Love Never Changes
Chapter 18

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

The angry woman on our left wasn’t going to let it go. “Who the hell do you think you are, mainlander? You can’t come onto our island and push us around like that!”

The Mariner turned to her. “Sandra Lee, you and your brother are living on MY dock because it was MY decision to let you do so. Open your mouth again. Remember, each of us is Captain of his own ship, and this is MY ship, not yours.”

A bald man with sea tanned skin in a lab coat pushed to the front of the crowd. “Shut up, Sandra! Mainlander, I’m the doctor here, Teddy Wright. You say you have access to medicines?”

“Yes, we do,” I said.

“Then come with me. I have a patient that I can’t help.”

Sandra just scoffed. “Why waste your time? Andre’s good as dead.”

“Damned vulture, just waiting to pick his bones!” The crowd of people opened up as Teddy headed into a general store. Deacon and I followed him. The clinic was in the back. The dark haired man lying on the bed was obviously in pain.

“Poor Andre. He spent too long a spell in the fog. You may have seen radiation poison on the mainland, but we have our own special brand here. Well, Andre’s got it bad.”

Deacon leaned over Andre with a biometric scanner, taking some readings. He looked at me, his eyes telling me the prognosis. “Here, boss, look at this. The radiation is causing all kinds of secondary infections. I’m not sure how it’s doing it, but it’s not the radiation itself that’s killing him.”

Teddy said, bitterly, “So, you can’t help him, then? What use are you?”

“Hold on, he didn’t say that. Do you have purified water for Andre to drink? He’s going to need it. Also, get him out of that outfit and be ready to wash him off, he’s going to sweat, a lot.” I reached down to my belt, pulling out two medicines. One was a standard Radaway. The other was a gift, something new from Vault 81. I gave Andre both injections, then stood back.

Almost immediately, he broke out into a sweat. “Wet towels, we need to help keep him cool from the outside.” Teddy ran over with some regular water and towels, bathing Andre with them. Andre started kicking a little, Deacon grabbing his legs so he didn’t hurt himself or Teddy. After a couple of minutes, Andre looked sweaty, like he’d been in a dry sauna for too long, then suddenly opened his eyes. He tried to croak out a word. I handed him some water, knowing that’s what he wanted.

After drinking down the entire bottle and another one after that, Andre laid back on the bed. “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been that thirsty before in my life. What’s going on, Teddy? I knew I was sick, but I don’t remember much.”

“How do you feel now?”, Teddy asked.

“Tired, like I just ran a big race with something chasing me. A little weak, hungry, and still a little thirsty.”

“Good. Let’s get you something to eat and drink.” He went over to his cabinet, getting something for Teddy.

I saw Deacon scan Andre again with the biometric scanner. “Not bad, boss, not bad at all. General debilitation from being sick, but nothing that simple food and rest won’t take care of in a couple of days.”

Teddy looked up at me from where he was now tending to Andre. “Thank you. You’re okay with me, ma’am.”

I turned back to the door, where several people were watching. Allen and Sandra Lee both turned away in disgust, going to their shop. Avery was nodding, though. She made a motion with her hands, shooing the rest of the people away from the entry. “Come with me, we have some talking to do.”

Deacon and I followed her across the pier, into another structure that was her home. “I can’t begin to thank you enough for what you did for Andre.” She sighed. “Or for not killing Allen Lee, pain in the ass that he is. He’s the only one who has a regular boat bringing in supplies to us.”

“It’s one thing to make an honest profit, I have no issue with that. It’s another to bleed your neighbors to death for things they need to survive. That’s profiteering, and so far, I’ve not seen any kind of notice that the war is actually over.”

“Excuse me? Isn’t that sort of obvious? Things torn up by all the bombs, and such?”

“Not the war against the Chinese, the war for survival.”

She nodded. “That one is definitely still going on. So, what can I help you with?”

“Kasumi Nakano, you said she passed through here?”

“Yes. She was heading inland, to the synth refuge, at Acadia.” Deacon and I exchanged looks at that. “Getting there is dangerous, you’ll need a guide. Old Longfellow. No one knows the Fog like he does. And if you can, I’d appreciate it if you’d help some of the other people around town. I’m not sure what to do with this fancy title you gave me.”

“You’re trying to keep things together while everyone is crammed into a small place. I’m sure there are people with nothing to do and too much time on their hands. Organize them, get them working together. Don’t let that famous Maine stubbornness and pride end up being the death of all you.”

She nodded. “I have to ask, why are you calling our town Bar Harbor?”

“That’s the original name. It hasn’t changed. I saw your sign when our boat was pulling up. Some of the original paint is gone, is all. And I have a question for you. What are those things out in front of the gate?”

“Oh, those are fog condensers. When the Fog started getting too bad, DiMA made them for us. They help keep it at bay.” She saw my expression. “Oh, who’s DiMA? He’s the ... I guess you’d say leader ... of the synth refuge, up on top of Acadia. He’s been here a long time.”

“Thanks, Mayor. As I said, get people organized. We’ll be back, soon.” We left her office and walked to where the rest of our group was still waiting. “Well, that was, sort of, interesting. There’s a mountain out there we’ll need to climb. How rested does everyone feel?” The general consensus was that they were all good. “Okay, then. Suit up for radiation. That mist, the locals call it the Fog, must have some psychotropic properties, in addition to being slightly radioactive. Be ready, assume everything we run into is hostile once we’re off the dock, and we’ll be fine.”

Deacon smiled. “In other words, business as usual. Shoot first, shoot often.”

“Yep. Let’s try to avoid using the big guns if we can.”

Danse chuckled. “Good. That means Glory can get a demonstration of how well you can shoot. She hasn’t seen that yet.”

“That’s fine, just watch for leakers and flank attacks.” I got back into my power armor.

“Boss, aren’t we going to take that local guide?”, Deacon asked.

“I doubt the roads have changed that much here in the last 200 years. The map I have of the island shows how to get to the top. About the only difference is, since it’s dark, we’ll use the infrared goggles and settings on your hazmat suits and our power armor. Heat sources should stand out quite well.”

They did. There was a group of men living in a house up the road from the town. From the human heads they had hanging, it was rather obvious they weren’t peaceful. A little further beyond where we left their bodies cooling, a group of feral ghouls living on a boat tried to attack us. One of them was a little tougher than the rest, so I had to shoot it twice. We found the road leading up the mountain.

Partway up, we were attacked by some wolves, then some more feral ghouls. We’d been walking for a couple of hours by this point, so I had us take a rest. “Deacon, I know you’ve been monitoring things. What’s the verdict?”

“Realistically, with hazmat suits like we have, the radiation isn’t an issue. I can’t tell if there’s something else going on in the mist or not, but I don’t see why these people don’t just fight back and re-take their island. I am a little bothered by how many barrels of waste we’ve found, though. Why would there be so much on such a small island?”

“There had to be something going on, that’s for certain. Glory, you’ve been quiet so far.”

“I don’t know, Bullseye. This is almost ... I think it’s pretty, but in a rather macabre way. I’ve been a city girl for quite a while, but I’ve seen things glowing from too many rads. There’s too many plants glowing here.”

“I agree, ma’am. I’d honestly almost suggest evacuating everyone if I thought it’d work. These people, though, they’re stubborn like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

“Tell me about, Danse. Okay. There’s a campground right ahead, you can see the signs. Let’s check it out, then keep heading up.” It turned out the campground had several feral ghouls in it, which only took a few minutes to clear. We kept on climbing the mountain for another hour.

Deacon looked at his Geiger counter almost in disbelief. Before he could say anything, I said, “I see it, Deacon. We’re above the Fog. There’re some wind turbines over there, still working. I wonder where that power goes? And look, up there, it’s an observatory.”

“Um, what’s that?”

“It’s a place to use a big telescope to look into space, at the stars. I’d make a guess that’s where this synth refuge is located. There’s fences and walls up surrounding it. Odd that they don’t have anyone on guard duty, though.”

We walked up to the door without being challenged. “Let’s try to do this without being too intimidating. At least, as not intimidating as we can be with two people in power armor. Go ahead, get out of your hazmat suits, and sling weapons for now.”

Deacon snorted. “May as well. If they’re just regular created people inside, they won’t know what to make of us, anyway.”

We walked on in. The concrete hallway had wall lockers along the wall to our left, a flight of stairs going down on the right, followed by another room. The end of the hall opened into the main observatory chamber. Even from a distance, I could see it was filled with more computer equipment than seemed normal. In addition, there was what looked like a chair with a Gen 2 synth sitting in it.

I started down the hall. I heard a voice from somewhere in the room say, “You were in there a long time. Are you sure feeling all right?”

The synth spoke, with a very calming and melodious voice. “I’m fine. You worry too much.”

The response was, “Sometimes I feel like you don’t worry enough. You know we blew three relays this week. I was having a hard enough keeping up with repairs before all this nonsense with the Atom lunatics.”

The synth was amused. “They’re nothing you need to be concerned about.”

“It’s not them. I’m concerned about you, DiMA. You can’t solve all problems in the world, not at once.”

So, this was DiMA. He said, “Dearest Faraday, relax. All will be fine.”

I walked into the room. The chair that DiMA was sitting in changed position, so he was standing up. He turned to face us. “You know, when I first climbed this mountain, above the fog, I thought to myself, now here is a metaphor worth taking in. You’ve entered a place of clarity. Understanding. Peace. While you’re here, synth-kind welcomes you, so long as you welcome us.” From behind a bank of computers, a man with brown hair and a lab coat came walking out, a clipboard in his hand.

I hit the button and opened my power armor. Walking around it, I said, “I came here looking for Kasumi Nakano.”

He sounded surprised. “Really? I’m impressed. Few would brave the kind of journey you’ve had for someone else. Kasumi is here. She’s safe and unharmed, and you’re free to see her if you’d like. Before you do, though, tell me. Do you think Kasumi is a synth?”

I frowned. “You’re not like any Gen 2 synth I’ve ever encountered. What are you?”

He smiled. It was almost disconcerting, he reminded me of... “I’m the old synth on the mountain.” He chuckled. “I know the plastic skin and tubes can be disconcerting, but I want to ask you to look past that. But what about my question, regarding Kasumi?”

“One, maybe two more, before I answer you. How long have you been operating on your own?”

“Of course, you have suspicions. I’ve been operating for over a hundred years as an independent synth. Over time, I’ve had to make ... modifications, as things wore out or expansions were needed.”

“Second question, then. I’ve encountered someone similar in appearance to you before, but with a completely different personality. Do you know Nick Valentine?”

That startled him. “You know Nick Valentine? He’s ... he’s my brother.”

“Nick said he was a discarded prototype, an attempt to implant a human mind into a robot body. What are you?”

“We were both prototypes. He was just what he said. I was an attempt to create independent thought without a human mind or programming being involved. They wanted to see how our personalities would develop. Mine was allowed to grow naturally. He had the personality of a pre-war police officer implanted. He wasn’t discarded, I helped him escape. I couldn’t let them continue to do the things to him over and over again that they were doing. But now, will you answer my question regarding Kasumi?”

“As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter whether she’s a created person or not, but it’s easy to check.”

Faraday spoke up for the first time. “That’s an interesting choice of words, friend. Why do you say created person instead of synth?”

“Because that’s what you are, Faraday. A created person. The only thing that’s artificial in you is the board in your spine and the chip in your neck. The rest of you is human.”

DiMA frowned. “You say that with such assurance. There’s no biological test that can tell that. None that isn’t fatal.”

“On the contrary, there’s no biological test YOU know of that can tell. I just happen to have the magic box here to answer that question, quickly, simply, and quite easily.” I held out my hand. Deacon handed me the modified biometric scanner.

“James, Deacon.” The two of them turned around. “Please, observe. James here is a created person, actually he’s my bodyguard. You’ll note that when the detector gets close to his neck, near where the chip is, it reacts. Now Deacon here isn’t, he just used to be the intelligence director for the Railroad. Note that there’s no reaction at his neck.”

DiMA was shaken, I could tell that. “How did you develop such a miracle?”

I saw a woman that had come in behind us, wearing a Courser uniform. She looked at James with suspicious eyes. He smiled at her. “Greetings, X4-63. It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

She came walking up to him. “X6-88? I go by Chase, now. What are you doing out of uniform?”

He shook his head. “I’m wearing my security uniform. And my name now is James. I’m the bodyguard for Director Wilson.”

I held my hand out. “Chase, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Since you also know that you’re a created person, would you mind allowing me to show this to DiMA?” She shook my hand in confusion. DiMA and Faraday saw the meter show that she had the chip.

“I’m confused ... James, you said? You called her Director? What about Father?”

I spoke up. “Unfortunately, he passed away due to a cancer that was too aggressive for any treatment. Nothing to do with any of his DNA that is in all created people, it was an experiment that went wrong. Before he died, he named me his successor.”

DiMA looked at me in alarm. “Then you’re with the Institute? That’s an admission I wasn’t expecting to hear.”

“You’re operating off of old information. There is no Institute anymore, not like any of you remember. It’s now the Commonwealth Institute of Technology, and as soon as the tunnel to the surface is complete, it will become a vital part of the rebuilding effort. That’s another reason I’m here. This is still a part of the Commonwealth of New England States. Since Kasumi is a citizen, I’m here looking for her.”

“I’m ... I’m...” He moved back to his chair, sitting down. Faraday moved up to him. “This is quite a bit to process.” I could see some of the computer banks that had been quiet before showing activity now.

“Ah, I see. You’re only capable of so much in your physical body. You’ve off-loaded a lot of extra processing into the rest of this network. Ingenious. Did you write your own source code, or are you still using the basic RobCo functions that are the basis for all processing in both synths and created people?”

“How do you know so much about that? Who are you?” He sounded distressed.

“The woman who’s here to find out the truth about Kasumi Nakano and bring peace to the Commonwealth ... all of it, including Mount Desert Island and Bar Harbor.”

“I must rest. I am sorry.” He closed his eyes. Faraday looked at DiMA in concern.

“What’s going on? I’ve never seen him do that before! What did you do to him?” His voice was almost frantic.

“This is a peaceful place up here, Faraday. The problem is, there’s no need for it any longer. Created people no longer have to hide. Glory, Danse?” They both turned, Danse taking his helmet off. The scanner showed the chips in their necks. “You’ll note that Danse is wearing the insignia of a Star Paladin in the Brotherhood of Steel. Glory is, or was, what the Railroad called a Heavy, someone who was sent in when there was going to be lots of violence. Glory has known she’s a created person since the day she was freed from the Institute. Danse, for a couple of weeks now. Doesn’t matter, either way. They’re both valuable people in the Commonwealth.”

“Thanks, Boss, you know how to make a guy feel loved.”

I rolled my eyes. “Deacon, sometimes you’re a burden I have to bear. In any event, I believe Kasumi is here, correct? Please, feel free to come with me.”

Faraday said, “I need to stay here, make sure that DiMA is okay. Chase, can you go with them?” She nodded, still not sure what to make of what she’d seen.

“This way.” Chase led us back to the stairwell leading down. We went down four flights of stairs, so we were two stories below ground. A young woman was working on what looked like a power generator to me.

She was talking to herself when we walked up. “Circuitry is completely fried. Maybe if I reroute the sensors ... Oh, sorry, I’m right in the middle of something.”

“Kasumi, these people are here looking for you.”

She stood up. She had neck length black hair, was rather short, and looked like a young version of her mother. “Who are you? Are you new here?”

“I’m the person that has come here to bring you home.”

She sounded sad. “Home. I ... I really wish that was true. If I wasn’t a synth, things would be so much simpler. But how can I know?”

“To a certain extent, you’re like every other teenage girl having an identity crisis. That’s not a big issue. Neither is figuring out whether you’re a created person or not.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Simple. Turn around.” I held the meter up to her neck. Nothing.

Chase said, “Are you certain?” I held it back up behind her neck, then James, then Deacon. I handed it to Chase.

“Just so you don’t think I’m pulling a fast one. Check me first, then any of the rest of us, in any order you wish.”

Kasumi looked at us, puzzled. “What’s going on, Chase?”

Chase checked, then went around in a different order. “How did you manage to figure this out?”

“One very, very smart scientist. Oh, and she’s also a created person.” Kasumi looked at both of us with confusion on her face. “Kasumi, you’re not a created person, you’re just a confused teenage girl is all.”

“Created person? You mean a synth? I’m not? But ... my memories, my dreams...”

“Dreams are a weird thing. They can make you think of lots of things that aren’t real. Our minds can create whole worlds within them. That’s all that’s happened to you.” I looked at Chase. “Are you satisfied?”

“Regarding Kasumi, yes. However, I still don’t understand how the best Courser in the Institute is now your bodyguard.”

“Let’s go see if DiMA has managed to reboot himself, and I’ll explain. Kasumi, why don’t you follow us? This ought to be interesting for you, since you’re a mechanical and electrical genius.”

“That’d be good. There’s something ... odd ... going on around here.”

I stopped on the middle floor, went walking through it. There were several created people, or ones that I presumed were, doing various things. Some of them looked at me, and us, with suspicions. A couple of them were positively frightened when they saw James. I heard the murmur of some conversations starting.

I stood as close to the middle as I could, there was a shaft open to the lower level from here. A handy crate gave me something to stand on. “Good evening, folks. I know it’s late, and you’re probably all about ready for bed. I’m inviting you all upstairs, to listen to a conversation I’m going to have with DiMA, if he’s done rebooting himself. It’s not a bad thing, but it does concern all of you, and your future here.”

That really got things stirred up in the back. “Who are you, and why do you have a Courser with you?”, came from a man in the back. I noticed he was wearing red and white jacket from Red Rocket, but more importantly, he was holding a sledgehammer.

“Good question. As I told DiMA, James here is not a Courser, not any longer. In fact, there actually ARE no more Coursers. So, why don’t you all come up with me, and that way I won’t have to repeat myself?”

Another man said, “What do you think, Chase? We know you.”

Chase just looked at him with a frown. “I don’t know what to think, Dejen. I heard what she told DiMA before. I’ve already seen with my own eyes that she has a way to detect the chips in those of us that have them. This is ... yes, I think you should all come up and listen in.”

That was good enough for them. They all started making their way up to the main floor. Chase looked at me, saying, “I hope you have a good explanation for everything.”

By the time I made it back up to the main floor, DiMA was done with whatever he’d had to do. He remained seated, though, instead of standing back up. Faraday was standing next to him, looking upset. While his voice was still pleasant to hear, he sounded a little strained. “This is a rather remarkable event. You have done something that I have not had happen in many years. You overloaded my mobile processing capacity. I normally only utilize these computers for additional memory storage, not processing. That is remarkable. And you’ve brought everyone up here as well.”

“Yes, I didn’t really feel like repeating myself too many times would be a good thing. This way, everyone gets to hear everything that is said, ask questions if they want to, and make their own decisions.”

“I find that I am most curious myself as to what other surprises you plan on sharing,” DiMA confessed. “You’ll forgive me if I remain seated, so I can remain in link with all of the memories I have here.”

“Of course.” I moved up next to where DiMA was sitting, pulled a box over so I could stand on it. I raised my voice again. “Can everyone hear me back there? Good.”

“Hello, everyone. My name is Tina Wilson. I was born in the year 2043. In October of 2077, when the nuclear bombs fell, I entered a Vault and was placed in cryogenic stasis. I was frozen, as an experiment by Vault-Tec. Sometime around 2225 or so, I woke up to witness my baby son being kidnapped from Vault 111 by Conrad Kellogg. Some of you may recognize that name. I didn’t know what year it was, then. My cryogenic storage was restarted. Just over a month ago, near the end of October, I woke up again.”

“A little bit about me, from before the war. My father was former military, also a police captain with the Boston Police Department. I learned how to shoot at a young age, and I was the Junior Commonwealth Champion for two years in a row. I graduated from law school, was admitted to the Bar Association. I worked for RobCo, and ended up fighting in Alaska against the Chinese. I am no stranger to killing.”

“I say this because, since I woke up, it seems like that’s nearly all I’ve been doing. I’ve had to fight against Raiders, against monsters, against many people. I saw some of you react when I mentioned Kellogg by name. I killed him. I also found out how to get into the Institute, through teleportation. Once I was inside, I met the person that many of you knew of as Father, the Director of the Institute. What some of you know, many of you may not know, is that the DNA from Father was used to create all of you, with the exception of DiMA. Other than the small boards in your spinal columns, the chip in your necks, you are fully human.”

“You have been called, have called each other, synths, because you thought you were synthetic humans. You’re not. You’re created people. That may only seem to you like a choice of semantics. It’s not. There’s nothing synthetic about you. And you’re the future of humanity.”

That got a murmur from many of them. Before I was interrupted, I continued, “Not in the way that the original Directorate of the Institute planned, as slaves, but as free people living wherever and doing whatever you want, in complete freedom. Based upon the information that he had, DiMA did a great thing here, giving you a refuge. It’s simply no longer needed. There is no more Institute as he, and you, knew it. The facility itself is still there; underground, beneath the ruins of the original CIT building. But, if you’ll allow me the simile, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, the Commonwealth Institute of Technology will, with the completion of the tunnel upwards to connect it back to the surface and under the leadership of a changed Directorate, join in the rebuilding of the Commonwealth, as a valuable ally and partner to everyone living here.”

Dejen interrupted me. “That’s a pretty speech, lady. Lots of flowery words and feel good promises. You got any proof to back it up?”

I saw Deacon smile and shake his head. “What’s the matter, Deacon? Heard this too many times?” He just chuckled a little at that, which set off my companions as well. DiMA, on the other hand, was sitting very still, looking very thoughtful.

“Rather than bore you with a detailed recounting of everything that’s happened to me since I came out of cryogenic storage, I’ll first introduce the people that are here with me. Before I do, I’d like a show of hands of those who’ve heard of the Railroad? Good, now the Brotherhood of Steel? Lastly, the Commonwealth Minutemen? Excellent. So enough of you know that there is basically no way in hell that the Railroad would work with the Brotherhood and vice-versa, or that either of them would cooperate with the Institute.”

“First, this is Star Paladin Danse, Brotherhood of Steel. He’s been in the Brotherhood for more than ten years, and is one of only two people that Elder Maxson, the leader of the Brotherhood, has allowed use of his first name in conversation. Oh, and his original designation was M7-97. He’s a created person. This is Glory. She’s been Railroad for nearly fifteen years, is one of the Railroads highest ranking field agents, only given the most difficult and dangerous missions. Original designation G7-81. She’s a created person. This is James Wilson. He was a Courser for the Institute, sent out on some of their most difficult retrieval missions. Original designation X6-88. He’s a created person. This is John Deacon. He’s been in the Railroad for more than twenty years, as their intelligence director. He, like myself, was naturally born of woman and man.”

Time for a bombshell. “Like any or all of your own children will be.”

Before they could completely react, I held up my hand. “Hang on, not done yet. Now, regarding James, you’ll note I said he WAS a Courser. Now he is a member of CIT Security. Specifically assigned as my bodyguard, even though I really don’t need one.”

He muttered out, loud enough to be heard, “That’s for damned sure!”, which caused a bit of nervous laughter among those close enough to hear him.

“I mentioned a little about my own past, but not about what’s current.” As I started naming groups, I pointed at the insignia on my armor. “I am General Wilson of the Commonwealth Minutemen, their leader. I am Sentinel Wilson, Brotherhood of Steel, answering only to Arthur Maxson, the Elder. I am, or was, Agent Bullseye with the Railroad. Legally and lawfully, I am Governor of the Commonwealth of New England States, which is why I have the authority to come here.”

I sighed. “And, the part that is most important to you, to all of you. Before he passed away, the Director of the Institute, Father as you knew or knew of him, named the one person in the world he trusted more than anyone else as his replacement. His mother. I am the Director of CIT, and all of you that are created people are effectively my own grandchildren.” It must have been dusty in there; I was having trouble seeing.

Deacon gave me a hand stepping down from the box, then magically produced a cloth to help me wipe my eyes. In a low voice, he said, “You’re completely screwed, boss. If anyone even dared to run against you in an election, the crowds would chew them up after another speech like that.”

The majority of the crowd was standing in place, either trying to take in what I’d just said, or talking to the person next to them. Chase stepped forward, standing directly in front of James. Not quite confrontational, but concerned. “Your name is now James Wilson? Why is that? Who is in charge of the SRB, then?”

He gently smiled at her. “We ... all of us, the free created people of CIT, chose our own first name. But as a sign of respect, we asked for and received permission, to use the last name of Wilson. Our DNA, we were all the children of Father. Her grandchildren, as it were.” His smile got larger, and he said with a chuckle, “But I warn you, all of you, don’t call her grandmother. She’ll hit you.” He got serious again. “And there is no SRB. The administrator of CIT Security is Alana Secord, with the Chief of Security being Jerome Wilson.”

Chase frowned. “What about Justin Ayo?”

James laughed. “Oh, Jerome killed him. In addition, several former members of the staff who were ... shall we say, rather perverted in their treatment of us ... have met a similar fate. Some of you may or may not remember Doctor Alan Binet. He is now in charge of Creation Obstetrics, formerly known as Robotics. He had a created person in his home, Eve. They are now married. Does that give you, all of you, some idea of the changes that this woman has brought to our world?”

“I’m Aster, the closest thing to a doctor and biologist we have here. What did you mean, our own children?”

I answered, “You’re all eating food that’s naturally grown now. I presume that no one is putting Supplement 41 in it. That means that, unless you’re taking birth control pills or otherwise using some form of contraception, you’re quite capable of getting pregnant and having a baby. With all of you being closely related due to DNA, it wouldn’t be a good idea to have a baby with another created person, not without serious genetic analysis first.”

She looked stunned. “I ... it’s not something we’ve even actually thought about. One of the things we found here was a supply of feminine products, I’ve simply been handing them out when one of the women come to me. The ramifications of that never ... I feel so stupid. We were told we were machines that imitated humans. I don’t know about anyone else, but the only reason I thought we bled was that we had been programmed to do that, so we’d fit in.”

I smiled. “You were, but not by any scientist. Mother Nature did that for you, for all of us women. Seriously, though, I don’t THINK any created person has carried a child to full term yet, but we do know it’s possible for pregnancy to occur.”

Another woman said, “I’m Miranda. One of the reasons I left home was because things there were just getting too uncomfortable, too unsafe, for us. I actually recognize Glory; her hair is rather unmistakable. I was part of an Institute materials gathering team that ran into a Railroad operation that she disrupted. I was grateful for my rescue, but I didn’t join the Railroad or go through a memory wipe. I even lived in Diamond City for a little while, until Mayor McDonough ran the ghouls out. Can you tell me that won’t happen again?”

“Under my watch? No, it won’t. McDonough himself is dead. He had been replaced, by the Institute and Justin Ayo, quite a while back. As for how I can guarantee things, it’s actually pretty simple. It’ll probably take somewhere close to another month or so, but a combined arms force of Minutemen and Brotherhood troops are going through and clearing out all Raider encampments, all super mutant clans, and every feral ghoul they can find. It’s time the rule of law was re-established in the Commonwealth.”

She didn’t even think it over. “Sign me up, then. When can we go home? Nothing against this place, and I’m grateful to you, DiMA, for having it here, but this is a refuge, a place to hide. It’s only a matter of time before the damned Trappers end up coming after us, anyway. You know that as well as I do.”

I asked, “Pardon me, but what are Trappers?”

“Lunatics. They live in the Fog. Eat people. They’re worse than Raiders were at home, because sometimes you could bargain with a Raider. You can’t with a Trapper.”

I sighed. “Joy. The Fog won’t make it easy for troops to operate except in power armor or in hazmat suits. Where did Bar Harbor get those Fog Condensers?”

Faraday spoke up. “Those are something that DiMA and I came up with, to help Far Harbor when it became obvious the Fog was getting worse. We’ve made quite a number of them, but we’re limited on components to continue making them. And, of course, the Island itself isn’t cooperating, either.”

One of the others said, “That’s for sure. I sometimes think that crazy lady in Far Harbor is right, the Island is alive.”

DiMA finally spoke up. “While I have been here, I have seen many changes in the Fog itself. I do not believe the Island itself is alive. What I do believe is that the Fog has become more dangerous over time. That ends up making it a positive feedback cycle. As the Fog has become dangerous, people pulled back to a place of safety. Then more creatures that are not affected by the Fog have more room to roam and to grow, making what was out there even more dangerous. It is cyclic, but right now it is almost at a breaking point for the residents of Far Harbor.”

“As for the rest, I welcome peace with the Commonwealth. If any wish to leave here, it is their own decision. I created this place as a refuge for synths ... excuse me, created people. It appears that there is no longer a need for that. As for myself, while I could travel, I have so many memories here, I do not know why I would do so.”

I said, “Actually, I do. You would be able to help Doctors Binet and Li in a problem they have now. You created your own personality, effectively programmed yourself. The concern with a created person is that, if we create an adult and don’t put the chips in, what would happen to them? They’ve already figured out that, since a created person can grow, we could actually make an infant, or small child, one that could be taught to function as they grow up. But at best, that’s a short-term solution. We’re trying to make sure that humanity itself doesn’t die off. There’s a whole country out there. Sure, a lot of it isn’t habitable. But we only have a few thousand people, and that’s counting all the created people. That’s not enough for us to survive as a race. We’re literally facing extinction, and it’s our own damned fault.”

“Survival without purpose serves no purpose. I see that now. These last few years, I have been merely existing. I thought I was creating a refuge, and instead I created a prison,” DiMA said.

You’ve helped us tremendously,” Faraday said. “I’ve learned so much from you, and if things hadn’t changed, we wouldn’t have lived in the Commonwealth. Your refuge was of great help to me, to all of us.”

“Dearest Faraday, I am not arguing that it was not. I am simply noting that there has been a radical change in life, one that no one could have anticipated. This will require thought on my part as to what I can or should do.”

One of the women asked, “What about the rest of us? Are you going to take us back and reprogram us, wipe our memories or change us?”

I shook my head. “You are free citizens of the Commonwealth. I would ask that you get a bath or two, maybe some clean clothes. It’d be a lot easier if we had a workstation here, I could actually help with that. I can make those work.”

Faraday said, “Hang on. You’re talking about one of those old Vault-Tec devices that could take in things and break them down into raw materials, right?” I nodded. “I know of three of them, but I didn’t know they could still work. There’s one at a farm on the north shore, I’d put some Fog Condensers there to help with a farm, but a Fog Crawler came along and killed everyone living there. Another is at the old National Park Visitors Center. There’s one old man that lives there. The third is just north of Far Harbor, at the home of an eccentric old fisherman, I believe they called him Longfellow. But I don’t know what simply breaking things down into raw materials can do to help.”

“Properly programmed, they can then use those raw materials to create things. Gears, electrical components, clothing, generators, the list is long on what you can do with the right materials. The problem is you need a working computer terminal to make the workstation itself operate ... or a Pip-Boy.”

DiMA brought his hands together, almost like he was praying, before his mouth. “I find myself in a situation I did not want to ever be in. My first home here on the Island was at the Nucleus, a prewar naval base that was heavily irradiated. Obviously, the radiation did not bother me. The Children of Atom were, for a time, allowed to live in Far Harbor, but their continued presence caused much strife. I gave them the Nucleus as a place to live. You see how many of my memories I have here, all of this storage. I left my earliest memories there, to be guarded by the Children. Their leader, Confessor Martin, was my friend. The Children continued to try to preach to Far Harbor, one of their priests was killed. Relations between Far Harbor and the Children have continued getting worse by the day.”

Kasumi spoke up then. “There’s a problem, DiMA. I realize now that I’m human, not a created person. But I’ve grown fond of several of the people here, regardless of where they came from. The issue is that I’ve found some ... things. Death projections. For both Far Harbor and for the Nucleus. I know that I wasn’t supposed to see those, I was trying to find something else and that file was unlocked. What were you doing?”

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