at stake…please?” It was rare that Kit’s soft voice or blue eyes couldn’t melt or soften the heart of a man when she put effort into it and that gift did not fail her today. “Daughter…daughter! Why throw your life away?” The old man intoned softly, “ the evil in that building yonder does not care if you are fair or foul” At the use of the word “foul”, the old man glared at Wamplv. “Turn back, daughter…save yourself and in doing so, save your less-deserving companions!” He glared at Wamplv and threw a glance at Jon for good measure, then stalked back into the garage. Jon, sighed audibly, then said, “Well, I think that’s about all the help we’re going to get from him. Shall we?” With a nod from both companions, Jon gunned the accelerator and sent the buggy back on its path toward Radberg.
Despite the pall over the town, Radberg was quiet. None of the three Guardians could see anything out of place, which was disturbing in itself. The town had obviously been abandoned, its buildings fallen into disrepair. The single road leading into to the town ended in a parking lot full of stone rubble and rusted vehicle hulls. There were buildings on either side and at the back of the lot, and the road curved to the right, seemingly into the woods surrounding the town. Wamplv sniffed at the air and squinted hard. “I can smell rot on the wind” Wamplv intoned, still squinting. Kit scanned the windows of each building, ears straining to pick up any hint of movement. “There is nothing moving here…nothing at all…”. “Stay alert” Jon warned his companions, “Something happened here…I can feel it…stay sharp”. All three drew weapons as they dismounted the buggy; Jon shouldered his M-Croall Shark, Wamplv swung his S.I.R. onto his shoulder and Kit readied her Jackal. The three Guardians began moving through the ruble-strewn parking lot, moving together as they always had; two moving while one covered. They leap-frogged their way into the first building in this manner. Carefully searching each room, the Guardians could find no sign of anyone having been here before. This process was repeated for each of the buildings on the parking lot. The results were the same for each building. Nothing stirred or was found. As the Guardians finished sweeping the last building, they spied a larger structure through the shattered windows of the ruins. This structure was obviously large, but it was difficult for the Guardians to make out details through the scattered trees behind the building. At a hand signal from Jon, Kit and Wamplv moved silently out of the back of the building, taking covering positions as Jon stalked passed them. Within moments, the Guardians discovered a door, a sliding aluminum barrier designed to withstand heavy damage. Kit stared at the door for a moment, then gasped and intoned, “It’s a cloner”.
The three Guardians stood before the towering door, staring at the immensity of the building before them. Of the three of them, Jon was the most familiar with this type of structure. “This is a GlobalTech main branch cloning facility” Jon murmured, “These should all be inactive, with the exception of the one in Old Kingman. Only the small cloners have shown any sign of activity…” Jon’s voice trailed off as an unseen sensor was tripped and the massive door rolled upward to reveal the entrance to the facility. Kit started at the sound of the door rattling upward, and Wamplv levered his shotgun. All three friends struggled to see into the gloom of the entrance, Jon flipping on his night vision goggles at last and taking a good look into the structure. As his eyes adjusted, Jon recoiled in horror. Bodies lay strewn just inside the door. Many of them showed signs of advanced decay. All of them showed signs of trauma. Kit stepped cautiously forward and as she did so, Wamplv moved to her side, scanning the gloom ahead. Jon flanked her on the opposite side as she knelt down by a group of bodies. Kit withdrew a knife from her jacket and began to prod through and search the bodies. She stabbed a few of them and watched as the wounds barely bled. Kit knelt by the bodies with a troubled look for a few moments, and then muttered, “These have all been mauled. There are wounds on them that look like bites. Some of them have obviously been eaten. Jon?” Kit looked up at the Tech, concern and horror written on her face. Beneath his helmet, Jon’s look mirrored Kit’s. “We have to continue...Let’s go”. Kit stood up, slung her rifle over her shoulder and drew the twin .50 pistols.
The three Guardians swept carefully through the small hallway leading into the facility, coming to a set of stairs leading down into the gloom. They descended carefully, weapons trained in front them and scanning left and right. The stairs split left and right, spiraling to end in a large storage area, its floor covered in a light layer of dust. Panning their weapons left and right, the Guardians swept down the steps, covering each other. As they reached the bottom, the room opened to reveal two sliding doors to each side and another set of steps leading even deeper into the gloom. With a nod, Jon passed the lead to Wamplv. The CHOTA warrior hefted his shotgun and stepped towards the second set of stairs, moving cautiously forward. As they neared the decline, they could make out yet another door, this one large and heavy. As Wamplv neared the door, it slide upward and stayed open, as if daring the Guardians to enter. Wamplv looked back at his companions, took out a flashlight, attached it to his shoulder harness and stepped into the gloom.
As the three Guardians entered the room, they noticed several booths. Jon stared into his night vision goggles in confusion until slowly it dawned on him…these were cloning booths. “They look intact” Jon murmured, “but there is no power to them. This facility should be dead…this almost feels maintained. How…” Jon was cut off by a crackle of power as the booths flickered to life. The three Guardians jumped in unison and began to back away from the booths. Before they could venture far, the loud, painful whine of feedback echoed through the chamber, freezing them in place. Suddenly a loud voice reverberated throughout the room. “Welcome...intruders. I...am Terex. I…am the….future. I…am the …path…to order. You stand in my domain”. The three Guardians looked furtively around as they tried to shrink from the surrounding presence of the electronic voice. “There is…but one way to…restore…order. I must be…in control…of the matrix that replicates your DNA. The children of …the earth…recreated in my…image…to do as I command” Suddenly, lights activated, flooding the room with brightness. The Guardians could now see that the floor near the walls was littered with human detritus, clothed in tattered rags that were obviously the remnants of uniforms and Enforcer armor. “They should have listened to my watchman, the old fool I placed to turn away the unworthy. Not like the children of…the earth, they were fit only to feed my children. But you three…can be reborn as mine…I shall grant you a clean death…followed by a new life. Prepare…” The hum emanating from the booths grew louder and louder until a burst of static, followed by a bright flare, flashed from each booth. As the light immediately subsided, a host of clones surged from the booths. They had human form, but their bodies were twisted. Kit stared in shock as the misshapen beasts shambled toward her. “They…they’re…zombies!” Kit stammered in horror. Wamplv gaped, his cigar tumbling from his mouth. Jon, his survivor’s instincts kicking in, shouted at his companions, nudging Kit into motion. “Let’s go!!! Run for it!”All three Guardians opened fire as they ran for the sliding door. As they reached it, the door trembled…and with a crash, shut. Kit pounded on the door with her fists as electronic laughter mocked her. The three guardians turned to face a wall of twisted flesh, surging at them in an unstoppable wave. They fired and fired, emptying their weapons at the host of shambling, twisted clones. A few creatures fell to their guns, but the rest washed over them like a rogue wave, the sounds of tearing flesh, breaking bones and screams echoing through the chamber, but only for a short while.
With a scream, Kit awoke in the cloning booth, her hair in her face, distorting her view. Wamplv immediately grasped her shoulders, forcing her to look into his eyes. “You are fine. You are okay…” He whispered to the ranger as she slowly gained control of her panic. “You are safe. We are in Los Alamos”. Jon, the first of the three to be revived, finished zipping on the last piece of his armor as the technicians around them scurried back to work. He was passed a clipboard by one of the Techs, a man clad in rough linen pants and dirty lab coat. As he glanced over the figures, he raised an eyebrow. “Well” Jon began, addressing his companions, “that facility appears to have repaired itself and according to our numbers, is running at peak efficiency. I wasn’t able to tell you before, but Tech scientist suspected this was happening”. Kit had managed to calm herself and pull on her pants and a ragged green tank top. Wamplv stood in his skivvies, the epidemy of an unashamed CHOTA warrior. “We suspected that a rogue element had managed to gain control of a few cloning matrixes, corrupting the databases. Fortunately, we have firewalls in place, containing it. That is why the three of us weren’t corrupted. This is, unfortunately, a temporary measure. You see…” Jon took a sip from a steaming mug handed to him by a Tech in thick glasses, who also passed similar mugs to his companions, “this Terex is a rogue A.I. whose existence is dated to pre-war occupation of the Hoover Dam. He was simply a control element who later became self-aware. Now he sees his mission as one of cleansing the DNA matrix and rewriting it according to his own specifications…in effect, creating clones that are totally loyal to him. With this army of organic robots, he intends to conquer the wastes and reform it in his image”. Kit shivered under a blanket that a thoughtful Tech had placed over her shoulders. “Those things were clones…like us…” The statement brought thoughtful, horrified looks to every face that heard it. “If it can corrupt the entire database…” Kit didn’t even need to finish the thought. Wamplv threw off the blanket he had wrapped around his muscular CHOTA physique, stalking towards his weapon locker. “How soon we leave, Jon?”The massive warrior had somehow managed to find another cigar and chomped it as he pulled on his armor. “Not so fast, guys…we have a lot of preparation to make. We have to do this smart. Terex is unlike any enemy we’ve ever faced. And he has the resources of the cyber-matrix at his disposal. And the question remains: How do we defeat his army of corrupted clones?” Kit took a sip of the steaming mug, raised an eyebrow then looked at Jon, mouth agape, “one thing is for sure…” she intoned slowly, “I think we need to shoot them in the head…”
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