Last Updated on May 31, 2016 by Michael Brockbank
He had no idea how long he was traveling along the old route of I-80. He was heading west, trying to make his way to the New California Republic. It was a long time since his particular skills were used by anyone with the caps to pay, and the Californian territory seemed like a good place to call home. He wasn’t getting younger, and the years were beginning to creep up. Initially, the idea to travel the wasteland was given to him by a ghoul he once called a friend.
This ghoul was almost certain that a better life could be had on the other side of the continent. This was before a group of mutants devastated a small village once called, “Hope’s Bastion.” Unfortunately, the friendly ghoul didn’t make it out before the entire area became a war zone. Tired of trying to piece together any resemblance of a regular life, the stranger took to the road to see if his friend was correct.
She was heading as far east as possible. Constant fear weighed heavily as she was almost certain slavers were dogging her trail. The young woman had already avoided capture by Caesar and his Legion near New Vegas, but the lands were crawling with raiders who would love to make a few caps by selling her to the highest bidder. An engineering genius in her time, she assumed the Brotherhood of Steel could use her abilities. However, she wasn’t certain were exactly to look for the armored militant group. She was traveling by what she had heard in passing with her brief interaction with the Legion. With a cowboy repeater she picked up near Vegas strapped to her back, she was determined to find her place among those who would appreciate her abilities outside of the bedroom.
The Chance Encounter
The sun was beginning to set in the distance. The road was a barren trail of cracked asphalt and random pieces of trash that had faded in the light over the years. There were few places for anyone to rest with absolute safety along this stretch of I-80. However, a lone convenience store stood with defiance against the centuries. Partially boarded up, it could offer solitude against some of the night’s more terrifying features. On either side, equidistant from it’s main doors, two unlikely individuals were about to meet for the first time.
His rations were about to expire. There wasn’t much food left in the bag he carried, and he wasn’t sure if it was going to be possible to make it to California. However, he did have a great deal of knowledge when it came to surviving off the land. Even in a place as desolate as a lonely highway can offer sustenance if you knew where to look. Up ahead, the resemblance of a structure caught his eye. Squinting from the last remnants of sunlight in his face, he could tell that it was a building – and it was in fairly good condition. A smile cracked across his face as he was comforted by the thought of having shelter for once. But, the smile faded when a figure in the distance caught his eye. There was someone walking towards him.
Her feet were in pain and she was exhausted. Her stomach continuously growled as she marched across the blacktop. The young woman knew there was still a long way to go, and finding something to eat and drink was imperative to the journey. Her primary thought was to find a town where she could work off a few caps to buy supplies doing anything but getting undressed. After all, she had a great deal of skill when it came to repairing just about anything she held in her hands. Up ahead, she saw the last bursts of sunlight reflect off of something. It was a building of some kind. Finally, somewhere she could get rest without being out in the open. Her heart began to pound with excitement. However, the adrenaline began to pump instead when she saw a figure in the middle of the road. Have the slavers out-flanked her somehow? It was doubtful as she was careful to prevent them from getting the upper hand in such a way.
Although suspicious, neither was about to give up their sanctuary for the night. Both of them walked nearly an even pace towards the other. She removed the rifle slung to her back and chambered a round with a swoop of the lever. He rested his hand on the 10-millimeter pistol at his waist. However, neither one of them really wanted a gunfight in the middle of nowhere. Ammunition was a luxury, and the two didn’t have the caps to replace anything spent this night. The two continued walking until both were a few feet from the aging convenience store.
A slight breeze swept in from the north. Both parties stared cautiously at one another waiting for the other to act. In order to break the stalemate, he raised his hand up slowly as if to show peace. She slightly flinched, but left her finger off of the trigger of the rifle.
“I’m not interested in a gunfight, miss.” he said loud enough for her to hear. “I’m just looking for a place to sleep tonight.”
“So am I, mister.” she aimed the barrel up towards him, still leaving her finger off the trigger. The silence was unnerving as they both stared at each other waiting for the other to make a move.
“My name is Sam.” he said putting his hand down. “What’s your name?”
“Beth.” she hesitantly responded. Both of them were lying. Neither one of them was about to give out their real name. The sun was all but set by this time and the darkness of night was beginning to take hold. As this was a new-moon cycle, there would be virtually no light on the road in a few minutes.
“We can’t stand out here all night, Beth.”
“How do I know I can trust you, Sam?”
“You don’t. But I assure you, I have no interest in hurting you.” She was getting tired of holding the rifle. The past week had been hard on her and she could feel herself getting weaker by the moment. He could see she wasn’t in good condition and how exhausted she must be. “I’ll tell you what. As a gesture of good faith, I’ll give you something to eat.” He slowly put his hand into his satchel and removed a small box of Fancy Lad Cakes.
“It’s not the most nutritious, but it’ll fill the stomach.” he said handing them out to her. She knew there were good people in the world, perhaps this man was one of them. She turned the safety latch on the rifle to off and started to walk towards him. He could see she was comfortable with the idea of food and began slowly walking towards her. As they got closer, she held the rifle in one hand while reaching out for the cakes with the other. Once she grabbed them, she took a couple of quick steps back as if to avoid being grabbed. When he didn’t reach for her, there was a great deal of relief. “Do you think we could get inside before it gets too dark?”
“You first.” she said eating a stale, frosting covered cake.
The two walked into the convenience store, him first followed by the young woman a few feet behind. The store seemed to be somewhat stable with broken furniture thrown about. What remained of a cash register had been torn to pieces and laid on the floor. It was the shelves that caught their eyes. Somehow, this small convenience store in the middle of what was once known as Nebraska still had a great deal of its inventory.
“Well, Beth. Looks like we hit the jackpot.” he said walking up to the shelves and examining the packaging. Her eyes began to well up. She had been so hungry and exhausted for so long, the emotional strain was almost more than she could bare. Could this be a turn of luck that can inspire her to continue the journey? She didn’t know the answer to that. But for now, she was relieved that something right was happening in her life for a change.
The beginning of a friendship starts when both parties let down their guard long enough to figure out the intentions of the other. Instead of ending in a hail of bullets, these two travelers set aside uncertainty for a moment to share in a treasure that many in the wasteland would kill over. That day, the two learned that images in the distance may appear to be something completely different than what they truly are.[template id=”305″]