Lonesome Road: Nipton, and a Brief Detour

Yeah, Nipton had been slagged. Coming into town, the first thing I noticed was the giant cloud of smoke coming out of the mayor’s house. No great loss; I’d been in there once, and it was nothing but a glorified whorehouse and a case in point that some folks just ain’t cut out to be running much of anything. Sure, he’d been making a good go of it, was probably pretty loaded and thought he was set for life… but bills always come do, and in the Mojave, like as not, it ain’t chips or cash that pay the collector.

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Not exactly a hopeful sight.

Thought I heard something coming from the general store as I was walking up main street – plus thought I’d seen some folks moving around up in front of the mayor’s, and didn’t want to charge in half-cocked – so ducked in for a second. I was a little surprised at who was waiting for me.

Said his name was Boxcars. Said my name was the “Powder Ganger’s Grim Reaper.” Guess word of my misadventures with them in Goodsprings and Primm was getting around. He wasn’t looking so hot, so I put my gun away. Didn’t think I’d really need it if I wanted to finish him off, anyway; he was unarmed, and looked like both his legs were broken. I asked him what happened, he said he was in pain. Feeling a little charitable, I tossed him a couple boxes of Med-X, let him down them. He might have been a raider, but that don’t mean I wanted him to suffer; looked like he’d probably been through more than he really deserved, when you got right down to it. Once he was feeling the buzz, he elaborated. Said the mayor’d sold out some NCR to the Gangers… but then sold both groups out to the Legion. Dumb schmuck probably thought he was going to get them coming and going, reap a tidy profit, and walk away. The fires outside said otherwise. Boxcars also claimed the Legion had held a lottery with the few survivors of the initial raid. The winner got to walk away. Runner up – Boxcars himself – got leg broke. Everyone else, well… they were what was burning.

I always knew there was a reason I stayed away from the scratch offs.

He waved me off after that, which was fine by me. Smelled like he’d had a bit of a bowel control problem – hey, who could blame ’em, gettin’ kneecapped with a sledgehammer? – and it seemed obvious that there wasn’t going to be any useful intel here; any survivors were just as likely to be half-crazy or stoned out of their gourds, and the Legion isn’t known for being talkative. Figured I might check the corpse-pyre in the middle of town before I split, on the off chance Benny and his goons had been caught it in, but I didn’t think so… he was too slick for that. Besides, the Khans had some kind of deal going with the Legion, or so I’d heard; not likely they’d get tossed in the fire. Unless they’d outlived their usefulness.

I turned to go, but Boxcars stopped me. Mentioned there were a few more of his pals who hadn’t been involved in the lottery; said the Legion had tied ’em up and was hauling them off for slaves. Mentioned they were probably headed west. I kept that in mind as I stepped outside, and came face to… dog head… with some leathery tribal. Called himself Vulpes. Said that it was a good thing I was here, to “bear witness.” I asked to what, he said “to what happens to the enemies of Caesar.”

I pressed him a little further – trying to ignore the fact he was wearing a skinned canine face on his head, and that I could swear the damn thing was looking at me more than the man beneath it – and pointed out that barbecuing a town, even one full of lowlifes and double dealers, was just a little excessive. I mean, I’m all for law and order, but there’s limits.

His response was pretty straightforward. “If you object, then do something about it. Otherwise, leave.”

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I decided I did want to do something about it.

Turns out dog-head and his friends, while being pretty tough customers, weren’t much of a match for one pissed-off courier with lead in his dome. Some might say I overreacted. Maybe. Maybe not. Not much of a fan of slavers, and while I don’t always see eye to eye with the NCR, I sure as fuck don’t put any faith in the Legion. Besides… he sorta told me to.

I made a quick check of the burning bodies, poked around the mayor’s house, but didn’t find anything else of use. ED-E seemed fixated on some of the terminals, so I let it scan around, figuring maybe it’d have better luck, but it lost interest quickly. Figured the next stop’d be Novac, since sooner or later everybody’s gotta go by the big-ass dinosaur if they’re heading to New Vegas and don’t feel like being eaten by Deathclaws.

But there was one thing left to do… and I didn’t even have to go very far to do it. The slavers had left a trail practically a mile wide; with my knowledge of the Mojave and ED-E’s enhanced sensors, it wasn’t too hard to pick up on it. About a mile outside of Novac, I found a pack of Legion beating on some Gangers.

Really? I mean, seriously? You’ve already got them disarmed, in chains, and on their way to market. No reason to beat ’em up, too.

The Gangers looked a little worried as I crested the hill nearest the encampment, but then they saw where I was pointing Ol’ Betsy and started to grin, then laugh. The head Legionnaire stopped with one fist raised, about to mash the lips of the nearest Ganger, and asked what the hell was so funny.

I couldn’t resist; I made a show of cocking the pistol, nice and slow like so I knew he’d hear it click. “The Grim Reaper’s behind you,” I said, and pulled the trigger. ED-E followed my lead, and had already roasted two more of the slavers before I could switch targets. The last pair tried to run for it, but my blood was up and I was in enough shit with Caesar’s boys as it was; no reason to let them spread the story, maybe bring down a Praetorian Hit Squad on me. I kneecapped one, blew the other one’s heart out. ED-E saw to cleanup.

The Gangers were less than satisfied, even when I untied them. Not an ounce of gratitude in the little bastards. Just scrubbed their wrists, bobbed their heads, and booked it out of there. I suppose I can’t blame them; I did sort of spend the last couple days massacring their friends, even if I had reason.

I wondered if Benny’d reached Novac, already. Probably; he had a bit of a head start, after all, and probably hadn’t stopped to defend bucolic burgs or rescue prisoners. But that was the difference between him and me; I don’t let things go once I get started. Something he was going to find out for himself, real soon now.

Wiping the last bit of Legion blood off my armor, I glanced up the road. Dinky the Dinosaur was there, waiting for me. And Benny, too. I could smell him.

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Just a little further, now.

Courier Six, out.

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