Introduction

War. War never changes.

The destruction of the world in 2077 by nuclear fire and fallout caused an innumerable amount of lives to be lost, and the destruction was more than enough for civilization to be thrown back to it's most fundamental roots, if it survived at all. Some survived: great Vaults built to house the few that were selected to preserve humanity; those that were not directly attacked and avoided the fallout; and the citizens of occupied Winnipeg, Canada. A city either overlooked of divinely protected in the two-hour war was now the last remnant of an old world. Having already suffered a devastating conquest by a proud, arrogant and fearful America, the survivors of the war that the US created sought not only to survive, but triumph over their old occupiers. To do so, the began building a new nation: the Dominion of Assiniboia.

Peace, Order and Good Government, the calls of ancient Canada, became the rallying cry of Assiniboia, expanding with the aid of military and economic resources few others have, reclaiming almost all of Southern Manitoba. But as they pushed forward, the secrets of the Wasteland and those that inhabited it began to make themselves felt. Tribes and raiders threaten the tenuous communications of Assiniboia, reliant on old railway lines, winding rivers, and ancient highways. A frightening and undefeated criminal gang controls the city of Brandon, two hundred kilometers away on the old Trans-Canada Highway, and it looms as a boogeyman to the leaders of Assiniboia. And these are just the dangers that Assiniboia knew.

Hidden away in a specially designed Vault were the remnants of an elitist, egotistical and advanced American leadership known as the Enclave, seeking to reclaim the land they once considered their own. Further south, in the American Midwest, a splinter group of the Brotherhood of Steel, seeking power and expansion that their old order informally forbid, pushes north and already has engaged in battle with Assiniboia. But now under the leadership of a charismatic, hate filled warmonger, they prepare to break the Dominion, having already laid waste to many towns for the crime of technology possession and for being in the way of "progress." War is on the horizon as the Brotherhood builds up it's forces day by day, while Assiniboia is scrambling to prepare itself after years of complacency, overextension, and internal struggles. It remains a question that keeps the leaders of Assiniboia and the Brotherhood up at night over who was more prepared, and who would survive the oncoming onslaught.

In the Southwest of old Manitoba, an area known for hardy pioneers and bountiful harvests, the small town of Melita seemed so far from all the political maneuvers and military buildup, just another outpost of the expanding Dominion, a trading post to the west and southwest of the sprawling country. It was here that a young man named Patrick Morrison lives, caring for his younger brother and grandparents; a life of hard work, steadfastness and determination in a world that demands that and so much more. But the trials of survival and freedom are about to come, and life in Melita, and Assiniboia, is about to change.

Chapter One

It was tough to be a farmer even in the best of years, Patrick Morrison knew all too well. Weather, insects, rodents, and sheer luck was necessary to even carve a sustenance living from the land, though the land in what was once known as Southwest Manitoba was rich and fertile. It meant that even in years of bad weather, or an early frost or a late spring, he was still able to make more than enough for him, his grandparents and brother with enough to sell for a decent profit to feed the towns nearby.

Patrick nodded at the green shoots of the corn and wheat he was growing. The corn was doing well, having been specially designed and crossbred over decades by scientists at the University of Manitoba, one of the few places that survived the War of 2077. Besides the corn, it also developed the wheat, barley, various vegetables in a small garden closer to the house and hay for the animals that all grew on the farm, along with a variety of medicines, tools and other goods that helped everyone in the wasteland. They may not have solved the world's problems, but they have made the post-apocalypse survivable.

He stood up, brushing the dirt off his pants before turning around and starting to climb up onto his Sleipnir. The massive eight-legged creature was a mutated version of an Old World animal called a "Horse," named after the ancient Norse mythological creature for having the same number of limbs. "Alright Demon," he said, as the beast snorted at the weight suddenly on his back. "Let's head back home."

The mutated creature snorted again, and began a fast walk to the farmstead where the Morrison clan lived, only three miles north from the small town of Melita, built and rebuilt over the original town built almost over 230 years before. Patrick looked to the south in the direction of the town. It was early afternoon, and only a few dark smudges of where the houses and stores of the town could be seen. To the southeast, a long stream of dark smoke on the horizon showed that a steam train was puffing into the station in Melita, with passengers and cargo from the east. Caravan routes, using the old Highway 3 and 83 that met in town as a trading post, was the biggest reason Melita was a town nowadays.

A few minutes away from home, down a worn dusty path from the corn field, Demon stopped, sniffing the air, and shuffling to the side.

"What is it boy?" Patrick asked, finally managing to get the Sleipnir to hold still. The equine held his head straight ahead, his ears rapidly flicking both forward and back to catch the sound of anything nearby.

Patrick followed where his mount was looking, and saw a large black creature move around.

Patrick grimaced. "Damn radgophers," he muttered. The War of 2077, or as some called it, the "Great War," had resulted in the mutation of almost all of the animal species in the world that didn't die out to some degree or another, his Sleipnir being a good example, as were the two headed Brahmin that were in a pasture closer to home. The radgopher, which was about the size of a small dog and with a voracious appetite to match, was a not so good example. Three or four of them could eat entire fields of crop in a day, and the holes and underground passages they made could shift entire houses. If the old books were true, they seemed to be slower than their ancient predecessors, and were still easily frightened. However, they also gained a taste of meat, and when a pack of them was starving, or even for no reason at all, they would try to kill anything to eat.

Patrick wasn't going to let the fact that they would as soon eat him as his crops get in the way of removing them from this life. It was about 75 meters away, far enough away that they wouldn't notice anything dangerous to them. He pulled his hunting rifle off his back, and, aiming carefully, fired.

The bullet flew straight and true, and impacted the radgopher in the side, and killing it instantly. With a grin, Patrick moved Demon closer to the dead rodent, dismounted, and pulled out a knife to cut off the tail. Every tail was worth an Assiniboian Pound, and he sure as hell wasn't going to give up free money.

The rest of the trip back home was uneventful. There were times when the Wasteland would throw almost everything at you, from radgophers to mutated coyotes and once even a yaou gui that meandered its way from the north-east. He checked the rest of the crops, the corn, wheat and barley that had been breed and designed to survive the harsh climate of Assiniboia. Further south in old America, it was almost perpetual summer and desert. Up here, with a glacier two or three kilometers thick covering most everything from the North Pole to about the middle of Lake Winnipeg, the weather was more temperate. There were times when water would freeze in July, but by the same token, there were days when it got to 20 Celsius in December. Perpetual spring or fall, more or less. Planting could happen all year round, as most crops could survive a few weeks of cold or heat.

Patrick brought Demon to a halt near the old house that his great-great-grandfather Morrison had managed to hold after the Great War, and the wave of radiation sickness, death and the brutal nuclear winter that followed. The house itself was a two story wood frame building, but with many patches, additions and subtractions over the years. It had once been painted, back when Patrick was a boy, but now only a few streaks of white were outnumbered by the weather wood. By now, this land had been the hands of the same family for nearly 300 years, and had been productive for almost the full time. Sure, some Morrison's came and went, but there was always a child or two that wished to work the land.

Patrick dismounted from Demon in the barn that was in the same patched, rough shape as the house, locking him in his pen and taking care of the coal black beast. He was careful to make sure the stallion was several strong, sturdy pens away from the mares and colts. Sleipnir's were very possessive of their position in the herd, and Demon, being the alpha male on the farm, would have not hesitated to trample, kick or even kill any of the male colts there.

Satisfied that Demon wasn't going to do such a thing, Patrick returned back to the house, passing the plows, wagons and even the old pre war Fusilier car-turned wagon that had been with the family since before the US Annexation. Tomorrow he would go over the corn harvester, though it was a month or more away before the crop would be ready.

He kicked the dirt off his boots, before pushing open the door with a rusty metal creek, to see May Morrison, his paternal grandmother, cooking over the pre-war stove modified to use wood or coal to cook. She was humming a tune to herself, some song from the old days, long before she had been born.

"Hey Grandma, what's for supper?" Patrick asked, hanging up his hat on a hook and resting his gun on the wall near a kitchen chair.

May Morrison, the epitome of kindly old woman, her face brown and wrinkled from a lifetime of farming and working in the home and garden to help her family survive, turned around to her grandson. "Bighorner stew tonight. Got some fresh cuts from a merchant going by on the 83 to Virden," she finished.

Patrick shook his head. "Bighorner meat is expensive Grandma. Can't afford to buy it all the time."

She chuckled and laughed. Patrick leaned down, and May gave a small kiss on his cheek. "At this rate, you're going to take after your grandfather, haggling and penny pinching. Besides, we have some extra Pounds. It won't make or break us."

Patrick shrugged and smiled. "Alright then. And, speaking of grandpa, where is he?"

"By the radio, playing with it as always," she replied, turning back to the stew. "Better help him get it working."

Patrick nodded, and walked into the living room where Harold Morrison fiddled with the big radio in the corner, a machine cobbled together over the decades as some parts failed and new parts made it better. He was just as tanned and wrinkled as his wife, but still had a lively, energetic and brash energy about him, different from the restrained Patrick. He must of got his calm demeanor from his mother's side…

"What's going on Grandpa?" Patrick asked, taking off his Brahmin skin hat and kicking the dust off his boots.

The 87-year-old man didn't respond, instead continuing to grumble as he fiddled with the ancient electronics. His hearing was starting go, which meant he spent most of his days around the homestead due to his lack of perception around him, which he both hated and enjoyed.

Patrick cleared his throat. "I said, what's going on!" he yelled. The old man turned around at the loud noise.

"No need to yell, Patty," Harold replied, before turning back to the radio. "The DBS is coming in weak, and all I can get is Brandon General Radio right now, all that shit music and propaganda crap they play. But I want the damn news!"

Patrick shrugged his shoulders, walking over to his grandfather. He flipped a switch on the back, the one that turned on the long-range receiver. Like that, the radio went from static to clear broadcast, the tail end of a song from 2054 blaring through.

"I was going to figure that out," the old man grumbled, but his mood lightened as he sat in his old rocking chair and prepared to listen to the news.

"From the Dominion Broadcasting Service in Winnipeg, this is the Six O'Clock news for May 8, 2218. Good evening, I'm Brad Horshaw.

"The leader of the Independent State of Brandon and the Syndicate Crime ring made a radio broadcast today denouncing the most recent assassination attempt on them. The unknown person, known only as 'The Boss' blamed dissident groups in the city-state, aided by Assiniboia in the attempt, the fifty-third, on their life. The Dominion has yet to confirm or deny the rumours.

"Down south in old North Dakota, there are reports that the Brotherhood of Steel is currently undertaking a purge of its medium and high ranking leadership. Elder Ezekiel, in a radio broadcast, claimed that they were 'removing the weak willed, the cowardly, and the Assiniboian agents' from their ranks. A man only known as Abaddon, has been named the General of the Brotherhood of Steel, replacing the previous commander who has, apparently, exiled to the irradiated hell of the Northwest Angle for his failures, which were not elaborated on.

"Prime Minister Richard Hawkson proposed Bill 19 in the Legislative Assembly today. Bill 19 would extend Martial Law in the Districts of Red River America, Devil's Lake, and the Territory of Souris River. Hawkson's Whig Party and Their Majesty's Loyal Opposition Tory Party has already announced their support to the Bill. The leader for the Grits Party, Maurice Klein, denounced the bill, instead saying 'The time is now to give the people of North Dakota the rights they deserve.'

"The Rediboine Trading Company once again is denying rumors that they are engaging in price-rigging schemes and violent attacks on their competition to compete for the lucrative Fargo Supply Run. A spokeswoman of the Rediboine Trading Company says that they 'have turned a new leaf' and welcome 'open and fair competition in the caravan business.' The Assiniboian Department of Agriculture, Industry and Trade declined to comment if they were opening an investigation.

"And that is it for the news this evening. Stay tuned for the weather, and the continuing adventures of 'Captain Mark of the Mounties,' as he faces one of his greatest threats yet: General Buzz Babcock of the American Annexation Force! This is Brad Horshaw, for the Dominion Broadcasting Service."

Patrick turned down the volume of the radio as the familiar ditty of the DBS played, followed by the numbers and forecasts of the weather, which, like usual, was sunny, cool, and no rain predicted, but was almost never right because of the unpredictable weather in Assiniboia. "Do you want to listen to Captain Mark?"

"I do!" a twelve year old boy shouted, running into the room from upstairs, skidding to a stop as he charged into the living room. Patrick smiled as his younger brother excitedly jumped up and down. His long brown hair bounced excitedly as he jumped up and down. A scar on his cheek, one he got after a young sleipnir kicked him when he was younger, was the only other mark on his face that otherwise would have been a copy of Patrick.

"Alright, I'm leaving it on Zach. But right after, we have to turn off the radio to save batteries."

The young boy nodded his head, and sat in front of the radio to listen to his favorite radio show, the pre-war police officer turned into a resistance fighter. While the story was lacking and unrealistic, in Patrick's opinion. How could one person, no matter how motivated or well trained, really change the world? And after being on the air for at least 60 years, and having driven the Americans out of Canada too many times to count only for the dastardly Americans come back time and again, would anyone really believe it all? But it was enough to entertain those that enjoyed the occasional violence that DBS was allowed to broadcast and kids like Zach that wanted something exciting and fun. So Captain Mark stayed on the air.

Patrick returned to the kitchen, where Grandma May was dishing out the stew for four. "They sure do grow up fast, don't they?" she asked, though Patrick wasn't sure if the question was directed at him or to herself.

Patrick didn't have an answer either way, so sat at the table.

May shook her head. "It wasn't that long ago when you were his age, and Zach was but a baby. Back when… your father was still alive."

There was a long silence in the kitchen, interrupted by the snoring from the elder male Morrison, and the excited gasps and cheers of the younger one as he listened to the brave Canadian hero defeat yet another evil villain, and the bubbling pot of food on the wood stove that was slowly stirred to prevent it from burning. Patrick's gaze eventually went to the corner, where a folded Assiniboian flag rested on a shelf, beside a picture of Sergeant Albert Morrison, beaming in the picture while wearing the uniform of the Assiniboian Army when he first joined up, back before the Assiniboian-Brotherhood War broke out.

"He never was found," May whispered. "He may still be out there."

Patrick only remembered a bit about his father, mainly that he was strong and adventurous, having joined the army as soon as he could, and only came back a couple times a year, usually in the summer and Christmas time. The rest of the time, he was on duty with the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry down south, fighting the Brotherhood of Steel. Patrick was five when the radiogram was delivered, the yellowing paper in the frame beside the picture, saying that Albert Morrison was missing in action.

His mother, in another picture just down the shelf with the baby Zach in her arms and a tired smile, and Patrick just to the side, died soon after the news came: a broken heart, Patrick was told.

Patrick looked away from the lone picture of his father and mother, and instead reached over to the hunting rifle, and set to work cleaning the weapon. There was one rule for surviving in the modern world: a working weapon was the only thing that could save you. Sure, radiation may slowly kill you or accident may happen, but more often than not, death came because of a desperate person with nothing to lose or a vicious starving animal.

Patrick worked the oiled cloth up and down the barrel, before taking apart the bolt and oiling it up as well.

It was a simple, repitive. Something you didn't have to think about.

"You can't dwell on the past forever," Grandpa Morrison gruffly stated one day when Patrick was sad after seeing his friend's in town with their families. "You have to remain in the present."

The familiar strains of "O' Assiniboia," the anthem of the Dominion, began to play on the radio, announcing that national programming of the DBS was complete for the day, and now local stations would take over. Zach groaned now that his favorite show was over, but he was running outside before anyone could say anything.

Patrick was about to say something about the radio being left on when it suddenly began making a loud racket.

"BEEEEEZZZZTTTT! BEEEEEZZZZTTTT! BEEEEEZZZZTTTT!" It screamed, sending chills down Patrick's spine, and freezing Zach as he opened the front door

"Oh crap," Patrick exclaimed, standing up and going over the radio. Grandpa Harold was suddenly awake, his grouchiness at being rudely awakened replaced by terror at the Emergency alert.

"This is a Raider attack alert! This is a Raider attack alert!" a panicked voice shouted. "Melita and Area is under hostile attack from raiders from the south and east. All Militiamen are hereby called up by order of Mayor Jamison and the RAMP detachment, and ordered to the town office as soon as possible with all weapons they can muster. All those not in the militia are advised to find a safe, secure location and wait for the all clear!"

As the message began to repeat. Through the thin wood boards and glass, the siren erected in the middle of Melita began to blare. Though it can barely be heard most days, today the wind was right to make it was a muffled roar, enough for everyone to hear it. Patrick was already almost out the door, firmly pulling Zach back inside, and grabbing the service rifle, a copy of the Lee-Enfield .303 that Canada and the British Empire had used in the first two world wars, but now was only to be used on Militia business, along with the leather armour that could deflect sphere and knives, and maybe slow down bullets.

"Patrick! Please be careful!" Grandma May called out, standing on the step.

"I will," Patrick replied, running to the barn while putting on the armor, grabbing an excited Demon from his pen and saddling his eight legged mount. Demon knew that the siren meant danger, and was prepared to race his owner to the rescue.

He slowed down as he got to the front door, with Grandma and Zach Morrison on the step, and Grandpa with the hunting rifle that Patrick had just been cleaning. "You better get to the cellar and wait. Take the radio!"

"Good luck Patty!" Harold shouted.

With that the young man was up on his Sleipnir, and galloping down the dirt path that lead to 83 Highway, and then turned south on the broken pavement and dirt to Melita.

The siren continued to blare over the long distance, and as the miles closed between his farm and the town, the siren grew louder. Occasionally the sound of gun fire, the whinney of the sleipnir, was all that could be heard over it. Patrick grimaced, and urged his eight-legged beast faster.

In fifteen minutes he was at the sign that had the town's name, and in a few minutes after that was winding his way through the streets of the town, past homes and stores and ruins, until he got to gate in a wooden and steel wall around the "citadel" built in the town to protect the citizens in the event of such an emergency. Already several men and women, holding their weapons at the ready, where guarding it. Several noticed Patrick, and raised their weapons.

"Halt!" one of them barked.

"Militia!" Patrick called out to them. Though they were prepared to shoot, they saw that he was alone, and someone they recognized from their monthly drills, and it was easy to see no one was following, so the guards opened the gate in time for Patrick to keep racing right through. Soon after, he was at the Town Hall, an old brick fire station converted long before for the mayor of Melita and his council. Already a large crowd had gathered, most with their weapons and leather armor just like Patrick wore. He swung off his steed, pulling the panting beast behind him.

There was a crowd of sixty men and women or so, half with their own Sleipnir's, half without, crowded around the Mayor and the town's Christian Minister, Reverend Marie Jamison. Two RAMP officers, one mounted and one not, but both with the red painted combat armor of the police force, were organizing the hastily called up defenders.

"They snuck in on us!" one man shouted. "Took the river up!"

"They will pay, them bastards!" a woman replied, and more people shouted their approval, Patrick included.

The mayor tried to shout over the mob, but when it became clear that she couldn't, she put two fingers in her mouth and gave a piercing whistle, getting everyone's attention.

"Alright Militia, they are just trying to get over the dyke and the highway gates on the river. Some RAMP officers and soldiers in town are already down there holding them off," the mayor said. "But with you here, we will drive them away!"

There was a cheer as the Mayor rallied her town.

"So it's time for us to go and fight to protect our town!" One of the RAMP sergeants, the one of the sleipnir barked, making everyone cheer again. "Alright, move out!"

"And may God protect you, and deliver us a victory," Revered Jamison said.

Everyone cheered, and began to march down to the river.

As Patrick was climbing back up onto demon, Reverend Jamison - she preferred to be known by her religious, not her political title - walked up to Patrick. She was a stately lady, in her sixties and with a head of white hair tied back. She had been a teacher as well as a reverend, and had taught Patrick when he went to school in town, but now served the town as it's elected representative. "I thought you would be back at your farm, Morrison," Melita's leader said..

"If they were coming from the North, then I would have stayed. The radio said from the South, so I thought I could leave Grandma and Grandpa alone," Patrick replied.

The Mayor nodded. "Fair enough. And I know Harold was a crack shot back when he was in the Militia, I'm sure he could plug a few of them. I am happy that you have joined us, and that God will aid us."

Patrick nodded, and the Reverend-Mayor walked away to talk to a distraught woman with three children, calming her down with her words, just as she had rallied the milita a few moments before. After the War of 2077, the different Christian faiths were brought together by the Assiniboian government, to provide faith, healing and other social works that the government couldn't or wouldn't do. Hospitals, schools, free hostels, soup kitchens and a dozen other good works are all done by the Christian ministers sent out after years of being trained in Winnipeg, and are seen as the best doctors and teachers in Assiniboia. With each town having one or two, and they would quickly become prominent leaders, as the mayor of Melita, who didn't grow up here, showed.

Patrick rode demon out of another gate of the Citadel, and down Main Street, which sloped down to the Souris River Valley, giving a weird impression of the buildings on either side either partially sunken into the ground and leaning if you tilted your head just right.

The RAMP officer riding the sleipnir raised his arm. "All riders, follow me!" he then turned to the west along Center street, while the rest of the militia jogged down the street to where they could already see the fighting and smoke near the old bridge in the valley.

"Where are we going?" one of the sleipnir riders asked. "The fight is the other way."

"I know. We are going to try to attack from the side," the sergeant said. "That should catch these raiders by surprise."

Patrick thought it was a good idea, and soon they were turning down Townsend Drive, and from there down to Highway 3, and then to some of the old buildings that once served as a tractor dealership long before tractors were rendered useless without fuel before the War of 2077. The fighting was closer to the intersection of the intersection of 3 and 83, at an old gas station, and the raiders were clearly more focused on the RAMP men, soldiers and militia that they were already fighting with.

The RAMP sergeant outlined his plan. "We just carry along the dyke behind the dealership, and when we get behind the raiders, dismount. Who will hold on to the Sleipnir's?" A couple people reluctantly raised their hands. "Good. Thanks for volunteering," the RAMP sergeant said. "Everyone else, when you dismount, get together to the highway, then start shooting at the raiders. Got it?" Everyone nodded.

"Good. Let's do this!" the sergeant said, and soon everyone was riding past old warehouses, rusty tractors and combines and semi trucks until they were just south of the highway intersection. Everyone dismounted, handing the reins to the volunteers, before quietly jogging closer to the fighting. Screams and bullets and maniacal laughter could be heard.

The twenty or so militiamen flopped onto their bellies on the slope leading up to the highway. The sergeant fished out a whistle from his pocket, counted to himself, before taking a deep breath and blowing into the metal tube, making an earth piercing screech.

"Let's go!" someone shouted, and the militiamen, shouting and yelling like a pack of wolves, ran up the embankment and down the other side.

A few raiders turned around to see what the noise was, and they were shot quickly. A couple bullets cracked past Patrick, making the part time soldier duck. He lifted up his service rifle and fired a few shots at a raider, working the bolt each time. The raider fell down, sprawled out and with red leaking from his body.

Patrick saw another raider, who hadn't noticed that the militiamen were attacking from behind. Patrick lined up for a shot, but the raider was shot in the back by a burst of bullets before he could pull the trigger.

The rest of the raiders began to panic, and many began to run away, heading west to the river and the bridge that crossed it. More of them fell as they were shot - and Patrick thought he may have got one or two of them - but some managed to get away still, and soon the sound of power boats, either powered by oars or by small engines running on whisky or coal or who knew what were roaring south along the river. Some militiamen followed them right to the river, shooting at the bandits as they ran away, while others picked up the wounded raiders to drag them in to be interrogated about what they were doing.

Of the flank attack, only two militiamen were injured, and neither were from the fighting with the raiders.

"Serves those bastards right!" someone shouted.

"That was a small band. Thirty or so. Must have realized they were outnumbered and tried to get out," a woman said.

There was a few minutes of self congratulations, with the RAMP sergeants taking charge of the prisoners, while the volunteers that held the sleipnir's came up to hand their animals back.

"Your creature is a hot headed one," one of them said, handing the reins to Demon back to Patrick.

"Well that's why I called him Demon," Patrick said with a wiry grin. He climbed back onto Demon.

"Stupid bastards, thought they could attack us," one militia man muttered next to Patrick as he got his Sleipnir back as well.

"But why did they? It's been years since there was a raider attack, so why now? And if they ran the moment they saw the militia, then they clearly didn't have a goal to attack Melita. What were they doing?" Patrick wondered aloud.

"Not a clue, but once they started leaving, another group of raiders were coming from the north, and another from the south, and they seemed to have wagons, Fusiliers, and Sleipnirs with them."

"The north?" Patrick repeated, to which the man nodded. "That's where I'm from!" he exclaimed, making some of the men turn from their conversations to Patrick.

Patrick looked to the north, then flicked the reins to get demon walking up the the hill to the top of the valley.

In the distance, to the north, several plumes of black smoke could be seen.

Including one that was about where the Morrison homestead was.

"Oh God, oh God, oh God…" Patrick gasped, using his boots to Demon's stomach to get him moving. The Sleipnir grunted and whinnied, but began to gallop out of town again.

Once Patrick was on the Highway, he looked in the direction of the Morrison farm, and his heart sank. It wasn't a farm near Patrick's, it was clearly the Morrison farm. Thick smoke filled the sky, all coming from the house and barn that he lived and worked in. Patrick urged Demon on, and the Sleipnir, though snorting disapproval at more running, went full out.

Patrick turned down the lane off the highway, galloping his sleipnir straight to the house, and pulled Demon to a stop. Flames licked up the side of the old house and barn, and the sounds of Brahmin bellowing in panic made a shiver run down his back. He began to cough at the thick smoke, just as parts of the house began to fall.

Patrick ran up to the house, braving the heat, and to the cellar door on the side. The cellar was a completely concrete encased structure, so the flames wouldn't reach it and it kept the inside cool. The door was already opened and only thin wisps of smoke curled out, and Patrick went up to it.

"Grandma? Grandpa? Zach?" Patrick called, his voice getting hoarse from the smoke.

"Patrick…" a weak voice called from inside, and Patrick dashed in, down the unlit steps to the basement. He saw his grandmother, bleeding from the leg and from a gash on her head, propped up in the corner. Beside her Harold Morrison lay unmoving, a gun still clutched in his hands, and a few shells littered on the floor. Two bodies of partially clad raiders, though stripped of armour and weapons, were next to the door, and a trail of blood up the stairs showed that someone else had been wounded and unceremoniously dragged out.

"Grandma!" Patrick called, rushing over to her. "Grandma!"

"Patrick… the raiders… they attacked right… after… you left…" she gasped, shaking from the pain and shock at what just happened.

"Where's Zach?" Patrick asked. "Where is my brother?"

Grandma May tried to say something, but instead began coughing. "Oh Patrick… it hurts…"

Patrick snapped out of his grief, and tended to his grandmother. He ripped off a piece of her dress and tied it around her wound, while he reached for a stimpak on the shelf.

"They… took it… all…" May weakly explained. "Medicine, food, bullets…"

Patrick reached back to a secret shelf he had dug out of the concrete and when he was younger and bored, where he kept a few spare stimpaks. He picked one up, and injected it into his grandmother. She gasped at the sudden prick, but calmed down, her breathing getting steadier and the blood clotting up as the chemicals in the medicine quickly worked to stabilize the patient.

"Grandma, we need to get you out of here," Patrick said, the smell of smoke getting worse.

"Yeah… yeah…" she said.

With some maneuvering, Patrick finally got his grandmother on his back. The smoke was getting thick now, and the flames were starting to breach the door to the rest of the house. Patrick took a deep breath, coughing as some smoke entered his lungs, and went up the steps he came in on, and then out onto the grass outside the house. There was a loud groan and crash, and Patrick turned around in time to see the second floor collapse into the first floor.

"It… it's gone. It's all gone. He's gone..." Grandma whispered.

Patrick carefully set his grandma onto the grass. The spots where she had been bleeding weren't now, so the stimpack must have worked.

Patrick went over to grab Demon's reins. The sleipnir was distraught: bellowing and whinnied in distraught and panic at the fire. Patrick could hear the scream and whinney of the other sleipnir's in the barn, and the brahmin too. Soon they were silent, and the smell of burnt meat hung in the air.

"Patrick!" a voice called behind him. "Patrick!"

Patrick turned around as three men and a woman, all with their service rifles drawn, galloped down the lane on their sleipnir's. "Patrick! What happened?"

"The god damn raiders attacked! What do you think?" he screamed out, to the faces of an RAMP sergeant and three other militiamen.

One of the men, the town's medical expert Dr. Burnbank, went over to May Morrison, and hastily checked on her condition. "Pulse… 98, breathing normal… I think she will be okay." He looked around. "Where is Harold?"

Patrick looked back to the house. "He… he was dead already," Patrick said.

"What about Zach?" Another man, the father of a son that was Zach's age.

"The raiders took him," May replied. "They took him… oh my God… they took him!" The doctor turned back to May, and injected some Med-X, to keep her from panicking, which could only result in more medical problems later.

Patrick's blood went cold. "Those raiders… what will they do with him?

The RAMP sergeant reached for his radio. "Whatever it is, it won't be good. I'm putting out a missing persons call, and I hope the Mounties we sent to follow the raiders will find out what happened." The sergeant was soon talking on the radio back to the detachment in Melita.

The doctor and another militiaman helped May up, while the other one hooked his sleipnir to the Fusilier that managed to avoid the fire. "I'm taking her back to the hospital in town," the doctor told Patrick. "You might want to come to, as you can't stay here."

Patrick numbly nodded, and climbed onto Demon again. The sleipnir, normally so hard to control, seemed broken, resigned. The little group walked back to town. The sirens began to wail the all clear.

They got to the hospital, and two nurses and Dr. Burbank quickly took May to a hospital room. Patrick was left in the lobby as she was wheeled away on a creaky, rusty wheeled gurney. Patrick sank into one of the old chairs in the lobby. The talking of doctors and nurses and patients, the beep of medical machines… were nothing to him. Even when the clanging bell of an ambulance raced by, Patrick didn't move. Tears escaped from his eyes, and quiet sobs filled the empty room, as the crushing burden of what just happened fell on him.

"I shouldn't have left…" Patrick moaned to himself, in between sobs. "Why did I leave?"

"Because you thought you had to," a soft voice replied, making Patrick look up. Reverend Jamison stood in front of Patrick, her arms crossed and sorrow on her face. "You wouldn't have known that the attack on Melita was a diversion, as the raiders and God kept that knowledge from us."

"What?" Patrick replied.

"One of the raiders we captured talked, and they told us all what happened. The attack on Melita was a diversion, and other raider groups were going to raid the farms. Said they were looking for young boys and girls, but he died before he would tell us why." The mayor growled, anger on her face. "Five other farms around Melita were hit, and the parents were killed, and the kids are gone."

Patrick shuddered. "But I should still have been here, and stopped them."

"You would have died as well."

"But it's better than letting my family get destroyed without me!"

The mayor shook his head. "No. God has willed it that you survive, for He has a mission for you to do. I know you aren't a religious man, Patrick, but you are alive because he has plans for you. I can't tell you what they are, as they are a mystery to all but Him.

"But, I do know we, Melita, your Grandma, your brother: all of us need you right now. You are one of the bravest and cleverest men in Melita, and I think it is safe to say that you are the best hope we have to find our children again, to find your brother. This town needs your help."

Patrick looked down, to the broken tile floor, and back up to Reverend Jamison. "Why not one of the RAMP officers? Isn't that why they are here?"

Jamison shook her head. "They can't. They are stretched thin as it is, with all the hoopla over North Dakota and the Brotherhood of Steel down south. We're lucky to have two full time officers here in Melita as it is."

Patrick sighed. "Well, I have nothing else to live for…"

"You have your brother, and your Grandmother. Dr. Burbank is a good man, and will do everything he can to help your Grandma. Do it for them. If for no one else, do it for your family."

Patrick rose up, and wiped his eyes and nose. "Alright, I will do it."

Reverend Jamison smiled. "And I have something for you." She reached into the Brahmin skin bag, and pulled out a large object. "The Pip-Boy 3000A. A personal computer for your wrist, one issued to everyone in the standard Vault-Tec vault. I want you to take it."

Patrick carefully took it, looking over the lightweight alloy case that, despite years of use, didn't look worn or rusty. "How did you get it?"

"My family was in Vault H, just south of Winnipeg. It was passed down to the eldest for many years, but I have no children, and I can't think of anyone else better to use it."

Patrick nodded, and slipped the surprisingly light device over his left arm. It fastened itself shut, and turned on, giving a cheerful chime as a classic Vault-Boy appeared on screen, waving to Patrick.

"Unfortunately, the map data our family had been collecting for years on it was lost when a memory device went on it. All that is left is the topographical map. You will have to enter towns and locations in it manually when you arrive in a new place. I did put in the location of a possible place to start looking, Waskada. Raiders overran the town a few months ago, if you remember. The RAMP or Army hasn't been able to get rid of it. Most likely the best place to look."

Patrick nodded, but suddenly the Pip-Boy began to beep. Patrick and the Reverend looked at it, before he chuckled. "Oh right. Occasionally the thing will detect a wireless network and try to download all available information. Usually the news, some government stuff, and advertisements sometimes. Can't edit them, and I can't figure out how to turn it off. Should give you some reading material though."

Patrick nodded, and shook the Reverend's hand. "I just need some supplies and weapons, and I will be on my way." He stood up and walked out the door to the hitching post where Demon was standing, waiting patiently.

"Then Godspeed, Patrick. Godspeed."

Pip-Boy InfoTracker Note #1

RobCo/Vault-Tec North InfoTracker System Version 1.3

Greetings, resident of Vault [INSERT VALUE HERE]! If you are reading this message, you have just been selected into the Canadian Preservation Project (CPP), and are now living in the relative comfort of the best mass preservation projects in the Western World. You may have all heard of Project Safehouse in the United States, and the CPP sets out to do the same thing; protect the best and brightest in Canada to repopulate our great nation.

To make your life here underground comfortable away from whatever chaos and anarchy reigns in the post-[INSERT DISASTER HERE] world, Vault-Tec North, along with our partner's RobCo Industries, provide you with this Pip-Boy 3000. You can find the full 17-volume manual for use and maintenance in your Vault's library system, but this notice only contains the information needed for use of the InfoTracker System by ElectroArtists.

InfoTracker is to be used to keep important information for the user in a safe, secure and accessible place, while allowing Vault leaders to provide important notices and news in a timely and efficient manner, while also protecting you, your family, and your friends from the threats of subversion and sedition. You will never have to worry about losing information, notes, dates or patriotism with this handy program ever again!

When interfaced with a RobCo Unified Operating System equipped computer through the InfoTracker Cable (not included) or wirelessly, your Pip-Boy will be linked to all notes and files present on the computer and any articles that NewsNet, RobCo's computer news network for the Vault System, has for you. Other notes, thanks to the integrated microphone and speaker in your Pip-Boy, can also record and preserve messages with surprising vocal clarity. In addition, InfoTracker can keep track of thousands of messages, so you should never have to worry about forgetting or losing anything ever again!

ElectroArtists guarantees that you will be safe, secure and well informed with InfoTracker, only on the Pip-Boy 3000 by RobCo. Industries.

Version 1.1 Update (9/18/2075): Fixed issue/Removed translation from Chinese to English. Removed seditious words such as "Communist," "Marx" and "Revolution;" To see full list, consult Read-me File #139 and your local authorities for wanting to know what that list is. Removed capabilities to interlink with non-UOS equipped computers. Fixed issue where program would be corrupted when accessing Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.)

Version 1.2 Update (2/4/2076): Fixed issue with losing data when Pip-Boy shuts off. Replaced all seditious words removed before with suitable American replacements.

Version 1.3 Update (8/29/2076): Fixed issue with random shut offs while in use. Added Dirty-Filthy Commie Propaganda-B-Gone program