The Lonely Wanderer
A restless night...
"Wake up! Come on... you've GOT to wake up!" Amata's voice rang.
She sat upright in bed, attempting to stare dazily into Amata, but suddenly she was nowhere to be seen... her small, air conditioned bedroom, with the metal walls and the Grognak poster hanging crookedly overhead... was gone. Instead, she found herself crouching in the Metro Tunnel again, fresh out of the vault... hunched behind a trash can, hiding desperately from the riddling, ear-splitting gunshots flying amok all around her... her heart hammered... no... no, no no no... please... I can't... I can't handle this...
Sandra shot bolt upright, glimpsing around frantically and trying to figure out where she was. The scent hit her like a bag of bricks. Yes... the smell of flesh and rot, the familiar scent of Underworld. She'd paid for a room for the night so that she and Charon could, for once, actually sleep on a couple of comfortable old mattresses. Her black, gothic tank top was sticking to her athletic torso in some places, indicating that her body was coated in sweat, and her heart was still pounding uncomfortably.
It'd only been a couple of weeks since she finally earned the money to purchase Charon's contract, and ever since, Sandra was finally able to venture the wasteland somewhat safely. She knew since the first day traveling the Capitol by herself, she wouldn't be able to continue the journey on her own; she'd almost died more times than she could count. Now, traveling with Charon the ghoul, who served as a magnificent bodyguard, Sandra felt much more comfortable traveling. Charon wasn't the most social individual... in fact, he rarely spoke unless Sandra spoke to him first... but he was the closest thing to a friend she'd obtained thus far, and despite him only being in her company because she owned his contract, Sandra was overwhelmingly relieved to have armed and combat-ready company now.
"Mistress." His raspy voice spoke, breaking through her thoughts.
Sandra, sitting in her rented bed and halfway wrapped in a thick, musty blue blanket, glanced up.
Charon marched into the room and crossed his arms, examining her distantly. He was wearing the sunglasses she'd gotten for him, but she suspected that he only wore them because she'd asked him to once a few days back, and he always seemed to take his orders seriously. He'd even been wearing the sunglasses at night time.
"Is there anything that you require of me at the moment?" Charon asked.
Sandra let out a long, shaky breath. "No. No, I'm... fine."
"I didn't ask if you were fine. I asked if you needed anything." Charon growled. "Breakfast... water."
"No." Sandra said more forwardly. Charon was very blunt, and often needed very straightforward orders, which was something Sandra was still getting used to. "I'll buy us both something to eat when we head out today. Don't worry about it."
Charon let out a muffled grumble, then made his way to the nearby desk and sank into the chair. He began fidgeting with his combat shotgun, examining it and presumably trying to determine whether or not it required any repairs.
Sandra hadn't realized that her eyes were lingering on him. Her life had become incredibly lonely ever since she was driven out of Vault 101 almost a month ago. She was still in pursuit of her runaway father, and she wouldn't be able to get to him without finding this Three Dog dj. Gob gave her a tip back in Megaton indicating that her father was headed to Galaxy News Radio, and Sandra, in all her 19-year-old impulsiveness and wit, ended up getting lost and nearly killed three times now. So, after assisting Reilly's Rangers with their escape from the hospital filled with mutants (and barely getting away with her own life in the process) Sandra was rewarded, and she was finally able to purchase that old contract from Ahzrukhal that'd been on her mind ever since her first visit to Underworld. Something about that tall, intimidating, quiet ghoul always standing in the corner of the bar seemed to captivate her attention, so silent, so distant... what could have been on his mind all the time? Why didn't he ever talk to anyone...?
She'd never forget the day she finally got the money that Ahzrukhal demanded for the contract. She knew she wasn't right for it, but she was overjoyed to buy herself a friend, even though she didn't believe in slavery.
Sandra slowly removed the thin, dangling red bangs from her pale face, her shining blue eyes still resting on Charon across the room. Her hair was short and shoulder length, and it shone a deep, bloodred crimson in the proper lighting. She didn't have any armor at the moment, as she couldn't afford it; the closest thing to armor she owned was the armored vault suit Moria had fashioned out of her old vault outfit. And after dressing herself in the wasteland-ready vault suit, Sandra draped her backpack over her shoulders, double checked her 44 magnum, and approached Charon, who was still sitting quietly at the desk.
"Ready to head out?" She asked him.
Charon glared up at her, cradling his shotgun. "If you are, Mistress."
"You don't have to call me that." Sandra said. "I told you... you can just call me by my name."
"And that's fine for you, Mistress, but I was raised not to defy my contractual obligations for any reason whatsoever. Referring to my contractual employer as an equal falls under that category. I'm obliged to refer to you as my Mistress." Charon explained almost grumpily. "I'm sorry if that's not pleasing to you."
"So... you're defying me in order not to defy me?" Sandra said, smirking. "That's... weird."
"I'm doing what I've always done. That's all." Charon replied.
"You don't have to act the way you used to... I'm not..." Sandra began, unable to specify exactly what she meant. "I'm not..."
Charon stood from his seat and strapped on his own camo-colored backpack. He held his shotgun loosely by his side as he watched her and waited for her to finish; he was easily a foot taller than her, if not more.
"I'm not... I'm not into this 'contractual obligation' stuff. I don't believe in it." Sandra told him. "I just want you to call me Sandra."
"Mistress." Charon responded. "I'm sorry. I'm not at the liberty to defy my contract, regardless of your beliefs regarding it."
Sandra sighed. "Okay... one step at a time, I guess... whaddoya want for breakfast?"
Charon blinked at her from behind his sunglasses. "Whatever you wish me to have."
"No, Charon, what do YOU like? What do YOU want? What's your favorite food?" Sandra pestered him. "Whatever it is, I'll buy it."
Charon exhaled. "Very well... rrngh... steak."
"Steak? What kind?"
"Any kind you like, Mis-"
"Brahmin steak dammit!" Charon snarled irritably, then quickly composed himself. "Urrrgh... I... apologize."
"Don't apologize. I like it when you show how you feel." Sandra said, smiling at him. "Come on!"
Sandra gave him a friendly tug on the arm and gestured for him to follow her out of the room. She purchased two brahmin steaks, ignoring their costly nature entirely, as well as two ice cold Nukacolas. They hardly had the money to get by, but they wouldn't be living without quality, she'd see to that. After their meal, Sandra wandered into the Capitol Wasteland again, wide-eyed and marveling at the wonderous post-apocalyptic outside world that she once thought she'd never have the privilege to lay eyes upon, Charon following along silently and seriously along the way.