Sitting in silence for as long as he had, the old man was sure this was the end. He had finally made it inside only to have the imbeciles turn on each other. The explosive collars were intended to reinforce cooperation. Compliance. But no in the end, greed had overtaken them. And they betrayed one another. Leaving the old man trapped within.

But that wouldn't be a problem next time. If there was a next time. He had fine tuned the collars' frequency now. Fine tuned the detonator. If one collar went off next time all of them would go off. Failure would not be tolerated again. It must be so for the sake of the Brotherhood. Without him without his ideas, his ways the Brotherhood would surely die. Of that he was certain. And he would not let that happen. The Brotherhood would not fall as the Enclave did. They just needed the right tools and guidance. He was sure the Old World technology tucked away with that vault would do just that. It would save the Brotherhood. And he would be welcomed back arms wide open.

The suite he was in was rather large. A bedroom adjacent to it housed a king sized bed and the blackened remains of some pre-war woman. The old man guessed given the ample supply of meds around her that she was an addict. And, perhaps, of some importance, given the quality of the silk dress still draped around her skeletal vestiges. In fact, there was a wardrobe with a variety of dresses. All made of silks and fine linens. But the one on the decayed carcass was special it was the same as the holograms that patrolled the casino.

Outside the suite the holographic projection of that starlet roamed the halls. He was safe in here. In her room. But out there the hologram was lethal firing potentially lethal concentrations of energy. He was unable to locate the transmitter that broadcasted the hologram. So he was forced to retreat into this room. The plan had been so close he was just outside of the vault he coveted so. But his captives had rebelled and turned on each other! He couldn't get that thought out of his mind. Greed. That's what it was. The treasure within that vault. Once they were so close to it they couldn't resist. And they had fucking turned on each other. He wouldn't make that mistake again. No.

The old man made his way to the suite's bar. He studied the shelf carefully before selecting a bottle of scotch and a shot glass. He sat at a table in the suite's lobby removing a pack of cigarettes from the innards of his worn dark blue robes. He packed the cigarettes briefly then withdrew one electing to light it with a nearby hot plate. He took a long drag from the cigarette, pouring himself a shot of scotch.

Then he turned his attention to a firearm situated on the table in front of him. The stock was worn and faded. It was pump action, and had a scope. The rifle was the result of his own handiwork. A child of his own creation it was an energy based weapon. But, unlike other energy weapons, it did not use plasma or lasers. Instead, it used concentrated light-based holographic energy. This was due to the method in which he had created it. The rifle was an amalgamation of components the stock and body had come from a salvaged grenade launcher. Modified with the technology he had discovered here, within the casino. The scope he had salvaged from an old Laser Rifle; though he had, of course, modified it. The scope had less range than the traditional laser rifle scope but for reason. The rifle acted more like an energy shotgun and packed a punch that could only be rivaled by the Gauss rifle he was all too familiar with. Due to its spread ha had elected to give the scope less magnification, for easier close quarters aiming.

In all honesty, it had not been simple for him to create. Between his joint pain and scavenging for the materials, he had a hell of a time putting it together.

The man paused briefly, rubbing his knuckles. He stood, making his way to the adjacent bedroom and walked to the remains of the pre-war starlet. At her feet, he found a syringe of Med-X. He injected half the syringe into his left wrist; then, he injected the other half into is right.

"Damn arthritis " The old man clasped his hands together. On his wrist, he wore a pip-boy. It crackled static. "What?" The old man looked at his pip-boy with a slight expression of bewilderment. "What's this?"

"That voice Elijah?"

Six roused; his eyes were heavy and his chest sore. He coughed into his hand stopping briefly to examine the contents of his cough. Blood? No. Too clustered, too thick. He made his way to one knee and scanned his surroundings. Some type of pre-war town, a large non-functioning fountain. A holographic image projected at the center a woman. Quite attractive too. But how had he gotten here? He didn't remember traveling. What was the last thing he could remember? A radio the faint beginnings of some pre-war song. The red gas expelling from the radio. Boone and Veronica

Six made his way to his feet. Then he saw them both unmoving, lying in the dry fountain. Six approached them

"Boone," Six gave him a quick slap to the face, Boone's face contorted briefly with pain. "Boone? Are you with me?" Another quick slap. Nothing. Once more Boone caught his wrist.

"Don't do that again." Six grasped Boone's hand with his own pulling him to his feet. "Where are we?"

"I don't know." Six turned to Veronica. "Vee?" He stepped towards her she groaned. "Vee?"

"I'm up. I'm up " Veronica sat up, rubbing her eyes. She smacked her lips, tasting the air around her. Her mannerisms not unlike that of a child having to get up early for chores. She looked around her "Whoa. This town is awesome " She coughed. "Except for that .taste. Like copper what is that?"

Six checked his pip-boy. "Don't know. It's not identifying. Picking up trace amounts of various heavy metals though."

"Is it toxic?" Boone asked flatly.

Six shrugged. "Don't know but that's probably a safe assumption what's that on your neck?"

Boone reached up, tugging at the steel band encircling his neck. "No. Don't touch it." Veronica felt her own neck. "Explosive collars we're all wearing them."

"Something tells me this isn't a friendly visit then someone wants us here," Boone let his hand fall from his collar. "What about communication? Are you picking up any signals?"

Six flipped through his menus, "Yeah "

His pip-boy hissed with static then a voice. "Damn arthritis " they could hear the sound of cracking knuckles. "What? What's this?"

"That voice " Veronica grabbed Six's wrist. "Elijah?"

"Veronica? How did you of course the FEV reject. Still following orders. How many of you are there?"

"Three."

"Veronica. Listen to me. By now you've surely realized that you and your group are outfitted with explosive collars. I'm sorry you were dragged into this Do as I say and follow my instructions to the letter."

"Elijah I don't understand How did we get here?"

"You must've walked into one of my traps in the Mojave. The FEV reject it must have retrieved you."

Boone eyed Six, "FEV reject?" he echoed silently.

"Veronica. The large structure overlooking the villa. The Sierra Madre Casino I'm trapped within. I need you to break inside A heist if you will. Too long in the making. I need you to get me out."

"But why use the collars? You know I'd help you if you'd just ask."

"The collars that's not my doing. The FEV reject it acts on impulse. It follows orders. It must have found you in one of my traps. It put the collar on your neck brought you here. The collars they enforce obedience. Too many uncooperative individuals All of your collars are linked if one of you die, you all die. I didn't want to place collars on you to enforce compliance. Failures upon failures. So many lives claimed by the Madre, by me by each other. Play clever refuse? Try to run disobey me. That collar on your neck will go off and take your head with it," the voice paused for a long minute. "My pip-boy is picking up three other collars. To get inside you have to find them. You can't do it on your own. I cannot communicate with them but I can communicate with you through your pip-boy."

"It's not hers. It's mine," Six spoke loudly into the pip-boy mic.

The old man grunted, "Never the matter. The first one you'll want to seek out is Collar 8 the FEV reject."

"FEV?" Six reiterated.

"Yes a virus. With a long history. It created the FEV reject long ago. Turning him into a super mutant a nightkin not like others. He's far more docile he'll follow your commands, collar or no."

"You want us to recruit a nightkin?" Boone hissed. "That's insane."

"You have nothing to fear. He's harmless provided he's fed. The residents of the villa he's particularly good at dispatching them."

Six cast Boone a wary look. "Residents? There are people still living here?"

"Living? ...Ah. I suppose one could make that argument. The villa's inhabitants avoid them if you can. They are difficult to kill. Guns, bullets, explosions, energy it will render them inert for a while. But they've been changed. By the cloud? By FEV? Radiation? Maybe just something unique about their physiology? Natural selection I'm not sure. But they'll come back. And they'll be angry."

"Where do we find this 'Collar 8'?"

"That device your pip-boy Robco trash. I've programmed it and yes I have access to it to ensure that it will help you. The bomb collars have radios embedded in them, it can latch onto the frequencies. You can trace their origin speaking of radios the holograms and villa ghosts are the least of your concern. An unfortunate side effect of the collars the radios and speakers around the villa have degraded over time. They emit a different signal now. One that interferes with the collars. You'll know when you're near one the collar will beep. Stay in range too long, and it will go off ah prematurely..."

The old man trailed off for a long while. Six was getting ready to speak again when the voice continued. "Assemble your crew. Break into the casino. If necessary, I will guide you. Do this and I will let you go. I will let all of you go " the voice ended with an abrupt click.

The group looked back and forth between each other hesitantly, fearfully.

Silence.