Chapter 1: Enjoy Your Stay
Enjoy Your Stay...
The sound of a shovel tossing dirt aside is what I woke up to. I was dazed and upon opening my eyes I found that my vision was blurred. Not to mention my killer headache. When I went to rub my head that was when I realized my hands were tied. In a panic, I looked around frantically in the process discovering the three people behind me, two of which were digging a hole in the ground while the over stared stoically out passed the overlook admiring the glowing city in the distance, "What the hell? What's going on?" I mumbled groggily.
The one on the left stopped to look at me before jabbing his partner is the arm, "Look who's waking up." As I attempted to get back on my feet he swiftly kicked me onto my back. Now that they were closer and me visions cleared a little bit I could see that they were Great Khans, the matching leather vests gave it away. One of them got right in my face, just staring at me. I opened my mouth feigning hesitation to look like I was about to say something which gave me time to spit into his eye. He recoiled in disgust while I shot up from the ground. His pal grabbed a hold of me and tried to shove me to ground but he hadn't accounted for any resistance on my part as I easily crashed my forehead into his nose and upper-cutted him in the face with my bound hands. After that I rushed at the smoking man who hadn't even glanced back at us. A strong pair of hands grabbed a hold my jacket before I could reach him and pulled me throw me to the ground, hard. The Khans who's face I spit in reached into his pocket in the fuss to pull out a big buck knife and lunged at me with it. As he brought it to my throat…
"That's enough fellas. She's harmless." The third one called out still not looking back.
"Oh, yeah? Tell that to that poor bastard she wasted back at Primm. Wasn't very harmless to him."
He finally tossed his cigarette down and stomped it out just before he walked over to join our little huddle. He much more nicely dressed then his friends were with a neat checkered suit and well-heeled black shoes, "Alright, she's not in a position to harm you. That better? Still intimidated by the bound pussy cat on her knees? From what I can recall she aimed to please." He had a strange way of speaking. The type of thing you can't just pick up naturally like an actor playing an exaggerated caricature on stage. He turned his head toward me, "How ya feeling?"
He chuckled, "Still love that fire hon'. It matches your hair."
"Would you just get it over with." The Khan sporting a ginger-colored mohawk whined, "W-" His boss put a finger up to silence him.
"Maybe Khans kill people without looking 'em in the face, but I ain't a fink, dig?" The whole time he spoke he was staring at this poker chip, this goddamn poker chip. Something about it just fascinated him. But when he said that last part he shoved it into his jacket and kept his eyes on me while his hand fished around for something else, "You made your last delivery kid."
"Kid? Really? Now I'm a fucking kid all the sudden?"
He deliberately ignored me, he clearly had rehearsed this whole pre-murder speech and didn't want me to throw a wrench in his works, "Really, I'm sorry ya got twisted up in this scene." Now he had pulled out a pistol. It was… Beautiful. Obviously, that was one of the last things I should have been thinking about but it was hard to not notice. The floral and ivy engravement with a nickel finish was eye-catching but it was the handle that really sold it. A pearl grip with some saint painstakingly painted on. I could tell how proud of it he was due to how slowly he took it out, "From where you're kneeling this may seem like an 18 karat run of bad luck. Truth is…" I was now staring down the end of his barrel, "...The game was rigged from the start."
"I don't care if I have to wait for you in hell. Your ass is mine Be-" He didn't let me finish. Time seemed to slow down long enough for me to think, "All this for a fucking poker chip?" Before the bullet struck and my world turned into darkness.
The same as it turned to darkness it stayed in darkness. No feeling, no sight, no smell. Nothing. Nothing except sound rippling through the void.
"Amy, what did I just say?"
"Don't give them a chance to fight back."
"Good. Why not?"
"Because that's an unnecessary risk."
"And what kind of risks do we never take?"
"The unnecessary ones."
"Because they will get me killed."
"Good girl. Alright, get to it."
I had a… It was like I had jumped from one area to another, like the atmosphere had changed drastically.
"You have my attention. A very hard thing to acquire. I suggest you do your best to keep it."
"Did you kill-"
"Are you going to kill me?"
"I admit that I actually had an even worse fate in store for you but I know see that it would be a waste of potential talent. Kill him, without hesitation. Only then will I be convinced I have use for you."
Feeling. I had an actual feeling now. It felt as though I were being pushed through this darkness by a strong wind. Even though I could see no difference I could not shake the feeling like I was somewhere else.
"Please! Don't do this~"
"And why the fuck not? You have a family or something?"
"Yes. Please I-"
"Oh, right I don't care. The boss gave an order and I'm following it. You made your bed and now you get to lie in it."
I could smell now. The aroma of… Wood? Wood shavings more like. And antiseptic. Wait, I think I could see something. Like a speck of light at the center of vision, it was expanding and expanding until I could make out shapes in it. Shapes and colors and they were moving! The light had filled my vision, thrusting me into a different environment. One with objects and all my senses were being filled up with subtle scents and sounds. Wind blowing, the floor creaking, an old tune playing faintly in the background. A ceiling fan stared back at me pushing a gentle breeze across my face and emitting a faint hum. Holy shit. I was alive!
I shot up from my bed the very instant I had made the connection only to find myself flying off and onto the floor. Of all the sensations I felt at that time, the pain was the dominant one. A pair of hands grasped me giving me a slight panic but, being in the state I was in, wasn't in the position to start swinging without seeing who it was, "Easy there. Easy." He suggested in a calm, warm voice. He helped me back onto the bed allowing me to get a look at him. He was an old, bald man with an admittedly great silvery mustache. Any apprehension I had was quickly quelled when our eyes met. There was an unmistakable gentleness to them that gave off this peaceful aura, "So you're awake. How 'bout that."
In the struggle to get up, I hadn't had time to register the dull pain weighing down on my head, "Who are you? Where am I?"
"My names Doc Mitchells. Welcome to Goodsprings." I went to get up again albeit more slowly this time only to have him lower me on to my back again, "Just relax now. You've been out for quite a while. Give yourself some time to get yer bearings."
"The game was rigged from the start…" Those words echoed in my head. I remembered what happened. Partially at least. He was wearing a checkered suit and he took something from me. What was it? It was important I knew that much.
"How's about you tell me the last thing you remember before your incident." He suggested while reaching for a nearby clipboard.
"The last thing? I woke up with my hands tied. I think there was two. Yeah, two Great Khans. They had this boss…" He jotted my every word down as I recited my story, "...That's when he pulled the trigger."
He chuckled to himself, "You know, you might just be the luckiest son of a gun I have ever met. You survived getting shot in the head not once but twice. I can't even begin to tell you the odds of getting out of that without serious brain damage at the least."
One part of that sentence, in particular, caught my attention, "Wait, back up doc. Did you just say in the head?"
"That I did, miss. For what it's worth you're fine. In fact, you're in darn near perfect health all things considered." He walked over to a metal desk a sifted through a pile of papers casually humming a song all the while. Listening in I could just about make it out, "Let's ride into the sunset together. Stirrup to stirrup, side by side." I then noticed that it was the exact same song that was playing in the background. I don't know why that was the thing that was on my mind at the moment. The man just liked the song. He must have eventually found what he was looking for because the ruffling stopped, "Here we are." The good doctor pulled up an old wooden chair with a stack of papers he held close to his chest, "Now I'm gonna run a few psychological tests on you."
"Your vitals are good but that don't mean those bullets haven't left you nuttier than a Bighorner dropping. It's just a formality really. I'm gonna say a word and I want you to say the first that comes to mind. Dog."
"Alright, good. Now I'm gonna make a statement and I want you to say whether or not you agree with them." The Doc cleared his throat, "Conflict just ain't in my nature."
"I ain't given to relying on others for support."
"Umm, No comment."
"I'm always fixing to be the center of attention."
"I'm slow to embrace new ideas."
"I charge in to face my ideas head-on."
"Alright, you did a great job."
"Not like I could have failed."
"Trust me, you can. It's just that the folk that do end up dead in the middle of the desert somewhere."
"Just like I almost did."
"Exactly like that" He chuckled, "You never did say your name."
"Shit, my bad. Amelia, Amelia Hirst to be formal."
He hopped up from his chair and made his way to my bed sticking his hand out, "I think you might be able to stand up now. Just take it slowly" I accepted his hand and pulled myself off the bed, slowly like he said. My knees did wobble a little bit but I managed to keep my balance in the end, "Come on I'll show you out."
As the exit to the outside world came within reach Doc Mitchells dug through a leather bag on the ground and tossed me my old leather jacket and ranchers boots. I quickly threw the jacket over my white tank top and rolled up jeans so that I could slip into the boots, "Looks like you kept all my stuff for me."
"I didn't have any use for it and it would have been wrong to pawn it without knowing if it's owner was gonna wake up and miss it." He explained as he handed me an old combat knife and a 9mm pistol. I found It to have 20 rounds upon checking, "Also I found this in your jacket," I was handed a folded piece of paper, "I thought it might have been able to help me find a next of kin but that wasn't the case." I unfolded it to see if it was important.
Deliver the package at the north entrance to the Vegas Strip, by way of Freeside. An agent of the recipient will meet you at the checkpoint, take possession of the package, and pay for the delivery. Bring the payment to Johnson Nash at the Mojave Express agency in Primm.
Bonus on completion: 250 caps.
This package contains:
One (1) Oversized Poker Chip, composed of Platinum
You, Amelia Hirst, are an authorized agent of the Mojave Express Package until the delivery is complete and payment has been processed, contractually obligated to complete this transaction and materially responsible for any malfeasance or loss. Failure to deliver to the proper recipient may result in forfeiture of your advance and bonus, criminal charges, and/or pursuit by mercenary reclamation teams. The Mojave Express is not responsible for any injury or loss of life you experience as a result of said reclamation efforts.
"Damn, nothing good. Doc, you've done a lot for me. Way more than I'll probably ever be able to repay you for but could you do me one more favor?"
"I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm."
"The Hippocratic Oath, eh?"
"Ha! no one ever gets that one. What do ya need?"
"Do you have any clue where the guy that shot me ran off to? I have a score to settle." I kept replaying him shooting me in my head over and over and over again. Not to say that him shooting me in the head wasn't cause enough for me to kill him but I also couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to it. I think I knew him and I know I wanted to know what exactly I got 'Caught up in'.
"I wish I did, miss. If anybody saw him it would be Victor, that old cowboy robot wheeling his way around town. He's the one who brought you in after you got shot in the first place."
I breathed a sigh of relief. At least I had something to go off of, "Thanks for, everything Doc. Really, I owe you my life."
"I'll refer you back to the Oath. Before you go take this." He reached back into his leather bag and pulled out a wrist-mounted computer, "Know what this is?"
"Yeah, a Pip-Boy 3000. Are you seriously about to give that to me?"
"I am. Ain't much use to me now, but you might want such a thing, after what you been through. I know what it's like, having something taken from you." His expression dropped for only a second but in that second I saw loneliness and regret in his eyes. But then he went right back to his gentle self, "Good luck with finding that man Mrs. Hirst. Just remember to dig two graves." He didn't wait for me to reply before walking away into another room. Just before I opened that door I could hear him turn that song up. And I could still hear him humming the lyrics.
My vision was flooded with natural light for the first time in at least several days making me feel like I had been blinded. When my eyes adjusted a small town was revealed to me with various folks handling Bighorners and pushing wagons around, "A cowtown? Ain't that fancy." I looked around for any sign of a 'Cowboy robot' with no luck. With a kick and the dirt I walked forward with no particular aim. As I wandered around the town a few of the ranchers shot me looks in amazement. I guess in a small town getting a bullet or two in the head and surviving is a good way to gain some notoriety.
The place was pleasant enough, unusually quiet but that was part of the charm. A nice peaceful place to settle down. A building slightly larger than the others caught my eye. Prospectors Saloon read the sign bolted across the wall.
After reading that sign I started hearing echoes, faint ones, "Trust me, sweetheart, I'm a man of means. You'll never wanna get up from where I'm takin' ya."
"You think the bars still open."
"Just my own little mix."
"Jesus what is that?!"
I quickly snapped out it. Rather than dwelling on the why of it I pressed on towards the bar. An old, heavily bearded man sat in the shade of the building smoking a cigar who I intended to simply pass up had other plans, "Hey, ain't you the local spectacle?" He inquired in a low, gruff voice.
"I guess I am. So what does that make you?"
"Easy Pete's the name. Used to be a prospector till I decided to settle here to get away from the NCR. Now I just take it easy and help with Bighorners from time to time. I guess that makes me the local old man though I imagine soon enough that'll be Doc Mitches territory."
I leaned against a wall next to him, "Mind telling me about this place?"
"Goodsprings is small, independent town. We're peaceful folk. You don't try us and we don't try you. That said, when someone like you rolls into town people get curious. You got the interest of a certain Sunny Smiles for one thing."
"Who's that if I might ask?"
"Oh, you'll see her when she's around. I'm certain of it."
"No offense old man but I don't plan on sticking around for long. Speaking of which, you know anything about the guy that drilled my head?"
"Not much, the guy in the in the fancy get-up seemed to be calling the shots. Others around town might know more."
"Well thanks anyway." I said as I kicked off the wall and headed to the entrance of the bar.
"Welcome." Easy Pete replied.
The interior of the saloon greeted me with the audible war crime that is 'Johnny Guitar' and the snarling of a territorial dog. I instinctively whipped out my pistol, "Hang on a sec'!" A woman quickly stood from her seat to step between me and the animal. She was very young, couldn't have been more than 18. She was well built with tan skin and she wore a set of leather armor that had the hide of Gecko stretched over the back., "Cheyenne stay." She firmly commanded which contrasted with the remarkably bright smile she wore even as she stared her dog down. Without an iota of protest, the dog sat in silence, "Don't worry about her. Cheyenne only bites when I tell her to. You must be the local cadaver. Pleasure to meet you, I go by Sunny Smiles."
"Amelia, is there any other cute nicknames you folk thought up for me or am I gonna remain the local cadaver for the foreseeable future?"
"It's a quiet town. Cute nicknames and getting excited over things most town's see on a daily basis like a stranger coming in and getting shot is just about all we have going for us. So when something most town's never seen happen like getting shot in the head and surviving you can expect an instant celebrity status to come with your scars." She elucidated as she walked over to a nearby Sunset Sarsaparilla vending machine giving it two hard knocks causing it to drop as many bottles of the above-mentioned drink.
She tossed me one which I caught, "Thanks, so what do you do around here?"
"I'm kind of the sheriff for lack of a better word though I don't have any juridical authority nor do I spend most of my time chasing ruffians. Really all I do is keep the Geckos at bay and make sure folk don't get hurt."
"Sounds like you know how to handle yourself."
"Better than the anybody else around these parts." She stated, shrugging, "How about you?"
"How about I what?"
"How are you at fighting?"
"I'm better than everybody I've killed." That seemed to have piqued her interest if the way her eyes lit up were any indicator.
"How's about you follow me outback," Sunny suggested and so I did. On the way outside she downed her sarsaparilla in one big gulp. There was a fence with glass bottles of different types lined up, one per post. Sunny pulled a rifle out of the holster at her back and, without taking even a second to aim shattered all a bottle with a quick pull of the trigger, "So, where ya from?" Bam! Another one down.
"Good question. Wish I had the answer. Spent most of my life drifting. I presume you're from here." She knocked down three other bottles while I answered her question.
"Born and raised." Bang! Two more were down and she was out of bottles. Six more bottles quickly took their place and I found myself now bearing the rifle, "Let's see how fast you can knock 'em down."
A smirk crept up on my face, I took this as an opportunity to show off. After checking the chamber for ammo I made my move. In a blur, I put one bottle down after another with the only delay being me having to pull the bolt back, "How was that?" She gave me an impressed whistle before snatching the rifle up.
"Oh, wow! Would ya look at that! The stiff can knock over a few bottles!" An obnoxious, deep voice called out.
"Oh no." Sunny groaned, smile still present.
Two men showed up behind us. Both seemed very young, like seventeen to eighteen young. Pig-faced little bastards from the look of them and their average build and greasy long hair didn't help their appearance. Still, they seemed pleased with themselves what with the shit-eating grins, "Sammy! Did you finally find a friend?" The one on the left condescendingly asked.
"You and I and everyone else in town know that's not my name, Kurtis. What do you want?"
"Nothin', we just heard that the stiff woke up and knew you'd jump at any opportunity to make people think you're some tough girl." The one on the left who answered was dressed in a pair of jeans and a basic t-shirt.
"Hey, first of all, I have a name and if you wanna keep your tongue you'll start using it. Amelia, by the way. Second of all, it's hard to fake being able to hit three targets in the time it would take you guys to get your sights on one."
"Pfft, good one sti-" He caught my glare and quickly stopped what he was about to say, "Yeah, I bet you we could hit a crow from a mile away." Said the one on the right wearing a loose fitting flannel.
"Really? Prove it." I scanned the environment for anything that would prove as a suitable test settling on a small rock on top of a large boulder after my discovery I took Sunny's rifle and tossed it to the flannel-wearing who caught it, albeit clumsily, "See that rock over there?" I pointed it out, "You have three shots each. Me and Sunny get one. Sound doable?"
Kuris looked at his brother thinly masking his nervousness, "Ralph, wanna take this one?"
Ralph was slightly taken aback but snatched the rifle up regardless, "No problem." He sheepishly gripped the stock of the weapon before amateurishly looking down the sights, "Bam." Then he missed. He clearly hadn't accounted for missing due to how slowly he decided to pull the bolt back. He fired and missed again but was quicker on the bolt this time and even quicker to miss. He roughly thrust it into Kurtis' chest for him to use. He faired just as well.
"Man, whatever. I'd like to see you try, Sammy." Sunny pulled it away from as the nickname he gave her slithered out of his mouth.
She brought the rifle to bear and closed one of her eyes, lined up the shoot and with a twitch of her finger the brass thundered out of the barrel propelling it into the rock we had our attention fixated on. Her ever-present smile morphed into a self-satisfied grin, "How was that?"
"Now hang on a sec, my turn." I aimed at a burnt out lightbulb hanging over someone's porch, "Light bulb, ready, aim, fire." And just like that, it found it self shattered on the wooden floor beneath it.
The twins were dumbfounded, "T-that's some bullshit! You probably rigged this you dumb fucking stiff!" In a flash, the point of my knife was pressed up against his throat.
"Come on now Kurtis. I said to start using my name."
"Get away from him you bitch!" I headbutted Kurtis to get him out of the way just in time to catch Ralphs right hook the positioned the knife on the right flank of his lower abdomen not deep to cause any damage but just enough to bring a small trickle of blood.
"What's my name?"
"Amelia." Ralph muttered.
"How about you and your fellow dipshit go somewhere that isn't here." I let his arm go and pulled the blade away making him let out a loud exhale. He looked like he wanted to try me again but instead him and his brother swiftly walked away.
When I turned around Sunny Smiles was giving me this wide-eyed stare, "Hot damn! You showed them!"
I chuckled in response, "It was really nothing. You could have kicked their asses with a similar amount of ease. Which sort of begs the question of why don't you? I got the impression they bug you pretty regularly."
"You're not wrong. But it really isn't worth it, they just want folk to think their tough."
"Have you told them that a good way to do that is to take steps that would lead to actually being tough?"
"Course, but the most combative work you can find around here is hunting Geckos and if they do that they'd have to acknowledge that they can't shoot the broadside of a barn and to correct that they'd have to get someone to teach them. And I'm only one around who could which is just a whole other can of worms. Besides, them being loudmouths isn't really hurting anyone. Though they do drive Trudy nuts."
"Tell you what. I'm going to go and do some Gecko population control so if you have any more questions you can come and help me out."
I thought over her proposition. On one hand I had to start looking for info on 'Be-' but on the other she was already acting as my tour guide and if anybody knew anything, or could point me in the direction of someone who knows anything it's her, "If I bag a few can we discuss me getting some caps?"
"I don't really see much to discuss, hows a five a head sound?"
"Sounds fair. Let's get going."
The small reptilian creature poked its head above the rock it was crouched behind, somehow displaying curiosity with its pure orange eyes. It tilted its head with a piqued interest before waddling over the animal's body on its stubby little feet and sniffed at it before opening its mouth to reveal rows of pointy little teeth and hovered over the neck of the downed beast. The back of its head exploded into a red mist exposing the demolished brains and the scaly creature collapsed without making a sound.
"Good girl Cheyenne! You can get up now!" The dog got up from its position on its side and ran back over to Sunny Smiles, not before taking a chunk of the Gecko meat with her, "Thanks for bearing with me there. Took us me awhile to teach her to stay still during that and now I actually get to show it off."
"Hey, I'm always up for a little entertainment. You seem to have a good handle on that dog." I looked over at the distance and spotted a few more Geckos. One shot and one was dead, "But are these things really causing you that much trouble?"
Then she shot one. We were letting them close the distance a little just for the sport of it so we could just about see the way their mouths hung wide upon as they sprinted in our direction, "Any pest can be a threat if you have enough of them and someone has to make sure there aren't enough of them. More importantly..." She paused so that she wouldn't have to speak over the sound of my rifle fire, "Little buggers have started messing with our water source and attacking folk who are trying to get a drink. Gecko bites are just about the most common thing Doc Mitch has been dealing with for a long time. Honestly, I think you were just the break in routine he needed, he's a simple man but even he can't do the same thing day in and day out without getting a little stir crazy."
Bang! Only three remained, "That reminds me, do you know anything about the guys who deep-sixed me?"
"Sorry, can't help you on that one. Why do want to find them anyway?" Bang!
"What? Why wouldn't I?"Bang!
She turned to face me and rested her rifle on the ground like a cane. The final Gecko neared her only to have its hopes dashed by Cheyenne who pounced and began to violently maul it, "Because you were shot in the head and lived. If that happened to me, if I was given that kind of second chance the last thing I would do is go searching for the guy who managed to put me down in the first place. What for? To prove something? To prove to the guy who thinks I'm dead that I'm not? Personally, I think remaining alive and having a good time would be the best way getting back at him."
"Listen, I'm not the type of person who can just walk around knowing that someone, somewhere potentially close thinks they won. That guy thinks he can just kill me and get away with it like I never mattered in the first place and if I turn the other cheek he's right. After that people are gonna walk over me forever because I didn't have the balls to take back what's mine. That guy took my pride and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let him keep it." What I didn't mention is that I had to know why. There's more to this then him wanting something from me and then also wanted to shoot me. I knew his name, but I can't remember it and I can't remember any of what they were referencing. All I remember was that chip and I intend to know more.
She wasn't entirely won over by my argument but she did seem to at least understand a little more, "Well I wish you luck. So, how many Geckos does that make now?"
As I began to answer a shrill scream echoed through the air and in an instant Sunny and Cheyenne bolted in the direction it came from. I caught up with them shortly after they came to a halt to see a scrawny blonde woman wielding nothing but a rusty meat cleaver cornered by half a dozen Geckos slowly prowling up to her. The shirt she wore was scrapped to all hell revealing several bloody scratches matching the similar state of her long pink skirt.
Almost as though we had coordinated it me and Sunny raised our weapons at the exact same time while Cheyenne circled around the group to flank them. We blew away the two nearest to the girl just as one of them lunged at her. Two Geckos further back in the group turned to face us but Cheyenne was swift in catching their attention, and one of their throats. Unfortunately our attack startled the two upfront into running at the girl with intent to kill. The transition from slow claw to rapid sprint was sudden enough to almost make me miss, almost. Sunny, on the other hand, did in fact miss. As her mark was in the air right between the ground and the young woman's throat I dropped the rifle and swiftly unholstered my pistol and put a round through the oversized lizard's head. Its limp corpse sailed into the women's chest knocking her off her feet.
Before celebrations, we were able to relax a whine that could have only been a dogs was heard. In the process of taking two out one of the Gecko's managed to give Cheyenne a nasty gash on her side. She and the scaly bastard circled each other and before I was able to move in and finish it off she leaped at it and ravenously dug further and further into its soft belly, of course to its ear-piercing protest. Apparently, the dog found it equally as irritating because she pulled her mouth out of its stomach to rip out its throat to render the Gecko's cries of pain to pathetic gurgles before diving right back into its gut.
After snapping out of the shock she felt from not being dead she broke into a stumbling run towards me. I met her a quarter of the way by walking to her. She took me into a massive hug, "Oh my goodness thank you so much! I-I was l-l look I was-"
I put a finger up to silence her and broke out of her embrace, "Just relax. What were you doing this far out of town? Watering holes back aways."
"I w-was. I-I-"
Sunny came up from behind me, "Her older brother went missing. It's been a few days and we haven't found his body so she thinks Gecko's killed him and dragged him to a cave somewhere."
"Only a few day and you think he's dead?"
"People don't go missing around here, Amelia. Last one to go missing for more than two was found rotting in a bush at the edge of town. Shawn's been gone for the five.
I looked at the girl for a moment, "So you came out here, way further than the town's best hunter even goes further than where your brother, whom you think is dead, went. And you did all this without somebody to watch you back or without informing anyone. And you did all this without a gun. Why?"
"I just that… I could sneak around them."
"That was very unintelligent of you. Go home, straight home. No scenic routes or some such shit." I turned around to leave her to it only to be stopped by a soft pair of hands on my shoulder.
"Wait! I have to find my brother! I can't just leave him like that!"
"You already know he's dead. You have a mom or dad?" She nodded, "Stay home with them. Don't get yourself killed to find a gnawed on corpse."
"But I think I know where he is! He's in their nest!"
"Wait did you say nest?" Sunny asked shoving me aside.
"Yeah, it was a cave full of eggs and had some bones strewn about. I smelled what I think was flesh but before I could go any further Geckos came pouring out the woodwork. I managed to hack a few of them but, you know the rest."
"Are you sure that this is the nest? Because if you are you gotta tell me where it is right now."
"It's just up that way." The girl pointed in the direction opposite of where she was when we found her.
I think I missed a step because the very instant after her finger indicated where to go Sunny was rushing there with her pet in toe, "Goddamnit. Go home kid!" I shouted while trying to catch up with my remarkably active tour guide, "Would you hold on a sec!"
"No time, I've been looking for this nest for ages now and I ain't waiting for a second longer. These lizard bastards have been causing folk around here all kinds of trouble."
"You know this is not what I had in mind when you asked me to follow you outside…"
"You and me both."
After a lot of unnecessary running we did finally come across the cave that girl told us about. It was completely ordinary looking. No creepy signs or paintings outside warning trespassers to stay away. Completely throwing caution to the wind Sunny went to enter, "Now hang on a goddamn minute. You haven't checked your ammo, you haven't unlatched your knife sheath and you haven't even looked at your dog's wound. The cave isn't gonna magically gonna sink into the ground because you gave a second of consideration into what's in there."
An angry glare was shot my way before Cheyenne gave a sad whimper catching Sunny's attention. She looked down with some embarrassment on display then she knelt next to the dog to address the wound, "I'm sorry… I just… Never mind."
"I get it. It's your job to take care of these people and this reproducing threat is making you fail time and time again. Now that you see a way to prevent it from cropping again you're in a hurry to hop to it. Still, you're gonna get yourself killed running full steam ahead like that."
"Yeah, thanks." With the way she kind of brushed me off, I couldn't help but think that there was more. I didn't press her though. I'm not a therapist. Sunny took up her sleeve in her teeth and ripped it down almost down to her armpit and tied it all the way around Cheyenne's body taking care to make sure it covered the wound, "Cheyenne, stay."
"Now check your ammo."
"I know." after reloading the rifle she made a big exaggerated show of unlatching the sheath on her boot.
"There ya go."
"Now can I go?"
"Lead the way."
The cave was quiet, I dare say it was too quiet. Sunny walked ahead of me with a fair bit more purpose than from what I've seen from her before. If I didn't know better I'd say she was on a personal mission here. Still, I didn't press her. We had been wandering the cave for what felt like a really long time yet there were no eggs nor any smell of death though I have my doubts that the girl would have any clue what that would smell like.
"Did you hear that?" Sunny whispered.
"Shhh…" We listened in real close.
"Kill me…" It was faint, very faint so I closed my eyes to concentrate more, "Kill me… Please…" I stayed just to make sure I was hearing correctly, "Kill me! Just kill me!" That was shortly followed by a roar. No surprise from Sunny, she ran in the direction of those fervent pleas for death came from.
"I fucking hate charity work." I grumbled before running after her. Along the way, I started passing up the Gecko eggs that girl was talking about, quite a few of them too. If this wasn't the nest I'd hate to see where they were coming from. I rounded a corner just about bumping into Sunny who watched on in what I do believe was horror.
A young man, about Sunny's age, lied against a cave wall. He was bloody all over and his clothes were torn in every area and he even had an arm missing. Also, being caked with sand and dirt and… Slime? Saliva? Whatever it was it couldn't have been healthy too when it was seeping into his wounds.
He wasn't the center of our attention. Or at least not mine. There was a Gecko in the center of the cave chamber. The reason I didn't just shoot it and be done with it was that it was about five times the size of a normal one and while they were light greenish was more like a dark purple. And I could see smoke leaking out between its teeth. It was a Fire Gecko. The biggest one I've ever seen at that.
It slowly and strolled up to the injured man, the smoke from its mouth becoming thicker and darker. It opened up wide and stuck its mouth right in his face… Breathed in deep and…
"Shawn!" Sunny screamed a lot louder than a girl her size ought to be able to. The Fire Gecko turned its head in unison with its victim just in time to see Sunny fire a round right between its eyes. Unfortunately, it's hide was to thick for the bullet to punch through. Sunny clearly hadn't counted on that because she didn't move even when the beast breathed indicating what was gonna happen next. That or she wasn't aware of what was gonna happen. That thought is what made me do what I did next.
"Fucking move!" I shouted as I tackled her out of the way of the fireball the blackened the wall she stood in front of. I dragged her behind a natural pillar to hide from any more attacks of the fiery nature.
"W-what is that?"
"That'd be a Fire Gecko, bigger, smarter and sporting more firepower than your average, run-the-mill Gecko. A particularly large one at that." I explained.
"How do we kill it?"
"You shoot and stab and it until it dies and try to make sure that it doesn't burn you alive. Better brace yourself because we have maybe a minute before it smells you past the scent of smoke and your friend's bloody stumps." It let out a low roar and started charging in on our position with its mouth agape, "Shit, spoke to late!" I ran around the side opposite of where it was approaching from to get the drop. Sunny stayed on the floor where I dragged her to not knowing what to do. When the Gecko saw her it stomped where she was but she rolled out of the way just in time and fired a round into its eye. The massive lizard roared in pain before breathing a nice big wave of fire where it saw her last but she had already started running to Shawn.
I jumped on it's back and stuck my knife into the top of its head, only to be knocked off and onto my back, 'Shit, that usually works.' I thought to myself. Knowing what was going to happen the moment it turned around my pistol instinctively found its way into my hand and fired two rounds into the back of its head. Still nothing but some recoiling on its end. Without even thinking I ran to the nearest cover I could find. This time it was a Bighorner corpse that has had a massive chunk of flesh ripped out its belly. I laid prone next to it and peeked over to see it running after Sunny who was crouched next Shawn. That thing ran way faster than its smaller brothers. I unshouldered my rifle and lined up a shot right at its knees, "Bullseye." I hit my mark sending it to its knees but in return it sent a fireball sailing into my meat shield pretty much instantly grilling it.
Sunny finally realized that her friend didn't mean shit if she was dead so she started firing as fast as she could pull the bolt back so I joined her in that activity. Tough as the fucker was it wasn't able to shrug off a dozen rounds rocketing into its body. It doubled over and bent to the ground and it looked like it was just about over. Just as well to since I had run out of rifle rounds and had switched to my sidearm. However, since this particular Fire Gecko was just chop full of surprises it did something I've never seen one of them do before. Maybe because they normally died when I stuck a knife into the top of its head. It shot up and breathed a big roaring ring of fire around itself so hot it made me cover my eyes for a moment. As the fire quickly burnt out on the rocks the Fire Gecko was gone.
"Where'd it go?" Sunny asked across the chamber.
"I have no clue. I've never seen anything like that before." It was just gone. No sign of its existence.
"Well, it can't have just disappeared. There's no way." As if on queue, we heard Cheyenne's bark echo inside the cave. Call me crazy, but the fact that the Gecko disappeared and the very next thing that happens is the most obedient dog I've ever seen starts to complain makes me a bit nervous. I ran to exit. Normal Fire Geckos are fiercely territorial and If we drove that monster version from its home then it will probably try to claim new territory and that means killing everything it finds there. And it just so happens that the closest territory was Goodsprings and I owe the Doc something of a debt. Besides, it still had my knife and I didn't want to have to find another.
I didn't bother to see if Sunny was following me because apparently saving someone who's probably gonna die of his wounds anyway is more important than saving two perfectly good ones with hers numbering among them.
Cheyenne was backed up against a boulder with a decent amount of new scratches to her name and the several spots around us showed signs of being lit aflame. The Fire Gecko was toying with her at this point as they're want to do, which is probably why Shawn was still alive, but it had enough due to its bullet wounds pissing it off. I ran at it as fast as I could but not enough to stop Cheyenne from getting an unhealthy dose of fire catching it on its side. She let out a painful yelp and fell to the ground and didn't get up. The monster went for the kill. I jumped on it's back again, taking hold of the knife to avoid being bucked off and took my pistol with five bullets left, pressed it into the nape of its neck as far as it would go and fired three shots. It went down at the second. After our hot-blooded buddy collapsed to the ground I pulled my knife out its head and stabbed it in its throat about a dozen times in the throat to be sure.
"Hot damn you were tough." I quipped to myself. I then went over to Cheyenne to see how she was fairing and to my genuine surprise she was breathing, "You don't give up do you." I took her up into my arms and started the walk over back to Goodsprings, "Fuck, your heavy. I sure hope the Doc is also a veterinarian."
As I was walking I heard some grunting coming from the cave, "How is she?" Sunny asked while helping Shawn walk with his arm around her shoulder.
"I'll let the Doc tell us that. How's your friend?"
She looked at his barely conscious face worried, "I-I don't know."
"I guess we'll see. Maybe when we find out you can tell me why him getting injured makes your brain stop working and makes you completely forget there's a fire-breathing monster trying to stir fry somebody ten feet away from you."
She didn't reply. Instead, she just walked off ahead of me towards Goodsprings.
Doc Mitchell had looked over some notes and paced back and forth while I and Sunny sat quietly in some chairs across from his two new patients, "Cheyenne will make a full recovery though she will need a skin graft on her side and the boy… Well, he's a big if. It'll would take the grace of God and regardless he's losing a leg along with the arm he's already missing. Also, don't be surprised if he's lacking vision in his left eye." The Doc explained in his usual casual yet sympathetic tone, "This will take awhile for both of them so I can't have you staying here worried sick while I work so I'll have to ask you to leave, go get a drink, you've earned it. That said, Sunny if you'd like to say a few words to either of them go ahead."
She shook her head fervently, "No, I'll talk to him when he wakes up." Her usual smile was still there and bright as ever but her eyes said something else. She was scared, "Come on, we got so busy with all that excitement I forgot to show you the rest of the town.
"And I still don't know where the guy who shot me is." I grumbled.
"Well, if anyone knows it would probably be Trudy. She's sort of the town mom."
"Take me to your leader then." She hopped off of her chair and obliged my request. As we neared the door a young man of about twenty burst through the door.
"Oh, thank god I found you. Sunny, we need your help."
"With what-" He grabbed her by her arm and drug her with him. I followed since she was still my tour guide, a pretty bad one but the one I had nonetheless.
As we neared the Prospectors Saloon I heard some muffled yelling emitting from its walls. After the doors flung open it was clear as day, "-Sses! What the hell's the matter with you?! Did your mom drop you on the heads?! Did the Bighorners kick ya both in the head?! I didn't raise you to be doing dumb stuff like you stupid so-"
"Trudy! What's wrong." Sunny asked.
"These two are what's wrong…" The woman named Trudy explained. She was middle-aged with some laugh lines and crow's feet developing and short black hair with some grays sprinkled in. Trudy stepped aside revealing Kurtis and Ralph sat down on bar stools with their heads down and red marks where I'm certain Trudy smacked them.
"I know they are. What else is new?"
"Not the time, Sunny." She turned her head to look at the pair of dumbasses, "Go on, bring out your 'prize'."
After some hesitation, Ralph got up and went to this little side room in the bar. After a minute or so with some light shuffling that I could hear he came back. With him, he had a skinny black man with a buzz cut and some bruises and cuts on his face and he wore a dark blue jacket over a lighter button-up shirt and a pair of gray slacks. The important part of him, however, was the duct tape binding his wrists and arms together and behind his back with another strip over his mouth.
"Oh, they didn't…" Sunny gasped.
"Oh, they did…"
"What did they do?" I inquired. Suddenly everyone in the room looked at me like I was a hobo who sat at a made-mans table in Reno.
"Aren't you that girl Mitch was working on?" Trudy quizzed as she pulled a chair up.
"She is, but don't worry Trudy she's okay. In fact, I think she saved about four lives today including my own.
"Amelia," I stated matter of factly.
"Amelia, these two idgits right here caught this man snooping around our town and in a fit of stupidity and misplaced confidence they decided to both attack him and tie him up because they think parading a Powder Ganger around town was not only not gonna bite them and everyone here in their cabooses but also that we would praise them."
"I think I'm missing a step here. What's a Powder Ganger?"
"Powder Gangers are the group of the escaped convicts that we have been having trouble with for awhile now and this is probably going to be what makes them start getting violent. Joe Cobb's been threatening to do that for days now."
"Is Joe Cobb their leader?"
"Yep, bad trouble." Easy Pete stated in the background. I don't think anybody even knew he was there with the way they turned their heads to him.
"Relax, Trudy. He's not gonna attack a whole town of people because one of his boys got a little roughed up."
The Ganger that the twins had captured managed to shake his tape from his face, "You wish bitch! When my brother finds out about this you'll wish he'd just shoot you."
Trudy slowly looked away from the bound man and to Kurtis and Ralph, "You captured the brother of the man who has been threatening us for weeks? The brother of the man who leads a violent gang of men who broke out of a prison run by military boys? The brother of a man who probably killed dozens of people just like us way before he came to the Mojave and is leading a bunch of men who have done the exact same thing?"
Even Easy Pete stood up in shock. Yet he managed to put into words what everyone seemed to be thinking, "We're fucked."