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    1. Prizrak 8 yrs ago

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Veteran Ranger Dina Medina
NCR Safehouse – Black Mountain
Sometime After Midnight, October 18th

Something had seemed off with Gloriana since she joined up with the duo at Wolfhorn Ranch and it hadn’t been getting better since they left. Dina was quiet and seldom spoke up about how she felt but this time didn’t feel right. She had a 10-ton weight in her stomach that kept nagging at her all day, it kept her on edge the entire trip, and it kept her from falling asleep after her sentry post.

Now she couldn’t sit still. It had been a few hours since they were ambushed but Dina’s heart hadn’t stopped hammering in her chest. Too many things reminded her of her time in the NCR, the Legion’s nighttime raids across the Colorado, the terror and the bloodshed as her friends lay died around her. Her adrenaline was compelling her to bolt into the mountains, but her feet kept her frozen inside the safehouse. Amidst the internal turmoil her eyes stayed transfixed on Gloriana, and the wounded NCR soldiers strewn about the safehouse.

“Why isn’t she saying anything!? Why hasn’t she said anything!? Why are we not doing anything!?” Dina’s internal monologue was becoming more and more frantic. It felt like she was screaming without saying a word. Her body was trembling and drenched with sweat, her fists clenched so tightly that her nails were causing fresh blood to drip from her palms. “Why am I not doing anything!?” It felt like Dina had crashed through a brick wall and landed back into reality. From where she was standing Dina yelled to Gloriana who was tending to the wounded.

“Gloriana! What are we doing here!?” Even though her voice was distorted through her helmets’ vocalizer it struck Gloriana like a lightning bolt.

Gloriana looked up from the soldier to acknowledge Dina, her face pale and expressionless as if she wasn’t entirely present in the room herself.

“We’re tending to the wounded?” Her voice almost sounded confused and despite Dina’s minimal interaction with her it sounded wrong. Like someone else was speaking through her.

“We should be out there! Hunting those bastards down!” Dina gestured towards the door and out into the wasteland. Her body was still trembling from the stress, but her voice was stern and carried enough authority that the other Rough Rider took notice and came in from outside. Gloriana remained where she was transfixed on Dina for a moment before returning to her patient almost as if nothing was ever said.

Dina snapped and ran up to Gloriana grabbing her by the shoulders of her jacket. Spinning her around to face her, Dina felt the other Rough Rider put his arm around her chest pulling her away, but her grip was locked onto Gloriana’s jacket. “They can’t fucking get away with this Gloriana! This is bullshit!” She was crying under her helmet hoping that her vocalizer would hide it. “What the fuck is wrong with you!? This isn’t what we’re about!”

Gloriana’s face looked shocked for a moment before she composed herself. Her eyes filled with fire as she looked at Dina but she didn’t fight her grip. Instead, she spoke softly as if talking to a child. “Go.”

Dina’s grip loosened at Gloriana’s response and without hesitation she broke from the other Rough Rider’s hold and ran out the door grabbing her rifle and pack on the way. As she switched on her night vision someone else followed her out the door. It was August the other Rough Rider that had tried to pull her away. Dina turned slightly to face him, but her body language showed that she was ready to bolt. “August don’t get in the way of this.” She snapped at him, but it almost sounded like she was begging him. Just as she was nearly pleading with Gloriana through anger and frustration a moment before.

“I’m not Dina. I’m heading to Sloan so we can radio for help. You’re right we need to act on this.” He paused for a second before continuing. “A man who is laden with the guilt of human blood. Will be a fugitive until death.”

“Another verse from the bible? What does that make us?” Dina softened her tone, but her posture remained wound tight.

“It makes us fugitives.”


The warm glow of a campfire lapped at the cold desert darkness encroaching on a ramshackle circle of tents. Shadows of those tending it were plainly visible in the stark contrast it painted across the landscape. Faint voices could be heard while a group of rough-cut men played cards and another few laughed and joked around the fire. An animal of some description was skewered over the flames its savory smoke carried up into the hills where the eyes of coyotes laid in wait with bated breath and gunpowder.


“They’re awfully brazen, aren’t they? You can probably see their fire from Laughlin.” Despite the vocalizer on his helmet the absurdity of the situation still carried through in his voice. Nestled into the rocks high up on the jagged slope above the campsite was a posse of Rough Rider mercenaries. This one adorned in their Desert Ranger armor with a high-powered rifle trained on the figures around the camp below. One of their compatriots lay next to him, his throat slit, eyes staring lifelessly at the sparkling sky above, his mouth agape as if to call out in warning while his blood soaks the sand around him.


“They were probably hoping that your friend was going to make a little more noise before he died.” Gloriana’s voice carried a bit of levity, but the seriousness of the situation was not lost in her tone. Among the bandits at the campsite were settlers from Cal-Nev-Ari, a village 12miles south of Searchlight. They were strewn about the camp, their clothes in tatters and most of them looked too exhausted to stand lying in disheveled heaps on the ground. These raiders had already slaughtered 4 of the youngest when they caught wind of their tail. Turning a week-long mission into one that’s lasted well over a month but too much blood had been shed for them to turn back.


“Gloriana, it’s Josey. We’ve dealt with the patrol. You guys have them all to yourselves now. Over” A man’s haggard voice crackles through the headset inside Gloriana’s helmet. Josey and two others were with the horses at the foot of the mountain. Their call on the radio was the signal they needed to strike.


“Good to go Josey. We’ll see you at the bottom. Out” Gloriana stowed her binoculars and came up to a knee checking the chamber in her service rifle for a round in the chamber. There were 5 of them up here including herself, 2 would stay on the slope and provide covering fire while Gloriana and 3 others moved down into the camp. She wanted them close before everyone started shooting, they couldn’t take any more chances. “Rangers lets wrap this up.”


Gloriana started moving down the mountainside towards the camp wholly enveloped in darkness while the other two Rough Riders chirped affirmatives over their headsets. She was within 10 feet of the ring of tents when the deafening roar of a double barrel shotgun broke the stillness of the night and sparked a chaotic exchange of gunfire. From a distance it must have looked like the mountainside was spitting fire into the night offended by their presence. They still had the drop on the raiders making them easy targets while they scrambled from their tents, some panicked into the night only to be shot down by the Rough Riders up above. Others blindly fired into the night in an attempt to repel their spectral attackers. Although just as quickly as it started the cacophony of chaos was silenced.


Gloriana was standing at the rim of the campfire with one other Rough Rider across from her. Without saying anything the two of them started scanning around the campsite. Out of the corner of her eye Gloriana caught a flash of white light shinning straight up into the sky. She shouldered her rifle and headed towards the light source, it strobed on and off at irregular intervals while she approached. At the edge of the tents, she found its source. One of the Rough Riders was laying on their back weakly signaling with their helmet mounted flashlight. When Gloriana approached them, she immediately recognized him as Dutch Berm they had been together since the NCR. He meekly turned his head to face her as she approached him. Croaking a labored “Hey Gia.” Gloriana turned on her flashlight and immediately dropped her rifle. His pants were soaked in blood and when she got down to render aid, she found out that his pelvis was riddled with buckshot. She hurriedly tried to pack his wounds with wads of bandages from her first aid kit, but she couldn’t stop the bleeding.


“It’s bad, isn’t it?” He wasn’t looking at her, instead he was staring up into the night sky. His voice was calm, almost peaceful. “I slipped coming down. Hell of a way to go. Gia?”


Her concentration was broken almost as if his question shocked the adrenaline out of her body. She gripped his hand tightly, both of their gloves soaked in blood. He was facing her now and even through their helmets she felt his eyes piercing through her. Gloriana’s heart was pounding into her throat while she stammered for her words, his grip was losing in hers. “They got you pretty good Dutch, but you’ll ride again.” He let out a guttural sigh and his grip slid loose from hers.


Another Rough Rider came up to the scene, this one a woman in their companies fatigues her face painted black with grease. She kneeled next to Dutch and removed his helmet. His eyes were closed, and he had a smirk across his face, but his pulse was gone. “Camp is clear boss, just the settlers left. I signaled for the rest of the team already.”


Gloriana hadn’t even noticed the red flare slowly falling above them painting the cliff face like bloodied teeth. She reached in to grab Dutch under his arms with the other Rough Rider following suit. They staggered to their feet his dead weight making it difficult to stand on the rocky terrain. Steadying her footing and her voice Gloriana started carrying him back into the camp. “Don’t worry Dutch. We won’t leave you behind.” As they broke past the tents some of the settlers, having been cut free, offered to help carry him but Gloriana couldn’t hear them.

With the camp secured the posse snaked down the side of the mountain. Dutch’s body draped over the back of Gloriana’s horse. A raging inferno had begun to engulf the camp, the mountain appeased with its sacrifice. Allowing them to begin their long trek back home.



Their ragged band approached the gates of Wolfhorn Ranch, its sheet metal and razor wire exterior welcoming only to them. Gloriana was at the head of the group Dutch’s body still draped behind her as the gates groaned open to meet them. As they rode through the sentry’s snapped to attention and saluted the solemn cargo that rode with them, knowing only that it was one of theirs. Stopping in the main courtyard everyone began to dismount their horses.


A man approached Gloriana his hair unkempt and ashen gray a contrast to his otherwise neat appearance. He looked up at her and saw the pain in her eyes no matter how deeply she tried to bury it. “You alright Gia?” He knew the answer, but it was all he could offer her, his own eyes being just as bad at hiding it. He put his hand on her leg as if attempting to draw her pain into him, but they were both too full of it to matter. His attention shifted towards Dutch “Welcome home brother.” A group of Rough Riders had gathered to help him carry Dutch off into one of the buildings.


Gloriana felt like she couldn’t move from her saddle. She played it off like she was attempting to fix something with her gear, but it felt like a hundred pounds of lead was in her gut. Daisy the woman that helped her when she first found Dutch came alongside her horse. “You need some help? We’re all a little run down, no shame in it.” Gloriana accepted her offer of help off her horse. Her feet felt like they landed on shifting earth, needing a minute to get her weight under her.


“I appreciate it, Daisy. I can manage it from here.” Daisy gave her a nod before heading off towards the bunkhouse. Gloriana turned to grab her gear from off her horse and a few of her men were already waiting to take it off to the stables. While she was offloading her gear, she noticed that Dutch’s blood had matted the hair on her horse’s backside. She looked down at herself and remembered that she was covered in his blood as well. Grabbing her gear, she headed to her quarters, a small wooden cabin situated away from the other buildings. Everyone was too preoccupied with the morning tasks to notice the state she was in as she headed inside. Collapsing in a heap as soon as the door closed behind her, too exhausted to cry or maybe she forgot. Either way all she could muster was to lie in a mess on the floor of her cabin for a few minutes until she began stripping her uniform off.

Her clothes ended up in a soiled heap inside her door while she headed outside to shower. She had her own shower attached to the outside of her cabin. So early in the day the water was still ice cold but after months without one it didn’t matter. She did her best to wash the grease out of her hair and scrub Dutch’s blood out from underneath her fingernails but all she wanted to do was sleep. After a few more minutes she called it quits and wrapped up in a towel headed back inside. Barely dried and her room still a mess, Gloriana collapsed onto her bed a naked heap.

Waking up to a knock at her door she wrapped herself in her towel and went to answer it. “Hey Gia. Sorry to catch you like this.” It was the same gray-haired man from before, Josh. If there was a second in command in the Rough Riders, it would be him.
“It’s okay Josh. What’s going on?” Gloriana kept one hand clasped onto her towel while she pressed her door closer to her side with the other. She didn’t want him to see the mess she left this morning, if it wasn’t still morning. It didn’t feel like she fell asleep but the sun was high in the sky so she must have.

“Doc finished getting Dutch cleaned up. We’ll do a service for him tonight…”

Before he could ask Gloriana interjected. “I’ll be there.”

“I know you will be and listen I didn’t want to jump you with this but we’re sending some guys out to Camp Golf in the morning.” He looked a little concerned that maybe it was too soon to be talking to Gloriana about work. She still had heavy bags under her eyes, and it looked like she was long overdue for some rest.

“What for?”

“Holmes radioed us. Needs some bodies but they’re being hush hush about the details. I’m sending some of the vets up there to sort it out.”

“I’ll go with them.”

“You sure?” He knew better than to ask. “We need to get you taken care of before you leave again Gia. Neither of us are in our twenties anymore. I’ll start with that mess you’re hiding behind the door.” Josh cracked a smile as Gloriana stepped aside revealing the disheveled state of her cabin. “I’ll get this stuff sorted, go grab some chow and try and get some sleep. I’ll come back for you tonight.” Josh scooped everything up off the ground and headed off towards the armory leaving Gloriana to tend to herself.

Later that night Gloriana was already at the door before Josh knocked. She hadn’t been able to sleep a whole lot given the circumstances.

“Everyone’s gathered up on the hill when you’re ready.” Josh was dressed in his Rough Rider’s fatigues wearing his navy-blue beret.
Gloriana had already gotten dressed in her fatigues, her beret clasped in her hands and followed Josh up to the hill at the periphery of Wolfhorn Ranch. At the top a pyre was built and most of the Rough Riders that were available stood waiting for Dutch’s arrival. She neatly placed her beret on her head as she approached and double checked her fatigues to make sure they weren’t messed up.

“You look good Gia. Do you want me to call formation?”

“No Josh, I got it.” She got the sense that she didn’t do a good job of bullshitting him this time, but he didn’t challenge her. Maybe he should have let him though because after she called them all to attention everything began to blur together. She remembers the procession bringing Dutch’s body adorned in his armor and draped in an old-world flag, the bugle playing all 24 notes of taps, and her picking up one of the three shell casings from the three-volley salute to place with him on the pyre. Although it all just feels like someone else’s memories.

When she went to bed that night she was tormented by the dreams of Teresa and a life long gone. In the morning she couldn’t leave fast enough. All she had to do was bury herself in work, then she would be too busy to remember. One more mission wouldn’t kill her but staying at the ranch certainly would. So, she and two other veterans rode out to Camp Golf on October 17th just as the sun was starting to come up over the horizon and before she knew it, they were at its all too familiar gates just before noon. Seemed the longer she stayed here the more she wanted to forget.



<Snipped quote by Prizrak>

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