Jack had a bike that almost worked. Motorcycles that almost worked were common as dirt in the wasteland. Everybody had a stack of bikes that almost worked. But Jack's bike was special, because it really was 99% complete. Jack Westerfield was a Great Khan. He'd practically been born into the life. His uncle was a Khan, and when his mother died the Khans had taken him in. He'd grown up sparse and Spartan, hunting and fighting. He'd undergone initiation at 15, and swore it wasn't that bad while rubbing the scar on his jaw it had given him.
Jack, now 22, had been a guard at a lab in the middle of nowhere for a year. Others raided and traded, but Jack just liked to take it easy. On his off time he poked around, looking for caps and praying he wouldn't find radscorpions. Then one day he found it, the bike. It wasn't a fancy Lone Wanderer, it wasn't a prewar custom. In fact it was ugly and beat up. Someone had pulled the fenders off, the tank was dented, and it would have been something to pass over for anyone else. But Jack had seen a working bike in his youth. They said in New Vegas there were 30 or 40 that worked. They said in New Vegas someone had a running Corvega. They said a lot of things.
The bike had survived in a shack for 200 years nearly untouched. It wasn't all that rusty either. Jack knew it was his life mission to get it running. He saw himself riding to New Vegas. He saw himself riding back to camp to show off. He saw adventure.
Sweating, Jack pushed the bike two miles back to the lab, and was greeted with hoots of laughter. Bear, the head cook, looked at him sideways and offered him fixer. The laughter got worse. Jack didn't care. Nearly everything he did brought laughter. His general lack of talent for raiding had left him on guard duty while others sought glory. After a minute the laughter died down and Bear shambled over to the bike. He wasn't mechanically minded beyond what it took to cook jet, but he was the smartest individual present. "That actually seems pretty good" he said. Jack said nothing. "'bout 10 miles from here there's a junkyard. You could get some caps for it". Jack heard junk yard, and thought at once about parts. If he could get the parts, he could have a bike.
Jack drew graveyard guard, midnight till dawn. The camp was well hidden, in the east side of the Sierras south of new Reno. He wasn't worried about human threats. More likely it would be radscorpions. If a deathclaw came the camp would just have to be abandoned. Connie had also been assigned to duty. Connie was pretty but fierce. She was a legendary fighter, but had been shot during a delivery. Years younger than jack, she was the better Khan, which slightly galled Jack.
"Hear you found some junk, she snarked, opening a beer. Jack had never seen her get through a shift sober, but at least she didn't use jet like half the others at the camp. "I don't know what to do with it" Jack said sheepishly. Jack had long since given up acting cool for Connie. She saw through it, she wasn't interested, and she didn't care. "you gonna sell it?" She asked. "I want to fix it" he admitted. To his surprise, she didn't laugh. "I saw one work once, in Sparks" she said staring at the top of her beer. Jack was quiet. "Jack, you're a terrible Khan, but you aren't stupid. Maybe you'll get it fixed". Jack grunted and went to walk the fence.
The bike sat for a month, lying on it's side next to Jack's tent. But Jack thought about it every time he got ready to sleep. It gnawed at him. He didn't know enough about machines to know what was wrong, but he knew the frame was straight and the suspension had spring. Finally, he went to Bear. "Can I borrow the bramin?" "HELL NO!" bear yelled. His hand was blistered, he must have spilled something on it. Jack shifted his weight from foot to foot. He wasn't much of a raider, but he was a real Khan. "fuck you, I'm taking it", he said quietly. Bear didn't notice, looking for a stimpack. Bear was middle aged, skinny as hell, and used more jet than he made. While the camp's defacto leader, Jack wasn't intimidated by him. Jack went to the pen, tied a rope to the bike, and stood it upright. He'd have to balance it while guiding the bramin from behind. This was going to be a long ass trip.
Jack got to the junkyard mid afternoon. The bramin had seemed borderline useless at times, but he made it nearly 10 miles in less than half a day. There was an old woman in front of the barbwire fence. "NO KHANS! We don't want trouble!" Jack put his hands up, even though the woman wasn't armed. "Got a bike" he shouted. She looked hawkishly, then walked over. "200 caps" she said. Jack didn't know how to explain himself. "I…want to do something with it". The old woman didn't comprehend for a moment. "you want to fix it?" "yes…." "WHY?"
Jack didn't have an answer. She looked sharply, then softened when she realized he was serious. "I got three better bikes to work on, and they're no good without a fusion core. It's basically worthless". Jack felt stupid hauling it 10 miles for 200 caps. He paused then asked, "what else does it need?" The woman crouched down and took a closer look. "It's pretty complete" she admitted. "maybe I'll give you 400". "I want to fix it" he said firmly. The old woman laughed. "Look, can you get mentats?" "sure' Jack said, surprised. "they're an occupational hazard for someone who tinkers" She said defensively. "I'll trade parts and use of my tools for mentats. You do all the work. I've got holotapes, they'll show you what to do. It's no use without a fusion core though".
Jack settled into a routine. Graveyards with Connie, sleep as little as possible, hike to work on the bike, start over. In spite of what the woman had said she oversaw the work. Her name was Pearl and she had come from a vault. The work progressed well, if a bit slow. Sometimes Jack would get the shop and Pearl had worked on it herself, getting more done than he could. He acted a bit put out but he was secretly grateful. In 4 months Pearl declared the bike finished. "It just needs a power core" she said, a bit wistfully. She sighed. "Son, this is about as far as we're going to get. There isn't a fusion core within 50 miles of here." Jack had known this day was coming. Fusion cores were rare, and valuable. The NCR and Brotherhood of Steel used them for their power armor, and had slowly amassed most of them. It would take years of scavenging to find one.
Jack sat bitterly on guard duty that night. The bike was done, but it was worthless. Connie had passed out drunk. Jack starred into the fire. He made up his mind that he would simply give the bike to Pearl.
The next morning Jack set out to the junk yard. He was proud of how much he had accomplished with the bike. He had turned into a decent mechanic. Maybe he'd head to Red Rock Canyon and help build guns. He knew he'd been wasting his life at the lab. He walked into the main shed at the junk yard. Pearl wasn't there. He saw the bike. At the speedometer there was a small green light.
Pearl emerged around a corner, grinning softly. Jack was speechless. "Two years ago I found some power armor" she said. "I was trying to jury rig the fusion core to run a mister handy. It'd be nice to have a robot to help out around here, but I never got the damn thing to work. There should be enough juice the there to get you to New Vegas or wherever you want to go". Jack was a Great Khan; he was a tough son of a bitch. Khans didn't show much emotion. But Jack reached out and hugged the old woman.
It took him about three hours to figure out how to coast in a straight line, and then he tried a turn. By the end of the day He could ride the dirt road from the junk yard to what remained of the highway. Just before evening he thanked Pearl about 50 times in a row, stuttering, and then he set out for camp. The road was rough, and he was wobbly and had to keep putting his feet down, but in the end he rolled into camp with a satisfying roar from the engine.
Jack got off the bike. The other Khans gathered around to stare. Bear didn't say anything. Jack walked over to Connie's tent. She was waking up, bleary eyed. "What's that noise?" she asked. "Do you want to go somewhere?" Jack said. "Like on a walk or something?" she asked, confused. "No, I mean New Vegas, or Red Rock Canyon, or the East Coast or something? Do you want to get the hell out of here?" "What the hell are you talking about?" Jack waited for her to stand up, and then guided her by her shoulders out of the tent to the bike.
"You got it to run?" She asked. She walked over and ran a hand over the tank. "You really got it to run…"
She turned to him and said almost coyly "where did you have in mind?" Jack turned to Bear. "We need some time off, were heading to Vegas for awhile".