Love Never Changes
Chapter 21

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

“Thank you all for meeting here today. I realize that we’ve never had a formal meeting after Father passed away, so it’s time.”

“We understand, Director. You’ve obviously had a little on your plate,” Allie said.

Clayton shook his head. “I think we all have. My department has never been busier, coming up with new flavors and textures for food, as well as turning the old bio labs into hydroponics.”

“We’ve made multiple breakthroughs in Creation Obstetrics. Being able to transfer Nick Valentine into a created body, one that actually created using his original DNA that we had on file here, such that his body is less than 20% of our original source, as opposed to the normal 50 to 80%, means that we’ll be able to use other sources as well. We’re taking our time with Proctor Ingram, each piece that goes onto her body is being triple checked based upon her own DNA to make sure there’s no chance of rejection. But this is a huge benefit for all of us, and with more research, I think we can make replacement organs as well,” Alan said.

Madison smiled, saying, “Working with Engineering, we’ve now got three antenna holes drilled to the surface. Those are large enough that we’ve tripled the range of our outbound and inbound teleport capacity, so we can now bring in up to half a ton of raw materials at a time. In addition, we’ve designed a laser boring machine that, if it works properly, should get us down to only a few weeks of work in creating a sloping tunnel to the surface.”

Alana sighed. “We found something that I don’t think any of us knew. There’s actually a way to get to the surface from here. The problem is, it doesn’t actually access above ground. There’s an access tunnel where our original reactor drew feed water from the Charles River. We’re getting underwater breathing gear and modified hazmat suits, the radiation levels are quite extreme, as you’d imagine. I ... I’m embarrassed that I didn’t even know this tunnel existed. It was a weakness in our defenses.”

“Is Jerome addressing this, with fixed defenses and a rotating guard post, until we can get it secured?”

“Yes, Director. In addition, we’ve increased the security at the surface teleportation and resource site. We used some of our excess Gen 1 and 2 robots as troops to clear the old CIT building of super mutants. We averaged two and a half units lost per super mutant killed. Since there are no plans to restart their production, the parts are being recycled for additional metals and components. I’m waiting to hear from either the Brotherhood or the Commonwealth Minutemen if they need assistance in their clearing operations.”

“There are several high radiation areas that could probably use them. This is perhaps an odd question, but if someone were to go to Bar Harbor with, say, a hundred of the synth grenades, could they activate them there, so these troops wouldn’t have to travel by boat?”

Alana started to speak, then paused. She turned to look at Allie. “I don’t know, what is the capability of the booster you installed?”

Allie frowned for a moment, then nodded. “That should work. I know that Lieutenant Richter was quite pleased with what Doctor Orman and I had done. She stayed there for a couple of more days, to help with upgrades to the wind farm that supplies the town with power. All we’d have to do is have someone actually carry the grenades there. We can program the synth robots to follow commands, since they wouldn’t be directly going into combat.”

“Clayton, what about certain ongoing projects? Especially the Warwick Farm.”

“Ah, yes. Obviously, we’re not going to do retrieval and purging like the original plan said. But I’m, well, honestly not sure what to do about Roger Warwick. Our created person knows he’s not the original, and was only there to study certain plant mutations.”

“Are the memories of the original still in data storage?”, I asked.

“I believe so, yes,” he nervously said.

I picked up on it. “Clayton, that was then, this is now. I’ve actually got a cover story already thought up. You know we were using the story of checking for a disease, when scanning for the synth chips. We’ll just tell him he has it, and needs to come get treated. That’ll let us talk to him in private. If he wants to go back, we can do a selective mind change if he agrees, clear his memories that he’s a created person, and all is good. If he doesn’t want to go back, we tell them he died and he ends up living somewhere else.”

I shook my head. “It’s not the most elegant solution available, but I’m not rationalizing things. The Institute did some pretty shitty things, when you get down to it. Cleaning up the mess, and making sure that people understand that CIT is NOT the Institute, and that we ARE on the side of the Commonwealth, HAS to be our goal for quite a while.”

That statement was greeted by nods from everyone in attendance. Alana noted, “We’ve been sending a few people out, to meet with people in Sanctuary and Bunker Hill. I’d like to say I’m surprised at how well we’re being accepted there, but obviously the surface has seen quite a number of changes. Of course, we’ve also been providing quite a bit of technical support to the Brotherhood, in upgrading the Prydwen. I presume there’s a story behind the reason we’re now the storekeepers for the parts to make a rather large number of portable nuclear warheads.”

I blinked. “Fat Man warheads? How many did Maxson give you?”

“Nearly a hundred of the damned things. I don’t want them down here. Jerome and I haven’t come up with a good solution for where to store them.”

“Executive decision time, then. Don’t store them. Destroy them. Run them through the workstation, break them down into their components. Use the radioactive materials for fuel for another reactor. You could probably store those down in the sub-basement under the Mass Fusion building. That’s already fucked up enough, no one’s going to get down there, until we need it. It’s bad enough we still know HOW to make them,” I said

“I agree, Director. That’s a very wise call.”

Nodding, I then asked, “One last question. Doctor Li, I know you have improved upon the process used by Doctor Binet to remove the boards from our created people. Have there been many volunteers to have that procedure done?”

“Fewer than I thought, actually. We’ve had several created people from Acadia come here to visit, actually. They’ve been primarily the ones who wanted them removed. I’m not sure if it’s simply because it still allows fast access or not, but really, less than two dozen of our staff here have asked for it. And I’ve a question for Security. Did you have a discussion with your former Coursers about it? None of them have asked about it.”

“I’ve certainly told them it’s an option, that it’s their own choice. I suspect ... no, I’m almost certain ... that they discussed it among themselves and decided not to do so. And I know why, too. In case the Director needed them on the surface, immediately, they could all go to her aid,” Alana replied.

“Do any of you have any questions for me?”

Madison looked grim. “I do, but it’s something that I’d prefer to ask you without an audience, if you don’t mind.”

“That’s fine. Everyone, please pass along to your departments and ALL of your people, so far, you’ve been doing a good job. I prefer not to micro-manage, simply give direction and let you carry things out. I’m pleased with how you’re doing.”

Clayton laughed. “Your idea of having an executive assistant to help the Director was brilliant. We’re all coordinating things much better than we ever have in the past. I feel like we’re all working together now.” The rest nodded in agreement, then left, leaving Madison still sitting in her chair.

The door shut and left us in privacy. “How can I help you, Madison?”

“I have two questions for you, Director. How, or why, are you even out of bed? And able to function? I know what Ellen had delivered to your room yesterday, she came to me for assistance in getting them made for you and your wives.” Now she had a grin on her face, in contrast to her usual sour look.

“Coffee. Lots of coffee. Let’s just say that the air filtration system for our quarters is getting a serious workout. That, and the Gen 2’s were bringing in extra sheets and towels. I’m not sure whether to thank you and her for that idea, or smack you both.”

Madison laughed, then winced. “Yeah, well, we all owe you a debt of gratitude for what you’ve done, I think.” She grimaced, looking more like her usual sour self.

“What’s wrong, Madison? Do I need to get Doctor Volkert in here?”

“Oh, God, no! That’s the last thing I need, to let someone else in on this. I can trust you and your discretion. No, the problem is ... well, with me. Brian is still my age, still in love with me and vice versa. The issue...” She stopped, a look of shame on her face.

“His body got rejuvenated, yours didn’t, and at your age, you’re not producing enough natural lubrication. He’s literally rubbing your pussy raw, if I can be crude.”

“Both, actually. I’m trying to keep him satisfied orally, but I’m raw up front and feeling stretched in the rear.”

“Water soluble lubrication. Make it part of your foreplay. And take it slow. If you have time to prepare, an enema beforehand will help with anal. To help stretch things, I’d suggest making a butt plug, and just leave it in there during the day. That should help.”

She blushed. “I’m sorry, I’m not used to being able to talk about any of this. Since the change in our diets, plus getting back to the surface like I have, I’m feeling ... well, horny ... a lot more than before.”

I shook my head, a frown on my face. “That really sounds like something that Vault-Tec would have made. I suspect that in about nine or ten months, Doctor Volkert is going to be busy practicing pediatrics a lot.”

“I’m sure. This is ... look, I’m too old, physically, to have a child. Brian and I have been discussing something, I don’t know if it’s possible or not. And not something I’d do lightly, or without permission. Do you think it’s possible for Doctor Binet and his team to create ... babies?”

“Who are you, and what have you done with Madison Li?” She laughed at that.

“I know, I know, that’s not like me at all. I’m just ... I think I understand now why Sh ... Father ... did what he did, for you. Now, more than ever.”

I thought for a bit. “What about adoption? You know, a child that’s lost both their parents?”

She sat back, then winced. “Ouch, sorry. Also, sorry, I never thought about that. Down here, that hasn’t happened. I’m sure there are children that are sole survivors. That may be a better idea, thank you.”

I got up and walked over, helping her get up. “Enjoy it, Madison.” I led her out the door, then while she took the cross ramp to a different area, I want down the central ramp to my quarters. I used my thumb code to open the door that I’d locked when I left.

The lights on the lower level were still dimmed. I stopped at my desk on this level, sat and made some notes about the meeting. I felt the presence behind me before I felt her breasts press into the back of my neck, then separate to either side of my head. Her chin rested on top of my head.

“The job doesn’t end, but you can take a break, you know.”

I turned my head left, then right, kissing each of her breasts. “I did. We’ll have more time after Maxson gets back from his trip together. Even if I have to make sure we have a cabin on the Prydwen itself, if I have to make trips.” I leaned my head backwards, so she could lean forward and kiss me, which she did.

“I’ve never been happier in my life, Tina. I hope you know that. The three of you have made my world complete. I wish we had more time together now, that we could just shut the whole world out.”

“We’ve both got responsibilities, though. Do you think you’d be happy and satisfied as a housewife and mother?”

She shrugged, which did interesting things to her breasts. “We have three homes now. Here, Sanctuary, Vault 81. Four when the one in Diamond City gets finished. I’m not saying that’s one for each of us, I don’t really ever want to be apart from you. But I’m not like them. I’ve never had to face gunfire, shoot a charging feral ghoul. I don’t know that I could do that, other than to save one of you, or one of our children.”

“You could if you had to, but you know what? I like that you’re my gentle Gwen. You keep me centered. Thank you for that. You don’t happen to have some extra Pip-Boys in storage at Vault 81, do you?”

“Probably. We recycled them, re-used them. Why?” She sat down in her chair, by me.

“Same reason I have one. I’ll have Madison put a Courser chip in yours, and one for Piper and Curie. I haven’t discussed with her yet if she wants her chip removed, but it’s possible to do that now. Would you stop that?”

“What’s the matter, Mrs. Wilson? Does the sight of your wife sitting her, legs spread, rubbing on her clit, cause you problems?”

“Damned straight it does, Mrs. Shannon. I’ve got a thousand things to do, and...” I felt how wet and aroused I was, as she slowly rubbed herself. “It’ll wait until tomorrow.”

“Wise choice.” She chuckled as I slipped my jumpsuit off, then put it in a pile on the floor for my knees to rest upon. She leaned back in the chair, scooting forward a little, presenting herself for me. She still tasted just as good to me as she did the first time. I wasn’t in the mood for slow play, I fastened my mouth right on her clit, sucking it into my mouth and flicking it with my tongue.

It only took her a couple of minutes of that for me to taste her flood as she came. “Damn, Tina, that was intense!” She quietly acquiesced as I took her hand, leading her back downstairs. I sat down on the edge of the bed, then leaned back so my head was resting on Piper’s butt. Gwen knelt down, licking on me as well. It felt so good, so loving. I felt her finger curling up inside me, touching me on my spot. I turned my head to the side, lightly biting Piper on the ass, enjoying the smell of her juices that were still on the bed.

That woke Piper up, which meant Curie woke up as well, since Piper was wrapped around Curie. Things proceeded from there pretty much like they had the night before.

I woke up the next morning alone in bed. I was surprised, but then I heard noise coming from the bathroom area. I walked in, to see my wives getting showered and otherwise ready for the day. I went to an open toilet and relieved my bladder.

“Good to see you’re awake, sweetie. I think we’ve been up for hours.” Gwen threw a wet washrag at Piper for that comment. “Okay, fink! Maybe fifteen minutes. But it’s seemed like hours, since you weren’t with us.”

“I blame Gwen. And I also thank Gwen, I didn’t really want to head out yesterday. But I’ve just got too much to do, we all do, to lounge in bed any longer.”

“Madam is correct. As much as I love learning how to make Piper squeak when pushing the, what did you call it, the double dong, inside her and myself, I fear others are waiting on us.”

“I did not squeak!” Piper looked angry. “Did I?” All three of us nodded yes in reply.

It only took a half hour for us to get dried and then outfitted with Vault-suits, armor, and weapons. When I opened the door to the main hallway and we walked to the atrium, I heard someone say, “Dammit!” A familiar voice said, “Told you! Pay up.”

Ellen came strolling up with a rather satisfied smile on her face. “Jerome and I had a little bet. I said this morning, he said it wouldn’t be until afternoon. Ready to return to Diamond City?”

“No, but there’s too much to do. Keep up the good work, Ellen. The Directorate said you were doing a good job.” We took the elevator up to the teleportation room, then used it, appearing inside Diamond City, just outside the market.

One of the guards looked startled, but realized who we were. “I think your people are at the Home Plate,” he advised.

The place looked completely different when we looked in. All the trash was gone, there was desk and chairs set up. Deacon was sitting in one of the chairs, Shaun was in the other, a chessboard set up between them. James and Jacquelyn were working on some weapons, and Nat was sitting on a couch reading a book. It was well lit now; in the other room I could see places for storage and a couple of bunk beds.

Shaun hopped up and ran to me. “Hi, Mom! I missed you!” He gave me a big hug, then looked at the others. “Is it all right if I give you hugs, too?” The three of them got down to his level and let him do just that.

Nat had put her book down, walking over a little hesitantly. “What’s wrong, kiddo?”, Piper asked.

“Piper, it’s always been just you and me, after Mom and Dad ... you know. Now I’m not sure what to make of things. Shaun is my age, but Tina is his mom. If you’re married to her, then doesn’t that make her my sister-in-law? And then he’s my nephew?”

Gwen said, “It makes all of use your sisters-in-law, Curie and I, too. And when we have children, they’ll also be your nephews and nieces. It’s just that Tina has a head start on us, is all.”

“Yeah, I know, but I like Shaun. I know we’re both too young, but...”

Piper reached over, pulled her in for a hug. “Don’t worry too much about these things at this age, sis. Just enjoy being a kid for now. You don’t have to grow up, not for years, now. Thank god.”

Deacon said, “And the boss. So, does this meet your approval?”

“Whatever you’ve come up with is fine, Deacon. We’ve got anomalies to explore and get figured out. Remember I told the troops to bypass certain places if they were just too weird? It’s time to go find some of those. I’m not going to leave things behind that could cause us grief later.”

“Tina, I ... I want to come along,” Gwen said.

“I know you do, love. The problem we have is simple. Piper and Curie both know how to shoot. So does Deacon. But fortunately, there is a solution. Jacquelyn will be taking Nat and Shaun back to Sanctuary. There’s a very nice armory there, along with a firing range. You get a few thousand rounds downrange, and it won’t be a problem for you to come with us.”

She looked depressed at that. “Hey, sweet lips.” I walked over, Piper and Curie getting back up and following me. “We’re all a family now. We’re married. The one thing that we don’t do is let each other get hurt, not if we can help it. These two know how. You’ll get there, and it won’t be too difficult. I believe in you.”

Piper nodded, giving Gwen a hug. “My sister-wife, you may not believe it, but most of the time, I don’t even get to shoot, because our Tina is so damned good. But when we have to shoot, we have to be ABLE to shoot. I certainly hope we don’t run into another batch of super mutants like we did once, but there were four of us shooting at two of them, while Tina killed four others all by herself. You’re a damned good leader, I’ve talked to too many people from Vault 81 to think differently. This is just a different and new job skill for you to learn is all.”

“Hey, Mom, can I learn, too?”

“All three of you should. You’re the age I was when I started shooting. It’s one of those skills you hope you never have to use, but if you do, it’s a damned sight better to have it than not.”

Deacon nodded. “Amen to that.”

That helped mollify Gwen enough that when we loaded onto the birds that were waiting for us, she had a grin on her face. Once we were airborne in our bird, Piper leaned over so she could talk in my ear, without anyone else hearing. “You’re never going to let her get in any danger, are you?”

“She’s married to me, to us. Isn’t that dangerous enough?”

“Good. I was going to find one of those extra-large toys and spank your ass with it if you did otherwise. She’s going to be the first one of us to have a child, I think. Well, you know what I mean, besides Shaun.”

“I hope so. She’ll be a great mother. I think she feels she has to come along for a bit, just to prove to herself that she’s worthy to be in our marriage, even if you and I both know that’s not needed. And if I get stuck with a certain fucking job, she’ll be the Governor here.”

Piper nodded. “I wondered about that. Pretty much what I figured, actually. So, to change the subject slightly, where are we going?”

“That settlement down there. They were decidedly odd, to say the least, when the troops came through.” Katie landed the vertibird smoothly, just outside the town. The five of us hopped down and walked up to the town entrance.

The whole town looked very secure, in a prison sort of way. Large block walls, with razor wire along the top, and numerous machine gun turrets surrounded it. I could see a couple of trees and several roof tops over the walls, though. There was a man with light silver hair, wearing a leather jacket and jeans, sitting at a desk by the entrance. “Howdy, folks. You here to visit Covenant? If not, move along. You know, armed people that are loitering around. Not good for the nerves.”

“Neither is having a walled fortress in the middle of the Commonwealth. What’s the deal here?”

“We’re a real up and coming place. A pit stop on the road for traders and such. We’re not that big, but we got the bargains. Got a doctor that can patch you up. We even got some lemonade. Well, that’s what Deezer calls it, anyway. There’s just one small thing, though. We don’t just let anyone inside. There’s an entrance test. We call it the SAFE test. Everyone’s got to take it.”

“Interesting idea,” I said. “So, really, what’s the test for?”

He lowered his voice, glancing around. “We want to make sure only good people come into Covenant. No undesirables. Nobody that ain’t exactly what they seem, you know?”

“You’re not talking about created people, are you?”, I asked.

“Created people? No, the test is designed to keep out synths.”

“Ah, I see. Well, that’s pretty easy, then. You don’t need a test for that. Anyone can tell what a synth is, just by looking at them,” I explained.

“Huh? They can? That’s not what Doc Chambers says.”

“Sure, it’s simple. Do any of us look like we’re robots, with glowing eyes, either with a shiny metal skin, or with a fake outer skin?”

“Uh, no,” he said, confused.

“Well, then it’s simple. We’re not synths. That’s what a synth is, after all.” I smiled.

“I’m really confused now. Can you come with me; we need to talk to Jacob?” He got up and walked to the gate, opening it. Once inside, he yelled out, “Jacob! Mr. Orden! I need to talk to you, sir!”

An older man, with a distinguished looking gray beard and hair, wearing a tan suit and even a shirt with tie, came walking up. “Now, now, Swanson. Calm down. Oh, hello, stranger. The names Jacob, Jacob Orden, and I run this town. Glad you passed the test; our door’s always open to good quality people.”

“That’s what I need to talk to you about, Mr. Orden. She says that the test isn’t needed to tell if someone is a synth or not, that it’s easy to tell just by looking at them. That’s not what...”

“Swanson! That’s enough! Now, go back to your desk, I’ll handle this.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, folks. Swanson is a good man, but sometimes he gets confused. You did pass the test he gave you, right?”

I smiled. “Like I told him, there’s no need. Anyone with two eyes in their head can tell a synth from a human or created person.”

Orden frowned. “I don’t know what that last term is. You’re not calling a synth different names, now are you, stranger?”

“Not at all, Mr. Orden. A synth is pretty simple to tell. They’re going to have glowing eyes, and either a robotic body, or a they’re going to be covered in a plastic looking skin, so they sort of look like a moving mannequin. That’s the official definition of a synth here in the Commonwealth.”

Several people had gathered around to listen to me talk. I could see they were talking between themselves, all but one burly looking man standing behind them, who looked like he was enjoying himself at my wordplay. Orden said, “You do know what the Institute is, don’t you?”

“I know what the Institute WAS, Mr. Orden. It doesn’t exist any longer.”

That brought out a LOT of conversation around us from the crowd. Orden held up his hands, trying to get quiet. “Folks, folks, let me and the stranger talk, please!” That got them to settle down a little. “Would you please care to explain that comment?”

“Sure, but first I think I ought to introduce myself. My name is Tina Wilson. I’m the General of the Commonwealth Minutemen and the lawful and legal governor of the Commonwealth of New England States. Which happens to include this town.”

“I wondered about the painting and such on your armor. You did come here in one of those fancy flying machines. But about the Institute ... if they’re truly gone, then this is a great day, for all of us.”

“The actual physical location is still there. But the Institute itself has been replaced by the Commonwealth Institute of Technology. The Director is now someone else, and the mission of the entire facility has changed. Their job is to now assist in the safety and rebuilding of the Commonwealth. I’m sure you saw the Brotherhood of Steel airship. That’s their job, too. And the Railroad ... well, they’re pretty much out of a job, so their personnel are doing other things now.”

“You know a hell of a lot about what’s going on, all over the place, don’t you?”

I smiled again. “I have to. As I said, I’m the Governor. Of the whole Commonwealth. Your community here, you remember seeing a bit of an army come by recently?”

He looked puzzled. “Yes. They left us alone. No one would take the test to come in. But there were ... a lot ... of soldiers in power armor, with heavy weapons. They were clearing out all the wildlife, all the ghouls and such that were in the area.”

“Feral ghouls, only. Regular ghouls, like the ones that live in Goodneighbor, are just people, admittedly very UGLY people, but they’re no different from you or I.”

One of the men watching and listening said, “My whole family was murdered. Courser came to retrieve a synth. What about them?”

“There aren’t any Coursers any more. Look, what’s happened in the past is just that, the past. We’re working to rebuild the Commonwealth now, looking to the future. I can’t bring back people from the dead, can’t erase memories you may have of what happened. But I need you to open up, be serious about what you’re really doing here.”

Orden looked at me for several minutes. “Dammit! All right, come with me. Folks, go back to your regular duties for now.” He headed for the gate. The man who’d been standing behind, watching things, moved up then.

“Hold on, Orden! I’m still here about the girl. If you’re telling her what’s going on, you’re telling me, too.”

I looked at him. “And you are?”

“I’m Honest Dan. I run a caravan for Old Man Stockton. One of his caravans vanished near here. These folks say they don’t know anything about it. Stockton hired me to find it. His daughter, Amelia, was running it.”

Orden shook his head. “No, only you and your people.”

I looked at Dan. “I don’t know, we might run into radiation or something, while we’re following you. Dan, do you have a Geiger counter?”

“No, sorry. Mine’s in the shop. So, you weren’t kidding about what you said about the Railroad, then, were you?”

I shook my head. “That’s Deacon. He was the head of Intelligence for them. Now he works directly for me. My name with them is, or was, Bullseye.”

Dan paled. “Oh, fuck! Lady, I’m on YOUR side, in whatever comes along.”

Orden looked confused, now. “Wait a minute. I thought you said the Railroad didn’t exist any longer.”

Dan looked at Orden. “Mr. Orden, whatever you do, do NOT piss this woman off. I do run a caravan, but we know things about people, because we’re the ones who get to talk to everyone, spread the news. In all the years of the Railroad, ain’t no one every killed a Behemoth. She’s killed one, and a shit pot full of super mutants, with one shot each.”

“Two, actually. Or is it three? Either way, they die, just like everything else I shoot does. And you’re exaggerating a little, Dan. If I don’t hit them in the eye, it takes me two shots to kill a super mutant.”

Orden looked like he was going to be sick. “Yeah, okay, if Dan wants to come along, that’s fine.”

I was all friendly, then. “Great! Where we going?”

“Other side of the lake.” He started walking, then stopped. “Where are you going?”

“Why walk? Hop in. Katie, quick trip, just to the other side of the lake. By those pipes over there, Jacob?” He nodded, looking green. James sat in one door, feet on the skids, I was on the other. Orden and Dan looked at us like we were crazy, just sitting in the open door like that.

A man sitting at where the pipes emptied stood up, waving his fist at us. “What do you think you’re doing; you’ll scare all the fish away!”

“Sorry, my friend. We have business here. Lead the way, Jacob.” I motioned for him to show us. The path went down the hill, then to the first pipe. We got our feet wet, but further inside the pipe was a doorway. Jacob opened it, then led us to the left, into what looked like part of an old sewer system. There were some lights ahead.

“Hold your fire! It’s me, Orden.”

“Jacob? What the hell are you doing here?”

“Just ... stand down for now. I’ve some people that need to talk to the Doc.”

I followed him into the lights. There were a couple of machine gun turrets and several armed guards standing on a catwalk. They looked confused as the rest of my people came into view.

Jacob led us further into the tunnel system. A locked door stopped him. “Dammit, quit playing around, and open this!” A guard looked at him, but then obeyed. We went even further down, by a couple of power generators, by what was obviously a barracks, and finally up and into a large room. This had two levels. The upper level had four barred cages on it, with a walkway leading to them. One of the cages was occupied. A gray-haired woman wearing a lab coat and wearing what looked like welding goggles was standing on the lower level, looking at a clipboard.

“Jacob, what in the hell are you doing here? Who are these people?”

“They’ve got some information for you, Doctor Chambers. Things have ... changed, and drastically.”

“Fine. Who are you, and what has Jacob in such a dither?”

“I’m General Tina Wilson, Commonwealth Minutemen, Governor of the Commonwealth of New England States. Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

“Ah, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Doctor Rosalyn Chambers, and this is our little attempt to rid the Commonwealth of the most dangerous thing the Institute has ever thrown at any of us, the synth. A living synth is indistinguishable from a human by any medical test yet devised. But it turns out, psychology can detect a difference. Enter the SAFE test. The test is in its infancy, but through sacrifice and perseverance, our success rate is improving.”

“I see. While I applaud your efforts, it’s entirely too bad that they’re all in vain. There is no more Institute, and the only things that are synths in the Commonwealth are quite easy to detect.”

“Oh, really? My parents were killed at the Broken Mask incident in Diamond City, by a synth masquerading as a human being. I’ve devoted my life to helping people who were hurt by the Institute. Surely you can’t expect me to simply take your word.”

“You don’t have to take my word for it. Jacob, how did we cross the lake?”

“In a Brotherhood of Steel vertibird.”

“And what recently visited Covenant?”

“An army. Seriously, at least a hundred Minutemen and Brotherhood troops. They left us alone, said they were only hunting feral ghouls and super mutants.”

Chambers looked puzzled. “Wait! The Brotherhood has sworn to kill all abominations. That would include synths. Why did they not mention those?”

Orden looked sick. “I asked the officer in charge. He said that only rogue robots were on their target list. What’d he say? Humans and created humans were not.”

I smiled. “So, Doctor Chambers, the only thing that is considered a synth now has large red eyes, and either has a metal skin, or a plastic one. What you were fighting against, the Institute, has been defeated. The new Director of the Commonwealth Institute of Technology supports a united, growing, and living Commonwealth. Your war is over.”

“No! You’re still talking about robots that have been made like humans. They have a chip in their heads, that programs them! My test isn’t totally accurate yet, we’re still finding false positives when we do autopsies, but we’re getting better at it!”

“SIT DOWN!” She was stunned at my shout, and sat in a chair with her clipboard. “Do you mean to tell me you have been killing innocent people, in some misguided effort to determine whether or not a person has a chip in their head, when we’ve had the ability to detect that for ages? My God, what kind of MONSTER are you?”

She pulled her goggles up. “What do you mean, detect the chip?”

“Modified biometric scanner. One hundred percent accurate. And totally irrelevant. Just because a person has a chip in his or her head means absolutely NOTHING, now. As I said, the Institute is DONE. Created people work WITH us, rebuilding what has been destroyed. I can’t begin to imagine the criminal charges facing you right now.”

“Criminal charges? Criminal CHARGES? Are you mad? I’m trying to help protect our people against synths! That woman in the cage, right there. She says she’s the daughter of Old Man Stockton. She failed our SAFE test. We’re trying to find out if she’s a synth or not! We’re working FOR the Commonwealth!”

“You poor, sad, pathetic fool. Old Man Stockton runs most of the caravans. He’s also one of the biggest supporters of the Railroad. You do know what the Railroad was?”

“Misguided people who think that synths are worth protecting, because they’ve been used as slaves by the Institute. I’ve heard they even have one in their headquarters.”

“They had Glory, a created human who escaped from the Institute years ago. But they no longer exist. They don’t have to. Being a created person isn’t a crime.”

“Crime? How can there be any crime? They simply exist! That makes them monsters!”

“Really? Do I look like a monster? Does she? Does he? It’s not what someone has in them or not that makes them a monster, it’s what they do. The Broken Mask incident happened. Historical fact. I can’t change that. But with what’s happened over the last few months, I can and will change how things happen in the future.”

She looked puzzled. “Wait. You’re a synth?”

“No, I am NOT a created person. But as I said, I have a test that works every time. Deacon, show her.”

He pulled out the scanner. “Doc, just for point of reference, I’m Deacon. I was the intelligence director for the Railroad. If you look here, you’ll see this gauge shows nothing when I bring it behind Governor Wilson’s neck. I’ll bring it behind Mr. Orden, and ... nothing. Now, behind James here ... and as you see, it shows that he has a chip in his neck. Which, as the Governor said, means absolutely jack shit nothing.”

“But ... but ... everything I’ve done ... the Institute...”

“For now, we’re just going to call it done. My main job is to preserve human life in the Commonwealth. Raiders that prey on innocent people don’t count. Another community on this side of things will help give us another base of operations, especially since you have medical personnel.”

“My work...” She slumped back into the chair, sounding defeated.

I nodded to Piper and Curie to go upstairs. I walked to the computer terminal, finding the controls to open the cages. After doing that, I walked back over to where Jacob was now trying to comfort Chambers. He looked up at me.

“What are you going to do to her, to us?”

“Nothing. You’ve a farm, a community. Shut this place down, take everything that can be salvaged from out of here. I saw a workstation, we can get a computer terminal that can get it to working, so you can make more things. Turn it into the center of an area where people will want to live, a trading community, like you said.”

Piper and Curie were escorting the frightened woman down the stairs. “Miss Stockton, I’m Honest Dan. Your father hired me to find you, escort you home.”

“Thank you. I remember you. I appreciate that.”

From her chair, Doctor Chambers wailed, “She’s a synth! She’s got to be a synth! The answer to question four shows it! Every synth we’ve got answered it that way!”

I calmly looked at her. “How many innocent people did you kill that also answered that question that way?”

“But ... but ... Oh, my God, what have I become?” Before anyone could stop her, she pulled her pistol out, put it into her mouth, pulled the trigger.

James looked at me, the question in his eyes obvious. A slight nod was my response. He knew that I could have stopped her if I’d wanted to.

“Come on, Orden. It’s over.” He stood up, started walking back out, head down.

One of the guards came running in. “We heard a shot...” He saw Chambers, the back of her head blown off, the pistol at her feet.

“Clean everything up and out. We’re shutting this down. Bring the materials from here over to Covenant,” Orden said. We followed him back outside, up onto the shore. He stopped, looking across the lake. “I’ll wait here for the rest, go with them. Explain to everyone what’s going on, what we’ll be doing from now on.”

He looked at me, eyes almost haunted. “You ... you would have, could have, killed us all, for what we’ve done, couldn’t you?”

“You already know the answer to that question, don’t you?”

He nodded. “Thank you for your mercy, Governor. Miss Stockton? On behalf of the community of Covenant, I sincerely apologize for your treatment.”

She nodded. “I’ll tell my father. And ... I do believe you.” She and Dan started walking towards Bunker Hill.

The rest of us loaded up into the bird. “Well, that’s one spot that we’ve handled. I’m feeling ... rather annoyed right now. Katie, do you know where the Castle is?”

“The old Minutemen headquarters? Yes, that’s on our list of tough places to clear.”

“Good. Let’s go clear it.”

James looked me. “You’re that frustrated?”

“Pretty much. You know me enough now to realize how close I was to just cutting loose in there. If Chambers hadn’t killed herself ... if I hadn’t let her do that...”

Piper just shook her head. “Commonwealth justice, Tina. Just like before. You know the funny thing? Amelia Stockton IS a created person. I know that doesn’t make any difference to us, but to people who were afraid of the old Institute, that haven’t learned the truth, their fears are real, even if what they find isn’t.”

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