In the Eyes of a Ranger

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Chapter 23

I checked the loads in my rifle and two revolvers, thumbing the last few shells into the magazine. The rifle was fully loaded with twelve shots and both Lucky and the spare six-gun were fully loaded. I touched the hilt of my Bowie for reassurance and slipped the safety thong off the handle and loosened it in the sheath a little. There was no need to give the order to get ready for the assault. Every man on the line was already low behind the wall with his rifle leveled and grenades or pistols set out for a quick hand to grasp. Every one of them had been through this kind of thing before and every one of them knew what was to be done. I grabbed up one of the bandoliers that was laying around the cases of ammunition, now all opened, and slung it over my shoulder.

Memories of Nelson came flooding through my head as I stood there and listened to them come. Too much was the same, too much that brought it all back to mind. Huddling behind the wall, looking down my rifle sights at an empty place on the far horizon, waiting for the enemy to come at me and mine and feeling that old itch on my trigger finger. I remembered running from the town, seeing my comrades be cut down as they fled from the front line, the bodies strewn all across the field and the slopes of the hill, and most of all looking back at the town and seeing the flames and the tall spires of black smoke rising from what remained of it. I remembered feeling defeated and bloodied. There was too much alike between here and there, but I dismissed the thought as soon as it came to mind. This wasn't Nelson, this wasn't an untenable position in the middle of nowhere, this wasn't a sure defeat. This was the Dam, and here we had at least a few advantages.

Our position was a good one and we had an excellent field of fire. They couldn't outflank us and they couldn't surround us and the only way they could come at us was from straight ahead and across open ground. The Dam was narrow and we'd kept the space between us and the junk wall as open as we could. They would be coming in droves when that wall came down and they would have to be tightly packed in their ranks when they came. It wasn't more than a hundred yards from us to that old wall, almost point-blank for our repeaters, and when they got closer we would use our grenades to good effect. They would be coming across the reservoir and the river down below us while the main force came across the Dam, but the main assault would definitely be here. They wanted this dam and they wanted it intact, which would be their weakness. They wouldn't risk using artillery or explosives here or else they risked destroying the old machinery down below us. They would have to take us head-on, up close and personal, and they would be desperate to win.

I could hear them coming in the distance, their chants and drums and horns echoing across the canyon like a rising storm, and I could see the tail end of their columns marching down the old road from the Fort in neat, ordered ranks. I remembered how they had come up form the river at Nelson in those cool, precise ranks and marched as if on parade even as their comrades fell to our snipers at nearly every step. They had marched right into our guns and I was sure that they would do the same thing here. It was all in the name of Caesar and his empire, in the name of their honor and their tribes and the vision that they had been told was the meaning behind their lives ever since childhood. They marched to their deaths and the deaths of their foes, all in the name of their glorious leader.

Through the din of the coming army I could hear the troops moving to and fro behind us and the officers barking orders to their men along the lines. Jubal was beside me and I heard him check the loads in his rifle, then each of his pistols. Those fine guns would see a lot of use today. I felt a little naked now that I thought about it, being one of the only men on the line not wearing some kind of armor. Jubal had his old Kevlar vest over his tribal shirt, most of the Rangers on the line had been issued Combat Armor or the heavy armor that we'd had in storage for the last few years, and the troopers behind us were all wearing their standard issue armored fatigues, and there I stood with only my cracked old vest and dingy sweat-stained shirt to stop a bullet. No matter. I'd been in my share of scrapes with no more than that and come out of it alive.

The horn blasted again on the far side of the canyon and the legionnaires chanted out a cadence in one thundering voice. It was as much for the psychological effect as to actually keep time. Hearing that coming down on one's head along with the rumble of all those feet marching across the field was enough to rattle any man's nerves. I listened to them come as I kneeled down behind the sandbags, my rifle laid across the wall and the sight held on the gate of the junk wall. There was a faint command from just behind the wall and a ring of voices that answered the call for a salute, and then the wall started to rattle and shake back and forth violently as the men on the other side tore into it. Bits of scrap metal shook off and fell to the concrete with a clatter of metallic rings and clangs until the wall itself was almost torn down.

As the pieces of metal and junk fell we could see the sky on the other side, and occasionally a head or a torso showing through the gaps. Two men fired almost at once and I saw a man that had been trying to come over the wall grab his chest and fall into the mass of men on the other side. Another rifle barked near me and I saw a helmed head snap back and fall out of sight. I eared back the hammer and took up slack on the trigger, holding my sight on the ledge of the doorjamb where the gate was being torn down. An arm holding a machete showed through a crack in the scrap metal and I shifted my aim, holding steady on the spot. The arm darted back behind the wall and another piece of metal fell away from the wall, then the arm reached through again and tried to hack at the door frame. I squeezed the trigger, felt the gun buck in my hands, and I saw the arm jerk and then disappear behind the wall again. The machete fell to the ground and I levered a fresh shell into the chamber.

The wall shook and we could hear commanders barking orders to tear it down, and finally after what couldn't have been but a few minutes the whole thing came down in a crashing heap of wood and sheet metal. At once every rifle on the line fired and I saw the first line of Recruits fall to the ground. The big howitzer behind us boomed almost in our ears and at least a few dozen more legionnaires jerked back and fell as an entire section of the front unit melted away from the canister shot. Canister rounds were devastating at this range, effectively turning the cannon into a giant shotgun that could mow down dozens of men with a single blast. They reloaded and fired again with the same effect and we poured lead into them from our line as well, and after about a minute of intense firing they turned and fled. Red-clad bodies lay in a heap across the width of the causeway.

I thumbed shells into my repeater and listened to the cheers coming from the NCR men behind us, but none of the Rangers on the line were cheering. We knew that it wasn't over and that the Legion wouldn't be beaten back so easily. They had lost men and been beaten back, but they had also taken down the wall that was keeping them from our main defense line and the way was open for their advance. They would lose men coming down that causeway again, but they had the advantage of having men to spare. What was it that some ancient Old World general had once said? "What are the lives of soldiers but so many chickens?", or something to that effect.

Looking at the linear heap that lay at the feet of what was left of the junk wall, I guessed that there were at least thirty or forty dead men there. Forty men sacrificed to take down a heap of junk that could have been destroyed with a couple of well-aimed Fat Man rounds, all of them lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery on that narrow, open causeway. Whatever else could be said about the Legion, they had guts.

Another horn blast sounded from the far side of the canyon and I could see more units coming down toward the causeway. They came in those ordered ranks and shining armor with their weapons at the ready, and when I looked through my binoculars I could see that they were Veterans this time. This time they meant business. Behind them I could see three more units of reserves lining up for a second and third wave, and behind them on the ridge that led to the Fort I could see rows and rows of purple tunics that had to the Praetorian Guard. More units were coming down the coast of the river and went double-time toward the landing craft that were waiting for them. The men on our side had better be ready, because it looked like all hell was about to descend on them.

The howitzer boomed again, rattling us all again and showering us with dust, and I saw the shell explode with devastating effect on the west end of the causeway. Dust, dirt, men and bits of men flew from the impact of the high explosive shell, then a few seconds later another hit a few yards ahead of the first with similar effect. Heavy rifles barked from the west side and I could hear the bullets whistling overhead and when I turned to look toward the big gun I saw a gunner fall from the platform. Up in the tower I heard Boone's rifle sound off twice, then again a few seconds later. Bullets chipped concrete from the tower's edge and he ducked, but I doubted that he was hit. If I knew Boone, those three shots had accounted for three enemies who thought they were hidden.

"Guns ready, boys," I shouted to the men, "pick your targets and mark your ranges! Only shoot at a man you can hit and go for the officers first!"

They came with a rush then, the Decanii in the front ranks ordering the charge with battle cries and raised machetes, and as they came on I heard bullets from the snipers in the hills whistling in among us. Boone and the NCR troops returned fire, but they were too far up on the cliffs. Holloway, a few yards to my right, jerked and fell back with a bullet in his throat, then Wilkins called out and grabbed for his wounded shoulder. Every rifle stayed level and we watched them come across the causeway. They came closer and closer and they passed by our chosen range markers. Four hundred yards, three hundred, a hundred and fifty . . . .

"Fire at will!"

The roar of gunfire was deafening as we all fired at once, the front rank of Veteran Legionnaires falling away like weeds under a scythe, and then the din of the guns drowned out all sound. I fired again and again all up and down the line of red figures, not really aiming at anyone in particular and seeing men fall that I wasn't even sure I had shot. I fired my Cowboy Repeater empty and reloaded, then shot her empty again and reached into the case of ammo beside me for more shells. Bullets cut the sandbags in front of me and I ducked down to reload, and beside me Hodges started to scream in pain and went down almost at my feet. He was grabbing at his throat, blood pouring out between his fingers, and when he tried to scream only a hoarse whisper came out. He looked up at me and started to speak, but then his eyes went cold and his face was blank and I knew that he was gone. Jubal was a few yards down the line from me with his Trail Carbine belching fire and lead like an automatic, he was working the action so fast, shouting curses at the enemy as they came onward.

We were losing men. Already I could count ten men down that I could see, and I knew that the second line of NCR troops had lost a few to grazing fire. Why didn't they come up and assist us? Why weren't they covering us with grazing fire of their own? Where were our reinforcements? Damn it all to hell!

When I looked over the wall again they were less than a fifty yards away and still coming. Bodies were strewn all across the Dam and all the way back to the eastern side, scores and scores of them, but they still kept coming. I saw a Decanus with a 10mm in his hand lifting it to fire and my rifle instantly came to my shoulder and I fired on instinct. The bullet caught him in the chest and he stumbled, and I levered another shot into him that split his helmet and brought him down. I shifted targets to a Veteran who was raising his Marksman Carbine for a shot at Jubal and fired two fast shots that had to have hit within inches of each other in his belly. Again I shifted targets and shot into the Veteran that was charging at me with his apparently empty rifle raised up like a club, not more than twenty feet away now, and I shot him in the throat and he fell flat on his face almost at the foot of the sandbag wall.

"Frag out!", I yelled as I grabbed a grenade from the pile and pulled the pin with my teeth, then lobbed it over the wall and saw it disappear into the charging mass of men, then a few seconds later explode and either take down or rip apart half a dozen men. Two more exploded along the line and the legionnaires finally broke and ran again, dragging or carrying wounded men with them as they ran. Looking over their heads I could see the second wave moving up from the western side, right on the heels of the first wave, and they were coming on over the bodies of their comrades and firing as they came.

Quickly I scooped up shells from the case near me, now nearly empty, and hurriedly thumbed shells into the magazine as fast as I could. Medics and stretcher bearers came up from behind the lines and loaded our wounded up and carried away those that were seriously injured or treated those that could still fight or refused to be taken away. The NCR were still in their position behind us, firing over our heads at the advancing reserves but not committing men to the line itself. Bastards! Couldn't they see that we were losing men up here?! That howitzer boomed on its platform, then again, but not at the advancing centuriae across the Dam. I heard the shells blow off to the left, probably at the landing craft crossing the reservoir. I could just barely hear gunfire and explosions from down in the valley and over on the left flank as men fought to hold the flanks.

Jubal came up beside me then, taking shells from his vest pocket and thumbing them into his gun. His hat was gone and there was a bloody gash across his temple, there was a handkerchief on his arm binding a wound, and when I looked at his old Kevlar vest I could where a bullet had hit him in the midsection and lodged there. The loops on his gunbelt were also half empty and he was taking his ammunition from his pockets. Those were handload that he made himself and I'd heard that he made them hot enough to bring a Deathclaw down.

"Jubal," I said as I wiped the sweatband on my hat, "if those friends of yours are around, now would be a great time for them to show up."

"We're doin' all right, Dan. They're out there, but we need to wait. Those Praetorians are gonna be coming along soon and they're the cream of the Legion's crop. If we beat them, we can win this thing."

"If there's enough of us left by the time they get here."

The reserves were coming up now, just rounding the curve of the Dam, and they were coming along at a trot. These were more Veterans and a few units of Recruits mixed in with them. Again we all readied our weapons, those of us that were left. Less than half of us were left on the line now, the rest either dead or wounded and taken off the line. Still the NCR held back their troops. Assholes! More and more I was finding myself thinking that Jubal was right, that the Mojave would be better off without the likes of them. If they could just stand there and let us take the brunt of the Legion assault, fighting and dying to hold back the horde while they just sat snug behind their sandbags, then I had no more use for them.

Again the Legion came up to the hundred yard mark, more cautiously this time, and again we all lifted our rifles to fire, but this time was different. I heard a low rumble, then a sort of hiss on the wind that I couldn't immediately place, and then suddenly it dawned on me what it was. I had been focused on the line of approaching legionnaires, but now I lifted my eyes to the hills and saw little puffs of white smoke streaking down toward us and immediately I knew them for what they were.

"Rockets! Get off the line, now!"

I grabbed Rogers' Combat Armor and pulled him off the line, screaming at the top of my lungs for the others to follow, but my calls were drowned out a moment later by thunderous explosions that rocked the Dam itself and blinded me with bright flashes of fire and light. The wall just to my right vanished in a ball of fire and sand, stinging my face with blown grains and the heat turning my skin red, and I looked just in time to see Dobson blow to pieces as the rocket hit almost at his feet. Another rocket hit closer to the tower and another at the left end, opening great holes in the defense wall and blasting pieces of my fellow Rangers into the air and over the side. I didn't know the Legion even used Fat Mans or Rocket Launchers, but apparently they do now. We all turned and broke for the second line of defense, running for all we were worth, and a rocket came streaking down from the far side and blew away the last of our wall almost directly behind me.

The blast knocked me off my feet and I fell on my face just a few feet from the NCR line, the concrete scraping my face. Something stung my back and I felt the heat on the back of my neck and on my vest as I fell, and when I hit my rifle went from my hand. My ears were ringing from the explosions, my head felt dizzy from the fall, and when I pushed myself up on my hands and knees everything swam in a foggy haze. Men were screaming all around me, guns barked and bullets whistled through the air or cut the pavement at my feet, and when I looked forward at the line of NCR men I saw them shooting to the west and scrambling to get more men on the line as the enemy came onward. About damn time, you fuckers. I tried to get up and stumbled to the ground, then tried again and finally got to my feet. I looked around for my rifle and saw it a few feet away so I walked over to it and picked it up.

I must have looked a sight, standing there in the middle of all that carnage picking up my gun and wiping the dust and debris from the action. All hell was coming down all around me, men were shooting, shouting, dying, and behind me hundreds of legionnaires were coming up at a fast trot, but still I just stood there. Was this the end? Was this where I would finally cash in my chips? Would I ever see Angeline again? Would I ever see my child, my little son or daughter?

I looked back at the line of men coming down on me, closer now and not more than a hundred yards away, and I decided that it didn't matter. Somewhere over there was the man who had killed my family, my wife, my mother, my sisters, and my brother, and if I died today then I wouldn't let myself do so until I'd seen him dead. I accepted the fact now that I was going to die. This was it, this was my last stand. I looked at those advancing figures and felt the old hatred come up in me, that cold fury that had always been a part of me. I wanted to kill them. I wanted to kill them all, every last man-jack of them, and suddenly the urge came on me so strong that I couldn't hold it back anymore. I worked the lever on my gun and saw the empty shell eject to make room for the fresh round, and finding a man in front rank for a target I just raised it to my hip and fired. The gun bucked in my hands and I saw my man stumble and fall, and I worked the lever and fired again, again, and again.

"Come get me, you bastards," I heard myself scream as if I were hearing someone else, "you want Dan Weathers, come get him! Come on and get me! It's a great day to die!"

I was walking forward, lost in the fury of battle, and as I levered in round after round and felt the gun jump in my hands I could see man after man fall from the line as they came on. They saw me and shot at me and I felt bullets cut the air within inches of my head, but they weren't hitting me. I was still up and fighting, I was still killing them, and I was still Dan Weathers, the Ranger who had haunted their dreams for months. Another gun spoke beside me, a big gun that had to be Jubal's .44 Trail Carbine, and then there were others chattering behind me and then beside me. Legionnaires fell all along the line, some trying to take cover behind the remains of our old wall, some diving to the ground to use the bodies of their fallen as some kind of cover.

They were at the tower now and I saw some of them make for the doorway. Boone was still up there I could still hear him shooting, so I had to stop them before they got to him. I fired my repeater at the group of men at the door as fast as I could work the lever until it clicked empty, then sung over my shoulder and drew both revolvers. I didn't aim, I just eared back the hammers and let fly. I'd always been a good hip shot, pointing the gun just I would point a finger and shooting when it felt right, and I rarely missed. Men and I kept shooting, firing as fast as I could pull back the hammers and let them fall. Two Veterans turned to shoot me and I let loose with both guns, dropping them both with head shots. I probably couldn't do that again if I shot every day for a hundred years. A Decanus came charging at me with a machete in his hand and I let him come, then let him have it dead center when he wasn't six feet from me and he fell dead at my feet. Grenades sailed over my head and exploded near the tower, blowing away men and pieces of men, and finally the Legion turned and ran again. I tried shooting them as they ran but nothing happened, and it wasn't until Jubal grabbed my arm and brought me back to reality that I realized I was clicking away with empty six-shooters.

As I reloaded the rifle and pistols I looked around me, and the scene was nothing less than horrific. Bodies lay everywhere, hundreds of them stretching all the way back to the junk wall and beyond. Scarcely a square foot of the Dam in this area was not covered the body of a legionnaire or a Ranger or a trooper, the bodies heaped one over the other and in many places those of Legion and NCR dead laying over and across one another. Shell casings crinkled under my feet and my boots, shirt, and vest were stained with blood, and I could feel the dirt and grime on my face mixed with the blood. I felt pain in my left arm and found that a bullet had grazed it, taking away some sleeve and about an inch of skin along the side of my bicep, while another had grazed my neck and left a furrow just below my ear. Several troopers lay dead or wounded where they had advanced behind me, now being dragged back to the rear.

Horns and drums sounded again across the canyon, a cadence rumbled from the east side of the causeway, and the third wave of Legion started down the narrow strip of land that led into it. I knew that this time would be biggest and final assault. They weren't screwing around this time and they would send in their very best to break the last bit of our defenses, the men that would take the Dam once and for all and storm on westward toward New Vegas and the Mojave beyond: the Praetorian Guard, Caesar's personal entourage and the absolute best warriors that the Legion had to offer. Their purple ranks advanced onward, moving over the bodies and the blood and the carnage of the last two assaults, their armor shining in the waning sun and their cadence echoing across the canyon.

We wouldn't hold this time. Not without help. Most of the Rangers under my command were either dead or out of action, our first line of defense had been demolished and overrun, and now only the NCR troopers stood between them and the command center. They were good enough men, most of them veterans of previous battles and the hard years of skirmishes and guerilla warfare up and down the Colorado, but there were too few of them now. Colonel Moore had stretched her men too thin and hand only a few hundred reserves at the command post, and if the Praetorians got through us then they would just keep going with the bulk of the Legion's army right behind them and they would steamroll right over them. No matter. If we were to be defeated here, then I certainly didn't want to live to see it and I damn sure wanted to make sure that Vulpes Inculta didn't live to celebrate his victory. He was over there with his men now, coming down the hill toward us, and I had a bullet with his name on it just itching to be fired.

Quickly we ran back to the secondary defense wall, just below the howitzer, and we prepared for the attack. My guns were fully loaded and I tossed away the empty bandolier from my shoulder, leaving only my gunbelt and the handfuls of shells that I had in my pockets for me to use. If push came to shove I could always scoop up a Service Rifle, since I was sure that there would be plenty of them on the ground if I needed one. I looked over at Jubal and saw him looking down at his Pip-Boy, punching buttons and talking in whispers as if he were radioing someone through it. What the hell was he doing?

They were coming now. They were on the causeway, moving slowly because of the bodies stacked in heaps along its length, and they were just starting to thin out in anticipation of our fire. Boone, who had come out of his tower and was now up on the howitzer platform, fired his rifle and I saw an officer fall dead. He fired again and I saw another man go down. Damn, he was good! I lifted my rifle and raised the peep sight, fully adjusted now to four hundred yards, and eared back the hammer and took up slack on the trigger. They would be charging soon, and I meant to make them pay for every step of the way. They were coming closer now, within three hundred yards and almost to the ruined wall. I picked out an officer in the front rank and took in a breath, let it out, then took in another and let it out slowly as I gently squeezed the trigger . . .

Something suddenly darkened the sun above us and a massive shadow swept over us, as if some huge bird had flown in front of it, and for the first time I heard a rumble from the sky that I had never heard before. It sounded almost like the president's vertibird, only louder and much more powerful. I didn't look up for fear of losing my target, but a minute later I could see the hulk of some huge craft coming down from western sky and making for the Legion ranks. It came down low, not over a hundred feet or less, and as it rumbled over as at break-neck speed I saw it drop a couple of objects from its wings that went sailing into the Legion ranks, now panicked and shocked to see such a beast swoop down on them, and then the canisters blossomed on impact and engulfed the entire column in a sweeping wave of fire.

Flame leaped from the impact points and swept over their ranks like a wave of death, engulfing the men and sticking to them to burn hotter and deeper as they screamed in agony and disbelief. Men screamed in pain and ran this way and that, some of them leaping over the edge to put themselves out of their own misery. I felt no sympathy for them. They could burn in this world just as they would in the next, and I have to admit that seeing it made me smile a little. What kind of weapon was that? What was that craft that had come down on them out of nowhere? What the hell was going on?

I heard the rumble from the sky again and when I looked up I saw the craft coming around for another pass. This time I saw it more clearly and recognized it from one of Gibson's Old World history books. It was a B-52 bomber like the ones they had used in the Great War and the World Wars before it. Then that meant that the falling fire that was burning the Legion alive must be napalm. I thought that stuff had all been used in the Great War. Who would have any supplies of that stuff left after two hundred years? Who still had access to Old World aerial weaponry like that . . . . the Boomers! The plane came in low and I heard the ripping sound of machine guns and saw the bullets chipping away strips of concrete from the walls of the Dam before tearing into the Praetorians' ranks, dropping dozens of them as it strafed down the length of the causeway before lifting into the sky once again.

"My friends are here," Jubal said with a smile. He shut off his Pip-Boy and took up his rifle, then hopped over the wall and started toward the Praetorians. "Come on, boys," he yelled at the troops, his gun held high, "this is our chance! Follow me!"

He got no argument from me, nor any of the Rangers that were left. As one man we got to our feet and leaped over the wall to follow him, followed a moment later by the NCR troops. The Praetorians had stopped in their tracks and were fighting to get through the wall of flames burning all along the Dam now, and when we came around the curve of the Dam at them we let out a battle cry like something out of some ancient tale of berserkers and barbarians and we fired as one man when we came near them and their first rank melted away before us. I fired as fast I could work the lever, shooting a flaming man who came at me, then another who was trying to beat out the fires on his friend's body. A Praetorian came at me from my right and I swept his Power Fist aside with my gun barrel, bringing the stock up in the same motion and landing a vicious butt-stroke to his chin that knocked him backward. I brought the barrel up and hit him in the face, then levered in a shell and shot him point-blank in the throat.

It was absolute Hell on that Dam. Flames were everywhere, men screamed in pain and fear, bodies lay charred and bloody all over the ground. I felt the heat of the fires and the wetness of blood on my face and shirt, the Cowboy Repeater was hot in my hands, and when I looked through the flames and the carnage for a new target I saw him. He was fighting a trooper with his Machete Gladius, ducking under a butt-stroke and slicing at the man's belly and then bringing his blade around and up and taking off the kid's head with a single swipe. He was dressed in heavy armor and a purple cloak and his glasses had been blown off his face by the napalm, but he still wore his wolf's head helmet and he still had that cold look to him. It was him, alright.

"Inculta!", I screamed over the din of the melee around us. He stopped and looked for who had challenged him, and upon seeing me I could swear that I saw something like fear come over his face. "You die now!"

He didn't waste any time, and neither did I. I worked the lever on my gun and brought it up to bear, but he came in too fast and his sword came up and hit the barrel hard with his blade and sent the gun flying from my hands. Instantly he recovered and tried a swipe at my head and I had to move back to evade it, so fast that I fell on my back on top of a dead Praetorian. He moved like a cat and came forward, his sword raised for a death blow as he come on toward me. My hand flashed and I felt Lucky jump in my hand, and I saw the bullet hit him dead center. I shot again as I got to my feet, knocking back another step, and then before I could even think I had fanned off the other four shots into his chest and in a group that could have been covered by my fist. He went back with every shot, but he didn't go down, and when the gun clicked empty he came at me again tried a thrust to my groin. I dropped Lucky and slapped the blade away with my palm, then shot a hard right to his face as he came in and smashed his lips to pulp. He tried to get his blade up again but I grabbed his wrist and threw an elbow to his face that cut his cheek to the bone, then drove my knee into his belly with enough force to raise him off his feet. He tried to pull away and I pulled at his wrist, putting my leg out in front of him and throwing him with a rolling hip-lock.

I heard guns being cocked behind me and I turned to see troopers starting to aim at him, but I stepped in front of them and screamed, "No! He's mine!"

"Let 'em go, gents," Jubal yelled from behind them, "it's a private affair just between them."

With that, they lowered their guns and went on across the causeway. The Praetorians were all but wiped out and the last few of them were running for the east end, where there were a few scattered units of Recruits that had been waiting to move up after the Dam had been breached. They were in for a surprise, all right. Jubal made sure they went on and gave me a nod of understanding, which I returned, before going on after the others.

Inculta was just getting to his feet when I turned to face him. "Okay, you bastard," I said as I slid my Bowie knife from its sheath, "it's just you and me now. No flags, no armies, no bullshit, just two men on a dam."

He looked at me and I saw him smile through his bloody lips. His teeth were white and even, bloodied now because of the lips, and when he looked at me I saw in them an insanity I had never seen in any other man. He hated me just as much as I hated him, but for him it was different. I had beaten him, I had killed his men, and I had thwarted him numerous times in the field, and for that I had to die slowly and painfully. I wanted to kill him, but for him it wasn't enough just to kill. He had to destroy me, to beat me down until I had nothing to live for, until I actually wanted to die, before he would be satisfied.

I still had the spare revolver in my belt, but I left it there. His armor was too strong for my bullets, or else he would already be dead. This would be a fight with blades, up close and personal. This was his kind of game, having been trained since boyhood with the sword and the knife, but I had done my share of knife work and I was sure that I knew enough to get me through this. In my hand was the best knife I had ever seen, made from Old World cosmic steel with perfect balance that could cut through flesh and bone like warm butter. His Machete Gladius was longer and heavier, so he would have the advantage of reach. If only I could get in close to him.

"So," he said, wiping the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand, "you're the Ranger they all fear. The Wraith, they call you, right? I see no wraith. I hope you're ready to die."

"I am. How about you?"

He came at me with a rush, and he was fast. He moved like a cat and I barely saw his blade come up in time. I whipped back just time to avoid a slit throat, then blocked a return strike with the back of my blade. I held my knife with the cutting edge up and blocked with the dull spine, saving the edge. He pulled away from the parry and tried for a swing at my head, which I ducked under, instantly recovering and swinging low for my legs. I pulled my leg up just in time and felt his blade cut away part of my boot heel, thrusting as he moved. I meant to try for his throat, but he turned his body and caught my blow on his armor. His sword came up and I stepped back as fast I could, but not fast enough to avoid the tip of his blade that cut through my shirt and vest and scratched my chest. He came in and brought his blade high, but instead of backing away like he expected I stepped in and thrust upward at a weak spot in armor and felt the blade go deep. He grunted and I felt blood on my hand, but he pushed me back and my knife came out bloody.

He was hurt now. Blood flowed from the wound in his side and stained his tunic, but he was a crazed animal now and I wondered if he could even feel the pain. We circled each other warily now, both with our weapons up and ready. He was hurt and losing blood, but I was tired and my back was terribly sore. I wondered if I had caught some shrapnel back there on the firing line and was only now starting to feel it. I'd seen that happen before and if I was bad hurt then I was done for. It would be an awful shame to die from blood loss or something now that I had Inculta under my knife.

His eyes were alive with hatred now. He wanted me bad, just as I wanted him, and the both of us knew that only one man was going to walk away from this, if any. He started forward and feinted, but I didn't take the bait. We circled each other, stepping over bodies and trying not to slip in the blood under feet. He came at me again, trying a thrust at my guts. I side-stepped and swung my knife, catching his bare bicep with the tip and leaving a bloody line across his arm. He spun around like a striking snake and his sword came up fast, too fast, and I felt the cut on my left forearm. It wasn't a deep cut, but it was enough to start blood flowing. He came at me then, seeing a victory, and as I backed off I tripped over a dead trooper and fell on my back. He came on, sure of a kill and his eyes filled with bloodlust, and I threw up my legs into his belly and threw him up and over me so that he landed spilling over a heap of dead men.

I came up and to my feet, knife ready, and he got up just a second after me and we faced off for a few seconds. His wound was bothering him now and his sword arm was cut and bleeding, but he had nicked me as well and both of us were losing blood. This fight had to finish now, for the both of us were done in. Whatever happened now would be the end of it, and we were both ready for it. He came forward, slowly, and again he feinted. This time I took the bait, or seemed to, and he came in or a thrust to my belly. I had tried to look like I was going for a swing, but now I sidestepped and caught his arm with my left and locked down on it, bringing my knee up hard and hearing the bone snap at the elbow. He cried out and reached for the Combat Knife on his belt and I held the Bowie low and brought it up hard for his guts, but his hand came up and grasped my wrist in an iron grip.

He was a strong man, damn strong. His hand held mine back and his broken right arm hung at his side, but still his strength was there. Powerful muscles bulged from his chest and arm, all their power focused on me. He knew he was dead, that much I could see in his eyes, but there was still that deep, searing hatred that had been there always. He hated not only me but all mankind who was not Legion, all who stood before him and his master regarded as nothing more than fodder to be consumed by the great beast that was the Legion. I pushed hard on his hand but there was no give in him, and he looked me in the eye as we came almost nose to nose.

"Your wife died screaming your name, Weathers. She died waiting for you to save her. We took her over and over again like a filthy profligate whore, just like the others. You failed them, Weathers! You failed them!"

I took my left hand from his arm and chopped hard at his throat, loving the feeling of his hyoid and trachea buckling under my hand, and when his breath was gone his grip loosened and I drove my knife into his guts, then again, then again, all the way to the hilt. Blood ran down the blade and onto my hand, black with bile, and the sudden realization of death came over his face. He couldn't die, not at the hands of a profligate scum. He was Inculta, Agent Caesar! How could he die in such a way? I brought the blade out again and stabbed up and in, the cutting edge up and slipping under his ribs and into his lung. It wouldn't be long now, but I wasn't finished with him yet. His strength was gone and he was like a rag doll in my arms, and I half pushed, half carried him to the edge of the wall and its endless chasm below. The might Colorado was like a tiny blue ribbon below us, the battle far enough away now that its rushing waters could be heard.

"This is for my family and all the others you've murdered, you son of a bitch!" I lifted him up by the collar of his armor and I saw the terror come into his eyes, his screams and pleas lost in a choking gurgle in his smashed throat. "Take all the time you want to die!"

I threw him hard and he went a few feet, seemingly suspended in midair for a moment as I looked into his horrified face and watched him slowly slip down into the abyss, and then he fell away and I watched him fall into the vast mouth of Black Canyon in the shadow of Hoover Dam. He fell away into the distance, smaller and smaller until finally he vanished into the still water at the foot of the dam. Water like that would be like hard concrete at this height, assuming he hit the water at all, and that was it. He was dead. Vulpes Inculta, terror of the Mojave, killer of my wife and my beloved family and friends, was finally dead!

I don't know how long I stared down after him. It might have been a few minutes or just a few seconds, but I watched him fall until he was out of sight and had vanished into the distance of the canyon floor and the river below. He was gone. It was hard to accept that, after all the pain and all the death and the hard miles that I'd put behind me hunting for him, that he was finally dead. I looked up at the sky and hoped that somewhere in the great beyond Jenny and my mother and my family were looking down and smiling. "He's gone, Jenny," I said to that darkening sky, "I got him. Now you can rest in peace. I hope you forgive me for loving someone else. She's a good woman and I've got a place picked out for us, but you'll always be in my heart darling. You I'll see you again someday, all of you. I love you."

I looked around for my guns and picked the three of them up, for the spare gun had fallen out of my belt during the fight, and I swept the dust and debris from the actions and reloaded them. The sounds of fighting were far away now, with gunshots and explosions echoing out of the valleys across the river and occasionally from the shore of the reservoir to the north. I thought I had heard feet running past us during the fight, but I had been focused on my opponent and had not noticed. I heard that big plane zoom overhead again, then watched as its black hulk soared over the rim of the canyon and dropped its payload on some poor sons of bitches along the lines. I felt no pity for them. They came for a war and now they were getting one.

The sound of rolling wheels caught my attention and for a moment I didn't recognize what it was, but then I looked toward the east end of the Dam and saw three Securitrons coming down the old road. What the hell were they doing here? I thought they only patrolled the Strip. They were an imposing sight, alright with their 9mm machinegun and grenade launchers for arms, the fully loaded missile launchers on their shoulders, and the grunt faces on their screens that looked like something out of some Old World comic book. They meant business, that was for sure, and I didn't miss the marks on their chassis from bullet strikes or that two of them had several empty tubes in their missile launchers.

The three of them rolled over the stacked bodies with little difficulty and came right up to where I was standing, rifle in hand, and two of them stopped a dozen feet away while the one in the middle came right up to me. I expected some kind of order or recorded computer voice to talk to me, but when the huge machine stopped the screen that passed for its face blipped a couple times and then the soldier's face that had been there was replaced by a smiling face that I recognized from some old comic that I'd seen in the ruins of an old vault.

"Hi, there," he said in a strangely cheerful voice, "how are you this fine day? Would you happen to be Captain Daniel C. Weathers of the Mojave Rangers?"

"Uh . . . . yes, I am."

"Wonderful! The Courier sent me to find you and bring you to Fortification Hill immediately. You can call me Yes Man, friend. Please follow us."

With that, he turned around and started back up the hill and I followed him at a fast trot. For the first time my legs were beginning to burn from the exertion they had been through and I also started feeling the pain of my wounded arm. The blade had cut deeper than I'd thought and would need to be seen by a doctor, but for now a Stimpak would do just fine. I took one from my satchel and injected it into my arm, saw the wound close a little and felt the pain go away after a minute or two. My legs felt fresher and my second wind kicked in as well so I was able to keep up with three Securitrons.

Everywhere there were battles and the signs of battle. Legion and NCR dead lay scattered on the ground for at least a mile past the east end of the Dam and up the old road toward Fortification Hill and Caesar's main headquarters. We passed through two Legion camps, both of which had been overrun and both of them filled with dead bodies that had fallen either in battle or in the act of fleeing. Looking around I saw the distinctive tracks of Securitrons superimposed over those of sandals and boots left by soldiers from one side or the other, and in places there were craters left by rockets and missiles like those that the Securitrons carried. The bodies were strewn across the desert heading out toward the eastern horizon, with most of the Securitron tracks heading toward the Fort while the NCR troops had apparently gone on after the fleeing legionnaires.

We went past the Fort, now a burning hulk at the crest of Fortification Hill with a huge pillar of black smoke rising from the ruins, and went on toward the main army camp where Legate Lanius had been encamped with his troops from the eastern tribal wars. I felt a little chill go down my spine as we descended into the long valley that housed the huge fortified camp, but after seeing the destroyed walls of the camp and the lanes between the ruined tents littered with the dead and dying I started to feel a little better. Most of the sounds of battle had died away and were now far in the distance, but up ahead I could hear the sounds of gunfire and the occasional explosion of what sounded like grenades.

Finally we came to the main gate of the legate's camp, now destroyed, where five more Securitrons stood watch at either side of the ruins. The sound of shots came from the camp and I saw two figures on the central spire of the camp where the legate himself was encamped. One of the figures was taller than the other, much taller, and was wielding a huge sword that I had heard called a Bumper Sword. I could see the shine of the waning sun on his armor and bright red cloak, and even from here I could see the distinctive mask that I had always heard that the legate wore constantly to conceal what many thought of as a disfigured face that he had earned in battle. The other figure was obviously Jubal, his black and white outfit standing out against the red rock of the desert and the blazing light of the setting sun.

Standing at the gate with Yes Man and the other Securitrons, I watched the battle below through my binoculars. I knew better than to interfere. Jubal was as good a fighting man as I'd ever seen and he was one of the best men with a gun that I knew of, but he was also a bull in any kind of a fight and he would become like a berserker when battle was joined. If a new person came into his view now, he would do just what I would do and immediately presume that they were an enemy who needed killing. I looked through my binoculars and laid my rifle nearby so that I could get to it quick in the event that it was needed while I watched the two of them went at each other.

I could see that they had been fighting for a while already. The Legate had a bloody spot on his armor and I could see where a piece of his helmet had been shot away. He came in at Jubal and tried to swing his massive sword down on his head, but Jubal ducked under the blow and slid under the blade and then came to his feet and brought up his rifle for a shot. Lanius spun on his heel and started to bring his sword to bear again and Jubal tossed his gun away, apparently empty, and in a flash of movement that I could barely see he took out his two .44s and cut loose in a long volley of rolling thunder. I saw Lanius' body jerk with the impact of the bullets and he lost a step coming in, then Jubal holstered his two guns and grabbed a fallen man's weapon and fired once, then again, and again and finally the larger man went down to one knee. Jubal went to the Legate again and hastily reloaded one of his guns and fired one final shot into the man's head, ending his threat to the world once and for all.

The shot had barely died away when the Securitrons started to roll down the hill and I followed them down at a fast trot once again. The smell of death was everywhere in the camp. All around me there were dead men, dead Brahmin, and even some dead Bighorners in a pen where they had been kept for meat, and all around the camp there were flaming tents, buildings, and supplies that had been set ablaze by either the Securitrons or the NCR troops who had chased the Legion out and to the east. We came down to where Jubal was sitting on a log that a few hours ago had been propping up a canopy that had shaded several men, sweating and panting from the exertion of the fight and the pain of his wounds. There was blood on his shirt and on his jeans, and when we came closer I could see a furrow in his scalp left by a bullet. His hat was gone and his shirt and vest were covered in dust and blood and his weapons were likewise dirtied by the battle that was behind us.

"Well, hell," he said when he saw us coming up and struggled to his feet, "look what the Nightstalker dragged in. You ok?"

"I'm alright."

"Inculta?"

"Dead. How are you doin?"

"I feel like I was et by a coyote and crapped off a cliff, but I'll be better after a stiff drink and a hot bath."

"Won't we all?"

We shook hands and then just stood there for a moment, taking in the scene around us. For the first time it was all starting to sink in; the war was over. We had won! For five long years this day had been coming, and now that it was here I couldn't help but be moved by it. After all those years of blood and death and fighting and fear, all those years of looking across the river with fear of the Legion armies that lurked just across the Colorado and up in the Fort. Now that Fort was a smoldering ruin, the Dam was secure for the first time since the First Battle of Hoover Dam, and Legate Lanius, the long-feared general of the Legion's eastern wars, was dead, and more than likely Caesar himself was dead as well. Caesar dead? That was hard to imagine, let alone believe. Always he had been there, a constant threat just over the river to the east, almost superhuman in his ability to strike fear into the tribes and the nations that stood in his way. Eighty-six tribes had fallen to his Legion, all of them wiped out or enslaved en masse and left with nothing of their own cultures, customs, religion, or identities left after the destruction of their homes at the hands of this madman and his minions. If he was dead, it was a blow from which the Legion would not soon recover, if ever.

"Well," Jubal said after a while, "I guess the fun's all over around here now."

"Nah," I replied as I took off my hat and wiped the sweatband, "I doubt that. There's still the Tribals, the Khans, the raiders, and the Legion is always gonna be out there. They won't take this laying down and they'll want to avenge their dead."

"Not anytime soon. They lost a lot of men here, too many, and they lost their fortifications along the river. They can't hold the river anymore, they've lost access to the Dam, and with Caesar dead, they won't know how to function."

"Is he dead?"

"Hell yes, he is. He was up in the Fort when my friends here came out of hiding and they took the place in a few minutes. Poor bastard spent so much time worrying over the army across the river that he had no idea there was an army right under his feet. Old House put 'em down there back in the old days, before the Great War, and they've been down there ever since just waiting to be deployed. All he needed was that Platinum Chip I had. Caesar let me right in to find out what was down there in House's bunker. I fooled him into thinking that I blew it all up. If only he knew what was down there."

"How many are there?"

"I don't know. Hundreds. Maybe thousands."

"Approximately three thousand four hundred and ninety-eight currently in the field, my friends," Yes Man said cheerfully off to the side of us, "and according to the data now being streamed to my sensors from all active units, estimated casualties on the enemy side are approximately three thousand twenty seven."

Three thousand men dead, more than three-fourths of the Legion force that had come against us. Most of those that had been killed had probably been taken by surprise by the surprise attack by the Securitrons at the Fort and the other camps behind the lines. The Legion couldn't possibly recover from a loss like that anytime soon. Those troops had come from the east, where they were fighting against new tribes and old enemies in a continuous war that had been raging for years. Those armies were needed badly, and without them there would be a new threat to their eastern borders. With Caesar gone as well, I wouldn't give a plugged cap for the Legion's chances of making it another ten years.

Behind us there was a rumble of activity and the distant shouts of orders and the commotion of men moving. We turned and looked at the ruined gate and saw men coming in, and with a grim smile Jubal got up, took up his rifle and thumbed shells into the magazine, and without a word the two of us started toward the gate. My own rifle was in the crook of me arm, my hand sort of casually resting on the action with my finger near the trigger and my thumb on the hammer. We walked toward that gate, Yes Man and the other Securitrons behind us, and the first people we saw were several California Rangers with their rifles up and leveled at us. Somehow that didn't surprise me. Even after an entire day of bloody fighting beside us, these bastards still didn't trust us. It made me want to try them, but I knew that it would be suicide to do so. Even with the Securitrons behind us, the firepower was just too great.

The California Rangers spread out and deployed in a rough skirmish line, and then behind them I saw a tall man in an immaculate uniform come walking out of a group of officers that were coming down into the valley. He was about even with my six feet, his uniform was pressed and looked almost new, his rank insignia was plainly displayed on the breast of his blouse along with several rows of service ribbons, his face was clean shaven, and his salt and pepper hair was trimmed in a typical military fashion under his officer's cap. I had seen him before, but only in the portraits that hung in nearly all command posts and officer's quarters in the Mojave. He was General Oliver, the supreme commander of all NCR forces in the Mojave and in Nevada in general.

"Gentlemen," he said as he swaggered up to where we stood, looking past us at the body of the legate and those of the legionnaires scattered around the compound, "I cannot tell you how long I have been waiting for this moment. The Fort destroyed, the Legion in retreat, and the Dam is ours. This is a great day for the NCR."

"Just the NCR?"

The NCR has won a great victory today, men. Now that the Legion has been forced out, we can focus on the rest of the Mojave and on New Vegas. I understand that you've helped us with that already, Courier. Soon the whole Mojave will be under the NCR's banner and we can have a time of peace and prosperity. This is a great day, indeed."

"Don't pop the champagne too quick, general."

"I beg your pardon, Courier?"

"I said don't celebrate too soon. I'm giving you and your men five minutes to clear off this hill, a day to abandon the Dam, and a week to get every last NCR trooper out of the Mojave. I expect a full withdrawal by the end of the month."

"Excuse me?! Just who the hell do you think you are?"

"I'm the guy that's telling you to get the fuck out and I mean now."

"You don't have the authority."

"I have the authority of the Free State of the Mojave based out of New Vegas. I speak on behalf of the Boomers, of the Great Khans, and the citizens of Primm, Goodsprings, Novac, and of New Vegas. We're officially declaring our independence from you and your NCR, and we have other friends of whom you know nothing. I'm stepping in to take the place of Mr. House and the families of the Strip have already accepted me as their leader, and I'm telling you that no NCR soldiers will be welcome in the Mojave any longer."

"Ranger Weathers, take this man into custody and confiscate his weapons."

I didn't move. For the first time I realized that all that bullshit that Jubal had been slinging was actually true and that all the those rumors I had been hearing about the death of Mr. House and the fights with the Families, of the secret treaties with the Khans and the Boomers, and the stories he had been telling me about stepping away from the NCR for good. After today, I certainly had had enough of them. The way they had just sat there and watched us all die, the way they had waited until the enemy was all but beaten before they even lifted a finger, and all the months that I had watched them funnel all of their resources into this fucking dam while the rest of the Mojave barely scraped by and had to fight tooth, claw, and nail just to survive with the Legion breathing down our necks on all sides. And did they ever send troops? Hell no. Not even when the Legion invaded Nelson and landed troops at Cottonwood Cove, not even when Nipton was burned to the ground, not until the Dam was almost taken. Fuck them.

"With all due respect, General Oliver," I said while looking the general in the eye, "but on the behalf of the Mojave Rangers, you and the whole NCR can righteously and vigorously go fuck yourselves. Chief Hanlon agrees with me, as do most, if not all, of the Rangers. Consider our treaty broken."

"You . . . . You can't do this! I won't let you do this! This day has been coming for too ling for you or anyone else to mess it all up now!"

"Get used to it, Oliver. We're kicking you out."

"If you want a war, Courier, then by God I will give you a war! You don't have the men to kick us out of the Mojave after all these years!"

"Oh? You mean them?"

He nodded to indicate the gate and the area beyond, and with more than a little caution General Oliver turned to look over his shoulder. There, in neat and ordered ranks ranging from fifty to two hundred yards out, were at least three hundred Securitrons. They all had their guns up and ready for use, their rockets were exposed and ready to be fired, and every last barrel and rocket was aimed at either the general or the California Rangers that were with him. I couldn't see their faces, but I knew what they were all thinking. It was too much firepower. If it was just us or the others, then they probably would have tried to take us out. It took a lot of firepower to get through that Ranger Armor, but it took a lot more even from those big bores that they used to take down a Securitron before he did his damage. And they were looking down the guns of enough Securitrons now to take out most of the NCR troops on the Dam.

I could almost feel the air change, and it was a good change. General Oliver was suddenly white in the face and his eyes had lost some of their luster. Always I had heard about the great General Oliver, the man who drove the Legion back at the First Battle of Hoover Dam, the hero of the NCR Army. Of course, very few people back west knew that all he had done at that first battle was piss himself and run while Chief Hanlon held off the Legion's advance and given him time mine Boulder City out the whazoo and then blow it all to Hell when the Legion finally made their way to the town. Some hero.

He didn't like it, but he also knew that it was too much to fight back. There were stories about the power of those Securitrons and what they could do and he had seen firsthand what they could do to man this very day. It was the Securitrons who had burned the Fort, the Securitrons who had wiped out the Legion's reserves and the Legate's camp, and it was the Securitrons who had killed the high and mighty Caesar. He had wanted that honor for himself, I knew. He had wanted to show the whole NCR that he had won the day, no one else, and that he truly was the Hero of the NCR. Now he was being told that he and the whole army had to get out of the Mojave and that all of his men had to go home empty-handed. He wore a gun on his hip and I could see by his eyes that he wanted to try for it, but it was fastened in a flap holster and there wasn't a single chance in hell that he could get it out quickly. He wanted it, he wanted it bad, but even aside from those Securitrons he knew that he was facing up to two of the best men with a gun in the whole Mojave. He was beaten, and he knew it.

"This isn't over. Don't think for a minute that it is, Courier."

"Here's the deal that you can take back to Kimball, after he gets done shitting himself: New Vegas will still maintain trade and commerce with the NCR, we will allow the embassy on the Strip to remain in place with a set number of military personnel, Camp McCarran and the Dam will be turned over to the New Vegas military, and you will surrender any and all heavy machinery and weaponry that cannot be taken back across the border.

"In exchange for all this, New Vegas will continue to send electrical power, goods, and resources to the NCR and will allow the Crimson Caravan and Happy Trails Caravan companies to operate out of New Vegas with a 25% tariff on all business going to the Strip. This offer is not negotiable. I doubt that he'll have anything to say about that deal."

"Like I said, this isn't over."

Oliver didn't like it, but with an effort he turned and walked away with his men in tow. The Securitrons parted and let him and the others pass, and soon they were out of sight and over the hill toward the Dam. There was no doubt in my mind that he was do what he had been told. His men had already been through one major battle today and they had to have taken losses just as we had and if he tried to ask them to fight another against our combined forces then they would probably just switch sides on him. He had the advantage of numbers, but we held the high ground and we controlled the road, and he would not have forgotten that the Great Khans were in the rear and beside his forward headquarters.

"Jubal," I said after a moment, "what the hell did we just do?"

"Well, Dan, I think we just declared independence. Congratulations, we're a nation."

That was something that I had never thought about before. The NCR had always been there like some big bully that kept us in line, a big brother that would tell us we were wrong if we got out of line in their eyes. We had always talked among ourselves about what we do or what would be done if we were on our own, if we were really independent, and now it was a reality. It was an idea that I would have to get used to.

After a few minutes I heard more boots on the ground and I felt my grip on my rifle tighten. A moment later they came into view and I saw that it was Chief Hanlon and some of the boys. Hanlon's armor was bloody and dirty and I could see some fresh dings from the impact of bullets, and he had that big Sequoia in his hand and it looked like it had seen some use. Milo was with him and the big black man had a furrow in his beard where a bullet or blade had caught through it, but he still held his rifle like a man born to it and he was still ready for a fight. They came up to us and he looked around at the ruined camp, and for the first time I saw that grizzled old face break into a smile.

"We did it?"

"Yeah, Chief. We did it."

"Damn, son! I've been waiting to see that prick backed up for the last five years."

"You should've seen him. He damn near pissed his new uniform!"

"I guess we've got some work to do, huh, boys?"

"Yeah, we do, Chief," Jubal said to him, "and it'll take us all to get it done. You guys are gonna be a big part of it. Dan, if you're willing then I'd like to offer you a place in the new military. You interested?"

"Maybe later. For now I think I'm gonna take a few months off and take care of a few things, but if you need me just send for me up in Jacobstown."

"What kind of things?"

"For starters," and I had to smile at the thought, "I've gotta go see a lady about a ring and a cabin."

THE END


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