[Fallout: New Vegas]
"... This has got to be the craziest thing I've done yet."
A tall, slender Asian woman with a long black ponytail stood next to a long line of train tracks. It had been more than one hundred years since any train had gone over these tracks not since before the nuclear war that devastated the planet.
The woman was named Nanami. She had worked as a simple Courier for the Mojave Express package delivery company. One fateful day, not long ago, she had been hired to deliver a small box to the New Vegas Strip.
Things had gone badly.
Nanami wore a blue jumpsuit with a yellow stripe down the front; it was a Vault Jumpsuit. Over the suit she had a long white labcoat. On her wrist was a watch-like computer called a Pipboy 3000. It was an advanced computer that stored information on everything she saw and did it even monitored her vitals 24/7 to make sure she was healthy.
Today, Nanami was standing in front of the ruins of a bombed out town. Several hundred yards past the town was Nellis Air Force Base. In the pre-war days, it was a major military installation. Now, it was the home of the Boomers an eccentric group who never left the base; and who turned the base's giant howitzers on anyone and anything that came near Nellis.
Nanami had heard about the Boomers. They were known as one of the more powerful groups in the Mojave, because of their heavy artillery and their sheer numbers; and the fact that even the NCR did not have the weaponry and manpower to breech their base. Nanami knew that a war was coming to the Mojave Wasteland.
The New California Republic, a nation built in what was once California and founded on ideals from the Old World; democracy chief among them. It was a nation of law and order and one that sought to expand their influence beyond California.
Caesar's Legion was a powerful force from Arizona. A nation of absolute dictatorship with a madman named Caesar in charge. Modeled after the Roman Empire, it was a nation of slavers and brutal warriors, and they sought to conquer the entire world beneath their banner.
Nanami had run ins with both forces. She knew that the two would soon battle one another to the death. She also knew that if the Mojave's communities were to survive the battle, she would have to do something. Her quest was no longer just about revenge for the gunshot wound she suffered to the head. She was fighting for the future of the Mojave.
She also knew that she could not take on two armies by herself. She needed help... and if she could win the support of the Boomers, she would have that help.
Of course, Nanami did not know if she COULD win the support of the Boomers. No one who had ever tried to approach Nellis had done so in one piece. For all she knew, even if she arrived safely, they would just shoot her on sight. Nanami knew that she was skilled... but she did not think she could take on every one of the Boomers by herself.
"... Okay. No use delaying the inevitable."
Nanami bent down and retied her shoelaces so that they would be tight. All the while, she was trying to calculate her odds. It was a bad habit of her's. She would often try to add up her odds of survival just before she did something like this. The lower her odds, the greater the rush of adrenaline.
She shook her head. This was one time when she did not want to think about the odds. She did not know how many howitzers Nellis had, but she knew that there were several. She also knew that the Boomers had a reputation for shooting anything and everything that came near the base; be it a single molerat or a group of humans.
Nanami stood back up, and looked down into the knapsack she carried with her. The few belongings she had were stowed away in the battered knapsack. She took out a bottle of water, and took a large drink. The radiation in the water burnt her throat, but she still felt a small sense of refreshment.
She also took out a small, well-worn Bible that had been given to her back in her days at the Vault. Once, she had been slated to be the Vault's Chaplain. Events had happened so that she was forced to leave the Vault, and that 'fate' was circumvented. Still, she kept the small Bible that had once been part of her training.
She closed her eyes for a moment, saying a silent prayer. Then she returned the bottle of water and the Bible back to her knapsack, and pulled the sack over her shoulder. Nanami adjusted her glasses, and then took several deep breathes.
This was it.
There was no turning back. The Boomers were already watching her with binoculars, and if the rumors were true, all she would have to do is step into the bombed out city and they would open fire.
Nanami rushed forward. The moment she crossed the threshold of the bombed out city, she heard a boom in the distance. One of the howitzers had fired. She knew that they had already locked on. If they were as good as the rumors said, they would know the average human run speed, and they would know where to drop the bomb to turn her into a red splatter on the desert floor.
She rushed as quickly as she could, jumping over a barrier and rushing into one of the bombed out houses. The walls and roof were long since destroyed, but she rushed through the broken kitchen. The bomb hit the ground a few feet away, resulting in a massive explosion and a burning fireball. The flames were too far to be a danger, but what Nanami feared was the shrapnel.
A large piece of the broken shell flew from the impact area, and Nanami had was only saved from a nasty cut by the small section of wall remaining. Yet even as she avoided the first bomb, she heard several more pops in the distance, and she knew that the howitzers had fired multiple times.
"Shit." Nanami growled as she jumped back to her feet and ran as fast as she could. She dodged down into a crater from a previous impact just as the second shell rained down. The explosion was hot at her back, and too close for her comfort. This time she felt a sharp pain in her left arm as a piece of shrapnel cut through her lab coat and her skin.
She did not have time to acknowledge the pain. She rushed again, for she heard the sound of the howitzers firing again in the distance. Another shell impacted, this one too far to effect her, but it smashed into an old car that had somehow remained mostly intact.
Immediately, the car exploded the nuclear engine burning and creating fusion. Nanami rushed ahead as she heard the Geiger counter on her Pipboy spark up loudly. The radiation would certainly be bad for her, and if she stuck around that nuclear energy release would be even worse than the bombs raining down from Nellis.
Nanami dove, rushing behind a fallen tree. The shockwave bombarded the tree, splintering it and catching it on fire. Yet she was safe.
Until she heard the whistle from another volley of howitzer fire. Nanami swore, and rushed ahead. She moved faster than she knew she could. She jumped into another ditch one that was likely dug from years of howitzer shells impacting the ground and rolled to the side. She hit something hard and metal and felt pain rush through her shoulder.
Turning her head, she saw a dead body. It was a Brotherhood of Steel member. She could tell from the armor. Nanami considered grabbing the armor and putting it on, but she knew it was too heavy. It would slow her down. Right now, she wasn't sure she was fast enough to survive on her own.
Nanami jumped up, out of the ditch, just as a howitzer shell came raining down. She jumped ahead, but the explosion was close. She felt flames tickle her cheek and she felt the intense pain on one side of her body, but she managed to roll away before she received any nasty burns. The dead Brotherhood member was not as lucky, his body and his armor blown apart.
Nanami rushed on ahead. She was bleeding and burnt and in serious pain. Yet ahead of her, she could see the fence to Nellis. She knew that if she got just a little closer, she would be too close for them to fire the big guns at her. Some quick and dirty math told her that they could probably fire one more volley at her.
She saw the howitzer's fire once again. She saw the shadow on the ground, growing larger, as one of the shells started to come down just where she was. Nanami was not sure if she could escape this one. So she did the next best thing. She stopped where she stood and whipped out her pistol, aiming straight up and opening fire.
Nanami squeezed off every round in the clip. She saw the shell explode just a few feet above her. There was a massive explosion and she felt flames raining down all around her.
She rushed forward, returning the gun to its holster on her belt. She jumped down the hill, rolling until she slammed against the fence that separated Nellis from the rest of the Mojave. She groaned and looked up as she heard the fence opening.
Nanami was aware she was covered in injuries. She had burns, cuts and her shoulder was aching. She groaned and sat up, clutching her shoulder. She thought it was possibly dislocated. As she sat up, she noticed the gate was open, and a woman in combat armor rushed out aiming a rocket launcher towards Nanami.
"Don't move! Just... just stay right there!" The woman's name was Raquel. She was the Master-at-Arms of Nellis, the leader of the defenses for the Air Force Base. She was terrified at the moment. No one had ever made it through the barrage of fire from Nellis' howitzer's. Raquel was dressed in standard combat armor and a helmet.
"Whooooa! Somebody actually SURVIVED my firing? And it's a hottie! What a day this'll be!" A tall, redheaded boy wearing a leather bomber's jacket over top of a vault uniform jumped forward. He was grinning like a maniac.
"Lavan! Go and inform Mother Pearl about this!" Raquel barked an order at her fellow Boomer.
Nanami was taken at rocket point to one of the buildings on the base. The main hangars were far away, near the runway, whereas she was taken in the opposite direction towards the various barracks. She was taken to a barracks and let inside, and only then did the rocket-launching toting guard finally leave her in peace.
The barracks was well decorated, and inside a little old lady sat on a couch. Like most of the Boomers, she was dressed in a Vault 34 jumpsuit, and a leather flight jacket. The old woman indicated for Nanami to sit across from her, and the young scientist did so.
Nanami was still clutching her shoulder, and still bleeding from the cut on her leg. She had yet to really have an opportunity to address her injuries, but that was not her greatest concern at the moment. She sat silently, watching the old woman.
"I am Mother Pearl. Leader of the Boomers." She introduced herself. "I have been waiting years for one of the savages to run our barrage and make it here. I was starting to wonder if anyone ever would."
Nanami gave a slight smirk. "You don't exactly make visitor's feel very welcomed."
The elderly Pearl gave a hearty laugh. "Yes... well, most visitor's are certainly NOT welcomed. We've watched the filthy savages of the Mojave for decades. People running around with guns and knives, and all of them behaving as if they've completely abandoned their God given senses."
The young scientist was inclined to agree. She had traveled a great distance in her life much more than most people ever did in the post-apocalyptic America. In all her time, most of the people she encountered had reverted to animalistic instincts. Raiders, Slavers, Thieves, Murderers and all manner of terrible people.
"Not to mention the mutants, and the giant monsters that run around. Some of them are truly horrific. Ah... but you must know all about the outside world." Pearl smiled, and she looked grandmotherly.
"I do." Nanami nodded.
"Good." Pearl smiled. "The truth is, we don't have the population to stay cooked up here. My young one's... one day they will need to experience something other than the safety of Nellis. I need an exceptional outside to help them. I'm hoping that person is you."
Raising an eyebrow, Nanami shifted her weight a bit. "Oh? Was surviving your welcome wagon not exceptional enough?"
Pearl chuckled softly. "Oh, that was plenty impressive... but I'm afraid not enough. For now, I will allow you to move around Nellis on your own, unescorted. You may leave if you like... or, you may stay, and perhaps you an win the trust of my young ones."
That was how Nanami came to reside at Nellis. She spent a day in the women's barracks, addressing her injuries and giving her body time to recover. Relocating her shoulder was a painful thing, but it had to be done. The cut was far easier to treat, but still not fun.
The next morning, however, Nanami set out to discover Nellis. The children of the base watched her in awe, as if she was some strange beast they had never seen before. Nanami did not mind.
She soon made her way back to the gate, where she found Raquel standing at her usual guard post and the redheaded young man who had been firing howitzer's at her.
"Oooh, I heard you were wandering around the base like some kind of lost dog or something." Lavan jumped down from his perch, landing in front of Nanami and flashing a grin.
She was not amused. "... So you're the guy who tried to blow me up."
Lavan chuckled. "Hahah, yeah... just doing my job! And I gotta say, you're the first person to ever survive! Color me impressed. You think you could do it again?"
Nanami narrowed her eyes. "That depends. Do you think you could dodge bullets?"
With a hearty laugh, the redheaded guard of Nellis flashed another large grin. "Daaaang, are all girls from the Wasteland as mean as you?"
"I'm actually exceptionally kind compared to the norm." Nanami smirked, and then decided to ignore this flame-haired fool. Instead, she turned her attention to Raquel.
"Mother Pearl said you'd have a job for me." Nanami was always one to get straight to the point. She had a feeling a woman like Raquel would appreciate it. It was clear that Raquel took her responsibilities very seriously.
"Yeah... she told me you'd be helping us around the base. Whole thing is pretty damn unusual, but it's Mother Pearl's will... if you really want to help, we do have one situation we definitely could use a hand with."
Lavan's face fell a bit and he butted into the conversation. "You're sending her down there?"
"I am." Raquel nodded. "Alright Outsider. The Nellis Solar Array is just up the road, near the hangars. It provides power to the entire base. There's a generator room just beneath the array... and we have an ant problem."
Nanami groaned. She had dealt with giant ants before. The nuclear fallout that destroyed the world had mutated insects, turning them gigantic. Some species of ants were even known to breath fire.
"The ants have tunneled beneath the array, into the communications array building. You want to help, you can head into the communications building and kill the ants."
Nanami was suspicious. She knew that giant ants were dangerous creatures, but the Boomers seemed to really enjoy their high explosives, and the overgrown ants should be easy targets. Raquel seemed to notice the quizzical look on Nanami's face.
"We keep a lot of our ammunition in the communications array building. The ants have been eating gunpowder... shooting them with explosives or energy weapons causes them to explode." Raquel explained.
"It's actually pretty freakin' cool to see." Lavan chuckled. "... Except, the array building is a lot of narrow hallways, and shooting at exploding ants in those halls is a great way to get yourself blown to pieces."
Nanami nodded. Now it made sense. "So I go down there, kill all the ants, and that's it?"
Raquel handed Nanami a small device. "Take this. Our inventor, Loyal, made it. It's a sonic device. If you plant this on the tunnel the ants are using to get into the array building and activate it, it should kill the ants and keep the tunnel clear. After you kill the ants, you'll have to restart the two array generators."
Nanami nodded, and headed towards the door. Lavan followed after her.
"Hey! Wait up, savage wasteland chick!" Lavan chased after her and ran in front of her.
"That's not my name." Nanami did not seem amused.
"Aw, come on! It's a pet name!" Lavan grinned to her.
"... You don't get to give me a pet name." Nanami frowned, her voice becoming a bit colder.
"You mean me shooting howitzer shells at you yesterday didn't count as a first date?" Lavan was still grinning and practically bouncing around her. He seemed like the over-excitable sort.
"I'd sooner date a molerat. Now move." Nanami said coolly, as she pushed past Lavan and headed to the locked door. She slid the key Raquel had given her into the lock, and started to twist the door's handle open.
Lavan jumped in front of her, throwing his arm across the door. Nanami looked extremely annoyed at this point.
"Aw, come on... if you're really wanting to win over the good graces of the Boomers, I'm the man you wanna see!" Lavan chuckled.
She pushed him away easily. Lavan seemed surprised by how strong she was despite her slender frame. "If you get in my way again, I'll break your arm."
Nanami slipped into the communications array building and shut the door behind her. Lavan frowned, and plopped down on the dirt outside the door, watching it like a sad dog who had just seen their master walk away.
Nanami was back into predatory mode as she stepped into the communications array building. She moved silently. Years of living in the post-apocalyptic American wasteland had taught her the value of stealthy movement, and she had plenty of time to practice.
In her hand was an old combat knife. She had found it more than a year ago, during her migration from the East to the West. It had been difficult to restore the knife to a good condition. She had replaced the handle, and sharpened the blade several times. She knew that the repairs were temporary at best and she would soon need a new knife, but the weapon had served her well.
Raquel had told her that regular ammunition would not detonate the ants, but Nanami did not want to take chances. These ants had eaten quite a lot of gunpowder, and the last thing Nanami needed was to nearly be blown up two days in a row.
Though it would not be the first time.
As she slipped further into the darkened building, she saw an old computer terminal. Slumped against the base of the terminal was a Boomer. His jumpsuit and jacket were torn, probably by the jaws of an giant ant. Next to the deceased young man was a grenade launcher.
Nanami picked it up and examined it. It was still in working condition, and there were three grenades ready to be fired. Nanami decided to take the weapon, but she hoped she would not need to fire it in a building full of explosive ants and stockpiled weaponry.
Nanami turned the corner and found a narrow hallway. At the end was a door that opened to a wider room, but she could not focus on that. In the middle of the hallway were two large ants and they seemed to immediately notice her. Clicking their jaws, the mutant insects scurried in her direction.
"Memories of Grayditch." Nanami groaned. She ran forward and jumped over the first ant, coming down and landing on the second. Her feet impacted its back and she heard a crunching sound. Not taking it to chance, Nanami spun around and thrust the knife into the ant's head, killing it.
The ant she had jumped over turned around and came towards her and the corpse of its sibling she stood on. Nanami tried to draw her knife from the deceased ant's head, but it was stuck! The still living ant was quickly rushing towards her, clicking its massive jaws.
"Shit!" Nanami could not free the knife, so she did the next best thing; she jumped off the dead ant and kicked its body towards the living one. The living ant was confused to have its siblings body smashed into it, and it struggled to push the dead ant away. Nanami used that opportunity to draw her pistol and fire a few shots at the living ant's head.
Much to her relief, Raquel was right, and the nine millimeter bullets did not cause the ant to explode; though they did kill it. Nanami walked over, gripped her knife, and used her leg to steady herself as she ripped it out of the ant at last.
"This is going to be a long morning." Nanami grumbled, putting her pistol away. She walked past the two mutilated ants and into the larger room. There were a few filing cabinets and a desk and another Boomer who had died at the claws of the ants.
Nanami shook her head. She had long since stopped being shocked by the sight of a corpse. In the world she lived in, she had seen plenty of people who had fallen to the wasteland... and she had left quite the stack of corpses in her wake, as well.
These days, when she saw a dead body, her first instinct was to check the poor soul's pockets for food or ammo. Right now, though, she refrained. She did not think the Boomers would appreciate her ransacking the corpses of their fallen comrades, and the only reason she was in this communications array was to earn their trust.
Nanami moved on, to the next room. She found a staircase that led down to a much larger area. There were several shelves, all filled with boxes. She could tell from the markings on the boxes that they were military supplies. She could see several guns lined up against the wall, and on shelves, and many boxes of ammunition and grenades.
It was... wonderful. Living in the wasteland, Nanami had learned a great respect for the "tools" of her trade. While she had once been slated to be a Chaplain, and had studied medicine with her father; these days a dependable gun and a ample supply of ammo were always a welcomed sight.
She saw something else. All around the room were what looked like enormous bullets. She theorized that they were likely the howitzer shells that Lavan had fired at her as she approached Nellis the day before. Actually seeing the size of the shells, it amazed Nanami that she had even survived the suicidal approach.
Though her time admiring the well-stocked armory was short. There was more than just guns and ammunition in the array building. At the far end of the room was the generator switch she had to flip. It was near some stairs that descended from a catwalk above her head.
And all throughout the room were ants.
Dozens and dozens of ants.
"... Lovely." Nanami frowned. She could not take down so many of them with just her knife, and the pistol only worked on ants when she could get a clear head-shot, and even then it usually took two or three bullets. She simply did not have the ammunition to take them all down.
"Need some help?"
Nanami whipped around at the voice and instinctively shoved her pistol into the face of Lavan. The redheaded Boomer was still grinning, even with a gun pressed against his cheek.
"Why did you follow me?" Nanami snarled. She was annoyed. The last thing she needed right now was to babysit this guy.
Lavan shrugged. "I wanted to help. You REALLY impressed me yesterday by reaching Nellis with hardly a scratch. I figured anyone who could do that would get rid of these ants in a really cool way too, and I just GOTTA see that."
Nanami sighed, and reluctantly lowered her pistol. She supposed that shooting this loudmouth wouldn't help her make friends with the Boomers. Unless he annoyed them as much as he did her, in which case maybe killing him would earn her a parade.
"I don't need your help, and I really don't need a cheerleader." Nanami replied coldly. "You'll just get in my way, and complicate matters when I have to keep you alive. If you insist on staying, then stay up here on the stairs and don't make a sound."
"Psh, you are COLD lady! Buuuut I'll be good and stay here. I just wanna watch that magic I saw the other day dodging my howitzer!"
Nanami decided not to respond. She started slinking down the stairs, pistol in hand, moving slowly and making hardly any noise. The stairs were old and metal, and they creaked loudly with movement but Nanami had learned to creep along in such a way that would minimize the sound.
When she finally reached the floor, she stalked behind a shelf full of weaponry and ammunition boxes. She examined the shelf for a moment, but saw no weapons that could help her against the ants with the explosive personalities. So she crept along, moving as slowly and silently as she could.
Nanami knew what she was doing. She would stealthily take down each of the ants. It would take a while, but it was the safest way of doing this.
Unfortunately, the watchful Lavan perched on the stairs was growing impatient. He had expected Nanami to run around the room in a blaze of hellfire and explosions, making snappy puns as she exterminated the ants. Instead, she was creeping along at the pace of a drunken snail.
"Come ooooooooooon! Do some sweet moves!" Lavan called loudly.
The ants immediately turned their heads towards the stairs and clicked their jaws menacingly. The nearly three dozen ants in the room began to immediately swarm together, rushing towards the base of the stairs.
Nanami was annoyed. She was half-tempted to just let the ants eat the obnoxious redhead, but for as cold as she could be, Nanami was always one to try to save people in danger. She jumped out from behind the shelf and opened fire on the ant swarm.
One of the ants was hit in the leg, causing it to tear off. Another was struck in the thorax and collapsed onto its side, clicking its jaws and kicking its six legs in pain. The multitude of ants seemed to turn their attention away from the elevated Lavan, and towards Nanami. She was shooting them, and on ground level.
The swarm of ants started in her direction immediately. Nanami swore once as she saw them charging, and a second time when she realized she was out of bullets. She hastily stuffed the gun into her bag as she looked for another weapon and found on: her laser pistol.
Nanami's father had been a scientist, and in the past she had worked with the Brotherhood of Steel on a few occasions. Her interest in technology caused her to be quite fond of energy weapons. However, she knew that the super-heated lasers would easily detonate the gunpowder the ants had been feasting on.
"GET OUT OF THE ROOM, RED!" Nanami shouted towards Lavan as she aimed the laser pistol. Lavan recognized the laser pistol and gasped and for once he obeyed Nanami. He dove away from the stairs and back into the room full of filing cabinets.
Nanami let loose with the lasers. She struck one ant, near the center of the swarm, and it almost immediately burst into flames a second later the ant exploded. All of the ants around it burst into flames; and then they too exploded.
The result was a giant fireball, and ant body parts being thrown through the room. The shockwave knocked Nanami back, and she hit the wall with a painful thud. She groaned, pain filling her body.
"I hate ants." Nanami groaned.