Chapter 161: Evil Empire’s End
The Enclave have always been resilient. We toil, while the mutants polluting our great nation do nothing but bicker and complain and fight among themselves like the rabid animals they are! We persevere when all others give up! And when evil stares us in the eyes: we stare right back! THAT is who we are! Our fathers fought and died for the Enclave - for America! - and we can do no less! We are the Enclave! It is a name that strikes fear into the hearts of all who would oppose us! We are not the monsters that they claim, but to all those who dare trespass on our beloved America, we will be more frightful than even their worst nightmares!
“Do you really think this plan of yours is going to work?” Chris asked. I actually busted up laughing hysterically, earning me a strange look from Cass as the three of us ran down this latest corridor.
“What, are you kiddin’? Fuck, I’m amazed we’ve even got this far!”
Every muscle in my body was screaming at me. It had been several hours since our arrival on the Moon (I’m pretty sure, at least...), and we had barely stopped in all that time. I thought things might get easier with Chris now helping us out, but the fighting seemed even more intense now. Every time we turned a corner, there would be more power armored troops, more robots... even a few of those huge combat walkers from the tank proving ground had found their way down here and were chasing us. That, at least, explained why the corridors we were running down were so broad and the ceilings so high.
I’d say things were starting to look bleak, but they’d been looking that way for a while.
At least Cass seemed to be doing well. She’d gotten pretty good at handling the Jury Rigger and was blowing away Enclave troops left and right. She was certainly doing better than me. You see, we’d been slicing through the troops so effectively up to now, that I’d started thinking the Enclave was using tin foil and duct tape to make their power armor. That, it turns out, was a mistake that I only discovered when I tried to use some of my other weapons in the interest of conserving ammunition for the Alien Blaster.
Roscoe (for obvious reasons) was comparable to blowing spit wads, but even That Gun and the Ranger Sequoia were less than useless. I’d loaded both with armor piercing ammunition before we left, but that didn’t seem to matter: the bullets were either bouncing off or they hit the armor straight-on and came to a dead stop. The sawed-off I kept on my hip was doing alright because it was loaded with pulse slugs (and the power armor was thankfully still vulnerable to EMP weapons) but I only had four of those shells left. I had to use the Alien Blaster to thin their ranks at all, and that meant I was now down to 25 shots for that thing. Worst of all, I had no grenades.
Chris, meanwhile, was pulling weapons literally out of nowhere; every time I looked back at him, he was using something different. The big fucking gun, some kind of huge plasma cannon, the gatling laser he called ‘Vengeance,’ a big fuck-off minigun, some damn thing that looked like it fired shurikens and lightning... where the fuck was he keeping all this shit? I would’ve asked him to share, but every one of his guns looked too heavy for me to even lift.
And Tuera... I had no idea where she was. I had no idea if she was even alive or dead. I couldn’t even raise her on comms. Whenever I tried to contact her between firefights, all I got was a load of static in my ear.
The three of us kept running, trying desperately to keep ahead of the latest patrol that I knew was right on our heels. The last words I’d heard Tuera say to me kept echoing around the inside of my skull, and I couldn’t get them to go away. All I wanted to do was throw up. Or collapse. Or both.
“In there!” Chris yelled, pulling me out of my thoughts. He was pointing at a large blast door at the end of the hall, closing slowly like the jaws of a giant metal beast. “Quick! Before it closes! We’re gonna have to jump –”
There was a fizzle of electricity both in front and behind us. We suddenly found ourselves locked off by a pair of force fields boxing us in. Chris couldn’t stop in time, and ended up slamming face-first into the energy barrier with a sound not unlike a rubber mallet hitting a large bass drum. The sound of the heavy power armor crashing to the ground was almost enough to drown out the speakers above our heads crackling to life.
“Foolish, prideful children,” Eden’s voice growled menacingly right above us. “There is no place to hide, and nowhere to run.”
“Cass?” I asked with a sigh, grabbing Chris with my cybernetic arm and doing my best to help the colossus back on his feet. “If you don’t mind?”
“Gladly!” she nodded at me with a smirk, leveling the Jury Rigger.
The energy shield fizzled into nothing, and the three of us set off running again while Eden howled in frustration. I only hoped we could escape before he activated any more force fields. Chris sped off ahead of us, practically diving for the door before it closed. He grabbed the upper door just in the nick of time with both hands, wedged his foot against the bottom, and forced the door open with obvious effort.
“C’MON!” he hissed at us through gritted teeth. Cass and I ducked through the door, acutely aware of the noisy hydraulics trying to keep it shut strained against his muscle. When we were safely hidden behind him, he let go of the door and quickly rolled away. The door slammed shut with a cacophony of metal against metal that echoed in this new chamber.
“There,” Chris said, punching a panel on the wall next to the door as he spoke. Sparks flew everywhere as the metal buckled and the electronics within exploded. “That should keep them busy... for a while, at least...” I could be wrong, but it almost sounded like he was out of breath. Was this place starting to get to him too?
“I certainly hope so...” I gripped the Alien Blaster tight, and looked around, trying to figure out where the fuck we were now. At first it looked like an absurdly high-ceilinged warehouse, filled to the brim with row after row of metal boxes. But then I looked closer and realized: we were surrounded by computer terminals and server mainframes. I guess the map really was accurate, after all. No wonder they’d been so desperate to keep us from coming this way.
The lights above us flickered, and speakers all around us came to life in a short burst of static and feedback.
“Why must you be so recalcitrant, mutant?” Eden’s voice echoed off every surface. Every single monitor and screen in view switched to the image of a flat color with a line that moved as he spoke; I was suddenly reminded of the screen of the AI under the Big Empty, only blue instead of yellow. “Your fate is already sealed! Your efforts are in vain! There is nowhere you can run where we cannot find you! So why? Tell me why you must continue this pointless struggle, even knowing what you know?!” He was definitely getting angry, no doubt about it.
“You don’t get it? Of course we struggle!” I yelled back. “We’re not just fighting for ourselves – we’re fighting for the sake of the planet! We’re fighting to save everyone on Earth from your plans of genocide! We’ll fight to the bitter end, no matter what, and do whatever it takes to stop you!” I sneakily motioned to Chris and Cass behind me, hoping that they’d get the message as I cautiously made my way to the nearest server. With luck, Eden wouldn’t notice what I was doing until it was too late. The best way to make sure he didn’t notice?
Make him even madder.
“That’s right!” Cass backed me up, pointing at one of the screens above us. “We –” she paused briefly, interrupted by the violent shaking of the blast door behind us. “We’ll never stop fightin, ya digital cunt! No matter what you throw at us, we’ll just keep swingin! No matter what tries to stop us, we won’t slow down! Even if th’ whole UNIVERSE tells us t’fuck off, we’ll just kick ‘em in th’ nuts and keep right on goin!”
“You best face facts, Eden!” Chris bellowed, joining in the fun of taunting the bad guy. The door behind us shook again. “We’re more human than any of those meat-puppets out there you’ve cloned! You’ll never understand the true strength and resolve of the human race!” The door shook yet again, and it definitely sounded like we didn’t have much time.
“We do not need to understand, mutant,” Eden growled out, not even bothering to hide his anger and frustration anymore. “We only need to know.”
“Y’know, I’m getting’ awful tired of you callin’ me mutant, you useless collection of ones and zeroes!” I yelled, furtively loading the holotape I’d been hiding in my duster. “I have a name, and you best start usin’ it!”
“Your name – just like your very existence – is utterly irrelevant!” Eden bellowed angrily. The door shook once more, and both Chris and Cass wheeled around with guns drawn, ready for when the army burst through. Meanwhile, the screen in front of me flashed a message, asking if I wished to proceed. Yes, please!
“Oh, I think it’s pretty damn relevant alright!” I yelled back, my hand hovering over the ‘enter’ key. “Because I’m the motherfuckin’ Courier, bitch! And I’ve got a message for you!”
“What are you – ” Eden began, but he suddenly stopped as every monitor in view flickered; line after line of code started scrolling by at break-neck speed. “Wait, but this... I... don’t... cake?” For the first time since we’d arrived, Eden sounded legitimately confused. Right before he stopped sounding like anything at all. “What i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-”
His voice glitched out loudly, threatening to blow out our eardrums. The blue monitors all around us flashed yellow several times, and started switching off, one by one. The servers followed suit, the lights going dark accompanied by a series of audible thunks, until only the one in front of me remained. There were no more words – just the loud repetitive clicking noise of a damaged hard drive. The screen finally froze in the middle of generating a cluster of digital artifacts, creating an asymmetrical quilt of multicolored squares on the screen.
“And that’s why you don’t fuck with a mailman!” I backhanded the screen with my cybernetic hand, causing the glass to crack.
“Holy shit!” Cass let out a single nervous laugh. “I think it actually worked!”
“Only one way to make sure,” I said. I took the Alien Blaster out of the improvised holster in my duster, leveled it at the frozen screen, and fired. Sadly, the server didn’t disintegrate; there was just a perfectly round hole where the plasma bolt entered... and the entire back of the server exploded in a shower of sparks, shards of circuits, and molten metal.
I didn’t have time to feel smug, however. The blast door shook again, and when I looked, I could almost swear the metal had started warping inward from all the impacts...
“We’re not clear yet!” Chris said, big gun still trained on the door, but backing up swiftly. “We’ve still got to blow this place and go home!”
“What are we waiting for, then?” I turned on my heel, running for the other end of the server farm. “Let’s go!” The door shook again, but didn’t break, so Chris and Cass started running behind me.
Hell, we might actually make it through this...
- - -
The Enclave patrols had become uncoordinated and sporadic.
It wasn’t obvious at first. But the further away we got from the server farm where we’d trapped Eden, the more it became clear just how reliant they were on his guidance and coordination. Whenever a patrol found us, they certainly gave chase, but they were no longer coming at us from every other corner, and it seemed much easier to give them the slip. It definitely felt like we’d given ourselves some breathing room. Just. On the borderline, really.
“How much further?” Cass asked.
“We should be right on top of it...” I said, looking at the map on my Pip Boy. I glanced up, looking around, and didn’t see anything even remotely resembling an entrance to a reactor.
Clunk. Crunch. Bang.
“Well, you’re certainly right about that...” Cass and I turned to the sound, and saw Chris pulling open a large hatch in the floor that I hadn’t noticed earlier. He pulled the hatch free, ripping it clear of the hinges, and tossed it aside with a crash. All three of us leaned over to get a look straight down; it was a huge, wide pit that seemed to go on forever. Cass let out a long whistle.
“Quite th’ fall,” she nodded to no one in particular. Chris, meanwhile, sighed and shook his head.
“Damn. I was hoping there would be a ladder or something...” He shrugged, the metal plates of his power armor clattering against each other heavily. “Ah well. Needs must when the Devil drives, eh?”
“What are you –” I started, not really understanding.
Chris stepped forward and dropped like a rock, feet-first into the pit.
“Did... did he just...” Cass stammered out with a confused look on her face, pointing down after him.
“Of course he did,” I said with a sigh, pulling out the grapnel gun. “Well, shall we?” Cass continued to look confused for a few seconds, replaced briefly by a look of horrified realization. Finally she shrugged with resigned acceptance.
“Might as well...” she shouldered the Jury Rigger and clung to me tightly; I grabbed hold of her around the waist with one hand and aimed the grapnel at the ceiling. “Just don’ let go’a me, alright?”
I jumped down after the power armored idiot and immediately Cass wrapped her legs around me, clinging to me even tighter. I had my finger on the button to make the cable unspool at a steady rate, and the two of us swiftly descended. It was probably only a few seconds, but it felt a lot longer. By the time I touched down (in the middle of a surprisingly substantial impact crater) Chris was waiting for us.
“Why didn’t you just use the rocket boots to get down here?” he asked while Cass detached herself from me. I hit the button on the grapnel and the cable retracted back with a snap.
“They got wrecked earlier...” I said, looking around. Just like everything else in this fucking base, this place was massive: high ceilings, catwalks, enormous machinery that looked like gigantic metal beer cans wrapped in pipes, cables, and who knew what else. Nearly every structure in this complex (at least, the ones I could see) was a gigantic metal cylinder. If it wasn’t so fucking hot in here, it would’ve almost been like the inside of a gigantic fridge, complete with enormous beer cans. “Alright, so how do we blow this thing?”
“Well, if it’s like the reactor I found in Minot, then it’s gonna have some rather large cooling turbines. If we wreck those, the heat and energy will build up, feed back in on itself, and then...” Chris made an exploding motion with his hands. “To be honest, I still have no idea why the Enclave keep using reactors that are made entirely of Explodium...”
“You don’t really care, do you?” I deadpanned. Chris shrugged.
“Well, I kinda do this time!” he said with a laugh. “What with us being on the Moon and all, I can’t exactly walk away calmly from this one while putting on sunglasses, like I -” Before he could finish, I snapped my fingers, pointed at Chris, and turned to Cass.
“HA! I knew I wasn’t the only one who did that!” Cass slowly shook her head and sighed, burying her face in her hand.
“I hate you both,” she muttered softly... before starting to laugh. And I’m gonna be honest, I think the utter insanity and ridiculousness of our situation had finally gotten to us, because Chris and I joined in. “Al-alright...” she said finally, catching her breath as the two of us leaned against Chris for support. “Enough fuckin’ around, let’s –”
Something above our heads exploded, and any sense of humor evaporated. The three of us had our guns drawn immediately, and were treated to a view of one of the walls a good three or four stories above us breaking apart in a shower of debris, smoke, sparks, and shrapnel. Time seemed to slow down, and VATS kicked in unexpectedly. The IFF spotter in my helmet picked out a shape inside the smoke and debris, and my blood ran ice cold at the outline.
It was the silhouette of an impossibly huge, mountain of a man. A gigantic tower shield was strapped to one arm... and massive warhammer was held in the other.
“RUN!” I yelled, already turning on my heel. Above me, I could hear Panzer falling amid the debris, with a sound like an incoming artillery strike. It was fitting, because the impact knocked me clear off my feet, and sent me tumbling forward, head over heels.
Next thing I knew I was slamming against the metal floor, flat on my back. All I could do at first was watch in horror as a slow motion Panzer emerged from the cloud of smoke and fire, charging upside-down and coming straight for me. Thankfully, VATS was still with me, so I pulled out the Alien Blaster with one hand, and the grapnel gun with other. I fired three shots – which is a lot harder than it sounds when you’re used to seeing targets the right way up – and aimed the grapnel gun at the ceiling. The plasma bolts from the Alien Blaster struck him (twice in the chest, once in the head) and set his armor on fire, but didn’t slow him down in the slightest.
The warhammer came down at the same time I was propelled up at the ceiling. For a split second, I didn’t think I was going to make it. But the warhammer missed crushing me by inches, I was sure... and then the shockwave from the enormous maul striking the ground hit me. I was thrown off course and turned into a flailing mass of screaming limbs hurtling through the air.
“Hey! PANSY!” Chris’ voice cut through the noise, even as I slammed into a pillar and came crashing back to the ground. By the time I looked up, nearly everything in view was consumed in green. Chris must have fired the BFG... but it wasn’t as effective as I would’ve liked. By the time I got back on my feet, the green energy had started to dissipate, and Panzer was still there: pushed back from where he’d been standing earlier, clearly stunned, with a mixture of smoke and green fire curling off him, but still alive! He bellowed incoherently and got to his feet, swinging his tower shield in a wide arc in front of him. The ground was chewed up as the bottom of the shield dug in.
Chris started running at Panzer. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Cass: she had pulled her AA-12 and the Jury Rigger off her back, and was dual wielding them, aiming at Panzer. I took the hint and leveled the Alien Blaster. I only managed to fire once before the power cell ran dry, but it seemed to do the trick. One side of Panzer’s face was consumed in blue fire, while the other side was hit with a pair of exploding shotgun shells and a trio of LAER bursts. It stunned him long enough for Chris to shoulder check the massive super soldier.
“My name –” he bellowed, pushing against Chris with his entire bulk; the bone white T-51b was shoved backward several paces. “ – is PANZER!” The warhammer came swinging down, aimed squarely at Chris. The Lone Wanderer reached up and – somehow – managed to grab the edges of the gigantic mallet before it flattened him. The ground under his feet cracked and buckled; Chris was pushed down at least a foot by the impact. The two of them struggled like that for several seconds, until:
“You can’t WIN!” Panzer yelled, shifting his weight. Chris was blindsided by the edge of the tower shield, and went flying. While all this was happening, I’d managed to run to the opposite end of the reactor room, reloading the Alien Blaster as I went. Chris crashed into one of the giant metal cylinders, and the side of it exploded, releasing a huge cloud of yellow steam and a waterfall of viscous bright blue fluid.
I knew that I couldn’t bring him down by myself. The alien plasma bolts might not have enough kick on its own, but the fire meant it was doing something, and he was definitely stunned when hit with the BFG. If I was right about my hunch, then we would need to concentrate our fire to bring him down.
“That won’t work, little girl!” Panzer shouted as he ran, warhammer held high while LAER bursts deflected uselessly off the front of his shield. Cass was backing up, but had nowhere to go.
Cass dove for cover. The warhammer came down. I flew through the air, propelled by the grapnel gun and aimed myself squarely at Panzer’s head. The ground burst apart like it was hit with a bomb. I couldn’t see where Cass had ended up amid the shrapnel and debris. But I landed on top of Panzer’s shoulders, grabbed one of the horns on his head to keep me steady, and started hitting the top of his helmet with my metal fist, over and over and over again.
It was like holding onto the bucking brahmin machine in The Broken Spoke. I was yelling incoherently, just hitting him as hard as I could while he tried throwing me off. After the sixth or seventh punch, the metal actually started to dent and warp... but I didn’t get a chance to see if I could get further. I finally lost my grip and he threw me off, sending me tumbling through the air yet again.
“Shea!” Cass’ voice buzzed in my ear, and my heart skipped a beat. She was alive! I tried to right myself before slamming into the wall I’d grappled onto. “I’m... I’m banged up, but... I’m okay! Sue’s got me hidden!” I landed against the wall feet-first and detached, dropping onto the top of one of the other cylinders in the room. “Where’re you?”
“I’m...” I began, looking down and realizing for the first time what these were: I was standing on top of a metal grate, separating me from a large spinning fan. Heat, light, and steam were surging up in torrents from the inside. These must be the cooling towers Chris had mentioned earlier! “I’ve got an idea.”
“There you are!” Panzer bellowed, and I realized that he was talking to me: he had the top end of his warhammer aimed in my direction. The end of it exploded, which could only mean...
I zipped away from the spot just as the edge of the cooling tower burst into flames. Twisted metal and shrapnel flew everywhere, aided by the giant fan ripping itself apart. I took aim with the Alien Blaster while flying directly over Panzer and hit him with a trio of plasma bolts. I did my best to use VATS to aim at the spot on his helmet I’d been punching earlier... but I was going too fast to say for sure if I’d succeeded. I just know that the top of his helmet was consumed in blue fire and sparks.
“Stop buzzing, insect!” he bellowed just as I came to a stop... directly in front of him. His head was still on fire from the Alien Blaster shots, so I just kept going. Off to my left, Cass reappeared with a shimmer, and hit him with a cluster of LAER bursts. But nothing seemed to be doing the trick. He raised the warhammer again... but stopped when a large chunk of metal flew through the air, hitting him in the back of his head. He stumbled, giving me just enough time to get out of the way before he brought the hammer down.
“Cass!” I yelled, running away from the buckling ground. “Catch! Trip him up!” I held up the grapnel gun, and tossed it over to her before switching directions again. Panzer was coming at me from behind, chasing me with his hammer held high; Chris was coming around from the other side.
The grapnel cable sliced through the air around waist height – or knee height for Panzer. Either he didn’t notice, or he didn’t care, because he plowed directly into it. And that was just enough to knock him off balance.
“What the –” he stumbled, losing momentum and tumbling forward.
“High now, Chris!” I tossed the Alien Blaster to my fleshy hand and reached back with my cybernetic fist. “Go high!” Chris skidded to a stop next to me, pulling back with his own robotic arm. Panzer toppled toward us in slow motion; Chris and I slammed our fists at the same time as hard as we could right into his face.
“AUGH!” Panzer bellowed, reeling backward from the hit. I almost didn’t notice the blue shimmer around Chris’ hands; Vengeance materialized out of thin air, and he started pelting Panzer with dozens of lasers. I took the hint, and took aim with the Alien Blaster, emptying the last little bit I had in the energy cell. Cass ran up beside me, leveling the Jury Rigger and started hitting him with LAER blasts.
“Concentrate fire!” I yelled, popping out the energy cell and grabbing the last one. Panzer kept backing up, while his entire front was consumed in plasma fire and explosions. He actually dropped the hammer, and chunks of superheated metal started falling through the fire and smoke. He tried to stop himself, digging the bottom of the shield into the ground, but it wasn’t enough. The force of all the energy blasts just kept pummeling him, and it wasn’t until he was backed into the last of the cooling towers that we stopped.
Cass had stopped firing, because the Jury Rigger was beeping, telling her it needed to recharge. I’d stopped firing, because I had no more ammunition left. Chris, on the other hand, had stopped firing... because he was advancing on Panzer, with his hand held out to keep us from following.
“Go,” I heard him say through my earpiece, as Vengeance disappeared with a blue shimmer. After a brief pause, the BFG was teleported into his hands. “I’ll finish him.”
“This...” Panzer grunted out, doubled over. “This... changes... nothing!” The smoke billowing off his front started to clear, and the front of his armor was shredded and melting. It wasn’t much, but it was definitely no longer pristine, and he was clearly hurting. Chris walked up to him with the BFG in hand, and Panzer tried punching him away. Chris ducked under the swung fist, and shoved the end of the BFG right into Panzer’s damaged gut, pinning him to the cooling tower.
“Go!” Chris yelled. I was already grabbing hold of Cass, and the two of us started running for the exit. Panzer howled incoherently for a few seconds... and then he was drowned out by the unmistakable explosion of the BFG going off.
Cass and I were knocked off our feet by the shockwave, and the two of us crashed to the ground. Everything around us was bathed in bright green light, and a wave of heat washed over us. I clutched her as tightly as I could and scrambled back to my feet. Explosions started ripping up the room behind us, and alarm bells sounded over and over again.
“C’MON!” I shouted. “We’ve gotta GO!”
The two of us started running.
- - -
I had no idea where we could go. All around us, everything was exploding. The alarm bells got louder and louder. I checked the map on my Pip Boy, and tried to see if I could find some kind of hangar – maybe we could hijack some kind of craft capable of reaching orbit.
My insides seized up in terror. The closest hangar on this map was a mile above us and four miles away.
“Oh shit!” Cass grabbed the back of my head. “DUCK!” She shoved the two of us to the ground, and I heard her fire the Jury Rigger again. More plasma bolts sizzled through the air above us. We scrambled to our feet, and another wall near us exploded.
“This place is coming down around us!” I yelled, trying to figure out where we could go.
“They got any space sh– AUGH!” Cass yelled, tumbling to the ground.
“CASS!” I yelled. More plasma bolts sizzled through the air, and I ducked, grabbing the Jury Rigger. There was a pair of robots at the end of the hall, and after I hit them with a pair of LAER beams, there weren’t. The end of the hall exploded, and I knelt down, feverishly grabbing at Cass to pick her up. “Cass! Speak to me!”
“I’m...” she gasped, coughing and clutching her side. “M’fine... jus’ got th’ wind knocked outta me, s’all...” I looked her over, and couldn’t see any plasma burns, but that didn’t necessarily mean shit. “We gotta go... Where’s th’ exit?”
“Too far...” I muttered, looking around us. Everything was either exploding or collapsing. There was no longer a ceiling over my head, and I could see dozens of levels above us, all breaking apart and blowing up. Holy shit, that reactor explosion was working a hell of a lot faster than I was expecting.
“Sally, can you hear me?” I said, cycling through the radio channels. “Chris? Yes Man? Tuera? Anyone! Is anyone out there?!”
All I got was static.
“Sheas’n...” Cass was out of breath, laying against the ground and grabbing at me. Explosions were ripping up the place, all around us. I had to get her out. I had to get us out, now.
“Cass...” I pulled the metal half-sphere from the holding spot behind my belt. Cass looked at it quizzically, and I pulled her in close, pressing it against her armor. “Grab hold of this. And me.” She looked confused, and we held each other close as everything around us disintegrated in fire.
The symbols on the device lit up brightly as I moved my thumb to the button. A high pitched whine screamed, drowning out the sounds of madness and chaos all around us. Lightning arced off every surface, surrounding us.
And then everything disappeared in a bright blue flash.
- - -
The world came into focus with a violent tremor, and the electricity died down. I could see Cass nearby, flailing her limbs and shouting. The teleport device Chris had given me was also in the vicinity – burnt out and spewing smoke. But that wasn’t the only odd thing.
Neither of us was on the ground. We were floating in the air at least ten or fifteen feet above it.
“Cass!” I reached out to her, trying to catch her, but it was useless. Gravity kicked in, and we started tumbling. Within seconds, the two of us smashed into the pavement. It hurt, and every part of me was sore; it felt like a side effect of the teleporter more than anything else. But I shut out the pain as best I could and shoved myself up off the ground. There were several chunks of smoking metal surrounding us, some of them still on fire. Some of the Moon base must have come with us.
Cass was lying motionless against the pavement, no more than a few feet away from me. I scrambled over to her as quickly as I could, pulling my helmet off and tossing it aside, picking her up. She coughed several times, and a splash of bloody vomit splattered against the ground.
“Oh, God... augh, f-f-fuck me...” she wheezed out, reaching up with a trembling hand to wipe the sick away from her mouth. I grabbed hold of her, trying to help her sit up. She looked around with dazed and unfocused eyes, until she finally saw me holding onto her. She reached out with both hands, grabbing at me and pulling herself up, drawing me into a tight embrace. “Holy... holy shit... where th’ fuck’re we now?”
I didn’t say anything at first. I just tried to catch my breath, holding onto her as tightly as I could. The ringing in my ears started to fade... and that’s about the time I heard muttered, hushed voices all around us.
I looked up, and saw faces of people, keeping their distance, but curious as to what was going on. They looked like... tourists? Both Cass and I looked up in confusion, trying to make sense of this... until we saw the tower of the Lucky 38 looming over us. We’d landed right smack-dab in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard. I started laughing softly to myself, and kept looking up. Beyond the 38’s tower, the sky was full of scattered clouds. It was mostly dark now, and the brightest stars in the night sky were starting to filter through the dissolving cloud cover... along with the half-Moon.
Suddenly, an imperfection appeared on the dark side of the Moon. A twinkle of light, shining bright... like a tiny supernova. I wanted to keep laughing, but I was too damn tired. So Cass and I leaned against each other, holding on tight as we could and keeping the other from falling.