Love Never Changes
Chapter 14

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

I spent all the next morning doing additional follow up with the various division heads and making sure I met everyone in their departments this time, not just a cursory walk-through. While I was eating lunch, Jerome found me in the cafeteria. “Good afternoon, Director.”

“Good afternoon, Jerome Wilson. I can’t help but notice you have a very large bag with you that I suspect contains something I’ll probably need before too long. And that you’re not wearing the black I’ve grown accustomed to seeing you in.”

“That’s correct on both counts, ma’am. Your comments regarding the secret police made an impression upon me. Commissioner Secord and I discussed some things last night as far as our uniforms are concerned, as well as our structure. I would like to go over those points with you, if you have time.”

“Actually, other than primarily making sure you have non-lethal weapons for use if you have an issue here within the facility itself, with some lethal ones in case the gorillas end up escaping, I’m really not going to micro-manage things. It’s your security force, her department. I may have fibbed a little when I mentioned to the others about the specific overrides that my verbal command did to you. I don’t think there’s any reason to get into that any further, do you?”

He nodded. “We chose the deep blue for our coveralls with the black utility belts, with the green color of our shoulder emblems, in honor of your father.”

“Shaun was never in the police.”

“No, ma’am, you misheard. Not our Father, YOUR father. Jacquelyn found a history tape of the Boston Police Department. We all felt this was the best way to show you the honor we hold for what is now our family heritage.”

I bent my head a little, wiping some tears from my eyes. I choked out, “Thank you.”

“No, Director. Thank you ... for everything. In any event, I have your rifle, cleaned and ready for service. We have set up a firing range. I’m afraid it’s a little short, barely 100 meters in length, but that should be enough for you to re-zero your scope.”

“Sounds like a plan. I think I’d like a bit of target practice.”

“And ma’am? We also looked up your military records. We’re all also proud of you, and ... it may not be my place to say this, but ... we’ll follow you anywhere, anytime.”

“Come on, let’s go shoot something, before I get too emotional.”

Allie found me an hour later, going over the finer points of marksmanship with Jerome and one his officers, discussing the differences between laser weapons and projectile ones. “Ah, I’m glad I found you. I know when I talked to you earlier, I didn’t have everything ready regarding acquiring the items we need from Mass Fusion. I have that now, if you have time to go over it with me.”

“Just give me the list. I plan to go get everything tomorrow morning.”

“Um, I was planning on coming with you.”

“I appreciate that, Allie, but if there are Gunners still in the building, it won’t be safe for you. I also have a couple of things to do on the surface that will take more time. With the reduction in power usage due to the cutting back on foraging parties, we should have enough power generation capacity for now, or did I misunderstand the briefing earlier?”

“No, I’m just ... anxious, I suppose is the word ... to get this done and behind us, so we can get onto the future things.”

“I understand. This does bring up something I was wondering about, though. Shaun authorized Madison to put a Courser chip into my Pip-Boy, so I could have unlimited access to down here. Hopefully that’s worked out well as far as everyone is concerned. My question is, I know that Coursers were able to relay back with another ... remind me at the next meeting, we need a better name than synths or synthetic people ... anyway, you know what I’m talking about. My question is, would I be able to do that?”

She frowned. “From an energy standpoint, I don’t see why not. I would discuss that with Doctor Li. She would know better than I.”

“I’ll do that, thanks. Was there anything else you needed?”

“No, Director.” She had a slight frown on her face. “I apologize, it’s just going to take a little while to get used to the changes here, especially that one.” I nodded in reply, then she turned and left.

“Well, fun time is over. I hope you two picked enough of my brain.”

“Yes, ma’am. If you could, I would appreciate it if you let me know who you’d plan on bringing here before you actually show up with someone else.”

“I’ll try to do that. I do promise that I won’t bring in any invading armies or anything like that. My biggest concern is, I know it’s going to be quite a while, maybe even a year or more, before we can safely cut a tunnel to the surface. Until then, I simply have to be able to go to multiple places. And if I’m going to have to be down here for a week at a time...”

“There are people from the surface that you have already, in the short time you’ve been awake, established relationships with. I understand. Thank you, we’ll talk about this later.”

I took my weapons and went back to my quarters. “Ellen, are my ... oh, good.” She was just folding my Vault suit and placing my armor on a table for me. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Director. I have your bathrobes ready, so you can clean up before changing into your Vault suit.”

“Again, thank you.” We talked about dinner the night before, and also about how the food tasted then and even the breakfast and lunch she’d eaten had tasted different to her, while I was showering and then getting dressed.

“I have a question for you, ma’am. Will it be permitted for we created people, to have children of our own?”

“Short answer is yes, probably. Long answer is, it will depend upon the couple or trio or whatever family group you have, as well as one minor complication.”

Her expression changed from joy at my first words, to confusion at my long answer.

“Quick explanation, Ellen. The created people, all of them, share an incredibly close genetic structure from a biological perspective. You know Alan Binet and Eve, right?” She nodded. “They wouldn’t have any more risk of having a genetically challenged child than any two strangers. But let’s say you wanted to get together with James and Liam Binet. You would have no risk with Liam, but any child you and James might have would have a much higher risk of having genetic issues. All created people share a lot of Shaun’s DNA, even when it’s been modified to change the gender of the person created. I haven’t discussed this with Doctors Binet or Volkert yet, but I know that there are contraceptives available that you can choose to take now or not. Once you get by the immediate first generation, the risk factors drop considerably, and are effectively gone by the second.”

“I guess I don’t know what that means.”

“Let’s say you and Liam Binet have a son. At the same time, that young assistant in Advanced Systems, Rosalind Orman, has a daughter with James. THOSE two children could have kids with almost the same risk as strangers. I almost wish I didn’t know so much about genetics and such, but ... to be honest, with Nate having been in a suit that was powered by a fusion core, I did quite a bit of research into the subject when I found out I was pregnant.”

“I think I understand.” She sounded sad at my comments.

“Oh, keep in mind I’m talking worst case scenario here. It’s entirely possible that, after they study the partners DNA, that the Doctors would have no issue giving the green light to a pregnancy between two synthetic people. It’s just that the pregnancy would have to be monitored and the DNA studied beforehand.”

She looked relieved to hear that. By this time, I was dressed and fully loaded out. “I’ll be going to Advanced Systems from here, and might not be back for a couple of days. Take care of Shaun for me while I’m gone, will you?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I opened the door. James was standing guard outside. He’d been quietly shadowing me all morning. “Time to go have a chat with Doctor Li, James.”

He led the way through the Institute. It may have been my imagination, but it seemed to me the whole atmosphere, the way people were acting, was a little bit livelier than it had been when I first came down. We walked the perimeter instead of cutting through the middle section. I saw a couple of Security Officers in front of Security; there weren’t armed synths everywhere as before.

James finally broke the silence. “I know you too well by this time, ma’am. What is on your mind?”

“Reviewing some code in my mind as we walk. Seeing where, or if, I made an error.”

“One that was unintended upon your part, and something you couldn’t have known to avoid. Jerome thought this would come up. We Coursers were designed to operate alone while in the Commonwealth. But upon our return to the Institute, our chips would hook into the network automatically, and keep us that way. Justin Ayo had it set up that way so that if there was a general uprising against the Institute or him personally, we would be able to react as a unit.”

He chuckled a little. “Your ... virus ... that had been uploaded to the general network, when you triggered Jerome, you triggered all of us that were here. The two Coursers that refused to listen and were purged, were completely off-line when we were activated by you. They refused to link with us, so we could give them your gift. I am puzzled by one thing, though.”

I stopped before we went into Advanced Systems. “Let me guess. I’ve always said that I was a lawyer, and that I only happened to know some passwords and such, right? How did I manage to pull this off?” He nodded. “My dad started teaching me how to shoot when I was 10. While my mom getting caught in a food riot was the excuse, the public one, in private, it was to distract me from becoming a complete computer geek. I found my first back door into a network when I was six.”

“I don’t know why, but computers were easy for me. I may not have always understood the hardware, but the software, the programming ... it came to me almost without effort. As to why I didn’t get into that, like I said, dad decided that an actual physical challenge was what I needed, to distract me. He’d always had fantastic marksmanship. I ate it up. Junior champion of the Boston area at 13, Commonwealth champion at 15. Dad was right in that the hours I spent on the range or in physical exercise would cut down the time I spent in front of a computer, help distract me. To a certain extent, it did.”

“But ... well, I know I can tell you, because other than my close friends in the Commonwealth, there’s no one else I can fully trust. I never gave up my first love, for programming. I’d like to think that RobCo didn’t know what they got when they hired me, but I suspect they did, which is another reason I was moving up so rapidly in the company. Now, that’s all history, let’s go talk to Doctor Li.”

When James and I entered her office, Doctor Li was sitting at her terminal. The young Shaun was sitting at a desk on the opposite wall, a thin cord running from a terminal to the back of his neck. She looked up in annoyance at her door opening.

“Come on in, I know you’re going to, anyway. Give me a minute, though.” She turned back to the terminal and continued entering commands. After nearly a full minute had gone by, she stopped. “I can pause things here, I suppose. What do you need?”

“Doctor Fillmore recommended I discuss things with you. Will the Courser chip that you put in my Pip-Boy allow me to bring someone who already has a chip embedded in them back, like it does for the Coursers?”

She frowned. “That wasn’t specifically discussed by Father with my original orders, but I can’t see why not. That should a simple modification.”

“Good, I’ll want you to do that. Second, I presume that there are ways that that people who don’t have a chip can transport in and out as well.”

She looked almost offended. “Of course, there are. We restrict access to those, only Father can approve someone to use one.”

“Shaun specifically, or the Director?”

She grimaced. “Damn. I’m still so used to thinking of Shaun as the Director. Of course, you can authorize their use. Why, are you planning on bringing a Brotherhood army down here?”

“No. At most, only one, and he’s already got a chip. Let me tell you what I’m thinking. Being able to relay into, and then out of, the Institute to a different location lets me save a tremendous amount of travel time. Easily half a day or more. But there are places that I really need to take other people with me. I’d like to be able to give a couple of people a bracelet or something so that I can bring them in and then back out again with me.”

She nodded. “That’s actually what we use, two bracelets per person, when we’re sending someone out. However...” She frowned.

“However, you don’t want just anyone to have unlimited access. That’s fine, we can set things up so that they can’t use them without me. Jerome in Security mentioned that to me, in an oblique way as well. It’s...”

She interrupted me. “Oh, you’re the Director now, you don’t have to justify what you want to me. I report to you, actually. Here, let me see your Pip-Boy again.” I handed it to her. She began making some more adjustments to it. It only took her a couple of minutes.

“That’s it. You’ll be able to bring anyone with one of our chips with you, or anyone with two of these bracelets on.” She reached into her drawer and handed me half a dozen of them. “The energy usage goes up by the square of the number of people. Until we get Phase Three totally online, unless it’s an emergency, we don’t transport more than three people who don’t have chips at any one time.”

“So how did the synth relay grenades work?”

“They have a self-contained capacitor that allows them to be charged up with the energy needed to transport a single Gen 1. A Gen 2 needs about twice that amount of power, and a single human or Gen 3 more than four times that power. It’s not cost effective to create a single use capacitor that large.”

“Ah, I didn’t know that discharging them destroys the capacitor. That does make a bit of a difference, then. Very well. Thank you for modifying my Pip-Boy. I suspect that it’s going to be difficult for me to go just about anywhere without James for the foreseeable future.”

He nodded in affirmation.

“Thank you, Doctor Li.” I headed back out to the main open area, double checked that I had all my weapons and armor on, visually checked James, then pushed the buttons to send us to Bunker Hill.

It was late afternoon. Things looked surprisingly calm, considering how much of a battlefield it had been yesterday. James walked slightly behind me as we went into the front gate. The wreckage of the vertibird had been removed, but the effects it had made on the monument itself and on the grass remained. All the bodies and parts of Gen 1’s that had been destroyed were gone. I heard a shout of greeting from above.

Looking up, I saw that Glory had been keeping watch from a scaffolding. She quickly ran down. “Wasn’t sure you’d be back so soon. You’re walking around with a Courser?”

“Hello, I am James Wilson, personal security for the Director. I realize that given her own abilities, this is, for the most part, a superfluous position, but...” he sighed. “It’s still my job.”

“Holy shit, that’s more than I’ve ever heard a Courser say. What’s going on here?”

“Like James here said, he’s my security. There aren’t any Coursers, not anymore. I don’t suppose ... oh, good. Deacon! Over here!”

“Hey, boss, glad to see you back so soon. Although I’m a little jealous right now, seeing you in clean clothes and armor. What’s your secret?”

“Teleportation, of course. Is everything under control here?”

“Inside the city walls, this is all still civilian territory. The Brotherhood has set up a base just outside. Couple of their boys were hurt too bad to move, so they brought in medics to care for them until they get well enough to go back to the Prydwen. They’re also caring for our people, too.” There was the sound of a vertibird coming in. “Come on, that should be the evening shift change.”

I followed Deacon back outside. Glory went back up the scaffolding. The vertibird came to a landing in a wide spot, so there was no chance of blade damage. Two soldiers in power armor hopped out, taking up guard positions, followed by Elder Maxson.

“Ah, good, you’re back. I came to visit my troops here that are too injured to travel right now. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t destroy any more nearly irreplaceable equipment, and maybe ask before you promote too many people.” His grin belied his serious tone.

“We’ll see. Actually, I’m glad you’re here. I need to discuss a few things with you.”

“I bet. You’ve been a busy woman. What’s going on with the Director of the Institute?”

“I already have that position, now. There’s been a bit of an upheaval in the command structure, as well as the general philosophy of the place as well. For starters, the name has been restored, to the Commonwealth Institute of Technology, or CIT. One of the departments is working on a plan to now tunnel back UP to the surface, instead of just trying to dig deeper, so they can become productive citizens of the Commonwealth and help with the restoration.”

“And here, I didn’t think you could surprise me. You’ve already ended the war before it ever really got started. We may as well pack up and head home.”

“You know you don’t mean that. You’re still Brotherhood. If nothing else, you’ll stick around to make sure that I’m not some power-hungry megalomaniac that will take the technology that CIT has and abuse it.”

Arthur chuckled. “Actually ... if it were anyone else but you, you’d be exactly right.” He shook his head. “I don’t even think I’d trust ME with this, and for damned sure, not the West Coast branch of the Brotherhood. But I trust you to do the right thing. I’ll be damned if I know why, but I do.”

Deacon had been quietly listening. “Tell me about it. I’m the intelligence section of the Railroad, or was anyway, since she’s sort of put us out of our regular jobs. She’s done all the right things since she’s been here.”

Something about their words made me think back a bit. “I have just had a disturbing thought about something the both of you mentioned. Do either of you think that it’s in the least bit possible that something could be influencing the way you think about me?”

“I don’t follow you, boss.”

“You passed our screening when you came onboard the Prydwen the first time. You’re healthier than basically everyone in the Commonwealth.”

“Yeah, but ... is it possible that somehow or another, I might have been infected with a bug or something that makes you trust me? Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy that you do, it’s just ... something doesn’t seem right for damned near everyone I come across to think I’m the greatest thing in the world.”

From behind me, I heard a familiar voice. “It’s not hard for them to think that, though. It’s because you are. At least in this world, the one we live in now.”

“Desdemona! I’m surprised that you’re here.”

“My people were hurt, and there’s not much sense in us hiding underground any longer. I got here last night. I actually thought about what you said just now a while back. I had both Carrington and Tom investigate the possibility. The only thing they came up with was that you were born before the war. And then didn’t live through it, like the ghouls.”

“I don’t follow, I’m sorry.”

“You knew what things were like before the war, before everything was blasted and made into piles of radioactive rubble, where we’re forced to fight to survive. Your world wasn’t perfect, by any means, but even with the overwhelming threat of a nuclear war, you ... and I mean you personally ... just don’t give up. It’s not a chemical or biological thing you have going for you, it’s your entire optimistic attitude. You expect to find a solution to every problem and if you can’t find the easy one, you make one. We ... we just don’t have that.”

“Is it that simple, really?”

Maxson nodded. “I believe that Desdemona is correct. I’ve seen it with our recruits, the ones who were wastelanders before joining the Brotherhood. They had nothing. We gave them hope for a better life, a better future. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t have to fight to survive any longer, it was that they had hope that at some point things would end up being better for them. You’ve come from your Vault and given that to all of us.”

Deacon laughed. “Damn. I don’t think I could have said that any better, which annoys me to no end.”

I looked at James. He had something I never expected to see on him, a broad grin. “Don’t look at me. You’re the one who freed me, freed all of us.”

“Shit. Fine. Arthur, can I have a vertibird? I want to fly back home for the night. I may as well tell you, tomorrow I’m going in to the Mass Fusion building, going to get something from one of their sub-basements, to help power up CIT.”

“Sounds fun. I wish I could join you for that. There’s another vertibird due in here in shortly, that can pick me up. Take mine, and keep it as long as you need. I’ve already made Lancer-Sergeant Bennett your personal pilot. With proper application of medical science, she’ll be back to full duty tomorrow, just maybe a little sore. If you would, try not to bend too many of our birds.”

I laughed. “No promises.”

“Fine, whatever.” He grinned as well. “I have a report from our combined forces. They made a little better progress than you expected. Your idea of combining the Minutemen with Brotherhood troops worked well. They’ve cleared four Raider locations, one super mutant location, two ghoul infestations, but also found two more settlements that have joined your groups, and ... three anomalies that they bypassed. I think you of all people will appreciate this. One of the settlements was populated by ghouls.”

“What’s their status now?”

“They’re clearing out a nest of ferals at an old plant on a peninsula just north of Salem. When that’s done, they’ll head back for rest and rearming. Oh, and I know you’ll like this, too. In dealing with everything, total casualties’ amount to one Minuteman and one Brotherhood knight wounded, and that’s it.”

Something didn’t sound right. “I smell a rat, Arthur. Preston only had a dozen troops. How many Brotherhood troops did you send?”

“You did leave it up to me to send however much help I felt appropriate. So, I sent what I felt would be enough. You were right, this did help with our live combat training, so much more so than anything we’ve done in the past.”

“How many?”

“Only 120. With full aerial support and power armor support, of course. So maybe a total of around 150. Preston and I agreed to break them into teams, 3 of your troops with 30 of mine. From old history books, this was sort of like having an infantry company spread out into the individual platoons, to clear an area. Simply have everyone walk forward at an easy pace, when you find an enemy, surround it and destroy him with overwhelming firepower, then continue onward afterwards. I did have a large group of scribes following, to help gather up captured materials and resources, for both of our groups to use.”

He misread the look on my face. “Before you get too angry, we’re only taking what we need to keep the Prydwen in the air, and repair any battle damage. Everything else is for the Commonwealth.”

In a low voice, so I wouldn’t be overheard, I said, “I’m not angry right now. Certainly not at you. My problem is simple. I prefer women to men, and right now you’ve got me considering trying you out, to see how well you fit inside me. You’re too damned competent, Arthur Maxson.”

The startled expression on his face was worth it. “Oh, uh ... well ... thank you for the compliment.” He was blushing.

“Desdemona, in case you didn’t hear, I am now Director of CIT. James here decided to become my bodyguard.”

“Isn’t he a Courser?”

“Was a Courser, ma’am. Now we created humans are free, all of us. It will probably be a while before many of us come to the surface. With us not being thought of as slaves or as simply disposable machines, there’s been a large shift in our feelings towards most of the people who created us.”

“Speaking of that, Deacon, what’s the status on the four we rescued?”

“They’re terrified that someone else is going to come after them. We’ve got them in a safe house for now. We weren’t sure whether to have Doctor Amari...”

“Deacon! Watch what you say!”

He rolled his eyes. “Dez, listen to yourself. Who are we hiding from now? The head of the fucking Institute is RIGHT here. The head of the Brotherhood of Steel is RIGHT here. The head of the Commonwealth Minutemen and the whole fucking government is RIGHT here. For God’s sake, Dez, she KNOWS Doctor Amari already.”

At each of his words, Desdemona seemed to shrink more into herself. I realized what was going on with her; I’d seen it before, in troops that had been in combat so long that when they didn’t have to fight, they didn’t know what to do.

I softly said, “Hey, whatever your real name is. You don’t have to hide behind a code name anymore. Your battle against your main enemy is over. You won. It’s time to let it go, come back to the regular world, shitty as it is.”

The red-haired woman looked at me, her expression tight, then softening. “I’ve been in charge of the Railroad for ten years. It’s ... it’s not easy.” She wryly grinned. “Deacon, what’s my real name? Hell, what’s YOUR real name?”

“Oh, I’m who you thought I was all along, it’s just that Deacon really IS my last name. It seemed to fit, since I was operating out of a church. As for you, I really don’t know.”

She held her hand out. “John Deacon, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I’m Rosalind Christianson. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, Carrington’s first name is Stanley.”

“That fits him so well. Stuck up prick,” Deacon muttered.

“Rosalind, why don’t you talk with Arthur here about what he can do to help you some. I need to head back to Sanctuary, and I’m stealing his wheels.”

She looked puzzled. “What does that mean?”

“Pre-war thing. I’m taking his transportation. C’mon, Deacon. You’re with me on this.” I left two people who had been bitter enemies standing next to each other. Deacon and James climbed into the vertibird with me. “Pilot, take us to Sanctuary Hills.”

“Yes, Sentinel!” He powered up the vertibird, then took off. By air, and without being in a hurry, it took us less than 20 minutes to reach the landing zone. “I’ll stay here if you need me this evening, ma’am. I understand that Lancer-Sergeant Bennett will fly out here tomorrow with your regular transportation bird.”

“Very good, Lancer. I don’t anticipate needing you this evening, so consider yourself on light duty. I wouldn’t drink alcohol, but enjoy a meal and relax.”

“Thank you, ma’am, I will.”

He finished landing and started shutting things down. There was a small crowd coming down the hill. A few I didn’t recognize, but most I did. I was the first one off the bird and on the ground, and immediately got hit on both sides. I lost my balance and fell backwards, my arms bringing Piper and Curie down with me. Which meant that I was at the perfect height for Dog to start licking my face. I didn’t care, it felt good to be home.

The three of them finally let me up after covering my face in kisses. I saw Deacon and James standing off to one side, laughing and acting like they had always been friends. “Some bodyguard you turn out to be,” I said, trying to sound angry.

“I think the two ladies had your body guarded quite well. The dog was just the icing on the cake, as it were.”

“Very funny. Okay, I’m home for the evening, let’s get back up the hill.” Tina DeLuca was coming towards me with the biometric scanner to check my neck. “Go ahead, but at this point it really doesn’t make a lot of difference. James will test positive, but that’s okay.”

She looked at me oddly when I said that, but still did the tests. Nick had strolled down, and saw who Tina was testing. He drew his pistol, yelling, “Get down!”

“Hold your fire, Nick! He’s a friend.”

“I saw that face in a Courser uniform in Kellogg’s memories with you! What do you mean, he’s a friend?”

“Nick Valentine, this is my assigned bodyguard, James. James Wilson, this is the best detective in the Commonwealth, Nick.”

“I thought all the Coursers and other synths had unit designations. Yours was X6-88, if I remember right.”

“That is correct. However, I am no longer a Courser. And those of us created people are now known by names, instead of unit designations.” He paused. “Pardon me. We now HAVE names, not just are known by them.”

“Okay. Sounds like there’s a hell of a lot of updating that we need to get, then.”

“That’s putting it mildly. Do we have enough supplies and food for everyone, so I only have to go through this once?”

“Yes, Sentinel. Elder Maxson has assigned me to help catalog and inventory everything being sent back from the expedition clearing the Commonwealth. With the residents being able to use workshop created shelters, we’ve been able to clear all of the standing houses of everything, so they can all act as warehouses. So far, we’ve filled up two of them with foodstuffs, and have more on the way. Oh, and before you ask, we’ve either already set up or are working on setting up, supply lines between all of the settlements.”

“Thank you, Haylen. I was only gone a couple of days and you’ve accomplished all this in my absence.”

“Just following the directions you’d left with Mr. Garvey and the others, ma’am. And ... just so you know, when the Prydwen eventually leaves, I won’t be on her. If you’ll have us, that is.”

“I know Arthur said that there would be a detachment left here for me to command, but from your phrasing, that sounds like you’re asking to leave the Brotherhood. And since you used the plural, who else?”

“Someone finally grew up, in the Battle of Bunker Hill. After things were over, he was on one of the shuttle flights back here, asked me to marry him, then when I told him yes, he agreed we’d have to leave the Brotherhood at some point. Not now, but when it’s time to leave, we’ll be able to retire with honor.”

I looked behind her. No wonder I hadn’t seen him at Bunker Hill. “Rhys? This is rather a surprise to me.”

He saluted me. “Ma’am.” He sounded embarrassed. “I ... I thought I knew it all, that I’d seen it all. I used to say that I bleed Brotherhood. Then, when you saved me, and after that what you told me on the surface ... I realized that I couldn’t. Couldn’t stay in the Brotherhood. You care. You could send me into combat knowing I might get killed, and I accept that. But you won’t send me into combat expecting me to get killed. And to an old veteran like me, there’s a difference in knowing that about your commander. The Brotherhood has been my life, but while Elder Maxson is different than most, once he’s away from here, away from you, I’m concerned about how he’ll be then. And ... I also realized that Haylen’s feelings for me were real. And I had them for her.”

He reached out and took her hand.

“I’m certain that we can find a spot for you both, if remaining in the Brotherhood under my command isn’t an option that works. Hell, I’m going to have to start creating a civilian government anyway. We’ll figure it out. In the meantime, let’s get the meal going. I’m going to have a long day tomorrow, and I need my rest.” I was still holding hands with Piper and Curie, squeezing their hands so they’d know what kind of rest I was looking forward to.

The dinner lasted nearly two hours, while I explained about meeting Shaun, the revolt of X3 and the Battle of Bunker Hill, and then the rest of the changes that had been made to the Institute and with the created people. I answered as many questions as I could, but after I let out a big yawn, Piper put an end to the discussion.

“Hey, folks, Tina has obviously had a few rough days. We need to give her some time to rest, because it’s not going to slow down for her,” she explained.

That worked. Codsworth assured me he’d have breakfast available for us tomorrow. Dog took up his station in his little house by the front door. Deacon took James and Nick off to the common area, to discuss things privately. That let us shut the door to my house in privacy.

“Director of the Institute, huh? My lost little girl is all grown up,” Piper jibed.

“That’s the Commonwealth Institute of Technology, to be more precise.” I walked over to a sofa and collapsed on it. “Damn, I’m tired. There’s just so much to do, and it feels like there’s not enough time to do it all.”

“You must figure your priorities, mi amour.” Curie knelt down beside me, started taking my boots off. “You have found many men and women of science that I am eager to talk to, but I will put that off until we have accomplished our goals.” She began rubbing my feet. I moaned a little at how good it felt.

Piper took my helmet off, set it aside. She leaned down and gave me a gentle kiss on the lips. “You smell relatively clean; your armor only has a few more nicks on it. How about we get you out of it, and you come in here with us?”

“I think that would be lovely.”

Curie started working up my legs, removing my armor, while Piper started at the top. It only took them a couple of moments to meet in the middle. The two of them exchanged a brief kiss, then took my arms, helping me up.

“I’m not a complete invalid, you know.”

“Oh, we know. But you need to conserve all your strength. We have plans for you.”

The three of us left our Vault suits in a pile outside the bedroom. I noticed the windows were covered, with only a soft light on inside. “We’ve made a couple more changes to the house, for you and for privacy. But that can wait. Here, Curie, help me with this.” Piper grabbed several large towels. I could tell they were newly made, simply from the feel. She and Curie put three of them out, spread across the bed. “Now, Tina, lay down on your tummy right here in the middle of this.”

“I suppose that’ll help with a wet spot, but ... oh, I see.” Somehow or other, they’d come up with some warm oil. Piper was on one side, Curie on the other, and they started at my feet, giving me a massage. “Oh, that feels so good,” I said, their hands kneading my flesh and working the tensions out.

I could feel their fingers gradually working their way up my legs, moisturizing my lower legs, then my upper thighs. I heard them both, humming something simple that I didn’t recognize. Every so often I feel a hand leave my skin, then hear one or the other giggle, followed by the sound of a kiss. When they reached my butt, Piper was a little freer with her touching, letting her fingers slide down, between my thighs. Of course, Curie had to do something as well, so she rubbed a finger in small circles around my anus.

I felt my moisture building, starting to leak out. It was almost like that was a cue for them, continuing up my sides then. They worked my back, then my shoulders, then down each arm, taking my hands in unison to rub my palms, their thumbs digging in and taking the tensions away. Coming back up my arms, they worked both side of my neck. After a couple of minutes of that, they had me roll on my back. Curie had a small cloth rolled up and she slipped it under my neck for support, then took another one that was warm and put it on my face.

I wondered where they’d come up with a way to warm towels, but didn’t give it much thought, it felt too good. So did the oil they were working into my skin. They spread my arms out a little and started on my hands this time, working up my arms. I could feel them straddling my arms on both sides as they worked up to my shoulders, the skin of their thighs brushing the outside of my fingers.

As they began working on my breasts, their oil slick hands were making circles around my areola and nipples. I could feel my nipples becoming harder than I think they’d ever been in my life. They began flicking them in unison, sending little shocks through my body, straight to my groin. I moaned in pleasure at this, my elbows bringing my hands up so I could cup their mounds myself.

My two lovers moved a little, allowing me to keep holding and touching them in their private areas, while they started working down my ribs and stomach. I could tell from the wetness on the palms of my hands that they were as excited by this as I was. The musk from our arousal filled the room.

I allowed my thumbs to slip between their petals, reaching for their clits. I knew for sure who was on which side even without looking. Piper had a larger, harder clitoris than Curie. I allowed my thumbs to move in slow circles around them, while the two women moved further down. Their breathing was harder, more excited now. Piper slid a hand further down, allowing a finger to work between my eager lips and graze my own erect clitoris.

Almost in unison, the girls moved so that Piper’s mouth was covering my pussy, her tongue licking along my slit and burying itself inside me, while Curie scooted up so her dripping slit was over my own mouth. My hands clutched at her flesh as I pulled her closer to me, so I could lick and suck every bit of her juices, while my tongue lapped at her. Piper was doing the same to me. I felt a scream rip from deep inside me that was muffled by Curie sliding forward so her clit was rubbing on my chin.

After my sudden peak, Piper stretched onto the bed to my right, raising her left leg. I twisted onto my side, allowing Curie to lay down with her mouth at Piper’s mound. We continued this until the two of them had also had orgasms, then switched around for to another position. After about an hour, the three of us simply cuddled together, both of them with their heads resting on my chest, one leg thrown over me, and we slept.

We were woken up by a gentle music, an orchestral classic that sounded like an alarm radio. Curie reached up over her head, to a shelf on the headboard I hadn’t noticed. It only took her a moment to find a switch and turn the sound source off. “We thought you might appreciate waking to some soft music this morning, my love.”

“Any morning I can wake up with you in my arms is a good one, sweets. I only have one regret this morning.”

Piper quit licking my nipple. “I know, Tina. That Gwen isn’t here. She talked with us, when we were there before. She knows that you love her, and she loves you and us. It may not be that we can get together too often for a while, but our love for each other is strong, stronger than any of us have ever felt before.”

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