His head hurt.
Like a whole nuke exploded right into his skull.
Nate growled, his fingers slowly stroking between his blond hair. Struggling to get up, almost falling on the empty bottles around his bed, he stumbled across the Fizztop Grille’s patio. His forearms rested on the railing, his eyes lost on the horizon, the green of his iris going from the Dry Rock Gulch’s roller coaster to the pond just below.
“Boss?” Gage’s voice echoed behind his back.
Nate turned his head towards his second in command, a tired smile on his lips.
“What’s up, Gage? I didn’t hear you coming in.” Talking hurt his head even more. God, how much bourbon did he drink last night?
“Like you could even do that. I thought that the booze finally got your liver last night.” Concern through his voice, Gage got closer to him.
These last two years, Gage has been more than a soldier under his orders. He saved his life in the Gauntlet, and many more times after that. Nate didn’t give his trust to many people since his escape from the vault, but Gage was among the few VIPs to gain it.
When the bombs fell, he was having lunch at his neighbor’s house. Nora and her son Shaun were the closest he got from family. Originally from a small town in Texas, he left to join the army as soon as he turned eighteen. Four years to serve. Four years to gain the respect of his peers. Four years to earn so much experience in combat.
But only one second for a landmine to explode next to him.
The deafening noise. The earth shaking under his feet. And the utter silence. Only this high pitch whistle in his head while he was struggling to breath, his eyes burning. If he hadn’t been in power armor, Nate would be long dead by now.
He took him weeks of recovery in a military hospital on the Alaskan border to regain roughly eighty percent of right arm functions, but not enough to stay in the ranks.
His mind also suffered a great deal of damages in the incident.
Nightmares. Flashbacks. The crippling guilt that came with the death of his brothers in arms.
The sole survivor, a first time.
A veteran at the young age of 22 years old.
After those events, Nate left for the North-East of the US, heading for a new, calm life in the suburb of Sanctuary Hills. He got close to the single mother living in the house facing his, the two of them quickly becoming good friends. Nora was helping him with all the legal stuff coming with his honorable discharge from the army, and he helped her with her old car.
Everything was simple. Until the bombs. Until the vault.
Decades later, Nate woke up from the cryogenic stasis he’s been put into, only to see Nora being murdered and Shaun taken away from her arms. Unable to scream. Unable to help them.
And put back to sleep right after.
“Hey, are you with me?” Gage asked, forcing Nate back into his present life.
“Yeah, hum.” Nate cleared his throat, looking into Gage’s eye. “Sorry, I was just… thinking about some stuff. Anyway, what’s going on? Why are you here so early?”
“For fuck’s sake, man. It’s the afternoon already.” He laughed, hitting Nate’s shoulder with his fist. “I come bearing bad news. One of our outposts near Diamond City has been attacked by the Brotherhood.”
“Jesus fucking Christ!” Nate yelled between his gritted teeth, his foot kicking the elevator’s engine. “Don’t those cunts in power armors have anything else to do? I don’t know, maybe clear the Commonwealth of super mutants?”
Twice this month. Twice, the Brotherhood of Steel attacked their outpost.
The first time, the Pack managed to push them back, at the cost of three deaths among the gang. Mason was even less pleased than he was.
“What’s the price this time?” The Overboss asked, walking back into the room to put some clothes on.
“They attacked Hangman's alley. Two operators are dead.”
“Shit. Mags is gonna make me suffer for this.”
“Well, about that…” Gage stopped, a grin across his lips.
“Fuck my life.” Nate whispered, adjusting his shirt before taking his lucky knife with him, a fine blade he took right from Nisha’s corpse after her betrayal. “And stop smirking like that, asshole!” He finally said to Gage, before getting down the stairs.
Mags was leaning against the wall, near the building entrance. Her blond hair was tied, as usual. The leader of the Operators had always been one of Nate’s close council. She and him developed a friendship based on mutual respect, and thirst for caps. All too simple, but enough to be unbreakable.
She was here for him when he took over Colter, when he was still lost among the three gangs of Nuka-World, with no idea how to deal with them, less be their leader.
“Fucking hell, Nate!” She exclaimed as Nate came down the stairs. “You’re letting my crew become target practice for the Brotherhood, now?”
“Yeah, didn’t you get the memo? I’m a full member now. Fuck Nuka-World, and Ad Victoriam!” He said with a forced laugh. “I’m done with this. This was the last attack. We can’t have those twats coming into our territory to dictate their laws.”
“What are you planning to do, then?” Gage asked, coming next to them.
Nate sighed, his fingers pinching the bridge of his many times broken nose. His head still hurt from the hangover and his body was already asking him for more. “The two of you, go fetch Mason. We’ll meet here in an hour.”
“Are you gonna come up with a plan on such short notice?” Mags asked, raising an eyebrow.
“No. We’ll brainstorm something together.”
“Why not now, then?”
“I’m gonna take a shower.” And I need a drink. Or five .
“Fine. Mags, let’s go.” Gage gently tapped Nate’ back before heading out with Mags.
The liquor fell down Nate’s throat, with the bittersweet taste of vodka on his tongue. It was his second glass. The minimum, to stop the aching feeling of need.
Nate quickly swallowed some squirrel bits, took his knife and closed the door behind him. As he walked down the stairs, he could already hear voices echoing into the lobby of the Fizztop Grille. Mason and Mags seem to be disagreeing on some merchant, while Gage was watching, his famous grin still decorating his mouth.
“Let’s get down to it.” Nate said, without taking a second to figure out who was right and who wasn’t. He sat on his chair, looking at his council taking places around him.
“You smell better than earlier.” Gage sneered, putting his boots on the table.
“It’s your mom’s perfume.” Nate answered, smirking at his second in command. “Anyone wanna make a comment before we start?”
The three of them shook their heads.
“Good. How did they attack this time?”
“A vertibird. Considering the layout of Hangman’s alley, they were smart.” Mags answered. “They would not have stood a chance on foot.”
“That’s why our crew wasn’t able to shoot back. The Brotherhood got them like molerats.” Gage added.
“Send a small group to one of the farms near the outpost. They will provide us with materials to build more effective turrets. And Mags, make sure your men put them higher this time.”
“Will do, Overboss.”
“What about the other outposts?” Mason asked. “They’re not gonna stop here.”
Mason was right, if the Brotherhood of Steel decided to be at war with Nuka-World, it was only the beginning.
“They won’t. But we gotta make them.”
“How?” Mason asked again. He always followed Nate’s directions, but oftenly tried to get his own ideas in the final decision.
“I wish we could just blow up their fucking aircraft, but it hurts to admit we do not have this power.” Nate sighed.
He thought about it–finding a way to get inside the Prydwen and put an end to them.
But that was the main problem: they could not get inside. They would be shot dead even before trying to board one of the vertibirds.
“Fire power is no use, besides defending the outposts.” Gage added.
A silence followed. A heavy silence that seemed to last hours before Mags finally cleared her throat.
“Why not talk to them?”
“What?” Nate said immediately, unbelief painted on his features.
“I’m being serious here. Listen, if you and Gage didn’t talk before you faced Colter, you wouldn’t be here. When you became Overboss, we didn’t shoot each other. We talked. I know it’s kinda hard to get into your raider’s brains, but sometimes, a good speech does wonders.”
“What the fuck is going on with you?” Mason said, his brows furrowed at Mags.
“Yeah, what the fuck? How can this even work?” Nate sat himself straight, his green eyes looked in Mags’. “We just head over the Boston Airport and ask to speak to… what’s his name again, Maxson?”
Arthur Maxson . Elder of the Brotherhood of Steel.
Nate barely knew anything about him–only that he was the one in charge and that his dynasty’s reputation preceded him.
“Something like that, yeah.” Mags shrugged.
“That’s suicide.” Gage added. “Look at him!” He pointed his finger at Nate. “It’s like he got raider written all over his face. We can’t pretend he’s some damsel in distress.”
“Ouch, bro. It really hurts that you don’t see me as delicate as I truly am.”
“Why hide the fact that he’s a raider?” Mason said, surprising everyone around the table. “I mean, if you go over there to talk to that Maxson guy, which I think is a shit idea, it’s to talk about us . Not to play a fucking part.”
“Gotta admit it, the brahmin fucker is right.” Mags laughed and Mason kicked her under the table.
“Mason’s right.” Nate added. “Plus, the Brotherhood wants to give this message of democracy to the Commonwealth. It wouldn’t be very democratic of them to shoot the leader of the neighbor government.”
“You terrorize farmers all around the Commonwealth to give the outposts the supplies they need.” Gage said.
“A small detail.” Nate shrugged, smiling with pride.
“I still think it’s suicide, boss.” Gage added. He had concern in his voice, like earlier this afternoon.
“Have I ever run away from certain death?” Nate asked, turning his head towards him.
“I fucking hate you.”
“I love you, Porter Gage.”
“Do you guys wanna have a moment alone, or can we decide what to do here?” Mags sighed, her eyes rolling.
“It’s all decided. I’m going back to the Commonwealth, and I’ll gently ask Mister Maxson to stop his bullshit.” Nate said, his tone putting an end to Gage disagreement talk. “Get back to work. Mags, ask Lizzie to get some Rad-X and stimpaks. Mason, we’ll need food.”
“Boss, we should attack them.” Mason growled.
“With what? Farmers are no match to us, yes. But the BoS would shred us if we came on their territory.”
Mason sighed, his jaw clenched.
“This is the best chance we got.” Nate added. “Anything to add?”
The gang leaders shook their head, and headed towards the exit of the lobby. Left alone with Gage, Nate stood up.
“I’ll get our weapons ready.” Gage said, mimicking Nate.
“Thank you. You’re already planning to have my back on this, even though you disagree with me.”
“You’re a dickhead. But a fucking lucky dickhead. This better works.”
Nate chuckled, a smile across his scared face.