From the thoughts and feelings of Vincent Romancek
It took me a long time to travel from the Windy City region down to the Bayou area. And in all those travels I had seen, and done, many things. Some curious things, some beautiful things, some frightening things. I was able to observe most things from a distance if I had wanted, without being noticed. So many people, or creatures, were loud and were able to be anticipated so I could either avoid them or watch them. At times approach them if they were of a friendly sort. We’d trade, share stories while seated around a camp fire, say our goodbyes and good lucks and be on our way. To bad most people in the Wastes aren’t of that sort, or we’d be in a much better place. But this is the land of the Haves and Have Nots, where the Nots are usually killing the Haves and taking their place. I had the unfortunate luck of being stuck in such a situation.
Cape Girardeau was a…..unique city. Its largest economy was slaves, and if you looked like you were on the lowest portion of the Have Nots they didn’t care if you were free, you were going to become a slave. Shackled and sold. And there wasn’t much of a limit on who Cape Girardeau sold the slaves to either. But I was an outsider, so I wasn’t about the kick a sleeping deathclaw! They were nice enough as any city to outsiders. They wanted my caps, I wanted to resupply my gear. I remember an older woman wandering the streets, looking half crazy with her hair in a mess and crying out for someone to help her find her daughter. That she’d been missing for 5 days and nobody is helping her. I didn’t want to get mixed up in things, so avoided eye contact, but she ran up to a man close to me and grabbed his arm, begging for his help. He just shrugged her off, simply saying “Lady, you know damn well where she ended up. If you open your legs enough around town you can get some caps and maybe buy her back at the open market in a few days!” And he just laughed and walked off, this lady falling to her knees and crying. So the daughter was a slave now. That’s just how things went in this city. It was time to go.
Just a few miles south of Cape Girardeau I could tell I was coming up on some folks. I saw them before they saw me. Slaves. A line of about 10 of them or so, shackled together and walking in a line. The lead of the column of slaves was a brahmin, dutifully following its owner, no doubt, gently pulling along the slaves as they were no doubt on their way to their new owners. Some kind of delivery service or something. There was a handful of guards, probably just to keep the slaves in line. Not like it seemed necessary, because not a single slave even had the dignity left to hold their head up, let alone try and escape. They were broken.
But before I could reach the slaves and quickly pass them by, forever to be gone from my thoughts, the situation got much, much worse. I don’t know if many folks out there have run into super mutants before, and I really hope you never do, but they are probably humanities worst enemy in the Wastes. Physically better than us in any conceivable way, most of the time effortlessly lugging weapons that would be a task for even two grown men to accomplish, and they always seem to want to kill us. Or anything, for that matter. So when 4 of them jumped out of the trailer portion of an old Nuka Cola semi-truck, I dove behind the closest thing that amounted as cover I could find, which was just some dense brush. So I glanced through some of the open portions of this bush and what I saw horrified me. The super mutants looked more tribal than the standard ones I’ve seen or heard of before from back up in Chicago. They had many body markings akin to tattoos, piercings of bone and had clothing made from animal hide……very obvious animal hide.
The slaves! Oh those poor slaves. They panicked and tried to run every direction they could, getting all tangled or tripping over each other. One guard was running, and he was quickly pursued by a mutant. The man was not going to be fast enough. Two guards fired at the super mutants, but to no avail. They simply shrugged off the damage the bullets did, which is fairly normal behavior of them. The man who was leading the brahmin was the only one that seemed to not panic as much as the others. He quickly disconnected his brahmin from the slaves, slapped it on the ass and it took off. To which another super mutant was more than happy to go after an easy meal. Or so he though. I had never seen a brahmin move with such speed before! If the rest of the situation hadn’t been going on, it would have been almost funny to see this super mutant get frustrated by his fleeing prey! One thing was for certain though, the brahmin would get tired and the super mutant would not, so it was just a matter of time for the poor beast. The man had tried to release some of the slaves as well, which he got a few released before his skull was smashed in by one of the largest hammers I had ever seen. The super mutant only laughed, and turned his eyes onto the slaves.
The screams were not the worst part. I had to look away when I saw some of the super mutants begin taking bites out of the people, some who were not even dead yet! They couldn’t get away either because they were chained together. This breed of super mutant was definitely different than what I was used to hearing about. They were even scarier. A few of the slaves though had been released in time to make a break for it! There was no way they could stop the super mutants, but with only four of those green hulking monsters to chase people they had the chance of survival. I had stopped watching, but I knew the super mutants were trying to chase people down…or they kept eating. I wasn’t about to look. But then I heard footsteps that were quick and light, along with a woman’s scream that was getting closer and closer. Fuck. Looking over my shoulder I see her running in my direction. She was going to lead them right to me! I couldn’t just wait for them to come my way as they chased her down…but it actually didn’t seem like they were chasing her. Not yet, at least. As she was running by my location I grabbed her and pulled her down to me. She freaked out. Even when covering her mouth with my hands and telling her to shush, she kept trying to fight and scream. It was like a panicked animal, much like that brahmin. She wasn’t seeing reason and was going to fight no matter what got her, even if it was someone with the misguided attempt at helping her. Thankfully I was wearing gloves, because she bit my hand so damn hard that it still drew blood. I could feel it getting warm along my fingers and my hand bled. Trying to stifle her, I looked back again through the bush towards to mutants, who most seemed to be dragging back their screaming prey to the group of already dead humans. With all of them back together again I couldn’t let her go, they’d all come this way and for sure find me. But I wouldn’t be able to hold her forever, either. I reluctantly drew my knife and showed her, quietly saying if she didn’t be quiet she’d get hurt, which didn’t change her attitude one bit. She was in pure fight or flight mode.
I didn’t want to, but either she died or we both died. So I stabbed her. I tried to make it quick, but with her struggling I had a hard time hitting anything vital. I may have stabbed her more than once. But I remember just holding my hand over her mouth, and the other gripping my knife handle with the blade in the um-teenth stab wound I gave her. I don’t know how long I waited there, but it seemed like forever. The blood was sticky on my hands, and the screams from all the slaves had stopped a while ago. I finally chanced another look, expecting a grinning super mutant to be five feet away, just waiting to crush my head in. But that was not the case, and in fact it seemed like they were packing their “leftovers” into some nets to drag off to wherever they called home. I sighed and slowly rolled this dead woman out of my grasp, gently lowering her to the ground. That’s when I got my first good look at her face. She looked so much like that old woman who had seen crying in the streets of Cape Girardeau earlier today. No way. There is no way this was the daughter…was it?! I whispered to nobody in particular “Well you are free now.” It was then I realized I was a Have. And this woman was a Have Not.