Love Never Changes
Chapter 10

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

Officer Edwards met us at the entrance to Vault 81. “Welcome back, Ma’am. I know this young lady, and of course, Dog. But I don’t think I’ve met your other companion.” He was openly staring at Curie.

“Of course you have, monsieur. I simply wasn’t in this form before. Do you like me as a human female better than as a robot?”

“Wait, what? How is that possible?”, he asked.

“Welcome to the wonderful world of science, Edwards. I need to discuss some things with Doctor Forsythe, Rachel, and Overseer McNamara. And yes, this is important. Do you have anyone gathering material from the other Vault?”

“Um, not right now, no. What’s going on? I am the head of Security here, you know.”

“Can we step into your office, please, just you, me, and Curie? This needs to be private for now, please,” I asked.

“Yeah, I suppose.” He led us around the corner to the security room. The officer sitting in there had monitored our conversation and stepped out, closing the door behind him. “Okay, what’s this about?”

I held out my hand and Curie gave me the modified biometric scanner. “We’re telling people we’re checking for a virus that’s potentially life threatening, something to do with FEV, so no one argues about it. What we’re really doing is checking for synth chips. And yes, Curie has downloaded herself into a synth body.”

“Wait a minute? You mean all those stories we’ve heard from Commonwealth visitors about synths are true? There really is an Institute?”

“Yep. Here, you can see how nothing registers for me, but when I hold this near Curie, it shows that she’s a synth. And before you ask, she actually has a fully human body. And when I bring it near you ... good, you’re not a synth. Now you see why I need to talk to the Doctors and the Overseer. We’re trying to check people as we can to make sure they’ve not been replaced by the Institute. And even though you’re underground, we’ve also found that the Institute can use teleportation, so that’s not an impediment to them putting someone in here.”

“Fuck. Sorry, this is just a lot to take in, all at once. I presume you don’t want to alarm anyone is why you’re saying you’re testing for a virus,” he surmised.

“And we don’t want to alert a synth that’s actually here as a spy, in case there is one.”

He nodded, then nodded again. “Okay.” He opened the door back to the lobby, where the other guard was waiting. “Shut and lock the Vault door, please, and shut access down to outside until further notice. We may have a medical issue, hopefully not, but I’m taking our guests down to the doctors now. Everyone, go about your regular duties until told otherwise. And cancel all excursions into the other Vault until further notice as well.”

“Yes, sir,” the woman said. “Okay, people, you heard the man. Shut the door and go to level three quarantine precautions.”

While we were in the elevator, Edwards used the intercom to summon Gwen to Medical. She was just coming out of her office on the main floor when the elevator let us out. “Tina, Piper, Dog! Good to see you. I presume you’re the cause of this emergency? And who’s this?”

Edwards spoke up. “Ma’am, we need to go to Medical about this please, now.”

Gwen looked startled. I wanted to give her a hug and console her, but until I knew she hadn’t been replaced by the Institute, I didn’t dare. I just stared at her. She did nod, and led the way. Both Forsythe and Rachel were in the clinic when we got there. The door shut behind us. “Okay, now what’s this about?”

Edwards looked at me. I said, “We’ve found something that could be serious. We’re trying to check everyone we can, but it has to do with FEV, the Forced Evolutionary Virus. I need to scan the three of you to see if you’re infected, please.”

They all looked startled, but with the intercom system from upstairs now saying the Vault was under quarantine procedures, quickly complied. I gave a sigh of relief when the scanner came back negative. “Okay, now for the real story.” I repeated what I’d told Edwards about synths and the Institute.

Gwen nodded. “Damn. That makes sense. We need to check everyone. I’ll issue orders for them to report to medical, now. It looks like this is a quick test, so it won’t take long. Tina, I’m taking you at your word on this.”

Piper spoke up. “Have any of the papers from Diamond City made it here? Publick Occurrence?”

Forsythe said, “Yes, a trader brings a copy by every so often. I remember reading one where there was concern that the mayor of Diamond City was a synth. I thought that was just a load of malarkey, but ... you said this was Curie. Our Curie?”

“Oui, monsieur. Doctor Amari has found a way to access human memories, so they can be relived if so desired. Using her equipment, she is also able to assist synths that have escaped from the Institute. My ... host ... was injured, brain dead. She was able to use her equipment to move me into that body, so that I may have human inspiration to help with my scientific and medical research. And I have found ... other ... human things to also be worthy of study.”

“Oh? Such as?”, the doctor asked.

I interrupted. “We’ll get into that, later. Let’s get things going.”

Three very tense hours later, we were done. Rachel said, “That’s everyone in the Vault. Did anyone test positive?”

Gwen looked relieved. “Thank god, no. Edwards, you can go ahead and release the quarantine, and resume your regular duties. Thank you for your swift attention to this.”

He seemed to grow in stature at her praise. “Thank you, Overseer. Um, if I may? Is it possible for us to get one of those modified scanners for Security, upstairs? That way we can check everyone that visits us.”

Gwen looked at me. “If you have an extra scanner here, we have several boards already made that we can slip inside one,” I said. “I suggest you continue with the FEV story for visitors, though.”

Rachel pulled out one. Curie quickly pulled it apart and made the connections, then tested to make sure it worked properly. “Thank you very much, um, Curie. I’ll brief all my officers about the FEV risk, so our stories match.” Edwards took the scanner and headed back to the entry level.

“Gwen, do you have room for all of us to sit down and talk for a bit, privately?”

She smiled at me, now that the stress of wondering about a threat to her Vault was done. “Certainly. The officer outside my office has a stash of dog biscuits, too, just in case.”

I chuckled. “I’d hope so. Lead on.” Gwen stopped in the security office. The guard on duty recognized Dog.

“Hey, buddy, welcome back!” Dog barked in recognition, licking the guard’s hand.

Gwen picked up the microphone to the Vault intercom system. “Attention, residents of Vault 81. This is Overseer McNamara. Thank you all for your cooperation. There was a possible medical issue that had been discovered by our friends from outside the Vault. It is treatable, but if left unchecked, could have caused untold havoc. Fortunately, all of us in here passed the test for not having this infection. We will resume excavation of the hidden Vault as before. All visitors to the Vault will be scanned for infection upon entry and isolated if found to be infected. Vault residents who leave the Vault are subject to scan upon re-entry. The chance of infection is very low, but until the threat has been eliminated, we will continue full scanning upon entry for everyone. Thank you again.”

She put the microphone back down. “We’ll be inside.” The guard grinned and didn’t say a word, continuing to play with Dog.

Gwen led us into her office. I noticed things had been rearranged from my last visit. It looked ... more feminine, less businesslike. There were fresh flowers in a vase on a filing cabinet to the right. The center was still dominated by her Overseer’s desk, but behind it, over the big window, were some sheers. The left side had a comfortable couch now, with an end table, coffee table, and actual sitting room chairs, with a rug on the floor. Two paintings now hung on the walls.

“I like what you’ve done with the place, Gwen,” I said. “It ... suits you.”

She walked over and slumped on the couch. “Have a seat. Let’s get this over with.”

“Um, get what over with?”

“You, me, us, whatever. Isn’t that why you came here?”

“Oh, Lord, Gwen, not hardly. I thought I made that clear to you before. Why would you think that?” I sat down on the couch next to her, putting my arm around her shoulder.

She looked up at me, her eyes bright with unshed tears. “I thought ... I don’t know. I’ve made changes in here, I felt like we had something special. It’s obvious that you’ve been intimate with Piper, with Curie, I thought that since they’re younger than I am, better looking than I am, that...” I brought her speaking to a close by pulling her to me and kissing her.

“Ah, I now see how some of the emotions that I have been feeling inside work, without actually understanding why I felt this way. Madam Gwen, I, too, have been feeling the insecurity, the fear of loss.”

Piper leaned over and gave Curie a hug. “We’ve all had our worlds turned upside down in the past month, some of us more than others.”

Gwen pulled back. “You’re really not trading me in for two younger models, then?”

“Sweetie, the only reason I didn’t grab you when we first entered the Vault, I had to make sure you hadn’t been replaced by an Institute synth. That’s why I seemed cold to you. I’m so sorry you had that fear inside you about us, all of us, these last few hours.”

The look on Gwen’s face would have been amusing if she hadn’t been so scared earlier. “All of us?”

“Love, we all have two full days before we have to leave again. If you don’t think we’d be too big of a strain on the Vault resources, I’d like to introduce Piper and Curie to your shower. Maybe you could even help with that,” I said, smiling.

“You’ll think I’m a silly girl, but...” Gwen stood up, taking me by the hand. We went through the door into her bedroom. I stopped short.

“Oh, my.” Piper and Curie looked around me. Both of them agreed with me.

The single bed and dresser originally present had been removed. There were now two twin beds side by side, with clamps holding them together at the foot and head. Four mattresses were on top of the beds, along with multiple pillows. The room itself had been painted a soft pink. The harsh lights in the ceiling had been replaced with softer lights. And the shower area had been expanded.

Gwen turned to look at me. “I decided that we’ve kept things too sterile for too damned long. Rank has its privileges, so my quarters were the first. I’m allowing people to make more changes to their own rooms. We live here, not some long dead Vault-Tec rule maker.” Her voice changed a little, became slightly fearful. “This ... this is okay, isn’t it?”

She let go of my hand while explaining, backing so that her legs were at the side of the bed. I took a step closer to her, my face blank. I brought my arms up to her shoulders, giving her a push so that she fell backwards onto the bed, then jumped on it with her. My mouth sought hers while my hand reached up to the top of her Vault suit, grabbing her zipper and pulling it down. I heard Piper chuckle, then the sounds of two other Vault suits being opened.

“I love you, Gwen. That doesn’t mean I can’t also love Piper and Curie, and they can’t love you. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this lately, and...” I quit talking when Gwen took hold of my face, bringing her lips and tongue into play.

The four of us made sure that the bed was well used. At times we were two couples, with the partners changing after orgasms, at other times three ganged up on one, or all four of us were together in one incredible connection. Piper managed to scare Gwen the first time she was brought to orgasm, with her screams. After that we made sure that someone was either kissing Piper or simply sitting with a pussy on her face to absorb the sound.

After several hours and countless orgasms, the bed was soaked. Curie was a bit of a squirter, with proper finger stimulation inside her when licked. “Mon Dieu! I had no idea my body would do that,” she exclaimed the first time it happened. After the fourth time we made her come and squirt, she simply collapsed, exhausted.

Gwen was covered in sweat, straddling me. “Tina, I don’t think I have the energy to change the sheets or anything else right now.”

I admired her beautiful body, glistening in the soft lights. “I think Curie is out of it. So is Piper, she’s snuggling up next to me. Just lay down here, on me, and we’ll take a nap. I’m sure we can run the sheets through the shower before housekeeping gets them.”

She smiled down at me. “I love you; I love all of you.” She came down onto me, her breasts flattening against mine, her head next to mine. I felt her breathing on my ear starting to slow as she fell asleep. I realized that I didn’t mind her weight on me at all, I didn’t feel trapped or anything other than surrounded by love. Then I didn’t feel much of anything as I fell asleep.

I woke up to the sound of someone peeing, and I realized that I was going to need to do the same myself. Gwen was still laying on me, asleep. “Hey, beautiful. We need to change these sheets, and I don’t want to ruin the mattress.”

She stirred a little, her body sliding a little to one side, then running her hand over my breasts. “I think I want to stay here and play.”

From where the shower was, Piper said, “I think we can all do that in this shower. My bladder wouldn’t let me stay in bed any longer.”

Curie raised herself up on her elbows, her nipples pointing towards the shower. “Is this a shower like we have in Sanctuary? I would like to see it.”

“Gwen, if you don’t want me to pee on the bed, I need up. Quit sucking on that, for now. Oh, my. Damn it. Seriously.”

Gwen smiled naughtily at me, then ran her teeth along my nipple before letting me up. I barely made it to the toilet before a gusher came out. I wiped, then got up quickly as Gwen came over to use it.

“Tina, these two need a little bit of a trim, it looks like. The razor and soap are in the cabinet, same place as before. And I still have unlimited water here.”

Piper and Curie were looking at the difference between the shower heads here and the rudimentary one we had in Sanctuary. I walked up to the faucet and turned it on, just slightly above warm. The first couple of seconds were cold, then both heads shot out warm water. Piper was startled.

“Wait, where’s the heating unit and such? And this is a lot of water, with pressure behind it. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” she explained.

“One of the advantages to modern living. And this isn’t hot. Check this out.” I turned the faucet a little more, then stepped into one of the streams myself. “Oh, yeah, this is more like it. Just the thing for aching muscles, or when your period is giving you fits.”

“Madam, do you think that I will have one of those as well?”, Curie asked. She stepped into the water, making a surprised exclamation. “Oh, this is so ... warm, it feels so good. Surely this ... madam, what are you doing? Why are ... you ... oh, my, that feels so good. I did not know that it could feel this good from something that simple.”

“Amazing how having someone else wash your hair for you can send tingles up and down your spine, isn’t it?”, I said. “Piper, you’ve got the longest hair of any of us. Get in here, get it wet, and let Gwen give you a wash.”

Our skin was getting wrinkly by the time we’d all washed each other’s hair, and then shaved and trimmed up all our other hair. Gwen had a pile of towels available for us to dry off with, and robes for us to put on. “I apologize, I forgot to send your Vault-Suits out for cleaning before we got too involved. I can have that done in a jiffy. I only have two spares in my wardrobe, so I can have Security bring us some food.”

“Look at what time it is, Gwen. If you’re running normal hours, the only ones that would be up would be late shift. If you don’t think it’s appropriate, we’ll talk to Security. Otherwise, I’d say let’s just run down to the cafeteria and grab something quick.”

“In our robes? But then...” Gwen stopped. “You know what? I don’t care. Help me get your suits and these sheets off and into the laundry chute, they’ll be done and back by the time we’ve eaten.”

“Um, I think we ought to brush our hair a little, anyway. There’s a difference between going out simply wearing a robe, and going out with that freshly fucked look, even if we all have it.”

Piper and Gwen both laughed, Curie just looked confused. We spent a couple of minutes getting our hair presentable, stripped the bed and sent all the laundry off. Gwen opened the door to the security office. The officer on duty, a different one from before looked up, did a double take, then fell backwards out of his chair. He scrambled back to his feet.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, ladies. You just ... took me by surprise.” His eyes were wide at seeing all of us in this state of undress.

“It’s all right, Lewis. We forgot to send our Vault suits for cleaning, and we’re hungry. Rather than bother you to deliver something, we’ll just run down to the cafeteria and eat.”

From behind the desk, a furry head perked up at the sound of that. Lewis looked at him. “You’re hungry again? You just had two meat patties less than an hour ago.” Dog just whined a little, then came over to me, his eyes making telling me he was still hungry.

Gwen looked at Lewis again. “Lewis, one other thing. Go ahead and type something up for general distribution tomorrow ... later today, I mean. Other than when someone is on duty, they are no longer required to wear Vault suits or the appropriate work attire. We’ve made enough trades with the Commonwealth, we can afford to give people some more freedom in their choice of clothing, just as we’re allowing them to personalize their quarters.”

Lewis nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Um, two things, ma’am. One, with this announcement, I could see morale in here going to a level we’ve never seen since I’ve been alive. And ... second, congratulations.” Gwen blushed, but didn’t say anything, just led us down to the cafeteria.

The only person we encountered while walking was another security guard. She looked at us, her eyes opened wide in shock, but simply said, “Good evening, Overseer.”

“Good evening, Harris. You’ll want to check the announcements from Lewis once you get off shift. Have a good patrol,” Gwen said, smiling.

Maria Summerset was alone in the cafeteria, it looked like working on food preparation for tomorrow’s meals. She was concentrating on cutting up some vegetables but bare feet and claws on her tile floor made a different sound than she was used to hearing. She raised her head and the knife up, in case she had to defend herself from an attacker. Upon seeing the four of us in robes, she simply dropped the knife.

“Oh, my lord. Gwen, what’s gotten into you?”

“Uh, that would be me, Curie, and Piper, or at least parts of us, anyway.” Gwen laughed at my joke, but Maria blushed.

“I’m sorry, ladies, I’m just an old married woman. It’s been years since I’ve had the look on my face that the four of you do. You positively glow. And I can guess what’s been going on, too, and you need some calories to refill yourselves ... uh, your stomachs, I mean.” The four of us laughed at that. “It is so good to hear that noise in this Vault. It brings a joy to my heart.”

Gwen asked, “It’s time to lighten things up a little. Have you and Mark decided what you’re going to do to personalize your quarters?”

Maria looked thoughtful as she dished up some plates for us, including some leftover meat for Dog. “I’ve always wondered what the sea shore looked like. I think I’d like something with that.”

“I’ll pick you up a couple of paintings while we’re out, so you have an idea, Maria. And thank you for the late-night meal,” I told her.

“You’re very welcome, young lady.” Gwen giggled when she heard that. “What? You don’t think courtesy is appropriate, Overseer?”

I chuckled and explained, “No, it’s that you called me young lady. Maria, you forget that I’m from a Vault myself. Except that I was stuck in a freezer for more than two hundred years. So, I’m actually the one that’s robbing the cradle here with Gwen.”

“Oh. Well ... whatever. You make her happy, that’s all that counts. Now, I need to finish these up so Mark can come make breakfast for everyone.”

I put the food down on the floor for Dog and then sat at one of the tables, making sure my robe was in place. Neither Gwen or Curie had any experience in sitting wearing what was effectively a dress, so when the backs of their robes caught on the seat and their bare bottoms hit the cold metal, they both squealed. Piper and I laughed, then helped them get comfortable.

“You know, Tina, I’m a wordsmith by trade, and I just heard you say something that I didn’t think I’d ever hear you say,” Piper said, looking at me over her plate.

“I know.” I smiled thinly. “I’ve already resolved that in my mind, at least until I meet him myself. So, it’s okay.”

Gwen looked confused. Piper explained, “You know we’re looking for Tina’s missing son, Shaun. Well, as best as we can tell, he’s not the baby she remembers, and not the young boy she saw in Kellogg’s memories. We really don’t know how old he is, but he’s apparently the Director of the Institute.”

“Wait, you mean the Institute that you were just warning me about?”

I sighed. “Yeah, that one. That’s ... another reason I came here. Not just to check to make sure the Vault was synth free. I’m ... we’ve found a way for me to get into the Institute. It’s going to take the crew working on it a couple of more days to finish up the final touches, and then ... well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”

“This is dangerous, isn’t it? Even more dangerous than anything you’ve done since you woke up, isn’t it?”

“I’m not going to lie, Gwen. Yeah, I’ll be as prepared as I can be, but I have no fucking clue what I’m going to find.”

She sat back and blinked a couple of times. “So ... you’re going on a mission that may end up getting you killed in three days, but you came here to check up on us first?”

“I sincerely doubt I’m going to get killed, but it may be a while before I can get back. As I said, I don’t know what I’m going to find, but ... if it’s going to be a while before I can get back, I wanted to make sure I had something that I’d want to come back to. And in this fucked up world that I woke up in, the three of you are the most important people in the world to me. So, I couldn’t very well leave and not spend time with just some of you, I had to be with all of you.” There were light tears running down my cheeks when I finished.

The others were also tearful at my words. “Madam, you must come back. I ... I feel such an emptiness inside me at the thought of you not being with me, with us, that I do not know if this human body can contain it.”

Piper sniffled a bit. “Yep, Curie, you’re fully human, because that’s exactly what I feel at that thought, too.”

Gwen looked down at her plate. “Get your plates. Security can deliver us some food when we need it. From what you said, we’ve got two days. We’re going to cram as many good memories as we can into that time, and to hell with decorum.”

We did just that.

Two days later, Piper jibed, “Oh, look, there’s the bridge to Sanctuary. You better wipe that smile off your face or Deacon is going to wonder what’s come over you.”

“That would be you, Curie, and Gwen ... time after time after time. You know, I didn’t think it was physically possible to lick the skin off my clit, but I think you tried.”

“Damn straight, Tina. I love the taste of your pussy and I didn’t want to share, even with my sister-wife here.”

“That is unacceptable, Piper. You know we all made a vow to share and share alike. I did not hear you complain when Gwen and I were licking and fingering you, did I?”

I laughed, then groaned a little. “Damn, I’m still sore inside. I didn’t think it was even possible to cum that many times. Curie, my love, you’ll have to forgive Piper for some of her sense of humor. And keep that promise while I’m gone.”

“Oui, madam. Sleep with Piper every night because she snores terribly otherwise.” Before Piper could come up with a rebuttal, we were at the first guard post, where Deacon was waiting for us.

“Welcome back to Sanctuary, boss. I’m glad you look rested and refreshed. We have a bit of a dilemma here, so I’m very glad you’re back,” Deacon said by way of greeting.

“We were only gone three days to Vault 81. There were only a few minor things left to build on the signal interceptor, Sturges and Tina had those well in hand. What’s going on?” I stopped at the edge of the bridge. I could see several faces I recognized near where the signal interceptor had been constructed.

I brought my hand up and rubbed my eyes, then down the bridge of my nose. “ Well, fine. In all the stuff I had on my mind, I forgot about them. Well, ladies, time to go earn our paychecks.”

We walked up the hill. “Good afternoon, gentlemen and ladies. I hope my absence has not kept you waiting too long.”

“We finished both the missions you set for us,” Elder Maxson said. “As much as it pains me to admit it, especially ... well, in front of others ... you were quite right. We needed the training time, to tighten things up. It took us ten days to finish both missions. When we hadn’t heard from you, I sent a vertibird here to make sure you were okay. They didn’t land, the pilot saw the device being built and reported back to me. I’ve brought Proctor Ingram to assist in building the device if needed, Paladin Danse and Knight Rhys as security, and Scribe Haylen, as her knowledge of pre-war tech might be useful.”

I blinked. “Oh, that’s ... very thoughtful of you, Maxson. If so, I apologize for all the thoughts I had when I saw you up here.”

“Yes, well...” His smile was flat. “I’m not going to say that some of those thoughts might not have been deserved, at least before I met you. Now...” He shook his head.

Danse spoke up. “I’ve known Arthur now for more than ten years. The last two weeks he’s changed more than he has in years. Your comments were, based upon what I saw, very reasonable and he agreed.”

The comment about change set off alarm bells in my head. “Deacon, have our guests been checked for the virus?”

“Oh, shit. I’m sorry, boss. They got here about two hours ago, and once we all agreed to not shoot each other, I simply forgot, what with you showing up. I’ll get on that, right now.” He ran to the main building.

Maxson looked puzzled, but not angry. “Virus? What are you talking about?”

“Give us a minute, please. You’re aware I have access to pre-war tech and ... good, here comes Deacon now. This will only take a moment, and then if things are fine, we can talk about what’s going on.”

Deacon held the biometric scanner. “Um, boss, remember the protocol?”

“Of course. We’ve been outside the settlement. Check us first.” He came up to me first. Nothing happened on his meter, which was expected. “Good, that’s the expected result. And Piper ... yep, expected.” The dial on his meter swing with Curie, but he held it so no one else could see it. “And Curie, normal.” Dog barked at him.

“Sorry, pup, you can’t catch the virus. Excuse me, Elder Maxson, this will just take a moment, the scanner has to be relatively close, as you saw. Okay, you’re clear.”

Maxson sounded angry. “Fine, I’m clear, now what’s going on?”

“Just a minute, please. We need to check the rest of your party, and then I promise I’ll explain everything.” Deacon checked Rhys and Haylen quickly.

“I’m not sure how this is going to work with power armor, ma’am. Can you squat down just a little, please?”

Ingram said, “Yeah. What kind of modifications have you made to that biometric scanner? I didn’t think those could check someone’s blood work for a virus with an actual sample of their blood?”

I held up my arm. “Working Pip-Boy. I’m able to use the old workstations to fabricate things. How’s it looking, Deacon?”

“Sorry, boss, I think she’s okay, but with the fusion core nearby, it may be causing some interference. Come here, big guy, let me check you to see if I get the same results.”

Danse said, “Big guy? Only certain women know that for sure.” He squatted and Deacon went behind him. I was watching Deacon’s eyes; they widened at the results.

I’d given some thought about what I would do in a situation like this. I simply hadn’t expected it to be someone in power armor, and certainly not someone high up in the Brotherhood of Steel.

Maxson didn’t wait. “Now, do we have this silliness out of the way, so we can help you in your fight against the Institute?”

“Sort of. And not exactly. I have something to discuss with you first. Do you recall our conversation about synths working with us?”

“Of course I do.” He chuckled. “It’s not very often that I’ve had someone effectively chew me out for being pigheaded and stubborn, I’m normally the one doing that.”

“Very good. Do you recall I had two robot companions with me?” I felt like I was back in a courtroom, and in a sense, I was.

“Yes. I recognize one of them, over there waiting with refreshments. Why?

“Do you see the other one here?”

He frowned in puzzlement. “Of course not, there’s only one robot in sight.”

“Do you recall that I said we’d made several discoveries regarding synths that you were unaware of? Some things you’d need to discuss with Proctor Ingram?” I looked at her.

He turned to look at her as well. “Yes, I do. I did mention several things to her about the synths, as well as Proctor Quinlan.”

Ingram interrupted. “You have made a working detector for synths, haven’t you? That’s what that whole virus bullshit was about, wasn’t it?”

“Of course we have. That’s why you don’t recognize someone that was on your ship with you.” I held my hand out to Curie, who stepped closer to me. “Some robots have the capability to pass what is called the Turing test. They can become self-aware, just as aware and alive as a human, only trapped in a robot body. We found a way to transfer Curie from her robot body into a synth body.”

Haylen gasped. “She looks like your younger sister.”

Rhys started to raise his laser rifle as Haylen’s comment sank in. “Stand down, Rhys!”, Danse ordered, moving to interpose himself between Rhys and us.

Maxson looked thoughtful. “If that’s so, then it is possible that synths could work with us. But that doesn’t explain how she looks like you.”

“Do you recall I also said I was in a cryogenic facility?” He nodded. “What I didn’t tell you was that at some point, an agent of the Institute broke in, killed my husband, and kidnapped my son to use in their experiments. His DNA is the basis for all biological synths.”

Ingram was smart, I’ll give her that. “That means that all synths aren’t just descended from him, they’re also genetically related to you. Now I see how you’re finding synths!”

“Um, close, but not exactly.” I started walking around, like I was in a courtroom and making a point in front of a jury. “One of the things we discovered was that biological synths are physically indistinguishable from humans, if for no other reason than they really are human. They have bone, tissue, muscles, blood ... all of the organs that we as humans possess.”

I continued walking around, now moving between the members of the Brotherhood. “So, with them being human, you might ask yourself, how is it that the Institute managed to program them, to make them act as their agents? And more importantly, something that you also haven’t considered, is what happens if that programming doesn’t take? As I mentioned, a robot with proper programming can become fully aware of itself, alive and with free-will. What happens when a synth, which already is fully a human body, and that includes a human brain, makes that same leap?”

Before Ingram could interrupt, I continued, still walking around them. “In order to give their human slaves their programming, the Institute implants a small device, a chip that is wired into the spinal column, in these living, breathing beings. A group that I also work with has found a way, when a synth breaks free from their restrictions, to help them by giving them new memories, a new personality if needed. The synth wouldn’t even remember that they are a synth. The device we made can detect this chip.”

“Curie here didn’t need a new personality, or new memories. The body she now inhabits was brain-dead, the body itself was dying. By putting her into that body, Curie is alive and well, as a human being. The only thing is, she has a chip in her head, more precisely in the back of her neck about here...” I touched Rhys on the back of his neck, since I was behind him at that point. “ ... that our scanner can detect.”

“Now, one of the reasons that the Institute replaces people with synths is that, since the synths are human, they can physically pass amongst us. But if someone changes their behavior, then it’s possible they’ve been replaced, which is why we checked.” Maxson looked uncomfortable considering what Danse had said about his behavior, and all eyes went to him. “But here’s the thing. What if someone’s behavior hasn’t changed? Maybe it’s because they didn’t replace someone, but that someone was a synth that escaped, had their memories changed, has no clue even that they’re a synth?”

I was behind Danse when I said that, which was what I’d planned. I hit his fusion core, popping it out of his armor. With the sudden loss of power, the emergency override kicked in, his suit opened up, dumping him out the back and onto his butt. He lay on his back, not moving, as my pistol was pointing at his face. “For your sake, I hope that last scenario I mentioned is true.”

Rhys had once again started to raise his rifle, until my words penetrated his mind. “I know you’re a Paladin in the Brotherhood, but you damned well better have some proof. This man has saved my life so many times it’s not funny.”

Maxson also looked incredibly shaken. “This can’t be true, I’ve known Danse for...”

Danse himself was looking up at me. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I have memories of growing up near the Capital wasteland. I remember being a kid, being jealous of the people living in Rivet City. I’ve known Arthur, fought for him, fought with him against the abominations, killed for and bled for the Brotherhood too many times for this to be true.”

“Then it sounds like you’re an escaped synth. I don’t know if Doctor ... our contact here ... reprogrammed you when you escaped, so you made your way to Washington, or what. I doubt there’s records going back twelve years,” I said.

Deacon said, “Um, actually, there are. At least ten years longer than that. We pulled them out with us when we escaped the raid.”

Maxson looked furious. “So, Paladin Wilson, you’re not only consorting with synths, you’re also working with the Railroad?”

“Of course, I am, Elder. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Again, it sounds like you’re great with tactics, not so great with thinking strategically. Regardless of what happens, this is my home. Hell, my actual home literally is right over there, in this very neighborhood. If the Brotherhood and the Railroad are my friends, then I’m close to them. If they’re my enemies, then I need to know even more about them.”

“But guess what? We all have a common enemy. The Institute, and whatever it is that they’re doing. So, tuck your dick back into your pants and quit strutting around like some tinpot dictator.” I holstered my pistol, offering Danse a hand up. He gingerly took it, I helped him back to his feet.

“From what I’ve seen of Danse here, he’s probably the best field officer the Brotherhood of Steel has. Which, prior to the operations I had you do, isn’t saying a whole lot. But other than the minor detail that he was born in a lab, he’s as human as you or I. More importantly, he’s a resource for you, for all of us.”

Danse was just standing there, shaken. “I remember my ... everything, though. Surely your test is wrong.”

“Ingram, come here.” She stepped over, gingerly. She was actually able to move pretty well considering she was trapped inside power armor, being paraplegic and missing most of her legs. I think she was more afraid of me than Danse. “This is the modified biometric scanner. Take it, it won’t bite. Put it behind Maxson’s neck.”

She did. “It didn’t do anything,” she said.

“Now check me.”

“Okay, it still didn’t show anything.”

“Now check Curie, and then Danse.”

“What the hell? How does it do this?”

“I originally programmed it to pick up the minor electrical impulses that our synaptic systems generate when they’re accessing the access chip that is embedded inside of us. I modified that when I found that it was possible to remove the access chip itself, as the interface that chip plugs into was designed as a part of our spinal columns itself, going into and protected by the C4 vertebrae,” Curie explained. “The interface will remain, regardless of whether the access chip is still in place, and that is what the scanner now detects.”

Maxson calmed down. “You say that so calmly. One of us. But you’re not, you’re still a synth, not one of us.”

Curie frowned. “Is a person who wears glasses still not human? That is a modification to the basic human being, to correct a deficiency. Placing an artificial heart inside of a person when their natural heart failed did not make them any less human. False teeth, replacement eyes, spinal stimulators to send signals around a severed spinal cord, is the being with those items any less human?”

“But ... you were created in a lab,” Maxson said.

“My body was not born directly from a woman, that is correct. How is that any different from the research into cloning artificial limbs for an accident victim? Or the use of an artificial womb, when a woman desires a child but is unable to carry one herself? The thing to remember is that while my body was created, I could now have life created inside myself. I am completely fertile, as I am a human being.”

Ingram interrupted. “Cloning artificial limbs? You mean mechanical replacements.”

“No, madam. Utilizing the individuals own DNA to grow a replacement limb, of flesh and blood. It would not be difficult to do. The biggest difficulty would be in the actual surgery, I fear we lack appropriate medical experience. It would simply be the same as reattaching a lost limb, but that requires skills that may be lost.”

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