The Courier stood, armored as was common in his little excursions, in a reinforced suit of ancient Sierra Madre security armor, patched and repaired here and there where time and injury had ripped at it's tough fabric and ceramic plates, sunglasses shielding his eyes, even in the gloom of the dome, where the only light came from stained panels and the glowing monitors of the gesticulating brain, examining the little gift he'd brought. "As I was saying Dr-" He began, before he was interrupted once more. "A naked mole rat isn't it! Why I remember using these leathery little fellows as trial animals, back during the great norwegian rat plague of '71! Nasty bite. Interesting social structure, though that wasn't really my department. I don't remember them being quite this voluninous though..." "...That would probably be the war's doing." The courier said, patiently. "Really? Well! Quite impressive what a little hard radiation can do to such a humble critter." The ancient scientist said, his two monitors, one blank, one aglow, roving around the little cage holding the naked, wrinkly subject of his curiosity, which hissed in response, sharp teeth digging at the metal with nail-on-chalkboard grinds. "...Indeed. As I was saying, I brought this to you rather than the Think Tank, since you've displayed considerable expertise working with the radscorpions. I thought this might inspire you with a little... project I need done." "Oho! A project you say? Why, I haven't participated in a directed research assignment in... goodness, a tortoise's age! What do you have for me, my lugubrious young brain?" He asked, eyes focusing in uncomforotably close to the Courier's face, though he didn't move in response as he once might have. "I'm anticipating a bit of a problem with some... introduced wildlife." He said, reaching down for a leather-wrapped package containing a scrap of scaled skin and meat. "I've already given a sample to the Think Tank for them to run some tests on. This is for you to calibrate the machines I hope you'll be building." Mobius eyed the odd bit of half-rancid flesh curiously. "Introduced, you say? Coupled with the animal inspiration in question, I'd say your problem-species is a burrower, no?" The courier blinked. Even if academically he recognized Mobius' intellect, instinct still whiplashed in the face of his apparent senility when he made that kind of intuitive leap. "...Call them Tunnelers. Vicious things; spreading out from their former home, and coming uncomfortably close to my home." "Hm! Well, can't have lizards digging up one's yard, no? And you did provide me with such an interesting subject for my investications! I think I should be able to bang something together that will work well enough. Now, clear out, I need space to begin my work! Now, where did I put those mentat refills..." the brain spoke, floating up to begin rummaging around, while the courier entirely failed to show any guilt for his surreptitious weaning of the pre-war genius off his dependencies, exiting the room with nary a backward glance. -------- "Would sir care for a refreshment? I believe we still have a bottle of the '64 claret in the pantry." An ambiguously english voice asked, as the courier entered the sink, placing a lightened pack down on the floor beside the work bench, and seating himself in a chair he'd scavenged from a lounge in one of the labs, feet braced against the central intelligence's chassis. "I think not today. I need my head clear for the moment." "Indubitably sir." The intelligence agreed mechanically. The courier closed his eyes, Blind Diode Jefferson's nearby snores making him yearn for his own rest; the Big Empty was tiring as always to cross. There seemed to be no end to the wild robots, lobotomites, and nightstalkers roaming the place. Often he'd yearned to set out on an expedition with some of his friends and allies to give the place a thorough cleansing. But, for the moment, it served the important purpose of being an impenetrable fortress and stock of unique resources which only he could access. Big Mountain might be dangerous, but it was a measured risk; predictable for all it's chaos, in a way that other people weren't. Sometimes he was tempted to stay here; the sink would provide for him, and gladly. Food, water, even company. But he couldn't. Not while the Wastes were out there, calling their siren call. Still, he could handle temptation. And here, he could think. If Mobius could solve one problem for him, it would be a bandage for one of Nevada's thousand cuts from which it was busily bleeding. On one side, the bear waited, content in their victory, but a bear was never satiated long. On the other, the bull. Beaten, bleeding from a pair of grievous wounds in it's flank, but vast, and angry. Caught between them, if Nevada was to survive, he needed to manage things, and carefully. "...Where next?" He wondered to himself, and the Sink was silent.