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Well, come mornin', I headed out South on 15, figgerin' I could probably hit up the Outpost by noonish and be back in Primm by dark, if all went well. No real trouble on the way, besides the end of somebody else's firefight at an old Nevada Highway Patrol station; one fella still kickin' with bullet holes in his arm and a broke ankle, few others blowed up real good. Dragged the one into the old station, made him as comfortable as I could on the cot in the holdin' cell there, told him I'd try to check back on him or send somebody back from the Outpost quick as I could.

Well, now I had twice the reason to get to the Outpost lickety-split, so I took off a-runnin'. Only about ten miles, good stretch of the legs, really, and there was working water at the station so my waterskin was full. Prob'ly what the fight was about, come t'think of it. Water out here's worth twice its weight in gold, pure water twice that.

Got down to the Outpost, sentries told me to talk to Major Knight, so I went and looked him up. Dropped off the letter from Mr. Nash and told him about the feller at the Hi-Po station. The Major allowed as how he'd talk it over with the rest of the garrison command, but he was purty sure there weren't much he could do for Primm, but he *could* spare a medic team t'bring back the poor fella up the way. He give me a chit for a meal at the commissary for the info, said if I'd come back in an hour or so he'd have an answer for Primm for sure.

Walked into the mess hall, what's the first thing I see? "Cousin Lacey, th' heck are *you* doin' out here?" Her face lit up like somebody'd turned on a spotlight.

"Cousin Jeth! Fancy you showing up here!"

She come around the counter and give me a big hug; I looked around and looked like purty near everbody in the place had the goggle-eyed look on 'em. Guess they'd never seen Family meet up before. I set down at the bar and passed her my chit; she rustled me up some grub out of what they had there. Not fancy, but sure tastes a lot better when it's fixed by Family, y'know? We got to chit-chattin', catchin' up what happened to me and what brought her out to the Mojave, everbody else went back to what they's a-doin'. Lacey says she could get a message back to the Family 'bout how I was doin' with the next messenger headed West. A few minutes later, gal down the end of the bar notices her drink's empty, starts kickin' up a ruckus.

"Barkeep! Gimme 'nother bottle! This'un's out!" I could purely see she's about half squiffed already, and it was only just after lunchtime. Lacey'd got her another fifth of what passed for whiskey 'round those parts and come back down t'where I was, lookin' right sour.

"What's her trouble," says I.

"Word came in the other day, her caravan company was wiped out by raiders just south of Vegas," says Lacey. "She's been drinking up her last bits of cash since."

"Damn shame," I says. "Why's she still here, then?" She must've overheard, cause she up and says, "Because these pantywaist bureaucratic fucking assholes won't let me head out North, is why. And just what business is it of yours, my business, you skinny-ass son-of-a-bitch?" Folks started quietly gettin' out from the line of fire between me'n her 'bout then, prob'ly expectin' a fight. Lacey turned down that way, and I laid a hand on her arm and shook my head a bit.

"Well, ma'am, I'm just a concerned citizen, really. Name's Jeth; Jeth Clampett-Addams. I'm right sorry to hear about your troubles, may I stand you to a drink by way of apology?"

"Shit, that's the last thing I need is more of this watered piss they call whiskey around here." She looked kinda thoughtful for a second, then said, "Wait; Clampett-Addams? Aren't they the rich weirdos who built their own Vault before the War?"

I felt Lacey bristle at that a bit, gripped her arm some so's she wouldn't decide to pick the poor woman up and toss her through the doors. Never know who might get hurt comin' in just then, after all. I looked at her and says, "Cousin, you mightn't have a bottle of The Granny's rheumatiz medicine round here nowhere, might you?" She gimme a look, and I smiled back at her like Great Great Great Grand-Uncle Dan'l grinnin' down a yao guai. She threw up her hands and says, "Whatever," then started openin' up a safe in the back of one of the bar cabinets. Pulled out one of the little brown quart jugs the Family made up; the skull an' crossbones over the XXXX was a nice touch, I thought. She handed it to me, and I cracked the wax seal, popped the cork and took a whiff. A vase of flowers behind the bar started to droop, one of the overhead lights chose that moment to spark and blow out, and somewhere outside a wolf howled at the Moon. It was a good batch. I got it up and poured me out a shot, drank it down and felt my ears start to smoke; yup, *really* good batch.

"Well, miss, The Family takes care of its own. Wasn't so much buildin' a Vault as shoring up a bunch of the old deep caves around Sunnydale and layin' in supplies, mind you." I sure weren't gonna tell her that the Addams' Family Vault was already down there long before that. "Land was pretty cheap around there, after the old town collapsed into that-there sinkhole, after all, and the Clan wanted out of Beverly Hills."

I walked down to the end of the bar and poured her and I both shots. Picked mine up, waited 'til she had hers, said, "L'chaim" and drank it down. She did the same, put down her shot glass, licked her lips, and then her eyes rolled back in her head and she slid off the barstool out of sight. Lacey and I got her laid out on a bed in the barracks, Lacey told me to keep the jug and passed me a bag with some Family funds in it, couple-three hunnert caps, and I went back over to the Outpost HQ for Major Knight's verdict.

Well, the Major said just like he'd thought, they couldn't spare more than what they already had in Primm right then, on account of their troubles with the Legion, troubles with vermin and critters all over the place, and so on. Shoot, they couldn't even let the caravans on through from the West, since the roads just plain weren't safe for 'em. I'd noticed a bunch of caravaneers outside when I come up, wondered why they were there rather'n on the road. He also said Ranger Jackson, the area commander wanted to talk to me 'bout something; when I turned to head off into the offices, he noticed the old .223 I was carryin', and says, "You know, we do also run an arms and armory repair service here; I could fix that old rifle up for you for say, fifty caps."

I grinned the Dan'l grin at him and says, "Well, now, nice of you to say. *Friendly-like*, even." I unslung the old thing and handed it across. Knight kinda gulped a bit, said, "Let me take a look at it, I might be a little high on that estimate." Ha. I had him pegged, now. I turned up the grin a notch. "Gets a little boring around here in the nights, does it?"

He was sweatin' now. "Uh, yes, and the NCR military actively discourages...friendships among the troops."

"Well, I'm a-gonna go talk to the Ranger, see you in a few." I left that poor boy there practically with his tongue hangin' out bayin' at the Moon. Don't do no harm to let 'em want, and who knows? That's the way the Clan started, after all, with Granny Ellie Mae bein' wooed and won by Grandmama Wednesday, way back in the days before the War. Good thing their husbands were open-minded; well, the ones that survived, that is.

I found Ranger Jackson in a back office, feet on a desk and hat down over his eyes; we got to talkin' and he said he needed somebody to clean out a hive of gi-ants down by an old rest stop I'd passed on the way up to the Outpost, as a first step towards getting the caravans back on the road. Them critters ain't too tough, so I told him I'd take it, just to be neighborly, since I had to go back through there headin' back to Primm anyway.

Took about an hour jawin' with Jackson about things in the area, Legion, vermin, critters, the whole shebang; when I got back to the front desk, the Major handed me a rifle that I wouldn't have recognized if it wasn't for the fact the stock was still pretty much as beat-up as it was before. He'd managed to find a proper barrel band for the forend, replaced the missing buttplate and action screws, and even managed to lap the sear and drop the trigger pull to about three pounds, dang thing was almost a proper rifle, now. I thanked him and asked, "How much?" He allowed as how what he'd done was so minor he wasn't gonna charge me a thing...long as I was gonna be back through sometime soon.

Got outside and saw one of the big NCR military trucks pull up; just about the only working vehicles there are these days, since most folks can't afford to run anything like that. Them fission steam plants are pretty temperamental, too. Two medics in the back started haulin' down a stretcher, and I saw a blue-sleeved arm fall out from under the blanket somebody'd pulled over his face. It was the poor fella I'd left at the Hi-Po station, or I'd eat my hat. I asked the driver, a sergeant wearin' an "MP" armband what had happened. "Escaped convict," says he, "shot trying to escape recapture." Well, now, with the busted ankle he'd had, he wasn't going nowhere, and wasn't doin' harm to no one, and that just annoyed the heck out of me. I walked away, round to where the merchants had set up and were tradin' with anybody who could get to the Outpost. Found an eight-round mag for the rifle, and wonder of wonders, a scope that'd fit it, too. Bought 'em both, went back and borrowed a screwdriver from Knight and mounted 'em both, then headed off back up I-15. I had to zero it in, then I was gonna take out some annoyance on some giant ants.
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April 2015


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