Love Never Changes
Chapter 33

Copyright© 2020 by StarFleet Carl

Jacquelyn and I both laughed at his comment. “Thank you, but no,” I said, a huge smile on my face. I saw Doctor Kundanika holding her stomach like she was physically ill.

“Are you alright, Doctor? I have excellent physicians at CIT and in other locations, and of course, if it’s simply any kind of infection or disease, we have a cure for that.”

“No. It’s not that.” There was a chair behind her, she stumbled over to it, sitting down and then looking up at me with haunted eyes. “What ... when...” She couldn’t talk.

I sighed. “I’m guessing that your husband sent you here for one thing, that you thought would be easy to accomplish, and now you’ve realized that things are quite a bit more complicated than you anticipated.”

“You have no idea,” she said, shaking her head. “Hang on. You said you have a cure for any kind of infection or disease? What did you mean by that?”

“Simple. One of the Vaults here had a researcher that was tasked with creating a cure for every possible disease known to mankind. If it’s something like a ghoul going feral, we can’t fix that, because that’s due to radiation exposure combined with FEV. But if it’s an actual disease, whether it’s something simple, all the way up to every type of cancer we’ve run into, all it takes is a simple injection.”

“My god. What do I have to do, have to pledge, for us to have access to that?”

Haley said, “You? Hell, me, too!”

“Um, cover the production costs? It’s not like it’s that expensive, now that we’ve figured out how to duplicate it. We’re not out to get rich, we’re here to help.”

Amanda had started cleaning her rifle. At my words then, she did drop her cleaning rod. “You can cure cancers?”

“Yes. I freely admit that if there’s intensive cellular damage, such as due to an industrial accident, the cure may not work, in which case the only treatment is to clone the person with the injury, and then transfer their personality and memories into the new body. That can take a little while, up to a month.”

Kundanika started crying, then. That put an end to our discussion for a few minutes, while she got it out of her system. Amanda used that time to finish cleaning her rifle and putting it up, while I ran a quick cleaning patch through my pistol. I noticed that she and her uncle were quietly talking. Haley just looked a little uncomfortable, with nothing to do. Codsworth brought down a tray of drinks and snacks for us, which Haley quickly used as an excuse to have something to do with his hands.

“Thank you, Codsworth. Can you get us some sandwiches or something a little more substantial?”

“Of course, mum. We have some fresh deathclaw steaks, just brought in this morning.”

“Excellent. Make them as a shish kabob, with fresh vegetables. That should grill up nicely.”

General Beauregard heard that. “You’re eating deathclaws?”

“Sure. We harvest a couple tons of meat off them, every day, from those hunter-killer flights I mentioned. Gives everyone something else to eat besides brahmin, gazelle, or mirelurk. We’re working to get one of the old fish processing plants up and going, some of the machinery, so we can start making ground meat patties as well.”

He looked at Amanda, then sighed. “Are you going to go ahead now, or do you think we need to discuss this at all?”

She shook her head. “Tina, I haven’t been totally honest with either Elder Maxson or with you. My father isn’t the Governor of the Gulf Commonwealth, I am. We use that fiction as some of the more ... well, reverted ... areas aren’t ready to accept that a woman can be in power. And I truly apologize for the accent. We thought that it might make it more believable that we were stereotypical Southerners. Don’t get me wrong, we really are from what remains of New Orleans. I should have listened to Mother Felicity, she told me I’d be in big trouble coming here.”

“Is your Mother Felicity anything like our Mama Murphy, using the Sight?”

“I don’t know what the Sight is, but Mother Felicity uses Hoodoo. I care about my people, and we need help. I think you can provide it. You have my support for the office of President, even if it means I have to give up being Governor.”

Haley nodded. “I’ve heard, and seen, enough myself. I’m enough of a realist to accept that my Commonwealth needs help, too. I think that joining the United States again under you is probably the best move we could make.”

I shook Haley’s hand. Amanda took my hand and shook it, but didn’t let go as quickly. She looked in my eyes. “Yeah, I’m in BIG trouble.” I could feel the attraction, as well. Jacquelyn stood back and laughed when she saw our hands touch.

“I think it’s a good thing Ellen made things over-sized for you.”

I couldn’t help it, I snorted, then started laughing. Amanda gave me a hurt look. I held up my hand, waiting to get my breath. “Sorry, Amanda. It’s not you. I need to tell you something personal, and maybe not in front of everyone.”

From behind us, Doctor Kundanika spoke again, her voice heavy with emotion. “I need to tell you something personal as well, but with both of their comments, it may as well be in front of everyone. All I ask, once I tell you this, is that you do not harm Marie.”

I turned and looked at her. “Go ahead.”

“We need your help, desperately. I’d hoped to use Marie to find a cure for TDC, but all of the things I’ve done haven’t worked. As it is, we’re having to leave the area frequently just to help stay sane. Ashur ... he’s affected by it now, too. I can feel the effects on me have lessened since we’ve been away from The Pitt, but I can tell it’s still in me.”

“What is TDC?”

“It’s a degenerative disease. I call it Troglodyte Degeneration Contagion. Something in the air, the water, in The Pitt. We’re all born with it. My husband has raised an army to try to conquer the rest of our wastelands, just so we can get away from it. When we saw the dirigible, he sent me here to ... well, to spy on you. To see if we could all end up moving here, maybe conquer this area, so we could have a safe place to live. I can’t do that, not now. You’d destroy us if we tried. So the only thing I can do is ask for your help, and pray you’ll be easy with us when you come to conquer us.”

“Doctor Kundanika...”

“Please, I’m sorry. My name is Sandra.”

“Sandra, then. That’s ... quite a story. Come with me. Amanda, would you please come along as well? Haylen, please entertain our male guests here. We’ll be back as soon as we can. Tell the children the same.”

“Of course, ma’am.”

I took hold of both their hands. “Director Wilson, with two guests.” The three of us blinked out.

“Damn, I was almost hoping that was some kind of stage magic. Where are we?”

“Welcome to CIT, Amanda. Sandra, we need to go this way.” I led them to the elevator and then down the main floor. We went into the basic medical section.

The synth on duty said, “Good afternoon, Director. Do you need medical assistance?”

“Sandra, please get onto that bed.” She did so.

“Full biometric scan, please.”

“Of course, one moment.” The synth pushed the buttons. There was a humming noise from the bed that lasted about fifteen seconds. “Subject has a non-contagious disease causing progressive degeneration. Based upon cellular study, a single 23 cc dose of Cure-all is recommended, along with normal hydration afterwards. Subject will experience the normal side effect of Cure-all, based upon this disease. Do you wish me to administer the injection?”

“Not here, no. Simply give it to me and we’ll take care of things privately.”

“Of course, Director. Note that we have converted what was the storage room on the other side of the walkway into a private chamber, due to the normal side effect.”

“Thank you.” It handed me the injector. “Come on, Sandra. Amanda, this might prove interesting for you to see, if you can handle things clinically.”

She looked puzzled, but said, “Okay, I’m game.”

What had simply been a storage room was relabeled, ‘Cure All Side Effect Chambers’. I opened the door, it led into two other rooms with doors that closed for privacy. A synth was sitting in the antechamber. “Good afternoon, Director. Do you need privacy to administer a dose of Cure-all?”

“Yes. We may need other clothing as well.”

“Of course, ma’am. Take whatever you need in either room. I always restock and deep clean the rooms after each use.”

Amanda was completely intrigued by now, looking at the synth. “Are you a robot?”

“I am a generation 2 synthetic being, created, assembled, and programmed here at CIT. I am capable of minor independent actions, but typically only perform the tasks assigned to me.”

She shook her head. “Damn, Tina. This is ... wild.” She saw I was waiting on her. “Sorry, this is all almost overwhelming.”

I got Sandra and Amanda into one of the other rooms. There was a table, a shower stall, a toilet, and a cabinet along one wall. “Sandra, this is clinical. Strip down. You can leave jewelry on, but you won’t want any clothing on. Go ahead and place them on the table.”

She frowned, but did so. She had small, perky breasts. I could also see small lesions on different parts of her body, including two on one of her breasts, that had been covered by her clothing. “I’m guessing those are the outward signs of the disease?”

“Yes. As it progresses, they get worse. These have gotten a bit better since I’ve been out of The Pitt, but the process is irreversible.”

“Please, sit on the toilet. Trust me on this one, you’ll want to do that.” She did so. I hit the button that started the toilet flushing continuously, as well as a high speed suction fan to bring clean air in. She was looking at me strangely, when I pulled out the syringe and injected her.

It took about ten seconds. Her hands went to her belly, she broke out into a sweat. “Oh, my god!” Even with the high speed fan, we still caught a faint whiff of the smell.

“Amanda, in the cabinet, there should be several bottles of water.” She opened it, started handing them to me. “Thank you. Sandra, start drinking.” It took her seven bottles of water to quench her thirst. “You feel empty now?” She nodded, a little dizzy. I hit the switch again, turning the fan and toilet off.

“Okay, shower time.” I helped her up. “Go ahead, this works like a normal shower.”

“Um...” I grinned, realizing her problem. I opened the door, turned the knob so the water was slightly warm, and held my hand out. She stepped in, amazed at the shower and the fresh, warm water.

“Take that sponge on the shelf, there’s a soap dispenser to your left, and that’ll get you clean from all the sweat.” I admit I didn’t mind watching her soap her body up and then scrub it off, I found it quite erotic, even if she didn’t realize it. I did notice that Amanda seemed to be viewing it in the same way I did, though.

“Okay, now that you’re done, here’s some towels to dry off. I suggest slippers and a robe while we get your clothes cleaned, so you’re not putting dirty clothes back on.” I pulled those out of the cabinet as well. Since she’d told me their plans, I purposely didn’t give her a gown or underwear that was available, just to keep her off balance.

“Wow, that was some diuretic. What exactly did that do to me?”, she asked.

“There’s a mirror, look at your breasts.”

She was shocked, her hands going up to them. “My lesions! What happened to them?”

“That’s why it’s called Cure-all, Sandra. That’s also why we had the toilet, fan, and shower. We’ve learned that, depending upon how nasty the disease is, you’re literally going to shit it out, quite quickly, and violently. The sweat is a by-product of the bodies normal defensive system trying to cope with something it’s not used to coping with, and the dehydration is because you burn a lot of calories all at once, and need the water.”

“My god, that injection ... a single injection ... did all that? The cost involved, it must be incredibly rare and priceless!”

“We make it in thousand liter batches for about 200 caps worth of materials. I told you, I take my responsibility to help my citizens very seriously. Now, why don’t you put that robe and slippers on, and come with me.” She did so. I opened the door to the room. “Please have the clothes cleaned and delivered to my quarters when they’re done.”

“Of course, Director.”

Amanda said, “Um, I don’t think I have anything going on with me, but...”

“Oh, sure, I didn’t even think about it.” She did a med scan, which showed she was about five pounds overweight, and had a minor issue with tympanic damage, otherwise was in good health. “You may not have noticed, when we were shooting, my helmet has ear protection that I pull down. I’ll see if Dean can take a look in your ears before we leave, figure out a way to fix that.”

“Thank you. Again. Damn, Tina, this ... this is just amazing.”

“Come on, both of you. I’ve someone I want you to meet.”

Amanda shook her head. “I knew it. That’s why you and Jacquelyn laughed when Cyrus made his proposal, you’re married.”

“I take it you don’t wear wedding rings down South?” I held my left hand up.

“Damn again. That must be some special man in your life, to get you that.”

We had been walking up the stairs and were at the entrance to my quarters. “Uh, not exactly.” I opened the door. “Come on in. Dears, do we have room for two more for lunch?”

Gwen said, “Yes, we weren’t sure how many there’d be, so Ellen has a Gen 2 standing by to bring us additional plates as needed.”

She was sitting at the far end of an extended dining table, a plate of food in front of her. Piper, Curie, and Cait were on her left, Em on her right. There was another empty spot to Cait’s left, three on Em’s right, and the other end of the table was empty for me. “It’ll just be the three of us joining you for lunch. Shaun and Nat are playing with Marie in Sanctuary, James in entertaining the men. This is Sandra Kundanika, from Pittsburgh, and Amanda Beauregard, from New Orleans.”

Amanda looked around the table in amazement. I grinned. “You were off just a little, hon. That’s Gwen, Piper, and Curie Shannon. They’re my wives. Emogene Cabot and Cait aren’t, yet, but once we get things settled down, they’ll also marry all of us as well.”

“I will be dipped in shit,” Amanda said.

Curie spoke up. “Oh, do not do that. It can cause all kinds of infections, and generally smells bad. I recommend a nice bubble bath, or joining us in the hot tub. It is much more pleasurable.”

Piper chuckled. “Sweets, that’s a figure of speech. She didn’t mean it literally.”

“Ah, of course. I apologize, Miss Beauregard. I find that the language still confuses me at times.”

Cait chuckled. “That’s not the only thing, lover.”

“Kids, I know you were already eating, but I’m sure Sandra is famished.” The three of us sat at the table, Sandra being careful of what she was wearing. Gwen had summoned the synth with more food, which included a plate with double portions for Sandra. “Thank you, please bring more drinks in a little while.”

“I’m feeling embarrassed, but I’m totally famished.”

“Dig in, Sandra. I’m sure that Amanda will end up asking enough questions to answer most of what you would ask. And before you ask, Amanda, the term is sister-wives. Although they call me their Mother-wife, when we speak formally. Even though right now Gwen is the only one pregnant with my baby.”

Amanda spit out the drink she’d started to take. Cait chuckled. “Aye, lass, that was me reaction as well. But they can work medical miracles down here. No men needed, and that suits me just fine.”

“You’re not planning on having Piper’s baby any time soon, are you?”, I asked.

“No, sweets. We’ve talked about it. We’re all going to make sure our firstborn is yours, for you’re the true love of all our lives. Then we’ll let things fall where they may. I may have Piper’s baby, she may have mine. I think that even though we’re all family, though, Emogene will only have your children. Poor lass, she’s been in love with ye for centuries.”

“As long as the kids are all raised in a loving family, I really don’t care who has who’s child. But thank you, I’m honored you’ve all decided that your first will be mine. That’ll give Shaun a lot of little brothers and sisters.”

Amanda shook her head. “Did I hit my head, or something? There are six of you, no men involved, and you all love each other? How long have you known each other?”

Gwen smiled. “I think I’d known Tina for ... maybe six hours, if that ... before I knew I was hopelessly in love with her. We’ve actually had the scientists check, to see if she puts off some kind of pheromone, that influences people. It’s nothing like that, it’s just ... well, I’ve heard the term before, Alpha Male, where there’s one strong man that takes over simply from the force of his personality.”

“In her case, she’s obviously not male. But in all other aspects, she qualifies as a Super Alpha. Incredible loyalty from her people, without her having to do anything other than just be herself. For those of us here ... Piper was in almost the same boat as I, it took her maybe a day to fall for Tina. Curie wasn’t even in this body, she was still in her robot form, when she fell for Tina. That’s why we know it’s not pheromones. As for...”

“Hang on!”

“Oh, right, robot body. Have you been to Sanctuary?” Amanda nodded. “Then you met Wilhelmina. That’s actually Emogene’s mother. Her biological body was finally giving out, and the robot body was available, so she transferred from her human body into that one. Curie had been in that robot body, ever since the start of the Great War, and wanted to transfer into a human body because of what our bodies can do. There was a wiped created person’s body available, so Curie went into that, and her robot body sat unused, until we put Wilhelmina in it.”

“Created person? I know you said that before, but ... I thought that’s what those robots that just helped us were.”

“Ah, no. As a created person, I am completely externally indistinguishable from a normal child born of woman. Internally, there is one minor detail, I have a board in my spinal column and a computer chip attached to that board, which is what allowed me to transfer my personality and memories from my robotic body into this one. However, once that transfer is complete, the chip is no longer necessary and can be removed. I keep it so that I may freely teleport in and out as needed, as I continue my research here when I am not needed by our Mother-wife in assisting others on the surface.”

“And you’re married to her?”

“Oui. I find things to be most acceptable, and pleasurable as well. I particularly enjoy the taste when Madam is having multiple orgasms.”

Em giggled. “I’m not a created person, and I enjoy that, too.”

“Yes, but you have the unfair advantage over all of us, in that you alone seem to know where Madam is ticklish, and will not share it with us.”

“I learned that spot a long time ago. I’m sworn to keep it secret, and I haven’t revealed it for 223 years.”

Sandra and Amanda both turned at that. “It’s okay, I quit taking the serum, so I’m not immortal any longer. I’d rather wait until we either figure out how to give it to everyone, or if not, then die when it’s finally my time, so long as I’m with Tina and a part of her family.” She took a sip of her water. “Oh, fine. I was born in the late 19th Century. Due to assorted things I’d rather not get into now, my brother created a serum that gave he and I immortality, if we regularly took it. I met Tina when she was 17 years old, fell in love with her literally that same night, and dated her for 10 years until our sick society made me break up with her. Now we’re back together, is all.”

Cait laughed. “Hey, she’s the only woman, hell, only person, to ever beat me in hand to hand combat. I was so wasted on drugs. She got me cured of me affliction, then gave me some kind of shot that made me half crap meself to death, but fixed everything else up that was wrong with me. She didn’t ask anything in return, but I followed her and I love her now just like all the rest.”

Amanda looked somewhat sad. I reached over and took her hand, something that wasn’t missed by anyone at the table. “This young lady here is the Gulf Commonwealth Governor. She’s actually a little better a shot than Shaun is, if you can believe that.”

“Dammit! I’m just now even with him, and now you tell me I’m going to have to beat someone else? That’s not fair,” Piper mockingly complained.

“She did have to fire twice, to get all 25 in less than 30 seconds. It took her 31 to get them with only 25 rounds,” I said.

“Good. That means I’m even with her, then. I have no other objections. Anyone else?”

The other five women shook their heads. Amanda just looked confused.

“What was that all about?”

“Yeah, you felt the attraction to me, just like I felt it to you. I think we’re both strong women. Net result, would you care to join my family?”

“I thought we were, for lunch.” Then she realized what Piper said, what I said. Her brows went up. “You’re serious? And you don’t have a problem with the way I am?”

“You’re the same way I am, aren’t you?”

She snorted. “Cyrus wouldn’t stand a chance with me, either. Damn, Uncle Jeff is going to have a cow. But yeah, yes, I’d like that, very much.” She leaned over the table, I met her halfway, giving her as good of a kiss as she gave me.”

Sandra spoke up then. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I love my husband, in case you, uh...”

“Don’t worry, Sandra. We’ll figure out a solution for your problem. Hell, even if we have to relocate your population, we’ll take care of you. As for sexually, you’ve got a nice body and while I certainly enjoyed watching you clean yourself after your shot, you don’t do anything for me otherwise. I can tell you’re not ... well, like us. So please don’t let us make you uncomfortable, if you think I want anything more for curing you.”

“I will say this, though. If you and your husband have been doing things that aren’t quite the most ethical or moral, it better come to a full and complete stop. I won’t tolerate it. We’re a nation of laws. For you, what happened in the past is just that, in the past. Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal clear, Madam President. And ... damn, I think I know what the others meant, now, what that woman, your pilot said. Why Mister Deacon said what he did.” She shook her head. “If nothing else, I can guess there’s going to be hell to pay for anyone who decides to go up against you.”

Piper laughed. “That’s being polite. Let me ask you something. Imagine there is a group of about 250 well armed and armored Raiders. They have civilians as hostages. You have to eliminate them. How many people would you think it would take?”

“250 Raiders? If they’re dug in really well, I’d guess at least 300 or 400 troops, maybe more. I’m not as well versed in combat, but that’d be my guess. But ... having seen Tina shoot, I’m guessing maybe a hundred troops total.”

“You’re a little high. Tina ... me ... Deacon ... James ... Gwen ... Curie ... Maggy. That was it. Hell, at the last big battle, all Tina did was shoot grenades out of the air that were being thrown at us, she didn’t even bother shooting at Raiders until it was needed, the rest of us took care of them.”

Sandra blinked, while Amanda looked at me even more approvingly. Em laughed a little at Amanda. “I’m sorry, hon, it’s that the expression on your face is almost the exact same one Tina gave me the night we met. Doe eyes. Yep, you’ve got it bad.”

We finished lunch discussing inconsequential things, which made me a bit happier. Once done, I got on the radio to Haylen, just to make sure the men were being helped. I shouldn’t have worried, apparently Rhys had taken them into his home and was telling them the story about the Battle of Bunker Hill.

The synth brought Sandra’s clothes in, so she changed. Amanda was, to put it mildly, intrigued by the size of the bed. I whispered in her ear about something being over-sized and she laughed in understanding. Gwen showed her around the rest of our quarters, then we all started back to the atrium. We were met by Arthur, James, and all the people from the South West.

Arthur shook his head. “Sorry we didn’t tell you in advance. The NCR people don’t believe what they saw Richter doing, saw what we were doing at the Castle. I thought that maybe coming here might help.”

“Colonel Moore, Major Dhatri, what was so unbelievable about what you saw, as far as our training facilities were concerned?”

“Why are you putting on a show? It’s obvious that everything you’ve shown us is fake. Designed to impress yokels, perhaps, but we know what a real army is, how you really train soldiers. A few specially trained people, demonstrating skills that are impossible for all soldiers to have. Oh, I admit that this complex appears impressive, but flashing lights and magic tricks don’t impress anyone.”

“Magic tricks?” I saw the look on Piper’ face when she heard how flat my voice was.

“Of course, magic tricks. Teleportation, indeed. What do you take us for, stupid fools?”

Arthur shook his head and stepped back. The Brotherhood members from Mojave saw that and did the same. “I see. How long did it take you to get here, from the Castle?”

“About twenty minutes, via vertibird.”

“Piper, see that Sandra and Amanda are taken care of, please. We’ll be a minute.” With that, I activated my Pip-Boy. The three of them and I were suddenly outside of the Castle. “Magic tricks, eh? You’re wearing a watch, Major Dhatri. Watch the elapsed time.” I hit it again, activating my special over-ride, so I could go directly from one spot to another.

“Welcome to Acadia, just outside Bar Harbor, Maine. 200 miles from where we just were.” We’d landed in the middle of a rain storm. “Oh, it’s nasty weather, just a second.” I hit it again, the weather instantly going to hot. “Ah, Nuka-World. 300 miles from Bar Harbor. And you’re not going to like the next place. I suggest you be ready to follow me, quickly.”

I teleported us to just outside of Virgil’s rocky cave. “This way, quickly, or the radiation will kill you.” My Geiger Counter was screaming. The minor detail that we’d gone from heat and flat desert into rocky and heavily radioactive terrain made an impression. I ran into the cave, with them quickly following me.

Moore screamed at me, “Are you insane?”

“What was the elapsed time, Dhatri?” He was looking at his watch in disbelief, shaking his head. “MAJOR! Sound off!”

“Sorry. Eight seconds. Colonel, what the hell just happened to us?”

The lights and machine gun turrets were still active. The Protectron came up to me. “Protect and serve. No threats detected.” It turned back to its regular patrol.

“What the hell is this place?”, Moore demanded. She was fumbling for some Radaway.

“You may as well hold off on that for now.”

“What? We just took nearly a 20% lethal dose of radiation! How dare you endanger us that way!”

“What way? I thought you said this was all just some magic tricks. If you’d care, I can simply leave you here, and you can walk out. You won’t live long enough unless you have about thirty doses of Radaway, each, and that presumes you make it by all the animals, between here and the border of the Commonwealth, since you don’t have any hazmat suits. But if it’s just magic tricks, then you’re in no danger at all.”

The third member of their group finally spoke up. “Colonel, I’ll go outside and check. It won’t bother me, you know that.”

I looked at him. “Ah, you’re like Richter, then? Immune to radiation?” He nodded. “I don’t THINK you’ll run into any critters out there, but I wouldn’t venture too far from the entrance to the cave, in any event. Here, just in case.” I held my pistol out to him.

“That’s okay.” He reached behind him, pulled one out that had been hidden. “I’ll be fine if there’s not a deathclaw. And if there is, I’ll be back, really quickly.”

He was gone for less than two minutes. “This must’ve been where several of the nuclear bombs went off. I don’t think I’ve seen a more inhospitable or deadly place since we were exploring Los Angeles. Colonel, Major, this isn’t a trick of any kind. We’re a good 30 miles south of the airport.”

“Radio direction finder?”, I asked.

“Of a sort, yes.”, he said. “Veteran Ranger Baxter, New California Republic Rangers. It appears that we have misjudged things, drastically. I lost lock when we went to, what’d you call it, Bar Harbor? But got it back at Nuka-World. That was more than 70 miles from the airport, and a good 80 miles from where we are now.”

“Colonel, would you care to perhaps re-evaluate things a little, perhaps in a slightly more hospitable location?”

Both she and Dhatri were subdued now that Baxter had reported. She nodded. “Very good. Baxter, you might want to ... very good, you don’t want to make security nervous by them thinking someone besides me has a weapon. Come on, let’s get back to CIT.”

I led the way to the surface, hitting the button again. This time we appeared in the receiving room, so we had to ride the elevator down. I used the speaker. “Doctor Volkert, we’ll need some Radaway.”

Everyone else was still standing around where they had been, calmly discussing things. James looked at me. “Virgil’s cave?”, when he saw the dust on my shoes.

“Yeah. Some people are more stubborn than others.” Dean came up with Radaway for all of us. “If everyone is doing okay, I suggest that we all meet back at the airport, at the conference room. James, let Jacquelyn know, she is to bring Mister Haley, Paladin Cyrus, and General Beauregard there, along with the children. And their weapons.”

Those of us that needed them received our injections. Then, as a group, we went to the surface normally, via the tunnel. Sandra looked in amazement at the carts we rode. “Where did you find these? They could come in handy.”

“They’re brand new. We made them. That’s what I meant by rebuilding. Everyone has been so focused on finding old tech, trying to make it work, they’ve not realized that we can make NEW things, using the old principles, and still have finished machines.”

Amanda noted, “If you can make the wheels on these things bigger, it might make a good swamp buggy. Or...” Her eyes grew wide. “What powers these things? Could it be used to power a boat?”

“Just needs a propeller and shaft. In case you didn’t know, that’s how we used to power boats, automobiles, everything.”

While we were on the way, I got on the radio to the Castle, to Ronnie Shaw. I told her what I wanted. She cackled, because the NCR people had pissed her off, and thought it’d be a great idea.

It took close to an hour for everyone to get resettled in the hanger. I was surprised to see Joshua Graham there, and not wearing his bandages. “Doctor Binet has told me that he has enough data to begin working on me when the important work here is complete. He has also provided me an analgesic such that I am not in pain from these burns. He said that, when I go back in to see him, I will be unconscious for five days, and when I awaken, I will be as I was before, but bald for a while, as my hair must regrow normally. I witnessed two people having limbs regrown, the process is fascinating.”

He raised his voice. “The doctors at CIT have promised to share this with all my people. As well as the technologies they have found or discovered. My people have shunned things like this due to the evil that has been done with technology in the past. I find no evil in them. I affirm my vote that I have previously made. This woman is worthy to lead us all!”

I held my hands up before anyone else could speak. “Folks, just a quick moment. I know that some of you have seen a demonstration, some of you haven’t. And I know what you’ve said before. I want all of you to know what you’re getting. I don’t know if the old saying has survived, but you’re not buying a pig in a poke, something without seeing it. Because you’re getting not just me, you’re getting everyone and everything I’ve spent the last few months working to build.”

“I’m not going to say it’s going to be an immediate thing for some of you, I’ll have to prioritize based upon need and our capabilities. Based upon what I’ve heard so far, right now the residents of Pittsburgh may need be helped first. But this will also grow, and I suspect a lot quicker than any of us suspect. So ... since I just heard a vertibird land outside, I’d like for all of us to move outside.”

Everyone was puzzled, including my entire family. The vertibird had dropped off two of the number three sized target frames, close to the water. Ronnie Shaw was walking up from there. “Here you go, ma’am. Two target frames, complete with rotating targets And just for point of reference, there’s a chunk of Queen shell, sitting next to them.”

“Okay, folks. These are number three targets. As you can see, they’re each the actual physical size of the eye hole on a Mirelurk Queen. Now, everyone move back a bit, where Ronnie is standing now. Ronnie, what’s the measured distance to the targets?”

“150 yards, General.”

“Nat, Shaun, can you see those targets in the distance?” Both kids nodded. “Do you think you can hit those targets, without any problem, at this distance?” Again, both of them nodded. “Good. Everyone stay back.” I looked at James. “That includes you.” I turned and walked back, so I was standing between the target frames.

I picked up the piece of Mirelurk Queen carapace. I yelled up, “This is the size of the target. As you can see, from 150 yards, at two inches in diameter, it’s very, very small. Nat, Shaun, two cycles, flip them once, wait a second, then flip them again.”

“Get off the firing line, Mom,” Shaun yelled back

“Can’t do it, son. This is to prove a point, that if push comes to shove, I would trust two ten year old children to save my life if I was being held hostage or about ready to be eaten by a Mirelurk. Better hurry now, the monster is coming out of the sea to get me!”

I saw Shaun look at Nat, nod his head. They both dropped to the ground, put their magazines in, and quickly fired five times, waited a second, then fired five more times. I was glad I had my combat helmet on, the noise from the bullets clanging on the target was incredibly loud. I dropped the carapace, then walked back up range to a stunned crowd. “Everyone move back to where Ronnie is NOW standing.”

“This is 300 yards. James?”

He handed me my rifle. Under his breath, I heard him say, “If you ever do anything that fucking stupid again, I will break your legs and keep them broken!”

“I love you, too, my friend,” I whispered back.

“Ten targets, 300 yards. Shaun, you take the one on the right, I’ll do the one on the left. You should have twenty rounds left in that magazine, let’s show these people what we can do.”

“No problem, Mom, now that I know what you wanted. Don’t pull that with me again, though. I know I could shoot that close to you to save your life, that was just stupid.”

“Sometimes you have to hit the mule with a piece of wood to get his attention, son.” He nodded, then dropped to the ground, taking position. “Open fire.”

Amanda said it again. “Holy shit!” I had finished less than a second before Shaun did.

“I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I was firing iron sights, just like Shaun. For a smaller target, like the eye on a super mutant, I use my scope when at this range. Does anyone think I couldn’t do this with our number 1 targets at this range?”

Ranger Baxter looked at Colonel Moore, then Major Dhatri, then at me. “Ma’am, you were standing, your son was prone. As it’s rather obvious your weapon is sighted in properly, may I borrow your rifle, also just to prove a point?”

I handed it to him. “Nine in the magazine, one up the spout.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” He took up position, took a second, then opened fire. He hit six of the ten. He nodded, then handed it back to me. “Damned nice rifle, better than any I’ve ever fired in my life. Having a quality rifle makes a hell of a difference.” He turned to Moore and Dhatri. “You both know how good the Rangers are. I can tell you right now that if you do anything other than agree to whatever she says, when we return home, I will recommend that the Rangers completely withdraw from the NCR forces and join her. Any other course of action would be tantamount to committing suicide.”

Dhatri glared at Baxter, who just laughed at him. “Major, you can shoot those dagger eyes at me all you want. It won’t change reality. You’ve been completely wrong about everything ever since we got onto the airship. Her training grounds weren’t an attempt to intimidate us with quality troops. Those WERE their trainees, pure and simple. Their experienced soldiers are out in the field right now, civilizing more unclaimed territory.”

“Use your head, Dhatri! Think about what you just saw! Yes, with my rifle and a scope, I could match her skill at this range, barely. She fired over iron sights! Her son is ten years old! He fired over iron sights! There’s no tricks involved. One thing I’ve learned over my life is that competent people don’t have to resort to trickery. You saw her stand between two targets, being shot at with live rounds. I saw where one of my rounds went. If she’d been standing there, I would have shot her. Yet she trusted two ten year old children with her life! Would either of you do that? I believe that I could hold a cap up in my hand, between two fingers, and she could shoot it out from between my fingers with her pistol at 20 yards!”

I interrupted him. “50, actually. But I’d want to do it indoors, just so there’s no wind. When I was showing off earlier to some of the representatives, we were at 25 yards, using 1” targets, so I had some leeway.”

Baxter asked, “How many?”

Cyrus spoke up then. “Twenty five out of twenty five, with a 20 round magazine, so she had to change magazines to finish. And she did the whole thing in 24 seconds.”

Dhatri started to speak, stopped, then looked at Colonel Moore. The expressions that had been playing over her face were interesting, to be polite. “President Kimball is NOT going to be a happy man when we get home,” she said.

I looked at her, my expression mild, but the steel in my voice apparent. “I told this to Sandra, Doctor Kundanika. If someone is doing something that isn’t quite moral or ethical, it will come to a stop. One way or the other. If something has happened in the past, then it’s just that, something that’s in the past. But we are, and will be, a nation of laws. Do you need any further clarification?”

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