South of Primm I find an office for the Nevada Highway Patrol. Turns out it's actually home to a couple of angry bikers and - for some reason - several giant praying mantises who don't seem to care as much about attacking the bikers as they do me.
The whole world is out to get me, I swear.
I make it to the crossroads and notice two sizeable statues up on the mountains to the southwest - two men shaking hands. Deciding a short detour wouldn't hurt, I head in that direction and start climbing the mountains. I stop briefly to investigate an abandoned general store which had become home to a small family of giant scorpions.
I hate giant scorpions.
No sooner do I reach the statues, I am stopped by... another man in the uniform of an NCR officer.
NCR Sargent: Welcome to the NCR Mojave outpost.
Me: Oh, gods above! Not you again!
NCR Sargent: I'm sorry?
Me: Nothing personal but I'm stick of dealing with a bunch of uptight pricks in uniform who are content to stand idly by, hiding in their tents while the world goes to hell in a handbasket because their orders don't let them actually do anything.
NCR Sargent: It's different here sir.
Me: Is it?
NCR Sargent: We have buildings, sir. Not tents.
NCR Sargent: Also, some of us aren't content to stand by idly. We'll grouse about being ordered to stand by idly.
Me: Well, that's just great. Do you have a store or quartermaster anywhere in this outfit? I have an ass-load of scorpion venom sacks to unload.
NCR Sargent: The bartender in the barracks could probably help you out.
Me: The bartender buys scorpion venom? What kind of drinks to you make here?
NCR Sargent: I find it best not to ask.
I unload all my excess gear on the bartender and talk to a caravan captain named Cass who is rather pissed about the delays at the base. Seems the outpost just barely has enough volunteers for the "stand around and do nothing" squad, so they're stopping all the caravans wanting to use the freeway since they don't have enough guards to send off to watch the caravans. She tells me about a different courier outfit I might look into doing work for if I ever make it to New Vegas, so she's already the most helpful person I've met so far.
After grabbing some shut-eye in the barracks (they're nice enough to let me have a bunk), I see Major Knight - a rather suspect fellow who agrees to repair my gear after I fill out several orders in triplicate. Still, I get my leather armor and my new shotgun in top shape. Shame it costs nearly all the money I have at this point. It is then that I meet a man with a fearsome mustache. A mustache of justice! A man known as... Commander Jackson.
Commander Jackson: Howdy.
Me: Sweet jumping catfish, will you look at that soup-strainer?!
Commander Jackson: Hey, if you saw the food we got here, you'd need something to strain it too. If I didn't know better, I'd say they were putting scorpion venom in the chow.
Me: Ha-ha-ha. So, listen... I was just leaving.
Commander Jackson: Were you heading toward the northeast by any chance?
Me: I just came from there.
Commander Jackson: Really? You must be tougher than you look. We've been trying to get the caravans to the crossroads, but there's too many animals around.
Me: Really? I didn't see any animals at the crossroads when I was there.
Commander Jackson: Well, could you go double check for me? I could make it worth your time.
Me: Seriously? You want to pay me to go double-check the road I took to get here and make sure that the giant animals I didn't see on the way here still aren't there.
Commander Jackson: Oh, I never said anything about paying you. It's against NCR policy to hire mercenaries to act in military situations.
Me: Of course it is.
Commander Jackson: But, given our current staffing problems, the high mortality rate of the average NCR Ranger, desertion and Ceasar's Legion raiding our supply lines, it's not unheard of for things to disappear. Things like service rifles, ammunition and bag lunches.
Me: ... Okay, you are officially my new best friend.
Somehow, in the couple of hours since I passed the crossroads, a small colony of giant ants had taken over. Luckily, giant ants die much better than giant scorpions. I was able to pick them all of with my hunting rifle. I reported back to base, told them the road was clear and was NOT paid for my time with a nice health restoring lunch. Another quick nap at the barracks and I was ready to hit the road.
Naturally, this is when some crazed prospector decides to take the time to ask me about a particular bottle cap I'd found in my travels. He then told me a tall tale about a lost treasure, guarded by an immortal who would give the treasure only to one who had a certain amount of this rare bottle cap. Well, I've heard stupider stories walking around this wasteland. I thanked him for the tip and decided to keep an eye out. Who knows? Maybe I can sell the damn things off to the gullible.
I asked Commander Jackson if he had any other work. He said he didn't but that I might talk to Ghost - the sniper on the roof. I went upstairs and found her. Yes, her. Turns out Ghost was a her and she was aptly named, being an albino who was even paler than me.
Ghost: Come to laugh at the freak girl?
Me: No. Actually, I think you're kinda hot in a gothic, this is what Bittercup SHOULD Have looked like way.
Me: Skip it. No, I didn't come to laugh at you.
Ghost: Good because I don't have the ammo to waste on you.
Me: Fair enough. Anything I can do to help here?
Ghost: Well, you could go to Nipton for me.
Me: Hey, I was heading that way anyway. What do you need me to do?
Ghost: Make sure that smocking cloud off in the distance where Nipton is isn't anything to worry about.
Me: Oh, son of a bit-!
I head eastward and fight off another group of giant ants, just off the road. I see more in the distance but decide against heading off the road any further as I notice the ground is sloping downward in an even circle... a big even circle... like a sunken aunt mound. I also fight off some more bikers at another road stop. As I began walking up the hill to Nipton I heard gunfire. Running in the general direction, I found a purple-haired punk girl standing over the body of a leather-clad Asian man.
Girl: Did you see that? He just jumped me!
Me: Well, I saw something... mostly you taking something off his body.
Girl: That was my lucky necklace! He grabbed it from me while he was trying to rob me.
Me: (looking at the necklace) That seem a bit odd seeing as how the necklace seems to be intact. If he'd grabbed it from you, it should have torn. Plus these metal bits appear to be seven very rare bottlecaps. You took this off of his corpse didn't you?
Girl: You think you're pretty smart, don't you? *reaches for her gun*
Me: Smart enough not to go for a gun when I'm facing down a man who has a shotgun aimed on me.
I move up to the gates of Nipton and determine that yes - that smoke IS coming from the town. Or rather, what is left of it. A man in NCR prison togs ran up to me.
Man: I can't believe it! I won the lottery!
Me: What lottery?
Man: What lot- THE lottery! Where have you been?!
Me: Not here. So are you with the Powder Gangers?
Man: Not anymore! Not anymore! Oh, I can't believe my luck!
Me: Sorry pal. Your lucky streak just ended.
Moving along the main road of the town seemed to speak of just why the crazy ex-Powder Ganger considered himself so lucky. Crucifixes lined the road, holding up the bodies of not-quite-dead convicts. Heads were placed upon spikes between the crucifixes. As I approached the town hall, several men dressed as Roman soldiers exited the building.
Me: Looks like my lucky streak just ended too.
Vulpes Inculta: Halt!
Me: Hey, nice outfit! I didn't know the ComicCon was this weekend.
Vulpes Inculta: I am not a furry! This is the uniform of a great man!
Me: Does he know you're wearing it?
Vuples Inuclta: What?!
Me: Oh, sorry... Oesday Eh-day No-ay or-yay earing-way it-ay?
Vulpes Inculta: You speak madness but it is well that you do not flinch in the face of terror. I have chosen you to be my herald.
Me: Hey, I met him! He's a tree now!
Vulpes Inculta: No, no, no! You are to be my messenger. You will go forth and spread word of our deeds here. How we of Caesar's Legion have taken command of this place of wickedness and sin. We have proven our strength in slaying the convicts who had taken over this place.
Me: Oh, good. Somebody else is working on those guys besides me, for once.
Vulpes Inculta: We have slain the corrupt and greedy mayor, who grew fat off the labors of the people here.
Me: Alright! Killing corrupt politicians. I am so down with this!
Vulpes Inculta: And we have enslaved most of the populace, killed the rest and burned all the whores at the stake.
Me: Awesome! Wait, what... whores? You burn whores?
Vulpes Inculta: At the stake, yes.
Me: ... could you excuse me for a moment? I need to go fight a high vantage point offering me a good view of the city.
Vulpes Inculta: Ah. No doubt you wish to practice shouting our praises to the mountains.
Me: ... yes. Yes, that's it exactly.
I head into the town hall and fight my way through several of the legions wolf-like hounds. No hostages. No slaves. And worst of all, no whores. Still, I do find quite a fair share of loot including enough guns and ammo to outfit a small army in the mayor's office. I also hack the mayor's computer and determine that he welcomed in the Legion soldiers in the hopes that they'd get rid of the convicts. Hopefully the mayor is strung up somewhere among the dead or dying in the street. I've got enough people to kill once I get out of here.
Next Time - Be Vewy Vewy Quiet. I'm Hunting Woman Wegion Cospwayers. Hahahahhahahhaha.