***This is a little side story that takes place before the show they had at the Aces Theater. After Benny left the Strip.***
“AND STAY OUT!”
The Gomorrah guard sent Sol flying, sending his shoe straight up his ass, sending him tumbling down the set of stairs. All the while the old man was laughing like a crazed Fiend junkie as he fell down the stairs with two gigantic leather bags in his hands.
Boone, Arcade and Cass soon followed him as they were escorted outside by the guards outside the casino.
“And don’t you dare come back, ya asshole!” The guard yelled.
“Ah HA HA HA HA! You can kick me out, but you can’t keep me out!” Sol started laughing so much that he started losing his own voice after a good long minute.
The guard grunted in frustration, not because he’s annoyed at what Sol said, but because he knew that what he said was true. House’s rule, baby! You are allowed to ban casino players who win too much at the tables but you can’t ban them forever. But then again, Sol did practically break the Gomorrah’s bank after his wins tonight. An astronomical amount of 9300 caps worth of chips in total. But it wasn’t actual reason why they got kicked out.
“Remind me again,” said Boone, “Why am I here wasting my time with you?”
“Well, I needed a heckler.”
“Ya know, to make sure the dealers don’t pull anything out of their sleeves, or maybe I’m thinking of something else, not really sure.”
“Ya know,” Cass said as she walked down, “when I said that you should give the roulette tables a try, I didn’t mean for you to go on and hoard all the Casino’s chips to yourself! What on earth were you thinking?”
“What can I say?” Sol shrugged, “I guess I’m just a natural at gambling. And besides, you’re the one who suggested that I try out all of these games.”
“Well I wasn’t the one who told you to start insulting the dealer’s mother now, was I?” She cried angrily.
“Hey he started it,” Sol said, “I saw him pull a card out from under the table, like hell I’d let that slide.”
“Hey, what happened to your heckler then huh?” Boone asked almost sarcastically.
“Eh, you were kinda useless anyway,” Sol said.
“What did you say?”
“Since I figured you’d probably refuse anyway if I’d ask,” he explained. Boon gave him a look that told Sol he was going to punch him in the face when they get back to the suite. Sol simply laughed it off.
“Well we better get back now, a pretty prosperous night for my first time gambling if I do say so myself,” Sol said as he opened up his sack of casino chips, thousands and thousands of them jingling inside, “Ah crap, I probably should go back here tomorrow or something to exchange these things, can’t buy shit with this.”
“Hey, the boss’s not back yet?” Raul asked as he drank the sarsaparilla.
“No, not yet,” Cass said, “He said he’s out.”
“Who knows,” she shrugged, “screwing a whore, trying to get the other casinos bankrupt, I don’t know.”
“You ever wonder what he does in his free time?” Veronica asked from across the room, flinging a dart at the board on the wall.
“No, why?” Arcade said.
“No reason in particular,” Veronica said as she flung another dart at the wall, “it’s just that the guy kind of disappears every night before we go to sleep going to who knows where doing who knows what. Don’t you find that strange?”
“No,” Boone said, “I mean a guy who disappears every night without telling us anything isn’t weird like – at all… Oh, of course it’s strange!” He snapped, “I don’t think that that son of a bitch’s ever told us a single thing about himself ever since we met him.”
“You know now that you mention it,” said Arcade, “he has been acting pretty strangely. As bombastic, reckless and idiotic he seems, he’s actually quite intelligent. He keeps most things to himself, so I don’t think we’ve even learned a fraction of his story yet.”
“Hey, stupid idea here,” Veronica raised her hand, “how ‘bout… we follow the guy and see what he does every night?”
They all fell silent, started staring at her. It made her uncomfortable.
“Jeez, guys, quit doing that, I said it was a stupid idea alright?”
“Actually,” Arcade said, scratching his chin, “maybe it’s not. I mean, if we’re going to continue travelling with each other then I’d like to know who we’re working with.”
“Come on guys,” said Raul, “you guys are over-thinking this. I mean we can trust the boss… right?”
“Ha ha ha ha ha,” it was the fakest laugh anybody’s ever heard, Boone sat up and grabbed his rifle, he muttered grimly to Raul, “No!”
“Okay, so let’s go over what we know,” Arcade whispered, “the guy always leave at 9 pm and always come back at 3 in the morning right?”
“Sounds about right,” said Cass, “I heard him getting off the elevator roughly around 2 or 3 in the morning the other day, can’t remember the exact time. Maybe he’s gone off to get a few drinks?”
“Unlikely,” Arcade said, “remember that this is a daily routine for him, and he’s been doing this even before he came to Vegas. Or so I was told. I don’t know, I wasn’t here when you guys were travelling with him.”
“It’s true,” Boone confirmed.
“But he couldn’t have gone too far, definitely not anywhere far away from the Freeside’s gate. I’ve made a list of possible locations of where he could’ve gone.”
“You sure that’s going to work?” Raul asked.
“Don’t know,” he replied a bit nervously, “let’s just wait for a minute.”
Veronica quickly came around the corner after she left the Mick and Ralph’s general store. It was dark, the light posts were barely functional. It was like they were walking in shadows.
“Anything?” Arcade asked her.
“Well, there’s definitely something,” she said, “Ralph said that he saw a guy in long coat and black cowboy hat come in the other day to buy some scrap metal and a wrench.”
“Sounds like him alright,” Arcade said.
“The bastard’s not even trying to be subtle about it,” Boone commented.
“Did he tell you where Sol was going?” Arcade asked.
“Well,” she answered, “Ralph said that Sol mentioned something about going outside of Freeside to fix something, said that it was a big machine so he couldn’t bring it inside the city. That’s about it, Ralph said he doesn’t really know the details.”
“He could be lying to Ralph,” said Arcade.
“So maybe he’s gone somewhere around Crimson Caravan folks.” Said Raul.
“Unlikely, they have a lot of guards. And I don’t think they’d appreciate a stranger going about in the middle of the night around their camp.”
“Gun Runners?” Raul asked.
“Again, they have a lot of guards, so no.” Arcade answered.
“Wait a minute guys,” Veronica suddenly nudged Arcade, “is that him over there?”
They all stood up and peeked over the brick wall. A tall scrawny man was coming around the corner. He had a bright cigarette in his mouth and was wearing a blue duster. That’s definitely him, alright.
They began following him as soon as he left the gate of Freeside. They tried to be as quiet as possible since they didn’t want him to think that the thugs were following him or something. Sol was… somewhat calm. The way he walked, the way he dragged his heavy boots across the cracked roads – it’s unsettling somehow.
Boone and Arcade carefully pushed back the heavy metal gate so that it wouldn’t make any noise.
“Hurry, we might lose him,” Veronica urged.
They watched from afar as Sol walked towards the pile of ruined buildings all around the Vegas clinic. There they saw him wandering behind a crumbling brick wall and disappeared behind the pile of old rubble.
“Where’d he go?” Veronica asked.
“There, behind that building,” Boone whispered, “Follow me.”
The five of them crawled through the darkness to where they last saw the old man. Still trying to be as quiet as possible. But that silence was soon broken when they gasped in shock as they turned around the corner.
“Is this…” Cass said, “A bunker?”
It was a sort wooden cellar door that was extremely well hidden behind the pile of crumbling bricks and rubble that was lying on top of it. A regular person would have never been able to find out about this place unless they follow the guy to this spot. The encompassing darkness of the cold Mojave night helped too.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” Veronica said, “Let’s go in.”
But when Boone tried to pull the handle on the door, it didn’t seem to budge. Not even a bit. It was like as if it was barricaded from within.
“Don’t worry guys,” Cass said, “I know a neat little trick you can use whenever there’s an intricate locked door like this.”
She then yanked out her double barrel shotgun and unloaded it right on top of the cellar door, blasting all the splinter and small wooden fragments all over the place, bursting it into a storm of wooden dust.
“For the love of Christ,” Arcade cried, “what do you think you’re doing? Do you want him to know we’re here?”
“Look we were going to find out about this eventually,” Cass said while reloading her shotgun, “I say we just march straight down there and confront him about it.”
Arcade didn’t want to argue since he knew that what’s done was done. He opened up the cracked piece of wood that used to be a cellar door and threw it onto the ground. It was dark, really dark down there. All the darkness of the cold desert’s evil moon was nothing compared to this.
“So, shall we?” Cass didn’t even wait for them to answer. She jumped straight down the set of stairs and into the gloomy shadows.
“Hey Cass, wait up,” Veronica called after.
“Guys, be careful now… guys? Guys… ugh,” Arcade grunted, “Am I the only rational one around here?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll get use to it.” Boone patted him on the back and soon followed them.
But their high spirits quickly died off when they finally got down to the bottom of the stairs and was met with a barrage of hellish red and green lights firing at them like they’re fireballs from hell itself. It nearly burnt their skins off. Cass was quick to react when she emptied her shotgun and fired into the distance. The red lights were still firing at them at a rapid rate. Cass quickly ducked around the corner to reload and then fired the shotgun one more time. This time the light had died down a little, but the green lights were still spurting towards them in furious manner.
Cass was in utter shock when she saw a green bolt of light coming from behind, when she turned around she saw smoke hissing from the tip of a plasma defender held by the doctor Arcade Gannon. His accuracy was dead on. She never took him for the type that would be proficient with guns and weapons, but Arcade was a natural.
They suddenly heard a voice in the back a few seconds after the red and green lights died off.
“I swear to god if it’s one of you Fiend junkie again I’m going to paint this wall with the bits from your brain… now COME OUT you stupid fucking son of a… um… guys?” Sol came out of the shadows staring in disbelief, he rubbed his eyes checking to see if he was hallucinating from the late night’s darkness, but he wasn’t, “what the hell are you guys doing here?”
“We could be asking you the same question,” Boone said as he helped Cass up her feet.
Sol flicked the light switch on the side of the wall only to find a pile of scrap metal mess spattered all around the room like a bloody mess of some sort.
“What the fuck, oh come you guys, you messed up my turrets, I spent all night yesterday working on these.”
“Turrets?” Veronica asked, “as in... security turrets or something?”
“Oh yeah, the idea is that I hook it up to a tripod of some sort and then connect the wirings so that I can communicate and control it using my Pip-Boy. It’s really efficient since there are no bullet shells that fall out of the weapon and I don’t have to reload, I can just slap a gigantic battery onto it and let it work its magic. Bada bing, bada boom, enemies melt to their bones, it’s that simple.”
“Hmm, this requires a high level of engineering that I don’t believe is very common in the wasteland,” Arcade said, starting to take some interest.
“Yeah, I have some schematics in the back I can show you… heyyy, wait the minute, you guys still haven’t told me what the hell y’all doing here.”
“See guys, didn’t I tell ya we can trust out boss?” Raul said, “as his partners in crime, we should always let him go off in the middle of the night into a dark mysterious cellar doing who knows what because… well, because he’s just that trustworthy and we have nothing to worry about, right boss?”
“Yeah, thanks a lot for your input Raul, really appreciate it.”
“But on a more serious note,” Arcade said as he wiped his glasses with his sleeves, “you gotta tell us, why are you here? You’ve been gone an awful lot. At least tell us what you’ve been up to.”
Sol took a deep breath and sighed as he looked around the room:
“Fine, I guess I’ll tell you. Follow me, it’s all in here.”
They all followed him to the back room where he pulled a string on the light bulb above them. It was sort of dim and hard to see at first but their eyes slowly adjusted. It was a small room, it couldn’t have been bigger than a bedroom or a living room.
And yet words could not have described what they saw. It was like a small vault full of the most expensive and most powerful guns and firearms they had ever seen in their entire whole life. .44 revolvers, .357 revolvers, battle rifles, brush guns, hunting rifles, repeaters, marksman carbine, trail carbines, anti-materiel rifles you name it. It’s all there, piles up piles sitting next to dozens of ammunition boxes as if he was stacking a bunch of wooden logs and bricks or something. Then by the corner you can catch a glimpse of his workbench with a bunch of wrenches, nails, duct tape and screwdrivers also pilling like a mountain of scrap. Heck, there’s also a bunch of laser and plasma rifles lying around buried under a bunch of microfusion cells and electrical wirings.
“What… the hell?” They all gasped as they walked in.
“Welcome to my workshop… I guess.”
“What… what is all of… this?” Arcade asked.
“It’s my work,” Sol explained, “I make rifles, guns, ammunition. I also try to craft the energy guns to make the turrets. And before you ask, no I do not make automatic weapons, because machine guns are for pussies who can’t aim. Good rule of thumb right there.”
“But… but… why?”
“How do you think I make my caps? Money doesn’t grow on trees, ya know. Also this is sorta a hobby of mine. I don’t know, I just got a thing for machinery, screws and cogs all that jazz.”
“Wait, so you just… build weapons and sell them?” Veronica asked, Sol then nodded, “But… who do you sell it to?”
“Do you sell them to the NCR?” Boone asked, then squinted his eyes as he started getting suspicious, “… or do you trade with the Legion?”
“NO! God no!” He laughed, “Do you think I’m an idiot? No, no, no, I just go around, and sell it to random caravan groups, sometimes I sell them to the Gun Runners.”
“One thing I don’t get, boss,” Raul said, “Do you just carry a bunch of guns and walk all around the wasteland and drop it off to different places? Because that would be quite a handful if I may say so myself. And not to mention you’d have to come back here to restock your supply as you head out to make another sale.”
“Well here’s the thing,” Sol explained, “I’ve also got a couple more little bunkers and cellars like this one all across the wasteland. I’ve been doing this for a long time ya know, so I’d reckoned that I ought to build several of these sooner or later. I also drop them around in hidden stash boxes so caravan groups or scavengers can easily find them. I let the Legion take some of it from time to time, though.”
“What? Why?” Boone demanded.
“Why not? Like I said, I need to make some caps from time to time, alright? I wouldn’t even be in business if the NCR just goes ahead and lord all over the Legion and overwhelm them. It’d be too easy for them if they had all the advantage, no competition, means NCR has no demand for guns, and no demand for guns, no caps for me. And besides, it wouldn’t be fun if I just let the NCR completely destroys the Legion now would it?”
“What the hell does that mean?” said Arcade, “So this is just purely a hobby for you?”
“According to my analysis,” Arcade said, “this is… the most psychotic thing I’ve ever seen since a guy decided to dress in football dresses and started enslaving people.”
“Hey, these stuff ain’t cheap ya know.”
“Well, you could’ve used all this vast knowledge on weaponry and machinery to help us whenever we encounter a gigantic wild super mutant that’s trying to eat us alive, or when a giant angry Deathclaw’s running towards us like a Cazador on jet,” said Veronica, “but instead you want to sell them all away? For a bunch of lousy caps?”
“You start taking caps for granted and one day you’ll regret it,” he answered, “and besides, last I checked, I only have two arms, I can’t use ten guns at the same time now can I?”
They couldn’t believe it. They never knew and some of them still refused to believe it. They all came out here tonight to see if he’s a trustworthy man or not, they expected him to be somewhat decent. But all of this had the opposite effect. Because they knew that Solmund had a talent that not many other people have. To keep secrets, keep other people in the dark. That’s what makes him so unpredictable… so dangerous.