"Why aren't they attacking us?" Veronica wondered aloud.
Six shrugged. "Maybe they're more scared of us than we are of them "
Veronica grinned at the notion. "That'd be something wouldn't it? Some of the scribes used to say that about the geckos in the Mojave. Said they descended or mutated from tiny amphibians so they were naturally wary."
Six scrunched up his nose, "They obviously never encountered a group of them out hunting. Saved a woman in Goodsprings. They had her pinned on a rock attacked me and this girl I was with on sight."
"Oooh. Who's the girl?"
"Nobody. I barely even knew her."
"Does Cass know about her?"
"What's that got to do with anything?"
Six raised a brow, stopping briefly by a trash can. Next to it lay a few of the Sierra Madre poker chips. He pocketed them, then picked up a handful of loose gravels from the cobblestone pavement. He stood and began following the signal's source again. He casually tossed the gravels about aiming at windows, signs, and the occasional trash can. "So, what about you? Ever been in love?"
"Ever been nosy? Yeah once. A long time ago. I mean I don't know if it was really love. I like to think it was but I was young. So was she. And we were na ve."
"The Brotherhood happened. People seem to think that because we don't accept outside members, our current members are obligated to procreate."
"Makes sense. I mean, even you said you were concerned about the Brotherhood dying off. Running out of people to fill the armor."
Veronica shook her head. "You sound just like Elijah. If we were open to outsiders we wouldn't have that problem at all. And that would mean no 'obligations' regarding who someone wants to spend their life with." Six could tell he had hit a nerve so he fell silent. Veronica continued, "When Elijah left California, he requested to take me with him. She was already having problems with her parents. When she found out I was headed for the Mojave she left."
Veronica trailed off. They walked in silence, as Six was unable to think of anything to say. Twice their collars began abruptly beeping and twice they had to find the source of the interference. He continued to toss the pebbles to and fro. When he was down to his last one, he pulled his wrist back Veronica grabbed it and yanked him into a nearby building. The toxic gas was thick inside Six felt his lungs burn with every breath. She peered around the corner. "Look at the size of that one "
Six followed her gaze. Ahead of them, just in front of a glowing neon cross was another one of the inhabitants of the villa. This one was taller than the others they had seen he wore no hood, although he still wore a filtration mask. His movements were erratic much like his smaller counterpart. He stood almost motionless save the occasional flutter and sway. Six withdrew his rifle checking the clip briefly. He took aim and fired three shots in quick succession. Every shot made its mark. The creature turned to look at them. On its right fist, it wore a medical brace attached firmly to that brace was a large, metallic object with teeth slightly resembling the jaws of a deathclaw. A beartrap. The creature cocked its head to one side Six could see one of the mask's visors had shattered. A point of entry. Ooze leaked from the opening in the eye, and another opening in the center of its forehead. It watched them, almost contentedly.
"Why isn't it attacking us?"
"Because we're holed up here and we can't stay. The gas will kill us." Six holstered his rifle. "We have to fight this thing." They made their way out into the street. The creature's stance changed it hunched its back and drew back its fist. Six unsheathed his machete. It charged. Veronica dodged around it, swiftly swinging upwards for a fierce uppercut. The creature weaved backwards it's back and spine contorting in ways that seemed inhumanly impossible. Six leaped forward with a clumsy one handed swing, it casually lifted the metallic bear trap and deflected his blow. Its left hand swung out, knocking Veronica across the lane and into a building which quaked and nearly crumbled at the force of the impact. Then it brought its right fist into Six's shoulder. The trap went off; seizing fabric, flesh, and bone.
Six groaned, dropping his machete to the street. He fumbled for his sidearm. Withdrawing Lucky, he shot twice more into the creature's head its head jerked back, but it didn't fall. He dropped the gun and fumbled for his machete; narrowly reaching it, he thrust it headlong into the creature's throat, then gauchely twisted it clockwise. Warm liquid burst from its suit spraying his face and duster. The creature went limp but the trap held on strong. Six turned to find Veronica who was laying unconscious on the pavement. "Vee "
His voice was weak. "Veronica " His eyes were getting heavy. He was bleeding profusely He was tired. He slouched in the street he wanted to sleep. He knew better but he couldn't help it.
Something grasped his arm pulling the bear trap open with ease. A sharp pain, followed by numbness. Med-X. His vision blurred, going in and out sporadically. Large hands closing around his waist picking him up effortlessly.
"Hold on we need to get him into one of the autodocs in the clinic. Grab the girl." The distorted image cleared briefly. Blue-gray skin. Carved chest. Scarred face. Dog or rather, God.
The automatic door to the autodoc opened with a metallic hiss. Six stepped out, briefly examining his shoulder "Damn tore my duster." He glanced up towards the doorway, Boone stood silently. "Where's Veronica?"
"Unconscious. But well."
"Good thing you showed up when you did."
"It was the nightkin. He saw the inhabitants rushing across the rooftops in your direction. Figured one of you or both of you had been wounded. They've got a system. Some seek out their pray then wait for the larger ones to wound or trap their intended victims. Then the smaller ones come in. Take what they need drag you off into the cloud."
Six cringed at the thought. "I'll be sure to thank him."
"No," the familiar gravelly voice of the nightkin rolled into Six's ear. "You can thank me by getting me to the old man. Words are worthless." The nightkin breathed heavily. "I believe you'll find the next collar down the hall. A pretty young thing. A little doll. All carved up maybe by a craftsman maybe by a drunk who didn't know his tools. And ripe for the taking."
Six raised a brow then turned to Boone. "So I have two magazines left. Forty or so shots. And I haven't found a single 5.56 round since we got here."
"Saw a reloading bench when we were at the police station. The vending machines sell .308. Break them down, use their powder, primer. Pick up your casings from here on in. I'll show you how to reload your shells. Show you a few tricks too give your bullets a little more of a punch."
Six looked at the nightkin. "Want to show me where this girl is?"
As they neared the back of the building, Six began hearing a faint tapping. "What's that noise?"
"The girl she's trapped," God explained. "In an autodoc."
"And you left her in there?"
"Of course. You want to save her. I'd be fine letting her rot in there."
Six broke apart from the group, rushing to the source of the tapping. He stopped before the autodoc examining it briefly before slapping a key on the panel. Boone appeared behind him. "Damn thing's jammed."
Boone eyed the machine. "There's no way we're going to get this open "
God rounded the corner. "Maybe you can find a tire iron, or crowbar in one of the utility closets."
"Open the damn door," Boone's voice was abrasive.
The nightkin didn't move.
"You know what? Fuck this." Six flipped through the options on his pip-boy.
It crackled to life. " he'll follow your commands, collar or no," Elijah's voice chimed.
The nightkin changed. "Dog Dog remember you. You were mean to Dog. Make Dog sleep let other voice come out."
"Dog. Open this autodoc." The nightkin looked at Six's small stature meticulously. "Now!"
"Always yells at Dog. Yells at Dog cause gets hungry," He stepped forward, grasping the door, and jerked it open with one arm. The door ripped out of socket he dropped it onto the floor. A woman stumbled forward her face horribly scarred, and her neck as well. She wore a black suit complete with combat boots and a utility belt. The chest plate was a hard carbon fiber. She collapsed; Six narrowly caught her before she hit the ground. She looked up at him her eyes gentle at first. As if waking from slumber. Then wide with fear. She flipped around, bringing her boot square into Six's chest, knocking him a few paces back and flat on his ass.
"Whoa, whoa easy. I'm not going to hurt you. Are you alright?"
The woman's eyes jumped from one man to the other, then to the nightkin. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She raised her hand to her throat, tracing the large red scar beneath her chin. Her eyes widened again. She pushed herself backwards along ground, bringing her knees to her chest in the corner.
Six held up his hands. "That scar on your neck. Can you speak?"
She hastily shook her head, her eyes narrowing and her hands clinching into fists. She raised a hand to her neck again, opening her mouth at another futile attempt to speak. Six stepped forward she recoiled, bringing up her hand to her throat slowly brushing her index finger across her neck.
Boone chuckled. "I think that's a threat."
Six stopped. He turned to Boone. "Give me a moment. Take Dog with you." Boone nodded and gave the nightkin a tap on the shoulder. It followed him on command. Six stepped towards her again and again she recoiled. He stopped a few feet from her and took a knee. "Look," he tapped the collar around his neck and pointed at hers. "I've got one too I'm not your enemy."
She raised her hand to her neck, grasping the collar. She followed it around to the back of the collar, fumbling for the locking mechanism.
"Don't do that!"
She froze. Eyes wide and on Six.
"You do that, you kill us all."
She narrowed her eyes.
"We need to work together. To get out of this."
She shook her head. Using her foot, she drew an invisible line across the floor.
Six held up his hands again, "I'm not trying to cross you. But I do need your help. To get out of here a man...has us trapped here. Crazy ass ex-Brotherhood."
She raised a brow, bring her hands up flaring them around her chin and raising her fists to the sky.
Six laughed. "Yeah. A crazy ass bearded man."
Her expression lightened. Six stood, extending his hand. After a beat, she reached up her own. He pulled her to her feet. She was short perhaps shorter than Sunny. Despite the scars on her face, she was surprisingly attractive. Six smiled at her. She eyed him carefully, and lightly smirked back. "See. We're getting along already."
The scarred woman turned to the door, eyes wide with surprise. Veronica's face was paralyzed with astonishment, excitement, and melancholy. The girl rushed forward, leaping her small frame into Veronica's arms and devouring Veronica's lips with her own. Six raised an eyebrow.
After a long almost inappropriately long kiss, Veronica sat the woman back on her feet. She raised her hands, tracing the scars around her face. "Oh my God. It's been so long...I've missed you so much. But...what I don't How did this happen?"
Christine looked at her feet, then back to Veronica. She imitated "crazy bearded man" again.
Veronica looked at her in confusion. Six chimed in, "Elijah happened."
"What? No. I mean Elijah's not "
Christine clasped her hand around Veronica's mouth. She tapped her collar then pointed towards Six's pip-boy then brought her fingers to her mouth in a hushing motion.
"Shit They act like radios. For eavesdropping," Six speculated.
Christine nodded quickly.
"We have to do something about that " Veronica frowned.
The woman made elaborate hand motions twisting dials, pointing towards Six's pip-boy, then cupping her hand around her ear.
"Listen to music?" Six asked.
She pointed at him, bringing index finger and her thumb close together then shook her head. She twisted more imaginary dials, then pointed towards the invisible object.
"Radios," Veronica guessed.
She nodded exuberantly, smiling wide.
Six briefly nodded too. "I know just the place."
As Six made his way to the door, Christine approached the autodoc. She hesitantly looked at it for a long moment. Six watched her realizing she was afraid of it. He peeked inside he saw a rifle. Not unlike the one Boone had been carrying. It was silenced, and as black as her suit. Six reached into the autodoc, grabbing the rifle, then handed it to her. She smiled graciously, then pointed at the floor. Six examined the floor of the autodoc where he saw a silenced 10mm sub-machinegun. He scooped it up and handed it to her too. She curtsied with an imaginary dress and turned back to Veronica. She took Veronica's hand into her own pressing her lips against Veronica's own again.
Six took leave making his way to Boone and Dog. "Great," he whispered to himself. "Nothing like a good game of charades."
They were back inside the police station. Christine was making elaborate hand gestures to Veronica. Veronica would nod from time to time. Then they began to work on the radios.
"Stomach rumbling Dog hungry."
Six watched them contently.
Boone sighed heavily. "Bring the other one back please."
"Way ahead of you " Six toyed with the knobs on his pip-boy.
"Dog! Back into the cage!"
"Well if it isn't the clever one," he turned towards Christine and Veronica. "And back at the police station no less. Astute of you. Adding a layer of electronic interference to ensure privacy. "
"Seemed like the safest place to be," Six admitted.
"My internal clock is ticking night is fast approaching. The seekers that no doubt followed you here. They'll be going to retrieve their trappers. Like the fellow who mauled your shoulder. When night falls they're much more active. Much more aggressive. As long as the holographic greeter outside is active we should be completely safe."
God hissed. "You're kidding me it's not on?"
"I didn't see anything "
"Then I fear you've doomed us all. Unless you can turn it back on in time. Dog is better with this shell than I am. You need to activate the hologram. The inhabitants watch it. Ghost-worship perhaps. It will keep them preoccupied, and keep us safe here."
"And you're asking me to bring Dog back?"
"I'm asking you to do what's necessary to keep us alive. The inhabitants of the villa. They are difficult to kill..." God trailed off. "They are difficult to kill but not to devour. And Dog is always hungry. If he is with you when they fall, he will fall on them, end them. That will be a priceless commodity his hunger. Especially once night falls. It will draw the ghosts to us like bloatflies to a cadaver. If you are to succeed you will need to unleash the beast."
Outside, the air was growing thick. Six checked his pip-boy.
He couldn't tell night from day here. But it seemed at night the cloud was thicker, and the air was cooler. "Don't like this place Dog want to go back to the church."
Six examined his surroundings. "I don't blame you, fella."
"I saw a terminal this way " Boone took point. Six and Dog fell behind him. From the police station they traveled north-east. Passed the fountain where they had encountered their first ghost, then the tree stump. East of the stump was a terminal on a wall just next to a set of concrete stairs. A small fountain sat empty and idly in the middle of the square.
Six tuned his pip-boy to Veronica's frequency. "How much longer."
"Should be any time now " her voice cracked from the other end. The interference was already working. Six approached the terminal.
"So decrypt it."
"I've never done anything like that before..."
Boone's face turned solemn. "You're kidding me?"
"Then why didn't you bring Veronica or her girlfriend?"
"I didn't think the terminal would be locked."
"Because most pre-war terminals aren't." Movement. Boone took aim. "Well you better start learning quick."
"Dog no like ghost people. Keep stabbing Dog, cutting him. Voice doesn't get mad when Dog feeds on the people here. Voice doesn't like ghost people, worried there are too many. Too many knives."
Boone fired. One of the inhabitants crashed from the roof and to the ground. Dozens more were bounding from rooftop to rooftop. Heading straight for them. "Well Dog I hope you're hungry," he jibed, taking aim again.
Six connected his pip-boy to the terminal.
Set File/Protection-Owner:Renewed Accounts
"Any day now "
"Not helping, Boone."
Set Halt Restart/Maintenance
The terminal buzzed to life.
4 attempts left
Six scanned the gibberish. "Ah password. Password There's like twenty choices!"
The creatures were on them now. Dog was tossing them back and forth with little restraint. Boone was firing rapidly. Once they were down, Dog was on them in a second, ripping them to shreds.
Six selected one of the words.
Suplex 2/6 Correct
"You can't be serious." A spear smashed into the concrete by his head. It was quickly followed by the body of an inhabitant as Dog crushed its head into the villa wall.
Hopper 2/6 Correct
Six scanned the terminal.
Sister 4/6 Correct
"One attempt left!"
"Make it count!" Boone yelled, taking aim and firing another round.
Six's breathing became unstable. He could feel sweat pouring off his brow. His beret stuck uncomfortably to his skin.
"You gotta be shitting me "
Please wait while system loads.
The terminal flashed for a second
"Low on ammo!"
"Just a second!"
Six selected the option. Immediately a bright blue ghostly apparition appeared in the center of the fountain. The creatures froze momentarily then retreated back to the rooftops. Precariously peering over the edge cautiously watching the holographic intruder.
"Let's get the fuck out of here."
"No argument from me," Boone concurred.
"Dog, come." Six commanded. The nightkin fell in line behind him and they hastily retreated back to the station