One Second Chance

Description: The wasteland is a fascinating place, filled with wonderful and wacky people, such as... The savage fox. The self-hating sniper. The motherly mutant. And the courier who finds that surviving a bullet to the brain is easy compared to choosing the right path, especially when there is no such thing. Make a good choice, a bad choice, or no choice at all, and you still pay the price.

A/N: I'm going to pick and choose the events/missions that I cover or don't. Some things don't need anything added, and some things just aren't all that interesting to begin with. Another thing, there will definitely be some romance in the story, but I'm going to do my best not to push into that right away, so if you're looking for a quick fix, you should probably look elsewhere. That being said, the main romantic interest will be Craig Boone, while Vulpes Inculta will also play a role. Other minor encounters may also be included.

Disclaimer: I do not own the any of the intellectual property in the Fallout: New Vegas video game, and make no claims on the characters, locations, situations, etc. that are presented therein. I do not profit from the writing and posting of this fan fiction.


Chapter One - The Feast of the Crows

Oh, the regrets. She'd had less than a week to accumulate them - at least ones she could remember - and she'd somehow managed to rack up so many.

Involving those townspeople in a gunfight - and ending up with casualties? That was one. Traveling through the desert at night was another - that hissing dog thing had nearly sunk its huge, dripping fangs into her. And coming here, that'd clearly been a big mistake. Like an idiot, she'd taken a look at Hell and then walked right in.

Now, this. She'd been too cheap to even try to get a better weapon, yet she'd been wandering around alone. So she was currently standing here like a cornered rat, holding a gun that was meant to kill...well, rats. Worse, death incarnate was walking towards her.

She'd only been back a few days and she was going to die, again. How unfair was that?

He seemed to be a dangerous animal like any other, and she was sure he'd have that air about him even if he wasn't wearing the skin from a predator's head like a hat. But he wasn't an unruly beast, ready to lunge at any moment - more like a powerful feline that knew precisely how and when to strike. It didn't help that he had a bunch of friends with him. She had the feeling that no amount of shooting skill or strategy on her part would get her through alive if she had to fight here and now. She wasn't even near cover.

Well, she wasn't going to end up like the poor bastards that were strung up around town. If it came down to it, she'd off herself first. Thinking this, her hand slid down to the hilt of her knife while her other hand continued to grip the varmint rifle. The strangely-garbed man didn't let the movement slip by his attention, although he seemed to misinterpret it.

"Showing our fangs, are we? But you needn't worry. You aren't going to share the fate of these...degenerates." His voice made her tense, a shiver wanting to go through her body. Not because it was overtly threatening - quite the opposite, really. He spoke softly, easily. He could've been chatting with a passerby about the weather, even though he was surrounded by fire and corpses. It was obvious he could really care less about her life or any of these others.

She tried to speak, but she found that her throat was too dry and her chest too tight. She swallowed, sucked in a shallow breath. "That so?"

"It is. Someone needs to spread the message, and you're as good a candidate as any. By showing you're willing to fight, you've already proven yourself more worthy of living than any of these useless creatures. And you don't appear to be an NCR dog. That always improves your chances of survival."

"First bit of good luck I've had in a while, I guess." Maybe not entirely true - she did recently survive a shot to the head, or so she was told. Then again, she'd been shot in the head. Never mind. "So, what kind of message are we sending?" Something about fear, if the feeling almost paralyzing her was any sign.

"It's quite simple. You need to spread the word of Nipton's fate - don't spare any details. I'm sure the NCR would like to know all about what's happened here. Some of them might even realize how doomed they are once they hear." This statement was accompanied by a cold little smile.

"I...don't understand." She swallowed, berating herself for saying anything besides "Yes, sir" when her every nerve screamed danger. But now she had to continue, lest he think she was too stupid to pass on his message, making her useless to him after all. "I mean, you just...murdered these people to teach the NCR?"

A derisive sniff. "I've no more murdered than an executioner murders when he carries out a just punishment. These people were wallowing in their own moral filth; their own lives had become forfeit the moment they decided to sell the lives of their guests for a meager fee. There is no issue of whether or not they could be redeemed, either. Parents who watch their children be dragged away while they merely pray for their own safety deserve far worse than what we've inflicted. These people had no loyalty, no values. They lived as animals and they were slaughtered as such."

The Courier put a hand over her mouth, though she wasn't sure what exactly was the most appalling bit. Yes, the brutality carried out here was hard to stomach, but was it true that Nipton's residents had done nothing to protect one another? That they'd betrayed whoever had been staying here, just for some caps?

"Maybe they really did deserve what they got," she murmured. Yeah, right. And who was she to judge? Who knew what she'd done before taking that headshot?

But the man seemed pleased with the response. He shared another smile with her, this one just as devoid of warmth as the last. "I'm glad you understand. Perhaps you will one day prove yourself truly worthy of the Legion's attention, and our paths will cross again. Until then, 'Vale'."

The pale stranger turned and headed out of town, his cronies on his heels with their heads swerving this way and that, the pack being on the lookout for enemies while the leader stared confidently ahead. The woman he left alive could only stand there until he was out of sight. Then she finally let her knees give.

.o.

Ghost just stared grimly as the Courier explained her findings. Though in her way, the Ranger had shown she was worried about the town, she had not been expecting a direct Legion attack. The news was disconcerting for both of them.

"Just watch yourself out there," the albino sniper said after a brief silence. "This means the Legion is moving in faster and harder than we thought. And they might not let you off so easy next time, especially if they happen to catch you talking friendly with our troops."

The Courier smiled weakly. "Uh, yeah. I don't plan on running into them again if I can help it." She still hadn't completely shaken off that feeling of impending death, after all.

.o End o.