Love Never Changes
Chapter 7

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

The cave was like the one under the Red Rocket. Once we passed the entrance and the first 10 feet or so, our Geiger counters quit clicking. “Thank God,” Piper said, pulling her helmet off. I almost couldn’t see anything.” She looked ahead of me, when I stopped. “Oh, shit. Now I wish I couldn’t see.”

There were lights that had suddenly come on, illuminating two machine gun turrets that were tracking us.

“I suggest that no one make any threatening moves. They haven’t opened fire yet, so they may not think we’re enemies.” I continued on. Other than tracking us, they didn’t open fire. I brushed by some cans hanging on a string as a tripwire and went around a corner. I wasn’t expecting to see what I did, standing before me.

The cave opened up into a rudimentary hideout of sorts, with mechanical and computer equipment scattered about. A Protectron robot was standing to one side, watching us. Next to that was a super mutant ... wearing glasses. They didn’t fit him very well, he had string tied around them to help hold them up.

He also had a deep, gravelly, voice. “Hold it! Take it nice and slow. No sudden moves. I know you’re from the Institute. So, where’s Kellogg? Huh? Trying to sneak up on me while you try to distract me? It’s not going to work.”

“Hang on, big guy.” I took my helmet off so he could see my face. “Are you Virgil?”

He sounded suspicious. “You know damn well I am. What are you doing here?”

“Actually, I need your help. As for Kellogg, he’s dead.”

That rocked him back. “Dead? He’s ... dead?” He sounded angry. “Don’t you lie to me!”

I shook my head. “I killed him myself. And then I found out you’d escaped from the Institute, and he’d been sent to kill you.”

“Kellogg was ruthless. There’s a reason the Institute used him for their dirty work for so many years. If you’re telling the truth, you understand my skepticism. But ... if that’s so, then what do you want of me?”

“Simple. I figure someone who knew how to escape from the Institute must know how to get back into it. And that’s what I need to do, get into the Institute.”

He sounded puzzled. “I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but why would you want to do that in the first place?”

“That murdering bastard Kellogg kidnapped my son and took him to the Institute. So, I’m going in to get him back.” My voice sounded angry even to me.

It must have seemed so even to Virgil. He held up his hands in a placating manner. “I get it, okay.” He seemed sorry now. “I know the Institute has taken people in the past. If your son is one of them, I can understand why you’d want to get in.” He hesitated. “I think I can help you get in, but I’d like something in return.”

“That would be reasonable. You help me, I’ll help you.”

He seemed surprised that I agreed so quickly. “All right. This is going to take a few minutes, if you want to get comfortable and get out of those suits, go ahead.” We did so, following him over to a table. “Let’s talk details. You know how synths get in and out of the Institute?”

“Teleportation of some kind.”

“Yes, that’s right. Not many people know about that. So, you’re going to have find an Institute Courser and kill him.”

I frowned. “A Courser? What’s that?”

Deacon spoke up for the first time. “Specialized Institute synth. A killing machine.”

Virgil affirmed that. “Your friend is right. They’re hunters. Operations go wrong, a synth goes missing, then send in a Courser. They’re specialized for that. Designed to be stronger, faster, and more capable than any normal human.”

I was puzzled. “So, why do I have to kill one?”

“They have a special chip in their head. The teleportation device, it’s commonly called the Molecular Relay. The primary insertion point for Coursers is the ruins of CIT, directly above the Institute. You’ll want to head there. Now the Relay causes some pretty heavy interference all across the EM spectrum. When you get to the ruins, use the radio on that Pip-Boy of yours to tune to the lowest frequency and listen in. That signal will lead you to a Courser. Then you just have to ... not get killed.”

I was puzzled. “Sorry, you didn’t explain why that Courser chip is needed.”

“Oh, you’re right. The reason they insert at CIT is due to energy, it doesn’t use that much for them there. But when the mission is done, they use the chip to return to the Institute from, well, practically anywhere in the Commonwealth. So, it basically acts like both a homing device and contact for the relay, it’s a direct connection. Like I said, it’s embedded in a chip in their heads. You need that chip.”

“So, we find the chip, then what?”

“If you can get it, then get it decoded, you’ll come back here. That’ll give me time to come up with the schematics for the Molecular Relay. Then you build it and get into the Institute for you own reason. But I want your word that when you get in there, you’ll get something for me.”

“That would be an appropriate payback for your help. What is it?”

“In the lab where I worked, where I ... created the virus to do this to myself. I didn’t count on how it would make me feel initially, and ... I left something behind. The cure for this. I knew making myself into a Super-Mutant was the only way I could survive here, the only way I could escape the Institute. I prefer to not stay this way.”

“Actually, that’s not unreasonable. Presuming, of course, I survive getting in and can get back out again.” I looked at my companions. “Before we head back out into this lovely nuclear wasteland that’s now your home, could we impose upon your hospitality for the night? I think those of us who are human could use a dose of Radaway, food, and rest. It was getting dark outside when we found this place, and while we found one spot to take a slight break on the way in to find you, I’m not sure we can find it on the way back out.”

He seemed startled at my request. “Oh, sure. You’ll forgive me, it’s not that I don’t have manners, it’s just ... I don’t have company at all. Um, there’s a bucket over in that corner I’ve been using as a waste bucket, if you need to use it. I don’t have a lot of food you can eat, though. When I was first coming into the Glowing Sea, I found a spot that was free of radiation. There were some feral ghouls there that didn’t bother me. I’ll mark the spot on your map for you.”

“Thank you. We’ve food of our own. But any corner to sleep would be great.”

We spent some time cleaning the visors of the hazmat suits, taking another dose of Radaway, antibiotics, and getting ready for tomorrow. Virgil had a fire under a large pot of some kind of stew that looked completely inedible to us. It was actually chilly in the cave, so Deacon took a spot near the fire. Piper and I snuggled up together further away as our Vault suits kept us warm. I fell asleep listening to Curie and Virgil discussing recombinant gene splicing.

A metallic hand shaking my shoulder woke me up. Once he saw I was awake, Nick moved to Piper. “It should be morning outside, I thought you might like a cup of coffee before we hit the road.” From somewhere or other, he’d found ground coffee and boiled water using a pan so we could have something to drink.

Plotting a straight course from where Virgil was hiding to the safe spot would have us entering the Commonwealth somewhere along the Charles south of where we’d crossed. But once we found it, we’d know how to get back here without too much difficulty, other than wildlife, of course.

That wildlife ended up destroying our remaining Protectron just after we’d stopped at the safe spot. The safe spot ended up being the parking garage under a Super Duper Mart that had mostly collapsed. We killed the feral ghouls inside, rested for a bit while we ate and took our doses of Radaway, and had just stepped back out when we were attacked by three Radscorpions.

Deacon, Piper, and Curie managed to kill one of them by circling round it, hitting it from different angles and confusing it. I used most of the ammo I had left for the mini-gun in killing another one. The third one attacked and grabbed the Protectron with its claws. It tried to cut the legs off it, but couldn’t do so. While that was happening, the robot shot the Radscorpion in the face with its laser, blinding it. That let Nick sneak up on it and hit it with a grenade. Unfortunately, that was enough to kill both the robot and the scorpion.

“Damn, sorry about that. I was beginning to like that tin can.”

“Let’s just get the hell out of here. We’re doing good on anti-radiation chems, but we’re running low on firepower. This has used up even more than I figured, especially of the heavy stuff,” I said.

“We’ll know better when we come back. I’ll make sure and get all the ammo we have at HQ to help. I know we still have to chase a Courser down and kill it, but what we’ve learned on this trip is so much more than we’ve ever known about the Institute that I’ve no doubt Dez will agree with me.”

“Deacon’s right, Tina. Considering what we’ve known in the past versus what we now know, we’ve made tremendous strides just in the few days you’ve been here.”

“Thanks, Piper, Deacon. I appreciate you both volunteering to come back here with me after I find that Courser.” I paused, looking ahead. “Hey, I think we’re approaching the edge. I’m seeing standing trees ahead.”

We didn’t run into any other beasts as we left the Glowing Sea. We went over a ridge into a valley, seeing a run-down house ahead. There appeared to be some crops growing on the west side of the building. I wondered who would want to live out here.

There were two children working in the garden. One of them noticed us, then ran inside. A few moments later, a thin looking man came onto the porch, carrying a simple rifle. “That’s far enough, folks,” he yelled. “We’re not looking for trouble, but we’ll defend what we have.”

“Good for you.” I took my helmet off now that we were out of the radiation and clipped it to my armor. “We’re not planning on causing any. We just need a spot to rest for the night before heading on to Diamond City. And we can pay.”

He put the rifle down. “Oh, well ... that does make a difference. I was afraid you were raiders wearing some weird uniforms of some kind.”

Piper and Deacon took their helmets off as well. I continued, “Nope, we’re just wearing what’s in fashion right now for exploration of a radioactive wasteland.” We got closer to him. “I’m Tina Wilson, this is Piper Wright, that’s Deacon, Curie, and Nick Valentine.”

The man said, “I’m Larry Somerville; these are my kids, James and Alicia.” He got a closer look at Nick, and brought his rifle up again. “Is that a synth?”

“Oh, Nick? Sort of, but he’s a detective now. Runs a detective agency out of Diamond City, mostly looking for lost people,” Piper said.

Somerville looked at her with mistrust on his face. Deacon casually said, “Say, friend, do you happen to have a Geiger counter?”

Somerville turned his head to look at Deacon in shock. “No, mine is in the shop.”

Deacon smiled. “I saw the rail sign on your wall. We’re from HQ, on a mission.”

“Oh, I guess that’s okay, then.” Larry lowered his rifle completely. “Look, we don’t have much, the trading convoys don’t come this way very often.”

“Don’t worry about that. Since we know where we are in relation to the Charles, we’ll leave you our excess supplies, to help you out.” I looked at the little girl. “Larry, it looks like Alicia there has an infection or something, from that scratch on her face. If you don’t mind, Curie is our medic; she can treat your children and you for anything while we’re resting.”

He looked and sounded grateful. “I thank you. It’s difficult out here, but we make do, if the Raiders leave us alone. Proper medical care is something, though, that’s hard to come by. Please, go ahead.”

We used their pump to get fresh water to wash our gear off from any lingering dust while Curie looked at and treated all of the residents. I walked around, looking at things and noticed something on the east side of the house. “Mr. Somerville, Larry, do you know what this is?”

“Sure, it’s one of the old workstations. Hasn’t worked since we’ve lived here. Too heavy to move, though.”

I took the plug from my Pip-Boy and plugged it into the access port. The internal fusion generator had simply been on standby and powered right up. “Nick, feel like doing a little destructive construction?”

He was puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“I’m sure you’re a bit stronger than the rest of us. Go pull some of the fenders and parts off that old car and feed them into this hopper. Deacon, Piper, can you gather some of the branches and chunks of dead trees?”

Somerville was shaken. “You ... you mean you can make this work?”

“Piece of cake. I have to have certain raw materials to make certain things, but I ought to be able to make some panels so you can make your house waterproof. That’s mostly wood and steel needed for that.”

He was stunned. “I don’t know how I can repay you for that.”

“It’s the same thing I did for some people in another place, helping out a Minuteman.”

“The Minutemen are back? That’s great, we’ve needed them. Tell you what, you’re helping us, we’ll help you by joining the Minutemen. Between them and the Railroad, we ought to have the Commonwealth back in shape in no time.”

I blinked. “That wasn’t quite what I said. But ... oh, hell, sure, you can join them. I’ll tell Preston.” I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d tell him, but I’d let Preston know.

“Is there a reason we’re not crossing the Charles and heading straight to Diamond City? Or the ruins of CIT?”

“Of course there is, Deacon. Meeting the Somerville family and helping them reminded me that I have other friends relying on me as well. So, we’re going to go to Fort Hagen, load up about everything that we can carry that’s scrap material there, and haul it up to Sanctuary. I want to see how Dog is doing and if he’s healing fine.”

Piper moved closer to me. “Is that the only reason?”, she asked in a low voice.

“Not even close. You’re getting to know me pretty well. With what I’ve seen of what’s out here, I want to see if they’re surviving. And ... well, what Larry Somerville said. About the Minutemen. I think a militia of some kind would be a good idea. Preston knew all about it, I want to pick his brain.”

Nick stepped closer while we walked. “I couldn’t help but overhear. I’m guessing that this is only a delay in the hunt for your son.”

“A useful one. I got to thinking. Virgil said he’d come up with a schematic to build. I’m guessing that Sturges ... he’s a bit of mechanical wizard ... can help build it, whatever the hell it is. But if this is going to be something to help make teleportation possible, it’s for damned sure going to take more than just wood and steel to build. I’m guessing he’s going to need some high-tech items. We have a fort just full of that stuff.”

Nick smiled. “You’re devious, aren’t you? I like that. And it’s the perfect time, clean it out before someone else takes up residence there.”

“Um, boss, do you think it’s possible I could talk to Dez about that? I bet that we could use the facility ourselves. Certainly, pull all the stuff out we can, but I’m just thinking that this would give us a good, safe haven on this side of the Commonwealth.”

“Boss?” The expression on my face must have shown what I was thinking to Deacon.

“Yeah. Boss. I’ve got a really good feeling about you, and this. Don’t get me wrong. Dez is truly dedicated to what she does, what we do. But I have a feeling that I’m going to be with you for a long time, helping you out as much as I can. And ... it’s going to be that kind of relationship, where I’m helping you.”

Piper frowned. “You haven’t known Tina that long. Hell, I haven’t known Tina that long. How can you say that?”

He chuckled. “Don’t give me that shit, Piper. You can’t tell me you don’t feel it, same as I do. She’s a natural leader.”

Piper blushed. “Okay. Fine. Now, how much stuff do you think we can carry?”

We found out after spending the afternoon picking through the remnants of Fort Hagen. Curie looked almost like a porcupine, with all the extra things that were strapped to her. For that matter, so did my power armor. I told Deacon that if the Railroad wanted the building as a base that they could use it. I left my mini-gun and extra ammo for it and had him leave the rocket launcher and ammo in a securely locked room, one that I used my RobCo passwords to securely lock.

We spent the night inside, all of our gear ready to go, heading out just before first light. Our path north led us just west of ArcJet Systems, then up by Walden Pond. I wondered what Henry David Thoreau would think of his place now.

By cutting cross country, the only things we encountered were some animals. Some bugs, a couple of mutated cows with two heads, and then even more bugs. The cows left us alone. The bugs didn’t, which meant they wouldn’t bother us again. Just because we were loaded down almost like pack mules didn’t mean we hadn’t kept weapons ready.

As we were coming up a rise, I could see the water tower south of Sanctuary visible in the distance. Several high-voltage steel towers were still standing, with a few wires still dangling from them. Seeing those standing made me wonder what had happened to the rest. We were crossing a field when I noticed that the tower ahead of us had a shack built under it.

Getting closer, I could see three people working in garden plot. A two headed cow was in a wire pen off to one side. They were using an old bathtub as a feed trough for it. A young woman saw us first. “Dad, there’s people coming this way.”

Her father stood up from where he had been pulling weeds. He picked up the hoe that was on the ground next to where he had been working. While he wasn’t trying to look threatening, it was pretty apparent that he was ready to use it as a club if need be. A woman that appeared to be his wife had been working at the other end of the garden. She stood up to watch. A revolver hung on her hip, as a warning.

“That’s close enough, strangers. Name’s Blake Abernathy. What do you want?”

“Just passing through. I didn’t know there was a house here, or I might have stopped in earlier. You folks got anything to trade or you need anything?”

Blake’s tone went from suspicious to friendly. “You know, you’re the second folk I’ve seen recently in Vault suits. Must be something about them that make people friendly. Woman came through here a short while back, real nice to talk to, while Trashcan Carla was trading with my wife.”

“So, this farm been here a while?”, I asked.

“Generations, at least. My father and his father before him. Let me tell you, farming’s not easy work. Have to work the land every day to get enough to eat, then Raiders come along. Why do all the hard work when you can take whatever you want at gunpoint? Probably something you don’t have to worry about too much with that power armor, though.”

“Raiders are definitely bastards, for sure.”

“Tell me about it. We can’t stand up to them. Last time they were through, my daughter Mary tried to stand up to them. Now she’s buried out back, at twenty-one years old.”

“I know what it’s like, to lose a child. I’m sorry.”

“If that’s so, then I’m sorry for your loss. As for Raiders, no one seems to stand up to them, not since the Minutemen quit helping.”

“They were nearly wiped out, trying to protect the Commonwealth. We’re on our way to see the last one now. He’s still trying to help people.”

Blake looked thoughtful. “Too bad he wasn’t here when the Raiders hit, maybe he could have saved Mary. Look, you say you know where one is? Well, when the Raiders killed Mary, they took something she had. A silver locket that had belonged to my wife and her mother before her, that’s what got Mary killed. If ... well, if you could get that back from them, it’d go a long way to making Connie feel better, because she could hand it down to Lucy then.”

I closed my eyes for a moment. It seemed like everything and everyone in the Boston area had problems, needed help. What about me? I sighed as some words my Father had told me one time when he was leaving for his shift. “Tina, I know you’re worried about me. I know, to you, it seems like I’m doing the same thing, time and time again. Well, to a certain extent, I am. Because someone has to do it. Otherwise, the bad guys win. All it takes is for good people to do nothing. And we’re good people.”

I opened my eyes. “I’ll talk to Preston. If you know where these Raiders hang out, once we unload our gear and get ready, we’ll go find that locket for you. It may take me a while to get it back to you, though, so don’t look for it tomorrow, okay?”

His wife came up behind him, taking Blake in her arms. I could see tears in her eyes. “If you can do that for us ... for me ... I’d greatly appreciate it.” She showed me on my map where the Raiders were hanging out. Apparently, they’d taken over one of the old Air Force satellite monitoring stations northeast of Concord. That was too close to Sanctuary for comfort.

“Okay, folks. We’ll be back as soon as we can.” Once we left their place, it didn’t take that long to get back to Sanctuary.

Preston was walking perimeter guard and saw us crossing the bridge. He came running up. “Hey, great, you’re back! Although I don’t think I know how you’re even able to walk. What’d you do, have a junkyard fall on you?”

“Something like that. It looks like you’ve been busy since I was gone.” And it did. Two of the more damaged building sites had been cleared off, there were a couple of guard towers in sight that I could see, and even more automated turrets.

“Yes, it’s been great. Tina had her own Pip-Boy, and between her and Sturges, they’ve come up with a bunch more things to improve the community. With us having a real settlement here, the traders out of Bunker Hill have added us to their trade route. I think we have a real chance to have a good home here, thanks to you.”

His enthusiasm for what had happened to the neighborhood made Deacon chuckle. “What was it I said about you earlier, boss?”

“Yeah, fine, rub it in. Come on, we still need to unload all this stuff.”

Dog was the first one to notice us as we came walking up the street. He barked with joy and ran towards us. He had a very slight limp, but it didn’t seem to be bothering him. Behind him, Codsworth wasn’t far behind. “Oh, mum, it’s so good to see you back.”

“Let’s get this stuff unloaded and we can have a bit of reunion. It hasn’t been that long that we’ve been gone.”

Preston said, “While that’s true, from the hazards that are out there, you’ll never know if you’re going to see someone again if they leave to go somewhere.”

Tina DeLuca and Sturges came up. “Hey, it’s great to see you again. Thanks for letting me come here. This is so much better than the Vault. And Sturges here says I’ve been really useful.” She sounded much happier than when in Vault 81.

“That’s right. You took off and I couldn’t get the workstation to keep producing things we needed. I thought I could, which is why I didn’t say anything. Then this young lady shows up and just like you, she’s in a Vault suit and she has a way to send commands to the workstation.”

“Good. I have a feeling I’m going to need to make some specialized things in the near future. So, I would appreciate it if you didn’t use all of this stuff that we’ve brought in. Let me get out of this armor and stretch. Codsworth, I presume you told everyone here who I was traveling with now.”

“Of course, mum. I gather that you were able to finish finding Mister Kellogg. Is this young Shaun, all grown up?”

“Oh, that’s right. No, sorry. Shaun is being held in the Institute. That’s why we’ll need these things, to make a teleportation device to get in. This is Deacon. He’s a friend.” I sighed. “And speaking of friends ... I may as well tell you, Preston. We’ve run into a couple of small farms. I helped the people at one of them, I plan on helping the other. The people there want the Minutemen back and seem to be willing to help if you can get them back up and running.”

Preston frowned. “I can defend any place against near hopeless odds. But I’m not a leader. Bringing the Minutemen back ... well, we haven’t had a leader since General Becker. Doing that’s not my style. But...” He looked thoughtful. “General, what are your orders?”

I was shocked. “General? Me?”

“Hey, one good thing about being the last Minuteman. No one is going to argue with me about promoting you. Seriously, I think you’re just what we need. You’re not a part of the old group, with all the problems they had. You’ve obviously got combat skills and what you told us before, of your pre-war battles, you’re not afraid to take charge when things go to hell in a hand basket. And you’re obviously not afraid to die if need be to accomplish your mission, not if what you said was true.”

I finished taking my power armor off and put it into the work cradle. I checked the core. It was down to 30%. I got some of the tools out and started fixing the damage that the armor had taken while we had been in the Glowing Sea. I did some slight improvements to it, adding a brighter light, making the armor a little tougher, increased the leg springs and shocks, so it could carry a little more. That took me almost three hours.

Preston had started to interrupt me when I started on my armor. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Piper take his arm and pull him back. He looked at her and she shook her head. The rest of my companions unloaded all of their gear, then Deacon went with Preston, Tina, and Sturges over to where some chairs were sitting around a fire and got something to eat. In the case of Nick and Curie, they joined everyone, but simply talked about what they’d seen while we were traveling, so the others could eat. Piper sat down on the floor near where I was working and watched me.

It was getting dark when I quit working on the armor. The sudden silence of my tools brought Piper instantly to her feet. I stepped around the armor and found myself with Piper’s arms wrapped around me, her face turned upwards and her eyes looking into mine. I could see deeply into them as she looked into my soul.

I sighed and nodded slightly. One of her hands went behind my head and she pulled my face down to hers, her lips pressed against mine. I could feel myself starting to respond physically when both of our stomachs reminded us that we hadn’t eaten. She pulled back with a slightly embarrassed laugh. “Oops. Never did get any supper.”

“Why? Was something distracting you or keeping you from eating?”, I asked with a teasing tone in my voice.

“Oh, you’re just terrible, you know?”

“You’ll find out just how terrible I am later tonight, young lady. Let’s go see if they threw all the leftovers out.” She took my hand as we walked to the fire.

“About time you got out of whatever funk you were in. I was getting tired of telling about my different missing person cases,” Nick said. The smile on his face belied his tone.

“Of course you were, Nick. I don’t even think Ellie would believe that, though. I’m sort of hoping there’s still some stew or something to eat. For some reason I missed supper.”

Deacon said, “Yeah, they were going to dump it out, but I convinced them to keep a few scraps for both of you.”

Mama Murphy shot him a look. “This one’s got a flowered tongue, but his mind’s all twisted up from his past. He’ll follow you, though, unless you do something evil. The future gets cloudy about that, there’s temptation for you, I can’t see which way you choose.” She sat back. “Oh, and your food is being kept warm on the grill.”

Deacon looked uncomfortable. “Um, I really don’t talk much about that.”

She smiled back at him. “I wouldn’t, either, if I was as ashamed of myself as you are. But you’re trying to do right now, treating her folk like you do. She’d forgive you.”

Deacon got up and walked away from the fire. From behind, I could see his shoulders heaving like he was crying. Mama Murphy shook her head at me. “That boy has got a lot of hurt built up inside. He needs to let some of it out, and he’s doing that now. He’ll be back when he evens up.”

“Okay, fine.” From my tone, she could tell it wasn’t okay. “Anyway, thanks for holding some food for us. I’ve a few things to talk about, especially with Preston. I was going to talk to him about starting up the militia again, there’s obviously a need for it here. There’s a farm way down south, near the Glowing Sea, that’s already agreed to help, even if it’s just with supplies and a place to stay when on patrol. There’s another farm just beyond the Red Rocket. They’ve asked for my help, and I plan to help them.”

I looked at Preston. “So yeah, I’ll take the rank. One of the things I was thinking of is that this area as it is, is just no place to raise a child. Not when Raiders come in and kill people for no good reason other than they want something they didn’t earn. Not when it’s not safe to simply walk from one farm to the next without armed guards. I don’t know if I’ll succeed or not, but I’m damned sure going to try to make a difference.”

“Good. Good. Thank you. So, General, as I said, what are your orders?”

“Until we’re ready to head back into the Glowing Sea, I’m going to leave my power armor here. I’m going to fit Deacon with a Vault suit as well. There should be some regular combat gear, armor and such, I’ll spend tomorrow getting it ready for Deacon and Piper. Dog, you’re going to stay here until you’re fully healed. Sorry, boy, you’ve still got a limp. Codsworth, you and Curie will come with me on this run.”

I looked at the rest of the people, watching me. “Sturges, you and Tina finish clearing the area of anything you can bring in, that the workstation can break down into usable components. I suspect we’re going to need a serious power supply for what I’m going to have to build. Preston, it’s only a short walk down to the Abernathy’s. I want you to go down there and talk to them, see what they need to make their place defensible. I...”

“Damn, I saw it and it didn’t register with me. I don’t want you to be gone more than an afternoon, but take Tina with you at least one trip down there. They have a workstation as well. See if you can get that up and running, like this one, using your Pip-Boy. That would help them with defenses and show them that the Minutemen are here to help. The rest of you, plant more crops. Lots more. I plan on expanding this place. You get a dozen or so people living here, I bet Raiders would simply bypass it. Sanctuary will be our northern outpost for the whole of Boston.”

“Damn,” Preston breathed. “You don’t plan small, do you?”

“Oh, this is just phase one. I’ll tell you about phase two once we get some more outposts and farms on our side.”

Sturges sounded impressed. “I remember what you told us, about your battle before the war. I bet you almost didn’t need that rescuing you talked about, you already all those enemy troops right where you wanted them.”

“You have no idea, Sturges. Keep in mind that whatever you plan, the enemy can fuck things up. That’s why he’s the enemy, after all. Look, people, this isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to pull it off.”

“I believe in you, General. We’ll get started in the morning.” Preston paused, sounding almost embarrassed. “Um, Codsworth told me which was your old house. When we were cleaning things out of all the houses, we left some of the things in there alone. The crib for your son, his toys. But we did make you a new bed, and put some furniture in the living room if you’d like someplace to sit. Couldn’t do much about the plumbing, but there’s some buckets of water there for you to clean up with.”

“Thank you, Preston.” I finished eating. “Well, we know what we’re doing tomorrow. Codsworth, you have guard duty tonight. Curie, you and Nick take some down time and recharge yourselves and do whatever maintenance you need. I have a feeling we’re not going to have much time for that in the next couple of weeks. Everyone else, get some sleep.” I stood up and started walking towards my old house.

Preston stood up like he was going to follow me. Piper jumped up and caught up with me before I’d taken three steps. I heard Deacon’s voice; he must’ve returned to the fire. “You’ll want to leave the Boss alone, Garvey. If you haven’t seen her shoot, trust me on this. You do not want to piss her off. I could almost pity any Raiders we come across. Almost.”

Piper and I approached the door to my house. In a low voice, I asked, “You sure about this, Piper? This isn’t going to be just me, you know.”

I could hear both the lust and the affection in her voice. “Tina, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.”

I found out three things that night. I knew Piper had a rather large set of breasts, but not how sensitive her nipples were; sensitive to the point that when I sucked on them and nibbled on them when erect, she could have an orgasm simply from that. Second was that while she knew about sex, she hadn’t ever really made love to anyone. Such that when my finger curled up inside her and found her special spot while my tongue was licking her clit, her legs nearly squeezed my head off. Which was a good thing for my hearing, because the third thing I found was she screamed loud enough that I think she woke up everyone in Sanctuary, and maybe half the Commonwealth.

I guess the fourth thing was that she did not snore after multiple orgasms. Or at least I presume so. I was so exhausted after her returning the favor on me that I slept without even dreaming.

I woke in the morning to a voice from the door. “Pardon, mum, but I have breakfast ready for both of you.”

I started briefly. That was how Codsworth used to wake me up before the war. I looked at who was sharing the bed with me. Piper was still sleeping, a little bit of drool coming from one side of her mouth, a sheet partially covering her legs and not much else. The blanket that had been on the bed was now in a heap on the floor. While the broken windows had been covered to keep rain out, they were by no means airtight. Which was a good thing. We’d pretty much soaked the sheets, and you could tell from the smell what had been going on in here. I picked up a robe that was draped over a chair and slipped it on.

I blinked. What the hell? I hadn’t even noticed last night, Piper and I were just too excited to take things to the next level. There were actually sheets on the bed, as well as decent pillows. And where did this robe come from?

“Codsworth, um...”

“Ah, mum. Good to see you this morning. And wearing the new robe that Miss DeLuca made for you. She noticed that there were some personal items not programmed into the workstation that she thought might be needed. Between her and Mister Sturges, they figured out how to get some personal items made.”

“Okay, thanks. I’ll get Piper up and we’ll be out in a minute. I hate to ask, but did you find our clothes out there?”

“Ah, yes. I took the liberty of washing your undergarments and your Vault suits. They are dried and folded, waiting in your bathroom.”

“Thank you, Codsworth. We’ll be out in a minute. And, weren’t you on guard duty?”

“Of course, mum. But that was last night. Everyone else has been up since just before dawn. And ... if I may ... it feels good to be of service in this way to you.” He sounded happy to be helping like this again, which made sense. That’s what his original programming had been designed for him to be.

I looked back at the bed. Piper’s eyes were open now. “Hey, you. Do we have to get going so early?” She smiled at me.

I sat back down next to her, then leaned forward and gave her a kiss. “Sorry, love, but we’ve got too much to do to lounge around in bed all day. Even if it would be fun. Don’t worry, this won’t be the last time, not by a long shot.”

She looked in my eyes, a bit of worry on her face. “Tina, I ... I don’t want to say this, but I think I have to. I’m falling in love with you. And ... I’m scared.”

I sat up a little, brushing her hair with my fingers. “Being concerned is normal, Piper. But we have to go where our hearts tell us to go.”

“I know, it’s just ... this is so sudden, so fast. I don’t want to mess up a good thing by saying or doing something wrong. I started following you because you were going to be a good story. A reporter is supposed to stay detached, be an observer, even if they end up involved a little in what’s going on. Not ... laying in a wet spot like this.”

I laughed. “Is there another way you’d like to be laying in a wet spot?”

She sounded confused. “No, no, not ... Oh, dammit.”

“Don’t worry about messing things up, Piper. I love you, too. We’ll figure it out and make things work.” My hands slid down and I started tickling her ribs. “Now, get up and get a robe on, Codsworth has breakfast waiting for us.”

Two hours later, washed and bathed as best as possible and dressed in clean clothes, we exited my house. Codsworth was busy inside the kitchen, cleaning up the dishes and humming a happy tune to himself. Dog came running up to greet me at the door with a happy little bark. I scratched him on the head and behind the ears.

Nick was talking to Curie while she was working at the chemistry lab. He stopped when he saw us come out. Curie spun around, and started towards us. Nick hollered, “Curie, do NOT discuss what you just asked me.”

“But monsieur Nick, I am not biological. I have studied the physical, but I have no way to appreciate the emotional. It would be for my research, after all.”

I heard her statement. “Yeah, that’s still a no. I tell you what, Curie. If we can get you a synth body, then maybe you can find out then.” Piper looked startled, then embarrassed when she realized what was being discussed.

“Very well, madam. We will be going near Goodneighbor again, no? We shall talk to Doctor Amari about that very thing then.”

Considering he was a synth, Nick looked relieved. “Sorry, ladies. Sometimes I think programming can cause a feedback loop that won’t go away.” He made a sound like he was clearing his throat. “In any event, Deacon is helping Preston survey up where your old Vault is, to see about putting an observation post up there. Sturges and Miss DeLuca have been working to make stockpiles of materials for use from what we brought from Fort Hagen. The Longs and Mama Murphy are expanding the garden size. Curie was doing some research on Stimpaks.”

“Okay, then. Well, let me know when Deacon gets back, so I can fit him for a Vault suit. Come on, Piper, let’s check out the armor I have and see if I can adapt it for you.”

She looked puzzled. “Um, okay? But how hard can it be?”

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