Vault 3, 2282, this former shelter to the rich and privileged served as headquarters for one of the most brutal and dangerous gangs in the Mojave Wasteland: the Fiends. Psychotic, immoral and barely organised, these criminals had become one of the NCR’s worst adversaries in the region, second only to the Legion. A little more than a few hours ago, the mere thought of assaulting such a fortress would have been considered suicide. But on the morning of January 5th, it became nothing more than a slaughter house.
“Even before I heard the broadcast, I had a gut feeling it was him. The way the operation was carried out and the sheer efficiency: it was almost a carbon copy of what we saw in Fortification Hill. We knew only one man who was capable of doing that.”— Ranger Lineholm, Former Commanding officer of Ranger Station Alpha
The idea, however, was dismissed almost immediately by High Command: The Courier could not be responsible, they reasoned, because he was already dead. After all, the NCR even gave him a state funeral, awarding him the Golden Branch posthumously for his service to the Republic. Thousands mourned for his passing at the Divide and the propaganda machine, ever so opportunistic, had a field day.
“And so passes the Courier, the great martyr. Though history may not remember his name, his spirit shall endure in the heart of every NCR citizen. Peace to the Courier! Peace to the Republic!”— Radio Republic, Broadcasting at the Courier’s Funeral
But the survival of the Courier was, to those with authority, more than just inconvenient.
“You have to remember that Kimball and his government have been thinking of ways to get rid of this guy for ages. As far as they were concerned, he has served his purpose and his death was the best possible outcome they could’ve hoped for. Now he was no longer just a man: he was a symbol, a political weapon that Kimball can use for the rest of his career.”— Joana Summers, Former member of Congress
Like so many times before, the possible presence of this seemingly indestructible man has become a mixed blessing. The investigation into the matter was soon declared top secret and the few who knew the truth was sworn into secrecy. High command now had two objectives: confirmation on who was responsible for the attack and if it was indeed the Courier, they must find his current location.
“I think you’d have to be pretty stupid not to catch on what they meant by that second order. They told us to bring him in alive, of course, but it was obvious: if he walked into Hoover Dam, he ain’t walking back out. None of the search party had ever met him, they made sure of that.”— Ranger Sven, Head of the search party
But to everyone’s surprise, it was the Courier who acted first. On the morning of the following Monday, less than a week since the Fiend’s destruction, radio communications across all frequencies ceased throughout the Mojave and stretching as far West as Maxson. Fearful of enemy sabotage, both the NCR and the Legion went into immediate alert, expecting imminent attack. What they got instead was a message nobody expected; a message that both side dreaded.
“We interrupt whatever it is you’re listening to right now for a special announcement. Don’t bother resetting your radio, because you’ll just end up missing it. Don’t bother tracking this signal either or you’ll find about a dozen different stations broadcasting this message simultaneously. In short, just sit down and listen, dickhead, you’ll make everybody’s life easier that way. Now, in case you still don’t recognise my voice, which given recent events seem unlikely, you’ll notice that rumours regarding my death have been somewhat exaggerated and a little bit insulting: I survived worse than that, let’s be honest. To those of you who are on my ‘to sort out’ list, feel free to grab some toilet paper and start shitting yourselves. To everyone else, stay alert, because things are going to get very interesting.”
Red faced, humiliated and with nothing to say. The censors could do nothing to stop the rumours, and the questions came pouring in. Why were the people lied to? On the streets of the Vegas area, the citizens were ecstatic: they cheered and celebrated in the name of their hero, but everyone was dazed and confused. For High Command it was all happening far too quickly and the lack of any clear instructions from the capital only made them more anxious. How long will it be before this man makes an actual appearance? And what should they do if he did?
“To be honest, I thought we had more pressing matters on our hands. And besides, the damage was already done; it was done from the moment he made that broadcast. Our initial instructions, which came from the General himself, no less, were to supress any overzealous individuals who may or may not use this opportunity to oppose the NCR. And that was it; they gave no more detail than that. We were pretty much left to our own devices.”— Simon Miles, Former NCR military police officer
The potential consequences of this order became as lost as those who carried it out. Individual officers had their own definitions to what ‘overzealous’ meant, and it was the same story with ‘appropriate response’. Few dared to start trouble on the Strip itself, not while Securitrons still patrolled the area. But in more desolate areas such as Freeside, where anti-NCR sentiments were still strong even after the peace brokered between the Kings and the Republic, people dared to be more vocal.
“There were small children, the eldest were about ten, who would run around and stick posters all over the place. At first we didn’t realise what they were doing and obviously we couldn’t actually arrest them, so we just took them down as soon as they left. But let me tell ya, they were everywhere! And we had no idea what they even meant, they just looked like a giant ace of spades with a ‘21’ painted on top of it. A lot of us thought it was just a joke, a prank of some kind.”— Simon Miles
Regardless of what these acts meant, it was clear what they symbolised: the NCR was losing their grip on the hearts and minds of the local population. To make matters worse, High Command had a deadline to meet although few knew how to do so; whatever the Courier’s intentions might be, they had to come up with an answer before President Kimball’s visit to Hoover Dam. It was an event planned ever since the Courier’s supposed death and it could not be cancelled.
“Oliver and Moore were tearing their hair out by this stage, you know, they were saying: Why now? This must be the worst possible time for the president to be making public appearances in disputed territory. Even if you don’t consider the Legion planning anything, how could they ensure that none of the locals would try their luck? But that was the thing, they weren’t politicians.”— Dennis Crocker
The thinking behind Kimball’s visit was simple: up until this stage neither the Courier nor the NCR had openly declared each other enemies, no matter how clear it might have seemed to some. The Courier’s lack of active stances against the republic was enough to convince Kimball’s administration that the man was playing a game of politics rather than war, something these men and women have been playing from the beginning.
“Originally the President’s visit was to serve a few very simple purposes: raise the morale of the troops and show the people that he cared about the soldiers of the Republic. But with everything that has happened since the Courier’s broadcast, things became a lot more complicated. The plan was to actually invite the Courier to the event so that the President could present him the Golden Branch personally. Now if the Courier accepted the offer and came peacefully, the propaganda machine could once again say: ‘ah look, the man is still a patriot’. And even if the Courier turns his back on us later, he would’ve been discredited. But if the Courier tried to do anything that might suggest malice, they could instantly slam the label of terrorism on him. It was a win-win situation, as far as we were concerned at the time.”— Joana Summers
All this assumed, however, that the Courier would ever accept the offer in the first place. Communications with the man have become as difficult as actually finding him, and so it was decided that High Command would force the matter. First were the broadcasts:
“We acknowledge that the Courier had defied all expectations in his survival, and thankful that he is willing to continue to pledge his support. As President of the New California Republic, I greatly look forward to meeting our brother in arms personally.”— President Aaron Kimball at the Klamath Conference
And then there were posters; many, many posters. One way or another, the Courier will hear this message; but more importantly, so will everyone else in the Mojave. Now all they needed to do was to wait until the day of the visit; the day where they find out just what the Courier was planning to do.
“It was just madness. There’s a great stereotype at the time and probably still today that Legionaries were savages who barely knew how to hold a gun. And a lot of the people back home believed that not only were they unable to operate machinery, they would actively avoid it. But that was so far from the truth. The people in control of the Legion were pragmatic; they might tell their troops that to maintain the purity of the Legion, one must shun all advanced technology, but those guys weren’t above being hypocrites. They used radio operatives, explosive experts and probably even engineers. And High Command knew all of this! Words cannot describe how stupid it was to literally let everyone know where the President was going to be and at what time.”— Joseph Polati, Former Major and Commanding officer of Camp Forlorn Hope
As any communications officer would testify, the NCR’s communications was being constantly attacked even during more peaceful times; attempts to break the Republic’s code, from the Legion or otherwise, have been occurring regularly ever since the great expansion. Security measures however were of the highest standards, or so was it told. But as the day drew closer, interference from Legionaries became more and more like a certainty. Possibility of open invasion towards the dam itself was discredited from the beginning; it was far too obvious. However, the risk of attacks elsewhere while the majority of the NCR military was occupied was dangerously high. Plans and documents at the time suggested possibilities as far fetching as a rapid strike at the Mojave Outpost to cut off and isolate Kimball in the Mojave itself. But by far the greatest possibility was an attempt at a simple assassination, or more likely, multiple attempts.
“We had to mobilise everyone, and I do mean everyone on site. There would be no chances risked: if you had any record of insubordination, even if it was just accidentally spilling coffee on your commanding officer, then you would be transferred. Every system was checked far too many times for me to count. We even brought in former assassins to assess the situation: if they thought they could still kill the President then we haven’t done our jobs correctly.”— Ranger Grant, Former head of security at Hoover Dam
“About a week before the President’s arrival, I was taken to one side by Colonel Moore, who rarely ever spoke directly to someone this low down the chain of command. She said to me: ‘Son, the Courier will arrive in about five days’ time.’ As you might expect I was rather taken aback, I said: ‘Really, Colonel? How do you know that?’ She didn’t give me a straight answer. But then she threw another curve ball at me, she said the Courier’s gonna be inspecting security. That really got me confused because up until that moment I was still under the impression that he was just as likely to make an attempt on the president’s life as the Legion. But no, she repeated her orders and told me to cooperate, but only within guidelines. It wasn’t until when I read my full briefing later that night did I realise just how elaborate my act would have to be.”— Corporal Lens, Former assistant of Ranger Grant
Using a frequency that has been quiet ever since his initial departure, the Courier made his move, one that most hoped for but did not expect: not only would he be willing to meet the President, he would even formally submit his services. Naturally, not everyone believed in this proposal. Lee Oliver himself considered the offer a trap, one that the propaganda agency had already stumbled into. Without consulting any of the onsite staff, the news was brought straight to Kimball himself. The response was made almost immediately and worst of all, it was public.
“As far as I was concerned the whole situation was turning into a farce. If the Courier was really willing to protect the President then quite frankly there was no way the Legion could succeed, we didn’t doubt his ability for a second. But the point is we didn’t know what he wanted and it didn’t matter how many times I personally warned the politicians, they never listened: it just became another piece of complaint, another piece of paper work. Yes, there was good political reason to go through with it and yes, they had a relatively well thought out plan. But having done this job for all of my life, I can safely say that plans like that ultimately never hold up.”— Ranger Grant
Instead of actively cooperating with the Courier, onsite staff was advised to provide only limited information: the services done by the Courier would be for show only, something for the media to expand on in their own time. Meanwhile, false information was fed at every possible opportunity: the Courier will not be allowed to actively contribute to the security process but neither would he be given the opportunity to sabotage it. And through it all, High Command had the authority to arrest him at the slightest provocation.
Despite this, hiccups to this detailed plan began to occur even before the Courier’s arrival. Although the exact exchange between High Command and the Courier has long since been destroyed, it was known for a fact that conditions were made on the Courier’s arrival. For a start, he would not come alone: close members of his group would be given access and carry out the same supposed contributions to security as the Courier himself. Secondly, the scheduled meeting between Kimball and the Courier would be pushed to latest time possible.
“Looking back on it now I should’ve seen what was happening: the politicians were effectively playing a game of checkers with this guy. Every single policy we were planning to install during his arrival was meant to limit his options, and yet he was finding loopholes in every one of them. We could have arrested him if we needed to for example, we had the authority, but what happens to the rest of the Mojave if we did? There was no way to keep something like that quiet for long; Freeside would’ve rioted almost immediately along with Westside. Most of the major factions would pledge their support and then we would have been trapped between the Legion and the locals. Now this guy knew this perfectly well, that’s why he deliberately made an announcement to those people the day before his arrival. He was checking us at every move.”— Dennis Crocker
“The demand to bring in members of his group as ‘consultants’ was clearly aimed to counter our misinformation: you can try to fool one or two people with the same lies if you need to, as long as you keep it consistent and maintain constant surveillance of their activities at all times. But if there are four or five of them from very different fields of expertise then it would only be a matter of time before one of them finds a little something you overlooked. And that was the best part: we couldn’t refuse him without exposing the fact that we didn’t trust him, which would’ve driven the propaganda agency mad. The whole thing was a political minefield.”— Joana Summers
With no other choices present, High Command had to accept what already lie on the board and hope for the best. During the two brief days the Courier and his squad spent in Hoover Dam, they identified no less than eight different potential security breaches; most, if not all of these were fabricated. It wasn’t until on the actual day of the arrival, with less than two hours until the President’s arrival, did the signs of potential danger truly reveal themselves.
“On the day of Kimball’s visit, very few people from the engineering department was allowed to go top side; you had to be specifically selected. Oh the papers made it out to be some huge public event but actually, there were barely any civilians there at all. At around about eight in the morning, I was expecting to meet a friend of mine above the visitor’s centre; we were all confined within the dam itself by this point and I knew he wasn’t selected, otherwise he would’ve been bragging about it for days. So for him to be missing at this time was slightly worrying. I saw the Courier go past and he asked me if everything was ok. Now I didn’t know much about the supposed plans of misinformation, I just thought I’m looking for my friend, maybe this guy saw him… they found his body later that evening.”— Allison Valentine, Former engineer at Hoover Dam
“The whole area was deemed a no-fly zone, which might seem a bit pointless considering almost no one else had access to an aircraft, but we really couldn’t afford any chances by this stage. Bear Force One landed almost precisely at 10 am, I escorted the President out of the vertibird and took him to the stage. Everything was going relatively smoothly by then. The only thing that bothered me at the time was that I lost visual contact of the Courier. Now this wasn’t really that big a deal: there were a lot of soldiers there at the time, someone would have seen him if he tried anything. But then about a third of the way through the President’s speech, I saw out of the corner of my eye some kind of movement up one of the sniper towers. Now my first instinct would have been to get the President out of there, but we were told specifically not to interrupt the speech without first verifying the danger. Whoever came up with that policy was an idiot.”— Ranger Grant
“I don’t know how long or complex the Legion’s plan was, but by the time we realised something was wrong, pretty much everything was happening simultaneously. I personally was standing in the crowd at the time and not very few folks saw the first sniper falling off the tower. Now I thought it was the sun playing tricks on me or something, I mean not many people would automatically think someone’s been pushed off. But when that second sniper fell as well, I would say pretty much everyone around me noticed it.”— Corporal Lens
Ranger Samson of Baja would later be found dead near the foot of Sniper Post B. The culprit was a Veteran Legion assassin identified as Titus Antony, disguised as a Ranger and having snuck his way through three separate checkpoints. How he managed to achieve this would later become part of a long and damaging investigation into the heart of High Command. At approximately two minutes into the President’s arrival, Titus Antony subdued and replaced Ranger Samson. Less than a minute later, he was in turn subdued and replaced by a third individual. Craig Boone, former First NCR Recon sniper battalion, would not be recognised as a hero for quite some time.
“Whenever you see the President, he always had two or three guys flanking him. Now obviously you’re supposed to think those are his body guards but the key words there are ‘supposed to’. Of course they are all fully trained but the real work is done by people like me who blends in among the crowds. At the time I’ve been doing that job for over twenty years but I’ve never seen an assassin move that quietly without arousing not just my suspicion but my colleagues as well. The guy was wearing a regular engineer’s outfit and by the time we moved to intercept, he was within striking distance of the President.”— Agent Francis, Former bodyguard to President Kimball
“Looking back on it now it was an absolute disgrace, both on my part and those of my staff. None of us managed to intercept the first assassin in time; we had to use a member of the Courier’s group. But worst of all was that none of us could even intercept the second assassin right in front of the stage either; the Courier himself went in first! I could not believe it at the time: I didn’t even realise the Courier was in among the crowd, he wasn’t supposed to make an appearance until much later that day. Now the guy in the jump suit with the knife clearly didn’t realise it either, ‘cus that thing went flying the moment he got grabbed. We’ve all heard stories of how Legionaries were trained to fight with their bare hands from the moment they were old enough to walk, hell there’s an old joke that Legion boys grew knuckles before they grew their dicks, but that guy didn’t stand a chance. We had to get the Courier off of him before his arm came off.”— Ranger Grant
A full investigation into the matter would now be inevitable. But at least, the President was safe. It was no longer a secret that both the Courier and High Command kept vital details from each other, the only difference was that the Courier figured out his opponents long ago. Even Bear Force One itself was later found to have been rigged with an explosive charge, one that was disabled by Raul Tejada, now known as the Ghost Vaquero. All of it was captured by the media: the Courier managed to meet the President after all, but not the way it was expected.
“I don’t think it’s any doubt who came out on top of that little incident. Baby, it ain’t no secret that the NCR wanted to use the Courier, but at the end of the day they were the ones being used. As far as backfiring goes, that was easily the screw-up of the decade.”— The King