I've got no excuse as to why this is so late. I'm sorry. With classes and such, expect more delays, but I will try and do better!
The Medical District, where Caroline found herself looking for Christine, had issues of its own. More speakers, making her collar beep. Thankfully, some of them she could just shoot and continue on her way.
The others, the shielded ones, as Elijah said to her over her Pip-Boy, were ones she just had to avoid.
Caroline's pretty brown hair was going to be gone, fallen out from the stress of this, by the time she made it out of here. She wondered how she'd look without hair. Craig looked alright, covering his scalp with the First Recon beret. Maybe she'd do the same, and they'd look even more alike. She wondered if he had a spare pair of sunglasses too.
She explored the area as thoroughly as she could, looking for anything that might be of use to her. She found some food, which she knew she'd have to force herself to eat at some point, but what she was really looking for was a bed. Sleep was something she needed before she dropped of exhaustion and those things came by to eat her or drag her away or whatever it was they did. Her reaction times were slowing, and she couldn't think all that clearly. She needed rest.
She found what appeared to be an apartment, mostly destroyed but the bed was still there, and she dropped her gear beside it and climbed onto the bed, one hand wrapped around the police pistol she found at the station. Her body relaxed into the mattress and she closed her eyes, hoping for just a few hours of sleep.
It was all a blur, the fight, the black and white coat struggling underneath her. She felt the knife come down again and again into his chest, felt the hot wet rush of his blood over her hands, on her face, but he just laughed at her. She stabbed him over and over and over but he wouldn't stop laughing.
"I might be dead, baby, but I'll always be around. This blood's never washing off, ya dig?"
Caroline woke with a start, gun clenched tightly in her hands. Of course her mind couldn't let her rest. Of course she was having more nightmares. It couldn't wait until she was out of this place, could it?
Shaking her head, trying to clear the echoing sounds of Benny's laughter (had she ever heard him laugh, or was her brain just making that up?) she looked at her Pip-Boy for the time. Surprisingly, five hours had passed. She had gotten some sleep, not as much as she would have liked, but it was still better than nothing. She didn't imagine that God was happy about being left alone for that long, but damn it, she had needed the rest. She would have never gotten any of this done without that nap.
Gathering her stuff up, she made her way downstairs and back out onto the street, back towards the the marker where she'd find Christine.
It didn't take long for her to find the medical clinic and she cautiously stepped inside.
"Picking up an emitter signature - watch for security Holograms, dangerous. Don't shoot them - attacking them is useless." Elijah said once she closed the door behind her. She glanced around but the front room seemed clear. Still, she'd proceed cautiously. She couldn't fight back, but she wasn't half bad at being sneaky. They couldn't attack her if they didn't notice her, now could they?
On the desk in front of her, she found a holotape that was labeled 'Vending Machine Code - Stimpack'. Did that mean she could get stimpacks from the vending machines scattered around the place? She hoped so. She didn't have anyone to help her if she got wounded, so she'd have to fend for herself.
Tucking it away, she continued on. Her Pip-Boy said Christine was in this building somewhere.
In one room, she found a couple of corpses, heads clearly missing, like the one she had found in the bunker. Several mannequins had collars around their necks. Caroline did her best to ignore them and scavenged a few supplies from the room, including a set of clothing that was dark in color and pretty light. It made little noise as she picked it up, and she put it on, as it felt like it gave her a little more protection than the jumpsuit she wore did. She also found a medkit with a couple of bottles of water and some RadAway. She drank both bottles quickly and left the room with one last glance at the bodies. She didn't want to end up like that.
Down another hallway, Caroline could see a speaker on the far wall, the light on this one red. Elijah spoke up on her Pip-Boy, telling her that these were shielded speakers. Shooting them would do nothing. Creeping forward carefully, she darted into the first room on the left and came face to face with what appeared to be some kind of medical pod. The terminal on the left side of it read 'Mark IX Auto-Doc', confirming her initial conclusion. She wasn't injured, so she left it alone and went to the next room. It also contained an Auto-Doc. It seemed like all the rooms in this hallway did. She couldn't get to the last two though, not without her collar beeping. She had to find another way. Maybe the way to shut the speakers down was upstairs.
Passing through the main room again, she stopped by the terminal and shifted the hologram guards to patrol on the first floor while she was upstairs. They'd be out of the way and she wouldn't risk being hurt.
The second floor didn't get her anything much besides the basement key, a vending machine code for Med-X, and plenty more Sierra Madre chips, which she scooped up gratefully. The Med-X would be nice if she was injured, even though it was likely to put her to sleep, she'd have to remember to find a safe spot before using it.
Now she headed downstairs, looking for the basement door. She had to find some way of shutting those speakers down. She paused at the terminal to shift the holograms back upstairs so they wouldn't bother her and found the basement door.
Sure enough, the basement had a terminal that shut down the clinic's main power, killing the speakers. Christine had to be in the rooms beyond them, although how the woman got there Caroline would never know.
"Well, looks like it's time to go meet Christine." Caroline said, tucking her gun away and dashing back upstairs.
She tracked the marker on her Pip-Boy to a room with one an Auto-Doc in it. The woman had to be inside, there was nowhere else for her to be. Keying the Auto-Doc open, Caroline stepped back as a woman stumbled out. The woman was hairless and covered with scars, her clothing spattered with blood. There was a collar around her neck too, and the woman blinked up at Caroline and then winced.
"Are you alright?" Caroline asked. The woman opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. One hand reached up and traced a scar just underneath her chin and her eyes widened in alarm.
"Look, I'm here to help." Caroline tried again. The woman looked back at the Auto-Doc and flinched, and then turned back to Caroline with her fists raised. She took a step back and studied Caroline and Caroline raised her empty hands.
"This isn't what it looks like, okay?" The woman opened her mouth again, but when no sound came out, she winced again. With a frown, the woman in front of her reached up and touched the collar at her neck, tracing it with her fingertips until she found the lock and tried to open it.
"No! Don't do that!" Caroline shouted, a little harsher than she meant to. The woman looked surprised, but then saw the collar around Caroline's throat and raised an eyebrow. Caroline sighed.
"Let's just say we're in this together." Caroline said, softer this time. The woman frowned and shook her head.
"What do you mean by that?" Caroline wasn't sure how easy travelling with someone who couldn't speak would be. She almost missed the mumblings from Dog/God. The woman shook her head again and drew a line in the air between the two of them. It was Caroline's turn to frown. This was difficult.
"Look, together we can get out of this." The woman shook her head once and crossed her arms. Caroline sighed in exasperation.
"I'm not trying to order you around, believe me. But your life is tied to mine." Caroline told her and watched as the woman looked at the collar for a moment. She then lifted her hand to her face, shaped like a circle, and held it to her eye and looked around briefly. Caroline watched her movements carefully, trying to decipher her meaning.
"Um...you're looking for someone else, right?" At the woman's nod, Caroline gave a small smile. "Fine. I can help."
The woman studied Caroline again and her expression softened. Shaking her head, Caroline watched the woman give a silent sigh and nodded towards the door.
"Alright. Um, come with me, I guess. I've got to find one other person." Caroline said, moving towards the door. The woman, who could only be Christine at this point, nodded and fell into step behind Caroline.
Down the hall, Christine stopped Caroline with a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at the speaker hesitantly. Caroline followed her gaze.
"It's a decayed speaker. If we stay too long near one, it'll go off. We should move." Caroline had killed the power, but who knew what would happen next. Christine tapped her collar and then opened and closed her hand. She then tapped at the collar again and opened and closed her hand faster. After that, she pointed at her collar, Caroline's, and the Pip-Boy on Caroline's arm and then opened and closed her hand slowly. Caroline studied the movements, thinking really hard as to what the woman might mean.
"You….you can dampen the signal somehow?" The woman started to nod, then stopped, pointed at her collar and shook her head. Caroline frowned. This was more work than wondering if the super mutant was going to kill her when she turned her back.
"Does it work with any other collar?" She frowned, slowly shook her head, opening her mouth and making the motion of turning a dial, and then points at herself.
"Oh. It's only your frequency. " She nods once, and again, points at herself, and then Caroline, and then the Pip-Boy.
"It's only between us. Right. Gotcha." Christine nodded and then motioned for Caroline to continue.
Well, that was a useful thing to have around. Maybe she'd take the woman with her to find the last person on her list, a man named Dean Domino. If anything, the speakers would bother her less.
Caroline and Christine stepped outside the medical clinic, and Caroline felt Christine's hands on her arm pulling. A spear soared through the spot where Caroline used to be, and she dropped behind a pillar and pulled her gun from the holster. This was where things would get tricky, since the villa inhabitants were tricky to kill and she had very limited ammo.
Caroline ducked out of cover and shot one of them through the head twice, the head exploding. Hopefully it wouldn't get up after that. There were two others, and Caroline watched Christine move in, unarmed towards one of them. Picking up a knife spear, she called out to get the other woman's attention and tossed it her way so she'd have a weapon of some kind, and then turned to deal with the other ghost person.
Caroline downed it with two shots to the chest and turned to see Christine dropping the other with the spear, where she started hacking at the limbs. Caroline's stomach turned. Could she do it? It was almost too much like Benny, but if she didn't, it'd get back up and kill her, right?
Picking up another knife spear, she cut away at the arms, pulling them from the shoulders. Her stomach rolled again and Caroline swallowed back the urge to throw up, doing the same with the other arm. She couldn't bring herself to do the legs though.
"Hey, so, I should probably give you a weapon of some kind. What do you know how to use?" Caroline asked. Christine pantomimed the motions of using several different kinds of weapons, including the motion of using a rifle she was familiar with. If only she had a rifle to give her. The holorifle was out of ammo.
"Wow. You've been well trained." Caroline remarked. Christine shrugged slightly and then waited.
"Well, you know how to use that, right? I don't have much else to give you." Caroline pointed at the knife spear in the woman's hands. Christine nodded.
"Okay. Good. Let's move on, then."
Quickly, they made their way through the maze of streets that led back to the fountain, running into one other villa inhabitant on the way. It was easily dealt with, although Caroline still didn't like the fact that she had to dismember them. It was brutal and made her stomach turn every time.
At the fountain, Dog/God was still waiting. As they approached, God came forward, sneering at Christine.
"What's this? A little doll. Were you carved by a craftsman or mauled by a drunk who didn't know his tools?" He asked. Christine narrowed her eyes and dropped into a combat stance.
"I'm not going to hurt you, yet. Scars tell a story. some old, some new and the one on the throat is red and new." Dog said in response and stalked away. Christine looked at Caroline questioningly. Maybe it was a good idea to bring her along. Who knew what would happen if she left the two here alone.
"There's just one other to find. Christine and I will go look for him and bring him back, and then we can move onto the next part of this nightmare." Caroline told God, looking at her Pip-Boy for the next marker. It was leading her towards the Residential District. Motioning with her head, Caroline moved away from the fountain. Christine followed, gripping her knife spear tightly.
"Picking up signals near your location. Detonators. Watch for traps." Elijah said over the speakers in her Pip-Boy. Caroline closed her eyes and bit back a groan. Instead, she moved carefully forward, her eyes moving over the terrain.
The mines Caroline could deal with. But as she moved through the Residential District, she noticed this red fog hovering around. It looked similar to the gas that had pumped through the vents back in the bunker and she was hesitant to go through it, but the marker continued to lead her forward.
Taking a deep breath, Caroline stepped into the cloud. Without even breathing it, she felt a constricting motion in her throat and dizziness washed over her. She stumbled backwards into the fresh air, landing on her backside. Christine touched her throat and looked over at the cloud.
"Yeah, it's poison. Great. There's no other way around. I've got some stimpacks, we'll just have to rush through it, I think." Caroline said. Christine shifted her grip on the knife spear and nodded. They both bolted through the cloud, which was thankfully small, but they gasped at the end when they found the clean air again. Caroline passed over a stimpack and injected one of her own. That was going to be a problem.
They both went up a set of stairs and into a building. Caroline froze in the doorway when she heard the sound of music coming from somewhere, and looked around for the radio. Her collar wasn't beeping, so that was a good sign.
"You'd think it was spring, the way tourists keep rolling in." An unknown voice said over her Pip-Boy. Was this Dean Domino? Caroline hoped so. She carefully went up another set of stairs and found someone sitting in a chair in front of a hole in the wall, a radio beside him. Her collar continued to stay silent, so she holstered her weapon and stepped forward.
"Um...hello?" Caroline said, hoping not to startle whoever it was.
"Have a seat, and then we'll talk." The man turned his head slightly, and Caroline saw that it was a ghoul. She looked back at Christine, who shrugged and Caroline moved around the chairs and sat down in one. She looked out the hole in the wall and the casino was in the distance, surrounded by a red fog.
"The Sierra Madre. Mmm, beauty, isn't she? She the one who invited you here? Or maybe you didn't catch her voice on the radio. You just woke up, confused, like some of the others." He paused, glanced over at her. "Hmm. At least you're still breathing. By the way, don't make any sudden motions, no matter how uncomfortable that chair gets. The cushion is just for show."
Caroline froze, hands resting on her legs. She turned to look at the ghoul with a scowl.
"Better be a shaped charge or you're going to kill both of us." Caroline replied, in what she hoped was the same tone he had when mentioning the explosives.
"Sounds like you've done some blue collar construction work in your life, your Ma must be so proud. Still...Get up without my permission, and I'll blast your ass so far through your head it'll turn the moon cherry pie red. Let's keep this sweet and polite, and end this conversation with no misunderstandings, hmm?" The ghoul said happily. Caroline curled her fingers into her thighs.
"I'll save my questions for the end. Please, do go on." She said, trying to keep her voice neutral. She failed, but he didn't seem to notice.
"And that's what I've missed - a rapt audience. Just because I'm in entertainment doesn't mean I'm a moron. I heard my necktie beeping, I know I'm a part of this somehow. I want out of this contract. And if you put me in it, I'm not going to be too happy. So whatever's going on here, if you're part of all this? You're taking orders from me." The ghoul said, his voice changing from light and pleased to cold as he talked.
Caroline wasn't pleased that she had to take orders from two people now, but she wanted to get out of this alive, somehow. So she'd play along for now. She'd do just about anything to get out of here alive.
"I'll cooperate. What do you want?"
"Good, good - then we're in business. I may be a betting man, but I like it when the odds are in our you're here with who I think, then I'd rather have you on my side than his. An... ace in the hole. You want to live, I want what's in the Madre. Simple." The ghoul leaned back in his chair with a pleased smile on his lips. His eyes were covered with sunglasses, but Caroline was willing to bet that they were pleased too.
"Sure. I'm in. Meet me at the fountain?" Caroline agreed, hoping he'd just let her out of this chair. She couldn't feel the explosives she was sitting on but it didn't make her any less uncomfortable with it.
"Wait...wait, I'm not walking out there on my own. I know what's out there. It's why I've planted a mine field, shotguns, and explosives all the way on the road to my little boudoir here. So we go together, or we're not going at all. I'll split my hand in Blackjack when the time's right, I'm not splitting up in this town, trust me." The ghoul said and Caroline frowned. She hadn't run into anything but a few mine on her way here.
"Well, if I can get here, others will be, soon enough. Fountain's the safest place." She growled, waiting to get up when he cleared the explosives she was sitting on.
"That's... a good point. All right, let me grab some smokes, and I'll meet you at the Fountain." The ghoul stood and walked away without any other words, leaving Caroline seated in the chair. She turned and stared over at Christine. Now what?
Christine came over and knelt down to examine the chair, looking around it. She shrugged and then looked up at Caroline and shook her head
"What? Can I get up? Are there explosives?" Caroline asked. Christine shook her head again, motioning for Caroline to stand. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Caroline stood. And nothing happened.
"That son of a bitch. C'mon, let's go. If we wouldn't go out with him, I'd put a bullet in his skull for that." Caroline growled, heading out the same way they came in. Down the stairs and rushing through the poison cloud towards the exit.
It was closer to being over, she had to tell herself. First step done. Next step, go to the fountain and receive more instructions. She hadn't died yet. If she just did as she was asked, she might actually make it through this.