Chapter 22: House Meeting.
Finding a place to sleep in Freeside was easy.
Finding a safe place to sleep was something else entirely. Every single abandoned building had at least one angry looking drunk or junkie who'd throw empty bottles at you as soon as he spotted you. And so with that, I spent a good hour or two looking for a place to get some shut eye.
It sure was hard to navigate Freeside without a guide.
Worst part was that feeling of being watched as you walk around in the dark. I got that chill up my spine every five minutes or so, but I always turned around to find no one there. Must be the damn alcohol, getting to my head.
After a couple of hours of stumbling around Freeside, I passed by the main street again, down from the King's school, where the same hooker from when I first came here was advertising some place called The Atomic Wrangler. She must have seen my tired eyes, because with a seductive look, she turned to me and shouted "Come down to the Wrangler for the softest of beds, and the warmest of companies."
I gave her a glance, and she replied with a wink. Maybe I'd have smiled, if this night was any other night. Right now, I was tired, hangover and depressed. I needed a bed, nothing more.
The Wrangler was a side building just down the street from the woman, easily seen by the tall neon sign with the name and the drawing of a cowboy riding an atom like an angry Brahmin, spinning his hat in the air. The place didn't look any fancier than any of the other dilapidated structure around it, but at least I offered safe shelter.
Once inside, I quickly but subtly eyed the place. To the left of the entrance was a bar counter, where two bored looking bartenders in suits, a man and a woman; rested their heads on their arms, hoping to attend someone before they ended up falling asleep. To the left, there was a wide empty stage, which reminded me of the King's show, making me even more depressed.
How did it all go to shit so fast?
There were a bunch of tables spread around, all the way towards a back room. There were a few slot machines along a wall near the bar, and the room I mentioned held a few classic casino games, most of them empty, but a few costumers were still awake, playing or drinking their caps away. Lastly, two stair cases led to a second store balcony, with rooms along them.
I approached the bored bar woman, and she took a more formal pose once she noticed me, but her eyes still looked as dead as mine… not as bad Daniel's though.
God, just remembering him made my hearth ache. I didn't own him anything, but what I did, what I said… it wasn't fair. Nor was leaving them without a word, but my coward ass that whole Pacer fiasco was a perfect distraction to leave unnoticed.
"The damage is already done." I thought to my myself. "Time to move on." I tried to convince myself. It wasn't as easy as I wished it to be, but I knew it was just a question of time. All I had to do was go on with my life, leave it all behind, like I've been doing for all these year.
"Hello? You there?" the woman asked. She turned to the man and shrugged. "I think he's high or something."
"No…" I muttered, snapping out of my transe. "Sorry… I just spaced out. I'm looking for a room."
"Ten caps a night. Money up front." She simply said.
I slid the money to her, and before I turned around, she pulled a shot cup and a bottle of Tequila. "You look like you need a drink."
She was both right and wrong. I needed that drink, drown my mind in as much alcohol as I could, or else my thoughts would bother me the whole night. At least getting drunk would help me fall asleep.
Thing is, my conscience knew I already had plenty to drink during the party. Don't think my liver would be too happy about having to work even more than it already did. But it was no use fighting my worst impulses, not when I'm feeling like shit.
I sat on the stool and awaited my drink.
"Money up front." She repeated, pulling the bottle back.
I left out a low "Ugh" and threw her the extra caps. She took them with the same emotionless expression before serving me.
First shot poured, first shot down.
Second shot poured, second shot down.
Third shot poured, Third shot down.
Fourth shot poured, fifth shot down… wait... that's not right... my head's spinning already.
Fifth shot poured, fifth shot down… on the floor… followed by me.
Despite being extremely drunk and having just crashed down on the floor, I was more of less capable of making out the following events.
"Oh well, I guess that's enough for him." I heard the male bartender sigh. A few seconds later, two hookers and a waiter where carrying me up stairs, to what I hoped was my room. Finally, I was thrown on a bed and left alone, but not before someone brought a bucket and dropped it beside me.
"Try to puke in there, will you?" The female bartender complained and left.
I didn't need the bucket, since I feel asleep as soon as I closed my eyes.
At one point during the night, flashes of Pacers bloody face kept popping up in my mind, followed by images of the weird dream I had back in Goodsprings. I now knew what that dream meant, it was a fragment of the night I was shot. The mannequins were Benny and the Khans, mimicking what had happened that day. At least I didn't get interrogated by my own mannequin this time, or maybe I did, just don't remember it happen. My dreams are always the fuzziest when I'm drunk. Maybe that's what saved me from waking up in the middle of the night, sweating cold like before. I was not looking forward to another nightmare.
If my hangover was bad yesterday, it was insufferable now. I woke up with my head spinning, my vision blurry, and the lights too strong. Strangely enough, I felt the same as I did when I woke up in Doc Mitchells bed. I do remember comparing that moment to being hungover, so I guess surviving a headshot and getting shitfaced are two not too different events. Both are bad for your health and feel like coming back from the dead, although one is closer to the truth than the other.
Getting up was probably one of the hardest things I'd do all day, but I eventually overcame the feeling of dread and the weakens that plagued my mind and body. I made my way down the stairs, aiming to leave as soon as I could, but was stopped when the female bartender called me.
"Hey you, we got something here for you." I looked at her and saw her hold a small blue card, one I've never seen before.
Curiosity got the better of me and I made my way to her, taking the thing in my hands. "What's this?"
She looked at me strangely, like I just made her the dumbest question she ever heard. "It's Strip pass. Not the kind of thing to brandish out in the open unless you're looking for trouble." She answered, giving a suspicions look around the room.
I took her advice and hid the card away in my duster. "Who gave this to you?"
"Some brunette in flannel shirt. She came shortly after you passed out and told us to give it to you when you woke up."
Yoka. How the hell did she know I was here? I guess it didn't matter much, since I wasn't looking forward to returning to The King's School of Impersonation. Pacer might have gotten what was coming to him, but The King didn't.
"I see… thanks." I was just about to leave, when a thought came to me, and I called the woman again. "Hey… no offense to you, but if these passes are so valuable, why didn't you just keep mine? I would have left without even knowing you had them."
Her eyes grew and she looked somewhat worried. "Are you kiddin' me? If you looked at that brunette in her eyes, you'd know exactly why."
"Please, step away the gates, or you will be dealt with lethal force!" shouted multiple Securitrons as some random squatter rushed The Strip's gate, ignoring the robots and their warnings. The poor guy didn't stand a chance. When he was just few feet from the gate, the Securitrons aimed their claws at him, and you could see the barrel of a gun pop out of each hand. In just about a second , the intruder had become a pile of blood and gore for everyone to see.
"This pass better work." I whispered to no one in particular. I had in hidden in my vest, ready to pull it out whenever needed. I'm not sure why I was so tense, maybe it was because I didn't put a lot of faith in this pass. And the dozens of heavily armed robots didn't help. I gave my necklace a little squeeze, just for good luck.
I walked closer to the blockade, and a Securitron moved forward to address me. "Halt!" he shouted with his robotic voice. A blue beam was projected from his visor, scanning me from head to feet. "Entrance permit detected." He rolled to the side and raises his arm towards the gate. "Mr. House welcomes you to The Strip. Please, have a good time, and do not cause any trouble."
Well, that's one cold, warm welcome. The gates slowly opened for me, but they were so slow I just slipped in as soon as enough space was made available.
Once inside, I almost fell over my own footing, because I was too busy gawking at the massive agglomeration of lights, people and gigantic buildings around me.
A long and wide street, with more lanes than I have ever seen reached down to the horizon, holding a large crowd of people like I haven't seen in years. Both sides of the road housed rows of enormous buildings, each covered in enough lights and decorations to blind you. Huge neon signs stood tall over me and all the way down this famous street known as The Strip, displaying the names of each distinctive establishment: "The Phoenix", "Treasure Island", "Circus del Luna", "Cleopatra's Oasis" were just a few names amongst many others. And of course, standing above everything and everyone was The Lucky 38, located on the left side of The Strip.
There are casinos all around California, mainly in New Reno, they paled in comparison to the glamor and marvel that was The Strip. These buildings looked mostly intact, their only sign of damage and decay being the aged wall paint and a few broken windows, but other than that, this is what I imagine the Old-World looked like. It was truly breathtaking, one hell of a sight to see. If I wasn't here for "business", I'd probably just run into the nearest casino to see what it looked like on the inside, and do that to all of them until the end of the day. It was like a buffet of themes, styles and architecture, one that made me feel like a little kid in a toy store. I just wanted to check everything out.
"Ok, calm down Court, you're not here for tourism. Let's find The Tops and do what I came here to do." Funny how I had to convince myself not to go off and gamble my life away. It's like this place was trying to dig into my brain and have me waste all my money on games that are obviously rigged.
"The game was rigged from the start." I whispered to the air. That's what Benny told me in my dream, but I have a feeling didn't hear it just then. I could easily picture myself kneeling over my own grave, looking up to that checkered coat and hearing him utter those words before pressing the trigger.
You haven't won just yet Benny, I'll show you what cards I have up my sleeve.
I made my way down the long street, careful to trip or bump over the hundreds of tourists. I was getting that feeling of being watched again, but I was in a crowded street after all. My biggest worry wasn't that though. I kept avoiding people as I went along, because who knows how many pickpockets can be found around this place. Probably too many to count. You feel someone bump on to you and think it was an accident, but next thing you know, your caps are gone. Learned all that the hard way.
As you might expect, I passed by many casinos, taking glances at them as I went along. The most interesting one was The Gomorrah, a tall grey tower with red and yellow neon all over it. In the center, the name was glowing and written in an Arabic style, and by its side were two lit up frames making the shape of curvy woman in very inviting poses. Around the entrance, dozens of "courtesans" danced and stretched themselves to attract attention of horny tourists. A working tactic, as you could see that many of them were into it, dancing and playing along with the "workers". They weren't allowed to get too close though, as one of the bodyguards wearing white suits and fedoras, wielding a Tommy Gun would warn them not to "touch the merchandise."
Interesting place, but I'm sure it wasn't the friendliest one. The market of sexual pleasure was as naughty as the hookers themselves. Actually, I take that back, it's a thousand times worse. I've seen the situation pimps and patrons put their man and woman through. Most of the times, they're barely treated like humans, no wonder this type of stuff was illegal before the war. Too bad we're busy trying to survive to give a crap about morals.
Shaking The Gomorrah out of my mind, I moved on. I had walked about half The Strip and was passing by the Lucky 38, when amongst the noise of music and talking, I heard a voice that made my heart freeze… again.
I began to overhear something roll across the gravel and concrete of the floor, followed by mechanical clicks and scratches. "Oh no, please don't tell me-"
Victor, the tall cowboy Securitron rolled past the crowd and into my view. With his left claw waving in the air, he came to greet me with his enthusiastic voice and accent. "So nice to see ya! Seems like you finally made it to Vegas after all."
"Victor…" I spat out that name like it had a bad taste, particularly of steel and rubber. "Hope you're not here to stop me from getting to Benny." My hands were ready to reach for That Gun, who'd do more piercing damage to metal than my Peacemaker.
"Now why would I do that, pardner?" Victor scratched the side of his screen, as if he was scratching his head. "Although I must ask you do delay your vingative "pistoleiro" action and come with me for a minute."
"Now why would I do that, pardner?" I told him, immitating his previous question. There was no way in hell that I would follow that robot without good reason.
"Because the boss man wants to see ya." He simply said, as if I were supposed to know who that was. I looked gave him a deadly stare, maybe he'd be more clear about what he meant, but he just stood there, softly bobbing up and down.
"You're gonna have to more clear about who the "boss man" is, pal." I began to notice how I spoke like a cowboy every time I talked to Victor. Goes to show how he was getting to my head.
The bot hugged his chest and laughed. "Well now silly, the boss man was the one who got me to hire you to deliver that old Platinum Chip they gave ya."
My blood froze even colder, making my fists clench. I called back to my conversation with Johnson Nash, the manager of The Mojave Express back in Primm. He told me a cowboy robot had hired multiple Couriers for the job. "So you did hire me after all."
"That's right pardner, and I was the one who'd see you go through with it. I'd also be pickin' up the package here, if you hadn't lost it."
I frowned at him and barked a reply. "I didn't lose it, it got stolen. And you're fully aware of that."
"Of course," he remained enthusiastic. "and that's why the boss man wants to see you. He wants to help you take it back from fancy-pants." Well now, this is interesting. A possible opportunity has just appeared before me, and as much as I wanted to tell Victor to jump into a recycling bin and turn himself into something more useful, like a toaster, he might just lead me to the answers I've been looking for.
But that's not me saying that I was cool with all these secrets. If whoever controls Victor is willing to help me get Benny, great. But this was also a chance to get the answers I'm sure I deserve by now. And I'm sure I'll get them, one way or another.
"Alright, you win." I told him, throwing my arms up in surrender. "Take me to your boss."
"Mighty fine then! Just follow me." Victor shouted, turning on his back and rolling across The Strip. I had to keep a quick pace so he wouldn't leave me to the dust, and I didn't realize where he was leading us until we got there.
"Wait a second," I called out. "This - this is the Lucky 38!" We were right bellow the tall tower that was the infamous casino. It has a biconcave shape, being as wide as the biggest casinos on the bottom, getting slimmer as it went up before growing larger again. The top was shaped like a casino Roulette, with circular windows on the side and a large spike pointing towards the sky.
"That's right pardner, the boss's biggest architectural achievement. She's one beautiful thing, ain't she?" The robot asked with pride in his tone. Victor stopped before the entrance to the establishment, which was up a low stair case which was painted with the red and black of a Roulette, shimmering with lights that pointed towards the doors.
"Victor…" I called out to him as a blue beam of light, like the one the Securitron at The Strip's entrance used on the passes was shot from a small hole on the ceiling and scanned the robot. "Your boss is not..."
"Mr. House ?" the Securitron completed my question as the doors opened up. I glanced behind my back and noticed we had taken the attention of a few of the tourists. "Why of course it's him. And you should be honored, you're the first fella to walk into his house after more than two hundred years!"
Never thought I'd feel surprised and disappointed at the same time. The interior of The Luck 38 was incredibly big, filled with all kinds of machines and tables for all the gambling games one can play. I'm sure it was bigger than any of the other casinos, even though I haven't been inside them yet. Sadly, while everything looked as good as new, the entire place was dusty and abandoned. The lobby was dark, empty and silent, with the only movement coming from Victor and the two Securitrons keeping guard of an elevator that stood in the middle of the room. They did say no one has been in here for centuries, a shame really, this just seems like a waste of space and resources.
"He's right up the tower, on the top floor." Victor explained to me, pressing the call button. "He's mighty eager to meet you, so please be kind to the man."
I wasn't planning on being all that nice, this Mr. House did keep me in the dark about the delivery job he set me on, which was clearly a lot more dangerous than he made it seem like. But then again, I didn't want to piss off the guy who controls the very armed and very dangerous robots.
But thinking of about the man begs the question: Who is Mr. House? If the stories about him are true, he should be centuries old. Not that immortality is far from reality, just find the nearest ghoul and ask them how old they are, but if House was in Vegas when the bombs dropped, he shouldn't have been exposed radiation, since the bombs missed this city.
I wish I had some sort of theory, but I honestly don't. Maybe Samantha knows something I-
God damn it. I should have apologized, even though I don't deserve forgiveness. I just hope she doesn't take what I said to heart. Ironically enough, I miss the way she was so optimistic and cheerful, even if it came off as a little childish. At least she was able to stay positive most of the time something I sure am jealous of.
It's for the best they're gone, Court. You already get yourself into enough trouble, no need to drag people into it. Just think about it, if this whole House thing is a hoax and I'm about to walk into my death, at least they won't be here to suffer for my mistakes.
Well, I won't stand here grieving for any longer. The elevator arrived and the metal doors opened up. I stepped into the box while keeping my eyes on Victor and the other Securitrons. Once inside, I pressed the top button, which was bellow a tag that read "Penthouse."
Before the doors closed, Victor tilted his head so I could see him through the crack. "Have nice talk, and do tell Mr. House his old pal Victor said hi, will ya?"
If somebody asked me what I expected to find once the elevator's doors opened up, I wouldn't have an answer. I wished I could expect something, but honestly, I had no idea of what I was walking into.
"Hey, God?" I asked, looking up at the ceiling. "I know I haven't been a good boy lately, but I hope this ain't your final judgement on me." I'm sure I sounded weak to any almighty God up in the sky, begging to be spared, but it doesn't hurt to have a little faith in mercy, does it?
No time to dwell on what was reserved for me any longer, since the elevator began slowing down. Nervous didn't even to begin to describe how I was right now.
As soon as the elevator dinged, my right hand instinctively moved over my revolver. If this was an ambush, I'd be ready for it. The doors began to open, letting some sunlight pour through. For I second, it seemed like I had been brought to the roof of the tower, but once I looked out and saw a ceiling, I quickly realized that the room I was in just had some really big windows, like, as big as the walls themselves. I seemed to be on top of a balcony, overlooking a very fancy and very clean living room, with all kinds of Old-World furniture. I walked down a couple of stairs and approached a circle of sofas in the middle of the room.
You probably don't know what it's like to see a place without dust, rust and decay when you live in a world like mine. Getting shot in the head and survive? Fine, I'm probably not the first. A city burned to the ground by a bunch of Roman cosplayers? The NCR sees that everyday. Religious ghouls that want to live in space? I know some junkies who would believe me.
But this of level of clean is unbelievable, not to say incredible. Not even some of the active Vaults you find around the wasteland can keep things this tidy and shinny. The coffee table was even polished for God's sake, I could see my own reflection on it! I was so focused on that damn table I didn't hear the sound of a rubber tire rolling into the room.
"Oh my!" A female and robotic voice exclaimed behind me, making me jump. "Seems like Mr. House's guest has arrived! It took you long enough, sweetheart."
Standing between me and a double doorway was another Securitron, except this one not only sounded different, but the screen displayed the cartoon drawing of woman with a seductive look.
"Uh… hi?" I babbled to the robot. What is it with these Securitrons and their caricature personalities?
The robot laughed (which sounded more like static than actual laughter) as her screen flickered. "Now what's with the dumb look on that face? Never seen a lady like me before?"
Now how was I supposed to answer that? She spoke in a suave and sexy tone, like some casino "courtesan" that really wanted to take some caps off you . "Well, can't say I have, miss."
"Just call me Jane, sweetie." The robot inquired as she rolled closer to me. "We haven't had new visitors in a really long time. Mr. House has been getting a little bored recently, and there hasn't been much me and the girls could do to cheer him up. Hopefully you can put a smile on his face."
"You and the girls?" I asked, a little baffled. " Are the other girls..."
"Securitrons like me?" she finished the sentence. "Why, of course! How else would we have kept him company over these two hundred and four years if we had fleshy bodies like yours?"
"I see…" This was too much for me. Two hundred and four years was exactly how long has passed since the bombs dropped. She is actually insinuating the Mr. House is older that that. "So, when do I get to meet Mr. House?"
"I'm glad you asked!" she exclaimed. "Just follow me!" she turned around and rolled through the door she came in through. I walked just behind her, and we passed a large and also very clean kitchen, before walking through another set of double doors (seems like every room has them, probably because the robots would have had a hard time walking through single doors). Throughout the way, Jane told me stories of how she and her girls kept House busy and entertained. Most involved weird and complex games, until he got bored of that and moved on to something Jane calls "digital stimulation". Not sure what that meant, but I hope it isn't what I think it is.
Finally, we reached some sort living room, except there was no furniture. The only things inside the room were a few potted plants, a couple of Securitrons standing guard all over the place, and a humongous computer terminal with an even bigger screen. I swear it was so big it almost touched the ceiling, and let me remind you that it was a very high ceiling.
"Where are we?" I asked the robot, who had left me in the middle of the room and rolled to the side of the computer.
"We're in Mr. House's room, you silly. Here, let me call him for you." Jane told me as she pressed a button on terminal. "Honey-boo, that Courier you wanted to see has finally arrived. Ain't that good news?"
The room was left in silence for a second or two, before a loud voice boomed through the room. "Ah yes, took him long enough." This time it was a men's voice, also robotic, but not as much as Jane or Victor. I assumed he was somewhere else in the building, and was speaking to us through an intercom. I noticed another elevator door behind me, opposite to the computer. I kept staring at it, expecting him to come out of it any time soon.
Suddenly, I heard a short sound of static coming from the computer, and turned back to it. The screen had turned on and an image was slowly forming on the screen. In just a few seconds, the black and white (along with the green tint from the computer screen) picture of a man's face overlooked the room. He was a middle aged, with a vintage side combed hair and a short mustache above his lip. He looked like your average Old World celebrity, the kind you see in posters for movies or in magazines. If the picture showed his body, I guarantee you he'd be wearing a black suit.
"Hello Mister Tempest," He sounded exactly like you'd expect him too: like a boring old adult, along with a smartass tone. "This meeting has been a long time coming, hasn't it?" The voice still boomed over the walls, but it mostly came from the computer.
"Uh…Hi?" I muttered. "Victor said hi…" That was all I could muster. What the hell was this?
"Oh, that silly robot never ceases to amaze me." He commemorated. "He was just a little joke I created for myself, but as it turns out that he's quite popular amongst the locals."
"Mr. House, I presume?" I asked the giant screen. It felt a bit silly, talking to a computer, and I had to admit, I expected to meet the guy in person. Was he too busy or too scared to see me face to face? "How do you know my last name?"
"I like to know all I can about the people I employ Mr. Tempest. I am a businessman after all." He alleged.
"Interesting." I commented. "And much more do you know about me?"
"Just what is necessary, I assure you Mr. Tempest." He replied. "For starters, I do know you've come a long ways, literally and, I suspect, figuratively as well."
"Yeah, I guess you could say that." Never in my life have I done half the things that happened in the last few days, so guess he was right. Getting here was quite a trip, one that was both intriguing and tiring.
"Now, allow me to ask you," Mr. House continued. "now that you've reached your destination, what do you make of what you see?"
That sounds kind of random. "You mean what do I think of Vegas?" I guessed. "It's like nothing I've ever seen. I mean, there were some casinos in New Reno, but they're nothing compared to this."
He laughed proudly, like a father happy with his child. "She is a beauty isn't she? Las Vegas seduced people from all over the world before the war, and now it continues to do the same as New Vegas. But that's not the greatest part about it, Mr. Tempest."
"It's not?" I questioned him, genuinely confused. Seduction seemed to be Vegas's main characteristic.
His screen flickered and his tone turned a little more serious. "Don't be coy Mr. Tempest." He mocked me in a strangely polite manner. "The reason people come to this city, the thing that attracts them is the dream, the hope, the expectation of winning countless riches, of getting lucky and taking part in adventures they can't have anywhere else. It's the illusion of greatness that blinds them to the truth Mr. Tempest."
He stopped his speech, as if he was waiting for me to talk. I already recognized this guy's type, and I knew what he wanted from me. Alright, I'll bite. "And what truth would that be?"
"That they are nothing." He answered with a small pause. "That differently than you and I, their lives make no true impact to this world that they live in."
"Me?" I scoffed. I'm sure he would rather have me ask why he thinks he is so significant, but I decided I was more interested in myself. "Since when did I become important? Because that's news to me."
"Is that you being humble, or are you just playing stupid?" He mocked, this time a little more offensively. "Saving Goodsprings from the Powder Gangers, facing the Legion in Nipton, exploring the ruins of REPCONN and helping the NCR get rid of those pesky Khans; we both know those were not easy tasks, Mr. Tempest. I even hear that someone solved some very serious problems around Freeside. I do believe they mentioned something about a Courier." He must have a camera in that computer, because he clearly saw my face of as he mentioned my past deeds. "Don't act surprised, you know I've been keeping my eye on you, Victor isn't the most subtle robot in the world. I sometimes wonder if I should have sent an Eyebot, but then again, he wouldn't have had the hands to dig you from your grave, would he?"
Ok, that was it. I don't like being kept in the dark, and I have been under the shade for long enough. This guy here obviously knew a lot more than he was letting on. "Victor didn't hire me, you did." I concluded. "And I want to know why? What's so important about a Platinum Chip that you need to hire six other decoys?" I thought back to Primm, where Johnson told me how other couriers were hired to carry objects as random as the Chip. They were clearly there to distract a person like Benny from me.
"What makes you assume the Platinum Chip was what I wanted?" Mr. House asked. "Why did you not assume you're one of the decoys?"
"That wasn't hard to figure out actually." I answered. "As you said, Victor was keeping his visor on me, and I was the only courier that got intercepted." I still don't know why I was the only courier that was hit, but I doubt Benny chose me at random and got lucky on the first try. "And last but not least, I'm up here, talking to you. I doubt that would have been the case unless I was important to you in some way."
Despite the picture on the screen not changing, I could somehow tell he was smiling. "Well done Mr. Tempest, I would be lying if I didn't say I was slightly impressed." His screen flickered as he made a small pause. "I imagine you'll be requesting an explanation about the quest I've sent you on."
I nodded and laughed sarcastically. "Yeah, that sure would be nice." I've been going at all this blind for long enough. "Seeing Vegas for the first time might have calmed me down a bit, but I've roamed The Mojave hanging on to a very thin trail, and it ends right over there." I pointed out the window, towards The Tops, which was a large white rectangular building in the distance. "My patience is just about to run out."
"What you seek will come in due time Mr. Tempest. All that I can say for now is that the Chip is very important to me. I've spent many resources trying to find it, and just when I am about to have it, it gets taken away by what I once called my trusted employee."
"Wait," I grunted. "That asshole Benny works for you?"
"I guess employee is the wrong word for it." He corrected. "Think of him as more of an associate, except he has far less resources and his area of activity is contained within my grounds."
"The Three Families." I recalled. "Benny is the leader of The Chairmen, right? Your supposed allies."
"That is right." Mr. House confirmed. "The Chairman, The White Glove Society and The Omertas were of great help in securing Vegas and setting up the casinos. They were nothing more than wild tribes with uncivilized customs before my Securitrons came along and offered them a piece of my empire. They have been cooperative ever since, but if I were to have some kind of rebellion, I'd have expected it to come from The Omertas." I quickly remembered The Gomorrah, that red casino circled with prostitutes I passed on our way here. That's where said family operates.
"You said you trusted Benny more than others." I pointed out. "Why is that?" All I've heard about the guy is that he's one back-stabbing snake.
"Once again, trusted is not the right word. Benny is very ambitious, a little too much for his own good. Until his sudden betrayal, I noticed that he was very supportive of my plans to make Vegas the center of the wasteland." House explained "Did you know that in the tribal days of The Chairman, the original leader refused my offer? Benny, on the other hand, was very eager to let go of his days as a murdering nomad, so he challenged his leader to a duel with machetes, which he won a lot quicker than people expected."
"Don't challenge him a knife fight, got it." I spurted out. "Now what does all this have to do with me?
"It has everything to do with you Mr. Tempest. My Securitrons have served me very well ever since I've created them. But I see them only as my legs, that I can use to move around my empire-" Once he finished that sentence, the big screen turned off, and Mr. Houses face replaced one of the guards that was standing next to one of the doors. "And that I can use to kick my enemies around as I please." The Securitron he "possessed" raised his hands towards another Securitron, whose visor now displayed a cartoon drawing of a Roman soldier, with an ugly frown and his tongue out. From Mr. House's hand, the barrel of a machine gun popped out and started firing on the other robot, which got littered with bullets until it stopped functioning and fell to the ground in a very loud *CLANG*.
"Interesting metaphor. What are the arms then?" I asked him, but already had a guess.
"Once, they were The Three Families. And for a while, Benny served as my right hand." He told me, switching back to the big screen. "But now, you must take their role, Mr. Tempest. I require steady hands that can cut the tumors of Vegas with deadly precision, something my Securitrons cannot do. Luckly for me, you're quite a precise man, aren't you?
This guy walked in the fine line between legitimately impressive, and an annoyingly rude. It was clear that he had great knowledge , not to mention even greater goals, but I could barely get over all these strange metaphors and this talk of The Three Families. Also, he can't truly be the original Robert House, genius billionaire and creator of RobCo., the company that once ruled the market of robotics and technology in the pre-war times. You could even say RobCo still rules the market today, since many of his robots and devices (like my Pip-Boy) are still used. Or at least their scrapped parts are.
"So… you want to hire me?" I finally asked.
"Precisely!" he sparked. "But I want you to do more than just your old duties as a Courier. I need you to go where my robots cannot go, do what they cannot do."
I scratched my thin beard, thinking over his offer. There were multiple things I needed to know before even considering his offer. "Will I get paid?" I asked.
"Of course." He assured me. "I doubt you could find someone who will reward you more than I will. Besides, you will find it that working for me come with many perks."
"Like what?" I questioned him.
"First, you will have access to the Presidential Suit, the best and most luxurious room in the world, both before and after the Great War." He acknowledged. "Second, you will have the support of my Securitrons whenever you are in The Strip. And lastly but not least, you will help me shape the future of not only the Mojave, but the entire Wasteland." So far, most of the words he spewed out of that monitor were spoken in a calculated and mathematical tone, giving him even more of a cold power-holder vibe. But there was a certain energy to these last sentences, mainly when talking about shaping the Mojave.
This guy wasn't joking around. Of what I know of the Mr. House of the Old-World, it seems to match the one I'm seeing right now. He once built one of the most powerful brands of the capitalist world, and now he plans to do the same, but this time with a city. A very remarkable goal, but I'm not sure I want to be a part of it. I'm just a damn mailman for Christ's sake. "It all sounds nice and dandy Mr. House, but I think I'll pass."
The room fell into an awkward and somewhat worrying silence, with the only sound coming from the Securitrons and their machinery. Jane, who was still right next to the terminal, looked up to the monitor, and despite not having any expression, her slow and careful movements made me a bit uneasy.
The silence was broken by a tired sigh, coming from Mr. House. "Very well. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was disappointed Mr. Tempest." He paused. I was about to ask for my leave, when he talked again. "But allow me to make a new offer."
"Thank you Mr. House, but I think I-"
"I can help you get Benny." He interrupted me by raising the volume on the speakers. Now he's done it, he caught my attention. "That's right Mr. Tempest, we all know why you're here. Luckily for you, I too want Benny out of the way. He's become a stone in my shoe, and it's time I cast him out. Or better yet, it's time you do that for me."
I still didn't say anything. If he could really help me get Benny, than I shouldn't miss that chance. But the truth is that my gut has been wrapping itself ever since I walked into this room. In other words, I have a bad feeling about this.
"It will all be for your benefit Mr. Tempest. You will take back the Platinum Chip, which I will reward with double the original pay for the delivery, and as a plus, you will get your well deserved revenge." He paused once more, probably to let me think about it some more. "So, what do you say?"
Just say no Court, a simple no will suffice. You don't his help to take Benny, you don't need his caps, and sure as hell don't need to take part in whatever crazy plan he has for New Vegas. So say no, apologize for wasting his time and get the fuck out of this place-