The Lone Hawke
The Ruins of D.C. were somehow even more terrifying than the Wastes. Hawke had hoped that the presence of buildings and lack of open space would make her feel more secure. Instead of feeling less vulnerable, however, she merely felt more trapped. The skeletons of what once were office buildings did nothing to soothe her fears. All she could do was imagine what kind of beasts could be lurking in their hollow frames. All those busted windows felt like millions of eyes, just watching her creep through wreckage.
Her only other option of wandering through D.C. was the transit system. There were miles and miles of subway tunnels beneath her feet that were mostly intact. They acted as direct routes to anywhere in the city. Hawke just couldn't seem to bring herself to travel through them. Not only were they dark and full of monstrous ghouls, and not the nice, civil ones she was accustomed to, but the transit tunnels also reminded her terribly of her Vault. If the Vault were full of bleeding, decaying mounds of flesh that wanted to taste human blood badly.
So, she was left to travel topside. Her main fear of D.C. were the Super Mutants. A race of giant, deformed, green monsters. Hawke didn't know much about them besides the fact that they almost killed her a few days before hand. If the Brotherhood of Steel hadn't shown up when they did, Hawke had no doubt she'd be dead. With all this fear swirling around, to say she was a little jumpy was an understatement.
"Oy! Hey, you!" When this voice called out to her, Hawke's finger immediately seized over the trigger of her gun. She whipped around and placed the figure into her cross hairs. It was just a man, he had his hands raised slightly in the air at the sight of her gun. He gave a tentative smile but, Hawke didn't even consider relaxing her aim. "Woah, now. Easy does it."
"What do you want?" Hawke's voice was laced with deep hostility and mistrust. This man had no clue just how close he was to being shot. He just stared at her with an almost dazed smile, his brown eyes locked onto Hawke's.
"Nothing bad! I'm was just gonna warn you about going that way." He pointed harmlessly in the direction that Hawke had been headed. She didn't glance back in case he tried something when her head was turned.
Instead she just demanded; "What's that way?"
"Super Mutants." His voice sounded grave. "A whole camp of them."
The mere thought made Hawke's mouth dry. Her mind flashed to the memory of those beings in the sickly green wrappers they call skin. Their garbled voices as they shouted ill-formed threats. The smell of rotting meat. She was much more willing to take her chances with this man then risk continuing onward.
"So, I'll just go this way." Hawke responded, flicking her gun slightly to gesture behind the man, where a small alley was. It seemed very devoid of debris, easily navigated.
Just as Hawke began to slowly make her way around the man, he spluttered, "W-wait! Where are you headed?"
"None of your business, really." Hawke answered easily with a raised eyebrow. It had been awhile since anyone attempted small talk with her. Too bad she had no intention of contributing to the conversation.
"I've lived in the city for ages, I might know a shortcut or three." The man tried again, with his big dorky smile.
"No." Hawke replied with a stern tone. "I think I can handle it."
As Hawke took another step down the alley, the man shuffled forward and stretched out a hand. Her gun was raised in a heartbeat and she narrowed her eyes dangerously. When she spoke, she mustered as much animosity as she could.
"Stay where you are. Do not approach me, do not follow me. I will fuck you up." A silence followed her proclamation. The man's smile faded and his brow furrowed pensively. She waited for a response but nothing came. It seemed as if he was giving her silent permission to move on. Without another word she intended to turn on her heel and run down this alley but, she heard a terrifying sound.
Heavy footsteps echoed down the entire alley. Hawke's fear was not mirrored on the man's face, but he had suddenly grown intense. Their eyes moved together to see a shadow emerging on the wall beside them. Something was coming, and quickly. For a moment, it's like the pair inhabited the same body, their movements were in rhythm as they dropped down onto their knee and steadied their firearms. Both weapons were pointed directly at the entry way of the alley. The shadow became darker and their breathe slowed.
After what seemed like an eternity, a grotesque figured emerged. It lumbered forward, its nose raised in the air like a mangy dog looking for scraps. It's disgusting mucus skin shone with sweat in the setting sun. It was a Super Mutant, and Hawke couldn't be more terrified. It hadn't seen them yet, but it was obvious by his snarl that it knew they were there. Luckily, all he held in his hands was a broken plank. With the Super Mutant's strength, it could easily cave in her skull. However, it was still better than a gun. A plank, she could avoid.
The tension was too much. Before Hawke could think, she felt her fingers flinch and squeeze the trigger. A deafening shot rang out and her bullet collided with the monster's shoulder. It stumbled back ever so slightly from the force of impact. It didn't appear to really faze him, all it did was alert the mutant of their presence. He turned his grimaced face and let out a loud battle cry. Hawke raised her gun to take another shot, but the man beside her beat her to it. He took a shot that hit him straight in the head. The Super Mutant kept running for a few strides before toppling over dead.
The man looked over at Hawke with critical eyes. "Those were a lot of threatening words for someone with no aim."
Hawke felt her face flush with shame. "I didn't mean to fire."
"That's even more concerning." He commented while examining the mutant's corpse. He felt his shirt pockets, looking for loot. When he found none he straightened back up and glanced back at Hawke, who had yet to move from her crouched position. "Are you okay?"
"Fine." Hawke responded in a monotone. She refused to meet his eye and instead focused on the fallen enemy. It had landed in such a way that Hawke could clearly make out the gunshot wound inflicted by the man. It was a good shot. An amazing one, clean through the brain and into the crumbling building behind him. She swallowed her pride in order to ask. "Where'd you learn to shoot like that?"
The man hesitated before smiling coyly at her. "Anyone who's seen the bad side of the Wastes and lives to talk about it, can shoot like that."
He propped himself down beside her and holstered his weapon. With a cautious hand he tugged the collar of jumpsuit.
"You're from that Vault on lockdown." He concluded from the yellow numbers written there. Hawke didn't even bother flinching away, she knew now if he planned to kill her, he'd have done it. "You can't have been out long, you still look so... lost."
"It's been a month. I think. Maybe longer." Hawke responded before she could really think about the consequences of her statement. It left her vulnerable to admit that she was still so naive and unsure of this world.
"My name is Mason."
She didn't want to reciprocate his introduction, but her lips moved on their own and formed the words, "I'm Hawke."
With a spring in his movements, Mason jumped to his feet and offered Hawke a hand up. She didn't accept it, but rose to her feet nonetheless. Her rudeness didn't seem to bother this man, instead he raised a questioning eyebrow. "So, Hawke, wanna learn how to shoot?"
Mason Bray was a man of many attributes. He really did know his way around the city. The way he navigated the ruins with no pauses was evidence of this. His feet just knew where to step and what turns to make. He had no fear. As they traveled, he didn't even bother to draw his weapon even though he repeatedly told Hawke to keep her gun out. That's how confident he was in his own skills. It must have been nice, Hawke noted as they began their descent into a transit tunnel, to feel invincible the way he did. The talent she was most interested in however, was Mason's ability to shoot the way he could. Watching him kill that Super Mutant made her feel all kinds of jealousy.
"I really hate subway tunnels." Hawke muttered as Mason shut the chain link gate behind them. Ahead of them was a dripping, dark tunnel of uncertainty. She couldn't see anything behind the veil of shadow and that realization made her feel trapped.
"It's fine." Mason responded with an easy smile. "I've been down here lots. It's completely caved in a few miles down so no one uses it to travel. Meaning there shouldn't be any raiders."
"If it's blocked, why are you taking me down here?" Hawke's voice raised a few octave's as her suspicion spiked.
"Relax. Damn, you don't trust easy, do you?" His voice was a mix of exasperation and curiosity. "I told you that I wanted to give you shooting lessons, didn't I? This tunnel only has ghouls in it. It'll be quick target practice for you."
Mason took a few steps forward but, Hawke didn't move to follow him. Her suspicion and fear cloaked her words as she pointed out, "This is obviously a stupid idea. You expect me to put myself in danger like this? It's too reckless."
"You gotta be reckless. Or else this city is gonna tear you apart." Mason responded in light tones as if he was pressuring her into something more trivial, like smoking or cutting class. Hawke didn't know what to think or how to respond. Her body was rejecting the idea of traveling into the unknown like this, but her mind yearned for more experience. She needed to learn how this life worked and the only way to do that is to move forward.
Walking down the tunnel into the gloom was not pleasant. Before she knew it, the pair of them were completely engulfed in darkness. Losing her sense of sight like this was too much to bear in her fear riddled state, her hands quickly fumbled on her Pip-Boy searching for her flashlight. Mason placed his hand on her's, causing her to jump. He placed a finger on his lips before whispering, "Don't turn on the light."
"Why the hell not?" Hawke murmured harshly. "I can't stand not seeing two feet in front of me."
"You wanna alert every creature that were in here?"
"Because us bickering isn't already drawing them in?" Her voice raised ever so slightly from the stress of her predicament. Stuck in the dark with rotting corpses, circling them.
"Your eyes will adjust in a little while." Mason returned, "If you're that scared, you can hold my hand."
"You can go straight to hell." Hawke snapped before they continued along in silence. For a few minutes there was no sound besides their echoed footsteps and their quiet breathing. Until, finally their was a faint shuffling ahead of them. Instantly, Hawke crouched down. Her eyes scanned the area for some sign of movement.
Mason leaned down next to her and whispered gently in her ear. "Take out your weapon and aim. Do you see him?"
Hawke continued to sift through the rubble until she finally noticed a figure barely visible, twenty feet away from their position. Even though she was expecting it, the sight of this creature still gave her quite a shock. It's decaying, rotting corpse made an eerie silhouette. They left her with a feeling that could only be described as disturbed.
"I see it." She breathed, trying not to draw it's attention too soon. It was difficult to maneuver herself so that no debris stood between her and her shot. Eventually she found a sweet spot and raised the barrel of the gun level with the ghoul. It remained where it stood, aimlessly shuffling it's feet against a few rocks. Every once and awhile it's whole body would shudder as if existing in itself was painful.
"Take the shot. I'll watch your technique." Mason sounded so professional, perhaps he had taught this before.
The whole situation was stressful. Being trapped in the dark with only one exit. Staring at a decrepit monster that was easily capable of murder. And to top it all off, this stranger was watching and judging her every move. With a calming breathe, she attempted to push all the external distractions away and focus on her kill. She pulled the trigger and the silence cracked apart. However, the ghoul didn't fall down or even flinch. The shot didn't hit it's mark.
"Well there's no point whispering anymore, you missed him!" Mason's voice didn't sound concerned, merely excited but, Hawke could feel her heart constricting. The ghoul seemed a little stunned but soon recovered with a hellish squeal. Mason placed a hand on her shoulder. "Focus, Hawke, you're missing because you're not bracing yourself. You move your arm with the recoil!"
She found it very difficult to concentrate when a mutated skeleton was hurtling towards her but, she didn't really have a choice. Once again, she raised her gun and fired. And once again, her bullet ricocheted into the wall just above the ghoul. It was dangerously close to them by now, she could easily smell its putrid skin. In her fear, she stumbled backwards right into Mason's chest. There was a gunshot, and Hawke glanced up at to see Mason firing his pistol.
It was another perfect shot. He looked down at Hawke with an almost cocky smile. "As much as I love playing the hero, I know you can do better than that."
"Are you making fun of me?" Hawke asked incredulously. The comment seemed so out of place. There had almost been clawed to death and he was teasing her? It was absurd, but at the same time, it almost triggered a memory from her past. It wasn't the time to be feeling nostalgic, but somehow she felt the tiniest tug of happiness.
Another demented cry echoed towards them from deeper in the tunnel. Hawke raised her gun with a little more confidence this time. She spoke in determined tones, "I'll show you, smart ass."
They ended up slaying a lot of ghouls. Mason just stood back and let her get in as much practice as she needed. He only took a shot when it looked like she was being overwhelmed. It was morbid to be using living creatures as targets and Hawke knew it, but it just didn't feel like that. They were like the walking dead. If she were to look back on this moment, she'd probably feel ashamed that when she managed to finally land a headshot, she laughed.
"You're smiling!" Mason exclaimed from his place beside her. He didn't seem to find anything wrong with their actions. Instead, he seemed genuinely pleased to see Hawke succeeding.
"Yah, yah I am." Hawke let herself relish in the feeling for a moment. Despite the dark means that brought about her accomplish, she felt proud. She also realized with a jolt, that the tunnel no longer seemed scary. Somehow, during everything, she forgot to be afraid.
After their target practice, they spent a little time hidden in a crumbling corner store to rest. They found a few Nuka-Cola's in a smashed refrigeration unit and opened a can of Pork n' Beans from Hawke's food rations. It tasted as awful as it sounded but, she learned long ago to not bother thinking about flavour. Everything was old, radiated, and dirty.
Besides the lack of palatable food, it was a nice moment. Until, Mason broke the silence by saying, "I want to go to Rivet City with you."
"Do you know the way to Rivet City?" Hawke questioned after he expressed his desire to accompany her.
"Of course." Mason responded while shoveling in his portion of food. "It's like the safest place in DC. Everyone's been there and most people never leave."
It sounded like an oasis in this desert. She couldn't help but, pray her father was there, not only so that her search would end but, also so that his safety was ensured. Rivet City was definitely the right direction, however, bringing Mason along wasn't exactly part of the plan.
"I don't want you to come with me." Hawke stated bluntly. The look on Mason's face was almost comical, he had stopped eating with his fork midway to his mouth and his expression was a mix of surprise and insult.
"Seriously? Why not?" Mason asked with an incredulous tone. "I thought we were getting along pretty well!"
"What exactly gave you that idea? We've only spent two hours together, how can you tell if we're getting on or not?" Hawke's voice was almost a monotone at this point. As much as she appreciated Mason's instruction back in the transit tunnel, she just couldn't imagine traveling with him or anyone really. It was difficult enough trying to protect yourself, there was no way she could waste energy caring about a companion.
"Do I really have to sell myself to convince you?" Mason let out a chuckle. It was a pleasant sound, so genuine. He looked at her warmly. "Alright, princess. You know that I'm a good shot, I can keep you safe."
"Too bad that you taught me to shoot, huh?" Hawke smirked at him with a raised eyebrow, challenging him. He gave her a scathing look that almost made her laugh, she covered her mouth to hide her grin. "I'm sorry, continue."
"I know this city like the back of my hand." Mason raised his hand for good measure. "It's safer to travel in numbers. Lone raiders won't bother groups. Besides it's depressing to be on your own."
It was amusing that he was trying so hard. "What's your angle? Why do you want to escort me so badly?"
"Honestly?" He glanced away, his expression wasn't one of sadness, but perhaps longing. "I suppose, you came along at the perfect time. I didn't really have a point to living anymore."
"Are you expecting me to give you a reason? 'Cause I hate to break it to you, but I barely have one myself." If Hawke wasn't on a mission to find her father, it would almost be easier to just end things. The gun on her hip became more and more tempting every day but she knew she couldn't be that weak. Survive until she couldn't survive anymore.
Mason laughed ever so slightly. "Calling you a reason to live is a little dramatic. I guess I'd describe it as a distraction."
"You're giving me something to do. Maybe I can forget how meaningless it all is for a little while longer."
Hawke pondered his words for a moment. She watched as he took a sip of his Nuka-Cola, his mind was obviously somewhere else. There weren't many positives for bringing him along besides his knowledge of the land. However, her heart ached to trust this man. It had been so long since she had put faith in anybody. It might be a mistake, but he said she needed to be a bit more reckless and maybe he was right. Maybe she had to live more like him. No fear.
Her hand stretched out across the table. He gave a quick nonplussed look before shaking it with vigor. "Alright, Mason. You're practically a map and that's pretty fucking useful to me."
"Girls shouldn't use such harsh words." Mason chastised lightly with a smirk. She sent him a glare as she swept the bottle caps into her palm before tucking them into her pocket. He got to his feet and followed her lead to the door. "What's with that silly jacket anyway? Aren't you warm?"
"You're already making me regret this."
Author's Note: Woah. What is this? Is this an update? An honest to goodness update? I think it is. I'd apologize to you all for the lack of progress on this story but, I'm sure I've probably lost all my old readers :[
To all my new readers, however, welcome! I hope you've been enjoying this story so far and look forward for me to come!
Let me know what you think of this chapter in a review. It's been awhile since I've written anything so I feel a bit rusty. I hope it doesn't come across too choppy or too rushed...