Chapter One.

Moira Brown sat in a dumpster seeing if she could count the items piled in with her. It was interesting to think about, and it was a welcome distraction to what was going on outside.

When she heard her former assistant's skull pop between the deathclaw's jaws, she risked reaching into the front pocket of her jumpsuit for her box of Mentats. Carefully, she opened it and put one in her mouth, letting it dissolve on her tongue as she put the box carefully back. She went back to counting the different types of items, idly hoping she would spy something useful.

The deathclaw snarled at something, and was responded to by the snarl of another deathclaw. So they run in packs, Moira thought. At least they're not lonely. She made a mental note to make a paper note later about the deathclaws being pack hunters. She wished she could make one now, without risk of the creature's hearing her, that way if someone found her maybe at least the note would survive to let others know.

From the sounds, she guessed the deathclaws were fighting over the remains of her assistant. For a moment, she dared consider lowering the lid on the dumpster, closing herself in. She thought better of it, knowing that if the deathclaws sensed where she was hiding she was dead, lid or no lid.

She went back to counting items, trying not to think about the danger she was in. Her eyes fell on something gray and cylindrical sticking out from beneath and only bag of potato chips near her foot. Slowly, she reached for the object and pulled it from beneath the chip bag.

It was a .44 magnum revolver, a Smith & Wesson model. Glancing at it and feeling the weight in her hand, she thought it was in fairly good condition. It could use a good cleaning, but what in the wasteland couldn't?

She also noticed that it was loaded. Whether the bullets were any good, she couldn't tell without opening the cylinder which would make a clicking noise. She had already risked much by moving it from beneath the potato chip bag. The deathclaws had settled their differences and, from the sound, each had found some meat to chew on.

Moira made another mental note, this one telling her to make a paper note about how sometimes one could find useful weapons hidden in odd places, so it never hurt to look. She went back to counting items, hoping the deathclaws would finish eating and wander off before nightfall. If she wasn't back in Megaton by morning, it was likely people would assume she had died. The mercenary she had gone through so much trouble to hire to guard the store would wander off and the townspeople would likely begin dividing up her things.

She could put a stop to that easy enough once she got back, but it was still annoying and Moira didn't want to have to go through it again.

The wind shifted. She caught the scent of blood and torn open bowels. Which means my smell isn't blowing their way, she thought happily, reaching for another Mentat. In the back of her mind, she knew she was addicted to the things, but they kept her mind sharp when life seemed intent on dulling her intellect.

Distracting herself once more with her counting, she almost didn't realize the deathclaws had finished eating and were now sniffing around until one bumped the dumpster. The noise startled her and made her shift her body, which made a sound. Well, I'm dead, she thought. I sure hope this gun works.

The deathclaw poked its wide, reptilian snout over the lip of the dumpster and opened its jaws to enclose Moira's skull. "Here goes nothing," she said, pulling the trigger while pointing the barrel down the monster's throat.

The gun fired, its kick nearly snapping Moira's wrist while the sound made her ears ring. She dropped the gun as the deathclaw's neck struck the edge of the dumpster. She heard its body brush the outside wall and she took the opportunity to quickly close the lid. The second deathclaw wasted little time rushing to devour its dead comrade, and with the lid now shut, perhaps it wouldn't go poking around after her.

She popped another Mentat, confident the sound of tearing flesh would cover her own noise. Lying back against the dumpster wall, she rubbed her sore wrist and wondered what deathclaw meat tasted like. I'll bet it's tough, she thought.

Moira didn't dare fall asleep, lest her snoring make the second deathclaw curious. She passed another long set of hours staring into the interior of the now dark dumpster, alone with her thoughts. It occurred to her she should put something in her Wasteland Survival Guide about using dumpsters as hiding places. Make sure to close the lid, she thought.

At some point, she noticed she could no longer hear the deathclaw outside. Carefully, she picked up the magnum and risked taking a peek over the lip of the dumpster by lifting the top a few inches.

Night had fallen.

Crossing the wasteland at night was not a good idea. The actual dangers were roughly the same, but people's ability to spot danger before it spotted them was greatly decreased. Her nose caught the scent of the dead deathclaw and she looked down. From what she could tell in the faint starlight, the other deathclaw had left quite a bit of meat, perhaps being already half full from her former assistant. What was her name? Moira thought, feeling bad about not being able to remember. She went though so many assistants, it really was no wonder she couldn't keep them all straight.

The corpse would soon attract other things, mostly likely wild dogs or giant mole rats, but she wouldn't be surprised if a radscorpion happened by. One thing she had learned while writing the Wasteland Survival Guide was that nothing in the wasteland was above scavenging, except for robots.

Popping another Mentat, she climbed out of the dumpster and avoided stepping on the dead deathclaw. She knew she was on the west side of the old Super-Duper Mart, and knowing that she knew which way was north to Megaton. The distance itself wasn't long, but the rocky terrain and various dangers made the going slow. She went as fast as she could, praying to whatever gods now ruled the wastes that she would reach Megaton before morning and in once piece.

To be continued…