New Vegas


War. War never changes.

The end of the world occurred much as we had predicted. In the 21st century, war was waged over the resources that could be acquired. Only this time, the spoils of war were also its weapons: petroleum and uranium. The details are trivial and pointless; the reasons, as always, purely human ones.

In the year 2077, after millennia of armed conflict, the destructive nature of man could sustain itself no longer. In two brief hours, most of the planet was reduced to cinders, and the Earth was nearly wiped clean of human life. A great cleansing, an atomic spark struck by human hands quickly raged out of control. Spears of nuclear fire rained from the skies. Continents were swallowed in flames and fell beneath the boiling oceans. Humanity was almost extinguished, their spirits becoming part of the background radiation that blanketed the earth.

A quiet darkness fell across the planet, lasting many years.

But it was not, as some had predicted, the end of the world. Instead, the apocalypse was simply the prologue to another bloody chapter in human history. For while man had succeeded in destroying the old world, the spark of humanity is stubborn, and not so easily snuffed out,

In the early days, thousands were spared the horrors of the holocaust by taking refuge in enormous underground shelters, known as vaults. When the doors opened, their inhabitants had only the hell of the wastes to greet them. They set out across the ruins of the old world to build new societies, establishing villages, and forming tribes.

As the decades passed, what had been the American southwest united beneath the flag of the New California Republic, dedicated to old world values of democracy, and the rule of law. As the Republic grew, so did its needs. Scouts spread east, seeking territory and wealth, in the dry and merciless expanse of the Mojave Desert. They returned with tales of a city – New Vegas – untouched by the warheads that had scorched the rest of the world, and a great wall spanning the Colorado River. The NCR mobilized its army and sent it east to occupy the Hoover Dam, and restore it to working condition.

But across the Colorado, another society had arisen under a different flag. A vast army of slaves, forged in the conquest of 86 tribes: Caesar's Legion.

Four years have passed since the Republic held the Dam – just barely – against the Legion's onslaught. The Legion did not retreat. Across the river, the Legion gathers strength… campfires burn, training drums beat, and it is only a matter of time before they cross the Colorado again.

Through it all, the New Vegas Strip has remained open for business under the control of its mysterious owner, the enigmatic Mr. House, and his army of rehabilitated tribals, and police robots.

An unsuspecting courier, hired by the Mojave Express, is carrying an inconspicuous package to the New Vegas Strip. What seemed like a simple delivery job, however, has taken a turn for the worse…

The arrival of the courier, and the package he carries, will change the Mojave forever…

But war?

War never changes.

Chapter 1: Welcome to Goodsprings.

I woke up to the sound of helicopter blades. At least, that's what I thought it was at first. Everything was so hazy and unfocused. I tried opening my eyes, but the light was blinding. I blinked away the haze, and my eyes eventually adjusted to the light. The world slowly shifted into focus, and I saw the spinning fan above me. I was on my back, on a bed, inside a house somewhere.

How did I get here? What happened? And why does my head hurt?

"You're awake. How about that," said a voice to my left. I rolled over and tried to get up to get a better look at who was talking, but the room started spinning again. Waves of nausea washed over me, and I resisted the urge to vomit. I held my head to keep it from throbbing, and to keep me from collapsing back on the bed right there. I was seeing double, and couldn't really make out who was speaking.

"Whoa, easy there. Easy," the blurry figure said again, reaching out a hand to steady me. I coughed and tried to power through the fog clouding my head. Finally he came into focus enough for me to see him. He was an older man, with a white moustache, bald head, overalls, and black gloves. I didn't recognize him.

"You've been out cold a couple of days now. Just relax a second, get your bearings."

"Wh… where am I?" I finally managed to squeeze through the fog. "Who are you?"

"I'm Doc Mitchell," he said proudly. "Welcome to Goodsprings."

Goodsprings. For some reason, that triggered a memory in my head. But it was all scrambled and out of order, like there were only bits and pieces left. A sign on the side of the road pointing to Goodsprings. A man in a checkered suit. My hands being bound. Getting hit over and over again. Someone digging a shallow grave. A water tower. Something about my latest delivery. A gun… one that was pointed straight at my head. Followed by a gunshot.

I'd been shot in the head.

How the hell was I still alive?

"Well now," Doc Mitchell said. "I gave you my name. Mind giving me yours?"

I blinked, confused. "What?"

"Your name. I didn't really get the chance to ask you while I was patchin' up the holes in your head, on account of you bein' unconscious and all. Figured now's a good a time as any to ask who I've been stitching up."

I sat up on the bed, trying to fully take stock of my surroundings. I was in a house, but it must've been a makeshift hospital, since there were medical supplies everywhere. "It's Fisher. Sheason Fisher." Doc Mitchell shrugged.

"Well, I can't say it's what I would've picked for you, but if that's your name, that's your name." He got up and headed towards a nearby desk. What the hell was that supposed to mean? He came back, with a mirror in his hand. "Now, I hope you don't mind, but I had to go rootin' around in your noggin to pull all the bits of lead out. Now, I'm no plastic surgeon, but I pride myself on my needlework – how'd I do?" And he handed me the mirror.

I took a good hard look at my own face. My brown hair fell down in a matted mess, and my beard had grown out considerably without having shaved in a few days. But when I saw the scars, my blue eyes widened as I realized I'd been shot in the head not once, but twice. There was one nasty scar going from the right side of my mouth almost to my ear that wasn't there before, and another scar that still had a few stitches at the top of my left temple. The motherfucker shot me in the head twice. I couldn't help but touch the bullet-made Glasgow smile on my right cheek.

"Right now, I'm just glad I'm not dead," I said honestly. Doc Mitchell chuckled.

"Well, I reckon most people would be glad about that in your condition. Can you stand?" I nodded, getting up, and hoping I could get off the bed without falling flat on my face. I was a little wobbly at first, but the world was getting clearer by the minute, so I had no trouble.

"That's good. You're doin' a lot better than I thought you would be for someone who'd been shot in the head," he said proudly. "Now, if you don't mind, there are a few questions I want to ask you."

"Sure, but Doc?" I asked, looking down and realizing I was only wearing a pair of underpants. "You mind if I get dressed first? I'd rather not be talkin' to another man if I'm only in my skivvies, if you know what I mean."

He nodded. "Sorry about that. I put all your possessions in the footlocker at the base of the bed when you were brought in here. Just come on into the other room when you're ready to see me."

A minute later, I'd finished putting on my clothes – a cotton shirt, a leather jacket, my gloves, jeans, and leather boots - and was looking through the bag that held the rest of my things. The first thing I checked was Roscoe. Roscoe was a 9mm pistol that I kept on me at all times. It was simple, yet elegant, and brutal in its execution. I called it Roscoe because that was the name etched into the pistol's grip. It was probably the name of whoever owned it before, but I didn't really care; that pistol had served me well over the years, working when other guns would've up and died. I must've been ambushed; that's the only reason I can think as to why I didn't shoot them (whoever they were) with Roscoe first.

I went through the rest of my possessions, after checking to make sure Roscoe was clean and undamaged. 150 bottlecaps. My binoculars. My canteen. 52 bullets for Roscoe spread between four magazines. The delivery order from the Mojave Express… and that was it.

Where was the platinum chip?

That was the whole reason I was heading to New Vegas in the first place – I was delivering a novelty platinum chip to some important suit in Vegas. And then I remembered. The man in the checkered suit – before he shot me, he held the platinum chip in front of my face, gloating.

Even though the world was clearer, my mind was still a little fuzzy, and I couldn't concentrate. That was when I realized just how immensely hungry I was. I must not have eaten in days…

"Thanks for the food," I said, finishing off the bowl of lukewarm soup Mitchell had pulled out of his fridge. I'll be honest, it wasn't all that appetizing – and tasted suspiciously of squirrel – but it was food, and you didn't survive out in the wasteland long if you were a picky eater.

"You're still my patient, so it's no problem," he said with a grin, sitting across from me at the table. "And you were pretty tolerant of my psych evaluation to make sure all your dogs were barkin'. Though, now we've got a minute, think you're up to tellin' me what got you put in my care in the first place?"

I wiped the food from my mouth, and shot him a questioning glance. "What, you don't know?" He shook his head.

"Nope. Like I said, I didn't even know your name. All I knew was that metal fella, Victor, he carried you right to my doorstep a few days ago, asking me to fix you up. Even gave me more'n enough caps to cover everything, too." He paused. "So, you're tellin' me that you don't know what got you shot in the head?" I shook my head.

"Not really… well… kind of. Things are still a bit fuzzy 'round the edges," I said honestly. And then something he'd just said sunk in. "Wait, Victor? Who's Victor?"

"The robot, Victor. You know, the one with the TV for a face?" he said. I still had no idea what he was talking about. He shrugged. "Ah well. Anyway, come with me. I'll see you out." He got up from the table, and I followed. As soon as we got to the door, he snapped his fingers.

"Hang on, I almost forgot something," he said, disappearing into the other room, returning almost immediately. "If you're headin' back out there, you ought to have this." And with that, he handed me what was unmistakably…

"A Pip Boy?" I asked, incredulously. He nodded. I turned the machine over in my hands, getting a good look at one for the first time. I've seen a lot in my travels, but I'd never actually owned a Pip Boy, or even seen one up close before. It was a personal computer, designed to be worn on the left arm like a glove or a sleeve, except it was made of a dull greenish-grey metal. The most prominent feature was the screen, which took up most of the visible space, and beneath it were three buttons, labeled "STATS," "ITEMS," and "DATA" in big bold letters. To the left of the screen was a dial, a knob, and near the top was what looked like a Geiger counter. Underneath the screen and out of the way were the two latches that opened and closed the device, so you could put it on and it wouldn't simply slide off your arm when it locked. "Where'd you get it?"

"I grew up in one of them Vaults they made before the war. We all got a Pip Boy. Ain't much use to me now, but you might want such a thing, after what you been through," he paused, looking down. "I know what it's like, having something taken from you…" he said wistfully. I couldn't help but wonder what had happened to make him so melancholy as I unlocked the Pip Boy.

He shook it off, and looked back at the forearm mounted computer. "Just be careful with that thing though – once you put it on, the biometric seals or some such'll latch on to you. You'll be the only one who can take it off again. I remember hearin' a story about a guy who died in the middle of the night – they had to saw his arm off to remove the thing. Don't know if'n that's true or not, but better safe than sorry." I nodded, wondering just how useful something like that would be. There was an odd hum, and a strange tingling sensation shot up my arm as soon as it closed and locked tight.

"Thanks again for patching me up, Doc," I said, shaking his hand. He waved it off.

"Don't mention it. It's what I'm here for. And remember, you ever get hurt out there, you come right back and I'll fix you up. Just… try not to get yourself killed anymore, alright?" he added with a smirk. I couldn't help but laugh as well.

"Thanks. I'll see you around, Doc."

And with that, I opened the door to the Mojave wasteland.

It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the harsh desert sun, and I finally got a good look at the town. Goodsprings was such a small town that I'd never been here on a job before. By the looks of the buildings, the town must have existed long before the war that destroyed the world. Based on the time (close to 9 am) and where the sun was, Doc Mitchell's house was on the west side of town, up a small hill. There was a flagpole next to his door, with a blue flag that said "Battle Born," "Nevada," and "Southwest Commonwealth" on it.

I started walking down the hill towards the cracked and broken street when I became aware of an odd squeaking sound, like a greased axle grinding against metal. Rolling towards me on a single large wheel was a blue, vaguely v-shaped boxy robot with arms that looked like thick pipes with claws on the end, and television in the middle of its… well, body. Projected on the screen was the face of a cowboy with a big cowboy hat, a handkerchief around his neck, and a cigarette hanging out of his smiling mouth.

"Howdy, pardner!" it said. The robot spoke through a speaker above the TV, and the artificial voice was colored by an odd accent I couldn't place. "Might I say, you're lookin' fit as a fiddle." The face didn't move as the robot talked, but the image occasionally flickered in and out of focus.

"Let me guess," I said to the robot, a little unsure where to look (I didn't see a camera, or eyes, or anything like that – should I just look at the face on the TV?). "You must be Victor, right?"

"That I am, pardner," the robot replied. "Pleased to meet you all proper like."

"Doc Mitchell told me what you did. Thanks for saving me." I started to raise a hand out of habit, before I realized that I couldn't actually shake hands with a claw.

"Don't mention it!" Victor waved one of his claw-hands. "I'm always ready to lend a helping hand to a stranger in need."

"Yeah, well… thanks all the same. The name's Sheason Fisher."

"I know who you are," Victor said, unmoving. "Don't you worry none about that."

Before I could ask how he knew my name, a more important question leapt into my head. "Say, how did you find me, anyway?" I desperately needed to start piecing together exactly what had happened, and this robot was probably going to be my best lead.

"I was out for a stroll that night when I heard the commotion up at the old bone orchard." He turned on his wheel, pointing a claw at a hill to the north. There was the water tower I remembered. "Saw what looked like a bunch of bad eggs, so I laid low." He turned back to face me, his screen flickering again slightly. "Once they'd run off, I dug you up to see if you were still kickin'. Turns out, you were, so I hauled you off to the Doc right quick." For some reason that reminded me of a question I'd forgotten to ask Mitchell.

"You know how long the Doc was patching me up?"

"It's been…" the robot trailed off. "Hang on, what's the date?" I was at a loss for words. I'd never known a robot to forget what day it was. As far as I knew, they all had internal clocks to measure things like that – not that I usually got the chance to ask, mind.

I checked the Pip Boy's clock: October 19, 2281.

"Well then, you've been in there about 7 or 8 days, I reckon." Victor replied matter-of-factly after I told him the date.

"Do you know who ambushed me?" I'd been dead for a week. It was time to start finding out who was responsible – and pay them back with interest.

"Hmm…" Victor said, tapping his right claw against the bottom of his TV screen with an audible clicking sound. "Can't say that I'm familiar with the rascals. Some of the fine folks in town might be able to help you out with that."


"Well, thanks anyway," I said to the robot. I needed to get up to the graveyard and see if there were any clues as to who shot me. I know the robot told me to ask around town, but personally I'd like to find whatever I could with my own eyes before I started asking any of the local yahoos.

"Happy trails!" Victor said cheerfully, turning on his wheel and rolling on down the street. There was something off about that robot. Granted, he was by no means the weirdest thing I'd seen on my travels across the wasteland… but there was something about him… it, I thought, correcting myself… that was just not quite right.

I put the robot out of my mind, trying to focus and put the pieces of that night back together in my head. My mind was no longer fuzzy like it was when I woke up less than an hour ago. So I made my way through the town and up the hill to the cemetery, trying to remember…

"You got what'cha were after. Pay up." The voice cut through the darkness, cold and angry. I opened my eyes to see both my hands bound in front of me. I shook off the dizziness, and felt something cold and wet slide down my face. A few droplets of blood fell onto my gloves.

"You're cryin' in the rain, pally," said a different voice. I struggled with the ropes, but it didn't work. I couldn't break free.

"Heh," there was a third voice. "Guess who's wakin' up over here." I looked up and saw three men in front of me. The one in the center wore a black and white checkered jacket, with slicked back, greasy black hair. Two guys in black leather vests and white headbands flanked him on either side. Based on their clothing, those two must be members of the Great Khans – a gang that roamed the Mojave wasteland. The one on the left was black with an enormous moustache, and the one on the right was white and had red hair in a spiky Mohawk. The white guy carried a shovel.

The suit took one last draw from his cigarette before dropping it on the ground and putting it out with his shoe. "Time to cash out," he said, walking towards me.

"Would you get it over with?" the black guy said, looking annoyed. The suit held up a finger to silence him.

"Maybe Khans kill people without lookin' em in the face. But I ain't a fink. Dig?" The black guy shook his head, looking to his friend with the Mohawk, who just shrugged. The suit reached into his jacket, pulling out a poker chip. But not just any poker chip – he was holding the platinum chip that I had been hired to deliver to New Vegas.

"You've made your last delivery, kid," he said with a smirk. He put the chip back into his jacket. "Sorry you got twisted up in this scene." With that, he pulled out a pistol – it was a 9mm, like Roscoe, but it had an ivory grip and nickel-plated engraving on the slide and frame, making it look more like a piece of art than a weapon.

"If you're gonna shoot me," I spat blood at his feet, "get it over with, you greasy fuck." He just smiled at me again, and the black guy looked off in another direction, apparently uncomfortable with the whole situation. The suit wasn't done talking yet, though.

"From where you're kneeling, it must seem like an 18-karat run of bad luck…" I heard a click as he thumbed back the hammer, pointing the gun at my face. "Truth is… the game was rigged from the start."



I stood at the edge of my grave.

It wasn't marked, but it must have been mine; it was the only grave in the Goodsprings cemetery that was disturbed. I must've just stared at it for a good fifteen minutes, while my mind replayed the events that landed me here over and over again… now that I could remember it properly.

The grave was barely a foot and a half deep.

There wasn't any wind. Maybe it was just my mind playing tricks on me, but for some reason the graveyard felt unnaturally still and quiet. Off in the distance to the northeast, I could see the faint silhouette of the New Vegas skyline. Above me was the rusted water tower, looming over everything like a giant headstone for the entire graveyard.

I moved away, cursing under my breath. There wasn't anything here. Nothing I could use, anyway.

I needed a drink.

The radio was the only real sound I heard when I opened the door to the local bar. It was full of static, and playing some pre-war tune. There were only two people inside – a man at the end of the bar, nursing a glass filled with some kind of hooch, and a female bartender who was cleaning a glass. She looked up as I stepped into the bar.

"Well, you've been causin' quite a stir," she said, brushing her short dark hair out of her face as I took a seat at the bar. She wore a faded floral dress with a white apron, but her top was covered by a beige cardigan. "Glad I finally got to meet you. The name's Trudy – welcome to the Prospector Saloon. What can I get you?"

I shrugged. "What've you got?" She put the glass down, reached under the bar, and pulled out a bottle that was simply labeled "whisky," setting it on the bar with an audible thump.

"What do you think?"

"Yeah, I'll have some of that." As she opened the bottle with a pop and started pouring it in the glass she'd been cleaning, I decided to make good on Victor's suggestion. "So, if you've heard of me, then you know what happened."

"A bit, yeah. I'd heard you were hurt bad, and the Doc was fixin' you up. But it weren't none of my business, so I didn't ask."

"Fair enough. Still, maybe you can help me," I took a gulp of the whisky and continued. "I'm trying to track down the men who attacked me. There are three that I know of – a man in a checkered suit, and two Great Khans. Sound familiar?" Trudy nodded.

"Yeah, but I don't know much – except that they were a load of freeloaders who expected a few rounds on the house." She scoffed. "I was able to… convince them to pay up, though. Of course, one of those damn Khans knocked my radio to the floor 'by accident'," Trudy made finger-quotes in the air, "and it hasn't worked right since." At that moment, the radio belched out some more static. She gave it a good thump, and the radio started playing music again. There was still a fair bit of static interference, though.

"Did they say where they were going?" I gulped down a bit more whiskey.

"They were havin' some kind of argument about that, actually. The guy in the checkered coat kept shushin' 'em. It sounded like they came in from the north, through Quarry Junction. If that's the case, I can't say I blame 'em for not wanting to go back." The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, and a sinking feeling started to form in my gut.

"You know, before I was attacked, I was planning on heading to Vegas up I-15 through Quarry Junction."

"If that was your plan, you're either brave or stupid." She paused. "No offense. From what I hear, that whole area's infested with the sort of critters that only get mad if you shoot at 'em. I ain't never seen one myself, but hear tell they're these big, vicious beasts, twice the size of a man, with claws that'd rip through metal like paper. Merchants have been avoidin' that stretch of the I-15 like its radioactive now – and hell, it could very well be, for all I know."

I downed the rest of my drink, motioning for a refill. There was only one thing in the wasteland that fit that kind of description: Deathclaws. I can fully believe that she'd never seen one before. If she had, then she'd know that the only real description of those monsters was "walking murder machines." I doubted that even my Corvega would've been able to survive if a Deathclaw was after me. This infestation must've been new, since the last I'd heard, the I-15 up to Vegas was clear of everything except geckos and fiends.

"So, where were they headed?" I finally asked between gulps.

"I didn't hear exactly, but the leader was talkin' about the Strip. Fella wants to get there and avoid the 15, he'd have to go east. Take Highway 95 up." I thought about that route in my head. It was a roundabout way to get to Vegas, and it was a longshot, but if I followed their footsteps, I might just be able to catch up to the bastards who'd tried to put me in the ground. I finished off my drink, and dropped the bottlecaps I owed on the bar. I thanked her for the drink, and made for the door, but before I left, I turned to ask her one more question.

"By the way – how far away is Jean?" She looked confused.

"That broken airfield on the side of the 15?" I nodded. She thought for a moment. "It's… 'bout 6 or 7 miles. Just follow the main road out of town, headin' south east."

"Thanks," I nodded, leaving the bar.

The road out of town was long, straight, and quiet. I wasn't really trying to rush myself – especially in the growing heat – so, it took me about two hours to walk the road. And that whole time, the only thing going through my head was repeat after repeat of the moment I'd been shot. When I'd first woken up a few hours ago, it was killing me that I couldn't remember what happened; now that I could remember it with such vivid detail, all I wanted was to think about anything else.

This is good, I finally decided. Let yourself remember. Make sure every single detail was etched and burned into your brain. Every single drop of blood. Every strike. All the pain. All the burning, seething hatred. Remember the face of the man who shot you – the man in the checkered coat. Remember everything, and use it to fuel your vengeance. And don't let anything get in your way.

The road finally ended, dumping me onto the cracked and broken remains of I-15. I saw the sign that pointed to Goodsprings – one of the first things I'd remembered clearly when I woke up. There was something here that belonged to me, and I just had to find it. I walked along the road, looking for anything out of place. And after fifteen minutes of walking, I found it.

In the middle of the road was a decently sized, blackened crater. It looked new, not weathered by the elements like the craters left by the war. And in that moment, I realized: this must've been how they'd ambushed me. They'd put explosives on the road, probably disguised like a rock or some other kind of detritus.

I looked around feverishly, knowing that it had to be here somewhere. When I saw it, my eyes must've lit up like a fiend opening up a box of chems. My baby was still here.

On the side of the road, with a flat tire and one side smashed up against a nearby rock formation was my Corvega. On the outside, it looked like any one of the many broken and rusted cars that littered the roads everywhere. But unlike those cars, this one actually had an engine and innards that worked, all four doors, a rollcage on the inside, and even a windscreen that was mostly intact (there were a few cracks, but amazingly the crash hadn't added any new ones).

I'd picked it up for a small fortune a few years ago in New Reno, but it was worth it. You see, I made my living by being a courier. And the best way to be a courier was if you had the means and ability to deliver packages to far off and far flung places in the wasteland quickly– and the best way to do that was with a set of wheels.

I checked the car from top to bottom, to see exactly what was wrong. There was the flat tire, obviously, but that wasn't a big deal; I had a spare in the trunk. I gave the underside a quick once over, and was pleased to see the metal plates on the bottom had held. That meant the really important bits (like the transmission, the gearbox, and the differential) were all still intact. The only thing that really made me cringe wasn't a mechanical problem. It was the steering wheel, still stained with dried blood from when my face must've hit it in the crash.

All in all, the damage wasn't too bad. But then I tried to start it up, just to make sure that it would.

And it wouldn't.

I was out of fuel.

I could tell – I don't know how – that someone, somewhere, at this very moment was having a tremendous laugh at my misfortune. I jokingly vowed then and there to find that person eventually and punch him really hard in the middle of his face.

I walked back into Goodsprings in decent spirits. There was surprisingly little wrong with my car, despite having been forced off the road by explosives. With the exception of a few loose connections I'd discovered when I checked under the hood, the only major thing wrong was a lack of fuel, and that was easy enough to fix. The car had been modified to run on microfusion cells – batteries that most people in the wasteland only used to power energy weapons. With any luck, Chet, the guy who ran the general store, would have some that I could barter for. If not, I could always find a generator and… borrow some power to charge them up. I wouldn't need much – just enough to get me to the New California Republic outpost on the I-15 just south of Primm. I could get more supplies there.

I opened up my canteen and lifted it up to my mouth to take a drink… only to find that it was empty too. I shrugged, and instead of going to the general store, I went back into the Prospector Saloon next door. The car hadn't gone anywhere in a week, I could take the time to get another drink.

"I'm done bein' nice!" I heard a voice yell when I opened the door to the saloon. The man yelling was a black man wearing a blue cotton shirt, grey striped trousers and what looked like black Kevlar body armor with "NCRCF" stenciled in white paint on the back. He was pointing an accusatory finger at Trudy, who stood her ground and looked annoyed. "If you don't hand over Ringo soon, I'm gonna get my friends, and we're gonna burn this shitstain of a town down to the fuckin' ground. Got it?"

"We'll keep that in mind," she spat back at him, not budging an inch. "Now, if you're not gonna buy something, GET OUT." For a second I thought she was going to hit him, but instead she just pointed past his head at the door. The black man snorted, and turned on his heels. He violently knocked his shoulder into me on his way out, in a weak attempt at looking tough. Trudy sighed, and walked back behind the bar, finally noticing me. "Hey there. Didn't expect to see you here again, an' certainly not so soon. What can I get'cha?"

Don't do it, I thought to myself. Don't you dare do it.

"My canteen's empty," I replied, sitting down. "Thought I'd get one last drink for the road." She nodded and reached under the bar.

Don't do it, I kept thinking to myself. This isn't your fight. Don't do it. But then, despite it all, I heard the words escape my lips:

"So, I overheard you arguing with that guy. What was that all about?"


"Just some unpleasantness," she sighed, pouring me another glass of whisky. "Our little town has gotten itself dragged into something we don't want nothin' to do with. About a week ago – a little before you showed up at Doc's place – this trader, Ringo, comes into town. Survivor of an attack, he says. There's some bad men after him, he says, and he needs a place to hide. I figured he was just in shock. So I gave him a place to lie low. Didn't think anyone'd actually come after him."

"The guy who just left – he was one of the guys after Ringo?"

"Joe Cobb," Trudy scoffed. "He talks big, but he's just a spineless two bit-thug like the rest of those Powder Ganger hoodlums."

"Powder Gangers?" I'd never heard of them before.

"Chain gangs, really," she said with a shrug. "The NCR brought them in from California to work on the rail lines. Turns out giving a bunch of convicts a whole heap of dynamite and blasting powder isn't the best idea. Was a big escape not too long ago. Some of 'em stuck together so they could make trouble. That's what we're dealin' with now."

"So… where is Ringo now?" I asked, mentally kicking myself for continuing. This wasn't my business, especially since I had much more pressing concerns at the moment.

"He's holed up at the abandoned gas station up the hill," she said. I thought about that for a minute, and something about that didn't make sense.

"You know, the town isn't that big. Why hasn't Cobb found Ringo yet?"

"Probably because he ain't lookin' too hard. I think he's afraid Ringo'll ambush him. Like I said, spineless." She gave a soft, nervous chuckle. "Problem is, even if Cobb goes down, his friends'll likely try and roll in and set fire to the place, just out of spite."

"So what are you gonna do?" I asked. She shrugged.

"Some of the others, like Sunny, they'll probably stand up for Ringo if he asks for help. Which he hasn't. Personally, I hope he sneaks out of town one night and takes the Powder Gangers with him. We got enough problems with geckos and radscorpions without having to deal with someone else's bullshit getting dropped on our porch."

I thought about what she said for a minute, finally finishing off my drink. Even if Ringo were to leave town, from the way Cobb was threatening Trudy, I could just tell… the Powder Gangers had no intention of leaving. Not without blood first. I knew the kind of people that got thrown into NCR prisons; they were bad people, like raiders and slavers. They were the kind that would try and take anything if it looked like an easy target. Of course, if that supposedly easy target turned out to have teeth…

Against my better judgment, a plan was forming in my head. Something that might be able to get Goodspings out of danger, drive off the Powder Gangers, and (if I were to play my cards right) make myself a tidy profit of caps for the road.

I latched onto the idea of money, and tried to convince myself that was my sole motivation, despite the hogwash I knew it was. That, and I promised myself that I'd try to help… but no matter what, I'd be out of Goodsprings come sunset.

The abandoned gas station, like almost every other pre war building, was dilapidated, boarded up, and covered in peeling paint and rust. There weren't any gas pumps – just a couple of frames where it looked like the pumps had been ripped right out of the ground. The building itself was essentially just a box with a door, boarded up windows, and an attached garage with a broken pickup truck sitting on cinderblocks inside. Beside the door was a Sunset Sarsaparilla vending machine. Next to the building was a bent sign, with a "Poseidon Energy" logo on top. Below it was another sign, broken in places, but the intent was still clearly visible:





I made my way carefully to the door. The windows may have been boarded up, but close up I could tell that there were enough gaps for anyone inside to look out, and aim a weapon through. With deliberate slowness, I pushed the door open. The rusted hinges squeaked unbearably, until the door was stopped by the back wall with a thud.

The unmistakable click of a pistol's hammer being cocked back echoed like cannon fire from inside the glorified shack.

"That's close enough," Ringo came out from behind a pair of boxes, his pistol drawn. He was wearing a dark brown plaid shirt, a pair of denim overalls, with a faded red handkerchief and a pair of goggles tied around his neck. Slung across his body was a satchel, bearing the unmistakable two-headed bear logo of the New California Republic. He looked like he couldn't be more than twenty. "Who are you, and what do you want with me?"

"I'm not an enemy, if that's what you're asking," I told him, raising my hands in the air in an effort to calm him down. I could tell in his eyes, and by the way his gun hand was shaking, he wasn't a killer. Not really. But it was probably a good idea to play it safe.

"Yeah? Then why are you here?"

"I talked to Trudy. She told me about the trouble you've been having with Joe Cobb. Thought I might be able to help," He still looked at me with distrust. "But I'm not gonna be able to help if you keep pointing that gun at me." He thought about that for a moment, and finally relented, un-cocking the pistol and setting it down on the counter.

"Alright. Sorry… you just caught me off guard, is all." He leaned against the back wall, and put his hands in his pockets. "Let's start over. My name's Ringo."

"Sheason," I said, letting my hands fall to my sides as I stepped further inside the gas station. "Why don't we start from the beginning: do you know why Joe Cobb and the Powder Gangers are after you?" He shrugged.

"Last week my caravan was on the return trip from California and heading back up to the Crimson Caravan company branch in New Vegas when we got jumped," he said. "Not even a 'drop your weapons and hands up!' before the bullets started flying. I'd like to think we put up a good fight, but there were too many of 'em. I took a few of the bandits down, but by the time I cut and run I was the only one of my caravan left alive. Best I can figure, they're either out for revenge, or they just wanna finish the job."

"So, have you thought about what you're gonna do?" I asked, almost dreading the answer. He didn't really strike me as the planning type.

"What can I do, except lay low for as long as I can, and hope that the town doesn't throw me to the wolves? I could probably deal with Cobb if he actually started looking for me, but I got no chance against his friends on my own."

"You know what you need? You need a hired gun," I said, simply. "Someone who can help you send those jokers packin'. And, as it just so happens, I'm available and could use the money." He looked a little worried at the mention of money.

"I can't pay much. All I've got left are a handful of caps…" A spark crept in his eyes and I could tell he'd just had an idea. "Listen, I'll pay you what I can right now, but if you get me out of this I'll make sure the Crimson Caravan pays you back. You have my word."

"It'll have to do," I said, shrugging.

"Thanks… so what do we do now?"

"You are going to continue doing what you've been doing. Stay put. I'm gonna ask around town, see if I can get some more people on board to help." I started to walk out the door. Before I left, he called after me.

"You really think anyone is actually going to help?"

"Yeah," I said, turning back to him. "Yeah, I do."

"Say no more. I'm in."

Sunny Smiles was the name of the local 'ranger' living in Goodsprings. If Trudy was the town mom, then Sunny was the family bulldog. You wouldn't think it to look at her – short, young, freckles on her face, light brown hair pulled back, and an almost constant grin. But I'd asked around, and the general consensus was that if I wanted to get some help and organize a defense against the Powder Gangers, I needed to talk to the best shot in town: Sunny Smiles.

"Really?" I asked. "Just like that?" I figured that I'd need to convince her. I didn't expect her to almost cut me off before I'd made my pitch.

"Just like that," she said, sitting smugly on a chair inside the saloon. Sitting next to her was Sunny's dog, Cheyenne. Sunny was scratching her dog behind the ear while she was talking with me. "I got this feeling I'm gonna end up fighting those guys one way or another. Might as well get it over with."

"How can you be sure?"

"Joe Cobb talks about leaving us alone if we hand over Ringo, but I know his type. He and his friends will come after Goodsprings eventually."

I decided right then and there that I liked this kid with the varmint rifle strapped to her back. She had good instincts.

"Of course," she continued, "you, me, an' Ringo ain't exactly a force to be reckoned with." That much was true. Ringo looked like he was still unsure as to what part of a gun was the business end, I was still technically recovering from being shot in the head, and even if people said Sunny was the best shot in town, she still looked like she must have been 17 or 18.

"You know anyone else in town who might be willing to help us drive the Powder Gangers back?" I asked. She grinned.

"Yeah, I know a few…"

I spent a good hour and a half going all around town, trying to rally the townsfolk. I'd convinced Trudy by telling her my plan – gather anyone who was willing to fight and who had a gun in front of the saloon, set up some cover and a few barricades, and then draw out the Powder Gangers. The only direction they could come at us was from the southeast, where there was no cover to speak of. Joe Cobb and his friends would walk right into a killzone.

Easy Pete, the old man who'd spent all day sitting on the saloon's porch in a rocking chair, parted with his dynamite quickly enough. I just had to convince him that I knew how to use it. After a bit of arguing, Chet eventually promised to hand out as much armor and ammo as he could from the general store's back room to anyone who needed it. Even Doc Mitchell promised to help – he couldn't actually fight, because of his dodgy knee; then again, I didn't expect him to pick up a gun and shoot anybody. But he did part with some Med-X and a few stimpacks, just in case anybody ended up with a few extra holes.

While I was going around town, trying to get whoever I could to help, I always saw Joe Cobb out of the corner of my eye. I could just tell by the way he was watching me… he knew what was coming. When I left Doc Mitchell's place, I didn't see Cobb anywhere. And that, I knew, was trouble. The sun was starting to set. I needed to end this, so I made my way back to the gas station.

On my way there, however, I heard a familiar squeaking sound, and turned around to see Victor rolling up the street just behind me.

"Well howdy-do, friend!" the robot said, rolling to a halt in front of me. "Didn't think you'd still be in town."

"Neither did I," I muttered under my breath. And then a thought crossed my mind. It was a long shot, but it was worth a try, at least. "Hey, Victor? Are you decent in a fight?"

"Well shucks," the robot replied. "I'd like to think I'm fair handy with a six-gun. Why?"

"A gang is gonna try and attack the town soon, and we could use the extra firepower." Victor wobbled a bit on his wheel, and his screen flickered. He lifted a claw arm, and the light caught something on the inside of the claw I hadn't seen before: a focusing crystal diode cluster. Victor was armed – quite literally – with laser weapons.

"Trouble with rustlers, eh pardner? Count me in. Those varmints'll be running home with their tails between their legs by day's end."

"So, what's going on? Did Sunny agree to help us?" Ringo asked as soon as I stepped back into the gas station.

"Sunny's with us. So is a lot of the town."

"Really?" He started to sound hopeful. "We might actually stand a chance after-"

"Sheason!" I heard a voice yell from behind me. I turned around, and saw Sunny come running up the hill towards the gas station. She already had her rifle drawn. "Ringo! Time to look alive, the Powder Gangers are here to play!" Ringo looked a little worried; I checked Roscoe to make sure he was loaded.

"How many are there?"

"At least six, Joe Cobb included. They look pretty mean."

"Where are Trudy and the others?"

"As soon as I saw them coming up the road, I told everyone I could," Sunny said, looking back towards the saloon. "They're in positions around the saloon, just like you said. It ain't much, but this little militia you've pulled together just might save the town. I'll be set up by the store – lets hope they don't get that far." Sunny left, rifle at the ready. I turned to Ringo.

"I'm ready. You better be, too."

Ringo gulped, but pulled out his pistol just the same. The two of us ran down the hill towards the general store and saloon. All around the front of both stores were boxes and sacks full of dirt, piled up to create makeshift cover. Aside from Sunny, I could see Trudy carrying a massive pump action shotgun in position by her store, along with about half a dozen other people, all armed with rifles, shotguns, and revolvers. I ducked behind a piece of cover in front of the saloon, and Ringo stayed behind a crate near Sunny.

"I warned ya, cunt!" Joe Cobb's voice rang out. I peeked over the box I was using for cover with Roscoe at the ready. There were six of them, but they weren't all armed with guns; one had a baseball bat with a couple of nails in it, and another had a meat cleaver. The rest were armed with shotguns, and Cobb held a .357 magnum revolver in the air. "I warned you what would happen if you didn't hand him over! Now it's too late!"

"Too late for you, maybe," Trudy said under her breath. A hissing sound erupted next to me. I turned just in time to see Trudy toss a lit stick of dynamite over the barricade and watched it sail through the air right towards the Powder Gangers. With a flash and a bang, the town opened up, and the air was filled with gunfire.

But what happened next, I honestly didn't expect.

As soon as I aimed down Roscoe's sights at the invading gang, the whole world began to slow down. This wasn't normal, like the heightened sense of awareness you'd get when your body is pumping you full of adrenaline; this felt artificial. I could see each and every one of the Powder Gangers clearly, almost like they had a glowing outline, and without knowing how, I felt like I could target individual body parts on all of them.

Next thing I knew, I heard a voice in my ear – not like an external voice, but a voice coming from within my actual ear canal. It was robotic and mechanical, yet vaguely feminine and oddly cheerful.

"Thank you for using V.A.T.S., also known as the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System. This function of your Pip Boy 3000 will assist you in targeting, allowing for greater freedom and heightened accuracy with the weapon of your choice!"

Well, that's new.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I'm a decent enough shot with Roscoe. Skill with a gun is something you have to develop out of necessity if you want to survive in the irradiated wasteland. I can't really pull off trick shots, but when it comes to simple but effective, I'm pretty decent.

When V.A.T.S. activated, I felt like GOD.

Three pulls of the trigger later and the three closest Powder Gangers went down hard; one neck shot, and two headshots. Cobb dove for cover behind the Goodsprings town sign. Sunny took careful aim with her rifle, and the ganger who was standing next to Cobb went down. The one in the back faltered, dropped his gun, and started running away from the incoming hail of gunfire.

"Hey man, what the fuck!" Cobb yelled, still hiding behind the sign. "Where the fuck do you think you're going?"

"Fuck you, man! I'm not dyin' for this shit!" the ganger yelled back, not even slowing down. Cobb was now all alone, and he knew it. The sign was starting to splinter from all the bullets hitting it. Trudy held out her hand, and shouted for people to hold their fire. When the gunfire quieted down, an odd stillness fell over everything.

"I'm gonna give you one chance!" Trudy shouted across the street, her shotgun still pointed in Cobb's direction. "Leave Goodspings alone, and we won't kill you for tresspassin'!" Cobb poked his head out from behind the sign. His revolver was still cocked, ready to fire.

"Fuck you, bitch!" he shouted back. "This is Powder Ganger territory!" I had a shot. So I slipped into V.A.T.S., and decided to take it.

"Hey Cobb!" I yelled at him. He looked at me and his eyes went wide when he saw Roscoe pointed right at his skull. "Welcome to Goodsprings!"

Cobb was dead before he hit the ground.

The sun may have set, but the sky still had a slight hint of blue about it. I'd stuck around to help the townsfolk clear away the bodies, and get the fuel cells for my Corvega from Chet. Before I left town for good, Sunny, Ringo and I were all sitting on one of the boxes used for cover earlier. Sunny was drinking a beer, Ringo was smoking, and I was nursing a flask full of whisky. Sunny's dog Cheyenne was sitting on the ground, gnawing on a piece of meat.

"Thanks again for helping me out," he said. "Both of you. I owe you a huge favor for this."

"Don't mention it," I said. "You already paid me."

"I was gonna stick around for a few days more, see if there's anything I can do to pay back all the trouble I caused." I heard Sunny mutter under her breath "That'd take more'n a couple of days," as she took a swig of beer. Ringo either didn't hear her, or just ignored her, "But if you ever find yourself up by New Vegas, look me up at the Crimson Caravan camp. What are you gonna do?"

"I got some… business I gotta take care of." I said, taking a long draw from my flask. "Some men stole something from me, and left me for dead. I aim to repay their kindness."

"Oh! By the way," Sunny spoke up. "Trudy wanted me to thank you for fixin' her radio." I waved it off; it was just a couple of loose wires, it took less than a minute. At that moment, we were interrupted by a familiar squeaking sound. Coming from around the bend, Victor rolled along the street and stopped in front of us.

"Howdy, pardner!" he said cheerfully. "So, when do the rustlers show up?" The three of us just sat there in silence, looking at the oblivious robot. Finally, I decided to break the silence.

"They came around at sunset. The fight's already been over for a good long while. Didn't you hear any of the gunfire?" Victor's screen flickered.

"Didn't hear a thing. Guess I must've dozed off there for a minute." Suddenly, his screen winked out of focus, replaced with static. A red light blinked underneath the monitor and a voice (different from Victor's normal voice and unfamiliar to me) issued forth from the speaker:

[Override Command: 16-Delta]

And then, just as suddenly as it appeared, the red light winked out, and Victor's face returned to the screen. "I truly am sorry I couldn't help you, pardner," the robot said in his original voice. The three of us looked to one another, wondering what in the hell had just happened. Desperately looking for an out, I glanced at my Pip Boy.

"Well, would you look at the time," I said hastily getting up from the box. "I best be going. Ringo, good luck to you. Sunny, you keep on smiling. And Victor…" I searched for something appropriate to say. "It's been unique."

"Happy Trails!" the robot waved to me as I turned and walked down the road out of town.