Chapter 24: Treading on the Bear
Chloe lost track of time in the ambush, but she knew that the NCR's numbers were dwindling. She wasn't sure when reinforcements would be showing up either. They were hunkered down behind cover, barely keeping Jacob and his men from advancing further, from finishing off her father and killing the President. The sun had disappeared awhile ago, and the first stars started to appear. Although it helped conceal Chloe and her friends within the fighting, it also made it harder to see the enemies with only shadows and minimal light from the street lamps and spotlights positioned around the dam.
She strained to look over where her father and Kimball took cover, with only Moore and Oliver nearby to help protect them. Hanlon was knocked unconscious, and Crocker wasn't about to move from his hiding spot with his wound either.
"We aren't going to be able to hold like this until reinforcements arrive," Arcade said logically, reloading his energy pistol. "We need a plan, and fast."
"You're the smart one, think of something!" Cass spat, ducking down just before her head could get shot off to reload.
"I'm trying. You're perfectly capable of coming up with something yourself, you know," Arcade grumbled.
"We cannot let them get to the president," Phoenix called from nearby.
"Maybe we can make our way into the visitor's center? Hunker down in there?" Raul asked, using his gunslinger skills to shoot the arm of an aiming Praetorian Guard from up the street.
"I saw a mob of them go in there," Veronica said, shaking her head. "They're probably fighting the remaining NCR soldiers in there. Let's hope they don't succeed and come out to cut us off on the other side too."
"Yeah, we'll be in trouble then," Boone stated.
"Our best bet is to take out Jacob, but we need to find out exactly where he's hiding. He's gotta be trying to snipe us from somewhere," Chloe said.
An explosion from up the way boomed, rumbling the cracked asphalt beneath their feet. Chloe peeked over the cover, saw the barricade that blocked access across the river being destroyed. Her heart took a quick jump and she cursed.
"That must be Legion reinforcements!" Veronica gasped.
"That's great. We're gonna die here!" Raul groaned.
Chloe tried to think of a plan. Her eyes scanning around the street and visitor's center of the Hoover Dam. She saw her father was up now, taking shots when he could and holding a bleeding wound in his side. She was relieved he was alright…for now.
Rapid gunfire erupted ahead, as well as a few rockets that sounded like they hit rock and buildings. Chloe braced, thinking the Legion's reinforcements were going to swarm around them at any moment. She heard Cass curse as she looked over.
"Fuckin' hell I can't believe it!"
"What is it?" Chloe asked.
"Your fucking boyfriend brought the cavalry!"
She looked over the cover. She saw hundreds of Securitrons rolling into the dam, shooting down every single Legionarie in their sights. Some of the Frumentarri and Praetorian Guards tried to fight back, but soon realized their weapons were futile against the upgraded robots. As they tried to retreat, the Securitrons gunned them down.
"Well, now I know where Benny's been," Chloe said, sighing in relief.
"Never thought I would be relieved to see him," Boone said.
"Ditto," Cass said, half-laughing.
With the enemy retreating, Chloe jumped out of cover and ran for Benny, who was on foot searching the combat zone with a few Securitrons following him. He allowed the Securitrons to do most of the killing but didn't hesitate to take any easy shots to retreating Legion soldiers. When he saw her, his face lit up and came straight to her.
Chloe forgot about being mad at him, just relieved that he was here, that he had brought help. She ran up to him, jumping into his arms. He crushed her in a hug for a moment before pulling back to look her over.
"Baby, I was worried sick! Are you hurt?"
"No, I'm fine, but Dad is injured. You came in the nick of time. How did you know?"
Benny used his thumb to point up at the nearby Securitron, showing Yes Man's face on the screen compared to the cartoony army faces on the others. "Was out at the bunker at Fortification Hill getting the Securitron Army out. Yes Man told me there was an ambush going on here. Was gonna ignore it 'til he told me you were here.
"It's Jacob! He's behind this, we have to stop him," Chloe said.
"Yeah, that's what Yes Man said. Got the Securitrons ordered to take him alive."
"Alive?" Chloe echoed, surprised.
"Yeah, just for you," Benny said, grinning.
The tides turned quickly. The Securitrons decimated the remaining ambush party. Chloe and her friends helped take out the rest, but the robot army was relentless, shooting down fleeing Frumentarri and Praetorian Guard like rats.
As her friends started to gather around, Chloe looked around for her father. She was relieved to see him walking over, holding the bleeding wound in his side. It wasn't fatal, but Chloe still felt her belly churn in worry and she motioned Arcade over to treat him.
"Dad! Thank goodness you're alright. Arcade will take care of you."
Colby was only half listening, his mouth agape as he took in the high numbers of Securitrons roaming around the main road over the dam.
"Holy…you weren't kidding about an army of those things."
"All the better to rule New Vegas with," Benny said, lighting a cigarette. "Good thing I was close by. Jacob's little ambush did quite some damage."
"Yeah, well, I never thought I would be happy to see you, Benny, that's for damn sure," Colby said, wincing as Arcade stuck him with a stimpack.
Benny laughed. "You're welcome, pops."
"LET ME GO!"
Snarling protests hit their ears. Two Securitrons rolled up and Chloe grunted in shock. They held Jacob hostage in their metallic arms, each one holding a leg and an arm on each side so he couldn't escape. Jacob fought their restraints like an animal, despite not being able to make their hold budge at all. Colby looked just as stunned to see that he had been caught. Benny laughed, smoke billowing out of his mouth as he grinned the Frumentarri's way. The laugh was cold, similar to when he and Chloe had first met.
The Chairmen chief walked over to Jacob, Chloe and Colby following close behind. Their friends stayed back, although Chloe heard their remarks towards Jacob's capture.
"I thought I smelled trash in the area," Cass spat.
"Lookie what we have here," Benny said gleefully, blowing smoke in Jacob's face.
The veteran Legion soldier glared down at the chief with vile eyes but had stopped fighting his restraints. He remained unbothered by the smoke in his face, sneering down at Benny instead.
"You're pathetic. Having to rely on these…these things. You cannot fight yourself. You are weak! A con-man hiding behind metal."
"Wow, still a shuck I see," Benny chuckled. "Call it as you may, fink, brains always beat brawn…guaranteed. I didn't get this far by showing off my muscles like you crumbs do. I played the game, I rigged the shots. You can call me a cheat, but it's all perspective. In the end, I survived. I'm going to win. Your people should've played smarter."
Benny leaned in closer, putting his cigarette out on Jacob's face and flicking it away. The Frumentarri hissed at the burning but didn't react to much else besides giving a hateful glare to Benny.
"If you're going to kill me, then get it over with," Jacob snapped.
Benny closed his eyes for a moment, a sly smile forming as he stepped away. "Lucky for you, your fate is not in my hands."
Benny motioned to Chloe, and when Jacob's eyes met hers, she glared at him hard, her fists forming at her sides like a chain reaction.
"Or maybe I should say unlucky for you?" Benny chuckled. "Pussycat, he's all yours."
"And what exactly are you wanting her to do?" Colby growled, moving closer over to Chloe and Benny.
Benny feigned guiltlessness, which would have annoyed Chloe if she hadn't been so focused on Jacob as they stared each other down.
"She can do whatever she wants. This is her chance at revenge, if she wants it."
"And what if she doesn't want revenge?" Colby asked.
Benny snorted in laughter. "What? Oh, she will. Come on baby, now's your chance."
Colby rounded on Chloe, and she was suddenly aware what was happening. "No, don't! Have the NCR arrest him. You're not a killer, Chloe!"
"Colby's right, Chloe. You aren't a killer, not in cold-blood. Not like this," Jacob said, trying to appeal to Chloe all of a sudden.
A gunshot went off near her ear, and for a moment, Chloe thought Benny shot Jacob, but he had only used Maria to scare her ex-partner. The shot missed, going in between his legs and striking the asphalt behind him.
"Shut up," Benny warned, aiming the gun at him. He turned to Chloe. "Chloe baby, remember what this fink did to you? Make it right!"
"There's no making it right like that. Chloe, I know Jacob is a shitty person, but don't lower yourself to his level! He would suffer more in a jail cell," Colby pleaded.
Chloe wanted to look to her friends, to gauge their responses, but they stood behind her. She knew, she couldn't rely on them either way. This was solely up to her. Jacob's fate was in her hands. And now Benny and her father were on opposite sides prodding her to do one extreme over the other.
"If he gets put in that jail cell he will escape. He'll come back," Benny said sternly.
"No, he won't," Colby snapped, glaring at the Chairmen leader for a moment. "I taught you better than this. You. Are. Better. Than. This."
She tore her eyes away from Jacob, his composed face and the fire in his eyes as he stared at her. She looked to her father. He searched her eyes, silently pleading with her.
"I'm sorry Chloe."
The words sounded strange, and she looked up to Jacob. He stared down at her, unmoving. "If you let me go, I promise you will never see me again. I'm dead if I go back to the Legion anyways. I'll…I'll go elsewhere, start new. Far away. I promise."
Deep down, she wanted to believe him. But she knew better. Because of him, and all his lies, her life had been turned upside down. She almost lost her father because of him. She was almost a sex slave to Nero because of him. She almost lost her life because of him.
She felt Benny grab her hand, pulling her to face him. She expected him to be angry, to be frustrated with her for not deciding yet, for considering her dad's offer on the situation. But his eyes. He was hurt. He was worried. He genuinely looked shaken as he squeezed her hand.
"Baby," he whispered. "I'm telling you. You let him go or let him go in that jail cell…he will be back. He will kill you or someone you love. Do not make the same mistake I did."
Her heart felt like it had been stabbed, and she knew he was talking about his sister Melody. If Benny had killed Nero the first time, his sister would still be alive. One of the biggest regrets he held, perhaps the one thing that hurt him the most, and he was opening it to her right there, in that moment.
"There's nothing right or wrong about this," Benny continued, swallowing hard. "This is only about protecting yourself and those you care about. You have to do whatever it takes."
She saw a gleam and looked down. He was holding Maria out to her. The 9mm pistol shone under the street lamps of the road. It felt weird to grasp her fingers around it, the gun that almost took off her head. Almost killed her. The gun was lighter than it looked, and cold to the touch from the nickel finish.
She stepped forward with the gun, aiming it up at Jacob's head. She heard her father curse, and he begged her to stop. Benny remained quiet, but she felt his eyes on her. Jacob shook his head, starting to crack his cool with the gun now aimed at his face.
A sickness crept into her stomach, and Chloe was reminded of that night in the cemetery. It flashed through her mind, and she was reminded about how confused and lost and scared she was. How a strange man she never met was putting a bullet through her head because of an oversized poker chip she knew nothing about. And it happened only a few weeks ago. But now it felt like forever. She reached up, touching the healing scar on her head.
Was Jacob her in this moment? Was she Benny? Had the roles been switched and now she was taking the life of someone lost and scared? The gun faltered in her grasp, and she lowered it. She heard her father take a large gulp of breath out of relief. Jacob, too, relaxed, although it was short lived and he became quite fidgety, fighting the restraints on his limbs.
"I knew you would do the right thing," Jacob said. "Please, unhand me. I'll go and never return."
She could feel the underlying bitterness in his tone, his lie. And then Chloe remembered. No, Jacob was nothing like her. He wasn't lost or confused and being murdered in cold blood like she had been. He was a liar, a killer, and caused so many innocent deaths while working in the Legion. He was a monster.
"Jacob, I have one last thing to say to you," Chloe said, her eyes on the ground but slowly rising up to meet his gaze. She kept Maria at her side.
She took a deep breath. "If there's a hell. I hope you burn in it."
Before Jacob could respond, she lifted the gun up and pulled the trigger, the bullet striking home in his chest. Jacob cried out, but he was dead moments later. The Securitrons released his limbs, and the dead body dropped to the broken road below. Chloe looked to her father, expecting his disappointed face. He met her eyes, but shortly looked away.
It hurt her, but she knew he would get over it…maybe. She turned to Benny. He was solemn, his sly smirk or usual banter on hold. He knew she was upset, knew he had to comfort her. She held his gun out to him and he took it, slipping it into his jacket. He then took her hands and pulled her into him, kissing her hair.
"I'm sorry, baby doll."
"Don't be," she mumbled into his checkered jacket. "It wasn't hard to do."
She pulled away from him, looking up at him. He gave her a weak smile, pulling a strand of hair out of her face. "But now you know for sure he will never come back and hurt you or a loved one ever again."
Reinforcements from nearby stations were rushing into Hoover Dam. Legion and NCR soldiers laid dead in the road all over, and so confused by the situation, the NCR soldiers raised their weapons on the Securitrons. The robot army reacted to the threat with the aiming of their own arm-guns and shoulder missiles.
Chloe ran over to her dad as he tried to defuse the situation. Benny told the Securitrons to back down, despite the NCR soldiers looking for a fight. It was Colonel Moore's strong voice that bellowed out the order that drove the reinforcements to holster their weapons and stand down. She walked over, holding an injured shoulder. Kimball, Oliver, Hanlon, and Crocker were just behind her. Crocker limped on a shot leg, Hanlon was holding his head from being knocked out. Oliver had a gash in his side but was fine other than that. President Kimball managed to get out of the ambush with just a bump on the head, thanks to Colby saving him from being assassinated.
"What the hell," Kimball gasped, looking at all the Securitrons. "Are these what saved us from that attack?"
Benny and Chloe's friends came over to her and Colby. Colby nodded, glancing around for a moment, and when he spoke, Chloe could hear the disappointment in his voice still from what happened with Jacob.
"Uh, yeah. The Securitrons. The same things that guard the Strip."
"I've never seen so many of them!" Moore exclaimed.
"Yeah, I got a whole army of 'em," Benny said out loud, getting their attention. "You're welcome, by the way."
General Oliver sneered at the Chairmen Leader. "You? You came to our aid?"
"Don't flatter yourself, hotshot," Benny said, amused. He pointed at Chloe, and she became aware of all their eyes on her. "I came because she was in danger. I wasn't about to step into a fight between you and the Legion, not while it doesn't benefit me. So, you should be grateful to Chloe. Had it not been for her, looks like the ambush would've succeeded in taking the president's head."
"How many of these things do you have?" Kimball asked.
Benny shrugged. "Sorry, that number is confidential. Let's just say I have enough."
"You wretched tribal, answer the President!" Oliver demanded.
Kimball heaved a sigh. "Oliver, enough. He did save our lives, even if he was just coming here to save Chloe." The President of the New California Republic looked to Benny, studying him for a moment. "Your…significant other and I had a small discussion earlier about your…plans for New Vegas. Perhaps we can discuss it further with you here?"
Chloe thought that was weird. Their "discussion" wasn't even as such, more like a blow off. But maybe because of Benny's arrival and saving them, it opened up the possibility that Kimball could consider working with Benny. Would be worth a try. Benny seemed guarded at first, but then relaxed, nodding at the President after flicking his eyes over at Yes Man.
"You read my mind, Mr. President."
"You seem to be missing the point of the matter, Mr. President," Benny sighed, containing his frustration as he took a toke off his cigarette. "We can sit here and talk all throughout the night with whatever "negotiations" you want to pawn my way, it ain't happenin'. I made you a sweet deal, there ain't room for improvement. It's my way or the highway. Take your pick."
The tension in the room was unbearable. Chloe rubbed her temples, standing beside her father. They were back down in the offices where Chloe had tried to speak to Kimball before. It was just her, Colby, Benny, Yes Man, Kimball, Oliver, Moore, Crocker, and Hanlon now. Benny stood near the doors with Yes Man behind him. They all remained standing, too tense to sit down and relax after the near hour discussion that had been ongoing. Oliver and Moore's outbursts to Benny only made it worse.
Kimball did what Chloe expected. He tried to start out nice, to try and buy off Benny and his tribe, to try and change Benny's offered contract. But since Benny wouldn't budge, he soon became agitated, trying to threaten the Chairmen leader instead. Oliver jumped in on this, and it only made Benny become that much more of an asshole to them. He reacted the way she knew he would. He remained stubborn but calm, using his usual wit to turn their words back on them.
Her father must've sensed her frustration, her worry on the worsening matter. She felt his hand grip her shoulder in reassurance.
"You dare make threats to the President?" Oliver snapped.
"It ain't a threat," Benny said, a slight smirk quirking on his lips. "More like a word of caution."
"For over twenty years I've dealt with your trash. You tribals are nothing but degenerates…con artists with no sense of honor or humility. Not sure what I was hoping to achieve in this discussion. I do not agree to these terms. I will not accept the treaty. Perhaps if you consider my offers for the contract we can work something out, but not right now," Kimball grumbled.
Benny chuckled. "You act as if you have such time. The Legate will attack with the rest of the Legion any day now, and it's gonna hurt a hell of a lot worse than that ambush party today. If you don't sign that treaty after the final battle is over, if you win that is, then the Securitrons will uproot you from the region."
"You fucking bastard. We'll fight you for it," Oliver snarled.
Benny shrugged, looking amused more than anything. "I mean, if you think you can handle it after battling the Legion, you're braver than I thought…No wait, I meant stupider. The Securitron Army will wipe the rest of you out. I don't want that to happen. Innocent people die that way. Those innocent people will be on your hands, not mine. When it comes down to it, I will be protecting what's mine, protecting my family. I won't let anyone get in the way of that, dig?"
Oliver drew his pistol, aiming it directly at Benny's face. The Chairmen chief didn't budge, a glare coming across his face and he stared past the barrel. Kimball, Colby and Chloe hollered at Oliver to lower the gun, but the General didn't listen, eyes sharp on the man on the other end of his gun.
"Oliver, what the fuck are you doing? Lower the weapon," Kimball ordered.
"I can kill him, right here and now. Take control of those robots. We can resolve this issue right now!"
"You kill me and you just open up a can of worms, chump," Benny blew out some smoke from the last hit on his cigarette, and put it out on Yes Man. "Yes Man, why don't you fill him in what will happen if he pulls that trigger?"
"Oh, sure thing, Benny!" Yes Man said happily. "If you kill Benny the Securitron Army will retaliate, killing everyone above us and down here. Oh! Minus Chloe and Colby of course. Leadership will be given to Benny's brother, Swank, and the treaty will become null and void due to confliction of respecting parties. To put it simply, it would be a very bad idea!"
"Oliver, holster your weapon, that's an order," Kimball snapped.
The General lowered his weapon, gnashing his teeth hard and stepping back to be beside Kimball. The outburst put everyone even more on edge. Benny shook his head, disappointed, tsking their way.
"Truth be told, you're lucky it's me here right now and not House. Going through his database, looked like he had plans to wipe you chumps out after the final battle. Maybe he saw something he didn't like about you. Maybe I'm the stupid one for keeping the offer open now. Fact remains…if that treaty isn't signed after the battle for Hoover Dam…it's back to California you go…or in the ground, whichever you prefer."
Yes Man opened the door for Benny. The Chairmen leader stopped in the doorway, he glanced back at Chloe for a moment, his expression unreadable. She wasn't sure if he was beckoning her to leave with him, but she remained with Colby either way. Benny eased a sly smile to the NCR officers. "You gents have a good night. Ta-ta."
When Benny was gone, the room was silent. Oliver's glare came over to Colby and Chloe, and Moore held one that matched his. Kimball rubbed his temple, clearly frustrated. Colby stepped towards his old friend.
"You get the hell outta here. I don't want to see you two again. Not while you're working with that piece of shit," Kimball snapped, pointing to the door.
Colby closed his mouth after trying to say something. No words came. He didn't look surprised by Kimball's outburst, although Chloe felt him flinch from the lash. Becoming somber, Colby slowly dipped his head and walked for the door, head low. Chloe could only follow him.
Her father opened the door and headed out, not looking to see if she followed, or just assumed she was behind him. Chloe hesitated in the doorway. She felt terrible. This fallout between Colby and Kimball was her fault. Her father was trying to help her help Benny, despite not agreeing with it, despite not liking Benny. He was doing it for her. His chances of returning to California with a good job, a safe job, was now no longer a possibility because of this.
She turned to face the President, General, Colonel, Chief, and Ambassador. The tensed silence still eddied around in the room like poison cloud. Their glares burned her, but the Courier cleared her throat.
"For what it's worth…My father didn't want any of this. He did this for me. He doesn't agree with Benny and would rather the NCR take control of the region. I'm the one who got him into this. Please don't take this out on him. He cares about his country…about you. He almost got himself killed earlier saving your life, Mr. President. You can hate me and Benny all you want…just please consider making amends with my father."
With that she left the office. Her heart heavy, Chloe trekked up to the surface. She met up with her father and friends near the entrance to the dam. Hundreds of Securitrons waited around, and she spotted Benny walking over to her and her friends.
"It's time to leave," he said to them, and then slightly rolled his shoulder. "Unless of course, you want to spend the night here with this mess."
Chloe tiredly shook her head. "No, we're ready. Let's go."
They started out, a clear night sky overhead of them. Masses of Securitrons rolled along beside them, ahead of them, and even behind them. Needless to say, they had nothing to worry about as far as enemies go. Colby looked back towards the visitor's center to the dam, looking solemn. Chloe felt her heart churn from guilt before she felt a strong hand grab around her upper arm and tug her forward. Benny kissed her forehead, running his fingers through her hair for a moment.
"You alright, pussycat?"
She hesitated for a moment but nodded. "Yeah…yeah I'm fine. Just tired."
The trek back to the Strip would take a couple hours, marking for an arrival past midnight. She would be exhausted by then, but they had no choice. They had worn out their welcome with the NCR thanks to Benny and Chloe. The headache she received from all the stress and backlash of the negotiation made her doubt herself further. She had tried for a peaceful, diplomatic solution for everyone. Now she felt as though things were worse than before, and feared for what would come into play with the final battle for Hoover Dam around the corner.
A/N: Are you guys happy that Jacob finally got what was coming to him? :3 Only a few chapters left until this story is over! Stay tuned! :D I appreciate all the faves/follows and reviews 3 have a good week!