The Lawman of Megaton
The bells of the ancient alarm clock rang, forcing the worn-down man from unpleasant dreams. Lucas Simms groaned and slapped the mechanism to shut it up. He ran a hand over his face and sighed with the resigned weariness he felt about the day to come.
Simms came fully awake and panicked a bit as he realized his mask had slipped. He glanced down at the sleeping form beside him.
His son, Harden, hadn't moved an inch. His chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm, still asleep, as if he somehow knew that the racket didn't concern him. Simms was glad. He could never forgive himself if his son saw how he really viewed the prospect of another day in the Capital Wasteland. Harden needed to see his father, his role model, as a man of hope. It was the only way the little man would be able to face life in this damned world.
Hope, Lucas thought with a—hidden—scowl. Any hope had been scorched to a crisp when the nukes fell 2 centuries ago. Still, a man had to try. That was all you could ask of a man. All that made you a man.
The ticking of the clock brought Simms out of his pondering. Right. The day was a-wasting. He got up and walked to the bathroom.
It was a short walk. Even with his high rank in the local hierarchy, the best he could acquire for lodgings was a 15x15 foot metal shack. He pulled the curtain closed as he cleaned himself up for the day. It would hardly do for the people of Megaton to see their leader disheveled.
As if anyone could tell among all of the filth, he thought with a wry grin. The ancient pipes rattled as he filled a bucket with precious water.
Simms had mastered keeping the tap open just long enough to get the least amount of water he needed. Everyone's water use was heavily rationed to avoid straining the purifier. He did his teeth and washed himself as best he could in the salvaged sink, once again thanking his lucky stars that he was born in one of the few places in the Capital Wasteland that had running water.
Scrub, scrub, scrub. No matter how hard he tried, Simms could never quite eliminate the layer of filth that covered his body. No one in the wasteland ever did. He sighed and resigned himself to another day in the dirt. His beard came next, receiving a careful trim. He frowned at the few strands of gray standing out on his dark brown skin.
His hygiene taken care of, he opened the scavenged school locker sitting to the 'back' of the room, less than a foot away. The brown leather duster, cowboy hat, and gold star stared back at him.
With an effort, as if the duster weighed a ton, Lucas Simms reached out and carefully put his uniform on. It seemed to be pushing him into the ground. The responsibility of keeping order in his oasis in the wastes always felt overwhelming. He looked at himself in the polished steel mirror.
Back straight. Eyes sharp. Face set.
Simms should have been an actor. Within seconds all of the stress, worry, and weariness that had been on his face had vanished. In its place was the visage of a stern but optimistic authority figure. The kind of man that was good to his friends but hell to anyone that got on his bad side. Where a moment ago had stood a man, now there was the Sheriff.
"Sheriff, you have to do something!"
Sheriff Simms sighed. The cramped office was like an oven, the rattling desk fan doing little to curb his sweating. He hoped it would rain soon. They'd all be stuck inside the cramped buildings to stay out of the mildly irradiated rainwater, which tended to lead to Trouble breaking out, but at least it wouldn't be so damn hot. Not to mention the increased output of the water purifier which would help restock the town coffers.
"I am doing something, Jenny," he said to the proprietor of the Brass Lantern. The restaurant owner was being particularly bothersome today. Which was rather ungrateful, he thought, considering how far out of his way he was going for her family. He leaned back in his worn chair and continued, "I'm settling the debt with Doc Church privately. No one will know Leo stole his chems. Everything's gonna be okay."
"That's the problem!" Jenny Stahl insisted. "He won't suffer any consequences! Andy an I do what we can, but there's only so much we can say to him. People are starting to notice and our reputation is suffering. We're getting price gouged whenever we go to trade, people whisper behind our backs. Worst of all, we can't compete with Moriarty's dive if people see our establishment as being as dirty as that den of wolves. Leo's hurting us. If you just put him in lockup for a while maybe he'd kick his habit—"
"Now hold it right there," the Sheriff interrupted. "I won't hear none of that talk. First, if I did bring Leo in for what he did, he wouldn't spend a night in a cell, he'd spend a minute at the end of a noose. Your brother stole chems, Jenny. From a doctor. That's death in the Capital Wasteland, Missy, and you damn well know it." She at least had the decency to look away in shame. "Second, even if that weren't the case, we need Leo running the water purifier at night. Dr. Walter ain't as young as he used to be and his other apprentices aren't ready yet. Leo never...does his thing...while on duty and for now he's the only one we got who can keep that machine running after the old man goes to bed. What if there were an emergency and Dr. Walter couldn't get there in time? Well?"
Once again, Jenny looked away. The water purifier was the center of Megaton's economy, of its way of life. Hell, the blue background of their town's flag, which surrounded the radiation symbol in its foreground, represented the water that the machine produced. The purified water was what they traded to Rivet City for crops, to the Pitt for materials and ammunition. It was what kept the caps flowing and the people alive. The fact that 2 people, a scientist and his pupil, were the only ones who could keep it running spoke to the complexity and enormity of the thing. They needed it, and they needed her brother. He knew that, and she knew that. The Sheriff had won the argument. Like always.
He felt like shit for it, also like always.
"I'm afraid I have to get back to work, Miss Stahl. If you would?" he said, gesturing to the door of the Sheriff's Office.
The woman gave him a dirty look before leaving. One that seemed to ask what he was good for, anyway. Sheriff Simms let it go. He didn't want to face it.
One of his deputies knocked on the door post as soon as Jenny had left. If it were an emergency, he wouldn't have waited. That, and the fact that he didn't bother making the 2-foot journey from the door to Simms' desk, could only mean one thing.
"It's time, boss," the deputy said. Simms cursed himself internally for what he was about to do.
The cell door screeched in protest as a deputy hauled it open. Sheriff Simms stood in front of it, flanked by his other deputies, each carrying a double barreled shotgun. The deputy that had pulled shit detail took a moment to catch his breath after having pulled the door open. A harsh look from the Sheriff got him moving into the cell. He emerged a moment later with a hairy, wild-eyed man in chains.
"So what's the story, lawman?" the prisoner asked.
"I'm letting you out, Jericho" the Sheriff forced through clenched teeth. "It ain't as easy as that, though. From now on, you ain't to enter Megaton. When your caravan comes in, you pull guard duty on the Brahmin. There are lodgings out there and we make sure they're livable. No one wants to see you inside these walls again."
"And if I decide to come in anyway?" Jericho asked with a smirk. He was one of the few people ballsy and skilled enough to operate as an elite caravan guard. He was better at keeping traders safe than any ten others of his profession, and that made him more valuable than even the Sheriff himself, in some people's eyes. Simms couldn't touch him. Worse still, the man knew it.
"Don't," the Sheriff replied, bluffing. Jericho smirked again. The Sheriff sighed and motioned for the deputy to lead the man up-slope toward the city entrance. His chains would be removed there. There was nothing more to be done.
The lawmen and their prisoner left the tiny jail and began the march up-slope to the city gates. The long trench that preceded the crater was lined with multistory buildings constructed by engineers following the apocalypse. The sunlight gleamed off of the coating that had been applied to protect the metal structures from the irradiated rain. Some of the buildings had sagged in disrepair, the coating having faded and thus allowing the rains to rust the metal. They were silent corpses left to rot in the harsh sunlight.
The leader of the Children of Atom sung his prayers in the center of the crater. Irradiated water had pooled there, as always, but the radiation-worshipping cult seemed bizarrely immune to its effects. The pastor and his flock stood there, offering prayers to the unexploded nuclear bomb that sat at the heart of Megaton.
People had gathered to watch the procession. They stood in doorways or along the walkways suspended along the buildings' upper levels. There wasn't a pleased face among them. There never were, in the Sheriff's experience. The people of Megaton understood the need for the sort of shady things he did, but he knew there wasn't a resident among them that didn't wish for a real lawman.
Simms tried not to look. He really did. But he couldn't help it. He tiled his head and glanced upward, past the creaking water pipes visible in every direction, past the roofs that were sloped and curved to collect rainwater for the purifier, past the legions of dirty and unhappy faces, up-slope toward the home of one particular resident.
Lucy West stared back at him. The young, blonde-haired woman didn't say a word. She didn't shout, didn't scream about the injustice she was seeing. Didn't demand more be done to the man that had...violated her...than a mere day in a cell. Instead, she just stared at him. Not moving, not talking. Her eyes were more damning than any accusation or demand could have been.
Lucas Simms lowered his head and stared at the ground. The rest of the trip passed in silence.
"Mr. Jericho! So glad that this misunderstanding has been cleared up!" a smug, suave voice opined.
"Mr. Ambassador," Sheriff Simms reluctantly greeted the man known only as Mr. Burke. The well-dressed, well-mannered man was waiting by the caravan, ready to see off his master's investment. The official representative from the settlement known as 'Tenpenny Tower' had always rubbed the Sheriff the wrong way. The fact that he had pushed for the light punishment the rapist was now receiving sure as hell didn't help matters.
No, Simms had never liked Mr. Burke. The man reeked of secrets and plotting. That and the utter lack of empathy in the man's eyes, the few times Simms had seen them without his omnipresent sunglasses, marked him as Trouble. Once again, Simms cursed the fact that he had to play politics. Justice would not be served today. Tenpenny Tower was a trading partner.
There was nothing he could do. Like always.
Sheriff Simms went back inside, tempted to break his self-imposed protocol and start drinking on the job. He was half-way toward the guard post when he heard the town gates open again. He turned around, half expecting Jericho to have broken his punishment already.
Here comes Trouble, the Sheriff thought.
Not that he believed the gaunt, filthy, desperate looking kid that had just stumbled into his town was Trouble. No. In the wake of the apocalypse, the standards one had to meet to qualify as 'Trouble' had gone up dramatically. Rather, Simms was afraid of the Trouble that would arise when the more predatory of his town's citizens took notice of the clearly out of his depth teenager.
Better head this off.
"Need directions, son?" he asked in a friendly tone, trudging back up-slope toward the town's outer gate.
The kid jerked to a stop, as if only now realizing the Sheriff was there. His desperate eyes darted to a spot over the lawman's shoulder. Doubtless, he had noticed the Chinese Assault Rifle slung across his back. The kid gripped the ramshackle pipe pistol he carried a bit tighter.
"Easy, son," the Sheriff said, recognizing a situation that could go very wrong, very fast. A frightened mutt was the most likely kind to attack, after all. He raised his hands in a conciliatory manner and kept his voice steady, calm, and reassuring, utilizing every ounce of the skills he had honed keeping peace in this hell-hole of a town. "Just trying to get a feel for you, that's all. Not every day we get a new face around these parts. I'm the Sheriff, you see," he said, gesturing to the star on his chest which the disoriented kid had apparently missed. "Mayor too, if the need arises. Name's Lucas Simms."
The second he said the word 'Sheriff' the kid relaxed noticeably. His shoulders sagged and his grip on his weapon went slack. He seemed to think he was safe now, or at least in familiar territory. "S-sure. I guess that makes sense," he said in a scratchy, subservient tone.
Simms wondered what kind of place this boy came from that an enforcer of the law was someone to be respected or feared rather than tolerated or fought. Questions for later.
"Been a while since you had a bit of water, huh?" Simms asked. It was the safest bet a person could make in the Capital Wasteland, what with every natural water source contaminated by radiation, but the thinly veiled offer in his words certainly succeeded in peaking the kids attention. "There's a bar just down-slope from here," he said, gesturing behind him. Now came the hard part. "First, though, I'm gonna need you to hand over your weapon."
Just like that, the good mood was gone. "N-no!" the scratchy voice almost shrieked. "I n-need it."
If it were anyone else, the Sheriff would have used tact. Here, though, he decided to push it. The kid didn't seem the type to put up a fight over this."Not in here, you don't. Nobody but me carries inside these walls. Understood?"
"Y-yes, sir" the kid got out, his eyes darting toward the ground in submission. He handed over his weapon without a fight.
"That's good. You got a name, son?" the Sheriff asked, taking the weapon and removing the makeshift magazine. The home-made weapon was a fairly common sight in the Capital Wasteland, what with most of the pre-War gear having broken down over the past 200 years. He wondered which trader had pawned the piece of junk off on the kid.
"J-Jason," the boy replied. "Jason Barnes."
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Jason Barnes," the Sheriff said, attaching a small tag to the pipe pistol and magazine before putting them in his pack. "You'll get these back when you leave. For now, I suggest you go to the Brass Lantern and do something about that parched throat."
The kid looked longingly down-slope. "They'll give me water? Really?" Just talking seemed to be causing him pain. Simms felt sympathy for the man.
"Not for free, of course. It'll cost you a few caps," the Sheriff said, quite reasonably.
"Caps?" the kid asked.
"Yeah, you know—caps? Money?" the Sheriff received a blank stare. He was about to launch into a lecture about expecting charity when he noticed something. The kid didn't seem like he was begging. He genuinely looked confused. As if something about the concept of exchanging old bottle caps for goods and services was somehow foreign to him.
The Sheriff took a closer look at the kid's attire. He was covered in scraps of leather armor that looked like it had been scavenged off a corpse. Smelled like it, too. Beneath that, though, just visible underneath the armor and a layer of filth, was...
"Well I'll be damned!" Sheriff Simms exclaimed "You're from that vault! Vault 101! I ain't seen one of those jumpsuits in a long time!"
If he looked confused before, the kid looked positively dumbfounded now. "Wh-what? You've seen these before—"His question was cut off by a round of pained coughing. He definitely needed some water.
"I believe I can help with that," a voice said. The Sheriff suppressed a scowl as he turned toward Mr. Burke, who was now approaching the pair, his eyes still hidden behind his sunglasses. "Have a drink, boy," he said, tossing a small flask.
The kid caught it and hesitated, evidently being smart enough to notice that Burke was Trouble. Thirst, however, quickly overcame suspicion, and he twisted off the top and downed the contents of the small container in one swig.
"My my, you were in need, weren't you?" Burke chuckled as he finished his approach. The kid nodded gratefully and handed back the flask.
"There something I can help you with, Ambassador?" the Sheriff asked.
"I wanted to speak to you again about delaying the caravan, Sheriff, as Mr. Tenpenny will be most displeased at you wasting his valuable time. But, then I saw this gentleman and decided to lend a hand to one in need," Mr. Burke replied with a chuckle and a slimy grin. Again, the Sheriff suppressed a scowl. "Speaking of which, perhaps you are in need of a place to stay, my boy?"
Hope kindled in the kid's eyes. It was painfully clear that he had no idea the kind of man he was dealing with.
"Hold on, now," the Sheriff interrupted. "There's no need for that. We have a hotel he can stay in."
"Which will cost caps, which this fine young man clearly has none of, correct?" Mr. Burke prodded. The kid nodded, still hoping he had found some kind of Good Samaritan. "Unless you intend to pay his for his lodging?" This was directed at the Sheriff.
That was out of the question. Simms had spent every spare cap available to buy Doc Church's silence on the chems issue. He couldn't afford to put up some stranger who had just wandered into town out of nowhere.
"I thought not," Mr. Burke smiled smugly. This time, the Sheriff was not able to suppress a scowl. The ambassador put his hand around the kid's shoulder and led him away. "Come, my boy. The ambassador's quarters are a far sight more livable than that hovel of a hotel. Besides, I believe the gentleman I represent has some business that could use one such as you..."
Sheriff Simms stood, powerless, as a predator snatched another young innocent off of his streets. The kid would probably wind up being sold to the Pitt to work the industrial machinery, churning out steel or bullets until he fell over dead and his body was used as fuel for the old city's endless fires. Politics and the law were not on his side here. Like always.
The Sheriff's heart practically stopped from shock. He leaped to his feet and whirled around, looking for the source of the voice, as he awkwardly readied his rifle. "Who—?!"
It was the kid from the day before. He looked better than earlier, with new clothes, a cleaned face, and a good night's sleep. His eyes, though, were filled with terror as he stared at the barrel that was now pointed at his head. "S-sheriff, I—"
"Ah, don't worry about it," Sheriff Simms said, lowering his weapon. He could tell just by looking at him that the kid meant no harm. He sat back down, his old joints aching at his sudden movement. Maybe he was losing his touch. "In the future," he said, staring at his new guest over the side of the short guard post, "you should remember not to sneak up on people carrying automatic weapons. It tends to work out badly."
"I wasn't sneaking," the kid replied, apparently having regained his courage after his time cleaning up. "I just...didn't think to make any noise."
The Sheriff's stared at the kid a bit more intently. "Really. Unusual skill," he said.
"I...didn't fit in well. Where I grew up," the kid explained. "I learned to avoid people pretty young. I got good at it, I guess."
"Interesting," the Sheriff commented. He gestured to a chair next to him, his curiosity peaked for the first time in a long while. The kid glanced around briefly, as if afraid of being seen.
"Don't worry about Mr. Burke seeing you talk with me," the Sheriff said, venturing a guess. The look on the kid's face said he'd hit the mark. He explained, "I've got men watching him at all times, and he ain't too loved in these parts. He won't know you were here." The kid—Jason—sighed in relief before hurriedly taking the second seat in the guard post.
"It's—ah, an i-interesting town you have here, Sheriff," the kid got out. Sheriff Simms had been in this place before. He knew the signs of a person wanting to turn informant, but too scared to come right out and do it. Lawmen lived and died by their informants. Simms smiled and obliged the small-talk, knowing he would bring it to the point soon.
"Indeed it is," he said, gesturing to the town in question. The fluorescent sign for the Brass Lantern lit up as the sun started to set, the ancient geothermal powerplant supplying limited electricity for the more important areas in town. Elsewhere, those who couldn't afford the luxury of electricity lit candles and lanterns to ward off the dark wasteland night.
Simms explained the settlement's history. How a large military aircraft had crashed here when the bombs fell. How survivors from the surrounding area had taken shelter in the trench and crater it had dug. How a settlement had built up, with engineers that had also survived turning the place from a temporary refuge into a home that had lasted centuries.
"They built a population center around a nuclear bomb?" Jason asked in disbelief. He glanced down-slope toward the weapon, still sitting in its pool of irradiated water with devoted acolytes bowing before it.
"It's that bomb that allowed them to survive. It scared away raiders in the early days before the engineers built the walls to defend us," Sheriff Simms explained, gesturing to the tall, reinforced steel walls, topped with razor wire, that surrounded Megaton. "It took a lot of time and ingenuity to put those in place. After that, the bomb provided a useful trump card for any group that tried to starve us out. Try to take this place from us, we blow it to hell and you with us."
"So no one's ever tried to—ah—disarm the thing?" the kid asked.
"In the beginning, sure, but it was deemed too risky. People just...learned to ignore it. Well," Sheriff Simms chuckled, "some of us did. The rest started worshiping the damn thing."
The pair laughed briefly at the absurdity of a church growing up around the thing that had destroyed the world. They fell silent after that, the day continuing to fade to dusk. Eventually, the boy worked up enough courage to speak.
"Mr. Burke wanted me to detonate the bomb and kill everyone," the kid blurted out.
The Sheriff froze. He couldn't have just heard that. "Come again?" he demanded.
"I'm telling the truth!" Jason said hurriedly. He pushed his hand into his pocket and pulled out some sort of device. "He gave me this. Told me to attach it to the bomb and go with him to see Mr. Tenpenny, the guy who runs Tenpenny Tower."
The Sheriff took the device and looked it over. It certainly seemed like something that would interface with pre-War tech, and Burke was just inhuman enough to stoop to that. Why, though? Why would anyone want to destroy Megaton?
Competition, he realized. Megaton was the primary source of purified water for Rivet City, the agricultural center to the southeast. Tenpenny had been trying to undercut them for years, but his water purifier was never able to match Megaton's. Thus, the 2 population centers had been competitors for decades. Enough time had passed that the bomb would have degraded; probably nothing beyond the town's limits would be destroyed. With Megaton gone, Tenpenny would be the only game in town and could charge Rivet City whatever he wanted. The only reason Burke didn't do it himself was Simms having him watched.
The fact that lesser water shipments would mean lower crop yields, which would lead to hundreds starving, must not have been considered important. Not to mention all of the people who would be incinerated when the bomb blew. Profits were king for men like Tenpenny and Burke.
This...this was bad. The Sheriff's first instinct was to bury it. Like every other problem he dealt with, it would be easier to pretend it didn't happen than to bring it into the cold light of day. Tenpenny Tower was a trading partner. If this got out, the people of Megaton would cry for blood. They couldn't afford a war. They couldn't even afford to interrupt trade. All of their food, all of their supplies, came from other places in exchange for clean water. Worse still, their trump card—detonating the bomb—wouldn't work because that was exactly what Tenpenny wanted!
No. He would send a messenger to Tenpenny; cut some kind of deal. Maybe get trade concessions. He would post a guard on the bomb, tell people it was to protect the church from new threats of hate crimes. The device was in his hands and it didn't look easily replaceable, anyway. The threat could be neutralized. He had to bury this and deal with it privately. Like always.
Something snapped inside Lucas Simms.
He just...couldn't do it. He couldn't keep letting justice slip through the cracks. He couldn't let another evil deed go unpunished. He got up and drew his weapon.
"Come with me, boy," he said. "You're gonna see some wasteland justice."
Burke was in the Brass Lantern, drinking the most expensive hooch in the place and looking like he was sipping motor oil. Simms thought he could detect just a hint of surprise as the would-be murderer saw the kid reluctantly following the lawman into the bar. Good. He hoped the bastard knew what was coming.
"Burke!" the Sheriff all but shouted. He wanted all of the people to hear. "Explain your business in Megaton!" He wasn't sure why he didn't just out and shoot the bastard like his conscience kept screaming at him to do. Maybe there was some part of him that hoped it was all some terrible mistake. Maybe he wanted everyone to hear what this monster had been planning.
"I'm sorry?" the slime said in a clearly affected tone. "Sheriff, what are you hollering about?"
"You know damn well what I'm talking about!" Simms shouted, no longer in the mood for games. "The bomb! You're trying to blow it up! Have you lost your goddamned mind?!"
"Sheriff," Burke said, still in that fake conciliatory tone. The man was never as skilled a manipulator as he thought he was. It was his ruthlessness that had enabled him to find success, nothing else. "I'm afraid there's been something of a misunderstanding. Someone," he said this word laced with hidden menace, directing a brief glare at poor, young Jason, who audibly gulped in fear, "has surely been spreading rumors. I'll be sure to address the situation...personally."
"I'm placing you under arrest, Burke," Sheriff Simms said, feeling a swell of pride. Finally, finally, he was actually doing something good. Something that didn't come from cold calculation. Something that was just. This scumbag would stand trial and hang from the end of a noose by daybreak.
Any hint of false conciliation faded from Burke's face. A scowl and a look so cold even the sunglasses couldn't contain it swooped in to replace them. "And I'm afraid," he said in a low, even tone that was somehow more intimidating than if he'd been shouting, "I won't be able to oblige your request, Sheriff. I have pressing matters to attend to. Now...step aside."
"No," Lucas Simms said, his voice steadier than it had ever been. "Not this time."
The 2 men stared at each other for several moments, the air between them practically bursting into flame from the tension. Eventually, Burke sighed dramatically and reached for his drink, intending to down the last sip before departing. "Why do you knuckle draggers always insist on doing things the hard way?Very well, Sheriff. Lead the way."
Yes! Justice was being done! Sheriff Simms was so happy about the situation he started to forget himself. It was—
Burke's glass smashed into his face.
Simms' left hand reflexively left his rifle and clutched his eyes, the alcohol burning like a bitch. In that moment, he knew that he was dead. Burke would be drawing whatever weapon he no doubt kept concealed on his person. The Sheriff would be killed performing the one act of actual justice he had ever attempted in his career.
A series of deafening cracks shook the world. With his eyes blinded and his ears ringing, Simms had to lean into the wall to avoid falling over. Wait...
He was still standing.
Simms pulled a dirty handkerchief out of his pocket and desperately wiped his eyes. He forced his lids open and took in the scene in a second.
Burke was leaning back in his chair with a circle of red spreading across his chest. His hands had dropped a silenced 10mm pistol on the table. The damn sunglasses were gone, having fallen off in the chaos. The look in his eyes, the dead and dangerous one that had given so many residents of Megaton nightmares, were now filled with shock. The look faded to nothing as the monster breathed his last ragged breath. He was dead.
Standing across from him, a smoking pipe pistol in his shaking hands, was little, 18-year old Jason Barnes.
"I seem to recall confiscating that weapon, Mr. Barnes," Simms' said jokingly as the pair sat in his office. It had been several hours since the event and the poor kid had barely calmed down.
Jason chuckled weakly, his hands shaking as he gripped the glass of scotch the Sheriff had broken out for the occasion. "I, uh...thought there might be trouble." He glanced down into his drink. "There usually is, now."
"That's the way of the wasteland, kid," Sheriff Simms said seriously. "Sooner or later you gotta kill, or you die. No one blames you for it."
"It can't have been good, though," the boy protested. Simms bit back a sigh; why didn't anyone ever listen to him? "He was an ambassador. He told me all about how important he was, about how he answered only to Mr. Tenpenny himself. I mean...this could be bad."
"It will be bad," Simms assured him. "But not because of you. Burke wanted to murder everyone in this town. You stopped him. Remember that." The Sheriff sure as hell would. It was the perfect excuse for justice actually being done for once. And it was all that would keep the other powerful parties within Megaton from lynching his black ass over this.
The kid hesitated, thinking it over, but he nodded in the end.
"It was your first time, wasn't it? Killing a man, I mean," Simms asked, not unkindly.
The kid nodded again. He spoke softly, probably talking more to himself than to Simms. Maybe he was still in shock; that, or the scotch was starting to kick in. "I've got into a real fight before. When I left the Vault. Some people...they wanted to kill me. I didn't kill them...I couldn't. But I fought. Now..."
"Now you're a survivor," the Sheriff said confidently. The kid looked unsure. It was a hard lesson to learn.
Still, Jason would learn it. His instincts were good...as was his shooting.
"I need to leave," he said.
"Probably a good idea," the Sheriff concurred. "People weren't fond of Burke, but the fallout from this little event is gonna get people scared. Some might start to think...nasty thoughts."
Jason groaned, but then shook his head. "That isn't what I meant. I'm looking for someone. I need to go."
"Good a reason as any," Simms said, gesturing to the door. The pair moved to leave before Simms placed his hand on the kid's shoulder. He handed him Burke's silenced 10mm pistol. "Take this. You'll need it if you're going to make it out there. And don't worry about the shaking, neither. It gets easier every time you do it."
The kid had needed some information from Colin Moriarty, information the Sheriff had been more than happy to help him get, and then he was off. The young man had undoubtedly changed Simms' life, hopefully changed him for the better, and just like that, the boy was gone.
The next morning he watched from the gates as his guest pick his way across the wasteland. Sheriff Lucas Simms took a deep breath and enjoyed the sunrise. It was a new day. There would be new challenges, true. He had no idea how Megaton would survive now that they were basically at war with Tenpenny Tower. There would be meetings, a militia would have to be formed to protect the town, he'd probably have to defend his own position from challengers. There would be bloody days ahead.
Despite all that, he couldn't stop smiling. Justice had been served. A murderer had gotten his reward. His son might finally have a real lawman for a father.
The Sheriff would just have to deal with the new problems as they arose. Like always.
Note: I kept going back and forth on whether I was going to tell the story of Fallout 3 in a straight adaptation or a series of oneshots. Eventually, I decided on a compromise. This will be a series of short stories told from a variety of narrators, all of whom inhabit the world of Fallout 3. The Lone Wanderer will appear in each story as a side character and will be working toward finishing the main questline. This story, obviously, tells of his time in Megaton.
Note: There are, obviously, a lot of differences between the events depicted here and canon. This is intentional. I want to flesh out the world of Fallout 3 in a way that makes sense of its setting. The hints at a broader economy in the Capital Wasteland, the expanded space to accommodate a larger population, etc., were all done with this in mind.
Note: Once again, I'm trying to balance exposition and story structure in a oneshot. I still think I'm struggling with it. How'd I do?
Thanks for reading. Slipspace Anomaly