Me: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Heh.
Me: You're not Hugh Laurie!
Mr. House: That's DR. House.
Me: And it's not Lupus?
Mr. House: It's NEVER Lupus.
Me: Okay. I think we've exhausted every single possible joke here.
Mr. House: I could say "I am House, The Great And Powerful!" if that would help?
Me: Nah. I already made an Oz joke.
Mr. House: Very well then. Let us get to business.
After formally introducing himself while not giving me any hints as to if he was really alive (my instincts screamed AI but Mr. House insisted he was quite alive), we got down to it. The long and the short of it was that the Platinum Chip I was meant to deliver was for Mr. House himself. One of his head men, Benny (who I found out was a leader of the faction called The Chairmen, who ran the Tops Casino) was apparently getting ideas about improving his power base and had taken me out to get his hands on the chip.
Mr. House said that he'd leave handling Benny to me but that he wanted the chip back, regardless. He also gave me access to the Presidential Suite of the Lucky 38 and that Boone could stay there too but that only I would be allowed to see him and talk to him.
As I left the casino, a man in an NCR uniform walked up.
When I hooked back up with Boone, he explained that the NCR had an embassy of sorts on The Strip. Mr. House, who had originally taken Hoover Dam before giving it to the NCR with the understanding that he'd get a fraction of the power and that Vegas wound remain free of NCR influence, had given them a run down building at the end of the strip to house their people in the area. From what I had seen, more soldiers tended to sleep in the gutters than in the barracks. But a town like this can have that effect on some people...
All this talk of ambassadors had reminded me of something - an important personage in Freeside I had yet to pay my respects to, despite seeing his men all around the place. I decided I'd go to see The King before I saw The Ambassador.
I had a surprisingly easy time talking my way past The King's men. They waved me into the abandoned school where he held court, directing me to the man in white, sitting right before the stage.
The King told me something of the history of his gang and the building we were in. The Kings had come out of one of the tribes forced out of what was Vegas before Mr. House restored it. They took refuge in the school, where they learned the ways of The King, who they took as some kind of religious figure or holy man. Using tapes which had long since fall apart due to excess use, The King had learned how to best emulate The First King and taught his lessons to those who would learn. It sounded a bit hokey to me but since the first rule of their dogma ws "Don't be cruel, now.", I decided it could be a lot worse.
The King asked me to help him out with a problem he couldn't trust to his men. Most of his folks offered protection to visitors in exchange for a small fee. But one of his guards - Orris - was becoming a lot more popular than the rest. The King just wanted me to hire Orris and keep an eye out for anything odd.
Finding Orris was easy enough. He laid down some ground rules for escorting us from one end of The Strip to the other right away. The first of these rules was to keep moving. The second was to stick to the main roads and not to wander off down any alleys. If he thought it was odd that two men like Boone and myself needed an escort, he didn't say so. Nor did he say why he felt the need to run down one side alley after telling us to stay on the main road.
Orris: Yeah. This is a nice little town. Usually quiet.
Thug: Hold it right there! Your money or your life!
Orris: You fools! Know you not that you face *smiles wide as the light glints off his teeth* Orris The Mighty?!
Thug: Oh no!
Orris: Take THIS, you fiends! *BLAM* *BLAM *BLAM*
*four thugs fall dead to the ground
Orris: Well, how about that? Pretty impressive shooting, eh?
Me: (Intelligence 6) VERY impressive. Especially since you only shot three times and there was four of them.
Orris: Ah! You noticed that, did you? Yes, I very cleverly arced the bullets so that they would hit two men with one blow!
Orris: Right! Tours over! Thank you!
Boone and I went back to the alley to see if the bodies were still there. Amazingly, they were.
Me: Hmmm... you know what I'm in the mood for right now, Boone?
Boone: Corpse looting?
Me: Well, yes. But this one... he doesn't look quite dead, does he?
Boone: You tell me.
Me: (Medicine 30) Yep. Not quite dead. But still obviously dead, right?
Boone: Oh yeah.
Me: Perfect for a little post-mortem buggery, wouldn't you say?
Boone: He means he's going to rape your ass.
Me: Oh yes. Unless of course they aren't really dead...
Body: I'M NOT DEAD!
Me: Anybody else want to not be dead?
Me: Right. I expect somebody will have cleaned you up out of here later...
The King was pleased with our work and agreed that three bullets to kill four men + a mysterious moving corpse was a might suspicious. He said he'd take care of Orris and paid us for the trouble. He asked us to head down to the Old Mormon Fort, where The Followers of the Apocalypse ran a free clinic. Word was that some of the King's friends had been jumped the night before and he wanted to know who.
Finding the injured men was easy enough. I started out talking to an old-timer who told me something about not being sure who the men were, save that they were all wearing the same clothes though he couldn't make out any detail in the dark. A younger man told me he thought he heard one of them called my name... Lou. Lou Tenant.
Luckily I know a hawk from a handsaw so I was able to put two and two together. Lou Tenant? Lieutenant. As in NCR.
I spoke with The King and he confirmed that the NCR had a grudge against The Kings for some reason, but he had no idea why as he'd never talked to any of the local NCR reps despite calling for a meeting with them. He asked if I'd investigate some rumors about an NCR camp being set up in West Freeside, suggesting hat I talk with Julie, the head FoA doctor first.
Turns out Julie was friends with Elizabeth Kieran - the NCR lady who was running what was apparently a food give-away program... for NCR refugees only. Given the number of locals in Freeside who were suffering, it seemed awfully short-sighted of them to be denying aid to the Freeside natives. I agreed to have a talk with her.
The talk was less than productive. Kieran gave me the usual party line about how they didn't have the resources to take care of everyone. A little pushing and she admitted that they did, in fact, have the resources to take care of everyone but that the NCR diplomats she sent to The King's court were shot at and run out of town. I told her that I'd spoken with The King and he said that he'd never heard from anyone in the NCR. She said that she couldn't believe that but that if I could get The King to come talk to her, maybe something could be worked out.
Pacer: Hold it right there, cowboy.
Me: Make it quick, Pacer. I've got to see The King.
Pacer: No, you don't. I know what you've been up to and I've got things in hand. No need to worry The King about this. He's got enough on his mind, what with Rex being sick and all.
Me: This is important, Pacer. The NCR tried sending a diplomat and they got shot at! We're lucky all they're doing is denying your people aid!
Pacer: Look, you're a good guy. But we take care of ourselves here. And if you're not going to let us take care of things... well, I'd hate to see something happen to you.
Me: King, we've got a problem.
The King: Lay it on me, son.
Me: The NCR sent a diplomat to talk to you but apparently someone opened fire on them and chased them out of town before they could get to the school.
The King: Uh-huh.
Me: That lead to the NCR concluding that you didn't want help and led to some of the NCR troops getting liquored up and going after your friends.
The King: I see. Reckon I'd best come and...
A King: King! King! Pacer and some of the boys are having a gun fight down by the NCR Kitchen!
The King: What? Did they go looking for trouble?
Me: I can guarantee it. Pacer tried to warn me off talking to you.
The King: Awww, Pacer.... he was my oldest friend! I can't believe...
Me: I'd better get down there, King. See if I can talk some sense into everyone.
The King: You think you can do that?
Me: I've got to try.
Pacer: Oh God!
Me: You really didn't think this plan out too well, did you?
Pacer: I just wanted to look after everyone!
Me: Yeah, and you got your friends killed. The only reason I don't waste a bullet on you myself is because I figure I should save you for The King.
I walked out into the field without a gun in my hands. I managed to walk my way over to Kieran. It took all of my speechifying skills but I persuaded her that this fight was not started with The King's permission and that he was ready to talk about whatever aid the NCR might offer in exchange for his own aid and protection in the area around Freeside. She was less than happy about this but agreed it would probably be easier than trying to come into the area by force.
The King, for his part, was pleased with how things went down and said that he was ready to offer me a favor - just one. He suggested a take some time to think on what I wanted. After all, it's not every day you get a favor from The King...