"Ah! Welcome back, registered guest!" Cerberus exclaimed in the overly enthusiastic, psuedo-military cadence his programmers had long ago given him. The Mister Gutsy robot rotated its appendages until the pincer was facing forward. "Did you remember my request, human?"

Lee removed his backpack, groaning a bit in relief after he set it down on the floor, and retrieved the tiny canister of flamer fuel he had managed to scrounge up in the lower levels of the Museum of History.

"Just like ya asked for, Cerb." Lee answered the militant automaton and held out the canister.

Cerberus plucked the canister up by the handle, grumbled to himself something about incinerating rotting zombies, before he turned around to literally shit a box of .44 magnums.

"Thanks for your assistance, civilian. Closing dialog system."

Lee shook his head as he snatched up the box of ammo. He had been down to two speed-loaders and four rounds for his .44 Telly Custom Magnum Revolver when he had arrived in Underworld several days ago. His old .32 hunting rifle had been in sorry shape. Thankfully the ghouls in Underworld had bee nice enough to fix his rifle in exchange for retrieving some scrap from the lower levels. Then, in a bizarre turn, Cerberus had revealed that he had an entire box of .44 magnum ammo up his robotic butt and would trade them for some additional flamer fuel. The amount of fuel that he had traded was certainly not equal to the cost of the ammo but Lee was certainly not complaining.

"Hey, kid!" Lee was still having a hard time telling ghoul voices apart except for Carol and Greta for some weird reason but Winthrop was the only one that called him 'kid'. "I see we weren't wrong about helping out another smoothskin. How much scrap have you got with you?"

Lee shrugged and resisted the urge to sneeze at the amount of chalky dust that arose from the shoulders of his borrowed leather armor, "Hell if I know, Winnie. All I know is that it's heavier than shit."

Winthrop laughed warmly despite the fact that it was still weird for Lee to actually see a ghoul laughing, "Alright, kid. Let's go to Tulip's and sort this shit out. Those damn air filters need fixing again and hopefully we'll have some good stuff to fix them with."

Lee watched Winthrop pick up the heavy bag with a grateful smile. It probably weighed thirty pounds. It was still pretty early, he knew he had left for the lower levels sometime in the middle of the night, so the main hall was relatively empty.

"Hey, has ya seen my nose?" The slurred voice of Patchwork came from the mound of shapeless rages on a bench to the left.

"No, you lush! Get the Hell to your cot!" Winthrop shouted as he shook a gnarled hand at the drunk. "You're stinking up the place worse than it already is!"

Lee chuckled as Patchwork's response was a thunderous belch and a slightly less noisy fart before he toppled off the bench.

"Sonofabitch!" Winthrop muttered, putting a hand to what was left of his nose as he hurried into Tulip's store. "Close the damn door!"

Lee let loose with peals of laughter as he closed the door and Tulip cocked her head to the side in puzzlement as Winthrop blew explosively from his nasal cavity.

"It's not funny! I have half a mind to kick him out! I could say he's a hazard to public health! God! It's almost as bad as a brahmin!"

"You guys should get your own comedy show, Winthrop." Tulip's barely there lips were turned upwards in a small smile at Winthrop's melodramatic display.

"Yeah, sure, Tulip. Whatever you say."

Lee approached the counter and smiled widely at Tulip, "Hey, Tulip. Did you miss me?"

"Sure I did, Lee." The human always got the impression that Tulip's voice should have been high, squeaky, and perpetually cheerful but the ravages of radiation had done a number on her vocal cords. "How did my work hold up?"

"You do good work, amiga. The bolt never worked so smooth and the work ya did on the pull with the Telly was great! You should get more into gun-smithing with that kinda talent."

Tulip looked down at the counter, "Oh, stop teasing."

"I'm not! You're better than anyone around here gives you credit for, girl! It's just sad that there aren't enough people coming here to trade with you!" Lee smiled as he got an idea. "Hey, I know some traders that might be interested in making the trip if I can convince them that the route's not too bad. Of course, ya might still not sell very much to the ghouls around here. They're a pretty basic bunch. No offense."

Tulip smiled again and raised her head, "None taken. You want me to clean your guns for you? Free of charge this time."

"Thanks, Tulip. You're the best!"

Lee removed his gunbelt and handed his weapons over to the ghoul-girl.

"Hey, kid. Stop trying to get with my girl and come give me a hand with all this shit."

"Gotta go. Thanks again, Tulip."

"No problem, Lee."

It turned out that Winthrop had already sorted the parts out and there were enough to fix the air filters. Lee loaded a smaller duffel with the parts, changed into spare overalls and accompanied a toolkit toting Winthrop into Carol's Place. They ascended a pull-down ladder into the primary ventilation duct and got to work.

"I should be the one thanking you, kid." Winthrop said as they began the monotonous task of checking the rotting filters one by one along the entire duct that encircled the upper level of Underworld.

"For what?"

"The sex hasn't been this good in years! Tulip's taken a shine to you, kid, if you catch my meaning and I'm reaping all the benefits."

Lee chuckled, "Not all of them. I'm getting my guns maintained for free and a discount on ammo. In my line of work, sometimes that's more than ya ever expect."

"I hear ya, kid."

The two worked in companionably silence for a few hours, sharing a bottle of water and a huge piece of brahmin jerky for a lunch break, before they finally descended back into Carol's. They were greeted by an excited Greta.

"Lee! He's here! Ryan just told me he went into the bar!"

Lee's reaction was comical to say the least. He could feel his eyes growing wide and his mouth drooping open. It was not an unusual occurrence when a person finally achieved a goal after nearly a month of searching. Winthrop's hand clapping him on the shoulder startled Lee out of his shock.

"Go on, kid. I'll get the stuff back down to Tulip's."

"Thanks Winnie, Greta!" Lee was in such a state of shock that he actually kissed Greta on her leathery cheek before racing out of the back door of Carol's.

Hmm. It's kind of spicy. Weird.

The errant thought didn't stop him from barreling into Tulip's like a madman, "Tulip. He's here! Is my ghillie-suit fixed yet?"

Tulip smiled, a little sadly it seemed, "Yes. Here ya go. Your guns are in their usual place and I even sharpened your blades."

Lee grinned and went around the counter to take his ghillie-suit from the ghoul-girl. He surprised her with an impromptu hug that lifted her off her feet. Tulip laughed and swatted him on the shoulder when he put her down.

"Go on and get changed so you can make an impression!"

Lee nodded and quickly went to the back of Tulip's shop to change his clothing. The ghillie-suit was an off-gray color mixed with brown that was broken up by dried clay he had long ago smeared on it. Some of it had been washed off during the repairs but it was still serviceable for camouflage. His wide leather belt went around his waist first and then the slightly slimmer gunbelt. His freshly cleaned hunting rifle went across his back and the sidearm in its holster. The only prized possessions he really had were the titanium tomahawk and double-edged combat knife that his father had passed down to him. There were a number of other bone- or wood-handled knives hidden about his person but those were not meant to display the appearance of a professional mercenary. Lastly, he slid on a dark gray headwrap.

"How do I look, Tulip?" Lee said, putting on his meanest scowl.

She laughed and put a hand to her chest, "Oh, I think I might faint, you're so scary!"

"Smartass!" Lee smiled and took a deep breath. "Wish me luck!"

Lee jogged out of the room and up the stairs that led to what everyone was now calling 'The Bar'. He entered by the front door and his eyes, as always, went to the massive bloodstain behind the counter. Apparently the former owner had met with a gruesome end at the hands of a combat shotgun not too long ago. It wasn't any of his business and, from what Tulip had told him, Ahzrukhal had been a nasty fucker that deserved far worse than he got. Several of the habitual bar patrons twisted in their stools to fix him with rheumy eyes.

"That Vaultie's in the back, smoothskin." One of the women in a horribly stained dress slurred before turning back to her bottle of whiskey.

Lee took several deep, silent breaths before he straightened his spine and walked confidently into the sitting room of the bar. Once again, he found himself frozen in place upon entering the area. He had been hearing about the exploits of this man that Three Dog called The Lone Wanderer for almost a month. So there was naturally more than a bit of hero worship involved in his mental image. He had expected a behemoth of a man with muscles as thick as a super mutant and a jaw that looked carved from granite. The Lone Wanderer would be gruff, serious and not take shit from anyone. A perfect paragon to show the assholes of the Wasteland that not everyone would let them have their way.

What he found was a wide-shouldered, slender man nearly being raped by a woman in loose, canvas pants and what looked like the sort of leather-and-metal brassiere a raider might wear.

"Yes, Sydney. I would like to fuck you, very much, but it wouldn't be a nice thing to do in front of Charon and a bunch of ghouls who aren't getting it off." The Lone Wanderer's tone was exasperated and fond all at the same time.

The woman, Sydney, sat back from where she had been sucking on his neck and whined, "Fuck them! I haven't gotten any in weeks!"

"Nathan, we have company." A ghoul-voice came from the corner to Lee's left and he cursed himself for having been caught unaware.

Standing in the corner was probably the biggest person he had ever seen, man or ghoul, garbed in heavy combat armor. A combat helmet with its visor pulled up capped his head. The combat armor had 'Reilly's Rangers' and some kind of weird leaf beneath crossed swords stenciled on the right breast. On the left breast was what looked like a cowled figure paddling a raft. Above the figure was the name 'Charon'. Lee's eyes narrowed slightly as the ghoul flicked off the safety on his combat shotgun.

"Take it easy, Charon. This must be the guy Tulip was gushing about."

Lee turned back to the table and saw that the girl had removed herself from The Wanderer's lap. Sydney was definitely a looker but the sour expression on her bee-stung lips dampened that attractiveness. She ran a hand through her straight, black hair before sitting in an empty chair with a disgusted sigh. Her dark brown eyes fixed Lee with a casually hostile stare as if to say, 'Get on with it so I can get fucked!'

"So, care to tell me your name and why you wanted to meet me so bad?"

Lee turned back to The Wanderer and swallowed nervously. The man couldn't have been much older than Lee's own seventeen years but he had an air of sad wisdom that permeated even the raised eyebrows he was directing at Lee. His dark brown skin contrasted oddly with dark blue eyes but that just made him all the more imposing to Lee. He was also garbed in heavy combat armor with the weird leaf logo on the breast. A stylized '101' was stenciled on the opposite breast above his name. His combat helmet was sitting on the table beside a pair of sunglasses. Lee stifled a grin at the sight of the dirty gray headwrap on top of The Wanderer's head.

"Well, man, you can talk, can't you?" The Wanderer teased him with a broad grin.

"Yeah... my name is... uh, Leslie Tanner, but my friends call me Lee. I, uhm, Three Dog said you'd be here and told me that you had hooked up with the Rangers and I, uhm, wanted to join." The words rushed out of Lee in a flood that he just couldn't stop.

"Interesting." The Wanderer placed his elbows on the table and folded fingerless glove-covered hands together. "Have a seat, Leslie. Tell me about yourself. Where you come from, your people, that sort of thing."

Lee took a seat opposite Sydney and The Wanderer with his back to Charon but he didn't really mind that.

"I don't have any family left alive. We were from the Southern Wasteland, hundreds of miles south I think, and we had it pretty good for a long time. My Daddy was a hunter and kept meat on the table and kept us safe while my Mom and my brother and three sisters ran the little farm we had. When I was around eleven, I think, one of the bigger gangs in our area started eating up all the larger gangs and squeezing the farms even harder than before. People were being killed and then a rival gang joined with a bunch of smaller ones and it was gang war, muy grande. After a bunch of our neighbors were burned out..." Lee took a minute to breath and still the rapid beating of his heart as the tale ignited the hatred he had been carrying around for years. "Well, my Daddy decided it was time for us to move on. There's not really any safe places anywhere but Daddy said staying in a territory where there was open war was a recipe for eating a bullet."

"I've heard that before." The Wanderer interjected softly, his cobalt eyes focused entirely on Lee's face.

"We hooked up with a caravan heading north and didn't look back. It was smooth sailing all the way up 'til we crossed the southeastern border of the Capital Wastes. We were hit by slavers looking for an easy score. I... I was the only survivor."

"Fuck, kid." Sydney whispered, the hostile glare gone from her eyes.

"My Daddy did for a lot of 'em and... later, I got the rest. I'll never forget any of their faces." Lee shrugged, "I spent the next four years in the southeast patch of the Capital Wastes and a little in Unified Virginia. I've been hunting mostly but I've done some mercenary work, mostly scouting. Not everyone knows me in all the little hovels in that area of the Waste but I know where they all are and, when people stick around for a few years, they tend to look kindly on me for providing them with meat. That's about it."

The Wanderer nodded slowly, "Reilly's Rangers are definitely looking for more people. Talon Company's been up our asses since before I signed up. There's a lot of caps to be made doing merc-work and a lot of people don't want to do business with those bastards. Apparently not a lot of mercenaries want to work with them either. You're the tenth person I've come across this week. What kind of skills do you have?"

"Well, I'd like to think I'm a pretty good scout. I'm good with knives and my tomahawk here. Very good shot with rifles and I'm a pretty quick draw and I'm fairly steady when I do it unlike some of the 'gunfighters' you come across around here."

The Wanderer grinned, a familiar glint in his eye, "Oh, pretty quick, huh? How quick are you?"

As always, movement and thought came nearly simultaneously. Lee snatched The Wanderer's glasses off the table and tossed them into the air. Everyone at the table, and probably Charon behind him, almost involuntarily raised their eyes to track the sudden movement. In those scant seconds, Leslie drew his .44 Telly, cocked the hammer, and had it pointed at The Wanderer's face. He blinked and a 10mm pistol's barrel was aimed at his chest.

"Fuck!" Sydney exclaimed, hastily pulling out a .32 snub-nosed revolver from beneath the table.

"Drop it!" Charon shouted half a second later and Lee felt the barrel of the shotgun at his temple.

Lee locked eyes with The Wanderer, grinned, and snatched the spinning sunglasses out of the air with his free hand. "Quick enough."

With that said, Leslie slowly released the hammer and holstered his sidearm. The Wanderer burst into laughter and put away his own sidearm.

"You're in, Leslie. Can I call you Lee?" Lee nodded and Nathan continued after retrieving his sunglasses. "We'll be leaving in the morning and I expect you to have all your stuff ready to go. There'll be some training and a provisional period to see if you have what it takes but I don't think that'll be a problem for you."

"What'll I be doing?"

The Wanderer rubbed his chin, "We were thinking about putting a team over in the Megaton-Arefu area. I never explored that area that well and I don't know a lot of the people, but I heard there's lots of opportunities. I think you'd make a good ambassador to that area. Smoothing the way with the locals, so to speak. Plus, we can never get enough experienced scouts in the Rangers. We're not going to be a balls-out, shoot-em-up outfit like Talon."

Lee nodded, "I'll be ready."

The Wanderer held out his hand, "Welcome to Reilly's Rangers, Lee."

Lee shook enthusiastically and couldn't keep the stupid grin off his face, "Thank you, sir."

"None of that. You can call me Nathan."

"Okay, Nathan." Lee laughed, almost hysterically, "Tulip's going to go crazy!"

"She can get overly excited. See you in the morning."

Lee nodded in goodbye to Sydney and Charon. The beautiful woman still had her pistol out and looked positively shocked. Charon had resumed his former position but his eyes never stopped tracking Lee.

"As for you, Syd. If you'd just come to the Ranger Compound, we could fuck all you wanted. Well, as long as we did it in the cubby-hole we made for that. Joining isn't that bad. Think of the perks."

Lee couldn't stop laughing as he left the bar.

Wolf lowered herself onto her mattress with a quiet sigh. That damned Brick had them all running endless tracks around the block and through the alley on the main avenue outside of the Compound at least four times a week. 'Conditioning' she called it, but Wolf would have thought 'torture' was a better word. At least the men, and one of the women, were too tired to ogle her as she changed into a dry, sweat-stained, sleeveless shirt. It had never annoyed her before, at least she thought it hadn't, how people found her so instantly attractive. She'd met women who had better bodies and more beautiful faces. It didn't make any sense.

The incessant howl of the wind blowing through the thin metal walls that the Ranger recruits had built around the second-floor of the office building above the primary compound also didn't do anything for her mood. They had fixed the more intact interior rooms of the building up as best they could but it was still drafty and noisy. No one else ever seemed to have trouble falling asleep on their threadbare mattresses and that irritated Wolf even more.

Her musing was interrupted by the harsh clang of Brick's police baton on the trashcan-lid she carried around for just that purpose.

"Up and at them, you lazy fucks. We've got a new recruit. Wolf, he's your third woman, man, person, whatever." Wolf bolted upright at that one and looked toward where Brick stood at the front of the barracks.

Standing beside the militant woman was a slender boy about Wolf's height. His skin looked like it was a natural shade of brown beneath the several layers of dirt and roaddust covering him. He was dressed in odd grayish-brown clothing with the stock of a hunting rifle over one shoulder and a revolver at his hip. A grimy hand removed his equally filthy headwrap and clutched it in a nervous hand. Close-cropped hair eliminated any worry about lice spreading, to which Wolf breathed a sigh of relief, and then she noticed the predatory stare coming from the young man's seemingly innocuous light brown eyes.

When their eyes met, it was as though a sizzling spark of fire went from the crown of her head, to her feet, and then directly into her crotch.

Whoa, where'd that come from?

Wolf tried to not let it show but she could feel her face becoming flush the longer they stared at each other. Thankfully, Rachel came to her rescue in typical fashion.

"That's just great, Brick. Thanks for bringing another scruffy waster that'll prolly wash out in a day." Rachel stood and practically preened at the fact that she bettered the kid in height. "Listen, kid, I'm sure you're swell and you might even be able to shoot the side of a brahmin at ten paces, but we're mercs. Not scavs, not bully-boys, and definitely not shit-for-brain raiders. So if you're looking for shits-and-giggles, you might want to take your ass elsewhere. You follow me, boy?"

"The name's Leslie, friends call me Lee." Leslie narrowed his eyes at Rachel. "You call me Leslie. Where can I sleep, Brick?"

Brick barked laughter, "Next to Wolf, the gold-skinned one in the back. She's gonna be your team leader if you make it, like I said. Oh, yeah, Rachel. Don't fuck with this one. Heard he beat Nathan to the draw. Sleep tight, don't let the Muties gnaw your faces!"

Leslie breezed past a shocked Rachel and casually sauntered his way to the end of the room. Evelyn, bunked directly across from Wolf, was staring at the kid from behind her glasses with a dazed expression. The brunette girl was practically drooling from the mouth and the kid wasn't even clean yet.

Yeah. Part of it's probably the fact that he didn't take Rachel's shit. Then again, my pussy is still kind of tingly, so who am I to talk.

Wolf stopped the inner monologue as she watched Leslie unpack his belongings, break down his rifle into two parts, and stow the majority of his gear in the foot locker. The only things he kept out were his boots and a bone-handled knife he slid beneath the mattress. When his armor came off, leaving him in nothing more than a pair of gray boxer-briefs, Wolf was impressed despite herself. For someone so young he had an impressive amount of minor scars on his hands and forearms. She'd seen similar in people that fought up close with knives. There were a few more, slightly longer, scars on his abdomen and back. What really impressed her was the single bullet wound on the right side of his ribcage. She could see the partial exit wound on his back and it was small-caliber. It looked like the bullet had skipped in and out between the ribs. He was extremely lucky he had avoided a punctured lung. Still, to have come through all that, as young as he was, spoke loads about the kid's talent.

Rachel, of course, had to act as though she wasn't impressed even if she was. "Goddamn, kid. You must be shit if you're that young and you're all messed up like that. You sure you have what it takes?"

Leslie shrugged without facing the dark-haired woman, "I'm alive. They're all dead. All that counts."

"Enough, Rachel. Go to bed." Wolf interjected and was pleased when Rachel acquiesced with a nod. "I'm Wolf. I'll be the medic for the team when we go active as well as the team leader. That's Evelyn." Wolf pointed at the doe-eyed girl, who waved meekly back, and received a shy grin in return. "She'll be maintenance, repair, electronics... basically making sure all our gear's in order. You've met Rachel. She'll be heavy weapons, explosives; standard heavy-lifter sort. What's your specialty?"

Leslie shrugged, "I'm an okay scout, good with a rifle, pretty fast on the draw. Nathan said I'd be good to be an 'ambassador' since I know most of the big players in the southeastern part of the Wasteland."

Wolf nodded thoughtfully, enjoying how his gaze stayed locked on her eyes and not on her breasts, as well as not liking the effect it seemed to have on her body.

Damn. I must have, what, seven or eight years on the kid? No jailbait for you, girl, even if that doesn't technically matter anymore.

"Day starts at seven in the A.M and usually lasts until nine in the P.M. Depends on the training schedule you have for the day. I'm sure they'll have one for you by tomorrow. Welcome to the team, Leslie."

"You can call me Lee."

Lee was instantly awake and on his feet when loud clanging shocked him from his sleep. Memory came back to him slowly, as it always did when he was suddenly awakened, and he found himself instinctively bending his knees in a fighting stance.

"Easy, rookie! Put that damn knife away before I shove it up your ass!" The abrasive, cocky female voice brought the previous day back in a rush of memory.

"Sorry, Brick! I get jumpy in the morning sometimes!" Lee exclaimed, glad that his skin didn't show a noticeable blush since it felt like his face was on fire.

"Whatever, Lee." Brick shrugged armor-laden shoulders. " I'm gonna say this on account of you since everyone else already knows the drill. You've got fifteen minutes at wake-up to eat, shower, shit, whatever. After that you're mine until we break. Get to it, people!"

Lee placed the knife back beneath his pillow and smiled slightly as Wolf let out a tortured groan.

"I tell you what, Lee. When we get out on our own, I'm never making anyone get up before noon if I can help it."

Lee smiled and met his future team leader's sleepy amber eyes. She ran a hand through her sleep-mussed dirty-blonde hair before pulling it back in a shoulder-length ponytail. Wolf was almost exactly Lee's height of 5'7" and had the body of a sex goddess if the teenager had ever seen one. But it was her eyes that he could drown himself in for hours.

I shouldn't be thinking of her like that. Shit.

Lee shook his head slightly as if he could clear his lustful thoughts from his head and slipped into line behind Evelyn's tight, chocolate braid. The girl's head barely came up to Lee's chest and she turned to look up at him with a shy smile. Her wire-rim glasses, huge on her pixie face, only made her seem even younger than she probably was. Lee's gaze almost involuntarily lowered after she turned around.

Wow. She has an ass that just won't quit though.

"Stop staring at her ass, you fucking perv!" The remaining girl on his team, Rachel, brayed like a donkey from behind him as they walked down a flight of stairs into a square room with metal fixtures along one wall and what looked like repaired bathroom stalls on the other.

Evelyn stopped where she was and turned to Lee with bright spots of color in her otherwise olive skin tone. Her dark brown eyes were wide and seemed to see right through him so he winked at her. A sly smile, full of feminine smugness, stretched across her mouth and she quickly walked into a vacated stall. Lee turned to look up at Rachel's pale, smirking face.

"Are you always this obnoxious or did I catch you on a bad day, muchacha?" Lee said as he subconsciously relaxed his muscles once he noticed how muscular the tall woman was.

Rachel's obsidian eyes glittered strangely in the early morning light filtering through the cracks in the exterior wall,"Today's a good day, you little fuck. Now get out of my way so I can piss!"

"I'm next." Lee said before ducking into the stall that a man with shoulders as wide as a brahmin had just come out of. There was only one reaction when he saw the present the man had left for him. "Fuck!"

Maybe next time I should let her go first. I don't even think that'll flush!

Thankfully it did flush and Lee quickly did his business. He was met with a surprise when he saw the streams of water spraying from the metal fixtures on the walls. Steam was rising from the cold stone floor but it did little to obscure the several people that were scrubbing themselves furiously with soap and the hard sponges that were commonly used for sponge-baths in the wastes.

"What? Never seen a shower before?" Rachel asked, her voice heavy with derision as she quickly shucked off her chestwrap and panties before stepping under an unoccupied head. "Don't tell me you've never seen a naked woman before either?"

Despite himself, Lee realized that he found Rachel disgustingly attractive. Her breasts were high and smaller even than Evelyn's with very pale, pink nipples. There was no doubt that her legs were her best attribute though. They had a long, lithe musculature that made him salivate at the thought of licking the water off of them. Her ass looked tight, firm, and the way her hips moved just reeked of sex.

"Ease up, Rach. You already scared Evelyn away from the showers." Wolf interjected from beneath a head at the opposite end of the room.

Lee avoided looking in that direction at all. There was no telling what reaction his body would have if he saw Wolf nude.

"Where did she go?" He asked, seizing upon the opportunity to escape Rachel's ire and Wolf's delectable body.

"Probably to the lunchroom!" Wolf shouted to be heard over the rest of the showers being turned on. "She loves to eat and never gains much weight! I hate that bitch!"

Everyone laughed at the comment and Lee decided not to take it seriously. He nodded and walked through the doorway to the shower area. The smell of some kind of grain mash led him down the hallway and to a room where several tables were set out with large, steaming pots in their middle. He found the quiet girl sitting at a table by herself; reading a book as she spooned a grayish-brown confection from a bowl. Lee saw that there were stacks of bowls, plates and utensils on each table. A few seconds later he was standing on the opposite side of the table from Evelyn.

"Mind if I sit?" Lee asked, grinning when she looked up with a start.

"N-no." Even her stammering was endearing.

"Damn. What's this crap supposed to be?" Lee grimaced as he used the ladle to pour some of the grainy mess into his bowl.

"It's good for you!" Evelyn practically squeaked in her excitement. "They could make it tastier but its got all the essentials for a hearty breakfast. There's even fruit-nut in there. Well, not much today, but sometimes there's lots!"

Lee grinned, "You think it's weird that we're eating our breakfast in our underwear?"

Evelyn cocked her head as if she had never considered the question before, "Well, I didn't. Is it weird?"

Lee laughed for a few moments before calming down by eating a spoonful of mush, "I guess it's not. What are you reading?"

"Oh, it's a repair manual for Mr. Handy's. It's really quite interesting. Did you know that, with the right modifications, a Mr. Handy is even more proficient at home defense than a Mister Gutsy?"

"No, I didn't. How's that work?"

Evelyn smiled one of the widest, most pleased smiles Lee had seen in a long time. It reminded him of Tulip, actually. The girl's bubbly personality was infectious, he could feel it making his smiles more light-hearted in nature, and the way she was looking at him caused a simmering heat in his lower half.

Wow. He thought as she excitedly rambled about Mr. Handys. All three women on my team are hot but one of them I want to strangle and the other two are off-limits. Why couldn't I get stuck with a trio of unwashed cretins with faces only a drunken mother could love? Well, at least Evelyn's fun.

Author's Notes: I don't know how I feel about this story but it's been circling around in my head like a buzzard for awhile so, partially thanks to the persuasions of a fellow author, I've decided to post it. I have to warn whoever might read to the end of this first chapter that I may end up growing disgusted with the entire endeavor and just scrapping it. It probably depends on the responses it gets and how busy my life gets. I've been having weird moods lately so I have no idea where this'll end up.

Ghillie-suits, in their contemporary setting, are used in heavy foliage. Leslie borrowed the term for his own camouflage gear but, suffice to say, it is not as complicated, hot, or effective as a modern-day ghillie-suit. It is modular though and, with a bit of elbow grease, can be made to provide reasonable camouflage capability in a wide range of environments.

In my version of the FallOut world, there are still a few areas in the continental U.S. as well as the rest of the world, that has a lot of foliage. How it has, or has not been, affected by all the fallout is something that may or may not be addressed in this fic.

This tale will contain both ugly and beautiful things. Points of view I don't necessarily share and behavior I would never condone. But it's a broad swathe of life that I'm trying to paint and so there will be scenes of graphic violence and sex. I will abide by the rules and not make it so gratuitous that it would be rated Adults-Only but I will try to keep the interactions realistic.

As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed what little I have so far.