Fallout: Wild Horses (Started, Open)

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McGrath yelled at the ranger. "Come on! Can you please stop fighting people? I don't want to kill anybody. I have gone through more than enough bullshit the last couple days to last a life time. I don't need to add killing you to the pile. Just stop freaking fighting and leave or stay or do literally anything besides what you are doing right now. I am a freaking doctor not an executioner. See?" He laid down the plasma shotgun and kicked it away.

New Wheatland

Kaiden crouched to the ground, hands up in front of the soldiers. He didn't want them to turn on him too, they were obviously more than capable and would have a great knowledge of the land.

"Well, you can consider your good fortune on your way out, 'cause this place has really gone to shit."

"Look, I thank you for your help friend, but I'm afraid I cannot leave. Not until i find my friend. Perhaps you know him, a doctor traveling from Cheyton?"

Kaiden stood up straight now, and Abel relaxed a little, both of them catching their breath. Kaiden looked around at where he thought they had downed the coyotes, then to where the one he ripped apart was, thick blood soaking the ground. "Just what were those things?"

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Redstone Camping Ground

A hundred and fifty strong? These could be powerful allies, provided their views aligned well. Caleb held out his hand in a stop gesture when offered a cigar. "I appreciate the offer friend, but I must decline. As a representative of my people I cannot be seen to give in to any vice." He said, trying to sound as sincere as possible. His curiosity was at its highest by now though, hopefully the ghouls interest was mutually beneficial. Perhaps they needed trade, or shelter.

Not wanting to seem to eager though, in order to get a better foothold in any bartering that may occur, Caleb sat back in his chair, his head rested onto one of his fists. "You were saying?"

Redstone.
Caleb held out his hand in a stop gesture when offered a cigar.
"I appreciate the offer friend, but I must decline. As a representative of my people I cannot be seen to give in to any vice."
Jesse put back the cigar.
"Suit yourself. Don't want to shave any years off your indefinite lifespan after all."
Jesse puffed on his cigar. He was going to be really sad when he ran out of them. The only way to get more would be to hope that by coincidence Oak trees mutated in the exact same way on the west coast. He understood why the Litch was so upset when they finally ran out of Mirelurk meat in Chicago. LakeLurk meat tastes similar, but it's just not the same.
"You were saying?"
"I'll be blunt; the smoothskins will never fully accept us. Sooner or later they'll come marching in here with intent to destroy you. The Wight Knights hope to found our own nation in the radioactive ruins of Seattle. One that's too large and powerful to attack, and too radioactive to be occupied by a smoothskin army."
Jesse took another few puffs on his cigar.
"Normally we would go to whatever local ghoul settlements are in an area, but Wyoming doesn't seem to have one. You're the first Super Mutants we've encountered who aren't hostile to outsiders, so I've been authorized by the Litch to extend an offer to join us. If you do though, the dogs have to stay. Dogs tend not to respond well to the scent of rotting meat that's common to ghouls."

Redstone Camping Ground

Caleb leant forward, elbows on his desk, head in his hands. He thought long and hard before speaking. An opportunity like this may not come around again, and it would have been a perfect settlement had the master still been in power, if he wished to hide.

Caleb let out a long sigh, before sitting back and speaking. 

"I'm afraid... That this is an offer I cannot accept. I know that humans can be aggressive toward the abnormal, but they can also be kind. You and I both know there are humans that have done great deeds that have benefited many of us in some way. I can't help but feel that hiding in some radioactive hole and building up huge numbers would be seen as an act of aggression."

Caleb stood from his chair and walked to a corner of the room, looking through the cracked walls to the outside, at his people that he had led so far. "Our people have worked too hard to prove to humanity that we do have a place in this world, after all were we not human ourselves once? We have already taken steps and secured trade agreements with a large nearby settlement, things are finally working in our favour..."

Caleb turned to the Ghoul, he did not want to insult him by keeping his back turned. He could still prove to be a powerful ally.

"I would be happy to form an alliance of sorts though. No matter how well fortified you become you will always need supplies, and we could always use the help of a small army when times get desperate. Though you must understand, we cannot be involved with the killing of any humans unless absolutely necessary." 

Caleb walked over to Jesse now, "Do we have an agreement?"

Follower's Clinic, Bloody Sunday

EmperorZuma:
"What the hell happened to you?"

Harland coughed, tasting blood on his lips. "Bad night at the Brothel. Does your town usually have bloodbaths for a Sunday Night Special? Thought I saw someone... looked familiar. Maybe it was that big guy with the glasses...."
Harland was falling in and out of consciousness as the Med-X took its toll on his senses. The huge gash on his stomach was still bleeding badly, but at least there were stitches in it now. June stood over the bed, aiding the surgeon between taking notes. "How are the other guys doing? Any of the Khans recover?"

Across the Wastes, three days forward
A cold wind gushed over Ollie as he and Anna galloped further west, sending a shiver down his spine. While summer in the Wasteland could be desert-like, Wyoming's flat plains produced brutal nuclear winters, blowing down from the Rockies and Canada. The Caravans from California often complained about the heat, but Ollie dared them to try and sit through a deep freeze that killed crops and drove animals into Deathclaw territory just to escape the ice storms. The first snows would begin falling in the next month or so, give or take the weather's disposition.

I-80 was a well patrolled stretch of prewar road that spanned the length of southern Wyoming. Trade caravans braving the Utah pass had to deal with the vicious 80's further south, but the Khans had driven the raiders out of their territory during their settlement of the Empire. Still, there were always dangers on the road...

Clang!

Ollie heard the first shot ping off a rusted metal billboard. He and Anna spun around, searching for the source of the shot. After several more shots fired out from the hills, they kicked their 'Mares into a gallop, trying to make a break for it. Up ahead, the half broken remains of an overpass loomed. Before they had a chance to change course, they were underneath the bridge, just as the net was dropped over both of them.

Restone
Caleb let out a long sigh, before sitting back and speaking.
Jesse listened intently, chewing the butt of his cigar.

"I'm afraid... That this is an offer I cannot accept. I know that humans can be aggressive toward the abnormal, but they can also be kind. You and I both know there are humans that have done great deeds that have benefited many of us in some way. I can't help but feel that hiding in some radioactive hole and building up huge numbers would be seen as an act of aggression."
"The individual person is intelligent, kind, and compassionate. People are stupid cruel animals. It doesn't matter if they see us as a threat if we're too powerful to attack. The long term plan is to set up smoothskin settlements in the non-radioactive surrounding settlements, and have them act as trade go-betweens."

Caleb stood from his chair and walked to a corner of the room, looking through the cracked walls to the outside.
"Our people have worked too hard to prove to humanity that we do have a place in this world, after all were we not human ourselves once? We have already taken steps and secured trade agreements with a large nearby settlement, things are finally working in our favor..."
"We're still human, we're just not smoothskins. I was a smoothskin for 21 years. In that time I saw war, famine, civil uprising, oppression, and many other atrocities. They can barely make peace with each other. What makes you think they won't eventually turn on you when it's convenient?"

"I would be happy to form an alliance of sorts though. No matter how well fortified you become you will always need supplies, and we could always use the help of a small army when times get desperate. Though you must understand, we cannot be involved with the killing of any humans unless absolutely necessary."
"I suppose I can agree to that. We'll continue migrating west, stopping in pre-war state capitols until we reach our goal. We should be easy to find."
Jesse put his hand out to shake hands with the super mutant.

New Wheatland

"Look, I thank you for your help friend, but I'm afraid I cannot leave. Not until i find my friend. Perhaps you know him, a doctor traveling from Cheyton?"

"Uh, wasn't Jose's caravan due to show up sometime this week?" One of the younger-looking soldiers in the back spoke up as he looked out into the forest, rifle raised. "They may have not gotten word of our warning before they left Cheyton."

The patrol leader sighed. "That was probably the shooting we heard earlier." Mumbling to himself a bit, the captain thought out their next move. "The commotion died down too far for them to have been overrun. If we move northwest, we should be able to reinforce their rear. If you want to see your friend, you're free to follow." With that, the patrol moved on, giving Kaiden little time to choose.

New Wheatland

Kaiden wasted no time in following the rangers through the brush, hoping to be of some use to them and by extension the doctor too. He threw his cloak back so his body could move more freely, this helped him move a little quieter, though a hulking Super Mutant was never going to be a master of stealth. At least his green skin didn't stand out for once.

"Just through this tree line" Whispered the patrol leader.

----------------------------------------------------------

Redstone Camping Ground

Caleb took the hand of the ghoul, his own huge hand dwarfing his in size. He was careful not to grip or shake too hard, some ghouls could be a little too frail for that.

"We are in agreement then. Come friend, would you like to rest, resupply perhaps have a bed for the night? One of our brothers recently left on a personal errand, I am sure he wouldn't mind you using his trailer for as long as you need. It is away from any dogs, should they concern you." Caleb walked toward the door of the sack, ready to show Jesse to wherever he wanted to go.

In a way, this was now McGrath's fault. No, not the fighting. That was largely Joe's doing. No, what the good doctor was at fault for was was speaking that famous line. As soon as he did, and in the context of the fight, the music was heard.

Malkos, however, decided that enough was enough. The ranger was now alone, having properly alienated himself among these two, whom he could perhaps find travels with acceptable. Why? It would be interesting, and it would confuse the hell out of people. Ergo, the Deathclaw poked Martin in the shoulder from behind, passing him from one side, after having kicked McGrath's gun back to him.

"This is over. It's over because I SAY it's over. Try to change that now, Ranger, and you'll be very...VERY unhappy."

And yeah, he was going to MAKE it be over if they didn't cut it out.

Wyoming
Marty wasn't launched terribly far, and now was ready to stab Joe.
[Luck]"Typical, really."
"Come on! Can you please stop fighting people? I don't want to kill anybody. I have gone through more than enough bullshit the last couple days to last a life time. I don't need to add killing you to the pile. Just stop freaking fighting and leave or stay or do literally anything besides what you are doing right now. I am a freaking doctor not an executioner. See?"
Doc put down his weapon.
[Survival 90/20]"When you're staring down a vicious animal, running gets you bitten in the ass."
The bite scar on Joe's rear itched slightly from the memories that statement brought back.
"Believe it or not, I'd rather not kill anyone either. It's why I non-lethally disarmed the man who was prepared to murder me in cold-blood. Martin may be a weak cowardly traitorous asshole whose intelligence is comparable to a feral ghoul, but he doesn't deserve death. If I wanted him dead; his skull would have more lead than grey-matter. Now that your gun's down though, I'll leave you to your poor decisions."
"This is over. It's over because I SAY it's over. Try to change that now, Ranger, and you'll be very...VERY unhappy."
"My poor choice in traveling companions and the gullibility of strangers has seen to that."
Joe began backing away, keeping his revolver ready in case anyone tried anything.
"Let's see how long after I'm gone before one of you turns on the others. Five caps says one of you does as soon as I'm out of earshot. My money would be on the Deathclaw, but then again, Martin's here."

Wyoming - The middle of nowhere

"Believe it or not, I'd rather not kill anyone either. It's why I non-lethally disarmed the man who was prepared to murder me in cold-blood. Martin may be a weak cowardly traitorous asshole whose intelligence is comparable to a feral ghoul,"

Says the man who picked a fight with a deathclaw.

"But he doesn't deserve death. If I wanted him dead; his skull would have more lead than grey-matter. Now that your gun's down though, I'll leave you to your poor decisions."

"This is over. It's over because I SAY it's over. Try to change that now, Ranger, and you'll be very...VERY unhappy."

"My poor choice in traveling companions and the gullibility of strangers has seen to that."

"Let's see how long after I'm gone before one of you turns on the others. Five caps says one of you does as soon as I'm out of earshot. My money would be on the Deathclaw, but then again, Martin's here."

Martin stood and watched the man back away. He sheathed his knife and picked up his rifle, a bullet lodged in it's stock.
"Goddamned NCR. That man was no Ranger."
He then looked at the doctor and the Deathclaw... The thought hit him again that he had just sided with a talking claw.
He slung his rifle on his back again and looked at the Deathclaw.
He extended his hand towards it unsure of what to do and spoke "My name is Martin and I apologize for shooting you and your Kin."

Redstone
Jesse and Caleb shook hands. Caleb's grip was surprisingly weak.
"We are in agreement then. Come friend, would you like to rest, resupply perhaps have a bed for the night? One of our brothers recently left on a personal errand, I am sure he wouldn't mind you using his trailer for as long as you need. It is away from any dogs, should they concern you." Caleb walked toward the door of the shack.
"All right then." They headed out.
As they walked, Jesse saw many Super Mutants keeping their distance from him. It didn't look to be out of fear, more out of a sense of...
...Political Correctness? Excess Courtesy? If Jesse's conversation with Caleb was any indication, the mutants here were afraid to offend anybody. Political correctness was the only phrase Jesse could think of to describe it, although it wasn't quite right.
A few of the dogs growled at Jesse, but were scolded by their handlers when they did.
Jesse was glad Sullivan wasn't the one sent to deal with the Redstone mutants. Sullivan was a good commander, but not the most diplomatic of the revenants. He would probably come in with a squad of Death Knights. When dealing with a bunch of nervous mutants, that's not the way to go.
Jesse's cigar was about half done. He was really enjoying it. Back in Brooklyn he made his living off Koak leaves. Few people knew how to properly harvest them, and few of those could brave the terrors of Prospect park. Most were devoured by the mutant squirrels, hawks, and bats. Others fell prey to the Kroak trees which were also mutations of oak trees and easily mistaken for Koak that let out a gas that was toxic to humans, and attracted predators. At peak value, he could sell a cigar for 200 caps.
Jesse arrived at the unnamed associate's trailer.
"If you don't mind my asking, what's the owner of this trailer up to?"

In Transit to Vault 74

Ulysses pitched Old Glory up on the hilltop in front of him, surveying the area around him. A few mountains here, a cliff or two there. And of course, the Wastes. Which remained almost immaculately barren, save for the ruined carcasses of a few fallen trees. Not much 'tree' left in those husks at this point though. Mostly rot and ash and vermin these days. One could be forgiven for believing that no plant life had survived the War.

Ulysses dug through his satchel for... a gem. Not just any gem though. This one was a former prize known as The Cyclops' Eye. Why a former prize, you ask?

Well...

around 25 years ago, back when Ulysses was still a loyal Frumentari of Caesar's Legion, he had been tasked to monitor the newly discovered (to the Legion, anyway) New Vegas. In an effort to blend in, the young Ulysses had taken up gambling, and had quickly found himself in debt. Not that any of the collectors they sent were really a threat, but they did make it more difficult to maintain his cover. Since gambling would only get him in deeper, Ulysses decided to track down rumors of an industrial diamond, perhaps the last in existence. Owned of course, by House Industries.

Keep in mind that at the time, Mr. House's... survival still wasn't common knowledge, and was largely kept a secret. Ulysses had stumbled on some very obscure rumors he managed to overhear being spoken behind closed doors at The Tops, but he hadn't given them much credence. Be that as it may, it does not excuse Ulysses' arrogance when he finally tracked the gem down, The Cyclops' Eye. By this point, Ulysses had become very sure of himself, and on a whim, he decided to infiltrate the seemingly abandoned warehouse where the Eye was kept... piss drunk.

Fair enough, he managed to get past the slightly glitchy Securitrons, who, due to an unresolved exploit in their IFF systems, would believe that anyone who, when asked, did not identify themselves with anything their databanks could recognize as a name; wouldn't alert the entire Securitron network, and the local bots would treat the newcomer as a newbie. This was a well-kept secret of Mr. House's, who, lacking the infamous Chip, did not currently have the means to fix these wayward drones. Suited Ulysses just fine. What did he go with when the bots asked him for his name?

"My name is No-One," he told them over and over again. This started to work against him, as his drunken overconfidence made him turn the phrase into more and more of a boast as he continued to delve deeper into the warehouse and crack its more effective security measures one by one.

Oh, he did manage to prize the Eye from its perch inside a massive industrial laser. But just before he left, one last Securitron approached to ask him his name. The Courier of the East cracked a wicked smile, held the gem above his head, and shouted, "My name is... Ulysses!"

Shouting your name out loud to network-connected Securitrons while stealing a treasure of the Old World is not the best of plans. And as you can imagine, the Cyclops' Eye became completely worthless by the time Ulysses managed to slip back into New Vegas, as no fence was stupid enough to take it off his hands. The old standardbearer still has it.

Ulysses shook himself out of his reverie as he placed the gem into his boots, along with a small and battered laser pistol with a good shot or two left in it.

He grunted to himself, his face revealing nothing of what he now thought of his youthful hubris. The only hint of something more, is that just before slipping the Eye into his left boot, he glanced at it one last time and sighed. Make of that what you will.

He hobbled down the hill slope, and continued on his way to the Vault.

Southwest Wyoming, somewhere along Interstate 80
When Ollie awoke, he was hanging upside down. Straining against the blood rushing to his head, he saw that his feet were tied together, and he was dangling from the ceiling of some old barn, or so it looked like. He swung himself around, trying to get a better glimpse of the place. He couldn't see Anna anywhere, only numerous people wandering around what appeared to be an arena. Then Ollie made the bad decision of looking down. The White Tail looked up at him, drawing back its hackles and snarling hungrily.

"Oh."

A huge man wearing nothing but a ragged pair of pants stepped up onto a a podium overlooking the pit. "Welcome, welcome to Baron Bernie's Battle Royale! Today, we're gonna start things off with a bang: we have in our midst, none other than some Great Khans themselves! First up, the man hanging from the roof. You get to fight Minny here, our favorite pet. I hope you enjoy your throat while it lasts. Cut him loose!"

The line snapped, and Ollie was sent tumbling into the pit with Minny. No hatchet, no gun, just bare hands against a bighorn sized fox/rabbit mutant. The White Tail sprung forward, propelled by it's hind legs like a catapult. Ollie dodged out of the way while the creature crashed into the side of the arena.

"Come on, get him Minny!" shouted Bernie, lording over the stands and egging the crowd of bandits into cheering. Ollie ducked under the White Tail's leap, following up with a roundhouse kick as the beast turned around to jump at him again. The kick landed squarely on Minny's nose, and she backed off, whimpering. Unsatisfied with his cowardly pet, Bernie grabbed a remote and pressed the button.

The shock collar sent a high voltage zap through Minny. The White tail was shrieking and snarling again, charging wildly at Ollie until her master made the pain stop. She dragged Ollie by his pant leg, clambering on top and snapping at his face. Ollie managed to grab onto the monster's lower jaw and hold it open, all the while kicking at Minny. The White tail started to tire as the struggle continued, and finally, Ollie gained the upper hand.

He winced as Minny continued to whimper weakly, but he knew that Bernie would keep sending the mutant after him until one or the other died. Far better to put the beast out of it's misery than to let the sick fuck continue to torture it. Ollie tossed the exhausted White tail off, and swiftly stomped down on the creature's windpipe, killing it instantly.

The crowd went silent. Ollie looked up and threw his arms wide. "Are you entertained yet?" he shouted. "Can I fucking go, or do we need to do this the hard way?"

Bernie slouched over his rolls of fat to look at Ollie. "You just killed Minny..." he said with a fake whimper. "I raised that little furball from a baby, after I killed its mother. Why the hell should I let you go? You're too much fun, and I've only known you for a few minutes!"

Bernie suddenly tensed, as something cold and metal pressed between his neck flaps. "Maybe you should put some better guards in front of that outhouse you call a jail, fatty," hissed a familiar voice. Anna appeared from behind Bernie, battered and bloody. It didn't look like her own, thought Ollie. Anna tossed the sack she was carrying into the pit. It was filled with Ollie's gear.

"So," she continued, "If you don't fancy the idea of being swiss cheese, you let us go, kay?"

Bernie started whimpering for real this time. He nodded feebly, nodding to a pair of raiders. They tossed a rope into the pit, allowing Ollie to climb out. Passing through the barn of thugs, Ollie noticed that few of them actually had weapons, and the ones that did seemed too dumb to use them. He shook his head, wondering how the hell they had gotten caught in the first place.

As the pair of Khans began to ride off down the highway again, Ollie spoke to Anna. "You know, sometimes I don't get it. How do we get dragged into these things? What purpose could any of what happened mean in the long run?"

Anna smiled. "I dunno, it's just one of life's little sidesteps. But I suppose it was worth it."

"Oh really?" scoffed Ollie. "How, exactly?" Anna continued to grin, and revealed a small handle with a switch on the end.

"Because fireworks are pretty." She flipped the switch. The fading sky behind them was lit a brilliant blue red as the tanks of brahmin manure Anna had rigged blew Baron Bernie's Battle Royale into oblivion.

"I suppose that works."

Redstone
Things were moving along at Redstone rather smoothly when...
...There was a large flash of light to the north.
Looked like the blast of a fission rifle. Brooke was trying to get Jesse's attention.
"I'm sorry Caleb, but I must attend to this."
Jesse ran off towards the blast.
After a bit of running Jesse came to Brooke's location.
Brooke was a Shade in the Wight Knights. While one of the more recent members, she excelled at stealth operations, and was often brought on missions with Jesse.
"What do we got?"
"I picked up some chatter on the radio. It wen't something like 'I am Ulysses, Scout that brought Kai-Tzar to the Dam, and thus, death to Kai-Tzar.
I have found a Vault filled with all the wonders and terrors of the Old World. The power to make or break nations lies within. Any who get this message have an equal right to the treasure. Equal claim. Come. But beware: The Legion will be coming as well whether I had told them or not.' followed by some coordinates that point to Yellowstone."

"Is that idiot trying to make everyone kill everyone else? I've gotta handle this. Radio the Litch and ask for a squad of Death Knights and ferals to wait for me there."
And with that, Jesse headed off.

The Rabbit Hole - (Not Feeling So Much Like Home without Tessa)
A While Later...

Mercy sat on Tessa's bed feeling quite alone, as much physically as emotionally, as she stared at twin Bowie knives that sat in front of her, the two blades a reflection of the two sisters. While one Bowie knife was pristine and razor sharp, the other looked like it had seen much better and brighter days, the result of a bullet hitting the blade and nearly splitting it in twain. Like Tessa, if the bullet had strayed further from where it had hit, the blade would have been irreparably damaged.

The Blue Bunny had crafted a leather sheath for the twin blades, one that would allow her to sheath both the blades behind her back within reach if needed and it was at this point, she allowed herself to stop staring the knives and put them away.

"(Tess. Why'd you have to listen to that idiot Undertaker girlfriend of yours. Now you're hurt and I don't know if we're ever going to be able to fix you up again.)" The Bereaved Bunny asked the sister that wasn't there as she looked around the room once again, missing the sound of Bladed Bunny's voice, how she used to compliment the hell out of Mercy and even the way Tessa sometimes teased Mercy.

It was at that point that Mercy caused sight of something, a small Holodisk that had been stashed away from plain sight. Holding the small disk, the Builder Bunny had no idea that not only did she have the key to saving her sister but possibly something greater.

----------Some Moments Later----------

"VERA!!! I KNOW HOW TO SAVE HER!! IKNOWHOWTOSAVEHER!!!!" The Most Littlest Sister called out as she came screaming out of the bedroom to start tossing all of her equipment in a bag..

"Vault 74 - WeneedtogettoVault74" She said excitedly as she noticed that the Black Bitch was starting to pack her things as well.

"NO. We don't need you to come with us!" Mercy said coldly to the Undertaker as she slung her pack on her back. She'd already caused a calamity to befall the Rabbit Sisters and there was no way that Mercy would allow this Harlot to be in the same position again.

"This is my fault that your sister almost died. It's my job to go with you and make sure-" The Black Veiled Bunny started to say before she was interrupted.

"You're damn right it's your fault. That's why you're going to stay here and make sure nothing else happens to her!" The Plasma Rabbit snapped, causing the Undertaker to take a step back briefly before nodding, knowing that she'd already done enough damage.

"With the Legion coming to town, we need to make sure they don't try anything funny with my sister." Mercy added in a moment of weakness at seeing the hurt in Victoria's eyes.

"Vera! Are you gonna come with me?!?" Mer-Mer asked as she started checked her supplies and her weapons to make sure that there wasn't anything that she was forgetting.

First stop would have to be finding a mode of transportation. The faster they got there, the faster they could revive the Slumbering Bunny. That meant one last stop at the Junk Yard, Mercy had a ride in mind for the journey.

----------At the Junkyard----------

"TADA!!!!" Mercy exclaimed exuberantly as she pointed at what looked like an early model civilian Vertibird with an open cockpit and space for two.

"It's an Autogyro." Mercy added as she started looking over what it would take to get the thing airborne.

The Rabbit Hole... yeah... doesn't feel the same...

Vera tried to keep herself between Mercy and The Undertaker as much as she could to prevent her little sister from having a clear shot. The little eyebot didn't really think Mer-Mer would resort to taking out her anger in that way but... better safe than sorry. And Vera was a lot easier to repair than these fleshy meatbags.

After Mercy was done shouting at Vicky. Vera turned to Vicky for a minute.

"I don't blame you," she said, quietly enough so that Mercy wouldn't be able to hear. Hopefully. "I hate to say it but... I think this one's on Tessa really. You had a good plan, go in, infiltrate the place carefully... Tessa... just didn't stick to the plan. Which worries me more than if it really had been your fault. I'm worried that even if we can get her back... she might just..."

Vera couldn't bring herself to finish that sentence.

"Just take care of her, okay?" Vera said as she heard Mercy calling for her, "And... I'll try to get some help for you. So you know... you won't be doing this completely on your own. Can't be awake all the time, right?"

With that Vera zoomed after Mercy towards the junkyard.

At the Junkyard

Vera scanned the small vertibird.

"Huh," she said, "It does seem to be in working order. The engine might need to be oiled... we'll need some fuel obviously... hmm... one of the gyros needs to be repaired, but otherwise... yeah... this should work. Hell, we might even beat Ulysses to the vault."

Vera gently nuzzled her sister.

"I know we'll get there in time, Mer-Mer." She kept nuzzling her little sister for a few minutes, trying to calm her down and then, "I don't think this is entirely Vicky's fault. Which... worries me. I'd like to blame her girlfriend for all of this, but the thing is... if Tessa had stuck to the plan. You know... carefully infiltrate the place, take out problems quietly... she'd probably be fine right now. I'm not saying this to defend Vicky. Try to understand... I'm just worried about what else Tessa might try even after we get her back. What she did... just seems... suicidal. I'm really worried about her. And you, Mer-Mer."

She paused, trying to come up with the right words.

"I've never seen you that angry before. It was scary. And... I never expected you to take it out on someone else. Its just... well... I don't really know how to put it."

Vera fell silent for a long time, still keeping very close to her sister.

"Also... had an idea... hang on... I'll be right back." with that, Vera zoomed right back to the Rabbit Hole and used her magnetic toolkit to pick up the BAR, conductors, AI core, and Arc Pylon she'd gotten earlier. Then, half-blinded by the loot, she clumsily made her way back to the junkyard.

"Before we go... I think we should build that walking turret we had been planning on." she said, "Vicky's good at what she does, but she can't stay awake forever. She'll need someone watching her back. And well... we have been meaning to build this guy for a while. I've checked the core... it can handle a fairly simple AI... something with the intelligence of say... a dog. Probably with the personality of one too. Heh."

It was a longshot, but Vera hoped that if she presented Mercy with a simpler project than the Vertibird to deal with... she might have a chance to work out her frustration and anger in a more constructive way.

Cheyton Junkyard:
"There's no place like home. There's no place like home."

"I've never seen you that angry before. It was scary. And... I never expected you to take it out on someone else. Its just... well... I don't really know how to put it." Sissy V said quietly, almost as if she was afraid that Mercy's seething anger would rear its ugly head once again and swallow her.

The Bomber Bunny stopped her work for a moment, thoughts coming and going, coming and going before she finally caught one, the one that make her eyes tear up, the one that made her rethink her anger or at least examine the source of it.

"I - I know, V. If Vicky had bothered listening to Treb, maybe we could have avoided this but the plan went - it went to hell and we nearly lost a third of our family, V. That's Thirty Three Percent. Even now, Tess isn't out of the woods, not by a long shot. I - I've already lost Mom and Dad, I - I can't stand losing another one of our family." Mercy said, her voice just slightly louder than a whisper as she looked at the pile of scrap that her Bouncing Bunny Ball had produced.

"Before we go... I think we should build that walking turret we had been planning on." she said, "Vicky's good at what she does, but she can't stay awake forever. She'll need someone watching her back. And well... we have been meaning to build this guy for a while. I've checked the core... it can handle a fairly simple AI... something with the intelligence of say... a dog. Probably with the personality of one too. Heh."

Mercy nodded as she reanalysed the pile of scrap that had been layed out in front of her. Before EVERYTHING had happened, she had been intent on making a statement, one that reflected the quirkiness of the Rabbit Family. This time when she looked at the pile of parts, she could only see herself forging a machine that would be able to protect her ailing sister from anything the world could throw at her.

Setting the BAR aside, the Builder Bunny began laying out the remaining into a roughly humanoid form.

"No one is going to hurt my family ever again." Mercy muttered as she began piecing together the robotic watchdog that would remain in Cheyton. Powered by a series of pistons, the hulk would have incredible strength, it would need it if it was going to have all this armor mounted on it. The head was relatively small compaired to the rest of the body, resting on a telescopic neck, the sensor module was protected by three metal plates that were mounted 120 degrees apart from each other.

The arms were long and power and would aid in the robot's mobility, allowing the creature to move quickly on all four limbs but would have the ability to manipulate weapons such as the BAR.

The legs were substantially shorter but no less armored than the rest of the robot. Mercy took care to add a more than a few additional pistons to aid in the bot's movement, even allowing it to jump high into the air.

Looking at the ARC projector, Mercy mounted the object on the robot, which started looking more and more like a prehistoric ape than a dog like Vera had suggested. Taking a step bag, Mercy eyed her creation with a slight smile.

"Dog. Wake up." The Builder Bunny commanded, causing the creation to start moving every so slowly, its joint squeeking as they moved for the first time.

"Well Sissy V? What do you think?" Mercy asked, looking at the mammoth creation as it picked up the BAR and looked it over.

The Junkyard.

It was love at first sight for Vera as soon as she saw the new robot that the Brilliant Bruiser Bunny had made. Vera flew right at it and nuzzled its 'eye'. To her surprise, it nuzzled her back. Which made Vera giggle.

"He's amazing Mer-Mer!" she said, as she tackle-nuzzled her little sister. And then, after letting her get back up, "But... I think 'dog' sounds a little cold. And well... kinda reminds me of a crazed super-mutant that The Courier told me about. Not exactly a bad guy but... not someone you'd want to meet in a dark alleyway. I think he needs a name... how about... Mr. Buttons!"

Vera practically squeaked her suggested name for the robot. The thing 'barked' and nodded appreciatively. Then he nuzzled Vera again.

"Hee-hee. I think he likes that name. Mr. Buttons it is then!" Vera said. And, because she couldn't resist... Vera attracted a small piece of metal to her, then repulsed it a good distance further into the junkyard. "Fetch Mr. Buttons!"

Mr. Buttons put down the BAR and ran after the bit of metal. He came back a few minutes later and set it down in front of his eyebot friend, panting and bobbing his frame back and forth slightly as if to mimic breathing quickly. Vera nuzzled him again, "Good boy Mr. Buttons!"

Vera turned back to Mercy. "Well... what do you think? Do you think he's ready?"

blade6441:
Snip

_________________

Cheyton Scrapyard:

"Well... what do you think? Do you think he's ready?"

The Builder Bunny nodded, a small smile creeping onto her soot and grime covered face as she did one last check on all of Mister Buttons' systems and personality core, making sure that he would do everything in his power to make sure that Tessa was safe. As she examined the robot guard dog, Vera's words about the Bladed Bunny's suicidal run against the Knuckleheads came back in her mind.

Did the sudden appearance of Mercy and Vera cause something to become unhinged in Tessa's mind? As the Baller Bunny had said, the plan was sound. Get in, execute the Knucklehead Lieutenants quietly and let the Legion mop up the rest. The plan was to send a message to Cheyton that no one was safe if they were going to mess with the Rabbit Sisters.

"I hope we're doing the right thing, Sissy V, leaving Tessa alone while we go off looking for whatever it is that we're going to find in Vault 74." Mer-Mer said, now worried that if their sister were to wake up without them there, that there would be dire rammifications.

Mister Buttons looked good and would function perfectly as a guard for Tessa and as a back up to Victoria. As an after though, the Harrassed Hare added an extra subroutine, one that would ensure that Tessa would be protected from herself if there was any truth to the thoughts of their sister being psychologically unstable.

Turning towards the main project, the Gyrocoptor, Mercy started he work, shoring up the body, the engine, the rotors.

"Hey Vera? Can you do me a favor? Can you please tell me everything's going to be alright?" Mercy asked, her emotions running high from her recent line of thought.

Cheyton Scrapyard. Somehow looking emptier than ever.

"Well... from what I can remember of the last time a... previous version of me," Vera says that last bit with a good deal of discomfort entering her voice... making it sound more like Mercy at her shyest, "encountered him... I don't think Ulysses is one to exaggerate, even if this is almost certainly a trap. Though, I can't say for certain a this point who the trap is for. Might be for us, since he's spent a lot of time pissing us off. But, from what his last radio-message said..."

Vera paused, trying not to remember being hacked. She settled closer to Mercy and nuzzled her gently, as much for her own comfort as for her little sister's.

"It could be a trap for the Legion as well... or maybe they're the focus this time. I don't know. That guy is confusing." the little eyebot paused to consider how best to answer Mercy's concerns, "And yeah, it was a good plan. I... I don't know what Tessa was thinking at the time. But... I guess we'll find out. And whatever it is, I know we can help her snap out of it! And in the meantime, I know Vicky and Mr. Buttons are more than enough to keep our sleeping beauty alive. Plus... it probably helps that we've decimated the Knuckledraggers in the area. And... come to think of it... I don't think we've seen those crazy kids for a while."

Vera hovered around her sister to face her directly, then, she gently bumped the middle of her faceplate to Mercy's forehead... and missed, hitting her nose instead. "Oops! Well... anyway... I think everything will work out in the end Mer-Mer."

For good measure, Vera activated her personalized hologram projection and put a bit more power into it, not enough to burn, hopefully... but enough for Mercy to feel... maybe. She had the hologram bring its hand to Mercy's left cheek, and then kiss her right before Vera was forced to shut the projection off.

"Whatever happens, Mer-Mer... I'll be with you every step of the way."

Cheyton's Magical Scrapyard:

The sensation of her Older Sister's holographic hand touching her was a much needed comfort for the youngest of the Rabbit sisters who found herself more and more second guessing their trek towards Vault 74. She was obviously scared and obviously worried about what would happen if something were to happen to her remaining sister.

"Whatever happens, Mer-Mer... I'll be with you every step of the way." The Rare Flower of a Rabbit said as her hologram shut off.

Nodding, Mercy turned to start working on the vehicle that would get them there. Inspecting the machine, Repairer Rabbit found that the job of making the machine airworthy was quite the daunting task, especially with the amount of time they had. The gyrocoptor's powerful engine, an engine that was designed to keep the machine afloat in the air for long periods of a time, was fine for the most part, as was the wiring that controlled it. The main problem, besides the gyroscopes and the fuselage was the fact that the ancient machine's rotor blades were made of wood, a material not known for maintaining its structural integrity over long periods of time in the open.

New blades could have been fashioned but there was a distinct lack of time in this regard especially in light of the fact that they had to exact in their construction.

Shaking her head at the thought of delaying their trek towards Vault 74 by DAYS, the Builder Bunny thought it best to improvise as best as she could. Looking at the machine, Mercy's mind went to work as it considered that rerouting the vertical lift of the main rotor to a horizontal push would make the machine mobile in much less time than crafting a new set of main rotors.

They weren't going to be airborne in a Gyrocoptor, but they were going to be mobile in a fan driver car.

"Alright Sissy V. Let's get to work. I'd like to see Tess before we go."

The Fan-fucking-tastic Scrapyard

Vera lowered herself so that Mercy could sit on top of her.

"Hop on!" she said excitedly. She really wanted to cheer Mercy up, and a fun, fast ride through town seemed like a good try at least.

Several minutes later...

At the Followers' Camp

"Okay... maybe that ride was a mistake..." Vera coughed for effect, "My little engines aren't as powerful as I thought they were, whew... I'm going to have to fuel up after that one."

Vera stared at the flap of the tent leading to where Tessa lay in what, in this day and age, passed for Intensive Care. She kept trying to puzzle out how she could get it open and hold the metal-less flap in place long enough for Mercy to get in. In the end, all Vera could do was silently grumble about not having hands to do that kind of thing with.

Oh well.

The Follower's Home for Imaginary Friends Camp:

The Buggy Bunny found herself grinning from ear to ear from the thrill of the ride on top of Vera, despite the fact that she would have to spend the next week making sure that all of the bugs that smacked her in the face as Vera blasted through the streets of Cheyton were picked out of her teeth.

"Okay... maybe that ride was a mistake..." Blazing Fast Bunny coughed for effect, "My little engines aren't as powerful as I thought they were, whew... I'm going to have to fuel up after that one."

"Thanks Sissy V. That was really run though." Mercy said, still unable to wipe the grin off of her face, at least until they reach the tent where the Followers were keeping the Sleeping Beauty of Bunnies until she woke from her coma. Nodding to Vera and taking a deep breath, Mercy flipped open the tent flap, her sudden entrance causing the Black Bunny to stand up suddenly, forgetting the fact that she was in tent that had a short ceiling.

Seeing Mercy, Victoria McGee prepared herself for another well deserved tongue lashing from the Youngest of the Rabbit Sisters. Self flagellation was a trait that she had learned well from her Uncle when he described the time that he had sacrificed himself in order to avoid blowing his team's cover and to atone for killing his own brother.

"It's alright, I'm not here to kill you or yell at you --- I'm just here to see my sister." Mercy said as she sat down next to Tess-Tess and placed a hand on her sister's hand, careful not to disturb the I.V. lines that were feeding much needed medication into the Eldest Rabbit Sister's body.

It took a moment, but Mercy finally spoke:

"Hey big sis. I found that Holotape that you had tucked away, the one about Vault 74. I think that we're going to find something that'll help us fix you up, God knows I can't. So Vera and me, we're going to go there and find whatever it is that going to make you right as rain, okay? But - but I need you to hold on and hang in there. You need to rest and build your strength up. Vera and I - we'll be okay, so don't you worry your head. I just want you to know how thankful I am for having met one of the best sisters that anyone could have ever had but I swear that if you die on me, I'm going to invent something to bring you back to life just so I can slap you."

There was a bit of a nervous laugh at the end, Mercy not wanting to even consider the fact that the Follower Doctors had said that Tessa, even if she survived the trauma to her body, would never be the same again. Turning to her Bunny Ball of a sister, Mercy motioned with her head that it was time to go.

"Take care of her Vicky." Mercy said, choking back the Mini-Nuke sized lump in her throat, trying to shake the feeling that it would be quite a while before she and Vera would see the their sister again.


Cheyton Scrapyard: Time to go! BLAST OFF!!!!

The trudge back to the Cheyton Scrapyard was uneventful, depressingly so but still the two had to be thankful that they didn't run into any of the Knucklehead Remnants or the Khans that they had run into the other day.

The refurbished vehicle was right were they had left it, looking shiny as the day it had been repurposed by a determined Repairer Rabbit.

"Alright Sissy V! You ready to go?" Mercy asked in as chipper a voice as she could muster as she started the checking the various gauges that were built into the once-gyrocopter, now fan car. If Vera responded, the Bewildered Bunny didn't hear it at all once the engines started up and the fan started spinning and the structural integrity of the fan's supports started failing and the fan housing started buckling and the whole fan housing decided to take flight, launching off into the air as Mercy, so distracted by her feelings had forgotten to check if she had mounted the propeller in the right direction.

"CRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAP!!!!" The In-Need-of-a-Soap-Bar-in-her-mouth Hare cursed as she watched the part that made the fan driven car a fan driven car fly several hundred feet behind them and explode. They had just lost their only means of transportation and they hadn't even left Cheyton yet.

"I guess we're gonna have to walk." The Beleaguered Bunny muttered crankily as she swore to herself that she would never touch another piece of Pre-Pre-Pre-Pre-War technology again. It was going to be a very long day and a very long trip, at least it seemed that way until they heard the jingle-jangle-jingle of a Brahmin Bell.

The journey to vault 74: Day 1.
Jesse had a relatively uneventful walk through the Wyoming wastes.
A handful of raiders using tribal weapons with odd tattoos were the only trouble he encountered.
Their weapons were no match for Wight armor, and did nothing more than scratch the rather nice white paint-job.
They ended up paying the appropriate price for messing up his armor though; horrible radioactive death.
Jesse stood over their corpses. The radiation was pleasantly warm.
As degenerate uncivilized tribal smoothskins they had nothing of note on them, but they did have food on them.
Jesse wouldn't have to dip into his radroach meat. Most people hated the taste of radroach meat. Jesse found it to be a fine acquired taste. There's very little Jesse couldn't eat. Before the war, the only thing Jesse couldn't eat was coconut. Nobody has had coconut in 220 years, so it suited Jesse fine.
The odd meat they had on them tasted fine. It wasn't human flesh. It was probably some local wildlife Jesse hadn't encountered.
Jesse resumed his walk. He hadn't slept in quite a while. He was starting to feel tired. Some ghouls didn't get tired or need to sleep. Some felt tired when they didn't sleep but didn't suffer adverse effects from not sleeping. Some had normal smoothskin sleeping requirements. It seemed completely arbitrary as to what sleeping rules ghouls had to follow. Jesse couldn't find a pattern in his research.
Jesse fell into the second camp. He was tired, but could theoretically stay awake indefinitely.
He would just have to stay awake...

The Deathclaw had no interest in talking to Joe anymore. It was a simple case of 'You don't matter anymore' unless he was dumb enough to try attacking again. Malkos looked down at the extended hand, then his own clawed man-killer, then the hand again. Finally, he grabbed the entire arm and shook it instead, since a proper hand-grip might've crushed the man's extremities.

"Malkos. Let's go. Anyone who will follow may follow."

This was not open to Joe, obviously. He wasn't a 'follower'. As they left, the Deathclaw made a curious comment.

"You're not being chased by a Gunslinger, are you?"

Martin still being in the shock of meeting a talking deathclaw, followed it.
"You're not being chased by a Gunslinger, are you?"
"As far as I know, I'm not... Why do you ask?"


Later...

As the pair were walking, night came. Martin spied a fire in the distance, a camp around it.
He pulled the rifle off his back and looked through the scope.
Raiders... in the center a flag barely illuminated.
More raiders seemed to be popping up every day now.
The flag though made him curious. Seemed to be red, though that could just be the light.

"Wait here for a second." He sprinted ahead until he figured he was entering a point where they'd spot him.
He went prone and began picking targets, twelve of them, then he saw the flag for what it was.
The bull. The Legion. Murderers, Rapists, Thieves, and Terrorists.
He'd burn them, he'd watch them die and he'd feel proud.
He'd loose a demon of the wastes upon them if he could.
He'd do to them what they did to the men he would have called family.
He stood and walked back to the deathclaw.

"Murderers ahead, I'm ending them. I'd appreciate it if you helped."

He turned back towards the camp and began walking back to the position he decided upon.

Vera let out a last salvo of arcing electricity at the poor coyote. The eyebot couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor thing, but Mercy needed to eat sometime. Vera would've preferred a less painful method of killing it, but with her plasma pistol, there was always a chance that it would just end up a stinky pile 'o goo.

So yeah... animal cruelty by necessity.

Once the coyote stopped screaming, Vera lowered herself to the ground, and started pushing it back towards her and Mercy's temporary camp.

Almost an hour later...

"Hey Mer-Mer!" she called out, "I brought dinner! Umm... you might want to put it out of its misery. All I could do was knock it out... painfully."

Vera let out a guilty series of clicks and whirs.

The Not-So-Builder Bunny's head perked from the depths of a kinda-sorta-not-really-at-all pitched tent at the sound of Vera's voice. While Vera had gone off to hunt for game, Mercy had been stuck setting up camp, a task that would have been easy had her father ever let her help him setup camp when he had taken her on his runs to New Vegas.

The camp would have looked great, if the random observer happened to be blind or at the very least legally blind. The brahmin that had carried Mercy and Vera through the day was tied to a nearly dead tree on the North side of the camp. The partially pitched yellow and purple tent stood on the West side of the camp next to the Camp Fire, which was in the process of billowing smoke towards the tent due to the wind that blew in from the East.

"Okay V! Give me a second!" The Tangled Hare responded as she attempted to get herself loose from the tent's bear hug, finally managing to roll out of its canvas walls after a minute of struggling.

Meandering over to where Sissy V floated, Mercy took a look at the Coyote that she was supposed to kill. Looking at the unconscious Coyote, Mercy pulled out one of Tessa's Bowie Knives.

"Sorry little guy." Mercy said as she placed the tip of the blade against the back of the Coyote's neck, intent on severing the canine's spinal cord. The Coyote's eyes opened slowly, reflecting the light of the camp fire and Mercy in its eyes.


The Camp was starting to look much better now that Mercy had had more time and Vera's help. On the West of the camp was the camp fire, billowing smoke away from the Tent set up on the East side of the camp. To the North, the Brahmin stood, tied to a nearly dead tree, one of the heads eyeing its companion, tied to the same tree, suspiciously since it so happened that Coyotes weren't exactly known to be herbivores.

"You know, I don't know why I didn't try this sooner." Mercy said as she pulled a metal rod out of the camp fire, a piece of Cram sizzling from the heat of the fire.

Vera tried to hide a jealous sigh as Mercy ate. Not for the first time, the little eyebot dearly wished that her 'father' had thought to be more selective in the memories that he had given her. If he had, her metaphorical mouth might not be watering right now.

And she probably wouldn't be finding the trouble Mercy was having with keeping the tent from collapsing on itself cute. Probably.

Vera rolled herself next to Mercy, struggled to find something to say, but eventually gave up. She settled on humming on a gentle tune.

The Astro-Bunny smiled a little when she heard her sister's electronic hum as she laid on a bed roll that she had left outside of the tent. As was Rabbit custom when camped out in the middle of nowhere, away from the lights of settlements, Mercy was looking up at the stars looking at the various constellations in the sky. Feeling a bit silly, she imagined an Enclave Colony on the moon, plotting to descend on the Earth one day.

It was that little spark of silliness that made her forget herself and remember the game that she and her father used to play.

"Dad always told me that I was too smart for my own good." The Reminiscent Rabbit said quietly as not to drown out Vera's humming, "So we started playing this game so that he could dumb me down where he would point to a constellation and make up his own name for it."

Pointing towards Orion, the Silly Wabbit's smile grew a little brighter.

"My dad used to call that Elmer. He said that Elmer was a great hunter of Rabbits and if I didn't behave and eat my vegetables, Elmer would come down from the sky with his double barrel shotgun."

It was a dumb bit of nostalgia but it got Mercy thinking that she never had really asked questions about her older sister's past.

"Did you and your dad ever play games like that?"

"No, my dad was more a fan of shotgun tag," she said in a cheerful tone that Vera hoped would disguise her bitterness.

Vera paused for a moment, and then spoke up in a louder and more cheerful voice, "But your dad's game sounds a lot more fun! Do you want to play it now?"

The thought to playing the game made Mercy nod enthusiastically as she pointed towards the Big Dipper (Ursa Major).

"I'm calling that one the Vera." The Happy Hare said as she connected the four points of the Dipper's corners into Vera's spherical body and turned the Dipper's handle into her Stellar Sister's zapper.

Vera squealed happily before she could stop herself.

"Heh. Sorry." she said before gazing at the stars herself. After a few minutes of searching, she spoke up again, "Umm... that one," she tried to swivel one of her antennae towards Aquila, the eagle. "I'm going to call that one Mer-Mer. Because there's no where you can't go, and nothing you can't do if you put your amazing, brilliant mind to it."

Vera floated up to Mercy's face and nuzzled it gently for several moments before settling down again.

The sensation of Vera's metal whiskers on Mercy's face caused her to giggle quite a bit as the metal spines ran gently across her face. Despite everything that had happened, the Happy Hare was glad that she still had someone who truly cared about her and her feelings.

Propping herself up on her elbows, Mercy looked at Vera square in the face plate with a smile before planting a kiss where Vera's lips would have been.

"Love you Sissy V." The now Bashful Bunny said as she pointed up towards another of the constellations, Gemini.

"Hey that's us!"

Vera whirred at that idea, bouncing up and down in the air excitedly.

"Yeah!" she scanned the sky quickly, "And... over there, that rabbit! That's our Bladed Bunny! And next to it... umm..."

She pointed at Orion.

"That's... that's that man." she said, her voice going quiet, "And that..."

She indicated Taurus, the bull.

"Never mind."

Vera tried to distract Mercy by turning on her hologram again, and tried to get it to gently kiss Mercy on the lips.

To their mutual surprise, Vera's hologram didn't burn or even singe the now Wide Eyed Wabbit, instead Mercy felt a ghostly set of lips pressed against hers. It was a tricky thing as Mercy needed to sit exactly still in the right position to maintain the sensation, the feeling lost if she moved even a fraction of a centimeter out of position, passing through the Holographic field. But even though the sensation of the phantom kiss came and went, it was there for a moment.

The high pitched whirring of the holographic projector powering down clued Mercy Rabbit that the moment was over and she could open her eyes again.

"I - um - WOW!" The Bombastic Bunny exclaimed, though the notion that she had just kissed someone that she considered a sister in that manner would churn about in her mind later, she was happy for a moment.

"Vera, that - that - thatwasamazing!" Mercy continued as she settled back onto the bedroll with her eyes looking up to the stars, searching for another constellation with a smile on her lips.

Vera settled down next to Mercy and hummed a happy little tune. Not even remembering to be embarrassed for a while.

Yellowstone.

The Courier of the East planted Old Glory into the ground in front of him and leaned on it as he gazed at the stars. After what seemed like a couple hours of standing in one place, Ulysses seemed to address a ghost.

"Orion's on the hunt again, my dear," he said, glancing down at no one, "What is he hunting? Good question... good question."

Ulysses rubbed his chin.

"Lepus, or Taurus? I wonder... Do I..." the old scout left the question hanging, and sighed as he remembered that he was alone. He turned to face the crater.

Strangely, there was no smell to the place. One would think there would be, considering the super-volcano had gone off, but... it was a bit different from its ring-of-fire brethren. Just a lot of broken earth and stone. And at the center of it all, a thin billow of steam served as the only reminder of what this place used to be: a loaded gun itching to be fired.

This place used to have a forest. Also used to have its own tourism office. All of that was long gone now. Not even a trace remained. As though nature itself wanted to take part in the War.

Ulysses descended the crater towards the last remaining bastion of the Old World left in the area: the massive door of a Vault.

*Drip - Drip - Drip - Drip*

Victoria watched each of the droplets that fell from the hand towel impact the surface of the water contained in the bowl that rested on her lap before turning back to Tessa once again, wiping away the beads of sweat that had formed on the slumbering Rabbit princess' brow.

The fever that had overtaken Tessa had come in the night, quickly and aggressively, as if it sought to steal her away like a cutthroat in a darkened alley. The only thing that kept the infection at bay seemed to be Vicky's sheer force of will and the expensive medicines that she had purchased when the Follower Doctors informed her that Tessa's wounds had become infected.

Making sure that her dearest thief had been properly cleaned, Vicky stepped out into the Cheyton sun, seeing the Robotic Mister Buttons standing guard nearby.

The Undertaker watched as a boy, no older than nine by the looks of him, made the mistake of wandering too close to Tessa's tent, Receiving a growl of warning from the massive robot guard.

"Hey! Easy there." Vicky hollered, walking briskly towards Mister Buttons and placing herself between the boy and the robot.

"Not everyone who isn't me is a danger." Victoria said a bit more softly to the only companion she had left in the city.

Mr. Buttons retreated away from Vicky, turning his eye around in his best approximation of the 'puppy-eyed stare', and gave a digital whine.

Then Tessa coughed. Her eyes seem to flutter for a moment, and then she was back to her coma.

The cough was a hopeful sign that caused the Black Swan of the Twisted Hares to rush back into the tent, only to find disappointment. She had hoped that maybe it was a sign that perhaps Tessa had recovered.

"Doctor!" The dark haired woman called out before she had bothered to check Tessa, hoping that even though Tessa was still unconscious, the cough was a sign.

The Best Doctor Money could buy in Cheyton went by the name of Doctor Abode and he entered the tent atop what could only be described as an all-terrain wheelchair.

"No. She's not out of her coma yet. But at least we know it's not lupus." The Doctor said before leaving.

"No kidding Sherlock." Vicky hissed before leaving the tent once again. It had been a long day and Vicky was in need of a bath.

Mr. Buttons looked back at the tent, then at Vicky. He repeated this process several times before Dr. Adobe called out to him.

"It's okay, I think we'll be fine for now. Don't worry, I'll blow the whistle at the first sign of trouble, okay?"

Mr. Buttons nodded, and started tumbling after Vicky.

It's said that an Undertaker never procrastinates, they bide their time, waiting patiently for whatever it is that they're waiting for to happen. Right.

When Mister Buttons finally caught up with the Darkly Dressed Undertaker, she was in the middle of a procrastination session of the likes of which very few had ever seen. In Vicky's case, Mister Buttons found her in the middle of a shopping spree, picking up flowers and decorations and knickknacks of all sorts that would liven up the depressingly lonely Rabbit Hole when what she should have been doing was going back to the Rabbit Hole, taken a bath and a nap before heading back to tend to Tessa.

As the Undertaker waded through the crowds, Mister Buttons caught sight of a grubby hand reaching out and snatching Vicky's bag of caps.

Mr. Buttons let out a digital warning 'bark', and when the stupid thief responded by running away, the giant robotic dog lunged at the idiot, pinning him to the ground. Mr. Buttons 'growled' at him while he waited for Vicky to tell him what to do with the moron.

Victoria stood in the midst of the crowd silently, a ring having formed around The Black Dressed Undertaker, Mister Buttons and the would-be pickpocket. Had the dark haired Black Swan not been lost in losing herself, she wouldn't have become such easy prey to the hooded cut purse that lay pinned underneath one of the Robo-Dog's "paws."

Regaining a bit of her composure, Vicky strode forward with a false facade of dignity before pulling the hood off of the little thief.

After a moment of staring at the face of the pickpocket, Undertaker Victoria McGee went to one of the food vendors and picked out an extra helping of Brahmin Steaks.

"Bring her with us, Mister Buttons." Vicky said, motioning at the 12 year old girl that was pinned under his hand.


The Rabbit Hole was no longer the cheery home that is had once been when it had been lived in by the Rabbit Family. All the luster, the shininess that Vicky had once seen inside that interior was gone the second Tessa had been hospitalized.

Opening to once magnetized door, Vicky passed through the threshold and placed her purchases on the living room table before turning to wait for Mister Buttons and their guest, a slight smile creasing the darkened lips of the Undertaker as she watched Mister Buttons try to figure out how to enter a door that was clearly too small for him.

The girl, who had been following silently up to this point let out a quiet squeak as if she had tried to speak, but immediately shut herself up. She still nervously followed along, but she just couldn't relax... at all. Her gaze kept switching between a knife she spotted very close to where Vicky had decided to sit down, and Mr. Buttons poking his head into the room through a nearby window.

"Umm..." the little waif said, whose hair was almost identical to Tessa's, except it was simply allowed to hang loose. "I... sorry..."

The girl tried to stare at her feet to avoid having to see the sadistic anger she expected to see in her new captor, and... whatever the hell was going on with the frickin' robot.

The little sneak-thief wasn't the only one that had noticed Mister Button's behavior as he continued to loudly seek various ways to enter the small home by knocking over a large abandoned pile of scrap, rousting cats from their hiding spots and making a noisy nuisance of himself.

"This just won't do." Vicky muttered to herself as she picked up a small acetylene torch and a pair of dark glasses from Mercy's old workbench, causing the girl to cringe in a fear as the Undertaker ignited the torch, the jet of flame burning so hot that it seemed invisible to the naked eye.

Cutting a large door around the already existing door was a simple enough matter and soon, Mister Buttons found himself hunched over inside the Rabbit Abode.

Sitting herself back down, The Darkly Dressed Woman stared at the girl as she opened up her bag of purchased groceries and tossed the child pickpocket a hunk of dried brahmin.

"So what's your name?" Undertaker McGee asked, watching as the girl attempted to ram an entire meal's worth of the dried meat into her mouth.

"Ph'nny Angne." Skinny Anne managed to say with only a minimal amount of mouth space available for speaking. Despite the self inflicted speech impediment, Victoria was able to understand what the girl said, some of her clientele suffering from even worse speech issues than what the aptly named Skinny Anne was suffering from.

"Do you know who I am?" The Black Swan asked in her most "it's time we had a serious talk" tone of voice, receiving only a head shake in response.

"Vicky, Vicky M-- Truant." Victoria said using the family name of the man that had always been like a father to her. The last thing she wanted to do was scare the young girl with the truth of what Victoria really was.

"And now since you've been caught trying to steal from me, you have two options. You can either deal with the local authorities, which means you'll probably end up in a child offender camp, or you can stay here and help around the home." The Dark Haired Beauty said as she looked at Skinny Anne waiting for a response before adding.

"In either case we'll have to talk with your parents."

Mr. Buttons carefully stumbled into the room through the new door before Skinny Anne could respond. She swallowed the throat-stretching bit of Brahmin steak before even trying. She barely managed to swallow without gagging or spitting anything up.

"They..." she began, dropping her fork on the table, and seeming to be trying to disappear into her chair, "They're not around..."

As the flesh over bones girl responded, The Undertaker made another mental check mark that brought tally up to 3.

1. The girl had a resemblance to Tessa.
2. The girl was a thief, albeit a bad one but still a thief.
3. The girl was an orphan.

"I need to take a bath. Make yourself at home while I decide what to do with you." The Black Swan of the Twisted Hares said as she stood up and walked towards the lone bathroom in the back.

"Mister Buttons, if you could make sure that our Skinny Anne doesn't take off with any of the valuables, that would be fantastic." She added before disappearing into the bathroom, the door closing with an audible click, followed by the sound of running water.

Victoria needed time to think and to grieve. Settling into the steaming water, she hummed a short tune to herself hoping that somehow Tessa would hear it.

Mr. Buttons brought one of his 'paws' to his 'eye' in a really strange sort of clawed salute. And not two minutes later...

Skinny Anne finished her steak and started poking around in Mercy's bedroom. Mr. Buttons followed her, and gave a warning bark.

"I'm not going to take anything," she said, holding her arms out in front of her in a placating gesture, "I just want to borrow a blanket... I'm... kind of cold."

She shivered right on cue. Mr. Buttons narrowed his eye at her for a moment before gently laying a 'paw' on her shoulder and letting her get one. She found a plain, thin blue blanket and wrapped it around her.

She then went into Tessa's/Vicky's room, and found a few interesting documents. Both of which had locks on them. Neither of which gave her too much trouble. Well, it took her about ten minutes to unlock them, and since Mr. Button's ability to recognize something as valuable was limited to 'ooh, shiny!'... he made no move to stop Skinny Anne from rifling through Vicky's and Tessa's secrets.

Anne started to read Tessa's journal, but after getting frustrated with her for constantly pushing others away, even before they started dying on her... well, she turned to the other book.

To her surprise it had nothing whatsoever to do with Vicky. What it did entail... was much, much worse. And as she read, the shadows in the room seemed to get darker, much, much darker... and the hallway behind her seemed to get much longer... much, much longer.

As Skinny Anne was toying with forces that she had no understanding of, Victoria felt the hairs on back of her neck stand on end and a shiver crawl up her spine despite the warmth of the water that enveloped her. She knew that feeling intimately and knew that she wanted to avoid its source at all costs.

*SPLISH!*

The sound of sloshed bathwater hitting the ground reverberated in the small bathroom and despite the terror that she felt, she couldn't will herself to move any faster.

Stepping over the edge of the tub, she misjudged the slipperiness of the floor and pitched forward, breaking through the door and sprawling out on the floor, dazed, wet and naked.

"Anne?! What've you done?!"

Turning to see the naked Black Swan, Anne threw her borrowed blanket at her while averting her eyes, wishing to be spared any further experience with 'seeing-a-naked-lady-old-enough-to-be-my-mom syndrome'. (at least, Anne thought Vicky was around the right age)

"Christ!" she raised her voice, still keeping her eyes averted, "Put something on right now! I DID NOT need to see all of that!"

Before anyone could do anything else, a man in a plain and untorn suit walked into the room.

"Good evening, ladies," he said, a wry grin spreading across his... face, "It has been a long time, hasn't it, mY dear? And who is this? Made a new one already? My mY... time does FlY doesn't it?"

The Editor turned his head to the side as if puzzled by something, and ran his fingers along the surface of a nearby wall, or rather, a shadow on the wall.

"But," he continued after a moment of feeling up the scenery, "I, and I do stress, i, did not come here to pester you..."

The instant he said that, the shadows returned to normal and the room's proportions seemed to be back to what they should be... and it seemed a little warmer now as well.

"I simply came to... check in on you... see how you were coping with your loss," his voice shifted very slightly from its usual officious yet mocking tone, into something slightly more sympathetic. Or well... what you would get if a raven had learned how to talk and was trying to pretend to sympathize with you. You know, before it tried to eat your eyeballs as you lay dying. "I was genuinely saddened when your dear Tessa was... incapacitated..."

Before he could say anything else he was interrupted...

Victoria would have loved nothing more than to unload a magazine's worth of bullets into the Abomination, knowing full well that all she would be doing is making holes in the wall after the bullets passed through the insubstantial figure that stood before her and Skinny Anne.

"(Anne!)" The Tall and Clad in naught but a blanket remembered as she wondered how it was that she was going to explain the situation to the child in the room.

"Thank you for your condolence - uh - Uncle ELijah you really should not have come all this way, a letter would have sufficed." Vicky said in a best formal yet cheery voice possible under the circumstances.

"T-Tessa's under the best care that's available in Cheyton." She added as she looked at the Editor, internally pleading that her ruse work and her dark and unwelcome visitor would for once follow through with what he told her for so long, not made himself a pest.

"Oh don't fret," he began, sensing her bitter nervousness, "I simply came here to appraise you of a situation you are deeply invested in. One that you seem to have cast all of your chips into."

If his smile grew any wider it would spill off the confines of his face. Which, considering who, or rather, what Anne and Vicky were dealing with was not out of the question.

"That charming boy-toy of yours," The Editor continued, as if he were talking about the weather, "That... Ulysses... he has made it to his precious crater, and your lover's... friends are not far behind. But then, neither is The Legion, I expect."

He chuckled, then he knelt down next to the littlest thief.

"Hello sweetheart," he said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Anne, isn't it? Do you like my... niece's new home? Did you know that it belongs to her girlfriend? Did you know that she is a thief just like you?"

Unnerving the poor girl a little, The Editor stood up again.

"Don't take it out on her," he said, turning back towards Vicky, "Curiosity is hardly a sin, my dear. She just wants to know more about her new home. Surely you of all people can understand that."

He vanished.

Skinny Anne stared up at Victoria and gulped, ready for the shit storm to hit her any second now.

Grabbing the manuscript out of the little girl's trembling hands, Victoria silently placed it on a high shelf that would hopefully be out of reach of the girl, at least until she got a little older, before grabbing a bottle of what passed for vodka in Wyoming and settling into a dilapidated chair.

"Clearly we're going to have to work on your babysitting skills." Vicky said, aiming her ire at Mister Buttons rather than the mini-Tessa look-a-like, causing the robo-dog to look somewhat distraught at being blamed for something that was clearly the little girl's fault. If there was ever a point in which a rivalry between a girl and a robot was to start, now would have been a watershed moment for such an occurrence.

Picking up Tessa's journal, the still barely covered Undertaker took a moment to read one of the entries before closing the book and taking a look drink directly from the bottle.

"So, Skinny Anne, what have you decided? Are you going to stay here or should we go to the local sheriff's office?" Victoria asked, using the threat of the local Child Internment Camps to diffuse the situation regarding the appearance of her visitor.

"I'll stay here!" she said quickly, afraid the offer would vanish in a few seconds. Then Skinny Anne hugged Vicky, and quietly sobbed for a moment before regaining her composure.

While they were busy, The Editor appeared, and flipped Old Man Z's manuscript to a passage very late into it. One that Vicky had only skimmed through before. Then he disappeared again.

Flashing a comforting smile at Victoria's new housemate, the Tall and Darkly Dressed woman stood and started getting dressed.

"I have to go back to the Follower's Camp for a while. While I'm gone, why don't you make yourself at home and if you have anything that you want to move in, Mister Buttons will be more than willing to help you, I'm sure." Vicky said as she picked up her Umbrella and placed her veiled hat upon her head, giving Mister Buttons a look that said "Yes, you will be helping the girl who tried to pickpocket me move into our home."

Pulling out her pouch of Caps, the Undertaker counted out enough for the little girl to grab any extras that she might need from the Market.

"I'll be back in a while so don't get into any trouble, okay>" The Black Swan added as she opened the door and vanished into the world outside.

As the door closed with loudly, Old Man Z's manuscript tumbled off of the high shelf and onto the bed, still open on the passage that the Editor had left.

Not really having anything to move in aside what she had on her, Skinny Anne struggled to come up with another way to distract her half-ton babysitter. Then she remembered that there was at least one person in this berg that genuinely worried about her. Mrs. Brisby, an old widow on the other side of the marketplace.

Skinny Anne quickly found a piece of paper and a pencil, and wrote up a quick, but heartfelt note for Mrs. Brisby. She then handed it to her new robotic warden guardian and tearfully asked him to deliver it. Without so much as a nod, he bounded off to find Mrs. Brisby.

Deciding that she wouldn't have enough time to actually read the manuscript, Anne decided to simply pick it up and hide it somewhere clever... she just hid it underneath what looked to become her own bed in this house.

Anne sat on the couch and started to take a nap just as Mr. Buttons returned.

[OOC: Yeah, I'm alive.]

Before...

"Err, nevermind..."

Yeah, the Deathclaw reads the Dark Tower. What of it?

After...

So, the night had come and, with it, a subtle blending of Malkos' gray body into the dark. Of course, the human was close enough that this hardly mattered. For the time being, he had been walking along a Deathclaw close enough to pick up sound and smell. The rough breathing sounds through the nose, the slightly-greater-than-normal thump of feet upon the ground, and of course the smell of the outdoors place dried blood. Malkos was mostly better now, the rest of the bullets out of him. He spied the fire as Martin did, glaring eyes narrowing in scrutiny. There was something about it...

"Wait here for a second."

The Deathclaw gave him a look with might've been a slight throaty rumble, but said nothing. He wanted to sneak in? Strange fellow, passing up the use of a natural camouflage such as his own. Ah well. Malkos shrugged, then waited to see if he got himself in trouble. Impressively, he did not, though it was probably due to the poor eyesight of human beings. Once he returned...

"Murderers ahead, I'm ending them. I'd appreciate it if you helped."

The man turned to go back to his spot, the place in which he had found out whatever he needed to know about them. He suddenly found that his shoulder wasn't moving. The Deathclaw had reached out to essentially helt him in mid-stride, in order to walk past him.

"Stealth is my game too. I want to get into position first. Your shot is the signal."

Looks like he didn't have any objections. Or rather, what he objected to was that he should wait. Malkos got down on all fours after only a few steps, and then he got lower, practically hugging the landscape and moving along it with a certain amount of rhythm. There was much less sound than there had been before. No thump of heavy footpads, nor scrape of his body against ground, because he had found the medium between getting around fast enough and not being loud and obvious about it. A little ways into the darkness and Martin wouldn't even know where he was without some night vision goggles or something. Of course, the Khans from earlier had seen his eyes, but Malkos wasn't going to look directly at the campsite this time.

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