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PRESTON

Sanctuary Hills, MA

April 14th, 2288

The heavy bowl of night refused to lift that morning. The sky lightened, turning the dawn from indigo to a hazy gray, but sunlight refused to puncture a potent cloud cover that clung to the hilltop areas surrounding Sanctuary like cloaks. Streetside, along the broken ruins of sidewalk, the tall oil lamps still burned bright, warm balls of light staving off the gloom. Such mornings were normal this time of year, the mist likely to burn off by midday and be trailed by balmy afternoons.

Preston Garvey wandered the vacant streets, laser musket in his hands, keeping watch while the rest of Sanctuary Hills began to rise. The chirring of inactive turrets and somber moos coming from the brahmin pen were the only sounds that filled his ears. He pondered on what mornings might have been like before the war. Birds were more plentiful then, filling the air with song instead of mournful caws. He imagined the stagnant frames of automobiles coming to life, zooming around as people left the safety of their homes to take them into the city. No worries of being shot or eaten would trouble those happy pre-war people. Were their lives exciting in a world where anything seemed possible? Or were individuals bored by the monotony of their daily lives, trying to find faults in their stable environment?

As Preston made another loop through the development, skating by the garden and around the main congregation area, he heard noises coming from the workshop. Voices clashed, rising in a quarrel. One of the combatants had Sturges’ familiar drawl. Peculiar. The man was the voice of reason within the Minutemen and almost never shouted. Preston’s gait picked up in worry, pushing him into a jog, coming to a startled halt as he rounded the workshop corner.

Nate was strapping himself into his Brotherhood combat armor, scowling at Sturges as he secured the fastenings. Their resident repairman had his shoulders bowed in a sullen pout, brawny arms crossed defensively as he leaned against the weapon workstation. Nate’s paladin armor sat within the repair bay, looking depressed in its sedentary slump, adding to the dolefulness of the scene.

“Aw, hell, old timer,” Sturges barked at Nate, a sneer curling one side of his lip. “You think you’ve got all the answers!” 

“My knowledge is a bit more extensive than yours,” Nate spat, jerking a buckle tight across one thigh.

Preston stepped up onto the concrete slab of the workshop, his musket angled at the ground. “Hold up, you two. What’s going on here?” he asked in a calm yet interrogative tone.

Nate’s head snapped in Preston’s direction and pointed in a frenzy at him. “Tell him,” he ordered Sturges. “Tell him what you said to me!”

“What now?” Preston was thoroughly confused.

“All right, all right,” Sturges said, unfolding his arms and holding his palms up for serenity. “We’re gonna settle this now!” He turned to Preston, face stern with deliberation. “What’s worse, Colonel – being a vampire or being a werewolf?”

Stunned speechless, Preston could only stare at them, aghast. It was too early for nonsense. He squeezed his eyes closed and took a moment for himself, scrunching his face up and shaking his head. “Guys,” he addressed Nate and Sturges with weary exasperation. “Can you not?”

“Not, what?” asked Sturges.

“Talk. Or, much less, include me?” He frowned at Nate, who was cinching the last clasp on his chestpiece. “General, why are you still here? Thought you were headed out at daybreak.”

Nate gestured to Sturges with his chin. “We got caught up and needed a swing vote. Danse refused to participate.”

He spotted Danse for the first time, his expression dour, seated on a bunk in the corner, stuffing fusion cores and ammo boxes into a rucksack. He wondered how many times Danse had been asked that question before it had been passed to him. Obviously, a few too many.

Getting Nate started on a chat regarding movie monsters and days gone by would only result in further delay. Preston couldn’t blame him; the man from the vault had few topics that still brought him enjoyment, regardless that most didn’t understand his references. Granting his friends an acquiescent smile, Preston compelled, “On your way, sir.”

“Hmph. Fine.” Nate plucked his helmet up from the workshop table and dropped it over his head. He strode forward and slapped Danse on the shoulder. “I’m tagging you back into the game. Suit up.” Danse’s gaze dropped and suddenly seemed to find the concrete floor fascinating. The muscles in Nate’s face smoothed as he blanched. “Well, I mean, best as you can,” Nate blathered, trying to recover. He tossed Danse a combat armor chestpeice, one without insignia, Preston noticed. Nate cleared his throat in embarrassment and slapped a fusion core into his armor, Danse donning the apparel given to him. Once Nate was secured in his suit, he and Danse exited the workshop, heading out to the coast. 

Preston paused before shouting down the road to him. “Oh, and vampire! Werewolves get the majority of their time to use at their discretion!”

Sturges, who had busied himself with dissembling a requisitioned microscope for materials, slapped his knee and whooped. “See? I knew it!”

Preston gave him a small smile. Although he might never realize it, Sturges was the one who kept them all going on the road from Quincy to Sanctuary Hills. Throughout all the losses and dreadful turn of events, Sturges had ironic anecdotes for every occasion and an upbeat attitude that was infectious to their small band of survivors. When moments came that made Preston want to hang up his hat and walk unarmed into a mass of ferals, it was Sturges’ consistent faith and his here-and-now outlook that kept Preston’s perspective in check. He not only owed Sturges his life, he also owed him his sanity.

As Preston continued his patrol of the perimeter, the sky steered away from leaden hues, turning a faint shade of pale blue. Sanctuary was nearly vacant, with most of the regular inhabitants off handling independent issues. Nate and Danse were disappearing over the bridge, on their way to deal with Brotherhood concerns. Piper and John had headed back into the city last night, off to their respective hometowns. Deacon could be anywhere, but had likely slipped away in the night, as was common for him. Preston spotted Curie absorbedly working at her chemistry station, a pair of oversized plastic safety goggles wide across her face, the strap making her short hair stand up in the back. The effect made her look not unlike a mad scientist.

He paused in his circuit to shake his sleeve from his wrist. A sundial watch was strapped to his wrist, and he turned until it was properly aligned. Almost time, he noted. He searched for a decent place to prop his musket, settling for the flat surface of a patio table.

It gave him pride to see the Commonwealth getting back on its feet, and he felt honored to be a part of it. But with too many failures under his belt, he wasn’t comfortable with any more responsibility than he already dealt with. Micromanaging Minutemen needs, provisions and security was a full-time position that suited him. It was a constant endeavor to track dozens of settlements all with different requirements and populations, but one that allowed for the locations to deal with one consistent voice, someone that they knew and respected, giving a human face to the Minutemen enterprise. Several nuclear fusion batteries charged the receiver in a pouch that hung from his belt, the wireless radio adhered to his overcoat sending a constant stream of updates through the Radio Freedom channel and allowing Preston to check in with each location remotely. Each day, at zero eight hundred, he rolled through the list of settlement sites in alphabetical order.

Gripping the speaker microphone on his lapel, he pressed the talk button and said, “Abernathy Farm, report.”

“All clear. Could use some more beds, though. Over.”

“Copy that. I’ll make a note of it. Over.” He moved onto the next settlement. “Boston Airport, report.”

“We’ve got it handled. Over,” an irritable Brotherhood agent barked.

Preston rolled his eyes. What a waste of a settlement. All that location did was drain supplies. Still, Preston didn’t argue with his General’s wishes to include it. “Copy that. Bunker Hill, report?”

Bunker Hill buzzed through with Kessler’s voice. “Colonel,” she addressed. “We’ve had a caravan go missing. The daughter of one of our shopkeepers was with them. They were headed your way. Over.”

Frowning, Preston responded, “Copy that, Bunker Hill. Kidnapping? Over.”

“No ransom, Sir. Last sighting was near Lexington. Over.”

A missing person and a supply line down. Preston heaved a sigh. “On it, Bunker Hill. We’ll send out a team. Garvey, out.”

“Copy.”

The rest of the locations had mostly resource complaints and petitions for defense. He pulled a notepad and pencil from an inside pocket of his waistcoat and made notations of all requests before turning his attention to the issue from Bunker Hill. He was down his standard response team. Normally, he would forward this information to Nate and allow him to resolve it. However, with the General on a specific mission for another faction, he didn’t dare disturb him. He could call for reserves at the Castle to intercede, but trekking in from the coastline could cost valuable time.

As he struggled to manufacture an investigation, MacCready wandered up the road, yawning and stretching, back from another night spent in his tower. For an instant, their eyes locked. MacCready stiffened visibly before turning on his heel and starting back the way he came.

“MacCready, come back,” Preston called. “I’ve got something I need you to look in on.”

 MacCready stopped, his back to Preston, shoulders rising and falling in what had to a hefty sigh. “What do you need Preston?” he asked, turning. “I’ve got a full day planned.”

A full day of gambling at Starlight, no doubt, Preston predicted, dryly. He picked his musket up and steadied it, the weight of it feeling familiar and comforting. “Same old story,” he answered. “More bad news with no end in sight.”

Readjusting the brim of his cap as he tentatively approached, MacCready sarcastically divulged, “I love talking with you, Preston. You never fail to lighten my mood.”

Preston let the comment slide. “Bunker Hill needs our help. Minuteman caravan went missing nearby.”

“Of course,” MacCready smirked. “You’re always with the business, aren’t you? Any thoughts on where you’re sending me?”

Preston tracked the supply line trails in his mind, flipped through one probable route to the next. There was a dark spot on his mental map, a place where they hadn’t been able to establish a connection yet. “There’s a community partway between us and Cambridge. I’ve passed by it before. High walls, secure, only one way in. Looks suspicious, if you ask me. I want you to check it out.”

Nodding, MacCready said, “Got it. Not that I’m down with walking into surprise places. I normally like to know what’s going to try and kill me in advance.”

“Then bring some muscle,” Preston replied. “And be diligent.”

“Ya mentioned muscle, right?” came Cait’s voice. “Well, that sure as rain sounds like me.” Emerging from the doorway of a nearly house, she settled her bat, a wicked looking thing with nails sticking out of the barrel, over a shoulder. Her undereyes were swollen, evidence of a rough night, but a wicked smile stretched her lips. “I could use me a good head bashin’. Been far too long.”

“Only if necessary, Cait,” Preston humored, a tight smile crossing his face. “You’ll be looking for answers, not trouble.”

“Tato, pato, trouble, schmouble,” MacCready quipped, throwing a conspiring smirk at Cait. “We’ll give what we get. I’ll grab some rations and pack up.”

Hmm, Preston pondered darkly. Maybe sending the two of them alone wasn’t the best idea. Both had a penchant for swift violence that could easily get out of hand. As MacCready and Cait headed towards the supply depot, Preston called after them. “And take Curie with you,” he called. “Maybe she’ll uncover something useful.”

They halted and craned their heads, first at Preston, then towards the little synth.

Curie, who clearly must have heard the exchange, removed her goggles and gave them a meek wave, obviously hesitant following MacCready’s outburst the night before. Preston could only hope that the pursuit of a common goal would keep both Cait and MacCready’s opinions in check.

He leaned into his radio once more, his musket dangling from one hand. “Bunker Hill, come in.”

“This is Bunker Hill. Over.”

“Investigatory team is on the way. We’ll find your people.” As soon as he said it, he wished he hadn’t. Making promises was a dangerous way to handle relations in an unstable environment. No taking it back now. He’d just have to hope that MacCready would find a solution and everyone would go home safe. “Over,” he closed, wishing, not for the first time, that he still had a militia at his disposal.

Thank you, Colonel. God bless. Over.”

With little else to do but pray, he recommenced his patrol, resolved to never let Sanctuary fall on his watch.