They Call Me Headshot - Part 2 - THE NAME GAME
My name...I have gone by so many monikers that I barely recall my real name anymore.
When I lived in the Vault, I had one friend who was close to my age. Amata, her name was. She was just a bit younger, but other than some of the adults, Amata was the only one who had a kind word to say to me. She used to call me Anna...and then the adults started calling me that. In the end, only my father ever called me by the long form of my name: Annable, or when I had done something I should not have, like when I took apart all the 9mm sidearms and cannibalized them for parts, he called me Annable Katherine. The Katherine part was my mother's name. I have no idea where he got Annable, and he is not around anymore for me to ask.
While on a scavenger job, I met a woman named Sydney, with whom I traveled for a while. She used to call me AK-47, partly because of it being my initials, and partly because when I first met her, I used a Chinese Assault Rifle to help her fend off a Mutant blitz. Sydney was the one who brought me up-to-date on what I had missed during the first 18 years of my life, as well as historical tidbits they taught in the vault, but gave a different impression of events. Sydney caught me up to speed on what really happened in the Anchorage Invasion, the Chinese Occupation in Alaska. She told me the accurate name for my Chinese Assault Rifle was Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947, or AK-47 for short. Anyway, it was Sydney who gave me my first nickname, AK-47.
The name most people know me by, or should I say, the one for which I am most infamous, is 'Headshot.' Take a guess what my favourite target is. People called me Headshot before I even realized I was the one to whom they referred. I recall the first time I made the correlation. That was back when I traveled by night and slept by day.
I was making my way through Bethesda looking for some place to sleep as it was almost dawn. I kept to the sides, hugging the buildings, for in a built-up place like the ruins of Bethesda or downtown D.C., one never travels up the centre of a road. It is a good way to get yourself perished by ambush.
In the darkness, I was certain I saw a body lying on the other side of the road, so, using the compass on my Pip-Boy, I scanned for hostile heat signatures. There were a few here and there, but I was wearing dark armor and a security helmet and I learned early during my childhood in the Vault how to sneak. Trust me, when nobody likes you, you learn how to be unnoticed quite effectively. So I figured the only way they would see me was if they were actually looking for me. They would not have the advantage of having a Pip-Boy to help them scan. I stole silently across the road toward what ended up just being some debris. Then I realized that the debris was arranged to appear to be a body. It was a trap, of course. If I was not careful and my aim was not true, they wouldn't need debris to simulate a body for their next victim.
Raiders began unloading from the windows of the upper floors of the buildings. They seemingly came out of nowhere! From up and down the road they came, from the ruins of trucks and from bomb-burst doorways. Suddenly, my Pip-Boy's compass looked like a solid red line. There wasn't time for my AK-47. I whipped out my trusty .44 and started shooting.
I have a fair understanding of physics, I am not the genius my father was...I mean is. I was learning very quickly about terminal ballistics, which is the study of the interaction between a projectile and solid matter. For example, I know that a .44 caliber projectile striking between the eyes of a human target will pretty much blow the target's head clean off. No head, no threat, and at that point, any ammo I had is what I found laying around the wasteland.
That was before the Pitt. They actually make ammo up there! My point is that a head shot is only one shot fired. In the wasteland, if you have to fire more than one shot, you are wasting ammo. When I was 10 years old, my father gave me a BB gun and set up a make-shift shooting gallery to practice. From my first shot, it seemed I had a natural aptitude. Where was I? Oh yes, the Raiders.
I keep careful inventory of my ammunition. I have to do so, and if you are a wastelander, the statement needs no explanation. You already know what I mean. I used up 18 rounds. When taking on a gang, I always make sure the number of ammo used matches the number of bodies, for if the numbers don't add up, it means someone might still be alive, and the last thing you want is someone sneaking up on you while your attention is on the rightful confiscation of the deceased's belongings. There are mercenaries who tag the bodies and some who just don't care, but me? I pull all the bodies together and line them all up. When you have been walking all night and are tired, it is easy to lose count and get careless. 18 slugs, 18 bodies. My accounting was accurate. I was appropriating the rightfully deserved deceased's goods (that means looting), when I heard several heavy and clanking footsteps approaching.
I ducked behind a mail drop box and made sure I had reloaded. Three peculiarly shaped humanoids noisily approached in the gathering light of dawn. They had armor of darkened steel with maroon, rust markings. I found out later that they were the Brotherhood Outcasts.
At the time, I had no idea who they were, but apparently, they knew me, or at least they knew of me. I recognized the armor. It was somewhat familiar to me, for you see, a Brotherhood Paladin appears in my dream, just before I awake.
They stopped when they reached the 18 bodies all lined up on the side of the street. Two started scanning the area for the shooter while their apparent leader, surveyed my study in ballistics.
"Their heads have been blown off," said the leader in an amplified metallic voice. "Right down to the last one of them."
The one closest to the leader, satisfied that the shooter was no longer around, bent down and picked up one of the shell casings I had left on the ground.
".44 Magnum shells," he observed. "Looks like ol' Headshot has been busy."
At this, he went back to his survey of the lay of the land while the other two double checked to make sure.
"She's probably moved on, sir," said one of them.
"No, she's still here," said the leader. "...Somewhere, and probably watching every move we make."
"How can you tell?" said one of them, nervously.
"Only a few of these bodies have been looted. I suggest we go about our business and whatever you do, do NOT reach toward any of the bodies. Not if you want to keep both of your hands," and at that, the three of them started moving off.
"Have you ever seen Headshot?" I heard one of them say.
"Nope, but I can tell you this much," said the leader. "Our sweep and clear missions have become a lot easier since she arrived, hell, she's doing our work for us."
"What's Three Dog say about her?" said the third, who until that moment, was silent.
"He hasn't said anything about her. The only vault dweller he's mentioned is James."
It was my inclination to jump up and go after them, but I would probably get turned into a puddle of goo for my efforts. Besides, these guys didn't sound like they knew too much. You see, James is my father. Whomever these three dogs were, I needed to speak to them, for apparently, they knew enough about my father to call him by his name. I was too new to the surface. As I said before, I was naive. I actually thought I was going to have to go speak to three talking dogs. I did not know at the time that Three Dog was the person's name.
Anyway, that is the first I had heard someone refer to me as Headshot. It is still the most well known and widely used name by which I have gone.
I am also known as the Fiddler, although only one person knows that the Fiddler and Headshot are one and the same.
When I was in the Pitt, I found armor that could be found nowhere else, certainly not in the Capital Wasteland, and I have not found the like outside of the Pitt on either person nor corpse.
In the Pitt, they called it Iconoclast armor. It sealed into the boots and gloves and had a miniature oxygen tank on the belt in the back. Also on the belt were two picks and a hammer, and since it doubles as a low-level radiation suit, I'm guessing it was used for mining. It covers everything except the head and due to its sheer bulk, it gives the wearer an androgynous appearance. I wear the Iconoclast armor with a Filtration Helmet, which is also rad-resistant, another item indigenous to the Pitt. The Filtration helmet comes with a built-in gas-mask.
Sydney said that my face looks like a Yao Guai's when I wear the Filtration Helmet. She explained that Yao Guai was the Chinese word for monster or daemon and that according to Chinese mythology, the Yao Guai are the physical manifestation of tortured animals or fallen Celestials. To me, they are mutated bears.
Sydney is of Chinese descent, which would serve to explain why she knows so much about Chinese weapons and mythology. She told me the Anchorage war began in 2066 and lasted until 2077. In 2077, the United States chased the Chinese back to China and started the war which ended all wars, creating this wasteland.
I would have thought Sydney would run into a lot of prejudice, but I suppose 200 years is a lot of irradiated water under the shattered bridge. I think they were more prejudiced toward me, at the beginning, for coming out of a hole in the ground rather than toward people like Sydney, but again, I digress.
While in Iconoclast armor, it is rather difficult to get one's finger around any given trigger, and even if one could, one would find aiming damn near impossible. I had to come up with an effective melee weapon, but there again, I had trouble keeping a grip on anything I had to hold in my hands.
When I had pretty much given up on the idea of wearing Iconoclast armor for anything other than a radiation suit, an idea had presented itself, one that I should have thought of before.
Once when I was alone in the wasteland up North around the Olney area, I witnessed one of the most amazing battles it has ever been my pleasure to observe. There were four Talon Company mercenaries, four Raiders, two Yao Guai, and an albino rad scorpion, all battling a Death Claw. The battle was over in seconds! The Death Claw surveyed the eleven corpses laying around it and proceeded to sharpen it's claws. Apparently, none of the shots nor the stinger of the giant arachnid could penetrate the creature's hide! I tried to skin a Death Claw once. Thought it's hide would make impenetrable armor. I ended up breaking three hunting knives before I admitted defeat. My point is: it was no worse for wear after such a battle. That is to say that it would have been if only it had kept its mouth shut, but then, I suppose if it had done so, you would not be reading this and I would have joined the corpses in the ultimate one night stand. You see, it must have caught my scent. It started sniffing at the air, then looked straight at me.
The Death Claw had to be no closer than 25 yards, but the stride of a Death Claw is enormous. It covered the distance in four steps, and as it drew back its massive claw for the strike, it exulted with a growl that shook the ground. That was its fatal mistake. I aimed for the roof of its mouth and blew the top of its head off with a single .44 slug.
Watching that battle, however, gave me the idea for a magnificent weapon for my Iconoclast armor. It has been a long night and I am tired, so I won't bore you with the trial and error of trying to create an arm extension using its claw. Hell, it took me three nights to find a way to cut through the damn thing's flesh to get the arm off in the first place!
To make a short story, long, a few weeks later, I discovered that I was not the only one who had come up with this idea. I had found a mattress in a rather peculiarly shaped small metal enclosure, which Sydney called a trailer. When I awoke at dusk, I found Sydney poring over a blue print schematic she had found in one of the other 'trailers.' The title of the schematic was: "Death Claw Gauntlet."
I had not found everything I needed to make it or a safe place to do the actual construction until many, many months later. In fact, Sydney, whom had grown a bit weary of my obsession with making the gauntlet, told me that she was ready to go collect on the bounty for the item we had been requisitioned to locate. We had found the item in question over a year erstwhile, and had just decided to scavenge together. It was safer, and we enjoyed each other's company. That is, I suppose, until I found nothing more interesting to speak of save the Death Claw Gauntlet.
Sydney and I had a number of souls join and leave our company before we finally parted. Other than Amata, she was the closest friend I have had. Well, the closest friend that could talk, anyway, but that is a story for another time. As I have said, I am weary. We arrived at Rivet City to collect our reward and she started away without a word. I was compelled to follow her, but I turned quickly and headed for the hotel.
I finally found a good working medical brace, the final ingredient necessary to build my Death Claw Gauntlet. In my Iconoclast armor, my Filtration Helmet, and my prototype Death Claw Gauntlet, I moved proudly through the wasteland in broad daylight, daring anything or anyone to cross my path. What I found amusing is that creatures that used to attack me out of hand, now gave me a wide berth. The wild dogs, the molerats, and even the Yao Guai, now kept their distance from me!
Of course, the opposite was true, also. People that never used to bother me were shooting at me now. I tried to approach Big Town once while wearing my Iconoclast/Death Claw get-up, and the whole town came to the sandbags and started shooting at me. I didn't dare try to take off my helmet to show them it was me, I would have gotten my head blown off! So now, I find a safe changing room before trying to go into any settlement, so Sydney never got to see what the finished product looked like.
I had no problem testing out the equipment and it passed with flying colours. There was a Raider town called Evergreen Mills located in a glen in the mid-west of the wasteland. It had plenty of Raiders and the biggest damned Super Mutant I had ever seen before. They referred to it as a Behemoth, and the name certainly fits.
People started calling me Death Guai, because the gas mask made my face look like a Yao Guai, and I suppose between the gas mask and the Death Claw Gauntlet, the combination made me look like a twisted Yao Guai/Death Claw mutation meta-crisis, but even that nickname eventually got changed to 'the Fiddler.'
Apparently, a wandering merchant witnessed the 'Death Guai' take out the entire town of Evergreen Mills from the safety of the cliffs above. After which, the Death Guai went on to free the slaves from their paddock, and at first, the slaves would go nowhere near the Death Guai. I had to give the gate a very wide berth before the slaves would approach it. Once clear, they fled for their lives screaming at the top of their lungs. I gave them an hour before they were all picked off.
The travelling merchant who witnessed the massacre, told the story from Raven Rock to Rivet City. One of the scientists at Rivet City derived the theory that the Death Guai was akin to Mirelurks and that it was a mutated Fiddler Crab. This was probably due to the massive Death Claw gauntlet on one arm, a normal sized hand on the other. It took a few months for word to get around, but soon, everyone was calling me the Fiddler, and they didn't even know it was me!
When Sydney and I parted company, she had become an ammunition merchandiser and settled down in Underworld and is apparently doing very well for herself. I found myself in Underworld a few weeks ago. Naturally, I was not donning my Fiddler garb. I walked in and was stopped by a very nervous Ghoul by the name of Winthrop. The first thing he said to me was, "Yer the one they call, Headshot, aren't you?" I'm surprised he didn't make me check my .44 at the door. He did warn me that my kind, meaning smoothskins as the Ghouls call us, were welcome as long as we were aware that Underworld was a Ghoul city. Frankly, I was getting used to that sort of greeting. They may never have met me before, had only a description to go by, but there was not a settlement in the wasteland who did not know about Headshot.
I found Sydney at a bar called the 9th Circle. "The Divine Comedy" was one of the few books I had found intact and though it took me forever to translate the Italian, I enjoyed the three volumes thoroughly, so I had to laugh at the irony of a bar called the 9th Circle in a place called Underworld run by Ghoul named Ahzukhal.
Sydney greeted me warmly and we sat down at a table near the bar for a little girl talk and some catch-up, when a Ghoul named Quinn shuffled over to the bar, ordered a whiskey, and began spinning a yarn about 'the Fiddler.' After laying a thickly embellished description which made me actually look like a Fiddler Crab, followed by a reprisal of the Fiddler's antics for all to hear, Sydney cut her eyes at me and suppressed a laugh. "You?" she mouthed. I shrugged and smiled innocently. To this day, she is the only one who knows I am the Fiddler.
Three Dog has been known to come up with a few nicknames for me himself, among them: Vault Girl, the Lone Wanderer, One-Oh-One, to name a few. So what have we got so far? AK-47, Headshot, Death Guai, and the Fiddler. Who the hell is Annable Katherine? I don't know. I haven't heard the name in years.