[Fallout: New Vegas]

"... This has got to be the craziest thing I've done yet."

A tall, slender Asian woman with a long black ponytail stood next to a long line of train tracks. It had been more than one hundred years since any train had gone over these tracks – not since before the nuclear war that devastated the planet.

The woman was named Nanami. She had worked as a simple Courier for the Mojave Express package delivery company. One fateful day, not long ago, she had been hired to deliver a small box to the New Vegas Strip.

Things had gone badly.

Nanami wore a blue jumpsuit with a yellow stripe down the front; it was a Vault Jumpsuit. Over the suit she had a long white labcoat. On her wrist was a watch-like computer called a Pipboy 3000. It was an advanced computer that stored information on everything she saw and did – it even monitored her vitals 24/7 to make sure she was healthy.

Today, Nanami was standing in front of the ruins of a bombed out town. Several hundred yards past the town was Nellis Air Force Base. In the pre-war days, it was a major military installation. Now, it was the home of the Boomers – an eccentric group who never left the base; and who turned the base's giant howitzers on anyone and anything that came near Nellis.

Nanami had heard about the Boomers. They were known as one of the more powerful groups in the Mojave, because of their heavy artillery and their sheer numbers; and the fact that even the NCR did not have the weaponry and manpower to breech their base. Nanami knew that a war was coming to the Mojave Wasteland.

The New California Republic, a nation built in what was once California and founded on ideals from the Old World; democracy chief among them. It was a nation of law and order – and one that sought to expand their influence beyond California.

Caesar's Legion was a powerful force from Arizona. A nation of absolute dictatorship with a madman named Caesar in charge. Modeled after the Roman Empire, it was a nation of slavers and brutal warriors, and they sought to conquer the entire world beneath their banner.

Nanami had run ins with both forces. She knew that the two would soon battle one another to the death. She also knew that if the Mojave's communities were to survive the battle, she would have to do something. Her quest was no longer just about revenge for the gunshot wound she suffered to the head. She was fighting for the future of the Mojave.

She also knew that she could not take on two armies by herself. She needed help... and if she could win the support of the Boomers, she would have that help.

… Of course, Nanami did not know if she COULD win the support of the Boomers. No one who had ever tried to approach Nellis had done so in one piece. For all she knew, even if she arrived safely, they would just shoot her on sight. Nanami knew that she was skilled... but she did not think she could take on every one of the Boomers by herself.

"... Okay. No use delaying the inevitable."

Nanami bent down and retied her shoelaces so that they would be tight. All the while, she was trying to calculate her odds. It was a bad habit of her's. She would often try to add up her odds of survival just before she did something like this. The lower her odds, the greater the rush of adrenaline.

She shook her head. This was one time when she did not want to think about the odds. She did not know how many howitzers Nellis had, but she knew that there were several. She also knew that the Boomers had a reputation for shooting anything and everything that came near the base; be it a single molerat or a group of humans.

Nanami stood back up, and looked down into the knapsack she carried with her. The few belongings she had were stowed away in the battered knapsack. She took out a bottle of water, and took a large drink. The radiation in the water burnt her throat, but she still felt a small sense of refreshment.

She also took out a small, well-worn Bible that had been given to her back in her days at the Vault. Once, she had been slated to be the Vault's Chaplain. Events had happened so that she was forced to leave the Vault, and that 'fate' was circumvented. Still, she kept the small Bible that had once been part of her training.

She closed her eyes for a moment, saying a silent prayer. Then she returned the bottle of water and the Bible back to her knapsack, and pulled the sack over her shoulder. Nanami adjusted her glasses, and then took several deep breathes.

This was it.

There was no turning back. The Boomers were already watching her with binoculars, and if the rumors were true, all she would have to do is step into the bombed out city and they would open fire.

Nanami rushed forward. The moment she crossed the threshold of the bombed out city, she heard a boom in the distance. One of the howitzers had fired. She knew that they had already locked on. If they were as good as the rumors said, they would know the average human run speed, and they would know where to drop the bomb to turn her into a red splatter on the desert floor.

She rushed as quickly as she could, jumping over a barrier and rushing into one of the bombed out houses. The walls and roof were long since destroyed, but she rushed through the broken kitchen. The bomb hit the ground a few feet away, resulting in a massive explosion and a burning fireball. The flames were too far to be a danger, but what Nanami feared was the shrapnel.

A large piece of the broken shell flew from the impact area, and Nanami had was only saved from a nasty cut by the small section of wall remaining. Yet even as she avoided the first bomb, she heard several more pops in the distance, and she knew that the howitzers had fired multiple times.

"Shit." Nanami growled as she jumped back to her feet and ran as fast as she could. She dodged down into a crater from a previous impact just as the second shell rained down. The explosion was hot at her back, and too close for her comfort. This time she felt a sharp pain in her left arm as a piece of shrapnel cut through her lab coat and her skin.

She did not have time to acknowledge the pain. She rushed again, for she heard the sound of the howitzers firing again in the distance. Another shell impacted, this one too far to effect her, but it smashed into an old car that had somehow remained mostly intact.

Immediately, the car exploded – the nuclear engine burning and creating fusion. Nanami rushed ahead as she heard the Geiger counter on her Pipboy spark up loudly. The radiation would certainly be bad for her, and if she stuck around that nuclear energy release would be even worse than the bombs raining down from Nellis.

Nanami dove, rushing behind a fallen tree. The shockwave bombarded the tree, splintering it and catching it on fire. Yet she was safe.

Until she heard the whistle from another volley of howitzer fire. Nanami swore, and rushed ahead. She moved faster than she knew she could. She jumped into another ditch – one that was likely dug from years of howitzer shells impacting the ground – and rolled to the side. She hit something hard and metal and felt pain rush through her shoulder.

Turning her head, she saw a dead body. It was a Brotherhood of Steel member. She could tell from the armor. Nanami considered grabbing the armor and putting it on, but she knew it was too heavy. It would slow her down. Right now, she wasn't sure she was fast enough to survive on her own.

Nanami jumped up, out of the ditch, just as a howitzer shell came raining down. She jumped ahead, but the explosion was close. She felt flames tickle her cheek and she felt the intense pain on one side of her body, but she managed to roll away before she received any nasty burns. The dead Brotherhood member was not as lucky, his body and his armor blown apart.

Nanami rushed on ahead. She was bleeding and burnt and in serious pain. Yet ahead of her, she could see the fence to Nellis. She knew that if she got just a little closer, she would be too close for them to fire the big guns at her. Some quick and dirty math told her that they could probably fire one more volley at her.

She saw the howitzer's fire once again. She saw the shadow on the ground, growing larger, as one of the shells started to come down just where she was. Nanami was not sure if she could escape this one. So she did the next best thing. She stopped where she stood and whipped out her pistol, aiming straight up and opening fire.

Nanami squeezed off every round in the clip. She saw the shell explode just a few feet above her. There was a massive explosion and she felt flames raining down all around her.

She rushed forward, returning the gun to its holster on her belt. She jumped down the hill, rolling until she slammed against the fence that separated Nellis from the rest of the Mojave. She groaned and looked up as she heard the fence opening.

Nanami was aware she was covered in injuries. She had burns, cuts and her shoulder was aching. She groaned and sat up, clutching her shoulder. She thought it was possibly dislocated. As she sat up, she noticed the gate was open, and a woman in combat armor rushed out – aiming a rocket launcher towards Nanami.

"Don't move! Just... just stay right there!" The woman's name was Raquel. She was the Master-at-Arms of Nellis, the leader of the defenses for the Air Force Base. She was terrified at the moment. No one had ever made it through the barrage of fire from Nellis' howitzer's. Raquel was dressed in standard combat armor and a helmet.

"Whooooa! Somebody actually SURVIVED my firing? And it's a hottie! What a day this'll be!" A tall, redheaded boy wearing a leather bomber's jacket over top of a vault uniform jumped forward. He was grinning like a maniac.

"Lavan! Go and inform Mother Pearl about this!" Raquel barked an order at her fellow Boomer.

[…]

Nanami was taken – at rocket point – to one of the buildings on the base. The main hangars were far away, near the runway, whereas she was taken in the opposite direction towards the various barracks. She was taken to a barracks and let inside, and only then did the rocket-launching toting guard finally leave her in peace.

The barracks was well decorated, and inside a little old lady sat on a couch. Like most of the Boomers, she was dressed in a Vault 34 jumpsuit, and a leather flight jacket. The old woman indicated for Nanami to sit across from her, and the young scientist did so.

Nanami was still clutching her shoulder, and still bleeding from the cut on her leg. She had yet to really have an opportunity to address her injuries, but that was not her greatest concern at the moment. She sat silently, watching the old woman.

"I am Mother Pearl. Leader of the Boomers." She introduced herself. "I have been waiting years for one of the savages to run our barrage and make it here. I was starting to wonder if anyone ever would."

Nanami gave a slight smirk. "You don't exactly make visitor's feel very welcomed."

The elderly Pearl gave a hearty laugh. "Yes... well, most visitor's are certainly NOT welcomed. We've watched the filthy savages of the Mojave for decades. People running around with guns and knives, and all of them behaving as if they've completely abandoned their God given senses."

The young scientist was inclined to agree. She had traveled a great distance in her life – much more than most people ever did in the post-apocalyptic America. In all her time, most of the people she encountered had reverted to animalistic instincts. Raiders, Slavers, Thieves, Murderers and all manner of terrible people.

"Not to mention the mutants, and the giant monsters that run around. Some of them are truly horrific. Ah... but you must know all about the outside world." Pearl smiled, and she looked grandmotherly.

"I do." Nanami nodded.

"Good." Pearl smiled. "The truth is, we don't have the population to stay cooked up here. My young one's... one day they will need to experience something other than the safety of Nellis. I need an exceptional outside to help them. I'm hoping that person is you."

Raising an eyebrow, Nanami shifted her weight a bit. "Oh? Was surviving your welcome wagon not exceptional enough?"

Pearl chuckled softly. "Oh, that was plenty impressive... but I'm afraid not enough. For now, I will allow you to move around Nellis on your own, unescorted. You may leave if you like... or, you may stay, and perhaps you an win the trust of my young ones."

[…]

That was how Nanami came to reside at Nellis. She spent a day in the women's barracks, addressing her injuries and giving her body time to recover. Relocating her shoulder was a painful thing, but it had to be done. The cut was far easier to treat, but still not fun.

The next morning, however, Nanami set out to discover Nellis. The children of the base watched her in awe, as if she was some strange beast they had never seen before. Nanami did not mind.

She soon made her way back to the gate, where she found Raquel standing at her usual guard post – and the redheaded young man who had been firing howitzer's at her.

"Oooh, I heard you were wandering around the base like some kind of lost dog or something." Lavan jumped down from his perch, landing in front of Nanami and flashing a grin.

She was not amused. "... So you're the guy who tried to blow me up."

Lavan chuckled. "Hahah, yeah... just doing my job! And I gotta say, you're the first person to ever survive! Color me impressed. You think you could do it again?"

Nanami narrowed her eyes. "That depends. Do you think you could dodge bullets?"

With a hearty laugh, the redheaded guard of Nellis flashed another large grin. "Daaaang, are all girls from the Wasteland as mean as you?"

"I'm actually exceptionally kind compared to the norm." Nanami smirked, and then decided to ignore this flame-haired fool. Instead, she turned her attention to Raquel.

"Mother Pearl said you'd have a job for me." Nanami was always one to get straight to the point. She had a feeling a woman like Raquel would appreciate it. It was clear that Raquel took her responsibilities very seriously.

"Yeah... she told me you'd be helping us around the base. Whole thing is pretty damn unusual, but it's Mother Pearl's will... if you really want to help, we do have one situation we definitely could use a hand with."

Lavan's face fell a bit and he butted into the conversation. "You're sending her down there?"

"I am." Raquel nodded. "Alright Outsider. The Nellis Solar Array is just up the road, near the hangars. It provides power to the entire base. There's a generator room just beneath the array... and we have an ant problem."

Nanami groaned. She had dealt with giant ants before. The nuclear fallout that destroyed the world had mutated insects, turning them gigantic. Some species of ants were even known to breath fire.

"The ants have tunneled beneath the array, into the communications array building. You want to help, you can head into the communications building and kill the ants."

Nanami was suspicious. She knew that giant ants were dangerous creatures, but the Boomers seemed to really enjoy their high explosives, and the overgrown ants should be easy targets. Raquel seemed to notice the quizzical look on Nanami's face.

"We keep a lot of our ammunition in the communications array building. The ants have been eating gunpowder... shooting them with explosives or energy weapons causes them to explode." Raquel explained.

"It's actually pretty freakin' cool to see." Lavan chuckled. "... Except, the array building is a lot of narrow hallways, and shooting at exploding ants in those halls is a great way to get yourself blown to pieces."

Nanami nodded. Now it made sense. "So I go down there, kill all the ants, and that's it?"

Raquel handed Nanami a small device. "Take this. Our inventor, Loyal, made it. It's a sonic device. If you plant this on the tunnel the ants are using to get into the array building and activate it, it should kill the ants and keep the tunnel clear. After you kill the ants, you'll have to restart the two array generators."

Nanami nodded, and headed towards the door. Lavan followed after her.

"Hey! Wait up, savage wasteland chick!" Lavan chased after her and ran in front of her.

"That's not my name." Nanami did not seem amused.

"Aw, come on! It's a pet name!" Lavan grinned to her.

"... You don't get to give me a pet name." Nanami frowned, her voice becoming a bit colder.

"You mean me shooting howitzer shells at you yesterday didn't count as a first date?" Lavan was still grinning and practically bouncing around her. He seemed like the over-excitable sort.

"I'd sooner date a molerat. Now move." Nanami said coolly, as she pushed past Lavan and headed to the locked door. She slid the key Raquel had given her into the lock, and started to twist the door's handle open.

Lavan jumped in front of her, throwing his arm across the door. Nanami looked extremely annoyed at this point.

"Aw, come on... if you're really wanting to win over the good graces of the Boomers, I'm the man you wanna see!" Lavan chuckled.

She pushed him away easily. Lavan seemed surprised by how strong she was despite her slender frame. "If you get in my way again, I'll break your arm."

Nanami slipped into the communications array building and shut the door behind her. Lavan frowned, and plopped down on the dirt outside the door, watching it like a sad dog who had just seen their master walk away.

[…]

Nanami was back into predatory mode as she stepped into the communications array building. She moved silently. Years of living in the post-apocalyptic American wasteland had taught her the value of stealthy movement, and she had plenty of time to practice.

In her hand was an old combat knife. She had found it more than a year ago, during her migration from the East to the West. It had been difficult to restore the knife to a good condition. She had replaced the handle, and sharpened the blade several times. She knew that the repairs were temporary at best and she would soon need a new knife, but the weapon had served her well.

Raquel had told her that regular ammunition would not detonate the ants, but Nanami did not want to take chances. These ants had eaten quite a lot of gunpowder, and the last thing Nanami needed was to nearly be blown up two days in a row.

Though it would not be the first time.

As she slipped further into the darkened building, she saw an old computer terminal. Slumped against the base of the terminal was a Boomer. His jumpsuit and jacket were torn, probably by the jaws of an giant ant. Next to the deceased young man was a grenade launcher.

Nanami picked it up and examined it. It was still in working condition, and there were three grenades ready to be fired. Nanami decided to take the weapon, but she hoped she would not need to fire it in a building full of explosive ants and stockpiled weaponry.

Nanami turned the corner and found a narrow hallway. At the end was a door that opened to a wider room, but she could not focus on that. In the middle of the hallway were two large ants – and they seemed to immediately notice her. Clicking their jaws, the mutant insects scurried in her direction.

"Memories of Grayditch." Nanami groaned. She ran forward and jumped over the first ant, coming down and landing on the second. Her feet impacted its back and she heard a crunching sound. Not taking it to chance, Nanami spun around and thrust the knife into the ant's head, killing it.

The ant she had jumped over turned around and came towards her and the corpse of its sibling she stood on. Nanami tried to draw her knife from the deceased ant's head, but it was stuck! The still living ant was quickly rushing towards her, clicking its massive jaws.

"Shit!" Nanami could not free the knife, so she did the next best thing; she jumped off the dead ant and kicked its body towards the living one. The living ant was confused to have its siblings body smashed into it, and it struggled to push the dead ant away. Nanami used that opportunity to draw her pistol and fire a few shots at the living ant's head.

Much to her relief, Raquel was right, and the nine millimeter bullets did not cause the ant to explode; though they did kill it. Nanami walked over, gripped her knife, and used her leg to steady herself as she ripped it out of the ant at last.

"This is going to be a long morning." Nanami grumbled, putting her pistol away. She walked past the two mutilated ants and into the larger room. There were a few filing cabinets and a desk – and another Boomer who had died at the claws of the ants.

Nanami shook her head. She had long since stopped being shocked by the sight of a corpse. In the world she lived in, she had seen plenty of people who had fallen to the wasteland... and she had left quite the stack of corpses in her wake, as well.

These days, when she saw a dead body, her first instinct was to check the poor soul's pockets for food or ammo. Right now, though, she refrained. She did not think the Boomers would appreciate her ransacking the corpses of their fallen comrades, and the only reason she was in this communications array was to earn their trust.

Nanami moved on, to the next room. She found a staircase that led down to a much larger area. There were several shelves, all filled with boxes. She could tell from the markings on the boxes that they were military supplies. She could see several guns lined up against the wall, and on shelves, and many boxes of ammunition and grenades.

It was... wonderful. Living in the wasteland, Nanami had learned a great respect for the "tools" of her trade. While she had once been slated to be a Chaplain, and had studied medicine with her father; these days a dependable gun and a ample supply of ammo were always a welcomed sight.

She saw something else. All around the room were what looked like enormous bullets. She theorized that they were likely the howitzer shells that Lavan had fired at her as she approached Nellis the day before. Actually seeing the size of the shells, it amazed Nanami that she had even survived the suicidal approach.

Though her time admiring the well-stocked armory was short. There was more than just guns and ammunition in the array building. At the far end of the room was the generator switch she had to flip. It was near some stairs that descended from a catwalk above her head.

And all throughout the room were ants.

Dozens and dozens of ants.

"... Lovely." Nanami frowned. She could not take down so many of them with just her knife, and the pistol only worked on ants when she could get a clear head-shot, and even then it usually took two or three bullets. She simply did not have the ammunition to take them all down.

"Need some help?"

Nanami whipped around at the voice and instinctively shoved her pistol into the face of Lavan. The redheaded Boomer was still grinning, even with a gun pressed against his cheek.

"Why did you follow me?" Nanami snarled. She was annoyed. The last thing she needed right now was to babysit this guy.

Lavan shrugged. "I wanted to help. You REALLY impressed me yesterday by reaching Nellis with hardly a scratch. I figured anyone who could do that would get rid of these ants in a really cool way too, and I just GOTTA see that."

Nanami sighed, and reluctantly lowered her pistol. She supposed that shooting this loudmouth wouldn't help her make friends with the Boomers. Unless he annoyed them as much as he did her, in which case maybe killing him would earn her a parade.

"I don't need your help, and I really don't need a cheerleader." Nanami replied coldly. "You'll just get in my way, and complicate matters when I have to keep you alive. If you insist on staying, then stay up here on the stairs and don't make a sound."

"Psh, you are COLD lady! Buuuut I'll be good and stay here. I just wanna watch that magic I saw the other day dodging my howitzer!"

Nanami decided not to respond. She started slinking down the stairs, pistol in hand, moving slowly and making hardly any noise. The stairs were old and metal, and they creaked loudly with movement – but Nanami had learned to creep along in such a way that would minimize the sound.

When she finally reached the floor, she stalked behind a shelf full of weaponry and ammunition boxes. She examined the shelf for a moment, but saw no weapons that could help her against the ants with the explosive personalities. So she crept along, moving as slowly and silently as she could.

Nanami knew what she was doing. She would stealthily take down each of the ants. It would take a while, but it was the safest way of doing this.

Unfortunately, the watchful Lavan perched on the stairs was growing impatient. He had expected Nanami to run around the room in a blaze of hellfire and explosions, making snappy puns as she exterminated the ants. Instead, she was creeping along at the pace of a drunken snail.

"Come ooooooooooon! Do some sweet moves!" Lavan called loudly.

The ants immediately turned their heads towards the stairs and clicked their jaws menacingly. The nearly three dozen ants in the room began to immediately swarm together, rushing towards the base of the stairs.

Nanami was annoyed. She was half-tempted to just let the ants eat the obnoxious redhead, but for as cold as she could be, Nanami was always one to try to save people in danger. She jumped out from behind the shelf and opened fire on the ant swarm.

One of the ants was hit in the leg, causing it to tear off. Another was struck in the thorax and collapsed onto its side, clicking its jaws and kicking its six legs in pain. The multitude of ants seemed to turn their attention away from the elevated Lavan, and towards Nanami. She was shooting them, and on ground level.

The swarm of ants started in her direction immediately. Nanami swore once as she saw them charging, and a second time when she realized she was out of bullets. She hastily stuffed the gun into her bag as she looked for another weapon – and found on: her laser pistol.

Nanami's father had been a scientist, and in the past she had worked with the Brotherhood of Steel on a few occasions. Her interest in technology caused her to be quite fond of energy weapons. However, she knew that the super-heated lasers would easily detonate the gunpowder the ants had been feasting on.

"GET OUT OF THE ROOM, RED!" Nanami shouted towards Lavan as she aimed the laser pistol. Lavan recognized the laser pistol and gasped – and for once he obeyed Nanami. He dove away from the stairs and back into the room full of filing cabinets.

Nanami let loose with the lasers. She struck one ant, near the center of the swarm, and it almost immediately burst into flames – a second later the ant exploded. All of the ants around it burst into flames; and then they too exploded.

The result was a giant fireball, and ant body parts being thrown through the room. The shockwave knocked Nanami back, and she hit the wall with a painful thud. She groaned, pain filling her body.

"I hate ants." Nanami groaned.

[…]

The explosion of the ants caught the attention of the Boomers outside. In a matter of minutes, Raquel, Lavan and a few others who Nanami had yet to meet came rushing in to find the remains of the ants littered around the room.

The story quickly circulated the community of Nellis. That night, as Nanami wandered the base, several of the Boomers called out to her, and a few brave ones even approached her and asked if she had truly blown up an entire room of ants.

The Boomers all seemed enthralled by the explosions, and it seemed that destroying the ants in the loudest and most impractical way she could think of had earned her a great deal of respect among the Boomers.

It was as Nanami was sitting down to have dinner in the mess hall that a blonde haired young man approached her.

"Um... 'scue me. I'm Jack... I'm Loyal's apprentice."

Nanami could immediately tell the boy was nervous talking to her. She supposed that was to be expected. She had dodged the howitzer and slain the ants. To the Boomers, that was probably the most impressive feats they had ever seen.

To Nanami, it was Tuesday.

"Hi Jack." Nanami said simply as she took a bite out of her cooked molerat. It tasted terrible, but it was rich in protein and helped keep Nanami's strength up.

Jack rubbed his neck nervously. "Um... so... Loyal mentioned you're helping out around Nellis?"

Nanami nodded, taking another bite.

"W-Well... um... I have a request... it's a little embarrassing to ask, though..."

Nanami was not sure what he was trying to say, but she felt herself get annoyed. A guy of Jack's age probably had one thing on his mind, and if he was going to make a 'request' like that, she would have to hurt him. Badly.

"I like to look out at the wasteland with my binoculars... and, well... there's this caravan I see sometimes... and this girl is with them... she's real cute. She looks at me with binoculars too..."

Nanami sighed. She was half right with her guess. She put down her fried molerat and looked up at Jack. "So you want me to go to this caravan and see if this young lady would like to, what? Abandon her home, her friends and family, to come to Nellis for a guy she's never met?"

Nanami had been speaking sarcastically, but Jack did not seem to notice.

"That would be great!" Jack grinned happily.

Nanami groaned. The request seemed insane to her. Yet, she decided it would be a much easier request than slaying a building full of explosive ants. She stood up and wiped her mouth.

"Sure, Jack. I'm assuming you mean the Crimson Caravan Company, there the largest in the area. I can head down to their branch headquarters and see if I can find this lady... but Jack, most women aren't going to just up and abandon their life for someone they never met. I don't want to get your hopes up."

[…]

The Crimson Caravan Company was one of the largest in the Mojave. It's Vegas branch was headed up by a stern woman named Alice McLafferty. Nanami had dealt with her a few times in the past. McLafferty was a hard-nosed, no-nonsense woman. Nanami could respect that.

McLafferty was also a shady shrew who was known to use all manner of bribery, blackmail and trickery to get her way. That, Nanami did not respect. She knew that McLafferty had conspired to put her competition out of business, so that she would be the main supply-line for the NCR.

When Nanami came strolling into the Crimson Caravan's Vegas Headquarters, she was greeted with the usual applause. The NCR held Nanami in great esteem. She had previously hunted down and killed three notorious outlaws who had robbed the NCR of a lot of money, and many soldier's lives.

Nanami had yet to truly make up her mind about the NCR. They seemed like they were doing something right. Their dedication to Old World values of democracy and freedom was something to admire... but their desire to rapidly expand beyond California, and annex Nevada into the NCR, regardless of the locals opinions, was something far less admirable.

Still, Nanami had aided the NCR on a few occasions. She knew they were a flawed society, but they were certainly a better side to back in the conflicts than Caesar's Legion.

The Legion was a horrible band of people. The soldiers of the Legion lived like Kings, and Nanami could respect the way the Legion banned all alcohol and drugs. However, the Legion were well known to turn their surviving enemies into slaves, and Nanami could not stand slavers.

She recalled Paradise Falls, in a land far away from the Mojave. That had been a community of Slavers... and Nanami had slaughtered them all without mercy. She still had a scar from the experience, but it was worth it to bring their reign of terror to an end.

She wondered if she could defeat the Legion. Paradise Falls had been one small community. It was no simple feat to kill the thirty or so of them... could she stand a chance against an entire army of hundreds?

Nanami's grave thoughts were pushed back as she returned to her errand. Over by the Brahmin pin, she saw a young redheaded woman tending to the two-headed cattle. She matched the description Jack had given her of his 'dream girl'.

"Excuse me. This is going to sound strange... but have you been watching the Boomers?" Nanami asked.

"The Boomers? Well ya! There's this cute guy there and we watch each other through binoculars sometimes." The girl grinned. "My name's Janet! Why do ya ask?"

Nanami rubbed her neck. This was starting to feel more awkward than simply killing a group of ants. "Well... I just came from Nellis... Jack asked about you..."

"You did? HE DID!" Janet seemed extremely excited. Her eyes had widened and she looked genuinely thrilled.

Nanami was a little surprised that Janet was so... happy. She did realize she had never actually met Jack before, didn't she? In fact, Nanami suspected that Janet did not even know his name until Nanami had said it.

"Well... yes. He actually wanted you to come to Nellis and live with him."

"Okay!" Janet readily agreed. Then she paused. "Oh... but... I can't leave. I'm under contract with Miss. McLafferty. She wouldn't pay me if I leave now... could you... maybe... talk to Miss. McLafferty for me?"

Nanami sighed. "Sure."

She was starting to miss the giant explosive ants.

Nanami headed over to the small building that served as Alice McLafferty's office. Nanami had been inside before, and she never enjoyed spending time with the branch manager of Crimson Caravan Company.

"... Oh. It's you."

As soon as Nanami entered the office, McLafferty looked up. She did not seem amused. The woman had a sharp nose, and short gray hair. She leaned back in her chair and folded her hands in her lap.

"Yeah. So here's the deal... Janet is going to run off to Nellis to live with one of the Boomers." Nanami wasted no time explaining.

McLafferty seemed mildly amused by what Nanami said. "That sounds fun. I'm sure Janet will be happy there. Of course, she'll have to pay a contract cancellation fee."

Nanami expected that. It did not make things any less annoying. However, Nanami could be very persuasive. Sometimes that meant shoving a shotgun into someone's face until they cried and begged for their life – but sometimes a few strong words could be even better.

"... Miss. McLafferty..."

"Save your breathe. If you think you can appeal to my romantic nature because I'm a woman then you're an idiot." McLafferty said bluntly.

"... Alright lady. If you want to cut the bullshit, fine by me. The fact is, Janet is going to go live with the Boomers. She'll be telling them all about the Crimson Caravan and the NCR. Now, she can tell them stories about her generous boss and the wonderful company she worked for, and perhaps convince the Boomers to open trade routes with you and diplomatic route with the NCR... or she can tell them about the horrible, bitter old hag she worked for the money-grubbing NCR she represented."

Nanami leaned forward, glaring at McLafferty. "... Now, considering the Boomers have more firepower at Nellis than the NCR has in all of Nevada, I doubt that the NCR Brass over at McCarren will appreciate the NCR getting bad mouthed to the Boomers all because Alice McLafferty had to pad her pockets. Seems like the kind of move that can end your career... or your life."

McLafferty was stunned. She paused for a moment, and then silently opened her desk and removed a small bag of bottle caps – the currency of the post-apocalyptic wasteland. She handed them to Nanami.

"Tell Janet to have a good life, and that we were happy to pay her contract."

[...]

Nanami returned to Nellis with Janet in toe, and despite her cynical misgivings, it seemed that Jack and Janet took an immediate liking to one another. Nanami shook her head, and headed to see Mother Pearl.

"You have done well to earn the trust of my people, Outsider. Raquel, Jack, Loyal and Lavan have all spoken very highly of you. I have one more request for you... perhaps you can make our ultimate dream come true."

Nanami raised an eyebrow. "And what would that be?"

"According to the computers here at Nellis, there is a crashed B-29 Bomber in the lake just south of here. We have flight simulators here at Nellis, we can train our Boomers to fly the B-29. We know how to repair it... we even have a system to raise it from the bottom of the lake. However, as you know, we Boomers have never left Nellis."

Nanami understood now. She smirked. "But I've walked the wasteland. You want me to fetch you the plane. I'm not sure it would fit in my knapsack."

Mother Pearl chuckled a little. "Oh, ho, ho... no dear. We have robots that can transport the B-29 back to Nellis. We just need someone to dive down to the bottom of the lake and attach a ballast to each wing. Deploy them, and the B-29 should float to the surface."

"... Alright. I can do that."

[…]

Nanami headed towards the gate of Nellis. She was eager to get to Lake Mead, raise the sunken plane, and get back. Once this was done, the Boomers would finally trust her – and she would have made a powerful ally.

Then, perhaps, she could continue her quest without the worries of the impending battles between the NCR and Caesar. As she approached the gate, she caught sight of Lavan running her way.

"What?" Nanami asked, annoyed.

"Can I come with you? I want to help." Lavan smiled with a large grin.

"No." Nanami shook her head. "Besides, don't you Boomers stay in Nellis? Never leave at all?"

Lavan shrugged his shoulders. "True... and that's why if I'm going to go outside, it should be with an experienced wasteland warrior like you! Besides, I helped you out in the communications array building, didn't I?"

Nanami stopped. She turned and looked over to Lavan and raised an eyebrow. "You helped? I must have missed that part. You're not coming with me."

"Pleeeeeeeeeeease?" Lavan begged, all the while smiling. He seemed to be purposefully obnoxious.

Nanami sighed. She crossed her arms, and looked Lavan up and down for a moment. "... There's only one way this happens, and that's on my terms. You do what I say, when I say, and how I say it; or I will shoot you myself."

"I'm okay with that." Lavan grinned happily.

Reluctantly, Nanami pressed on out of Nellis. Behind her, Lavan was happily skipping along. She was annoyed. Lavan moved too fast and made too much noise. As if that was not enough, he insisted on talking to her.

"So how long have you been wandering the wasteland, anyway?" Lavan asked, tilting his head.

"A while." Nanami replied.

"Where are you from?" Lavan asked, still bouncing around her.

"A Vault. A long way from here." Nanami replied, her voice exasperated.

"Oooh, we came from a Vault too! Vault 34. We had all kinds of weapons and explosives and wonderful things like that... but the Overseer wouldn't let us play with them! So Mother Pearl led us to revolt, we left the Vault and found Nellis!" Lavan explained the origin of the Boomers' society.

Nanami did not reply. She did not enjoy talking about her past. There was a reason she had left the east coast and ventured to the west coast. While the history lesson on the Boomers was interesting, she did not want to speak anyway.

"How come you're so quiet?" Lavan asked.

"The Mojave Wasteland is extremely dangerous. There are all manner of mutated beasts that would view us as dinner. There are also raiders, bandits and Caesar's Legion raiding parties. Running into any of them would mean a bloody battle, and I'd rather avoid that." Nanami explained. "So be quiet."

Lavan shrugged his shoulders and was silent for a few moments. He followed Nanami as they headed down the steep sandy hills. Ahead of them was Lake Mead, where the B-29 had crashed in the distant past. Ahead of them was an abandoned dock and several buildings.

"This place is crazy..." Lavan commented. He seemed pretty happy to see someplace outside of Nellis. His eyes were wide, and he was looking around the abandoned docks with glee. Nanami found it... annoying.

"Does anyone use this place?" Lavan asked loudly.

"Be quiet!" Nanami snapped at him. "I told you running your mouth can be dangerous."

Lavan shrugged his shoulders. "Aw, come on. You survived the howitzers and the ants, what could possibly be out here that would bother you?"

Nanami spun around and glared at him, her eyes narrowed dangerously behind her glasses. "You think ants and your little cannon are the worst things out here? There are Deathclaws, giant monsters with claws like sharpened swords and teeth that can bite through steel. There are Super Mutants, who are as dangerous as they are ugly and can work heavy weapons better than most humans can. There are Nightstalkers – a hybrid of wolves and snakes that travel in packs and can take down groups of well-armed people without much trouble."

Nanami knew how to convey the threats of the Wasteland. She spent so much time in the desolate nuclear wastes that she was intimately familiar with all the ways one could be gruesomely murdered by the monsters that lurked in the wastes.

"... Whoa. That sounds INTENSE!" Lavan chuckled. "But bring 'em on! Between your mad skills and my grenade launcher, we can take on anything!"

Nanami felt her blood run hot. This obnoxious little Boomer twerp had promised to obey her, and here he was doing just the opposite. She turned, intent to press on to Lake Mead so they could finish their mission quickly – but what she saw caused her freeze in her spot.

On the side of one of the burnt out buildings alongside the dock was a grayish brown cluster, that seemed to be "growing" from the side of the building. It resembled a beehive, but much larger. Nanami knew what it was – a Cazador nest.

"Shit." Nanami immediately drew her pistol. Lavan's interest was piqued. He grinned, and slide next to her.

"What's up? Did you see something?"

"Shut up." Nanami hushed him quietly, but her hushed voice was as cold as the desert's night. Lavan seemed to notice the change in her demeanor.

"That's a Cazador nest... Cazador are tarantula hawk wasps that have been mutated to a giant size. Their stings contain a powerful poison. You'll be loopier than you would be after spending all night in a tub full of whiskey, and it hurts. The pain is among the worst possible. It's a blinding, fierce and shockingly electric pain... it immediately shuts down your ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream." Nanami explained, and for once her voice actually contained a hint of fear.

Nanami had been stung by Cazadores before. The pain was a memory she still shivered at. The young woman had fought heavily armored enemies, Super Mutants, Deathclaws and all manner of violent people – but the Cazador's sting was one of the most painful things she had experienced.

"Sounds nasty." Lavan was still nonchalant about the whole thing. He did not understand. He could hear her words, he could even identify the rare fear in her voice, but he could not understand the pain of a Cazador sting unless he experienced one.

And most who experienced one did not live to tell the tale.

"Just be silent. We get to the water, we'll be fine. Cazador hate the water... but until we get to the dock, keep your mouth shut."

Nanami turned, to resume their path towards the docks, but then she heard it. The distant and faint sound of buzzing. Her eyes grew wide as the sound slowly became louder and louder.

"Run!" Nanami shouted, and she took off. Lavan looked surprised, but he started after her. A moment later, from one of the abandoned buildings, several large insects flew out. They were inky black wasps with enormous stingers and bright orange wings. The buzzing was loud, and the Cazadores were fast.

"Shit, we won't make it!" Nanami realized. She had ran from Cazadores before, and she knew how frighteningly fast the creatures were. She scanned the area and saw a small shop front. It looked to be the remains of some sort of office from the pre-war days. The building was still stable, and the walls looked free from holes.

"There! If we can make it in that building we should be fine!" Nanami shouted. Lavan was right on her heels as the two sprinted for the building. Nanami had outrun the explosive shells of the howitzer just two days earlier, but compared to the swarm of Cazadores behind her, the howitzer seemed like a joyful romp.

"These things are fast!" Lavan shouted.

He was right. The swarm of Cazador were just behind them. They had already covered at least forty feet of ground, and were rapidly approaching them. Nanami drew her pistol and fired over her shoulder. A bullet tore through the orange wing of the Cazador and the mutant wasp crashed into the desert floor, writhing and buzzing.

Lavan reached into the backpack he wore and retrieved a grenade launcher. He had taken it from the armory. Lavan squeezed the trigger and a highly explosive incendiary grenade fired at the swarm of buzzing beasts.

The grenade exploded, showering the swarm of Cazador with a cloud of white phosphorous. A substance that immediately burst into flames upon contact with the air. White phosphorous would continue to burn in any environment; even when submerged in water. It burnt until it burnt itself out completely. Several of the Cazador collapsed onto the ground, writhing around as they burnt.

Just ahead, Nanami could see the office. It was their safety. If they could get to the other side of that door and close it behind them, they would be free from the Cazador threat. Unfortunately, when she glanced over her shoulder to shout the good news at Lavan, she noticed that the Cazador swarm was right behind him.

"This is why I don't work with amateurs!" Nanami turned and swept Lavan's leg out from under him, causing the Boomer to collapse and fall onto the ground, rolling down the hill towards the office. Simultaneously, she brought her pistol up to shoot the Cazador that had been immediately behind Lavan.

She squeezed the trigger and put two bullets into the buzzing beast; but even as she did, she felt the long, needle-like stinger of the Cazador puncture the skin on her upper arm. She felt the warm surge of venom being pumped into her bloodstream.

Nanami pushed the Cazador away, and turned and ran for the office. She and Lavan made it through the door, and the redheaded Boomer slammed it shut behind him. Several of the Cazador slammed into the door, embedding their stingers into the wood.

Nanami took two steps into the office and then collapsed onto her knees. She was groaning in pain. The Cazador venom was intense pain. She closed her eyes and her muscles shook. The intense electrical pain was worse than she remembered.

"Are you okay?" Lavan dropped down next to her. His usual cheeky grin was gone, replaced with a look of deep concern. Lavan was a joker at heart. He loved to push the buttons of those around him, and to see how far he could push someone before they broke down and shouted at him. Yet Lavan DID care about others, and he hated to see someone in pain.

"No I'm not okay!" Nanami practically shouted. Her vision was swimming and blurred. She knew the poison was already surging through her system. Nanami collapsed onto her back, and tossed her knapsack towards Lavan.

"In the bag... antivenom... get it!"

Lavan scrambled to the knapsack. He grabbed a vial marked 'antivenom', and then tore a piece of cloth from the side of the bag and rushed over to her. He grabbed her arm and tied the cloth around it tight. He wanted to stop the venom from spreading to the rest of her body.

She weakly took the antivenom from him and immediately thrust it into her leg, and plunged down the end of it, injecting the antidote into her blood stream. She leaned back, her vision still blurred and her mid still floating.

"Are you okay?" Lavan asked.

"No... I have to drain the venom... get my knife. You'll have to cut my arm, drain out the poison..." Nanami was speaking weakly. With the turnikit tied and the antivenom in her system, she knew she would not die; but if the venom was not drained, she would likely lose her arm.

Lavan paused. "Cutting up your arm isn't necessary. Just hold still, will ya?"

"Wha... what the hell are you doing?" Nanami protested. Lavan had bent down and gripped a hold of her arm. He then brought his mouth down over the sting. After a moment, Lavan raised his head and spit out a viscous liquid.

"I'm sucking the poison out. Now shuddap!" Lavan replied, and then he went back down for seconds.

"D-Don't do that you idiot..." Nanami protested, but the pain of the venom and the "fuzzy" state of her mind left her unable to shake him away.

After a moment, he brought his head back up and spit out more of the venom. Nanami was still in a fog, and could not believe what was happening. She tried to push Lavan away, but she was having a hard time telling what was happening.

After a moment, Lavan was looking at her, his face close to her's.

"Hey! You okay? I think I got all of the venom... or most of it anyway..." He leaned forward, poking her cheek.

"I... thanks..." Nanami mumbled. She realized that Lavan's face was very close to her's, and they were staring at one another.

A moment later, Nanami suddenly realized that something strange was happening. It took her a few seconds to realize their lips had locked together. It took a few seconds more for her to fully understand that they were kissing.

Once she realized she was kissing the young Boomer, she immediately put her hands on his chest to push him away, but she did not. She wasn't sure if it was the effects of the venom making her too weak, or if perhaps she was enjoying this moment.

Then, she passed out.

Lavan noticed and frowned, breaking away from her and poking her in the forehead. "Hey... heeeeeey... don't pass out right now... heeeeeeeeey... aw, damn it... what timing..."

[…]

When Nanami awoke, the pain from the Cazador sting had faded. She was still a bit disoriented, and it took her a moment to remember where she was. She was in the office by Lake Mead, but oddly enough her head was not resting on the hard, dusty floor. She was lying on something that felt softer than the floor, and much warmed.

She immediately bolted upright when she realized that she was lying on Lavan's chest. She immediately went red in the face and adjusted her glasses.

"Oh! You're finally awake." Lavan smiled at her. Suddenly he leaned in and kissed her.

Nanami immediately grabbed the side of his face and squeezed hard, pushing him away from her and onto the ground.

"What the fuck are you doing!" Nanami shouted. She was half-tempted to reach for her pistol and put a few slugs into Lavan's chest. The girl was comfortable with any manner of combat or dreadful situation. She was able to deal with death, and could perform complicated surgeries without flinching.

Yet the simple act of kissing this flame-headed boy had completely unnerved her. Nanami was not comfortable with intimacy of any sort.

"What!" Lavan seemed genuinely surprised. "You... waaaaaaait, you don't REMEMBER! The poison... oh man... we were totally making out before you passed out."

Nanami immediately rubbed her lips on her sleeve. "No we weren't!"

Lavan nodded, and could not hide his grin of amusement. "Oooooh yes we were. And YOU're the one who kissed ME."

That, Nanami knew, could not be true. There was no chance she would kiss this obnoxious ruffian from Nellis. She had not kissed a boy since her day's in the Vault, and even then it had not been by her choice.

Butch had gotten bold one day and kissed her. She had responded by breaking his nose with a left hook.

"I wouldn't have kissed you." Nanami stated matter-of-factly.

"Well... you did." Lavan shrugged, still grinning.

Nanami just groaned. She staggered to her feet and shook her head a few times. At this moment, she would have preferred the giant exploding ants, or even the Cazadores. Dusting herself off, Nanami walked towards the window and peeked outside. The Cazador Swarm was gone.

She turned back to Lavan. "... The bugs are gone. We can get to the water, and the B-29 now."

"You sure you don't want to finish making out first?" Lavan asked, absolutely delighted.

Nanami's eyes narrowed dangerously and her fists clenched. "I will dislocate both of your knees and make you crawl back to Nellis alone if you bring that up again."

With a hearty chuckle, Lavan gave her an overly dramatic bow. "As you wish, my lady!"

[…]

The two managed to make it to the dock without running into any more Cazador, and without any further tonsil dancing. At the edge of the dock, Nanami sighed and turned to Lavan.

"Okay. We need to swim down, find the B-29 and attach these ballasts. Then I'm done, and you Boomers have your flying fortress." Nanami explained.

"Oooh..." Lavan rubbed his neck awkwardly. He looked far more uncomfortable now than he did back when she had woken up confused and he had to retell the kissing story. "Yeeeah... I can't swim."

Nanami turned to him, annoyed. "What?"

"What! I've never been outside of Nellis before in my life! Did you see any swimming pools or lakes on the base?" Lavan crossed his arms.

Nanami sighed. "Fine. Whatever. Then you can wait here and guard my supplies." She took the knapsack from off her shoulder and sat it at his feet. Then, she paused, and slowly removed her glasses and handed them to Lavan.

"Okay. Pay attention. It's extremely hard to find the perfect pair of glasses in a nuclear wasteland. These ARE the perfect pair for me. I know that a few times, I have threatened to hurt you in a joking manner. Let me be perfectly clear... if my glasses aren't returned to me in perfect condition, I will cut out your eyes, toss them into Lake Mead and then shoot you until you are dead."

Nanami's voice was stern and cold. She was completely serious. It did not matter that she needed the support of the Boomers for the upcoming hostilities in the Mojave. It did not matter that she had kissed the flame-haired boy. She had somehow safeguarded those glasses throughout all of her adventures. She needed them.

"Okay." Lavan said. He was a little worried that she was still mad over the kissing she could hardly remember, and for once her voice was frightening enough that Lavan decided not to make a comment.

Nanami turned and dove into the lake.

[…]

The world beneath the surface of Lake Mead was amazing. Nanami had always liked the water, but most of what she found in the nuclear wasteland was highly irradiated. Lake Mead was free from radiation.

Nanami enjoyed the swim. Loyal had given her a rebreather before she left Nellis, that recycled her oxygen. Being able to swim through the water without worrying about surfacing for air, and without the sting of radiation was incredible.

Nanami forgot about the troubles of the last few days. She was happy in the aquatic world.

After several minutes, she found the crashed B-29 and attached the ballasts to each wing. With a final glance at the ship, she turned and swam back towards the docks. All the while, it was a world of peace and she could not focus on her worries.

Fresh, clean water. It was something her father had often spoke of.

In many ways, fresh, clean water was her legacy. She had brought purified water to an entire wasteland. Yet that was a lifetime ago, in a land far away. It seemed like distant memories.

The Mojave was such a different world. She had come to the Mojave to escape from her past, and from the things she had seen and done. Now, though, she was embroiled in even more adventures.

Yet... perhaps she could find happiness in the Mojave.

Perhaps... she could even find someone...

Her mind immediately ditched that thought. She was just confused about the mistake from yesterday. A kiss meant nothing when she was high out of her mind on Cazador venom. In a few minutes, she would reach the dock and make her way back to Nellis.

Once she told them about the Bomber, that would be it. Mother Pearl would pledge her support to Nanami's cause, and then Nanami could leave Nellis and continue her adventures in the Mojave. She never had to see the obnoxious flame-haired boy again.

The last thing she needed was some inexperienced fool who lived a sheltered life in Nellis tagging along with her. She certainly did not need some stupid boy who would distract her with stupid jokes and sloppy kisses.

When Nanami emerge from the surface of the water, she forgot all about those thoughts. She saw Lavan lying on his side, clutching his forehead and screaming. Standing over the boy was a tall, scaly monster. It looked humanoid, but with many fish features.

It was a Lakelurk. They were intelligent for mutant fish, and could launch a powerful psionic wave from their heads. It was extremely painful and disoriented the senses of whoever they hit.

Nanami rushed to the shore. She knew that the Lakelurk would kill Lavan with a few more blasts, and then it would eat him. Nanami looked around for her knapsack, and spotted it at a distance. She dashed towards it immediately.

The Lakelurk heard her. It turned and shot a psionic blast towards her. Nanami dove, barely avoiding being struck with the psychic burst from the Lakelurk. She rolled across the ground and onto her knapsack.

The Lakelurk was quickly advancing on her. Nanami reached inside the bag and gripped a hold of the handle of her .44 magnum revolver. She quickly drew the gun from the knapsack and opened fire.

She put all six of the bullets into the Lakelurk's chest, and the monster stumbled back and collapsed to the ground. She could see it moving and hear it breathing. She grabbed her knife from the bag and rushed to the fallen monster, jumping onto its chest and plunging the knife down into its face.

The Lakelurk gave one final rattle and then died. Nanami rolled off the monster and panted for a moment. The swim had exhausted her, and fighting psychic fish monsters was never fun.

Nanami picked herself up and walked over to Lavan. He had stopped shaking, but she noticed his nose was bloodied and his arms were covered in scratches and scrapes.

"You okay?" Nanami asked, reaching a hand out to him.

"Oh just peachy... freaky fish monster made every one of my senses go batshit. I think I was smelling colors for a few minutes there." Lavan shook his head.

"Yeah... I probably should have warned you about Lakelurks... but if I had taken the time to warn you about every dangerous creature in the wasteland, we'd be here for days." Nanami offered a small smile.

Lavan shakily reached into his jacket and pulled out her glasses, handing them to her. "At least I didn't break these."

Slipping them back over her nose, Nanami smiled once more. "Good. Then I don't have to regret saving your life."

She turned, and grabbed the detonator from her knapsack. A moment later, as she looked out over Lake Mead, Nanami pressed the plunger down. After a moment, the B-29 Superfortress raised to the top of the lake.

[…]

The journey back to Nellis was uneventful. Nanami and Lavan walked in silence most of the way. When they arribed, and Nanami told Mother Pearl that the B-29 had successfully been raised from the bottom of the ocean, the old woman's face lit up like a child.

"You have made our fondest dream come true, Outsider." Mother Pearl was delighted.

"I didn't do this out of the kindness of my heart. In the very near future, a battle may happen in the Mojave. When it does, I want the Boomers to support me." Nanami was stern in her request. She had earned it.

Mother Pearl nodded. "Of course, child."

[…]

Nanami headed towards the gates of Nellis. She would soon have to head off to the Mojave Wasteland, continuing her adventures. As she approached the gate, she saw Lavan leaning against the gate. He had a knapsack in his hand.

"... What are you doing?" Nanami asked.

"Coming with you." Lavan grinned. "I want to see the wasteland, and you can't deny we have something special."

Nanami was not amused. Her eyes narrowed. "No. You're staying here."

"Why?" Lavan asked.

"The road I walk is a lonesome one." Nanami replied coolly. "Besides, the Boomers could use you here. You now have more experience in the wasteland than anyone else. You just might grow up to be a real leader for these people."

Lavan frowned. He took a step towards her. "Aw, but it sounds like more fun out there in the Wasteland. I'd love to blow things up."

Nanami shook her head. "No. I have my path to walk. You need to stay here."

"... Any chance you'll come back?" Lavan asked with a glint in his eye and a smirk on his lips.

"... If I'm in the area, I suppose I could." Nanami reluctantly agreed. She started for the gate, but something in her forced her to stop. There was a thought nagging at her mind, and although she did not want to, Nanami realized she was about to do something... stupid.

She turned to Lavan and spoke calmly. "... Something is about to happen. After it does, if you make any sort of sarcastic comment, I am going to stab you. Understand?"

Lavan blinked. "What?"

Nanami stepped forward, and before she could come to her senses and talk herself out of it, she gripped the front of his jacket and pulled him into a kiss. Lavan's eyes widened, and a goofy grin spread across his face.

After several seconds, Nanami broke away. She was aware that her usually pale cheeks were flushed a deep pink. She was about to turn and walk away without saying a word, when Lavan's sarcasm proved too much to contain.

"I KNEW you liked me!" Lavan threw back his head for a hearty laugh – and then he felt a sharp pain in his stomach. He stumbled back and looked down to see his stomach was bleeding.

"You stabbed me!" Lavan cried out, clutching his stomach. The wound was not severe and he would certainly live without any lasting damage, but the pain was intense and he could not believe that the same girl who had just kissed him had thrust a knife into his gut.

"I warned you." Nanami snapped, turning away from him and heading out past the gates of Nellis, and back into the Mojave Wasteland...