With her hands resting at the lower part of her back, Alice looked up quizzically at the near-monstrosity of a man. They had only been walking for about an hour, closing in on the town of Novac now, and her eyes had yet to wander from their new companion. She had asked him a question, here and there, with no more than a grunt from him as a reply. Alice was perplexed and finally she asked him, "You don't like to say much, do you?" Naturally, she was given yet another grunt in reply.
The girl sighed and gently placed her small hands onto her hips, "You know, someday something horribly inconvenient is going to happen and you'll have to talk." She then smiled and pointed at him, "You'll be forced to use a full sentence! Your grunting won't save you!" The girl giggled and put her hand against her forehead to shield her eyes from the brightening sun. It was hardly midday and the desert was hot, as usual.
As the party made their way west along the baking road, Long Shadow kept looking at the pale skinned girl with quizzical eyes. His walking sped up slightly until he matched pace with Alice. His tree like body cast a cooling shade over the almost sweat drenched girl. Not noticing the sound of his silent footsteps, the young girl was startled to see the rippling pectoral muscles of their silent companion eye to eye with her face. She wheezily gasped in shock, almost tripping over a rock in the road.
"Don't do that, please!" she politely, as possible, exclaimed. The tall chestnut skinned man peered down at her through watchful yet steady eyes, as a giant would gaze over the peak of a mountain; and gave a cheerful chuckle. "Pale skin girl burn in desert sun, Longshadow only want to help." "Oh
I only meant don't sneak up on me. I-I
don't handle surprises very well." Alice said bashfully, gently rubbing the middle of her chest. Long Shadow gave a big toothy grin and grunted, acknowledging the girls statement. He then placed his robust, meaty hand on the girls head and pat it gently, as if to reassure her. After a short while, Alice in smug amazement, exclaimed, "Hey! You spoke!"
Alice beamed as if she had won some sort of extravagant achievement by having the large man speak to her. She placed her hands on her hips and skipped lightly up to Jeb before stopping and leaning toward him, "So what do we do after we get to Novac?" They had to resupply, at least when it came to ammunition and water. They were fine on food as they had scavenged most of the food out of the old gas stop near where they slept the night before.
"M' plan is 'ta get us to the NCR Embassy in The Strip. I'll try 'ta talk our way in 'ta get'n an NCR citizenship identification 'fer 'ya. That way you c'n get through the outpost." Jeb explained this to her as he chewed on a small plug of Coyote Chewing Tobacco, "Shouldn't take too long t'be honest. Gettin' into The Strip might just be the hardest part o' the whole process."
Alice nodded along as she listened to him, "I see. Well, let's get going then!" The slightest possibility of getting through that outpost and into safer territory excited her. As for her jubilant exclamation, well, it excited a few other people as well. Hoarse growls could be heard as quick feet brought irradiated forms towards them. Sharp hands were outstretched to their sides and their jaws remained slack even as they scowled at the trio.
The girl looked over her shoulder at the sounds and immediately screamed. Her instincts kicked in and she began to run as a small pack of Feral Ghouls came after them. Long Shadow fluidly sprinted up to the frightened girl and quickly threw her up onto his shoulders. As he sprinted he yelled back to Jeb reassuringly, "I have pale one, you kill." Then in a dusty flash he was gone. Jeb tightly pressed his lip against the plug of tobacco in his mouth and spat. He counted them steadily, "One
." dropping his travel pack to the ground. He calmly waited a second or two more for the pack to get closer to him so his shots would not spray and be wasted.
Suddenly, the Old Ranger's right hand flew with lightning speed to his back, pulling down on his lever action shotgun to unholster it while twirling in a seamless motion to load a shell in the chamber. He waited till he saw the milky white of their cold, blank eyes and fired one, two, three, four shots into each of the charging abomination's skulls; exploding them completely in an orange and red gelatinous mess which splattered onto the ground before him. Jeb inhaled deeply and said under his breath "I'm get'n too god damn old for this." He heard a low phlegmy growl-rasp twelve feet away from him. And with blinding finesse he let go of the boom-stick's trigger and handle while keeping his bottom three fingers in the finger lever's recess and twirled the gun forward where the barrel was resting on his shoulder. Then he fired and heard the sound of a rotten melon exploding followed by a familiar splatter sound hitting the ground. "Five."
After rummaging through the dirty, time weathered rags that clung to the bodies of the feral ghouls, Jeb found nothing but a few bobby pins, three bottle caps and a leather belt; which just so happened to be his size. He moseyed along the road for a while until he saw Long Shadow carrying Alice on his shoulders into an old, rusted cargo truck. His pace quickened in order to catch up to see if the girl was alright. Walking up to the back end of the truck he began to reload five shells into his shotgun. His feet came to a dead stop as he peered into the back of the dilapidated truck. Long Shadow was leaned over the young girl, helping her drink from a bottle of water.
Alice sloshed the water back and forth in her mouth before leaning back against the side of the bed of the truck. She swallowed the cool liquid and sighed before panting softly. Small hands took the bottle from the large tribesman and rubbed the perspiration covered plastic across her forehead. "Much better. Thank you, Long Shadow."
The trio made a stop at the 188 Road Stop to grab some food and rest their feet from their voyage from Nipton. Alice immediately took a seat at one of the tables and removed a can of pork and beans from one of her coat pockets. Long Shadow remained close to her, with large, burly arms strapped against his chest as if to ward off anything harmful from her presence. Meanwhile, Jeb talked up the drunken man behind the counter for some information about what was going on in the area.
After examining the can of beans and finally realizing she could not open it on her own, Alice turned to her companion and politely inquired, "Long shadow, could you open this for me?" Frail hands held up the rather large can to the man and he grunted before taking it. He bit down into the top of it and spun the cylinder against his pearly whites until the lid popped off into his palm. The tribesman handed it back to her and placed the lid onto the table.
"Thanks!" She gave him a congratulatory smile and took a spoon from her pocket. As she began to eat her food she could hear Jeb call out from behind her, "What!? Are ya' sure?" Looking up, she noticed a pained expression on his face. She removed the spoon from her mouth and swallowed the gnashed up beans. With a soft whisper she asked, "What do you think is wrong?" Staring into the distance, Long Shadow grunted and shrugged his shoulders.
Jeb stood and talked a while with Samuel, the man who owned and operated the 188 with his daughter Michelle, for a good fifteen minutes. When their conversation was over Jeb returned to the table and sat across from Long Shadow and Alice and began to explain the situation. "We could keep on Goin' or we could go check out a Followers' medical caravan that was attacked last night. Sam said there were ten er fifteen people in that caravan, an' most of em where women folk."
Long Shadow's distant expression instantly went away as he snapped his head in Jeb's direction, never quite looking into Jeb's eyes. "Fiends?" The deep voice of the tribesman sounded almost nonchalant, his eyes calmly observing the land scape behind them. "Nope, 'fraid not." Jeb said with a disheartened tone. "Raiders?" Long Shadow said a little more serious now. "uh uh." Jeb said, shaking his head as he packed a pack of cigarettes he bought off of Michelle.
Long Shadow stood up and finally looked into Jeb's eyes. "Bull?" Jeb lit a cigarette, and exhaled as he nodded his head. "'fraid so
" Alice looked at her two companions and asked, "What could a couple of angry brahmin do to a big caravan like that? Don't they all have guns?" Jeb looked at Alice and said "Not cows darlin', Legion."