New Vegas Travel Guide: The Journey of the Space Zombies
by Aaron Thayer
“Ghouls and Boys”
Ghouls don't tend to make conversation with Bob. Most of the time they'd rather tear humans' insides out like sheets of paper from a spiral notebook. But at the entrance to an abandoned REPCONN rocket factory, a distressed ghoul used an intercom to bark a series of orders at Bob. The courier thought that was a wacky turn of events.
Bob was startled by the detached voice, which told him he had to come upstairs right away and to watch out for danger. He listened to the ghoul's raspy smoker's voice; his survival instincts had already kicked in.
The REPCONN factory looked like any other abandoned building from the years before the nuclear holocaust. Bob thought those old Americans must have been really big on their accomplishments because REPCONN and other companies' headquarters always had some sort of massive statue in their parking lots. Bob calculated in the time it took to walk around the long-defunct company's space rocket monument that all the metal wasted on that thing could have built lots of armor suits. What a shame.
A dead civilization's hubris notwithstanding, the halls of the dilapidated REPCONN building would teach Bob that appearances, and even voices, can be deceiving.
After hearing the ghoul's instructions, Bob nearly tripped over a few robed corpses sprawled on the ground beside the receptionist's desk. They were ghouls, who Bob assumed the one from the intercom probably looked like, and each one was wearing dark monk's robes with the name “Bright Brotherhood” stitched inside them.
The courier rubbed the formless cult-looking robes between his fingers and found that they were made of 100% cotton – a breathable alternative that, coupled with such loose fabric, would have flattered any apple or pear-shaped body type. Bob's sister designed costumes for pet mole rats, and the courier had picked up a few tailoring tips over the years. Unfortunately for her, his sister was eaten by a pack of pissed-off mole rats who were tired of playing dress-up.
Bob draped a spare robe over ED-E -- now more or less the courier's pack mule -- in the event that infiltration into the Bright Brotherhood was required.
Feral ghouls and Nightkin stalked the floors of the REPCONN facility. Though tough and numerous they all met the business end of Bob's new rebar and concrete beating stick. Between smashing skulls and crushing limbs, Bob looted the rotting desks and cabinets of the numerous office desks in the building to find ammo, Nuka Cola caps and even a shiny new pistol.
Eventually Bob stumbled into the site's manufacturing wing, where a hectic battle between Nightkin and ghouls had destroyed a large steel blast door and caused the dismemberment of several limbs. Bob, occupied with his investigation of the carnage, managed to step on an arm and a jawbone. It took him a week to get the gristle out of his boot tread.
A series of creaky metal stairs took Bob to the top level of the factory and a locked door with another intercom. The chatty ghoul answered Bob's buzzing and told him to watch his shit if he wanted to live. His rebar club holstered on his back, Bob walked in the door, not expecting the face that greeted him. A decidedly non-ghoulish human turned toward Bob -- it was the voice who guided him to safety. When Bob tried to convince the man that he wasn't actually a ghoul, the guy told the courier (who was trying not to laugh by that point) that he'd heard all the jokes before, and he was clearly not human.
Bob shook the awkwardness off and headed upstairs to the actively busy computer center to talk to Jason Bright, the leader of the ragtag group of sapient ghouls calling themselves the Bright Brotherhood. Jason Bright was a sharply dressed green-glowing ghoul. The soft-spoken Bright told Bob that their religion required its members to “take to the stars” based on his “visions.” Hoping to see at least a few religious nut jobs get blown up in a botched rocket launch, Bob agreed to help Bright and his brotherhood prepare the last three REPCONN-era rockets for their destined trip into outer space.
The first task asked of Bob was to eradicate all the Nightkin left in the basement. So Bob did. He smashed every one of those blathering mutants into tiny, chunky bits, and even scrounged a few crudely crafted swords made out of car bumpers.
Not satisfied with the courier's genocide, Bright asked Bob to talk to their chief technician, the human in denial about not being a ghoul, about the brotherhood's need for rocket fuel and a rare replacement part for a broken rocket ship. The zealots, trapped by the aggressive Nightkin forces, couldn't be bothered took look for such essential shit on their own. Bob begrudgingly set out to do their dirty work for them. He kept thinking about how nice it would be to punch one of the ghouls' deformed, irradiated faces in...even though he knew he couldn't.
Four days later, Bob had accomplished nothing. It wasn't until he took an afternoon's reprieve in a dingy Novac motel room that the fate threw him a bone.
When Bob woke up from his lazy midday nap he decided to take a stroll to stretch his legs. When he walked past Dinky the giant dinosaur outside of his motel room next door and noticed there was a general store inside the metal carnivore, his plans changed. See, Bob had recently started picking locks. It was a hobby, and he reasoned that the theft of some useless wasteland junk now would be good practice in case he had to pick a lock that would save his life later.
The shopkeeper greeted Bob, and then walked in front of the counter to sort some goods on the display shelves. Bob smiled at the man, unable to look at him in the eye because he knew he'd soon be stealing from him, and if things got bad he'd have to kill the dude. As quickly as possible Bob crouched down and waddled behind the counter, moving silently but really looking like an idiot. He looked up before he could search for a safe and saw a locked door, which he proceeded to pick.
Though the courier was hoping for ammunition he managed to find pure nuclear combustion: behind the door was a trove of at least a hundred miniature REPCONN rocket souvenirs, each containing a small amount of atomic rocket fuel. Bob almost fell flat on his ass in shock, but composed himself enough to grab a few armfuls of the replicas and stuff them into both his satchel and ED-E's cavernous storage compartment.
Bob ran out of the store without looking back and headed toward the REPCONN compound. However, the directionally challenged courier started heading far north and away from the facility. Before he could get too lost, Bob saw an old woman sitting outside a shack off the road. Bob looked around and found that the place was a junkyard. Opting to try his luck twice in one day he asked if she had the part the ghoul cult needed for their rocket. She did. The problem was it cost 500 caps – Bob sighed deeply.
He thought about breaking into her house and taking it, but he argued with himself that pushing his luck could work both ways, and one of those ways could be deadly. So he did the nice thing and paid for the part out of his pocket, and desperately wished the ghouls had given him a few purchase order forms.
Bob made it to the launch pad's control room an hour later thanks to the old woman's directions. The courier found a convenient sewer entrance to the launch pad outside the REPCONN building, and once inside he gave the wannabe ghoul the replicas and the part.
The space-faring ghouls finally had everything they needed to be shot into the stars. Preparations for the rocket were to commence shortly, and Jason Bright thanked Bob personally for working so hard to fulfill their hopes and dreams. Bob was instructed by Mr. Not-a-Ghoul to head upstairs to the rooftop viewing booth so he could push the ignition button in some kind of thankful gesture and reward. Bob clearly wasn't going to get his money back. Once he was on the roof, Bob noticed that a destination programming computer for the rockets was placed next to the launch button.
Now Bob hasn't done a single very bad thing in his entire life. Aside from theft, he's never hurt someone who didn't try to hurt him first. Hell, he always paid his New California Republic taxes on time while he lived there. So it was with much internal debate that Bob mulled over sabotaging the ghouls' launch sequence to send them crashing into the ground somewhere in the Mojave. Even though his lack of computer ability kept him from knowing what he was doing, the destination software was wide-open and unencrypted. A few ham-fisted presses of the keyboard should have done the trick.
In the end Bob pushed away his evil thoughts. He knew what it was like to search for something, to make certain principles his driving convictions. If he blew up the ghouls because he didn't get paid as their errand bitch, well he'd just have to suck it up and realize that someday he too would need a stranger's help in getting revenge on the bastards who shot him.
Bob didn't exactly like the idea of someone blowing up his own metaphorical space rocket.
Bob the courier pressed the big red button in front of him. Giant doors opened on a domed structure in the distance. Three rockets came into view. They powered up, and bright smoky fire spewed into the air around the facility. Before the rockets launched to their cosmic destiny, the sounds of “Flight of the Valkyries” could be heard playing on a shortwave radio next to the computer console. Jason Bright and his followers blasted off into space that day, and Bob the courier could only imagine where they were actually headed.
As he turned around to leave, Bob heard the discomforting sound of machine parts grating on one another. He flipped his head around just in time to see one of the rockets violently zigzag in the sky before it shot off in a different direction than the other two. Bob left the control booth with a sly smile on his face, determined to find the wreckage someday and scavenge his 500 caps from those stupid ghouls.
But Bob would earn his money back long before he would have to sort through the burnt corpses of a few failed intergalactic pilgrims. Bob the courier would next shack up with the New California Republic; money, influence and bad ass clothes were going to be his reward for taking a side in the battle for Hoover Dam.
New Vegas would have to wait just a little bit longer. Bob decided that he needed to make a favorable impression on the NCR first, and the battle of Boulder City would help him do just that.