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Robert Edwin House - President, C.E.O, and Sole Proprietor of the FZM
Lucky 38

Robert listened with intrigue as the table disintegrated into a vat of political lava, each faction quarreling with the next as to the validity of Crassus’ speech. As the floor fell into silence, House finally took the opportunity to speak.

“You’ve all come a very long way. It doesn’t take a P.H.D. from C.I.T. to realize that the many eyes upon this table see the road to the future from an entirely different perspective. There is no disputing that we’ll never be able to agree on a particular vision.”

Robert sighed. “But for the New California Republic…they are the exception to my patience. I shamelessly used their infrastructure as a conduit to the prosperous wealth of New Vegas, but now I find myself in a troubling position. They have become so devastatingly arrogant and shortsighted that I can no longer even trust the influx of their customers.”

Mr. House focused his vision upon Titus Crassus. “For those who are unacquainted with the current climate of the west, let me enlighten you. The New California Republic was born from an idea not terribly unfamiliar from mine – a vision of the old world plastered over the new. A vision of the future. But, along the way, it has fallen into the mistakes that led us to the Great War and distorted into an aimless romp over new territory, damaging the identity of all lands it crosses. I invited President Kimball to this meeting on good faith that he would be reasonable; that he would try to create a future with the rest of us.”

“Instead, he has proven that he is salivating for blood and political gratification in an even more primal, destructive, and backward way than Edward Sallow’s Legion before him. ‘How could Mr. House possibly compare the dissolution of 86 tribes and the crucifixion of thousands to a strategic invasion?’, you might ask…The answer is simple. Lucius’ direction as the new Caesar has proven that even a civilization based off a rudimentary and ancient lifestyle can change. However, the NCR is the same as it’s ever been…Kimball abused his invitation and has propped it up as a smokescreen for his invasion.”

“…Mark my words – Kimball and his regime will not survive this road. I have seen dozens of President Kimballs in my years, and they all disintegrate in remarkably similar ways. The new world demands that you have the sense not to bet on the losing horse…And unless the rest of the NCR finds its feet and uproots its ridiculous administration, said ‘horse’ will collapse before the race has even begun…”

House then moved on to his more specific message. “Hear me, New California Republic – if you so much as send a second squadron into the Mojave Desert or try to cross into Legion territory again, then California will be no more. I have formally declared an alliance with Lord-Paladin Barnaky of the Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel, and I assure you that our partnership will serve as a conduit for the return of a technological future and we shall safeguard its path. The NCR – or anyone who worships the earth they walk on – will be hard-pressed to even cause a dent into our combined prowess.”

“Let this be a challenge to the NCR to return home and reevaluate its very DNA. If it fails to do so, it won’t survive this war. As for the citizens of this failed regime – if you are disillusioned with the direction of your destructive government, I am allowing the exodus of NCR citizens into my borders, where you may find work, peace, and prosperity.”

Robert looked out across the others. “The rest of you can hide behind beautiful ideologies as much as you’d like, but Titus Crassius is right. Lucius will stay upright for longer than most of you because he has made the decisions that have kept he and his people alive…If you’d like to witness the fate of democracy, I implore you to look out the windows.”
Lorelei Jones - Jones Residence

“May I sit up on the porch with you?"

Lorelei looked down upon Adam and shrugged. “Don’t see why not.” She continued her work on her rifle and idly kicked her legs back and forth against the supports of the railing.

“Hey, you're the kid from the gate, right? Uhhhh, Lorelei I think you'd said?” muttered Adam.

Lorelei scoffed. Even at 25, she couldn’t escape the eternal role of the crazy little kid on the block. Perhaps, by now, she’d painted herself into that corner with her juvenile wonderment and general eccentricity. Such a remark reminded her of her own father, who’d referred to her as ‘honey pie’ or ‘little Lora’ until the end of his life. She granted a warm smile. “That’s me.” She squinted at Adam, trying to deduce his features through the gloomy moonlight. “So… you’re Adam. Right.”

Lorelei sat quietly as Adam climbed up to sit next to her. Her eyes returned to her rifle and remained fixed there. “Being a sole homeowner—especially pertaining to a gargantuan piece of real estate like this—it feels…odd. I haven’t lived in a house like this since my childhood. Feels too good to be true. Just like this town.”

After a while, Lorelei gazed out at the moonlit structures of Salem. She took a deep breath and leaned to her right, pressing her torso against the tall wooden support beam of the porch steps.
Calvin Lovegrove
Smith Residence


"I've got nothing, Cal. The Club is our best shot. I gotta make a stop if you don't mind, forgot some papers at home. You finish up here with the Coroner, I'll meetcha'."

Calvin nodded and straightened his tie. “Do what you need to do. I’ll see you at the Carousel.” He sighed and trudged through the living room, being careful not to disturb any of the objects lying around. He stared down the coroner and pursed his lips. He then grimaced at the body and took a deep breath. “Take him to central. Gallagher and I are headed to Club Carousel.”

Once Cal made it to his car, he leaned against the glossy black fender flare and lit a cigarette. He’d made it this long in this business by looking out for himself, and everything about this soon-to-be-serial-killer sent shivers down his spine. This was the sort of case that would eat an idealistic cop alive. Perhaps it would have been wise to walk away.

Still, even if Lovegrove were to leave this acidic mess behind, the least he could do was open an avenue of investigation for Detective Gallagher. He hopped into his convertible and made a bee-line for Manhattan.

Club Carousel


Cal street-parked his car in front of the club and perused the road from the panorama of his convertible. He’d been to this avenue before, for very different reasons. It was the only place in Manhattan where a woman as limelight-smothered as Danielle could hide in plain sight. People were here for gratification, one way or another. They didn’t have a care in the world who was partaking. He’d taken her out to dinner down the street, and he’d always wondered what was behind the neon glow of the “Carousel” sign.

That was all gone. The street was desolate – mummified in caution tape. The expected press and beat patrol officers, however, were nowhere to be found. He was alone. He strolled inside and lit another cigarette. He sat at one of the empty tables alone with his smoking apparatus dangling from his mouth, waiting for Gallagher to catch up or an employee to meet with him
Lorelei Jones – Ace’s Diner

Rick looked at Lorelei quizzically, not fully grasping what she meant, not understanding that she was joking. “Well astronomy has never been my forte, but if I had to say home, we share the same home don’t we. If I remember correctly, we are in Salem, located in the commonwealth, located on Earth. Which in turn is in the Solar system, located in the Orion arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. Which is in the Virgo cluster, within the Virgo Supercluster within the observable universe.”

Lorelei gave a half-smile and narrowed her eyes. “That’s precious.” She relaxed her arms off the edge of the booth and folded them. “There was jest laced into my interrogation, but I’m going to take a guess and say ‘scholar’. It sounds like you really know your shit.” This man was peculiar, yet fascinating. He oozed intelligence, and she was drawn to it. However, as usual, she’d masked her lapse in pragmatism with dry humor.

Rick borrowed his brow, almost mimicking Lorelei, “What do you mean that I took my glasses from a dead guy? Wearing prescription glasses that were made for another will harm your eyes. I would advise against it. As for my deal, I have no deal, I am who I am. Just because the world went to hell in a hand basket, doesn’t mean everyone gave up on society…sure, a vast majority chose anarchy and pursuit of self-pleasures. Some of us decided that we should continue living as humans always have. There’s no species no more capable of adaptability than humans; which is why we survived a devastating war. So, excuse me, for wishing to be educated in a world where strength and cunning are revered as the main evolutionary traits all perceive as greatest. So to answer your question, I’m just a person living life as we truly should, rather than waste it on nothingness.”

Lorelei pursed her lips. “Prescription, huh? Sounds like you come from a far more civilized place than I.” She took a deep breath. “It’s a pretty sentiment, though. Most can’t afford to think that way, but we have no future if we accept the state we are in – this is true. I apologize for trying to affix a label to your persona, Mr. Noel. Most folks in the wasteland are simple… easy to read. They’re only motivated by one thing – survival, and if they manage to achieve it, that notion dissolves into aimless greed and glutton…they always have a ‘deal’. But I’m stumped on yours…or a lack thereof.”

After taking a break from her counterattack and being met with silence, Lorelei turned her head slightly to the side and smiled. “I did not mean to insult you or your vision, if this is what you feel. My curiosity only brings out the worst in my humor.” Despite her confidence, she felt slight regret, having likely squandered her first impression by showering Rick in sappy, impenetrable comedy. She nodded her head. “Regardless…Welcome to Salem. I’ll leave you to your solitude…nice to meet you.” She stood up and waited for a second to see if he had anything else to say before slightly raising a hand in farewell. She left the diner, slapping a few caps onto the counter as payment for her milkshake.

At that, Lorelei hurried home and sat on her porch, sitting on the rotted-wood railing and cleaning the bolt-chamber on her rifle while arbitrarily gazing up at the stars on her lonesome.
Lorelei Jones – Ace’s Diner

"When one presents themselves before others, courtesy dictates one should first state their name." Rick adjusted his glasses and lifted his face to look at Lorelei. "I do not recognize you either. For I have never seen you before. Therefore, you wouldn't recognize me. However, if you must know whom am I, well my name is Rick, Rick Noel. I arrived to this town today. If you are with the welcome committee, along with that Ace fellow, who offered me this drink, thank you for your kindness." He lifted his glass and took a big gulp before placing it down again.

Lorelei finished her shake and leaned back in her seat before outstretching her arms across the outline of her booth cushion. “Hmm,” she mumbled, which seemed both insightful and satirical all at once. She was good at reading people. Her mental acuity was perhaps the only thing she had going for her – her physical strength and endurance were sorely lacking and she had to make up for it by carefully constructing the paths before her. However, despite studying his facial expressions and carefully dissecting Rick’s mannerisms, she couldn’t quite pierce his nervous and almost innocent aura.

With that, Lorelei humorously bit her lip and folded both her arms and her legs. “Well, well, well. You’ve got manners on you...real ones...not just half-assed rituals that come with the standard-issue wasteland human. What universe are you from? Will you ever be able to get home?”

Lorelei gave a slight smile to indicate that her jesting had come to an end. “My name is Lorelei Jones. I’ve never heard of a ‘welcome committee’, but even if I did, I’d be the last person they would ask.”

After pursing her lips and perusing the diner, she narrowed her brow. “What’s your deal, Rick? Scholar? Or did you loot those glasses off a dead guy?”
Lorelei Jones – Drumlin Diner

"Well now, don't be making promises you can't keep. How ‘bout you love me for half an eternity, after all, I may get tired of you." Ace replied with a smirk on his face as he walked over to the coffee maker and poured a cup. He placed it in front of Lorelei, "Here, looks like you need a pick me up."

Lorelei smiled and nodded in thanks as she cupped her hands around the glass. “Deal.” She poked a straw into the shake and chugged almost half the drink in one pass. Regret—in the form of a brain freeze—instantly punched her in the face and she pushed it away, pressing her fingers against her forehead in exaggerated agony and leaning back against the table. Once she rebounded from the freeze and learned her lesson, she spent a while casually sipping at the drink while she watched the other tenants in the diner.

Doc West sat at the other end with the rather intimidating-looking woman she’d seen on her first night in Salem, and they seemed to be talking quietly and minding their own business. A rather erudite-looking gentleman—sporting a greasy haircut and big glasses—was there, too, sitting alone at one of the booths.

Barney was about, as well. Good. Lorelei caught his eye from across the bar and lazily waved him down as she continued to very delicately pick away at her mutfruit milkshake. The old coot sat on the stool next to her own. “What can I do ye’ for, miss…uh...what’s your name again, darling?”

“Lorelei.”

Right. Silly me. Hard to forget a name like that. I trust you’re enjoying your stay so far?”

Lorelei shrugged. “Meh.”

Barney looked like his soul had been crushed before his very eyes. “ ‘Meh’? Why’s that?”

“It’s just like any other town, sir.”

“I’d say that this better than your run-of-the-mill shack-central, Miss Lorelei,” countered Barney.

“It’s pinned against the water in almost every direction. A few days in and we’re already seeing raider activity. God forbid, we really get attacked? Au revoir. I’ve traversed this whole territory. There were so many better places to pick from.”

“Salem is my home, miss. And someone with that attitude just doesn’t understand what it's like to set your anchor down. You’re worried about raiders? There’s something you can do about that…”

“Mhm...what does one have to do to join the militia around here?”

Barney pointed his index finger at Lorelei’s head and waved it around like an imaginary magic wand. “You are now part of the Salem Volunteer Militia. Which consists solely of myself and that fine woman over there.” He pointed at Frieda across the diner.

“Just like that?’

“Just like that.”

Lorelei smiled and took another sip of her shake. “I suppose it’s unpaid labor.”

“That’s right,” said Barney.

“In my spare time, I like to collect things…useless junk, really…would it be possible for me to clean up one of those old trays in the town square and occasionally barter my yields off?”

“Those old things? Sure, ma’am. Hell, if you’re good with a shovel and have a knack for dislodging rubble, you could even take up one of those collapsed storefronts if you get enough merchandise.”

“Hmm. All right. Thank you for the help.”

Barney gave a toothy grin. “Anytime, dear. I look forward to the growth of our fine militia.” He walked back over to his original spot.

Lorelei rested her head against the bar, and once again her serenity was interrupted. The radio had been turned up, and an emergency broadcast blasted into the diner.

“...Hold on a minute folks...Just received another report...It is estimated that a large number of Gunners escaped, and were headed north. Folks living in the northern parts of the commonwealth are advised to be careful, and if you see anyone strange, report them to authorities. If we receive any other news, we'll be sure to let you know.”

Lorelei rolled her eyes. It’s happening again. She sighed under her breath. This wasn’t her first rodeo. A three-person militia inside of a water-trapped town was about as attractive to a group of marauders as a wounded caribou to a wild pack of wolves. Still, if it came to that, she knew what she needed to do. There was no need for her to distract her concentration.

After a moment, Lorelei found herself peering at the odd gentleman at the booth, who looked clearly shaken-up by the broadcast. He looked strangely out-of-place. His aura seemed tacit and squeaky clean, which was something that could not be said for the others. Hmm... Lorelei grabbed her milkshake and shuffled over to Rick’s booth before sitting down across from him. She set her drink onto the table and took a sip from the straw, saying nothing. Her eyes studied him up-and-down as if she was looking at a mythological creature that had stepped out of a portal.

“I don’t recognize you.”
Lorelei Jones – Salem Entrance

"Right. Nice to meet you, Miss Jones. I'm Adam. You ever need anything, give me a holler. I own the white fishing boat, ain't a hard place to miss, kid."

Lorelei said nothing, but offered a weak affirmative smile in Adam’s direction as he walked away. She’d only been in Salem for three days and this place was already turning her into a misanthrope.

“Rabbit. That’s you new nickname,” Steve chuckled. “…what do you think of my idea of setting the cult and raiders against each other? Despite what ‘medieval’ said I doubt they would check the bodies wounds, or at least I doubt the raiders would.”

Lorelei rolled her eyes. “’Rabbit’? Ugh. Thank god you aren’t a poet… A stanza from you would be suicide on paper.” She turned and watched Adam trek back into Salem proper, keeping her back facing Steve’s wandering eyes. “I don’t think your idea is wise, Stephen. I’ve spent time around this ‘cult’. They’re a strange bunch, but most of them are harmless. You would only risk making an enemy of them.” She reached into her pack for her bottle and took a large gulp of water.

“I’ll start building a turret instead. You can come and watch if you like... little guys have saved my life on more than one occasion so it’s convenient to know how to build one.”

Lorelei waved her hand dismissively while her mouth was full of water. Then she turned to look at Steve again. “No…I’m going home.” She looked down at the mangled corpse. “Looks like you get to clean up after yourself after all.” She gave a half-smile and trekked back home. Upon making it to her house, she immediately threw her coat back on with a scowl across her face. She supposed that it took wearing an oversized jacket to keep men like Mr. Cooper from eyeing her like a slab of meat. She rinsed out her mouth at the kitchen sink with water from her bottle and then made a bee-line for town square, leaving her front door wide open.

Upon returning to the town, Lorelei found that she’d severed herself from the excitement of the dead raider only to find herself at a loss of what to do next. When in doubt, Ace’s Diner. She took her time heading there, gazing up at the gargantuan apartment structures, which managed to stay held together after all these years. Perhaps she had made a mistake by claiming a house for herself – it would have been far easier to stay invisible if she’d tucked herself away on one of the high floors. No matter. Her scowling mannerisms were likely to keep folks wary of the Jones household... She just needed time to play her own game.

There was no escaping it -- Lorelei was tired. She'd slept for an entire day and yet her energy threshold was somewhere down in the underworld. Perhaps it was her body's lethargic response to life in a town as thus-far dull as Salem. Only time would tell.

Lorelei waltzed into Ace’s Diner and found herself a barstool. She sat there and rested her head against the bar for a little while, warming up the frayed red cover of her seat, before she finally looked up again. She mumbled her order for anyone working that might have listened. “Mutfruit milkshake, please…and if you could sprinkle some rum onto that sucker, I’ll love you for all eternity.”
Lorelei Jones – Salem Entrance

“They’re just some raider punks who thought they could extort the town. This one attempted to beg for mercy, but he know the town’s location and that the wall isn’t finished.... not worth the risk.”

Lorelei scratched her head. “Huh. Okay.” She tossed her rifle around her back and grimaced at the corpse. “Just a few days into the honeymoon, and reality is already at our doorstep.”

Steve then turned to face “overcoat”, except today she wasn’t wearing it... “You’re not…--” Steve stated as he checked out non-overcoat, she was somewhat muscular but thinner than he had expected, perhaps due to her suffering from malnourishment at some point. Her...assets...were also larger than 'fly girl'’s but not as big as Celeste’s. “…wearing your overcoat.”

Lorelei turned her gaze away from the raider’s crumpled form to make eye contact with Steve, except his eyes were elsewhere. They were fixated on her chest. Is something wrong? She looked down at her bosom. She closed her eyes and let loose an exasperated sigh. Oh, for fuck’s sake. She had thrown on her white tee without thinking about the fact that her skin was still damp from the sweat she'd accumulated in her sleep. Somehow, she’d known in the back of her mind that neglecting to bring her iconic jacket would wind up biting her in the ass.

“My eyes, Steve. They’re up here.” Lorelei pointed at her two green orbs.

“Guess I’ll have to come up with a new nickname for you then, non-overcoat.” Steve chuckled as he winked at Lorelei.

Lorelei offered a humorous half-smile. “That’s a mouthful. 'best come up with a better one.”

"Hey! What is it, partner? Bandits? Mutants? 'claws, God forbid?" An unfamiliar, but rugged-looking gentleman came hollering and sprinting into the fold.

Lorelei kept her arms folded across her chest – fifty percent intended to look confident, fifty percent to cover up the fact that she had woefully miscast her attire for the situation. She smiled at Rook before looking back at the crumpled corpse. “Uh…apparently, we’ve got a nest of rodents nearby, and Steve decided to ruthlessly murder their messenger-boy.” She shrugged. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”

After a few moments-worth of studying the man, making direct eye contact with him a few times, she stepped forward and offered her hand, keeping the other still awkwardly folded over her chest. “Lorelei. Lorelei Jones.”
Lorelei Jones – Jones Residence

God…my head…

Lorelei’s green eyes fluttered open and she gently placed her palm against her forehead. She had been rudely invited to a new day. She rose to sit against the head of her bed and took a deep breath. Her entire body and her entire bed had become painted in a sweltering layer of sweat and she had drifted into a long state of unconsciousness without a single article of clothing.

Lorelei reached for her end table and seized one of the two beers at her bedside. She immediately put the bottle to her mouth and her back sank into her plush pillow. The events of the previous day were fuzzy to her, but as she ingested a bit of liquid courage and came to, the important details become more articulate. She rolled out of bed and slipped into some clothes, putting on a white tee and high-waisted jeans while neglecting her overcoat. Steve would be disappointed in that oversight. She ran her fingers through her sweaty hair and shook her head. Right about now, running water would be a divine thing. But she would have to retrieve some to fill the tub – the tediousness of it all made her tired even thinking about it.

Once she was ready, Lorelei swung her rifle around her back and shuffled downstairs, grabbing a water bottle from the cupboard. She stepped out onto the porch and folded her arms. There were more people about than she remembered. The house next door had been pried open. Have I really been out that long? I hardly recognize this place at all.

Lorelei’s gaze shifted to the left, where a faint tower of smoke was visible by the ocean. She pursed her lips and hopped off the steps, heading toward the trail before she stopped dead in her tracks.

BANG.

Lorelei’s reflexes kicked in and she immediately swung her rifle off her back. It’s too early for this shit. She pulled back on the bolt and headed in the direction of the reverberating gunshot. She raced to the edge of town to find Steve and Rook staring down an unidentified group. A body lay at Cooper’s feet, a pool of blood accumulating on the ground. She pointed her rifle at the unfamiliar group and stood next to Steve.

“…the hell is going on, Steve?”
Calvin Lovegrove
Smith Residence


Cal strolled into the bedroom after Ashley. He allowed the detective to absorb the atmosphere; this place had become a harrowing temple of nostalgia -- an empty slice of proof that a man once lived here. No longer. His watch was over, and it had been replaced.

"You look like shit." Calvin folded his arms and a smirk rippled its way onto his face. "Although I'd be questioning your empathy if you looked otherwise. I am sorry for your loss."

He began to peruse the various objects in the room, turning over the clothes left on his bed and checking the drawers, simultaneously aware that he would find nothing. Yet again, The Florist had conducted a "perfect" murder. Calvin had read the files. If The Florist was a creature of habit, then there would be no prints and no possible leads outside of the normal information -- time of death, wounds, context.

Calvin reached into the breast-pocket of his suit and pulled out the file. He quickly perused the murders of Alison Fitzpatrick and Julia Prudence. Every detail checked out.

"Detective Smith was promoted to Ad Vice in my absence. My suspension has come to an end, and the rest of our desk is busy keeping kids out of the morphine-candy store." He paused and perused the file again. "There is nothing conclusive at this site. The coroner should pack up and we should return to Club Carousel. We need to peruse its ledger and obtain a list of clients for the last two nights."

"There's no way in hell that this smart a fellow would have left any trace at a place of business, but we can see if there are any repeat customers between the two nights and see if there were any strange consistencies between the two evenings. It's a long shot, but unless you have any other evidence, it's what we have."

Calvin hollered into the hallway. "Coroner...arrange for Detective Smith's remains to be sent to the morgue. We're done here."
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