Love Never Changes
Chapter 29

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

The remaining portion of Nuka-World was the most dangerous. There were robots that were set up in automatic defense mode all over the place. The whole facility had been built around something called Star Control and Star Cores, which was a computerized operating facility for the entire park.

We found the remains of a trader with a note that explaining the situation outside of the main entrance. Apparently someone had thought that parts being redundant meant they weren’t actually needed, so when the system was activated, it became active and killed all of them. Obviously, they were wrong. But it had done a good job of keeping the gangs out of the most valuable of all the theme parks.

Piper was watching me think about things. “What do you think, Tina? Seriously, how difficult do you think breaking into this park and killing all the robots is going to be?”

“Kill them? I’m just trying to figure out where I can go to start hacking into things.”

Curie nodded. “I was assuming that madam would take at least ten minutes to secure the entire park, certainly no more than twenty.”

I smiled. “That’s about what I was hoping. How about this? You just cover me from here, and be ready to come running in case I run into something I can’t handle?”

James said, “I don’t know what the activation range for these robots is, but you can see one of them, right over there. We’ll use these destroyed robots as a bit of a barricade, in case you have to come running back. And do me a favor, ma’am. Obviously, don’t get killed. But also, don’t forget that we’re here, so come back in about ten minutes and let us know what’s going on, please.”

“Thank you for trusting me, James.” I left them moving a couple of bodies and making firing positions. I very carefully crept into the park. There were two robots that looked like they were portable drinking fountains near each other. Their sensors must have been designed for something in front of them. I was able to easily sneak up on them and disable their programming, turning them off.

I was able to disable another four robots, including a couple of eyebots, when I realized how much time passed. I quickly went back to the entrance. “What are you doing?”

“Piper was showing me how to properly trim my nails, madam,” Curie said.

Gwen looked up. “James was showing me some improvements to how I should position myself when shooting. Do you have all the robots in the park secured yet?”

“Uh, no. I’m not quite to where it rather obviously says Starport Nuka and Star Control. But I saw how much time had gone by, and came back, because I thought you four might have been getting ready to mount a rescue mission.”

Gwen looked at the Pip-Boy she was still wearing. “Nineteen minutes.” She held out her hand. The others all pulled something out and handed it to her.

“Wait, you were taking bets on how long I’d stay gone?”

James had a puzzled look on his face. “Of course, we were. Curie had fifteen minutes, Gwen had twenty, Piper had twenty five, and I had from there up to a full hour.”

I shook my head in amusement. “I’d be angry, except that I sort of really have given you all reason to think that, haven’t I? Okay, fine. Come on, get up off the ground and let’s get to Star Control. I’ll stay ahead of you, but I now really may need backup, there are some eyebots on upper levels that I can’t get to so I can hack them.”

“Okay, fine.” Gwen tried to sound miffed, as she got up off the ground.

“Um ... just curious, I suppose. What if I’d been gone more than an hour?”

James smiled. “We would have heard you shooting at something before then, and we’d have all come running. No shooting, no explosions, we knew you were fine.”

Gwen laughed. “That, and last time we were at CIT, I had them link our Pip-Boys. All I had to do was look at my screen and I could tell where you were.”

“That’s cheating,” Piper said.

“No, remember, we took our bets and time as soon as she was around the corner. I had no idea how long Tina would be gone. But I ... and I know you both do as well ... love her. Knowing where she is gives me serious peace of mind.”

“Fine. I think I want one of those things at some point or another.”

“Didn’t we offer you one before, and you turned it down?”

“That’s beside the point, Tina. Now that I know I can keep up with where you are, now and in the future, especially once the Prydwen gets back ... that’s another story.”

“Okay. We can do that. Now, let’s see if we can sneak into that area there without the eyebots ... never mind.” I brought my rifle up and shot the two of them that had been crossing the walkway above and ahead of us, as they were swiveling to shoot at us.

There weren’t any others active, so it was easy to open the glass doorway. “Can I have that suit?”, James asked.

Inside of a glass display case, set up like it was walking on the moon, was another set of X-01 Power Armor. This one had a striking paint job done to it, in shades of blue, with Nuka-Cola Quantum embossed on the left breastplate.

“Danse will be jealous of it, I bet. Let’s see how this thing opens.” We spent some time looking around, but didn’t find any obvious switches. Curie found something that was odd, though, the front panel to a computer system that didn’t look like anything I’d seen before. “That must be part of that big system in the back. It looks like it would just plug right into one of those slots. But let me see what I can find out about it first.”

“Of course, madam. I would be curious as to see what you can make of all this. It appears to be more advanced that anything I was aware existed.”

I sat down at the main terminal and hit the button. My smile was reflected in the screen as the loading screen came up. Mainlink System BIOS V10.2.1.1, Copyright 2076 RobCo, Loader V2.05, Exec Version 57.09, Load Rom(1): StarControl. That scrolled to StarControl V1.1.7, INIT RobCo Data Exchange Protocol V3.11, OK, LINK Establishing Mainframe Interlink, OK, MOUNT Mounting Star Cores... 0 Star Cores Installed / 0 Star Cores Total, FAIL. No Star Cores detected. A minimum of one (1) control core is required to initialize Emergency Operations Mode. Boot Sequence aborted.

My smile went away. “Seriously? You guys wrote the thing so that it used external devices, instead of keeping it all inside? What the fuck were you thinking? Okay, where the hell are the ... ah, here we go, system logs.” I started reading them.

“Systemized Telemetry for Automated Robot Control ... cute, Star Control, what marketing genius came up with that one? Complete solution, corporate clients, large number of robots. Redundant telemetry modules ... establish radio communications between the mainframe and linked robotic systems ... Emergency mode requires one Star Core to boot ... additional protocols unlocked with additional Star Cores.”

“Ah, some tech logs. Of course, General Atomics would have a single point source of failure. Okay, I see what you mean by redundancy. Ah, now I know why Steve and Bill were working on this for six months before I went out on maternity leave. I didn’t get to see their final product after I got back, I just remember the bonus checks we all got for it. Defensive Mode protocol, that’s why the robots are killing everyone. Ah, and it wasn’t turned on until ... you were a stupid, stupid man. Redundant doesn’t mean you don’t need any of them, not the way we had to program it.”

“Okay, Curie, stick that one into one of those slots, and let me see what I can do.” She put it in. Once she did so, the lights on it lit up, and another menu came up for me. “Okay, now we’ve got an interlink going. So, there’s a bunch of these Star Cores all over the place, eh? Let’s see here ... where’s the code ... ah, here we go ... every five Star Cores turns off something ... gain full control ... oh, you fucking geniuses!” I started laughing.

“Um, Tina? We’re not the computer wizards here, what’d you find?”

“Piper, my dear, this whole, huge computer console you see before you is nothing more than a glorified Pip-Boy. You know how Shaun was able to copy the operating software to that terminal he built?”

“I know he did it, I have no idea HOW he did it,” she said.

“Right, sorry. Well, I remember seeing the basics for a bid come in for something to act as a control center for a variety of robots. We obviously all know that robots have their own programming, and they can do different tasks. But in general, to change what a robot is doing typically requires a technician or someone to visit the robot in person and change their programming.” I waved at the giant computer that filled the wall.

“This is designed so that the controllers sitting here could monitor the robots throughout this whole park. Then if the robot ran into something that the basic programming didn’t cover, it could send a signal here and the techs here could instantly upload commands so it’d know what to do. Say a child ended up getting sick and puked ON the robot. That’d be something outside its normal parameters, so it’d send a signal and without someone having to go out and tell it what to do, they could tell it from here to go to maintenance for cleaning AND direct another robot to clean up the puke.”

I shook my head, a smile on my face. “Thing is, probably ... oh ... eighty percent of what you see in front of you isn’t actually needed. Neither are all the Star Cores. They were TOLD they were needed, and the program as it is running, needs at least twenty of them to shut down all the robots. But the guys here were techs. Steve and Bill were programmers. I’m just amused at how much extra crap they actually managed to put in here that wasn’t needed at all.”

“So, you’re saying that you’ve figured out how to shut everything down,” Piper said.

“Oh, yeah, certainly. Just a second.” I pulled up the program, changed some of the lines to remarks so they wouldn’t run, then changed some of the remark lines over to the code they’d hidden inside. “And, this should do it.” I hit the enter key, and had the system reboot.

While it was going through the process, I explained, “They wanted a system for this place. Their computer people figured it’d cost at least six hundred million for them to do it, so they put it up for bid. I remember seeing the paperwork for our bid proposal, we came in at four hundred million, a little less than General Atomics. They were happy as hell with our bid, it was cheaper. There’s maybe ... fifty million total in all the hardware. Which is about forty million more than was needed. Brilliant boys. They made it look like it needed all those cores, and it’s actually no more than what General Atomics proposed, a single point source operating system.”

Piper looked confused. “Meaning?”

“Meaning that they did set it up so needs one core to actually work, two would give it a single backup in case the first one failed or needed replaced, but having a huge console that had thirty five of these flashing things in it looks really impressive and expensive, and justifies Nuka-World giving RobCo four hundred million dollars for a job we could have done for twenty million, and probably spent sixty million total on. There we go, complete control of all robots in this park, and...” I hit another button.

The glass case protecting the Quantum power armor rose up. “There’s some power armor if you want it, James.”

Curie sounded disappointed. “So this is really not that advanced a computer system at all, then?”

“It’s equal to the best thing that RobCo could produce at the time. The hardware looks bright and flashy and impressive, but as far as the actual functionality of the thing? Probably one decent sized cabinet, because there is good chunk of memory needed, given the state of the art ... well, what was the state of the art then, anyway, not with what they’ve come up with at CIT since the war. Seriously, which thing looks really impressive, something like my Pip-Boy, or this huge wall full of machinery?”

“Oui, madam. I am simply disappointed is all.”

“Hon, you’ve got the best processing system known to exist in the world now, between your ears. Machines like this can make the calculations faster than we can, but they can’t THINK like we can. That’s one of the reasons I love that you’re now flesh and blood, because you had the potential to be much more than you were.” I pulled her over to me and gave her a big, deep kiss.

“And that’s ANOTHER reason I love you being flesh and blood. You’re so damned cute and cuddly.”

“As are you, madam.” She sighed. “It is simply that I had hoped that this whole theme park, because it was at least representative of what they hoped would be the future, that the technology would be more advanced.”

“Unfortunately, no. Hell, I can tell from this that several of these Star Cores are in use in other systems in the park, and are working as relays from there. That’s the elegant part of the programming, they actually don’t need to be plugged in HERE to work. But as far as latest technology, it seems like CIT is it.”

“That is acceptable to me. Perhaps there will be other facilities in the rest of the country that are also still around.” She smiled, her face dimpled. “It does not matter to me now nearly as much, so long as I am with you, all of you.”

We spent a little time exploring this building. On the second floor, there was an elevator that took us up to an observation tower. “This would be a good spot to put a guard post with snipers, to cover a good chunk of the western part of Nuka-World,” I noted.

“Hey, Tina, here’s another one of those Star Cores you mentioned,” Gwen said.

“Good. Go ahead and grab it, and with the one that we found in that display case, that’ll give us some back-ups installed when we get back downstairs.”

“Ma’am, there’s a group coming this way from Nuka-Town,” James said, looking out another window. “Looks like they’ll be here in about ten minutes.”

“Let’s get back downstairs, then.” We did that. I installed the other two cores into the system, confirming that everything was fine with it. James went ahead and got into the suit of power armor, and we headed back for the entrance.

The group coming from Nuka-Town met us just outside the entrance.

“Greetings, Sentinel. My wife sends her regrets, but she decided to do something I really didn’t expect of her, which is stay at home for a while. Morning sickness. We were starting our first training patrol of the perimeter, and had been told you came this way.”

“Hello, Danse. Effectively, this park is secured. That’s not to say you might not find some surprises, but the robots have all been neutralized. And I’ll tell you this, as part of your standing orders. In the building that’s called Star Control, do NOT pull out any of the fancy, glowing things.”

He turned to the half dozen people following him. “You all hear what the Sentinel said? No pulling out the glowing things in Star Control. Don’t look at them, don’t touch them, don’t even think about it.”

From the group behind him, a shouted response of, “Yes, Paladin!” resounded.

“Outstanding!” He turned back to me. “We’ll have regular patrols around the perimeter within two days. They’ll be at irregular intervals, so any enemy scouts can’t figure out patterns. Is there anything else that I need to know at this point?”

“William Black and Mackenzie Bridgeman will be in charge of Nuka-World in general. Make sure you coordinate things with them. Also, include the Red Rocket on the far side of here in your patrols, that’s going to be the farm to supply basically the whole Wasteland with food until we can find more farms. Do you have any questions for me?”

He took his helmet off, looking around. “Just wondering where that set of power armor came from is all. It looks a bit more advanced than mine.”

“It is. Seems the military went all in on this place. There’s another suit, of older armor, inside the bottling plant. There’s some Assaultron robots guarding that place now, just stay out of the basement. It’s ... almost like a Fort Strong issue, if you understand me.”

“Affirmative, ma’am. There’s still a bunch of wildlife that we need to clear out. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Come on, troops, let’s get this patrol going.”

William was waiting for us at the entrance to Nuka-Town, Mackenzie with him. “Um, I guess you don’t go for Overboss as your title now. It’s what, Governor?” I nodded. “Okay, Governor, I know Lizzie went with you and Maggy up to Bradberton. Where are they? I met up with a couple of those CIT scientists, they said you had all sorts of plans for this place, and I, uh...”

Mackenzie smiled. “William is concerned that something has happened to them is all. I’ve been telling him that you wouldn’t let anything bad happen to them, but he’s nervous because no one’s seen either of them since you got back from the Kiddie Kingdom.”

“At least I’m glad to see the two of you together,” I said. Mackenzie reached over and took William’s hand, her eyes getting a little concerned at my comment. “Oh, nothing bad, young lady. It’s just that I made an error when I was discussing the administration of Nuka-Town. Instead of a council and mayor for the town, the two of you are going to be the joint administrators for all of Nuka-World. That’s the area bounded by the roads and parking lots, including all of the theme parks, and the Red Rocket farm.”

William frowned. “I’m a little confused, Governor. I thought Maggy was going to be in charge of everything. Did something happen to her that made you change your mind?”

“To a certain extent.” I held my hands up in a calming way, palms down. “Nothing bad, I assure you. No, Maggy had an epiphany while we were out and about. And she also found someone she can love. Which is why no one’s seen her since yesterday.”

“But, she and Lizzie were friends? Where is Lizzie?”

I rubbed my eyes. “You know that there are some unconventional relationships out here. Mine, for example. I’m married to all three of these women, and they’re all married to me and to each other.” He nodded, not wanting to think about his sister. “Well, Maggy and Lizzie seem to have found a man that they can both love, and also have taken their own relationship to the next level as well. Do I really need to draw that picture for you, or can we just let it go?”

He had a huge grin. “Well, I’ll be damned. I never figured she’d find someone special in her life. Hell, I can’t believe I’ve found Mackenzie, and she was here all along.”

I sighed. “That’s something I need to talk with you about as well. Ladies, would you please go to the quarters and check on Deacon and his ladies, I’ll take James with me, we’ll be in Cappy’s Cafe.”

Piper sheepishly admitted, “Yeah, I probably should have backup, just in case they’re still, you know...”

As the three of them went off, Curie said, “Would it not be appropriate to simply knock on the door?”

It was faint, but I heard Piper explaining, “If they’re still going at it like they were, they won’t HEAR a knock.”

William turned to me. “Really? That’s ... almost surprising. I know she’s my sister, but I never really considered her to be ... uh...”

“An incredibly sexual beast? Yeah. We never want to think of someone like that, until it ends up in our faces. Or on our faces. Anyway, let’s go get some lunch.”

Lauren was wiping the bar off when we entered. Things smelled considerably better inside than they did the last time. “Welcome back, Overboss. I sort of think I approve of what you ended up doing. If nothing else, the clientele are much better behaved and don’t give Keith any problems now, and they pay without complaining. Even if there aren’t as many of them as there were before.”

“Well, I’m paying for lunch for William, Mackenzie, James, and I, as well as something to drink for the three of us. And I suspect that you’ll only get busier as time goes by, as the population of Nuka-World grows.”

She nodded. “Yep. Having power makes things a lot nicer. I’ve got cold drinks now, too, not just slightly cool. Keith has some steaks that are fresh he can grill you up if you’d like, too, and fresh vegetables from the farm.”

“See if he can grill the vegetables, too. If so, that sounds really good.”

“You got it, Overboss.” She turned to Keith, who nodded that he’d heard and headed to the kitchen.

Mackenzie smiled at how quickly Keith moved. “That’s definitely something I hadn’t thought I’d see again. Someone actually eager to help someone else. You’ve made such a difference here.”

“Well, it wasn’t like I really had much of a choice, given my job.”

She looked puzzled at that. “I don’t understand. I thought ... you’re the Overboss, you had your own plans for this place and they’re nicer than what we had, of course. But I don’t know why a job would have anything to do with why you acted the way you did.”

William was apologetic. “You know, in all the time, I don’t think I ever told Mac about you. We’ve been busy with getting things organized and then with the farm and such, it slipped my mind.”

I nodded in understanding. “As James has told me in the past, I seem to thrive on this shit. Many people have trouble keeping up with all the things I have going on at times. And if you’re not familiar with things from the Boston area of the Commonwealth, my armor won’t make sense to you.”

Mackenzie said, “I mean, we’ve heard stories from the occasional traders, but the town I came from was ten miles from here. I guess those symbols all mean something, but I really don’t know what. Not the letters in your name, I can read those, of course.”

“Makes sense. This is CIT, the place where those engineers that are fixing things now are from. This one is the Brotherhood of Steel, the folks in the power armor. This is the Minutemen, the other folks that have come on over that aren’t in uniforms. And lastly, this is the flag of the Commonwealth of New England States, which is where we all live.”

Mackenzie frowned. “Okay, I understand what they represent, but I guess I still don’t understand what having all of those on your armor is all about.”

“Oh, that’s simple. Right now I’m the highest ranking person of each of these groups in the Commonwealth. And that also includes the Commonwealth itself, I’m legally the Governor. That’s why this was all my job, freeing those of you who were being kept as slaves, and wiping out the criminal gangs here.”

“But ... you didn’t? You killed all the Disciples and Pack, but what about the Operators? You didn’t wipe them out.”

“Didn’t I? William, what group do you belong to, now?”

“Nuka-World Security Forces. There aren’t any more Operators. There are some people who may have, at one time, belonged to that group, but she’s wiped them out just as effectively as if she’d killed us all.”

Something crossed my mind, so my expression changed to a pained one. “William, if what I’m about to ask you is too personal, just let me know, but ... something Maggy said about you doesn’t agree with what I’m seeing here.”

“I can easily figure out what that is. Maggy told you I was gay. She’s thought that of me since ... what, I was maybe 12? Ever since I caught her and Lizzie messing around. They’d ... they’d let me watch if I stayed still. Since I never showed excitement around them, Maggy got it in her mind I liked men. And honestly, I’ve tried a man or two in the past, so I can see where she’s coming from. But on the whole, I’d rather make my life with a woman, and, well, Mac here, is all woman.”

Keith brought our dinner out, Lauren coming over with more drinks for us. “So, I sort of couldn’t help but overhear everything you said. Governor of the Commonwealth. Now I get what you were talking about, last time you were in here. The only thing I don’t understand is why? Why did you do it? This couldn’t have been easy.”

I glanced at James. He said, “You’re right. It wasn’t. But there IS an easy answer to it. It’s the right thing to do.”

After dinner, William and Mackenzie had a much better understanding of what their duties in Nuka-World would be, and what would be expected of them. We left them to deal with everything that needed done. We started walking back to our quarters here when we saw a couple of CIT scientists headed our way.

“Ah, good, Director. Willie, Daisy, and Brian are keeping Oswald company. Dean and I were hoping that we could meet our next patient.”

“Certainly, Alan. Just one question. Are either of you armed?”

“Yes, of course, we both are. Why?”

“Then I’m going to have to extract a promise from both of you. When we get to our destination, you’re going to have to promise to not kill the woman that’s down there.”

James sighed. “Trust us on this one. You’re going to WANT to kill her. Please don’t.”

“That sounds ... intriguing, to say the least. Please, lead on,” Alan said.

I took them into the office and then down into the private Vault. “Oh, hi, you’re back. And you’ve brought some other people. Wow, that’s really neat. I was just talking to Mister Bradberton about how I acquired the things in the second room of my Nuka-Cola museum, the ones on the lower shelf, and how tough that was.”

From the speakers by the head, the voice of Bradberton said, “Young lady, that was the third time you told that to me. Madam, I truly apologize. I was under a seriously false assumption. I presumed that more than two centuries of loneliness, staring at the same things for days on end without cease was my own personal hell. I was sadly mistaken.”

“Oh, Mister Bradberton, that’s all right. I know you made a mistake or two while you were coming up with the formula for Nuka-Cola, the greatest thing you ever invented. I’ve studied all of the attempts, even though I really don’t know what all of those long words for the chemicals you used were. It’s just so fascinating.”

“Sierra, things above ground are under control. You can go into the parks. And if you’d like to, you can even go into the bottling plant, to see how things were made first hand. There’s even a river of Quantum in there that you can see and touch, and maybe even try to drink dry.”

“Oh, wow! I can go on into the parks? You’re sure?”

“Very sure. We’ll talk to Mr. Bradberton, don’t worry about him for now.”

“Great! Oh, this is all just so exciting!” She quickly grabbed her things and headed up.

Dean Volkert said, “Thank you for the warning, Director. I swear I could feel my self control slipping, the more and more she talked.”

“Thank you, madam. Thank you from the bottom of the heart that I no longer have. I’m sure that the young lady meant well, but I have not had a single moment’s peace since you left her here with me. Not only was she talking while she was awake, constantly and continuously, but she also talks in her sleep!”

“Well, we can leave you alone for a little bit, if you’d like some peace and quiet.”

“It’s not that. I can handle conversation. This was not conversation, this was a soliloquy of such magnitude that a playwright would be ashamed to claim it as his own. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise before she would go off on another tangent. My God, the woman knows things about my life that I’d completely forgotten! And then told me all about them, more than once!”

“Ouch. Well, these two men here are the reason we came down. This is Doctor Dean Volkert, he’s the head of CIT medical, and this is Doctor Alan Binet, he’s the head of Creation Obstetrics at CIT. We’ve got the reactor back online, and once it’s been made safe and is up to running at full capacity, the head of CIT Facilities will work with these two to figure out how to get you back to CIT so we can grow your body.”

Alan said, “Actually, growing a body for you won’t be that difficult. I presume that fluid your head is submerged in continually circulates through filters and such. And there’s probably an access port somewhere as well. All I need a small sample of living tissue, a piece of skin maybe half a square inch. I have a case here to preserve that, and then I can put it into the DNA analyzer. Once we have that patterned, it’s a simple process to modify the existing material such that it’s yours, then put it into the cloning replication tanks. Once I have that started, I can have the blank created person assembled in three days. Normally after that, it’s simply a matter of copying over the existing personality and memories, which is about a twelve hour process for living tissue. I’ll need help with you, though, since keeping your head alive during the whole process will be tricky.”

Dean rubbed his chin. “Actually, I don’t think I’ll have too much of an issue. The main reason for the whole head in a bottle thing here is to maintain nutrients and such. All we really have to do is get cloned blood and run it through an oxygenation processor, to keep the brain itself alive. That’s easily done.”

Alan agreed. “You’re right. Nothing personal here, Mr. Bradberton, but once we have your clone ready to go, we don’t actually need your head to get you a living body, we just need your brain alive. It’d be just like you undergoing a general anesthesia, because you won’t need your mouth, eyes, or ears while we do the transfer.”

Bradberton said, “You gentlemen are talking about literally taking everything that is me from this head, and putting it into a new, healthy, living body? Have you done anything like this before?”

“Not from just a separated head before, no. But from one person to another, or for that matter, from a fully self-aware robot, yes, certainly. It’s ... well, honestly, it’s routine. There is only one minor detail. The new body will have what effectively is a circuit board embedded in the spinal column, with a small chip in the back of the neck. That is needed for the data transfer,” Alan explained.

“Still no luck with babies and no chips?”, I asked.

He laughed. “I know why you were thinking we’d need those. Based upon what we’ve seen so far, it’s pretty much a moot point. With the changes that have been made, the Commonwealth is going to see a population explosion the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the end of the Second World War.”

Volkert nodded. “We’re still doing the research, of course. But the issue you discussed with Father and I? Not a problem, now. We’re definitely replacing ourselves, and doing it the old fashioned way.”

“Speaking of that, I suspect that when we get back to Boston, Gwen will be coming to see you.”

“That’s fine. I’ve modified the cells already, so when she’s fertile and I harvest her egg for implantation, the actual sperm cells will be as if they were from you, with the exception of the single Y-chromosome. I’ve even checked Curie, so there won’t be an issue with that.”

“Dean, you surprise me on how much you’ve put into this.”

“Director, you’re the single most important person in the Commonwealth, the entire nation, and probably the whole planet. Of course, I’m going to make sure that I’ve done everything possible for you.”

From the speakers, Bradberton asked, “Doctor Volkert, is it? Could you enlighten me? I know who Ms. Wilson was, I met her at one time. She’s simply told me that she’s the Governor of the Commonwealth. From your description, she sounds much more.”

I held up my hand. “Dean, Alan, I’ll leave the two of you here with John. I’ve had a busy enough of a day, I think I’d like to get back and have a good nights sleep before heading back to the Boston area tomorrow.”

Alan nodded. “Of course, Director. I promise we won’t regale Mister Bradberton with all of your exploits from the moment you were unfrozen. Certainly not more than once, unless he has questions on how you’ve done all this in, what is it now, three months?”

James smiled. “Two and a half months, Doctor Binet. It won’t even be three full months by the time the Prydwen returns, and she’ll have conquered everything.”

“That’s enough out of you, young man. Come on, I’m curious to see what trouble my wives have gotten into by this time.”

As we headed for the elevator, I heard John Caleb Bradberton say, “My word. What a truly remarkable woman.”

James and I took the outside elevator to the Fizztop Grill. Everyone I was hoping to see was there, although some of them looked rather worse for the wear.

“Sorry, James and I ended up meeting with the new administrators for Nuka-World, and then we stopped in to talk to John Caleb Bradberton, introduce him to Alan Binet, and free him from Sierra. Is everything here settled, everyone good?”

Deacon looked properly abashed. “Boss ... I’m ... I’m sorry. I let you down.”

“Why are you sorry? You’re certainly entitled to relaxing. It’s not like I haven’t, upon certain occasions, had you risk life and limb, after all. There’s a certain amount of stress that builds up and needs relieving.”

Maggy chuckled a little. “I don’t think that was stress that built up and needed relieving, ma’am. There was something built up, though.”

“I do admit to a certain curiosity. Since the two of you are still sitting with him, I take it that whatever it was that caused one or both of you to hit John in the face and give him a black eye has been resolved.”

Maggy nodded. “We finally forgave him. But the first time he had both of us together and ended up calling me Tina, he damned near died, then and there.”

Piper, Gwen, and Curie turned as one when Maggy said that. I crossed my arms and glared at Deacon. “Really, John? And you’re supposed to be in charge of intelligence?”

John hung his head. “I said I’m sorry. I ... hell, Maggy, I told you before, I can’t help but love her, for everything she’s done. I probably always will, too.”

Maggy reached over to John, pulled his head over to hers, so their foreheads touched. “I know, John. Hell, I don’t even swing that way too much ... or didn’t, anyway ... and I’d take her to bed in an instant myself. So you’re forgiven.”

Lizzie spoke up. “But let’s try not to let it happen again, shall we?”

“Apropos of nothing in particular, the four of us use certain flexible products between us at times. We can have some of those made available to the three of you if you ever, um, want some double penetration fun.” I turned a little. “Same thing applies for you and your women, James. Although I bet they already have some.”

“A little prostate stimulation is never a bad thing, but nothing large, I assure you.”

Gwen said, “Okay, just to get this conversation somewhere other than bedroom talk, what’s our plan for this place now?”

“Glad you brought that up. We’re basically done here. Tomorrow morning, all of us will go to the Boston area. That includes you, Maggy. You need to come along, so I can get you introduced to people there as well. Get some food if you haven’t eaten, and grab some actual sleep. You three look like you haven’t actually slept in hours. That also means not doing anything else, at least not tonight, okay?” I grinned.

The outside elevator ran down and up again. A young woman with black hair, wearing a Brotherhood scribe outfit, came up. “Sentinel, I’m Scribe Lawton. I have the latest from Boston and Mount Desert Island for you. Also, I’ve received a request from our aerial units. Since there is a workstation here, which means they can get fuel and such, they’d like to run a squadron out here tomorrow morning.”

I moved over to a table, sat down at it. I glanced at Maggy, who nodded, got up and joined me. She looked back at Lizzie and John. “Liz, could you bring Governor Wilson and I some coffee, while we look these over?”

Lizzie looked puzzled. Gwen stood up and walked over to her, holding out her hand. “This is our job, taking care of our women, making sure she has what she needs, so she can do her job. Come on, I’ll help you.”

Lawton looked a little puzzled, but put the papers down in front of me. I moved it so that Maggy and I could both see the same thing, then spent some time explaining the background of what each report meant. She and I sat at the table, going over things and discussing them, with Lawton taking notes, for a couple of hours. Lizzie and Gwen made sure that the three of us had food and drink available without having to interrupt anything we were doing the whole time.

When we had the last discussion done, I looked across the table to Lawton. “I’m certain you have a few questions about why I had Maggy Black here with me.”

Lawton said, “At the beginning, I did. Haylen chose me specifically to be the scribe for this area, though. To me, it’s obvious. When the Prydwen returns, presuming her mission was successful, you’re not going to be able to spend time going over what happens in this Commonwealth. You’re going to be in charge of all of them. So Miss Black here is going to be your replacement here.”

“Not just here in Nuka-World. I still have to tell the person I’ve chosen as administrator of the Boston area, but we have three areas that will have their own administration.” I nodded at Maggy. “Maggy will be the Governor if I get promoted.”

Lawton nodded. “That’s what I meant, ma’am. I apologize for not being clear on that.”

I smiled. “You’re forgiven. And I’ve held one decision off for a bit, this one is on me. Tell the aviation group that we’ll need transportation for nine people, with five suits of power armor, to return to Boston from here. I know it’ll overload one of the birds to bring it this far, but if they can share it between two birds with slings, I’d like to see another workstation brought out here as well. Since I know that it’ll take two just to carry us all back, make sure they send plenty.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’m quite serious about that. I don’t want any vertibird to have more than half a load, and none of them will cross singly. That way if one goes down, the other can effect a rescue. Equipment is replaceable. People are not.”

“Ma’am, you’re quite aware that the Brotherhood motto is Ad Victoriam. We’ve already chosen our new motto, once we’re not in the Brotherhood any longer. Ten minutes.”

“Seriously? I’ve never ordered anyone to do that.”

“We know. But we’d all follow it,” Lawton said.

Maggy looked puzzled, so Lawton explained. “In the Brotherhood, we’ve considered ourselves to be a family. We rally with To Victory; Ad Victoriam. But that was victory regardless of the cost, regardless of how we had to achieve it. Sentinel Wilson is just different. Like she said, equipment and gear, well, we can replace it. Her view is that we, the soldiers ourselves, aren’t replaceable. But at the same time, she also knows that there may come a time when, in a battle, she may need for us to fight and die to gain the ten minutes needed for the victory to be achieved. And every soldier in the Minutemen, in the Brotherhood, we’d give her those ten minutes, gladly, because we know she won’t ask it lightly.”

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