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Posted by Brother None

Mr. Lyons Goes to Washington
by Tucker

Destruction. Decay. The faded remains of the crushed hopes and fallen dreams of a vanished democracy. We lived in a time where the last human who remembered the world before the missiles fell died generations ago, and devastation was all we had ever known.

Still, none of us were prepared for our first sight of Washington, DC. The scribes had shown us old pictures and flat movies of the famous city of alabaster buildings and great monuments. But what we saw was nothing but a hodge-podge of gutted ruins and the broken remains of historic landmarks. I suppose we had all known what we would find, but seeing it for the first time was a crushing blow, nonetheless.

It was more than a year ago when rumors had reached the Brotherhood that Washington was still inhabited. We had always assumed that nothing remained of Washington but a plain of nuke-fused glass… But if it survived, what technological treasures might we find in the remains of the Pentagon? And with it, and command of the historic capital, perhaps we could do what the Enclave failed to do and reunite the remains of the country.

There had been no new expeditions eastward since the disappearance of the great airships. The resources and manpower that it had taken to build the zeppelins, equip them and man them had been a critical drain from which the Brotherhood had never completely recovered. We had explored and liberated settlements as far north as the Colombia River and east to the Rockies, but no further. And so the news of Washington caused debates to rage for weeks among the most respected Scribes and Paladins. The gains were so great, some said, that it was a challenge we could not ignore. Others argued that it wasn’t worth the risking the power that the Brotherhood held. No clear majority view emerged, until one day the High Elder finally weighed in on the discussion.

“The potential rewards from establishing a chapter in Washington cannot be ignored. But we are not in a position to expend either irreplaceable equipment or a great number of men in such an undertaking, not when the New California Republic is once again growing and threatening to reassert itself..” At this a sad murmur washed across the assembled crowd. The High Elder held up his hand and the crowd stilled. “However, I believe it is worth the investment of a small number of men and their equipment.” At this comments sprung up across the crowd, and the High Elder once again raised his hand for silence. “Successful or not, it is unlikely those who undertake this mission will ever return to us, and so participation will be voluntary. However, perhaps I can convince Scribe Garcia and Paladin Lyons to volunteer as the mission’s leaders.” I was startled to hear my own name, then smiled. Voluntary, indeed. Well, I suppose that the old man was perfectly aware that Garcia and I would have volunteered in an instant.

In addition to Garcia and me, our party consisted of five Paladins, a dozen knights, and sixteen initiates, as well as a convoy of twelve aged steam trucks which barely held us all after being packed with weapons, ammo, equipment, and trade goods. The High Elder entrusted to us one of the few radio transceivers that had the power to reach across the continent, something even the grand airships had lacked. The long-range “ham” sets were rare and parts even rarer; entrusting our mission with one was a clear statement of how important the High Elder considered it.

We set out in the late spring, hoping the worst of the snow in the Rockies would be gone by the time we got there and that good weather would hold until we could reach the Mississippi. But our progress was slow and beset by troubles. Highways that had fallen into ruin, areas that had been devastated by missiles, fires, floods or other calamities, collapsed overpasses, caved-in tunnels, and downed bridges slowed our progress. Bandits, hostile settlements, difficulties finding food and fuel, and the need to recover and lick our wounds forced us to stop altogether for days or weeks.

In St. Louis, where we had intended to cross the Mississippi, all of the bridges had been destroyed in what appeared to be a local war that left no survivors, forcing us to divert as far as Memphis before we could find a bridge that would support our trucks. By then we had lost one Paladin to disease and two initiates in small skirmishes along the way. We had been forced to abandon one truck when its boiler ruptured and another when its axle broke. Each time we stripped the trucks for repair parts and set them ablaze.

Not every experience was bad, however. Near Knoxville we met a cult of survivors who lived in the ruins of a vast amusement park and worshipped images of some female that was clearly a fertility figure of some sort. They spoke in a dialect which we could understand only with difficulty, but they were extremely friendly and insisted on feeding us and entertaining us. Full and happy, we left with the natives intoning their ritual farewell of “yallcum backna, he-uh.”

As we continued east, we began to see more and more small settlements of people on the bare edge of survival. We passed town after town, and the evidence of disease, hunger, radiation, and conflict was the only thing they shared. Here the settlements were so close together that the missiles of the Great War had lit a powder keg of strife and constant conflict that had wreaked destruction over generations.

The remainder of the trip was a litany of nearly constant combat, but most of our opponents were so outmatched that the conflicts were mostly one-sided and brief. As we neared Washington, however, the people began to be healthier and better equipped. Clearly some order had reemerged in the nation’s capital. Oddly, while there was ample evidence that bombs had fallen, the patterns of destruction and radiation levels showed that most of the weapons had been low-yield or non-nuclear.

Now, standing in front of the remains of the Lincoln Memorial, staring past the scum-filled reflecting pool and the toppled remains of the Washington Monument, I listened to the reports from our scouts.

The Pentagon was in ruins, but the underground complex appeared to be intact and operational. It would take our full force to get past its defenses. Even without the bounty of technology it promised, we’d need the Pentagon’s underground fortress as a base of operations. We’d need it if we were going to stay because Washington was ruled with an iron hand by a group that had established itself in the remains of the capital building. In addition to showing all of the signs of being a ruthless, organized and efficient dictatorship, the rulers of the capital appeared to super mutants.

“Saddle up,” I said, turning to the assembled group. “We’re heading for the Pentagon. We’ve got a big job ahead of us.”

[ BoS competition winner: Tucker ] - [ BoS competition runner up: Kirby Go ] - [ BoS competition runner up: Aaron Moyer ]