Time For Miracles



Chapter 1


Year 2277

"Girl, this is the most retarded thing ever." Calaway spat, his tone casual though his grey-green eyes were scanning the dilapidated supermarket for signs of danger.

Sadly, the mercenary was right, Faith had to concede, at least in her mind. At the time it had seemed like a good idea: do some 'research' for Moira and her damn survival book to earn caps and supplies.

"Investigate the Super Duper mart," Moira had said excitedly, twisting a strand of her red hair eagerly around a dirty finger. "See if there's any food or medicine left, you can just keep it of course, I just want to know."

Moira had promised payment on delivery of her precious information. Payment Faith was going to have to split with Calaway.

Mark Calaway, now there was a man who might've scared the living Hell out of her, providing Walter hadn't reassured her that the merc was "good people."

"Shit, we ain't going in tonight, we're just going to have to rough it out til morning." Calaway grunted, lowering his sniper rifle -having been using the scope to survey the surrounding area. "Get some sleep kid, we're safe enough up here."

Up here happened to be the ledge of an old water tower they had scaled to get a view of the now occupied with raiders store. A ledge that was maybe three feet broad was all that separated them from the ground; which was a lot of feet down.

Yet Calaway was leaning back against the tower without a care in the world, his feet dangling over the ledge. 

Of course they would dangle, Faith thought with a snort, the man stood over six foot five, he was a goddamn giant.

Sighing, she tried to get comfortable as well, folding her arms over her chest and lowered her head, her eyes closing.

Mark popped one eye to look at his companion, smirking. "Try not to fall, kid."

The fucking smartass.


Faith had been born underground in Vault 101. Her mother had died during childbirth, leaving her infant daughter and husband with nobody but each other. Life in the Vault hadn't been perfect by any means but after spending a month aboveground, Faith was occasionally nostalgic for her old bed and warm blanket. Other than that (and the bathing facilities) Faith missed nothing and nobody from the Vault. Except maybe Amata, her best friend friend from as long as she could remember, and Jonas.

Jonas who was now dead.

She vividly remembered her first step out into the world, the world aboveground. The bright, harsh sunlight had damn near blinded her. The first breath of open air, not filtered; stale underground air, had been... an experience of itself. It was bittersweet. She had been able to smell the lingering radiation from the Great War of 2077 -a war that had lasted only two hours but damn near destroyed the planet- but the air had also been... fresh, in an odd way.

The combination of the sun and air had overloaded her already fragile senses after a harrowing escape from the Vault and it's recently turned psychotic Overseer.

Faith had had to sit for an hour just adjusting to the new environment.

After that had been the trek to 'civilization', which was a laugh and a half as 'civilization' consisted of small villages clumped together trying to survive or bands of raiders. Megaton had been quite the experience. When she had first glimpsed the massive, rusted dome structure, she had almost thought the files she had read on the Overseer's computer (which she had had to hack out of necessity) were either wrong or very, very old.

Those files had told her everything she knew was a lie, not that her father suddenly taking off hadn't done that either. Supposedly, the Vault had been sealed for about two hundred years, nobody came in and nobody went out. The files about Megaton, about large; mutated ants told her that wasn't true. 

In all honestly, nothing could have prepared Faith for the outside world. The bugs that were wider than she was, the arid; dry heat that parched her throat. The landscape itself...

Her father had once shown her a book, a very old book, of when the world had been green. Trees had actually had leaves and flowers once existed.

Whatever she had been expecting, this wasn't it. The land was barren, the ground just as dry and baked as her throat. The wars, the nuclear bombs and subsequent radiation had done a number on the world. She supposed this sight was normal to top siders, to her it was just sad.

The wars had been over two hundred years ago and yet the aftermath still haunted what remained of humanity so many decades later.

Once in Megaton, Faith had felt... so alone. Even if she hadn't been well liked by the few in the Vault, they had at least been familiar faces. Everyone in Megaton looked... different. Weathered perhaps, from the elements as well as the harshness of day to day living. She had learned quickly that in Megaton you just didn't become a citizen. You either had to earn your spot or pay for it.

Besides her dull blue, standard issue Vault 101 jump suit and boots, all Faith had brought with her was a baseball bat, a bottle of purified water, two stimpacks and a folded picture of herself with her father, taken the day of her tenth birthday. It went without say that her Pip-Boy went with her, the small computer never left her left arm, not since she had gotten it, also on her tenth birthday. 

The first person she had met in Megaton had been Lucas Simms. the 'sheriff' and occasional 'mayor' of the town. He had given her a 'welcome' complete with a list of rules. Then she had been directed towards the common house, which was where the folks who weren't lucky enough to be citizens could stay for free. Free because they had crammed a lot of beds in the two story shack with no blankets or pillows. If you wanted THOSE luxuries you went and stayed at Moriety's saloon, with or without the working girl, for 120 caps.

The caps was another thing Faith didn't understand. Money had no value in the Vault, you earned your keep and for special items, you did special jobs to earn credits. She had seen pre-war money in history class, one and ten dollar bills that used to be the currency. Now the coin of the realm was... bottle caps.

And without those caps, you had nothing. That had been a harsh lesson in reality for her.

So for her first two nights in Megaton, Faith had slept in the common house, badly. After sharing a two room apartment with her father, that had been Hell. There had been five other women and seven men. Sleep was hard to come by not only because of the inevitable night noises and smells a body made, or the stench of piss and booze, but because several of the men where lewd and quite vocal about their disgusting thoughts.

The third day Faith had discovered a friend of sorts.

Walter was the man responsible for Megaton having pure water. An older man in his late fifties and cantankerous to boot. With skin as dark as soot and a full head of hair, and matching beard the color of the deary grey mattress she had slept on in the common house.

He was so busy in the water plant that he rarely had the time to go out and check that pipes that ran throughout the town. A drop in water pressure had told Walter that there were leaks in those pipes.

That’s where Faith had come in.

Gob, a nice if not terrifying looking Ghoul, who worked at Moriety’s had idly told her about Walter’s problem. Immediately, Faith had sought out Walter and found herself a job. Walter didn’t pay in caps, he couldn’t afford too, but he did give her a clean bed with a blanket; clean water to drink and a meal a day.

Walter had informed her that her odd appearance would eventually work itself out or people would just get used to it. Which had, in an odd way, hurt her feelings.

She had never considered herself a classic beauty but she hadn’t thought she was ugly either. She was tall like her father and had her mother’s build, she was shaped like a pear, meaning her torso was narrow and her hips were round.

Butch, another cretin from the Vault with whom she had shared a mutual dislike, had called her a ‘curvy bird’.

Well fuck Butch, he was dead. The ‘curvy bird’ had split open his skull like a ripe melon for trying to stop her escape.

She had a full head of black hair -just like her father’s, that had been cut to her shoulders and then swept back with a dirty bandana as she had quickly discovered that long hair was nothing but a hindrance in the outside world. Her mud brown eyes were identical to her mother’s, as was her full; cheerful mouth.

Living underground without sunlight all her life had left her with pale skin, an unhealthy, wan look. A month in Megaton had changed that, now she was simply pale though no longer unhealthy looking. She figured in six months, she would look weathered and tired just like everyone else.

A month in Megaton had changed several things about her. Doing hard work and being around these people had changed her both physically and mentally. Which was probably a good thing in the long run as she wouldn’t have survived without adapting.


If anyone had told Mark Calaway that he would be teaming up with Walter’s new apprentice, he would be teaming up with Walter’s new apprentice, he would have asked Moriety just what the Hell he was putting in people’s booze.

As it was, when Walter had informed him that Faith had accepted Moira’s outrageous proposition (no one else in Megaton was fool enough to bother), Mark had laughed so hard he almost broken a rib.

Then when Walter had informed him that he would be accompanying Faith... well, Mark hadn’t found that quite as funny.

Walter wouldn’t give a reason why or explain just what was going through the idiot girl’s head, much to Mark’s eternal annoyance.

As Mark also owed Walter a great deal, he had grudgingly agreed to do it. But he had demanded that Faith learn how to use a gun and that he receive half of her payment from Moira, he wasn’t doing this shit for free.

At least Faith had known how to use a gun and her aim wasn’t half bad either. 

Maybe... just maybe... they could live through this.


Chapter 2


“Want some?”

Mark grudgingly cracked one eye open, blearily focusing on what looked like a bottle of water. Pulling himself into a completely upright position, he grunted.

Faith waved it at him coaxingly. “It’s been purified, no rads.”

Another grunt.

She watched in disgust as Calaway produced a small canteen of what smelled strongly like booze once he had uncapped it.

“Well,” He said gruffly, smacking his lips; obviously enjoying his morning constitution.

“Well what?”

Calaway ignored her, next fishing in one of the pockets of his leather vest, finally procuring a crumpled half pack of cigarettes. Once he had lit a fag, he inhaled deeply. “Three of them are leaving.” He nodded his head towards the supermarket. “I have no idea how many are in there though, five... maybe six.”

Those odds didn’t sound so good to Faith though Calaway seemed oddly optimistic, if not outright happy about it.

“Course, they’ll all be armed, livin’ in a place with four walls and a roof, they don’t mean to lose it. Assault rifles, maybe.”

Way too happy. In fact, he was looking forward to this.

Faith felt sick to her stomach.

“Let me take a piss and we’ll climb down.”

“Wait, what?” She quickly turned her head as Mark stood up, hearing the rustle of his rough leather pants. That was soon accompanied by the unforgettable sound of a stream of urine hitting the rusted metal.

“Shy, girl?” Mark asked, sounding amused. “Can’t tell me you ain’t seen a fair share of these.”

She clenched her teeth.

Laughing, Mark finished his business, brushing his hands off on his filthy pants. “I’m surprised you don’t have to go.”

“I will when we’re on the ground.”

“Damn squatter.”


When Calaway had oh so casually presented Faith with a combat rifle and asked if she knew how to use it, he had been stunned to see she not only knew how to use it but her aim wasn’t anything to sneeze at either. Not that he would ever let her know that.

They were currently inside the Super Duper mart, crouching in what used to be the women’s restroom.

Faith was throwing up in one of the ancient toilet bowls, as quietly as she possibly could.

Considering she had led a very sheltered (literally) life, Mark allowed her a moment, taking another cigarette break, the scent of the smoke much more pleasant than the other stenches that surrounded them.

The building itself was sound, structurally at any rate. Old shelves had been reinforced and moved around to form a sort of maze. Rusted, disintegrating tin cans littered the broken, marble tiled floor along with broken glass and shotgun shells. Among other things. 

Other things happened to be dried blood and gore, what looked suspiciously like vomit, none of it a pleasant sight. 

If one happened to look up, they would have seen at least a dozen corpses in various stages of decomposition, hanging from the stripped rafters. They resembled an old movie Mark had once seen in Paradise Falls. 

Of course they had had to watch the film off of an ancient computer with a projector aimed at the least cracked wall of the building. The movie was from over two centuries ago, back when people had actually used those large and moronic things called VHS tapes and DVD’s.

He knew life had taken a considerable dive since the Great War but he occasionally had to wonder how humans had managed to survive way back when. Obviously not too well as they had managed to almost wipe themselves off the face of the planet.

The Passion Of The Christ, it had been a largely unmemorable movie in a language nobody had ever heard of. Long story short, the entire movie led up to the supposed savior of mankind being crucified. 

As far as Mark was concerned, that guy had had it fairly easy. These people saps had probably been starved, tortured, raped and THEN hung up while they were still breathing. More torture had probably followed that.

Some of the bodies dangled from barbed wire and chains, gashes running deep in their bellies; their intestines laying on the floor.

By not looking up, a person could avoid this horrific sight. By not looking down, one could pretend the crunching and slickness underfoot was from a jar of broken pickles. 

It was the STENCH that you couldn’t avoid and more likely than not, was what had Faith upchucking.

Decaying bodies, the metallic scent of blood (a lot of blood), piss, shit, vomit, sex and the general smell of the old building along with a healthy dose of the scent of gun oil was enough to get even his stomach churning, almost.

Mark had seen and smelled worse than this. It took a lot to make him feel sick to his stomach and even more to make him actually lose his lunch as the old saying went.

Three seconds was all he gave Faith, finally grabbing her by the collar of the armor they had taken off the body of a raider the day before on the trek here.

Armor was essential if you were going to wander around the Capital Wasteland, there was simply way too many bullets flying around not too.

Of course, most of the time, raiders made their armor for looks rather than protecting their worthless hides.

Faith was a little bigger than the original owner of the studded, faded brown, Brahmin skin vest and matching pants. Both garments had been treated in chemicals to harden them. Sadly, her feet had been too small for the boots the raider had been wearing, which wasn’t a really bad thing as the Vault 101 issue black combat boots weren’t bad at all. 

So she was somewhat protected so long as she didn’t take a bullet to the head. She was also a tad bit distracting -when she wasn’t puking at least-, the damn woman had an ass like... well, he was having a very hard time remembering the last time he had seen a backside so round and... Vault women were a definite improvement over the scrawny broads usually found in the Wasteland.

“Hey!” Faith choked when Calaway let go of her vest only to slap her ass, fairly sure if she looked she would find a large, red hand shaped print on her right buttock. “What the fuck, Calaway?”

“Had to get you moving somehow.” He grunted, flicking away what remained of his cigarette. “When we came in, I counted two up walking the shelves. There’s probably a couple in the back of the store. Once we take them out, you can get to scavenging for your food and meds.”

“What are you going to be doing?” She demanded, using a small sip of water to rinse her mouth out.

Browsin’ for supplies of my own.”

“Whiskey and smokes, right?”

Mark didn’t miss the sarcastic, or disapproving tone of voice and smirked, glancing out the broken door. “Little Girl, if you can make it out of here without getting shot, I’ll even share some of the adult goodies with you.”

“I really, really wish you would go to Hell already, Calaway.”

“We’re in Hell now, Girl.”


Chapter 3


A purple mohawk. At least that’s what Faith thought it was, the way it bobbed, it could have very well been an exotic bird.

“Armed.” Calaway whispered in her ear, his unshaven cheek brushing against hers roughly.

She followed his gaze to the bobbing mohawk, taking note of a black rod that was also bobbing. After a moment, she realized it was a gun barrel.

Faith took a quick moment to wipe her sweaty palms off on her pants, watching the progression of the mohawk. She had killed before, but out of necessity. When her father had left Vault 101, the Overseer had decided she knew about it and basically gave the all clear on killing her, requesting that she brought brought to him for ‘questioning’. 

Thanks to Amata and Officer Gomez, she had known what was very likely to happen to her and had managed to escape.

Butch had gotten in her way first, Butch who never liked her from the get go.

Faith had taken her baseball bat, a present from Jonas, and bashed Butch’s head in. At the time, she had been to frantic to reach the tunnel to freedom to feel bad or squeamish. The blood that had spurted out hadn’t phased her in the least, nor had the sounds of a brutal death.

This was a bit different.

Faith told herself she was being retarded. These raiders wouldn’t hesitate to kill her just for fun so she would have to be just as cold, as merciless.

“Shoot him.” Calaway ordered quietly when the raider appeared in their line of vision, his head turned away from them.

Automatically, Faith swung the combat rifle up, barrel aimed, a finger caressing the trigger.

Mark frowned when she hesitated, his entire body tense. “Shoot, kid.”

When Faith didn’t take the shot, he leveled his own assault rifle at the raider. He had every intention of killing this punk and then her. He wasn’t out here to die just because she couldn’t pull the goddamn trigger all of a sudden.

Faith about wet her pants, watching as if in slow motion the raider spun around with an open mouth.

The shot had been true, he dropped dead.

The shot had also been loud.

“You hear that?”

“Someone’s in here with us!”

“Better learn to pull that trigger kid or you’re going to die in this pisshole!” Mark snarled at her, letting his rifle drop with a clatter.

Faith could only watch as the mercenary took off in the direction the raiders weren’t coming, her mouth wide open.

If she would have had the time as well as been in the right frame of mind, she would have appreciated the skill it took for such a large man to disappear the way he did.

As it was, he was also leaving her to fend for herself and that was more terrifying than impressive.

“Well looky here, we got us a pretty little kitten right here.”

Reality kicked her in the backside, Faith’s eyes darting from the last place she had seen Calaway to two out of the guesstimated six (well, now five) raiders left in the building.

They both were extremely thin, which was the case for most of the Capital Wasteland’s residents -unless you happened to have caps like Moriety or Calaway’s strength to just take what you wanted, then you were well fed. 

Thin and cruel looking, that was pretty much all she needed to know.

“This kitten has claws, look what she did to Buddy, the poor bastard.”

Apparenty Buddy had been the guy with the mohawk.

“We should probably just kill her.”

“Yeah, we should.”

Her reflexes finally caught up with her screaming brain.

“You shot ‘im!” Shrieked the still standing raider a moment later, his body facing her though his eyes were fastened on the smoking hole in his friend’s chest.

Faith didn’t give him time to come out of his stupor, just blew him away too.

Three down, three to go.

From behind her, Faith heard a very soft; odd noise she couldn’t place and then a grunt of surprise. Whirling around, she caught the flit of pain that crossed the raider’s face before he toppled.

He had been taken out by sniper, which meant Calaway was lurking on one of the shelves watching her. 

That wasn’t a really comforting thought.


Mark watched as Faith seemed to recover herself and went stealthily from one spot to another, never faltering as she had the first few times. Apparently, after he had saved her ass, she had decided she didn’t want to be in that position again. Amusing.

He lay uncomfortably on top of what felt like broken glass, the scent of rancid meat and old cigarette butts filling his nostrils as he followed her progress. The final three raiders hadn’t come investigating the gunfire like their comrades had. They had gone for a different approach, they had gone into hiding; waiting to spring out on whoever had been idiotic enough to enter their lair.

He approved of that approach, it was one he would have pulled. Dying with ‘honor’ and face to face to your murderer was stupidity and he let the wanna-be heroes and martyrs have all that crap. 

Mark was a realist. In his world, there was no room for idealist fools, at all.


“You were a big help.” Faith said sarcastically when Calaway appeared, snorting when he arched an eyebrow at her. 

“I saved your ass.”

“Once, and what’d you do the rest of the time? Get off on watching me murder people?”

“Yeah, I got a bit of wood from it.” His eyes narrowed, staring down at her. “Look, kid, this is YOUR deal, not mine. You handled yourself pretty damn well, you’re alive, now quit your bitching and get what you came to get.”

She was more than tempted to shoot him but didn’t want to explain to Walter why she returned alone. Instead, somehow managing to bite her tongue, she turned back to the actual reason why they were here. Foodstuffs and medicine.

The shelves had been stripped bare a very long time ago, what food she did find was what the raider’s had brought in themselves. Sugarbombs, Blamco Mac and Cheese, Dandy Boy Apples; mostly sweet things that were generously laced with radiation.

Hell, everything had radiation in it, the trick was to have access to Rad-X and Rad Away, or caps to pay a doctor to cure you. 

Silently thanking Walter for loaning her a rucksack, she began cramming the foodstuffs into it. Half she would keep for herself to supplement her meager one meal a day and the other half she would sell for much needed caps.

Faith found Calaway in the pharmacy; carrying his own satchel, which made a gentle clinking sound when he moved. She was guessing he found the booze he had wanted. He was smoking again; the cigarette dangling from his lower lip as he picked the lock on an ammunition case.

“Find what you were looking for?” He asked without glancing at her.

“Partly, you already raid the drugs?”

“Not the kind you’re wanting, I left those for you.”

Not bothering to dissect that, Faith headed for the counter and set her rifle and sack down on it. A quick search was rewarded with three Stimpaks and a dozen tins of Mentats, which she would sell as she had no desire to fry her brain with the addiction that would come with the brain stimulating, recreational drugs.

“Heh... mines...” The mercenary grunted; gingerly shifting through the now open ammo box. “And a grenade... Might come in handy.” He spat out what was left of his cigarette, sparing her a look; eyeballing the Mentats distastefully. “You goin’ to take those?”

“Not likely. What did YOU find?”

“Jet... Med-X.”

She didn’t ask what he was planning on doing with those drugs, not wanting to know.

“Come on, let’s get out of here before their buddies show up, I’m ready for a drink at Moriety’s.”

Faith just rolled her eyes.


Chapter 4


Moira Brown took in Faith’s tired, weary posture for approximately one minute before beginning to drill Faith for every single detail about the trip to the supermarket.

“So, overall,” Moira said after Faith had -in a monotone voice- given her the rundown. “There is food and medicine left to be scavenged?”

Faith had a sneaking suspicion that Leo Stahl was sharing his Jet with Moira, that was the only thing she could think of that accounted for the other woman’s sheer stupidity and obliviousness. “Oh sure, plenty of shit the raiders bring in, people included.”


“You know, the ones they ritually sacrifice.”

Moira blinked. “That’s you way of saying no, isn’t it?”

“Just pay me.”


After successfully shutting Moira up long enough to get paid (in ammunition for a gun she didn’t possess and a case of even more Blamco Mac and Cheese), Faith headed to Moriety’s to deal with Gob as Moira had immediately ushered her out before Faith could resell the ammo. Calaway could have the case of food as his half of the payment, the bastard. 

Gob was Colin Moriety’s indentured servant, indentured because Colin had supposedly bought Gob off of slaver’s some odd years back and Gob was now repaying it. Added to that ‘cost’ was also the fact that Colin charged Gob food and board.

The greedy bastard.

To compound the slavery issue, Gob was also a Ghoul.

Ghouls were... gross as Hell to look at. Faith had never even heard of Ghouls let alone seen one in all her nineteen years. So the first time she had met Gob, she had screamed.

Gob, to his credit, had been amazingly understanding and reassuring about it. That might have also been his way of ensuring he didn’t get smacked around by her too.

Almost everyone smacked poor Gob and Colin, the sick bastard, encouraged it.

Ghouls, for lack of a more better description, looked like zombies and pretty much smelled like the walking dead. Flesh rotting off the bone, it wasn’t a very pretty sight. Nothing like the view of exposed muscles and tendons to make a person regret ever eating.

“Faith, my favorite smoothskin.” Gob greeted her, watching through bright if somewhat drooping eyes as she settled herself on a stool.

“You say that to everyone.” She shot back with a tired yet still warm smile.

“True, but with you, I mean it.” He placed his palms on the counter, returning the smile though his looked frightening, he was missing his lower lip; his gums an ugly brown, almost black color. “Need a drink?” He rasped knowingly.

“Something that won’t turn my innards to shit preferably.”

“Vodka it is then.”

Moriety here?”

“He’s outside somewhere.”

Nodding, Faith took a slow sip from the passably clean glass. She had been back in Megaton long enough to drop her stuff off at the water processing plant -where she stayed in the back room- in the foot locker beneath her bed, to wash up in the women’s communal restroom and change into her old Vault 101 jumpsuit which she now wore with the arms tied around her waist with an old sleeveless shirt she had bought off Moira.

Sunburn was honestly the least of her worries, it was simply too damn hot.

She had sold most of the foodstuffs from her knapsack to the Stahl’s for their little restaurant, gone to deal with Moira and now she was more than ready for a drink.

“How long has the party been going on?” She asked, jerking her thumb in the direction of the 'other’ room.

Moriety’s was easily the largest shack in town. Two stories, the second floor comprising of several small but adequate bedrooms. The bottom had a bathroom of sorts, the main room with the bar, Colin’s room in the back which was also where he kept his stock -under lock and key of course- and a room that his drinkers congregated in when they wanted to dance to the oldies playing off the sometimes working radio Gob kept.

From the ruckus coming from the room, it sounded like Moriety was going to be a lot richer by the night’s end.

“Since Calaway got back.” Gob shook his head, now focusing on the counter, which he was only half-heartedly wiping down. “He seemed to be in a good mood.”

“With good reason, he found enough Jet and Psycho to open his own drugstore.”

Gob groaned softly, knowing it was going to be one of those nights.

Faith had had every intention of just having one or two drinks and then heading off to the plant for bed but distraction came in the form of Billy Creel. 

Billy kept her entertained with stories from his days working with the caravans, exploits with other guards and the day he found Maggie, his adopted daughter. Faith, who knew she was most definitely a sheltered person (or had been), loved his stories almost as much as Maggie did.

Hob kept refilling their glasses, switching out Faith’s vodka for a watered down beer, keeping her from getting drunk. Mainly because while Billy was a likeable enough guy, he was still a guy and had from day one had his eye on Faith, mommy hunting for Maggie most likely Gob suspected.

By the time Faith realized the sun was going down, the little party was in full swing. “Gob, ring me up.” She yawned, glancing around tiredly for Moriety.

“Sure thing.”

“Shoot honey, the night is still young.” Billy laughed, clapping her on the back. “Or, we could go back to my place, me and Maggie’ll make supper for you.”

“Oh, Billy, thanks but I’ll have to-”

“I’m here, the party can really get started!”

Faith quietly groaned, Moriety’s working girl -Nova- had come down the stairs, looking just as bedraggled as she had the last time Faith had seen her.

That was one job she NEVER ever wanted. Sure, Nova had good and a place to stay but her legs rarely stayed shut.

She fished in her pocket for caps, ignoring the people who were milling back to the bar for refills.

“Mark!” Nova laughed, her low heeled boots thudding on the metal floor as she crossed the room. “You looking for me, handsome?”

“Aren’t I always?” He chuckled.

“Mmm,” Nova purred, or at least that’s what it sounded like to Faith; who was watching from the corner of her eye as she counted out caps to Gob. Her nose wrinkled in distaste when Nova’s scrawny arms inched around Mark’s neck; her body pressed firmly to his. “Sometimes I don’t wonder why I don’t pay you.”

Calaway’s laughter boomed throughout the room. “Damn if I know either, honey.” He caught Faith’s eye, smirking wickedly at her.

Blushing, Faith looked directly at Gob, who probably would have blushed too if he had any skin left.

“Gob, give the kid one for the road.” Calaway ordered, freeing himself from Nova and strutted to the bar; nodding to Billy as he seated himself on one of the stools. “None of that piss beer you’ve been giving her either.”

Looking disgruntled, Gob busied himself with getting the drink; finally placing a glass of something brown in front of her. “Whiskey.” He grunted.

“I don’t-”

“C’mon kid.” Calaway chided, shifting so Nova could sit on his knee; lazily wrapping an arm around her waist. “If you can shoot someone in the back of the head, you can down some of the good shit.”

Nova laughed, swatting his chest. “She’s just a little girl, don’t make her drink that nasty stuff!”

Knowing she was going to regret it, Faith looked directly at Calaway; picked up her glass and slammed it. She was right, instantly tears filled her eyes. Vodka... she had acquired a taste for, but she was fairly certain that that was due to her father occasionally giving her a taste. Whiskey... burned, made her want to clench her teeth and shudder.

Calaway began laughing.

Billy shook his head, shifting on his stoll to look at Faith. “I got to get home to Maggie, sure you don’t want to join us for supper?” He asked softly, his one eye studying her hopefully.

“Maybe another time, Billy.” Faith said gently, looking at the black patch he wore over his missing eye to avoid looking into the other. “I only got back today, I’m dead tired.”

“Considerin’ the position you slept in, no kiddin’.” Calaway chuckled, his grey-green eyes flashing wickedly. “You were right up against a hard place all night, weren’t you?”

Nobody missed the innuendo.

Before Faith had time to even think of a reply, she seen Colin Moriety step through the door, sliding off the stood and going to intercept him.

“Well well, little Faith come to see her deal old Uncle Colin!” He said loudly enough for people to hear. “Shall we go to my room?” He mockingly gestured towards the open door behind the bar.

Hating him as much as she needed him, Faith nodded, leading the way.

Moriety let his palm graze her hip; knowing damn well he was pissing her off and cracked a grin; glancing at Gob. “No interruptions.”

“Course not, boss.” The Ghoul mumbled, taking the caps Billy had left behind and dropping them into the cash register.

Colin winked at Calaway before he followed Faith into the back room.


Chapter 5


Everything about Colin Moriety disgusted Faith, from the tips of his soiled boots right up to his steel gray goatee and cruel, cold eyes.

He knew she didn't like him either, which seemed to make this all the more enjoyable for him. He was standing with his back to the wall, arms folded over his chest as he surveyed her, looking callously amused.

"Well my dear," Moriety began finally, grinning at her in such a way that all his teeth were bared. "What have you come to see old Uncle Colin about this time?"

"You already know what."

He stroked his goatee thoughtfully, shaking his head in disgust. "I suppose you're here for your precious information. You know the drill girlie, if you want to hear what I know, it's going to cost you."

"I got your caps."

Moriety rubbed is hands together eagerly, watching as Faith pulled a small, dirty sack from her pocket. When she held it out to him, Colin all but snatched it, hearing the soft clicking of caps. "I won't bother counting them," He peered, stashing the sack down his vest. "I trust you, lass. You're too soft to cheat people, too honest." He made it sound like a character flaw.

Faith felt her face turning red but ignored the jibe. "I paid, now give me the info."

"Hold onto your pants, girl." Moriety chided, reaching out to grab her arm.

She flinched.

Huffing, he keyed in coordinates on her Pip-Boy. "Your daddy went to downtown D.C., to see that ass who runs GNR, Three Dog."

"GNR?" She echoed dumbly.

"Galaxy News Radio, that shit Gob is always listening too. It's in the downtown D.C. area."

"Did he say why he was going there?" Faith asked eagerly, feeling like her heart was trying to escape her chest it was beating so fast.

"Not that I can recall." Moriety fixed her with a shrewd stare. "You're going to go after him." It wasn't a question. "Why lass? You have everything you need right here in Megaton."

"It's not something someone like you would understand." Faith said dryly, busy with memorizing the coordinates, the Pip-Boy's screen giving her face a greenish tinge.

"Course not, I'm a realist. I know the chances of lasting out in the Wasteland are slim. So why bother leaving these safe walls with all the luxuries and necessities I need to risk it out there?"

Sadly, Colin made sense.

He must have realized he had struck a nerve with her because he reached out to wrap what was supposed to be a comforting arm around Faith's shoulder's, squeezing gently. "Now, now, Faith. You don't have to go traipsing all over the Wasteland, your daddy knew what he was doing, he's getting on fine without you. In fact, that's probably why he left you in that Vault, so you wouldn't be underfoot and in his way."

Faith swallowed back a sob. Moriety was saying everything she had already thought about in the past few weeks, it hurt even worse however to hear those thoughts voiced aloud.

"If you're tired of working for Walter, you could always come work for me. Nova would be grateful for the help."

She tensed again.

"You'd have a nice bed, nice clothes like Nova does." He coaxed, pressing his head to hers. "You'd get free meals, good water, I'd pay you... You'd be safe here..."

Faith shoved him away, scowling. "I'm not a whore."

Colin was laughing so hard his face was turning red. "C'mon now, girlie, ain't nothing to it. Surely sex is better than being shot at?"

"I'll take my chances, thanks."

Moriety shrugged. "If that's your wish, lass. If you ever change your mind though..." He appraised her like she was a prized Brahmin . "You'd always fetch a high fee, men like a woman with some meat on her bones and an ass to grab onto."

Fath was never going to stop blushing, she simply knew it.

"And I'll wager you're still a virgin yet, that alone is worth at least three hundred caps."

By this point, Faith was already leaving, Colin Moriety's mocking laughter echoing in her ears.


Leo Stahl didn't like Faith, he didn't hate her, but he didn't like her either. Mostly because she had been the reason he could no longer use the Water Processing Plant at night. He had a chem habit, an addiction and the plant was where he had been able to indulge it without fear of being caught.

Until Walter had moved Faith in.

When she and the merc had been gone for three days, he had been able to use the building once again, safe away from the prying eyes of his siblings and the Doc.

Now she was back, which meant if Leo wanted to get high, he was going to have to go crouch underneath Moriety's amongst the old, thick water pipes that ran throughout the town.

"Stupid bitch," Leo thought crossly, watching as Faith walked into the plant, knowing Walter had taken himself elsewhere for the night.


Faith carefully countered the remaining caps she possessed. If she negotiated with Moira, she just might be able to buy a few rounds for the assault rifle Calaway had never bothered recovering. She'd sell her jump suit and a few of the Blamco Mac and Cheese's for stimpacks. If she managed herself carefully, she'd be able to make her supplies last.

Knowing that this wold probably be her last night in a bed for awhile, Faith laid down onto the mattress, reveling in the pillow that couldn't go with her.


What the fuck was that chem freak doing, Mark wondered, watching from over the wash barrel right outside the men's bathroom. He was naked from, the waist up, his long sleeved shirt lying on the bench beside him.

In Moriety's upstairs 'preferred' customer's bedroom, a very tired, very sound asleep Nova was laying; she had had a satisfied smile on her face when he had left her.

Mark splashed water onto his face, still watching Leo Stahl. Somehow he wasn't surprised when Leo halted his mad pacing and resolutely walked into the water plant.

"Son of a bitch."


She sure was pretty, Leo thought as he stared down at Faith. He clenched the inhaler he held in his fist, Jet. After a moments consideration, he took a quick inhale, feeling the Jet instantly going to work.

"Really pretty." He said aloud, rubbing the heel of his hand against his forehead, beginning to scowl. "Stupid bitch.... taking over my spot... Putting me out..." Leo gritted his teeth, glancing at the assault rifle that lay within easy reach, for her.

Quietly as he could, Leo moved it, having seen her and that merc practicing, he wasn't getting shot.


Mark arched an eyebrow, wondering just what the hell Leo was doing. He could make out the red inhaler in his hand and knew the kid was higher than a kite.

When Leo bent down and actually sniffed Faith's hair, Mark clenched his fists.

The little pervert.

Not that Mark could really say anything, he had smacked Faith's oh so round ass. But on the other hand, Faith had also been conscious at the time.

When Leo's convulsing hands actually reached out to caress Faith's bare arm which rested on the outside of her threadbare blanket, Mark had seen enough.


Faith woke up to the sound of rasping, gurgling. Quickly, she sat up in bed, automatically reaching for her gun, which wasn't there.

Calaway had Leo Stahl by the neck, one massive arm wrapped around Leo's throat, choking the life right out of him.

"Mark, stop! He can't breathe!"

"That's the fucking point, Faith!" Calaway snarled, his eyes seemingly ablaze with anger. "What the fuck do you think you were doing in here, Stahl?"

Leo was rasping incoherently, unable to get enough air to form even an intelligible word.

Faith was on her feet, her tired but now awake brain trying to understand what was going on. "Ease up and let him talk." She said finally.

Looking disgusted, Calaway let Leo drop to the hard floor, watching dispassionately as the other man clutched his throat, sucking in air. After giving Leo the consideration of a full thirty seconds, Calaway planted the toe of his boot firmly in Leo's ass, sending him into a groveling position at Faith's feet.

Leo seemed loathe to actually look at her, his face still an angry beet red. Finally, he muttered something under his breath.

"What was that, boy?" Calaway prompted dangerously.

Leo managed to spit out something that sounded like: "Fuck you."

Faith physically winced at Calaway's reaction. He seemed to just... explode. He moved from his position towering behind Leo to standing with his foot on the back of Leo's neck, punning him face down on the floor. Then he bent down and grabbed hold of both of Leo's ears, pulling Leo's head back even as he was putting pressure on his neck.

"Mark..." Faith began, horrified as she watched the tendons bulging on the sides of Leo's neck. "What... what happened?"

"This little cow shit sniffing punk was in here messing around." Calaway growled. "Talking to himself, sniffin' at you, touching you."

She shuddered.

"Leo is a chem addict and he really likes his Jet." Calaway explained.

She followed his gaze down to Leo's still clenched fist, realizing what he was clutching finally. "Oh my..." She murmured lamely.

Calaway shot her a disgusted look. "Girl, sometimes I think you got shit for brains."

She gritted her teeth.


Chapter 6


Walter stared at Leo Stahl out of calm eyes. "Sonny, you're damn lucky Mark didn't kill you." He scolded, his angry tone at odds with the calm gaze. "And I wouldn't have blamed him one damn bit for it either."

Leo whimpered around the cloth Mark had used as a gag.

Faith was dressed in her raider armor, packing her satchel in the office, pretending that Leo wasn't tied to a boiler that got scalding hot at regular intervals. Leo would have screamed like a dying man and alerted Megaton if not for the gag.

Given what he had been appearing to do, Faith found she wasn't really sympathetic towards Leo.

Walter stroked his chin, contemplating the situation. "Well, the way I see it, we're in a bit of a bind."

Mark grunted.

Walter frowned.

"Look, he's a Jet head and everyone in town knows about it even if they don't talk about it. So we just use that against him." Mark said exasperatedly when Walter didn't supply the obvious answer. "You keep his ass in here until nightfall, that'll give me and the kid plenty of time to get away."

Faith had halted in her ammo inventory, frowning.

"After we're gone, dose him with some Psycho."

Walter nodded, knowing Psycho was a well named drug. "Then it'll look like he inflicted all those injuries on himself."

Mark just shook his head. "I'm going to go sleep and get my shit. I'll meet you outside the gate right after sundown."

She couldn't pretend he was still talking to Walter, sighing as she turned to stare at the mercenary. "You're not going." She said as calmly as she could.

"Oh sure, because you're going to last more than a night without me." He snorted, almost sounding amused. "Face it, Vault Girl, without me, you'll die out there."

Walter glanced back and forth between the pair. "You two best not draw arms." He warned, having noticed they were each reaching for their weapons. "Kill each other outside of Megaton if you want."

Mark was the first to relax, flashing Faith his most irritating smile. "Tonight, after sunset." He reminded her before turning and leaving.

Walter let out a heavy sigh, spared a look at Leo and groaned. "Damn me to hell..."


Faith had had every intention of leaving while the sun was still bright, completely ignoring Calaway's order to meet him.

Walter, of course, tried t stop her, to make her wait. Faith was having none of that.

By the time she had finished trading for more ammo, rechecked her route and pretended to enjoy her Blamco Mac and Cheese meal, it was afternoon and she was ready to go.

She figured she would hike until an hour before sunset and then find a suitable place to bed down for the night, having absolutely no intentions of traveling the Wasteland at night if she could help it. There would probably be less raiders out and about but more radiated, mutated animals and insects, like the giant ants. She'd go by day, thank you very much.

Leaving before Walter could talk her out of it -or at least out of not taking Mark- was turning out to be more difficult than she had anticipated. She was heading for the door and he was still insisting she wait for the mercenary.

"I'm leaving now, Walter." Faith sighed, turning to stare at him, feeling herself softening as she took in the face of the only person in Megaton who had been truly kind to her. "Why is it so damn important that I take the asshole with me?" She demanded, trying to inject an edge into her tone.

"Because he knows the Wasteland better than most people and more importantly, he knows how to survive it." He began, seeming to know that he had only one chance to convince her. "You're going to need all the help you can get, Faith, there's no use in pretending otherwise."


"He's rough around the edges but he's a good man." Walter said gently. "And he'll do right by you."

"Walter..." She could feel herself giving in.

Walter took her by the hand, guiding her away from Leo. "Look, once word gets out about what happened her, truth or not, and people find out Mark was involved, they're going to be after him."

She shot him a disbelieving look.

"He's an outsider, Faith. And a dangerous one at that. People naturally don't trust him, he makes them feel uneasy, the fact that he's so goddamn big and wide don't help none either. The Stahl's are popular around here, even if this plan works, somehow Mark is going to come out the villian."

"Damn it, Walter!"


"We'll stop here for the night."

Faith wearily nodded, glancing at the mercenary.

Calaway was studying a small cave, gesturing her to move out of the way of the remaining sunlight. "Looks like mole rats nested in here awhile ago."

"Any chance of them returning?" She asked, hating the note of worry in her voice but truth be told, she wasn't too keen on the idea of waking up to find vermin surrounding her.

"Not likely. I don't think anything with bother us. We're still pretty close to Megaton and for the most part, raiders and the like steer clear of the town. Animals... eh, mostly just the rats and giants ants we got to worry about out this way. But like I said, doesn't look like anything's been up near this cave in quite some time."

Faith was going to take him on his word. She climbed up onto the ledge beside him to have a look inside, her eyes narrowing. "That's an awfully small space." She commented finally, giving him an appraising look.

"We'll manage. Now unless you got business to handle, get in first."

"I'm good, but... I, I don't-"

"Faith, get your ass inside right now before I throw you in."

She scrambled into the darkness head first, waiting for something sharp and deadly to bite her.

Snorting, Calaway followed, his large body all but blocking the rapidly dying light.

As he squeezed into the cave, Faith found herself pressing against the blessedly dry back wall, expecting to be squashed at any given moment.

"Well," He grunted as he shifted into a somewhat comfortable sitting position, his back to the wall so he could see the entrance. "At least we'll be warm." He looked down at her. "You can stretch out."

"What about you?"

"My legs would be half out in the open, no thanks." Calaway chuckled, placing his sniper down carefully by his side, motioning for her rifle. Once the weaponry had been taken care of, he dug around in his satchel, procuring his flask. "I know it's not vodka," He made a very derisive noise, letting her know just what he thought of her choice in drink. "But..."

The last time he had offered her his flask, she had declined. Tonight,she swiped it from him, taking a slow sip, remembering how it had burnt her throat the night before at Moriety's, determined not to repeat that one again. "Thank you."

He grunted again, stuffing the satchel behind his head, pounding it into a sort of lumpy, ammunition filled pillow. "Get some sleep."

Faith personally didn't think that was happening as she made herself a bed next to him, refusing to 'stretch out', instead propping herself up like he was.

Which he seemed to find amusing.

The bastard.


"Welcome to Washington D.C." Calaway said sarcastically two days later, passing Faith his binoculars.

She slowly surveyed the ruins, taking in the occasional sight of faint smoke, her ears already picking up the sounds of muted gunfire. "What's going on in there?" She asked, passing the binocs back to him.

"No idea. Turf battle, some poor fool wandered in someplace he shouldn't be, Super Mutants." He shrugged his massive shoulders. "They could just be shooting for the hell of it."

"What's a Super Mutant?"

"Hellfire woman, are you retarded?"

She fixed him with a look that told him plainly to go drown himself in a barrel.

"No, not retarded, just undereducated. What the HELL did they teach you in that Vault?"

"Math, reading, history..."

"Basically a bunch of worthless bullshit that'll never do you any fucking good." He sighed heavily when he seen her expression, knowing he had just hurt her feelings but damned if he wasn't stunned. How could she NOT know about the Super Mutants? "Alright, time for a quick lesson..."

Faith gave him her complete attention.


Chapter 7


Super Mutants as Faith found out, were a mutated form of humans. Calaway wasn't to sure how the mutation had happened or where the creatures even came from. He had explained how they had been reported to more often than not kidnap people opposed to killing them.

Faith had asked where and what concerning the captives but he hadn't any answers, nobody knew what the Super Mutants did with the people or where they took them.

He had described them as large, freakishly so and an odd yellow gray color.

"You'll know them when you see them."


Washington D.C. was a lot of rubble, stone and steel. Faith was astonished by the sheer size of some of the remaining buildings, wondering how they managed to survive the bombings all those years ago.

She did quickly see a problem however. The rubble blocked a lot of paths, it would be very hard, very dangerous to attempt scaling it. Providing they somehow did manage to scale it, they would be open targets to whatever walked these desolate streets.

"What's wrong?" Mark asked, seeing the look on her face, frowning.

"How do we get through?"

Now he was looking a bit squeamish, something Faith was a bit surprised to see. She had been sure that nothing ever bothered him.


Mark let out a resigned sigh. "The metro."

"What's that?"

Her lack of a proper education was going to drive him insane. "The old subway system. Some of it collapsed but for the most part, everything is still intact."

"So... what's the problem then?"

Mark gritted his teeth.


"It's underground."

She looked really confused now.

Mark shot her a deadly look. "If you really must know, I'm not that comfortable with being underground."

"Oh. Why not?"

"Not all of us were born in a fucking vault you know."

She recoiled at the scathing tone, for a moment. "But you slept in a cave last night."

"That was different, it was above ground."

"So, we could have been closed in and that would have been okay?"

"So long as it's topside."

"Fair enough, I guess." Faith hunched down behind the dumpster they were hiding behind, raising her wrist to look at her Pip-Boy. "GNR is three miles from where we are."

"Three miles if we were to take a direct route." Mark corrected, sitting with his back to the dumpster, a cigarette firmly tucked between his lips. "Your little gizmo there doesn't compensate for all the crap in our way."

"Okay." She said slowly, tilting her head back to look up at him. "So how long then?"

"Depends on what we find in the tunnels."

That sounded ominous.

"Why? What's in the tunnels?"

"Besides the raiders, ghouls, mole rats and occasional fire ant?" Mark's lips quirked into a hint of a smile. "Nothin' much."

Growling. Faith snatched the cigarette from his mouth and finished it before flicking the butt away. "Great."


"What the fuck is that?"

Mark rolled his eyes and followed Faith's panicked stare. "Feral ghoul." He said after a moment, sounding disgusted.

"A feral ghoul... like Gob?"

"No, retard, does that thing look anything like Gob?" Mark demanded, shooting her a look that clearly said she was a moron.

Well, physically Gob and the feral resembled one another, flaking, cracking skin that was peeling off in disgusting strips; chunks. The muscle had deteriorated, drawing the skin taunt across what muscle mass remained and the skeleton, adding to the overall frightening appearance.

The tunnels smelled particularly foul to begin with, rare it was for fresh air to penetrate the stale, hardly bearable air of the metros. She could smell the faint scent of lingering radiation on the slick, damp stone walls. Wisps of smoke, the unmistakable scent of gun oil, rotting bodies...

That's what the feral ghouls smelled like, decaying bodies. Which, was technically what they were.

"We're not going that far down, it won't notice us." Mark assured her, though he was already aiming his sniper.

Mark was handling the tunnels differently than Faith. As she had been born underground -minus the sickening stenches- this almost felt like home, in a very odd sense. Or would have been, if the constant fear of dying wasn't a factor.

He was constantly smoking and just about every hour, on the hour, sipping from the flask he kept on the inside of his black leather vest.

She had wondered just how much whiskey was in that flask, at least until she seen Mark pulling out a bottle of the amber liquid from his satchel and refilling the flask.


She kept checking her Pip-Boy at regular intervals to check the time and see just where the hell they were. "Where are we?" She held out her arm to Mark, watching his eyes dart back and forth over the screen.

"Well," He said after a moment, frowning slightly. "I have no idea what that thing says but we're in the Farragut tunnels."

"What do you mean you have no idea what the Pip-Boy says? It's plain English."

"Can't read."

Faith could only gape at him, remembering all his little jibes about her not having a 'proper' education and here he was, unable to read. "Okay then, skip the words, can you make out the map?"

"Sure, that's easy." Mark studied it for a moment. "But I don't see the point, I already know where we're going."

"If you can't read, then how?"

"You don't need to be able to read to have a sense of direction you little fucking tart." He snapped, pushing her arm away. "Not to mention I've spent a lot of time in these damn tunnels. Christ kid, you really aren't very smart, are you?"


"I don't mean book smart, I mean LIFE smart."

"I manage." She replied frostily, turning her head angrily from him.

Snorting, he began moving again, one sure foot in front of the other; gun at the ready and hugging the wall.

Faith followed him, knowing she really didn't have any other options at the moment.


Chapter 8


"Hey, you hear something?"

Mark held up a hand to indicate Faith needed to be quiet, a warning she didn't need because she had all but quit breathing when she heard a voice not belonging to either of them.

"Probably a feral, nothing to worry about unless it gets any closer." Came a second voice.

Mark was inching along in a half crouch, adjusting a silencer to his sniper.

Faith reached back over her shoulder to pull her combat shotgun from it's sling besides her assault rifle, feeling the familiar ball of dread building in her stomach as was always the case whenever a situation where people where likely to die occurred.

Which, coincidentally, was happening a lot more lately.

She knew better than to open fire right away as that would take away Mark's advantage.

"One on the train to the right, one up on the stairs." He murmured, taking aim.

"Anymore than that?"

"Probably, so shoot when I do."

"Won't that be noisy?"

"The silencer will muffle the sound but I can't silence air or whatever noise this clown might make so... just shoot when I do. We can take out two at once before the rest even know what's going on. Surprise is on our side."

Faith considered that as she was taking aim. They were giving up the advantage of silence but gaining their enemies confusion.

Mark mouthed 'one, two, three' before they each took their shot, she aimed for the raider nearest to her, knowing the combat shotgun didn't have the range of the sniper.

Sprint, duck and fire. Repeat.

She marveled at how graceful Mark looked, each movement he made was fluid yet purposeful, years of practice (and she didn't like thinking of killing people as practice) evident.

Whereas she was likely to die at any moment, especially as she kept tripping over chunks of granite and other trash she didn't want to think about. Before she could recover after catching her ankle between the tracks, she felt a bullet piercing the armor she wore, lodging itself in her ribs.

The pain was instant and excruciating, she had literally felt the bullet grazing bone, the breath taken right out of her.


Mark was unaware anything had happened to Faith, too caught up in what was going on around him and not getting shot himself. He was taking refuge behind an old, mostly intact billboard that had once been housed as an advertisement in one of the old trains. It was pretty certain it wouldn't survive the barrage it was now suffering.

He heard Faith's assault rifle, figuring she had either run out of ammo for the shotgun or was being surrounded. He went with surrounded as there wasn't THAT many raiders so running out of ammunition was fairly much not going to happen. And as for being surrounded, he supposed three would seem like a group to her if they were up close and personal, damn kid.

Either way, it wasn't good.

He barely remembered the rest of the shootout but when it was over, he knew he was standing and the raiders were all dead or well on their way there.

"Faith?" Cautiously, Mark stepped over a squirming young man and shook his head.


He took in the tattoos across the kid's forehead, gang markings, and shook his head again. Even if he had felt any bit of sympathy, he wouldn't have acted on it. The kid hadn't looked so heartbreakingly pitiful and sad when he had been trying to blow Mark's head off.

Not wanting to waste a bullet, Mark bent and used his hands to snap the kid's neck. The only mercy he showed, a quick death.

"Faith?" He called again, fairly certain all the raiders were taken of.

"Over here."

Noting the hint of muted pain in her tone, he hurried. Most likely she had seen a mole rat and freaked out. He rounded one of the old trains and halted, spotting her.

She was leaning against a stone support pillar, her assault rifle dangling limply at her side, her fingers barely gripping it.

"Well, that wasn't too bad." He chuckled, reaching for a cigarette as he walked towards her. "Want one?"

"Sure." She smiled painfully, her already pale face stark white.

It was this whiteness that got his attention as he approached. At first glance, Mark had attributed it to dust and flecks of granite, now he could see he had very wrong.

Faith held out her free hand, taking the cigarette he had been about to offer.

Automatically, he stepped forward to light it, eyes searching for a wound. "Are you hurt?"

"Give me your flask."

Confused, he did, arching an eyebrow as she took two large swallows. "Faith, are you hurt?" He asked again.

The tight grim smile didn't fade as she quickly raised her gun.

Instantly Mark was aiming his own rifle at her. "Faith..."

She pulled the trigger.

He felt the bullets whizzing past his head in rapid succession, damn sure one had nicked his ear. He heard the gurgle of pain and death behind him, followed by a thump.

He spared one look over his shoulder for the now dead raider, turning back to Faith in time to catch her when she toppled forward. "Chris, what happened?"

She laughed dryly, having dropped the gun in order to clutch her side. "I"ve never actually been shot before."

Groaning, Mark gently eased her down onto a mostly clear patch of pavement, prying her hands from the wound. "Well..." He held a massive palm over it, pressing down to stop the bleeding.


"I don't know..." He looked towards the stairs. "They probably have a nest up there. I'm going to carry you."

Faith closed her eyes, her mouth a nasty red gash against the whiteness of her face.

Wasting little time, Mark scooped her up, cradling her to his chest and started up the stone steps that led to the ground level floor, which would also lead them out of the tunnels.

An old ticket booth had been added onto, forming a sort of lean too out of old wood and tin scraps. Mattresses on the floor, urine and booze stained but they would have to do. After picking out the cleanest mattress and using his foot to flip it over, Mark carefully laid Faith down, putting both their satchels onto the cardboard floor besides him.

"Do you know what kind of gun you were shot with?" He asked, settling himself into a kneeling position beside her, reaching for the hilt of the knife he always kept tucked in his left boot.

She shook her head, her eyes not opening.

Given that she hadn't dropped down dead was a good sign, but he wasn't going to know the extent of the damage until he could actually see the wound. Using the knife, he cut away her armor. The blood looked worse, staining the faded tank top she wore beneath it, an ugly bullet hole wound glaring at him. "Fuck..." He growled, plucking the shirt away from her body to study it.

"How bad is it?"

"I'm going to clean it the best I can but we got to get to GNR as soon as possible." He said after a moment, not about to lie or sugar coat anything. "Three Dog will have water and... the things I'm going to need."

"Like what?"

"Tweezers. Bits of your shirt are in there, the bullet is lodged and it'll get infected. Hold still."

Faith didn't have to really worry about 'holding still' as he placed a hand on her stomach, pinning her down while he poured the contents of his flask over the wound, screaming in agony.

He let her scream.


Chapter 9


Getting Faith out of the tunnels was easy, she had walked out on her own two feet. Mark kept giving her stimpaks every hour or so, whenever it looked like she was turning that stark white again. He'd insisted they make regular stops to check her side, much to Faith's annoyance.

He wasn't surprised at all at how fast infection was setting in, even with regular care and consistent doses of stimpaks and a liberal amount of whiskey.

Topside was a whole new ballgame. They had emerged in the middle of a mini warzone.


Sarah Lyons had been listening to a field report when she spotted two civilians slowly approaching, her cool grey eyes narrowing. "Damn it..." She cursed, raising a hand to both silence her underlings and to gesture to the nearing pair. "Civilians," She began briskly, striding towards them. "This area isn't safe, you need to head back the way you came."

"Sarah, cut the shit, nowhere's safe." Grunted the larger of the pair.

"Calaway?" Her tone was both incredulous and angry, drawing herself upright completely. Her fingers twitched for the trigger of the AER9 laser rifle she carried on her person. Once the urge had passed, she surveyed him and his companion, taking in the way he was half carrying the smaller person, a woman. "Shoot her, did you?"

He grinned viciously at her, revealing his nicotine stained teeth. "Sure, if that makes you more inclined to help her, I shot her."

"Commander?" Her newest recruit began hesitantly.

Sarah stared at Mark, her upper lip curled into a sneer. "What happened?" She asked finally.

"She got shot." He said bluntly. "I tended to it best I could but... Infection's settin' in, Sarah, she needs medical help."

"We don't have a medic with us, in case you didn't notice, Calaway, we're not here on a vacation." She gestured to her heavily armed troops sarcastically, all of them wearing power amor, just as she was.

He scowled. "I can see that. I need to get her to GNR, that's where she wants to go and I know Three Dog has stuff on hand I can use to help her."

"There's a Brotherhood medic there."

"Even better."

"But getting through the lines is impossible right now."

"It's always impossible, Sarah." Mark replied, glancing down at Faith. "But I have to try."

Sarah frowned, studying Mark intently. "What happened?" She finally asked.

"We ran into a nest of raiders." He explained, gently laying Faith out on an old table pressed against the concrete wall, ignoring the soldiers grunting displeasure as they hurried forward to snatch their gear off the table.


He inhaled sharply at just how weak Faith sounded, staring at her face but her eyes weren't open. He lay a hand over her forehead, not surprised at how hot she felt. "I'm here, kid."

Sarah was instantly drawn closer to the pair, having heard the dulled confusion and pain in the woman's groggy voice. "Show me the wound."

"Commander, there is no time for this!"

"Initiate, are you challenging me?" Sarah demanded, rounding on her lesser angrily.

"No, Commander Lyons, I am simply..." Reddins blanched under her superior's stare. "No."

Mark fixed the Initiate who had just been reprimanded with a cold stare, suddenly remembering just why he didn't like the Brotherhood of Steel. They were all about technology and had very little patience for actual people outside their clan. Well, most of them. Returning to the task at hand, he gently lifted the bottom of Faith's shirt.

With more patience then she had to spare considering the situation, Sarah waited as he peeled away the bandages and then unpacked the wound, frowning as an unpleasant odor reached her. She had seen a lot of war wounds and injuries in her lifetime, that didn't make them any less pleasant. Finally, she looked into the other woman's face and frowned. "Calaway, she's just a kid!"

He ignored that, busy swabbing the pus filled hole out with the only clean, wet thing he had. Whiskey. He was definitely glad Faith was unconscious, remembering how she had screamed when he had first done this, only now... the wound was so much worse.


"Look, I have no idea how old she is or what the hell it is she's tryin' to do. I'm just along for the goddamn ride!"

"Of course you are!" Sarah sneered, unable to do anything at the moment for the kid, her attention was already being drawn away by the reports coming in through her ear piece. "That's not good." She muttered, eyes darting back to the wound. "That's bad, Mark."

"I told you, it's infected."

"Well, give her another stimpak and a shot of Rads wouldn't hurt either."

"Commander Lyons, we have to go!" Reddin's shouted from the place she had taken up next to a window without a frame.

Mark listened as the recruit began filling Sarah in on the situation as he dosed Faith. He had known it would be bad in downtown D.C. but not THIS damn bad.

"The Super Mutants are rallying near GNR, Three Dog and the others are trapped in there!"

"Damn it!" Sarah cursed, shooting Mark an angry look, now was NOT the time for him to bringing this shit around. "Look, if you want to follow us, that's fine. But we're NOT protecting you, we got our own asses to cover."

"Lead the way."


"Damn, merc, what'd you do? Plant a slug in her?"

Mark ignored that and downed the water Sarah passed him, finally crushing the empty bottle in his fist. He was tired, sore as hell and covered in Mutant blood. He wasn't in the mood for this shit. "Look, Flinty-"


"Just... help her and shut up." He said tiredly, pulling out the sawed off shotgun he had found on a raider's body. Not the most useful of guns unless you were planning on committing suicide, but at the moment, it was the easiest thing for him to grab. He had kept it tucked in the waistband of his pants. "Now."

Instantly, every gun in the room was pointed at him.

"Calaway, put it down." Sarah ordered sternly. "Finley will do all he can, providing you don't do anything stupid."

"No more damn jokes, just get her better."

"Fine, now put the gun down."

Mark lowered it.

Sighing in relief, Sarah shook her head. "Finley, get to work on the kid. Calaway, why don't you come with me?"

He shook his head no, staring at Faith.

"She'll be here when we get back, I promise."


Mark figured a shower was the closest to heaven he was ever going to get, not minding the cold part at all. Sarah had completely disarmed him, for her 'men's sake' but that was alright. He didn't actually need a gun to kill somebody. He was just tired, and more worried about Faith than he cared to admit.

He thoroughly washed all the Super Mutant blood off of himself, noting with disgust that it was much thicker than human blood, and had a strong scent to it; making his stomach roll. He was just glad Faith had been unconscious when they had encountered the Behemoth, a Super Mutant so old, so large that it had been damn near twenty feet tall...

How they had managed to take it down was beyond him. His Sniper had seemed almost useless, the bullets lodging themselves into the thick, muscled hide of the beast but not seeming to affect it.

Mark did not like that feeling.

He was still feeling it, but it was different now. It wasn't the helplessness of knowing there was nothing he could do to defend himself, that he could deal with with. The helplessness of knowing that Faith's life was out of his hands...

He couldn't live with that.


Chapter 10


By the time he was done, Knight Finley had removed enough infected tissue from Faith's flesh to leave a hole the size of an old American half dollar.

"Well," He said tiredly, when he had finished. "I've removed the infected flesh, cleaned out the wound and stuffed some synthetic 'meat' into there. A Stimpak, some gauze and a shitload of painkillers, this girl will be good to go in no time."

Sarah nodded, busy with a can of Pork 'N Beans, the tines of her fork scraping the sides of the can. "Good. Where's Calaway?"

"You mean the mercenary? He's in there with her." Finley jabbed a thumb over his shoulder, helping himself to the food, pulling out a can that wasn't too badly dented. "What's the deal with the merc anyway?"

"What do you mean?"

"You seem to know him."

Sarah rolled her eyes, wondering if Finley was serious. The look on the newest Knight's face said he was. "Mark Calaway."

He just shrugged.

She smiled grimly. "I know a name you'll recognize." She said slowly, with obvious relish.

Finley arched an eyebrow.

"The Undertaker."

It was amusing to see his reaction; the way his face went a sheer white; priceless.

"You're- you're joking?!"


"WHY did you let him in here then?"

"Because it's not my place to deny him entry, this is Three Dog's place."

"We're using it as a damn base!"

"Knight Finley, if you have a problem with my judgment..." Sarah began in a cold tone, her face set in a stern expression as she regarded him.

"No, no, Commander Lyons, I merely..." Finley trailed off when Calaway walked into the room, shifting anxiously on the block of granite he had seated himself on. "Your... friend... will be fine, she's sleeping right now." He said quickly.

"When will she wake up?"

"No idea."


"Damn, that doesn't feel so good."

Mark pushed himself away from the wall he had been leaning against when he heard Faith's tired voice, moving to stare down at her intently. "Faith?"

Faith was trying to sit up, a hand going to her side. "Where are we?" She asked raggedly, looking around at the dreary, ruined room they were in. She then looked down, taking note of the narrow bed before looking back to Mark.


"GNR," Faith smiled, only to grimace a second later. "Damn, what happened?"

"You were shot in the tunnels, remember?"

"Vaguely. But how did we get here? Did you bring me all this way?"

"Yes, and no."

Faith listened patiently as Mark explained everything that had happened since the Farragut tunnels as she sucked down a bottle of water. He told her about meeting up with the Brotherhood of Steel -who, he was surprised to learn, she knew absolutely nothing about- and then finally about the Behemoth mutant they had encountered.

"You know," Faith began when he had finished, leaning back against the wall. "I'm pretty glad I was unconscious for all of that. Doesn't going through all that make you wish you'd of stayed in Megaton like I wanted?"

Mark shook his head, gingerly perching himself on the edge of the bed; trying not to grin. "Truth be told, I've been in worse scrapes, just usually it's only myself I have to worry about."

Faith bit her lower lip.

"Besides kids, if I'd of listened to you in the first place, you'd be dead."

"Very true." She chuckled, reaching out to take his hand. "Thank you."



Faith could only stare at the man she was assuming to be Three Dog, arching an eyebrow as he swooped in to give her a back cracking hug; wincing as pain flared throughout her side.

"Damn kiddo, it is so good to see you up and moving. Old Three Dog thought for awhile there we were going to have us a funeral."

Three Dog was... exuberant, to say the least, a rather unimposing figure of a man but he had a loud; projecting voice, full of piss and vinegar. Behind the lens of his glasses, he stared at her knowingly, apparently already in on whatever it was she was after.

"Why don't we go talk?" He suggested, wrapping an arm around her shoulders, glancing back at Mark and hesitated. "Your friend can come."

"No, I..." Faith looked at Mark hesitantly. "Would you mind?"

He was already backing towards the steps that led down to the bottom floor, where the Brotherhood of Steel had set up their base. "Nope, you go on ahead, kid. I'm just along for the ride."

Three Dog waited until he heard the bottom door shut and then darted lightly down the steps, checking to make sure they were truly alone. When he came back up, Faith was sitting in his bedroom, which was where he also broadcasted his news reports, bits of advice, old recordings of Daring Dashwood's 'stories' and music.

"Goddamn kid, what the Hell you think you're doing running around with someone like the Undertaker?" He demanded, glaring at her like she had lost her mind.

Faith could only stare at him for a moment, finally recovering herself. "I... What?"

"The UNDERTAKER, why are YOU running around with him? Have you lost your damn mind?"

"I really don't know what you're talking about. Look, Three Dog, I'm here about-"

"I know why you're here, Faith, you're here about your dad, but we need to talk about 'Taker down there first." Three Dog gestured at the floor, his eyes concerned as he stared at her. "How the hell did you wind up meeting him?"


"Megaton? I thought he was in Rivet City?"

"I um, have no idea what you're talking about."

"Course not, you're fresh out of the Vault, right? You've probably only been to Megaton, right?"

She could only nod.

Three Dog ran a hand down his face, shaking his head. "Dear God... James is a damn fool... Leaving you in that Vault and not expecting you to chase after him."

"You know my father?" Faith demanded, shooting out of her chair; feeling her heart beginning to pound furiously in her chest.

"Course I do, he's a good man, you're dad. A bit on the slow side when it comes to knowing his own daughter's fool tendencies but a good guy." Three Dog dropped down on the desk besides his bed, nudging aside some old papers. "Look, how much do you know about-"


He grimaced. "Calaway."

"That he used to be a mercenary? That he saved my life, twice."

"Kid, listen to me, whatever he's done for you, it's going to come at a price, trust me. A man don't get the nickname of the 'Undertaker' just because."

She frowned, feeling curiosity stirring in her stomach along with a ball of dread. "How, how did he get that name?" She asked hesitantly.

Three Dog fixed her with a look that was almost sympathetic, but mostly disapproving. "Use your head kid, how do you THINK a man gets the moniker 'Undertaker'?"

"By um, burying a lot of people?"

"Something like that. 'Taker used to run with the Talon Company, a bunch of mercenaries for hire, and there isn't a job they won't take, you following me?"

She nodded.

"He was a little too good at his job, if you know what I mean. Got himself well known all across the Wasteland, not many people were too keen on even allowing him near settlements to trade, he's dangerous. Well, as it goes, taking contracts wasn't satisfying him, wasn't dangerous enough so he got involved in... other things." Three Dog shook his head. "Whatever it is he's doing now, with you, don't think for one damn minute that there isn't some ulterior motive, Faith, you understand me?"

Faith didn't know what to think, the only thing she could was just nod again.


"Let me have a drag."

Mark arched an eyebrow, glancing down at Sarah and passed over his cigarette; sneering when she took a puff and immediately began hacking. "Did I mention it's unfiltered?"

"No, you bastard, you didn't." She wheezed, refusing to pass it back and waited until the coughing fit had passed before taking a more cautious hit from it, this time prepared. "You never did tell me who the kid was."

He noted the hint of disdain in her tone when she said 'kid', shrugging as he turned back to stare at the rain that was pouring down. Rain was an unusual occurrence these days, a welcomed one, but unusual. That didn't mean he was about to go out into it, hell no.

Rain absorbed radiation, even though it had been 200 years since the Great War, there was plenty of radiation still around. Rain just sort of... 'riled' it up and he wasn't risking turning into a goddamn Ghoul, oh HELL no.

Sarah was staring up at him patiently, she had no intention of leaving until she got her answer, though she DID step back underneath the ledge. "Well, who is she?"

"Just a kid from Megaton."

"Really... Cause she doesn't look like any kid from the Wasteland, she's too fucking pale. She got radiation sickness?"


"Live inside all her damn life?'

The corners of his lips twitched at that. "You could say something like that."

"She's from one of those vaults, isn't she?"

Mark shifted so he could stare down at her, locking eyes with the Commander of the most elite faction in the Brotherhood of Steel. Sarah had earned her spurs so to speak at a very young age. She was a tactical genius, deadly as hell (which he found sexy) and also cold as stone. She was devoted to one man, her father and she lived for one thing only: the next mission.

Sarah's eyes lit up when he didn't reply, just inhaled on his cigarette. "She is, she's from a vault. How did she get out I wonder?" She waited for him to give her some kind of answer, not surprised when he didn't. "But why, and this is the million cap question, are you with her? What's she got that you want? Or what has she promised you, hmm?"

Mark spit out the remains of his cigarette into the rain, inhaling sharply when Sarah suddenly pressed herself against him; his mind automatically going to a few stolen moments with her, groaning. "Damn it, Lyons..."

She reached back to pull her hair free from the ponytail she wore it in, shaking out her blonde tresses. For once, she wasn't wearing her suit of power armor, in plain cloth pants and a long sleeved coarse shirt, but it did allow for him to feel her body pressing against his.

Even though Faith had never and probably would never press herself like this to him, he could only imagine the difference between her toned yet still curvy body and Sarah's muscular but... not quite so lush figure. Damn that kid... she was really beginning to fuck him up.

"What's the matter, Calaway?" Sarah taunted, her arms snaking around his neck. "You're telling me you don't want me?" When he said nothing, she smirked; actually snickering at him; something not many people could get away with. "I see, that little girl has you whipped, eh? She does, doesn't she?" She continued taunting, feeling him tensing against her. "And she probably hasn't even given it to you either, you poor sap."

Growling, Mark grabbed a fistful of her hair and jerked her up until she was standing on her tip toes, his mouth slamming down on hers in an angry, violent kiss.

Sarah all but purred.


Chapter 11


Faith exited Three Dog's wing of the building feeling emotionally drained. He had wanted her to go recover a dish for him, a communication relay dish to be exact; to replace his now bullet riddled one that wasn't broadcasting very well. Which would explain why Gob was always banging on his radio back in Megaton, on the current dish, clear reception was only going to happen within a few miles.

But after extracting promises from her that she would enlist her father's aid in helping Three Dog with more than just the dish, but with helping with the 'Good Fight', he had relented and told her she needed to seek out Dr. Li in Rivet City.

He had also told her that if she was going to be asinine enough to travel in Calaway's company, she shouldn't bank on him getting past the bridge into Rivet City.

So tired, but with a whole new slew of questions for Mark, she trudged down the steps; emerging onto the small inner balcony that overlooked the main floor. Gripping the reinforced railing, she stared down at all the crates packed full of ammunition, medical supplies and whatever else it was that the Brotherhood of Steel had brought with them.

"Well hello there, Faith."

Faith turned around to find Knight Finley walking along the wall behind her, decked out in full power armor minus his helmet, his laser rifle cradled in his left arm. Hesitating for a moment, she managed a smile. "Knight Finley."

"Oh, just call me Finley." He returned the smile, extending his arm.

Mindful of the ungiving armor, she slowly linked her arm with his, allowing him to guide her down the remaining stairs. "I was looking for Mark."

"Calaway?" He frowned somewhat. "He never came down."


"There's a back stairwell, he probably stepped outside for a cigarette."

She nodded.

Three Dog had told her about the back stairs, how it would probably be easier for them to leave that way then try braving the square again, even though the Behemoth was dead. Super Mutants still ravaged downtown D.C., this would be the quickest, safest way out.

"Here." He gestured to a crate before disappearing into one of the side rooms; returning quickly with a tin bowl of... Blamco Mac 'n Cheese. "It's fresh." He promised.

Faith stared down at the bowl, really hating this shit but forced herself to eat it, knowing it would probably taste good when she was in the middle of some damn tunnel with nothing but roach meat to eat.

"When you're done, I want to give your side a look."

She nodded again. "Thank you, by the way, for... for taking care of me."

"You're welcome."

The awkwardness that ensued was ended when Mark came thundering down the stairs; a scowl on his face. Sarah was right behind looking very pleased with herself; she was also fastening the clasp on her pants.

He halted at the bottom step when he seen Faith; not even noticing when Sarah collided into his back.

Faith looked at him and then to Sarah; feeling her cheeks beginning to burn harshly.

Finley just cleared his throat, wishing he were anywhere but in this room. "Shall we then, Faith?" He asked after a moment when it became clear nobody was going to say anything.

"Yeah, sure." She set aside her untouched food and quickly got up, following him out.

Mark just groaned.


Three days later, silence was still the rule as Faith and Mark made their way south along the Potomac river towards Rivet City. Faith didn't talk and Mark didn't try to engage her, too busy keeping an eye out for Super Mutants.

Faith wasn't really thinking about anything but getting to Rivet City and finding her father, her mind reeling as she thought of everything she didn't know about him. She had always known he wasn't happy in Vault 101 but she had never figured he'd leave it either. Hell, she had always assumed he had been born in the Vault, recent findings had told her otherwise.

Along with the burning drive to find him was another: to discover the truth. Just what the hell else was he hiding from her? Why did he leave her behind?

"Faith, watch-"

Mark's words came too late, Faith realized with a jolt of pure panic that she was about to walk into a gaping mouth; a mouth that had... three... forked tongues and brown, acidic ooze seeping from all three.

She screamed.

If there would have been time to roll his eyes, Mark would have. Instead, he shoved Faith roughly out of the way before a wad of saliva could hit her; none too pleased when it got his chest; instantly beginning to wipe the radiated goo off of him with his gloved hands.

"Son of a bitch..." He growled, keeping one eye on the waist creature that was moving towards him as quickly as it could.

It was a Centaur, another one of the Capital Wasteland's mutated residents. It's head somewhat resembled that of a humans and it crawled awkwardly on limbs that were somewhat human-esque but that's where the similarities ended. It did not walk, but crawled... the arms and legs splayed like a mutated toad's. On it's meaty, flesh covered stomach was a row of upper and lower teeth; jutting out of the skin as if to bite the unwary.

All in all, not a pleasant looking thing.

And usually, they were companions of Super Mutants.

Thanks to Faith's untimely scream, Super Mutants were now approaching; their rough voices sounding very excited; which wasn't a good thing.

"Faith, into the water!"

"Are you fucking serious?" She shouted back angrily, having recovered her poise though she was still pale; now armed with the Chinese assault rifle Finley had given her. "We'll come out with feelers and webbed feet!"

"Better than either dyin' or whatever it is they do with the ones they don't kill!" He was already running towards the river, grabbing her arm along the way.

Faith had time to take a deep breath before he was throwing her over the edge of the waist high railing that separated broken sidewalk and the icy depths fifteen feet below. She had no idea if Super Mutants or the other monsters could swim, but... it probably didn't matter as the water was radioactive anyways, she was probably going to mutate into some kind of fish spawn and live happily ever after... with her fish spawn idiot mercenary.

Providing she didn't drown first.

Living in a Vault did not equip a person for certain physical things... like long distance running, football and swimming.

There hadn't been tubs, like she had seen in Megaton, there had been showers.

Faith was panicking worse underwater than when she had seen that hideous thing, that she could have shot. Now all she could do was struggle with the weight that was pulling her down.

Mark surfaced, flicking his hair out of his face and turned in a circle; treading water easily. He glanced up, not surprised to see the Super Mutants already walking away. He didn't know if they could swim, but it had been his general experience that they wouldn't.

He'd also seen a Centaur drown, those fat globs couldn't swim at all, thank god for small favors.

"Faith?" He called after spitting out water; knowing as soon as they were on land, a healthy injection of Radaway was in order. If he had known they'd of been going for a swim, he would've insisted they took some Rad-X. "Faith?" He scanned the opposite bank, up and down the river and felt his stomach knotting up. "SON OF A BITCH!"

He dived back under.


"Mark?" Shivering Faith, kept on clinging to the stone pillar she had caught hold of. She had managed to surface only to find herself drifting down river, having a vague idea that paddling her limbs would have been a good idea but she was just so damn tired. "Mark!"

Fighting back bitter tears, she managed to pull herself around the pillar and onto a slippery cement bank, digging her fingernails into the grit as she hauled herself up; cursing when she lost her grip and went down.

When she had caught herself again and worked her way back up; she became aware she was bleeding; her numb fingers going to her chin. When she pulled them away and looked down, she saw blood. "Great, just fucking great." She cursed, knowing she must have scraped it rather badly when she had fell on that slope.

After getting her bearings, she looked to her left and then to her right. Then she looked directly ahead and wished she hadn't.

"Sweetcheeks," A man around Mark's age said, only he had an accent she didn't recognize. "All those weapons of yours... drop them."

Her eyes were crossed, staring at the pistol aimed directly for her mouth. Nodding, she began disarming herself, not moving for the hunting knife she had started carrying in her boot at Mark's prompting. When she was finished, she raised her shaking arms, feeling the cold and exhaustion taking over. "I'm not looking for any trouble, mister." She said as calmly as possible.

He was holstering his gun, smiling broadly at her. "Hey, no trouble, I just don't like anyone ruining my parties, right girls?"

Faith could only stare as two women wearing thin robes over sheer... shirts, nightclothes... lingerie, that was the word, approached from behind.

"Right." Agreed the colored one, her eyes thoughtful as she studied Faith. "Dukov, honey, maybe we should get her inside?"

"And dose her, she was in the river." The other added, wrinkling her nose.

"And out of those clothes!" He laughed, slinging her arm around Faith, kicking away the assault rifle. "Come on sweetcheeks, Dukov has JUST what you need."

Faith could only let him guide her inside his home.


Chapter 12


Cherry and Fantasia were the two women, Faith learned. She had been taken into a building that was surprisingly intact for the most part.

"Take her upstairs, Fantasia." Dukov ordered with a lazy wave of his hand, strolling across the littered floor to what looked like a bar. "Get her taken care of."

"Sure thing, honey."

Faith felt herself being tugged towards a flight of stairs, trying to take in as much of the room as she could. It was a large, open room and she easily spotted three doors, not including the one they had come in through.

She also noted the many empty bottles of booze, a double amount of full bottles and the red inhalers that made her flinch.


The same drug Leo Stahl had been hopped up on.

What really made her worry and her flesh crawl was the giant, mussed bed in the middle of the floor.


Once they were on the second floor, faith was even more disgusted then before. Eye level with her was now a type of sculpture made out of wire and bulbed lights, a sculpture of that dangled from the ceiling, a sculpture of two people engaged in... sex.

"Come on kid, let's get you taken care of." Fantasie said gently, guiding Faith around the narrow walkway to her and Cherry's 'dressing room'.

"Please, I have to get out of here."

Fantasia shook her head, glancing out the half broken door. "Look, Dukov isn't so bad bad. I mean, yeah he's got a mouth on him and likes to party, but... Really, that's not that bad compared to what's out there." She gestured towards the outside.

Faith did not find that comforting.


"Damn it..." Mark cursed as he pulled himself out of the Potomac. Drenched and exhausted, worried and a bit pissed off; he made for what looked to be a small camp to his right, just under a stone outcropping.

"Son, don't you know that swimming in a radiated river will kill you?"

Fatigue made him slow on the draw. Sighing, Mark raised his hands up in the universal gesture for 'I surrender'. "Well Sir, it seemed like a good idea at the time." He said, slowly turning around.

An older man, one of the Wasteland's many harmless occupants, a scavenger just trying to get by stood before Mark. His weathered face was focused, as was the standard sawed off shotgun he was aiming at Mark. At this close of range, that piece of shit gun could actually damage something.

"Well son, if you can mind your manners, you're welcome to come dry off by my fire. Not a raider, are you?"

"No, Sir."

"Not one of those damn mercs I seen patrolling?"

"No, Sir."

"Armed to the teeth, I'll wager."

"Yes, Sir."

The man began laughing, shaking his head as he started back towards his camp. "Well, come on then. And if you plan to shoot me, let me get one last meal in first."

Chuckling in spite of himself, Mark followed.


"When I do this, it is going to hurt like a son of a bitch." Fantasia said as she swabbed Faith's arm with alcohol. "When did you last get a dose of Rad-Away?"

"Uh..." Faith frowned, watching as Fantasia rifled in a cupboard, withdrawing a hypodermic needle and pre-filled syringe wrapped in protective plastic. Most likely Finley had given her a booster while she had been unconscious but as she had just gone for an involuntary swim... "I have Rad-X." She offered hopefully.

"That helps lessen the amount of radiation you get but this will take care of what you have."

Faith had never been fond of needles, something her father had understood as he wasn't too keen on them either, even if he was a doctor. Being an only child had it's perks as he had usually given her her immunization shots with a healthy dose of a pain killer or while she was asleep.


Though the perks of being her father's child had run out when he had left and the Overseer had decided SHE was also a threat to his well ordered world.

To distract herself from the all to rapidly approaching needle, Faith began studying Fantasia.

She was beautifully dark, her skin the color of what chocolate must have been, her closely cropped hair a dull black and so tight and curly Faith was sure any comb would break instantly. A wide nose, large oval; coffee colored eyes and a generous mouth, Fantasia really had a lovely face.

Though when she stuck Faith with the needle, all Faith's kind thoughts went right out the figurative window.


Fantasia clucked her tongue. "Give it a minute and it'll hurt even more."

"Gee, thanks,- SON OF A BITCH!"

It was like liquid fire rolling through her veins, destroying the deadly radiation but at a painful price; leaving a slight burn behind.

Fantasia rubbed Faith's back gently, in slow circles, knowing the worse had yet to come.

"Oh..." Faith doubled over, one hand wrapping around her stomach, the other flying to her head.

"Well," Fantasia said, trying to look on the brighter side of things. "At least you're rad free, right?"


"How'd you wind up in the river?"

Mark accepted the steaming mug of tea and whiskey he was passed; sitting on an old cushion with a blanket wrapped around him before the fire. He took a slow sip; letting the liquid warm him from the inside out as he considered that. "Super Mutants."

"Ah... that's a damn good reason for a swim."

"I thought so." Mark studied his new acquaintance thoughtfully, the guy had said his name was Stephen. "Seen anybody else drifting along the river, recently?" He asked in a would be casual tone.

"Hmmm... no." Stephen shook his head, stroking his filthy beard and then frowned. "But I did see the jackass across the way," He gestured across the river. "Hauling someone inside."

"The jackass across the way?"

"Dukov." Stephen made a disgusted face. "He's got himself a nice little set-up in that building, won't let anything that doesn't have tits inside. The caravans stop by once or twice a month so he keeps himself pretty well stocked, him and his broads."


"Mmhmm, couple of women living with him, I don't really know the situation but I've never gotten close enough to ask."

"And you seen him taking someone inside?"


Mark's eyes narrowed.


When it felt like she head and stomach were no longer going to explode, Faith submitted to a cold sponge bath; hating to admit it but being clean felt good, who the hell knew what was in the Potomac besides radiation and water?

"There we go..." Fantasia smiled, using an old blanket to dry Faith's hair; fluffing the black tresses until she was satisfied with the volume. "You really are..."

Faith waited for it with a sigh. She had been told two different things that conflicted with each other. That with her fair, unblemished 'Vault' skin; and relatively full, healthy figure... she was fat and ugly.

At the severe end of the spectrum, she had also been propositioned because men 'liked a woman with meat on her bones', which was apparently rare on the surface.

"Beautiful, you know that? Where the hell do you come from?"

"A vault."

Fantasia nodded, comprehension dawning in her eyes. "That explains it. It has to be hard living up here, after being in a vault, huh?"

"Eh... somewhat. For the most part, I like it." Minus getting shot, the Super Mutants, asshole men...

As if to say she understood, Fantasia flashed another smile; now holding out a garment similar to what she was wearing. It was pink, sheer and made out of a fabric Faith was genuinely afraid to touch incase she might ruin it. If how Fantasia's appeared was any indication, the cups of the thigh high garment would only cover half her breasts.

"I can't wear that."

"Why not? It's clean. Put it on."

"No, I can't wear that." Faith insisted, folding her arms over her naked chest and shook her head.

"Look, if you want out of here, you'll have to talk to Dukov, he won't force you to stay you know. But he's not going to really pay any attention to you unless you... are appealing to him. Then you can actually talk, providing you can keep him off of you."

"Are you serious?"

Fantasia nodded, a moment's regret crossing her face. "Look, it's not... a bad life. We're safe here, we have a roof over our head's and food for our bellies. We just... go with the flow, catch my drift?"

"You're his whore?"

"Basically, yes."


Chapter 13


Dukov was sitting on the edge of the bed, an inhaler in one hand, a glass of vokda in the other when Fantasia and Faith came downstairs. He smiled broadly when he seen the woman from the river all cleaned up, and in a beautiful piece of lingerie.

He took his time in perusing her, starting with her bare feet and working his way up. His smile grew even wider if possible when he got to her upper thighs and then where the fabric formed a slight triangle where the silk clung to her thighs and sex; absentmindedly wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

Faith felt practically naked, keeping her arms folded over her chest; her face burning. Her fingers were itching to pull a trigger, to lodge a bullet right between his greedy eyes but he had taken her guns, he had made her drop them outside. Maybe he had retrieved them, maybe she could somehow get her hands on one...

Actually, anything that could be used as a weapon was welcomed at this point.

"Sweetcheeks, you are very sexy, very very, sexy." Dukov said appreciatively; letting the inhaler clatter to the floor as he stood up.

"Look, I'm... grateful, that you allowed me to be taken care of, but I have a friend out there that I need to find." Faith said, causing him to halt in his tracks. "I need my things back and I'll just be on my way."

"What's the rush?"

"I have business in Rivet City."

"Rivet City is miles away, you spend the night here." Dukov said, still smiling though he didn't move towards her, holding his arms open as Fantasia strolled over to him, leaning into his side as her arms slinked about his neck. "Besides, it's getting dark. Super Mutants will be out, you're safe here."


"Tomorrow you go."


This Dukov lived in what had once been a hotel, or an apartment building. Either way, it had a lot of floors. Mark was studying the place through the lens of his Sniper, across the Potomac. Night was rapidly falling and he knew he needed to either get across now or wait it out until the morning.

Morning wasn't an option, he had no idea what kind of guy this Dukov was and he wasn't going to leave it to chance.

In the long run, it was a good thing he had come, for Faith at any rate. Seeing as how he had to keep bailing her ass out of trouble. She would have been dead within a day if Walter hadn't insisted she bring him.

That was one fortunate kid.


Faith would definitely not be getting any sleep. She sat at the 'bar' and kept on eye on Dukov and his two 'female companions', while sippinga bottle of Nuka-Cola. While he had insisted she stay until morning, Dukov hadn't asked or seem to expect her to join in their little 'party'.

Which was good because as soon as the trio had hopped themselves up on Jet and started in on the booze, she had excused herself to the bathroom and broken off a piece of the already broken mirror.

A shard of mirror didn't seem like much in the way of protection but it would suffice.

So currently, she was trying to figure out how to sit comfortably without exposing herself and contemplating the idea of hunting up her shit. Fantasia had murmured something about safe-keeping, wondering exactly what that meant.

In the back of her mind, she was concerned for Mark but on the other hand, he was much better at this Wasteland survival thing than her.

A lot better.


Mirelurks, Mark fucking hated Mirelurks. He had NO idea what they were before the mutation occurred and he didn't want to know. What he did know was that they were about as tall as him, had very sharp little teeth, were grey and covered in a hard as hell shell and had giant; razor blade sharp pinchers.

As if those pinchers -which were larger than his damn head- weren't enough, the inside of the pincher's, the part that 'clamped' each possessed a fine ridge of sawlike growths.

"Fuck…" He grunted, swimming harder; trying not to focus on anything but the other side of the river.

Mirelurks were in the main, water dwellers, so that and given their appearance, he was assuming they were lobsters, or crabs, on steroids.

It was hard to concentrate though when he was worried about one of them coming up underneath him; trying not to imagine what one of those pinchers would feel like as it ripped through his body.


"You like that, Cherry?"


"Oh yes!"

Another slap.

Followed by a squeal.

Faith clapped both hands over her ears, sitting on the top of the stairs; leaning against the wall and tried not to hear what she was hearing. She already had her eyes squeezed shut, not that she could see anything from this vantage point anyway.

She didn't dare go any further, Dukov could see her from her and apparently that was what he wanted, her in his line of vision.

She had tried disappearing into one of the rooms when the 'fun' started, only for him to drag her out with a gun to her head. He had said something about 'stealing', she hadn't tried hiding again.

When she risked peeking again, she found a very naked Dukov standing in front of her; balancing himself on the steps precariously.

"Come on, sweet cheeks," He tried taking her hand, grinning when she scooted back. "Come downstairs and join the party."

"Dukov, let her alone!" Fantasia called, laughing as Cherry added something under her breath. "You got more than you can handle with us, baby."

Dukov snorted, not sparing them a look as he advanced on Faith. "Come on, join the party." He repeated, raising the inhaler clenched tightly in his left fist up; his eyes narrowing as he squeezed the trigger.

Jet, Faith really did not like Jet.


A gun would have been so much easier, Mirelurks were NOT easy to kill with a knife. Mark was going to chalk this one up just to plain old fashioned dumb luck. Too bad there hadn't been any witnesses though, it would have made on HELL of a story.

But then again, there were plenty of those about him floating around as it was.

Glad he had had a shot of Rad-X, Mark crouched down and began creeping towards the building, his eyes narrowing in on all the landmines and tripwires that lay between him and the double doors.

Great, just great.


"Shit, run Faith!" Fantasia shrieked when the kid actually lashed out and kicked Dukov in the lower stomach, her brown eyes wide.

"Cherry, my gun!" A more than pissed off Dukov bellowed, hunched over only slightly. "You stupid little bitch!" He screamed at Faith.

Faith had had enough and if she was going to get shot or something, she was going to earn it. She had told him NO, and he had insisted on trying to have his way with her. He had pinned her on the second floor, backing her into a corner… Faith had attacked.

"Dukov, please, just-"


When he spun to peer down at the terrified Fantasia, Faith took the opening. She delivered a spinning heel kick to the back of his head; watching as Dukov went flying over the railing and rushed over to look down.

He had landed on the bed, flat on his back; groaning in pain.

All three women jumped when the bed broke suddenly, Dukov letting out a groan as he was jarred when the mattresses collapsed on top of the shoddy framework.

"Well good goddamn."

Faith damn near fell over the railing herself when she heard Mark's voice.

He stepped further into the hotel, keeping the barrel of his sniper aimed at Cherry; who let the .44 she had been carrying clatter to the ground. "Faith?"

"Up here."

He glanced over his shoulder and grinned. "About damn time you did two things right."


"Finally took care of yourself."

She grinned.

"And showed off what the good Lord gave you."

The grin disappeared, quickly replaced with a scowl. When he actually tilted his head and tried to look UP the nightie, she flipped him off and retreated.

Laughing, Mark turned his attention to Dukov.

Dukov began whimpering as the giant approached, not missing the decidedly evil glint in the other man's eyes. "Please… please, I have money…"

"I don't want your money."

"Jet? Booze?"

Mark shook his head no.


"Your soul."


Chapter 14


Dukov had mercifully been allowed to put his clothes.

Currently, he was crouching against a wall no the second floor, staring cross eyed into the barrel of a gun that was being held by, of all people, the Undertaker.

"Please, don't kill me." He pleaded, bringing a shaking hand up and tried pushing the gun away; groaning when he only got it dug into the flesh between his eyes. "I didn't touch her, I swear it!"

Mark's grey-green eyes flashed dangerously. "You better hope for your sake you didn't." He growled, fighting the urge to pull the trigger.

"I didn't!"

Snorting, Mark hocked a wad of spit right onto Dukov's face, smirking when the other man began squealing in disgust. "Dukov… you have something I want."

"Anything you want, Undertaker, Sir! Jet! Booze, anything!"

"I want your key."

"M-my key?"

Mark nodded, his eyes gleaming. "Your key."


"What is he doing?" Cherry demanded, staring up at the ceiling with narrowed eyes, a cigarette firmly tucked between her thin lips.

Shrugging, Faith finished buttoning her pants. After Mark had established that Dukov was no longer in charge, Fantasia had graciously returned her her belongings. "Murdering him slowly, I would hope." She said, her eyes lighting up at the thought.

"Does this mean we don't have to sleep with him anymore?"

Fantasia rolled her eyes. "Who knows."

"Well, I am getting the hell out of here. I'm going to Rivet City, I can't do this anymore." Cherry shook her head, cupping her head in her hands. "My nerves can't take this anymore."

Faith and Fantasia exchanged looks.


When Mark finally came stomping down the stairs, he looked grimly pleased with himself, his eyes surveying the three women. Cherry and Fantasia were curled up on the broken bed, sound asleep while Faith was pacing back and forth. "You changed."

"Did you honestly expect me to stay in that… that thing?" She retorted, tossing the empty Nuka Cola bottle over her shoulder, ignoring the shattering of glass.

"I was hoping, and it's called lingerie, kid."

Faith wondered if he was serious, leaning back against the bar as he approached, her eyes scanning for signs of blood or something, she hadn't heard any gunfire. "Dukov?"

Mark pressed his body against hers, feeling her sharp intake of breath as he leaned over to reach beneath the counter; pulling back when he had his prize. A bottle of whiskey. "Dead." He grunted, stepping away from her as he unscrewed the cap off the bottle; taking a long swig.

"That's disgusting." She commented, watching with an upturned lip as the brown alcohol spilled down his chin; trying not to listen to his exaggerated gulping sounds.

Laughing wickedly, Mark wiped his chin off with the back of his hand. "Sorry kid, killin' people is thirsty work."

"You're a sick man, Calaway."

He didn't bother dignifying that with an answer, knowing it was true. Yawning, Mark turned to survey the room, arching an eyebrow when he seen the two broads sleeping. "You tired?"

"A bit." She admitted reluctantly, following his gaze, not about to share a bed with them and shot him a 'don't even think about it' look.

Ignoring her, he crossed the floor and lifted the blanket.

Cherry and Fantasia rolled off of it and onto the floor, both waking up to stare at him groggily.

"Find somewhere else to sleep." He ordered, stifling another yawn as he settled down onto the bed; groaning and reached beneath him to pull out an empty bottle; tossing it aside. "C'mere Faith."

"Uh, I think I'll just-"

"Woman, if I have to get out of this bed and get you, you're gonna regret it. Understand me?"

Faith considered him for a brief moment, groaning when he actually made to get up and dropped down onto the end of the bed; pulling back off her boots. "Can't we just leave?" She asked, watching in mild amusement as Cherry and Fantasia hauled their asses elsewhere.

"Not tonight." He scowled, bending forward to grab her by the hair and began pulling her back; ignoring her whines. "Woman, I just swam across that damn river, fought off a Mirelurk and risked my dick falling off from the cold just to save your ass."

For the most part. When Stephen had said the name 'Dukov', Mark had found himself with another reason to come sooner.

He had a point, Faith reluctantly conceded as she freed her hair from his fist; shooting him another nasty look before laying down on the opposite side of the bed; trying not to think of what she could be lying in. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." He grunted, draping an arm over his face; laying on his back. "Though… if you really wanted to thank me, you'd go put back on that lingerie."

"I'm not THAT grateful."


"He's dead, he's dead!"

"Shut the fuck up!" Mark bellowed, not pulling his face out of Faith's hair; too comfortable spooned against her; one massive thigh draping over her legs. "Fuckin' women…"

Groaning, Faith nestled back against the warmth; reaching around to pull the blanket over her shoulders and then frowned. The blanket wasn't a blanket but an arm, and the hand attached to that arm was now kneading her right breast. "CALAWAY!"

"You shut the fuck up too, tryin' to sleep." He rumbled; his breath hot against the back of her neck.

Vowing to do him some serious harm, Faith began the process of freeing herself from his grasp; not amused in the slightest when he chuckled and only tightened his grip. "Calaway, c'mon, I gotta piss."

"Hold it."

Cherry came flying down the steps, wearing a pair of tattered brown pants and a tank top; her face pale. "You… you killed Dukov!" She wailed, pointing a trembling finger at Mark. "Why? Who's going to protect us now?"

"I'm sure you'll find someone else to spread them legs for." He snorted, raising his head off the bed in order to look at her. "And no, that wasn't an offer."

"I'm not interested."

"Calaway, still gotta pee."

Sighing, he knew he was up for the day and groaned, reluctantly pulling himself away from Faith. He wasn't surprised when she rolled off the bed and away from him, flashing her a lavascious grin as he purposefully adjusted the crotch of his pants.

"You're a sick man." She muttered, heading for the bathroom.

He was, he agreed. Though… he was also distracted when Cherry and Fantasia -where the hell did these women get their names?- stood directly before him. "I said no." He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, tempted to just take them out as well, tie up all loose ends so to speak. "You've got a good deal here, man up a bit and you'll be able to keep it going."

"Man up?" Fantasia echoed, arching an eyebrow.

"You heard me."

They shared a look, both wondering if they could actually do this.


"Well, here we are."

Faith frowned, wondering if Calaway was serious as she looked around. Besides the fact that they were now apparently by the waterfront, she couldn't really tell the difference between this portion of what remained of the city and where they were currently.

Shaking his head exasperatedly, Mark pointed towards the river. "Use your eyes, kid."

It took her a moment to realize she was staring at a boat, a ship. An old ship at that, and remarkably it seemed to be intact, for the most part.


"Yeah, wow. Come on then."

She followed Mark across the street and up what he called a 'boarding plank'.

"Water, please, just a little water."

Faith's attention was drawn to a man sitting with his back against a rusted sheet of metal, what could be seen of his body covered in sores. He was suffering radiation sickness.

"Please, just a little water, purified water." He pleaded, holding out his hands towards them.

Mark rolled his eyes.

Taking pity, Faith reached into her satchel and pulled out a half empty bottle, handing it to the poor man. She tried not to stare at him, at what could very well be her someday if by chance she was an outcast from the settlements.

"Bless you, God bless you." He whimpered, twisting the cap off with gnarled fingers and took a small sip; offering the bottle back.

"No, you keep it."

"Are… are you sure?" His eyes widened in disbelief. "I don't have any money, miss, I-"

"Please, just keep it." She urged, gently pushing the water back towards him. It damn near broke her heart to see the way he clutched it to his chest. This was one of those moments where she wished she was still in the Vault, where nobody ever went without, where purified water was taken for granted.

When she had been safe.


Chapter 15



Faith arched an eyebrow, watching as two heavily armed guards approached, both bearing rifles. They had had to wait for the very long bridge (gang plank, or whatever Mark had called it) to be swung around before crossing and now this.

"You're not allowed in Rivet City, Undertaker." One of them said from behind the full face visor of his helmet.

"Come on, Harkness." Mark growled, ignoring the 'what did you do' look on Faith's face. "That was MONTH'S ago."

"And the Muddy Rudder still looks like it did after you got done."

"It was all just a misunderstanding. I'm sure Sister has forgiven and forgotten."

"Sister wants you dead, 'Taker."

"Yeah, well… a lot of people do." Mark said, spreading his arms wide in a 'what are you gonna do' gesture, shrugging. "Look, my friend here has business in Rivet City, just let us in."

"Is she with you?"

"No, he's with me." Faith said firmly, assuming the air of command. Just from following the short exchange between Calaway and this Harkness, she was quickly gathering he wasn't very popular.

How unsurprising.

"And just who the hell are you?"

"My name is Faith."

"Got a last name, Faith?"

She shook her head no.

"Got any fancy nicknames, like the Undertaker, here?"

"Um, no. Not unless you'd like to call me 'kid', like everyone else?"

"Smartass." Harkness sighed, pressing the side of his helmet, the visor sliding up and eyeballed Mark. "Listen good, 'Taker, because I'm only going to say this one time, understand?"

Mark nodded, his jaw clenched.

"If you so much as fart in public, 'Taker, we're throwing you in with the Mirelurks, got me?" Harkness didn't wait for his answer but instead turned his gaze onto face. "And we'll throw you in with him, got me, kid? You're responsible for him. If he fucks up, I'm holding YOU accountable."

Faith just nodded.

"Alright then, let them in."


Faith scanned the market, well aware that a lot of eyes were on the man who stood just off to the side of her and inwardly heaved a sigh. She didn't want to know what the hell he had done, but she did know if there was a repeat, she was going to shoot him herself.

Especially since she was now responsible for him.

As they passed one of the stalls, a man in well cared for pants, a neat but stained white shirt and green blazer hastily put up a 'closed' sign, eyeing them apprehensively.

"Not interested in your crap, Bannon, you-" Mark broke off when he felt Faith's elbows in his ribs, glancing down at her.

"Do you fucking mind?" She hissed. "This isn't just your ass on the line anymore."

"Then you should have left me outside." He retorted, draping his arm around her. To Faith it no doubt was a sign of posession or some other shit, to him… he was protecting her as Flak from across the way, one of the proprietor's of Rivet City's ammo and guns shop, was eyeballing her in a very unhealthy way. "Come on, it's late and whatever it is you're here for is going to have to wait."

"So, what are you saying?"

"I'm saying, we need to find a place to sleep. There's a common-"

"NO." Faith had been absorbed in the market until he said 'common', not even wanting to imagine a common 'house' on a ship. All the people milling about, hawking their wares, buying things… it was impressive.

On the other hand, being aboard a ship… the smells were less than appealing.

"No common house, rooms, whatever." She said calmly, trying to shrug his arm off of her. "Is there, is there a hotel or something?" That was highly unlikely but she had to try.

To her surprise, Mark nodded, looking a bit amused.

"Sure is, the Weatherly. Run by Vera, we can get a room from her." He hoped, trying not to smirk. "Come on kid, follow me."

They had gotten to the other side of the market when they were stopped; this time by a dirty looking woman with short hair.

"Cindy." Mark greeted, a half-smile on his face. "Where's that no good husband of yours?"

Faith folded her arms over her chest. She was beginning to get the impression there wasn't a single place or person he didn't either know or know of, and the same could have been said for him, it seemed that almost everyone knew who he was.

Her mind replayed the conversation she had had with Three Dog, about running with the 'Undertaker', the mercenary and frowned.

She had noticed… he appeared to know a LOT of women.

"He's around here somewhere." Cindy chuckled, glancing down at Bannon's shop and sighed, shaking her head. "Do you have to rile him up?"

"Still crushin' on that geezer?"

She bit her lower lip, then gestured back towards her shop. "I have something to show you, big man."

Mark looked down at Faith, who was glaring at him murderously. "You can come too."

Snorting, she followed him. It was obvious just what kind of booth Cindy was running, a chem shop. She could only imagine the way Leo Stalh's eyes would pop out if he could see all the drugs laying neatly on their shelves, and not locked away like Doc had done in Megaton.

"Look." Cindy was pulling something out of a metal lock box, the lock was broken though. She opened it, smiling as he bent down to examine it; opening a bottle, outright laughing when he quickly recoiled. "You know what that is?"

"How the hell did you get it?"

"Trader, just one problem."

Mark rubbed the back of his neck; his nose tingling from the healthy whiff he had just gotten; his eyes taking on a knowing gleam. "Nobody around here can afford it."


"So use it yourself."

She shook her head, scowling. "On who?"

"Your husband, I would imagine."

Faith was so lost it wasn't funny, folding her arms over her chest as she kept looking back and forth between the two. "Uh, hello?" She reddened when Cindy pursed her lips at her, not liking the speculative look on the other woman's face. "What's in the box?"

"Queen Ant Pheromones." Mark said, still rubbing the back of his neck; looking down at her intently. "Know what they're used for?"

"I know what pheromones are." Faith replied, looking confused. "But what would humans want with them?"

Cindy began laughing her ass off, turning around and placed the box on one of the waist high shelves. "Oh she is just too precious. Here…"

"Cindy…" Mark groaned, watching as she took a very small sample and placed it in a phial, shaking his head. "Please, don't."

Faith couldn't remember if she had ever heard him use that word before, mildly surprised and was even MORE curious. When Cindy handed her the phial, she arched an eyebrow, staring down at it. "What do I do with it?" She asked cautiously.

"Mix it with something to eat, it's good for you, trust me." Cindy chortled, looking downright devious as she surveyed the pair. "I won't even charge you, just this once, and only because you're new here… and funnier then shit."

Mark was just shaking his head.


"I thought you were on good terms with Vera?" Faith asked a half hour later, walking out of the hotel 'lobby' and into the narrow hall, where Mark was currently leaning against one of the steel doors; a key in her hand.

"I am, I'm not on good terms with Sister however."

"Who the fuck is Sister?"

Mark shook his head, glancing towards the door. He was half tempted to go in there and finish what he had started some time ago in the Muddy Rudder but… he didn't doubt Harkness' threat for a second. While he wasn't really that concerned for himself, he was -reluctant to admit as he was- concerned for Faith.

Her being such a great swimmer and all.

Scowling, Faith started looking at the numbers on the doors, noting how they didn't have handles but big round wheels, arching an eyebrow. She could only afford one room, even with the numerous caps they had taken from Dukov's place, but she had every intention of making the merc sleep on the floor; having not forgotten the whole sharing a bed thing.

When she got the door opened and stepped inside; she damn near screamed.

Mark stared over her head, just shaking his head, trying not to smile. When Faith rounded on him, he shrugged, plastering an innocent over his face, knowing that definitely wouldn't look right. "It's not MY fault this is a SHIP, and the cabins are SMALL."

"You can sleep in the commons."

"Not likely kid, looks like we're bunkin' again."


Chapter 16


"You're in luck, usually the cots are really small." Mark knew he shouldn't be provoking Faith, not after the long day they had had but he couldn't help himself. Tormenting Faith was currently his favorite pasttime.

Faith just glared at him, her hands balled into fists and planted on her hips. "I want to know just what it is you did to piss everyone here off."

"I don't think so, not tonight." He yawned, eyeing the bed longingly.

"No, tell me now." She insisted with an uncharacteristic sterness. "Everywhere we go it seems like everyone knows who you are, you know of so many places… I feel like I'm the only person in the Wasteland who doesn't know you but I'm the one person who should."

"Not tonight, Faith." His tone of voice was clipped, becoming colder with each word. "Why don't you go find yourself something to eat."

She recognized the dismissal and wasn't having it, growing angrier by the second. "Why can't you just answer me?" She all but screamed at him.

Moving faster than his size should have allowed, Mark had her pinned against the steel wall, his upper lip curled into a snarl.

Automatically, Faith tried pushing him away but that was like pushing a brick wall, immovable. "Mark!"

"You want to know why everyone fears and despises me?" He demanded, leaning in so their noses were almost touching; the rage in his eyes quite visible. "Really Faith? Are you sure you want to know? Because if you want to know all about the fuckin' Undertaker, you had better be damn sure you really want to know."

At this point, all Faith wanted was for him to get away from her and made it happen by kneeing him between the legs. When he backed away, cursing and hunched, she bolted from the room.

"No running!" One of the security officers patrolling barked at her.

Faith ignored him, having absolutely no idea where she was going but kept on running anyway.

It took Mark a few moments to calm down and when he did, the realization of what he had done struck him. "Son of a bitch…"


Somehow, Faith found herself at the bottom of the deck, on the lowest deck, standing in front of a door that had a crudely painted sign with the words Muddy Rudder on it. This was where Calaway had apparently caused a ruckus at. Snorting, she pushed open the door and stepped inside; instantly assaulted with stale smoke; the disgusting scents of booze and sweat.

It was a bar, why was she not surprised?

After navigating her way down to the actual bar, she glimpsed the other patrons; ignoring the dirty look a woman with burnt blond hair shot her. Unless she missed her guess, a whore. Well she wasn't here to earn tricks, that woman's job was QUITE safe.

"What can I get you honey?" A tired looking woman from behind the counter asked, wearing a blue rag tied around her head along with a dirty pale grey dress that covered her from the neck to her ankles. When Faith hesitated, the woman's eyes narrowed. "Look, there ain't no freebies down here. You either drink or get-"


"Alright then."


When Faith hadn't returned in an hour or so, Mark pulled himself off the bed where he had been laying, staring up at the ceiling and wearily set out to look for her. He probably shouldn't have let her wander around by herself but given what he had also done to her… He figured she needed some 'alone' time and he knew he needed 'alone' time to simmer down.

The security in Rivet City was fairly good, all things considered, but that didn't mean that shit didn't happen.

And if shit was going to happen, he automatically knew it would happen to the naieve kid from the damn Vault.

The marketplace was closed so he didn't even bother heading in that direction, knowing damn well Harkness made sure it was cleared out every night before sealing the doors. He had no idea what the Hell she was looking for in RC to begin with, making a mental note to ask.

He worked his way down, from deck to deck, room to room and nobody had seen her; well… he was assuming nobody had seen her. Most of his questions were met with quick shakes of the head followed by closing doors.

Sometimes, being him wasn't so good.


In one hour, Faith had a nice buzz going on. She was not much of a drinker, and she usually nursed her drinks, but tonight… tonight was different.

There was simply too much on her mind, too much she had dealt with lately. It seemed like the constant thoughts of her father, the near surface tension and fear she was always trying to battle away had broken through tonight.

Undoubtedly helped along by Calaway.

"Hey kid, didn't you come in with 'Taker?"

Sighing, she turned on her stool in order to look at whoever was addressing, examining the man siting besides her. She recognized him from the marketplace though she didn't know his name. "Yes."

"I'm Shrapnel."

Shrapnel looked older than Calaway, and he was also looking at her in a way that made her uncomfortable. Not sexually, but… like he was sizing her up, determining her worth. That was not a very good feeling.

When she didn't offer her name, he smiled grimly. "Should I just call you kid?"

What the hell was it with people calling her that? Faith sighed and just shrugged. "Sure, everyone else does."

"So, Kid, how is it you're actually traveling with 'Taker and not…" Shrapnel seemed to be considering his next words carefully, staring at her intently. "Do you know what Paradise Falls is?"

"Shrapnel!" The bartender, Belle Bonny gasped, staring at him like he was crazy. "Don't you dare be tellin' them stories here, you understand me? I won't have it, I simply will not have it! He's on the damn ship, don't you even THINK about it."

"She has a right to know, don't you THINK?"

"Who's to say she don't already?"

"Be serious, Belle."

Faith kept glancing back and forth between the two, really wishing she was in on whatever it was everyone else in the world seemed to already know. "What the HELL are you guys talking about?" She demanded, alcohol making her even more pissed off as she took another long swallow.

Belle glanced towards the door, hissing anxiously. "If you INSIST on being a fool, go in the damn backroom!" She muttered, shoving a bottle of vodka in Faith's hands. "Go on, git."

More confused than ever, Faith allowed herself to be dragged through the bar; stepping into what was obviously Belle's sleeping quarters; flinching when she heard the door closing behind them. She was definitely good and buzzed, possibly even drunk. Because if she had been stone cold sober, she never would have allowed herself to be led off like that by someone she didn't know.

Shrapnel sat at Belle's small table, taking the bottle from the kid's hand and poured them each a healthy drink, passing her a glass and gestured to the opposite chair. "Ever heard of Paradise Falls?"

She shook her head no, dropping down heavily into the chair; impatiently pushing strands of hair back from her face.

"You've heard of the slavers though, right?"

"Yeah." Walter had warned her about slavers, along with raiders, before she had left Megaton. "People who round up other people like cattle, right?"

"Round 'em up, tag them and sell them."

"Sell them?" She echoed, frowning. "Can they do that?"

"Why not? Who the hell is going to stop them?" He shot her a 'I know you're drunk but don't be stupid' look. "Only place with law and order are the settlements."

She nodded.

"Anyways, Paradise Falls is the place where the slavers… live, basically. They go out on their little raiding parties, taking people from their homes and dragging them back to the Falls to be sold to the highest bidder, or… other places."

"Okay… So what does this have to do with Cal- the Undertaker?"

Shrapnel hadn't missed the fact that she had almost said something besides Undertaker but didn't say anything, that definitely answered his question about her association with the man. She wasn't a slave or something. "He used to run with the slavers." He said matter of factly.

Her jaw hit the floor.


Chapter 17


"Where the fuck is she?"

Belle Bonny had been in the process of ejecting a very drunk Tammy Hargrave from the bar when she heard the angry baritone of the Undertaker. Gasping, she let go of the other woman.

Tammy took one look into his stormy face and threw herself out.

Belle's eyes widened as the Undertaker advanced on her, her gaze darting towards an empty beer bottle within easy reach.

"I wouldn't." He cautioned darkly. "Where is she?"

"P-please, 'Taker, I didn't-"


Letting out a rasping sob, Belle pointed a trembling finger towards her bedroom door.

Growling, he cracked his neck.


Shrapnel was not surprised in the least when the door was all but torn from its rusting steel frame. If not for two hundred years worth of wear and tear, lack of general upkeep, that door would have held. As it was, it wasn't any match in it's current state against the sheer rage of the Undertaker.

"Can I help you?" He asked, draining his shot glass calmly.

Mark's eyes were scanning the room, not finding any signs of Faith and then finally landed on the open porthole, knowing damn well she wasn't going to squeeze her curvy body through that hole. "Where is she, Shrap?" He demanded, his tone daring the other man to fuck with him.

"She left." Shrapnel said after a long moment, frowning. "She took off after finding out who you really are."

It took every ounce of self control Mark possessed to not wrap his hands around Shrapnel's throat and squeeze the man to death. Taking a deep breath, he counted backwards from ten. "Where'd she go too?"

"No idea, she just took off."

"If you hurt her-"

Shrapnel actually began laughing, being drunk meant he wasn't so concerned with his impending death, finding it oddly amusing in fact. "Me? Hurt her? Nah, why would I have too? You can do that all on your own, 'Taker."

Ten minutes later Mark walked out of the room, leaving behind an unconscious Shrapnel who now had his bleeding head sticking out the porthole.


Doctor Madison Li was… well, not what Faith had been expecting. But then again, in her current inebriated state, she really wasn't expecting anything besides monsters. Faith hadn't even been actively looking for Dr. Li, knowing most souls onboard had to be asleep at this late -or early, depending on how you looked at it- hour.

Faith had been trying to find her way to the common rooms, knowing there was no way in Hell she would be able to face Mark, not tonight, not yet. If ever. Instead, she had found herself at the end of a hall with a sign that read 'Science Lab' and trying to figure out where she had made the wrong turn.

Now that she was halfway to sober, it dawned on her that she could have used her Pip-Boy to find her way to the common rooms as it was constantly graphing wherever she went, always providing her with a current layout of the terrain.

She really was losing it.


Faith snapped out of it when she realized Dr. Li was refilling the tin cup with more coffee, shifting it in her hands so she was holding onto the handle. "Thank you." She murmured, bending down to inhale the steam, trying not to look around the room.

"You're welcome." Dr. Li seated herself on the small couch that rested against the wall opposite her bed; pouring herself a cup as well. "You really do look so very much like James." She commented softly. "But I can see Catherine in you as well."

"You knew my mother?"

"Yes." Dr. Li nodded, studying Faith thoughtfully. "I knew them both, we all worked together… a very long time ago, before you were born."

"What was she like?" Faith couldn't help but ask, she didn't have many stories of her mother. Her father had told her some things, but… it was a painful topic for him.

"Catherine was… She was intelligent, brave, kind… not so much unlike yourself, from my understanding."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Your father, he described you to me… He said you possessed all of Catherine's good traits as well as a few of his own. Though he considered his traits… not so good."

"How do you mean?"

"Curiosity, stubbornness, tenacity."

"How is that not good?"

"Well, of themselves, they aren't bad. But when you combine them… Trouble usually follows."

Faith understood that one only too well, lapsing into silence and sipped her coffee.

After a few moment's silence, Dr. Li stood up. "I understand you're traveling with… a mercenary." She said, obviously trying to be tactful, something most other's seemed to be unable to do. "Will he-"

"We're not getting along right now." Faith murmured. "I was actually looking for the common room but I got lost."

"Understandable, this is a large ship. You are more than welcome to stay here tonight, of course, you'll have to take the couch." Dr. Li smiled self-deprecatingly. "I'm an old woman and I prefer the comfort of my bed."

"Oh no, Dr. Li, I can stay in the common room, if-"

"I insist Faith." The older woman said gently but firmly, standing up and gave Faith a look that said she wouldn't accept no for answer. "We're almost family. I delivered you, you know."

"No, I didn't." Faith replied, the shock showing on her face.

Li smiled, patting Faith on the shoulder. "Well, I did, I was there when you were born and when Catherine… well, you know." She managed a tight smile, her mouth compressing into a thin line. "You take the couch."

Faith didn't argue.


"Have you seen a young woman? Black hair, brown eyes… she was-" Mark shook his head when he got told 'no' yet again. It was like the entire ship was purposely trying to piss him off when they all knew better.

"Haven't seen her since yesterday when she was with you, sorry."

That was becoming the standard answer.

And the guards hadn't seen her leave, that bridge was the only on and off the boat unless you were a suicidal fuck and dived off the railing and into the water. Instant death.

So where the hell could she be?


"Project Purity was…" Dr. Li shook her head, smiling almost as if she was trying not to laugh at herself. "It was a dream, a foolish, stupid dream. Right from the beginning we had problems."

Faith had gathered that Dr. Li's time was valuable, reinforced by the fact that Li's assistants had all told her to hit the bricks and let the doctor work, but Li was being nothing but cordial, insisting Faith join her in the science lab. Which was utterly amazing, she had never seen anything like it.

They were actually growing real vegetables. Just seeing the juicy tomato was enough to set Faith's mouth to watering, remembering the processed tomatos they had eaten in the Vault.

"We wanted to clean all the water in the Capital Wasteland, the Potomac River would have… carried fresh, clean water to everyone. But… it was impossible. Not only did we lack the resources, but even with the Brotherhood of Steel-"

That got Faith's complete attention.

"helping by… watching over the project, it wasn't enough. The Super Mutants were too bad, tension was running high… And then, you were born."

Faith tried not to look shocked, or upset that she apparently had been a cause in the end of Project Purity.

Dr. Li correctly interpreted the expression on Faith's face, shaking her head quickly. "No, my dear, don't blame yourself. By the time you were born, it was really the end anyway. James was struggling to hold things together but… Family comes first, as it should. When your mother -Catherine- died, he lost his will… his drive to see Project Purity succeed. We tried to carry on after he had taken you and gone to the Vault, but… it was James who held everything together, who made it seem like an attainable goal…"

"I'm… sorry." Faith murmured, hating how inadequate that seemed, even to her.

"Don't be, like I said, it's not your fault." Dr. Li waved her off briskly, her eyes scanning the room.

"But my father, he came back, right? You did see him."

"Yes, he was here, some time ago. He wanted to restart the project but… I didn't… I…" Li hesitated, fixing Faith with a somewhat desperate look. "I am doing good here, for the people of Rivet City, and eventually, for the world. I can't waste, lose, all the progress I've made here just to chase that dream again."

"But he thinks it will work? My father thinks Project Purity COULD work?" Faith pressed.

"Well, yes, he does. But James is a dream, Faith. You must understand… wait, wait, before we have this conversation… James said you were intelligent but… do you know anything of-"

"You won't have to explain things to me, just tell me about the project and I'll understand." Faith assured her. "I'm… not my father, but I'm fairly good when it comes to… science. Just… try me, please?"

Li smiled somewhat. "I do believe I will."


"She went WHERE?!"

"To the Jefferson Memorial." To her credit, Dr. Li did not flinch, even though the Undertaker's face was inches from hers and he was looking downright murderous. "She's a grown woman, capable of taking-"

"Lady, don't you DARE tell me what Faith is and is not capable of! I've saved her ass so many goddamn times that I should have partial interest in it!" Mark roared, the only thing stopping him from killing this Asian bitch was the amount of witnesses present. In fact, he was fairly certain someone had already gone to fetch Harkness.

Well fuck Harkness, and fuck Madison Li.

"You sent her to a Super Mutant infested building that's situated off the mainland and only accessible by a fucking BRIDGE?"

"You can get there by swimming, if you have enough Rad-X and Rad-Away."

"Faith can't FUCKING swim you stupid bitch!" At this point, he had snatched her up by the collar of her dress, not caring that her feet were hanging in the air. "You just sent her to die!"

"No…" Li whispered, shaking her head uncertainly. "She'll be fine, she-"

"Taker, put her down, you're coming with us."

"Fuck if I am, Harkness." Mark snarled, dropping the Dr and whirled around, his eyes brimming with rage. "I'm leaving, I have to-"

"You're going in the hole for a day or two, however long it takes Shrapnel to wake up from that head injury you gave him."

"No-" He didn't get any further before he was dropped from behind; falling heavily to his knees; vision blurring. He seen Rivet City security surrounding him, taking note of the assault rifle aimed at his head and groaned, right before passing out.


Chapter 18


The bridge had been a small mercy. Faith had idly wondered just how she was going to get her ass to this Jefferson Memorial let alone across that bridge without getting shot. Luck had been on her side. Just as she was descending the gangplank, her attention was drawn to a caravan.

After a quick discussion with the man in charge, a pessimistic bastard who called himself Doc Hoff, she was allowed to tag along with him and his guards as far as the bridge since they were 'going that way themselves'.

Hoff's guards had both eyed her suspiciously so she kept her hands well away from her weapons, not about to get shot, not this close to her goal.

It wasn't a very long trip, but each second felt like an hour, she was so close. Her father was so close.

"Alright kid," Hoff said several hours later, halting at the bridge, studying her intently. "You cross here, that's the Memorial."

Nodding, Faith surveyed the building, marveling at it's construction. A small part of her wondered if mankind would ever recover and once more build wonders like this.

Highly unlikely.

"Faith," One of the guards, a woman with a crew cut who said her name was 'Joe', was frowning as she stared at the Memorial. "There are Super Mutants up the ass here, you sure you wanna go in there?"

Faith simply nodded.

Joe slapped Faith on the back, shaking her head. "It's your death wish kid, it was nice knowing you."

That was not reassuring.


"You awake yet, 'Taker?"

Sadly, he was. Mark kept his eyes closed however, knowing that as soon as he opened them, a massive headache was going to take hold. "Fuck you, Harkness." He muttered, gingerly reaching around to feel the back of his head.

Yep, he had one hell of a lump. And dried blood on his hair. Nasty.

"Now son, that's a real good way to make sure you never get out of that cell." Harkness chuckled, setting comfortably on a stool with his back against the wall whereas Mark was laying on the cold, hard floor."You ready to play nice yet?"

"How long have I been out?"

"About a day or so."

Cursing under his breath, Mark pulled himself up into a sitting position. "Harkness, you got to let me out of here, I have to find Faith."

Before she got her fool ass killed… or worse. And there were things much worse than death out in the Wasteland.

"What is your deal with that kid?" Harkness asked curiously, ignoring the other man's words completely. "Got big plans for her, don't you?"

"It ain't like that."

"Sire it's not. That's why she took off from you after Shrapnel told her all about you and the things you're about."

Mark let out a warning growl.

"I will admit, she's one fine looking woman, looks real healthy. Must come from living in a Vault all her damn life."


"Were you planning on taking her to Paradise Falls? I bet a beautiful kid like that would fetch one hell of a price."

Mark gripped his head, trying not to get frustrated, being pissed wasn't going to get him out of here any sooner.


"The batch of tests was inconclusive, but Madison and I are convinced it's a problem with the second filtration system. We're going to try to recalibrate the equipment and try again tomorrow so that… James, please, I'm trying to work."

Faith didn't bother wiping away her tears, listening as her father interrupted her mother's audio log. So this was what her mother's voice had sounded like, she hit rewind, just to hear it again, smiling as Catherine reached the point where she was telling James she was trying to work, more amusement and love in her tone of voice than annoyance.

"Now's not the time! …So that's the next step. Assuming we get the results we need, we'll move on to… James! Stop, I need to finish this notes! …We'll move on to diagnosing the issues with the radiation dampeners, that should… Owww! James! Now? We really shouldn't!"

Still smiling, Faith recorded the tape into her Pip-Boy, just so she could hear it later. It was like having a piece of her mother with her.

She had gone through all the audio logs she had found, except one and just stared down at it, feeling the exhaustion she had forced aside beginning to creep up on her again. She had arrived only two hours ago and yet she was ready to collapse.

Of course, fighting off Super Mutants had contributed to that quite a bit. Joe had not been kidding when she had said the place was infested. Working her way through the upper floor and then down into the basement, Faith had systematically cleared the place of the Mutants and their Centaur watch dogs.

That had taken forever it seemed, not helped by the fact that one of them had all but body slammed her into a wall; crushing her arm against cold steel.

After making sure she was by herself as well as doing her best to keep the bodies in piles -she wasn't super woman and those mutants were heavy sonbitches, she hadn't done so well on that pile thing- she had locked herself in what had appeared to be her father and mother's room.

She had been bitterly disappointed when she discovered her father wasn't here, but then again, with all the Super Mutants around, she wasn't too surprised. But some of the audio logs she had found down in the purifier room told her James had been here recently.

For some reason, fighting alone didn't seem right… and inwardly, Faith knew it was because Mark hadn't been there to protect her back, and it wasn't a comfortable feeling. She hadn't realized until now how much she had come to rely on that rotten mercenary, frowning at the thought.

Groaning softly from pain, she managed to push herself up and stumbled over to one of the bunk beds; dropping down onto it. It took a moment, but she inhaled several times, realizing she could smell a lingering scent of her father, bringing fresh tears to her eyes.

But it was still Mark on her mind. After everything Shrapnel had told her… she had been so drunk, and so scared after hearing it. Was that why Mark had been taking such good care of her? Making sure she didn't get banged up too bad? Because he wanted to get a really high price for her at that slaver's camp? Paradise Falls?

So she had finished her business in Rivet City and taken off, going as quickly as she could in order to avoid the merc. It helped a little -but also had brought some odd sort of pain- when Harkness told her they were going to detain Mark, to put him in a holding cell.

Was he still there?

Cursing, Faith shoved it all out of her mind. She needed to rely on herself, when it came right down to it, there was nobody in this world she could trust but herself. Not even her father, as much as she loved him… She didn't trust him, just as he hadn't trusted her.

He had taken off without telling her anything, thinking to keep her safe in ignorance instead of trusting that she could have helped him, helped his cause.

Easing herself onto her left side so she wasn't applying pressure on her injured right arm, Faith closed her eyes. She just needed a little bit of sleep, a few hours, then she would listen to that last audio log and hopefully it would give her some much needed info.

Like where the hell her dad was.


By the time Mark was released, he was fairly certain Faith was either dead or had been taken by Super Mutants. He had heard that they sometimes took captives, though nobody knew why. Not a pleasant thing to speculate on, at all.

He had been told he had exactly an hour to get the hell off the boat before they either locked him back up or fed him to the Mirelurks down in the hull.

Mark had quickly taken care of some business with Strayer's kid, Ted -who was a chem addicted moron-, got his shit and booked it.

First stop, Jefferson Memorial.

And if Faith was dead… he was going right back to Rivet City to murder that bitch Madison Li.


Chapter 19


Gone, she was already gone. Mark had entered Jefferson Memorial with guns at the ready, expecting to find himself in the middle of another war zone. Super Mutants versus Faith, with her on the losing end. Surprisingly enough, Faith seemed to have come out the victor if the bodies of Mutants was anything to go by.

So the Kid had actually cleaned the place out, he was mildly impressed. Given that he had seen her in action, he would have figured she'd of taken down a decent handful but eventually got herself shot. He was pretty glad to be wrong.

Of course, Mark had scoured the Memorial from top to bottom, finally returning to what appeared to be a bedroom. The signs of fresh blood and recent disturbance told him that Faith had spent a bit of time in this room.

When he had first passed through, he had given it a cursory look over, now he took his time; noting what looked like it had been disturbed. The bed definitely, seemed like Faith had gotten herself a bit of rest. He noted a half eaten meal left on the table; stone cold.

With a sigh, he lowered himself down into a chair at the table and kneaded his forehead. He had absolutely no idea where to look next. Where the hell was she going? Who was she looking for? What was she looking for? She had never bothered to fill him in on these details and he had never bothered to ask, figuring it was something he didn't need to know. Just as he had figured she hadn't needed to know about his past, idly wondering just how much of his past she DID know.

She definitely knew about his slave running days. Did she know about the Talon Company? Or that he was currently doing some business even while trying to help her?

Groaning, he left his head drop to the table. "Fuck."

He should have asked her something, anything, he had never before gone without information, he had always wanted to know just what he was getting himself into and everything that went along. This time he… had slipped, he had underestimated this vault brat and now she was off somewhere in the Wasteland without him.

Hell, this was what he wanted, wasn't it? He had never originally wanted to get involved with Faith, especially after that incident with the research for Moira. Just what kind of fucking imbecile purposefully walked into a place they knew was being used as a base for raiders?

The fucking suicidal kind.

And he wasn't suicidal.

Mark had just gotten himself a free pass.


Vault 112, that was where Faith was heading. According to her Pip-Boy, it was East and then somewhat North from the Memorial. Knowing damn well she was a fool, she had headed out after a few hours sleep; knowing she was walking out into the night but… She was just too eager to wait, too anxious, too scared.

She was so close to finding her father, she knew it. She now knew why he had left her and what he was now trying to accomplish. Granted, she didn't agree with him leaving her behind but she understood now. She also understood what he was trying to do, and she wanted to help him in any way she could.

After salvaging what could be salvaged from the Memorial -ammo, food, medical items along with a new set of clothes- she had taken off. As if he were mentally with her, she could practically hear Mark telling her to 'watch your ass, keep them eyes and ears open, don't want to get shot again, hmm?' and proceeded cautiously.

She had learned a very harsh lesson in Rivet City.

She was the only one who could watch out for herself.


Yao Guai were descended from black bears, that much Steve Austin knew. He also knew that they made for good eating, providing you didn't wind up on the dinner menu for them. He had been stalking his prey for an hour now, trying to get close enough to make a clean kill -even wounded these things were still a lot faster than he was- and yet keep downwind.

Not an easy feat.

It was well into the night and he was glad for the clear skies, at least the billions of stars weren't as hideous to look at as the rest of the scenery.

When the Yao Guai suddenly let out a shrill growl and launched itself at something, Steve inwardly cursed and began running to keep up; knowing he was probably going to lose out on a meal.

He skidded to a halt when he seen what had set the Yao Guai off.

A woman, no… a young kid, was fending the damn thing off with what looked to be a hunting knife. She was flat on her back; a few feet away from a dying fire; apparently having been sleeping when she was attacked. The soles of her feet were pressed against the creature's abdomen; one arm being used to keep the sharp teeth from her throat and the hand clenching the knife was stabbing wildly.

As he neared, he realized it wasn't wild jabs she was taking but aiming for the throat; hacking the Yao Guai's neck and spraying the nearby ground with it's foul, sickly smelling blood.

Steve arched an eyebrow when it suddenly collapsed on top of her; hearing her muffled groan of pain. His combat boots made no sound as he continued walking towards her; watching as she struggled to push the dead weight off of herself.


By the time she had managed to get whatever the hell this thing was off of her, Faith was gasping for air. Her arm was paining her again, having been crushed when the monster crashed down on her and she was fairly certain it had scratched her with it's long; razor sharp claws.

But there wasn't time for that because as soon as she had gotten a quick breath in, she found a knife poised at her throat. Confused, she looked up into the coldest eyes she had ever seen, blue and icy; they sent shivers coursing throughout her. Even though it was night out, there was enough light to see that this man did not look like a friend.

He was a bit smaller than Calaway, but was just as muscular; radiated the same amount of danger that the mercenary had. But with Calaway, it had been a sort of wild danger, always a hint of humor in it. This man was just plain out deadly, in a cold and… efficient manner, as stupid as it sounded, that was her immediate thought.

Bald, with a mustache/goatee combo surrounding his expressionless mouth and he would have been handsome if not for the way his eyes glinted at her. It all went back to those damn eyes.

Mentally cursing herself for her shock -which had lost her precious seconds- she belatedly brought her fist -still clenching her own knife- up, only for her knife to suddenly be on the ground and her arm being wrenched in a position that was not natural.

Suddenly, she was eating dirt; confused beyond belief and that only served to take more time from her before she realized her clothes were being tugged off of her. Once again, she began fighting a bit too late and grunted when a hard hand slapped her between her shoulders blade; coughing violently.

"Hold still."

The voice was just as icy as the eyes.


"Well, here we are again. Project Purity and me. It's been close to twenty years since my last entry, as I left all of this behind to make a life for my daughter. We spent that time in Vault 101, tucked away from the rest of the world. It wasn't perfect, but it was safe, and that's all I could have hoped for. Now, my daughter is a grown woman. Beautiful, intelligent, confident. Just like her mother. And as hard as it was to admit it, she doesn't need her daddy anymore."

She was looking for her father, that much had become clear. Mark felt like he was listening to something he shouldn't but… when he had found the audio logs, he had started playing them, wondering if they contained some hint as to where Faith had gone.

"To be honest, the GECK sounded like pure fantasy, even for someone of Braun's capabilities. It was nothing short of a miracle. A terra-forming module, capable of producing life from complete lifelessness. But not only was this thing a reality, it was actually distributed to several vaults to be used after an atomic war. Vault 101, sadly, was not on that list."

Her father had a very soothing sort of voice, but it was also a voice of reason, of the kind of intelligence Mark did not have any interest in. Book smarts, the kind of smarts that had gotten humanity into the mess it was currently in. This was the kind of smarts Faith had, the kind to raise civilizations… and destroy them. She had apparently gotten it from her parents.

He did not need that kind of 'intelligence'.

He also did not to hear anymore bullshit he didn't understand. He had no idea what a 'geck' was, nor who Braun was. He didn't get what the science hack was saying and as much as he hated to admit it, it made him feel… stupid.

He skipped to the last audio journal.

"I'm off to Vault 112 to search for anything of Braun's that might help me get this purifier up and running. All I know is that it's West of some place called 'Evergreen Mills', and it's well hidden in some sort of garage. But I'll find it, I have to. It's so close, but that's the story of Project Purity, isn't it? An eternity of "almost there's". Let's see if Braun has the missing puzzle piece."

West of Evergreen Mills, beneath a garage… Mark knew exactly where he was going and stood up; cracking his knuckles one by one.

Some of the puzzle that was Faith had just been fitted together. She was searching for her father who had left her in that Vault, her father was searching for some pipedream called Project Purity and looking for shit to make it a reality.

He could work with that.


Chapter 20


Faith was hopelessly, utterly, totally confused.

She was sitting in front of her now renewed fire, wrapped in what could have been called a blanket, nude. Across from her, the ex-solider who had introduced himself as Steve Austin, was skimming the beast that had attacked her. The Yao Gaui.

He had explained that Yao Gaui blood had a very pungent aroma -which she had already noticed for herself- and would attract more Yao Gaui, or possibly even Deathclaws. He had taken her clothes and buried them several yards away.

"Won't skinning it attract other beasts?" She asked hesitantly, not looking at him. He scared her, worse than Mark ever had. He had handled her body in a cold manner, like she was a specimen when he had undressed her. He had even gone as far as using his canteen of water to wash the blood off of her body, not bothering to let her do it herself.

And all in a matter of minutes, something she wouldn't have accomplished so fast.

"Yes, which is why I'm doing it quickly." Steve replied, not looking at her. He could all but feel the fear radiating off of her, and he didn't care.

Knowing that was about all she was going to get out of him, Faith looked away; spotting her rucksuck and reached for it. She knew her old amour -the Brahmin skin Calaway had scrounged for her- was at the bottom and began unpacking it.

Steve was more than aware of what the girl was doing and paid no attention, or tried not to at any rate. When he had seen her clothes were drenched in blood, he had reacted immediately and stripped her, not in the mood to deal with anymore Yao Gaui.

While systematically removing her clothes, he had noted that she wasn't the usual specimen for a generic Wasteland female. Even if he was now just… another Wastelander, he prided himself for not taking advantage, though he hadn't bothered to keep his thoughts locked away.

When she turned her back to him and began redressing, he lowered the knife he'd been using to skin the beast in order to watch her. He noted the scar on her side; a distorted circle that looked like it was in the final healing stages and arched an eyebrow. "How did you get that?"

As if she knew what he was talking about, her fingers curled around the spot for a moment. "Tunnel fight with some raiders." She replied finally, her tone clipped.

They lapsed into silence again while she finished dressing and he finished skinning the modern bear, finally beginning to carve off the meat. Yao Gaui was one of the Wasteland's prime meats, providing you weren't killed by one. Not only was the meat delicious, but it also providing a temporary boost to resisting pain and the like.

When Faith had finished dressing, she hunkered in a half crouch and began quickly repacking her sack; intent on getting the hell out of there and continuing on her way. She kept glancing across the fire at Austin, not trusting him in the least.

She didn't trust anyone, not anymore.

When the kid took off into the night after securing her rucksack across her shoulders and back along with her two guns, and a few other weapons tucked into various places; Steve was not surprised. His eyes narrowed as he watched her disappear, darkness quickly swallowing her.

Ever since he had left Raven Rock, he had been wandering the Capital Wasteland, skirting away from the tiny towns and settlements. While the civilians might not realize who and what he had been, he wasn't taking any chances. He didn't need any reminders anyway…

Like he could ever get away from it.


"Fucking scorpions!" Mark cursed; firing off another round that did absolutely nothing as the giant rad scorpion approached; trying not to look at the pinchers that were bigger than his head; keeping focused on the stinger; which was infinitely more deadly.

When he found Faith, he was going to kill her, there was no way around it. He was going to plant a bullet right between her eyes.

He had gone through an emotional war back at the Jefferson Memorial over her. Part of him had rebelled and said 'fuck it', she was on her own. That was the survivalist mentality, along with the mercenary ideals of 'what's in it for me'.

And then there was a portion of him he hadn't been aware existed. A part that told him if he didn't go after her, she could die. That there was something bigger then either of them at stake here. Something larger than anything he had ever dared to dream of.

And that was the voice he had listened to.

Which, at the moment, he thought was a pity because he was tired; roasting his ass off in this barren stretch of land and not in the mood to become fodder for this overgrown insect.

After killing the damn thing, he began stomping on it, venting all his anger and frustration. Why hadn't she just stuck around to hear him out?

"Because I'm a goddamn jackass." He answered him in a growl, wiping sweat from his brow; glaring up at the sky.


It had not been easy finding this place, but somehow, she had done it. Of course, her Pip-Boy was a big help. Her odd luck had swerved towards decent and she had run into a scavenger who had pointed her in the direction of Smith Casey's Garage, which hadn't been hard to break into.

She'd dealt with the rad-roaches and the mole rats, raided the ammo and med kits and then hunted around for the entrance to Vault 112.

"Oh come on…" She growled, having just made two very thorough inspections of the place and still hadn't found anything. Groaning, she eased herself onto a sitting position; frowning as metal flexed beneath her. She moved into a kneeling position and took a good look at the floor; arching an eyebrow.

One bright side to all this was that there was no one around to witness her supreme stupidity. She had looked everywhere but directly down.

It took a much shorter amount of time to locate the control switch that opened the doors and then she was staring down at a set of stairs, knowing she had reached her destination. She had found Vault 112, and her father.


She had been here.

Mark stared down the steps that led underground, wondering if he really wanted to go down there. Chances were, she had already come and gone; with her father. But… what if she hadn't…?

Cursing the day he had ever met Faith, he started down the steps.

He wound up going down two flights of steps and taking a turn before spotting the huge vault doorway, arching an eyebrow at the sheer size of it. What the hell did they have in there? It was open though, someone had definitely passed through.

Assault rifle at the ready, he stepped inside; keeping an eye open for anything that didn't seem right. Technically, all Vaults were supposed to be sealed and filled with the ancestors of the original people who had gone into them.

But nothing in this life ever seemed to go as it was supposed too so he wasn't banking on anything.

He damn near blew the head off a robot when he stepped around a corner and came face to face with it, a Robobrain.

"You are two hundred and two point three years late." It said in what was supposed to be a soothing, feminine voice.

"I'm looking for a-"

"Please sir, go to your appointed pod and pre-"

Mark wasn't listening anymore, pushing past the damn thing and followed the path; coming to a window and peered through it. He wasn't entirely sure what he was seeing but it creeped him out just a bit. Anything remotely to do with science and technology, he didn't trust.

Just look where technology had gotten them after all.

He finally reached the lower floor that he had seen through the windows, staring at what looked like a very thick tree trunk, but it wasn't, it was… a computer, or something. A circular computer, with pods circling it. Each pod was big enough to fit a person.

Frowning, he began circling the pods, peering inside each one of them. 

Inside were people, sleeping it almost looked like though he couldn't see their chests rising or falling. People of all ages, and as he progressed, he also seen children. According to the monitors, these people were all… over two hundred years old.

How in the fuck were they still alive?

More technology, science bullshit that he wouldn't understand. Forcing his gaze off the living mummies, he continued on the loop, finally halting when he seen a man, one who was somewhat older than him resting comfortably in one of the pods.

This had to be Faith's father, James. He could see the resemblance, their hair for one. Thick and black, though James had liberal streaks of grey and white sweeping at his temples. His face was lined, but it didn't detract from his looks, just made him look…

Anyways. James must have been here awhile. Mark peered at his monitor, a month according to the little green numbers.

Shaking his head, he continued his inspection of the rest of the pods, finally halting.

He had found Faith.

He was tempted to just rip the damn thing apart and haul her unconscious ass out of there but he had no clue what that would do to her. She was in the pod, that was hooked up to this mega computer… No, he couldn't just rip her out, it'd be his luck her brain would fry or something.

Sighing, he rested his head against the cool metal. Now he played the waiting game…


Chapter 21


This must have been what the world was like before the Great War, Faith mused as she looked around. According to her old teacher, this was what was called a neighborhood. And the houses in the cul-de-sac were all… intact. She seen people walking around, wearing beautiful if not old fashioned clothing, all of it crisp and clean.

Trees, there were actual trees. And flowers. She crouched down to study one, hesitantly reaching out to feel it. She knew this wasn't real, it was a virtual reality simulation, but…

She hesitated when she seen her hand, her brow creasing in a frown and flexed her fingers. Her hand looked so much smaller than what it should have been. Straightening back up, Faith looked down and finally realized that she wasn't wearing her Brahmin skin suit of armor.

She was wearing a pink and white, checked dress with white stockings and… black, shiny shoes of an impractical nature. Her hands skimmed up her body, noting the distinct lack of curves and then finally to her face and over her head.

Her hair was hanging down to her mid back, longer than it actually was. She felt a bow…

She was a child.

Before she could do much else, a dog came running up to her; nuzzling her hand with a familiarity that was disturbing. Her experiences with dogs wasn't much, but she knew most of them would attack on sight just for a meal.

"Hey c'mon now…" She tried to push it away, frowning when the dog whined even more incessantly. "Please, go away doggie…"

Ugh, she even sounded like she had at ten.

Ignoring the dog, Faith began wandering around, searching for someone who could help her. Theoretically, if all these people were the sleepers from the pods, then they should know where to point her. To wherever Braun was, because where Braun was, she'd find her dad.

"Hey, hey you!"

She turned in a slow circle until she was staring across the street into a park, an actual park, without mines littering the ground waiting to take out unwary people treading nearby. With actual grass, and toys… She smiled wistfully.


Another little girl -and she hated thinking of herself as a little girl- was waving at her from across the way. Sighing, she quickly hurried towards the girl; ignoring the dog's louder whines.

"Go away, shoo!" The other girl scowled, aiming a pointed toe at the dog; catching it in the ribs.

Yelping, he scampered away, but not too far; keeping a wary eye on the humans.

"I'm Betty." The girl said with a sweet smile; her eyes speculating.

Something about this kid set Faith's teeth on edge; a twisting sensation in the pit of her stomach as the girl's eyes flashed malevolently. "Faith."

"You're not from here." Betty said matter-of-factly.

"Passing through."

"Ah… you must be searching for the G.E.C.K."

"Yes, I am. Do you know where I can find Dr. Braun?" Faith asked eagerly, ignoring the disturbed feeling that was nagging for her attention.

"Maybe." Betty said, her tiny mouth twisting in a smirk that didn't look natural on her face. "But I'm so bored! Maybe we can play a game, you and I. And if you keep me entertained long enough… I might even tell you where you can find him."

She did not like the sound of that, at all and hesitated.

"Oh well…" Betty made a great show of dismissing her. "I'll just go play with James then… he's such a good boy…"

"Wait-" Faith grabbed hold of Betty's arm, pulling her back harshly. "You know my father?"

"Course. He came through about a month ago." Betty replied, wrenching her arm free with a scowl. "He wasn't very much fun though."

Now she knew there was definitely something wrong with this little girl, just the way her entire face darkened. "Can you tell me where he is now? Did he find the G.E.C.K.?"

Betty seemed to be contemplating, staring beyond Faith musingly. "Sure, I'll… throw you a bone. But you're going to play a little game with me first. I've been so bored here… all these years living with these people…" She made a disgusted noise in the back of her throat. "You have no idea how boring two hundred years with the same people can be, even if you can change the scenery."

It took a moment for that to sink in but when it did, Faith reeled backwards. "Dr. Braun?"

"Betty" giggled maliciously.

Faith literally fell onto her ass, her mouth wide open.

"Play a game with me. We'll take turns." The 'little girl' wheedled. "You do a task and then I'll answer a question, that's fair, isn't it?"

All Faith could do was manage a weak nod.



Faith's heart was racing and there wasn't anything Mark could do but stare at the damn monitor and watch. He had figured out the basic's, the vitals, but other than that… He was still playing the waiting game.

After a few moments of silence -other than the Robobrains that made their rounds, checking on the inhabitants of the pods- Mark became aware that he wasn't the only conscious human in the Vault. He whirled around, drawing the sawed off shotgun he had kept from the Farragut Tunnels.

He was aiming directly at a bald man's forehead, inches away.

The bald man also had a Chinese assault rifle, and it was aimed at Mark's chest.

They were at a standstill.

"Who the fuck are you?" He spat, not pleased that someone had gotten so far in without him noticing until the last moment. Maybe he really was getting old because he knew in the past he would have never been anything but alert, nothing would have made it past him.

That or it was Faith, distracting him…

Damn woman.

The bald man didn't answer, his eyes darting to the pod behind Mark and took in Faith; arching an eyebrow. "What's she doing in there?" He demanded in a monotone voice; eyes moving back onto Mark.

"Sleeping." Mark fingered the trigger, wondering what the robots would do if he shot someone in here, tempted to test it out.

"I followed her."

To his surprise, the other man slid his gun into a rigged carrier, folding his arms over his chest. Mark wasn't as quick to withdraw his own weapon, slowly lowering it. "Why?"

"Because I ran into her the other night, she killed a Yao Gaui with just a knife."

Mark could detect just a smidge of admiration in the other man's tone, his frown deepening. "And?"

"And I burnt her clothes, shared a fire with her for an hour or so and she took off."

He really did not like this guy.

"Steve Austin."

Mark eyed the hand that was being held out to him disdainfully, not taking it. "'Taker." He drawled finally.

A hint of recognition flashed in Steve's eyes but he didn't comment, instead skirting around 'Taker and approached the pod. "Stasis… very impressive." He murmured, ignoring the other man as he turned to an adjacent monitor.

He would be lying if he didn't admit -and only to himself- that he felt like a bit of a jackass when Austin pulled a sliding keyboard from beneath the monitor; eyes narrowing slightly. "What're you doing?" He brought the gun up again, not about to let this stranger do anything to jeopardize Faith while she was in that thing.

Steve ignored the gun. "I'm checking her vitals, her condition… and… I think, I can pull up just what's going on in there, if you'll give me a moment."

"What do you mean, pull it up?"

Yet again, Steve was ignoring him, his mind going a million miles a minute. He had of course known about stasis chambers, but nobody at Raven Rock had been totally sure if any had survived the fallout of the Great Wars and they hadn't gotten around to building their own yet, there had been too many other pressing matters to attend too.

But he was familiar with the principal, and he was also familiar with the Overseer of this fault, at least familiar historically. Nobody had ever actually figured on locating Vault 112, there had been no need.

Until now apparently.

"All these people are in stasis chambers, time essentially stops inside of them. The bodies are suspended, the aging process halts, the only thing that doesn't stop is their consciousness but that has been channeled with Braun's virtual simulation."

"All these people are in stasis chambers, time essentially stops inside of them. The bodies are suspended, the aging process halts, the only thing that doesn't stop is their consciousness but that has been channeled with Braun's virtual simulation."

"So if we were to just open up these pods?" Mark asked curiously, somewhat surprised that he had actually followed all that.

Steve shook his head, shooting 'Taker a look that clearly indicated he thought the man was a complete and utter moron. "They'd die. The shock alone would be enough to do them in but… If you were to just 'open up a pod', you'd probably fry a brain or two. This is delicate machinery and their brains are all running off of it. You're not that bright, are you?"

It was a bit amusing. With Faith, he had been so silent; so stoic… but that was because he had been sizing her up and even now he didn't quite have a measure of her. But this 'Taker guy, the Undertaker -yeah he knew who the cretin was, who didn't?-, well… He already had the man pegged and felt no need to restrain himself.

"And… a failsafe… interesting." He stroked his goatee thoughtfully, knowing damn well he wasn't activating the failsafe. It would kill everyone in a pod, except maybe Braun.

"You said you could pull up what's going on in there?" Mark interrupted Austin's musings, still gripping his sawed off shotgun.

"I can try… "

"Well then try."


Chapter 22


Faith was trying not to throw up. She was behind little Timmy Neusbaum's house, sprawled facedown in the crisp grass beneath a tall tree. She could feel the wind cooling her skin, but took no relief in it. It wasn't even real wind. By the same reasoning, she supposed she shouldn't have felt bad about what she had just done…

But she did.

Dr. Braun, or 'Betty', as he was currently masquerading as, was playing a game alright. One that she would lose no matter what. He had told her that she had to be 'creative' when doing the tasks he'd given her, that if she did the tasks in a straightforward and 'boring' manner, it wouldn't count and he wouldn't answer any questions.

He had also laid down the ground rule that if she tried to attack him, he would kill her; viciously explaining that he alone controlled this reality and he could kill her ever so easily simply by shutting down her mind. And her father's.

So her father was trapped here somewhere.

He was so close, he could be anyone, or anything… but that wasn't giving her any comfort. If anything, that was making things worst. Braun had intimated that James hadn't agreed to playing his 'game', and had been punished for it.

She was nothing but a little girl in a checked dress, with a dirty; tear stained face crying in someone's back yard.

And none of it was real.

From Braun she had learned that if the Tranquility Loungers were tampered with, the people inside them would lose their 'life support' and die instantly. Not a pleasant thought considering these people were all theoretically dead outside of their stasis state.

Save for herself and her father, they would survive, though they'd definitely have lingering mental scars from this entire experience.

Braun had obviously lost his mind somewhere along the way, if he hadn't been downright insane to begin with. He had made that unpleasantly clear from the get go, telling her how he had made several scenarios after wiping his fellow 'room-mates' memories in order to start over. Each scenario all ended with him killing them off in one way or another.

His first task had been 'relatively simple', all she had to do was make poor Timmy cry, without violence. And she had. She had told that poor kid that his parents were shipping him off to a military school because they didn't love him anymore, and she had showed him a brochure just to back it up.

She had felt like shit for that.

And for being amused, Braun had answered a question. Then set her another task.

She had to break up a happy couple.

Which she had done, pushing aside her guilt and regret.

Another question answered, another task.

It was that task -which she had completed- that had made her finally break down and cry. She had killed a woman, all so a psychopath could have a few hours amusement. Afterwards, she had trudged back to Braun/Betty and asked her question, ignoring his glee over how 'marvelously inventive' she had been in poor Mrs. Henderson's demise.

She had blown that poor woman to hell and back. It had been so damn simple too. She had found out from Mr. Simpson that Mrs. Henderson liked to bake…

It hadn't been hard at all, sneaking into the Henderson's house while they were out doing whatever it was these people did. She had tampered with the oven's pilot light and left; using her sweet, innocence child's face and voice to speak with Mrs. Henderson when she had returned, mentioning how she adored apple pie.

One house explosion later…

Now Braun wanted her to be his own personal 'Pint Sized Slasher', an urban myth from back in the pre-war days of a tiny killer who had no M.O. and was known by a clown mask and butcher knife, apart from the size.

He wanted her to kill everyone in the neighborhood, wearing a mask and wielding a knife that he had brought into the reality, hidden in an empty doghouse beside an abandoned house. Technically, she knew that they would survive it, Braun would wipe their memories and then bring them back in another simulation. In another scene that would only wind up with them being murdered again.

But that didn't change the intent.

"Shoo dog, go away…" She muttered hoarsely when she felt the stray's wet nose nuzzling against her arm, batting out her hand blindly. When a growl reached her ears, she sat up; brushing tears from her face and glared at the mutt. "I said go away!"

The dog just sat there and stared at her, tilting it's head to the side and let out a low, urgent whine.

Faith glared right back, making eye contact. To her surprise, he didn't look away like she had expected and that was just as unsettling as everything else she had encountered here. "Mutt, I'm not in the mood, you go on now, git!"

She could have sworn the dog rolled it's eyes at her, huffing.

And then it clicked. Betty/Braun's words came back to her 'Sure, I'll throw you a… bone.' and it all made sense. He had said James was still around here, but she hadn't seen him. But then again, maybe she was looking for the wrong… thing. "Dad?" She asked hesitantly.

The dog barked excitedly, dancing around her.

"Oh my God!"

Old Lady Dithers knew for a fact that this wasn't right. She knew none of them -and by them, she meant her 'neighbors'- belonged here anymore than they had in the last world they had been in. While the rest of them succumbed to the mind wipes, she for some reason unknown to her, was never affected by them.

She had no concept of time anymore, but she did know that she felt… old, weary. Her mind was exhausted.

There was a little girl on the playground, a little girl who was not a child. She was evil, playing cruel pranks on the unsuspecting folk. And now 'Betty' had new playthings.

Some time ago a man had appeared out of nowhere. He had spoken to 'Betty', gotten into a heated debate and the next thing she knew… They had a stray dog roaming the cul-de-sac.

And now there was another little girl, one she didn't recognize at all. She had seen this little girl speaking to 'Betty' multiples times, always with a sad; resigned air about her. This last time, 'Betty' had been insanely happy and the other little girl had taken off running; tears streaking her tiny face.

Tabitha -the fools in the neighborhood called her Old Lady when it was simply Tabitha Dithers- had followed that child; going as fast as she could, which wasn't very fast at all as she was an old woman. She knew when she had first entered that cursed Vault, she hadn't been this old; but then again… Maybe this was a reflection of her true self, so many years later.

She found the child behind the Neusbaum's house alongside that stray dog, who she secretly suspected was really the man who had come through not so long ago. The girl had her arms thrown about the dog's neck and she was certain she seen the fur beneath the hound's eyes was streaked with tears.

"Child, you need to get out of here." She said urgently, knowing that if 'Betty' caught them talking, something bad would happen.

Faith raised her face from where it had been buried in her… father's… fur, staring suspiciously at the old woman. "Who are you?" She demanded, wincing at how high pitched and childish her voice sounded; she would never get used to that.

"You can call me Tabby, child, listen… this isn't real," Tabitha knew her time was short. "This place, it's all wrong, we're not supposed to be here, this is-"

"A virtual reality world."

"Yes!" Tabitha almost fell over, feeling something akin to hope fluttering through her and swallowed hard, glancing over her shoulder. "Listen, listen child, that abandoned house, hidden back off the street down that way," She pointed, making sure the girl was paying strict attention. "She don't like us going anywhere near there."

Faith knew 'she' was Betty and nodded, wiping tears off her cheeks.

"There's a failsafe in there, every world Braun's stuck us in has one. But every time I get close, someone comes by and hauls me off, thinking I'm a nutty old bat. But you, he won't stop you child, you could get in there and end this!"

She frowned, staring at Tabby thoughtfully. "Wouldn't that kill you?" She asked finally, her tone subdued. "I mean, really kill you."

Tabitha nodded eagerly.

Faith had blood on her hands already, her conscious was already in turmoil over blowing up Mrs. Henderson and her house, even if she would be respawned whenever Braun started a new simulation. Just going through the act… she felt her stomach do it's familiar twist and groaned. What Tabby was now suggesting involved the mass murder of everyone in the simulation, really murdering them…

Sensing the girl's distress, Tabitha managed to kneel down until she was resting on the grass; glancing at the dog who had been… watching them, that was an insane thought but she knew better than anyone else that anything was possible in this virtual world. Carefully, she wrapped her arms around the child's shoulders; smiling when the girl allowed herself to be held. "What's your name?"

"Faith." She whispered sadly.

"Faith…" Tabitha echoed, closing her eyes, a tear sliding down her wizened cheek. "Such a beautiful name…" And it was, one thing other than her mind that she had kept in all these years was her faith, and now it seemed God had finally answered her prayers. "Child, don't look at it as murder so much as a mercy. We've been here so long…"

'Over two hundred years." Faith thought, knowing better than to voice that aloud.

"And every time, it ends the same. He kills us all, makes us start over. It's nothing but a game that he plays and I'm the only one who knows it." Tabitha sounded exhausted again, pulling away to stare into Faith's eyes, smiling slightly. They were brown, a muddy brown; too large for her gaunt face but Tabitha had a feeling Faith wasn't a child. There was too much pain in those brown eyes, too much worldliness. "Please, end our, end my, suffering."


Both Mark and Steve jumped backwards when two of the Tranquility Loungers opened of their own accord, watching as a man all but leapt from his after shaking off the effects of having been in the simulation before rushing over to the other pod.

"Faith, Faith honey, can you hear me?"

Mark arched an eyebrow, watching as the man gently pulled Faith out of her chair and into his arms; cradling her against his chest as he checked her pulse.

So this was James.


Chapter 23


James ignored the men behind him, focusing on his daughter instead. Gently, he eased her out of the pod, relieved when her eyes blearily opened; managing to hold herself up on her own two feet though she did lean heavily against him for support. "Faith, do you know who I am?"

"Sure as hell not a dog." She mumbled, raising a trembling hand up to her forehead; squeezing her eyes shut in an attempt to both block out the light as well as keep herself from crying.

Smiling, he wrapped his arms around her and just held her. When he had seen her in the simulation, he had about had a heart attack, wondering just what the Hell she was doing there. He had left her in Vault 101 for a reason, he hadn't ever expected to see her again.

As much as it had hurt him to think that he would never see his beautiful girl again, he knew that she no longer needed her daddy, she'd be fine in the Vault; live her life in safety. Of course… he hadn't accounted on her being stubborn and taking off after him, she was definitely her mother's daughter.

He felt a streak of guilt fly through him. Apparently Faith hadn't taken kindly to being left behind. It was more than obvious what she had done, she had hunted him down. How she had managed to track him all the way out here was beyond him. How she had known to climb into the pod…

When James was sure she'd be able to stand on her own, he slowly let go of her; finally becoming aware of the physical changes time had wrought in his daughter. Gone was the gangly teenager on the cusp of adulthood, now it was a woman before him and he wasn't entirely sure on how to handle that.

To buy himself time, he finally took in the two men standing off to the side.

One was just watching them out of cool, veiled blue eyes while the other was staring at Faith like he couldn't believe he was seeing her.

Something in those green orbs made James want to wrap his arm protectively around Faith or maybe just hide her away.

Faith too was staring at the men, questions written all over her face as she took in Steve. "What are you doing here?" She finally demanded.

"I followed you." He said, his tone of voice just as emotionless as his gaze.

Snorting, she glanced back at her father, completely ignoring Mark. "Did you get it?"

James felt his spirit crumple as he shook his head no, a reflection of what he was feeling cast back at him on her face. "No, Braun wouldn't even talk about it."

"Braun is insane." She managed to make her words sound casual, though she couldn't keep the waver from her tone. "But…"

James shook his head, seeing the anguish cresting in her eyes, feeling his heart breaking for her. "Faith, it was a mercy, what you did in there." He soothed, not entirely sure if she would even allow him to hold her. "Those people have been living in hell for two centuries, you did the right thing."

Faith simply nodded.


"Are you going to keep ignoring me?" Mark demanded later that night, watching as Faith repacked her satchel to fit the medical supplies she had scavenged from the Vault.

Somewhere between then and now the bald guy had disappeared, they had made it outside and began walking; Mark wasn't exactly sure when the man had slipped off; his thoughts had been elsewhere.

Faith and her father had walked away from them, lost in their own brief conversation before heading off in the general direction of Rivet City, a place he was no longer allowed to set foot in, with or without supervision.

Mark had followed from a distance, taking in the similarities between Faith and James. Not just the physical ones but things such as the way they walked; both took long, purposeful steps, even when they seemed to both be suffering some inner pain. When they spoke, they were both articulate and gestured quite a bit.

It was unnerving to hear the 'dumb Kid' rambling on about that Purifier of Jame's, and the G.E.C.K. and a million other things he didn't understand nor would he ever.

He had also noticed how James kept glancing at her, as if he wished to speak to her only to wind up looking away, obviously unsure of just what to say.

And what could the guy say? He had left his kid in a Vault, figuring she wouldn't come trailing off into the unknown after him and been dead wrong. His miscalculation had cost her more than he would probably ever know, not to mention James probably was aware that it hadn't been easy for her to find him.

Mark had no sympathy whatsoever.

As for Faith, he had noticed the change in her almost immediately, it was impossible not too, especially considering how much time he had spent with her, before their rather bad parting in Rivet City.

Which made him inwardly flinch, remembering how he had gotten somewhat violent with her in their room.

Even though it had been about a week since she had left his ass behind, such a change had occurred in her that she seemed to have aged. Mentally, of course, but it showed in the way she carried herself. How her eyes seemed to draw everything in but showed nothing, the way she reflected before speaking.

James was making himself a bed on the other side of the fire, currently pretending to not be constantly glancing over at them or listening in on their one sided conversation.

Faith sucked in her lower lip, still not looking at him.

Mark was growing just a bit impatient with her. He had not chased her down just to be treated as if he didn't exist. "Faith, whatever Shrapnel might have-"

"You were a slaver."

"Yes, but-"

"And with the Talon company."


Faith held up a finger, silencing him. "I've had a lot of time to think about all of that, Mark."

He noticed she was back to calling him Mark now, opposed to Calaway. "And?"

"And if there is anything else I should know, you need to tell me right now before anyone else does."

Mark considered that, reaching into his vest pocket for his cigarettes and flask, offering both to her.

James shot upright from his bedroll when he seen Faith not only take a sip from the flask -and he was fairly certain it wasn't water- but also accept a lit cigarette. "Faith!"


"Those things will kill you!"

"So will radiation, Super Mutants and Blamco Mac 'n Cheese." She pointed out dryly.

James managed a slight smile, slowly laying back down, his glittering eyes reflecting the firelight at them.

Faith turned back to Mark expectantly, taking a long draw off her cigarette. "Well?"

Grimacing, he helped himself to another heavy swallow from the flask. "You know I was a slaver."

She nodded.

"And a merc."

Another nod.

"I also do some freelance stuff every now and then. I'm actually doing a job, sort of, while we're doing whatever it is we're doing. I have a client down in Underworld."


"It's an all Ghoul city." He wasn't surprised she hadn't heard of it. "They'll let fleshies -or smooth skins- like us in for a night or two but nobody with all their skin still on stays longer. Anyways, a Ghoul by the name of Mister Crowley hired me to procure him some keys, three keys actually. Each from a different mark. There was an optional to the contact but…"

"But…" She prompted.

Knowing he was about to offend her precious morals, Mark heaved a deep sigh. "At first the contract was for a hundred caps per head kill, at the time there were four marks." He ignored her raised eyebrow. "But given what I know of the marks, I asked around and did my homework. Crowley was really after some fuckin' keys, so now he's paying a hundred caps for three of these keys, a hundred a head if I do decide to blow off heads."

"And have you blown off any heads?" She demanded, fixing him with a dark look.

"Just one, while I was with you anyway." His tone was just as dark as her stare.

It didn't take long to figure that out. "Dukov." Faith said after a moment, not really surprised by her lack of emotion regarding that. Considering that Dukov had been making unwanted advances on her… sucked to be him. "So how much do you have now?"

"Once I get back to him, five hundred caps."

"That's a lot of partying."

Mark half smiled. "No, I'm saving."

"For? I was under the impression you just took what you wanted."

His smile disappeared.

Faith got the distinct impression she had either offended him or hurt his feelings. Maybe even both. She was also a bit shocked to find she actually cared.


Chapter 24


"Just how did you find me?" James asked over a rather unappetizing breakfast the next morning, sitting cross legged in the dirt alongside Faith.

Mark, who had skipped both their offers of water in favor of whiskey, glanced over. He had been wondering that himself.

"Well, you actually left the directions in your audio logs." Faith said slowly, wondering why it wasn't obvious to either man. Her father was supposed to be some sort of genius -and she was usually proud to claim she got her smarts from him-, whereas Mark always seemed to know everything about anything, that didn't pertain to biology at any rate.

"But even then, your Pip-Boy relies on mapping data as you go, unless someone keys in precise coordinates." James narrowed his eyes at her, as if she were hiding some sort of secret.

"Well, yes, but… I found some old maps in your room at the Memorial and… well, it's not really that hard to chart a course, Dad." Faith shook her head, a gentle smile playing her lips at his abashed look.

"Figured you would've gotten ate or something." Mark said coolly, seemingly not as surprised as James about her new survival skills. She had been traveling with him for quite some time now after all, something was bound to rub off.

After their exchange the night before, conversation had been stunted, so the fact that they were managing to be somewhat civil were steps in the right direction.

"I was mauled by some kinda bear thingy." She said with a snort, grudgingly letting him know he hadn't been half wrong. "But I slit it's throat before it could tear out mine."

Neither man knew just what to say to that so they just busied themselves with their respective meals.

"You never told me how you and your… friends," James made the word 'friend' sound more like a question. "Met, Faith."


She shrugged, glancing off to their left where Mark was walking, maintaining a respectful distance between them. "In Megaton, he went with me on a job and we've been stuck with each other ever since." She wasn't about to give him the long and detailed version of how they had gotten stuck together, not in the mood to revisit the Leo Stahl incident. This simply wasn't a conversation she ever wanted to have with him, well, at least not at the moment.

As if sensing her reluctance to say anymore, James just nodded.

Mark grunted.


"This… could take awhile."

Faith had been sipping a Nuka-Cola and chatting Shrapnel at Gary's Gallery -a small little café situated in the market place- when James appeared, sliding onto the stool besides her.

"Madison is skeptic, to put it mildly." He sighed, shifting on his seat to stare at his daughter, wrinkling his nose at the sight of the cigarette in her mouth but refrained from commenting.

"I'll just go see how Flak is doing." Shrapnel coughed, patting Faith on the back as he walked away.

She nodded, not looking away from James. "She doesn't think we'll get it to work, does she?"

"She says no, she's afraid to get her hopes raised up again, Faith. She doesn't want to get hurt or disappointed, or perhaps destroy any work she's currently doing."

"She has no faith."

James smiled at her little joke, despite of himself. "No, none at all. I was thinking… that maybe you could…"

Faith arched an eyebrow, taking a slow drag off her cigarette, a bad habit she blamed entirely on Mark.

Who was still banned from Rivet City and currently camping outside, just past the extended bridge. Which he hated with a passion.

"Well, maybe you could-"

"Dad, I like Dr. Li and as far as I can tell, she likes me. I'm not going to talk her into this. It's something you'll have to do yourself."

James sighed but nodded. "I expected that. I'm going to eat and then try again, maybe Madison just needed time to sort things out and has reconsidered."

Laughing, Faith slid from her stool and kissed his cheek. "I'd give her more time, Dad."


Mark really wished he had just outright killed Shrapnel, it would have made a hint more happy then he was at the moment. He had holed up across the street from the gangplank to Rivet City. An old office had provided hospitable after he had cleared out the Rad Roaches.

A pallet and some blankets on the floor, a small fire going in a pity he had made out of small cement pieces and an old steel file cabinet drawer, food and plenty of booze, he even had a small chemistry shop thanks to an old but usable stash he had found.

All that was missing was the company of a woman.

"How're you holding up?"

And now that his night was complete…

"Just great, any idea how long it's going to take your old man to convince that broad?"

Faith folded her arms over her chest, arching an eyebrow down at him. "Do you always have to be such an ass?"

He just smirked.

"Don't even know why I bothered asking." She sighed, lowering herself down onto a blanket and leaned back on the palms of her hands, legs stretched out before her. "I honestly have no idea how long it'll take or even if he can convince her."

"So we're talking more than a few days."

"Weeks, most likely."

Snorting, he helped himself to a shot of whiskey, offered her the flask and then watched as she took her own swallow. "So we just wait?"

"You," Faith began, wiping her mouth off with the back of her hand. "Can go whenever you like. You're not obligated to stick around, merc."

"No?" He arched an eyebrow.


"You haven't forgiven me yet, have you?"

"Should I?" She answered his question with a question, ignoring the agitated look that flashed across his face. "You deliberately kept things from me, Calaway. Things I should have known. Christ…" Faith shook her head, not believing how naive she had been. She had always known there was more to him than what he or anyone else was saying, besides Three Dog. People had always given him anxious, scared looks while all the while staring at her like she was a sacrificial lamb. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because you would have ran, wait… you DID run." Mark mockingly slapped his forward with the palm of his hand, snorting yet again as he reached once more for the flask. "For once, it was nice having someone who didn't know how much of a bastard I was."

"Still are." She muttered.

"Whatever. Fact remains, for the most part, I was tryin' to bury all that, leave it in the past and then your ignorant ass waltzed right into my life and fucked that all to hell." Ignoring her now slack jaw, Mark pushed himself to his feet; glaring down at her. "I was perfectly fuckin' content with how things were, Kid. Did a few odd jobs on the side, made some cash, people weren't getting seriously hurt. Came back to a warm bed and a hot body to keep me company, all the entertainment and booze I wanted and then…"

"Then I fucked it up?" Faith was at this point on her feet as well, hands clenched into fists at her side. "I did not WANT you going with me when I did that stupid errand for Moira. I specifically recall asking you to STAY in Megaton! Walter made you go, not me and you could have told him to go fuck himself whenever you damn well pleased! I never FORCED you to come here with me either, I didn't want you!"

"I couldn't very well stay in Megaton, you stupid little brat, not after Stahl."

"I didn't ask for your help with him either!" She could feel her face burning, knowing she was probably a beet red color, but damn she was so angry with him right now.

"Oh, so you'd of preferred to have been raped? I didn't know you were into that kind of thing, Kid." He sneered right back at her, his eyes lighting with maliciousness. "But I should have figured it out when I saved your scrawny ass from being raped a SECOND time."

Faith hauled off and punched him, keeping her thumb firmly tucked under her fingers and aiming with her knuckles.

Like he had shown her.

Mark ducked it however, lunging forward and wrapping an arm around her waist; drawing her in until her back was pressing against his chest. "Knock it off, Faith. You know damn well if I wanted you dead, you'd be DEAD." To emphasize this, he grabbed her throat with his free hand and squeezed. Not too hard, but enough to make her gasp for air and realize he wasn't fucking around anymore. "You stupid, stupid woman…"

She stopped struggling, all because she was trying to figure out if she was going deaf. He had actually called her 'woman'.

"You didn't ask me to swim across a radiated, Mirelurk filled river to save you. You didn't ask me to travel across the Wasteland's, thinking you were dead but praying you weren't, just to find you LOOKIN' dead inside some damn pod. I'm doing all this because I WANT too, Faith. Is that so hard to understand?"

"Yes." She whispered, trying to understand why it felt like her entire body felt like it was on fire, why it was shaking so violently and not in an unpleasant way. Even when he had gripped her throat felt like it was on fire, but… in an oddly… nice way. "Mark," She slowly turned so she was able to tilt her head back and stare up at him, really look at him.

Sometimes it was as if she forgot what he looked like, even though he had been her constant companion for some time. His hair had grown since she had met him, now falling several inches past his shoulder blades; the auburn infused with reddish-gold streaks from all the time out in the sun they had been spending lately, his skin bearing the standard Wastelander tan as well.

She knew he was somewhere around her father's age, perhaps a few years younger, but he looked a different type of… old. Not old in the sense of physically aging but old as in someone who had seen and done everything, someone who knew a thing or two.

He was muscular, which she had always noticed, right along with his height. His hands were calloused, his long fingers quick and…

And they were now burning a trail along her collarbone, her still somewhat pale (she had resigned herself to the fact that a tan was not in her future) skin showing thanks to the tank top she refused to give up, still considering the weather a bit too hot for her liking.

Grey-green eyes that she had seen flash in anger, sparkle with something akin to happiness, gleam with cruelty and darken with lust.

Lust, she suddenly identified what she was feeling, not entirely sure what she thought about that. Especially as the hand that had been stroking her collarbone had moved down to rest on her hip; his thumb trailing in slow circles; seemingly searing through the material of the cloth pants she had borrowed from Angela Staley.

Forcing herself to continue with her inventory, and avoid his eyes which she knew were staring at her, she studied his face, still not looking into his eyes. She had no idea what the standard for handsome was, but she did have a feeling he didn't fall into it.

His face was lined, from age; weather and everything else; but they didn't detract from his looks; rather added to them. She had always thought he looked a bit… wild, and cruel, he still did for the most part. His thin, sensual lips were surrounded by a mustache and goatee combination that she still wondered about. She figured he would have grown a beard by now… and then it struck her, the vain man shaved.

Her thoughts were wandering, and she knew it was on purpose, she didn't want to focus on what he was doing to her, or the fact that he seemed to be waiting for some reaction from her. She didn't want to show a reaction, though she was certain she was regardless.

Something between them was changing.


Chapter 25


Mark glared up at the gangplank that led to Rivet City, to Faith and sneered; raising his flask up and drained the rest, growling as the amber liquid spilled down his chin. He wasn't exactly sure what had happened the other day, but he was fairly certain he knew where it had been about to lead too.

At least until her nosy father had come looking for her.

He remembered the expression on Faith's face so perfectly. She had pulled away from looking, her eyes wide as plates; her mouth opened in an almost comical sort of way; roses in her cheeks… She had bolted.

"Mother fucker…" He growled, reaching down to adjust himself; ignoring the gaping look he received from the homeless man who lived under the metal stairs leading up the bridge.

He had no idea anymore what he was doing. He had his four keys, he should have been on his way back to Underworld by now, going off to get paid opposed to hiding out in a fucking office building with the hard-on from hell.

Instead, he was standing out here, practically begging to be shot, or at least shot at, hoping that damn girl… no, woman, would bring her skittish ass back outside so they could finish what he had been thinking they'd started.

But Faith being Faith hadn't come out, he hadn't seen hide nor hair of her for two days. She was avoiding him. Practically tempting him to barge onto the ship and demand she show her cowardly ass.

He was giving serious thought to doing just that when he did see, almost wondering if this was a mirage brought on by wishful thinking and way too much to drink. But he wasn't drunk, so he was ruling that out. Faith looked mildly annoyed, and yet amused all at once.

She was also carrying her satchel and guns, looking quite… ready to travel. She halted at the bottom of the steps when she seen him, arching an eyebrow. "What the hell are you doing, merc?"

"Contemplating havin' a piss." He grunted. So she wanted to play that game and pretend that nothing had happened? That was not going to fly. "Where're you going?" He gestured to her arsenal.

"To the Memorial to make sure it's still empty. James said that they had continuous problems with the Super Mutants back in the day, so I figured I'd go make sure none of them have taken up residence again."

"Probably not."

"That's what I was figuring too, but…" She shrugged. "He's not getting anywhere with Dr. Li and I'm getting bored. I need to get the hell off that ship."

"So you were plannin' on going alone?"

She obviously did not miss his wolfish smile because two very red spots darkened her cheeks. "Um… I hadn't given it much thought actually. Do you want to come?"

More than anything. "Sure."


"What a complete waste of time…"

Laughing, Faith stepped out of her father's bedroom, shaking her head as she surveyed the mercenary. "You knew as well as I did that this place was probably abandoned still. You were the one who wanted to tag along, I didn't twist your arm."

"No, that wasn't what you twisted." He could not, for the life of him, keep that from coming out a leer. It was so worth when her jaw dropped. Clucking his tongue, he reached out to push her chin up; shutting her mouth. "Flies will get in."

Faith's lips twisted into a disgusted expression at the thought of one of the gigantic, mutated Bloat Flies even attempting to get into her mouth. "That's disgusting."

"Look, I have to make a trip to Underworld."

"That business with the keys you mentioned?"

He nodded.

"How long will that take?"

"Few weeks, a month at the most. It'll all depend on what I run into."

"Sounds like fun, count me in."


The journey to Underworld took only a few weeks, as Mark had predicted. This time, when they ventured into the tunnels, Faith was more prepared. After what she had gone through recently, with venturing out in the Wasteland on her own; what had happened in Vault 112, she was a bit more cautious, smart and perhaps a tad more older for all of it.

As Mark led her up the cement steps into the light, she damn near jumped however, when they were greeted with a gun in their faces.

"Tourists, I think- Oh, it's you."

The Ghoul was obviously female, or had been female, Faith wasn't sure how to approach it and felt that staring was not in her best interest, but neither was looking away. Instead she settled for staring at the gun.

"Who's the smooth skin?"

"Just a kid I picked up." Mark drawled, packing a fresh pack of cigarettes against the palm of his hand as he smiled down at the… woman. "You going to let us in?"

"Now you know the rules, tourist." The Ghoul drawled, shouldering her automatic rifle. "Behave in there, or else."

"Course." Inclining his head, Mark reached back to thread his free hand with Faith's, ignoring the look she shot him as he guided her forward.

Smirking, she snatched the cigarette he had just lit from him and took a quick pull before passing it back, long used to his unfiltered smokes by now. Faith ignored his grunt, allowing him to lead the way inside; her eyes widening as she took in the display around her. "What is that?" She demanded, dragging her heels into the cracked and uneven marble floor so he was forced to stop; pointing.

Mark followed her gaze until he was looking at the wooly mammoth display, which surprisingly, was still in very good condition. "Mammoth."

"What's a mammoth?"

For once, he found himself actually knowing something -book smart wise- that she didn't, and began the explanation process, how the beast had lived long before the Great War, before the old World Wars, even before the time of Christ.

Faith seemed to be having a hard time believing all that, her expression going from curious to bemused to disbelief and once he hit Christ, bitter.

"So… you don't believe mammoths existed?"

"I have a hard time believing there were once green trees, let alone a beast that lived long before humans did."

"How about Christ?"

"The Son of God, even I know that story." She said it disdainfully. "My father would tell me stories from my mother's Bible, she really loved Revelation 21:6, 'I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely'."

Well, from his understanding, that went right in hand with the whole Project Purity, delivering uncontaminated, radiation free water to the Wasteland. "You a believer?" He asked curiously, knowing a lot of the people milling about had their beliefs. People in Megaton had a cult to that damn atomic bomb. Rivet City was filled with Saint Monica worshippers and he knew there were various other beliefs floating out around the Wasteland.

"Not in no damn bomb, not in a patron saint or anything else. I'm atheist."


"James is Agnostic, my mother was a Christian. She believed in God, in his Son, all that shit."

"Why don't you?" He had a feeling this was a touchy subject for her but he couldn't help pressing, knowing it was keeping her distracted from all the Ghouls who were staring at her, as if they were the oddities, and he supposed, in Underworld, they were. "Or at least, why aren't you Agnostic?"

"Because than I would have to believe in something higher than myself, some supreme being or maybe a group of them and I can't honestly have faith in some super power that would allow all this to happen to it's creation. Isn't that the God? He created the earth, us, and then what? Abandoned us? Like we were a failed social experiment." She shook her head, laughing dryly. "I'll pass thanks. There was a woman in the Vault, an old lady, she liked to quote the Bible to me and tell me how God is love. Do you know the verse John 3:16?"

"Can't read, remember?"

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life." Faith quoted from memory, beginning to come out of her reveries and realize where the hell they were, obviously trying not to flinch. "But the point was, He sent his kid to die for us as proof of his love, and reassurance that life, our individual lives, maybe all life, isn't for nothing. That there IS a happy ending waiting for each and every one of us, or back then at least. Sounds like a damn fairytale to me."

"Or a matter of faith." He offered quietly.

She shot him a dark look, obviously not finding that very funny.


The Ninth Circle was a bar… run by a Ghoul who went by the name Ahrukhal, who was rather… well-mannered, if not a bit… creepy, and sleazy. To Faith, he was basically a Ghoul version of Colin Moriety, which meant she did not like Ahrukhal at all.

Mark had dropped her off here before going to tend to his 'key' business, informing her that his current employer probably wouldn't find it very professional if Mark was touting along other people to what was supposed to be a private business transaction. He told her that for the most part, she should be fine, just not to provoke Kane.

And she had no idea who the hell Kane was.

After an hour sitting at the counter and drinking watered down beer and listening to Ahrukhal, she finally found out who Kane was. Kane was a rather dangerous looking Ghoul who stood with his back against a wall, just watching the bar.

She made an inquiry to Ahrukhal and found out that Kane was under some sort of contract to the bartender, and that Kane was fiercely loyal, and very good at killing things.

She wished Mark would get his ass back sooner rather than later.


"What a light-weight…" Ahrukhal snorted, staring down at the smooth skin. He had started giving her less water and more alcohol, in her beer… And she had passed out. Shaking his head, he reached out to smooth down her hair, ignoring the pointed look he got from Kane. "Do you have any idea how much money I could make off of her?" He sighed wistfully, then scowled, knowing that wasn't likely to happen so long as she was under the protection of the Undertaker. "Damn it…"

Kane growled, but didn't move.

Ahrukhal ignored his slave, knowing Kane had high morals, which he himself did not share. But Kane was also very… loyal, according to his last owner, something to do with brainwashing as a child; to whoever held his contract. So long as he held the contract, he was safe.

When he spotted 'Taker coming in, he smoothed down the front of his grungy suit and resumed what he had been pretending to do all along, wiping down filthy glasses. "Whiskey?"

"Nah, Carol already refilled me." The merc sat down besides his charge, tapping his flask. "What happened to her?"

Ahrukhal shrugged, hiding a scowl. He hated Carol with a passion, if not for her and her lesbian lover, he would have ALL of Underworld's business, not just some. "Hey," He began slowly, an idea rolling around in his rotting skull. "You looking for some work?"

'Taker shrugged, still staring down at Faith before finally turning his steely gaze to the Ghoul. "How much did she drink?"

"Too much apparently."

"She's not a big drinker."

Ahrukhal swallowed hard. "Well, maybe I-" He grunted when he was suddenly jerked across the bar by the collar of his shirt; glancing at Kane who was already approaching.

Before Kane could even draw his own weapon however, 'Taker had a gun digging into Ahrukhal's forehead, the Ghoul's eyes crossing in order to see it. "Order him down or I'll have to blow whatever brains you got left out." He ordered in a low monotone.

"Kane, no, just… back off. BACK OFF!"

Kane did, his fingers convulsing violently.

"So, what did you give my friend?"

"Watered down beer…. And…. And…"


"And maybe some of that everclear stuff…"

'Taker's grip tightened even more, the shirt material digging into Ahrukhal's throat, cutting off the oxygen flow. "Why?"

Ahrukhal knew better than to answer that one, shrugging helplessly.

"I see." The Deadman's lip curved into a sneer. "I think you owe me, don't you?"

"Sure, sure, anything!"

"I want Kane's contract."

Even though he knew it was stupid, Ahrukhal began laughing. "What the fuck for? You're the goddamn UNDERTAKER!"

"For her."

Her meaning the smooth skin.

"Not for free, 2,000 caps." He knew he was digging his own grave but Kane had not come cheap and he wasn't just giving him away.

"Lower the price."

"I can't, you-" Ahrukhal tried to inhale but found what limited air he had been able to take in suddenly gone. He struggled for what seemed like ages before 'Taker's grip loosened, causing him to inhale like made. "1,000! That's as low as I can go."

The Undertaker smiled, nothing friendly about it.


Chapter 26


"Do you, um, talk?"

Kane shot Faith a baleful look.

Sighing, she planted her chin in the palm of her hand and looked around the room she had woken up in. It wasn't much, even by Wastelander standards. Cracked, peeling, moldy walls, a hard stone floor that was littered and uneven.

Mark had left her in here with Kane and only a brief explanation. He had 'purchased' Kane's services and had given her the easily seven foot and scary as hell Ghoul's contract. He had said something about how Kane would serve only her and that was about the time she had fallen back asleep.

Kane wasn't very talkative, as she was quickly discovering. He gave short, clipped answers or merely grunted, standing against the wall, next to the door as if expecting someone to just barge in and start shooting.

She had perused the 'contract' and didn't like it one bit, she was very tempted to tear the damn thing up but had no idea what Mark or Kane would do. From what she was able to decipher and understand, Kane was loyal without hesitation to his 'employer' and would do whatever he was told too, including die.

She definitely did not like that.


Mark did not trust Mister Crowley in any way, shape or form. His business with the Ghoul was concluded but he had followed the guy anyway, leaving Faith in Kane's very capable hands. He had no idea what those keys he had collected opened, or just what it was Crowley wanted so badly but he'd be damned if he didn't find out.

He also knew deep down that if it was anything that was worth more than what Crowley had paid him, he would shoot Crowley and take whatever it was himself.

Mark was just greedy like that.

Crowley led him to an old military fort, Fort Constantine if he wasn't mistaken and arched an eyebrow. He had been here before and made the attempt at getting in, suddenly the keys made so much sense. Keeping his rifle close to his chest, he pressed forward.


Kane had been against Faith leaving Underworld without 'Taker but he didn't protest against it either. He had merely grunted out a 'you should wait', when she had presented the idea of heading to Rivet City two days after 'Taker had disappeared.

He had various reasons for not wanting her to go out traipsing throughout the Wasteland. While she was his employer and he would follow her wherever she wanted him too, and do whatever she asked, he also knew 'Taker had been fairly firm on her staying put until he returned.

Secondly, she was a very pretty smooth skin who probably didn't know one end of a gun from the other, he didn't mind a fight but he didn't want to get shot all to Hell defending her from slavers.

But Faith had walked right out of Underworld with a satchel slung against her side and a few guns in various sheaths and holsters. He was fairly certain he had noted a razor sharp hunting knife on her hip and one tucked down by her ankle beneath the patched armor leggings she wore.

She had replenished her dwindling supplies of water and food (which he had been against until he learned she had a food and water sanitizer in that never-ending satchel of hers), ammo and Stimpaks. When she hadn't been looking, he had added some Rad-X and Rad-Away, just incase.

No point in them both being ugly.

Kane had gotten the impression from 'Taker that she was not only a walking danger magnet, but also incapable of taking care of himself.

Then Faith had blown those misconceptions out of the water when they were attacked by Super Mutants, just feet from the entrance to Underworld.

Knowing she could handle herself made Kane's job a bit easier.

Or would have, if she wasn't so damn stubborn.

Faith could only sit and watch as Kane paced back and forth, knowing damn well she was the reason he was beyond agitated. She had been so upset with Mark basically giving her a babysitter that would obey her every command, and knowing she wouldn't be able to tear up the contract, not until she knew Kane wouldn't go psycho on her if she did.

Her mind came sharply back to focus when the Ghoul kicked a rock viciously. She had been angry with Mark for what he had done and not really paid all that much attention to where she was going. They had had that fight with the Super Mutants, headed in the direction they didn't seem to be coming from only to get into another skirmish, this time with moronic raiders who had taken up residence in the non-human friendly city.

By the time they had left what used to actually be D.C., Faith was completely lost.

Kane had followed and fought beside her silently. It was his place to follow, not lead.

That had been a mistake.

He had never had an employer like her, he never WANTED an employer like her. She knew how to fight well enough to defend herself sure, but she had absolutely no sense of direction. She didn't even know where the hell they were going!

He had only spoken up when he seen the huge statue of a boy in checkered overalls and chubby cheeks, holding some kind of cone in his humongous hands. Paradise Falls.

That was when Kane had begun questioning her.

Come to find out, he had been following an idiot. A sheltered little girl who had only been out of some Vault for three, maybe four months, who definitely had never strayed this far from Megaton before. He also realized she had come to rely heavily on the Undertaker -now that was the dumbest thing a person could ever do, her idiocy was cemented- when it came to navigating the Wasteland.

Or her Pip-Boy, which did a marvelous job of providing directions, assuming of course she had coordinates to key into it, or a map to try to chart from.

Idiot Girl.


Crowley had basically dragged his ass through Fort Constantine for some old armor, not even good armor. Mark inwardly growled as he watched the Ghoul run his rotting fingers lovingly over the rusted old crate that could -somewhere- be called armor. He had seen this type of armor before, only in much better condition.

This one was an antique.

He was going to murder Crowley.

This was taking him away from Faith at a most inopportune time. Of course, he had needed to get away from her for a bit, reassess himself, maybe get rid of the nagging, pesky attraction he had been feeling for her. But also, it made him uneasy.

Mostly because she was such a magnet for danger.

Of course, he didn't bother speculating on why he even cared. No, that would have been venturing into still mostly unknown mental territory and he wasn't willing to risk his tentative grasp on sanity just yet.


"A Ghoul and a smooth skin.., well, well, well." Carolina Red arched an eyebrow as she stared through her scope at the pair. The smooth skin was sleeping, curled up into a ball on the ground while the Ghoul seemed to hover protectively over her. "From the looks of it, the smooth skin might be decent enough to go to the Pitts. If she's not turning into a ghoulie."

Jotun didn't say anything.

Jotun hardly ever said anything.

Which was why Red liked him, he was rakishly handsome, reluctant to do his job and quiet. He needed someone to boss his pretty backside around. Red loved to be bossy, and occasionally murderous. "Come on, let's go see what pretty beasties we can catch today!"

Jotun simply shook his head as she whistled a disturbingly cheerful tune, all the while preparing the slave collars.


It was the sound of gunfire that woke Faith up. Any residual sleep that might have been lurking quickly disappeared when Kane none too gently kicked her in the thigh to get her moving. "What the hell?" She shrieked, trying to get into a standing position, all the while suffering a very painful Charley horse.

"We got visitors."

She managed to make out two people approaching, one of them a woman with a nearly bald head save for two tufts of hair that had been greased into what appeared to be tiny Devil horns. She was grinning like a maniac, letting off a round or two as they drew nearer. "Slavers?"

"Yes. Look, you need to run and let me try to-"

Faith shook her head, refusing to let him try anything for her. He wasn't doing it out of charity or nice feelings but because of that damn contract, a piece of paper that he believed gave someone the right to control his life. "Shut up, Kane."

He opened his mouth.

"That was an ORDER."

He shut up.

She really hated doing that but… he wasn't going to get blown all to hell and she sure wasn't going to be able to outrun the bullets. Faith slowly, and with more confidence then she felt, shouldered her assault rifle, arching an eyebrow. "Who the fuckin' hell are you?" She growled, adopting a rough and gritty tone of voice that she usually associated with Mark.

That made the woman skid to a halt, her slightly sadistic smile fading into a pout while the man beside her merely looked bored. "M'name's Carolina Red and I'm the one about to sell your pretty little ass for a pretty penny." She cooed, holding out what was unmistakably a collar. "Now, you can-"

Faith had become a fairly quick draw, she had always had accurate aim, so when she shot the collar right out of the devil bitch's hand, she smiled in satisfaction. "I'm not here to become property, I'm here to acquire property." She said grimly. "Now unless you want to find your ugly ass six feet under while still breathin', you'll take me to Eulogy Jones."

"Or what?"

"Or my husband," -Faith internally winced at the one, having had blurted it out without even thinking twice. "Might not be too fuckin' happy when he gets here."

Red's narrowed eyes strayed to Kane, who was standing mutely right behind Faith.

Faith snorted, shaking her head. "Not the fuckin' ghoulie."

"Then who's your hubby and why the fuck should I care?"

Right then and there, Faith finished telling the biggest lie in history.

Red's jaw dropped.


Chapter 27


Eulogy Jones had heard some whoppers in his time, but this one took the cake. He had heard stories of people being President Eden's daughter all the way from 'I'm the leader of the Super Mutants' but this one was definitely the most stupid and ballsy.

He eyed the woman with the brass set, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "So… when can we expect your 'husband' to join us?" He asked finally, lacing just a hint of disbelief through his tone.

The woman -Faith- stared at him out of curious eyes, seeming to be sizing him up. "I am unsure, he had business in Underworld he was finishing."

"I see. And the Ghoul?"

She glanced over her shoulder at the being in question, who was leaning against the wall in a perfect display of nonchalance and casualty, though he was anything but. "My guard, a present from my husband."

"So, do I call you Mrs. Undertaker then?" Eulogy decided that playing her little game for the moment could be a bit entertaining. He had been getting rather bored.

"Actually, it would be Mrs. Calaway," She corrected with a half smile. "But you can call me Faith."

She actually knew 'Taker's real name, and was still alive. That right there made him do some serious rethinking. "We are talking about the same guy, right?"

"Almost as tall as my friend over there?" Faith gestured carelessly behind her. "Drinks from a flask? Criminally insane?"

"Sounds about right."

"Trust me, I know him quite well."


If he wouldn't have heard it from a passing trader, 'Taker would have never believed that Faith had actually gone and got herself landed in Paradise Falls. Hadn't she learned anything at all these past few months? He figured Kane would have put a stop to her doing anything retarded.

Like this for example.

He made his way down the all to familiar terrain, wondering idly just what sort of danger that moronic kid had put herself in now.


All in all, Faith probably would have found Paradise Falls relatively nice. If she could only get past the slavery issue, she would have been set. Of course, for appearances sake, she made herself seem indifferent to the cruelty and suffering that surrounded her, though inside she wept.

How could people be so cruel to each other? Hadn't humanity as a whole suffered enough?

Apparently not.

Eulogy had made it a tad obvious that he was sure -somewhat- that she was playing some sort of fame with him, trying to save her skin.

Which, technically, she was.

He kept asking her questions, all of them about 'Taker, all of them things she should -and most often did- know about him, given their… relationship.

She did not even want to imagine Mark's reaction when, or if, he ever found out about this. He would either explode and kill her, or find it riotously amusing. She would rather he just killed her.

It was her third day in Paradise Falls, and she was fairly certain Kane was considering killing Crimson and Clover -Eulogy's personal slaves- when she heard Carolina Red's harsh, overexcited voice screeching:

"He's here!"

She had no doubt who He was.


"Eulogy," 'Taker took the other man's hand in greeting as he approached what was commonly referred to as 'the boss' pad', his eyes glancing around to take inventory of the old faces he knew and some he didn't. "I heard you have somethin' that belongs to me."

He had no idea if Faith was being held as a slave, he hadn't seen her in any of the pens as he had walked up towards the commons, but he also knew Eulogy was in the habit of turning pretty girls into personal property. Maybe she had talked her way out of being collared.

Either way, best to play it on the safe side. Even though he was a feared man, 'Taker knew damn well fear usually played second to bravado. Especially when the fools with the bravado were numerous and all packing heat.

They might have been afraid of him, but their numbers made their fear seem silly, to them.

"I do." Eulogy was also playing the same game, a mischievous twinkle in his dark eyes. "I've been keeping her… busy."

He knew he was being baited, damn it, but that did not stop the visible anger from flashing across his face; nor the sudden hand that was wrapped around Eulogy's throat. "If you've harmed one fuckin' hair on her head, I'mma-"

"Mark, let him go!"

Hearing Faith's voice -and the commanding tone- made him reluctantly let Eulogy go. Whirling, 'Taker watched as Faith practically flew down the path and right into his suddenly open arms. "Christ woman, don't you ever listen to me?" He growled, burying his nose in her hair and inhaled deeply.

Eulogy was gaping, and rubbing his neck. "It's true!" He squawked, not entirely sure how she had gotten free of Crimson and Clover but guessed Kane had something to do with it. "It's fucking true!"

Faith snorted.

Gathering he was missing something, 'Taker kept quiet, gently tilting Faith's head up so he could stare down into her face; his eyes searching hers. "Are you alright?" He asked softly.

"Course I am." She replied with a cheeky wink.

"Why the hell am I always the last to know?" Eulogy was still going off. "You could have had the wedding here at least. Crimson and Clover would have been bridesmaids, but no, you had to run off and do it shotgun."

Not missing a beat, 'Taker moved his arm around Faith's waist possessively. "Why on earth would I want to share my wife with any of you cretins?"

She was in for it now.


"Red, red is the perfect color."

"Brides wear white."

"Only if they ain't… you know-"

"Fucking like rabbits."

Kane shook his head as Crimson and Clover both broke out into insane giggles, wondering what the hell they were talking about. He was currently sitting in a chair in the room that had been set aside for Faith and… 'Taker, wondering what these idiot women were doing in here. On the bed no less, with armfuls of negligee.

"So red it is!"

"But this isn't a honeymoon, Clover."

"But it's like a honeymoon, they've been traipsing along the Wasteland for how long? This is the first honeymoon!"

Faith's quick witted lie was going to get her in some trouble.


Faith left the slavers and Mark -no, he was 'Taker while they were here- to their storytelling and drinking early in the night. She knew a reunion was commencing and just wanted to sleep and get the hell out of there. "You can go join them if you want." She offered Kane, who had so far kept to the shadows, tailing her everywhere she went.

Which she usually would have found annoying but as she didn't trust Eulogy or any of his 'men', she was grateful for the large Ghoul.

Kane made a derisive noise that told her all she needed to know. After scanning her room, he gave an approving nod. "I'll be in the hall." He said before leaving her alone.

Sighing, Faith turned towards the bed, only to freeze. She recognized the red silk laying out as one of those nightie type things that Dukov had forced her to wear, scowling as she took in the fabric.

Having every intention of burning the offending garment, she tossed it in a corner and turned down the two thin blankets before sitting on the bed. It took her a moment to unlace her boots and kick those off before reaching for her pants, then she hesitated.

She had slept in her tank top and underclothes since arriving, fairly confident in Kane's abilities to warn her before someone came bursting through the door. But she had also been sleeping alone.

Realizing Mark would be joining her and knowing he wouldn't allow either of them to crash on the floor, she let out a long suffering sigh and laid down, fully clothed.

It didn't take long for memories she wished she didn't have to come creeping, vividly recalling that day just outside of Rivet City, in Mark's little temporary campsite.

She was very glad he wasn't in there with her right then, very, very glad.


After more whiskey and chems then was probably smart, 'Taker excused himself to go 'properly greet his wife', much to the glee of the assorted men, and of course, Carolina Red.

"Fuck 'er good!" She had hiccupped, toasting him with her bottle of gin.

Shaking his head, he headed up the stairs, following the familiar halls until he had reached his old room, ignoring Kane when the Ghoul stepped towards him. "She asleep?"

"Yes, keep it that way." It was a threat.

"She IS my wife."

Kane growled softly.

"Take the night off, Kane, she doesn't need you." Smirking, he shed his vest right there in front of the Ghoul, staking his claim so to speak and let himself into the room, closing the door behind him sharply.

Snarling, Kane kicked the vest across the floor.


Chapter 28


Making unsubtle comments and bragging were one thing, but when Mark seen Faith sound asleep; curled beneath the blankets, that was another. She looked way to damn innocent. Especially considering she had been ballsy enough to lie about being married to him.

But she was getting smarter. For one, she was fully clothed. Secondly, she hadn't bothered with trying to sleep anywhere but the bed, apparently remembering Dukov's place.

Still feeling the effects of the chems, he began peeling off his clothes, starting with the boots and working his way up. He wasn't exactly tired, a little fatigued, but at the moment it was buried underneath all the chemical induced feelings and shit.

Not helped by the sight of a gorgeous woman in his bed. A gorgeous young woman who had told everyone she was his wife, and more incredulous, made them believe her.

As if he would ever take a fucking wife.

Taking care of his own ass was usually a full-time job, he didn't need to add the worries of a woman and especially not a woman with as much bad luck and trouble attracting magnetism as Faith.

Though, he did admit to enjoying a brief vision of her constantly at his side. The things they would get up too, he'd drag her into some of his more lucrative and decidedly amoral activities and of course she would try to be his moral compass.

Simply because her daddy had seen fit to instill her with a sense of right and wrong.

Which was fucking stupid.

He realized he had been standing in the cold room bare assed, staring at Faith and thinking about a future that would never be. Could never be. As soon as this shit with her daddy was done, he was bouncing again. She would probably settle down in Rivet City, near her father's work and pop out a kid or two, help rebuild the world or something.

But that didn't mean they couldn't have the present.

Smirking, he stepped towards the bed.


Faith was having one hell of a dream. She was dreaming that she and Mark were back in Rivet City, well, across from it in the makeshift office he had turned into a room of sorts. It was that moment, that awkward yet sensual moment they had shared, only James hadn't interrupted yet.

And she was praying he didn't.

They weren't standing up any longer, instead they had moved down onto Mark's sleeping pallet, with him hovering over her; trailing fiery kisses along her collarbone.

She could feel his mustache scratching lightly against her skin and smiled, raising her arms off the bed to entangle them in his hair.

He chuckled softly, nipping at the side of her throat. Then he was moving downwards; his hands hooking into the waist of her Brahmin skin pants, tugging them down.

It occurred to her that she shouldn't be allowing him to do this, but it felt so good, and it was a dream anyway, so why not?

She felt a slight chill as the cool air made contact with her bare legs, though she was heated up a moment later. Those calloused, skilled hands of Mark's were running up her calves until he reached her upper thighs, where he seemed to hesitate.

She stopped breathing for a second, feeling like she would drown in the myriad of new sensations that were taking over her body, wrestling control from her. There was time enough for one sharp intake of air before she felt his tongue caressing her in the most intimate of places.

Faith literally shot off the bed, coming out of the 'dream' with the realization that this wasn't a dream.

"Bout time you woke up." Mark laughed huskily from his place between her rather obscenely spread legs. He didn't give her a chance to say anything or make an attempt at stopping him, he just resumed what he had been doing; a soft growl escaping him.

For a moment, she was tempted to do something to get him to stop, something violent. But the moment was fleeting, she was to wrapped up in the new sensations he was inflicting on her passive body. "What are you doing?" She finally managed to gasp out.

"What's it feel like, wife?"

It felt like Heaven, but the reference to the lie made her flush a bright red. Not that she wasn't already red, and trembling, flushed and shivering from head to toe. Coherency left Faith as he continued with his administrations, that evil tongue of his cowing her into submission.

Mark was fully prepared for it when Faith yanked on his hair, knowing it wasn't a 'get the hell away from me' yank but a 'it feels so good' and inwardly congratulated himself. When he first had met her, he had had his doubts about her sexual status but time in her company had quickly killed those.

Ever since Rivet City, he had been dying to relieve her of her virgin status.

With or without the use of that Queen Ant Pheromone Cindy had given Faith.

He had been keeping her legs apart -he didn't trust Faith to not try crushing his head with her thighs- but with the way she was beginning to wriggle, he figured she was enjoying herself too much to want him to stop. Not that he had any intentions of stopping.

Letting go of her legs, Mark made himself more comfortable, taking a moment to look up along her twitching body and at her face. Her eyes were closed and she was biting down on her lower lip hard enough that he was mildly surprised it wasn't bleeding.

Lowering his head, he caught her clit between his lips; gently tugging before laving it with his tongue. Her hands flying down to his shoulders, nails digging into his flesh, told him all he needed to know. Her hips were coming off the bed, obliviously attempting to dislodge him. He maneuvered his right hand up until his fingers were brushing against her wetness, eliciting another low whine from his mewling wife.

Another smirk flickered across his lips.

He kept teasing and torturing her clit while trailing a finger up and down her slit. When he pressed the heel of his hand against her, he could feel her heat and dampness, knowing she was ready for him. He was more than ready for her, but he'd be damned if he didn't make the most of this because odds were that when she had recovered and wasn't addled, she was going to try to kill him.

When she felt two fingers sliding past her folds and into her, Faith's upper body shot off the bed; gripping Mark by the head and forcing him to look at her. "What are you…" She trailed off when he began slowly pumping the digits in and out of her; wishing she could look away from him but found she couldn't.

His grey-green eyes were molten, darkened with lust he was barely constraining as he stared up at her. His hair was loose for once, damp at the temples which drew her attention to the sweat that beaded and then ran down his forehead; down his nose…

All this was registering on some sub-conscious level because consciously she was struggling to breathe, feeling her muscles all beginning to tingle and jolt with what felt like electricity. "Mark…?"

He didn't answer her, too busy watching the play of emotions flashing across her flushed face as he crooked his fingers, brushing them against her sweet spot.

Faith's world erupted.


"So, wife…" Mark chuckled softly from where his head rested against her gently heaving chest; feeling his own heart beginning to slow down from the race it had been engaged in. He had always sworn he never wanted a virgin in his bed, he preferred his women with some experience.

He was pleasantly surprised to find that he had to eat his own words. Had eaten his own words.

The smirk on his face was becoming permanent.

Faith nudged his head away from her and propped her upper body upright on her elbows, staring at him intently. "Are you mad about that? I wasn't about to be collared or anything else they had in mind." She said in a rush, trying to decipher the look on his face.

This was not a conversation she wanted to have right now, or ever. She wanted to stand up and stretch, do something to ease the slight ache centered between her thighs. She wanted to postpone the feelings of regret and 'why did the hell I do that' for as long as possible.

"No, I'm not mad." Mark answered after a moment, moving until he was sitting on the bed and pulled her along with him so she was on his lap; drawing her legs around his waist. "Bit surprised at how fast you were able to think of that one, not to mention pull it off."

She smiled hesitantly under the rare bit of praise, trying desperately not to shift against him; her hands laced around his neck as if of their own accord. "I'm glad you came when you did, I'm not sure Eulogy was going to keep playing along."

"Well, he will now, he believes it." Mark couldn't help but smirk a little, knowing Eulogy would have loved nothing more than to acquire Faith into his little collection. No chance in hell, not now, especially now. Now that she had been marked as territory, and he knew damn well that it would get out. The slavers would mention it to the trader's, and the trader's would carry that bit of juicy gossip all around the Wasteland.

Other than the town's little churches and whatnot, there were no officiates to perform a ceremony so common-law marriages were considered as legal and binding as the old-school traditional marriages. Basically, you announced you were married to so and so, they agreed and there you had it.

Divorces were mostly unheard of, it just made sense for people to stay married, to help each other as much as possible considering how rough life was. Or, marriages ended in one spouse or the other dead. All the same to him because for all intents and purposes, Faith had unwittingly made herself his wife and then consummated it.

Till death do us part.


Chapter 29


Kane had to wonder if Faith had any idea of what she was doing. While her lie had saved them, he was fairly certain she had no clue of what the repercussions would be. She probably hadn't even realized that when 'Taker had made that lie the truth, she had bound herself to the mercenary.

What made this all worse was the fact that 'Taker knew all of this. The man knew the rules and unwritten laws of the Capital Wasteland, he knew how fast news could travel when spread by gossiping traders, how quickly word would reach GNR and then be spread all over the place by the DJ.

He was relieved when they left Paradise Falls, maintaining a distance behind Faith who seemed to be lost in her own thoughts, and ignoring 'Taker. He did not work for 'Taker, Faith held his contract. Which pleased him, if someone had to hold his contract, he would rather it not be someone who was morally bankrupt.

Like the fucking Undertaker.


"I have to get back to Rivet City."

Mark glanced down at Faith, who had been oddly silent ever since they had left Paradise Falls, wondering where that had come from. "Why?"

"My father."

Why did that not surprise him? "You think he's finally convinced the good doctor to help him out then?"

"He's had more than enough time to get a definite answer, one way or the other." Faith shot a look at her Pip-Boy frowning. "They could already be at the Memorial, we've been gone for a few weeks…"

"You really think this project thing-"

"Project Purity."

"is going to work?"

She didn't answer him.


"Hello, children, it's time for the news!"

Mark cracked one eye open, trying not to growl but he had only just fallen asleep not to long ago and the last thing he wanted to hear was that annoying disc jockey who ran GNR. "When did we get a radio?" He demanded.

Faith, who was taking the first watch of the night, was standing across the fire from him. Behind her, Kane was pacing a track in the ground. She tapped her Pip-Boy, turning the volume down a notch. "I've always had it, I just never bothered turning it on. But Kane said that Three Dog would have all the latest, so if anything happened at the Memorial, chances are, he'd know."

Kane was becoming a right pain in the ass.

"And in other news, one of the long time terrors of the Capital Wasteland has settled down!"

"Turn it off!" Mark barked, not wanting to hear this and knowing Faith was probably going to freak out. He had yet to inform her that she had lied her way into actually being his wife, and he had let her.

Ignoring him, Faith turned it up, a frown on her face.

Kane had stopped his pacing.

"Who has he married you ask? Well boys and girls, do you remember old Three Dog telling you about the Lone Wanderer? That little girl from Vault 101?"

"Lone Wanderer?" Faith echoed, sounding more then a bit confused now. That was definitely the wrong title for her, she wasn't wandering about alone.

"You guessed it!" Three Dog's voice seemed to be louder then it actually was, amplified by the silence of the night that surrounded them. "The most unlikely, mismatched pair ever have gotten themselves together in a common-law wedding."

Mark risked looking at Faith, who was staring at him from narrowed eyes.

"Now lemme refresh your memory on the pair. The Undertaker has been running rampant for almost two decades across the people of the Wasteland. He has murder, rape, slavery, pillaging and all that stuff nobody wants to ever have happen to them under his belt. Former slaver, former Talon Mercenary and who knows what else, that guy. Mothers tell their children bedtime stories about his guy, that's how sick and twisted he is."

Faith was slowly turning red.

Mark was beginning to get up.

"As for the Lone Wanderer, this kid came crawling out of a Vault looking for her daddy, James. You all remember him? He's a scientist who thinks he can get his pet project, Project Purity, up and running. The Lone Wanderer settled in Megaton for a little while, helping get that shit-hole back together and clean water running throughout the town. Then she took off, with the Undertaker, looking for James.

Somewhere along the lines, the two were separated and she wound up all the way out by Evergreen Mills, still hunting her father. And do you know what? She found him. Long story short, kids, she and 'Taker took off after escorting James to Rivet City and now, they're married."

Kane watched, anticipating a fight of some kind, as Faith snatched up her assault rifle and turned it on 'Taker, a smirk forming under his mask.

"So where is she now? Your guess is as good as mine. But considering what she's gone and gotten herself into, why don't we all light a candle and say a prayer?"

The 'news' was over and now some old pre-WW2 music was playing…

I don't want to set the world on fire
I just want to start
A flame in your heart

"What the fuck is he talking about?" Faith demanded, an edge to her tone. "Common-law wedding? I don't remember any common-law wedding!"

"When you told Eulogy Jones we were married." Mark said, raking a hand through his hair, knowing damn well he could easily take her out but he didn't want too. He almost felt ashamed by the description Three Dog had aired, not that it wasn't true because it all was. He just didn't need any more reminders of who he used to be popping up in Faith's face. "You started it then. When I got there and didn't deny it…" He shrugged. "That's pretty much all that's needed for a marriage out here, Faith. Unless you want to go to one of those churches and get it all legal with papers and shit. Not that they really mean anything unless you're planning on settling down in a town."

I've lost all ambition for worldly acclaim
I just want to be the one you love
And with your admission that you feel the same
I'll have reached the goal I'm dreaming of

"Wait, unless I want to go and get it- Are you fucking kidding me? I don't want to be married at all!" She was getting ready to pull the trigger, that was how pissed off she was. "You KNEW all this! And then… and then… oh God, you-" Faith had to clench her teeth together, feeling and hearing them grind under the pressure. "You're a fucking bastard. I'm denouncing our common-law marriage or whatever the hell it is. You understand me? We are NOT married."

I don't want to set the world on fire

Given that she looked ready to shoot him, he simply nodded, letting her have her way. Or at least, letting her think she did. Faith had somehow gotten under his skin and began a change in him. One he wasn't entirely sure he liked, but one he couldn't avoid. He'd be damned if she just up and walked away now.

I just want to start
A flame in your heart


"She's agreed to do it." James had said the moment Faith had been sighted approaching the city. He had rushed out onto the bridge to meet her, pulling her to him in a tight hug. "Madison will helps us."

Faith smiled tiredly, returning the hug. After hearing that broadcast of Three Dog's she had immediately set out again, Kane at her side. Mark had caught up with them quickly but had sense enough to keep away from her. She had needed space to think, to clear her head.

She supposed she shouldn't be so surprised, he had never hidden the fact that he was a devious, self-serving son of a bitch before. He had always made it clear he got what he wanted, one way or the other. For the life of her though, she would never understand why he wanted her.

Sure, she wasn't afraid of him, not like other women were. She had enough sense to be scared when his temper turned on her, but for the most part, she no longer feared the man. She was his exact opposite in everything, morals; abilities…

"Is it true?"

The gentle but concerned tone her father asked that in filled Faith in on what she might have missed in her musings. He was asking about her and Mark, but she made him clarify anyway. "Is what true?"

"You and the… Undertaker, married." James repeated, looking a hell of a lot older than he actually was, which was only a few years then her supposed husband. "Faith, if it is, and it's what you want, then I support you. But if he forced you into it somehow…"

Glancing over her shoulder, Faith took in Mark, who was standing just off of the gangplank. He still wasn't allowed in Rivet City and she secretly doubted he ever would be. Not after putting Shrapnel through a porthole. Kane was leaning against the railing that edged either side of the metal bridge, waiting on her.

When he realized she was looking at him, Mark turned so his back was to her. It wasn't hard to imagine what her and her daddy were talking about, he didn't need to see the relief cross the old man's face when his precious daughter denied the rumors.

Before he had turned, Faith could have sworn she seen something in his eyes that he never meant for her to see and a lot of the puzzle pieces clicked into place for her. "He didn't force me into anything, dad." She said finally, realizing James was still waiting for an answer. "I kinda forced him into it."

"Now this I have got to hear."


Chapter 30


After getting Faith away from the two large men who flanked her -'Taker was rather easy since he was still banned from the city- James guided her down to his room below deck. Faith had had to actually order the other fellow -Kane- to wait out on the deck. Which had been a bit disconcerting for James. To both see and hear his daughter giving orders, walking around in raider-like armor with several guns visible…

Was this still his Faith?

Silence reigned between them as James scrounged some supper. Supper consisting of Cram, potato crisps and Nuka-Cola. All of it had obviously been purged through a Food Sanitizer.

It was even a little tasty.

This was technically the first time since they had been in Vault 101 that they had been alone and neither of them knew what to say.

"Dad, I-"


They both cracked a smile, Faith gesturing for him to go on.

"Faith," James reached across the small, bolted to the ground, table they had been perched at in order to take her hands. "Are you happy with… your choice? Your choices that led you here, to this moment?"

She had to consider that one. Was she happy that she had had to flee the Vault because the Overseer had lost his mind? Was she happy that she no longer had Amata as her best friend, almost a sister, or that she had had to kill Butch?

No, those things did nothing but make her feel sadness and remorse, acutely. Well, everything but Butch; that son of a bitch had deserved it and she would have done it all over again.

With a smile.

As for everything since leaving the Vault… well, she wasn't exactly with some of the choices she had made, or allowed to be made on her behalf, but in the end she had reached her goal and that was all that mattered to her.

"I'm content with them, how's that?"

James studied her for a moment longer before nodding, accepting that. He listened to the radio -GNR broadcasting of course- enough to know that she hadn't had it easy since leaving the Vault and he couldn't fault her for any… awkward… decisions she might have made because it was all a matter of survival.

Not to mention none of it would have been necessary if he had just taken her with him in the first place. Hindsight was not James's friend.

"And, 'Ta-"

"Mark, his name is Mark." She corrected quietly but firmly. "And what about him?"

"Just how did you two wind up…"

"Married?" Faith almost sounded teasing, though she was also biting on her lower lip. "I accidentally wound up in Paradise Falls."

James look aghast, simply horrified at the thought of what could have befell her. "How do you 'accidentally' wind up in Paradise Falls?" He demanded tersely, the thoughts of what if turning to the other end of the spectrum. What if she had gone into that… business?

"A horrible sense of direction and a gunfight with Super Mutants," was the dry reply. "Anyways, when we -Kane and I- got there, I remembered hearing about the boss from Shrapnel, Eulogy Jones. They tried to collar us but I demanded to be taken to Jones on account of the fact that I was the Undertaker's wife."

"And Jones believed that?"

"Not at first, but I convinced him enough to be just slightly skeptical and just hesitant enough to think 'what if she's not lying'. When Mark got there, he backed my story up."

James only shook his head.

"And now, we're married, because we say we are."

"And that's alright with you?"

"Well, at first it wasn't. I was really pissed off when I found out, from Three Dog on the radio no less. Mark had known about it the entire time, he had known that it wasn't just a lie anymore and he didn't bother telling me." Her eyes narrowed as her lips pursed into a half pout and half frown.

Despite his misgivings over the situation, the look on her face brought a smile to his.

"But other then that I suppose it works out for now. Until he decides he's done following me around, then we'll just call it quits and move on with our separate lives."

"You think its that simple?"

"It IS that simple, dad. Right now it benefits us both," she paused to take a sip of her Cola, trying not to think of the radiation dosing she had just given herself. Truth be told, after the night she'd found out they were married, she had started giving this common-law marriage idea a lot of thought. "The way I see it, I'm getting his protection. His name alone seems to keep people… well, they don't want to hurt me as much when they hear his name."

"Because he'd kill them." James clarified, watching her sheepishly nod in agreement. "So what does he get out of it?" All he was really thinking was: 'please don't say sex'.

"He gets left alone, a second chance."


"Ready to divorce me?" Mark asked with a forced sneer when Faith finally emerged from the ship, Kane at her side like the faithful watchdog he was. "Or did you clear all that up inside?"

Faith rolled her eyes at him, a bit surprised with his sullen attitude. "Don't be stupid, merc. I came out to let you know that you are officially allowed back in Rivet City."

He could only stare at her, suspicion in his eyes. "Are you truing to set me up?" Mark demanded finally, reaching out to grip her wrist when she got to close, squeezing so hard he could almost hear her delicate bones grinding together. "Maybe you think that Harkness will blow my head off as soon as I put a foot on the gangplank and make you a widow?"

It took Faith several moments to process that properly and when she had, she began laughing despite the pain in her wrist. She shook her head at Kane, who had withdrawn his gun, signaling for him to back off. "Mark, you are acting a little paranoid, don't you think?"

He wouldn't be alive still after all the shit he had seen and done without a healthy dose of paranoia. "Faith, I would really hate to have to kill you." He warned, not finding her as humorous as she apparently found him.

"But I'm being serious."

"Sure, as if Harkness would actually let me back on that rusted bucket of bolts after what I did to Shrapnel."

"Well no, he wouldn't if he had ultimate say in it." She admitted. "But he doesn't, he only has partial."

Mark arched an eyebrow, his eyes beginning to gleam as comprehension slowly dawned. "Go on."

"Dr. Li, Mr. Bannon, and Harkness are all on the city council," Faith said, inwardly breathing a sigh of relief when he stopped gripping her wrist and instead took her hand. "The three of them make all the important decisions when it comes to the city. So they could reverse the decision concerning your ban."

Mark could already see how this had played out. Faith was chummy with the good doctor and she had probably persuaded Bannon to vote accordingly, leaving Harkness screwed and furious. That brought a cruel smile to the mercenary's thin lips, being married to such a goodie was beginning to show some real promise, the perks alone… "What did you tell the council?" He asked suddenly.

"The truth, that we're married." Faith squeezed his hand. "We need to talk."


"I got us a room at Vera's-"

He noted how she was getting friendly with the people here, frowning.

"My father is also staying at the Weatherly, for now."

That 'for now' sounded a bit too ominous for Mark's liking.


"Has Faith told you anything about Project Purity?"

If anyone had told him that not only would he be allowed back in Rivet City but also sitting in on a meeting with some of the most brilliant minds of the past century, Mark would have called that person a goddamn liar.

As it was, it was actually happening.

He had been formerly introduced to Dr. Madison Li -who remembered him quite well as he had lifted her off the ground by her throat- as well as James, who was now his… father-in-law, odd as that both sounded and seemed.

Currently the scientists, himself and his wife were sitting in Dr. Li's room, where it was so cramped that all their knees were touching.

"I've heard about it." Mark said after a moment, knowing he was about to be in way over his head, there were simply too many eggheads in the room, Faith included.

James smiled slightly, taking a deep breath to begin.

Yeah, he was lost already, too much scientific bullshit and not enough plain English.


Chapter 31


The Jefferson Memorial was the perfect place for Project Purity, Mark admitted it. He and Faith had gone ahead of the caravan of scientists, supplies and equipment to make sure that the Super Mutants hadn't tried retaking the Memorial.

The location was fairly desirable as the only way to reach it was via the bridge, unless of course, someone wanted to take a swim in Mirelurk infested, radiated water. Neither Super Mutants nor their little pet Centuars would venture in that water and Raiders were hardly ever seen this far into the ruins. Slavers, sometimes, but not so close to Rivet City and as for the Talon Company mercenaries, they would have to fight off Super Mutants first, maybe they would kill each other off.

Considering the water purifier was also right there on the tidal basin, it was definitely a convenient location. If they didn't run into the problem that James and Dr. Li had described -Super Mutants trying to overrun the place years ago- they might actually get somewhere this time.

Mark had listened as James recounted the aid given by the Brotherhood of Steel and snorted, knowing damn well twenty years ago most of those recruits had been green when it came to doing anything besides pursuing technology, no doubt they had had no idea what the hell they were doing.

Defend their own Citadel, sure, that they could handle. Given them another location to defend, hell no.

Dr. Li had rounded up a team of scientists to work on Project Purity, as well as brought her own lab partner Janice Kaplinski and her maintenance man, Garza. Two men he didn't know a thing about except their names -Daniel Agincourt and Alex Dargon-, scientists who deferred to Dr. Li, James and Faith rounded out the team; so there was a grand total of six eggheads.

Alex Dargon was a friendly, over-eager little squirt. Well, to everyone but Mark anyway, and Kane. He steered clear of the Ghoul, though when they did cross paths, he was very respectful -and skittish. He flat out backtracked from the mercenary. He had seemed to take a liking to Faith, and when he wasn't up Dr. Li's backside, he could be found alongside Faith.

Daniel Agincourt seemed to despise James and his daughter for walking out on the project so long ago -which Mark found to be idiotic as Faith had only been an infant- and made it quite clear the only reason he was there was because Dr. Li asked him to. He was openly hostile to Faith, unless she had her Ghoul or husband nearby, then he contented himself with dirty looks.

Mark had seen Garza scurrying about for Dr. Li for years and had never understood why the man treated her so deferentially, or why she was particularly patient with him when she had no problem verbally ripping off the heads of her fellow scientists. He had determined quickly they weren't lovers, no, Li seemed to be carrying a soft spot for James, who was pretty much oblivious to it. James was only focused on the Project and his daughter.

As she was also focused on the Project, the two got along very well, all things considered. If his father had left him in some damn Vault in order to run off and try some asinine thing like this, Mark would have tracked him down just to kill the son of a bitch. Especially if he would have found himself on the short end of the stick from the other Vault residents. Faith had finally told him the complete story behind her 'escape' of Vault 101, and he blamed James for all the hardships that had fallen on her.

Of course, being the good girl that she was, Faith 'completely understood', and indeed shared her father's ambitions.

It was sickening.

As the Memorial was Super-Mutant free (thanks to Faith's determination to find her damn father) they settled in immediately. Mark and Kane had taken over security, both of them laying out landmines and tripwires for anyone who tried to cross the bridge or dared the rocky slopes from the water.

Garza had make himself useful by becoming an errand boy for Li and James, usually errands that involved him repairing something involving circuits and fuses.

Faith was kept busy working on new theories and ways to purify the water, or at least, more water than what they were able too. Small amounts, they could do, but every time they tried something on a larger scale, it was always back to the drawing board.

The G.E.C.K. was still on all their minds.


"Explain to me about the G.E.C.K."

Faith looked up from the makeshift bed they had put together in an old back room that had been cleared out for their use, she had been finger combing her hair, having just bathed. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, what is it? What can it do? Why is the damn thing so important?" Mark fired off, he had been thinking for the past few days about the mysterious object that he kept hearing James mentioning, much to everyone else's annoyance. He had heard the audio logs before, mentioning the G.E.C.K., when he had first visited the Memorial, looking for her. "And say it simple, we all didn't have the advantage of a Vault education."

She flipped him off, scowling.

Ignoring the attitude, he simply dropped down at their small table and pulled his battered cigarette case towards him. Still watching her, he drew one out and lit it, smirking when she held out her hand for it. He had definitely ingrained some of his more… nasty… habits into his delectable little wife. Grunting, Mark handed the fag off to her and lit a second for himself, gesturing for her to start talking.

"G.E.C.K. is an acronym for Garden of Eden Creation Kit," Faith began after a moment, taking a long inhale. "It was created by a Dr. Stanislaus Braun before the Great War."

Mark recognized the name Braun, James had gone to Vault 112 looking for a G.E.C.K. or notes about the damn thing as that was the Vault Braun was supposedly put into.

"James thinks that the G.E.C.K. has a…" Faith halted, looking confused for a moment, then smirked.

He did not like the smirk as it reminded him a bit of himself, growing suspicious. "What?"

"Well, to explain, I'll have to use some big words," She snickered, dodging the cigarette case that suddenly came flying her way. "to explain."

"Just fucking get on with it already."

"Anyways, James thinks the G.E.C.K. contains a chemical fusion based molecular assembly-device."

Mark was a man who did not enjoy feeling stupid, especially since he wasn't stupid, and Faith knew it. He remembered all the times he had called her a stupid little girl and knew this was her repaying him, growling softly. "Now, could you say that so a moron like me can understand it?" He demanded gruffly, refusing to give her too much satisfaction.

"Okay, basically, it has a little thingy in it that theoretically should be able to… guide or change chemical reactions by repositioning reactive molecules, it can move about the tiny shit that we can't see."

"So basically the damn thing can get rid of the radiation?"

"Well, yeah, something like that."

"Would it have been so fucking hard to just SAY that?"

Faith considered that, shrieking with laughter when he lunged at her. She was pushed back onto the bed, staring up into his scowling face, feeling him adjusting his elbows in order to keep his weight from completely crushing her. "If we could add the G.E.C.K. to the purifier, it would remove the radiation from the water and the entire Wasteland would have fresh; clean water. Eventually, we could even make the land fertile again." She murmured, trying to stress how important the missing piece of their mostly solved puzzle was and trying not to become distracted by his intense grey-green gaze.

He was beginning to understand the obsession. "So how do we find it?"

"That's what James was doing in that Tranquility Lounger, he was trying to find Dr. Braun and the G.E.C.K. but Braun had gone… insane."

A look that he was becoming a bit familiar with had crept into her eyes, it was a haunted look he had seen on people making their first kills, their first innocent kills. A 'what did I do, what have I done' type of look. He had no idea what had happened in that stimulation but he had gathered Faith had murdered everyone in those Loungers from what James had been whispering to her, trying to soothe her. A mercy killing if one thought about it, being alive for over two hundred years in any state had to suck, especially when stuck in a false reality.

"We have no idea where else to look, maybe another Vault would have one but we don't know where any other Vaults are."

Sighing, he rolled onto his side and dragged her with him until they were curled around each other, faces inches apart. "You and your old man are smart, with the rest of those eggheads, you'll figure this out." He murmured softly, running a finger along the side of her face. "Have a little faith."

She smiled slightly, wondering if people would ever tire of telling her that.


"Dad, this is not my idea of a good time." Faith grumbled, wondering how she had gotten volunteered for this assignment as she worked her way through the one of the large (but not large enough for her to stand upright, she had to half crouch) crawl through spaces for the pipes. There had been a blockage in an intake pipe and nobody was free to go take care of it, except her.

She didn't mind doing it, she just hadn't wanted too. She was in a rather lazy sort of mood today, probably not helped by Mark keeping her awake half the night talking amongst other things. She half smiled at the thought of the mercenary she had not only called husband but had also come to care greatly for.

It took her several long moments to figure out what the hell she was doing, before finally actually doing it. A second later, the sound of hundreds of gallons of water told her the pipe was no longer blocked and she smiled, hearing her father's voice through the nearby intercom -one of many that adorned the Memorial.

"Good job, Faith, now get on… what the…"

His voice was drowned out by a noise she couldn't identify, had never heard before. Covering her ears, she turned her eyes towards the source of the sound, skyward, and through the grates of the access pipe, seen what she identified as helicopters descending on the island. She had learned about them in class but… everyone assumed that that technology had died out a long time ago. Nobody had the technology these days, or the resources to build a single helicopter, let alone the small fleet.

"Stay there!" James barked through the intercom.

She crouched as a heavy thud landed just on the grate, eyes wide as she took in the heavy, metallic and electronic based armored person standing over her. The suit almost resembled that of the Brotherhood of Steel but was more… advanced, and all black. She recognized the gun as a type of laser rifle and began backing away so she wouldn't be quite so visible in case this person decided to look down.

Orders were being barked out, armored people were securing the perimeter, they were being attacked.

She instantly thought of Mark -who had left to go meet up with the trade caravans just outside of Rivet City for more food supplies-, knowing he had never anticipated something like this. She knew somewhere outside the Memorial Kane had been patrolling and could only hope nothing had happened to the Ghoul, wishing desperately she had torn up the contract when she had a chance, she been meaning to for awhile now but never seemed to find the time or energy too.

If he died because she had been lazy, she'd… She let that thought go, instead focusing on the fact that her feet were carrying her quickly back towards the lab, towards the purifier and her father, sweat beading on her forehead.

Faith emerged from the pipe and was almost shot, dodging out of the way as a red beam of light fired at her and pulled her own weapon of choice -a combat rifle as of late- from the sling she had made for it. She didn't remember too much of the fight, somewhat aware that one of those red lights, the laser fire, had gazed the left side of her face and while it hurt like hell, it wasn't bleeding. The heat from the beam had cauterized the wound almost as soon as it was made, leaving a fresh; slightly indented burn mark running across the width of her cheek.

She was aware of others fighting around her, smoke and scents she associated with guns beginning to fill the Memorial as she plowed on to the Control room, finally coming to a halt right besides Dr. Li.

The Control room consisted of two areas. The main area was surrounded by shatter-proof glass and could only be accessed with a code, inside this area were the controls to the Purifier, the computers that ran it, the important stuff.

The other area was the rest of the circular room, part of it stone foundation and the rest metal grates that formed a circular walkway around the actual purifier itself, water from the Potomac splashing beneath them. It was in this outer area Dr. Li and Faith were, staring through the glass.

James was in there, of course, along with Janice and a man Faith recognized instantly. It was the man she had met on the way to Vault 112, Steve Austin. He looked different now, in what was obviously an army uniform, black, and with a long black coat that came down to his knees, a gun in his hand.

"What's going on? How'd he get in there?" She demanded, pushing past Dr. Li in order to try getting into the main area, beginning to panic when the access code was rejected. Faith was locked out, and began banging her fists on the glass.

"It's the Enclave." Dr. Li whispered, shying back when the man whirled on them. "That's Colonel Austin, Eden's right-hand man."

Faith had absolutely no idea what any of this meant, all she knew was this man had been present at some odd points in her life -and actually helped her a bit- and now he was pointing a gun at her father.

She pressed the speaker button in order to hear what was going on in there, refusing to meet the icy blue eyes that were staring holes through her.

Austin was ordering James to help the Enclave, to hand over the codes and join them in continuing the work.

It did not take a genius to realize that these people were dangerous, and… evil.

"Janice!" Dr. Li screamed shrilly when Austin shot the other woman at James's refusal, banging her own fists on the unrelenting glass. "Janice!"

James was staring at Janice's body, his own face pale, before looking at Faith and then back to Austin; nodding.

Faith began shaking her head when her father turned towards the computer terminal.

"James, no!"

The warning system went off the moment the radiation began seeping into the chamber, confined the enclosed area. James had overloaded the computer.

Austin was already heading towards the door and infecting himself with something at the same time, finally crumpling to the ground, though still breathing.

The radiation level was off the chart and Faith knew there was no way James would survive it, tears streaking down her face as she helplessly watched him drop to his knees, dying before her very eyes. "Daddy…" She whispered, pressing her head against the glass, forcing herself to watch as he crawled weakly towards her.

"Faith…" He managed to rasp, the radiation eating at him. "Run."


Chapter 32


Faith hardly remembered reaching the Brotherhood of Steel Citadel. Dr. Li had slapped her a few times after James's death, curtly telling Faith that they had to escape before the rest of the Enclave soldiers appeared and killed them all. She had blindly followed Li down a sewer and into a tunnel -half hearing as Li explained how these tunnels ran underground until exiting right in front of the Citadel. Of course there were over ways to get into the tunnels, but Li wasn't interested in any of them, she knew exactly where they all needed to go, where they would be guaranteed safety.

Li also knew that she herself wasn't a fighter, nor were any of the remaining scientists. Garza might have been able to swing a baseball bat but anything that seriously overexerted or excited him was liable to kill him thanks to a serious heart condition that they couldn't treat.

So she pushed down her own grief once more and snapped again at Faith, barking orders for the girl to take the lead, to defend them. Faith had responded automatically, slipping into the role she had been assigned, her mind focusing on something over than the grief that threatened to overwhelm her.

When they emerged from the Taft Tunnels, Li had taken over, insisting that they be allowed inside the steel walls that protected the Brotherhood, raging when they were denied entrance. Refusing to be brushed off so easily, Li had begun pounding on the doors, ignoring the pain in her fists as she had screamed for Elder Lyons to open the godforsaken door and let them in.

Numbly, Faith had followed the scientists inside, watching as Garza moved to stand protectively by Li, who was swaying on her feet. There had been an interaction between Li and an older man -an elder man- who had seem genuinely shocked and saddened when he heard of what had transpired at the Memorial.

The one moment Faith recalled with perfect clarity was when he had turned to her, his compassionate gaze causing fresh tears to well in her eyes and then spill over, leaving streaks through her dirty face.

"I am sorry for your loss." He had said gravely, reaching out to take her hands in his. "James was a good man."

She hadn't bothered asking how he knew her father, just swayed; struggling to stay on her feet.

"Owyn," Li interrupted, wrapping an arm around Faith to steady her. "She's been through hell, could she-"

"I'll have Sarah handle it."

Faith recognized that name but she was already drifting into unconsciousness.


Madison Li had made a lot of hard, tough decisions in her time. She had had to set aside dreams in order to pursue realities for the greater good, including the dream of Project Purity. When James had reappeared in her life after nearly twenty years she had been afraid to hope and dream again.

His renewed fervor for the Project had only made her more sullen, especially when he had tried to talk her into helping him once more. As if she didn't have experiments and projects of her own going! She had sent him away, refusing to pursue foolish fantasies, declaring she would only devote her precious time to realistic endeavors.

James had left. He had told her he would begin again on their Project, and prove to her that it was more than some dream.

Then his daughter came along, testing Madison's resolve. Faith seemed to possess the best of both her parents. She had their brilliant minds combined in one, a natural curiosity, and a type of innocence that was rare in today's world. With a decidedly moral streak and various skills learned from inside the Vault, as well as some that were decidedly learnt from the Undertaker, Madison had seen a new breed of Wastelander in Faith.

Over the past week she had begun to really get to know the girl. Madison had also begun reestablishing her relationship with James. She had always admired him -foolish ambitions and all- and had once thought of him in a more… intimate way. At least until he and Catherine had announced they were a couple, then she had packed away all those intimate thoughts, reverting to being just a friend and fellow scientist.

But now, nearly twenty years later, everything was different… it was like a second chance.

Now he was dead…

Madison reached up to touch her careworn face, surprised to feel the warm tears that were running down her cheeks. She stood from the cot she had been sitting on, refusing to reflect any longer.

Across the room on the other cot was Faith, still sleeping. They had been given a small room just off of one of the many other rooms the Citadel housed. It was nothing fancy but it was sufficient, two small beds and a table between them for any personal affects. Madison had considered attempting to try waking the girl but…

She couldn't bring herself to do it. Faith looked too peaceful lying there, her dirty face relaxed and carefree, making her appear younger then she was. Of course when Faith woke up and wasn't lying with the left side of her face hidden it wouldn't be a pretty sight.

Somewhere along the line, Faith had taken a shot to head, or should have but managed to mostly avoid it. Mostly meaning that a laser beam had still grazed her face. Fortunately, the heat from the laser had cauterized the wound immediately, but the mark it had behind was… unsightly.


"The Enclave has taken over the Purifier," Elder Lyons said slowly, his gaze moving around the assembled people. "They have fortified the area with their own defenses and have guards patrolling, there is now way for you to go back." He raised a hand when he seen Dr. Li was about to protest, shaking his head. "No, Madison, even if we could breech their defenses and retake the Memorial, what would be the point? You are no closer now to realizing Project Purity then you were twenty years ago."

Dr. Li turned away from his pitying look, observing the room to give herself something to do other than acknowledge the truth in Owyn's words. Once she would have given her right arm to be allowed in here, to browse through all the databases the Brotherhood had accumulated, the advancements in technology and science… but now, none of it seemed to matter.

When James had died, it seemed so did her own ambitions and desires. She hadn't realized how much she had actually believed in him, in the Project, and it was disheartening.

"We'd be a hell of a lot closer if we had the G.E.C.K."

Everyone turned to look.

Faith was standing above them, leaning against the rail that lined the grate walkways throughout the large, but open, room with its many open; grated levels. She was staring at what looked like a cage of sorts, or more directly, what was in the cage. Though she soon realized it wasn't really a cage, but a type of containment area. Inside it was… a robot, a giant robot, and she had to tilt her head back to see its head.

"The G.E.C.K. is bullshit." Sarah Lyons said after a moment. "We have yet to actually run across one, and if they did exist, the Brotherhood would-" She shut up when her father -Owyn- scowled at her.

Owyn waited until Faith had joined them on the ground floor before addressing her, quietly taking in her pale face, made all the more paler by the angry red mark that marred the left side of her face, running from cheek to ear in a nearly straight horizontal line. Her eyes burned bright with some inner strength that he was guessing was fueled on motives of revenge and desire. "You are willing to continue with Project Purity?" He asked solemnly. "If a G.E.C.K. can be found?"

She nodded.

Owyn sighed, knowing most likely she would be just another casualty to Catherine's and Jame's dream. "Then speak with Scribe Rothchild, he should be able to point you in the right direction."

Faith followed his pointing finger, spotting a robed man studying her with the same interest she was now showing him. Before she could head to him though, she felt the thin but strong grip of Elder Lyon's fingers on her arm, glancing at him blankly.

"Come see me, before you leave, child." He ordered softly.

Hesitantly, she watched as he and Sarah left the room, the cluster of people dispersing except for Dr. Li. "Did everyone make it here okay?" She asked after a moment.

Dr. Li nodded, reaching out as if to take the younger woman's hand but then restrained herself. "Faith, about James," She swallowed back her own wave of sadness when Faith lowered her suddenly teary eyes. "I am sorry, truly sorry."

Faith didn't trust herself to speak.

"And I wanted to thank you." Dr. Li added, knowing she had to get this all out before she broke down. "I know it wasn't easy for you to leave him there, or to get us here -to the Citadel- but you did it. You showed strength and courage in bringing us here, as well as helping Garza instead of leaving him to die like others would have."

Silence reigned between them for a few awkward moments before Faith finally spoke. "Did Kane make it?"

Li wasn't surprised by the fear in that question, wishing she had better news to offer. "I don't honestly know." She admitted, having a feeling she knew what was coming next. "There was so much going on… I didn't see him."

"And… Mark?"

"Sarah and the Lyon's Pride have gone scouting near the Memorial for him, as well as venturing to Rivet City but nobody seems to know where he went too. Faith, it is possible that he… he went elsewhere, that he left… us, instead of going for supplies." She had almost said 'you' but managed to change her sentence in time. When Faith didn't say anything, she took that as a good sign and ventured on. "He isn't known for reliability, he is-"

"He didn't leave me, Madison."


"May I start by saying that I am sorry for your loss. I was acquainted with your father, many years ago." Scribe Rothchild began when Faith had finally made it over to him. The world has lost one of its few remaining visionaries."

Faith nodded, accepting his words as gracefully as she could. Rothchild had a soothing, slow way of speaking but it was only making her impatient. "I need to find a G.E.C.K." She said bluntly.

He didn't seem surprised. "I do not know where you can find one." He admitted after a moment. "But I can, however, give you access to an old pre-war computer from Vault-Tec. It may help you better than I."

That would have to do.


"Did you find the information you seek?" Elder Lyons asked when Faith had come to bid him goodbye. She hadn't announced her presence in his personal rooms but he had known when she arrived nonetheless, even with his back turned to her.

"Vault 87 has a G.E.C.K."

"Vault 87 is near the Lamplight Caverns."

"That's what Rothchild said."

Owyn turned finally, taking her in. She was dressed for traveling, in the armor he had provided for her. It wasn't like their own power armor but it was much better than the Brahmin skin she had been wearing. It was a set of leather armor that would provide freedom of movement and absorb a lot of wear and tear. Knowing she was going to want to move as fast and as stealthily as possible had also contributed to his decision. He had also provided a knapsack for her and stocked it with what provisions they could spare, along with more ammo for her newly repaired assault rifle and combat rifle.

"We have never investigated that area simply because we do not have the resources to spare for an investigation. Scribe Rothchild speculates that the Vault may be accessible from inside the caverns."

She nodded, having already heard all this. "Thank you for everything, Elder Lyons, but I have to go now."

Owyn sighed, feeling his age bearing down on him. He had come to the Capital Wasteland so long ago and he wasn't the old man then, time had weathered him down until he felt like he was nothing but sticks and wrinkled flesh. The promise of youth and the future in this young woman made him feel it all the more. "Be careful, child, that is a dangerous area." He cautioned, turning away from her and closing his eyes.

And she no longer had the formidable services of the mercenary rumored to be her husband.

"Elder Lyons?"


"When Mark comes, will you tell him I'll be back as soon as I can?"

He almost smiled at her determination, noting how she didn't say if she could, just that she would. Her faith in the mercenary touched a spot in his heart he hadn't known he possessed, knowing others would never have dared trust in the dangerous Undertaker. "I will, child."

"Thank you."


Chapter 33


Mark spent a week trying to get into the Jefferson Memorial.

Harkness had locked Rivet City down when the Vertibirds, the Enclave's helicopters, thundered in the distance. The majority of the RC security heading up to the top deck while a few guards remained below to keep the population in order.

Ignoring the orders to 'get below deck', Mark had followed the team up to the decks and watched through the scope of his sniper as Enclave soldiers descended on the island. Realizing that Project Purity was being taken over, he had began hauling ass back to the Memorial, trying desperately not to think of his wife.

There was no way inside. It amazed him how fast they had been able to secure the island, making it inaccessible save for the bridge. He couldn't even swim across anymore, not without being shot or electrocuted.

So he had retreated a ways and spent his time observing, hoping to catch a glimpse of Faith, the eggheads, or hell; he'd take Kane. Just something to know that they were alright, alive.

When he hadn't seen hide nor hair of anyone besides the damned Enclave, he knew that the civilians were either being held in one of the storerooms beneath ground or dead. He wasn't fool enough to think he could get twenty yards of that bridge without being blown to hell, even if he did want to attempt. Survival instincts kicked in and he began considering his options.

Option 1, forget all about Faith, her father and that damned Project Purity and just head on back to Megaton.

Option 2, forget going back to Megaton, Walter would eventually hear about what had happened and kill him.

Option 3, enlist the aid of some of his old… acquaintances and plan an assault on the Memorial.

He finally settled on Option 4, head across the channel to the Citadel and find out what the Brotherhood of Steel knew. Considering that they were right across the way and the Enclave was now their apparent new neighbor, he figured Owyn Lyons would be keeping an eye on things.

He had been right.

Sarah Lyons met him at the gate, smirking at him in a way that told Mark she knew why he was there and was relishing delivering the information. Beside her was a Brotherhood soldier he recognized as Paladin Bael, who looked grim compared to Sarah's countenance.

He folded his arms over his chest, refusing to play whatever game she had in mind for him.

"Here for the wife?" She asked by way of greeting, halting a few feet away from him, knowing better than to get within grabbing distance; he'd probably try strangling her. "I honestly didn't believe it when I heard. You married that kid? The little girl who got herself shot up in the tunnels? Is it true?"

"Where is she?"

Sarah's face clouded with irritation for the briefest of moments. "She's not here, she left four days ago, 'Taker." When she seen his hands going for one of his many weapons, she frowned. "Come inside and speak with my father. He can tell you more than I."


"Goddamn you, Lyons!"

Everyone in the room but Owyn visibly cringed when 'Taker roared that. Owyn merely arched an eyebrow, feeling secure surrounded by his men, by his daughter's own Lyon's Pride; an elite group of handpicked soldiers that were led by Sarah. Considering what he had just told the man who had more than earned the moniker of 'the Undertaker', he should have been trembling with fear. Owyn hadn't lived through seventy-five years of small-scale wars, near starvation, and horrors beyond words only to be cowed now.

"You let her go off on her own after all that shit happened? Have you lost your goddamn mind, old man?" 'Taker wasn't down with his shouting, rage seeping from his every pore. "Why didn't you keep her here?"

"It is not our place to hold people captive, you know this."

"She is not just 'people', she's my FUCKING WIFE!"


Little Lamplight was unlike anything Faith had ever seen before. She had been nearing the Lamplight caverns, going slowly just incase, when a kid had appeared from just behind a giant sheet of wood. It had taken her a moment to realize that there was a type of wall constructed from wood and metal, blocking her way. Her attention had been drawn quickly back to the child. It was a boy, and he had been aiming an assault rifle her way, his beady little eyes narrowed.

Faith soon found out the kid was 'Mayor' MacCready, a boy who was in charge of the town of Little Lamplight. After cajoling and promising she wasn't a typical 'Mungo' -which apparently mean grown-up-, he had allowed her in. After warning her to not cause any problems or else she'd be spitting 'fucking bullets'.

What was truly amazing was that this… colony, of children no less, had managed to survive and seemed to be thriving. She wondered however, how the kids had gotten here to begin with. Most of them didn't seem to mind her presence, only a handful calling her Mungo while the rest opted for 'lady'.

It looked like she had intruded on a birthday party, but before she could really see what was going on, a brisk little girl who had introduced herself as Lucy had whisked her off for a quick 'check-up'.

"I'm healthy, I promise." Faith said softly, unsure of how to talk to these children. She hadn't much experience with kids, there hadn't been many of them in the Vault and the ones she had run into in her travels were all wary of strangers, but they hadn't been threatening either.

Every child here was carrying a gun of some kind, and as humorous as the idea of a kid packing heat might be, the reality was anything but. It was actually fairly frightening.

Lucy looked up at the Mungo, narrowing her gaze. "You might think so but I won't have you bringing any of nasty, grown-up diseases here, understand?"

Faith nodded, biting back the humiliation of being forced into an exam by an eight year old. An armed eight year old, she reminded herself, trying to soothe her wounded pride. She submitted to having blood drawn as well as a cursory scan, frowning when Lucy's fingers trailed over her face's newest acquisition, the scar.

"How'd you get this, lady? It looks new."

"Some people tried to kill me."

"Mungos older than you?"

"I don't know. They hid their faces behind helmets."

"The soldiers? The soldiers in the black armor?" Lucy frowned. "They come around here from time to time, but they never bother us. Mostly they just poke around up near the old Vault entrance."

"The main entrance?"

"Yeah, on the surface, but they can't get in through the old front door. Too much radiation still. Do you know why they tried to kill you?"

"I don't really know, I have an idea but…" Faith shrugged, bending down so Lucy could run her tiny fingers over her Mungo head. "How did you become the…. Doctor?"

"Well, whenever anyone got hurt, I'd patch them up. I just kinda learn as I go, but we're doing alright. Our biggest problem is the radiation."

"Do you need Rad-A-Way, or Rad-X? I have some of both."

"No, we get by fine without it. We eat the fungus mushrooms, the ones that grow on the cave walls. They keep us from getting sick with Rads Poisoning for the most part but every now and then someone goes to close to the really bad areas and winds up with more radiation than the fungus can handle."

It was truly sad, Faith reflect as she let Lucy continue on with the exam, that these children were more capable of taking care of themselves and living in peace than most adults were.


"The entrance to Vault 87 is inaccessible, Mr. 'Taker."

Mark had been called a lot of things in his life but Mr. 'Taker was not one of them, not that he could remember at any rate. Owyn had introduced him to some old geezer in the same hideous robes everyone who wasn't a fighting member of the Brotherhood of Steel sported. The geezer had been the one to send Faith out on yet another deadly mission, this time to some goddamn Vault where a G.E.C.K. was supposedly at. "Why not?" He demanded in a growl, still considering wringing the man's neck.

"Radiation levels of around 3,000." Rothchild said point-blankly.

Nobody was quick enough to stop Mark when he lunged, wrapping both his strong; cruel hands around the scribe's throat and began squeezing with all his considerable strength. "YOU SENT HER TO DIE!"

Every gun was aimed at him, fingers twitching over the triggers, only Owyn's raised hand stopped anyone from firing. "'Taker, unhand him and left him explain further. Faith is not going anywhere near the main entrance to Vault 87."

Rothchild stumbled backwards when he released, furiously massaging his throat, his face a brilliant shade of red. He glanced at Owyn, as if to ask why the madman was still alive, furious when he didn't get an answer in any form.

"Then just where the hell DID you send her?"


Faith had two ways of getting into Vault 87. One through what MacCready had called Murder Pass, a series of underground tunnels that led to one of the Vault's backdoors. It was called Murder Pass because there were a lot of Super Mutants guarding the way, which had surprised her.

The second way was more direct. There was a broken terminal that would open a maintenance door, one that the children had pounded on centuries before in an effort to get into the Vault. She could have hacked the terminal, if it had been working, but it wasn't.

So she had been sent to see Joseph. Joseph was fifteen years old, and probably the smartest -book smarts, like she was- of all of the Little Lamplight children. She found him in what looked something like a schoolroom, finding him standing in front of a holodisk projector, fingering the old machine gently. "Joseph?"

"I know what you want, Lucy told me you were interested in the Vault. You know everyone in there is probably dead, right? Or maybe worse." Joseph said quietly, not looking at her.

"I still have to try."

"I'm not going to ask what you want in the Vault because I really don't care, and I can fix the terminal for you."

Faith was sensing a but.

"But I want a favor in return."

"What is it first?"

Joseph took a deep breath, obviously steeling himself. "I want you to take my sister out of here." He said quietly, glancing towards the partially closed, half broken door. "Penny is 12 years old, when she turns 16 they'll throw her out of here and send her to Big Town. I've been there, it's nothing but a settlement that is being picked off one by one by the Super Mutants. When you leave here, I want you to take her with you."

"How do you know I won't take her straight to the slavers? Or maybe kill her myself?" Faith asked, arching an eyebrow at him, realizing he was almost as tall as she was and only four years younger, pitying him. Maybe these children were better off, and safer than most adults were, but they were still all alone.

The look Joseph gave her was a look that was too old for his eyes. "Because you're not like the other adults we've seen and spoken too. You could probably kill most of us easily but you haven't. We get the radio down here you know, GNR and that other station, the Enclave one, but we mostly listen to GNR. You're the Lone Wanderer, aren't you? The girl from that other Vault?"

She smiled slightly. Even the kids were calling her a 'girl'. "Yes, but I'm not really a 'lone wanderer', whatever Three Dog says I've done, he's not telling the stories right. My…" Her throat closed for a moment. "I had a lot of help."

"Please, take her out of here."

"Joseph," Faith reached out to gently rest her hand on his shoulder. "I would if I could, but I don't know what is going to happen in that Vault. If I… If I come out alright, we can discuss it then. But right now, I can't promise anything. I couldn't even promise the best if I do take her, I would try to take her to one of the settlements but there are no guarantees."

"Anything is better than what will happen to her if you don't." He replied just as softly, his tone pleading. "Please, Faith?"


Chapter 34


Faith had a fairly good idea of what had happened in Vault 87. Thanks to finding audio logs and hacking into every computer she had come across, not to mention all the damn Super Mutants and Centaurs, she had been able to piece together the story.

It seemed that the Vault-Tec corporation had been more interested in conducting experiments on their Vault residents rather than simply housing them.

Somehow, she wasn't surprised.

From what she had found in her own former Overseer's terminal, Vault 101 was never meant to be opened; it's dying out inhabitants were never supposed to rejoin the above ground world. Vault 112 had been a type of social experiment with Braun's virtual reality simulator.

Apparently the people in charge had actually been using the dwellers of Vault 87 in some sort of genetic experiment using FEV.

Forced Evolutionary Virus, something she did not know that much about. She could remember James discussing it with Jonas, how James had gotten what information he did know was beyond her, but he had known some. From what she now understood, it was supposed to do exactly what it implied; force evolution.

But it was unstable, the results unpredictable, and as if that weren't enough, jackass scientists playing God had attempted to modify the virus. She had no idea how many strains there were, or if they all did something similar, she was still appalled.

Vault dwellers who were supposedly sick would wind up being used in these FEV experiments only the experiments hadn't played out according to wannabe God's wishes. Super Mutants were the results of the experiments. Asexual, sterile, low intelligence, as well as longevity, and superior physical strength, a new breed of Human.

Not to mention they were ugly as hell.

But they were also a dying breed, mercifully. They had to continuously bring humans here in order to make more of their kind. Faith had overheard two muties talking about the 'green stuff' and how they needed to find more of it. She was guessing that the FEV was green.


They sent her to a Vault that had off the chart radiation levels. Mark swore that one way or another, he would see Scribe Rothchild dead.

Perhaps Owyn.

Most definitely Sarah.

Faith had been directed towards the old Lamplight Caverns, now know better as the adult-free zone of Little Lamplight.

A place he couldn't get even remotely close too.

For good reason.

Ten years previously he had grabbed one of the kids and then sold the little brat to the slavers at Paradise Falls for a pretty decent price. The little bastards had never forgotten, and he knew some of the older ones would probably remember him.

The absolute worst part of the whole scene with the kids was that they would shoot him on sight. Some of them had damn good aim too.

Had Faith made it through? Did the kids let her pass? Even with their well-founded distrust of adults he couldn't imagine them taking a serious shot at her. For starters, she was only a few years older than the age they began shipping off to Big Town, roundabouts sixteen.

He had just decided to risk being shot at when the unmistakable sound of Vertibird helicopters reached him.


Of all the incredible things Faith had seen, this had to top the list. She had finally made it down to the bowels of Vault 87, and the laboratories. She had peered into every cell that lined the narrow hallway, quickly becoming familiar with the terminate button. Several Centaurs had met their ends in fire.

At the end of the first hall, she had heard something banging on the windows of one of the cells. Cautiously proceeding forward, she crept to the end of the hall and froze.

Across from her, trapped in one of the chambers was a Super Mutant. But what made her halt was the fact that while banging on the windows, he was also reciting Shakespeare.

Her experience with the mutants as well as what she had learned from Mark told her that this was impossible. The Super Mutants had little intelligence. They were so stupid, they could barely string together a sentence. What sentences they did manage usually consisted of words that had no more than four or five letters in them. It was a proven fact that as the Super Mutants aged, they only grew more stupid.

After a brief conversation that had left her reeling, she had wound up freeing him.

And now, she was sitting with him (it was just so much easier to call 'it' he), watching as he downed some Dandy Boy Apples she had procured from her pack.

"How did you get the name Fawkes?" She asked curiously, staring at him from her place on the floor, across from him. They had settled in that hall, her to recover from her shock and him to drown water and food; claiming he had been trapped for just about 'forever'.

"There used to be holodisks here, I learnt a great deal from them. My name comes from a man who fought tyranny in olden times-"

"Guy Fawkes."

Fawke's ugly face contorted in surprise. "You know this?"

"I was educated in a Vault too."

"No Vault like this."

"No, it was much better but we were still being used as an experiment."

Fawkes nodded, neither of them commenting on the obvious but unsaid statement. Her Vault experience had been nowhere near as horrifying as his.

"How long have you been here?"

He considered that, scratching his domed, bald head. "I don't remember when they brought me."

"How… how is it you're not…"

"Not as my mutant brethren?"

She nodded.

"I suspect the pain is what drives humans to insanity. It causes them to go mad and when they come too, not only are they physically changed by they have forgotten who they were as well as lost whatever intellect they may have possessed." Fawkes mused. "Instead of giving into the pain, I clung to my sanity. While I did not retain who I was, I did not become another mindless Super Mutant either."

Faith was silent, trying to wrap her mind around all that. Not to mention attempting to keep her stomach settled, not wanting to even imagine the vast pain it would take to cause a person to forget who they were.

"May I ask what you are doing here? Obviously not getting dunked in the green stuff."

"I'm looking for the G.E.C.K."

Fawkes perked up. "I know where it is."

That was the best news she had heard all day.

Fawkes led Faith throughout the remainder of Vault 87, showing no compunction about aiding her in killing off his mutant 'brethren'. On the way he informed her that for 'her kind' retrieving the GECK would be impossible but for him it would be easy.

The reason why she was unable to do it herself was quickly made clear.

Ungodly amounts of radiation.

She literally had to halt at a certain distance away because she could feel the change in the air, her stomach beginning to churn.

"You wait here." Fawkes instructed, a bit unnecessarily, gesturing at her with one of his plate sized hands. "I will get the GECK for you."

So wait she did. Faith was not particularly comfortable with standing in an open room, knowing that she could be attacked by Super Mutants and Centaurs at any given time. She really wasn't comfortable with the knowledge that Super Mutants were made somewhere nearby and she was the raw material.

Before she could convince herself that her face was not peeling off, Fawke's returned.


Reverently, she took the case he was holding out, feeling tears welling in her eyes. "Thank you, Fawkes."


Mark forgot about waiting and watching, instead opting for running towards the Enclave when he heard 'we got her', knowing damn well who they had caught. No other person attracted as much trouble as Faith did, he was beginning to think that the universe had it out for her. Simply because she was trying to make it better.


Faith had made it almost out of the Vault when she was surprised, damn near dropping the GECK. One minute she was trying to understand why there were soldiers surrounding her, the next she was laying on the Vault floor; stunned and fighting against the wracking pain; her screams of agony locked inside her lifeless body. She was rolled onto her back, fighting the blackness that was creeping into her vision.

"She did it."

Dimly, she heard that and struggled to place that voice. Then a pair of ice blue eyes met hers.

The last thing she thought before succumbing was: I know him.


Chapter 35


All Mark had been able to do was watch as once again, his wife was taken away from him. Cursing, he started up the rocky incline towards the Vertibirds. When his head cleared the top, he hesitated.

The blue-eyed asshole from Vault 112 was carrying Faith over his shoulder, a silver case in his left hand.

Mark was willing to bet everything he owned that the case held the GECK. She had actually done it, she had found the one thing needed to make Project Purity work.

Apparently the Enclave had been following her, or more to the point, the bald headed bastard had been. Now they had it all. Project Purity, the GECK, and the one person who could fit all the pieces together.

"We are fucked."


When Faith came too, all she could see was blue. As her vision cleared, she realized that everything was tinted blue, something else besides her was causing this. Frowning, she took a hesitant step forward, only to find there wasn't anywhere she could go, something was stopping her.

"It's a force field."

"Well if it isn't Steve -my apologies-, Colonel Austin." She sneered, watching as he stepped out where she could see him. Faith could literally feel hate welling up inside of her, all of it directed at him.

"You've been very helpful," he said slowly, taking his time in approaching her. After all; where could she go? "You found the GECK for me. I admit it, I had pretty much given up on the Enclave, at least until I met you."

She remembered their meeting all too well, he had pulled a dead Yao Guai off of her. He had introduced himself as an ex-solider, which couldn't have been further from the truth apparently.

"I resigned myself to being just another Wastelander, I was so damn frustrated." Austin confided, staring at her thoughtfully. "Then I met you, and I knew that I couldn't step down. As long as there are people like you to be found in this world, then the Enclave still has a purpose."

None of this was making any sense to her. Once more, Faith tried pushing past the force field, one hand going for a weapon she did not have. However, that action brought to her attention the fact that she was wearing nothing but her underclothes.

As if reading her mind, Austin smirked. "We don't have to be enemies, Faith. After all, we both want the same thing."

She kept quiet.

He mistook her silence for interest, stepping closer. "The Enclave could do much more good for the Capital Wasteland, and the United States, if we had more people like you."

"Like me?" She arched a skeptical eyebrow.

"Yes, like you. You're intelligent, resourceful, capable of taking care of yourself as well as others. Not to mention you were born in a Vault, so obviously you come from pure human stock."

Faith's eyes narrowed in contempt, not bothering to correct his assumption that she had been born in a Vault.

Austin let her consider his words, assuming he was making an impression. "Faith, we are trying to rebuild America, a pure America."

Her mouth was a thinly compressed, grim line. She was honestly afraid that if she tried to speak, she would say something she shouldn't, she was that pissed off. First this moron and his soldiers destroyed her parent's work, Dr. Li's work, not to mention MURDERED some of those people, but now he was trying to sweet talk her?

"What I need form you is the activation code for the purifier."

That explained so much, so quickly.

"Consider it an act of good faith, Faith."

The 'faith' jokes were really getting old.

"We have the GECK in place and everything is functioning, we just need the code in order to get it running." His voice had taken on a warm, coaxing tone.

She wasn't fooled for even a second.

"Give me the code and I'll let you out of there."

She kept waiting, knowing instinctively that he wasn't done with his offer.

"You can join us, Faith. We don't have to be enemies. We're working for the same thing after all. We both want to see Project Purity succeed."

"7-0-4." She said flatly.

Barely containing his excitement, Austin pulled a communicator from his belt. "7-0-4." He repeated.

Faith grinned viciously when a scream of surprise and pain, followed by a death gurgle came back through the com.

"You bitch!"

"Did you honestly think I was going to just hand my father's work over to the likes of you? You are dumber than I thought."

He moved so quickly, Faith hardly seen him. One moment she was trapped by the force field and the next everything was back to its normal color. The suddenness of it momentarily shocked her system. That shock was all Austin needed to waylay her, swinging his massive fist at her.

Pain exploded throughout Faith's head as the blow connected with her temple. Trying hard not to pass out, she clenched her eyes shut and gritted her teeth together.

"You will give me that goddamn code!"

She opened her eyes in time to dodge the second swing, darting out of harm's way. "The hell if I am!"

Austin went for another direct attack, only this time Faith was prepared. Before he could hit her a second time, she moved. Hunching forward, she lunged, attempting to drive her shoulder into his chest.

He began laughing, quickly looping an arm around her neck. "You got guts, girl."

Faith wasn't as amused. He was trying to kill as well as laugh her to death. She was no good in hand-to-hand combat, she was more of a ranged fighter. Which meant she needed a gun. Actually, she needed air. His arm was digging into her throat, cutting off her oxygen.

It seemed he could read her mind because Austin's hold loosened enough for her to take several gulping breaths. The reprieve was short lived though, because Austin had other intentions then letting her regain strength. Letting go of her throat, he instead grabbed her by the hair and hurled her head first towards the nearest wall.

The impact sent Faith hurtling to the brink of unconsciousness, the pain was threatening to overwhelm her, the pain from the blow to her face faded as the new raging agony sheared through her head. She lie motionless on the floor, struggling not to sink into the welcome darkness, knowing she would likely never wake from it. She felt like screaming her pain, tears streaming down her face.

"Colonel Austin."

A voice, a new one, broke through the pain.

Breathing heavily, Austin let out a growl that was equal parts annoyance and frustration. Cursing, he stomped away from Faith in order to press a button on the rooms intercom. "Yes, President Eden?" He forced a modicum of civility into his tone.

"I wish to see the prisoner, send her to me."

"What? Sir, I-"

"Now, Colonel Austin."

Sparing his prisoner one last baleful look, Austin vacated the room.

Faith lay there a moment longer, dimly aware that this was probably her one and only chance to get the hell out of there. Slowly, painfully, she managed to push herself off the floor and into a semi-kneeling position. How long she remained that way, she had no idea. It hurt too much to move. Specifically, it hurt her head. Each breath she took seemed to intensify the agony that was supposedly her skull.

After what seemed like hours, Faith finally was standing on her feet, eyes closed to ward off the dizziness. It felt like her skull had split open and her brains were going to fall out. Gingerly, she reached up to feel with her fingertips, not to surprised at the wetness she found.

Yep, Austin had cracked her skull.


"She found the GECK." Elder Lyons murmured, repeating the words the Undertaker had just said.

"Bullshit." Sarah snorted, arching an eyebrow when 'Taker turned towards her. "Bull-fucking-shit. You cannot honestly expect us to believe that she somehow waltzed into a heavily radiated Vault and then found some piece of shit technology nobody here has ever seen before."

"I don't give two shits what you believe, you harpy bitch." 'Taker spat, literally spat, at her. He smirked as she wiped specks of spit off her face. "The Enclave must have been monitoring her because they went in after her."

Owyn drew in a sharp breath. "So now the Enclave has Faith and the GECK?"

A nod was his answer.

"Hellfire and brimstone." Owyn cursed, throwing his daughter a dark look that silenced anything else she might have contemplated saying. He began walking down the corridor. "I can see now that this will only end in battle."

"So what's the plan?" 'Taker demanded, easily falling into step beside the older man.

"Liberty Prime."


Chapter 36


Faith had found a foot locker in the room that contained her things. Mercifully, her Stimpaks hadn't been taken from her satchel either. After doctoring herself up, she felt marginally better. She knew that it was only a temporary fix though, she needed to get the hell out of here and find a doctor to patch her ass up.

Grunting, Faith finished lacing up her boots before pushing herself to her feet. After making sure she had her guns loaded and ready to use, she squared her shoulders. She was leaving and if she met Steve Austin on the way, good.

At first she thought that she was going to be killed on sight when she encountered the first soldier. Somehow, she had bluffed her way into postponing getting shot while said soldier conferred with another intercom that was linked to Eden.

After that, Eden issued a command via the P.A. system, basically saying she was off limits and on her way to his office.

She had just found her way to Level 2 of the building when another announcement was made. One that made her visibly cringe.,

"This is Colonel Austin. We have a trespasser in our midst and I want her shot. Repeat, SHOT."

"Liberty Prime still isn't functional, Elder Lyons."

"I am aware of that, Scribe. However, I want men working on him around the clock. You have one week to get the robot up and running."

"But, Sir, I-"

"One week."

Mark -who had taken to walking with Owyn- for once was impressed by the old man. "One week?"

"We've been waiting for word concerning Faith." Owyn explained, something he was not used to doing for an outsider. "Our Brothers in the Wasteland are searching for her, I am giving them a week to send news."

"And if they have none to send?"

"Then we continue on with Liberty Prime."

I've been expecting you."

Faith recognized that voice. She had heard it on the Enclave broadcast, and during the interruption of her beat down. It was the voice of Present Eden. Frowning, she tilted her head back to look up. Nothing but a metal structure that housed some type of massive computer. It was like a tower of sorts, steel steps curving around it.

"Up here, my dear."

Cautiously, she started up the stairs, withdrawing a knife. In such tight quarters, a long barreled gun wasn't likely to be of any use to her. Once at the top of the tower, she paused. There was nobody else up here. "Well what the-"

"Turn around, please."

She did.

"Right here."

It took her a moment to realize that what she was staring at was a very large computer monitor. "Are you fucking serious?"

"About what?"

"Oh hell no, this is some kind of fucking joke. The wanna-be President of what used to be the United States is some fucking form of artificial intelligence?" Faith threw her hands up into the air and shook her head, feeling a strange mixture of hysteria and despair washing through her.

She wasn't in the mood to play games. She had had to battle her way here after Austin had announced that he wanted her found and shot. She had no idea how many people she had killed, or how many of those who had been unarmed.

There would -hopefully- be plenty of time later to suffer a guilt trip.

Point was, she wasn't up to being jerked around. Especially by a computer of all things.

"I assure you, this is no joke." The monitor said flatly. "I AM President John Henry-"

"Eden." She interrupted, weariness beginning to sink into her. The Stimpaks hadn't been able to take care of all the injuries inflicted on her by Austin and then fighting her way here. She hadn't done her body any favors and she was fairly certain that there was a gash bleeding copiously on her right side. "So what do you want with me?"

"I want you to help me help you."

She scowled.

"You and I are not so unalike you know."

"Tiy sure about that?" She sneered, pressing a hand against her side in an attempt to stop the bleeding. "Because I know I sure as hell didn't have a childhood in rural Kentucky with a dog and green pastures."

Even the computer could hardly fail to notice the scathing quality in her tone. "Well, my dear-"

She really wasn't in the GODDAMN MOOD. This was just… asinine. The supposed leader of the country was a COMPUTER? She could not, would not, accept that.

Apparently there was a camera or a video feed because Eden beeped nervously when the barrel of her gun swung at him. "Now, do not be hasty. Shooting me will do nothing. I will just reboot myself on a different system."

"It'll make me feel a lot better." She spat through gritted teeth.

"At least hear what I have to propose."

Groaning, she lowered the barrel slowly. "Fine."

She could always shoot him after.

Mark had taken up joining the patrol at the Citadel gates. He figured if word of Faith was coming, it would come through those doors. He raised his sniper in order to peer through the scope, feeling his heart do an erratic leap. "That's Kane." He grunted, signaling for weapons to be lowered. After passing aside his gun to the nearest Paladin, Mark began walking out to meet the Ghoul he had contracted for Faith.

He had been under the impression Kane had died during the raid on the Jefferson Memorial. He was surprised to find that he was glad it wasn't true.

As the two drew nearer to each other, the thing in Kane's arms Mark had at first took to be a satchel or something became clearer. His pace picked up as realization that it was Faith Kane carrying sunk through. He wanted nothing more than to snatch her away from the Ghoul but refrained when he seen she was asleep, or at least he was hoping she was asleep. "Is she…?"

"Unconscious." Kane rasped, looking a little more decrepit than the last time Mark had saw him. "I keep knocking her out so she won't try to move."

Mark grimaced, reaching out to gently push strands of black hair away from her face, frowning when he seen the scar that marred her cheek. "How'd this happened?"

Kane didn't answer, just pushed past the other man.

"Well, you had two broken ribs and a lot of bullet wounds, how the hell are you still alive?"

Of all the people Faith was expecting to wake up and see, Knight Finley was not one of them. Not that she was bitching, last she remembered, he was a very good doctor. Opposed to Sawbones, the Citadel's very own medical robot, who also happened to have a serious malfunction that caused him to kill more patients than actually save them. She gingerly began to sit up, nodding gratefully when he eased an arm beneath her to help. "Thanks."

"Do you remember how you got here?" Finley asked, shining a penlight in each of her pupils.

"I remember…" Faith bit her lower lip thinking. She remembered listening to Eden's 'proposal' and then accepting it just so she could get the hell out of there. He had ordered his robots to help her in her escape, which was a good thing else wise Austin's soldiers would have gunned her down quickly. It had been the sounds of explosions that had alerted her to the fact that something had been seriously wrong.

"Unlike Colonel Austin, I do not believe the Capital Wasteland needs to be entirely destroyed in order to save it." Eden said, aware that his audience had an itchy trigger finger. "I do believe it needs to be purged of mutation in order for humanity to start over. The good Colonel would prefer to scour all living creatures."

Faith had known Austin was a bastard, now he had just made Eden the lesser of two evils.

"The good people of this country cannot regain control while mutation runs rampant through our land. My soldiers cannot stem the tide, nor can the cult you've come into contact with, this Brotherhood of Steel. Mutations like the "Super Mutants" and ghouls must be purged from our society, our world, before we can proceed anew. Where other's have failed, I believe your father's work can succeed."

"I don't understand how the purifier comes into play."

"The purifier your father helped create has the ability to provide clean water to the whole of this Capital Wasteland. With a simple modification, it can be used to distribute agents that destroyed mutated creatures upon ingestion. In time, we could eliminate all mutations in the Wasteland at the same time the good people of the world regain their health. I need you to make the modification necessary for this to succeed."


"In front of you will be a vial of modified FEV virus. It can be inserted into the control console for the purifier. Doing so will inject it into the water supply, and the purifier will take care of the rest. You just need the code to activate the purifier."

She knew there was a reason Eden wanted her. She was the only person alive with that knowledge.

"You do understand that I cannot allow you to leave here without taking that vial."

"Won't this basically kill everyone in the Wasteland?" She asked evenly.

"Anyone or anything that has been affected by mutation will be eliminated. You will likely be immune, thanks to your upbringing in the Vault."

But Mark would die. So would Dr. Li and Elder Lyons. The kids in Lamplighter Caverns, not to mention Walter….

"Likewise, the good people of the Enclave will be unaffected as well."

How unsurprising.

As if the computer could sense her feelings, it added: "I understand that you may have become sympathetic to certain individuals in your travels. Individuals this will eliminate. Please recognize that the fate of our entire country rests on this plan. Sacrifices must be made for the greater good."

"Sacrifices that YOU deem necessary for the greater good. How do you know that this genocide will do any good at all?"

"Because I am programmed to be infallible."

"So you know because you know? That is circular logic, at best." Faith said scornfully. "That would be like a HUMAN saying the they know because they know. Circular logic is fallible, all you are doing is supporting your argument based on your argument, you haven't presented any facts Eden!"

And then an amazing thing happened…


Chapter 37


Mark could only watch as Faith limped towards him, his eyes straying down to her legs and noted the pair of cut off Brahmin skin pants she wore. Around her left calf was a bandage. He met her midway, unsure of what to do, something he still wasn't used to feeling. "Finley says you're healing nicely." He finally offered lamely.

She nodded, shifting her weight gingerly. "Yeah. I took a couple Stimpaks back at Raven Rock and then when Kane found me, he took real good care of me."

"How did he find you?"

"No idea. I had just gotten outside and I seen him there, shooting at the Vertibirds."


Faith watched curiously as SYSTEM ERROR flashed across Eden's screen, arching an eyebrow. It took several minutes for the error messages to stop running across the monitor but when they did, Eden's voice sounded small, if that were possible for a computer.

"Perhaps I have been mistaken, I seem to-" He faltered and then SELF-DESTRUCT SEQUENCE INITIATED began blinking. "I will aid you to the best of my abilities. Run."

Faith had FLOWN. Robots were everywhere, shooting at the Enclave soldiers who seemed to be crawling out of the woodwork to kill her. She fired haphazardly, to busy making for one of the exits she had seen on a wall legend when she had been trying to find Eden.

She turned down what had been a hangar, noting how it was empty and almost smiled when she seen the patch of sky. Ignoring the pain in her ribs, Faith hauled ass towards the still open doors, hearing the sounds of explosions behind her and knew Eden's self-destruct had gone off. 

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!" She screamed as she kept running and leapt right out into the air, her eyes clenching shut as harsh, rocky ground rose up to meet her. The impact was brutal and drove the air from her body, leaving her lying there feeling like her bones had been shattered and then liquefied on top of not being able to breathe.

The overall feeling of impending doom was not helped when she literally felt the ground shaking beneath her, followed by large boulders and debris flying overhead as the explosions shook Raven Rock to its very core. The sounds of Vertibirds taking off were just a background noise, though she could also make out gunfire.

"Can you get up?"

It took her a moment to realize that she was being spoken too, finally able to draw in a breath; and it hurt just to inhale. "Kane?"

The Ghoul glanced down at her, frowning for a moment before nodding. 


"And he brought me back here." Faith concluded, finishing telling the tale with a shrug. "We had to stop a lot because I was in pretty bad shape but… Kane took care of me. He also hitched us a ride with a caravan, so we were mostly safe too."

Mark realized just how much he owed the Ghoul, and was also mentally congratulating himself on giving Kane to Faith. He had taken the contract because Faith seemed to get herself in all kinds of trouble, he had been more right than he expected. "So what's the damage report now?" He asked, gesturing to her with one broad sweep.

"Well, Finley managed to mostly fix me up. My ribs are cracked but he's got a plaster on them, says I should be healed up there fully by tomorrow as long as I don't go leaping off anything over three feet. My leg… in a day or two."

"What happened to your leg?"


He just hugged her close.


Faith had just recounted her Raven Rock escapade for the second time, to Scribe Rothchilde, Elder Lyons, Sarah Lyons, and her Lyon's Pride and was now waiting for one of them to speak. She wasn't telling the story again. Of course, she hadn't told the entire thing, she wasn't about to mention her ass whooping to any of them, especially Mark. She was just going to bide her time until she and Austin met again, and they would, then she'd kill him.

"Do you still have the vial of FEV?" Owyn asked after a moment, ignoring Mark's growl.

"Goddamn Owyn, after everythin' she went through to get here, that's all you can say?" He snarled, tempted to reach across the table and strangle the old man.

Owyn waved a lazy hand at Mark, obviously dismissing his implied threats of violence. "I do not mean to belittle what I am sure was a tragic experience, but at the same time, there are matters of the utmost importance we must speak about."

"He's right." Faith sighed, accepting the lit cigarette Mark passed her and inhaled deeply. He was very bad for her. "What's the report on the Memorial?"

"Enclave have completely taken over. They've put up a barrier around the island, we can't even swim across." Sarah said automatically, her forehead crinkling into a frown. "We have patrols keeping an eye on the place but that's about all we can do at the moment."

Faith pulled out a vial from the inside of her shirt, rolling it to Owyn.

Carefully, he picked it up and passed it to Rothchilde. "It will properly disposed of after we have examined it." He promised.

"I'd be really careful with it if I were you." She cautioned. "When I was in Vault 87, I found logs about experiments with FEV and genetic mutations. I think that's how the Super Mutants were made."

Rothchilde arched both eyebrows. "Really? What else did you find?"

"Vault 87 is their breeding ground. The Mutants are asexual."

Mark really hated it when she went all 'egg head' on him, he had absolutely no idea what she was saying. "Could you-"

"Dumb it down?" Sarah suggested with a cold smirk.

Trying not to smirk either, Faith cleared her throat. "Anyways, the Mutants are neither male nor female." She glanced at Mark, not surprised to see both irritation and comprehension on Mark's face. He loved reminding her how worldly he was but he sure hated any reminders of how ignorant he was in terms of science and books. "So they can't reproduce the way we do. They have to find human victims and take them back to the vault. There they dunk them in FEV, or 'green stuff' as they call it. Some of the victims turn into Super Mutants, others turn into Centaurs, and others just don't make it at all."

This new information registered nothing but silence, each face contemplative.

"Now that we know where they are coming from, we'll have to deal with them." Owyn said finally. "After we handle the situation at the Memorial."

That was what Faith wanted to talk about, the Jefferson Memorial. "Whats the game plan?" She demanded, leaning forward on the table.

"Remember Liberty Prime?"

"The big hunk of scrap metal?"

Sarah snickered, ignoring the looks she received from both Rothchilde and her father.

"That big hunk of scrap metal," Rothchilde said with as much dignity as he could muster. "is how we're going to get past the Enclave's defenses."


"You have no idea how good this feels…"

Chuckling softly, Mark lowered his hand back into the tub, allowing the sponge he held to soak up more of the warm water. He gently scrubbed her back, trailing a finger down a fading wound and then over to the new scar on her side. "Who did this to you?" He murmured, his blood boiling though he managed to keep the anger from his tone.

"I couldn't name a specific face, there were soldiers everywhere." She spoke just as softly, still refusing to name her personal assailant. She could only imagine Mark's wrath if he knew that Austin had literally beat the shit out of her. "It was hell getting out of there."

"Luckily Kane found you."

"Yeah. I'm going to tear up his contract."


She leaned back into his arms, her knees pressing against his, surprised that their was a tub large enough to accommodate them both. "I would feel really bad if he died on my watch. When the Memorial was taken over, I thought he had died… I don't want him to die because he's obligated to me."

The practical side of Mark told him to smack her for being retarded. She needed all the help she could get, THEY needed all the help they could get. Then there was a very tiny part of him that knew this was Faith's decision and she could probably make him very miserable if he contested her. Having a wife had some serious setbacks to it.

He moved to washing her front, knowing she had to be the one and only person who had ever relaxed so completely with him, she was so trusting. Even Nova had usually kept him at a distance, afraid of what he could do to her. Of course, he had had to win Faith's trust, she hadn't just given it to him. He supposed, after saving her ass so many times, she eventually got the message that he wasn't out to kill or maim her. Too bad he hadn't been able to save her this last time.

"I've been meaning to ask how you got this." He murmured, drawing a soapy finger across the scar on her face.

She reached up to feel it, frowning slightly. "At the Memorial, I dodged a laser blast. It clipped me."

There was another source of shame. He should have been there, maybe he would have been able to… well, not prevent what had happened, but done something. "I'm sorry about James, Faith." He said finally, letting the sponge glide into the water in order to wrap his arms around her, resting his chin on top of her head. "He was a good man."

"He was." She whispered, closing her eyes.


The following morning was game day, and everyone in the Citadel was either eager or on edgy. Faith and Mark had emerged from their room and been out long enough to feel the tense atmosphere.

"Faith, come with me. 'Taker, breakfast is being served down the hall." Sarah said as she strode by, not glancing back to see if Faith was following.

Shrugging, Faith went after the other woman. She remembered Sarah from the GNR radio station, she also remembered Sarah and Mark's involvement. At the time however, she hadn't had any claim on Mark so she couldn't hold that against either of them. Quite frankly, she didn't have the energy too. She trailed Sarah down the many halls, finally halting when Sarah stopped, arching an eyebrow at the armor lining the walls.

"I wanted you to know that… that I am proud to fight with you today." Sarah said after a moment. She could not believe she was saying this to the Kid of all people, the first time they had met Faith had been unconscious and didn't look like much. She still didn't look like much, just a scarred up young woman, but Sarah also knew Faith had been places and done things nobody else in the Enclave had, herself included. "I would also like to induct you into the Lyon's Pride as an honorary member."

Faith simply nodded, unsure of what to say.

"Also, I want you to pick one of these suits." Sarah gestured to the armor. "We have Power Armor and Recon Armor."

"I'm not trained for Powe Armor, I'll take the Recon." Faith said instantly. She had seen some of the other Pride members wearing it, Gallows had explained -in his short, tense way- that it was best for long range and sneaky fighting, or for those without strength to use the Power Armor. Not to mention her own armor was long dead by this point.

Smiling, Sarah helped Faith into her new armor, glancing up towards the ceiling when the sound of dozens of footsteps passed overheard. "You nervous?"

"A little."

"We'll make it through alright. We got the robot piece of shit, remember?"

Not very reassuring.


Chapter 38


"You're not wearing armor."

Mark looked up from his spot at the lockers, busy tying off his wrists with some borrowed tape from Gallows. "Darlin', they have yet to make a proper armor that fits me." He chuckled, shrugging his arms into the old and worn, but still usable brown leather duster one of the soldiers had procured for him. He turned to her directly, letting her see he wasn't completely without protection. He was also wearing leather pants that had been treated in order to make it more durable. If he was shot in the thigh, he was fucked. From the knees on down, his boots protected him somewhat.

"Nice plate." She finally said, managing a grin and tapped the bullet proof vest she glimpsed beneath the duster.

"Well, it won't stop a missile or anythin' but…" He shrugged it off, studying her and nodded, glad they had equipped her properly. The Recon armor was technically supposed to go beneath the Brotherhood's power armor but had been adapted somewhat to be worn on its own. Basically it was a padded, full body jumpsuit that was integrated with the interface for the power armor's servo and heat dissipation system. Which meant she wasn't going to have to worry about burning to death, quickly. It would disperse and THEN burn her. It also offered some protection from minor weapons and bullets. And to top off the vision, there was also a hood that went along with it, though she had opted for not pulling it on.

"How soon do we leave?"

"No idea, Rothchilde is still trying to persaude Lyons to not use the robot."

Frowning, she began smoothing back her now shoulder length hair, knowing it needed cutting again but there was no time. Hell, she thought, I might not live long enough to even WORRY about a haircut. She tried not to find that morbidly amusing, but it was. "Well, they ain't doing nothing without the code, not even with the G.E.C.K."

"Speakin' of, where is it?"

She frowned.

"Faith?" Mark did not like the sinking feeling in his stomach. She had gone out and risked her life for the damn thing and the look on her face was telling him she didn't have it.

"Well… I found it…" She offered.


"The… Enclave took it from me when I was caught." She admitted, unwilling to say Austin had taken it personally. "They're probably installing it right now."

"We need to talk to Lyons."


"We have to go at once!" Owyn practically bellowed, it was fairly impressive, when he found out Faith did not have the G.E.C.K. "Why did you not tell us this last night?" He demanded angrily.

"Because with everything else going on, it slipped my mind." She replied coolly. "Look, it's not going to do them any good, they don't have the code to get the Purifier going."

"They can crack it." Owyn waved her off, still scowling.

"No, they can't." Faith allowed herself a smile as she remembered giving Austin a false code. His man in the Memorial had wound up dead from trying to use a fake code; and Austin had beaten her damn near senseless for it. She filled everyone else in on that little fact.

"Well, that's one thing in our favor." Sarah said, feeling a bit more hopeful now that she knew the G.E.C.K. was fairly useless to the Enclave, for the moment.

"It's decided then." Owyn's shoulders slumped as he turned to his only child, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Sarah, you will take the Pride and use Liberty Prime as support. Faith and the Undertaker will accompany you."

"What about the rest of you?" Mark demanded, not too keen on being sent out on a suicide mission. The Pride consisted of seven damn people, plus a robot that may or may not work, him and his wife.

"We cannot risk losing the entire Brotherhood. It is sad that we can send so little men, but it is the way it must be." Leadership was about taking responsibility for the decisions nobody else wanted to make. It was a heavy burden but one Owyn shouldered. "I do not just risk you and your wife, but my own daughter as well."

Before anything could get anymore sentimental, Sarah stepped into the circle, taking over. "Alright people, we move out within the hour, get your shit and let's go."



"You don't lie very well, you know that?"

Faith had finished the ammunition check, making sure all her guns were ready to go as well as spare ammo in the satchel she would carry over her back. Stimpaks as well, lots of Stimpaks. "Listen, if I don't make it to the Purifier, the code is-"

"You WILL make it because I'm not going to let anything happen to you." Mark interrupted, crouching down so he was staring into her face. "So quit with that right now, understand me?"

"Please Mark, just incase?"


"But if something happens and nobody else knows the code-"

"Then you best make sure nothing happens, got it?"

Kane was in the Citadel courtyard, watching as Brotherhood of Steel Initiates practiced training in their power armor. He was aware when Faith walked up behind him but didn't acknowledge her. Then he heard ripping and turned around, his eyes widening. "What are you doing?"

"Tearing up your contract." She said simply, finishing shredding the papers. "I won't have your death on my hands, Kane. I release you from your obligations to me."

He watched as the pieces of paper drifted towards the ground, floating away from them before settling on one of the many worn pathways. "Why'd you do that?"

"I just told you."

"You don't want my help anymore?"

"It's not that I don't, I just don't want to feel guilty if something happens to you."

He actually managed a smile, which looked very wrong on his rotting face. "Nice to know you care." Kane had no idea what to do next, he was so used to the idea of always having an employer and following orders… the idea of freedom was… strange.

They were both distracted by a shadow, a large shadow, passing over them. Automatically, they turned to watch as Liberty Prime passed overheard, being hoisted by a crane.

"That thing is huge."

He nodded his agreement.

"I just hope it fuckin' works." Faith glanced up at him. "Wish me luck?"

"I'm coming with you, you won't need luck."

"Cocky bastard." Mark grunted, joining them. "Time to move out."

"Pride, let's go!"

All three stepped aside in order to avoid being crushed as Sarah and her elites hustled past, heading for the Citadel gates. Prime was already being lowered down outside of the Citadel.

Kane shook his head and began following, Mark and Faith trailing behind him.

"You okay?" Mark asked, knowing that even if she wasn't, it was officially game time and there was no turning back. Not for her, not for him. This was something that had to be done and he knew Faith would want to see it through.

"Actually, I think I might puke."


Chapter 39


It's late at night and I can't sleep
Missing you just run too deep
Oh I can't breathe, thinking of your smile

The gunfire had already started when Faith and Mark burst out the Citadel's gates. Liberty Prime was stomping towards the bridge that would take them across the channel of water that separated the Citadel from the rest of the land, and Vertibirds were swooping on him.

"Fuck!" Mark cursed, grabbing her by the hand and began running, both of them keeping low as they headed towards the underpass where it looked like the Lyon's Pride was grouping.

It was so loud Faith was betting she'd be deaf after all was said and done. Shouting, gunfire, the engines of the Vertibird, and not to mention Liberty Prime's own unique noises… She was surprised she could even hear herself think.

What startled them both was when Liberty Prime began returning the fire at the Vertibirds, lasers literally shooting from the giant robot's eyes in rapid succession. One shot landed a critical hit and the Vertibird came careening towards them.

Mark and Faith both dived out of the way.


Sarah watched as Faith hauled ass as fast as she could, wondering where the hell the mercenary was. "What happened to 'Taker?" She demanded when the kid finally made it into the shelter of the underpass, offering a canteen of water.

Faith began gulping it, gesturing with one hand over her shoulder. "He's scavenging that Vertibird."

"Why am I not surprised?" Sarah shook her head. "Kane's already up there trying to punch through the barrier they have set up, I think we're going to need Prime for that though."

"What barrier?" Faith demanded, looking towards the bridge. She easily picked out the Ghoul, he towered over everyone else. But she could see the barrier, it was some kind electrical field, another one.

"Photonic resonance barriers, we can't get past them."

"Those things are a bitch."

The women turned to find Mark had joined them, carrying a new laser rifle. His face was black from dust and smoke; and the grin on his face didn't help the look. All three took a backwords step as the robot stomped past them, its metallic voice booming something about Chinese communists as it began firing at the barriers.

"We're through."

"Communists?" Mark grunted, adjusting the settings on his rifle.

"If we survive this, I'll give you the history lesson."


Every kiss I can't forget
This aching heart ain't broken yet
Oh God I wish, I could make you see
'Cause I know this flame isn't dying
So nothing can stop me from trying

Nothing Faith had been through could have prepared her for this. Trying to get across the bridge was outright suicide. Not only were those photonic resonance barriers set up all over the damn place but the Enclave was not pulling any punches.

They had lined the bridge with vehicles, and all of them were deadly if they were hit by gunfire, they'd explode. If the explosion didn't kill a person, the flying debris sure as hell would.

It was mayhem. The whistling of mini-nukes was nerve-wracking, and the thought of getting blown to literal smithereens did not appeal to her at all. Somewhere amid the gunfire, the shaking of the bridge from the destruction occurring on it, and all the smoke; Faith had lost both Mark and Kane.

It was daytime, but she still was having a hard time seeing very far. It seemed everywhere she glanced there was nothing but fire. And death, lots of death.

Liberty Prime was taking care of most of the photonic resonance barriers and anything else that came into its target, but the Brotherhood was still outnumbered. She could almost picture Austin sitting somewhere, watching the mayhem, and grinning at the destruction.

"That's her!"

She glanced off to the right and found two Enclave soldiers running towards her, fairly certain this wasn't a social visit. Automatically, she opened fire while moving backwards, trying to find some sort of cover besides one of the exploding cars.

"Faith, move!"

She heard Mark bellowing at her but couldn't see him, and she sure as hell wasn't taking the time to look, too busy avoiding getting her head shot off. The recon armor Sarah had given her was helping with the heat issues, but it wasn't doing so much for the general flying shrapnel, she already had something lodged in her shoulder blade.

The whistling sound made her head turn again, and that was followed by a light that nearly blinded her, and an explosion that sent her flying backwards.


"Move, move!"

"No, Faith was-"

"No time, 'Taker, get the fuck going!" Sarah barked, nudging him forward. "Kane's gone back after her, we got to press on!" She didn't bother adding the 'if there's anything left' line, knowing damn well he'd probably shoot her on the spot for it. She had seen the blast, seen Faith in the air but that was it, she had had to look away from the brightness, as well as return her attention to the mini-war going on.

Baby you know that
Maybe it's time for miracles
'Cause I ain't giving up on love
You know that
Maybe it's time for miracles
'Cause I ain't giving up on love
No I ain't giving up on us

Mark tried to turn around but it was almost impossible to do anything but keep firing and try not to get blown to pieces himself. He felt the bridge tremble for the umpteenth time and wondered how much longer it could hold out.

"'Taker, lets go!" Sarah shouted from several yards ahead of him. She actually stopped in order to gape -behind her visor- when he ignored her and began plowing his way back towards the last place they had seen Faith. "Fucking… idiot!" She screeched.


"If I had a cap for every time someone's tried to blow me up this week…" Faith groaned as she rolled over onto all fours. She must have blacked out because she had no memory of anything after hearing that whistling noise that signaled a missile being launched. She had wiggled all her limbs to make sure they were still attached upon reviving, trying to ignore what was becoming a familiar feeling of the back of her head being split open.

Once in a kneeling position, she slowly eased herself up until she was sitting on her knees; and gingerly felt the back of her head with probing fingers. The pain that radiated from the tentative touch was enough to almost cause her to black out.

Frowning, she brought her hand back to her face and tried to see it through the smoke and pain that blurred her vision. The wound seemed to be mostly superficial as she was somewhat certain she had felt caked blood opposed to seeping, and her fingers were a bit smeared but not covered in it. That did not ease the pain any less.


I just wanna be with you
'Cause living is so hard to do
When all I know is trapped inside your eyes


Mark's heart was doing odd rotations in his chest. Jerky, convulsing rotations. There was no way in hell that Faith had managed to survive that. He had watched her go flying through the air. If by any chance that the missiles hadn't gotten her, an enemy surely had. The woman had the most fucked up luck of anyone he had ever known.

Sure, if she said she was going to do something, she would get it done. However, along the way she would get her ass stomped to the point of impending death.

He came to a halt on the cracked pavement, staring through the smoke that was dissipating almost too slowly, as if to purposely thwart him; and began to grin.

The future I cannot forget
This aching heart ain't broken yet
Oh God I wish, I could make you see
'Cause I know this flame isn't dying
So nothing can stop me from trying

Faith didn't give Mark a chance to acknowledge her presence, she just threw herself at him. Even in his surprise, he managed to catch her, his arms going about her lower back while her legs gripped his waist and her hands clutched his shoulders.

The world was going to hell around them, people on both sides of the lines were dying, and they were at high risk for being shot but neither of them cared. All that really mattered at this moment in time was the fact that they were together.

Sending what had to be his hundredth prayer heavenward, Mark pressed his forehead against hers and closed his eyes, letting a sigh escape him. "You've got to quit doin' that, Kid."

"Doing what?" She murmured.

"Makin' me feel like I've lost a part of myself."

Baby you know that
Maybe it's time for miracles
'Cause I ain't giving up on love
You know that
Maybe it's time for miracles
'Cause I ain't giving up on love
No I ain't giving up on us


"Almost there, c'mon Pride!" Sarah bellowed, the Memorial within sight. She had discarded her helmet and was now wiping sweat from her face, sheltering behind the remains of a concrete wall. They had battled this far and she hadn't seen Mark come back, figuring he had gotten his idiot head blown off for stupidly trying to go back for that Vault girl.

Poking her head around the wall, she watched with wide eyes as Liberty Prime approached the last barrier that blocked their path. They were almost there, if they couldn't regain control of the Purifier, then they would destroy it. One way or the other, the Enclave was not going to win this battle.

When the barrier went down, so did Prime. She chewed her lower lip nervously, watching anxiously as the robot just kneeled there before slowly pushing itself up. It would not do to lose such a piece of technology, she could already hear her father berating her for it.

"Alright, let's finish this!" She shouted, grinning viciously as the rest of her Pride whooped. They were all tired and injured to some extent or another but they could all sense impending victory.

"Hey, Lyons, look!"

Her normally silent soldier, Gallows, was pointing. Following his finger, Sarah's jaw almost dropped.

'Taker and Faith were running full speed towards them.

"Well I'll be damned, they made it."


Baby can you feel it coming
You know I can hear it, hear every soul
Baby, when you feel me feeling you
You know it's time

The last place ever wanted to return to was the Jefferson Memorial. She did not want to lay eyes on the building that for awhile, had felt like a home, and had been a source of happy memories of life with her father; outside the Vault.

But there wasn't a choice anymore. That bastard Austin had taken her father from her, she'd be damned if he took away her father's legacy.

"To your right!" Mark shouted.

Whirling, she opened fire on the Enclave soldiers that were hunkering behind sandbags, nodding when Mark crouched down and began creeping towards them. She kept them distracted while her mercenary husband pulled a hand grenade from the pouch at his waist.

"Go on, I've got this!"

She took off for the control room.


Baby you know that maybe it's time for miracles
'Cause I ain't giving up on love
You know that maybe it's time for miracles
'Cause I ain't giving up on love

Faith skidded to a halt when she reached the control room. It was empty save for Austin, and upon seeing him, she felt a curious mixture of hatred and fear welling up inside of her. He was staring at her, those damn ice blue eyes of him putting a hole right through her face. His eyes were going to haunt her dreams, she knew it.

"Why…" He began, stepping around the tank and dropped to the grating heavily, every motion sure. "Am I not surprised to see you here? Alive, no less."

She shrugged. "I'm annoying that way."

"I'm not really surprised, you know." He continued conversationally, as if he hadn't tried beating her to death only a week or so before. Confidence exuded from him, no doubt bolstered by the knowledge that he had already beaten her one on one once before, and the rifle he was gripping probably helped. "You and those… people like you seem hellbent on destroying everything our government has worked for."

"Your government, not mine."

Austin shook his bald head, sighing exasperatedly. "Faith, there's no Eden to stop me from killin' you this time." He took another step forward. "You could still change your mind, you know. You don't have to be the hero. Hell, you're not even that, you're just some damn little girl playin'a t being a grown-up."

Faith didn't even consider it. She didn't consider saying anything or her actions, she just raised her gun and fired.

Austin's blue eyes tried looking up, crossing as they struggled to focus on the bullet that had pierced his skull. He then looked back to her, dropping to his knees.

"I don't want to be a hero," She took aim carefully. "I just want you to die."

The next shot pierced his heart.


"It's Doctor Li. Something's wrong with the purifier."

Mark groaned in pain as he trudged into the control room, his right hand pressed over his left shoulder, keeping pressure on a gunshot wound. After spotting Faith at the intercom, and Colonel Austin's body on the floor, he slumped back against the rotunda wall. He could hear Sarah's Pride busy cleaning up whatever was left of the Enclave outside the room and figured they'd get on just fine without him.

"It' Faith, Madison, what's going on?"

"I've been monitoring the equipment remotely, and we have a serious problem." Li's voice crackled over the com.

Mark snorted, when didn't they have a serious problem?

"If I'm reading this right, I'm afraid there are lethal levels of radiation inside the chamber. I'm sorry Faith, I wish there were some other way but there is just no time. It has to be done now or the damage will be catastrophic."

"I understand, Dr. Li." Faith said softly, peering through the glass.

Mark pushed away from the wall, slowly beginning to realize what Faith was going to do. "No. NO~ I forbid it, Faith. Do you fuckin' hear me, girl? NO!"

"There's no other way, 'Taker." She replied in a monotone voice, already stepping into the entrance chamber. She pressed a button on the control panel, sealing the door before he could reach her. When she seen the pain and anguish on his face, her own resolve to be emotionless went straight out the window, tears prickling her eyes. "This is the only way, don't you see that?" She pleaded. "I'm the only one who knows the code; and I'm not going to ask anyone to die for me."

"Damn it, Faith, you don't have to ask, I'd do it for you. Let me do it." He was begging her, not caring about his pride.

Faith could feel tendrils of radiation already, knowing there wasn't enough Rad-A-Way or Rad-X in the world to stop what was going to happen. There was a perk however, she wouldn't end up like Kane, a Ghoul. This much radiation was lethal, almost instantaneous death. Which was definitely preferable over living for centuries as a walking corpse. Her biggest concern was making it long enough to activate the purifier.

Mark could only watch as she dosed herself with both Rad-A-Way and then Rad-X, clutching the grass with two bloodied hands as she hunched over in pain. "Faith, no…"

Shaking her head, she straightened upright and smiled at him. Without another word -she didn't think she was capable of speaking at the moment, both physical and emotional pain were choking her- she opened the door to the central chamber.

"This was your mother's favorite Bible verse," She heard Jame's voice whispering in her head, remembering a time long ago when she was still a little girl. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and then. I shall give unto him who is athirst the fountain of the waters of life freely."

From outside, Mark could only watch. When they had gone into Underworld, they had gotten into a small discussion about religion and God.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life." She had quoted from memory. "But the point was, He sent his kid to die for us as proof of his love, and reassurance that life, our individual lives, maybe all life, isn't for nothing. That there IS a happy ending waiting for each and every one of us, or back then at least. Sounds like a damn fairytale to me."

He had replied: "Or a matter of faith."

Mark wanted to close his eyes as she punched in 2-1-6, she was already staggering, struggling just to stay upright. He could hear everything beginning to come online but he didn't care. All he cared about was right before him, dying. "Please, not her…" He whispered hoarsely, praying to an unseen God he had never truly believed in.

No, I ain't giving up
No, I ain't giving up on us

Faith turned towards him, her knees hitting the ground.

Their eyes met briefly, his brimming with unconscious tears. Hers were nearly blind, rimmed in red.

And then she fell backwards with a final thud.


Chapter 40


The Capital Wasteland -2278

-Over a year after the assault on the Jefferson Memorial

"And so it was that the Lone Wanderer ventured forth from Vault 101, intent on discovering the fate of a father who had once sacrificed the future of humanity for that of his own child.

The Capital Wasteland proved a cruel, inhospitable place but the Lone Wanderer refused to surrender to the vices that had claimed so many others. The values passed from father to daughter -selflessness, compassion, honor- guided this soul through countless trials and triumphs.

But it was not until the end of this long road that the Lone Wanderer learned the true meaning of that greatest of virtues -sacrifice. Stepping into the irradiated control chamber of Project Purity, the child followed the example of the father, sacrificing life itself for the greater good of mankind.

Thankfully, when selected by the sinister president to be his instrument of annihilation, the Wanderer refused. Humanity with all its flaws was deemed worthy of preservation. The waters of life flowed at last -free and pure, for any and all. The Capital Wasteland at long last was saved.

So ends the story of the Lone Wanderer, who stepped through the great door of Vault 101 and into the annals of legend. But the tale of humanity will never come to a close, for the struggle of survival is war without end, and war- war never changes."

"Not to mention a husband who saved her ass on numerous occasions." Mark snorted as he leaned over his wife to turn off the radio.

Smiling slightly, Faith ran a hand down his bare back. When he returned the smile, she opened her arms to him, and sighed contentedly when he took his place in them.

"So what happened next?" Maggie demanded, staring up at Walter anxiously.

Walter glanced over his shoulder at Mark, scowling when the retired mercenary simply shrugged and continued on with his work. Obviously not about to get any help there, he then shot Faith a 'well' look, and this time was rewarded with a nod.

Laying down the tools she had been using to help repair a water pipe, Faith walked over to take Walter's place in front of the children, settling herself down on the floor with them. "The Lone Wanderer woke up two weeks after the battle at the Jefferson Memorial." She said, trying not to grin at the wide eyes that peered at her. "It seemed impossible because she knew she should have died in the control room, but she hadn't."

"Why not?" demanded Harden, the sheriff's son.

"All the radiation that had been in the control room should have killed her." Faith explained patiently, hearing Mark cursing quietly in the background and tried not to smile. "There was an energy spike and that knocked her out, along with the man who had come with her."

"Who was he?"

"He was a feared man, but to her he was completely loyal."

Mark snorted, his mouth curving into a slight smile of his own.

"So she woke up and found that she was quite alive, and the man was too."

"Is that it?" Maggie frowned, sighing when Faith nodded. "That's not a very good ending, Faith. The Lone Wanderer must've done something else."

"Maybe she did, but that'll be a story for another time."

Walter waited until the children had left before shaking his head at her. "You would think they'd know who the story is about."

Her cheeks flushed red. "I could kill Three Dog for airing that. I don't know how 'expensive' he said the voice actor was. It's nothing but bullshit. He left out Mark and Kane, not to mention there was no mention of the Brotherhood of Steel at all."

"That's how stories are told, Faith." Walter laughed, getting up to go check their work, grunting. "Thank you, I don't know what I would've done if you two hadn't brought back all that scrap metal."

"We got to keep this clunker up and runnin'." Mark snorted, ducking when a piece of that scrap metal came flying his way. "Lucky we stopped by on our way through."

"Through? You're not staying in Megaton?"

The pair shook their heads no.

"Then where the hell are you planning on going?" He demanded.

Faith's smile widened. "I have some promises to keep."

"Joseph! Joseph!"

Joseph looked up from the holodisk he had been fingering when he heard Penny, forcing a smile to his lips when she came flying through the broken classroom door. He was sixteen, he would have to leave, go to Big Town, and become a Mungo. He couldn't leave Penny, he just couldn't. "What is it, sis?" He asked, forcing a joviality he didn't feel into his tone.

"She's back!" Penny blurted out, her face flushed from having run the entire way. "I was on watch with McCready when we seen her. She brought the Undertaker with her though, she says he's a changed man. McCready don't know what to think!"

Joseph was trying to process this.

"But she says she's here because she made a promise to you, and she's gonna keep it!" Penny danced around in a circle joyfully. "Come on, she's asked to speak with all of us!"

It dawned on him then. There was only Mungo who had ever made a favorable impression on the children. Laughing, Joseph followed Penny out the door, feeling like the weight had been lifted from his chest.

Faith was back; and she was going to keep her promise.

Maybe there was hope.


The End.