Love Never Changes
Chapter 13

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

Codsworth was working on the flower bed just outside my house. “Oh, hello, mum! Welcome...” He was speaking to my back; I was running to the planning room.

I didn’t have to open the door, there was a gathering outside. “What’s wrong, boss?”

“Where’s Maxson, and is there still a vertibird here?”

Danse realized something serious was up. “Ma’am, Elder Maxson returned to the Prydwen. However, we do have a vertibird and pilot available here.”

“Good. I need four of you with me. Danse, Rhys, Deacon, Glory. You have ... three minutes. Load heavy.” Glory started towards the building where she’d stored her mini-gun, Danse went for another. I saw Scribe Haylen using her radio to communicate to the vertibird. Rhys and Deacon ran for their combat armor.

“What’s going on?” Desdemona demanded.

“I’m going to stop a war. There’re some synths at Bunker Hill. A rogue Courser is on his way to capture or kill them, and if he has to wipe everything out at Bunker Hill to do it, he will.” I started to run down the hill, where the vertibird pilot was already starting to spool up the blades.

“Bullseye! The Railroad agents monitor 105.3 as the emergency channel. Tell them the code word is One Lantern. That’ll tell them you’re in charge of all of them.” I nodded my thanks to her. I hopped into the front of the vertibird, next to the pilot.

“Does your radio reach the Prydwen when we’re airborne?” I could see the four running our way, Danse in the rear since he was in power armor, although Glory was having a hard time running with her mini-gun as well.

“Yes, Sentinel. Where are we going?”, she asked.

“Bunker Hill.” Deacon and Rhys jumped in, turning and helped Glory get in. Danse just turned around and sat on the floor of the vertibird, his feet on the skids. I nodded. “Let’s go, now!”

She already had us in ground effect, so it was easy for her to get us into the air. Once we were above the tree line, the pilot flipped two switches. “You’re clear for the Prydwen.”

“Prydwen control, this is Sentinel Wilson. Scramble all available units to Bunker Hill, now, now, now! Power armor, drop outside the city to defend it. The enemy is NOT, I repeat, NOT, the Railroad. Rogue Institute forces will be attacking. I am on my way to the site now. You may find hot landing zones. Ready medical units for medivac and probable casualties. Over.”

“Sentinel Wilson, this is Captain Kells. Understood. First units will deploy within ten minutes.”

“Copy that, Kells. Wilson, out.” I looked to the pilot. “I need 105.3, please.” She was a wizard with the controls, switching the channel while we were heading southwest at nearly 200 miles per hour.

“Railroad units in Bunker Hill. This is Railroad Heavy Bullseye. One Lantern, I say again, One Lantern. Do you copy?”

It was quiet for a moment, then I heard a man’s voice. “This is Heavy Nightmare. One Lantern. What’s going on, Bullseye?”

“Prepare for an immediate attack on Bunker Hill by rogue Institute Courser. Friendlies are on the way. Brotherhood of Steel units are friendlies and will assist in defense.”

“We’d heard about that.” I heard him flip some kind of switch, then a siren started to wail in the background as he continued speaking. “I’ve sounded the alarm and...” He was interrupted by the sound of an explosion. “Good timing, Bullseye! We’re under attack now! Nightmare, out!”

I could see through the front wind screen the flashes of weapons firing. I also saw a lot of other flashes, from teleportation. I’d forgotten to ask how many synth relay grenades was in a large number. Apparently more than twenty. We came in low, on a hard bank.

“Send me some help when you can!” Danse jumped out of the vertibird, landing on a synth, opening fire with his mini-gun.

“Damned fool!” Glory yelled. Then she saw one of the synths that was injured pulling out a synth relay grenade of its own. “These things are bringing in reinforcements by themselves! Get me lower!”

The pilot glanced at me. I nodded, so she skillfully pulled us back into a near stall about fifteen feet up. Glory jumped out of the other side of the vertibird, opening up with her mini-gun as well.

I noticed shots being fired inside the settlement itself. “Can you get us down in there?”

“Not and take off again!”, she said.

“Combat loss the bird! Put us down in there.”

I heard Deacon from behind saying, “Oh, fuck, boss! This is so going to hurt!”

I have to give the pilot credit. She only took a couple of feet off of each rotor, and the actual Bunker Hill monument wasn’t damaged too much more than it already had been. It was still jolting. When my eyes focused again, I saw a hatch in the floor of the trader building closing.

I hit the door and jumped out, Rhys and Deacon right behind me. The pilot grabbed a rifle from beside her door, but got tangled up with a Gen 1 that the vertibird had landed on. It grabbed her leg, breaking it, so she fell. I heard her yell in pain and anger, then shots from her killing the Gen 1.

In the meantime, I threw the hatch open and simply jumped down, my rifle at the ready. I could hear firing ahead, as well as more teleportation sounds. How many of those fucking grenades did that bastard have?

There was a tunnel leading away from the hatch. I ran down it, oblivious to immediate danger. It opened into what must have been a basement of a large building. Two turrets were smoking rubble along one wall. At least one Railroad heavy was dead, several more were injured. The remains of half a dozen Gen 1’s were scattered about the room. I heard another turret open up, through a doorway, and continued running, shouting, “One Lantern!”, so they’d know we were friendlies.

The sound of the turret blowing up was just ahead of me as I rounded a corner full tilt and hit something I couldn’t see, falling backwards. I heard a grunting noise, and realized I’d just ran into the Courser, using some kind of stealth system. I could hear him scrambling to his feet. “X4, verbal override, stand down, RobCo Legal One, Wilson, Tina!”

“Your tricks won’t work on me, I’m afraid. I have been purged of all weaknesses by Doctor Loken. Nothing will prevent me from finishing my mission.”

Coming up right behind me, Rhys and Deacon both jumped over me. Deacon slammed into the Courser, which told Rhys where he was, so Rhys grabbed him as well. While I was getting back on my feet, the three struggled hand to hand. Deacon suddenly cried out in pain, when X4 bent his arm backwards, breaking his shoulder and causing him to fall back. At the same moment, the stealth system ran out of power, so Rhys could see his target now. He began punching X4 in the face.

Blood spurted as a solid punch broke X4’s nose. The Courser shrugged the pain off, bringing one hand up and grabbing Rhys by the throat. He started choking him, picking Rhys up off the ground.

“Put him down. It’s over, X4. You lost.” I’d lost my rifle, but I still had my pistol.

The Courser looked at me while still choking Rhys. “You are human. You are soft. The Institute must survive, must...” He didn’t get to say anything else. Three shots into his head put an end to him.

Rhys gagged a little. “Cut that a little close, Sentinel. But ... thanks.”

“Not often you’re forced to kill one of your own grandchildren, as it were. Here, give this to Deacon and then go tend to the rest of the wounded.” I handed Rhys most of my first aid supplies. “I’m going to see what’s ahead.”

I picked up my rifle from where it’d fallen. I’d have to re-zero the scope after such a nasty fall. I continued to the end of the hallway. A ramp led downward. I followed it to a small room, where four figures huddled pathetically together in fear. There were three men and one woman. One of the men looked at me as I walked in.

“I ... I’ve got money. It’s yours if you let me go.”

I asked, “Do you know who I am?”

The woman said, “No. You’re not dressed like a Courser. I don’t want to go back. Please don’t make me go back!”

“Did the four of you escape together?”

Another of the men said, “We had to. They were going to use us again. We couldn’t take being used anymore.”

I lowered my voice slightly, slinging my rifle so I’d look less threatening. “Who used you, what did they do?”

The one who’d offered me money said, “The two of them. They kept us in a small room. Would come to us, beat us, use us. Said we were just toys for them, anyway. We were machines, so it was fine to treat us that way. They’d laugh when we’d scream when they violated us, or hit us.”

My voice was very flat. “Who?”

The four of them shook their heads. The one who hadn’t spoken yet said, “They were both men, both bald on top, like Y9 is. One was colored like Y9 as well, with a lab coat that was half black. The other was colored like F6, but he had some short, dark hair on the sides and back of his head.”

I recognized the descriptions of both men. One was already dead, the other soon would be. “All right. You’re fine now. If you don’t want to go back to the Institute, you don’t have to. The people that are hiding you now have a way of helping you out here. If you want to do so, though, I can guarantee that if you do return to the Institute, no one will ever hurt you again.”

The woman looked at me, puzzled. “How can you guarantee that?”

“I’m Father’s mother.”

“You’re the one! The one that they were both so upset about, the one that would take the power away from them! They would curse your name and hit us when one of them told the other about you.”

I gave a huge sigh. “One of them is already dead. Let’s get you four taken care of, and then the other one will be very, very soon. I promise you that.”

They followed me like little, frightened children. Deacon was waiting in the hallway. He’d put a coat over the bloody mess that had been X4’s head. He’d rigged a sling for one arm. “Rhys used a Stimpak on me, but my shoulder is pretty dinged up. I’m going to be out of commission for a little while, boss. I, uh, I heard a bit of what was said back there. I can take care of things here, if you need to, um, leave.”

“Let’s make sure things topside are under control first.”

We started down the stairway I hadn’t even remembered climbing, meeting Rhys coming back. “Sentinel,” he said by way of greeting. “I’ve given a Stimpaks to everyone that could still use one. Those coats these folks have are pretty tough, it’s the only reason most of them are still alive. I heard a number of explosions from above ground, then things have been pretty quiet for the last couple of minutes.”

“Lead the way, Knight!” He nodded, a grim smile on his face as I acknowledged his rank. I looked to the side as I walked through the room. He’d pulled all of the Railroad troops to one side, piled up some Gen 1 bodies to give them a little cover, and made sure they all had weapons nearby if need be.

One of them raised a hand. “You’re obviously Bullseye. I’m changing my name from Nightmare after this. This was too close to a real nightmare. Thanks for saving us.” I nodded.

I looked at the four synths, still following us. “Stay here, with these men and women. We’ll be back shortly. There’s water, help care for them, please. Deacon, you, too. You can’t climb a ladder like that.”

He looked frustrated, but nodded. “Got it, boss. Come on, you four. These folks need some water.”

Rhys led the way to the ladder. The hatch above had closed at some point after we’d come down it. He started up it. “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?”, I asked.

“I’m expendable in case we don’t hold the surface. You’re not.” He popped the hatch open, scrambling out and taking up a defensive position. I was close behind him.

It was quiet on the surface, the quiet after a battle. There were still noises, just not the cacophony of screams and gunfire. A few people whimpering in pain or fear, the sounds of people running to help others. I did hear the blades from more than one vertibird. I looked to where the one that had brought us here had crashed.

“Lancer Bennett, ma’am. Not exactly in combat shape at the moment, but I don’t think we’re doing any more fighting.” The rifle she’d taken was bent and destroyed, as were two more Gen 1’s that hadn’t been there when we crashed.

“Ad Victoriam, Lancer-Sergeant Bennett. Come on, Rhys, let’s see what the butchers bill is. And just for your information, you’re not expendable, not to me. None of my troops ever are. I may have to order you into a combat where you’ll have a good chance to get killed, but that’s different.” He followed me. The inside of the settlement was surprisingly undamaged, other than where our vertibird had crashed. Half a dozen Gen 1’s were laying in pieces around the place, with a couple of Railroad members making sure there weren’t any left. Several armed caravan guards watched us suspiciously. I recognized half of the traders in the Commonwealth. The Courser had hit right when the most armed people were inside Bunker Hill, which no doubt made a difference in keeping human casualties down.

I opened the door to outside. To say that things along the streets outside the city were a bit of a mess would be an understatement. One Brotherhood suit of armor stood, burned out. The faint smell of cooked pork came from it, telling me the operator hadn’t bailed out. Half a dozen Brotherhood troops were being treated by some medics, right next to several Railroad members. I saw two more bodies of Brotherhood troops, five Railroad members, all brought together.

Two familiar figures came walking up. “That was one fucking shooting gallery. Those damn synths kept bringing in more and more of their own reinforcements. I’ve been fighting these chrome domes for years, never seen so many of them.”

“The way you fight, I wish I could remember you,” Danse said. “You’d make a good member of the Brotherhood.”

“Oh, hell, no!” She nodded at the burnt-out power armor. “You’re not catching me in one of those death traps.”

“Danse, the pilot of our bird is just inside the courtyard. She’s injured. Glory, there’s half a dozen Railroad members in the basement, injured, along with the four synths that X4 came here to kill. Get them treated, and I don’t really care who does what, if they need to go the Prydwen or what. Oh, and just for clarification, with my rank, I can give a battlefield promotion if it’s deserved, can’t I?”

“As a Sentinel, yes,” Danse agreed.

“Good. I promoted the pilot, for actions above and beyond.” I paused for a moment. “Rhys, you’re a Knight, correct?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Wrong. Carry on, Knight-Sergeant. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some unfinished business to attend to.” I hit my Pip-Boy, relaying back to the Institute.

There was a Courser waiting in the teleportation room. “Welcome back, ma’am. Father would like to meet with you. He and his escort are waiting for you on the roof of the CIT ruins. Do you have those coordinates?”

“What the hell is he doing up there? No, I don’t have them.”

“He was concerned that you might not. Please stand by.” The Courser worked the console for a moment, then I flashed out.

I was back outdoors, standing in the middle of what looked like an empty roof. I turned around. Shaun and X6 were near the western edge of the roof. I guess Shaun asked X6 a question, as the Courser raised his hand and pointed east. I walked up behind them.

“Extraordinary. Thank you, X6.” He continued looking away. “Welcome back, mother. You know, in all my years, I’ve never set foot outside the Institute. Not once, since they day they brought me here. I’ve never had a reason. Standing here, looking at this, I’m reminded how fortunate I am that I was spared a life in this wasteland.”

“I know it’s going to take more than a few air fresheners and a couple of coats of paint to make it like new again, but I think we’re on the right track.”

I moved up next to him. He reached down and took my hand, holding it tightly. I could see a few tears on his face. “I know that to you, I was kidnapped from that Vault. In truth, the Institute rescued me. Both of us, really.”

“So, why come up here now?”

“To put things into perspective, I suppose. The experiments that the Institute was doing, I was the perfect candidate; an infant with uncorrupted DNA. But if something were to go wrong ... if I died ... well, the Institute realized that a contingency plan was prudent. Another source of pre-war DNA, preferably related to their primary source. It only made sense that my parents should fill that role. So, you were kept alive and safe within the Vault. How far-sighted, yet ironic, of them, all things considered.”

“But I presume you wouldn’t have returned and found me here if there wasn’t something to report about Bunker Hill. As I have never been up here before, I had to have X6-88 show me where it even is.”

“Under the rules of the Institute, was it allowable for synths to be tortured for pleasure and used as sex toys?”

He looked offended. “Certainly not. While I admit synths were considered property, they were valuable property, not to be abused. Such actions would be in violation of policy, and subject the violator to severe punishment, possibly even banishment. The thought that someone in the Institute might do such a thing sickens me. Is ... is that what was happening?”

“I had all four of the escaped synths tell me the same story. They were programmed to be almost childlike in their behavior, but even an abused child can run away if things are too unbearable. Apparently, the members of the Institute that were keeping them for their own pleasure weren’t happy that you had let me out, that I was coming. So, they tortured the synths even more. The synths were just machines, so who cared?”

Shaun lowered his head in shame. “I had no idea anyone below would do such a thing.” I could see the drops on the roof as more tears fell from his face.

“They’re safe, now. But only just barely. And twice their number from the Brotherhood and Railroad died defending them. Defending fellow humans who had been abused by the so-called self-righteous scientists and leaders of the Institute.”

Shaun’s face was cold now, facing me. “Who?”

“X6, what did you hear me tell that mobster, Ernie, about my civil authority?”

“Ma’am, you are the lawful civil Governor of the Commonwealth.”

Shaun was very sharp. “You did mention before that you wanted the Institute to work with the civilian government of the Commonwealth, didn’t you? Very well. As it would be rather difficult to deny the physical location of the Institute is within the borders of the Commonwealth, that would tend to make us subject to Commonwealth law. I must admit, I’m not familiar with those. Would you happen to know someone who is?” By the time he finished, he almost had a wicked smile on his face.

“Why, yes, I believe I might. Would you like me to get in touch with her?”

“There is a meeting of the Directorate, to confirm Alana as head of the SRB, and ... more that’s not on the agenda all the others are fully aware of. If you could perhaps have this legal person attend, that would be good.” He had a sly smile on his face. “I’ll meet you there, please.” He turned to X6. “Thank you, X6. I appreciate you bringing me up here, so I could see the sky with my own eyes. Please take me back inside now.”

“X6-88, ready to relay to the Institute with Father.” They both vanished.

Without them there to see me, I sat down on the roof. By his words, I knew Shaun didn’t have much time left at all now. My own tears fell to the roof, mingling with his.

After several minutes, I didn’t even bother to stand, just pushed the button to return to the Institute. The Courser was still waiting. He ran to help me get up.

“Are you injured, ma’am?”

“No. Thank you for your concern. What’s the status of the Coursers now?”

“Temporary Acting Director Secord had unit X3-74 meet with all of us. Two Coursers were found to be acting against the policies of the Institute. They resisted and were terminated. The rest of us are operating under his command at the moment, pending any change in orders from the Directorate.”

“Are there any search and retrieve missions ongoing at this time?”

“Negative, ma’am. All Courser operations have been suspended, pending review of the necessity. We have been appraised that a change in Institute policy may be forthcoming and to be ready to assist whatever these new orders may be.”

“Very good. Carry on.”

I headed for the board room. Shaun had shown it to me, before. I decided that showing up, still reeking of gunpowder and with some blood on my armor might be a good thing. I walked into the room just as Shaun was taking his place at the head of the table.

I looked around the room. It was like many conference rooms I’d been in before. Large table, half a dozen chairs, drink glasses and water carafes in place. Shaun was at the head. To his left, along one side of the table, was Madison Li, Alan Binet, and Alana Secord. To his right was Allie Fillmore and Clayton Holdren.

“Ah, good. We hadn’t started yet. If you could take a seat, please?”, Shaun asked. I sat between Allie and Clayton. “It’s clear that our safety needs must be an ongoing concern from now on. With that in mind, where are we on Phase Three?”

Alana frowned. “Excuse me, sir, but ... is it wise to have this meeting, given present company?”

“I will address that issue, but there are other subjects that require our attention first. The level of unrest in the Commonwealth is on the rise, as we’re all aware. Your report?”

Allie said, “All Institute facilities continue to be completely secure, with the exception of ... one notable breach.”

“Very good. Then I think that Phase Three will help with that. However, there are other issues we also must address. You’re all aware that there have been some recent ... issues regarding some of our long-term policies regarding synths. Some of these have caused many of us to re-examine these policies, in light of recently acquired information.”

Madison nodded. “I agree with you on that, sir. Some of the things we’ve been working on in Advanced Systems have been placed on hold, pending policy review.”

Clayton looked a little concerned. “I’ve had some discussions with the people in my department about this, and they’re not sure these changes are warranted.”

Alan said, “While some in my department disagree with them, I think our traditions have caused us to overlook what these policy changes will mean for the future of both the Institute and the Commonwealth.”

Alana was visibly upset. “I’ve had quite a bit of internal strife within my area. One of my Coursers is acting ... well, a little odd. In addition, our stockpiles of Gen 1 synths have been drastically reduced. I’m not sure I should go into everything here, though.” She visibly looked at me when she said that.

“Considering that I just killed a Courser that was following illegal orders from a resident of the Institute, and two others were also terminated internally by the SRB for actions against the Institute, there’s been some things going on that definitely need overhauled.”

Shaun said, “I quite agree. And there will be something done about that. While Phase Three will take care of one of the most pressing issues facing the Institute, that of our power needs, it will do nothing regarding other, long-term issues facing us that threaten our survival. We’ve not considered those issues, unfortunately.”

Allie Fillmore looked puzzled. “But ... I don’t understand. The reason we’re where we are with Phase Three is because it will give us all the power we need, for now, and for centuries to come.”

I saw Madison nod. “I think I understand. While we may have enough energy, and we are relatively self-sufficient for food, there are still items and raw materials that we will still have to acquire from the surface.”

Clayton looked offended. “My team makes more than enough raw materials to process for food for us now. We’re projected to easily be able to keep up with the demand.”

Alan turned to him. “Of course you are, because we’re not replacing ourselves. What good is plenty of power and food going to do when there’s only half a dozen of us left down here?”

Clayton was puzzled. “I don’t understand, what do you mean?”

“I’ve realized that we’re all looking at our own areas and not looking at the broad picture. There are only three children under the age of twelve in the whole Institute. Barely a dozen under the age of twenty-five. The rest of us are older than that. We’re probably the best collection of intellect left remaining in the whole world, and we’re blind to the fact that as it stands, regardless of power or food, within a hundred years, we won’t have enough people here to keep things running.”

That caught the rest of the department heads by surprise.

Shaun spoke into the silence that followed. “Excellent summation, Doctor Binet. That allows me to lead to the main purpose for this meeting. As I’m sure most of you are aware, I’ve been under the care of Doctor Volkert for some time.”

Clayton frowned, objecting. “I’m not sure this is the right time...”

Shaun interrupted him. “Please, Doctor Holdren, it’s time. I’m sorry, this is ... difficult for me. Our best efforts have failed. Every experimental treatment we’ve devised has been unsuccessful. I’m ... I’m sorry to say that I am dying.”

Madison was shocked. “What?”

Shaun continued. “We can talk more later. Right now, the future of the Institute is at stake. The Institute cannot survive without leadership. The Directorate must continue to govern with the best interests of all in mind. And that includes our interactions with the Commonwealth. To that end, I am naming my mother as my successor.”

Clayton rolled his eyes. “Oh, boy!”

Alana protested, “You can’t be serious. Not after the incident in the SRB!”

Shaun smiled grimly. “Even more so, after that incident. Acting Director Ayo was using synths for personal pleasure toys, torturing them and sexually abusing them. Had he not been more concerned with taking my job, and doing his own, there would have been no issue in SRB.”

Alana recoiled in horror. “I ... I had no idea...”

“Unfortunately, I do. Before I get to the final reason I called this meeting, I am formally announcing as well that you will take over as the Acting Director of the SRB. However, with the changes we are making, the actual name of your department will probably need to be changed. Probably simply to Institute Security, but I leave that choice up to you and my mother. The same also goes for your department, Doctor Binet. You are not making robots any longer, not making machines. You are creating human life, the future of both the Institute and the Commonwealth.”

Binet looked stunned. “I’d ... I’ve been saying that, but to realize you took me seriously, believed me ... Thank you, Director.”

“Don’t thank me. Thank my successor. She can be very ... persuasive, especially when she has facts on her side and not simply emotion.” I noticed Madison unconsciously nodding in agreement. “And so, this brings me to the last reason for this meeting. As Doctor Li so noted, while the Institute may have sufficient power for ourselves for far into the future, we are not self-sufficient. No matter what we do, we shall require the Commonwealth.”

“Since it is also impossible to relocate the Institute outside the borders, we are also a part of the Commonwealth as well. Therefore, we are subject to whatever laws that exist in the Commonwealth, and to the civilian government of the Common as well.”

Clayton laughed. “What laws? What civilian government? That doesn’t exist.”

Shaun smiled wickedly this time. “In actuality, Doctor Holdren, you are quite wrong. In fact, I have asked the senior member of the Commonwealth government to join us at this meeting, to discuss the laws of the Commonwealth and how the civilian military forces known as the Minutemen will assist us, and we them.”

Madison and Alan looked at me, the rest of the Directorate turned towards the door to see who would come in. I used that opportunity to turn my chair, stand, and move next to Shaun. The three spun back to the head of the table, their expressions unanimously one of surprise.

“Thank you, Director Wilson. Good afternoon, I am Governor Tina Wilson. Under the laws of the Commonwealth of New England States and the State of Massachusetts, I am the lawful and legal head of State for the Commonwealth of New England States, and the Governor thereof. As this entity, formerly known as the Commonwealth Institute of Technology and now known simply as the Institute is physically present within territory under my jurisdiction, it is both my duty and my honor to represent you.”

I could see a twinkle of glee in Madison’s eyes, a huge smile on Alan’s face, a look of amusement on Allie’s face, and slack jaws from both Alana and Clayton as my words sank in. I didn’t give them a chance to interrupt.

“Now, obviously there will be questions about the actual governing of the Institute, as well as how it will work with the civilian militia, commonly known as the Minutemen. To that end, I simply pledge to work with both the future director of the Institute as named by current Director Shaun Wilson, as well as the Commanding Officer of the Commonwealth Minutemen.” I quickly stepped to the other side of Shaun’s chair. “Allow me to introduce myself, I’m General Tina Wilson, Commanding Officer of the Commonwealth Minutemen. Hold your questions for the Governor, please.” I slid back to where I first stood. “Obviously, you are scientists and know that one piece of matter cannot occupy the physical space of another piece of matter without causing a rather energetic reaction. Fortunately, job titles and thus the concurrent responsibilities entailed are not matter. Anyone who has ever had to do more than one thing at once understands that.”

Clayton started laughing, interrupting me. After a moment, the rest of the Directorate joined him. Madison began clapping, which also was a cue for her fellows. Shaun simply sat in his chair, looking rather smug.

When the noise died down, Alana brought up a valid point. “What about the Railroad and the Brotherhood of Steel? Surely you’re not also in command of both of those.”

“It’s no secret that I’m a member of both. Without the actual need for the Railroad to operate in secrecy, they will simply help organic synths who wish to leave the Institute of their own free will and adjust to life in the Commonwealth. I can also foresee the Institute and Railroad working together, as ... well, the Railroad has the ability to help those people gain new lives, but actually taking away bad memories may require the technology that only exists here.”

“The Brotherhood of Steel is a different story. They are visiting here from the Columbia and Eastern Commonwealths, which are under their control. Upon completion of their mission here, then the majority of their forces will return to their base in Columbia, the Citadel, while a smaller force will remain here, under the command of an officer that Elder Maxson trusts.”

Madison chuckled. “Let me guess, that former synth that’s in the Brotherhood. I’ve seen video of Maxson, you, and him together.”

“Uh, no. Danse is a Star Paladin. Maxson will leave a Sentinel in charge here.”

“A Sentinel? After Sarah Lyons was killed, I didn’t think the Brotherhood would ever promote anyone to that rank again,” she said.

“No disrespect intended, Doctor Li, but the rest of us aren’t as familiar with the ranks of the Brotherhood as you are. What is this rank?”

“Simple, Allie. Maxson is the Elder, he runs the Brotherhood of Steel. Period. You said Danse was a Star Paladin?” I nodded. “Okay, the Paladin rank are like the officer corps, and Star Paladin is the highest rank they can achieve. They’re free from the chain of command, in that they’re not placed in charge of other groups of soldiers. They do what they’re ordered to do, at all costs, and usually succeed. You don’t get that rank unless you’re something special. But a Sentinel? That’s someone very special. The only person in the Brotherhood that can countermand their orders is Maxson himself. Totally outside the chain of command, and will choose their own missions,” Madison explained.

She nodded. “Yeah, I could see Maxson leaving some overzealous Sentinel in charge.”

I frowned. “I am not overzealous, at least I don’t think so.”

Madison just put her face down, her forehead in her palm. “I should have guessed.”

Alana looked a little lost. “Wait. You ARE in charge of the Brotherhood?”

“Not yet. When Arthur takes the Prydwen home ... or leaves it here, for that matter ... then I’ll be in charge of all Brotherhood forces in our Commonwealth, once he leaves. I think he’s actually done more growing up than anyone in the Institute. Oh, and just for point of clarification, the reason the level of unrest in the Commonwealth is so high right now is that the Minutemen and Brotherhood are conducting military operations, going through and systematically cleaning out feral ghouls, super mutants, and any Raider groups that are too stupid to surrender.”

Alan asked, “I’m just curious now, more than anything else. How do you keep straight who you are?”

“I’ve talked to your scientists here. One of them mentioned she was talking to me while also reviewing multiple blueprints in her mind. Something you often forget is that the ability to multi-task and to wear more than one hat, as they called it in the old military, isn’t just a trait restricted to science.”

Shaun said, “Now that I think we’ve managed to cover everything, I plan to leave it up to the Governor in dealing with the remaining scientist here in the Institute who abused the synths and caused so much destruction in the Commonwealth. Unless there is some objection?”

No one spoke up. “All right. Doctor Binet, please contact...” X6-88 was at the door.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, ma’am. There’s been a disturbance. Two of the scientists have taken over Bio-Sciences and are threatening to destroy the Institute’s food supply. They have locked everyone out, saying this is in protest of Father’s decision regarding you.”

“Who are they,” Shaun asked.

“Doctors Higgs and Loken.”

Alana stood up. “I’ll get forces there...” She stopped when I raised my hand.

“I’ve got this. I’m guessing the synths I interviewed didn’t remember Higgs. But they described Loken perfectly. Doctor Holdren, will your department be able to function without Doctor Higgs?”

He looked frightened. I don’t think he’d ever had to make a life or death decision before. “Uh ... there are several projects running that he’s in charge of, we don’t have anyone who could easily take his place.”

“Very well. If you’d all wait here, please, this won’t take long.”

Alan spoke up. “What about Max?”

I looked at him, my eyes hard, and just shook my head. I left the room, following X6.

“Ma’am, there are half a dozen Gen 2 security guards in there. I can have a group of Coursers here for back-up in moments.”

“That’s okay. If you think they’d like to watch, that’s fine. But as I said, I’ve got this.”

He laughed, which sounded odd coming from him. “You know what? After what I’ve seen, I believe it.” He brought a hand up to his ear. “X6 to all Coursers. We’re invited to watch, and I think you’ll all want to do so.”

It was only moments when what seemed a veritable army of black uniforms came running. There were only about twenty of them, but they looked imposing. I went to the door of Bio-Sciences and opened it. A black man in a lab coat with the Bio-Sciences colors was waiting.

“Ma’am, I’m Newton Oberly. They kicked us out and they had guns. I can’t get by the security on this door, but I might be able to open this side door.”

“I recognize you. You were the one complaining about the random searches. Have they stopped now?”

He blinked. “Uh, yes. I haven’t heard of anyone being subject to them since that day. Thank you for remembering. Um, I know both Doctors Loken and Higgs, they’re completely serious about cutting off our food supply.”

“I’m glad there have been some changes for the positive. This will probably be another. Now, let’s see here...” I walked up to the terminal beside the main entry. How can anyone who is so smart be so stupid? Sure, they’d locked it, but then instead of powering the terminal off on our side, they left it up. Which meant I could exercise some of my own skills.

After a couple of minutes, I smiled. I moved to the middle of the door, drawing my pistol. “X6, if you would be so kind as to push the enter button on that terminal...”

He moved up and did so. The doors slid open at twice their normal speed. I had already started to dive, so the two robot synths guarding the door weren’t aimed anywhere near where I actually was. Two shots. I rolled to my right, coming to one knee. Two more shots, two more downed synths. I used my leg to push off and came up in a full run, just like Dad had taught me going through Hogan’s Alley. Another shot to my left, another downed synth. Loken and Higgs were standing near a console, expecting to hear some demands from outside. One shot, to the shoulder, and Higgs was down. Loken heard his grunt of pain and started to turn. Two shots, his head disappeared in a puff of spray. One more shot and I took out the last synth in the room. I stopped, holstering my pistol.

“Holy shit, ma’am! Total elapsed time from when I pushed the button until you were done was under fifteen seconds.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I’m tired and getting older, it should have only taken me ten, with so few targets. Go get Doctor Volkert, Higgs will need some treatment.”

One of the Coursers that had followed me into the room turned and ran out. The rest were walking around, examining and reconstructing my every move. I almost laughed when I saw one of them try the dive and roll maneuver in his overcoat. Oberly pushed his way through them, saw the blood and brains laying on the floor behind Loken’s body, and promptly bent over and vomited.

A different Courser helped Oberly to a chair and pulled over a trash can, while yet another ran to a wall dispenser and brought over a glass of water. Oberly took a sip of the water and spit it into the trash can. “Thank you,” he said to the Coursers. Then he realized just who had helped him, and his face grew puzzled.

“Unit X3-74 has discussed with us some changes to our duties, Doctor Oberly, as well as the necessity for changes within the Institute itself. I believe you will find things are no longer quite as you expect,” one of the Coursers explained.

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