Tools of the Trade
By Ted Brenalvirez
I do not own any of the content within this book, or any images, characters or otherwise. Fallout is a registered trademark owned solely by Bethesda. This book’s protagonist is based on a character I created in Fallout 3 and perpetuated into Fallout: New Vegas, namely a “very good” Karma character aligned with NCR. This book is intended primarily for persons familiar with the Fallout universe. If someone is not properly inducted into the world of Fallout, the should consult the wiki for it, at http://fallout.wikia.com/ Oh wait, if you're reading this, you probably ARE on the wiki.
THIS BOOK IS BASED ON A GAME RATED “M” BY THE ESRB Any similarities between persons real or fictional within this book are probably intentional. The author owns pretty much nothing, so don’t bother suing. Seriously, are you so desperate to kill time that you’re actually reading this section? Jeez. Well sit back and enjoy the show, book, blog, story thingy.
- Aaron Kimball was tense. Caesar’s Legion had finally begun raiding settlements across the Colorado River, and word had just reached him about the staging area set up by the Legion at Cottonwood Cove. It was only a matter of time before this disturbing intelligence update reached New California Republic civilians. As a military man himself, Kimball was aware of the threat the Legion posed to his imperialistic ambitions. Even worse, news had reached that contact had been established with the Capital Wasteland, with a powerful fledgling democracy defended by the Brotherhood of Steel, and Vertibirds being proliferated by the tens of thousands among various factions.
- The Midwest was untamed and the NCR was still trying to gain control of the last uncontrolled oasis of civilization in the still hectic west. The Mojave Wasteland was the only area of Nevada uncontrolled by the NCR, with Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, California, and Washington under the NCR flag, but with varying levels of control. Kimball had yearned to be the President who presided over the largest territorial gain in NCR history, and though his desire was fulfilled, troops were stretched too thin, and—
- “Mr. President!” The President’s personal secretary interrupted his train of thought. “Damn it,” he muttered “What now!?”. The secretary, momentarily taken aback by this outburst, quickly recomposed himself. “You should read this sir. The Brotherhood’s Capital Wasteland contingent just made contact with us, and they want to set up formal relations. ” Barely believing this, President Kimball read the twenty-or-so page message. Stating a separation from the west coast BoS, they had a vastly different approach to things, acting as a peacekeeping force fostering democracy, rather than the insular, semi-religious order devoted to hoarding technology that the Core Region (as the heart of NCR territory was commonly known) was familiar with. They offered technology, advisors, and equipment to the Republic. Kimball called his Office of Science and Industry liaison in.
- “Sir” The OSI liaison began, looking every bit the eccentric scientist he was, polishing his round glasses, and then his badge, rather absentmindedly. “You called?” President Kimball nodded for him to sit. “How did this cable reach us, what do these numbers at the header mean?” he asked. The advisor paused, feeling a bit like a mere intern. “It seems to have been relayed from the ruins of the Pentagon to a relay station west of the Mariposa military base, which is what the numbers indicate” the liaison replied. “Can I have links established to various locations, like this building?” Kimball queried. “Yes” was the reply, and almost immediately Kimball ordered links to bases, governors, and diplomats, with many of the diplomatic positions decided on the spot.
- A few weeks later, regular communications and relations had been established, and as word spread it improved morale among the troops and his approval rating increased by almost double digits. Convoys arrived by air and land, and by reverse engineering the technology on the Highwayman car used by the Chosen One, cars began to run, using the varieties of energy weapons ammunition as fuel. This technology was difficult to implement in most vehicles however, and was limited to military, governmental, and public use. Things had turned around, but there was still the vast army of Caesar’s Legion amassing on the east side of the Colorado river, in particular the reclaimed but contested Hoover Dam.
- Kimball, always focusing on the Mojave and New Vegas, knew that even if he diverted all the reserves he reasonably could to counter the Legion threat, the NCR was still vastly outnumbered by the technologically inferior Roman-inspired force. They dressed, fought, and even partly spoke like the Roman Empire often mentioned in books printed before the bombs fell. Of course, when Caesar claimed that the world had been cleansed by a fire set by Mars, of whom he was supposedly the son, and that it had been set because man had become too weak from overuse of technology who would dare contest that claim? All of them were killed as blasphemers, and the only other Legionairre who knew, former Legate and co-founder Joshua Graham, was covered in pitch, set ablaze and cast into the Grand Canyon when he led Legion forces to defeat at the Battle of Hoover Dam. Besides, what illiterate tribal would be the one to realize he wasn’t the original Caesar?
- About a week later, with the situation in the Mojave seeming increasingly hopeless, Aaron Kimball sent a desperate request to the East Coast BoS for military assistance to combat the Legion threat, complete with a threat assesment. Within the hour, his terminal rang with the sign of a high priority message, an impaled bear carried by pseudo-Roman warriors. He had specifically chosen this picture to remind himself of the responsibility the would-be autocrat carried on his shoulders. He scanned the message hastily, then re-read it to make sure he wasn’t misinterpreting it.
ENCRYPTION CODE: HTMHGEOMA PRIORITY ONE; From: Elder Lyons To: President Aaron Kimball Re: Request for direct military intervention Unfortunately, our forces are tied up in peacekeeping operations, and we cannot spare any significant number of forces. However, our foremost warrior is available, due to the relatively mundane nature of the threats we face now. Attached to this message is a dossier assembled over time. Captain Thompson, Mark; Born: July 13, 2258, Jefferson Memorial basement Recorded kills, human; 1,358 Recorded kills, other; 2,942 An expert at infiltration as well as assault, Captain Thompson has consistently exhibited exemplary performance in battlefields across the East Coast. Capable of cracking all but the most complicated locks, Thompson has obtained intelligence most vital, fought the toughest Super Mutants (Information on all variations of East Coast strain attached), and retrieved the Declaration of Independence from its vault. He exhibits a desire to venture west and liberate Arizona, where his family lived for centuries before and apparently after the bombs dropped. A Presbyterian by birth, he is guided by a profound set of morals that have led him to be called a “White Knight” by his peers in the Brotherhood and by civilians. Despite this, he has been known to use less noble methods when all other, more “noble” options have been exhausted.
Kimball breathed a silent oath. This guy better be goddamn miraculous.
- Mark Thompson boarded his Vertibird with every intention of a new start. He packed light, with just a trench knife, a pistol, and all of his basic first aid equipment. About an hour from the first rest stop in the NCR military controlled ruins of McCarran International Airport, an alarm rang. The extended use of this particular tilt-rotor aircraft had caused one of rotor gearboxes to break. The descent and crash was quick, and Mark Thompson got the new beginning he wanted.
- Six months passed for him, the first was working as a Courier, getting his body back into shape. That didn’t last long. Carrying a package for Mr. House, he was mugged, shot in the head and buried alive. A robot carried him to a nearby town, were he was patched up. He got revenge on the man that supposedly killed him, and delivered the package, a platinum chip, to its rightful owner. As he adventured, he grew stronger, recovered his memory, and amassed resources, eventually killing Mr. House, and strengthening the NCR’s foothold in the Mojave.
- But that’s just the background story, the story so far for the Lone Wanderer, now the Courier. The real story starts now.
1. Loaded for Bear
Thursday, January 19, 2282. 0200 hours.
He looked just like any other NCR soldier. He was wearing a khaki brown tunic, with a plate of metal covered in leather and emblazoned with the NCR symbol on his chest, pants made of a similar cloth-like material to the tunic, leather boots made from either Brahmin or gecko hide, and leather gloves cut off at the fingers. His face was covered in a wrap, or more accurately, a collar of the same cloth as the rest of the outfit, and he wore a Pith helmet with goggles over his eyes. Mark had just tracked a Legion party to a camp located near the remnants of Camp Guardian.
Odd, he thought, why is there a Frumentarius with this bunch? He had stopped at a ridge overlooking the camp, and he pulled out his binoculars. The legionaries’ leader tossed out a flare, as if calling for something. Suddenly, thunder rang out across the wastes, and rain began to lightly fall. Okay, now that is quite the anomaly. A thunderstorm wasn’t even common in the Capital Wasteland, where the Potomac River and its estuaries caused a great deal of humidity in certain places. Shifting his attention to the Legion forces, he saw them ignite several more flares, tossing them as if to form a large circle. Thunder struck, and as if on cue, a Vertibird descended from the sky, painted jet black and bearing a white eagle claw.
Now where, he pondered, have I seen that mark?
Suddenly, Mark was hit with an intense migraine, and images flashed through his head. "A slaughtered hamlet, men butchered with the women and children and thrown into a bonfire with a white claw spray painted on an adjacent concrete wall. A fenced off perimeter, guarded by men in black combat armor. A slain Brotherhood of Steel squad, their armor stained by urine, each executed by a shot in the head. Black clad figures, firing on a yellow-green mound of muscle, ten men tall in the rotunda of the Capitol Building." Discipline kept him from making any noticeable sound, but when the flashbacks and the migraine stopped, he let out a pained sigh.
He remembered the bastards now. “Talon Company.” He muttered it as though it was the foulest oath he could think of. Mark continued to observe the unusual meeting. Well, he mused, the Legion must be more desperate than the NCR thought. As he pondered the meeting’s purpose, it began to rain harder, and about a dozen Vertibirds landed around Camp Guardian. Shit, half of those birds are gunships. A gunship ‘Bird has a crew of three or four people, and a transport one needed just two to fly. The former can carry about 6 passengers max, and the latter could carry 16 plus internal loads and a suspended cargo load of approximately 5000 pounds! Let’s see, worst case scenario with just these birds is 132 passengers and 15 tons of equipment.
Finished assessing the situation for the moment, he turned his attention back to the meeting. As he watched, he saw a large crate with a nuclear trefoil on it being unloaded from a bird and loaded onto a transport truck that had been transported with the cab and trailer each under separate VB-02’s. A heavily armed convoy, with half of the gunships and 30 men headed to Cottonwood Cove. Well, I guess the cove is back under hostile control. Dammit, I told them to post a garrison there, wait, shit there’s a 40 man garrison there! No, I’ll leave when the Legion leaves this meeting.
Sgt. Daniel Ackerson and his squad were on patrol that evening. “Hey! You hear that?” Pvt. ‘Dino’ DiNofrio, the squads ‘Rocketman” queried. “Hear what ?” Ackerson replied. A quiet, high pitched whine suddenly turned into a roar as fire from a gunship’s minigun drowned out the cacophony of the thunderstorm. “Son of a Bitch! Dino, knock that bird outta the sky!” The private locked and fired his missile, but the pilot dodged the shot. Ackerson and the rest of the squad were mowed down by the sheer volume of 5mm fire coming from the VB-02’s chin gun. DiNofrio fled the slaughter, dropping his launcher and heading to a nearby shelter he found on a patrol the week before. The Talon Company convoy headed to Cottonwood Cove, ready for a takeover of the strategic area.
Sunday, January 22, 2282. 1000 hours.
Mark Thompson met with Colonel Cassandra Moore inside the Hoover Dam for a debriefing. “So out of nowhere, a mercenary group from the other side of what used to be America strikes a deal with the Legion? And they come in armed to the teeth to support a notably anti-technology group?” Col. Moore was skeptical of the situation, and made it clear through her tone. “Well,” Mark began, “Talon Company is getting a large amount of resources from the Legion, and likely intends to betray them at some point. Caesar has deluded himself into ignoring their history of treachery in favor of their reputation as a large, highly trained group of mercenaries. This just shows how desperate they’ve become. This is not the first time Caesar has deluded himself, he actually believes that his Legion will carry on his ideals after his death. He’s a nut, the Legion s loyal to him, not his ideals. If he decided to spontaneously make peace with the NCR, then he could convince his troops to abide by his decree with a minimum of effort. A full report is laying on your desk right now.”
“Coming from someone else I wouldn’t believe it, but you are our best operative, and you’ve resolved any number of situations for the NCR. On a related note, communications with the Cove have were lost at about 0430 hours on Friday. I sent a squad of troopers, then one of Rangers both to figure this out. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be bringing this to you if any of them had come back. We do have a shelter that used to belong to a prospector nearby. Only a few of the troopers on station know where it is, specifically the squad who discovered it and the two senior officers on base. It was only discovered a week ago, hence the lack of circulation of this tidbit. I want you to investigate. Here’s a holotape with the location of the shelter on it, if anybody escaped, they’ll be there.” Both Mark and the Colonel stood up and saluted. “Dismissed.”
Mark boarded a Vertibird transport, sat down and gave the pilot the coordinates of the landing zone. This particular bird had chocolate chip camouflage and a light gray belly to create a low visual profile from most angles. Mark had re-equipped his face wrap armor and goggles helmet. His service rifle had been modded with a more durable receiver and improved springs to increase its durability and rate of fire, though it was still only semi-auto. “Copperhead 1-9 taking off.” The co-pilot stated.
“Let’s see, regular rounds wouldn’t penetrate combat armor very well,” Mark said to himself “hollow-point is out of the question, surplus is still too harmful to the gun. .223 is better, but armor piercing should be perfect.” Mark slapped in a new magazine and chambered the first round, taking satisfaction from the sound of the bullet arriving in its temporary home. “2 minutes to the Coyote Mine LZ, nearest place we know is safe!” The co-pilot shouted.
As the bird hovered about ten feet off the ground, Mark jumped out the side door and hit the ground running. After he covered about half a mile, he saw the sniper’s nest overlooking the cove. And it was unguarded! He looked around for snipers and checked for traps. Satisfied that the area was secure, he sat down. Wait, I forgot to use the holotape! Grateful to remember, but embarrassed to have forgotten, the resting warrior inserted the holotape into the slot in his Pip-Boy 3000. A new location appeared on his map, about 100 yards south of his position. He double-timed it to the safe zone, sneaking the las twenty yards to the target. Suddenly, hearing the clink of metal on metal, he froze. Drawing his 10mm pistol and a combat knife he entered a crouching close-quarters combat stance. He held the knife upside-down in his left hand, albeit with the blade still facing forwards, pistol in his right hand. Ready to quickly and quietly subdue the potential enemy with CQC, Mark leaped off the overhang protecting the target and landed to face the enemy.
“Son of a bitch!” Private DiNofrio shouted. Mark made a fist with his left hand and extended his index finger to make the universal gesture to shush. “How many others are there?” Captain Mark Thompson queried. “Not a damn one man, I ran away as soon as the birds dodged my missile.” DiNofrio replied, visibly and audibly distressed. “Name and rank.” Mark said as a statement, though it was obviously a command. “Private Vincent ‘Dino’ DiNofrio, sir. Are you it, I mean are you the only one they sent to rescue us?” “Yeah, I’m it.” was the reply. “That’s just great man,” Dino lamented, “A bunch of badass mercs swoop in and kill everyone. And when we get frickin’ destroyed all the brass does is send one guy? Shit man, we’re screwed, game over.” So it was Talon Company that did this Mark realized. He grabbed the blubbering private by the collar. “Are you done?” he asked forcefully, clearly irritated by the trooper.
“Look,” Mark began, “the ‘Brass’ complained about the same shit when I got sent over. I showed up a little later than they hoped too. But ya know what? I showed ‘em, I retook Nelson, killed a Legion spy in Camp McCarran, made peace between the Kings and the NCR, and cleared out the deathclaw infestation in Sloan’s quarry. So as you can tell I am extremely qualified. Now follow me, we’re heading to an observation post north of Cottonwood.” “Okay,” Dino said, calmed by what he heard purely because he had no choice to believe otherwise, taking a deep breath and regaining his composure. The duo with no dynamic ventured to the OP, the whole trip taking no more than five minutes.
Once the pair arrived at the sniper’s nest, Mark queried Dino about his survival and what happened. Dino summarized it well enough. He finished, saying; “They’re all gone. I left ‘em and now they’re all dead. I shoulda been with them, but I ran. I don’t deserve a rescue.” Mark closed his eyes and took a nap, but not before saying one thing, “Pull it together, I’m gonna need your help.”
Sunday January 22, 2282. 1124 hours
“Here’s a radio and a pair of binoculars. Radio me every ten minutes with a situational report. For every ten minutes I spend down there, I’ll beep ‘Shave and a haircut, two bits’ so you know I’m okay. If you see anything unusual, radio me immediately. Clear?” Mark instructed.
Dino responded with a “Hooah”, a phrase originally spelled HUA, for Heard, Understood, Acknowledged. Taking his cue, Mark moved up about 100 yards before stopping behind a rock and pulling out his knife and 10mm pistol. What the hell was that? He saw the telltale glint of light reflecting off of a hunting rifle scope. He radioed in with Dino. “Uh, Dino? I see some scope shine on a ridge about 200 yards east of my position. Confirm your position in the sniper’s nest, Over.” “Roger that, I see a sniper where you said, over.”
Crap. Mark inhaled and then exhaled with his mouth closed, making a raspberry sound with his lips, something he usually did when things hit a snag. “Okay,” he began, “Describe the sniper. Move up to 50 yards from position to identify if necessary, over.” Mark instructed. “Moving to position.” He said followed by a short pause. “Alright, target is a Hispanic female, average height and nice body. Black hair, carries herself like ex-military. Wearing raider badlands armor and using what looks like a fully upgraded hunting rifle. Not certain, but it looks like she’s aiming at the Talon mercs, over.” “Wow, good eye. We make it out, Ima put in a recommendation for 1st Recon sniper school. I mean, you are eagle with a telescope good. Over” Mark blurted out, amazed with Dino’s visual acuity. That sounds like Maria. Mark moved up, taking advantage of the waist high morning fog in the cove to silently move up to right under the sniper’s position. About halfway to the destination, he ran into a squad of Talons guarding a generator. Mark stopped and closed his eyes for a moment, and began his attack.
He began by entering a CQC stance, taking a merc by surprise and using him as a human shield. The enemy squad quickly spotted him, and drew their weapons. Mark assessed the situation while shimmying around the squad with his gun pointed at them and knife at his shield’s neck. No radios, one with a standard AER9 laser rifle, two with modded laser pistols held by the grip and the other vertical foregrip thing like old pre-war SMGs you’d see in a book. Last one has a gatling laser. Okay heavy, you’re first. He began firing at the heavy’s abdominal area, where the only protection was bullet resistant fiber. The irritated gunner began shooting back, knocking out gravel sized chunks in the hostage’s armor and leaving glowing pockmarks. Reacting to the mercenaries disregard for their colleague’s safety, Mark retreated to cover behind a boulder. With laser fire keeping him in cover, he whipped out his service rifle and began blindfiring from behind the rock. He heard a small detonation, and peeked out for a split second to see that the backpack of the gatling laser had exploded, turning it’s user into a pile of ash. The two remaining hostiles took cover, but one of them charged, back out and at him in a fit of rage. Mark rewarded his bravery by popping his right eye with an armor piercing round, instantly killing the foolish fool.
The last one started lobbing fragmentation grenades from behind cover. The survivor then pulled out a Talon Company ripper from its horizontal sheath just above the hindquarters. Essentially an eight pound, one-handed chainsaw with the blades going around a center shaped like a combat knife, this particular weapon had a black handle and guard. He lobbed one last grenade at Mark, this one a plasma. The grenade detonated at a safe distance, but the wave of pressure and heat knocked him into the open. As the Talon mercenary charged, Mark attempted to give a similar fate to the new merc as he did with the previous one.
He drew a bead on his target’s head while he was lying on his back and pulled the trigger, but the weapon refused to fire. Mark quickly rotated the gun so he could see the bolt, and realized there was no ammo left in the magazine. Goddamn you Eugene Stoner! Why couldn’t you have designed the AR-15 with larger magazines than 20 rounds!? Seeing as the service rifle was essentially an AR-15 with wooden furniture modified by the Gun Runners to be manufactured in a post-nuclear world, it was reliable enough to be the standard weapon of the NCR. So Mark immediately knew it was not a jam that prevented the gun from doing its duty.
He tossed the rifle a few feet and drew his pistol and knife. He began pumping rounds into the charging merc’s chest, but to no avail. He readied his knife to stab the attacker if he were tackled. With his ears still ringing from the explosion, he only saw the foe drop to his knees and fall forward.
He got to his feet and picked up his gun. He inspected his radio, and used it. “Dino, what did you make that shot with? You just saved my ass!” The response he got perplexed him. “What shot?”