Author Notes: As before, I have no claim to either Fallout: New Vegas, or High School of the Dead. As before, a big thanks to Drgyen and Inconspicuous Llama for their beta work!
Min watched the swordswoman as she disappeared into the saloon, briefly enjoying the view of her companion's leather-clad legs and shapely curves. As the door banged shut behind Saeko, the Courier turned away and briefly surveyed her surroundings. The building that now housed the saloon, as well as the half-collapsed structure across the square, had survived the death of Boulder City thanks to their westerly location. The rest of Boulder City, as far as Min could tell was a jumbled collection of shattered walls and piles of decaying concrete. One of those old slabs had been repurposed into a memorial for the NCR fallen. Boone stood near the stone, beside a uniformed soldier, face as stoic as ever. Min sketched a salute to the stone, and then flopped backwards onto her pack. Leaning back against the saloon wall, a slight breeze bringing relief from the arid heat, the Courier's eyes slid shut.
Seconds later, the hazel eyes snapped back open as shouts and shots reverberated through the ruins. Rolling to her feet, Min unslung her repeater and ducked behind one of the beams supporting the saloon's façade. Out of her peripheral vision, she saw Boone and the soldier hurl themselves at the ground, before crawling behind the memorial stone.
Behind her the saloon door slammed open and Saeko stumbled out, tripping over a sarsaparilla bottle as she struggled with her scabbard. The slamming echo of a submachine punctuated the moment, followed by the slapping of rifle rounds punching rotten concrete. Min peeked out around her scanty cover and saw no visible threats. Making a "move up" gesture to Saeko, Min broke cover and ran across the square, past the memorial stone, before dropping behind a concrete pile closer to the apparent source of gunfire. Saeko slid in behind her, the long frames of her athletic body compact behind the old building materials. Min looked behind, and saw the soldier jogging over to the structure opposite the saloon, with Boone in position to provide covering fire, before Boone crept across the open space, gradually moving up behind the Courier.
Saeko leapfrogged forward, shadowed across the street by the NCR trooper. The pair cautiously approached an abandoned checkpoint set up by the most obvious entry to the ruins. Min and Boone followed closely behind, keeping low in case of ricochets. The group convened around the tin sheet door, and everybody took the moment to check their weapons.
Min felt a rising euphoria as her companions and the random soldier chambered rounds, and prepared to breech the door. At long last, she'd be able to pay her assailants back in lead and blood. They'd ambushed her, shot her, and left her for dead, half buried in a shallow grave – such an affront couldn't stand. She met Saeko's eyes and winked at the swordswoman. While the conflict wasn't personal for Min's female follower, a similar bloodlust lit up her eyes. The two women shared a quick smile, feral and sharp, before Min stepped towards the door.
The soldier moved in between the Courier and the door, and put a hand on her shoulder. "Hang on, Ma'am. You're a civilian, and this is a NCR military operation. You shouldn't be here."
Almost before the words left the hapless soldier's mouth, a foot rammed into his side, knocking him to the ground. He turned over, trying to get up, before stopping cold at the touch of a blade. Saeko stood over him, glaring down at the prone man, promising violence if he tried to move. Min hunkered down beside him in the dust, while Boone kept an eye on the ruins.
"What's your name, Private?" Min asked, glancing at his rank tabs.
"Scott Kowalski, Ma'am!"
"Private Kowalski, I was once a trooper of the Republic, and so I understand your need to carry out your duty. However, I have a personal stake in what is most likely going on inside the ruins as we speak. I am going into combat, and you have two choices: You can stay out here – nobody is forcing you to risk your life, after all; or you can follow me in." Min gave a warm smile to the trooper, and waved Saeko's blade away. "So, what's it going to be?"
The private picked himself up and stood, scooping his rifle from the ground. "It'd be wrong to stay safe while my fellow soldiers are fighting, Ma'am."
"Glad to hear it, soldier!"
The Courier looked at her small band, and nodded at Saeko. The Japanese girl slowly opened the door, and then whipped around the corner, crouching behind a fallen cement block. The Courier and her two male followers burst through immediately behind her, and almost trampled the officer who'd been standing by the door.
"Who the hell are you lot? This area is off-limits!" The lieutenant barked. "We've got a band of Khans up ahead, and the last thing I need is interference!"
"Would you like some help, lieutenant?" Min asked politely. "My friends and I would be happy to assist you with a quick cleanup." While the lieutenant's eminently punchable mustache almost seemed to cry out for a smack, Min opted for politeness. Pissing off a ranking officer wouldn't help anybody.
The lieutenant seemed to deflate. "Honestly, there's nothing that I'd like better, but they've taken two of my troopers hostage. I'm waiting for backup right now – Station Alpha promised a handful of rangers."
Min paused at that. The rangers would certainly be enough to destroy the Khans, but such an act would rob her of her revenge against the thugs. Also, there was no guarantee that the rangers would be able to extract the hostages safely.
"When do you expect them to arrive, lieutenant?"
"I have no idea. I put in the call half an hour ago, but nothing's happened since." The officer seemed slightly hesitant as he described the tepid response times.
Min frowned. "Nothing's happened since? What was that gunfire about five minutes ago? That didn't sound like nothing to me!"
"That's no business of yours!" The officer explained, before reddening under Min's skeptical glare. "…I ordered an attempt to rescue the hostages."
"Well, good to know! Now, are the hostages still alive, or did you provoke the Khans enough to seal their fate?"
"No, they're still alive. As soon as we retreated, the Khans brought them out of cover, beat the shit out of the pair, and forced them back, out of sight." The officer cringed slightly at Min's glare, and recoiled further back as Boone turned his gimlet eyes towards him. "What? What did you expect me to do? I'd already tried to break them out!"
A period of silence, as tense as the strings of a guitar, hung between the speakers.
Min sighed heavily. "Well, sir, would you mind much if I made an attempt to negotiate the hostage's release?"
The lieutenant looked like he was about to say something, before recoiling away from Boone, who had by complete coincidence removed the safety from his rifle just as the lieutenant was about to speak. "No, not at all! They're holed up in a mostly intact building up ahead; the hostages are immediately next door" As the band started moving forward, he continued. "It's your funeral, after all. Best of luck!"
"Incompetent fool." Muttered Min as the group trudged on. "No wonder he's assigned as far away from anything that matters as possible."
The group moved past the rest of the NCR patrol, which collectively looked demoralized and tired. Min turned back to the group. "Alright, here's what's going to happen. The Khans probably won't open fire on a pair of female civilians, especially female civilians without firearms. So, Saeko and I will go inside, and deal with the Khans in the building. Boone, you and Kowalski will take out the Khans near the hostages as soon as we close the door."
Kowalski interrupted. "Wait, aren't you going in to negotiate with the Khans? This doesn't sound like a negotiation plan to me."
Min sighed in exasperation. "There's no point in negotiation. I'm taking them down, one way or another. Do you have a problem with this?"
As the private shook his head, Min handed her repeater to Boone, and checked that her hatchet was close at hand. "Remember, don't start shooting until we're inside."
The sniper nodded, and Min left the cover of the rubble, Saeko in tow. With a calm, patient air, the two walked across the contested ground, past a fallen trooper and an abandoned helmet. The Khans in the buildings held their fire, and the Courier grew near. As she'd walked across the open ground, Min had felt like her stomach was twisting into knots, tense with worry, wondering if the Khans would open fire at any moment. As she approached the ancient door, ever closing with her prey, all the worry and tension seemed to slip out of her body, abandoned out on the shattered city street. The human weakness had left – all that remained was a desire for vengeance, and burning anticipation. As the Courier laid a hand on the doorknob, she turned and smiled at the swordswoman who walked a pace behind. "Lunch after?" A coy smile, a turn of the wrist, and the door creaked open, spilling yellow kerosene light out from the murky interior.
The Courier stepped across the threshold, and Saeko slipped in behind her like a shadow. The door swung close behind them.
There were two Khans inside the room, one of whom the Courier recognized by his ugly orange Mohawk. Min met his eyes, and took off her cowboy hat. "Hi! Did somebody order room service?" She smiled brightly as she asked, hearing faint pops of almost inaudible gunfire from outside.
The orange haired Khan recoiled back. "What the hell? You're that courier Benny wasted back in Goodsprings! You're supposed to be dead!"
Min could feel her lips burning as her smile stretched across her face, distorting her features and pulling at her cheeks. "Yuppers! You tied me up and watched as he shot me, you dirty fucking bastard!" Her smile left her face as she pulled her hatchet free from her belt and started advancing towards the Khan. Behind her, she could hear the whisper of steel as Saeko's sword moved in its scabbard.
"You're going to tell me where Benny is, or you're going to die here, Khan." Min spat, tightly gripping her hatchet, feeling the bones of her knuckles pushing hard against the skin, tendons knotting around the hatchet's haft.
"That bastard? He left us, and didn't fucking pay up! He's already back on the Strip, or near enough."
"He makes good time." The Courier admired. "Must have run most of the way there. Well, thanks for your cooperation." She turned. "Saeko dear? Take the other one down."
"You think you can take me, punk?" The Khan yelled, realizing that the Courier had no intention of letting the Khans leave peacefully.
Min didn't bother responding. Hurling herself forward, the Courier ran into the Khan leader's gut hatchet first, sliding in beneath the barrel of his shotgun. As buckshot gouged the ceiling, the two combatants landed heavily on the floor, grappling and punching. The force of the Khan's landing had forced the air from his lungs, winding him. As he struggled for air, Min managed to wrestle the shotgun away from his hands, and threw it towards the door. As her arm extended and the firearm flew, it was Min's turn to lose her air as a heavy fist slammed into the side of her ribs. Rolling away from the Khan and ignoring the popping in her ribs, Min climbed to her feet, adjusting her grip on the hatchet as she went. Rather than pursue his lost weapon, the Khan started clambering to his feet, trying to pull a switchblade from his leather vest, wrestling with the uncooperative pocket. Seeing the coming threat, Min slammed the pommel of her hatchet down on her foe's upper arm, making him lose his grip on the knife, before sending him back to the ground with a kick to the man's left kneecap. Bitterly cursing, the Khan moved backwards, fighting to free the knife from his vest as he went. Min followed him, and slammed the hatchet back down, noticing too late that the tool had turned in her hand. The butt of the wedge missed the Khan as he rolled frantically back across the floor, pursued by Min, who spluttered with rage as the prey continued to elude her. The blunt side of the blade slammed down again, ripping a shriek of pain from his throat as the metacarpal bones in her victim's left hand shattered under the blow. The cry gurgled out as the courier brought the hatchet down a fourth time. The sharpened wedge chopped down, slamming into the doomed man's jaw, splitting the bone, and proceeding down the soft underside of the neck, embedding in the convulsing man's hyoid, where the split windpipe grabbed the steel, holding it in a tight grip.
Min stepped back, away from the doomed man. She chanced a look behind her, towards Saeko and her adversary. The swordswoman had claimed another victim, and was struggling to pull her sword free of her fallen foe's spinal column. Turning back to her collapsed victim, Min knelt beside the Khan. The man was still alive, though his struggles had begun to weaken. He could still breathe through his nose, but his lungs were probably rapidly filling with blood. "You left me to die, Khan, but I'll grant you release before I go." Reaching into the man's vest, Min withdrew the switchblade the Khan had so frantically tried to use before her hatchet had slammed home. "Sleep deep, and better luck next time." The thin blade slid between the Khan's ribs, and into his heart, ending his futile struggle.
Closing the man's eyes, Min tugged the hatchet lose and checked his pockets for caps. She found none, but she did discover a rather elegant lighter, engraved with a sunburst pattern. "Benny…" Pocketing the lighter, Min wiped the hatchet on the fallen Khan's jeans and got to her feet. Then, together with Saeko, Min left the charnel house without so much as a backward glance.
Stepping out of the thick yellow light of a kerosene lantern into the bright afternoon light of the sun, Boone met Min and Saeko. "The Khans are dead. Kowalski got the hostages back the lieutenant." Boone nods once, anticlimactically, before taking a position behind and to the right of his current leader.
The three walked back towards the squad, past the thankful hostages and taciturn lieutenant. Reopening the shoddy sheet metal door, the group walked back to their waiting packs. Surprisingly, nothing seemed to have been stolen – not even the dusty steaks lying by the saloon door. As the trio ate a quick lunch, a small group of rangers quick-marched past, heading for the ruins, far too late to be of any help.