<<UserID:Webb>> Started the morning with a hell of a shock today, and no mistake.
Last night, I started south after the sun was down. Crossing the Long 15, almost directly south of the Yangtze Memorial, I found a makeshift camp tucked into a small rock outcropping, manned by two ‘Gangers. Thanks to my scare in the bunker, I crept up slowly and realized the whole place was ringed with makeshift landmines, constructed from dynamite stuffed into tin cans and wired to a proximity sensor.
I used my service knife to cut the wires and pocketed the charges, then worked my way partway around the circle, pocketing a half dozen of the rigged charges. Still moving quietly, I rifled through the satchel I had hung off of ED-E until I found a functional egg timer and, using the wiring and parts from the sensors, I taped all the dynamite back together and set the timer, then rolled it down the hill into the camp. I pulled ED-E down to the ground with me and waited for the boom.
I think the ‘Gangers are proving to be a bad influence on me.
When the dust -- and flying gobbets of ‘Ganger -- had settled, I hopped up and slid down the rock to inspect the damage. Against all expectations, one of the two men was actually still alive. The blast had taken off one of his legs just above the knee, but the rest of him was almost completely untouched. He was, thankfully, unconscious, however, and blood loss and shock were neck and neck to see which would kill him first. I decided to break the tie with a .357 round, then stripped his prison jersey, scrubbed out the spattered blood as best I could with handfuls of sand, and pulled it on over my shirt. I took his hat, too, a tattered baseball cap with a crooked bill. Combined with my sunglasses, it might be enough to let me get past the sentries.
And there are definitely sentries. After I was certain the camp was clear, I climbed back up the rocks and glassed the facility with the binoculars I’d found on the Bison Steve’s marquis. It was a clear night and the moon was almost full, so I was at least able to make out forms up in the old guard towers.
Unfortunately, that meant they’d be able to make me out as well, as there was plenty of open ground between me and the prison. That ruled out my plan for a night-time infiltration, as they’d probably shoot anyone approaching at night. Now that I had something approximating a disguise, I figured I’d be better off waiting for daytime and slip in, pretending to be coming back from a raid or supply run or whatever it is escaped convicts do in their spare time.
With my plans for the evening scrapped, I dragged the corpses behind some nearby rocks, tidied up the camp a bit, flipped over one of the mattresses in the camp to reveal a slightly less filthy side, and settled in for the evening. The ‘Gangers had been roasting up some squirrel before their untimely departure, so I helped myself to that and dipped further into my clean water supply.
While eating and drinking, I played around with the radio receiver on my PIP-Boy and picked up a new signal identifying itself as Black Mountain Radio. According to a news broadcast from Mr. New Vegas, it’s only recently come back on the air, and he described it as “less for outcasts, more for weirdos”. More for supermutants, in fact, if the broadcast is to be believed.
It’s run by two... women, I suppose? I always heard that the mutation process pretty much took care of any unresolved gender issues, so to speak, but maybe it’s just a matter of perseverance. There’s Rhonda, who sounds like a snake with delusions of culture, and Tabitha, who sounds like she’s in the process of angrily eating a molerat whole every time she speaks. The whole thing is music mixed with propaganda-style broadcasts for the supermutant utopia they’ve supposedly created. If it wasn’t for the constant references to radiation and centaurs, it would be almost exactly like the NCR propaganda stations back home.
They also mentioned something about a captive ghoul named Raul who is apparently facing execution. I’ve always liked ghouls, generally. A tough bunch, but sad, too. They’re like patients with terminal radiation burns who recovered -- but never quite managed to convince their body of it. Maybe I can help the poor guy out... sometime when I’m feeling up to risking a sledgehammer to the face from a ten-foot-tall monster, that is. One suicidal undertaking at a time.
Eventually, I’d had all I could take of Rhonda and Tabitha, so I switched off the radio, told ED-E to warn me if it spotted any unfriendly critters or anything with a prison uniform, and then turned in for the night.
Apparently, though, I need to be careful about being too specific with ED-E.
<<UserID:Webb>> Shut up, eyeball, I’m still mad at you.
<<UserID:Webb>> Hmmmph. Anyway, I woke up this morning to find an old man sitting on the mattress across the remains of the campfire, staring at me and idly munching on the last of the squirrel. He wasn’t wearing a ‘Ganger uniform, so technically I hadn’t instructed ED-E to warn me about him, but I still hopped up and went for my pistol.
The old man immediately dropped the squirrel and raised his hands to show me he wasn’t armed, all the while smiling in a lopsided fashion that made me think he might be going a little soft in the head.
He introduced himself as Malcolm Holmes and said he’d been following me for the last few days, which did absolutely nothing to calm me down. When asked to elaborate, he explained -- at least, I guess it was an explanation in his mind -- that he’d seen me pick up one of those Sunset Sarsaparilla caps with a star on it.
My hand went immediately to my shirt pocket where I’d put the cap that had reminded me of Callie, but it was still there, safe and sound. I questioned him about the caps, still not lowering the gun, and he explained that there was some sort of wasteland legend about an immortal guardian named Festus who will offer a reward to anyone who brings him enough of these star caps.
The whole thing sounds insane, of course. If Holmes is to be believed, this “Festus” has been around since before the Great War... if he’s not just a myth, he must be a ghoul. Some ghouls do go crazy over time, of course -- maybe there IS one out there collecting caps, out of some sort of obsessive-compulsive need. Can’t say it’s something that will keep me up at nights, at any rate.
What WAS cause for more concern, though, was Holmes’ warning that there were people out there who would actually kill for these ridiculous star caps. He said he himself used to hunt these star caps -- never lethally, or so he claimed -- but he was out of the game now. A madman named Allen Marks is supposedly the frontrunner in the cap hunt these days, and he has apparently racked up quite a body count already.
In terms of news to wake up to, this has rated pretty damn high on the weirdness meter.
I thanks Holmes for the information, told him to help himself to the rest of the squirrel, and bid him farewell... but I kept my revolver in my hand the whole time. Once he was out of sight, I took a few minutes to sort through my satchel of caps, and realized I did indeed have a few more of the Sunset Sarsaparilla caps with the little blue stars mixed in with all the others -- over a dozen of them, in fact. I separated them out and put them in a small side pocket on my satchel, just in case. Good lord, I think I caught some of that madness from Holmes. Callie's cap is staying right where it is in my shirt pocket, though, legendary treasure or not.
Now that I’ve seen off all the insane old men the morning has to offer, I suppose there’s nothing else for it but to put my faith in a dead man’s clothes and make the final push into the NCRCF.
Wish me luck, girls. Signing off.