Fallout Lawndale Part V.

Tom wasn't sure if following Jack was a good idea, in fact he was certain it was a bad idea. He didn't think Jack would actually hurt them but… the phrase don't poke the Bear came to mind. But in all probability he'd spot them within five minutes and they'd have to slink home.

The trio finished there breakfasts, did a few morning chores in the field and waited for Jack to head out. Daria's leg though still a little stiff offered her the perk of being excused from most of her work for the day. Tom had a lot of free time being a Sloane. Jane had four siblings and three nieces and two nephews her family wouldn't even notice she was gone.

Jane was kind of excited life in Lawndale was usually dull not a whole lot happened and when it did it was usually tragic such as the death of Mr. Barch six years ago. Jane was certain whatever Jack was up to it was cool.

Daria watched as Jack left the grounds of Lawndale High headed northeast towards the radio station. She had to know what he was up too she'd seen how terrified Mr. Edwards was of him but when she questioned Ken about it earlier he was just evasive. Could Jack really be a threat masquerading as a friend, could he and whomever he was talking to have come looking for some kind of pre-war treasure, was there some monstrous threat in the ruins of Baltimore they'd come to combat. Whatever it was Daria had to know.

Following Jack was hard, despite the homefield advantage they had, it was important to keep their distance less they be spotted. As they climbed through the ruins Daria was just about to suggest they take a short cut when Jack changed directions he wasn't heading towards the radio station any longer, but Jane had a theory.

"I think he's going to the old Lawndale PD building" she said as they ducked behind a dumpster to avoid Jack's gaze when he looked back.

"What makes you say that?" Daria questioned peering around the dumpster and signaling it was safe to advance.

"We'll its in that direction, its close to the radio-station he used for communications and its easily fortifiable." Jane's logic was sound, and Daria knew of a shorter route. Well it wasn't a shorter route they'd just be able to run with out attracting Jack's attention. But if Jane were wrong they'd lose him. Then again she didn't want Jack to accidently shoot one of them either.

"Alright lets try the police station." Daria agreed climbing over some rubble of some old office building, Jane and Tom followed. They'd arrived in sight of the old police station within half an hour. Looking around they could see the remains of a few feral ghouls, the security gate was open and the lights were on. Clearly someone had been here recently.

"Looks like the right place, we could probably hide in that diner." Tom said pointing to the old restaurant across from the station. The trio crept along the ruins and into one of the window booths. The glass had long sense shattered and blown away in the wind. They didn't wait long until Jack came into view. Peering out with jus the top of their heads visible they watched as Jack paced back in forth.

"What's he waiting for?" Jane sighed.

"Whomever he was talking to yesterday." Daria answered. The trio slumped down in the booth and waited. They passed around a canteen of water and wished they'd brought some food having left just before lunch. Soon they heard the faint sound of a highspeed whooshing thump-thump. Peering out of the diner they saw something unlike anything they'd ever seen before. Coming in for a landing was a tilting, twin rotary aircraft it hovered off the ground for a moment before touching down. Daria didn't recognize the craft from any of here pre-war books but she could recognize a few of the weapons, missile racks and a Gatling laser gun. It was soon joined by another craft of the same design.

"Those would be the blades I'm guessing." Tom was a little in awe of the sight; he'd heard stories of flying machines but never imagined he'd see one. Disembarking from the two crafts were half a dozen people glad in some large heavy-duty armor. They looked like walking tanks encased in all that metal. The men started unloading boxes from the craft and bringing them into the station. Jack appeared to be directing them and issuing orders. It was clear to all of them these guys were setting up base camp. They watched as Jack boarded one of the craft and flew away.

Slumping down in the booth they let out a collective sigh. "So what did we learned?" Daria muttered.

"That Jack's set up some kind of military base in the old police station" Jane noted.

"And his friends have very advanced toys." Tom added.

"We should probably get out of here Jack's friends might not be as friendly as he is." Jane and Tom nodded in agreement and they crept away from the diner. They took there time going back to Lawndale. They had more questions then answers now and none of them really felt like asking the guys in power armor with plasma rifles.

When they got back home a couple hours later the community was abuzz with excitement. Some caravan driver was hawking his wares and people seemed fairly excited.

"Step right up and try Aqua Pura the cleanest, purist, finest tasting water you ever did taste." Daria recognized the voice of Eric Schrecter immediately. Years ago Helen used work for him in his caravan but quit after it became clear she'd never become a partner. Daria always remembered him for his snake-oil products that promised everything but gave nothing. When she was twelve he tricked her into spending all her money on a alien powercell which she only later realized was just a stupid glowstick. Now here he was suckering the people of Lawndale again. Daria was happy for the opportunity to put him in his place. By the looks of it he had four or five very large barrels of his new product. That much-purified water would cost a fortune.

Walking up to his podium Eric greeted her warmly. "Aww if it isn't little Daria my how you've grown, come up and try the finest water in a thousand miles"

"Finest water huh what makes it so good?" Daria had it all planned out she'd expose him. "If all that water is as good as you say I'll wear that dress for a week." Daria pointed to a pink pre-war dress among Eric's various goods. It was of a fitting style for a pre-war housewife.

"Why this comes directly from Project Purity a miracle of post-war engineering it pours thousands upon thousands of pure water into the tidal basin a minute its turning the wastelands of DC into a grand Oasis!" Eric out stretched his arms to the heavens and shouted the final words. So far Daria was helping his sales pitch.

"You don't expect US to believe that fairytale DRUNKEN traders from down south have been bringing in do YOU?" The raspy voice of DeMartino yelled.

"Project Purity is real I assure you my flesh rotten friend" Eric smiled rubbing his hands together. "As real as The Lone Wanderer of Vault 101."

"Another myth!" shouted DeMartino stopping his foot and shacking his fist at Eric. The old ghoul wasn't born yesterday in fact he was born in 2032. He was wise to Eric's tricks.

"The Lone Wanderer isn't a myth he's real." Jake cried.

"Please you BELIVED in the Easter Fairy until you were sixteen" Ms Barch snickered.

Daria remembered all the stories Jake told her when she was little. When the land was covered by a wicked shadow the Lone Wanderer would come to save them.

"Well step but here and try a free sample." Eric handed her a small bottle.

"What about the stuff in the barrels, you could have a few bottles of good stuff then sell us barrels of crap. How do we know it's all up to the same quality." Daria was sure she had him now. She loved exposing charlatans. Eric just smiled and her heart sank. He walked over and pried open one of the barrels and held out a cup.

"Have a drink if you still doubt me" Eric smirked. Hesitantly Daria walked over she looked down at the barrel of water it looked clear and clean just like the bottled sample. Taking the cup she dipped it inside and brought it to her lips. She chugged the cup the moment it touched her lips and immediately scooped up some more. It was the best water she'd ever had. She had to restrain herself from dunking her head in the barrel.

"Now about our bet." Eric smiled like the devil himself.

"Sorry" Daria shrugged. "I can't afford that dress." All right so the water really was good and his listed price of five caps a pint was a bargain. But there was no way Eric would just give away that dress.

"So you can't afford it." His smile made her heart sink. Turning to the crowd all of whom were pooling money to buy the barrels of water for the town supply he spoke loudly. "Who here would pay to see Daria in this fine piece of pre-war homemaker fashion?"

Ten minutes later Daria sat dejected next to Tom in the frilly pink dress. "Traitor" she muttered looking over at Jane who was playing with her niece Spring. A lot of people offered to chip in a few caps to pay for the dress. Her parents, the three J's Kevin, O'Neal, her sister and the fashion twist if only to take it after the week was over. Most shockingly was Jane who like many others just wanted a good laugh.

"So do you enjoy seeing me in this?" she turned to Tom who went quite for a good minute. "Well?" he barley avoided her boot when she tried to stomp on his foot for ignoring her.

"I always enjoy seeing you, but I'd rather you were comfortable in what you were wearing." Tom breathed a sigh of relief a having dodged that loaded question.

Daria was annoyed she was hopping to bait him. Had he said yes she could have accused him of enjoying her humiliation, if he said no she could have taken that as an insult. But he had to be all-suave and defuse her whole plan to tease him. "So your saying you'd prefer to see me without the dress?" This time she was sure she had him.

"Of course." The moment the words left his mouth Tom knew he'd said something stupid.

"Pervert, typical guy wanting to get me naked." She smiled internally as Tom squirmed. Jane was enjoying the show from her position to.

"No, I didn't mean it like that." He pleaded.

"So you don't want to see me naked." Daria bit her lip to keep from snickering, but Tom picked up on her teasing anyway and decided to turn it against her. "I've already seen you naked" Tom smirked.

"WHAT!" Daria was furious to say the least, and wondered when Tom managed to spy on her. She quickly squashed the tiny part of her mind that wanted to know if he liked what he saw.

"Remember we were five and decided to play doctor" Tom didn't actually remember this it was simply a story he was told.

"Oh yeah." Daria blushed at the memory her father flew into a rage when he found them. He had banded Tom from visiting her for over a year. Who knows what she's have done that year if The Lanes hadn't moved to town.

"Alright enough teasing." Daria sighed, "Lets go to your place, if I have to wear this I'd prefer as few people as possible see me in it." Taking Tom's arm they walked off towards the Sloane estate.