Love Never Changes
Chapter 16

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

The flight from Boston Airport to Diamond City was quick. Bennett landed us on the street, right in front. As Bennett finished shutting it down, we hopped down. A couple of guards came up, the curiosity on their faces apparent. “I’ll stay here, answer questions, and keep nosy fingers away.”

“Very good, Bennett.” I heard one of the guard’s whistle at something. “What?”

“Oh, sorry, ma’am. I didn’t mean anything by it. I just saw what you have painted on your armor. We’d heard that the Minutemen had a new General. It’s pretty damned obvious that you’re her. The decorations on that armor ... and where some of the gouges in it are ... make it apparent you’re not an armchair officer.”

For some reason, his words made me feel good. “Thank you. We’ve some business inside. Mayor in his office?” At his nod, we headed on in.

Danny Sullivan was just inside. “Howdy, ma’am. That’s a bit different of a ... Piper? Is that you?”

“Hey, Danny. Yeah, this is me. Can General Wilson here use your elevator? We need to see the mayor on official Commonwealth business.”

“General? Oh, I see. Uh, yes. This way.” He led us behind the counter. “I probably ought to go up with you.” He pushed the button, the doors opened, and we crammed in. “So, you’re looking really good, Piper. I like the new look.”

“Thanks, Danny. Um, Danny ... fair warning. Whatever happens once we get upstairs, don’t try to interfere. No matter what, okay?”

“I bet Mayor McDonough really isn’t going to like this, is he?”

The elevator door opened before she could answer. Geneva was sitting at her desk doing some paperwork. She saw all of us get out of the elevator. “Oh, this is not good.”

Piper smiled. “Hello, Geneva. We’re here to see his honor.”

From inside the mayor’s office, we heard an angry voice. “I will NOT speak to members of the press. Piper is NOT allowed in this office.”

“You’ll speak to me,” I said, opening the door. “And you’ll speak to whoever the hell I tell you to speak to. Is that understood?”

“I know you’re new to our fair city, but the press is NOT allowed here. Tell PIPER she can wait outside. Officer Sullivan, escort these people OUT!”

He just stood there, looking helpless. I rescued him with my next words. “Unit M7-62, you will do as ordered. Now sit your fat ass back down in that chair. I have a situation here I need to salvage.”

He looked stunned, backing up until his knees hit the chair behind him, plopping into it. “Who ... who are you?”

“I wear lots of hats. For purposes of dealing with you, I’m wearing two. I’m the lawful Governor of the Commonwealth, which means that you and Diamond City are all within my legal jurisdiction. And I’m Director of CIT ... what you remember as the Institute.”

From behind me I heard Geneva gasp, and a noise that suspiciously sounded like a hand being placed on another so a gun couldn’t be drawn.

“Now then ... first and foremost. Curie, please perform the test.” She walked up behind McDonough with the biometric scanner, nodding when it showed positive. “All right, that’s out of the way. You are hereby relieved of your position, since you’re obviously not who was elected mayor here in the first place. You now have two choices. You can return to CIT and we’ll have Security figure out what to do with you, or you can try to survive up here on your own.”

Geneva sounded shocked. “You mean that Piper was right all along? The mayor really is a synth?”

“A synth is a robot humanoid. He’s a created person, made with human DNA. Just like Curie, just like James here. The difference is, he was sent here on a mission, to create a weakness here in Diamond City, and he’s done that well. Unfortunately for him, the SRB no longer exists, so his mission has ended.”

Danny looked at James, who was still holding his arm down. “You’re a synth? I mean, a created person?”

“Yes. My name is James Wilson. I’m her bodyguard. Please don’t do anything that you would regret later.”

From his chair, McDonough tried to regain some bluster. “These accusations, they’re completely ridiculous and unfounded! I DEMAND you all get out of MY office!”

“Curie, please show Geneva and Officer Sullivan the biometric scanner.” She came up to them, put it behind them, showed it didn’t react. Then she placed it behind her own head, showed that it did. “The created people were all made with DNA from Father, the previous Director of the Institute. He is ... was ... my descendant. All created people also have some of my own DNA in them, although...” I looked at the corpulent mayor. “Some of them have much less than others.”

“Either way, your term as mayor is over. You’re my responsibility as both Governor and as Director. What’s it going to be?”

He sounded defeated. “Very well. I’ll return. You said the SRB no longer exists? Then where is Mister Ayo, so I can give him my report?”

“Probably rotting in hell. He didn’t survive his attempted coup,” I explained.

I had been half expecting something like what happened next. “Then NEITHER shall YOU!” McDonough leaped up from his chair, his hand reaching for a pistol at his hip. Three shots, one each from Piper, James, and I, put him down.

“I was afraid of that. He’d been programmed with a failsafe code, probably like those two Coursers you had to put down. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was here or down below, he’d still have ended up dead.”

Curie took a small knife from her belt, cutting into the back of his neck. She pulled out the small chip, holding it up. “Yes, very similar to the standard chip. Since I no longer have full analytic capabilities, we’ll have to check it later, if you wish.”

“Clean it up and put it in storage, we’ll have Doctor Binet check it out.”

“You ... you killed him.” Geneva seemed shaken.

“He didn’t give us a choice. I would have preferred him going back down peacefully. Now, until we have an election, as Governor of the Commonwealth, I hereby appoint you acting mayor of Diamond City. Danny, you’ll remain as head of security. A few rule changes, though. Citizens of the Commonwealth and our accepted visitors, the Brotherhood of Steel, will have free entry. Please note that ghouls that are NOT feral are citizens of the Commonwealth, so that ridiculous ban is over. The rule of law has returned to the Commonwealth. That doesn’t mean we don’t dispense Commonwealth justice when needed, especially against Raiders, ferals, and super mutants.”

Danny frowned. “But the Institute and synths? I mean, created people?”

“Free citizens of the Commonwealth as well. I’m almost looking forward to trying to talk some sense into Myrna about that, but ... CIT, what used to be called the Institute, is no longer the bogeyman, the enemy of everyone.”

Geneva said, “But ... that means we might actually get peace? You know, have a chance to actually grow and prosper? Surely that can’t be right.”

“It’s not going to happen overnight. That certainly wasn’t my original intent, when I first came here. But yeah, that’s my plan, for everyone. Not just here, but in the entire Commonwealth.”

We heard the elevator door open. “Sullivan, is everything okay up here? We heard...”

“The mayor went nuts, tried to physically attack Piper, reached for his gun. We’ll figure out who’s the new mayor with an election. For now, Geneva is the acting mayor, since she did all the work around here anyway. Get a cleanup and disposal crew up here,” Danny ordered. Then he looked at me. “Thank you, ma’am. Pardon me. Governor.” He held out his hand and I shook it.

After that, we went down the front lift, into the main part of Diamond City. I headed first to Myrna’s shop. “Oh, it’s you, what do you want?”

“Just a quick word is all, Myrna. I thought I’d let you know that there are no more synths running around. There’re some humanoid robots that have metal skins, and those are the only synths out there. Everyone else that looks human is a person, a free citizen of the Commonwealth. Have a good day.”

It was funny listening to her sputter about what I said as we stopped next door. “Arturo, I have a large favor to ask of you.”

“You’ve been my best customer for buying and trading, I think ever. If it’s possible, I will gladly help.”

“I’ll provide the raw materials; you won’t depend upon Myrna for them. I need access to your ammunition plant. Not for me.” I pointed to my armor. “As you can see, I have a bit more of a responsibility. I want my men and women armed up, able to fight and defend themselves, with plenty of ammo. We’ll pay you for the use, of course, and I’ve a couple of tech wizards that can maintain and tweak the plant.”

“Madre de Dios. General of the Minutemen? And you were the new girl, just a month ago?” He shook his head. “Amazing. I knew there were opportunities here. Let me know what you will need, and I will see about getting it for you. The limiting factor is, as you know, the specific raw materials for each type of ammunition. I can do what you want, for, say, 20% of each run?”

“How about 5%, plus 200 caps per 1,000 rounds produced. I’m talking about enough ammo for probably a hundred troops, a couple of thousand rounds each. I’m going to make sure they all have the same weapon, in the same caliber, so there’s no problems in a firefight. Plus, pistol ammo, of course, but that’ll be a smaller quantity.”

He smiled. “I wondered if you would do that. This will be more like a regular army than a militia, won’t it?” At my nod, he said, “I can do that. And ... I know where there is more equipment, broken but repairable if you have the technical knowledge, which I lack. I would like a ... finder’s fee, nothing major, of course.”

“I’ll take care of you, not a problem. And in case you’re wondering, maybe having heard some rumors, the Minutemen are working with the Brotherhood of Steel to clean all the Raider bands out of the Commonwealth. That’s why we’ll be the Minutemen, but we won’t be, you understand.”

“I do. I can about imagine the Gunners will not approve, but a woman as capable as you will not have too many problems with them.”

We left him and headed around the corner, to stop in and talk to Ellie. She was all smiles when I walked into their office.

“Hey, gumshoe! Looks like we’ve got a lot of cases backing up now that you’ve freed Nick from durance vile. We’ve got two here in town, and another missing child case.” She looked puzzled. “Isn’t Nick still traveling with you?”

“He’s, uh, getting some work done on himself. I don’t know if you heard or not, but I’m now the Director of CIT, what used to be called the Institute. He thought it might be a good time to, um, get a makeover, since they’re now on our side.”

“You mean cover up that gaping hole in his face? And those exposed circuits? I don’t know whether to thank you or him for that. I care for him, a lot you know, but while beauty isn’t skin deep, it’s...”

“Tough to love someone when one of his hands is pure metal like that, and effectively so is the rest of him, yeah.”

She looked startled. “Love? Who said anything about that?”

“Seriously? Ellie, come on. You’re the one who said I was now Nick’s partner. And I’m quite sure he has the same feeling for you.”

She sat down in her chair. “You think? Maybe ... You’re right, you know. I do, it’s just, I don’t want to be shallow. When the lights are out, he’s sitting in here and I’m in bed and we’re talking, I...” She looked embarrassed and blushed.

Piper giggled. “Don’t worry about it, girl. Now, he’d said something about a case that was further north, what are the details?”

“Ah, yes. A man came in, name was Kenji Nakano, said that he knew Nick from before, and would need his help. His daughter was missing. Something about a radio and Far Harbor, but I don’t know too much about that. His house was way up the coast, almost the furthest north you could go and still be habitable.”

“Well, then. Sounds like a mystery to me, and with a missing child, without the Institute now being involved in those kinds of cases, something we’ll have to deal with. I don’t remember any cities named Far Harbor. We’ll take care of it, Ellie.”

“Thanks, and ... do you think Nick might end up looking even a bit more human when he comes back?”, she asked, hopefully.

“Probably. No promises, of course.”

After we left her, Piper looked at me. “Girl has it bad for him, doesn’t she?”

“Oh, yeah. I’m just wondering now if Nick is going to go Gen 2, or a full upgrade.”

Curie smiled. “I would hope the full upgrade. It is quite wonderful to make love to the people you love, my darlings.”

We then stopped at Publick Occurrences. “PIPER!”, Nat yelled, running to her sister.

“Hey, kiddo! I’m sorry I was gone so long this time. We’ve been a bit busy.

“No kidding. I remember you, lady. You’re the one from the Vault. I guess the rest of these folks are friends of your?”

Curie said, “Ah, you do not remember me, little one? Of course, I did not look like this then, so it is indeed possible.”

“Um, I remember a robot with that voice, not a pretty lady.”

“Ah, that was I. Your sister was very helpful in letting me exchange that body for the one you see now.”

She looked puzzled. “But wouldn’t that mean you’re a synth?”

Piper said, “Yeah, there’s been a lot going on around the Commonwealth lately, sis, that’s sort of changed things. You remember Tina, of course. She’s ... sort of taken care of all the main problems we had. Including the mayor.”

“Can’t say I didn’t give him the opportunity. Although I think you ended up shooting almost quicker than I did,” I said.

“You shot the mayor? Oh, crap. I better get packed!” She started to run off.

“Calm down, Nat. Danny Sullivan was right there. It’ll be all right,” Piper said.

There was a knock on the door. James politely opened it. Danny Sullivan walked in. “Hey, Piper. Hey, Nat. One of the guys said that you were all in here. I just wanted to stop by and let you know that everything is taken care of now. Geneva is still a little shook up, but she’ll be okay. She did ask that you refrain from mentioning that you were right about the former mayor, maybe just say that it turns out he had a mental issue or something like that, if or when you write an article about him.”

“Not much use in digging that up, when I do my whole expose’ on things, not with the Institute being gone and all that,” she said.

“Okay, thanks. That’s all I had, really. Oh, and Geneva said you won’t ever have to worry about the city gate being closed for you.” He turned and let himself out.

“Holy crapola, Piper! What kind of mess have you gotten yourself into this time?”

“Now, Nat, what’ve I told you?” Nat looked abashed. Piper looked at me. “You know, I just had a thought. Natalie, how would you like to have a vacation?”

“What’s that, Piper?”

“Excellent idea. We’ll be coming back here after we stop at the library, she can be ready by then. I’m not sure about taking her to Goodneighbor with us, but we can always swing back up by Sanctuary first,” I said.

“Yeah, especially since you’re going to head up north anyway,” Piper agreed.

James looked puzzled. “Pardon me, what are the two of you discussing?”

Piper smiled. “Simple, James. Natalie here has never had a vacation, a chance to just run around and be a kid, not since Dad died. Can you think of any place safer for her to let her hair down than in Sanctuary? Especially since there’ll at least be Shaun for her to play with? And Jacquelyn and Codsworth to keep them out of trouble?”

“What about my schooling, Piper? I know I punched Sheng Kawolski in the arm for trying to kiss me, and got detention out of it, but I do have classes.”

“I think we can get you out for a little while. Call it an early Christmas break.”

Nat ran up and gave her sister a big hug. “You’re the best, sis! When will you be back from the Library, I’ll be ready!”

Piper looked at me. “I’d say probably later tonight. I’m quite certain we can’t just drop the book off, there’s bound to be something in there,” I speculated. “So, I’d plan on us leaving sometime tomorrow. Sound good?”

She ran upstairs. “I’m starting to pack now!”

Piper just laughed a little. “Okay, so we heading out for the library now?”

She followed me out the door, then paused when I didn’t head for the exit, but instead went right across the road to another building. “Tina...” I motioned for her to follow me. Curie and James came along, they didn’t know any better as we entered the All Faiths Chapel.

“Good to see someone new in the Chapel. Diamond City treating you all right?”

“I’m fine, thanks for asking,” I replied.

“You’re welcome. I’m Pastor Clements. I hope that folks are taking well to you. I know it can be tough, being from the outside.” He paused. “Well, hello, Piper. I haven’t seen you in here before.” She nervously chuckled at that.

I said, “So this is your chapel here, Pastor?”

“Well, that depends. I suppose I should say that this chapel really belongs to God. But since I never got around to saying which God in particular, I suppose you could say it belongs to all of them. Now if you ever need a quiet place to sit down and ponder the Almighty, in whatever form strikes your fancy, we’re always open.”

I smiled at that. “So rather non-denominational, then?

“I suppose you could say that. As long as you believe in something, you’re welcome here, you need a quiet place to pray or meditate, we’re always open.”

“Sounds good. As the closest thing to organized religion, do you do marriages, and are there any restrictions you have?” I thought Piper was going to choke, she was trying not to say anything.

Clements shook his head. “I figure that so long as two, and in some cases, more, people of whatever they are want to be together, then God wouldn’t have brought them to me if He didn’t want them together.” He grinned. “I presume you wouldn’t be asking some of these questions if there wasn’t someone special in your life.” His eyes flicked to Piper.

“Among others. Thanks, Pastor. I’m guessing then that you don’t need a lot of advance notice or planning.”

“No, it’s just a simple ceremony. Some people see Myrna about rings, or Becky Fallon about special clothes, but I figure those aren’t what actually makes a marriage.”

I smiled. “Thanks. That’s what I needed to know. I’ll be in touch.”

“Not a problem. You take care of yourselves outside the Wall.”

We went back outside the Chapel, then Piper could finally speak. “Okay, fine. DON’T do that to me again. I thought you were going to just have Clements do the deed, with just the three of us.”

“You know me better than that, Piper.” I smacked her.

“I am confused. That was the person who will perform the marriage ceremony, no?”

“Yes. I just wanted to make sure there weren’t any religious issues. I already know there won’t be any civil issues.”

“Ah, I see. What are religious issues?”, Curie asked.

We spent the time walking to the Library discussing religion. Once inside, I was sort of right. The only thing we first saw were a series of Protectron robots that left us alone. I put the book into the return machine and got a rather amusing receipt, showing it was overdue by almost 221 years, and that the fine would be sent out in next month’s mail. For $326,942 and 18 cents.

We were getting ready to leave when we heard an explosion from the other end of the building. The sound of machine guns firing, followed by the howl of a mutant hound, told us what had happened.

“Well, kids, time to work on our shooting skills. It’s been, what, almost three days? Come on, let’s move a couple of these tables around, set up a good defensive position.”

The robots helped considerably. They probably accounted for half of the invading super mutants before the last one of them was destroyed. After that, it was just the four of us. Curie proved to be quite deadly with her laser, hitting the mutants in the face 9 shots out of 10. Piper and James took care of the ones she wounded. I just serviced targets until they quit showing up.

“I suppose we probably ought to go see where they came from.”

James sighed. “Of course, you do. Give me a moment, my gun needs to cool off.”

We waited a couple of minutes, getting a drink of water, while things settled down, then headed for the other side of the Library. I remembered that the subway entrance was ahead. I stopped, taking a quick look around a corner. There were at least five more super mutants standing around, arguing with each other. Three of them had mini-guns. Half a dozen Protectron bodies lay at their feet.

I took a belt off, holding it carefully. I whispered, “Be ready to run the other way. This could be really, really bad.” I pulled the pin on two of the six grenades on the belt and tossed it. We took off running.

I was right. It was really bad ... for the super mutants. And for that entrance to the Library. The grenades all detonated, as did the internal fusion cores of at least some of the Protectrons. Our combat helmets protected our hearing, but the over-pressure from the blast still sent us tumbling.

James had a pained look on his face. “Are you okay?”, I asked.

“I’m supposed to be your bodyguard. How can I protect you from YOURSELF?”

“Come on, let’s go back to Diamond City for the night.”

Bennett slept in the vertibird, just to keep it safe. She was ready to go when the five of us exited the city the next morning. Nat was just as excited as Shaun had been about her first ride. She wasn’t as excited that Piper made her strap in.

We landed just outside of Goodneighbor, in the middle of the street, by Mass Fusion. There were Brotherhood troops standing guard outside. “Good morning, Sentinel! We’re maybe 20 percent done with the building at this point.”

“Good job. Carry on.” Bennett stayed in the bird, to keep an eye on it, while we went into Goodneighbor. Our first stop was at Daisy’s Discounts.

“Hello, Mrs. Underwood. Things have been rather busy for me, and I only just now got a chance to return that book for you.”

“Isn’t that just sweet of you? I don’t think after 220 years that a few days delay mattered a whole lot in the scheme of things, though. I’m glad you did, though. You didn’t have any trouble, did you?”

“Of course not.” Piper and James both coughed when I said that.

“That’s good, that’s good. I know that sometimes we want to just leave the past buried where it is. But when you said you would do that for me, I did some digging through an old collection I have. These are a little faded, but I think you can still easily read them.” She handed two pieces of cardboard that had pages from an old print newspaper attached to them, now behind a piece of glass and in a frame. “I just had these framed for you. I remembered you, little Tina Shannon. You were one of my favorites.”

The first page showed a picture of a police officer, receiving a promotion. A woman was pinning his new bars on his uniform, a little girl standing by his side. Part of the caption was illegible, but I knew who the people were. The second showed a young woman in a cap and gown, holding a diploma in front of her. She was flanked by an older man in a police uniform, an older woman on her other side. While the pictures still looked good, the ink in the caption was smeared as well. I didn’t need either.

I could barely speak. “Thank you, Mrs. Underwood. Thank you very much.” I went behind the counter and gave her a big hug.

“Now, now, you don’t want to see an old ghoul cry. It’s not pretty, because we really can’t. But you’re welcome.” She coughed, then said, “What’s this on your armor? Commonwealth Minutemen? And that’s a star on you helmet. You’re the General of the Minutemen?”

“Among other things, yes,” Piper answered for me.

“Then I’m doubly glad I found those for you. Your daddy and mama would be so proud of you now, even more so than they were back then. But ... what other things? Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I’m not sharp.”

Piper was grinning when I said, “I’m going to get you for this one, Piper. I’m in the Railroad, known as ‘Bullseye’ to them. I’m a Sentinel in the Brotherhood of Steel. You know the Minutemen rank. Director of the Commonwealth Institute of Technology. And one you’ll appreciate, since you have this picture from my college graduation with my law degree. Since I’m the sole surviving member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, I’m also the Governor of the Commonwealth of New England.”

I thought Mrs. Underwood was having a fit. After a minute, I realized that she was just trying to laugh so hard, she couldn’t get her breath. Finally, she said, “I knew you’d go far, little one, but damn me if I thought it would be that far!”

James decided that now would be a good time to speak. “You forgot one, ma’am. I do realize that it’s pending the mission of the Prydwen, but we have no reason to suspect that it will not be successful.”

“James, that will be enough!”

“Oh, Lordy, what else are you? President of the United States?” She laughed some more at that, then stopped when she realized that I wasn’t laughing. “Oh, no, seriously? My little Tina, that first post-war President?”

I sighed. “It’s not official, not yet. But yeah. I’d prefer that not get out to too many people just yet, please.”

“Honey, my lips are sealed. But I do think you better go talk to Hancock.” She was serious at the end.

“He’s next on the list. Thanks again, Mrs. Underwood.”

“Please, it’s just Daisy now. Oh, for you, always, but you know what I mean.”

Nat had been with us the whole time, her eyes wide at seeing the ghouls in town, and me hugging Daisy. “Piper, are we safe here?”

James said, “Little one, you are safer wherever Director Wilson is than you are at any place in the Commonwealth. She may do some stupid things from time to time, but there is not a more dangerous person alive.”

We went into the Old State House. Several of the mobster guards were standing just inside. One of them said, “You’re here to see Hancock, he’s upstairs.”

I climbed the spiral staircase. One room at the end was obviously the mayor’s room. Hancock was standing, facing me from across it, his dagger in one hand, cleaning out from under his nails. The tough looking redhead was leaning against another table, watching me. She said, “A new player in Goodneighbor. Hello, little Pawn. Welcome to our fun and games.”

Hancock smiled. “I see you couldn’t resist my good looks and charm, had to come seek me out.” He put his knife away, spreading his arms open. “Now, what can the mayor of Goodneighbor do for you?”

“I thought I would tell you, face to face, as it were. The rumors were true about your brother. He had been replaced by the Institute. So, it wasn’t your brother that kicked the ghouls out of Diamond City.”

“That means he’s dead, then. Damn. No wonder he was such a son of a bitch about it, it wasn’t really him. Fine, thanks for telling me. But how does that change anything?”

“Since the replacement is now dead, there’s a new, at least temporary mayor, there. His secretary, Geneva. The rules of Diamond City have changed. It’s open to all citizens of the Commonwealth, no matter what their affiliation. Human, created human, ghoul, it doesn’t matter, they’re all welcome under the laws of the Commonwealth.”

Hancock laughed. “What laws of the Commonwealth? In case you haven’t noticed, the only law around here is survival of the fittest.”

“I’m guessing that you haven’t heard all the news, then,” I said.

He moved to one of the couches in the room. “Oh, this ought to be good.” He sat down, motioned for me to take a seat opposite him. I did. He leaned back; his arms spread. “Please, enlighten me as to what news could possibly change things around here?”

I grinned. “Sure. I’ll start with the simplest one. I’m sure you’ve heard rumors that the Minutemen were back, that they had a new General.”

“Of course. Those folks were ineffective before, things broke down and they fell apart. It’ll take more than someone calling themselves General to bring them back again. Oh, where are my manners? Would you care for a drink?”

“Certainly. Two fingers of whiskey, if you have it.” He handed me a glass. I sniffed, then nodded. “Good stuff, thank you.” I took a sip. “Definitely good stuff. I noticed when you leaned forward that you were looking at my boobs. I figure that you also read what it says on my armor. I’m their General. And right now, my troops are on combined exercises with friendly forces. By Christmas, if not sooner, everything north of the Charles will be free of ferals, super mutants, mirelurks, radscorpions, and most importantly, Raiders.”

He took a swig. “Impossible. There’s only one force in the Commonwealth with that kind of firepower, and it’s not the Minutemen.”

“I did say friendly forces, didn’t I? You have a nice tricorn hat. I just have one hat on my head, but it has many jobs. I’m also the only Sentinel in the Brotherhood of Steel, which means all those friendlies I mentioned supporting my Minutemen? They’re also my troops.” I had a big grin on my face saying the last.

He downed the rest of his glass and poured himself some more. He motioned to my glass, I let him put another splash in it. “I don’t suppose the Railroad or the Institute are going to take this lying down, are they?”

“Funny you should mention the Railroad, since Doctor Amari and the Memory Den have been helping them for so long. Yes, I know all about her, and them. I’m just a member of the Railroad, but I have my own code name. Would you care to guess what it is?”

From behind him, the woman said, “It doesn’t matter. If you’re not in charge, then you’re a Pawn. You ever try chess? Sometimes you need to sacrifice a piece to keep the game going. Keep that in mind.”

I laughed. “I like your tough talk. What’s your name?”

She leaned forward. “I’m Fahrenheit. What’s yours?”

“Bullseye.”

Her eyes got big; she nearly fell over moving back. “No. No way. Shot the eye out of a super mutant at 300 yards. Took out ten ghouls charging her with ten head shots. Went into the Glowing Sea twice, then made some device to get into the Institute.”

“It was only 250 yards and six feral ghouls. But now it’s three times into the Glowing Sea.” I leaned back; my glass of whiskey held up. “Cheers.” I took another sip; it really had a good taste.

“Obviously you’re not here to kill me, or you would have already done that. So, what’s your gig, sister?”

“Simple, Hancock. You’re a bit like me, whether you realize it or not. You’re a leader. Look at what you’ve done here in Scollay Square. Of the people, for the people, is still a good rallying cry. I want your skill, your ability.”

He laughed. “All right, now we’re talking. Got to clean the couch off first, though.”

My expression said it all. “Please. Not that. No. I need your help in rebuilding the Commonwealth. I’m sure someone mentioned to you that the Brotherhood has taken over the Mass Fusion building, right outside your city walls. That’s only the first step here in the city, proper. You don’t think that my troops are going to stop at the Charles, do you? Change is coming. Help me with it.”

“That all sounds well and good, sister. But there’s one little fly in the ointment you’ve not mentioned. You don’t think the Institute’s going to just sit idly by while you do all this, do you?”

“Actually, they’re helping with the rebuilding. The Director has given orders that they quit hiding, they’re starting work on digging a tunnel from their underground home back up to the surface. It’ll take a bit, but once that’s done, there’ll be access down to CIT and back, so people can learn from all their scientific advances.”

He sounded skeptical. “Sure, and who’s to say that this Director won’t change his mind and create an army of synths to wipe us all out?” He started to take a drink.

“Why would I do that?”

He spit out his whiskey. “WHAT?”

I picked up a cloth from the table, wiped a few drops off that had made it across to me. “That’s a waste of good whiskey, Hancock. I said, why would I do that? Oh, that’s right, I forgot to mention that yet. I’ve managed to change a few things down there.”

He shook his head. “Oh, I don’t think I can take any more. Next thing you’re going to say is that you’re the ruler of the whole damned Commonwealth!”

“No, I’m not the ruler of the Commonwealth.” He raised his head, guessing there was something else coming. “I am, however, the legal Governor of the Commonwealth of New England States. All of it. Including this little patch of ground we’re sitting on. So, as I said before. Will you help me?”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?” At my nod, he sat back for a moment in thought. It didn’t take him long to reach a decision. He put his glass on the table, then stood up.

He straightened his hat, brushed the front of his old outfit a bit, put his arms at his side. Then he clicked his heels together, raising his right hand to where his eyebrow would have been. “I took my name from one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. I’m wearing what I understand were his clothes. He helped form the country in the first place, the least I can do if I’m using his name is help reform it. You can count on me, count on us!”

I placed my glass carefully on the table, stood up in front of him. I knew how to assume the position of attention, and did so. I carefully and deliberately raised my right hand to the brim of my helmet, then snapped it back to my side. I nodded once, my signal for him to lower his arm, which he did. “Congratulations. Welcome to the Commonwealth government, Mayor Hancock.”

We left him discussing with Fahrenheit how to clean up the city as far as organized crime was concerned without making too big a dent in things. We crossed the street and went into the memory den. Amari and Irma were talking about something, but stopped when we came in.

“I don’t know what to think about you right now. I’ve heard so many conflicting things that I’m not even sure what’s true.”

“Probably most of it. We were, quite literally in the neighborhood and ... well, thank you for what you did for Curie. She’s become a very important person in my life. So, if there’s something you need, let me know. If you have trouble reaching me, I’m Bullseye in the Railroad, Sentinel Wilson in the Brotherhood, and of course, General of the Minutemen.”

Amari frowned. “All those titles? So, the rumors that you defected to the Institute aren’t true?”

“Defected to it? No. I’m also the Director of its replacement, the Commonwealth Institute of Technology, which is now working with every other lawful organization around to rebuild the Commonwealth.”

“That sounds almost crazy enough to be true. Tell me, did you ever find your son? I’ve not heard, one way or the other.”

I was quiet for a moment, then said, “Yes, yes I did. I didn’t think that you might not have heard of that, or I would have also thanked you for helping with that as well. With the changes that have taken place in how CIT does thing with created people now, you may not have as much business having to help them with memory wipes. Once things settle down a bit more, if you want to go talk with some of the scientists from there, I’ll arrange it. Perhaps between your loungers and their technique, a way can be found to make created people without the board or chip now needed.”

“That sounds suspiciously like you’re talking about them replacing us.”

“No, helping us. We’re not replacing ourselves as is. I’ve had a discussion regarding birth rates several times. Ideally, I’d like to just have a baby boom, where we create, well, literally babies, without programming, with full autonomic nervous systems, that can be raised as adopted children, as so many people simply can’t have children now or they die when young.”

Irma smiled at that. “It’d be nice to have a little one around. I tried a while back, but ... my babies came out badly. That’s why I work here now, my husband couldn’t handle that and left me.”

Amari nodded. “I agree with that. Very well. I will begin studying that. And ... thank you, for allaying my fears. I should have known better, that you wouldn’t do that.”

Now that made me frown. “Now I’m curious. Why would you think that of me?”

“One of the Railroad. He came in, spun a tale about the leadership being taken to the Institute, that no one could be trusted now. He asked for my help, to warn him if any of them showed up here.”

I shook my head and then rubbed my eyes. “Please tell me it wasn’t Carrington.”

“Um ... it was.”

“Just for a simple proof for you that I’m still me, do you still have that biometric scanner we modified for you?” She nodded. “Pull it out and check all of us. Curie and James will show that they have chips in them, Piper, Nat, and I will not.” She did just that, nodding to herself at the results.

Piper said, “Doctor Amari, you know I’m the nosy and pushy reporter from Diamond City. Everything Tina has just said is the truth. I’ve been down below, to CIT myself, using their teleporter. Before Tina went down there ... yeah, it was exactly what we all thought about it. She’s changed things, for the whole Commonwealth. Hell, Hancock just saluted her in his own office and told her he’d support her.”

“My God, Hancock did that? Then this Carrington really must be insane. He was here not that long ago, but he was headed back to the Railroad headquarters. I don’t know if you can beat him there or not. He was talking about using someone named Pam to destroy everything.”

“It’s times like this I’m glad I helped with the reactor. Thank you, Doctor. Please help Nat, get her back to Bennett, our vertibird just outside the city.” I pulled my Pip-Boy up, plugging in coordinates. “You still have your bracelets on, Piper?” She nodded. “Director Wilson, with Piper Wright, Curie, and James Wilson, teleport in and immediately teleport out to the new coordinates.”

We were enveloped in a bright flash of light. Our eyes hadn’t adjust completely before it happened again. “Well, that’s one way to save your shoe leather,” Piper said. We were just outside the North Church.

I ran inside, unlimbering my rifle, the rest right behind me. We didn’t encounter anyone or anything in the tunnels. I heard a click just ahead of us as I rounded the last corner, from the door shutting. Rather than slow down, I fired a single shot, destroying the latch and hit it with my shoulder, bursting it open. Carrington was just going down the stairs. He’d heard the noise behind him, but was unprepared for me jumping from the top step and landing on him. A well-placed knee to the groin took the wind from him.

 
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