Love Never Changes
Chapter 2

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

I didn’t dream that evening. But I woke up before dawn, before my alarm went off. My bladder and bowels were telling me that I was eating things I wasn’t used to. I startled Codsworth by running to the river, barely making it to the toilet in time.

He followed me. “Uh, mum? You’re baring all to the world, and then some.” I realized that the only thing I was wearing was my Pip-Boy.

“Just fill that bucket up with water, so I can clean up. I think my insides just caught up with being in cryogenic stasis.” I was glad there was a fresh breeze; the smell would have been rancid, otherwise.

“Indeed.” He was solicitous of me while I finished things up, then rather adroitly kept all three of his eyes averted as I took a quick bath. The temperature was warm enough I didn’t chill, and it only took a few minutes for me to air dry, walking back up to where my clothes waited. The feel of fresh air felt good on my bare skin, and the smell didn’t have the stink of the inherent pollution that had existed before the war. Codsworth escorted me without further comment.

He spun about to return to work, but stopped when I asked, “Codsworth, would you bring me a bucket of water from the river? I’d like to clean some things up here. I forgot to get one.”

“Of course, mum!” He sped back to the bank of the river, quickly returning with it.

I wiped my feet off before putting them back into my boots. But I didn’t want to get dressed again until I’d had a chance to wash my underwear. I’d found a nice pile of fluff in the ruins of my dresser, so I would probably have to make my own replacements once I found materials. I used a little Abraxo to clean and rinse my bra off and panties out, then hung them up to dry. That would take a little time, so I decided to get some work done while waiting and went out.

Codsworth make a sound like he was coughing. “Miss Tina, I know the world has ended, but certainly we ought to strive for a little common decency.”

“Common decency isn’t common, Codsworth. And unless you happen to have some fresh underwear handy, laundry still has to be done. I don’t think you can modulate the heat from your thruster enough to only dry my clothes and not burn them, so we’ll do this the old-fashioned way.”

He sounded put upon. “Very well, mum.”

“It’s not like this is the first time you’ve seen me like this, after all.”

“Well, no, mum, but forms must be observed.”

“Fine. Back to work.”

I got the set of combat armor I’d worn yesterday and started working on it. I quickly modified it with even more carrying pouches. We’d used cloth armor fabric to wrap the weapons in before we’d buried them. I used that to modify my Vault suit so I’d have ballistic protection. A pair of combat glasses for eye protection and my armor was complete. I did some work on the rifles, and even fabricated a suppressor for my rifle.

By this time my clothes were dry. I heard Codsworth make a sigh of relief when I got dressed. “What’s the matter, Codsworth?”

“I’m a Mister Handy, mum, with Miss Nanny programming that Sir had additionally installed in me when I became part of your family, so I could help with the care of young Shaun. So, I’m quite comfortable with babies and their bodily functions. Adults are, well, quite a different matter. Especially...” He grew quiet.

“Especially what, Codsworth?” I had a teasing tone in my voice.

“Well, if I can be honest, Miss Tina, with someone as attractive as you. One of my abilities in housekeeping is to understand where to place an appropriate piece of art in the home. To be able to do so, I have to be able to appreciate art. The sight of your nude body reminded me of several classic paintings I have stored in my memory banks, the curve of your buttocks, the fullness of your breasts...”

“Why, Codsworth, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were flirting with me.” I smiled at him. “Do you see anything you’d like to do more than just look at?”

He truly sounded like an English butler then. “Miss Tina, that would be improper!”

I laughed, the first time I’d laughed in a while, even from before the war. “Codsworth, you’re so easy to tease. Didn’t stop us before, either. Come on, let’s get to work.”

His sigh of relief was almost like a teakettle whistle. “Whew, of course, mum.” Even with his three eyes, he didn’t see my wicked smile. I felt something I hadn’t since before Shaun was born. I pushed those thoughts down for now, though. He didn’t fully remember everything, courtesy of my programming.

With Codsworth having worked overnight, the workstation had a large supply of raw materials. Vault-Tec may have been bastards, but their technology still worked like it was intended. I quickly had wood floors, walls, and a roof put up on the cleared foundation just north of the Rosa’s old house. I made a ladder to the roof of the Rosa’s garage and put a small generator up there. That also let me run wires and lights to both places, without worrying about any exhaust gases building up. Then, with help from Codsworth, I set up relay towers for wires to the river and got a small water purifier going as well.

I spent another hour getting some living facilities inside the new house set up. A real bed, a table and chairs, a counter, a couple more storage lockers for my gear. One thing that Vault-Tec had managed to create was a toilet, sink, and drinking fountain that used their replicator technology to provide water and to dispose of waste. Putting a couple of prefabricated machine gun turrets on the roof was the crowning touch. As I finished up that, my stomach growled, reminding me it was time to eat.

It was now early afternoon. Codsworth was still toiling away, taking things apart to feed the workstation. I flagged him down. “I’m going to leave it up to you. I’m going to grab a bite to eat, then at least head towards Concord. Do you want to come with me, or stay here and keep working on gathering materials?”

“How long do you plan on being gone, mum?”

“Honestly, if I can be back tonight, I will. Otherwise no later than tomorrow evening. I want to at least do a local recon of what’s south of here, across the bridge.”

“Then, if you don’t mind, mum, I’ll stay here and finish what I’ve started. I don’t want to say that I’ve been remiss in my duties, it’s just that without you or Sir or young Shaun to actually give me purpose, I feel that I’ve not done as much as I could have.”

I smiled. “There’s no need to worry about that, Codsworth. I’m certain that dealing with a nuclear war wasn’t something your programming took into consideration.”

He sounded a bit befuddled. “Actually, it did. But it was primarily in assisting those under my care to survive in the immediate aftermath. As none of you were here, that proved to be rather useless. With the passage of time, it has become irrelevant, I fear.”

“I’m certain that some of those skills will be useful in the future, though. Fine. Let me gear up, then, and I’ll be off.”

If it was possible for a robot to sound concerned, he did. “Do be careful, Mum.”

I patted his shell and then went into my new house. I ate lunch, then got ready. I packed light on consumable supplies, food and water. Only enough for two full days. I wasn’t planning to be gone even that long. But given the new world, I packed heavy on ammo and first aid supplies. Rifle, pistol, half a dozen grenades, and full combat armor over my Vault suit completed my ensemble.

I headed south out of our housing addition. I noticed as I got onto the old footbridge that my Pip-Boy lost the radio connection it had with the workstation, which I actually hadn’t even noticed it’d made in the first place. That was useful information, that it would still work using radio connections this far out, instead of just the wired connection I’d used to so far.

The bridge itself had seen better days. While this was where the original bridge had stood during and after Revolutionary War days, when a flood completely took the old one out about ten years before they started on our housing addition, the local government had built a replica, using modern technology and techniques. So, while it had looked like an old wooden bridge, it was strong enough to support modern day vehicles. But it apparently wasn’t strong enough to resist a nuclear war and the aftermath.

Half of the span was collapsed into the river. That meant that it was now a footbridge and not a vehicle bridge. Well, maybe a motorcycle, if I could find one. Immediately across the bridge was the old statue commemorating the Revolutionary War. At the base of the statue lay two bodies. A man wearing some rudimentary leather armor and what I guessed as a dog, but ... not any kind of breed I recognized. This was some kind of mutant hound.

I realized I was in unsafe territory, so I unlimbered my rifle, readying it for action if need be. I stayed towards the middle of the road, or what remained of the road. Holes big enough to break an axle were common, showing there had been some freeze and thaw cycles. A couple of destroyed cars and some loose parts littered the road.

I went around the curve and saw the remnants of the Red Rocket fueling station that was just south of Sanctuary Hills. I stopped for a moment, taking a knee. My rifle came up smoothly as I started scanning the area using my scope, looking for any signs of life. The area looked deserted, except for a dog.

A dog?

I saw him hike his leg and pee on one of the pumps, then continue walking around the area. I almost took the shot, but ... he looked normal. Slinging my rifle, I pulled my pistol and walked closer. “Hey, boy, how you doing?”

The dog perked his ears up, coming running towards me, his tongue lolling about. I put my hand down, letting him sniff me. Given the assorted freakish animals I’d seen so far, a rather normal looking German Shepherd was rather startling. He licked my hand. “What’s the matter, boy? Lose your master?” The dog whined a little at me. “Okay, you want to come with me?” His bark of affirmation turned into a growl as he spun about, hearing something threatening.

Just ahead of us, under the station canopy, the concrete on the ground was pushed up from underneath and a mole popped out. Except this mole was huge, like a big dog. The first thing I noticed was that it had two huge curved teeth. That was enough for me to decide I didn’t want to pet it. Instead I brought my pistol up and took quick aim, putting three rounds into it.

That was enough to kill that one, but it wasn’t alone. Two more of these monsters came up through the dirt and concrete. The dog quickly attacked one, grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and shaking it. I stepped backwards, taking aim and quickly snapping off three more shots at the other one. That was enough. I took careful aim to avoid the dog and put a round into the one being held. The dog gave the body a final shake, then dropped it, coming up to me.

“Good boy!” I patted him on the head. “You want to come along with me?” The dog barked like he approved. “Okay, let’s check the rest of this Red Rocket out.”

The dog followed me, barking at times when he sniffed something that he thought was important. Most of the time it really was. A first aid kit with supplies, a safe that I was able to easily break into, some stashed food ... all good things. He also barked when he found a small teddy bear that was in decent shape, so I took a couple of minutes and just played catch and then tug of war with him. That felt so normal it almost wasn’t funny.

The Red Rocket also had a Vault-Tec workstation and appropriate tools. I wasn’t really surprised at that, I remembered they had a couple of guys who did work on cars and trucks before things went to hell. I just sort of hoped that the skeleton I found inside the building wasn’t Mike, the mechanic that used to work on my car.

I was rather surprised to see how quickly the afternoon had gotten away from me, with exploring just this one building. It was already getting late in the day. “What do you think, boy, call it an evening here, and head into Concord in the morning?”

The dog didn’t argue with me. I found an unopened can of dog food on a shelf. I wasn’t sure how good it would really be after all this time, but I opened it. It didn’t smell bad, which I suppose was due to preservatives. Either way, I put it on a plate on the ground and Dog sniffed it, then gobbled it up. I found a bowl and put water in it for him as well. “You stand guard for a bit, boy. It’s getting dark, I’m going to see if I can get this workstation powered up and loaded up with a few things.”

I swear he barked an affirmation. Either way, he simply lapped up some of the water, then walked the perimeter of the Red Rocket, peeing on some bushes but also keeping an eye out for trouble. While he was doing that, I used my Pip-Boy to interface with the workstation and set it for general recycling. What that meant was that anything I could get into the feeder chute would get broken down into usable components. I had to use my knife several times to cut tires so they’d actually fit. But basically, anything that was smaller than two feet square would go in without further work. I saw how Codsworth had managed to get so much raw wood available, when I fed some small trees into the thing.

After a couple of hours, it was too dark to continue, so I got out my sleeping bag and set it up in one of the inside rooms. I’d cleaned it out fairly well, too, so there was plenty of room. I called Dog inside with me. “You good for the night, boy?” There was a door that still worked, and I closed it. I set up a candle for light, then slipped into my sleeping bag. I ate and drank lightly; I had no desire to get up in the middle of the night. “Get me up if there’s any trouble, okay, boy?”

Dog snuggled up next to me, giving me a little lick on the face. I fell asleep fairly quickly and easily.

I surprised myself by sleeping through the night. Dog woke me up just after dawn, whining to go out. I opened the door and let him out, then followed him out to water the bushes myself. The morning sun rising to the east looked ... weird. The atmosphere had changed, quite a bit.

I quickly ate breakfast and drank some water, and made sure Dog had plenty to drink this morning, too. I then used some of the materials from the workstation to craft Dog some protective footwear and a carrying harness, so he could haul some things, too. That only took a few minutes to make. After that, I rolled up the sleeping bag and headed out for Concord.

Going down the road, I saw the bloated corpse of a large animal in the road ahead of me. I stopped, took a knee, and raised my rifle up to look at it through my scope. I noticed that the skin was undulating a little. “Well, boy, looks like old Bessie down there has some hitchhikers inside her. Let’s see if we can stir them up.”

I put a round into the corpse. That was enough. The corpse exploded outward, with ... giant flying mosquitoes. “Oh, fuck me, why am I not surprised?” I quickly shot both of them. Shaking a little, I walked down to where their bodies lay. A pointed proboscis over a foot long told me all I needed to know about these things. I shook my head at the size of the things.

The wind chose that moment to bring the smell of rotting meat to my nose. That made me look a little closer. A two-headed cow. God, what other abominations are there in this new world?

I walked slowly by the destroyed traffic signals that were at the top of the hill entering town. In the distance, I heard a few ravens making their distinctive noises. At least something sounded normal. I was almost afraid what the birds would look like. Considering what my house and many of those in Sanctuary Hills looked like, things here looked relatively untouched.

Of course, these weren’t modern homes and buildings, some of these structures had been built before the Revolutionary War. Two boarded up houses were to my right as I entered the town. I thought it odd that the doors and windows had been covered over. A bus stop station was next. A two-story building to my left showed the first signs of true decay, with half the top floor collapsed. Another large building on the right looked fine, but the one after that showed incredible decay, mostly collapsed with bricks and other rubble partially filling the street.

I put my eyes back to ground level as I noticed piles of sandbags in the middle of the street, apparently set up as defensive positions. I wondered if there’d been street level fighting. I continued to walk down the street, maintaining a spot close to one side while trying to keep an eye out in case of snipers in the windows. Another nearly collapsed building showed contrast to the ones still standing.

I came around a corner and saw the steeple of the Concord church in the distance, still rising into the sky. At the same time, I faintly heard the sound of gunfire. It sounded like a small-scale battle was going on, with the volume of pops I heard. I readied my rifle and started towards the sounds, using the buildings for cover and concealment.

As I got closer, I saw someone in the street ahead of me, looking towards a building at the end of the block. I recognized it as the old Museum of Freedom, next to the church. He was shooting a pistol towards the building. I could also hear some kind of a deep thrum noise coming from the building, not quite like a laser firing. I looked at Dog and said, “Well, here’s a fun question. Which side do we help, if either?”

The question was answered for me by the guy in the street ahead of me. He saw me behind him and started shooting at me. His accuracy was about what you’d expect for a pistol being fired at more than thirty yards away. Mine, using a scoped rifle, was also what you’d expect. Which meant the back of his head exploded when my single shot caught him in the face.

I cautiously ran forward, seeing two more men shooting towards the building. One was using a machine gun, sending a lot of bullets flying towards the building, but barely hitting the building. Apparently, marksmanship wasn’t something these people practiced. Two more shots from me and that took care of the threat outside. I heard a voice yell at me from the building.

“Hey, up here! On the balcony.” I looked up. There was a tall black man holding some kind of odd-looking rifle. He was wearing a tan overcoat and wearing what looked like an old cowboy hat, but with one flap up, like the Australian Army wore a long time ago. “I’ve got a group of settlers inside! The Raiders are almost through the door! Grab that Laser Musket and help us! Please!” He turned and ran back inside.

I noticed a body lying on the steps of the museum that was dressed like him, with an odd rifle lying beside it. The rifle had a crank handle and laser tubes, but had wooden supports. Must be that Laser Musket. I didn’t bother picking it up for now. I opened the door and slid inside.

The lobby of the museum, with the ticket booth, was in front of me. A locked gate that led into the museum proper blocked my path that way. Through the gate, I could see the atrium inside and what remained of the second and third floors, with a couple of Raiders hiding and taking shots towards another door on the third floor. I had an easy shot at one of them and took it, which took care of that Raider. His friend screamed out something and started shooting at me. I felt a round hit the armor on my shoulder. That deserved a friendly response, so I shot her in the shoulder as well. Her armor wasn’t as good as mine, so she bounced up in pain, which gave me a clean shot right in her chest.

With that immediate issue taken care of, I looked around on how to get through the gate. A dark but open doorway to my right looked promising. I went through it, Dog at my heels, and nearly panicked when a group of men with rifles suddenly appeared in front of me when some lights kicked on. Music started playing from hidden speakers as well, and I realized these were mannequins wearing costumes, representing a battle from the Revolutionary War.

“Not nice, guys. Come on, boy, let’s go see if we can help these settlers.” Dog barked his approval. We went through the next room. I didn’t hear any immediate gunfire. A stairway to my right led upwards. The whole center of the room had collapsed down into the basement, and I could see along one wall what looked like a working fusion power generator. Considering the lights and music had come on, that tended to confirm it was working. Dog led me up the stairs, around a corner, into an anteroom.

From ahead, I heard a voice. “Come on, let’s finish these bastards off and get out of here. We’ve wasted enough time with these damned farmers!” The anteroom I was in led down a hallway and I had a very nasty idea. I pulled out one of my grenades and tossed it so that it’d bounce off one wall, then another, so hopefully it would land in the middle of the room.

It did just that. There must have been something else in there that was also explosive, as the sound of a secondary explosion as well as more shrapnel hitting walls than resulted from just my grenade going off. I hurried around the corner to follow up on the confusion caused, but it wasn’t needed. The two Raiders in the room were both turned into bloody messes. Dog sniffed at one pile of intestines, then peed on it.

A flight of stairs led up from there, so I started up. As I got to the top step, a door down the hall opened up and a Raider stepped out. “Shit, there’s someone out here!”, he yelled and ran towards me, pulling a knife. Dog leaped forward and grabbed his arm. The Raider he’d yelled at came out with his gun blazing. I rocked backwards when one of his rounds hit my chest armor. That wasn’t enough to prevent me from killing both of them.

“Fuck, that hurts. That’ll be a bruise in the morning, that’s for damned sure.” As I said that, the pain really hit my chest. Felt like a cracked rib. I remembered that I had a few Stimpaks. I hadn’t used one since Alaska, and that one was military issue, so I didn’t know how these civilian ones would work. I pulled one out and injected myself. The burn as the chemicals entered my bloodstream wasn’t as bad as the military issue. I still felt the same rush as the combination of chemicals in the Stimpak did their magic and healed me. After only a few seconds, I felt better, taking a deep breath without pain, and headed the rest of the way up the stairs.

The doorway at the end of the hall, that one that had to lead to where the man that had hollered at me, was closed. I yelled out, “Are you okay in there?”

From inside, he yelled back, “I got civilians in here. This door is staying closed until those Raiders are dealt with.”

“Um, the only one left alive out here is me. But if you don’t want any more help, I can just keep going.”

The door opened. “Sorry, I’m ... just a bit on edge. Come on in.”

I walked in, Dog by my side. The black man with the weird hat was holding a wooden rifle with laser barrels on it. Another one of those laser muskets. Behind him was a thinner man with large, fluffed black hair, trying to work on a computer screen, and muttering under his breath. An old woman that looked like a gypsy was sitting in a chair, smiling at me. Finally, an Asian looking couple were sitting along another wall, the man with his head down, the woman glaring at me.

“I don’t know who you are, but your timing’s impeccable. I’m Preston Garvey, Commonwealth Minutemen. This is Sturges, Mama Murphy, Jun and Marcy Long.”

The man with the weird hairdo said, “Hey, glad to meet you.” He then went back to working on the computer, muttering about not finding something on it.

“Minutemen? So now I’m traveling back in time?”

“Protect the people at a minute’s notice. That was the idea. So, I joined up, wanted to make a difference. And I did, but ... then things fell apart. Now it looks like I’m the last Minuteman left standing.”

“You’re the first people I’ve talked to in ... well, far too long. What the hell happened?”

He didn’t realize what I’d meant. “We’re just folks looking for a new home. After the Quincy massacre, we gathered the survivors and fled the area. A month ago, there were 20 of us. Yesterday there were 8. Now, we’re five, me, Sturges, Mama Murphy, and the Longs, Jun and Marcy. First it was the ghouls in Lexington, now this mess.”

I looked at him with a questioning look. “Ghouls? What are those?”

He snorted. “Man, you’re not from around here, are you? Ghouls are irradiated people. Most are just like you and me, they just look messed up. But then there’s ferals, and Lexington was full of them, full on feral. Radiation messed up their brains. We barely made it out alive. We thought Concord might be a good place to settle, but now...”

“Actually, I am. From around here, that is. I lived near here. From before the war, before everything was ruined. Over 200 years ago. I was ... frozen or something, for most of it. Just woke up a little while ago.”

“So, you’re old, like one of the prewar ghouls, damn. You say you were frozen? No wonder you’re confused. Anyone else make it out with you?”

“Someone came in, killed my husband, took my son. You haven’t seen a man or group with a baby, have you?”

He shook his head. “That’s messed up. Sorry, I know how this world can be. No, but ... tell you what, if you help us get out of this, maybe we can help you.”

I thought about it for a minute, then sighed. “I could probably use someone to help who can at least say more than woof. What do you need?”

Garvey smiled. “All right! Sturges, tell her.”

Sturges looked up. He had an odd way of speaking, almost like he was in an old biker movie. I realized that his hairdo was a pompadour, like bikers used to wear. “There’s a crashed vertibird up on the roof. Old school. Pre-war. You might’ve seen it. Anyway, there’s a mini-gun in it. Serious firepower. But it’s still attached, we can’t use it. But one of the occupants of that vertibird had a special set of power armor.”

“What makes that power armor different from any other set?”

“A West Tek internalized servo system, that’s what. Inside that baby, super is the new normal. You’ll be stronger, tougher, resistant to rads. Get the suit, and you can rip the mini-gun right off the vertibird. Do that and those Raiders get an express ticket to Hell. You dig?”

I was confused. “So, I’m not arguing here, but why haven’t you done that?”

He sounded frustrated. “So, here’s the deal. The armor’s out of juice. Probably has been for a hundred years or more. It can be powered up again, but we’re a bit stuck. We need a fusion core.”

“I saw a working generator in the basement, it probably has one.”

“I know it does. It’s locked behind a damned security gate. Look ... I fix stuff. I tinker. Bypassing security isn’t my forte. Maybe you could give it a shot.”

“Okay, let me go take a look.” I went back downstairs. Sure enough, it was a computer locked gate. It only took me a couple of tries to get through the security and use the override to open the gate. The fusion core came out easily. I headed back up the stairs into the room. “That was easy, let me get to that armor.”

As I passed through the room, the old woman looked up from her chair. “You a hero, girl. Coming here, helping us. You’re not what I expected Dogmeat would find in that little neighborhood. But oh, so much better.”

The old woman was obviously crazy. “Just trying to do what’s right, ma’am.”

“I can see a bit of what was, and what will be. And even what is, right now. And right now, I can see there’s something coming. Drawn by the noise, and the chaos. And it is ... angry.”

“Okay ... thanks. I’ll be back in a bit.” I tried to move on.

The old woman sounded apologetic. “It’s all right. I sometimes forget that some folks ain’t used to weird things like the ‘Sight’. You go on.”

I stopped again. “Wait, what?”

“Just listen to me, acting like the crazy old lady. It’s the chems, you see. They give ole Mama Murphy the ‘Sight’. Been that way since I was a girl. That’s how I ‘saw’ Dogmeat finding a good folk who needed him. He’ll stick by you now. I ‘saw’ it.”

“So, something’s coming, you say? What is it, then?”

“I see ... I see ... Oh, it’s horrible, kid. Claws and teeth and horns. The very face of death itself. That’s all. The ‘Sight’ ain’t always clear. But believe me when I tell you it ain’t a Raider.”

From behind me, Garvey said, “Take it easy, Mama. You’ve brought us this far.”

I said, “Okay, let me get up to the roof and see what I can find. You folks be ready when I get back, okay?” I realized I was repeating myself a little, but this old lady scared me. “Dog, you stay here and guard these folks, okay?”

He whimpered a little, but sat down besides Jun Long. If I was going to run into something that was the very face of death, I didn’t want the pup to get hurt.

I walked down the hall and found a doorway leading to the roof. Once up on the roof, I saw a sleeping bag with the skeleton of a soldier on it. A toolbox and a holotape sat on a storage bench. The power armor was right where Sturges said it would be. A full set of T-45, although it wasn’t in perfect shape. One of the arms and one of the legs were dinged up and would need repair to make it back to full protection. But even with it damaged, it was still better protection than my combat armor, and the power armor frame made it a lot easier to carry more.

At least around here, the big drawback to power armor that I’d seen before shouldn’t apply. The soldiers wearing them in Alaska had been targeted by swarms of Chinese with handheld missile launchers, and getting hit on the fusion core was invariably fatal to the wearer, and to anyone nearby who wasn’t already in power armor.

I put the fully charged fusion core into the back of the power armor. It wouldn’t quite go in. That jogged my memory, and I hit it with my fist, pounding it in. I then twisted the large wheel on the back, which opened the armor for me. I clipped my rifle to the holder on the back so I could still use it while wearing the armor. Then, climbing in, I felt some of the claustrophobia I remembered the boys in Alaska had told me about. But it wasn’t too bad, certainly not like the feeling of being trapped that I had when Nate fell asleep while laying on top of me after sex.

The heads-up display powered up, and then the internal power armor frame adjusted to my body armor, which was nice. That way I didn’t have to strip nearly naked to wear and use it, like the first systems had. I took a couple of experimental steps, making sure the armor would still work after all this time without any maintenance, especially since it had been exposed to the elements with the part of the roof missing from the museum. It complained a little, but still moved once I started moving within it.

Just beyond the power armor, the remains of the vertibird were nestled on the roof. The rear blades had broken off, with most of both side rotors also missing. But what was in one piece and easily visible in the open doorway was the mini-gun that Sturges had mentioned. It was on a pedestal sticking up from the floor of the vertibird. The locking pins were completely rusted solid, so the mini-gun couldn’t move at all. That’s probably why it was still here after all this time.

I took hold of the handles on the mini-gun and pulled hard. The strength amplification of the power armor surprised me. The locking pins sheared off, allowing me to have free control of the gun. I had watched soldiers in Alaska using power armor, but had never worn it myself. I was shocked by how easy it made it to carry such a heavy weapon. The computer system inside the armor automatically linked with the mini-gun, showing me the status of the gun on a heads-up display. The HUD showed a full ammo can, and the electrical firing system was ready to go.

The amplified audio system picked up voices from the rooftop opposite me. “There she is, get her!” Shots started pinging around me, with a couple hitting the armor.

“Naughty, naughty, boys!” I used the sighting ring on the mini-gun to aim as best I could and pulled the trigger. I had hoped it would still work, and the military didn’t let me down. The barrels started spinning, and after a moment, started spitting death across the rooftops. I fired a short burst. That was all it took. Their bodies flew backwards, blood spurting where the rounds hit them.

More bullets started hitting the edge of the roof from below, where more Raiders were coming up the street. “Get the bitch, she’s on the roof!”

Their aim was lousy. I’m also not sure what caliber rounds they were firing, but I noted that their bullets weren’t even penetrating the wood coping along the edge of the roof. About that time, I heard a clang, as one of them hit my helmet armor. I sprinted forward, at least as fast as you can in power armor, and jumped off the roof of the building.

I don’t know if they knew what was happening, if they’d ever seen power armor in use before. I had, so I knew what it was capable of doing. Which turned out to be very, very bad for one of them, when I landed right on him. My feet were just far enough apart that I hit both of his shoulders at the same time, literally ripping his arms from his body. It wasn’t quite an earthquake, but the rest of his group were close enough that the force of my landing knocked them off their feet as well.

Which meant they were easy targets for a spinning burst with my mini-gun. The bullets tore through their bodies, their blood spurting all over the street. One of them tried to crawl away, but a final quick burst took care of him. The street was quiet then, with my HUD showed I still had more than 400 rounds of ammo left.

“Well, that was almost too easy. I better...”

My comments to myself were cut short by a huge roar and then a loud bang coming from the far end of the street. “What the fuck... ?” A large metal plate that had covered a hole in the road went flying through the air. A roar came from the hole, then from below ground, a nightmare jumped into view.

Back before the war, some scientists had a great idea to take a relatively small Jackson’s chameleon and through mutation and experimentation, turn it into something that would be able to assist our troops in combat. I’d actually witnessed one of these creatures in combat in Anchorage. They earned their name, Deathclaws, by being able to use their incredibly long and sharp claws to render an enemy. Or sometimes a friend. The trainer of the one in Alaska had said her Deathclaw had killed a couple of our soldiers in a training accident. It would figure that if anything could survive a nuclear holocaust, it would be some of these bastards.

Ten feet tall, about four hundred pounds of muscle, curved horns that flanked a head with a mouth full of teeth, a thick and resilient skin, long spikes on the feet and two very long arms with claws that could probably cut through power armor. Okay, fine, not something you want to meet in a dark alley ... or on a lit street. The beast tried to look around, but one thing it didn’t have was keen eyesight. Great hearing and a great sense of smell, yes. And it was turning towards me.

I think the fresh blood still in the air from the dead Raiders confused the Deathclaw. It spread its arms and roared a challenge to the sky. That was the worst thing it could have done, because I also remembered the one weak spot on a Deathclaw. The exposed belly I now saw before me. I pulled the trigger on the mini-gun and it started spinning up. Time seemed to go into slow motion as I focused on the exposed and unprotected stomach area of the Deathclaw.

The monster started to lower itself to the ground, but by that time my mini-gun started spitting lead. I held the trigger down for two very long seconds. The strength of the power armor allowed me to lean into the muzzle climb and to hold the rounds on target. Once fired, each of the nearly two hundred rounds needed only a tenth of a second to cover the hundred yards separating us. Probably only a third of them actually hit the Deathclaw, but those that did must have hit something vital. The damned thing was so tough that even with its guts ripped out, it still started to charge me and actually made it a few steps.

From behind and above me, I heard a voice from the balcony. “Holy shit! You ... hang on, we’ll meet you in the lobby.” Preston went back inside.

I checked the mini-gun over quickly. It didn’t seem to be worse for the wear from not having fired a round in a couple of hundred years. The power suit had hard points already on it for ease in carrying the thing, so I clipped it to those and headed back in.

The floor in the lobby creaked and complained from the weight of the power armor, but didn’t cave in. I suspected that if I jumped down in here like I had outside that it would give way, and maybe bring the whole building down with it. After a couple of minutes, the survivors came into the lobby. Dog came up to me, sniffed to make sure that it was me in the armor, then rubbed his head along my gloved hand. That made me smile.

Preston helped Mama Murphy sit down along the side of the room. “Take it easy, Mama. You okay?”

She glared up at him. “I’m fine, Preston. Quit fussing over me. I was right, wasn’t I? That weren’t no Raider out there.”

“That’s for damned sure. But it’s dead, and I’m not. So, what are you going to do now?”

Marcy Long spoke up. “Mama had one of her visions. About some place, Sanctuary. Another one of those damned visions.” She sounded bitter.

“Sanctuary Hills is just up the road from here. That’s ... that’s where I used to live. And I’ve done a little to fix up a base of operations for myself there. I can escort you back up there, but...”

Mama Murphy stood up, saying, “That’s wonderful you coming with us, but there’s more to your destiny. I’ve ‘seen’ it. And I feel your pain. I don’t need the ‘Sight’ to tell me where you need to start looking. The great, green jewel of the Commonwealth. Diamond City. Biggest settlement around.”

“So there really are people living in Fenway Park?”

Garvey said, “That area of the Commonwealth is called the Fens, but I don’t know anything about a park. Was that the old-time name of that area?”

I smiled, although they probably couldn’t tell with my helmet still on. “Fenway Park was where the Red Sox played their home games. Of baseball, in case no one plays that anymore, which is entirely possible. Anyway, what did you mean by that, Mama?”

Preston interrupted her. “Mama, don’t strain yourself.”

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