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Ashur The night sky splits with the crack of dawn; that lustrous curtain of silver stars fades as burning gas and fire ascend over the horizon. All the world is filled with the rustling of life -- the cry of birds, of nesting animals rising from their dens, of nocturnal scavengers slugging toward their rest. A fierce wind rages, bearing all the light's heat and gathering the grit and detritus of the landscape into a coiled whip that abrades the skin and chokes the lungs.

It is through this weather the Legionnaire drags you.

"I will fetch you ere the sun rises," he had instructed, "and we will search Roswell for parts. The weather will be rough; cover your face."

His advice was grand. Whether scarf or helmet or gas mask, to make way through this sandstorm with any comfort demands the eyes, the mouth, and the nose be covered. He is content in his power armor; though the wind might billow his magnificent cloak out miles behind him, and the sand and stone might strike the metal plates with hailstorm percussion, his tube-fed rebreather filters the oxygen and collects any unwanted particles.

The Roswell Scrapyard is in the distance. When you arrive, the storm will abate, as the great piles of trash stall the wind.

"You seem tired, sweet Shiloh."

A sky-high pile of old, rusting scrap looms ahead.
Shiloh      Whenever Ashur arrives to pick her up, she would be in her home still hard at work on the robot in her room. It was starting to build its shape from the scattering of parts before, but there still appears to be a lot more work to go. When he warns her about the weather, she would spend a couple of hours after that searching for something that might help her. When it came down to it, she only has her old hockey mask to rely on. Heavy welding masks were difficult to find in these parts, so it was her cheap substitute. It might not be much help against hot sparks or the heat a blowtorch might emote, but it was accepteable for the weather they faced.

     She trudges against the wind, not letting it overtake her. She still has to squint her eyes through the storm and there are small holes that sand might be able to sneak through, but it was certainly better than nothing. When they arrive at the scrapyard, Shiloh straightens up and stands on her tip toes to look over at the scrapyard in the distance. "I've never had to travel in a sand storm before. And my chest still kind of hurts from the bullet wound...but don't worry! I'm not about to slow down! Who knows, I might be able to find the hovering components I need out here. Maybe even a motherboard or a processing unit!"
Ashur "We could have made the trip at another time," the Legionnaire confesses, his boots stomping heavily against the blasted earth. "But a bit of bad weather is insufficient to stop me; it is only right that you endure, too." He reaches out with a white-and-gold hand and gives her crown a firm pat. Some of the sand has gotten in the joints, a thin layer of grit accumulating; it crackles faintly when he scritches the fingers.

"I will gather whatever looks interesting," he says, withdrawing his hand. Even over the howl of the wind, his voice resonates, metal-twisted by the helmet as it is; he sounds deep and robotic. "And make sure nothing harms us. But stay vigilant -- at times, these scrap piles shift, as the weight becomes unbalanced from the foragers. You never know when a mountain of rubble will come down."

They reach one such mountain a few minutes later. The scrapyard stretches further than the eye can see, and as they crawl over the broken, chainlink fence that once encircled it, ducking through a narrow pathway between two towers of old cars, electronics, and other compressed recyclables, the wind and sand fade.

"What hurt you?"
Shiloh      Shiloh smiles up at Ashur after he has patted her hand, the praise and confidence do end up bringing a smile to her lips. "You don't have to worry about me. I'll be right beside of you." She starts over to the scrap yards when Ashur starts to move again and she tells him, "Okay. I'll keep my eye out. There were ghouls here the last time I went to the scrapyard...I am...not good at dealing with ghouls." She frowns and shakes her head to herself, "They...look too much like what was once people. It's not as easy to hit them as a radroach or a molerat or something."

     She looks around the piles of metals when they've arrived, trying to figure out where a good place to start would be. "Oh some of Solomon's gang I think..." Shiloh tells Ashur, "They wanted to bully Qwillis out of his bunker and he asked if I would come help defend it if anything bad I did. They sprayed a lot of bullets though and got me good...We blew up their cars though and Qwillis took them down with a bunch of lasers too. It was pretty neat...even though I didn't even help down one of them...My cousin Rusty was there too. It's been a while since I've seen him."
Ashur The pair breaks away from their scrap-strewn alleyway through a handmade tunnel in the piles. It stretches on about twenty feet and then opens into a bowl bordered on all sides by high, precarious hills; their edges curl inward, blanketing the thirty or so square yards that comprise the area in shadow, as the canopy of rusting bumpers, antenna, and blocks of compact metal mingle like upside-down tree roots and blot out the light.

What faint illumination still provided is dappled like a meadow horse; it softens the jagged edges that surround them. When Ashur steps forward, cloak dragging behind him, the entire thing groans and exhales, countless tons of steel visibly shifting around them and pressing into one another.

This is a very dangerous spot. But Shiloh can see that old Securitron, half-buried in the southern cliff-face, its monowheel base partially melted into a block of.. something.

"Harden your heart against the ghouls," he tells his girl, walking in the opposite direction of her and running a hand lightly over the towering junk. He can feel it shift and lean beneath his touch. "Their brains have rotten, and their souls departed; to kill them is a mercy. Even the ones who still cling to intelligence have lost their humanity."

The comment about the bunker draws a hrmm as Ashur pauses, looking at an old flag pole.

"Solomon. I should have snapped that degenerate's neck when first I came to El Dorado. I heard tell he is in bed with the Enclave, and has been named Governor of some northern territory. You did well to slaughter."
Shiloh      Shiloh thankfully doesn't have to duck her head through the tunnels when they start to travel over them and she looks around in fascination. "Huh...I wonder who carved these out." She wonders quietly. She tries to keep a close eye on Ashur, but when she spots the Securitron buried in the distance, she tries to call over to him, "Hey I'm just going to be down here. There's a robot that might have some components that I can salvage." She tries to climb around and down to where it is buried, attempting to be very careful in the process.

     She still tries to maintain her conversation with Ashur though, "I met a ghoul a week or so ago, one that can still talk. He was eating at the diner in El Dorado, says that he's really old. I don't think that he likes me though...he wouldn't tell me his name and he said that I was...overly friendly and kept my heart on my sleeve. That it may work for me, but people die that way...I've just...been calling him Dan and trying not to let him get to me." Her lips twist in distaste when Solomon comes up again and she murmers, "I heard rumors for a while that he didn't like John Wayne much...if...if he had anything to do with what happened to him and if he really is with the Enclave after they took pa and Paul? I would kill even more of them and make them pay..."
Ashur There are few who know all the twists and turns of the scrapyard. What once grew out of a recycling center and local dump has, since the War, become some chimeric abomination -- it has been used as a place to abandon things, a base of operations, a place to store things taken from Roswell propery, a hideout for raiders, and a nesting ground for ghouls. That last is the most recent and persistent of Roswell's issues -- heroes and adventurers, the previous year, had done a good job of clearing the non-ghoul threats out of the city.

But even now, old tunnels linger, made by happenstance or intent; little alcoves and hidden pathways used to lose pursuers, to hide and retrieve items in secret, like the old routes smugglers would use in days long passed.

"Don't let the talking ones fool you," the brute says, giving the old brass flag pole a tug. It has a lovely green crust of verdigris that he finds eye-catching. Alas, though he tugs it to and from it is sandwiched tightly between the rusted frames of old automobiles. He grasps it with both hands, places one foot against a solid part on the wall, and pulls.

The entire arena screams as metal grinds upon metal, and a great cloud of dust washes over and rises through the few open spaces that permit light.

Ashur releases the flag pole. The sound fades. But it was so loud..

"They're one bad day from mindlessness. The outside rot reflects the beast within -- they will turn on you, little girl." The comment about Solomon earns a nod as the brute walks toward her.

The Securitron? It's old, broken, long been in disrepair. The titanium alloy of its shell has been cracked and dented, and the CRT screen of its face is smashed in the center with spiderweb fractures. Some of the blown-off armor reveals bundles of wires and old electronics that could be salvaged.. though it'll take some time.
Shiloh      Shiloh flinches at the noises that Ashur ends up making trying to retrieve the flag pole that he's interested in. She looks over at the massive figure to make sure that he did not get hurt and glances over the scraps and towers around them to make sure that they are still structurally sound. A sigh of relief escapes her lips and she starts to draw the tools that she needs from her tool belt one by one to work on dismantling what she can from the Securitron. She takes breaks in her work every now and then to glance over the area alertly, like a rabbit working on nibbling a carrot and keeping an eye for the farmer at the same time.

     "I just can't imagine what it must be like..." Shiloh confesses, "Many of them are still alive from back before the war -first- started...some of them have got to be getting to be hundreds of years old. To have to try to deal with most of the people that you must have known being dead or being disfigured like you watch anyone else grow up, get old, and die without you...being shunned by everyone. It...has to be a hard life." She shakes her head to herself and gingerly puts something she'll be taking with her beside of her.
Ashur A brief analysis of the power couplings reveals that this was a prototype of the mass-produced Securitron developed in-house by RobCo Industries based on the House Industries designs. Internally referred to as the PDQ-88a, the main difference between it and the trusty Securitrons Vegas made famous being the positioning of some internal components (the power couplings being the big one!) and the material used in its construction. A major advancement was made in the titanium alloy market prior to final development, allowing RobCo to create a thicker set of armored plates that maintained the same weight.

The other most interesting difference? Rather than the normal artificial intelligence programming, the 88a used a poorly-coded proprietary RobCo intelligence integrated into the main CPU..

A CPU she can see, buried within the robot, in seemingly-good condition! Using that as a base, she could help her future robot friend not be totally dumb.

"Men were not meant to know too much," the Legionnaire declares, "for the mind cannot take it. Great knowledge makes men hubristic; a life too long clouds the mind, engenders dangerous pride. I am not unsympathetic to the ghouls -- their fate is pitiable. But it is only natural for minds so ancient to crack."

Speak of the devil: a rather distinct and ghoulish snarling echoes from the tunnel they came through, being the only exit from this cave-in in the making.

And judging from the creaking and groaning that's started up again, oh, yes, the cave-in won't be far away. This might be her only chance to get that CPU.
Shiloh      Shiloh's eyes grow wide and her smile spreads further across her face when she realizes what this might mean for her. "Ohhh ho ho, this is good! Why, with a little bit of coding and tinkering, he might even be able to have a personality of his very own..." She decides, leaning over to start working on extracting the CPU from where it is lodged. Her tongue pokes out of the corner of her mouth in her intense concentration but she manages to keep talking to Ashur, "I think that I would go insane too...wouldn't imagine how I could cope..." The sounds around her make her trail off and she tells Ashur, "I don't think that I can stay down here for long! There's something growling down this way and it's lookling like it might end up teetering...There's just one thing that I want to grab and I'll be right up!"
Ashur Three feral ghouls have made their way into this wide bowl. Drawn by the noises, certainly, and now the stench of human life -- the rot in their heads that blackens their souls and makes them beasts of petty instinct abhors humans, abhors the non-ghoul, and launches them into a state of murderous rage.

At times, Ashur has pondered why that is, what causes it. Can ghouls sense radiation? Are they some sort of hivemind, aware of one another in a way they're not aware of anyone else?

Who knows. Maybe to the ghouls, it's everyone else that's rotten and cruel.

"Work swiftly, sweet Shiloh," the brute thunders, turning and stomping toward that tunnel entrance. His armor clangs and clatters, and the three lumpen, mishapen horrors stare him down. "And pay no mind to the sounds."
Shiloh      Shiloh notes something that's keeping the CPU held into place tightly and gets out some pliers so that she can straighten it out and loosen its grip on the invaluable part she needs. She glances over at the ghouls as they lumber closer to Ashur and them. She frowns to herself and calls over to him, "I almost have it! I'll be over to help you soon! careful, please!" She had absolutely no reason to worry about whether or not Ashur can handle himself, especially when he's suited in that impressive armor, but it didn't stop her from worrying anyway. She finally manages to pull out the part that she needed and grins up at the CPU with a triumphant grin. She tucks it away safely and looks around to see if she's in immediate danger. No towers were going to be falling today for now, so she tries to edge her way over to Ashur and the ghouls, trying to sneak up on them while they are distracted.
Ashur As the CPu is freed, a bit of electrical interference sets the Securitron to sparks and twitching; it burns its internals out and waves its limbs before finally powering down..

And exploding.

This happens, fortunately, when Shiloh has gotten away from it and begun her sneaking, but the boom is like the crack of thunder, the hand of God striking the plains; it shakes the ground and sets the hundreds of tons of junk to shaking and shivering, moving like ocean waves and making the sunlight dance at the roof. The shadows shift, and even the ferals seem to notice the imminent danger.

One has lunged at Ashur. He seized it by the remains of its shirt as it charged, pivoted, and lifted it over a hip, hurling it forward. It flies a dozen feet and impales itself chest-first on the verdigris flag pole, sliding down that flaking surface with a red smear.

The other two? They circle the Legionnaire, blocking off the exit tunnel that they need to get to and get to *now*, because, oh, no, a car has flipped over and is rolling down, dislodged, and everything's shaking..
Shiloh      Shiloh frowns as she watches to ghouls circling Ashur and lifts her laser musket up to aim at one of them. The explosion causes her to jerk and stare in the direction of where it came from, curious of whether or not it was really her that did that. She is still grimacing from the way that the sound reverberates throughout the junkyard. "Shit." She whispers, "I hope that doesn't draw anymore out..." She tries to lift her musket again to aim at one of the ghouls, squeezing the trigger to zap it in the chest where it stands. She works on reloading her weapon afterwards.
Ashur What gender are the two ferals? Perhaps that's a curve of long-rotted breast, and that one's shoulders seem broad, but who can really tell -- they look like so much melted butter, all open sores and white eyes, missing teeth and noses and hair. Even their clothes are too tattered to tell.

Once they might have been human. Are they really, now?

"Good shot, my Shiloh," the soldier declares, even as the two ghouls impotently lash at his armor -- breaking their nails and fingers and teeth against the heavy steel, bloodying their own withered muscles. With a casual impetuousness, he reaches out and wraps one brawny armored arm around the more male-seeming one's waist, hefting it up off the ground and throwing it over a shoulder. It screeches and shrieks and growls, kicking, flailing.

The other one? It bolts for Shiloh, ready to devour her, to wound the poor girl like the last one she met --

But for Ashur, white-armored, dappled in the chaotic shift of shadows, standing in front of her and holding back. He looks down at her. Shifts.

Places the chin of the ghoul he's restraining on the mouth of her gun.

"Kill it."
Shiloh      "Thank you!" Shiloh calls over to Ashur after his compliment, but she doesn't have much time to celebrate before that ghoul is running at her at full speed. She flinches to try to brace herself to fend off the ghoul with her gun as a barrier, but there the armored man stands between her and the danger. She looks up at him and smiles at him gratefully, some awe in that expression as she watches him. Then he twists the ghoul down to be point blank in front of her rifle. The color drains from her face at the realization and she stares at the biting and snapping lump of misshapen flesh that was once a normal every day person. Her eyes linger on its cloudy ones and she breathes in a deep breath. Her grip shakes more than before, especially near the trigger, but she presses the the barrel to it and tries to squeeze the trigger, letting that burst of energy shoot out through one side of the ghoul's head and out the other. It goes limp in Ashur's grasp afterwards but Shiloh still stares at it as if she were expecting it to move at any moment.
Ashur The ghoul looks at Shiloh with eyes of rotten milk. It snaps teeth at her, spit and blood from the gums splattering across her hockey mask. The smell of it is strong, all sick and wet with fluids, the deep crevices in the skin and the many wounds a nesting ground for bacteria and parasites. Oh, it resembles a human, in some ways -- its strangled growls come from a human throat, the skull is the right shape, though grotesquely emphasized by how tight the skin is over it. One eared. No nose. No hair. No eyebrows.

It looks at her, and the head becomes a red flower blossomed, and Ashur releases the corpse.

"Well done!" He booms, that voice thick with pride and bloodlust. He reaches down to shove Shiloh toward the wobbling tunnel they came from, his hand leaving a bloodied handprint on her ass when he smacks it to set her walking.

The bull pivots on a heel, stares at the remaining feral crawling up from the ground, having knocked itself over by rushing him. He stomps toward it and twists, snarling like he's one of them, like he's not human either, grabbing it by the throat and lifting it into the air. He squeezes, suffocating it, making it kick and wheeze as its eyes begin to bulge and the capillaries in its face break and it becomes a weeping crimson mess and he laughs, laughs as loud as the horrible shifting grating metal, laughs cruel, laughs loud, and the laugh becomes a scream of primal twisted rage as the Legionnaire hauls ass, winds up like he's throwing a fastball, and slams the ghoul into the pile of junk nearest him with such earth-shattering force it snaps every bone in its body, pulps the organs, and turns it into a storm of viscera that streaks upward like fireworks --

And it all comes crashing down behind him, as he stalks through the tunnel, pressing Shiloh on toward freedom.
Shiloh      Shiloh looks like she might still be frozen where she stands, but it doesn't take much for Ashur to push her over in the right direction. She yelps after the swat and starts to run through the makeshift tunnel there, heading for the exit or at least a different part of the junkyard that wasn't in as much danger of collapsing all around them and crushing them! By the time she has reached safety, she doubts over to gasp and wheeze while she catches her breath, "That was...a real rush!" She decides afterwards, looking behind her just to make sure that Ashur was following her instead of sending her out ahead all on her own. "I...I don't know if I liked killing that ghoul but...maybe it's out of its misery now. It doesn't have to hunt like an animal anymore and it at peace."
Ashur The Legionnaire emerges from the side-tunnel back into the wider alleyways between some of these mountainous scrap heaps where they began. His armor is painted in blood, staining the white paint and the gold outlines, dripping from his fingers like a faucet. There's a regalness to him, the stoutness of armor, the enormity of his size, how that shining cloak flares behind him. He'd almost be a fairy tale knight if he weren't so goreslick.

"You slew your enemy," he declares, fixing the opaque lenses of his bulletproof eyeslits on her. "And in doing so, became strong. Life is conflict, little girl; be proud of you, as I am, and worry not about a monster's peace."

With that, the brute will turn, and stalk off, to further adventures in scavenging, and eventually the trip back.