Sorry about the delay, these chapters have an annoying habit of getting away from me. Anywho, good news is this chapter is long enough to be considered four chapters so really when you think about it you're coming out ahead =D

Alright, now Fanfiction thought it would be cute to remove the page breaks in every single story I've ever fucking written, so I've had to go through Project Ice Man and replace them all, while I was doing that I decided to tweak the writing a little in the earlier chapters, no plot changes, just less spelling errors and snappier dialogue here and there. Also, I decided to get clever while coming up with a new page break, being the nefarious genius that I am I have turned it into a code, and the first one to break it gets a character named after them. It won't be a cameo role either, I have two totally bad ass characters set aside for both a guy and a girl, but there shall be only one winner, so if you want to get famous you're gonna have to break my diabolical code.

As always you can find this chapter's playlist on my author's page.


January 30 2278

Kodiak turned to Dusk, "Do you know what the hell is going on?"

Dusk shrugged her shoulders and turned to look at Gallows who was leaning against an ATV with a bored expression on his face.

"What about you Chuckles?"

Gallows either didn't hear her question, or more likely, didn't care.

"Thanks for the input," retorted Dusk tartly.

"The Boss Lady wakes us up in the middle of the night, and tells us to get outfitted for a long term reconnaissance mission; this might just be me, but I take that as an indicator that someplace somewhere the shit has hit the fan in a serious god damn way," stated Kodiak.

"Your grasp of the obvious is inspiring," stated Dusk dryly.

Dusk shifted uncomfortably in her fatigues, "I hate these damn things, one lucky shot with a high caliber rifle and its lights-fucking-out."

Kodiak shrugged, "Might not be able to wrestle a super mutant to the ground, but as far as comfort is concerned, it's a bit of an improvement over walking around inside a tin can."

"Yes, because making sure your clothes breathe should so clearly be your first priority in a firefight."

Kodiak looked up in time to see Sarah enter the garage and come storming towards them.

"Here comes our Fearless Leader now, and dear god is she ever pissed," he said smirking slightly.

"Listen up, we've been reassigned from Special Operations, our new mission is to scout a high value target and report back movements and activities to Elder Lyons."

A few seconds of silence greeted that statement, followed by Kodiak picking up a stool and sending it crashing through a window.

"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? They're axing our unit? What? Because of what happened in Charlottesville? CONTROL SENT US INTO A GOD DAMN AMBUSH!"

"Lock down the fucking attitude Greg!" roared Sarah.

Kodiak waved a hand through the air and started to walk away until he felt Dusk's surprisingly strong grip on his shoulder holding him in place.

"I believe what my colleague is trying to say is that we're the best Special Tasks Unit the Brotherhood has ever seen, no offense, but what the hell is your Dad thinking?"

Sarah closed her eyes and took a long breath, "Okay, I welcome you to share your opinions with me, usually they're moderately intelligent, but the next time either of you speak out against our command structure, well, let's just say don't let there be a next time, understand?" said Sarah in a low, deadly voice.

Dusk snapped to attention, "Sir Yes Sir! Understand perfectly sir!"

Sarah nodded, "Now that we've addressed that lets address the task at hand. This isn't a demotion, this mission is important…you'll just have to trust me on that."

Kodiak nodded, "What's our target?"

Everyone heard a dark chuckle, "Take a moment, it'll come to you," said Gallows in a disturbingly pleasant voice.

There was a moment of awkward silence while Kodiak worked out that statement.

"Oh…great…we're hunting someone who can kill us by blinking…um why are we doing that exactly?"

Sarah opened her mouth then paused for a second, "We…have our reasons."

Kodiak fixed a look of mock surprise to his face, "Really? Well, I would just love to hear what they are."

Sarah glared at him, "Well, you can't, so get over it."

Kodiak returned the glare, "Dusk, Chuckles, clear out…now."

Dusk eyed him warily, "Umm Greg…not so sure that's a good-"

"OUT!" roared Kodiak

Dusk grabbed Gallows by the arm, "Let's go see what they're serving for breakfast."

Gallows shrugged and went along.

Sarah raised an eyebrow, "You really want to do this with me?"

Kodiak glared, "I've had a long 48 hours, and I've done a pretty damn good job of holding it together so far, seeing as how two of my closest friends are now dead, along with all the kids I was supposed to be babysitting…but now…now I guess fuck it, start talking Sarah or I'm gone."

"Three words Greg! Need-To-Know!"

Kodiak smirked, "You forgotten I've known you since we were kids? Add to that all the shit we've been through…you might be my superior…and yes, I might have to follow your orders…but don't for one second think you can pull that 'need to know' bullshit on me. "

Sarah folded her arms, "Greg I've just had my entire life turned upside down and on its ass in the space of an evening, trust me when I say you don't need to know, you don't even want to know."

"What the hells going on Sarah?"

Sarah laughed, "Oh my God, I don't even know where to begin to answer that question. Here's what I can tell you; Jason Wolfe has a connection to my family that goes back a long long way, and it's in everyone's best interests if we keep an eye on him. And I'm sorry Greg but that's all you get to know, like I said, it's something of a family matter.

Kodiak winced, "Familyright…well you have fun with that then," he said turning to walk away.

Sarah stopped him, "I didn't mean it like that Greg and you damn well know it!"

Kodiak turned to her, "Maybe you've forgotten Sarah, but you and the Old Man are the only family I have left. What affects you affects me, you don't want to let me in, don't want to tell me what's going on, fine, just don't expect me to be there when this all goes to hell."

Sarah smiled, "Come on Greg, you and I both know that's exactly where you're going to be, 'family doesn't abandon family, especially when they're walking down a bad road'."

Kodiak folded his arms, "So we're quoting your father now are we? Are you seriously that desperate?"

Sarah laughed, "Hell Kodiak, if it gets the job done why not?"

Kodiak shook his head, "So when is Colvin getting here?"

The smile faded from Sarah's face, "He's gone, he…found what he was looking for."

Kodiak gave Sarah a humorless smile, "Man do I ever pity the dumb son of a bitch who gets in that man's way,"

Kodiak shook his head and snorted, "The Grim Reaper sure has been earning his pay check lately hasn't he?"

Sarah smiled, "May you live in interesting times," she said softly, quoting the ancient Chinese curse.

Kodiak laughed, "You know there are two more parts to that curse right?"

"I know," said Sarah still smiling.

Kodiak nodded, "Okay then," he said with a sigh, "So who's going to be running the show while we're away?"

"Paladin Tristan is the new acting commander of Citadel Special Forces,"

Kodiak sneered, "Tristan? The man's a fucking psychopath!"

"We all have our faults Greg," said Sarah patiently.

Kodiak crossed his arms, "Yeah well mine don't involve murder, mayhem, and a creepy ass predilection for taking body parts as trophies."

Sarah raised an eyebrow, "And that Behemoth skull you got hanging up in the mess is…what…exactly?"

"It's an awesome chandelier is what it is; besides the skull of a big ass super mutant is slightly different than building a fucking bed post made of human bones."

Sarah shrugged, "Okay so he's a lunatic, what the hell do you expect me to do about it?"

Kodiak opened his mouth then closed it, "I got nothing," he said somewhat unimpressively.

"Neither do I so how about you practice being quiet for a while."

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Jason could hear the crackle of gunfire in the air as he bobbed and weaved his way through the ruins of Washington D.C.; it was here, there, pretty much everywhere. He felt a whiff of nostalgia coming on as he recalled driving down South Central L.A. in an armored Humvee while coked out gang bangers and Chinese insurgents were trying to bring the whole fucking city crashing down on top of him.

He suddenly came to the depressing revelation that those were the good ole days now…he wasn't sure how he felt about that, either laughter or tears would have been an appropriate response instead he just felt…not a whole lot. He was starting to notice that a bit more lately, he had made a habit of switching his emotions off and on at will throughout his adult life; he could be the life of the party at one moment and a stone cold killer in the next, but now, now he just felt…numb, like he wasn't on or off but rather somwhere in between. It was a new feeling, and Jason didn't like it, but before he knew it the feeling had come and gone.

Back at West Point Jason had taken numerous courses in science and medicine one them being a course in psychology, he scanned his memory and tried to remember what the symptoms of a looming psychotic break were. Jason was self aware enough to recognize that he didn't fully have his shit together, even if he didn't want to admit it to a therapist Jason knew that no man could see the things he had seen and come away from it undamaged, he was starting to wonder if the damage had at long last become to much, maybe he had finally reached a breaking point.

He shook his head and stopped his bike; it was definitely time for a break. Jason pulled out a canteen, while he drank he rechecked his military pip boy, loaded with new maps of the Capital Wasteland Jason could now see the hap hazard roads that had been formed throughout the ruins of DC. The ones colored in blue were the ones the Brotherhood had assured him were secure, the ones in yellow were those that you ran a 50/50 chance of getting your head blown off on, and the ones in red were those controlled by Super Mutants, Raiders, and something called Pack Raptors. There was a whole shitload of red on Jason's map.

"What a beautiful day!" shouted a voice from behind.

Jason pulled his side arm and whipped around to see Luke Dawson standing behind him.

"I just love what humanity has done with the place," he said gesturing to the crumbling city around them, "Very feng shui,"

Luke eyed the gun in Jason's hand, "What are you gonna do shoot me?" asked Luke grinning.

BANG!

The bullet entered Luke's temple and blew half his brains out the back of his head. Jason watched as Luke's body crumpled to the ground then looked from his gun and back to the corpse.

"Did not think it would be that easy," said Jason feeling a little disappointed.

Luke's corpse suddenly gave a gasp, "Umm OUCH!" roared Luke, bringing a hand up to the massive exit wound in his head.

Jason raised an eyebrow, "And apparently it's not, guess I'll just have to try harder next time won't I?"

"You actually shot me!"

Luke stood up and brought his hand away from the back of his head and flicked off the blood and gray matter, before turning to glare at Jason.

"The fuck is wrong with you? You can't just go around shooting people!"

Jason smirked, "Why not? Can't kill a man twice right?"

Luke smiled, "Funny," He waved his hand and Jason's gun went flying out of his grip and into Luke's open palm. Luke pointed the gun at Jason and shot him in the stomach.

BANG!

"What the fuck!" roared Jason gripping his stomach.

"Yeah, not so fucking hilarious is it, dickhead?"

Luke's body shimmered and the hole in the back of his head disappeared, replaced by healthy utterly unmarked flesh.

"But no worries, I'm over it," said Luke waving a hand dismissively.

Luke examined the gun in his hand and chuckled, "They give you this?" he asked.

Jason opened up his jacket and started digging the bullet out of the Kevlar with a combat knife.

"This used to be mine you know. Good gun too; killed maybe thirty…fifty people with it," said Luke fondly.

He tossed the weapon back to Jason who caught it in one hand and holstered it.

"Use it in good faith" smirked Luke.

"You're not Luke Dawson," stated Jason.

Luke raised an eyebrow, "And what makes you say that? Care to educate the rest of the class?"

Jason matched Luke's smirk.

"It was after I saw a photo of the real Luke Dawson that I put it together, well…not immediately, there was a good 10 seconds where I believed I had a conversation with an actual ghost, but then I remembered…ghosts don't exist. Which begs the question…who and what the fuck are you?"

Luke winked, "Clever boy, I thought I'd have you drawing circles of salt before you got this far. You have a habit of exceeding expectations Jason; In fact I'm willing to bet you were the apple of your second grade teacher's eye."

"Who are you?" demanded Jason angrily.

Luke frowned, "Luke Dawson…haven't we met?"

Jason glared as Luke wagged a finger at him.

"You haven't got as much figured out as you think you do brother. I am Luke Dawson, and so so much more."

Luke waved a hand through the air, "But hey enough about boring old me, let's talk about you. What's going on with Jason Wolfe?"

"Oh my life is just a 24/7 party, thanks for asking," replied Jason dryly.

"You thought any about our previous conversation?" asked Luke pleasantly.

"Oh the one where you said I was destined to save humanity?" asked Jason sarcastically.

"Well I didn't actually say that Jason, you see what I said was you had the power to decide the course of your species, you can either save them or destroy them. Destiny implies you have only one path before you, but you, you have options, well…just two options, but at least you get to choose the role you want to play…not many people get that chance brother," said Luke with a sad smile.

"Wow," said Jason flashing his eyes, "Jason Wolfe: Chosen One. I should print business cards."

"Oh mock if you will, but you have been chosen Jason, or do you think it's just some random accident that you survived the past 200 years and awoke here and now, at the very twilight of humanity. No no Jason, some things have been premeditated by forces far beyond your understanding; you my friend are one such thing."

Jason glared, "Okay say I believe you, I don't, but say I do. Humanity isn't in danger of extinction, our species is like the humble cockroach, very fucking hard to exterminate. We survived a nuclear war and a 200 year Fallout; something tells me we'll be okay in the long term."

Luke narrowed his eyes, "This species will be condemned to oblivion within a year, and that is not an exaggeration brother."

Jason snorted, "Oh and what may I ask is this great looming threat to all humanity?"

Luke smiled, "All things in their proper time Jason, right now let's just focus on what you're going to do about the caravan that's being torn to shreds by ravenous beasties not four miles from where you're standing. Honestly even I can hear that shit and I'm a fucking dead man."

Jason quickly cocked his ear to the sky; now that he was searching for it he realized all the gunfire he had been hearing had been echoing off the dilapidated buildings throughout the city, but those echoes originated from one location and along with the gunfire there was also a lot of screaming and snarling on the wind as well.

Luke suddenly vanished and reappeared right next to Jason grabbing him by the collar of his jacket, "You need to sharpen those senses brother, steel your mind, or you'll never survive what's coming, and Jason…I need you to survive…so pull your fucking act together! Or I swear to whatever god you believe in I will crush you like the lowly insect you are!"

Jason shoved him off, "Touch me again and I will find a way to murder your ass,"

Luke smiled, "You got fight in you…I like that, but let us understand one another Jason…you are not the one in charge here, you want to pursue your redundant little revenge? Go right ahead, it's not going to lead anywhere good, but hey, that's for you to figure out, but once it's all over and done with…you and I…we got work to do brother, and I'm going to need you at your best."

Jason glared, "Yes, let us understand one another, there is no 'you and I', and if you do decide to get in my way, you're right, it won't lead anywhere good, stay the fuck away from me or you will regret having ever heard of me."

Luke gave Jason a humorless smile, "You know Jason the Chinese have an ancient curse, well had an ancient curse. There are three parts to it, the first part is 'May you live in interesting times' I think we got that pretty much well covered, but the second part, and this is really the part you should be paying attention to is, 'May you come to the attention of those in authority'…you Jason embody that part of the curse to the point where it's just plain fucking tragic."

Jason folded his arms.

"You think I'm the only one who has taken a special interest in you Jason? Not even close,"

Luke shook his head, "There are many many members of the Jason Wolfe Fan Club, and if you think I'm an asshole, well, wait until you get a load of them; trust me brother…in the center of all this messed up shit I am the only one who is on your side."

Luke cocked his head in the direction the gun fire was coming from, "Now," he said with a smirk, "Time for some thrilling heroics," and with that he vanished.

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"GET SOME!"

Crow cocked his head to see his brother Bear firing a minigun into the giant feathery lizards trying to tear through the barricade of vehicles they had hastily set up when the attack began. Three of them were ripped to shreds but the rest dashed out of Bear's line of fire faster than Crow could blink. Four of the lizards leaped on top of the cab Bear had been crouching on and began circling the giant of a man while the rest moved to flank the Lone Star Caravan's barricade.

Crow raised his Tesla Rifle and sent a bolt of lightning crackling into the pack raptor nearest his brother, there was a second or two where Crow could actually see the lizard's skeleton while the electricity coursed through its body cooking it from the inside out. Crow quickly slung the rifle on his back while it recharged and pulled his sub machine gun. One of the raptors circling Bear twisted it's feathery head to glare at Crow, unleashing an ear shattering howl it leaped 15 feet through the air and landed right next to him. As it landed it whipped its long, strong tail around and sent it crashing into the side of Crow's face, dislocating his jaw and sending him tumbling off the top of the truck he had been standing on.

Crow landed next to three terrified children who had taken shelter inside the barricade while all the adults fought off the lizards.

Crow looked for his SMG and saw it lying 5 feet away from him, then looked up to see the pack raptor crouching on top of the truck he had just been knocked from. It gave him a murderous glare as it coiled its legs preparing to pounce on him.

Without thinking Crow reached for his pistol but the raptor saw the movement and tensed its muscles, preparing to leap, if it came down to a contest of who was faster that fugly ass lizard was going to win and he knew it.

Well if this is it, might as well go out with my boots on.

Crow pulled and the raptor leaped and that was when something extremely unexpected happened, when the Raptor was mid way in the air and less than a second away from ripping out Crow's heart, a large beige blur collided with it sending it crashing to the ground far away from Crow and the kids.

Crow looked up to see a 300 pound cat ripping into the pack raptor with teeth and claws as the lizard bled and thrashed on the ground, when it was all over the massive cat raised it's head into the air and released an ear splitting roar. There was a good three second pause in the combat after that as the collective sounds of dozens of hisses and snarls filled the air.

Crow got to his feet, snatched up his SMG and pointed it at the raptor trying to wiggle its way out of Bear's grip, another pack raptor lay bleeding at his brother's feet with a combat knife sticking out of its eye socket.

Crow unleashed a stream of bullets into the giant lizard's spine; the raptor let loose an agonizing scream that was cut short as Bear finally managed to snap the monster's neck. The rest of the pack raptors had drawn off for the moment, but they would be back, and with a new attack plan. The monsters were as smart as humans and had a lust for blood that was just plain damn disturbing.

Crow crouched next to the sand panther which had dropped to the ground panting, the animal's gaze flicked towards Crow for a moment before it closed it eyes and appeared to doze off. When the Lone Star Caravan had taken the old cat in they had been pretty sure that it was on the final stretch of its life, but apparently it still had some fight left in it.

Bear hopped down from the truck and knelt next to his brother, "Good girl," he said running a hand through her fur.

Bear chuckled, "Thank the spirits pack raptors hate sand panthers even more than they hate humans, of course that just means if they manage to break us they'll take longer killing us, but you gotta take your blessings where you can get them."

Crow popped his jaw back in place, normally such an act would cause him pass out from pain, but seeing as how he was currently swimming in enough battle stims to kill a large horse he barely felt a tickle, "I never understood why exactly," he said straightening up and assessing the damage to the caravan.

"I know the desert tribes around here use them to hunt the lizards, but what I just saw goes way beyond that shit."

Bear grinned, "Texas is feeling a bit more like home sweet home now isn't it?"

Crow snorted, "It would take half our warriors just to secure the most basic routes through this spirits forsaken city, what the tribal leaders were thinking extending our caravans this far east I'll never know."

"Well ours is not to question only to do," replied Bear dryly.

Crow hopped on top of a truck and shouted to the barricade 100 feet from their position.

"SitRep!" he roared

There was a pause then, "Six casualties and down to our last crate of ammo, they attack us again we're fucked!"

Crow cursed; they had already lost 40 of their number since the attacks began last night. He turned to his brother.

"We have to get the fuck out of here, like ten hours ago."

Bear nodded, "Not arguing, but if we move the lizards will tear us to pieces."

"So basically…not a good day to be us."

"Is it ever?"

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Jason eyed the carnage from a vantage point on top of a destroyed building. Bodies, mostly human, but also several large bipedal lizards with feathery heads were littered across a collapsed free way ramp, on the shattered ramp were two barricades manned by the remnants of what had obviously been a much larger caravan and somewhere in the shadows hissing and snarling were more lizards ready to pounce.

"Never a dull day," sighed Jason

Jason took stock of his arsenal; a 10mm handgun and a six round homemade automatic shotgun given to him by the Brotherhood, the single shot grenade launcher he had salvaged from Charlottesville, and the assortment of grenades he had taken from the government storage bunker. In the right situation he could dominate the battlefield with such an arsenal…this was not that situation.

Jason gave a dark chuckle "Well this is about to get interesting,"

Jason pocketed as many grenades and shotgun shells as he could, when his pockets couldn't hold anymore he slung the grenade launcher across his back, picked up the shotgun in one hand and proceeded to hop down from his vantage point and move into the middle of road.

Jason pointed the shotgun in the air and fired a round into the sky.

"Attention all oversized feathery headed iguanas!"

The sound of hissing filled the air and Jason could feel dozens of vicious hungry eyes staring into him.

"My name is Jason Wolfe! And I believe you God's drunken mistake of a creation are what the locals lovingly refer to as Pack Raptors! Let me tell you fellas what a fucking pleasure it is to make your acquaintance!"

Jason heard the scampering of claws on rock as the lizards moved in the shadows, he was pretty sure he was nearly surrounded.

Bastards move quick

"Now as I understand it the people around here believe you ugly smelly ass animals are actually intelligent, that taxes the imagination a bit, but hey, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt on that one!"

More hisses filled the air.

"You are hardly one to speak on matters of intelligence human, what sort of prey runs straight into its hunter's mouth?" hissed a voice from the shadows.

Jason chuckled, "Glad to see you finally found your voice there princess; I was starting to think I was going to have to carry the whole damn conversation on my own,"

"This is the last conversation you will ever have, I suggest you make it a good one," said the circling pack raptor.

"Exactly where did an ugly disgusting beast such as yourself learn to speak English?" asked Jason curiously.

"We watch…we listen…" was the raptor's hissing reply.

"Yeah? Well listen to this you and your fellow plus sized turkeys have exactly 30 seconds to clear the hell out of here before I decide to add some extra meat to my dinner tonight," stated Jason in a low deadly voice.

Jason felt the wind move and whipped around in time to see a pack raptor come leaping out of the shadows; Jason pointed the shotgun and sent a round into the lizard's head, causing its skull to explode like an overripe melon filled with dynamite.

More lizards leaped out from all directions and came charging at him, Jason spun around and sent a round house kick into the nearest raptor, snapping its neck then aimed his shotgun again and blasted another one into the air. A raptor closed on him from the side and he brought the butt of his shotgun crashing down on top of its head, cracking its skull and sending it crashing to the ground. Four more raptors were a split second from closing on him; Jason pulled his pistol and picked his first target, sending a bullet into the brain of the nearest raptor while the other three scattered and moved to flank him from separate positions. Jason felt heat on the back of his neck and sent a back kick into the chest of the raptor sneaking up behind him, he felt bones snap under the force of his boot.

Jason holstered his pistol and pulled two plasma grenades out of his jacket, triggering the detonators he dropped them to the ground and leaped into the air. The grenades detonated and the shock wave sent Jason crashing into a slab of concrete, turning the crash into a roll Jason bounded to his feet and turned to see the melted remains of half a dozen pack raptors.

"Eww...gooey," said Jason loud enough for the remaining lizards to hear him.

The air was filled the sounds of murderous snarls as more than two dozen pack raptors finally emerged from the shadows to surround Jason, you fuckers just don't know when to give up.

Jason flashed a vicious smile, "You know I really was going to let you filthy bird headed lizards walk away free and clear, but now…now you're gonna have to work for it."

Jason signaled to the men and women watching him with horrified fascination from the barricades, taking the cue they suddenly remembered they had guns in their hands and opened fire into the mass of pack raptors that were now no longer lurking in the shadows but out in the open with big signs hanging around their necks reading "Shoot me! I'm an Asshole!"

The raptors scattered like lightning but not before a dozen of them were felled to ground by bullets, lasers, and weirdly enough a lightning bolt.

Jason walked up to the barricade and the cheering crowd jumping up and down on top of their vehicles shouting his name. An enormous extremely well muscled man jumped down from the barricade and came running up to him, before Jason had time to react the man had him in a bone crushing bear hug.

"Yeah, I'm awesome, can you let me go now?" gasped Jason.

The man dropped him and gave him a slap on the shoulder, "Where the hell did you learn to fight like that?"

"You pick shit up along the way," said Jason rubbing his ribs, no way in hell was that man entirely human.

"To Wolf, Champion of the Ancestors!" shouted a man sitting on top of a truck, "We asked the spirits to send us their warrior…AND THEY OBLIGED!" he roared

The rest of the caravan took up the cheer and the man hopped down from the truck and walked over to Jason.

"And on a personal note you have my deepest respect…not many people can survive this gorilla's bear hugs without medical treatment," said the man holding out his hand.

Jason shook the hand, "My name is Crow, Chieftain of the Columbia Commonwealth Lone Star Caravan, and this enormous jackass is my brother Bear."

"I doubt the lizards will give you anymore trouble but if you want to travel with me I'm headed to Rivet City," offered Jason politely, although he hoped they wouldn't take him up on it, he had already lost enough time as it was and he wasn't sure how much longer the package he was carrying would remain viable.

"Sounds like a plan, just give us an hour to pack up," said Crow as he headed back towards the barricade.

"Terrific!" replied Jason through gritted teeth.

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Sarah looked through her binoculars at the slow moving caravan as it made its way towards Rivet City, she and her squad were keeping a good half mile between Jason Wolfe and themselves.

"If that dumbass doesn't start keeping his head down the whole damn Wasteland will know his name before the month is out," hissed Sarah in exasperation.

"Why do we care?" asked Dusk.

Sarah turned to address her and found the knight reclining on the hood of one of the buggies they had brought with them.

"Glad to see we're still maintaining military discipline," she commented dryly.

Dusk shrugged, "Just doing my part boss," she said with a yawn.

Sarah shook her head and muttered something under her breath before turning her gaze back to the caravan.

"We care Knight Sergeant because Jason Wolfe is a very valuable commodity, and the more people know about him, the more in demand he gets. Say for instance the Enclave hears about some halfcocked asshole with the ability to tear out a super mutant's throat with his bare hands, say they dispatch special tasks units to acquire said asshole. Do you really want to fight off every suicidal bastard in the Wasteland who wants a piece of this guy?"

Dusk thought about it for a second, "Umm no, can't say I'm overly fond of that prospect,"

"This is why we need to keep our pet psychotic killer under the radar,"

Sarah activated her headset and brought up Kodiak on the radio, "Greg, how many shithead informants do you have in Rivet City?"

"Shithead? God you can hold a grudge; it's been months since one of my contacts sent us into an ambush."

"Having to have part of your nervous system replaced with cybernetics does funny things to ones temperament," replied Sarah dryly.

"Oh don't be such a baby; you only lost motor control in just the one hand, God."

"Tell you what Kodiak, how about I jab a fucking knife into your arm and then see how you feel about it in eight months?"

"No thanks, but to answer your question I have roughly five shithead informants in Rivet City, and they're more or less reliable."

"Just five?" demanded Sarah incredulously.

"Well Rivet City was never my responsibility Sarah; Glade was the one with a shitload of contacts down there."

The mention of the name sent a fresh flash of pain through her psyche but she ignored it, "I guess five will have to do then. Radio ahead to them and tell them to start spinning the story of how the Lone Star Caravan was saved, I want over 50 different tales before the day is over, and at least one of them involving aliens."

Kodiak chuckled, "Will do Boss Lady."

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Bear had been staring at Jason for the better part of an hour as the group slowly made their way towards Rivet City, so had everyone else but they at least had made a show of looking away when Jason locked eyes on them, but Bear never did and frankly that was starting to piss him off.

"I know I'm one fine piece of man candy, but you and me just ain't gonna happen buddy, so if you wouldn't mind, stop eye raping me," snapped Jason.

Bear chuckled, "That's an interesting way of telling someone to fuck off, you mind if I borrow it sometime?"

Jason narrowed his eyes, "Well in order for it to be effective you would actually have to fuck off, but clearly you aren't taking the message to heart."

Bear smiled, "You're funny…you also got the whole asshole act down perfect,"

Jason gave Bear a dangerous smile, "So I'm acting am I? Interesting theory…tell you what…how about I break both your legs, kill your brother, and blow up all your vehicles, and then we can revisit that theory and see if you still think I'm…acting."

Bear winked, "Like I said…perfect,"

Jason maintained his smile, "I'll kill you to prove you wrong,"

Bear was unphased, "You really don't want people to like you do you?"

Jason pasted a look of mock surprise on his face, "What? You don't like me…well golly jee…I think my feelings are hurt"

Bear smiled, "Oh I like you fine Jason, I just don't think you like yourself all that much."

"Since when does King Kong give out psychiatric advice, let alone speak for that matter? Any other cunning insights you'd like to share with me Doctor Fucking Moron?"

Bear shrugged, "Just that a man who saves an entire caravan and yet is hell bent on making everyone believe he is the world's biggest asshole…well…seems to me that such a man is punishing himself for something."

Jason shot Bear a murderous glare, "You don't know me, and if I may pass on my own little bit of advice…you really don't want to."

Bear shrugged again, "I know a lot of things I'd probably be better off not knowing, what's one more?"

Jason was seconds from tearing Bear multiple new assholes when he felt something rub against his leg, looking down he saw a massive beige cat keeping pace with his hover bike, its swishing tail batting against his shin as it strutted alongside.

"Where the hell did you come from?" demanded Jason.

The cat tilted its head causing Jason to stare into its old eyes and all the ancient power and cunning that resided within them. The animal stared into Jason's soul with one glance, then apparently not finding anything to hold its interest it yawned and leaped on top of the flat bed driving alongside them, curling up in a ball it fell asleep next to a huddle of kids playing cards.

"Sand Panther," explained Bear, "They're indigenous to the deserts around here and they hunt pack raptors which to me makes them the best damn companions a man can ask for."

"She looks old," commented Jason.

"She's probably going on forty, fifty years," agreed Bear.

"Doubt she'll live to see another season or else we never would have found her out here."

"What?"

"When a sand panther knows its time is up they leave the desert and journey to the coast, don't ask me why, I haven't the faintest fucking idea. The cats are weird like that, but in addition to their weirdness they're damn smart and extremely dangerous, though I've never heard of them attacking a human who wasn't asking for it."

Jason had to wonder where the hell a cat that large and deadly could have evolved from, mountain lions went extinct on the east coast almost a century before Jason was born, that left house cats, and Jason had some trouble swallowing the idea of Fluffy as an enormous furry killing machine.

Jason suddenly grinned as an interesting thought hit him old cat with less than a year left to live…I think I just found my test subject.

Jason turned to Bear, "How much you want for the fur ball?"

Bear actually laughed out loud at that, "Nobody owns a sand panther, and up to this point I didn't think there was a person stupid enough on the planet to even think about trying to collar one."

"I like to set the bar," replied Jason dryly.

"If a sand panther likes you then it might hang around for a while, if it doesn't it won't, and if it really doesn't, well...that's one cat scratch you'll never recover from."

Jason looked up as a couple of dark blue vertibirds flew overhead.

"Guess we're here," stated Jason.

It wasn't much longer when he began hearing the sounds of heavy construction in the air; judging from the level of noise Jason was willing to bet that this was where most of the raggedy ass machinery he had come across in the wasteland was assembled.

In another two miles Jason got his first view of the Washington Navy Yard in over two centuries. The place was a complete fucking wreck…but a magnificent one.

Moored in the harbor were hundreds upon hundreds of derelict ships, some had been welded together to create artificial islands spanning more than half a mile in diameter, others were slowly cruising through the bay heading north and south; and in the center of all this mess was what was left of the largest most heavily armed ship ever built by human hands. A Super Aircraft Carrier; one of only four ever built. Jason looked for the ship's designation but the letters were too faded for him to make an ID. So he scanned his memory trying to remember which ships were assigned to which fleet; the Atlantic Fleet only had two aircraft carriers, none of them this impressive.

That was when he realized that this ship wasn't anywhere near where it was supposed to be; right before he had been frozen all the Navy's biggest guns were stationed in the Pacific doing everything they could to keep the Chinese fleet from overrunning Australia. No way in hell would the squids let one of their most powerful ships out of their sight at a time when Japan was crawling with Red Army, supply lines to India had been cut off, and the Chinese were occupying most of Malaysia. This ship shouldn't be here.

Jason balled his fists in anger, there was so much, so fucking much that he didn't know about what happened after he was frozen; and it was twisting him up inside because odds were he never would figure any of it out, who dropped the first bomb, how the Chinese managed to penetrate the coastal defense grid, why anyone anywhere thought a nuclear shooting match was a good idea.

He let out a sigh, "Well lookie that, we made it, and without me having to rip out your vocal cords…well the wonders never cease?"

Bear chuckled, "Wish we could offer you some money, as it is we don't have any, and won't until we find a buyer for the shit we're carrying; which isn't going to be easy given the current financial climate."

Jason laughed for some reason, he wasn't really sure why.

"Don't worry about it," he said waving him off.

Jason revved his bike and pointed it towards the aircraft carrier.

"Aren't you going to say goodbye to everyone?" asked Bear, for once sounding genuinely disappointed.

"Not my thing," replied Jason, driving off

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Jason took note of the countless machine shops, and miniature factories that had been set up on shore and inside the rebuilt buildings a little ways inland. He had to admit that this was one seriously thriving community, even if it was ugly as all hell. As Jason studied it he began to see the intricate system in place here. The aircraft carrier provided power with its twin nuclear reactors, the factories on shore built equipment to sell and trade with other settlements, and the ships that hadn't been welded into islands provided a supply line, ferrying food and equipment up and down the coast. Megaton was a fucking mess, but Rivet City showed a level of organization and technical skill that gave him a bit hope, hope that maybe humanity after centuries of sitting around with its thumb up its ass was once again becoming a real civilization.

As he got closer to the aircraft carrier Jason's attention was drawn to a massive junkyard located about a quarter mile inland, it wasn't the piles of broken down machinery that held his fascination, but rather the enormous six wheeled military vehicle resting in the center of the technology graveyard. He drove his bike up to the old marine recon vehicle and gave it an appraising look, it was yet another piece of highly advanced technology that had clearly seen better days, but if he could get the son of a bitch up and running again there wasn't an obstacle in existence this monster on wheels couldn't jump over or crush under its tires.

"Holy shit!" shouted a voice behind him.

Jason turned and saw a man in greasy coveralls staring at him like he was Santa Claus and Christmas had come early.

"That's a fucking hover bike!" said the man in an awestruck voice.

Jason smiled, "Why yes, yes it is. You wouldn't happen to be the owner of this massive shit heap would you?" he asked gesturing around the junk yard.

"John Gunner at your service!" said the man extending an oil covered hand to him.

Jason eyed the hand then stared at the man until he lowered it.

"Jason Wolfe, pleasure to meet you," deadpanned Jason.

"Glad to see you like my bike, it just so happens I may be willing to trade it in for something a little...flashier."

"Well you come to the right place buddy what you looking for?" asked the man cheerfully.

Jason grinned, he had a sense for knowing when held all the cards in a negotiation.

"I'll take the Bull Frog, all the materials I will need to get it up an running again, full access to your machine shop, plus there are few…supplies I'm going to need you to buy for me while I'm here, and I'm telling you right now I have a very long shopping list."

John Gunner stopped smiling, "Exactly what kind of list are we talking here?"

"Mostly weapons and ammunition, but a few other things as well, I'm a man with a truly abnormal amount of enemies, and when they come calling I like to keep them entertained."

Gunner folded his arms and stared at Jason appraisingly, "I have a couple business partners on the aircraft carrier, I'm sure they can take care of your shopping list,"

Jason keyed open the hover bikes storage compartment and pulled out his soldiers pack and the bag of caps Wolfgang had given him.

Jason tossed John Gunner the keys to the bike, "Then we have a deal, but if you fuck me…" Jason fixed the man with his very best glare "I will kill you and everyone you ever fucking cared about," he said in a low deadly hiss.

The color drained from John Gunner's face.

Jason slapped the man on the shoulder, "Just some food for thought," he said with a smile.

Jason started walking backwards towards the aircraft carrier and pointed a finger in the shape of a gun at John Gunner, "I'll check back with you later," he winked.

The man gulped then proceeded to busy himself studying the bikes engine.

Jason, satisfied Gunner was sufficiently terrified turned his attention back to the aircraft carrier. In his experience no negotiation ever held unless one of the parties involved felt the other would obliterate them if they went back on their word. Jason climbed up the ramp to super carriers airlock and was stopped by a guard in dark blue combat armor.

"State your name and reason for being here," said the guard in a bored voice.

"Jason Wolfe; I was told you had a bio containment lab here; I'd like to rent it out for a while."

The guard gave an exasperated sigh, "Christ tell me you're not another mad scientist,"

Jason raised an eyebrow, "Do you see me sporting bent glasses and a lab coat?"

The guard gave a dry chuckle, "Fine, we do charge a fee for use of our science facilities but that's not my department, you're gonna have to talk to Doctor Li and ask real nicely, she's not the biggest fan of freelance scientists."

Jason raised an eyebrow, "Good thing I'm not a scientist then,"

The guard suddenly pulled her sub machine gun, but she wasn't aiming it at Jason she was aiming it behind him.

"What the fuck is that!" she yelled

Jason turned and saw the old sand panther walking towards him, eying the guard's weapon with a bored expression.

Jason smiled, "She's with me," he answered the guard.

"That thing is your fucking pet?" demanded the guard

Jason grinned, "Don't you know? No one owns a sand panther."

The massive cat came to a stop next to Jason.

"Right…right…well I'm still going to need a name for my records, and if your kitty cat kills anyone, you're taking the blame...just so we understand each other."

Jason nodded and turned to look at the cat, a name, so what the hell am I supposed to call you…

Suddenly he grinned, "Her name is Kali, and I'm pretty sure she's house broken so you have nothing to worry about."

"Fine enjoy your stay in Rivet City, and please leave soon." She said waving them in.

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Sarah glared at Jason as he disappeared through the airlock; intellectually she knew that none of this was in anyway his fault, but nonetheless she couldn't stop herself from hating the son of a bitch. If he had never existed…her mind flashed back to the conversation she had with her father the previous night, the one where he had told her about the family history, and about the "great responsibility" that had been entrusted to their bloodline more than 200 years ago. Sarah felt her blood boil just thinking about it and only barely managed to suppress the scream of rage that shot to her throat.

My Father, she couldn't quite think of the man in those terms anymore, he was a treacherous deceitful bastard who had lied to her her entire life, everything from why her mother was dead, down to the real reason he had led a Brotherhood army in a two year journey across the shattered remains of the United States, and why he had committed that army to a twenty year long war to secure the obliterated remains of the American capital.

Hundreds upon hundreds of her friends were deaddead because of her father…dead because of Jason Wolfe. They had thought they were fighting to secure a future for their people, that the East Coast held some sort of strategic importance that they just couldn't comprehend, but that Elder Lyons who they had placed their trust in could…they died thinking they gave their lives for the glory of the Brotherhood of Steel…and there was no way in hell to make any of that right.

So she hated Jason Wolfe, she hated her father, and she hated herself because now she was a part of this whole god awful mess.

Well, I think that's about enough self loathing for one day

Sarah shook herself out her depression, "Alright game time people!"

"Gallows, he just traded his hover bike in for something, find out what and wire it with a gps locator, and be clever about where you put it. Despite all outward appearances this guy is not a moron."

Gallows nodded and started walking towards the junk yard.

"Kodiak, take Dusk and touch base with your contacts, oh and see what you can do about stirring up some dinner, last I checked there was a restaurant here that makes a decent roast chicken, but I'll leave it up to you."

Kodiak nodded in understanding.

"In other words, you want roast chicken and if I bring back something else you'll cause me pain."

Sarah smiled, "You see little brother this is why you and I make such a great team…you just get me."

Kodiak snorted, "And what are you going to be doing during all this?"

Sarah reached into her pack and pulled out a slinky looking top and low cut shorts.

"You know how us girls love to play dress up," she said dryly.

Dusk grinned, "Paradise Falls?"

Sarah nodded, "Paradise Falls."

Kodiak raised an eyebrow, "If memory serves "Paradise Falls" ended with Gallows strapping some asshole in a pimp suit to the hood of his car and driving through a minefield, while you strangled a guard with a thong and me and Luke made it rain grenades and mortars on the whole damn place."

Dusk sighed nostalgically, "Good times,"

"What's your point?" asked Sarah.

"Just that the Brotherhood has a highly beneficial partnership with these people and strangling them with undergarments might not be the best way to keep that going."

Sarah shrugged, "Good thing I'm not wearing any then,"

Dusk snorted with laughter and Kodiak turned to glare.

"That's not funny!"

Dusk raised an eyebrow grinning, "It was just a joke, sense when are you the overly sensitive type?"

Kodiak shook his head in exasperation, "You try to be serious and look where it gets you," he grumbled walking away.

Sarah gestured for Dusk to follow him, then once they were gone and she was reasonably sure no one was looking she stripped out of her fatigues and into her "disguise", there was a reason why Lyon's Pride had the best track record in the entire Brotherhood of Steel; sometimes it paid to be a little unorthodox.

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The inside of the aircraft carrier looked more like a gutted fish than the belly of a leviathan built with the singular purpose of unleashing the gates of hell on anyone stupid or unlucky enough to find themselves on Uncle Sam's shit list. A Super Carrier had 30 decks, ten of which were set aside entirely for planes and marine vehicles, the rest composed crew quarters, engineering, cargo storage, and the combat information center. Without a Chinese Navy, or any navy for that matter there wasn't a whole hell of a lot of reason to set aside prime real estate for planes that couldn't be fueled without petrol helium, and combat vehicles designed to fight an enemy that had been blasted into oblivion. So the denizens of Rivet City in a project that must have taken years had transformed the top ten decks of the aircraft carrier into an enormous bazaar and living area.

As Jason looked around at the many dozens of shops that littered the deck he was standing on he had to admit he was getting more and more impressed with the ingenuity of the people here by the second. He grinned a little, thinking about what some of the Navy squids he had known during the war would say if they could see this old beached whale now. Jason chuckled, sailors were obsessed with keeping their boats clean, orderly, and most of all lethal; if they saw the aircraft carrier as it was now they would have an aneurysm.

Jason was flagged down by a handsome man dressed in polished combat armor and carrying a nasty looking plasma rifle. The man stared at him with a calculating eye, giving Jason the strong impression that if he started any trouble on the broken down ship he would get a first hand lesson in just how nasty the plasma rifle the man was shouldering actually was.

"Welcome aboard" he said in a pleasant voice, inclining his head to both Jason and the old sand panther standing beside him.

"Thanks," said Jason equally pleasantly, and with just as much edge in his voice.

The man smiled, "Name's Harkness, you see all the…charming…men and women dressed for success and sporting sub machine guns around here?"

"Hard to miss," replied Jason.

"Yeah, they are a dashing bunch aren't they? Well…thing about them is…they report to me," he said with a cold smile.

Harkness gave a good natured chuckle, "And God bless them they have such a deep respect for the chain of command. You see if I were to ask them to take those beautifully maintained weapons they're carrying, and say I don't know…point them at someone and pull the trigger…well they'd do it, and without a seconds hesitation."

"And they say you can't find good help nowadays," said Jason dryly.

Harkness waved a hand, "Ah they're just not looking in right places."

"But of course I'd never actually tell one of my people to gun someone down in here," said Harkness reasonably.

"No?"

"Nope," replied the man with a calm smile, "With all the metal around here, I order one of my boys to open fire the chances of a ricochet…staggering. No, no, if you cause trouble I'll just have to kill you myself, because while there is a chance, that one of my people, though well trained as they are, might miss…you can trust me when I say I won't"

"Guess I'll just have to be extra careful when I go about my mischief then," said Jason with mock seriousness.

Harkness grinned, and in as much time as it took for him to twitch the muscles in his face there was a laser pistol his hand and pointed at Jason's head. Harkness pulled the trigger and Jason smelt burning ozone as a centimeter of hair was singed off his head.

"I would be extra careful regardless, it's a dangerous world we live in," said Harkness holstering his side arm.

Jason brought a hand up to his head and scratched the burnt ends in his hair.

"We about done with the pissing contest, because I would really like to get on with my day," he said in a bored voice.

Harkness raised an eyebrow, "I suppose it would be a massive cliché to tell you I'm keeping my eye on you, right?"

Jason shrugged, "Its only cliché if the message no longer has its intended affect, I will however say that particular expression stopped inspiring fear more than a few centuries ago, but not to worry I grasp the underlying sentiment."

Jason grinned, "But hey, since we're discussing clichés, I suppose it would be a little on the nose to tell you 'looking is free, but touching is going to cost ya,'"

Jason flinched, "Oops…I think I just said it anyway…"

Harkness folded his arms, "You're going to be a pain in my ass aren't you?"

Jason winked, "Like hemorrhoids…or…we could give being friendly a shot,"

Jason gazed calculatingly at Harkness, "Nah…lets just go with pain in the ass," he said walking past the man.

Jason turned back, "Science Lab is that way right?" he asked jerking his thumb down a corridor.

Harkness narrowed his eyes.

Jason smirked, "No worries, I can figure it out," he said walking away with the sand panther trotting behind him.

Harkness ran through the data his sensors had collected on the man, judging by muscle density and the light but distinctive stench of FEV if that man decided to take his role of being a pain in the ass to heart the role of Chief of Security was going to get a hell of a lot more interesting.

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Sarah looked around the Muddy Rudder, at the filthy chairs and tables, the drunk off their ass patrons, and the flickering lights that she was just sure masked all sorts fascinating stains and hidden vermin; the sign on the outside claimed the place was the premiere drinking destination in the entirety of Rivet City; she sincerely hoped that was an exaggeration. Sarah walked over to the bar and sat down at the booth, signaling for the bartender to pour her a glass of the local whiskey, which actually wasn't too bad, considering it was distilled in an old fuel tank.

Sipping her drink she gazed casually around the bar looking for a suitable target, she had plenty to choose from; the night shift had started an hour ago which naturally meant that almost everyone who had the job guarding the city during day was now working on their third and fourth drinks.

"You must be from Megaton, because baby…you're the bomb!" said a slurred voice sitting down next to her.

Sarah glanced sideways at a young man with slicked back hair and the tattoo of a cobra that started at his neck and ran down his chest.

She rolled her eyes in exasperation, "Seriously? I mean seriously?"

The man looked confused, "What?"

Sarah sighed and spared a quick glance at the amber liquid in her glass, well it's not exactly original Vat 69, she chucked the contents of her drink into Tattoo Boy's face.

"The fuck is wrong with you!" demanded the man standing up.

Sarah lashed out and grabbed the man's arm, twisting it behind him and forcing him to the ground.

"Okay two points, first and most importantly it's impolite to say "fuck" in the presence of a lady,"

"You ain't no –"

Sarah twisted.

"AHHHH! okay okay! What's the second point!"

"The second point is that if you hold any hopes of being with a girl whose time and attention hasn't been bought and paid for then I strongly suggest you drop the ridiculous come ons, believe it or not, women don't respond well to them,"

Sarah dropped the kid's arm, "And the next time you call me baby you'll be short one testicle."

She signaled the bartender to bring her another drink, "The gentlemen just offered to replace the drink he spilled, isn't that sweet of him?" she asked cheerfully.

The bartender held out a hand for caps and the kid after a frightened look at Sarah reached into his jacket and tossed them over.

"Now beat it," she snapped.

Sarah was surprised by how fast the young man was able to reach the door, he might have a future in the Recon Detachment, she mused thoughtfully.

Sarah shook her head; recruitment wasn't her department, besides there was too much new blood in the Brotherhood as it was, if they recruited anymore they would have to loosen the training standards.

"So you can't say fuck to a lady? I must say, I find that very disappointing," said an amused voice behind Sarah.

She turned her head to see a pretty blond haired woman standing behind her in a Rivet City Security uniform.

Sarah shrugged, "Well depends on the context, are you using fuck as a verb, noun, or adjective?"

The woman's eyes twinkled, "Oh verb of course,"

Sarah smiled, "Well in that case allow me to buy you a drink,"

The woman pulled up a chair next to Sarah, "Lana," she said extending a hand.

Sarah took the hand and brought it up to her lips, "And a pleasure it is to meet you Lana," she said with a smirk.

Lana laughed and took back her hand, "You know when someone gives you their name the polite thing to do is give them yours back," she said with a grin.

Sarah smiled, "Lean closer and I'll tell you,"

Lana smirked, "I don't think I can trust you to behave if I do,"

Sarah grinned, "Your right...you can't,"

Lana raised an eyebrow, "Well in that case…"

She leaned forward and Sarah put her lips next to her ear, "Do you really want to know my name?" Sarah caught Lana's ear between her teeth and she gasped, "Or do you want to do something that requires less talking?"

Lana pulled back and smiled, "My room is two decks up,"

Sarah sighed, "Rooms are boring, don't you have anything else for me?"

Lana grinned, "Have you ever seen the surveillance room? It has monitors covering every area of the ship, well…every area but the room itself."

Sarah grinned, "You know I don't think I have, do you think I can get a tour?"

Lana leaned forward and brushed her lips against Sarah's, "Oh I think I can arrange something…"

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The elderly woman crossed her arms, and gave Jason a look that told him this whole conversation was about to spiral downward, "This is my fucking ship, and more importantly…this is my fucking ship. So, either you tell me what you need my bio containment lab for or I stick your ass in the port artillery battery and shoot you out into the ocean."

Jason grinned, he judged this woman to weigh about 90 pounds, but he had a feeling if someone stuck her in a cage match with a trained soldier in T-51b it would be about an even fight.

Well, I guess there ain't much sense in lying at this point.

"I have with me a cylinder of Forced Evolutionary Virus, its of a very different strain than any you might be familiar with, but nonetheless I thought it best to take certain precautions before I popped the top and started monkeying around with it."

The woman's eyes bulged and she reached for her walkie.

"I wouldn't recommend that," said Jason casually, but with enough force in his voice to stop the woman dead.

The woman, Doctor Li fixed Jason with a furious glare, "The shit you're carrying is not the kind of thing you want to fuck with, if it goes airborne that green goo could wipe out every living thing on the continent. Believe me kid, I know what I'm talking about."

Jason reached into his pack and pulled out the large vial of retro virus; the color drained from the woman's face.

"What's in this cylinder is dangerous I won't argue that, but it's not communicable."

Jason smiled, but there was no humor in the expression, "But your fears are at least somewhat justified what's in this vial will kill anyone who injects themselves with it, well…most anyone. The way it was explained to me this virus rolls together about three dozen fields of science for the purpose bonding itself to every single cell in the body at an almost molecular level; problem is most people's DNA can't withstand the brutal rape required to complete such a task. In fact as far as I know there has only been one person in the entire history of the human race whose genetic cocktail was strong enough to stomach this shit…I am quite the amazing specimen don't you think?"

Doctor Li gazed at Jason with renewed horror, "You're a…super mutant?" she whispered.

Jason nodded, "Unlike any you've ever seen. You see back when this ship was more than just a leaky hull, back when we had cities and airplanes and space stations, this country was fighting a losing war against an enemy that outnumbered them four to one."

Doctor Li opened her mouth to speak but Jason silenced her with a look, this story was going to be awkward enough for him to rehash as it was…the sheer amount of blood he had on his hands…well…he knew it would do him no particular good to dwell on it, and he would be damned if he was going to repeat himself to this woman even she did remind him a little of his mother.

Jason continued, "Throughout history there has only ever really been two schools of thought concerning how to win a war. Ask any General whose fought one and he'll tell you the same thing, in the end it always comes down to quality versus quantity…who has the best troops versus who has the most troops."

Jason sighed, "The United States has never had the most troops, our strategy has always been that of quality over quantity, let the enemy have the horde, we would use their numbers for target practice. In every war we've ever fought our troops were better trained, better conditioned, and generally just smarter than whatever the enemy had to throw at us. For nearly 300 years the United States military drove every foreign army that has opposed it into the ground. Fun fact…we have never lost a war, not once in our entire history, hell, even the one that got us nuked into oblivion was technically a draw."

Jason gave Doctor Li a dark smile, "Do you see our mistake?"

She shrugged, this man might be insane, but whatever his mental state he clearly had some strong opinions about things that happened more than 200 years ago…and she was starting to get an inkling why.

Jason smirked at the lack of response, "When you're the king of the playground you sometimes lose sight of the fact things change, people adapt, and most importantly there is always someone who is ready and willing to take your place on top of the jungle gym."

"Say what you want about the Chinese but you beat on anyone long enough and eventually they're going to learn two things. It hurts getting your ass kicked and whatever they're doing clearly isn't working for them. After centuries of quantity getting its ass handed to it by quality China learned the same lesson the Persians did 2500 years earlier...the horde doesn't work. The army they sent against us in that last war…well we may have still held the quality advantage but at the end of the day…it just wasn't enough."

"Something needed to be done, it wasn't enough for one of our soldiers to be worth two or three of theirs; we needed soldiers worth ten of theirs, a hundred of theirs. We tried all sorts of ridiculous R&D projects; power armor that could rip apart a tank and cost twenty times one to make; robots that could disarm bombs and even fight in place of actual soldiers, bio engineered monstrosities that we could let loose on the Chinese and then pray they didn't come back to bite us in the ass…and then there was me."

"I was told I was going to serve as the platform upon which the next generation of American soldier would be modeled…that didn't happen. Its only now, looking back that it's so fucking obvious why it didn't…the military…hell the entire planet…was simply out of time."

A strange expression passed over his face, "You know…I had a clearer view of things than…pretty much anyone. I saw the casualty reports I mean the real casualty reports, I knew how far we had been pushed back, and then there was that look in my superiors' eyes..."

Jason narrowed his eyes, "In Canada I once shot a 15 year old kid in the head, he had the same damn look…he also had about thirty pounds of C4 strapped to his chest."

For Doctor Li, the expression that passed over Jason's face right there and then was filled with more pain and raw emotion than she had ever seen in her entire life, she was no stranger to heartache, but looking at him…it actually hurt to look at him.

Jason took control of his expression and straightened out the lines on his face, "I saw all that, and still…still I was surprised when I woke up after a 200 year nap and the whole fucking world was just…gone."

Jason held up the cylinder of FEV again, "As long as I live I'll never be able to make any of this right, but I can at least give all those billions of people some small measure of justice, I can give them that."

Doctor Li was beyond doubting this man, she had treated people who had delusional disorders, this man was by no means delusional…but she was pretty sure he wasn't all that sane either.

"And how is that," she said pointing at the cylinder, "Going to give them justice,"

Jason smiled, "I'm not a scientist, but then again maybe that's a good thing, you people focus entirely too much on the big picture, and the little things have a tendency to slip through your fingers. The people who…did this to me…ran through every genetic database on the planet looking for the one person whose cells were capable of integrating with this shit," he said shaking the canister.

"Humans are hardly anything special, at least as far as genetics is concerned, we share the bulk of our DNA with every other creature on the planet. So who said it needs to be a human we use this stuff on?"

The sand panther sitting on the floor next to Jason, gave a menacing growl.

Jason grinned, "Relax, I'm not talking about you."

"Then what the hell are you talking about?" demanded Doctor Li.

"Well you tell me Doc, what's the simplest organism out there?"

A flash of realization hit her square between the eyes, "That's…an interesting thought."

"If you're right then you're going to help a whole hell of a lot of people, but I don't understand how that's going to help you with your revenge scheme."

Jason narrowed his eyes, "Not revenge…justice and its going to help because right now there's a man plugged into a computer and wasting away in a dark hole somewhere, his body's mostly dead and if I wake him up, well, he wouldn't survive our reunion for more than a few seconds, his death would be quick and painless…and that simply will not do."

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Gallows stared out at the night sky, at the hundreds of thousands stars floating above him and reminded himself for the umpteenth time that in the grand scheme of things he was utterly insignificant. For some perverse reason being reminded that his troubles were but mere ripples in the vast ocean of the universe brought him peace. After having spent the majority of his life in the service of an insane tyrant peace was something Gallows deeply valued.

A flash of pain shot through his chest, plus, from all I hear peace is a good thing for a dying man to have.

Gallows looked down at his campfire and the pot of water he had heating over the flames, it was almost to a boil.

Gallows reached into his pack and pulled out a variety of containers labeled in Cyrillic letters. He didn't actually think anyone was stupid enough to go snooping through his stuff but just in case everything he had in his bag, from his journal, to the labels on his…heart medicine…was written in a variety of dead languages.

He opened up each of the containers and threw a pinch of their contents into the boiling water, wrinkling his nose at the odor that immediately wafted up to greet him. It was the sulfur, it left a nasty stench but unfortunately it was essential in the maintenance of a bio-cybernetic heart.

Gallows narrowed his eyes at the distant memory that for a moment sprang to mind. It was a hell of an experience lying beaten and broken on the ground while some asshole brought their boot down on your chest…

Gallows poured the now boiling water into a mug and quickly drank it down, grimacing at the foul taste and scalding liquid.

The pain in his chest began to lessen, but he doubted it would go away entirely. His heart hadn't exactly been in good shape before Charlottesville but whatever the ugly green bastards had hit him with had somehow managed to throw yet more oil on the fire. He wasn't exactly sure how much time he had left but he was damn sure going to make it count. He had crossed an ocean, killed thousands all so he could find the one individual capable of redeeming all the many mistakes he had made throughout his life. Well, Gallows found him, now he would just have to figure out how to make use of him before he died...again.

Gallows gaze drifted towards the aircraft carrier, I spent fourteen years looking for that son of a bitch, funny, but I never gave much thought as to how I would get him to cooperate when I found him...I don't think my usual methods will have much effect.

"Now here's a man who's deep in thought," said a gruff voice a short distance behind him.

Gallows turned his head and saw a middle aged man in a trench coat standing behind him, the man was staring at Gallows and his face bore the disturbingly calm expression of someone who had seen a lot of death, and had become hardened by it…it was the face of a warrior, and a dangerous one at that.

"Tell me soldier, what are you thinking of?" asked the man stepping closer to Gallows' camp fire.

Gallows narrowed his eyes, "I'm thinking you should move along…now."

The man in the trench coat smiled, it had the effect of transforming him from cold hard warrior to care free man who was probably the life of the party wherever he went. Yeah, Gallows definitely hit the mark with that initial assessment…dangerous.

"Come now, entertain an old man," he said with a grin.

Gallows was liking this conversation less and less, there was something seriously off about this guy, but as a rule he never forced a confrontation unless he was aware of all the variables. He needed more information.

"I was thinking about a dog I had when I was a kid, he had a habit of chasing vehicles around, its not that I'm baffled by the fact that he liked to chase them, he was a fucking dog, but…I never understood why, he had to know he hadn't a chance in hell of catching a moving car, and even if he did, what then? What would he have done with it?"

The man sat down next to Gallows and looked towards the ancient aircraft carrier as well.

"You ever hear of the old Chinese Curse? May you live in interesting times, May you come to the attention of those in authority, May you – "

"Find what you're looking for." finished Gallows.

"Yeah, I'm familiar with it."

The man smiled, "I always thought that was just an eloquent way of saying, the world is fucked up, shit doesn't make sense, good is bad, bad is good, and up is down."

Gallows raised an eyebrow, "Your point?"

The man chuckled, "My point, soldier, is that it simply is what it is,"

Gallows cocked his head, "Well aren't you the fucking poet?"

The man shrugged and stood up, "Sometimes I suppose. Good talk," he said starting to walk away.

"Wait," said Gallows stopping him, "It's considered bad form not to introduce yourself to someone. I'm Gallows. Who the fuck are you?" he demanded, dropping all civility from his voice.

The man turned back to Gallows with an amused expression on his face, "Constantine Chase," he said with a smirk.

And then as if he thought Gallows wasn't weirded out enough by him already, the man, Chase, vanished before his eyes.


The plot of the story is really going to start picking up pace at this point, you're going to start seeing a lot more complexity and a lot more twists and turns. I have a concept for an original novel, which I think is pretty good but before I try writing it I want to improve my skills as a writer, this story seems to me a fantastic way of doing just that. I'm going to be experimenting with my writing style in the coming chapters so feedback will be greatly appreciated. Hope you enjoyed the new chapter, I'm going to try to update atleast once a month from now on so you won't have to wait so long for the next one.