Chapter Twelve.

Using the remote detonator she found inside the nuke, along with the parts she removed, Moira put the bomb back together with what she hoped was less destructive force. While working on it, she thought she found the 200-year-old severed wire that caused the bomb to be a dud in the first place.

She had crawled inside the weapon while a cart was built beneath it and Brahmin were hitched to pull. It was possible the Talon Company would simply blow the entire thing up with a missile before it left the gate, but Simms said it was likely they would wait to ambush it, for fear the real plan was to shoot them from the walls.

As Moira fitted the detonator, she chuckled at the thought of how everyone seemed to be guessing everyone else's motives, but no one really knew anything. Her personal theory was that the Talon Company thought Tenpenny wanted Megaton for himself, or the bomb, and was trying to take it from him. Or Mr. Burke was paying them. It didn't matter, she thought, once the bomb was gone, Megaton wouldn't be worth the Talon's trouble.

"They'll have to call it Cratertown," she said, laughing.

"What's that?" Simms said from outside.

"Nothing," she shouted back, checking to make sure she had missed nothing. She climbed out of the bomb and saw that Simms had the detonator trigger in his hand. She was glad she wouldn't be pushing the button.

The townsfolk had rigged four Brahmin to a wooden sledge and dressed two Protectrons as Wastelanders. She ate another Mentat and looked up at the sky, which was loosing stars as the black sky slowly became purple with the dawn. "We need to hurry," Simms said. "Get that gate open and them Brahmin moving. Look alive!"

The most heavily armed townspeople were near the gate, waiting to return fire should the plan go wrong. The gate to Megaton opened, and the Protectrons moved forward with the Brahmin in town. Moira tried not to think about how their robotic shuffle seemed so obvious and hoped the Talon Company either wouldn't notice or would go after them all the same.

When she saw the backs of the Brahmin go out of sight over the lip of the crater, she, like many others in Megaton, took a dose of Rad-X. Moira knew they would need it. even pared down, the nuke that was about to explode not far from the gate was the real deal, and not a mini nuke.

Simms had gone up on the wall and was peering over the edge, keeping as little of his head exposed as possible. He had removed his hat and was holding the detonator far from his body so as not to bump it and trigger the bomb prematurely.

To be safe, Moira walked to the bottom of the crater, where the bomb used to rest. She noticed that the door to the Church of the Atom had been boarded up from the outside, and the light of a lamp glowed through one of the windows. She thought she had heard talk of the church members not being happy about the bomb leaving and had to be locked up. Others, she heard, had been eager to see the bomb detonate and had fought to get good seats on the wall to witness it. Moira had been to busy to pay much attention though, and now wondered if the church would remain in Megaton or move on.

Knowing the bottom of the crater was the safest place to be should the explosion bee too large, Moira stood there and ate Mentats as she watched the sky over the northern wall for the eventual mushroom cloud. As she was thinking about building a replica out of old scrap, just to keep things the same around town, there was a blinding flash of light.

Unlike most flashes, it wasn't over in a second. The light continued, forcing her to close her eyes, cover them with her hands and face the ground. She heard many people make exclamations as they shied from the light, and then heard what sounded like a wind storm blowing over the wall.

When things were dim enough to open her eyes, she saw the cloud. It was just like in the pictures, a column of fire with a ring in the middle, topped with a billowing white cap. She took another Rad-X, not knowing if two would do any more good but wanting to play it safe.

The mushroom cloud held its form for a little less than half an hour before becoming a misshapen pile of smoke. She knew she should go into her shop and give the radiation time to dissipate a little, but her curiosity overwhelmed her and she ran to the top of the crater towards a catwalk. People cleared the way for her to the top and soon she stood next to Simms who was dusting off his hat.

"That got 'em," he said.

Moira believed him. She was familiar with the piles of debris and rocks around Megaton, and the new face of the typical devastation looked different. She thought she could see the Springvale School still, but wasn't sure. What was sure was that anything that had been living outside of Megaton recently lived no more. "Should we look for bodies?" someone said.

Simms looked to Moira, who shook her head. "No," Simms said. "Nothing's left. We should avoid that area for a while. Not like there was anything there to start."

Moira supposed the benefit of being surrounded by the Wasteland was that there wasn't much to loose.

***

Moira sat next to Lucas Simms at a table in the Brass Lantern across from Herbert Dashwood. Moira was leaning across the table, nodding along with Dashwood's words, while Simms sat back, bored. Dashwood had been relating a tale about how he had snooped around Tenpenny Tower and uncovered what Tenpenny and Mr. Burke had planned for Megaton, and how there had been a falling out between the two.

The story was more about Dashwood, which bored Simms and enthralled Moira. According to Dashwood, after the incident in the tower with the Talon Company, Burke had been fired by Tenpenny. To get back in his good graces, Burke paid the Talon Company double to wipe Megaton off the map. Their plan had been to breach the walls, kill the townspeople, and detonate the bomb.

"Old Tenpenny thought the town got blown to smithereens when the bomb went off, I heard," Dashwood said. "I know a few of the guards, see. I told this one fella about the time Argyle and I were pinned down by raiders near…"

"So Burke is still on the loose, maybe," Simms said, finishing off his drink. "He'll try again, no doubt, but my concern is the Talon Company."

Dashwood laughed. "I think you sent 'em packing. The Talon Company are a nasty bunch, but they're in it for the money. After what you pulled, there aren't enough caps in the Wasteland to make messing with Megaton a profitable venture. I wouldn't get caught by them out there, though."

"Maybe Mr. Burke was vaporized by the bomb," Moira said. "You might not have to worry about him, Sheriff."

Simms stood. "What I worry about it my business," he said. "You two have a good evening." He tipped his hat and stepped past a man who had been drinking far too much.

Dashwood laughed and sipped his drink. "That Simms, I don't know how he stands it. Keeping to one town, doesn't travel around. I guess he sees plenty of excitement all the same."

Moira nodded, hoping Dashwood would talk more of his own travels in the Wasteland. GNR only seemed to have a limited number of his radio shows and Moira had listened to them all. Dashwood began telling stories, and soon Moira forgot about Mr. Burke and Alistair Tenpenny.

The End, for now.