united under two skies

Chapter 11

Rex crawled across the scrub brush around Mrs. Flynn's house with the bubbling one year old, Rose, attached to his back in an improvised carrier. Her red hair bobbed against the back of his neck as he made his way across the small yard towards the open window where the fresh sweat rolls sat cooling. Jen Callaghan promised him a kiss if he stole a sweet role for her, and Mrs. Flynn never shared them when they were hot, so Rex had the idea to liberate a few while they cooled. The sweet roll would be a great treat for Rose anyway. She was turning one today, actually only a few months before Rex's tenth birthday, and he knew the little red head loved sweet rolls.

As he made his way to the open window Rose began to hum softly one of her mismatched tunes. Rex stops just before the window and reaches back and pats the girl on the head and she stops humming and falls completely silent just like he taught her to. Since they were generally an inseparable pair Rex taught his little sister to go quiet when he patted her on the head; it helped greatly when they played hide and seek with the other kids. Rex continued his slow movement towards the window sill and when he reached it he stood up slightly to look over the window sill into the kitchen. It was empty and the sweet rolls sat invitingly in front of him radiating the cinnamon sweet smell the whole town craved.

Rex carefully grabbed three rolls and placed them in the small bread box he took from his own kitchen and placed the pastries in the small box. Just as he closes the lid Mrs. Flynn enters the kitchen and her sharp old eyes met his and her face twisted into a frown.

"Rex Craster I'll beat your butt raw boy" she says grabbing a big wooden spoon.

Rex turns and runs jumping through the shrubs and out onto the old decrepit street. The thin and bony Mrs. Flynn burst out of her home brandishing the spoon and ran after Rex and Rose. Rex ran through the streets and off into a side street to the outskirts of town. Despite his best efforts Mrs. Flynn was chasing them down and even keeping speed with him despite her age. Mrs. Flynn threw the wooden spoon and it smacked into his leg and Rex fell to the ground skidding in the dirt.

After a vicious (and deserved according to Mrs. Flynn) whacking from the spoon Rex sat on a slab of concrete watching Rose eat one of the sweet rolls. Mrs. Flynn had given one to the girl after realizing it was her birthday. Rose gleefully ate the delicious treat as Rex rubbed his butt still feeling the burning after pain from Mrs. Flynn's onslaught. As he looked at Rose he smiled as she finished the role and chased after a small bug crawling across the ground.

"Be careful Rose" Rex yells after as she cashes the bug in circles giggling.

"You're gonna have to be her protector Rex; it's your responsibility as her big brother" He heard his father say.

He looked around not seeing his father anywhere, and noted that his father said that at Rose's fifth birthday not her first. The birthday only a few months before the last birthday he spent with his family. He looked back to find Rose gone and storm clouds spreading across the sky.

"No! No! Rose, where are you?" Rex yells looking all around franticly "Rose please be here please be safe"

And suddenly he was standing in front of Dust's town sign his hand stained with a black paint and ash mixture and the on the sign written over the large red word Dust was a word written in an ugly and jagged handwriting: ASH. He looked behind the sign to see the charred and still smoking remains of his home, and with one final look he turned and began his long walk.

Rex woke up from his dream shaking the sleep from his eyes. He sat up in his bed and looked to the small mirror near his bed and for a moment saw his old face. The face he wore in Dust, before it was rimmed in hard edges and intense anger, the soft smiling face with kind inquisitive eyes that his mother loved to pinch. He blinked and the image changed to the thin hard edged face sculpted by the hard winds of the wastes.

He got out of bed and showered letting the hot water soothe away the memories of his past into the dark part of his brain where he kept them. Right alongside his ghosts. After his shower Rex got dressed and after eating a few slices of toast he left the sink by way of one of the new Transportalponder stations placed around the Big Empty to travel to the empty stretch of dessert where mother ship Zeta was being kept. He walked through the security check and looked at the massive disc shaped craft.

It had been a week since the people of the Capital Wasteland came to the Mojave and they had been integrated into their own community in what was once Nipton. They were actually a great resource in their knowledge of science and engineering as well as the experienced merchants and soldiers. The ship they came in was amazing too. Thanks to a translation program created from the logs of a prisoner of the aliens the tech inside was slowly being catalogued and studied, including the very important device located at the center of the ship. A little surprise for Shepard and her people Rex thought to himself.

As he walked through the complex of tents and temporary buildings he looked to the large grouping of metallic toy horses they had found on the ship. There didn't seem to be any reason for the Aliens to have a huge collection a single pre-war toy, but conspiracy theorists amongst the research team that they were planted by the aliens. Regardless the toys were being placed in truck to be stored in a warehouse and would be studied later after some of the personnel could be spared.

Rex lit a cigarette and grabbed a cup of coffee from the supply tent before walking through another security check point into the ship. He walked the metallic halls through the throng of researchers and techs examining weapons and various other devices. When he made his way to the center of the ship a large man sat comparing a holographic display to the massive core of the ship.

"Crowley, What do we have here?" Rex asks placing his coffee on a workbench.

"Your suspicions were correct sir, it matches designs for mass effect cores the Normandy's crew gave us even if it is a little primitive" Crowley replies.

"Good" Rex says "Does the element zero match the ore samples we have in our possession?"

"Yes, it's a hundred percent match" Crowley says looking over his screens "analysis shows that the Element Zero of our universe is just a few molecules different from The Normandyverse's Element Zero"

"Normandyverse?

"It's what the research team is calling the universe our other guest hail from" Crowley answers.

"I want reports on what we know is possible and what we think is possible with this tech within the week" Rex says taking a drink from his coffee and walked back through the archway and into the ship's corridors. As he walks he notices a gust of air flows past him and he stops and turns seeing a from draped in the faint distortion of a stealth boy walking away from him down the empty hall.

"Miss Goto I sincerely hope you checked in at security" Rex says taking a drag from his cigarette.

The form stopped and turned before the stealth field dropped and Kasumi stood there pouting "Can't you let a girl have some fun? Honestly Mr. Craster if even one of your guards was as perceptive as you I'd be in a sticky situation"

"This is a restricted area Miss Goto, and I don't recall giving the Normandy's crew access" Rex says finishing his coffee.

She just shrugs.

"Tell Shepard I want to see her" Rex says turning around and as the blur turned the corner he felt a small tap on his left shoulder as another smaller blur slid past him "Make sure my message is sent and received promptly."

He continued his walk through the corridors before reemerging out into the sunlight where ED-E waited floating next to Veronica. She wore a business suit and held a clip board in one hand and was holding a black business suit on a hangar. Rex frowned and reluctantly walked to his second in command.

"Don't tell me that meeting's today" Rex says sighing.

"Yes, and if we keep them waiting we'll lose what little cooperation from the NCR we have" Veronica says handing him the suit.

"Fine" Rex says ducking into an empty tent to change and after putting the pressed suit on he walked back out into the sun "come on I have a meeting with Shepard, let's get this over with"

They disappeared in a flash of blue light as Rex lit a cigarette.

?

Shepard sat in the small research facility eying Tali and Mordin as they worked on the ancient device. The last week of work produced one clear fact, the device was broken. This weighed on her crewmen greatly, Mordin was muttering to himself even more than usual and Tali had barely slept in days trying to uncover the secrets of the device. The only thing they had found was that the center crystal of the device was fractured on a microscopic level making any kind of repair difficult if not impossible.

"Alright everyone needs a break" Shepard says getting up and walking over to the pair "Kevin and Gabby have been resting in their quarters and I want you two to do the same"

"Yes rest needed" Mordin says rubbing his temples "Need sleep"

"I can run another maintenance check on my suit while I sleep" Tali says walking towards the door yawning.

They walked out of the building and disappeared in a flash of blue back to the strip. Shepard was about to follow with her own Transportalponder when Kasumi appeared in front of her.

"Kasumi what's the report on that ship?"

"It's advanced and proves that there are aliens in this universe" Kasumi says opening a display of the ship's interior "Shepard I think it has a mass effect core."

"Interesting, we'll have to assume there's something or someone out there; I might have Joker and EDI send out long range distress signals once the comms are fixed just to see if anything bites. Mordin believes there might even be version of the council races in this universe" Shepard says "If we have prospective allies on this side we might just have an advantage."

"We might be a little too late Shepard it's been more than a century since our time" Kasumi says.

"These aliens prove that there's at least some intelligent life here implying the reapers didn't destroy everything" Shepard explained "There might be more out there. I need to speak with Mr. Craster right away; the data on that ship could prove invaluable."

"Funny, that's exactly what he told me to tell you" Kasumi replies "He wants to see you as soon as possible."

"When did he tell you this?"

"He found me snooping inside the ship that guy must have eaten his carrots when he was a kid because he can see and track me when cloaked" Kasumi says pouting "I know I've been using this world's stealth tech but no one else has noticed me."

"You know there are legends from the old west of gunslingers that had the ability to track and shoot anything within a certain distance, see what others thought to be nothing" Shepard says tuning her transportalponder "Some said these men were touched by god. Or the devil. I wonder which is which with Mr. Craster."

Shepard pulled the trigger and the pair disappeared in a flash of blue light.

?

Rex sat at the conference table looking at the group of men before him. Half of them were fat while the others were skinny; all looked confident and slimy. These men were the six NCR business owners and government officials that worked with the Mojave to receive breaks and deals on services and goods. Rex had forged an uneasy alliance with these men not long after the NCR started officially interacting with the Mojave. Rex had made it a point to align with these men knowing they were powerful enough to keep the NCR's government friendly and greedy enough to keep the gravy flowing no matter the cost. It was a small price to pay for allies in the upper echelons of the NCR. Although listening them trying to bullshit him for three hours almost made him reconsider his choice of allies.

"Mr. Craster for two years now we have worked with you diligently to ensure that both our interests are kept in mind during our biannual meetings" Richard Ghat says, a bone thin man with receding white hair and long set in wrinkles on his face, standing from the table as he chewed a fat cigar. Rex hated cigars "And my fellow partners will agree that if we don't receive our demands as written in the new deal we have so graciously written with your needs in mind, then we will just have to withdraw our support."

Rex sat in silence smoking a cigarette watching one of the men take a pinyon nut from one of the snack bowls on the table and stuck it in his mouth tracking spit on his fingers as he went back for another.

"All we ask Mr. Craster is that you take in mind the simple things we ask for" Bill Frasier, a snake skin suit wearing man of about three hundred pounds said "It is a risk back home to be so, how do I put this, involved with the wasteland government; we have men and women all across our lovely nation protesting any trade with the Mojave. With these items we believe we can smooth over any tension amongst the common folk. All we ask for is a few of your securitrons and a lookie-loo into your scientific research that's all. We don't even need anything earth shattering maybe just some of that quick-crete you've been using to repair this dusty old town of yours."

"Oh really Bill, wouldn't you love to get your hands on that; last time I checked you owned the only private construction firm in the NCR" Rex says rubbing his temples as he rose "And Richard tell me what cutting ties with me and my government will do to benefit the NCR? Huh? As of right now I trade with the NCR solely to keep a friendly relationship, but that can all change if you want it to. By all means why don't you go and tell all those big wigs you all report to when you get back that I didn't bite and all the things I've been supplying in bulk will become scarce really quick. Then you'll see just how tense the common folk will really get. What will happen when all those lovely little comforts I've been supplying go away? They'll get angry, at me first but you know I might just have to start spreading a rumor that some politicians and big wigs are behind the whole thing. Hoarding the good medicine, liquor, parts, and oh what's the last thing I supply? Oh right, all those luxury goods that make life so much easier. You know what happens to people who have life's little comforts taken from them? They look for the person responsible and generally take something from them."

The group was taken aback with this outburst and the one scarfing down pinyon nuts dropped one on the table.

He walked over to Frasier and took the cigar out of his mouth and threw it into and ash tray "Go ahead withdraw your support I don't care. I can wait you out, scratch that we can wait you out, and just don't wait too long or I might just go directly to your competitors. I here there's a lovely man named Hank MacDowell who wants to aggressively expand his and his partner's business holdings. Face it gentlemen you're stuck with me, but I'm not stuck with you. Consider that next time you try to amend our agreement to better suit your greedy desires."

Rex walked out of the room and commands the soldiers waiting outside to escort the men back to their Vertibird. He finds Veronica looking over some plans with one of the government workers and she looks up dismisses the worker and asks:

"How'd it go?"

"Just like we expected; they're growing bolder. I have no idea if there aligned with this Voorhees or not, but something is giving them backbone they didn't have before" Rex says lighting a cigarette and taking a long drag.

They walk to the elevator and wait for it to descend a floor and a half before Rex hits a switch stopping the elevator and Veronica says:

"We've got reports from the NCR; there's a movement that's gaining traction for a military assault on the Mojave. People don't like how much they import from us and don't like the fact we kicked the NCR out even more. The common people are being worked into a fervor out there with speeches from activist claiming they need to reclaim the true spirit of the NCR and comparing us to unwashed savages. We've linked it to some of Voorhees's known associates. On the bright side that report you wanted came in this morning."

"Good" Rex says taking a thick red folder from Veronica.

"Rex I read through the report, that man you wanted info on Colonel Richard Everett, He's been heading up the secret development division of the NCR military's R&D agency for thirty years now. He had a daughter, named Violet, who married a John H. Craster, a combat medic turned Follower of the Apocalypse, twenty nine years ago. They disappeared with their infant son twenty seven years ago. Rex this man is…" Veronica says.

"I know" Rex says taking a drag from the cigarette as he flips through the report "He's my mother's father, my grandfather."

"Rex this is huge, you have actual family out there" Veronica says "You're from the NCR"

"Family that works under General Voorhees, Veronica, according to this he was part of the committee to appoint Voorhees with his stars" Rex says handing her back the report "It doesn't matter now, all that matters now is that we're on opposite sides. You know as well as anyone what that we can let this cloud our judgement even if family's involved."

"You're right can't let it get to us" Veronica says sadly as she looks to the floor.

Rex looks at her for a moment and sighs "I'm sorry I shouldn't have brought it up. I know what happened still weighs on you. Have you heard from them recently?"

"Got a letter from Ramos last month they've set up shop in an old abandoned warehouse to the north. McNamara is still running things even after the remains of Hardin's outcasts attacked again, but all in all they're doing okay" Veronica says looking at the floor.

"I know what I did to them was harsh, but after that attack I had to hold someone responsible" Rex says placing his hand on her shoulder "They left me no choice after they attacked that caravan."

"I know, even if it was an accident what they did was unforgivable" Veronica says sadly.

Rex turned around and let Veronica steady herself; He knew that she was rubbing her wrist, where three names were tattooed. When the doors opened they made the quick walk through the lobby and across the street to the Lucky Thirty-eight where they found one of Shepard's crew, the large reptilian alien named Grunt, talking to Shepard herself in the entranceway of the building. The big creature was shaking his head as he spoke and wore what Rex guessed as a satisfied grin.

"Shepard sorry for making you wait; I had a meeting to attend to" Rex says approaching the pair.

"Don't worry about it I've had company" Shepard says gesturing to Grunt.

"Oh yes I saw you arm-wrestling Mean Sonofabitch last week at the Atomic wrangler" Rex says lighting a cigarette "How'd that turn out?"

"He lived up to his name I got three wins before he turned it around when that bastard broke three of his own fingers and then he threw me off the stage" Grunt says laughing "it was fun."

"I'm sure" Rex says chuckling "besides that have you enjoyed your stay here Grunt?"

"I like this town, lots of things to fight and the humans here are more entertaining and tougher than most I've met" Grunt says scratching his chin "Except for Shepard of course."

"Well I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay with us Grunt" Rex says putting his mechanical hand out to shake Grunt's. The Krogan grabbed the hand and shook it with an iron grip that dented the metal of Rex's robotic hand. Grunt walked off back onto the Strip.

"Thank god I'm ambidextrous" Rex says moving his metal fingers "There's an entire planet's worth of him in your universe?"

"Yeah" Shepard replies smiling.

"Well, come up to my office so I can fix these dents" Rex says walking inside and to the elevator.

When the trio were in the elevator Shepard says: "The Krogan survived their own nuclear holocaust so I imagine that he feels some kinship with you and your people."

"I read about that in the codex, seems both our species are members of the Nuked planet club" Rex says looking to Shepard "It's nice to know humans aren't the only ones stupid enough to participate in nuclear war."

The elevator opened and Shepard and Rex entered his office while Veronica went to her apartment to change. When they entered the stuffy office Rex gestured for Shepard to sit in the chair in front of his desk before sitting himself behind the desk. He took a small homemade computer module from the desk and placed it an anti-static box before stowing it in a drawer, before taking out a tool kit and went to work replacing the plating on his hand.

"So let's cut to the chase Shepard" Rex says as replaced the dented plating with shiny black replacements silently cursing himself for not switching to the reinforced Saturnite arm he'd been working on "Miss Goto has been sneaking around my operation with what I assume are stolen stealth boys"

"I like to be informed" Shepard replies calmly "And I assure you nothing was taken"

"Listen Shepard there's no reason to sneak around; What you've provided for my people is going to change things, for everyone not just the Mojave" Rex says "And in the spirit of that thought I'll confirm what Miss Goto undoubtedly showed you. Yes the vessel has a functioning Mass Effect drive proving both the existence of Element Zero in this universe as well as mass effect based technology."

"Wow, very forthcoming" Shepard says chuckling "Starting to trust me?"

"A little, I can tell you're a person to be respected" Rex says putting away his tools "but in the end you're staying in my hotel, I have your ship in my hangar, you and your crew are bearing weapons I supplied, and I will supply dextro amino acid rich food when your stores run out. In short I have no reason to mistrust you because I currently hold all the cards. Shepard I've done my homework and I'm willing to work with you, but that ship's off limits. All relevant data will be handed over to you to help get the Normandy back online."

"What would it take to get my hands on that ship's database?" Shepard asks steeling her features.

"I'd like to look at the blue box technology that runs your A.I" Rex says locking his gaze with Shepard "Or at the very least that miniaturized version you have stowed in your suit."

"How did you find that out?" Shepard asks calmly.

"You're not the only one with invisible hands" Rex says winking "I have a manifest of your cargo, yes even the off the books cargo, in my possession and will gladly accept the tech as payment. Of course you don't have to give me anything; it's not like I'm holding a gun to your head after all."

"Just the cube? Not our weapons tech or anything like that?"

"First and foremost I'm concerned with tech that will help across the board" Rex explains rolling a cigarette before lighting it "it will take us awhile to figure out how to miniaturize the mass effect fields anyway, and a weapon only has so many uses while an advanced computer like the blue cube can change every aspect of our lives."

"If I do my people have unlimited access to the alien craft?" Shepard asks.

"Of course, as long as they share any and all findings with my people" Rex says blowing twin puffs of smoke out his nose.

"Absolutely" Shepard replies a warm smile playing across her face "It's your ship after all."

"I'll get the necessary security clearance drawn up for your personnel" Rex says standing up "it should only take…"

He was interrupted by Veronica bursting into the room hastily putting on her armor "Rex we have a situation. A Legion war party is burning their way towards New Vegas."

"How'd they break through our border security" Rex says throwing on his armored duster and holstering his pistol.

"They're in armored tractor trailers with at least a dozen other vehicles"

"What the hell! They've updated their strategies; any casualties?" Rex asks equipping a bulletproof vest over his shirt and places the weathered goggles on his head.

"Ten of our border patrol unit are dead Boone barely made it out and Rex had his brain case burst open." Veronica replies.

"Fuck, activate our vehicle units and have the boomers ready those long range cannon prototypes" Rex says helping veronica equip her Saturnite fist before turning to Shepard "Shepard, you think your squad's ready for some action."

She nods and activates her communicator "I need any and all available squad member in front of the Lucky 38 ASAP, come armed and ready we have a situation to handle."

They board the elevator and when they reach the ground floor Thane appears from the crowd of office workers relaying messages and hands Shepard her equipment. She quickly suits up and the quartet walk out onto the street where Garrus, Jack, Grunt, Legion and the rest of the combat squad are standing amongst two dozen armored vehicles manned by Mojave soldiers and personnel carriers carrying two dozen men each. Each of the armored vehicles was equipped with a fifty caliber machine gun and two smaller Gatling lasers on the sides while the personnel carriers were equipped with plasma canons on their roofs and openings for smaller weapons on its sides. Rex walks to a heavily modified armored vehicle pained blood red. He gestured for jack and Shepard to follow him as Veronica and ED-E take their seats. Jack and Shepard strap in in the back of the armored vehicle and Veronica takes shotgun While ED-E clicks himself into an armored gatling laser on top of the vehicle. After they get in Rex gets in the driver's seat and takes a microphone from a panel next to the wheel and turns the loud speaker on:

"Listen up folks, the New Legion is finally making a move, approximately thirty minutes ago they attacked our eastern border with three armored semi's as well as other vehicles and are now heading towards new Vegas proper. I think we should go and give them a warm Mojave welcome. Assume delta formation and ready your weapons. Move out" He revs the engine of the powerful vehicle and bolts forward sending clouds of dust behind. The rest of the vehicles take off after Rex and with battle cries and guffaws the Mojave's armored vehicle division moves out after their leader.


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