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When Cass 'n' Eddie an' I got back to Novac that night, shoo-eee! Ain't seen a party the like since Grammy Wills finally married her boyfriend and girlfriend, and that's been a *powerful* long time ago. Chris had got to town and told folks what was goin' on, and he'd been welcomed with open arms. Manny told me that the feller I'd been trackin' had been planning on settlin' up with the Khans at Boulder City, just up I-95 a ways, so we settled in to help the townfolk celebrate a bit; we'd head out in the mornin'. Read more... )
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Chapter Eleven

Welp, Harland and I headed back up to the upstairs to report the Nightkin were gone. Jason was purty happy to hear it, and we-all, 'ceptin' Mr. Gargles-gravel, who had somethin' to do up in the launch control center, headed back down to the basements to finish up prep for the launch. We headed into an area that the Nightkin didn't seem to have found; leastways ever'thing was still on the shelves and nothin' seemed to have been torn apart by servin'-plate-sized hands down here. We got to an operations center under the launch dome, all the others headed into the launch facility, but Jason stayed behind. "We are so close to the start of the Great Journey," says he, "but I would ask you for one further favor, Wanderer. Would you work with Chris to find the last few components we need to complete the repairs on the rockets?" Read more... )
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Chapter Ten

Well, we-all got inside the lobby of the place, and my hackles rose when I heard the hisses and snarls of ferals all th'Hell over in there. Just then, a security camera's little red light drew my eye by poppin' on and buzzing around to cover us. Security doors swung closed with a *bang* over four of the room's five exits, including the way we come in. An intercom mounted on the wall crackled to life and a voice like a three-pack-a-day ten-decade cigarette habit come out of it. "Hey, you! Over here, quick!"Read more... )
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Chapter Eight

Woke up the next morning feelin' better than I had in weeks. Somethin' about sleepin' in a bed instead of a bedroll does a body a mort o' good, y'know? (Havin' a bathtub available don't hurt none, either, even without hot water.) Cass looked at me kinda funny while I was gettin' my shirt back on, after she got done with her morning ablutions. "Th' Hell are you wearing around your neck?" says she.

I touched the little leather pouch on a rawhide thong. "Called a gris-gris bag. My Grandmama made it for me. Ain't taken it off in years. Somethin' of a good luck charm." Little bit more than that, but I didn't feel like talkin' 'bout it just then - or ever. Looked out the window at the bright day outside, grabbed up my pack, said "Let's get movin'," just to forestall more questions. No such luck. Read more... )
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Chapter Seven

Well, reportin' back to the Outpost was kinda an anticlimax; Ranger Ghost was pretty upset to have her worst fears confirmed, but really, in the end there was nothin' anyone could do but send out a couple'o guys with shovels and a chaplain. Read more... )
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Chapter Six

Well, Ms. Cassidy went to rummagin' through her pack, while I got the gecko steaks sizzlin' on a rock next to the fire. Just started to dig out the ingredients to make chicory coffee and she come up with a whiskey bottle in hand. Shoot, you'd think she'd just seen the Grail, the way her face lit up. Seen that look before on folk whose life revolves around their next drink, and who they'll have to knife to get it. She pulled the cork with her teeth, and spit it on the ground, and I decided to take matters into my own hands. "Well, now, that's *perfect*, says I, makin' a long arm and pluckin' the bottle out of her hands. "This'll do a treat." And I dumped about half of the fifth over the steaks. It flashed up, and I handed the half that was left back over to her. Read more... )
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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. Read more... )
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Chapter Four

Got a mile or so outside the Outpost before I decided to stop for a bit of a think. The way they treated that poor fella from the Hi-Po station still got up my nose. I knowed for a fact he was unarmed and couldn't have walked on that ankle, let alone fought. Shootin' him "evading arrest", even after a prison break, just ticked me off somethin' fierce. Read more... )
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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. Read more... )
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Chapter Two
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Well, I set off back down I-15; I'd come through at night, quiet-like but fast, the first time, so I didn't do any real sightseein' along the way north. I was settin' off in early morning this time, so I had to be a bit more circumspect headin' back south. Kept mostly to the foothills paralleling the old highway, tryin' to keep outta the notice of the pests and vermin. Bagged a couple more geckoes along the way, found an old travel trailer somebody'd converted to a pirate radio station of all things, then abandoned. I stopped there for lunch, rummaged around a bit and found a few useable radio parts, and somebody's copy of "The Wasteland Survival Guide," printed in the D.C. ruins back in '77, Lord only knows how it got this far West. Some good tips in it on first glance, so I shoved it in my pack for later. From here I could see a wide spot in the road called Primm that I'd bypassed coming North, figgered I'd stop there, see if I could find a spot to throw down a bedroll for the night. The office of Mojave Express here had originally issued the request for a courier for the package I was supposed to be carryin', so I had a notion they'd maybe be able to tell me another route up to New Vegas.

Turns out, that was sorta a bad idea. See, west side of the highway was occupied by a New California Republic Army platoon, who luckily were the ones I run into first; t'other side, the town of Primm proper, was overrun with the same kind of vermin I'd run into in Goodsprings. Seems the NCR had had a prison break at their main jailhouse here, and the prisoners, who called themselves "Powder Gangers" these days, were kinda makin' a nuisance of themselves all up and down I-15. This batch was pretty well contained, on account of the platoon here had pretty well mined all the approaches to the town, sneaky-like, but they didn't have the firepower to go in and clean the town out, and they thought the Gangers were holdin' the townfolk hostage anyway. Lovely.

The butterbar eltee in charge of the platoon was as green as a bristlecone pine, but he did have good intel; most of the activity in town was concentrated at the big casino/hotel, the Bison Steve. I spent a bit of time at the observation post they'd set up, and if'n I'd had my old .308 still, I could've taken care of most of the problem right then and there. This .223 just wasn't up to the job, trajectory like a rainbow and no real punch at the end of it, and no dang scope.

Couple hours later, after full dark, I was sneakin' into town. Checked the office first, hopin' I could find some useful info there; found a robot with a bullet hole in its side instead, one of those hoverin' models you used to see a lot before the NCR shut down the remnants of the Enclave. Looked it over, and from what I saw, it might be right useful, so I fiddled with it's innards a bit, jiggered it's IFF data to recognize me, and started it back up. Cargo space, big electrolaser unit on it, pretty good sensors; boot-up sequence said its designation was Eyebot, Duraframe Prototype E. I shortened that to "Eddie" right quick. Darned if Eddie warn't the cheerfullest little bot I'd ever run into by a long shot, either. Couldn't talk 'cept in RobCo Interlink, but I understood that well enough, and he could transmit messages and sensor data direct to my Pip-Boy anyhow.

Faded back out into town, me and Eddie cleared out a few vermin on the old roller coaster around the Bison Steve, and snuck in through the old coaster entrance, on the second floor. (That zap gun of Eddie's is something else. Laser beam ionizes the atmosphere between him and the target, then a big capacitor bank discharges down the ionized air column. ZAP! One guy just kinda, well, *dissolved* into a pile of fluffy white ash. I resolved right then and there never to make Eddie mad at *me*.) Bunch more vermin to clean outta the old hotel, managed to get the noisy old elevator running, then high-tailed it down the stairs. Sure 'nough, bunch of 'em on the first floor clustered around the elevator doors, when the doors opened...weeell, *ding*, the six sticks of dynamite I'd collected from the other vermin went off. End of problem.

Just as an aside, I can totally understand havin' convicts run a sledge or an idiot stick, gotta justify feedin' 'em somehow, but what in Tarnation possessed the NCR to teach these goons to do their own demo? Whatever bean-countin' moron thought givin' convicts dynamite was a good idea needs to be "dancin' with Jack Ketch", as my great-great-grandaddy Cap'n Jack Addams would've said. Want to motivate 'em to work, make 'em grow their own food instead, I says. "You don't work, you don't eat," is a powerful motivator, I think anyway.

Anywho, found a guy name of Deputy Beagle tied up in the hotel kitchen; once't I got him outside, he mentioned that he'd seen Daisy Suit and his boys come through just before the Gangers caught him skulkin' around, and they'd let slip they were all headin' for Novac, 'bout halfway between Nipton and Vegas on 95. Also found out the law-abidin' population of Primm was holed up in the *other* casino in town, little joint called the Vikki and Vance. Beagle dragged me over there, introduced me to the town mayor, Johnson Nash, who turned out to be the local Mojave Express stationkeeper as well. Found out a lot about that little package I was s'posed to deliver; one of six similar ones, turns out t'other five made it just fine. I'm beginnin' to have a bad feeling about this delivery. Mine was supposed to be a solid-platinum poker chip, from the Lucky 38 Casino; t'others were the same sort'a thing, mink fuzzy dice, silver-inlaid chess knight carved outta ebony; you know, schlock. Kitsch. Tchotchkes. Touristy stuff, but *really expensive* touristy stuff. Turns out *somebody* in New Vegas collected this kind of stuff; paid best for souvenir snowglobes, but any kind of touristy trash in good shape was good for at least a few caps from the Securitrons guarding the gates at the Strip.

Mr. Nash allowed as how if I completed the delivery, the pay was still good for it, told me how to get around to Vegas up Highway 95, and swore me in as an official Mojave Express courier to be sure I'd get paid when and if I recovered the package. Beagle, the gutless so-and-so, refused to take over as Sheriff for Primm, and Mr. Nash asked me to take a letter to the NCR detachment at the Mojave Outpost at the end of I-15 to see if they could take over law enforcement for the town, on account of they didn't have anyone able-bodied to do it there. (Nash said Beagle was disqualified by a big yella streak up and down his spine, even if he'd've wanted the job.) I couldn't rightly refuse, since he was going to pay me for the trip, and right then my belly was wonderin' when I was gonna put somethin' in it. Turns out Mrs. Nash ran the diner there in the casino, had a radscorpion pie that was almost as spicy as Grandmama's, first decent meal I'd had since leavin' Sunnydale. I'd leave for the Outpost in the mornin'.
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Okay, I can't seem to get this out of my head any other way, so...

*****

The whole durn thing started 'cause I was doing one last favor for a friend.

'Course, walkin' into the Mojave was one king Hell of a favor, but he'd been a good friend to the clan, so good that Ma and Pa named me after him; he even taught me to shoot straight, when I was about six. Great guy, even considerin' he was an old (as in pre-War) ghoul, kinda crochety, even by my clan's standards. So when I turned up at his funeral, his "daughter" caught me afterwards, said he'd been contracted by Mojave Express for a run to New Vegas, and I was the only person she could think of to make the run for him; the family could really use the money, she said. Now, I'm no sucker, but a girl cryin' at me will get me to do a lot of things, so I agreed. The Granny and Grandmama always said I had itchy feet, and they was pretty well right. I reckon I've seen a lot more of the West than most these days, all of it on my own two feet. 'Course, at six-seven and kinda lanky, those feet eat up a mite more road than most people's when I get 'em movin', too.

So there I was, headin' up old I-15 goin' past Goodsprings, when all of a sudden, somebody pops out from behind a rock and shines a flash in my eyes, and before I could say "boo", somebody else whacks me on the back of the head, with a shovel, I think, and I drop like a poleaxed steer. I wake up tied up, with my head poundin', to see this feller in a black-and-white checked daisy suit opening the package I'm supposed to be deliverin'; pulls out a big, shiny silvery poker chip, grins real big, flips it in the air, catches it, and slips it in his breast pocket. One of his partners notices I'm awake, and nudges the boss; he turns around, and starts a-rantin' at me about how this was my "last delivery", and how the "game was rigged from the start", then he up and *shoots me in the head*. Which made me *mad*, I can tell you.

And as I slid back into unconsciousness, all I could think was "Now we'll find out if Grandmama was right, and my brain *isn't* a vital organ..."

*****

Turns out she was right.

Woke up on a bed, starin' at an old, cracked plaster ceiling, head poundin' to beat the band, but still alive. Somebody says "Good. You're awake." And that's how I met old Doc Mitchell, the Goodsprings town doc. He'd fixed me up and nursed me back to health, after the daisy and his two goons had left me for dead. Turns out I'd been out for most of a week, had a big ol' scar across my forehead where a nine-mil slug had slid across my skull under the scalp, and most everything I'd been carryin' or wearin' was gone.

Doc kept me a day or so, running tests to see if I still had all my faculties, and when he was satisfied all my marbles were still in the bag, he give me some old clothes, and this old 9mm grease gun he'd had around which just needed a good cleaning and a trigger spring I made out of an old bobby pin to put back in serviceable condition. He also give me somethin' I'd always wanted, but never could get my hands on; a Pip-Boy 3000 Personal Information Processor! Doc said he didn't have no use for it any more,and I might. Spent a while with him showin' me all the features, including the neat little biofeedback trick for removin' it; seems you have to be awake enough to *want* it to come off, or else it just won't. Anybody tries to crack the case to get it off you, well, RobCo marked them "No user-serviceable parts inside" for a reason; they tend to blow up real good unless opened right, and there weren't no one around two hundred years after the War (outside the occasional Vault technician or doctor, who might *need* to remove one), who knew the trick. Atomic batteries ain't something to fool around with, kids.

Well, Doc allowed how I was OK to go wander around the desert, but as for headin' back to Cali, I'd need to rustle up some caps for grub and ammo. Plus, there was the little matter of the feller in the daisy suit. I had a mite to discuss with him, you know, polite-like. Before I declared a blood-feud on his clan.

Nobody gets away with shootin' a Clampett-Addams, after all. "Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc": We gladly feast on those who would subdue us. Not just purty words.

****

Doc pointed me at somebody by the unlikely name of Sunny Smiles; said I could probably find some work with her. He was right, she wanted some help clearin' out geckoes from the town well, and them's good eatin', so I allowed as how I'd help. Got a bunch of 'em by the end of the day, after I showed her I knew which end of a rifle was which; saved one of the townfolk, too, who'd been at the wrong place at the wrong time and got herself chewed on a mite. Later, at the saloon, while I was asking around about Daisy Suit, found out there were some tough customers tryin' to rough up the town for some reason, and that just rubbed me the wrong way, so's I helped the townfolk out a bit. Vermin is vermin, after all, even if they walk on two legs, and I owed the townfolk some for helping me out of a tough spot. Rifle Sunny'd give me works just as well on men as geckos.

Nobody seemed to know who Daisy Suit was, but the local bartender said she thought she'd heard one of the guys he was with (called "Great Khans", whatever that meant) say something about heading to Boulder City, because of some kind of trouble north on I-15 that had blocked the road. Great. Lovely. About twenty miles of backtracking, then, and them with a week's head start. No time like the present. I hitched up my ill-fitting drawers and headed back down the Long 15.
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