The two men entered a wide-mouthed cave and descended the stone stairs till they came upon a large steel door, that reached from the cave’s floor to its ceiling and had the numbers 87 spray-painted in the center. Bright spotlights lined the entrance on both sides and shone down on the pair, temporarily blinding Pete who didn’t know to expect it.
Pete’s captor walked up to a small platform to the right of the cave and slapped a button on the console.
“Vault 87, state your business.” A monotone voice croaked over the small speaker
“Liam, Vault 87 consultant, I have a captive for the brig and a body for the medical examiner.” He reported
“Please insert your badge into the slot and wait for authentication,” Liam did as the voice instructed and waited to be cleared.
Pete, who’s eyes finally adjusted to the blinding light, continued to examine the cavern. Sensors and turrets of every variety surrounded the men. Pete eyed a few cameras focusing in and out on him in particular.
“Consultant, prisoner, and body cleared for entrance,” The voice reported dully
A couple of large pistons blasted compressed air, and the door creakily rose to its midway point. Allowing plenty of room for them to be funneled into a narrow corridor past the entrance. Liam gestured to Pete to enter first. He did as instructed and examined the narrow passage they walked through single file.
It was a long thin passage that forced a group to go through one at a time. Getting a closer look at the hallway’s wall, Pete saw multiple breaks and hinges along the way. He figured the walls must be adjustable, allowing for larger groups or vehicles as needed.
Above them, Pete saw a high, transparent ceiling. He saw the boots of security officers standing above him. Pete only ever heard stories from Laura about what the inside of a vault was like, but seeing the real thing with his own eyes was something else. It was no wonder why no ambitious packs of bandits have tried to take the place over. It was a fortress.
After a few minutes of poking and prodding by men who claimed to be scientists, Pete is asked to drop Laura’s body on an examination table in some hospital wing. Then is escorted to the Vault’s prison block.
“What was the purpose of your attack? Did you two act alone, or are you acting under orders? If you are acting as hitmen, what gang hired you?” Liam asked from the opposite side of an interrogation table
Pete let loose a deep belly laugh “Woah-Woah! Orders? Attack? No offense fella, but if we wanted your boys dead, they would be. We were just having a bit of fun is all.”
Liam leaned in, “Why are you taking this so lightly? You know your friend is dead because of your ‘fun’, right?”
Pete simply shrugged and crossed his arms.
Liam sat back in his seat and pulled out a pipe. He stuffed it with a pinch of tobacco from a bag in his duster pocket and lit it with his favorite silver-plated lighter.
“Um, excuse me,” A boyish voice chimed over the intercom “There is no smoking in the interrogation room.”
Liam took several puffs off his pipe and looked to the one-way glass on his right “noted” he replied to the window.
His lit pipe still hanging from his mouth, Liam reached down and unplugged the device recording their conversation. “Look,” he addressed Pete, “I get screwing around with the Crabs, but surely, you two know better than to pull this shit with a military base right?”
“To be fair bud, it’s hard to call that a military base. I mean, at the first sign of trouble your boys scattered.”
Liam sat back in his chair and eyed his wood pipe
“Hang on,” Pete mused “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? The vault dwellers hired you to show them how to fight.”
Liam took a long drag from his pipe and blew the smoke away from his charge’s face. He plugged the recording device back in the wall, and the device’s display regained consciousness.
“Ok, let’s take it from the beginning. Your name is Pete, and the deceased is named Laura-“
A man in scrubs suddenly bursts through the interrogation room door “Sorry for the interruption,” stated the doctor, “But we need your opinion on the body.”
“Opinion?” Liam asked
“Yes, sir, quickly if you don’t mind.”
He looked back to Pete “Do you mind?” sarcasm rang in his voice
Pete held up his chained hands, “I got all night.”
“Great to hear,” Liam stood up and followed the doctor to the examination room
“Sir, what kind of bullet did you use to kill the terrorist?” asked the young doctor
“9mm from my handgun. Why does that matter?”
“That’s what we figured … strange,” He mumbled under his breath
Liam joined the medical team gathered around Laura’s examination table and looked down at the woman’s body. It was the first time he got a good look at her in the light. She was truly a sight. Her face was without wrinkles or worry lines, mouth featured perfect perky lips, and she had curves in all the right places. She reminded him of one of those pin-up girls in old men’s magazines.
The only thing sullying her beauty was a pool of dried blood coating her forehead from the bullet wound.
“You see,” the medical examiner started. He took a scalpel and gestured to the bullet wound “The entry point seems too small for even a 9mm bullet. In fact, it’s almost to small for the size of a dart.”
Liam looked more closely at the grisly entry wound. The doctor was right. The hole was so small it almost looked closed entirely. “What does that mean?” He wondered out loud
“We don’t know, I – none of us have seen anything like this. In your report, you mentioned she was shot roughly an hour ago, right?”
“That sounds about right.”
“Incredible,” He pointed to a monitor across from them “According to her readings, while faint, her heart is still beating,” He led to an adjacent monitor “Her brain isn’t entirely dead either. Actually, it looks more active than ever.”
“How is that possible?”
The automatic door to the examination room slid open, and an older grandfatherly looking man enters dressed in medical scrubs and bifocals.
“Alright team,” the man snaps on a pair of gloves “Now what exactly is so urgent that I am being requested at this hour?”
“This is the body, Dr. Sutton” a nurse reports
Dr. Sutton swaps out his glasses and approaches the body “Let’s see here,” He mumbles a few words to himself as he lifts her head and examines the entry and exit wounds “those are rather small.”
“They didn’t come in that small sir. It’s as if they are closing up.” Another doctor gestures to the monitors “Her readings are saying she’s not dead, not even brain dead.” He scratches his head “It almost seems like she is gaining life with every passing moment, but that’s impossible.”
“Gaining…Wait,” The elderly doctor looks between the monitor and Laura, “Did you say gaining life?”
“Yes” Responded a nurse
“Oh, good God!” He shouts. Jaring all the assembled
“What? What’s wrong with her?” Liam asks
“Nurse! Nurse, where are the muscle relaxors?” The old man scrambles through several medical drawers
“Second shelf sir, but why-“
He snatches the vial and a syringe “You all have no idea what kind of firebomb you have on your hands here.” He filled the syringe and injected it into her neck. Then breathed deeply as if he managed to just escaped the clutches of death itself.
“Care to start explaining?” Liam asked frustration growing in his voice
The old man placed his hand to his chest and looked to Liam. “My apologies, Liam” He gave an exasperated chuckle.
Doctor Sutton straightened himself out and extended his hand “How are you, my boy?”
Liam took his hand and smiled, “I’m well, doctor.”
“Oh!” Sutton recoiled his hand “I forgot about how forceful your handshakes were now!” he laughed at his own blunder
“Shoot, I’m sorry, Dr. Sutton! I swear I was only giving it twenty percent.”
Sutton waved his hand dismissively at Liam’s apology “Don’t concern yourself with it son. I was the one that put the dang thing on you, I should have remembered!” He pointed to Liam’s chest, “Just remind me not to challenge you to an arm wrestling contest, eh?”
“I think you could still give me a run for my money doc.” Liam chuckled. He pointed to the woman’s body on the examination table, “Care to explain all this?”
Doctor Sutton’s jovial tone suddenly disappears as quickly as it appeared, “Ah yes, her. I take it you brought her in?”
Liam nodded “Caught her and another Dusty screwing around with the military exercises Briggs and I were administering tonight.”
Sutton nodded and looked over the body “Yes, well of all the Dustys on the surface that despise vault dwellers, I’m afraid you picked the cream of the crop.”
Liam crossed his arms “What do you mean? It’s just one woman.”
Sutton laughed dryly “Yes, she may seem like one woman, but I assure you, she has the anger of twenty, the power of an atomic bomb and a fuse shorter than a hair on my testicles.”
Liam contorted his face “Doc, that’s a hell of a visual.”
Sutton wiped his glasses on his lab coat “This one’s sole mission is to see every vault blown to smithereens, and the real kicker” He put his glasses back on and looked to Liam “She’s immortal.”
“Immortal? How can anyone be, immortal?”
“Strange things in this world, Liam. I don’t know how, but this woman has medaled in almost every operation we have engaged in on the surface and has ‘died’ from bullets, plasma bolts, laser blasts even tank shells and mortars.” Sutton clasped his hands behind his back in contemplation, “Indeed a one-woman wrecking machine.” He turned in place and walked through the automatic doors.
Liam followed, “Why does she hate you all so much?”
“Probably one of the variety of reasons surface dwellers hate us. Jealousy of our technology and stability, our military might,” They rounded a corner and walked towards the interrogation rooms “I know the recent alliance has stirred quite an uproar, or,” he paused and looked back to Liam with a downtrodden face “My boy, some folks just want to see the world burn.”
Liam nodded knowingly. He has spent his whole life on the surface has seen some of the most grotesque things mankind had to offer.
The men walked through the prison ward door and stopped at the one-way glass overlooking Pete’s room. His hands were still chained to the metal table, but he didn’t seem particularly bothered by his situation. He was slouched in the chair, head tilted back and appeared to be taking a nap.
“Was this the man who was with her?” Sutton asked
“Yep, surrendered after I shot his friend.”
“I know him. His name is Pete, another contractor we hire on the surface from time to time. Great mechanic and excellent cook.”
“Cook? How do you know about his cooking?”
Sutton chuckled “A few months ago I was with a vault caravan headed north, and one of our vans broke down. Pete towed it into his shop and offered us some fresh macadamia nut cookies he had just baked.” He smiled in recollection “Crispy on the outside but so fluffy on the inside. Difficult to do with that particular cookie.”
Liam pointed to the glass, “Doc, you know this baker friend of yours tried to kill a squad of cadets just a few hours ago, right?”
Sutton shook his head, “Oh Pete wouldn’t hurt a fly if he could help it. Besides, especially with that woman as his companion, that camp would have been wiped off the map if they so desired it.”
The two heard frantic running approaching them from down the hall “Doctor! Doctor!” Shouted a nurse
“Good heavens! You do realize the hour, don’t you, nurse? Some rather not be woken in the middle of the night.”
“My apologies, Doctor Sutton,” he panted “But the woman, she’s awake.”
“Is she moving?” he asked
“Well, not from the neck down, sir.”
“I dare another one of you sons of bitches to try something! I can do this all night, motherfuckers!” Laura threatened from the examination table.
“Do you have that gauze yet?” Shouts one doctor to another
“Here! This should stop the bleeding,” he responds
“She- She really bit a chunk of my arm off! What the fuck is wrong with her?”
“Shh, you need to calm down. Panicking will only make it worse.” Instructed the doctor tending the man’s wound
“Anyone else wants to try to stick something in me?” Laura raved
“We need to get him out of here,” Instructs the nursing doctor
“I don’t know! Her table is so close to the exit!”
“That’s right! Cower in fear! Imagine if I had my arms and legs too. Then you assholes would be really sorry for kidnapping me!”
The exam room door slides open, and Liam and Sutton return to the grisly scene.
“What the hell happened here?” Liam asked, taken aback by the situation.
He saw Laura, still laying on the table, but with fresh blood around her mouth, a chunk of flesh on the floor, and all the medical staff tending to her cowering in a corner.
Sutton spots the wounded man “Will you all get him out of here?” he cries to the gathered group
“But sir! What if she attacks again?” cries a cowering doctor.
Sutton rubs his face “Shes paralyzed you, dummies! Just don’t put your hand in her mouth, and you’ll be fine!”
The doctors look to each other and make a break for the door. Nearly knocking over Liam in the process.
“That’s right run!” Laura spits from the table
Liam and Sutton walk up to her, being sure to keep out of biting distance.
“Morning sunshine” Liam greeted her
“Well, lookie here. It’s the trigger happy guy from the camp. Why don’t you lean in a little closer, I have a secret to tell you.”
“I think I’ll pass.”
“What were you and Pete doing at the camp tonight, Laura?” Sutton asks in the tone of a disappointed father
“We were just settling in for our weekly knitting circle when your little attack dog shot me in the freaking head,” She stared at Liam “I still got a hell of a headache by the way.”
Liam ignored her complaint, “What were you two doing firing lights over the cadet’s training grounds?”
“What? Still, doubt my story? Give me a pair of sewing needles, and I’ll show you how well I can cross stitch.”
The pair stared at her unblinking
“My God,” She moaned “if we wanted you all dead we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We were just having fun with you, dumbasses, calm down.” She looked at Liam, “Where is Pete? You try to kill him too? Would be a shame if I couldn’t have another one his cookies.”
“Your pal is fine. Just checked on him seems that he settled in for a nap.” Liam replied
“Oh, Pete, bless him, he works too hard.” Laura laid her head back on the table
“Welp, where to from here? You going to poke and prod me with some weird stuff? Maybe shove a probe or two up my butt?”
Liam chuckled but, noticing his companion hadn’t found the remark nearly as humorous, resumed his professional demeanor.
“Looks to me like you won’t be going anywhere for a while, so I think we should wait till the Councilwoman wakes, and figure out what she wants to do from there.” States Sutton
“Awh, man. You’re going to send me to the principal?” She mocked
“Something like that,” Sutton inspects the examination room and sees medical instruments and supplies scattered on the floor. “What a mess,” He makes his way back towards the exit “I’m headed back to bed, be sure to lock the door behind you, Liam. We don’t want any wandering intern’s fingers bitten off.” The door closes behind him.
Liam looks Laura over on the table. Her clothes were tattered and torn, hair tangled and scattered near her head. Her face was covered with dirt and dried blood. If it wasn’t for the fact she just bit a guy and had been the center of all his grief that night, he might have felt a little bad for her.
“Why?” he questioned her “Do you really hate Crabs so much that this treatment is worth it? Or are you really the psycho you depict yourself as?”
She continued resting her eyes on the ceiling above “Look, I don’t need to justify myself to you. Just do as your told and lock the door behind you, kay?”
“Right” Liam exited through the door and locked it behind himself. He looked through the window into the room and saw her laying there motionless. “Someone did a number on you, didn’t they?” He whispered to himself before turning out the lights in the room and walking down the corridor.