The stench of blood overpowers the odor of piss surrounding a dilapidated bathroom stall. Lights are dim under a bulb, reflecting off cracked glass. Doctor Riley once in a while will hear the call for help whether raider, settler, synth or super mutant, she always answered ‘I’m a doctor, I’m here to help’.
I sit on a dirty toilet bowl next to the raider ‘Ack-Ack’, thread in needle and rag to clear the blood, she hollers and curses my name. Blood trickles dark from her exit wound onto the cracked floor.
When I’m done sowing, she grabs me by the collar and hinges off myself to get up from the ground. I look into her eyes seeing the excruciation not of pain but embarrassment to have shown weakness before another. She is ready to walk towards her mini gun resting by the doorway, stroking the body she exerts an accustomed effort to carrying it with her as she walks down the hallway to see her crew.
I follow suit as it’s best not to piss off a raider, the medical knowledge I picked up in passing helped in saving my life for another night.
“This girl right here, treat her well boys and the doctor may pay you a call tonight” Ack-Ack boasted.
“It really wasn’t a big deal, I didn’t do it for the caps” I explained.
She pushes the fist full of caps onto my hands, without a word I accept it and withdraw into my coat.
There is a passing of bright light, opening the door back to the surface. As normal the air reeks outside and the moon looks to have just risen. With a grin I restore my composure in craftiness, the ruse doctor had struck again with simple knowledge and short supply.
As a real doctor could never deny calls for help, so does Doctor Riley, a simple get-up of a Vault-Tec lab coat and a medical kit in her satchel. A long walk along Sanctuary pond and through a junk yard led me to the USAF Olivia, a military outpost. Pondering which direction to go, the only other road led down the hill.
A fork further down, the way goes straight, left or right? I pick a stone off the road throwing it further along, the strange sound of something to the effect of a robot overheard.
“Subject appears hostile, proceeding with caution” in an automated manner.
“Hello? I’m a doctor, do you require ass-”
Peaking over the bush line, I see a human like automaton of what I only can describe as plastic, most likely synths from the institute, pointing their laser pistol in my direction and firing shots.
Their rigid movement makes easy for a well placed bullet round but the problem was where it’s weakness lied. Little choices left me shooting for my life, the entire skirmish felt out of sorts as it lacked the human touch yet had it’s vague appearance.
Looking through my satchel I only have a few stimpacks to spare as the rest were for my patients, shooting a few rounds their way led to a fleeting retreat down onto the tree sides.
There by the tracks was a shed, it was a perfect hiding spot to lose them. Everyone by now had known the tales of the institute, their motives unclear but malice in their steps left settlements in ruin like university point or a loved one abducted in the night.
Creakily opening the door, I draw my machete from it’s scabbard. Crouching, I search up and down rusty shelves for a hiding spot. Room for clutter and crates but not so much a space free, running fingers along the shelf and keeping an eye on the door.
Something felt wrinkly and soft, squeezing pressure it gurgled before I realized what I was feeling was a feral ghoul. Retreating my fingers before it had the chance to bite, I slipped my machete straight into it’s head then taking it with me as I flee back outside.
More gurgles, droves of feral ghouls were attracted and caught the attention of my synth pursuers. They frayed in lasers and sloppy tackling, the train tracks led north through a gorge leaving an exit to sneak into.
The area was fraught with continuous dangers, bloatflys and wild mutts were an ecosystem of predator and prey.
Overhead can be seen a rope bridge crossing over the gorge, down the path a sign that point to an upper pathway. Torn between both, I do as I always do in a fork and picked a pebble off the ground. Throwing in both directions, neither responded to any threat and it was now my choice.
I take off my cap to air out my long dark hair, feeling the heat beat down made the decision to head for the bridge all the more easier.
“Scat you damn crows” I shrieked at them.
Did it ever strike anyone why there were only crows in the Commonwealth? have yet to see any other kind of bird although I know the cats and some dogs survived to different degrees. Approaching the other side, climbing the small hills it became clearer a small farm was set up close.
“We don’t want any trouble with you, be on your way” the settler with a gun warned.
“Relax, do you always point guns at everyone you meet? I’m a doctor” I explained.
Looking into his eyes to see his brows above crinkling showed he wouldn’t let up and lower his weapon. To put him at ease, I straightened my arm out as proceeding to take out a few stimpacks from the satchel.
“Would it put you at ease if we did a bit of trading?” trying to reassure him.
He saw no reason to doubt, lowering his pipe pistol.
There was a trading interest for rad-x and rad away, my experience with radiation is admittedly poor so I always made a point to never sell these but he was persuasive.
There was a moment of reluctance but I had my doubts I could tempt him with medical treatment in place of supply, the ruse doctor could only go so far in charisma.
As I sat along the hill counting my caps, I looked at my map in reference to where a nearby hospital could be for tomorrows scavenging.
“Is the enemy employing a stealth boy device? Odd” a voice could be heard from the distance.
I panicked scrambling for my weapons layed beside me, leading them to this small farm was one of the stupidest things I’d ever done.
Taking cover from behind a tree, I aimed my sights for their head. In medical journals read in the past, I learned not everything had a heart in it’s chest. My thought was everything has a brain however, so go for that.
Firing rounds with little cover, I ran in a direction away from the farm to attract them.
No such luck, their sensor’s picked up the settlers.
“Synths! Grab your guns” I yelled through my lungs.
The setttlers turn to un-holster their weapon, already to late a laser shot enter’s the cheek of a settler and out the other end.
Seeking shelter behind the sheds their only option, they concentrated fire at them.
Flanking from the sides was difficult without getting close, I shot as many rounds as I could afford then a surge of lightning had hit the synths leaving no traces behind.
“Everyone alright?” I yelled over to them.
Heard crying but no response, the woman settler was burying her head into the chest of the man who had been shot through the cheek.
“Is everyone accounted for?” I thought I’d reiterate.
“Take your caps and go, your not welcome here anymore” she warned.
“I just wanted to-” trying to comfort.
“Leave!” she yelled.
I looked around before leaving, counting two when there should be one more, it dawned on me as I left that the man who pointed his pistol at me was gone.
For the first time, I witnessed a synth kidnapping someone in the commonwealth and their destruction left behind.
There is no prescription for a ruined life.
((Thanks for reading, I’ve been writing short stories all week long and snuck a little gaming between. I had this idea of the Ruse Doctor also coupling a different writing style, just a drifter who pretended they had medical experience to survive, felt like I just had to tell this tale publicly even if my mood wasn’t keen on writing today.))