The train came to a shuddering, violent halt.  The three men in train car rolled to their hands and knees. The floor was sloped at a steep angle, which made it almost impossible to stand.  They crawled to the door and rolled to the ground.

Andy ran to Derrick, who’d been thrown almost fifty feet past the stopped train.  He was laying on his back with one arm across his chest, the other outstretched.  He wasn’t moving.  Andy checked and quickly found a pulse.

“I’m not fucking dead,” said Derrick, opening one eye.  “It just hurts. A lot.”

“What hurts?”

Derrick’s breathing and voice were both ragged.  Still, he cracked a smile. “My everything. But specifically, I think my right arm is broken, and maybe the left leg. I got tangled up in my rifle. Landed on the magazine, might have a couple cracked ribs, hurts to breathe.”

Nyko and Brian opened fire from beside the train.  Andy looked up from Derrick and called, “How many?”

“Hard to tell!” Dozens of rifle shots returned.

Derrick wasn’t bleeding. He was breathing.  “We need to get you to cover,” said Andy, looking down at Derrick again. “Think you can walk?”

“If my choice is to lay here and get shot or run a marathon, slather some Vaseline on my nipples and pin a number to my chest.”  He sat up with a grimace. “Help me up.” He held out his good hand.

Andy picked up Derrick’s rifle, then grabbed his wrist and pulled him to his feet. Derrick tested out his leg, gingerly taking a step. Andy wrapped his friend’s arm over his shoulder to help support the weight. The two of them hobbled back along the train.

The good news was only half of one car was derailed. The front wheels were in the dirt, but the back wheels of the car were still on the rail.  Andy helped Derrick into the first passenger car and handed him his rifle. “Get as comfortable as you can, preferably in a position where you can shoot.”

Andy ran towards the locomotive, which was now at the back, since they were travelling in reverse. The gunfire seemed concentrated on the far side of the train. He stepped up into the engine and grabbed the white face-mask from Phoenix and the matching rifle he’d stowed in the cab, and clapped Jonas on the back.

“Nyko’s gonna be pissed.”

“Not if I can save us a shitload of ammunition.”

Jonas resumed firing, and Andy ducked back out the door.  The sun was setting above the majority of the attacking force. They had a little more than an hour of daylight left, and his friends were firing directly into the sunset. There had been a smaller force on the west side, but the cannons had wiped them out.

Andy pulled the visor over his face, and looked at the corner that activated the rifle’s link. As he stared into the sun, the visor darkened, and each humanoid shape was outlined in red.  He lined up the crosshairs on the mask with the first and squeezed the trigger.

His mask flashed green, and nothing happened.

He pointed the rifle at the next target, pulled the trigger, and again, green flash, and no bullet.  Quickly, he focused the sights on the engine block of one of their trucks. The gun fired, exploding the grill.”

Andy pulled the mask off of his face, lined up the iron sights and squeezed. One hundred yards away, a man crouched down beside an old log fell over, dead.

“Holy shit, the mask won’t let me fire at them,” he said to no one in particular.

The firefight lasted nearly ten minutes. Nyko’s team mopped up the remaining attackers.  Andy donned the mask again, and saw no more red outlines.

He walked back to Nyko carrying it, and set it on the ground about fifteen feet before he got to Nyko, who was looking at him like he was crazy. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“Hey boss.” Andy had his back to the mask, and spoke softly. “I grabbed it to check out the targeting. It wouldn’t let me fire at any of them. I could shoot the trucks wearing it, and I could shoot them without it. But as long as it was linked to the gun, the gun wouldn’t fire when I pointed it at one of them.” Andy gestured out towards the field of corpses.

“Huh,” said Nyko.

“Thought you’d want to know.  Brian, let’s go make sure they’re dead. Derrick’s inside. He’s going to need some medical attention.  Once we make sure they’re all dead we’ll get this fucker back on the rails.” Andy turned and started jogging across the scrub toward the dead bodies.

They checked several bodies before they found one alive.  Andy knelt down beside him and picked up his head. He had blood coming out of the corner of his mouth. His chest was covered in cuts, some healed to scars, some more fresh.  “Who sent you?” Andy asked.

“Puppy vomit beach, cunt licker!” He replied.

Andy rapped him on the forehead with the handle of his pistol. “Focus you sick fucker. Who sent you!”

“White lightning! Cup of intestines, two whores. Penny!”

“We ain’t gone get shit out of this fucker,” said Brian.

Andy looked in the marauder’s eyes. “Do you want me to end this pain?”

“Pain! Glory, life, cum guzzler!”

“You can’t get through to ‘em once they’re this far gone,” said Brian. “It’s like the words are all fucked up in his rotten brain meat.”

The man held his finger under his chin. “Roll the dice and win a prize!” He cocked his thumb back and forth. The signal every four year old uses for a gun shooting.

Andy dropped his head and moved to the next, scouring several more bodies until he found another live one.  “Who sent you!”

“Angels,” he replied. “Butter trumpet!”

“Fuck,” said Andy. He dropped the man’s head, and walked back towards the train, picking up guns, ammunition, and anything valuable he could carry.   When he got back, he tossed the armload into the train car. Nyko waved his hands at Andy, motioning him to get away.

Up in the locomotive, Jonas idled the engine up, threw the lever into the forward gear, and inched the train back towards Phoenix.  After only a few feet, the wheels were several inches from the rails they were supposed to be riding on top of.

Brian appeared with a canvas bag and a toolbox.  “These are what we need, right? Re-railers?”

“Yeah. Bolt them to the track so the ramps face the wheels. Jonas pulls the train up on them, then the guide on the rerailer pushes the wheels off onto the track.”

All three of them screamed with excitement when, on the first try, the train bounced over onto the track. “Holy shitballs, ain’t nothin ever that easy,” yelled Brian.

The three of them loaded up and Jonas got the train moving. Nyko tied Derrick’s arm to his chest and ran several passes of duct tape around his tee shirt over his chest to hold the ribs in place.  After much poking and prodding, they decided the leg wasn’t broken.


Jonas put the hammer down on the train.  They made it to the bridge in just less than two hours, and then sometime around nine in the evening blew by the rail maintenance barn.  Thirty minutes later, Jonas hit the brakes.  Nyko immediately knew something was wrong.   When they pulled up, the huge Nyko’s Roadhouse neon sign wasn’t on, and as they rolled to a stop, all the lights were out in the warehouse, and the rollup doors were open.

After a brief discussion, Brian and Andy bailed out the back of the train. Terrell made the short jump from the top of the train to the roof, and Nyko went straight in through the warehouse door. Nyko heard the sound system playing some old country crap through the door as he waited for his men to be in position.  He counted to twenty, then opened the door.

There were eight men at the bar, all sitting on bar stools. None of his girls were there. No one seemed to have heard the train pull in.

“Jim Ratton,” yelled Nyko over the twanging guitar. Ratton looked up from pouring a drink. A moment of fear, and then a slow, purposeful smile. “You have exactly five seconds to explain what the fuck you’re doing behind my bar or I am going to pull your fucking spine out of your asshole and beat you across the face with it.”

Ratton looked speechless. Even with his experience as a politician, it took him a few seconds to recover his composure.  “The New Vegas council seized this property and all of its contents, by official declaration.  I served a writ on the premises twelve days ago.”

“May I see the writ,” asked Nyko.

“It’s on file with the magistrate’s office.”

“Then,” said Nyko, stepping up to the bar.  He poured himself a whiskey and pulled a thin cigar out of his pocket.  He paused, lit his stogie, and then took a long drag. The tension in the room was high. He stuck the cigar in the corner of his mouth as he exhaled.  “You haven’t served the owner of the bar. And since you haven’t served the owner of the bar, you have exactly fifteen seconds to pick your sorry fucking asses up off my barstools and get the fuck out of my bar.”

“We have the full power and protection of the New Vegas police department.”

Abi walked in through the door.  “Nyko, is there a problem here?”

“No. Just taking out the trash. This is Jim Ratton, Governor of New Vegas. Jim, this is Abigail Cora, ambassador to Phoneix.  Jim was just leaving. Perhaps you two could set up a meeting for some time tomorrow.”

Ratton somehow managed to puff out his chest and look utterly confused at the same time. “Jim Ratton, Ma’am. “ He stuck out his hand.

“Unfortunately,” interrupted Nyko. “Jim was just leaving.  I’m sure you can arrange an appointment.” Nyko put his cigar out in Ratton’s drink.

Table of Contents
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