October 5, 2281

Mojave Wasteland, near town of Goodsprings

1655 hrs

Dry desert air wafted dust around his boots; the heat drying the already-dried up leather. Taking a swig from his canteen, the Courier continued forward. Always forward, but his destination was finally in sight.

Weeks of travel to this forsaken waste which the old world had civilized, barely, with asphalt roads, electric lights and power lines running hundreds of miles to distant power stations, rivers redirected into reservoirs created by human hands…and that eyesore of a crown jewel of the old world where men and women both threw away money on chance and indeterminable possibility.

Had the bombs done what they were intended to, New Vegas would have fallen long ago by the powerful explosions, or their subsequent fires, or torn down slowly by the elements following the damage of heat and shockwave. But no, it still stood, and it was the reason the Courier was walking this old path of transport, carrying a tiny package which held the potential to change the whole of this land, for better or worse.

But the package was not his true objective. He smiled at the thought of finishing his task and returning home, where he was important, where he belonged. Rather than continue along this melancholy path, the Courier took another, longer, drink from his canteen. It was a gift from long ago, and an ever useful one as it always held water, even when the nearest source was miles away.

The old technology of the simple container collected and condensed water, even the smallest amount in the driest air, into a near endless supply of fresh, clean water; and it was always the perfect temperature, never becoming warm by the sun or too cold so that it would be painful to drink. Securing the canteen back onto his hip, the Courier continued on toward the great spires in the distance.

The day was growing late; the sun nearly touching the peaks of the far western mountains, and the desert was growing cold. Removing his hat, he wiped the sweat of his brow upon the sleeve of the blue checked shirt he wore.

The whole outfit-pants, boots, checkered shirt and hat-felt completely foreign to his body; another thing he looked forward to back home, his own clothing-the well-made leather and fabric caressing his body as he moved and fought and killed all who stood in his way.

A quick glance at the map he carried showed a town within the next three or four miles. 'Rest there' he thought 'have a meal, resupply and continue on tomorrow'. Stowing the map back in the pouch of his pack, he added, 'maybe have some flesh tonight'. A twist of his mouth held any indication of his thoughts.

In a small dip of the land, all sides surrounded by rock hills and desert scrub, a slither of rock caught his attention. Though not stopping, the Courier listened onto the surrounding area. The rock, he knew, had not fallen due to natural forces. Setting a strong grip onto his beloved machete, it was an open though small warning to his pursuers. They chose to ignore it.

A sharp whistle called to him. From behind a rock came a man, older than himself, in a checkered suit with slicked hair. He had been told of people who lived in New Vegas: they all dressed in old world attire, attempting to bring to life a world far long dead. The man appeared smug, as though he held a secret the Courier had no idea of. The man's appearance did not halt the pace at which he walked however.

Within five feet of the man, the Courier stopped. "You're in my way" he said; that was not physically true, the man was to the side of the road, but those who hid among the rocks were intent upon stopping him. The man laughed, "Kid, you don't have a shred of a clue with what you got yourself in for." From nowhere a heavy weight struck the back of his head.

The Courier fell to his knees, the pack driving his body full onto the cracked asphalt. Unable to get his hands up before the fall, he landed full on his face. The impact drove away all consciousness.

Benny watched as the kid approached along the ol' I-15. By his face alone, the kid could be around mid-twenties, well-built and tall. Despite the loose clothing, Benny could make out muscle beneath the fabric. 'Kid' could prob'ly pick me up one-handed and snap my neck with the other, no prob.' Benny thought.

"You're in my way" the kid, Courier, said. His voice held an even tone; level without inflection or accent; it also held a dangerous tone beneath the simple statement. Despite the weapons the kid was already packing-an old 10mm pistol and one beast of a machete-Benny knew the kid was dangerous without them. He had confidence in his voice, earned through years of training and conditioning.

This kid scared the crap out of Benny, and when he was scared out came the fangs, or rock as he saw McMurphy hefting about to throw. A nervous laugh escaped from his mouth, without mirth, to shrug off the feeling of primal fear that gripped his guts. "Kid, you don't have a shred of a clue with what you got yourself in for." He said, watching the rock sail through the air and land square on the back of the kid's head.

Stumbling forward, the kid fell to his knees and the weight of the heavy pack drove him face-first into the dirt. Benny whistled for his cronies, McMurphy and Jessup. When they arrived, he gestured to the Courier. Even unconscious, Benny wasn't risking his own skin to search the kid for the thing he'd come for. The two Khans went to work, searching pockets and pouches on the kids' belt, throwing away anything they found that wasn't the chip or they didn't need.

They searched for five minutes before, finally pulling a small square paper package from a concealed pocket hidden within his pants. Tearing open the paper, Benny beheld his prize; the platinum shone in the descending sunlight, the red-and-black enamel checker design surrounding the Lucky 38 emblem, also of black and red.

Near reverently, Benny stowed the chip into the inner breast pocket of his jacket. This journey, all the blood and sweat spilled-especially the sweat, he was drenched head to toe in his own body's water-all for this little bit of metal whose potential would shift power into the hands of those who played their cards right and were on the winning side. Benny intended to be the dealer of those cards, controlling the fate of all those who gambled.

"You got your shiny poker chip, pay up" said McMurphy; he couldn't put a finger on it but the minute he saw the Courier, he had a bad feeling, as though he was in over his head. At getting a closer look at the man, McMurphy knew he was bad news. In addition to the two weapons he carried, Jessup had found a grenade launcher with HE rounds; a shotgun used by caravan guards with magnum 3/0 buckshot. The guy was a damn walking arsenal.

Benny looked down at the fallen Courier. Once McMurphy and Jessup had found the chip, they'd backed away from the fellow; even unconscious, what the guy represented was enough to make anyone smart enough to stay away. "He can't be allowed to tell his people about what happened, or the Mojave Express. The latter will bring lawyers and litigation and all sorts o' trouble. The others…" he didn't finish, didn't need to.

"Sooo…what then?" Jessup asked. Benny shook his head, 'these two must be the most brain-dead idiots in the Mojave. Turning, he scanned the hills for a good place to do the business. He spied a cemetery upon a hill about a mile away. Gesturing at the distant bone yard, Benny said "we bury 'em".

Awareness returned in starts and stops to the Courier; at first he was aware of men talking, rifling his pockets, more talking, and then being hoisted between to muscled bodies, carrying him. Motion caused his vision to blur, and sudden jerks caused it to go black for a time. His head hurt terribly, but the sensation was distant and, for now, negligible.

He was aware enough of the surroundings to feel rocks beneath his body, along his back. The two muscles were dragging him by the arms up a steep hill. Half a minute after the hill leveled off, he was dropped unceremoniously back to the ground. Thereon he blacked-out once more.

Dusk had come and gone when his eyes opened once more. Lying on his side, the right judging by the rocks digging in there, the Courier heard a shovel impact the ground and remove a clump of dirt. The heavy breathing of the shovel bearer suggested he's been at the task for some time. "Its deep enough" came a voice he recognized: the bastard in the checkered suit.

His eyes opened to see both wrists bound together with a length of cord, 'my clothes line' he recognized. Twisting to and fro, the Courier attempted to work free of the bonds but the line held. Trying the legs, those were also bound tight. "Well," checkered suit said; a ring of metal, a scrape of flint upon steel, and the air was soon filled with cigarette smoke "look whose finally awake to join the party".

The Courier looked up at his captors, two Great Khans and the man in the checkered suit. "Get 'em up" said the man, his two flunkies jumped at the order. Know the Courier was on his knees, hat lost and blown away in the wind by the Khans rough handling. His hair had grown since leaving home; when once close-cropped it was now thick, the dark walnut shade just beginning to tinge with silver, despite his twenty and seven years.

Now, all was done; so many things left undone, so much time never experienced. The Courier knew he would die here tonight, at the hand of this man…

"This don't feel right, we should just take the damn chip and go" said one of the Khans, a black man with a thick mustache. Checkered Suit sneered at the Khan, his cigarette lighting up at the intake of breath "maybe Khans leave their victims to die slow because they don't have the guts to look 'em in the eye, but that ain't me. I look a man in the face when I kill 'em"

Checkered Suit approached the Courier and knelt before him. "Sorry 'bout this kid, it ain't nothing personal, just business". Standing once again, the man pulled his package from an inner pocket "this thing your carryin' has the power to change the face of New Vegas and the Mojave forever, and I intend to be the one behind all of it".

Replacing the chip into the pocket, checkered suit pulled an engraved pistol from a concealed holster. The weapon, at least in the eyes of the Courier, was gaudy and ostentatious: mother-of-pearl grips with an image of a robed woman; ivy and flowers were cut into the metal body finished in bright silver. Beautiful to some, but the Courier saw the weapon as insulting.

A weapon had one purpose: a tool to decide the fate of another, therefore it should only be what it is meant to be, a tool. To make a tool beautiful is to detract from its purpose. The Courier said none of this, for it did nothing to alter the circumstances.

"You, kid, were just unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time" Checkered Suit said, raising the pistol to the center of the Courier's forehead, a shot that would travel through his skull and sever the spine at its base, instantaneous death.

"But in all fairness, kid, the game was rigged from the start" the man said, pulling gently on the trigger of the pistol. Before the spring reached its peak, the Courier cleared his throat. The sound startled Checkered Suit and his cohorts, the hammer of the pistol did not fall. "May I say some last words before my death" he said.

Without waiting for Checkered Suit to respond, the Courier spoke "Ut sementem feceris ita metes". The words were unknown to the three men, but the tone was terrifying. It was not a tone of mortal men, but more of a dark specter of death, watching over the four people, waiting for his opportunity.

On reflex, checkered suit pulled the trigger on the ostentatious weapon, but the knee-jerk reaction sent the bullet wide…through the Courier's skull. Darkness took his vision before he fell to the ground.

Author's Note:

Hello again, Constant Readers, and welcome all newcomers.

This is only my second FanFiction, but it will contain plot-a-plenty and many fine characters. Just as a notice, I will be altering certain characters to fit my fiction, not extremely from their game selves, but a slow progression which I think will make the story a fine piece.

As a college student, I do not have a set time as to when I will be writing or updating, but it shall come.

My policy for reviews is simple: well-structured critiques for improvement are welcome; support is also welcome, though not always necessary, I write for the excitement of writing. If you enjoy what I write, say so. If you are going to read this and disparage it for something you do not agree with on a personal level, go read another fiction. Any reviews I receive may get responses, others I may ignore. Questions I will answer without giving away the story.

One final piece: a friend of mine, Dreadman 75, is creating a Fallout 3 fic with the Lone Wanderer and Amata Almadovar. He is a fine writer with a fine storyline, just as I have intended for this one. I encourage you to sample it.

Until we meet again, my friends,

I bid you farewell,

Tutor Veritatis