Love Never Changes
Chapter 24

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

We spent the rest of the day, and then most of the next several days, just consolidating things. The Prydwen took the troops back up to the island, brought some others down, using these trips as a breaking in period for the tuned engines. I realized that it was almost Christmas, so on Thursday, December 22nd, I got onto the radio and told everyone that could hear that I was declaring an official holiday weekend starting at the end of business on Friday, and everyone except for those in security or other essential services was to take things off until Monday morning, the 26th.

Without the crass commercialization, or for that matter, much of any commercialization at all, Christmas was more a simple celebration of our lives together and for both the blood and extended families we now all had. It seemed to not quite be part of the season, but my wives all loved that I spent time tweaking and modifying their personal guns and armor. We held an impromptu baseball game for fun. Shaun and Nat had made us each a pair of earrings.

It was a happy time, just simple. I knew it wouldn’t, couldn’t, last, but I was determined to enjoy every bit of it while we could.

Monday morning, Arthur let me know that with Ingram back and walking now, he was ready to leave at the end of the week. His original plan was to wait a little longer, but with him leaving more of his regular troops here, and taking more of the Gunners with him so they could be trained, he wanted to leave soon. The old National Guard Training Center had been one of his priorities for cleaning, and they’d made it into a training camp here. He’d gone ahead and put Captain Richter in charge of training.

I felt rather more upset than I should have at his letting me know what was going on. Piper found me sitting in the corner of the briefing room, crying. “What’s going on, Tina? I haven’t seen you this upset in a long time.”

“I don’t know. Arthur told me they’re going to leave, and I’m so damned sad about it that I’m just crying. I feel like he’s abandoning me.”

“Now that’s just ... wait a minute. Can you sit here and not cry too much for a minute? I’ll be right back, I promise!”

“Okay.” I just felt depressed.

A couple of minutes went by, then all three of them came in. “Come here, Tina. We have something for you,” Gwen said. She brought out something from behind her back.

“What the hell? Is that... ?”

“Chocolate. I’m not sure how good it’s going to be, but Edward and Elizabeth found a whole container of chocolate bars in the hidden Vault. No one else has tried any of it. I had them send me some here, as a special present for you for later. I think you need this now, though.”

I slowly took the bar in my hands, unwrapping it slowly. The smell of the candy bar hit me almost like a ton of bricks. I took a small nibble of it, letting the explosion of flavor on my taste buds run through my system. I gave off a small shudder of excitement, and even a moan of pleasure.

I had more tears in my eyes now, but they were of joy and gratitude. “Thank you.”

Piper said, “I remembered something you said after seeing you like this. You remember how you told us your body reacted when it first got food in it, how things got messy?”

“Yeah. So?”

“I think we maybe ought to have you go see Doctor Volkert. You may get VERY messy in the near future.”

I frowned at her. “You’re not trying to get rid of me, are you?” Then I shook my head. “What in the fuck am I saying? And why? Am I going nuts?”

Haylen came into the building. Piper looked over at her. “Haylen, we’re going to have to take a trip. Let everyone know that we’ll be back when we get back, okay?” Haylen nodded.

My wives gathered around me. Piper pulled up my arm with my Pip-Boy on it, hitting the button that she’d seen me do in the past. “Director Wilson, Piper, Gwen, and Curie Shannon, ready to relay in.” We all teleported out.

The guard at the teleportation room greeted us. I simply nodded in return. I let them lead me to the elevator and down to the main floor. Ellen greeted us, but sensed there was something a little wrong. Piper and Curie led me to our room, while Gwen took Ellen with her. It took us just a short time to get there. I felt like they were treating me like a little child, the way they made me sit down and prop my feet up.

A couple of minutes later, Gwen, Ellen, and Dean Volkert came in. He pulled out some medical instrumentation, something like an advanced biometric scanner, and ran it over me. After a minute, he nodded to Gwen. “It’s as you suspected. I’ll send up something to help relieve the symptoms. This is just going to have to run its course, though.”

“Would someone tell me what’s going on, why I’m so damned hormonal all of a ... fuck! I just figured it out. Sorry, Ellen, Dean. I’m having PMS, aren’t I?”

“Not to make light of it, because of how severe it seems to be affecting you, but yes. I’ve been wondering when your system would, well, restore itself to normal. Father and I discussed your rather explosive diarrhea when you first got food in your system after being frozen and restored, not just once but twice. I suspected that it would cause upset for the rest of your normal glandular systems, but I didn’t think too much about it, as at that time I presumed you’d be eating our food before long, which would regulate you. Not that all of us would be eating food without anything in it at all.”

“I’ve seen a couple of women who have had unusually heavy menstruation, others that have had no issues. As I said, I have some medication that will help with the symptoms, relieve the discomfort.” He laughed a little. “We’ve even figured out how to make ice cream, and Bio-sciences has created a chocolate flavoring that works. I recommend warm showers.”

“I don’t supposed we have bathtubs available, do we?”, I said, with a little whine.

“Um ... I use something small for therapy, and normally our quarters don’t have enough room for us to have them. But this being you, I’ll see what we can come up with.”

My voice sounded very small to me. “Thank you, Doctor.” Ellen and he left.

My wives got my armor and clothes off, then tucked me into bed with something to help me sleep and a heating blanket on. A couple of hours later, I woke up, feeling something wasn’t quite right. Piper was sitting by the bed, reading, and sprang to her feet. She helped me into the bathroom, where I sat on the toilet and had some incredible poops, followed by heavy cramping in my abdomen. She turned the shower on warm, then stripped off to help me. The warm water helped, although it hurt hitting my breasts.

And all of a sudden, I started bleeding. “Oh, DAMN, this hurts. I take back all the bad jokes I made to you last month. This is possibly the worst period I have EVER had in my life.”

After a few minutes of letting some warm water help with the muscle cramps, which were really severe and painful in my abdomen, she got a towel and tenderly dried me off. There were some medicines that I hadn’t seen that she gave me, and then she fitted me with a super absorbent pad and put me back to bed. I fell asleep again

I woke up to see Doctor Volkert making some notes on a pad. “Ah, you’re back with us. Here, have a sip of water.” I noticed that I had an IV drip going and my throat felt dry. He raised my head up, letting me get a drink. The water tasted good, which meant I had apparently not been drinking for a bit.

I cleared my throat, then rather hoarsely said, “Okay, what’s been going on?” I was wearing a sleeping gown, and I could feel something pulling on my abdomen.

“You had two things hit at the same time, with the pain and bleeding from your first menstrual cycle since coming from cryogenic storage, masking the pain and discomfort from having appendicitis. The pain medication I gave you to help with your cramps helped you to sleep, which was what I’d intended. But when you started groaning in your sleep, Curie was watching you at the time. She realized that this wasn’t normal and did some light palpitations on you. Your abdomen area was sensitive to the touch, so she contacted me immediately. I realized what was going on, and we did immediate emergency surgery.”

“Good thing, your appendix was about to rupture. It’s so much easier to remove an inflamed appendix than it is to deal with massive bowel infections, although I suspect that new medication would help with that. In either event, we caught it in time. That was also, I suspect, making your period rougher than it should have been.”

I looked around my room. Volkert and I were alone. “Okay, so what’s the bad news? I can’t see you in here to talk to me like this, alone, without my wives, if there’s not some bad news to go with it?”

“Um ... you’re on a light diet for the rest of the day? Seriously, this was just an inflamed appendix. You’ll be out of bed later today, should be able to return to your normal duties and activities by Friday.”

“Wait a second. It was Monday when we came down here, right?”

“And it’s now early Tuesday morning. You haven’t been out of commission that long.”

“No, you misunderstand. Internal surgery, even something simple, normally had at least a one to three week recovery time. You’re saying I’ll be back to normal by Friday?”

He nodded. “Director, we’ve made a few advances in medical care in the last 200 years. I would recommend that you don’t take any more industrial strength decontamination showers, though. I suspect that strain on your excretory system and bowels may have helped cause this little incident, especially in light of the two cryogenic suspensions. Um, I did do a bit of a visual inspection of the rest of your internal organs while I was in there, and everything else looks fine. We did blood workups as well, and other than a slightly elevated cholesterol level, you’re fine. Your hormone levels show normal for being in the middle of menstruation, otherwise.”

“This is going to sound incredibly childish, but ... where are my wives?”

He pointed up. “They’re on cots, upstairs, where your desks are. They couldn’t sleep in bed with you, but they wanted to be as close to you as they could, and I wouldn’t let them be on this floor. I also gave them a sedative, like I’m about to give you. Their worry brought things on early for all of them, as well, so if nothing else, things will be synchronized for all of you from now on.”

“Hang on, even Gwen? I thought she had been taking something to help regulate her periods.”

“She had been. She quit after last month, so that she would be fertile again. I’ve, uh, done some checking of genetic structures. Doctor Binet has done the microsurgery on the actual sperm cells. Rather than the rather crude jokes regarding turkey basters, which would be rather inefficient, we’re set up to do actual in vitro fertilization using a harvested egg and modified sperm. Once that’s shown to be viable, then we’ll be able to implant them inside the womb directly.”

“Then Doctor Binet won’t actually have to make babies that can grow up, you and he can do that naturally for people.”

“For some, yes. Doctor Li, for example, feels she’s too old to have a child naturally. But she and Doctor Virgil are planning to adopt.”

“Before you knock me back out, why are you calling them modified sperm? I thought Shaun had left plenty of samples that you could use directly.”

“Ah, yes. That brings up something that I would much rather talk to all four of you about at once, in a few hours. So for now...” He adjusted something. “Good night.”

I never even got a chance to protest. I was out.

The smell of coffee woke me up. That, and someone sitting down on the bed, next to me. “Ah, good. You are awake now. I have a wonderful and delicious meal for you, oatmeal and scrambled eggs. And you may have the coffee as well.”

“Thank you, Curie. I presume a steak is out of line?”

“Oui. You should not scare poor Curie like that. Fortunately, I retained my medical skills and realized that something was not right, allowing me to alert Doctor Volkert.” She helped me sit up in bed, which didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I expected it to, then put the tray with my food on my lap.

I took a sip of the coffee, then ate some of my oatmeal while Curie watched patiently. She shook her head disapprovingly when I started to talk, so I ate my eggs and then the rest of the oatmeal, drinking the rest of the coffee afterwards. She nodded and smiled, like I was a backward child, then pushed a button on the bed I hadn’t seen.

The door to the bedroom opened. Ellen and a Gen 2 synth came in, the synth with a carafe of coffee and more cups. Piper and Gwen were behind them. They came in and took seats off to the side. The synth took my plates, then placed the cups and coffee carafe on the table. It then left with the dirty dishes.

“Well, Director, I at least get you for two more days, until Friday. We’ll have a meeting later to go over things, if that’s not a problem. We’re making better progress with the tunnel boring project than we anticipated. We’re not having any supply shortages in any of the departments. We are also continuing with our expansion, for housing. With the storage room available now that we’ve deployed nearly all our robotic synths to the surface, we’ll be adding a gymnasium and swimming pool. It was noted that no one has a clue about how to swim, but eventually that will be necessary.”

“Ellen, I knew that the Gen 1’s went to the surface. I think I missed that they stayed.”

“Oh, yes. After the discussion that James, Jerome, and Superintendent Secord had, it was decided that approximately a third of them would actually accompany General Maxson on his trip across country. And if the Gunners did act up, there’d still be an overwhelming force to deal with them.”

She flipped through a couple of pages. “Ah, yes. Something relatively minor, but with your personal involvement, I thought you might like to know. Amanda Stockton and her father visited us. During that visit, we removed her chip. And let’s see ... the use of robots for the supply lines has more than doubled the efficiency of that system. Oh, and we did secure the intake tunnel. There were feral ghouls and some mirelurks that were using it as well. They’ve been cleared out and that will no longer be an issue.”

“Thank you, Ellen.” She stood up, then came forward and gave me a hug.

“Don’t scare us like that, Mother. We are grateful because Father gave us life. We love you, because you gave us a purpose for that life.” She then gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, and hurried from the room.

As she went out, Volkert came in. “Ah, good, coffee. And I saw that you ate all your food, as well. I don’t think there’ll be a problem when you need to, for you to get up and use the facilities.”

When he said that, I realized that I didn’t have my IV in. He’d taken it out while I slept. “So, can we reassure these lovely women that they won’t be widowed any time soon?”

As I spoke, Piper and Gwen joined Curie and I in sitting on the bed. Volkert pulled up a chair. “I think I can do that. Unless you do something stupid and get shot or blown up or something else, which is possible, given your history. This was nothing more than a bump in the road, if that.”

Gwen gave a sigh of relief. “I know you’d said something before, but ... I’ve never been so worried in all my life.”

He smiled knowingly. “I understand. That’s why I gave the three of you something to help you sleep last night. You ... the four of you ... have a special relationship, a family bond that’s incredibly strong. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you’ve been together for decades, not just a few weeks or months.”

Piper shook her head. “Yeah, never did get too much into doing things conventionally.”

“So, Doctor, I do remember we were having a discussion before you slipped me that Mickey Finn.” At the looks on everyone’s face, I said, “I know that there’s someone in Goodneighbor who’s replaying the episodes of the “Silver Shroud”. Otherwise, Isabel wouldn’t have known about the Mechanist.” They still looked blank. “He gave me something to knock me out.”

“Oh, why didn’t you say so?”, Piper asked.

“I thought I did,” I mumbled.

“Ah, yes, our conversation early this morning.” He quickly recapped for the others the basic discussion we’d had. “So, now to answer the question asked, that I wanted all of you to hear the answer to, Doctor Binet and I have figured out how to not use Father’s sperm directly, but modify them with the Director’s genetic code more directly. Thus, if you wanted to have a child, instead of being basically half her code, so any child would thus be a fourth her, we can get it up to about 95% her code. Some things we simply can’t change, but that would make it more as if you had the child naturally.”

“Um, since we’d do things in vitro, that would also mean we could examine the code of any fertilized egg that Curie might supply, to make sure that a child would be healthy before implantation. Due to the way we’ve figured out how to do this, we, um, could also do that with any or all of you as the genetic donors, using Tina’s egg as well. Or any of you, for that matter.”

Gwen sat up straight, a broad smile on her face. “I’m ready. What do I have to do?”

I looked at her. “Want to discuss this at all? This isn’t something you want to do and then when you’re feeling your kidneys getting kicked from inside, regret and change your mind. I was raised Catholic, but that didn’t affect my thoughts, that unless there’s a serious medical reason, I don’t believe in abortion at all.”

“Tina, I love you. I know you’re not a man, but if I can have your baby, then I want to.”

“This is not something that we can act upon today, anyway. While it’s possible to harvest an egg now, I’d like to wait and make sure that all of you ovulate properly in a couple of weeks. Obviously, Piper, you would not have an issue if you wished to conceive normally. But, Curie has only experienced one period before this one, Gwen just came off the medications, and of course, the Director finally had a period. We’ll figure things out at that point.”

He paused, then continued. “One thing we haven’t done, we haven’t had happen before, is to have someone who IS pregnant, teleport. While I would guess that it would not cause any issues, I’d really prefer not to find out until it’s too late that it does. For the three women down here who are expecting, they’re temporarily banned from using teleportation until we do more animal studies.”

Piper had an interesting look on her face. “Um, I do want to have a child, children, at some point. But ... I’m really don’t feel ready to settle down just yet.”

“I feel ... very much ... I do not have words ... inside. I knew it might be possible to do so, but there are feelings and emotions I have never experienced that I am having right now at the thought of feeling your, our, child growing inside me. They are conflicting with my desires to continue my scientific research. This is ... troubling ... to me.”

“And very much normal, Curie. Any woman who has been career minded gets these thoughts in college. Or used to. Sorry, showing my age there.” I smiled. “I understand where Gwen is coming from. Hon, you’re the most mothering of all of us, I think. You were a great Overseer because everyone in your Vault was one of your children. But now that you have us, you don’t have to be the spinster. For me, I figure if I’m going to give Shaun a little brother or sister, it’s going to be a couple more years before I can take the time to be able to do that.”

Piper nodded. I figured she’d follow my lead on this. Curie, I wasn’t so sure of. While I was getting my thoughts in order, something else came to mind. “Doctor Volkert, in addition to the sleeping aid, what kind of antidepressant did you give me?”

At my words, Piper held out her hand. Dean looked at her with a look of amusement on his face, reached into his pocket, and placed something in her hand that she took out and slipped into her mouth. “Piper bet me a piece of candy that you’d figure out within an hour of being awake that we’d given you some medication to help with mood swings. Father warned me that you were sharper on picking things up than he was.”

“And if that’s an attempt to get me to swing back, it didn’t work. But I wouldn’t think you’d do anything underhanded like that to win another bet with Piper, would you?”

He just reached into his pocket and gave her another piece of candy.

“So, how long is the line of people who’ve come down here from the surface to verify that I’m actually okay? I’ve a number in mind.”

“You should be feeling up to walking now, anyway,” Volkert said. “Since we’ve killed all the coffee, I’d suggest that you try to empty your bladder normally, and then we take a slow stroll over to the cafeteria and find out.” He left, with Curie and Piper following him out.

Gwen said, “I’ve got a robe and slippers for you, dear. That gown is not very modest.” She helped me pee, then brushed my hair before helping me walk to the door. When I had my tonsils taken out, I remembered how lousy I felt for a while afterwards, and how much giving birth to Shaun had tired me out. This simply felt like I’d had a little too much to drink was all. I remember when my Mom got sick, how long it took her to recover. Maybe medical science had advanced a little. Either way, thinking about the past let me put my body on autopilot so I could make it down the stairs.


Gwen interposed herself between Shaun and I, before he could run into me. “Her stomach area is going to be a little sore for a little while longer, son.”

He was crying a little. “You had me so scared. Piper came and got Gwen and Curie, then they went running out. Next thing I know you’re here, and they won’t let me see you because Doctor Volkert had to do something to you.” He took hold of my hand.

“I’m sorry, son. It was appendicitis, and it hit me pretty quickly.”

“So you’ll be okay, then?”

“That’s what they tell me.”

“Good. I just found you, I don’t want to lose you.”

I smiled. “That’s supposed to be my line, kiddo!”

“And a good line it is, Governor.” I recognized Arthur’s voice, raised my head up. He was sitting at a table with Jerome and the former Gunner Captain, Wes. Preston was also at that table, along with Alana Secord.

Curie and Piper were talking to Madison and Brian. The rest of the Directorate and Ellen were at another table, talking to Haylen, Geneva, John Hancock, DiMA, and The Mariner.

“Not exactly who you were expecting?” He’d stood up and walked to me, his hand out.

I shook it. “Not ... really. The number is a quite a bit more than I had thought might be here, but the actual audience is ... and I’m in a freaking bathrobe, for God’s sake!”

My outburst caused a bit of general laughter from everyone. “We’d say, sorry about that, but we’re really not too sorry. Come on, we’ve got a more comfortable chair for you over here, and a blanket, and I’ll explain what’s going on.”

He led me to a large chair, a comfortable recliner. Gwen took the blanket, put it over my legs, and let me get situated. Shaun ran over to the counter, got me a glass of water, and brought it back for me. I grimaced a little as things pulled on my side, then got more comfortable as I put my feet up a little. “I’m glad you all could make it on such short notice.” They chuckled. “Now would someone care to tell me what’s up?”

Arthur was still standing. “Certainly. I tried to call you on the radio, and you didn’t answer. I contacted Haylen, and all she would do is tell me that you’d left rather quickly for the CIT, and to ask them for more information. So I contacted CIT, to have them get you. In all fairness, it was simply a bit of discussion regarding manpower and supplies that wasn’t serious, I just wanted to run something by you. Then they told me that you were undergoing emergency surgery, for appendicitis.”

“Now that we’ve had a bit of a chance to discuss things here, I ... overreacted. Someone I knew had their appendix rupture, and died from it, due to the infections. My concern was that, if something fatal happened to you, we ... none of us ... had a backup plan. I contacted all of the civilian mayors, the rest of the military commanders, and we made a request to meet with whoever was in charge here during the crisis.”

“It’s an old quote, but the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. And apparently, the actual amount of time I’ll be down from this surgery is nowhere near what I was figuring, when I was told what had happened to me. Seems that, at least down here, they’ve made a few improvements to medical things over the last couple of centuries. So, the net result is that you all showed up here, met Ellen, who told you that I was the one in charge here. You’ll pay for that ‘little meeting’ comment, young lady.”

“Well, technically, this is just a little meeting. Granted, it’s not only of the Directorate, like you may have thought, but Elder Maxson was very insistent on physically coming here. Since I realized that many of the other people in the Commonwealth really did have no idea about us, or had many misunderstandings, this is an excellent opportunity for us all to calmly discuss things.”

She politely smiled. “Especially since you’re not going anywhere for a couple of days.”

“God save me from a competent subordinate.” That really made everyone laugh. “I’m going to make an assumption here, that you’ve all met and introduced yourselves to each other before I shuffled out here. I know that some of you haven’t been here before, or in one case, it’s been a while, so things have probably changed a bit.”

DiMA smiled. “That is perhaps a bit of an understatement, to say the least. I’ve already had a discussion with Doctor Li about upgrading my memory circuits, as advances have made it so that more memory and processing capacity is available in a smaller area. Which, I will be the first to admit, is something I never anticipated voluntarily doing.”

Wes stood up. He’d scrubbed the warpaint off his face. “Before this descends into any type of mundane discussion, I have something to say, to you, in front of everyone.” He stepped around the table, moved until he was directly in front of my chair. He looked over my shoulder. “Don’t be concerned.”

He continued. “The Gunners, we know our history. We know how we were supposed to be slaves, super soldiers. Our predecessors escaped from the Vault because the scientists had succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. We swore we would never be lied to again. We were a small group, less than twenty. We now number more than two hundred. We’re a proud group of warriors, of soldiers.”

“You didn’t lie to us, not one damned bit. I thought you were bluffing, but I know now that you would have put that armor back on, led your troops right through all of us. Some of your soldiers would’ve died; all of mine would’ve. Then you would have rolled through Quincy, through Vault 95, made us just a memory. I’m not good with pretty words, so I ... Well, crap. On behalf of all of us, I apologize to you for what I said, what I called you. I was wrong.” With that, he stepped up to my chair and held his hand out to me. I tried to stand up, but he shook his head no, it wasn’t necessary. So I took his hand, shook it in friendship.

“Thank you, ma’am. Maxson and I have been talking. You were right. You don’t have to whip anything out, you’ve got the biggest ones known to mankind.” With that, he turned and went back to his seat.

I saw Piper whisper to Curie. I could almost guess what it was, the way Curie blushed.

“That’s a bit what I wanted to discuss with you, Governor. Major Wes has volunteered nearly three-fourths of his troops to accompany us, some to work in Columbia, others in the rest of the country as needed. With the addition of the robotic synths, I wanted to discuss with you starting the construction of a second airship.”

“Yes. Anything else?”

He looked at me for a second, then shook his head. “Okay, fine. How many?”

“Four more. One about like the Prydwen in size and capacity, three smaller ones that are more aerodynamic, simply to do cargo and personnel runs between the various Commonwealth capital areas. Eventually, and I’m talking several years down the road here, I think a couple of dozen more in the transportation fleet, a couple more larger ships for troop and military purposes, additional exploration.”

“Well, I thought I was going to have to work harder to convince you of that.”

“We’re all going to have to look to the future, how to survive, and thrive, in a county and world that was turned into a radioactive wasteland, with very few exceptions. And even those exceptions have spots in them that are effectively uninhabitable. Logistics, Arthur, is going to be what determines how successful we are. Once we have the main threats eliminated in the Commonwealth, our need for armed forces here will drop considerably. Which means we’ll need them somewhere else.”

“Right now our farmers are used to working their asses off, just to have enough for themselves to survive, and maybe have a little more. But by getting rid of the Raiders, the super mutants, they’ll soon have surpluses. Many of them already do. That gives us plenty of food, to support however many troops you’ll be leaving, and I think that Doctor Holdren and Bio-sciences will come up with new foods. Warwick Homestead has some excellent production. That reminds me, can we program some of the robotic synths to help with farming?”

Madison shook her head. “We’ve tried. They can do regular tasks, haul supplies around, but they only do what they’re programmed to do. So if you put one to task at weeding around a plant, it’s liable to kill the roots of the plant you want to protect.”

“Thanks to Isabel Cruz, we’ll have plenty of robots available for basic hauling and such. That’s the only thing I was thinking of as a potential reason for you NOT to take them with you when you head out, Arthur. Have you figured out how to fit a workstation to the Prydwen yet?”

“Yes. That threw off our mass calculations a little, because of where we had to mount it, but that will be incredibly handy.”

Hancock raised his hand. “Hey, I know that they have one of these things in Bar Harbor and in Diamond City. Can we get a little love, too?”

Haylen responded, “We’ve got one scheduled for Goodneighbor once we finish clearing the rest of the downtown area. There are still several pockets of super mutants in those buildings. You should have one by the end of January, at the latest.”

“That sounds reasonable to me. I tell you what, cleaning things up wasn’t easy, but we did it, and we didn’t have to kill too many to do it, which surprised me. Daisy is like your biggest supporter there, and no one wants to get her mad,” he explained.

I nodded. “I’m not surprised. She and I go way back. But to change the subject, now that you’ve all had a chance to meet and talk, and realize that there is no crisis, is there anything else that you want to discuss?”

Arthur sighed. “My biggest concern is, what’s going to be there to prevent one? We’ve all had this discussion to one extent or another. What if this had been more serious? I’d like to think that we wouldn’t fall apart without you, but...”

I saw several heads nodding in agreement at that. Others, specifically on the three that I was looking at, shook their heads in disagreement. “There’s your answer, Arthur.”

DiMA said approvingly, “Of course. That’s perfectly logical. The three of them are like three pieces of you. Caring and loving, ruthless in pursuit, and analytical. They wouldn’t like it, but they would do it.”

“Which exactly describes what I was thinking, standing in front of Wes. I wouldn’t like killing everyone inside, but I’d do it.”

That got a lot of nods from everyone present. We spent the next two hours discussing what would happen if something actually did happen to me, as well as how they could make their cities and areas better, how everyone could work together. The synths in the cafeteria brought out trays with simple foods so we could all eat while we had various discussions. I wouldn’t be released to return to the surface until shortly after Arthur had left, so he and I spent a bit of time talking about what he would do on his trip.

The military group left so they could finish final preparations, as well as plan for the rest of their operations in the Commonwealth. The city leaders, Ellen, and Haylen went over to a table to talk about how and what they could all coordinate, especially by having the Nakano’s change where they docked. Shaun took Gwen, Piper, and Curie off to see the gorillas. The Directorate went back to their departments. That left DiMA by himself.

He walked over to me, pulled up a chair, and sat beside me. “How are you feeling?”

“With my fingers.”

He chuckled. “Ah, humor. I do appreciate that.”

“I’m glad that you can. You know, I owe you an apology. I never got an opportunity to use your program. The tape itself was destroyed when Tektus shot me. I know that the rest of my people did clean everything out that was defending it, though.”

“Yes, they did. That’s actually why, when I found that there was going to be a meeting here, I felt that I needed to find someone that I could discuss something with. When I found that Elder Maxson has overreacted and you would live, I decided to wait until I could actually talk to you about this.”

“That sounds rather ominous. I take it that it actually has nothing to do with what you were talking to Madison about.”

“Very astute of you. Something that I had been attempting to do on the island was to keep the peace between the Children of Atom and the Harbormen. You came in and did it quite easily, albeit with violence, although only a small amount, relatively speaking. I had made Acadia to be a place of refuge, from the violence. Now I find that by doing simple extrapolation of what I see happening, you’re doing the same for everywhere.”

“I appreciate the sentiment. It’s not what I intended, what I wanted, but it’s what I’ve got to do if I’m going to have a safe place for kids to grow up.”

He nodded. “I didn’t plan on that. I just wanted to keep ... created people ... safe.” His face got grim. “So, you’ll understand if I’m rather upset to find that, in my own faults and failures, that I have done terrible things. And with my ... unique ability to be able to take my own memories away, I was able to make myself not know what I’d done.”

“While I don’t have a white starched collar, I suppose I’m the closest person that you can give your confession to and seek absolution. At least we don’t have to go into a small room in the corner, so you can talk to me through a screen.”

He looked at me with a confused look. “I’m sorry, but I don’t get the reference.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ve found that some things haven’t survived the war.”

“I see. Very well. I have two things that I need to give to you.” He had been carrying a small case. He handed it to me. “These were in the memories I had removed. The key to launch the nuclear missile in the submarine in the Nucleus. The codes to a fail-safe that I had installed in the wind turbines that powered Far ... pardon me, Bar Harbor, so the power could be shut down. Both of these were ... in case they became a threat to me and mine. They are not necessary.”

“Or if Allen Lee had managed to stir things up, or Tektus, I would imagine. I appreciate that you’re giving these to me. You didn’t have to do that. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. With that done, I have a load off my mind, as it were.” He started to stand up.

“Good. Now, when were you planning on letting me know what you did with the real Captain Avery?”

He sat back down with a thud. “I was not aware that you knew Avery was created.”

“I know you weren’t. And right now, the only ones that know it are you, me, and of course, James here, since he’s the one who figured it out.”

James had never gone from behind me. “That’s correct. It was her near total breakdown when given a situation that should have made her incredibly happy. I was a Courser for years. Just because my job has changed, I didn’t forget what I learned. This behavior was indicative of a synth ... created person ... that had not had their memory properly wiped or had the full personality of the person they were replacing installed. I know how well the Railroad does this, with some errors creeping in, and of course, how well we at the Institute could do this. This seemed, you’ll forgive me, rather amateurish. I later confirmed while Avery was asleep that she had a chip and was a created person.”

“The question I have is simple, DiMA. WHY did you kill the real Captain Avery?”

He calmly looked at me. “I found that memory as well. The issue was ... complex, for such a small island. When I first moved to the island, I took refuge in the Nucleus. The Children of Atom, under Martin, were the first to accept me for what I am. When I left them, I moved to Acadia. The Harbormen themselves were not my enemy, either. I know you’re aware that Brooks is created. He didn’t replace anyone, Chase recruited him to be a merchant there, to help refugees. But otherwise, we got along peacefully, all the peoples of the island.”

“I do not know what transpired to change that. I know that the Children of Atom and the Harbormen became antagonistic of each other I could still talk to Martin, try to calm him, but Avery was also wanting to fight as well. I could not stand that there might be open warfare upon what should have been a refuge for all, especially with the dangers that already existed upon the island. I felt that I had to do something, so ... yes, I killed Captain Avery, replaced her with someone who I hoped would be a calming voice.”

I was grim. “I know why the Children and Harbormen were going after each other. You would have been better served to kill Tektus or Allen Lee and replace one of them. But that might not have been believable.”

Sighing, I said, “Well, one must do what they have, with the tools they have at the time. When you return to the island, I want you to tell Avery that Governor Wilson wants her to come to the mainland. Then when she gets here, she’s to come to where CIT is, talk to the people above ground. They’ll be expecting her. We’ll take care of her. Where is your lab, where you did your work?”

“It’s in the basement of the Vim Pop factory.”

“You’re also going to take whoever is in charge up there, if Richter isn’t, along with some troops and explosives, or whatever is needed, and destroy that lab. I’m not going to do anything else to you, DiMA, and we’ll consider that what’s done is done. The island is part of the Commonwealth, subject to the laws here. So are you.”

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