The Fallout Universe belongs to someone other than me. No infringement is intended, no profit is to be made and I'm just not worth the hassle of suing anyway unless you want a share of the wages of an underpaid Civil Servant.

Paradise Falls – Columbia Commonwealth – July 2277

'So I'm really hoping that thing there isn't one of those "Behemoths" you were talking about before' Coyle remarked to Doc Hoff as they cleared the summit of the last hill before their destination and the slaver settlement of Paradise Falls came into view. It hadn't been a particularly pleasant hike to get there from Germantown, even with the assistance of some more Med-X, but it took more than being fried extra-crispy to completely stop the Ranger's wisecracking.

Hoff chuckled. 'They're not that big and they don't usually carry ice-cream cones the size of a dumpster' he replied as they looked down at the brightly painted, multi-story-tall metal statue of a man which towered over the rest of what had once been a pre-war strip mall.

'Just wanted to be certain because if it was I was thinking about heading back to Agatha's place to see if I could swap a few rifles for her mini-nuke' Coyle told him.

'I doubt many would object to those particular buildings which survived the Great War being incinerated by atomic fire' Doc Hoff opined.

Coyle gave him a knowing look. 'Aren't they your customers, and the cornerstone of the local economy for that matter?' he pointed out.

'Doesn't mean I have to like them' Hoff replied, turning back towards one of Coyle's companions. 'Is she going to be okay with this?' he asked quietly, indicating Dreamer. 'She doesn't exactly look overjoyed to be here' he noted, the former slave having now gone extremely pale and seemingly almost transfixed by the sight of the slaver encampment ahead.

'Girl's got more issues than Lad's Life' Coyle muttered to himself. 'Dreamer you know the rules about only having psychological breakdowns on your own time' he said loudly, breaking her out of her trance.

Dreamer blinked. 'What?' she responded, transferring her gaze from Paradise Falls to the NCR Ranger.

'The flashbacks you're having about the last time you were here aren't productive' Coyle told her flatly. 'You need to be focused and clear-headed or you'll get us all killed.'

'How did you know what I was thinking about?' Dreamer wanted to know.

'Because I bet I'd have pretty much the same expression on my face if someone dragged me back to Helios One' Coyle replied evenly. 'Long story with a lot of good soldiers from both sides getting killed in it' he responded to a quizzical look he had received from Allison. 'Ask me about Operation Sunburst and our casualty rates for it some time' he told her, shaking off an unpleasant memory of his own.

'I'll be alright in a minute' Dreamer promised. 'Just hit me harder than expected seeing that shit-hole again, especially now I can see it clearly at a distance' she added, tapping her glasses.

'When we get down there I want you locked, loaded and with your game-face on' Coyle ordered. 'Both of you' he continued, looking from Dreamer to Allison. 'You might want to wear these' he suggested, taking off his sunglasses and passing them to his girlfriend. Added to the combat helmet she had on and with a Chinese Assault Rifle cradled in her arms she might look dangerous enough to counter the fact she was young and pretty enough to be worth plenty of caps.

'What about Dreamer?' Allison asked, putting on the shades.

'If you want my opinion that combat shotgun she's carrying, and her looking daggers at every slaver son-of-a-bitch in sight, should be enough to warn them off trying something' Pete the caravan guard chipped in.

'Good point' Coyle agreed. 'If you are going to dwell in the past make sure to look monumentally pissed-off at them not scared' he told Dreamer. 'And for what it's worth aiming the barrel on that thing low, like you're planning the messiest piece of gender-realignment surgery in history, will make for a very effective threat if you need one of the fuckers to back-off' he advised.

Dreamer took a look at her shotgun and smiled evilly. 'I like that idea' she decided.

'I could have done without the mental image myself' Pete commented, grimacing.

By the time they got down to Paradise Falls and made their way around the side of the settlement to where the entrance was Dreamer had managed to suppress most of her worst recollections of the place and get her breathing back under control. A short spell of nervous hyperventilating as they got within a couple of hundred yards of the place had made her head swim and Doc Hoff had been looking in his stuff for a bag for her to breathe into before Allison taking her hand to steady her had done the trick instead.

'She's not ready for this' Hoff told Coyle seriously as they neared the entrance to Paradise Falls, two bored-looking slavers with assault rifles guarding the way through.

'Statistically the best cure for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is being sent back into action' Coyle responded. 'Also we're a long way from the closest shrink even if we had the time to get her counselling' he added wryly.

'This isn't a war' Hoff countered.

'Yes it is' Coyle curtly disagreed. 'It's the war that never ends' he contended, 'civilisation against barbarism' he explained his thinking. 'You'd better go talk to the barbarians at that gate ahead too' he added, chuckling at his own attempt at wit despite the pain it caused.

Hoff nodded and striding ahead of the rest of the party whose pace was set by the lumbering pack- brahmin he went to meet the slaver guards. 'Grouse' he greeted the one in charge of the gate who acknowledged him with a cursory nod of his own.

'Who's that with you Doc?' the other slaver stood with the one called Grouse queried, his R91 brandished for effect.

'Let them tag along with me on the last stretch of my route past Germantown for mutual protection' Hoff replied. 'I suppose you know about the Super-Mutants there?'

'We heard' Grouse confirmed. 'Guess you tangled with them?' he reasoned, noticing as they approached that one of the strangers with Hoff looked injured, stripped to the waist with bandages wrapped around his torso.

'We did unfortunately' Hoff replied.

'Lose anyone?' Grouse queried. He didn't really care too much either way had but the conversation killed some time at least.

'Fortunately not but my friend there got lasered-up badly enough that I think he'll need some time with Cutter' Hoff responded.

Grouse shook his head. 'You know the rules' he said. 'Nobody gets into Paradise Falls unless they're slavers or selling slaves.'

'Or unless they're trading' Hoff reminded him.

'That gets you access because we need the drugs and medical supplies, it don't cover any hangers-on' Grouse stated firmly before spitting on the ground for effect. 'That rule's been in place since my Dad ran this town and Jones was smart enough to keep it.'

Hoff smiled knowingly. 'Not that you're averse to bending that rule if someone slips some caps your way' he noted.

'That just counts as another kind of trading, as in favours not stimpaks' Grouse replied, unmoved by the argument.

'I've got guns to trade' Coyle interjected having gotten close enough by now to join in the conversation.

Grouse smirked. 'Which would get you Pronto's interest not mine' he told the stranger. 'Where's my percentage?' he wanted to know.

'How about an assault rifle, one that's in better condition than the one I see you with now?' Coyle offered.

The slaver shook his head. 'It's a buyer's market thanks to those bandages' he replied. 'What else can you throw in to sweeten the deal?' he asked. 'I'm thinking ammo' he added, looking like he had his heart firmly set on it.

'Come on dude, I'm hurting enough already' Coyle replied. 'Why hit my wallet too?'

'Because I can' Grouse replied, smirking again. The only good thing about being stuck with the job of guarding the gate by Eulogy Jones was the opportunity to make a little something on the side.

Coyle groaned for effect, with the pain in his torso it wasn't completely feigned though. 'I'll throw in a full magazine' he improved his bribe.

'Three' Grouse responded. 'Two for me and one more for my friend' he said, indicating the other slaver guard with him. 'Gotta share the wealth' he said, knowing that was his father's failure to do so that allowed Eulogy Jones to kill him and take over the reins of leadership without much opposition vocal or otherwise.

'If I didn't need to see your sawbones this bad I'd walk away' Coyle complained. 'As it is though, you've got a deal' he reluctantly agreed before heading back to the brahmin to pick out one of the rifles he had taken from the Super-Mutants at Germantown.

'You going in too Doc?' Grouse asked Hoff. Sometimes the trader went into the settlement to deal with Pronto and Eulogy directly, other times slavers came out to him if they wanted to barter for what he had to offer.

'I will this time' Hoff replied. 'Pete will stay out here with the brahmin.'

'What about the pussy, they staying out here as well?' Grouse inquired, looking over the two women that were with the caravan with interest. The one in the tight leather outfit that showed some skin might benefit from gaining a few pounds but what was on show was still worth further investigation to his mind.

'Luckily for you no because we'd eat you alive' the other girl, the one wearing glasses with the combat shotgun in her hands and an R91 slung on her back responded coldly, her tone breaking Grouse's increasingly lascivious train of thought.

'He looks like something you'd leave on the side of the plate to me' the one in the leather outfit toting the Chinese Assault Rifle and with a 10mm holstered on her hip commented disparagingly, looking back at Grouse with an expression of distain her sunglasses failed to disguise. 'All gristle, no meat' she continued. 'At least not where it counts I'd bet' she added.

Grouse laughed, very unusually for him because he had earned his nickname from always being so miserable. Constantly bitter and complaining at everything because he hadn't inherited the top job which he thought should be his by right it was an apt nickname. 'When a woman talked that way to my daddy he'd usually end up eating her for real' he responded in amusement. 'Maybe I should follow his example?' he suggested, taking a step towards them.

'You could try but then you'll never have any kids that'll say what their daddy used to do' Dreamer told him, swinging her combat shotgun around so the muzzle was pointed at his groin. It was just as much fun to do as she'd thought it would be, contemplating pulling the trigger for a moment before common-sense prevailed.

Turning to Doc Hoff Grouse laughed again. Twice in one day the trader thought to himself, had to be a record he decided. 'I can see why you decided to travel with them for protection' Grouse remarked to the merchant, clearly entertained by the exchange. 'You can put the rifle and the magazines down there on those sandbags' he told Coyle. 'If they're crap when I check them you won't get back out of Paradise Falls alive.'

Dreamer surreptitiously looked Grouse up and down. The bastard didn't seem to recognise her, why would he given that she had been just one of likely thousands of slaves he had met over the years? She sure-as-hell remembered him though, the man who had first put a slave collar around her neck after other bastards had dragged her to Paradise Falls in chains wasn't likely to be soon forgotten.

He didn't seem remotely as frightening here in the flesh than he was in her teenage memories however. Now she suspected he was nothing but just another blowhard asshole with a gun, some lazy schmuck looking to make some easy caps either by extortion or trading in people that wouldn't put up enough of a fight to make it risky.

'Rifle looks okay' the other slaver informed Grouse, inspecting the one that Coyle had just placed on the sandbag in front of him. 'We letting them through?' he checked.

'Yeah' Grouse confirmed. 'Just make sure they all behave themselves in there Doc' he instructed the trader. 'I don't want Eulogy giving me shit because I did you a favour letting you vouch for these strangers.'

'It's not really a favour to me letting them in if you charge admission Grouse' Doc Hoff wryly observed. For his part Coyle was just making a mental note to head back this way before going home and be the last thing the slaver asshole never saw before his head got blown off. 'I know it's not gallant to get you to carry in the guns we're trading but I can't carry much of a load at the moment' he then apologised to Allison and Dreamer.

'Just as long as we get our percentage of the profit' Dreamer replied.

Coyle narrowed his eyes and swore under his breath. 'Why is everyone trying to kill or fleece me today?' he muttered.

'Maybe you deserve it for past sins?' Hoff suggested, only half in jest. 'Or perhaps future ones' he added.

'I'll atone' Coyle replied, momentarily looking towards Grouse and the other slaver again. With my FN-FAL as a 7.62x51mm flaming sword of justice he thought to himself.

Once they got inside, Hoff exchanging greetings with a few of the other slavers he had traded with over the years, the travelling merchant led Coyle and his companions to the local clinic. He pushed open the front door after knocking politely. 'You two had better wait out here with the guns, I'll be back in a minute' Hoff advised Allison and Dreamer before stepping inside with Coyle. 'Are you around Cutter?' he asked loudly.

'Where else would I be?' a prematurely grey-haired woman responded, emerging from a back room. 'Customer for me Doc?' she inquired, noting that the stranger with the merchant was bandaged up.

Hoff nodded. 'Friend of mine' he responded. 'Laser burns' he added.

'If you've got the caps to cover my fee take off your guns, sit your ass up on the bed there and I'll take a look' Cutter told Coyle. 'Brotherhood trouble?' she queried of Hoff as her new patient made his way over to the clinic's portable operating table. It had been salvaged from an old hospital like most of Cutter's equipment but at least it looked clean enough Coyle decided as he unbuckled his gun belt and hung up his MP9 and Desert Eagle within reach, placing a rolled up t-shirt next to them to wear later.

'No' Hoff replied. It was a reasonable question given that the Brotherhood of Steel were the group that most typically carried directed-energy weapons in the region.

'Better have not been Talon Company that shot him up then' Cutter said, they being the next most likely candidates to be toting lasers. 'Eulogy is trying to get on their good side and he'd be pissed if he found out I patched up someone they tangled with' she noted, putting on a pair of examination gloves.

'It was a Super-Mutant that lit me up' Coyle informed her.

'We ran into them over at Germantown' Hoff confirmed.

Cutter raised her eyebrows. 'Surprised you ran into them and lived' she remarked.

'Almost didn't' Coyle replied. 'Combat armour kept me alive but the Tri-Beam Laser Rifle I was hit with heated it up so much it scorched the hide off me' he continued. 'I've injected a couple of stimpaks and a few Med-X to keep me mobile but I really need proper treatment.'

'I'd better give you another hit before I take off those bandages because that's really going to goddamn hurt, just to warn you' Cutter replied. 'I'll add the cost of it to your bill.'

'When you've finished with the burns do me a favour and flush the rest of that chemical shit out of me, I don't want to end up a junkie' Coyle requested. 'Might as well get rid of any radiation I've picked up as well.'

'No problem, but the deluxe service isn't cheap' Cutter warned him.

'What use is a healthy bank balance without a healthy body?' Coyle asked rhetorically. 'Like my daddy always said to me, "you can't put price on good health son".'

'I beg to differ' Cutter replied, pointing towards a piece of paper stuck to the wall that priced her various services from X-Rays to tetanus shots.

Coyle frowned at the charges then sighed with resignation as he was in no position to haggle. 'You'd better get a good price for the rest of the guns I've got to trade or I might have to ask the guy that runs this place for a job' he told Hoff.

'I'll go talk to Pronto now' Hoff replied. 'I'd rather not watch this anyway' he continued. 'Or smell it again for that matter' he added, turning to leave.

'I guess there's no market for charred human flesh scented colognes' Coyle reasoned as Cutter started to work, giving him another shot of Med-X before unwrapping his bandages.

'I bet you could sell some over at Andale' Cutter replied, reaching for some surgical scissors.

Walking across the compound Allison considered that one advantage to carrying a heap of rifles in your arms when walking in the direction of the local arms dealer was that nobody felt the need to ask what you were doing there. This suited her fine since she felt no inclination to talk to any of the slavers that resided here and hoped that her visit was as brief as possible.

Allison's father had warned her about Paradise Falls many times when she was growing up. In fact the widely travelled Jack "Jackalope" Brenner had occasionally told his children a story, perhaps embellished, about having barely escaped capture by the infamous "Black Widow" Penelope Chase who ruled over the slavers three decades ago. To say it felt eerie to be here in person as a result was therefore an understatement although at least she didn't have Dreamer's understandably horrible memories of the place and unlike the former slave she wasn't always casting her gaze towards the other end of the old strip mall where the cages were.

'I thought it was only Harith that traded guns to us?' a young man wearing metal armour and with shaggy blond hair asked as they walked past him, the slaver having given Allison an unsubtle and appreciative look up and down before addressing Hoff. He was in his early twenties and handsome enough that in other circumstances Allison might have been pleased with the attention but right now she would have much preferred to be unnoticed. 'That's what my father says' the slaver added in a manner that indicated he regarded his father's pronouncements as if they were akin the Word of God.

'This is the exception that makes the rule' Hoff replied.

The slaver looked confused but decided not to press the matter further as an older man calling out his name attracted his attention. 'My father needs me' he said, hurrying away.

'Give Ymir my best wishes Jotun' Hoff called after the slaver. 'The mutfruit never falls far from the tree' he continued far more quietly so that only Allison and Dreamer could hear, 'they're both assholes' he said.

The "Lock and Load" was the only store in Paradise Falls and as the name suggested mainly dealt with the sale of guns and armour, although the inventory generally left much to be desired and business wasn't ever that good. The owner and storekeeper Pronto had often complained previously about his lack of stock to the visiting merchants from Canterbury Commons which was why Doc Hoff was unsurprised at the warmness of the welcome when he entered and his female companions dumped a pile of rifles on the counter to trade. 'This is going to clean me out Doc' Pronto said, grinning as he worked out what his mark-up would be selling them on.

Hoff looked professional. 'You can have the Hunting Rifles for the same as you pay Lucky, and I know what that is, but I want at least a hundred and seventy-five caps each for the R91's' he replied. 'They're all in half-decent condition, no rust on the internals and the rifling isn't worn out.'

Pronto winced, that was more than he was planning to pay and would cut down his profit margin considerably. 'I'll go to a hundred and fifty' he offered.

'No deal' Hoff told him flatly. 'Pick them back up, we'll sell at Evergreen Mills' he told Dreamer and Allison who played along starting to gather up the hardware again.

'Have a heart Doc, you're killing me here' Pronto responded.

Hoff sighed. 'Tell you what' he said. 'I'll drop it to one hundred and sixty-five if you can do Lucky and me a favour' he requested.

'What kind of favour?' Pronto queried, frowning.

'There's a Merc outfit which asked Lucky to source them some Chinese Assault Rifles but he's not finding it easy to come up with the number they want' Hoff replied. 'If you could pass word around and collect a few for us then we'll add you to our preferred customer list.'

'Same deal as Flak and Shrapnel get?' Pronto checked, he knew his more successful arms-dealing rivals at Rivet City got a much better deal from the Canterbury Merchants than he did.

'Same deal' Hoff confirmed.

'Okay sure, one-sixty-five per and I'll see if I can get hold of those rifles' Pronto agreed. 'How many are you after?' he asked.

'Twenty should do it' Hoff told him.

'Twenty?' Pronto repeated, aghast. 'That's a big ask Doc' he pointed out.

'It'll be worth it to you' Hoff promised.

Pronto pursed his lips. 'Shit, all I can do is try I guess' he said then laughed. 'Maybe some schmuck will walk in one day I can talk into collecting them for me' he suggested, doubting it would possibly be that easy. 'Don't suppose you've got ammo to sell too?' he asked. 'The shipment from The Pitt was supposed to arrive last week but we got word that it got held up and won't be here until the day after tomorrow' he said. 'If I had a few hundred rounds right now I could overcharge like crazy.'

'Sorry, no bullets to spare' Hoff apologised. If the slavers were suffering a temporary ammunition shortage then that would explain why Grouse wanted the extra magazines thrown in earlier so much before allowing entry to Paradise Falls he realised.

'Pity' Pronto responded. It had been worth asking at least he thought. 'I heard Eulogy is pretty pissed about it' he said, shaking his head. 'Evergreen Falls always want us to pay at least fifty percent in ammo for the slaves we buy from them and we can't send a crew south to collect the next batch until we've got the bullets to cover the bill.'

Hoff scratched his nose. 'My trade-route doesn't go straight from here to Evergreen Mills so hopefully your guys will overtake me and I'll arrive in time for the Raider's to splash out the fifty percent they do take in caps in buying chems from the Good Doctor's magic bag.'

'Here's hoping' Pronto agreed. 'Got to say' he continued, deciding to change the subject. 'The new bodyguards you're travelling with are a darn-sight easier on the eye than Pete was' he said. 'Love a girl in glasses' he added, winking at Dreamer.

'Pete's waiting outside the gates, these two are just temporary hires' Hoff explained.

'Yeah?' Pronto responded, intrigued by this piece of information. 'Interested in coming to work for me?' he asked Dreamer.

'No' Dreamer replied flatly.

'Me neither before you ask' Allison added for her part.

'Shame' Pronto said regretfully. 'Don't suppose I could offer you all a drink?' he asked, his attention still fixed on Dreamer. 'Whiskey?' he suggested, smiling.

'Water, hold the radiation' Dreamer requested. Coyle would be a while getting patched up and she was a little thirsty.

'Cute and a cheap date too' Pronto observed, 'where have you been all my life?' he asked rhetorically, trying his best to be charming.

Dreamer rolled her eyes. 'Avoiding you' she told him.

After chatting to Pronto for another half an hour or so Doc Hoff gave his apologies and said he should really check up on Pete and see if anyone else wanted to trade. Although drug-use wasn't near as endemic amongst the slavers as it was raider groups there were still a few "repeat customers" as Hoff liked to style junkies. Eulogy Jones tolerated them as long as they didn't let their habits interfere with their jobs but if they did then at best they'd shot or at worst find themselves on the inside of one of the cages being sold to make up for the losses incurred by their sloppy work.

Allison and Dreamer managed to put up with Pronto and his increasingly desperate passes at the latter for another ten minutes before they decided to escape too and go see how Coyle was doing. If Cutter knew her trade as well as Hoff maintained, and her stock of the pre-war pharmaceuticals included a few of the various wonder-drugs which had been developed before the Great War, it shouldn't take too long to fix him up even if he would still likely move stiffly for a while and be sore as hell.

They had barely gotten ten yards out of the Lock and Load when their path to the Clinic across the compound was blocked by a stern looking woman with a raider-like hairstyle and disturbingly cold eyes. Dreamer recognised her and inwardly flinched, Carolina Red was a psychotic bitch who had liked to torture slaves who didn't sell for entertainment adopting the hobby from her equally disturbed father.

'You're the one Jotun was talking about' the slaver confronted Allison. 'Stay away from what's mine or I'll pluck out your eyes and make you eat them' she threatened, entirely too convincingly for comfort.

Allison had no idea how to react or what to say, it was all she could do to stand her ground and try not to look as frightened as she felt.

'Look we're just here to trade we don't want trouble' Dreamer spoke up. If it had been any other slaver she might have threatened right back as a show of strength but that wasn't the right approach with an outright lunatic. It was much better to try and calm things down than escalate the situation into the violence which Carolina Red practically lived for.

'What's the matter?' the slaver asked Allison, ignoring Dreamer. 'Can't talk for yourself or fight your own battles?' she added as a number of other slavers started to gather around to watch. None of them particularly liked Red but they wouldn't mind watching a good cat-fight.

'Take a hike before I pistol-whip you' Allison told the slaver as forcefully as she could, remembering Coyle using the line once.

Carolina Red cocked her head to one side then reached out took off Allison's sunglasses and tossed them away backwards behind her, not bothering to look where they landed. 'What are you going to do now slut?' the slaver asked, smirking.

Allison looked past her over her shoulder. 'Nice catch boss but you can take your other hand off your gun' he said. 'I can handle this' she added confidently.

The slaver blinked then span around expecting to see the guy in bandages she knew had arrived with the pair. Instead she only saw the sunglasses lying in the dirt. 'Shit' she groaned realising she had been suckered just before an automatic pistol being held like a hammer impacted the back of her skull and she dropped to the ground like a sack full of fission batteries.

Allison looked around at her audience. 'I did warn her' she pointed out, holstering her pistol just as the rest of the slavers burst out laughing. Jotun might have felt the need to do something, he was practically the only resident of Paradise Falls slaver or slave that didn't dislike Carolina Red to one degree or another, but seeing that his father Ymir had joined in the laughter too he held his ground.

'If she doesn't wake up in an hour you'd better drag her to the clinic' Allison said, reaching into a pocket and scattering a few caps on top of the unconscious Carolina. 'That'll cover part of the bill.'

One of the other slavers picked up the discarded sunglasses and brought them over. He was clad in expensive combat armour rather than the cheaper gear most of his compatriots wore and the others got out of his way when he walked over to Allison indicating he had some authority. 'Not seen you here before' he noted, handing over the sunglasses. 'Mercs?' he queried.

'Yep' Dreamer told him as Allison put the shades back on. 'Our boss was travelling with Doc Hoff when he got shot up' she said. 'He's in the clinic, we had business in the store.'

'I'd say you were too young and pretty but people have thought the same thing about Eulogy's right up until they were gutted by them' the slaver commented. 'I'm Forty' he introduced himself.

'You should have paid more attention to your skin-care then because you look at least fifty' a voice interrupted him from behind. It had an accent which reminded the slaver of one of the older members of the Brotherhood of Steel he'd encountered over the years.

'Hey Boss' Dreamer greeted the man as Forty turned to face him.

'I hope you two haven't been getting into trouble without me to keep you in line' Coyle said, walking towards them from the clinic. He was wearing his "Kowabunga Tribe" T-Shirt and looked and moved a great deal better than he did earlier. 'I heard the commotion inside and I just knew it would be you at the heart of it' he chided.

'We didn't start shit Boss' Dreamer defended herself.

'Finished it though' Allison added, indicating the comatose figure sprawled on the ground.

'I can't take you anywhere, it's like fucking Helltown all over again' Coyle muttered.

'That wasn't our fault at Helltown' Allison retorted, playing along.

'Don't try feeding me that crap, you weren't the one that had to wash that poor fucker's brains out of your hair' Coyle complained. 'You know I was being serious about the skin-care Dude' he told the slaver wearing combat armour.

'Forty isn't my age, it's my name' the slaver growled at the newcomer.

'Lot's of brothers and sisters and a father that ran out of ideas for what to call the next kid?' Coyle theorised.

'Its how many men I've killed' Forty informed him angrily. 'Not counting slaves.'

Coyle frowned. 'Okay, but isn't it inconvenient having to keep changing your personal stationary every time you kill someone?' he inquired. 'Seems like a pain in the ass to me' he observed. 'I guess that's the reason you've only ever killed forty men right, to save on replacement business cards?' he suggested.

'What do you mean only?' Forty responded tersely. 'How many people have you killed?'

'I stopped counting at two-hundred and fifty' Coyle replied. 'It seemed crass keeping a tally after that point' he explained. 'Also people had already started calling me the Lord of Death and who the hell would want that?' he asked rhetorically.

Forty snorted in derision. 'Brahmin-shit' he responded to the outlandish claim.

'Fortunately I'm way past the point in my life where I give a shit about whether a man that admits he's only killed forty men takes me at my word or not' Coyle told him. 'Did you get a good price for the guns?' he asked Allison.

'Yeah' Allison confirmed.

'Good, paying my medical bill almost cleaned me out' Coyle replied. 'Let's go.'

'I wasn't finished talking to you' Forty told Coyle who had started to turn away.

'Hey hanging with the cool kids might do wonders for your rep but it's not doing mine any favours' Coyle replied sarcastically.

Now practically enraged at being talked to that way Forty reached for the Chinese Assault Rifle slung on his back but his hand had barely got a third the way to the grip when he found himself with the gaping maw of a Desert Eagle .44 Magnum aimed right between his eyes. 'Crap' was all he could muster as looked from the muzzle of the weapon to the amused expression on the face of the man holding the thing.

'They also call me the Fastest Gun on the West Coast' Coyle informed him. 'Think I'm talking brahmin-shit about that nom de guerre as well?' he asked seriously. 'It means name-of-war' he translated, correctly doubting he was dealing with an educated man.

'No, I can believe that one' Forty answered carefully. Other slavers were now reaching for their own weapons but that wouldn't help him much as the second bullet fired in any fight that broke out now would likely be the one travelling through his head.

'Never seen a draw that fast before myself either' another man interrupted. Coyle half-turned to see a black man in a sharp, well-cut pre-war red suit flanked by two girls in pink summer dresses stood nearby watching. 'I'm Eulogy Jones and I'm in charge here' the man announced.

'He started it Eulogy' Forty spoke up, addressing the latest arrival.

'No, he was a smarter talker than you which pissed you off so you decided to resort to violence' Eulogy disagreed. 'Problem was it looks like he had you outclassed there too.'

'If you like my draw then you should see me shoot because that's my real talent' Coyle said immodestly. 'If this is your dog call then him off and I'll holster my piece' he requested.

'Stand down Forty, let me talk to the man' Eulogy ordered, Forty starting to lower his hand away from his rifle and Coyle lowering then holstering his pistol in return. 'There now, isn't that better?' Eulogy asked, smiling.

'Much, from where I'm standing' Coyle replied. 'Ladies' he greeted the two girls with the slaver chief, bowing his head towards them slightly before re-directing his full attention on their boss.

'Forty there is loyal but he's not exactly a people person and he's not one for book-learning' Eulogy noted. 'Best second-in-command I could hope for though because he is smart enough to know I run this place better than he ever could.'

Coyle kept his left hand near his Desert Eagle and his right was resting on the grip of his MP9 just in case this turned nasty again. 'Man's got to know his limitations' he observed.

'He's mean enough to help keep the rest in line, probably have to bust some heads now to remind them of that and reassert his authority after this' Eulogy said. 'I'm told you came here to see Cutter and sell some guns that right?' he queried.

'Right on both counts' Coyle confirmed. 'Your sawbones Cutter does good work, and quick too.'

'That she does' Eulogy agreed. 'You came here with Doc Hoff, so are you affiliated with the Canterbury Merchants then?' he wanted to know.

'Just friendly with them, travelling with Hoff for mutual protection' Coyle replied. 'I don't normally trade guns, Lucky Harith still has the local franchise on selling arms if that was going to be your next question.'

Eulogy nodded. 'I thought you smelled more like a mercenary than a trader' he said.

'Better that than cologne eau de charred flesh I guess' Coyle replied cryptically.

'Looking for work?' Eulogy asked, he thought of himself as a good judge of people and this guy might as well have "Bad Motherfucker" written on his Tee-Shirt as "Kowabunga Tribe" whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.

'Not right now but I'll likely be back around here in a few weeks and if you're still interested in hiring I might be interested' Coyle replied. 'We're not cheap though' he warned.

'Quality never is' Eulogy responded. 'Guess I'll see you around' he continued. 'Make way for the Lord of Death and his crew' he ordered, chuckling as the slavers parted to allow Coyle and his companions to leave.

As they left the compound Coyle stretched out his arms. 'Hoff dropped in on me after he left you at the store, Cutter had just left to go get something to eat after smearing some slimy crap on my burns and telling me to stay put' he said quietly. 'He mentioned something about these assholes sending a shipment of caps and ammo south soon' he continued conspiratorially. 'I'm thinking ambush' he told them brightly, a distinct spring in his step as he contemplated a pile of money, loads of free ammunition and a pile of dead slavers.

'I'm in' Dreamer told him.

'Me too' Allison concurred. 'Did they really call you the Lord of Death?' she queried.

'Yep' Coyle confirmed. 'Later on it was "Lord Death of Murder Mountain" after I took apart a raiding party from the 80's gang up by Battle Mountain in Northern Nevada' he recalled, 'but to be honest it was all just getting silly by then' he said regretfully.

Note from the Author:

The slaver settlement of Paradise Falls is ruled by Eulogy Jones who took over from the previous leader Harmon Jurley, father of Grouse. Most of their business seems to be selling slaves onto The Pitt and they're likely on good terms with the raiders of Evergreen Mills who keep slave pens full of captives for sale.

Pronto runs Lock and Lock, the only store in Paradise Falls while Cutter runs the Clinic there. A few other resident slavers of note include Eulogy's second-in-command Forty, Jotun and his father Ymir and the psychopathic (by capital-wasteland slaver standards) Carolina Red who has a thing for Jotun.

You earn the title "Lord of Death" for getting two hundred kills in Fallout: New Vegas, being promoted to "Lord Death of Murder Mountain" later on. The 80's are a gang that operate in Northern Nevada and Utah along the old Route 80, Battle Mountain is a real place and seemed a good place for motorcycle riding Ranger Cassidy Coyle to clash with a motorcycle riding post-apocalyptic band of outlaws (he's one reason the 80's stopped trying to push further west towards Reno, though their own nom-de-guerre for him uses more bad language).