|The following is based on pre-release information for the canceled online game codenamed Project V13 and is not considered canon.|
|The following is the original document or a transcript thereof.|
J. HARDY AND THE DEATH BLANKEY
The Armageddon Rag is proud (and downright lucky) to bring you this tale of a young man caught between raiders and ferocious beasts. Special to the 'Rag via PIP-Boy audio recording.
CRAZY IVAN'S NEW AND USED GUNS
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MENKEY BUTTE MINE
The continuing adventures and travelogue of our unwanted correspondent. We're not saying how we got this. Or where we got this. Or anything. And we’d appreciate notice if someone thinks Les is coming to ask µs about it.
About This PIP-PadEdit
Welcome to the 4th Armageddon Rag. We're really cranking them out now. With a hand crank, at times, but cranking nonetheless.
You should notice a few improvements to the UI. A new forward button has been added to the bottom of each news page. Touch the button to advance. The navigation arrows at top still work like they used to.
We've made some improvements to the text handler and fixed most of the text bugs from the previous issue. This patch screws up the system clock, so the date is off. We hope to have that fixed soon.
As usual, we're paying top caps for used PIP-Pads in any shape, except with bullet holes.
- The Armageddon Rag
J. Hardy and the Death BlankeyEdit
(Transcribed from a found Pip-Boy.)
I’m kind of telling how this happened. And telling on myself.
This wasn’t recorded as it happened. Well, it was, but I…I erased it. I was going to retell it – spiff it up a bit to make me sound better. Because it was, well, embarrassing.
But I should tell the truth. When I’m really famous, I’ll be able to look back on this and laugh.
It started out just fine. I was on a small path between towns passing through some woods. Still heading toward Stock Town. Was being cautious and, I guess, a little hopeful at the same time. There were rumors of gangers and thought this might be my chance. I'd round some up and be the hero I was meant to be.
But it’s a little scary walking around by yourself in the woods. Especially new woods. Where you haven’t been before. And don’t know what’s there. And are a little thicker than you’re used to. And darker. And…
And they were oaks. Now oaks are pretty trees and Mr. Simmons can turn them into tables and stuff that are kind of like art, but when Greeble found I out I was leaving town – and I still don’t know how he got that information because I sure as hell didn’t tell him – he got all serious and warned me about the FEV that was affecting trees. Said the branches would move and either the sap was poisonous or the leaves were or something like that. Every version ended with, “and if it touches you, you die.” Of course, he’d also start with or end with, “Be careful, this is the real-deal truth.”
I think everyone knows someone like that. They make stuff up and claim it’s 100% true. No question, no argument. They know everything and are always right. Everyone from the east side of the river seems to be like that, Greeble being the worst.
And I know any time he says it’s “The real-deal truth,” it probably isn't. In fact, that should be a guarantee it’s Brahmin bullchips. An old wives’ tale. Aunt Beth's beans. Greeble Garbage? Greeble Gunk? Greeble…Gak? He's full of so much gook there should be a special name for it. Greeble Gook?
Does a bear Greeble in the woods?
But even when you know it’s a no-question, without-a-doubt, real-deal piece of Greeble…it still gets to you when you’re all alone. Near dark woods. A long way from home. Alone…
But at least I had Long Arm with me. Dead Aim? Death…dammit, an old rifle. Long Death?
Anyway, I was out early. Umpa always said bad people sleep late. So I was used to getting up before dawn. Not that I liked it. Always wondered if that made me a bad person. Something I wanted to contemplate under my blanket.
There were a lot of tracks on the path. Said Mr. Obvious. It being a path and all. But the early light highlighted a couple. Even though the path was right up against some bushes, I saw a couple tracks with releases on the path side. Now I’m no tracker, but I picked up a few things when Umpa took me hunting. It was pretty obvious someone – more than one – had jumped off the path and over the bushes. If I’d have missed this, Umpa would spin in his grave fast enough to start a fire. If there was a friction plate and kindling at his feet.
But who would try to cover his tracks like that? I had a pretty good idea – someone who’d sleep late. So I made a good-sized gouge in the path – enough to draw anyone’s attention – and climbed over to find out for sure.
They weren’t that spiff. After they got behind the hedge it looked like they didn’t even try to cover up. But the path into the woods had some natural coverage, so they probably thought they were safe. I mean, who’d followed them into the woods anyway?
Murphy’s Law, that’s who.
It took a little while to find the camp. They’d tucked it back at least a half a mile off the track and I was careful moving in. I didn’t see any guards, but that didn’t mean they weren’t hidden somewhere.
Pretty standard camp. Tight to the trees. Full tents, but nothing that spoke of them being there long or planning to stay for an extended time. They probably shifted the camp often. The campfire was dug in near a large tree. No way to see the glow at night from any distance. Any smoke would rise up and get lost and dispersed by the leaves. And there wasn’t much smoke to start with, so they were careful enough to use dry wood. They weren’t roobs.
But definitely late-sleepers.
My guess was the camp supported at least a dozen, but only five were up. And the sun had been up for nearly an hour. Umpa would have told me I could start shooting right then and there.
I had good cover. Crawled into some bushes shadowed by trees, so I was all but invisible for at least another hour. Plenty of time to watch and plan.
They did the normal camp things, fires, cooking, walking off to water the trees.
Then I noticed something on the bare arm of one of the men. A tattoo. Even from my distance, it was easy to make out. Dog’s head. Snarling dog’s head.
These were Hounds of Hell. I’d heard of them. Roving band. Mean and liked everyone to know it. Figured they could scare folks out of resisting.
Perfect. Just the thing for…Murphy’s Law.
When I get my T51b armor, I should get someone to follow me around with a trumpet. At the key moments, he could blow, “Ta, ta-ta, TAA!”
But not when I’m being Walks Softly, of course. Like now.
Almost everyone in camp had at least part of a tattoo visible. Mostly on the arms, but one on the neck and another on his face. Which, even from where I was hiding, probably helped his looks. A face not even mamma-dog could love. As Umpa would say, “He could scare the warts off a frog.”
He had some really odd sayings.
I figured if I could take out the leader, the rest would give up. I’d be a hero. Perfect. What could go wrong?
He wasn’t hard to pick out. Giving orders to the other four, pointing. Definitely in control. When one of the men passed him a cup of something, I knew I had my man. And I hope he enjoyed the last cup of his miserable, late-sleeping life.
So I sighted down Old Betsy on him. No, Death Dealer. No, save that for when I get a Vindicator. The Lawmaker? No. Ah, heck. The old, beat-up, hand-me-down, ancient, used-to-be-Umpa’s rifle.
Breathe out half way and…
I heard chirping to my left.
I eased off the trigger and just turned my eyes. At the edge of my vision, near the base of the bush, sitting up and chittering at me was a chipmunk. Non-stop. A striped, squirrel-wannabe, chipmunk.
Couldn’t figure out why he was doing that. Usually they run off. I was pretty sure I wasn’t on a burrow, but even then, they have a lot of openings. Unfortunately, the only other thing I could remember about them at the moment was that they were kind of neat and had special tunnels built just for poop. Along with odd sayings, Umpa was full of weird knowledge. That he felt he had to pass along.
I started to look back at the camp when I saw some movement. So I turned my head fully to the ground squirrel.
Now there were two. Then a third joined them. All on their little haunches, all chirping away at me. The Furrball Trio. It was getting a bit loud and not particularly pleasant to listen to. And they looked angry. Well, as angry as a puff of fur can muster. But they did have those big teeth. My friend Eddie had tried to feed a chipmunk one time and it was going fine until the munk got scared and sunk those big incisors into the fold between Eddie’s thumb and finger. Took a while to get the thing to let go.
More of the annoying critters were coming up. How embarrassing would it be to get chewed up by chipmunks? Like beat-up, chewed up. There’s no way to ever come back from that. Greeble alone would make it his life’s work to let everyone know. “Hey, you know what beat up ol’ Hardy-har-har?”
Build a thousand bridges, no one calls you a bridge-builder. Get bit in the ass by one chipmunk and, well, I think there’d be contests to give me a nickname. Or fistfights to claim the right.
The chirping was getting louder. I looked back at into the camp. A new guy sort of expanded out of his tent. Huge body, bald head, tattoo on the scalp. The man I thought was leader made an obvious gesture of subservience. The new one was the big dog – in every sense.
The chirping kept growing. The trio had become a full chorus. At least a dozen with more running up.
I looked back at the camp and saw the worse thing possible. Two of the men - one of them the pug-ugly - were looking in my direction. They heard the noise.
And started up the hill.
Time to leave.
Kept my head down and crawled back slowly, staying low and making sure I didn’t tap the bush and start that little tell-tale shake the wind never causes.
But it was too late. “Something’s up there,” a voice said. Another, deep voice – probably Big Dog – added, “Get up there and check it. Now.”
I could hear they broke into a run. When a third voice added, “And shoot it,” I was already in a crouch, scuttling away, trying to keep cover between me and whoever was heading to the bushes.
No shooting. Shooting bad.
The deep voice yelled, “No shots unless you have to. Gunshots carry.”
Listen to him, I thought. No shooting. But as I started to run and could hear the sound of running behind me, I thought maybe that wasn’t a bad idea. If I fired a shot, maybe somebody would hear it. And if the Hounds thought that, maybe they’d head out.
As I put my finger on the trigger, I also realized that would give the Hounds my exact position. So I just kept running.
And they kept coming. They chased me up a hill, down a hill, across a stream, and back up again.
Who knew bandits were in such good shape? Maybe late-sleeping was good for you after all.
As I cut along the edge of a steeper hill, I noticed a notch and turned into it. Maybe they wouldn’t see it. But realized as soon as I made the turn that this could trap me in a dead – really dead – end. It was a man-made opening. Old, but someone cut this gap in the hillside. In fact, I wasn’t sure but I thought the entire hill might be man-made.
As I stopped and started to pivot, I couldn’t help but pause and look. I could see more high-hill on the far side of a small open area. I wasn’t through the slot, so I couldn’t tell, but I think the hill was actually more of a ring around this opening. In the middle was sort of a stone tower. The sun wasn’t high enough to light the area well, but the thing was fifteen, maybe twenty feet tall. Not stone, concrete. With a huge metal plate embedded in it.
And letters etched in the metal. Nothing looked like a word at first glance, and that’s all the time I had as I ran out of the opening and headed east again.
Back up a hill. Just over the top, wonderful. Raspberry bushes. A full thicket of bushes, both green and dead.
So I ran through the briars and I ran through the brambles. And I smashed through some bushes and scared the hell out of some poor rabbit. Didn’t slow my heart down, either. With the ripped clothing, little bloody gashes, and smears of raspberry juice here and there, I probably looked like the chipmunks had gotten me.
But I kept going. I ran so fast that the Hounds couldn’t catch me.
Up another hill. As I crested it, I caught a glimpse of another man tucked up against a tree. His rifle was already coming up, sighting on me.
How the hell did he get ahead of me?
I just kept running, everything burning at this point. But at least I didn’t have any holes in me…Yet.
The man, now left and behind as well as left behind, called out in my direction, “Someone’s coming!”
Coming? Wait, what?
I broke through some bushes and found myself right in the middle of another camp. Several men were already taking a bead on me. I skidded to a stop, falling on my butt in the process, and pointed behind me. “They’re coming!” I yelled, as loud and scared as I could. The scared part was easy.
For some reason, my thought at that moment was I’d never get my power armor. No T-51b for me. Ta, ta-ta, TAA.
The first voice sounded again, “Incoming!” and followed that call with gunfire.
The answering fire was almost immediate. Both sides let loose. Was that an AK-112 in there?
Mr. Obvious could tell these were not the same gang. Everyone in the new camp had twin blue slash marks on the gear and clothing. No idea who they were, but they weren’t Hounds.
They were a spiff combat crew and all moved into various cover positions quickly. What had been a race turned into a full-scale firefight in seconds.
I stayed down letting my torn-up appearance act as camouflage. When I started to ease my way farther from the shooting, one of the Blues fixed me with a look.
I laid back and held my hands up. The Equalizer was next to me on the ground. No, the Grave Digger. No, the…dammit. “I’m not with them!,” I said. “They’re bandits!”
He rolled his eyes and turned back to the fight. He thought so little of me he rolled his eyes.
So I slowly moved back, careful to keep – ah, hell, the old rifle – out of sight. Thought about shooting him, but for all I knew, he could be some sort of militia group out hunting the Hounds. All the while hearing firing and yelling – both men reporting others going down and plain old cries of pain.
I made it back to large rock formation just in time to have a body nearly fall on me. One of the blues had crawled up there for firing advantage. I moved around back and found a way up. Had to see the fight.
The Hounds were getting the best of it. The pack was a lot bigger than I thought. Either they had more tents than I could see or they’d been sleeping in dog piles inside.
Was just about to throw in with the Blues – I didn’t think the Hounds and I would be best buds after this – when I saw something behind the advancing Hounds.
It looked a like a brown furry blanket undulating across the ground. Make that covering the ground. All the ground. It was massive. A fuzzy flood. I’d heard stories of huge ant colonies, but this…Definitely not a snuggly blanket.
I could hear the chirping. A high-pitched roar drowning out the gun fire – no mean feat.
They just engulfed everyone and everything. Men turned into furry mounds, then collapsed and the chipmunks would disperse to another target. I watched Pugly go down. In his case, he might have looked a little better when they were finished. Rolly-eyes got caught just as he started to run my direction. Little brown flecks bounced up and down on the mound. It reminded me a little maple syrup on the boil.
Pancakes are never going to be the same.
Staggering away down the hill was a giant pile. A bloody bald head occasionally became visible as Big Dog swiped away the tiny attackers. He disappeared from my sight.
I stayed as low as I could, not moving a muscle, although a few of them were clenched pretty tight. The chirping died down rapidly. A constant din became an ebb-and-flow and then a few random chitters.
The carpet started to fray and dissolve back the way it came. I started to get up, then froze.
A single chipmunk in the back had stopped. As I watched, it turned suddenly to look up at me. We stared at each other for a day - probably about ten seconds. Then it chirped. Just once. And followed the others.
I didn’t hurry down from the rock. Getting caught by these things wasn’t a bad nickname, it was a grave marker. When I was certain they were gone…I waited longer. Then, when I was really, really sure none were around, I climbed down.
It was probably an hour, maybe longer since the…I had no idea how to describe it. How I’d later describe it to others. Would I even try? Even in these odds times, would anyone believe me? “There goes J. Hardy Nutcase.” “J. Hardy and the Death Blankey.”
Great. I can name a chipmunk hoard, but not my rifle.
I was just walking through the bodies – not one survived that I could see – when I heard a noise. I turned, ready for either Hound’s revenge or the Toothy Scourge, part II.
Just men. Quiet ones. They’d gotten pretty close before I heard them. In fact, I recognized one of them from the town I’d just passed. We hadn’t met, but I’d seen his face. I relaxed just about the time the one in front said, “Easy with the rifle, friend.”
I slowly put my unfired, unnamed rifle on the ground while saying, “I’m not with them.”
Other men entered the camp and started checking the bodies. This was some sort of posse or militia, I thought.
“This one’s a Hound.” “Got a Torn Sky here.” So those were the slash guys.
“Which ones are you with, son?” The man who asked had a really nice hat. I knew I needed a good hat. “Neither one, sir.”
The one I recognized came close, looked me over, pulled up my sleeves and checked under my collar. He was nice about it. All the dirt, cuts, and raspberry juice made me look like I’d been in a war. Not just beside one. “Open your shirt. Please.”
I did as he asked. He looked me over. Then bent down to pull up my pant legs and check my calves. “No Hound marks. And no slashes on clothes, gear, or the old rifle.”
Great. Even strangers thought the rifle looked bad.
The Hat approached and stuck out a hand. “We were looking for them. Both of them, actually.”
I shook his hand, trying to hide the trembles I was still working off. I felt like I was just vibrating in place. Either that or it was the softest, longest earthquake I’d ever been in.
The Hat continued as he let my hand go. “What’s your name, son?”
“J. Hardy, sir. J. Hardy Murphy.”
“Hardy? Like hardy-har-har?”
The Hat looked around at the carnage. The one who searched me reached out his hand, smiling. He’d noticed my reaction. “Jim Dunkelberger,” he said quietly. “I know your pain.”
The Hat turned back. “Looks like one hell of a fight.”
“You have no idea,” I told him. “I don’t even know how to describe it.”
The Hat turned to Jim, “Pretty damn impressive. Both the Hounds and the Sky are all down and one torned-up young man remains.” He turned back to me, “A modest one, at that.”
“Yes, sir,” Jim said. “I think Mr. Murphy here’s going to get a bit of a reputation. Amazing what some people can do in a crisis.”
“What a man can do when the chips are down,” the Hat said.
“You definitely could say that,” Jim added.
Please don’t say chips. I won’t. Not for a long, long time.
And I might have Greebled myself.
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Menkey Butte MineEdit
I asked him if this was Menkey Butte Mine.
He said, “No.”
No sense doodle-bugging around so I pulled my .44 and shot him. Not my best shot. A little off-center in the forehead. I found that slightly unsettling. We weren’t more than fifteen feet apart. Normally, I’m better than that. But I was pleased that he hadn’t even moved by the time I’d fired. Affirming my continued quickness. Most importantly, he was Quite Dead, even if not epically dead. It wasn’t like anyone saw me shoot him anyway. Well, anyone who was going to live.
Why shoot him? Simple. This was most likely not Menkey Butte Mine – and I’ve decided I will not use the other name. The dead man’s name had been Jebidiah Smith – a shooting offense as it was. He pronounced it “Jeb-i-di-er.” That did amuse me. Almost made up for my less-than-excellent shot. In any case, I would have had to make that pronunciation a reality at some point. Jeb-i-di-er. If not, later the itch would come and get downright unbearable. So why delay when he served no purpose to me by continuing to breathe?
Also, it would provide his partner, standing there with o’s for eyes and a mouth, the utmost level of motivation. Three target holes. Which to choose from, I wondered.
Not to mention I needed an information cache for you. Since you’ve found this, I know it worked and you received one of my other notes about using this method from now on.
My only hope is that I’ll actually have a body for each of them. I’d hate to drop a marker without first dropping an occupant. Most people are far too squeamish to dig around under a dead body in a grave so what better place to leave information?
You, like me, are not squeamish. The bonus for me is that I’m sure you’ll have Wilcox, who I can hardly believe is even able to function outside a city, dig for the package. I’m actually pausing as I write this to enjoy visualizing him squirming when you give the word…
But back to the moment.
I turned to his partner – probably kin - whose only reaction was in the face. No movement to a weapon. Or even to run. Cornered rabbit. So unprepared for life out here.
“Do you know where it is?” I asked.
“I, uh. Uh, yes. Yes. I can, I can draw you a map-“
But he didn’t. It was obvious he was trying to lie to save himself. So unprepared.
It did pretty much affirm this was not the MBM, either. That they hadn’t renamed it “Sterling Bros Mine” as a ruse. If it was, I’m certain he would have let me know.
But I was going to check it anyway. Just to be certain.
I lowered the .44. “Thanks for your honesty.”
He sagged a bit throughout his body – hands dropped slightly, knees, brows –tension replaced by relief.
Which was odd because I’d only lowered to practice lifting and shooting. Which I did.
I went for the eye. Just to make me feel better. Even if you’re off a bit you get a big hole so it looks like you were perfect. Having him still walking while I checked the mine would make no sense whatsoever.
His name was Homer Smith. So very unprepared. But it no longer matters.
I didn’t hide anything in his grave. Hopefully you’ll have Wilcox check anyway.
The “Sterling Brothers” part is what pulled me here in any case. MBM was originally silver, so there was the possibility. Maybe the Smiths were being clever with the name. I would have renamed it to cover. Too bad they weren’t quite so clever in other areas. Too bad for them, that is. I did find the lack of a challenge to be somewhat unsatisfying. Along with the initial shot, I was left in a less than perfect mood. And no good way to remedy.
But I searched the mine carefully. Had plenty of time. I was pretty sure when I saw some green in the lantern light. Copper mine, not silver. But I did the tests anyway. Even shut the lantern up every few yards. Put the Spinner near the walls. Didn’t see much in the way of grey-black. No quartz to speak of.
I’m not exactly a rock-doctor, so I can’t be certain, but I think you’d be wasting your time on this one.
Something I did notice. Outside the mine. Even though the rocks are red, the blood doesn’t blend in. Not the same kind of red at all. So I imagine Blood Rock must be a sight. Or maybe the folks who pointed me up here were just trying to make it sound more than it was…
That gives me the itch. I may have to go see them on the way back.
I shaded a bit south on my way out of TS and wanted to add a warning. Not sure what’s down there, but it’s not good. I saw some figures at a distance and could tell immediately something was wrong. Didn’t get close enough for a good look, but they looked bloated and sort of waddled when they walked. Like huge fat guys that could barely stand. But the bunch of them sort of toddling together looked really wrong so I stayed clear.
The little ragger said “Tickers” were down there. Maybe it’s another tick-borne FEV fest. Bodies bloat up and spread disease when you get close. Since there were several of them together, looks like it spreads fast.
So keep an eye – and Wilcox – to the south as you travel.
©¾847 The Armageddon Rag - Pirates will be shat!