I got the idea for this story from several in-game sources, including Vulpes Inculta mentioning that his encounter with the Courier outside the Tops was not his first visit to New Vegas. I wondered what his first visit was like… years before the events in the game, before he became the head of the Frumentarii…. And basically the story just wrote itself. Sorry, Vulpes fans!
It'll Be Our Secret
Vulpes Inculta frowned at the blazing neon lights advertising all sorts of things forbidden in Caesar's Legion. Caesar trusted him a great deal to send him on this mission in the nest of vice and sin that was New Vegas. The mole at Camp McCarran, Captain Ronald Curtis, had leave, and they would meet at the Ultra-Luxe, the safest place on the Strip, to discuss all the security leaks in the NCR, things that even Curtis would hesitate to say over the radio.
He was a day early for the rendezvous. Caesar had suggested that he take the time to get a feel for the city, and as the young man stood nonchalantly in front of the Tops casino, he observed three half-naked female NCR troopers dancing in the fountain across the street from him. For a moment or two he was mesmerized by the wettest t-shirt contest going on before his Legion sensibilities took over. Profligates, he thought, disgusting creatures, softening their brains with addictive substances, immersing themselves in vice….
A heavy hand clapped him too hard on the shoulder.
"You look lost," an NCR officer brayed. "This your first time on the Strip?"
"Well, then it's time to pop your Vegas cherry, friend. I'm sure you'll have a blast and be drunk and capless in no time."
"I doubt that," Vulpes Inculta said, coolly. Get your hand off my shoulder.
The man laughed. "That's what my troopers all say, but then they go into Gomorrah… it's the most popular casino among the NCR. They've got it all under one roof: gambling, booze, chems, whores…."
The Desert Fox raised his eyebrows; here was an opportunity for some extra intelligence. Alcohol loosens the lips as well as softens the brain tissue. After saying goodbye to the somewhat over-friendly profligate, Vulpes Inculta doubled back towards the entrance to the Strip. Gomorrah was the only casino that did not advertise its delights with neon; the fires of Hell did the trick.
The thug in the lobby patted him down for weapons and seemed only mildly surprised to find his machete. "You'll get it back on your way out, pal."
Vulpes Inculta stepped into the casino and immediately a curvaceous young thing was hanging off his arm. She had a lot of long black hair, large eyes, and an expansive bosom. A dark purple something whispered down her body, doing her no harm at all, and she smelled of fresh apples.
"Want to help me play craps?" She asked, leaning her heavy bosom into his arm. "It's good luck to play as a couple."
How did everyone know he had never been to the Strip before? He must be doing something wrong.
"I have caps," she continued. "I'm not asking you to pay my gambling debts. Wait… your wife's here, right?"
"Well, come on! I'll buy the first run of chips since it was my idea."
"Why the hurry?"
"I feel lucky! Can't you feel me shaking? I only shake like this when I'm in for an incredible run of luck. I'm Smoky, by the way. Smoky Sierra. What's your name?"
"Fox," he answered carefully.
"I like that. Is it because you have sharp eyes?"
"It is from pre-war history; that's what you should tell people. When the story's better than the truth, tell the story!" She placed her chips on the table and held out the die to the legionary. "You take the first throw."
He took the die, figured he had nothing to lose but time by trying, and started to throw them, but before he could let go, Smoky caught his hand and blew on his fingers.
"That's lucky, too," she whispered with a small, impish smile.
They had a very lucky run with the dice as she had predicted, and the dealer finally chased them away from the table. In spite of himself, Vulpes Inculta was caught up in the thrill of the city.
"Want to buy me a drink?" Smoky leaned against him again.
The air of Brimstone was smokier than the casino, and it was possible to get the tiniest bit light-headed off the second-hand fumes of alcohol and chems. Smoky gestured at the dancing prostitutes.
"See any you like?" She asked.
All of them, except the ghoul.
"Not the one without skin," he answered. "For that matter, is it male or female?"
"It has tits, so it must be female," she replied, throwing out her own chest. "But I don't know what kind of weirdo would want it from a ghoul."
"You may have answered your own question by saying that."
"So you do have a sense of humor; I'm so relieved." She gestured at the bartender, who slid them a bottle and two glasses.
Smoky poured the drinks, handed one to Vulpes Inculta, clinked her glass against his, and drank. He stared dubiously at the amber liquid laughing in the firelight. Drinking was strictly forbidden in Caesar's Legion.
"What's wrong?" She asked.
"I should not…."
"Aw, live a little," Smoky drained her glass and licked away the drop that clung to her lip. "I won't tell on you."
He knew that this was a ridiculous statement, but surely just one drink would be all right. It would help him blend into the atmosphere. Abstaining would make him look suspicious. Vulpes took a sip of the whiskey, grimaced at the burning sensation of the alcohol, and set his glass back down. Much to his annoyance, Smoky was helping herself to a refill. How could a profligate woman best a man of Caesar's Legion at anything? He finished his drink and poured himself another stiff shot. This one went down much easier.
Smoky stood up, holding the bottle in her hand. "Let's go out to the courtyard. It's cooler out there."
Full of little tents stuffed with piles of cushions, or round beds, the courtyard also trumped Brimstone for levels of comfort. She selected a tent with a bed and sat on it, taking another drink straight from the bottle, and then offering it back to Vulpes.
Pointing at a titian-haired prostitute in a pink nightgown, Smoky said, "That's Joana. She taught me everything I know."
"She taught you-..?"
She laughed. "I hired her to teach me some of her tricks. Charged me twice her usual fee, but in the long run, it'll be worth it."
He drank from the bottle. This drink was smooth as silk, but he needed to lie down….
Vulpes Inculta cracked open an eyelid. His head felt like a vice, and the inside of his mouth felt like the Mojave. It was morning, ordinarily his favorite time of day, but at the moment the sunlight was as relentless as an alpha Deathclaw. Very gingerly he sat up and put his feet on the ground. His left foot brushed against the empty bottle, bringing back hazy memories of the previous night, most keenly the NCR officer saying, "you'll be drunk and capless in no time."
Panicked, he inspected himself. He was mostly dressed, and his clothes did not smell badly of alcohol. It hurt his head to count the caps, but he was relieved to note that his caps were still there. The scribe might raise his eyebrows at the amount spent, but everything was expensive in New Vegas.
Smoky was still there, more disheveled than he, but as he noted when he dipped his face into the pool, she looked better. At the moment, he resembled the Undead Fox.
Vulpes ran his tongue over his lips. He needed water badly, but at the same time, he was not about to drink out of the Gomorrah pool. Who knew what was in there? Thinking about it in this weakened state nearly made him vomit.
A street vendor sold him a bottle of purified water, which he gulped down and tossed away.
"You look like you've been on an all-night bender," the woman observed. "Did you have fun at least?"
Vulpes ignored her, now worried that he might bump into the chatty man from yesterday. Luckily, he did not seem to be around. Entering the Ultra-Luxe, the legionary handed over his machete without a word, suspiciously eyeing the masked White Gloves, when his eyes were open. Their casino was too white, and its patrons were trampling their elephant feet all over the place.
He found a corner table in the Gourmand and sat down. It would be a little while before Curtis was scheduled to arrive. Perhaps his head would feel better like then. Perhaps it would fall off before then.
"What happened to you," Curtis asked, by way of greeting.
"Migraine," Vulpes Inculta lied.
Captain Curtis (Frumentarius Picus) had done his own fair share of "social drinking" in the NCR and was familiar with the symptoms of a hangover, and for that reason did not pursue the matter. Sensing that his excuse was rather feeble, Vulpes Inculta, during the long walk back to Cottonwood Cove, tried to think of a better one, with limited success.
"Are you ill?" The boatman asked him.
"I was stung by a young Cazadore," the young man lied. "I only require healing powder."
"Have mine; Caesar will be most upset if you die before reporting to him."
Vulpes Inculta took the powder with a handful of water, and by and by he felt better.
Caesar was pleased by the results of his mission.
"I've got something very similar for you to do about six months from now, back in New Vegas," Vulpes was told. "And I want you to handle it just like this one."