Tuesday, September 27, 2011

//Log Date: 2281-10-31 19:07//

<<UserID:Webb>> I should learn to stop complaining about things being boring. It seems that, if I just give it time, something exciting -- usually lethally so -- is bound to happen.
*Expletive Deleted* Vipers...
They’re scum, just as much as any other raider trash, but they’re more dangerous than most. They used to adhere to some sort of cult religion, or at least that’s what our briefing sessions used to tell us. 
By the time they had my unit out hunting raiders, the core of whatever cult it had been -- somewhere near Junktown, supposedly -- had broken up, but the scattered followers were still everywhere, and they managed to hold on to the training and discipline of their snake god or worm priests or whatever nonsense they’d worshiped.
Their weapons are well-maintained, and they’re decent shots. It was one of their snipers that cost Jess her leg. We were investigating reports of a raider camp southeast of Broken Hills in the spring of 2263. I’d been in the service eleven years by then, hunting raiders with Jess as my sergeant for about half of it, and we probably should have known better.
The problem was bad intel. We’d heard they were Khans, dangerous enough, but not overly fond of firearms, at least in those days. From my run in with Checkers, they seem to have... diversified their portfolio these days. Back then, though, Khans would almost always run at you with hatchets, knives, clubs, or whatever else they’re carrying. 
As such, we were cautious reconnoitering the hills there, but not overly so. The first sign we had that something was amiss was when the better part of Snares-Wind’s head spattered over the rest of us.
Poor Snares-Wind. He was a tribal that had enlisted about a year previous. Not much of a tracker, but he could made a hell of a stew out of almost anything we could catch on the trail.
The next shot caught Jess in the shin while she was ordering everyone back into cover. The bullet was hollow point, large caliber, and it bounced off her tibia and blew through the fibula, shattering the former and completely pulping the latter.
I didn’t find that out until later, of course, when we’d gotten to safety and I’d been able to operate. At the time, I just saw her go down. 
God, Jess. I suppose it doesn’t make any difference now, but I’m still so sorry I couldn’t save your leg.
Didn’t come to amputation this morning, though, at least on our side.
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010001010111100001110000011011000110000101101001
<<UserID:Webb>> Oh, quit your whining. I taped that antenna back on, right as rain.
With ED-E laying down some very unexpected laser cover, I was able to advance to the next car in the wreckage, plugging the last Viper on the northern ridge as I did so. The shot knocked him off balance, and he tumbled down the hill onto the main road. 
His fall dislodged one of those orange traffic cones, and, as he attempted to crawl back to his feet, I heard the beeping of a proximity mine.
Honestly, where are all these lowlifes getting proximity mines out here? Is there a discount mine supplier somewhere in the Mojave?
I threw myself flat, and the mine exploded, scything the fallen Viper with shrapnel and flipping the nearest car clean over.
I heard the hissing, saw the flames starting to lick around the hulk from the punctured reactor, and pulled myself to my feet, then ran as fast as I could back down the road, shouting for ED-E to follow. Shots pelted after us, and we had just reached the turn in the road when the car’s reactor exploded, taking the other wrecks up with it. An entire door whistled over my head, embedding itself in the rocks.
We stopped our flight once we were well down the road. I listened to the rest of the wrecks go up one by one and watched the mushroom cloud form over the hills.
After that, there was nothing for it but to climb the cliff face to the north and hike overland around it. 
Lord, but I hate rock-climbing.
Circling around the ambush site, well outside the range of the radiation, I pulled out my binoculars and glassed the far hillside. I could see a large chunk of one car, born aloft in the blast, that had apparently smashed down on top of a third unlucky Viper. I didn’t find out what had happened to the fourth one until late this afternoon.
It was 1430 by the time I found my way back to the 164, well north of the curve where the ambush had taken place and just as the road was turning east again. Pre-war signposts pointed the way east to Searchlight, and a hand-painted addition directed me north to Novac, the next stop on my hunt if Beagle could be believed.
There was an abandoned ranch on the slope just south of the junction, and I paused to pick through the weedy beds, turning up a few decent banana yuccas, some crow-picked corn, and some tobacco among the other plants run to seed. I also drew some water from the irrigation system’s holding tank, which was lightly irradiated but good enough for boiling the corn.
I stayed long enough to eat a late lunch, but the place had an odd vibe to it -- sad, like most abandoned places in the wastes, but also somehow familiar. I quickly ate the corn and dumped the water, took a last look around -- turning up a fairly decent meat cleaver in the small shack, which ought to make quartering game a little easier -- and then got back on the road headed north.
Mostly, it was uneventful. I passed a small patrol of NCR troopers headed south, but we simply traded nods and each continued on our way. Around seventeen hundred hours, though, I spotted a billboard ahead on a low hill to the right of the road.
Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, and shame on me.
ED-E’s scanners confirmed a heat signature behind the sign -- should have had him scan the hills this morning, not just the truck -- and, having no desire to be shot at again today, I stopped, dug through my bag until I found the grenades I’d taken from the Jackals on the Nipton Road, pulled the pin, and lofted one up and over the billboard.
Sure, it was a little risky, but, to be fair, there aren’t a lot of honest folks who go around hiding behind billboard signs.
A yell burst out from behind the sign, followed shortly by the majority of the fourth Viper from the truck ambush.
Now, I’m not completely certain that it was the same Viper, because I hadn’t gotten a look at her earlier, but the radiation burns and high rad count on the corpse gave me something of a clue.
After poking through her gear, I figured it was about time to call it a day. Call me old-fashioned, but two explosions per day is enough for me. 
Besides, I spotted what looked like an NCR Ranger station to the north, and I didn’t particularly feel like explaining sound of the billboard grenade to a posse of rangers. Instead, I pulled out the binoculars again and spotted a shack up in the hills to the west. 
A weedy path twisted up towards it, and I followed it up to the shack, which had a small garden and, most importantly, a cool, shady interior with a few beds and no cranky inhabitants. I’ve got a fire going outside now, and I’ll cook up a little dinner in a moment, then get some rest in here. 
Then, in the morning, I can roll into Novac, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and utterly free of suspicion from any pyrotechnics.
Signing off.
//Recording Ends//

Sunday, September 25, 2011

//Log Date: 2281-10-31 10:34//

<<UserID:Webb>> Well, today started off on a high note. In my scavving yesterday, I turned up a percolator in decent shape in one of the houses’ kitchens. 
I’ll be honest, I was actually fairly excited. I’d lost my old percolator with everything else when Checkers and his Khan thugs jumped me, and I’d had that thing for years. Not that you can get actual coffee out here, but if you grind up some dried mesquite seedpods and tobacco, you can get something roughly approximating the taste... or, well, at least approximating the stimulants.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had ACTUAL coffee. God, I remember that spring when Jess was pregnant that I went to the Vault City branch of OSI to buy seeds, and they actually had some viable beans. Cost us a cartful of salvage, including a barely damaged Mr. Gutsy I’d scavved outside Benicia, but we came home with seeds for corn, tomatoes, potatoes, oats, barley, winter wheat... and four green coffee beans.
One of the beans never sprouted, and one died before it ever grew into a producing bush, but, two years later, when Callie was running and babbling up a storm, we actually started getting coffee cherries. That must have been... what? ’67? No, it must have been ’68 by then. Those last two bushes kept trying to die on us, but for the next three years, we nursed them along, picking and hoarding the beans whenever the cherries would ripen, and, once a week, Jess and I would sit down to a cup of actual, honest-to-God coffee in the morning.
It was bitter, often burnt, and tasted like the tin cups we had in our rust-walled shack outside of Modoc, but, for those fifteen minutes each week, sitting and talking with Jess while Callie fingerpainted her way through whatever we were feeding her for breakfast, I swear I felt like something right out of a Vault-Tec ad.
Of course, those bushes are ash now, just like everything else. 
Still, nice to have something approaching coffee again.
After breaking camp, I headed east again on the 164, crossing over the old California/Nevada state line again and then some railroad tracks -- maybe the same tracks I’d been following when I left the NCRCF? -- after which the road started to curve up and lead through some rocky hills, with cliffs on both sides.
I always get nervous when I’m surrounded by high ground; I start to feel like the proverbial fish in a barrel.
For the last half hour or so, the road’s been cut deeply enough into the rock that curves basically create blindspots on all sides. It’s getting a little close in here -- I’ll be glad when it opens up again.
Huh. Look at that. There’s a jackknifed truck spread across the road, along with some other wrecked cars and... that’s odd... orange traffic cones? Who set those up?
There might still be some salvage in the truck -- you’d guess everything on main roads would have been picked clean decades ago, but sometimes you’ll still find caches left by caravaners or raiders in truck cabs.
Of course, sometimes the owners are still there. ED-E, are you picking up any movement or heat signatures in the truck?
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010011100110010101100111011000010111010001101001
<<UserID:Webb>> Good. Still, doesn’t mean that the coast is clear. Let’s go get a closer look, see if there’s anything decent inside. Be carefu-
*Sound of impact, echoing gunshots, and sparks hissing.*
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010011110111010101110100011001010111001000100000
<<UserID:Webb>> *Expletive Deleted*
Get in the trailer! Go!
*Gunshots continue. Sounds of running footsteps, followed by a grunt and glass tinkling.*
Ugh, think I landed on some bottles... ED-E! Move it!
*Gunshots continue.*
Jesus, that was close. Damn damn damn damn. They’re on both ridges.
Must be Vipers. Jackals couldn’t hit anything from that distance... or come up with a decent ambush like this.
*Expletive Deleted* Vipers... Okay, Webb, think. 
Better cover from the south than the north, so let’s see if we can at least clear the north ridge before they get into position to pour fire right down onto us.
*Two loud shots, followed by the whistle of a ricochet.*
Gah! Why the hell can’t I hit anything?
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010011000110000101100011011010110010000001101111
<<UserID:Webb>> THAT WAS RHETORICAL, YOU *Expletives Deleted* EYEBALL!
Hah! Got him! That’s right, tumble on down, you bastard!
Okay, ED-E, I need covering fire while I move up to that next car. Your lasers still online?
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010000010110011001100110011010010111001001101101
<<UserID:Webb>> Right. I want to see those cliffs on fire, okay? Now!
*Running footsteps, gunshots, and laser fire until the recording ends abruptly.*
//Recording Ends//

Sunday, September 18, 2011

//Log Date: 2281-10-30 20:34//

<<UserID:Webb>> Have you ever had a day where, despite ending up utterly exhausted, you wound up back where you started, feeling like you made no progress whatsoever?
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010010010110111001100011011100100110010101100001
<<UserID:Webb>> Right.
As expected, I didn’t get much in the way of sleep. By the time light was cresting the mountains to the west, just before seven hundred hours, I finally gave it up as a bad game and broke camp. 
That reminds me: the rubberized mat I’ve been using as a base for my sleeping bag is cracked to the point where it’s pretty much useless. I’ll have to see if I can trade for a new one at the next barter town up the road... which would be that Novac place Beagle mentioned, I’m fairly sure. It’s amazing, out of all the detritus I turn up scavving, how few items of basic day-to-day convenience I find.
Speaking of which, I need a new toothbrush, too.
At least I had some appetite back. My self-disgust hasn’t lessened at all, but those pesky self-preservation instincts just won’t do the decent thing and leave me alone. Should have learned that lesson a decade ago, when I spent a year and a half trying to drown them in increasingly cheaper varieties of rotgut in Junktown and New Reno.
I fried up the last of the unsmoked gecko meat along with a couple eggs I’d found while gutting the female, ate quickly, then scrubbed my pans clean with sand and stashed my most of my gear -- except my revolver, some emergency medical supplies, and my canteen -- in one of the campers in the trailer park between the theater and Nipton. I wanted to check the rest of the town before getting back on the road. There might have been survivors hiding somewhere... and, if not, there definitely was salvage to be had. I wanted an empty bag so I could haul back everything and sort the wheat from the chaff.
Hey, carrion’s carrion, and even coyotes have to make a living. Maybe I can trade some of it for ammunition to pay back the Legion for Nipton.
In the end, it was a worthwhile morning. My first stop, the General Store, turned up something in the way of both options -- salvage AND a survivor. The exterior was charred but still standing, so I pushed through the doors. The dawn light slanting in through the windows revealed the wreck of a man curled into himself and propped up against the counter.
His legs, even across the room and covered by his clothes, had obviously been fractured multiple times. I was honestly stunned that he was conscious, or even alive -- that much trauma should have put anyone into shock or killed them outright. The angles in his legs were unnatural and far too numerous -- I shuddered to think of the thoroughness of the assault that had left him like this.
He was unarmed, but he still pulled himself into something approaching a defensive posture. At first, I just assumed he thought I was a Legionary coming back to finish him off, but he actually tensed MORE once he could see my face, and swore with creativity and conviction.
At this point, I realized that he was wearing an NCRCF jumpsuit. I suppose, since they had already sent a hit squad after me, that I shouldn’t be surprised that he might have recognized me, but I’m still finding any sort of infamy rather novel.
I told him to shut up about it, did a quick pat-down to make sure he definitely wasn’t armed -- a paraplegic can pull a trigger just as easily as a healthy person, and has the benefit of increased stability -- and then took a look at his legs. 
He tried to pull away, honestly panicked -- and really, I know I don’t look my best when I haven’t had a good night’s sleep, but that seemed a bit ridiculous -- and I told him again to settle the *Expletive Deleted* down and tell me what happened while I looked him over.
He just stared after that, apparently in disbelief, and swore constantly under his breath while I slit the sides of his pants and grimaced at the ruins of his legs. He was beyond anything I could do for him. Maybe, after several orthopedic surgeries, extensive pinning, braces, and aggressive physical therapy, he might be able to walk again with the assistance of crutches or a walker. 
As it was, he’d be needing a cart.
I filled him in on the news and told him there was nothing I could do for him. He blew out another long breath, swore again, and told me if I was really crazy enough to be trying to help him, I could get him high enough that he’d stop caring.
I looked at his legs again, back at his pain-lined face, and sighed. I had brought one of my last bottles of Med-X with me in my emergency supplies along with a syringe and a few stimpaks, and I filled the syringe to the hilt through the bottle’s rubber cap.
I put the bottle away, tapped the air bubbles out of the needle, then looked at the broken man significantly, holding it partly out towards him. I told him that the whole thing, enough to either ease his pain or end it permanently depending on how much he chose to use, was his if he’d fill me in on the town, the Legion, and what had happened.
It was less that he stopped swearing than than his swearing became more informative after that point, but he agreed, greedily accepting the syringe and beginning to tie off his arm with his belt with practiced ease.
His name, or “handle” maybe, was Boxcars -- in reference to dice or trains, I’m still not sure -- and he pretty well confirmed the story I’d gotten from Swanick and Dog Hat. The Mayor had come to the ‘Gangers with the plan to capture the NCR soldiers on leave in the town, and then they had been double-crossed by the Legion and everyone submitted to the lottery.
Boxcars had won second place, free to go as far as his broken legs could carry him.
He did mention one bit of new information, however -- some of the Legion’s captives were still alive. The group of Legionaries I’d seen with Dog Hat was apparently only part of the force that had initially invaded the town; Boxcars had seen the majority of the Legion force leading a string of captives off to the northeast.
I’ve heard the Legion takes slaves. Apparently, that’s another aspect of Caesar’s take on civilization.
I thanked him for the information, but he was preparing to dose himself and just waved me away. I turned and did a sweep of the store, not wanting to watch while he selected how much to give himself. My search turned up a decent amount of caps and some tradable sundries, but nothing remarkable. 
I glanced at Boxcars one last time before I left. His eyes were glazed, his breathing slow and shallow, the pained lines on his face were gone, and the syringe was hanging loosely from his fingers.
I wouldn’t swear to it, but it looked empty from where I stood. I shut the door firmly behind me.
After leaving the store, I began poking through the residential buildings along the main street. The town hadn’t been a large one by pre-war standards, at least as far as I could tell, and most of the homes were single story, with a simple layout of a living area, a bedroom or two, a kitchen, and a bathroom. 
They’re palatial by wasteland standards, though, and had been fairly well stocked by their residents before the Legion attack -- which must have come suddenly, as I found several meals on tables, either untouched or half eaten. These were flyblown and inedible -- or at least, I wasn’t so desperate as to try -- but plenty of the cupboards and cabinets still had preserved or sealed foodstuff, including enough water to replenish my stores. Not all of it was radiation-free, of course, but I was still relatively clean after my Rad-Away purge the day before yesterday, and, besides, a little glow is always better than dehydration.
Most of the houses were depressingly quiet and uneventful, but there were a few surprises nonetheless. Aren’t there always? One enterprising Nipton resident had apparently mounted a last-ditch defense in his home with the aid of a repaired Mr. Handy robot. Both he and the Mr. Handy had been smashed to pieces by the Legion, but not without taking two of them down.
I stripped the Mr. Handy for parts that might be useful should ED-E get himself into anymore scrapes.
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010101010110111001100011011001010111001001110100
<<UserID:Webb>> You’re mouthy today, aren’t you? 
Anyway, after some further thought, I also stripped the two Legionaries of their uniforms and, between the two sets, managed to cobble together enough undamaged pieces of padding and protective gear that, if push ever came to shove, I’d probably be able to pass as a Legion recruit, at least from a distance. Wouldn’t be the first time I’d flown false colors to make it through a checkpoint safely. It’s already come in handy today, in fact. More on that in a second.
The biggest surprise came in the last house I checked, which contained another dead Legionary next to a makeshift crate that had been hastily assembled from welded bits of scrap metal. I couldn’t see inside, but I could hear something moving. Thinking of Boxcars’s stories of slaves being taken, I figured this might have been some poor sap left behind and yanked the cage open... leaving me completely unprepared for the three enormous bark scorpions trapped inside.
I yelped -- in a manly, courageous fashion, I’m sure...
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010100110110010101101110011100110110111101110010
<<UserID:Webb>> ...and scrambled backwards, dragging ED-E towards and through the door of the house and slamming it shut behind us. 
I could hear the scorpions moving around inside, slamming into the walls, and one actually managed to smash a claw through the flimsy pressboard board. I backed up a good distance, drew my revolver, and prepared to open fire when they emerged, but, before the one attacking the door could force a big enough hole, an explosion blew out two windows and part of a wall of the house, taking bits of bark scorpion with it. The house must have been booby-trapped with mines in case the scorpions got free of the cage.
I’m still assuming the Legion caged them and left them there -- I can’t imagine why a trading town would corral scorpions -- but the whole thing is still a bit of a mystery. Maybe they’d been intending to feed some of the townspeople to them.
After what I’ve seen here, it wouldn’t surprise me.
I took a moment to let the dust settle and drank a bottle of Sunset Sarsaparilla I’d turned up in one of the other houses while I calmed down, chuckling a bit when I saw it had another of those little stars in the cap. For someone who ISN’T hunting the damn things, I certainly seem to be finding more than my fair share of them.
We checked through the ruins of the house, but there wasn’t much left of use after the blast. Definitely looked like proximity mines. The only two buildings left to check were the town’s hotel and the town hall. As the hotel was smaller, I opted to knock that out of the way first.
Inside the hotel, it was... grim. This was apparently where they chose to dump the bodies of the NCR soldiers that had been killed during the round-up. I could give a molerat’s ass for the NCR in general these days, but these poor kids deserved better than to be dumped unceremoniously in an abandoned hotel to rot. I found sheets and blankets enough to cover them, arranged them as peacefully as I could -- rigor had come and gone, so at least it wasn’t a fight -- and took their dog tags. Like that fellow outside Primm, I’m sure they’ve got family somewhere who shouldn’t be kept wondering.
Nothing else of interest in the hotel besides one of the blankets that I kept for myself, so I moved on to the town hall. As I opened the door, lottery tickets drifted out from inside like dead leaves -- this must have been where they held the damn thing. Further inside, I quickly realized that this must have been used by Dog Hat and his Legionaries as their temporary HQ after they’d taken over, thanks in no small part to the assortment of their attack dogs they had left behind for some reason. I pulled on the pads and helmet I’d taken off the dead Legionaries, and the dogs seems content to leave us alone as I poked around.
I left the door propped open as well -- they may have belonged to the Legion, but no beasts deserve to starve to death trapped in a building.
The dogs weren’t the only welcome the Legion had left behind. The whole place was laced with more proximity mines. ED-E and I swept each room carefully, and I scraped the rust off my explosives training from the service enough to deactivate and collect the mines as we went. The effort was worthwhile -- plenty of food, water, clothing, and a treasure trove of ammunition in a gunsafe in the basement that gave up its secrets with a little gentle attention. 
I wish I still had my old stethoscope, though -- Jess always said I saved more lives with the supplies I found picking locks with it than I ever did listening to heart beats and respiration.
One last item of interest in the office upstairs -- the rest of the journal of the town mayor, Steyn. The son of a *Expletive Deleted* was nothing more than a pimp from the Hub with delusions of grandeur. Though I wish they hadn’t been involved at all, I’m glad the Legion gave him what he deserved, rather than what he bargained for.
I dragged my haul back to the rest of my supplies in the camper south of town, sorted through everything, and then divided up the most useful and valuable pieces between ED-E and myself, giving each of us as much as we could comfortably carry. I’ve left some of the rest here to pick up on my way back through.
Yeah, I said “back through”. Idiot that I am, I decided to backtrack the entire fourteen miles to the Mojave Outpost to let them know what had happened to Nipton. As much as I hate bearing the word of the Legion, we can’t have caravaners running into an ambush. Even with the road recently cleared by us on the way east, it still took the better part of four hours to make the trip back. 
I arrived at those ridiculous statues just before fifteen hundred hours. The sergeant, Kilborn, seemed surprised to see me again so soon, and I told him he’d better grab Ranger Ghost so they could listen to the news I had... which wasn’t good.
Ghost didn’t seem tremendously surprised, given the intel and suspicions she’d already had, but Kilborn was visibly shaken. Still, he assured me he’d warn anyone traveling east about possible Legion attacks, and both of them promised to alert their superiors about how far west the Legion was pushing.
I left them to discuss the details between themselves and unloaded a bit of my salvage on Lacey in the barracks in exchange for a late lunch and a stiff drink. No sign of that pretty redhead from the other day -- when I asked, Lacey raised an eyebrow and just said she was “sleeping it off”. Ah well. I didn’t have much time to waste at any rate; after finishing lunch and hitting the latrines, I got back on the road east, retracing my steps yet again.
I only reached Nipton again as dusk was starting to fall, so I’ve made camp in the same spot as last night.
Like I said earlier, it’s been a whole lot of walking to end up in the exact same place.
You need to drop the conscience, Webb. Sooner rather than later, it’s going to get you killed.
On the other hand, though... I don’t think I’ll have any trouble sleeping tonight.
Signing off.
//Recording Ends//

Saturday, September 10, 2011

//Log Date: 2281-10-29 21:03//

<<UserID:Webb>> I don’t...
I don’t even know where to start. I’m sick straight through to to the bone, and I don’t even know who has disgusted me more -- the *Expletive Deleted* Legion... or me.
Where did my last recording cut out? With that madman Swanick, I think. Coming up the road into Nipton, he came running straight at me, and I almost shot him before I realized he was unarmed and grinning like a lunatic.
I could barely get any sense out of the man, other than that he had won some sort of lottery and was EXTREMELY excited about it. I remember some little betting pools we used to stir up back in the service, mostly for decent food, trading the less popular duties, or a few caps, but nothing that would make you think the air smelled like wine. 
At first, I assumed he must be one of those lucky individuals with whose mental capacity is so limited that they can find joy in nearly anything. I’m sure Swanick’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but, as it turned out, he had reason enough to be acting the way he was.
I didn’t get the reason from him, however. Before I could ask him anything substantial beyond his name -- Oliver Swanick -- he ran past me down the road, still hollering and shouting about his luck. I stared after him, scratching my head as he dwindled into the distance, gradually fading into the heat shimmer on the broken asphalt in the early afternoon sun.
As I got into the town proper, the unease growing in my gut twisted into a full knot. The smoke was coming from far too many places to be tanning fires or bonfires, and the place was empty... completely empty, except for the crows.
Well, that’s not entirely true. There were the crosses.
Oh, god. The crosses. I saw them with my own eyes, and I can still barely believe it.
I’ve seen terrible things. Things, if this world hadn’t gone to hell, that no one should have to see. Things I’d joined the service all those years ago to try and prevent. 
I’ve seen murder, rape... cannibalism. But, as horrible as those things have been, somehow they speak of lost humanity, of people lowering themselves to animal states in response to the world. That doesn’t excuse anything -- the notches on my old service rifle would attest to that, if those *Expletive Deleted* Khans with Checkers hadn’t taken it when they rolled me outside of Goodsprings -- but it somehow makes it easier to understand. 
We all have that reptile somewhere back in our brains, just waiting for enough of the cage of society to fall away so it can reach its jaws out into the world. But crucifixion? That IS society.
Establishing and following a tradition that allows for the public humiliation, torture, and eventual death of our fellow man is... well, uniquely human. It takes society to come up with something that depraved. I think that’s what sickens me the most. 
If this is what is growing out of the ashes... maybe the bombs should have finished what they started.
Lining the streets, hung from lamp posts, telephone poles, anything that would support them, was what was left of the population of Nipton, nailed by the wrists to the wooden beams or skewered on spikes soldered into the metal posts. Some of them were NCR, some were wearing the convict jumpsuits of Powder Gangers, and some were just plain old folks, as best as I could tell.
Interspersed between the makeshift crosses were spears, pikes... even fenceposts... topped with severed heads, their tattered necks dripping down the posts. The fires spread through town were pyres, heaped with smoldering decapitated bodies.
Most of the crucified people, thankfully, were also dead, either from blood loss, exposure, embolisms stemming from their broken legs, or, for the really unlucky ones, the none-too-delicate attentions of impatient carrion birds.
It’s funny -- I remember reading in one of the Vault City medical library’s holotapes that crucifixion actually killed victims via suffocation. That can’t be true, though -- there’s no way that a body with arms angled in that fashion would...
Gah. Stop it, Webb. No sense hiding from reality in textbooks. You’ve got to get this out, just so it’s not festering in your head.
Some of them... hadn’t died. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were still alive. They just weren’t dead yet. Or maybe I just have to think of them that way. 
One of them, a young man in brown NCR fatigues, had lost both eyes to the crow sitting on his shoulder. He was moaning softly, almost a whisper. I’m sure it would have been a scream if he had still had the energy for it.
There was nothing I could still do for him, or any of them. Maybe, if we’d been back in Shady Sands or the Hub, with full facilities and supplies, some of them might have made it. Here, all I could do was hurry them on past the pain.
I’d like to say I had enough chems to send them off peacefully to sleep. Unfortunately, I’m a pretty bad liar, even to myself.
The young solider, the one with the missing eyes, heard me cock my revolver. The moaning stopped, and he sagged at the sound. I’d like to say he was sagging in relief. I’d like to say he whispered “thank you” before I pulled the trigger.
Like I said, though, I’m a pretty bad liar.
I walked down the road, stopping before each cross and doing what I could for those left behind. It was methodical work, but far from quiet, and I was so intent on it that I didn’t even notice we were surrounded until ED-E let out a warning series of chirps.
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010100000110110001100101011000010111001101100101
<<UserID:Webb>> Yes, yes, thank you. Just like that.
They must have been behind the doors of the houses along the street, but when I looked away from the last of the crucified, there were men with weapons drawn in a nearly complete circle, with enough distance staggered between them so that they could easily open fire on me in the middle without fear of hitting one another in the crossfire.
They were dressed in sets of armor cobbled together from pre-war sports gear and other miscellany, mostly painted red. Many had helmets, and their weapons ranged from throwing spears to repeater rifles, though all looked well-maintained compared to the standard raider fare.
The Legion. I’d only heard stories before today, but this had to be them, bringing Caesar’s vision of a civilized America across the Colorado. The crosses... the corpse of this entire town... it must have been their work.
They had me dead to rights. I could have shot one, maybe two if I was lucky, before being cut down, and whatever delusions of valor I once had died years ago. I dropped my revolver and raised my hands, whispering to ED-E to keep its laser array powered down while I waited to see what they would do. 
I figured that, if it looked like I was headed for a cross, I could go for my rifle and just make them shoot me, rather than giving them the satisfaction.
Instead, I’ve kept my life, but at the cost of whatever pride I had left. Once I had disarmed myself, another figure appeared, walking casually out of the doors of the large town hall at the head of the main street, flanked by two enormous dogs and wearing the better part of a third on his head.
He walked straight up to me, though not so close as to block his comrades’ lines of fire --  and smiled almost pleasantly. He told me, with great satisfaction and in a voice that was calm and oddly feminine, that my presence was fortuitous, and that they had better uses for me than decorating the local signposts.
He dolled it up in language that would have made even a Hubologist roll their eyes, but the long and short of it is this: he wants me to spread the word about Nipton as an “object lesson” to the Mojave, about what happens to those who follow ideals other than those of Caesar.
What had happened was... well, Swanick hadn’t been crazy, at least about the lottery. The mayor of the town, that Steyn bastard whose journal I found, had sold out the local population to the Legion, getting the Powder Gangers to take out the visiting NCR troops and then allowing the Legion to sweep in on the rest. For his trouble, he’d been burned alive on a pile of tires.
The rest of the town had been forced to draw lots. The “winner” had been Swanick -- he’d been freed, with no physical harm done to him, though the trauma of the event may have broken his mind for good. The “runner-up” was also freed, but had his legs broken. 
The poor bastard may still be around. He can’t have gotten far with both legs broken. I’ll have to look for him tomorrow, but tonight... I can’t. I just can’t.
The next group “won” the privilege of quick deaths -- decapitations -- though the process was still one by one, meaning everyone was forced to watch their neighbors, their friends, their family members being killed. The dog-hatted smooth talker was quick to point out that their lack of action while watching others die only cemented their guilt in the eyes of the Legion. I thought about the paralyzing terror they must have felt instead, and it was everything I could do not to go for my rifle after all.
In the end, of course, good old fashioned self-preservation -- or, let’s call a spade a spade, cowardice -- won out, and I bit my tongue, listening to the rest of his venom spew out.
The last group were the ones chosen for crucifixion. This was the civilization Caesar had imposed on Arizona, and what he was trying to spread here.
I told them I’d do as they asked, that I’d spread word. Dog Hat's smile, nearly vulpine already, spread even further, and he and his troops turned and left town without another word or a backwards glance at the carnage in their wake.
It makes me feel so covered with grime that I’ll never be clean to have agreed with anything that bastard said, but the simple fact is that he was right, at least about one thing: people need to be warned. If the Legion is already pushing this far west -- on the California border, for god’s sake -- then people need to know that they need to be on their guard, or Nipton’s lottery will just be the first.
Still won’t make it any easier to look myself in a mirror next time I find one, though.
I made camp for the night in the wreckage of some sort of open air theater south of the town -- I couldn’t bring myself to stay inside it any longer today, though I’ll see if I can force myself back in for a look through the ruins tomorrow.
A few geckos were creeping towards the town, perhaps drawn by the smell of so much ready meat. I shot two with my repeater and chased the others off, then made a fire here in the theater lot, but I couldn’t dredge up much of an appetite and ended up smoking the meat instead.
It’s late now, and at least I’ve gotten this nightmare of a day out on tape. Past time to put my head down... though I doubt if I’ll actually get any sleep. 
I doubt if I deserve any.
Signing off.
//Recording Ends//