Damn. It was the only constant thing resonating through her mind; whereas every other thought was traveling faster than she could process.

What is it? Where is it now? How well armed is it? Do I have enough ammo? Damn! How big is it? How fast is it? Could I outrun it? Damn! What kind of weapon does it have? How could I not have noticed it sooner? Damn! How could I be so stupid? Could it kill me? Damn!

She shifted her legs slowly, loosening and untangling them from each other as she let her index finger slowing slip over the warm metal trigger of her assault rifle. Letting it mold around the metal piece until it was poised and ready to act on a moments notice.

Her mind scrambled for an explanation or some sort of idea she could go on. The thought of a Super Mutant flashed in her mind. She had seen Super Mutants use StealthBoys before. Did they have Super Mutants in the Mohave? They had Nightkins, could it be one of them? What if it was something else entirely? She didn't know what kind of creatures lived in Nevada, let alone what they could have mutated into.

She took in a gathering breath, forcing her breathing to slow and her mind to calm as she tried to concentrate on her surroundings. But there was nothing to see. She tried to calm and quiet the heartbeat pounding in her ears and to stop the heat rising in her face. Her ears listened keenly for the soft sound of dirt underfoot, the sound of metal or cloth shifting on a body, or the breathing and heartbeat of someone other then herself. Any sound.

No matter how many years she had spent in the Wasteland, no matter how many times she was shot, stalked, beaten or chased, this didn't get any easier. Her heart still went into her throat when she realized she was in danger - especially when she was in a vulnerable position. But she forced down the fear. Forcing it away and not letting it affect her actions. She had to act clearly.

Then, suddenly, the world slowed. Just as she heard the shift of dirt beside her, she felt the all too familiar feeling of a hard, formed, metal barrel touch the side of her head. Her breath hitched, her muscles tightened and her eyes darkened.

There was no way in hell she was getting shot again.

Her hand shot out impulsively and connected hard with what she thought was the gun, filling her hand with a quick burst of pain as it slammed into the metal, knocking away the gun away as her body quickly followed suit and leapt from the ground.

The invisible form showed with murky transparency at that proximity and her eyes blurred in and out of focus as she tried to catch sight of it. In the quick glance she took, it didn't seem big enough to be a Super Mutant, but rather human. A quick map of a human's size and shape showed in her mind and, not hesitating as her eyes tried to grasp the vision, she brought the full force of her knee against the back of its leg, making it lose its balance and stumble backwards. Releasing what seemed to be a rifle, she wrapped her arm around its neck as it stumbled into her hold.

With her forearm pressed tight against its neck she felt skin against her own and something that faintly reminded her of leather. She felt something large, hard and awkward pressed her from his back. With it barely visible, she felt its broad shoulders under her arm and was almost positive it was a man.

One of his hands darted up and clutched at her arm as he tried to pry it off as he stumbled back. She staggered as she tried to catch both her balance as well as his, while not losing hold of him. He thrashed from side to side, trying to shake her off or make her loosen her hold; even managing to lift her off her feet a few times, but she clutched even tighter around him. He suddenly stilled as she pressed the barrel of her assault rifle deep into his back.

"Whoa, Whoa! Hold on." The man suddenly insisted, his masculine voice sounding anxious. "I'm not going to hurt you. I mean no harm."

"Then stop fighting." She demanded harshly, taking his moment of composure to tighten her hold and press the sharp metal barrel a little deeper into what felt like a soft material.

"I might if you'd let me breathe." He said hoarsely. They stood paused in that position as she contemplated the idea. Finally, she relented and loosened her grip, slightly, around his neck. Just slightly. "Much appreciated." He cleared his throat.

Most of her attention was set on keeping him in her grasp and herself out of his, but in the back of her mind, her thoughts were racing with the most pressing question: what now?

Should she just shoot him and scavenge his things? That would get her some ammo at least, but it's short term thinking. Where would that get her in the end? She'd still be lost. A little better equipped maybe, - which would be a bonus - but still lost. She really didn't think she could just let him go; it'd gone too far for that. But, maybe she could get some directions out of him first?

"Why'd you pull a gun on me?" The Courier demanded.

"You're the first person I've seen in miles. Just sitting there with an assault rifle in your lap, I didn't know if you were feeling friendly. And under the circumstances, I'd say it wasn't a stupid idea."

"So, by putting a gun to my head, you hoped to inspire hospitality?" She kept her voice steeled.

"I was just making sure you wouldn't shoot me as soon as I was in sight. The plan was good, but the execution didn't go too well… well, no, I didn't mean that. Not execution, just… you know… carrying out the plan. Yeah."

"…Those were the words you chose while at gunpoint?"

"Well, excuse me, but that gun you have in my spine is messing my nervous system, which is messing with my head. I'll try to be more articulate in the future."

She rolled her eyes, "Work on your social skills while you're at it."

"Yeah, yours are fantastic, by the way." He retorted, but after a moments pause, he sighed and she felt him relax, "You know what? You're right. You're totally right, I'm sorry. Let's try this again." His voice softened into a kind, friendly tone, "Hi, I'm Carson."

"Hi." She replied flatly.

Carson expelled a breathy laugh, "So... I'd shake your hand, but, this position we're in right now… doesn't really allow much movement."

"Loose the StealthBoy."

"Oh... Yeah, good idea." He replied. He carefully raised a murky-clear hand to what she gathered to be his forearm between shimmers. His fingers skimmed over the hulking device on his arm and, with a press of a button, he was suddenly visible in the harsh sun.

Her eyes relaxed instantly as they were able to focus, and were met with Carson's short, brownish-black hair. She glanced down to the large, hard object between then to see a metal box hanging from his back, which she assumed held his weapons and supplies inside.

The Courier's eyes moved to the scoped hunting rifle in his hand, looking nearly identical to the 32. Caliber Hunting Rifle she owned in The Capital. "Drop the rifle." She ordered simply.

"Are you going to shoot me?" Carson asked as though it was a joke, but the undercurrent of true suspicion rang clear to her ears.

"Probably not, but if you don't drop the rifle, then the answer is definitely yes."

He let it slip from his hand and fall onto the hard ground.

She moved her attention to the weapon box and she eyed it attentively for a moment.

"Don't move." She instructed as she warily loosened her arm from around his neck, but she still kept her gun firmly in his back.

She waited as she watched him shift slightly with his newfound freedom, but he didn't move much more. With her gun still alert and her finger still tightly on the trigger, she moved her now free hand up his back and fiddled with the clips on his weapon box until they snapped open and the box fell into her grasp.

He tensed, "Hey-"

"Don't move." She cautioned, silencing him for the moment as she tossed the box far from reach.

With him seemingly unarmed, she let her rifle pull away from his back, but still kept it securely trained on him. For a moment, he still remained still; but when he didn't feel something sharp dig into his back, or something blunt make contact with the back of his head, he slowly turned around.

He didn't seem much older then herself, his facial features softly molded, but unmistakably male. His short, blackish-brown hair had been combed back, but some had fallen down in front of his forehead in their struggle. His eyes showed a sapphire blue, a contrast to his tanned skin, with only minimal dust covering him. His clothes consisted of durable looking jeans; brown boots; a thick, leather, trench style coat, with a high collar and the occasional bullet hole; a metal chest plate that seemed to mold perfectly over him; and an ammo belt.

As his eyes caught with hers, he took a second to look her up and down, before meeting her eyes and giving her a friendly expression. "Hi again." He moved to raise his hand, but she flinch and raised her gun higher, "Whoa! Okay, no handshake, got it." He kept his hands to his sides, "So, okay, what do I call you?"

After a quick thought, she said, "The Courier." She wasn't going to tell him her real name, so her most recent nickname would do for now.

"Well… I didn't expect to be on a first name basis, but it's a bit formal, isn't it? I mean The C-" He paused and seemed to study her for a moment before continuing. "Wait a second… that sounds familiar..."

"Radio New Vegas has mentioned me before."

"Yeah... Courier found shot in the head… near… Goodsprings? Yeah, now I remember. Mr. New Vegas was talking about you the other day." His eyes narrowed as they glanced over her, "Wow, this is totally not a come-one, but you look really good for someone who took a bullet to the head."

"Thanks, but believe me, there will be no repeat experiences."

"Hey, I'm not just some gang guy with an eager trigger finger. My gun is just a backup; I wasn't going to shoot you unless you did something deserved it." He lowered his voice to a mumble, "… Not that it mattered. But, hey, as long as you're feeling nice, so am I." He said, friendly, "So, what's a celebrity like you, doing all the way out here? Or more importantly, this close to a Cazador nest?"

"Cazadors?"

"Yeah, there's a huge nest just north of here."

She felt a slight apprehension at the thought of encountering a Cazador. She had seen five take out a passing caravan, shortly after arriving in Nevada. Even the security guards, assigned with the sole purpose of protecting the Brahmin and their owners, - and were therefore well armed - only lasted about 45 minutes. One Cazador was deadly enough, but as ill-equipped as she was, she definitely didn't want to encounter an entire nest full.

"I didn't know there were Cazadors out here. Thanks for the tip." She studied his features for a moment. He looked at her kindly, seemingly genuine. Maybe he could help her? "I'm new in town, and I'm not too familiar with the area. I'm looking for the main attraction." She lightened her voice.

"You mean New Vegas? Well, you must be really new, because you're no where near Sin City."

"Well, maybe you could help me out? Point me in the right direction?"

"Well, New Vegas is that way." He lifted his arm to point about five feet west of where she had been traveling. She mentally cataloged it. So she was going the wrong way. "But without knowing what to expect, like Cazadors and Radscorpion nests, you won't get far."

"Hmm… Then would you be willing to show me around? I have a map on my PipBoy, you could just point out the hotspots."

"I couldn't pinpoint anything on a map, I just know the area. There are certain marks and places in the scenery that I recognize just from experience. And I know how to get back to New Vegas, but it's a long ways out of my way. I'm not sure it'd be worth my while."

She sighed internally. Some things never change. "What sort of payment would make it worth it?"

"Well, lowering the gun would help." He glanced at her rifle, still aimed at him. When she looked at him warily, he added, "I'm not going to jump you. Besides, after your little disarming earlier, I think you'll be fine."

She lifted her assault rifle to slip it back into her bag. He was seemingly unarmed and she was not only knew fairly good hand-to-hand, but also had her knife and Magnum in reach. She was fairly certain she would survive.

"Thanks. This is so much nicer."

"So what do you want in return for guidance to New Vegas?"

"Actually, now that you mention it," he tipped his head to the side, as if the idea had just occurred to him, "I could use some help with something."

"What kind of help?"

"Well, I've heard about this unique grenade machine gun, that I've been hoping to find. It's called 'Mercy' and it's supposed to be pretty powerful. Belonged to an old Brotherhood of Steel paladin."

"Where is it?"

"In a cavern, a couple of miles away, called Dead Wind."

She raised an eyebrow. That didn't sound good. "And what would this excavation entail?"

"Just scavenging... and some fighting."

She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Fighting what?"

"Now that's the tricky part. It's kind of a Deathclaw breeding ground - which is why I'd need back-up"

Her expression fell, "Forget it. I'll find my own way back." She waved her hand dismissively.

"Oh, come on. It's a chance of a lifetime!"

"That, ironically, will end with our deaths."

"Not if we're smart. With the two of us, it wouldn't be that bad. Do you have any experience with them?"

"Plenty, I assure you. I've infiltrated their sanctuary once, but I was better prepared then. I don't even have my Disintegrator Rifle now!"

He opened his mouth to reply, but suddenly closed it as confusion spread over his features. He raises an eyebrow, "...Your what?"

She lets a sigh escape her lips. Alien abduction isn't the greatest icebreaker. "Nothing. What I'm saying is, Deathclaws are fast and hulking and dangerous. I'd be better off just braving the Cazadors." She stated.

"Not by yourself. One against all those Deathclaws is suicidal, but with two, one of us can cause a distraction. They're deadly, but you just have to keep your distance and do a lot of shooting."

"I don't have that much ammo. Not enough to take on Deathclaws."

"The plan is to sneak in unnoticed. With one person, it's more likely to get noticed; with two of us, one can sneak in while, like I said, the other causes a distraction. Just grab Mercy and go."

"How do I know you won't just feed me to them?" She asked suspiciously.

"Because I have just as much invested in this as you. I want Mercy, so letting you die won't be in my best interest; and you need a guide."

"And how do I know you're telling the truth?"

"You don't. But at the present, I'm being held at gunpoint by the woman who was shot in the head and kept on trucking. I'm not exactly in a position to be lying, now am I?" Carson said, matter-of-factly.

The faintest of smiles ghosted across her lips, "Good point."


A/N: I hope you enjoyed chapter two! I'm already working on chapter three, so it should be up sometime in the near future.

Please, read and review. It is the life force of every author, and encouragement always helps keep the writer's block away. So whether it's constructive criticism or even a simple 'good job', all is welcome.

Edit: Thanks to all of you great advisers and reviewers, I like to think my writing skills have improved, so I rewrote a good part of this. I hope it looks better now. I plan to rewrite chapters 1-5, maybe even 1-8, but I'm not sure. Some changes will be major, some will be minor - I'll mention which category each chapter falls into in my Author's Note. This chapter falls under the 'major', especially at the beginning.

Hope you like it.