Pro Posterus 17
Jessica burst through the front door of Usanagi's clinic. Her lungs felt like bursting, and her legs were roaring in white-hot pain. She collapsed on the floor of the foyer, nearly smashing the Transportalponder!, but she managed to keep it off the ground as she lay there, panting for breath. The two Securitrons which had accompanied her back to the clinic stood at the door, waiting patiently for her to catch her breath.
She had not paused to debrief House, nor to ponder Burke's last words. That could all happen later. The moment the man had committed suicide by Securitron, she had rushed upstairs, grabbed the Big MT Transportalponder! and rushed for the clinic, stopping only when her legs wouldn't support her anymore. To his credit, House had allowed her to leave, and provided the escort so she could make it back in safety. Victor ended up carrying her for the final leg of the trip.
Cursing herself for the seconds it took to recover, she dragged herself to her feet and continued into the clinic, brushing past a few nurses as she made her way to Boone's room. She threw open the door and froze, stunned into silence.
A white sheet had been pulled over the sniper's prone form. Arcade and Jess had both turned towards the door, and were watching her with equal parts caution and mourning. Veronica was there as well, speaking to Raul in subdued tones, however Jessica's attention was focused entirely on the cot. Chills gripped her, slowing her feet. Her breath trembled and shook as she willed the sheet to move. Boone was still. Far too still.
"Jessica…" Arcade murmured helplessly as she moved up beside the cot. "Jessica I'm sorry… I tried…"
Jessica let out a choked sob. "I should've… I should've told given Victor instructions. I should've stayed! I should've…" she died away into silence, gripping the sniper's cold hand as if the mere contact would bring him back.
"Jessica…" Cass moved to put a hand on the younger woman's shoulder, but the Courier shook her off, snarling, "Don't touch me! This is your fault! This is House's fault! This is everybody's! This is…"
"Yours." Veronica finished, rising to her feet.
"What the fuck, Veronica?" Cassidy demanded, turning angrily towards the Brotherhood scribe. Arcade, normally the calm one, was looking equally as furious.
Jessica's gaze slowly traveled up past the dead sniper to rest on Veronica's stoic face. The Courier seemed to shrink even further. Veronica ignored the other two companions and pulled up a chair, never breaking eye contact with Jessica until they were both seated on either side of Boone's body.
Jessica stared at her. "I never really said I was sorry, did I?"
"You did." The Scribe replied shortly. "I just don't think you meant it like I wanted you to." She chewed her lip, examining the sniper's pale face. "You were sorry you hurt me. But you weren't sorry for all the good you thought you were doing. And it was good."
"Thought…" Jessica snorted, her voice hollow.
"Knew." Veronica corrected. "And you were right. Jessica, you're a good person. Boone and I… my Chapter… I may not like it, but we're casualties. But the bad guys…?" she reached across and gently took Jessica's hands, letting Boone's arm drop to the cot. "Jessica, at some point in your life, you knew this 'Burke' character. And I look at the things he's done to you, and to us in only a few days. Now the Legion is coming back? With more like him? The things you've done have made life so easy here in the Mojave… it's easy to forget what real bad guys are like. The things they can do." She gestured at the body of the NCR sniper. "This hurts all of us, but I want you to promise me you won't let it break you."
"Burke won't be the last." The Courier told her hollowly. "There are more coming."
Veronica reached up and removed Boone's sniper beret, with the First recon emblem emblazoned on the front. She handed it across to the Courier, saying, "In that case, it's time to go back to war."
"We'll need a weapon." Cassidy added quietly.
Vulpes Inculta was thrown to his knees. The thin, gangly abomination stepped back into its strict formation. They stood silent. Immobile in the night's flickering play of orange light and blue-black shadows. A part of Vulpes was envious, another part sickened; the strange soldiers with their sallow pasty skin, deadened white eyes, and perfect physiques showed the kind of discipline that even the most highly trained of Caesar's Centurions could only dream of.
After all, Centurions were only human.
Torches burned on the steep walls of the enormous valley, throwing light upon each rocky surface and revealing the macabre displays of power: crucified victims, taken from every tribe this blasphemous army, had ever conquered. There were many. Hundreds, probably. Certainly more than Vulpes could count. Far above their heads, the pale full moon shone brightly against the pitched black sky. There was no sound, save for the bonfires and the crackle of the spitting torches.
He kept his eyes averted from the man sitting on the throne before him. So this was He, then? Lanius had given Vulpes only the vaguest of instructions before sending him east to seek help. A map and a set of instructions on what to say. The bare minimum. What would keep him alive. Nothing more, though much was becoming horribly clear. Vulpes had always thought Lanius a vicious tribal. But something familiar in the bearing and brutality of the Emperor's soldiers bespoke a much darker history. It occurred to him that no one had ever seen under the Legate's mask.
"The Mighty Caesar has fallen." Vulpes reported. "Legate Lanius has taken command of his Legions, and respectfully requests reinforcements, that we may continue our assault upon the unjust and the profligates."
The Emperor stayed silent for a moment, thoughtfully tapping his lips with his finger. "So… Edward Sallow is finally dead?"
"Edward?" Vulpes stared.
"Your Caesar's true name." the Emperor chuckled. "He always hated it. But he is dead?"
"He is." Vulpes confirmed.
"Trying to take that pitiful concrete wall, no doubt. A waste of time. Perhaps he should have taken the Good Doctor up on his offer. But then …Edward always was a fool."
Vulpes rose to his feet angrily, despite the ranks of silent sentinels behind him. "I will not hear you speak such slander-"
"He was a fool!" the Emperor corrected harshly, silencing the Frumentarius. "A fool chasing after a lump of concrete in the middle of a desert! There are goals far more worthy of a true Legion. A true empire." The man rose to his feet, and Vulpes saw that where a Vexillarius of Caesar's mighty Legion might proudly wear the head of a wolf, the Emperor was sporting a deathclaw's horned visage.
The man rose and descended the steps of his throne. "An utter fool. His Legion scrabbled in the dirt for useless lumps of rock, pushing and pulling against the NCR. Each grasping at the Hoover Dam. A pair of children, fighting over a toy in a sandbox. Foolish when there is an entire world out there. Have you not heard the Legends, Frumentarius?" the Emperor asked. "A ring of mountains with all the secrets of the world untouched on the other side? A Casino, guarded by the damned with a vault of unkillable soldiers beneath? A great Chasm, bridging the divide between Earth and Hell and containing within it all the nuclear fire of the old world? How easy it would be to utterly crush the NCR with all that power at our fingertips…
"And there is more still! Have you never heard of the Vault Dweller, or the Chosen One? The Lone Wanderer who even now lives to the east in the ruins of Washington? I have sent one of my eldest Frumentarius back to deal with him. Unfortunate, but necessary. Perhaps I will turn his body over to the Good Doctor once Brutus and the Capital Wasteland have been dealt with. For these Walkers…they were and are the greatest warriors the world has ever seen. More than warriors. World builders. World destroyers. Beyond human. Something more." He gestured at the stoic ranks and smiled a devilish smile. "Something…better. You have one of your own. A thorn in your side, a dagger at your throat. The cause of all your woes..."
Vulpes grunted in response. The Courier. The dark-haired beauty with the emerald eyes. Her knowing smirk, red lips and swaying hips had left him aching with desire. It wasn't often that Vulpes Inculta wanted to indulge in the usual recreational activities of the Legion, but he knew without a doubt that if that woman, that… Courier… ever found herself at his mercy, he would show her none. He could have had her once. That was what burned most. He could have taken her in the ruins of Nipton, but he had been foolish enough to let her go. To let her return to her own Master.
The Emperor turned away and retook his seat upon the throne. "Tell Lanius he shall have his slave hordes. And a few of the Good Doctor's own creations to do with as he sees fit. In return, he is to leave the Lucky 38, the Courier, and the vaults beneath Fortification Hill, untouched. He is under my command now, as it was always meant to be. We are one, now, your Legion and mine. Edward Sallow went west. I went east. He was stuck in the past, Frumentarius. Rotting there with the rest of the tribals and warring factions and dreams of Purity. Welcome to the Legion of William Calhoun. Here… we do not fear the future."
The Title of this Story is Pro Posterus. According to the best of my sources, that translates into English as: "For the Future"
Lanius' history has been adjusted somewhat in this continuity, along with a few other minor details.
This story is officially finished. I know it wasn't the regular action-packed romp, but I wanted to introduce Jessica and give her a moment in the limelight (not to mention introducing the BIG BADs of the series, and the overarching plot).
"Bill" Calhoun is a real Fallout canon character.
Now to finish Mutatis Mutandis and move on to The Children of the Atom. Expect an update for Mutatis Mutandis sometime in the next 7 days. And perhaps one for Perspective as well.
Now Krow Blood and I will bid you a poorly spelled Adeiu, and sign off on this one.