"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
-Inscription on the Statue of Liberty
The rat slowly stalked along the floor, its nose tickling the air as it tried to gather in all the numerous, interesting smells. There were only so many it could track at a single time but on this occasion it decided it was going to wait on a particular one. The particles in the air shifted and the rat lifted its beady eyes towards the light. Being as large as a dog, the rat sat on its haunches to look over a bed to watch the prone occupant laying on the mattress. The rodent rested its head on the edge of the cushion and pressed its nose into the unconscious man. The sleeping man stirred from the moist, fuzzy disturbance.
"Rat, leave him alone." a soft voice scolded. The rat only backed off a bit but continued to sit and watch the prone man. He suddenly opened his eyes.
"Adam, you're awake!"
The regulator raised his eyes skyward, seeming to be in a bit of shock.
"Uh, Kail. Where am I?" Adam asked, his eyes darting around.
"You're back at the House. You've been out for a day." Kail explained.
"But...how did we get here? The guys passed out and it started to frost and-" Kail nodded and cut in to further explain.
"The Brotherhood of Steel had to evacuate the Defiance. We decided to seek refuge at the House. On the way there, Rat found us and led us to you guys. It had only started to frost fall for a few minutes and we already had some medical supplies. We applied the proper Rad-X and stabilized you guys until we could fully patch you up here at the House. You will have to wait till your ribs set as most of them were broken and you also suffered from a collapsed lung." Kail explained.
"But Carl, James, Sven..." Adam trailed off.
"Carl is all right. He just had some internal bleeding and a bruise rib, a couple bruised organs as well but he's actually awake. He's getting lunch." Kail chuckled. As if on cue, Carl stepped into the room, a plate of mirelurk cakes stacked several patties high.
"Good to see you awake, Adam. Here Rat." Carl tossed the rodent a cake, to which the fuzzy mammal squeaked happily and started nibbling it in enjoyment. Adam looked over to see Marilyn approaching him.
"Adam." Marilyn simply stated. Adam looked up at her and smiled.
"Sorry, didn't want to tell you that I would be coming back, but now I'm here." Adam chuckled nervously. Marilyn sat down on the bed next to him and stroked his hair.
"I kept your caps for you." she admitted, dropping the sizable bag next to him.
"You shouldn't have. You should have bought something." Adam chided.
"Well, I wanted your permission first." Marilyn smiled.
"Ah, I got plenty in there." Adam chuckled. Suddenly, the rodent stuck its head into the bag and then exited from the room towards the direction of The View, a shiny object glinting in its snout.
"Why that little thief!" Adam cried. Suddenly, they heard a small groan and Kail was immediately off the bed to tend to whoever was waking up.
"James, can you hear me? James?" the Scribe asked softly. The marksman's eyes popped open before he groaned again.
"James, are you all right?" Kail asked.
"...I'm apparently not dead." James replied groggily. Kail giggled softly.
"James, can you move your left arm for me?" the scribe asked. James shot her a rather unamused look.
"Julia, I lost my left-" James was cut off by a sudden mechanical whir and to his great shock, a metal arm that appeared slightly skeletal raised from his side.
"What...the..." James blathered, staring in awe at the machine that followed his commands.
"A couple years back, with the Brotherhood sustaining so many lost limbs, we cut a deal with a placed called the Commonwealth. They supplied us with these bionic prosthetics. They're not the real thing of course and the sensors just can't compare to real nerves but there are pressure sensors in the fingers so you'll at least get some feeling on how much force you're applying. It hooks up to your spinal cord though it may take a few days for you to develop the full capacity of motion." Kail explained. James continued to watch his new arm flex and the mechanical fingers open and close.
"Are you okay with this? I know I jumped the gun and all ordering one to be pulled from the Defiance but...well, I thought-" James cut Kail off when the mechanical hand brushed some of the stray wisps of hair out of her face.
"Thanks." James simply stated.
"You're welcome." the Scribe replied and started to get up. She stopped again when she felt the cold metal fingers wrap around her hand. Curiously, she watched as he brought her hand over so he could hold it in his right, human one.
"I have a feeling I'm going to be stuck here for awhile, so I want you to think on this proposition before something else life threatening happens." James stated. Kail tilted her head, listening to him curiously.
"You've done a lot for me. Well, okay, you got me off the mentats and you gave me a robotic arm. A friend of mine told me that women like you don't come around very often. I wish I could ask this more eloquently and in a better place but there's no time now like the present. Could you think on the idea of a relationship?" James asked sheepishly.
"I'm not going to think on that, James." Kail replied flatly.
"Oh." James sputtered, starting to feel rather foolish.
"I want you to recover first, then we can go on a date." the scribe replied with a smile. The two stared at each other for a moment.
"Seriously, how long were you going to wait to ask that?" Kail asked teasingly.
"Truth be told, it was my only regret before I passed out." James answered.
"Oh shoot, where's Sven?" Adam suddenly asked in panic, looking around in alarm. James' eyes also widened.
"Please tell me he made it." James pleaded quietly.
"Don't worry, he's perfectly all right." a gruff voice answered. Everyone looked over to see two other duster clad men who just entered the room.
"Mark, Francis? What are you two doing here and where is Sven then?" Adam demanded.
"Oh Sven? He's been going crazy wiring explosives for the past day now. He should be working in his lab at the moment." Mark shrugged nonchalantly.
"He only had a concussion." Kail explained.
"Like that boy needs another lump on his head." James groaned. Francis meanwhile lit a cigarette.
"Now, you two ladies aren't going to be forcing some of my best men into retirement now, are you? This is probably the best crew I got on my payroll." Francis demanded. Both Kail and Marilyn shook their heads to the negative. Francis nodded. Adam watched the old man with quiet amusement. He had not changed one bit, same grumpy swagger, his plasma rifle resting on his back like it belonged there and a cigarette to hang in his mouth.
"So what brought you out of the shack, old man?" Adam asked, trying to sit up in bed.
"Word came through of what you did. I'll be impressed once I fully believe it myself. I understand you wimps will be needing a bit of time to recover. In that period, Mark and I will be taking over for you guys. When you Liberators are fit to go, Mark and I will head back. New York City is yours and I intend to keep it that way." Francis announced.
"Really? Does this mean we get a raise?" Adam asked.
"No." Francis shot. Adam grumbled.
"Well, that's enough chit chat. Come on Mark, justice never sleeps." Francis commanded and the two men stepped out the door. A few seconds later, they heard approaching footsteps only to see Sven stick his head through the door.
"Did anyone by any chance count how many cars exploded back at the square? That might help me answer how many mini-nukes make a full nuke."
...One week later...
On the streets of a place that was called New York City, several figures walk to a square that still was blackened from a recent catastrophe that devastated it. The sound of a hammer can be heard until it finally falls silent and six people and one rodent step back to survey a simple metal cross that was secured into the pavement. Across the marker is a simple name: Evelyn. They stand in silence for a moment, remembering a simple life that accomplished an extraordinary task and would not soon be forgotten. Even the rodent seemed to find its way of paying its respects, placing a single paw on the marker for a brief time before stepping away.
Further up on the Hudson, an old man takes a cigarette out of his mouth and tosses it into the river. He knows he does not have much time left and the years have burned wrinkles into his skin. For many long years he sat in the loneliness of his shed, wondering if he would only parcel out payment for the dead, never even seeing the glimpse of a dream he had, a vision of a better world.
The man feels a little better these days. He still knows he'll never see this dream but perhaps he found a new generation who'll carry that dream on. Maybe, just maybe, the dream will never die.
Yes, the world still suffers from the nuclear devastation that happened two hundred years ago when the bombs fell. Yes, there is a lot of evil in this world now, too many broken pieces, too much mud and grime. It makes living a pristine life hard but it isn't impossible.
And yes, the pieces can be put together, even if only in part. There are a few lives left out here in the wastes that try to make it a better place. So long as people live, there will be injustices, there will be pain and there will be dangers. However, there will also always be the fallen angels among us. They beat their wings and brush away the dust and sometimes they find that small, precious diamond in the sand because even the diamond was once a speck of dust. Even the broken and imperfect coal, the insignificant dust can pray for grace and be redeemed into something of immeasurable worth.
Authors closings notes:
First off, Tedsini, sorry about the sudden rescue at the end :p
But seriously, thanks to all those who have been an encouragement with your reviews. Dusters quickly became a pleasure for me to write and I started to enjoy each of the characters. In fact, if there is a skilled artist among you, I wouldn't mind a drawing or your interpretative sketch of the characters. Or just the four guys, or any collection. I probably can't pay you but you'll have my gratitude and respect.
The original characters in Dusters, with the exception of Lowell Morgan, are from my creative thought. Although I wouldn't mind if any of you wanted them to make an appearance in a story you may be writing, I only ask that you send credit to where it is due.
If any of you wondered about the many sayings before the chapter, I was curious as to what some of the wiser literature throughout our history would compare in contrast to a post-apocalyptic world. I claim no expertise on any of the faiths so I apologize if I took any out of context.
I also apologize for any confusion that may have happened with "Julia" and "Kail" being the same person. Kail originally was going to be a minor character but as she developed she eventually came into more prominence and then I was stuck in a rather odd position of introducing her as "Kail" after deciding her first name should be Julia.
More detail explanation for themes or characters can be discussed via message.
Regardless, thanks once again for all those who have enjoyed, helped (you know who you are) and commented on the ride. Who knows, I might even draft the guys and gals again for another ride.
Oh who am I kidding, I'm already brainstorming another plot.