Chapter I · Chapter II · Chapter III · Chapter IV · Chapter V · Chapter VI · Chapter VII · Chapter VIII

Hi. My name is Jill Gravelli. I’m your typical Institution contract worker, sold to them at the fresh age of 5 to ultimately to do all sorts of labour to further their cause.

It’s not all that bad, to be honest. They give you decent clothing, relatively good food (none of that squirrel-on-a-stick crap), shelter, and protection. Actually, I’m probably better off here than before.

Good question, where did I come from?

Well, my superiors say my parents had “entrusted me to the Institution, believing that it held a better future for me.”

Sometimes in dreams I can see what appeared to be my early childhood in that ruined building I had called home. I saw people who were apparently my mother, my sister, and my brother. Although besides these visions encountered during slumber, they are non-existent in my memories.

One time when I snuck into the administration offices when the Institution administrators were out at lunch, I decided to access my personal file and see what kind of interesting stuff was in it. It turns out that my former surname had been “Carlisle”, and was “guaranteed a better future” for the price of 200 caps.

All contract workers (CWs) are assigned a new surname of sorts, which was to be the surname of their authoritative manager (AM). My AM was a guy named Mike Gravelli. He was a nice guy, compared to most of his colleagues. He was patient, always calm, and extremely kind. He was 20 - just 4 years older than me, and perhaps the youngest of all the AMs.

And so now we are on yet another one of the Institution’s “assignments”. This time we are to head over to Fools’ District to salvage some random stuff for some of their terminals.

Our group consists of around a dozen people – Mike, 3 guards, a pair of Institution technicians, a bunch of other CWs, and me.

So we go to this old place, what used to be a so-called “bank”. Along the back wall (or what was left of the wall) on the ground floor is a row of terminals. Perfect. This assignment should be easier than I thought.

“Alright, let’s get those terminals outside so the techies can take a look.” Mike says.

Along with the other CWs I head over and carry one of the bulky terminals out. They are covered in a thick layer of dust after years of wear. I’d be surprised if they could get anything out of this.

I set the terminal down outside the building, where the techies wait, with clipboards in their hands and glasses on their faces.

I’m about to go in to get more when Mike calls to me, “Hey Jill, hold on a sec, I want to talk to you ‘bout something.” He then swiftly walks over and continues, “Look, you’re a good worker – focused, diligent, and never complaining. I’ve been talking to the higher-ups about a possible promotion, moving up the food chain, you know?”

Ecstatic to hear this (after over a decade of being labelled a CW), I am at a loss of words for a section before mumbling, “That’s awesome, thank you sir.” He flashes me a warm smile before saying, “You’re welcome. Now let’s get this assignment done so we can get out of here.”

With an enormous smile on my face, I turn around and prepare to head back into the building. I walk past one of the guards just in time to see his head burst and his body jerk back with a splash of blood.

I am frozen when I make out the other guard nearby yelling, “Everyone get down!” before he is pushed back against the wall in a torrent of thick red blood gushing from his body.

When my body begins to cooperate again, I get down on the ground, with only one word repeating itself in my head, “sniper”. They must be silenced because I heard no gunshots until the third and last guard lifts his assault rifle and fires into the concrete skeletons.

I somehow managed drag myself into the building. My face and clothes have been stained a dark red.

I get behind a desk that has been flipped over on its side and close my eyes. The sound of the assault rifle has stopped.

I peek over the desk to see Mike firing his 9 mil to whatever was across the street while running into the building. Along with the guards, the two technicians lay dead on the ground, as did some of the CWs.

Mike runs towards me and almost reaches the cover of the desk when he too is shot, right in front of my eyes, and falls to the ground, dead. His lifeless eyes stare up at me…

I hear shouting outside, but I am paralysed. Two raiders walk to where I am, both holding .32 hunting rifles. I can’t say anything. I can’t do anything.

“Get up. Don’t try anything, and we won’t kill you.” One of them says.

I get up. One of the raiders picks me up and carries me like a sack of flour. We are at the street by the time my senses return.

I scream and kick wildly, “No! Put me down!”

So he drops me flat on the ground, my head hitting a piece of concrete. I am dizzy when I look up and see the butt of a hunting rifle coming down on me, and then I’m out.

When I wake up, I have a killer headache. The entire left side of my throbs. My darker blond hair hangs over me in disarray. It must be several hours later. And then I realise that I was moving. I was once again hung over the shoulder of one of the raiders.

Remembering what had happened earlier, I feel a sense of rage swell up in me, but decided at last that it’d probably be better if I don’t protest it, since I would probably get knocked out again.

The other CWs were walking behind us, surrounded by raiders who had them at gunpoint.

Eventually we reach this intersection. In the middle there’s an old derelict truck. Most of the front was gone, but the trailer was still somewhat intact.

Inside I could see some scavenged medical supplies, weapons, and ammo. The raider carrying me puts me down on one side of the trailer, and the other CWs are ordered to sit in a row next to me.

The raiders then convene on the other side of the truck. They were trying to talk quietly but I could still make out a bit of what they were saying, “Captives… take ‘em to the Enclave camp… Caps… Get fucking rich…”

What was this? The raiders are going to hand us over to the Enclave for caps? That was a totally new concept. The two usually fired at each other on sight, never mind collaborating.