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The Legend of the Wandering Pair from Vault 101

Welcome to Megaton, Enjoy your Stay

Jutting up from some rocks not too far away from the entrance to the cavern that led to Vault 101 was a metal prewar signpost. It was small and blue with white text. It read "Scenic Overlook" and beyond it was the blasted Capital Wasteland, sun-bleached and sucked dry, leaving only dust and death for over two centuries. Lloyd Freeman, one of the two most recent deserters of Vault 101, sat down on a rock not far from the sign. He found breathing difficult. The view was a lot to take in, and one could certainly describe it as scenic.

Not far away from him, Amata Almodovar, his counterpart and companion in leaving the vault, sat down on some rocks as well. Like Lloyd, she was experiencing some powerful emotions. Never before had either of them seen anything like this. They weren't sure whether or not to be awe-struck or terrified, but in truth they were both. The landscape itself was depressing, and it affected them as such. They could only imagine what horrible things the world had gone through to make the terrain look like this.

There was a small town nearby. Its only standing structures were burnt and wrecked, with large holes in the scorched walls. In many instances, only the bare skeleton of a wooden building remained. Further off, in the distance, there was a large bridge made of stone; likely an old highway. It was completely destroyed. Large sections of concrete road had fallen into the dried riverbed below, and all that stood were large stone pillars. Not very far away, they could see a large pile of rusted metal, rising above the horizon just beyond a few hills.

Perhaps the most defining things in the distance were two large structures that seemed to be standing. Far away, in the ruins of Washington D.C., still stood a great spire; the Washington Monument. There were holes in its side, and sunlight from the opposite side shown through. Not far away from it, also distinctive amidst the destroyed city's skyline, was a large building, with a rounded top; the Capitol Building.

They had read about numerous things in Mr. Brotch's; what had led up to it, the history of ancient United States, the government, what American life was like before the vaults, and all of it seemed to make what they were seeing that much more grim and bleak. They knew that this land was once bustling with people and green plants, wildlife and technological infrastructure. Now, all that remained was a shell of its former glory, cracked open and left to die by nuclear warfare.

For a short while, they merely sat in silence, observing the world in all its post-apocalyptic glory. Lloyd and Amata had only seen pictures of what the world once looked like, but they had never in their lives had they thought the damage would be this severe, this damaging. Lloyd recalled a painting of boats sailing on a blue ocean, with a bright sky and green grass on the land. 'What a contrast...' he thought.

Amata looked at Lloyd and opened her mouth to speak. But she didn't know what she could say. Eventually, a question came to her. "What now?" It seemed like the only thing she could ask.

He looked at her, uncertainty plaguing his eyes.

"I… don't really know." He cast his eyes once more out at the wasteland. "My father could be anywhere..." Lloyd said.

"I've heard that the world is a pretty big place," Amata said, her face forming a half-smile in a bit of forced humor.

Lloyd looked back at her with a smirk. "Yeah…"

They were both silent for another moment as the wind made soft sounds in the distance. It was something they were both unaccustomed to; then again, almost everything on the surface was new. She looked around. "Think he left tracks in the dirt?" she suggested. "Like an animal, from those books in class?"

Lloyd looked at the dusty earth below, the rocks and the dirt betraying no obvious signs. He shook his head. "I'm not really a tracker or a ranger, neither of us are. Besides," he spoke, tapping the rock he sat on, "what if he walked on solid rock? Or a road?"

They grew quiet once more. These periods of silence were starting to get to Lloyd. He felt like an open wound; weak and untended. He closed his eyes and let out a steadying sigh, focusing his thoughts. He wasn't going to start feeling helpless now. He had a gun, a bat and, most importantly, Amata with him. He looked at her and saw in her eyes the same worry that wracked him. "You know..." Lloyd began, making Amata look up at him. "All things considered... I'm glad that you're out here with me."

Their eyes met and each smiled. "You're lucky I didn't change my mind, because after seeing this... all of this... I have to admit, it's a little overwhelming." Amata reached over with her left hand to hold his. But as she reached, Lloyd's eyes widened. "Hey!" he said, grabbing her wrist.

"What, what is it?" She asked, standing up as he did.

"I got an idea," he said, and pointed to her Pip-Boy. "Sometimes I forget I'm even wearing this damn thing."

He let go and began accessing his own Pip-Boy on his left arm. "What are you doing?" she asked.

"That data I got from your father's terminal. It might help us out; it might have... something about the surface in it. Anything."

Amata nodded. "And we have pre-war maps of the area programmed into these things; I admit, a lot of landmarks and other things have probably changed, but at least if we get lost, we can find our way back to this spot."

He acknowledged her point as he brought up the information he had downloaded and began thumbing through it. After only a moment, he cried out in success, "Ah-hah!"

"What is it?" Amata asked.

"Surface scouting reports! And they're recent, by the date." This gave them both pause.

"My father... sent people out into the wasteland? And recently?" she inquired, disbelief in her voice.

Lloyd began reading it. "Yeah... it says here that they encountered... um..." he trailed off.

"What?" she asked.

"A giant ant," he answered.

"What? A giant ant? You mean like, the actual insect?" She had an ant farm once, as a child, so the thought of those small creatures made much larger, by radiation or some other cause, sent a small shiver through her spine.

He nodded, and turned his arm over, displaying a green picture. She looked at the photograph of the dead mutation that they had killed with gunfire. Sure enough, it was a picture from the surface of a large, deceased ant.

"Oh, wow..." she breathed. He withdrew his hand to continue reading. When he grew quiet and intent on reading it, she asked what it was saying now.

"It says here that they encountered a settlement of people... A friendly one, a town called Megaton. They traded with them, and there's a picture of it here. Hey... hold on a second..."

He walked over to the edge of the rocks and held up his Pip-Boy to compare it to something in the distance.

"What is it now?" she asked. "Do you see something?"

"Yeah..." he said, his arm dropping to his side, "Megaton."

"What? Where?"

Lloyd pointed. "There. That weird collection of metal in the distance... I thought that was just some kind of... I don't know, a dump of metal or scrap or something. The remnants of a factory, or something, I passed it off as being just another pile of scrap out here. But your father's computer says it's full of people." He looked at her. "Friendly people, unless this report is lying."

"Well that seems like a good place to start looking. Maybe your father is there right now?" she asked.

"I sure as hell wish he is, come on!" he said, and they started down a small trail. It led to a rough-looking road, full of cracks and rocks. "Think this leads to Megaton?" he asked.

"It leads into that small town there," she said, pointing at the destroyed suburban area nearby.

"I think I'd rather walk on the road than otherwise," Lloyd said, and she agreed. They noticed that the road did turn up ahead, so maybe it did lead to Megaton. They passed some destroyed vehicles, including one that seemed rather oddly shaped. It looked like a rocket ship, and it had a single seat to house one person. Lloyd and Amata paused to consider it, but as it was little more than a rusted scrap along the road, they kept moving.

As they entered the town, passing white fences and broken mail boxes situated in front of the scorched homes, they saw something up ahead. Amata noticed it first.

"What is that?" Amata pointed, stopping Lloyd. "It's... floating?"

A small, round-shaped object with a strange, stereo-like face and several metal antennae was floating towards them, blaring out a message.

"I am your president, John Henry Eden. There are some things we should talk about."

"Is that thing talking to us?" Amata asked.

Lloyd took a bit of a chance and said, "Hey! Can you hear me?" He asked.

It continued. The voice was distinct, slightly higher pitched and oddly soothing in its articulate, punctual manner. "I've been thinking quite a bit lately about something we can all relate to, something that is unquestionably, inescapably, American." It turned around, floated back the way it came, and continued, "I'm referring, of course, to our great, national pastime: Baseball."

"It's some kind of propaganda message..." Lloyd said, listening as the machine continued its broadcast, floating in the other direction. "Maybe it's been here ever since the war..."

"Somehow I doubt that," Amata said. "Can a... what is this, a robot? Can a robot-radio thing keep itself going that long without maintenance?"

"Maybe they were built to last..." he offered, not sure of what else to say.

"Let's leave it here then, it's not doing anything." Amata turned and saw something. "Lloyd!"

"What is it?" He followed her gaze to a propped-up piece of rusty sheet metal. Painted on it was the word MEGATON and an arrow.

"Ha-ha! That's what I like to see!" Lloyd said. "C'mon!"

They reached the end of the road, as it was thoroughly destroyed and only dirt remained beyond that point, but they saw a clear path to Megaton. It looked like some kind of large, metal makeshift gate along the rusty wall which surrounded the community. They began running, experiencing the first feelings of elation and hope since they came to the surface. As they neared it, however, they heard a loud, definitive voice, amplified by some kind of device, shout out at them, "Hold! You two approaching, hold!"

They slowed down and stopped, nearly out of breath, and stood less than twenty meters away from three people, a strange bipedal robot and a two-headed cow with a large pack placed upon its backside. Not far away from the three native wastelanders standing near the robot and mutant were the corpses of two giant ants.

For a moment, both parties didn't say anything. One of the three stepped forward, a man with a dirty bandana over his head and an eye patch covering his right eye. He wore a faded leather vest over a red shirt. He seemed to consider the two strange jumpsuit-wearing vault dwellers for a moment with a mistrusting eye.

"Well howdy there!" he spoke, suddenly very cheery. When they said nothing, unsure of what to make of him, he continued anyway and approached. "Well whoo-eee! Lookit you two. Now I ain't seen one o' those vault jumpsuits in, wow, a long time! Pretty darn good condition, too." He pointed to his chest with his thumb. "Name's Billy Creel, but go right ahead an' just call me Billy."

Lloyd cleared his throat and spoke up. "Uh, yeah, um... I'm Lloyd. Lloyd Freeman. And this is Amata Almodovar. We, uh... just left the vault."

Billy's eyebrows went up in surprise. "Hot damn, you just left? When? Today?"

They nodded.

"Well goddamn, I get to be your official welcoming party!" He smiled and moved up to them, holding his arms out. "Welcome to the Capital Wasteland, newbies!" he said as he reached them, clasping them both on the shoulder. "I've never met anyone from the vault before. What's it like down there, anyway?"

Lloyd looked to Amata, then back to Billy. "Well, uh... it's cleaner, I guess."

Billy laughed, swatting his leg. "Hey, that's good! I like that! Hey, Crow! C'mere!" he called out, waving the man standing near the strange mutated cattle over. Crow, as he was apparently named, adjusted the baseball cap atop his head and walked over. "These two are fresh outta the vault!"

"Really?" Crow said, turning to consider them. He wore leather clothing as well, an armored suit with various straps and buckles, and a rifle was strapped to his back. "Welcome, welcome!" he said in greeting. "My name is Crow, and I travel the land offering vestments of protection. And you are fortunate I found you both in time. You," he said, pointing at Lloyd, "bare the look of one who is haunted. But I'm pleased to say that my wears can protect you from even the cold claws of death itself!"

Billy nudged him. "Shut your mouth already, Crow. Quit plugging your wares, now, they prob'ly don't even have any caps."

Lloyd looked at Billy. "Caps?"

"Yeah, caps. You know. Bottle caps? It's money," Billy answered. "Well, up here it is."

Lloyd's mind suddenly went back to the hidden hole he had found in his father's office during his escape. He reached into his Tunnel Snakes jacket pocket and pulled out the small velvet bag he had found. It made a jingling noise as the caps inside rubbed together.

"What's that?" Amata asked. Lloyd opened up the bag and showed the curious Billy what was inside.

"Hot damn! This kid's got more'n two hundred caps in here! Where'd you get these, son?" he asked.

"Yeah, where? I didn't see you pick them up," Amata inquired.

"I... found them while we were escaping," Lloyd answered her.

"Hold up, hold up, escaping? That's diff'rent than leaving. You two weren't allowed ta leave?"

"Not… exactly," Lloyd answered and immediately dodged the direction of the conversation by saying, "But are you telling me that I can buy things with these?" he asked as he held up the bag.

"Well, maybe food and water for a few days, but not much else. What else you got on ya?" Billy asked.

Shooting a quick glance at Amata, he began listing off what they currently had. "We've got a pistol, some ammo, some medicine, a baton and a bat, and a baseball," he said, pulling out the ball he had taken from his room.

"Hey, I'll buy that off ya!" Billy said.

Lloyd looked up in surprise. "Huh?"

"Yeah! That's a nice ball, and Maggie could use a good new toy. Hell, got a glove? Those are hard to find these days. They don't exactly have little leagues around here anymore, what with the death, and nukes an' all. Be nice to have a matching pair."

"I'm sorry, who's Maggie?" Amata asked him.

"Oh! Pardon me, I'm sorry," Billy said. "Maggie's a little girl I picked up a few years back. Her parents had been killed by raiders, and I found her hiding under the bed in the room where they had shot them dead. We've been together ever since."

"Wait, I'm sorry, what was she killed by?" Lloyd asked, slipping the ball back into his jacket pocket.

Billy paused. "...Raiders. You know, wasteland warriors? Biggest goddamn buncha assholes you ever did see?"

Lloyd shook his head. "We're... new to the... ways of the wasteland, if you will."

"Oh shoot, I forgot that you didn't leave that there vault, you escaped. Prob'ly didn't have a lot of time ta read up on what's goin' on in the outside world, eh? Well... let's see, how best to put it... Not ev'rybody in the world today is as nice and charming and handsome as the good folk a' Megaton. In fact, a lotta the people... Jus' sorta lost it, and now they're raiders. They attack innocent people, kill'em for food and water, and steal and... And hell, they're some'a the worst damn people you could imagine."

"Why would they do those things?" Amata asked. "Can't they just talk their problems over and find a better solution?"

Billy shook his head. "I'm sorry ta say that the world isn't quite like that anymore, missy. Raiders see something they want, and goddamnit, nothin's gonna stop'em from takin' it. They just don't give a shit who they hurt or kill. And hell... some of 'em get real bad. Trading slaves, killing children, and the... the things they do to the women they catch... hell, you haven't a clue how lucky I was to find Maggie as a living little girl and not..." He trailed off and shuttered.

"Maybe I should get you inside, we'll talk more in there," he said, motioning for them to follow.

Crow waved them away. "Nice meeting you two! Hope you don't die and we can do business some day!" His message was met with a grim stare from Billy, who shook his head and led them up to the town.

"Don't mind Crow now, he's just a merchant. Not a very tactful one, mind you." They stepped past the robot, a bipedal creation with a light-up head. It spoke in an electronic monotone.

"Welcome to Megaton, pard-ners. Enjoy your stay."

"This here's Deputy Weld, our own personal protectron-class robot," Billy explained.

"Hey, this has been kinda annoying me," Lloyd said, "but what's with the two-headed cow over there with the backpack?"

"Oh, that's just a brahmin. You find 'em all over. They make for good eatin', good milk and good transport for the supply caravans. Beasts of burden, you know?"

"Shame it looks so ugly," Amata said. Lloyd had to admit it, the mottled skin with sores, engorged utters and the fact that it had two heads was rather hard to get past.

Billy shouted up to a sniper standing on a catwalk above the main gate, the one who had called out for Lloyd and Amata to halt, telling him to let them in. A moment later, a loud noise was heard as a massive turbine engine, built into the city walls, flared up and began spinning, powering a jury-rigged mechanical process that pulled two large scraps of metal that were once the wings of a commercial airliner aside, revealing a large metal door behind them. As Billy was about to usher them in, Lloyd saw someone who sat near that door.

It was an older man, scrappy-looking and poor, with dirty clothing and filthy hair. He was coughing loudly, which is what drew Lloyd's attention. Amata and Billy looked back as Lloyd approached him.

"Are you all right?" Lloyd asked, his nurturing nature as a doctor's son showing. The man looked up at him with sympathetic eyes, as pathetic and helpless a man could be.

"Please... please help me... I need water... I'm dying!" he spoke, his voice dry and cracking.

"Will any water do?" Lloyd asked, kneeling down and taking out his medical pack. He had some water inside it.

"I've been drinking this irradiated shit and I... I just can't do it now, I throw it up... I need purified water, clean... please help me..." he coughed again.

Without thinking, Lloyd took out two plastic bottles of clean, pure water and handed them to the man. "Take these."

The man looked at the water, then at Lloyd. Billy shared the man's surprised face. Not far away, Crow and his caravan bodyguard watched as well, curiosity getting the better of them.

"You, you serious? I can't, I can't repay you with, well anything, you know!" the man said, rising hope in his voice. "I can just, I can just have it, for free?"

Lloyd nodded. "I insist. It's the least I can do, and you need it much more than I do."

"Really, truly, seriously? My god... thank you!" he said, taking the bottles and holding them to his chest like a treasured artifact. "You've saved my life, stranger, I'll—I'll never forget this!"

Lloyd smiled. "Drink them slowly, and make them last. If you ever need more, find me. I'll try to help."

"Bless you, stranger, bless you!" he cried. Lloyd stood up, nodded at the man and walked back to the astonished Billy and smiling Amata.

"Lloyd, that was generous," she said.

"Jesus, you just gave pure water away for nothing!" Billy said.

Lloyd looked at him. "Not for nothing," he said, "maybe he wasn't dying, but now I know he won't for a longer while."

Billy's face got grim. "Look, I'm not gonna tell you two how ta live out here, but... well, fuck, how's the best way ta say it..." he thought for a moment. "I wouldn't'a done that if I were you."

"Why? Is Lloyd in trouble?" Amata asked with concern.

Billy shook his head. "No, no, not yet, not until ya get thirsty yourself."

Amata and Lloyd exchanged confused looks. Billy sighed.

"Look... clean water, like you got there? It's hard to come by. Really hard. Most of the water is contaminated nowadays. It's dirty, cloudy n' shit, and it tastes something awful. It'll make you sick n' kill ya after a while. Medicine helps keep the radiation down, ya see. But clean water? That's like gold in these parts."

"Aren't the rivers and oceans clean?" Amata asked.

Billy shook his head. "The whole world went to hell, and we've gotta deal with what's left. The radiation ain't never gonna leave us. The rads live in the water, and they're not goin' anywhere. Now, like I said, I were you two... I'd keep that clean water for myself."

Lloyd stepped forward. "While others die of dehydration?" he spoke in a serious tone.

Billy was silent. "If that's what it takes to survive, Lloyd boy. Life ain't full'a easy choices."

Lloyd looked back at the poor man, who was drinking up the clean water, savoring every drop. He looked back at Billy.

"Not for nothing," he repeated.

Billy shook his head and led them inside.

Megaton was larger than it appeared from the outside. It was more of a large pit with walls built around it, and the buildings inside were shacks atop shacks. Walkways, walls, everything was made of rusty metal held together in such a way that Lloyd questioned their structural security. Large pipes ran around, carrying water, and he saw one with a sprung leak. Old vehicles, scavenged metal, everything you could imagine was used to build this town. And the people, there were people everywhere, dressed in a wide variety of outfits. Some jumpsuits, some leather, some simple clothing. Everything was dirty. The walls, the people, even the air seemed filthy.

And yet, it had a kind of charm to it. This place was built by people, good people, who wanted nothing more than a home to live in. It was a community, in every sense of the word. The people traded, worked together, and protected each other from the dangers of the wasteland.

All of this Lloyd could tell from his first look at Megaton. He liked it already and both he and Amata felt safer behind walls than being out in the open.

Billy saw someone and waved. "Hey, sheriff!" he called out. A man further down looked up, and walked up a metal staircase towards Billy. He had dark, worn skin and wore a brown trench coat and a cowboy hat, and on his chest was a golden star. As he approached, he noticed the two former vault dwellers.

"Well now, I haven't seen one of those jumpsuits in a long time." He extended his hand towards Lloyd. "Name's Lucas Simms, town sheriff, and mayor when the need arises." As Lloyd shook his hand, he tipped his hat to Amata in greeting. "I don't know why, but I like you two. Something tells me you're both alright. So welcome to Megaton! Just holler if either of you need anything."

"It's a nice town you've got here, sheriff, and it's a pleasure to meet you," Lloyd said, shaking the sheriff's hand.

"A pleasure," Amata said, taking the sheriff's hand to shake it as well.

"Friendly and well-mannered? I think we're gonna get along just fine. You treat my people fine, don't make any trouble, and you're both welcome to stay as long as you like."

"Right. Message received," Amata replied.

Lucas smiled. "I'm glad we three understand each other. Now, where are you two from?"

"These two just got outta that vault nearby, like I said," Billy said, "and... I don't really know why. I guess 'cause I didn't ask. Why did you two leave? Oh! That's right, you didn't leave, you escaped! What'd ya mean by that, anyhow?"

Lloyd cleared his throat. "We uh, left because..." He looked to Amata for support, and she urged him on. He looked back at Billy and Lucas. "We left to find my father."

"Your father?" Billy asked. "He leave too?"

"He escaped, too," Lloyd clarified. "He didn't tell anyone he was going. He just... left and I have to know why. Sheriff," he turned to Lucas, "I'm looking for him, and I wondered if he passed through here. Middle-aged guy, wears a jumpsuit, maybe a white lab coat? He has a beard, strong jawline, brown hair, kinda graying..." Lloyd said, struggling to find descriptive words.

Lucas shook his head. "Nope, sorry. I got enough fires to put out in this town to keep tabs and everyone who comes and goes."

"Fires? Can I help?" Lloyd asked. Lucas laughed.

"It's just a metaphor, kid. Metal don't burn so easy, and most fires start from Moira's experiments, and she's always quick to put them out. Strange lady, that one," he said.

Lloyd looked around the town, at the various shacks and survivors. "Sheriff, could tell me about this town?" he asked.

"Well, whaddaya wanna know?"

"Well, one, why's it called Megaton?" he asked.

"The town's named for the bomb that's in the middle of it. It hasn't gone off... yet," he answered. Lloyd looked past and saw the bomb, then, in the center of the pit of Megaton. It was large, round, and had a square tail. It was half-buried in the ground, and a puddle surrounded it. Lloyd looked at Lucas.

"Don't you think someone should disarm that thing?"

Lucas shook his head. "I don't trust any of the locals to tinker around with it. Plus, most people don't even realize it's still a threat. And hell, Cromwell and his crazies from the Church of Atom worship the damn thing, literally."

Concern showed in Lloyd's face as he looked out at the bomb. When he saw it, he couldn't help but think of the damage it could cause. Those bombs, those weapons of atomic destruction and devastation, had nearly destroyed the entire world. This one could destroy all of Megaton.

"I think I can disarm it."

Lucas, Billy and Amata all looked at him in surprise.

"What? You think you got the knowhow?" Lucas asked.

Lloyd looked over. "I can disarm it," he repeated. Lucas rubbed his chin with his hand, deep in thought.

"You some kind of engineer?" Billy asked.

"Something like that," Lloyd responded.

"Well, alright, fine," Lucas said. "Just look here; go slow. Be easy. Don't blow us all the hell up. If you can disarm it, I'll see a reward of about… Hmm. Just got a small haul in yesterday. I got about a hundred caps leftover you can have."

Lloyd's eyebrows perked up. "Oh, I don't really need a reward," he said. "I just don't want everyone in here to die from a bomb, you know."

"Well, that's mighty decent of you," Lucas said. "You're sure? Caps are important, you know."

"I just want to disarm the bomb," Lloyd said.

Lucas considered Lloyd for a moment, then smiled. "I knew I liked you boy. You're all right."

Amata pulled on Lloyd's arm to get his attention. They walked off a short distance from Lucas and Billy to talk in private.

"Lloyd, we're here to find your father, not fix every problem we come across," she said. "Not that I'm not impressed with selflessness, but maybe Billy has a point. People out here aren't like people in the vault."

"What're you worried might happen?" he asked.

"You know I know a lot about people. Sociology and psychology; it was part of preparing for my father's job. I just don't want us to be fooled or exploited out here, Lloyd."

He took hold of her hand. "I understand where you're coming from, Amata, I do. But that bomb could kill every single person here. There are good people here, like Billy. I have to make sure that doesn't happen."

Amata was taken aback. "But, your father..."

Lloyd nodded. "Yeah. Don't worry, I know why we're here." He squeezed her hand encouragingly, and turned to face Lucas.

"Sheriff, I need, absolutely need, to know if you saw anyone. Finding my father is paramount. And I'm helping you now, after all. Please tell me if you know anything at all."

Lucas took off his hat and scratched his head.

"Well, come to think of it, I do remember a stranger coming through here... Didn't get a chance to talk to him. He had a look in his eyes. You know the kind a man gets when he's got a purpose? Spent some time up in the saloon. I'd check with Moriarty. Just watch yourself, that man's nothing but trouble."

"Hell, the saloon? I go there all the time! I'll show ya there," Billy said. "And hell, I'll give you a tour around town while I'm at it!" He motioned for them to follow him. They both nodded at Lucas, who responded in kind, before they moved after Billy, who talked as he walked.

"Alright. Down at the bottom of these stairs is the clinic. Doc's an asshole, but he'll fix you up right good if you need it. Across from him is the Brass Lantern, where some of the best eating you'll ever have is served up nice. Up from the clinic is Craterside Supplies, Moira's place. She's the smartest person in this town, even though she's pretty damn odd. Up past her is the town water processing plant. Old Walter runs the place, but he's had some trouble recently. Since you're so good at volunteering to help people you don't know, maybe you should pay him a visit. Couple'a other buildings you should know about is the Church of Atom, and most of the houses on the left side'a town are just homes. Up there is the common house, full'a beds for people who don't have homes o' their own."

"Big place," Amata commented.

"Keeps getting' bigger all the time," Billy said. "Anywho, lemme show you the saloon. It's up there," he pointed to a building built high atop the rim of the pit, at the base of the town wall. "Now, a fair warning," he said, looking back at Lloyd, "is don't let Moriarty, if you meet him, take advantage of your good nature. That man's scum, don't you let him fool you into doing nothing you don't like."

Lloyd nodded. "Just take me there. I've got a way with words; I think I can handle him."

Billy sighed and shook his head. "You gotta lot ta learn about outside life, kid. Havin' honeyed words is nice an' all but they don't always go too far."

Amata held Lloyd back for a moment. "Hey Lloyd, I think I'd like to check out more of the town while you go into the saloon with Billy. Is that alright?" she asked.

"Yeah, sure, of course," Lloyd answered. Amata smiled and departed. Before she went, Lloyd stopped her and handed her the baseball bat. "Take it," he said. "Just in case."

She took the back and turned to walk away.

"Hey listen kid, I gotta go find Maggie. You can find the saloon yourself alright, right?" he asked. Lloyd nodded. "Alright then, hero," Billy said with a smart-aleck tone and departed.

Lloyd started up on his path to the saloon, walking atop shacks with metal ramps and walkways built along their roofs.

Amata, meanwhile, walked around to see more of this fascinating place. She had only known life inside the vault. But this place was full of people who had lived a life so different and so unique compared to hers up until this point. She simply had to know more!

She saw two people sitting on stools in front of some kind of bar, the Brass Lantern that Billy had pointed out. A nice-looking woman with fair-styled hair wearing a yellow jumpsuit was cleaning the metal surface. Not far away, a man was standing next to the large atomic bomb, preaching something about the glorious "Atom" and his ways. Amata went to sit down at the bar.

The woman spoke to her.

"Now I know I've never seen you in Megaton before. I'm Jenny, Jenny Stahl," she greeted her with a smile. "Lemme guess: just passing through, right?"

Amata paused for a moment to think. "I'm not sure."

"We get people trying to settle down here all the time, but usually they move on. Anyway, if you're hungry you came to the right place. Need something to much on?"

Amata looked to her left, seeing two settlers eating food. One was enjoying some soup with meat in it, and the other was eating meat off of a smooth wooden stick. She looked back to Jenny.

"I'm not too hungry at the moment," Amata said.

"That's alright, nothing I've got is fresh, and most of this stuff won't fill you up much anyway," Jenny spoke as she wiped the bar clean. "So, where'd you pick up that jumpsuit?"

"I, that is, my friend and I, we just, uh, got out of the vault," she answered.

"Really now?" Jenny said, picking up a glass and wiping that too. "Right outta the vault, eh? They got good food in there? Clean water?" Amata nodded. "Sounds nice."

The man eating the soup threw down his spoon then, having finished. Audibly, he said, "Fucking pampered vault assholes." He got up to pay Jenny, and Amata got a good look at him. He wore a dark outfit with a machine gun strapped to his back and a closely-shaved hairstyle. One of his eyes was covered with an eye patch, like Billy.

He stormed off.

"Um, what's his problem?" Amata asked.

"That's Jericho, and he's always got a problem about everything," Jenny said. "Don't worry about him. Between you and me," she said, leaning close, "he's an ex-raider. Lives here in town because he got sick of it."

Amata turned away from Jenny to consider the departing Jericho. 'He's a raider?' she thought. Her mind went back to the things Billy had said about raiders. Inwardly, she shuddered. She knew she didn't like Jericho already.

"So, what brings you outta the vault?" Jenny asked, regaining Amata's attention.

"Oh... we're looking for my friend's father," she answered.

"His father? Why'd his dad leave?"

"We... don't know," Amata said, rubbing the back of her neck.

"Oh. Sorry to hear that," Jenny said. The man sitting next to Amata got up and left, but suddenly his seat was replaced by an elderly woman with rough skin and a white robe-like outfit.

"Hello Jenny," she spoke. "I'd like some iguana bits, if you please." She slid five caps over the table.

"Coming right up, Manya," Jenny responded, opening up the refrigerator nearby. The woman turned to consider Amata.

"Well hello there dearie, how are you?" she asked with a sweet smile.

"Hi, I'm Amata Almodovar," she spoke.

"Almodovar? What an interesting name. Is it African?" Maya spoke. Like Amata, she too was dark of skin, though Amata's tone was lighter than the world-weary woman who sat beside her now.

"I don't know about my name," Amata told her. "I wish I did. I studied old continents and countries when I was growing up in the vault. But my father tells me I'm from Hispanic descent, actually."

Manya gasped. "You're from the vault? The one nearby, what is it? 101?" Amata nodded. "So have they finally opened up to us and the rest of the wastes, then?"

Amata's gaze fell away. "Um... not exactly."

"Oh," Manya said. "Well, you're outside now, and that's all that matters. Let me just welcome you to Megaton. If you ever need anything, just let me know."

"Actually," Amata started, "I had some questions. Given your age, you might know some of the answers, or all of them, I hope."

Jenny placed the bits of lizard flesh on a small plate before Manya, but the elder ignored them.

"Oh, certainly, certainly!" she spoke. "Tell me what you seek, child."

Amata looked over at the man in the puddle suddenly as he began shouting and proclaiming the glory of the coming of Atom, going into a long, passionate speech about his religious worship of the bomb.

"Who is that person?" Amata asked.

Manya smiled. "Oh, that's just Cromwell. He's the head of the Church of Atom. They're harmless, really. Personally, I think the radiation from the water he's standing in got to him a long time ago."

Shaking her head, she looked back at Manya. "I actually was wondering if you could, by chance, tell me more about this town. I want to know everything I can."

"Anything specific?" Maya asked.

"The history of this place, if you please," Amata said with a smile.

Lloyd opened up the metal door to Moriarty's Saloon. It was dark inside, with minimal lighting provided and only some streaks of sunlight coming through holes in the imperfectly welded metal walls and some dim light bulbs. The first sight Lloyd was greeted with was a strange one.

A man, at least, Lloyd thought him a man, was banging on a radio that was emitting static sound. He stood behind the bar, as apparently he was the bartender. But the man had no skin. Quite literally, no skin at all. His flesh was not burnt or black, but red and sickly-looking yellow flesh. Muscles, nerves and some bone showed. His head was almost devoid of hair; only small tufts of it remained. His nose was gone, only skeletal nostrils with flesh covering them remained. He wore a gray shirt and brown pants.

His eyes were striking, pure black with blue irises. When he spoke, it was in a gravelly, rasping voice. "Eh, come on you piece'a junk, work! Every day it's the same damn thing..."

A woman leaning up against the wall in front of the end of the bar took a breath of her cigarette and then spoke in a smooth, relaxed voice as she blew out the smoke. "I told you Gob, it's not the radio. The Enclave station comes in just fine. It's Galaxy News; their signal's been shit lately."

"Son of a bitch... why, won't, you, work..." he muttered, pounding once more on the radio. The red-haired woman walked away to another corner of the room. Lloyd approached the bar, and the apparently-named Gob looked up at him.

"Hey, smoothskin. You need something? A drink maybe? Anything? Anything at all?" he asked, unhesitating. His voice seemed to assume a degree of hostility on Lloyd's part.

Lloyd was still taken aback by this... man. Lloyd was certain he was a man, anyway. "I'll... have to think about it," he replied.

"Wait..." Gob started, his bleak eyes widening, "you're not gonna hit me? Berate me? Not even yell at me a little bit?"

Lloyd was once more taken aback. "I... hadn't planned on doing those things, no."

Gob leaned back, a surprised look on his features. "Well now, that's a surprise. I'm used to every asshole smoothskin in this town giving me shit just because I look like a corpse. I'm glad to see that there're a few worthwhile people around here. Listen... Moriarty'd have my head if he caught me selling at a discount, but for you, I'll risk it."

"Oh... that's nice, but perhaps unnecessary. I don't really drink... well, drinks that one gets served in a bar," Lloyd said.

"Well the offer's up if you ever change your mind, kid," Gob told him.

Lloyd nodded. "What are you, Gob?" he asked. Gob looked up.

"What? Never seen a ghoul before? Honestly?" he asked.

"I just came out of a vault," Lloyd told him. "New to the wasteland. My name is Lloyd."

"Wow..." Gob said. "Wish I were born in a vault. Well, I was like you once, you know, normal. Then one day I got too stupid and got exposed to way too much radiation. Ghouls are pretty common, kid, but most of them aren't... like me. Civilized. You know. Most are just... feral."

"What do you mean?" Lloyd asked.

The woman walked over and sat down. Lloyd got a good look at her for the first time. Pretty face, nice legs, and an outfit made to reveal what she's got, especially her chest. Lloyd didn't know a lot about the wasteland, or outside life, but he did know what a prostitute was. She definitely looked like one.

"Ever hear of a zombie, kid?" she said, puffing on her cigarette. "Feral ghouls are like them. Mindless, hungry, walking corpses. No offense, Gob," she said.

"None taken, Nova."

"Where'd you come from?" Lloyd asked Gob.

"A place called Underworld. It's a ghoul city down in the D.C. ruins. I came up to find fortune and adventure, and, well... I found this place. I'm sort of stuck here. Colin says I can't leave until I pay off my debts to him. Of course, he also charges me room and board, too. If you ever get out to Underworld, tell Carol that I said hi for me."

Lloyd was sorry to hear about Gob, and wished he could help him. Gob's case seemed rather irreversible, though. Lloyd fixed his gaze on the ghoul again. "I'm looking for my father. Middle-aged guy; might have been wearing a jumpsuit like mine. Have you seen him? Lucas said that he saw him come in here."

"Oh yeah! I do remember a guy like that." Upon hearing that, Lloyd's ears perked up. "Honestly, I try to keep my head down. I tend to get smacked around if I look customers in the eyes. But I saw a guy talk to Moriarty; he'll know more."

"That's Colin? Where is he?" Lloyd asked.

Gob looked around, then spoke to Nova. "Hey Nova, where's the boss?"

Nova took another drag on her cigarette before talking. "In his room, Gob. He's busy."

"Well go get him, please," Lloyd said.

"Nuh-uh kid, Moriarty doesn't like being disturbed when he's in his room. Just wait for him to come out," she said. "Find something to do in the meantime." She cocked an eyebrow up, suggesting what that activity could be. He ignored her.

"Gob, please, if you know anything, you need to tell me," he said.

Gob sighed. "I was like you once... I wandered into town looking for an escape from this stupid joke of a body I'm trapped in. Now look at me... Alright. Moriarty keeps a terminal in the back. On it, he's got all the goings on in Megaton. If you can get on that terminal, you can probably learn all about your dad. You didn't hear this from me, smoothskin. If Moriarty finds out it was me, I'm a dead ghoul."

Lloyd looked over at Nova. "What do you know about his terminal?"

She let out a dour chuckle. "That stupid little thing is his pride and joy. He keeps all of his dirty little secrets on it, everything that goes on in this dirty little godforsaken town. I once leaned on his shoulder while he was typing in it. He got pissed off and pushed me to the ground. That's why I don't bother him inside his room anymore."

Lloyd shook his head and rubbed his forehead in frustration.

"Look, it's really important to me that I get on that terminal. Please, could you help me?"

She smiled. "Yeah, I'll help ya. Then Moriarty kicks my sweet ass out the door. Sorry kid, it's not worth the shitstorm it'll bring on me. If you wanna know more, Moriarty's the one who's gonna help ya."

"I need to get on that terminal," Lloyd told her, his tone serious and quiet.

"Yeah, and? So does ninety percent of Megaton, especially Lucas Simms. Look kid, I like you. But you're gonna hafta learn that you can't stick your head out too far in this world, or it's liable to get cut right off. I'm sorry," she said in a soothing, almost mocking tone.

Lloyd's brow furrowed in frustration. "I'm done talking to you," he said.

She smirked. "Take care of yourself, hun. Come see me sometime if you ever feel like becoming a man." With that, she turned and walked back to the other side of the room.

Lloyd's hand curled into a fist in frustration, but he kept his calm as best he could. Gob leaned over. "I'm sorry about her."

"Forget about it," Lloyd told him, and turned to leave.

"Vault dweller," someone called out to get his attention. Lloyd turned, seeing a man he hadn't noticed before sitting in the corner of the room at a table, beckoning Lloyd over. The man wore a nice white suit and a hat atop his tilted head, along with a pair of dark sunglasses. Gob immediately turned around and busied himself with something else.

Cautiously, Lloyd approached.

"Please, please, sit down," the man said. "I wish to speak with you."

Lloyd sat down across from him and regarded him with a curious eye. The fellow took a small sip of his drink and studied the nineteen-year-old from behind his shades with inquisitive eyes.

"My, my. Just when I had all but given up hope. My dear boy, I am very happy to make your acquaintance. I... am Mister Burke," he introduced himself. He spoke sharply and quietly. His voice was incredibly distinct, and Lloyd didn't know if he liked it. There was an underlying tone to his voice, one of venom and deceit. Lloyd didn't feel comfortable around this man. He added, "And you, well, you are not a resident of this... putrescent cesspool. And that makes you a rather valuable individual."

"It does?" Lloyd asked. He knew he didn't like some of the adjectives Burke had used in his previous statement.

Burke leaned closer. "Don't you see? You're a free agent! You have no ties here, no interests in this settlement's affairs. Megaton means nothing to you. You could come and go as you please. Nothing to be lost if something were to happen."

Lloyd didn't like where this was going, but he didn't leave.

"I represent certain... interests... who view town, this "Megaton," as a rather large blight on a burgeoning urban landscape. If this settlement were to... go away... why, who would really care? Certainly not you, and not I..."

Lloyd was catching on to his meaning. "You plan on getting everyone to move somewhere else and knock it down?"

Burke chuckled. "No, but please, keep your voice down… no need to have other people poking their nose into our conversation. Now, I overheard you near the bar. A resident of the vault, yes? I can't image you have much on your person at the moment, such as money. I've been in this town a short while, looking for an admirable candidate to enter into a deal with."

"What kind of deal?" Lloyd asked.

"The kind that would land you in a very wealthy position with many benefits, if you play the game right," Burke replied, taking another drink. "You see, there are… obstacles, if you will, to overcome in the task I've set before myself. It's all part of a long-term goal, you see. I've always found it important to work towards something important; to dedicate your life to an ideal, and fight every day to get closer to that goal. Do you understand my meaning?"

Lloyd didn't move much, but took a moment to nod. Lloyd, and Burke, didn't know, but they were being observed. Across the room, a man in a brown coat with a fedora atop his head was sitting with his back to them, drinking, but listening very keenly. Blocking out all of the other sounds, he carefully picked up every word of Lloyd's talk with Burke.

"Perhaps we should loosen up a bit. Care for a drink? My treat," Burke offered.

"Don't have a tongue for it," Lloyd replied.

"Ah well, not everyone does. But that's alright, I'd prefer you to be at full attention for our conversation anyway. Now, I don't enjoy beating around the bush, as it were. I'm looking for a right-hand man, someone who has the guts for glory and the will to succeed."

"And what does that have to do with Megaton?"

"I mentioned a long-term goal, did I not? Well, as you apparently just crawled out of the hole in the ground you've been living in, you might not be as privy to the ways of the wasteland as I. There are dark places out there, my boy. I've seen some of the worst humanity has to offer in this regard… slavers, raiders, feral men driven to madness and death. But there are two sides to every coin. I represent a community of progressive individuals dedicated to taking back the wasteland, to bringing civilization back to its former glory. We work towards a brighter future. Does this sound interesting so far?"

"So far," Lloyd replied.

"Good, very good. These long-term goals are hampered by communities such as the one you and I are sitting in at this moment. These people are little more than glorified squatters with hardly a modicum of civility among them. The town sheriff tries to run everything through a crude system of "wasteland justice" that's more barbaric than fair. The owner of this very saloon cons people; cheats them and uses them against their will. I'd like your help in… solving the problem this town presents."

Lloyd considered his words. Sheriff Lucas seemed like a nice enough man, but then again, Lloyd had only just met him. "How exactly would that be done? Put new people in charge? Move the people of Megaton somewhere else?"

Burke chuckled. "Haha, no, I'm afraid that this town is a little too far-gone. Its people, unaccustomed to change that they can't see as positive. They're poor, and holding onto the meager life they've been living. They won't just up and move. But, here's the worst thing that plagues them and what, ultimately, would make it impossible to work with them… ignorance."

"Ignorance of what?"

"Ignorance of what's best for mankind, my boy. These people don't realize the long-term damage they'd cause. They come here, breed, try to live an "honest" life… but in the end, they only breed suffering and live in pain. Meanwhile, my community thrives, taking practices, logical steps in reclaiming the wasteland and making it habitable once more. The people of Megaton aren't progressive. I've studied them. Ignorance thrives in a place like this. Towns like this hold society, as a whole, from healing and returning to the glory it once possessed."

Lloyd blinked a few times as his words sunk in. "…What exactly are you suggesting, then?"

Burke's tone grew more silent as he laid out his plans. "The undetonated device for which this town is named is still very... much alive. All it needs is a little... motivation. I have in my possession, a fusion pulse charge. Once rigged, will be detonated... by you... at a secure location. In return, safety and security are two things guaranteed for your future. Wealth, and other benefits, at your fingertips. I've a number of resources on hand, and you'd be privy to them. If you play along."

At that, Lloyd was deathly silent. His eyes scanned Burke, and likewise, Burke studied the young man very carefully. It seemed like Lloyd was considering his options. Though the youth couldn't see it, underneath the table Burke kept his hand over the silenced pistol strapped to his thigh. The man knew he had taken a risk in revealing his intent to the vault dweller, but nobody else in town showed the kind of prospect he did. Lloyd, conversely, let his eyes drift down a little as he listened to the thoughts in his head.

Though Burke was a very collected man, he couldn't help but be a little unnerved by Lloyd's silence. Finally, he prodded him with a simple, "Well?"

Lloyd's eyes darted back up to his. He swallowed and replied, "Give me the charge."

A wide smile formed in Burke's lips. "What a wise young man you turned out to be." Taking his hand off of his pistol, he reached into his coat pocket and produced a small metal device with wires coming off of it. "Now, all you need to do is attach this to the central mainframe, and meet me southwest of here. I live atop a spire of civilization known as Tenpenny Tower. Well out of harm's way from the blast. There, you'll receive your very worthwhile reward."

Burke placed the fusion pulse charge on the table and Lloyd took it without hesitation, sliding it into his pocket. Burke stood and smiled. "I think our business is concluded then, Lloyd, was it? I eagerly look forward to your results."

"Are you leaving town immediately?" Lloyd asked.

"I have a small room rented here I need to collect a few things from. I'll be leaving afterwards. Remember: southwest. Tenpenny Tower. You can't miss it."

Lloyd nodded, and with a pat on the back from Burke, the man walked out of the saloon, leaving Lloyd behind, who let out a heavy sigh to settle his nerves.

Time to act.

Lloyd was out of there immediately, running to find the sheriff as soon as he was outside the saloon. His heart was racing a little. Though he didn't notice it, the fellow in the trench coat got up and followed him outside, taking a scoped magnum out from the inside of his coat. He watched Lloyd, observing his movements from a distance as the youth ran. He kept his gun at his side purely out of curiosity in regards to why he was running.

Lloyd suddenly and very nearly crashed into Amata as he turned to descend a flight of stairs. "Lloyd! I was just on my way up to the saloon," she said, then noticed he had been running. "What's going on? Is everything okay?"

"I'm sorry, I need to find the sheriff," he said, pushing past her.

"What? Why? What's wrong?" she asked, running after him.

Lucas was near the entrance, talking to a settler. Lloyd ran up to him, out of breath.

"Woah, woah, where's the fire?" Lucas asked with a smile.

"This entire town'll be nothing but fire if we don't do something," Lloyd said. Lucas' smile faded.

"And what do you mean by that, boy?" he asked.

Lloyd pulled out the charge, and struggled to breathe easy. Amata ran up behind him.

"I met a man named Burke, in the saloon," he panted, "and he made me an offer to plant this charge on the bomb and blow you all to hell."

"What!" Amata and Lucas both cried. Lucas' eyes narrowed. "Oh, I never did like the look of him… Gimme that thing," he said, taking it out of Lloyd's hand. Lucas dropped it and stomped on the charge, destroying it. He took out his assault rifle.

"Come on you two, you're about to learn a lesson in wasteland justice. Where's Burke now?"

Lloyd finally caught his breath and straightened. "He said he was heading to his room here in town. You know where it is?"

"He took an old shack not far from the old bomb. If we hurry, we can ambush him as he's coming out."

Lucas, with Amata and Lloyd in tow, ran to the bottom of Megaton's pit, where the bomb sat in a pool of irradiated water, sticking out like a sore thumb. Nearby, a few people ate at the Brass Lantern, including Billy Creel and Jericho. Some of them watched the sheriff approach with the two vault dwellers. He pointed at Burke's shack.

"That's his place." He looked over at Billy. "You see Burke go in there?" Billy nodded. "He come out?" Billy shook his head. "Good. Got him right where we want him." Lucas looked back at the two. "I want you to take up positions on both sides of his shack. I'll knock on his door. We try to take him peacefully, but watch for any sudden moves. They nodded and moved quickly, hiding along different sides of his shack. Lloyd readied his pistol, and Amata had the bat in her hands.

Lucas, rifle in hand, approached the door and knocked on it three times. "Burke! State your business in Megaton!" Lucas shouted. "Burke, open up! We've got questions for you."

The door opened, then, and a gun was in Lucas' face. Burke held his silenced 10mm and held it steady, its barrel barely an inch away from the sheriff's forehead. "Sheriff," he greeted. In his other hand, he held a briefcase. "Drop your weapon, Simms. Drop it now!"

Lucas dropped his gun and held up his hands. Behind him, other people stood and watched, suddenly very concerned. Lucas had a determined look in his eyes. "You're not getting out of here, Burke. Shoot me and they'll swarm over you."

"This is precisely why we're going to take a little walk to the edge of town, sheriff. Just the two of us. Come now," he said, prodding Lucas in the face with his gun. "No need for any bloodshed."

As he stepped out, pushing Lucas back, he felt the barrel of Lloyd's pistol press into his temple. "Drop it, Burke."

Burke let out a long sigh. "Oh, my boy. I had higher expectations of you. I'm disappointed, honestly."

"Shut up and drop it, or I drop you," Lloyd warned.

"I don't think you don't have it in you, Lloyd," Burke said as he turned to face the young man, so that now Lloyd's gun was directly in the center of his forehead. "If you did, you would've shot me in the saloon. No, you had to run to someone else and let them get their hands dirty for you. Put the gun down. Now."

Lloyd looked at Burke with fury in his eyes, then to Lucas. He couldn't risk the sheriff getting shot. With a disgusted look, Lloyd dropped his pistol.

Burke smirked. "I thought so. I'd be lying if I said this wasn't personal," he said, moving to point his gun at Lloyd's head. However, he was significantly impeded by the baseball bat swung at high speed into his neck. Reflexively, he fired off a shot, but as his pistol was halfway between Lloyd and Lucas at the time of Amata's sudden attack, the bullet flew harmlessly into the water at the base of the bomb, right between Cromwell's legs. The confessor stopped his ranting, stunned at the sudden small splash.

His sunglasses fell to the floor and cracked as Burke fell to his knees, and in that instance, Lloyd and Simms were upon him, holding him down. But after a swing like that to the neck, Burke wasn't going anywhere in a hurry. Lloyd grabbed both his and Burke's pistols to keep them out of the man's reach. Amata stood back and dropped the bat as she slid down to her knees, panting. She had never attacked someone like that before in her life, and Lloyd was quickly there to help her.

But Burke was very much still alive, and Lucas hauled him away with Billy's help. As Lloyd helped Amata up, they were watched by a good portion of the town. They had seen it all happen, including the man in the trench coat.

It was high afternoon, and Amata and Lloyd sat on a small, semi-comfortable couch outside the common house. They sat in relative silence, having migrated over here since they had ambushed Burke outside of his shack. "Exciting day, hasn't it been?" Amata asked, breaking the silence.

"Yeah, sure has," Lloyd said. "Makes me wonder if every day will be like this."

An uncomfortable silence passed over them. Occasionally, a settler would walk by and say hello, to which they would respond in kind.

"What do we do now?" Amata asked him.

"Plan hasn't changed," Lloyd said. "Just gotta wait until I can get a chance to talk to Moriarty." He sat back. "Hah… you know, I can hardly believe it. Feels like we've been outside for five minutes and we've already stopped a man who had plans to blow up a town." He looked at Amata and said with a sarcastic tone, "Think we can top it by dinner?"

"Don't be a smart-mouth," she playfully replied. Amata's hand found and grasped his.

"But I'm serious. What's our next step, if we can't talk to this Colin?"

Lloyd shook his head. "We'll find something to do until I can talk to him. He's my only lead." He looked over at her. "I'll give you the caps, okay? You talked to that Jenny girl, so you know where to buy food. I hear we can sleep in the common house."

Amata looked around at Megaton.

"This life will be difficult, Lloyd," she said. "In the vault, everything was handed to us. There wasn't money to worry about. What'll happen when we run out of caps?"

"We'll end up like the vagrant I gave water to outside. Only this time, there won't be anyone who'll hand us water." He looked at her, and saw her worried face. "We won't run out of caps. I'll do some work, or something. I'll make enough for the both of us to eat and drink. I promise," he said, squeezing her hand, "I promise everything will work out, Amata."

Amata rested her head on his shoulder. "I know, Lloyd. I know."

Lloyd closed his eyes and sighed. As much as he enjoyed having her with him, he recognized that the events of the previous few minutes had shaken her up a little. "I'm sorry I dragged you out here with me." Upon hearing this, she sat up and looked at him.

"I'm not."

"But..." Lloyd trailed off as he stared into her eyes. Her gaze was strong, and full of intent. Within those pools, he found renewed confidence that they'd make it through anything that came their way.

He leaned over and captured her lips in a kiss.

Not too far away, Jericho, who had idly looked in their direction, spit on the ground in disgust. The sight of those two prissy little vault dwellers kissing made him sick. He walked away, muttering to himself, heading up to the saloon for a drink.

As they broke apart, Lloyd stood up.

"I'm going to see about finding some paying work," he told her. "I heard from Billy that there might be some trouble at the water treatment plant. I'm going to go up and see what I can do to help. Will you be alright?"

She held up the baseball bat. On the end of it was a small, recently acquired stain of blood. "I think I can handle myself."

Lloyd smiled and walked away. Amata watched him go, and as she did, she began to think about their current situation.

'I wish I had never left the vault...' she thought once more. She looked at Lloyd's back as he disappeared around a corner. 'But I won't dwell on it. Like it or not, we're here now. Together.'

And despite everything else, she liked that last part.

Lloyd knocked on the water treatment plant door. Upon getting no response, he entered anyway. He heard a banging noise, and saw an old man wearing a light blue jumpsuit hammering on a pipe, which the room was full of. He looked up. Despite his old age, gray hair and dark, rough skin, he had a cheery air about him. He stopped his hammering and spoke in a pleasant voice.

"Yeah? What is it?" he asked.

Lloyd looked around. "I was wondering if there was anything I could do to help around here. I've got some knowledge as far as pipes and plumbing goes."

"Well," the man began. "It's no secret that the old water plant here is pulling its last few days behind it. I'm the only one in town that can keep the damn thing running! I spent so much time up here in the plant, that I can't keep track of the leaks that keep springing up around town," he explained. "Now, I'm not much of one for giving strangers jobs, but if you've got the knowhow, I need someone to hunt down and fix those leaks."

Lloyd shrugged. "Sounds easy enough. How many leaks are there?"

"Well, judging from the pressure in the plant, there're at least three sprung up around town. Check around the pipes and the valves, but they might be a bit tricky to find out," he told Lloyd, who nodded in response.

"I'll get right on it. I'm Lloyd, by the way. Lloyd Freeman."

"Name's Walter, and I could really use the help you're offering. If people knew about how hard things were up here, well... I don't know what would happen," Walter said.

"I'll need some tools. Got an extra kit?" Lloyd asked.

"Oh, sure, sure!" Walter said, moving to the back. He opened up a locker and took out a tool set.

"This here's got everything you'll need. Duct tape, wonderglue, wrenches, everything." Lloyd took it with thanks and left the treatment plant. Behind him, Walter clasped his hands together and said, "Well, back to work."

Lloyd spent the next two hours hunting down the leaks and fixing them. He had spotted only one before, not far from the entrance. He fixed that one first. It took him a good thirty minutes to do so, but he finally sealed the pipe with some tape, glue and spare sheet metal. After he found the second one, not far away from where he and Amata had sat, he began working on that one, too.

The third was the hardest to find, as it was on top of the Church of Atom's roof. As he found a way to climb up and work on it, Amata watched from one of the stools that sat in front of the Brass Lantern. Jenny leaned over and spoke to her.

"That friend of yours is working pretty hard," she said. Amata nodded.

"He'll be hungry. When he comes back down, I'll invite him over for some food," she said.

As Lloyd finished his work, though, he went back up to the water treatment plant before Amata could wave him over. Walter was just outside, leaning on a railing and smoking. Lloyd approached him.

"Huh? Yeah, what is it?" Walter asked, taking a drag on his cigarette.

"The pipes are all fixed," Lloyd told him.

"Really? Lemme go check the pressure in the system," he said, standing upright and walking into the plant. Lloyd followed him inside. Once within, Walter approached the meter and tapped it a few times with his finger.

"Well I'll be damned... the pressure's up in the plant!" he said, reading some gauges built into a collection of pipes on the wall. "It looks like you got all the leaks fixed! Thank you, stranger, thank you!" Lloyd nodded, a smile on his face. "But it's only a matter of time before they break again," Walter said, his cheery tone fading. "They always do. But enough of that." Walter held out a small bag that jingled with caps. "Here. Two hunnerd caps for a job well done," Walter said with a smile. Lloyd graciously accepted it. He turned to leave. "What'll you do now, stranger?" Walter asked. Lloyd looked back.

"With these tools you gave me, I can fix a problem in this town that's long overdue in my book."

In the center of the town laid the bomb, around which much of the excitement today was based. Lloyd approached the bomb, surprising Confessor Cromwell, who was still standing next to the undetonated device, preaching of Atom, as he did every day.

"What are you doing to His vessel?" cried Cromwell as Lloyd opened up a panel on the side of the massive explosive. Lloyd ignored Cromwell as he began tinkering around the inside of it.

"Stop him! Stop him, I proclaim!" Cromwell cried out. A small crowd began to form around the muddy puddle in which the two stood, the puddle that surrounded the bomb. Among those in the crowd were Amata, Manya and Jenny.

"Don't try to stop me," Lloyd said, not turning from his work. "One wrong move and I'll kill us all, and I don't want that any more than all of you do." There were gasps and murmurs throughout the crowd, and Amata grew worried.

"Sheriff! Stop him!" a settler from the crowd shouted. A few turned to see Lucas Simms walk up to the crowd, having recently but Burke in the town holding cell, but he did nothing else. Billy and Jericho joined the outskirts of the now fairly large circle to observe the ordeal themselves.

"I invoke the wrath of Atom upon you!" Cromwell cried. "May your bones melt, your skin burn and your ashes be scattered and forgotten! You are desecrating a holy relic! You are-"

"Done." Lloyd said, closing the panel and stepping back. Cromwell stuttered and suddenly stopped speaking, and the crowd grew silent as well.

"What have you done?" Cromwell asked after a moment.

"I disarmed the bomb."

Cromwell grasped at the sides of his head. "What? I, but, you, with… Atom! And… But…" he stammered on a little, exiting the pool of water to huddle near the base of the church, raving to himself. Lloyd watched him go with a confused expression.

"And that's not all he did!" Lucas shouted, moving through the crowd. He lent his hand to Lloyd, who took it and stepped out of the filthy puddle. "This boy right here saved this entire town!" Lucas said, patting Lloyd on the back. "You all know that Mister Burke, how shady he was? He was fixin' to blow up this whole town!"

There were gasps in the crowd, but Lucas continued above them.

"Burke offered this here boy, who just arrived today, fresh outta the vault! He offered him a life of luxury to murder all of us. Well, he ran right to me and gave me proof of it. Some'a you saw what happened next. These two helped stop Burke and now we've got him drooling all over the floor of his cell."

Lloyd and Amata looked at the sheriff, then at each other. They weren't sure what Lucas' purpose in this was; was he trying to get the people of Megaton to like them? The crowd was growing larger. Above, Walter had heard the commotion and was outside, looking down. Moira Brown, proprietor of Craterside Supplies, had likewise done the same. Leo Stahl, Lucy West and others joined the crowd that was quickly encompassing the entirety of the center of the town.

"And after all that," Lucas cried, a smile on his face, "he had the heart to disarm the ticking time bomb himself, for free! He insisted that there be no charge!"

"And hey, he fixed the water pipes, too!" Walter cried out. Everyone turned to face him. "He came to me and asked if he could help, so I set him about to fix the leaks I've been warning you all about. Well, he fixed'em, so now the system's running good again, and the water's gonna be cleaner!"

"And he saved my life!" Someone in the crowd cried out. Everyone turned to see the scrappy man Lloyd had given water too just before he entered Megaton proper. "He gave me clean water, pure! Pure water! Out of the kindness of his heart and asked for nothing in return! Praise you, stranger! Praise you!" The man fell to his knees and kissed the ground at Lloyd's feet.

Amata and Lloyd could only watch these events unfold around them so suddenly with a look of utter surprise on their faces. Lloyd looked down at the man, then up at the crowd. Everyone in Megaton was looking at him. Some with wonder, others with confusion, some with curiosity. He noticed a little Asian girl jutting up from the back of the crowd, sitting atop Billy Creel's shoulders. Lloyd broke away from Lucas and approached them, pulling out the baseball from his pocket.

"...I think you wanted Maggie to have this, Billy," he said, not knowing what else to do at this point. Billy smiled, and took the ball.

"Freeman, isn't it? I'd like you to meet Maggie," he said, holding the ball up to the little girl, who stared at it wide-eyed, a big smile growing on her face.

"Wow!" she said, holding it up.

"But really, for nothing?" Billy asked. Lloyd shook his head.

"Not for nothing, Billy. I told you that before."

All was silent for a moment, and then someone began to clap. Then another, and another, and another, and soon the whole town was cheering. Amata approached him, an amazed expression decorating her face. Lloyd smiled and laughed at the joy the moment seemed to radiate. As people cheered and whistled, Lloyd spoke to Amata in her ear, just quiet enough so that only she could hear.

"Not bad for our first day in the wasteland, huh?" he said with a wide smile. She looked up at him and smiled back.

"Makes me wonder if every day will be like this," she said, quoting him from earlier. Lloyd laughed, but was suddenly silenced from a surprise kiss. He returned Amata's gesture, disregarding the people who watched. There were a few small hoots from the audience, and the little girl Maggie stuck her tongue out, thinking the entire thing gross.

The moment was torn apart by gunfire, and everyone turned to the origin of the noise. Jericho stood there, cigarette in mouth and smoking assault rifle in hand, having fired his shots into the ground. He fixed his gaze solely on the couple in the center of the crowd. He stormed up to the stunned Lloyd.

"Who the fuck do you think you are?" he said, getting very close. Amata reflexively moved behind Lloyd.

"I... I don't..." Lloyd began.

"What do you think you are, better than all of us? You're just gonna swoop into town one day and lift us out of the wasteland like the almighty shepherd or some shit?" He turned to face the crowd. "These two are just a buncha fuckin' vault pansies! They don't know nothin' 'bout the wasteland! They just showed up here. They ain't got no reason to care about us. They ain't got no reason. Think we're too stupid to fix our own damn problem. They think we're just so fuckin' pathetic, that this kid here," he pointed to Lloyd, "feels some kinda obligation to help us out from some sense of pride! Like we're nothing but fuckin' sheep to them! Do I look like a kid to you, you little shit?"

The crowd was silent. He turned, walked a few short steps, and turned back.

"Don't get too comfortable around them because they're gonna get fuckin' wasted out there in the real world. They don't know a goddamn thing about life out here! Not a goddamned thing! They've been fed good meals all their life, they've drank clean water all their life! They ain't fought to live like we all have! They think they're so much better than us, don't they? That we'd just fall apart if they didn't come at the right time and be in the right place, so they'll take all the credit. They look down on us like we're just fuckin' bugs compared to them!" he shouted, storming off.

Everyone was silent. People began to slowly disperse, returning to their lives. Amata gripped his arm, and he looked down at her.

"Ignore him," Lucas said, walking up to the pair. "Jericho's wound up tighter than a robot and has just as many screws missing. Isn't the first time he's gone off on somebody. Personally, I think he just plain hates people who help other people. It's a strange mindset he's got. Don't let him get to you."

"He won't," Lloyd said. "I admit… I've definitely never met someone with as explosive a personality as his…" Amata silently agreed.

"Hah. Well, speaking of explosive, I want to reward the two of you for everything you've done here today."

Amata chuckled, saying, "He did all the work, sheriff."

"Don't be so quick to pass up the credit that you deserve, girl," he said. "You smacked up Burke real nice, and now we got him in custody. So, considering all you've done for Megaton, I'd like to give you this."

He held out a key, and Lloyd took it to inspect it. "A key?" he asked, to which Lucas nodded.

"To your new home."

They both looked at him in surprise. "Our new what?" Amata asked.

"I've been trying to find a good owner for a house here in town for a while now. It's not too shabby of a place. You two seem like the perfect match for it. We'd be honored to have you live here with us. Better than the common house, I assure you."

Not knowing how to refuse such an offer, and certainly not wanting to, they graciously accepted.

As Lucas took them to their new residence, they were observed from a distance by the man in the trench coat. Flicking a cigarette onto the ground and stomping it out, he straightened his fedora and smiled to himself. He took a measure of pride in Lloyd and Amata's actions today, and knew he would be keeping an eye of them for some time.

He stepped into a nearby dark corner and faded away, leaving no trace of his having been there, save for the burnt cigarette butt on the ground.

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