General Fang was a trim man with dark hair, dark, almond-shaped eyes, and a long mustache. He was a shrewd, ruthless warrior with a very dry sense of humor. He was 1,000 times better as the head of the NCR armor than the late General Oliver.
"Hello, General," Edie said, kissing him on both cheeks. "I have to ask you for a favor."
"Come with me; my valet is doing the laundry."
She laughed. "Sorry, Fang, not that kind of favor. I need you to relieve Boone from duty for a few days."
"Lanius is still alive, and I want to spy on him, hopefully kill him, as a personal thing."
"You put me in difficult position. This is matter of national security."
"If I fail, you can have him, and I won't complain."
He stroked his mustache, looking hesitant.
"Nothing is impossible for Fang," she coaxed.
"It's true. I'm the best damn soldier in California. All right. I give you six weeks."
"Thank you, General."
He nodded deeply. "Go find Boone. He probably in the barracks. Night guard."
Edie found the barracks where Boone was easily enough. Her companion hadn't changed much since the Second Battle of Hoover Dam. He wore the same uniform (1st Recon Survival Armor), beret, shades, and cold expression. The only thing to indicate the passage of time was his rifle, which had been repaired and modified a few times. He was sitting on his bunk, smoking a cigarette, brooding.
"Hello, Boone," Edie said, cautiously.
He looked up, "Edie."
She sat on the bank opposite his. "I need help. General Fang said you can have six weeks to help me in my mission, if you're interested. It concerns the remnants of Caesar's Legion."
"Thanks. Lanius is still alive; that's who we're after. I'm dealing with a former legionary… before you tell Fang you're coming with me."
Boone thought for a long time, going through several cigarettes before he spoke. "I'm still in. Why'd he leave?"
"He got kicked out for killing someone else in the Legion. Actually, he never got that far. He killed Antonius and left."
"Remember my stalker? It was Vulpes Inculta, and another legionary named Antonius tried to rape me."
Boone swore impressively. "Why the hell did he help you?"
"Damned if I know. I don't understand him at all, but I owed him for saving me, and I want Lanius dead, too."
"So do I." He stood up. "Let's go."
Back at the Lucky 38 Vulpes had mostly kept his promise about resting. Once or twice he tried getting up, but both times had to return to bed due to the resulting dizziness and nausea. By the time Edie returned, he could walk around a bit and handle Frenchy's sandwiches, but being an invalid bothered him. And he missed Edie, perhaps more than he ever had during the two years since his expulsion from Caesar's Legion. Being near her made him remember more keenly everything about her he admired and desired.
He and Boone just managed to be civil to each other when they met, knowing that they were working towards a common goal. To prevent much hostility from flaring up, Edie suggested they immediately work on strategy. One of the tables in the cocktail lounge became Command Central as Vulpes recounted what he could remember of his encounter with his old comrades in a small hidden place called "Skeleton Creek," very close to the ruins of Cottonwood Cove. The general consensus was that a better look at the remnants would be needed to formulate a better strategy.
"If there were a way inside," Vulpes mused.
Edie frowned, looking at the floor, then a memory of an old pre-war movie that Arcade had shown her surfaced. She smiled. "We'll just knock on the door and ask to see him."
Boone and Vulpes Inculta actually looked at each other.
"Your joking is very ill-timed," Vulpes said.
"I'm not joking; I'm serious. We'll need a new outfit for Boone, civilian, and a nice rug. I have a lot of clothes at my various places of residence, so I'm fine… yes, this could work."
"What are you talking about?" Boone asked.
"This has worked before. The queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, had herself wrapped up in a rug and presented to the original Caesar. He fell for it hook, line, and sinker!"
"Original Caesar?" Vulpes asked, sounding oddly vulnerable.
"Oh fuck," Edie thunked herself on the forehead.
Boone leaned forward in his chair (he was sitting ass-backwards) to enjoy the show.
"You were one of his favorites," she said. "Sometime you surely must have had some sort of inkling that all was not what it seemed."
When he didn't answer, she talked for a few minutes about the history of Rome as Arcade had told her, and shown her with his old books and movies. Finally Vulpes stopped her.
"Enough. You are correct; I did have more than 'an inkling,' but it was somewhat painful to hear it so bluntly."
They strategized a while longer then broke up for the night. Boone announced that he was heading to Vault 21 to sleep.
"I can live with working with him, but I draw the line at bunking with the son-of-a-bitch," he growled.
"Okay. I can understand that. You can have my room if you want; Sarah won't mind."
"No thanks. I'll be back in the morning."
He disappeared into the lift, and Edie returned to the Presidential Suite. Vulpes was back in the double room.
"Your bandage can come off tomorrow," she said.
He nodded. The bandage itched like hell, and he would be glad to be rid of it.
"I am sorry to be an iconoclast. It's not a pleasant thing to be… or experience."
"You have nothing to apologize for. It is my own fault."
She raised and lowered one shoulder. "What should I wear to be wrapped up in a rug?"
He looked her over, "The black and red, with the tight leggings."
"Not a dress?"
"The black and red is more of a challenge."
He was referring to the Merc Adventurer outfit, which was very close-fitting. As he spoke, he could visualize the shiny fabric hugging Edie's round bottom and her curvy legs. Getting them off her would be a challenge, but if she stood or laid the right way, he could manage it….
"All right," Edie said. "I'm sure you know what you're talking about. Good night."
Frenchy was hovering outside Edie's bedroom door. "You're awfully hard on him," she said.
"I know." Edie started to change into her sexy sleepwear. "We have a complicated relationship."
"You Americans complicate things too much. In Europe we make love with anyone we find attractive. It doesn't matter."
"For the most part I do, Frenchy. This goes beyond attraction. It's… political… ethical."
The robot made a disgusted sound. "There's nothing worse than bringing those into bed with you."
"I can think of a few. Goodnight."
The following morning was dark and windy. A few dust devils created some chaos around the Waste. Boone reappeared bright and early, while Edie was still taking off Vulpes Inculta's bandages.
"You were lucky that it's such a shallow cut," she said, carefully cutting the bandages away. "Heals faster, and it won't scar as badly."
"I don't care about that."
"You might since part of it will be on your face, but if you go about it the right way, you'll impress the girls. There you go. Here."
She handed him a mirror. She was right; his dark hair now had two parts and the thin scar travelled a short ways onto his forehead. Much to the Desert Fox's surprise, she produced a brush and began to tease at his hair.
"What-?" He asked.
"I'm fixing your hair. You look like a Fiend. Hold still."
At last she stepped away, and he surveyed his reflection again. His scar was the only part, and now his hair was long enough to get away with such a look. Since his expulsion from the Legion, Vulpes had allowed it to grow out somewhat, though mostly for convenience's sake rather than style.
Boone was fitted for a pre-war business suit. He kept his feelings about the suit to himself, though he was openly skeptical of the plan. They also rolled Edie up in several rugs before deciding that the one under the bed in the penthouse was the best choice. It was light, and that made it easier for Boone to carry, and for Edie to not suffocate.
Vulpes Inculta taught Boone the right words to be let inside without being killed; he was a surprisingly good actor. Finally, after reviewing and reviewing the plan, the small group journeyed out towards Skeleton Creek. They took turns carrying the rug until they were very close to their destination. Then the men rolled Edie up, and Boone carried her to the Legion, alone. Vulpes stayed behind, hidden and well-armed.
"This is stupid," Boone muttered to himself.
"I heard that," came Edie's muffled voice from within the rug. "Don't worry. This will work."
"Just don't get killed."
"And please remember that my head is on your left side."
Thanks to Vulpes Inculta's coaching, Boone was let in without question. One of the centurions: however, was suspicious. He eyed the rug skeptically then had an idea.
"You will not object to not being able to deliver your gift in person," he said, disguising his command as a question. "Lanius is in counsel."
Boone had no choice but to hand Edie over to the nearest recruit legionary.
"What kind of rug is this?" The recruit asked. "It feels strange."
"It's… Oriental," Boone lied, "Very rare."
Edie bit her tongue hard.
The recruit shrugged his shoulders and followed the centurion (Taurus Furorus) to Lanius' tent. Boone was shown out.
"Mighty Lanius," Raging Bull said on being allowed to enter. "A sort of rug merchant came with a gift for you."
"A rug," Lanius echoed. "Bring it here."
The recruit brought the rug over.
"You have a strange way of carrying it," the Butcher observed.
"This is how he carried it," the recruit said.
Edie tumbled to the floor at Lanius' feet. She sat up, rubbing her behind and eyeing the recruit resentfully. He stared at her as if he had never seen a woman before.
"I thought that rug was kind of squishy," he said, and Taurus, Lanius, and another legionary all stared at him in amazement.
"Leave us," Lanius finally ordered.