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Chapter Five

Spent the night there in Goodsprings, got up the next mornin' and didn't find a big puddle under the bike, so I cracked the valve to let the preheat build up a head of steam; few minutes later, the turbine kicked in and the power gauge rode up into the green. Only thing left now was to give her a try, so I buzzed off down the road to old I-15. Ural-Davison really built these things to last, before the War; both wheel motors were runnin' fine, turbine had a bit of a whine I didn't like, but I could live with it. Got down to the old highway and opened her up; forty mile an hour on wheels sure beats four mile an hour on foot. Any faster and I'd have lost Eddie. Thought about tyin' him to the back, but shoot, I wasn't really in any hurry now - and I didn't have any rope, nohow.

Got back to the line of old vehicles leadin' up to the Mojave Outpost a lot quicker than I'd left the day before; spent some time diggin' the big bike with the sidecar out of the trailer. (Powerful lot of work *that* was, let me tell you.) As I got it out in the light, I could see it was one of the M70 models, that they'd made to commemorate the anniversary of the ending of WWII; even had the mount for a light machine gun on the sidecar. (Machine gun not included, seperate fees and licensing may apply, void where prohibited, do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.) Looked like it was in fine shape, so I drained down the water tank on the bike I'd got in Goodsprings and put the water in the new bike. No leaks, now for the tricky part. I saved out one bucket of water for this bit.

Y'see, the isotope pack on these things isn't supposed to be user-replaceable. Even in the shop, the mechanic'd be wearing a radsuit and have a lead-lined box to move the pack around in. I pulled the safety on the moderator rods, waited a few seconds, then popped out the isotope pack, and dumped it in the bucket. High-tailed it over to the bigger bike, yanked it out of the bucket and slotted it in the preheater fast as I could, then buttoned her up. Didn't have a full tank, I'd need another twenty gallons or so of water for that, but what I had was just enough to run her safely until I could get more; thank Charlie Davison's engineering heart for recirculating steam-on-demand boilers. Pip-Boy's rad counter showed I'd taken about fifty rads while gettin' it moved, so I was OK for a bit. This one started up even prettier'n the other had, so I rolled on the throttle and hummed back down the road toward Primm smooth as you please.

Got to Primm around noon and walked into the Vikki and Vance Casino; completely deserted, people were off enjoyin' the fact they could *go* home, after all, and not be locked up in that dim hole. Shoot, I could've walked off with the whole place if I were of a mind to, or so I thought. Then, the Protectron that was standin' next to the car in the center of the hall says to me, "Howdy. Partner. Welcome. To. The. Vikki. And. Vance. Casino."

Now, RobCo built all these bots on the same operating system, and now that I knew this one was working, it didn't take long to reprogram him. While I was fiddlin' around in his memory, purging corrupt files, reinstating his law enforcement protocols from backup storage, and reinstating the use-of-deadly-force parameters, I found a fragment of an audio file. Seems Primm Slim (the robot) had been hacked during a casino burglary, and the evidence was still in his memory bank. Hmm. I saw the timestamp on the file was just a few weeks back, and the culprits mentioned "heading back to Westside", wherever that was. I copied off the fragment and finished up. Slim came back to full operation with a "Yeehaw. Law. Enforcement. Protocols. Reinstated. Use. Of. Deadly. Force. Authorization. Received." and stalked off towards the casino doors. I followed him out, walked across the street to Mojave Express and let Mr. Nash know what had happened, gave Mrs Nash the radscorpion poison sacs I'd harvested, and bought a pair of goggles and an old aviator's leather helmet from Mr. Nash's stock. Managed to dredge up enough water to completely fill the tanks on the bike, then I headed off to the Outpost again.

Got back to the Outpost, haggled a bit with one of the junk dealers for a padlock and a length of chain, locked the bike up to one of the fenceposts, then headed on in to the HQ to report back to Ranger Jackson. Let him know the ants were taken care of; he give me a chit to take to the Quartermaster for some supplies by way of payment, including a ration of 5.56 NATO ammo to replace the .223 I'd been using, some food and water rations, and an NCR service rifle to boot. Jackson also let me know he had another job for me, some scouting work, and asked me to talk to the duty observer on the roof, a Ranger Ghost, and I allowed I'd mosey on out that way quick as I could. (They still ticked me off around there, but hey, work is pay, and pay is food, y'know?)

Well, wouldn't you know, the post quartermaster was none other than Major Knight. (Man wears more hats than a drag show cast on Easter.) I sweet-talked him into letting me have one of the newer rifles instead of the worn-out ones they usually reserved for trading. Dang thing didn't have a rail system to mount a scope, though, so I hung onto the old hunting rifle I had as well. Couldn't use 'em both at the same time, but shoot, with Eddie and a sidecar, I had plenty of cargo capacity, I figgered.

Stepped out the front doors of HQ and noticed a bunch of folks admirin' the bike. "Got to name her pretty soon, too," I thought to myself, just before somebody behind me tried the whack-me-on-the-head trick again. Didn't feel like a shovel, this time, I stayed mostly awake, but dropped me to my hands and knees. Felt something cold on the back of my neck, and a feminine voice gritted out between clenched teeth, "Tell me why I shouldn't kill you right now, you son-of-a-bitch."

I put a hand on the back of my head and felt a lump, but no blood. "Ow. Well, who are you and why do you want to kill me?"

"I'm the one you drugged in the bar, you bastard."


"You heard me. Say your last prayer."

"I did no such thing to nobody!"

"You and your buddy Lacey, and a little brown jug. Sound familiar?" Oh, her. I could see we were drawin' a crowd, and a couple of MPs were trotting over with rifles in hand.

"I had two drinks outta that jug myself, I'll mind you to remember. Now take that-there smokepole outta my back."

"You had to have drugged me, you diseased son of a snake! Whiskey *never* affects me that quick!"

"One, you were already more than three sheets to the wind when you took that last drink. Two, that whiskey's a damn sight more potent than you're used to, it's almost 195 proof, I know, my Family makes it. Three," and here I ducked and donkey-kicked her in the gut, and I felt the shot and blast just graze the back of my neck and head. "I told you to get that shotgun outta my back!" I roared. I got up and she was busy showin' ever'body her meals for about the last week all over the ground. I picked up her little 20 gauge and unloaded it, held it open over my arm while she quit heavin'. One of the MPs had gone and got Major Knight, and he looked *mad*.

"Mister Addams, are you all right?" I allowed how I was. "Would you care to prefer charges against Miss Cassidy?"

"What? No, no, just a misunderstanding and no real harm done. Shoot, I needed a haircut anyways." The joke fell flat.

"Miss Cassidy, this is the last straw. You have disrupted this base with your angry drunkenness for the absolute final time. I am revoking Cassidy Caravans' trading license and ordering you off this post immediately. Be thankful Mister Addams doesn't want you charged, or you'd be in the brig awaiting trial...and we have no provisions for holding prisoners any more, so I think you can guess the consequences of a guilty verdict on attempted murder." She went whiter than a salt flat at noon, let me tell you, and I didn't feel none too good myself, rememberin' that Powder Ganger. She stood up, glared at everybody in general, grabbed her shotgun out of my hands and started off East.

Before she got more than a couple of steps, I tapped her on the shoulder, and held out her shells, one discharged, one useable. "Y'all might want these," I said, blandly. She glared at me again, grabbed the shells, stuffed 'em in the breech and snapped the little double-barrel closed, then continued stalking out of the post to the East. I watched her back as she headed off down the hill into the Mojave.

The crowd headed back to what they were doin' and I went back into the inner compound. Found a makeshift gangplank goin' up to the roof and headed up it, at the top a white-haired woman in Desert Ranger's gear with a pair of big binocs was watchin' a smoke plume on the horizon. I saw the sniper rifle leanin' next to her and the scoped .44 Magnum on her hip, and cleared my throat to let her know I was there. "You'd be Ranger Ghost, I'm thinkin'?" says I.

"That would be me. You're Addams."

"Yep. Jackson said you had a job for me?"

"If you're up for another little trip." She explained that the plume on the horizon was the town of Nipton, something bad had happened there apparently, and they couldn't let anybody officially check it out, 'cause of (stupid, in her opinion) new orders from Upstairs. Seems the brass thought they needed to huddle close in case of, well just what, no one knew, but most probably attacks from a bunch of raiders and slavers from across the Colorado River in Arizona callin' themselves Caesar's Legion. "There shouldn't be any way they should be this far west of the Colorado through our patrols...but everybody's afraid they are, anyway."

Well, I said I'd do it, headed back down to pick up some supplies from Lacey and the other traders, and asked Lacey to help me locate Miss Cassidy's pack. Stuffed it all under the seat in the sidecar, or in my pack on the rack, and headed off down the road. Sure enough, down at the bottom of the hill under the Outpost, I found Miss Cassidy sittin' at a campfire at the back of one of the old semi-trucks. I pulled up next to her, pulled her pack outta the sidecar and tossed it down next to her, and I says to her, "I got chicory, two bottles of beer, and gecko steaks, mind if I share your fire?" She just looked at me goggle-eyed and didn't start shootin', so I figgerd I'd take that as a "yes" and shut off the bike.
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April 2015


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