FALLOUT: Ain't that a Kick in the Head

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Krimp, Jan 18, 2015.

  1. Somewhere in the east of the Mojave
    [​IMG]The sun beat down relentlessly upon unforgiving rock and red, gritty sand. Through the shimmering heat of midday, an ant the height of a child and three times as long continued to scavenge the withered meat of a similarly proportioned scorpion, its stinger the length of a man's arm. In the distance, the unmistakable crack of a rifle echoed through the dry air. Shortly afterwards came an agonized scream, then silence.

    A typical day in the Mojave Wasteland, all in all.

    Just one ridge over, a much more succulent feast lay motionless in the heat. If the ant had only known about the body it would have been able to bring enough food back to the hive to last the colony a week. Fortunately for the unconscious girl, the ant was unaware of her presence.

    The experienced eye would have seen signs of commotion surrounding the inert body. Scuffled bootprints, several pairs of feet walking away. However, these signs were fast fading; the keening wind saw to that.

    In the heat of midday, it is impossible for one to remain unconscious in the Mojave. The skin begins to burn and peel, one's mouth becomes as dry and uncomfortable as if it were filled with cotton.

    The sun continued to sear the desert.

    On one hand, the girl's fingers twitched.

    FALLOUT: AIN'T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD

     
  2. Marooned

    Dry. Arid. Uncomfortable, no - more than that - intolerable conditions. Her skin felt tender to the touch as she flexed her fingers, the tips brushing painfully against her palms. With each rapid, frantic beat of her heart a fresh wave of pain amplified the already throbbing headache that roared behind her eyes. With a groan of pain, the girl managed to hoist her torso upwards, the sudden movement causing her head to swim and her stomach to recoil in equal measure. The discomfort passed, leaving pain and exhaustion in its stead. Taking a near-unresponsive arm, the girl ran a hand through her eyes, wiping away the crust that had settled there.

    When, after a good deal of scratching and rubbing, she did at last open her eyes, the light saw to it that they shut once more. The afterimage still burning behind her closed eyes, the girl attempted to stand, an arm meekly shielding her eyes from the blaring sun. After situating herself blindly to her knees, she attempted to launch herself to her feet. For a second the girl stood, eyes adjusted well enough to the light, before gravity got the better of her. A leg buckled under the weight, causing her to topple over on her back. Had her throat not been mangled, raw, and dry, she certainly would have cried out in pain - she managed only a whimper.

    Fuck.

    Seemingly hours passed as she lay there, unresponsive and limp, eyes staring aimlessly upwards at the dull blue-grey sky crowded with polluted and filthy clouds borne aloft on an unbearably warm wind. Then she heard it, the sound of a hard surface tapping upon stone followed by clicking and low hisses. Her head managed to pivot with the grace of a rusted hinge towards the source of the noise some few paces to her left - a figure low to the ground, propelled on more than two legs. Groggily, the girl reached for her weapon only to realize there was no weapon in the holster strapped to her leg.

    The figure was approaching rapidly, legs carrying it towards the meat it believed dead, and dead it may as well have been. Doing all she could to position her arms in a loose stance to fend the beast off, the girl braced herself for what would been a messy end to what had been a brief beginning. She bit her lip, wincing as the teeth sawed through the dry and cracked skin, drawing a drop of thick and crimson blood that crawled its way down her chin. There will be plenty more to spare.

     
    #2 J_"Kraken", Jan 19, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2015
  3. , brown
    CRACK.

    The ant's head shattered into a hundred pieces alongside the sharp, percussive sound of a rifle firing. The thick exoskeleton scattered in all directions while a wet, viscous fluid spattered onto the girl's unprotected arms. The legs twitched spasmodically for several more seconds before falling into an almost peaceful stillness.

    It seemed the hive would not be getting its feast today.

    A figure came over the ridge, silhouetted by the burning sun behind it. Slowly he walked down towards the girl, his boots crunching sand and ant-carapace indiscriminately. Slowly, the black shape turned into a less imposing figure: a gaunt, weathered man with an untamed beard and a ragged hood protecting his head from the worst of the sun's anger. In his hand was a rifle almost as worn as he was.

    The man looked the girl over appraisingly, his faded blue eyes taking her in with one shrewd glance. "Forgive me if I'm bein' rude," he drawled, "but I take it you didn't want ta get eaten by our friend here." He kicked at the dead ant with one foot, causing it to make a clattering sound as it rolled onto its back.

    "Still," he continued as he bent down and snapped of the end joint of one of the legs, "he'll have his uses." With motions that belied experience, he raised the joint to his mouth and sucked out the contents before spitting out the muck onto the stones at his feet. With this done, he crouched down to the girls level, showing her the now hollow leg.

    "You need water, and I have precious little of it as is," the man said. "So here's how we're gonna do it - a little bit at a time, alright?" He procured a skin from beneath his cloak and poured it as carefully as if it were molten gold he was handling. This being done, he extended the leg joint to the girl. If she asked for more water, he would refill it several more times before putting back away the skin. Once she had drunk her fill, he rose to his feet, blocking the sun from reaching the girl.

    "Now then miss, if you don't mind my askin': what are you doin' out here all by yourself?" He looked once again at her feeble state. "Not by your own accord, I'm guessin'."
     

  4. "Don't know." Her voice cracked.

    At the moment, she was at least able to sit upright without the urge to vomit, even if her head ached and her stomach made its discomfort clear. The blood that had run down her chin had already dried into a line of brown crust lined with cracks and a good deal of innards from the ant had splattered across her arm and torso, leaving the mangled and dust-matted tanker jacket in a worse condition than it had been. That jacket currently sat in a crumbled heap next to her, its extra warmth not welcome to her already heat stroke-wracked body.

    "Figure I was dragged from New Vegas or somethin'." She added after a lengthy pause, the location flitting into her head as she spoke. "Name's Leslie Turner, you got one too?"

    That, at least, she had remembered more or less after coming to. There were other fragments floating around her mind, scattered names, images, and dates, none of which she could recall or make sense of. Neither did any of this information, these memories, feel to be her own, rather someone else's experiences as told through some third party.

    A hand scratched at the dried blood lined across her chin, chipping away the film that had developed as she waited for an answer. Leslie wagered that if this man had been one of those who had booted her, he would have finished the job first and asked questions later, so for the time being she held her tongue. Partially, if she was being completely honest with herself, the silence was as much a matter of her mangled throat and dried-out tongue as it was caution. After all, if this man did mean her harm, she would be as helpless as she was with the ant: at least a bullet was a quicker end.
     
  5. , brown
    "Vegas, huh?"

    The man laughed, a hoarse, dry sound that sounded more like a rasping cough. "Yer not the first to have found 'emselves in this here predicament after a couple nights in Vegas. Won't be the last either, I'll bet." Despite his humorous tone, the man's lined face was unreadable. What was visible of it, at least: the sun still threw half his face into shadow. "Well, most of 'em don't end up actually wakin' up, if you catch my meaning. So yer already doin' better than most, I s'pose."

    Silence fell, then stretched. If the man was planning to answer Leslie's question, you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at him. He stared into the distance, seemingly at nothing, as if he hadn't even heard the girl.

    "You can call me Ray." The response, when it finally came, was quiet, almost mumbled through his coarse beard.

    Suddenly, the man was moving; it was as if someone had been winding a cog inside him, and had suddenly let go. His gun went into a holster over his shoulder, a dark something was fished from within his cloak and transferred to his mouth, and lined brown hand was extended towards Leslie.

    "I don' know if I can help ye all the way back to Vegas, but I guess there's still some lil' bit of good in me. I can't bring myself to leave you here."

    If she took his hand, he would pull her up with a firm grip. Once she was on her feet he turned taking a couple of steps towards the next rise.

    "Vegas is a few days travel, you sure ain't getting there tonight. There's a small settlement a little ways nor'west though. If we keep a good pace," he said, shading his eyes and looking up at the sun, "we can get there by nightfall. 'Sides, I need to resupply." Ray took several more steps before stopping suddenly and turning back to look at her, chewing slowly on whatever he had placed in his mouth. "That is - and I hope you don' mind my askin' - if yer okay to walk?"
     

  6. "Don't intend on goin' back to Vegas if they booted me. That'd be a death wish, no?" Leslie stated dryly. "As for walking, I should be good to go.. be it a tad on the slow side."

    For the moment, it was truth, though she didn't know how much longer she could forestall the combination of heat stroke, missed meals, and dehydration. Her gut told her she should, as Ray had put so eloquently, not woken up from a nap like that. At least that while the days were miserably warm and dry, the nights would provide a respite from the dry heat the sun tended to. Without that, she would be better off as a choice morsel for the ants and flies.

    Failing health aside, she still lacked a weapon of any sorts, though she doubted that anything would be better than a club in her hands, healthy or not. Giving her surroundings one last sweep, Leslie decided that whatever firearm had been in that holster was long gone. Bracing herself for a miserable end to a miserable day, the ragged and flushed Leslie took a step towards Ray, swaying momentarily before gaining her footing.

    But that's the worst part, the actual bit involving your legs.

    Tossing aside the thought, Leslie cleared her hoarse throat and half-coughed-half-grunted out.

    "Let's get going."
     
  7. , brown
    Ray spat. The brown juice blended with the barren earth as soon as it hit the ground.

    "No time like the present. Let's go."


    [---]

    The trek was not easy, but it was manageable. The sun had reached its peak hours ago, and as the pair walked over ridge after identical ridge, its fury lessened to a bearable temperature. Ray made sure that both Leslie and himself took small sips of water at regular intervals; as her dehydration lessoned, Leslie's headache would most likely abate to some degree.

    As the sun dipped down towards the mountains in the west, the two finally found themselves on a narrow strip of shattered concrete - Ray gave a small grunt of satisfaction upon seeing this. Walking along this ruined road proved to be much easier than the rest of the journey, and by the time night fell a small gathering of lights could be seen up ahead.​

    [---]


    A frown creased Ray's already lined forehead even further. "More light's 'n usual. There's only about twenty folks live here. Looks like they got company tonight."

    The unspoken question lay heavy in the air between them: friendly or hostile?

    Ray crouched low before moving closer towards the settlement, gesturing for Leslie to do the same. They crept closer and closer, until before long figures could be seen beneath the flickering lights. Figures uniformly dressed in a dark green. If Ray was relieved at the sight, though, he didn't show it. The frown that had stayed in place seemed to deepen further if anything.

    "Ah, shit. P'raps we should camp out for the night, come back in the mornin'."

    But before Leslie could respond a light exploded into existence behind the pair, blinding them both.

    "NCR! Keep your hands visible. What is your business here?" The voice was rough, the figure who owned it nothing more than a shadow behind the glaring light it held. Ray had hidden his face in the shadows of his hood; Leslie had no such protection, though, and the man took a step closer to her.

    "I will not ask again! What is your business here?"
     

  8. One arm blocking her eyes from the piercing light, the sudden visual stimulus not a welcome one, Leslie shot a quick glance at Ray. His face was cast in too extreme a shadow to tell if he was fearful, ready to attack, or simply passive. 'NCR' sounded familiar enough, but saying she didn't exactly know why she should follow their orders seemed foolish. The trooper's agitation was palpable as Leslie stared remained still and silent. Coming to the realization Ray was content to keep his piece, she quickly threw out the first thought to come to mind.

    "Stoppin' for supplies is all." The strain was evident in her voice, a combination of a sore throat and nervousness mingling. "I'm sure you can see only one of us is armed and-"

    "Coming this late to a town in the mud?" The man retorted. "Doubtful you mean well, even if you don't have a visible weapon."

    Leslie's temper flared as she thought of a reasonable explanation as to why they were here; Ray unfortunately had the only voice to sway anyone's opinion. As far as she knew they were there for supplies and possible rest, but this NCR soldier seemed content to deny any good intentions. She could feel the pause dragging itself the space between her and the soldier. Any second now, that distance would cut itself to the distance from the man's hand to the trigger of his weapon.

    "Been a long day. The gun hand's a guard. I'm on my way from Vegas on request for some medical treatment due this way. We could've stopped and made camp for the night, but we figured we'd reach this place by night. 'Sides, if that isn't a good 'nough answer, you're more than enough now that you've seen us and know we aren't sneakin' through, no?"

    Leslie waited at the man mulled the statement over, her eyes finally adjusted enough to the light enough to squint at her general surroundings - it was just another town in the mud, no different than the dozens that dotted the desert. The look of it sparked more images, but those were just more fragments of dust-strewn roads, signs, and buildings. That same feeling of distance attached itself to images just as it had earlier, but Leslie was sure they were hers. At last, the man cleared his throat in preparation to speak.

    Come on, believe it...
     
    #8 J_"Kraken", Jan 23, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2015
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Rubetta, brown
    The man ran a hand over his rough stubble, indecision clear in his eyes. The unlikely duo waited expectantly. It was strange how a nameless soldier could hold people's lives in his hand, just like that. But the NCR were law in the Mojave; if he shot them right there and then, no one would come crying after him.

    "Alright, alright." The man's hand strayed away from the gun it had been hovering over. "That's good enough for me." He gave the pair the once-over one more time, like if he looked closely enough he'd find some threat he'd missed before. "If anyone questions you in there, just tell 'em Private Reynolds let you in. Welcome to Rubetta."

    "Oh, and be careful round here," the man had to call out, for Ray had already taken Leslie's arm and started leading her into the town, "there's been Legion spotted around these parts. The cocky fuckers," he added under his breath as the two disappeared from view. He wondered once more whether he should have questioned the two further - that hired gun had seemed suspicious, hadn't he? Covering his face wasn't exactly a trustworthy move. Then again, folks out this far East were strange - that's what his ma had always said, at least.

    Private Reynolds shrugged and returned to his rounds.

    "You handled that well," Ray muttered from the depths of his hood. He still kept close to Leslie as they walked down the muddy lane that split the small town in two. "Medical treatment, I like that. Not wrong, either - we best get ye looked at right away."

    He gestured with one arm towards a small building: a lean-to that looked like if it lean-to'd any more it would topple like a house of cards. "Had dealin's with the NCR before, have ya?"

    Ray knocked on the door of the dilapidated building, before looking sideways at Leslie for a reply.
     

  10. "Not that I can remember, no." Leslie returned dryly, adding as an afterthought. "What was that 'bout Legion? That I haven't had come to. They seem the sort they wouldn't let through, though, no?"

    Nothing else about the worn town had sparked any further flashes or memories to come about. The town shack had been the only oddity, being barely above a passable excuse at lodging. Holes in the roof saw to it that the sun could get in and the heat could slip out. The door served only as a formality. Whatever 'windows' there were only came in the form of holes in the wall covered in tarp.

    Unable to keep the comment nestled in her mind, Leslie blurted out. "And we walked this far for a little shack?"

    Picked a great day to wake up, didn't you?

    While it was shelter in the basest sense, she took no pleasure in the knowledge that this was it. Either Ray lacked a proper home or this was as close as it came; neither particularly thrilled the bleary-eyed and exhausted Leslie. Still, better than a rock bed crawling with ants of varying sizes under a blazing sun, she had to admit as she carefully tested her weight against the shack by leaning against it. With a groan of bending wood, the wall held and, reassured that she would not topple through their only shelter, Leslie turned back to Ray.
     
  11. , brown
    Ray grinned at Leslie's bold comment, causing the wrinkles around his eyes to deepen further; it seemed that whatever expression his face assumed, his face just became more lined. "Didn't yer ma ever tell you not to judge a book by it's cover? Just wait a minute, you'll see." Sure enough, footsteps could be heard moving towards the door, accompanied by the creak of old timber.

    "I'm surprised you ain't heard o'the Legion, though. Caesar's boys?" When Leslie's face showed no recognition, Ray shrugged, a slow, languid movement. "It seems we have plen'y to talk about, then."

    The grizzled man looked like he was about to continue when a thin voice, sharp but brittle, came from the other side of the door. "Yes?"

    "Anne, it's jus' me. Got somebody I need ye to look at."

    The door swung open, revealing a woman as thin and sharp as the voice they had just heard. Though she couldn't have been older than fifty, her stern gaze and crescent glasses added a hint of antiquity to her face. She glanced at Ray briefly before turning her attention to Leslie, who she examined as if she was nothing more than a slab of meat on an operating table.

    "Howdy, Ray. What do we have here?"

    "This is Leslie. Found her in the desert, alone. She seems better now," Ray glanced at her, "but I'd 'preciate it if you could check her out all the same."

    "Fine. Come in."

    The woman abruptly turned back into the house, with Ray following close behind. She led the pair down a set of stairs into a concrete basement lined with bright halogen bulbs. There was a padded medical bed in the centre of the room, and trays of clean-looking medical equipment ran along the walls.

    "Take a seat," Anne demanded of Leslie, walking to the bed. "Keep your eyes open. Does this hurt?" The woman pressed tough fingers into the flesh of Leslie's neck. "What about this?"

    While the woman began her stern ministrations, Ray leaned back against the wall by the door - one of the only places free of medical equipment. "Now then Leslie, I been patient all day, but I have'ta ask. You said you don' remember why you got booted from Vegas - but what about before that? Where were ye headin'?"

    "What's yer story, girl?"
     

  12. "And you're sure this doesn't hurt at all?" Anne asked, pressing her fingers back at the base of Leslie's chin for the third time.

    A nod.

    "Dehydration, doc." The agitated reply followed.

    "I know that." Anne snapped. "I want to make sure there's nothing else broken on you, got it?"

    Defeated, Leslie slid back across the patient's chair and let out a sharp sigh of annoyance. While Anne worked through more of her meticulous searches, she considered Ray's question. He obviously seemed keen on ignoring that the only things that had come to had been her name, a vague idea of what the NCR were, and some flashes. Anne momentarily stepped away from the chair, heading to her cabinet where began a flurry of motion as she grabbed for this and that. Returning to the chair, she hoisted Leslie's left arm up then set it back down.

    "Which vein's better?" The old woman prompted, switching her piercing gaze to the right arm. "Don't want to make any more mistakes at your expense."

    "Left." Leslie replied, taking a random guess.

    The woman's arm shot forward, pricking the IV into the soft flesh at the crook of her elbow. Before she could even wince in response, she had twisted a valve on the needle and clear liquid began dripping from a plastic pouch mounted on a metal pole. With that finished, Anne turned back to Ray and chuckled. The noise was raspy and sharp just as her voice had been, though it sounded more in truth like an amused bout of coughing.

    "Your friend here's got some concussion going on. Probably blotted out her memory, or she's just a good actor. That IV's got hydration in it, won't help your throat, but we don't got the water to cure that level of dehydration regularly. The throat's easy, though, so this'll be good enough for the time being. You've got some other things going on, like those burns, but those'll just get some bandages every other day or so. As for that concussion, 'dunno when that will sort itself out. Still, you'll live."

    Leslie merely nodded her reply, staring down at the drip in her arm. She certainly didn't feel any better, though she had to allow herself the luxury of relaxing. She looked around for Ray, her gaze finally settling down on the ragged old man. With a fragile smile she offered a wave with her unrestricted arm and tapped the side of her head.

    "See, I'm in trauma." A dimly amused wink followed.
     
  13. , brown
    A slight grin played around the corners of Ray's lips - or at least what was visible of them beneath the rough beard. "S'like I said before," he said dryly, "ye ain't the first Vegas has chewed up and spat right back out. Trauma by havin' too much to drink, p'raps."

    "Can't see no effects of alcohol poisoning, Ray - at least not enough to cause this sort of amnesia."

    "No, Anne, I s'pose I was just kiddin', anyways." The grin faded from his face, returning it to that weathered, unreadable mask. While his eyes stared somewhere in front of him, his hands absent-mindedly fished around for more of the dark chewing-leaf, eliciting an exasperated If you spit on my floor I'll have your tongue from Anne. He didn't respond though, just kept staring into space while Anne checked over the IV bag, chewing slowly on the leaf. Any thoughts he had were hidden behind those faded blue eyes.

    After what seemed to be a couple of minutes, something in Ray's demeanour changed. Though he remained leaning back on the wall, he seemed more alert; his eyes focused once again on Leslie.

    "Here's how I see it," he drawled. "Let me know if there're any problems with my words - I ain't never been much a man for thinkin'. Ye got no clue where you were headin', or who you were headin' there with. An' that means we ain't even got the littl'st of coyote trails to follow." Ray made the hack-ing noise that was always the prequel to his spitting; a sharp glare and threateningly raised syringe stopped him in his tracks.

    "We'll be stayin' here tonight, I think. You need rest, and it'd be nice to have a roof over my head for once. If that's alrigh' with ye Anne?" A mute nod from the whip-like woman was all the assent he needed. "Now, I was going to continue on east on my own business, but it's business that ain't in no rush to be finished. 'Sides which there ain't no town any bigger 'til the river if we continue on that way. So if ye've got nothin' in that head of yours, I figure we find a town big enough that someone'll recognize ya.

    "Unless of course ye've got any ideas," he finished at the same slow pace at which he started. "If ye do, I'm all ears."
     

  14. "I figure I owe you something for the patch-up." Leslie stated abruptly. "Don't figure it's fair for Ray to dish out anything, and whatever caps I had are long gone, but I can work the debt off. Labor, simple tasks, whatever you need."

    "Not one to take work as a payment." Anne replied, busying herself by checking the IV feeding to her patient's arm; nothing had changed in the past moments since its placement.

    "I've got nothing else to offer. I doubt you're all fine with handin' your services out scot free. This way you'll end up with somethin' in return, even if it isn't ideal, and it'll help me get some sparks going again."

    Mulling over the predicament, Anne shuffled back to her cabinet and began stowing away spare supplies seemingly deemed unnecessary. Taking a peek over the woman's shoulder, Leslie gazed into the spotless interior of the cabinet with bottles, needles, and pouches each labeled. Though the materials themselves were worn, nothing about the order bespoke of neglect or mistreatment. Shifting quickly back to laying against the chair as Anne whipped around, Leslie eyed the doctor with a dimly amused stare.

    "Fine." The comment came as acute as a gunshot.

    "Settles that, then." Leslie replied, scratching at her arm. "You sure you don't have anywhere urgent to be, Ray? Don't want you to be waiting on crippled 'ole me paying off her debts. I've got no preoccupations that I need 'tending to, so I don't have half a mind of holdin' you back for my sake. You did your part, should be stayin' clear of any unsavory types from here on out."

    Her arm was dimly aware of the needle stuck into it, the feeling generally unpleasant as it sent itching and pangs through her wrist and shoulder. Still, discomfort and pangs meant life, even if that life was just as likely to kick her in the dirt again. But then, she wouldn't feel the discomfort again. Decisions decisions...
     
    #14 J_"Kraken", Jan 28, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2015
  15. , brown
    "Hmmm." Ray chewed meditatively. "Urgent? Not really. But if yer gonna be workin' here, I suppose I have some things to see to. Some crops that need tendin' I s'pose you could say." He stopped leaning against the wall, straightening his lean frame before raising his arms over his head in a stretch. He leaned to one side, then the other, before looking back to Anne.

    "Ye don't mind if I set up my roll upstairs, Anne? In the usual spot?" The woman grunted her assent without turning away from the IV she was fiddling with. "Alright, I'll be headin' off early in the morning, prob'ly won't see either of you 'forehand. Leslie, I hope yer memories start coming back while I'm gone," he gazed at her, "but even if they do, I ain't comfortable letting ye wander away by yerself. Not after the way I found ye - someone's gotta teach ye how to survive in the Mojave. And ain't much better teachers'n me."

    The weathered man turned around, as if by severing contact he could take back that last bold comment he'd made. "Two days. Anne, don't go too hard on the girl. You shoulda seen her how she was this mornin'."

    Without another word he walked up the stairs, the back of his tattered cloak and the rifle that hung from it the last things to disappear into the dark.
     

  16. "You get some rest, like he said." Anne stated after Ray's cloak slipped out of sight. "I'll be around; holler if you need me. Best to keep that IV dripping overnight."

    With that, Anne placed a brown-tinted bottle of water at the chair's side table and too vanished up the stairs, leaving a dimly flickering lamp on for Leslie. Relieved to find that only the bottle was tainted by dirt and mud, she took a long quaff of the foul-tasting liquid and set the bottle back down half-empty. While her throat still felt as healthy as coarse dust, the pain had subsided and her reflexes were less sluggish. Eventually, she faded into much-needed sleep and knew no more.

    ---

    Leslie's eyes flew open. Something, someone, was coming down the stairs. The lamp still flickered on its stand, and the shadow of a lurching figure blotched out a large portion of light. Fumbling to remove the IV from her arm, Leslie kept a wary eye on the entrance to the stairs. A single boot stepped out from the entryway followed by Anne's figure a moment later. Attempting to look relaxed, she offered a greeting to the doctor who grunted some inaudible reply before striding over to check the IV drip.

    Quickly, the woman's deft hands undid the switch on the side of the needle and withdrew it, quickly pressing a piece of cloth to the entry point. For a moment she stood, then satisfied, she withdrew the cloth and waited. When no further blood came forth, she gingerly pulled the arm upward and nodded to herself.

    "Feeling any better?" She asked, seemingly as an afterthought.

    Leslie nodded. "Where's Ray gone off to?"

    "Small work here and here, but that's none of your concern. You've got working to do; breakfast's upstairs, come back down here when you're done."

    Taking a moment to stretch, Leslie gingerly stepped off the patient's chair and tested her balance. The only discomfort at the moment was an empty stomach, a fact made worse by the unknown number of meals missed. Heading upstairs, she found breakfast to be a plate with some nondescript meat, a can of preserved fruit, and a bottle of cola. Setting into the food eagerly, barely five minutes passed before she came back downstairs.

    "Ready."

    "Good. Let's start with the basics, then. Don't expect you to be sewing and telling what meds to use, but I expect you to do what you offered - errands..."

    ---

    The two days passed without much in the way of serious trouble. A few cuts, two broken bones, and a case of some sickness were all that made their way to Anne's table. Through that time, little more had come back to Leslie other than some loose strings of medical knowledge. By the middle of day two, she was tending to the non-serious cases after having bandaged and treated a cut while Anne was up and about looking for more medicine for the ill patient. The names of specific medicines and procedures, if she knew any more beyond first aid, had still eluded her in that time, but Anne had said it was a start.

    Now, she sat waiting for Ray on the 'top' floor of Anne's shop. Outside wind blew softly, taking with it loose dirt and twigs. Ray hadn't stopped by much over the two days, his time in the shack confined to well after sundown and a little before sunrise. If all went well, they'd be well on their way to whatever business he had left to attend to by noon. Though for now, she sat, took a swig of cola, and waited, relaxed for the first time in her three days of existence.
     
  17. , brown
    "I'm telling you man, I haven't seen him for months!"

    Snap.

    "Argh! Fuck! I'm telling you the truth! I swear on my mother, man! That long in the desert, the guy could be fuckin' dead by now."

    "To tell ye the truth, son, I wouldn't be surprised if ye'd chopped up your ma and eaten her soon as she birthed ye. Speakin' o'the truth, I'm not sure your quite tellin' all of it. Did he say where he was goin'?"

    "No! I dunno, it was fucking months ago! Even if he had, how would I remember?!"

    Snap.

    "Jesus Christ! West! That's all he said man, I mean it! I don't know anything else, please!"

    "Hmf. I'd shoot ye for what ye done, but ye ain't worth the bullet. Still..."

    Crunch.

    Ray turned away from the screaming man. He could still hear the sobbing, still see the curled up figure, after a hundred paces.

    After that, he didn't look back.

    [---]

    "Howdy, Leslie." Ray stepped out of the searing heat of midday and into the cool shade of Anne's shack, lifting his hood off of his head as he did so. His voice, while a languid drawl as always, seemed to have a slight edge to it. "Pardon my being gone these last couple days. The work's paid off, that's fer sure. Speakin' of work, how's it been with Anne?"

    He sat, and for a short time the two talked about the work she had undertaken alongside the stern doctor, although he seemed preoccupied with something other than the conversation. "Seems you've get a real knack for this sorta thing, huh? If that ain't a clue to what ye are, I don't know what is. Speakin' of..." Ray straightened in his chair; the absence of his customary slouch lent him a formidable height. "Ye ain't remembered anythin' about where you were headed, by any chance? I said I'd help ye any way I can, and I meant it."

    His jaw clenched and unclenched as he awaited a response, in the way it normally worked when he was chewing leaf. This time, though, his mouth was empty.
     

  18. Leslie paused, considering the question posed while she downed the rest of the bottle. The previous two days had not truly bettered that aspect of her memory, though she felt that excuse was beginning to overstay its welcome. Still, she had the notion that it was in their best interest to avoid New Vegas and its general surroundings and that she could work with.

    "Anywhere's fine. I didn't really have any urgent business I needed tendin' to, so figure I'll be clear to go anywhere. 'Sides, I figure your line of work gets you shot sometimes, no?"

    While she waited, Leslie busied herself by tossing the scraps of some previous meal out the back window into a haphazardly constructed bin, the contents of which Anne had joked went into her medicines when she ran out of supplies. That had been the first lighthearted thing the woman had said in forty eight hours, but a slow start was better than no start. Of course, every night the bin was empty, so while Leslie doubted the medical implementation, the scraps went to someone.

    "Unless o'course you want me to stay here..." She added. "I've got a pretty solid chance at a job here, don't worry. You've done your part."
     
  19. , brown
    The chewing stopped, and Ray's back relaxed into its usual slouch when Leslie answered; it seemed that the man had been hinging a lot upon her response. His eyes lost their faraway look, focussing on Leslie with a friendly gaze.

    "I said I'd help ye out, didn't I? Ye might have a job here, but stayin' in a backwater place like Rubetta for more than a couple days and ye'll be just like our good friend Anne. Life in the Mojave might be rough, but 'least it ain't borin' like this," he added with a faint trace of humour in his slow words. "'Sides which, yer right - never know when I might need some patchin' up, and looks like yer good for that job, memory or not."

    He got out of his chair, his joints creaking and groaning like a machine that needs oiling as he did so. "These ol' bones need to get movin' soon or they're gonna turn to dust. I've already said my goodbyes to Anne - if ye'd like to do the same, I'll meet ye outside. We should start headin' west before the sun gets any higher."
     

  20. “Don’t worry about that, already did that not too long ago.” Leslie stated, hefting a dust-covered and moth-eaten bag over her shoulder. “Gave me some supplies to haul, too, not sure how grateful I am about that yet.”

    Anne had given the girl clothing that was new, if only new to her. A shaded hood, similar to Ray’s, was clipped haphazardly to a patchwork jacket woven with some loose form of fibers that Anne had claimed would stop small arms fire. Personally, Leslie had doubted this last fact if only for the knowledge that her own finger had managed to carve a hole through its sleeve after only fifteen minutes of fidgeting with it. Still, it was better than her previous garments had been even if they were a size too large for her.

    “I’ve always found it’s better to have too much than not enough. Although,” Ray drawled, “it don’t make much sense to be totin’ round a hundred-pound pack with nothing but knick-knacks in it. Leave that fer the brahmin, I always say. Anne’s a smart girl, though - I’m sure whatever she’d got will come in handy.”

    “Don’t doubt it.” A pause. “Well, like you said, you aren’t gettin’ any younger as the day goes on, ready to get goin’?”

    “No time like the present.” Hoisting his own pack over his shoulder, careful that it didn’t interfere with his reach to his rifle,Ray began walking towards the westward exit of Rubetta. This time, the NCR private who had stopped them on the way in was nowhere to be seen.

    ---

    “So, you gotta’ have been a mercenary at some time.” Leslie said, the blurb breaking the silence that had lingered for some time.

    “I ‘spose you could say that.” Ray chuckled dryly to himself before explaining. “I was with the NCR for a good long time. Was part of the troop that first came out west, one of the first to see the strip… Let me tell ye, we don’t have nothin’ like that out California ways, not even with the rebuilding going on.”

    “What’s California like? Doubt I’ve ever been, but people’ve made it out to be some paradise with NCR ‘n all that. That true?”

    “It’s different, that’s fer sure.” Ray fell silent for a moment while they walked, choosing his next words carefully. “It’s safer, but ye gotta be more careful too. Less bandits, more paper-pushes lookin’ to steal yer caps. Truth be told, I prefer it out here - bandits are a lot easier to deal with than the good ol’ New California.”

    “Two things certain in life - death and taxes, question is what’s the tax out here, yeah?” Her tone was stern, if laced with a hint of sarcasm. “Guess that’s fair, some like it a tad more chaotic than others.”

    “Heh. For a girl without memories, ye sure know a lot about how the world works… Wait. What’s that up ahead? Slow down a second.”