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Colonel Denver Abernathy - Fort Golf

The officer had come to Denver just after dusk. He was a young lieutenant who had been called back from leave in Vegas two days before but had waited before coming to Denver. He said he was scared and that he didn’t know what to do. He apologized and handed Denver the note. It was from the Omertas. They wanted to talk. Denver had dismissed the man and dismissed the idea on the spot. A dialogue with the deviants who controlled the city? A ridiculous notion. If he hadn’t lost a garrison earlier in the week he’d have had the officer lashed for even conversing with them about such a matter. But he needed the man to work and he didn’t want to draw anymore attention to the matter. Strategically it may be beneficial to hear the king of criminals out but tactically, to enter the city with anything less than a company of armed men was suicide. He didn’t have men to spare or time to waste. The Omertas had waited more than eight years to meet with him. They’d have to wait a little longer.

Denver was exhausted. It had been a grueling four days since the sudden Brotherhood raids and he had barely gotten any sleep. Everyday had been spent in his office with his staff, attending to the growing crisis in the Mojave and attempting to wrestle control of the situation. The normally austere room was now packed full of chairs, radios, stacks of folders, boxes of requisition records and tired officers. There was a light knock at the door before it was opened and a young private stepped in with a tray of cornbread, a pitcher of coffee and a basket of fruit. Denver nodded to her to step forward and she placed the tray on the weathered table in the center of the room. It was dominated by paperclipped files, empty envelopes, pencil shavings and pens. She gently slid these aside to make room and laid the tray where it was easily accessible by all. The other officers paid her little mind but eagerly went after the food and drink.

Denver stood and stretched as the private found her way out of the office. He was handed a tin cup of coffee by his communications officer and he held it gingerly in his hands as he looked down on the Fort from the east-facing window. The first red rays of dawn had just begun to reflect off the surface of lake Mead as his troops stirred from their barracks and mustered for roll call. It all seemed so calm and orderly from a distance. Every man and woman had a role and knew their place. They understood where they fit in the greater machinery of the military and they trusted in Denver to guide that machine with care and resourcefulness. He had earned that responsibility, the burden of command. He had felt secure in it for years. Even during the famines and the Hunger and the growing spread of the Green across the land. He had kept these soldiers fed, paid and healthy. It had come at a terrible cost to many in the Mojave but Denver refused himself to offer any sympathy to those people. It was the way of the world. His duty was to his battalion, and no one else.

Through diplomacy and outright brutality Denver had held a tenuous peace across the Mojave. In a single night of orchestrated violence the Brotherhood of Steel had shattered that hard fought peace. He gritted his teeth and swallowed his anger, even exhausted as he was it wore at him to think of all that had been undone. All that could have been avoided had he disobeyed his orders all those years ago. He should have run down the survivors, the knights, the scribes, the elders, even the children. He should have killed them in the shade of Helios One and left them for the scorpions. In the years since he had let himself grow restrained, hampered at every turn by politicians in Shady Sands and the incessant demands of the Mojave people. He had become a wet nurse for a territory of thieves and degenerates and a lapdog for bureaucratic sycophants. He had failed in his duty as an officer of the Republic. Denver had fallen so low as to actually convince himself that the Brotherhood might be willing to cooperate with him to combat the spread of the Green. He had taken a risk and contacted the Followers of the Apocalypse and for more than a month he had fed, and housed one of their doctors as they attempted to bridge the divide with Denver’s captured Brotherhood knight. Dr. Chez had managed to get Knight Maven to speak and they engaged in minor personal banter but still she remained tight lipped about her people. Only offering the concession that they were in the hills Northwest of Helios One, in a place called ‘Hidden Valley’. Denver had scoffed when Dr. Chez reported it to him at the time and he scoffed at the thought now. How gullible he had been, how soft and weak to ever believe the Brotherhood would be capable of helping anyone else but themselves. Time wasted chasing a dream of unity and mutual aid while the Brotherhood plotted against him. He wouldn’t make that mistake again.

Denver took a slow careful sip of his coffee and puckered his lips at the bitterness. It was a strong batch. Good. He would need it today. He turned away from his regrets and towards his officers. They had made lightwork of the food placed before them and saved just enough for Denver to be polite. They remained in uniform but their shirts were untucked and buckles and laces had been loosened, their eyes were ringed with lack of sleep and they all wore grim expressions of exhaustion and determination. The table between them was a mess of papers and letters, each of them was another problem he had to solve, another choice Denver had to make and another request he had to respond to.

First was the rescue and relief of the NCRCF. It had been a massacre. Out of a garrison of fifty soldiers only fifteen survived, most of them injured. The civilian support staff had likewise suffered greatly at the hands of the Brotherhood, numbering only twenty out of seventy-one. There were conflicting reports of whether some had run or were taken prisoner. What they agreed upon was the mutiny of Lt. Newman and a handful of others against Major Addams and his command staff. They had beaten the senior officer unconscious and threatened his staff into cooperating with the surrender. The only silver lining to be had was that the Brotherhood had locked the mutineers up with the rest when they seized the facility headquarters. Then all that remained was the court martial of Lt. Newman and the other troopers who surrendered the prison to the Brotherhood.

The trial had taken place the night they returned from the ruins of the NCRCF. The survivors had been taken to the infirmary and assessed for injuries. They hadn’t the ability to take the dead back to the fort and instead arranged for them to be taken to Sloan and buried in their cemetery. Those suspected of participating in the mutiny were led to the basement of the resort building and held there while arrangements for a trial were made. As the chief commanding officer in the region Denver had presided over the trial and he knew that an example had to be made of the insubordinate troops to avoid further acts of insurrection among his army. Therefore he ensured it was a short trial and in less than an hour Lt. Newman and the others were found guilty and executed by firing squad. They wrapped the bodies in plastic tarps and buried them in a mass grave with no marker two miles outside Fort Golf. Their personal belongings were divided up among the other survivors and their last salary and notice of prosecution and death was mailed to their next of kin through the Mojave Express the next morning.

Denver had stayed up all that first night going through the personal files of the soldiers killed in the Brotherhood attack. Those with families had their personal effects, salaries and hand written letters of condolence mailed back the next day. Those without any family to contact instead had their squad decide what to do with their things. It had pained Denver to pen those letters and watch his soldiers grieve for one another. Even after a lifetime of soldiering, it never got easier.

Then came the assessment of the damage done to the Van-Graff regional headquarters at the old Repconn building. Unable to go himself, Denver sent ranger Holmes and his other veterans. When the rangers arrived to conduct an investigation they were blocked by Peter-Gabrial Van-Graff and his CSF agents. All they could report back to Denver was that the facility was a near-total loss. Extensive structural damage was evident and the entire staff was either wiped out or missing, including Gloria Van-Graff. It had given Denver some smug satisfaction knowing that the Van-Graffs had suffered that night as well. Even if their injuries were parallel to his own. Likewise, the Van-Graff’s were deeply self-concerned and that enabled him to conserve his resources and focus his efforts on the other pressing matters. First they had sorted through their requisition records and found a copy of the prison staff and their assignments. Through a process of elimination they were able to determine which private contractors and support staff had been killed in the fighting. Like his own men, they had been buried at Sloan but without extensive personal files it would take considerably longer for Denver and his staff to track down next of kin. Still, it had to be done and while much of that work was conducted by his junior officers Denver personally involved himself with the scouring of the remaining prison records.

The records recovered at the NCRCF were in dismal shape, much of it destroyed or seemingly stolen by the Brotherhood. What use they would have for those records Denver couldn’t help but wonder. Yet with what remained Denver had started a list of those prisoners who escaped in the fighting. These names were cross referenced with the bodies, but due to exposure, scavengers and the weapons used by the Brotherhood the corpses were largely unidentifiable. Still, to avoid growing chaos in the region Denver had issued orders to local militias in Primm, Goodsprings, Nipton, Sloan and NoVac to coordinate and assist each other in the detainment and prosecution of any fugitives. The process had only just started but given his history with the territory he doubted the ability and integrity of the towns to comply. Even as he called upon them for aid the people of the Mojave responded to him with lists of grievances and armfuls of requests. He eyed the fresh stack of letters on the table in front of him, took another sip of coffee and sat down.

The first one was from Mayor Cynthia Myers. Two more missing persons in Primm, teenage siblings by the name of Nash. They were the niece and nephew of the operator of the local branch of the Mojave Express. There had been a series of disappearances in the town the past few months, enough to convince the people there had been foul play. Mayor Myers had asked for Denver’s assistance before, and since she had signed the Articles of Incorporation she was entitled to it. Denver had sent ranger Holmes to investigate the matter after transporting Knight Keyes to the prison, but the Great Khan ambush had derailed that. Now it had been another month and without his intervention two more people were gone. But this letter was more than a call for an investigation, Myers had a suspect and a request. There was a small village of mutants just north-west of Primm called Jacobsville. It was sheltered in the canyons and hills but little more than a collection of junked sheds housing refugees and desperados. Denver first heard of the place from years ago when Jacobstown was abandoned but hadn’t concerned himself with a community of freaks living on the edges of the Mojave. They had seemed content enough to keep to themselves and aside from a passing mention or a disparaging word he hadn’t thought much of them till now. Many of the townsfolk of Primm blamed the disappearances on the mutants and now the mayor formally requested that Denver raid the settlement and find the people or evidence of their abduction.

In the past Denver would have been more acquiescent to such demands, hell he probably would have been excited at the excuse to gun down a few vagrant mutants. But the Brotherhood attack had consumed his attention and resources. He couldn’t intervene, he hadn’t the time or the human resources to stretch himself out on a wild gecko chase. But he had to do something, or he would violate his own contract with the town. So he would ask Gloriana to send a rough rider or two to investigate and corroborate the town’s suspicions.

Glorianna. His heart sank at the thought of her name. He shuffled through the letters looking for her name. It was at the bottom. Still dusty and stained with what looked like sweat. Denver just sat and looked at it for a moment. He didn't want to read it. It was never good news and only ever about one subject. The Legion. Every letter only added to the amount of Arizona that had been raided and enslaved. The Legion had been less than a hundred miles away in her last report. He feared how close they could be. He picked up the letter, opened it and read it. When he finished he took a deep breath and spoke.

“The Legion is less than fifty miles from the Colorado. They’ll be here in three days by Glorianna’s estimate.”

The room was still. The staff officers looked at each other and then back to Denver. The communications officer spoke first.

“Should I put the word out to the other garrisons sir?”

Denver nodded but then held up his hand

“Don’t tell them how far. Just say they have one day to prepare themselves for immediate deployment. I don’t want the troops to panic.”

“What about the dam? Should we contact the Van-Graffs?”

“No.” Denver paused, a bit surprised at his abrupt answer. “No.” he repeated again, more sure of himself. “I’ll communicate to them directly.”

There was another soft knock at the door, the young private had returned. She saluted Denver and the other officers this time then stepped forward and handed another letter to Denver.

“From a courier sir, it just came from Vegas. It's from the ambassador.”

Denver checked the letter and saw the seal of the republic in wax. He broke the seal and read the letter. He was ordered to the embassy for a ‘strategic reassessment meeting’ to combat the growing crisis in the Mojave. The letter was spartan and didn’t offer any elaboration other than the fact these orders came from the president herself and that a senior member of the Van-Graff administration would be there to oversee the conversation. He was expected there no later than noon tomorrow. Denver wanted to chuckle, a dry weak laugh to work against the pain in his chest but it would be unprofessional. He couldn’t warn his staff of an imminent enemy only to laugh at the fact he was being called away. He folded the letter and put it into his chest pocket.

“Anything of importance Colonel?” Asked his chief of staff.

“Just a meeting in the embassy.”

“They’ve never asked for you before.” voiced another officer, concern in her voice.

“The situation has changed. The peace of the Republic is gone and now we must all shoulder the responsibilities of that fallout. Even if it means I must rub elbows with the scum of the Strip.” He smirked and the officers nodded in response, satisfied with his answer.
Even as he assuaged the fears of his comrades Denver knew his future as a commander and a freeman was in jeopardy. He had been so preoccupied with the threats posed by the Brotherhood and the Legion he had neglected the danger of Shady Sands. Public opinion against him had grown with Secretary Tannhausers’ condemnation following his son’s near death. The people Denver once relied on to let him know how the administration felt about his grievances were gone. Denver's eyes and ears in the capital had dried up and he was left wondering how much was the president ignoring and how much was she considering. He was short of allies and he needed any help he could get.

But was he desperate enough to get that aid from the Omertas? The Don was an avatar of every vice Denver abhorred. Could he make a deal with a man like that? It would be a gamble and there were few things Denver hated more than gambling.
Ambassador Benjamin "Benny" Watts - NCR Embassy

It was almost noon and Benny had to make a decision. He looked at the holotape on his desk and sunk deeper in his cracked leather chair.

“I think you should send it in.” Marisol said. She was next to him, half leaning on the desk, her dark hair loose about her shoulders. So casual was her nature one might think her a friend, rather than a subordinate. Benny sometimes had difficult discerning between the two when it came to her.

“I’m not keen on making an enemy of Colonel Abernathy.” He looked up at her, feeling small. “He resents me enough as is, I don’t want to inflame his passions any more than the Van-Graffs already have.”

“What do you think the Van-Graffs will do if they find out you sat on the holotape rather than deliver it? You think Peter and his goons will be any more merciful than the colonel?”

Benny motioned for her to lower her voice. The past month had seen their bond between one another grow, and Marisol had been invaluable in replacing the corrupt embassy staff and hiring more capable and honest people. Still, even with the Van-Graffs regional headquarters destroyed and Gloria missing, Benny feared that some of his staff could be in the pockets of the Van-Graffs. Worse still the most senior Van-Graff in the Mojave was now Peter, a violent man with zero patience. Making enemies had landed him in this position and he believed that making anymore would be a death sentence.

“Denver has given more than thirty years to the NCR. He’s spent nearly a decade holding the Mojave territory for them.” Benny lifted the holotape. “This would take all that away. It would leave him with nothing.”

There was nothing more dangerous than a man with nothing left to lose, Benny knew that all too well. His eyes fell to a locked drawer in his desk, inside contained the journal of Leonid Tannhauser he confiscated his first night in the Mojave. Benny had read it several times the past few weeks but hadn’t done anything more. He had hoped that ignoring it long enough would make the problem go away. Now, a month later he was confronted with another vital bit of information that he must decide whether to share with his superiors or not. Truly this assignment was a most perverse kind of punishment. Some days he wondered if being caught by the Bishops would be better than this burden of responsibility.

“It would leave him in prison.” Marisol corrected. “Collusion with the enemy and negligent command. It would be an open and shut trial.” She sat up off his desk and turned around to make for the door, slipping her shoes on.

Benny found it hard to argue against. Denver hadn’t been popular in Shady Sands, especially after Secretary Tannhauser almost lost his son in the Khan’s raid. Now with the destruction of the NCRCF and the damage done to the Mojave branch of the Van-Graff corporation. They’d be calling for his execution, nevermind a court martial.

“It’s still a gamble. He would know it was me that sent it in.”

Marisol turned and smiled.

“Everything in this city is.”

She left him alone and for a moment he remained in his chair. Anxiety welled up in his chest, oh how he loathed making decisions. Unable to contain the acid drip inside he stood up and paced around the room. The longer he waited the less chance he had to control the narrative, and controlling the narrative would keep him alive. He looked over at the painting on the wall, the one he had been given by the vault-dweller Danny. He took a step toward it, staring at the lone bear within it. So dwarfed by the vast landscape around it. He had contemplated this painting many times since it was given to him. He had thought it a subtle threat at first, but now he realized the prophecy in it.

He needed to send the tape.
Gloria Van-Graff

The Brotherhood attack came as Irving had promised. Just two hours before dawn Gloria received confirmation from her guards of incoming energy weapons fire. The Brotherhood assault struck hard and fast and within minutes the compound was breached. She ordered the remaining guards to withdraw into the interior of the compound. A sentry bot and four protectrons were sent out to engage the attackers and keep them away from the main structure. While the robotic defense would be enough to deter even a determined assault by other forces, Gloria knew they would do little but slow the Brotherhood. She hoped that the heavy fire of the sentry bot and the relentless assault of the protectrons would suppress the Brotherhood long enough to give herself and her employees enough time to retreat.

Gloria loaded her plasma defender and holstered it behind her back. She had dressed herself quickly and simply with a black duster bearing her family's name thrown over her casual clothes. She had considered fetching armor and weapons from the armory but they would make little difference now. It had been years since Gloria was in a proper firefight and given the armaments used by the Brotherhood, ballistic armor would do little to protect her. Instead she had ordered one of sentry bots to be deployed within the armory itself. It would be a nice surprise for the Brotherhood. The remaining protectrons were set to a roving patrol protocol within the hallways to harass and slow the attackers when they inevitably made their way inside.

Gloria moved out into the hallway and formed up with her guards by the executive office. Inside, engineers were preparing three separate holotape recordings of the radio conversation between Denver and Irving. That conversation was her golden ticket and the only way her aunt would forgive her losing this facility. Without it, there would be little point in surviving the night. To ensure it reached its intended target Gloria had ordered her guards to split into two teams. One team would retreat out of the rear of the facility and escort two Mister Gutsys that each held a holotape of the conversation. They would draw the attention and fire of the Brotherhood away from the facility and more importantly away from Gloria and her team. Gloria would lead the others away from the facility via an underground tunnel.

It was an unfinished service tunnel in the basement of the facility. The tunnel led north and connected with the Vegas metropolitan sewer system. When the Van-Graffs took over the headquarters several years ago they had discovered it and originally sealed it up as the Green had already taken over most of the sewer system. However, with annexation looming closer Gloria had recently ordered the tunnel to be re-opened and rebuilt. She had intended to use it to move troops quickly and discreetly in and out of the city. Now it was her only choice to survive the night.

By the time the engineers were finished the Brotherhood forces had breached the building. Her guards were anxious as the attackers pushed deeper into the facility, swatting aside the robotic defenders. The wreckage of corpses smoldered and bubbled as they were devastated by the power of the Brotherhood’s weapons. In the confines of the old Repconnn Headquarters the power armored warriors were unstoppable and Gloria knew her window of escape was narrowing. With haste she grabbed her favorite engineer and sent the other ones with the surface-team. The two groups parted ways outside the armory and she didn’t look back as she led the rest of them to the maintenance room on the first floor. Behind three metal shelves and almost hidden from sight by an old auto-vac was the tunnel.

The entrance was a small rusted hatch with stenciled lettering that had long since chipped away into an indecipherable word. Inside the tunnel looked closer to a mine shaft than a proper civic project. The walls were bare earth and every four feet wood wooden pitprops stood to keep the tunnel from collapsing. Some of them were recent, others had been there since before the war. The stability of the tunnel was unknown and there hadn’t been time to verify if it still opened into the sewers or not. The first twenty yards were lit with electric lights connected by black wires that hung directly from the chalky walls.. After that Gloria and her employees used chem lamps and their hands to navigate.

It was cool and dry in the tunnel and pitch black beyond the few feet illuminated by the lamps. The tunnel was narrow, only three feet at its widest. As she scraped and pushed herself through she was thankful she hadn’t grabbed any armor, even her duster was becoming a nuisance in the cramped confines. The sounds of furious battle grew ever more distant as they pushed further into the tunnel. Aside from the shuffling of feet and armor the journey was silent. Gloria had spoken little that night and she could feel the unease from the men around her. Conversation, she feared, would only give them opportunity to voice their concerns and she couldn't allow that. Armed men panicking in an enclosed space was a recipe for disaster. All she had to do was keep them moving and eventually they would reach the sewers.

She recoiled her hand when she felt something wet and fought a yelp from escaping her mouth. The men around her stopped, and she grabbed the arm of the guard in front of her and swung his chem lamp around. The tunnel wall was damp.

“We must be close to the sewers. Keep going.”

The pale dry earth of the tunnel transitioned into a deep brown soil. Small roots poked out above their heads and fungus grew in sheets across the walls and floor. Soon the roots turned darker and larger forcing Gloria and her men to duck and eventually crouch forward. The Green had grown in deep and an acid drip of anxiety began within her gut. What if the sewers were overgrown? What if she came all this way only to choke on Greenlung before delivering news of her defeat? She pushed the thoughts aside, locking them in the dark recess of her mind. She couldn’t afford desperation now, not when she was so close. She bumped into the guard in front of her.

“What's the hold up?”

“The roots ma’m. Too thick I can’t push through.”

She pulled on the man's armor and struggled to push herself past him. They groped and grinded against each other until finally she squeezed her way into the lead. He was right, the roots had grown so thick there was no way for an armored man to pass through. The gap was too narrow and in their exit they hadn’t grabbed any tools with which to cut their way through. She considered for a moment firing at the roots but the energy output was just as likely to collapse the tunnel. Thinking quickly she tore off her duster and dropped her plasma defender and grabbed the chem light from the lead guard. She looked at the man. His face was streaked with grime and sweat and a pained expression of panic underneath.

“I’ll go ahead.” She said plainly, as if she was walking down the hall and not abandoning these men underground. The guards opened his mouth to speak but bit his tongue. He held her gaze for a moment and then straightened his back and swallowed some fear.

“Come back for us.”

“I will.” and without another word she crawled on her hands and knees forward through the roots. The air was damp and warm and close. She clenched the chem light in her teeth and transitioned to her elbows and she pushed and scraped herself forward through a chute little larger than a serving platter. Unable to look behind herself, Gloria couldn’t tell how far she had gone. Eventually even the chem light died but she kept crawling in total darkness. Her fingers probed for handholds in the dark and she felt something firm and gripped it only to feel it slide away. She panicked and slammed her head into the tunnel ceiling. Blood pumped in her ears and with pure desperation she crawled on, blind terror fueling her movements. Her body was bruised and bloody and the joints of her fingers screamed for relief but she continued. Twice more she reached out for a handhold, only to have it slither away. Terrible thoughts brought terrifying visions to her mind and in the pitch black she floundered for the line between real and unreal. Pure animal instinct drove her forward. The holotape, the Brotherhood, her family, even Gloria herself faded in her mind, all that was left was a scared human clawing their way through the dark bowels of the earth.

Was this how she would die, alone and afraid in the dark? She didn’t even know if she was going the right way. Several times she swore the tunnel went down and not up. Had she crawled further and further away from salvation? Her discipline was gone and every doubt and insecurity within her mind reared its ugly face. She had failed, and not just failed but killed herself in her failure. Killed herself in the more terrible way possible, climbed into the mouth of a great beast only to rot and expire within its guts. Exhaustion wore on her desperate strength and her instinct turned to hopelessness. Her movements became languid and floppy and finally she sank her face into the cool moist dirt. She wanted to sob but she didn't have the energy. She wanted to hold herself, but the tunnel was too tight. Her body felt distant and numbness began to creep across her face. She took one deep breath in and the air was different. She sniffed again. The scent was warm, earthy but something else, something rotten. She slithered forward a little more and heard the sound of running water. Low and quiet in the distance but she heard it all the same.

She didn’t stop to question if the sensations were real or not, she didn’t care. If delusion kept her moving then she would chase that delusion. With movement came a chance at life, stillness brought only death.
Sentinel Irving, Hidden Valley Bunker

The Head Paladin and his fellow Helios One survivors had proven to be troublesome. They were unable to see the bigger picture, unable to see the Brotherhood's greater purpose. They cited the letter of the Codex without understanding the spirit of it. Was it a matter of honor or vengeance for the defeat at HELIOS One? Was it to compensate for their heresy and disgrace of their former Elder, the same man who led them into disaster? Or was it just the result of years of isolation without having a chance to act upon their duties?

In any case, he could not pursue his mission if he had to watch his back for insubordination and mutiny. Nor could he pursue it if his authority as Sentinel was undermined. Hardin may have opted to play with him for now, but Irving's authority would evaporate if he allowed himself to be led around by a subordinate like a Bighorner on a lead.

And he was not going to allow his mission to be jeopardized by these insubordinate fools. The relief team was on his way, but he would not be able to join them in person, for there was another matter that needed addressing.

Bingo, I've isolated the necessary frequency. This should get you into contact with someone important."

"Excellent work, scribe. Return to your quarters and stand by," he ordered the radio operator scribe-the only other person in the radio room. After the scribe departed, Sentinel Irving proceeded to lock the door before returning to the radio equipment. He fiddled with it, closely watching the monitors and instruments. Finally, he reached the necessary frequency that the scribe had mentioned.

"Attention, to whoever in the NCR is listening. I have urgent information regarding the Brotherhood attack on NCRCF. Repeat, I have urgent information on the ongoing attack..."


Gloria Van Graff - Van-Graff Regional Headquarters - After Midnight November 18th

The communications room was uncomfortably still as Gloria and her two radio engineers sat in silence. After Major Addams had hailed them at the prison, Gloria had ordered the engineers to keep a lock on Colonel Abernhaty’s encrypted channel. They had discovered the frequency several months before and with a little help from their friends at the La Brea Institute had been able to decipher the messages that were communicated within. She knew Addams had contacted the colonel about the Brotherhood’s attack and she hoped to see how the colonel may respond.

Though she had pledged reinforcements to Major Addams at NCRCF she had instead sent her troops to Helios One instead. Half the journey would be done by train, the other half on foot. If they moved fast they would be at the energy facility within the next two hours. Ideally they would arrive before a second strike by the Brotherhood. But even if the prison attack was a diversion and the Brotherhood's true target was Helios One. Her troops would surround their forces at the site and massacre them. Once more the Brotherhood of Steel would face death at Helios One. Hopefully this one was a more permanent death.

The radio static crackled and the soft click of a microphone could be heard. Gloria held her breath as she listened.

"Attention, to whoever in the NCR is listening. I have urgent information regarding the Brotherhood attack on NCRCF. Repeat, I have urgent information on the ongoing attack..."

The voice was firm, not panicked but there was an undertone of concern and urgency. Gloria couldn’t recognize it. The frequency went quiet and she exhaled.

“Where is the signal’s source?” She asked the engineers.

“It's roving, looks like they’re bouncing it off several towers south of here.”

“How many?”

“Six it looks like.”

“Which one is the largest?”

“A signal sourced out of Black Mountain.” The engineer shook his head. “There is no one out there though. Whole area is irradiated”

Gloria couldn’t make sense of it at first. Anyone using the radio station at Black Mountain would need to perform at least semi-regular maintenance of the facility. Not many groups had the knowledge or resources to conduct such a task. Especially on the hostile and remote mountain. It wasn’t the Van Graffs and if they were seeking contact it couldn’t be the NCR. Gloria smiled, it left only one likely candidate.

“Isolate every tower they are using for that signal. Get their coordinates.” The radio crackled and the soft click came again. Gloria’s command died in her throat as she froze to listen.

“This is a secure channel. Just who might you be?”

Gloria recognized the voice, it was Colonel Abernathy. She motioned to the engineers to begin a separate recording for the conversation.

"You can call me Irving," the Sentinel replied, leaving out the part that he was with the Brotherhood of Steel. It was a moot point- aside from House, the Brotherhood was the only entity in the Mojave with this level of comms technology, and it wouldn't take the Colonel much to put the pieces together. "We don't have time for formalities, so I'll make this quick."

Irving hesitated for a moment, gathering the strength to do what he was about to do.

"The Brotherhood of Steel attack on the NCRCF is just the first of a multi-pronged plan of attack by the Brotherhood to weaken and hinder the NCR presence in the Mojave. Meticulously planned, but very sloppily executed."

"Sloppily executed" was a gross understatement for the mutinous actions that Hardin and his loyal troops had carried out. Irving had fought the NCR long enough to know how quickly the most well-laid plan fell apart upon contact with the enemy, but this was in another league altogether. No doubt Hardin was banking on the Sentinel and his more loyal forces to jumping into the fray and ensuring their attack came back onto the rails.

"The Brotherhood attackers will be anticipating the NCR's attempts to send aid to the NCRCF and consequently will have laid mines on the tracks leading to and from the prison. Any locomotives sent to reinforce the penitentiary will be disabled if not destroyed. Meanwhile, with the facility compromised and the NCR presumably scrambling to respond to the attack, the strike force will be swiftly marching north towards their next target- the Van Graff headquarters south of the city."

It was with a heavy heart that the Sentinel gave this information to the enemy, but a house divided against itself could not stand. It was imperative that the subversive, insubordinate rot of this chapter be cut out, even if it came at a heavy cost.

Gloria felt a flash of fear at Irvings words. She hadn’t expected her family’s company to be a priority target of the Brotherhood, much less a direct assault on their headquarters. It made sense however, the compound would be a treasure trove for the Brotherhood. Filled as it was with preserved knowledge, technical hardware and stockpiles of energy weapons. The loss of the facility would be a devastating blow for the Van-Graff corporation in the region and a catastrophic failure for Gloria. Her family would never let her forget it and she could expect a grueling punishment when word reached the matriarch. That was if she survived the Brotherhood's assault.

Could she believe Irving though? Gloria had never dealt with the Brotherhood directly and had no way to discern if the voice was genuine. She wanted to believe he was sincere but why be so forthcoming? The Brotherhood were supposed to be a violent, xenophobic, tech-worshiping cult. Why would one of their own betray the ideals of their people to assist a most bitter enemy? The man didn’t bargain or demand anything in exchange for the information but gave it freely. Irving had been able to crack into a encoded radio channel that the Van-Graffs had only had access to for a few months. But his warning came only after the assault on the prison had started.

“It could be a trick.” She whispered. An engineer turned his face at her and she scowled at him to return to his work as the radio crackled again.

“Irving, this Colonel Abernathy of the 3rd Infantry.” There was a pause and Gloria cranked the volume knob. “Tell me where we took them. Tell me their names. Until I know you are a legitimate source from the Brotherhood, I have nothing further to discuss. Over.”

"Very well, I will verify," Irving answered. "Your Brotherhood captives were Knight Keyes and Knight Maven. Knight Keyes was taken to Black Mountain."

Gloria sat still. mouth slightly agape as the revelation dawned on her. The ambush at Black Mountain a month prior! The 3rd infantry had officially labeled the incident as a raid by the Great Khans on an infantry patrol but there had been rumors that the Rough Riders were there and escorting a prisoner. Gloria hadn’t paid it much mind, the colonel’s soldiers had been arresting and imprisoning people in the region for five years. But this exchange between Irving and Denver proved there was more to the story. The prisoner was a member of the Brotherhood and they had clearly orchestrated the ambush to free them.

Gloria sat back and smiled. This information was priceless and with the recording as evidence, she would be able to bring it before her aunt. Once word got out that the ambush and the assault on NCRCF was a result of Denver disobeying direct orders so that he could continue his secret little war against the Brotherhood, he would be finished. The president would ensure that Denver face a court-martial, be stripped of his command and sentenced to prison. Gloria could hardly stop from licking her lips. Colonel Abernathy had been a thorn in the president's side since her election and now Gloria had the solution to rid him in her hands.

Still, she couldn’t get ahead of herself. For all she knew a Brotherhood strike force was enroute to her position. While she had sent the majority of her CSF troops to reinforce the garrison at Helios One, a skeleton guard still remained. About a dozen agents supported by four Mr. Gutsys, a couple of sentry bots and a handful of protectrons. There was no need to panic and raise the alarm, but she would still increase the watch and ensure preparedness. She moved away from the radio and relayed the orders to her lieutenant.
Matt Levi - North Vegas - Evening, November 18th

Matt halted and scanned the vacant storefronts of the dark street. It was empty save for himself, his bodyguard and the three brahmin between them. He motioned to an alley next to a burned-out auto shop and led the caravan down a ruined sidestreet. He kept his left hand on the lead and his right on the pistol at his waist. The sun dipped below the horizon and in the blue twilight long shadows began to grow among the vacant door frames and shattered windows.

The brahmin moved slowly, laden with heavy artillery shells and tied together at the neck. Their heads were down as they picked their way through the familiar path. Matt had driven this caravan the same route twice a week for a month now and though his brahmin had grown comfortable with it he had not. In the dilapidated buildings he could hear vermin rustling through debris, the volume of noise an indicator of their immense size. Occasionally he would catch a glimpse of a naked tail, hunched form or worse, the black eyes staring through the cracks in the walls at him. The rats ruled these streets and they had no fear of him or any other human as this section of the city had been abandoned since the growth of the Green cut off North-West roads to New Vegas.

The Brackenwood was its official designation. It was the green heart of the unexplainable growth in the region that was forming a noose around New Vegas. Matt had done his best to stay far away from it in his duties as caravaneer. While he was well aware of the dangers of Greenlung the truth of the matter was that when Matt stared at the forest he could feel the forest looking back at him. That feeling scared him more than any fungal infection. While the unseen vermin stalking his steps made him anxious, the thought of being any closer to the Green disturbed him.

The brahmin halted before an old ‘Radiation King’ store. The building was boarded up save for a single window on the second story. Beside the front door three nuka-cola bottles lay in a pile of broken glass. Matt took one of the bottles and flung it through the open window. He heard the dull crash of broken glass then nothing. His bodyguard stepped away from the caravan and scanned the street around them. Further down, a gaggle of large rodents ran between several ruined buildings. Feet shuffled inside the store and a chain clanked softly. A single board on the door slid sideways and Matt looked inside and nodded. The board slid back and the door opened.

Matt had started to unload the lead brahmin when two rangers stepped out the door. He recognized the first one, a veteran ranger by the name of Richard Holmes. Matt knew the man to be a trusted confidant of the colonel. That made Holmes the closest thing Denver had to a friend. The men shook hands but shared no words. The practice was routine at this point and together the three of them unloaded the ammunition while Matt’s bodyguard stood watch. In a short order the brahmin had been relieved of their burden and the rangers were beginning to lock up the store. Matt looked up at them and the veteran ranger halted.

“I know the colonel asked me not to say anything.” Matt started, the ranger furrowed his brow. “But if I count correctly I’ve brought up about a hundred and-”

“He didn’t ask you, sergeant. He ordered you.” Ranger Holmes said cutting Matt off. “You chose to continue to assist us after your enlistment was up. You chose to remain part of the 3rd.”

“I hadn’t meant to disobey the colonel.” Matt's face was flush and he tried to hide his embarrassment at being reprimanded like a child. Holmes’ face softened a bit.

“I know, but these are dangerous times in the Mojave. Sometimes we must keep our friends in the dark so as not to blind them with the light.”

“But the 3rd doesn’t even possess any artillery. How does he plan to shoot all of this?”

“Who said he plans to shoot it?”

“Well what else is ammo for?” Matt was confused, his earlier shame turned to bewilderment.

“Not every problem can be solved by shooting at it sergeant Levi.”
A Collaboration with @crimson paladin

Major Addams - NCRCF - Midnight, November 18th

Addams woke with startle as the alarm pierced the still night air, muffled though it was by the thick walls of the administration center. He was dressed in his night clothes, his boots hastily tied and his service pistol in hand when he made it into the central admin office. The building had no true windows but the second story held a number of slotted viewports.The metal shutters had been open to let in the night air and through these openings Addams could hear the crackle of gunfire and the snap of energy weapons. They were under attack, that much was clear. But who their assaulters were and their purpose was unknown. There was a call on the radio, Addams picked up the receiver as several other officers entered the office.

“This is West Tower One. The perimeter fence has been breached, I repeat, the camp has been breached. Over”

“This is Major Addams. Can you ID the attackers? Over.”

“No sir. But they’re heavily armed and armored. Over”

“Understood, provide overwatch and keep us updated. Over and out.”

Addams turned towards his command staff. They’re faces were white and their eyes wide with fright. A few of them were veterans of the Legion war but most had been recruited in peace time. Few had seen a battle in person and none had believed the prison would be attacked. They had been trained to suppress riots and catch escapees not withstand a siege. Addams knew that their resolve hinged upon his own. He swallowed the fear that grew within him and set about his duties.

“We need three signal flares fired. That’ll draw up reinforcements from Sloan and Primm if any patrols are in the area. We’ll call up Fort Gulf and update the colonel on the situation as well. However, we won’t be seeing any backup tonight. Our forces are too few and too far to support us immediately. That means we must hold. We don’t know who we’re dealing with but that doesn’t matter. We’re third infantry. That means we don’t back down and we don’t give them an inch. Hooah!”

“Hooah!” came the response and the soldiers jumped into position. Addams pointed to a lean officer with short cropped hair near the doorway.

“Lt. Newman. Gather the suppression team and raid the armory. I want machine guns on both western towers and every trooper armed to the tooth.”

The young man hesitated and looked at Addams, his wide white eyes and thin nose giving him the appearance of a confused owl.

“Shouldn’t we recall the men? Hold here for reinforcements.?”

“You’d have me start this defense with a call to retreat?” Addam’s sneered and Newman avoided his gaze. The lieutenant nodded, grabbed a few others and set off for the armory.

Addams joined another officer at the viewport and was handed a pair of binoculars. He peered down into the mayhem that consumed the work camp. The fence had been blown in and despite every spotlight from the prison being centered on the camp the dark black smoke from burning tents and shelters obscured the battle. Bodies ran everywhere, in ragged lines and tightly packed squads. Some were isolated and fought from the cover of makeshift shelters, others ran headlong out the breached fence into the night. Some lay sprawled in contorted and uncomfortable positions in the dirty alleyways and streets. An arching snap of light flashed across Addam’s face and smoldered into the concrete wall surrounding the viewport. He ducked instinctively then popped up and continued his observation. The attackers were wielding energy weapons, their forms bulky and they advanced through the camp using balanced infantry tactics. A sickening revelation dawned on Addams and he had to place his hand on the wall to keep his knees from buckling.

A call came from the communications officer they’d made contact with Fort Gulf. Addams pushed off the wall and grabbed hold of the radio’s microphone.

“This is Major Addams. The prison is under attack. Seeking immediate reinforcements. Over”

“This is Colonel Abernathy. We are mustering a relief party now. Can you identify the hostiles? Over.”

Addams held the microphone for a second unsure of what to say. He looked at the communications officer. A young woman with a look of genuine fright chiseled upon her face.

“It is the Brotherhood of Steel. Over.”

There was a pause and the other officers in the room looked at Addams, he avoided their eyes. And kept focused on the microphone. He only heard static and wondered if his message had been received or if the Brotherhood had jammed their communications.

“Understood Major. Hold them. Over and out.” Was all the colonel said and Addams knew what it meant.

The administration office was quiet when Addams put the microphone down. He could see in their movements and eyes that the soldiers were terrified. None other than himself had faced the Brotherhood in battle before. They had thought them all dead and gone if they were even real to begin with. Now they were faced with the terrible reality of pre-war firepower in the hands of fanatics. Addams knew that with a concentrated effort the Brotherhood would blow their way into the office and kill them all. There would be no prisoners taken, no quarter given. He expected the same treatment Denver and himself had given them at Helios One.

With few options left and his desperation growing, Addams made a bold choice. There was only way they could receive reinforcements within the hour. He looked at the communications officer, she was sweating.

“Call up the Van-Graff headquarters.”

“Save your ammo for the 3rd, and make every shot count!" Hardin commanded his troops as they advanced into the work camp, cutting down any barricades in their way. The Sentinel's plan for attacking NCRCF called for ignoring any NCRCF employee that didn't shoot back. Irving's rationale was no doubt because he was soft, while Hardin's was simply because without the support of the entire chapter, they couldn't afford to waste any time or ammo blasting fodder.

The NCR soldiers in their way would receive no such mercy, however. Long had Hardin and the Mojave chapter been denied vengeance for the disaster at HELIOS One, and they would forestall it no longer.

The Head Paladin had little concern for what would happen to the prisoners that managed to escape. With any luck, the NCR would be thrust into a dilemma of whether to commit to fighting the Brotherhood or commit to scooping up the prisoners before they can start to inflict damage to their presence. NCRCF held a mix of political prisoners and hardened raiders, and both shades of escapees could potentially cause real harm to the NCR in the Mojave.

The work camp was only the first step, however- ahead lay the fenced prison complex. As foreboding as it may be for lesser men and women, it was meant to keep unarmed prisoners in, not keep power armored soldiers out.

Hidden Valley Bunker - Midnight, November 18th

"Sentinel! Sentinel! Wake up, something serious has happened!"

Irving was stirred from his sleep by a frantic scribe.

"Report, Scribe. What is the emergency?" he asked, still a bit drowsy but almost fully awake.

"It's Hardin, sir. He's gone forward with the attack on NCRCF!"

"What?" the Sentinel jolted from his bed. "How? Did the Elder approve of this?"

This was serious. The attack was meant to be a last resort if the NCR further interfered with the Brotherhood's operations. Now that it had been carried out, now that the Brotherhood had escalated, there would be no going back.

"No, but Hardin claims that both you and McNamara are guilty of violating the Codex, and has rallied almost half the chapter to his side. He doesn't yet have enough support to have you two removed, but he believes he has enough support to go ahead with our plans to liberate NCRCF."

In the time it took for the scribe to explain that, the Sentinel was already halfway dressed.

"Fire up our radio transmitters!" Irving commanded. "If Hardin has followed the plans to the letter, the NCR needs to be warned about the mines before they try to send reinforcements!"

Major Addams crouched low under the viewport and was just able to make out the advance of several squads of brotherhood soldiers from the work camp. They moved carefully, two at a time advanced to the prison walls while the others provided suppressive fire. More than once he saw one of the attackers drop to a knee before crashing to the ground in a hail of gunfire. Lt. Newman had been able to get heavy weapons to the guard towers but Addams knew they wouldn’t be able to hold them back much longer. The attack had gone on for nearly a quarter of an hour and he knew that soon the NCR soldiers would run out of ammo. The prison armories had never been stocked for prolonged engagements and without reinforcements Addams feared his troops would surrender. He couldn’t allow that.

The Van-Graffs had confirmed they were sending several dozen CSF agents via the railway but Addams hadn’t heard from them since the initial call. He wondered if the Van-Graffs had even told him the truth. They might not be keen to send their private army to a prison break when they were responsible for the imprisonment of half the people there.

Addams moved to the Northern viewport. From there he could watch west tower one provide overwatch fire on the advancing brotherhood forces. There was a break in the automatic fire and Addams watched two young soldiers hastily reload the light machine gun they were using. Just as they closed the action and racked the first round into the chamber, the entire top of the tower was consumed in a painfully bright flash of sickly green light. Addams dropped below the viewport and rubbed at his eyes. They stung and he saw spots when he opened them. He risked another glance at the tower and through the hazy floaters in his eye he saw the top half of the guardhouse was gone. The rest smoldered and smoked. A figure lay stretched out on the top flight of stairs. His back was burned horribly and skin peeled off like discarded clothing. Addams shuddered at the image and dropped back down. He thought he saw the man moving but he convinced himself it was a trick of the light.

There was another explosion and the viewport was clogged with smoke and debris. Addams moved away towards the radio.

“They’ve breached the wall.” The comms officer looked up at Addams. Her eyes were wide and red and she held the emergency radio out for him to take. “What’s your order?”

“Fallback.” Was all he could utter. “Fallback.” he repeated as he moved to another viewport. He wiped his binoculars against his undershirt, his hands were shaking from the adrenaline and fear.

“Fallback to the admin center.” Came the comms officer’s voice over the radio. “I repeat, fallback to the admin center. All soldiers unable to access the admin center should report to the gatehouse. I repeat, all soldiers unable to access the admin center report to the gatehouse.”

Addams didn’t watch her give the command but he heard it echoed outside on the loudspeakers. He peaked up over the lip of the viewport and watched as the Brotherhood forces forced their way into the prison and advanced towards the administration center. A squad of NCR soldiers retreated from west tower two but were caught by the Brotherhood forces and immediately gunned down. Addams had to look away and he buried his face in his hands. He was going to die, they were all going to die. Panic and desperation threatened to overtake him and he got up and walked quickly to the door. He was stopped by the grim-faced Lt. Newman, behind him were several NCR soldiers, scorched and bloody from the battle outside.

“We’ve evacuated the eastern towers but couldn’t reach the rest. We brought those we could to the clinic. Major, we cannot hold out. Where are our reinforcements?” The young officer’s breathing was rapid and shallow.

“No one will be here tonight. We’re all alone.” Addam’s shook his head. “Pull yourself together lieutenant.”

The sounds of battle from outside began to dim. The smoke from burning shelters and towers obstructed most of the view but Addams was able to see the Brotherhood forces breaking into the central prison quarters. Some of the prisoners were killed, others ran off into the night. One squad of Brotherhood warriors congregated around the gatehouse, trading fire with what NCR troops were trapped inside. Then came a noise below. A great pounding that caught the attention of everyone in the administration office. The Brotherhood were beating the armored doors down. Around him his staff began to arm themselves, they looked to Addams for a command.

They would have to sell their lives dearly. That much was obvious to Addams. As long as they held the Brotherhood here in combat they would give Denver a chance to assist them. Or in the very least avenge them. Just as the Brotherhood surrounded and struck at the prison so too would they be penned in the gulch and slaughtered. If only Addams could buy Denver enough time.

Lt. Newman spoke, “We should consider negotiations.”

“Negotiations?” Addam’s eyes narrowed, “Are you stupid? There is no negotiating with fanatics.” The prison had been breached, most of his soldiers had been slaughtered and now the survivors faced a certain death and this office wished to hasten the inevitable? The cowardice was revolting and Addams fought the urge to physically reprimand the lieutenant. “Remember your place Lt. Newman.”

Had he failed them? Addams felt a terrible desperation well up within him. Fear had worn on his nerves and his thoughts and words were bitter. He stepped past the young officer and into the hallway. There were a few troopers squatting, wounded and scared. He avoided eye contact with them and made his way to the first floor. There a gaggle of soldiers were spread out in doorways and around corners, furniture had been hastily piled behind the front door. They shuddered with every strike on the door. Addams wished to share a quick word of encouragement with them. Tell them that help would be there soon, that they only needed to hold just a few minutes more. Instead he told them to fight for their lives, because the enemy would not spare them.

He returned to the administration office and found Lt. Newman standing with the comms officer. Addams moved to speak but the lieutenant cut him off.

“Is it my place to die sir?” Lt. Newman’s face was contorted, his sharp nose scrunched up as if he smelled something foul.

Addams paused but for a moment and with a rapid twist of his body Newman brought the butt of his rifle into Addams’ face. He felt his nose crack and his vision went black. When he woke he was lying on the floor, his hands bound behind his back. A vicious pain throbbed in his face and his left eye was swollen shut.

Below he could hear the terrible rhythm of the pounding on the front doors. Lt. Newman argued with the comms officer before he pushed her aside and grabbed the microphone.

“This is Lt. Newman of the 3rd infantry battalion.” The voice boomed on the loudspeakers around the prison. “I wish to negotiate a surrender.”


Hardin signaled his men to stop, and took a moment to adjust the speaker on his helmet.

"This is Head Paladin Hardin of the Brotherhood of Steel, a veteran of the Battle of HELIOS One. We have no need to indulge your pleas for negotiation- just as the 3rd showed us no quarter at HELIOS, so too will they receive none."

"Head Paladin, what is the meaning of this?" a familiar voice crackled from Hardin's radio. It appeared that the Sentinel had caught wind of what they were doing and had fired up the comm relay. "Are you mad, acting without approval from your leaders?"

"We had no choice, "Sentinel", your actions were in violation of the Codex," he answered. "I was forced to take action to set the Brotherhood on the correct path. The question is, will you lead us astray again, or will it fall to me to keep us on the path?"

For ten seconds, there was no response.

"Yes...I see," Irving responded, with a hint of concession in his voice. "Very well, give me a report, Head Paladin. How much of the prison has been taken?"

"The outer camp has been liberated, and we are in the process of breaching the prison complex. The mines have been placed, in case the NCR attempts to bring in reinforcements. The NCR was attempting to surrender," he explained, a bit frustrated that the Sentinel was still demanding lenience, but pleased with how resigned he sounded.

"Excellent work, Head Paladin, but this is just the beginning of the strike. Don't waste precious time cracking the NCR's inner defenses, I'm sending a relief force to deal with them and secure the prison. I need you to leave a skeleton crew behind to keep the NCR pinned down until we get here, and take the rest of your men north to strike the next target while the NCR is still flat-footed. I trust you can handle that?"

"The Van Graffs won't know what hit them," Hardin replied, pleased at having forced the Sentinel's hand.

"I'll be maintaining radio silence for the time being. Ad Victoriam."

"For HELIOS One!"

"Consider yourself lucky, Lieutenant," he shouted to the NCR officer. "My higher-up will be taking over here, and he's a far more forgiving man than I. I suggest you not try anything that will spoil his goodwill." He then picked up his radio. "All warriors begin to withdraw. The Sentinel has conceded and will be providing support. We are to head north to attack the second target immediately. Move out!"

It was frustrating to miss the chance to take vengeance upon one of the perpetrators of the disaster of HELIOS One, but the Sentinel had a point- they needed to move and attack their next target, and time was of the essence.

What mattered was that he had made Irving see the light.
Corporal Yazan Mohammad - Freeside - Morning, November 18th

Yazan was alone. The wastes of the Mojave stretched out before him, just barely visible in the dim starlight that strained through the clouds overhead. Ahead of him lay his comrades, asleep in a semicircle just below the rocky overhang of a small knoll. He felt their presence as sure as he felt the ground below his feet but he could not see them. Some dull ache in his chest that told him that just a few yards ahead lay the peace and security of his friends. He walked slowly towards them. It was more of a trudging motion as his legs were unsteady and he had to consider each step carefully like a crippled man learning to walk again. A cry broke the still night and the sound pierced its way into Yazan’s chest and tightened his gut into a painful knot. Gunfire erupted ahead of him and a chorus of strained voices grew to match the cacophony of automatic weapons.

He tried to run towards the violence but stumbled blindly, falling and standing and falling again. His movements were languid and irregular as his body refused the orders of his mind. Tears of frustration bit at the corners of his eyes as he seethed with every breath. The voices of his comrades grew wretched and twisted and though he could see nothing he knew they were being butchered. Slaughtered like animals in the dark. In despair he slumped to his knees and pounded at the dirt below but even that felt forced and weak. Yazan lay there in defeat sobbing meekly as his friends pleaded for their lives, begged for a quick death, cried for their mothers and soiled themselves in pain and fear. He shut his eyes against the horror and tried to scream but only gurgled like a strangled infant.

Yazan opened his eyes. He was alone in bed. For a moment he sat there and breathed, his body still trembling and sweating as the echo of his friend’s screams rang in his ears. The embassy bunk room was awash with the soft light of morning. Yazan rubbed his face and sat up. He grabbed his cup of water from the night before and drank deeply. It had been exactly one month since the attack and he hadn’t slept through the night since. The exhaustion was taking its toll on him and others were starting to notice. Just two days ago he’d sworn he had a conversation with Andrew and Leonid about the attack. Except he hadn’t. Leonid had been shipped back to his family’s home in Shady Sands and Andrew was still in the medical hospital at Fort Gulf. Sgt Kinney said he’d found Yazan alone in his room mumbling incoherently to the wall. Or had he dreamt that as well?

Yazan sighed and swung his legs over the bed, stood and dressed himself. His arms felt leaden and it was as if he moved through a daze. One moment he was pulling up his trousers, the next he was buttoning the top of his fatigues. Then he was in the small mess-hall they had put in at the embassy. It was little more than a glorified coffee station that served boiled oats and corn cakes. He sat numbly chewing on a crumbly piece of cake slathered with pear-jam.

“Where have you been?”

The voice came as a shock and Yazan jumped in his seat and choked on a bite of cake. He looked up at Sgt McKinny who stood arms crossed in the doorway. His expression was stern but he stepped forward to pat Yazan gently on the back as he struggled to swallow the cake.

“We mustered in the courtyard fifteen minutes ago.” McKinny sighed and sat down next to Yazan. “Are you okay corporal?”

Yazan nodded.

“Yeah I’m fine.”

McKinny grunted then stood and looked out the door to make sure they were alone. Satisfied, he closed the door and sat next to Yazan. For a moment he just looked at Yazan like the young man was a puzzle decipherable only through long periods of observation.

“Are you okay Yazan?” His voice was soft and Yazan almost physically recoiled at hearing his sergeant say his first name.

“Yeah.” Yazan’s voice was almost a whisper.

“I know this has been a difficult transition. Not just for yourself but all of us. I hadn’t expected to be reassigned to the ambassador’s honor guard. Not after what happened. But we grunts don’t get to make the decisions, we just have to survive them and find a way to keep living. Do you understand what I’m talking about?”

“You mean the ambush.”

McKinny nodded.

“That wasn’t our decision. But we survived and now we're living with it.”

“I know.” Yazan’s voice cracked.

“Do you? Because I don’t think you do. It's no different than the Hunger. Some of us made it, some of us didn’t. That’s how you have to look at it. You cannot keep thinking about how you should’ve done this, or would’ve done that or could’ve done something else. Forget it. You were there and you survived. That's what's important. A lot of people didn’t make it. Remember them, and keep on living for them.”

Yazan nodded but he felt distant, like he was watching himself. The emotions within him had become so muddled and mixed that to find the words to express them felt as futile as finding a single poker chip in the wastes.

“Do you understand?”

“How.” The word felt obtuse in Yazan’s mouth and he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to say it but he continued. “How do you deal with the feeling?”

“The fear? The pain?”

“No. The joy.”

McKinny's face puckered into a kind of sour confusion.

“What joy?”

“The joy you feel when you look at your dead friends and you’re happy it's not you.” Tears stung at Yazan’s eyes. “How do you not hate yourself for it?”

“You do. But you keep going.” McKinny stood and smoothed his fatigues. “Now finish your breakfast and let's go. We have work to do.”
Chez Nathan & Colonel Denver Abernathy – Fort Golf — Afternoon, October 17th
(A Collaboration with @cymbeline90)

Chez sensed their approach to the Fort before word was passed down to him from the front. There was a subtle ratcheting up of tension, diffusing through the Followers like particles dancing in water. He remained in the back of the wagon, facing outwards, refusing to look at the Fort until the last minute. They were waved through a checkpoint and allowed to draw close to the building that served as the army’s headquarters. A security detail coalesced around them.

“Best behavior, everyone,” Beth muttered.

Chez had seen soldiers act aggressive when conducting security checks, particularly when they were further from the top brass and under less supervision. These men and women, however, were professional and detached. They patted the Followers down and rooted through their cargo with a swift, relentless efficiency. For their part, the Followers offered minimal resistance. Each side understood the delicacy of the situation. They were like strangers forced into proximity at a society dance, going through the steps with stiff formality.

Once cleared, they were signaled to move their wagons closer to the building. Aides appeared, offering to stable and water their horses. The human members of the caravan were invited to disarm and proceed to a mess hall for refreshment, and directions regarding their accommodations.

As they trailed after the aide, Beth muttered into Chez’s ear, “You ever been here before?”

He shook his head.

“I have,” Beth went on, keeping her voice low. “It was a couple years ago. We were on medical dispatch nearby when a couple of NCR grunts got torn up by raiders. We kept them alive until they reached this place.”


“There are more guard towers here now. More dead zones around the Fort, too. They ain’t been idle.”

Chez had been too busy looking at the soldiers and their holstered weapons to notice anything else. Trying to appear nonchalant, he glanced around, and saw that Beth was right.

“Well… ” Chez said, “holding the Mojave isn’t easy.”

“True enough. I don’t reckon givin’ it up will be either.”

Trying not to be discomfited by Beth’s words, he walked the rest of the way in silence. They were shown into a mess hall, and the crew, tired and dusty from the road, fell gratefully upon the plain rations that had been set out for them.

Chez called one of the aides over. “I believe Colonel Abernathy is expecting me.”

The aide nodded. “Someone will be with you shortly, doc.”

Chez found that he had no appetite. He pulled out a notebook and flipped through it, coming to a set of pages filled with disjointed scrawling. Energy conversion, he had written. Airborne pathogen. No survivors?? Unsustainable population growth – infrastructure burden – massive population of displaced peoples. Resource scarcity → conflict inevitable. The Green?? → enormous mass of raw materials. But death by Greenlung — choose. quick death by Greenlung /slow death by resource deprivation.

A young private appeared and bobbed her head at him. “Colonel Abernathy will see you now, Doctor.”

Chez clapped the notebook shut, tucked it away, and followed the private to the colonel’s office.

Colonel Abernathy was a clean-cut and respectable-looking man. Out of uniform, he probably wouldn’t have caught Chez’s eye – or perhaps he would have. There was a sense of restrained power about him. Once you spent more than a few moments with him, you felt that there was something dangerous behind the unassuming surface.

“Welcome to Fort Golf, Dr. Nathan.” Denver held out his hand. “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. I want to begin our conversation with an acknowledgement of the resources and time your organization has spent in getting you here. Given our sorted histories with one another I am deeply appreciative that you all have answered our call for aid. I hope that today can be the start of a new relationship between the 3rd Infantry and the Followers.”

Chez took the hand that was offered and tried to make his grip firm and sincere. “The pleasure is mine, Colonel. I believe the people of the Mojave can only benefit from our cooperation. I am ready to pool whatever resources we can for the common good.”

“Indeed it is my concern for the common good of the people of the Mojave that I have called you here today. Please sit.” He motioned to one of the two chairs across from his desk. Denver sat down as well. He paused for just a moment, trying to weigh who this Dr. Nathan truly was. This meeting would be a chance to lay the foundations for a better tomorrow, a safer nation and to heal old wounds. But it depended on how Denver was received and how he presented himself and so he wasted no time.

Chez took a seat in the chair the Colonel indicated. It felt surreal to him to be sitting here with the commander of Denver’s Dogs.

“The Green is a threat to us all. None in the Mojave know this to be more true than your people. Since the first infection of Greenlung in Camp McCarran the Followers have suffered greatly. Both from direct contact and through the societal fallout that the Green has caused. A third of New Vegas covered underneath a mat of vegetation, sporadic outbreaks and now a flood of refugees from the NCR. The Mojave teeters on a precipice and the slightest misstep will send the entire region into a green hell from which there will be no escape.”

“You know this already though or else you would not have come here today. Since you are the one they sent I know that you are not yet hardened against the 3rd or the NCR as a whole. I know you are optimistic and diplomatic. I may not always agree with how the Followers conduct themselves or how you all have responded to certain matters. Nonetheless I trust that your organization and your people have the best interest of others at heart. Therefore I have no option but to trust you.” Denver paused for a moment, allowing Chez to process everything.

Chez listened as the Colonel laid out each blow the Followers had endured. On the one hand, it felt profoundly gratifying to have their losses acknowledged, at last, from someone in the NCR. And the Colonel of all people! He knew, with almost clinical precision, the toll these years had taken on the Followers.

Of course he knows, Chez thought. It’s his job to know the players in the Mojave. That’s how he routed the Brotherhood of Steel, and massacred the Khans. The Followers exist because he permits us to exist. Because we fit into his vision for Vegas. And he knows that we know this. He thanks me for answering his summons, like I had a choice!
“We find ourselves without friends here in the Mojave. The 3rd I mean. The Van-Graff administration in Shady Sands looks at the Mojave and sees an oasis. A dam that provides immense power, a city that bleeds caps and a divided people to be subjugated and taxed. They do not see it for the mirage that it is.” Denver took a breath. “I was born to a dirt farmer back west. I grew up on the land but I am no expert on ecology nor do I claim to be. Yet even I can see the Green for what it is. Inevitable. We cannot fight it. We cannot harness it. We cannot stop it. We must avoid it. For as long as we can. That is why I need your help. You have access to the people capable of performing the work necessary to determine how fast the Green is expanding. How long does the Mojave have? Ten years? Five years? Two? Six months? It isn’t a matter of if the Green conquers the Mojave but when.”

The Colonel was still saying all the right things. Chez, who’d been prepared for the Colonel’s political savviness, found himself being disarmed nonetheless. He’s reminding me that the merchant houses in the capitol view this place as an investment, Chez thought. Their concern for Vegas waxes and wanes with the market. When drought or the Legion incursions lower our value, they’re prepared to cut us off – as they did to his regiment. Now that the dust has settled the vultures have returned. He fought for this place personally. He spent the blood of his own men and women to secure the Bear’s interests in this region. That’s the coin he weighs this land’s price in, not valuations by investors. He even reminds me of his own farming background as he speaks of us toiling the land! Ah, if he hadn’t taken up the rifle, what might this man have achieved with the pen instead? But perhaps it’s good he never studied with the Followers. We already have one Caesar on our conscience.

As the Colonel spoke of the threat posed by the Green, Chez felt a weight settle on his shoulders. The Colonel’s individual words blended together, registered on his awareness, and melded with disparate bits of data floating in Chez’s short-term retrieval. Since Letty had stung him out of inaction, Chez had been rummaging through old Holotapes on the Green, binging on the few reports that remained from back when Followers still had resources to spare.

This Colonel is not a man to frighten easily, Chez thought. And he speaks of the Green as an existential threat to the Mojave. Based on the scattered, outdated data we have, its growth has been explosive, exponential. The Followers should have seen this first. But an organization can only be brought to the brink of extinction so many times before all threats look the same. We’ve been looking inward, trying to rebuild. We cannot see beyond our own immediate survival.

Denver reached over to a small shelf on his desk and retrieved a faded red folder. He opened it, turned it around and slid it across the desk to Chez. Inside was a compilation of reports on the Green, PH sampling of soil, sketches, time-tables of growth, photographs and lists of names, dates, locations. There had been a logic to the way it was arranged but that logic wasn’t immediately apparent.

Chez’s eyes fell on the reports like a herd of Brahmin on clean water. Automatically, his hand slid out and flipped through the top couple of pages. He drank in the neatly tabulated information, dates and images. He felt like a prospector who’d stumbled on a fabled Old World cache.

Then his hand withdrew, as if seared by fire.

He felt the Colonel and himself sitting across from each other, in a nexus of variables, like Bighorn herders in the eye of a radiation storm.

What will the Followers think of me, Chez wondered. Will I be remembered as someone who made the painful choice to work with a ruthless power in order to fight a greater threat? Will I be seen as the traitor who volunteered the Followers’ resources to a warlord? Will I be the stooge who aided and abetted a second Caesar? The truth was, he’d already made the decision. Seeing that folder had only confirmed his choice. The decision had been made when he’d seen the envelope lying on his desk in the medical center, when he’d chosen to come here.

Maybe that’s why the others sent me. So they could have a clean conscience when this goes wrong. So their names will not appear beside mine in future histories of the Followers, when they teach me as a cautionary lesson to the young.

“For the past six years I have worked to learn all I can about the Green. That folder contains some of the most important information I’ve discovered. I offer it to you on the condition that you accept my offer. Work with me, build a team and find out how long we have. If you agree, there will be no secrets between us.” Denver’s eyes held a stern gaze implying there would be consequences if he found out Chez was lying. “If you refuse, you are free to leave. But I will remember your refusal.”

He did not miss the implied threat in the Colonel’s words. But somehow he’d lost the terrible fear of the Colonel that he’d suffered before coming here. The Colonel was a pragmatic, at times ruthless, man. Viewed in that light, his choices made sense. What Chez feared now was how easily he’d been won over. What had the others seen in him that he hadn’t yet seen in himself? He feared how eager he was to take the first step, when he didn’t know how far he might fall.

Chez said, “If what you say is true, this threat is bigger than you or me, Colonel. I may not approve of all your actions, but I can discuss ethics with you. I can’t negotiate with an ecological disaster.” Chez held out his hand. “Consider me on board for this venture.”

Denver felt a wave of cool relief wash over him as the bargain was made. He wasn’t one to trust easily but the Followers were known to be honest people. They spoke directly and clearly even if it didn’t always work in their favor. For that, Denver admired them. Duplicity and selfishness were demons working in the heart of humanity and the Followers were the only people who seemed deaf to them. Still a nagging anxiety chirped within him and Denver thought it best to have some kind of leverage over Chez. If only to assure the man wasn’t agreeing out of fear.

“Thank you. I had hoped you’d agree. However, since we shall be open with each other I have something I must reveal to you.” Denver paused for a moment. He hadn’t yet said these words aloud and wanted to be deliberate with his speech. “Three days ago my rangers recovered irrefutable proof that the Brotherhood of Steel remains active within the Mojave. We captured two provisioners just outside the Gulp ‘n Grub in South Vegas. One of them is being escorted to the NCRCF as we speak, the other is secured within the basement of this building.” Denver paused to let the information settle. Rumors had always persisted about the Brotherhood but most dismissed them. He wanted to be sure that Chez understood the importance of this information.

Chez thought: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea…

Chez felt as though he’d slipped awake from a dream. For a moment, he heard the strains of his mother’s voice, carrying over the rhythmic scraping of a mixing spoon against a bowl, smelled the fragrance of roasting gecko flesh, sweetened by prickly-pear fruit relish.

“I don’t want you…
But I hate to lose you
You’ve got me in between
The Devil and the deep blue sea.”

That’s where I am, Chez thought. Between the Devil and the deep green sea.

So the Brotherhood was still active in the Mojave. And the Colonel had never given up hunting his old enemy. Of course not. Chez could already tell this was a man who hated to leave a job unfinished.

“I believe that someone as educated as yourself is at least partially aware of who the Brotherhood is and more importantly the threat they pose. I’m not ashamed to say that I have a long and violent history with them. I earned my colonelship at the battle for Helios One and I disagreed with my superiors when they ordered me to stand down and allow the survivors to flee into the hills. They believed that the catastrophic losses the Brotherhood sustained during that battle would cement the end of their organization. I knew better. You see Dr. Nathan, the Brotherhood of Steel is not a group of people, it is an idea. A dangerous idea that should’ve been destroyed decades ago. When I was ordered to stop my pursuit that idea was allowed to fester and grow. I did not hunt them with the intent to slaughter them wholesale, I want to make that clear. The wanton obliteration of human life has never been my goal.” Denver put a grim emphasis on his words and suppressed the thoughts of Bitter Springs that bubbled within him. He had done what was necessary.

Chez remembered there had been a name for such strategies in the Old World, back before even the Great War. Before the scientists had split the Atom, and in doing so, had united humanity in fear of their own mutual extinction. Scorched earth tactics, they’d called it. This had been in the period of conventional warfare, before the proliferation of atomic deterrents had made such things unworkable.

“But I did want to destroy them.” Denver continued, “Who they were, how they saw themselves and most crucially how they saw us. The danger of the Brotherhood of Steel lies not in their energy weapons and power armor but in its doctrines and codex. It is an ideology that separates them from the rest of humanity, elevating them to the level of ‘chosen ones’ blessed with the divine right to decide how the rest of us should live. If it were up to them they would watch us die and think themselves the better people for it. I’m sure you agree, Dr. Nathan, that such a worldview is not compatible with the continued survival of humanity.”

A memory came to Chez, surprisingly, from Latin and Ancient History with Arcade Gannon.

There was a city whose people were loved by the goddess Juno,
Above all others on Earth.
Enthroned was she on Tunis’ imperial shore,
Clad in Tyrian purple, her streets of gold,
Her ships swift in fury when provoked to war.

The Carthaginians had struck at Rome’s heart, and the Eagle’s fury in retaliation had known no bounds. The city of Carthage was razed to ashes, so that nothing would ever grow there again. A warning to all Rome’s enemies of the consequences of defiance.

But the Colonel isn’t speaking of that, Chez thought. He claims not to be another Caesar. He speaks of destroying their ideology.

“I have no love for the Brotherhood’s teachings, sir. We respect the democratic principles of the NCR’s constitution, whatever qualms we have about how you put them into practice. The Brotherhood’s ethos, as you say, is elitist, exclusionary, and unlikely to maximize the welfare of the Mojave’s human population, much less the other sentient species. But history has taught us to be cautious about eradicating a people’s beliefs. As any sawbones can tell you, sir, a scorched-earth cure can sometimes be worse than the disease it heals.”

Denver sighed heavily, folded his hands on the desk and leaned forward.

“Nonetheless, we need their help. The Brotherhood has access to technology and knowledge that cannot be found in any other nation or peoples in the wastes. If we are to accurately predict the spread of the Green we will need their assistance. However, I cannot ask them for help. Even if I knew where they were they would not listen to me. They are stubborn and dogmatic people and highly xenophobic. I’ve interrogated enough of them to know that they revile me and the NCR and would sooner choose death over helping us. I’m not going to give them that choice. That is where you come in. As a leading member of the Followers of the Apocalypse you have a recognized neutrality that allows you to operate freely between hostile factions. Do you understand what I am asking of you? I need you to speak to the prisoner below, get her to talk as she hasn’t said anything to us. Find out where the Brotherhood is and meet with them. Tell them what you are working on and ask for their help. I have no doubt the Brotherhood has been studying the Green for as long as I have and though they may be resistant to working with an outsider, you’ll simply have to make yourself indispensable to them.”

“I can’t promise anything, but I will do my best to negotiate with this member of the Brotherhood in good faith. I swear I will do whatever I can to effect a working relationship with the Brotherhood. I am doing this for the purpose of pooling our resources to combat the Green, which you’ve shown me is a threat to all residents of the Mojave. Beyond that, any hostile intentions you have towards the Brotherhood, whether ideological or military, I cannot be a part of at this time. It would require me to consult with the Followers as a whole to endorse an action that would violate our neutrality towards any other faction. Particularly a faction that is heavily armed and likely to be dangerous to us in our already weakened state. I will follow any reasonable command to combat the Green, but hostile actions against a group of people are of a different order.”

Chez spread his arms, trying to be as open as possible. He looked almost pleading as he gestured towards Denver. “Please understand, sir, the Followers have built up a great deal of goodwill among the people of the Mojave by following our own ethical code. That is the only precious resource we have, and one that would end us if we cast it away. There are many ways to destroy the heart of an organization… and I would not be the one to lead the Followers into darkness.”
In Dwarves! 9 mos ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
Alpi Arius Argaven

Alpi sat quietly, his head bowed in contemplation as he tried to slow his breathing. Before him lay a wooden bust of his brother. It had been carefully realized in a roughly hewn stump of sequoia. The features were stern and angular, perfectly replicated from the stylistic reliefs found within the hall of Argaven. He meditated on the life of his brother and the fear and confusion he must have experienced in his time upland. Two years trapped on the surface, at the mercy of the sun and stars.

“It’s time my love.”

Alpi’s breathing calmed at the voice of his wife. She laid her hand on his shoulder and he dropped his head onto it. He looked up into her hazel speckled eyes and smiled softly.

“Aye. Would not be so hard to leave if you were to walk by my side.”

She returned his smile.

“And what shall the children do then? Who shall provide for them?

“My father and mother have always been hospitable.”

Nykia smirked and helped Alpi to his feet. She ran her fingers through his sideburns and gripped them. They looked at each other for a moment, sharing a breath. She kissed him deeply then pulled away and stared at him once more.

“Return to me, Alpi. Come home with your brother. Come home with the Fist. Come home with the whole sky upon your back. Just come home.” She placed her forehead against his. “That be an order my love.”

He kissed her and smiled.

“As you wish.”

She opened the door and Alpi stepped alone into the hall of Argaven. Long rows of benches and tables full of his family lined the walls of the hall. They cheered at his entrance and descended into a low chant led by his father. It would be a traditional Karhider farewell and though Alpi had been to dozens before, this would be the first dedicated to him. His mother approached him, they touched their foreheads and held a large pipe carved from a single piece of bone. He held it high so the hall could see, then lowered and lit it. One by one his family members came forth, took a pull from the pipe and blew the smoke in Alpi’s face. It was an ancient custom and every breath was believed to contain the spirit of those who gave it. Thus as Alpi made his way upland he would be protected by the spiritual breath of his people. His actions would not be his own and every step he took, he took with the support of his people. It was a comforting thought and Alpi knew he would have precious little comfort once on the surface.

As his final cousin finished their breath his father, leader of the chant, came forth, took a pull of the pipe and blew his breath onto Alpi. He turned to face the hall and raised a hand. At once the chant ceased. The ritual was done, and now they would escort him to the grand hall of Thrillem. His father called forth his strongest cousins and they hoisted Alpi upon a palanquin and as his children ran forth to lead the procession the hall of Argaven emptied out into the tunnels of the Dwarven Hold.


Alpi sat awkwardly on the dais raised away from the rest of his family and clan. He had already drunk a considerable amount to ease his nerves but it had instead left him feeling ill-tempered. Among him were the other Dwarfs chosen for the quest. He didn’t recognize them and knew that none were Karhiders or spent much time up in the upper reaches of the hold. He rose slightly unsteadily to his feet and stumbled about till he was closer to the other. Eyeing them he raised his drinking horn and offered a toast.

“Come forth my Thrillems! Come forth! Let us raise our horns and bend a knee. Offer a toast for these heroes three. Chosen by thee in unanimous decree. Heroes all! For they seek an heirloom to free, from a danger we guarantee and who will on their return find a mountain home filled with glee.”
In Dwarves! 9 mos ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
Should have a post up soon! Apologize for the hold up! O
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