Part 30: St. Louis Part 2: Post ScriptumAnd we're back! Hopefully, none of you are suffering from relatives/overeating/excessive snow.
Post 30: St. Louis Part 2: Post Scriptum
They look like big, good, strong hands. Don't they? I always thought that's what they were. When first felt the need for better sustenance than my mother could provide, these hands brought my first victory in the ring. When I wanted attention from women, I only needed to curl these hands in fists and step into the ring. When I needed contacts within the traider caravans, I was introduced by guards - either ones who losts fights against my hands or who won bets because of them. When they tried to burn my books, I stopped them with these same hands.
Small wonder that it my mastery of hand to hand combat got me into the Brotherhood of Steel.
During my time in the Brotherhood, I have killed one hundred fifty four raiders of all sizes, fifty seven Beastlords, forty one rad scorpions, wasps and cockroaches, ten dogs, nine civvies, eight Deathclaws - mostly the young ones - two ghouls and a gun turret. It's not hard, to verify kills when you're fighting hand to hand. When their face turns into an unrecognizable mess of bone and flesh, when you see them fall to twitch around and go limp, when life leaves the eyes just in front of yours, well, then you know you've done it. I had killed before joining the Brotherhood, but not so many, and not so easily. I don't regret slaying any of that number. When I see the counters tattooed on my left hand, I only feel pride. I'd a hard work, a messy work, but all entirely necessary.
Wasn't always like that before I joined.
Understand, then, that it's hard to admit that these fists might have outlived their usefulness. It was a close call, too: all this mounting stress is wearing down my bones, and my wrists hurt when it's damp. A necessary sacrifice, but it's still hard to admit that in the end, all those hours of practice in dodging and blocking, and getting too close to get shot might be superceded by something else.
A machinegun, for example.
I was never a good shot, all because I could never see well. That's why it's good to have Many and the others. They go there, where the world blurs, and tell me where the enemy hides. I find the place and I punch them. Shooting would be tricky.
Super mutants are big and can take a lot of punches. Power fist might let me punch clean through a torso of a raider, but it only gouges holes in mutants. They try to laugh it off, at first. They stop soon. Yet it's still too slow.
Super mutants are big, and they make for big targets. Even I can see one of them shifting position. They're aren't exactly graceful or subtle or easy to hide. And the machinegun works well. I just need to line it up with the distant blurry blob of movement and hold the trigger till it stops. It's really not that hard, what with the muscles of mine. Some people say that I can be my own weapon team.
It's even easier when you're staring a mutie in the face.
But enough about the old fool and his hands. We cleared the check points and had to move on. The road was mined, so Stumpy had to get to it. A smart kid, him, smart and brawny. I see something of me in him, yet he doesn't have that spark of personality. Guess that's why I'm Flashman, and he's just Stumpy - nobody even bothered to figure out a better nickname.
Well, stompy is good with the gun and he's the only one who knows anything about traps. Had to disable some spore mushrooms when we assaulted Mardin, if you can believe that.
The road forward was also barricaded. And it wasn't only that.
Stumpy is not nearly as blind as I am, so he noticed another ambush on the other side of the river. I had to figure out how to deal with it.
Stumpy, on the other hand, dealt with the barricades. I don't know what's in the red barrels that makes them explode so violently, nor why they appear in every barricade we encounter.
Off we went, to once again try out tried and true method of just driving up to the ambush and shooting everyone. Unfortunately...
... Stumpy eyes weren't that good in twilight, and I had not thought about it. The muties had mines on the bridge!
It was a shock, when the first one exploded, but in the end, everybody got through it pretty well. The APC seems to be very sturdy, despite its strange shape. I'm starting to think that it might have been an engineering vehicles back then.
We stopped on the other side of the bridge, to repair the damage, and Stumpy got out to see if there are any more mines on the road ahead. Apparently there weren't. Welcome news, all in all, it would probably be hard to clear mines while RPG rounds explode all around you.
And then, we continued with out original plan, confident that the tough shell of the APC can carry us through.
We didn't account for two things: an additional mutant with an RPG and me trying to shoot my launcher.
In the end, the APC lost both tracks and I hastily jumped out to shoot the last mutant dead before he could fire another shot at the vehicle. I think that saved it, but not shooting my RPG into the sandbags next to the APC would have helped even more.
Stitch had to get out to patch up our ride, and I went forward, to do some force recon as much as to hide my shame. It's not recommended to show weakness in front of the men and women you lead, Shauri.
More dead brothers. Not the most sophisticated of ambush spots, but it killed three. One of them managed to crawl back and mark the name of their killers with his own blood.
It is one of those moments that I won't soon forget. The Beastmen larder, the super cockroach, the dead prostitutes... and this. Remember when I said that all the killing I did in the name of the Brotherhood doesn't bother me? Well, this is the reason why.
They tried to ambush me, too. Tried.
They might have had a the highground, but they also silhouetted themselves against the twilight sky. A supermutant has quite the silhouette, you know, And tracers... well, with tracers I could see where my fire is going. More than that, seeing their flesh burst under my fire felt... Well, it felt like cutting the brutes apart with a beam of light.
It was a good feeling.
Some of them still try to run at me, convinced that they're bulging muscles is all they need to overcome regular humans.
I find that the machinegun is the perfect equalizer in that situation.
Eventually, Stitch managed to fix the APC... as much as we had tools for that. Sure, screwdrivers and hammers aren't exactly expended when you fix stuff, but the various fixing materials...
Anyways, he eventually came to patch me up, as it usually happens after fights. I don't remember the last scrap I had left unblooded, but that's what happens when one brings fists to a gun fight.
A mutant though that it was a good moment to light us up. That was a mistake. I surprised myself, there, how quickly I turned around, dropped to one knee and opened fire. Sometimes, sometimes you feel really good about yourself, after a fight.
I'd almost say it feels "cool".
Well, like after every fight, I had to go loot the corpses. One mutant was still alive and managed to knock me off the ladder. I guess that an another lesson for, you Shauri: always make sure there's nobody up there where you're climbing. Hard to dodge a bullet on a ladder, and the fall is no less nasty.
Anyway, I killed the mutie alright. Looting paid off, too: I found an actual, bonafide sniper rifle! Now that is a present for Ice. She might even... warm up to us.
After all, the gun was mush superior to the hunting rifle she had been using. Might even get to so some actual sniping with it.
But now, she used the scope to spy the mutant encampment on the other side of the river. Seems to be serious enough, and probably more intensively mined.
Well, the mission outline forbids us from going there, so I guess they don't matter, especially since they don't seem to be anxious to reinforce their positions on this side of the river.
Speaking of reinforcing, we found the what remained of Talon Squad and their humwee.
Paladin Solo is weird. Her the sound system in her armor is broke or experimental or some shit like that, so she sounds like a man. On the other hand, It's probably helpful if she has to order around men like Tiduk around. Under all that armor, you can't really who's who and the voice matters a lot.
It was her armor that kept her gunning and her wits that kept Talon Squad alive. Now, it's was our time to play our role of heroic rescue.
The APC screeched to a halt soon after. I'm do not completely agree with the way they charged in here, but what was done was done. Might be that Ice had some friendship with Solo. All that mattered now was fixing the troops up.
I didn't have anything to do with medicine, so I went back to clear the trenches and secure the road for the wounded.
More dead brothers, but I was already expecting that.
Found another mutant in a bunker. Had an RPG with him, and, being a mutant, wasn't afraid to fire it at close range. I lucked out both shots missed and the interior of the bunker contained the shrapnel and the explosion. Got a gust of dust and pebbles, and even bits of shrapnel, but nothing the armor couldn't handle. I repeat myself, but, again, Shauri, never forget that our enemies are untrained savages, one and all, who will throw grenades at their own feet if it comes to it. Always expect something stupid to happen.
For example, I easily startled a mutant in a trench. How can you be startled after hearing two RPG blasts nearby?
Meanwhile, Stitch... stitched Talon Squad back into one piece. Perfect timing there, some of them were getting delirious, saying that muties are tougher than Deathclaws. Now, that's just plain wrong: a Deathclaw might not have a machinegun, but those fuckers are much harder to put down, especially when they're charging for your face. I'm extremely glad that we only rarely met adult 'claws. I hope you never get to see either.
With the wounded loaded in the APC, they started to make their way back.
I had to clean the trenches before they could do that. The APC had taken a beating from all it experienced today, and we were running out of repair material.
But not out of stimpaks or first aid kits.
I ran into two mutants, one with an MG and the other with grenades. I tried my luck with the RPG again and it worked surprisingly well. RPG rounds are made with poorly trained soldiers in mind, so I guess it also works when you're high on Psycho. Rip off the safety, jam the rocket in the tube, point, shoot. Would help if you knew ballistics.
Well, even without training I managed to kill those mutants, but not before one grenade landed on me.
Lucky me, an M2 heavy machinegun survived the fight! It's an old weapon, one that was old when the war started. It's also a very powerful weapon, as deadly as it is heavy, but I can handle it.
Then again, it's an another tale about a good weapon that's hampered by lack of amunition. Whatever you think of the America of old, they didn't have that much .50 BMG lying around. A pity, tho. I've read they used to mount M2s on cars and APCs to support infantry, which would be very useful today, especially for patrols of initiates that might be called to fend off enemy attacks.
But I was finally getting excited about the new implement that would change my style of combat, and M2 put a sense of reverence in me, so I decided to take it for a spin.
The results were immediate and telling.
And oh-so-satisfying. If a machinegun carves a supermutant, than M2 just rips them apart instead.
And thus, my rampage finally cleared the trenches. If the the super mutants in the base noticed anything, they didn't show. Maybe they just don't care about their own dead. I wouldn't put it past their thick, violent skulls.
So I motioned the APC forward... and they ran over a mine again.
Stumpy, a bit dizzy, but otherwise uninjured, stepped out to look for mines.
An entire field of them! More mines than any of us had seen in our entire service! So many mines that he even stepped on one! Lucky for him, he survived.
All in all, mines were turning out to be less dangerous than expected. The standards of the arms industry must have been falling by that time.
I've even read about mines that looked like smoke detectors.They had motion sensors and beeped loudly before exploding. Thing is, you could supposedly disarm them if you were fast enough. I sometimes wonder if that wasn't supposed to be a last ditch weapon, one to be deployed by third rate troops and hastily trained militia, to guard against forces of similar training, maybe animals. The war must have been very grim even before the bombs fell, Shauri.
All in all, Stumpy collected more than twenty mines - that's over a hundred pounds of explosive. I bet we could secure a bunker with this haul! Then again, requisition master has been stingy with money as of late, especially considering how many AKs I bring in. If you kids end up shooting an AK, it might me that it's one of mine.
Enough of the history lesson. After we cleared the mines, we had to check out the last stretch of the trenches.
I'll... just listed to the attached audio here.
A brother's a brother, even if I let my own die in a filthy, bug filled bunker. Stumpy got to disabling the C4.
I assume some mutant had a twisted sense of humor, to attach a mechanical clock to the bomb, all for the tic-toc sound.
At least he didn't live to bear the shame, as Burke passed away from his wounds almost as soon as we took off the explosives.
The news of general's capture were grave, but we still had a mission to attend to. Maybe one day you'll have to make a snap decision to abandon your mission because of overriding priorities, but this was not the case, this time. Even if we the Brotherhood wanted to act on the information to try and retrieve the general, we probably didn't have the man power to do it, and recalling soldiers from whatever far flung missions, patrols and outpost duties they had, well, that would have proven disastrous, maybe even undone our progress.
Such is the burden of command, Shauri.
And the burden of Brotherhood is collecting arms and ammo off the bodies of our fallen.
Stumpy wanted to harrass the mutants, saying that he could sneak up along the river.
But the orders were clear and I ordered everyone to retreat. We had confirmed the deaths of Fang Squad, retrieved the wounded of Talon squad as well as reaping some small amount of vengeance by killing whatever mutants we found. Finally, we were going home.
Six full squads, Shauri, not counting those that came out mauled, like Talon. That's at least thirty six brothers dead at the hand of these mutants. That was blow the likes of which I had not experienced in my time in the Brotherhood.
Then again, we have many more left, all thanks to the initiative of drawing recruits from the local peoples, as well as ghouls and Deathclaws. To the old Brotherhood, this might have been a crippling blow, but we're not the old Brotherhood. We will prevail, because we're adaptable. If the Brotherhood managed to survive long enough to get you and me on board, even after the airship crash, I'm sure it will survive even after St. Louis. Don't think about it too much, and don't worry. Look towards your own men and women and remember several key points:
1. Always have a scout.
2. Always have at least one medic.
3. Never charge in unprepared.
4. Expect the enemy to act contrary to common sense and art of war.
5. Don't bunch up,
6. Loot everything.
7. Keep hydrated.
8. Change your socks.
Shauri, you're a wonderful young woman and a promissing commander. Just use your head and you'll do the Brotherhood proud.
Now get some raiders for me!
Reginald Leonard 'Flashman' St. John