I strolled into Big Town with as warm a welcome as a thunderstorm at a picnic. The residents of the ramshackle settlement looked tired and despairing. A dirty stinking man wandered about raving about their imminent and unavoidable deaths, no-one seemed to disagree. I managed to get a sensible conversation out of a lady calling herself Bittercup, though her outlook was just as gloomy. I learnt that the town was beset by enemies, one, a group of slave traders looking to restock their shelves, the seconds group they referred to as super mutants. I’d seen a mutant in Megaton, sickly and weak, skin peeling of like wallpaper after a flood. Super mutants just sounded like hysterical non-sense to me. How bad could they be? Bittercup explained how the mutants were their most pressing concern, they had rolled through town and taken some live captives, including the town’s only healer, clearly more than just the hostages lives were at stake.
The townspeople said their goodbyes as though it was the last we’d see of each other. I trudged up the road to the nearby Germantown police station where I was told the captives had likely been taken. I should have been more cautious, strolling up the road in plain sight like I was walking in the park. A figure appeared on the horizon, I thought it was a bear at first. A great hulking mass of green flesh, like a man, but twice the size, and it had seen me. It came charging towards me swinging a great chunk of steal I could have hardly lifted. Deadly, but without thought, he struck again and again, my baseball bat seemed pathetic in comparison. Yet I found I could easily dodge his blows, and those I couldn’t dodge, I parried with ease. For all his strength, he was not too bright. I dodged and danced around the brute, taking a swing at his head whenever I could, if it did any damage, he didn’t show it, or care. Maybe with an hour of chipping away I could have brought him down, providing I didn’t get struck in the process. But time was not abundant. The first I knew that we were not alone was a crack and a zip as a bullet whizzed past my face close enough to make my left ear ring like a church bell. Another Super mutant, this one brandishing a rifle, smart enough to work a gun then. My preconceptions about super mutants were now thoroughly shattered.
I ran. Legs propelling me in the only direction that my brain could conceive of. Away from them. I had been turned around in the fight, I didn’t know where I was going and I didn’t care. Another mutant carrying a rifle was like a sideways gust of wind in my sails, sending me careening at a right angle. I made for the cover of an old railway overpass, but I was surrounded, and I could hear them calling, hunting me. Out in the open I was as good as dead, I made for the nearest building, a concrete structure, half rubble, with an exposed stairwell to a once interior door. I ducked inside, found a corner to hide in and held my breath. The room was filled with computers, still inexplicably functional. On the screen was a 911 call report. I was in the police station. Fortune had placed me exactly where I had wanted to go, I had yet to determine is said fortune was good or bad.
Once I had recovered my breath and my wits, I went to explore my surroundings. I found an old stealth boy in a drawer, along with grenades in a tin box. Huge sacks of dripping back gore hung from the walls or were left in heaps on the floor. What madness made me take a closer look I don’t know, at first it looked like a butchers trash can, until I saw a piece of shoe, a finger, a head. The Family were not the only ones with a taste for human. That 200 year old can of Pork’N’Beans I ate was ready to make a comeback but the sound of giant feet gave me the strength to keep it down. If these mutants were any one thing, it certainly wasn’t quiet. Useful when you are sneaking around trying to avoid them. I listened to those footfalls like steady war drums until I was certain he was far enough away then made my way for the stairwell. If the captured settlers were in the building they weren’t up here.
Downstairs looked as much like a wolf den as the upper floor had, untidy and littered with carcasses. Clearly they didn’t like visitors, landmines were left all over. I tip toed round one and made a dash to the door, and found my path blocked. Before my eyes was a massive, green chest, every inch that wasn’t pockmarked with sores, or scarred was pure muscle. Atop the chest was a gruesome face, missing an ear and something sharp protruding from its cheek. It let out a roar from a salivating mouth. I turned and ran for the exit, hopped over the mine, but had already found another way around and cut me off. If I was to survive this I would have to fight. I fled to the corner, putting the landmine between me and him and did my best to look terrified and helpless, not a difficult act to sell. Predictably he lumbered forwards, looking to claim his next meal. There was a bang and a cloud of smoke as he triggered the mine. Not too bright. The dust cleared, revealing the same face as before, only not somehow angrier and uglier before, oozing red streaks covering his scowl. He drew his rifle, and I drew my pistol. When both stopped firing, I opened my eyes and saw the giant slumped dead against the wall. He looked almost as surprised as I did that he was the one dead and not me. I heard footsteps again. No way the other mutants hadn’t heard that mine go off, or the bullets fired. I activated the stealth boy snatched his rifle and crept into a washroom by the stairs to the basement. The mutants came up from the basement, so it seemed like a good place to be if they weren’t there. Once I was sure they wouldn’t hear, I slipped past. In the downstairs was hot as hell and smelled like a barbeque. In the distance, voices. I crept close and could see silhouetted by an open furnace a mutant bigger than the rest. He was talking, which was surprising in itself. More he was bragging, saying how he was going to cook someone.
“Ha. I hope you choke on my bones.” The voice of a foolhardy man yelled, to which the giant guffawed.
“Me? Choke on your puny bones?”
Clearly there was little time left to save this man. I had to act. Now. I had surprise on my side, so I used it. Before he knew I was there, three grenades had blown at his feet. In a rage he fired blindly at me. But I was already in positon, taking cover behind a doorframe and taking steady shots at his head. For once I was in control of a fight, the beast hit the floor with a thud. I entered to find a man named Shorty tied up and somewhat relieved to see a human, picking through the would-be-chef’s possessions. I untied him and asked if there were any others.
“Yeah, they got red. She’s upstairs. You lead and I’ll show you where.”
“You know how to use this?” I said handing him my pistol.
“Hell yeah. Lay it on me.” His eagerness to take the gun should have warned me it was a bad idea to arm him.
We crept upstairs to the cell where the other captive was being held. The lock was beyond my picking ability, but I felt in my pocket for a key I had absentmindedly taken from the last mutant. To everyone’s relief, it fitted the lock. Quietly as we could we sneaked out a ground floor door. But then, stealth was off the table. A mutant saw us immediately and began calling to his comrades. Nothing else for it. I shouted run. We snaked across the open ground as fast as we could. Only when we were clear of the town did I notice only one person was with me. That damn fool shorty was fighting the mutants. One beaten and broken man with a peashooter in a crowd super mutants. If we had found the courage to save him, it wouldn’t have helped, he was dead before he had emptied his weapon. No time to mourn, they would be after us next. We didn’t stop running until we reached Big Town. The people stared at us like we were ghosts. None had thought to see either of us alive again.