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JUST ADD WATER, PT I

RIVET CITY ENTRANCE
CAPITAL WASTELAND
2014 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.

The beached aircraft carrier known as Rivet City stood imposingly before Mike. He was about to climb the small structure in front of the rusting ship when he spotted what appeared to be a caravan of sorts. Perhaps he could spare a closer look.

The man who greeted him had a green cap, and had a shotgun on his back. Lucky Harith, he called himself. Harith, as Mike discovered, was an arms dealer, making rounds throughout the Wasteland as he peddled his munitions and arms to anyone who had enough caps. Of particular note, though, was the town of Canterbury Commons, which he and other Caravan Merchants called home. Canterbury's location was soon added to Mike's Pip-boy.

Curious as to what all Harith could offer, Mike decided to browse what wares the arms dealer had. One item in particular, schematics for a weapon called the "Shishkebab," intrigued him, but it was far and away out of his price range. Even so, he knew that he could check back at a later time to get the schematics, if he so desired. None of the other weapons looked particularly interesting (or affordable), but Mike felt he couldn't leave without buying something from Harith.

Fortunately, Harith was carrying something that Mike very much needed - .44 Magnum rounds. He purchased all of the powerful ammo Harith had (which came to 13 rounds), and paid 52 caps for it. With that, he shook Harith's hand, and bid him goodbye, heading up the stairs as he did.

Once he reached the top of the stairs, he found yet another thirsty Wastelander, named Carlos. Once again, Mike handed a bottle of Purified water to a man who needed it far more than he did, and again he was satisfied knowing he had made someone's day.

Though there was no visible way to get on board Rivet City, a nearby intercom provided a means to summon the bridge. But once he crossed the bridge, a new problem quickly arose.

"Hold it right there!" a man said, pointing an assault rifle threateningly at Mike. "What business have you in Rivet City?"
"Whoa," Mike said, throwing up his hands in defense. "I'm just looking for my father."
"And who might he be?" the man replied, keeping his gun trained on Mike. "If he lives on this boat, I might know him."
"I'm pretty sure you don't know him," Mike explained. "He's lived in a Vault his whole life."
"Yeah," the man sneered, "and I'm a fairy princess. Look, you keep this sh!t up, and you're gonna end up in the river, understand?"
"Look, he just ran off without telling me, and I'm looking for him," Mike stressed, "that's all."
"Alright," his interrogator relented, "you can enter. But if you cause any trouble, you're ending up in the river, got it?"
"I understand," Mike replied, nodding.

The man stepped off to the side, and Mike entered the door on his left - Rivet City's Market was locked. Jeez, nothing like a warm welcome to start off your night, he thought to himself, sarcastically.

Something in his gut told him that tomorrow would be an interesting day.

JUST ADD WATER, PT II

RIVET CITY
CAPITAL WASTELAND
2203 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.

Rivet City's Market was locked down for the night, so Mike decided to busy himself with exploring the rest of the ship. The crowded, steel corridors were a little uncomfortable to maneuver in - he had to squeeze against the wall a couple times to let some of Rivet City's guards pass by before he could continue onwards.

The Science Lab seemed rather dull, but there was one thing that stood out to him - a Vault Boy Bobblehead for Intelligence. Picking it up, his HUD informed him that his Intelligence had been raised by 1.

Checking his Pip-Boy, he clicked the "Status" button, which noted his overall health and limb condition - his right arm was a little worse for wear, but that was about it. Then he noticed a selection that read "SPECIAL" - intrigued, Michael turned the dial to display the menu, discovering that SPECIAL was actually a measure of 7 attributes related to his Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. The bobblehead he picked up had apparently raised his Intelligence stat to 10. In all, his stats were: S-7, P-5, E-6, C-3, I-10, A-6, L-5

I wonder if there's any other bobbleheads out there, he thought to himself. However, he still had work to do, and items to trade and/or repair. Seeing how the market was still closed, he decided he'd sleep here for the night until morning came.

The common room was just a short walk from the Science Lab on the Middle Deck. He looked around before spotting an un-used Naval Cot. It was a little bit uncomfortable, but it would do for the night.

His thoughts returned to his father. Maybe someone around here would know the fastest way to get to Galaxy News Radio, and one step closer to a reunion.

He laid out on the cot, and went to sleep.

JUST ADD WATER, PT III

RIVET CITY
CAPITAL WASTELAND
0903 HOURS, AUGUST 18, 2277 A.D.

"It's a tempting idea, but my place is here..."

"Amata..." he murmured to himself. "Please, Amata...come back..."
"Hey, kid!" a female voice said.
"Wha...?"

Mike sat up, rousing himself from his sleep to find a woman in combat armor standing over him.

"You alright?" she asked.
"Oh...yeah, I'm fine," Mike said, scratching the back of his head. "Just dreaming, I guess."
"Well, if you're wanting to get to the market, it's been open for at least 30 minutes."

Mike dusted himself off, then rose from the cot. At least he now could get rid of some of the stuff he was trucking around, including a .32 pistol and a set of Raider Painspike armor. Maybe someone could even tell him how to get to GNR from here.

Mike headed to the marketplace via the stairwell, discovering a number of crude stalls set up in what was likely the remains of an aircraft hangar. Almost immediately to his left was Flak and Shrapnel's gun store - Flak was currently tending the shop.

"This here is Flak and Shrapnel's Gun Store," the mustachioed man said. "Pretty catchy, huh? If you're looking for something to trade, just say so."
"I'm thinking of picking up some ordnance," Mike replied.
Flak smirked. "Need to do some killin', eh?"

Mike was gobsmacked at the sheer amount of items for sale - most were well out of his price range, unfortunately. He sold the .32 pistol and Painspike armor, pocketing around 70 caps for the trade. In exchange, he bought whatever .44 Magnum rounds Flak had available - 9 in all, to the tune of 36 caps.

Satisfied with the purchase, Mike decided now was probably as good a time as any to ask the one question he needed to know. "Say, Flak - I need to get to Galaxy News Radio. What's the fastest way there?"
"Galaxy News? I'd suggest staying away from that place if I were you, kid - it isn't exactly the safest place in the Wasteland."
"Be that as it may," Mike continued, "I need to get there if I want to find my father."
Flak sighed. "Well, if you're really set on going, your best bet would be to take the Farragut West Metro. There's only a few uglies you'd have to fight on the way."
"Thanks, Flak. I've got to get going now."
"Just remember," Flak stated, "if you need more ammo, this is where to get it."

Mike nodded, and headed out of the old, rusting ship to the bridge. But before he crossed it, there was something that nagged at him...

The broken bow.

What was in there, anyway?

A quick glance at his local map revealed that there was a door underwater that led to the shattered section of the ship. He still had to get another 100 rads or so, anyway - maybe when he was done, he'd have enough for Moira to get a more accurate reading.

He turned left, made a small leap off the platform, and ran along the flight deck to prepare for the swim.

MEGATON - MEGA-PROBLEM, PT I

RIVET CITY
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1012 HOURS, AUGUST 18, 2277 A.D.

Mike glanced downward off the ship to the irradiated water below. It was a long drop - had to be 50 feet at least. All he could do was hope that it wasn't like smacking into concrete from this height. Well, here goes nothing, he thought, as he levered his arms upward, as if preparing to dive.

"BANZAAAAIII!!!!"

What a rush. Mike hadn't felt his adrenaline pumping so quickly since his escape from 101 yesterday. Upon surfacing, he noticed that he still was more or less okay - how that was possible, he didn't know, but perhaps the fact he was so thoroughly irradiated made it a non-issue. The geiger counter's clicking in his ear reminded him to find an entrance to the bow, and fast.

In the water's murky depths, Mike saw a tunnel of sorts - that had to be a way in. However, he wasn't a distance swimmer, so he'd have to make sure he wasn't choking from oxygen loss.

Opening the hatch under the ship, Mike quickly swum to an air pocket in the flooded room. He continued making his way through the flooded halls, desperately looking for places to surface. Eventually, though, he made his way to a stairwell that finally led to a room that had standing water - and Mirelurks.

Mike quickly grabbed his Scoped Magnum, unloading as many shots as possible into the crab-beast's face - three well-connected shots to each Mirelurk put them down.

As he finished off his assailants, Mike was informed that he now possessed 600 rads - enough to get Moira's research accurately done. He made his way to the exit, being mindful of the gas leak on the way out, and grabbed another Scoped Magnum and ammo to go with it.

Unlocking the bow's front door, he now could enter the bow via the catwalk he saw earlier - no more having to nearly drown in the process. Whatever else remained here could be gotten at a later date.

However, Megaton was a long way away from Rivet City - and Mike REALLY didn't want to have to hoof it all the way back to town, as he'd no doubt encounter more than a few hostiles along the way.

He was about to suck it up and start walking when he noticed the Fast Travel Module's light blinking on his Pip-Boy. He wasn't over-encumbered, and figured that this might be a good way to get back to town in a hurry.

He brought up the world map, and drug his cursor over Megaton's marker. Selecting the town brought up a warning message, asking if he wanted to fast-travel to the town, confirming that he wanted to go.

Suddenly, the air around Mike seemed to crackle and pulse with energy. Small, electrical bolts seemed to coalesce around his body, leaving him startled and confused as to what was going on. A high-pitched wail constantly became more and more pronounced, to the point Mike almost had to cover his ears to diminish the sound. In a single, brilliant flash, Mike vanished from sight...leaving a black, scored surface where he once stood.

MEGATON
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1406 HOURS, AUGUST 18, 2277 A.D.

The light faded from Mike's eyes, and he found himself back inside Megaton's steel walls. Roughly 4 hours had passed since he activated the module - apparently, it was some sort of teleportation device. Well, this is handy, he thought to himself. At least now I can-

His train of thought was interrupted by his stomach. It was clear that the module had done a number on his insides, and he had little option but to woozily stumble over to a nearby wall and vomit unceremoniously onto the ground.

Once he got his composure back together, Mike decided to head back to Moira - he didn't want to keep her waiting.

MEGATON - MEGA-PROBLEM, PT II

MEGATON
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1448 HOURS, AUGUST 18, 2277 A.D.

After getting treated by Moira, telling her, "Too...tired...to be...snide," and getting a slight mutation in the process, Mike was going to head out to Minefield to accomplish the next part of the guide. Before he had made it back to Megaton (it was right after fighting the Mirelurks, in fact), he noticed he had gained yet another level. Again, he found he was slightly better with his words than before - in addition, he was a fair bit more proficient with explosives, and slightly better with firearms in general.

He decided to check out the rest of the town before heading out, though - Moriarty's Saloon, in particular, seemed like a good place to explore.

Opening the door, Mike was instantly greeted by the sight of...well, he looked human, but his skin was rotting away horribly. Out of the corner of his eye, however, he noticed a rather well-dressed man, waving Mike over to him. Cautiously, Mike approached him.

"My, my," the man began, "just when I had all but given up hope. My dear boy, you are very lucky to have met me. I...am Mr. Burke. And you, well...you are not from around here, this putrescent cesspool of a city."
Mike knew straight away that something was up, but decided to play this man's game. "Mr. Burke, is it? I daresay I find myself...enthralled, as it were."
"Finally," Burke replied, "someone with a modicum of civility and common sense. I represent certain...interests, you see. Interests who view this town, this...Megaton...as a blight on the landscape. With your help, we can erase this little...'accident' off the map."
Alarm bells were already ringing in Mike's head, but he decided to continue playing to the man's tastes. "Go on, I'm listening," he replied.
"The atomic bomb for which this town is named for is still very much alive. All it needs is a little...hm hm hm...persuasion."
I knew it, Mike thought to himself, without indicating any change in emotion.
"I have in my possession a Fusion Pulse Charge, constructed for a singular purpose: the detonation of that bomb. You'll rig it to the bomb, and you'll be paid; handsomely. I'll pay you 500 caps upon completion."
Mike had just about heard enough. "Alright, Burke, you've got a deal," he lied. "Megaton will burn."
"Excellent!" Burke answered, pleased at Mike's response. "I had a feeling you would be interested. Once you've rigged it to the bomb, meet me at Tenpenny Tower - it's Southwest of here. You can't miss it. Any questions?"
"None," Mike stated. "I'd better get going now."
"Don't let me keep you," Burke replied.

As Mike exited the Saloon, he had a new goal in mind - stopping Burke. But before he made that step, he needed to inform Lucas of Burke's intentions, and bring the man to justice.

He ran off, fervently searching for Simms.

MEGATON - MEGA-PROBLEM, PT III

MEGATON
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1448 HOURS, AUGUST 18, 2277 A.D.

Where was Simms? Mike looked all over the place to find Megaton's Sheriff. It was after a few minutes of searching that he found the old man.

"Lucas!" Mike shouted, as he ran up to him, out of breath.
"Staying out of trouble, I hope?" Lucas chided him.

After catching his breath, Mike stood up and faced him.

"I met a man named Burke. He said he was gonna pay me for rigging the nuke to explode."
"He said WHAT?" Lucas asked, shocked. "Oh, I never did like the look of him..."

Mike fished around in his pocket for the Fusion Pulse Charge. "He gave me this Fusion Pulse Charge in order to set the plan in motion. Take it."

Lucas stared in horror. "Jesus! Gimme that thing!" he demanded.
"Gladly," Mike said, eagerly handing the device over.
Lucas let out a sigh of relief. "Let's go talk to this Burke character. You're about to get a crash course in justice, Wasteland-style."

The two of them headed off to Moriarty's at a brisk run. Lucas wielded his assault rifle, while Mike kept his .44 close at hand. Upon entering the saloon, events unfolded quickly.

"You, there, Burke! Explain yourself!" Lucas demanded of the well-dressed man.
"...I'm sorry. Sheriff...what are you hollering about?" Lucas asked, feinting confusion.
"You know damn well what I'm talking about. The Bomb. You're plannin' to blow it up! Have you lost your god-damned mind?"
"...Sheriff...Sheriff. I'm certain someone's been spreading rumors. I'll see to it that the matter is handled...personally."
Lucas would have none of it, however. "I'm placin' you under arrest, Burke, at least until I figure out what the hell is going on, here."
Burke's sincere appearance quickly faded. "And I'M afraid I won't be able to accept your generous offer, Sheriff," he spat, mockingly. "Now...stand aside."
"This isn't open to discussion. You're coming with me."
"Why do you knuckle-draggers have to do things the hard way?" Burke bemoaned. "...Very well, Sheriff...lead on."

Just as Lucas started to leave, Mike noticed Burke drawing a silenced 10-mm pistol. Lucas!

"Wha...I don't THINK SO!"

(BANG! BANG! BANG!)

Mike stood there, hands on the trigger, panting heavily from the VATS barrage. All that stood at the end of the smoking barrel was Burke's bullet-riddled corpse, on the floor. His Pip-Boy alerted Mike that he would no longer be able to get a reward for nuking Megaton, but he didn't care - he wasn't about to nuke a town for a pocketful of change.

Outside the bar, he got a short breather before speaking with Lucas once more.

"I must be getting a bit slow in my old age," Simms sighed. "Thanks for saving my hide back there."
"Not a problem, Lucas," Mike replied. "Now look...I really think we should discuss the matter of the bomb."
Lucas made a hard stare. "What about it?"

Mike let out an exasperated sigh. "Come on, Lucas - you saw what Burke was trying to do - who's to say that someone else won't try to arm it, or the bomb just going off by itself?!"
Lucas sighed. "I don't trust any of the locals to mess with it. Besides, most of them don't even realize it's still a threat. Why? Do you think you have the know-how to disarm it?"
Mike nodded. "Yeah. I could see about shutting it down for good."

Lucas stood there for a moment, studying the lad.

"Oh, all right," he answered. "But listen: just take a look at it first. Go easy. If you manage to disarm the bomb, there'll be 100 caps in it for you."
"Lucas...no," Mike replied, waving the offer away. "A reward is not necessary. Just knowing you guys can go on living without the threat of being vaporized is reward enough for me."
Simms was slightly surprised by Mike's selflessness. "Well, that's mighty decent of ya," he replied. "Just...don't go blowin' us up, y'hear?"
"Well, Lucas, if I mess something up, well...I'm just as screwed as the rest of you guys. So I have every reason to be careful. I'd better get moving."
"Good luck with that bomb, kid."
"Thanks - I'm gonna need it."

Mike proceeded down the catwalk to the center of town. It was just him, the town...

...and a 10-megaton nuclear warhead, daring him to mess with it.

These people are counting on me, Mike thought to himself. I'm not gonna let them down. Lord, watch over me this day, he silently prayed.

THE BOMB

MEGATON
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1512 HOURS, AUGUST 18, 2277 A.D.

Mike's palms grew sweaty as he walked from Moriarty's Saloon to the nuke in the middle of town. The half-buried device sat in a pool of radioactive sludge as Confessor Cromwell waxed lyrical about the Church of the Atom's beliefs. As long as the weapon was active, however, it would only be a matter of time before it went off at some point...and for all Mike knew, it could go off at any second.

Before Mike set himself to work, he checked out his Skills on his Pip-Boy. He noted that he had 25 in Explosives - he hoped it would be enough, but all things considered, it could be just as well that he'd vaporize himself and the rest of the town. He waved the thought away, and tried not to think about it - he needed to focus.

Mike took a good long look at the weapon, studying it as it taunted him with its horrifying potential for destruction. He took a deep breath, then sighed. "Come on, Mike," he said to himself, "you can do this. You KNOW you can."

Unscrewing the access panel to the warhead's interior revealed a machine that had seen better days. The arming mechanism was heavily corroded, but still quite functional. A small red light faintly blinked, indicating that it was still awaiting for detonation input - a few wires ran from the arming mechanism to the implosive charges, but the red and black wires were what Mike needed to look for.

Eventually, he found them, hooked up to the circuitry that would detonate the initial implosives before the fission/fusion reactions could take place. He pulled out a pair of wire cutters, and grabbed the two wires, glancing back and forth at them.

"Alright...red...or black? Red...or black? Movies always make it look so easy..."

He put the cutters by the red, and shut his eyes tight, teeth clenched...

And clipped.

(SNAP!)

...

...

...

(Fzzeeerrrrrrowwww...)

[Disarmed.]

Mike took a deep breath, and exhaled, relieved. "Whoo! Love the red!" he exclaimed, happily.

It wasn't long after he began walking out of the crater that he ran into Lucas once more.

"I'll be damned!" the sheriff said, enthusiastically. "You did it, didn't you?"
"Believe it!" Mike replied, with the biggest smirk on his face.
"You disarmed that thing! And all without asking to be paid, too!"
"You guys have already done so much, Lucas - it's the least I could do."
"Hell, why don't you move in?" Lucas answered, a light coming to his eyes. "Here's the key to an old house in town - go on. It's yours."

Mike graciously took the key from Lucas, his hand trembling with joy.

"Lucas, I...I don't know what to say," he said, tears welling in his eyes.
The old man smiled thoughtfully. "Good deeds don't go unrewarded, son," he said. "I was gonna throw in the deed to the house whether I paid you or not."
Mike made a deep bow. "Thank you, Lucas...thank you so much," he whispered, trying to hold back the tears.
"Anytime, son. Come to think of it, what's your name?"

Once Mike had gotten his composure back, he stood up and met eyes with the man once more.

"My name...is Michael Thompson," he began. "And I swear to you, Lucas - I'll help out any way I can."
"I'll meet you at your place tonight - I'll bring a few friends along to formally welcome you into the town."

With that, the two shook hands and parted ways, at least for the moment.

Megaton...a home away from home...

And only the beginning of one boy's journey to bring hope to the Wasteland.